Sunday, January 21, 2018


#52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

When I see the word longevity, one name pops to mind. Hallie Augustus. I have found a few ancestors that have lived longer than 100 years, but I didn’t actually know them. Grandpa Augustus was doing great on the day of his 100th birthday party. He still lived alone and was looking forward to planting his garden. Spring was just around the corner. He was born March 19, 1890. His party, 100 years later, was well attended by friends and family flying to the Midwest from all over the country. It truly was an event to remember. 

A few months later, Grandpa was gone.

About a month after the party, Grandpa went to get his mail one day, fell and broke his ankle. While hospitalized, he talked and planned for his summer garden. He needed to get home and get going with the planting. It was almost May. While he was talking of tomatoes and peppers, his two children and the Dr. were talking of his need to remain in the Long Term Housing facility of the hospital once his ankle was healed.  He was not actually taking good enough care of himself on his own anymore.  

In time the ankle healed and the truth of his new residence became clear. Grandpa died June 20, 1990 only a few weeks after becoming a resident of Long Term. As my husband said of his Grandfather Hallie Augustus, "Grandpa was determined to get out of there one way or another".

I learned from Grandpa Hallie the power of the will to live. He had lived 100 years on his own terms. And he finished his life the same way.     

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Favorite Photo

     This is the 2nd week for #52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. This week's challenge is a favorite photo. The only thing wrong with this theme is deciding what to pick. I love the photo of Great Grandma Estella Smith and her father, John M. Vorhies, in the sleigh in 1939.  However, I might have already shown that one a couple of times. For sure, it can be seen here: Christmas 25, 2017.      
      I thought about a photo of my husband and me at his Military Commissioning Ceremony. He was the honor graduate of the class and telling a little more about that could be fun for future generations to read. I wouldn't even be concerned about publishing our picture because it is so old that no one would recognize us.
      However, I am focusing on a photo that I ran across a few years ago which surprised me.  It is a picture of my Grandpa Bert Grisso, and he is holding a toddler. The toddler is, Joe Johnson, my second cousin. Everyone was obviously at Great Grandma Smith's house. Joe was the grandson of Ardea, my grandmother's sister.  This photo is special because I came across it sometime after Joe passed away at the very young age of 58 in 2011. It was touching to see him with my grandfather. And I think his sisters would enjoy seeing it.
      This was not a grandfather who I ever thought of as gentle enough or had the desire to hold a toddler. By the look on his face, I was wrong. Or maybe Joe just brought out the best in him.


Amy Johnson Crow is a well known genealogy blogger. A few years ago I discovered late in the year that she does a challenge to genealogy bloggers called “ 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks”. She has renewed that challenge for 2018. Because my blogging has slowed down, I decided this might be a good way for me to refocus. If you are interested in seeing her site, you can find it here.

What does “start” mean to me. I have shared at different times who my inspirations have been for genealogy. Who do I credit with getting me started? There are actually several.

Great Grandma Estella Smith
     She was my mother’s, mother’s, mother. I spent a great deal of my childhood with her. My dad farmed her land, and I had occasion to spend massive amounts of time in her presence.  She lived at the edge of town in a home that was new in the teens of the twentieth century. The house is still standing and looking quite good for being over 100 years old.
      Grandma told me stories about her aunts and an uncle who died from consumption in the 1880’s and 1890’s. These stories were my first catalyst for genealogy exploration.

Grandpa Bert Grisso
     This Grandpa is my mother’s father. I never realized until one warm summer day in 1971, that I had never had a direct conversation with him. Usually we gathered for family events, Sunday dinners, holidays, etc. Grandpa talked to the men. The ladies and kids hung out in the kitchen catching up on news and putting the finishing touches on the meal. On this particular day, I had my mom drop me off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house with my toddler and baby to visit with Grandma. However, she wasn’t home. Consequently Grandpa had to talk to me. It was a fabulous event. He told me the history of the Grisso family coming to America from Italy. I wanted to know more. When I finally got into genealogy, it was the Grisso line which interested me the most. One of the first things I learned was about family lore.  Sometimes there is just a kernel of fact in the stories we are told. The arrival of the first Grisso was far longer ago than I was lead to believe. The family is not from Italy and there are a few other details that didn’t pan out. However, the quest for Grisso information was started that afternoon. I give my Grandpa Grisso credit for starting me down this road. I have come to see why he was so proud of his name.

Aunt Bonnie
     On my dad’s side, my Aunt Bonnie, his sister, did a lot of the leg work for the DeHart branch of her mother’s family.  In 1988, she and her husband did a genealogy road trip from Oregon to West Virginia in search of the DeHart property. In the summer of 2016, my husband and I tried to find the same spot, but due to car trouble and time restraints, we  didn’t quite make it.

