Sunday, July 31, 2016
I left the windowless bathroom for the brighter kitchen. The electric tea kettle had already heated the water before the power went out. I enjoyed a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal while I read my daily Bible reading.
Then I headed into my office. I sat at my laptop and resumed the genealogy I had been working on the night before. I must have worked 10 or 15 minutes with the document on my screen before I wanted to know more. I clicked the keys to do an Internet search.
"Server not found."
What? I clicked again. What was going on? Then I glanced at my AT&T receiver. None of the little green lights were on. I had completely forgotten that the power was out. The computer was going on battery; the light was coming in the window. I had gotten by perfectly fine without electricity for a little while but suddenly, I felt unable to do any of the things I had planned. I couldn't search the Internet or bake cookies or do the laundry. Why even my phone was almost out of juice and would be going dead soon. I was feeling panicky.
I often think God is like electricity, unseen but undeniably powerful. Yet how often do I take him for granted and fail to plug in regularly, recharge my batteries? How often do I stumble through life with the lights out and never even realize it? Better make sure my spiritual batteries are fully charged for the storms ahead.
Posted by Sue Merrell at 10:42 AM
Friday, July 22, 2016
|Julius Otterbein was born in Canada|
My most recent mystery involved the German ancestors of my friend Steve Otterbein. His ggggreat grandfather Germanus Otterbein immigrated to Baltimore in 1851 with his wife and two kids. By the 1860 census he had moved his family to Grand Rapids, MI., where Steve grew up a century later and many relatives remain today.
The census revealed, however, that Germanus made a detour between Baltimore and Grand Rapids. Three of his six children on the 1860 census were born in Canada. He and his family must have lived there from 1852 to 1857. The plot thickened when I searched online and discovered mention of Germanus in the Mennonite archives in Waterloo, Ontario. The Otterbeins have always been Roman Catholic. Why would they be in Mennonite archives?
At the Otterbein reunion in Colorado this summer, I found the answer in a notebook about some Canadian Otterbein families. According to "The Trail of the Black Walnut," a 1957 book by George Elmore Reaman, many immigrants left Germany because they were trying to avoid military service. They arrived here with few possessions. Mennonite settlements took them in and gave them work to do until they could get on their feet again. Sort of like the way modern churches provided assistance to Vietnamese and Sudanese refugees, and undoubtedly will help Syrian refugees.
It's humbling to realize we all need a helping hand now and then, and gratifying to know aid was handled in such an organized manner more than a century ago. But it's going to confuse some Syrian genealogists in the future.
Posted by Sue Merrell at 5:07 PM
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
That Bible verse seemed particularly appropriate recently as I dragged my mother and brother all over Missouri trying to track down the graves of ancestors we had never met. I even recruited a long ago family friend, Paul Heiholt, who was a neighbor of my Grandmother many years ago. Now Paul is the manager of a huge ranch that has encompassed the land where the graves of my grandmother's grandparents are located.
With Paul's help, and his all-wheel drive truck, we rumbled across the hayfields, dry creek bed and Missouri hills to the little square patch where C.P. Tharp, two of his wives, four of their daughters and a couple grandkids were buried between 1848 and 1897. Recent rainstorms had knocked down branches from a tree in the small graveyard. Paul had to haul out branches and set up a couple broken stones so we could see them, but many of the other stones were buried or too broken to stand up.
Paul said he plans to be cremated when he dies. "In 20 years nobody cares about the graves anyway."
Except genealogy nuts like me. Earlier, my brother and I had driven way back into the Mark Twain National Forest looking for Mill Creek Cemetery where John Wesley Merrell, my great-great-great grandfather, was buried along with many other Merrell relatives. I braved a "beware of dog" sign to knock on the door of a purple house to get permission to drive through a fenced cow pasture to complete our quest. We discovered that John's tombstone had survived beautifully but most the other graves we sought that week had not.
High on a hill near Bismark, Mo., we looked for the Tullock ancestors who had moved to Missouri long before it became a state in 1821. Weeds had swallowed up most of the stones, and those we found were unreadable. We discovered another small Tullock cemetery in a grove of trees in the front yard of a fancy subdivision. The homeowner's dogs sniffed and barked as we felt the stones trying to read the letters etched away by time.
Dust to dust applies to more than our bones. The granite markers wash away too. Even the stone erected 50 years ago for my mother's mother had been attacked by lichen since we last visited five years ago. We scraped it away as best we could and left the flowers we had brought. A little vanity against the ravages of time.
Posted by Sue Merrell at 6:31 PM