Family History Through the Alphabet – J is for Journey

Tracing one’s ancestry is indeed a journey; and one that is not only rewarding but also very enlightening. However, by journey here I mean the journey from the various places one’s ancestors were from and all the stops along the way down through the generations leading to ourselves and where we were born. In short, our ancestral journey in the world.

Arriving in America

In tracing my ancestry, I was fascinated by this. In looking into the ancestries of my four “cardinal branches” (Kernan, Lapham, Hamilton, and Sebok), as well as their related families, I uncovered that there are numerous journeys. Being from a country of immigrants, the United States, it is not too surprising that most of my ancestral lines have not only a journey to the United States, but also a story to tell behind it. The following is this for my four cardinal branches:

  • My Kernan branch journeyed from Ireland to Québec, Canada sometime between 1830 and 1832 likely because of early indications of the coming famine or changes in religious laws; and by 1857, they journeyed from Canada to Minnesota likely because of economic reasons.
  • My Lapham branch journeyed from Devonshire, England to the Colony of Rhode Island in about 1660 because of the persecution of Quakers in England, a religion my early Lapham ancestors were actively involved.
  • My Hamilton (originally Heldman) branch journeyed from the Grand Duchy of Hesse (now Hesse, Germany) to Ohio in 1835 for economic reasons, as Hesse was going through something of an economic depression at the time.
  • My Sebok branch journeyed from the small village of Székelyzsombor in the then Kingdom of Hungary (now Jimbor, Romania) to Indiana between 1903 and 1905 because of economic reasons. Székelyzsombor was a small village mainly involved in horse training for the Imperial Army and small-scale farming, with little opportunity for a better life.
Location of Lyman Stearns’ Quartz Mine

In addition to the journey to the United States, I was also fascinated to look at my ancestral journeys within the United States. Although it may be uncommon in some countries around the world, for those of us from the United States it is not too surprising to find that one generation was born in one state (like New York) and that the next was born in a state thousands of miles away (like California). For me, it was fascinating to uncover these journeys and even discover why they embarked upon them in the first place. For example, in researching my Stearns ancestry, which is a related family to my Kernan branch, I uncovered that my 4th great grandfather, Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), married his wife, Rebecca Hines (1816-1875), in Howard Co., Missouri; and that they raised six children together in Linn Co., Missouri, where Lyman was a farmer and ran a boarding house. I also uncovered that Lyman and Rebecca, as well as all six of their children, died in California. But why did they move to California? After additional research, I uncovered that they did so by 1852 during the California Gold Rush. Lyman was a miner in Tuolumne Co., California at this time, where he had Quartz mine.

In closing, the following is the ancestral journeys of my four “cardinal branches” from their ancestral origins down through the generations to me and where I was born, California.

  • Kernan Branch: journeyed from Ireland to Québec, Canada by 1832, to Minnesota by 1857, to Missouri by 1884, to Oregon by 1895, and to California in 1961.
  • Lapham Branch: journeyed from Devonshire, England to Rhode Island in about 1660, to Massachusetts by 1682, to New York by 1795, to Ohio by 1834, to Michigan by 1835, to Nebraska by 1880, to Idaho by 1911, to Washington by 1917, to Oregon by 1930, and to California in 1961.
  • Hamilton Branch: journeyed from Hesse to Ohio in 1835, to Missouri by 1912, to Arkansas by 1933, and to California in 1952.
  • Sebok Branch: journeyed from Székelyzsombor, Hungary (now Jimbor, Romania) to Indiana by 1905, and to California in 1920.

Our ancestral journeys, whether from one country to another or within one, are certainly a fascinating part of a family history, and one worth exploring.

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Family History Through the Alphabet – H is for Heirlooms

Exploring your own family history inevitably leads you to go through boxes of old photos and personal items that once belonged to your grandparents, great grandparents, or other relatives, a process that usually uncovers certain family treasures, or heirlooms.

Heirlooms are tangible pieces of our family’s past, linking generations together in ways far beyond the objects physical value. They often become cherished reminders of loved ones that have passed away. More often than not, they also have a story behind them and why they have been passed down from generation to generation.

When I began looking into my own family history, it wasn’t long after that I uncovered several heirlooms and that these items have special meaning. I recall the expression on my grandmother’s face when she unpacked her father’s wallet, as well as her grandfather’s, and how she held them. Although they were old wallets of no real value, they had significant sentimental value to my grandmother. I also recall how my great grandmother always wore the same small, flower-sapped earrings with small stones in them, because they belonged to and reminded her of her mother. Since her passing, they are worn by my Mom.

WWII Ruptured Duck Pin & Patch

Here is a list of some of the heirlooms I uncovered belonging to various relatives in my own family:

  • A small diamond and sapphire broach belonging to a 2nd great grandmother
  • A ring belonging to a 2nd great grandfather
  • A pair of earrings belonging to a 2nd great grandmother
  • A pair of eye glasses belonging to a 2nd great grandmother
  • A hand made quilt made by a great grand aunt
  • A wallet belonging to a 2nd great grandfather
  • A miner’s lantern belonging to a great grandfather
  • A World War II Honorable Service Lapel Pin and Uniform Patch (aka the “Ruptured Duck” pin and patch) belonging to a great grandfather
  • A wallet belonging to a great grandfather
  • A sword and uniform worn during the Spanish-American War belonging to a 2nd great grandfather
  • A diary from a 2nd great grandmother about her and her families’ journey to Oregon during the Great Depression
  • An Hungarian prayer book belonging to 2nd great grandparents
  • A rosebush that was originally planted by a 2nd great grandmother, clippings of which have been paced down to several in my family

Heirlooms are wonderful family treasures and interesting to learn about and preserve for future generations.

Six Generations of First Daughters (1965)

In 1965 what could be best described as a rare moment occurred in my family, with the taking of a photo that went on to be published in a local news paper in Oregon, USA. The article was entitled “Six Generations of First Daughters,” as the photograph consisted of six generations of women in my family that were first daughters. The following photograph is the one that appeared in this article.

Six Generations of First Daughters

Seated in the front row from left to right are: Crystal (Graber) Friederich, Tirzah (Stephens) Martin, Gloria (Lapham) Graber, who is holding Tracy Friederich. Standing in the back row from left to right is Alice (Wellin) Graber and Lois (Agee) Wellin.

The Six Generations of First Daughters is as follows:

  1. Tirzah Olive (Stephens) Martin (1873-1967), who first married Otto W. Agee (1868-1904) and later John Martin (1865-1931), her third husband. Tirzah and Otto had four children together: Lois, Althea, Clarence, and Leonard.
  2. Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Wellin (1895-1977), a Swidish émigré. Lois and Wilhelm had four children together: Alice, William, Calvin, and Herbert.
  3. Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Graber (1916-1985), who first married Theodore Lapham (1910-1955) and later Willard Graber (1918-1988). Alice and Theodore had three children together: Gloria, Margaret, and Jacqueline.
  4. Gloria Lois (Lapham) Graber (1933-2008), who married Daniel Graber (1930-2009), the nephew of Alice’s second husband. Gloria and Daniel had two children together: Crystal and Steven.
  5. Crystal (Graber) Friederich (1950-2011), who first married Armo Friederich and later Rodney Major. Crystal and Armo had one child together, Tracy.
  6. Tracy Lynn Friederich (LIVING).

I’ve always liked this photo because not only is it unique, but it also shows my great grandmother (Alice), my 2nd great grandmother (Lois), and my 3rd great grandmother (Tirzah) all in one photo.