Thursday, September 27, 2012

The "bare" walls

I was writing a blog entry about an Easter celebration and it reminded me of another holiday meal. My parents bought a house in 1964. Like anyone moving into an existing house, we had work to do first. The house had previously been converted into a duplex so we started turning it back into a single-family house. This included removing all of the wallpaper. It could be fun if the paper was steamed just so we could strip a section from floor to ceiling in one shot. The house was old enough that even the ceilings were covered in wallpaper. That was really fun when we got a strip going.

After we had the new stove installed and a china cabinet built into the wall between the kitchen and dining room, we moved in. The upstairs walls were finished shortly after we moved in but the downstairs walls were still bare. The bare walls were old fashioned plaster and lath and looked like they would stand for a couple of hundred years. After our first Sunday dinner in the dining room under the crystal chandelier, my brother Ralph climbed a step ladder and wrote the menu for our dinner on the wall between the living room and dining room.  That was the beginning of a tradition that would continue for over 2 years. Everyone that came through our doors would autograph the walls. My sister Zoe was a talented artist and she decided that we needed something to perk up the living room d├ęcor. Using a step ladder she sketched a harbor scene. I think she modeled it on a picture from Maine.

Not to be outdone by Zoe, my brother Ralph did his magnificent drawling on the ceiling! His master piece was suggestive of the works of Salvador Dali, Picasso, Grant Wood and Grandma Moses. A cubist, surreal and primitive work in pencil on plaster, it featured melted watches and teacups on a bare landscape populated only by cubist nudes wielding pitchforks. It is signed “Ralph Raphael Rawlings” and is the only piece known to be produced by this artist.

We enjoyed our autographed walls and I was actually sad when my father announced that he had hired someone to put up new wallpaper. I just wonder if all of those autographs are still hidden under wallpaper and there is the chance that they could see daylight again if the wallpaper were removed. I don’t know when I will be in Wellsville again, but visiting that house is now on my bucket list. Especially since I remember those walls so well and don’t seem to have any pictures of them!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grandma could not date when she was 21

What I know of my maternal grandmother's childhood I have had to glean from genealogical research. She was born in Brooklyn, New York. By 1909 her family had moved to Chester, West Virginia. From the few stories I managed to get about my maternal grandmother’s childhood I know that she took piano lessons and learned things like embroidery. She never learned to cook. It seemed so strange with a woman born in 1889. Her family spoke German at home and they carried Roman Catholic missals to Mass on Sunday that were in German and Latin.

When she was about 18, she and her sister Genevieve had pictures taken that almost looked like what were called “glamour shots” a few years ago. There is also a strip of pictures of her in various attitudes and manners of dress. Her family had moved from Brooklyn to Chester, West Virginia and I wonder if there was a shortage of marriage-aged men. She was (in 1919) 30 by then and her parents may have been a little desperate.  Fortunately her parents did send her to a secretarial school, so she did have skills with which to obtain a job. She still lived at home with her parents of course.

In Chester, WV there was an amusement park called Rock Springs Park.  I never got a chance to visit there even though the park was still open when I was a child. When my grandmother was 21, the Park had dances and my grandmother lived close enough to be able to hear the music. She was not permitted to attend them. With her parents being so strict I wondered how she ever did get married.

I asked my Aunt Katharyn (daughter of Katharyn) if she knew. It turns out that my grandfather did not marry for quite some time too. His father passed away when Joseph was 21. He remained with his mother and sisters to help support them. His mother passed away in 1922 and his youngest sister Beatrice had married in 1923. Catherine and Eva were both employed so they decided it was time to get their brother married.  They were friends with Katharyn and decided to fix their friend and their brother up together. It apparently worked since Katharyn and Joseph married in 1924 when Katharyn was 35 and Joseph was 32. My mother was born in 1925. Joseph Jr. followed in 1929 and my Aunt Katharyn was born in 1933. My mother and Uncle Joe have both passed. Katharyn is healthy and very active. She and her husband Bill square dance and ballroom dance. (Love ya, Aunt Kay!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

I learned everything I needed to know from Captain Kangaroo

I grew up in front of the television. Even though my face is not visible in the picture, I assure you it is me. I recognize the drool (LOL!). I actually have memories of being in front of the TV in that jump-chair. Captain Kangaroo debuted in October 1955 and I had made my debut 14 months earlier. I was so fortunate that my mother learned I would be quiet if I was parked in front of the tube. I so remember every gag they used on Captain Kangaroo. The theme music did not stop until Captain Kangaroo hung up his keys. He would often play with it by lifting the keys and feigning the movement to hang them again. It was always good for a laugh. I can’t remember what the Captain had to say to Mr. Moose to start the ping-pong balls dropping, but I laughed each time.

 What did I actually learn from the Captain? I could recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the age of 3. By the time I started kindergarten I knew all of my colors and could count to 10. The alphabet was a snap!  I also learned “The Magic Words” please and thank you. I did think the TV was interactive and so I thought my shouting “Grandfather” actually woke up the Captain’s old clock. I used to watch Romper Room too, but that teacher lady never saw me through her stupid magic mirror. For that reason I refuse to give her credit for teaching me the alphabet.

For Christmas 1956 I received a Captain Kangaroo hat and keys. Even though the music stopped when the keys were hung up, the hat had to be hung up first. So it was that the Captain’s hat and key were packaged as toys and I wanted them! I wore them every day that I remembered where I had left them the day before. (I was a little slower in learning to put things away as the Captain tried valiantly to teach me.) I absorbed as much as I could from my television leader with the large pockets. When I got home from school on my first day of kindergarten, I announced to my family that I was a genius and had no need to finish kindergarten. To my surprise my mother put me in the station wagon that delivered me to McDonald Elementary School the next morning. (My sister Zoe never let me forget my announcement. I swear she would tell total strangers just to embarrass me.)

My family was deeply in love with television. I was permitted to stay up late on Friday nights to watch “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and my brother would spend Saturday nights watching the monster movie shows.  I desperately wanted a color television by the mid-1960s. The first time I ever watched anything in color was “Johnny Quest” and it was at my godmother’s home on a very badly tuned set. Everything seemed to be in purple and green. I still thought it was the most magical thing I had seen.

The day that cable television was installed in our home, my father went to Western Auto and bought a color television, which was so he could watch “Bonanza” in color.  The cable television of 1966 was very different from what we have now.  We lived in the Ohio River Valley, so the only stations that could be received by a fixed-position antenna were Steubenville and Wheeling and when the weather was good, we might be lucky enough to get Pittsburgh. With our cable connection our world expanded to include Youngstown and Cleveland! Now I even had National Educational Television!  I am just sorry that it was too soon for Sesame Street.  That was my son’s domain or as he pronounced it “Sesester Street”.

What my son also had that I did not were 200 channel cable television and video tapes. He had his favorite TV shows which he did watch very faithfully and video tapes that he would watch until he and I, could recite them line-by-line. He could read by the time he went to school. He didn’t realize it, but I sure did. The picture of him with the TV was taken when we were on vacation. There weren’t any vacations from television.

My son is now a father and his children will never know a world without game systems, cell phones, tablets, home computers and the Internet. My granddaughter has taught me most of what I know about using my iPhone.

Every generation has an invention or program that they feel they can “own”. I suppose my mother’s may have been the radio programs and Works Project Administration and her mother’s may have been the Tennessee Valley Authority and the rural electrification program. I feel like I am a part of the space race generation. With the leaps and bounds that technology has taken since the beginning of the 20th century, I can’t even imagine what my grandchildren will feel is the major contribution of their generation or what their children may invent.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sister Rose Augustine

Sister Rose is my grand-aunt Genevieve Muessig. I never met her, but I wish I had. My grandmother’s family was devoutly Catholic. So I supposed it was not a surprise that one daughter would enter the convent. My grandmother Katharyn and her sister Genevieve were only 2 years apart in age. I imagine they were close since they were the only girls in the family until Josephine was born in 1897. Katharyn and Genevieve made their First Communion together around 1902. I think their Communion dresses look a lot like bridal gowns.

I look at pictures of Genevieve with her round eyeglasses and she appears to be very introspective and a little sad. I wonder what she was thinking. I wanted to uncover the story behind the pictures I had seen of her. I managed to find the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Dominic where Sister Rose had spent her last years. I was fortunate that the nun I corresponded with knew my grand-aunt. Sister Margaret Clines sent me a bio with the bonus of her own memories of “Rosie”.

