Thursday, July 31, 2014

Great visit to see Mom! On her 96th birthday!

That's Mom and my S-I-L Lynnie sitting on the back porch of the nice brick house on Mt. Savage Road, that's been home to the Kelly family for over 50 years, and set in the little town of Frostburg, Maryland. It was a warm afternoon and there was a beautiful mountain breeze coming down the hill behind the house, working its way through the tall pines and down to the rhododendron bushes lining the far back of the property. It passed the numerous tuberous begonias set out in pots along the old stone wall, now over 100 years old. Mom has always loved her begonias and has grown them every year as long as I can remember! Now, the sun had given up it's daily effort to heat up the area and had grown soft and sweet. We all had scrubbed up and gotten pretty in anticipation of going to diner at the best Italian restaurant in town as a proper celebration of Mom's 96th birthday. It was a nice moment.

It was like that all the long weekend. Fun family time and us busy making memories.

I'll share the genealogy parts of the days with you in future blog posts. There's a lot, and I have jet lag so I'll just take it slow and steady. Let's start with the trip to the church office to see baptism, marriage, and burial records from the 1850s forward. Handwritten and some in Latin. Oh, my!

Then on to an old church across the Potomac River from where the ancestors lived. That was fun even thought we didn't find what we were looking for. Too bad, but that's genealogy for ya.

And last, the big dig into Mom's files and books. I'm real conflicted about that and I'll share my feelings with you.

Black bears had visited the side yard feasting at the old apple tree out on the edge of the property. Lynnie thought it was a mother and a cub, or maybe two cubs. And a mother deer and three fawns grazed in the yard too. She sat down for a rest in the soft sun and watched her offspring as the sun was setting. One of the fawns was full of energy and bounced around in the tall grass.

On Tuesday, I finally left. Cried. So sad at leaving Mom once again. You know what I'm talking about.

More later.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

My top 5 DNA matching frustrations: a small rant to let off steam

Please excuse me but now I'm going to blow off some steam generated by frustrations having to do with DNA matches. Oh, yes, I understand that we all have frustrations in our lives and that in the big picture this is a minor blip on the old radar. But never mind because I need to rant for a minute. So here are my top five frustrations. Maybe you share some of them? All of them?

1. Private trees on connected to AncestryDNA.
What the heck?! I see this beautiful match with 96% confidence (and maybe even a tempting shaky leaf) and the tree is private. I ask politely and cheerfully if we might be in contact, dear cousin, so that perhaps we can figure out where we connect... and then I never hear from them.
Here's what I'd like to suggest to these mystery cousins: put up a dummy tree with bare-bones data, such as names, years, and locations. No sources, no details. Direct line only. Then make only that tree public and let that be the tree you link to your DNA account. That way I can check to see where the shaky leaf is or, if there's no shaky leaf, I can try to see where we might connect.
I do have sympathy and a level of understanding for those folks who want or need to keep their trees private, really I do. My thought is that if you're going to do a DNA test on AncestryDNA, well it seems to me that the sole purpose is to connect with others and in the process check out each other's trees.
And don't be thinking that if you keep your tree private it will "force" cousins to connect with you. With so very many private trees connected to AncestryDNA it doesn't take long before others burn out on sending a request. And what if something happens to you? Others will never uncover that mutual connection! If you want to get you're going to have to give.

2. No tree on
Maybe you're looking for birth parents and really don't have any ancestors to put on a tree. I get that too. Then you have no choice and neither do I. Or maybe you're new to all of this and are just getting started. I get that too. And good luck to you!
(Here I am taking a moment to scream into my pillow.)
I just checked Mom's new DNA relatives on AncestryDNA and the vast majority have no tree. The rest are private except for about six or so who have the smallest trees you can imagine. (Rant going on over here.) Enough said. It's not you, it's me.

