On This Day – What Were Your Ancestors Doing? – 52 Ancestors #170

Facebook is always “helping” me recall memories with a feature called “On This Day.” I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could turn back time and see what all of our ancestors were doing “on this day” in a particular year.

Then, I’d like to compare what my ancestors were doing on that day with what I’m doing on that same day, 100 years later. So, in a sense, I did.

This was an amazing exercise, because I learned something new about almost every single ancestor. Furthermore, focusing on just one day and their lives on that day, considering surrounding circumstances and events provides a very different perspective of your ancestors’ lives.

Select a special day, like your birthday, or a day you’re doing something exciting and remarkable.

First, take your picture. Nothing special, just “you” in your normal surroundings.

I took this selfie photo on my birthday, at home in my labyrinth, the day I wrote the second third of this article.

I also finished the 6th quilt sent to Houston for hurricane Harvey relief. If my descendants are reading this in yet another hundred years, they will have to search for that reference on whatever “Google” is in 2117.

Furthermore, and to add a bit of intrigue – a few hours before I published this article, which is about 15 hours before I actually leave for Dublin.  I just discovered that Hurricane Ophelia is headed for…are you ready for this…Ireland.  What, you say, a hurricane in Ireland?  Well, I assure you, I thought the same thing.  However, there is a history of devastating storms in Ireland, recently Hurricane Charley in 1986 and Hurricane Debbie in 1961. My ancestors would probably have weathered similar storms in more ancient times as well. I didn’t exactly intend to share this experience with my ancestors, but one way or another, it will be an adventure. The difference being, of course, that they didn’t have an early warning system.

Ophelia is anticipated to make landfall in Ireland on Monday, October 16th.  So, either Ireland will be a mess next week and I’ll have an unexpected adventure…or…my descendants won’t even be able to find mention of Ophelia in historical documents.  There’s just no telling what the future will bring, nor what we can find looking backwards at historical events.

It’s ironic with the proliferation of selfies and easy photos today that I have no photo, at all, of one ancestor who was alive in 1917.

The Grasshopper Theory

It’s worth stating the obvious, that on any given day, every single line of your ancestors had someone alive, because if there was a break in that line, you wouldn’t be here today, and all of the circumstances that occurred in that lifetime to connect your ancestors together wouldn’t have happened.

I think this is the genealogist’s version of the butterfly wing theory where a small change to one thing changes everything.

We’ll call this the grasshopper theory, in honor of what Facebook showed me today for “on this day.” I had a good laugh. The good news about Facebook is that the combination of easy access to cameras in phones today combined with social media, the routine and un-exceptional has become the norm. Nobody takes only “good” pictures anymore, only on special occasions. We take picture everyday, of the everyday occurrences in our lives.  As genealogists, these are the tidbits we long for about our ancestors lives, but are, of course, maddeningly elusive.

I guess the good news and the bad news is that no one in our ancestor’s time recorded anything as mundane as grasshoppers on a mum creating grasshopper descendants.

No one was taking pictures of our ancestor’s cat on quilt pieces, or their flowers, or even them. Oh, how I wish they had, because I’d love to have a direct bird’s eye view into what they loved, what their garden looked like, or even their cat or dog.

I would love to walk in my great-grandmother’s flower garden, or see the quilt she was working on.

I want to know about their everyday existence, in addition to defining moments like birth, marriage and death. I want to know about that elusive dash in-between, in as close to the first person as possible.

Will Facebook be the goldmine of genealogists a hundred or two hundred years from now?

However, since I can’t do any of those things, let’s see what I can do about doing an ancestral version of “On This Day.”

I selected 100 years ago on October 20th, about a month into the future from when I’m doing the actual researching. It just so happens that I’ll be doing something quite interesting myself on that day, speaking at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, in Dublin, not far from where some of my ancestors lived. I find that prospect quite exciting, so let’s see what my ancestors were doing on that day, October 20, 1917, 100 years ago.

Step 1 – Who Was Alive

The first step is to determine which of my ancestors were alive in 1917. There shouldn’t be too many, as it’s really not that terribly long ago.

A quick look at your pedigree chart in your genealogy software should help a lot.

My father was a couple decades older than my mother, so while my mother wasn’t born yet, my father was about 14, or 15, or maybe 16. His birth year was uncertain and somewhat pliable since he bent it to whatever he needed it to be at the moment.

His parents and all 4 of his grandparents were living on October 20, 1917. That’s a total of 7 of my ancestors on just my father’s side that were alive at one time. More than I expected.

On my mother’s side, she was just a twinkle in my grandpa’s eye. Her parents were obviously alive, and 3 of her 4 grandparents, plus one of her great-grandparents. That’s 6 on my mom’s side.

So, one by one, let’s see what we know about them and what they were doing on October 20, 1917.

Step 2 – World Events

What was going on in the world on October 20, 1917? How might these things be influencing the lives of my ancestors where they were living?

Let’s turn to newspapers.com and take a look.

America was at War, WWI, the war to end all wars, which didn’t, of course. That Saturday morning the headlines across the nation carried bad news.

Those ancestors who were in a location where newspapers were available assuredly knew about this. Radio broadcasting didn’t begin until after the war, in 1920, so otherwise, word would have traveled slowly.

In 1917, most homes didn’t have electricity. It wasn’t until 1925 that half the homes in the US had electricity, and those would have been in metropolitan areas. My ancestors, except one, all lived rurally.

My mother remembered her home without electricity when she was a child in Northern Indiana in the 1920s, but the nearby train depot had electricity in order to transmit morse code signals.

