“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, 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 anlysis 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


Favorite Picture

“One Look Is Worth A Thousand Words”, appears in a 1913 newspaper advertisement for the Piqua Auto Supply House of Piqua, Ohio

Favorite Picture

by Gerry Roe

John Rowe (Roe) red mark over him picture 1913

I frequently sit and look at all the many wonderful photographs of my family from Louisiana and Mississippi. There are so many photographs I could have chosen but I kept coming back to this one of my Grandpa Roe. In this picture he is identified as a fireman for Genoa Mill at Bluff Creek in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. This picture was taken in 1913. I asked my self, “Why would I choose this one out of so many?” Simply, this photo included many hard working people, it was viewed by many, demonstrated the work in Louisiana and how this work brought income to many in this area.

I had always thought of Grandpa Roe only as a farmer on the homestead in East Baton Rouge Parish. I did not realize he worked the in logging industry. That in itself is pretty amazing considering that his two eldest grandsons , from my father’s branch of the family tree, and a large lumber of his great grandsons, went on to work in the logging industry after our family migrated north to Oregon.

They did so not knowing that were following in our Grandpa Roe’s footsteps!

This picture was sent to me in the mid 1970s when I first began to pursue genealogy. Betty Roe Ginn, youngest daughter of Eugene Green Roe sent me much of the information on the Roe family. Eugene Green and John Roe shared same mother, Elizabeth Pulliam. Betty tramped through the piney forest of East Baton Rouge looking for the remnants of the homesteads of Grandpa Roe and Great Grandpa Roe. She nor any of the other cousins located any signs anyone lived there due to the overgrowth of woods.

I was blessed to meet Betty in August of 2003 when my brother Frank and I visited her and other family members in Louisiana and Mississippi. Our cousin, Terri Roe Sarka knew where the homestead had been located and took us there. We could not get into the area because of the overgrown and road was obliterated. We felt a closeness to our grandparents just being near the site.

Frank and I then went on to visit Chatham and Yazoo City, Mississippi. Those were places our family lived before coming to Oregon. We also drove through Anquilla his birthplace. We were able to find Oak Grove Baptist Church in Tolarville, Mississippi. Our Isaacs grandparents are buried in the cemetery on the church grounds. Mama’s brother, Kelly Isaacs had the headstone made and installed sometime in the 1980s.

I have tried to find the newspaper this was posted in. So far unable to find. My niece, Betsy pointed out this was not an article from a 1913 paper but was a picture taken during that year and printed in a newspaper at a much later date.

So if anyone has anymore information about the mill I would so appreciate hearing from you.

Post Script:

I marvel at how many photographs my mother brought to Oregon when we came in 1946 by Greyhound bus to Oregon.

If not for my mother (Ruby Isaacs Roe) keeping contact with daddy’s (Henry David Roe) side of family we would not have any Roe connections.

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksFavoritePicture

Fresh Start Hint with DNA Results

By Gerry Roe

Fresh Start Hint with DNA Results

At every crossroad follow your dream. It is courageous to let your heart lead the way. Thomas Leland

Thanks to Amy Johnson’s podcast mid January; Betsy Thorpe, my niece suggested we collaborate and follow Amy’s hints to preserve our family stories. We started on week four and are now catching up. Fresh start was the January 1st hint. It brought to mind a number of fresh start ideas. What I have learned from my DNA results is my fresh start.

I had been told since early childhood, that I most likely was 1/16th Cherokee Native American. My maternal grandmother, mother, her eldest brother and her eldest son had high cheek bones, slender face and dark thick hair. Other relatives agreed. My understanding was the line came through my mother’s grandmother, who died young. The story told about her was she had been adopted as a child and no information has been found about her biological or adoptive parents.

Another niece was the first to have a DNA test and her results – no Native American. Betsy and I decided to have ours done. I admit, I was skeptical about testing that was not related to medical reasons. My sister (Nannie Roe Cross) and her twin brother (Herman Frank Roe) agreed to participate. A cousin on my paternal side and two cousins on my maternal side joined us in this endeavor. None of our results came back with even a smidgen of Native American. These results indicated to us it was a story told and retold and had been passed down as truth.

As I said, I was skeptical, so I had a second test done with a different company. Results were very similar. I am convinced the results were correct. Even though a cousin on my mother’s side said, “I’ll believe Aunt Ruby over any of the results. However, recently he had his DNA done and of course; no Native American. Is he a believer now? Not sure.

From the results it confirmed I was 61% Europe West, 10% Great Britain, 10% Ireland and the last 4 regions less than 10% each. This result was received in 2016. Another idea that was proven correct, was that I would have a large portion from Germany. My great grandfather on my father’s side immigrated to America in mid 1800s. I made the assumption he was full blood German. Over time Ancestry appears more overlapping of and refining areas. With updates today, Ethnicity is England, Wales and Northwestern Europe at 78%, Ireland and Scotland 17% and Germanic Europe at 5%.

