Nancy Melvina Tower Vining

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As part of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge, I’m featuring my great-aunt Vina. The photo shows her (in a white dress) with Lealon McGhee and an unidentified young woman holding a doll.

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Lealon McGhee and Melvina Tower with an unknown girl holding a doll.

She was born the 8th of August in 1899 in Jet, Missouri and named Nancy Melvina Tower. Her father, William Warren Tower, was 28 and her mother, Margaret Ann Peller (or Pillar), was 25. She had three sisters, Myrtle, Bessie Pearl and Edith and a brother, Charles.

 

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Nancy Melvina Tower and her younger sister, Bessie Pearl. Probably ages, 5 and 1.

In 1920, Vina Tower was 20 years old and lived in North Seminole, Oklahoma with her father, mother, and 2 sisters. Her older siblings, Charles and Myrtle, were no longer living with the family.

The highest grade Vina completed in school was 8th grade. High school was not always available in small towns or for country folk.

I presume her mother Margaret died, as her father married a second time to Emma Hill Roberds. Emma was widowed and had two sons (James and Almeda) from her previous marriage. William Warren Tower and Emma had a baby, William Lee Tower February 9, 1925.  He was usually called Billy.

 

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Looks like Bertha McGhee (rear, left). Gail Martin indicated on the back of the photo that it included Edith and Pearl Tower. Could one of these be Vina Tower or Ruth Vining?

In 1925, Melvina Vining was 25 years old and lived in Tyro, Kansas with her husband, Albert. They were newly married. He had served in France during WWI. You can read more about that at this site: Albert Vining in World War I. Albert’s first wife, Edith Flossie Hawkins died in 1923.

 

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Albert Vining and his first wife, Edith Hawkins.

 

Five years later, the census shows Melvina Vining was 30 years old and lived in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert, age 36.

Vina Tower Vining and nephew Donald Vining 1944

Vina Vining and nephew, Donald Vining

The next census on April 1, 1940, we find Melvina Vining at age 40 and living in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert.

Also with them was their 18-year-old nephew, Donald Vining. Family lore does not record why he was living with them instead of with his father, Luther Vining. Albert worked for the Canary Oil Company as a pumper and Vina was a homemaker. They never had children of their own.

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Albert and Vina Vining

She was a widow for 33 years after Albert died in Tyro on September 10, 1960.

This is my mother visiting her aunt Vina Vining. We were related both through the Vining and the Tower family. This might be Vina’s birthday. I see a balloon in the picture.

 

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Gail Martin visiting her aunt, Vina Vining in the nursing home.

 

Nancy Melvina (Tower) Vining died on December 17, 1993, in Coffeyville, Kansas, at the age of 94, and was buried there. The Tower family were very long-lived.

Her Tower family line is Nancy Melvina Tower -> William Warren Tower -> Abraham Bates Tower

The photo below shows her grandfather, father, brother and nephew. Abraham Bates Tower with a beard, his son William Warren Tower, holding the child, Billy Tower in overalls and the child is Troy Tower.

 

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Four generation photo – Tower family

 

Some of Our English Roots

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Some months back, I took the Ancestry DNA test. As expected, it showed much of my heritage links back to the British Isles. That part matches what I’m finding as I work on my family tree. Below the chart, I list some of the family lines and where they came from in England.

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Our English Ancestors:

  • Bates family came from Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
  • Bixby ancestor came from Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk
  • Browning family came from Maldon, Essex
  • Collier family came from Southwark, Surrey
  • Goodale ancestor came from Ipswich, Suffolk
  • King, West, and Pease ancestors came from Great Baddow, Essex
  • Long ancestors came from West Riding, Yorkshire
  • Putnam ancestors came from Tring, Hertfordshire
  • Tower family came from Hingham
  • Vining ancestors came from Wincanton

I found one suggestion that our Joy family changed their name from Joyce in the 1500s when they moved from Ireland to England. I’ll have to search further on that.

Karen has found indications that the Martin family may trace back to France. There will be more work on that line. We know the Rosebaugh line is from Germany. Various invasions of England over the centuries might account for the Scandinavian part of the DNA. Vikings, you know.

