Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Twice Glad

      It was not my intention to post again so soon after writing of my Aunt Midge's passing.  However, I must share this story.
     Aunt Midge had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years.  The last few years had become especially difficult for everyone.  Anyone who has experienced this with a loved one knows the patience and fortitude it can take to have a simple conversation.  One of her favorite stories to share was what her mother would say when Midge's family came to visit with their three little kids.  Her mother, Elsie, would say to her daughter, "You make me twice glad.  Once when you come and then once again when you leave."  It was a great story, and I won't dwell on the number of times it came into the conversation on any given day.  Suffice it to say, it was a lot.
     As I finished reading her obituary today, I was smiling.  Added to the end was a special note:

 "Mom, you've made us 'twice glad' for loving us unconditionally while you were here with us and because we know you are home again with Dad."

Monday, March 30, 2015

In Loving Memory

     Just before midnight, on March 29, 2015, we lost another special family member, Aunt Midge.  If you read my blog dedication  to my Uncle John Grisso, you read about the widow he left behind in January. As so often happens, her will to join him far out weighed her will to remain here with us.
     Margaret Ray was born October 7, 1927. In May of 1953 she married my mother's brother, John Grisso.  I was eight.  John lived with us, and I was not happy about losing him.  In fact, I was so unsure of this new phase of his life that I vividly remember asking before leaving for the church if he was SURE she was nice.  He assured me she was and now almost 62 years later, I can share that she was one of the nicest aunts I could ever have.
     We will all miss her, but we are comforted knowing she and John are together again.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

John M. and Ginevra Vorhies

John Mac and Ginevra Withrow Vorhies

At first glance I see an old couple. However, in 1888, these two had only been married for 13 years.  Their three children were 12, 11, and 9.
John Mac was about 38 and Ginevra about 33.

Friday, March 27, 2015

John McLaughlin Vorhies

     John McLaughlin Vorhies (1850-1939) was the son-in-law of Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow.  He married the second child of Sarah and Joseph. John Mac and Ginevra were married in the spring of 1875 in Jasper County, Iowa.  They moved along with her parents and family to Greene County in 1876.  Ginevra gave birth to their first child, Estella, a month after that move.  This part of the family story has been covered in earlier posts.

     Let's get to know John Mac or J.M. Vorhies as he used as a signature.  Because he lived until 1939, my mom, her siblings, and first cousins knew their great-grandfather.  As a kid and later, I have always heard him called John Mac. The way I have written Mac is purely for pronunciation reasons.  I always wondered what if anything the Mac stood for.  Finally, I have fiqured it out or at least what makes sense to me.  His mother was Jane McLaughlin (1817-1862).  She was born October 21, 1817 in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  I believe he was given his mother's maiden name as his middle name.  I also have several unofficial documents with his name listed as John McLaughlin Vorhies.
     John Mac's father was named John William. He was born in Guernsey County, Ohio on March 29, 1817.  He and Jane married June 15, 1837 in Guernsey County, Ohio. ( I suppose her family had moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio but I will have to look into that)  They had nine children. John Mac's obituary states that, "He was the last of his family to go, having been preceded in death by his parents, three brothers and five sisters."

     According to a previous family historian, John Mac's father owned 400 acres in the southeast corner of section #25 and northeast corner of section # 36 in Lake Prairie Township in Marion County and maybe some in Mahaska County. I have not verified this information as of yet.  I think there could be a lot to discover about John Mac's family if I would ever get in my car and drive to Marion County. 

     I did, however, find the graves of John and Jane Vorhies, my 3rd great grandparents. I had a piece of information that indicated they were buried in Porter Grove Cemetery about 4 miles SE of Pella, Iowa.  On lovely day in 2009 while driving from Springfield, Illinois to my home in Iowa,  I took a little detour, searched, and found Porter Grove Cemetery near Pella. After driving on gravel roads and making a few wrong turns,  I was surprised to find a beautiful and well kept country cemetery.

