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Moving On

The horizon from where I landed.

Over eight years ago, I wrote the first post on this site. It began as a way of updating and correcting information in an ancestral book I wrote for my family. Over those years, I dug deep into family history, traveled to old homelands, met some wonderful people, and had some amazing experiences. I, likewise, wrote The Maggie Chronicles, four books loosely based on some of those people and experiences, both present and past.

But all good things must end, and with the coming of April, this site will be no more. So, if there is anything here that, for any reason, you would like to keep, be sure to copy it into your records now. And if you do, please remember—verify, verify, verify.

I’ve had some interesting comments from people over the years. I went on a nostalgic tour of them today. Most were from people researching their family history and wondering about any common connections. Interestingly, very few came from my grandmother’s line of Ison and Morris(s), who came out of Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. A few comments had to do with the Payne family out of Connecticut and Vermont. The majority of the comments came from those researching the Huston, Oswalt, and Croy families, who came together in Londonderry (originally Cumberland Valley) Township in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Then, of course, there is Ohio, a state now dear to my heart, where most of the Bedford crew (along with the Paynes) congregated.

While some few lingered where they landed, most set their sights on other horizons. The story of these families, I discovered, was a story of change, of new adventures, of moving on. And so it is with me. I thank everyone who joined me on this venture, piqued my interest, and led me to consider other ways of seeing. My new horizon is a quiet one, walking a singular path, enjoying my place and my family, face-to-face. And as I move on, I wish you each a new year and life to match the horizons you set. 

The Maggie Chronicles are Complete

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Ah, the best of plans: not something I’m used to any more—plans, I mean. Who plans right now? Except to get “The Jab,” which I have, thank goodness—being old and all.

One year ago, I was preparing to launch of the third book of The Maggie Chronicles: the library date was booked, the presentation complete, the books purchased, the cupcakes readied.

Then the world and life slammed to a halt. So, it seems fitting that I should publish the last installment of the series, book four, The Illusion of Loss, on the pandemic’s one-year anniversary. And here it is.

Available, as are all The Maggie Chronicles, HERE!

If you have followed my site for long, you’ve read about the Croy and Payne Family, especially their time in Western Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Ohio. This book is the culmination of my fictional accounting of those families, in which they finally meet up, in Coshocton County, Ohio, during the years leading up to the Civil War. 

Likewise, as a recipient of my posts, you may recall my travel tales, as I researched in those places. I’ve dedicated this book to my dear friends Ben and Phyllis Harstine, who opened their home—and my 3X great-grandfather’s one-time home in Ohio—to me. While there, they taught me how to make maple syrup, an important thread in The Illusion of Loss. 

Phyllis and I, boiling down the sugar water and getting ready to skim off
the impurities.

During our short friendship, Phyllis contracted bone cancer. Hoping to out flank death, I sent her a draft version of the book. She printed it out, but the pages got jumbled, so she enlisted her cousin’s help getting the book into a binder with pages in order. Phyllis died before she was able to read the draft version I sent her, but her cousin said that, “The day before she passed, her sister held the phone up to her (Phyllis) ear, and I told her that her book was all in order in the binder, just as she wanted it.” It was that important to her. 

It isn’t often that two hearts can touch the way ours did, and THAT is what The Illusion of Loss is all about. Even when your story is finished, your imprint lingers on. Hope you enjoy the read, Phyllis. Much love, Donna

The Battle of Bennington’s Anniversary


Legacy of Payne Front Cover_On August 16th, two hundred forty-three years ago today,, The Battle of Bennington was fought just outside Bennington, Vermont, just inside New York Colony. The battle is an important milestone in my latest novel, #3 of The Maggie Chronicles, The Legacy of Payne. Here is an excerpt in honor of the day. (Oh, yes—available on Amazon, wink-wink.)

At Stark’s encampment, they stopped, but only long enough to drop their knapsacks in a pile and line up for a ration of rum and water. Then they were off. The gunfire, no longer scattered, shivered on Sam’s brow. Sweat ran down his neck and soaked his shirt. As he ran, double-time now, the rum worked on him, relaxing the fearful weight on his chest, and his mind.