3. "Haven't uploaded to GEDmatch, don't know what that is."
A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post from someone who had grown weary of always being the one who needed to share the knowledge and educate the DNA cousin. I read the post with sympathy and understood that if I want to get the goods - and the goods are chromosome numbers - then I often have to do the education, which can be time consuming and long and involved. But I do understand her frustration, especially on an off day when I have way too much on my plate and need to take time to educate and get the matching cousin up to speed. Usually, because of my teacher background, I love helping out, but not every hour of every day.
Have figured out that it's just where the state of the art is at the moment and that if we all want to get to the point where we do not have to educate others we're going to have to do it now. When I do run into a DNA cousin that knows what's what, I just want to hug them!

4. Yikes, the hardest to explain: what's a chromosome, a chromosome browser, and a chromosome map?
Usually I skirt this issue and don't bring it up. Early on, I tried to be helpful and explain all of the above but I could tell that it was wTMI. Way too much information! So I just up and stopped trying to explain. It is easy for newbies to get under water fast what with all the technical info to digest.
And from my standpoint, once they upload to GEDmatch and the file has been processed it's my turn to work to get the information I want. All I need to do is bring them to the GEDmatch door, point out the upload instructions and offer to help further if need be. If we get that far, then I get to play with my spreadsheet and can report back later on what I've found. So I stopped knocking myself out trying to explain.

5. GEDmatch!! Your down for server upgrade!
So I've gotten over myself, had a good rant, screamed into a pillow a time or two, and now I'm just hanging out waiting GEDmatch to get going again. I have three prime candidates in the wings all waiting with me to have their raw data file uploaded and processed. Joseph will help settle once and for all the Biggerstaff mystery. He matches Mom and not Uncle Sonny, so what's up with that? He should match. Maybe GEDmatch will show us the chromosomes and the truth will be revealed. Cindy wants to know more about her Hartley connections, and matches Mom but again, not Uncle Sonny. And Jean is a Hartley descendant too, and she too matches Mom and not Uncle Sonny. And, get this, she matches Mom but not Cindy!
Why do these three match Mom and not Uncle Sonny? They should all match. But I can't begin to solve that mystery until GEDmatch starts accepting raw files for upload once more.
Does Mom have more Biggerstaff and Hartley DNA than Uncle Sonny? And does he have more Farrell DNA than Mom? Maybe time will tell. This is important and what it's all about!

There's so much work to be done and somehow I feel that it's a race against time. Will some of the big corporate players in this arena disappear? Will I? What's going to happen to GEDmatch? And will Ancestry tire of it's DNA project?

So here I am, and that rant felt good. Thanks for listening. (I promise to listen to you if you need it.)

The above photos are all of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Little Orleans, Maryland, sitting hard on the Potomac River and the C & O Canal. It's the closest Catholic Church to where our Farrell ancestors lived. Perhaps it's where they worshiped and are buried? We don't yet know.
Photos courtesy Cousin Joseph, our Biggerstaff DNA connection. Thanks a bunch Joseph!
I can not wait to walk these grounds next week!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

50th Anniversary for J. Lee Kelly and his lovely wife Helen Zeller Kelly

Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland), October 2, 1963.

So, my new absolutely favorite activity on is to do a "search records" (you can find it right under the picture box on the person page, in the left, top) and then select Newspapers & Publications from the list. I recently posted about my good fortune in finding the fuller story of the house fire at the Joseph Hampton Whetstone (1858 - 1939) family home in 1906 and their quick rebuild in 1907. He was my great grandfather on my mother's mother's side and I heard about the fire from Grandma Williams and then from Mom. So I went looking for newspaper articles about other grandparent and great grandparents. What fun!!

Searching like this is a real treat because I'm not looking for a critical or missing bit of record to solve a problem or puzzle, but filling out what's recorded about the ancestors and building a richer page for each person. It helps me have a deeper understanding of the personalities involved. I'm having fun doing it and hope that it will give others who find what we've added to our Ancestry Member Tree, a better feel for these individuals.

I remembered that Dad's parents were married on September 30, 1913 because the hubby and I were also married on September 30th. When we got married I didn't know that the Kelly grandparents got married on that same date, but only found out later!

