Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett


Benoni Preston Pratt (1821-1885) and Caroline Wing Taylor (1827-1850) – my 3rd great grandparents

July 14, 1849

L.G. Taylor Esq

Dear Sir

I have the consent of the had of your Daughter Caroline should it meet the approbation of the parents. Will they favor me with an early reply.

I await their pleasure.

very Respectfully

B.P. Pratt

Fort Miller 17 July 1849

Mr. B.P. Pratt

Dear Sir

Your note dated 14 July came to hand this day and in reply to the matters set forth in the same I would say that the parent of Caroline cheerfully consent and hope that the arrangement may prove ?___ting happiness to all the parties concerned in it.



L.G. Taylor

Caroline and Benoni were married on 31 August 1841 in Fort Edward, New York. Tragically, Caroline died on 23 September 1850 when their son Lansing was just a few months old.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I’m trying something new in 2022 – @amyjohnsoncrow “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I’ll be posting about one ancestor each week – at least that’s the plan! I’m catching up this week with posts I’ve created, but not put on the blog, but then will move to one post each week.

Stay tuned to see if I really can do it!

Happy Birthday, Gram!

gram and pop-2

New red coat – November, 1972

Today is my Gram’s 113th birthday.  It’s strange to think about her being that old, because in my mind she hasn’t aged a bit.

In honor of her birthday, I’m sharing a few of my favorite memories of Gram.


McDonald’s Menu – 1960

  • Trips to McDonald’s when she let us get a hamburger, fries AND a chocolate shake.  As one of six kids, our family trips to McDonald’s were infrequent, and the treat of a chocolate shake was rare.  But when we went with Gram, we knew we’d get the whole experience.
  • Bouncing and jerking down the road in her car while she pumped the accelerator – every time we asked.  Naturally, none of us wore a seatbelt, and we bounced around the car, but we thought it was great fun.
  • The time she spilled a chocolate shake into her purse while bouncing us down the road – and then laughing with us kids about the mishap.
  • Her teasing about my birthday present. Every year she told me my yet unseen gift was round and had a hole in the middle, and some years it had a handle.  And every year I tried to figure out what it was based on that description.

2014-03-24 14.24.58

Cinderella and her Prince Charming


As much as I love the figures, I’m more touched by Gram’s handwriting on a piece of white, adhesive medical tape indicating my inheritance upon her death.

  • Cinderella and Prince Charming that had a place of honor in the doorway of her front room.  They now have a place in my living room.
  • Eating on TV trays in front of the television while on an overnight visit to Gram and Pop’s house.

grandkids wth gram and pop

Gram and Pop with grandkids – Easter, 1963

  • Loud and chaotic Christmas mornings in the basement rec room with all the cousins.


  • The cold storage room under the stairs that was filled with special treats at the holidays.  I’ve never made them, but maybe this is a similar recipe for the strawberry jello candies she made every year.
  • Perhaps my most unique memory of Gram is her exclaiming in excitement or astonishment, “Oh, my stars and garters!”  I’ve never heard anybody else use that expression, but its meaning is explained here.


“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” – Alex Haley

My Aunt Doris

Doris Berrett

Doris Berrett Wright 1922 – 2019

My Aunt Doris died January 30, 2019.  She was the sibling next to my dad in family order and was four years older than he was.  With her death, Dad is now the last of Tom and Hattie Berrett’s children still alive.  Theirs was a large and spread out family with the first child born in 1903 and the 8th (my Dad) born in 1926.

mark and doris berrett

Mark and Doris Berrett – about 1929/30

Doris Berrett - 1945

1945 – “To Mark Richard — Love, your Sis”

Doris on mission 1946

Doris as a missionary in 1946

Aunt Doris’ death has left me with a feeling of loss that I didn’t expect.  She and I didn’t spend a lot of time together, and in my adult years our interactions were limited to family reunions or visits with my dad to her apartment in a senior residence facility.  As I’ve thought about these feelings, I’ve realized that my sadness comes because Aunt Doris was my last living link to generations of strong Brown/Berrett women.   I never really knew my Grandma Berrett who died when I was only 10, and the generations before her I am acquainted with only through old pictures and written histories they left behind.  Aunt Doris was living proof of the strength, faithfulness and love that my ancestral grandmothers shared.  And I loved her for that!

Mark, Myrtle, Maurice, Doris, 1989

Berrett Siblings, 1989 – Maurice, Myrtle, Doris, Mark

It’s humbling to realize that with Aunt Doris’ passing, I have become one of the current generation of strong Brown/Berrett women.
I hope I can make them proud.


Our First Valentine’s Day

valentine back

A man of few words!

