Archive for April, 2009

(A recent story addition to my Great-Grandparents Glasier and Louisa‘s pages on my online family tree.)

Louisa and Glasier were my father’s paternal grandparents. I never knew them, but heard stories about them over the years from those who loved them.

Louisa moved from Pennsylvania to Iowa with her very close family in 1867.  On the 1880 census, several of the children in her family were recorded incorrectly. She is listed as Mariah L. Sams, age 15. She was also Mariah L. on a previous census, but was known in married life and by her descendants as Louisa Maria, or more affectionately, as “Lou.”  With her name written variously on different records, I am not certain which was her middle name and which was her first, or if Maria was spelled with or without an ending “h,” but I recall seeing her name written as Louisa Maria in a family Bible and my grandmother noted in writing that her name was pronounced “Lou-eye-sa.” She worked in a millinery shop in Mount Ayr before marriage.

Eli Sams Family

Eli Sams Family (Louisa: back row, center)

Glasier and his siblings, born in Indiana during their parents’ residence there, moved with them by covered wagon to Delphos, Iowa where they settled on a 120-acre unimproved prairie farm. Their mother was killed in a run-away buggy accident at the Ringgold County Fair in 1884, and their father, being ill with “lung fever” (pneumonia) for some time, died only a few months later in 1885. Orphaned, Glasier and his siblings went to live with their aunt named Mary L. (Glasier) Walker.

It was in Ohio that Glasier first married Eva Ellet (pronounced “Eh-va”). They soon moved to Iowa where they had son Fenton, but when he was only eight months old, Eva also took ill with typhoid and died. Not long after her death, Glasier married Louisa. On their honeymoon, they traveled to Bedford, Ohio to pick up little Fenton, who had been staying with his Great-Aunt Mary Walker since his mother’s death. Fenton was by then probably about two years old.

Louisa was a good wife and gave him three more children, but as Dad’s sister Anne wrote many years ago, Louisa was remembered as being “especially kind in the way she accepted Fenton as her own child” after the death of his natural mother. My grandfather and his three full siblings never considered Fenton a “half” brother; There was never a distinction made between the children. Sons X. T. and Fenton even looked more like one another than Glenn.

Louisa was a very good cook and love to bake pies. My grandfather remembered having pie on the table every morning after their main breakfast, which they ate after chores.

Glasier had suffered the loss of many loved ones early in life. As a result, he was often quite somber, but as Anne wrote, he was a “good, substantial farmer of excellent repute.” She added that he was “rather stern and almost never allowed his children to sing or speak at meals, except to ask for food,” although apparently he was less strict about this with daughter Florence. He loved nature and enjoyed roaming the timber in pursuit of a “bee tree.” When found, “a special occasion was made of cutting the ‘bee tree,’ and after the harvest, huge dishpans of honey were often gathered. Glasier was a good fisherman and served in several township and school officerships. He always hoped his son X.T. would run for and be elected to the State Legislature, which did eventually happen. He was a religious man and was always faithful to the Christian Church.”

Glasier Edwards Prentis

Glasier Edwards Prentis

In the 1920s, Glasier became a police officer. Deciding he could earn a better living in a larger city, in about 1926, he and Louisa moved to Detroit, Michigan. Apparently Detroit was violent with race riots at that time. Concerned for his safety there as a police officer, their children eventually convinced Glasier and Louisa to return to Iowa to operate one of my grandfather’s chicken hatcheries in Leon, Iowa.

My father (Ray Prentis) said that while he couldn’t recall her being as affectionate as his maternal grandmother, he had mostly good memories of Louisa and her sisters. After Glasier died in 1936, Louisa lived for a time with each of her children. When she lived with my dad’s family, their home was the two-story house next to their hatchery in Mount Ayr, between the railroad tracks and the school. In years following, that same house was the home of my dad’s brother. Louisa’s bedroom was upstairs and the only access was a very narrow staircase. Louisa was a large woman in her later years, so Dad and his siblings, at the ring of her bell, ran up and down the stairs whenever she needed things.  Aunt Jean recalls some embarrassment whenever she had to hang her grandmother’s significantly sized undergarments on the back yard laundry line to dry, cringing at the thought of everyone passing by on the train being able to see them.