Aunt Cheryl
     My go-to person on my Dad’s side has been my Aunt Cheryl. She was a great researcher and helped debunk several family legends. It is with such sadness that my research buddy, Cheryl, joined these other genealogy enthusiasts on Christmas Day, 2017.

R.I.P. Cheryl, and thanks for all you did. I love you.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 25, 2017

                          Merry Christmas

I have shared this photo before, but it makes me think of Christmas when my mother was a young girl. Pictured are Estella Smith, my great-grandmother, and her father, my 2nd great-grandfather, John M. Vorhies. She remembers the day as would her siblings, the parents of my cousins.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Mystery to Solve

Sometimes, especially when I am tired and just sitting around relaxing, I grab my ipad and surf around a little in Ancestry blogs, in on-line research sites and just read random genealogy articles here and there.  I have no plan other than to fill time avoiding whatever task I should be doing.  Obviously, I am following none of the advice I have learned in good genealogy research.

This is the accidental way I found the ship manifest of the May 1892 arrival of the ship, Oldenburg, into Baltimore from Bremen, Germany with my husband's grandfather, his first wife and two children listed.  This was a fabulous discovery which ran contrary to family lore.

Now, I have made another fluke discovery.  I have not been working on my blog for several reasons. (O.K. here come the excuses.)  I declared in August that Cousins was going on hiatus.  It was not my intention to be absent for so long.  Several trips, both large and small, as well as some health issues have interrupted the flow of stimulating prose authored by yours truly.  Or I could simply comfess that the dog ate my homework.

So, what might this discovery be?

One of the genealogy blogs I read, even when I am not writing, is called Empty Branches on the Family Tree.  Its author is Linda Stuffelbean, and I don't think the dog ever ate her homework.  She inspires me.

While surfing around randomly one day with no goal in mind, I read one of her posts in which she was discussing the move of a family in her husband's ancestry from Northampton, Pennsylvania to Botetourt County, Virginia. I vaguely remember my Grisso research shows the Grisso family in that area.  I started wondering if it was the same time period and if so what if some of our ancestors knew some of the ancestors current genealogist follow.  Populations were much smaller back then.  I thought it might be a fun exercise to compare dates and speculate about these possible encounters.

Before any of that happened, I read on in Linda's post and was amazingly surprised at a name that appeared in her research.  The name was Polly Gresso whose father was Mathias Gresso of Botetourt County, Virginia. Polly had married a Mr. Martin Miller.

Now I have an ancestor named Polly Grisso, daughter of Mathias Grisso of Botetourt County, Virginia who married a Mr. Martin Miller.  It must be a spelling error from Grisso to Gresso. There couldn't be another family with a Polly and Mathias who married Martin Miller, could there?

Now I have a project and a mystery to solve. 
Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  I hope this finds you gathered around your Thanksgiving table with family, friends, and a cousin or two.

For some families this is not such a joyful occasion. Dear friends have lost husbands, wives, parents and even children. Others have faced major medical crises or had scares that cause life to be reassessed. I guess this just goes along with this thing we call life. It has its ups. It has its downs. It has its joys. It has its sorrows.  I am thankful for it all. The downs come up and given time the sorrows can lead to joy. I am thankful for it all.

 I am thankful for it all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Time to Blog

Well, I suppose I need to get back to blogging and my Cousins.

My hiatus from Cousins was filled with travel and adventure. Cruising down the Rhine and Danube Rivers of Europe was relaxing, educational and exhausting. My favorite sites were the massive Cologne Cathedral at night, vineyards on the hillsides, and of course, Budapest by night. Two of the three I had seen before, but still these sites can almost stop one’s breath.

 This fall I had the opportunity to celebrate a special birthday with family. Cousins and kids, friends and relatives gathered from several states to acknowledge the 60 year anniversary of one of my younger cousin's birth. My younger cousin is 60. Yikes! I am getting old.

The birthday honoree received the news that his first grandchild is on the way. I couldn't help but think of the phenomenon of the family continuing on and on and on. It spreads farther and farther and real effort must be made to keep those special connections.

Families, including ours, have done that for decades. My childhood memories feature mostly my mother's side. We had birthday parties, hunting parties, Sunday dinners and holiday gatherings. Then, sometimes we had a reunion when relatives who lived far away came to town.

Times change. Traditions change. Families scatter.  Sometimes we have to work hard to keep the connections. But, we don’t give up. We are family.