If you have no interest in genealogy or family history, do yourself a favor and skip this post. It’s long.

Working on our family research is a big part of my life, so I can’t call this blog “allthingsrobin” without talking about it from time to time. Today’s story recounts a local Richmond woman who was my husband’s 3rd cousin once removed (don’t understand all that relationship stuff? Just Google it, there are a number of explanations on the internet).

When we moved to Richmond it was a job transfer only, we had no idea there had ever been any family living here. I was gifted with a photocopy of some family information that had been written down by another relative, long deceased, by one of my mother-in-law’s cousins . That paper said that William R. ETTENGER, a brother of my husband’s great-grandmother, Julia ETTENGER HESS, had lived in Richmond. The ETTENGER family originated in Philadelphia, so far as I’ve been able to determine, so a relative in Richmond was pretty exciting.

William ETTENGER lived in Richmond from 1850 to his death in 1895. He was part owner of several different companies here, most notably ETTENGER & EDMONDS, who manufactured steam fire engines. I’ve read several historic newspaper accounts of this company and they even went to St. Petersburg, Russia to sell their products. One article said that they supplied Richmond’s first steam fire engine. He and his family lived on E. Broad St. which is in a neighborhood called Church Hill (because it’s hilly and the famous St. John’s Church is there). The modest house is still there. The company was located at 19th and Franklin which is in Shockoe Bottom. I’m not sure if the building is still there. An 1870 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch talked about a great flood of the James River and the company was listed as one whose building(s) were flooded and sustained damage. The company apparently also was a foundry that produced armaments during the Civil War.

Researching William and his descendants several years ago led me to one of his great-great-grandsons who lives (or did at the time) not far from us and his two daughters went to high school with my daughter.  Cue more excitement. I’d never lived near anyone I was researching before.

But the subject of this story is one of William’s great-granddaughters, Beulah ETTENGER COBBS. Born in 1918 in Lawrenceville, Brunswick County, Virginia (between South Hill and Emporia, near the North Carolina line), Beulah was the daughter of Laura Belle ETTENGER, who was the daughter of Joseph Harry ETTENGER, who was the son of William and Mary ETTENGER. I was noodling around in the historical newspapers on GenealogyBank.com  this weekend (you need a paid subscription for this) and found several society articles about Beulah. She attended what is today Longwood College in Farmville (I think it was a teacher’s college then), visited her grandparents in Lawrenceville several times, got engaged to a local minister, had several bridal showers and then married Howard Clinton COBBS in 1942.

What struck me was that in so many of these articles, her mother was mentioned but never her father. And Beulah was always called ETTENGER. According to the 1920 census, Laura Belle was married, living with her parents and her daughter, but no husband. She was listed as an ETTENGER and so was Beulah. In 1930 and 1940 Laura Belle was listed as divorced. I got to wondering if she had actually really married; back in those days an out-of-wedlock baby would have been shameful so it would have been easy to tell the census taker she was married or divorced. There were probably a lot of tongue-waggers in their small town. One with a secret had to be careful.

But as I did more research on Beulah, I found that she died in January of 2013 at the age of 94. I found her obituary online at the Harrisonburg (VA) Daily News-Record. She and Howard had two sons, one of whom lives in my old stomping grounds out in California. But what caught my eye was the notation in the article that Beulah was the daughter of Laura Belle ETTENGER-CALLAHAN. No mention of a father. This was the first time I’d seen Laura Belle with a different name, had she remarried?

This is where I could give you a “long story short” explanation, but I won’t. I looked all over ancestry.com (subscription service) for Laura Belle Callahan and came up with nothing. And here’s your lesson for today, don’t limit yourself to just searching through Ancestry and Familysearch: I Googled Laura Belle’s name and up popped an entry from an index at the website of the Library of Virginia. A 1921 chancery court record from Mecklenburg County VA that listed Eddie L. Callahan as the plaintiff and Laura Belle Callahan as the defendant. Of the other names mentioned in the record, one was ETTENGER. Bingo! I found Eddie in the 1920 census, listed as single, living with his parents and siblings. Remember, Laura Belle was listed as married that year. Interesting. This gave more credence to my theory of the out-of-wedlock baby. But I needed a record of the purported marriage, or a divorce. Virginia’s vital records are not very open, so I didn’t think I’d be able to get either one of those, if they existed.

