Saturday, April 24, 2021

Context and Facts – The Louis Russell Story Revisited

I retired in 2007 and I’ve been doing ancestral research since 2008 when I first purchased a subscription to I’ve been writing this blog since February 2015. One of the stories I published that first month was one that I had actually written in 2013 about my great-grandfather, Louis Russell. You can read it here. It was based on a picture (see below) that I had of Louis and the older three of his six children and my wondering why the younger three were not in the picture. In the intervening years, my genealogical investigation skills have improved and I’ve learned the importance of understanding the context of writing these kinds of stories. Recently I discovered the obituary of one of the younger children and that raised some questions, so I thought I should revisit that story to give better context to it.

[Louis Russell and children]


Context – Prior to 1900

Louis was the oldest child of Walter and Lois [Cook] Russell. Walter was from Dover, Dutchess County, NY and Lois was from New Milford, CT. They had married in May 1870 when Walter was 18 and Lois was only 15. Louis was born in Kent, CT (the next town up the Housatonic River Valley) the following year in August of 1971. Over the next 9 years Walter and Lois had five more children. Some were born in Kent, others in Dover or New Milford.

In early 1883, Lois passed away. Louis was only 11 at the time. Walter continued raising his six children, but with the help of his aging parents, Silas and Hester, who were by then also living in New Milford with Louis. In 1886, Walter’s father passed away at the age of 83 but his aging mother, Hester continued living with him. Thinking that his mother would not be living much longer, and being a relatively young man, in 1887 Walter married a second time to Cornelia Sutphin. Cornelia was from New Jersey, so I have no idea how they met. Walter was 35 at the time and Cornelia was 25. Walter and Cornelia had four children together over the next 7 years.

Meanwhile, Louis married in 1892 to Anna Pauline [Merchant]. They were both 20 at the time. Their first child, my grandfather Erskine, was born in 1894 in Sherman, a small village just to the west of New Milford. Since Walter and Cornelia were still having children, Erskine was actually older than a couple of his half-aunts/half-uncles. Louis and Anna continued having more children during the coming years.

Then in 1895, Walter passed away at the age of 43, followed by Cornelia passing away in 1897 at the age of 36. Walter’s children from his first marriage were by this time old enough to be on their own (the youngest being 17), and most of them were already married. But the children of Walter and Cornelia were between age 10 and 3. The oldest went to live with a family friend in Cornwall and the younger three were sent to a newly founded orphanage in Winsted, CT. I’ve written about that here. Defying Walter’s predictions, his mother Hester actually outlived both he and his second wife and did not pass away until 1898.

So, in the 1900 census we have Louis, his wife Anna, and four children (Erskine – 5, Linus – 4, Loretta – 2, and William – 6 months) living in Cornwall (the next town north of Kent up the Housatonic River Valley). Meanwhile, Louis’ siblings are living as follows:

·       Mary, age 27 – location unknown, probably married

·       Martha, age 26 – New Milford, married, 3 children (6, 4, 6 months)

·       Charlotte, age 25 – New Milford, married, 2 children (5, 2)

·       George, age 22 – New Milford, married but separated, boarding with Charlotte (Note that his wife was only 14 and she is still at home with her parents – this is too complicated to get into here, perhaps another story some other time)

·       Gertrude, age 19 – Manchester, CT, married, 1 child (10 month)

·       Earl, age 11 – Cornwall, boarding with a family while he attends school

·       Silas, age 8 – Winsted orphanage

·       James, age 6 – Winsted orphanage

·       Edith, age 5 – Winsted orphanage

For reference, the relative population of the places mentioned above were (in 1900):

·       New Milford – 4804 (by far the largest town in the upper Housatonic River Valley, although towns farther south or east were larger – such as Danbury (19,000), Torrington (12,000), and Winsted/Winchester (8,000))

·       Sherman – 658

·       Kent – 1220

·       Cornwall – 1175

·       Dover, NY – 1959


The Story of the Picture – 1900-1905

The next several years were no less tumultuous than the time prior to 1900. Louis and Anna had two more children, Allen (born in 1901), and Martha Pauline (known as Pauline after her mother) (born in 1903). Then, when Pauline was just four months old, Anna passed away. Louis was somewhat devastated. His mother had passed away at the age of 28, his step-mother at the age of 36, and now his wife also passed away at the age of just 32. His younger sister, Gertrude, had also passed away earlier that same year at age 22. He was only 32 himself, but he had six children under the age of 10 to raise – with no wife and no parents to give assistance. While he had a few married siblings living in New Milford, they all had families of their own (Martha had 3 and would go on to have 4 more; Charlotte had 3; George had 2 and would go on to have 2 more).