Just as he imagined himself prepared for what would come, a cannon blast sent the rum rolling in his gut.

Ez laid his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “We take care of each other now. One step at a time.”

“Just pay attention to what’s in front of us,” Rob added. “And at our backs.”

Jed edged up between them. “And up there. See it? The first bridge? Never thought I’d be wantin’ water—surely not yesterday. Now I want to bathe in it.”

“You? Bathe?” they said, in unison. And they laughed. They had to laugh. The firing and the cannon shot rose to full battle roar. A pall of smoke drifted into the air, and after kneeling at the Walloomsac’s edge and running water over their necks and cupping it into their mouths, they followed the smoldering cacophony.

Not a half-mile down the road, at another bridge crossing, the battle unfurled before them. Blue-coated Hessians flew down the hill on Sam’s right, their scabbards catching in the brush. One tripped and rolled nearly in front of Sam. His foolish gold hat bounced away, and he threw his hands in the air shouting something Sam could not understand. Then someone—“One of ours,” Sam thought—jabbed a rifle to the blue-coat’s back, smiling as if he had gambled and won.

Men on a small rise worked together to raise two cannons nailed to skids and stumbled off, like prideful pallbearers at some outlandish funeral. Sam twirled in confusion. Nothing made sense. Drunk and bellowing men passed him by, laden with goods stripped from the dead and dying. “Stuck him with his own saber,” one said. “Still’s got his blood. See? It’s a fine blade.”

“Sam?” It was Ez, his hand on his back. “We’re moving.”

They marched on, beyond a swarm of blue and red-suited prisoners, and bodies already swarming with flies.

“A win, by God,” Jed called it.

“Lacking order,” Rob countered and led them on.

They stopped, on orders, at a thinly wooded hill where the road dipped down a ravine. A volley of gunfire and the blast of a cannon told them the win was a ruse. Then the wounded filtered past.

Word carried. “Enemy reinforcements encountered. On Warner’s orders, head down the road and form a line…” The words jumbled. Barely contained, the company, like a bull in heat, rushed downhill and spread out.

Jed and Sam bumped into each other, headed in opposite directions. “Right,” Sam yelled. “He said right!”

“Left!” Jed said and pumped his gun toward the river.

“I couldn’t hear,” Ez said, “but they’re mostly heading left.”

They filed toward the river and were met by a riparian swamp. Muck, knee deep, ensnared them. “Now what?” Sam asked, holding his gun high.

“Their coming!” Rob cried.

And they were. Sam fumbled with his rifle, sloshed through the reed and water-loving brush, looking for a bit of high ground. He steadied his arm, elbow high, listening. A musket ball flew past, a whistle at his ear. Reeds rushed and mud sucked, a warning announcing a hard-faced man with frightened eyes. He darted, then froze.

“Like the fox,” Sam thought. He dropped to his knees, gun held high.

“Wir sind ein, bruder!” the man yelled. “Wir sind ein!”

Sam shook his head. What was he saying? He yelled back, “Put your gun down! Gun down!”

The Hessian’s head bobbed. The gun dropped, as did his hand, reaching to his waist. A shot reverberated in Sam’s ears, and the Hessian’s belly opened in a splatter. Thick droplets crusted Sam’s arm and chest. Smoke enveloped him. Then a hand reached out, and gently lowered his gun.

Rob dragged him to the body and pointed, using his gun. “A pistol at his belt. You’d be dead,” he said. “Now, get yourself to high ground. And shoot! Our lives depend on it.”

So he shot—and he killed. One boy in neat civilian dress went down. By his lead shot? “Who cares,” he thought. “The Tory bastard.” Then he yelled it. “Tory bastards!” The words made the next shot easier. And the next.

The Recollections of Ralph Lewis Croy: aka Dad

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0. that old gang of mine

Dad called this “That Old Gang of Mine.” He is the one at the bottom in the center.

Because of my brother Ken Croy’s foresight, we have the recorded memories written in my father’s hand of growing up in Henryetta, Oklahoma in the early twentieth century. Ken gave Dad a memory book (a great idea that I strongly recommend) with some lead-in questions as stimulus. Dad was a grand storyteller, still as I recall Ken had to work to get those stories in writing. But Dad did it. And as a Father’s Day present to him (November 27, 1912-May 12, 2004) and my brother (now a father and grandfather himself) I’ve transcribed what Dad wrote as best I could. When asked what was the same as when he was young, his first answer is Love. Right, Dad, still the same: I love you.

