Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Scraps from a Teenage Girl's Life

In addition to photographs and the odd baby's cup, I've also rescued a number of autograph albums and a few scrapbooks.  This little scrapbook was found in a local antique store about a year ago and I purchased it because it was obviously compiled by someone who lived in the area and it was full of newspaper clippings.  I figured the odds were pretty good that some of those clippings might mention things that would be of interest to my own family's history.

It was in poor condition, with crumbling pages.  On a few pages, whatever had been affixed there had been torn out.  Still, there were a lot of interesting items and the price was low, so I adopted another stray.

Texas Centennial 1836-1936
Scrap Book
The scrapbook itself dated the collection to the mid 1930s.  Its cover carried the picture of a Spanish mission and noted that it was a commemorative item issued for the Texas Centennial in 1936.  Inside the front cover, the owner is identified as Crystal Dawn Breeding and the notation of 1935-1936 is given.  From there, it is undoubtedly the scrapbook of a typical teenage girl.  I have one much like it in my closet that I kept throughout my high school years.  It leaves no doubt that Crystal was a student of Smithville High School.

There are invitations to and place card markers from various banquets.  One is a figure of a band member, marching along and with a tiny message held in the crook of the elbow:

Come dine with the Tigers
and drink to their cheer
For they are the boys
Who've had no fear
December 13, 1935
Crystal Dawn Breeding

One insert gives the information that the Smithville Tigers are the defending Regional (football) champions of 1934, having lost only one game that season to Lockhart.  The game program from the November 22,1935, game is a glimpse of the times, full of ads from local merchants and players names from locally prominent families.

Football Program, Cover

Football Program, Inside

Accompanying this program is a news article "Smithville Beats Bastrop 45-0" with a photograph of the Smithville Drill Team, of which Crystal Dawn Breeding was a member.  Numerous programs and news items are glued in commemorating the various games played by the Smithville Tigers during the 1935 season.

The program for the 1936 graduation on May 22, 1936, includes the class roster and program.

Graduation Program Cover
Graduation Program, Inside

Crystal had other interests in addition to supporting her home football team.  There are clippings of all kinds, including some about the current heart-throbs ("Watch Out Buddy (Rogers)!  It's Leap Year), political figures (a San Antonio man receives letter from the late King George V; President Roosevelt visits the Alamo), prominent citizens (Rudyard Kipling celebrates 70th birthday; the first car built by Henry Ford, completed in 1893, forty-three years ago), and current events (Dionne Quintuplets Snug as North Winter Closes In; tributes to Will Rogers who died in 1935).

Will Rogers Articles

Roosevelt's visit to the Alamo
There are also indications that Crystal had the normal teen-ager concerns about her looks: 

The Perfect Figure
And the normal teenager interest in British royalty with clippings about the death of King George the V and the new King Edward VIII and who fell in line for the throne behind him:

British Royalty Succession
Tucked in at the back of the scrapbook is a single photograph in a folding cover.  There is no identification, but I find myself speculating that this lovely young lady might be Crystal herself.  I am betting that there is someone out there who remembers Crystal and could let me know for sure.

Unknown Girl

I was able to pick up a bit of information for Crystal Dawn Breeding, thanks to fact that she ended her life using her birth name.  Ancestry gave me a rudimentary family tree for her, as well as providing a link to her gravestone on FindAGrave and pointing to a brief obituary from a local funeral home.

Crystal Dawn Breeding was born October 4, 1921, to parents Thomas James and Clara Inez (Watterson) Breeding.  All three are buried in the Watterson Community Cemetery near Red Rock.

A scan of newspaper archives brought up several news items mentioning Crystal and her parents, many of these items concerning local events where my Mobley and Lentz kinfolk were also in attendance.    And even though Crystal was using her birth name at the time of her death, there is a lengthy account of her marriage in Laredo on April 2, 1945, to 1st Lt. Robert E. Boone of Fort Worth, who had recently returned from two years service in the European Theater operations of World War II.  Both Crystal and her new husband had attended the University of Texas, which one can surmise is where they met.  The article includes extensive information about the wedding decorations and clothing of the members of the wedding party.

I immediately questioned why Crystal was using her birth name in later life, so I checked the divorce index for Texas but found nothing.  Searching for additional information for Robert Boone was inconclusive, as there were a lot of Robert Boones with military backgrounds.  I'll just have to keep wondering about that one.

But I did find some tantalizing information about Crystal that makes me hope that someone local can fill in some of the blanks.  In the wedding article it mentions that after she graduated from the University of Texas she went on to attend Columbia University in New York City, entering the Graduate School of Social Work in 1943.  At the time of her marriage she was employed in the Division of Child Welfare of the State Department of Public Welfare and had had assignments in both Laredo and Beaumont.  

Crystal died on July 3, 2011.  Her short obituary hints that Crystal Dawn Breeding led an interesting life, mentioning that she taught at several prestigious colleges and universities in the United States and in Australia.  At her death, she was dividing her time between her apartment overlooking Central Park in New York and the family home in Bastrop.  The short death notice in the Austin newspaper referred to her as a "retired professor".

But long before that, Crystal Dawn Breeding was a young girl attending Smithville High School, rooting for the Tigers Football Team, taking part in 4H and following the drama unfolding with the British monarchy.  I wonder if she guessed she had such an interesting life ahead of her.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Wee Cuppa of Unknown Origins

Sometimes you end up rescuing a family heirloom with absolutely no idea why you are doing it and then have no luck whatsoever at finding any back story about the item.  You end up giving a home to a piece that deserves closure but will most probably not get it.

About a month ago I went to an estate sale out in the country.  I was tempted on many fronts and had just about decided to bring home a Regulator wall clock, when I turned a corner and found myself looking at a silverware chest that contained a full basic set of an 1847 Wm. Rogers silver-plate pattern called "First Love".  It also had a dozen or so odds and ends of other patterns lumped in with it, but a quick check proved that there was a complete 8-place setting service, plus a child's fork and spoon, and some serving spoons.  

I don't need any more flatware.  I have too much as it is.  I have my fancy Old Country Roses flatware with the gold accents that I acquired a few years back to go with my Old Country Roses china.  I have Mother's Wm. Rogers Dubonnet stainless set with all the extra serving pieces.  I have my eBay completed (more than completed) set of Grypsholm that my Grandmother Wilcoxen started for me when I was in my teens.  I am working on completing (more than completing, of course) my cousin Amanda's set of Springtime, also started by our Grandmother but which had not progressed past the serving pieces and a few teaspoons.  Thanks to eBay, it too is now more than fully complete, with the exception of my needing to add a few salad forks to the mix.

So I absolutely do not need any more flatware.

I turned my back on the useful clock and brought home the chestful of First Love flatware.  I figured I could always turn it around on eBay or in the store booth if I decided I had made a mistake.

It turns out that First Love is a very collectible pattern.  There are sets on eBay similar to the one I brought home with asking prices more than double what I paid for mine.  The more I studied it, the better I liked it.  It has a nice, elegant pattern that is not too fussy or frilly or flowery, just the way I like things.  So, I started monitoring eBay with the idea of adding the serving pieces to my set.  Eventually.  Because this is silver-plate, the prices are relatively steep and I'm thinking I may just add a piece here and there when I'm cruising the vendors at the Round Top Antiques Fairs.  Gives me something specific to look for while I'm wandering around.  No rush.  If I need silverware, I have drawers full of it to use in the meantime.

The eBay feeds alerted me to the fact that not only did the company produce flatware in the First Love pattern, there are also big silver-plate platters and butter dishes and other assorted service pieces.  Well, those are way out of my price range, so probably not going to be adding any of those to my collection.

