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Honoring Hattie Beatrice Schulz—and the descendants who inherited that hairline


marriage photo of Ralph Lewis Croy and Hattie Beatrice Schulz

Ralph Lewis Croy and Hattie Beatrice Schulz married August 4, 1944

My mother Hattie Beatrice Schulz Croy, born February 24, 1919, died August 4, 2017 on her wedding anniversary. She was ninety-eight years old and lived a long, event-filled life. I’ve refrained from writing about her ancestry because she still lived, and, since two sisters still live (longevity runs in our family), I will save most of my research until later. But, in honor of the heart-felt and raucous reunion her death precipitated, and to celebrate her notorious sense of humor, this post has to do with hairlines.


My nephews have often wondered at the source of the M-shaped hairline (not pattern baldness) that they inherited from their father. The tone of the question tended to the “why us” variety, though I think the look a handsome one. If there is any doubt, check out the actor who plays Uhtred on The Last Kingdom—not bad.

It’s unlikely that it came from Dad’s side of the family. While the photo below isn’t definitive because of all those hats, the hairline is not in evidence. Pattern baldness shows up in patriarch, Calvin Croy but not that hairline.

C Croy Family copy

Left to Right Croy Family: Great-grandfather Calvin, David, Gardner, great-grandmother Sarah Smith, Lloyd, William, Justus (my grandfather), and Mollie Ison (my grandmother)


It possibly came from Hattie’s mother’s side, the Meyers, but the hairlines in the picture below seem quite ample. Patriarch, John Meyer has a hint of the M-shape but—you decide.

John and Mary Meyer family Back row Susanna, Aleida, John, Ben; middle, Minnie, Front Mary and John

The Meyers: Back row Susannah (my grandmother), Aleida, John, Bernhardt; Center, Minnie; front great-grandparents Marie and John


On the other hand, take a look at the Schulz family. Matriarch Marie and patriarch Martin, in my mind, are rocking the look. Other family members also show the inherited trait though it’s hard to tell with that fashionable (or camouflaging) midline part. (On a side note, check out the curtains in this photo and the last. They were taken in the same studio in Sparta, Wisconsin.)

Martin and Marie Schulz Family T. August, Martin, Carl, William, Emil, Marie; middle Herman; F Emma, Augusta, Marie, Maritin, Pauline

The Schulz Family: Back Row (left to right) August, Martin, Carl (my grandfather), William, Emil, Marie; Middle Herman; Front Row Emma, Augusta, great-grandparents Marie and Martin, Pauline


Heredity is a random act of kindness, or not, and the times and conditions of our lives, likewise, consist of a throw of the dice. A kindergarten teacher I once knew always said, “Take what you get and don’t throw a fit.” My mom lived some tough times and some lucky ones; heredity granted her gifts and challenges. (I mean, look at the wedding photo. Is that a hint of an M-shaped hairline?) Still, tucked into the tough, the lucky, the gifts, and the challenges was humor. As she said on the day before she died, “Oh, you came to the party.”

Details of 4x Great-grandfather Samuel Payne in Sunderland, Bennington County, Vermont

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Sm Payne cattle mark vol 1 Sunderland blogThis past week I drove six-miles to our local Family History Center. Lucky right? And I live in a rural community. The ease of access amazes me. More amazing? I’d never been there.

I had discovered digital images for Sunderland, Vermont land records on the FamilySearch. Having pinpointed the date Samuel Payne bought land in Addison, Vermont after leaving Bennington County, VT, I was anxious to confirm that he had lived in Sunderland as I suspected. This based on a brief mention I discovered in a history of the township. My double-click gave me this message:

“These images are viewable: When using the site at a family history center.

I went, of course, and the trip introduced me to some wonderful, like-minded genealogists, while my exploration of the land records netted amazing results. What a boon! Besides confirming, on a major historical note, that Ethan Allen and his brother Ira Allen purchased a wealth of land in Sunderland right after the Revolutionary War (Volume 3, pg 23-25), I found out Samuel Payne was one of the early settlers there.