We even have some charming wedding portraits taken then. Here's the lovely couple, below. A framed copy of this photo hung in the Kelly home entryway, and I remember it well. Didn't know that it was their wedding portrait until recently when I added up the evidence!

Helen (Zeller) Kelly 1894-1985 and John Lee Kelly 1892 - 1969.
Photo taken in 1913.

They had six children and that was a big family to raise during the Great Depression. They endured through thick and thin, living in the house on Main Street in the little Western Maryland mountain town of Frostburg. Lee worked in the coal mines and later learned the barbering trade from his father-in-law, Gus Zeller who owned a booming barber shop in the main business district. There was a very small one chair barber shop out behind the house where Pop Kelly cut the miner's hair on Saturdays and it's still standing today.

We were living in Ohio in 1963 and I don't remember that we went to Frostburg for the anniversary party, but maybe we did. I was in high school and you know how that goes... all a blur now. I should go back and look at Mom's photo archive to see if there are any photos of the anniversary party.

The only new tid-bit that the article reveals are the names of the attendants or witnesses at the wedding: Mrs. Charles Newman and John Blake. Mrs. Charles Newman was Lee's sister Dora who was two years older than her brother. I checked Mom's Family Tree Maker file and it looks like Dora was still single when Lee and Helen married in 1913. She didn't wed Charles Newman until 1920. I have no idea who the mysterious Mr. Blake is. Guess I'll check the 1910 census for Eckhart, Allegany, Maryland to see if he pops up.

See what fun it is to sift through old newspaper articles?

About 1942.

With one of their grandchildren, my brother playing "got your nose", 1956.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

What I found out about the Whetstones, and now I'm happy.

Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland)
February 6, 1907

Recently I posted about the Whetstone house fire of 1906 and how the whole story of my grandmother's family in the early years of her life was pretty sad. You can read about it here. The death of two small children, Peter and Viola, and then the house fire that destroyed their home and all of their possessions except the clothes they were wearing: it all happened in 1906. Yeah, I'll confess that it made me sad. But today has another story - or rather the rest of the story - and I learned a couple of things I'd like to share with you.

I was curious as to why they might have lost two small children in a year, so I checked to see about epidemics that might have taken Peter in March and the infant Viola in November. Sure, little baby Viola might have had any number of birth complications and Peter could have had a childhood accident, but ever since I learned to look for flu deaths in 1918 or so I can't help think of epidemics. Wikipedia has a dandy list of world epidemics and pandemics which you can find here, but I warn you, if you are anything like me the challenge is to stop yourself from getting lost in it. (Look at that, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco in 1900 to 1904!) And Mom's two sisters, Evelyn and Margaret were little ones lost to cholera, so I always look for that.

And back to Peter and Viola. I see a couple of diseases that might have taken them and the one that pops out is typhoid. Maybe some time I might look for their death certificate but the list of people I want death certs on is mighty long.

But I've wandered far afield here. What I want to share with you is that Joe, Joseph Hampton Whetstone, the devoted husband and loving father, rebuilt the family home on Bowery Street and he did it within the year. The house burnt down in August of 1906 and he had it all going again by February of the next year. He was, after all a stone mason and knew his way around building stuff. What joy he must have had in his heart when rebuilding his family home.

I remember reading sometime last year about how kids from families where ancestor stories are frequent and about the triumvirate theme of disaster - enduring - resilience are themselves more resilient when facing adversity. The stories they hear are family tales of suffering a hardship, sticking with it, and then overcoming to thrive again. It gives kids a sense of the family continuing, facing difficulties and then going on to recover. That's one of the best gifts we can give children and grandchildren.

When I read the story of the house fire I felt sad for this family but I didn't know the whole story. I should have kept researching. When I did go back and look again I found this small item in the Evening News (Cumberland, Maryland) that you see up top. They went on to build a new home.

