What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

One Word for 2021

It's that time again...time to select a "One Word" for the New Year...a word that will guide me through the year as I seek God's plans for my life in 2021.

Here is a link to the Post written in 2020 for my One Word, which was "JOYFUL". The most notable statement that I made in that post last year was this:  
"So I am going to be watching for those "signposts and landmarks" of joy along life's pathway...opportunities to be joyful even in the face of adversity or difficulties.  No, I'm not looking for those things...they just have a way of happening without our seeking them out...so it is my desire to face each new challenge of life with a joyful heart,  knowing that the Lord, Who made me, is going to take care of all my needs regardless of what the world may say.   We are His sheep,  and we know that the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep.  So we can be joyful and trust Him no matter what.  

There you have it: JOYFUL!  Happy New Year!!! May all our hearts be joyful as we begin this brand new year and brand new decade. God is with us, so we need not be afraid to face whatever lies ahead!"

WOW!!! How little did we know just what was lying ahead for us in 2020...right around the bend from when I so "joyfully" declared my intention to "be joyful even in the face of adversity or difficulties."  I guess God was listening and probably was whispering to me, "Oh, My child, if you only knew just what was ahead...2020 with all of its challenges and "opportunities to be joyful even in the face of adversity or difficulties." He probably was thinking how little did I know just how much our faith would be tested throughout this year...but He knows His children, and He knows how much we can take...and He also knows how to rescue us when we are getting in over our heads.  I must say right now, looking back over 2020, that indeed God was there for me every time I needed Him (many times), and He also helped me to to remain "joyful" in the midst of the journey.  I can also say that God was very gracious to me and to our family, and He brought us through so sweetly, safely, and completely. Truly, I have much to be joyful about.

And so now we come to another new year, 2021. I've been praying about this "One Word" thing for the past couple of weeks, and trusting that when the time is right, God will reveal His word for me. I think I know what it is now. A couple of weeks ago someone at church approached me about taking over the "card ministry" for the church, which is essentially sending out greeting cards to people throughout the year for birthdays, anniversaries, sympathy, get well, congratulations, etc.  The person who has been doing it for the past several years is no longer able to continue, but she had it all very well organized and has done a tremendously wonderful job.

My initial response when asked if I'd be interested in doing this was, "Please let me pray about this, and in the meantime please keep asking others who may not have as much to do already if there is anyone else who may be interested in doing this."  My concern was that I would not keep up with it and get the cards out on time.  I tend to put things off to the last minute and I would hate to be late in getting cards to people in time for their special day.  I was also concerned that it would become something that might become stressful to me and I really don't need anymore stress in my life.  But then again...I'd also been praying about ways to reach out to others in our church and to be a better steward of my time in service to the Lord.  And so once again, I received a phone call asking if I would please consider taking over this ministry, and after praying about it I knew that God was asking me to be obedient to His call.

I was just thinking about the Christmas letter that we sent out to our friends and family this year, and the opening paragraph said the following:

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

Dear Family and Friends,

I don’t know about you, but the year 2020 is a year that I believe most of us want to get finished with and put it behind us for good! With all the horrid lockdowns, restrictions, mask wearing, and most of all the very sad and heartbreaking loss of loved ones and friends, of which there have been way too many, even if only one person that we know and care about, that’s one too many…we just want this year to be over. We want life to return to pre-Covid 19 normalcy, and yet we fear that may never truly happen again. What we really need in 2021 is to BELIEVE what the Angel Gabriel said to the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:37 above…  "For with God nothing will be impossible.” And to have the kind of faith that Mary had when she responded to the Angel, (vs. 38) “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”  To have that complete trust in God, that no matter what 2021 might bring, we will have faith in God and peace in our hearts that He is in control, and we need not fear."

(A journal book that I had good intentions of writing in last year but didn't get very far)

Matthew 19:26 "But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

So, after thinking about this and working my way through this little story today...actually several words have come to mind:  Believe, Possible, and Obedient.   Like Mary in the Luke passage above, she BELIEVED what the Angel said to her and realized that nothing is impossible with God, indeed, as Matthew 19:26 says, "but with God ALL things are POSSIBLE." And then Mary was OBEDIENT to the Lord and trusted Him completely.  Eenie meenie, miney moe... the One Word that seems to stand out to me most is BELIEVE!

This was actually a new ornament I added to the Christmas tree this year. Perhaps it was one of God's ways of getting my attention...

In 2021 I will believe that God will help me to accomplish the things that He is asking me to do. I will believe that all things are possible with God, and I will be obedient to His calling upon my life to serve Him here in His church and community in whatever way He is asking me to serve.

I pray that God will help me to stay on task and accomplish the things that need to be done...and that I will remain obedient to Him in all ways, and serve the Lord joyfully.

So these boxes of cards are now in my home office, waiting on me to do this work faithfully.
May God help me to do it well and that He will be glorified and others will be blessed.
I BELIEVE He will see me through.

*Post written in 2019 for my One Word, which includes a list of all my previous years' choices of "One Words".  *Note: If you tried this link earlier and it didn't work, please try again. I fixed the problem I hope!!

Have you selected a One Word for 2021 yet? I hope you will share it with us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tuesday 4 ~ Happy New Year!

I just realized that I missed the Tuesday 4 meme for today as I was busy and not home much today.  So here we go. Better late than never! 