I had imagined that being a nun was a lot of praying and scrubbing floors. I don’t know where that comes from since I was educated by the Sisters of Saint Ursula in grades 1 through 7. I discovered that Sister Rose had a career as an art teacher. In her bio she is remembered as “a very talented artist and used her skill as an expression of her great love of nature and the outdoors”. I wish I had known her during this time.

1926 Sister Rose and
Katharyn (my grandmother)

According to the documentation I received, Genevieve Elisabeth Muessig entered the convent in 1914 at the age of 22. She received her Holy Habit later that same year. After 2 years of training, Sister Rose Augustine was assigned to a parish in Brooklyn. She worked as an educator in several New York parishes over the next 55 years. She retired to the Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in Amityville, NY and was living there when she suffered a stroke. She was a resident of their infirmary until her passing in 1979. “Rosie” is buried on the grounds of the Motherhouse which is very fitting for a woman that dedicated her life to God and the Sisters of St. Dominic.

1948 My sister Barb with 
Sister Rose Augustine

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 provides free access to census

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From August 29th through September 3rd, is opening all of its U.S. census records – FREE. Share this info with all your family, friends and followers; you can point them to to learn more and start searching.

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Go beyond searching your family’s true story in the census records and see what your own life could have been like as an adult in 1940 with the Time Machine. Our interactive, time-travel experience requires just a handful of information provided by you. And in return, you get a custom video featuring YOU in 1940. While it’s not genealogy, it is high-tech fun. Create your own video and share it with your followers. And encourage them to create their own at

I am very proud that the folks at felt that I deserved the title of " Ace". I get early announcement of the offers like the free census access and the Time Machine. Then I get to pass that information along to my friends (I do not exclude non-friends, I think of you as potential friends). So I announce these goodies in my blog and on Facebook.

I have been using since 1995 when I suddenly had to retire. I knew that I must have something to occupy my mind. I had been interested in researching my family for years. I wasn't even sure what my paternal grandfather's name was. I knew it was Joseph H. Rawlings because I had been to his grave many times. But I did not know what the 'H' stood for, where he was born and how he chose to work on the railroad. It was silly that I didn't ask my grandmother since I lived in the same town as she did until I was 13.

The Internet was really in the process of finding its legs. I was on America Online for years. I remember getting my first 9600 bps modem. I was thrilled! A fast connection! Things have changed dramatically in 17 years. Everyone in my neighborhood who has the Internet has a truly fast connection and there are many ISPs to choose from.

In 1995 I signed up for every trial memberships with everyone that offered access to genealogical information and documents. At that time I felt that was the best, so I stuck with them. I still check out anyone new that I hear from. I recently learned of which is operated by the LDS Church. It is very comprehensive and best of all it is free.

I learn from my genealogy research and it helps to keep me sane by giving me something to look forward to working on and I can create projects for myself. I was a systems analyst for over 20 years and this was how I functioned. I love hearing how people got themselves hooked on this hobby that keeps me sane.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Passing our looks to our children

People always tell me that my son looks just like me. Of course I agree. I had not thought about other members of my family looking like each other until my newly found cousin sent me some old pictures that had been passed down from my Grandma Mary. I was so thrilled to get pictures of my great-grandmother Jennie Rourke Gillespie. I didn’t even know there were any pictures of her. Her face is so interesting. She looks like a woman who has experienced so much.  By the age of 30, she had lost her husband so she packed up her three children in Ireland to follow her brothers to Ohio.  I don’t know anything about her childhood, but I have to assume she lived on a farm since she was the guiding force behind the establishment of the family farm in Ohio.

My cousin also sent a picture of Grandma Mary and our Aunt Roberta. I discovered that my aunt had been named for my great-grandmother Roberta Hixson Rawlings when I started my genealogical research. I had grown up calling my aunt “Aunt Bertie” and I know that her siblings had used the same name for her. When I received the picture from my cousin I learned that in California my aunt was called “Robbie”. I think I like Robbie better.

