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Archive for the ‘Family Threads’ Category

We have a winner in our Photo Family History Contest! Congratulations to Sylvia Hott Sonneborn, of the Barefoot Genealogy Blogs (as well as the treasurer and newsletter editor of the Barefoot Reunion Association, Windber, Pennsylvania), sent us this wonderful entry. Sylvia will receive two free registrations at the St. George Family History Expo, a free one-year Premium Family Photoloom membership, and our genuine admiration!

Here’s Sylvia’s entry:

Some old pencil sketches and a handwritten note from my Grandmother Ella Hammer Krise give me a slice of life of my great-great grandparents. At a family reunion, one of the attendees brought pencil drawings of my g-g-grandparents, and I took photographs of the drawings. The bearded gentleman is Solomon Nunemaker Hammer, who was born 14 December 1812 in Jennerstown, St. Clair Twp., Bedford , Pennsylvania, United States, and he died 13 February 1890 in the same place. His wife Elizabeth (Barefoot) Hammer was born 18 February 1813 at St. Clairsville, Bedford, Pennsylvania, United States. She died 17 September 1889 in Jenner Township, Somerset, Pennsylvania, United States. Together they had 10 children, and among them was my great-grandfather Joseph Sleek Hammer of Johnstown, Cambria, Pennsylvania, United States. While I don’t know much about the Hammers, I found a handwritten note from Joseph Sleek Hammer’s daughter, my grandmother, Ella Hammer Krise, that reveals a little of Solomon and Elizabeth:

“Grandmother Hammer and Grand F. had their own riding horse. G.M.’s had a round full body, and short legs. Its name was Gin. G.M. had a very wide riding skirt and a side saddle. She raised flax and wove linen. She also spun wool, made yarn, colored it black, blue, red, and brown, knit stockings, wove cloth, flannel, and carpets. G.M. was a beautiful woman, always smiling. [This would have been Elizabeth Barefoot Hammer.] “Grandfather’s horse was a beautiful horse, black as coal, long legs, and ran off whenever he felt like it. No one could ride him except Gr. F. One day they hitched him up with Gin, to haul in some hay. He decided to run off. He ran up against a tree, and that was the last of him.

G.F. was a large man. G.M. could stand under his arm.” [Solomon Hammer died in 1890, so this information predates that as well as the pencil drawings and family photo.]
In addition, there is a very old photo of the Hammer Family. Solomon and Elizabeth are in the center with some of their children and their spouses surrounding them , circa 1885-1889.

Front Row: Ross Forward Hammer (abt 30), Probably their granddaughter and daughter of Mary, Mary Jane Cauffiel (abt 25). Row 2: Solomon Nunemaker Hammer (abt 73), Elizabeth Barefoot (abt 71), Louisa Foust, wife of David Hammer (abt 33), Malinda Galbreath, wife of John Hammer (abt 31). Back Row: John Colby Hammer (abt 40), David Mark Hammer (abt 35), Mary Hammer Cauffiel (abt 49), Charlotte Hammer Livingston (abt 48), Polly Spiegel Hammer, wife of Ross (abt 26).

Our thanks to everyone who entered our contest this time!

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The seed for Family Photoloom was planted fifteen years ago, when our family took a five-week family history trip. With daughters age 8, 3 and 2 the time, we flew from our home in Hillsboro, Oregon to attend a family reunion in London, Ontario, and then drove south through 2000 miles of sweltering Midwest summer heat to Fort Worth, Texas before returning home. The following is Scott’s account of one day on that trip.

We had heard stories about the Huskey School – of how Peter Huskey lead a wagon train to Missouri and started the first subscription school in the area. We traveled from St Louis to Hillsboro, Missouri, where, after knocking on several doors, we finally found distant cousin Dave Huskey, who gave us directions to the school.

“It’s up the hill. Just follow the fence on up, and when you get to the clearing at the top you’ll want to follow the fence. It’ll lead you right to it.” That’s when our adventure really began.

Loaded down with cameras, a tape recorder, a gallon of water, grass clippers, and a diaper bag we set off. We climbed the hill slowly, carrying Grace and Olivia most of the way, and by the time we got to the top clearing, we were very excited to find the school. I put down the child I was holding and asked my family to stay there while I searched around the clearing for a fence to follow, but after much looking could not locate it.