The Times Square ball first dropped on December 31, 1907. It is 12 feet in diameter and covered with Swarovski crystals.

1. Despite the weirdness of this past year, was it still a good year for you anyway or not?

I believe it was a good year for us. Our family managed to stay employed and healthy and safe all year long, and we are very very grateful to God for that blessing.  Our kids who are self-employed with their woodworking business actually had a record year in sales and my daughter in love actually had to reduce her hours at her full time job to part time so that she could help our son more in their business. God has indeed been very kind to us.

2. How will you spend New Years Eve?

Well, I am excited that my sister and her hubby are actually going to come and spend the night with us. They live about 2 hours away and rather than drive up on New Year's Day they decided to come up New Year's Eve so we can have more time together. I am really looking forward to their visit...and have been working diligently to get the guest room back in shape after my marathon gift wrapping in that room last week before Christmas!  



3. What do you do on New Year's Day? Is football part of the agenda?

With mostly men in this family, yes, football is definitely a part of the agenda. I expect the menfolk will be watching football while we girls cook, clean up and have a tea party afterwards I hope.  We aren't expecting a big crowd this year, but our kids will probably come over for lunch too. So it should be fun. I'd like to play some kind of games.

4. It's a Scottish tradition to kiss at midnight. Do you keep that tradition? Does everyone get a kiss if you do?

If I am still awake at midnight, my hubby gets a kiss. I don't know if we will make it all the way to midnight or not...but since my sister and her hubby are going to be here, they may insist...LOL. We probably will not kiss everyone due to "social distancing"...but I think we are safe to give a hug. 

Here are a few pictures that I took the past couple of days:  

The Canadian Geese are finding their way back to Still Waters Pond a little more frequently lately. One couple in particular seems to hang around. I am wondering if they are the same ones who were here last winter. Wish I could hang a ribbon on them so I would know.  There has also been another couple fly in and the "resident couple" chase them away.  Let the fun begin!

Another of my Christmas gifts....my friend who is so crafty and loves to sew made this beautiful Tea Cozy for  this teapot:
Yes, the teapot was a gift as well. Isn't it cute? Little snowmen and Cardinals playing in the snow. I love it.

This sign has been around for a while and was in my Secret Garden at our last home. It was kind of falling apart and I don't have anyway to stand it up in the current garden, so my son did some repairs on it and has put some hinges on it so that when he gets around to making a frame for it it can hang on a kind of frame and work like a gate into the new "Secret Memorial Garden" here.  One step at a time. I love what this says, don't you?

And our kids gave us this firepit for Christmas! If the weather cooperates maybe we will use it on New Year's Eve! I'd love to get it going...need to gather some wood for it first.

Then we can sit outside and watch the sunset and enjoy the fire and maybe roast some marshmallows and make some s'mores!  Sounds like fun to me!!

(This was tonight's sunset)

Tomorrow we will be meeting my brother in law and his family at a park half way between our homes (again we live about 2 or more hours apart) and exchange our Christmas gifts with them and also celebrate our daughter in love's birthday! Which reminds me, I need to bake a cake first thing in the morning.  So I need to say good night and God bless you all.

Thank you again to Annie from Cottage By the Sea for hosting our Tuesday 4 in memory of Toni Taddeo.

May your new year be a bright and blessed one, free of trials and tribulations. All the very best to you and your family.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Elva's Story ~ A Story of Sacrifice and Love

Good Morning! Today I am going to depart from my normal Sunday morning post routine to share a special story with you.  Many of my newer blogging friends have not heard "Baby Elva's" story before, and so I will share THAT STORY HERE.  However, today I want to go a bit deeper into "the story behind the story"....the REAL story about the woman named Elva for whom this beautiful baby doll is named. (Yes, this is a doll...I know, it's hard to believe for me sometimes too!)  

You see, today is a very special day in the real person named Elva's life.  Today would be her 125th birthday...and she is my paternal grandmother.
(Please note, this post will be a bit longer than normal and a lot of reading. You may want to come back to this after church!)  I've written this for the benefit of family members, but there is a beautiful story here that I believe you will all enjoy as well...so grab a cup of tea (or coffee if you must), sit back and pretend you are reading a good romance, mystery, love story, because that is exactly what this is.)

And here is "Elva's Story":

Elva Sowers Hill Mursch

December 27, 1895 - December 16, 1984

In loving memory and honor of our Grandmother, Elva Sowers Hill Mursch's 125th birthday, please let me share with you "Elva's Story"

Here in the beginning is the original story I wrote a few years ago about the birth of our grandmother, Elva Sowers Smith Hill Mursch. This was the only history we knew about her birth and life, and the only information that our grandmother ever had as well:

 "Way back in the year 1895 there was a little baby girl born somewhere in Pennsylvania.  Her birth parentage is uncertain...her ancestry is hidden from our search...we know absolutely nothing about how or where her life began...but we now know that she was born on a snowy frigid December day (27th)  in the year 1895, and that her birth name was Elva Sowers.  I have recently discovered that a young man named Abraham Lewis Smith, (a relative? the father? an uncle?) actually adopted her and gave her the name of Elva Smith when she was about five months old. The certificate of adoption that has surfaced states that "the welfare of the said minor child will be promoted by such adoption, and that the mother of the child consents thereto."  

