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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day

Wishing all you *mommy gems* out there a very happy Mother’s Day!

(Image: Introducing my oldest daughter Vienna to her new baby sister, Lacey)

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

1940s Mother’s Marriage Advice for Newlyweds Still Rings True Today

1940s Mother’s Marriage Advice for Newlyweds Still Rings True Today

This marriage advice for newlyweds, written by a loving mother in 1940, shows that some principles for a happy marriage are timeless—including a respectful mother-in-law who stays out of the marriage. Genealogist Margaret Linford shares an excerpt from 500 pages of loving wisdom written by a successful Depression-era businesswoman to her children and grandchildren. But first, Margaret reflects on what it meant in her own life to become a mother.

It was a day that forever changed my life: April 20, 2004. That is the day I became a mother. Up until that point, I had only ever known how to be a daughter and granddaughter. The family tree had always ended with me. The emotions of that day will linger with me throughout my life.

My husband, Blair, and I had eagerly anticipated the birth of our daughter, Amelia. For several months, we prepared by stockpiling all manner of baby necessities: diapers, wipes, baby clothes, blankets. When the day finally came, Blair and I found ourselves anxiously waiting in the hospital room, passing time by imagining what life would be like with an infant in the house. The hours seemed to drag on and on. Finally: a flurry of activity. Doctors and nurses dutifully took their places, gave instructions and, at last, whisked away our newborn daughter to be measured, weighed, bathed and diapered.

In the still, early-morning hours, following the parade of doctors and nurses, Amelia and I had our first few moments of peace and quiet. I held her and tried to memorize every fold and crease of this tiny new member of our family who had given me the title of “Mother.” I tried to discern whose nose, eyes, chin and mouth she had inherited.

More than physical characteristics, I wondered who she would become. Would she inherit her Grandma Overbay’s incredible faith? Would she inherit the desire to be a healer and become a doctor like her Grandpa Wyant and Great-Grandfather McMurray?  Would she, perhaps, be a world-traveler, an artist or a musician like other members of our family?

In one profound moment, I realized that I was her link to the past and she was my link to the future generations of our family.

Since Amelia’s birth, we have welcomed two more daughters. I have had the same experience with each shortly after their births—moments spent pondering links to the past and future. These have been sacred experiences, moments I almost felt that generations of mothers who had preceded me were silently beholding.

Since becoming a mother, I have often wished that I could draw upon the wisdom of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. How did they navigate the challenges of motherhood? What would a conversation with them sound like? What advice would they offer?

Meeting Laura Lu: An Inspiring Mother and Entrepreneur

Several years after holding my first baby and feeling the weight of new responsibility, I was introduced to a wise and loving mother who had lived in my hometown many years ago. Her name was Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver.

This is a woman well-known in my county’s history. She founded Rosemont Craft Industries, where local women made rugs, coverlets, curtains, and canopies to help support their families during the Great Depression. Rosemont Industries would become known throughout the world. In addition to this, Laura Lu wrote the hymn, “Heralds of Christ,” and taught English and writing at Marion College.

These many things set her apart as a leader and one who could blaze new trails for those who would follow in her footsteps. She was not a woman prone to sitting at home all day. She was a woman of action and one who had the vision to lead others. People gravitated to her and sought her perspective. One of those people was famous author Sherwood Anderson, who also became her son-in-law. He valued her opinions and she became a trusted confidante.

I was introduced to Laura Lu by her grandson, Tom Copenhaver, and his wife, Rita. They discovered a box of letters that were in desperate need of preservation. They consist of at least 500 pages of wisdom and guidance written to help her children and grandchildren navigate the rest of their lives.

They asked if I would be willing to scan these treasures that had remained tucked away for 70 years. As I opened the box that had safe-guarded the letters for decades, I had no idea that I was about to “meet” one of the most amazing women I will ever know.

Each one of Laura Lu’s letters contains glimpses into the heart of a mother and counsel that is just as applicable to us as it was to her children in the 1930s. I could envision her sitting down at her typewriter, carefully choosing her words of advice to each child. She shared many of her own life experiences to teach them lessons and constantly encouraged each of them to seek out opportunities for learning.

Among the many things she accomplished during her lifetime, I consider her letters to her children to be some of the most enduring. They always began with the greeting, “Dearest Children,” and contained wise counsel that lasts throughout the ages. She is immortalized in the words that she penned within these letters. They may be considered the most valuable things she left behind.