But, one day, along came a baby's silver cup with a First Love handle across the screen.  The dealer was selling it for dirt cheap because it was engraved.  I watched it for a few days and nobody seemed interested in bidding on a cup that carried an unknown name and date on its side. I finally said "oh, well" and put in a bid.  For a mere $.99 and shipping, the cup took up residence.

1847 Wm. Rogers First Love Flatware

First Love baby cup

Naturally, seeing as how I rescue other folks' ancestor photos all the time, I felt sure I could probably manage to find out something about the person whose name was engraved on the cup.  (That would make the purchase a little more justified in my mind.)

But, even with the full name of "Nancy Kay Knight" and a date of 4-10-51 to work with, I'm finding no data convincing enough to tie the cup to any particular person.  Of course this little girl would now be a grown lady of age 63, probably long married.  And finding people who are most probably still living is a lot more difficult than finding folks who died a century ago.

So, I'm posting this item in the hopes that someone out there knows who this particular Nancy Kay Knight is and, if interested in claiming her baby cup, will get in touch.

The little cup is such a pretty little thing that it reminded me that I have my own silver-plate baby cup that, I believe, was given to me by my Great aunt Fay Branton, who probably purchased it at Scarbroughs in downtown Austin where she worked for many years.  It has been tucked away for decades, but not forgotten.  Mine isn't engraved and the only identification on the bottom is "Community", which is a less desirable brand, but I am glad that I have it.

Mine, on the left, is in severe need of polishing.  And I haven't identified the pattern.  Yet.  Just what I needed, another project.  Thanks, Nancy Kay.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Little House on the Prairie

As frequently happens, if I buy more than one old photo at a time from the same vendor, I am very likely to discover a relationship between the photos.  This isn't hard to understand since so many of these kinds of things are acquired from estate sales, with whole piles of photos originating from the same box in the same house.

Today's photo has a connection with the previous post Cedar Circle Place.  Cedar Circle Place referred to a house in Illinois, while this photo documents a family who lived in Madison, Riley County, Kansas.  The two families were related by marriage.

As was the case with the Cedar Circle Place photo, someone had taken the trouble to identify every person in this photo:

Home of M. Z. Baird (Uncle Zach)
M. Z. Baird, Maude, Rosa Baird (Aunt Rosie)
Wallace (by the team)
Roy and Bennie in front

The photo is badly faded and was difficult to enhance, but I finally was able to pull out the various figures referred to.  Based on the children's appearances and the census records, my best guess is that this photo dates to the early 1890s.

I wasn't as lucky this time with my research.  The Baird family seems to follow the same path as my own ancestors - live quietly and leave few traces behind.

But, I was able to flesh out the picture a wee bit with a handful of family trees posted to Ancestry and census records.

M. Z. Baird was Marion Zachary Taylor Baird, son of William Van Dorn Baird and wife Maria (Ouderkirk).  He was born in New York, but by the 1870 census the family had relocated to Kankakee County, Illinois.  Zach's brother Alexander would marry Francena Loretta Barnard in 1872, she being one of the daughters of the Barnards of Cedar Circle Place.

In 1876, Zach married Rosa A. Baxter, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Ann (Burnett) Baxter.  The couple had four children: Maude Maria born 1877, William Wallace born 1878, Benjamin Baxter born 1884 and Robert Roy born 1887.  This photograph captures the entire family.

The M. Z. Baird family moved from Illinois to Kansas between Wallace's birth in 1878 and Benjamin's birth in 1884.  They settled in Riley County, Kansas.  At the time of the 1900 census the couple had been married 24 years.

A year after the census, Rosa died in 1901.  Zach lived on to age 92 and died in 1940.  They are buried in Milford Cemetery in Geary County, Kansas.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Cedar Circle Place

This photo led me on a merry chase through four generations and several states before I had all the parties pictured here and their relationships fully identified.  The information written on the back of the photo is a genealogist's dream.  Chasing it down took a couple of hours, but at the end I knew who each of these people were to each other.  I love this kind of puzzle, which gives lots of clues, a red herring or two, and threads that lead to a complete picture at the end.  The photo was acquired in a Smithville, Texas, antique store.

The handwritten notes went thus:
Cedar Circle Place (home of Mr. Oliver W. and Mrs. Mary J. Barnard)
Standing:  Mrs. F. Loretta (Barnard) Baird and Mabel (Viall) Dole (Mrs. Clarence Dole)
Seated:  Polly (Barnard) Maulsby, Mrs. Mary J. Barnard holding Clarence Dole's baby, Mrs. Izetta (Barnard) Dole-Townsend
Children:  Marian Townsend and Lela Townsend
Taken the summer Grandpa died.

Lots of places to start, but it seemed logical to start with the owners of the house.  I hit the census records looking for Oliver W. and Mary J. Barnard around the turn of the century.  A likely match popped up at the top of the results list:  Oliver and Mary J. Barnard, living in 1900 in Manteno, Kankakee County, Illinois.

It did not take me long, digging into the various public family trees on Ancestry, to confirm that this was indeed the correct family.  As I continued to check census records and family trees and do a lot of Google searches, I was able to  place each one of the women and even the unnamed baby.

Oliver W. Barmard was an early settler of the Manteno area, receiving a land patent  in 1866 for 160 acres in Kankakee County, Illinois.  Oliver was born in 1828 in Wayne County, Indiana, to parents William and Sally (Williams) Barnard.  By 1850 he had migrated from the mid-eastern border of Indiana to LaPorte County, Indiana,  just south of Lake Michigan.  He receives his land patent in 1866 and by the 1870 census he has settled in Kankakee County, Illinois.  In May of 1877 he makes an appearance in Chicago for his marriage to Mary Jane Williams.  They would have four children, two girls and two boys, all born and raised in the Manteno area.  He died on August 14, 1907.

I theorized at this point that this photo was taken in 1907 and that Oliver was the "Grandpa" who died that summer.  As I progressed with identification of each of the persons in the photo, the theory held and I believe that this was indeed a photo taken about the time that Oliver died.

Mrs. Mary J. Barnard herself is in this photo, the woman seated in the middle holding "Clarence Dole's baby".

Two of the ladies in this photo are daughters of Oliver and Mary Barnard.  The woman standing on the left in a dark dress is identified as Mrs. F. Loretta (Barnard) Baird.  Daughter Francena Loretta was born in 1851 and would have been 56 in 1907.  She married in 1872 to Alexander Baird and the couple had five daughters and two sons.

The woman seated at far right is identified as Mrs. Izetta (Barnard) Dole-Townsend, the other daughter of Oliver and Mary.  She took a little work to run down, because it turns out that she went by her middle name Izetta rather than her given name of Amelia.  I spent a little time trying to tie her to the other woman with the Dole surname, thinking they might be sisters-in-law and erroneously looking for a brother of the named Clarence Dole as Izetta's possible husband.  It wasn't a bad idea, but it sent me down a rabbit trail I should have avoided.

Because it turns out that Amelia Izetta Barnard married twice and produced children with both husbands, quite a number of years apart.  Izetta was born in 1862, and would have been 45 at the time of this photo.  She married first in 1883 to Ira Burton Dole, a salesman, with whom she had three children:  Lillian, Clarence Arthur and Ira.

Son Clarence married in 1906 to Olive Mabel Viall, so the woman standing on the right and identified as Mabel (Viall) Dole is Izetta's daughter-in-law.  That makes the baby held by Mary Jane Barnard her great-grandchild and Izetta's grandchild.  A quick check of the 1910 census identified that baby as Edwin B. Dole, who was born in 1907.

Izetta's husband Ira died at the early age of 28 in 1888.  In 1900 Izetta and her children are living with her parents.  In 1902, Izetta remarried to William Townsend, a store merchant in Manteno.  The couple had two daughters, Lela, born 1904, and Marian Ella, born 1906.  These are the two little girls in the foreground of the group.  They are also the aunts of the baby.

