Dear Diary


My family is fortunate to have some vintage diaries preserved in our family treasures. I’m in possession of my great-uncle’s pocket diary from WWI and also my grandfather’s from that same time.

albert's wwi diary journal

Albert Vining’s World War One Pocket diary

One wonders if these were given as a gift from a loved one to a soldier as he departed for France. Perhaps they were just something available in the commissary for the troops to buy on payday.

Whichever was the case, the wear-and-tear on the slim notebooks was considerable over time in the service. Perhaps the veteran brought it out to show the family over the years or to jog his own memory of the life or death struggle he survived.


WWI soldiers that Albert Vining knew

The diary was the perfect place to record the names and home towns of pals so they could keep in touch after the war. I wonder if letters were exchanged or not.

Albert Vining served in Company B of the 852nd Infantry. On the right-hand page above, he noted the names of people he wanted to remember from that time. I’ll post them here in case ancestors might hunt for them online.

I was curious if his pals survived the war so I researched them on Find A Grave. The ones I found are highlighted here and you can see their gravestone and in some cases information about their life.


Albert Vining’s WWI pocket diary

Albert used the pocket diary to log the movements of his company during the war. He was stationed in France. One of the places you see above is Badincourt. You can read more about Albert Vining’s WWI experience on the Hubpages site.

uncle albert

Albert Vining

B is for BUCKLAND Ancestors


It’s always a treat to see an ancestor’s dates and family clearly laid out in book just waiting for you to discover it. My mother found it years ago and wrote about Almira Buckland’s life. She did a great job putting it into story form and it’s also included in Mom’s book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

I’m following in my mother’s footsteps, retracing the tree and seeing what further details might be revealed online that weren’t available to her in the 1970s.

Those were the days of visiting libraries, using the microfilm machine, taking day trips to cemeteries, and waiting for replies from distant relatives to your letters. Not everything is online even now, so genealogists still need to track down some information in person.

My 2x great-grandmother Almira Buckland pioneered in Kansas with her husband, James Vining. For background information on her family, I was delighted to see this entry in The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut Vol. II 1635 – 1891 by Henry R. Stiles. The book includes East Windsor, South Windsor, Bloomfield, Windsor Locks, and Ellington. It was published in 1892 and you can read it on Google Books.

The_History_and_Genealogies_of_Ancient_Buckland Only - almira buckland

Review of Details from the Book

  • Almira H Buckland was born on July 13, 1813, in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Sarah Heath, age 38, and Erastus Buckland, age 39. Her father held the title of Captain. Sarah Heath Buckland (born April 19, 1775, died October 21, 1850, at the age of 75). Erastus Buckland born Apr 2, 1774, died November 28, 1820, at the age of 46, so Almira would have been only 7 years old. He graduated from Wilbraham Academy/Trinity College and owned a mill according to the Stiles book.
  • Her siblings are Erastus 1799, Emily 1800, Sarah 1804, Harlehigh 1805, Harriet 1809, Marilla 1815, and Lorenzo 1810.
  • This even gives the names of her maternal grandparents Polly Osborn and Stephen Heath of East Windsor. On her paternal side, Almira’s father was the son of Alexander, who was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of Thomas.

Two Children With the Same Name

It intrigues me to read that Harlehigh was given the same name as a baby brother who died two years earlier. The name seems so unusual to me, that I want to research further to see if it might be a surname of some earlier grandmother.

The Siblings Who Moved Away from Connecticut

Also intriguing was the dispersal of the siblings away from their traditional location. Emily moved to Guildhall, Vermont with her second husband. One of sister Sarah Buckland Bower’s sons moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Harlehigh attended college at Trinity and Yale, then practiced law in Springfield, Mass. For Almira, it merely says that she removed west. The next 2 siblings died as infants. A brother, Almanzo, also removed west.

mural covered wagon st louis

Covered wagon (St Louis museum)

Some Further Research Is Necessary

The Stiles book gives Thomas Buckland as the immigrant ancestor of Almira Buckland. He would have been her 2nd great-grandfather. My problem is that I have William Buckland in that slot. Ack! About 10 other trees have William Buckland as Jonathan’s father as well.

