“I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.” Richard P. Feynman


By Betsy Cross Thorpe

There are many ways to express uncertainty. Some of the most common ways are:

 I’m not sure. I doubt it. I don’t know for sure. It’s very unlikely. I have my own doubts. I don’t think so. I don’t believe this is true. There’s some doubt in my mind about that. I’m not a hundred percent sure.

Then, there is my personal favorite, I don’t know—yet.

For the purpose of this post I am going to use a piece from Tales of Our Family to show how I address an uncertainty when I write about my ancestors. The piece is titled So Far Away.

My Question : What was the name of the young man from my grandmothers past who died in a plane crash when she was a young woman? She spoke of him often but to my knowledge she never said his name.

That was my question.  I hoped to answer it with certainty.

To find the name of the young man who died in the airplane crash I looked on newspapers.com. I searched newspapers in Mississippi, from 1920 through 1946. I used the search terms “airplane killed Mississippi.” My grandmother lived in Mississippi from the 1920’s through 1946. The plane crash that her friend died in happened while she was living there.

I found evidence of only one plane crash taking place in Mississippi during that time.   Articles in the Yazoo Herald, circa August 1929 pointed to a tragic plane crash that claimed the life of a young pilot. The pilot was nineteen-year-old Albert Firth.

Was he the boy that my grandmother knew?

I examined my data.

Did Albert Firth live in the right place to have known my grandmother?

Yes. He was born and raised in the town of Holly Bluff Mississippi, the same place that my grandmother moved to when she was a schoolgirl.   The plane crash that he died in happened in 1929. My grandmother was still living there in 1929.

Was Albert Firth the right age to have been friends with my grandmother? Is it possible that he and my grandmother would have known each other?  Is it reasonable to believe they were friends?  

 Yes. He was born in 1910. He was one year older than my grandmother. Holly Bluff was a small town.  In 1920 it had a population of eight hundred and ninety. They were the same age living in a small town. Yes it is quite possible that Albert Firth and my grandmother knew each other. I couldn’t say for sure, but I was almost certain that I had found the name of the person I was looking for.

My aunt, Gerry Roe, then provided additional information.  My grandmother sometimes talked another person that she knew when she lived in Holly Bluff. But this person she mentioned by name. Miss Lurlene Screws. My aunt located Miss Screws on the 1920 census. She found one Miss Lurlene Screws, a person my grandmother remembered well, residing in the home of ten-year-old Albert Firth and his parents.

Her discovery answered the final part of my question, was it reasonable to believe they were friends?

Yes it was. Bearing in mind that Albert Firth and Miss Lurlene lived in the same house, and with all other facts considered I found it reasonable to believe that my grandmother and Albert Firth were childhood friends.

OUTCOME: Although I couldn’t prove that Albert Firth was the boy my grandmother once knew, I could, with the above facts in mind, speculate and write with confidence that he was.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksUncertain

Remembering the Eruption of Mount St Helens 40 Years Later

“I will never forget where I was the day Mount St Helens blew.” Robert E. “Bob” Roe

Remembering the Eruption of Mount St Helens 40 Years Later

By Bob Roe

The fortieth anniversary  of the Mount Saint Helen’s volcanic eruption recently  passed,  On May 18, 1980, I was with my cousin Randy Cross and my girlfriend Becky. We were out in a boat fishing on Lake Ozette, a lake on the Olympic Peninsula near Forks Washington.

It was a Sunday morning; the sky was  blue without any clouds and the fishing was good.

Suddenly we heard boom! Boom! Boom and the fish stopped biting. We wondered why loggers were dynamiting on a Sunday morning, we stopped fishing, reeled in our lines, and motored the boat back to the marina.  When we got inside the marina, we asked one of the clerks who was dynamiting on a Sunday morning. That’s when we learned that the sound, we heard was Mount St Helens blowing its top more than two hundred and fifty miles away.

A television was on in the marina and we saw the destruction caused by the volcano and we were concerned for the hikers and those living in the path of the lava flow.

We loaded our boat onto our boat trailer and headed for home. When we the reached the crest of a hill we could see the ash plume from the volcano rising in the distance.

We later heard of the devastation caused by the volcano, due to lava flow, flooding of the rivers from the snow melt and loss of life.

I remember clearly what I was doing when Mount St. Helens blew. Do you remember what you were doing on the morning of May 18, 1980?

Facts of Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major eruption on May 18, 1980, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in US history. 57 people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed.

