Tales of Our Family

“When we illuminate the road back to our ancestors, they have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves…sometimes even physically.”― Raquel Cepeda,

Ruby and Henry Roe, Yazoo County Mississippi, sometime in the mid to late 1920’s.

Should Be a Movie

By Gerry Roe

Embrace your uniqueness. Time is much too short to be living someone else’s life. Kobi Yamada

Should Be a Movie

Below is the story I believe could have been a movie. I wrote this in an adult writing class in the early 1990s. I was the next to the youngest in a family of seven. By the time I was born all my grandparents except one had passed away. The last passed away when I was seven months old. Therefore, I never knew grandparents. So the story below could be the making of a movie about surrogate grandparents. Including the poor family from the South post World War Two and the Great Depression.


Come back with me to my childhood days, when I was five. I want you to meet two people who through their generous love and kindness etched indelible memories.

We lived in a small rural town named, Dorena, Oregon, fifteen miles east of Cottage Grove. We moved to this quiet lumber town on Row River when I was six months old. My family was poor; I was the next to the youngest of seven children. Our house was rundown and ramshackle with a bleak, gray clapboard exterior.

Our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford, became the most wonderful grandparents anyone could wish for. These lovely individuals assumed a surrogate grandparent’s role to the entire Roe family, and did so with such graciousness.

I have many fond memories of these two. In my mind, their appearances never changed. Both had snowy white hair. Mr. Crawford was a giant of a man, tall, lumbering, almost oafish, and worked in the lumber mill. His hearing was affected because of the loud noises in the lumber mill; as a result, he spoke in a loud, gruff voice. In contrast, Mrs. Crawford was a petite, dainty, meticulously groomed, prim and proper lady. She always wore tailored suits with a silk blouse. Her silk hose required an elastic band to pull high on the thigh and stocking top rolled over to secure. Her hair was coiffured of white cumulus clouds. She was as quiet spoken as her mate was loud. We would see them walking down the hill toward our house, such a contrast of stature and grace.

I could share many memories; however, two that remain so vivid in these sixty-nine years are associated with walnuts and tamale pies. You ask me what is the correlation? Really, there is none!

I could always count on going to their old country farmhouse and sitting on the front step with Mr. Crawford. While we talked about the day he would crack English walnuts for me. He would continue to crack them for me until I could eat no more. He was so patient. He also worried that I might choke on the nuts. Alas, one day I became very ill. It was gluttony!! Yes, too many walnuts. To this day I can not stomach cracked English walnuts.

Now, on to the tamale pie. If you had been privileged to devour one of Mrs. Crawford’s tamale pies, you would forever remember the taste. It was a mixture of spicy, tingling, pasty taste of the cornmeal, hot sauce, tomatoes and black olives. What a special treat! It was always a surprise when she would come down the hill carrying the yellow gallon Pyrex bowl of steaming hot, fresh from oven, tamale pie. Of course, she had it wrapped in layers of newspaper to keep it hot. She always managed to arrive in time to set it on the supper table.

These are but two of the many memories I cherish of these two wonderful Christian people. Several years ago their son gave me a picture of the them. I look at the picture and am able to feel their warmth, love and laughter. I smile as I think of their generosity and their accepting the Roe clan as family. I will long remember and cherish the friendship and guidance they bestowed upon me as a child. There will always be a very special spot in my heart for my surrogate grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford.


Surrogate Grandparents: Mr. and Mrs. Crawford circa late 1940s


By Gerry Roe edited by grandson, Keegan Pond

Love is a fabric which never fades, no matter how often it is washed in the waters of adversity and grief. Whispered Words of Encouragement 2006


Written documentation of remains moved from cemetery in Old Kuttawa of 2nd great grandfather, James Fowler by his son Robert Lon Fowler 1942

There are so many stories in our family’s history that will be forgotten.  

But many thanks goes to my Second great uncle, Robert Lon (Lonzo/Alonzo) Fowler whose father: James Fowler ( my Second great grandfather), his  ½ sister, and a sister, a son and daughter will not be left under Lake Barkley in Lyon County Kentucky.  Robert was instrumental in applying to move the remains of his beloved family. 

