Sunday, December 29, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday: Josephine Carriveau

My husband’s grandmother, Eliza Carriveau Mosey, was one of a large family of French-Canadians.  I have discovered plenty of good stories in that family that beg to be investigated and told.  This one is about Eliza’s older sister Josephine, shown here at age sixteen in a much-repaired photograph.

Josephine Carriveau was born in Huron County, Michigan in 1879.  She was one of eight surviving children of Laurent (Larry) and Eugenie (Annie) Corriveau, who spelled their name “Carriveau” after coming to Michigan from Quebec. 

Josephine married very young, as did several of her sisters.  Her husband-to-be was a widower named Michael Legue, who also went by the alias “Mitchell Labute.”  He was a Civil War veteran and 42 years her senior!—he was 58 when they married, and she was just 16.  They were married in 1896 and Josephine had her first child that same year—a daughter who died.

About 1908 Michael’s young nephew, Andrew Scram, joined the family.  Andrew was a 38-year-old widower—closer to Josephine’s age.  He had been married to a woman named Clara Smith, and they had three children together.  According to family sources, Clara was found dead in a field near their home with a shotgun by her side—an apparent suicide.  Andrew parceled out the three children; one went to a relative and the other two were taken in by a neighbor (one of those two died as in infant, but the other survived to adulthood).

In the 1910 census we see Andrew, a sailor, living with Uncle Michael and Aunt Josephine—and he must have settled in well, because there he is again in the 1920 census, and again in 1930.   Josephine continued to have children throughout this period, even as her husband grew older…  Michael was 85 when she had her last child, Albert, in 1922.  This picture shows Josephine and her husband Michael in 1927.

Josephine, according to the 1940 census, had only a second grade education.  I heard this story from her granddaughter Diana:  “Grandma Josephine did not understand the monetary system, such as that one 10-dollar bill has the same value as ten 1-dollar bills.  She sold a cow one time for $40 and the man handed her four $10 bills.  Grandma thought he was trying to cheat her and refused to take it.  She wanted forty $1 bills.  Fortunately for Grandma,  he took the time and effort to drive to the bank, exchange the four $10’s for forty $1 bills, and drive back.  At that point she was happy and the sale took place.”

Michael Legue died in 1930, and Andrew and Josephine lived together as man and wife after that, for the next 33 years.  Family sources tell me that they remember Andrew well—the two of them are shown in this photo, with one of Josephine’s sons  and a grandchild—and  Uncle Andrew was always called “Uncle Happy” within the family. 

Andrew died in 1963 and was buried with his wife Clara.  Josephine died in 1965 and was buried with her husband Michael.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mystery Monday: Carl A. Wesley

How can a man just not show up on the census—five times in a row?

I have a friend whose father died when she was young.  Recently I have been trying to find out more about her father’s family—but there seem to be more questions than answers.  Her grandfather’s name was Carl Albert Wesley, and my friend didn’t know much more than that.  My efforts to fill in the blanks have been, well, less than totally successful.

I started with what I knew about him:  the information on his gravestone, photographed for by volunteer Anne Sears.  The stone was found at Little Rock cemetery—the same place his wife and son (my friend’s father) are buried.   But even this was complicated.  There was a second entry for Carl in Newton, Jasper County, Iowa!  Which was his actual place of burial, and which was just a memorial stone?

Next?  Knowing he died in Jasper County, Iowa, I ordered a death certificate.  This told me that Carl Albert Wesley was born on May 9, 1894—in Illinois.  He died at 54 as a result of heart trouble—the same thing that killed his son in the prime of life.  According to the death certificate, Carl was buried in Iowa, which seems to solve that mystery.  Or does it?  The last line of his very faint obituary—does it say the body was moved back to Illinois?  I can’t tell.

The death certificate also gave me the names of his parents:  August Wesley and Augusta Lifske, both born in Germany.  The informant on the death certificate was his wife Lillian, who probably knew as much as anyone did. 
Knowing Carl was born in Illinois but later lived and died in Iowa, and knowing his parents’ names, should have led me to some census records, probably in Illinois or possibly in Iowa.  But none could be found—not for 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, or 1940—even when I tried the usual search tricks.  How can a man (and his parents) keep such a low profile?  All I found was a city directory for 1947 (the year before his death) for Carl and Lillian, in Newton, Iowa, where he died.  Where was he between 1894 and 1947?

More questions:  What about his marriage to Lillian Wallem?  I haven’t found a marriage certificate (yet), and I don’t even know the year or the place.  Lillian was born and raised in DeKalb or LaSalle County, Illinois, so I suppose the marriage most likely took place there.  Their first and only child, Robert, was born in Iowa in 1946, so that’s a possibility as well.  Another question is this:  Carl had his son Robert when he was 52.  Was this his first marriage and his first child?  That seems unlikely.

So where was Carl Albert Wesley between 1894 and 1947, and what was he doing?  I have a friend who would really like to know.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jonas Stutzman, Amish Eccentric

It’s always fun to find a person of historical interest in a family tree, and even more fun to find a “colorful character.”  When I decided to do an ancestry binder for my main and original Amish friends, I found a man who was both.

These particular Amish friends have a history in Lagrange County, Indiana that goes back about six generations.  Like most Northern Indiana Amish, their roots trace back mostly to Holmes County, Ohio— which is presently the largest Amish settlement in the world, numbering around 60,000. 

But someone had to be the first Amishman to go west from Pennsylvania and settle in Holmes County, Ohio—and it happens that he was an ancestor of my Amish friends.  His name was Jonas Stutzman, but he was known in his later life as “White Jonas” (“Der Weiss” in German.)  Much has been written about him. 

Jonas Stutzman (1788-1871) was born in Pennsylvania and came to Ohio in 1809, where he married Magdalena Gerber and had at least nine children.  The 1850 census finds him in Walnut Creek, aged 62, living with second wife Catherine and the youngest four of his eight surviving children.  According to the German Cultural Museum there, Jonas built the area’s first sawmill and the area’s first schoolhouse.