It appears that Louis kept the older three children (Erskine (9), Linus (7), and Loretta (6)) with him. But the younger three would need to have someone to watch over them. Thus, he found homes for them with other families in New Milford as follows:

William (3) was placed in the home of Samuel and Lillie Waldron. Samuel and Lillie were then in their early 40s and had no children of their own. Samuel was a first cousin of Louis’ father, Walter. William was listed in the 1910 census as an “adopted son”. He remained with Samuel and Lillie until he was old enough to strike out on his own. He then began working at a farm in New Milford where he eventually married the daughter of the farmer. He and his wife inherited her father’s farm and they lived there for the rest of their lives. They had two children, one of whom, named Allen after his late uncle, passed away at the age of just 2.

Allen (2) was placed in the home of Mary Potter in Gaylordsville section of New Milford. (There are two women by this name in that section of town, so I am not sure which one it is). Allen passed away in February 1905 at the age of 3 years and 10 months – yet a further blow to his father. Allen’s obituary notes, “Mrs. Potter was unremitting in her love and attention for the motherless little lad, and did all that anyone could do for the sufferer. Mr. Russell desires to return thanks to Mrs. Potter and to others in Gaylordsville for their many kindnesses.”

Pauline (4 months) was placed in the all-female home of Mary Jane [Madigan] Waldron (a widow age 55), her daughter Helen (age 35), and Helen’s three daughters. Helen had been married twice and was currently separated from her second husband. The three girls living with her were Lola [Pulver] (17), Eva [Pulver] (11), and Margaret [Waldron] (5).  Mary Jane was an ex-wife of Lois [Cook] Russell’s cousin Henry Waldron. And Margaret was separated from Lewis Waldron, who was a second cousin of Louis. Thus, Louis placed Pauline in a home where there were multiple [former] relationships to him.

It was thus that on March 18, 1905 that Louis felt compelled to take a picture of himself with the three children who were still living with him at the time. It was only a few weeks after the latest loss in his life of the young Allen and he did not have pictures of himself with any of his children.


Context – After 1905

Over the next few years there were many other changes involving these individuals. William remained living with his adoptive parents in New Milford. Helen [Madigan] Waldron divorced the husband she was separated from (he remarried in 1908). Her daughters all left the home: Lola married in 1906; Eva and her boyfriend went to live with her older sister in Massachusetts and they then married in 1911; it is not known where Margaret went, but she eventually married in 1918.

Louis remained in New Milford. Although he only had a high school education, he had learned how to be a millwright from his father. He initially worked for the New England Lime and Cement Company, then trained to be an electrician for the Tucker Electrical Construction Company.

In 1910, he remarried – to Helen [Madigan] [Waldron], the woman who was taking care of his youngest daughter, Pauline. When the 1910 census was taken a few months later, he can be found in New Milford with Helen (his 2nd marriage, her 3rd) along with four of his children – Erskine (15), Linus (14), Loretta (12), and Pauline (6). Helen’s mother, Mary [Madigan] [Waldron] was then a widow of 63, living without family, but with a handyman to help with household duties.

When WWI broke out in 1914, the US was initially neutral, but we did supply those fighting against Germany with munitions. Nearly ¾ of the brass munitions were supplied by the various brass companies in Waterbury, CT, one of which was Scovill Manufacturing Company. When Russia entered the war, the wanted to have access to these same kinds of munitions. Czar Nicholas II paid Scovill to build a new power plant so they could increase their production. The Tucker Electrical Construction Company was selected to build this plant, so around 1914 Louis and his family moved to Waterbury to help build that plant. After it was built, Scovill hired him (on August 18, 1918) to help run the plant that he had helped build (see story here).