We didn't know why her mother gave her up for adoption...nor did we have any clue as to why her father or grandparents did not claim her.  What we do know is that Mr. Smith and little Elva somehow ended up as boarders in the home of George and Mary Hill around the year 1900.  Some time after that Mr. Smith decided he could not keep young Elva, and she was consequently adopted by George and Mary, and she was then given the name of Elva Hill.

George and Mary Hill could not bear children of their own, and so they gave Elva a home and loved her as their own. To their credit, they also fostered and adopted several other precious children and gave them the opportunity to live happy and productive lives as well.
The George and Mary (Matilda) Hill family, circa 1931.
Update 7/8/22...just discovered this picture of Elva Sowers Hill Mursch. Not sure of her age in this picture, but possibly before having children?

Young Elva grew and prospered in rosy health and strength under the tender care of these people...so much so that she lived to be 89 years old, and was the mother to four of her own precious children, including my father, and eleven grandchildren...of which I am one. 

William H. Mursch and Elva Sowers Hill Mursch, 1950's
Crafton, PA. 

The Mursch children: Paul, Billy, Ruth, Marion, and a neighbor boy, Bobby Scott. Crafton, PA. 

The Mursch family on a hike: Paul, Billy, Ruth, Elva,  and Marion.
The Mursch family Christmas dinner, circa 1941, right after Bill and Dorothea Tedlie (my parents) were engaged.
L to R: Ruth, Dorothea Tedlie, Marion, Elva
William H. Mursch, Bill (William Fred), and Paul 
Crafton, PA.

The Mursch family, July 1969 Tavares, Florida
Paul, William H. (Grandpa), Marion, Elva (Grandma), Bill (my dad), and Ruth.

July 1969
The Mursch grandchildren, with the exception of my oldest brother Russell, who was away in the Air Force at this time, and with the addition of great grandchildren Debbie, David, and Sandy.  Also John Steiner on back row next to Pam (me); this was about a month before our marriage.

Here's most of the Bill Mursch family, Easter 2005

A good portion of the Bill Mursch family, July 2018, with exception of Russell as he was in the hospital.
Also, cousins Becky Ryder Ritchey and her husband Pat are in this picture.

"Of course this story goes on and on in the lives of all of the current and future generations that have emanated from her life.  We have become a vibrant, healthy, strong family tree...a tree that would not exist if our great-grandmother had not chosen life...if our great-grandfather had not allowed our grandmother to be born and had instead insisted on ending the life of the child he had fathered...whether legitimately or not...we will never know.  What we do know is that she lived, and because she was allowed to live, here we are. "

Back to the Present, December 2020:  

So, where do I begin?  This past spring we were all locked down under the dread pandemic isolation rules, and going stir crazy.  Plus, I had just undergone some major surgery early in March and wasn't able to get out and about as much as I would like,  so I was bored.  A few years ago a dear friend had given me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com, but I had put it on the shelf and didn't think I really wanted to submit my DNA to strangers to evaluate and store and do who knows what with.  But several things had happened to make me think more seriously about it. The main thing was the very tragic disease of Early Onset Alzheimer's that had destroyed our dear Aunt Ruth's life at age 64, and that of her three wonderful children, Bobby, Billy, and Linda, who each died in their 50's or close to it.  Because it was obvious it was somehow hereditary, and yet no one else in our greater Mursch family had shown any signs of it, there were questions as to how and why Aunt Ruth had been the only one to get it of the four Mursch children of her generation.  

We knew that our grandparents, Elva and William H. Mursch,  both lived into their 80's, and except for Grandpa having Parkinson's Disease, there was no sign of any kind of Alzheimer's or really even any dementia in either of them. Likewise with the rest of the family... my dad also had Parkinson's disease, but his mind was clear except for the ravages of the Parkinson's toward the end, and he lived until almost age 93.  Aunt Marion died from leukemia, but was in her 80's, and was of sound mind.  Uncle Paul died at age 84 and was of sound mind.  Also, from previous genealogical research, I knew that our Great Grandparents on Grandpa Mursch's side died of natural causes.  Great Grandpa Mursch  (Fredrick Wilhelm) lived to be 83, and Great Grandma Mursch (Mary Vogt)  only lived until age 35, but it appears to me that she probably died due to complications following childbirth. There was a son named Karl who died at the age of 3 months old in Feb. of 1896, and Mary died in June of 1896. Fredrick and Mary were the parents of Jacob Frederick Mursch, Louisa Catherine Mursch (Callahan), our Grandpa William Herman Mursch, and John (Jack) Mursch. There was also another child who died in infancy, Gustav.  Great Grandpa Mursch eventually remarried Hannah Humphrey and they had one more child, Marie. (Alt). Also, Hannah Humphrey had two children by a previous marriage: Margaret and John Humphrey.

And so we come to the birth parents of Elva Sowers Hill Mursch.  If this disease was inherited from any of her previous ancestors, there was only one way to find that out...someone needed to take a DNA test and try to discover who those birth parents were and how did they die.  Was that even possible in this day and age?  I mean, even with all the modern technology we have today, there are some secrets that are locked away and not meant for the world to ever know. But my thoughts were at least I was going to try. And so I spit in the tube and sent in the sample to be tested, and reactivated my lapsed Ancestry.com account.  Thankfully, when you let your account lapse for a while, Ancestry doesn't destroy your records. They are right there where you left off, waiting to be picked up again.  And actually, we can thank our son Matthew for getting this started. He was very interested in researching his ancestry, and had managed to accumulate a great amount of information on the Steiner side of the family as well as the Mursch and Tedlie side. So at least I had a place to start.  And then there was that Adoption Certificate for Grandma that said her name was Elva Sowers, and she was adopted in the city of Kittanning, PA., and in Armstrong County.  So there were some good clues and a place to start.  

