Family mentions in newspapers

I just posted links to all my clippings here. Most of them are at, so if you click the link in the heading you will go to a better image that you can enlarge. The small ones can be printed; the larger ones are a pain no matter what I’ve tried. A few of them are just scans of clippings or photocopies people have given me (no links), and I have no information on dates or publications.

Full family histories now available

UPDATED Dec. 21, 2017

I have uploaded slightly revised versions of the following histories and updated the links below.

Barrows. Added photo credits in a couple of places.

Næss. Fixed typos in several places.

Seehawer. Updated the section on Rudolph Seehawer as a young man with information gleaned from his military record. (He really was in the Kaiser’s Guard!)

Updated the section on John Gormley with the birth and immigration information provided in his naturalization paperwork.

Spencer. Added  information on Jacob Spencer’s second wife. Added some text in the John and David Lewis sections about farming in Victorian times.

Added the date and cause of death of Joseph and Mary Ann Spencer’s daughter Louisa.


After years of collecting information, months of writing, and minutes of uploading, I now present histories of all the branches of my family tree. Unlike the data files I uploaded to FamilySearch and Ancestry, these are written histories in PDF format. I have tried to show our ancestors as living people using documents, records, family stories, memories, photos, excerpts from letters, newspaper stories, maps, and more.

The Spencers

From Jacob and Hannah Spencer in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, to Ralph and Gertrude Spencer in Oakland, Oregon. Includes James and Esther White, John and Elizabeth Lewis, and Samuel and Eleanor Watts.

The Seehawers

From the Seehawers in West Prussia in the 1800s to Rudolph and Mary Seehawer in Wisconsin. Includes John and Bridget Gormley and Charles and Alice Boesen. Shows the effect of the two world wars on the Seehawers remaining in Germany and has a section on “the Truth” (religion).

The Barrowses

From upstate New York right after the Revolutionary War to Chicago and northern Wisconsin in the twentieth century. Brief section on the Delanos.

The Spawrs

Begins with Peter Spawr and Elizabeth Messer’s arrivals in McLean County, Illinois, in 1827. Includes James and Catherine Neighbarger and John Griffith.

The Næsses

Norwegian ancestors back to the Næs/Næss/Nes farm.

The Busches

When images of the parish registers for Frank Busch’s hometown in Austria became available at FamilySearch a few years ago, I was able to find him in them and trace his ancestry back. Did you know the name was spelled Pusch then? This history also contains the family history of Frank’s wife, Elizabeth Gerritzen. Her ancestors came from Westphalia and Hanover.

The Helmses

Genealogy of Christian Heinrich/Henry Helms of Burdett, Kansas. What little is known about the family history of his wife, Marie Schmalgemeier, is included. They both had roots in Rahden, Westphalia.

My 1964-65 school picture. The horse pin from Spain, a gift from my Aunt Flippy Barrows, is what made me start asking about my family history. I learned I didn’t have any Spanish ancestry, but Norwegian, English, and German were just as special.

I started working on this in 1965, when I was 12, by quizzing my parents and writing to other relatives. I knew instinctively that I needed to get as much information as I could while they were still living and that the records would still be there when I had the time and money to travel around looking at them. Following that principle, I did travel to visit elderly aunts and to attend reunions.

After getting married in the 1970s, I began quizzing his parents and aunts about their history.

Of course the Internet changed everything in the late 1990s, and I have been able fill in much more of the history through sites such as FamilySearch and contacts with cousins I never knew we had.

Although I’ve spent countless hours researching online, I’ve spent even more identifying the people in the unlabeled photographs I’ve been blessed to receive. It is my pleasure to share them with you in these histories; perhaps they will help you identify some of your own old photos (and perhaps you will be inspired to share scans of them with me).

I am sharing these histories because I am starting to feel mortal and my husband and I do not expect to have grandchildren. I’ve seen so many people suddenly become interested in their genealogy after their elders have died. In fact, I hope you will enjoy some of the family stories you might have forgotten or never heard. These links won’t be here forever because at some point I’ll stop paying the domain fees, so please consider downloading the file or files for your branch(es) to share with your siblings, children, etc.

A few notes—

  • I’ve placed a Creative Commons license on the histories. It means that you’re welcome to copy them at no charge for any noncommercial use but please give me credit.
  • I’m not a fan of “creative nonfiction,” which is written by authors who think they need to make up things to keep history interesting. My intent with this work has been to present only facts, whether or not you find them as interesting as I do. You won’t have to wonder whether our ancestors really experienced something I’ve written about.
  • I’m proud of my research and have a source for everything I’ve included. However, it could still be wrong and naturally is incomplete. I welcome additional information.
  • Likewise, I don’t claim to be a designer, and Microsoft Word has to be the worst software in the world for doing this.
  • Most of the pictures are in poor condition after a century or more of being played with by children, stored in cardboard boxes under beds, and who knows what else. The only editing I’ve done has been cropping and, in a few cases, lightening.

