When I was in the eighth grade my great grandmother, Estella Mae Vorhies Smith, died. I have mentioned and written about her many times as well as declaring her as my first genealogy inspiration. She was very special in my world.
Estella died in March 1959. I do not know if weeks had passed or if months had passed, but I remember a day when two of her granddaughters were helping to clean out her house. My mother and her cousin, Jean, were in the attic sorting. I remember them coming across letters, reading these letters and enjoying themselves. I always guessed they were love letters of some sort, but truthfully I have no idea. Whose letters were they? Who were they to or from? I never knew.
This memory and my interest in reading historical fiction gave me an idea. In the last few posts I have tried to review some of the members of the Vorhies family. I know unless one takes the time to really concentrate on these family connections, genealogy can be confusing.
So, how does one bring ancestors to life?
What if Estella sent a Christmas letter filled with an annual update on the family along with the family photo like many of us do today. Would it read something like this letter which pure historical fiction. It is, however, filled with family facts.
Dear family and friends,
It has been a busy 1912. Hiram and I still live about 2.5 miles southwest of Scranton across the road from my parents, Ginevra and John Mac Vorhies. My dad, John Mac, and my Grandpa Joseph Withrow came to Greene County in 1875 to buy the land where many generations of our family have lived. I was born only one month after they arrived in March of 1876. However, I don't need to be writing about those days in my 1912 Christmas letter. It is just that Christmas can be very nostalgic.
Once Christmas is past, Hiram and I will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary on January 1. Time does fly. We have four precious children and the fifth is on the way. Our oldest child, Nina, is 11 now. She is a great help with the two little ones, Neva age 3 and Ardea age 2. Merroll, age 10, is our only boy so far. We named him for Hiram's father, George Merroll Smith. I think Hiram is hoping our January baby will be a boy, but I just have a feeling it will be a girl.
We feel very fortunate to be able to have a family portrait taken with our four children, my parents, my grandmother, Sarah Jane, as well as my two brothers and their young families. I don't know for sure but I am guessing the portrait was Mom Ginevra's idea since it includes all of her and Dad's children and grandchildren. Mom Ginevra will be 58 in March and Dad John Mac is 63. I know they are proud of all three of their kids and the families they have. It was a little tricky getting everyone together. We decided that all the females would wear white blouses with the exception of my grandmother, Sarah Jane. Grandmother is now 78 and insisted her black dress would do just fine. She is positioned in the center of the portrait which is logical being the matriarch of the family.
My youngest brother, LeRoy (age 33) and his wife Lulu (age 28) are seated on the right side of the portrait (to my left) with their three children. Fern (age 8), Verle (age 4) and baby Harold. LeRoy's little son Harold is only one year old and my other brother's son, Lester, is two. They are a bit young to play together but maybe someday they will unless LeRoy and Lulu decide to live in Colorado permanently.
My brother, LeRoy, is always tinkering with mechanical things. He considers himself an inventor. I wouldn't be surprised to be reporting on one of his patents in the next few years.
My brother, Eugene, who is closest to me in age is the proud father of two. I mentioned Lester, who is sitting on his lap, but they got their girl earlier this year with the birth of Viola in June. Carrie is such a dear sister-in-law. Eugene farms as does Hiram and Dad John Mac. So we have lots of things in common.
You may have noticed my thickened waistline. As I mentioned earlier, we are expecting in January 1913. If any of my descendants find this portrait, they should be able to guess the approximate date of the setting. My condition along with baby Viola leave good clues.
If you are wondering about the other couple in the photo, I hesitate to say that I don't remember their names. Maybe I am reaching old age. After all I am 36 now. Hiram teases me even though he is now 44. He is an industrious man. He and Dad John Mac don't always see eye to eye, but I guess many people consider Hiram quite the entrepreneur.
Although 1912 has been good to us, we were so saddened by the news of the ship Titantic sinking. I don't think I know of anyone who was on that ship.
And of course, the election is over. Woodrow Wilson will be moving into the White House soon.
All of our family wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.