Yesterday we lost a comedic legend when Phyllis Diller died at the age of 95. I remember watching her on Bob Hope specials and on so many variety shows when I was growing up. The sight of that crazy hair and wardrobe never failed to bring a smile. And that awesome laugh. If you didn’t laugh at the joke she was telling (and that was rare), you laughed when she laughed. It was contagious.
She was born Phyllis Driver in Lima, Ohio to Perry and Ada Driver in 1917. Perry is listed as an insurance salesman in the 1920 census.
By the time she was almost seven, Phyllis Driver was already a rising star in Lima. Her mentions in the Lima News are numerous, for her musical talents playing the piano and saxophone.
After she married Sherwood Diller in 1939, the birth of her first child landed the proud mother back in the social pages of the Lima News in September 1940.
Phyllis went on to give birth to five more children, one of whom died just shy of two-weeks old. She and her family moved to California where she would begin her career in a San Francisco nightclub called the Purple Onion. This article tells of her double-life as a mother and comedienne.
From her nightclub days, she went on to become a star in movies, on Broadway, and even on two of her own television shows, all whilst appearing as a guest on many others. She periodically returned to her hometown of Lima to perform, including a 1973 musical performance with the Lima Symphony Orchestra that raised money for music scholarships at her alma mater. In return, Lima pulled out all the stops. Saturday and Sunday were declared Phyllis Diller days, and the Lima News ran a full-page story titled “This Was Your Life,” filled with reminiscences from local friends, former teachers, and even the doctor who delivered two of her children.
Phyllis Diller once said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” As I pored over the clippings and various records Phyllis left behind in Ohio, it became very clear that she spent a good portion of her life passing out those smiles that set everything straight. Thanks Phyllis.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane and see Phyllis combine her musical and comedic talents, I found this clip on YouTube from The Muppet Show. Enjoy!
For the past decade I have been researching my father’s side of the family, and knew particularly little about my 4th great-grandfather, Timothy Stokin, and his family.
The first break-through in our research came with finding Timothy and his family in Greenfield, Pennsylvania, in 1850. By 1860, they had moved to Merton, Wisconsin. Through those censuses we learned about Timothy and Adelia’s children who are not direct relatives of ours. We also learned that by 1880, the Stokins had settled in Pepin, Wisconsin.
The story of the Stokins gets more interesting at this point. In 1875, The New York Times ran a story about how Timothy and his wife were reunited with a daughter who was abducted as an infant while the family was living in Waukesha. Taken by a previous suitor, the daughter, Fannie, was taken to St. Louis where she was raised. Thanks to a ship captain on the Mississippi River, she ultimately ended up in the Durand and Menominee area in Wisconsin where a neighbor thought she bore an uncanny resemblance to the Stokins. In August 1875, the family was reunited after nearly 20 years.
Since finding this story through Ancestry.com, we have been able to learn more about Timothy’s service in the Civil War, and the death of one of their sons early in the war.
More importantly, we have reconnected with a number of relatives through Ancestry.com who have been able to share stories of what life was like for the Stokins in the late 1800s—including the fact that they worked the docks in Durand and Pepin Wisconsin and often took in new immigrants into their home because of their ability to speak German. We have a number of handwritten family histories about the Stokins, as a result.
Thanks to a more recent connection, we also now have the portrait below. According to another article found on Ancestry.com we were able to determine that this photo is a style called crayon portraits. In this case, we have an original photo, so know that this was created in a studio based on that original. It is a similar style to about a half a dozen other portraits of relatives who lived in Wisconsin around the same time.
In 1962 when I was twelve years old I found an old photo album in an antique shop while traveling with my mother and father from Ohio to New Hampshire during a summer vacation. As my parents had always instilled the love of photography and history, I was drawn to and fell in love with this leather-bound treasure. I am grateful that my parents admired my interest and allowed me to purchase this antique family album, so long ago. The original archivist, Sarah Bugbee Yates, had labeled the photos very well (an act that I appreciate even more today than I did when I was twelve). There are thirty individuals, photographed between the years of 1861 -1878 within in this gem.
