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Thursday, January 31, 2008

A New Translation

Yesterday I took Amos & Nora Hoover to the Lancaster County courthouse with me to look at an original German will he had translated for me in November. He did a fantastic job from the photocopy I had, but a couple of important words could be verified only by seeing the original will.
The photocopy I had gotten earlier was a copy of a copy. I had not been allowed to handle the original, so I was not sure they had the original German will. When I explained to the man who works there why Amos needs to see the original will, he went upstairs and came down with an envelope which contained the actual paper on which Peter Gut wrote his will in 1753. Imagine that! While we were at it, we also asked to see the will of Peter's son, Christian. He brought us Christian's German will and its English translation, both written in 1757. These are things dreams are made of!
The handwriting on Christian's will was a little easier to read and I could make out a couple words, but Peter's handwriting said absolutely nothing to me. I was fascinated watching Amos decipher the letters and words. He could actually read and understand it! There are not many men around who could do what he did for us. I am amazed and delighted!
The reason Amos wanted to be absolutely certain of his translation is because it changes some things in the history books. That story will be revealed in due time.

This is Amos checking the spelling of the words on Peter Gut's 1753 German will.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tractor Square Dancing

The Pennsylvania Farm Show, held in Harrisburg every January, is billed as the largest indoor agricultural show in the country. For anyone even faintly interested in agriculture, looking at all the animals and farm-related displays can be a Cabin Fever reliever.
This year's Farm Show is history. If you missed it but feel the need of a little relief from the winter doldrums, watch this:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Passing On The Faith

The meaning of a word in a phrase can change depending on the placement of the emphasis. We had an illustration of that this morning in the devotional exercises at church. The man who conducted the devotions asked, "Are you passing ON the faith or PASSING on the faith?" Quite a difference, isn't there?
That was a suitable opening question for the rest of the service which developed the themes of trusting God and keeping an eternnal worldview. The minister ended by quoting these lines by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Life is real, life is earnest
And the grave is not the goal
Dust thou art, to dust returneth
Wast not spoken of the soul.
There IS life beyond the grave. What quality of life that will be for you and me depends on whether we are living now by faith in the Lord Jesus. Are you passing ON the faith or PASSING on the faith?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Rest of The Story

My mother always told me she got my name from a Romaine Hertzog she knew and admired. She was a nice girl, pretty, and played the piano. In the process of writing the Sarah book I discovered she is still living and was the first and second grade teacher of Gary Good who is one of my history friends. I asked Gary if he and Judy would go with us to visit her and he made the arrangements with her for this afternoon.
Romaine Hertzog Lefever lives in a cottage at the Brethren Village near the Lancaster airport. We had a nice long visit with her. She said her mother got the name from a Romaine Hacker who lived in Lincoln. I wonder where HER mother got name.
At any rate, I'm so glad I could meet the person who inspired my mother to give me my name. She is no longer just a name to me, but a real person.
Someone once asked me where I got my name. (No kidding!) I said, "My mother gave it to me." But now you know the rest of the story.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Getting High

Some people get high on illegal drugs, others get a jolt from caffeine or some other substance. I'm not a drug abuser (legal or illegal) and caffeine does not keep me awake. I can drink a cup of coffee, go straight to bed, and sleep the same as if I had no coffee. So what gives me a high?
I spent yesterday in Lancaster again, combing through marriage records in the courthouse and 1750-1778 tax records at the historical society. I found so much wonderful stuff I was practically floating all evening. Then I realized the truth---I get high on history!
It took me all of today to fit the pieces in their proper places and file things in their proper slots. I had struggled for weeks to identify a certain widow lady and today things finally fell into place! She played a special role in the Powl family and I now know where she belongs. Isn't that wonderful?!
My Powell article is finished and has been submitted to the editor. I've come down to earth and am feeling a little worn by this evening. When will I get my next high? Next Wednesday. Amos Hoover asked me to accompany him and his wife, Nora, to the courthouse to look at a German will. How could I say no?!
I told Leroy last evening I have everything I need to finish my article and won't have to go to Lancaster again. He just laughed and said, "Until the next time." He knows me well! I'm a history addict. The world is full of questions and finding the answers gives me a high!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Our car left us sit on the way to church Sunday morning. Something at the back suspension broke and it was riding on the right rear wheel. Every time I think about it I am thankful again that it happened when and where it did and not when I was cruising along at 60 mph last week on Route 30 at Lancaster. I could have had a serious accident, and even if not it would have caused a lot more trouble than it did.
On Sunday morning Leroy was driving, he had just pulled out from a light so we were not going fast, and it happened about 100 yards from the garage where it would get fixed. Someone who attends our church came by and stopped right after it happened and took us along to church. We weren't even late!
On Monday morning Leroy stopped at the garage and they said they had some cancellations so they could do it that day yet. About 3 in the afternoon he called and said it was finished. Gerald was home so we went and brought it home. Everything worked so slick it was obvious Someone was in control. "Things don't just happen, they're planned."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Life In The Past Lane

