Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Tribute to Bill Harrington 1929-2014

My father-in-law Bill Harrington passed away on Sunday, December 28, 2014 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Reno, Nevada.  He had been fighting a battle with pneumonia since Thanksgiving.

Bill Harrington, Korea 1951
In 1951 and 1952, Bill was fighting another battle in Korea.  He and his wife Irma put together a scrapbook of photographs and mementos from his time in the U.S. Army.  Several years ago I interviewed Bill about his Korea experience.  When we completed the interview, Bill and Irma lent me the scrapbook.   Here is the text of that interview interspersed with some historical context and a few of the photos and documents.  I share this with all of you as a tribute to my father-in-law.

Bill Harrington was an extraordinary fisherman.

Bill Harrington was living in Boron, California at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.  The North Koreans with the help of their Soviet military advisors had invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. The United States was initially reluctant about entering this military conflict between the governments of North and South Korea.   General Douglas MacArthur made a personal visit to Korea to assess the situation on the 29th of June 1950.   General MacArthur recommended the immediate commitment of American ground forces.   President Truman then authorized the employment of Army combat troops to ensure the security of a port and air base at Pusan, South Korea.  He also approved sending two Army divisions from Japan to Korea and the creation of a naval blockade of North Korea.

The Selective Service System ordered Bill to report to the Local Board in Bakersfield, California.  He was directed to bring sufficient clothing for 3 days.  In a foreshadowing of his future career as a Greyhound Bus Driver, he was ordered to report to report to the Pacific Greyhound Bus Station in Mojave, California at 8 a.m. on the 20th of February 1951 for the trip to Bakersfield.   Andy Fiore was the Greyhound driver.  Bill recognized him later when he went to work for Greyhound. 

From Bakersfield he went to Los Angeles for further processing.  He transferred to a special bus that ran to Fort Ord, California.  Bill arrived at Fort Ord on Washington’s Birthday.  By March 1, 1951 Bill had completed his Army processing and had been assigned to a training company at Fort Ord.  He was inducted as a Private to Company M of the 63rd Infantry Regiment at Fort Ord.  Bill completed eight weeks of basic training at Fort Ord and then stayed for another six weeks of cooking school.  Tutor Robinson was a friend from Boron.  He went into the Army a little earlier than Bill but they were together for a time at Fort Ord.  Tutor was in Charlie Company.

Bill Harrington and Tutor Robinson
Fort Ord, California 1951

Bill Harrington and Tutor Robinson
Fort Ord, California 1951

After he completed cooking school, Bill was transferred to Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, California.  He was supposed to go to Fort Huachuca, Arizona but he was late getting back to Camp Stoneman.  The MPs took him straight to the boat for Korea.  They went from Camp Stoneman through Concord and Lafayette and over the hill to Oakland and across the Bay Bridge in the back end of an old 6x6 cargo truck.  He had to wait a week on the ship at the pier.  He could not even call Irma.  This experience had a lot to do with why he never wanted to be late to anything ever again.  TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, December 15, 2014

Preserving Christmas Memories

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season we need to take a few moments to relax, reflect and count our blessings.  When you think about the meaning of the nativity scene, you realize the gift of love that we all have been given.

Over the years we have collected a large assortment of nativity scenes.  Each one has a special memory for us.  Some were purchased in our travels.  Others were given as gifts by friends and family.  As we unpack them and put them on display, the memories of the people, times and places start to flood back.  We enjoy reminiscing about each little creche.

Perhaps you have special Christmas memories that you would like to preserve.  Write your memories down.  Put a note with those special Christmas ornaments recording how they were acquired.  When families are gathered together at Christmas, this is a good time to make a recording of stories and memories,   You could also record the family performing a favorite Christmas carol.

So as a way of practicing what I preach, here are few notes about some of our favorite nativity scenes:

Our First Christmas 1976

This simple little crèche was from our first Christmas together as a married couple.  I guess you could say that this one was the precursor for the many that have followed. 

From El Mercado in San Antonio in 1980s

When we were living in Reno in the 1980's, we traveled to San Antonio for the first time to attend a conference.  This was probably the first time that we were ever in Texas as a couple.  We purchased this at El Mercado in San Antonio.   Also known as Market Square, it is the largest Mexican market in the U.S. We have been back to San Antonio twice since we settled here in Texas.

From a bazaar at 1st UMC Reno 1990s.

Also while we were in Reno, we purchased this ceramic nativity scene from a bazaar at First United Methodist Church.  The church  built in 1926 is architecturally significant as it is one of the first poured concrete buildings in Reno and utilizes Gothic Revival architectural themes. Coincidentally, Gram Elaine and Grandpa George were married by the minister of this church in 1937.  We attended several services there too in the 1980's and 1990's.