Dad’s Recollections (as he wrote them)

What kinds of things did you do on a summer day?

I played marbles, swam in Little Creek – Big & Little “5” in Wolf Creek, played touch football, baseball, Annie Over, Blindman’s bluff, tag and at night under the street light climb Bald Knob. Mother had me take “Old Fisher” a rooster up on Bald Knob and let him go because he attack all the people who walked by on the sidewalk. He was called “Old Fisher” because grandpa caught him on the North Canadian River where he camped for 3 months every summer. We would visit his camp almost every weekend for big fish fries. The Hanselman’s Risir’s and Syemours. There was the time that Clarence and I walked up the hill to the Fort Smith & Western railroad tracks. Clarence was ahead of me. He hit a limb on a tree. Stirred up a wasp’s nest and they took after me. I headed for the river and as I went thru camp my mother grabbed me and took my cloths off in front of all those people. Was I embarrassed.

…on a winter day?

Winter days I built a sled (Bob sled) and took it up on Bald Knob to slide down. There were 3 of us on it. Away we went down the hill. I tried to turn it but you know the three of us hit the tree and all went tumbling down the hill. There was the day that J.O. and I were walking up the alley to his house. We had bean flips – sling shots – we saw a rooster and he said watch me hit him in the rear. He was – the rooster – bent over peaking on the ground at the time. When J.O. shot, the rooster raised up and it was hit in the head. Bye, Bye rooster. J.O. ran home and I asked his mother where he was. I found him upstairs under the bed. And there was the time we sent swimming in Wolf Creek naked. A lady drove by in a horse and buggy and turned us in to the police. In order to scare us they came down and picked up some of the kids. I grabbed my clothes and run off thru the corn field.

Tell us a fishing story.

There’s the time when I was possible 12 or 13 years old and my father decided to go to White River. It is located between Little Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tenn. My brother Muriel, myself and J.O. Pharoah went with my father. It meant a trip of about 500 miles in a “T” model Ford from Henryetta, Okla. Which was a long way in those days.

We put out trout lines (in a small river it is from shore to shore but White River was so wide we had to put gunny sacks filled with sand to hold them down). Then early one morning J.O. and I got up early and run the one up the river from camp and took two drums (fish that travel under your boat and sound like drums – musical instruments) They weighted about 10 lbs. Then we went down river opposite the campsite and started to run the line there. We were in a 16 ft. boat and I thought I was pulling up the sand bag. I was in the middle of the boat and a big alligator gar flowed up. His tail was at the end of the boat. I let go and yelled for my father who was washing at the edge of the river. We went over and got him and he run the line but when he got to the hook that the gar was on it had been straightened out and and the gar was gone. It was a double oo hook about the size of your little finger. Old time fishermen there estimated the gar to weight about 150 lbs. They said the gar had been around there for years. An Alligator Gar has a wide snout like a regular alligator.

 What was school like when you were young?

The school I first went to was a two story brick school in Henryetta, Okla. It began sinking to being undermined by the excavation of coal by the “Whitehead Mine” underneath it. They then tore it down and replaced it with one story buildings for each class. Must have been about 8 of them.

I was born without a palate (spelling?) in the roof of my mouth and was teased because I could not talk plain. The teacher put me in the back of the room and I could not hear her so I played hooky for a week. When my parents found out they took me to Kansas City to be operated on. They would not do it there because the needle passed too close to the brain. My father then took me to St. Louis, Mo. A children’s hospital where the[y] did the operation. I had problems learning to talk plain.

The discipline was strict but I liked it (the schools) and had a great time. I loved football, baseball, and basketball. I was suppose to take an English esam at 11:00 o’clock and I thought it was at 2 o’clock. I went at that time and they would not give it to me. So I did not make it up during the regular school term and went an extra year so I could play basketball. I took English and three other courses so I would be eligible to play.

Who was your best childhood friend?