On our first Valentine’s Day together, before we were even engaged, Don started a tradition that he has continued throughout our marriage.  He often presents me with some sort of creative card, carefully thought out and tailored just for me.

The first year after we’d only been dating a few months, he bought a card that looked like this:

valentine front

Oh, no!

But because it would never have been proper to give an innocent BYU coed a card featuring naked people, he “dressed it up” like this:

valentine clothes

That’s better

And then finished the customization with the picket fence with our initials carefully carved in the heart shaped handle.

valentine fence

Valentine’s Day, 1973

And he still warms my heart!

What’s in a name?

Benoni Preston Pratt.

I’ve always found that a curious name, and one shared by my 3rd great grandfather (1821-1885), and his grandson, my great-grandfather.  As per the website “Think Baby Names,” the name Benoni is of Hebrew origin and means “son of my sorrow.”  I don’t have any idea if the older Benoni’s parents had a religious connection to that name, but since his father’s name was Hosea, also a Hebrew and Biblical name, it is possible.

As a side note, as a young man, my great-grandfather shortened his name to Nonie.  In the 1900 census, he is listed as Benoni, a 16 year old son of Lansing T. Pratt, but in December 1906, his marriage record shows him as Nonie, and all of his documents from that time forward list him as Nonie.

I’ve recently written some about the different life paths of Benoni and his son Lansing here, and although there are still a lot of blanks in the life story I’m piecing together, the assumption that Benoni Pratt was a prominent citizen of all the communities in which he lived, remains very probable.

Screenshot 2018-02-11 09.39.00

Cover page, History of Woodford County, Illinois, published 1910

In the book History of Woodford County [Illinois], published in 1910 I found this mention of Benoni on page 217.

The town of Cruger was platted May 15 1856 by Benoni P. Pratt.  It was named in honor of W.H. Cruger, who was vice-president and chief engineer of the railroad now known as the T.P. & W.  The road was completed as far as Cruger in 1854, and the next year continued farther east.  It was then that the first thots of a town were indulged in .  The first warehouse was built by Mr. Kellogg and later Mr. King also erected one.  The first store was opened by B.P. Pratt who came from Peoria.  A postoffice was established with William Flager, the station agent, as postmaster.  This postoffice was continued until August, 1909, when Cruger was attached to Eureka, as part of one of the rural routes.  F. J. Schreiber, whose death occurred a few years ago, was for more than forty years postmaster of Cruger,.  He was at that time the oldest acting postmaster in the United States in point of years of service.  The height of its business prosperity was reached when two general stores were in operation.

Benoni Preston Pratt died in 1885 in Chicago at the age of 63.  He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Warren, Jo Daviess, Illinois.

Pratt gravestone in Elmwood Cemetery

Benoni is buried with his second wife, Ariadne, and children Frank and Addie


Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Pratt, Lansing with sons

Lansing Taylor Pratt with sons Nonie and Robert

I am confident that Lansing Taylor Pratt, my 2nd great grandfather, has a story that I would love to hear over the dinner table!  Following is an overview of what I’ve learned.

Lansing was born in 1850 in Troy, Rensselaer, New York. He is listed as an infant on the 1850 census of that location living with his parents, Benoni and Caroline Wing (Taylor) Pratt, his father’s sister, Lydia Pratt and his grandmother, Lucinda Silvey Pratt. Benoni has no occupation listed, but noting the occupations of the neighbors (clergyman, jeweler, merchant, clerk) I can conclude that he was a professional of some kind. All of the neighbors were in the 35 year-old age group with young families, so it appears that they lived in a well to do neighborhood of young ambitious professionals.

In September of 1850, when Lansing was just a few months old, his mother Caroline died.   His father, Benoni, married Ariadne Mann in 1852 in Dedham, Massachusetts, and in 1854 his half-brother, Frank was born in Massachusetts. I have no indication what took Benoni to Massachusetts, but after marrying Ariadne, they made their home there for a few years.

Sometime between Frank’s birth in 1854 and 1860, the family moved to Illinois. The census of 1860 locates the family in Warren, Jo Daviess, Illinois. Lansing was 10 and had two younger brothers, Frank and Harry (who was born in Illinois during that year.) Benoni’s sister, Lydia, married in 1855 and moved to Chicago; his mother Lucinda moved with her, so they were no longer in the household. The census indicates that Benoni was a merchant, and the family had a servant living with them. As in the 1850 census, their neighbors are young professionals, and many of them have household help, which supports the idea that he was an ambitious professional who was doing well financially.