Recently I found the hand written page of Cemetery removal records dated May 1, 1937. It was from the Tennessee Valley Authority and hand written by Uncle Robert.  I had it tucked away in my many disorganized pages of research. Finding it again I was curious as to why the remains were moved. Thanks to the historian and researcher in my niece, Betsy Cross Thorpe; she taught me to go to the source and eke out the facts.

My mother, Ruby Elizabeth Isaacs Roe was born in Kuttawa, Kentucky in 1911.  The town flooded regularly because of the four rivers flowing nearby.  The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a new deal program established in the 1930s by President Franklin Roosevelt, began a series of dams along the Tennessee River to manage flood control and provide electricity to the mid-south.  Because of building a dam forming  Lake Barkley,  the town of Kuttawa was moved to higher ground in the early 1940s.  Thankfully, the TVA planned ahead of building the dam. Families had time to move loved ones to higher and safer ground from the cemeteries that would soon be under water.

Excerpt from Mr. Douthat’s introduction:
“The first grave removals required by construction of the Kentucky project was made in 1937, when it became necessary to relocate a cemetery at the site of a quarry. The regularly scheduled reservoir program was begun in August 1942 and was
completed, except for a few graves, in December 1943. The work was done under the supervision of Fred W. Wendt, who acted as superintendent of grave removal operations for the project……… A total of 3390 graves were moved and 578 monuments were relocated (note: in various counties, not just Lyon). Dis interments were made from 120 cemeteries and 113 re internment cemeteries were used. Remains from two graves were disinterred and turned over to undertakers for reburial in a distant cemetery at the request of the nearest relatives.”

James, Minnie, and Maggie Fowler and two unnamed  Fowler infants will not go unforgotten under Lake Barkley because of Robert Lon Fowler, a very loving and thoughtful son, brother and father.

Back to School

School Days” is an American popular song written in 1907 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards. Its subject is of a mature couple looking back sentimentally on their childhood together in primary school.

School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
‘Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic

By Gerry Roe

The best known part of the song is its chorus:

1907 internet picture

Back to School

Collage of family pictures of going back to school. Randomly placed and knowing each picture has a story left to be told.

Gene and Bud Roe ready for a school day in Hollybluff, Mississippi circa 1930s
Bill Roe (center back row) and cousin, Frank “Pete” Isaac (back row last on right) 1st grade Dorena, Oregon 1948
2nd grade Dorena grade school, Dorena, Oregon
Cousin Kenneth Lisenby far right back row and Gerry Roe far left second row with Miss. Arnold teacher
Gerry’s nephew, Robert Roe’s wife JoAnne and grandchildren, Tryston and Cora Quigley Washington 2010
H.F. Roe center 2nd row dark uniform training new recruits 1966
1958 first year to wear “peddle pusher”
Cousin Bill Dawson 1962 Xavier Prep with Sister Augusta in Physics class

Black Sheep

The black sheep of the family is someone who makes bad decisions or has a bad reputation within a family unit.” The Idiom Dictionary

Black Sheep

By Betsy Cross Thorpe

I had misgivings about using this week’s writing prompt as soon as I saw it. The prompt is Black Sheep.   My objections are based on the premise that the black sheep of a family is a person who is excluded or disapproved of by the rest of the family.  People are considered black sheep for many different reasons. Changing religions, dropping out of school, marrying without parental consent, or engaging in other forms of conduct outside the norm of accepted behavior can cause some people to be shunned by members of their own family.

Are there any black sheep lurking on the branches of my family tree?  I really can’t say. I’m just now getting acquainted with my ancestors.  There are a few that I have come to know quite well, but my family tree is crowded with the names of many that I don’t know anything about and I don’t know if any of them fit into that category. And even if I did know, I wouldn’t write about them.  Family dynamics are complicated. They are seldom understood by people outside the immediate circle of relatives.  So how could a distant descendent like me undrestand?  Who am I   to publicly speculate on the nature of relationships between people who lived and died long before I was born?

This raises some questions. Do genealogists and family historians have an ethical duty to record and report everything they learn about their ancestors? Should secrets remain secret even when there is no one alive to be harmed by the telling? Ancestors are shared by many. Who gets to say what should or shouldn’t be published about a shared ancestor?  

