Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sentimental Sunday: A Collection of Foxes

Yesterday I woke up to a phone call from my aunt Sherrie, and my kids and I ended up spending the morning with her. We went out to breakfast, and then we did something that was really hard for me. We went over to my great-great aunt's apartment and went through her things, and I got to choose which things of hers that I wanted to take home. In her credenza, a big note was taped over a collection of old photo albums and memorabilia that read: Katie's Korner. All of that was mine for the taking. She wanted me to have all of it. It was exciting for the genealogist in me: my great-great grandparents' marriage certificate, her high school diploma, an old Bible, old photos, but it was all very difficult at the same time, because of what dividing up all of these things meant. It was hard walking through her apartment without her there, even though she is still living, and deciding to divide up her things. One thing I knew I wanted: a fox. Her name is Betts Fox, and over the years she has collected foxes. Other relatives had already come and taken most of the foxes, but I found a painting of a fox by a local artist in a corner, so I took that, and will hang it in my office. So then we took all of the historical items, paintings, and other odds and ends and loaded up my aunt's car, and then we went over to visit Betts at the nursing home. 

Katie Andrews Potter's photo.
Ellie & Micah with their Great-great-great aunt Betts

We surprised her with our visit, and she was excited to see us. She is 94 years old, and even though she may be in her last months, is still as vibrant as ever. She has always been full of life. She is a Euchre queen, has always kept up with her family and old friends, loves sports and her "soaps".

Betts with her nephew, Jim Mulry, playing Euchre at her birthday party

Happy birthday!

Some day I will write out her life story on my blog, but for now, I just wanted to write out about what was going through my mind as we were going through her things yesterday. This coming week I will be seeing her again, and this time, I'm going to record an interview with her about her life story, memories, and the changes she's seen in her life time living in Indianapolis. I'm so grateful to have gotten to know her. And to my family - take the time to go visit her while you still can. She would love the visit. More to come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wishful Wednesday: An Enigma

                           "My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma"

These are the words of my great-great uncle, Ralph Holsclaw, written in a letter to my grandmother, Mary Holsclaw Andrews. Her father, Hubert Holsclaw, or "Herb", had just died, and he was writing to her about his death. But neither one of them had known him at the time of his death. Neither one of them had seen him for years before his death.

Hubert Holsclaw had walked out on my grandma and her mother, Helen, when my grandma was only seven years old. She was an only child. My grandma and her mother lived with Helen's parents from that time on, and her grandparents, Elmer and Lottie Oder, became very close to her. But to my knowledge, from the age of seven, my grandma never again saw her father, and I don't believe she ever spoke to him again either.

So in 1973, Ralph wrote a letter on a typewriter to my grandma Mary in response to one she had written to him, telling him there were many things she wished to know. We had never heard about this letter, and only discovered it in her house after she had died. Ralph begins the letter by harkening back to 1927, the year Hubert walked out. He left, relocated to Boston, remarried, and later moved to Miami, where years later, he divorced again. But he was a hard worker, and did, it seems, keep a few close friends, but it seems he had trouble with relationships, and as Ralph later notes, he had a pattern of rejecting the people who loved him. He never did mention a daughter to anyone he came in contact with. He died suddenly, without any warning, at the age of 75.

Ralph writes, "Seventeen elderly persons attended his funeral and signed the register. I met them all as they came in and asked if they had the time to wait after the service so that I could talk with them. We all met in the back of the chapel and each and every one of them expressed to me that they had never known a finer and gentler man. None had laid eyes upon him since he bowed out upon them without a goodbye. An elderly couple who, because of their infirmities, could not attend the service, had a friend drive them to the door of the chapel and asked that I come out and talk to them, which I did. All of their questioning eyes formed the one word - WHY. They and you and I will never know the answer. None of these friends had ever heard of the existence of a brother or a daughter except Mrs. Gasche and she had not heard about you. My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma. I am sure you have detected a pattern in your father's life, as I have - a rejection of the people who loved him....."

These are the times in genealogy when you wish you could have been a fly on the wall. When you wish you could have known Mrs. Gasche, or Ralph, or Ralph's daughter that he mentions, who apparently Hubert favored. But at the same time it gives me insight to my grandmother's childhood, and what pain this man must have caused her. But having only known him to the age of seven, she couldn't really tell me much about him when I asked, or...she didn't really want to. I couldn't tell. An enigma indeed. All of genealogy really is, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Lutztown Road

The Lutz line of my genealogy research used to be a huge brick wall for me. It was finally broken down after I was able to look through some things from my great-grandmother's old cedar chest, and then resources from local libraries helped me climb my way up the tree.

