Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday's Child: Pink or Blue?

Pictured above is little George Seibert when he was about three months old. Below that is one of his birth announcements and the envelope it came in addressed to a family member. George Marcellous Seibert was born 12 February 1916 to Herbert Seibert and his wife Mary Rowlee. Mary was the daughter of George Rowlee and Mary Carr. The family lived in various places including Ellicottville, NY, Washington, PA, Bridgeport, IL and Ft. Worth, TX.

Notice the pink ribbon? Believe it or not, pink was the color for boys back in the day! Yep, start here for information on when girls started wearing pink in an article by Smithsonian. There's also a nice photo gallery at this website. Wikipedia's article on the color pink mentions that pink was "first established as a female gender identifier in the 1940s" and points to a publication from June 1918 stating "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys and blue for the girls." Both articles make reference to author Jo B. Paoletti who wrote a book entitled  Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America.

She also has a website about the subject with this interesting post on baby cards from 1915-1957.

Tragically, little George Seibert died of a snake bite at about the age of 5 and why I did this post for him as a "Wednesday's Child."

Another photo of George Seibert

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Church Record Sunday: The Ebenezer Society

אֶבֶן  הָעֶזֶר
(The word Ebenezer in Hebrew characters)

A while back, I was exchanging information with a fellow researcher on the Neamon family. This researcher related that John Henry Neamon immigrated to the United States from Germany in the year 1870 and settled in Ebenezer, New York. It was also said that he had a brother there. John Henry later moved to the town of Yorkshire in Cattaraugus County.

I did an internet search for “Ebenezer, New York” to see what I could find out where it was. To my surprise, I found that it was in Erie County near the town of West Seneca. The word Ebenezer, by the way, is Hebrew for “stone of help.”

According to over eight hundred Germans, known as the Community of True Inspiration (or Ebenezers), immigrated to America between April 1843 and October 1845. They purchased 5,000 acres of the Buffalo Creek Reservation (vacated by Indians) at $10.50 an acre. These immigrants established four hamlets - Middle Ebenezer, Upper Ebenezer, Lower Ebenezer and New Ebenezer. They formed their own governing body and had essentially a communal society where jobs, goods, food and services were given to the community for use by all.

Was John Henry Neamon and/or his brother a part of the Ebenezers? I wondered. As luck would have it, I was at the my local library not two days later searching for a book I had heard was a bestseller in recent years. I was surprised to learn that this particular book was located in the historical section. I had assumed that it was a work of fiction, but apparently it was a true account of events that happened in a town in Georgia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on the shelf. What I did find was almost uncanny in timing (I have mentioned other coincidences on this blog before). On the shelf was a book entitled The Ebenezer Society written by Frank J. Lankes in 1963.

I was unable to find anything in the book on anyone named Neamon, but it was interesting little book about the history of the society and how it worked. Back in Germany in 1826, Christian Metz prophesied of a place being prepared for them in “the wilderness.” Some of the names mentioned in the book were: Gottlieb Ackermann, John Beyer, John Fritz, Louis Froelich, George Heinemann, Fritz Jeck, Charles L. Meyer, Frederick Morshel, Joseph Prestele, Clemens Schnitzler, John Schoepflin, Jacob Sommer, Carl Trautmann, Martin Trautman, Peter Trautman, George A. Weber and Jacob Wittmer. The Community eventually relocated to Iowa and the new place was called Amana.

Home of Christian Metz, Ebenezer, NY

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Oh, The Places You Go!

Back in September of last year, I had the opportunity to tour a cemetery. I even had to buy tickets for this. I was very excited, but realize that not everyone would jump at such a chance. I bought two tickets but wound up selling one to someone else the day of the tour because I couldn’t find any family or friends as eager as I was to take this trip. (I do know there are other genealogists and history buffs out there that would have been as enthusiastic about it as I was.)

Forest Lawn Cemetery is a fascinating historical place. The cemetery occupies over 250 acres (I walked about three miles total on the tour but didn’t see everything) and contains the remains of some historical and noteworthy individuals such as President Millard Fillmore, Dorothy Goetz the first wife of Irving Berlin, Rick James, and Barbara Franklin the mother of singer Aretha Franklin.

I took a lot of photographs of various stones, monuments and mausoleums. I even got the chance to see some living residents (the cemetery association does impersonations of some of the “residents” there.) There’s a deer that lives on the grounds that became famous for being a surrogate goose father. Cemetery personnel dubbed him “John Deer” and he even made local news. When the tour was over I drove my car around to some of the places I didn’t get to see on the tour. While driving along, I saw another sign of life in the cemetery. I drove down one lane covered by trees and noted a car parked on the side. A young woman was sitting on the hood of the car while her beau stood on the side serenading her with his guitar. How romantic!