That leaves one lady left to identify.  The woman seated on the far left, identified as Polly (Barnard) Maulsby, proved to be the sister of Oliver Barnard.  She herself would pass away in the next year.

A couple of mildly interesting tidbits surfaced during my research of this family.  Son/husband/grandchild Clarence Arthur Dole turned out to be quite the little gadabout.  Clarence was born in Chicago, married Mabel in Kankakee in 1906, was living in Nebraska in 1910, in Colorado in 1920 (where we learned that little Edwin acquired a younger sister Marjorie), married a second time in 1927 in Yuma, Arizona, was in Wyoming in 1930 and died in 1958 in California.  No grass growing under that boy's feet.

The other interesting tidbit concerns Grandpa Oliver Barnard.  He is mentioned in many a Google search result as being a source of an early spelling of Manteno as Manteneau.  References are made to some books he wrote, including local histories of the Manteno area.  A final search of online books yielded a volume of poetry, Poems of Hope, which was published in 1906.  The little book includes a photo of Oliver and among the many poems are "To Izetta on Her Sixteenth Birthday", "Our Two Boys", two poems addressed to his father and "Lines Addressed to Miss Lillian Dole".   I think he must have been a loving son, father and grandfather to write these tributes.

What fun to puzzle out all these familial connections.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Career Girl

I continue to be a bit surprised at the interesting twists and turns I'm taking in researching the people behind the rescued photos in my collection.  Initially I was satisfied to just half-way pinpoint what part of the country connected to the people caught in the photographer's lens.  As I progress with this project, I'm now inclined to keep digging a bit further.  Every person I've researched so far has turned out to have some interesting aspect to the life long past that makes me think it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to meet him or her.

Today's subject is one of those.  The photo is a small one, picturing a pleasant looking young woman dressed in an outfit with a nautical theme.  The sideways glance and the subtle quirk of the mouth almost suggests that she is amused by some private joke.

The format of the photo is the basic post-card format, dating to about 1907.  On the reverse is written in pencil "Opal Louise Hayes, age 18?".  There is no information to suggest a location.  I seldom use middle names when I'm searching for people, since so frequently they are missing on the records or shown merely as an initial.  But this time, for some reason, I decided to begin my searches looking for the full name.  There was a little germ of an idea that wondered why someone make a point to write out the entire name, like maybe it was the usual way to refer to this young lady.  "Opal Louise, dinner's ready!"  

The hunch proved to be a good one because Opal Louise Hayes leaped right off the top of the search results and it was only minutes before I knew I had the right girl.  Opal Louise Hayes had applied for a passport when she was 33 years old and the passport provided not only a wealth of information but also a photo of an older version of the Opal Louise Hayes in my photograph.

Opal Louise Hayes was born May 4, 1889, in Macon, Missouri.  The passport application does not worry itself with information about her mother, but it establishes that her father was Daniel Joseph Hayes, born in Illinois but at the time of the application was living in New York City.    In the 1900 census the family is living in Moberly, Randolph County, Missouri.  Father Dan is shown as a "commercial" banker or traveler - the census taker's handwriting is atrocious.  Mother Elma is a music teacher.  Opal was apparently the only surviving child to be born to the couple.  By 1910 only Elma and Opal are in the household and Elma is shown as widowed.  However, if Dan was still living in New York City at the time Opal submitted her passport application in 1922, then I'm guessing there was a divorce or the couple were no longer living together for other reasons.

Opal attended Howard Payne College - not the one in Texas but one of the same name in Missouri.  She went on to teach music at Central College, which had merged with Howard Payne.  In the 1930 and 1940 census, she is living in residence at Central College and is shown as associate professor of music.  Apparently she never married.

The dean of music at Central College was another single career woman by the name of Nannie Louise Wright.  It appears that the two women were life-long friends and associates. They provided identification for each other on their respective passport applications and were preparing to travel to Europe on the ship Laconia, sailing from Boston on June 28, 1922.  They both listed their intentions to visit the British Isles, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.  Two musical ladies embarking on a grand tour of Europe.  I'm betting they had a marvelous time that summer.

The physical description of Opal Louise on her passport is interesting.  The usual notations of eye color (grey), hair color (medium brown), and complexion (brunette) were there, but what I found odd was the notation under distinguishing marks of "eyebrows".  The two photos above prove out that she had dramatically arched eyebrows.  One wonders if they were naturally or cosmetically sculpted.

The musical partnership of Nannie Louise Wright and Opal Louise Hayes as dean and associate professor is attested to on many occasions in the newspapers of the time. One of the earliest mentions I found was in the June 29, 1915, issue of the Moberly (Missouri) Weekly Monitor:  "At the 20th annual convention of Music Teachers in St. Joseph, The News Press contains the following mention of Miss Opal Louise Hayes, a Moberly girl now located at Fayette: 'A notable feature of the program was the group of four preludes and eight etudes by N. Louise Wright of Fayette, played by Miss Opal Louise Hayes, of Fayette, a pupil of the composer.  Miss Hayes is a remarkably accomplished pianist as regards both technique and interpretation and the compositions of her teacher also deserve the high praise which was accorded them by the teachers who heard the recital.'"

 The two women gave numerous concerts together.  The following appeared in the March 9, 1937, issue of the Sedalia (Missouri) Democrat.  Again, we see those arched eyebrows and quirky mouth.  Opal Louise looks a bit like the cat who ate the canary here. 

On October 15, 1940, the Moberly newspaper mentions that the two were entertaining the Moberly chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  The program consisted of 3 parts:  (1) compositions of Dr. Wright's, including a group of children's pieces; (2) compositions of Miss Hayes; and (3) preludes and waltzes which they dedicated to E. F. Swinney of Kansas City, who had donated a Conservatory of Music at Central College.  A few days later the two were playing duo piano numbers for the Moberly Music Club.

Both women wrote many original compositions and a quick Google search turned up sources for Opal Louise Hayes' musical pieces that are still available for purchase through Amazon and eBay.  There is a YouTube video of someone playing a piece written by Nannie Louise Wright.  Both women definitely left their musical mark on the world.

Nannie Louise Wright died in 1958 and is buried in Fayette, Missouri, where she lived most of her life.

Opal Louise Hayes was one of six alumni who were given distinguished alumni plaques by Central College on April 20, 1961.  An article published in her hometown Moberly's newspaper  to celebrate this honor included the following:

"A noted composer and dedicated music educator, Miss Hayes was born in Macon.  She studied at Washington University and Tulane University before entering Central college, where she earned the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees.  In 1922 she traveled and studied abroad and in 1934 she took the Master of Arts Degree from Columbia University.

"Miss Hayes began her career as music educator at Howard-Payne College and in 1925 when that school was merged with Central she continued on the faculty as associate professor of piano and theory.  She retired in 1960 after 48 years of teaching.

"Miss Hayes has performed in numerous recitals in various cities, frequently presenting programs of her own compositions.  The most notable of these included recitals in Steinway Hall, New York; Sarasota, Fla., and at Intermont College, Bristol, W. Va.

"A tireless worker, she devoted much of her spare time to composition.  She has published more than 75 compositions for children in grades one to three, as well as a number of other works."

Oddly enough, I could find no obituary for Opal Louise Hayes, nor could I find any listing for her burial on FindAGrave.  From the Social Security Death Index I was able to determine that she died in February 1975.