Leaving my family, I returned down the hill, where Dave gave me more detailed directions and pointers about how to find the fence. (His account doesn’t reflect it, but it was no short walk down and up that hill, and Scott was gone nearly an hour. The girls and I spent the time singing in a swath of Black-eyed Susans. ~ Renee)

When I returned back up the hill, we made our way to a back corner of the clearing that I had not explored completely. We found the fence!!! We followed it, and we saw…a house?!? No, that wasn’t it. We stopped, disappointed. Only Leisha and I went ahead. And then we saw it – about 25 yards ahead was the school house.

With yells of joy, we gathered our family at the school house. Just at that moment, we heard Dave coming up behind us on his tractor. He helped us find the tombstones of my third great grand-uncle, John Huskey and his wife Nancy, and told us about the ‘Huskey Gold,’ which legend says is still buried on the Huskey farm in a cedar box. He even let us have a few boards from the Huskey School as reminder of our trip.

We all loaded onto the tractor for a ride to the bottom of the hill, but when we arrived, we discovered that we had left our boards at the school house. Having come this far, I was not going to let our ‘mementos’ get away from us. It was getting dark, so I ran as much as I could, all the time swinging my arms wildly to swat away the huge thirsty horse flies, one or two of which escorted me all the way. At the top of the hill I grabbed our boards and said a quick prayer of thanks before jogging back down the hill with my fly escorts.

It was nearly dark when I neared the bottom of the hill, and I was greeted by beautiful fireflies celebrating my arrival. I jogged into Dave’s parking area with the boards held high above my head in triumph. I discovered that I was soaked! I had sweat clear through my clothes – even the money in my wallet was wet. There is the dark of the driveway, we shared our adventure and exchanged genealogy information with Dave and his family. Then with warm goodbyes, we packed up our car and headed back to St Louis. We topped off our evening with an alcohol sponge bath and a check for ticks (one had almost burrowed into my knee), followed by a meal at the local fast food place. We will remember this day now and always as “Our Huskey Homestead Adventure.”

Make a resolution now – this is the year to get your photos organized, and your family engaged in the grand adventure of family history. Visit Photoloom.com to learn more.

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The story is told of how when my Grandpa Hans Patrick first saw this picture of Ella Mae Hughes, he fell in love with her before they ever met, announcing, “This is the woman I am going to marry!”

Though this picture does not show it, Ella Mae had strikingly beautiful auburn hair; however, her beauty went much deeper: Ella Mae was an extraordinary person.

Those who knew her well tell me that Ella Mae had an extremely caring spirit and she looked out for everyone around her. As the second oldest child (and oldest daughter) in a family of nine children, she was like a second mother to her siblings. And though she experienced much laughter and happiness, she was never light-headed. Many have shared with me that being with her was like being in the presence of an angel. Ella Mae loved everyone; you can see it in her face, you can read it in her letters, you can hear it in the stories that people tell about her.

Ella Mae died when my father was only sixteen, tragically killed when the car she was riding in was hit by a drunk driver. In fitting tribute to this gentle woman who was beautiful in every way, Ella Mae’s tombstone reads, “To know her was to love her.”

Though I never had the chance to meet Ella Mae, I too have fallen in love with her. And as I learn more about her and connect her story with mine, I feel reunited with this grandmother I have not yet met; it brings great joy to my heart to be able to share her life and story with others through Family Photoloom.


“Family Threads” is a periodic column in Above the Trees. If you have a photograph and family story that you’d like to share with our readers, please contact us today! All submissions are subject to editing for space and content.

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From the time he could turn the pedals of his first bicycle until his death nearly 75 years later, my father, Robert Hancock, traveled thousands of miles across the the highways and hills of the Pacific Northwest on the seat of his bicycle.

In the early years of World War II, Daddy delivered telegrams for Postal Telegraph (a competitor to Western Union) in Portland, Oregon, riding the bike shown in this picture. Portland is now known as very “green” city, but Daddy went green long before it was fashionable or easy, riding to work nearly every day of his life. When he retired, he routinely rode at least 25 miles a day, and was a frequent participant in the 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland Classic (STP), riding his last STP at the age of seventy-four. But although cycling kept him healthy and active, just a few short years after that last STP, Parkinson’s Disease forced him onto a stationary bicycle, which he rode until just a month before he died, in September 2006 at the age of eighty.

I am currently writing a historical novel for young adults based on Dad’s time with Postal Telegraph, under the working title “Bicycle Boy.”

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My Pop, Lester Masters, loved his little sister, Hettie. I can still remember the first time he showed me this photograph; how he ran his thumb around its edge, and how his eyes softened and his gravelly voice smoothed when he started to talk.