Postscript of other family remembrances:

Lucy “Gerry” Roe, aunt remembers she was at work at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in the ICU department.  Suddenly a co-worker rushed through the double doors and yelled “Mt St. Helens just erupted.  Gerry’s son (Jeremy) was in Warrenton, Oregon with her sister (Nannie) and brother-in-law (Lee). They were visiting their youngest brother (Alan) and his family.  She called to check on them knowing they were coming back to Springfield later in the day.  She was told they were on their way home via to the coast route due to the sky filled with heavy ash and the sun and blue sky blotted out.  She reported it was a harried few hour until they were safely home.  Her son Jeremy, age 9 remembers it was a Sunday morning and he thought he was getting ready for church.  Alan remembers Nan and Lee being with him but not Jeremy.  He said the sky darken and remembers seeing Lee drive off.  Lee told Gerry when they arrived home how difficult it was driving home with the heavy ash in the air.

JoAnn Self Roe recalls that she was in Yakima Washington when Mount St, Helen’s blew. She recalled that the sky turned black in an instant.  It was very unsettling.


“I can only tell you what I believe down deep in my soul that memories endure, keeping special people with you always.  Unknown


By, Gerry Roe

A tombstone marks a place of burial.  It is also sometimes called a foot stone, a grave marker, a gravestone, a headstone, a ledger, or a monument.  When my mother’s baby brother Robert Isaacs died in 1917, shortly after his birth. His burial site was marked by a Mason glass fruit jar.

I am sure that many of you have driven down the road and seen a cross or bouquets of flowers placed at the site where someone has died. Those are different than a tombstone for they mark the place of death, not the place of burial.

Today many grieving families choose cremation over burials when their loved ones die. Thus, many deceased persons do not have a tombstone to mark their final resting place. However, there are several old tombstones marking the graves of my ancestors and other family members. Their names are eroding away, and the stones are becoming difficult to read. One day it will be impossible to read them, and no one will know the name of the person buried there.

My parents, Henry David Roe and Ruby Isaacs Roe, are buried at Fir Grove Cemetery in Cottage Grove Oregon. My eldest brothers Eugene Roe, and Herman Frank Roe were cremated. Frank’s ashes have a final resting place at Willamette National Cemetery in Happy Valley, Oregon. My brother Kenneth David Roe, cremated but his ashes laid to rest in Fir Grove Cemetery. His headstone is in the row below the grave of our parents, as will be mine when I am cremated. My sister Nannie Elizabeth Roe Cross’s will be buried in the plot next to our parents.

My brothers Henry Alan Roe and William Gordon Roe both live in states other than Oregon. Henry Alan, who goes by Alan, is my youngest brother. He once owned the Capitol Monument Company in Salem Oregon.  He suggested that we commission a new marker to replace the headstones that mark the graves of our parents. He suggested that the new marker include the names of our parents along with the names of all their children.  I found that to be a wonderful suggestion.

I think my parents would be pleased. They would be proud to have the names of all their children preserved with theirs. I am working hard to make that happen.

Closing thought:

Remembrance of those in past can be honored in many ways.  Have you thought about how you want to honor those in your past?

UPDATE : After I published this post my sister-in-law Carol Forrand Roe emailed me the following statement. “Bill and my cremated remains will be in Western Nevada Veterans Cemetery, Fernley Nevada A beautifully maintained spot for eternity.”  Carol

Carol is married to my older brother William Gordon Roe. We call him Bill.

#52Ancestersin52Weeks #52Ancestersin52WeeksTombstone

Long lines

“Hope” is the thing with feathers-That perches in the soul-And sings the tune without the words-And never stops-at all. Emily Dickinson


By Gerry Roe

In January 2020 my niece, Betsy Cross Thorpe sent me a podcast of genealogist Amy Johnson and her weekly writing prompts. She thought it might be fun for us to join in on the prompts and write a record of our family genealogy. I was delighted with the prospects of sharing some of stories about our colorful family members.

From the beginning I intended that my post for the prompt Long Line would emphasize the military people in my family, but today while taking my daily five mile walk with my husband Paul a new thought took form. I thought about my early morning experience at the grocery store. I said good-bye to my idea of writing about the long line of military people in my family and said hello to the long line at my favorite grocery story. CourtesyCOVID-19!