Seriously, I have to keep looking when I find records like this. Have to keep turning the page to see if there are follow ups! I could easily have missed this little mention that brought joy to my heart!


Joseph Hampton Whetstone (1858-1939) standing by
 the water pump in the yard of his new home.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Look what I found out about the Whetstones, but it makes me sad

Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland), August 9, 1906.
1906 was a bad year for the Joseph Hampton Whetstone family in the little mountain town of Frostburg Maryland. Little Peter, born in 1895, died in March of '06 and then a fire took the family home in August. My grandmother, Emma born in 1897 and just nine years old, remembered the fire clearly. It was a scary formative event in her life and from the article I can see why. The house was destroyed as well as the contents. Grandma remembered standing out in front of the house with her entire family watching it burn with nothing left but the nightclothes on their backs. That was the sum total of their worldly possessions.
I see from the article, and Mom didn't remember this, that the family was at breakfast when they discovered the house was on fire and the flames had already reached the roof. Kate Whetstone, grandma's mother, ran to the bedrooms to rescue the two youngest boys, Tuck and Joe. One of them, I know not which, had to jump to safety.
The article states that the value of the house was covered to just one-fourth by insurance. I'm glad of that. At least it was something. And glad too that the two youngest children were saved.
November saw another child gone and that was little Viola. She was born September 21 and had died by November 17. Poor Kate was pregnant with Viola when the house burned down. None of us living know if Viola was full term or if the trauma of the fire and running upstairs to rescue her small children somehow caused an early labor for Kate. Either way, Viola was gone before November ended.
Poor Joe and Kate. So much loss in such a short amount of time.

Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland), November 20, 1906.

Joseph H. Whetstone on the right in his Frostburg Fire Department uniform.

Kate and Joe sitting in front of their house about 1920, with some of their grandchildren.
Mom is the one with the big hair bow.

Kate and Joe in later life.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer vacations at the river

Summer on the South Branch of the Potomac River.
As I post this today, July 7, 2014, Mom, Brother and his wife are off on a road trip to the river.
That's just about 100 years of river fun for our family!

In the summertime thoughts turn to vacation memories. Last week I saw Randy Seaver's "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" post on his always informative blog, Genea-Musings, which you can read here. This time he challenges us to get those memories out of our heads and down for others to see. I like that idea and so I thought it was high time I wrote about our summer vacations down on the Potomac River. Mom has summer river memories and you can read about that here. It's only now later in life that I truly appreciate how Mom and Dad helped make memories for us kids. So here's what I remember, except for the yucky parts which get left out but you'll be able to guess at.

We lived in Cleveland in the 1950s which was about a four hour drive from little Frostburg, the small town in the mountains of Western Maryland where all of my relatives lived and where Mom and Dad grew up and Mom still lives. Dad would take a vacation week from work and we'd pack up the car with a load of stuff, and I do mean a load! I now wish I had a photo of that car. We'd drive to Frostburg and stay with Grandma and Grandpop Kelly for one night before leaving in the morning for the river.

"The river" was a section of the South Branch of the Potomac River in West Virginia where Aunt Dotty and Uncle Harold had a cabin. That's where we'd stay with Mom's sister and her family. It was right next to the cabin of Aunt Peetie and Uncle Camey, Mom's brother and his family. Both families had two boys each to play with so that was a lot of fun right there.

And the food was great! Mom and the two aunts knew just what kids and Dad's loved to eat. Roasted corn on the cob, burgers or hot dogs, baked beans and some sort of salad like potato or macaroni. Then a desert. I still remember Aunt Dotty's pineapple upside-down cake and her coconut cake and Mom's German chocolate cake. There were old fashioned jell-o molds in gem-like colors with fruit magically floating inside and something called ambrosia with pineapple chunks, whipped cream and coconut. No one went hungry down at the river!