Long story short, I am a blend of many nations and proud of it. I had hoped my journey would find when and where our ancestors arrive in America. So far I have not. But because of my DNA results I have met relatives on both sides of my family. I am blessed to have connected with them as our family increased with this knowledge.

Post Script:

A surprise for me was that the twins were not closer in DNA results. They both show England, Wales and Northwestern Europe as top with there numbers around 81%. Ireland and Scotland listed as second and Nannie’s is greater at 16%. She has only one other ethnicity which is Norway and 3%. Franks last 8% is split between Germanic Europe, Eastern Europe/Russia and Sweden.

In my search I have found some skeletons related to DNA; possible relatives we were not aware of. For some of them, I will leave others to pursue.

Ethnicity Nannie Roe Cross 4/24/2020

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 81%

Ireland & Scotland 11%

Norway 3%

Ethnicity Herman Frank Roe 4/24/2020

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 81%

Ireland & Scotland 11%

Germanic Europe 4%

Eastern Europe & Russia 2%

Sweden 2%

Ethnicity Gerry Roe 4/24/2020

England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 78%

Ireland & Scotland 17%

Germanic Europe 5%



Bikini Atoll Nuclear test July 1, 1946

By Gerry Roe

“The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.” Saint Francis de Sales

Bikini Atoll Nuclear test July 1, 1946

Eugene “Gene” Roe GMC3 January 1, 1946

Eugene (Gene) Roe was my brother. He was the eldest of the Roe children. He was born October 17, 1927 in Holly Bluff, Mississippi to Henry and Ruby Roe.

This is a story about the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test event that Gene witnessed from aboard the USS Rollett as a Gunner’s Mate Third Class. In late January or early February of 1946 the ship sailed from Port Huenema, California to the sea off the coast of Bikini Atoll. They were considered the “floating Navy” while others were on the island building and preparing for the Nuclear Test. As best understood they were there to transport equipment and supplies to the island. The many ships around the islands provided survey information, housing many working on the project and miscellaneous tasks. Gene told us that on the day “Test Able” was dropped his ship was far out and they were on deck to take pictures and observed the blast. This test was initially scheduled for May 15th but due to delays in construction it was rescheduled for July 1, 1946.

Pictures of mushroom after Test Able, taken from the USS Rollett

He was on the ship traveling to and from Bikini, as well as the time there for a total of 6 months. He returned to Port Huenema. In a letter he wrote home, he expressed how good Port Huenema looked on return.

He received the WW11 Victory Medal and the American Area Campaign.

This information obtained from the “Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test” booklet each received that were present. (Unable to find a link to this pamphlet, much to many pages to attach.)This was considered the Crossroad Experiment and “Test Able” was the first of many nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. J.D. Burky was Commander-CEC-USN of the 53rd Naval Construction Battalion. He was in charge of the assigned mission of accomplishing all the required shore construction. This was noted from the booklet that was compiled of this projection with pictures and dates. Gene kept his and it is now in possession of his children.

In this pamphlet it has pictures of the ships arriving and LST 881 bringing in the heavy equipment and unloading on the beach on March 14.

Each page of pictures show how the work of a water purification system and cement forms to install the tower were being done.

Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test pamphlet

Commander Burky (on right) briefing prior to raising of tower

The bomb was named Gilda, after Rita Hayworth’s character in a 1946 film. It was dropped from the B-29 Superfortress Dave’s Dream of the 509th Bombardment Group.

For more on information on this and on other tests performed in the Marshall Islands follow the links posted below.

Post Script:

I was unable to find information about the USS Rollett

Gene’s letters do not report his duties other that watch duty and his experience of putting an 18 inch hole in a L.C.V.P. He doesn’t say how but feared reprimand-none came. He and other sailors managed to get it back on the ship without it sinking out of sight. In this letter is his willingness to send money if dad would go to Oregon.

The landing craft, vehicle, personnel or Higgins boat was a landing craft used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II. Typically constructed from plywood, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat could ferry a roughly platoon-sized complement of 36 men to shore at 9 knots.

Higgins boat



Easter 2020

By Gerry Roe

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Easter 2020 was very different; celebrating with Covid-19, not going to church on such a special day. No big family and friend’s dinners after church service. My son and family came for dinner. We were sitting outside visiting and eating at a distance and no hugs. My sweet daughter in law brought me a chocolate bunny; she had added a mask and gloves to him. In the packet was “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter. I had not read the story since my grandchildren were small. I read it as I sat nibbling on one of the rabbit’s chocolate ear. I pondered the story about Peter Rabbit eating too much at Mr. McGregor’s garden. After he finally made it home, he was too sick to eat the blackberries his siblings ate that night. These tales below inspired by Peter Rabbit and overeating.