Bilbao, Spain 1997

Our daughter, Nicole, got this scene in Spain during a semester abroad in Bilbao.  She gave it to us as a Christmas gift in 1997.

Sundance Film Festival about 2001

This little marble-size set was a gift from our daughter, Suzy.  She found it while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.  She was a student at St. Mary’s College of California at the time.

From a visit to Beaufort, South Carolina 2006

We purchased this ceramic nativity scene on a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina in 2006.  We were with our friends Mark and Bonnie on one of our January “Big Chill” reunions.

Nutcracker Market, Houston 2010

This set was purchased for our first Christmas in Texas in 2010.  We found it at the annual Nutcracker Market at the Reliant Center.  That was also where we found our metal sculpture of the “Yellow Rose of Texas” that we have in the backyard.

Kenya Methodist Mission Trip 2012

The most recent acquisition is from our friend, Chris, who purchased this set made of corn husks in Kenya.  Several of our friends from church were on a mission trip to the Methodist Hospital there.

I hope this inspires you to start jotting down a few of your memories.  Remember the reason for the season! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Family Tree at FamilySearch.org: Record Hints

If you are not using the Family Tree at FamilySearch.org, it is time to start.  Have you checked lately to see if your ancestors are in the FS Family Tree?  It is time to do it.

One of the great new features at FamilySearch.org is the “Record Hints” in Family Tree.  Here is an example of the Record Hints for John Caesar Kelly:

Clicking on one of these records opens a preview of the record which gives you the opportunity to decide if you want to “Review and Attach” the record to your ancestor’s profile.   I clicked on “Isle of Man, Births and Baptisms, 1821-1911” and here is the preview page that appeared:

 Once you decide if the record matches your ancestor you click on “Review and Attach” and you move to the “Source Linker” tab which is also entitled “Attach Historical Records to Family Tree”.  

In this example you can see that the birth date for John Caesar Kelly matches what I had on his “Person Profile” page.  One downfall for Family Search is that it does not give you the option to insert the better date or location into the Person Profile as you attach the Historical Record.  It does give an option here to add a “Residence” fact to the Person Profile.

The next step is to add a “Reason to Attach Source”.  By adding a reason here you will help other viewers and editors of this Person Profile to understand why the record was attached.  

My reason for attaching this birth record was that: This birth record for John Caesar Kelly approximates the information that I have on file for him including 1900 census in San Francisco and 1910 census in Tacoma. His mother's name matches the oral history that I received from Grandpa George Kelly.

You will notice that Family Search is creating Person Profiles from their digitized databases.  These Person Profiles will need to be edited to add information that you have on your ancestors.  You will also need to merge those Person Profiles with “Possible Duplicates” on the lower right hand margin of the Person Profile.

WARNING: you need to know that Family Tree at FamilySearch.org is a collaborative tree.  The idea is that each ancestor should only have one profile.  If there are duplicate profiles you are supposed to merge them together.  FamilySearch offers the following advice: "Merging is a complex process in which you decide if two people are the same person. If they are, you choose which information should be kept. Please take the time necessary to carefully review each possible duplicate."  I would add that if you are not absolutely sure that you have an exact match DO NOT MERGE THEM.  It is a complicated process to split a merge.

I do encourage you to start using the Family Tree at FamilySearch.org.  It is a great new FREE resource that is continually improving with new innovations.

Thursday, February 12, 2015:            Bear Creek Genealogical Society General Meeting
            Time:               1 pm to 3 pm
            Topic:              GENEALOGICA BRITANNICA-
Finding Your Ancestors in the British Isles
Location:         Bear Creek Park Community Center
                                    3055 Bear Creek Dr.
Houston TX 77084
           Cost:                Free
More information:       Tom Woltz

Friday, February 27, 2015:     Bay Area Genealogical Society General Meeting
            Time:               6:30 pm for coffee and socializing; meeting begins at 7 pm
            Topic:              ACHTUNG-
Researching  Your German Speaking Ancestors
            Location:         University Baptist Church
                                    Great Room on 2nd Floor
                                    16106 Middlebrook Drive 
Houston, TX 77059 (Clear Lake City)
            Cost:                Free
More information:       www.txbayareagen.org

Saturday, February 28, 2015:             League City Library
            Time:               11:00 am to 12:00 noon
            Topic:              An Overview of FamilySearch.org
            Location:         Helen Hall Library
                                    100 W Walker St
League City, TX 77573
            Cost:                Free
More information:       Lindsay  Henson, Librarian
281 554-1102 – Direct
281-554-1111 – General

Monday, December 1, 2014

Voting Registers Help to Fill Gaps Between Censuses

One of the new genealogy record collections on Ancestry.com is California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968.  Since my family history includes California, this is an exciting new database for me to explore.   I did a quick search to see if my mom, Jill Cimino would show up in the database.  I was disappointed that I could not find her.

