All posts by jennyskip

an Ancestor in the Military

We are at the milestone of week 21 of Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors series of social media posts about remembering our families. The current theme is “military.” Seems appropriate, since tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day to honor our deceased family members who served the country and were killed in the line of duty.

Skip wanted to post about his great-aunt, Mary Willie Arvin, who served the Allied soldiers as a nurse in World War I.

photo of Nurse Arvin originally shared on by jenny_wu1

For her work at the Base Hospital in Pas-de-Calais, France, she received a personal letter of commendation from General John Pershing. She was awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal, the British Royal Red Cross medal, and she was one of the first women in US military history to receive a Purple Heart medal. Her portrait is hanging in the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. See more of her story at this KY National Guard Site.

Back to Nature with the Ancestors

This week’s #52ancestors prompt is “Nature,” and who better to write about, than my 2nd cousin 5 times removed, Henry David Thoreau?

He was my 6th great grandmother’s great-grandson. He wrote

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862

Although he lived a relatively short life (to age 44), his influence was, and continues to be felt by many generations. He was ahead of his time, considering his views on civil disobedience and practice of yoga by westerners! Wikipedia lists a few of his contemporaries who lamented his views on “back to nature” as social progress in reverse. Today, no one would admit that preserving nature is a bad idea.

Saluting the Real Nurturer of the National Mother’s Day

This post is doing double duty as an observance of Mother’s Day (this Sunday) and the current (Week 19) #52Ancestors theme of “Nurture!”

Skip’s 2nd cousin once removed, Mary Towles Sasseen, is considered by many to be the actual founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. Netta Mullin, President of the Henderson County, Kentucky Historical Society, wrote that Mary “Mamie” Sasseen , a former schoolteacher, sought to have April 20, her own mother’s birthday, declared a national holiday for individuals to celebrate their mothers. Ms. Sasseen published and circulated a pamphlet in 1893 explaining her efforts to create a holiday that would be celebrated in the public schools. During her lifetime, her efforts led to the establishment of Mother’s Day in the Springfield, Ohio school system, and in many other cities celebrations were organized.

Mary Towles Sasseen married Judge William Marshall Wilson in 1904, and sadly, died while delivering her first and only child, in 1906.

Anna Jarvis is credited with bringing about the existence of the National Mother’s Day, which was declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, to be observed every second Sunday in May.  She wrote letters and rallied votes for the cause, true, but we recognize the lifetime achievement of Mary Towles Sasseen in laying the groundwork. She was a patient and dedicated nurturer of the national holiday, although it came into full bloom after her death.

Mary Towles Sasseen jennyskip
Mary Towles Sasseen, photo originally shared on ancestry by georgepbeaumaster

Road Trip, Carriage Style

Slightly late in the schedule of topics from #52Ancestors, I wanted to write a word about an ancestor who was a carriage builder in 19th-century England and Wales. These conveyances, accompanied by stables full of spirited horses, were the equivalent of our modern-day Cadillacs and Toyotas, I suppose.

John Williams, born about 1810 in Wales, had a shop in Liverpool. His son John, and grandson John Devereux Williams (my great-grandfather) were also coach builders. We know from British newspaper articles that the elder John’s business wasn’t going well by about 1870, and he considered retiring. Here’s a transcript of a notice he placed in the Liverpool Daily Post in May 1871:

“Public Notice: John Williams, Coachbuilder, 202 London-road, is offering his stock of Vehicles at a reduced price, to make room for alterations. New Carriages, finished, Siamese Phaeton, Albert Phaeton, four-wheeled Drag, round-backed Whitechapel, and gentleman’s Market Cart, also new Brougham Park Phaetons, Drags, Gigs, &c., can be finished to choice of trimming and painting. also, a number of Second-hand Vehicles, including Coach-Brougham, Phaetons, Whitechapels, &c. “

In October of 1871, John Williams posted a retirement notice in the same newspaper. He didn’t turn over his business to his son John, because the notice he posted said:

“Mr John Williams, 202 London-road, begs to inform the Nobility, Gentry, and Public of Liverpool and its vicinity, that he has RETIRED from BUSINESS, and takes the great pleasure of respectfully thanking them for the kind patronage and support he has received for the last 33 years, and hopes the same will be continued to his successor, W. A. Hutchings, who, from his long experience in the business, he can confidently reccommend.”

Wooden coach graphic from Pixabay

John Williams died a couple of years later at age 65.

A Gator Pen by a Gator for a Gator

by Skip.

