Jenny, Merah and Fred

My grandmother, Jeanette Shrum Willett, left us a wonderful handwritten manuscript of her life which she wrote in the mid 1980’s. She was born August 4, 1897 in Bloomington, Indiana and died March 3, 1988 in Salem, Massachusetts.  I have been transcribing her manuscript here. You can start from the beginning with Part 1.

In this entry, my grandmother, Jenny Shrum Willett, talks about her sister Merah and her brother Fred. It was sobering to see my grandmother write about what her mother thought about segregation. I can sometimes get lulled into a naive frame of mind when I think of my ancestors and that they were without fault or prejudice.  To hear that my great-grandmother thought her white children were superior to black children and that they shouldn’t be educated together, is something that shouldn’t surprise me given the times. But none the less…it did. And it disappointed me. She also talks about how her mother, Luta, nearly died from pneumonia after Fred was born. My great grandfather’s dedication to saving his wife is another example of their ever lasting love story.

Jeanette and Merah Shrum about 1900. They remained very close until Merah’s death in 1972.

Part 4

The grammar, punctuation and any spelling errors are left as Jenny Shrum Willett wrote them. 

“I was to enter school in Sept being 5 in Aug. My mother was pregnant with Fred. Merah who was 7 was entering too. She hadn’t been to school in Ky because mother didn’t like the schools there – They were integrated and my mother didn’t approve. My father took us to school and of course my garter broke. I don’t know who was more embarrassed but my father had to fix it. Although there were two years difference in our ages – Merah was small and dainty & I was chubby. Mother dressed us alike and some thought we were twins. I remember my first grade teacher, a really dedicated woman. At first the kids made fun of the way we talked – a mixture of Hoosier & southern. My brother was born Sept 11 1902 and my mother got pneumonia. She was in the hospital and not expected to live but my father wouldn’t give up. The nurses said he performed a miracle because she recovered. I don’t remember my brother as a baby. When he could walk my mother tied him in the yard. I remember one day coming from school, he ran to meet us & when he got to the end of the rope he fell and cut his knees & hands. Needless to say he wasn’t tied again.”

Jeanette, Fred and Merah Shrum about 1908
Did you enjoy this? Click below to read Part 5!

Jenny Shrum Willett’s Manuscript – Part 5


I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “Diary.”  I am hopelessly behind on participating, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 

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