"...chalk'd in large letters on a board"

Southworth Hamlin. Or Hamlen. Or Southward Hamblen. Or Hamelin. Or any combination thereof....

The correct spelling of his name is a question of doubt. As a matter of fact, people in those times were not particular, and the same individual did not spell his name uniformly, in many instances; there was no standard of English orthography then. In the foregoing pedigree the name  is spelled Hamelyn and Hamelin, in the record of Baptisms Hamblin and Hamlin; in the colonial records, Hamlene, Hamilen, and Hamblen. His pastor, Rev. Mr. Lothrop wrote the name uniformly, Hamling. Rev. Mr. Russell, a successor of Mr. Lothrop, wrote it Hamblin. His sons and descendants for the first four generations, generally wrote it Hamblen; but as signed to his will, it is spelled Hamlin. The descendants spell the name variously: Hamlin, Hamlen, Hamline, Hamblin and Hamblen.
                          --History of the Hamlin Family, H. Franklin Andrews, 1894


One of the happenstances in the hobby of genealogy is working with names: the thrill of recognizing one: Roosevelt! Coolidge!; the giggle when coming across a particularly humorous one: Benjamin Bodfish, Thankful Bangs (both Hamlin relations--honestly).

Southworth Hamlin, a paternal seventh great-grandfather, has one of those unusual names that can be both a blessing and curse in family history research. Certainly there are fewer Southworth Hamlins than, say, William Carters (a maternal third great-grandfather). But with all the variants the unusual names often have, their scarcity nearly negates any value as an expedient.

As just one example, take what you might think an unusual name: Constantine Connelly (a maternal fourth great-grandfather). Not only is there the challenge of C-o-n or C-o-double n, -e- then l or double l -y, but the--to me--astounding discovery that there were two  contemporaneous, unrelated Constantine Connellys in the same general geographic area! No wonder within a generation our family standardized it as Conley....

A similar issue arises with recurring names in families: on the one hand, they can be useful to ascertain (or help verify) family groups, but alternately, they can lead to confusion. My--by no means vast--family tree contains four different Elizabeth Motts, seven John Morrisons, (or Morisons), and eight John Maxwells. The confusion becomes amplified when families intermarry. Consider the case of Dor Henry Eaton (a paternal second great-grandfather): of the eight couples who comprise his second great-grandparents, three are the same pair....


Simple, right?

As you can see, his parents were first cousins, as were his paternal grandparents. And this is just my immediate forebear; the Harts and Eatons all had lots of children, and many did the same thing. As the genealogist's old joke goes: I'm so New England, I'm my own cousin!

Five generations of  Eatons & Harts, c 1911
. From left: Clarissa Alma Cornwell, Thettis Caroline Hart, Dor Henry Eaton,
 Jennie Arleta Eaton (his daughter), and Leroy Stanley Burnett (her son).

Then there are patronymics and other naming patterns to factor in. If only it were all as simple as the Swedes! Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (a paternal great grandfather) has his grandfather's first name as his middle. In between sits Charles A Burnett; I would like to believe that "A" stands for Alfred, but I have no proof, as the namesakes are haphazard.

There are many instances in which a woman's maiden name becomes her middle initial upon her marriage. And of course there are nicknames. Going back to the chart above, there has been confusion about Eliakim Eaton's wives. He married first Elizabeth Hart; when she died, he remarried (some time in his seventies!) a "Betsy E." (as she is identified on their tombstone), leading many to suppose that the two women are one, despite different birth and death dates.


Ludington Cemetery
Ludington, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Photo: Terri Woodford

And what about matching names? I have never been a fan. Growing up, I knew a family who named each of their daughters with names beginning with "L." Ultimately, they had seven girls, and the names got more and more obscure.... My maternal grandmother and her sisters each share the initial "M" for their middle names; her husband and his brother both have middle names beginning with "E" as did their father and his father. My grandparents apparently attempted to keep that tradition alive, as my mother and uncle both have middle names beginning with "A."  But there it ended: I am named after two uncles, while my sister is named after two of my mother's friends. That uncle's children have names taken from within the family, but to no discernible pattern.

