Sunday, January 3, 2016

Laura Ingalls Wilder Genealogy Part 1

Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder was related to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

On the Wikipedia page for Laura, there is a statement that says that Laura was related to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Now, I am a very keen genealogist. Quite frankly I was sceptical of that Wikipedia statement, so I did some research and typed in all the names for both Laura's ancestors and FDR's ancestors into my genealogy software program. 

Sure enough I discovered that yes they are related and that they are both of the same generation. 

My software doesn't seem to make real family trees, so you will have to settle for these Lines of Descent!!

But there is also a big age discrepancy between these two.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were 5th cousins.

They were both descended from Jonathan Delano, the son of Philippe De Lannoy. Philippe changed his name to Delano when he immigrated to America from Europe in 1621.

Laura was born in 1867 and FDR was born in 1882 - Laura was already 15 years old when FDR was born.

FDR contracted polio in 1921, (at the age of 39) which cost him the use of his legs. This put his future political career in jeopardy. But he worked hard to recover from the illness, and also founded a new treatment centre for people with polio in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Laura died in 1954, aged 90. FDR died in 1945 aged 63.

Laura was 78 years old when FDR died. She out-lived her cousin by 12 years.

FDR was elected President in 1932. He was aged 50 years old. Laura was 65 years old.

I am wondering. 

Was Charles Ingalls ever made aware of his Delano heritage? His grandmother (Laura's great grandmother) was Margaret Delano who married Samuel Ingalls in Connecticut in 1793. 
Did Laura know that she was related to the Delano family?  
While the Wilders were living in Missouri, did Almanzo vote for FDR? 
Did Laura  know that FDR was a relative?

There are so many questions I want to ask both Laura and Charles, and Rose too. Did she ever know that she had some famous relatives?  

Is there any of this mentioned in any of Laura's letters and in the biography Pioneer Girl, which I clearly have not yet read? 

One more thing. Jonathan Delano Sr also had a number of other famous descendants who are also distantly related to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 These include President Calvin Coolidge, President Ulysses S. Grant, and the NASA astronaut, Alan B Shepherd. 

Jonathan's Delano's wife Mercy Warren was the granddaughter of  Richard Warren who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. So now only does Laura have several famous relatives, she can also claim Mayflower Descent too!!!

See Mayflower History for details.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Little House in the Big Woods

Title - Little House in the Big Woods
Author - Laura Ingalls Wilder
First Published - 1932

This book basically describes one year (4 seasons) of living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the 1870s. It is actually a fictionalised story of Laura's life.

Laura and her family lived in a cabin about 7 miles north of Pepin on Lake Pepin in western Wisconsin. Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi river (and forms part of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota) but there is NO mention of the Mississippi in this book at all.

The story starts at the beginning of winter and gives lots of details about pioneer life through winter, spring, summer and fall. I especially loved how Laura describes in detail how a lot of the food was prepared and stored. 

My first thought on reading this book was that is was clearly written for children. And then I thought, well, of course it WAS written for children and if I did read this back when I was a child, I do not remember it. So I continued reading, It was kind of hard to read a book that has clearly treating me, the reader, as if I were a child. But eventually I got so caught up in all the details that I forgot that I was being treated like a child. 

This was Ma's working week.

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

The only days that were described in any details in the book were Baking days, and Churning days, because these involved food and were Lauras favourites.

Sundays were also described in detail as well. Laura hated Sundays. The children could not yet read so they could only talk to their dolls (but not play with them) or listen to Ma reading to them from the bible. Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest. Christmas was described in detail as well. 

Other activities described in detail, were usually in connection with Pa's work outside.

The details of making bullets, loading the gun, making maple syrup, milking the cow, curing the pork, beef, venison and other meats for storage, collecting honey from an old hollow tree, and also the threshing machine that threshed the wheat after the harvest and before the winter.

It seemed that Pa had the most interesting jobs in Laura's eyes. But they were probably interesting because as a girl, Laura was not permitted to actually do them. She could only stand by and watch.

There was very little of Laura's personality in this book. She slaps her older sister Mary once, and is suitably punished. She is also jealous of Mary's golden blonde hair. Laura has ordinary brown hair. Laura believes herself to be ugly just because she doesn't have blonde hair. The feeling gets worse every time a visitor pays attention to Mary and says nothing to Laura. I got a little tired of Laura's frequent whining about how ugly she felt and how she was always comparing herself to Mary.

All in all this was a pretty sanitised childhood. There was no bear attacks, although there were some close calls mentioned. Noone died from any disease or epidemics. 

I have a lot of questions about some of the activities and things described in this book, and I will be researching them for future posts. 

I read this book for the LHOTP challenge for 2016 where we shall be reading one book per month. See my Little House Read-Along page at the top of this blog. Other reviews can be read here and here.