Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Receptions and Relatives

It is not customary in our times to have a wedding ceremony so early in the day as to be concluded with a celebration designated as “breakfast,” but following the lead of her matron of honor (and fourth cousin) Madonna Fisher Winegardner, Norma Flowers Stevens chooses to do so for her own special day. Maybe it was just a custom of that region of the country—a relic of the area's German Catholic forebears.

            Immediately following the ceremony, a breakfast was served in the Park hotel for the wedding party and the immediate families. A reception was held in the afternoon at the home of the bride’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Smeltzer. One hundred guests attended. The bride’s mother greeted her guests in a grey crepe dress with dark green accessories. The bridegroom’s mother wore navy blue with grey accessories. Both had corsages of pink rosebuds. Assistant hostesses were Mrs. Edward Stevens of Chicago, Mrs. Richard Tucker, and Miss Doris Harris.

You are quite familiar with one of the hostesses listed in this Times Recorder newspaper article: Mrs. Edward Stevens, Frank Stevens’ sister-in-law, to whom he had addressed a number of war-era letters not so long before.

I am not so certain who Mrs. Richard Tucker would be. While I originally suspected a relative, it turns out that this name is not in my database, nor can I find any likely possibilities in Perry County marriage or birth records. But knowing Perry County, I wouldn’t be surprised if a connection surfaces as I continue researching.

However, the last of the hostesses listed, Miss Doris Harris, turns out to be one of Norma’s cousins. Doris’ mother, Frances Flowers Harris, is Norma’s father’s next-younger sister, both part of another very large Perry County family. Because of the closeness of that relationship, on her wedding day, I’m sure Norma was aware that Doris was, indeed, her first cousin. What neither Norma nor Doris knew, probably, was that they were also each other’s third cousin once removed, and also each other’s half fourth cousin.

If that makes your head spin, I will spare you the details—for now. But when you have a group of people settled for a long time in an isolated area, all having large families during times of unfortunate deaths of young mothers and such, relationships eventually take on the aspect of a densely-connected network, something that makes mining the genealogical connections in Perry County challenging.

The afternoon’s festivities, according to the newspaper report, brought one hundred wedding guests to the home of John Ambrose and Mary Rose Smeltzer. It is at this point that we need, once again, to take a detour from the narrative to explore familial relationships in Ohio’s Perry County.

Norma’s aunt, Mary Rose, was a Metzger, sister to Norma’s mother, Bertha Genevieve. Mary Rose, eleven years her sister’s senior, had married into the Smeltzer—or Schmelzer, as it once was spelled—family in 1915. Her husband, John Ambrose, also came from a large family which had lived in the central Ohio region since before the 1850s.

One surprising thing I’ve learned about this family, while networking with other genealogy researchers years ago, is that some of the family members had deliberately chosen to revise the spelling of their surname. Surname changes upon immigration are not that unusual, so when I learned about this particular change, I thought little of it—until a Schmeltzer/Smeltzer researcher told me that the change was made around the time of the World Wars as a “protest” over what their homeland (Germany) was doing.

I left that conversation, years ago, thinking the motive quite noble. Recently, I learned something else about the war years that makes me wonder if that wasn’t more than just a spelling change.

The information was this: you’ve heard, surely, of the internment of citizens on the American west coast during the years of World War II—a governmental decision focused specifically on Japanese-Americans, supposedly in an attempt at thorough national defense. Because I live in that area of the country and am aware of friends whose families became part of that round-up of potential enemies, that part of World War II history is quite well-known to me.

What I didn’t know was that Japanese-Americans were not the only American citizens exposed to that hypersensitive government policy. I have since learned, in reading a book recommended in the Fort Wayne Historical Society blog—Carol Faenzi’s The Stonecutter’s Aria—that Italian-Americans were also subjected to the same treatment. Even before reading that book I found, in a recent blog post by Linda Gartz which shares diary entries by her own mother during war times, that German-Americans were included in this internment policy, too. Perhaps it was for this reason, rather than any attempt at showing “solidarity” with their homeland of the past one hundred years, that Norma’s Uncle John Smeltzer’s family gave their name a more streamlined, Anglicized spelling variation.

And here they all are, this day—November 5, 1949—witnessing the union of Francis X. Stevens and Norma J. Flowers. Together, an Irishman’s descendant who fought on America’s side in World War II, along with his many big-city relatives, join with Germany’s many sons who settled long ago in rural Perry County, Ohio, to celebrate the couple who joins them all together.

Photo, top left, of the Park Hotel, New Lexington, Ohio, courtesy of The Little Cities Archive of Shawnee, Ohio.


  1. I look back on that "internment" thing and cringe. Our country, for all it's bluster and propaganda, isn't as liberal minded as it's Constitution wanted it to be. And it seems to be backsliding more and more now.

    Sounds like they had a nice, pleasant "brunch".

    Have you figured out what Mrs. Richard Tucker's maiden name was?

  2. Richard Lee Tucker (1913 - 1983)
    Born in New Lexington, Perry, Ohio, USA on 23 Jan 1913 to Milford Tucker and Bertha Mae Russell. Richard Lee married Katie Belle Reynolds and had 2 children. He passed away on 18 Mar 1983 in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, USA.

    Katie Belle Reynolds (1912 - 1963)
    Born in Jackson, Virginia, USA on 1912 to James Mark Reynolds and Cora Alberta Casto. Katie Belle married Richard Lee Tucker and had 2 children. She passed away on 5 May 1963 in Grove City, Franklin, Ohio, USA.

    None of those surnames ring any bells with me.

    1. You are absolutely amazing, as always, Iggy! With the info you added, I thought the most likely line for relationship would be Richard Tucker's mother, Bertha Mae Russell. It took me a while to locate Bertha's parents' names, but finally found them at

      When I saw Bertha's mom's maiden name was Fisher, I thought for sure I had a match, but that is evidently a family name that no one has posted online regarding, and I just don't have enough information to make a sure connection. But the fingerprints are telling!

      Thanks for the update! Maybe someday I'll tackle that one further.


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