My best childhood friend were J.O. Pharow (Pharoah) (spelling of last name not exactly correct.) Spring Hill, Okla. was changed to his last name as they were Indians and lived on a big ranch there before moving to Henryetta. Oil was discovered on their ranch and they moved to Henryetta in the big white two story house on Broadway street. Then there was Lawrence & Gene sysmore, Arthur Gibson, Clarance Rise, Edward Dashild, Henry Hamra, Fred Whitledge. All good friends but I suppose J.O. was the best. These were my friends in Henryetta.

I went to Spiro when I was in the 10th grade. Here I had my wonderful high School friends Stul Nelson, Sonny Boyette, Christine Boyetta, Sam James, Red Huff, Grace Conn, etc. Zella Christman The best friend was Stul Nelson. The last I saw of him was at Camp Stoneman, near Pittsburg Ca. during World War Two where he was being sent overseas and just before I entered the Army.

What about your brothers and sisters?

I had two brothers and two sisters. In this order by age. Muriel (the way his name was spelled) Calvin, Unice (spelling) and Helen. Unice died at 2+/- years old. Before I was born. Possibly about 1910. She is buried in the family plot in Henryetta, Okla. I was closer to Muriel than Calvin. Calvin never lived close to me except for a while when I was real young. His nature was different than mine. Muriel and I were close as we worked in the mines together and had more in common. We always went quail hunting on his birthday, Nove 20th, as the quail season opened on the 20th and our birthdays were close together but 10 years apart.

My sister Helen and I have always been close as we shared the hardships of the depression together with mom and dad. Muriel and Calvin had their hard times during this era but we did not live so close to them. We did more with Muriel than Calvin.

What was Christmas like when you were young?

Its difficult to remember much about Xmas. We did not have Xmas trees and all the outdoor decorations like they do now. Gifts were given out on Xmas Eve and we generally had a big Xmas dinner.

What kinds of things were different when you were a kid?

What kinds of things were different when I was a kid. Let me see:

No radio.

Gas lights.

Telephone – party lines

“T” model fords

No T.V.

Out door privies (toilets)

Neighborhood grocery stores – home delivery

No computers

No airplane transportation (public)

If you traveled you went by train.

Excuse my writing. We did have penmanship in school. I was never too good at it and I’m worse now that I’m old.

Bad roads. No modern highway system.

No refridgerators. Ice boxes with home delivery of ice. Horse drawn ice wagon. We used to follow it and get ice chips when the iceman went into the house to deliver the ice.

Many, many things were different.

What kind of things were the same?



Struggling to make a living

There are so many things that are different that it is difficult to think of things that are the same. Night and day are the same.








The Legacy of Serendipity


The photo from my first blog, posted September 7, 2013. Catamount Tavern in Bennington, Vermont, the setting for book The Legacy of Payne, just published on Amazon. Serendipity in action.

Four months since my last post, a long time for me. As I reflected on how much I had left to say, I wondered: How long have I been writing this blog anyway? So I looked. My first post was September 7, 2013—almost eight and a half years ago! That is a long time for a blog to stay alive.

I’ve pretty much exhausted what can be researched and written about my paternal family history. I keep looking but, really, take a look back. Undiscovered records and side roads likely exist, but they’re deep-buried. I’ve yet to post anything definitive on my mother’s family. I will this year, but the story is short since they all immigrated to Wisconsin in the late 1800s, and what happened before then has been hard to decipher. A couple of research trips might still be in the works, the Civil War sites and places in Virginia, where all my paternal grandmother’s family originated. But other than that—my posts will be few.

Writing still engages me, but blogs regarding the skill/art of writing are many. Never able to label myself, period, and certainly never as an expert, I feel no need to add to the plethora. There are excellent writing blogs available. Just search. What engages me right now is writing a story too wonderful not to share. That act, and my garden, consumes me.

I’m working on a fourth book in The Maggie Chronicles, which I’m very excited about set in Ohio in the mid-eighteen hundreds. It will bring the two families, Payne and Carter (i.e., Croy), together and end the series.

Through the course of what will be four books, Maggie, the family historian who is a constant in the series, is book-by-book pulled deeper into a time-melding world that toys with what is real and imagined, coincidental and serendipitous. And I half to say, I believe!

