Family Reunions

Family reunions were a prime feature of my summers growing up in small town Iowa in the 1970s.

William Nelson Whitesell Family circa 1900

Back row, left to right: Lydia Kesler, Jane Ladd, Etta Hall, Effie Hall, Eva Mark, Helena Steward, Dorothea Marshall, Estella Windecker; Middle row: Julia Kesler, Ethel Hays, Della Stout, Caroline Whitesell, William Nelson Whitesell, John Whitesell; Front row: Paul Whitesell, Anna Bacon, Willie Whitesell

Family reunions were a prime feature of my summers growing up in small town Iowa in the 1970s. Each August there was always at least one branch of the family getting together. Along with the massive amounts of picnic food, there were tales of bootleggers and break ups, whisperings of the latest gossip, and sometimes special stories shared of a relative who had died that year.

As shown in the picture above, my ancestors had large families. Pictured above are my great-grandmother, Eva and her twin Effie and their 13 siblings that range across 31 years. In the center of the photo are her father and step-mother. When Eva and Effie were 7, their mother died and their father married his wife’s sister Carolyn and they continued to have children for a total of 18. Of those, 15 grew to adulthood and raised families. This was not uncommon in the area where I grew up, as my mother’s father also had 15 siblings. This made for very large reunions, even if it was simply the nuclear family.

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