Ready to share all after 50 years

My Aunt Flippy saved this letter I wrote to her asking for family history information in 1965.
My Aunt Flippy saved this letter I wrote to her asking for family history information in 1965.

After 50 or so years of working on my family history (and 40 or so of working on my husband’s), I’m finally ready to share my research with the world. Really share it–not just put some of it on my website. Every individual, every source, every note. I’m motivated by the knowledge that I won’t live forever and our unmarried, childless sons are not even slightly interested in my work. Ironic that the family history nut would have only these two descendants, huh?

To access my “pedigree resource files” (one for each major branch), go to FamilySearch Genealogies and search for any ancestor or (deceased) relative you have in common with me. When you click on a name and go to that person’s page, you will see a description of the file and the name of the submitter at the top so you will know whether it’s my file (look for “Laurelroots”). You will be able to click on links to move around among the generations. In general, I’ve included ancestors through our ggg-grandparents. Living persons are hidden.


It was important to me to make the information available permanently and freely. None of my websites or social media accounts will be permanent. and other sites like it require you to pay for a subscription to view donated files. I don’t think anyone even knows Rootsweb exists any more. That left FamilySearch.

FamilySearch is free to everyone, and you don’t even have to register to search and see most of its records. And if the LDS files aren’t permanent, none are (with their granite vault and all).

The downside of FamilySearch is it is so—to put it kindly—clunky. I will just say that it has taken me weeks to be able to search for and find individuals in the files I’ve uploaded. That seems to be fixed now.

I had hoped to provide links to the files I’ve uploaded so family members can go straight to them. That’s impossible. Maybe it’s for the best since I can’t update the files; when I get new information I can only delete and replace them.

Another problem is FamilySearch is so zealous about protecting the privacy of living persons (not a bad thing) that it completely removes them and they cannot serve as links between the deceased person and his or her ancestors. In other words, if you find a deceased person whose parent is still living, you will be at a dead end.

Why don’t I just use FamilySearch’s Family Tree? I tried. I just don’t have the patience and tolerance necessary to deal with it. I did spend many hours laboriously adding information there. Then Family Tree dangled “possible duplicate” links in front of stupid users, and they erroneously merged individuals I’d worked on into their individuals (some of whom were totally different people and many of whom had incomplete or incorrect information). When you merge someone with photos attached into someone else, the person with the photos attached is deleted and the photos are orphaned (to be found only in a search of Memories). It’s too stressful for me.

What’s next?

Now that I can finally cross this off my list (huge sigh), I am moving on to writing out all the memories I’ve collected from relatives over the years. I’m excited about this project because these memories become even more precious and rare after it’s too late to talk to our family members about them.

My hope is to publish the memories in an electronic book at Google. It should be both permanent and free there.

And there are the photos. I’ve been blessed with many old family photos. I’ve tried to share them freely over the years, but I’m now facing the same problem I did with the genealogy files. Besides being free and permanent, the site I use must allow lots of large files. I’m still looking for that.

For now, my best photos are attached to individuals in FamilySearch‘s Family Tree. To see those, you have to register with FamilySearch (it’s free) and search for the individuals under Memories.

I just hope it won’t take me 50 years to cross these off my list.

I never traded on being a veteran

I don’t think any of the veterans in my family thought of themselves as heroes.

The earliest ones I know about were my great-great-great-great-grandfathers. Valentine Spawr (1769-1855) served in the U.S. Infantry under Gen. Anthony Wayne (“Mad Anthony”) fighting Indians in northwestern Ohio in 1794. Isaac Messer (1781-1861) served in the War of 1812.

Valentine L. Spawr
Valentine L. Spawr

Two of my great-great-grandfathers fought on the Union side of the Civil War. Valentine L. Spawr (about 1832-1882) was a flag bearer and 1st sergeant in Co. C, 14th Iowa Infantry Volunteers. Isaac Barrows (1819-1903) served in Co. I, 184th New York Infantry.

Valentine kept a diary throughout the summer of 1863 while he was stationed at Fort Halleck near Columbus, Kentucky. He was not in any battles during the time he was keeping the diary, but I enjoy his descriptions of camp life and cherish the insights into his personality. (I don’t know of any better way to get to know an ancestor who was dead before I was born.)

Harry Spencer
Harry Spencer

None of my ancestors served in World War I, but my father was drafted into the Army for World War II. He and my mother planned to marry before he was shipped overseas, but the Army’s plans changed and theirs had to, too. He was sent first to North Africa and then to Sicily. He tried to let my mom know he was in Palermo by writing to her, “How’s my old pal Erma?” They were married when he returned and lived happily ever after.

