Touching The Past

Carl with the 172 year old Monty Family Bible.

Carl with the 172 year old Monty Family Bible.


On our recent trip to our hometown, my wife and I were very fortunate to be able to see and hold items that once belonged and were used by my wife’s ancestors. But even more fortunate we were to learn some of the stories behind these articles. This experience helped to bring these people from mere dates in the past to real individuals who gave the breath of life to future generations. Much of this was made possible by my wife’s cousin Carl Gonya who before high school took up the mantle of the family historian. His exhaustive research into the family lines started long before the internet made things so much easier but in many cases made for shoddier research. His collection of family artifacts and pictures is impressive and the result of diligent family research.

The 172 years old Monty family bible contains family records up to about the mid-1900s. Marriages, deaths, and births are registered in this fascinating family heirloom. It has been handed down for generations as testimony to the joys and heartbreaks of the family. One of the first notations was the marriage of my wife’s 2nd Great Grandparents Edward L. and Joyce Jicey Murphy Monty in 1846.

My wife Sandy with her 2nd Great Grandmother Joyce Murphy Monty's trunk.

My wife Sandy with her 2nd Great Grandmother Joyce Murphy Monty’s trunk.

Joyce Murphy had to travel from Cohoes N.Y. to Beekmantown N.Y. which is over 150 miles by horseback to reach her new home once she was married. She packed most of her belongings in the pictured horsehair trunk and carried it with her all the way.  Joyce and her husband Edward were to raise five children and would die within three months of each other in 1904

At least when Joyce Murphy married Edward L. Monty she did not have to change the initials on her trunk.

At least when Joyce Murphy married Edward L. Monty she did not have to change the initials on her trunk.

The picture you see of pansies was done by Emma Craft Monty as a wedding gift to her daughter Florence on her marriage. Emma is my wife’s great-grandmother who was born in 1866. Florence who is my wife’s great aunt was married in 1919. I should also note here that Florence is Carl’s grandmother

Pansies as painted by Emma Craft Monty. Almost one hundred years ago.

Pansies as painted by Emma Craft Monty. Almost one hundred years ago.

Perhaps the best part of all the heirlooms we got to see were the pictures. Not only did we get to look at them but we got to download hundreds into my laptop so I could take them home. One of the many pictures we were able to obtain was one of Joyce Murphy Monty which is below. I have so much more to go through that I am sure many family stories will be told featuring these photographs

Jicey (Joyce) Murphy Monty.

Jicey (Joyce) Murphy Monty.


I owe so much to so many cousins that have over time contributed so much to my family research that can never actually be repaid. I have been the recipient of family pictures, copies of family letters well over a hundred years old, family records, unpublished genealogies, and just sharing family stories. I have had cousins put me up over night and spent hours searching through cemeteries and then buy me dinner. I have had one cousin who I met via DNA match who invited me to the family’s genealogy facebook page. Where thanks to many unseen cousins I was able to fill in entirely new branches of the family tree. All of us should do this. If we all do, then our hobby of genealogy will be that much more enjoyable for everyone. We will find that our research will be more detailed and family stories will not be lost and forgotten in just a generation or two. I hope the drive to discover our family’s past also leads us to share it with close and distant family in order to pay the proper homage to generations past.



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48 Responses to Touching The Past

  1. Sandi McGinnis says:


  2. June A. McLean says:

    Spot on Charlie we do need to find our past in order to enrich our future generations. Sandy so good to see you with your 2nd Great Grandmother’s Trunk. Much love to you both. June

  3. Amy says:

    I love the pansies and the trunk. How wonderful that someone preserved those. And I share that feeling of gratitude to all those who have helped me—cousins I’d never known, cousins I’ve always known, and so many in the genealogy community who have helped me along the way.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I owe so much to so many people. All of us should try and help when ever we can. My family history is much richer because of these people.

      • Amy says:

        I agree completely. We all should pay it forward whenever we can. Nothing makes me feel better about my work than when I can help someone else learn about their own families.