The facilities were adequate but hardly luxurious. The modest cabin stood on stilts about eight to ten feet off the ground. That was to save it from the annual spring floods that would wipe out cabins with a lower profile. Eventually, one very bad and rainy spring the torrent that was the flooded river destroyed all cabins on this stretch. Now wiser people bring in their RVs at the start of the summer season. It had taken both uncles years of hard work to build those sturdy little cabins but they were destroyed in just a few hours that spring.

Each cabin had an outhouse. Yes, we all used the outhouse with the sliver of a moon cut into the door. Ours was a two-seater. You had to be awfully close to the other person to make use of that feature. For me, the outhouse was a bit scary... because of the spiders and snakes. OK, I really don't know how many spiders and snakes there were but the cousin boys talked up a good game to scare their city girl relative. Typical boys!

The cabin was a basic affair with two bedroom with curtains serving as doors. There was a potbelly stove positioned at the middle of the room and at the other end was the space that served as kitchen and dining area. The furniture was old and a bit beat-up but it was real comfortable. There was a big screened in porch running the full length of the back of the house that looked out through the trees at the river. A big family-sized table, and a bunch of chairs and a glider for two decorated the porch. It was my favorite place to be on a hot summer afternoon. If you got tired out playing on the river you could find a cozy spot inside or on the porch and find a book to read there. Aunt Dot was an elementary school teacher and knew exactly what to bring to encourage reading. It was a house of people who loved to read so now I can see that it was brilliant to have the house stocked with books and not piled high with the usual assortment of toys. Nice going, Aunt Dot!

But the headline act was right down the muddy bank and on the river. So what's your favorite river activity? Boating?

Aunt Petie and Uncle  Camey and the boys loading up the boat for a nice float down river.
Or would you like to go fishing? How does that sound?

Grandpop Williams, Mom's father, fishing down on the river.

Mom fishing, about 1938.
Or would you like to take a swim? Or float down the river on an inner tube? Dive off a big rock out in the river? What's your preference?
Our rock used for diving, or chilling.
Photo taken by Cousin J. C.

Mom and her family and friends sitting on one of the big rocks in the Potomac River about 1930.

Mom tells of one summer camping on the river when her mother, Emma, assigned her the task of watching her infant brother, Camey, who was napping in a straw basket. Mom had a book, as usual, and was so engrossed in it that she didn't notice the cow who wandered over and started nibbling on the straw basket. Emma came up from her swim about that time and Mom got a severe scolding!

Thinking back on it all, I remember the corn as the best I've ever had and the peaches the largest, freshest, juiciest, and most delicious ever. There was personal freedom to be had like no other time in life. You could do as you pleased, go where you wished and swim as much as you liked. Sleep as late as you wanted. But everyone had to help if your mother asked you to do a chore. And everyone had to help clean up after dinner while the moms relaxed on the porch and got thanked profusely.

There was a big flood in 1936. A nasty spring flood that whipped out everything. Mom remembers that one. And then there was a later one that took out the aunts and uncles cabins. Maybe that was in the 1960s, but I can't remember the year exactly. I do remember being sad about it, but not as sad as I feel now thinking that it put an end to our summer river memories.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Random Photo Saturday: Cousins and the uncle as boys

Last week I decided to start sharing some of the less used photos from Mom's collection that don't seem to fit into other posts but are interesting none the less. So this week I'm sharing two from the Conrads. Mom's sister married her childhood sweethearts and they had two boys, Butch and Steve.

To me, Uncle Harold was a quiet guy who raised hunting dogs and had a beautiful veggie garden in the yard. It's funny how we don't think of our childhood aunts and uncles as ever being children themselves, but this photo changed that. "Hey, Mom, who's this little guy," I asked. "That's Uncle Harold," she replied. Really?! Here's the picture of him, and tell me if this doesn't look like a little boy who plays indoors and not a man who is pretty much an outdoorsman.

Now here is Uncle Harold during WWII, in his captains uniform on the USS Anderson in the Indian Ocean. Quite a difference, huh?