When I received my DNA results I was, first of all, flabbergasted to find out how many "cousins" we have out there who are DNA matches! (On both sides of our family tree). Amazing!  There are literally thousands and thousands in all parts of the world!  I wish I had time to track them all down and say "howdy".  However, my focus for this time was to zero in on anyone with the name of Sowers and especially anyone coming from the Kittanning, PA. area who may be a DNA match. Bingo! There were many!  I narrowed it down to those who were the closest matches to my DNA, say a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th cousin.  Remember, anyone doing a DNA sample today would be a descendant several generations down the line.  Right away I was led to some "cousins" who were descendants of or related to a woman named "Alberta or Bertha Jane "Birdie" Sowers. And her married name was Milsom.  I was also led via DNA to some descendants of someone named William Frederick Milsom! Now I was getting somewhere...but it was a bit confusing.  I discovered that indeed Alberta (Bertha) Jane "Birdie" Sowers was married to William Fred Milsom, and somehow I had DNA matches for both of them, but if that was the case, why wasn't my Grandma Elva named Elva "Milsom" instead of Sowers...and if they were married, why would they give her up for adoption?  More work to do...

Meanwhile, I contacted the "Prothonotary" (Clerk of Courts) office in Armstrong Country, PA, which is where the original adoption certificate for Elva came from.  I called them on the phone to ask if they still had records from 125 years ago.  After a few more questions and some digging around, they came back to the phone to say, "Yes", they still had the adoption records for Elva Sowers.  I asked if they could give me anymore information or send me the complete file.  I was told to write them a letter stating my request in writing, and they would see if it could be approved. Normally adoption records remain sealed for life, but they would consider my request.  So I wrote the letter and told them everything that I knew and sent copies of what I had, and also told them about Aunt Ruth and her family situation, hoping that if there was a medical/genetic issue they would consider the request.  A couple of weeks later I received the complete file for Elva Sowers' adoption in the mail! What an exciting moment! Would it reveal the names of her birth parents? Would it solve the 125 year old mystery of why she was put up for adoption?  Would this information also answer any questions around the genetic issues regarding Aunt Ruth and her family? 

Here is what they sent me: 

As you can see, Abraham Lewis Smith was petitioning the court to adopt as one of his heirs, Elva Sowers, a child of Bertha Sowers, and that the "consent of said parent to such adoption is evidenced by her joining in this petition."  And then the closing statement, "I, Bertha Sowers,  hereby join in the prayer of the above petition." Signed: "Bertha Sowers."

So after comparing all the information I could find regarding the name of "Bertha Sowers", I determined that she was one and the same as the person I had discovered through my DNA search!  Hooray! I had found Elva Sowers' birth mother! Oh, and look at the date on the petition above: 11th day of May, 1896.  Elva was almost five months old.  And who was this Abraham Lewis Smith who was adopting Elva and giving her the name of Elva Smith?  Well, in all of my searching, the only reference I can find for him is that 1900 Census report that has him and Elva S. (age 4), living as a boarder in the home of George and Mary M. Hill, in Pittsburg City, Pa.  On the next census report in 1910, Elva Hill, age 14, is listed as a daughter of George and Mary M. Hill, and there is no sign of Abraham Lewis Smith. I can find no further reference to him anywhere that matches his name and birthdate, etc., so I have no idea what happened to him, or why he, a single man of about 24 years old ever adopted Elva in the first place. That is one mystery I cannot solve. Also, I cannot find any reference to any relatives of the Sowers family with the name of Smith at that time, so the idea of him being a relative did not seem to match up either. 

But let us move on to get acquainted with Bertha Sowers and try to understand what was going on in her life in 1895-1896, that would make her want to give up her little 5 month old infant to adoption.

According to census records, Bertha J. Sowers was born on January 28, 1870, and was the daughter of John N. Sowers and Susannah Bayhoven Hughes. In 1870 they lived in the Plumcreek  area of Armstrong County, PA.  In the next few years two sisters would be added to the family: Rose Mae Sowers and Edith Rae (or Rachel) Sowers. The next census report I can find for Bertha Sowers was in 1900, where she was found as a servant in a private house in Kittanning, Pa. She was about 29 years old.  So what happened during those in between years of 1870-1900?  For some reason I cannot find any definite 1880 census report for her parents or for her, and then the 1890 Census was lost in a fire I understand, so there aren't any census records for 1890. So in order to figure out what happened in Bertha's life, I had to research other people who were connected to her in some way.  My DNA match actually led to descendants of someone named Thomas Earl Sowers, who was born in 1893, and according to his death certificate his mother was "Mrs. Birdie Milsom", and his father was "unknown".  Okay, so "Birdie" had a son named Thomas "Earl" Sowers, born in January of 1893, almost 3 years before Elva Sowers was born to Bertha Sowers, and his father was "unknown".  I also discovered in subsequent census records that "Earl" Sowers was living with his grandparents, John N. Sowers and Susannah Bayhoven Hughes (Sowers), and not with his mother Bertha Sowers. 