I shop at Winco, in Springfield Oregon. Due to the COVID-19 crisis Winco started opening their doors early for seniors. This was so they could shop away from the crowds. I sure don’t feel like a senior but I am one and that’s when I shop. Today, I arrived early mask and sanitizer in hand to find a long line already forming outside the door. Stripes on the side walk keep shoppers socially distanced. Only a certain number of shoppers are allowed in store at a time. One shopper comes out. One goes in. My turn came, the basket was wiped down before given to me. Off I went, list in hand. Following the arrows, I went down the aisles. Most people complied with the plan. Wow! Shelves were stripped of items. Not just toilet paper missing today but beans, rice, sugar and flour. Multiple carts piled high with supplies standing in another long line to check out. One employee directed shoppers to the check out stand. I looked around to see most every one patiently waiting their turn; suddenly a shopper with a full load blasted through to the open check stand. This was before anyone could stop him. Everyone, including the employee directing us just smiled and shook their heads. No outburst. That was good, no one seemed outraged.

Shoppers and empty shelves at Winco

As I waited my turn to check out, again socially distancing. I thought of my parents during the Great Depression. The ration books they were given to purchase items. They did not have the choices I had at my shopping spree. If an item on my list was out of stock I could substitute with any item of my choice.

Not so for my mother, Ruby Isaacs Roe, during the depression when items like sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs and cheese were rationed in part to prevent hoarding as the nation prepared to go to war. How different it was for her, shopping with a ration book. I have unlimited buying choices during this COVID-19 pandemic.

I can recall another time when long lines affected my family. It was in 1973 and this time the long lines were at the gas pump. They were caused by a gas shortage. In Oregon where I lived, the day you could purchase gas was determined by the last number on your license plate. If your plate ended in zero, two, four, six or eight , you were allowed to purchased gas on even numbered days of the month, if it ended in one, three, five, seven or nine you could buy on odd days of the month. Gas was rationed to ten gallons per customer.

My husband was ill at this time and our son was only a toddler, and I was working as a nurse at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital. My father, Henry David Roe brought gas cans full of gas to me. He sat for hours in a long line waiting his turn to at the pump. He gave me the gift of time, a great blessing during that time of need.

Today, while I wait in line at the store, I realize that my grocery list is even more valuable to me today. I check it more carefully as I go down each aisle. I believe I have always been a patient person but find myself even more so during this time. I see people I have walked by on the path for years that now make eye contact and saying good morning. These are only a few of the good things I hope to hang on to when we return to what was normal.

But not the long lines at the grocery store. I will be happy to see them go away.


1973 Gas shortage



We survived those long lines and we as American’s will survive these long lines.

#52ancestorsin52weeks #52ancestorsin52weekslonglines


“The greatest history book ever written is the one hidden in our DNA.”  Spencer Wells.


By Betsy Cross Thorpe

Disclosure: Although my full DNA story is available to me on Ancstry.com, I am using my Mother’s DNA story for the purpose of this blog post. Tales of our Family is a blog that is dedicated to preserving a record of the genealogy of my maternal lineage. My Mother’s DNA story presents the most accurate account of my maternal DNA story and of where our shared ancestors traveled over time.

 When I use the phrase my DNA in the post below, I am referring only to DNA from the Isaacs/Roe family line.  

My DNA has been on the move for ages. I can track its early  travels  back to the beginning of  the  Viking Age in 793 when my Norse and Viking ancestors rowed away from what is now Norway and Sweden and then later from Iceland and Greenland to  sail across the North Sea. They set sail from their homelands in longships, They sailed all the way to the continent we now call Europe.

For a period of two hundred and seventy-three years my Norsemen and Viking forebears voyaged out of Scandinavia to Europe where they settled. They settled in places we know as England, Wales, Germany, and France and in the regions known now as Ireland and Scotland.

While Vikings were warriors who raided and plundered the countries they sailed to they also traded with the people who lived there. Some Vikings were settlers who chose to stay behind. They claimed land, married into local families, converted to Christianity, and adopted the customs and attitudes of the communities they joined. They assimilated into the existing societies of the different countries they settled in.  

The age of the Vikings ended in 1066. Then came the Plantagenets, a line of Norman rulers from France who consolidated and modernized the Kingdom of England. They ruled for almost five hundred years. After that, wars, and more wars. The houses of Lancaster, York, and Richard II battled for the throne.

My British ancestors survived the wars.

 Then arrived the reign of Henry the VII. Tudor rule, Henry VIII, King Edward, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I. My long-gone relatives endured them all.

One result of Tudor rule was The English Reformation. Catholicism was banned, Protestantism was on the rise.

After staying in place for more than five centuries my ancestors went back on the move.