I was able to spend some time with my Aunt over the years. She would come to Ohio and stay for extended visits. I found her to be so fascinating. She had been a member of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word for several years. Her religious name was Sister Mary Robert.  I would have loved to watch her “shoot baskets” with the other nuns in full length habits. She also taught several of the sisters to play chess. After leaving the convent, Robbie had another calling and went to Africa to work as a medical lab technician. I always enjoyed the pictures she would send home to Grandma Mary. She made California her home when she decided to retire from her missionary work. My cousin knew her Aunt Robbie very well since she made her home near her sister Gladys, my cousin’s grandmother.

The other day I was looking at the picture of Grandma Mary and Aunt Robbie when it suddenly occurred to me that Robbie was almost a mirror-image of great-grandmother Jennie!  I don’t know why that surprised me as much as it did. In another picture of Gladys when she in her early 20’s there was a very strong resemblance to my sister Zoe at the age of 14. I could probably match up a dozen look-alikes in 15 minutes…and I haven’t even looked at my mother’s family yet.

My father Henry with Sister Mary Robert

Aunt Robbie in Cameroon

Great-grandmother Jennie

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is It The Smell of Success?

I wish there were some ways to capture aromas. I find that I can remember so intensely the smell of some items from my childhood.

Most of the houses in the town of Wellsville, Ohio had furnaces that burned coal. First there was the smell of coal dust when it was unloaded from the delivery trucks and slid down the chute into the bin in the basement. The smell I remember the best is the coal burning in the furnaces.  The snow in our yards was never pristine white; it was always covered by a dusting of coal soot. When the cinders left after burning the coal were removed, it was often used on the streets to provide traction. The cinders even had their own aroma. It is hard to describe, like dirt with an acrid twist to it.

When I went inside the house there were more pleasant aromas. My mother liked to bake and would make her own pastry dough for pie crust. Back in those days lard was used in making the dough rather than shortening. The lard has a richer smell to it. At Christmas time my mother would make gingerbread men and the house would be filled with the aroma of the ginger and cloves used in the cookies. Even during the rest of the year Mom would bake delicious gingerbread that she would serve with a lemon sauce.

My playtime was filled with things that had aromas that stay with me to this day. When I smell Crayola crayons I flashback to my days in kindergarten.  Play-Doh was one of my favorite toys. Not only could I sculpt with the clay, the smell was so marvelous and all of the colors smelled the same.

I may have been the strangest child in the world, but I also loved the smell of brown paper shopping bags when they would get wet. It actually smelled like it would taste good. There were so many things some of which I do still have available to enjoy like KoolAid. For the others I rely on my memory of aromas of my childhood. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Story of Mary and Pomp

Sometime between 1941 when Grandpa Rawlings died and 1947, Grandma Mary married a widower named Bernard Rudolf Pomplin. Even though I have not yet located their marriage license, I do know they were married by 1947. I have a small announcement of my parents wedding that calls my father Henry Rawlings the son of Mrs. Bernard R. Pomplin. I had always wondered how they met. My opportunity to play detective and figure it out came once the 1940 census was available for browsing. Were they both members of Immaculate Conception Catholic church? Did they have mutual friends?  In 1930 Bernard lived on 18th Street in Wellsville, Ohio with his wife Jane, Jane’s daughter from a previous marriage, Helen age 20, Jane’s mother Martha Wilkerson and the Pomplins’ young daughter Justine who was just shy of the age of 4.

According to the 1940 census, Bernard was now a widower and a lodger at 1708 Commerce St. I happen to know that 1708 is across the driveway from Grandma’s house at 1712 Commerce since I lived in that house from 1959 to 1963. The house was set up as a duplex in 1940 allowing the upstairs with its own bathroom and private entrance to be rented. The closeness must have had something to do with them getting acquainted. It was a short trip across the driveway separating the houses. He was 48 at the time and she was 45 and they were both attractive and in good health! There probably was another factor that had an effect on them developing a relationship. The romantic in me wants to have them seeing each other across the driveway and then the music comes up and we do a discrete fade-out. They remained married until his death. At the time that I am writing this, I have not discovered when he died.

I thought the name Pomplin was Irish in origin. In looking back over Bernard’s family, it turned out that his family name was actually Pomplun or Pomplono with Pomplun being the most likely since his parents had emigrated from Prussia.