All of our mothers have countless lessons to impart to us and, in honor of Mother’s Day, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Laura Lu Copenhaver and share one excerpt from her letters to her children.

Marriage advice for Newlyweds

The following is taken from a letter that she wrote at the end of her life. The advice she offers to these newlyweds could be offered to any young couple. It was sent to her son, Randolph, and his new wife, Lois.

“I have been thinking of wise and good things to write you (as if you would be guided in your new life together by what I say—take out my letter in moments of uncertainty and hunt for a gem of wisdom that would make the way straight for you).

“I realize that in spite of 72 years of living, I am myself too uncertain to write a really helpful letter. I could write pages telling you of the mistakes I made as one of the partners to a marriage that has turned out fairly well but avoiding the mistakes of our parents often plunges us into worse mistakes of our own.

Certainly, neither of you is going to make the mistake of feeling that it is easy to make a success of marriage. That such success comes without effort and sacrifice of some things customary and dear to individual life. I remember that the only advice my mother gave me was when I kissed her goodbye for my honeymoon trip. ‘Remember that if your marriage is not a success it will be your fault.’ I did not think any more highly then of my mother’s superior wisdom then, than you two do of your mother’s superior wisdom, but although it is not true that either member of the partnership is responsible more than the other for failure, it may be a good thing for each one to assume in his or her own mind the idea of larger responsibility.”

A Mother’s 3 Maxims for a Happy Marriage

Just as she passes along her mother’s marital wisdom to another generation, she adds her own counsel to that of her mother. Laura Lu believes that the combined wisdom of two generations of women will serve to guide her son and new daughter-in-law on their journey through married life:

“Here are three maxims for you that I do believe are important:

Do not be concerned about the world’s attitude to you, but about your attitude to the world. That is, do not worry over whether you are treated with respect or appreciation. Do not demand love but be grateful for the privilege of loving. Be really interested in other people, honestly if you can. If you can’t, pretend an interest, just to help make the world run more smoothly. I do not think either of you need this advice, but perhaps you might become so absorbed in yourselves that you might entirely forget about my liver and arteries—and that would be a tragedy.”

Perhaps some of Laura Lu’s most interesting advice had to do with the role of in-laws in marriage. She felt strongly that a married couple should have certain boundaries when it came to permitting others to have opinions on the manner in which they chose to navigate their new family’s life. It was imperative that they be allowed to make decisions and have opinions, without fear of someone else’s judgment—even if that judgment came from a relative or close friend. She interjects a bit of humor in this touchy subject of how to deal with well-intentioned in-laws.

“The most precious thing about living is having your own way—in some small sphere only, it may be, but somewhere all your own where you let yourselves go and do and say what comes from inside you. Call it self-expression, if you like that misused old word, but it is a sacred place into which you must not let anyone but your two selves intrude. I am speaking particularly of relatives and officious friends who would, if they could, map out your lives for you. Mothers-in-law are the worst of all, so statistics prove. Keep us out by any fair means and, if fair means will not work, use any sort of strategy, even force if necessary. Put us in homes for the aged, but never, never offer us the shelter of your own roof. Fathers-in-law have been known to live peaceably and unobtrusively in their children’s homes, but never mothers-in-law. So perhaps it is just as well that you are starting out in Alaska, where neither of your mothers can come to interfere with your life. Of course, we may visit you for a week or a month at a time, but no longer and do not visit us for longer than a month.

The third thing is one about which I have small hope of being listened to:  the place of the Church in your new life. If you have any good substitute, that is all right, but I do not know of a decent substitute.”

How many mothers-in-law would caution their son’s new wife to maintain a safe distance, even by using “force, if necessary?” Laura Lu had the unique ability to offer counsel, with complete sincerity and honesty. She recognized their individuality and, selflessly, put their happiness and welfare above her own. She sought to encourage and inspire them–and not become a stumbling block to their aspirations. This self-sacrificing quality is evident in her letters. It is the attribute that endeared her to me, as I eagerly read each page of counsel from her. 

Laura Lu passed away just two months after writing this letter: on December 18, 1940. 

“What a book she might have written”

Laura Lu’s life was always busy with a project. She actually commented to her children that “you children in after years can say, ‘What a book she might have written if only she had been vouchsafed a little time.’” She might not have realized it at the moment, but she was writing a book of her very own, with the heartfelt letters she was typing to her children. A 500-page book of letters that still guides her family today.

