Lucky ~ Week 11

Do you have an ancestor who was lucky at something? Lucky to be alive? Lucky at cards? Lucky in love? Maybe you have an ancestor with a name that reminds you of luck or fortune. There’s always “luck of the Irish.” Maybe you have a story of how luck played a role in finding an ancestor.

Another one that stumps me…

I am the one who is lucky. Lucky to be alive. I look through all the family trees and see children who died at a very early age. It could have been me.

One Sunday in May 1965, I complained of feeling unwell but my Uncle Louis and Aunt Evelyn were visiting so my whining was shushed and we visited with them. The next day, I complained more and was taken to the doctor. He sent us immediately to the hospital where I was scheduled for surgery early the next morning. I remember smelling the ether and being asked to count backwards. Dr DeGrandpre did a great job removing the ruptured appendix. I have a very long jagged scar on my stomach and an indentation where there had been a drain hose to rid my body of the awful green poison. I spent three weeks in the hospital and learned to hate apple juice and love my nurses. The nurses taught me to make hospital corners when making the bed. I had tons of coloring books. I remember Deputy Dawg especially. I had a visit from a minister who asked me if I knew how close to dying I had been. That still throws me. I think I still have the get well card sent to me my Mrs Chilton and the children in my fourth grade classroom. When I returned to school later in May, it was the day for state tests. Pretty sure I aced those! Early in June, I went for a weekend to Lake Clear to the Girl Scout camp. We stayed in lean-tos. I remember hiking and being told I needed to take it easy. But eventually, I was allowed to lead the group along the trail.

Move ahead to August 1970. My sister and I were goofing off after breakfast/early lunch. We were putting off having to go to the barn and clean the milk house. Our four-month old nephew was asleep on the bed. I had a birthday party to go to later that afternoon. Cleaning the milk house was never fun and we definitely were procrastinating. Suddenly, there was an incredible loud noise and everyone was looking around like crazy trying to figure out what had happened. The barn was rocked off its foundation. It was eventually shown that the hot water heater had been defective and had exploded. It was found on the other side of the road, a matter of maybe 200 feet (see first comment below for correction to this). So our procrastination saved our lives. Scott slept through the whole thing but when someone peeked into the bedroom to check on him, the squeak of the door woke him up.

This is what the barn currently looks like, 48 years after the events described. The line shows approximately where the water heater tank was found.

And, not least of my luck, in 2013 my husband started a new job which meant we had new health insurance which led to us needing to change doctors. The new doctor I saw wanted to know what the lump on my neck was and had an ultrasound done followed by a fine needle aspiration which led to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. My previous doctors had done an ultrasound (I’m not sure what year) and then tested thyroid function annually which always came out normal. I had one functioning thyroid lobe which worked. In July 2014, I had my thyroid completely removed, did a course of radioactive iodine treatment and learned to live with daily thyroid replacement medication.



Where there’s a Will (or probate record) ~ Week 9

I spent several years looking for information on Levi Holt. We knew that he was the parent of Mary Elizabeth Holt, my great-great grandmother who married William Smith, immigrant from Ireland. From land transfer documents we found that her sister was Jane married to Abel Allen. And we had a photo of Levi Holt, Mary and Jane’s brother.

Several years ago I found a obituary for Levi Jr Plattsburgh Republican. (Plattsburgh, Clinton County, N.Y.), May 27, 1893, Page 4, Image 4 stating that “Mr Holt was the only son; he had eleven sisters of whom only two survive him, one of whom is in Minnesota to hear the sad news.” I have spent a lot of time looking for the other nine sisters. A couple of years ago, using Ancestry, I came across the probate record below.

This states “the deceased left no will and testament but died intestate.” There is a lot of information in these two short pages.

Transcribing this is a process. I transcribed those words I recognized and made educated guesses on some of the other words and some are still a mystery to me. Eventually I was able to put together the names of daughters and their husbands and added them to the tree. I have even been in contact with a descendant of Catherine McCreedy who shared pages from a family bible.

  • Catherine Holt 1806–1844 married Thomas McCreedy
  • Susan Holt 1810–1874 married nathan Thurber
  • Louisa Holt 1814- married John Sherman
  • Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Holt 1816–1869 married William Smith
  • Jane Holt 1820- married Abel Allen
  • Hanna Holt (I’m not sure I have transcribed this name correctly)
  • Maria Holt 1823–bef 1900 married Chester Bosworth
  • Levi Holt 1826–1893 married Susan Stanton and Amelia (?)
  • Charlotte Holt

Charlotte and Hanna are elusive. Since they weren’t married at the time of their father’s death, I can’t trace them through their husband’s name.