Thus, by the time of the 1920 census, Louis and his family (both children and step-children) can be found as follows:

·       Louis (48) and Helen (53) – living in Waterbury

·       Erskine (26) – living in Bridgeport with his wife and 1 child (and one-on-the-way (my father))

·       Linus (22) – fought in WWI, injured by mustard gas, confined to a mental institution where he spent the remaining years of his life until passing away in 1948

·       Loretta (21) – living with Louis and Helen in Waterbury

·       William (20) – living in New Milford with his adoptive family

·       Pauline (16) – living with Louis and Helen in Waterbury

·       Lola (33) – whereabouts unknown, her family has broken up and children scattered among adoptive families. However, her youngest daughter, Juanita (6) is living with her grandparents, Louis and Helen, in Waterbury

·       Eva (27) – living in Waterbury with her husband and 2 children

·       Margaret (22) – living in New Milford with her husband and 1 child

There are a lot of complications in this story – early deaths, divorces, second (and third) marriages, children living with other families, etc. But it’s all part of the context that led Louis to absolutely desire this picture of he and three of his children. And it’s also part of the context of my father as in the next generation his parents (one being Erskine Russell above) married, separated, joined back for a short time, then divorced and both remarried, then my father left his mother and step-father and went to live with his grandfather (Louis) and step-grandmother (Helen). (I’ve told that story here.) With that context, it is amazing that he and my mother remained married for 60 years!


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Surviving Home Schooling – Part 2

Back in November I wrote about our initial impressions of the change to home schooling that our daughter made (with our support). See here for much of the background information that I posted then. It’s now been over six months that we’ve been operating that way and I thought it would be good to post an update about how things are going.

What hasn’t changed

One of things that we’ve continued with has been the slightly accelerated schedule that I put in place six months ago. This was necessary because we didn’t make the switch to home schooling until the third week of October and keeping to the normal 36-week schedule would not have the boys finishing school until mid-July. Since they have five subjects (Bible, Literacy, Math, Science, and History), we add one class each day (double Bible on Monday, double Literacy on Tuesday, etc.) That lets them cover one extra day’s worth of material each week. That schedule has worked out well. They’ll be getting to day 30F, i.e., Friday of week 30, tomorrow. With 5 weeks remaining until the end of May, they’ll cover six more weeks of material by then and be done on schedule with all 36 weeks of material.

Our daily schedule is also working out pretty well. In the beginning I was going over to get the boys started with breakfast 3 days a week and Donna the other 2 days, but now she’s going over every day so there’s more consistency. I go over about 30 minutes later when schooling starts. Ethan manages on his own most of the time and goes to Kim when has questions. I monitor our two third-graders, and Donna works with Asher. She gotten pretty familiar with the technology involved, but either Kim or I help out when we have to submit videos. Kim is also going through the material for third grade each evening to prepare a detailed list of what they have to do the next day as they work best if they have a list of what they need to do. The older 3 are generally done by lunch time, but Asher goes into the afternoon because first grade requires so much hands-on work. After supper Donna sets things up for the next day – laying out spelling words, worksheets, etc. for the following day’s lessons, etc.

One of the really great things is that this type schooling has not been impacted by the COVID pandemic. The local schools have had days of being closed, or movement to a hybrid model with a combination of online and in-person classes, etc. We’ve been able to just ignore all that and have school every day – even on days when the weather results in cancelled classes in the public schools.

What has changed

There was some adjustment time getting used to a new method of learning. As the boys have adapted, their average grades have also improved. Here is how they are doing with only six weeks of lessons to go. Note that all of them have 95+ in every subject – we have pretty academically adept boys. One of things that we have added is that the younger three are not allowed to hit “submit” until we take a quick look to ensure that they are not skipping things and just trying to get past a lesson. This adds a layer of accountability that seems to help. We’re not using that step to correct their mistakes. It’s kind of like when the teacher walks around the room to make sure that the students are actually working and not just doodling on their paper.

[Grades thus far]

As we noted in the beginning, PA requires someone (with a current PA certification) to perform an evaluation of the student’s progress. We’ve scheduled time with someone in our church to do so next month. In preparation, not only will the evaluator be able to see all the grades that have been given by LUOA, but each of the boys has a notebook for each subject where they file all the things that they’ve done for the year. Generally, they just put their papers in a stack during the week and on Friday we hole punch any which need it and they file them. It’s a pretty impressive stack of paper for the year. We haven’t decided what we’re going to do with the notebooks after the year is over.