Too much has happened in my ten-year journey into genealogy not to believe that serendipity is far more mysterious than random chance. Otherwise, how is it that, on the day I publish the third in my series, titled The Legacy of Payne, I looked back to my first ever blog post, so simple, so short, a first attempt to add to and correct a genealogy book I gave to my family, and find:

  • a picture of Catamount Tavern in Bennington, Vermont, an essential setting for my fictional accounting of Sam and Abby Payne of Sunderland, Vermont
  • a last sentence, referring to information crucial to the arc of the Legacy story!

    Still, a new story emerged about Christopher and Abigail who lost all but one child, Abigail Grimes, in an epidemic, and so named their next child Comfort. 

Interested in learning more about the Payne family that inspired Legacy? Search the sidebar. Vermont? Same place. Purchase my books (shameless plug)? See the tab above. Until the next time, find joy where you find it—and consider finding it in the history surrounding you, and a good book.

Organizing Genealogical Records: the HOW and the WHAT


gold fields

And when you notice that men have disappeared in the 1850 census—right after the California ‘49er Gold Rush? They just might be there! In 1850 I missed David Markley and Samuel Croy. Samuel deserted his wife, Catherine Pugh Croy. David returned. Could be they headed to the goldfields like David’s brother, John. From Coshocton Tribune, Nov. 1924

Time to clean house—my genealogical house, that is. My goal:


  • Research brick walls
  • Review and update family sheets
  • Organize related files, both computer and paper

NO SMALL TASK! So I decided to take one grouping at a time.

First ones to tackle: the Ohio clan. Why? They had not been updated since 2015!

Also, the fourth of my historical fiction series, The Maggie Chronicles, delves deep into their nineteenth-century Ohio lives. The book deviates significantly from the Andrew Croy family’s real life, but my research of them revealed so much that was new or corrected that I thought I should take a closer look.

Deep in the weeds, a genealogist’s disease, I discovered much and, boy, did I organize!

Here is how:

  1. I printed out the family tree and sheets from my genealogy program to work from, numbering each of the children in birth order.
  2. All information on the children used that numbering system. i.e. In my paper files, I numbered each page of info. and paper clipped it together by date. In my computer files, I numbered each item followed by a year for each item in the parent folder. Here is an example of what that looked like. Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 8.10.31 AM
  3. Then I set to work filling in blanks. Mind you, I’ve worked on this for ten years now and applied to a number of societies requiring detailed support so I have bunches of data. Nuts, I know. SO, HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE?

Just in case you want to get right to the chase, I’ve updated all my Ohio records. You can find them here. Ohio family sheets 9-15-2019

What I discovered—and didn’t.

  1. Two brick walls for these families are still unclimbed. HELP ANYONE?
  • HENRY SMITH: I think he is probably the brother of EVERHART SMITH (who married Selena Payne, sister of Henry’s wife Sephronia Payne…so you’d figure) BUT I can’t find a direct link yet.
  • MARGARET PUGH: wife of Jacob Croy. I made up a family in my next book, just ‘cause, but I cannot verify my guess that she is the daughter of John Pugh, likely son of Aaron.
  1. The MARKLEY family (David, Selena, and Catherine) that married into the ZERAH PAYNE family (Selena, Samuel, and Michael), always fascinated me. Another disease of a genealogist is digging deep where you don’t belong. But, hey, if you are a Markley descendent you might be interested. So I wondered:
  • Who was/were their ancestors, and—Jackpot! I found an article on an ADAM MARKLEY who had a very large family and settled in Bethlehem Township, Coshocton County, Ohio. After some digging, I found the probate records (both available on Ancestry) of Adam and his son, father of those children, FREDRICK MARKLEY.
  • Also, the aftermath of the Knox County, Indiana tragedy where I estimate at least seven Markley/Payne children died in a ten-year period after their arrival. The children of SAMUEL AND SELENA MARKLEY PAYNE were distributed: CATHERINE MARKLEY PAYNE, whose husband Michael also died, took in Amy. Daughter Rachel, then nineteen, returned to Coshocton County with Eliza and Burd. Their eldest James was already married and established in Knox County.
  1. Again digging way too deep, I clarified (or complicated) the lives of the children of Calvin and Sarah Angeline (Payne) Smith Croy.
  • A correction for CHARLES HENRY CROY that eliminated a wife (Watch out! There are more souls out there with the same name and similar birthdates that you might think!)
  • The addition of a second wife for WILLIAM DUNCAN CROY (DELLA SLAUGHTER) She eventually married William’s mother Sarah’s sister Selena’s son, EARLE UFFNER.
  • A little more information on DAVID HARRISON CROY and his complicated marriage history, including a new birth certificate for his son Daniel, which gives his father as an Everett McCoy. David always claimed this boy as his and Louise Marie, aka Billie Lou Moody (among other names) gave a lot of different/questionable versions of information on her documents.