Here is what I discovered in the first unnumbered pages of Volume 3 which began with earmarks and Council minutes then moved on to 1784 land records…odd:

  • On March 29, 1774 Samuel Pane (Payne), Abel Blanchard, and Daniel Comstock were on a committee to sell the Scott lot
  • On April 27, 1777 Samuel Payen (Payne) registered his mark with the clerk: a crop in the left ear and a half-penny in the upper side of the right (more on that below!)
  • On March 8, 1778 Samuel Pane (Payne) was on a committee with John Lee, and Charles Everts to survey for a highway

The first pages of Volume 3 are filled with pages of cattle heads, 5 to a page, some heads were unclaimed and some, like Samuel’s, were claimed and dated. I had never seen this before, but townsmen were required to mark all of their cattle (by this meaning all cows, pigs, and sheep) with a mark registered with the town clerk. A short explanation specific to Connecticut Colony can be found here. My research indicates it was a common practice in the colonies allowing them to distinguish animals both in a free range environment and in circumstances where a cow, pig, or sheepherder tended all the township’s animals.

The early volumes (1-5) are a confusing mixture of Council Meeting minutes, early vital records of individual families, land records, and ear-marks with records from disparate years right next to each other on the pages. Because of the mishmash, I found the index of minimal use. For example, land records for Samuel Payne should appear in Volume 1, pages 63, 67, and 87 but I couldn’t find them there. I must have looked four times! And Ira Allen’s land records in Volume 1 should appear on page 221, but there are not that many pages in the volume. I have more work to do—see you next week!

Trinity Dam Brochure Circa 1963

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Trinity Dam Pamphlet exteriorI was raised in Trinity County and consider that fact one of my life’s blessings. My father was the reason I grew there, from second grade through high school graduation (Go Wolves!). He worked on the Trinity portion of the Central Valley Project for twelve years, from 1953 through 1965. I ran across this brochure and thought it was interesting. A gift to the project kids, with love.Trinity Dam Pamphlet interior

The Payne Family in Vermont or How to Find Information beyond Name Searches

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Once again the e-mails I receive from other researchers, have spurred me to reevaluate my research, including how I proceed. I’m inspecting the Payne family of Vermont in greater depth, since they (and consequently the Green Mountain Boys and the battle of Bennington) are the inspiration for my next book. I know Samuel Payne lived in Bennington, Vermont because his name is mentioned in histories of Sunderland, Vermont and because of his military record spanning 1777 and 1781(see this post). Afterwards, he appears in the 1790 Federal Census in Panton, Addison County, Vermont.


So, the big question is: When exactly did the family make the move from Bennington to Panton? The answer came by doggedly following the trail laid out through FamilySearch Wiki, indexes, and records. Name searches revealed none of this information.

Before I began my search, I knew who (Samuel Payne), where (Panton, VT) and when (between 1781 and 1790). I outline my process below.

  1. FamilySearch Wiki: Go to the wiki for the place you are interested in researching. In my case, Panton, VT had the actual deeds and grants beginning in 1761. Wow![i]
  2. The resource includes an index, but I didn’t know this when I began. The resource looked like this Deeds, town and vital records, v. 2 1784-1793 Deeds, v. 0 1784 Deeds, town and vital records, v. 3 1792-1801 Deeds, town and vital records, v. 4 1801-1825 But when I clicked on it, I went to the very first page and an index was there,[ii] along with Volume I, not mentioned above: Panton Proprietors Record 1761- 1837. It looked like this:
    Index of Panton S Pain

    Look carefully: 4th entry down on left and 6th down on right.


