I love January! In spite of the cold temperatures (although it was almost 70 degrees yesterday) and the snow that takes FOREVER to melt from the street in front of our house, I am invigorated by the invitation of clean calendar pages and pristine to-do lists. I am excited at the thought of 12 whole months spread out in front of me waiting to be filled with whatever I choose.
I’ve googled, pinterested, instagrammed and facebooked looking for my focus for 2015, and I keep coming back to blogging. This is my journal. This is my family history. This is my love. This is my job! I miss writing and documenting my life. And as I read back through previous posts, loving the memories they invoke, I know that this is what I want to do.
I had a rather rude awakening at Sunday dinner one evening several months ago when Peter commented that he hadn’t heard many of our Middle East experiences. Later conversations with Mark confirmed that we have been very negligent in sharing and recording our family history. How did we let that happen? Every kid deserves to know that his dad was held at machine gun point against a bus, and that his mother gave birth to his brother in a hospital where the bathroom lacked even a fundamental toilet seat!
And so I’m committing to getting back in the blogging groove again. I’ll divide my time between this blog and my family history blogs – Butler family and Berrett family. Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve continued researching and organizing and gathering stories and pictures that I’m anxious to share.
And since those 12 months are almost now just 11, I’d better get busy!
I’ve been thinking a lot about you this week and missing you considerably. I’m sure you’re gloating just a little bit over my feelings of abandonment, because I’m certain that at least once or twice you warned/threatened/tried to guilt me with a statement to this effect: “You’re going to regret not getting involved in my family genealogy with me. Because when I’m gone, you’re going to be left to do it on your own. And you’ll be sorry!” Your threats didn’t move me far enough or fast enough, and you’re right – I do regret it – fearfully so.
Remember all those files that I brought home from Dad several months ago? All those files that harbored your years of genealogy research? All those files that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle? All those files filled with names I only had a passing acquaintance with? Well, I’ve cleaned and organized them several times since bringing them here, and this week I finally started the project of assembling my surname binders for “Compton”. Who knew you had such a treasure trove of family history memorabilia? I am impressed!
I’ve read the letters of research requests you made and marveled at your determination to find information back in the day before the internet. I even found a couple of letters Gram wrote in the 1950s. Oh, how you would have loved ancestry.com! How you would have been thrilled to find so much county record information online.
And I know you would have been as giddy as I was when I found the actual marriage record for Francis and Mary DeVall Compton, scanned and available on the internet, right from the comfort of my own home. (If you’re looking, their names are 4th from the top)
I’ve studied the pictures and seen a lot of history in them. I’m fascinated with the clothes and hairstyles of both the men and women, and I look for family resemblance in an effort to connect to these ancestors that I never knew.
I’ve decided that I take after the Compton side of the family – a little bit like Great-Grandma Iva and a little like her sister Pearl.
But I hope not too much, because their mother, my great-great grandmother Mary DeVall Compton, didn’t age too well. Maybe she was just having a bad hair day!
I wish you were around to answer my questions. Did you know Pearl Compton (Grandma Iva’s sister) worked at a silk factory in Belding, Michigan and lived in a dormitory there? I discovered a memory book of her friends tucked down in a file, and did a little internet research about The Belrockton. I wonder why she never married. And why did her brother LD not have a real name?
And even though you may not know the answers to those questions or a million others that pass through my mind, at least we could have a good laugh together when reading this letter Aunt Nonie sent with the obituary for Willard Parker Ross (haven’t yet figured out who he is):
“Of course you know Ross and Daisy Compton was my Mother’s brother. Maudie was their daughter. Willard & Daisy Ross, Daisy’s mother was Grandma Compton’s sister my aunt Matt. Also Willard was Aunt Matt’s second marriage. Of course we called him Bill. I hope this is clear.”
Are you kidding me?
So, Mom, know that you’ve been vindicated! How I wish I had spent more family history time with you – much, much more. How I wish I had responded to your pleas for help. How I wish I had you as a partner in this fascinating and addicting pursuit. But I’ll carry on, because I love it, and I know you did too.
And even though I probably don’t deserve it, could you drop me a few hints from time to time?
The phone rang early on that Sunday morning in the Pratt home in Flint, Michigan with a long-distance call from Saginaw – about 40 miles away. When Gram answered, Dad simply said, “Happy Mother’s Day”. Her immediate response was, “What is it?” “It” was a long, skinny baby girl with dark hair who was soon named Lynnette.
