52 Ancestors – #1 Adah Young Johnson (1904-1979)

It seems appropriate to begin the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge with the ancestor who first got me into genealogy: my paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson.

The Young family, 1909. L-R: Adah, Robert (holding Harold), Clara, and Ralph.

The Young family, 1909. L-R: Adah, Robert (holding Harold), Clara, and Ralph.

Grandma was born in Reynolds Store, Virginia in 1904, the oldest child of Robert and Clara (Mason) Young. The family moved back to Washington County, Ohio (Robert’s birthplace) sometime before Grandma’s brother Ralph was born in 1907.

Grandma married Stanley Johnson (my Grandpa) 24 June 1922 in Ross County, Ohio. They were married 49 years (until Grandpa’s death in 1971).

She was an awesome grandma. (It sounds cliché, but it happens to be true.) She could cook and she she could sew just about anything (including my mom’s wedding dress). She always had time for her grandchildren. I loved going to her house. We’d play games (Yahtzee was a favorite) and read books. Sometimes I accompanied her to her little Methodist church where she’d help set up for communion. (The smell of Welch’s grape juice brings back memories of her.)

Grandma reading to me, 1970. I have no doubt that she read to me all of the books that I was holding.

Grandma reading to me, 1970. I have no doubt that she read to me all of the books that I was holding.

Grandma was one of the kindest people you could ever meet. She truly lived by the motto, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” The closest that any of us can recall her saying something less-than-nice was the time she dropped by our house unexpectedly on a Sunday afternoon. Mom and Dad invited her to have dinner with us, and she did. After the meal was finished, Mom said that she was sorry, but she hadn’t fixed any dessert. “But I do have orange sherbet.” To which Grandma replied, “Then you don’t have any dessert.” (We think of her whenever we have orange sherbet!)

Though she probably wouldn’t have called herself one, she was a family historian. She was the keeper of the family Bible, the family photos, and the family stories. I remember going to her house shortly after “Roots” had aired on tv. She pulled out the family Bible and explained to me who all of the people listed on the yellowing pages were.

Not only did she keep the family photos…. She labelled them. Her descendants are still thankful! She also did a series of cassette tapes where she told stories from time she was a little girl until the time she met Grandpa. Yes, she recorded her memoirs! (See, I told you she was an awesome grandma!) Included in there was her recollection of the Flood of 1913 that swept away her house in Marietta, Ohio…  and how she once locked her grandfather Mason’s second wife in the outhouse.

Grandma died 22 December 1979. It was ironic that she died then, as Christmas was her favorite time of year. She loved to decorate and cook and make presents for all of the grandkids. All of us went to her house on Christmas evening. How all of the cousins, aunts, and uncles fit into that tiny house, I’ll never know.

Grandma was a dear, sweet lady. She nurtured all 14 of us grandkids with her love and kindness. I shall always be thankful for all that she was and for inspiring me to climb our family tree.

Grandma, I miss you and I love you.

16 thoughts on “52 Ancestors – #1 Adah Young Johnson (1904-1979)

  1. Schalene Dagutis

    She sounds a lot like my Grandma Jennings, especially loving Yahtzee, though I wish my Grandma would have labeled her old photos. I have lots of mysteries.

    I’m surprised you had time to enter your own challenge what with writing the recap for Week #1 and keeping up with all the entries.

    Schalene

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Notice that I didn’t get it posted until the evening before I’m set to publish the weekly recap — darn near missed my own deadline!

      Reply
  2. Bernita Allen

    Your grandmother sounds absolutely wonderful. I love that she labeled the photos and recorded her memories, what a treasure to have now. The love you received from you grandmother and have for her comes across in your writing. The pictures are beautiful, especially the one with you and her. I really enjoyed reading your post. Your tribute to your grandmother was lovely. Great start to your challenge.

    Reply
  3. Kenda

    Amen, Amy, to everything you’ve said about Grandma! I remember all these things you’ve said (except the story about the sherbert–I wasn’t there for that!). I’d add games of dominoes and Flinch, teaching me to knit, and long talks. I did not know she taped her story on cassettes–altho I do have a hard copy of it. I’d love to hear her telling it in her own voice. I miss her, too :-)

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      How could I omit dominoes?! Never played Flinch, but there were many games of war. Do you remember the ring-toss game with the rubber rings from the Mason jars?

      Reply
      1. Kenda

        Yes, the ring toss game! Uncle Harold (baby in the photo above) invented the game. It was called “101 or Bust.” It was a diamond-shaped board with pegs, and you kept score by adding the numbers painted below the pegs you hooked the rings on. Except that you had to get exactly 101 points to win or–as the name of the game suggests–you went bust and had to start all over again! Oh, what memories. Thanks so much, cousin!

        Reply
  4. Jana Last

    She sounds like a wonderful grandma! What fun memories you have of her. And yes! She was definitely a family historian. It’s awesome that she labeled her photos! What a blessing for your family.

    Have her recorded memoirs been transferred to CDs and transcribed onto paper yet? My dad interviewed his mom (my grandma) many years ago. She talked about her memories as a child, etc. and even sang a couple of Swedish songs. It was recorded onto reel to reel tapes. My dad transferred them to CDs and also typed the interview. It’s a wonderful family history treasure for the family!

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I thought that she had recorded them (she recorded lots of things), but maybe the manuscript that my cousin Kenda (see above) worked from was her original. (Hey, I was only 9 or 10 when she did that, so my memory might be a bit off on those exact details!) How neat that you have a recording of your grandmother’s interview and singing — indeed a treasure!

      Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I always knew I was lucky to have her as my grandma, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized just how lucky (from a genealogy standpoint). Growing up, I thought everyone’s grandmothers labeled all the photos and recorded their stories!

      Reply
  5. Simon

    Sounds a lovely Grandma and very ahead of her time especially recording some memoirs. Would have loved to have a recording of my Mum or Dad but even though I had a small tape recorder (two spools where the tape went from one side to the other) I was more intent on recording things off my transistor radio e.g. Buddy Holly, Elvis ! I would encourage anyone reading this whose parents / grandparents are still alive to ask them if they mind you interviewing them. They won’t be here for ever.

    Reply
  6. Wendy

    A person who labels pictures and records stories is a rare breed, that’s for sure. Yes, your grandmother was the perfect start for this challenge. Love the orange sherbet story.

    Reply
  7. Helen Holshouser

    What a lovely tribute! This will be a great gift to your own great grandchildren and ad finetum when they start climbing the family tree as well! Also, I am kin to some Youngs…we’ll hve to see if we cross lines anywhere! I was a Youngblood by maiden name, but the Youngs are way back in my tree. However, i need to develop that line more, because according to my DNA testing on ancestry.com, I have 400 matches just waiting to be explored–thaat is 400 new cousins! LOL A fountain of love! Helen of http://heartofasounthernwoman.wordpress.com

    Reply

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