Writer Mary Lou Brannon put it so eloquently when she said, “A cemetery is a history of people – a perpetual record of yesterday. A cemetery exists because every life is worth living and remembering – always.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

COG: Timmer = Hammer; Eight Generations of Building

The topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy is Business and Commerce and here is my contribution: 

This is a sign outside my grandfather’s home in about the year 1957 advertising him as a contractor and builder in Michigan. Although not every family member over the generations did the same, nonetheless, the earliest known progenitor in the Timmer family, Luitje Jans Timmer was listed as a carpenter on the birth record of his son Jan Luitjes Timmer in 1814. Jan was born in Sint Annen (Ten Boer), Groningen, Netherlands. Jan’s son Hendrik was the father of John (Johannes) Timmer, my grandfather’s father.
My grandmother told me that the name Timmer means “hammer” in Dutch, but I've seen the translation is actually carpenter. It was about the year 1811 when the Dutch were required to register a family surname (see my post here about Dutch naming customs). Perhaps it was Luitje Jans who decided to use Timmer for a surname to signify his occupation.

Some of my earliest memories of my grandfather include the smell of sawdust and the sight of sawhorses. Here my father is helping my grandfather build what eventually was the home where my grandfather drew his last breath. I have many fond memories of this home. Somewhere there is a photograph taken at this same time with me toddling around in a diaper while they worked.

My father learned a lot of carpentry work from my grandfather. He eventually went on to a long teaching career in vocational education teaching carpentry skills. My grandfather also taught his other son-in-law (my mother’s first husband Wayne) the tools of the trade. Wayne eventually went into the home remodeling business. In turn, my sister’s husband took over the family business for many years. His son grew up in the business and now does the same type of work. He built his own house, pictured below:

This makes eight generations of building in our family; a heritage of which we are proud. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Going Global

Being from the United States with Dutch ancestry, I was delighted to find a blogger from the Netherlands (Peter's Blogvia Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog a while back. It reminded me of the time I had a project that went global in the early days of computer-assisted genealogy research.

I had been working on my family line of Kiel and gotten back to Harm Hendrik Kiel (1808-1891) and his wife Hendericka J. Siegers. I did this the “old-fashioned” way by requesting copies of death certificates and researching cemetery records on-site. (See my post here about my cemetery research on the Kiel family).

In 1997, I got in touch with a gentleman via an internet posting on I lived in Florida at the time and he lived in California, clear on the other side of the coast. We corresponded several times by email as he was also descended from a Kiel family of Grand Rapids, MI. Although I felt it was very possible that we had the same family, we couldn’t quite make a connection with the information on hand. He descended from a Lammert Kiel who was born in 1821. He could also go back several more generations from there, but Harm was my earliest known Kiel ancestor. I made it a research goal to see if I could find records that connected my Harm Kiel with his Kiel ancestor.

First I had to locate records from the Netherlands. Luckily, I was able to go through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and obtain microfilmed copies of records from the Netherlands that would assist me. These records were in Dutch, so I got online and posted a note on a newsgroup board that was dedicated to genealogy in the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg area. I asked for help in translating the records I had. I received an offer from a transplanted Dutchwoman in South Africa. She graciously translated the records I needed regarding Harm and noted that it was pretty brave of him to start a new life in a foreign country at the age of 60 during a time when one didn’t know much about the rest of the world since there was no television, radio or internet. I had not thought about it much, but her experience of living in a foreign country provided her with a different outlook on it.

And what would this Grandfather Kiel have thought about the way I took only a few weeks to traverse the globe via technology to discover that he and Lammert Kiel were brothers and were grandsons of Steffan Jans Kijl and Renske Harms Clasens who were married 24 April 1750 in Wedde, Groningen, Netherlands. He might have thought it magical for me to have transcended both time and space to gain this knowledge. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Those Places Thursday: A Kaleidoscope Perspective

Carla, of sassygenealogist, published a post on her four sets of great-grandparents which consist of her eight primary surnames she searches for, entitled "My Eight Great Surprises". The surprise was that she found out she was not as  "Southern" as she thought.

It prompted me to think of my eight surnames and where they came from. They would be: Watts, Spencer, Hardy, Lovelace, Timmer, Bolhuis, Katsma and Kiel. Half are firmly Dutch as my mother was the second or third generation from the Netherlands. Her grandparents on her father's side came over on their honeymoon. Her Kiel family was here a generation earlier.

The Watts and Hardy lines are firmly entrenched in Virginia clear back to the 1700s and likely English before that. The Lovelace line (also of English origin) can be traced from Kentucky back to North Carolina and then up to Maryland, but still not past the Mason Dixon line. The Spencer line is my most elusive after twenty years. While I can't say for sure where this line originated, I'd be very surprised to find it varied from the others. (But, hey, I surely wouldn't complain if someone were able to trace this line successfully and prove  otherwise.)

I commented on Carla's post that I wound up marrying a Northerner to add more variety to the mix. My children's eight greats consists of:  Watts, Hardy, Timmer and Katsma from me, of course.  Then they have Westfall, Smith, Neamon and McKinsey. These four lines are firmly entrenched in the Northern half of the United States. The first Westfall from Germany to America was born in 1843. He settled in Cattaraugus County, New York. The Smiths hailed from Ontario, Canada for a few generations having originally emigrated from England at some point. Neamon is also a German line that emigrated in the same time period as the Westfalls. Last but not least is the McKinsey line which so far I have traced back to Pennsylvania in the 1830s.

Researching all of these families have given me a broad and varied perspective from a historical lens, reminding me of a kaleidoscope of blending patterns that makes us who we are.

