Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Famous Women: Six-Word Tribute

March is National Women’s History Month which we usually associate with “famous” women.  However, all of us have “famous” women in our families—all we have to do is look.  In thinking about the women in my family tree, I thought I would try to describe some of them in six words (it's not as easy as it would seem).

  • Alvina Bertha Forster Oliver (mother-in-law)—kind, generous, hard worker, crafter, baker 
  • Betty Jean Barlow Malcomson (second cousin)—antique expert, writer, friend, teacher, funny 
  • Camilla Elizabeth Swinburne Newhouse (paternal grandmother)—kind, generous, industrious, card player, friend 
  • Daraxra Olle Numbers Swinburne (maternal grandmother)—pioneer, adventurous, farmer’s wife, strong hearted 
  • Elizabeth Esther Newhouse Harman (paternal aunt)—bridge player, generous, critical, adventurous, “Northerner” 
  • Florence Marie Swinburne Newhouse (my mother)—intelligent, opinionated, Latin teacher, handywoman, mentor 
  • Mary Josephine “Mary Jo” Randall Teigland (first cousin)—best friend, industrious, baker, warm hearted 
  • Opal Minnie Swinburne Stave (maternal aunt)—funny, farmer’s wife, teacher, school principal

How would you describe the women in your family who may not be famous like Martha Washington, Amelia Earhart, or Eleanor Roosevelt, but they are famous within one’s own family?  Think of the pictures we have of them, the stories we have of them, the memories we have of them:  All of that makes them “famous.”  Can you describe them in exactly six words?

Friday, March 4, 2011

More of What's Your Family All About

Last time I wrote about family and how last names tie us together as family.  Family, in the standard sense, is those with whom we grow up with and around. But, family is also those we find lurking in the family tree. In my tree I have Irish, Welsh, Norwegian, French, English, and German ancestors, just to name a few nationalities.

It has always been of interest to me what last names mean or the origin for last names.  In my last posting, I looked at some of the Irish and Welsh names. So, here is what I found in the French, English, and German “family” names.

  • Bourque—is French. The original spelling was Bourrique “probably a derivative of bourre ‘tawny’, ‘fawn’ (from Latin burrus), hence denoting a man with tawny hair.”
  • Campion—is French for professional champion.  This last name was probably introduced by the Normans to England.
  • Dickman—English, Dutch, German—take your choice.  If your background is Dutch or German, this name is an occupational name for someone who dug ditches or it is a locational name for someone who lived near or next to a ditch or a dyke. For the English, the name refers to a servant.  Ancestry
  • Forster—is considered to be an English and French name with the French version being Forester which evolved into Forster and Foster in England.  The original meaning behind the name is that a person with this name was one who was in charge of a forest, or one who lived near a forest, or one who was in charge of growing timber.  However, F`rster is also a German name for one who lives in or near a forest.
  • Gaskill—specifically comes from Lancashire, England; and, specifically in Cumbria it refers to where one lived:  near a goat shelter (Old Norse geit ‘goat’ + skáli ‘shelter’).
  • Hanks—is considered to be a short form of the name Hank; specifically, a patronymic for the name Hankin.  The use of a patronymic is basically being named after one’s father; i.e., Johnson (for John’s son).  Thus, Hanks is a short form for Hankin’s son.  Sources identified that this name comes specifically from Gloucestershire, England.
  • Menard—is a French name meaning “brave or hard strength.”
  • Perkins—in both the English and Dutch backgrounds, this name is considered to by a patronymic of Perkin.  And, Perkin is considered to be a “pet name” for Peter.
For those of you who are interested in pursuing this further, the information above comes from,,, and

The below photo is of Lena and Theodore Forster who were married on April 18, 1897.  They are my husband's great aunt and uncle.  They had seven children--all born in Minnesota.

© Linda Oliver, 2017

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's Your Family All About?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, “genealogy” is, among other things, “the study of family ancestries and histories.”  Most of us think of family as our mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.  Many of these family members have different last names from the last name we bear either through birth or marriage or through other relationships. This last name business, which defines us as members of a certain family, intrigues me; and, I am always interested in what does something mean in my ongoing search of that family ancestry and history. 

Most of us when we think of last names can associate it with what it probably means.  For example, my maiden name is Newhouse, and the history of the name referred to someone who lived either next to or in a new house.  And, of course, Pederson, the son of Peder (today’s Peter).

There are a lot of Olivers in the family:  Take off the letter r and what do you have?  Olive:  More specifically, olive tree.  Oliver is considered to be English, Scottish, German, French, and Catalaan. (

My grandmother’s maiden name is the Dutch Swarthout, (derivations are Swartwood, Swartout, Swartwout) which translated means dark wood.  The English form for this last name is Blackwood.  But what about those names that are not as obvious? 

Because I always find the hunt to be fun and exciting, I decided to start searching around for the meanings of some of the non-obvious last names that I find in my “Family Ties and Connections”; and, I want to share some of what I found. 

The Irish and Welsh surnames seem to have unique historical connotations. So, here are some common ones found in my “family”:

·         Bryant—is a Gaelic term for dignity, honor. (
·         Llewellyn—Welsh or Celtic?  No one knows for sure.  On one hand, it is thought to be a Welsh form for the Celtic name Lugubelenus (for the gods Lugus and Belenus who are gods of commerce and light, respectively).  On the other hand, it is thought that this name derived from the Welsh word llyw which stands for “leader.”  
·         Murphy—who knew the Murphys were originally sea warriors?  The name “Murphy” comes from the Gaelic name Ó Murchadha, which means “descendent of Murchadh,” which is turn means “sea warrior.”
·         Walsh—I found it interesting that it comes from referring to someone who was originally from Wales. You can see how the name Walsh somehow derived from Welsh:  a simple vowel change. Also, the Middle English word walsche meant "foreigner.” 

Next time, I’ll take a look at some of the French, English, and German names in the family.

For those of you who are interested in pursuing this further, the information above comes from,,, and

Finally, I want to include old family photos in each of my blogs; so, if any of my readers want to share and have me post them for you, please contact me.

I wanted to post a picture today, but for some reason the server kept rejecting the submission; ah, technology. 

Until next time.

© Linda Oliver, 2017