Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Storybook Ancestor

Well y'all, it's been fun here, but I am officially retiring this blog. But don't worry, I'm not going away!

I am transitioning to my new website and blog, Storybook Ancestor, at www.storybookancestor.org. I'm very excited about this new project, and I hope you'll follow along. I'll continue to share my personal family history stories there as I did here, but this site will also be dedicated to stories from all of you!

The mission of Storybook Ancestor is to encourage children to explore their family history, and then to tell the stories they find there - the stories of themselves, their families, and their ancestors. The blog will be full of stories, writing tips, history and genealogy lessons, and book reviews.

 Currently, the landing page is live, and the full site will be coming mid January 2017. The exciting news for you right now: when you subscribe to the newsletter, you receive a free e-book  - Writing Family History for Kids: A Workbook & Guide. It's a basic introduction to family history for kids, and also a guide to writing the stories they discover as they talk to their elders and do a little research. And the exciting news for the kids who work through the book - they can submit the stories they write through the workbook and they'll be published on the site!

It's all about the power of story. Our stories help us understand the world around us, past, present, and future, and help us understand each other. Our stories have the power to heal and make the world a better place.

This blog will remain live, and please feel free to read through it, but do follow along at Storybook Ancestor for more! I hope to see you there.


Connect with me on social media:

Storybook Ancestor:
Facebook: /storybookancestor
Twitter: @storyancestry
Instagram: @storybookancestor

Facebook: /katieandrewspotter
Twitter: @andrewspotter26
Instagram: @andrewspotter26

See ya around!


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thankful Thursday: On the Passing of my Great-great Aunt

I know I haven't written on this blog in a few weeks, and I suppose it's because I've been in a very reflective mode during this time. Just ten days after her 95th birthday in March, I got a text from my mom that my great-great aunt Betts had just been put on hospice care. She had likely had a heart attack overnight. She never woke up. She passed away just minutes before my husband and I made it to her care facility. She was surrounded by family when she died, and we all took hands and said a tearful prayer together. We thanked God for her life, and rested in the assurance that she was now with him. And then we said the Lord's Prayer together, all of us standing around her bedside. How surreal it was.

I'm our family historian. I'm only 30, and I've been the family historian since I was 16. My great-uncle actually just told me the other day they had a family history question for me. Me! But later that afternoon at Betts' care facility, as my family sat together reminiscing, it hit me. Aunt Betts had been my connection to our family history. She had always been there. She had always been a fiercely independent woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper memory. She was the granddaughter of Irish immigrants, and of Indiana pioneers. She was alive during the Depression, she could remember World War II clearly, though she didn't really speak of it. She knew more about sports than anybody I've ever known, and was quite the athlete in her day - she even is in the Indiana Softball Hall of Fame. And she loved her family. She told me so many stories about her parents, her grandparents, her fun in her childhood and youth with her brother and her sister - my great-grandmother, who died years before I was born. She was a standing pillar of history in our family. She was the one who kept the distantly growing different sides of our family together. Most of us really only saw each other once a year in March at her birthday parties. She was the last of an old age in my family, and now she's no longer with us to answer our questions, to tell us stories of the last 95 years, to laugh with us and play Euchre with us.


So today I choose to be thankful for her life. I'm thankful I knew her. I'm thankful she was "adopted" into our side of the family. That she spent all her holidays with us. That she faithfully sent us birthday and Christmas cards every year that simply read, "Love, Betts". That she was hilarious and could beat anybody at Euchre. That she kept friends that she had known since grade school her whole life. That up until her death, she was there for my entire life, my mother's entire life, and my grandmother's entire life, and my great-grandmother's entire life. I'm thankful I got to ask her what her parents and grandparents were like. I'm thankful I got to tell her her other grandparents' names, as she never knew them. I'm grateful to now be the caretaker of all her photo albums and memorabilia, because she knew how much I will treasure them. I'm thankful that she lived a long, full, life, and that she died peacefully. I'm thankful she was a part of our family.

Her passing has made a mark on me as a person, as a family member, and as a family historian. It has reminded me how important it is to gather our elders' stories while we can. It's made me grateful I started our family history work as a teenager, because I got to open my eyes to a whole other level to our family I would never have experienced had I been indifferent, and I got to spend precious time with Aunt Betts I otherwise may not have. Family history is so important. It shows you who you are, who your family is, it helps you appreciate who you came from, and provides you with a unique identity and pride. And boy, does it show you love. And today I'm thankful for love.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Our Irish Ancestors

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of all things Irish, I decided to write up a little overview of my Irish ancestors on my maternal grandmother's side (Jacqueline Ann Mulry Lutz, see the last post for more about her). So if you're related to me through her side, these are your ancestors, too!

Mulry, Reardon, Dunn

The Mulry family originally came to Indianapolis in the 1860s. John Mulry was born in 1845 in Co. Galway, Ireland and his wife Mary Ellen Reardon was born in 1848 in Co. Limerick. They came over the same year and met and were married in Boston, Massachusetts. John ran a blacksmith shop with his brother Lawrence in Indianapolis, and they lived in the Fountain Square neighborhood. They were members of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Fountain Square, and most of them are buried in Holy Cross Cemetery on the near south side.

