Some days I become tired and discouraged about trying to produce a blog post every two weeks.  When I have the time to write something I consider interesting or useful I would like it to be read. Sometimes it feels like no one is looking.  Then there are the other times.  These are the times that keep me blogging.

Here are some of the things this blog has brought me:

1.  Contact with cousins I already know, but don’t hear from very often.  I am a dreadful correspondent and it is wonderful to know that my cousins are reading this and enjoying some of the stories I am telling.  As an additional bonus one of them occasionally is able to identify a photograph or add details to a story.

2.  I have found new cousins in many of my family lines.  This is fun just on the face of it, but has also opened up new areas of research and but new branches on my tree.

3.  Inquiries and invitations from all sorts of places.  I have been invited to softball games in Washington state, cemetery cleanups and dedications in Michigan, and bed and board in many places by kind and trusting relatives.

4.  I have received information and permission to use materials in this blog from all over, but the latest and best falls into the kindness of strangers category.  I tell this story mostly because it was such a wonderful experience for me, but also to remind us all that it is possible and wonderful to preserve a piece of someone else’s family history.


I have written  about my husband’s great aunts, Amy and Jessie Martin before.  You can read that post here.


The Martin Sisters



A few weeks ago I received an email from a volunteer at the Willamette Valley Heritage Center.  I am leaving the names of the various people out of this piece to preserve their privacy.  The Center had come into the possession of 80 photographs belonging to the Martin sisters, many of which were family photos.  They had searched the internet and found my piece on Amy and Jessie and wondered if this was indeed my family and if I could fill in any details of the family history.  I filled in precious few details and in return I received 80 thumbnail photos with their catalog entries including the information written on the back of the photos.  Almost all of the photos were labeled or dated or both.


I wondered how the center had come into possession of these photos and they passed the donor’s name on to me with permission to contact her. My donor, let’s call her Jane, passed on the story of the journey of the photograph’s to me.

Jane’s mother lived across the street from the janitor who worked at the school where Amy Martin taught.  One day Jane’s mother was visiting the janitor’s wife, when the janitor arrived with a sack of old photos and handed them off to Jane’s mother saying, “I know you like old stuff.”

The photos were then passed on to Jane who has an interest in Victorian era things.

They sat in a closet for 10 years until Jane decided to take a serious look at them and saw that most of the photos were dated and signed.  On the advice of a friend Jane took the photos to the Willamette Heritage Center.

A wonderful volunteer and the Director of Acquisitions for the Center took an interest in the photos and in the ladies to whom they belonged.  They researched the Martin family and in searching the internet found my piece on the Martin sisters and contacted me.


And so the photographs which could so easily have found their way to a dumpster found their way to the museum and to me.


A complete stranger took the time to take these photos to a history center and the center made the effort to track me down.  I am so very grateful to them both.


I live in Connecticut, but will be attending a wedding in Portland, Oregon soon.  Our time there will be limited, but I am trying very hard to work in a trip to the Willamette Heritage Center to meet the people who saved these photos and thank them in person and to see the originals for myself.





On this Mother’s Day 2012 my thoughts have turned to the women in our families who were not mothers.

Today motherhood is a choice, many women both married and unmarried live fulfilling lives without children, but what about our ancestors.  In the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth marriage was the norm and children were Social Security. For women without children the end of life was often difficult. I like to find the stories of these women in our past and be sure that they are remembered

Here are two very different stories from my husband’s side of the family.


Amy and Jessie Martin:

Jessie and Amy Martin

Jessie and Amy martin

I have written before about Jessie and Amy Martin.  They were born in Michigan in 1873 and 1881 and moved to Oregon with their parents.  They spent decades as schoolteachers in Oregon.  The end of life was very difficult for them.  They struggled with financial hardship and poor health, as Amy wrote in a letter to my mother-in-law in 1959, “There were so many things she would have liked to do but lack of money was the drawback for all of us.”  They both passed away in the Methodist home in Salem, Oregon, Jessie in 1959 and Amy in 1982.


Eliza Jane Cole

Eliza Cole Thorpe

Eliza was born in Ireland in 1870 and came to America with her family in 1873.  The family moved to Nebraska and then to Oregon.  Eliza became a Seventh day Adventist Minister.  She married for the first time at the age of 50 to George Thorpe. I believe it was the first marriage for George as well. Eliza seemed to thrive as a minister and was well cared for by the Adventists.  She was visited several times a week by her niece and nephew.  A letter to my husband’s grandfather from Eliza’s nephew states, “We see Eliza once or twice a week.  She always speaks so fondly of you.  You know, of course, that she has not been in her own home for this past year.  The conference has substantially increased her allowance and that plus rental from her home leaves her well provided for.”  Eliza died in Vancouver, WA in 1955.

There are many more examples on both sides of our families. This is a busy time in my life and I have had little time for research.  I expect things to slow down a bit in September and I also intend to find out about these women’s lives and bring them back, if not to life, to remembrance