Here is my Lutz family tree: 

George Lutz b. 1772 m. Catherine Wolf b. 1777
    - Baltzer Lutz b. 1803 m. Nancy Eby b. 1803
        - Moses Lutz b. 1828 m. Nancy Ann Shafer b. 1833
            - Ervin Lutz n. Ida Slagle
                 - Earl Moses Lutz b. 1886 m. Alma Bertha Bruns
                      - Harold Lutz b. 1920 m. Virginia Bunce
                          - Robert Earl Lutz b. 1944 m. Jacqueline Ann Mulry

This past week we vacationed in upstate New York, and since it was the 4th of July weekend, we decided it would be neat to swing by Philadelphia to see where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Immediately the thought crossed my mind that we would be coming home to Indianapolis heading due west, and the Lutzes were from an area we would be driving through. A quick Google Maps search confirmed this and I headed straight to to locate the cemetery where George and Catherine Wolf Lutz are buried. They lived in Churchtown, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and are buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery. I also knew from reading in an old county history book that the area where they lived and for three generations engaged in wagon and coachmaking was known as Lutztown. When we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the next road by the cemetery was called Lutztown Road. I was standing in the very area the Lutzes must have lived and worked.

We then took to the cemetery. It was a pretty large cemetery, across from a gas station, otherwise surrounded by cornfields. (I was also excited to discover it was very near to the Appalachian Trail.) For once it didn't take me long to find the graves I was looking for.

It was raining so I didn't stay long at their graves, but it was so neat to see them and feel the rough stone. George is the earliest Lutz ancestor I can trace. He was born around 1772 in Switzerland and came to America because of religious persecutions. He settled in Pennsylvania, eventually making his way to Cumberland County. He married Catherine Wolf, and they had nine children. Our ancestor is their son, Baltzer Lutz, who came to Muncie, Indiana, and his son Moses, who was a blacksmith in Muncie.

(To my Lutz relatives, I have much more information. Send me an email and I can send the rest to you. Let me know if you have any questions too! Someday I will turn this all into a book like I'm doing with the Mulry family.)

Long story short, if you ever find yourself traveling near an ancestral homeland, take the extra hour or two out of your day to visit. It's worth it.

History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania.
Containing History of the Counties, Their Townships, Towns, Villages,
Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and
Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania; Statistical and
Miscellaneous Matter, Etc., Etc.  Illustrated.  Chicago: Warner, Beers
& Co., 1886.

Monday, June 8, 2015

8 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Wayfaring Sisters Series

With the recent release of Going over Jordan, I figured I'd write up a few things about my books for the inquiring mind. If you want to know a little more about the first book, Going over Home, you can go here:

1.       The title of each book in the series is from a line in the old folk song Wayfaring Stranger. The unknown history of the song is part of its magic. Some say it’s an old slave spiritual, others say it’s an Appalachian folk song. Either way, it probably dates to the early 1800s. The song is ultimately above traveling through the world on our way to our heavenly home, but it can also be interpreted to mean more than that. If it was in fact a slave spiritual, then “Jordan” could have meant the Ohio River, the border between slave and free states, as it does in the second book in the series, Going over Jordan.

2.       There will be seven books in the series—maybe more. One book for each Fox sister: Maddie, Ellie, Carrie, Jackie, and Lottie, and then one book for Mama (Evelyn) and one for Grandma (Eleanor).  There is a lot of potential for other women in the family’s stories to be told, but I’m waiting on the inspiration for theirs. These seven women are the ones whose stories are begging to be told.

3.       Each book will tell the story of the main character’s romances, but ultimately each book will be about the character’s coming of age story, and their growth from girlhood to womanhood.

4.       The heroes in the books I’ve written so far (Maddie-Henry, Ellie-Will, Carrie-Asa) are all inspired by my husband, Ben. They’re all different, but each of their characters reflects his in their own special ways, and their romances are drawn from our own.

5.       Back to Wayfaring Stranger—I have listened to this song thousands of times nearly every day for the past six years since beginning work on these books. I have discovered countless versions of the song, but my favorite remains Jack White’s version from the soundtrack from Cold Mountain. This song has shaped the story and character arcs of the books in so many ways, it can only be considered divine inspiration.

6.       Music in general has been such a driving force in writing my books. Alison Krauss and her song If I Didn’t Know Any Better inspired Going over Home. I See Fire by Ed Sheeran inspired Going over Jordan. (Don’t ask why. I have absolutely no idea.) And so far, I Wonder as I Wander by Andy Griffith and Would You Go with Me by Josh Turner have shaped Wayfaring. Thank you, Spotify.

7.       These books are naturally derived from my longtime love of genealogy and Indiana history. I am a ninth generation Hoosier, and so is my husband, so we have a lot of stories to draw from.

8.       I have bipolar disorder, and have had many struggles with my creativity because of this. But I’ve found if I let go and stop worrying about what I’m going to write and give it up to God, he helps me through my brain fog and writes through me. Ultimately I want to use these gifts and passions he’s instilled in me for His glory, and I want to touch lives with them, too.

