Favorite Name

The assignment this week from 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks asked that we consider a favorite name from our ancestors. Looking through all my ancestors’ names, it’s difficult to select just one favorite name. I stock-vector-man-working-in-garden-vintage-illustration-from-la-petite-soeur-par-hector-malot-90914375do have some unusual names such as Jehu, Edny, Anna Stina, Lemly, Tena, Abel, Jexetta, Mentle, and Marzie.

vintage woman doing laundryHowever, Sabra Ann stands out as one of my favorites. Her complete name was Sabra Ann Baker, named after her mother’s mother, Sabra Vardiman. They are descendants of Rene Chastain, the original immigrant for this line who came from France via London as a French Huguenot. He, along with a boat-load of Huguenots, arrived in Jamestown in 1700 and continued up the James River for 50 miles to land granted to the group from the English king. I often wonder if his descendants knew the story of how much Rene gave up when he left France with his family but none of his wealth.

Another name I like is my great-grandmother’s name, Rebecca. In fact, I liked it so much that I offered it as consideration for a name for our daughter. The two names I chose were Rebecca Michelle and my husband chose Karen Ingrid. We selected one from each of our pairs, but Rebecca wasn’t selected. Name plaque from pexels dot com free image

Most of the men on my list of ancestors have common names. My father, for example, was James Andrew. I also have Charles, Peter, Paul, John, and Robert. Choosing just one favorite male name is impossible. As I learn more about each person, he becomes a favorite for that time. Do you do that, too?

________ Free images from Pixaby.com and Pexels.com

In the Census: What Stories we Learn About our Ancestors

This assignment of 52 ancestors in 52 weeks allows me an opportunity to write about finding out more information than what shows up on the census. Here is what happened. In the 1940 census, my mother-in-law, Orpha Broberg, showed up on line 40 making her the person who had additional information that her mother provided. Here’s a look at portions of the census:

1940 header for Shell Creek Precinct Boone County Nebraska

William A. Nelson enumerated the people on this page 18-19 April 1940, so Orpha shows up as a 20-year old bookkeeper for a local oil company who lives at home with her parents and younger sister, Arlene. Her mother provided the information, so I suspect that she was the only one home. Lawrence Broberg, Orpha’s father, was a farmer who was probably in the fields or the barn. Arlene was a high school student, so she would have been gone most of the day.

1940 census Orpha part 1 1940 census Orpha part 2In 2012, when the 1940 census was released, I called Orpha to ask her some questions to amplify the information provided. Since we frequently talked about her background, I thought I knew her work and family history, but didn’t know she worked as a bookkeeper for an oil company. Out flew the questions and the answers were clear and forthcoming. I don’t have a transcription of our conversation, but what I heard were her personal recollections that hadn’t seen the light of day for many years. We laughed together as she shared lighter moments and what a typical day was for her and the 1940 census Orpha part 3family. The days were long and often routine, but Orpha felt good about contributing to the family after a difficult time through the depression years.

In later years, Orpha worked as a bookkeeper and enjoyed the order that came from the work. She also kept the family books until a couple of years ago when macular degeneration prevented her from seeing the details. Now I know where it all started.


1940 United States Federal Census, Shell Creek, Boone, NE; roll: m-t0627-02236; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 6-19 found on Ancestry.com

Invitation to Dinner

This week’s question from 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks asks which ancestor you would most want to invite to dinner. Do you have a story of a memorable dinner with an ancestor? Is there a special recipe that’s been handed down?

I have as many invitations as I have ancestors and I’d love to invite them to dinner because they all have stories I haven’t heard. They could explain why they moved when they did, who influenced their choices, what were their hopes and dreams, and what would they like me to know about them.

Roy Lee Baker freshly baled hay field with walnut tree 9 June 2016For example, Jehu Baker arrived in KY in 1793 but I don’t know where he came from. My uncle took a DNA test and discovered he had a perfect 64 match with 13 other men. They had all traced their families back to the original Baker, Maurice, arriving in the colonies (in Maryland) in 1634. So now I’m tracing all the sons of the immigrant to following their trails through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina and see who had a son born about 1770 who disappeared from the local records.

Another person I’d like to invite is my great-grandmother, Cordelia Frances Johnson Cordelia Frances Johnson MillsMills. I know very little about her, but she radiated love on her family and influenced her daughter, Martha Harriet Mills Baker, my grandmother, to be gregariously loving and kind. Cordelia must have shown her children how to walk close to Jesus and be generous with everyone. The same attitude toward life came through to my mother, Jewell Jane Baker Thornton, whose training as a nurse provided an avenue to help others and also share Christ softly and gently.

How I would enjoy sitting down to dinner with Christopher Newport, my ancestor who captained the ship that brought the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607. What stories he could share! I’d like to know what character traits helped him master becoming a ship’s captain and travel the seas where most of the knowledge about such travel remained unknown or inaccurate. When he received land in Virginia for transporting people to the New World, did he plan to bring his family there and settle down? There’s so much I don’t know about this man but I’m proud of his role in striking out to bring people to a new life in a fresh, new land.

