By Betsy Thorpe

“Ultimately, the great truths of family history don’t live in any book. They live in the hearts and minds of the living descendants.”  Laurence Overmire

Two months ago, when I saw the word Water on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks list of weekly writing prompts it reminded me of a story my grandmother Ruby Isaacs Roe, liked to tell about the day she was born. She was born on February 9, 1911, in western Kentucky, near the banks of the Cumberland River.

As the story goes, winter was colder than usual that year. It was so cold on the day she was born that the river froze. It froze solid. The ice was so thick that one man drove a heavy mule drawn wagon all the way across the river, from one bank to the other.

Two months in advance of when the Water prompt was due, I knew that was the story to tell. I would write of that cold icy day when my grandmother first arrived in this world. It was the perfect story for Water

Or so it seemed.

My plan started to change after last week rolled around. That’s when I wrote a blog post about my sixth great grandmother Elizabeth McKibben Rhea.  I wrote about her for the 52 Ancestors weekly prompt, Nearly Forgotten.  After I wrote the piece, I just couldn’t get her off my mind.

Every time I sat down at my desk to write about the day my grandmother was born, I was distracted by thoughts of Elizabeth McKibben Rhea. I couldn’t stop thinking about how in her young years she traveled 3,346 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to reach the Virginia Colony in the New World.

 That’s a lot of water to cross over.

Young Elizabeth McKibben was among the first immigranst from Ireland to arrive in Virginia. The Scotch Irish Presbyterians began to arrive in the colony sometime around 1730.  They mostly arrived from the city of Londonderry and other parts of Northern Ireland.  

According to Eyewitness to history.com The passage to America was treacherous by any standard. Many of the immigrants were too poor to pay for the journey and therefore indentured themselves to wealthier colonialists – selling their services for a period of years in return for the price of the passage. Crammed into a small wooden ship, rolling and rocking at the mercy of the sea, the voyagers – men, women and children – endured hardships unimaginable to us today. Misery was the most common description of a journey that typically lasted seven weeks.

I can’t fathom all the unimaginable hardships she suffered. But, unless she was a small child when she made the voyage, she probably knew how miserable it would be long before she booked passage.  I also don’t know if she was indentured when she arrived in Virginia. I truly hope not.  I can’t imagine any way that she could have prepared herself for the horrors of that system. No matter her age.

I am on a mission to learn more about Elizabeth McKibben Rhea. Water played a role in her early story.

 I am excited to uncover more about her and I am curious to see where my future writing prompts lead me.

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks #52AncestorsIn52WeeksWater


By Betsy Cross Thorpe

“The Scots-Irish were the first to proclaim for freedom in these United States.” President William McKinley

The McKibben family was part of the Campbell Clan, one of the most powerful clans in the Highlands.


This post you are about to read is titled Nearly Forgotten. In this post you will read about Elizabeth McKibben Rhea. Her name tops the branches of the Roe side of my maternal family tree. Yet on the pages of Roe family history she is a Nearly Forgotten figure.

 But first, before I tell you about Elizabeth McKibben Rhea, I  want to take a moment to explain how me and my aunt Gerry Roe come up with the titles and topics for the blog pieces that we post here on Tales of Our Family.

 We follow a genealogy blog called 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  It features a list of weekly writing prompts aimed at genealogists who are interested in writing about the people who populate their respective family trees. The prompts are designed to help people like me, and my aunt think about our ancestors in new and creative ways.

As you have probably already surmised, the prompt for this week is Nearly Forgotten.

You may have read the previous post titled Nearly Forgotten: a collection of memories that my aunt posted on Tales of our Family yesterday. In the post, she shares a small sampling of the many nearly forgotten family memories and stories that she has gathered over the years.

The substance of my post is quite different from the one my aunt posted yesterday. Hers records some of the nearly forgotten memories shared by family members from two generations.   Mine draws attention to a nearly forgotten deceased person on our shared family tree.

 I merely take the time to point out the differences between our same titled posts to give you an example of the genius behind the prompts offered on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog.

 Each weekly prompt inspires an assortment of ideas from the hundreds of genealogists and writers who follow the blog. They almost always find an unusual, unique and entertaining way to share their family stories.


 Elizabeth McKibben Rhea.

Elizabeth McKibben Rhea is my 6th great grandmother.

She was of Scots-Irish descent. She was born in 1725 in either Scotland or Ireland. She landed on the shores of Virginia at least thirty -one years before the beginning of the Revolutionary War. She was married to Daniel Rhea. She gave birth to Grisella Rhea in 1745.

I don’t know when and where she died.

The esteem of being a Virginia Colonist is not yet associated with her name. I plan to correct that oversight by uncovering revealing information about that period of her life.

 My goal is to assure that from this time forward the name of, Elizabeth McKibben Rhea, my nearly forgotten ancestor is mentioned often in the chronicles of Roe family history


I am going to start my research by trying to learn Elizabeth’s country of origin.

If you know what the term Scots -Irish means, please leave a comment in the comment section of this post.

It would make me happy to hear from you.

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksNearlyForgotten