Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Madness: Who Was Axie Root?

Yesterday I posted a birthday tribute to my aunt that was based to a great extent on letters written by my Uncle Ralph. He was nearly 80 years old when he wrote the letters and he was telling about memories when he was 15 years old. Knowing we all have strange filters for our memories, I consistently check resources to confirm Ralph's stories, and usually find his reporting of family stories fairly accurate --- sometimes the dates are off a bit --- give or take a year or so. However, yesterday I was in a dilemma, fraught with inner turmoil. My training as a historian was at odds with the storyteller. I chose to tell the story as told to me in my uncle's letters.

Today is another day. Today, I am going to look at Axie Root. According to my uncle's letters, she was an old Indian, corn-cob pipe-smoking, reticent, mid-wife. However, she was familiar enough with my grandparents that she wanted them to name one of their daughters after her. She apparently had a fairly long association with my grandmother, as she reportedly helped deliver a daughter in 1908, and the two more daughters in 1920 and again in 1922. She was also about the same age as my grandmother.

All in all, it was a rather colorful story, but looking a bit further I came across the following bits of information about this Axie Root:

First, awhile back when I was gathering verifiable birth records for my father's family – which is not an easy thing to do for this peripatetic family – I came across a birth record for Axcey McPherson, b. 05 Sept 1908. When I really examined the dates, this is apparently the birth record for my Aunt Avery Marjorie McPherson; it's her birth date, but “Axcey?” I suppose it could be a misspelling of her name Avery, or perhaps, the teasing of my Aunt Marjorie that she was named after the “old Indian midwife” might be closer to the truth than she would have liked. Needless to say, I shook out the old credit card and ordered a copy of the birth certificate. Hopefully, that will clarify the issue of Aunt Marjorie's name.

Second, I found Axie in the Federal Census Schedules of 1910 and 1920. In 1910, Axie (Root) Tardy (age 28, white, divorced) and her son, Jerry Tardy (age 4, white) were living with her mother Addel Root (age52, white, widowed). The Root family was living right where I expected to find them. In addition a number of the individuals and families listed as neighbors were names that I recognized from family stories and Uncle Ralph's letters.

I also found Axie in the 1920 Federal Census, under the name of Axie Saunders (age 37, white, widowed, and the proprietor of a hotel). Also included in her household were her brother Chester A. Root, a boarder Doris Zarm, and Axie's children: Jerry (Tardy), Walter, June, Eugene,and Harold (all of which were listed as white).

The third bit of information that I acquired came from a couple of Family Trees on Ancestry.com. Axie Root was listed as Axasha (Axie) Root, born to Mary Jane Barnhart (not Addel) and Henry Root, both Henry and Mary Jane were listed as being born in New York. Although several items in these "trees" were in contradiction to the census schedules, the “trees” confirmed her marriages to Tardy and Saunders, as well as the names of a few of her children. It is possible that Axie's mother Addel's heritage was from an Indian tribe, but that is conjecture at this time. I have sent out communications to the owner's of the “trees,' and perhaps they can shed some light on Axie Root's life. Also I am trying to track down a death certificate for Addel Root, which could also shed light on her heritage -- or at least provide me with another lead to follow.

Ahh, the inner turmoil is quiet. The historian is satisfied (sort of ); I have checked the story against the records that I have available at this time, and that I have queries out for more information. The storyteller is satisfied; the story is as accurate as can be expected 90 years later; that Ralph's story, burned into his 15-year-old memory bank, of driving the bobsled through the storm to get a midwife for his mother has been corroborated to a great extent. Now I can stop my thrashing and put my “issues” about Axie Root on the back burner.

McPherson, Axcey, DOB: 05 Sep 1908;Mother Maiden Name: Foss; County of Birth: Crow Wing; certid# 1908-05780.
1910 Federal Census, Fort Ripley, Crow Wing, Minnesota; Roll T624_694; page 6B; Enumeration District: 37; Image: 244.
1920 Federal Census, Fort Ripley, Crow Wing, Minnesota; Roll T625_829; page 7AB; Enumeration District: 124; Image: 394.


  1. Those research "side roads" are so interesting, and you never know what you are going to turn up!

  2. Great follow up, great research tangent! As you commented on my blog the other day:

    "Yes, lady, we are going to have ourselves a grand old time."

    Yes, indeed a grand old time.

  3. Just a follow-up note, for what it's worth: Last nite I received an email from relative of a "relative in Axie's line." Accoreding to their family stories, Axie was indeed a midwife.

  4. I've nominated you for the Happy 101 Award. Please stop by my blog to pick it up!

    Happy blogging!

  5. The Axie you discuss was either the cousin or aunt of my GreatGrandma who died at 101 when I was 17. I think that you are combined two people, Axie Root Saunders etc was the daughter of Jerry Root and Adell Choinard and was born in 1881. Her father Jerry had a younger sister named Achsah nicknamed Axie who was born in 1868, she was married to Samuel Mooers who was enrolled with the Ojibwa. (Aaron aaron_dahl@hotmail.com)