#52Ancestors: Favorite Discovery

Since I started delving into my family history, I’ve learned a lot of really interesting things about my ancestors and other distant relatives. I don’t know that I have a “favorite” discovery, so for this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt, I thought I’d mention of few of the findings that bring me pride or joy.

College in the Family

One of my great-great grandmothers on my mom’s side was Mary Reid. I grew up hearing about her as Grandma Muterspaugh, and it took me a little while to figure out that was her last husband’s name. My Great-Great Grandfather was her first husband, William A Stephens (or Stevens). Anyway, once I figure out her maiden name and found that her family was in Conecuh County, Alabama, I decided to Google “Reid Conecuh” and see what came up. One of the first results was Reid State Technical College. I checked their website to see who the college was named after, but they didn’t have anything on the history, so I picked a random administrator and emailed. I got a very nice response telling me the college was named for a former state legislator named Ed E. Reid. I did a little more Google searching about Ed E. Reid and studied my family tree, and yes, he is my second cousin, twice removed. He wasn’t a legislator, but he did work with the legislature as a lobbyist for the Alabama League of Cities. He had also worked as a journalist (like me) and he was well-respected enough that when he died, the Alabama legislature voted to name the new college in his home county after him. That’s pretty darn cool.

Letter to Santa

My mother bought me a membership to Newspapers.com for birthday or Christmas one year, and she’s kept it up for me because I love it so much. One of the neatest things I found was a letter to Santa by her mother, Willie Stevens. It was published in December 1917, about a month before Willie’s 9th birthday.Willie Stevens' Letter to Santa Claus

One of the reasons this letter is extra-special is because I think that little stove is the one we kids were allowed to play with. I mentioned it in an early #52Ancestors post. How I would love to talk to my Mam-ma again and verify that it’s the same stove, but I can’t imagine that it’s not. And then there’s the mention of the war. We talked a bit at different times about World War II, but I never really thought about how World War I affected my family. It’s a sweet letter and a real treasure.

“Fine, Healthy and Interesting Child”

These genealogical journeys often bring us brief physical descriptions of our ancestors, especially for the men who registered for the draft. Most of the documents I’ve found give facts and figures, not really telling us about who the person was. I have a tiny little verbal snapshot of my Great-Great-Great Grandmother Arminta Stephens Cooper. She’s on my dad’s side (the Stephens/Stevens families on both sides are brick walls, so I can’t figure out if they’re connected). She was mentioned in a report on the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1853, giving me, thanks to the visiting doctor, a lovely mention of my 12-year-old ancestor. You can read more about that in a previous post on everything I learned from that report.

Women Doctors of the 19th and early 20th Centuries

Dr. Mae Draper Cooper's Grave

Dr. Mae Draper Cooper’s Grave

Move over, Dr. Quinn. I was pleasantly surprised to find two female physicians on my dad’s side of the family. One is Dr. Mae Draper who married one of my Cooper cousins. She was born in 1868 and died in 1940. I found a newspaper reference to her treating patients in 1919, but most of the articles I found so far are about her being sick or injured (a sprained ankle).

Dr. Martha Caroline Loper Neuman

Dr. Martha Caroline Loper Neuman

The other is Dr. Martha Caroline Loper Neuman, who is listed in U.S. Census records as being a physician. She was my great-great grandmother’s sister. I was fortunate enough to find two photos of her in the Florida archives. I would like to know more about her medical training and what she did in her work.

So, there you have it. Some of my favorite discoveries in genealogy. I’m sure there will be many more to come as I continue to study up on the family.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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