My brother and I are both University of Florida graduates and big Florida Gator fans. So when I was watching Zac Higgins’s You Tube channel a couple of weeks ago and saw the results of his casting a piece of alligator jaw bone in an orange and blue resin, I knew I had to have one of those blanks.  This was a one-off casting so I had to move fast.  As luck would have it, I was able to purchase both blanks. [PS: Zac is a Gator fan also!]

resin/bone gator pen blank jenny skip
gator resin/bone pen blank

These were awesome blanks.  You could even see the teeth sockets in the jaw bone fragments!!  I had never turned resin blanks so this was going to be a challenge, especially since the resin casting contained bone, so it would be a hybrid material.

I decided to use a Sienna blank from Craft Supplies USA since it required a ¾ inch square blank and only had one tube. 

gator pen jennyskip
gator pen

I measured the tube and marked the blank to cut off a section about 1/16 inch longer than the brass tube.  I studied the blank before doing this to select what I thought would be the best section to accentuate the bone fragments. 

gator jawbone teeth socket pen jenny skip
part of the teeth sockets showing

gator pen barrel jennyskip
another view of the pen barrel

I put on a respirator (Zac suggested using a good respirator when working with the bone) and cut the blank on the band saw. I then drilled the blank on the drill press, glued in the brass tube with thick CA glue, and using a disk sander, cleaned off both ends of the blank down to the brass tube.

Using the proper bushings on my pen mandrel, I mounted up the blank for turning on the lathe. I understood from watching several You Tube turners, that a negative rake scraper was the best tool for turning acrylic blanks.  I had equipped one of my Easy Wood carbide finishing tools with a new negative rake cutters and used this to turn the blank. It was the perfect choice for a tool.  Cut beautifully and left an extremely fine finish.

Sierra pen kit gator bone blank jenny skip
the turned pen blank lined up perfectly with the hardware from the Sierra kit

I sanded and polished the blank and then assembled the pen.  It was a perfect match for the pen.  There was a blue section of the turned piece that didn’t have much character so I lined up the clip with that. 

pen clip gator pen jennyskip
I tried to put the pen clip over a part of the blank that wasn’t as drop-dead gorgeous as the rest of it

So, off to the post office with the pen. I know my brother will like it! A gator pen made by a Gator for a true Gator fan!

Orange and blue gator pen jennyskip
Glad to be a Gator! Go Orange and Blue!

Now a disclaimer: no University of Florida Gator students were harmed or had root canals to make these blanks!

Not sure where Zac got the gator jaw bones but it would be easy to get these in Florida, where we have alligator farms that raise alligators for their meat. Fried alligator bites are available in many restaurants. 


Non-conformists At Worship

I’ve opted in to Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors blog suggestions, and the current week’s prompt is “At Worship.”

One amazing, recurring theme throughout my pedigree chart is that quite a few of the ancestors were of the “non-conformist” type of religion. In England and Wales, a non-conformist religion was defined as Protestant but not Anglican. Several of the English ancestors (Williams and Devereux) were buried in the “Non-Conformist” section of the graveyard in Wigan. One branch of the tree (Bernards and De Brissacs) lived in the French Huguenot section of London, and recorded their marriages and births on the Non-conformist and Non-parochial registers.

The American ancestors from England who settled in Delaware (Chandlers) were Quakers. The English who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts (Conants), broke away from the strict Puritan community and re-settled in Salem. I guess they were further non-conformists to the first non-conformists. The German ancestors who settled in Pennsylvania (Henckles) were Lutherans. The French ancestors who settled in New York (Tricaults and Rapaljes) were Walloons, having lived in the Netherlands for a while after escaping France to avoid persecution. Almost all (of which I’m aware) of my Irish ancestors (Gordons, Hopkins, Daughertys, Baxters) came from the Ulster area, that once-haven for Scottish and Irish protestants who eventually emigrated to the US in the 1700’s.

Freedom of religion was surely a driving force in our family’s script!

Pondering origins, Duke U campus, NC

An Out-of-Place Ancestor

This week’s topic for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors series, is “Out of Place.” Too bad, I see this often enough, since I’ve been clicking on hints and attaching them, when I have no business doing it. But it seems so much easier to do on the ancestry app, than on the full-blown website. At least, that’s my current excuse, when I find an ancestor on the pedigree that really doesn’t belong there.

For instance, Richard Hunt’s (c. 1650) wife, Agnes. For some unrecalled reason, I had paired Richard Hunt up with an Agnes who was 10 or so years older than he was, and was from a totally different place in England. With no attached sources. Oh, how I hate it when that happens.