The Brewster Kaleidoscope Society

Monday, July 2, 2012

Maritime Monday: The Milwaukee Clipper

From the Muskegon Chronicle photo files
I am visiting my mother and sister in the Muskegon, MI area this week. My mother grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and told us stories about how as children, she and her brother would go with their parents on the Milwaukee Clipper from Muskegon to Milwaukee. She remembers most clearly running around playing on the deck of the ship. She said they went everywhere on the ship and it was great fun.

My sister mentioned that the Milwaukee Clipper was open as a museum now in downtown Muskegon, so her and I rounded up my daughters and our mother and headed over there yesterday afternoon. My mother is in a wheelchair and wasn't able to run around on any of the decks this time. Instead she explored the museum store and watched the video which included actual footage from back in the day when the Clipper was still in commission. She was hoping to see someone she knew, but didn't recognize anyone. The girls and I took the actual tour up and down the levels of the ship. 

Timmer Family ca. 1940
We had this photograph from my grandmother's collection that at first we thought might have been a family excursion on the Clipper. Included is my mother Helen, her brother John, their mother Theresa and John & Martha Timmer, my mother's grandparents. Upon further investigation, we think the lighthouse in the background is actually the one in Grand Haven, MI instead. I have other photographs back home originally from my great-grandmother from when the family took a trip over to Wisconsin that I will have to study to see if we can tell if it was a trip on the Milwaukee Clipper. 

It was nice to show the girls a historical connection to their Michigan heritage and they seemed to have a good time. They were invited to volunteer sometime to be a soda jerk at the Soda Bowl on the ship during the summertime on the ship and they agreed that if they lived in the area, they would enjoy doing that.

If you're interested in a virtual tour of the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper, click here:

Saturday, June 30, 2012

COG: Wading Beauties in the Willamette

Lillie Sizemore Kumm & chums in the Willamette River

When I first saw the theme for the July Carnival of Genealogy, this photograph immediately came to mind. After I hunted it up from my files, I realized they are not wearing swim suits, but I felt it still had the right feel to be considered for this edition of COG. This is one of several photographs that are part of a testament of family ties.

I will start with identifying the family ties: My grandmother, Amy, was the daughter of William Lewis Hardy and his wife Alice Samantha Lovelace. William Lewis Hardy was one of nine children born of Joshua L. Hardy and his wife Martha Sizemore, although three siblings died in infancy and two sisters died in young adulthood. Two of his surviving sisters were Bettie (who married William C. Gross) and Mary (wife of James L. Sadler). Bettie Hardy Gross (born 19 June 1858 in Sinking Fork, Christian County, Kentucky) was my grandmother’s aunt who had the autograph book I mentioned in my Christmas 2011 post.

There are over two dozen postcard photographs and snapshots in this group of photos which include our wading beauties. These were all sent to Bettie by her cousins, Lillie Elnore (Sizemore) Kumm and her sister Nora Helen (Sizemore) Quay. Lillie is the second woman from the left in the photograph. Her sister Nora is probably the third woman shown. The other two are unknown. 

"We are getting ready to go wading in the Willamette"

Lillie and Nora’s father was Winfield Scott Sizemore, the son of Daniel Campbell Sizemore and his wife Sarah Ann Colly. Daniel and Bettie’s mother, Martha, were siblings. Lillie and Nora’s mother was Sarah Ann Johnson, the daughter of John W. Johnson and his wife Hellen T. Hardy. Hellen and Bettie’s father were siblings. Therefore Lillie and Nora’s parents were double first cousins of Bettie’s.

Lillie and Nora’s father died in September of 1892 and their mother remarried William H. Nolen. They had one daughter together, Minnie L. Nolen. By 1915, this family left their hometown in Kentucky and migrated west to Oregon settling in Portland. But these photos show how close the family ties remained then and I am happy to be able to remember those ties here. 

"Putting our shoes and stockings on again"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Exploring Occupation in Family History Research

Along with knowledge of the area being part of successful family history research (the topic of Monday’s post), knowledge of occupations in the family can be helpful as well.

On our recent research trip, my mother-in-law Ruth took me to see the Our Lady ofVictory Basilica in Lackawanna, New York. It is an awesome Roman Catholic Church building. We explored the Father Baker museum in the basement first and then toured the sanctuary afterwards. She remembers taking first communion there. At the museum, I purchased Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America book on the history of Lackawanna. Reading this later also helped me to better understand Ruth’s family history and their connection to the area. Ruth had mentioned a couple of times that from what she understood, part of her Backus family lived in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania and found it coincidental that they also lived in a town called Lackawanna in New York. It turns out there was more than coincidence. 

From the Lackawanna history book, I learned that “before the town of West Seneca was established, the land west of Abbott Road to Lake Erie was known as Limestone Hill.” The town of Seneca was formed in October of 1851 from parts of nearby Hamburg and Cheektowaga and included the area of Limestone Hill. In the year 1900, the Lackawanna Steel Company relocated from Scranton, Pennsylvania in Lackawanna County to the shores of Lake Erie and expanded their mills and plants to the area of Limestone Hill. In 1909, legislature voted to form the city of Lackawanna from that part of West Seneca.

No doubt, this relocation of the Lackawanna Steel Company is what brought some of Ruth’s family from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Lackawanna, New York. Though her knowledge of this connection did not include the information about the steel company, nonetheless her story was true and it was the family’s occupation that brought them to the area.   