In 1586, during the rule of Queen Elizabeth I the Crown established Protestant plantations in Northern Ireland. For years the Catholics living there had resisted the Reformation.  Their land was confiscated, turned over to the thousands of Protestant colonists who arrived there from England and Scotland.

Some of my ancestors were among those colonists. They brought their Protestant belief system to an unwelcoming land. The Irish people refused to accept them. Within the span of a few short years many of them turned their eyes toward the distant shores of the New World. For the next hundred years my relatives arrived in the Colony of Virginia. It was at this time that some of the surnames on my family tree began to emerge.   Dawson, Elkins, Manus, Booker and Fowler. English names one and all. They share branches on the tree with the names of my Scottish forebears like Rhea, McKibben and McCormick.

Some of those colonists arrived in the New World with elements of their Viking heritage preserved within the structure their DNA—traces of which have been passed down through the generations to me.


After arriving in Virginia my ancestors and relatives refused to stay put, North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Oregon, California, Nevada and Alaska. They forever move westward.

The DNA in my direct family line continues to travel. One example is my brother Randy and his direct family line. Starting with our grandparents, Ruby Isaacs Roe and Henry David Roe. They were born, respectively, in Kentucky and Louisiana, our Mother, Nannie Elizabeth Roe Cross, was born in Mississippi, my brother Randy Cross was born in Oregon, his daughters Roxie Leigh Cross and Jodi Cross Calnan was born in Wyoming, and his grandchildren Roxie Ann Calnan and Dean Hudson Calnan were born in Colorado.

Sometime in the 1980’s one cousin, Debbie Russell Warner, returned to where it all began. She married an Englishman and moved to England. She now lives in the area of Bedfordshire, about thirty miles northwest of London.

All these years later, our DNA is still on the move. One cannot help but wonder where it will land next.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksTravel


“We ignored his pleas. Eugene Roe, our medic, crouched to give him some help. Bullets flew around us.” From Easy Company SoldierBy Dan Malarkey and Bob Welch


By Gerry Roe

I am very interested in military history. Especially as it pertains to the military men on my family tree. There is a long line of military men in my family genealogy. As far as I can tell the line begins with my four times great grandfather, Private Samuel McCormick, who served in the Continental Army in the 1770’s. The line continues through the generations to my eldest great-nephew, retired Senior Chief Michael Gene Carroll, who retired from the US Navy in 2014.

Sargent Eugene Gilbert Roe 1944

For this blog post I am going to highlight the achievements of one relative, one man of service, my father’s cousin, US Army Sgt. Eugene Gilbert Roe.

Sargent Eugene Roe, served during World War II. He served from December 12, 1942 to November, 1945. He was in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He parachuted into Normandy with Easy Company on 6 June 1944 as part of Operation Overlord. He was part of the allied forces that defended Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He was also involved in the occupation of Germany and treated the prisoners of a concentration camp they found in Landsberg.

 He was known by the men he served with as Doc Roe.

Medic Roe Berchtesgaden, Germany spring 1945

A book titled Easy Company Soldier was written by his fellow Sargent Don Malarkey and author Bob Welch. The book includes Malarkeys’ reminiscences of  Eugene Doc Roe  In one passage Malarkey recalls, “I burst in the door, breathing hard.  Our medic, Eugene Roe, was up to his elbows in blood, patching soldiers right and left; by now, he was already a seasoned veteran with the wounded, able to patch and diagnose in a quiet, methodical way. That’s a Purple Heart wound, Malarkey, he calmly said, hardly looking up from wrapping a bandage around the chest of some soldier naked from waist up.” In another passage the author recalled Roe working to save lives in frigid weather.  “Sometimes, if a guy got hit, Roe was having to tuck the plasma bottle in his armpit to keep the stuff from freezing.”

Eugene Gilbert Roe received a Purple Heart for his injury after Normandy and on the way to Holland on 17 September, he was wounded in the leg and away from his unit a few days.

The Company left Holland on 26 November. They headed to Bastogne as part of the Battle of the Bulge occurring on 17 December. He assisted with evacuating the wounded men to a hospital in Bastogne. This is just a sample of his actions during combat.

He received both the Medal of Valor and Bronze Star for his services to the country he so valiantly served.

Eugene Gilbert Roe was a member of the Greatest Generation.

Post Script: To read more about Doc Roe google Eugene Gilbert Roe or read the book Easy Company Solider written by Sgt Bob Malarkey with Bob Welch.