If you read the photo dates, you might be confused. It is not February. It is August.  My camera calendar was incorrect.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Family Grows and Grows

     My side of the family tree and that of my first and second cousins, is through the daughter of Sarah Jane and Joseph Withrow.
Their daughter, Ginevra, was their second born, first married, and last to pass away.  Ginevra was born in Butler county, Ohio, on March 5, 1855.  She moved with her parents to Iowa in 1866.  (I learned this date from her father's obituary. Before I just knew it was between 1860 and 1868 based on census reports and the birth of her sister,  Viola Emma.)  Clues, Clues, Clues. See why this genealogy "stuff" is such fun, but I digress.
     Ginevra married John Mac Vorhies May 27, 1875 in the Jasper county area. They moved with Ginevra's parents and siblings to Greene County in 1876.  They had three children as I have mentioned before. Estella Mae born March 21, 1876; Eugene on October 8, 1877, and Leroy on October 2, 1879.   In time I might tell some of what I know about these offshoot branches but for now I am working on direct line descendants and ancestors.
       I want to share a family portrait that I think is priceless. The copy is not the greatest on this blog. Also, I made the photo large enough to get some idea of faces so the photo extend over the edge of the writing field. Just another one of those technology tricks I have yet to learn. Although, I admit I have seen this on many other blogs.

 So, who are these people and why do we care? 
       Our existence is a result of them. Let's honor them with just a little of our time and attention.

     Seated in the center of the portrait is Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow, who started this family along with her husband, of course. She is about 79 here.  Seated to her left is a large woman in a white blouse with a black neck bow. This is Grandma Ginevra, her daughter. Her approximate age is 58. Her husband, John Mac is behind her to one side and their oldest child, Estella, is on John Mac's right.  I guess their ages to be about 63 and 37 respectively. To Estella's right is her husband, Hiram Smith approximately 46 years old, and their four children who are circled around Grandma Sarah Jane Withrow.  The oldest is Nina about age 11, then Merroll about age, 10.  The little one to Sarah Jane's left is Neva about age 3 and to her right little Ardea about 2.
      The families of Eugene are seated to the right of Grandma Withrow  and Leroy's family is to the left. I know the identity of all in the photo except for the older couple next to Eugene.  (If anyone would like me to expand on these family, I will be glad to share what I know. Let me know.)
      I do not know the exact date of this photo but Viola, baby of Carrie and Eugene, was born in 1912. I am guessing ages based on this.
     My first cousins and I branch from Nina. My second cousins branch from Ardea and Merroll. Great Aunt Neva never had children. After this family photo was taken three more children were born to Estella and Hiram. I do not believe there are any descendants from these children.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Cousins and my other followers ( I know of at least one :-)

      Well, I hope you have begun to realize that these ancestors are more than birth and death dates. They had full lives just like you and me.  If you could spend some time with one of them, who would you choose?  What would you ask them?

     I would ask Joseph Withrow if he owned land in Jasper County before coming to Greene County. I would ask him to tell me more of his family from Ohio. I know his father was Samuel and a little more. I know where Sanuel's grave is in Ohio, and hope I can visit there someday. 

     I would ask Sarah Jane about her Swartzel family. For a while, I was on the wrong track but now due to another found paper written about her sister's death, I think I have the correct information.  I would also tell her that my great aunt Neva wanted my mom to name me Sarah Jane when I was born. Neva was a little annoyed with mom because she did not abide by her aunt's wishes. As I have gotten to know Sarah Jane in my research, learned a little of her story, and feel I have connected with her, I would have been honored to share her name. 

     I would ask Mary Kate where her grave is.

     I would ask Ginevra just which spelling of her name is correct.
     I would ask Anna Josephine to tell me about her seven children and their descendants.  Did she and her sister, Ginevra, spend much time together after they started and raised their own families?

     I would ask Aurilla how she got her nickname Rilley and what happened to her baby. Did she grow up and is her name Nellie Frederick?

     I would ask Viola Emma if she knew she had a great niece named Viola.  The son, Eugene, of Viola Emma's sister, Ginevra, named his baby Viola.  Here is a clarification for all the visual readers:
Ginevra     sister to Viola Emma
   Eugene   son of Ginevra
      Viola   daughter of Eugene

     Viola, the great niece of Viola Emma, was also a family historian.  Many of my documents, information, and knowledge of the Vorhies family came from Viola.  As I have said before, who knows what relative with pick up the genealogy pieces and move the information forward. Viola was a first cousin of my grandmother, Nina, which makes her my first cousin twice removed. I am two more generations removed from our common ancestor, Ginevra.

      I would ask Sarah Jane if she liked her nickname Sadie. 

      I would ask Joseph Jr. if he worked the farm with his father and uncle, J.M. Vorhies. Did he have a girl friend?  What did he do when he was younger?

     So many questions. So little time.



Monday, March 23, 2015

Sarah 1902-1904

     As I said at the beginning of this series of posts, I want to tell the story of my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Jane Swartzell Withrow. She lived long enough to hold her great great granddaughter for a five generation photo. (See photo in Photo Album section) She out lived her husband by 20 years and 6 of her 7 children as I mentioned before.

     January 29, 1902, Joseph A. Withrow Sr. died at the age of 71. His only son followed two years later.


    "Died at his home near Scranton, January 29, at 3:15 a.m. Joseph A. Withrow Sr.  he was born in 1831 in Butler county, Ohio.  Married to Sarah Swartzell, of Montgomery county, Ohio, Jan. 11th, 1853.  To this union was born seven children, six girls, and one boy.  Four of the girls died before the death of their father.  The boy, two sisters, and the wife and mother remain to mourn his departure." The obituary continues but the microfilm was bent so I can only guess at the middle section. It tells the number of grandchildren and great grandchildren ( one of whom was my grandmother, Nina). The obituary continues, " Mr. Withrow and his family moved to Iowa in 1866.  He died believing in Christ.  The last expressions of his faith were: ' he may...   in the evening or at midnight, or...cock crowing'. His last words were, ' I am going home to mother.'
    " Mr. Withrow was an old settler in this vicinity.  He had a large circle of friends.  His funeral was conducted at his late home by Rev. R.M Bailey, after which his remains were laid to rest in the Scranton cemetery."

     I found it interesting that the title of this obituary was "Obituary".  Most obituaries I have found have a title of some description.  For example, the title of Grandma Ginevra Withrow Vorhies is "Mrs. J.M. Vorhies Passes to Reward" and that of Grandpa Hiram Smith is "Passing of Good Citizen".                   

    In my mom's scraps of old papers, I found a note written by Joseph A. Withrow Jr.  It is on a small piece of paper and reads like this. (all spelling is his)
                               Joseph A. Withrow Sr.
Was born in Jan. 28th
Married in Jan.   11th
Died in Jan.        29th
Burried in Jan.    31st
Was my father
                                Joseph A Withrow Jr.

I feel the sadness in this note.

                          And then two years pass......

                                                 A Young Man Dies

    " Mr. Joseph Withrow a young man 29 years of age died at his home three miles southwest of Scranton on Friday morning May 6, 1904, after a protracted illness with that most dreaded disease consumption.  His funeral was held from his late home on Sunday, May 8, conducted by Rev. C.J. Stark, after which his remains were laid to rest in the Scranton cemetery.  He leaves to mourn an aged mother and two sisters. His father and four sisters having gone on before.  He leaves boast of friends who will miss him."

     I realize that last sentence is strange, but it is how the obit reads.





Sunday, March 22, 2015

January 1, 1900

     At the turn of the century, Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies were about to see the first of their three children marry.  Estella, my great grandmother, was married on January 1, 1900 to Mr. Hiram Smith.

     When my husband and I lived in Springfield, Illinois, we had a friend who was a judge. He preferred not to marry young couples that wanted to marry on January 1, 2000 thinking it was too faddish.  Personally, I thought it was cool that my great grandparents were married on the first day of the 20th century.

     I wonder who witnessed this marriage. Were Estella's grandparents, Sarah Jane and Joseph Withrow in attendance? My guess is that they were since they lived so close.

     The following is the newspaper article about the marriage:

      "Mr. Hiram Smith and Miss Estella Vorhies were married at the residence of the bride's parents Monday evening at 7 p.m., Rev. Snodgrass  pronouncing the ceremony.  This union is in every way a strong and happy one.  Mr. Smith is one of Scranton's exemplary young men.  His character is irreproachable, his industry indefatigueable and his manner that of a gentleman.  His wife has been one of the community's most highly esteemed girls.  In her youth she has borne well her part in society and church work, and she is especially well qualified for the responsibilities of womanhood.  Her parents rank amount Greene county's best and most substantial citizens, and it goes without our saying that Mr. Smith has drawn a splendid prize from the matrimonial lottery.  From such an auspicious beginning it is not enthusiasm to predict a happy and successful married life for these new sailors upon the matrimonial voyage.  May their bark sail in pacific waters for many years, and anchor, when anchor it must, in the harbor of comfort, safety and blessedness is the wish of their many friends amount whom The Journal wishes to be permitted a humble place."