Entrusted with this one of a kind cache, I used to daydream that someday I would be able to present these photographs to a descendant, who would hold them dear, but I was never quite sure as a child how I would go about doing this. So I kept the leather album safe from harm and would peruse it every now and then wondering about the stories behind the pictures. I always decided when moving or going through my possessions not to let it go—not just yet.
Over the past year and half I have been using Ancestry.com to document my own families’ genealogies and have been impressed with the opportunities to share photos and information with others. This week while on vacation, I took a break and began scanning and entering the photos from this album.
I created a tree on Ancestry.com with the information in the album and in records I found. I found it fascinating to follow this family back in time as they had moved across the country from Connecticut to New York, Ohio, California, Alaska, and even South America. Their ancestors arrived prior to the Revolutionary War and their migration across the country is an amazing tribute to the American spirit. It is no wonder with all of the mobility that this album was “lost” from the family.
It appears that the photo album was created and kept by Sarah Bugbee (Mrs. Lucia H. Yates), who was born in 1804 and died in 1884. Her photo is on page three of the album next to a photo labeled: Lucia Halen Yates, who I discovered on Ancestry.com was born in 1804 and died in 1862. Sarah is pictured all in black and interestingly is holding a frame that contains perhaps the photo of her husband who passed during the time period of the Civil War on 13 March 1862. I am still curious as to the circumstances of his death—a story that perhaps can unfold through further research. Sarah, who lived twenty years after the death of her husband, must have treasured his memory and those of her loved ones. She undoubtedly was able to hold them close to her heart in this small, leather-bound, clasped album.
It was my wish as a twelve year old and remains so now, after saving this album for fifty years, to find the families of those pictured so they might be cherished by their descendants, near and far. I remembering being in a quandary when I was young, as to how I would choose who would be given the album, if I was ever able to locate the families, a task that was also beyond my comprehension.
With the wonders of the internet and the technology provided by Ancestry.com, I realized that my childhood wish could come true. I, thanks to your service, do not have to decide who amongst the extensive list of relatives would receive the album. It is now dispersed for members to view. They will be able to so easily add these 150 year old photos to their own family archives.
I have waited fifty years to see if the family members who use Ancestry.com are able to locate the photos I posted and in turn be grateful to Sarah Yates for her superb documentation and love of family. Tonight it finally happened thanks to your “Recent Member Connect” service. A member from Fort Worth, wrote a message to me that reads as follows:
"Thank you for the photographs you uploaded. There are several members of my family that you located in the book. What a great find, and again I appreciate your efforts to place them on Ancestry so that history may be passed down!"
My Childhood wish has come true! Thank you for giving us the technology to virtually take this album to the rightful descendants. From the information from the tree I created, I hope to travel to Darien Center, N.Y. in the near future to donate the album to their historical society or special collections library. As an educator, I believe that knowledge is of great value, but the willingness and ability to share it with others is priceless.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Three Andrew Blankinships. How Do I Choose?
Hi Anne, I’ve run into a brick wall on researching my great grandfather, Andrew Blankinship. We have very little information about him…parents and siblings are unknown. Here is the information we do have:
1) Born in Ohio, believed to be around Cleveland. I had entered parents I found on my tree, but later deleted them as I found 3 sets of parents who had a child named Andrew around 1845 in Ohio. All were born in/around Aid, Lawrence, Ohio. Parents I found were: Madison & Delila; Beverly & Malvna; & Wesley & Hanna. Also, my father always told us we have Native Americans in our ancestry & I’m wondering it could have been the Blankinships as they are such a mystery. We have searched census records.
2) Andrew fought in the Civil War, believed for the Confederate Army. He was wounded during his active duty. Selia drew a pension after the death of Andrew. A record was found in “1890 Civil War Veterans” as follows: ”Blankingship, Andrew; Ho-95-1; Pvt H Co, 1st US Inf; Sep 27 62 to Jun 29 65; McKinnon PO.”
3) Andrew Blankinship and Selia Caroline Cathey were married 08/03/1871 in Stewart Co, TN by J.B. Lune, J.P. & had 11 children. Selia belonged to the Methodist Church & Andrew belonged to none.