So Aunt Dot and Uncle Harold married during the war but before he shipped out when she gave him an ultimatum;) Two children followed, both boys. Butch was born in 1944 and Steve came along in 1946. Butch was just too old for me to play with so I wasn't very close to him. But Steve and I were best buddies growing up. Here's a favorite picture of the boys in their little league uniforms.

You know, when I look at this picture of Butch and Steve I can see in their little faces the adult men they have become. But I can't do that with their father, Uncle Harold. Wonder why that is?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Not spam email or a scam at all but a new DNA cousin, Ivandro Nelson Zego!

Wow! Did I get that wrong. And If I'm wrong I'm glad to post a correction, so here goes. I would have bet it was a scam, but not so. Read on.

It all started when I got an email that went into my spam/junk mail folder from Nelson Zego. You can read my last post about this here.

There were a couple of features about his first email that seemed like spam. You know what they look like because I'm guessing that you get them too. Poor English and sentences that don't quite make sense. Additionally, the writer mentioned his FamilyTree DNA test and I haven't tested there so that set off a big alarm bell. Plus he signed his name with one given name and invited me to check out his Facebook page with a different given name. I would have sworn it was spam. But not so.

Finally, in the second email, he mentioned GEDmatch so I emailed and asked him for his kit number. I figured that he'd prove himself a fake and I'd never hear from him again, but not so. He emailed right back with his kit number. My doubts about him were starting to disappear. When I checked GEDmatch, yup, there he was, just as advertised. Here's what GEDmatch said about our match, below.

GEDmatch.Com Autosomal ComparisonComparing Kit M094320 (Diane Weintraub) and F327809 (Nelson Zego)

Minimum threshold size to be included in total = 700 SNPs
Mismatch-bunching Limit = 350 SNPs
Noise Reduction Threshold = 0.85
Minimum segment cM to be included in total = 7.0 cM

Chr Start LocationEnd LocationCentimorgans (cM) SNPs
Largest segment = 8.9 cM
Total of segments > 7 cM = 8.9 cM
Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 6.4

So I was wrong. Nelson / Ivandro is now mad at me because of what I posted on this blog about him perpetrating a new kind of scam involving DNA matches. And I'm sorry about that truly, because my assessment wasn't accurate. But I'm not alone in looking at his email and thinking it was spam. But bottom line is that I was wrong about him. Sorry Nelson.

As you can see, the opinions expressed here are just my own. Sometimes right and sometimes not so right. Hey, no one's perfect. We just try.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

The "New-to-me DNA cousin, or a scam" guy is back!

On May 15 of this year I did a post about an email I received in my junk mail folder. Some folks emailed or commented on the post that they too have received the same email from a Nelson Zego, so we all assume that it's a scam, especially with the mention of Tuscan DNA! Here's the original email just in case you missed it.

I'm sorry to be bothering you, but I have news for you. My name is Nelson Ivandro Lima Zêgo, was born in Santo Antão island - Cape Verde.
 I Did the dna test - family finder in family tree dna match and told me that we are cousins. 
Testing my I'm 56% West africa (bantu people), 36% European (French, Norway, germany, Russian, spanish and tuscan) and 8% Middle East (turkey Jewish and north africa jewish).
My facebook is ivandro Zêgo
Nelson Zêgo

Well, I've just received this email, below.

If we are cousins ​​or not, I do not know. It says that the gedmatch.
You should send a message to the administrators of gedmatch to take me off your list of primes. In the gedmatch Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 6.4.
I do not blame the gedmatch says. I am not a scam. Your problem is that you have a black cousin.
With all due respect and in the name of a race (black) I wish you good health, luck and humility.
Be well

Obviously he's now monitoring this blog. If he doesn't want his emails posted he should stop sending them.

OK, so what's going on here? The first thing I notice is that he has way better luck getting on GEDmatch than I do, what with it being down so much lately! He wants me to contact the administrators to take him off my "list of primes". If he's the real deal why doesn't he just make his name and contact info private? And however did I miss the "list of primes"?