I had no idea when I selected this particular photograph for research that I would end up with a role model.  I love finding success stories for other single career women.  I hope that little enigmatic smile that Opal Louise shows in her photos meant she was having a great time.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Uncle Floyd Everhart

I guess it is not too surprising that I am finding linked photos in my collection, considering that most of the photos that hit antique stores are purchased in lots at estate and garage sales.  Here is another example of discovering that my chosen photo for the day is connected to photos from three previous blog entries.

The photographer's stamp for this photo is Bryant, 103 Monroe St., Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I found two listings for W. D. Bryant at this address in the City Directories for Grand Rapids, in 1895 and 1897.

I had no problem finding Floyd Everhart in the census records and there were a few family trees that gave the vital statistics.  I found no scandal or dramatic stories and no military information or newspaper articles, so it appears that Floyd Everhart was just an average person who lived an average life.

Floyd Johnson Everhart was born April 11, 1855, in Wayland, Michigan, a twin to brother Ephraim about whom I could find nothing more than mention in a lineage book.  I suspect he may not have lived to maturity, for in 1870 I find the family living in Ottawa County, Michigan, with the following household members:  father Samuel, a wagon maker, age 40 and born in New York; mother Eliza (Child), age 32 and also born in New York; Floyd, age 15; Carrie, age 12; and George, age 6.

Floyd married twice, the first time on November 29, 1877, to Mary Josephine Gilbert.  (It is Mary Josephine who provides the connections to the other blog entries, see below.)  Some of the family trees submitted to Ancestry show a son George, but I found nothing to support this fact.  In 1880 Floyd's brother George is shown in the household with Floyd and Josephine and could have been confused for a child of the couple.  George is also enumerated in his father's household, but it is easy to see that the two Georges are the same person, being the same age and the same occupation of "varnisher".  Still, I was unable to locate Floyd in the 1900 census and by the time he reappears in 1910, any children could have been grown and out on their own, so it could very well be that he had a son he named for his younger brother.

The death records for Michigan reveal that Mary Josephine died on March 23, 1895, in Grand Rapids.  Four years later Floyd remarries on May 5, 1899, to Louisa Farr (who was entering her third marriage). Floyd and "Luella" are living in Grand Rapids in 1910, where Floyd is working as a grocer.  In 1920, Floyd and "Lula" have moved to Walker in the same county and Floyd has taken up farming.  Floyd died on August 2, 1928, in Wyoming, Kent County, Michigan.  I was not able to locate the cemetery where he was buried.

Now for the threads of connection within this blog.  Mary Josephine Gilbert was the daughter of Thomas and Deantha (Ackerman) Gilbert.   One of her brothers was Warren Joseph Gilbert, who was the first husband of Maude Bristol Gilbert Alexander Bush, whose story was told in Endurance.  It turns out that Julia Hunter, one of the photos discussed in Hunter Photos is also a Gilbert sibling.  There may be connections to the Haas Photos as well since as I mentioned elsewhere the handwriting on all of these photos is strikingly familiar.

Extraneous note and confession...I thought when I began to research Floyd's records that he  was going to prove to be connected with the preacher who ministered to the folks around McDade for years and years.  I dug out the pastor's obituary, confident that I was onto a solid connection, only to be reminded that the beloved minister was Eberhart and not Everhart.  Oh, well.


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Well Traveled Clergyman

I approached this photo with trepidation because I only had a surname and a Canadian location.  I had not done any research in Canadian records and wasn't sure when I began just what is online to work with.  I was relieved to discover there were plenty of records available to help me locate the correct gentleman.

I began by looking for information about the photographer, Wm. Craig, operating out of St. Catherines, Ontario.  I was able to pinpoint Mr. Craig's activity in St. Catharines to 1871.  Estimating that the gentleman pictured was about 40 years old, I began to search for a Rev. Brookman born about 1830.

The 1871 Canadian census listed a William Brookman, clergyman for the Church of England, residing in Ontario, age 42.  I felt like this was probably my man and further research made me even more confident.  In the Rev. Brookman's household was his wife Elizabeth, age 45, and five children.  Rev. Brookman and his wife were both born in England, as was their oldest daughter Ada, age 17.  The next two children, Catherine, age 15, and William, age 13, were born in India.  The youngest two, Helen, age 11, and Edith, age 9, were both in Canada.

I moved back to the 1861 census and found the family living in Dorchester in Southwestern Ontario.  I also found three members of the family listed again in Malahide Township.  I'm not sure of the rules for Canadian censuses, so I have no explanation for this odd occurrence.  The full family listing in the first instance adds the information that daughter Catherine was born in "Madrid" (which should have been Madras, India), son William, born in some completely illegible scrawl, and daughter Helen born in West Canada.  The second census entry gives only the father and daughters Ada and Catherine, with the notation that they normally reside in Dorchester.  I can only guess that the three were visiting or traveling and got caught by a census taker a second time.

At this point I went back to Ancestry and started looking for submitted family trees and found several.  The more I looked at these family trees, the more I was convinced that I had the right man.

William Brookman was born on May 20, 1829, in Hampshire, England, to parents William Sr. and Eliza Martha (Tate) Brookman.  William Jr. would marry three times.  His first marriage on October 20, 1853, occurred at St. Mary's in Lambeth, Surrey, England, to Elizabeth Jane Harvey.  It is the marriage to Elizabeth that produces all but one of his children.  Elizabeth was born November 21, 1824, in Dorset, England, gave birth to all the children listed above in the 1871 census, and died on June 25, 1872.  She is buried in the Trinity Anglican Cemetery in Morpeth, Ontario.

A few years later William married Julia Henrietta Ball on April 21, 1875, at St. Mark's in Niagara, Ontario.  Julia was 31 to William's 46 and was soon expecting Herbert.  Unfortunately both the baby and Julia died just days after his birth.  The baby, born on March 22, 1876, lived two days.  His mother died five days later on March 29th, a month before she would have celebrated her first wedding anniversary.

William married a third time on February 25, 1879, to Anna Cornwall at St. Andrew's in Grimsby, Ontario.  No one provided a death date for Anna but supposedly she is buried in St. Andrews Anglican Cemetery in Lincoln, Ontario.

Rev. Brookman's four daughters by Elizabeth all married, the two oldest at the Christ Church at St. Catherine's during his tenure there as rector.  Son William died in 1877 at the age of 18 or 19.  I was not able to find any information regarding his early death.

A short bio I found for Rev. Brookman states that he immigrated to Toronto in the late 1840s after a number of years in the East Indies.  He was an ordained minister in the Church of England, but left the Church to establish his own Church of the Baptized Believers.  Apparently he requested that his church be dissolved upon his death and his request was honored.

It appears that Rev. Brookman was a minister who was willing to lead his congregation in the building of new church buildings.  When he was rector of the St. John's Anglican Church (1858-1863), the construction of their building began in 1861 under his direction.  While Rev. Brookman was rector of the Christ Church at St. Catherines, a post he assumed in 1876 and left in 1880, the congregation began a new building which became the St. Thomas Church.

One of the earliest mentions I find for Rev. Brookman is in a history of a Canadian oil town named Petrolia.  During its early days, The Church of England first held services in Fletcher & Boswell's barroom.  The bar would be curtained off and the congregation would be seated facing away from it.  Rev. Brookman "the sailor preacher" would lead the services.

A Brooklyn, New York, newspaper mentions Rev. Brookman in a small article in September 1890, noting that he would be delivering a sermon on "The Resurrection Needful for Future Life" to a meeting of the Association For the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.  This would have been after he formed his own church, for the article also mentions that "Rev. William Brookman, pastor of an independent church at Toronto, Ontario, and for many years a Church of England clergyman" had stepped in as a substitute speaker, making an extemporaneous address to the group.

Rev. Brookman wrote at least two publications, one book sized and one booklet sized.  "The Destiny of Mankind" was published in 1899 and "The Future of the Non-Elect Dead, the Vast Majority of Mankind in All Ages" was published in 1906.