This story was told to me by cousin Imogene Combs Graziano years ago when I visited her at her cabin in Yucca Valley, California.

Imogene told me that she always looked forward to going to my mother’s (Ruby Isaacs Roe) house to visit. She and my brother, Buddy had always been close; even from their toddler years.

The following story took place in Mississippi, during summertime when blackberries were ripe.

Aunt Ruby was making a blackberry cobbler for dinner. She sent Buddy and me down the road to the mail box; they lived off a country road. In the mail was a packet of what looked like chocolate. I told Buddy we could share it and he said, “no, we’ll get in trouble.” I told him no we would just hide the wrap and no one would ever know. I could get him to do what I wanted. So we ate the chocolate and hid the evidence. We thought we were so cunning.

Well, by the time we got home we both had to run to the outhouse; multiple times, and taking turns. Aunt Ruby ask us what was wrong. We both just told her our stomach was upset. We were sent to bed and everyone else enjoyed the blackberry cobbler! Just like Peter Rabbit!

I am sure by now you have realized it was NOT, just chocolate but a sample of EX-LAX. I am not sure after all we went through that day; that we learned our lesson. Years later we confessed to Aunt Ruby and we suspected she always knew.

Post Script:

Cousins Herman and Jim Isaacs, Uncle Kelly and Aunt Eleanor’s sons (Herman and Jim) had a similar experience. They were living in Cottage Grove Oregon near the town of Saginaw.They found a similar chocolate package in their indoor bathroom and promptly ate the entire package. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t long before those two boys were fighting over the bathroom. Aunt Eleanor found a mess! After that chocolate didn’t taste so good to them.

Is their a moral to these tales?


By Gerry Roe

“What is seen is not always a reality to others.” Author Unknown

Evelyn Emily Combs October 30, 1906 – October 7, 1933

Evelyn Emily Combs early 1930s
Jessie Lee, Evelyn and Ruby Lurline Combs
Imagene Combs Sometime in the mid 1930’s
William Gordon Combs Aged 14 Months 1930


This story was told to me by my mother Ruby Isaacs Roe many years ago. 

Evelyn, mama’s oldest sister was due to deliver her fifth child.

Mama walked to her home; she was living at Germania, Mississippi.  Mama said as was close to house; she could see sheets flapping in the wind on the clothes line.  When she arrived; she asked Evelyn if she had brought the sheets. Evelyn responded she didn’t have anything on the line.  Mama said that was puzzling as she clearly saw the sheets. 

Shortly after mama’s visit Evelyn gave birth and the doctor said both she and the baby girl died.   Mama knew her sister was really gone, but she always hoped that the baby had lived.  She hoped the doctor had found a home for the baby to help Evelyn’s husband who had just suffered the loss of his wife He already had three young children to care for. It would be very difficult for a man in his circumstances to properly care for a new born baby.

At that time it wasn’t unusual for a doctor to find a home for a motherless child.

Off course, I don’t know that is what happened. But I do know that mama clung to that hope for the rest of her life. This was just what mama hoped. 

Mama was known to have premonitions, and she always said that looking back on the day she went to visit Evelyn that the sheets she saw flapping in the air were a premonition of her sister’s death.

Another time I clearly remember mama’s premonition of death was June 8, 1964, my high school graduation night. Me, mama, Daddy, my youngest brother Alan and my nephew Robert were all sleeping. When the phone rang. It was almost midnight. It was unusual for the telephone to ring in the middle of the night and we all ran to living room to find out who was calling .

I will never forget what mama said just before she answered the phone. She said “death bells are tolling for someone tonight”. She said this before answering the phone, when she picked up the phone we learned that my cousin Herbert Kelly (H.K.) Lisenby had just died in a terrible car accident. 

H.K. was home on leave from the Navy.  He was the son of mama’s youngest sister Bea.

I don’t remember who called to tell us of H.K.’s death.  Others died at the crash scene also.

H.K. Lisenby 1963-64

Mama always said her she had premonitions as far back as she could remember. She also told me that they did not always deal with death.

Children of Jesse Lee and Evelyn Marie Combs:

               Jesse Lee Combs, JR 1924-1997

               Lurlene Ruby Combs Bradshaw 1928-2008

               William Gordon Combs 1929-1930 (14 months old on 1930 census,  

               Lucille Imogene Combs Graziano 1931-2015

               Baby Girl October 7, 1933 – October 7, 1933

Questions I wish I would ask mama;

Why were you not there when Evelyn delivered?

Who took care of Jesse, Lurlene and Imogene during and after her death?

When did you get to see Evelyn after her delivery and death?

Did you talk to the doctor after both died?

What caused William’s death?