In playing detective to figure out how Grandma Mary and “Pomp” met and got married, I found out some other things that have left me with other questions: when I located Bernard living on Commerce St., his daughter Justine was not living with him. In searching for her, I found a Justine Pomplun living at the Fairmount Children’s Home just outside of Alliance, Ohio. It was a little shocking to me at first, but then I remembered that it was 1940, daycare was non-existent and  Bernard was a man in his 40’s who had a fulltime job as a machinist on the railroad. I am hoping that my Uncle David has some memories of Justine to share.

Grandma Mary and Pomp

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Growing Up In Wellsville

I was very fortunate to be able to read “Growing Up In Wellsville” thanks to the kindness of Ms. Terri Martin of Wellsville. She made a gift of her copy of the book to a stranger, namely me. Her gift is traveling further since I took it to the Post Office to ship it to Texas to my sister Barbara. The book will probably go on to my Aunt Katharyn after that. I hope that the other copies of the book are being shared.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised that someone had written a memoir about Wellsville. I have treasured memories too, but considering how much the loss of the large industries had affected the village I suppose I thought people would not want to be reminded. When I lived in Wellsville, several times a day one could watch barges of coal moving north on the river to Pittsburgh. The railroad was much more active and constantly humming with boxcars full of raw materials headed to Pittsburgh and Detroit. And of course there were the potteries. I confess that I too am a “plate flipper” and have been for years. Fortunately Ron Price was able to put the economic downturn aside and record his memories of the Wellsville that I also remember. So much was so familiar, like the path to Hammond Park. I could almost smell the ripe wild blackberries that grew along the path. My father would pack us up in our old Dodge stationwagon and drive us out to bridge 55 on hot summer days so that we could cool off. I especially enjoyed Ron’s walking tour of the town. So many of the barely remembered events of my childhood were dusted off and enjoyed again as a result of reading the book. Memoirs can become maudlin, jaded or too perfect that you just know the author’s emotions are playing into the writing. Mr. Price avoids this and provides a very real look at the Wellsville of the late 40’s and early 50’s.

It is unfortunate that the book did not have a wider distribution, but then that is the fate of these independently published books. The authors are not known by the large publishing companies so their books may be the ones that receive instant rejections. I know that the publishing firms are in business to make money, but sometimes I wonder about them passing on some truly wonderful books simply because the author is not a commercial draw. I have been reading a lot of independently published books and I admit started for financial reasons; I get free copies in exchange for the promise of a review on,, Facebook or Pinterest. I have come across some real gems through this arrangement.

I did enjoy Ron’s book so much that my mind has been flooded with my own wonderful memories. Every summer there were the temporary fruit stands on Route 7 where you could buy the best tasting corn, green beans and watermelons.  I so loved the parades that we had. My favorites participants were the fire trucks, the VFW drill team and the float of the “40/8” that looked like their symbolic boxcar. I would dash into the street for the candy the float riders would throw to the children lining Main St. and I especially was proud that my grandfather Joseph Hughes was on that float for every parade. Each year in August we had the St. Rocco’s festival with the carnival and fireworks. I can still smell the Italian sausage sandwiches covered with grilled onions and peppers. And the paper cones of French fries that we sprinkled with vinegar. I played the midway games of ring toss and trying to knock over the cat-like targets. I never won, but the fun was in the playing. I remember being able to purchase strips of tickets from the Knights of Columbus before the festival started. Since the festival often occurred at the same time as my birthday, my godmother Martha Luckino would give me a strip of tickets for my birthday. I loved Broadway and each time we were traveling in that direction, I would shout for my parents to take the “froggy-way”, so named because of the two fountains with frogs over the spouts.

I could go on about my own memories, but the idea was to provide my impressions and opinion of Ron Price’s wonderful book about growing up in a typical American town. Finding copies of this book may prove to be an impossible task, but if you grew up in a small town in America this book was written for you.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cherishing The Memories

Sometimes I envy people who have never suffered the loss of a loved one. The hole in one’s life is painful. But then if I had not lost these people that I loved, would I have learned to cherish my memories of them?

My sister would plan a trip to the grocery store like a general preparing for battle. It made me a little crazy how she would line up all of the ads and her coupons. Then she would refer to her rebating and refunding magazines. Distance between the stores was factored into deciding where to shop. She would insist in involving me in her preparation when all I wanted was to make a list and get to it! Now that she has been gone for 6 years, I read the store ads in memory of her. I even use coupons; I just don’t have a loose-leaf binder full of them. If she were still here thinking about her ritual would not be precious to me, it would still be a source of irritation. I guess the cherishing of memories replaces the irritation. I have always heard that nature abhors a vacuum.