I read the background information about the Voter Registers and learned why I could not find Mom.  The records for Sacramento County range from 1900 to 1944.  My mother did not reach voting age until 1956.  It appears that my grandparents would be better subjects for investigation given these dates.  I then searched Elaine Kelly in Sacramento County.  I immediately found previews of three results that matched in 1940, 1942 and 1944.  The actual register page for 1940 is below:

You can see here that Elaine Kelly is listed at the same address as her husband, George W. Kelly.  They apparently had differing political views since Grandma was a Democrat and Grandpa was a Republican.  This listing of both husband and wife show how the Voting Registers are similar to a census record because all the registered voters in the household will be listed.  

One of the great new features on Ancestry.com is the ability to open up a filmstrip view of the record set.  Most of the digital images that have been collected at Ancestry.com have originated from microfilm.  The ability to scroll back and forth with the film strip view speeds up the process when you need to move around in the microfilm.  In this case I wanted to page back to the beginning of the electoral precinct.  The header shows the information that you can get from these voting registers including: Name, Occupation, Address and Political Affiliation.  Here is the first page of the precinct which shows the precinct number and the Assembly District at the top of the page and the filmstrip view is shown at the bottom of the page.

To show an example of a father and son listed together in a household, I searched for the surname Fairbanks in Sonoma County.  I found Hiram Talbert Fairbanks, my 3rd great grand uncle listed in Petaluma Township.   The image below shows that his son, Dolphes Brice Fairbanks was listed.  These earlier registers give the full names, ages and post office address but not the street address.  A scan of the other names in the precinct reveals that there were several relatives on the list.  The Hill and the Higbee families were related to H.T. Fairbanks.  

One thing you might notice is that there are no women on this page.  Women got the right to vote in California in 1911 so they start appearing in these registers in 1912.  

When you look at the image you will see that the registers from 1900 to 1912 are grouped together.

The only way to figure out the exact year is to page back in the register  and look for the date.  The filmstrip view makes it easier to see the title page as you are scrolling through the images.  Each of the precincts was listed alphabetically in this case.  Here is the title page which shows that this register was dated 1902:

I hope you have enjoyed this little primer in the use of the California Voter Register collection.  Please contact me if you have any questions about your family history.

Monday, November 24, 2014

City Directories Contain Pieces of Your Ancestor Puzzle

Twenty five years of experience has taught me many lessons when looking at family history records.  City directories are an example of a genealogical record that requires meticulous analysis.  On the surface, a city directory provides somewhat limited information about a family. City directory listings usually give the name, address and occupation of an individual.  Upon closer examination, you will see much more information in City Directories than you might expect.

For example, let’s use city directories to help piece together the puzzle of two of my ancestors.  The oral history passed down to me by my grandmother and grand aunt was that their mother, Mae Blanche Moss 1882-1963 and her mother Anne B. Lanstein Moss 1860-1922 lived in Sacramento in the 1890s.  There is a women named Annie that is listed in the Sacramento City Directory in the 1890s.  This could be my ancestor but I have not yet found any other records that would definitively corroborate that it is her.  If I could have found Annie and Mae residing at the same address that would have been more definitive but alas it is not to be at least for now.  I keep looking for more evidence.

Annie Moss in 1895 Sacramento City Directory

Mrs. Annie B. Moss in 1896 Sacramento City Directory
Mrs. Annie Moss in 1898 Sacramento City Directory

My grandmother and her sister also told me that Annie and Mae were living in San Francisco together during the 1906 Earthquake.  Mae had been working for Mr. C.L. Goetting in a fancy fruit and vegetable market as a cashier.  When the earthquake struck they had to evacuate their lodging near the current site of the Fairmount hotel  on Mason and California Street.  Mae was able to get a gentleman to help her carry her trunk up California Street.  Mother and daughter made their way to Golden Gate Park.  Eventually they were rescued by Mae’s fiancé, Ernest Coffman and taken to live with his aunt, Viola Coffman Hughes in Oakland.

 One way to verify that claim is to look her up in the City Directories of San Francisco.  In the 1900 San Francisco City Directory we find:
                Moss, Anne widow, r. 7 Liberty
Moss, Mary A. Miss, dressmaker, r. 7 Liberty

This seems very promising!  It is always wise however to continue to scan the listings for the surname to see if there are any others listed at the same address.  If we look a little closer we see:
Moss, William P., bookkeeper, r. 7 Liberty

Anne Moss & Mary Moss at 7 Liberty Street in 1900 San Francisco City Directory

Since Mary A. Moss is listed as a “Miss” it is clear that she is an unmarried woman.   It is very common to see widows enumerated in City Directories with their children in the same household.  We do not know for sure but we can theorize that Mary A. and William P. Moss are the children of the widow, Ann Moss. 

