Happy Birthday, Boppa!

Our dad loved his birthday and today just happens to be July 30 – practically a national holiday in the Ruffner household. A fuss was made, particularly after his three daughters geographically scattered and grandchildren arrived. “Boppa’s Birthda…

Our dad loved his birthday and today just happens to be July 30 – practically a national holiday in the Ruffner household.  A fuss was made, particularly after his three daughters geographically scattered and grandchildren arrived.  “Boppa’s Birthday”  was the focal point of the summer.  

His mother started it.  He was an only child, born twelve years into the marriage of his parents – enough said.   Here’s an invitation to the first “formal” party held to honor the occasion – his 4th birthday in 1920.  32 invited friends – and he wasn’t even in school yet!   Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Boppa!”

Christmas in July

The focus of research and reconnaissance on the Odell-Berlage side of the tree culminated last week with the arrival of a thoroughly wrapped package of pictures and documents from Aunt Yvonne in Michigan. It really is a treasure trove. There are d…

The focus of research and reconnaissance on the Odell-Berlage side of the tree culminated last week with the arrival of a thoroughly wrapped package of pictures and documents from Aunt Yvonne in Michigan.  It really is a treasure trove. There are dozens of items representing hundreds of stories.  Everthing had notes attached with names, except for two mystery portraits done in Amsterdam; it’s a relief to know that even Aunt Yvonne has pictures tagged, “I don’t know who this is.”

Here are just a few images to give you the idea of the range of riches –  concentrating on Alice Berlage Odell, John’s grandmother, whose romance and wedding was detailed a few weeks ago. Continue reading “Christmas in July”

Forging new connections

So far, Family Epic has mostly been about my family — writer’s prerogative — and function of the old adage “write what you know.” Our Ruffner-Offutt side has been centered in Pennsylvania and in Maryland, and has barely budged. Then there’s the …

So far, Family Epic has mostly been about my family — writer’s prerogative — and function of the old adage “write what you know.” Our Ruffner-Offutt side has been centered in Pennsylvania and in Maryland, and has barely budged.  Then there’s the more mobile Williams-Walling southern contingent – New Jersey-South Carolina-Alabama-Georgia-Arkansas-Texas. Nice geographical contrast between the two sides — not a single overlapping state.

The other half of my children’s heritage presents different challenges and different locales. Continue reading “Forging new connections”

Summer Camp, Now and Then

I’m off to genealogy camp – as my family calls it – again this week! I’ll be in Washington, DC, for five days, learning about records held by the National Archives, and taking field trips to the DAR Library and the Library of Congress. I’ve been e…

I’m off to genealogy camp – as my family calls it – again this week!  I’ll be in Washington, DC,  for five days, learning about records held by the National Archives, and taking field trips to the DAR Library and the Library of Congress.  I’ve been exploring those repositories on my own since last summer, but I welcome the instruction and camaraderie offered by the National Institute of Genealogical Research (NIGR) (now the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records).

Coincidentally, I ran across some mementos yesterday of childhood camp experiences.  It seems I didn’t love every minute…

Continue reading “Summer Camp, Now and Then”

A 1916 Shipboard Romance

[Back to the other half of my daughters’ heritage……] Alice Henriette Pauline, born in Amsterdam in 1898 to Jacobus Berlage and Alice Anslyn Berlage, was only seven years old when her father died in 1905. (1) She was the oldest of three; brothe…

[Back to the other half of my daughters’ heritage……]

Alice Henriette Pauline, born in Amsterdam in 1898 to Jacobus Berlage and Alice Anslyn Berlage, was only seven years old when her father died in 1905. (1)   She was the oldest of three;  brother Thomas was six and sister Cecile was five.  Within a year, their mother married a second time – to Robert J. Fellner, a Boston-born member of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.  Alice Berlage Fellner gave birth to their son, James, in 1907. Continue reading “A 1916 Shipboard Romance”

Longhorn Lineage

Most people learn of my football loyalties within the first ten minutes of even a casual conversation. It’s near impossible to grow up in western Pennsylvania during the 1970s without developing very specific leanings. Even fleeting personnel issu…

Most people learn of my football loyalties within the first ten minutes of even a casual conversation.  It’s near impossible to grow up in western Pennsylvania during the 1970s without developing very specific leanings.  Even fleeting personnel issues (ahem) don’t alter football heritage.  But we can also lay claim to a strong maternal football lineage – of the Texan variety.