We also noted at the beginning that PA requires students in grades 3/5/8 to participate in standardized testing. Rather than trying to schedule them to take the PSSAs in a local public school, we have them taking the Stanford 10 tests which are offered through LUOA. I have been registered as a “proctor” and do the administration of the testing. Instead of having full/half-days of testing (which are pretty brutal for a lot of students – no talking for multiple hours at a time, etc.) we’re choosing to administer one section of the tests each day for 2 weeks – this week and next. So, right after breakfast, Donna takes Asher outside for a while, Ethan comes up from his room to the kitchen where I can monitor him and the thirds go to their stations in the living room. I set up a testing session for each of them on the section-of-the-day, start a special browser on each of their laptops, and sign them into the session. Then I go back to my laptop and accept their logons, starting the clock (30-45 minutes depending on the subject). They are all required to stay quiet, can only ask questions if they don’t understand the instruction, and have to remain at their station until the time is up. If they finish before the allotted time, they have to review their work and remain seated and quiet. Once the testing session is over, they go on to their regular work for the day. It seems to be going quite well. I’ll get a grade report once the sessions are all over next week (8 sessions for 5th grade, 9 sessions for 3rd grade). One more skill set to add to my resume?

Because we can’t just drop everything else in our schedule, we’ve also had to find creative ways to be flexible when needed. Donna and I still have things like doctor appointments (some of which have to be in the morning). And there are days when one of us is not feeling well and needs to stay in bed. So, we’ve learned how to cover for each other as needed.

Going Forward

We’ve already made the decision to continue with home schooling for next year – and likely through high school. Because we are using the services of Liberty University Online Academy (LUOA), this decision is one that comes with a cost – albeit less than enrolling the boys in a private school. But it’s a cost that we are willing to take on. While the financial burden is on Kim, the time commitment on Donna and I is also pretty significant. It means that there is a lot less time to spend doing things that retirees normally do, as well as things that we might be able to do otherwise – like taking care of plants, or yardwork. But lives are more important than things, so we’ll have to make the adjustments needed in our priorities.

We are also not sure what to do over the summer. While that is normally a time off from school for children, we have come to recognize that just taking an extended break from all things academic can be harmful. And with the homeschool focus, we have an opportunity to continue with some form of learning which would not be available if the boys were in a traditional public school. No decisions made here yet, but we are thinking about it.

Finally, we need to look at how/when to transition the level of involvement that we have for each of the boys. Right now, with Asher in 1st grade, Donna is pretty intensely involved in everything he does. The thirds are in more of an oversight/monitoring situation. And Ethan is mostly self-directed in fifth grade. So, when do Isaiah and Caleb move into more a self-directed mode? And what does/should it look like for a 2nd grader next year? We’re not sure yet, but we know that those changes in the amount of our involvement/oversight need to happen at some point.


This has been an intense year – probably more for Donna and I than for the boys. They are reveling in being able to sleep in each day (instead of having to be out waiting for the bus at 7:30). And when they can finish by lunch time instead of having several more hours to go, it gives them time to develop some of the non-academic interests that they have. But Donna and I only get to sleep in on Saturday. And we have to plan our schedules around the school day – for example, only one of us can be out at a time, like doctor appointments or our church’s monthly senior fellowship luncheon. And all other projects have just been set aside for now.

But this is the path that God has laid before us. So, we will continue to follow His leading and guiding in our lives. And I’m grateful that I have a wife who is so skilled in the education of children as all my prior teaching experience was with adults – so I’m learning too.



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Genealogy Story – What was that name again?

I was working on putting together a family tree for someone recently, and I to get started I asked for the names of their parents and grandparents as well as places and rough estimates of dates of birth. One of the grandparents was Regina Andrews with a birth year of approximately 1915. Okay, I thought, that’s a pretty English sounding name. So, I thought that I would perhaps find a long lineage in the US with an eventual tie back to England. But I was very wrong!