At first I thought these might be my people.  My great grandmother, Mae Blanche Moss was always a good seamstress but she worked as a cashier for most of her working life.  Is it possible that she tried her hand at dressmaking before settling in as a cashier?  Her name was Mae not Mary.  Her middle initial was “B” not “A”.  But it was awfully close to our family story.  Did Grandma Mae have a brother?  Why didn’t my grandmother and her sister mention him?  [SOURCE: 1900 Crocker-Langley Directory of San Francisco, page 1254 accessed on Ancestry.com. ]

I conducted an exhaustive search of the 1900 census to try to find this family.  I found the enumeration district of the census that includes the address 7 Liberty.  I searched all of the names on Liberty Street.  I found a listing for 9 Liberty Street but nothing for 7 Liberty.

The 1901 and 1902 directories of San Francisco are not available at Ancestry.com. 
In the 1903 Crocker-Langley Directory of San Francisco we find Miss Moss, the dressmaker is May not Mary.  That seems even more promising!

Moss, May A. Miss, dressmkg. 139 Post, r. 459 Guerrero
But her family is listed differently:
                Moss, Bridget, widow. r . 459 Guerrero
                Moss, Patrick W. r. 459 Guerrero

In the 1904 City Directory we can’t find Mary/May but we do find the following listings:
                Moss, Bridget widow, r 459 Guerrero
William P, tilesetter, r 459 Guerrero

Comparing 1900 with 1903 and 1904 directory listings we see variations in the names.  The dressmaker is seen in 1900 as Mary A. and in 1903 she is May A.  The widow Moss is first listed as Ann but later listed as Bridget.  The first listing for the presumed son is William P., the second listing is Patrick W. and the third listing is William P.

We found Bridget and William P. in the 1910 census with a new addition to the family.  William was again working as a tile setter which helps to confirm that this is indeed the same family.  The census listing follows:

1910 United States Federal Census about William P Moss
Name:  William P Moss
Age in 1910:        31
Birth Year:           abt 1879
Birthplace:          California
Home in 1910:   192 Douglas Street, San Francisco Assembly District 34, San Francisco, California
Race:     White
Gender:               Male
Relation to Head of House:          Son
Marital Status:   Single
Father's Birthplace:         Ireland
Mother's name:               Bridget A Moss
Mother's Birthplace:       Ireland

Household Members:   
Name    Age   Relation
Bridget A Moss 60  Head
William P Moss  31  Son
Margaret Moss 4  Granddaughter

Bridget is shown with a middle initial “A” which helps to tie the family together.  Most likely her full name was Bridget Anne Moss.  It is very common to see first names and middle names used interchangeably in genealogy records.

The census does show that William P. was indeed her son.  His full name is most likely, William Patrick Moss as we have seen with the names William and Patrick used interchangeably in the records.

However now that we know that Bridget Ann Moss was born in Ireland and that she had a son, William Patrick Moss born 1879 in California, it appears fairly certain that this is not my family.  Annie Lanstein Moss and her daughter, Mae Blanche Moss came to California in 1890.  There is nothing in our oral tradition about a brother nor is there anything about Irish heritage on the Moss line.  There is enough variation in the names to make it difficult to make these puzzles pieces fit together properly.

This analysis shows that genealogical research can be very painstaking work.  Sometimes you spend a lot of time analyzing records that don’t belong to your ancestors.  This can be very frustrating to those who prefer instant results.  However, this meticulous analysis is required to insure that we thoroughly prove that a record belongs to a particular ancestor.

So why are Mae Moss and her mother, Annie not showing up in the San Francisco City directory prior to the 1906 earthquake?   The story about Mr. Goetting seems to fit as there are plenty of records that show that he and his fruit and vegetable market did actually reside in the California Market.   Is it possible that Mae had another name?  She married Ernest Coffman in Oakland on the 5th of February 1907 and the marriage record lists her as Mae Moss, resident of San Francisco.  Perhaps she had only recently arrived in San Francisco.   The mystery remains unsolved after 25 years of diligent effort.  Stay tuned for more episodes of this story.

California Market was a grand shopping market with meats, produce and groceries for the citizens of San Franciso. California Market covered an entire city block from Pine to California, between Montgomery and Kearny. Omey and Goetting offered domestic and tropical fruits and produce from Stalls 28, 29, 30, 67, 68, and 69 according to an advertisement appearing in the Council Cook Book dated January 1, 1909 and published by the San Francisco Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. This book was found on Google Books Extracted 3 Nov 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

November Dates to Remember

Our daughter got married this weekend.  It was an extravaganza, a celebration par excellence.  Suzy and Todd were the third generation in our family to be married in November.  The dates include November 15, November 20 and November 25.  These three generations represent a combined total of 102 years of marriage.  Our family has a lot to celebrate this month.

We also celebrated Veterans Day on the 11th and in honor of the occasion, Fold3 has made  their World War II record collections available for free until November 30.  

