As Laura described herself: “At home it was my one delight to get hold of a book or paper, both of which were limited in our family library.  … A bachelor uncle lived in our family and took great interest in the education of the children and he had noticed my eagerness for books and said to my father one day ‘John, you ought to get some books for Laura to read.  Don’t you see how she likes to read?’ [And her father replied] ‘Why, Thomas, there is “The Book of Martyrs” and “Josephus”.  She has never read them.  If she likes to read there is plenty of good reading in the Bible.’  The books at home slowly grew little by little and added fuel to Laura’s desire for learning.

Then, a new college was located a few miles distant from the Denman place and the “financial agents invaded the neighborhood in quest of signers for scholarships” which John Denman was persuaded to do.  This was the Oberlin Collegiate Institute which actually opened in late 1833, with 29 men and 15 women beginning classes.  These early students were expected to help build the institution with their own labor.  Despite this, the Institute was in financial straits and fund-raising went on as Laura described.

The scholarship arrangement meant that John Denman could send his older children for further education.  In 1907 Oberlin College made a concerted effort to locate all alumni so that accurate and compete inforDenman, Laura - Oberlin listingmation about them could be published in the about-to-be issued General Catalogue and Alumni Registry of Oberlin College 1833-1908.  In that publication there were 23 Denmans listed; 11 of them were John and Marinda Denman’s children (all but the two oldest sons, Edward and William, and son Charles who had died at age ten).

As Laura wrote: “My eldest sister was the first to receive the benefit of this arrangement and after spending one year there she gave place to the next sister who, after spending one year in the college, decided to go another year.  Then she with myself entered the college the next year.”  Laura’s ambitions were being gratified.  Laura and her sister “entered upon this year of study with great zest hoping to be able to complete the course and fit ourselves for the work of teaching school, which in those days, aside from housework, was the only occupation open to women.  But, alas! after five months of study we were both stricken down with typhoid fever and sent home to be cared for by our family.”  “This new school was of necessity very primitive in all its appointments.  The buildings were of the cheapest material, the furnishings limited to the merest necessities and the board supplied nutrition, tho severely plain in all its details…”

In those early days of the college, the vacations were the three winter months, as Laura explained: “This was planned in the interest of the students who spent their vacations in teaching in neighborhoods of the surrounding country.  Many young men who thus spent their vacations returned in the spring to resume their studies full of enthusiasm and well supplied with incidents of their experiences in their various locations.”  The students also brought back amusing stories from their boarding around with the various families of the pupils they taught.  Laura herself wrote of the differing treatment she got in boarding around, from bad and minimal food to “hospitality itself, nothing was too good and no effort too great that would add to the comfort and happiness to the weary one returning from the arduous duties of the schoolroom.”

Her older “sister having decided to enter the school of matrimony” Laura completed another year but then decided to leave school for a year or two and spend the time teaching.   “Teachers, be it known, were not as numerous in those days as at the present writing and yet the salaries of teachers were not commensurate with the demands, six dollars a month being considered the limit, and even then, such unheard of extravagance being admissible only upon the recommendation of one of the school board”.  Laura ended up taking a school for the winter that had been engaged for another who had become so discouraged that she gave it up after a few weeks.  Although with misgivings, Laura took the school on and soon found the source of the trouble.

“On entering the school room the first day, I was surrounded by an eager group of youngsters each anxious to inform me of the faults and failings of others, and all insisting it would be my imperative duty to whip Almeron McKinney, Miss Linton did, he wouldn’t mind her and she had to whip him.  And there, sitting quietly in his sear, this bad boy listened to the reports of his school mates, undoubtedly sizing up the new school teacher and deciding what course to pursue.”  Laura described that his boy was abused and neglected at home by a mother who idolized her daughter, and the last teacher “resorted to the rod to enforce her rules.”  She decided to try an entirely opposite course of action: to try to interest him in his studies, encouraging him to do his best.  “To the surprise of the whole school Almeron became  a faithful student and even surpassed some of the brighter ones in the final examinations.”  Laura’s conclusion to this story was that in future years she heard of this boy as having become an energetic and useful citizen in the town where he resided, and she from that time forward “always had a warm place in my heart for boys, and even boys whose early lives are so unpromising it seems useless to attempt the making of true men and desirable citizens of them.  The possibilities wrapped up in these youths are very great and only require right leading and right influences to cause them to develop into true genuine manhood.”

