Women’s History Month – The Laundress


I’ve found several widows on my family tree who listed “laundress” as their occupation in the census. One was my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Vining. Her parents were Ellenor and Ezra Babcock and she was first married to Burr Ashlock. After his death, she married James Vining. They 13 children together to go with the 3 children from her first marriage.

Life wasn’t easy for them. Her oldest son, James Ashlock, died at age 9. The following year, their infant son, William, died before his first birthday. Just four years later, their daughter, Sarah, entered the insane asylum in her teens. You can read her story at What Happened to Sadie Vining?

James and Nancy Jane were married 24 years before he died of typhoid. Her youngest child, Ruth, was less than a year old. Two of the sons were old enough to help support the family after James’ death.

By 1910, most of the children were grown and married. Nancy Jane at age 59 still had 17-year-old Scelia, 16-year-old Albert, and 12-year old Ruth at home. The family lived in Tyro, Kansas, and Nancy Jane worked as a laundress.

The graphic below is a romanticized version of laundry day in the 1920s. Possibly in 1910, my great-grandmother was scrubbing clothes each day on a washboard in a wooden tub. Perhaps Albert helped by carrying buckets of water. Scelia was old enough to be a help too and perhaps even Ruth assisted.
1922 laundry graphic with childFri, Apr 7, 1922 – page 5 · The Morning News (Coffeyville, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

There is another possibility to go with this occupation. Henry Vining had a relative, Aaron Vining, who co-owned a commercial laundry in Neodesha. It’s possible that he employed the Widow Vining there. I’m unsure of the logistics involved for Nancy Jane to travel to Neodesha if she worked there.

A.L. Vining and Model Steam Laundry -

Neodesha Register
Neodesha, Kansas  08 Mar 1917, Thu  •  Page 1

Our 3rd cousin, Nancy Henning has a wonderful photo of Aaron and Carrie Vining’s laundry in 1912. I stare at the faces but can’t tell if Nancy is among them.

Laundry Days

Aaron & Carrie owned and ran a laundry business in Neodesha, KS – photo taken about 1912

I don’t have many photos of the Widow Vining. The one below was taken to send to her son Albert while he was over in France for World War I. Standing behind her are daughters, Lucy and Ruth. She was 67-years-old. None of the women in the photo of the laundry look old enough to be Nancy.

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining 1918 sent to Albert in France

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining

Women’s History Month: Ellenor Wright


We link into the Wright family through my 2nd great-grandmother born in Indiana in 1820. Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright. She married Ezra Babcock.


Penciled on the back of the photo: “(Babcock?)”, then “Ezra Nancy” and “Grandpa Grandma”


Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright was born on May 12, 1820, in Indiana, her father, Levi Wright, was 26, and her mother, Lydia Chapman, was 24. She married Ezra B Babcock on August 27, 1843, in Piatt, Illinois. They had 11 children in 18 years. She died on February 8, 1882, in Paola, Kansas, at the age of 61, and was buried in Oronogo, Missouri.

That’s a great distance and many generations away from Sussex, England and the location of the ancestral manor house. It is no longer in the Wright family as it sold years ago in 1771. John Wright is supposedly my 2nd cousin 11x removed, so quite unlikely that I’d be in line to inherit it anyway. 

wright family history

The book describes the Wright family as an industrious long-lived family. I like the part that says they were highly intelligent and studious. I’d like to think that some of these qualities have been passed down through the generations.

wright history

After searching further, I found another line for my tree that goes back to the same Wright family. It would seem that my parents must be 15th cousins or some such thing.

Geni - John Wright of Kelvedon Hall is related to Virginia Allain

Still lots to work on with these, to see if all the links make sense and are properly documented.

Women’s History Month – Mystery Woman


Today, I puzzled over a photo in my mother’s stash that she had tried to identify. Could it be Nancy Jane? Since she lived into her 90s, we have a number of photos of my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane (Babcock Ashlock) Vining. Most of them show her as a tiny elderly woman and aren’t useful for comparing to this one. 

The location, Neodesha KS, would fit and the era, possibly 1870s to 1890s, also would fit. Unfortunately, those two clues could also match a number of people on my family tree.

Here’s the Mystery Photo

maybe francis henry vining - Neodesha KS photo

Could this be the Henry Francis Vining family?


I’d love to be able to match this to the Vining family as we have no photos of Henry Francis Vining who died of typhoid at age 59 in 1897. Both the adults in this picture have high foreheads and long noses. The children seem to have inherited the long noses.

Comparison Photos

On the left is a painting that is our earliest identified picture of Nancy Jane Vining. Not definitive, I’m afraid.

Next, I’m looking at the children. Here are known photos of the Vining family’s children and the three oldest were Julia, Sarah, and Jacob. They were born in 1874, 1876, and 1878.

This composite was assembled from a group school photo. Look at the three oldest children here. Then look at the children in the mystery photo.