  3. Now I have page numbers for my search, but those are not the IMAGE pages. I need to estimate the image page by dividing the page number of the document by 2 (there are two pages for each image) and adding the pages before the NUMBERED pages begin. Hope you are following me. Anyway, I estimated, searched, and found these:deed image 64 p 113 Panton S Payen copy

land record of Samuel Payen copyThe question answered: Samuel Payne bought land in Panton first on May 1, 1788 (21 acres) and again on June 14, 1788 (35 acres). The land was situated along Otter Creek. Using a similar method of discovery I went to v. 4 and found the deed (Pg. 477) in which he sold a single parcel of 75 acres on Otter Creek to Edward Gray on November 3, 1812. This indicates he likely purchased about 20 acres of land to make the full parcel after the summer of 1788.

Of course, now I needed a great map! Check out the one above from, where else, the Library of Congress.

[i] A note: some of these digital images are only available for viewing at a Family History Center. Panton’s were available on-line. Bennington’s require a Family History Center. Luckily one is just down the road from me, so I’ll be visiting soon.

[ii] An aside regarding indexes in Ancestry: often a name search leads to an index, but search the record. Often it is a complete record and the actual document is found on later pages.


Historical Novel Society Conference 2017, Portland, Oregon

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IMG_1286No question: I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the last three days at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been encouraged and discouraged; invigorated and inebriated; enthused and confused; and bolstered by a wealth of like-minded, amazing human beings. At every turn, this band of normally introverted writers and readers broke from their shells to share. Not much small talk, thank goodness, aside from “Where are you from?” (which included Australia, New York, Shanghai, and Hawaii). We got “write” to the point.

My self-assigned task, to distil everything I’ve learned into a post or maybe two, has proved too daunting. So, I’ve decided to hit the highlights with a series of quotes.

Thursday, June 22nd: A Day with Kate Forsyth

“I’ve never written a book without throwing up my hands and say ‘What made you think you could write a book?’”

“Characters travel on a journey of transformation but so does the writer.”

Then there is my distillation of her big don’ts.

  1. Don’t say panster (as in seat-of-the-pants writer) or plotter (as in hyper outliner) rather say analytic or intuitive. And know you are a little of both
  2. Don’t say show don’t tell. “Think ‘When do I show and when do I tell?’ and tell well.”
  3. Don’t be obvious or prescriptive with narrative. “If everyone writes like everyone else, there is no surprise. I hate the three act structure. I don’t teach The Heroes Journey, even though I love it. Any system that narrows the creative process is a poor choice.”

There was so much more in her session, from the nitty-gritty stuff writers need to be reminded of (check out her old-school whiteboard) to the inspirational like:

“When we get blocked it’s usually because of fear of failure or ridicule. But it isn’t about you, it’s about the story. So tell the story you are being asked to tell.”

Check her out here.

Friday, June 23rd: A Dose of Reality and Distilled Liquor

Session 1: Breaking In, Breaking Out, and Staying On Top with agent Irene Goodman and editor, Lucia Macro

“Don’t get too emotionally attached.” “Most people want encouragement and support, but sometimes it’s an A- book.”

Session 2: Things that Go “Bang!” in the Night with Gordon Frye

 “Where they fire, there’s smoke.”

Here’s his blog.

Session 3: Buttons and Points and Pins, Oh My with Isobel Carr

Again, you’ve got to get those details right, and before buttons and zippers, they used a LOT of pins. She is authoritative. Find her here.

Lunch with Geraldine Brooks (I love, love, love her.)

I was mesmerized. Did I take a single note? No! But this I remember: She quoted one of my favorite Leonard Cohen poems.

“There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

Session 4: Modern Tools to Tell Historical Fiction with Stephanie Dray

My big take away? While I’m still on the fence about Scribner (any thoughts anyone?), I am purchasing Aeon Timeline ASAP. A link here.

Then I did a pitch of my most recent book, The Forging of Frost, and went to a cold read—Debbie Downer. At the pitch I got

“It’s just not grabbing me, Where’s your female protagonist?”

At the cold read, while they didn’t read my two-page offering, the authors who were read were informed, quite tersely, “I didn’t know where or when the story is taking place or where it is going.” For those out there who heard those words, I heard some good writing. (See day three for support.)