I had started my search for my family origins long before my sister became ill. She was never really interested in what it was that I was doing. Maybe she enjoyed my absence when I would go off to the National Archives branch to do research.  I know she would not have had the patience to search through lists for hours. I even cherish her outbursts of “I do not have the patience for this” when things were not happening as quickly as she would like them to happen. Those things will always belong to my memories of her.

I do not just trace my ancestors, I scan everything. Every photograph I own, my diplomas, my son’s diplomas and every piece of his childhood artwork that I have collected.  After scanning them, I felt that I needed a way to share my pictures, but not like the vacation slide shows I remember from early in my marriage. I wanted to create something that people would enjoy. So using photo editing software, scrapbooking software and movie editing software, I would create my DVDs with pictures, music and special effects. I thought my behavior was unusual until I discovered there are battery-powered scanners that can be carried in a purse. Apparently I am not the only one trying to save their memories in order to cherish them.

I never really wrote letters. Email is something else. I can whip out an email without much effort. I have been doing it long enough that I have learned to review what I have written before sending it out. Yes, I made some big mistakes. It is still easier to pick up a telephone and call my family with news, but email allows me to contact everyone at the same time, send pictures and embellish my messages with graphics. Not everyone sends the lengthy emails that I do, but I still collect the ones that I receive. I haunt the pages of Facebook for pictures posted by my niece, nephew and daughter-in-law so that I can save them.

I started blogging to make myself record episodes from my life. I certainly did not have a cell phone with a built-in camera on the day in 1971 when my eldest sister took me Christmas shopping. We needed some lunch and were seated in a tiny booth in the middle of the window facing the mall. When my sister’s burger was presented, she picked up the mustard bottle and tried to apply some to her sandwich. She seemed to struggle with dispenser at first and deciding that it was clogged, she pushed hard on the plastic bottle. Suddenly there was an explosion of yellow! It covered the table, the window (it went about 3 feet up from the level of the table), my sister’s black blouse and my hair. All we could do was look at each other for a few seconds before dissolving into laughter. I wish I had a camera at that moment, but all I have are the memories. Now I will be able to relive the mustard incident by re-reading this blog.

I suppose that is why I do scan all of my pictures. I want to try to recapture the feelings of the moment.  I just hope I can capture moments in words. I want more of crazy laughing moments like my sister and the blocked mustard bottle, but I also want to try to capture things like the sound of the pressure cooker my mother used often to cook stew. I want to try to convey the feeling of Christmas when the tree was brought into the house and I could feel the cold coming off of it and smell the sap. I want to try to save the mundane as well as the great events.

Bear with me while I learn how to write.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What happened to

You all know that Katherine Rawlings quit creating the Rawlin(g)s-Rollin(g)s Family History Association newsletter in 2003 after creating it for 15 years. When she made it known that she would be quitting, I called her for permission to create a website based on the newsletters. She and I had talked about people asking her about a possible website on a couple of occasions. Katherine did not own a computer and did not want one. This all happened when I had retired on disability and was going nuts needing something to do. After receiving Katherine’s permission, I registered the domain I even bought a new multi-function printer at that time so that I would have one with a document feeder to speed up scanning the newsletters. When I decided on a format I opted to do a PDF copy of each newsletter so people could print them and have the newsletter just like we received them originally.  I also created an HTML version of each so that they could be searched online. It took me several weeks to have it up and available.

When I first started on this project, I had planned to create a database of all of the names mentioned in the newsletter. I even found software that supported building and maintaining a database and it was affordable.  I started collecting data from the newsletters. I found it challenging and it was going to be a long project for a single person. I confess that I lost interest in it. I had lots of time, but with my physical problems I can’t sit any longer than 20 minutes without a break. I kept losing my place. I also had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus and needed brain surgery. My doctor said it would not affect my memory or intelligence, but I find my attention span is shorter and I struggle over words now.

Over the years a few people have sent me donations to help with the cost of maintaining the domain for the newsletters. The actual cost is much greater than what I have received. I don’t mind paying the cost of keeping the domain up since I can use its space for other domains that I may want to set up. I have one that is similar to my name that I use to show my family the latest pictures of my grandchildren or my 5 dogs.