 These characters are family to me. If they’ve touched you in any way, please let me know. I’d love to hear from readers who’ve enjoyed my work!  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Motivation Monday: The Wayfaring Sisters

Today is release day for my second book - Going over Jordan!

Many of you have read the first book in The Wayfaring Sisters series, Going over Home, released in 2012. The books originated out of my love for genealogy and Indiana history, and are set in present and pioneer Indiana. I am so excited to release Going over Jordan out into the world. You can find it on Amazon in paperback for $7.99 and on Kindle for $2.99. If you've never read Going over Home, it's only $0.99 on Kindle. If you read them, please don't forget to leave a review!

For you Indiana folks, I will also be signing both books at Conner Prairie's Curiosity Fair on Saturday, June 13 11am-4pm. Come out to see me!

Happy reading!

Cover by Kristin Stout
                                                           Cover by Lorie Lee Andrews & Kristin Stout 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cover reveal: Going over Jordan

It's finally complete! Here is the cover for my upcoming book, Going over Jordan, sequel to Going over Home. The design is by Lorie Lee Andrews, an Indianapolis artist, and friend and former neighbor of mine. It is a copper plate etching hand colored with watercolor. Title graphics were done by my sister, Kristin Stout, of Stout Studio Designs in Carmel, Indiana. I must say, I am head over heels with the final product. It's more beautiful than I dreamed. The book will be for sale in a matter of days!


Back of the book reads:

Ellie Fox is a product of the 1990s and 2000s: headstrong, outspoken, and independent. She grew up in the Indianapolis suburbs, started her college life at Indiana University. So when she suddenly has to start life over in the 1840s, her mind is left reeling. She feels, naturally, a bit out of place. Her sister Maddie came with her, but Maddie is now married and seems to be adjusting to her new surroundings quite easily. Not so much for Ellie. She lives with her grandmother in the backwoods and helps her run a station on the Underground Railroad, but what she has been told will become her “new normal” just…doesn’t. And because she is from the future, she knows who she is going to marry— a man named William Cookston. Ellie, ever the hopeless romantic, just knows he will be perfect and will sweep her right off her feet. But when he arrives he seems to be as opposite the man of her dreams as he could be—and he has his secrets, too. Once they’re married, they find themselves living lives of secrecy as they aid runaways. It seems only a matter of time before Ellie’s mouth gets the best of her. And when it does, everything is at stake –even lives. Now it’s up to her to restore their part of the Liberty Line, and grow from a young girl to the woman she is called to be.

Available on Amazon soon!
Release signing: Conner Prairie Curiosity Fair, Saturday, June 13, 2015-11am-4pm- Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Fishers, Indiana

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For the love of God

I want to brag on God for a bit here. He is so good. He knows our innermost beings and the desires of our hearts and he seeks to use us through our passions and talents, which he instilled in us. God knows my heart. He knows that the most important thing on this earth to me is my family. When my job in education, being unstable in nature and far away from where we live, which I really did love, began to take a toll on my mental health and my family last year, God helped us make the big decision to transition me to full-time stay-at-home mama at the end of the school semester. It was a huge leap of faith for us. My husband is a good provider, but we really weren’t sure what it was going to look like without my income. But God has sustained us, and has opened up opportunities for me in the world of stay-at-home mamaness. Not only has it restored my mental health and done wonders for my family, especially my children, it has also allowed me to focus my writing career in ways I never have been able to before. I have finally finished my second young adult historical fantasy novel after three years and will be publishing it in June. I am working on editing my great-great-great grandmother’s memoir to turn into a children’s picture book. And the thing I am most excited about: writing Indiana history and genealogy curriculum for homeschooling families.

But since my last blog, God has opened a door that I am about 98% certain I will get to walk through that will expand my writing career in a way I have only dreamt about. I have been accepted into a Master’s program in American History, am all set to start classes in July. I am just waiting on my financial aid to come through. When I first started college in 2004, my majors were History and Writing –two of my greatest passions. After a semester I decided that this was not the direction I was to go – yet—and I changed my major to Elementary Education. In 2010, I graduated with that degree, and I now hold my teaching license in K-6 and have worked in Special Education and ABA Therapy. But now, as God has brought me home and made it clear that he wants me to WRITE in the field of education, he is now opening doors for me to study History again, and these studies will in turn open doors for me to open the doors of history to children around the country, in both fiction and nonfiction. I firmly believe this is the direction God is leading me. He has instilled a love of writing in me since the day I could pick up a pencil and form a word on the page, and the love of story, history, since as young an age.

I am so excited to see where God is leading. It truly is amazing when you come to accept the unique person God has created you to be and understand how he can work through you. It is not yourself who does the work, that we should get the glory, but God. He doesn’t always show you the path clearly laid out, so we have to trust him, but he is so trustworthy. Our lives are in his hands, and I can think of no better place for them to be. Praise his Name.