In a surrogate court held at the village of Plattsburgh in the county of Clinton on the sixth day of August in the year one thousand and eight hundred and forty two Present (?)
Elearn Miller Surrogate
In the matter of granting administration on the estate of Levi Holt deceased on the day and at the place aforesaid Abel Allen of the town of Mooers in the county of Clinton appeared and made application for letters of administration of the goods chattels and credits of Levi Holt late of the town of Ellenburgh in said county ****** to be granted to him the said Abel Allen in right of Jane Allen his wife and a daughter of the said deceased and made satisfactory???? of that the said Levi Holt was lately a resident of the said county of Clinton and died at his residence in the town of Ellenburgh in said county on the eleventh day of May 1841 (2?) a natural death leaving a widow viz. Jane (Jeanne? Jennie?) Holt (since deceased) and one son and eight daughters (to wit?) Levi Holt now residing in the town of Plattsburgh in said county Jane Allen the wife of the said Abel Allen Maria Bosworth the wife of Chester Bosworth and Charlotte Holt all residing in the town of Mooers aforesaid, Polly Smith wife of William Smith Louisa Sherman the wife of John P Sherman and Hanna? Holt residing in the town of Ellenburgh aforesaid Susan Thurber the wife of Nathan C Thurber residing in the town of Belmont County of Franklin and Catherine McCreedy wife of Thomas McCready residing in the town of Brownhelm County of Lorain and state of Ohio _______________ ______________ in that the said Levi Holt and Charlotte Holt are infants under the age of twenty one years and that neither of them have a general guardian and that the said deceased left no will and testament but died intestate that the funeral property of the said deceased at the time of his death would not amount ____ to more than one hundred and fifty dollars. In the application of the Abel Allen it is ordered that a special guardian be appointed for the said Levi Holt and Charlotte Holt infant heirs of the said deceased and Chester Bosworth in the town of Mooers in the said county having consented ___________ such guardian and ________________________ and filed such ____________________________ in this ?? thus far I the surrogate _______________ ____________ ___ That the said Chester Bosworth be appointed guardian to the said infants to attend to and ???? of the infants in the ???/

Elearne Miller surrogate

Heirloom ~ Week 8

Is there a special item that’s been passed down in your family?

Last night I talked to Cy about this at dinner and we started to make a list of things that I have that are passed down from my ancestors:

  • Butter Churn
  • Clock
  • Boston Rocker
  • Brass Kettle
  • Bowl and Pitcher
  • Larkin Desk
  • Hazel

Now some of these are pretty interesting and I may write about them someday but as I was getting ready to take photos this morning, I came across a box of smaller keepsakes.

Inside that were several watches. So this post became about Time Pieces .

The photo on the left shows an eight-day clock. My grandfather George and his friend went to town one day in 1907 and bought matching clocks for their mothers. The matching clock came up in an estate sale several years ago after Pearl (Hobbs) Cashman died. (Pearl’s granddaughter and my sister have been friends since forever.) I’m not sure which relative was the purchaser of the clock. (One of many instances where I wish I had made notes of the story.)

The second photo shows at the top my mother’s wristwatch that she wore to school every day.

In the middle is a watch belonging to my grandmother Sadie. She was wearing it attached as a pin to her dress in a photo.Sadie







The watch on the bottom of the right hand picture belonged to my grandfather, Pete. I don’t think there was much to be handed down from his family as the house he lived in burned about 1944 and he came to live on the farm with my parents sometime around 1949-50 (?). The watch may not be very old but one of the few things that belonged to him. He was admitted to the hospital in September 1969. The watch stopped and he died the next day.

D.C. “Smokey” Smith

I am not keeping up with all the prompts of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

I still need to think out responses to

  • Week 8 (February 19-25): Heirloom
  • Week 9 (February 26-March 4): Where There’s a Will

In the meantime I am using Ancestry (nearly) every day to find more fascinating family “stuff.”

Today I came across an obituary for a fourth cousin. We are both descended from Ebenezer Ayer and both have ancestors who married a SMITH. I sincerely doubt they are any way from the same Smith family.

