My late grandmother Eleanor Agnes Fazzone Stanton, she of the bird legs and long nose I inherited, was born on December 7, 1914. A day that would eventually live in infamy. Today marks the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt exhorted Americans that they had nothing to fear but fear itself.
Nana encouraged a similar fearlessness in me, particularly in the dozens of letters she wrote me every year of my life. Until those final years when dementia crept in and then soon cloaked the spry nana that I once knew. Friends and the verses of songs stayed wrapped around her mind’s spindle, but her awareness of the present came completely unspooled.
Her handwriting started to look wobbly. The letters she sent decreased in frequency, the inside containing a pre-printed message, signed with her wobbly name.
I pulled away. I made no effort to visit her after she fell and broke her hip and spent months recovering in the hospital. She moved in with my uncle. Occasionally I sent letters with pictures of my daughter. I feared seeing her, I feared the feelings of helplessness that would accompany seeing her. I could not help this frail woman who had sat with me watching daytime television and making me tea when I was home from school, vomiting into buckets.
I wanted to cryogenically freeze my memories of her and let time do no harm to my impression of Nana.
I eventually got over myself. I went to visit her twice before she passed away. She sat in the living room of my uncle’s home where she smiled sweetly and nodded her head at my baby and occasionally hummed songs from memory. The final moments of happiness for my 94 year-old grandmother, crystallized by my six month-old daughter.
*** Two years later I was watching the ancestry program “Who Do You Think You Are?”. The celebrity accounts moved me in a way that reality television never does. The star’s searches netted them personal interviews with distant relatives, visits to slave plantations and European cemeteries. And while we cannot all finance a DNA consult with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., something they all seemed to echo about newfound identity –ascertaining who one was in the context of ancestry—spoke to me.
I had always desired the standard-issue answers about my stock: places of origin, dates, names, jobs, from where I inherited this impossibly round chin. I wanted to mine the raw facts, unmuddled by oral tradition, unsullied by personal agendas. I sought the hard documents, whatever public record could offer me, anything that had not been lost in translation.
So I joined Ancestry.com like the program touted, and my digital dig began. The initial phase of my search was rapid. Cousins once and twice-removed had already paved some of the way for my search. The software will gamely connect names and dates and relationships based largely on census records, and within a few days I had connected more than a few stars in my family’s constellation.
But the thing about geneology is that the grid of names and dates is never enough. I hungered for an artifact, some small piece d’ resistance that could speak volumes about whatever it was I was supposed to learn about my family and myself.
There was a romance to excavating all the pieces, even from the online archives. My search expanded. I e-mailed with distant cousins whom I’d never met, whom I may still never meet. I foraged through the Latter-Day Saints’ database. I purchased memberships to newspaper archives. The weeks turned into months, and my desk turned into a rat’s nest made of scraps of paper with family tree branches scrawled on both sides.
As my family tree solidified, two things became abundantly clear: That which I could find would surprise me. That which I couldn’t find would not. I learned that search entries were not always so cut and dry. Census takers estimated ages. Newspapers fudged facts. My grandmother forged her maiden name.
When I found my Nana’s perfect Catholic schoolgirl penmanship lopping off the whole second half of her maiden name on her marriage license and then again on the affidavit for the county records, I felt the weight of her secret. Did she fear discrimination of her Italian surname when she married in Kansas City, Missouri in the early 1940s? Was she trying to create a new identity as she settled with my grandfather in Nashville, TN. Had she already disinherited her late father, whom I also learned my great grandmother attempted to divorce for “cruel and barbarous treatment” per another snippet from the New Castle News?
As the oldest of my siblings and cousins, I have always stood at the edge of the forest where the mighty trees are established or felled, and where the little saplings are trying to take root. There is never a steady rain of information from the canopy, only sporadic droplets of memories and news that I work hard to shield from my siblings and cousins when I am able.
I thought tracing my family roots would allow me to finally funnel all those droplets from the canopy above. Instead of being a passive reception, though, it became more of an exercise of writing a love letter to the ones I would come to know through the archives, and to those that would read what I had exhumed. Dear Family of the Past. I don’t know what kind of stunts you pulled, but you’re interesting and I love you. Thank you for making it possible for me to be here, learning about you. Dear Family of the Present and Future. Thanks for understanding my need to figure all this out. I’m getting closer. I hope you are, too.
As Pearl Harbor Day passes again this year, F.D.R.’S words echo resoundingly against fear as we approach our future, but also as we engage the stories of our past, personal, public, or otherwise. The ink that penned these stories might be difficult to decipher, but the messages of love and fearlessness are unmistakable.
My Dad, Whit Criswell Bryan, was proud of his service in the Navy. A Chief Petty Officer (HMC), he was a veteran of three wars and a Pearl Harbor survivor. Dad was a pharmacist mate stationed at Mobile Naval Hospital #2 about 800 feet above Pearl Harbor on Aiea Heights. He arrived at the Mobile Naval Hospital #2 on December 1, 1941 where all of the medical staff was charged with building the hospital.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor began, Dad was delivering newspapers for a friend who had a paper route. He had driven the friend’s car and was at a top of a hill when he saw the planes. He watched, first thinking that they were US planes, but, when the bombing occurred, he left the car and ran back to the hospital. From the hill, he could see into the cockpits of the Japanese planes.
The hospital was only half finished on the day of the attack. Shrapnel fired upon the hospital was the result of friendly fire. One sailor was killed as they watched the attack. Much of the hospital equipment was still crated. Beds were taken out of the crates and set up as a roofless hospital in minutes. The completed barracks was used for injured patients and the staff slept outside in ditches.
Whit Criswell Bryan remained in the Navy until 1969, serving for 29 years.
Jackson Parker Centers, my dad, was born in 1918, and joined the US Navy in 1937. He was first assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, and was still aboard when the ship was tied at Pearl. Dad didn’t speak much about the attack because he lost many friends aboard, but what he did say, enhanced by news articles and military records speak much about the man who was my father.
He had just finished breakfast and was relaxing in his bunk when the alarm of the attack blared out. Apparently it was not the standard “This is not a drill,” because he would never assault his daughter’s innocent ears with exactly what was said. The first thing he did do was go to his locker to grab a pack of cigarettes. Then while running to his station he was startled to see a torpedo heading midship.
There were five men at his station when the Oklahoma was dealt her fatal blow and the ship turned upside down looking to all viewing from above like a beached whale. The men fought to climb up to the bottom of the ship for the water line and available air, having to wrench open the heavy metal doors to get there. For two days, up to their necks in water and oil they fought for survival. My dad had taken off his belt and used the buckle to pound on the inside of the hull to alert those on the outside of their whereabouts. Finally, on Tuesday morning, December 2, 1941, at approximately 2:30 in the morning, hearing my dad’s banging, men in a passing boat found the men. They were cut out of the hull by the light of the burning Arizona. And I am told, a torch could not be used because it could set fire to the oil in the water, so another method was use. Unfortunately, by the time they were able to reach the men, only two of the five remained alive, my dad and a mate. Dad was the last of only 32 survivors from the USS Oklahoma.
The folks at home had no idea of dad’s fate for about six weeks. He went from the Oklahoma to the military hospital for an unknown length of time. His girlfriend, my mother, and his dad checked frequently at the local post office for any news.
In 1943, after Mom finally agreed to marry dad, they became one when he was on military leave that year. Dad lived to fight other close calls in that war. I was born in 1947.
I can’t imagine the horror it must have felt like to be 23 years old, sinking with your ship and the struggle to survive, men dying around you. I don’t know if I could have handled it. But it gave dad the philosophy that each new day of life was a gift. Dad passed in 1993.