My ancestors in Appalachia wouldn’t have electricity until the 1950s, but even then few had phones – less than 25% in general and where my ancestors lived, a LOT less than 25%.

While people in big cities might have heard news on the day it happened, or within a day or two, people who lived more remotely probably only heard the really big stories, and then not until days after they happened. That’s almost incomprehensible today.

So while the Russian Revolution took place overseas, few in the US probably heard about it, and no one in Appalachia knew or cared.

Nor did they know or care that 10 Suffragettes picketed the white house in August in order to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to enable women to vote. Attacked by mobs, while police refused to intervene, the women were jailed. My ancestors, if they knew about this at all, probably viewed those women as rabble-rousers deserving of what they got when they petitioned for political prisoner status in October and were confined to solitary. Those brave women endured both torture and terror. It would be three long years before the battle for women’s right to vote was won, an event that would affect all women, everyplace in the US, but that three of my ancestors living in 1917 wouldn’t live to see.

As reported on October 20, 1917 by Washington (DC) Post.

But my ancestor who I would have thought the LEAST likely to take a stand…did!

Step 3 – On This Day

On this day, in 2017, I’ll be speaking in Ireland about genetic genealogy which helped me locate my McDowell line.  A couple days later, I’ll also be visiting the location where people who match my ancestor on paternal DNA lived a hundred years or so after my ancestor left for America.  A tiny crossroads area northwest of Dublin.  Not too many people moved TO that area, so it’s likely my ancestor lived there too.

On this day, October 20, 1917, as best I can determine, this is what my ancestors alive at that time were doing. I’ve tried to locate a photo for each person as well, as close to that time as I can find.

My Father

Name: William Sterling Estes

Birth Date: October 1, 1901, or 1902, or 1903, take your pick. He did, and added several more years too, as they suited him.

Age: 14, 15, or 16

Occupation: Army, private – he “fudged” his age to enlist and serve his country.

Location: On August 24, 1917, my father was transferred from Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis, Indiana to Camp Custer at Battle Creek, Michigan.

Camp Custer was built in 1917, so this was a brand spanking new facility and where he would serve most of his Army career.

Love Life: My father was probably dating a young gal, Virgie Houtz, whom he would marry, decades later. Virgie lived in Dunkirk, Indiana. I suspect that after he left Fort Benjamin Harrison in central Indiana for Michigan that their romance cooled with distance. They both married others until he found her again and they married, in 1961, 43 years later.

Living Children: None yet, that I know of anyway

Deceased Children: None

Did you know this person? Yes, much later of course. He died when I was a child. this is the only photo I have of us together.

Local Events:

Neither Battle Creek nor Kalamazoo’s newspapers are online yet, but the Lansing State Journal headline for October 20th is shown below. Lansing is relatively close to Battle Creek.

Liberty Bonds are how the war was financed and subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty. On October 1, 1917 Second Liberty Loan offered $3.8 billion in bonds at 3% interest, redeemable after 10 years. R. E. Olds was synonymous with Oldsmobile.

Camp Custer was mentioned in the Wakefield (Michigan) News:

The Sheboygan (Wisconsin) Press carried Camp Custer Notes too.

It appears that a contest was taking place among the soldiers for who could buy the most Liberty bonds to support the war.

Oh, and two days later, on Monday and Tuesday, a dedication ceremony for Camp Custer was to take place, so you know that my Dad was getting his dress uniform spiffed up for what was certainly a dressy affair with lots of dignitaries in attendance.

What Was Affecting His Life?

Newspapers are so interesting. We discover sewer plants under construction at Camp Custer and that soldiers are not supposed to visit Jackson, because there are, gasp, saloons there. And oh, umbrellas were not used at Camp Custer, considered too un-military. A war bond contest was underway, and Camp Custer was to be dedicated in just two days – so everyone was busy putting everything in perfect order.

As a young man, much younger than his official enlisted age, at some level he had to be somewhat frightened. Not only was he only 14 or 15, he had been abandoned by his parents and was now in jeopardy of being a child sent to fight in a man’s war. The only saving grace may have been that his brother Joe enlisted too, but it’s unknown if they were stationed in the same location.

Y Line Haplogroup – R-BY490, obtained through his first cousin. This tells us that my father’s direct paternal ancestors were European and probably Celtic.

mtDNA Haplogroup – H, obtained when only the HVR1 level was offered. I hope that someone from his matrilineal line tests eventually. This tells us that his ancestor was European, but we need a further test to learn more.

My Father’s Father’s

Name: William George Estes

Birth Date: March 30, 1873

Age: 44

Occupation: Farmer, maybe bootlegger

Location: Claiborne County, Tennessee

Living Children: 5

Deceased Children: 6

Did you know this person? No, I never met him although he lived until I was in my teens.

Local Events:

The Claiborne Progress Newspaper was publishing in 1917, but those editions, if they exist, are not yet available. However, a scrapbook was found years ago having been contributed to the local library. I scanned the articles, mostly undated, and subsequently transcribed them, finding many interesting tidbits.

Electricity was not yet available in this part of the country. Travel was still by horse and something, usually a horse and wagon. Automobiles began to be mass produced in 1908. Some people did have cars. The newspaper in 1914 told us that cars traversed the Knoxville Pike, but I doubt that many in Claiborne County owned vehicles, and certainly not poor farmers.

In 1917, Tazewell had recently built a new train depot, and in doing so, several men stepped on nails, one of them subsequently passing away, probably from lockjaw or blood poisoning. Antibiotics and vaccines were still in the future.

What Was Affecting His Life?

