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A Simple Life

Growing up, I loved Little House on the Prairie. I loved it so much, I thought I wanted to switch places with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved the idea of making everything you used, and there seemed to be a simplicity to their lives that doesn't exist now. Once I got older and learned to appreciate things like penicillin and voting, that wish vanished (now I'd settle for a Time Machine for the occasional visit),

Searching through town records and shared family trees, it's clear rural life was definitely simpler back then. You were born. You lived. You struggled. If you were lucky, you made it to adulthood and struggled some more.

We struggle with bills and schedules. We struggle with chores and parenting, but when I come across the all too-frequent pairs of dates indicating the existence of a child who died as soon as he or she drew breath, I know I don't really struggle at all.

That struggle is one any parent can imagine. To imagine it happening one or two times in a row – sometime five or six in a lifetime – and still keep fighting just so you could keep parenting the children that managed to draw a next breath, however, is to begin to understand what real strength must have been (and still is where this story continues to plays out around the world).

It is also to begin to appreciate in earnest that a complicated life is actually a fortunate one.

 

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Must See His-tor-y

In a graveyard in a small Vermont town sits a headstone belonging to a woman, Joanna E. Houghton. who is named as the mother of Alice Fox. She was married to Moses Fox, the man who was listed as Alice's father, and, at the age of 37 had a baby – her last child – the year she was married.

It was a second marriage, and only one of her three children from the first marriage survived infancy. It's a sad start to her life, but not an uncommon one. What was uncommon was the absence, in the scanned records of Wiimington, show a long tap root for Moses's family tree. Joanna seems more of a leaf.

There are many Houghton's in the area. There are a few Johnsons (her first husband was named Johnson), but the first record with her name is her marriage to Moses. All of Alice's, from what I can tell from town records, descend from Irish and English immigrants. Her picture tells a different story, however.

The soap fan in me is already speculating. Could Joanna have been adopted? Could Moses or Joanna Fox's roots belong to another tree altogether?

The mystery is just beginning. It's a volume of a story so many people are writing for themselves, and for me, it's already better than any soap or must-see realty-TV scenario.