I quickly located Regina in the 1940 census when she was married. But she was listed as age 34, meaning the birth year I had been given was off (not unusual). It was also a coincidence that she was one of the people selected to give additional information that year (just two people out of the 40 on each page of the census). So, it showed that her parents were both from Pennsylvania. Things were starting to take shape.

But then as I started going back through prior year census records (1930, 1920, 1910), it got quite confusing. In 1930, I found her with her parents and two siblings. But her parents (who would have been the ones giving the census taker information that year) listed her father, John W Andrews, as being from Germany (and his parents being from Germany as well), and her mother, Margaret A Andrews, as being from England as well as her parents. Then in the 1920 census it showed her father being from Poland. And in the 1910 census it showed her father as being from “Russ Polish”, i.e., the Russian part of Poland!

[Andrews 1930 census]

[Andrews 1920 census]

[Andrews 1910 census]

Now, I had seen this combination of countries and changes before in some of my wife’s ancestors. The country we now call Poland has gone through a lot of changes over the years. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it has very desirable ports on the Baltic Sea. And second, the western part of the country has many German speakers as well as Polish speakers, and the eastern part of the country has many Russian speakers. So, it has been the subject of conquest and subjugation by German on the west, Russia on the east, and Austria on the south (which is landlocked and for which those ports on the Baltic would be very valuable). So, it appeared that the indication of “Pennsylvania” in the 1940 census was incorrect and that John Andrews was very likely from the eastern part of Poland as that part of the country would have gone through the change of ownership indicated on the successive census records. But John Andrews is a decidedly English name, not a Polish one. Did he change his name?

I’ve noted before in my blog that even when only trying to construct an ancestral tree that it’s important to look not only at the other information in the census records, but to look at information on other individuals in the family. Thus, I began looking at Regina’s siblings to see what else I could find. Pay dirt!

Because Regina’s brother Clements had been born in Pennsylvania, there was a birth record online for him. And this birth record was particularly revealing. It gave the names of his (and Regina’s) parents as John W Andrzejenski and Margaret A Extitus with birth place of Russian Poland and England respectively. Now Andrzejenski is decidedly a very Polish name, especially compared to Andrews.

[Andrews birth certificate]

Now to see if I can get the names of John’s parents. I had his year of birth as roughly 1876 and an immigration year of 1891 (from the 1920 census), so I went looking at ship’s registries for that period. I did manage to find him – under the name Johann Andres – coming with his older sister Bertha. But there was no other information about him. So, I had to end my search there.

But I still wanted to trace the mother of Regina, Margaret Extitus, and her English ancestry. After all, that was consistent in all the census records. But assumption turned out to be wrong as well. She was born in about 1879 and immigrated to the US in 1881 when she was only 1-2 years old. And I was still bothered by wondering how a Polish immigrant would meet and marry a girl from England! I was initially unable to find any other records of her. Since she arrived the year after the 1880 census, the 1890 census was lost in a fire, and she was married by the 1900 census, I would not be able to locate her in any federal census records with her family. But, rather fortunately, there was a state census taken in NJ in 1895 – so I started looking there. I was initially unsuccessful at locating Margaret, so with Extitus being a rather unusual name, I removed Margaret and just looked for families with that name. I found the family – but with Margaret listed as “Maggie Extidus” (with the typical misspelling of the last name but with a different first name which is why my initial search was unsuccessful), and her parents and younger siblings.

[Extitus 1895 census]

I then found an entry in the 1910 federal census for Margaret/Maggie’s father. In it he lists his and his parent’s place of birth as “Russ(Pol) Lithuania”. This rather convoluted location is indicative of being in the far NE corner of Poland where the modern-day Poland comes together with Russia and Lithuania. Again, one of those places where there has been much border shifting over the years.

[Extitus 1910 census]

So, at last we have a pretty complete story – and not an English one at all that I thought I had at the beginning. Here is the synopsis:

Matthew/Martin (he has different first names in different records) Extitus was from NE Poland. He was born in 1847 and sometime in the mid-1870s he married a local girl, Anna Pushinski, who was a few years younger. They emigrated to England where they only stayed a few years (after the 1871 census but leaving in early 1881 before the 1881 census). While there they had a daughter, Maggie. When she was not yet 2, they emigrated again to the US in early 1881. Here they settled and had two more children. (Note that Maggie only remembers that she was born in England and thinks that’s where her parents were from too – which is why she said that on the later census forms).