Rev. William Brookman died on April 5, 1907, in Toronto and is buried there in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery.  His tombstone includes a large carving of an anchor to symbolize his long tenure as Chaplain to the Navy Veterans.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Chatting Over the Fence

Today's photo did not turn out to be one of those research efforts that produced a lot of information, although I think I did manage to identify the two subjects.

In my personal photography, I tend to go for the unposed, casual shots of family and friends.  You get some odd results with that approach, but sometimes some unusual and interesting results.  I think this photo falls into the unusual and interesting.

The man and woman seem to be visiting…I don't really get that there is a romantic thing going on here, but I guess there could be.  That huge bank of vines hides most of the detail of the woman, but I love her hair and the way she was caught hanging her arms across the greenery.  I love the man's straw hat and relaxed posture and the way his sleeves are rolled up in what you know was in reaction to the typical Texas heat.

The identification on the reverse includes a faded penciled "Luther and Nan" which has been over written with a typed "Mr. Luther Milstead and Miss Nan Simms, San Antonio Texas, Aug 09".

The most likely match for the man is Madison Luther Milstead, born February 18, 1883, in Madisonville, Texas, who by the time of the 1900 census is living in Tyler County, Texas, in central east Texas.  Luther's death certificate gives his parents as Allen Milstead and Martha Risinger, but apparently his father either died or is out of the picture when Luther is still quite young.  In 1900 his mother has remarried to Francis Marion Bass and the census tells us that they have been married since about 1886 and have at least five children of their own.

I was unable to find Luther in 1910, but I did find his WWI draft registration of 1918.  That shows him living in Kirbyville, Texas, and working as a drug clerk in Orange.  His nearest relative is given as Mrs. M. E. Bass (mother) and his description as medium height, medium build, brown eyes, black hair and with the history of a fractured arm.

Two years later, the 1920 census shows him living in Beaumont, Texas, still a drug salesman, boarding in the home of Joseph McKenzie.  Luther has with him a new wife, Louise Barbin, who he married on December 31, 1919.   In 1930 I was unable to find the couple, but in 1940 they are living in Port Arthur and Luther has become a collector for a retail clothing store.  I never find any mention of children born to the couple.  The last record I find for him before his death is his WWII draft registration, confirming his birthplace of Madisonville and showing his employment at that time with the Jefferson County Food Stamp Plan in Port Arthur.

Luther died on December 24, 1963, in Beaumont, after falling from his back porch, fracturing his left hip and ultimately dying from a pulmonary aneurysm.  His occupation is given as collector for White House Dry Goods, and the informant is his wife Louise.  He is buried in the City Cemetery in Kirbyville.

Louise survived her husband by nine years before dying on February 26, 1970.  She is buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Beaumont.

Shifting to Nan Simms, I think I may have found the right woman in a Nancy Simms who is living in San Antonio in 1910.  There is a photo of Nancy Simms attached to a public family tree in Ancestry, taken when she is middle-aged with grandchildren, and the eyes and cheeks are the same as the young woman in this photo.

Nancy Simms was born June 23, 1888, to parents Thomas and Josephine (Dunn) Simms.  Thomas was a traveling salesman, making me wonder if he was a colleague of Luther Milstead.  She married Lawrence Bartholomew Walker on June 5, 1912, and they had several children.  She died on April 27, 1962, in San Antonio, and is buried in Chapel Hill Memorial Garden.  Her obituary is found in the San Antonio Express-News and tells us she had one son and three daughters and at the time of her death 10 grandchildren.

This photo catches Luther and Nan in the prime of youth, before marriage and children and wars.  A happy couple on a summer's day in 1909 in San Antonio.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Flapper Bride

This wedding portrait is particularly interesting to me.  I knew before I started searching that this had to have been taken in the 1920s.  The wedding dress is indicative of the flapper style of the time, with the dropped waistline.  I love the way the streamers from the bouquet hang down, looking like they are a part of the dress.  I love  the way her veil pools on the floor.  I love the little vase of flowers on the pedestal.  The composition of the entire photo is just so pleasing.

There is no photographer's mark on this photo, so I don't know who deserves the credit.

The identification on the reverse reads:  "_____? Richter, Minnie Pillack" and an additional note beneath reads:  "Minnie baked Martha Zschech's wedding cake 5/28".

There was plenty to work with here, so it did not take me long to identify the couple.  Clara Minna "Minnie" Pillack was born August 8, 1905, in Fedor, Lee County, Texas, to parents Carl Edward Andreas and Clara (Faske) Pillack.  On November 4, 1928, in Fedor, Minnie married Max John Christian Richter, born February 16, 1904, in Walburg, Williamson County, Texas, to parents Traugott and Minna Magdalene Hulda (Schneider) Richter.

Perhaps the name Pillack rings a bell?  This was another case of connecting to another photo in my collection.  Minnie's sister Bertha was featured in an earlier post, Photo Anomalies.

Minnie and Max seem to have lived an average life.  They relocated to Alice, Texas, where Max worked as a farmer.  I was able to locate evidence of several children born to the couple.  In the 1930 census they are brand new first time parents.  Max, age 26, and Minnie, age 25, have a one month old daughter, Doris.  By 1940 the family has grown considerably.  Daughter Doris is 10, daughter Joyce is 8, daughter Mary Ann is 6, daughter Elfrieda is 4 and Edward (shown as a daughter in the census, but I suspect is really a son) is seven months.  At least one more child is born, in 1941, son Lawrence Ray Richter who I found searching the Texas death records.  There may be others, but records are harder to dig out past 1940 due to privacy restrictions.

There was not much more to be found for this couple, but I did find a mention in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on July 2, 1961.  Max Richter tied with another local farmer in Jim Wells County for the honor of "first bales" of cotton for the season.

All in all, it appears they lived a normal farming life in Alice.  Minnie died in 1984 and Max in 1991.  Both are buried in Zion Cemetery in Walburg.

I had one more tiny mystery to solve before I left this couple.  I wanted to see if I could find Martha Zschech, whose wedding cake was baked by Minnie Pillack in May of 1928.  It did not take me long to find her, and when I did I was astonished to find a photo that is very reminiscent of the photo here.

Martha Zschech married Edwin Wagner on May 20, 1928.  Martha and Edwin are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery in Fedor and their burial information and wedding photo is posted on Find a Grave.  I hope that Minnie baked Martha's wedding cake because they were close friends, although I realize that Minnie might just have been a gifted baker who was hired for the job.  But my gut tells me that these two girls had grown up together and were close friends who both just happened to get married in the same year.


Monday, June 23, 2014


When I start a new research project, I flip through the pile of photos in my rescue box and look for something to pull me to a particular photo for that day.  Today this photo caught my eye because of the necklace draped over the collar of this lady's blouse.  I thought at first it was a locket, but when I pulled out a magnifying glass and studied it closely, I think it is instead a coin or medallion of some kind that is suspended not from a necklace chain but from a chain attached to a pin at the collar.

The young lady's profile looks so serene, her hair tucked back into a chignon looking so elegant.  The photograph was taken at Swarthout Studio in Ludington, Michigan, I'm guessing about 1890.  The identification on the reverse reads "Maude Bristol Gilbert, Warren's wife".

Elegant and serene is not what I found as began digging in the records.

Maude Eleanor Bristol was born July 1, 1876, in Ludington, to parents Peter M. and Rebecca Jane (Fuller) Bristol.  When she was 18, she married a local saloon keeper, Warren Joseph Gilbert, seven years her senior, on March 6, 1895.  Ten months later, Maude gave birth to their only child, Norman Jay Gilbert.