Check out this post for more of the convoluted.

So, I’m brain dead, cross-eyed, and exhausted. Tomorrow—I return an Ohio in the 1800s and the imaginary world of my making.

Cover Reveal: The Legacy of Payne—Publication? A Long Way Off


Legacy of Payne Front Cover_

Check out the cover for The Legacy of Payne, the third book of The Maggie Chronicles. Pretty darn exciting!

One week and two hundred forty-two years ago, Gen. John Stark and Col. Seth Warner thwarted Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum‘s attempt, under orders of Gen. John Burgoyne, to abscond with supplies housed in Bennington, Vermont. The Battle of Bennington, fought just inside New York’s borders, was a pivotal moment in the American Revolution AND my upcoming book.

Fittingly, my fantastic cover designer, Pam Mullins, and I finalized the cover within days (and 242 years) of that momentous date in history. I’ve gone into great depth on this battle, my trip to Vermont for research, and the book’s featured Payne family heroes and heroines on my blog. Just go to the search square in the upper right corner and type in Vermont to learn more.

Here is the back cover featuring a painting called The Old Mill by George Inness, 1849. The blurb tells you more about the story. Back CoverNeither the date of the work nor the setting, likely upstate New York, match the time frame or the exact setting of The Legacy of Payne, but it certainly evokes the feel of a Vermont country mill in the 1780s.

But hold your horses, so to speak. In the hopes of avoiding some of the pitfalls of a rush to publication (slowly learning), I’m taking my time bringing this book to publication. Anticipated Amazon debut: April 2020!

Ugh! What?

Until, if you haven’t yet, there are always books one and two.

Find them here and here.

I’m My Own Grandpa

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marriage of E Croy and J HustonA helpful reminder right up front: When researching women who seem to fall off the edge of the world, always check for marriages using their married name. Most often subsequent marriages after a spouse’s death are recorded under the woman’s married name, not her maiden name.

Because my fiction series, The Maggie Chronicles, is lifted, much altered, from my genealogy research, I find I often dig deep and discover details that help break down a brick wall or two. Such was the case as I research the fourth of my Maggie Chronicles (number three—The Legacy of Payne—comes out next year).

The ancestor in question is Duncan Croy, first-born son of Andrew Croy and Susannah Oswalt Croy—birth year approximately 1804.[i] He is brother to Jacob Croy, my great-great-grandfather. Until recently, I knew only that he married in 1827[ii]to Sally Morrison, had a boy and girl under five by 1830,[iii] was living in 1840 with Andrew Croy in White Eyes Township, Coshocton County, Ohio.[iv] From this information, I reasoned that Sally Morrison had died. The fact that he remarried in 1840 to Elizabeth Chipliver[v] confirmed this assumption.

But by 1850, Duncan Croy had disappeared, as had Elizabeth. Andrew and Susannah had two young children living with them, Susannah, age 11, and Margaret, age 5. David Croy, Duncan’s brother, had a boy named Andrew residing with him, age 19, too old to be one of David’s children. It seemed likely Duncan had died. Yet, looking back on the 1830 and 1840 census, these records account for only some of his children. What happened to the rest? And what happened to Elizabeth, his second wife.

Remember the hint at the beginning of the blog? I applied it and looked for Elizabeth CROY. Sure enough, a marriage record showed up. And what a surprise! Hence, the title of this blog: I’m My Own Grandpa. It was one of my father’s favorite songs. After a convoluted and humorous explanation, it concludes: “It seems funny I know, but it really is so, I’m my own Grandpa.”