At 9 pounds, 9 ounces and 21 1/2 inches long, I was big and healthy. However, during my first months of life, I was plagued with digestion problems and couldn’t tolerate regular formula. Following the doctor’s orders, my parents fed me a smorgasbord of concoctions in an attempt to find something that my system could “stomach”. In the mid 1950’s, commercially produced formula wasn’t widely available – even for babies without stomach problems. So whatever they tried didn’t come in a can, but was mixed by my mother in her own kitchen and then poured into sterilized glass bottles that she stored in the refrigerator. That must have been a chore for her. I have vague memories of Mom mixing formula for my younger siblings using evaporated milk, water and some corn syrup. Horrors!
Projectile vomiting was my routine after every feeding, and my parents soon learned to never burp me while I was facing them. After weeks or maybe months of trial and error during which time my dad regularly carried my stool sample to the hospital for evaluation (talk about a father’s love!), I think they finally found some soy formula that I could handle. After following that regimen for several months, the doctor was still somewhat concerned when I weighed only 17 pounds at 1 year. However, after a few more months of growth along with solid food I began to put on a little weight and before long was measuring in the “normal” range. Oh, to be plagued with an inability to gain weight now!
I was the third child in the family. David, born 20 September 1951, was not yet three and Yvonne, born 9 September, 1952, was not yet two. In September of that year when I was about four months old, Dad returned to Michigan State at Lansing to finish his Master’s Degree. So Mother was left alone (remember this house?) with three little children and no car during the week – Dad came home only on the weekends.
My mother was a strong woman. Thanks for the great example!
Ser-en-dip-i-ty: noun. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
Last night while doing some random internet searching for the Carpenter family, I entered the name “James Buchanan Carpenter” into the search bar at ancestry.com. James B. Carpenter is Don’s maternal great-grandfather (Leona’s grandfather) and he lived with Leona’s family when she was a little girl. Using the site as a non-paying guest, I knew that if any possible matches came up I could go to the public library and look at the records. Only the index of records is available to non-subscribers, but it’s a good place to start.
You can imagine my surprise when the first hit was a tiny thumbnail picture labeled “James and Mary Carpenter and family” – WHAT? Somebody else knows these people? And has pictures of them? I could see a young boy in the front of the picture and was quite certain that it was Ream Carpenter, Leona’s father and Don’s grandfather. As I’ve been assembling the Carpenter genealogy binders, I’ve realized that we have almost no pictures of the Carpenter family; if any ever existed, they have been lost or destroyed over the years. And although I get excited about a census or a birth record bearing an ancestor’s name, a photograph truly adds reality to a family history.
I let out a squeal of excitement, and I felt a little like the featured celebrities on “Who Do You Think You Are?” who always find cool things in their research. However, my delight quickly turned into a groan of dismay when I realized that the picture was only available to members. I didn’t want to wait until the library opened Thursday morning, and I wasn’t even sure that the library edition of ancestry would allow me access to family pictures that someone else had posted. Well, it didn’t take me long to decide that I was changing my status from guest to subscriber, and I whipped out my credit card and established a user name and password right then!
Some further clicking around (I have a lot to learn about using ancestry) produced this additional picture of James & Mary Carpenter. She died in 1916, and Leona had never seen a picture of this grandmother. We were thrilled!
A huge thanks goes to a kind soul – who is most likely a distant relative – for sharing pictures. And a huge thanks to ancestry.com for providing the vehicle for this connection. They haven’t paid me a thing for writing this, and I’ll have to continue to pay my subscription, but these two pictures are well worth the money spent!
Watch for further posts over here as I continue this journey.
My first childhood memories are connected with our home at 1117 Phelon Street in Saginaw. In 1956 we moved to that home from our little country house and lived there until 1958. For most of us, any memories from our preschool years are vague, but a few things have stayed in my long term storage – perhaps only because I’ve heard my parents tell those stories.
I have a fuzzy memory of the front porch of this house. Did we play there? Sleep there in the summer? I can’t recall details, but it’s interesting that the porch is the only part of the house that I remember! Our landlords were Bea and Murray Muellerweiss who lived around the corner from us, and with whom my parents remained friends for many years after we moved away. I recall that they had a long, tall wooden stairway leading to the second story of their home. Maybe they rented the upstairs to another family?