Most of the major genealogy websites provide these free access periods and it is always a good opportunity to explore the wealth of records.

Mae Moss about 1903
November 1963 was a traumatic month for me.  November 9, 1963 was the day that my Great Grandma Mae Moss Coffman Forbes died.  On November 22 President Kennedy was shot.  I remember that many of the children in my elementary school were distraught and crying when we found out.  Grandma Helen Stewart Mayne died on November 23.  On November 24 the family was gathered in El Cerrito, California and we were watching the television reports about the assassination of President Kennedy.  Then we heard that Jack Ruby had killed Lee Harvey Oswald.

November 12, 1935 was my mother's birthday.  On her first birthday the family celebrated by driving from San Francisco to Oakland across the newly constructed Oakland Bay Bridge to visit her Grandma Mae.

Today, November 17 is my brother's birthday.  Happy Birthday Vince!

Vince Cimino

 November 20 is our anniversary.  I love you Robin!

Robin and Nick Cimino
November 20, 1976
Special events in your family life should be recorded in a timeline fashion. Intersperse those dates with events in our collective history that affect us all.  This will help to give the historical context to your family history.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Elephind.com & William Phebus, Oklahoma Lawman

Old newspapers can contain wonderful stories which illuminate the lives of our ancestors.  I use dozens of newspaper sites to conduct these searches but Elephind.com has been touted as the new "one stop shop" for newspaper searches.  Dick Eastman blogged about it this morning in his blog entitled: Eastman'sOnline Genealogy Newsletter.  Does Elephind.com truly allow you to search "all of the world’s digital newspapers from one place and at one time."

Eastman ran a simple search and the very first article on the list was from the San Francisco Call of 6 September 1891 about a Vermont moonshiner named Eastman:
  • Darling Eastman, the long-sought-for Vermont moonshiner, is under arrest in this city. Eastman’s capture and escape at Corinth, Vt., last April, was the most sensational that has occurred in the State for twenty years. Orange County has been notorious for its stills. The most daring and successful operator in that section was J. Warren Eastman, who lived in an isolated quarter of Corinth. In April last a large posse of officers made a descent on the Eastman homestead. In an old blacksmith shop they discovered a still of the largest and most approved pattern in full operation. The father, Warren Eastman, his son Darling and his son-in-law were captured in their beds and heavily manacled.
  • Eastman’s comment was: “Yes, that sounds like one of my relatives! Admittedly, I have never found this family in my family tree before but they certainly sound like they might belong.”
William Phebus 1868-1950
photo taken 5 Jul 1901 probably at his farm near Carbon, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory

The moonshine article reminded me of one of our family’s favorite ancestors: William Phebus, 1868-1950, who was an Oklahoma lawman who was particularly active during prohibition.  I put “William Phebus” into the search at Elephind.com and instantly found an article that I had not seen before in the Durant Weekly News of January 14, 1921:

  A tip that an auto loaded with booze was due to go through McAlester between midnight Saturday and sun-up Monday morning, produced the biggest haul in many a day for James B. Dowell, federal enforcement officer, who along with William Phebus, chief of police of Krebs, and John Larison, McAlester officer, intercepted the auto at 3 o'clock Monday morning, getting sixty-nine gallons of corn whiskey.
  One of the men who gave the name of John Smith, of Hollis, Arkansas was captured, but the driver of the car eluded the officers.

The reason that I had not found this article before was that I had been focused on papers from Pittsburg County, Oklahoma.  Elephind.com had already proved its usefulness in one simple search.  However, I know from prior research at the Chronicling America website and the Gateway to Oklahoma History website that there were many more articles about William Phebus than the two articles found at Elephind.com.

I tried another search for “Phebus + McAlester” and a few more articles appeared but still not as many as I had already found.  Suffice it to say that Elephind.com is a helpful website for newspaper research but continue to use the search engines at the federal, state and local newspaper sites that seem to be emerging daily.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Heirloom Reunions

When I am browsing at antique shops or estate sales I always look for items that include names, dates and places that might help to identify their original owners.  Some of my favorites are photographs, family bibles, letters, and postcards.  I have also found several autograph books which tell very interesting stories about their original owners.

A recent example was an autograph book owned by a fourth grader named Carolyn Reeves.  Several of the early entries were dated 1957.  The name of her school was Sally Curtis and her home address was 725 Yount Street.  

A Google search for Sally Curtis School revealed Sally Curtis Elementary School at 6225 North Circuit Drive in Beaumont, Texas.  The Beaumont Enterprise featured an article dated Aug 27, 2012 – “Sallie Curtis Elementary opened this morning, bringing the district one step closer to finishing up the $389 million bond...”  This made me wonder if the school had been moved to a new location so I decided to look for a listing in the Beaumont City Directory on Ancestry.com.  The City Directory for 1957 listed Sally Curtis School at the same address.