If you are confused as to why Earl's mother's name was listed as Mrs. Birdie Milsom on his death certificate (in 1960), I guess we need to move on to the next step in figuring this out.  As I said earlier, I also had DNA matches to descendants of William Frederick Milsom, also from Kittanning, PA.  When I went to check him out I discovered that he was married to  "Alberta Jane Milsom", and in other places she was listed as Bertha J. Milsom, and also as "Birdie Milsom".  But that wasn't until after 1912.  Prior to then I discovered that William Frederick "Fred" Milsom was married to a lady named "Laura French", and they were married on  June 6 of 1895. I also discovered that "Fred" and Laura had a daughter named Lenora Mae, who was born May 3, 1895, one month prior to their marriage. Apparently, for whatever reason, Fred held off marrying Laura until either he was forced to do so by her parents, or  when confronted by her circumstances he wanted to do the right thing.  No matter, they were married and lived happily ever after, right? Well, not exactly.  

Remember, I said that my DNA is linked to both Fred Milsom and Bertha Sowers?  Well, also remember that little baby Elva Sowers was born to Bertha Sowers on December 27, 1895, about seven and a half months after baby Lenora Mae Milsom was born to Laura French and Fred Milsom.  If Fred Milsom is the father of Elva Sowers...well...apparently Fred was a busy boy back in the months prior to his marriage to Laura French.  Not only was he the father to baby Lenora born in May, 1895, but if we can trust the DNA, he was also the father of baby Elva born in December of 1895. However, Laura French got to him first.  He and Laura were married in June...and Bertha Sowers was probably just finding out that she was expecting a baby when she heard that her "boyfriend" Fred was getting married and already had a new baby girl! I can only imagine the panic that Bertha must have felt when she found out that news.  Now, let me say this, Bertha was not a child. She was actually almost 26 years old when she gave birth to Elva. Oh, and Fred Milsom was about three years younger than Bertha.  Laura French was 18 years old when she gave birth to her daughter Lenora.

So now, here we have Bertha, most likely a housemaid in a private home in Kittanning, which was probably about 10 miles from where her parents lived in the small township of Cowanshannock, PA. Remember, back in 1895, ten miles would have been a long trip by horse and buggy over little country roads.  Bertha has to support herself and cannot be running back and forth between her family home and her place of work. And she also has a little three year old son living with her parents, whose father is "unknown".  So this isn't the first time Bertha has found herself in a bit of a predicament.  Does she go home and face the disdain of her parents and family and community by showing up in a "family way" again, with no marriage prospects? Can she ask her parents, who are by now in their 50's and already raising her three year old son, if they would like to also raise another child...a brand new baby?  No, in light of the social mores of that era, it would be better for her if she just stayed in Kittanning and kept working as long as she was able and hopefully her employers would understand and not let her go.  

I have recently learned through phone conversations with a descendant of "Earl Sowers", a great-granddaughter of "Birdie", (and one of our "cousins"), that Birdie was a large woman...very tall, about 5'10", not fat, but large boned.  It is possible that she could have carried a baby to full term and not have shown very much.  I also remember having a conversation with my Grandma (Elva)  in which she told me that she was told that she was a "preemie" infant. At the time I wondered how she could possibly know that if she was adopted as an infant, but apparently the gentleman Abraham L. Smith who adopted her must have told the Hills this information and they must have told her at some point. She also said that she was so small she was kept in a dresser drawer to be kept warm because it was so cold.  If that is the case,  and we don't know just how early she was born, Bertha may not have "shown" much at all,  and it makes the timing of the baby's  conception even more "interesting" to say the least...but be that as it may, Bertha Sowers gave birth to a baby daughter and named her Elva, on December 27, 1895.  Possibly because Elva was tiny and perhaps very delicate, and it was in the dead of winter in Pennsylvania, there may have been a struggle to even keep the baby alive.  But apparently little Elva was strong and healthy in spite of her early entrance to this cold  cruel world, and she survived.  Somehow Bertha managed to keep her and take care of her for five months, and then she knew that she could not raise this baby girl by herself, and so she did probably the most difficult thing she'd ever done in her life, she gave her baby up for adoption.

So now, what about Mr. William Frederick Milsom?  Well, from what I can gather from the census records and reports, he and his wife Laura had another child in August of 1896, a boy named Roy Milsom.  And then according to the 1900 Census record, William Fred Milsom was back at home with his parents, and no longer living with his wife.  Laura Milsom and her two children were living with her parents in another town.  By the 1910 census Laura was listed as "divorced" and later she was remarried and had more children with her new husband.  

From at least 1900- until about 1912 or shortly thereafter, "Fred" lived at home with his parents and worked as a carpenter with his brother Burt in construction. According to the "Kittanning City Directories", by 1916 he and "Bird" Milsom were married and living together in Kittanning.  In subsequent Census records and city directories, he was listed as living with Bertha, Bird, Alberta Milsom as his wife.  So sometime after 1910 he and Bertha got back together and lived together as man and wife until Fred's death in 1940 from liver cancer. He would have been 66 years old. Nothing was said about any kind of dementia or other issues...just cancer.  So even though that was difficult, we can rule out early onset Alzheimer's disease. 

