Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

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Save the last dance for me

Dance photo (1)

Undated photo of a dance in North Ogden.
That young man in the upper center in front of the wooden box/pallet appears to be a very handsome Mark Berrett.

School and church dances were a big part of my dad’s high school years, and he and his peers used dance cards to plan those evenings.  A dance card was a booklet with a decorative cover and included on the inside pages dance titles, sponsoring organization, chaperones, and a list of those with whom the lady intended to dance.   Dance cards were used mainly at formal dances in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but continued in some high school settings until the early 1950s when Rock and Roll led to much more informal dances.


Dance Card for the North Ogden Harvest Ball held November 19, 1943

V. Persis Dewey’s 1918 pamphlet “Tips to Dancers: Good Manners for Ballroom and Dance Hall” explains proper etiquette for dance cards.

“The programs are distributed at the door, in the cloak room, or during a grand march. It is the duty of the man to make out the programs for the lady whom he has escorted to the dance and for himself. It is best to make out the programs all at once and as early in the evening as possible.

“In filling out a program, the man should write his name on the first line of his lady’s program, and her name on his. To indicate their dances, a double cross xx should be used.

“At a program dance where the men and women come separately, each one keeps his or her own program. When the man invites a lady to dance he writes his name on her program after the number they decide to dance together.”


Dance Card from the Easter Parade Dance
April 7, 1944


Note the catchy names  – no political correctness here!


I’m not sure if this card was Dad’s or his date’s, but it appears that the rules for dance cards had relaxed a bit since 1918.


More recently the expression “dance card” has been used figuratively, as when someone says, “pencil me in to your dance card,” or “my dance card is full” indicating interest or lack thereof in pursuing a relationship.


Uncommercial Travelers

On 20 May 1863 Eliza, her father John Brown, and her brother George left their village of West Lavington to begin their trip to Utah.  It took about two weeks to get to London and make preparations for their journey.  Their ship, The Amazon, was anchored in the Thames River and a group of 882 Saints went on board.


Passenger list from the Amazon – bound for New York.
The Brown family is listed about halfway down the page.

Emigrant ships full of travelers going to America were not an uncommon sight at the docks.  However, this ship caught the interest of the English writer, Charles Dickens, and he went aboard the ship before it sailed.  He was curious to know why and where such a large group of emigrants was going and to find out what was the motivation behind their travel.  Family history reports that among those Dickens interviewed were Eliza and George and their father. His impressions of his visit that day of June 4, 1863 appeared in his book, “The Uncommercial Traveler.”  (And whether or not it really is our Eliza who is featured, the link is to an excerpt from the book that is very interesting and worth at least a quick read.)

The following excerpt is the conversation as Dickens published in his book.

“But nobody is in an illtemper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody swears an oator uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed, nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck in evercorner where it is possible to find a few square feet to kneel, crouch, or lie in, people, in everunsuitable attitude for writing, are writing letters.

“Now, I have seen emigrant ships before this day in June. And these people are so strikingldifferent from all other people in like circumstances whom I have ever seen, that I wonder aloud, Whawould a stranger suppose these emigrants to be!
The vigilant bright face of the weatherbrowned captain of the”Amazon” is at my shoulder, anhe says, ‘What, indeed! The most of these came aboard yesterday evening. They came from various partof England in small parties that had never seen one another before. Yet they had not been a couple ohours on board, when they established their own police, made their own regulations, and set their owwatches at all the hatchways. Before nine oclock, the ship was as orderly and as quiet as a manofwar.’