In 1850 he published a booklet in which he claimed that God had revealed to him in a vision that “the time of the fulfillment of his plan with mankind is at hand.”  He said that Christ’s second coming would be in 1853.  So sure was Jonas of this fact, and so sure that he would meet Christ personally upon his return to earth, that he built a special chair for Jesus to sit in when he arrived!  (The chair is in a museum today.)

Jonas had other visions.  It was revealed to him, so he said, that the children of God should wear only beige, gray, and white—“the colors of eagles and sheep.”  Even after 1853 came and went with no sign of Christ’s second coming, he wore only white for the rest of his life.

Steven Nolt, in his book A History of the Amish, says that although the Amish church rejected his teachings, “White Jonas” Stutzman remained a member in good standing.  “His peculiar views and dress were not seen as a threat to anyone, for he never had any followers.”  The census records show that Jonas lived the rest of his life in Holmes County, residing with or near his son Daniel in his old age.

My husband and I recently had a chance to go to Holmes County and do some exploring for ourselves.  We saw the historical markers and how his memory and legacy is still honored there today.  He is remembered with displays at the German Cultural Museum and elsewhere.  His great-great-grandson, Larry Miller, dresses up as his ancestor and makes appearances and gives historical speeches about Holmes County. There is even a facebook page dedicated to him!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Overcoming Hardships: The Story of Martha Boyle Oakley

While researching the family of a client, I came across the story of Martha Boyle Oakley (1836-1920).  It is a story of overcoming hardships and making the best of the hand one has been dealt in life.

Martha’s parents, Francis Boyle and Margaret/Mary Way Boyle, died at age 30 and 32, leaving her an orphan at ten.  It was said in the family that Margaret/Mary died of “quick consumption” and Francis died soon afterwards of a broken heart.  A terrible setback for a child—but Martha found a new family.

She was adopted by William and Martha Oakley, and it must have been a close-knit family, as she married their son Joseph in 1858.  The young couple were living in Virginia with his parents in the 1860 census.  Her obituary says that “Mr. and Mrs. Oakley located on a large plantation in Virginia, but both being patriotic Yankees, left Virginia shortly after the outbreak of the civil War, leaving all their earthly possessions in Virginia.”  Another terrible setback—but they resettled in Cincinnati and landed on their feet there, although not as farmers.

Martha and Charles were materially prosperous—he being a real estate developer who, according to researcher Nathan Lehman, “established the city of Oakley, Ohio, and much around Cincinnati.”  By the time of the 1870 census they lived in Cincinnati with their four young children and a servant.  But life was not all good.  Her obituary goes on to say that she was “mother of seven children; one died in infancy.”  (That was Ella, who died at four months from whooping cough in 1862.)  Common in those days, but no less heartbreaking for being common.

Also common, but no less heartbreaking for being so—Martha’s husband Charles was said to be a drinker, and the marriage didn’t last.  Quite a setback—but Martha again landed on her feet.  By the 1880 census she is listed as married but head of household.  She lives with her six children and runs a dry goods store.  Daughter Fannie is a seamstress.

It appears that her Christian faith was a great comfort to her, and she was known in the family for being deeply religious.  According to her obituary, she was baptized at 24, and in 1884, after her separation from Joseph, the Madisonville Church of Christ was first organized in her home, with she and four of her children as charter members.   One of her younger children, Charles, later became a prominent clergyman.

Joseph died in 1893; I don’t know if they were legally married during all their years of separation or if they eventually divorced.  Martha spent her twilight years as a widow, living with her daughter Fannie in Lexington, Kentucky.  This picture of Martha, dressed in black and contemplating her reflection in a mirror, is a story in and of itself.  I wonder if she left a journal?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Children of Warren and Addie Alwood

I’ve written before about Warren Charles Alwood, who was a good and faithful man.  Warren and Addie raised six children…  The first three had no surviving children of their own.  The next two had thirty surviving children between the two them!  And the last had just one surviving child.

Franklin Mark-Alwood:  Franklin was born to Addie Mark five years before she married Warren.  Since the math didn’t add up, I dug up a birth record.  He was born to Addie in Ohio, out of wedlock, no father listed.  But after their marriage, Warren raised Frankie as his own, calling him his “son” in the census records.  According to Franklin’s obituary, he had suffered from some type of spinal problem since babyhood.  He died in 1900 at age 13 of typhoid fever.

Irvin Burgoyne Alwood:  Irvin’s 1918 draft card describes him as medium height and build, with blue eyes and light hair.  He served in the U.S. Army Infantry in World War I, as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.  Later he worked in a foundry—not easy work!  Irvin had no children with either of his wives.  He died in 1963 at age 71 and is buried with second wife Leah.

Wayne Nedry Alwood:  Wayne served in World War I as a private in the 337th Infantry.  His draft card said he was tall, slender, with gray eyes and dark hair.  Wayne never married; his niece Denise Haring said that he fell in love with a girl whose parents didn’t approve, and they moved her away, and he was so brokenhearted that he gave up on marriage for good.  In the 1920 census he lives with his father and little sister Beulah; in the 1930 census he lives with his sister Floy and her family; by 1940 he lives with his cousin Alice in Ohio.  Wayne died in 1948 in his fifties at a VA hospital in Michigan from heart disease, which he probably inherited from his mother. 

Hazel Irene Alwood:  Hazel married at sixteen and had fifteen children, fourteen of whom survived to adulthood to have children of their own.  She and husband Walter Garver were farmers.  (I’ve talked about her family in another post.)  Hazel died at age 72.

Floy Dell Alwood:  Floy outdid her sister Hazel in the effort to produce the most grandchildren for Warren—she and husband Charles Haring had sixteen children!  The family is pictured below.  Floy’s death was a very tragic one…  As two granddaughters told it in a family cookbook/history book, Floy worked at a local laundry to help support her large family.  One day she was told of an automobile accident involving one of her daughters and a friend in which, she was told, her daughter was killed.  Floy had a heart attack that day, and died shortly after, at age 61.  As it turned out, her daughter had survived the accident.

Beulah Marie Alwood:  Beulah lost her mother when she was only six and was raised by her father, with the help of her brother Wayne.  (Below is a photograph of Beulah and Wayne around 1912.)  Beulah grew up to marry local farmer LaDoyt Alverado Carey and they had two sons.  The older one, John, died at four months due to accidental strangulation.  What a tragedy!  I wonder how it affected their family?  Beulah died at age 57.