      Wedding write ups were somewhat different a hundred plus years ago. I think you would agree.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Anna Josephine and Ginevra

     Unlike five of the seven children born to Sarah and Joseph, two of their daughters lived long lives.  Anna Josephine and Ginevra both lived into their 60's. They married, raised families, and shared the care of their aged mother, Sarah.  I have read in some of the Jefferson historical papers about visits Sarah made to her granddaughters in Jefferson.  These are strangers to me.  The mother of those granddaughters was Anna Josephine. 
     Anna Josephine married Willam Cromwell and raised seven children just like her parents.  I have not done much research on this branch of the family.  In time, I will turn my attention to this branch if one of my third or fourth cousins or anyone else is interested. 
     What I have discovered is that the youngest daughter of Anna and William was born in 1899 and was named Beatrice Ruth. She  married Norval Pound and they had three children.
Alan (1917)
Victor (1921)
Mignon (1922)

     Oh, have my third and fourth cousins perked up their ears?

     When I was a kid, one of my best friends was Margo Pound.  We knew we were distantly related but no one seemed to know exactly how.  Now I know!  Sarah Jane is her 2nd great grandmother and my 3rd great grandmother. We share a common ancestor.  We are third cousins once removed. I am one generation farther removed from our common ancestors, Sarah and Joseph Withrow. 
     Everyone with me? What is this illusive once removed term? We are not of the same generation.  How can this be? We are only one month apart in age.  Let me explain.
     Anna's daughter, Beatrice, was the youngest of Anna's children.  While the daughter of her sister, Ginevra, was the oldest of Ginevra's children. Ginevra's daughter, Estella, and Beatrice, first cousin to Estella, were almost 20 years apart in age. Already the generations are off.
     I tried explaining descendants in paragraph form but it became a little confusing. So, here is a chart which might help.

                                            Sarah( mother)

   Anna Josephine          (sisters)          Ginevra
      Beatrice              (first cousins)         Estella
         Alan/Victor      (second cousins)        Nina&siblings
            Jane/Margo/Vic/etc. (3rd cousins)     Mary&siblings
              Michelle, Mike, Todd, Jane's girls (4th) Margie

Because I am one more generation removed from Sarah Jane, I am a third cousin once removed of my friend, Margo, her siblings, and her first cousins.

     Here is my paragraph. You might want to skip it or muddle through to see if your head spins or you might find it clarifying.

     Beatrice and Estella were the grandchildren of Sarah Jane and Joseph.  They were first cousins. Beatrice's children and Estella's children were great-grandchildren to Sarah Jane and Joseph. So, Sarah was great grandmother to Alan Pound, Victor Pound, my grandmother Nina Smith Grisso, and many others. Alan and Victor were second cousins to my grandmother, Nina, and her siblings.  The children of Alan and his brother, Victor, are third cousins to Nina's children one of whom is my mother, Mary. The generations are not aligned. So this is where the once, twice, etc. times removed comes in. Margo is my mother's third cousin and my third cousin once removed. Her children are my fourth cousins. (Got that Michelle, Mike, and Todd)
     So, there you have it. My third and fourth cousins share a common ancestor with me. We have all descended from Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow and her husband, Joseph.
     My first and second cousins branch off with Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies.  There is much more to come with them.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On the Track of Nellie

     I told you about the Jefferson newspaper archives resource.  Have you tried it? I was searching for articles about Anna Josephine a day or two ago. In the issue I was combing through, I found a clue about Aurilla's daughter. Well, maybe it is her daughter.  A Nellie Frederick visited her cousin E. H. Vorhies.  I think I am on the track of Aurilla's daughter. This is so exciting.

     One more random point I wish to make.  I am trying to make the font size bigger than the default size.  Every once in a while, the normal size shows up on the post. I apologize for this. I think the larger one is much better, but maybe it is just my old eyes.

The Homestead

     My family story so far has been about Sarah and her family.  Her husband,  Grandpa Withrow and his son-in-law, Grandpa John Mac Vorhies ( Ginevra's husband) were farmers.  In November of 1875, Joseph entered into an agreement to purchase 160 acres of land for the sum of $2800 with a $700 down payment. Five more payment dates are outlined in the document ending on the 26th of December 1878. This transaction was made in association with Head Brothers Bank of Jefferson, Iowa. 