Smokey with Minnie Pearl and George Morgan pic from

Here is the obit copied from It does not say which newspaper carried this.

The country music industry lost a legendary member when D. C. “Smokey” Smith passed away at home on Monday, February 3, 2014, due to complications following two surgeries for a traumatic brain injury.

The former local radio and television personality, entertainer, recording artist, promoter and owner of Smokey Smith Tours would have been 92 on February 12.

He was born on February 12, 1922, in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. It was there he learned at an early age that singing and playing guitar created the perfect tempo for his life.

Smokey’s career began in California, which spanned most of the 1940’s as a recording artist and ballroom singer. It was there his reputation for constantly puffing on his favorite cigars earned him the lifelong and much preferred identity of “Smokey.”

He later migrated to Des Moines in 1950, becoming a popular entertainer and broadcast personality on KRNT Radio. When KRNT-TV (now KCCI) began airing in 1955, he had the area’s first live primetime country music television show. He later worked for local radio stations KWDM, KWKY and KNIA in Knoxville.

Smokey also promoted country music shows at KRNT Theater for 24 years. The early success of those events led him to include six other Iowa cities on his tours before expanding into six other states as well. This distinction earned him membership into an elite group of promoters known as “package show specialists” that controlled vast territory in their respective regions.

It wasn’t an easy task handling every last detail of every event, some bordering on catastrophic, from an occasional headline artist who didn’t show up to inclement weather which often did. Yet, adversity could never stifle that hair-trigger laugh so instantly recognizable even in a crowded room.

His tenacity proved to be the collateral earning him recognition as one of the premier promoters in the country. This wasn’t the only reason he also became an icon in Nashville’s entertainment community. Hiring every name act of the era would have probably qualified in itself, however, he also provided significant leadership in 1953 during creation of the Country Music Disc Jockeys Association.

By 1958 Smokey was serving as treasurer of the group and again displayed foresight in supporting a drive encouraging the membership to disband in favor of creating a much broader coalition known as the Country Music Association. He became one of the very first board members of the organization now recognized worldwide.

Smokey was a 33rd degree Freemason for 61 years, a 60-year member of the Knights Templar and the Za-Ga-Zig Shrine. A sampling of his many awards includes the Johnny Cash Award of Merit; induction into both Nashville’s Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the. International Media Award presented by the Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE) in Nashville and many other Iowa and regional awards..

The State Historical Society of Iowa honored him in 2011 by recognizing his many achievements with a special exhibit of personal memorabilia entitled “Smokey Smith: Iowa’s Mr. Country Music.” It was the first time the organization chose to honor an Iowa personality from the country music industry.

Smokey was always humbled by the special attention he received, even to the point of questioning whether he deserved it at times. To him, the crowning achievement in life was his family, especially the granddaughters and great grandchildren that simply knew him as “Papa.”

His huge success in life was only eclipsed by a gregarious persona best described by entertainer Wanda Jackson, who lovingly saw him as “kind of a Santa Claus figure with a cigar.” He had that that type of personality, too, she said, “always jovial and laughing all the time, just a happy guy.”

Smokey was preceded in death by his mother, Vanera Smith; wife Lucille Smith and their son, Leon Smith. He is survived by his daughter, Carol (Terry) Manley, of West Des Moines; granddaughters Diane (Brian) Ahrenkiel of Waukee; Christi (Christopher) Power of Van Meter and Mindy (Layne) Wardenburg of Clive; great-granddaughters Carolyn and Caylee Power; great-grandson Andrew Mason Ahrenkiel; sisters-in-law Estelline Jones of Marshfield, Missouri; Ophie Anderson of Burleson, Texas; Janell Shackelford of Austin, Texas, nieces, nephews and many dear friends..


Valentine ~ Week 7

This week’s prompt:
Is there a love story in your family tree? Maybe a couple was married on Valentine’s Day or you have a valentine that one ancestor gave to another. Maybe you have an ancestor named Valentine.

I find no one married on Valentines Day and no one named Valentine. The best love story is that of Frankie Davis and Watson Merrill.


They lived together for 37 years and had 12 children.


Frankie died in May of 1918. The family always said that Grandpa died of a broken heart in August of that same year.