As a writer of history, I have thought long and hard about how to write about people from the past. From the mundane to the shocking, there are many kinds of stories, but out of consideration for the privacy of others who can no longer tell their side of the story I recognize that all of them are not for me to tell.

#52ancstorsin52weeks #52ancestorsin52weeksblacksheep


“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

By Gerry Roe


I am approaching small hint because of the small amount of information about the one person in my family tree I continue to search for knowledge of her existence.

Harriet Bell Gifford; my maternal great-grandmother is she an illusion?

What I know is she was the first wife of my great-grandfather William R. Fowler. They were married December 25, 1880 in Henry County, Tennessee. I have a copy of the marriage license. She was listed as Miss Harriet B. Gifford and a resident of Henry County.

I know they had three daughters together; the youngest my grandmother Lillie Bell Fowler. My grandmother was born February 8, 1887 in Danville, Tennessee. Harriet apparently died later in 1887.

In my possession is the death certificate of Cora Francis Fowler O’Bryan born November 16, 1885. One of the of Harriet’s three children with W.R. Fowler. Harriet Giffort (with a t) is listed as her mother and born in Henry County, Tennessee. On my my maternal grandmother Lillie Bell Fowler Isaacs death certificate Harriet Bell Gifford Fowler birthplace listed as Illinois.

Those are the only facts I am sure of.

These are what has been passed down but unable to verify.

Harriet was adopted. She was born in Illinois near Cooperstown, There is another Gifford family with a Harriet B. I am able to follow her to her death after 1900 in Nebraska.

William remarried on June 11, 1891 listed as widower to Ellen Todd.

Lillie Bell Fowler is shown as a daughter to James W. Herington on 1900. He is listed as 62 and a widower In Gilbertsvillie Marshall County, Kentucky. Census under her is William? Fowler and Maggie with different house numbers. Could Lillie have been listed incorrectly or could she have been given to this family as an infant?

Florence and Cora both showing an 1885 birth on some family trees: no mention in past of them being twins. Actual birth months different November 16 for Cora and 12/25 for Florence.

Where I have searched My Heritage and Family Search as well as Ancestry. My DNA matching trees.

I have exhausted my available sources and now will reach out to Professional Genealogist, Melissa Barker who was very helpful recently with another family mystery.

Harriet, the illusive great-grandmother where can more information be found? More information on her would lead to more information about her parents. This inquiring great-granddaughter wants to know.

Harriet Gifford marriage license to WM Fowler 1880
Harriet’s daughter Cora death certificate
Lillie Bell death certificate

#52ancestorsin52weeks #52ancestorsin52weekssma..


“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”

Anthony Brandt


By Gerry Roe edited by Betsy Cross Thorpe

Gabriel Elkins is my third-great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.  He was born August 12, 1755 in Culpepper, Virginia.  He died Jan. 5, 1842 in Paris, Texas.

It’s not clear how many times Gabriel married, but it is recorded that he fathered at least twenty children.  His first wife was named Stacy Dillard.  Stacy died at a young age. He then married a woman named Mary Pendleton who also died young. Gabriel  later married a woman thought to be Stacy’s niece, my third-great-grandmother, Sophia Dillard. I don’t know if he had any other wives.

Gabriel fathered at least eleven children with Stacy, one known child with Mary and eight or more children with Sophia, including Susannah Elkins my second-great-grandmother.

I have a very large number of distant DNA cousins.   Now that I know about Gabriel Elkins and his many, many children, I understand why.  He definitely wins my Family Tree Award for Ancestor With the Largest Number of Offspring.

#52ancestorsin52weeks   #52ancestorsin52weeksLarge


“This old barbaric bagpipe music has magic in it. It transforms the Scot. It reawakens in the depths of their being, even in this century, impressions, moods, feelings inherited from a wild untamed ancestry for thousands of years.”
Michael MacDonagh ~ 1916


By Betsy Cross Thorpe

England, Germany, Ireland and Scotland; Afternoon Tea and Boxing Day, Stout Beer and Lederhosen, Step-dance and Mutton, Tartan Plaids and Bagpipes.

Those are the old countries of my maternal ancestors listed with some of the cultural traditions my ancestors presumably held when they arrived on the shores of this country.  My ancestors did well in the New World. They thrived. Their descendants are many.  However, their old country traditions didn’t fare as well. As far as I know, in my direct line of ancestry, none of the customs, from any of those countries, were passed to future generations.