Image from the Steel Plant Museum, Lackawanna, NY

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mappy Monday: Exploring Place in Family History Research

Gaining knowledge about an area and its history is invaluable to being successful in family research.

Years ago when I lived out of state, I was trying to learn more about my husband’s family in Cattaraugus County, New York. I had gotten a death certificate that said one of his ancestors was born in Waverly, New York. On a current map, I found a town called Waverly in the county of Tioga nearer the center of the state and wasted several days trying to find Westfalls there related to my husband’s family. Later on a trip to visit other relatives in Cattaraugus County, these lifelong residents told me that the current town of Otto where the family resided was once called Waverly.  A recent experience also reinforced the idea that one should become familiar with the area in which our ancestors lived.

I finally took my mother-in-law, Ruth, to Lackawanna for a family history research trip recently. I wrote about exploring her family history at this earlier post. This was an awesome opportunity for her to share with me what she remembered growing up and on several occasions during our trip, her memories helped us to be successful in our attempts. I knew nothing of the area and so her knowledge proved invaluable in understanding the information we discovered.

The first order of business on our little trip was to go the cemetery where her grandfather Backus was buried. We checked with the cemetery office first and they copied his burial card and one other with the same surname in the same section for us. They also provided us with a cemetery map and a section map. We headed over to the Holy Cross Cemetery and found the section we were looking for. We had the map backwards at first and were looking on the wrong side. Ruth remembered her father pointing out where her grandfather was buried from the road on the opposite side when she was a child, so we headed to that side instead. While we may have probably eventually found our way, her memories helped us more easily pinpoint what we looking for.

The burial card offered a lot of new information for us. We knew her grandfather’s approximate year of birth and death but had nothing exact. The burial card listed his last known address as 181 Barksdale Avenue in West Seneca. It also listed his complete date and place of birth as well as his complete date and place of death. Armed with that knowledge, we headed to the Lackawanna Public Library to see if they might have an obituary file. No luck. The librarian there told us that they did not keep obituary files as they considered those personal. I am unsure what she meant by that. Nonetheless, the librarian offered an alternative of checking with the newspaper office in Buffalo. I had a different idea and called the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Museum and Research Library and we trekked out there. Yes, they had an obituary file of about 19,000 individuals, but our guy wasn’t found among them. Instead, we were able to locate the death notice on a microfilmed copy of the newspaper housed at their facility. (We also were able to find a death notice of the other individual with the same surname that was buried in the same section of the Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna as well. In cross-referencing relative names in both death notices, it appears they were not related.)  
I noticed that her grandfather’s death notice said he died suddenly in Winchester, a place I had not heard of before. “Where is Winchester?” I asked Ruth. “I’ll show you.” She replied. Again her memories and knowledge would serve to help us in our quest. On our way back through the areas of Lackawanna and West Seneca, she drove to the neighborhood where she lived as a young child. I noticed a church called Winchester Community Church. She pointed out the Winchester school building where she first started her school career. So this was Winchester. A couple of blocks over from the school, she turned into a residential district and found 181 Barnsdale Avenue where she lived as a young child. She wasn’t aware of it before, but she lived in the same house where her grandfather had lived before he died. Although the neighborhood was known as Winchester it is a part of West Seneca apparently. Knowing that kept me from barking up a wrong tree and established that although the areas were called by different names, the family lived in the same general community and did not relocate elsewhere.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Dutch Heritage Album

Yesterday, I posted a wedding photograph of Jan Molenkamp and Frouke Olthof for Wedding Wednesday. Today for Treasure Chest Thursday, I'd like to share other photographs from that same collection.

I mentioned in my post about finding a family hero that I was contacted by a cousin, Hans, from the Netherlands recently. He graciously shared digital copies of many family photographs of our mutual kin via email. I then in turn put together a heritage scrapbook album of the different photographs. I purchased a scrapbook at my local craft shop which I think has a bit of a European feel to it:

For the first page, I included a sketch that Hans' father originally sent me back in 1989 showing the family lines. There are several surnames involved and even I have to refer back to it to figure out who is who at times.

Then I proceeded to put each photo on a separate page using some unifying creative elements to pull the whole album together. I mounted each photo on a black mat and punched decorative photo holders around all four edges. I printed a caption on gray cardstock and used the same punch to decorate two corners of that. I then mounted the caption on black cardstock. For each caption, I included the title/number of the digital image sent as well as identifying information Hans included in his emails. The caption and photo was then mounted on a white background and I used a decorative stamp in black ink directly on the white cardstock.

This first photograph is of my great-grandfather's sister, Jantje Timmer and her husband Eltje Olthof.

This is a photograph of Jantje Timmer, probably before she married Eltje in November of 1896.

This photograph is of Jantje & Eltje's youngest two children. The oldest child, Frouke, is the subject of the wedding photograph posted yesterday (click here to see).

Stedum, Groningen, Netherlands

And this is the final resting place of Eltje Olthof and Jantje Timmer.