Thank you to all veterans of all wars who fight to preserve our blessed way of life
My son joined the Navy in 1989. In 1991, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I asked my uncle — who had been there — to write a memoir of the event for my son. This is what my uncle had to say about December 7, 1941.
written by Carroll Joseph Oliver, USN, Retired (The Oliver family lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey; “Uncle Ollie” was born October 10, 1919.)
I enlised in the Navy on February 1, 1937. I was 18 years old. I was trained to be a shipfitter and the first ship I was stationed on was the West Virginia. I was then transferred to the Pennsylvania.
December 7 began like any other Sunday morning: I got up, showered, dressed, ate breakfast and left my ship, the Pennsylvania, for the Block Recreation Center, where we were going to hear Mass. When I got there, the stage was set up for Mass. Suddenly the Chaplain ran out onto the stage and hollered that everyone should immediately return to their ship or station. We didn’t know what was going on, and I hung around for a few minutes before going outside. When I got outside, I could see the Jap planes coming over from Hickam Field. They were strafing everyone who was running back towards the Fleet Landing and Receiving Station. I waited a few minutes, then started running myself. Excuse the comparison, but Jesse Owens would be put to shame the way I ran. I passed quite a few sailors, their white uniforms torn and bloody, lying dead on the sidewalk. I saw men with all different types of guns on the roof of the Receiving Station firing away at the oncoming planes. I somehow made it to the Receiving Station and to the officer’s living area (where the officers had their homes). This whole area had been bombed, and I thought a few bombs had been dropped right in front of the admiral’s house.
I crawled into a large storm pipe (the pipe that carried away run-off rain water) that extended on either side of the drive that circled the area. I kept crawling through this pipe to the end and saw Mr. Ensign Arnold, who was an officer on the Pennsy. I have to laugh about it now, because the situation was so desperate, and there he was with the back seam of his khaki pants split open. He and I continued running towards the Pennsy. Our ship was in dry dock. At this point, the air around the harbor was actually black from the shots being fired at the enemy planes. In the harbor itself, I could see the USS Oklahome turning over, with her bottom pointed towards the sky.
When I got to the Pennsy, I immediately reported to my battle station which was under the armoured deck. I believe the deck itself was about six inches thick. Before I had gotten back to the ship, the Pennsy had been hit with a 500 pound aerial bomb, killing many of my shipmates. Repairs began immediately and we had to bypass the broken piping. This was necessary becuse the bomb had severed all the pipes that had supplied the Pennsy with water. Our repair officer gave me and three other shipfitters orders to make immediate arrangements to place submersible pumps out and over the caisson to get water for fire fighting, machinery, guns, etc.
Because there had been a change of plans, the Pennsy was moved out of dry dock, and the USS Cassin and USS Downs were placed forward in the dry dock and then they put the Pennsy back in. The two destroyers who were with us (Cassin and Downs) as well as the Pennsy were back up on blocks. I myself think this move saved the Pennsy, because after being in dry dock the Pennsy would have been moved back over to Battleship Row on December 6.
While we worked frantically making repairs, the hospital corpsmen were removing the dead and taking care of the wounded. It was a scene straight out of Dante’s Inferno. Lt. Commander Craig was the head of my repair department. I believe he was the only officer from the Pennsy killed on December 7. When the attack began, he was on the dry dock wall checking the utilities: steam, water and air. All three of these are needed for the machinery, etc. on board the ship. Fresh water and harbor water were much needed for fire fighting. That was the purpose of our going on the dry dock caisson: to get water aboard.
Hours later, when we finally did secure from general quarters, I returned to my living space and locker, still wearing my whites. You can imagine what condition they were in. If I remember correctly, I threw them away. My most vivid memory of the attack was the condition of our living space. There had been many dead and wounded in a collecting station nearby, and the angle iron (similar to a baseboard) caused all the blood to drain onto the deck of our living space. There must have been two inches of blood on the deck. I was then a young man at the time and my appetite was gone for quite a few days afterwards. To this day I cannot erase that scene from my memory. I knew everyone from the Pennsy who was killed on December 7, but on board ship you go ashore with other men from the same division.
This may sound funny, but believe me, at the time I jumped about ten feet in the air. In our ship area we kept our bedding and cots in what the Navy calls ‘hammock netting.’ In some division, they were outboard in the living compartments and they just dropped canvas over them, but in the shipfitter’s shop, ours were heavy galvanized metal. Someone went to get his bedding and cot and dropped the cover. It sounded like another bomb going off and everyone in the area was ready for general quarters all over again.
We got the Pennsy squared away in just a few weeks and left for San Francisco. When we arrived in San Francisco, I believe it was New Year’s Eve. I left the Pennsy in 1943 after being in the Aleutian Islands. The Bering Sea surrounding the Aleutian Islands is the roughest water I’ve ever sailed on.
The bell from the Pennsy was on display and the ship’s silverware was used for the Officer’s Ward Room Mess on the new Pennsy, which is a nuke sub. The ship’s bell from the USS Cassin is in the Navy Reserve Building in the shipyard at Philadelphia. Both of these destroyers were scrpped after they salvaged what could be used on other ships like them or in the same class.
My Uncle James Gunter and his two best friends, brothers Charles and Melvin Murdock were from Grove Oak a little town in northern, Alabama. They were wet behind the ears teenagers who were filled with excitement at he prospect of seeing the world. They enlisted at the same time and ironically were all stationed on the USS Arizona. In late November 1941 my uncle found out that he was being transferred to Pensacola, Florida, but was going to go home on leave first. He caught his ride to the states on Tuesday December 2nd, 1941, but before leaving the ship bought a postcard with a picture of the USS Arizona and mailed it to his family back home. He said goodbye to his two buddies Charles and Melvin never realizing that would be the last time he would ever see them again. Both brothers were killed on the USS Arizona on Dec. 7th 1941.
As for me, I was always fascinated as a child by the picture postcard with the one cent George Washington stamp that my grandmother kept in a basket on her dresser, and the story she would tell about how my uncle narrowly missed coming home in December of 1941, so much so that she gave it to me and today it is one of my prized posessions.
My father, Jack Pearce Jones, was living in Hemphill, TX on Dec.6, 1941. He was a lineman for the telephone company which his father owned and my mother was the operator. They were married on December 7, 1940. At some point on Dec. 7, 1942 my mother and father went home to eat and my grandparents were both home. My grandfather was the recruiting officer for three counties. He told my parents about the attack and asked my father which branch of the service he was going to join. As my father told me he was not too anxious to go to any war but was convinced it was his duty. He joined the Navy and was at Pearl in three weeks. H said they could smell the steanch of the dead before they got inside the harbor. He said it was totoal bedlam. A lot of the service people were still in shock and confused. My father was given a job removing bodies. When the officers found out he had been a telephone lineman they made him the dispatcher at the harbor. The harbor was mined and each ship coming in had to be identified which became his job. He said they told him NOT to mess up. He was later transferred to a mine sweeper in the Pacific until the end of the war. Daughter, Carol Jones Couvillion
Ask Ancestry Anne: What does CC mean in the 1810 census
Questions: I am (along with a lot of others) struggling to prove the parents of my 4ggrandfather Henry Pitts. There are 3 Henry Pitts living in Newberry Co, SC but I know my Henry died in 1817.
The 1810 census lists Henry Pitts and just below him John Pitts (presumably his son John) and after each name is CC or EC or maybe GC. This is not shown on the 1790 census, do you know what it means? Is this a title?
Answer: I don’t think I’m going to be much help with the parents of Henry Pitts, but I’m willing to take a shot at CC.
