Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mom's Birthday Quiz

Mom’s birthday is coming up in a few days and whenever it comes around, I always feel the impulse to reflect upon her life a bit.  Usually that is through a poem or written reflection – and I may still do that – but I decided to do things a bit differently.  So many stories swirl around Mom’s memory that I thought  it might be fun to devise a little quiz to see who can separate fact from fiction.  All of the questions  are true or false. A score of 8 or better means that you knew Mom (aka Grandma Northen) pretty well.   A score of less than three means you are probably reading the wrong family’s blog.
      1. Mom got her tongue stuck to a gate post once.
           2. Karen was Mom’s favorite sibling.
      3. Mom lived outside of the United States for a year or two.
      4.  Mom’s motto was, “If you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say it at all.”
      5. All things considered, Mom had a pretty darned easy life.
      6. The first time Mom kissed a boy, she went home and told her mother she was pregnant.
      7. For many years Mom had a huge running ulcer on her ankle.
      8.  When my family lived with my grandparents in Santa Ana, Mom tied my brother Steve to the clothes line.          
      9. Even though she was born in North Dakota, Mom became a pretty good swimmer when she moved to California.
     10. When she was growing up, Mom wanted  be a home economics teacher.

Here are the answers.   Feel free to add some of your own questions in the comments .

1.  True. When Mom was little and lived in South Dakota, she decided on one cold winter day to lick the gate post to see what it tasted like.  Her tongue stuck to the post because of the cold and she had to have help to get it off.
            2. False. Sister Karen was the sibling that was over at the house the most, but they had a running feud  Whenever Sr. Karen left, Mom would always be up in arms.
            3.True.  At least technically. when we lived in Hawaii in 1948-49, Hawaii was not yet one of the states. It was not admitted to the union until 1959. 
         4.  False.  That was Dad’s motto.  Mom had no problem expressing her opinion about other people.
         5.  False. Are you kidding?
         6. True. Grandma and Grandpa Wilkins weren’t exactly in the forefront of teaching their kids about sex education.  
         7.  True. Through most of my high school years and beyond Mom had a huge purple ulcer on her ankle that perpetually oozed liquid. She had to keep it wrapped and put ointments on it all the time.
         8.  False. It was Dave that she tied to the clothes line.
         9.  False.  When they were first married, Mom nearly drowned in the ocean. Dad had to save her.  After that she was very leery of swimming at the beach and never really learned to swim.
            10.   True. Unfortunately, her father made her quit high school and go to work. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Daniel and Alice

     One of the things that becomes clear in trying to do family history research is how patriarchal our society. Records are kept for male family members, but other than censuses it is a lot harder to find information on the women. This was particularly evident with researching the Northen family on my father’s side, when the families continued to live in the same county. Elizabeth was such a popular name, for example, and remarriage because of early deaths so common, that finding a woman’s surname at birth can prove nearly impossible. Because of that, it is interesting in researching the Roeick branch of the family, that it is one of the women that seems to tie all of the pieces together. That was my third great grandmother, Alice Beale. Here is the story. My second great grand father on my father’s mother’s side was John Ball Lewis. After his first wife, Nancy Wroe died, he remarried a woman named Alice Roeick. Trying to find the true spelling of Alice’s name is a challenge. Roeick is the name on her grave. On her son’s marriage license it is listed as Rhurisk, but elsewhere and in her daughter’s middle name it is spelled Ruic. Alice’s father’s name is William and his last name is variously spelled Ruick, Reuick, Rueick and her grandfather Daniel’s name is Ruirek and Ruark. You see the problem. Trying to put these pieces together is pretty iffy but to make things easier I’ll use Ruick as the last name since that is the one that seems to pop up most often. Daniel Ruick was born in 1748 and apparently came to the United States as an indentured servant in 1770. Where he was born and where he came from we don’t know, but we do have this handwritten notice from the Westmoreland County, Virginia archives:

      By March of 1793, however, Daniel is a tailor, living with his wife Alice in Farnham Parish of Richmond County Virginia, where they are selling off four acres of land in Westmoreland County that Alice inherited from her father. How he fared after that we don’t know but he was dead by sometime in 1806. In 1807 his son William was called the “orphan of Daniel Ruick” and a man named William Smith was appointed as his guardian. William married Nancy Ann Hudson in January of 1820 and seems to have stayed in Richmond County, but he too had a pretty short life because by 1835 Nancy was a widow. William and Nancy’s daughter Alice was the woman who married John Ball Lewis and became our third great grandmother.
Here she is. Alice must be the person from whom all the Northen women get their good looks. It sounds like a pretty straight arrow story. Daniel was the father of William, William was the father of Alice and Alice married John B. Lewis. If Alice Beale was the only wife that Daniel ever had, its reverse was not true. Alice’s father, Thomas Beale owned land in Westmoreland County Virginia where his family had been for at least four generations. Thomas Beale’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been named Thomas as well, coming to Virginia through York County in 1646. So unlike Daniel, Alice was well-established. Moreover, Daniel was Alice’s third husband. In 1777 when her husband gave her a piece of land, her last name was Ste;phens, and from that marriage she had two children, Elizabeth and Thomas. In her father’s will of 1786, nine years later, her last name is Rust and she may well have been married to Peter Rust, “a gentleman of Richmond County.” It could be this marriage that explained her move to Richmond County. By 1793 she was married to Daniel. In 1806, Alice’s oldest son, Thomas made a will leaving half of his estate to his brother William Ruick. No mention is made of whether Daniel was still alive at that point, but by 1810, Alice was married once again. This time to John Efford.
      In her history of the Northern Neck of Virginia, which includes Richmond , Westmoreland and Northumberland Counties, Miriam Haynie writes, “Due to distances and lack of transportation the widow’s hand was sometimes spoken for at the funeral of her husband by one of the guests who was afraid that he might lose out if he waited to make another visit.” While this may not have been the case with Alice Beale, it is true that if a woman had a bit of land, as Alice did, it made her more attractive – especially to a widower who had children of his own. For a widow’s part, if her husband died, it left her in bad straights economically, so she may have been quite eager to remarry. In 1800, the combined population of Richmond and Westmoreland County was 13,000 and throwing in Northumberland added another 7800. The fact that many brothers seemed to marry women with the same last name (often sisters) and, not infrequently, their own cousins, argues for the fact that people tended to marry whoever was eligible and at hand. This may be the reason that Alice, who came from a once prominent family ended up with Daniel, an ex-servant and tailor.