Sometimes the names are just odd: twins Florence Augusta Ketchum and Frederick Augustus Ketchum having matching initials (fine, I suppose, for twins), but where did their twinnish middle name come from? There are no other classical names in the family, but stranger still, they were born in July....

Alongside recurrence of names in families is general popularity. Certain names immediately suggest an era or region. I expect that every girl named Shirley was born in the 'thirties; surely there was never a Brittany before the 'eighties. Regional accents, now nearly a thing of the past, could add a layer of confusion as well, especially before literacy and standardized spelling came along. Census takers would write down what they heard, as best they could, leading to some very interesting names, the more so as those names sometimes became further garbled when transcribed later.

Although regional accents have all but vanished, and the Internet has made the world seem a smaller place, I wonder if our text-happy present, with its acronyms, abbreviations and shortcuts replacing hand-written documents (leaving no readily available trail), as well as our e-culture of numbers and passwords for everything (likewise), will keep future genealogists working just as hard--if not harder--to find out the names of their ancestors.

The nature of families--and consequently, family names--is evolving as well. Unmarried parents, step-families, same-sex couples, hyphenates.... In my own family we even have an admirable couple in which a husband took his wife's name. Progressive steps, indeed, but each will no-doubt bring its own challenges to future historians trying to unlock family relationships.

What will the next generations make of the Jadens, Tylers and Madisons of today? Who knows. In the meanwhile, I have decided it is Southworth (being the maiden name of his grandmother) Hamlin (his grandfather Eleazer declaring the silent B "useless").

Southworth Hamblen's [sic] headstone,
West Barnstable Cemetery, Barnstable Massachusetts.

1. Southworth Hamlin was born 21 May 1721 in Barnstable, Massachusetts, a town founded in part by his great-grandfather, James Hamlin (1606 -22 Oct 1690) in 1639. Southworth was the youngest child of Joseph Hamlin (20 Nov 1680 - 27 Aug 1766) and Mercy Howland (1678? - 1721). He married first Martha Howland (abt 1716 - 20 Sep 1756), a relation of his mother's; the Rev Mr Jonathan Russell officiated. They had no children. After Martha's death, he married Tabitha Atkins (1716 - 27 Nov 1770) on 12 May 1757 in Barnstable. Although the Hamlin men tended to be long-lived, he died 13 January 1766, at age forty-four.

2. Bethiah Hamlin (3 Jul 1758 - 1830) married Amaziah Doty (17 May 1756 - 24 Jan 1833), son of Ebeneezer Doty (abt 1727 - 23 Jul 1766) and Mercy Whiton (abt 1732 - abt 1763), on 3 December 1780 in Lee, Berkshire, Massachusetts.  

3. Stephen S Doty (24 Jul 1791 - 21 Oct 1870) was born in Lee, Massachusetts. He married Polly Holmes (1788 - aft 1860) in June 1813, at Madison, Madison, New York.

4. Alma Holmes Doty (9 Oct 1814 - 10 Oct 1879) was born In Madison, New York. She married Stephen Addison Davenport (20 Nov 1806 - Nov 1850), son of Williams Davenport  (12 Nov 1782 - 4 Dec 1830) and Hannah Hickok or Hickox (abt 1785 - 24 Aug 1809) in Aug 1835, at Madison, New York.

5.  Henrietta Davenport (Jan 1836 - May 1904) married Charles Swarts (12 Feb 1835 - 8 Jun 1909), son of John Swarts (28 Nov 1795 - 24 Oct 1874) and Mary McDonald (abt 1799 - 1893), in Wisconsin, in 1859. 

6. Ella Swarts (1862 - Apr 1899) was born and lived her entire life in Minnesota. She married Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930), son of Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) and Rachel Elizabeth Squire (28 Jan 1829 - 21 Apr 1902), in Scott County, Minnesota, September 1879.

7.  Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B A Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in Minnesota, in 1909.

