Saturday, February 10, 2018

The old newspapers told the nitty-gritty

As I’m reviewing old newspapers in search of details about my Flanders ancestors, I came upon an interesting article about a distant cousin, Francis Flanders. Here’s the article I discovered:

Flanders, Francis and Alice Divorce1

This chart shows that he’s my sixth cousin three times removed.


We never realize how much we can learn about a cousin or an ancestor until we read the little details about their lives. I certainly appreciate the fact that the newspapers in the last century reported the nitty-gritty about the lives of the local residents!

Sweet Be Thy Rest and Abundant Be Thy Reward

I recently purchased a subscription to and have enjoyed reading the little quips that have been captured about my ancestors. Content in newspapers a century ago was much more personal and social that it is today. If someone visited a friend or relative, it made the paper.  When a farmer sold a cow, it made the paper. When children were sick and missed a day of school, it made the paper. Becky Margheim to Elizabeth Phelps Flanders
This chart above shows how I’m related to Elizabeth Ann Phelps , wife of Jesse Gordon Flanders. I was fortunate to find Elizabeth’s obituary in the McHenry (Illinois) Plaindealer from April 10, 1913. I’ve published it here:

“Mrs. E. A. Flanders
Passed Away at Her Home in Nunda Township
Elizabeth Phelps was born at Solon, Ohio, June 15, 1828, and died at her home in Nunda township March 27, 1913.
On the 22nd of March she fell and broke her limb and owing to her advanced age and feeble condition the shock was more than she could bear and she failed gradually for five days and passed away as above stated.

At the age of ten years death deprived her of a mother’s care and at that young age she had to assume control of the household duties of her father’s home, a position which she continued to hold until Nov. 4, 1845, when she left the paternal roof to become the wife of Jesse Flanders and go with him to form a new home at Cleveland, Ohio.

To this union were born ten children, two of whom died in infancy, the remaining ones being Mrs. Frances E. Doran of St. Paul, Minn, Lewis of Great Bend, Kansas, Mary J. Mason of Richmond, Ill, Elvin P. of West McHenry, Carrie Whiston of Nunda township, Ella Bay and Lizzie Shenick of Marshalltown, Ia, and Truman L. who has always resided on the old homestead.

After a residence of a short time in Cleveland they journeyed westward, making the trip by the way of the great lakes and stage route to Janesville, Wis, where they remained until the summer of 1848, when they moved to McHenry county and purchased a small farm in Nunda township, which has been her permanent home for sixty-five years.

At the death of her husband, which occurred May 20, 1871, she found herself in meager circumstances, with a large family of children, the youngest a mere babe, to battle unaided with the stern realities of life, but she toiled on, as only a mother can toil, her only thought and ambition being to retain the little home and to keep her children together, and how well did she succeed. She lived to know that the children appreciated the sacrifices she made for them and that in her declining years they were ever ready to add to her comfort and to brighten the closing pages of life’s volume and to keep them free from the trials and hardships that had been so prominent at the noon time of life, and in the home she had cherished so long, surrounded by the loved ones she had worked so hard to rear, her gentle spirit left its worn out abode of mortal clay and passed to the unknown regions of immortality to join those who had gone before, there to reunite the loving ties that were so rudely broken here. Such was the closing scene of her long and useful life. This has death claimed another of the fast disappearing pioneer settlers of this land.

The funeral services were held at the home on the afternoon of Saturday, March 29, and were conducted by Rev. M. L. Aldridge, pastor of the McHenry Universalist church, with sweet music by Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Walsh, and the remains were tenderly paced beside kindred dust in Holcombville cemetery.

Adieu, thou toil worn mother, adieu.

Sweet be thy rest and abundant be thy reward.”

It’s so touching to read the kind words written about my great, great grandmother. There’s such value in learning more about her personal life, the tragedies she endured and the success she made of her life in light of those tragedies.

I’m so proud to your great, great granddaughter, Elizabeth Flanders! I wish I’d known you and I really wish I had a photograph of you. I join with the publishers of your Obituary in wishing you sweet rest. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tragedies 25 Years Apart

Occasionally something happens during the course of our family history research that spurs a blog post so we can document the noteworthy event. Many years ago as I researched my father’s Margheim family, I discovered a tragedy that had happened in the family in 1934. My Dad related some of the details as he remembered them, which brought the event even more to life for me. Here’s a news clipping that divulges this family tragedy.
Margheim, Fred Suicide
Fred Margheim was the older brother of my grandfather John Ludwig Margheim. Fred was born 22 April 1886 and was married to Pauline Becker. It wasn’t until I thoroughly researched my mother’s family too, that I discovered this Pauline Becker was a first cousin of my maternal grandmother! This chart shows that my mother Ruby Flanders was the first cousin once removed of Pauline Becker Margheim.
Pauline Becker to Ruby Flanders
Fred’s death is listed as 15 Sep 1934. The article above says he’d been missing for 10 days when his body was found on September 25, 1934. It’s tragic that he might have committed suicide. I say “might have” because even though the news article says suicide was the official ruling of the County Coroner, the family did not believe that was his cause of death.
Just last week I received an email from a woman whom I had never met. She was asking for my help with her “Margheim family”.  She told me her father died when she was young and she knew next to nothing about his family or ancestry. Through further email exchanges, I discovered that her father was the son of the Fred Margheim above. I was happy to hear from her since our family’s never had any contact with any descendants of Fred and Pauline. I inquired more about her father’s death. She told me he had died in a river, just as his father had done.
It just happens that during the same week that I heard from this woman, I had subscribed to So I took a chance and entered her father’s name into a search on I was saddened by what I read in a news article that appeared through the search.
My new Margheim contact lost her father when she was only 3 months old. She had 6 older brothers and sisters. Imagine how that tragedy and loss impacted that precious family.
I was struck by the similarities in the deaths of Fred and his son Arthur. I enter here a side-by-side comparison of those tragedies for your review.
Margheim, Fred and Arthur Suicides
Almost exactly 25 years to the day that Fred Margheim’s life ended, his son Arthur’s life ended apparently in much the same way. Fred died at age 47, while Arthur died at age 48. I’m saddened by these losses in the family and amazed at the similarities that are evident. It gives me much food for thought.
I don’t have a picture of Arthur Margheim, but I have this wedding picture of Fred and Pauline from 1910.
Fred (1886-1934) and Pauline Becker (1887-1962) Margheim, m. 1910