I love to trace the paths of a married couple and all their children, not just the one who is a direct ancestor.  In genealogy they call it “descendancy research.”  I call it “finding the stories.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday: My Ten Favorite Posts from Year One

It was a year ago that I started blogging.  I hoped to share the stories I’ve discovered in researching my own family and the families of friends and clients.  I was afraid I’d run out of stories, but that hasn’t happened!  I'm thankful for the stories I've discovered and the people I've met (both dead and alive).  Here are ten of my favorite stories from Year One:

For the Love of Norman – This was my very first post.  It was about the brief time I was privileged to know my father-in-law, and our quest to learn more about his past.

A Young Man With a Past – This is the story of a young man my husband worked with, whose genealogy turned up an amazing heritage that neither of us expected.

Genealogy and Alzheimer’s – The story of a discovery I made with the help of a client, whose mother-in-law has dementia but really enjoyed learning about her ancestry.

Anna Peterson Genoways: Love Found Late – This is a love story about one of my grandmother’s sisters, and it has a bittersweet ending.

Double Wedding Ring – This love story from my sister-in-law’s family, about a woman named Rhoda Wyatt who lived in the 1800s, had a much happier ending.

Lutefisk: Scourge of the Scandinavians – My feelings about a Swedish tradition from my childhood that I could easily have lived without.

George Wendell Phillips: Gone Without a Trace – This is a mystery from a client’s family history that, with the help of my readers, I was able to solve.

What Ever Happened to Agnes Goldberger? – This is a mystery that I still haven’t been able to solve.  It concerns a foster child raised alongside my mother who left their family when she was about sixteen and was never heard from again.

“La Corriveau” – I do love the black sheep stories!  This one is about one of the most infamous murderers in Canadian history—who also happens to be my husband’s second cousin, six times removed.

A Murder in Chicago – One more black sheep story for good measure.  This one tells the story of a love triangle in my sister-in-law Susie’s family that ended with her great-great-aunt being murdered.

And so Year Two begins.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dad's War Souvenirs, Part Three

My father, Robert Wallin, fought in the army infantry in World War II, fighting his way—on foot—from Normandy to Germany.  Like many of his fellow soldiers, he brought home a duffel bag of mementoes which, sixty years later and long after his death, are family treasures.

Part Three:  Nazi Souvenirs

The first photo is a belt buckle that my father retrieved from the body of a dead Nazi soldier.  (He brought home a handful of this type of items with the Nazi swastika and eagle on them.)  In a letter home to his parents he said this about how he came into possession of it:  “I have a belt buckle I’m going to send home.  When I do, save it, as I got it in a personal fight with a German sergeant at about 10 paces range and shot him 6 times and cut off his belt buckle and insignia.  Here is the insignia.”   

A similar thing that Dad brought back is a belt buckle that bears the German words “Gott Mit Uns”—which is to say, “God With Us.”

The second item is made of red wool—thus the moth holes it acquired in its half century in my parents’ attic.  It is a Nazi arm band such as I’ve seen in old photographs.  He also managed to bring home a huge Nazi flag, as big as the front side of our house, which he removed from a stadium of some type after the war was over.  I remember his saying that the American troops went door to door, clearing out the Nazi propaganda from each house and making big bonfires of it in the streets.  But a few things ended up in the American soldiers’ duffel bags instead.  Dad said this in a letter home shortly after the Nazi surrender: 

“These Germans are funny.  All of them hate Hitler, and never had anything to do with him, and are glad to see us, etc., etc.  Then we search their houses and drag uniforms, pictures of Hitler, charter membership cards to the Nazi party, and everything else out.  What a bunch of cheerful liars.”

The third item came from the front of a Nazi officer’s hat.  I don’t know the story of how my father came into possession of it, but I think it’s safe to say that its original owner didn’t part with it willingly!

Related posts:
Dad's War Souvenirs, Part One
Dad's War Souvenirs, Part Two
A Big Brother's Urgent Plea
Letters from the Front Lines: Don't Worry, Please

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Military Service of Norman Mosey

Almost a year ago, I wrote my very first blog post—“For the Love of Norman.”  It was about my quest to record the family history of my father-in-law and his death in the middle of our project.  I mentioned that after he died, I finished recording the story of his military service, using the papers he left on his living room table to share with me.  Here it is, in condensed form…

Norman Mosey was in the U.S. Navy from March 1944 to June 1946.  He served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II as a “TM 3/C” (Torpedoman’s Mate Third Class).  He met his future wife Donna via letters she wrote to him during the war.  His “vessels and stations served on” included:

  • Naval Training Station at Farragut, Idaho 
  • Cub 15  (an advanced base unit)
  • Fleet Service School (Advance Torpedo), San Diego, CA
  • ABPD (Advance Base Personnel Depot), San Bruno, CA
  • USS Sierra [AD18]—a destroyer tender
  • USS Stevens [DD479]—a Fletcher-class destroyer
His training began with 8 weeks of boot camp at the Farragut Naval Training Station.  The 4,000-acre Farragut was the second-largest naval training center in the world.  Drilling was given in seamanship, military discipline, physical fitness, and Naval procedure.  Vessels on nearby Lake Pend Orielle were used for training on the water.  The men learned to march, row, swim, and use firearms.  Over 293,000 sailors (“Blue Jackets”) received basic training at Farragut.  It was also used as a POW camp; 900 Germans worked as gardeners and maintenance men there.

In May 1944, after a 10-day furlough, Norman was sent to the Advance Base Personnel Depot at San Bruno, California.  He says he did nothing but menial work there, so after four months he applied for a transfer to Fleet Service School (Advanced Torpedo) in San Diego, where he had 16 weeks of torpedo training in all aspects from assembly to repair in late 1944.

Norman served on the USS Sierra in 1945.  It was a “Destroyer Tender” with 1,050 crewmen that serviced destroyers and destroyer escorts.  In March 1945 the Sierra went to the Caroline Islands, then the Philippines, for anticipated strikes against the Japanese mainland, but the surrender of Japan ended that assignment.  Norman was at Leyte Gulf, Philippines when the Japanese surrendered; he remembers all the Navy ships firing off ordnance of every kind—or in the case of his ship, flares, since they didn’t have ordnance aboard.