Also while Louisa lived with my dad’s family, there was an obvious and unfortunate rift in the family concerning her. My father, being young, was never informed of the reason, but at some point, her daughter Florence’s husband refused to even let her visit their home.  My grandfather and his sister were very close, but after that, Dad recalls that Florence had to “sneak” visits to see her mother and Granddad so as not to upset her husband. He apparently didn’t mind so much, as long as he didn’t have to be involved with her in any way. It must have been soon after that she moved for about a year to an apartment at the Lamb Hotel on the square in Mount Ayr. During her residence there, it was my father’s job to stop by every evening after school to carry out the ashes from her stove and to run errands for her groceries and other needs. Then, sometime after her widowed sister Ollie moved from Liberty Township (within the same county) to a house in Mount Ayr, Louisa and another sister Delphene, who had never married, moved in with her, each remaining there for the rest of their lives.

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

Louisa (Sams) Prentis

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(A recent story addition to grandmother’s page on my online family tree.)

By friends and adult relatives, my grandmother was always referred to by her middle name Gladys or by her nicknames “Glady” and “Ten,” which was short for her maiden name Tennant. Her tombstone bears the name Gladys and many mistakenly believe that was her first name.

One summer day in my childhood, when I was visiting and we were busying ourselves making hollyhock dolls, I asked her why everyone called her Gladys instead of Victoria. She replied, “My mother wanted me to be elegant so she gave me an elegant name, but I was never elegant.” She peeled one side of a freshly picked hollyhock bud to make the doll’s face, handed it to me with a look of amusement and continued, “So I was just Gladys.” I fastened the bud to its open, bloomed skirt with a toothpick, plopped it into a bowl of water along with others we’d already made, smiled back, and finished her story with, “And now you’re just Nana!”

I spent many childhood summers visiting my grandparents, and many hours learning to knit and crochet or reading project directions to her so that she could crochet a toy animal, a scarf, mittens, or sweaters for me in just a few hours. She was the maker of the many crocheted afghans and well-worn knitted pot holders I still have and use, and the last thing I remember her making was a yellow knitted sweater-vest for my son, Joel, when he was a young boy. Nana was a “lefty” and I was a “righty,” but everything she taught me was the left-handed way, including knitting and crocheting. She played card games with me and taught me to deal left-handed. When my dad taught me to tie my shoes, he taught me the left-handed way she had taught him. Apparently my mom had repeatedly tried to teach me, but I just couldn’t do it until my right-handed dad showed me his left-handed way. Although I write right-handed, my many left-handed tendencies seem to have come from her. My brother also has many left-handed tendencies and even wanted to write left-handed, but that was discouraged by teachers.

Nana played the piano and sang hymns and many children’s songs to us. She loved poetry, wrote little poems herself that she called “doggerel,” and was often quoting humorous sayings, like “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” I also heard her laugh to herself and respond to something on occasion with, “Go to Father.” I didn’t understand this seemingly random retort until years later when I asked my Uncle Dick Prentis why she’d sometimes say that. He belly-laughed, explained that it came from a rhyme she knew, and recited it to me:

Go to father, she said
When he asked her to wed
‘Though she knew that he knew
That her father was dead,
And she knew that he knew
Of the life he had led,
And she knew that he knew
What she meant when she said,
“Go to father.”

So it seems that Nana had a mischievous sense of humor!

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(A recent story addition to grandfather’s page on my online family tree.)

My grandfather X.T. was named for his grandfather, Xavier Thomas Prentis, but was only called by the initials, and to his knowledge, so was his grandfather. In fact, Granddad didn’t even know he had a full name until while serving in the Iowa Senate,  a news reporter, frustrated that Granddad would not reveal his full name, bet Granddad that he could find his full name on his birth certificate. Granddad didn’t think he had one of those either! The reporter had done his homework and had either already found a copy, or then went and searched for it, but much to my grandfather’s surprise, a birth certificate bearing a full name of Xavier Thomas Prentis was later produced.

Apparently when he was born, his “Uncle Doc,” Percy L. Prentis, was the physician who delivered him. When Percy asked Granddad’s parents what name he should put on the birth registration, Glasier told him to name him after their father. With those instructions, Percy wrote down the full name, but thereafter, his parents and everyone else only ever referred to him as X.T.  On all official records besides his birth certificate, he was, as Granddad would always say when asked for his full name, “X.T. Prentis. Just X.T.” In unofficial matters, he was sometimes just “X”.