Favorite Name ~ Week 6

This week’s prompt is Favorite name. “Favorite name could be a name of an ancestor that makes you smile. Perhaps it’s an unusual name. ”

This is another tough one. There are so many possibilities.

I love that there is a Thankful Bigelow (supposedly sister of third great grandfather Jared Bigelow but I can’t find any actual sources [yet]). What would a nickname have been? Or would she always formally be called Thankful?

Then there is my fourth great grandmother Hopeful Finch whose mother was Mindwell Moore. Lovely names. Hopeful is sometimes listed as Hope.

My French-Canadian great grandmother was named “Felicite.” In the 1870 census she was listed as “Fillis.” After that, her name was Americanized to “Melissa.”  My grandfather told us her name was Felicite. He pronounced it “fill a seat.” Knowing that led me to look further and I found a church record where she was listed as Felicite.

Felicite Jodwin Barcomb

But I think favorite names has to go to  a whole family.  My great grandmother Frankie Davis married Watson P Merrill (Wat) and they had twelve children.

Several of my grandmother’s siblings went by their middle names. Grace May was called May. Darius Wayne was always known as Wayne. Francis Clare was Uncle Clare and Frances E was Aunt Frances. Florence Gail was always Aunt Gail. So Great Grandma Frankie who, as far as I can tell, never had a document listing her as anything but Frankie named two of her children Francis/Frances.

Frankie (Davis) & Wat Merrill






In the Census ~ Week 5

I am truly struggling with this prompt:

The Week 5 prompt is “In the Census.” What intriguing find have you made in a census? What has a series of census records shown you? Do you have an ancestor who constantly ages only 7 years between censuses?”

I have over 1200 United States Federal Census records saved to my tree from 1790 to 1940, 250 New York State Census records from 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925 and 35 state census records from Iowa, Kansas, and Rhode Island. None of these stick out as having been incredible finds.

I went to my facebook page to see what kind of census stuff I posted there. Here are my findings:

March 19, 2012
I spent the evening researching my grandfather’s oldest sister. She was about 35 years older then he was. I followed her through all available census records 1860-1930. (1890 not available and 1940 census records will start to be available first week in April!) She was married and widowed three times. in 1910 & 1930 I found her living with married daughters. Her last marriage was in 1919 at about age 63 and she died in 1942. Her name was Octavia Barcomb Boyer Corron Hamelin. In the 1900 census, she said she had had 10 children, 7 of whom were still living.

August 8, 2013
Mind-Bogling genealogy:
Cy’s second great grand uncle, Louis was 12 in the 1850 census (possibly misreading a “15”, handwriting is so difficult to decipher). By 1860 he was married and 25 years old, his wife was 23.
In 1870, he has aged to 48 years old, adding 23 years while his wife has only aged 6 years in those 10.
In 1880, Louis is back to being 45, and his wife is now 33.
Similar numbers out of thin air in 1900, 1910, & 1915.
How am I supposed to figure out what year he was actually born???

March 11, 2017
Here’s Levi in 1820 in Peru NY. It looks to me like columns 4 and 5 were each marked with a “1” then it was changed to “0” and “2.” Same with column 13. it was originally a “1” and changed to a “0.”
What do you think?

Adding to my guess that the numbers were changed is the fact that there are no zeros otherwise on the page, just a dot if there was no number.

March 13, 2017
And these people are the reason genealogy research is so difficult! The family at the bottom of the page has a 6-year old named Harold and a 4 1/2-year old named Harry.


June 25, 2017
1860 census: Can anyone interpret the name on the top line? It was a male born about 1857. His brother Jean Baptiste Barcom(b) is listed on the next line.


Believe it or not…from the next census, it looks like his name is Oliver.

July 17, 2017
I looked through all the 1892 Ellenburg census records for my great-grandparents Isadore and Nancy Lastraw. Then I remembered that my grandmother was born in Chateaugay. So I started the search for Franklin County records. After several different tries with (hundreds) different search terms and going “there HAD to be someone named Nancy in 1892 Franklin County, This is ridiculous!,” I found a notation that said that not all counties kept the originals of these records and there are NO known records for Franklin County for 1892.
So I learned something and it was not a total waste of three hours of my time…

The end result of my struggle to write something about “In the Census” is that I am forever thankful of the availability of these records through several internet sources. I am also thankful for the community of FaceBook where I can share my joys and disappointments of the efforts to piece together the puzzle of where I came from.