  4. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I can relate to all of this.

    • chmjr2 says:

      When we reach out or if someone is reaching out to us, is when genealogy really shines. They say all we do is collect dead people, but it is when we connect to a living relative or fellow researcher is when the fun really starts.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        Every week or so someone contacts me.
        I always answer back even if they don’t follow up on the information I give. I don’t mind. There is something much bigger than just collecting dead people’s information and sharing them on the Internet. I am still looking for a reason we are doing this.

  5. Having the photos is a means to draw so much closer to the ancestors. Having the keepsakes in your presence makes the past even closer because you have something tangible that came from the past and journeyed into your present. I’m very happy you and your wife had this opportunity.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your comments. What you said is very true. It is a great feeling to touch something from your family’s history. Also I look forward to working with the photographs.

      • What I like most about your postings is that you’re concise. You communicate your thoughts and feelings in a good but to the point way. This is what keeps people who are not in the family interested in the narrative. There’s a take-away that we share common feelings and experiences. I care more for that level of interaction than discussing research techniques!

  6. dlpedit says:

    You certainly have the right cooperative connections and are finding out some wonderful things about your family. The photo of your wife with the trunk made me think, “You have discovered a treasure chest of family stories–and not just in a physical trunk but figuratively in all the information you’re collecting. Keep it up!

  7. GP Cox says:

    Each item and every story is a treasure to be protected.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I agree with you. I believe that the only way to protect these items is my sharing them. The more people who know about them and pass on the photographs the more likely their story will be told in future generations.

  8. Jimmy M. Sisson says:

    Charles: Great post as usual. I got to visit with most of my maternal 1st cousins in Akron, OH in July. My Aunt Nona (DOBLE) BARATH, and my cousin Judy (ZACHER) KEIL both turned 80 in July, and a party was held at the home of Judy’s grandson in Medina, OH. I got to meet a lot of 1XR, 2nd and 3rd cousins that I did not know or had not seen in years.

    I gave my Aunt, my 1st cousins, and 1XR cousins a 4 generation pedigree chart, and it seemed to be a big hit to them. My Aunt Nona is thrilled with all my findings and hopefully some of the others will be too. I am also in contact with a lot of these folks on Facebook. I do post interesting facts that I find on family ancestors to try to get the younger ones interested.

    I have also received some old pictures from some of these cousins. One cousin, before the party, gave me a framed picture of My Mother and her brother, circa 1920. My Mother died when I was 3 years old, so this is especially precious to me.

    • chmjr2 says:

      The picture you received of your Mother is of course priceless. What a great gift. A few of those people you met are also my cousins as you know. Our family sure did move around a lot.

  9. What treasures, makes me smile! Great post!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I seem to be the person in my family who has the “bug” and I hope to be a resource to others, as people have been to you. Great post.

  11. KerryCan says:

    How lucky you are to have access to such treasures and so much information! Your hobby had let you make connections to generations past but also to make so many connections among living family members!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Yes I agree in many ways my genealogy search has been one of luck. Certain lines have been well researched while others (not from lack of effort) still need much more information. However it is the chase or research that is the most fun.

  12. Sheryl says:

    It’s amazing that the old trunk and Bible still exist after all these years. I enjoyed reading your descriptions of the wonderful connections you’ve made while working on your family history.

    • chmjr2 says:

      The house was full of old family heirlooms. Carl had much art work done by great grandmothers and aunts. Chairs, desk, clocks, and many other items. The photographs that I was given will be used in many blogs. They blended so well with the pictures my wife and I got when we cleaned out her parents house. Also I got a post coming up about some home made jam I think you will like.

      • Sheryl says:

        It’s wonderful that they found ways to incorporate the old heirlooms into their home. I always think that it’s so special when homes are decorated with things have an interesting history. I’m looking forward to your homemade jam post.