X.T. was an Iowa State Senator for fourteen years, holding the office of State Representative four times in succession, and serving a number of years as Iowa State Tax Commissioner.  His uncle Percy was also an Iowa State Representative for three consecutive terms.

In April, 2009, I received the following comments from a distant cousin on my grandmother’s side, Richard L. Stephens, related through Cora (Tennant) Trimble, a sister of George Alexander Tennant (Nana’s father):

“I knew X.T., his wife, and son Dick and wife well. I went to school with their kids and we attended the same church. X.T. helped me with one of my high school assignments and the sly old fox taught me more on that project than any teacher I have ever had.

“The assignment was about property tax. Since we were in the same church and he was a State Senator at the time, I thought it would be a slam dunk. I told him all of the information I needed and he said he would get it for me. Instead of the neat, concise report I expected, X.T. gave me a stack of books, pamphlets and reports six inches thick! It was all there, but much of it had to be compiled and correlated to make it what I needed. I learned so much in the process about the Iowa property tax system, and more importantly about research and data compilation. I got an A, but got a lot of much more valuable education. He could have just given me the information, but instead he gave me an education! I finally grew up enough to realize it while he was still around and thanked him for it! Sly old fox!”

In addition to his long political career, Granddad also owned and operated chicken hatcheries in Bedford, Leon, and Mount Ayr, Iowa for fifty-four years. In 1924, the Prentis Hatchery was opened in Mount Ayr with a capacity of 2,400 eggs and by 1936, this had been increased to 100,000.  It was at that time, the only state-inspected hatchery in the county.  The modern hatchery used electric equipment to incubate as well as to hatch, and a good part of its business was “custom” hatching for local farmers and poultry raisers. The hatchery was later operated by his son, Richard, and finally by Richard’s son-in-law.

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I’ve had so many issues with my Family Tree Maker program this past couple of weeks. I had version 16 working smoothly for a couple of years, but my genealogy file got corrupted somehow after recent new data entries. I was able to restore most of it, but will have to re-enter a few things. Well, the restored copy got corrupted again, so I had to resort to my Time Capsule once more and purchase the new 2009 Family Tree Maker. It all seemed to be working smoothly and a couple of days ago, after much frustration, I FINALLY had success in uploading my 17,000-plus person tree to Ancestry.com — no thanks to their technical support team who never did follow up on a promise to upload it for me after several failed attempts.

Eureka! My tree is now online, but you need Ancestry.com membership to view, and my upload duplicated some record sources for many individuals or put a few things in weird fields, so there’s some cleanup to do and some additions to make over time.

Okay, so now I’ve noticed a quirk in the new FTM…

Because my tree is so large that my family lines reconnect here and there, and even with my husband’s several generations back, my relationships with people become very complicated. The new program is supposed to list my closest family relationship with each person, but (I find this pretty humorous actually) the siblings of some of my direct ancestors become distant cousins for some reason instead of varying degrees of aunts and uncles. For some lines it seems to confuse my farthest relationship with my closest. For example, my mother’s natural siblings should simply be my aunt and uncle, but instead, my closest connection with them is listed as being 23 generations back, making us twenty-third cousins 6x removed! This has happened in one of Steve’s lines too, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve emailed again for technical advice, but haven’t yet had a response. Did their tech support pack up and leave, or what? (This problem only affects the program, and doesn’t reflect in my online tree, thankfully.)

I joined a freelance genealogy site and have been bidding on research jobs for others now too. My first bid was accepted a few weeks ago and I delivered on the request right away. I’ve also been connecting with several people to collaborate on my own family research, so with all that, I’ve been feeding my genealogy addiction rather well. I’m now in the process of uploading photos and documents to my online family tree, and writing stories about various family members, so for those of you who are interested, be expecting those to be posted here as well.

I’ve been up all night again.


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I’m terrible at sending cards, but I’m good at a few other things. 🙂

Love you, Mom. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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Here’s lookin’ at you, babe! Happy 51st!

Way, way back when...

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Lucky 21!

Twenty-one years already?! Hope you have a wonderful birthday, honey.

We love you!!

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