Meanwhile, the Andrzejenski family was living in western Poland. Johann was born in 1876 and, for reasons not known, emigrated to the US in 1891 with his older sister. He quickly learned English, then in 1897, at age 21/22, married another girl from the local Russian community in New Jersey, Maggie Extitus. Johann changed his first name to John, Maggie changed hers to Margaret, and the two of them changed their last name to Andrews – all very much more “American” sounding. They had three children, Alfred, Regina, and Clements, the first born in NY, the latter two born in PA.

In the end, this was a somewhat typical story of families emigrating to the US from eastern Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, learning English, becoming citizens, and participating in the “melting pot” that this country was at the time. But it was certainly not the story of an English family that I thought I was researching when I began. And that’s some of the fun of genealogical research – finding unexpected stories in our ancestral trees!


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Marrying Cousins

In my various ancestral searches, I’ve encountered many instances of people marrying their distant cousins. If this didn’t happen, then the number of unique ancestors would quickly swell to more than the number of people on the earth. So, for example, my wife is my tenth cousin, my parents were ninth cousins, etc.

Usually, these types of relationship are back several generations and were often not even known by the individuals involved. But occasionally there are closer relationships, perhaps third or even second cousins. Relationships closer than that are not typical, although they are legal in many places. Here is a summary of existing laws in the US:

According to the NCSL, cousin marriage is legal in: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina (in North Carolina, first-cousin marriage is legal, but double-cousin marriage is prohibited), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.

In Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah and Wisconsin, first-cousin marriage is allowed under certain circumstances:

·        Arizona: If both are 65 or older, or one is unable to reproduce

·        Illinois: If both are 50 or older, or one is unable to reproduce

·        Indiana: If both are at least 65

·        Maine: If couple obtains a physician's certificate of genetic counseling

·        Utah: If both are 65 or older, or if both are 55 or older and one is unable to reproduce

·        Wisconsin: If the woman is 55 or older, or one is unable to reproduce

First-cousin marriage is prohibited in: Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

However, it is not legal to marry your sibling or half-sibling in any of the 50 states.

But being legal and being common are two different things. Recently, while doing some ancestral research into people in my church, I encountered the closest relationship in a marriage that I had yet encountered. As I followed various hints in, here is a portion of the tree that was taking shape.



As you can see, the top and bottom of the right-hand side of this tree are identical to one another. This mean that the parents of Paul Sutherland are not only first cousins of one another, but that they are “double first cousins”, i.e., they are cousins on both their father’s side and on their mother’s side. Genetically, this double-cousin relationship is equivalent to being siblings.

But was this tree accurate? I needed to do some further investigation…

I started out by looking at the 1860 census records for both the Sutherland and Dyer families.

[1860 Census Sutherland part 1 and part 2]

[1860 Census Dyer]

As you can see, William and Sylvia Sutherland had a total of 8 children – 5 boys and 3 girls. The Dyer family, Simpson and Ritter, also had 8 children – one boy and then seven girls. These two families ended up having more than one marriage between them – and as expected, because the Dyer family had so many girls, both of them involved one of the Sutherland boys and a similar aged Dyer girl. So, Jasper Sutherland married Louisa Dyer and his younger brother, Daniel Sutherland, married Louisa’s younger sister Mary Tennessee. Nothing real unusual there, I’ve seen multiple connections between families before.

Both of these families are now living in the same county in Virginia. Now, let’s move forward forty years and see them in the 1900 census.

[1900 Census Jasper Sutherland]

[1900 Census Daniel Sutherland]

Jasper and Louisa have had a total of 11 children, of which 8 are still living (death during childhood due to various diseases was fairly common back then). In 1900 the youngest 5 of these 8 children are still living with them, including their son, Elihu D, age 16.

Not that far away, Daniel and Mary have had a total of 6 children, of which 4 are still living – and all of them are at home, including their 20-year-old son. One of their children is a daughter, Hilsey Bessie, age 15.

But now it gets REALLY interesting. Moving forward 30 years, here is a single page of the census.