And what about Bertha? Well, apparently at some point after Fred's death, she moved from their home on Jefferson Street in Kittanning to go live in the Rural Valley area with her widowed sister Edith Rae Williams, known as "Aunt Rae" by her nieces.  Bertha lived there with Rae until her death in 1964 at the age of 94 years old. I have been told by her great-granddaughter, Sandra, who grew up knowing "Grandma Birdie" from the time she was born in 1942, that 'Grandma Birdie" was of a very sound mind until her death. She was always very healthy and she didn't know if she'd ever been sick until she died of natural causes.  Her sister Rae, died two weeks later, at the age of 89. "Aunt Rae" had a son named Delbert Baker, and I am told that since the house where Birdie and Aunt Rae were living belonged to Aunt Rae, her son and family settled the estate and everything went to them, and none of Birdie's descendants were able to get anything of Birdie's from the estate.  Their other sister Rose had died much younger of cancer.  Bertha's son Earl actually preceded his mother in death and died in 1960 at age 67 from heart disease.  

Birdie's son Earl had married in 1920 and had three daughters, two of whom are still living. Beatrice, the oldest, is 98 years old, living in her own apartment near her daughter Sandra. She is of very keen mind, but her hearing is not so good.  She said she never heard of her grandmother Birdie ever having a baby girl. And Birdie never ever told her son Earl who his father was either.  Earl's daughter Millie is about 94, but she has suffered a stroke in recent years and is not able to remember much.  The other daughter, Leah, died in 2012 at age 82, following a brief illness.  According to his granddaughter, Earl looked nothing at all like his mother Bertha. Bertha was very tall and large boned, and Earl was very short and small frame. He apparently must have taken after his father, whoever his father was...

As for Fred's family, his daughter Lenora married Oren Knox and had six children. I have been in contact with two of her grandchildren, and they have very happy memories of their Grandma Lenora. They do not have any memories of their Great Grandfather Fred, as he had died in 1940. However, according to Lenora's marriage certificate, her father Fred Milsom signed giving permission for 17 year old Lenora to get married in 1912.   Lenora had reddish brown hair, and some of her grandchildren also have red hair.  Lenora lived to be almost 94 years old.  Here is her obituary:

She would be our Grandma's Elva's half sister.

According to Fred's son Roy Milsom's WWI Draft Certificate in 1918,  Roy had red hair and blue eyes. He was of medium height and medium build. He listed his father Fred Milsom as being his nearest relative.    Here is Roy's obituary. Somewhere along the line his last name's spelling was changed from Milsom to Milson, but he is still one in the same:

The other siblings listed besides Lenora were all half or step siblings from his mother Laura French,  who actually married several more times after her divorce from Fred Milsom.

Below are some of our Grandma's first cousins on her mother's side and her half brother Earl:

Harold Rearick (son of Rose Mae Sowers Rearick),  possibly "Goldie Pearl Rearick", (Rose's daughter),  Earl Sowers (Bertha Sowers' son and my Grandma's half-brother), and Bertha Rearick Quinn, daughter of Rose Mae Sowers Rearick.

Another picture of Bertha M. Rearick (Quinn), 
daughter of Rose Mae Sowers Rearick, and niece of our Great-Grandmother Bertha Sowers Milsom.
I am assuming she was named after her Aunt Bertha.  This Bertha was born in September 1896, just nine months after our Grandma Elva was born to Bertha Sowers. Bertha Rearick Quinn lived until 1974, so was 78 years old when she died.  She had seven children.

Bertha Rearick's sister Goldie Pearl Rearick (Hockenberry) lived to be 98 and had nine children.

Bertha Sower's sister Rose Sowers Rearick had seven children and many grandchildren. Her husband died sometime before 1910, and so she lived in the same house with her parents John N. and Susan Sowers, along with her children and Bertha's son Earl until the elder Sowers' died in 1916 and 1918, and then Rose herself died in 1923 of cancer.

I was told by our cousin "Sandra" that the old Sowers' home was a very big house. It wasn't a farm, but it was in a very rural community.  I don't know if the house is still standing now or not.

Sadly, I have not been able to find any pictures of our Great Grandparents, William Fred Milsom and Bertha J. Sowers Milsom. I keep hoping and praying that someone will come up with some pictures but so far that has not happened.   But here are their tombstones:

Birdie is buried in the Sowers Cemetery in Rural Valley, Armstrong County, PA., among many of her Sowers' ancestors.  It used to be called the old Baptist church cemetery, but there has not been any church there for many many years.

William Frederick Milsom is buried in the Kittanning Cemetery, in Kittanning, PA., among many of the Milsom ancestors.

*Fred was a member of the Kittanning #1 Hose…Fire Department, which was a sign that he was a member of the important men of the town. (According to our cousin).

*I just discovered this original photograph of the above picture online.  It is much clearer and I can actually see my Great-Grandfather William "Fred" Milsom:

What a wonderful discovery!!!  (4/1/2021) 

As far as any genetic pre-disposition to early onset Alzheimer's or even dementia, there does not appear to be any in either of these families.  Bertha lived to be 94 years old and died of natural causes. 
Fred lived to be 67 years old, but died from cancer of the liver. In looking at their children and grandchildren, they seem to have either lived to be quite old, or they died of cancer or heart issues.