I look at the image, and it does look like CC. That is hard to read.
So I googled “abbreviation cc genealogy” and found a couple of links of interest:
A page of Genealogy Abbreviations lists CC as being possibly: County Clerk; county court, county commissioner; company commander
On Genealogy Magazine, CC Is listed as: chain carrier (see chain bearer); also used for County Clerk or County Court, it lists Chain Bearer:
chain bearer / chain carrier / “C. C.”: The person who carried and placed the land surveyor’s chain, a measuring device. An adjacent property owner was often selected for this task
Are there local histories for Newberry County for that time? A historical society? They might have information on this. I would be willing to bet it is something along these lines.
And as my readers are proving to be very knowledgable about many things, anyone else got an idea?
Pearl Harbor Stories: A Day in the Life of a 13 year old
She always got up early to have breakfast with her Dad. That Sunday was no different. Blanche and her Dad, Louis, were having a quiet breakfast in the kitchen while the rest of the family slept. Then, oddly, there were planes flying down the gulch behind the house outside the window. Her Dad said that they were Japanese Zeros and jumped up and ran to the phone in the living room. He called Pearl Harbor Naval Base where he worked as a carpenter and told the guy that answered the phone that there was at least a squadron of Japanese Zeros on their way to Pearl. The guy on the phone told Louis to go sober up and hung up on him. The air in the living room turned blue as Louis cursed at the phone operator and watched in horror as the first bombs began dropping on Pearl Harbor.
Blanche was just 13 years old that Sunday and the life that she had known ended that day. As she sat at the table in the kitchen, she could see the faces of the Japanese pilots as they flew past the kitchen window. When her Dad was on the phone she leapt to the front kitchen window and also witnessed the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. At first she didn’t quite realize what she was seeing, but when an bomb struck the Arizona, she saw the bow of the ship rise up out of the water as the ship blew apart. She understood that Hawaii was being attached. Later she would grasp the bigger picture that America was being attached but for now, her home was under attach and she was afraid. She could see men jumping off of ships all over the Harbor trying to avoid being burned or drowned as the ships burned or went down. She could see the flames in the water and the fierce black smoke from the stricken ships. Soon and mercifully, that thick black smoke would blot out her view from the kitchen window. Slowly, the sounds of explosions diminished but the acrid smell of fuel oil burning remained and the sun was blotted out.
By mid morning another strange thing was going on. Women and children were trudging up the hill from down below. People were all around the normally secluded farmstead. Apparently, the officers housed in Aiea at McGrew housing, had told their families to take cover in the hills surrounding Pearl Harbor. They, like everyone on Oahu, were expecting landing craft and an invading army to come ashore at any moment. These families remained camped on the property for the better part of a week after the attach. Blanche and her family sharing what they had with them.
Blanche never returned to the plantation school she had been attending in Aiea. Her Dad insisted that she and her siblings go to school in downtown Honolulu after December 7th. She didn’t go to school for more than three weeks. When she did get back to school, she learned how to don a gas mask and evacuate the school building to a trench dug in the school yard during air raid drills. She learned how to search the skies for zeros and the beaches for landing craft. She heard the stories of what Pearl Harbor was like after the smoke had clouded her view; of the hell of coffins stacked up on the piers. She could smell for herself the awful smell of death as it wafted on the trade winds. She watched, stunned, as neighbors and friends were rounded up and sent to undisclosed internment camps. It would be decades before she knew where some of them had gone, others she would never know.
A little more than a year later, Blanches’ beloved father would pass away leaving her devastated and adrift. Her mother would struggle to keep the farm and the family together. Blanche would grow older and in time become a chronological adult, but the reality was that she became an adult on December 7th 1941.
Blanche was a Pearl Harbor survivor and she was my Mom. We talked often and at length about what she witnessed and what her life was like after that dreadful day. Some memories were funny, some were sad but all were colored in the hues of human suffering from that day forward. This is just some of her story.
I was 7 years old and my mother, sister and I were visiting relatives. I was sitting on the floor in front of the big radio as we were listening to a Sunday broadcast. It was interupted by President Roosevelt making the annoucement that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed by the Japanese. To this day I can still see that scene with the radio and all my family.
Question: For years I was under the assumption that my grandmother, Ethel Hall Burtchell, was the child of Wealthy Hall Burtchell and Walter D. Burtchell. Ethel was born on October 13, 1895, presumably in Brooklyn, but I have not had any luck in finding a birth certificate for her with either the name Hall or Burtchell. What makes this more complicated is that I found a newspaper announcement of Walter and Wealthy’s wedding, which took place in late October, 1899 - four years after Ethel was born. So was Ethel a child of one of them from a prior relationship? Was she adopted by them? If so, was Ethel a child of another member of the family? Without a last name, I can’t find a proper birth certificate, and there are no elder relatives still around who can help solve this mystery. Can you?
— Cathy Schaefer
Answer: What I like about this question and some of the conclusions that you have reached is that you are letting the facts drive your assumptions.
You have Walter and Wealthy’s wedding announcement a date of 1899. There are multiple census records and a Social Security Death Index entry that consistently say that Ethel was born in 1895. Adding these two facts together, it’s not clear that Ethel was the child of Walter and Wealthy.
I couldn’t find this family in the 1900 census. But I did, like I’m sure you did, find them in 1910. Ethel is listed as the daughter of Walter, and Walter and Wealthy are listed as having been married since 1895, not 1899. Wealthy is listed as having three children and all three are living. So if Ethel isn’t Wealthy’s daughter, where is the other child? But it is curious as to why there’s an eight-year gap between Ethel and Gerard …
Walter and Wealthy are living in the same house as the family of Thomas Lyne (not sure if I am reading that last name correctly.)
Fast forward to 1920, we have Walter and Wealthy living with four sons in the same house as Walter Ingram. Ethel is living next door as a boarder in the house of John Hofstad. Are any of these people relatives?
The 1930 census gives us a more tantalizing clue. Walter and Wealthy are living with their four sons. Walter is 57 years old and his age at his first marriage was at age 21. Do a little subtraction and that means he was first married in 1893. Wealthy is 52 years old and her age at her first marriage was also 21. But that means she was first married in 1898. Hmm.
Putting these details together makes me wonder if Walter and Wealthy were married in 1899 as stated in the marriage announcement and if Walter was married previously in 1893, give or take a year.
I got temporary duty to the mine school. It was for two months, and then I was to report back to the Oklahoma. That was my key toward getting over to the Asiatic Fleet. This was November 1941. I stayed at the mine school barracks right by the submarine base. To me, those were beautiful barracks with neat rows of bunk beds. The barracks were right above the mess hall. There must have been fifty guys in the school. We were in class about eight hours a day.
The Oklahoma was in the harbor part of the time, so I took a launch out on Sundays to see the guys a couple of times. On the weekends we would go to Honolulu. We’d drink a few beers, look at the girls and wander around. I was living in hog heaven. I thought to myself, going to mine school was an excellent decision.
We had the idea that war was imminent. We knew what was going on in Europe. But, you know, when you’re seventeen years old you don’t think anything is going to happen the next day. We didn’t have training for war. In boot camp it was all, “hip, two, three, four” – marching and hand-washing our clothes and tying knots.
On December 7, 1941, I bailed out of bed pretty early. It was almost like any other day except it was a Sunday. So I leisurely took a shower, then I headed down the stairs and into the mess hall. Other guys were up. There were quite a few in the mess hall. After I got done eating about a quarter of eight, I started outside. I stood there looking around; it was a beautiful morning. No clouds, just a beautiful day to be in Hawaii.