Luckily, or unluckily, I went to the infamous “Hooch” event. Isobel Carr moderated—hilarious—while participants partook of six (yep, six) different examples of alcohol through the ages. While my head complained on the day following, the lubrication did create some great bonding. We commiserated over the death of the male protagonist, shared our triumphs and our emails.

Fast Forward to Saturday, June 24th: The Final Day

Session 1: State of the State of Historical Fiction: with a panel of agents and editors

They provided the same dire prognosis as the previous day, i.e. it’s a woman audience, 1850 forward with a woman protagonist sells better, the novel biography is dead, and

“Dusty, dark, grey clothes just aren’t that sexy.”

But the light snuck in through the cracks,

“All that said, in the end, we are looking for an extremely compelling story that is well-written.”


Session 2: New Sources for Researching the Historical Novel with Mary Malloy

Great information for one new to the research world. My background in genealogy prepared me well. She agrees—maps, maps, maps and writing from the period.

Session 3: Two for One: Weaving the Twin-Stranded Storyline with Susanna Kearsley

Her presentation was professional, elegant, useful. I want to read her. Could it be that she writes twin-stranded stories just like me? Do check her out here.

Lunch with David Ebershoff (author of The Danish Girl, a wonderful book. I consider his 19th Wife a work of genius, but it’s a tome so be prepared.)

He was eloquent, and I again did not take notes, but he left me and many others with tear-rimmed eyes and all of us with his wisdom. To paraphrase:

“All any one of us wants is to be seen, as an individual, for who we really are.”

Lifted by his words, I decided to go to my next pitch. (I’d been vacillating.) I got:

“Send me a chapter and a synopsis.”

Then at the cold read? Some positive comments and some good suggestions. They were kind, supportive.

“I’m not that fond of Cold Reads. We don’t have any background on the story. That said, thank you for being so courageous.”

Did I say I was exhausted? I took refuge in a corner, waiting for the finally—the big banquet—and again found a comrade in the world of words.

Because, in the end, all we really want is to be seen for who we really are. It’s how the light gets in.

Finding Father: Ralph Lewis Croy

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The folder contained a pile of paper my father saved. The contents provide a glimpse into the life of a fine father, Ralph Lewis Croy. My brother gave me the file a couple years ago for an obvious reason. I’m the historian for the family. It’s a curious phenomenon. I hold together a family history for an independent, often distant, family. But we are, I discovered, after opening his folder, shoots not far from their roots. Dad did not keep everything—no random terrible artwork, no diary—he wasn’t that kind of guy. But what he kept provides a roadmap to his life.

Obviously, he kept his birth certificate. He was born at 9th and Moore Street (no hospital involved) in Henrietta, Oklahoma. Henrietta was always the place where he said he “grew up.”

that old gang of mine

This picture was a favorite of his. He labeled it “that old gang of mine.” He is bottom center. They are holding sticks for a game of hockey, I think.

But when the Great Depression hit in 1929, his dad lost his foreman position in a coal mine in Henrietta, and the family was forced to move. He often told me he planned to go to college at Alabama State, maybe even on a basketball scholarship. He was always athletic. His dreams were dashed and his father got a job as a miner in Spiro, Oklahoma.


He kept his high school diploma. He graduated from Spiro High School on May 16, 1931, with 19 others classmates. He likely knew none of them well.

Spiro High School

Dad wrote right on the photos. It drove Mom nuts, but, hey, it’s pretty clear, right?


There is no record of what he did during the next four years. The most impactful period in my dad’s life, based on the stories he told, was when he road the rails out to see his brother, Muriel, in San Francisco. I’ve never been able to pinpoint when he lived his “hobo” life. This is one possibility but I don’t think Muriel live in San Francisco at the time. A paper from the file that Dad typed up outlining his work life (in an attempt to get social security benefits) gives 1937 as his first work year, but he had forgotten about the following service.