A search of Google maps revealed that the Reeves home at 725 Yount was just a few blocks away from the school.  Looking for Reeves in the City Directory, I found that Carolyn’s parents were Eugene J. and Nalda Reeves.  Eugene was a chemical engineer at “Mag Pet Co.”  I was not sure what that abbreviation stood for so I went to the page with the “Mag” listings and found Magnolia Petroleum Company located at the east end of Burt Avenue in Southeast Beaumont, Texas.

Eugene & Nalda Reeves, 725 Yount Street, Beaumont, Texas City Directory

OK so now I was hooked on this little Ancestor Puzzle!  I began searching for all of the records that I could find on Eugene, Nalda and Carolyn Reeves.  I estimated that Carolyn was born about 1947 and that her father Eugene was born 25 years earlier in 1922.  Several searches later I ran across a listing on FindaGrave.com for Eugene Joseph Reeves born January 26, 1921 and died January 8, 2010.  The FindaGrave memorial included his obituary which stated that he was a chemical engineer.  He was survived by his wife Naldia Peteete Reeves of Beaumont and daughter Carolyn Jean Reeves of Clear Lake, Texas.

At the bottom of the FindaGrave memorial there was a “Family Link” to his daughter Carolyn Jean Reeves (1947-2011).  Carolyn’s obituary was also included on FindaGrave.  She was a math teacher at Clear Lake High School before her retirement.  She loved her family, playing blackjack, eating Mexican food, steamed crabs and traveling on cruises.  I contacted the husband of a friend who also retired from Clear Lake High School and they knew Carolyn very well.  He offered to arrange an “Heirloom Reunion” with a family member.

Do you have an heirloom that you would like to reunite with a descendant?  I have been able to facilitate many reunions by searching for descendants.  I would be happy to offer advice on your search or do the research if you prefer.  I have many more of these stories to tell. I enhance the stories with visual aids and it makes a fun presentation for your club or society meeting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Who Are Your Saints?

“Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” is one of my favorite songs.  I want to be in that number!  Who were the saints in your life?  I can think of several.  First and foremost are my parents.  Mom and Dad gave us lots of love that sustains me every day of my life.  All of my grandparents were saints to me and I had seven!  One died before I was born.  I knew the other six really well.   I was closest to Grandpa Dick, Grandma Macy, Gram Elaine, and Grandpa George  in Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.  I loved going to San Francisco to visit Grandpa True and Grandma Helen  as a young child.  Are you thankful for your parents and grandparents?  Were you lucky enough to have a great grandparent in your life?  All Saints Day is a good time to honor your parents and grandparents.

Left to right: My great grandmother- Mae Moss Coffman Forbes, my great grand aunt-Viola Coffman Hughes, my grandfather- George Kelly, my grand aunt- Vivian Coffman McGrath, her husband- Lou McGrath and my "Gram Elaine"-  Elaine Coffman Kelly.
Mary McCrory Cimino and husband, Richard "Sebastiano" Cimino 1950

I had other saints in my life.   All of my teachers encouraged me and broadened my horizons.  I took an Italian language class in high school with Mrs. Tornabene.  She told me that I had the “most beautiful American accent.”  Lon Eakes was my favorite English teacher.  We read “Native Son” by Richard Wright and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”.  His class was transformative like no other.  Byron Clemons was our advisor for the Student Government class.  He complemented me on my contributions to the debates.  Did you have teachers that were saints in your life?  All Saints Day is a good time to thank them.

What about your leaders in sports or youth organizations?  My scoutmaster was Jack Myers.  He helped to instill the Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship, and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking.  He also encouraged me to be a leader and presented leadership training for our troop.  I will never forget the three steps for training fellow scouts that I learned in that class:  1) know your stuff, 2) show them how and 3) let them try.  What about your coaches and youth leaders?  All Saints Day is a good time to honor them.

I encourage you to comment on this blog or Facebook or Google Plus to remember the saints in your life.  All Saints Day is a good time to pay tribute to them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

All Hallows Eve 2014

Halloween or Hallowe'en, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. [Wikipedia]. 

In the Methodist Church, the word "saints" refers to all Christians, so for me All Saints Day is a celebration of all the Christians that have profoundly affected my life with acts of charity and mercy.  My grand aunt Aline Mayne Cavanagh 1902-1995 was a genealogy saint.  By the time I began my genealogy quest in 1989, my maternal grandfather, True Mayne had been long gone having passed away in 1967.  Fortunately I was able to connect with his sister, Aunt Aline.  She had preserved so much of the precious family history and she was eager to share it with me.