The Sierra sailed in September 1945 for Japan, Korea, and Shanghai, China, where Norman visited a Japanese prison camp.  He was sent home on emergency leave in December 1945 due to the death of his father.  He spent much time with Donna while he was home.

After his leave he was sent to San Diego to finish out his service.  He served on the USS Stevens, a Fletcher-class Destroyer.  The Stevens had seen much action in the Pacific Theatre during the war, but at this point it was undergoing a six-month “deactivation overhaul” before being decommissioned. 

Norman was honorably discharged in June 1946.  He married Donna later that year in Clare County, Michigan.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dad's War Souvenirs, Part Two

My father, Robert Wallin, fought in the army infantry in World War II, fighting his way—on foot—from Normandy to Germany.  Like many of his fellow soldiers, he brought home a duffel bag of mementoes which, sixty years later and long after his death, are family treasures.

Part Two:  Food

The first photograph is of Dad’s very well-worn mess kit.  The five pieces appear to be made of tin.  They are lightweight and fit together nicely.  The handle on the larger piece can be extended to turn it into a cooking pan.  I believe he carried a tin cup as well, but if he did, it didn’t survive.

The green “Supper Ration Type K,” part of a series more commonly known as “K Rations,” is in pretty bad shape after sixty years; the can has rusted through and the contents have dried up.  The front says this: “Open inner bag carefully.  It maybe be used as a waterproof container for matches, cigarettes, and other items.  For security, hid the empty can and wrappers so that they cannot be seen.”  The contents are listed on the back:  “Meat:  eat cold, or after boiling can in water, or after frying in its own fat with added biscuit crumbs.  Assorted biscuits.  Boullion:  add to two thirds canteen cup of not or cold water.  Confection.  Cigarettes.  Chewing gum.”  Cigarettes were always included.  I remember Dad saying it was the only way he could keep his nerves steady enough to do the things he was being asked to do.

The box itself is cardboard and coated in wax.  I remember Dad saying that you could empty the box and then put it on the ground and set fire to it, and it would burn like a candle for long enough to heat up your water for coffee, or your food.

The red “Breakfast Ration Type K” has the same message printed on the front.  The breakfast box contains these items:  “Meat and eggs:  eat cold, or after heating by boiling can in water.  Assorted biscuits.  Coffee:  add to one third canteen cup of hot or cold water.  Fruit bar:  eat cold or make into jam by stewing 3 to 5 minutes in about 4 spoonfuls of water.  Sugar.  Chewing gum.  Cigarettes.”  One more item was included but not listed:  a small roll of khaki green toilet paper.

Dad was a part of the Army of Occupation for six months after the war ended, and he also brought back some items that he kept as souvenirs of the Nazis.  I’ll talk about those next, in Part Three.

Related posts:
Dad's War Souvenirs, Part One
A Big Brother's Urgent Plea
Letters from the Front Lines: Don't Worry, Please

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Dad's War Souvenirs, Part One

My father, Robert Wallin, fought in the army infantry in World War II, fighting his way—on foot—from Normandy to Germany.  Like many of his fellow soldiers, he brought home a duffel bag of mementoes which, sixty years later and long after his death, are family treasures.

Part One: Protection

 I don’t know how many times this helmet saved my father’s life—probably more times than he could count.  He was shot at, hit by shell fragments, and thrown to the ground by the concussive power of large artillery.  The helmet is very heavy, but I bet it was worth its weight in gold to a foot soldier.  My husband, an army veteran, smiled when he saw Dad’s helmet.  “Your father was a second lieutenant,” he said.  How did he know?  He told me that when he was in the army in the 1970s, soldiers had a nickname for second lieutenants—they called them “butter bars” because of the single yellow stripe on their helmets.

The green silk piece of camouflage cloth, Dad once told me, was to wrap around his helmet in those instances when getting one’s head in the line of fire was unavoidable, I suppose in order to get a better view.  That little piece of cloth might have saved his life a time or two.

The third item was for a different kind of protection—“Insecticide Powder for Body Crawling Insects.”  I wonder how often Dad had to make use of that?  The directions on the back say to pay particular attention to the seams of one’s clothes.  “Repeat applications at one or two week intervals, depending on the abundance of lice.”  Dad also carried a bottle of little white iodine pills to drop into his canteen of water, in those instances when he had to fill up his canteen with local water that might have some kind of ‘bugs’ in it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Warren Alwood: A Good Man

This is a photo of my husband’s great-grandfather Warren Alwood—a good man.  He is the relative on my husband's side whom I most wish I could have met.  I love to tell the stories of the “black sheep”—oh, mercy, I really do!—but the fine and faithful citizens also need their stories told, don’t you think?

Warren Charles Alwood (1862-1935) was the youngest in his family.  His father died of typhoid fever in 1865, many miles from home, while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Warren was only two, and his mother never remarried—perhaps setting an example for Warren’s later life of faithfulness in love, even after death.

Warren married Adeline (Addie) Mark in 1891 when he was 28 and she was 25—first marriage for both.  They had five children, but raised six:  Franklin, Irvin, Wayne, Hazel, Floy Dell, and Beulah.  (More about them another day.)  That puzzled me until I did some digging…  It turns out Addie had a son out of wedlock in 1886—Franklin, who was disabled with spinal problems.  But Warren raised Frankie as his own until he died in 1900 at age 13 of typhoid fever. 

The family started out in northeastern Indiana, then went to Ohio where Addie was born, but eventually settled in Clare County, Michigan, on a farm near Brown’s Corners.  Warren built a house of fieldstone which was still standing in 2002.  Six years after their last child was born, Addie died from uterine cancer at 46; Warren was a widower at 51.  His obituary later said of him, “Mr. Alwood continued to maintain a home for his family until they were all able to depend upon themselves.”

