Olive Vandever Hendricks with one of her grandchildren, 1971
If there's a genealogy gene, my husband's grandmother had it. On February 20, 1974, she sat down at a typewriter and composed a letter to all her young grandchildren called "Those Were the Days." It's a memoir, really, and it's utterly fascinating. The letter itself is thirty-five pages long, put in a binder and, at the end, has a family tree. The first time I saw it, my heart beat faster, I swear. Honestly, the whole thing is fabulous and such an act of love (says the genealogist).
Here's an excerpt. Typos and spelling recreated faithfully - I have added the photos from my father-in-law's extensive collection.
"Those Were the Days"
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
February 20, 1974
My Dear Grandchildren:
As I sit here in the family room of our new home basking in the sunshine of a winter's afternoon, I am thinking about all of you. Even wishing we could be living closer together so we might really know one another better - you, Grandpa, and I, and in turn each of you, to have a closer relationship one with the other. Wishing does not make it so; so what can this grandmother do to span the miles and the years in such a way that you will have an insight into your heritage? Of course, I know! write you a letter telling you of "Those Days".
Olive as a baby, ca 1911
As they say in the story books, once upon a time a chubby blonde Olive Vandever Hendricks arrived at the home of John and Julia Hendricks, December 13, 1910. Their modest home was located on a farm owned by your great, great Grandfather Herman Hendricks and his wife, Mary Lau Hendricks, and was approximately 1 1/2-2 miles out along the road between Mason and Kings Mills [Ohio] - only knowledgeable to you because it now leads to the site of the popular amusement complex known as Kings Island (fashioned after the Disney attractions).
Herman and Mary Hendricks with their son John, ca 1885. John is Olive's father.
Both of these grandparents had migrated to America from northern Germany (Herman-17 years old from Treptow and Mary-15 years old from Ganchon, Mecklenberg, Strelitz) Nov. 13, 1872, along with other Lau, Hinrichs, and Weisman families. A half-brother of my grandfather, Will Hendricks, eventually owned the farm adjoining grandpa's; this man had 3 sons - Bill Jr, George and Albert (Nick) and one daughter, Minnie. One Fritz Lau had come to the Mason area first, gave such glowing reports that the others decided to follow, especially to help Karl Lau, brother of my grandmother, avoid the military draft. I have heard my parents tell many times what an overly ambitious person my grandmother Hendricks was, i.e. she would go out to work in the field with a baby strapped on her back. At the time of this writing I have a tablecloth of her's; for this she, at the age of 16, raised the flax, spun the linen thread, then wove the cloth! Do you wonder it is such a treasured keepsake?
Olive as a toddler ca 1912
My first recollection of life on the farm is of an experience with one of our fellow occupants, a beautiful and quite large rooster of questionable disposition. On this particular summer day three-year-old Olive had been shadowing her daddy in the barnyard. And then, attempting to respond to my mother's summons to come to the house, my path crossed that of the cock-of-the-walk. In no time at all he pounced, putting all the strength he had into flopping me, but good, with his wings. At all the screeches for which females, large and small, are known, my father came to the rescue and lost no time in impressing Mr. Rooster with the fact he was off limits. Wonder why a meal soon thereafter was graced by roast chicken?
The woman in that picture looks like she knows this might not be a good idea, this wedding thing, don't you think?
Ida Frances (Pike) Brown is my maternal grandfather's mother and my favorite mystery. We know very little about her, and it seems she wanted it to stay that way. My grandfather is still alive and still sharp at 92 years old, but he doesn't have much to tell about his mother. As a young woman, Ida came from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia on her own, looking for work. She was on her way to Halifax, but lingered in Sydney where the boat had dropped her off and met handsome and charming Dan Brown. They married on 16 Nov 1912 and went on to have twelve children. As for her life in Newfoundland, there isn't much to go on. The name Billard, the area of Channel/Port aux Basques, and that perhaps her grandparents were lighthouse keepers.
Ida died in Halifax on 1 Jul 1963. I sent away for her death certificate, but all the info was supplied by one of her sons, who didn't know any more than my grandfather does. The only parent information completed was Name of Father: PIKE. It did confirm her birth date as being 10 Nov 1890 (although again, info given by her son).
Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949, and the first census of Channel seems to have taken place in 1921, long after Ida had left. Not really knowing where to look next, I hopefully posted her information (scanty as it was) on a message board and moved on to other branches of the tree. Happily it wasn't long before I got something.
A man in Newfoundland doing research on his own family noticed a baptismal record* for an Ida Frances in Channel, Newfoundland. She was born 10 Nov 1890, baptised 21 Nov 1890, and the daugher of Louisa Pike! In the space for her father, though, there was only the word "Illegit." (this is where the name Billard came in: Ida felt that should have been her name). Very exciting, but poor Ida. And poor Louisa too, for that matter.
And that's all I've got. Other than that, I see a Timothy Pike was a lighthouse keeper in Channel in 1891, but I can't find any connection to Ida or Louisa. I also can't find Ida in the 1911 Canadian census, so she may still have been in Newfoundland then. [Nope, she wasn't.]
If Ida's situation wasn't ideal in Channel, I'm sorry to say it didn't improve much after her marriage to Daniel Brown. He was an incorrigible womanizer who often drank away their food and rent money. Daniel would run up debts all over town and then the family would pack up and move in the middle of the night to escape his creditors. He may also have been physically abusive--I'm not sure--but it certainly wasn't an easy life.
(One story tells that Daniel was on a ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth when the ferry crashed into the dock and began to sink. At the time, the men and woman were segregated on the journey, with the men upstairs and the women down. Well, Daniel had snuck down to be with the women, which made him a first responder, so to speak. Afterwards, he was hailed as a hero and his picture appeared in the paper. The family moved that night.)