Dear Esther – Family History Writing Challenge Day 1

stewartdeathpaper

The Cincinati Equirer, 24 Jan 1914, Page 3

As part of the #30DayFHWChallenge, I am writing this letter to my second great-grandmother who was murdered in 1914 by her husband, William, before he shot himself as well.  I’ve written about Esther and William’s sad story before and the tragic ending of their two orphaned boys who would go on to kill themselves when they were adults as well.

In my quest to understand what happened that horrible day, I’ve gobbled up every bit of information I can find regarding William and Esther looking for clues and signs to explain why this had to happen. Most people would probably just shake their head at the tragedy and move on, but as a victim of abuse myself in the past, I wonder if she knew it was escalating to that point of no return.  This is my letter to her….

More Dark Stewart Deaths

Anna Stewart Barnes DCI have written before about the tragic trail of suicides in the Stewart side of my family HERE and again HERE.  I wasn’t prepared for the surprise I found on Ancestry this past month regarding a sister & brother of my third great grandfather William H. Stewart, who was the one who killed his wife and then shot himself in the out kitchen/ice storage of the Columbia Hotel in Caldwell, Ohio in 1914.

I was tying up a few loose leaves on my tree and stumbled upon yet another suicide – this time, the sister of William H. Stewart, named Anna May Barnes.  Anna was born in 1876 in Muskingum County, Ohio near Hopewell.  

The Scars of Our Ancestor’s DNA

Digital illustration DNA structure in colour backgroundI read a super interesting article this week called “Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes” by Dan Hurley of Discover magazine and in the article, it talks about how our ancestor’s experiences, both positive and negative, have made their mark in our DNA. Scientists have experimented on rats and observed behaviors – such as how if humans handled the pups, the mothers began to groom their babies more and were therefore, more “hands on”.  Those pups would then turn around and be more “hands on” with their own brood later on.  But beyond mothering traits, when males rats who were “bullied” were mated with females, and even though the babies were never exposed to their father, the babies were highly prone to stress as opposed to those babies who were not fathered by bullied rats, indicating that the probability that the stress the father experienced passed on through his DNA to his pups.

Dark Secrets, Part 2

Dale Walton Stewart's Death Certificate

The elusive Dale Walton Stewart’s long awaited death certificate.

If you read my very first post here talking about Uncovering Dark Secrets in Your Family Tree, I ended it with “to be continued” and I finally received the paperwork I was waiting for to finish my sorrowful tale of my great-great grandmother Esther (Archer) Stewart and her family.

Esther’s son, Dale Walton Stewart, had been a near ghost on my tree for some time.  I couldn’t find hardly anything on him at all.  I only had 2 census records, an Ohio birth index listing and a listing from the Ohio Boy’s Industrial School where he was placed after his parent’s murder/suicide in 1914.  No phone numbers, no addresses, no military listings that I could positively identify as “him”….just a phantom floating through my tree.

Uncovering Dark Secrets in Your Family Trees

Sometimes there are dark things in your family tree that aren’t talked about – things that when you stumble upon them positively blow you away.  Such a thing happened to me about a month ago when I was meandering down the Archer branch of my tree.  The deeper I dig, the more enthralled I become.

As a child, I knew “something bad” had happened to my great-grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart.  My great-grandma Rosa May Stewart had lived with a man named Leonard Hochmuth for eons and while he loved me as a grandchild, I never called him grandpa as I just knew he wasn’t my “real” grandpa but I usually never gave it much thought.  When I was in my teens, I heard a relative talking about how my real great-grandfather killed himself.  It’s stuck with me all these years but I knew better than to ask further.  Naturally, when I began researching my tree, he was one of the very first I searched after.  I found him mentioned a record from the Ohio Boy’s Industrial School along with the name of his mother, Esther Iona Stewart.  I promptly sent away for a copy of his record and when it came, the details were scant at best but I saw a notation that he was “homeless”.  I saw his younger brother was also placed in the Boy’s Industrial School at the same time.  So I began digging into why they were homeless….