But Warren had a lot of life in him yet.  He was head of the local school board, was active in the United Brethren Church, and was a much-loved father and grandfather.  A few stories about him survive, thanks to his grandson Dale Garver:

Once when Warren came to visit his daughter Hazel Garver and her children, he had cheese and crackers during the drive over.  It had rained, and dirt had splashed on his snack.  When he got to his daughter’s house, he said his “cheese and crackers got all muddy.”  The boys soon turned this into “Jesus Christ, God Almighty!” and teased him about it the rest of the day.

Grandsons Charles, Wayne, Forest and Lester—Hazel’s four oldest boys—liked to play tricks on their grandfather.  When he came over with his Whippet, a small two-door car, and it was time to leave, they’d line up and grab the rear bumper.  The car didn’t have enough power to pull all of them, and it would stall.  Warren would get out, hollering at them, and run them off…  If there weren’t four of them, they’d still grab the bumper, but instead of stalling the car, they’d ski down the road behind it.  Unless they let go in time, they would hit the sandy spot in the road about halfway to the corner and tumble head over heels.

One day when Warren came home with his Whippet, he pulled into the small barn where he parked it.  The building had doors front and back so he didn’t have to back out.  This particular time he failed to stop and hollered, “Whoa!” as he crashed through the back doors of the barn.

This photograph shows Warren with some of his sisters and neighbors.  The startling caption is “Fat People of Brown’s Corners.”  Warren looks like a rooster in a henhouse here—I suppose he was the most eligible middle-aged bachelor in the area.

But Warren never remarried.  After 22 years as a widower, he died at age 72 from heart trouble, probably a complication of the diabetes which runs in the family...  Gone, but not forgotten.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

James Francis Collier: A Self Made Man

While doing some research for a client, I came across an amazing story of a “self made man” named James Francis Collier. He is shown here front left, with his wife and children.

James was born in 1863 in Pennsylvania—the son of Irish immigrants Martin Collier and Catherine Kealy and the oldest of ten children.  Martin and Catherine settled in Schuykill County, and then Northumberland County, Pennsylvania—coal mining country.  James’ father Martin was a coal miner, as his father was before him.  In fact, the name “Collier” means coal miner.  It was hard and dirty work.  Martin died at age 49.

In the 1880 census, James (16) and his younger brother (only 12!) are “breaker boys” in the coal mines.  I had to look that up… Wikipedia says that breaker boys sorted coal by hand, without gloves.  It was a job for the young and the old.  Boys as young as eight would work ten hours a day, six days a week, sorting the coal by size and removing impurities.  They often lost fingers, hands, or worse in the conveyor belts.  Asthma and black lung were common. 

By the 1900 census, James was married to Lizzie McDowell, a daughter of Irish immigrants.  James has come a long way in 20 years; he is an insurance agent.  By the 1920 census he is a “superintendent-insurance company.”  The 1940 census tells us that James’ formal education stopped at the sixth grade—consistent with he and his brother being “breaker boys” by 1880.  James was truly a self-made man.

His 1945 obituary tells us just how far he had come.  It is entitled “James F. Collier, Civic Leader, Dies After Long Illness” and it says, in part:

“Mr. Collier was one of the best known insurance men in the city.  He was superintendent of the Prudential Life Insurance Company here until his retirement 11 years ago.  Since then he has devoted his time to civic activities and was a member of the Rotary Club, the Elks, the Eagles, the Young Men’s Republican Club, the Young Men’s Democratic Club, and the Wheel Club.  A member of the Church of the Annunciation, Mr. Collier was active in parish affairs and was a member of the Holy Name Society.  He was a member, also, of Williamsport Council 966, Knights of Columbus; was a fourth degree knight and served two terms as grand knight.  He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president; was a director of the First National Bank, and a director of the Williamsport Hotels Company.  He was a past president of the County Automobile club.  In municipal affairs, Mr. Collier was a leader in city planning.  He served long periods as president of both the City Planning commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  He was a past president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Planning Commissioners.” 

All this with a sixth grade education!

It also says this in his obituary:  “Mr. Collier started to work when he was eight years old, picking slate in the anthracite breakers.”  That tells us that James never forgot his humble roots, and rather than hiding his past or being embarrassed, he told his story.  I am guessing that this self made man was a huge inspiration to others.  I’m glad I had the chance to tell his story.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Wallin Siblings: Blazing a Path

“We grew up together in the same Nebraska town…. buried in wheat and corn… burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky… blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron.  We agreed that no one who had not grown up in a little prairie town could know anything about it.”  Willa CatherMy Antonia

I recently wrote about my great-grandfather Frederick (F.I.) Wallin and his wife Christina, my Swedish “gateway ancestors” on the Wallin branch of the family tree.  Here is the family in Nebraska around 1903.  In the back are Aurora, Ray, Isador, Ithel, and Inez; my grandfather Sture Nels is standing in the middle; and great-grandpa Frederick, young Leonard, and great-grandma Christina are seated in front.  Such fine Swedish names!

Unlike the Peterson branch of the family, the Wallins all lived to adulthood to marry and, in most cases, have families of their own...

Isidor Hilmer (1879-1977) was called “Ike.”  He and his sister Inez were born when the family was still in Chautauqua County, New York, before they went west to Nebraska.  Ike was married twice and had five children with first wife, Selma Nyberg.  It is said he lived long enough to see six generations.  He died in Idaho at age 98.

Inez Christine (1884-1960) was married three times, the first time at age 16.  Her second husband, John Wade, was a steam railroad bridge builder.  Inez had two daughters, and she died in Los Angeles at age 76.

Frederick Iranus (1886-1944) was called “Ray.”  He was a carpenter.  He married twice—first to Esther Dahlberg, with whom he had four children, and then to Dorothy Farnum Kaiser, a widow who was his housekeeper after his first wife died.  Dorothy lived only four more years, leaving Ray a widower for the second time at age 54.  He died four years later.

Ithel Georgianna (1888-1944) was married to Ellis Passmore when she was 20 and he was 33, and they had three children.  Ellis was a civil engineer for the Burlington Railroad and later the CB&Q.  After Ithel (pronounced “ee-thel”) died at age 56, Ellis moved to California.

Aurora Linnea (1890-1976) was a schoolteacher, both before her marriage (in Nebraska) and afterwards (in California).  She and her husband Elmer Levene had no children, but Aurora’s mother Christina lived with them after her father Frederick died.