“Similarly on this same head, the Uncommercial underwent discomfiture from a Wiltshire laborer: simple fresh colored farm laborer, of eightandthirty, [Eliza’s father, John] who at one time stood beside him looking on anew arrivals, and with whom he held this dialogue:

“UNCOMMERCIAL: Would you mind my asking you what part of the country you come from?
     WILTSHIRE: Not a bit. Theer [there]! (Exultingly) Ive worked all my life o Salisbury Plain, righunder the shadder o Stonehenge. You mightnt think it, but I haive [have].
UNCOMMERCIAL: And a pleasant country too.
     WILTSHIRE: Ah! Tis a pleasant country.
UNCOMMERCIAL: Have you any family on board?
     WILTSHIRE: Two children, boy and gal. I am a widderer [widower], I am, and Im going out alonger mboy and gal. Thats my gal, and shes a fine gal o sixteen (pointing out the girl who is writing bthe boat). Ill go and fetch my boy. Id like to show you my boy. (Here Wiltshire disappears, anpresently comes back with a big shy boy of twelve, in a superabundance of boots, who is not at all glato be presented.) He is a fine boy too, and a boy fur [for] to work! (Boy having undutifully bolted,Wiltshire drops him.)
UNCOMMERCIAL: It must cost you a great deal of money to go so far, three strong.
     WILTSHIRE: A power of money. Theer [There]! Eight shillen a week, eight shillen a week, eighshillen a week, put by out of the weeks wages for ever so long.
UNCOMMERCIAL: I wonder how you did it.
     WILTSHIRE:recognising [recognizing] in this a kindred spirit). See there now! I wonder how I donit! But what with a bit o subscription heer [here], and what with a bit o help theer [there], it werdone at last, though I dont hardly know how. Then [p. 227] it were unfortnet for us, you see, as wgot kep in Bristol so longnigh a fortnight, it wereon accounts of a mistake wi Brother HallidaySwallerd up money, it did, when we might have come straight on.
UNCOMMERCIAL:(delicately approaching Joe Smith). You are of the Mormon religion, of course?
     WILTSHIRE: (confidently). O yes, Im a Mormon. (Then reflectively). Im a Mormon. (Then, lookinround the ship, feigns to descry a particular friend in an empty spot, and evaded the Uncommercial forevermore.)”

Maybe we really are published!

Weekly Family History Calendar

I’m going to try a new weekly feature that I saw on another family history blog.  Each week I’ll post a calendar of births and marriages in our family history, and I’ll try to include a little information about those individuals.


February 14, 1878 – My great-grandparents through my father’s paternal line, Annie Elizabeth Toone and Richard Thomas Berrett were married on Valentine’s Day, 139 years ago.


Richard Thomas Berrett and Annie Elizabeth on their wedding day, 1878


February 18, 1820 – My 3rd great-grandfather through my mother’s maternal line, Taylor Buker was born in Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada.  I have no pictures and very little information about him, but I’ll keep searching!

Let’s celebrate!

RootsTech 2017


No posts this week, because I’m at RootsTech!

I’ll be back next week, hopefully full of new and fabulous ideas about sharing our family history.

170 years ago today

In honor of my great-grandmother’s birthday,
I’m repeating a post from my personal blog.

Eliza Brown White Brown

For as long as I can remember, I have giggled at this great grandmother’s name (my father’s maternal grandmother).  After all, “Eliza Brown White Brown” has quite a rhythm – she was born Eliza Brown, married John White, then married Thomas Brown.  But after reading – really reading – her history, my feelings have been focused, and her unusual name has become a standard of hard work and perseverance and deserves my greatest respect.

As I read the account of her life, I found myself studying her picture and pondering.  How I wish I had known her!  My heart was touched when I thought about that little girl living in an unfamiliar home as a housekeeper and nanny when just a child herself.  What a heartbreak that must have been for her parents, and what a difficult experience for her.

In honor of her birthday, the following is an excerpt from her history written by her son, Nephi James Brown, detailing her early years.  In later posts I’ll share events of her adult life.  She truly was a remarkable woman.

Eliza was born in the country town of West Lavington, Wiltshire, England– the daughter of John Brown and Sarah Mundy.  When she was about three years old, her mother died of a sudden illness at just 34 years old.  Eliza went to live with her maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth Mundy, who were very kind to her.  About the first things she remembered while she was living with them was having a little red chair and two or three very meager toys to play with.  The grandparents were not really in a position to keep her very long.  About a year later, Eliza’s father married Jane Wilkins, and Eliza then returned home to live with them.  When she was about five years old, she began to go to school in a little thatched roof schoolhouse where the morning was spent in reading, writing, and spelling.  In the afternoon she was taught sewing.  Owing to the poor circumstances of her father, she was only permitted to go to school a short time after she was eight years old.  It seems incredible that she ever learned to read and write as well as she could during her lifetime with such a meager amount of school.  At that time in England it seemed that child labor was encouraged rather than restricted, unlike later years when they were compelled to keep children in school until 14 years of age.  Eliza always greatly regretted that she only had about two and a  half years of schooling.