  13. saymyname56 says:

    I just read several of your blogs and enjoyed them. I just started blogging so have lots of questions. How did you find mine? Any suggestions to shorten the learning curve?
    We seem to have similar thoughts and common goals. Agree with being both a genealogist and family historian. It helps to be a private detective at times.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Hello glad you like my blog. I found yours because you tagged it under genealogy. You should also use the tag family history also. On my reader I follow everything tagged under these two items. My best suggestion is to read blogs that fall under these tags and study them. Both the ones you like and dislike. Find out what works for you and develop your own voice. Also you should write something each week or at least every other week. I could do better on this one myself. Do not try to post too many at a time or you will burn yourself out. But the best advice I can give is to have fun.

  14. myfamilyhistory569 says:

    This is amazing how you and your wife were able to obtain these family heirlooms!!! Great post!

    • chmjr2 says:

      This branch of the family tree has been well researched by many people. Carl being one of them. His home and parents farm have been in the family for close to 200 years.

  15. Hi Charles, I know that wonderful feeling when you discover some new family history treasures, like the old trunk you spoke about in your post. I too discovered an old trunk, only a few months ago, that had been sitting in my father’s farm shed for years. It turned out to be my Great Grandfather’s war trunk he brought home from WW1. When I opened the lid, inside were his riding whip and a small calico bag containing horse spurs and army field bandages still in their wrappers. He was a light horseman and the whip and spurs were part of his equipment. Then at a closer look, we could define his name painted on the outside of the trunk, although faded from age. Life as a family historian is constantly full of wonderful surprises.

  16. Reblogged this on Special Connections and commented:
    “I hope the drive to discover our family’s past also leads us to share it with close and distant family in order to pay the proper homage to generations past.”

    That quote is at the end of this lovely blog post. There is so much richness in what he wrote. What a lovely personal sharing of the meaningfulness of those that have gone before us and the special treasures they have left behind that we can also connect to them through.

    This post inspires me to want to go through some of my own inherited treasures, and more particularly through many of the older items that enhance The Cottage ambiance…to capture their stories (as known or speculated) and to record these musings for our present edification and other’s future enlightenment.

    One small “treasure” that I hope will pass down to me from my parents some distant future day is a large brass key that my grandparents found beach-combing along the shores of one of the Great Lakes (Erie?). When my dad was young he used to teethe on it.

    This key represents mystery to me. It has a tangible connection to my Family of Origin but an unknown connection to the past. It very well could be evidence of some long ago shipwreck. Also its size suggests that it went to something significant like perhaps a large trunk or ancient door. Though its true origins will likely Never be known it’s recent personal past are precious to me.

    So now the “To Do List” needs to expand into the cataloging of personal history archival exhibits…What (at least theoretical) Fun!



  17. So precious your family stories & treasures…& so inspirational your perspective. I re-blogged this post with some comments of my own at…

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful family heritage with us!


    Valerie Curren

  18. Jim McKeever says:

    Another treasure trove, Charles. And more work — rather, a labor of love — for you!

    • chmjr2 says:

      True it is a labor of love, but the best rewards are leaving a history behind for future generations to know. The other reason is in part this blog and finding like minded people who seem to enjoy reading my postings.

  19. Wonderful! I look forward to more stories!

  20. Incredible Treasures!!!

  21. Karen Harrison says:

    Francois Monty is my husband’s 4th Great Grandfather. I wonder who was the original owner of the Monty family bible? Since the first recorded marriage was 1846 it would probably be a grandchildren of Francois? Our direct line is John Monty born 1771 and his son Lewis married in 1839 and he was a grandchild of Francois so that is how I was calculating the first time owner of the bible. I wonder if I could contact Carl Gonya to see if any of our line are mentioned in the bible? I have a brickwall on the line and am trying all sources! Thanks, Karen Harrison

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. Without checking I think the Bible belonged to Joyce Murphy Monty. I will check on that and get back to you. I also will email Carl and see if he will talk with you. I will be out for a while but will get back to you.

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