Fearless Females Challenge: March 10 – Religion

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

Religion has often played a very large role in the lives of my ancestors. Several branches in my family tree faced persecution and left their native homelands because of their religion, which of course included female ancestors. Early ancestors in my Lapham branch were Quakers, as were early ancestors in my Worthington (which married into my Hamilton branch). Early ancestors in my Stearns branch (which married into my Kernan branch) were Puritans. Early ancestors in my Agee branch were Huguenots. Also, early ancestors in my Graber branch were Mennonites.

The role of religion in my more recent ancestors (include my female ancestors) had varying degrees of importance. My paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-2004), was a devout Catholic. My maternal grandmother, Alberta (Sebok) Hamilton (LIVING), was raised in Protestant churches, particularly the Pentecostal Church. As for my great grandparents, I am less certain what role played in their lives. From what I have uncovered on this topic, it appears that religion didn’t play a major role. This, of course, is not to say that they didn’t believe in God or attend any religious services.

My paternal great grandmother, Maxine Elizabeth (Davis-Kernan) Smith (1912-1992), appears to have been raised in a Baptist home, but her first husband, Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979), was raised in a Catholic home. It is unclear, however, if Maxine (or Delmar) ever really participated in either of these. The same is true of my paternal step-great grandmother, Pauline Katherine (Rains-Rowlands) Kernan (1913-1997), who was Delmar’s second wife. My other paternal great grandmother, Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985), was raised, it seems, in a Baptist home, but married her second husband, Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1989), in a Methodist church. Her first husband, Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955), was raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, though it is unclear if Alice (or Theodore) ever participated in this church.

My maternal great grandmother, Goldia “Goldie” Mae (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006), and her husband, Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), do not appear to have been involved in any particular church, though they were (according to oral history) Methodists. My other maternal great grandmother, Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006), grew up in a Protestant home that attended Baptist, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal churches. Her husband, Albert Sebok (1903-1968), grew up in the Hungarian Reformed Church, but appears to have attended Pentecostal church when they went to church. Later in her life, she briefly consulted with members of the Christian Science church, but never converted or attended their services.

As for serving their church in some capacity, the closest any of my female ancestors comes is the involvement of my 2nd great grandmother Anna Margaret (Leishman) Lapham (1875-1951), who often went by Annie or Margaret, in the Seventh-Day Adventist church. Even at a young age, faith was important to her. As a biographical sketch in a funeral booklet states, “at the age of 14 years, she was converted and joined the United Presbyterian Church,” like her parents. However, “about four years later, she overheard a strange man make the remark that ‘You can’t find between the two lids of the Bible that the Sabbath has ever been changed.’ That deeply impressed her as she had been taught that it was changed when Christ rose. So she went to her Mother and asked where to find it in the Bible, and her Mother said, ‘I don’t know, but it’s in there somewhere.’ She said, ‘Well, I’m going to find it.’ She had a reference Bible with a brief concordance. She started her search, which lasted for months. She didn’t know there was such a thing as a Seventh Day Adventist Church, or any one who kept the seventh day. Her folks didn’t hinder her, neither did they help her. She studied it out alone with God’s help. Not that she wanted to keep the seventh day, but she wanted to know where the Bible said it has been changed, but finally decided that whoever made the change, it wasn’t God. And in order to be a Christian, she must obey God. So she told her folks that she couldn’t help what they did, but she was going to keep the Sabbath; she didn’t know the that she would ever have any one to keep it with her; she started keeping it alone, but when her folks saw how very much in earnest she was, they decided to keep it with her. One day her Father met the man in a store that made the remark, and found that he was a Sabbath keeper, and had a wife and five children and there was a woman and two children in town. So they all got together and organized a Sabbath School. That was indeed a happy day for [Annie], and she was always glad for the experience of studying it out for herself, and always thanked God for revealing it to her.”

Margaret Lapham
Margaret Lapham

Anna Margaret was an active member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church for most of her life, in Nebraska, Oregon, and Idaho. Some of her involvement included reciting or other ways sharing her Christian poems. A number of the poems in her Courage and Comfort (a collection of ninety poems she wrote in the 1940s), were published in “Gems of Faith” by the evangelist R.H. Nightingale, in “Quiet Hour Echoes” by the evangelist J.L. Tucker 1943, or in “Gleaner,” which appear to have been church newsletters or magazines. Some of these poems were also recited or broadcast by evangelists J.L. Tucker and R.H. Nightingale many times at church gatherings or over the radio.

The following is a page from Anna Margaret’s Courage and Comfort featuring a poem called “By Faith” that is noted to have “broadcasted by Evangelist J. L. Tucker.”

"By Faith," a Poem from Courage and Comfort by Anna Margaret (Leishman) Lapham
“By Faith,” a Poem from Courage and Comfort by Anna Margaret (Leishman) Lapham

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