Then all of a sudden I heard this machine gun fire going off. This plane came right over the barracks and let off quite a row of bullets. We just stood there in amazement at first. We couldn’t believe this was happening. I looked up and saw those big red meatballs on the wings.
“Hell, that’s Japs!”
All hell broke loose. Someone hollered, “Let’s get to the armory.”
So we all ran down to the armory. They had to cut the locks off to get the guns, and then they quickly passed out weapons. They gave us 30-06 rifles; the same gun I practiced shooting in boot camp. We grabbed belt line bandoliers with ammo on them. These 30-06s even had bayonets on them. It’s a powerful rifle, but it’s a bolt action. You can only get off one round at a time.
I ran back over to the dock because I saw these Japanese torpedo planes coming up the channel. I went to the edge of the dock and there were several submarines right there. The subs had machine guns on deck and they were cutting loose on these torpedo planes as they came over.
Those Japanese pilots, I could see their faces as they flew over me. They were that close, strafing with machine guns all over the place. The bullets were tearing up the grass fifty feet from us. Some of these planes had three guns on each wing. That’s six machine guns going off at once; that’s a pretty good pile of strafing. Of course, we were trying to knock them down. I fired round after round as fast as I could. We popped a few holes in those planes with our rifles; we could hardly miss, they flew right over us. Planes were coming in pairs, just like a swarm of bees. Then the light bombers came after them.
Getting killed didn’t even cross my mind. I wanted to kill the Japanese, though. I was so angry at what I was seeing, watching the battleships get hit. I saw the bomber that came down on the Arizona. The Arizona was pretty well intact up to this point. I watched that sucker fly over the Arizona and that bomb just dropped down. I thought it was going to go down the smoke stack. Some people say it landed forward of the smoke stack. I still think the bomb went down the stack. When it hit and blew up down below, it must have been in the ammo locker, where the powder was. It looked like the whole ship just rose up out of the water and shook. Smoke everywhere. That bomb put the Arizona down and killed a lot of guys.
The stern of the Pelias, that’s a submarine tender, was facing outboard, toward the channel. They had a 4”/50 caliber gun mounted on deck, which is a pretty heavy weapon. The Pelias cut loose with that 4”/50 and hit this torpedo plane right in the engine. The plane looked like it just stopped dead in midair. Then it dropped straight down into the water. Torpedo and all, thank goodness. He didn’t have a chance to drop that torpedo.
Through the smoke I saw the Oklahoma lying there on her side, flipped practically upside down. I didn’t see it happen, but I could see she was rolled over. I thought, my God, how many guys are in there? How many are trapped? There were fires burning and smoke was everywhere. I saw Hickham airbase being hit hard. I was firing at the planes flying over Hickham and this fellow said to me, “You’re not going to hit anything.”
“Maybe you’re right, but it makes me feel better to keep firing at them.” I got rid of quite a bit of ammunition. But I didn’t run out. I had a whole belt full of ammunition. I stayed right there on the dock during the whole attack. We fired for a couple of hours, off and on. Then word came out that the Japanese were invading, landing. The word just went up and down the line, so we put our bayonets on and got ready for combat. Of course, that didn’t happen, thank goodness.
Finally, the planes stopped coming. There was nobody really in charge. People were just running around. Then I heard they wanted gun crews up high on this building near the barracks. They had mounted machine guns up there on the top deck of this building. So, I went up there and stayed all day.
Everything was a disaster. From up on top of this building I could see everything that was going on all day. Motor launches were going around picking guys out of the water. The water was covered with oil. They brought some guys who were still alive back to the sub base. They all needed dry clothes. I went down and pulled clothes out of my locker and put them in the pile. Then I went back up on that building.
It was just mass confusion for awhile. We didn’t know if the enemy was coming in again. The day finally wore into the evening. Motor launches were out there all night picking up guys, dead and alive, out of the water. We were there on top of that building through the night until the next morning. Everybody was awake. Nobody could sleep. Our nerves were wound up tighter than drums.
The next morning word came along that they needed a working party to go out to the Oklahoma. Of course, I volunteered. There were maybe eight or ten of us that climbed into this launch. And I was still in whites, my dress whites, if you can imagine. We started out and I could see all the carnage. There were still bodies in different places, washed up here and there. People were out in launches, anything that would float, picking up bodies. There was smoke all over the place. The Arizona was still belching fumes.
We got out to the Oklahoma and we climbed up on the belly of the ship. We handled air lines to help these guys who were standing on the Oklahoma, trying to cut out the trapped men. They were using cutting torches and chipping guns. There was this big Hawaiian out there with muscles as big as suitcases. He worked in the shipyards. He was trying to cut these guys out. I’ll never forget him, watching him work like a demon trying to save those guys. They had plans laid out, drawings of the ship. But, I don’t know how much good those were. We went by sounds. We’d hear tapping – tap, tap, tap.
“Here’s a sound over here!”
We’d rush over there and tap on the hull, and someone would tap back from inside. So, that’s where we would start cutting. It was terrible; you could hear them down below. In some spots where we cut through, a blast of air would come out and the guys would holler, “Quit cutting, quit cutting!” As soon as the pressure was released through the hole, it let water come in. It was just horrendous. It tore my heart out.
I helped pull out three or four guys. I think, altogether, about thirty guys were pulled out from the ship. I did this all day, until evening. I don’t remember being tired, even though I hadn’t slept in about thirty-six hours. It was my birthday. My eighteenth birthday. I was so busy all day I don’t think it even occurred to me that it was my birthday. My whole world was upside down. In the evening they cut us loose and told us to go back to the barracks at the sub base. I don’t think I’d eaten anything since the day before at breakfast.
I’ll never in my life forget that day standing there on the Oklahoma. I’ll carry it with me to my grave. It’s stuck with me all these years. I can still hear those guys down there tapping. More than 400 guys died on the Oklahoma. It was heartbreaking. It was a lucky decision on my part to put in for the mine school and get off that ship.
I thought about the leading seaman who helped me get into mine school. He went down with the Oklahoma. It was heart-shaking. It took me a long time to learn to live with that. It took me twenty years, probably, before I could think about that time without it ripping me up. I’d wake up at night with bad dreams for years. I wasn’t the only one. Others who survived felt the same way. I was a lucky survivor. I wondered, why me? Why was I spared? It’s the way fate is. At times I felt guilty for surviving. I couldn’t run around jumping for joy about surviving, not after all those other guys died. They weren’t lucky like me. I saw more action in three or four hours than some people did in the whole war. I saw enough killing to last a lifetime at Pearl Harbor. That was my baptism in the fire of war.
From the book, Just Do It, Crazy of Not; the life story of 30 year Navy veteran Irvin Hornkohl, by Mary Penner and Irvin Hornkohl. www.manzanoalley.com.
My mother and her three year old daughter arrived in Pearl Harbour on the SS Dickenson just as the first bombs fell in the harbour. She had been evacuated from Fanning Island in the Line Islands due to the risk of Germany attacking the island as they did in WW1.
The crew and passengers on the Dickenson were watching the events, wondering if the U.S. Air Force was being too enthusiastic in their bombing practices, and they were quite annoyed initially.
It was then realised that the planes were Japanese, but the little ship made it to a wharf and I have a record of how the usual formalities were abandoned in order to get the crew and passengers safely ashore.
Fortunately my mother knew a few people in Honolulu and she and my sister were well catered for in the turmoil. After a month or so, they managed to sneak into California to wait for a convoy to get to Australia, their destination. It took a three months’ wait.