He kept his release papers for his service with the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC’s) in Oklahoma. He worked in Pine Valley, Oklahoma from June 25, 1935, through December 1, 1935, as a truck driver in road construction. The CCC’s, formed in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, was in full swing by 1935, employing a half-million men across the country. During his six-month stint, Dad sent a total allotment of $25 home to his father Justus Croy, care of general delivery, Spiro, Oklahoma.

No records exist for 1936. From my father’s stories, I know Justus Croy and family traveled up through Colorado, working along the way. By the first of 1937 my dad, if not the rest of the family, was in Farson, Wyoming.

He kept a letter dated January 14, 1937, from the regional director of the Department of Interior, Department of Grazing. “Dear Friend Ralph, As I was interested to know, at my recent visit to Farson, of your progress in Engineering, I have taken the “liberty” to list your name with the R. Hardesty Mfg. Co, and they will send you their Handbook on Hydraulic Data, which I trust will be beneficial to you…” I had always thought his studies began by “mail” after his time in the US Army Air Force. I was wrong. His interest in engineering began as early as age 25.

He kept his CCC release papers for his service in Wyoming. He worked in Farson, Wyoming from May 6, 1937, through September 30, 1937, doing clerical work with the CCC’s and was paid $45 (no allotment sent).  He gave the address 1016 Lee St, Rock Springs, Wyoming for any further correspondence.

He kept a Union Pacific Coal Company Certificate of First-aid Training for “Aid to the Injured” dated 1939, the recipient: ‘Ralph Lewis Croy of Reliance, Wyoming.” According to his typed work record, he worked for Union Pacific Coal Company in Rock Springs, Wyoming from 1938-1940.  My brother recalls the story he told of how he walked off the job after seeing a man, one of many, injured in a mining accident, never again to work in the coal industry. His uncle Gardner had been electrocuted in a mining accident in 1920. Four years after he left Union Pacific Coal, his uncle David died in a landslide while working coal.

He kept a letter of recommendation dated August 29, 1942, from contractors Radich and Brown of Oakland, California. He worked for them as a transit man at the Oakland Naval Supply Depot. The letter stated: “It is our experience that his integrity is beyond reproach.” According to his typed record, he worked for contractors in Oakland from 1940- October 10, 1942.  I know my uncle, Muriel Croy, worked in construction in the San Francisco area at this time, so Dad likely followed Muriel there after walking away from Union Pacific Coal. There is a discrepancy. It is more likely he moved to Oakland in early 1941. Why? He, with his father and his mother Mollie, are listed in the same household on the 1940 census. His father Justus Croy died of emphysema (black lung) on December 13, 1940.

He kept his discharge papers from the US Army Air Force. He enrolled on October 30, 1942, in San Francisco, CA. He listed his civilian occupation surveyor and his home address 5016 Calaveras Ave, Oakland, CA. He trained at Bombsight School at Lowry Field in California as a Bombsight Mechanic. On February 11, 1946, he separated from Squadron C, 2619th Army Air Force Base Unit at Indiantown Gap Mile Reservation, Pennsylvania. He had married my mother Hattie Beatrice Schulz on August 4, 1944.

dad and dog

Always wondered exactly when they were in Carlsbad, NM. No doubt now.


He kept the March 27, 1946, letter he received from US Bureau of Reclamation Construction Engineer, O.G. Boden. “There is a vacancy in the position of Engineering Aide (Survey, SP-6), $2320 per annum, with headquarters in Antioch, California. This work will include operation of instruments of field survey party engaged in location and property surveys for the Contra Costa Canal System. Please advise at your earliest convenience if you are interested in employment in the above position.” He became a permanent employee with the Bureau on March 9, 1947, and I was born October 18, 1947, in Pittsburg.

Of course, there is more to the story, the stuff of another post. What I write here is about one file. The artifacts my dad saved help us trace his movement through time and place with exacting detail. He loved history, of his family and his nation. He preserved the remnants of it.

I often wonder why I do what I do: the blog, the historical fiction, the research, the amassing of artifacts. Not because my family reads these missives, if they do, which I doubt. I do it for love of Dad. I do it for me. I spring from his roots, where the past is forever present.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad—and thank you.