He has gotten a bit more savvy since sending out the first email because now he knows terms like MRCA. But at a MCRA of 6.4 even if he's the real deal I'm not too keen about that poor quality match. And he is no longer referring to FamilyTree DNA and Family Finder as he did in the first  email, but has shifted his focus to GEDmatch. Deeper pool to fish in, or should I say pfish in?

But really, saying that my "problem" is that I have a black cousin?! What a clever argumentative gambit: I'm a racist! That's a first for me! But since he's claiming to be my cousin wouldn't I too have have checked my countries of origins/ethnicity and already know that I'm at least partially "black"? Then I'd be racist against myself. How would that work??

Poor Nelson Zego. I wish him as he has wished me, "good health, luck, and humility". Humility?

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why did they stay and why did the others go?

I've long pondered this one point: why did my direct ancestors stay in a very narrow geographic vicinity while other of their relatives moved away? Sometimes they went way out west and far away, likely never to be seen again. I've had the great pleasure of making contact with some of my more distant genealogy cousins and invariably their branch of the tree moved away a long time ago. Why? Why did we stay put?

I guess I should take a moment out of pondering and explain. Going back along each of both Mom and Dad's ancestral lines to the first person who came to America, when you map their progress out there is an obvious conclusion. They plunked down in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and moved only about a couple of hundred miles through five or more generations. Now this is a big country but up until my generation, Mom and Dad's direct line pretty much stayed put in and around the vicinity of Western Maryland. Cousins drifted but our people stayed. Why? Was there something the matter with our folks? Were they less adventurous? Less ambitious? Heaven knows, they were not the blessed few who inherited family lands and home places, so they easily could have picked up and moved on. But they didn't. Even Dad and Mom, when they moved away to Cleveland, moved back after 11 years.

For a long time I speculated that maybe we were less adventurous than the others who moved on. Not a bunch of risk-takers. Maybe after the big trip over the ocean our people came to the conclusion that this land was pretty good and the trip had been a lot of bother so why not stay put? (Even today I really dislike moving!) But I don't think the answer lies in lack of motivation or a dearth of adventure. I think maybe it lies elsewhere.

When I examine the generations that I personally knew and with which I'm most familiar I can see that they held in high esteem the virtues of security and comfort. Mom thinks so too. If you had enough work that paid the bills, could grow vegetables in the garden and a few flowers to brighten a table and perk up the outside of the house, a pen with chickens and a good season hunting and fishing, well what more could you yearn for?

I'm wondering about the composition of character in individuals who stay versus those who move on. Those who moved on, at least from what I know of them, were the ambitious who accumulated wealth or tried to. The ones who stayed preferred comfort and security to all else. My Zeller ancestors who were written about here recently fall into the ambitious group which can be seen in their shared love of setting up businesses and buying property, first in Frostburg, Maryland and then in Chicago. By contrast, Dad's direct Irish ancestors immigrated and then stayed put in Frostburg and Eckhart through five generations.

But there's another aspect of why our direct ancestors might have liked to stay put, and for me it's the truer answer. They loved their connection to family above all else. Both Mom's family and Dad's family were the focus of much day to day activity. A day never went by that Dad didn't stop to visit with his mother. He wouldn't think of living a day without a visit to his Ma. And Mom and her sister were the best of friends who were often seen about town at their weekly lunch.

And then there's the community of faith that connected each family to others in town. Some of Mom's family, Aunt Betty in particular, still goes to the Welsh Congregational Church that was attended by all of her family back three generations. And the Kelly and Zeller bunch all went to the Catholic Church, St. Michaels, right there on Main Street.

Now I'm not being judgmental here or putting one value system above all others or painting my relatives in some superior light. Not at all. I'm just trying to figure out why they stayed put. I dunno, maybe I've got it all wrong. All I know is that they thought the very best thing was being with family.

The Ladies Aid Society picnic about 1930. This group was attached to the Welsh Congregational Church where my Williams grandparents attended. Mom even sang in the choir.

A Kelly family picnic, mid 1950s.

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