So follow along—and I won’t try to confuse this with references, all of which can be found on Ancestry. Duncan’s mother was Susannah OSWALT before marrying Andrew Croy; Susannah’s mother was Sarah HUSTON who had a brother David HUSTON who married Susannah’s sister Rebecca OSWALT; David and Rebecca had, among other children, a son named John HUSTON. Elizabeth Chipliver Croy married him after Duncan died. The 1850 census for Elizabeth and John lists more of Duncan’s children by her and Sally. Look below for an accounting.[vi] I’ll update the family sheet later.

Hang in there—because I’m not done yet. Elizabeth died before 1860 and who should John marry?[vii] Susannah Croy, Duncan’s child by Sally Morrison, who cared for the children John had with Elizabeth, along with four more of her own. In other words, John married his nephew’s daughter, taking after his father, who had married his niece.

I’ve often mentioned the close connections between the Croy, Oswalt, and Huston families. They were very close! As an aside, I discovered the name of another of Duncan’s children by Sally: the older boy, Samuel. And he married David Huston’s daughter Margaret.

I will confuse no further. I’ve delved deeper into each of Duncan’s children and those of John Huston. If you are interested, I’d love to hear from you.

A graphic for your pleasure:Alexander Huston Mary Ann Johnson

[i]based on the Federal Census for 1830, Rose Township, Carroll County, Ohio, marriage certificate, Carroll County, and Federal Census for 1840, White Eyes, Coshocton County, Ohio including that of mother, Susannah’s birth date
[ii]14 September 1827 based on Carroll County, Ohio marriage records,
[iii]Federal Census 1830, Rose Township, Stark County, Ohio for Duncan Croy
[iv]Federal Census 1840, White Eyes Township, Coshocton, Ohio—also, through deduction, I determined a boy, born 1830-1835, and two girls, born 1835-1840.
[v]18 October 1840, based on Coshocton County, Ohio marriage records,
[vi]Children of Duncan (about 1804-1845) and Sally Morrison(about 1807-1839): Unknown female, Samuel, Andrew, Susannah
Children of Duncan and Elizabeth Chipliver (about 1812-1857): Eliza, Catherine, Margaret.
[vii]17 June 1858 based on Coshocton County, Ohio marriage records,

In Transition

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open door

Transitions: An open door

Recently, the leader of my writing group, Pam Smedley, gave us an interesting assignment. She put slips of paper with writing topics written on them and asked us to draw one and reflect on it for the month. I drew the word: transitions.


I’m going through numerous personal life transitions—the self-publishing gauntlet scaled and two books[i]completed; the first draft of my third book in the beta-reader/editing stage; the angst-driven analysis of my accomplishments and mistakes; and coming to terms with aging, time, and…well, you get it.

I’m also beginning to write the fourth book in The Maggie Chronicles. If you are familiar with my books, you know they hop from present to past, requiring reader and writer to transition often. Well, my fourth book transitions between two pasts and one present. Ambitious? Nuts? Who knows? Clearly, TRANSITIONS was an apt and serendipitous pick.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned in a month.

Transition defined:

  • the process of change (noun) like[ii]between passages, musical keys, phases, focus
  • cause to change (transitive verb) as in position, perspective, orientation, viewpoint

You just can’t avoid transitions—or transitioning. Noun or verb, the word implies change. Some changes are easy; the leap isn’t far, or critical, or traumatic; it requires little adjustment—for example, between corn and bran flakes, or sentences. Then again, some changes are hard; they require a huge leap—between established home and homeless, between life and death, or between scenes. (So, okay, taking the leap from one scene to the next isn’t as harrowing as the chasm between life and death, but, if not done well, both can be painful.)

In any case, by addressing all the complexities of change, so as to ground yourself (or the reader) in new territory, you might avoid the stumbles and falls (to stick with the metaphor) or confusions change presents(metaphorical stretch…mid-air collision?).