Sture Nels (1892-1979) was the only one to move east—to Illinois—which he did after the Great Depression and the droughts of the 1930s took their toll on the Great Plains farmers.  Sture was in a near-fatal car accident in Iowa in September 1940, while making final arrangements for the move.  Sture and his wife Sara had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.

Leonard Carl (1898-1977) and his brother Sture both served in World War I.  Leonard and wife Helen Carmichael had two children.  Leonard ran a general store in the hotel that his father built around 1920.  Later he later moved to California to take a job with Boeing Aircraft, where he died at age 78.

So the first generation to come were Nebraska farmers; and the second generation moved beyond the Nebraska prairie to other places and things; and the third generation went to college, if they were willing to work hard; and my generation grew up believing that we could achieve anything we wanted—in no small part, I now know, because of the path blazed by those who came before.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Wilhelm Zietzke: A Not-Quite-Ordinary Life

Some people are just “characters.”  Wilhelm Zietzke (1830-1913) falls into that category.  (I’ve written about Wilhelm’s son Emiel in another post—he was a character, also!)

According to his death certificate, Wilhelm was born in “Misslowitz, Deutsch Poland” in 1830.  Myslowitz is the German name of this town, but “MysÅ‚owice” is the Polish name, and it’s now a part of Poland; this is one of those areas that has been part of a number of different countries over the years.  He gives his birthplace as “Poland” in 1885 and “Germany” in 1910; his son gives his father’s birthplace as “Poland” in 1920 and as “Prussia” in 1930.  Suffice it to say that, from what I can see online, Hitler was not kind to Myslowitz...   But Wilhelm left for America in 1861. 

The Museum of the Rockies provided me with a biographical sketch of Wilhelm published in 1885.  This told me that he went first to Cincinnati, Ohio; then to St. Joseph, Missouri; then onwards to the Wild West frontier  town of Helena, Montana Territory by 1865.  He was a prospector and then a carpenter there.  By 1868 he had relocated to Bozeman, Montana.  His first job there was building a log house for General Willson, and the biography concludes by saying that he is a successful building contractor. 

Eventually Wilhelm gave up carpentering and by 1900 had opened a cigar and confectionery store in Bozeman, and a photo survives.

But Wilhelm was more than a prospector, a carpenter, and a shopkeeper.  He was also very clever.  On the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website ( I found out that he held a number of patents for some very useful things.  Here is the patent drawing for one of them—an early can opener.  He also held patents for an early sash window, a butter churn, and a “combination tool.”  Genius must run in the family; his son held patents as well, and two of his grandsons. 
Wilhelm married Emilie Prebe in 1883, when he was 52 and she was just 23.  If he was married before that time, I don’t know about it—but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he was!  (In the spirit of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” see my post on his son Emiel.)  They had three children.  Not a happy marriage, apparently, as evidenced by the fact that in the 1910 census, they had separated.  He had moved to nearby Sheds Bridge, Montana, where he opened a small store.

In his later years, Wilhelm had a ‘peg leg.’  A picture exists of him standing outside of his store, peg leg and all.  Wilhelm’s 1913 obituary quite contradictingly says this about it:  “He had to have his right leg amputated some five or six years ago after a long illness.  He learned to be quite active again, but was more or less of an invalid from the time of his loss of a limb until his death.”  

Many people of his generation were born, grew up, married young, worked a farm, had children, and died…  But then there are those like Wilhelm, who added a few extra twists.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Michigan Farm Life in the Great Depression, Part 3

Excerpts from the childhood of my mother-in-law, Donna Garver Mosey, in her own words:

“Mom did the milking, since Dad didn’t like working with the twelve cows.  We sold the cream but not milk—we didn’t have the cooling required for milk.  The man picked up the cream once a week.  We had real butter at home, and real homemade bread in our school lunches—which we took with us to school every day if we wanted to eat—no cafeteria in one room schools! 

At Christmastime, we would cut our own Christmas tree from the woods.  Mom made sea foam candy, fudge, peanut candy, and other treats.  Gifts were practical—clothes for school, mostly.  We would also get those old pinball kind of games that you would play on the floor—not one apiece, but one to share for all…  

When I was little our family had gone to church, but we quit going when there were too many kids to clothe and transport.  We went until there were five kids (counting brothers and sisters), but then it got too hard to get everyone dressed up enough.  But after that, we kids were still allowed to go—my dad would even drive us there—and my sisters and I went—Fern and Virginia and I, and Betty when she was old enough.   

We girls didn’t have bikes, but the boys did.  We didn’t do any horseback riding—we only had work horses.  Summer vacations, we worked in the garden and helped with the canning—I liked peeling peaches and tomatoes because you could boil them and the skins would drop right off!...  We always had enough to eat—but it was a lot of beans and potatoes.  I still like beans of all kinds—now it’s a healthy thing to eat.  I’m a “vegaholic” and I like fruit of all kinds.  Of course I like meat, too.  Butchering days were interesting on the farm!

My mother always made a good Sunday dinner with all the trimmings—meat, potatoes and gravy, salad, coleslaw, pie…  We girls once said to her, 'You always cook what Dad likes.”  She said, “I had Dad before I had all of you, and I’ll hopefully have Dad after you’re gone—so yes, I cook what he likes.”  I got the same story from our Fabulous Five with what I cooked for their dad while they were growing up.

8 boys, 6 girls.  Donna is in the front row middle, between her two parents.

I remember the day Doris (the oldest of the fourteen of us) left home.  It was the first time I ever saw my mother cry.   She left to be a housekeeper for somebody; then she met Lawrence and got married.  Charles left next.  He worked for a farmer nearby, the next farm over from his future wife Ellen...  I remember when Forest left home.  A farmer came to the house, wanting to hire a farmhand for milking, etc.  Mom and Dad said, “Forest can go.”  Forest later felt that meant that they didn’t like him as well as the other kids—but probably he was just the right age to leave home…  None of the boys ever had trouble finding work; all the Garvers had a good work ethic.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Michigan Farm Life in the Great Depression, Part 2

Excerpts from the childhood of my mother-in-law, Donna Garver Mosey, in her own words:

“At school we had a recess at 10:30 and 2:30, and a one-hour lunch break at noon.  Reading was my favorite subject.  I remember what an awful time I had with long division, though!  I could do short division, but not long…  We played anti-over, where we threw a ball over the school house, and “ducky on the rock.” 

