Elmer Tolley, 1864-1928

For today’s prompt, write a family poem. Good, bad, big, small, adopted, imaginary, nonexistent–everyone has to deal with family (even if that involves running from it or chasing it down). I have a feeling today’s prompt is going to stir up some really good poems.


Elmer Tolley, 1864-1928

Trying to reassemble a life
from a hundred fifty years away,
I know for sure his name was Elmer
and he thought his father
was William Tolley but I can’t
find a man by that name
in the county or state
and his mother married
another before he could walk.

Why did he live with his grandmother,
who bore his mother out of wedlock,
instead of with his new family
of step brothers and sisters?

I’ve learned from genealogy
that there are some questions
whose answers have been lost.
Some births happen less than nine
months from the wedding,
some fathers unidentified
and some sons unclaimed.


(Note the image above is of William Lloyd and Elizabeth Powers Lloyd, his mother.)


About Bartholomew Barker

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
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6 Responses to Elmer Tolley, 1864-1928

  1. Lisa Tomey says:

    Aah yes! The genealogy stories…my sister was a wonderful genealogist and oh the stories she would find and publish were not always ones relatives wanted to read.


  2. Will Goodwin says:

    Excellent! … and some families just guard their secrets for whatever reason … I found out one of my grandfathers was in the “poor house” … I heard that phrase growing up and thought it was just a saying. I didn’t realize it was an actual debtor’s prison. Wow. Good luck in your ancestral journeys.


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