Family History Writing Challenge Aftermath

The challenge is over but I did want to update both of my readers on how I did during the month. While it was my pleasure to write about the life and experiences of my great-grandmother, Nellie Louisa Scott Toney, I did not meet my goal. Twice I stopped to do additional research and there were a few days when I just didn’t get the chance to write anything.


Newspaper clipping from November 1943 showing Grama Nellie’s sons, Albert and Frank Toney, and her grandson, Frederick Toney. The boys were home on leave for Edwin Toney’s funeral.

One of the things I discovered during this process that amazed me was that I hadn’t paid close attention to the “facts” that I collected about Grama Nellie. For instance, in my “Toney” notebook, I clearly list all of her children with their birthdates and dates of death. I’ve had this information in the notebook for literal years. Yet, while writing about her childbearing years, I discovered (to my shame) that I never noticed that 1926 was a significant year for her, full of both joy and heartbreak.

Her youngest son, Edward Manuel, was born in January 1926, twenty-one years after the birth of her eldest child, Cora. But in April of that same year, her two-year old daughter, Ethel, died of complications of tuberculosis. And if that was not tragic enough, just three months later, in July, her 12-year old, Esther, also passed away from tuberculosis.

How did she do it? I can’t imagine the strength to endure such tragedy while caring for a newborn. I do know that portraits in large oval frames of Esther and Ethel hung on the wall in Grama Nellie’s house until she passed. One hangs in my mother’s house now although no one knows if its Ethel or Esther. According to my mother, the other portrait disappeared when my great-uncle Eddie claimed the frame it resided in. None of Grama Nellie’s other children had such portraits.

Grama Nellie’s husband and six of her ten children predeceased her. That she endured to care for subsequent generations of Toneys, including myself, is a testament to her strength, her love, and her beauty. I will finish her story. I want others to know just how magnificent she was.

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