4) Andrew & Selia moved to Napier, TN around 1889, when my grandmother, Fannie, was 5 years old. Andrew worked at the coal pits in McKinnon TN & also Napier, Tn. Andrew died of a heart attack at Napier, TN and Selia died of pneumonia. They are buried at Napier Lake Cemetery in Tenn.
5) Andrew & Selia owned a home in McKinnon, TN, but rented when they moved to Napier, Tn.
Let’s start with a review of some of what you have told me.
According to Find-a-Grave, Andrew Blankinship was born February 23, 1845 and died on January 22, 1895. Selia Carolyn Blankinship nee Cathey was born April 18, 1834 and died on July 17, 1901.
In the Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861 – 1934, we find Andrew Blankinship with his widow Selia Blankinship listed:
Andrew fought with the West Virginia Ninth Infantry and the West Virginia First Veterans Infantry. He was a Union soldier, not a Confederate soldier. You may want to consider the applications from NARA (both the Invalid and the Widow application) may hold some clues to his parents or other relatives.
You’ll notice that Selia filed for a widow’s application on February 25, 1895. Given that we believe Andrew died on January 22, 1895, this fits.
You found 3 Andrew Blankinship’s in Ohio (all in Lawrence County, Ohio) in the 1860 census. This is a reasonable guess that one of them is your Andrew.
The Andrew who enlisted in 1862 did so in Pt Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia):
Aid, Ohio is about 34 miles away from Point Pleasant. This is a reasonable distant to travel to enlist. I found no other likely candidates in Ohio in 1860 and 1850, so these seem to be a reasonable group to focus on.
I think we can rule out William and Hannah. The Andrew living with them in 1860, is also living with Hannah in 1870 and 1880.
In 1870, we find 5 Andrew Blankinships in the US:
We ruled out The Andrew living in Ohio in 1870. The Andrews who are both born in Virginia and are living in Virginia in 1870 do not seem likely candidates.
Montgomery County is adjacent to Stewart County, where your Andrew’s bride to be lives. Giles County is quite a distance away. Also, if you look at that census image the Andrew in Giles County is stated to be born in Alabama.
Andrew and Selia were married in 1871 in Steward County. I searched for Andrew in Stewart County in 1870, and could not find him there but I did find an Andrew in neighboring Montgomery County who may be your Andrew:
He is the correct age, he is a Collier which is someone who worked in a Coal Mine, which was Andrew’s occupation in later years and he was born in Ohio. This is hardly definitive proof, but the best guess is the Andrew living in Montgomery County in 1870.
But is he the son of James and Margaret or Beverly and Lovina?
Here is what I recommend:
Check the names of Andrew and Selia’s children and compare to the names of James and Margaret’s children and then Beverly and Lovina’s. Are there similarities?
1940 Census Update—All States and Territories Now Indexed and Searchable!
That does it. As we told you this morning, you can now search for your relatives from any state in the just-completed index to the 1940 census on Ancestry.com. We took the latest state indexes for a test drive and here’s who we found.
Christopher Lloyd In the hit movie Back to the Future, we see “Doc Brown” as he was in 1955. Now we can travel back in time and catch a glimpse of actor Christopher Lloyd in 1940. A one-year-old, he was living in Stamford, Fairfield Co., Connecticut, with his parents, sister Adele, and several servants.
Ernest Hemingway Ernest Hemingway was enumerated with his wife Pauline in 1940 at his famous home at 907 Whitehead on Key West, Monroe Co., Florida. It was not to be for long. That year he divorced Pauline, married the famous war correspondent, Martha Gellhorn, and moved to Cuba.
Charlton Heston Although he was born John Charles Carter in 1923, by the time of the 1940 census, at age 16, John was already going by Charlton Heston—a combination of his mother’s maiden name and his step-father’s last name.
Kim Novak Model and actress, Kim Novak, was born Marilyn Pauline Novak in 1933, and in 1940, she’s living in Chicago at 1910 Springfield Avenue. Her dad worked as a clerk for a “steam railway,” earning $1,060 in 1939.
Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. When Rashida Jones was featured on Who Do You Think You Are? this past season, we learned a bit about her mother’s side of the family. Now we can learn a little about her dad, music producer Quincy Jones. At age seven, he was living with his parents and brother on Chicago’s South Side, at 3548 Prairie Avenue. His father was employed in construction as a carpenter.
Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. R&B legend Antoine “Fats” Domino was only twelve in 1940. His family was living next door to Harrison Verrett, a relative who is credited with helping him learn to play.
Elvis Presley “The King” was five years old and living in rural Lee County, Mississippi, where his father, Vernon, worked as a carpenter on a sanitary project and mom, Gladys, was a seamstress.
Morgan Freeman Morgan Freeman’s family moved around quite a bit when he was young, but the 1940 census found him living at 3412 Vernon Avenue in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. His father’s relationship to the head of household is listed as “partner,” which is a common notation you’ll find on the 1940 census. The enumerators were instructed that, “if two or more persons who are not related by blood or marriage share a common dwelling unit as partners, write head for one and partner for the other or others.” Here on the heels of the Great Depression, it’s not surprising to find friends pooling resources and sharing a residence.
Jack Nicholson Jack Nicholson was raised by his grandparents as their own child. In 1940, his is living in Neptune, Monmouth Co., New Jersey with grandmother, Ethel, listed as the head of household. His mother, June and Jack list their relationship to her as daughter and son, respectively. Ethel worked as a beautician and June was working as an exhibition dancer for a theatrical agency.
Willie Hugh Nelson In 1940, Willie Nelson and his sister Bobbie were living in Hill County, Texas, with their widowed grandmother. They are listed as “son” and “daughter.” Bobbie began playing piano in her brother’s band in the 1970s and continues to tour with him.
Andy Griffith The late Andy Griffith is living with his parents in Mount Airy, Surry Co., North Carolina, a place that is reminiscent of the setting for his famous Andy Griffith Show. The town embraces that link and is home to the Andy Griffith museum. It is still home to the original “Snappy Lunch” diner, and the town hosts “Mayberry Days” every September. (Yes, there is also a Floyd’s Barber shop now.)
Don Knotts Andy’s co-star Don Knotts, was living with his widowed mother, and brother in the town where he was born, Morgantown, Monongalia Co., West Virginia. His brother had earned $300 in the past year working as a laborer in school construction.
Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holley April 8, 1940. “That’ll be the day” that the census taker came to call at the Holley household, where Ella P. gave the details (indicated with the x in a circle after her name) on her son Charles H., who would someday be known to the world as rock and roll legend, Buddy Holly.
John McCain In 1940, Senator John McCain’s family was still living in the Panama Canal Zone where he had been born in 1936, and where his father was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.
1940 U.S. Census: 50 States, 134 Million Names, 1 Index
Today is all about numbers. The first is 100, as in 100 percent of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census is now indexed. That means all 50 states are available to search to your heart’s content. Our indexing came up with 134,395,545 people counted. Most reports on the 1940 census give the U.S. population as 132 million and change, so you may be wondering where the extra 2 million people came from.
Two words: Puerto Rico. OK, and Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Panama Canal Zone. They were all included in the 1940 U.S. census and add another 2.1 million or so records to the final count.
The Oldest American(s) We came up with a tie for the oldest person in the census: Mary Dilworth of Oxford, Mississippi,
and Cándido Vega Y Torres of Guayama, Puerto Rico, both listed their ages as 119.
We identified 35,646,274 heads of household, for an average household size of 3.7 people. The average age of the respondent who talked with the enumerator was 43. Where Did They All Come From? It’s probably not difficult to guess the number one state reported as birthplace on the census, but a couple of the other nine might surprise you. Here they are in order:
Amongst foreign-born folks, the top five reported birth countries were
So, What’s Your Name? We can also tell you the top 10 male and female names on the 1940 census: John William James Robert Joseph George Charles Frank Edward Richard Mary Anna Helen Margaret Elizabeth Dorothy Ruth Marie Rose Alice If you need proof, just stroll down this street in Butler, PA:
The top five surnames in the 1940 census were
Who Do You Want to Find? But the most important number in the 1940 U.S. Census might be 1. That one date you’ve been waiting to find. That one relative you hadn’t been able to locate until now. That one discovery that opens up a dozen more. One more question, one more record, one last look… So dig in and enjoy. After all, it’s 10 years before we get another one.