“Hettie was my only sister – I was three years older, but our birthdays were only a day apart, and we were awful close,” he told me. “Every day, I’d saddle up my little old horse, Dolly, and we’d ride off to school together. Then one year when the weather turned cold, it got to be too much for her and after that I had to go to school alone.” He paused, and we sat quiet for a moment before he continued, “Hettie died when she was twelve and I was fifteen. Last thing she told Mom before she died was, ‘Take care of Lester.’” Another pause, and then, “I’d’a done anything for her.”

I never met Hettie. But I know her. I look at this picture—Pop’s protective arm around her—and I hear her story whispering in my memory.

So now it’s my turn to pass on Hettie’s story, to weave the thread of her history with my own. And as I do, the fabric of our family becomes richer, and its connections more tightly entwined—not only between Hettie and Pop, but between us all; and not just for now, but for ever.

“Family Threads” is a periodic colemn in Above the Tree. If you have a photograph and family story (400 word max.) that you’d like to share with Photoloom News readers, please contact us today! All submissions are subject to editing for space and content.

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Sometimes I need to remind myself that even as we labor to gather, document, and conserve the history of our generations past, we must also remember to preserve the people and images of today. Family history is happening.

It was with this in mind that I chose the image for today’s blog post: Our daughter, Olivia, with Zane, her Welsh pony. In the summer of 2004, Zane was twenty years old, and stood about 12.1 hands. Livy was eleven and just a bit taller. Livy was a quiet, profoundly layered child, and Zane a good listener. It was a good fit.

The summer of ’04 was hot and dry, at least by Oregon standards. Every bootstep across the fairgrounds sent a little cloud of dust puffing out from under your heel, and the water hoses behind the 4-H barns were flowing non-stop – kids were giving their horses second and third baths just for an excuse to play in the water.

Throughout the week of fair, Livy competed in both Western and English classes, and even earned a Championship ribbon for English Walk-Trot. There were other wins and other ribbons, but I don’t remember them all now. (It’s astounding had quickly history can fade!) The picture here was taken on the afternoon of Showmanship trials, long after ribbons were handed out and hair was let down.

There is another image like this one, taken earlier in the day – one in which Livy is smiling, bright and combed, and Zane is standing square, head up, eyes dancing. And while it is a lovely picture, it is this image that holds my memory: this singular bond of girl and horse – this tie that will be never broken. He will always be her first love, and she his girl. A moment in our family history? Yes. But also, a portrait of the infinite, enduring threads that weave the fabric of our lives.

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Guest Blogger: Donna Cook (my very favorite 1st Cousin Once Remove)

I never liked history in high school. What I recall from history textbooks is a slew of names and dates I found impossible to remember. It was dry, boring, and bad for my test scores.

Then I grew up and encountered history in a completely new way. I encountered stories. You know, not just the long-winded chronologies in history books, but engaging, flesh-and-bone, pull-you-in stories. Suddenly the names from history became more than just names… they became people. Fascinating people. People I wondered about. What was it like to live back then? What was it like to go through what they went through?

I find myself asking the same questions about the people on my family tree.

For some of these people, I may never know more than the most basic information: where they were born, who they married. Still, when I see things like the death of several small children in a family, I wonder about them. I wonder what it was like for them. It makes them more real and they begin to feel like my family. If only they… or someone… had written their stories down.

For other people on my family tree, I have details that bring them to life. They’re small details, I don’t have any fabulous civil war diaries hanging out in my family tree like some people do. Even so, I love these small details: the great uncle who ran a grocery store (I even have a picture of him there), the widowed mother who brought her two young boys from Virginia to North Carolina so she could live with her sister, the great-great grandfather who was a preacher. It’s not much, but it’s enough to pull my heart in their direction. It’s enough to make me wonder.

Not surprisingly, the people I know the most about are either still living, or died not that long ago. My favorite story is one about my great-grandma, “Grandma G” (pictured here at age 19). When she was in her 90’s, I sat at her feet and she told me what it was like when she was a little girl like me. When she was young, her family moved from Cunningham, Kansas to Campo, Colorado… in a covered wagon. It was a long trip, and there wasn’t a lot to do. She explained there were no TV’s and no radios. I was genuinely astonished by this. “What did you play with?” I asked her.

“I had one doll to play with,” she said, “and I was grateful to have that.”

It was a teaching moment for me. To be grateful for one doll. It said a lot about the character of my grandma too, and I’ve never forgotten it. This is a story I’ve recorded for future generations to enjoy. It’s not fancy. It’s not much. But maybe one day my great-grandchildren will wonder what it was like for me to sit at the knees of my great-grandmother and hear a story like that.

It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

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