[1930 Census Sutherland page 2]

ALL FOUR of the children of Daniel and Mary Tennessee Sutherland are living in consecutive household!

o   First house – Noah and his wife and two children

o   Second house – Nellie and her husband (last name now Bowman), their 8 children and the matriarch of the Sutherland clan, Mary Tennessee

o   Third house – Frank and his wife and two children

o   Fourth house – Elihu D, his wife Bessie (as noted above, [Hilsey] Bessie is the daughter of Daniel and Mary Sutherland, i.e., Elihu’s double-cousin) and four children, all boys (an older son has married and left)

Mary Tennessee Sutherland is not only the matriarch of this clan, but her entire family is living around her!

But it gets better! Here is the prior page of the same census.

[1930 Census Sutherland page 1]

·        First house – Alex Sutherland, his [second] wife, and 7 children. Alex had a total of 15 children, 6 with his first wife and 9 with his second wife. His first wife was Ritter Sutherland, whose parents were William and Sylvia from above, i.e., he married his second cousin!)

·        Second house – Parmer Sutherland, his wife, 3 children and a niece, Beatrice Counts. Parmer is one of the sons of Floyd in the next house. (note that Counts is the maiden name of Sylvia [Counts] Sutherland from the 1860 census above)

·        Third house – [William] Floyd Sutherland, his [second] wife, and 5 children. Floyd is one of the other sons of William and Sylvia. Like Alex above, Floyd had a large family – 17 children, 8 children with his first wife and 9 with his second wife. And like Alex who married a second cousin, Floyd’s first wife was his second cousin, Didame Sutherland, and she was a sister to Alex.

Have I confused you yet? And this is just on two consecutive pages of the 1930 census! Because of the number of children in these families, I strongly suspect that there are more of them located elsewhere. But my brain is already fried just trying to unscramble this small slice of the Sutherland family.

While all the above marriages were technically legal, what an “connected” family – so many cousin marriages in one family, including a double-first-cousin marriage!


Friday, April 2, 2021

Racial Tensions

The news during the last year has been full of stories that involve different types of racism – from the BLM connected ones in various cities to the recent mass murder that involved several Asian-American women. Tensions between different racial groups is much higher than it has been for much of my lifetime.

Just as it’s normal for people to feel comfortable around others who are like them, it’s also fairly typical to feel uncomfortable around others who are “different”. (See my blog on the "like me" syndrome from several years ago related to this issue.)

I’ve had the opportunity to make many international trips to various parts of the world either because of my work or my volunteer duty working with exchange students. In nearly all of my trips I went by myself, i.e., without any other US Americans (note that in this blog I’m going to refer to those from the United States as “US Americans” in deference to my friends from around the world – see my blog here for an explanation). As a result, I encountered many situations with the possibility of misunderstanding. But I generally did my research ahead of time and so avoided many of the various misunderstandings that others may have experienced. (I’ve documented some of them here.)

But the purpose of this blog is not to rehash this topic from an intellectual perspective. Rather, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends who are from these other “races” to show you that they are not to be maligned nor feared and that racial tension does not have to be the result of being “different”.

Since Asian-American tensions have been so recently in the news, let me start there. Here are several pictures of individuals, all friends of mine, from that part of the world and a little about them.



Noon was our exchange student daughter for a year when she was in high school. We learned a number of things from her during that year. Let me relate just a few of them here (besides the ones related to food or greeting protocol mentioned in my blogs above). First, many students from Asia adopt an “English name” as their legal name in their country is often quite different and may be hard for others to pronounce and remember (Noon’s legal first name is Jiraporn). Second, while many Americans lump all “Asians” together, the differences between the ones from one country and those from another country can be quite significant. I learned to tell the difference between the north Asians (Korea and Japan), the Chinese, and those from southeastern Asia like Thailand. It’s actually not unlike the differences in speaking style of those in the US from Boston to those from Texas or those from Alabama. There are also differences (and resulting discrimination) on those from northern Thailand (where there are many different tribes), central Bangkok area, and the southern peninsula (where many people are Muslim instead of Buddhists). When Noon left at the end of the year, I was sad, thinking that I would never see her again, but I was then fortunate enough to be able to visit her upon three occasions, two of which times I spent a week in her home with her and her parents. She is still our daughter!