My mom waiting for my dad in Chicago. Dad's picture is on the left side of the mantel. The couple in the photo on her right are her sister and brother-in-law.
My mom waiting for my dad in Chicago. Dad’s picture is on the left side of the mantel. The couple in the photo on her right are her sister and brother-in-law.

On Veterans Day everyone talks about veterans protecting our freedoms. Of all of my ancestors, I think Gggg-grandfather Messer’s service in the War of 1812 came the closest to doing that directly. That’s right—the war we have to look up because we really don’t know much about it if we’ve even heard of it. (I’ve provided a Wikipedia link for your convenience.)

My father never made a big deal about Veterans Day. All he’d done was comply with his draft notice, serve his time, escape physical injury, come home, and resume his life. One of his sisters has said he was never the same after the war; I wouldn’t know since I didn’t know him before.

He told us a few stories about his time overseas, but what I remember when I think about him on Veterans Day is the way he used to say with pride, “I never traded on being a veteran.”

Woodson County, Kansas, celebrates The Glorious Fourth in 1874

After the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” That’s what we’ve done except we’ve done it on the 4th, the day the better-known Declaration of Independence was supposedly signed.

Neosho River, 2007
Neosho River, 2007

Here’s how Woodson County, Kansas, home to the Spawr family at the time, celebrated Independence Day 140 years ago (Defiance, the former county seat, no longer exists):

Woodson County Post, July 8, 1874


A Grand Turn Out—Grangers in Procession Headed by the Neosho Falls Silver Cornet Band—Over 4,000 People in Attendance

The masses were to assemble at the court house in Defiance at 10 A.M., but long before that hour a large concourse assembled in and around that edifice.

The band arrived at 9:30, and after partaking of an excellent lunch at the Cobb were prepared to discourse the soul-stirring airs appropriate to the occasion.

Their first move was to go out and meet the Bramlette Grange and escort them within the city limits. There were in this procession near forty teams heavily laden with human freight.

They then went south to the creek and met Scatter Creek Grange in procession. We could not see how many were in this procession, but it was the largest delegation we saw and was more than half a mile in length.

After reaching the court house a procession was formed and the line of march was taken up for the grove, which as about a mile distant, but there was not room enough to form in so short a space, so after the first two Granges had got into line, the remainder moved en masse.

The place selected was a very pretty situation, but was rather awkward to get to on account of the creek-crossing being steep and crooked, but the speakers’ stand was reached without accident.

The band played Hail Columbia to excellent style, the people were called to order by O. P. Haughawout, a prayer was offered by Rev. John Hayward, after which the regular order of exercises was commenced.

The oration, delivered by Mr. Bryant, of Humboldt, was such as would do credit to any one on a similar occasion.

The toast, “The Day We Celebrate,” which was to have been responded to by Judge Goodin, was left out because John R. failed to appear.

“The American Union” was to have been responded to by A. F. Palmer, but being unable to be present at the time on account of business, his place was creditably filled by W. H. Slavens, who did not expect to respond until called upon at almost the very moment.

“The Lords of Creation,” which was to have been responded to by a lady, was a total failure—not being called at all.

“The Patrons of Husbandry” was responded to by Geo. D. Carpenter in a masterly style. Mr. Carpenter also did himself great credit as Chief Marshal.

We think the Committee of Arrangements should have found men who would have been present and responded to the different toasts before publishing their programme. A celebration of this sort goes off much better is there is no break in the exercise.

But, upon the whole, we must say the celebration was a grand success, called out a very large number of people, and it will be a day long remembered by all who were in attendance.


Just found photos of my ancestors’ . . . neighbors

In case you’re wondering why you should be interested in photos and documents online that are not likely to contain any data about the ancestors you’re researching, this is why: In the past week Kansas Memory posted several photos of my great-great-grandparents’ neighbors.

My ancestors, Valentine L. Spawr, his wife Irena Margaret (Neighbarger), and their daughter Elizabeth moved to Bazaar township in Chase County, Kansas, from Iowa about 1859. My great-grandmother Clara was born there in November of that year. My great-great-grandfather was a house carpenter. At the same time, the Rogler family was starting a ranch. They are on the same page of the 1860 census.

The Spawrs moved back to Iowa about 1861. The Roglers did well in Bazaar. The photos just posted were taken 40 or more years later, but they still tell a little about the area. And maybe–just maybe–my great-great-grandfather had something to do with building the house in the pictures.

Here’s a list:
Rogler Ranch, 1915
Registered bull at Rogler Ranch, between 1900 and 1906
Irene Rogler, 1915
Henry Rogler & friends, 1900
Girls at Rogler Ranch, between 1900 and 1909
George Rogler, 1916
Children at Roger Ranch, 1916

A couple more additions to the site are–

Millinery store, Burlingame, 1905
May Fete at Riley Grade School, Independence, 1951
Knights of the Silver Sword, between 1900 and 1910, Topeka?