From what I have learned from my cousin's wife, the geneticists who were doing research on the their family situation have determined that Aunt Ruth's onset of the disease was the genesis of this strain of Alzheimer's.  She did not inherit it from any previous ancestor.  Sadly, all three of her children contracted the disease, and now the great concern is for their children as to what their chances will be of also having this disease.  We should keep praying for research that will come up with a cure.

I hope my readers are still with me! I warned you this would be long!

Now for some other interesting facts regarding our Sowers/Milsom family tree:  

1.  Did you notice that Grandma's birth father, our Great Grandfather's name is "William Frederick Milsom" ?  Did you also notice that our Great Grandfather Mursch's name is Fredrick Wilhelm Mursch?  And did you notice that my father's name is William Fred Mursch?  Pretty interesting coincidence I'd say.  When Grandma and Grandpa Mursch named their first son William Fred Mursch, they were naming him after his grandfather Fredrick Wilhelm Mursch and his father William H. Mursch.  Little did they know that they were also naming him for his maternal Grandfather, William Frederick Milsom.  Same initials...and almost exactly the same name.

2.  I don't know if you noticed that "Fred" Milsom was a carpenter by trade?  Of course we all know that both our Grandpa Mursch and my father Bill Mursch were both excellent carpenters.  Also our Great Grandpa Mursch was a carpenter by trade. So it just stands to reason that there should be some pretty good carpenters in our family.

3.  On the Milsom side, Fred's parents immigrated from England in 1854.  George and Mary Ann (Pocock) Milsom had 7 children. Fred was the youngest. Most of the children were born in the USA.   George was a farmer by trade. They settled in the Kittanning area, and raised their family there.  There are still many Milsom "cousins" in Pennsylvania, England and around the world.  Now we know why Grandma loved to drink tea! She was half English!! (That explains me too!)  Strangely enough there is a picture of our Great-Great Grandfather George Milsom:

He was born in Holt, Wiltshire England in 1827 and died in Kittanning, PA in 1914 at the age of 87.
His wife Mary Ann Pocock Milsom was born in England in 1829, and died in 1902 at the age of 73.
I've got the names of their parents, etc., but I won't got into the full family tree here as it would become much too long!!

On the Sowers' side of the family:

1.  Bertha's father John N. Sowers was born in Cowanshannock Twp., Armstrong County, PA, in 1843.  He was listed as a farmer by trade. He was enlisted in the Civil War in 1862 in the 78th Pennsylvania Regiment in Harrisburg, PA.   He survived the war, and married Susannah Bayhoven Hughes in 1866.  He died in 1918 of acute yellow atrophy - malignant jaundice at the age of 75.

2.  Bertha's mother Susan was born in Germany in 1844. I don't know when she immigrated to America, but it states that her native tongue was German. She had given birth to 7 children, but only 3 survived.  She died in 1916 at the age of 72 from pneumonia.

3.  Bertha was born on January 28, 1870, and died on April 17, 1964 at the age of 94.  She was born in Armstrong Country, PA., and died there of coronary thrombosis.

4.  John N. Sowers' father was David Sowers. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1817.    John N. Sowers' mother was Elizabeth "Eliza" Lockhart. When David Sowers was born on April 9, 1817, in Pennsylvania, his father, George, was 35 and his mother, Susannah, was 25. He had three children with Elizabeth "Eliza" Lockhart, seven children with Catherine Shannon Sowers, and three children with Anna Maria Upslinger. He died on September 9, 1893, in Cowanshannock, Pennsylvania, having lived a long life of 76 years, and was buried in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania.

5.  David Sowers' father was George Sowers Jr.  When George SOWERS Jr.  was born in 1782 in Cowanshannock, Pennsylvania, his father, George, was 32 and his mother, Anna, was 18. He married Susannah "Susan" or "Anna" Beer in Greene, Pennsylvania. They had 23 children in 38 years. He died on October 24, 1859, in United, Pennsylvania, having lived a long life of 77 years, and was buried in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania. 

6.  David Sowers' mother was Susannah "Anna" Beer.  When Susannah "Susan" or "Anna" Beer was born on August 28, 1791, in Lycoming, Pennsylvania, her father, Samuel, was 26, and her mother, Barbara, was 19. She married George SOWERS in Greene, Pennsylvania. They had 23 children in 38 years. She died in January 1871 in Cowanshannock, Pennsylvania, having lived a long life of 79 years, and was buried in Rural Valley, Pennsylvania.

7.  Our 5th Great Grandfather was George Jacob Sowers Sr.  And here is his story:
George Jacob SOWERS was born in 1750 in York, Pennsylvania. He had five sons and three daughters with Anna Elizabeth Epperly between 1782 and 1817. He died on March 18, 1834, in Floyd, Virginia, having lived a long life of 84 years.

What this didn't tell you was that he served in the Revolutionary War.  Here is a picture of the headstone: 

And here is the story:

Which means that we ladies could have joined the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.)! And we never knew it!

I will leave it there...This story could go on forever...and it will because thankfully Bertha Sowers chose life and allowed her baby Elva to be born. Under the adverse circumstances of her life's situation, she could have chosen to try and end her baby's life before her birth...but God had His hand on baby Elva's life from the moment of conception. She had an important mission to perform...she became the mother of four beautiful children who carried on the family tree and the results of which you know today.  Our greater "Mursch family tree" would not exist if Bertha Sowers had made a different choice. So even though I have named this "Elva's Story", in a way it is Bertha's story...and it is yours and my story.  

