Four Generations of Mothers


Originally posted on my mother’s blog.

Discovering Mom

Researching family history becomes more meaningful when you can see the faces that go with the names and dates. For Mother’s Day, I pulled together my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Beyond that, I have just the names and information, but no photos.

I like seeing them all lined up like this. Looks like that high forehead and the nose came down through the generations. I must have gotten my nose and blonde hair from the Martin side, but I do have the forehead.

Here are their names and dates (left to right):

    • Gail Lee McGhee Martin 1924-2013
    • Ruth Vining McGhee 1897-1960
    • Nancy Jane Babcock Vining 1851–1924
    • Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright Babcock 1820–1882

These four women had 36 children and that doesn’t count the miscarriages or ones that died at birth. Nancy Jane remarried not long after her first husband died. In 1873 Kansas, a woman with children didn’t have the…

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How Many Ways Can You Spell Bixby?


Researching a Surname with Varied Spellings – Bixby

Researching a family tree gets complicated when you run into spelling variations. Here’s a case study with Mary Bixby who links into our family through the Babcocks to our family. Here’s the line: Mary (Bixby) Babcock, then Ezra B. Babcock, then Nancy Jane Babcock (who married Henry Vining).

This happened to me with Mary Bysebe who also showed up as Mary Byxby, Mary Byxbe, and Mary Bixbe. From the dates, I was pretty sure that all of these were the same Mary, but how could I decide which was the correct spelling of her last name.

Continuing on with her line would be difficult if I chose the wrong spelling. Are you a Bixby or perhaps a genealogists with a similar name confusion?

If so, read on and I hope we can straighten it out.

My First Encounter with the Bixby Name and the Variations


I was searching industriously on, following the Babcock name. When I reached Ezra Babcock, it listed his mother as Mary Bysebe. As it brought up further family trees that overlapped Ezra Babcock’s parents and siblings, I saw other variations of Mary’s last name.

One tree listed her as Mary Bysebe, another as Mary Byxby, and even one with Mary Bixbe. I was guessing that Bixby was the correct version since one of her children had Bixby as a middle name.

Bixby is also spelled

Bixbie, Bixbee, Bixbe, Bixbey, Bigsby, Bisbee, Bekesby…

She’s listed as the daughter of EBENEZER BYXBE and HANNAH BABCOCK. I found that quite interesting that her mother was a Babcock and then Mary married a Babcock. I haven’t yet figured out the relationship of Mary’s mother and her husband.

Following the Bixby Name Back to the 1300s

In reading the old documents of the 1700s, I see the name spelled differently even within the same will. The “e” and the “y” are used interchangeably in a number of common words. This is probably where some of the confusion originates.

  • Information about John Bixby
    John Bixby was born in 1475 in Thorp Morieux, Sussex, England. This page shows the church where he marries Alice Paxson in 1498. Click on the site to see a better picture of the church.
  • Information about Walter Bixby
    This page shows Walter Bixby, born in 1390 in Thorp Morieux, Suffolk, England. His father is listed as John Bekesby (another variation of the name).

Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby

Birth: 8 Jul 1799 in Pennsylvania, Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA

Death: 13 Jul 1851 in Wabash, Wabash, Indiana, USA

I don’t know that this advertisement has anything to do with our Bixbys, but just included it for some visual interest.

There’s a book titled, A genealogy of the descendants of Joseph Bixby, 1621-1701 of Ipswich and Boxford, Massachusetts, who spell the name Bixby, Bigsby, Byxbie, Bixbee, or … Bekesby, 1427, of Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk. It’s quite likely that this would answer all our questions on Mary Bixby and her last name. The whole book is available to read online or can be downloaded for Kindle or as a PDF.

The Importance of Labeling Photos – Vining Family


Here’s an old discussion from the MyFamily (Martin/McGhee) site. I think we solved this one.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
Ginger, I had posted this on Facebook, but only had Ruth identified. You were asking about who the others were. Ruth Vining McGhee in white on the right. Also Mrs. Nancy J. Vining (Ruth’s mother). Not sure who the other woman is. Nancy Vining would have been in her late 60’s when this photo was taken–so she must be the seated woman. Ruth was the youngest of 12 children. Nancy also had 2 older children with her first husband.

Virginia Allain – Dec 11, 2011
I was guessing that the woman on the left was Ruth’s mother and the seated lady could be a grandmother. She looks like she could be 80 or so, but maybe it is Nancy Vining as in those days the late 60s would be fairly old.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
Mom should be able to clear it up.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
OK, I’ll speculate one more time and then quit! Ginger, I think you’re right that Ruth is standing next to her mother, Nancy J. Babcock Ashlock Vining. And I believe the seated lady is Ruth’s grandmother, Nancy Jane Wright Babcock.  (UPDATE: Nancy Jane Wright Babcock died in 1880 and this photo is circa 1918.)

Gail Martin – Dec 12, 2011
The other woman standing looks like Mother’s older sister Lucy that married Charles Bolte

Virginia Allain – Dec 12, 2011
OK – then the final line-up would be Lucy Bolte (Ruth’s older sister) on left, Ruth Vining McGhee on right, and their mother, Nancy J. Vining seated.

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining  (photo from WWI sent to Nancy's son Albert Vining in France)

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining (photo from WWI sent to Nancy’s son Albert Vining in France)

Here’s further discussion on this picture in September 2014:

Virginia Allain: Let’s go back one generation. This is CJ’s grandmother, Nancy Jane Babcock Vining in the front. Photo taken in Tyro, KS. She would be my great grandmother.

Cj Garriott: That’s my mother, of course, on the right, in the white dress.

Karen Kolavalli: On the left is Ruth’s sister Lucy Vining Bolte.

Karen Kolavalli: Did your Grandmother Nancy pass away before you were born, Cj Garriott?

Cj Garriott: I think so; Mother was 37 when I came along in 1934, and was youngest of all her siblings

Virginia Allain: Nancy had a hard time, I imagine raising all those children after her husband’s death. In one census, she is working as a laundress which probably means taking in laundry to wash at her home. Very hard work in those days without electricity and with water being carried in from a well in the yard.

Cj Garriott: Thinking about Nancy’s 13th being born June 10, 1897, and her husband died July 28, 1897. No doubt began the laundress work to raise her family!

UPDATE: After reading about the Vining cousins who had a laundry business in Neodesha, Kansas, I’m now wondering if Nancy worked there, rather than taking in washing at her home.

Finding Carl and Ida Babcock


My mother had a photo labeled Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They appeared to be an older couple with a young boy, all dressed in the garb of the late 1800s. Who were they? Were they the grandparents of the boy? I was curious about how they fit into my family.

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock (photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock
(photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

I found Elias on my family tree, actually I found two of them. The Elias Babcock born in 1817 married a Laura, so I went to work on the one born in 1855.

Thanks to, within a short time, I found the 1910 census with an Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They were living in Gentry, Arkansas. That rang a bell, as I have Vining ancestors from there also. This was the Elias born in 1855.

Further investigation showed that Elias Jahue Babcock was a younger brother of my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Babcock (later Ashlock and then Vining). Carl was his son, not his grandson.

Ida, Elias’ wife, was Ida May Brown who lived from 1856 to 1928.

The Vinings and Babcocks are closely related. Ellenor Babcock married John Vining, Nancy Babcock married Henry Francis Vining and Joseph Babcock married Julia Vining.