     In January of 1877, Joseph sold the west 80 acres to his son-in-law John Mac Vorhies.  By 1880, both the west eighty in John Mac's name and the east eighty which has been put in Sarah Jane Withrow's name was entered into the Register of State Land.  The land patent number 1855 is recorded in Vol 19 on pages 697 and 696.

     To me this means, that our ancestor Joseph Withrow bought his land from the State of Iowa and was the first to develop this 160 acres which was part of the Louisiana Purchase.  I have obtained three documents that show the transfer of land to Joseph A. Withrow and then to John Mac Vorhies  These documents were found in the archives of the Greene County Court House.  If anyone is interested in reading more of these documents, I would be happy to provide copies.

     This original 160 acres is in the NW quarter of section 16 of Scranton Township in Greene County, Iowa.  Directly to the north of Section 16 lies Section 9.  Part of this section also became part of John Mac's property.  This is how the 40 acres in Section 9 as well as 20 acres in the far NW corner of Section 16 came to be part of Great Grandma Smith's land. John Mac's property was divided among his three children: Estella, Eugene, and Leroy.

     This land was where my parents lived from March of 1942 until 1959/1960 when all of  Grandma's land was sold out of the family.  It was referred to as The Sixty.

This farm is across the road from the original land purchased by Joseph Withrow John Mac Vorhies purchased the Withrow land and land in the section across the road. The above farm was eventually inherited by Great Grandma Estella Vorhies Smith.  This is where I grew up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Great Resource

     As a kid, I thought our small-town newspaper was so boring.  The "news" might be that so and so enjoyed Sunday dinner with such and such.  Any gathering, excursion even to the next town, out of state visitors and so on might find its way to the newspaper.  How happy I am now that I am piecing together ancestor and other relatives stories to have this newspaper resource.  Suddenly, I am glad I am from a small town instead of one of those big fancy cities where our family might have been anonymous.

     A few years ago, a project was undertaken to have the newspapers of the county seat, Jefferson, Iowa digitized.  What a treasure trove.  Anyone can access these records by going on line to www.jefferson.lib.ia.us.  Scroll to the bottom of the first page, look under Library Links to find  Free access to Jefferson Newspapers Online 1866-2013  or go to  http://jefferson.advantage-preservation.com. Type a name in the search box and have fun discovering what our family members and ancestors were up to many years ago.


Monday, March 16, 2015


     A glimpse into the last decade of the 19th century would show Joseph Withrow celebrating age 59-69.  Sarah Jane, would age from 56-66. Joseph Jr.  turned 16 in 1890 and at the end of the century turned 26.  At age 11 in 1890, the family would not have expected that little Sarah Jane (Sadie) would only live for six more years in the decade often referred to as the Gay Nineties.

     At the beginning of the decade, Joe Jr. (16) and Sadie (11) probably walked to school with the children of their older sisiter, Ginevra.  Ginevra (35), John Mac (40) and their three children lived next to the Withrows.  Estella now 14, Eugene now 13, and Leroy now 11 undoubtedly attend the country school shown on the map below.

     The families properties are located in the northwest quadrant of section 16.  The school is located in the far southeast corner of the same section.  School District No. 5.

     Anna and her husband, Wm. lived in Greene County as well as Boone County and Carroll Counties.  There is a considerable amount of research needed on this branch of the family.  However, this is where some of the third and fourth cousins I know come in.

     By 1899, Ginevra's daughter, Estella, was close to marriage.  Her brother, Eugene (23) and Leroy (21) had also become adults by the end of the 1890's.

NW Quadrant Section 16 Original Homestead of the family
Look for school in the southeast corner. The kids had about a two mile walk by road. Did they cut through the section on winter days? I do know it was not uphill both ways.  This is not a very clear map. When I enlarge it, it goes off the page. Well, another technology problem to solve.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sarah and Joseph lose another child

      Viola Emma Withrow was the fifth child born to Joseph and Sarah. She was the third child to die.  Less than two years had passed since the death of Aurilla when Emma, as she appears to have been called, died on April 25th 1888.  She was 20 years and 18 days old.  The following is part of her obituary:
      "She was ever a kind, obedient and loving girl to her aged father and mother, sisters and brother, and beloved by all who knew her, and by all schoolmates in particular.  She was ever a kind and dutiful daughter.  On Sabbath Eve. before she passed away her mother asked her if she was willing to die if God's will, and her answer was "Perfectly, perfectly."  She leaves behind her parents, brother and sister, although, two sister have gone before, both from the same grim monster "Consumption."  This has been truly a sorely afflicted family, and may the messenger of death stay his hand to them in the future."

