Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Maternal Ancestors' Motherhood

Dear Grandparents,
March is the month when modern Americans celebrate Women's History Month. Genealogy friend Lisa Alzo has for the last five years provided a list of 31 blogging prompts to celebrate Women's History Month on her blog The Accidental Genealogist. One of her prompts seems interesting to explore today.

"Make a list of your direct line maternal ancestors beginning with your mother. So you will list your mom, her mom, her mom's mom and so on, back as far as you can. Now figure out how many children each female ancestor had. Did the females in your direct maternal line tend to have the same numbers of children each generation? Did they have more? Less? Were they prolific or are there few children born to each woman? Is there a pattern emerging?"

My mother, Betty Lorraine Werst Cone, was born in Spokane, Washington in 1926. She gave birth to four children, three girls and a boy. She was 24 when I, the oldest, was born and 30 when my younger brother arrived. We four were stair steps, one child born about every two years. My sisters and I were born in Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. Even though my family was living in California, my mother returned to Portland for the birth of her 2nd and 3rd daughters. My brother was born in Whittier, Los Angeles County, California. I guess it was too difficult to transport three children to Portland for the duration of the pregnancy especially since I was in first grade.
Sitting in birth order Christmas Day 1958 La Habra, California.
From left: Mom with brother Rusty in lap, Trude, Peggy,
 and me in my paternal Grandmother Hazel Allen Cone's lap.
I have two daughters the first born when I was 30, the second at 32. My sister Trude has one son born when she was 39. My brother Rusty has two children. His son was born when he was 25 and his daughter when he was 26.

My maternal grandmother, Ada Grace Colby Werst Branchflower, was born October 21, 1902 outside Kirwin, Phillips County, Kansas. Grace had two daughters with her husband Cecil Oscar Werst. Betty, my mother, the oldest, was born in Spokane, Spokane County, Washington. Cecil died in October 1927, so Grace was staying with her sister Madge Colby Massey in Pendelton, Oregon when daughter Helen Louise Werst was born in 1928. Grace was 23 when Betty was born and 25 at Helen's birth. Helen is the mother of two children, Ronald Andrew Pearce was born in Portland, Multnomah Coumty, Oregon and Jill Louise Caldwell was born in Whittier, Los Angeles County, California.

Ada Grace Colby Werst Branchflower's Grandchildren 
circa 1965 Hacienda Heights, California
from left: Trude Cone, Cecily Cone, Leslie 'Peggy' Cone, 
Ron Pearce, Rusty Cone, in front Jill Caldwell
Mary Elizabeth Hugunin, my maternal great grandmother, was called Mamie. According to family legend, she was born on leap day, February 29, 1868 in Edgefield Junction, Davidson County, Tennessee. Records list her birth as February 28th. She and her husband William Wallace Colby were married October 16, 1884 at her parents home outside Kirwin, Phillips County, Kansas. Mamie and W. W. were the parents of five daughters: Ethel May Colby 1887, Edythe Pearl Colby 1888, Marguerite 'Madge' Colby 1890, Pandora Blossom 'Pansy' Colby 1892, and Ada Grace Colby 1902. Three of the daughters were childless. Ethel had a son Van Epps King who died at age 21 and a daughter Irene King.
From left Mary Elizabeth 'Mamie' Hugunin Colby with daughters Marguerite 'Madge', 
Pandora 'Pansy'  and in front Ada Grace Colby at Pine Lawn Farm 
outside Newberg, Yamhill County, Oregon circa 1912.
My second great grandmother, Sarah Amanda Gibson, was born February 1, 1845 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee.  She married Van Epps Hugunin January 8, 1865 in Edgefield Junction. They were the parents of two daughters and a son. First daughter Mamie was born in Edgefield. Their son Walter Hollister Hugunin was born November 15, 1871 in Johnston, Rock County, Wisconsin home of the Hugunins. Daughter Grace was born May 10, 1879 outside Kirwin, Phillips County, Kansas. Grace was the mother of William Eugene Bissel who died at six months. Walter had two girls and two boys. When I was selecting names for my children, I compiled a list of grandmothers' names including Sarah Amanda. My husband and I eventually picked Amanda as the name for our first daughter. It was not until I visited Sarah's grave in the 1990s that I realized that she had gone by Amanda.
Sarah Amanda Gibson
Elizabeth Jane Jones, my third great grandmother, was born May 2, 1821 in Tennessee. She married Newsom Gibson December 29, 1840 in Davidson County, Tennessee. I found the family in the 1850 Federal Census still living in Davidson County with daughter Martha Gibson age 9, son Henry Gibson age 7, daughter Amanda Gibson age 5, son Newsom Gibson age 3, and Josephine Gibson age 0.  A family Bible also reveals a son Joshua Gibson born 1846 who died the same year. She gave birth to six children in the ten years after her marriage. She was more fortunate than many in that time as all but one of her children lived to adulthood. Elizabeth is the end of my known direct maternal line. I continue to search diligently for her parents.

In looking for patterns of fertility, they are difficult to discern. Elizabeth had the most children in the days when birth control was not generally practiced. I do not know if Amanda lost babies between her widely spaced children. Mamie had four girls in quick succession and my grandmother always said that she, the youngest by 10 years, had been a surprise.   My grandmother probably would have had more children if her husband had survived. My mother always said that she and my dad planned to have four children. My husband was a career Naval Officer and I figured with his deployment schedule I could manage two children but not more. Sometimes life circumstances limit family size.

I know, dear grandparents, that you have the answers to these questions and I try to be patient in waiting to find them here. Any clues as to Elizabeth Jane Jones' parentage would be most appreciated. Just saying....


Cecily Cone Kelly

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