My mother had warm memories of her time in the USA in the midst of the country’s scramble to go to war.
— Nari Strange
(Click on the image above to see the entire Dec. 7, 1941 passenger arrival list of the Dickenson. Nari’s mom and sister’s names are listed on page 3; page 2 contains additional details.)
I was 23 days short of my 5th birthday on December 7, 1941. My father, Oren S. Blennerhassett, was stationed at Wheeler Field.
My mother first saw the hangars down the street burning. We then saw the Japanese planes flying overhead from our kitchen window. Being so small I could see the pilots in their leather helmets from where I was in the adjoining room. We had a very large picture window in our kitchen. The neighbor next door was killed while he was watching the action from his kitchen.
My mother had friends who lived in the country. They took our family in and we stayed there until my mother, grandmother and I were put on a Navy ship and sent back to the mainland. I remember having to participate in a life boat drill in very stormy, choppy seas.
We arrived in San Francisco on Christmas Day 1941. I was upset because only the children were fed Christmas dinner but not the adults. My mother and I went to live with my aunt and uncle in Maywood, Illinois, and my grandmother went to my uncle’s house in California. My father remained at Wheeler Field but was sent home when he became ill and spent several months in the hospital until his recovery and reassignment to Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado, where he was the Sgt. Major for several years.
When he came home I remember my mother and I went to meet him at the train station. He was on a stretcher and we could only see him briefly. It was late at night and we were staying in a hotel. It was Easter and when we went back to the hotel there was a large Easter bunny and an Easter basket waiting for me.
To this day I don’t know how my mother pulled that off. She was an amazing woman.
My father, Adrian Gerard Sira, moved to Hawaii from New Jersey in 1934 during the height of the Depression in search of a job. He was a widower with an infant daughter named Elaine whom he left with his first wife’s parents on Long Island to raise because he could not cope with being jobless. His intention was to bring Elaine out to Hawaii with his second wife, my mother, as soon as he got settled.
Dad began teaching math at Hilo High School, sent for my mother when he had the money for a ticket for her to travel across country and the Pacific Ocean. Elaine did not go out on that first trip for unknown reasons
My parents lived in Hilo where my sister was born and then moved to Oahu where he began working at Pearl Harbor in 1938, the year I was born. We lived in paradise in a small house near Waikiki for the next three years.
On December 6, 1941, my father went to work on the night shift at Pearl Harbor, expecting to leave for home at 7:00 the next morning. That morning our lives changed drastically. I remember standing outside in our yard (I was 3, my sister 5 and my mother 5 months pregnant with my brother) with our neighbors, looking at the sky as planes flew over our house. I remember the adults saying that those were not American planes…they were Japanese!
For the next several days, my mother had no word from my father…communications were rather sparse out there…and we could see smoke rising from the direction of Pearl Harbor. When Dad arrived home safely except for some burned hands, we learned that he had been getting ready to leave for home when they were attacked. He’d spent the next several days rescuing people, putting out fires, and doing whatever was needed to survive.
Dad never really told how he felt witnessing the bombing of those warships, especially the USS Arizona. I think it was just too horrific an event for him to talk about.
After that we were ordered to move closer to the base since Dad’s skills as a machinist were critically needed. With gas rationing it was essential that he ride a scooter to work rather than use our car. For the next four years our lives revolved around the war effort.
My brother was born during a blackout. Conversations always included talk about the war. I can’t say it was an unhappy time for me as life went on as usual with school, including taking my gas mask with each day, and the usual childhood activities.
Several times we were awakened during the night to go to the neighborhood bomb shelter. They were scary tunnels with huge cobwebs and big red ants (to this day I still keep my bathrobe nearby in case of a nighttime emergency!).
The war years gave my father a stable career at Pearl Harbor that continued until his retirement in 1962. He loved working for a cause and always felt proud of his contribution on that Day of Infamy in 1941. He took us on trips to the base, and we were even allowed to go out to the submerged USS Arizona and stand on its huge overturned side. Little did I know at that time that there were bodies inside that ship…we were not disrespectful at all but in some way my father was reminding us of what happened on December 7th. I still get shivers thinking about it.
Recently I went to a Pearl Harbor Survivor event, eager to tell my story about my father. The civilian side of this story may never be told in its entirely as their contributions have been overshadowed by the more dramatic events of that day.
The biggest change for our family was that it was impossible for Elaine to be reunited with my father and his new family. She stayed back in New York and was raised by her grandparents. When the war was over, it was too late as by then she was a teenager and had her own life back East. Also other troubles were brewing like a dock strike and the Korean War.
We wrote letters to her and did not meet until many years later as adults. My father did visit her when his job sent him back East. I think there were hard feelings on all sides that the war created this huge divide in our family.
While I cannot return to Hawaii for the 70th anniversary of Pearl Habor this coming December, I will be going back next summer with my daughter and her family. Of course we intend to visit Pearl Harbor, visit the USS Arizona memorial, and throw a lei into the waters where my father’s ashes were spread many years ago.
In 1941 my family lived in the town of Kalehe in Honolulu, Hawaii. My dad was a Chief Petty Officer stationed at Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941 about 7 a.m., my sister Ima Jean and I were playing outside on the roof of a neighborhood taxi stand waiting for our dad to come home and join us for breakfast. He was port duty officer and had to stay on board to hand out liberty passes on Sunday morning. I leaned later that he was half way home when he realized the the base was under attack and he turn around and went back to his ship.
Kalehe is about 15 miles from Pearl Harbor and my sister and I could see the smoke rising from the burning ships. Occasionally planes with a big red dot painted on the side would fly over the town, and being kids we waved and they waved back!
My dad was at the time the senior Chief Petty at Pearl and since he had lost his ship, he had his choice of the fist available billet open for a Chief, which turned out to be a submarine. Dad’s boat set out for the South China Sea and we didn’t see him again until nearly a year after the war ended.
It wasn’t until years later when I was studying history in school that I realized what my sister and I had witnessed. And when we got to the part about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I jumped up and said “Hey I was there”.
— Robert F. Wilson
P.S. I always call my brother Tom on his birthday. He was born a year and a day after Pearl Harbor.
My father was a medical officer on a ship patrolling the west coast of South America when Pearl Harbor was bombed. His ship was harbored in Callao, Peru.
He had been dating a woman who he hoped to marry. Pearl Harbor clinched it. He called her at her family’s home in Manhattan and proposed.
Dad’s ship was headed for Vallejo later in December. My mother did not want to miss Christmas with her family so they agreed to meet in Reno, Nevada, where they could marry after a 24-hour residency.
Mom resigned from her job with Young & Rubicam and left home on the day after Christmas. Meeting in Reno, they took separate rooms in the Hotel Cortez, met with a priest at the cathedral to arrange for the ceremony and bought two $15 gold rings.
Grandpa Enlisted ... and the Japanese Quickly Retaliated
My grandfather, Marion Berness Brady (left, with brothers Elwood and Keith), never talked about his war experiences … with one exception. This was a story he took great delight in retelling and always in the third person:
“On the 6th of December, 1941, Berness and Elwood Brady joined the United States Marine Corps. The next day, the Japanese retaliated.”
I always doubted that Grandpa and his brother actually joined on December 6. Then I found them in the Utah, Military Records, 1861-1970 database on Ancestry.com, and it proved Grandpa was right.
My name is Elizabeth Ann now JoAnne Leavitt-Thomas. I was born to Natalie Moccone and Lawrence Raymond Leavitt Sr in 1957. They were not married. My mother gave me up for adoption and I was adopted at age 5 months. My name became JoAnne Scollay from my adopted parents. As I was growing up I always knew that I would one day find my biological family. What better place to start then in my hometown of Waterbury Connecticut. Of course out of respect I always said I would wait till my adopted parents past. Unfortunately they both past at an early age leaving me and my adopted brother alone again. We were in are 20’s but still very young.