Meeting Laura Lu through the lens of her letters inspires me to search for ways I might preserve wisdom for my own daughters and granddaughters—wisdom they might draw upon someday when they find themselves marrying, and then eventually looking into the eyes of their own newborn children. In that moment and all the moments that follow, I hope they will feel the collective strength of the generations of mothers who preceded them.

What advice is worth passing on?

Here’s my challenge to you, dear Gems: pour a cup of tea, turn off your cell phone, and follow Laura’s lead by taking a few minutes for yourself (and your family) to record the advice you’ve received and the counsel you’ve given (or plan to give). Consider your answers to these questions–and how you might share them with your loved ones:

  • What is one piece of advice your mother gave that has remained with you? How did you apply that advice to your life?
  • Describe a challenge you overcame in your childhood and the lesson you would like your children to draw from it.
  • Which of Laura’s pearls of wisdom do you think the next generation would most benefit from?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Margaret Linford

Margaret Linford

Margaret Linford is a professional genealogist who specializes in the Mid-South Region of United States research and has logged over 20,000 research hours. Born and raised in Virginia, she has enjoyed traveling the world, and now lives in her childhood hometown with her husband and children. She enjoys teaching her children about heritage, taking them along on research trips and serving as President of the Smyth County Genealogical Society.

New Records on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and Findmypast

New Records on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and Findmypast

Search millions of new records on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch & Findmypast, three of the Genealogy Giants. Find your family history in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Sweden, the U.S., Wales and in PERSI, the Periodical Source Index.

Welcome to Genealogy Gems’ weekly roundup of new and updated genealogy records! Browse the lists below to see what’s become available recently at three of the Genealogy Giants, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org & Findmypast.com.

New records on Ancestry.com

Australia. About 7 million records total appear in Ancestry.com’s new Australian vital records indexes, Victoria, Australia, Marriage Index, 1837-1950 and Victoria, Australia, Death Index, 1836-1988. According to their collection descriptions, these records come from The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

England and Wales. The 1939 England and Wales Register is now on Ancestry.com! With nearly 46 million records, it’s a de facto national census conducted just before World War II. (The 1939 Register is also searchable at Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com.)

Poland. In partnership with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ancestry.com has published Poland, Modliborzyce Ghetto Register Books, 1939-1944. These records are part of the USHMM’s collections and are described by them as “Documents of the Jewish Council in Modliborzyce (administrative district of Janów Lubelski), including alphabetical name list for January through September 1942.”

New Zealand. More than 350,000 records appear in the new Ancestry.com collection, New Zealand, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920. According to the collection description, “This database contains New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) Personnel Files for all known New Zealanders who served in the First World War. The records contain information of interested to personal and professional researchers alike, including: transfers, promotions, punishments, medals and honors received, health status and medical history and other biological information. Military service files typically include several documents. The primary document which has been indexed and is searchable by name is the Attestation Sheet. The attestation sheet includes personal information about the individual who served….Additional documentation may be found in the files, including correspondence.”

North America. An even larger collection of church records relating to Swedes, or at least, Swedish emigrants, is Ancestry.com’s U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Swedish American Church Records, 1800-1946. Here’s a sample image:

This collection boasts 3.5 million records from the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augstana College in Rock Island, Illinois. From the collection description: “The records in this collection consist of administrative records from select affiliates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. There are also select records from Canada. Indexes have been provided for baptisms, marriages, burials, and membership records (arrivals, dismissals, and member lists), as well as congregational histories and biographical files of church leaders. The member lists, in particular, have a wealth of information, including vital dates and emigration information. Some member lists may include the location in Sweden an individual or family was originally from. Records are written in either English or Swedish.”

Sweden. Close to 2 million indexed records appear in a new series of Swedish church record databases on Ancestry.com:

The indexes come from the free Genealogy Giant FamilySearch.org, where you may also find record images pertaining to these records.

United States, New York. Over a million records appear in the new collection, New York State, Death Index, 1957-1968. FYI, this database is also available to search on the New York state government website for free, but I find it much easier to search at Ancestry.com (and Ancestry’s powerful and flexible search technologies may help you find people’s names who may appear differently than you expect).

New records on FamilySearch.org

Brazil. Nearly 140,000 indexed names have been added to an existing collection on FamilySearch.org, the always-free Genealogy Giant: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Civil Registration, 1829-2012. Among the records are “births, marriages, deaths and indexes created by various civil registration offices in the state of Rio de Janeiro.” This collection is partially-indexed: browse the records to see what’s available for your ancestor’s locale. (See below for instructions on how to do this.)

