Saturday, May 2, 2015

Volume VII Introduction

I got my love of genealogy and family history from my father. He caught the genealogy bug from his mother, Alice (Muir) Jennings. Her grandfather was James Muir, the subject of this volume, and she was the great granddaughter of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), the founder of this particular line of Muirs.

When I was organizing my genealogy books and papers, I found, among Dad's possessions, a notebook in my grandmother's handwriting. Grandma Jennings was the only grandparent who lived to see me married. She took me on my first plane trip, spoiled me rotten and listened when I thought my parents weren't. We were very close.

Grandma lived with her "Grandmum Maggie" Muir, James Muir's first wife, after her mother died in 1909 until 1920 when Margaret died following an operation. Alice was 14 years old and found she had to make her own way in the world.

In 1924 she was working as maid and nanny for a family in West Virginia. She had taken their young son to the "talkies." The little boy could not yet read so Grandma read the movie to him. Behind her were a group of young men who mimicked her, generally having a wonderful time at her expense.

Marvin Edward and Alice (Muir) Jennings on vacation in 1951

She started walking out with one of those men. His name was Marvin Edward Jennings. He was 23 years old, from Roanoke, Virginia, and worked as a clerk for the railroad. Grandma always said they were a couple of misfits who did well together. She was blind in one eye; born with a detached retina. He had polio as a young child and was lame in one leg, wearing a brace and a special shoe to help him walk more normally.

Alice Muir and Marvin Jennings married in East St. Louis, Illinois, on 13 May 1924. Their first child was born that September but died three months later. Two sons followed in 1927 and 1931.

Neither of them experienced much parental love in their childhood. Grandma's mother died when she was three and her father quickly remarried and gave the children by his first wife to his mother. Grandpa's mother died when he was 5 years old; four years later his father placed him in the Lutheran Orphanage in Salem, Virginia.

Perhaps because neither of my grandparents really knew their parents, both of them were always interested in their family history. I've found pages of information about the Jennings family written in my Grandfather's hand on railroad company stationery.  And then I found Grandma's notebook. It includes 39 pages of names and birth, death and marriage dates, starting with her great grand parents Peter and Janet (Torrance) Semple.

Grandma's research must have started with conversations with her paternal grandmother. There is no other explanation for some of the information in the notebook. But her cousin, Roberta Irene (Caswell) Fullerton, was also a big help. Her daughter was assigned a school pen pal project. She started writing to distant cousins in Scotland. Grandma and Roberta stayed in contact with some of them throughout much of their lives. Grandma was able to visit Scotland in the 1970s and met some of her distant cousins.

And so this blog and electronic books about Robert Muir's descendants are the result of a three-generation desire to learn more about our family's roots. If you are related to anyone mentioned in this volume, please contact me using the contact form located here: I would love to include your family memories, stories, or photographs in this volume.

I hope you enjoy reading about our shared ancestors, the descendants of James and Margaret (Semple) Muir!

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