Thursday, November 19, 2015


Grandma has an exciting story to tell about her life. Grandpa has told us how he walked three miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways. Your Great-great aunt has passed on exciting stories about her grandparents, who were born just before the Civil War started. These stories have taken up a special place in your heart, and you want them to survive. Keeping stories alive about someone in your family that was a witness to the Civil War is so important to you, but the genealogy bug hasn't gotten to your kids yet, and in order for family history to survive, we need to pass it on to the younger generations.

If you like classic television, you’ve surely seen The Andy Griffith Show. In one of my favorite episodes, Andy gets stuck in a bind with his son’s teacher over History homework. The teacher gets so frustrated with her students’ apparent lack of interest in their History studies that she is on the verge of quitting when Andy steps in and tells the boys that they don’t want to learn about all that “dull stuff” anyway –about “Indians, and Redcoats, and cannons, and guns and muskets and stuff.” The boys get all excited that Andy seems to be in agreement with them, and then they pause, turn, and look at him quizzically. Then one pipes up: “What about Indians and Redcoats and cannons and muskets and guns and stuff?” Andy brushes it off, saying, “Oh, you know. Indians and Redcoats, and you know…history.” And with that, the boys are hooked.

Andy then engages the boys (and his deputy, Barney Fife) in a heart-pounding rendition of the tale of Paul Revere, and with every word, the boys’ eyes grow wider, their jaws drop further, and they are drawn more and more into the story. “He says the British is comin’, the British is comin’, get your guns, we’re gonna have us a revolution!” When Andy is finished, they demand to know just where he got that story! Andy just replies, “Oh, your history book.” But the bait is already sunk. The boys have been won over. History has come alive for them through the power of storytelling, and they wanted to know more.

Barney and the boys listening to Andy's story

(If you want to see the entire episode, it’s called Andy Discovers America, and it’s on YouTube here: The excerpt I discussed starts at the 10:15 mark.)

Children need to know that their ancestors’ lives were a series of stories. There were times your ancestors probably picked up their son or daughter on their knee and told them the story of the time they did this or that. Pa Ingalls in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series was an expert storyteller. Laura preserved those stories in her books, always just as exciting as when Pa told it to her.

And that is what I want to challenge you to do with your children. Capture your family stories in a homemade storybook. Write out their stories in narrative form, with dialogue and action verbs and illustrations by your child. Turn that story your grandpa told you into a storybook. Turn the family legend of your ancestor’s crossing of the Atlantic into a storybook. Was your 7th great-grandfather a teacher in a small town in Germany? His story can be in a storybook. Was your 3rd great-grandfather a Union soldier? That can be a storybook, too.
An illustration by my daughter, Ellie, about our ancestor Jesse Vawter

Will you and your children join me? I’d love to create a community of people turning their family history into storybooks with the help of your children. Or you can do it on your own, and present the book to your children or grandchildren as a gift. It’s up to you! Whatever you do, share it with the rest of us! Use the hashtag #StorybookAncestor or simply comment on this blog with your link. I’ll be sharing the storybooks I create with my 7 year old daughter and I'll check in every week to share everyone else's. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with. Best wishes!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday's Faces from the Past: The Mystery of Salome Clouse Hitchcock

I have one particular ancestor whose story has really thrown me for a loop.

Salome Clouse Hitchcock 1815-1893

Her maiden name was Salome Clouse, and she was born in 1815 in North Carolina. She married her sister's widower, Isaac Hitchcock, and they moved to Hope, Indiana. Her granddaughter is my great-great grandmother, Nellie Hitchcock Mulry. Now, the story goes in the Mulry family history that we have "deep roots in the South, as your great, great, great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian." Later, it mentions that Salome was "half Cherokee Indian." The man who wrote about Salome in the Mulry history was born only 11 years after she died, so I would assume the story may have come directly from Salome. But it remains a mystery, because...

...when I did some research on Salome, I found that her parents were John Clouse and Catherine Lachenauer, who has deep French roots. I wondered if maybe Catherine was John's second wife, and if she was recorded as Salome's mother because she raised her--perhaps Salome's mother died when she was young. But where would this story have come from that Salome was half Cherokee? Did she find out as a questioning young teenager, or was it something that she had known all along? Or was Catherine Lachenauer really her mother? Or maybe she was descended from Cherokee much further back, and the story somehow morphed into her being "half." She did come from North Carolina, where the Cherokee made their home.

I have Mulry relatives that have said their grandmother, Nellie Hitchcock Mulry, told of Indian roots, and one person mentions a photo of Nellie all dressed up in "full Indian garb", but that photo has been lost. This is just something I may have to continue to speculate about, as there may never be any real proof to substantiate the family story. I would be proud to have Cherokee blood flowing through my veins, but I may never know for sure if I do or not.

What about you? There are so many stories about Native American roots floating about nowadays, but often little evidence. I'm excited to read more by my co-writer at The In-Depth Genealogist, who writes about Native American genealogy. I have a lot to learn, and a lot of curiosity to lead me there!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Indiana History Unit Studies

Now that I've completed my first course of graduate school studying History, I'm ready to dive in and finally start creating those Indiana history unit studies I've been talking about for so long. My first course taught me how to do historical research, and my next class will teach me how to write history. My tentative plan will be to release my first unit study near the time I will be completing my second course next summer. 

What will it be about? The first unit study on Indiana history will be all about the Prehistoric Peoples of Indiana, beginning with the arrival of the Paleo-Indians thousands of years ago, and on up through the Mississippian peoples who made this area their home. As part of my research for the study, I have visited sites such as Mounds State Park in Anderson, Koteewi Park in Strawtown, and I have future plans to visit such places as Angel Mounds in Evansville, and a big trip to Cahokia Mounds in Illinois. The unit study will include vivid photographs from my trips, accompanying field trip tips to those sites, and of course, exciting history all about the peoples who called the Midwest and specifically present-day Indiana home, tailored for a 4th grade student beginning their study of Indiana history.

The Great Mound at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana

I have a Bachelor's in Elementary Education and have taught in schools, but am relatively new to homeschooling. My daughter went to a charter school for Kindergarten, but we decided to transfer her to home school for 1st grade on. My son is two, and loves having his big sister home to learn alongside her. I develop unit studies especially for my daughter, mostly focusing on Language Arts. She is a very inquisitive little girl and I often let her decide what she wants to study. We just finished a three-week study on Space, and this week we switched gears and are doing a little study on Native Americans. For this, we went to Koteewi Park in Strawtown and went on a little walk (their Taylor Center for Natural History was unfortunately closed). But as we were walking the grounds and talking about the people who lived there, I realized something. I have the perfect co-writer. My daughter! I realized again just how creative and inquisitive she is, and concluded she just must do my research with me, and write my Indiana history unit studies along with me. It needs a child's touch, after all.

I'll be launching an author website in the near future, and keep in touch - I'll also be posting free lesson and activity ideas on this blog and that website, designed by my daughter and I. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me!

White River, or Wapahani, at Mounds State Park