Mom was born in Sierra Blanca, Texas, but the family moved to nearby Fabens in 1932 and that’s where she attended high school. It’s about as far west as you can get in Texas. Safe to say that football was a social focal point.   And I’ve got the memorabilia to prove it.

Continue reading “Longhorn Lineage”

I come from Alabama….

….if not with a banjo on my knee, then at least with a new set of possible ancestors to research. When I arrived in Birmingham last Sunday for the Institute of Genealogy and Historic Research, we had one possible connection to Alabama. According…

….if not with a banjo on my knee, then at least with a new set of possible ancestors to research.   When I arrived in Birmingham last Sunday for the Institute of Genealogy and Historic Research, we had one possible connection to Alabama.  

According to the 1860 U.S. census for Hempstead County, Arkansas, Alabama was the birthplace of Jesse G. Williams, our 3rd great grandfather of Mom’s paternal line.(1)  (Family legend has it that Jesse was killed in 1864 in the Battle of Little Blue River in Missouri;  1860 is the last census in which he appears.)  As it turns out, that single piece of evidence directly conflicts with the prior census. The research is far from complete but, using a more formal (and scholarly!) narrative style to report, here’s why I think South Carolina is the more likely birthplace.

[Note:  I  made several big leaps on the Alabama front last week, during breaks from the Military Records class. More will be written about both, but, in the meantime, a big thank you to the staff of the Special Collection section of the Samford University Library, particularly Liz Wells and Mark “sorry-I-didn’t-get-your-last-name.”]  

Continue reading “I come from Alabama….”

Paying It Forward – Here’s the Ruffner Family Bible

Online and print publications on our Offutt line cite an 1840s family bible that was passed down to our grandmother’s cousin. I’d like to locate the bible — for several reasons. It’s a very special family artifact. To actually see it would be as …

Online and print publications on our Offutt line cite an 1840s family bible that was passed down to our grandmother’s cousin.  I’d like to locate the bible — for several reasons.  It’s a  very special family artifact.  To actually see it would be as thrilling as our visit to the Offutt property in Montgomery County (described on May 5).   But I’d also like the chance to look at the entries and evaluate them as evidence — to look at the content, examine the handwriting, the ink, and check the publication date of the bible itself. Continue reading “Paying It Forward – Here’s the Ruffner Family Bible”

War and Peace – Updated

I’m headed to Alabama on June 13th for a week-long class on Military Records. The class is one of the offerings of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University, a premier genealogical institute. One of my (self-assigned…

I’m headed to Alabama on June 13th for a week-long class on Military Records.  The class is one of the offerings of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University, a premier genealogical institute.  One of my (self-assigned) preparation tasks is to gather up my clues on ancestral military service so that I have a menu of real-life inquiries to pursue during my week of immersion. 

I had a request to indicate (my) relationship to the ancestors below.  That information appears in brackets.  And I’ve posted a picture of John Kennedy “Jack” Gates, cousin and combat photographer.  It’s a unique shot that includes headline news. Thank you, Susan!

Continue reading “War and Peace – Updated”

More on the Life, Death, and Will of Robert G. Stephens

“Many of our readers will be surprised to learn of the death of Robert Stephens, of White Township, which took place Saturday last. He had just finished eating a hearty meal, and rising to his feet, stepped out on the porch of his residence when h…

“Many of our readers will be surprised to learn of the death of Robert Stephens, of White Township, which took place Saturday last.  He had just finished eating a hearty meal, and rising to his feet, stepped out on the porch of his residence when he fell dead.”[1]

Not a bad way to go at the age of 77.  But what happened after that was a little messy. Continue reading “More on the Life, Death, and Will of Robert G. Stephens”