11 March 2012

The Women In My Life

Genealogy is full of interesting folks, and we commonly run into the male epidemic. There is just more information on men, plain and simple. Community histories, biographies, directories, census records... they just focused on men more. That was the culture of generations past.

However, it is women's history month. Here's a sampling of some of the more interesting ladies I have discovered over the years.

Sarah Evans, date unknown.
Sarah (Evans) Lawrence (1816-1892). Born in New York, she was supposedly adopted at the age of 3 by the Kaiser family, who continued to use her birth surname of Evans. The story goes like this... Sarah's Dad was shot by an angry neighbor when he purchased the farm that had been foreclosed on. Upon his death, the children were split up. No mention of Sarah's mom. She went on to marry her adopted father's apprentice, John H. Lawrence, and together they had ten children. Eventually, the couple separated and Sarah raised the little one's with the financial help of her older children in Ohio. Two of them went on to own and edit The Ohio Farmer, along with other publications. According to the family oral history, she at various times taught school and worked for a newspaper in Silver Creek, Nebraska, editing, writing obituaries, and other tasks. Her last few years were spent living in one of her son's households in Brighton, Colorado. One of her letters from this time period still exists, and she sounds quite lonely. After a busy and eventful life surrounded by family, she spent her last days staring out of an upstairs window watching the world go by on the street below. She is buried in Brighton, Adams County, Colorado.

Bridget (Conlon/Conlin) McGowan (1843 - ).  Born in January in Ireland, I can only imagine the cold she felt as a newborn. Although I do not know much about Bridget's early childhood, by 1850 the family had come across and could be found in Canton, Hartford County, Connecticut. By the time she died, she had lived in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Alabama, as well as Connecticut and Ireland. She married James McGowan in 1860 in Pittsburgh, and ultimately had nine children. He was also an Irish immigrant. The family seemed to follow the steel industry south. Her parents may have been George Conlin and Mary Unknown. Her brother, James, led an interesting life as a soldier, being stationed in various places around the west, eventually dying in Washington State. Since Bridget is my maternal 3rd great grandmother, the history of her brother is interesting. My father's line has history in Washington, and that is where I was raised. I certainly never imagined I would find anyone in my maternal line in the Pacific Northwest.

Ludwig & Emma Hiller, date unknown.

Emma (Kitzmann) Tober Hiller (1891- 1959)  Known my entire life as Grandma Hiller, Emma was my paternal great grandmother. Born in Volhynia, Russia, her family first arrived through New York in 1909, and settled in Alberta, Canada. Carrying their Moravian faith with them, they were surrounded by others from their homeland, I can only pretend to understand the immigration experience from the perspective of an 18 year old. In 1911, she married Paul Tober, and they lived in Canada for about five years, having one son there, Leo. In November of 1916, they boarded a Canadian Pacific Rail car and came into the U.S. via Sweetwater, Montana. They lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for just a couple of years, and had daughter Elsie. The 1920 US Census finds them in Tacoma, Washington, and Emma remained in the area for the rest of her life. In 1929, Emma and Paul divorced, and I know that my grandmother, Elsie, always had a very negative impression of her father, never forgiving him for leaving her mother. Emma worked as a cafeteria server, hotel housekeeper, and other jobs to keep the family together. Even with all that effort, there was a short time when Elsie and her brother Leo were separated from their mother, but eventually as Elsie got older, she was allowed to live with her brother as she finished high school. The oral history of Emma tells me she was a fierce, strong woman who fought for everything - and fought hard. In 1937 she married Ludwig Hiller. She passed away in Pierce County, Washington, and is buried in Tacoma.


  1. You're so right, Jen--the women in a family history are often overlooked, even though their stories are fascinating. Women are also more likely to preserve letters, journals, photos, and other mementoes, so it's often much more rewarding to research their stories.

    Good luck with your research and writing.


  2. Thank you, Andy! I'm lucky enough to have a few of those things in my family archives, and am currently transcribing diary written in 1895. I'll post a lot of that too!
    Thanks for reading,


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