I have not posted in over a week because I have been living life in the past lane. Before Christmas, I started writing an article on the Mennonite Powells of Lancaster County. I showed it to the editor of the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage journal when I visited the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society on Tuesday. She said she would be interested in publishing the article and gave me some advice on how to set up the genealogy section. I have been slaving over it the rest of this week, trying to get everything set up to her specifications. I am not finished, but it is coming along nicely.
The article tells about three descendants of Edward Powell who were Mennonites---Peter, Isaac, and Emaline. I am including four generations of each one in the article. The first two do not have as many descendants, but the list of Emaline's descendants fills 12 pages. (If I went on to the seventh generation which is living today, it would fill a book.) Each of these people needed to be numbered in such a way that more people can be added. I finally finished it yesterday. My number is EP767a43.
As I was numbering people, I thought about the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11. Verse 13 says, "These all died in faith." I wish the same could be said about the list I typed this week. The lives some of them lived make it obvious they did not all die in faith. I am thankful no one in the line from Emaline to me dropped the ball and failed to pass on the legacy of faith. It is the most valuable inheritance I have received from my ancestors.
Maybe next week I'll get back to life in the present lane!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Unforgettable Steve

Today it is 14 years since Steve left us. He was 18 then, so we soon will have lived without him as long as we had him. I am thankful for the years we had him with us and the memories which are ours to keep.
Steve had a vivid imagination which began to show itself as soon as he could talk. Here are a few of his antics.
*When he was four years old, he went to Virginia with my sister and I. He was into Pooh Bear at the time, so he told Pooh stories the whole way to Harrisonburg. After a few stories, he climbed into the back seat so he would have more room to act out the stories he was telling.
* At 5, he liked to wear half of a worn out basketball on his head so he could have a "ball head" like Grandpa Burkholder.
*At 7, when he was supposed to be getting a bath, he acted out Ethel Barrett's version the story of Naaman dipping in the Jordan seven times to be cured of his leprosy. I heard him counting as he jumped in and out of the tub seven times and then shouted, "It is gone! I am clean! Can this thing be?" I laughed, but let him know seven jumps into the tub did not equal a bath so he better get in there and scrub!
*At 8, he and his little brother were pirates. He put the Raggedy Andy dolls in a half-bushel basket with an empty paper towel roll for a spyglass and set them on top of a post, simulating the crow's nest of a ship. Then the pirates attacked the ship with their wooden swords.
* At 9, he drew a picture on the back of a church bulletin illustrating the words of a song, "I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder." His picture was not very appropriate to be drawn during the service of a church that teaches nonresistance! It showed a beareded man thunking a boy on the head. Stars were flying around the boy's head while a bolt of lightning felled a tree behind them.
* At 10, he baked a surprise birthday cake for Mom (with the "help" of his 5 year old brother) while she was away. The only frosting on the cake said "We love you"--with a heart for the middle word. (I don't have a heart on my keyboard.)
* At 13, he argued FOR slavery in a debate at school. His presentation was so convincing he WON the debate.
* At 15, he decided he could be his own barber. His first attempt was badly botched, but he soon was so skilled he became the barber for his brothers as well as himself.
* At 16, he wrote a "computer program" to tell a person's fortune by his age. According to his program, anyone over 17 is an "old timer."
* At 17, he was in the Voices of Praise Chorus. When they were on tour, he would go prowling up the aisle of the bus with a flashlight doing a "hand check." (Shining the flashlight on couples to see if they were holding hands.)
* At 18, he planned a Scavenger Hunt for the youth group. Each team was to find and record ten sounds, including a toilet flushing, horn blowing, dog barking, someone running up or down stairs, balloon popping, etc. The youth activity was canceled that night due to icy roads, so they never got to do it.
After he was gone, one of his friends wrote on a memory card, "If Steve was around and nothing was happening, he usually made something happen." That pretty much sums up Steve! He was an unforgettable person. This is the last picture we have of him, taken on his 18th birthday seven weeks before he left us.

"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

The year of 2007 was good to us and today we begin opening the gift of each new day in 2008.
I spent the last day of 2007 with my sisters. Whenever one of us has a birthday we get together for a sister's day and the birthday girl chooses the activity. I scheduled my sister's day a bit late because there is always so much going on the middle of December. We spent the day cutting up a garbage bag filled my mother's dresses which have been sitting in my closet since she died in 1993. They have now been reduced to quilt patches to become something useful--and we had a lot of fun doing it together.
This was the first time I had seen my older sister since I turned 60. She gave me a framed piece which has found a place on the desk in my study. It says:

Genealogy Disease
Warning: Genealogy Pox
(very contagious after 50 years old)

Symptoms: Continual complaint as to need for names, dates, and places. Patient has a blank expression, sometimes deaf to spouse and children. Has no taste for work of any kind, except feverish looking through records at Libraries and courthouses. Has compulsion to write letters and email. Frequents strange places such as cemeteries, ruins, and remote, desolate country areas. Makes long evening calls, and mumbles to self. Has strange faraway look in eyes.
NO KNOWN CURE TREATMENT: Medication is useless. Disease not fatal but gets progressively worse. Patient should attend genealogy workshops, subscribe to genealogical magazines and be given a quiet corner where he or she can be alone.
Remarks--The unusual nature of this disease is . . . the sicker the patient gets, the more he/she enjoys it.

Her diagnosis of my condition is right on the money, down to the last line. I actually chose to have this this disease and want to keep it!