That’s Me!!: (almost) Wordless Wednesday

Vannoy Family Portrait, circa 1914: Paul, Ivan, Janet. Photographer A.C. "Al" Eckerman in Centerville, Iowa

Vannoy Family Portrait, circa 1914: Paul, Ivan, Janet. Photographer A.C. “Al” Eckerman in Centerville, Iowa

I have scanned a number of family photographs from the early 1900s recently. I paused over this one, and returned to gaze upon this scene, time after time.  The baby of the trio, Paul, appears to have pulled the book, hard, his way, so that he can see what Ivan and Janet are smiling about.  Click on the photograph, to the attachment, and take some time to enlarge this group shot.  The children are not reading a book aloud, to keep Paul still.  They are looking at a photograph of three children. I imagine Paul, clambering up on the table while yelling, “Let me see! Let me see!”  When at last he sits still, photograph in hand, little Paul shrieks with delight.  “That’s ME!”

Then, in that moment of still recognition, Al Eckerman captured his subjects in this beautiful portrait.

From the Kitchen Chair: Genealogy in the Tech Era

My grandmother possessed her gift of writing, a pen, and some paper.  Florette Sayles Strickland also possessed family memories, and using what she had, my grandmother crafted a family history booklet that was then distributed to her children,and photocopied and distributed again to her grandchildren.

That was so pre-PC.

That was so pre-internet.

That was not so long ago.

DSC_1142Last night, from my kitchen chair, I participated in a webinar, arranged and delivered by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. At nine o’clock P.M. EST I sat at my desk, clicked my emailed link, turned up my speakers’ volume, and joined the crowd listening to Harold Henderson’s presentation on The Best Genealogy Present You Can Give Yourself: Citing Your Sources.   I printed out the night’s handouts and scribbled further notes as Harold detailed how I can structure my source information into a well-crafted reference note.  Such citations increase the likelihood that I can find that source again as needed, as well as the credibility of my final story and conclusions.

From my kitchen chair, I can search, write, publish, find like-minded peers, and enhance my research skills.  My grandmother would be astounded!

 

I Accept! the Family History Writing Challenge

You are a family historian; a collector of family lore, data bytes, census records, photographs, and old papers that mean nothing to nobody but you.  At some point, the names become people, and then the people become folks you really want to meet, which is a problem when all that is left is their memory.

Thus starts your journey; an impulsion carries you into a room with a blank screen or an empty page, and you sit and stare. And stare. And stare.  Because when it comes right down to it, as much as you know this person, there is twice as much left to uncover.  The story goes untold a bit longer.

PROCRASTINATION IS THE ASSASSINATION OF MOTIVATION

Those words have been ringing in my ears, almost as loudly as the high pitched hum of my tinnitus  and they are almost as annoying.  But, as the universe is prone to provide, a reading came my way, a blog post by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist in which she offered community, companionship, advice, and encouragement to write that family story I have felt too overwhelmed to attempt.  Now I am counting down the days until I confront the blank page and reconstruct the life of my perplexing, aggravating, inspiring great-great-grandfather, Ira Sayles, during the Family History Writing Challenge.

I commit to writing 500 words a day, each day during the month of February.  

I can’t wait to start!  Check out Lynn’s page, and seriously consider if it is not time to confront your blank page.  Eighteen days and counting!!  See you there!

Sunday’s Obituary: Merlin W. Sayles of Chase City, Virginia (1878)

A family mystery has been solved! My great-great-grandparents, Ira and Serena Sayles, had four children, wrote my grandmother, Florette Sayles Strickland. The daughter, Florette, died as a young girl. One son, Clifton, grew up to be a farmer, a husband, a dad – her dad. Another son, Christopher, grew up to join the peacetime army, and yet another son, Merlin, was lost to memory’s mists, until I uncovered his obituary in the Seventh Day Baptist archives of the 1878 Sabbath Recorder. From page three of Volume 34, issue 40, I finally learn the fate of this young man.

DIED

In Whitesville, N. Y., September 23d, 1878, MERLIN W. SAYLES, of Chase City, Maklinburg (sic) County, Va., aged 21 years, 2 months, and 11 days, second son of Prof. Ira and Serena C. Sayles, formerly of Alfred. His disease, as shown by examination after death, was aneurism in the right of the mesenteric artery, followed by a completely conjested mesentery, with incipient abcsess (sic) of the same, thus functionally destroying this vital organ. For the last two months, his sufferings were intense — he really starved to death. He was a member of the First-day Baptist Church of Chase City, Va., and died clinging to Jesus.