I work within walking distance of the Library of Virginia, so I went over there on my lunch hour today. I found the chancery record, the original paperwork from 1921, not even on microfilm. I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping it was a divorce. And it was. Yippee! Included in the file was Eddie’s deposition, their 1917 marriage certificate and the testimonies of 2 character witnesses for Eddie. There was nothing from Laura Belle’s side of the story.

According to Eddie, he was working out in the fields on his parents’ farm when a car pulled up to the house and Laura Belle and her mother got out. Laura Belle went in, got out a suitcase and started packing. Eddie was apparently blind-sided; he asked her why she was leaving and she didn’t answer him, except to say that she was going back to live with her parents. This was in May of 1918, she was already pregnant with Beulah (he knew that) but only later heard through the grapevine that a baby had been born. He never got to see his daughter, who was referred to in the documentation as Beulah Callahan. He asked the court to release him from the marriage and any commitment for child support. Apparently both were granted.

According to Eddie and his character witnesses, he was a model husband. I wish Laura Belle’s deposition, if there was one, had been included to explain her abandonment of Eddie as he described it. But I can take away from this that there must have been something about Eddie or the marital situation she found herself in that made her want to get out after only 6 months, take back her maiden name and give it to her daughter. I wonder if Beulah ever got to meet her father. Obviously her children must have known about him because of the notation in her obituary. A little more research on Eddie shows that he remarried and had several children.

From Beulah’s obituary and the news articles when she was young, I think I would have liked her a lot (she was Presbyterian, after all LOL). There is a picture on her findagrave memorial: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=103174984. She looks like a nice lady.

#Ettenger #Callahan #Mecklenburg #Boydton #Brunswick #Lawrenceville #Virginia #EttengerandEdmonds


Light Painting




Letting Go

I did something today that I never thought I’d actually do.

I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but my studio tells me that I’m in denial. So too, probably, would my husband. When you’re into genealogy, you have to document your research and that means paper, lots of paper (until you convert your stuff to digital) and after 25 years of researching, there’s not enough life left in me to scan all that stuff. I’ll have to do something about it sometime, but not now. I don’t have a large fabric stash, but I have more than I’d like to have and I need to make scrap quilts, lots of scrap quilts. I have 10+ years of quilting magazines.

At least I did. Until today.


I always thought these magazines had value to someone out there and I should have a yard sale. I just couldn’t throw them out. But then I saw the multitudes of magazines that had been donated to the group I sew with. I’ll bet nobody looks at them, they’re stored out in the garage. So I realized that the magazines really don’t have much value. Sure, they’ve got quilt patterns, but the fabrics featured and advertised are outdated, techniques and tools are outdated, and who has the time to go through them?

So I saved the ones that had patterns I’d flagged and took the rest (pictured above) to the recycling center. I’m going to review those flagged items to see if they still matter to me. If not, out they go, too.


So I unloaded about half my magazine stash. And a lot of dust LOL.

I divided the remaining mags by title and found that the largest stack was Quilter’s Newsletter, followed by Fons & Porter (which was a surprise as I really dislike their TV shows), McCall’s Quilting and Quiltmaker. The smallest stacks read like a time capsule: Miniature Quilts (those are really old), Quilts with Style. Do you remember that magazine? It was published by a husband and wife (in Virginia as I recall) and it was all about paper-pieced designs. Really complex designs. Beautiful designs. The magazine is no longer published but the couple now runs equiltpatterns.com. There was a Quilter’s Home issue, which went out of print in 2011. That magazine was started by Mark Lipinski, you either loved him or hated him. I don’t know what he’s doing now, didn’t he have a kidney transplant or something?