I started searching in the early 80’s before computers and I found my biological mother. I made the trip to see her but it had to be secret because she was married and divorced and remarried to someone else that was an old strick Italian man. I met her once and my biological brothers of which I have two and bioligical sisters of which I have two. I left and never returned until one day last year when I saw ancestry.com on my grandsons computer and was very interested in finding out about my heritage.
I joined ancestry.com and began my search with the help of facebook and ancestry.com I found all of my biological family on mother side again and new nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and great great nieces and nephes. I then became intereted in my biological fathers side and started my search there too on ancestry.com. I found two men that are still alive and the story began to unravel and become extremly crazy! I found out that my biological mother was having relations with two brothers named Leavitt. One in which was married to her sister. So my uncle might be my father. One of the men is my cousin or cousin and brother and the other is either my cousin or my brother. Since both men are decesed now my DNA chances are slim. I truely will spend the rest of my days trying to get this DNA accomplished. I know that I can do it with one of the men from my uncle and then I found a great nephew also that is from my father if indeed Lawrence is my father and not his brother Leo. Confused? So am I. But thanks to ancestry.com and many members I have received information to build my family tree, pictures, and help to locate many people in my family. Just don’t know where to place myself in the tree exactly due to this situation. So now I know that I am Elizabeth Ann Moccone by biological mother’s maiden name. Elizabeth Ann Leavitt by biological father’s name. And the only true Identity by my husbands name of Thomas. So I am Elizabeth Ann Scollay-Moccone-Leavitt-Thomas!!!! Thank you Ancestry.com for giving me the most precious gift in life besides my chidren which is my identity!
The unknown family of Hannah Stokes and Samuel Conrow
25 November 2011
My grandmother Bess Hall Pearce (1893-1986) was doing genealogy in the 1920’s. She worked mostly on her own lines but was also interested in following her husband’s lines enough to interview her his mother and aunt before they died in 1931. But until recently I didn’t know this. When she died I inherited all her notes and books but, because I had a young family and was building my own house I put the materials into a storage loft and forgot about them for 20 years.
I knew that our family tree on my mother’s father’s side included a Rebecca Conrow, born in New Jersey, the daughter of Hannah and Samuel because it was on all the copies of the family tree that I had gotten from my grandmother. Hannah’s family was well known back to Thomas Stokes, the progenitor of this family in this country. Rebecca had married Joseph Washington Pearce.
When I started working on my tree on-line through Ancestry.com, I began to look for a record of Samuel’s family; a list or a record of Rebecca’s siblings in New Jersey. There was nothing. I discovered quickly that many of the census records for New Jersey were missing and I discovered that there was absolutely no record anywhere on-line of the children of Hannah and Samuel Conrow.
I did find the 1850 census record in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Hannah Conrow b. in New Jersey with daughter, Rebecca Pearce and her four little children, Mary (PA), Elizabeth (AL), George (AL, my ancestor George Alfred Pearce) and Josephine (AL). Rebecca’s husband, Joseph had died in 1848 according to the family bible – which gives only Rebecca and her husbands name with nothing on either’s parents.
I also found an 1840 Census record for Joseph ‘Pierce’ whose household was made up of the following people; a man 20 to 30 (Joseph), 2 girls under 5 (Mary and Elizabeth Pearce), 1 young woman 15 to 20 (unknown), 2 women 20 to 30 (one of which was Rebecca), and an older woman 50 to 60 who would have been Hannah Conrow. I discovered that one of the two young women must have been Marion Conrow who just had to be the sister of Rebecca ~ because, I found a marriage record for her in Tuscaloosa on 23 Apr 1842 to George Alfred Parker (note my ancestors name; George Alfred Pearce).
At that point I contacted a cousin who had this Marion & George Parker on her public tree to tell her the good news, that I had, through circumstantial evidence, connected her to my family as the sister of Rebecca and daughter of Hannah Conrow. She was pretty excited!
So far so good, but I still didn’t know anything about any other siblings nor about Samuel’s family. Nor did I understand how my grandmother knew somehow that Rebecca’s father was Samuel, since it was clear that Hannah was a widow by the time she moved to Tuscaloosa.
In the midst of a remodeling project we attacked the loft upstairs and lo and behold! There was that box of genealogy papers, treasures and an old copy of _The Ancestry of the Stokes _, a wonderful resource for the genealogy of this prominent Burlington County, NJ Quaker family. In the back of the book, to my surprise was a handwritten note in my grandmother’s very sloppy, large handwriting. The handwritten note is on p.310, and 311, part of the appendix of the book and the page that records the children of the marriage of Samuel Stokes and his wife Sarah Ellis. Hannah Stokes is listed as the 6th child and it is there where it says that she married Samuel Conrow. Under the text was the sloppy note. This is what it said:
“Hannah Stokes-Samuel Conrow
Their children were
Rebecca md Joseph Washington Pearce
Marion md George A. Parker
Charles md McCowan
Lewis – John – Stacy
Children of Rebecca + Joseph Washington Pearce”
(she lists children, including a daughter I didn’t know of who d. at 18 months)
“Marion Stokes (sic) md Geo. A Parker”
( she lists children accurately and who they married)
Below this Bess Pearce wrote in the lists of George Pearce’s children and then of her own children, and her grandchild my cousin. She never got around to writing me in.
I realized that Bess had managed to interview either Helen Pearce, the wife of George (he died before Bess married his son, also George), or George Sr.’s youngest sister Josephine (or both). Both of these women lived until 1831, well into the period when Bess was doing a lot of genealogy.
After finding this all important note I contacted a researcher at the Burlington County Historical Association to see if there was any information I was missing about these people. She looked and looked and was able to discover who my Samuel Conrow was but about the children of Samuel and Hannah…apparently lost in time.
If it were not for the efforts of a woman with a 3rd grade education, my grandmother; Bess Hall Pearce.
Addendum to this story: I have also now found Stacy Conrow s/o Hannah and Samuel who married Mary Ann Atkinson and Charles M. Conrow (of Tuscaloosa) who married Elizabeth McCown. I have contacted a few people on these lines to let them know that I have found a key to this family.
I would have not known any of my Italian Ancestors!
I have been interested in family genealogy since my teen years. I have spent most of my time researching my maternal family tree where some of my ancestors go back to the 15th century or earlier! Much of the work had already been done by my grandmother but I have enjoyed meeting new “cousins” and confirming information and sources through ancestry.com.
My paternal family history has been another matter. I was told from a very young age that there were no records about my Italian Martino and Zona ancestors. Because of the earthquakes and subsequent village fires in the mountain towns that they were from, I didn’t think it ever likely that I would find much at all. Two different things happened at the same time to change my way of thinking about that!
One day a couple of months ago I happened to be half heartedly watching a webinar on ancestry about using the card catalog. I was sure I already knew everything she was talking about, but followed along with her lesson anyways. I clicked on this and I clicked on that, and lo and behold I was at a page that contained civil records for Calvi Risorta, Caserta, Italy! The next thing I knew I was staring at a birth record that contained the name of my great grandfather! At the same time I had just joined an Italian Genealogy website, and they have a page where they will translate from Italian to English all done by volunteers. I not only found out where and when my great grandfather was born, but the person who translated for me pointed out that my great grandfather and great grandmother’s marriage certificate was right there for me too!