Her first employment commenced when she was a little past eight years old in a silk factory [winding silk threads on little spools] – hard work, and long hours for the unbelievable small amount of 10 cents a day – a ten hour day – one cent an hour – 6 days a week.  She continued her work at the silk factory for about 9 months.  She paid 12 cents a week for a place to sleep.

Eliza next went to Bristol as a servant girl for her Aunt Ann Dyer.  She lived there and at two other places in Bristol, working hard for her board and lodging.  She received however, in addition thereto, a salary of 12 cents a week. At the last two places, her work was very hard, and food in very scanty quantities.  From Bristol, she returned to West Lavington and worked in a bakery, where she was given quite fair treatment.

Old houses and church in Potterne, England – 1898
from ecard

From there she went to Potterne and worked in a grocery store.  Here she endured the greatest hardships of any place she worked in England.  Besides her daily grinding routine of hard work, she had the care of four children, including a pair of twins.  Her living consisted of only bread and molasses, and was dealt out to her in meager quantities.  Her strength was so reduced, and her undernourishment through lack of food so apparent, she left and went back to her father and stepmother.  After regaining her health and strength at home through having sufficient food, she again went out into servitude.  At one home where she worked for a period of 6 months she was given her board and room, and in addition an increased salary of 24 cents a week.

Eliza worked at the silk factory and a driving, unrelenting housework for six years, from the time she was eight years old until she was fourteen.  She left the driving routine which had hounded her youthful years in March, 1861 – and also the harsh discipline of her hard-hearted bosses, and returned to her father’s home to live.  Her prior employers had demanded all work from her without giving her any time to play.  This change [move home] was made necessary because of the death of her stepmother, Jane Wilkins Brown.  Eliza kept house for her father and her brother George, , a rented house in the beautiful peaceful country town of West Lavington for a little more than two years.

Granddaughter, Myrtle B. Maathuis (my aunt) recalled that Grandma had marks on the back of her hands where she had been whipped for picking up scraps from under the table at one of the early places where she worked.

Granddaughter Afton B. DeHaan related that Grandma told her that while working in homes the days were hard and she had very little food.  In one home she had to sleep in the attic.  The lady of the house would give her one slice of “current bread” a day.  She [the lady] would butter it, then scrape the butter off – “bread and butter scrape.”

I am humbled.

Stella and Ezra


Sheet music cover featuring Charles K. Harris

In 1891, Charles K. Harris – a well regarded American songwriter of popular music – published “After The Ball.” The song is a classic waltz, and the lyrics tell the story of why a older man never married.  He explained to his niece that he saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball, and he refused to listen to her explanation.  Many years later, after the woman had died, he discovered that the man in question was actually his sweetheart’s brother.  So sad!

“After the Ball” became the most successful song of its era, selling two million copies of sheet music in 1892.  Like many of the popular songs of that time, whose topics were frequently babies, separation, and death, it is a typical sentimental ballad that made a big impact on American citizens of that time.

As sweethearts in the early 1890s, it is possible that Ezra and Estella may have danced to this popular waltz during their courtship, perhaps thinking how lucky they were to not have had that kind of a misunderstanding.  I don’t know why the Widger family moved from New York to Michigan, but in 1890 they were living in Kingston, Michigan, the same little community where Ezra Roberts had grown up and still lived with his family.  Somehow, Ezra and Stella met, fell in love and were married on 22 June 1893 in Kingston.

Version 2

Marriage record of Ezra N. Roberts and Estella Widger – last entry

Ezra was 30 and Stella still several months short of her 19th birthday when they married, but in spite of the age difference, their marriage seems to have been a happy one.  They had 13 children over 20 years.  Wow!