I find it sad that Elva never got to know her birth parents or her half siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins.  But because of the choice Bertha made in giving Elva up for adoption, Elva had opportunities in life that she might never have had if she had stayed in Kittanning as the daughter of a poor single housemaid in the early 20th century. Elva may never have had the chance to meet William H. Mursch and become the wife of a very fine young man who became an engineer at U.S. Steele and who provided a good living for their family. Everyone's lives would have been changed...and very possibly not for the best.  

No, Bertha made the right choice even though she had to overcome great disappointments and heartbreak in her life. But God was very kind to Bertha.  Apparently William Fred Milsom was truly the love of her life, and perhaps she was also his, because even though they had been somewhat "star-crossed" earlier in life, they were given a second chance at love and enjoyed their remaining years together.  I have a feeling it took a big amount of forgiveness on Bertha's part to allow Fred back into her heart and life after what had happened to them...but this is a beautiful example of love conquering all.

I hope by now that Grandma Elva has met her birth parents Fred and Bertha in heaven, and they have had a good long time to get acquainted under happier circumstances.  I don't know just how all that works, but God knows...and He also is full of forgiveness and mercy.  Isn't that what the Christmas story is really all about?  God sent His Son Jesus, in the form of a tiny baby, to be born of an "unwed mother," a virgin who could have been put to death because of the appearance of her doing something wrong... He sent His very own Son down to earth to live among us and teach us all about forgiveness and grace and mercy.  It is because of His great forgiveness and grace and mercy that we now have the opportunity to enter heaven's gates some day when it is our turn.  All He asks of us is to recognize that we too are sinners and have come short of God's perfect plan, but to ask His forgiveness and turn from our sins and be redeemed for eternity.  It really is simple.  We just have to believe.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, 
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
John 3:16

Happy 125th Birthday, Dear Elva!
And thank you, Bertha, for your great sacrifice.
And thank You, God, for Your great sacrifice for all mankind.
Merry Christmas!

I hope you enjoyed this little departure from the norm today. It has been a labor of love to research this and compile all of this information in a story that hopefully makes sense!  I want to thank some of my new "cousins" for their kind assistance in sharing what information they knew with me.  What was sad to me, however, is that no one had any pictures of these folks, and no one knew anything about Baby Elva's birth.  I was hoping someone might have discovered a long lost diary somewhere, or a little baby bootie or dress with Elva's name attached to it...but like my new cousin Sandra and I agreed, "Bertha had her secrets, and they went with her to the grave.  Some things are meant to be kept secret forever."

I look forward to meeting my Great Grandparents someday in heaven. I hope they don't mind that I've shared their "secrets" here, 125 years later.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Merry Day after Christmas

I don't know about you, but I feel just like this bear up on a tree limb napping today...or I wish I was napping like this bear up on a tree limb...

This is the 1000 piece puzzle that I am going to be working on in my "spare" time in the next few days (weeks?) however long it takes, but today I just feel like relaxing and taking it easy.  I think I ate too many goodies yesterday, and my body isn't appreciating it so I am just chillin' like this bear. Speaking of "chillin"...it was 28 degrees here in Florida this morning, so yes, I am literally chillin!  One of the coldest Christmases on record for this part of Florida.  It was warmer up in Maine at my grandson's house when we talked to him yesterday afternoon!

I will share some pictures of our day but please forgive me if I don't make it around to visit everyone right away.  I  really am kind of "under the weather" a bit today, so I am moving slowly. But I truly want to see what you have to share and I will get there eventually.

This was me the day before Christmas, working in the kitchen getting ready for the next day...

Hubby took some pictures before the action began of the table 

And family and friends gathering, waiting for the "grand opening"

Sisters Rose and Sherrie enjoying the day:

And this is how it looked After the "grand opening"...

#1 son, daughter in love, and her sister

We believe in giving really interesting and practical gifts here: 

The nozzles/sprayers go with this new "maximum kink resistance" garden hose.
Anyone who uses a garden hose can appreciate this gift.

My friend Paula is the friend that always finds a way to give me a pink flamingo at some point.  This year she made me a mask to wear...

and a dish towel to use:

And a kleenex box cover...

We gave her dog Chloe a "moose" toy to play with, which she loved:

And I gave her a can of B&M brown bread w/raisins, made in Portland, Maine. She is a native "Mainer", so this was a very good gift because it is very hard to find down here in Florida. She also got some other gifts, but these were the best. LOL.

Hubby also got his annual package of new underwear and socks, so he is happy.
You know what they say when you stop believing in Santa Claus, you get underwear and socks for Christmas.  LOL.

The family received a box of snowballs so we could have a snowball fight:

Son Scott contemplating his next target...

Our gifts weren't all just fun and games. We had some wonderful gifts, but I won't show everything today. However I thought these would be nice to end this post with...our friend Sherrie made these beautiful pillows for our couch. I love them:

And our kids gave us this beautiful cross:

And after the day was done and everyone had gone back to their respective homes, I sat down and had a wonderful cup of hot Ovaltine in front of the fire...a perfect way to end a perfect day.

Merry day after Christmas and Happy New Year!
I hope to catch up with you all soon.