The Vining children in the school all have quite dark hair. The two girls in the mystery photo look more blonde or at least light brown hair (older girl).

Sadly, this does not appear to be Henry Francis Vining and his wife and children. I’ll have to look for other Vining or Babcock possibilities.

Women’s History Month – The Witch on Our Family Tree


Ancestor of the Week:  Rebecca Towne Nurse
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 11– Luck

A family history researcher feels like they’ve hit the jackpot when they link to a well-known person. It’s a shock, after sleuthing for any crumb of information, to suddenly find an ancestor so well-documented. It’s not often that I am that lucky.

My lucky find of a historic ancestor was a Salem witch named Rebecca Nurse. I’m related to her through both my grandmother and my grandfather, but you have to go back 300 years to see where the two lines meet in Colonial Salem.

The Witch on Our Family Tree

rebecca nurse by howard pyle from wikipedia

Rebecca Nurse, an illustration by Howard Pyle (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Rebecca Nurse has been exhaustively researched as she’s one of the unfortunates in Salem who was hanged in the witchcraft hysteria in 1692. It turns out that I’m related to her through two different lines on my family tree. She left behind 11 children and 26 grandchildren so there are many descendants of Rebecca. I found a number of them when I joined a Facebook group for Descendants of Salem Witches.

This chart shows one way that I’m related to Rebecca Nurse and it is pretty round-about. But continue on and you will see that I’m also related to her more directly through my Vining line.

Chart of Descent from Geni

Geni Rebecca Nurse Towne 1621 1692 Town of Salem

You can read a good summary of her life on Wikipedia.

Here’s the more direct line to Rebecca (Town) Nurse through my McGhee/Vining/Babcock/Bixby line where she is my 8th great-grandmother. I have 37 DNA matches for her great-granddaughter, Thomasine Nurse, so the connection is pretty definite.

Rebecca Towne 1622-1692
8th great-grandmother
Benjamin Nurse (Nourse) 1666-1748
Son of Rebecca Towne
Benjamin Nurse 1694-1778
Son of Benjamin Nurse (Nourse)
Thomasine Nurse 1716-1765
5th great-grandmother
Ebenezer BIXBY (see Bisbee) 1744-1813
Son of Thomasine Nurse
Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby 1799-1851
Daughter of Ebenezer BIXBY (see Bisbee)
Ezra B Babcock 1821-1886
Son of Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby
Nancy Jane Babcock 1851-1924
Daughter of Ezra B Babcock
Ruth Vining 1897-1960
Daughter of Nancy Jane Babcock
Gail Lee MCGHEE 1924-2013
Daughter of Ruth Vining
While talking to members of our local genealogy club in Florida, I mentioned my discovery. Oddly enough, one fellow said he was descended from one of the judges who presided over the Salem trials. Another told me that he was descended from one of the first accusers in Salem. What a small world.
Rebecca Nurse is a central character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and it has been made into a movie also. There are quite a few books about the Salem witchcraft trials, so I’ll just feature a few of them here for those who want to explore this further.

Learn More

The Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe CrucibleThe CrucibleThe Crucible


Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 11 of the 2020 challenge.

My Earliest Conclusion Was Wrong


I pulled out another mystery photo from my mother’s boxes. Across the bottom of the photo’s mat was written “Walter Baker”. Aha, I’d seen a Baker on my recent searches so I went in hot pursuit of this Walter Baker.  I found him, born in 1924. I set to work trying to find out more about this 3rd cousin. Frustrated by his parents’ early divorce, the multiple marriages of his mother, and a lack of siblings, I took a closer look at the picture.

It looked like it was from an earlier era, which wouldn’t work for someone born in 1924. There was a photography studio name on the mat but it wasn’t any help to determine the location as the decorative border obscured part of it.

carl, nellie, rosie, walter, baker babcock

The name was penciled on the dark background, so I scanned the photo and brightened it up. To my surprise, I discovered more names on the mat and they seemed to align with the people above and below them. It wasn’t Walter Baker at all, but separate males named Walter and Baker. The back row showed a young boy named Carl and two women named Nellie and Rosie. My first conclusion was totally off-track.

Now the hunt was to find a family on my tree with siblings or cousins that included those five names. Keep in mind that there are over 9,000 people on my tree, so I was prepared for this to be a prolonged search. I started sorting through the 8 people who had Baker as a first, middle, or last name. Checking their dates, then their siblings, narrowed it down to a likely fellow. BINGO, his siblings matched the names on the photo.

The People in the Photo

  • Albert Baker Babcock, born 12 Dec 1878 in Seneca, Newton, Missouri and died 18 Feb 1941.
  • Walter Leroy Babcock, born 26 Nov 1882 in Seneca, Missouri and died 7 Jan 1943 in Fremont, Colorado.
  • Carl Lowell Babcock, born 26 Jan 1897 in Stroud, Lincoln, Oklahoma and died 23 Sep 1963 in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, California
  • Nellie May Babcock, born 12 Jan 1888 in Missouri and died 1963.
  • Rosa Babcock, born about 1877 in Kansas and died 3 Sep 1960 in Watonga, Blaine County, Oklahoma.

