Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday, Thomas Paine's Birthday and National Freethinkers' Day

The perfect tombstone for today, Tombstone Tuesday, is that of my great, great grandfather, Isaac Lenont.  Isaac was born Izak Leenhouts in the Netherlands in 1834, and died as Isaac Lenout in Northfield, Rice, Minnesota, USA in 1884. 

Family lore and some bits of tantalizing information we've dug up indicate that the personal philosophies of Isaac and my great, great grandmother Sarah Jones Lenont were directly at odds.  Isaac was said to be a staunch and strict Calvinist, while Sarah was a noted Freethinker!  Sarah was even a delegate to the National Liberal League Conference in 1881 - leaving her husband and children in the care of a housekeeper she had hired so that she could attend the convention in Chicago.  Upon her return, Isaac let it be publicly known that he would not be responsible for any of Sara's debts for attending said conference. He had obviously disapproved of her going.  But she went anyway.

Where am I going with this?  On Isaac's death, his widow Sarah and their five grown children changed their surname from Lenout (or various other Dutch spellings) to Lenont.  Sarah even put "Lenont" on Isaac's tombstone, even though had never gone by that variation.  She also put on his tombstone the following quote from Thomas Paine:
For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer. The world is my country, to do good, my religion.
Clearly, as a Calvinist, Isaac would have considered Paine's words to be codswallop. My theory is that Sarah and her modern, forward-thinking children were happy to be free of the stern and domineering Isaac, and they showed this by by immediately changing their name to distance themselves from him.  And Sarah put her own kind of quote on his tombstone... because she could!

Interestingly, as I was thinking about which tombstone to feature today, I discovered that today is the anniversary of Thomas Paine's birthday, and is also National Freethinkers' Day!  How perfectly these three things fit together!   One of my genealogical goals is to discover more about the personal beliefs of the members of the Leenhouts/Lenhout/Lenout/Lenont family, to determine if my theories about the name-change and the quotation chosen for Isaac's tombstone are correct.  Happy Freethinker's Day!

The Freethinkers' Movement is often represented by a white rose with thorns (symbolizing truth, and the pain that must sometimes go along with the truth).  

Do you have ancestors who were at odds with one another because of their beliefs?  Do you know of a tombstone of which the deceased would not have approved?  Do you have any Freethinkers among your ancestors?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Family History Writing Challenge, February 2013

Family History Writing Challenge

I am excited to be taking part in The Armchair Genealogist's Family History Writing Challenge in February! Twenty-eight days of writing family history... that oughta get this old blog rolling again!

The idea is to pledge to write a certain number of words per day.  I've pledged 75 per day - which sounds incredibly wimpy, but at the end of the month I hope to have produced four more "mini-bio" blog posts like the one I did on Carrie York, here

Wish me luck and follow along to see how I do! 

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