The ease with which we can peruse historical records and decide whether they fit our family’s story, is phenomenal. And sometimes we can make a leap of faith, based on some very minuscule clues that lie in wait among the details, waiting to sprout like seeds into a massive limb on the family tree. But is that limb grafted or real?

DNA “evidence” can seem like the truth serum that makes suppositions like this real: my ancestor’s wife was Agnes. There was an Agnes who lived in the next town, whose birthdate was in the range of her husband’s. One of their children’s names was the same as her father’s. Several of their descendants are DNA matches to me. Can this be proof enough?

artistic blossom bright clouds
Photo by Pixabay on

DNA Paved the Way

I found it coincidental that this week’s prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors series is “DNA,” and that last week’s prompt was “Brick Wall.” Just this morning, I crashed through a brick wall in my pedigree research, using DNA. Bam!


I had seen other trees that listed Reynish as the surname of my 3rd great-grandmother. But they didn’t seem to match up with what I had, as far as dates and places. But with Ancestry’s new “Thru Lines” feature, I discovered at least 5 new DNA matches of people who were descended from Margaret Reynish’s father. That was rather compelling. I realize that you can have a DNA match whose pedigree has a number of names similar to your own pedigree, but that you might not be related to them by those particular people. But this looks promising: the five new DNA matches all descend from three of the brothers and sisters of my 3rd great-grandmother.

This wasn’t my first break-through helped along by DNA data. German and Scottish lines became manifest with the information from some of my relatively distant DNA matches. I’m excited about the DNA input, although I keep in the back of my mind the terse, warning voice of one of the presenters of a DNA live-streamed class at RootsTech: “Be careful!” [Diahan Southard from the class Connecting Your DNA Matches] 

I’ve been going over some of my mom’s old notes, and I’m just blown away by all the corresponding and collaborating she did over a long period of time. All that groundwork has led up to the magical genealogy searching tools we have today, with artsy charts and speed-of-light computer processors, and mammoth data storage capacity.

Lena “Brick Wall” Tripp

You may have guessed that this week’s prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors series is “Brick Wall.”

Although I have about forty source citations for this ancestor, I still don’t know who her parents were.

In the Official Records, her surname is spelled variously Trippe, Trapp, Zipf, Kripp, Cips, Zyph, Sipp, and Heyar, but mostly Tripp. Her given name is sometimes Magdalena, Leina, Linney, and Lenny but mostly Lena. She lived in Erie County, New York, in the mid-1800’s.

I also have some Tripps in my tree from way back in the 1600’s. I found a book that contained a record of the Tripp descendants, and I thought I might enter all those into my tree, from the earliest immigrants to the contemporaries, and see if any found their way to Erie County, New York. And some did, but I still can’t find a link to Lena.

There ought to be some DNA connections, because Lena is only my 2nd-great grandmother, so hopefully I still have a notable percentage of her DNA mixed in with mine. So far I’ve only found one hopeful lead to pursue, a possible name for Lena’s mother only, on another person’s pedigree. But so far that hasn’t turned up anything that can be documented as proof, either.

Lena’s grave marker in Cherry Valley, Illinois

I Went to a Garden Party (in 1898)

This is in response to Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors series of prompts about writing short posts, to get to know the ancestors better. Week #13’s prompt is “In the News,” and begs the question, “Have you used newspapers in your research?”

And the answer is, “Oh my goodness, yes!” I’ve found so many interesting items about my ancestors and their contemporaries, via newspaper articles, such as why someone got a divorce (alleged abandonment), possible reasons why a family moved to another city (bankruptcy), what they did for a living in the 1800’s (cabinet maker, coach builder, draper), or a transcription of their testimony at a trial when they were robbed. Newspapers can be a rich source of finding out what the ancestors really were like, and how they lived.

This article is from a very old newspaper, describing the proceedings of two local parties in Franklin, West Virginia, around 1900, which was reprinted in The Pendleton Times for the town’s bicentennial celebration.

Pre-1900 parties in Franklin, West Virginia

Two of my 2nd-great aunts (see the above doodle on the article) attended the “lawn fete” in 1898, along with several Boggs boys. In December of 1898, Annie married Hugh Carey Boggs (could he have been nicknamed “Pent”? Because I can’t seem to find another Boggs fellow with a given name of Pent. Maybe someone on Facebook’s Pendleton Pals site would know?) The other aunt, Mary Ralston Daugherty, didn’t marry, but was working as a stenographer as of the 1900 census. These girls had two other sisters, Susie and Sallie, within the same age range, all born in 1870-1880, who did not attend the party. Wondering why?