8.  Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria Svard 5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 21 June 1933.

9. [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (5 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), in Long Beach, California, on 4 March 1961.

10.  Your humble blogger.


"...lightness and glee"

In this post we move from the sinister, sacred, and scientific of last time to simplicity and sisterhood: the Severin sisters of Fargo, North Dakota, circa 1930. One of those sisters would become my maternal grandmother: Myrna Margaret Severin.


Myrna Margeret Severin, 1930

My grandmother was born 5 November 1907, at least according to her Birth and Death Certificates. (Other documents list her birth date as the 6th.) She was born in Redfield, South Dakota, to Jack Severin, a tall Danish farmer, and Belle Runser; she was the youngest of their three daughters. She is nearly unique among my ancestors--going back to the late 1700s--in that three of her grandparents were immigrants: her father's parents, Jacob Soren Severin (31 Mar 1848 - aft 1920) and Anna Margrethe "Annie" Nissen (8 Dec 1851 or 2 - 2 Jan 1924) were Danish; her maternal grandfather, Phillip Jacob Runser (30 Jun 1845 - 22 Mar 1921) was from Hegenheim, in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, on the border of Switzerland.


My grandmother with her grandfather; Myrna and Jacob Severin, c 1918?

Redfield itself was modest, and remains so. Founded in 1878, it was the County Seat for Spink County, located at the junction of two railroads; it was also the home of the Northern Hospital for the Insane (founded in 1902 and still running today under the more optimistic name South Dakota Developmental Center). Redfield did not achieve any real distinction until three pair of pheasants were released there, "near where the ethanol plant is currently," according to their Pheasantennial Celebration brochure--I kid you not.


Downtown Redfield--all of it--about the time the Severins lived there.

Since then, Redfield has prided itself on being the "Pheasant Capitol of the World" (so much so, that they have trademarked that slogan), and the pheasant has become the State Bird of South Dakota, one of just three states with a non-native species as such. The Pheasantennial occurred in 2008 (for any of you who were considering a trip), the release being in 1908, a year after my grandmother's birth and just a year or so before the Severins left Redfield for Crookston, Minnesota. 

The Severins at  E Holmes Street, Redfield, South Dakota, c. 1908
From left: unknown dog, Jack, Gleva, Lee, Belle, Myrna.
 Not pictured: pheasant.

The Severins at that time were comprised of Jack and Belle, and their aforementioned three daughters. Eldest was Gleva Marcella (15 Jan 1904 - 4 Aug 1982), fair and wistful, or so she seems from photographs; next was Arletha Monica, (13 Jan 1906 - 22 Aug 2002) known always as "Lee," with luxuriant dark hair; she rarely smiled, at least to gauge from the childhood pictures I have seen. Next was my grandmother, always cheerful-seeming (although in pictures from her late teens she often looks to be attempting a dramatic or sultry visage). Their unusual names seem to reflect their background, a mash up of Scandinavian and French.

There was also a son, Delmar J[?], who was born in September 1909 and died within a few years. I know nothing more about him, and often wonder, if he had lived, how our family might have been different.

From left, standing: Lee (smiling!), Gleva, Myrna; seated: Delmar.

I wonder about Delmar in part because my mother's side of the family was (and is) the side I know best, and it was definitely a matriarchy, in form if nothing else. For most of my childhood (with occasional interruption from my father's side), I had always thought of our family as just “the three Severin sisters,” each with their one or two children, each of those children with just one, two, or three themselves. The sisters were close; when my grandparents moved west, the rest of the family followed. Their husbands had businesses together, and we saw everyone at least once a year, usually at Thanksgiving. While growing up, although close, with such a small family our get-togethers seemed-- if only in numbers--somewhat meager affairs. Perhaps if our forebears had been Catholic rather than Presbyterian, things might have turned out differently…. And certainly different if little Delmar had lived.