Monday, January 1, 2018

Discovering a 35 year old connection between 3 families

I’m easily amazed. And happily so. I love discovering connections as I do my genealogy research and am so often amazed by them. They surely have no significance to anyone else, but they expand my horizons and broaden my thinking. And they cause me to see the Lord’s hand in my life and my work.
As I’ve had vacation days through these 2017 end-of-year holidays, I’ve completed a scanning project of our family photos, to the tune of 2550 pictures. When I found this one of my son in the pits in front of a stock car, it brought back memories of the days when my son was small and our family attended Stock Car Races at 81 Speedway in Wichita, Kansas throughout the summers.
2017-12-30 15.05.54
In this picture, my son Matt Klein is standing on the trailer that bears the stock car #7 driven by Clarence “Clay” Bontrager. His dad, Bill Klein, is behind the car in the cowboy hat.
Clarence was one of our favorite drivers on the stock car racing circuit. The picture below shows Clarence giving special attention to a blind man. allowing him to become acquainted with the car through touch.
2017-12-30 15.05.06-1
2017-12-30 15.05.32
At the time my family attended the races in the late 1970s and 1980s, the Bontrager name only referred, in my mind, to a favorite Stock Car driver in Kansas. But in the 1990s I learned of a new instance of the Bontrager name. I remarried in 1994 to Larry Jamison and learned that his former mother-in-law’s maiden name was Bontrager.  In the following years, I became interested in family history and have been able to prepare this brief chart to show that there is a close connection between Clarence Bontrager and Anna Mae Bontrager, Larry’s former mother-in-law. They are second cousins.
Bontrager, Ann to Clarence
Another fact that amazed me as I continued to research this connection is that Clarence “Clay” Bontrager just passed away December 16, 2017. Just barely over two weeks ago. I hadn’t thought about him or the stock car races for 30 years, and as I’m scanning pictures on Dec 30, I see my son standing by his car and then learn of his recent passing. I’m simply amazed. And easily so.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Are our Ancestors thinking about us too?

Handout Booklet CoverIt was exactly one month ago that I wrote a post on my blog about a presentation I gave to a group of women at the church when I’m employed. We talked about the importance of writing down the memories we have of our parents and grandparents so our descendants will know more about their lives after we’re gone. I gave each attendee a blank journal to use in writing their stories and memories. We’ll gather in October 2018 to share our stories with each other.

I’ve heard in recent weeks that many of the women are indeed writing their memories! And yesterday I received this email from one of those women.

You gave us "homework" in genealogy. Ok.  I started a little. Today I got a phone call from a man doing research in genealogy. He would be my cousin J------'s son. Haven't heard from that side of the family in 35 or 40 years. We spent some time -- and will spend more -- comparing notes! His grandfather was step-brother to my mother; his great-grandfather was my grandfather.  LOLOL! Yes, I'll include this in the book . . . .”

While this woman was certainly surprised to hear from a member of her family “out of the blue”, I wasn’t particularly surprised. I know this kind of thing happens frequently when we’re thinking and talking of our ancestors. It’s almost like they know that we have them on our minds and they want us to know we’re on their minds too. I’ve experienced times when I felt like my ancestors were right beside me after I’ve invested many hours studying their lives and their history. They’ve seemed to speak to me and observe my comings and goings at times.

I’m so happy for this woman that she’ll finally learn more of this side of her family and can share with her newfound cousin! And she’ll share this experience with us through the writings in her Journal!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Baby Shoes and More Baby Shoes

2017-11-03 12.09.18-2
Today I had occasion to put away some of the family heirlooms I had assembled to use for a display at a presentation I recently gave. While I had my collection of baby shoes out, I thought I’d put them all together and count them. Sixteen pairs of baby shoes that belonged to me and my twin brother, Dennis! Also shown here are other baby items my grandmother, and then my dad kept for me. You can see the pink and blue hair brush/comb sets, rattles, the banks, the silver pieces of drinking cups with our initials engraved, napkin rings, and silverware. I even have our pink and blue hot water bottles.
Here’s a picture of me wearing the white boots:
White boots (2)
I’m so grateful for a Grandma who kept these items and for a father who passed them on to me. To some people, these things are just “stuff”. But they show me the love that was held in the hearts of my family and I’m grateful!
LaVerna with Dennis and Becky Margheim, about 1951114 E. 6th St, Hoisington, KS (10)Ruby, Ernest, Becky & Dennis Margheim about 19492201 Jefferson (18)