B.P. Pratt promissory note

Benoni Pratt’s promissory note to his father-in-law

In October of 1855, Benoni borrowed $2000 from his father-in-law, J.N.E Mann, with a promise to repay the loan with 10% interest.  In 1875, while living in Chicago, Illinois, Benoni applied for a patent for an improved sewing machine caster.  These clues indicate to me that he continued to have a successful personal and business life. He died in 1885 in Chicago.

Lansing’s life, however, took a different route. By 1870, Lansing had moved to Rush, Jo Daviess, Illinois, and was working as a farm hand for the George Wing family. He is on the 1870 census twice – in July, living with his parents in Warren, and in August living in Rush with the Wing family, perhaps relatives. Lansing’s maternal grandmother was Caroline Wing, so it is possible that there is a family connection.

The 1880 census shows Lansing at age 30 and single, living with the George Gans family in Wisner, Cuming, Nebraska. He worked as a servant and farm laborer for the family whose residence is noted as Township 23, Range 5 East, so they may have homesteaded that land.

Homestead Certificate

Letter confirming Lansing’s homestead venture

In December 1881, Lansing homesteaded his own piece of land in Long Pine, Nebraska. He lived on the land about 2 months, cultivated one acre, built a house valued at about $60, but relinquished the land on 25 September 1882.

By 1883, Lansing married Ella C. Wood of Wisconsin, in a yet undetermined location. Their first child Nonie Preston Pratt (my great-grandfather) was born in Frankfort, Kansas in 1884, but they settled in Michigan, where the rest of their children were born. Ella died in Turner, Arenac, Michigan in 1899, and Lansing remained in the area until at least 1920, as he in on the census in Michigan for the years 1900 – 1920.  

Pratt, Lansing & Bessie

Bessie Ella Pratt (daughter) and Lansing Taylor Pratt

In 1900 he lived with his children working as a day laborer in Mason, Arenac, Michigan; in 1910 he lived in Nunda, Cheboygan, Michigan and worked as an employee for a widow (who a year later became his 2nd wife in a very short marriage); and in 1920 he lived with his oldest son in Flint, Genesee, Michigan, and worked as a laborer.

Lansing moved to Grants Pass, Oregon and bought a small piece of land in April 1922. In a letter to my mother, Aunt Gladys Slattery, Lansing’s granddaughter, wrote, “I’m not sure when Grandpa went to Oregon, but I remember that the family chipped in for his fare, because he said he was gong to Oregon, if he had to go on horseback. I remember Dad (Nonie P. Pratt) saying that when he went out to Oregon when Grandpa was sick, he told the man that was living with Grandpa, that if they would bury him and do what the family would otherwise do, he could have the property.”  He died in Oregon in April 1923.

The lives of this Pratt family followed two very different patterns. Father, Benoni, pursued his business interests, eventually settling in Chicago where he lived an upper-middle class lifestyle. He was successful, and his children from his second marriage followed his lead, remaining in the Chicago area pursuing successful business careers. The son Lansing, however, never seemed to establish a career or preferred employment.

I have so many questions about Lansing’s life!
Wouldn’t you love to join us for dinner and listen to his story?

The Oldest Woman in Chicago Ascends

So read an article in a Chicago newspaper in late May, 1899.  My 4th great grandmother, Lucinda Silvey Pratt, lived to be 103 years old and was believed to be the oldest woman in Chicago at the time of her death.

Lucinda Silvey Pratt

Lucinda Silvey Pratt     5 May 1796 – 24 May 1899


Mrs. Lucinda Silvey Pratt, the oldest woman in Chicago, who has lived under the administrations from President Washington to that of McKinley, passed to her heavenly home, Wednesday morning at 4 o’clock, at the residence of her daughter Mrs. C.C. Bonney, in the Kenwood Apartment building, 17th Street and Kenwood Avenue.

Old age and a complication of ills was the cause of her demise. Mrs. Pratt was one hundred and three years old, having been born at Pittsfield, Mass. May 5, 1796. She married Hosea Pratt in 1821, by whom she had two children: Benoni Preston [my 3rd great grandfather], and Lydia A., who married our distinguished fellow citizen, Charles C. Bonney, August 16, 1855. Their children were Caroline L. (married to E. Marble); Charles L. (married to Margaret Ankeny of Clinton, Iowa); Florence P., and Lawton C. Bonney (married to Olive Baker of Chicago.)

Mrs. Pratt leaves three great-grandchildren: Valerian C. Bonney, Ada Bonney and Pauline Bonney, children of Charles L. Bonney. Last fall when Mr. and Mrs. Bonney moved from their old residence to their present home, Mrs. Pratt rode in a carriage from the western portion of the city to their new home in the southern portion, and took great delight in viewing the city.