The marriage did not last very long.  On April 28, 1899, Maude was granted a divorce on the grounds of desertion and non support.  Ironically, her ex-husband died a few months later, on August 9, 1899, of "congestion of liver" (cirrhosis) and "hemorrhage of bowels".

Maude did not let grass grow under her feet, because before the year was out she married a mill worker, William Alexander, on November 30, 1899.  She and her new husband and her 4 year old son are living in Lake Ann, Benzie County, Michigan, when the census was taken in 1900.  Again she married an older man, ten years her senior.  She and William had two daughters, Margaret Jane and Helen Irene.

Maude's second marriage was also brief.  By the 1910 census she had been widowed and is shown as head of a household including 13-year-old son Norman, 9-year-old daughter Margaret, 6-year-old daughter Helen and her mother, Rebecca Bristol.  Maude is employed as a factory laborer.  This census records gives us the information that Maude had given birth four times and 3 of the children were still living.  A check of the Michigan death records reveals that Maude gave birth to a son, Luther Alexander, in 1902, who died at the age of 1 on September 17, 1903.

Maude married yet again, on December 9, 1910, to retired farmer William H. Bush.  This time there was a 30 year age difference and she was again widowed by the time of the 1920 census.  Another daughter, Ruby, had joined the family about 1913.  At the time of the 1920 census, Maude is living with her 3 daughters, ranging in age from 19 to 7.  Son Norman had married in 1917.

Maude seems to have remained unmarried the remainder of her life.  In 1930, she and her youngest daughter Ruby, then 17, are living with the family of her son Norman.  Maude is working as a practical private nurse.

The last mention I find of Maude is a newspaper item, found in a personals column, which mentions that Mrs. Maud Bush of Traverse City had spent the previous 10 days visiting her daughters, Mrs. Lloyd Schumaker and Mrs. Russel Bluckner, before leaving for Ann Arbor to receive medical treatment at University Hospital.  This item was printed on March 12, 1934, and somewhat a foreshadowing.  Maude died on January 27, 1935, and is buried in the Lakeview Cemetery of Ludington, Michigan.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Unexpected Links

This badly damaged photograph was purchased in Smithville, Texas.  It presented a bit of a challenge to identify because the original photographer's mark has had a label pasted over it that I did not want to remove.  The label includes a town, but the state had either worn off or been torn off at some point.  Still, I had several clues to work with, so I set to work.  About an hour later, I had a bit of a surprise when I realized this photo was connected to another in my rescue collection.  If not for these research exercises I've assigned myself, I might never had made that connection because the connection was buried a couple of generations down.  

The complete identification notes for this photo read "The uncle who loved and helped me" "Aunt Marys husband" "Papa's sister" "Uncle Robert" "R. E. Gutherie, Guthriesville," and faintly at the bottom "helped me through school".  Obviously the notations were made at different times.  Some are in pencil and there is at least 3 different colors of ink, plus a typed label.  The handwriting varies.  Lots of clues, but common names that might appear anywhere in the country.

The obvious beginning point was to find Guthriesville.  Only one popped up with a Google search, a town in Pennsylvania.  I moved over to Ancestry and tried to find a census record from 1850-1880 for a Robert Guthrie in Pennsylvania.  No match.  There were two possibilities in 1870, a Robert Guthrie with wife Mary in Missouri and a Robert Guthrie with wife Mary in South Carolina.  I moved to the public family trees and found a tree for both of these Robert Guthries and picked up the maiden names for their respective wives.

I went back to Google and tried Guthriesville in combination with Missouri - no match.  But, when I ran a search on Guthriesville in combination with South Carolina, I got a hit.  A gazetteer website pinpointed a Guthriesville in York County, South Carolina, but had no other information.  Back to Ancestry and the census I went.

Concentrating on the Robert and Mary Guthrie I had located in South Carolina, I began to chase them from census to census and in 1860 they are listed in Guthriesville, York County, South Carolina.  Bingo.  Robert is a farmer in every census I find him.  In 1850 he and a Sarah J. Guthrie are living in the home of a Francis Irvine in York County.  No relationship is given to the head of household, but I suspect a little digging might prove a family connection.  Robert is shown as a laborer, but no occupation is given for Sarah.  My gut reaction was that Robert and Sarah were siblings who had lost their parents and were living with relatives, as they are shown intermingled with the Irvine family according to age.  My experience has been that lodgers/workers are generally enumerated after all family members in the household.

Moving to 1860, Robert is 31 years old and has married Mary, age 26.  There are no children.  In 1870, Robert E. and Mary J. have an apparent daughter, Ailcy, age 10.  In 1880, the household now consists of Robert, Mary and Robert's sister Jane S. (and I'm betting this is the same woman as the Sarah J. back in 1850).  Robert and Mary are in York County in all of the censuses and Robert is shown as a farmer.  In 1880, the sister Sarah is shown as postmistress.

A search of the public family trees on Ancestry produced one match.   In this tree, Robert E. Guthrie is shown as born in 1829 and died on December 4, 1891.  He married September 9, 1851, to Mary Jane Williamson, born November 24, 1834, and died March 10, 1909.  No children are shown and no information for Robert's parents or siblings is included.

I decided to check FamilySearch, not really expecting to find anything as the records for South Carolina are limited and always sketchy.  I did find Robert's will dated December 14, 1881, in which he leaves all property to his wife Mary Jane and appoints her as co-executor with a Jos. F. Wallace.  No property and no specific bequests are made.  The will is a brief paragraph leaving everything to his wife.

As a last ditch effort to find out anything more about this couple, I decided to go back and search the Ancestry family trees for Mary Jane Williamson with the dates obtained from the one family tree I had unearthed for Robert.  It was this last effort that surprised me with a link to another photograph I discussed here previously.

My intention was to try and identify who the photograph belonged to.  Did Mary Jane Williamson have a brother who might be "Papa"?  When I moved the focus of my search to Mary Jane, I found a detailed family tree that gave her parents (William Lewis Williamson and Sarah Jane Jeffrey) and her two brothers, William and John.  William Augustus Williamson lived his life in Tennessee, but John Jeffrey Williamson moved to Texas, living in Brazos and Hays counties.  I think "Papa" was John Jeffrey, also known as "JJ", Williamson.

So then I moved down to John Jeffrey's family to see who the possibilities were for the niece or nephew who was loved by Uncle Robert and who had been helped through school.  John Jeffrey Williamson married Mary Virginia Carlley and had several children.

A light went off in my head.  I remembered running into Mary Virginia Carlley before.  I did a quick search back through the photographs already discussed here and yes, she and son C. J. were the subjects of the photo discussed in the entry Genealogists Love Puzzles.  That photo was also purchased in Smithville, so I'm sure it probably came from the same source.  There are several possibilities for the person who made the notations on this photograph.  I want to think it might have been CJ himself, who became a lawyer, but there's no way to know for sure.

What I do know is that whoever wrote the words on this photograph, there was affection between that person and this Uncle Robert back in South Carolina.  It is unfortunate that this photo is so damaged, but I think the eyes show kindness.

And that white beard.  Uncle Robert would have been a great Santa Claus.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Shadows Behind the Light

When I first acquired this photo, I just assumed it was a wedding portrait with a pair of parents alongside the happy couple.  I did not pay all that much attention to the identifications on the reverse; just confirmed that there was an ID for each of the persons in the photo.  When I finally paid attention, I realized that we had a much different situation here.  I'm now of the opinion that this is some kind of confirmation photograph.  