This is not the whole album, but shows you an idea of how it was put together. I made my own treasure chest :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

COG: The Love of Reading

Life is funny sometimes, wouldn’t you agree? I sit here this evening checking out my blogger dashboard and find Jasia’s post about reading for the Carnival Of Genealogy. Ah, reading! One of my absolute favorite pastimes. And Jasia wants to know my family’s history of reading? How ironic that on the third anniversary of my father’s death, I am asked that question, for he was influential in the development of my love of reading. Furthermore, I was in a training at work today and we were asked to discuss characteristics about our fathers that we would like to keep, toss, or add in reference to their values, beliefs, etc. One of the items I listed in the “keep” column was his emphasis on the importance of reading and education.

My mother tells the story that my father had heard that reading to your child was a good thing, so he instructed my mother to read to me every night. (Until I was about eight, he was often away because of his Navy service.) He purchased several books for me, including those beloved Golden books. Unfortunately, my mother was not a keeper and gave away most of my books when I grew up. I was certainly delighted to have one of them presented to me shortly after my father’s funeral by a friend who had found it in my mother’s home after she had packed to move closer to my sister. This copy of the Big Brown Bear was inscribed by my father when I was three. I have started collecting here and there other Golden Books that I remember from that time period. (Although I have not yet found Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus, one of my favorites.)

My mother, too, was a big influence on my reading. Not only because she was the one who read to me each night (and oh, how she gave such voice to the characters!) but also because she was a reader herself. She enjoyed big, thick books and favored those regarding the World War II era.
I went from the little Golden Books to Little House on The Prairie to Nancy Drew Mysteries and all things in-between. Then there was Stephen King and Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children Series. When I was dating my future husband, he and I would share Western novels with his father, passing them back and forth; Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, John Jakes. We named our first dog, Toby, after a hero in one of Jakes series. He and I also enjoyed science fiction.

Then we passed that legacy on to our children. I read to them from almost day one. I can remember very clearly seeing the light dawn in my youngest child’s eyes when she made a connection to what was being read to her life. She was not quite two years old and I had just given her a bath and dressed her in pajamas. She sat on my lap in the rocking chair and I picked out a board book to read before putting her to bed. It was a book called “Kisses.” I got to the page where it said, “After my bath, I give daddy a silly, soapy kiss.” My little one looked over at me with a look of surprise as if to say, “I just had a bath” and leaned over and gave me one of her famous open-mouth kisses.

The children eventually picked up the habit and ran with it themselves. All three read nearly every evening before turning off the lights and going to sleep. I introduced them to books I loved as a child and they in turn have introduced me to many more. There have been several times we have all read a series together. Even their father has joined in on some. Ironically, they all enjoy science fiction, too. I’ve also taken it to the next generation as well, giving away mostly books as gifts to my great-nieces and nephews.

I have a couple of books pinned on one of my Pinterest boards that I would recommend. If you do a search of my blog (just click on the "books" tag), you will find a few more book reviews and recommendations. And if you’re interested, I will share my 100 top book reads. Just drop me a line. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Memorial Day Memories

I wrote the following six years ago after a local Memorial Day celebration that my children and I participated in:

In Thomas Moore's book, Care of the Soul, he writes that our goal should be "a richly elaborated life connected to society ... woven into the culture of family, nation and globe ... profoundly connected in the heart to ancestors and to living brothers and sisters in all the many communities that claim our hearts."

The Memorial Day celebration this past Monday presented just such an opportunity to be connected. As a history lover, I often have viewed myself as a bridge between the past of my ancestors and the future of my children. In my role as bridge, I've nurtured the children in activities that allow them to participate in community events such as the local parade. And so there I was watching the future walk down Main Street.

But before they got too far, we stopped at the town gazebo where the local American Legion Post Commander talked of some of those who had gone on, reaching all the way back into the community's memory to the time of the Revolution. While standing there, I thought about what a pretty picture it made with the gazebo in the foreground and the former Methodist church behind it. This reminded me that religion often plays an important part in maintaining the ties of family and community and connecting us to past generations.

But the future stirred (and wiggled and squirmed) and after the ceremony, the children couldn't wait to rush off for lunch. We spent the rest of the day celebrating like others have both past and present. We ate our fill of hot dogs and chips, went swimming on the gloriously hot day and in the late afternoon sat on the porch and had ice cream.

Later I remembered what local historian Lois Siggelkow wrote about one of the area’s cemeteries. Buried in Ellicottville’s Bryant Hill Cemetery is a man named Justin Rust. While still part of the future at the age of seventeen, Justin enlisted in the colonial forces and fought under General George Washington. His wife Margaret had a hand in making community connections in the village as one of the original organizers of the Presbyterian Church in 1829. 

The Rusts are not my ancestors. Like them, I originally came from somewhere else. But through time and place and choices made, we are connected by the community we settled in. It has become a community that claims our hearts. The Rusts are now a part of the past. By writing of them and others who have gone before, I continue to play a part in bridging the gap between the future and the past, until one day, I, too, become a part of the past. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Foreign Cemetery

Stedum, Groningen, Netherlands

Hendrik Timmer born 27 August 1845, died 7 May 1899. 
His wife Frouke Westerhof born 2 August 1840, died 19 November 1909.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday’s Tip: Writing About Family

Product Details
I ran across a new book at my local library a few weeks ago. It’s an anthology entitled Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing. It’s edited by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland and published by The Key Publishing House, Inc. of Toronto, Canada ( There are fifty-five chapters in eight parts including Personal and Legal Issues about Family Topics; Making the Most of Your Family Experience; Exploring Family in a Variety of Genres; and Publishing, Marketing & Promoting.