Molly (legal name Wimonmat) was also an exchange student the same year. While she never lived with us, I also had the opportunity to visit her after her return to Thailand – including seeing her at her graduation from Chulalongkorn University. She has since gone on to get her Master’s degree (from Washington University in St. Louis) and her PhD (from Wellington University in New Zealand) – three universities in three different countries! Her Facebook page says, “Hi. How can I help the world revolve around you today?” What a great quote! One of the things I’ve learned about most Asians is that they are much more “other focused” than US Americans. It’s been interesting following her exploits over the more than 15 years that I’ve known her.



Stephanie (now going again by her Chinese name of Anthea) is from Hong Kong. She was in the US as an exchange student the same year we hosted another girl from Hong Kong. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit her in HK on multiple occasions. She got married this past year and now she and her husband have a new baby (which she features in nearly all her social media postings these days!) When I visited HK, it was in the years when it was still a British Protectorate and before the 99-year lease that they had ran out and control was returned to China. There have been a number of conflicts between the people of HK (who had gotten used to self-determination) and the government in Beijing. For most US Americans, this is difficult to appreciate except on a cursory level.



I’d like to close this section about Asians with a different type of friend of mine. I first met Amrit about 20 years ago when he was a new contract employee in our group at work, but one with whom I shared a Christian heritage. Amrit is from India, a very different part of Asia than the three girls I shared about above. He was single when we first became friends, then during a trip back home he participated in an “arranged marriage” set up by his family. His new wife, Saritha, joined him in the US and together they have three children, all born in the US. (This picture is from about four years ago so the children have grown a bit since then, but I just love this one!)

I haven’t had the opportunity to spend time with Amrit and Saritha for a while as I retired and he went to work for another company and he now lives several towns away from me. But our common religious perspective makes him “like me” as I explained in my blog earlier.  

Let me now move to a different cultural group – those with African heritage.

[Shirley] and [Kenisha]


Shirley was with us the same year as Noon. She is from Ghana. Although we had had other exchanges previously, perhaps we were a bit na├»ve having one student from Africa and another one from Asia at the same time. We learned much from Shirley as well. For example, she said on her application that she was “fair colored” and while that may have been true compared to her fellow classmates in Ghana, it was not true here. (I’ve written about Shirley before, so I’ll not try to repeat it, but you can read about her here.) I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend a week+ with her in Ghana not too many years ago. (The picture is of me with Shirley and Shirley's mother.)

Shirley is also married and has a child, Kenisha, pictured above when she was just a few days old. When Shirley sent this picture, she said, “I had a baby 2 weeks ago. So u have another granddaughter”. That statement also illustrates the relationship between us.

[Pastor Smith]


Ok, by now you may be thinking that, except for Amrit, these stories are about Asians and Africans, not Asian-Americans and African-Americans. So, let me add one more person to the mix.

Pastor Smith is the pastor of our church here in Emmaus, PA. As a long-serving elder, I get to interact with him on a regular basis. And since our family sits in the front, he is right in front of me each Sunday morning before he goes onto the platform to preach. Because of the pandemic, our physical contact is currently limited to a fist-bump when we greet each other, but I’m waiting for the time when we can have a handshake or hug instead.

We had very different experiences growing up – mine in a small town in CT where there were only a very few non-white students in the entire town, and his in a Black community in IN. But like my relationship with Amrit, our both being Christians more than compensates for that. He is definitely my Christian “brother”!


My point in all of this is simple. If we want to focus on them, then there are lots of ways that we are different from others. And when we don’t understand those differences, many unfortunately choose to make them a reason for distrust. And then they escalate that distrust to the current vogue of “hate”. And it goes both ways as the other party may be doing the same thing.

But the different-distrust-hate path doesn’t have to be the one that we choose. How about using those differences to expand our learning and then learn ways that we are actually very much alike and learn to love each other. Choose a path of different-learning-trust-love instead!

This is the way that I’ve chosen to be in my life. The people I’ve highlighted above are only some of the examples of those whom I’ve come to love even though they are different than myself. And the above are only some of those for whom the difference involves their country of origin or their skin color. I have other friends for whom that difference may involve age/gender/politics/etc.

Neither race, age, gender, politics, etc. should be a reason to cause hate. If I can do it, so can you!