     Now we know that Mary Kate, the first child, died of consumption before the family moved to their Greene County home.

     I am also a little taken back with the reference to Joseph and Sarah being aged parents. They were 57 and 54. Wow! I guess I must be really aged since that big birthday I just celebrated.

     After my mother died in 2003, I began going through the buffet where she kept special papers.  I found Viola Emma's obituary clipped from the newspaper over 100 years ago. One can certainly access this obituary on line, but I like having the original. Who clipped it? Did Sarah or one of her daughters. Great Grandma Estella was 12 at the time. Could it have been her? Whoever it was passed in on, and I eventually became the handler of this history.

     Sadly, I don't need another title for the next part of the story. Yes, Sarah and Joseph lost another child.  Their youngest child, Sarah Jane, was but 17 when she died on Sunday, October 25th, 1896.

     According to her obituary her cause of death was from being burned.  "It appears she had a spell of sickness some time ago and since has not been right in her mind and had to be watched. She had been left alone in the house and some way her clothes caught fire and burned her so badly that she died from the effects.  The burning occurred on Tuesday and she died the following Sunday."

      This was taken from her obituary which I also found in the buffet. It is very old and frail.

      Additionally, I found a newspaper notice of thanks.

      "We wish to thank the friends and neighbors who so kindly assisted in the care and last sad rite of our daughter Sadie.  Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Withrow."

     Another scrap of newspaper states, "Dr. Swartsell and wife have returned from an extended visit to a daughter in Iowa". A handwritten note indicates 1896. Did they come at the time of Sadie's death?

      I imagine that the younger Sarah Jane was nicked named Sadie to keep from confusing her with her mother. And remember,  Aurilla's wedding application listed her as Rilley.  I think the family might have liked nicknames.


Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little More about Aurilla (Rilley)

     I do not know if the child Aurilla left behind lived to adulthood or not.  I do know that Mat remarried and had a child.  One or the other of his babies died but I don't know which. ( Research needed)  He and his second wife are buried next to Aurilla's grave in the Scranton Cemetery.

     In the summer of 2009, I discovered Aurilla's gravesite just a few steps away from her parents and three of her siblings.  Aurilla was the first family internment in the Scranton Cemetery.  Her stone is old and hard to read.  I had always known the location of the Withrow graves but never knew Aurilla was so close.  I wonder if my mom even knew it was there.  She never mentioned it on any of our many cemetery excursions.

     The same year I found a number of old pictures, keepsakes, and bits of paper in my mother's buffet.  I also found a complete newpaper wrapped in a very heavy plastic.  It was some time before I fiqured why that old newspaper had been saved.  It was the newspaper that held Aurilla's obituary.  This newspaper has passed through the hands of six generations.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fourth child-Aurilla Rosella Withrow Frederick

     At age 20, in 1879, Aurilla Rosella married Mat Frederick.  I obtained a copy of their application for a marriage license dated December 6, 1879.  I found this an enlightening document which had been filled out by John Mac Vorhies, as a witness swearing he knew them, their ages, and knew of no reason they should not marry.  In the application, he referred to her as Rilley. This must have been her nickname.  
     Sadly, this was a short lived marriage.  Just as the first child of Sarah and Joseph had died of consumption, so did their Rilley.

     She died in Willow Township, Greene County, Iowa on Saturday, August 14th, 1886.  Mrs. Aurilla Frederick, aged 27 years, 8 months and 12 days "leaves a kind and loving husband and a little girl to mourn their loss, besides father, mother, four sisters, a little brother and many other relatives and friends.  She had been a great sufferer for a long time with that dread disease, consumption.  She bore it all with patience." This is quoted from her obituary. Particularly touching I found this line in the document, "The remains were gently carried to the Scranton cemetery where they were laid to rest."  The italics are mine. The word gently touched my heart.
     I want to research this little girl that Aurilla left behind. Aurilla's obituary ends with reference to this child. Again the italics are mine. " The mourners have the deep sympathy of all the entire community, and may the orphan's God protect the little one from the evils of this life."