Before too long I found my father’s father’s birth record, something I didn’t think I would ever find! I cannot begin to express the excitement and joy I felt at that time!
I have since been slowly learning Italian and can now translate the many, many birth, marriage and death records that I have found right here, for not only my father paternal family but his maternal one as well.
If I had not been a member of Ancestry.com for the last few years I often wonder how long it would have taken me to find these records!
I am a big genealogy nut and have been researching for several years. Imagine my surprise when during my research I discovered my ex-husband line and mine are intertwined not only by marriage but through our grandmother’s. His grandmother and my grandmother were 2nd cousins.
I also discovered my current husband’s 2nd cousin is married to my 1st cousin. It is a small world when you start researching your family history.
Ask Ancestry Anne: How do I Verify a Unsourced Death Date
Question: The only evidence I have for a date of death for my great-grandfather comes from other family trees. When I look at those trees, there are no sources given for the date of death. How do I know which was the first citation and how do I validate the information?
Details are: Nathan Shaw: 6 members show his date of death as Apr 14, 1878 in Union Mills, LaPorte County, Indiana.
I cannot find anything to verify this. I have found him in the 1870 census for Indiana, but not in the 1880 census, so the timing makes sense.
- Jane D
Answer: Ah yes, the tantalizing clues that can be found in unsourced trees. And this one has some very definitive details, down to the day, which makes it seem like somebody had a good reason for believing this was true.
You can try writing to the person who posted to the tree, but that can be hit or miss.
I looked at our Indiana page, but the death records we have for Indiana seem to start in 1880. (Of course!)
And though there is one History of Laporte County, I didn’t see anything on a quick glance. You should probably take a closer look.
This is where you need to start branching out. I’d check digitized newspapers at the Library of Congress.
There are also other sites out there with newspapers, but I’d check out what dates and locales they cover before I paid anything.
Ask Ancestry Anne: These census dates don't match up
Question: In 1910 my father’s family is listed. My Uncles Jessie & Henry McWilliams are the same age, yet in the census before one was born in 1888 and the other in 1894-95.
This is so confusing. The names of the family members are the same but they are correct. What am I to believe? What to do?
Answer: Just because someone writes it down, doesn’t make it true. And here is a perfect example. I would suspect unless you have some reason to believe that Jessie and Henry are twins, the 1910 census ages are incorrect. Usually, not always, children are listed in order of age. Do the ages make sense in terms of how they are listed?
You never know who supplies the information on the census. It could be someone who just doesn’t know.
Do you have other documents such as marriage or birth certificates? The date supplied is probably more accurate as the information was most probably supplied by someone who was either at the birth or someone who knew.
Find the rest of the census records and see what maps out.
I always think of census ages as guides, not as absolutes. Notable differences such as this, just means you’ve got more digging to do.
Ask Ancestry Anne: All it takes is a name, date and location
Question: Can you find Edwin W. Johnson born around 1871, in Saline Co. Missouri?
Answer: I picked this particular example, because it helps illustrate an important point, the three most useful pieces of information to find someone are:
Where do I begin?
I go to the 1880 search page because that will be the first U.S Census Edwin will be in. I enter
Edwin W in for first and middle names with no filters.
Johnson in for the last name filterd by exact, phonetic and similiar
1871 and Missouri for the birth information
Saline County, Missouri, USA from the type ahead and choose restrict to exact.
The first result is an Edwin W. Johnson, this very well may be the Edwin W. Johnson that is being searched for.
He is the grandson of John I. Lunback. There is also a Jennie M. Johnson who is the daughter of John Lunback who is widowed.
Is this Edwin’s mother? Probably. (Not for sure, relationships are always to the head of the household.)
I do notice that Edwin’s mother was born in Ohio, and Jennie was born in Ohio.
So what next? I would try and find Jennie and Edwin in the 1900 census, as well as John and Matilda Lunback in the 1870 census. Is Jennie living with them? Or can you find Jennie and her husband in the 1870 census? Note that this census says that Edwin’s father was born in Tennessee, but I would guess Jennie and husband were living in Missouri.
Then you might want to start searching for marriage records for Jennie and if you find a husband for her, you can look for his death record. Since Edwin was born in 1871 you could guess that Jennie was married in 1870 or before.
If you have a name, location and approximate birth date, you can usually come up with a census, or maybe a few that might be your person. From each census record you can then use the clues on the image to direct your search from there.
My mother always said that my great-grandmother’s name was Lula Mae Captolia “hyphen” Lucinda Ladow. It’s said that the hyphen was added because Great-Grandma was adopted at age three and kept both of her names. But years later, I discovered that it wasn’t a hyphen in her name; it was a different name entirely – Halpin.
I learned this fact by looking at my great-grandmother’s marriage license, which included her name as Lucinda Halpin as well as the names of her parents, Harriet Bird and William Halpin. But on her death certificate, Lucinda’s maiden name was listed as Ladow.
I looked for the birth certificates of her children to see which maiden name they included, but I found only one and it was filled out years after the child’s birth. The information on that delayed birth certificate was provided by the same person who had provided details for the death certificate, so the maiden name on it was Ladow, too.
I dug further for clues about either Lucinda’s parents or her adoptive parents. At the county genealogical society I found another person with the names Captolia and Halpin, who had a birthdate exactly one year after my great-grandmother, but that was all. I still didn’t have Lucinda’s family story.
Frustrated, I turned to the people at the society. Their suggestion was to try to the courthouse – there was a chance, they said, that legal documents associated with Lucinda’s adoption might have been filed. To my surprise, after looking through many court books, I found paperwork stating that Mr. Silas Ladow had been made the legal guardian of Lucinda, age one, because her father had died and Lucinda had no other living relatives.
My husband says that when I made this discovery, my eyes lit up. And while we still have no idea about what happened to Lucinda’s mother, now my great-grandmother’s unique name has a story to go with it.
How my family met my husband’s family a century before I did
In an effort to introduce my 4-year-old son to his family’s history, I began researching my husband’s family on Ancestry.com. My husband’s stepmother is Italian, and her maiden name is DiDio. I’m half Italian, and my maiden name is Santagati.
While I was researching my husband’s family, I naturally started looking up my own family’s history as well. As I searched through the site I came upon the Ellis Island passenger manifest for the S.S. Berlin. On it was a listing for my great-grandfather, Santo Santagati, my father’s grandfather.
As I went down the list looking for the name Santo Santagati, I noticed that the name di rectly below it was Giuseppe DiDio. Curious, I called my stepmother-in-law and asked her if she knew a Giuseppe DiDio. She did – he was her great-grandfather.
It turns out that my great-grandfather and my stepmother-in-law’s great-grandfather came to America on the SAME boat and were checked in to Ellis Island, consecutively. This also means that they were likely in line together for a very long time. And that they probably even struck up a conversation or at the very least said “hello” to each other. I wish I could know more.
Who would have known that almost a century later Santo’s great-granddaughter – me – would meet and marry Giuseppe’s great-great-grand-stepson – my husband – especially considering that my husband grew up in Idaho and I grew up in South Carolina.
—Ancestry.com member, Elisa Santagati Kadel
(Click here to see the passenger list on Ancestry.com)
My wife’s father died in 1942 at the age of 35. At the time, my wife, Audrey, was only six years old. Ever since we met and married 35 years ago, she has longed for a photo of him – all of the photos and paperwork of him were destroyed in the London Blitz.
Audrey was very ill at the time and I was freshly retired, so I joined Ancestry in November 2010 to see if I could learn more for her. My achievements were gradual at first – we didn’t even know how many brothers or sisters Audrey’s father had. I would slog away and every now then would run upstairs to Audrey with another newly-printed sheet of paper asking questions like “Did you know your father had a sister?” or “Do you know who your grandfather was?”