Take my middle granddaughter and three of my cousins. All four are English afternoon tea enthusiasts, sippers and nibblers, they know an authentic English style tea-room when they see one. Not because afternoon tea is a long-held family tradition, but because it’s something they like to do. And Boxing Day?  All I know about that old English custom is that it has something to do with the 12 days of Christmas and I’m not sure if I’m right about that.

Then there is German beer. I have relatives who enjoy a foamy draft, not as a result of our German heritage, they just like the taste of beer.  Lederhosen? All the boys in my family should thank our far-back grandfather for leaving that piece of traditional old country wear behind when he arrived in Louisiana. However, I can’t help but think how fun it would be to see my brothers decked out German style, in Lederhosen.

 Now for my Irish ancestors and the art of step-dancing.  My only experience with Irish dance was attending an afternoon matinee of River Dance at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville.  And regarding a meal of mutton, I have never prepared it, tasted it or seen it served.

England, Ireland, Germany, memories of my ancestors and the traditions of those countries are lost to me, they are not part of my cultural DNA.

Not so with Scotland. While the Highland traditions of my ancestors disappeared with some unknown generation, the culture of Scotland is familiar to me and my kinship with those long-lost relatives is real.

Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of Outlander on Netflix but of all of the old countries in my genealogy it’s Scotland that inhabits my dreams. The touch of a plaid piece of cloth conjures visions of an unknown grandmother, tartan shawl draped across her shoulders, at home in the Highlands. She is a stranger, yet her blood flows through my veins, her name is a mystery, but I know her well. The sight of plaid reminds me of her existence.

That leaves the bagpipe. A powerful symbol of Scotland, it moves me like no other instrument. It speaks to me, its sounds through the ages. It stirs my soul. The familiar cry of the bagpipe awakens in me a longing to know my ancestors, to call on them in a place and time that is lost forever in the mists of history.

#52ancestorsin52weeks #52ancestorsin52weeksoldcountry


“Extra, extra, read all about it.” Stock street newspaper vendor phrase.


By Gerry Roe edited by Betsy Cross Thorpe

One day in the fall of 1962 my father Henry D. Roe killed a bear.

Drain Enterprise weekly paper reported Henry Roe and the bear

At that time, we lived on Hardscrabble Road, a long country road located a few miles west of the logging town of Drain Oregon.

My father was heading into town when he passed several houses located near a sharp bend in the road. He looked off to the left and saw a bear high up in a tree. He quickly turned the car around and raced back to our house. He grabbed his hunting rifle, told my mother what he was about to do, ignored her pleas not to go back and ran out the door. He revved up the engine of his 1950’s Chevy and sped back to the spot where he first spied the bear.

With one single shot he brought that bear tumbling down from his perch in the tree.

My father learned to fish and hunt long before he moved to Oregon from Mississippi. He often talked about catching catfish in the Mississippi, Sunflower and Yazoo rivers. He must have told me some tall tales because when I was a child, I imagined those catfish he told me about to be big as a whale. He also liked to recall hunting in Mississippi. He told me about hunting with dogs, they hunted Grey Squirrel, possum and raccoons.

Henry Roe October 14, 1944, hunting license Mississippi
Henry Roe November 21, 1945 hunting and fishing license Mississippi

He fished for trout in Oregon, but I don’t think he enjoyed catching them as much as he enjoyed catching the big catfish back in Mississippi. Trout were much smaller than catfish, they were generally so small that my mother could fit one or two whole fish in her black cast iron skillet.

Occasionally my father would go deer hunting with my brothers and their sons. He went on his final hunting trip in October of 1978 with my oldest brother in John Day, a small town in Eastern Oregon some 279 miles from his home in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

They were up in the wooded mountains hunting when he developed chest pains and shortness of breath. My brother rushed him to the hospital in John Day; where he was diagnosed with a Myocardial Infarction. He later recovered to the point that his doctors believed it was safe for him to go home.

My mother and two of my brothers were with him at the hospital. The plan was that I would drive over to get him. But sadly, that wasn’t meant to be. On the morning of October 9, I received a call that he had passed away.