Just imagine the scene.  On a muggy, hot July day, Merlin collapsed after slopping the hogs. His brothers, Christopher and Clifton, rushed to where he lay doubled over, clutching his belly as the blood vessel lay ruptured inside him.  As they carried Merlin up the porch steps Clifton yelled to his mother, and Serena rushed into the front hallway of the family’s farmhouse.  Sizing up the moment she turned and took the stairs two at a time, with the boys on her heels.  Merlin was gently lowered into bed, his shoes taken off, his clothing loosened.  He must have been in agony that day, and each day after as his intestines slowly died and infection set in.  No tea, no soup, no biscuit would have stayed down; Serena would have tried every sort of remedy to ease the pain, to cure the fever, to stave off his withering.  Today the ruptured artery would be quickly diagnosed and surgically repaired. Serena could only watch over her boy, mopping his sweaty brow, wetting his dry lips, holding his feverish hand, praying for his recovery.

Would Ira have traveled down from New York for a last visit? Or did Serena meet this tragedy alone with her boys and neighbors?

Merlin W. Sayles may be buried in the family’s cemetery just off of Hunter’s Lane, south of Chase City, Virginia. Hidden among trees, his tombstone may still serve as testimony to the horror of his final days.

Matrilineal Monday: Whites of Whitesville, New York

This is my brain on genealogy.

While transcribing a letter dated July 24, 1869, a couple of its sentences looped relentlessly through my head, like a snippet of a catchy tune. My great-great-grandfather complained to his brother, James :

My year’s expenses devoured my year’s salary (as principal of Rushford Academy), and left me as poor today as one year ago today.  Serena does not dispose of much of her landed property, though, of course.
 

Just how much landed property did Serena have? De Beer’s 1869 Atlas of Allegany County, New York mapped residences, illustrating that the couple, or rather, Serena owned three properties – the Gothic house on Alfred University’s campus, a farm a few miles south in Independence, and a house on Main Street, catercorner to Rushford Academy.  How did Serena come by these properties?  On her teacher’s salary?  Hardly likely, since Ira notes that his wages didn’t cover expenses. Mutter, mutter….. Far more likely that Serena received land and property from her parents, Samuel S. and Nancy Teater White, who had been successful farmers and business owners in Whitesville, Allegany County. But how had they managed that in one generation, on those rocky Appalachian hills, removed from any highways or railroads?  And what attracted them to western New York in the first place?

In the space of five minutes I found myself in a web of my own, sticky design.

This is my brain on genealogy, just a web of ideas and places and people, stuck together in a mass of interconnected strands.  Not til I imagine that I am a Super Fly, using this mess as a trampoline, can I make a bounding leap of faith and see the story hidden in its design.

The Whites of Whitesville came from the sea

Samuel’s father was born Oliver White, Junior, in 1759 to Oliver White and Mary Sherman in the town of Newport, Rhode Island, down by the sea. Oliver Jr. removed west to Hopkinton, Rhode Island, a small town carved from Westerly, by 1775 when he first enlisted in the colonies’ army. Oliver served off and on for the duration of the Revolution, and between one of his tours of duty, on March 1, 1781, Oliver made a fateful decision. He decided to marry a Seventh Day Baptist.  Cynthia Burdick was the daughter of  Hannah Hall and Robert (4)  Burdick, who was the latest generation of Burdicks to provide leadership to the Westerly congregation.  Like other Baptists, they believed that local congregations were autonomous from a church hierarchy and had the authority to make decisions locally; and that the Bible was the authoritative source of faith. But unlike other Baptists, the Burdick family held that the scriptures designated Saturday as the Sabbath.  Sabbatarians worked on Sunday.  The rhythm of their work and worship, then, fundamentally differed from those of the larger community – and economy – in which they found themselves.   (Oliver Jr. became a member of the Hopkinton Seventh Day Baptist Church in 1786.)

As the atmosphere became more hostile to those not adhering to the conventional Christian sabbath, the sabbatarians began to migrate westward.  They moved in clusters, establishing communities in which they were free to work six days and worship on Saturday.  Oliver and Cynthia left Hopkinton, RI, with their children including Samuel, before 1810.  They lived for a short while in the 7th Day Baptist community of Brookfield, Madison County, New York, before moving on to Alfred, another center of sabbatarians, before 1816.  Here, young Samuel met and fell in love with a young school teacher and early organizer of Alfred’s Seventh Day Baptist Church, Nancy Teater.

They married in 1819 and moved to a new community south of Alfred, near the millson Cryders Creek. Within their first decade, Nancy and Samuel had established a farm, started a family, provided leadership for another Seventh Day Baptist congregation, and opened a hotel in the town which soon bore their name – Whitesville.