I love magazines of all kinds and I have to work hard to control the amount I leave laying around the house. I get comped on a number of magazines through work, which I bring home, and if I’m at Barnes & Noble, there is usually a quilting magazine or two that come home with me.

Next up, to go through my photography/Photoshop books.


On my design wall is the United Way quilt, still under wraps.

But I wanted to give you some more info on the Thangles.

For this quilt, I’m using 5″ finished, which are called Big Thangles. Unlike the smaller Thangles (pictured below), you get these small sheets of paper that you position on the diagonal of your rectangle (in this case 5.5″ x 6.25″), pin, stitch on the dotted lines, cut on solid line. Each paper yields 2 half-square triangles (HST).


With the smaller Thangles, your paper fits the entire strip/rectangle. Again, pin, stitch on dotted lines, cut on solid lines. Each paper yields 4 HSTs.


With the Big Thangles, I found that in order to really get HSTs that measure 5.5″ unfinished takes a level of perfection that I couldn’t always achieve.

After I sewed all of Color #1, I found that I’d actually been sloppy, so I ripped out and re-did about half of them. I learned that even though I thought I had all the lines matched up at the corners, the paper would shift when I inserted a pin. If I aligned the paper just a hair to the left of where it’s supposed to be, then it would line up after pinning (I’m right handed). That realization made the Color #2 units go together better and I didn’t have any I felt needed to be re-done.

Looks like the one I chose to photograph is not sewn precisely on the diagonal, but please pretend that it does. Most of them do. I also found that it helped to stitch just to the left side of the dotted line (inside the seam allowance). Again, I didn’t choose the best one to photograph for this. Geez.


After the units are cut apart and pressed, this is what the corner looks like if you didn’t sew precisely on the diagonal. If you can’t see it, there is a small “V” notch where the two points should come together. In this case, it’s not enough to mess with, so I’m not re-doing it.


There is only one dog ear that has to be trimmed:


I found that most of my HSTs measure about 5-3/8″ instead of 5-1/2″. So since they’re consistent, I think they’ll sew together just fine. I’m not worried.

I like working with the Thangles. I’ve made many an HST using traditional methods and they always come out wonky. The best technique is to make them larger than you need them and trim to size. But that means trimming all 4 sides of every single one. This way I only have to trim the one dog ear. And I found that process went much faster with scissors than with a ruler and rotary cutter. And they come out square and not wonky.

That’s all from Short Pump today, check out Judy L’s page for what everyone else is doing.

Till next time!


The United Way quilt has been started this week. Only a teaser shot for you, because I don’t want any of my co-workers to see it until it’s at the silent auction.


This pattern uses a lot of half-square triangles and I like to use Thangles for that. I was surprised that the package for 5″ finished Thangles is so small compared to the smaller ones. But once I opened it I understood. The papers are much smaller but they cover the fabric diagonally with markings to help you line them up. You still sew them the same way, up one side and down the other (or vice versa). Cut them apart between the stitching and press. Remove the papers after pressing to avoid stretching the bias.

I chain-sewed these and they went together quickly. But one thing I’m afraid of is that maybe what I needed to do instead of sewing right on the dotted lines, was to sew one thread to the right. My test blocks came out ok, but when I finger pressed some of these, they didn’t seem to open to the full size. Maybe it will be different when I use the iron.

At any rate, I expect the top to be finished pretty quickly but the quilting will take longer. I will do it myself so that I can take all the credit! Bwa hahaha.

I didn’t get much sewing done today as we drove to Charlottesville to pick apples on this finally dry day off.

That’s all to report from Short Pump, here’s what everyone else is doing over on Judy L’s site.


Last Saturday marked the 6th annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

I have participated in 5 of them, I don’t think I knew about the first one back in 2008. I was just getting started with my interest in photography back then.

I have done 3 in Richmond, one in Charlottesville and this year’s in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia under the guidance of host Jeff Revell, a photographer and book author whose blog I follow.