I wish I could have been there to see him one last time, but I am glad that my mother and brothers were with him, that he didn’t die alone. I am also glad that he got to enjoy the company of his oldest son, out in the great outdoors, one last time before he passed.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksNewsworthy


“Every language has a grammar, a set of rules that govern usage and meaning, and literary language is no different. It’s all more or less arbitrary of course, just like language itself.”   Thomas C. Foster


By Betsy Cross Thorpe

I’m a writer. I’ve been writing for quite a long time. One thing my years of experience has taught me is that the quality of my work relies heavily on my consistently following the rules of grammar and style. Consistency is so important to me that before I made my first post, when earlier this year I started contributing to Tales of Our Family, The Roe family genealogy history blog, I looked in on multiple blogs to learn how others wrote about their ancestors. While most of the posts were very good, I was surprised to find that in the field of genealogical writings it is perfectly acceptable to break that universal rule of writing, which is maintain consistency.

From post to post, and sometimes even within the same piece, I found inconsistencies in terms, style, and usage. Titles, terms, and phrases were abbreviated, hyphenated, italicized, and capitalized at will. But it was the multiple ways that writers designated their long-gone great-ancestors that really made my head spin.

Great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, 6 great-grandmother, 6x great-grandmother 6gg-grandmother, sixth-great-grandmother.

I had one overriding question. What is the multi-great writing rule?

I turned to an editor friend for help. She consulted that venerable guide to grammar, style, and usage, The Chicago Manual of Style. Although the manual is the go-to resource for most writers, editors and publishers it doesn’t always provide rules for the specialized terms used in specific fields of study. Unfortunately for the purposes of this blog post genealogy is one of those unregulated fields.

Without a rule to follow I decided that I was free to pick which style to use. I chose from the terms listed above. My only criterion was readability. I eliminated all the options with numeric ordinals, which according to The Chicago Manual of Style could not be used at the beginning of sentences. That left only two other terms to choose from. The first one was awkward to read; the reader would be distracted trying to count all the greats. That left the final example, my sixth-great-grandmother.

In my genealogical writings multi-great-ancestors and relatives will be designated with their generational number spelled out followed by a hyphen, followed by the word great, followed by a hyphen, which will be followed by their familial relationship to me. All in lower case. Unless of course the term is used at the beginning of a sentence in which the first letter of the spelled out number shall be capitalized.

That’s the Betsy Cross Thorpe rule of Multi-Greats in Genealogical Writing and I will consistently stick to it until someone with more genealogical authority points me in the direction of an already-established rule.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52ancestorsin52weeksmultiple



By Gerry Roe


Suffering – silently is not particularly healthy but in the days after war it was expected. Unknown

James Rollin ‘Jay’ Isaacs 1942

Let me start by saying that my Uncle Jay was my favorite uncle. His mother, my grandmother, died when he was two. One of his older sisters, my mother, took him and his four year old sister to raise. She was a sixteen-year-old newlywed when they came to live with her. Although he was much older than me, we were raised by the same people. When he said he was going home to visit; anyone who knew him understood he was referring to the home of my mother and father.

Even though he had already left home and joined the Navy by the time I was born in 1946 I know that I was special to him also. I was almost 50 years old when he gave me the birth announcement my mother sent him after I was born. I was very surprised that he had kept it as a special memento all those many years.

Although Uncle Jay never discussed his Navy years with me, I knew something bad had happened. I remember (being told by older siblings) my mother and her older sister whispering and crying over his situation. He was too sensitive for war, he couldn’t take some of the sights that he saw, he missed his ship, he was thrown in the brig. What would he do? Those are snippets of conversations I heard. All I ever got was bits and pieces of the story.

I always wondered if he left the Navy dishonorably. I recently learned from his military history that he didn’t. Quite the opposite. What I found made me proud. After serving in the brig for seven months he was reassigned to another ship. His military history revealed that he received many medals and awards and that he was honorably discharged.

I wish I knew why he felt he couldn’t share his experiences. He had good experiences to share. But I never asked him about them, so I will never know because he has passed away without my asking him any questions. Those of us who have not experienced firsthand the savages of war can not imagine the effects it had on the men and women who served. Like my uncle so many went solo dealing with their experiences.





Philippine Liberation Medal

Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp

World War 11 Victory Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 Stars

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksSolo