Sunday, October 28, 2012

Starting From “Here” Before We Can Go “There”

Sometimes, I just have to take “Brick Walls” for what they are—immovable objects hampering research progress—and retrace my steps before I can devise another approach to the impassible. As one reader, Magda, mentioned yesterday, there are resources available from others who have already pondered how to tackle the dilemma.

The book Magda mentioned, Marsha Hoffman Rising’s The Family Tree Problem Solver, is on order right now. In the meantime, as I wait for my brick wall demo team to arrive, I’m going to go back to the beginning of this Flowers path and see what else I can find. Retracing my steps will also allow me to assemble all the documentation I’ll need when I send in my application for my family’s possible entrance into the First Families of Ohio membership of the Ohio Genealogical Society.

L to R Agnes Tully Stevens Frank Stevens Norma Flowers John A Flowers Bertha Metzger Flowers
If you’ve followed along here, back over a year ago when I began the series on my father-in-law’s World War II letters home, you will recall meeting Frank Stevens’ young bride from Perry County. Norma Jean Flowers and Francis Xavier Stevens were wed in the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in New Lexington on November 5, 1949.

At the point where I introduced the couple, I did include a few pictures of Norma’s parents, but not much on her family. A year ago, I was telling Frank’s story. Now I can begin on Norma’s family—with a focus on the Flowers family line.

Norma’s dad was John Ambrose Flowers. He was a man born, raised and buried, all in the same county. Born on his father’s homestead farm just outside New Lexington, John was third to youngest of a large family—documents are enigmatic enough to dispute whether he was among nine children or ten—arriving on May third, 1885.

In his earlier adult years, several documents indicate his livelihood to be coal mining—and in Perry County, Ohio, he had plenty of company in that endeavor. His World War One draft registration card confirms that he worked for the Wheeler and Mason Coal Company in Saltillo.

By the time of the 1920 census, he was still single and living at home with his parents—the only one of his many siblings doing so, with the exception of one married sister and her family at that same address.

Perhaps, at the age of thirty-four, he was considered one of Perry County’s eligible bachelors—or perhaps not. After all, he was still employed as a coal miner.

I don’t know at what point John Flowers shifted from mining to farming, but perhaps it was about the time of his (finally!) marriage to young Bertha Genevieve Metzger, daughter of another large family from the western portion of the rural county.

The couple was married on May 18, 1926, at Saint Joseph’s in Somerset, where the bride’s family attended church. On the day of their wedding ceremony, John Ambrose Flowers was forty one. His bride was twenty one.

In contrast to the large families in which both John and Bertha were raised, the couple had only two children. Perhaps, considering the age difference between them, it may have been a good thing. Just before their thirtieth wedding anniversary, John Ambrose Flowers passed away at the age of seventy. He died of cancer. Farmer or not, his death certificate listed him as a retired coal miner. Perhaps that had something to do with it.

Photograph, above right: Flowers-Stevens wedding reception November 5, 1949; left to right: Agnes Tully Stevens of Chicago, her son Frank Stevens, the bride Norma Flowers Stevens, Norma's father John Ambrose Flowers, Norma's mother Bertha Metzger Flowers. 


  1. You have the "here" down very nicely..and photos too! :)

    1. Yes! The photos! I knew that would speak your language!

  2. I love periodically going back over my old research and starting fresh in a sense. You never know what new things come up, especially since online resources become increasingly abundant and your own skills improve.

    1. Linda, though when it happens, I'm amazed to find new details in a document I've spent fruitless hours staring at, it still seems to slip my memory and I fail to learn the lesson for that inevitable "next time." Thank you for that reminder!

      You are right: when those new online tidbits make their way toward me, they open up whole new vistas, and those boring old facts take on new life.


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