     I specifically remember my Great Grandma Estella Smith telling me about family deaths due to consumption.  At the time, I was a very little girl listening to a very old great-grandmother talk about people from her past.  Fifty plus years later, I am researching these same family members.  Of course, I should have listened better.  I remember being more taken by the word  "consumption" than feeling any connection to these ancient people. I feel very sad for the losses Sarah Jane and Joseph endured especially as I write this story knowing there are more deaths to come to their young children.

A note on the 1880 census


     Aurilla married Mat Fredericks in 1879. Their census records of 1880 were filled out without the inclusion of "wife" indicated.  I found this concerning at first.  However, it must have just been an oversight.  Because the lack of the word "wife", the census record states, "Something other than a direct relationship".  The place of birth for both Aurilla's father and her mother is incorrect as well. Joseph and Sarah Jane were both born in Ohio not in Pennsylvania as indicated on the census records.  I suggest that Mr. Mat Frederick filled out the form incorrectly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dear Sweet Cousins and any other accidental followers

      As I explained earlier, I am new to blogging. The family history information is my focus and purpose. However, the technology of this delivery system is yet to be conquered. The next post is titled "Meet Sarah's family". In fact, I did post it but it came up in the wrong place. So, I learned how to un-post/de-post/take away the post. Whatever. Be patient. More is coming soon.

Meet Sarah's family


     In November of 1875, John Mac and his father-in-law, Joseph Withrow, went to Greene County, Iowa,  and made a purchase of 160 acres of land.  In February of 1876, the family all moved to the new homestead leaving Mary Kate behind buried somewhere I have yet to discover. Sarah, Joseph, 5 children, and married daughter Ginevra, now eight months pregnant with her first child, and son-in-law, J.M. Vorhies, undoubtedly traveled together.
     Estella Mae Vorhies was the first born child of Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies, and the first grandchild of Sarah and Joseph Withrow. She was the first of our family born in Greene County, Iowa, and she was my great grandmother. Can you imagine the trek in 1876?  Did they move then because rivers would be frozen? Can you imagine being pregnant on the trip? Was great grandma born in the wagon when they got there? There couldn't have been time to build a house or was there? Did they even have a wagon?

     I will have more to say on the land when I write about the grandfathers. For now, I want to introduce Sarah and Joseph's children.

    As is the case in large families, the older children of the second generation might be older than the youngest children of the first generation.  Such was the situation with the Withrow and Vorhies family, Estella (1876) and her brother, Eugene (1877), were actually older than the last child of their grandparents. Joseph and Sarah's youngest child named Sarah Jane (26 Aug 1879) was born just a month or so before Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies's last child, Leroy (2 Oct 1879).

    So, Sarah and daughter, Ginevra, were busy having babies those first few years in Greene County.  What were the other kids doing?

    Anna Josephine was about 19 when the family moved to Greene County and Aurilla was 17. Wedding bells were probably in their futures. Yes,  Anna Josephine married William Cromwell 3 October 1876 according to her obituary. Anna Josephine will have her own post later.

    The 1880 census shows Joseph to now be 49 and his wife, Sarah Jane, to be 46.  The only children still at home were Viola Emma age 12, Joseph Jr. age 5 and baby Sarah Jane.  Joseph's occupation is listed as farmer.  Viola Emma and Joseph Jr. are list as "going to school".  Their school was in the southeast corner of Section 16 in Greene County. 

     Their oldest living daughter, Ginvera, is now 25 and John Mac, her husband, is 29.  Their children, Estella, Eugene, and Leroy are ages 4, 3, and 6 months old.

     Anna is now married to William Cromwell but their first child has not yet been born.

     Aurilla at age 20 is married to Mat Frederick. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

1875/ and the question of Ginevra

     The year 1875 brought several significant changes to the Withrow family. On March 29 they lost their first child, Mary Kate, to consumption.  She was just 21. Consumption was the archaic name given to tuberculosis. It was given this name due to the consuming nature of the disease.  I have not located Mary Kate's grave although it is on my "to do" list.  It would be somewhere in Jasper County, Iowa.
     Ginevra (age 20) was married to Mr. John Mac Vorhies.
     And the family, contemplated a big move to Greene County.

     Before I get much further into this family's story, I need to clarify a name. Or rather, explain that I have yet to prove the spelling of Genevra/Ginevra.  Almost all documents show Genevra which is what I always thought was the correct spelling.  While working on the Greene County Heritage book several years ago, I decided to check her tombstone. It read "Ginevra".  I will stick with that spelling. Could the monument maker have made a mistake?