Growing up, we didn’t live close to either side of my family, so we made long trips every other year to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. On the Sunday of our time visiting with each side of the family, everyone would gather at my respective grandparents’ homes and enjoy a huge potluck dinner. Wonderful flavors of favorite foods overflowed the table and everyone ate too much. I was unable to eat with the adults so I missed much of their conversations. All children were sent outside to eat and play. Since I didn’t know my cousins, I frequently took a book outside and read. When I was older, the cousins closest to my age spent more time with me and showed me around the area. But again, I didn’t spend a lot of time with the older generation, so I missed some potentially fascinating stories of family.

I did eventually receive recipes from my mother’s family and friends because my mother collected recipes everywhere she went. I have a whole bookcase of cookbooks and multiple boxes of hand-written recipes from my mom’s friends and neighbors and both sides of her family. In an attempt to organize these recipes, I created a cookbook. I wrote an introduction sharing family relationships and a bit of history of my mom’s life since this would be her gift to her granddaughter and grandson and their spouses for Christmas. By this time in my mother’s life, she was crippled with arthritis and suffered from Parkinson’s and lived in an assisted living, so it was my honor to create a treasure she could pass along to the family. One of the recipes from the cookbook is:


Katie O’Neil, Millie Winter’s sister, Grandma Jewell’s friend from Tucson, AZ


¾ C. chopped walnuts

1 t. cinnamon

3 T. sugar

Mix together and set aside.


2 cubes butter

1 ¼ C. sugar

2 eggs (3 in high altitude)

1 C. thick sour cream

2 C. flour

½ t. soda

1 ½ t. baking powder

1 t. vanilla

Combine butter, sugar, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy.

Blend in sour cream.

Sift flour, soda, and baking powder into the creamed mixture. Add vanilla and blend well.

Spoon half of the batter into a 9” tube pan, which is greased and floured.

The batter will be thick.

Sprinkle half of the nut mixture on top of the batter.

Spoon remaining batter into the pan.

Top with nut mixture.

Place in cold oven. Set oven to moderate 350 degree oven and bake 45-55 minutes after it comes up to temperature.

When done, cut pieces in the pan.

Serves 8-10.


Old ship photo: Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Farm photo: Baker family farm in KY and photo taken by my cousin, Roy Lee Baker and used with his permission

Cordelia Frances Johnson Mills only known photo provided to author by her mother, Jewell Jane Baker Thornton

A Favorite Photo Selected for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


The first photo to come to mind when asked to select a favorite photo for this challenge isn’t an old one, an ancestor I never met, or a “real” one in the traditional sense. Let me explain.

On 27 February 2011, our first grandchild, Miles, arrived and three days later my mom died. The amazing high immediately followed by an unbearable low threw a wicked curveball my way. However, after a month, with my feet more squarely on the ground, my vision reached out beyond my own loss to the celebration of what gift of life we now enjoyed.

My husband’s mother, Orpha Erickson, almost 92, now the only living member of that generation for our family, deserved some special attention since she didn’t live near us and we didn’t know how long it would take before she could meet her first great-grandchild. I created a plan that involved several people and lots of coordination.

First, I asked my brother-in-law to take a picture of my mother-in-law sitting in her favorite comfortable chair with one arm up on the chair arm as if she was holding something and the other arm on her lap.

Orpha in chair

Second, we visited our grandson, who could not yet sit up by himself and placed him in an over-sized armchair with lots of padding and took several pictures of him from slightly different views. Here’s the one selected:

B380B615EBAD472A812B5F310D70CA45I then imported both pictures into Photoshop and tried to merge them. I wasn’t too successful, so I asked our film editor daughter to give it a try. Of course, she came through with this delightful picture:

Orpha and Miles summer 2011

When I sent Orpha the photo, her immediate response was, “Is my memory failing so much that I don’t remember meeting Miles?” We enjoyed a good chuckle.

Now my mother-in-law has this wonderful connection with her great-grandson and was able to meet him in person a few months later. Don’t they look content sitting together?

When One Door Closes

when one door closes quote by Quotes Hunter

Wednesday, I looked at a closed door and had to decide what to do. I have taught in the older adult education department since January 1991 until they canceled the classes a few years ago. When that door closed, I found locations and continued my classes as best I could. With improved internet and more students using computers, I could create lessons and email instead of printing multiple paper copies. Everyone liked the changes and the classes grew stronger.

A year ago, my husband had surgery, followed by complications and a second surgery. He entered a rehab center and didn’t come home until my classes ended last spring. By fall, I knew I couldn’t continue teaching since he required a lot of assistance. Fall passed into winter and as spring approached, we had to make a hard decision: to move into a single story home near one of our children.

Getting back to the analogy of a door closing, Wednesday I attended my farewell party with some of my former students. Saying good-bye offered me an opportunity to thank them for a wonderful time sharing our passion for memoir writing and genealogy. But the reality is: I won’t see some of these people again and that makes me sad beyond words.

Winnie the Pooh saying goodbye

I could stay stuck in front of this closed door and dwell on the loss of these friendships and learning experiences. But I choose to look forward to what comes next. We will move to a new town where we’ll meet new friends and continue to develop our interests.

I’ll have the opportunity to return for visits and we have email, phones, and all manner of possibilities to encourage each other to keep learning and to keep developing our skills.

Now, where is that newly opened door?



The opening quote is from Quotes Hunter; the Winnie the Pooh picture had no attribution.