William George, known as Will, having moved to Indiana sometime after the 1910 census as a tenant farmer had moved back to Claiborne County, Tennessee by 1917 and was establishing a life with a second wife, the cousin of his first wife with whom his first wife had caught him cheating. Yes, this is the stuff of soap operas.

In October 1917, Joice or Joicy Hatfield Estes was pregnant with her first child who would be born in March of 1918. So, in October of 1917, William George had a 24 year old wife, 20 years his junior, who was 4 months pregnant. He was probably pretty proud of himself.

His oldest son, Estel, had been married for 3 years, and William George had a 2 year, 4 month old grandson who would be older than Will’s new daughter that would be born the following March.

William George’s two other sons, William Sterling and Joseph “Dode” were enlisted in the Army to fight WWI. His eldest daughter, Margaret was 11 and living in Chicago with Ollie, his x-wife and his youngest daughter, Minnie, age 9, may have been living with a doctor in Rose Hill, Virginia, as a “servant” to care for the doctor’s ailing wife. I’m guessing that William George’s x-wife and daughters were mad as wet hens, at him, but I’m also guessing that William George didn’t much care. He had moved on.

Y Line Haplogroup – R-BY490, tells us that he connects with the other Estes men from Kent, England.

mtDNA Haplogroup – J1c2c, obtained through his sister’s grandson tells us that his mother was European, not Native American as had been rumored. The matches indicate that her ancestors were probably from the British Isles.

My Father’s Mother

Name: Ollie Bolton

Ollie, at left, with her daughter, Margaret in 1918 in Franklin Park, Illinois.  There was some discussion about whether this photo was actually Ollie or her mother, but since Margaret originally identified the photo, it makes sense that it’s Ollie.  However, I have never been entirely convinced.

The nose seems to be shaped entirely differently from other photos of Ollie.

Birth Date: May 5, 1874

Death Date: 43

Occupation: Divorced, unknown

Location: Probably Franklin Park, Illinois

Living Children: 5

Deceased Children: 6

Did you know this person? No, she died 5 months before I was born. My mother cared for her when she was pregnant for me. So, indirectly, I was at her funeral.

Local Events:

Ollie had to have been thinking about her two sons who had enlisted in the military. The war was escalating. Would either or both of them see active duty? Would they survive?

What Was Affecting Her Life?

We know so little about Ollie after she left Indiana. What we do know is gathered in snippets and pieces.

I don’t have any idea how she supported herself and the girls, or at least Margaret. Minnie says she was sent to live with a doctor and his wife in Rose Hill, Virginia to help him take care of his invalid wife. Margaret lived with her mother in Chicago.

We have a photo of Margaret and her mother labeled Franklin Park, Illinois and dated 1918. I wish I had thought to ask Margaret what kind of work her mother did, and when, exactly, they had moved to Chicago.

There are also reports of a child named Elsie or Elsia, born with downs syndrome and who subsequently passed away. I can find no record of Elsia’s birth or death, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t exist. If Elsia did exist, she would have been the last child born in Indiana before Ollie and Bill split, or, maybe Elsia arrived after the split. Regardless, based on what Aunt Margaret said, Elsia died in Chicago. Ollie would have been dealing with supporting herself and at least Margaret, if not Margaret and Elsia, in Chicago, alone, with no husband. A very tall order for a woman with very little education in that time and place.

Ollie’s family, including her oldest son and 2 year old grandchild lived in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

Did Ollie know that her brother, Samuel Bolton, had enlisted in the service too, just the month before? Was she able to see him one last time before he left for Europe? I hope so, because unless they shipped his body home for burial in 1918, she would never see him again.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Unfortunately, we only have Ollie’s base haplogroup, H. I would love to test someone who descends through all women from Ollie’s sisters or direct line of female ancestors in order to obtain additional information. Half of the women in Europe belonged to haplogroup H, so additional information would be very beneficial by providing hints as to where her ancestors were from.

My Father’s Paternal Grandfather

Name: Lazarus Estes

Birth Date: May 1848

Age: 69

Occupation: Farmer, huckster (peddler)

Location: Estes Holler, Claiborne County, Tennessee

The house had been near the two small trees in the foreground.

Living Children: 4

Deceased Children: 6

Did you know this person? No, he died almost 40 years before I was born.

Local Events:

The war was preying on everyone’s minds.

What Was Affecting Their Lives?

Lazarus was aging and probably ill. I believe he carved his own headstone before his death, at least his name. It matches the other headstones that he carved for his children and grandchildren. Lazarus would pass away the following summer, just three months before his wife.

Lazarus lived at the end of Estes Holler, the patriarch, who cared for his aged mother, buried her, carved her stone and many thereafter. When his son, William George Estes’s cabin burned and their son along with it, it was Lazarus who buried the child. It was also Lazarus who took in his two grandsons, William Sterling and Joe Dode when they jumped freight trains back to Tennessee to find their grandparents when their parents were divorcing in Indiana. The family story says that neither parent wanted the boys and they arrived in Tennessee filthy and very hungry.

It was Lazarus who “ran William George out of Estes Holler for doing Ollie wrong” when he returned with his new young wife, his x-wife’s cousin, after abandoning the boys.

In 1920, William George was living in Claiborne County, but not in Estes Holler from the looks of the census. According to the family story, Lazarus told William George he would kill him if he came back, after abandoning his two sons – those boys just 10 and 12 who hopped a freight train to find their way home to their grandfather. Lazarus seemed to be a good man, always taking care of others.