Left to right: The Mayne Siblings: Aline, Virgil, Paul, True [my grandfather], Joseph and David

Aline had books, letters and photographs that have truly become treasures to me.  She lived in Wilmington, Delaware at the Methodist Country Home.   She was in her late 80s when I first was able to visit with her at her home.   I sat with her and identified all of pictures that she had not already identified.  I asked her if I could borrow her family heirlooms so that I could copy them.  Fortunately she said yes.  I was able to get copies made of all of the material and then sent it back to her.
Some of the treasures included:  tintype photographs from the Civil War, letters written by Aline’s mother, Anna Elizabeth Banford Mayne in the 1890s, a letter describing the death of Aline’s great-grandmother, Ann Nevin in 1878 and dozens more photographs of Mayne and Banford family members.

Here is a transcription of the text of one of the letters that I received from Aunt Aline in 1990. Aline's note in the margin indicates that the letter refers to the death of her great-grandmother, Ann wife of Thomas NEVIN.  The letter has many misspellings.  I have left the spelling, punctuation and capitalization exactly as the author wrote it.

 April the 4 1878 

Dear cousin it is with pain that I right this evning or with distress for I will halve to tell you that death has bin a mong us and taken hour Dear granma away from us to heaven.  We buried her to day.  She took sick monday march the 24 and died thursday april the 3.  I received your kind and most welcom letter and was glad to here from you all and it was the 29 of march and on saturday and I red it to granma and she was glad to here from you.  She was on her death bed.

I will right more in a few days for I was up all night last night and I don't feel like righting mouch.  The doctors said her disease was old age and the stopping up of her breath.  She choked to death for want of getting breath. That was what killed her.

In my next letter I will tell you as mouch as I can and send you some picturs to and you must send me your pictur to or I will not send you any more.  I will right soon and I want you to right soon as you can.

So I must close for I am offel sleepy and I feel verry bad this evning.  Some of the family are going to the post office tomorrow.

So good by from your affectioned cousin.

S. T. Ashworth

Ann Nevin 1804-1878 and Anna Elizabeth Banford 1860-1938
Taken at J.P. Ball's Photographic Gallery, on 4th St. between Main & Walnut Streets, Cincinnati, Ohio.

After researching this letter for several years, I was able to discover that it was written by Stephen Thomas Ashworth 1859-1883 to his cousin [my great grandmother] Anna Elizabeth Banford.

Newspaper article describing the death of Stephen Thomas Ashworth.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Italian Naming Patterns

In honor of Italian Heritage Month, I offer this little anecdote about the names of my paternal grandfather and his siblings.

Italy has a long standing tradition that determines how children are named:

  • The first male is named after his paternal grandfather.
  • The second male is named after his maternal grandfather.
  • The first female is named after her paternal grandmother.
  • The second female is named after her maternal grandmother.

One exception to this pattern is if the first son or daughter dies, the parents will give their next child the same name.  This happened in my family.  My Cimino great grandparents named their first child, Carmela after the paternal grandmother, Carmela Grasso.  The first Carmela was born 28 April 1903 in Carlentini in the Siracusa province of Sicily. She died 14 October 1903 in Carlentini.  The second child was also a daughter and she was born 8 August 1904 in Carlentini and again this child was named Carmela.

My grandfather was the third child and he was born 30 October 1906 in Lentini.    He was the first male child and he was named after his paternal grandfather, Sebastiano Cimino.  Sebastiano took the name Richard when he arrived in the U.S.  We always knew him as Grandpa Dick.   His father arrived in the U.S. for the first time in April of 1907.  He was working in Omaha, Nebraska but returned to Sicily in the fall of 1908.  He returned to the U.S. in February of 1909.  On the 3rd of July 1909, Uncle John was born in Lentini.  Since he was the second son he was named after the maternal grandfather, Giovanni Ossino.

The other exception to the Italian naming pattern is the impact of immigration.  By April 1911 the entire family had arrived in Omaha, Nebraska.  Shortly thereafter they moved to Sioux City, Iowa.  The next child, Sarah was born 28 Mar 1912 in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa.  She should have been named Concetta after the maternal grandmother, Concetta Bruno.  Concetta may have been her actual birth name, but we always knew her as Sarah.

Uncle Fred, Uncle Sam, Aunt Josie and Aunt Rose were the next children born in 1913, 1915, 1917 and 1918 respectively.

Wedding of Carmela Cimino and Pasquale Defazio. My grandfather, Richard Sebastiano Cimino is seated on far right and my great grandfather, Antonino Cimino is in back between the bride and groom. Jean Defazio Hewitt believes that the man on the far right is John Giudice and the one directly behind the girl with the flowers is, Frank LaScala.  The rest of the people are unknown. Please contact Nick Cimino at AncestorPuzzles@gmail.com if you know their names.
The second Carmela died in childbirth on the 1st of June 1920. On the 29th of August 1921, the last child Camilla Cimino was born to Tony “Antonino” Cimino and his wife Mary [Maria Ossino].  Even though the spelling is slightly different, we think that the naming tradition insisted that this child should be named after the paternal grandmother.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Analyzing Biographical Evidence in a Timeline

One of my “to-do” list items is to scan all of my paper files and post the scanned documents to genealogy websites.  While reviewing an old file on the Newman Family, I found a paper copy of a biography of my 3rd great grand uncle, Thomas D. Newman. 