I am an explorer at heart, I love to pore over maps and imagine what the various places are like. My husband is not always willing to be drug around to unknown places (like Culpeper, Virginia which is getting to be a joke between us) and I admit that in the past, some of the towns we visited were disappointing with little to do (for us, anyway). But with a camera in your hand, any place can be a goldmine of photo opportunities. And Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is one of those towns seen on the map that I wanted to explore. When I saw that Jeff was hosting a walk there, I signed up on the spot. Never mind that it’s a 3 hour drive from my house. Never mind that I got up at 4:30am, hit the road at 5:30 and got there a little before 8:30. I’d call that dedication LOL.


We met at the Amtrak station, which would not come up on my Garmin GPS to save my life. It doesn’t have a regular street address that I could find anywhere, so I ended up plugging in just the street name, figuring at least I’d get close.  And I did fine. It helped to look at the satellite map the night before so that I could gauge my surroundings.


Harpers Ferry is on the Potomac River and it is not flat. Far from it. Jeff said our walk would be strenuous in places, and he was right. We started walking on the street out from the station and the street next to that one was up on a hill or a bluff or whatever it might be called. There are a lot of granite outcroppings in the area. These steps were grueling:


I love to photograph signs. They are self-explanatory.


How timely is this one? I don’t know how long it’s been in the window. Considering that the government shutdown affected the Historical Park in town, it could be a very recent addition.


Of course, the bathrooms at the Historical Park were closed.


It was too early for dramatic fall color, but there was this one tree that was spectacular.

IMG_2856 IMG_2887

We walked through a cemetery:



And past a “haunted” house:


Surprised to see such colorful flowers in October:


and this is St. Peter’s Catholic Church (at the top of those steps) which rang its bells and was so picturesque:


I so enjoyed this walk with the exception of the biting gnats that swarmed constantly. I’m still itching. It was unseasonably warm at 90 degrees, but at least we didn’t have the humidity of one walk back when they were held in July. It was 100 degrees that time and one of our walkers had to leave due to heat stroke or near to it.

My thanks to Jeff Revell for mapping out a great photographic route for us and getting the town to set up porta-potties. If you are in the Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia area and get an opportunity to take one of Jeff’s walks, I highly recommend it.

robin siggy-dumb3

This is my 501st post! I didn’t even realize I’d hit a milestone last time.


The top is done! Hip hip hooray!

It has a number of problems but is surprisingly pretty square. So I don’t think I’m going to trim much off the outside edges.

The side setting triangles don’t match.


The top setting triangles are all consistent. But I don’t know if they’re right. They look nice, though.

This bottom setting triangle had to be eased in and it isn’t pretty. I’m surprised there was only one that didn’t fit right.


The bottom triangles are a mess, too.

It’s a good thing this was a test and not a commission. Ha!

What did I learn from this? Find someone who’s done it before and done it well. (Preferably with a book or published pattern.)

A points trimmer would have been handy. I have one, but I didn’t think to use it. I think it would have helped fit a lot of those points together and taken the guesswork out of it. Would it have taken all the guesswork out? I wouldn’t think so, but wouldn’t it be ironic if that’s the only thing that would have taken this quilt from near-disaster to perfection?

I’m willing to try again. When I made this one, I used the cutting measurements straight out of Electric Quilt the way I designed it, not knowing there was more to it (and no, it’s not in the user guide). By specifying that the diamonds measure 6″ finished, the actual cutting was done with weird-sized strips and the markings on the Fons and Porter diamond-cutting template/ruler I used (sorry, don’t remember the name of it) didn’t help. I had to use blue masking tape to mark the spot to line up with the cut edge of the fabric. Next time, I’m going to size the quilt based on the size of the strips I want to cut (a whole number on the ruler) which means doing some math and inputting a fake dimension to make EQ calculate it the way I want it. At least, that’s my theory.

That’s what’s going on in Short Pump, go to Judy L’s page to see what everyone else is working on.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 505 other followers