With this in mind, consider the following as you soar, or flail:

  • Where are you? Have you been here before? Then you likely don’t need an in-depth tour. If the place is new, if you’re out of your comfort zone, then a quick orientation is in order. Is the weather different? The same? Is it safer or less so? Who populates this place…assuming they matter? Get settled, or help the reader do so.
  • When are you? Two days later, a week? Life, and story, does that sometimes; time flies without you paying attention. Jumps like that are easy. Just state the fact and move on. “My writing group meets in an hour. Better hustle.” But…did you time hop from D. 2020 to 500 B.C.? Some head-spinning explanation is required. Were you eighteen and suddenly eighty? Perspectives and concerns differ significantly with age. Don’t ignore it.
  • Who are you? Very important. Hopefully, there’s some consistency. Too much head hopping and you come off as schizophrenic. Sure, you may feel unbalanced but keep moving—forward—as you. Take it all in, from your (or your character’s) perspective. And accept that you (and your character’s) viewpoints aren’t perfect…or necessarily grounded. It’s normal and makes for an interesting story, or life.
  • What are you? Is a label important? Add it. (But it makes me nervous.)
  • And, finally, why? Why are you where, when, who, and what you are? Why do you feel, need, want, care? Why are you afraid, excited, wary, overjoyed? Why don’t you think you’re good enough, smart enough, whatever enough—or why do you?

Put it all down; ground your reader—or yourself—into the next step, next scene, or next stage of your story.  It might be exhilarating or frightening or incongruous, but nothing stays the same and everything’s connected. That’s the point of transitions: somehow, via miniature steppingstones or huge leaps of faith, they move you forward. How exciting and scary is that?

Photo credit: Franzfoto:
[i]Find links to them here: Book 1 The Scattering of Stones and Book 2 The Forging of Frost
[ii]I’ve bolded a few transition words between sentences in black as examples.

“One Stick at a Time” A Family Fable

one stick

Work to come

I sat in the driver’s seat of the car parked in our garage. A piece of a story unfolded—a movie—but one not in my head. It danced in that in-between place where the mind’s eye plays. As it receded, my shoulders relaxed; my knotted gut began to untie. The story was not lost; it was there.

The launch of both Scattering and Forging were successful. Not like rock star successful but respectable and, well, at least accomplished. The draft of my third book is ready for beta-readers—almost. I still need to give it one last edit.

But the next book lingered in a twist of apprehension, a sensation I suppressed. Vulnerability was not, I thought, a desirable attribute. When in doubt, pretend strength.

But lately I’ve been thinking of a family fable. We call it “One Stick at a Time. The story goes like this.

In the long ago time, when a man and woman first came to this land, an enormous mound of dirt and tree limbs and trunks and bramble, all in a muddle, loomed over them. The pile rose taller than one person standing on the shoulders of the other. It stretched wider than three cars, bumper to bumper…well, maybe two trucks. Say it however you will, it was a mountain; it was big. And overwhelming.

Then a Wise One visited the woman, this time in the visage of an old man. Grey of hair and beard, he hovered before the mound, balanced on a crooked cane. His eyes scanned the mass, his mind considered. He turned to the woman and smiled. “There is nothing,” he said, “that cannot be tackled one stick at a time.”

The woman told her partner what the Wise One had said, and he nodded. They stepped to the mound and each picked up a stick, then a shovel. Sometimes they worked together, sometimes alone.

At night the woman determined her next step. She imagined the new stick or limb she would lift.  When dawn came, her imagination moved her, so she pulled and she dragged, until what she had imagined in the night stood before her, as real as light of day.

Then, one night at a time, the pile diminished and the greater vision unfolded: of a land cleared of debris, flourishing where confusion and doubt once reigned. And, while the work took place, birds flit through the bramble, the man and woman’s bodies grew strong, and they discovered how to clear a space where ideas could grow.

So it is with any story. At first, it seems a jumble, disconnected and unclear. No matter how much you plan its structure or talk through your ideas, you must step forward. You must pick up the first stick.

Every story I’ve written began with doubt. Then the story blew in, one scene at a time, its Wise-One presence appearing sometimes in a car, sometimes before an impossible obstacle, and always just in time. So I will trust that place where my mind’s eye plays, and I will carry on, as I hope you will—one stick at a time.

at a time

It does get done—one stick at a time.