Minda or Armin or Arminta or Amanda?

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My great-great-grandfather had a step-daughter that has me puzzled. The 1880 census lists her as the 18-year-old step-daughter of William Newton McGhee. The handwriting is hard to read, but it looks like Arminta or Arminda Micheal.

There don’t seem to be any hints on the ancestry site to help me out, so I’ve been poking around in other people’s trees looking for clues. I’ve tried variations on her name and stumbled across a possible husband for her (Lewis Davis).

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Mitchell seems to be the maiden name for her mother, Elsie Jane, and possibly the census taker didn’t know how to spell that. Elsie Jane (also called Elsa in one family tree) appears to have a previous marriage as her name was Evans when she married William.

I found two Evans brothers to go with Arminda/Minta and even found Evans as a last name for Arminda on some trees. The brothers are Andrew and John W.

This raises the question of who was Minda’s father? Was it Thomas Evans who seems to be the father of Andrew and John, or was Arminda born out of wedlock before Thomas Evans married Elsie Jane?

As I mix and match the first and last names for her, I’ve found the listings for the husband and the brothers, but none of the trees include documentation like the census or a gravestone.

I wish I could solve the mystery of Arminta/Amanda/Armin/Minda with the last name of Evans/Micheal/Mitchell. She was born around 1862 in Arkansas.

Here’s what Velma Ann Roger’s had in her notes, with some additions of mine in (bold):

Samuel Newton McGhee was the second of three children born to William Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane Mitchell Evans.  Children of Wm. Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane were

1-John McGhee

2-Samuel Newton McGhee

3-Houston McGhee

William Newton McGhee had seven children by a previous marriage.  The first wife’s name is unknown. (I have Matilda E. Booker)

Their Children

1- Fate (Solomon Lafayette McGhee)

2-Lucinda (Lucinda Pearl McGhee)

3-Jane (Zilloh Jane McGhee)

4-Margaret

5-Eveline

6-Victoria (Victoria Isabell McGhee)

7-Matilda (Harriet Matilda McGhee)

8 – (Fidomia)
Elsa Jane, nee Mitchell, Evans had three children by her first marriage. 1- Andrew Evans, 2-Minda Evans (see the story above), 3-John Evans. According to scant information her husband’s name was Thomas Evans.

*An interesting footnote; Andrew Evans married Lucinda McGhee, and John Evans married Matilda McGhee. Brothers married stepsisters.  When Andrew died and Matilda died, John then took Lucinda as his 2nd wife.

What’s Next? I need to do more work on the whole batch of McGhees, Evans and Mitchells in Perry County, Arkansas. There’s a McGhee family cemetery on Find-a-Grave, so I’ll chart out a bunch from there and see if any fill the gaps in our tree.

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mcghee martin family tree

Elmer McGhee

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When Elmer Lee MCGHEE was born on February 6, 1910, in Tyro, Kansas, his father, Samuel Newton McGhee, was 34 and his mother, Viola Matilda Tower, was 37. He had seven brothers and two sisters. He died as a child on April 5, 1921, in his hometown.

Here’s the bare bones information from the U.S. Federal Census:
►1910 -Elmer McGhee was less than a year old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 5 brothers, and sister. His siblings are Clarence, Jesse, Roy, Bertha, Lealon, and Loren.
►1920 – Elmer Mcghee was 9 years old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, and 82-year-old grandfather, Abraham Tower.  Added siblings for Elmer are Austin and Ethel. There was an 18-year-old boarder living with them who worked on the public road.

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The occasion above seems to be a visit from the Texas branch of the Tower family (Alice and daughters, Helen and Willie Bell) to Tyro. Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the front.

Samuel Newton McGhee and son Elmer in Tyro KS

Samuel McGhee holding his son Elmer. Their home in Tyro, Kansas, with the smaller Vining family home in the background.

The background story on Elmer is he and his brother Austin had polio at a very young age. You see Elmer and his father, Samuel Newton McGhee here in front of their home in Tyro.