Biographies of our ancestor’s siblings can be extremely useful especially if they say something about the parents or grandparents.  I like to transcribe biographies and obituaries because it helps me to analyze them.  Often there are inaccuracies in these biographies so it is worth the time to carefully evaluate the statements and try to corroborate them with other records.

THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a pioneer of Linn County, and resides in Washington Township, on section 27. He is a native of Bourbon County. Ky., where he was born May 26, 1829. His parents were Thomas and Nancy (Johnson) Newman, the former a native of Maryland and the latter of Kentucky. Thomas Newman was born Feb. 22, 1788, emigrated to Hendricks County, Ind., and died there March 1, 1848. He left his native State in the year 1836, whence he emigrated to Indiana and pursued the occupation of a farmer all his life. Nancy, his wife, was born Oct. 4, 1795, and died in this county, Feb. 24. 1874. She was born on the banks of a small stream in Kentucky called Boone's Creek, where the brother of Daniel Boone was murdered by the Indians. The place where he was buried was called Buffalo Lick…
Mr. Newman emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana with his parents when he was but a child of eight years. He was reared on his father's farm, and began and completed his education in the common schools. He continued under the parental roof until his twentieth year, when his attention was turned toward the young and rapidly growing State of Iowa. He determined to seek it, with a purpose of establishing a home there, and accordingly, bidding a temporary farewell to old associations, he turned his face Westward. Being pleased with the appearance of the new territory, he at once purchased 104 acres of land on section 28, Washington Township, this county, which tract he still owns. To this tract he added 161 acres, and has made a fine present of land to each of his children..
Thomas D. Newman came to this State in 1854…
A fine view of Mr. Newman's residence appears in this work.

Sometimes it is helpful to break down each statement in the biography and put them in chronological order. I have added names, dates places and clarifications in brackets.  Here is how the above paragraphs would read in a timeline:

  • 1788 Thomas Newman [Sr.] is a native of Maryland, [born Feb. 22, 1788].
  • 1795 Nancy (Johnson) Newman is a native of Kentucky. She was born [Oct. 4, 1795] on the banks of a small stream in Kentucky called Boone's Creek, where the brother of Daniel Boone was murdered by the Indians. The place where he was buried was called Buffalo Lick… [An online article about the the Life and Death of Edward Boone places this site in Bourbon County, Kentucky. https://www.boonesociety.org/edward-boone-life-death]

  • 1813 [From other records I know that Thomas Newman, Sr. and Nancy Johnson were married in Bourbon County, Kentucky on the 9th of August 1813.]
  • 1829 THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a native of Bourbon County. Ky., where he was born May 26, 1829. [He was the seventh of ten children born in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  The last child born in Bourbon County was his sister, Elizabeth Sarah Newman.  Their brother Aquilla Newman was born in Hendricks County, Indiana in 1838.]
  • 1836 [Thomas Newman, Sr.] left his native State [Maryland???] in the year 1836, whence he emigrated to Indiana and pursued the occupation of a farmer all his life. [It is more likely that he left Kentucky in 1836 and moved to Indiana.  This is supported by the birth information on his last two children described above.]
  • 1837 Mr. [Thomas D.] Newman emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana [Hendricks County, Ind.] with his parents when he was but a child of eight years. [1829 + 8 = 1837]
  • 1848 Thomas Newman, Sr. died [in Hendricks County, Ind.] March 1, 1848.
  • 1849 [Thomas D. Newman] continued under the parental roof until his twentieth year, [1829 + 20 = 1849] when his attention was turned toward the young and rapidly growing State of Iowa. He determined to seek it, with a purpose of establishing a home there, and accordingly, bidding a temporary farewell to old associations, he turned his face Westward. Being pleased with the appearance of the new territory, he at once purchased 104 acres of land on section 28, Washington Township, this county, which tract he still owns… 
  • No date  THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a pioneer of Linn County [Iowa].
  • 1854- Thomas D. Newman came to this State [Iowa] in 1854 [There appears to be a gap or inaccuracy in the story here based on the 1849 note.]
  • 1874 Nancy Johnson [wife of Thomas Newman Sr.] died in [Linn] county, Feb. 24. 1874.

Hopefully this illustrates the value in reorganizing biographical information in a timeline. When the information is presented chronologically, it is much easier to see the patterns of residence and migration.  The timeline is also very helpful in identifying additional records which can be inserted into the chronology such as census, vital records, land, taxation, probate, etc.

See my other articles at AncestorPuzzles.com.