Denmark. About 12,000 indexed names have been added to Denmark, Copenhagen City, Civil Marriages, 1739-1964, Index 1877-1964. According to the site, the collection includes “marriage licenses and records for the city of Copenhagen for the years 1739 to 1964.” However, the detailed collection description in the FamilySearch wiki includes some conflicting information about the dates covered. Go ahead and search anyway—and follow the wiki tips for getting the most out of the collection.

Germany. Over 1.1 million indexed records have been added to Germany, Bavaria, Diocese of Augsburg, Catholic Church Records, 1615-1939. Among the records are baptisms, marriages and burial records from the diocesan archive. Accessibility alert: a notice on the collection description page states that “These images are available to view at Family History Centers. If possible, visit your nearest Family History Center to view the images.” Click here to learn about image access restrictions on FamilySearch.org and click here to find a Family History Center near you (they’re free to use, but most have restricted hours).

Hungary. Nearly 60,000 indexed records have been added to the free collection, Hungary Civil Registration, 1895-1980. These are “images of births to 1920, marriages to 1950, and deaths to 1980 reported to and recorded by civil registrars. Coverage varies by locality. This collection is being published as images become available.”

Check current coverage by browsing the collection (from the bottom of the collection page, as shown here). As shown below, you can browse which regions have available records. Click a region to see which locales have records, and then click a locale to see which specific records are available. Click on individual record sets to page through them in your browser.

Panama. Nearly 150,000 indexed records have been added to Panama, Catholic Church Records, 1707-1973. Among these are “baptisms, confirmations, parish censuses, marriages, pre-marriage investigations, marriage dispensations, deaths, and indexes” created by parishes and dioceses. Again, use the browsing technique shown above to see what records are available for your ancestor’s locale.

New records on Findmypast

Featured global collection: The PERiodical Source Index of all known genealogical and historical periodicals (with especially strong coverage of the U.S.) has added over 10,000 new articles to its subject index (along with 35,148 new digital images of some of those articles). The publications indexed here include historical, genealogical and ethnic newsletters, journals, magazines and other kinds of periodicals.

Individual articles often include biographies, historical sketches, maps and transcripts of cemetery, census, church, court, land/property, institutional, military, naturalization, obituary, passenger, probate, school, tax, vital, voter and will records. You don’t need to have a subscription at Findmypast.com to search the index (and when you see interesting search results you can’t access in full, you have the option to purchase Pay-As-You-Go credits or sign up for a free trial).

Australia. Queensland, Justices of The Peace 1857-1957, with nearly 30,000 records from the Queensland State Archives, lists names of Justices of the Peace, along with oath year and number and archival reference information. Also for the same region, Queensland, Register of Land Sold 1842-1859, includes over 7,100 records of land transactions during Queensland’s colonization era, along with names, locations and property details.

England & Wales. Over 146,400 new images have recently been added to this Genealogy Giant’s unique and extensive Catholic Heritage Archive. Dating to 1575, the collection includes a range of Catholic Record Society publications and a list of Roman Catholics from York in 1604.

England. Findmypast has added parish records for the following locations (and according to the site, the Staffordshire and Shropshire online collections are exclusive to Findmypast):

  • Staffordshire Registers & Records. Over 119,500 images of 23 distinct publications of parish registers (which include baptisms, marriages and burials).
  • Lancashire Registers & Records. Over 171,000 images of parish registers, court rolls and local histories.
  • Shropshire Registers & Records. Over 23,000 images from an eclectic collection of publications date back to the 14th century.
  • Surrey Baptisms. Over 476,000 records! Explore transcripts of original parish records for baptisms, birth dates, names and residences of parents and occupations. The collection covers 180 parishes and spans 1538 to 1901. (Findmypast is now home to over two million Surrey records, including baptisms, marriages, monumental inscriptions, court records, probate records and more. Click here to see a list of all collections relating to Surrey.)

North America. Over 800 pages from 12 publications comprise Scots-Irish in North America Histories, a Findmypast collection that covers a variety of date ranges and regions on the Ulster Scots and their descendants in the United States and Canada.

Please help us spread the word!

Every Friday, we share new records on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, MyHeritage.com, other websites and digital archives across the internet. We hear from you how these weekly posts help your genealogy. Maybe a specific collection has (finally!) come online. Or maybe you read about an interesting-sounding record type and decide to go searching for something similar for your own family. Will you please help spread the good news by sharing this article on your favorite social media site? And do let us know if any records we mention lead to any discoveries on your family tree. Thanks–you’re a gem!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

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