Easy Company Soldier by Sgt. Don
Malarkey with Bob Welch

52AncestorsIn52Weeks  52AncestorsIn52WeeksService A

Where There’s a Will

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” —Benjamin Franklin

Where There’s a Will

By Betsy Cross Thorpe

When I first saw the words Where There’s a Will on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Week’s list of prompts my initial impulse was to alter the prompt and write a piece titled Where There’s a Will There’s a William.

 My thoughts were that it would be fun to give a nod to all the Williams who populate the various branches of the Roe and Isaacs family tree.  My maternal family tree.

I also found it a topic that most can relate to.  For whom among us does not have a Uncle Billy or Cousin Bill to love? 

With that thought in mind I looked at the tree. I searched the name William. Perched near the top sat the name of my four times great grandfather—William Dawson. He was born in 1772.

 I privately dubbed him William the First.

Starting with him I followed the name William all the way down to my generation.  I searched both my grandfather and grandmother’s sides of the tree.  From the first William Dawson down to my own first cousin William Gregory Roe who was born in 1964, I found nine direct line relatives with the given name William. All born over a span of one hundred and ninety-two years.

Another twenty-six males named William are scattered among different branches of the tree.

As far as I can tell William R Fowler lived longer than any other William that I am related to.  He died in 1936 at the age of ninety-two.  Sadly, baby William Gordon Combs was the youngest of the Williams to die. He passed away in 1930. He was only fourteen months old.

 I lost my nerve for the project.  Grandparents, uncles, cousins, and in-laws.  Past and present. There are just too many Williams on this side of my family to write about in one weekly blog post.

I realized it would be much easier for me if I simply conformed with the prompt and wrote a piece based on how it was originally written.

The following passageis my belated attempt at conformity. It is my analysis of a Last Will that one of my ancestors made and signed one hundred and thirty-six years ago—almost to this day.

On May 13, 1884, at a time when  the estimated life span for a man living  in the American South was forty-one years, at the age of sixty-four, my third great grandfather, Daniel Franklin Manus, of the County of Lyon, of the state of Kentucky, made and signed a will.

 It was the only will ever made by him.

There is really nothing unusual about Daniel Manus making a will.  People have been making wills to dictate what happens to their estate after they die since the time of the Ancient Greeks. However, while most of his instructions are just what one would expect to find in a simple will, I did find some of his statements and instructions to be somewhat out of the ordinary.

His first request was that his funeral expenses and any just debts that he may owe be paid out of any money he might leave.

That is a standard instruction, nothing unusual there.

The will then went on to say that if Daniel Manus left no money, then those expenses were to be paid out of his interest in a crop of tobacco that he stated was now being grown on land he owned. A woman named Mrs. Beck was growing the tobacco.

I snapped to attention. The words now being grown jumped off the page.

This will was signed on May 13.   Tobacco grown in Western Kentucky is usually cut and harvested sometime in August. Did he expect to be dead before then? Did he have reason to believe that he would die before Mrs. Beck harvested the tobacco she was growing on his land? Did my third great grandfather dictate this will from his deathbed?

The will did not say.

It  simply stated that after his just debts were  paid out of the proceeds from the tobacco being grown on  his land, that his small amount of  personal property and  his eighty acres of land was to  be held and kept in the possession of  his widow  until her death. It also contained a directive stating that considering the smallness of his effects that his funeral expenses ought to be very moderate.

At this time Daniel Manus was married to a woman named Elizabeth Terrell Manus.  She was his second wife, thirteen years his junior.   He married her on December 31, 1876 shortly after the death of his first wife Susannah Elkins Manus. Susannah is my third great grandmother. Daniel and Susannah had several children together, five of which were still living in 1884 when he made this will. All five were daughters, all married. The youngest, Emily Manus Isaacs is my second great grandmother.

The will stated that after the death of his widow, he desired that his second eldest surviving daughter Susan C.T. Hall receive one bed and fifty dollars before any division of property. That the rest of the estate be divided equally between his five daughters.

How unusual. To show preference to one child over all the others seems odd. Why Susan? Why one bed? Was she a favorite? Did she have a special need? Was she more impoverished than her sisters, or did she simply just ask that he leave her a bed?

 Once again—the will did not say.

While the motives for his unusual bequest will continue to fuel my imagination, I must accept that the truth of why he favored the one daughter over four others in his Last Will shall forever remain hidden in the past.  

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks 52AncestorsIn52WeeksWhereTheresAWill