In October of 1917, Lazarus was probably wondering what to do about his land when he died. His own mortality had to be weighing heavy on his mind. He would have been watching his ailing wife and knew that some of his children weren’t as stable and trustworthy as others. Sometime over the winter, Lazarus decided to deed his land to his daughter and neighbor, Cornie Epperson and her husband, but with instructions to pay the rest of his heirs cash.

Lazarus had a cow and a horse, because he reserved the right to pasture them on half an acre until his death.

On October 20th, Lazarus might have been watching the leaves change color and wondering if he would see them again. He woundn’t. Perhaps he walked to little graveyard behind his house or the one down the road behind the church to visit with the rest of his family who he would see again soon.

Y Line Haplogroup – R-BY490, obtained through his grandson not yet born at that time. The Big Y test that provided this haplogroup provided evidence that it’s unlikely that the Estes family descended from the d’Este family of Italy.

mtDNA Haplogroup – We don’t yet have Lazarus’s mtDNA haplogroup that he would have inherited from his mother’s direct matrilineal line. I have a scholarship for the first person descended from the following women through all females to the current generation, which can be male:

  • Lazarus’ mother, Rutha Dodson married John Y. Estes
  • Her mother, Elizabeth Campbell married Lazarus Dodson
  • Her mother, Jane “Jenny” Dobkins (born c 1780-1850/60) married John Campbell
  • Her mother, Dorcas Johnson (born c 1748-1831) married Jacob Dobkins (1751-1833)
  • Her mother Mary “Polly” Phillips (born c 1739) married Peter Johnson (born c 1715-1790)

 My Father’s Paternal Grandmother

Name: Elizabeth Vannoy, pictured above, with Lazarus

Birth Date: June 23, 1847

Age: 70

Occupation: Farm wife

Location: Estes Holler, Claiborne County, Tennessee

Lazarus’ and Elizabeth’s land.

Living Children: 4

Deceased Children: 6

Did you know this person? No, she died almost 40 years before I was born.

What Was Affecting Her Life?

Elizabeth and Lazarus were both aging. Both had lived through the Civil War and now the country was embroiled in yet another war. Both were assuredly worried about what would follow, if we would see war on our own soil, and how that would affect their children and grandchildren.

Elizabeth probably seldom saw her 5 grandchildren by her daughter Martha who died in 1911. Their father remarried and moved to Union County, TN.

Her son, William George Estes seemed to be the “wild child” of the bunch. He had moved to Arkansas and back. His cabin burned just a few yards from Elizabeth’s house, killing their young son in 1907. Sometime after the 1910 census, William George and family would move to Indiana, where his wife divorced him. From there, he moved back to Tennessee again, but his children from his first marriage dispersed to the winds. Two of those children were serving in WWI.

Only one of Elizabeth’s grandchildren through William George lived in Claiborne County. I hope that Estel visited Lazarus and Elizabeth and shared the joy of their baby boy, born in 1915.

Elizabeth’s daughter, Cornie lived right across the road and Elizabeth would have been close to Cornie’s 9 children. Cornie’s last child was born on June 4th, so Elizabeth would have been helping Cornie with the new baby.

Son Columbus, or “Lum,” had 4 children, but one of them died at birth in 1914 and was buried down the road by the church in the family area of the Pleasant View Cemetery. HIs daughter Mollie had just been born on August 9th.

Son Charlie and his wife had moved up to Hancock County, near the county line with Lee County. They had 4 children, with the most recent addition being added on June 8th. However, Elizabeth was probably quite worried about this baby, who wasn’t doing well. Three days after Christmas in 1917, that baby would be buried too.

A year and 5 days later, after Elizabeth buried Lazarus in July of 1918, she would join him.

mtDNA Haplogroup – J1c2c, obtained from her great-grandchild through Cornie, tells us that she was European. Her mother has been rumored to have been Cherokee Indian. Her mitochondrial DNA proves that at least her direct matrilineal line was not Native.

My Father’s Maternal Grandfather

Name: Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton

Joseph, pictured at left about 1913 or 1914 with son Dudley and granddaughter Elizabeth.

Birth Date: September 18, 1853

Age: 64

Occupation: Farmer

Location: Sedalia, Hancock County, Tennessee

Living Children: 9 or 10

Deceased Children: 2

Did you know this person? No, he died in 1920.

What Was Affecting His Life?

Joseph’s son, Samuel Bolton had just enlisted in the military to serve his county in WWI. Recruiting had been heavy in East Tennessee, appealing to the patriotism that runs deep in this part of the county. I don’t know if Dode, as he was called, tried to talk his son out of joining, but it didn’t matter, Sammy joined and by October 20th, would have been receiving training in Camp Sevier, SC. Sammy might have thought that was fun, and maybe Dode wasn’t terribly worried yet, but that time would come.

Sammy shipped out for Europe on a transport vessel in May 1918 and was killed in France on October 8, 1918.

Joseph’s son Estel Vernon Bolton, born in 1890, was serving as well. After the war, he would come home and live with his parents to help his aging parents.

Samuel and Estel were the youngest living children. The true baby, Henry, had already died.

Joseph’s daughter Ollie wasn’t doing terribly well either. She had married William George Estes, getting divorced in Indiana about 1915 and then moving to Chicago. Her two sons were in the military too. That’s 4 serving in the military for Dode to worry about.

Daughter Mary Lee who married Tip Sumpter had moved to Illinois and daughter Ida had moved to Kentucky, but that wasn’t terribly far.

Dalsey lived up the road in Jonesville, just across the border into Virginia, but son Charles had moved to Arkansas.

Joseph probably sorely missed the help from both Samuel and Estel on the farm. He had lost both of his helpers as they went to answer their patriotic calling. Only one would return.

Y Line Haplogroup – R-FGC62079, provided by Joseph’s brother’s great-great-grandson tells us that he descends from the very large haplogroup R in Europe. His deep ancestry as revealed by the Big Y test suggests that Joseph’s ancestors were from the British Isles and probably from western Europe before that.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Joseph would have received his mitochondrial DNA from his mother. Mother’s give their mtDNA to all of their children, but only women pass it on. I will provide a DNA testing scholarship for the first person who descends from the following women through all females to the current generation, which can be male.

Note: It’s the McDowell line that I’ve gone to Ireland to visit, right after my presentation in Dublin. Mary McDowell was the daughter of Michael McDowell, the son of Michael McDowell, the son of Murtough McDowell, who immigrated from Ireland and was living in Baltimore, Maryland by 1720. The Y DNA of Michael McDowell’s descendant matches that of the McDowell line from Northern Ireland, where I’ll be visiting in a few days.

My Father’s Maternal Grandmother

Name: Margaret Claxton

Surely a photo exists someplace of Margaret Claxton or Clarkson, given that she didn’t pass away until March 11, 1920. If someone has a photo of Margaret, I would surely appreciate a copy.

Birth Date: July 28, 1851

Age: 66

Occupation: Farmer’s wife

Location: Sedalia, Hancock County, Tennessee

Living Children: 9 or 10

Deceased Children: 2

Did you know this person? No, she died in 1920.

What Was Affecting Her Life?

You’d think with 9 or 10 living children that Margaret would have had a lot of grandchildren in and out of the house. Of Her children, Ollie was living in Chicago and Mary Lee was in Illinois too. Charles was in Arkansas. Elizabeth was in Ohio with her 9 children. Samuel and Estel were both unmarried and in the military.

That only left Dudley living in Hancock County, with 4 children. Dalsey lived in Lee County, Virginia, not terribly far with 6 children at that time, the newest child being born on December 16, 1916. Margaret probably enjoyed this new grandchild. I hope she got to see her grandchildren often.

Ida lived over the border in Kentucky, so Margaret probably didn’t get to see her often. Ida had no children, which may have been a heartache for both women.

Ollie’s son, Estel had married and lived in Claiborne County. He had a child that was just over 2 years old who I believe was Margaret’s first great-grandchild. Hopefully Margaret got to see this child from time to time as well.

Margaret surely worried about her two sons serving in uniform, and with good reason. Samuel may have gotten to visit while on leave the following May before shipping out for overseas, but after that, she would never seem him again on this side of death.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Margaret’s haplogroup is H, but we were unable to get a more refined answer. We need another person to test. Anyone who descends through any of Margaret’s daughters through all females to the current generation, which can be male, carries her mtDNA and is eligible to test. I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone who descends from her daughters as described above, or from any of the women below through all females as well.

My Mother’s Father

Name: John Whitney Ferverda

Birth Date: December 26, 1882

Age: 34, 35 in December

Occupation: Retail hardware store owner and implement merchant, according to his WWI draft registration

Location: Silver Lake, Kosciusko County, Indiana, beside the train depot.

The house, above, today where my mother was raised.  It’s behind my mother, in the photo below.

The hardware store, pictured below with John Ferverda in front, was a couple blocks from the house, near the crossroads in the center of town.

Living Children: 1

Deceased Children: 0

Did you know this person? Yes, he died in 1960. I remember him eating peanuts and sitting in his chair.

Local Events:

The newspaper in Fort Wayne reported that the first hard blow of the war had been incurred. The President appointed a day or prayer.

While my ancestors in Tennessee probably knew nothing about this, the people a few miles west of Fort Wayne surely did.

John Ferverda would assuredly have known, and probably before the newspapers arrived. John had been the railroad station master and sent and received Morse Code messages. John’s brother still worked for the railroad, living across the street from both John and the depot. John and Roscoe were probably the first people in Silver Lake, or Kosciusko County, to know of breaking news. Want to be in the know? Be friends with John Ferverda.

What Was Affecting His Life?

On January 8, 1916 the newspaper in Rushville, Indiana had the following tidbit.

J. W. Ferverda, Big Four agent at Silver Lake and well known here has purchased a hardware store there in partnership with R. M. Frye. He has resigned his position with the railroad company. Mr. Ferverda married Miss Edith Lore of this city.

This is the only way that we knew when John bought the hardware store. Sadly, John would lose the store in 1922, selling out. He was too kind-hearted and granted too much credit that could never be repaid.

But in 1917, John would have been excited to build his new business.

In May, John’s youngest brother had graduated in the first commencement from Leesburg High School. Three of John’s brothers were serving in the military, very unusual for a Brethren family.

Y Line Haplogroup – John’s Y DNA haplogroup is I-Y210, European, consistent with John’s paternal lineage from the Netherlands.

mtDNA Haplogroup – We don’t have a sample of the mitochondrial DNA of John’s mother, Evaline Louise Miller. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first person descended from any of the following women through all females to the current generation, which can be male.

  • John’s mother, Evaline Louise Miller married Hiram Ferverda
  • Her mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz married John David Miller
  • Her mother, Fredericka Reuhle married Jacob Lentz
  • Dorothea Katharina Wolflin born 1755 in Beutelsbach, Wuertemberg, Germany, married Johann Adam Reuhle born 1764 same location.
  • Dorothea Heuback born 1729 in Endersbach, Wuertemberg, Germany and married Johann Ludwig Wolfin born 1732 in Asperg, Wuertemberg, Germany and died in 1805 in Beutelsbach, Wuertemberg, Germany

My Mother’s Mother

Name: Edith Barbara Lore

Edith with her husband, John Ferverda, probably about 1918.