John & Mary Mulry's grave in Holy Cross Cemetery in Indianapolis - buried with their young daughter Mamie

St. Patrick's Church in Fountain Square, Indianapolis.
Courtesy of the Archives of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

John's parents were James Mulry and Mary Dunn. They were married in 1837 in Co. Galway. They lived in parish of Killian in the townland of Toomard.

Garrity, Walsh, O'Donnell, Hessian

This side of the family lived in and around Connersville, Indiana. My great-great grandmother, Katharine Garrity Fox, was my grandma Jackie's maternal grandmother. Katharine was the daughter of John Garrity and Anna Walsh and was born in Connersville in 1889.

John Garrity was born in 1857 in Indiana to Irish immigrants Patrick Garrity (Geraghty) and Hannah O'Donnell. Patrick was born in 1829 in Co. Mayo, and Hannah was born in 1832 in Co. Galway to Pat O'Donnell and Mary Hessian. Patrick and Hannah were married in 1849 in Co. Mayo, and their first child was born there in 1850. They then immigrated to Wayne Co., Indiana, during the Potato Famine, and had several more children in Indiana.

Anna Walsh was born in 1859 in England to Irish parents, Edward and Winifred Walsh. Edward died young, and Winifred and their three children, Anna, Mary, and John immigrated to Connersville, Fayette, Indiana in the early 1860s. They were members of St. Gabriel's Catholic Church, and many of them are buried in the Connersville City Cemetery. Anna was left to care for many young children when her husband John died young in 1895. Anna passed away in 1905 in Connersville, and her younger children went to live with her sister Mary in Indianapolis. This is how Katharine Garrity Fox came to live in Indianapolis.

Katharine Garrity Fox

All of our Irish ancestors were Catholics, and so we owe their faith originally to St. Patrick! My great-great uncle, Larry Mulry, told the story:
“The best story of all that I ever heard of all of them was the one about Grandma wanting to make a priest out of my father Lawrence. As you can plainly see, it is a good thing that she did not succeed because none of us would be here now as he was the only one to have any children to carry on the name.”
So now you know we really have the luck of the Irish!
This photo was taken by Beautiful Ireland Photography specifically for my Mulry Family History book. This road is near Toomard, Killian, Co. Galway, where the Mulry family was from.

A keepsake of my great-grandfather's brother, Larry Mulry "Mike"
Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, and to my family - keep your Irish pride alive!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

This Day in my Family History: Grandma Jackie Mulry Lutz

This day in my family history is particularly special, as it is my grandma's birthday. She was born Jacqueline Ann Mulry on March 10, 1945, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to James and Mary Ann Fox Mulry. She was a very special lady, and tragically passed away in a car accident in 1993, when I was 7. But I still have many memories of her, and thought I'd share some fun memories of her on this post, as well as those of some of my other family members.

Me & Grandma

Remembering her as a young child, the first things that pop into my head are the funny memories. I remember her doing the splits in her kitchen, and wearing a funny hat in the convertible driving ahead of us. One thing I don't really remember, but have seen on video, is when I was a flower girl at my aunt's wedding, I think I was 4. I was up front pouting and throwing a silent temper tantrum, and she was sitting in the front row snapping at me to come sit next to her. Ha! Another time I was in the car with her, probably heading to the salon, and she was whipping around the corners a little fast and I told her, "Grandma, you have to be careful with me!"

Apparently she was a trickster, too. She and my uncle would pour cold water on each other in the shower. James, my uncle, would also put fake snakes in the bathtub to freak her out, because she hated snakes. One time when the family was camping at SNH Campground, which they did often, she and two of her friends stayed up half the night making the word "COLD" out of paper and taped it up on the camp shower house so that it read "COLD SHOWERS" because they were tired of taking cold showers there!

She loved animals, which is I think where all of us get it. She had always had cats, and loved her white cat named Zero. One time she was serving a big chicken dinner and Zero got up on the table and ran all the way across it, making a huge mess. I also remember her waking me up when I spent the night at their house to show me the raccoons on their porch.

Grandma loved her family, and she loved Jesus. I know we'll see her again some day. Happy birthday, Grandma!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

This Day in my Family History: Glenn D. Andrews

Glenn Daniel Andrews

My grandpa, or "Papaw", was born in May 1911 in Abingdon, Illinois. His name was Glenn Daniel Andrews, "Glenn D." or "Shorty" - named after his father and grandfather, as I would come to discover. He was on my mind today, as he passed away on this day in 2000. I was 14 when he died. Just two years later was when I first started researching my family history, so I never got to ask him about his family. My grandma, his wife, didn't know much about them, and he didn't really have any photos from his younger years. Or so I thought.

We were doing some spring cleaning today, and my husband pulled out an old, sealed envelope addressed to my grandparents from the 1960s or 70s. Sealed? I eyed my husband and opened it up. Inside was a letter from my grandpa's sister, Louise Andrews Dunlap, and with it were photos of my grandpa and his family.

