Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – If you could have lunch with any female family member who would it be?

Rebecca Holmes Williams

Rebecca Holmes Williams – photo in author’s possession

I read Randy Seaver’s prompt for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun and immediately thought I’m in on this one! Randy takes a cue from Lisa Alzo and her blog’s inspiring Women’s History month. Here’s our question:

If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead), or any famous female, who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

Short of having lunch with every one of my female ancestors I’ve narrowed it down to two. Either my grandmother Flora Nantz Frueh who died when my dad was just a 17-year-old. So little is known about her or my gggrandmother Rebecca Holmes Williams. After much deliberation I went with Rebcca Holmes Williams.

I’d like to have a cup of coffee with Rebecca at her house early in 1872. My ggrandmother, her youngest child, would be an infant in a nearby crib. We could keep an eye on baby Mollie (Mary Ellen Williams Marshall) as we talked. By this time Rebecca has lived through enough for three lifetimes. I’m sure life’s wisdom is apparent in her.

Rebecca was born in 1833 in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. She married Isaac Williams there in Tuscarawas County in 1853. They were the parents of seven children but all four of their sons died either in infancy or as toddlers. The devastation this young couple must have felt is mind-boggling to me. In a culture where the birth of males was anxiously awaited, losing four children, all sons, had to be more than heartbreaking. How did you survive loss after loss after loss? Was Isaac there for you? I know at least one of the surviving girls was born in among the sons. Was she the reason you got up every morning?

Rebecca also experienced another monumental life change. Their entire family moved from eastern Ohio to western Ohio. They trekked from Tuscarawas County to Allen County. Rebecca’s parents and grandparents were in this caravan as well as many of Isaac’s brothers and their families. It must have been soothing for Rebecca to have so many close family members accompany them across the state, yet it had to be a horrendous ordeal with such a large group from babies to old folk. How long did it take? What or who did you leave behind? Two of your sons are buried in Allen County. Did you blame the trip for their deaths? Where did you go and what did you find when you arrived in Allen County?

Rebecca Holmes Williams

Rebecca Holmes Williams – photo in author’s possession

Then Rebecca I am curious. Isaac was born in 1830. He was a good candidate to fight in the Civil War but didn’t. I have found absolutely no record of him in the war at all. I know the big family move was in the early 1860s. Are the two events related? Rebecca, I’m not throwing any stones because Isaac didn’t serve. A safe and alive Issac produces me 120 years later! But I’m wondering why Isaac didn’t serve . . .

. . . and last but not least Rebecca I’ve been looking around the house here for a quilt you made. It’s a beautiful crazy quilt with the most intricate hand sewing imaginable! You made it before 1871. It has the two older girls initials in it but not baby Mollie’s. How do I know about the quilt? Well 143 years later it’s still around. I have it! It’s my most prized possession! Please tell me how you made it! There are so many different fabrics, tell me the story behind each little piece. Who taught you such wonderful hand sewing? Your mother? Your grandmother? Tell me about them too!

After lively conversation and each of my questions answered in detail I’d reluctantly leave my gggrandmother. I’d whisper in her ear as we hugged good-bye.

My words are a Russian proverb, “You live as long as you are remembered” and Rebecca in the 21st century you are remembered!


  1. Betsy Potts says:

    It brings a tear to my eye

  2. Beautiful story. How honored she’d be to know that you are her grandchild.

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