I loved to read; I devoured any books that came into the house—books, magazines, my sister Doris’ True Stories and Modern Romance, Reader’s Digest if I could get them, the newspaper if the store man saved it for us, anything I could get my hands on… There wasn’t any library that I remember.   I could spell in those days—not so good now—because we had “spell-downs” on Fridays third quarter after recess, quite often.

I was terrified of speaking in front of people.  Old Mr. Robinette, even though he burned down the barn at The Grove, was still our friend—he was a shirt-tail relative on my mother’s side.  One time they were at our place, and I had a Christmas program coming up, and I had a part, and I was afraid.  He said, “If you get up there and only look at me, you won’t cry.  And if you say your part, and you don’t cry, I will give you a dime.”  And I did it!   

We bought flour in 25-pound bags, or took our own wheat to the mill to be ground.  Mom would make 10 or 12 loaves of bread at a time, in round pans—she could only fit four at a time in the oven.  The recipe was simple: yeast, water, sugar, flour.  Our stove was wood-burning cook stove with a wood box nearby.  Mom was a good cook and a good baker.  She would make pies on Sunday while we were at Sunday School.  We had a few chickens, and she would make egg noodles.  When we had noodles, they were homemade with about a dozen whole eggs and flour and salt.  They were really a treat with chicken and broth!

We didn’t get too many invitations to eat at other people’s houses—there were too many of us to feed!  But my childhood was a happy time, as I recall it.  We didn’t know how others lived, and it didn’t matter.   

I remember laundry days.  Mom had a washboard, two tubs, and a boiler for whites—no washer or dryer.  She had to pump the water (kitchen pump), haul it to the stove, heat the water, fill the tubs, and scrub the clothes by hand.  She would start the laundry on Monday morning and not finish until Wednesday morning.  I remember her hands were raw and her fingers were bloody by the time it was finished…  I don’t know why, but we used to beg her to let us help her scrub the socks!  We would hang clothes outdoors to dry (even in winter)—they were freeze dried, but they smelled heavenly…  Ironing was a family thing.  The experienced ironers would do shirts and dresses, and the beginners would do hankies and pillowcases.”

To be continued…  Click here

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Graveyard Kit

Is it weird that I have a graveyard kit?  How else can you go grave hunting in an organized and well-equipped manner?  Mine is stored in a pink bucket with a decal on it.  (I’m a very girly grave hunter.)

The bucket contains all the stuff I need for proper gravestone hunting (except a goodly supply of water—never leave home without a goodly supply of water).  The bucket contains:
  • A notebook and a pen, along with any information that I had the foresight to gather together beforehand.
  • My camera, of course.  How else can I take photos to upload to
  • A little pink flashlight, for casting shadows on gravestones for better pictures.  The experts advise a big mirror for that purpose, but that won’t fit into my bucket.
  • Grass snips, a trowel, and a whisk broom, for quick cleanup work as required.
  • Cotton gloves.
  • A second bucket just like the first one, for hauling water if there’s a faucet.  (But I learned the hard way to also bring plenty of gallon jugs of water, especially when going to very old or abandoned cemeteries.)
  • A stiff-but-soft scrub brush that fits well into my husband’s hand.
  • Liquid soap—a special kind.  (I did a lot of research on this subject.)  It’s called “Orvus” and it has three main uses, so I’m told:  Washing horses, washing antique fabrics, and washing gravestones.  Fancy that!…
  • Wet wipes.  I like having clean hands when I use my camera (and all the rest of the time, too, actually).
  • A big Ziploc bag, for kneeling upon to take photographs.  I don’t like dirty knees either.
  • Bug repellent.  I once went wandering through some tall grass in the woods in cropped pants, looking for a few old gravestones which made up a small old family cemetery...  I came out with about a hundred bug bites on my lower legs.  I’m lucky I didn’t end up with Lyme disease!
  • White chalk for marking trees and driveways for navigational purposes.  Don’t want to walk the same rows twice if I don’t have to.
  • Little American flags.  I like to leave them at the graves of veterans.

Okay, so is this normal, or weird?  All genealogists love graveyards, right?  I once saw a coffee mug for genealogists that said, “I’m only interested in dead people.”  Well, yes, but I wouldn’t say only…  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Those Places Thursday: Michigan Farm Life in the Great Depression, Part 1

Excerpts from the childhood of my mother-in-law, Donna Garver Mosey, in her own words:

“I was the seventh born of fifteen children.  (The fifteenth one, William, had a bad heart and lived only a few days.)  I was born at home, as we all were.  When a new baby was about to be born, we would go outside to play, if we could, in the old corn crib if it was empty.  There was no telephone, so Dad would go and bring the midwife.   I remember once telling my teacher that when I grew up I wanted to have lots of children, like my mother did.

My dad was a ‘dirt poor farmer’...  One year a spark from the threshing machine caused a fire on the barn with the crop, so there was no way to make the farm payment to the bank.  So we had to move.  We moved into my great aunt Ellen Garver’s house.  Not a great house, but by sleeping three to four in a bed we kept warm. 

After Grandpa Charles Garver died in 1931, we moved into the family home on Adams Road.  The main floor of the house had a living room with a kerosene space heater, and a sofa, and always some rocking chairs.  The first floor also had the girls’ bedroom and my parents’ room.  In the lean-to part of the house it had a pantry and laundry room and a kitchen/eating area, with a dining table to seat twelve and a wood stove for cooking.  The second floor had only the chimney for heat, and that was the boys’ bedroom.  That house on Adams Road didn’t have electricity until the 1940s, and there was no indoor bathroom until 1946, about the time I got married.

 Besides farming 40 acres of land, Dad worked for the WPA in the 1930s, helping to build Route M61.  They built it by hand, with shovels.  He boarded out during the week and came home on weekends.  The workers who had horses got more money than those who had only shovels and manpower, so since every nickel counted, Dad was hired with a team of horses.   