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Austin McGhee, still in baby dress and his older brother Elmer. Note the step made from a packing box.

The family got a pony so Elmer could go to school. The other children walked to school, but Elmer was too disabled by the polio.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas.

Here’s the Tyro School picture with Elmer and Austin.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro School, guessing it is around 1919 

Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the 2nd row from the blackboard…the 1st two boys in dark shirts.

Elmer McGhee was buried in Robbins Cemetery near Tyro, Kansas. You will find a number of Tower, McGhee, and Vining graves there.

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Bertha writes about the photo of her father Samuel holding Elmer.

Old Tower Family Photos – an Analysis

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What a pair of cuties. These babies below from a bygone era belong to the Tower branch of our family tree. Fortunately for me, my mother put them in an album and wrote next to the picture.

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Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower on the right. Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood on the left.

There are several pages of these old studio portraits and a note saying she got them from Bill Tower who had them from W.W. Tower. That was enough to get me oriented. William Warren Tower lived in Tyro KS and was the brother of my great-grandmother, Viola Matilda Tower McGhee.

Hmm, then Bill Tower is my grandfather’s cousin, which would make him a second cousin to my mother, third cousin to me. OK, so now we’ve worked out the source of the photos.

If we had no label, that provenance would be some help in dating and naming the subjects. Don’t assume the ownership of the photos means the people in the photograph are part of that immediate family.

In this case, the two children lived in Oklahoma and the photo was sent to W.W. Tower by his brother, Reuben Tower better known as Shorty. The baby (right side of the photo) is Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower, usually called Ray. Don’t be fooled by the dress, as it was standard wear for baby boys of that era. It probably made it much easier to change diapers.

The other infant is a cousin to Ray. The baby girl is Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood. Ida was Pearl McElvaney’s sister (Shorty’s wife).

We’re lucky to have all that background information about the photo. Now, what can we tell from the photo itself? The wicker chair that the children are sitting on probably is from the 1890s or more recent. The fanciness of the children’s clothing shows the family is in comfortable circumstances and the fact that they can afford a studio portrait indicates that as well. The Tower family in Tyro did not have many photos like that, but I’m finding the Towers in Prague, Oklahoma had quite a few taken.

In the case of these two babies, I have their names and the parent’s names. A quick check on ancestry.com gives Ray’s birthdate as 29 Mar 1910 and Lorene’s as 11 Jun 1910. Ray seems to be sitting up on his own, but someone at the left edge of the picture is holding Lorene in place. I’d guess the photo is towards the end of 1910.

What happened to the children? In October 1911, baby Lorene died. Her parents had 5 children after her and her mother lived to be 94. Little Ray lived to be 82 years of age.

Sometimes vintage photos have the name of a photographer and a town, this one did not. If they are in an album held in place by photo corners, you can check for writing on the back.

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The baby boy at the top of the page is now the older boy in this photo. I’d guess about 8 or 9 years old.

The “VV” refers to Vina Vining (originally Melvina Tower, daughter of William Warren Tower). The baby on the chair is Glenn Bates Tower. He was 8 years younger than his brother William Ray Tower. Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family.

Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family. The 1920 census shows her in the household when she was 12 years old, so she is 3 years older than Ray. I found a possible family for her in the 1910 census where there is a 4-year-old Andra Mitchell with parents Eva and Zack Mitchell.

The boys are Melvina’s cousins, the children of Reuben (Shorty) Tower.

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)

Travels of the Kennedy Family Desk by Karen Kolavalli

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“Awhile back, I did a piece on Squidoo, a writers’ website, telling about a special piece of family history that I am lucky enough to have in my home: it’s a lovely antique cherry wood slant-top desk from the mid-1800’s or earlier. The known history of the desk is that it traveled with my great-great grandfather David Greacen Kennedy, along with his wife and family, from Pennsylvania to Vinland in “Bleeding Kansas” in 1861 by covered wagon. In the piece, I follow the desk as it is handed down through the generations until it was passed on to me in 2002.

I also take the reader along as I explore resources to try to date the desk and discover its origins prior to 1861.