     Yes, I know it is sideways. Turn your head.


May I introduce...

Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow

     This is the story as I know it of my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow If you are descended from one of my mom's siblings, one of Grandma Nina's siblings, one of Great Grandma Smith's siblings or her mother, Ginevra's siblings,  Sarah Jane is our common grandparent. You are my first, second, third, or fourth cousin.  I actually know who a couple of these fourth cousins are. Imagine their surprise when they discover this.

     Sarah Jane Swartzel was born in Montgomery County, Ohio in 1834 and is buried in the Scranton Township cemetery near Scranton, Iowa.  Many, many of her descendants are buried there as well.  The vague idea of an ancestor becomes real when I can actually take flowers to her grave. And I want her story to be told.

     In 1853, at age 19, Sarah Jane married Joseph Withrow in Ohio.  They had a total of seven children.  Only three of these children had families of their own.  Obviously, I am descended from one of these three.

     The first four of their children were born in Ohio. Mary Kate (1854), Ginevra (1855), Anna Josephine (1857), Aurilla Rosella (1859) moved with their parents to Indiana and then on to Jasper County, Iowa sometime between 1860 and 1868.  We know this because the 1860 census locates the family in Ohio. In 1868, Viola Emma was born in Jasper County, Iowa.  Followed by Joseph A. Jr. in 1874.  By 1879, the family was living in Greene County, Iowa where Sarah Jane ( named after her mom I assume) was born on 26 August 1879.

     Grandma Sarah outlived not only her husband but also 6 of her 7 children.  Her one remaining child (age 67) died only a few months after Sarah Jane. In my opinion, Grandma Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow had a lot of sorrow in her 88 years.




Friday, March 6, 2015


     Well, here I go.  But where will I start?  There are Grissos and Smiths, Wrights and Bordens, Augustus and DeHarts, Tolsdorfs and Beiers.  There are Grossmans and Vorhies, Kerins and Reeders.  You get the idea.

      I am starting with the Smith, Vorhies, Withrow line, and I am dedicating these first entries to two family members we lost in January of 2015.  First is my mother's brother, John Hiram Grisso (1924-2015). I was born on his 21st birthday on February 21, 1945 while he was serving in the Atlantic during WWII. This connection made him very special to me.  I felt his absence profoundly this year on our birthday.

     My second dedication is to his first cousin, Jean Stevens Johnson (1929-2015).  In genealogy terms, she is my first cousin once removed. She and my mother were first cousins. On January 2, I called Jean with the news of John's passing.  We had a sad but lively conversation.  I spoke of my discovery of the grave of the parents of my Great Grandpa Hiram Lee Smith's parents in Tucumcari, New Mexico far from our Midwest roots.  George Smith (1842-1932) and Mary Smith (1847-1924) were great grandparents of Jean and John.

     Jean was my go to person for family memories and fact checking.  As happens too often, our best resources are gone too soon.  Jean died four days after her cousin, John,  and two days after our conversation.

     My life is richer because of these two family members.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Getting Started

     Time is running out for many of my planned writing projects ( I just had a big birthday). It is already 2015, and I have discovered genealogy blogs.  Maybe I have just enough time to share my genealogy discoveries with cousins near and far, geographically as well as biologically, through a blog just for them, other relatives, and especially my grandchildren.

    Many blogs give helpful hints, suggestions, and resource guidance to their readers.  This is not my intention since I am a novice genealogist. However, I am the oldest cousin on both my mother and father's sides of the family tree.  Of course, this gives me a familial advantage.  I have memories many of my cousins do not share.  I grew up surrounded by great aunts and uncles, second cousins, and other extended family. Some of these cousins ( not to mention my grandchildren) did not have that same experience.  So, I have appointed myself family historian.  I am very interested in this task and anxious to share my discoveries. So, this blog is for my family that they might know from where they came.  If anyone else finds the desire to follow my mumblings, I would be thrilled.  Eventually, I plan to delve into my husband's family and that of my grandchildren's other grandparents.

     I have a few other interests such as gardening, travel, and reading.  Don't be surprised to find a page or two here and there on these topics as well as some random thoughts and other useless information.

     As I said before, this blog is for my family.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have any specific questions, please contact me. I will be happy to try to answer your questions, or I might even research it for you.  If at anytime, you feel I have made a mistake, contact me so I can correct the information.

Your self appointed family historian,