This is boggling me, so I’ll have to go over all the sources I’ve used and do some in-depth research on Thomas Buckland to sort this out.

In an earlier section of the Stiles book, there’s more information about Thomas Buckland who was in Massachusetts Colony as early as 1635. He received a grant of land for his part in the 1637 Pequot fight. I had to look that up. It took place between 1636 and 1638 in New England between the Pequot tribe and an alliance of the colonists and other tribes. It makes me sad to read of ancestors involved in killing off and enslaving Native Americans.

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) ·

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 – Bessie Vining


I’m taking a fresh look at Bessie Vining, my grandmother Ruth’s sister. Her life spanned from 1887 to 1941. From her early days in Wilson County, Kansas to a sod house in the Oklahoma Territory, then to Fawn Creek and Teterville, Kansas in the early oil boom days.

Mrs. Bolte and 6 children arrive in KSMrs. Bolte and 6 children arrive in KS Mon, Feb 28, 1921 – Page 3 · The Coffeyville Daily Journal (Coffeyville, Kansas) ·

What inspired me to revisit her life is this stunningly lovely photo. A very kind and talented man that I met in a Facebook group colorized this for me. I’m not going to share his name here which would get him overwhelmed with requests.

bessie vining colorized

After combing through old newspapers, I found little additional news to give me insight into her life. I keep hoping a descendant will see this and contact me. If you missed it, here is my earlier profile of Bessie. You’ll find more details about her life and more photos there.

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 – Ruth McGhee


My mother wrote this story about her mother winning a writing contest in 1924.

Mother Was a Writer

by Gail Lee Martin

“I was born, 13 September 1924, in Greenwood County Kansas. My folks lived on Star Route, out in the beautiful Flint Hills, near Teterville. Daddy was an oil-field pumper for the Phillips 66 Petroleum Company.

vintage typewriter

A typewriter like Ruth McGhee might have used.

Six months before I was born my Mother, twenty-six-year-old Ruth McGhee, won second place in a writing contest for The Palmer Photoplay Corporation of Hollywood, California.

The contest was put on by the Wichita Beacon in connection with the Palace Theater in Wichita. Mother received fifteen dollars, her returned, typewritten manuscript with the promised critiques and a glowing letter of acceptance.

My sisters and I found out about this after our folks were gone, and it is still a mystery why Mother didn’t write more and in her isolated circumstances where did she find a typewriter?

Her hand-written drafts even show good grammar and are written on ledger style paper. We also found a novel and a short, short story. I don’t recall her ever talking about writing or the contest. When my younger sister was writing short stories for children, I remember Mother was her best supporter.

I was always writing stories in study hall at school, but I never shared my writings with Mother. I never thought anyone would want to read them. I threw them all away, now I wish I hadn’t. Do you Suppose, if I had shared with Mother, we could have been a writing team? It is hard to think of my gentle Mother, who wiped away my childish tears with the corner of her apron, as a writer of “When Dreams Come True.”

Ruth McGhee

Out in those hills Mother cared for a big garden and preserved a lot of the produce for winter meals. She always had lovely flower beds, in spite of the shortage of water. A few years ago I returned to the site of our home on the prairie, where we lived while she was writing for the contest. Just barren plains with abandoned oil wells scattered all around..

Mother had told us about their life there, in an unpainted, ‘shot-gun’, oil field house with no neighbors in sight. My oldest sister was three years old then so when did Mother find time to write? But I certainly can understand her title and hope I helped make her dreams come true with my writing.

teter lease house 1927 mcghee family

In the May 1992 issue of the Kanhistique magazine, my story, “My Mother Was a Writer in 1924” was published and I received fifteen dollars for my Mother’s Day story. Do my genes from my mother make me want to write? It doesn’t matter, I just love to write.”


2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 164

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.