Laura was clearly very happy to head home to the farm at the end of that school year in the spring of 1850.  She described her pleasures in all the delights that awaited her: maple trees tapped for sugar making; early vegetables and flower beds being prepared; the orchard trees already budded and full of promise.  After spending a few months at home, Laura was the sister who was available to travel to southwestern Ohio where her sister Ann had a new son, was in ill-health, and her husband had gone to the gold mines of California.  It was during this time that Laura’s letter writing created a very favorable impression on the man she later married.  And that will introduce the next chapter of this memoir.


My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea

My gorgeous magnolia and Cornell pink azalea – Happy May!

* Figure out how to request information about possible records from St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
* Continue to work on updating the Denman database with information already collected and/or noted by cousin Claudia in her review. I already discovered a connection I hadn’t been aware of! A good example of fresh eyes being helpful.
* Start work on Boorman database I just started.

* The inboxes on my desktop are cleared! Three cheers!! Continuing the work listed above on the Denmans is also organizing files on my hard drive (and helping me establish a standard file naming process).
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found so far to automate this task don’t meet my needs However I just saw a review of another one, that looked worth investigating. There is always hope – in the meantime I must remember to do it by hand.

* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [Watched the Legacy Family Tree webinar by Judy G. Russell on "That First Trip to the Courthouse" which was very useful. Like many of us, I suspect, I feel tentative about researching in a Courthouse. I hope what Judy said will help me figure out what I might get from a Courthouse (and nowhere else) and then plan a trip.]

* Figure out how to request information about possible records from St. Xavier in Cincinnati. I finally wrote to Christ Church in Cincinnati to see if about records there of Lucy and Thomas O’Shaughnessy’s marriage. I had a nice email exchange with the Archivist who looked at all possible records and found nothing. He also looked for a death record for Lucy’s first husband, Josiah Dalton, and baptism records for her O’Shaughnessy children and came up zero on any of them. So I can rule out Christ Church.
* I wrote to the Ditchling Old Meeting House, about possible archives and records for Denman family. I am beginning a lovely email exchange with a Denman relative who contacted me because of this blog, who also turns out to be most interested in the Ditchling line and to live close enough to get there.
* Set up Salts database and add what I’m learning about the Tennessee Salts. I haven’t done this one yet, but have learned that the Titus Salt line had business dealings close to there, so I need to see if there is a connection.

* Still trying to get that last inbox cleared – somehow there is always something more urgent (read: interesting) to do. Also, I don’t have a great work process for dealing with papers, which makes me less than eager to move them around.
* Back up the blog! Plug-ins found to automate this task don’t meet my needs.

* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [Judy and I are now set to attend the GRIP course in Pittsburgh in July. I may decide that it will serve for a number of months-worth of genealogy education. However, I will continue to track the webinars and to watch the ones that look useful to me.]

The title of this post refers to my great-aunt, Gertrude Silver, and I struggled to decide if the title should be a statement or a question.  I think I need a new punctuation mark, because the answer is a bit of both.

I’ve written about Gertrude and her husband Sam before.  Here is a brief synopsis.

 sam dandy

Sam Silver was 18 or 19 when he fought in the Spanish-American War.  When he left the army he went to New Orleans where he met the very young Gertrude Eliach.  Sam was about 23 and Gertrude 14 when they ran away to San Francisco and may have married.  At this point in the story my unromantic, pragmatic sensibilities say, “Gertrude, young, foolish, believing she was in love.”  And what of Sam?  My best-case scenario is youngish, equally foolish, maybe in love.  Worst-case scenario, hm, I’d rather not go there. This is not a story I expected to end well.  But here’s the thing, Sam and Gertrude stayed together for 22 years, until Sam’s death at the age of 41.  They had four children, only one of whom, Joseph, survived until adulthood.  Gertrude’s father died a few years after the marriage and by 1910 Gertrude’s mother was living with the couple.  She lived with them the rest of their married life.  Even the cynic in me has to say, “If that’s not love, what is?”

That’s what I knew until recently.  I put Gertrude and her son Joseph on the back burner and moved on to other genealogical challenges, but Gertrude was always on my mind. Her story seems so moving and so sad.  An elopement that seemed likely to end quickly turned out to be the story of a couple who lived, loved and struggled together through hard times and so much sadness until Sam’s early death.  I needed to know what became of Gertrude and Joseph.

