Friday, November 13, 2009

Leonard, Helen Maxine (Crowell)

H. Maxine (Crowell) Leonard

In Volume I, of "The Conger Family of America," H. Maxine (Crowell) Leonard wrote of her involvement in Conger genealogy.

"You could say these records [of Charles Leslie Conger which had been filmed at the Library of Congress for Elijah Hagens Conger] were handed to your compiler on a "Silver platter," thanks to Era (Conger) Jones [sister of Elijah Hagens Conger], who let me copy the books one at a time. Why did I, Helen Maxine Crowell Leonard, get involved, when I am not a Conger -- my closest relationship is that of my great grandmother, Mary (Conger) Croel, born 1814, in Monroe county, Ohio?

I have been "Conger Conscious" since about the age of eight. I, with my folks, visited the cemetery in Monroe county, Iowa, where Mary is buried with her son, Wilbur, and his wife, Margaret, my grandparents. As I stood beside her grave I had the strongest feeling about her -- the urge to know her. I liked the sound of the name CONGER. I knew that in some say she was very special.

In 1956, I was stricken with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was bed ridden for three months, as stiff as a board. Through prayer, food supplements, exercise and diet I was able to assume a fairly normal life. Five foot operations alleviated a lot of pain, and both hands and wrists were restored to good use through surgery. Through all this I needed something to occupy my time and mind and genealogy seemed to be the answer.

I "met" Era Jones through correspondence, and in 1962 we had the opportunity to visit her. It was then I began copying her books. When I finished I thought, "Someone should index all this," for it was impossible to find anything specific. And so, I made file cards for everyone, and recorded the Conger spouses. Every place my husband's Army travels took us, I looked for Congers and interviewed them.

My husband retired from the service in 1967 and we settled in Janesville, Iowa. I had no idea what to do with the records, for I really didn't know any Congers. I thought of typing all the material and sending copies to the Library of Congress and the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, UT and keep a copy for myself.

Then in July 1968 I received a letter from Beach Conger of Pleasantville, New York. He was planning to update his line, that of Job, which Charles Greenwood Barker Conger had published in 1903. He heard of me through correspondence and wondered if I could help him. When he learned what I had, he offered to finance the publication if we worked together to put all the Conger material into one book.

Since Beach lived near a large library, I suggested he search telephone directories for Congers throughout the country. This he began to do and contacted about 150 people of this name. For six months he sent material to be cataloged -- and then he died on 6 Jan 1969. Marion, his widow, sent me his files, which contained the booklets of "Job A. Conger and his Descendants, by Ivan Albert Conger and the story of "Norman Hurd Conger," by Roger N. Conger (included in Volume One of CFA, with their permission).

Lauren Tenney Conger of Lake Forest, Illinois, came to my rescue by helping with the telephone directory search in Chicago - and my slipping me a couple of $10.00 bills to help defray the gigantic postage costs. Later, I spent an entire day in the St. Louis library to finish the project. About a 1,000 Congers were contacted; over 2500 letters have been written. In this way the past three or four generations have been added to the existing records.

Special credit goes to the following people for many hours of research -- reading census reports on microfilm, checking courthouse records, writing letters and personally interviewing people: Marion Barton for checking all the Vermont Vital Statistics and libraries; Geneva Clark, finding and identifying the Congers of Marion county, Kentucky; Willa Dean Eaves for research in Georgia; Beulah Frehner and daughter, Connie Money for finding the missing link to establish Jonas Conger in Georgia; Leona Robertson and Lesba Thompson for finding the descendants of Jonathan Conger of Pike county, Indiana and proving him for DAR; (William) Russell Conger for further search of the Ohio branch; and Geary H. Worth and Don Ruth Merritt for checking Tennessee census films.

(Joseph) Clyde Conger went that extra mile to round up the descendants of Lucius Lee Conger in Mississippi; Sidney Conger Mendenhall has kept records of James Westfall Conger's descendants from Kansas. Mary E. Woods has done a splendid job in preserving the records of the descendants of Abijah Conger from Athens, Georgia. Many letters were written by Noel William Conger to find the descendants of Colvin Conger of New York. Ivan Albert Conger kept the descendants of Job A. Conger together by an annual family reunion at his home in Owoso,

Although Abraham H. Conger, 1810, of Lowndes county, Georgia, cannot be linked to John Belconger, his prolific posterity has kept in close contact and John Robert Conger prodded them into submitting their records.

There are many others too numerous to mention.

Now, after 120 years, several thousand dollars, and the devoted efforts of many kinsmen, "THE CONGER FAMILY OF AMERICA" is assembled into one cover. I personally have not done much research; I make no claims of any kind. I have compiled the existing material, which undoubtedly contains errors. In many instances additional children have been found, so the reader must bear in mind that these records are not necessarily complete; none probably ever will be. When known, the religious denomination is given as an aid in directing further search and verification.

This is only the beginning! There should be a supplement every five years, giving additions and corrections. The family should become "Conger Conscious" and make sincere efforts to keep individual records henceforth. There should be more family reunions to preserve our rich heritage. Seek out your Conger cousins wherever you go. Unless there is another volunteer, I promise to continue in the roll of "compiler" so long as I am able. If I have no successor, the records will be donated to the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, UT.

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