I'm still trying to pick up my jaw off the floor. I have never in my life seen a childhood photo of my grandpa, until today, sixteen years to the day after he died. In addition were photos of Louise, their other sister, Ruth, and their mother Helen Lucky Andrews - someone else I have never seen a photo of. Excuse me while I freak out. These pictures have been right under my nose all these years, and I didn't know it until today. That's the thing about researching your family history, isn't it - even after doing it for years and years, there is always more to find.

Here are the pictures:

(Probably) Ruth & their mother, Helen Lucky Andrews, 1938

My grandpa

And my favorite:
Louise (left) & Glenn (right)


Never stop searching. You never know what you'll find.

Monday, January 25, 2016

This Day in my Family History: In Search of Mary Mulry Bland

I'm finally back at the blog challenge- "this day in my family history." Anybody else at it, too? Comment with a link to your blog.

On this day 103 years ago, January 25, 1913, my great-great aunt, Mary Elizabeth Mulry, was born. She was born in Indianapolis to Lawrence and Nellie Hitchcock Mulry. She grew up with three brothers, Larry, John, and James.

Mary's 61st birthday - 1974

Mary married three times, first to a Leroy Heinrichs in 1929. She had two children with her second husband, Thomas West, - Robert "Bobby", and Marilyn. Tragically, Marilyn was killed in an accident while riding her bike when she was only 12 years old. Mary married a third time to Ralph Bland, and they had five sons - Ralph, Larry, Johnny, Kenny, and Gilbert. She lived in Beech Grove for much of her life, and passed away in 1985. She is buried at Washington Park East Cemetery in Indianapolis.

John, Mary, Larry, & Jim
Mulry siblings at Mulry family reunion 1974

For the past five years now, I have been researching and writing a book about the Mulry family of Indianapolis. I have been able to collect a plethora of information- genealogical details, stories, memories, photographs, and more- about the families of Mary's brothers, Larry, John, and James. (I am descended from James.) I have not had such luck with Mary's family. Despite the potential for many descendants with six sons, I have not been able to locate Bland or West relatives and therefore I know next to nothing about her side. There have been some memories of Mary and her family shared with me by relatives on her brothers' sides, but none of them have any idea of the whereabouts of her family nowadays. If on the off chance that you are related to Mary and you happen upon this blog, I would absolutely love to hear from you. I have been wanting to publish the Mulry Family History for some time now, but there's one thing holding me back and it's this gaping hole in the book that is the Bland family. I would love to complete the family history book, but it may just not be possible. I may just need to bite the bullet and publish it as is, but something is holding me back. If any of you are out there...help?
Mary Elizabeth Mulry Bland

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wayfaring Stranger: A Song That's Stood the Test of Time

The minor key gets me every time. The passion of the voice, the violin, strum of a guitar, the words. That song took root in my soul years ago, it's tattooed on my foot, I listen to it nearly every day. It reminds me of what’s to come, it reminds me to focus on the Lord, it grounds me and centers me. That song… My ancestors sang it, the pioneers in the mountains, the African slaves of the south sang it, and the characters in my books. It’s called Wayfaring Stranger.

The song has a long history, and it’s so shrouded in mystery. It's said to be an Appalachian folk song, others say it’s a slave spiritual. It could very well be both. It's been sung throughout America for two hundred years, and it's stood the test of time, as recording artists are still creating new versions every year. It was sung at revival meetings, and it could have been code for freedom among the slaves - "going over 'Jordan'" could have meant the Ohio River, bordering slave and free states. It just grabs at you with its heartfelt, haunting tune, its words about longing for heaven and to be done with the trials of this earth. It reminds me of the verse from Romans 8, that we long to be set free, that all creation groans for redemption, for the next life. I’ve been listening to this song nearly every day for seven years straight, and I never tire of it. It’s a part of me now.

A Treasury of American Song tells the song was first recorded as having been song as early as 1830, but was likely around for years or decades before then. One source claims it dates to 1784. Spiritual Folk Songs of Early America says the song is found in the first edition of Sacred Harp in 1844, and a note along with the song reads: “the compiler, John G. McCurry, Hartwell, Georgia, ‘when eight years old, learned the air of this tune from Mrs. Catherine Penn.’ That was therefore 1829.”

Today, the song lives on in homes and churches around the country, and artists from Johnny Cash, Andy Griffith, Emmy Lou Harris, Alex Boye, Jack White to Ed Sheeran have created their own versions. Log in to Youtube or Spotify and just scroll down the list. There are hundreds of versions of this song, and no two are alike. That’s the beautiful thing about old folk tunes such as this—you can take it and run with it and make it your own. Violin to acapella to guitar, you can do anything with this song. The words lend themselves to creativity, and yet I have not found a version that was not true to its original intent. Some versions I can listen to over and over again and am still moved by them every time. Find your favorite version and leave it in the comments. I’m always looking for more versions to add to my collection.
I am just goin' over Jordan
I am just goin' over home

What song means the most to you?