In the introduction, the editors quote a Proust passage from The Remembrance of Things Past which says: “When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.” The editors remark that for many women, their memory essentially is through family and note that Virginia Woolf once said, “We think back through our mothers if we are women.”

Some of the contributions I enjoyed were:

#15 Making Up Grandma: How to Blend History and Imagination Into Powerful Family Narratives by Lela Davidson. The first sentence in her chapter says, “The best family histories are rich in detail.”

#17 Telling Our Truth: Writing the Legacy of the Dead by Carol Hawkins who poses several questions to serve as guideposts for writing and suggests that we be careful in choosing which stories to tell.

#26 Mothers and Daughters: Telling Shared Stories by Diane LeBlanc who offers suggestions on writing shared stories in ways that both reveal and respect and reminds us that when we tell our stories, we tell our truth, not necessarily the truth.

#32 Creating the Fictional Family: No Character is an Island by Yelizaveta P. Renfro. The contributor of this article suggests creating a family history and historical setting for characters in a fictional piece.

#33 From Memoir to Fiction by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. This contributor offers several suggestions for mapping your own journey of turning family stories into universal truths of a literary novel.

#41 The Roles of Women in Narrative by Mary Rice. This writer discusses that women are often the keepers of experience and keepers of humanity and as such are at the forefront of stories that create a coherent sense of community among characters.

There are also practical chapters for finding online writing niches and the like as well, but I found the above most useful in writing family history. If you get a chance, I highly recommend this book.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Military Monday: A Hero and Member of the Dutch Resistance Movement

"Index cards with names of people from the opposition" from the Netherlands Archives 
I promised to write more about my Netherlands cousin who was a member of the Dutch Resistance Movement during WWII. Harm Molenkamp was the oldest child and only son of Jan Molenkamp and Frouke Olthof (Frouke’s mother was Jantje Timmer, my great-grandfather’s sister).  Harm had two sisters, Siep and Jantje.

As mentioned in my previous post about the subject, I first heard about cousin Harm from another cousin who lived in the Netherlands about twenty years ago but we lost track of each other. I didn’t get much information to begin with. I’ve always been curious to learn more and have been fascinated to have such a close tie to the historical events that took place during that time. I included the photocopy of the photo I have of Harm when I did a photo history presentation for one of my daughter’s classes a few years ago. For the presentation, I started with a tintype photograph from the 1860s of a girl who is likely a distant cousin who shares my birthday. I presented a historical photograph of a young man or woman for every decade from then until my baby photo from the 1960s. For each decade, I discussed a key event in history that took place then. Harm was my example from the 1940s. Maybe I should do a post of that project sometime. Heaven knows where that will take me. It was because of this blog that my newest-found cousin, Hans, contacted me and I was able to learn more about our mutual cousin Harm.

 Anyway, to get back to that subject, I told Hans about my curiosity about Harm and asked if he knew any more. Following is what he shared with me through email. (Which, by the way, is much easier than using international reply coupons, let me tell you.)

I've met both Jan and Frouke when I was a child, also their daughters Siep and Jantje and their families. I remember them as deeply religious people.”

“What I know of Harm is that Jan and Frouke had quite a few ‘onderduikers’ hidden on their farm during the war. First Jewish people, later resistance fighters also sought refuge. This is how Harm came in contact, being a target for the labour camps in Germany himself (as all young men were) also added to his choice. The Germans were already suspicious, and made several checks on the farm.  After a couple of searches Frouke was taken to the "Scholtens huis" in Groningen -  the headquarters of the SD, the German "Sicherheids Dienst" (Security Service) and severely beaten up as a warning during her stay in prison for several days. My grandmother took care of Frouke during the days after her capture (I still remember my grandmother telling that story, and how shocked she was even after so many years)

In 1944 Harm joined a group who mainly did raids on ‘coupon’ distribution centres. Since most of the food and goods were exported to Germany the Dutch people were given coupons for the bit the Germans left behind. As the story goes Harm and his group were betrayed by a local NSB man (the collaborators party).”

 “Harm used the codename ‘Anne’, was the leader of the group…Harm’s parental farm…was raided by the Germans.  He did escape, had to hide in the forest of Anloo…in an underground shelter with the rest of his group. He was captured on 30th September 1944, and shot two weeks later in Camp Westerbork.”

Harm is on the national ‘Erelijstvan gevallenen 1940 – 1945’, the ‘honorary list of the fallen’. Camp Westerbork was one of the two prison camps in Holland from where the transports to the concentration camps in Germany departed (the other one was Camp Vught). Every year, on the 4th of May, which is our national Remembrance day, there is a service held at Camp Westerbork, broadcasted on national television”

Hans also shared a link to more information on Harm from the online collection of theNetherlands Archives, which Hans described as “This site contains a massive collection of witness reports of resistance fighters, containing 8 pages of Harm. His parents are also mentioned. Both Jan and Frouke were imprisoned and interrogated several times in ‘German style’”. Hans also mentioned that the event of the German raid on Jan and Frouke’s farm is described in detail.