Birth Date: August 2, 1888

Age: 29

Occupation: Not working outside the home, mother

Location: Silver Lake, Kosciusko County, Indiana

Living Children: 1

Deceased Children: 0

Did you know this person? Yes, I remember her dress, apron and black ankle high shoes as she rushed to hug me when we arrived. That’s me on her lap.

Local Events:

In October 1917, Edith’s only child, a son, was just a month shy of 2 years old. Edith had visited her mother in August who had recently moved from Rushville, Indiana to Wabash. Edith’s father had died in 1909 and her mother had remarried in 1916. Edith had a new step-father who wasn’t terribly well liked, by anyone.

What Was Affecting Her Life?

Edith’s grandfather, Jacob Kirsch, had passed away in May in Aurora. Her family was in flux. Her husband’s brothers were serving in the military, and while her husband, John, wasn’t, she was still the out of favor “non-Brethren” wife who was responsible for him marrying outside the faith.

The war brought rationing. In the Fort Wayne newspaper on this day, an article reveals that “a sugar famine is now upon the country and that the moment of America’s first self-denial has arrived.”

mtDNA Haplogroup – J1c2f, confirming a European origin of Edith’s German matrilineal line.

My Mother’s Paternal Grandfather

Name: Hiram Bauke Ferverda

Hiram, pictured above with all of his children. His wife, Evaline Louise Miller beside him, and John Ferverda second from right, last row. This photo was taken during WWI at the old home place near Leesburg, Kosciusko County. In the window behind the group is the banner, partially obscured, indicating that the family had 3 sons serving.

Birth Date: September 21, 1854

Age: 63

Occupation: Banker, farmer and street inspector

Location: Leesburg, Kosciusko County, Indiana

Living Children: 11

Deceased Children: 0, which is pretty amazing

Did you know this person? No, he died 30 years before I was born.

Local Events:

Witten in 1919 in the “History of Kosciusko County:”

The family are members of the Church of the Brethren and Mr. Ferverda is a republican. He was at one time captain of the local Horse Thief Detective Association, and in now an inspector of the streets of Leesburg.

Well, ahem. The Horse Thief Detective Association was a local detective and law enforcement group of vigilantes formed about 1840. During this time in Indiana, near Wingate, horse stealing had become so rampant that folks had to completely give up the idea of farming. Arrests were nigh on nonexistant, so the men banded together to not only discover who was stealing the horses, but to apprehend them and put an end to it. They did, becoming relatively well respected, and also becoming investigators, police officers, judge, jury and executioner all in one – sometimes all in the same night or raid. Later in the early 1900s, they became heavily associated with the KKK and in the early 1920s, this group met its demise with the downfall of one of their leaders who was convicted of the murder of a woman. They primarily operated throughout Indiana, but also to some extent in surrounding states.

This is something I could have spent my entire life not knowing. So, how, I wonder did Hiram reconcile the Horse Thief Detective Association with his Brethren belief of non-violence? Let’s hope that “at one time” means that he was no longer associated with this group.

What Was Affecting His Life?

The war had to be weighing heavy on Hiram’s mind, as three of his sons were serving. All three came home.

It’s surprising that the Brethren church did not discharge Hiram given that his sons served in the military and Hiram clearly had to have taken an oath to be a public official, along with other highly un-Brethren activities.

Y Line Haplogroup – I-Y2170 – a haplogroup discovered during Big Y testing. This confirmed the Ferverda is European, and his closest matches are from Germany and Russia with Big Y matches also from Scandinavia. The Ferverda DNA and ancestors have been in that region for a very long time.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Hiram’s mother died in Holland, and her mtDNA line has not yet been tested. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first person to step forward who descends from the following women through all females to the current generation, which can be male:

  • Hiram’s mother, Geertje Jarmens de Jong born March 22, 1829 in Baard, the Netherlands, died October 3, 1860 in Terjerksteradeel, the Netherlands, married Bauke Hendrick Ferverda (Ferwerda) on May 14, 1853 in Baarderadeel, the Netherlands.
  • Her mother, Angenietje Wijtses Houtsma born August 12, 1802 in Leeuwarderadeel, the Netherlands, died after July 17, 1866 and married on May 22, 1824 in Baarderadeel, the Netherlands to Harmen Gerrits de Jong.
  • Her mother Lolkjen Ales Noordhof married Wijzse Douwes Houstma (1783-1825 Boxum, Friesland, the Netherlands.

My Mother’s Paternal Grandmother

Name: Evaline Louise Miller

Birth Date: March 29, 1857

Age: 60

Occupation: farm wife

Location: Leesburg, Kosciusko County, Indiana

Living Children: 11

Deceased Children: 0

Did you know this person? No, but she cared for my mother when she was sick as a child.

Local Events:

The war. How could she not think of the war everyday with 3 sons serving?

What Was Affecting Her Life?

The decisions affecting Brethren families had to have been tearing at the fabric of both family and churches.

This 7 page undated letter or article, written by Eva, with page 6 missing, tells us so much about how she thought. I suspect this was written about this time because of the refences to women’s education, rights and the focus on temperance which resulted in Prohibition beginning in 1919. Temperance is the issue that made the Brethren, as a whole, decide they needed to participate in government by voting, beginning in about 1912. Prior to that, the Brethren refused to participate in any form of government unless it was required for them to fulfill the Brethren mission in the world, which included voting and holding office.