My most significant memory of this house and neighborhood still has an impact on me today. One day while outside with my mom, a large – maybe German Shepherd – dog came bounding towards me. He was not vicious, just happy, friendly, and looking for a playmate. Because of his substantial size, my skinny little body was no match for his energy, and he knocked me to the ground in his excitement. His enthusiasm to play was obvious as he licked my face all the while jumping around and wagging his tail! I can only imagine my shrieks of terror, but Mother has described them as loud, long, and impressive. When she was finally able to get to my rescue, in probably only a matter of seconds, she pulled me to safety and assured me that I was fine. I suffered no cuts, bruises or scrapes – just a little dog slobber on my face! But to this day I have a “healthy respect” for large dogs and avoid them whenever possible!
As a child in the 1950’s, I spent many hours playing outside. Because of my naturally darker skin tone (and the lack of sunscreen), the summer sun tanned my skin to a deep shade of brown. My elbows and knees were particularly dark, and no amount of scrubbing with Comet cleanser would clean them up! Mother had to resign herself to the fact that I just looked a little unkempt during the summer. However, in the mid 1950’s segregation was still an issue, and one of the neighbor girls refused to play with me, because she didn’t want to play with “that little colored girl.”
This house now sits in a run-down and somewhat questionable neighborhood, but after 50+ years I guess that’s to be expected.
Remember those lovely letters requesting and granting her hand in marriage?
My continued sorting uncovered the sad news of a very short marriage.
The Northern Budget (newspaper)
Troy, Rensselaer, New York
23 September 1850
In this city [on 22 September], of the congestion of the lungs, Mrs. Caroline W. Pratt, wife of B.P. Pratt age 23 years. Her funeral will take place at 11 o’clock tomorrow the 24th from the residence of B.P. Pratt – 69 N. 2nd Street. Friends and acquaintances are invited to attend.
From this marriage came my great-great grandfather, Lansing Taylor Pratt,
born 21 June 1850 -just three months before his mother died.
When my mom turned 50 years old, we had a family party to celebrate the major milestone. One of the gifts we gave her was 50 shiny, new Anthony dollars. These coins had just been released in July of that year, and not only were they the first dollar coin to be released in a long time, but Susan B. Anthony was the first women to be honored by having her “picture” on a US coin.
Susan Brownell Anthony was an influential American civil rights leader who played a crucial role in the women’s rights movement in the 1800’s. She was arrested in 1872 for voting illegally, but her influence eventually led to the adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution which gives women the right to vote.
However, in spite of all Miss Anthony’s accomplishments, the dollar was very unpopular because of its similarity to a quarter in both size and weight. In spite of the government’s best efforts in promoting the coin, it never really became mainstream and eventually was replaced with the golden dollar coin – so you probably haven’t see very many of them.
Interesting, but what does this have to do with me or you?
This past week while continuing my genealogy organizing project, I came across a piece of paper that caught my eye. My mother had in her files a letter from the Fort Edward, New York Historical Association which was a response to her request for information about the marriage of Benoni Pratt and Caroline Taylor – my 3rd great grandparents. Mr. Paul McCarty, director of that organization, wrote that he had been unable to find any information about the marriage, but did have some additional information on the Taylor family.
“However, I do wish to convey to you some additional information on the Taylors. Lansing Taylor built a large home on the corner of what is today US Route #4 and Patterson Road at Moseskill, which is very near Fort Miller. The house has since been destroyed by fire and the location is today occupied by another house.
“Susan B. Anthony was employed by Lansing B. Taylor for a period of two years after 1839, most likely Caroline was one of her students. Miss Anthony’s family lived in nearby Greenwich, New York.”
A little searching on the internet produced this information from Wikipedia:
“In 1837, Anthony was sent to Deborah Moulson’s Female Seminary, a Quaker boarding school in Philadelphia. She was not happy at Moulson’s, but she did not have to stay there long. She was forced to end her formal studies because her family, like many others, was financially ruined during the Panic of 1837. Their losses were so great that they attempted to sell everything in an auction, even their most personal belongings, which were saved at the last minute when Susan’s uncle, Joshua Read, stepped up and bid for them in order to restore them to the family.
“In 1839, the family moved to Hardscrabble, New York, in the wake of the panic and economic depression that followed. That same year, Anthony left home to teach and pay off her father’s debts.”
And that would have taken her to my great-great-great grandmother’s home!