Courtney Joins the Tree

Topeka Capital-Journal
Feb. 10, 1988

A week ago last Monday, our daughter Amy left her home in Arlington, Texas, early. It was her first day off from work on what promise to be a lengthy vacation, if you can call it that, since she was expecting to deliver a baby the following Thursday.

She made her first stop at the mortgage company, where she made a house payment, but then she started feeling some contractions, or whatever it is that expectant mothers feel. So, she drove to her doctor’s office, and was there when he arrived at 9.

He checked her immediately, and told her to get to the hospital. She was there by 9:30, checked in, and called us in Topeka and said things were happening fast. She delivered at 10:40, and her husband, Duff Nelson, got there just in time to welcome a new daughter, their second.

We saw her briefly Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday morning we went to the hospital and picked them up. Barely 48 hours after the big event, she and the baby were home. That’s the way they do these things in this day and age.

This is the modern version of the old tale of Indian women who had to drop off the trail just long enough to have their papoose, then catch up or be left behind.

The baby’s name is Courtney Anne. I knew that Courtney is an old family name, but I didn’t know why, except that I remembered that my mother had an Uncle Dan and Aunt Maude Courtney. I also have a brother named Alfred Courtney, who is retired and lives in Dallas.

You naturally would expect him to know more about this “Courtney’ business than I do, and you would be right. I brought this up a couple of days after the birth, as we were sipping lunch, and said it will be confusing from now on when someone mentions “Courtney.’

I also said I really didn’t know where the name came from, and he replied that it was a remarkable coincidence that I should bring it up, because he had something in his car relating to the subject that he had brought along to give me.

It was something he found in our mother’s possessions, and it had to do with the family tree. Somebody had traced it back a few generations.

Owen Courtney was born In 1832 in Ballyquire, County Kerry, Ireland. He married Margaret Elizabeth Fitzgerald, an Irish lass if ever there was one, and they had seven children. One was given the same name as her mother, Margaret Elizabeth. She was born, incidentally, in Wyandotte Kansas.

She married William Stephen Shively, who was born in Indiana and who was the son of Jacob Shively and Margaret Gentry, both born in Ireland. Margaret Elizabeth had four children before she died when she was only 34. One was my mother, Leona Frances, born in Howe, Neb.

We can assume that all these Irish ancestors were potato farmers who were forced to climb on a cattle boat to escape the famine.

Or, we can speculate that they were wealthy noble men and women who lived in grand castles, and who sacrificed everything to face the challenge of the new world.

Personally, I lean toward the potato farmer theory.

My mother must be blamed for diluting this Irish strain, and it is her fault that I am not a great Irish tenor, although I am not all that bad, or a great Irish poet. My mother took up with Dutchman, and there went the old ball game.

She married Daniel William Snider, who was born in Miltonvale Kan, the son of Alfred Snider and Elizabeth Nail, who had 10 children, although one lived only seven months; one, three years, and two others, seven years.

Daniel William, my dad, was luckier. He live to be 89, but he never live long enough to see any of his three sons star in the Super Bowl or live in the White House. Given his choice, he would have much preferred to see the former.

In the end, he said he guessed he was lucky that he never live long enough, either, to see any of them go to prison, although he never ruled out the possibility it could happen. And, in those days, it was much harder to go to jail than it is now.

So there you have the Courtney connection, and I am happy to clear it up, because I know it would trouble you if you didn’t know.

Finally, nowhere in the research on my dad’s side of the family is there any indication the name ever was spelled Snyder or Schneider. All the way it is pure Snider, and it may be that we are part of an elite and unique band of straight and simple spellers.

There was Snider’s ketchup, which A.J. Heinz couldn’t hold a candle to. There was the writer, Steve Snider; the jockey, Johnny Snider; the baseball player, Duke Snider. You can see that we are given to intellectual and skillful pursuits.

None of these are relatives. We are linked only by the spelling, but that’s enough. Let’s face it: we are a breed apart.

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