Some Things Our Women Are Doing

Women in the olden times were in the main appendages of men. They were servants in some capacity and were not supposed to need any special intellectual training.

The women of olden times were not educated in the school as they are now. But now in our time, her real worth is more properly estimated and her education is held of equal importance with man. Education is power, and when rightly used, sharpens the mind, it kindles ambition and awakens self respict (sic). The intelligence of women is rapidly increasing. Women are graduating from our colleges, with equal honors with men. This enlarged intelligence of women should vastly increase the intelligence of our homes. Ignorance in the home never will promote its welfare. Ignorance in the mother is never any benefit to her children. Ignorance never made a womans work of any better quality. Ignorance in the women of a neighborhood never promoted the better interests of the neighborhood, the church, or Aid So. (Aid society). It does promote gossip, scandal, backbiting, jealousy, folly, coarseness, low life. Ignorance is on a level with these things and is the mother of them all. But woman’s day has come and with renewed womanhood, and Christian intelligence, are forefeared to do a good work wherever their lot shall be, in the home, the church, the S.S. or Aid.

We have noted women of old history who had great influence in private and public life, Miriam, sister of Moses aiding much in the deliverance of her people. Deborah who ruled and judged Israel. Hannah noted for her trust in the Lord, being the mother of Samuel.

In the time of Christ and the apostles, there were many noted women, zealous in their devotion to the new religion. The religion which opened new encouragements and hopes to women. The religion which placed women on and equivalent to men such as Paul in Romans 16th speaks of some good women in his day. He commends Phebe our sister who is a servant of the church. Also Priscilla wife of Aquila and Tryphena wife of Tryfanosa who labored much in the church. We have the Marys of Dorcar and we might name many more noted women.

Women can do great things. Think once of the crusaders, some women of our time. That awakening of moral conviction and spiritual power such as perhaps has both been known since the early days of Christianity. They came on bended knee and tearful eyes and prayed for all the guilty offenders, that they might repent and be forgiven. They lifted the cause to the throne of God and hold it there still. They made it his cause. They joined in with his church. This took the cause of temperance up to the summit level of practical Christian life, and made it what it all along should have been a high, holy, divine cause. All this some of our good Christian women have done and through their efforts we shall soon have worldwide temperance. What other women have done we can do and our women of today are doing things.

Our Sister Aid Society is doing great work. We have about 16,000 women engaged in the various activities of the Aid Society (page 6 missing).

The Lord gives us health so we can surely give one day every two weeks for this good work and we know we shall be blessed for every good deed we do. It is the little deeds we do which count for so much for a cup of cold water given in his name we shall be blessed. (rest missing)

mtDNA Haplogroup – We don’t have her son’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup, which means we don’t have hers either, since her son inherited his mitochondrial DNA from Evaline.  Anyone descended directly from her through all females can test, as well as anyone descended from the following women through all females to the current generation, which can be males.

  • Evaline’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz married John David Miller
  • Her mother, Fredericka Reuhle married Jacob Lentz
  • Dorothea Katharina Wolflin born 1755 in Beutelsbach, Wuertemberg, Germany, married Johann Adam Reuhle born 1764 same location.
  • Dorothea Heuback born 1729 in Endersbach, Wuertemberg, Germany and married Johann Ludwig Wolfin born 1732 in Asperg, Wuertemberg, Germany and died in 1805 in Beutelsbach, Wuertemberg, Germany

 My Mother’s Maternal Grandmother

Name: Ellenora “Nora” Kirsch

Yep, that’s Nora, with her daughters Eloise, Mildred, then Nora and Edith. Who would ever have guessed!

Birth Date: December 24, 1866

Age: 50, 51 on Christmas Eve

Occupation: Probably Housewife

Location: Wabash, Indiana

Living Children: 3

Deceased Children: 1

Did you know this person? No, but I would have liked to.

Local Events:

Huntington, Indiana wasn’t far from Wabash. The headlines everyplace included the new about the transport ship being torpedoed.

Having lived in Rushville her entire adult life, she may have also subscribed to the Rushville paper, if they had a service allowing the paper to be mailed distantly.

Nora must have worried because her family in Aurora still spoke German.

What Was Affecting Her Life?

Nora’s life had changed incredibly in the past few months and years. Her first husband died of tuberculosis in 1909, followed by her daughter of the same disease in 1912. On October 28, 1916, she married Thomas McCormick and moved from Rushville to Wabash, Indiana shortly thereafter. In Rushville, she worked for a department store, then opened her own sewing, clothing construction and alternation business. Moving to Wabash would have changed everything.

Her first wedding anniversary was just a week away. Was she preparing a celebration? Was she already having regrets and second thoughts. She stayed with McCormick for years, never officially divorcing. He eventually left and she was much happier.

My mother remembers visiting Nora in Wabash where she always had a quilt frame hung with pully’s from the ceiling, so it could be raised and lowered.

I don’t know which quilt she was working on that that time, but I can assure you that she was working on some quilt. Quilters quilt for beauty, quilters quilt for hope, quilters quilt to help and quilters quilt when they need to work through something or don’t know what else to do.

We know for sure that she quilted from the 1880s through the 1930s. Her quilts, below, are hung at left and right, and my mother’s afghan inspired by Nora’s quilts is displayed in the center.

We also know that Nora gardened, from this photo from about the same time. I wonder if her gardens inspired the Climbing Vine and the Picket Fence quilts, above.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Nora’s haplogroup, J1c2f, the same one I carry today. Known as Jasmine, tracking haplogroup J has provided insight into ancestors that we can never reach through traditional genealogy.