Here is a portion of detailed information on Harm from the Archives Collection:
Molenkamp, Harm
Eenum, E 8
BS 42, 352, 380, 382, 516, 803; G1 144, 146, 150, 154; G2 633; Hoe Groningen streed 43 ev, 237, 253
1921-01-29 te 't Zandt
Samen met Bruggema en Oosting gearresteerd in de boshut bij Anlo, 1944-09-29
Vanaf begin '43. Werkte ook samen met de groep Bedum. Naar de veenkoloniën gegaan, 1944-01-31, ondergedoken in Zuidlaren, 1944-06-10. Had ook veel landelijke contacten
Stolwijk, Cor; Broens, Jan; Cnossen, Piet; Omta, Albert; Pijper (verloofde), Alie; Til, Giene van; Wiersema; Niemeijer, Harry; Dijkema, Reint; Broekstra, Henk; Leugs; Douma, ds; Wiersma, ds; Borgdorff; Woltjer, K.; Haan, Henk; Hemmes, Edo
Molenkamp, Harm
Gefusilleerd te Westerbork, herbegraven op het Groninger Esserveld, 1945-11-02

TRANSLATION (using Google Translate):

Molenkamp, Harm

  Location: Eenum, E 8

BS Report: BS 42, 352, 380, 382, 516, 803, G1 144, 146, 150, 154, 633 G2; How Groningen fought 43 et seq, 237, 253

Born: 01/29/1921 in 't Zandt

Deceased: 10/12/1944

Occupation: Accountant

Ideology: Reformed

Event: Together with Bruggema Oosting and arrested in the mountain lodge at Anlo, 09/29/1944

Resistance: LO, KP

Resistance Activities: From the beginning of '43. Also worked with the group Bedum. In the peat gone, 01.31.1944, hiding in Zuidlaren, 10/06/1944. Had a lot of national contacts

Contacts: Stolwijk, Cor; Broens Jan; Cnossen, Piet; Omta, Albert; Pijper (fiance), Alie, Lift, Giene of; Wiersema, Niemeijer, Harry; Dijkema, Reint; Broekstra, Henk; Leugs; Douma, DS; Wiersma, dS; Borgdorff, Woltjer, K.; Haan, Henk; Hemmes, Edo

Shelter Names: Anne

Name: Molenkamp, Harm

Specifics: shot at Westerbork, reburied at the Groningen Field Esser, 11/02/1945

Location: Groninger Archives

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Finding a Family Hero

Back in 1989, I sent my aunt and uncle a letter to inquire about what they knew about our Timmer family, who had came to the U.S. from the Netherlands. The story (which was true) was that my great-grandparents, John and Martha (Bolhuis) Timmer came over in 1906 on their honeymoon and never went back. Aunt Jeannette was gracious enough to send me what they had and also provided me with the name of a family friend who lived in the Netherlands. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Fred (John and Martha's youngest son) had taken a trip to the Netherlands around 1980 and shared with me some postcards from the province of Groningen where she said the Timmers came from among other tidbits of information and some photographs.

I explored the world of international postage and return replies and wrote to this family friend. It turns out he was part of a family that one of my great-grandfather's aunts had married into. He, in turn, gave me the name and address of the daughter of my great-grandfather's sister.  I promptly mailed a letter to her as well and received a reply from her son, Harry Haakman.

The same age as my mother (and her second cousin), Harry and I corresponded for a couple of months. He shared with me photocopies of several photographs he had of his Timmer family connections. My great-grandfather John had two sisters Trientje and Jantje as well as an older half-brother named Thomas Timmer. (Refer to My Dutch Heritage page for more information.) Jantje Timmer (born 8 May 1875 and died 27 June 1963 in the Netherlands) married Eltje Olthof. Jantje and Eltje had Frouke, Floris and Tryntje.

This Tryntje was Harry's mother. Floris had no children. Frouke married Jan Molenkamp and had three children, one boy and two girls. Harry sent me copies of photographs he had of his Molenkamp cousins. The first one was labeled "Harm Molenkamp and fiancee. Harm was born 29 January 1920 and killed by the Germans 13 October 1944. He was a member of the Dutch Resistance Movement."

I have always been fascinated by stories of World War II in relation to the Holocaust. It started in school when we were instructed to read the Diary of Anne Frank. History was made real for me when one of my teachers invited a Holocaust survivor to speak to the classroom as well. I became a lifelong sympathizer of the plight of the Jews.

And here later I discover that I had kin who apparently also was a sympathizer.

I got married shortly after I began my correspondence with Harry and we lost track of each other. I tried several times to reconnect but never had any luck. Last year, I tried to make contact through the internet with someone from the family but again was not successful.

It's been over twenty years and that's the most I've known about my hero cousin. I've also tried off and on to "google" for information on the internet to discover more about Harm, but was unable to learn any more.

That is until last week, when a Netherlands cousin posted a comment on my blog and sent me an email saying that if I wanted to get in touch about the Jantje Timmer family, I was welcome. Boy, did I! And one of the first things I asked about was our mutual cousin, Harm Molenkamp.