Ezra Nahum  and Estella Jane Widger Roberts

My Gram adored her parents and had many happy memories in spite of the fact that they were a very poor family.  In the weeks and days prior to her death from cancer, Gram often “talked” to her parents and at times would call out, “Mama, Papa, help me.”


Stella and Ezra


To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. Chinese Proverb

The Mothers in our Family

Today I’m celebrating the mothers in our family history who have helped shape my life.  They each have stories of strength, courage, humor, and love, and I’ll continue to share their stories.  We are fortunate to share history with them.

joyce senior pic

Mother – Joyce Verla Pratt Berrett

Roberts, Alpha Madalene

Grandmother – Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt

Version 2

Great-grandmother, Estella Jane Widger Roberts

Compton family copy

Great-grandmother, Iva Compton Pratt

Harriet Brown - 1899 copy

Grandmother – Harriet Lydia Brown Berrett

Brown, Eliza 2

Great-grandmother, Eliza Brown White Brown

Annie Elizabeth Toone

Great-grandmother, Annie Elizabeth Toone Berrett

Brown, Jemima

Great-great grandmother, Jemima Brown Rogers

“We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
– Liam Callanan

Never too old for birthday cake

While I’m working on a real post and trying to get back into the rhythm of blogging, enjoy these pictures of a couple of Pop’s birthday celebrations.

Born on April 18, 1907, he would be 109 years old today.

19770403 Pop blowing candles

Pop blowing out the candles for his 70th birthday in 1977.

Stephen and Carolyn were married in March, 1977 and Pop came to Greeley for the reception.  We had enough of the cute wedding cupcakes left to create a celebratory “70” in honor of his birthday.  This was a couple of weeks early, but we partied just the same!

Poppie-75th Birthday

75 years old  – Florida, 1982

In 1982, my mom and her sister, Aunt Judy, took a trip to Florida to visit Pop who wintered there for several years.  A cake in the clubhouse was in order, and it looks like those 75 candles could have burned the cake!  (Note Aunt Judy’s comments about that trip in the comments below.)

Happy Birthday, Pop!

This is why I’m writing again

Berrett kids and Pop -  Texas 1968

Berrett kids and Pop – Texas 1968

Because these pictures are too good not to share!

Watch this touching video, On Legacy, and understand why I am drawn to sharing our stories and pictures.  I’ve been very neglectful of this project, but I’m back at it.

Stay tuned!

A working man

Iva Compton Pratt

Iva Compton Pratt – in front of a car similar to what Frank worked on at the GM factory

Continuing in Pop’s own words:
“I started working at General Motors when I quit school when I was 16.  I had to go back and finish the 10th grade before they would give me a job.  At that time I worked in the body shop for 40 cents an hour.  That was fair wages.  My job was to haul a body out of an oven.  We put varnish on the cars; we didn’t put paint on them.  We used clear varnish over a green or black undercoat.  We had those two colors.  They would send the bodies in these long lines, and it would take so many hours to dry.  It was my job to go down into the oven and haul the bodies out when they were dry and take them to the man who did the striping.  He put the stripes along the sides of the cars with a little sword brush, as they called it.  Today they use tape [for the stripes.]  I had to haul them out of the oven to him.  The oven was about 180 degrees, and we perspired freely!”

“That was my job for about two years.  Then GM decided no more varnish.  The varnish men all said, no way, they wouldn’t use a spray gun; they would quit.  Every varnish man quit!  So they told all of us kids – you are going to be a sprayer and paint bodies.  The bodies would come down the line, and I would spray the front half and one side, and another guy would paint the back half and the other side.  Another guy would spray the top and around the windows.  We made real good money.  We got 12 cents a body – the four of us.  We could get about 60 bodies in an hour if we hurried.  If we got behind, we would speed the (??) until we got caught up.  We took a ticket off every body that went by us, and we would turn in the tickets at the end of the shift.  That determined the money.  We made big money – $7.00 an hour, split four ways.  But we could only turn in 1.25 an hour.  So we had to save the extra until 7 or 8 at night when we could turn in all the tickets. ”

It sounds like Pop figured out a way to work the system from the time he was a teenager!

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