I’d researched another photo a while ago that had Carl Babcock in it with his parents. At that time, I didn’t pay much attention to his siblings. Here’s the Babcock’s story.

Elias, Carl, Ida Babcock

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

I love the feeling of accomplishment from sleuthing out these names so I can put this photo online with the blog and with Ancestry for other relatives to find. It’s saved now from anyone just tossing it out because they don’t know who the people are and don’t care.

Somewhere, someday, a descendant of one of these Babcocks will search and find this photo. I can imagine their thrill to have their great-great-grandmother or grandfather’s picture.

Z is for Zorobable


Browsing the Z names on my family tree, I found three women called Zella, but I wanted something a bit more unique. Zeland sounded unusual until I checked the census records. Zeland was really Leland and the transcriber had misread the fancy first letter in the 1940 census.

There was a Zelma, a Zea, a Zerrilda, and a Zora. Intriguing and how could I leave out Zelma, Zetta and Zettie, Zachael, Zenith, and Zerusha? For men’s names, there was a Zachariah and a Zedekiah.

The standout name though was Zorobable. I knew there had to be a story behind that one. Zorobable Olerz Kilgore was born on May 14, 1873, in Louisburg, Kansas, to Mary Katherine (Cathryn) Babcock, age 29, and James Holten Kilgore, age 33. He was my 2nd cousin, 2x removed. He was a middle child of their fourteen children. Several of his brothers were named after famous people (John Wesley, Ulysses Grant, and Frances Marion).

zarb kilgore from ancestry by jtkilgorejr44

jtkilgorejr44 (likely another distant cousin of mine) provided this photo on Ancestry of Zarb Kilgore.

Zorobabel or variations of that spelling are a Biblical name for the governor of Judea. Our Zorobable shows up with a tremendous variety of spellings in the U.S. census. Zerrababel, Zordabble, Zarble, Zorabet. The Kansas census resorted to initials with Z.O. Kilgore. The WWI draft registration showed Zarble Ullery Kilgore but he signed the form with Zarb. The Ullery or Oolery show up in Babcock names over the generations. I need to find out where that comes from. Could be a lead to an immigrant ancestor.

Zarb is also the way his name appeared at age 56 in the 1930 census. He was working for the coal mine at Scranton, Osage, Kansas at this point. Upon his death, his gravestone read “Brother, Zarble O. Kilgore.”

This is the last of the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2019. If you missed any of the earlier posts, there’s a list at that link.

Y is for YIKES!


Sometimes the news that I find about an ancestor makes me say, “yikes!” Accidents happen and I wish I could find follow-up stories to reassure me that the victim recovered. Here are some accidents that injured my Babcock, Vining, and Martin ancestors between 1880 and 1910 in Kansas.

This toddler, the child of Robert Babcock, received scalding burns from tipping over a teacup of hot tallow onto its face. It sounds so painful. At first, the doctor thought the child might die. I have a lot of Babcocks on my family tree and some of them lived in Thayer. Scanning down the list, I looked for someone born around 1885. So far, I haven’t been able to identify the child.

Robert Babcock (which one??) 2-yr old child scalded, Erie KSRobert Babcock (which one??) 2-yr old child scalded, Erie KS Fri, Dec 2, 1887 – 1 · The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

The year before a son of William Henry Babcock was injured in a fall. That child I was able to identify as Samuel O. Babcock.
Samuel O. Babcock injures elbowSamuel O. Babcock injures elbow Fri, Feb 26, 1886 – 8 · The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Here’s a photo of Samuel Oolery Babcock as a grown-up. My thanks to LDStater for sharing this picture on Ancestry.


I’ve found a number of runaway horses and buggy accidents. In this one, the mother and child were dragged more than a hundred yards after the buggy turned over. The name given is Mrs. Frank Shetler which would be Elnore (Nora) Vining. She’s the daughter of James M Vining Jr. and Jane/Jennie Lindsley.  Given the date here, I’m guessing the baby was Georgia Pearl Shetler who was born in 1909. Nora survived the accident and lived to age 88.

Elnore Shetler and child in buggy accidentElnore Shetler and child in buggy accident Thu, Aug 11, 1910 – 1 · Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Another buggy accident involved my first cousin, 3x removed. Henry Roach Martin “was quite badly hurt” when his team spooked, running away in the dark as he headed home from a religious meeting. Apparently, two young men were racing and that frightened his team. The accident was not fatal as H.R. Martin died about 40 years later at age 81.

H.R. Martin injured in buggy accidentH.R. Martin injured in buggy accident Thu, Oct 24, 1895 – 5 · The Emporia Weekly Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

I’ve written earlier about the death of my great-grandfather, Sam McGhee, in an oilfield accident. My other great-grandfather, Alfred Joy, was fortunate to survive several serious accidents while farming.