Before we get into the details of what I have learned about these folks, let's talk a bit about the photographer.  The photo was taken by John Trlica, who maintained a photography studio in Granger, Texas, from 1924 to the mid 1950s.  I was surprised to find an article about him on the Texas Escapes website, which linked to a book of his photographs that was compiled and published a few years ago and which book I found on eBay and am now waiting for it to arrive.  It turns out that John Trlica was an unusual man for his time and documented his hometown with photographs not only of the usual middle class white folks, but also of the poor folks, the Hispanics, the African Americans and other ethnic people of the area who were pretty much ignored in that day and age.  He took photos of scenery in and around Granger as well.  His legacy was the photo documentation of a small Texas town.  He drove around town with advertising covers on his spare wheel which carried slogans like "Photographs Live Forever" and "Photographs Tell the Story".   He must have been quite a character and I look forward to adding the book of his photographs to my collection of Williamson County history books.

Trlica was especially busy taking photographs of the Czech families in the area.  The subjects in this particular photograph were some of those first and second generation Czech citizens of Granger.

The identifications on the reverse read "Annie Naizer Rosipal", "Martha Bartosh Bigon (aunt)", "Henry F. Naizer" and "William Bartosh (uncle)".   It did not take me long to discover that we had here two sets of brother and sister:  Henry and Annie and Martha and William.

Annie and Henry were children of John Rudolph and Marcellina (Bartosh) Naizer.  Henry was the oldest of nine children in the 1930 census of Williamson County and Annie was the second oldest.

Records for Henry were difficult to find, but his death certificate gives the cold vital particulars:  born May 4, 1909, in Fayette County, Texas, and died October 8, 1980, buried in Calvary Cemetery in Granger.  He was married to a Mary Lee Mann and she is buried beside him.  His death certificate also tells us he was co-owner of a furniture and hardware store in Granger.

Annie's story is a short one.  She was born July 12, 1912, and married a Louis James Rosipal/Rozypal after 1930 (when she is still shown in her father's household).   Although there are numerous Rosipals buried in Granger cemeteries,  Louis and his parents were living in Sinton, Texas, for most of the available records.  So either they relocated shortly after Annie and Louis married or possibly they lived in Sinton all along and Louis knew Annie through relatives in Granger.  However they knew each other, their marriage was not a long one. Annie died on March 3, 1934, in Beeville, from a "toxic growth" resulting from toxemia during pregnancy.  She was 22 years old.  Her death certificate says burial took place in Granger, but I was unable to find where.  I suspect she was buried in Calvary Cemetery, since there is an "Unknown" Rosipal buried in an unmarked grave.

I tracked her widower for a bit.  Louis remarried and is buried beside his second wife in Sinton Cemetery.  None of the public family trees mention his first marriage, so I assume there were no surviving children of Louis' marriage to Annie to clue in the few genealogists who name him in their trees to the fact that there was even another marriage.  It turned out that Louis had his own tragic ending.  In July 1950, he and his wife were killed in a car collision west of Sinton.

William Bartosh and Martha Bigon were younger siblings of Annie's and Henry's mother Marcellina.  Their parents were Valentin and Filomena (Vacek) Bartosh.   Valentin and Filomena and most of their children are buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Granger.   William and Martha fell in the middle of the Bartosh children, William being born July 3, 1889, and Martha being born February 2, 1901.

Martha married Joe E. Bigon and in 1930 they are shown as the owner and saleslady of a bakery in Granger.  Joe Bigon died in 1937 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.  Martha's life took an apparently tragic turn and she died in 1946 in the Austin State Hospital of unknown natural causes with a note on her death certificate that an inquest was performed.  A notice in the Taylor newspaper a few months later issues a notice of final settlement to persons having a claim against her estate and that William Bartosh is guardian of the estate of Martha Bigon, a person of unsound mind.

William Bartosh married and worked as a bank cashier.  He died in 1968 from a heart attack and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.

What I took for a photograph with happy connotations (and hopefully at the time it was a happy occasion) ended up overladen with sadness.  I still wonder if this is a confirmation photograph of Annie or if it might be part of a photographic package done at the time of her wedding.  And why these particular 4 people when there were so many siblings of both generations in the area?  I would like to know if other photographs were taken that day and might tell the rest of the story.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Solemn Little Boy

It's been a couple of days since my last posting - I just took a break; no chance of running out of rescues  any time soon.

This photo was purchased in Elgin, Texas.  I couldn't resist this serious little boy in his dapper outfit.  This photo dates to the 1920s and the reverse has the familiar postcard markings.

The little gentleman is identified as Billy Hugh Simmons.  I wasn't able to dig out much information on Billy aside from the vital statistics.

Billy Hugh Simmons was born on April 7, 1921, in Dallas, to parents William Leander and Viona (Murley) Simmons.  In 1940 William was a night operator in the concrete operations of what I believe was a construction company.  The family was living in Greenville, Hunt County at the time of the 1930 and 1940 censuses.

On September 21, 1942, Billy Hugh Simmons enlisted to serve in World War II.  From what I could find, it appears he served in the Medical Administrative Corps of the Army.  I was unable to find a marriage record, but it appears that he married to Eva Francis Loftis after his service stint.  I found four birth records with parents Billy Simmons and Eva Loftis:  Billy Wayne Simmons, Eva Sandra Simmons, Robert Lee Simmons and Craig Allen Simmons.

Billy Hugh Simmons died on April 7, 1989, in Dallas, and is buried in Grove Hill Memorial Park.

It is always a little hard to find information for those whose lives extend into recent history, so we don't know much more about Billy Hugh except the basic vital statistics.

But I found it interesting to look into the eyes of this unsmiling little boy.  Can one see the hint of a soldier and father to be?


Thursday, June 12, 2014

From Mother to Son

Today's rescued ancestor led me down some interesting paths as I ran the normal searches through census and vital records databases.  The photo is in a tri-fold cover and was taken by Bryant Studios in Fort Worth, Texas.  On the lowest cover fold is inscribed "To Otto E. Wollner from Mother".

The Wollner family was quite well known in the Fort Worth area, so Otto was not difficult to find.  He was born in 1914, a twin, and died in 1975 in Fort Worth.  The 1930 census shows the family living in Fort Worth and consisting of father Carl, age 40, born in Germany and immigrated in 1909, mother Erica G., age 48, born in Germany and immigrated in 1912, and children Helen E., age 17, Charles E. and Otto E., twins age 15, Johanna M., age 9, and Chrystene, age 5.  All the children were born in Texas.  Carl's occupation is given as manager of the Panther Oil Company.

In 1940 the family is still all together, none of the children married, and Carl, age 50, is now shown as owner of his oil business.

A little digging produced the information that Carl Wollner, in partnership with a Mr. A. M. Pate, was a founding partner in the Panther Oil and Grease Manufacturing Company begun in 1922 in a tin barn on NE 20th Street in Fort Worth.  The company grew into Texas Refinery Corporation, one of Fort Worth's oldest businesses.   Apparently Mr. Wollner was an accomplished speaker as there are many newspaper mentions of his appearances at various churches and organizations to deliver motivational talks.  I was unable to find an obituary for him, but I did find several passing references to his death while on a trip in 1945.

The first newspaper mention I find for Carl and Erica Wollner is in the Galveston Daily News on February 6, 1912, where notice of a marriage license was issued to the couple.  I'm guessing that this was soon after Erica arrived in 1912.  Vital records tell us that daughter Helen was born on February 11, 1913, followed by the twin boys Charles and Otto on September 11, 1914, a stillborn son on June 26, 1918, daughter Johnanna on March 16, 1921, and finally daughter Patricia Christine on May 9, 1924.

From the various birth and death records available, plus a few family trees posted to Ancestry, I learned that mother Erica was born Gertrude Ida Erica zur Nedden in Altoona, Germany, on February 28, 1882, to parents Otto Carl Friedrich zur Nedden and Antoine Alwine Kruger.  She died on November 20, 1973, in Fort Worth.