Anyway. In Minneapolis, my grandmother attended school, and in 1924 the Severins moved again, this time to Fargo, North Dakota, where they lived at 910 College St. My grandmother graduated from Fargo Public High School on 4 June 1925; her diploma mentions her Literary studies. The following year, the family moved again, this time to 1020 N Thirteenth St.

It was that same year,1926, that my grandmother began keeping a diary, inspired by the discovery of a diary her mother had kept when she was young. Apparently her sister Lee was keeping one as well, to better effect, as Grandma's peters out after just fourteen days--with lapses! "Whether or not mine will be read some time in the future with any interest or not time will tell." Indeed.

Only a few pages long, there is not a lot of information (it is a hot summer, the piano is moved, sister Gleva is away from home but writes often, Lee and Grandma spend a day canning "pickels"), and just one bit of drama: returning from Crookston, Minnesota in their horse and wagon, her parents are nearly hit by a freight car that has gone off the tracks.  Her "literary" side comes out briefly: Lee asks if the author of The Snob (a sensational novel--and silent film that Lee had seen--from 1924) is a man or a woman, and Grandma retorts, "neither--a birdie." She may have been a bit snobbish herself, as she writes that Lee is "foolish" for asking.  But otherwise, it is a nice, albeit brief, glimpse into her life, and did afford one pleasant surprise: she is reading a book of essays, From a College Window, by A C Benson, a prolific but now long-forgotten author from a family of such, whose novelist brother, E F Benson, has long been one of my favorites!

Myrna continued her education; she received a two-year teaching degree from Moorhead [Minnesota] State Teaching College in June 1927, and was teaching in Estelline, South Dakota.
The diary was more interesting, at least, than an autograph book given her in 1928, when she had moved out to attend college. It is signed by many of her friends as well as former pupils. Highlights of that document include the repeated use of the jingle:
"When you see a monkey up in a tree,
Pull its tail and think of me."
And the perhaps telling:
Dear Miss Severn,
Some right for money
Some right for fame
But I simply right
To sine my name.
your pupil,
Zola E---
Possibly despairing of teaching, Myrna began her graduate work, this time at North Dakota State College (now University), and by 1930 had moved back home.


The 1930 Fargo Directory

It was at this time that she became co-owner and proprietor, with her sister Gleva, of LaPetite Art Shoppe. It was located at 316 Broadway, next door to the Fargo Theater, which was built in 1926 and, fully-restored, is still in operation today. Alas, LaPetite does not appear to have lasted long, as it is gone by the 1932 edition of the directory. Beyond this, I have no other information, despite researching through some excellent Fargo websites (see links), but yearn to know more! 


The Fargo Theater marquee is visible in the upper left. La Petite Art Shoppe was next door.

It is not surprising to know that the sisters ran an art "shoppe." My grandmother's highest grades on her 1925 report card were in Music, Drawing, and Watercolor. The sisters made their own clothes--which was common at the time, of course--but took great pride in their work, as evidenced by the photos below. They even made wedding dresses for their friends, and Gleva was working as an instructor at the Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1934.


Grandma modelling some of her (or Gleva's) creations. There are also photos of Gleva wearing these same clothes.
 On the back of the center photo is pencilled "Virginia Snow patterns," and "WDAY", a Fargo radio station. Why?
More colorful creations. Left: What I hope is Halloween, with Lee and Gleva.
Right: Grandma between two drabber, unknown friends.

The directory page shown above also indicates that Lee has continued her love of movies, as she is working as an usher at the Garrick Theater, Fargo's first and most lavish picture palace, just two blocks down Broadway from LaPetite. The Garrick was later converted into a department store, and has since been demolished.