My Mother’s Maternal Great-Grandmother

Name: Barbara Drechsel

My great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch, at left, her sister Mildred holding her first child born in 1922, then my great-great-grandmother Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, at right. A beautiful 4 generation photo. It’s amazing how happy Barbara looks considering the amount of tragedy she had endured in the past decade or so.

Birth Date: October 8, 1848

Age: 69

Occupation: Innkeeper, Proprietor

Location: Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana

Kirsch house to the right, the depot at left, above. This probably looks much the way it did when Barbara lived there.

The bar that was in the building in the 1980s when Mom, my daughter and I visited was the original.

Living Children: 6

Deceased Children: 0

Did you know this person? No, but she was amazing. I like to think I have her spunk and gumption.

Local Events:

Floods, always floods. Aurora, Indiana sat on the bend of the Ohio River and flooded regularly. In the winter of 1917/1918, the Ohio flooded dramatically, causing ice dams to break which flooded Aurora. According to the newspaper, the properties looked like “scrambled eggs.” In the basement of the Kirsch House, you could still see the stains from the flood waters, decades later.

While the Kirsch House sat relatively high, on the North side of town, several blocks from the river, they were still badly flooded at least every few years. The train tracks were on even higher ground.

What Was Affecting Her Life?

I don’t know if Barbara was grief-stricken or relieved, or maybe some of each. Her husband, Jacob Kirsch, had died of cancer of the stomach on July 23rd. She had been taking care of a terminally ill husband for months, as well as running the Kirsch House, a combination hotel, pub and restaurant.

Barbara’s daughter, Carrie was ill with syphilis that would claim her life a few years later. Carrie had contracted that then-fatal disease from her wealth river-boat gambler husband who had already died a decade earlier.

Barbara’s daughter, Lou, worked with her mother after Lou’s husband had committed suicide in the garden behind the Kirsch House on Halloween night 1910. Barbara probably depended on Lou to help with the Kirsch House and with caring for Jacob when he was ill as well.

Barbara’s daughter Ida was in her 20s and hadn’t yet married. Ida also worked at the Kirsch House with her mother. After Ida and Lou both married in 1920 and 1921, Barbara would sell the Kirsch House and live with her daughter, Nora.

Nora had buried a husband and daughter in the past few years, had built her own retail and service business and then remarried in late 1916 to a man that was not liked by the family. Nora moved further away, to Wabash, Indiana. Barbara was very close to Nora’s daughters, her granddaughters, and they came to stay with Nora at the Kirsch House often.

Barbara’s sons Martin and Edward, in their late 40s, so too old to serve in the military, didn’t live close by, but she probably saw then occasionally since the Kirsch House was beside the depot and southern Indiana was well connected by rail. Her grandson, Edgard Kirsch registered for the draft and claimed an exemption for his father and mother who he claimed were dependents.

The Cincinnati newspaper carried headlines about the war. Barbara was born in Germany and the family spoke German. Certainly Barbara still had family in Germany, and may have written back and forth. She may have had aunts, uncles and first cousins still living.

We do know that the Kirsch family spoke German until this time, when they stopped and spoke only English, so that their loyalty would not be questioned. The war had to be on Barbara’s mind, both from the perspective of an American and also as a person with German relatives.

mtDNA Haplogroup – Barbara’s haplogroup descended to me through her female descendants. As more matches have accrued over the years, the amazing Scandinavian story of this haplogroup, found in Barbara’s mother in Germany about 1800 is emerging.

Your Turn

It’s your turn now to select a day, take your picture, and document what your ancestors were doing on that day?  What day will you select, and why?

14 thoughts on “On This Day – What Were Your Ancestors Doing? – 52 Ancestors #170

  1. I am always amazed at how much ground you can cover in your articles – where do you find the time to research all this information and still post to your blog!

    I would like to ask a question which is off the subject of this post. The November conference in Houston – do I understand from your previous post that is only for “group administrators” and not open to the general public?

  2. This was an amazing article that was beautifully researched. It showed the love you have for your family and all the years of reasearch material you have accumulated. A great idea and a great story.

  3. What a wonderful idea! It made me think about my paternal grandmother. On this day, 100 years ago, she was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my father. It was her fifth pregnancy and her eldest had just turned five in the summer. Her youngest brother was at war in England serving in the Royal Navy. The family lived in Montreal in an apartment which by then must have been already very overcrowded. You gave me an idea. I think I will do a write-up next month about her and the circumstances surrounding the birth of my father who unfortunately died at 61. However, my mother is still alive and will be 96 in December. I am sure she will be pleased.

  4. This is such a fun way to look at our ancestors! You inspired me to do something similar, and I was shocked to realize I had 43 direct ancestors living in October of 1917, ranging from 15 months to 84 years old.

  5. Fantastic article, but diverting early photo – diverting for me, that is.
    After seeing a wonderful black cat pointing to a chemical structure that could have been caffeine or a nucleic acid – three of my favorite things – the rest was mostly a blur.
    Sorry.
    I will come back and try to skip that photo and read it again.

  6. Hi Roberta: I just want to thank you so much for writing about the Austin Linus Connection after Hurricane Harvey. I had been looking for what I could contribute, and after reading your blog, I knew! As a prolific knitter, I went into my stash and pulled out hand knit blankets that I sent to Austin. I wanted to let you know how much joy you gave to me in making that contribution! Regards, Lois Stifel

  7. Your thread illustrates that family history is personal history – much more than mere names and dates on paper, or genetic genealogy alone can tell. Experienced genealogists understand this. Beginners need to be reminded of it. It needs to be said more often. You’ve said it very well. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s