To this point, all is fairly cut and dried facts.  I kept scanning about, hoping to find out something interesting about this family other than their connection to the oil business.  For fairly prominent citizens, I was not finding helpful obituaries or intriguing news articles (with one exception to be discussed later).  So I looked a few places that I really did not expect to find anything, just on the odd chance.

Fold3 is a subscription database of primarily military and government records.  Since Carl was an immigrant with a family, I didn't expect to find any military records, but I thought I might find a draft registration since he had been naturalized as a United States Citizen.  I really wasn't expecting to find an FBI file.  The contents were rather tame as those things go, but it was interesting nevertheless and something new to my research experience.  It dated to 1917 at a time when the government was keeping an eye on German sympathizers.

The first item in the file is dated December 13, 1917, and states that "at 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon…one Carl Wollner…had a German flag flying over his home and that his wife had been making some very strong Pro-German remarks, one especially as follows:  'I have only one country, and that is Germany'. "  A Special Agent was dispatched to the Oriental Oil Company where Carl was employed as a credit man and he was brought in for an interview.  In addition to this incident, the office also had a report of a telegram that had been mis-delivered, intended to be delivered to Carl Wollner and which had raised the suspicions of the accidental recipient and subsequently reported to authorities.  In the telegram a Mr. Fisher had sent a message to Carl which read "For my sake please get out OK".   The telegram turned out to be in reference to an advertising pamphlet called O. K. Copy that the sender of the telegram was working on with Mr. Wollner.  The Special Agent closed this matter with the comment that Wollner has satisfied him as to his loyalty.

The last item in the file regards the failure of Mrs. Wollner to register under the Alien Enemy Act.  A letter had been received at the office from Mr. Wollner to explain her failure to register.  "For fear you would miss my wife's name in checking up the lists of German women registered here, I thought it best to notify you, as I did the Detective Department verbally, that Mrs. Wollner has been confined to the house for several weeks which prevented her from registering.  She will not be able to leave the house for several weeks because of the fact that she gave birth to a dead child today and she herself is in a rather precarious condition."  He goes on to say that she will register as soon as her condition will permit and provides the name of Dr. Jewel F. Daughety who is treating his wife.   The Agent in Dallas notes that he has verified the statement and will arrange for her registration when her condition will permit it.

The final item of interest I was able to find through newspaper searches was printed both in the Mexia Weekly Herald and in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.  Carl Wollner had acquired an old Bible, one of the oldest and still legible Bibles in the United States, dating to 1665 and weighing 25 pounds.  It was a Lutheran Bible, printed in ancient German, with elaborate frontispiece and several pages of fine wood block prints.  It also contained an ancient map of the Holy Land.  The leather cover was embossed with a presentation date of 1670 in gold leaf.  The corners of the book were bound in brass work and a fine clasp lock.  The Corpus Christi article noted that it was a shame that the Wollner family, although German, could not read the ancient German, but that it was a prized possession.

One cannot help but wonder where that Bible is today.  All of the immediate family is now gone.  Daughter Johnanna was the last to die in 2012 in Poughkeepsie, New York.  The parents, daughter Helen and both sons are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Fort Worth.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Game is Afoot

Yesterday while browsing through the Antique Mall in Elgin, I flipped through a collection of antique photos and found several that were identified, a few that were priced too high for me to consider.  I ended up rescuing four of them. 

These were the first rescues in awhile.  I had toyed with the idea of dropping the whole endeavor, feeling sometimes like it is a futile effort, but this blog and the mini research exercises that it is providing me has rekindled the flame.

I had picked up a half dozen possibilities yesterday and was about to stop and decide who was going to make the cut to be rescued, when I picked up the following photo and it immediately went into the purchase pile.

Those who know me well know that I am a long term aficionado of Sherlock Holmes, having discovered the stories when I was in my teens and devouring them with gusto.  The love of the world of Sherlock Holmes has stayed with me throughout my life and at the moment I have a collection of Holmesian material that almost fills an entire bookcase.

So naturally when I turned this photo over and discovered it to be Mr. and Mrs. John Moriarty, I knew it had to come home with me.  (If you are not a Sherlock Holmes fan, Moriarty was his arch-nemesis.) I was confident there would be no problem chasing this couple down with a "rare" name like Moriarty and a photographer's stamp to work with.

Alas, Moriarty is not an uncommon name to be found in Massachusetts in the early 1900s and there were so many John Moriartys as to make me reel back in horror on my first census search.  There were John Moriartys everywhere and quite a number of them in the area of Holyoke where the photograph was taken.  Quite a few of the Johns had similar birth dates.  With no name for the wife, I was at a loss where to start.

I decided this could very well be a wedding portrait, probably in the 1890-1910 time frame, so I began looking in 1910 for a John Moriarty who had been married during that period.  Only one of the potential Johns fit the criteria and was living in Holyoke in 1910.  He is listed with wife Katherine and children Mary, age 7, John, age 5, Julia, age 4, and Edward, age 2.  The couple had been married 8 years, both born in Ireland, and John is working as a delivery clerk in a freight house.  

Looking for Johns and Katherines kept me busy for a little while, but it turned out that at least three of the John Moriartys in the area married a Catherine or Katherine.  So, I turned to the children.  Familysearch provided some birth indexes for Massachusetts and I found Julia Moriarty, born in Holyoke on March 14, 1906, to parents John Moriarty and Kate Maloney.  Moving on to Edward, I found him with parents John and Katie, born in Boston on January 18, 1908.  Switching to a search of the birth records based on parents John Moriarty and Katherine Maloney, I was able to find Mary V. Moriarty, born April 24, 1903, and John Moriarty, born July 23, 1904.  

I was feeling pretty good about things at this point.  It's not definitive enough to say that I had the right John Moriarty out of all the possibles in Massachusetts, but I felt like there was a pretty good chance I was on the right track.

With all this additional information, I went back to Ancestry and made a try for some public family trees that might fill out the picture (pun intended) for this couple.  I found ONE family tree, and got myself another puzzle when I did.

Keeping in mind that submitted family trees are only as good as the researchers behind them and with only one to use as a source so there's no way to find any corroboration between researchers, the following should be taken with a grain of salt.  However, the information does fit in with the scant records available.

John Moriarty is shown as born August 19, 1871, in Kilorglin, County Kerry, Ireland, to parents Patrick and Julia (Conner) Moriarty.  He died February 23, 1934, in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  (I was unable to confirm the death date in any of the online databases for Massachusetts.) 

This researcher shows that John was married twice, both times to a Catherine.  His first marriage took place in Holyoke on September 21, 1896, to Catherine Sweeney.  His second marriage took place on July 22, 1902, in Springfield, to Catherine Maloney.

Both marriages fit the time frame of the date I estimated for the photo, so this could conceivably be John with either of his wives.  (If it is this same John Moriarty at all.)

I went back to the 1900 census to see if I could find John with his first wife.  I was curious what had happened to her.  All the children in 1910 fit in with his second marriage, so if there were children of the first marriage, where were they?

In 1900, John and first wife Catherine are living in Holyoke, married 4 years, and John is a freight handler, which matches up to the information in 1910.  Catherine is shown as the mother of 2, but no child living.  That immediately made me wonder if her early death might have been in childbirth, but of course if could have been anything.  In any case, it appeared there were issues with her carrying a child to term, which would explain why there were no children of a previous marriage in 1910.  Also in the same household were two sisters-in-law, Annie and Julia Sweeney, and a brother-in-law, James Sweeney.

I guess it is only fitting that I bought the photo because of my affinity for Sherlock Holmes and at the end of this research exercise I still have a mystery on my hands.