I started at a country school.  It was 2¼ miles there, so some days, my brother Lester pulled me to school on a sled.  Other days, the milkman saw us Garver kids and picked us up and gave us a ride…  After that we changed schools, to the Browns Corners one room school, half a mile closer to home.  That first school, Brand School, closed after we left, since there weren’t enough students without us!

I had a lady teacher at Browns Corners School, and I loved her.  That teacher was the one who put my name in as the one and only student from our school who was allowed to go on a trip the Upper Peninsula by school bus.  We saw Tahquamenon Falls, Castle Rock at St. Ignace, and rode the Mackinac ferry (there was no bridge then).”

To be continued…  click here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mystery Monday: What Ever Happened to Frank Dunn?

My friend Wendy has a mystery in her family that I’d love to help her solve.  It involves her great grandfather, Frank Dunn, and what happened to him in his later years.

Here is what I do know, beyond a reasonable doubt anyway:  Frank was born in February 1868 in Alabama, parents unknown.  In a possible census record match for 1880 in Alabama, he is called “Jack.”   Somehow he ended up in Kendall County, Illinois, where he married Grace May Kellett (my friend Wendy’s great-grandmother) on August 17, 1899; he was 21 and she was just 14.  On their marriage record his first name is given as “Frank” and his father is listed as “Frank Dunn Sr.” with no mother listed. 

Sixteen months later they had a daughter named Ethel (my friend Wendy’s grandmother).  On the birth record, Frank is listed as “Jack Dunn.”  Two more daughters were subsequently born to Frank and Grace, one in 1893 and one in 1894, neither of whom survived very long. 

On March 27, 1895 Grace’s short life came to an end at age nineteen.  An obituary in the Kendall County Record (April 3, 1895) gives her husband’s name as “John Dunn” and incorrectly states that two children were left without a mother’s care.   

The vagueness and errors in Grace’s obituary made me take a second look at the Kendall County Record obituary (October 17, 1894) for the second of their two babies who died.  The wording is odd…  It appears that by 1894 Grace might have been living apart from her husband.

 At any rate, Grace died in March of 1895 and was buried at Pavilion Cemetery in Kendall County, and Frank was married to Elnora Bissell on November 9, 1896.  On this second marriage record the groom’s first name is given as “Frank” and his parents are listed as Joseph and Mary Dunn.

In the 1900 census for Lee & Shabbona Villages in DeKalb County, Illinois, Frank and Nora live Frank’s 9-year-old daughter Ethel and work for the Woodbury family.  They have been married three years and Nora has had no children.  Franks says he (and his parents) were born in Alabama.

What happened after that is less certain.  Frank (or Jack, or John) apparently separated from Elnora Bissell some time between 1900 and 1910, quite likely without children.  A possible Aurora, Illinois census match for 1910 shows a Frank Dunn boarding with August and Ida Boner at 236 South Lake Street.  He says he is divorced, and he is a laborer at a livery stable.  A possible Aurora, Illinois census match for 1920 shows a Frank Dunn who is a roomer at the large Hotel Grand on Galena Boulevard.  He is listed as single and is employed as a watchman at a laundry. 

After that, the trail goes cold.  What ever happened to Frank Dunn?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Children of Robert & Elisabeth Mosey

I really like “descendancy research”—following all the children of a particular ancestor down through time, rather than just one.  It uncovers lots more stories, and gives a fuller picture of the family.

Robert and Elisabeth Bennet Mosey, my husband’s great-great-grandparents, had eight children who survived to adulthood.  Pictured here left to right are Jane, Martha, and Sarah Elizabeth; Richard, Frank, John, and Lewis.  Perhaps Maria was living in Nebraska at the time. (Three more sons—Lesven, Daniel, and Robert—died in early childhood.)  Four sons and four daughters…

Lewis:  Lewis—my husband’s great-grandfather—was the only one to fight in the Civil War, serving in the Indiana Infantry.  Afterwards he married a girl from his childhood home in Lorain County, Ohio—Hannah Wilkinson—and they settled first in Allegan County, where his parents lived, and then in Michigan’s “Thumb,” across the state from the rest of the Moseys, where he was a successful farmer.  Hannah died in her forties, and he remarried twice.

John:  John was a farmer and a barrel maker.  Like his brother, he was married three times, but word in the family has it that none of the marriages were happy.  He had no surviving children and is buried near his parents with his third wife Helena.

Francis (Frank):  Frank was a farmer and a carpenter.  He and his wife Jennie had four children, one of whom died in infancy.  He was widowed at age 43 and lived as a widower until his death at age 89.  He was a member of the IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), which would be good topic for another blog post.

Jane:  Jane had no children of her own, but her husband William Orr had eight grown children from his previous wife.  They were married only eleven years before William died, leaving her a widow at age 49.  Jane then lived with her widowed brother Frank for a time, helping him with his home and children, and then her sister Elizabeth.

Maria:  Maria is the only one who lived outside of Michigan for any length of time.  She and her husband Alonzo Brant lived in Banner and Kimball Counties in Nebraska for a number of years, where he was a farmer and a “stock raiser”—and also a bit of a hell-raiser, according to some accounts!  They had two children who both died in childhood.  After her husband’s death, it is said she returned to Michigan.

Martha:  Martha married Jasper Dennis at age 17 and was widowed at 33.  They had six children.  Her husband died in Tennessee, and there seems to be some mystery around this fact which no one wanted to talk about.  Later in life she lived with her sister Elizabeth.  She died at age 72 and is buried near her sister Jane.

Richard:  Richard married for the first time at 33, and he and his wife Jennett had three children.  He seems to have lived the most uneventful life of the entire lot!  (But perhaps there are things yet to be discovered which will spice up his story…  It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.)

Sarah Elizabeth:  Sarah’s husband, John Orr, made his living as a teamster.  (Wikipedia: “a person who drove a team of draft animals, usually a wagon drawn by oxenhorses, or mules.”)  In 1910 her widowed older sister Jane lived with their family, and in 1920 her widowed older sister Martha lived with them.  The 1910 census says that this was her second marriage—so she may have a past that I haven’t yet discovered.  (Either that, or the census taker was mistaken.)

Genealogy is a journey, and there’s always more to discover.