Germania is not listed as a town on the current map of Mississippi but there is a Germania Road

Post Script:

After writing this story, I received a copy of a letter dated thirteen days before Evelyn died.  Her grand-daughter, Debbie Russell Warner found it among her mother Imogene Combs belongings.  It is possible that she wrote the letter before my mother came to visit and that the letter was never mailed.  It is also possible the letter was sent  and that my mother kept it all those years and gave it to Imogene when she came to visit my mother in Oregon many years later.

Another question that goes unanswered.

The letter is attached, very newsy about everyday life. My sister, Nannie and I marvel at how long it has been kept and under these circumstances. 

This letter confirms something I have always known and loved about my mother and her sisters; they loved each other deeply.  They kept in touch even under the difficulties of life they faced.  This legacy of love for each other is passed on to my sister Nannie and me.

Letter From Evelyn Combs to Her Sister Ruby Roe. The letter is dated 13 days before Evelyn Died.

#52AncestorsIn52Weeks #52AncestorsIn52WeeksAir

Fire and Family Skeletons

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking.” C.S. Lewis

Fire and Family Skeletons

By Gerry Roe


John Roe, Henry, Dawson, Ary, Rivers back row L-R, Lucie, Joseph, Jimmy, Annie and Nannie
sometime around 1909
Siblings, Frank Roe and Gerry Roe, Near the old Roe Family Homestead, Baywood/Pride Louisana, August, 2003

I don’t remember who first told me the story about the day my grandmother Ary O’Dell Dawson caught the family homestead on fire.  I don’t even  remember when I first heard it. But this is the story that was told to me.

Grandpa John and Grandma Ary Roe lived on a homestead in Baywood/Pride, East Baton Rouge Parish, Police Jury Ward 5, Louisiana.  Grandpa John was in the field plowing and grandma came out and said she had a headache.  She wanted him to go into town and get some aspirin. Since he was almost done with the plowing; he said he would finish and then go.  Well, as the story goes, that was not good enough my for grandma Ary.

I assume all the children were outside the house and that the house was located close to the fields because grandpa was able to get there in time to put the fire out, before the house burned down.

Ary was my father, Henry David Roe’s mother.  I remember hearing this story and thinking, why would she do such a terrible thing? Did she set the house on fire to get his attention? Did she start the fire because she was angry? Was the story even true?

My father talked very little about his family and or how he grew up, but later in life I talked with some of my cousins in Mississippi and Louisiana about grandma and how my father and his siblings grew up.

After talking to them I came to conclusion that this story is true.  

No one has ever told me if grandpa got her some aspirin.

No one has ever told me what month and year this happened. 

The story I was told that she went to Minter City, Mississippi. It is in Leflore county.

From my searching the census rolls of 1920 of Beat 1, Leflore, Mississippi I find Ary Dawson Roe living with her son Jimmy Louis and wife Nora. She had taken Lucy (17), Edward, Cappie (10), Rivers (7) and (Louisiana) who was listed as Hester (4) on the census. She is listed as mother to Jimmy; children are listed as his brothers and sisters and she declares her marital status as a widow.

The 1920 census same parish has grandpa Roe, Joe and Dawson.  They are listed as this spelling for Rae.  He also is listed as a widow.  My father Henry did not initial go with her and I find him on a 1920 census (same parish different district) living in his sister Nannie and brother in law Luke Coghlan’s household. Notes I found that my mother wrote was that daddy was seven when his mother left. That would be 1913 and he stayed on homestead with his father until he was eleven (1917) and then went to stay with his mother until he was thirteen (1919). When he left her he went to Arkansas and worked with Wallen and Davis Sawmill until the company went to Holly Bluff and he worked for them until 1930. This a big discrepancy.

These are only theories: one could be because of the young age of my father and the circumstances he told my mother ages incorrectly. Second possible theory is she did leave in 1913 but came back and had her last child, Louisiana in 1916 and then left again. There is a third possibility and that could be severe postpartum depression after so many children. After much research of the census and remembering the story. My conclusion is that my father’s dates are incorrect. I am inclined to think the incident happened around 1917 or there about. I don’t believe she left and returned. Also, since I finding him on the 1920 census with his sister Nannie; I believe his date of going to Arkansas would have been in the early 1920s. Something I learned from further research was that the homestead was not in East Feliciana Parish as I always understood.

The winter of 1928 his father came to visit him and my mother in Holly Bluff, Mississippi.  The last time daddy saw his father was in 1932 when he went to the homestead to see him.  Dawson was still living with his father but would not speak with daddy.  In 1933 grandpa Roe had a heart attack and Dawson went for the doctor but when they returned grandpa Roe had died. 

Family Skeletons unearthed:

Both Ary and John on census of 1920 are listed as a widow

Grandpa John on a 1930 census a widow

No 1930 census found for Ary

1940 census Bogalusa now truly a widow

#52Ancestorsin52Weeks #52Ancestorsin52WeeksFire


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 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