I want to spend more time with my own research and family now that I am a grandmother. I have also spent some time examining what I have collected and have made some discoveries. When the 1940 census became available, I found the little piece that told me how my Grandma Mary had become so close to her second husband that he became her second husband. I have been reaching out to my family back in Ohio. That in part is due to a group I belong to on Facebook. We are all current or former residents of Wellsville, Ohio. Through this group I have learned more about the history of the village and the concerns for its future. I have reconnected with family members and friends through this group. In learning more of the history of Wellsville, I discovered how my own family tied into village.

The domain will primarily be the home of the R/RFHA newsletters. I will also add any information that people send to me. Since that will be part of the domain it will automatically become searchable. I have another domain that I will be using for my own research that does not include my Rawlings roots.

DO NOT SEND DONATIONS. I am not trying to solicit donations through this blog entry. I am just explaining the changes to It will still be here with the newsletters and new submissions. I just wanted to explain how I am setting up the domain to protect the newsletters and still allow me to branch out.

Thank you for your interest and support over the years. Keep submitting any information that you want me to add to You can email me at or  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Roamin' Gard

     My grandmother told me about this story during one of my visits to Wellsville, Ohio in the mid-1970’s. She had the piece from the newspaper cut out and framed. I wish now that I had taken it to the library and gotten a copy of it. Instead I have a transcription. One thing I have learned since starting on my genealogy quest is regret. I regret all of those clippings I let slip through my fingers. I regret the many conversations that I did not record. The only thing I can do it recover as much of the information as I can and pass the stories along.
     This is the story of my grandmother’s family and the many rocks on their farm. I have to give a big thank you to “The Roamin’ Gard” for recording this story for me and a thank you to my Aunt Nancy for giving me the transcript.

The Roamin’ Gard
The Stone Fence Riddle Solved
By R. Max Gard
(the following story was published in a local newspaper)
                A few months ago, a story in this column told of some mysterious, long stone fences, and at that time, I had not met anyone who could tell me of their origin. Then one morning, Mrs. Ed (Edna) DeVille, a neighbor who lives about 200 yards from us, called up and told us who built the fences and it is quite a story. Herewith, in her words, is the story of the great stone fences which stand in the Southwest Quarter of Section 30, Franklin Twp. Columbiana Co., Ohio.
                “My Grandmother, Jennie O’Rourke Gillespie, and her three children, Mary, Rose, (My Mother) and Lawrence and two of my grandmother’s unmarried brothers moved to the farm about 1900. It had been purchased by my great uncle, James O’Rourke from a family by the name of MacMahon. My Grandmother, being a widow brought her children and her mother (my Great Grandmother Bridget O’Rourke) from County Meath, Ireland in 1899.
                The first thing they had to do was to clear the stones from the fields. My Aunt Mary said, “It seemed like the Lord had picked up all the stones in the area and dumped them on their farm.”
                Where they had lived in Ireland the fences were made of stone, so that is what they did. None of the stone fences, corral, or anything made of the stones were there when they moved there. My Grandmother would go out in the fields and pick up all the stones she could carry in her apron, and the ones that were too large were moved to where they were on a sled-like drag pulled by horses. Some of the fences were built on top of the stones that were too large to move. There was one big flat stone that looked as big as a house to me when I was small that was located over by the barn. My great uncle use to put salt on it for the farm animals to lick. After much hard work they had some fields on top of the hill cleared. They planted regular farm crops, made hay and did well.
                They raised cows, horses, sheep and pigs, also turkey, ducks and chickens. There were quite a few black snakes around, and they would raid the chicken houses eating the eggs and baby chicks. My Grandmother use to have her vegetable garden in the corral. I suppose she planted it in the corral to keep rabbits and other small animals away from it.
                The last of the family to live there was my Great Uncle James O’Rourke and my Aunt Sara, whom my grandmother adopted in 1913. They left the farm in 1928 and my Great Uncle Tom died in 1918 during the flu epidemic. My Grandmother died in 1921.
                My Aunts Mary Pomplin and Sara Patterson who were raised on the farm, now live in Wellsville.”
                We thank you very much, Mrs. DeVille, for solving the mystery of the stone fences and contributing this interesting addition to Columbiana County History.  


Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Moments I Knew

I could not title this the “moment” I knew because it was a series of events that made me realize I wanted to research my genealogy. I was fortunate to live near both sets of grandparents growing up, but my paternal grandmother was a widow and I never knew my grandfather. I never thought to ask her about Joseph Rawlings since her name was that of her second husband.

Then I found my mother’s family register and she nearly took my skin off telling me that had belonged to her Grandpa Nick and I was not to touch it. I was able to look at this family group sheet from 1909 long enough to recognize my maternal grandmother’s name, but didn’t get a chance to really study it. I was so intrigued that my mouth nearly watered. I should have asked my grandmother about it, but she literally believed in the saying “children should be seen not heard”. When she came to live with us she had developed Alzheimer’s disease before it had that name. She would tell me things like that she spoke German with her parents and that her father did not let her date when she was 21 years old. I did learn some things about her life growing up in a home where the European fashion of living was still the norm and they carried Catholic Missals with the Mass in German.

When I had back surgery in 1995, I attempted to return to work, but was suffering constant pain. I was accustomed to a high-pressure world of creating new banking products in response to our competition. I was at home with nothing to do and going quietly crazy. It was then that everything came together. I got a copy of the family register from my mother. She still would not let me have the original! I made calls to my relatives in Ohio to pick their brains. Then I started recording my mother reminiscing about the past. I had started. I was becoming a genealogist. I did as much research as I could with my computer and the branch of the National Archives in Atlanta. I discovered that my paternal grandfather had been born across the state of Ohio from where I was born and raised. But why did he move so far and without any relatives nearby? Obviously I had to go to my hometown of Wellsville, Ohio and to my Aunt Esther. Esther was related to me by marriage to my father’s brother Joseph. She was the collector of all of the family traditions and faithfully recorded all births, marriages and deaths in her Bible. She had also known my grandfather since she married into the Rawlings family in 1938 or 1939 and my grandfather did not pass away until 1941. She talked about him being away on trips as an engineer on a steam locomotive with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Esther also told me that my grandfather’s mother had died rather young and that his father sent the boy to live with his grandfather. It was more to add to the story, but I still didn’t know their names or where they had lived.

One item that came up for discussion was a phone call my aunt had received from a woman who claimed that her name was also Rawlings and she was trying to discover what had become of Joseph Henry Rawlings, my grandfather. The woman said she knew he had moved to Wellsville. The stranger named Rawlings had called my aunt because she knew that there was a good chance that if there were sons, they may be named Joseph or Henry since those names occurred often in the Rawlings family. Esther’s telephone was still listed as Rawlings, Joseph and Esther and so the searcher called there. My Aunt Esther was trying to be cautious and told Ms. Rawlings that she would have someone call her back. It was over a year later when she was telling me about the telephone call and all I could do was hope she had kept the caller’s information. My great luck was holding; she had placed the name and telephone number in her Bible.

Nervously I called Teresa Rawlings the next day hoping that she would remember calling my aunt. She not only remembered, she was pleased to hear from me. I learned that day that my grandfather was called “Little Joe” by his father and other relatives. His father’s name was Andrew Johnson Rawlings rather than John as I had found in my baby book. She had married into the Rawlings family of Meigs County, Ohio which was across the state from my hometown in Columbiana County. Her husband Donald was the grandson of Andrew Johnson Rawlings. But wait, Andrew was my great-grandfather but the grandfather of Donald who was only 4 years older than me. After my great-grandmother had died, my great-grandfather eventually remarried and fathered 3 more children. The youngest was Raymond Vincent the father of Teresa’s husband Donald.

Andrew Johnson Rawlings

I visited my newly found relatives several months later. I learned while there that my grandfather had moved across the state to work on the railroad. He didn’t care for being a farmer. I shared pictures of my father and his siblings and Teresa showed me the notes that my grandfather had written to his father.

Each day holds the promise of new discoveries. Recently I found the granddaughter of my father’s sister Gladys. This granddaughter has access to photographs of my grandfather whom I had never seen. I have now seen the wedding photograph of Joseph Henry Rawlings and Mary Gillespie. I have even seen Mary as a beautiful blonde 4-year old.

Every morning I get up wondering what I may discover.