Here’s what I learned.  Gertrude’s mother, Libby, died in 1935.  Gertrude and Joe buried her in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.libby eliach grave

In 1934 Joseph married Beryl Reilinger. According to the 1940 census Joe and Beryl lived in a guesthouse run by Beryl’s parents.  Their block in Los Angeles seems to be a long row of boarding houses and guesthouses.  The couple had a son, Stanley, who was four years old in 1940.

Gertrude married again in 1966 at the age of 73.  She married Louis Philipson, also 73.  The California Marriage Index lists the marriage twice with Gertrude listed as Gertude Chertin and Gertrude Eliach, her maiden name.  There is an asterisk next to the last names. Was Gertrude married three times?

Lou and Gertrude had seven years together.  Lou died in 1973, leaving Gertrude a widow once more.  Gertrude died in 1980, she was 93. Sam must be gone by now too, but their son Stanley is likely still alive.  There are lots of avenues for me to explore, but I doubt they will answer my real question.

I want to know if Gertrude was happy.  No, I want to know that she was happy, but I suppose I can live with the answer no matter what it is.  I need to find Stanley Lee Silver or I need him to find me.  I need to hear about his grandparents.  I know Stanley was married for a few years.  Are there children, Sam and Gertrude’s great-grandchildren?

Stanley Silver was my father’s name too. Stanley, where are you?



Easter is pretty early this year and I’ve been remembering the new Easter outfits we all had every year. From the time I can first remember, and likely even before that, my sister and brothers and I had new outfits for Easter. For my sister and me that included coats, hats, gloves, pocketbooks, shoes, and dresses. In my family besides my parents, there are 5 of us, all born in just under 7 years. My sister is exactly 16 months older than I am. So that meant new outfits for 5 children plus two adults (or at least my mother, my father had business suits he could wear). This was in the 1950s and early 1960s, and for all but the last year or two my father was the only wage-earner. So with money being tight, many of our clothes (at least for my sister and me as well as my mother) were homemade.

I’m pretty sure that it started with our Grandma Cena (our mother’s mom) making clothes for us. She was an amazing seamstress and came from the time and place where women made most of the family clothing. Moreover, for the next 5+ years after I was born our mother was busy taking care of infants and toddlers, so I am guessing that Grandma continued to contribute in this way. We lived just far enough from Grandma and Grandpa that we didn’t get to see them very often so she couldn’t help out in other ways. It was always exciting when a box arrived from Grandma with new clothing. From the time I was about 7 or 8, however, Mom made our Easter outfits with Grandma continuing to whip up accessories and outfits for other times.

Margaret and me, 1950

Margaret and me, 1950

The earliest picture I have come up with so far is from 1950 when I was not quite 3. I don’t remember these outfits but have a half memory of getting the hats. Mine had navy velvet ribbon around the outer edge and I think we helped pick these out ourselves.

me and my big sister, June 1951

me and my big sister, June 1951

The first one I remember was a white dress with a separate organdy pinafore. My sister’s dress has been less clear in my memory’s eye, but I know for sure that it wasn’t scratchy like mine! I would often wear the pinafore by itself if it was hot, and it was stiff fabric that scratched. I don’t know for sure that these were Easter outfits but I’m pretty sure they were. This picture of the two of us in these dresses refreshed my memory a little about these dresses and confirms that we both had pinafores and that the pinafore was worn by itself on occasion.

Margaret and me, 1955

Margaret and me, 1955

By 1955 my mother was going all out on our outfits. That year she and my sister and I all had pink poodlecloth (that was what she called it) jackets. It was very cool and grown-up feeling to have jackets just like Mom’s. Our dresses were navy, and had permanent-pleated skirts and lace on the collars and appliqued to the fronts. In the picture you can also see the crocheted purses that Grandma Cena had sent (I think they were new that year).

The year after that (either 1956 or 1957, I think) we wore the jackets again but had blue dotted-swiss dresses with cummerbunds and lace on the tops. I’m guessing Easter might have been later that year, since the dresses

Margaret and Pat, maybe 1956

Margaret and Pat, maybe 1956

were sleeveless. Of course, we wore our Easter dresses to church and Sunday school all spring and summer.

About 1960

About 1960

The last Easter picture in this series shows my sister and me as young teenagers. By that time she and I were both making some of our own clothes and I suspect that my sister made this Easter dress for herself. I was in a shy phase about having my picture taken and so was making faces that day.

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