04 April 2013

Thankful Thursday: My Aunt Helen

I am so thankful for my Aunt Helen (the six year old in the 1912 photo at right). She sat with me and talked about the family. We also wrote each other often. Those letters are ones I hold dear. Not only is it a memory of her, but it also a written recording of our family from somone who actually knew them.

It is one thing for me to sit here and talk about Franklin Still (1853 - 1931) and Jennie VanHorn (1864 - 1946) and thier six children. I can only recount stories I have heard over the years and statistical info. I can tell someone lots about the two of them but I never met my great great grandparents. However, Aunt Helen (1903 - 1995) was the youngest of their six children.

Aunt Helen told me once about her sister Mary Ethel Still. She said Ethel took epileptic fits and had to be put in a home. Years later I found the receipts of payments Franklin had made to the Pennsylvania Training School FMC. It took a little research but I was able to confirm the FMC stood for Feeble Minded Children. In the early 1900s - specifically the receipts I found were from 1906 - epileptics were included in the "feeble minded" classification. Sadly, Ethel died (COD was "epileptic fits") on 15 December 1906.
She was able to tell me stories she heard of older family members as well. Sometimes she would write whatever memory she had at that moment. Other times I would write asking no more than three questions at a time. One or two questions were specific questions like who was someone or how did someone fit in or where was someone buried. One was always an essay-like question.

I am so thankful that I had the foresight to ask those kind of questions and that I had someone who knew the people in question and who was willing to share information.

Aunt Helen was one of those women who read the weekly paper religiously. She would read with a pair of scissors, cutting out articles of people she knew or children of people she knew. She would then write the person the article was about - just a short note - and include the clipped article.

Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.