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

Fearless Females Challenge: March 5 – How They Met

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 5 — How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?

Although I do known how my parents met, this blog is focused on the ancestries of my grandparents. I will instead talk about how my grandparents met.

My paternal grandparents, William Kernan (LIVING) and Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004), were married in 1952. According to my grandfather, they met almost two years prior to their marriage, when Margaret was babysitting with one of her cousins, Carol Morgan. Knowing that a friend of her boyfriend was single, Carol got her boyfriend to bring his friend, William, over to the home they were babysitting at, and he introduced William to Margaret. It was a blind date set up. Soon after, they began dating each other and eventually realized that they were meant to spend their lives together—it was, as my grandfather recalls, “love at first sight.”

My maternal grandparents, Harry “Lee” Hamilton (LIVING) and Alberta Sebok (LIVING), were married in 1954. According to my grandmother, they meet when one of her friends cancelled a movie date with Lee, which he found out about after arriving at her house. Alberta was there visiting her friend, and she, not wanting to face Lee, told her to go instead. Lee agreed. Following this, the two dated some, but Lee was serving in the U.S. Navy and the Korean War had already begun. Before shipping out, Lee asked her, while at a dance, to marry him when he got back. When he got back, the two got married.

Photo of Lee and Alberta Hamilton, taken in 1954 in front of Lee's ship
Photo of Lee and Alberta Hamilton, taken in 1954 in front of Lee’s ship

Although I do not know how each of my great grandparents met, I do know how one set of maternal great grandparents did. The parents of my maternal grandmother, Albert Sebok (1903-1968) and Irene Vera Balla (1913-2006), were both living in different states prior to when they first met–Albert in California and Irene in Texas. Irene’s father, Alexander Balla (1886-1950), wanted his children (particularly his daughters) to marry Hungarians. He even went to the extreme of advertising that he had eligible daughters, placing ads in local newspapers and advertising it on a billboard. When Irene was ready to start looking for a husband, her father was contacted by one of his sisters, Zsophia, who was living in California with her family. Her husband, Peter Sabo, worked for the railroad, and he worked with a single Hungarian man, Albert, who was looking for a wife. Zsophia asked her brother to send a photo of Irene so Albert could see what she looked like. They sent the photograph below. Albert liked what he saw and wanted to meet her. So, Irene went to California to stay with her aunt and uncle, at whose home she met Albert. The two began dating, and where married soon after (on June 17, 1935 in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co., California). The photo that caught Albert’s attention always made my great grandmother smile, so much so she kept it for the rest of her life.

Irene Balla, 1930s
Irene Balla, 1930s

Fearless Females Challenge: March 4 – Marriage Records

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 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

I have marriage records for both my paternal and maternal grandparents. However, I currently only have details about and some photographs of the wedding day for my paternal grandparents.

My paternal grandparents, William Kernan (LIVING) and Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004), were married on June 28, 1952 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon.

Marriage Certificate of William and Margaret Kernan
Marriage Certificate of William and Margaret Kernan

Their wedding was reported in The Milwaukie Review,  a local paper in Oregon. The service was held at St. Peter’s in the company of family and friends, and was officiated by Rev. Patrick J. Dooley. Margaret was given away by Willard Graber, her stepfather. She wore, the article states, “a white slipper satin gown with two panels of lace down the front.” Her bouquet was of white orchids, carried upon a white prayer book. The maid of honor was Gloria (Lapham) Graber, Margaret’s older sister. Her bridesmaids were Deldalyn Kreisman, William’s sister, and Carol Morgan, her cousin. William’s best man was Robert Kreisman, his brother-in-law. The ushers were Donald Rowlands, William’s stepbrother, and Calvin Wellin, Margaret’s uncle.

Article about their wedding (1952)
Newspaper clipping about William and Margaret Kernan’s marriage, 1952
Group Photo from the Wedding
Newspaper clipping of the group photo taken at the wedding of William and Margaret Kernan, 1952

My maternal grandparents, Harry “Lee” Hamitlon (LIVING) and Alberta Sebok (LIVING), were married on January 24, 1954 in Las Vegas, Clark Co., Nevada. The ceremony was officiated by John V. Lytle, Justice of the Peace of Las Vegas, Nevada. I currently do not have any real details about the wedding day itself or any photographs from the wedding. They were divorced in 1975 in Orange Co., California.

Marriage Certificate of Lee and Alberta Hamilton
Marriage Certificate of Lee and Alberta Hamilton
Photo of Lee and Alberta Hamilton, taken around the time they were married
Photo of Lee and Alberta Hamilton, taken around the time they were married

141 Years Ago Today

On February 21, 1872, one-hundred and forty-one years ago today, Jennie M. Lightcap (1872-1905), my 2nd great grandmother, was born in Prairie, Holmes Co., Ohio the daughter of Samuel S. Lightcap (1844-1893) and Sarah Jane Saunders (1842-1887).

Jennie Lightcap Birth Record
Jennie Lightcap Birth Record (Left Side)
Jennie Lightcap Birth Record (Right Side)
Jennie Lightcap Birth Record (Right Side)

Jennie grew up in Holmes, Wayne, and Richland counties in Ohio where her father was a machinist and then an auctioneer. In 1890, Jennie married Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944) in Richland Co., Ohio. Together, Jennie and Rufus had four children, one of which was Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), my great grandfather, who changed his name to serve in World War I.