Mrs. Pratt’s father was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and in the evening of her life it was one of Mrs. Pratt’s delights to recount the stirring tales of colonial days she had heard from her father. She lived in New England until forty years ago and well remembered the events of the war of 1812. Sixty years ago Mrs. Pratt’s husband died of cholera while an epidemic of the dread disease raged in the East. Coming to Chicago forty years ago, she has resided in this city ever since.

She was able to be up and about, however, until a few months ago. Much to her sorrow, she was obliged to receive the congratulations of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in bed on the anniversary of her one hundred and third birthday. She fully expected to be able to leave her bed again, but gradually sank until the end came peacefully.

Mrs. Pratt’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have grown up around her and call her blessed. Hers has been a remarkable life, not only in length of days, but in acts of loving kindness and charity extended to the poor and needy. Her funeral took place on yesterday; the Rev. L.P. Mercer of the New Jerusalem Church, officiating. The interment was at Graceland.

I find it very interesting that none of Benoni’s children or grandchildren are mentioned in this article, and I’m intrigued by the possible reasons behind that slight.  Perhaps his family wasn’t as “distinguished” as was the Bonney family . . .

Picturing a successful marriage

Berrett, Harriet & Thomas wedding

Hattie and Tom Berrett – 7 May 1902

For as long as I can remember, I have loved this photograph of my paternal grandparents, Harriet Lydia Brown and Thomas Francis Berrett, on their wedding day.  The original, on display in my dad’s living room, is a round, metal picture, and I’ve always called it a tintype, having no idea if it really is.

Hattie was 18 years old and Tom was 20 when they were married on 7 May 1902 in the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.  They didn’t travel any distance away for a honeymoon, but quietly settled into the important business of homemaking and farming on part of his father’s farm.  The Berretts had 8 children, 7 of whom lived to be adults, and they had been married 55 years when Tom passed away in 1957.

I love the way Grandma Berrett is sitting, leaning towards her adored husband.  She looks confident, calm, and at the same time, just a little bit spirited.  I only knew my grandmother as an older lady – serious, proper and reserved.  But this picture reminds me that she was once young and in love and probably bubbling with personality.  Her dress and head piece are beautifully simple, and I’m assuming she and/or her mother made her ensemble.  I love to think about her picking out the fabric and trim to make the perfect dress for her special day.

Remember that creating a successful marriage is like farming:
you have to start over again every morning.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Just start somewhere

I’ve joined a challenge from Amy Johnson Crow to post about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks.  I love a plan and a program, and I’ve been looking for something to get me blogging again, so here we go.  The prompt for this first week is “Start.”

My interest in genealogy started with two different people, but in very similar ways – they both died and left me with their family history!

Dad in study

Lou Butler in his study with a backdrop of countless notebooks!

In December 2005, in the course of some redecorating, Don and I encountered his dad’s collection of loose-leaf binders containing his pictures and assorted other memories. Dad had passed away the previous July, and none of us in the family had given much thought to Dad’s notebooks. We all knew he was a great picture taker, and he never could get rid of any – no matter how unflattering. We also knew he faithfully kept a journal and also liked to keep copies of letters, newspaper clippings, church programs and other random bits and pieces.

noteboks in car

Yes – that’s the back of our Trailblazer filled with family history.

But what we didn’t realize was how his collection had grown. Our awakening occurred, however, when we moved 140 loose-leaf notebooks from their garage to our basement.


I didn’t have a clue how to manage the collection.

We lined them up on the floor of our family room and, totally overwhelmed, wondered aloud what we would ever do with all of them. We did a quick and very surface initial inventory, combined a few, and reduced the count by maybe 10! Still overwhelmed.

I began to feel a real pull to these notebooks and the family history that I knew was inside. I knew I could not leave these family members in the garage or basement, uncared for and virtually ignored. I wanted them to be safe inside our family circle. I was drawn to sort and label and organize and create a family history from these 130 notebooks we had stored on shelves in my sewing room.

On January 28, 2006 I left my job to devote my time to family history. After the initial sorting and organizing, I began blogging the Butler family history.

Version 4

Joyce Pratt Berrett, November 2007

In the middle of that experience, my mother passed away in December, 2007.  The following July I returned from a visit with my dad with this in tow – my mother’s genealogy files.

mother's file box

At least this took up less space!

All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.”  Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents.  Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available and he didn’t have to store it.

I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me.  I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged.  “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather.  I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.

One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me.  So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed.  Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information.  So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later.  And then I jumped in and began to study and research those family names.  Some of that information I’ve shared on this blog.

Through the last ten years, I’ve learned a lot about genealogy and my family members.  I’m excited to share those discoveries through #52ancestors.  Stay tuned!



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