Preparing for Portland

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Preparing for the Historical Novel Society Conference @HNS-ConfUSA  so…a Thursday Throwback reminder: You are not the judgment you receive.  A discussion with an aspiring writer reminded me of this post. I thank him.

kyujutsu14With arms out, your heart exposed, you reveal yourself or your work to human scrutiny. Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. calls it “standing in the target zone.” It’s not easy. You go for that interview; you take that test; you offer up your love; you ask for feedback on a draft of a book. And you get a response.

Sometimes the balloons fall, confetti rains down, and they place bouquets of flowering praise into your hands. You step right into the target zone; you win—the job, the A, the love, the accolades. You feel valued.

Other times they throw eggs: hard-boiled, rotten, or fresh and usable. Spritely and alert, you dodge them, and evaluate their worth. They aren’t about you; they are about what’s between you and the words. So you toss the rotten criticism, digest the hard-boiled truths, and set aside the freshest critiques for later. You step out of the target zone soiled but ready to move on.

But other times—wow—other times you step into arrows, sharp and fast. Some are aimed at the target. You’ll deal with those later. But your guard is down; maybe you were expecting balloons. Suddenly, before you can grab your shield, one heads right at you. You take it personally, in the chest. You think, “You weren’t good enough for the job; you’re stupid; no one loves you; you are not okay, or talented, or worthy.”

If you’re quick, you can pull loose the arrow, stave the wound, and recover. You remind yourself that the barb isn’t about you; it’s theirs—their perspective, their point of view, their wounds, their opinions. You can take the arrow, clean it off, and learn what you can from it.

Sometimes, though, the wound festers, especially if, while you were pulling out the first arrow, two more hit their mark, one in your Achilles’s heel. This poison courses through your body. It hollows out your gut, robs you of your voice, and leaves you weakened, with a vise grip on your head and heart. You want to quit. You know better. You should have been vigilant, should have stepped out of the target zone, should have thrown up your shield and protected yourself. Now what?

You heal. It isn’t quick, but you heal. You step back, take stock, and you forgive. Forgive the archers for their aim and yourself for being human, for assuming balloons and making it personal—the job, the test, the lover, the book. You did your best, and you will begin again.

We live in a world of the instant critique. Want a hotel, a dinner, a book? Search the internet and the opinionated masses provided listings of one to five-star judgments from which we can choose. Find an agreeable viewpoint on a website and we post it on our Facebook page, or just “like” what appeals to us as we scroll the home feed. Suddenly, Facebook (or Twitter, or the website we light on) reads our preferences and presents us with more of what we want or need or agree with. We get filtered faceless bursts. Not so, when we’re standing in the target zone.

Here is what I learned from the arrows. (And after some reflection, my attachment to the balloons.)

  • If I ask for feedback, if I put myself in the target zone, I need to be specific about what I want…and if I only want a bouquet, I’m not ready to put myself there.
  • If I think I am ready, I will request the information in small doses, step back when I sense my guard is down, and even walk away.
  • I will try to remember that I am not the judgment I receive.
  • I will listen, digest what I hear, and give myself time to evaluate
  • I will refrain from explaining myself, making excuses, or, if I am wounded, retaliating.
  • I will move on, make my choices, and enjoy where they take me.

And I will be judicious in my judgment. We are fragile souls. We want approval, love, and the kind attention of others. We want to be okay.

  • I will not give feedback unless it is requested (and believe me, I asked for it!).
  • I will offer my opinions up with genuine praise (and if I can’t find it, I’m not looking closely enough).
  • I will make all my comments specific and avoid advice, respecting the recipient’s ability to move forward in his or her own way.

It is called being constructive. It isn’t easy, but a bouquet opens the heart, a boiled egg nourishes the body and provides for growth—and an arrow can wound. My words are my words—I can’t guarantee how they’ll land, but if asked, I can shoot for the target, not the soul.