I am learning a lot more and will share it with you on this blog in coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: O’Brien-Devereux Family,

In keeping up with my O’Brien research I’ve been posting lately, the will of Delia Lyons certainly yielded a treasure trove of information on her family. I suspect that Daniel O'Brien's wife, Teresa, was Bridget’s sister, who apparently had died by the time Delia wrote her will in Humphrey, Cattaraugus County, New York on 29 January 1879. (If this is indeed the case, this narrows Teresa’s death to the year 1878.) This is based on the fact that Daniel O’Brien was not listed as an heir in Delia’s probate records but his son William O’Brien was listed as her nephew. The 1893 Cattaraugus county history indicates that Teresa’s maiden name was Devereux.
Delia/Bridget gave her husband Peter her “farm of 45 acres” in the town of Humphrey. Other heirs named included her sister Jane Edwards (age 62) of the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland and her sister Mary King (age 74) of Humphrey, New York. Also named as next of kin (no relationship stated unless otherwise noted) were John Devro age 65 of the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland; Owen Devro age 65 of No. 86 Horatio St, NY City; William O’Brien, nephew age 27 of Humphrey; James T. Devro age 35 of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland; Thomas Keenan of same place and Peter Kelly age 30 at same address as Owen Devro. Her will mentions leaving money to the St. Johns Catholic Church in Utica, New York and to the Green Chapel Church in the town of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland “where her mother and father belonged at the time of their death.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - O'Brien Surname, Town of Humphrey, Cattaraugus Co, NY

"In Memory of Ann O'Brien, born in Co Westmeath, Ireland, Feb. 2, 1834, Died June 9, 1902"

From the St. Pacificus Roman Catholic Churchyard, town of Humphrey, Cattaraugus County, New York:

"Bridget, wife of Peter Lyons, Died Feb 5, 1879, Ae 58 Years"

"Daniel O'Brien, Died Nov. 16, 1883, Aged 82 Y S, Native of Co. Westmeath, Ireland"

"Teresa, wife of..." Tombstone was found broken in March of 2012, but an online inscription found here indicates that she was the wife of Daniel O'Brien, and died Aug. 27, 187- , age 50 years 9 months. Daniel listed her as an executor when he wrote his will in  December 1876, so she must have died between 1877-1879.

These four tombstones are found to the immediate left of the front of the churchyard in a row. They are posted in the row order from left to right.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - The Will of Daniel O’Brien, 1876, Humphrey, Cattaraugus Co, NY

In the name of God, amen: I, Daniel Obrien of the town of Humphrey in the county of Cattaraugus and State of New York, of the age of seventy-five and being of sound mind and memory do make, publish and declare this my last will and testament, in manner following, that is to say:
First that my just debts be paid.
Second I give and bequeath to my wife Teracy Obrien her support of the farm her lifetime the farm which I now reside on seventy-five acres on lot eight as described in said deed in township No. three and fifth range in the town of Humphrey and county of Cattaraugus and State of New York to be used and enjoyed by her her lifetime.
Third, I give and bequeath to my son William S. Obrien the farm above described he is to work the farm and take care of his mother her lifetime and then it belongs to him.
Fourth, I give and bequeath to my daughter Mariah Obrien seven hundred dollars.
Fifth, I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann Obrien three hundred and fifty dollars.
Sixth, I give and bequeath to my other three sons Patrick Obrien and Matthew Obrien and James Obrien fifty dollars a piece to be paid three years from my decease. I hereby appoint Teresy Obrien and William S. Obrien executrix of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me made.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty-fourth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy six.
                                                                                                                [signed] Daniel O Brien
The above instrument consisting of one sheet was at the date thereof signed sealed published and declared by the said Daniel Obrien as and for his last will and testament in presence of us who at his request and his presence and in the presence of each other have subsecribed our names as witnesses thereto. John Putnam, Humphrey, Cattaraugus Co. Alonzo ---ill. [page torn]
In the name of God, amen: I, Daniel Obrien of the town of Humphrey in the county of Cattaraugus and State of New York, of the age of seventy-five and being of sound mind and memory do make, publish and declare this my last will and testament, in manner following, that is to say:
First that my just debts be paid.
Second I give and bequeath to my wife Teracy Obrien her support of the farm her lifetime the farm which I now reside on seventy-five acres on lot eight as described in said deed in township No. three and fifth range in the town of Humphrey and county of Cattaraugus and State of New York to be used and enjoyed by her her lifetime.
Third, I give and bequeath to my son William S. Obrien the farm above described he is to work the farm and take care of his mother her lifetime and then it belongs to him.
Fourth, I give and bequeath to my daughter Mariah Obrien seven hundred dollars.
Fifth, I give and bequeath to my daughter Ann Obrien three hundred and fifty dollars.
Sixth, I give and bequeath to my other three sons Patrick Obrien and Matthew Obrien and James Obrien fifty dollars a piece to be paid three years from my decease. I hereby appoint Teresy Obrien and William S. Obrien executrix of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me made.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this twenty-fourth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy six.
                                                                                                                [signed] Daniel O Brien
The above instrument consisting of one sheet was at the date thereof signed sealed published and declared by the said Daniel Obrien as and for his last will and testament in presence of us who at his request and his presence and in the presence of each other have subsecribed our names as witnesses thereto. John Putnam, Humphrey, Cattaraugus Co. Alonzo ---ill. [page torn]