While in college, Myrna joined the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, and became very involved in social activities through school, serving on various committees and attending numerous dances. 
Some of Grandma's dance cards. Clockwise from the top:
Epsilon of Alpha Gamma Rho Spring Formal, Crystal Ball Room, 7 May 1931;
 Beta Sigma Chapter of Kappa Psi Annual Spring Formal, Crystal Ballroom, 20 May 1932;
 Senior Ball, Class of 1932, North Dakota State College, Crystal Ballroom, 3 June 1932;
 15th Annual Military Ball, presented by M Company, 3rd Regiment, N D State College,
Crystal Ballroom (did you expect anything else?), 17 January 1930. 
Most of the dances were held at the Crystal Ballroom, the glamour spot of Fargo, hosting everyone from Lawrence Welk to, famously, Duke Ellington in 1940. From the dance cards, it appears the most noted name who performed when my grandmother attended was Bill Euren and His Collegians; Euren later was music director for NDSU from 1948 - 1968, and there is still an annual Music Fellowship given in his name.The ballroom itself occupied the upper floor of the Fargo City Auditorium, at the corner of First Avenue South and Broadway, not far from the Severins' home. The lower floor served as the National Guard Armory. Despite its dual-purpose functionality, it too was demolished, in 1962. 

Photo courtesy the Cass County Historical Society.
With my grandmother's stated aversion to pickels [sic], one wonders how she felt about the menu for the Spring Formal:
Fruit Salad       Water
Creamed Chicken on Rosettes
Potato Chips       Cucumber Pickles
Hot Buttered Rolls
Individual Washington Cream Pie
Coffee

Despite Fargo's big city trappings, its surroundings were still definitely rural. In a letter written for my grandparents' fiftieth anniversary, Grandma's lifelong friend and neighbor, Mabel Farden Nelson, shared memories:

All the good times on your farm, especially when we got snowed in and missed school. Your mom made corn fritters for us. Boy were they good!

...we couldn't wait to get to Aunt Polly's Slough for the first skating of the season.... When we returned there was a big "bread raiser" pan of popcorn.

How about the time the chickens roosted on top of Dad's Dodge--and when he started to drive off your folks yelled --Stop! Stop!

It was a long walk from M[oorhead] St[ate] C[ollege] to your home in Fargo. I guess we thought shoe leather was cheaper than streetcar fare.

How about the time we went "frogging" to get enough frog legs for Gleva to have the dinner party. We cried as we hit them with a stick cuz their front legs crossed like they were praying.

At any rate, it was not all frogging, art and gaiety; Myrna did graduate in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science, Education degree. By that point, she had also married my grandfather, and was expecting my mother, their first child. But that part of the story will have to be told another time.... 
 
On the back of another snapshot from this day is pencilled: "Our Happy Family 1934"
Lee, Gleva, Myrna, and (from left) their husbands:
 Thor Moe, Kenny Richards, and Dana Brown.

Nature or nurture? The question is an old one, with proponents on both sides. Considering the Severin sisters, certainly it seems a little of both. Out of their fifteen descendants (through two generations), fully a third were or are teachers; three work in the film industry; one has a sewing blog in which a Singer machine has pride of place.... Certainly, the apples did not fall far from the trees.

And then there is your humble blogger, who, while neither teacher, sewist, nor filmmaker, is fascinated by it all.


"A man who reads at all, reads just as he eats, sleeps, and takes exercise, because he likes it; and that is probably the best reason that can be given for the practice.”
                                                                       From a College Window, A C Benson



Myrna Margaret Severin was born 5 Nov 1907 (according to her Birth and Death Certificates; other records say 6 Nov) in Redfield, Spink, South Dakota, to John Jacob "Jack" Severin (11 Jul 1878 - 2 Jan 1965) and Isabelle "Belle" Runser (21 Oct 1881 - 30 Mar 1960). On 21 Oct 1933 she married Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984), son of Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937) and Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958), in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the home of Iza May (Kinman) Carlson, the groom's aunt. Rev Porter, a retired Presbyterian minister officiated. The following year, on 15 Jun 1934, Myrna graduated with a Bachelor of Science, Education, degree from North Dakota Agricultural College, and two months after that, delivered her first child. The Browns moved to Northern California the following year, where Myrna worked as an elementary school teacher. She continued to work as teacher after their move to Long Beach, California in the early 1950s. Although in almost perfect physical health, she died 12 Jun 1997 after enduring many years of Alzheimer's disease.