7 Years Ago Today

On February 19, 2006, seven years ago today, Goldia Mae “Goldie” (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006), my maternal great grandmother, died in a convalescent home in Bristow, Creek Co., Oklahoma. Goldie died at the age of 93 following many years of suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Following her death, she was buried next to her husband, Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960) in Highland Cemetery in Okemah, Okfuskee Co., Oklahoma.

Goldie Hamilton's Headstone
Goldie Hamilton’s Headstone

Goldie was born in 1912 the daughter of Ernest Jacob Worthington (1885-1939) and Mae Josie Gifford (1885-?). In 1933 she married Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), with whom she had seven children. Goldie’s life was frequently filled with hardships, such as the abandonment of her mother when she was a little girl, living through the Great Depression, the tragic death of her step-mother, losing two of her seven children soon after their birth (one of which was her only daughter), watching one of her sons go to prison, and the death of her husband when she was only forty-eight. Despite these hardships, Goldie always found a reason to smile and laugh. She found tremendous comfort in simple things, particularly her many pets.

Goldie Hamilton
Goldie Hamilton, ca. 1960s

68 Years Ago Today

On November 1, 1944, sixty-eight years ago today, Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944), my 2nd great grandfather, died at Hammond Rest Home in Mansfield, Richland Co., Ohio. According to his death certificate, Rufus died from arteriosclerosis. He was buried on November 4, 1944 at Shreve Cemetery in Shreve, Wayne Co., Ohio.

Death Certificate of Rufus Bert Heldman

107 Years Ago Today

On July 25, 1905, one hundred and seven years ago today, Jennie M. (Lightcap) Heldman (1872-1905), my 2nd great grandmother, died in Shreve, Wayne Co., Ohio, USA.

Jennie was born in 1872 in Prairie, Holmes Co., Ohio, the daughter of Samuel S. Lightcap (1844-1893) and Sarah Jane Saunders (1842-1887). In 1890, she married Rufus Bert Heldman (1870-1944) in Richland Co., Ohio. Together, Jennie and Rufus had four children. Jennie died in 1905 and was buried in Shreve Cemetery.

Jennie (Lightcap) Heldman was the mother of Harry Carl Hamilton (1891-1960), my great grandfather, who was born Carl H. Heldman, and was the father of my maternal grandfather, Lee Hamilton (LIVING).

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.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

Family History Through the Alphabet – I is for Investigation

One of the hardest, yet most rewarding, aspects of compiling a family history is the actual investigations we undertake in the process. Investigating the people and the events of their lives can be a challenge but leaves a person with an awareness of where they came from that makes the difficulties worth it.

When I began to compile my family history, I learned quickly that the process was a long and difficult one. Gathering names, dates, and places; old photographs, anecdotes, and records, records, and more records; and then attempting to assemble it all together to build an accurate family tree proved to be a significant challenge for me, particularly since I knew few relatives at the time that were even remotely interested. As time went on, and my research skills and contacts developed, investigating my ancestry became more enjoyable. It became all the more so, or more like addicting, when brick walls would suddenly crumble with new access to records or when I would track down another distant relative that had important information that made all the difference.

John A. Heldman Headstone & Monument

Of all of the branches that I have investigated in my ancestry, my Hamilton family had to be the one that presented the greatest challenge and took many years and countless hours of investigation to finally trace. When I started investing this branch, I knew it would be particularly difficult, given the fact that my great grandfather changed his surname around World War I, and there was some confusion about the original spelling. Additionally, my great grandmother (his wife) could not completely remember certain details. Over the years, I used what information I could gather and began investigating for more clues. In 2009-2010, several new pieces of information, documents, and new contacts finally pointed me in the right direction, enabling me to trace my Hamilton branch back to my immigrant ancestor, my 3rd great grandfather Johann “John” Adam Heldman (1809-1883). Although investigating this branch was difficult, it was worth it as I was able to finally know where my maternal grandfather’s family came from and what their lives were like across the generations leading to my own.

Click here to learn more about Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge (Clicking this link will take you to another site.)

Remembering Goldie

Goldie Hamilton (ca. 1960’s)

This past May 15, 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of my maternal great grandmother, Goldia Mae “Goldie” (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006).

Goldie was born in Harrison, Boone County, Arkansas the daughter (and only surviving child) of Ernest Jacob Worthington and Mae Josie Gifford. In 1933, she met and married Harry Carl Hamilton, a World War I Vet originally from Ohio who was ten years her senior. Together, they had seven children, five of which lived to adulthood. Soon after the birth of their second child, they left Arkansas for Oklahoma, where she and Harry spent the rest of their lives. She passed away in 2006 at the age of 93.

Goldie’s life was frequently filled with hardships, such as the abandonment of her mother when she was a little girl, living through the Great Depression, loosing two of her seven children soon after their birth (one of which was her only daughter), having a son go to prison, wanting to riase a grandchild but having to watch him be given up for adoption, and the death of her husband when she was only 48. Despite these hardships, Goldie always found a reason to smile and laugh. She found tramendous comfort and joy in simple things, particularly her many pets that she loved very much.

Although I never had the chance to get to know Goldie (she lived so very far away), my Mom has always told me that I would have liked her; and from what I have learned about her I agree. She was a strong person that never let the difficulties and challenges of life keep her from seeing the silver lining in any dark cloud.

Happy (belated) 100th Birthday Great Grandma Goldie!

Click here to visit her Find-A-Grave Memorial page.