I wrote the piece as part of a “RocketSquid” challenge on the site (The RocketSquid program is a mentoring program for new Squidoo members). It was featured as one of the top lenses (webpages) in the challenge and subsequently earned a Purple Star.”

Purple Stars are fairy dust. They’re magic. They’re surprises. They’re trophies celebrating authentic, original, fantastic content on Squidoo. They’re given out by our editors and community organizers, whenever they find a lens that makes them smile. You’ll never know when or where a purple star will arrive–but you’ll get a special email if you’re bestowed with one. Squidoo

You can read the entire piece at Hubpages, since the Squidoo site closed down: From Pennsylvania to Kansas: Travels of Our Family Heirloom Desk.

Karen wrote this post a few years ago for a blog she had at the time.

Homer Tower’s Wife

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You might think that genealogy is easy these days. Just go online and find all your ancestors and add them to your family tree. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

Admittedly it is easier and faster than in the days when my mom and grandmother visited courthouses and cemeteries to track down relatives. My subscription to ancestry.com is worth every penny in the time it saves me and the names and dates that I’d never find otherwise.

Despite that, finding your roots is a laborious, consuming project. Here’s an example:

I’m tracking the descendants of my great-great-grandfather, Abraham Bates Tower who was born in 1837. Don’t confuse him with the other Abraham Bates Tower who happens to be his uncle and who lived in the same county in Indiana.

One of Abraham’s grandsons is Theodore Homer Tower, son of Erastus Laban Tower. To complicate the search, both Theodore and Erastus went by their middle names. I noted that Homer’s wife was Ilena or maybe Ina Ilena but had no idea on her maiden name.

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The older couple (center) are identified on Ancestry as most likely Clarvina Viola (Cox) and Erastus Laban Tower. The others are probably children and grandchildren but are not identified.

She is the wife of my 1st cousin 2x removed.

As I added more details for Homer from various census and the marriage record, I found more variations of Ilena’s name. Ilenna, Ilean, Ilene and Ina I. I’ve assembled the evidence here.

►1900 census – Ilenna Parr, age 6, was listed as the granddaughter of Sarah and Ruffus Parr. Also in the household are the couple’s daughters, Ruth Parr age 21 and Lisia Ann Parr. age 12. I’d guess that Ruth Parr was Ilenna’s mother, but she could be the daughter of a brother or sister of Ruth’s. If Ruth is the mother, was she unmarried?

►1910 census – Ilean Riddle, age 16 is living with grandparents, Sarah and Rufus Parr. Also in the household are Ruth Riddle and Luke Riddle, ages 39 and 43. There’s a younger child, Chester Riddle, age 4. My deduction from this is that Ruth is Ilean’s mother and she has married Luke, probably in 1905 or 1906. Chester is Ilean’s half-brother. Maybe/maybe not. Ruth and Luke may have adopted Ilean or just gave his last name for the child to the census taker.

►1914 Marriage Certificate – Ilean Parr and spouse, Homer Tower. Very curious, what happened to the Riddle last name? Ilean’s birthdate is given as 25 January 1893. She is 21.

►1920 census – Ilene Tower, age 25 is listed with husband Theodore H. Tower and daughter Hilda. The neighbor on one side is Erastus Laban Tower, wife and also son, Dorris. This is Homer’s parents and younger brother. Next to them is a family of Riddles.
On the other side in the census is Ruth and Abraham Riddle with Abraham’s mother-in-law, the widowed Sarah Parr. It took some further sleuthing to discover that Luke was the middle name for Abraham, so not a separate person or new spouse for Ruth.

►1930 census – Ina I Tower, age 35 lives with Theodore H Tower and their 15-year-old daughter Hilda Marie. Homer’s widowed mother-in-law, Ruth P. Riddle, age 59 now lives with them. This verifies that Ruth is Ilean’s mother.

►1940 census – Ilean and husband Homer Tower, ages 46 and 47, now live alone. It would take further research to find out what happened to Ruth (probably died) and Hilda (probably married).

I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent verifyng Ilean’s name. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure but have listed her on the tree as Ina Ilean Parr Riddle.