I started assembling Audrey’s family tree. By matching trees and following various hints I found that her grandmother had married again after being widowed in 1909 and had three more children. This fact led me to an amazing discovery, and one that neither Audrey nor I can still quite believe. Barbara, an Ancestry.com member in America, was the granddaughter of one of these children. She even had photos of Audrey’s father, Thomas, taken by his half-sister.
This discovery was, and still is, better than winning the lottery! Now at 75 years of age my wife has her father’s picture in a silver locket that she wears around her neck and a photo of him by her bedside. A smile comes to her face every time she looks at them.
—Ancestry.com member, Geoff Copson
Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com subscriber, Barbara Moseley
Question: I’ve been stumped for a while now on my mother’s side. In the 1910 census, my grandfather Christopher Columbus Wells is living with his father and mother, Joseph and Lizzie Wells, in Franklin County, Texas. In 1900, Joseph and Lizzie are living in Van Zandt County, near a Rohers family.
I’ve found family trees that indicate Joseph is the eldest son of Samuel Garner Wells and Sarah Jane Rohurst. The 1900 census has SG or M Wells and SJ Wells living with eight children. They’ve been married 21 years. I have read they died in 1904. Included in the household is Navada, age 6. A Lavada is living with Joseph and Lizzie in 1910 as a sister.
My problem is that I can’t find a census record for Samuel, Sarah Jane or Joseph before 1900, and I’ve been told that Samuel and Sarah Jane both died in 1904. What should I do next? —Mark
Answer: Some family lines just flow from the documents like water, don’t they? And then there are family lines like this one. And that gap between 1880 and 1900 surely isn’t helping.
Just as you did, I started with the 1910 census. Joe Wells is married to Lizzie and has been so for 12 years. It also states that Lizzie has had 6 children, and that either 6 or 5 are living (the second number is difficult to make out). There are only five listed, so one child is living somewhere else, or has died. Also note that this appears to be Joe’s second or later marriage – the notation M2 means Joe has been married before.
Navada/Lavada is 17 in this particular census.
In 1900, Joe and Lizzie have been married just a year. Joe also indicated he was born in July 1880. The 1880 census was taken in June 1880 so Joe won’t be in it. Joe’s father was born in Missouri, which may help us learn more.
Turning to Lavada in the 1900 census, I find Nevada Wells in Franklin, Texas living with S and S J Wells. As you noted, S J has had nine children and all nine are still living – since only eight are listed, one of them is somewhere else.
This is likely Joe’s family. But how can I prove it?
First names for the parents would help. Family trees state the names Samuel Garner Wells and Sarah Jane Rohers, but none supply any documentation of that fact.
But a very kind researcher has posted a death certificate for Allen Wells, the third son listed in the 1900 image, and that death certificate serves up interesting information about the parents.
It states that Allen’s father was Joseph Wells, born in Cole County, Missouri, and that his mother was Jane Rohearse, born in Limestone County, Texas. From the 1900 census we know that S (Allen’s father) was born February 1845 and S J (Jane, Allen’s mother) was born October 1865. And it’s reasonable to assume that Rohearse is a variation of Rohers.
From here, I search for S Joseph in the 1850 census, possibly in Cole County, Missouri, and for S Jane Rohers in Limestone County, Texas starting in 1870.
While it would be really nice to have some evidence that ties these parents to Joseph – and gives us the names that start with S – it’s probably best at this point to search based on the assumption that the couple in the 1900 census are Joseph’s parents and see if you can discover the link that way. Also search the potential brothers and sisters of Joseph to see if you can learn more from them.
Other places to try: *Joseph’s death certificate; with any luck you will get his parents on it.
*Newspapers from around the time of Joseph’s birth and marriage; clues to his parents may be there.
*Wills or settlements of Samuel’s estate; chances are good that his children are listed in there.
*Research the entire family you suspect as his and evaluate each piece of evidence that you find. The answers are out there somewhere. I promise.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Help! My Great-Grandmother Left No Clue
Dear Anne: I’m completely stumped when it comes to my great-grandmother Ella Crouch Lowell. She left no clues behind, at least none that I can find. Her ethnicity was said to be Black Dutch or French, but on her deathbed (she died in 1931 in Bents or Las Animas County, Colorado) she said she was Apache. According to the census, she was born in Ohio in 1867 or 1868. She married Stephen Lowell in 1890. Their first child was Franklin followed by Ruby, Hallie, Otis and Carl. I think there were a couple of children who died in between. They lived in Kansas and the Enid, Oklahoma area. Do you think you could help? — Sharon
The best place to start is with what you know and anything you can easily find.
Given that you know Ella died in 1931, she should be in the 1930 U.S. census, probably in Colorado. I did a search in Bent and Las Animas counties and couldn’t find her, so then I backed up to 1920 and found Steven A. Lowell, age 48, and Ella A. Lowell, age 52, living in Bent, Colorado. Both are listed as white. Sometimes Native Americans were listed as people of color, but just as often they were listed as white.
We also see that Steven was born in Kansas and his father was born in New York and his mother in Indiana. Ella was born in Ohio, her father in Virginia and her mother in Ohio.
On the next page are two children (always check the next page when your family is at the end or beginning of the page), Otis and Carl, ages 17 and 15.
The children were born in Oklahoma, which puts the family in Oklahoma at least between the years of 1903 and 1905.
Backing up to 1910, I located the family in Dane, Major, Oklahoma. This time Ella’s (Ellen in the Census) father’s birth location is listed as unknown. It may be that whomever reported the information for this (probably not Ella) didn’t know.
Steven and Ella had been married for 20 years as of 1910, so their approximate wedding date was 1890. They had seven children, five living in 1910 and all in the house with them.
The birth years and birthplaces of the children indicate that the family was probably in Kansas from at least 1892 to 1896, and in Oklahoma from 1899 to 1906. The entire family is listed as white. But again, this is not conclusive.
Backing up to 1900, the family is now listed in the Crowell Township of Woods, Oklahoma Territory. Notice in the 1900 census both the birth month as well as the year are listed for each person. The couple had been married for 10 years and had four children, three of whom were living at the time, which means they lost one child between 1890 and 1900 and one between 1900 and 1910. This time Ella’s father is listed as being born in Indiana and Stephen’s father is living with them. He was born in New York, his parents in Maryland and Virginia. This appears to have been a family that had no problem packing and moving. Again everyone is listed as white.
Stepping back a little further, I also discovered the family in a Kansas state census record from March of 1895 in Solomon Rapids, Mitchell, Kansas. Again, Ella is listed as born in Ohio and white.
I can find Stephen in the 1880 US census and the 1885 Kansas state census in Solomon Rapids, Mitchell, Kansas, and given that this is where the couple lived in 1895, I would guess that they were probably married in or near Solomon Rapids in 1890, but anything is possible.
I did find an Ella M. Crouch in the 1885 Kansas State Census in Centropolis, Franklin, Kansas, but this Ella is said to have been born in Kansas, so it may not be the same Ella.
I also found this same Ella in the 1880 and 1870 census; her age is right, but the birth location still isn’t. Here they are in the 1880 census, this time in Cutler, Franklin, Kansas. The parents were born in Indiana, all the children in Kansas. To determine whether this really is the right Ella (something about it doesn’t feel quite right to me), I’d need to do more research and find more evidence.
Next, I search specifically for just the last name Crouch, born between 1865 and 1869 in Ohio and living in Kansas in the 1870s or 1880s. Nothing. I then look for the same, but living in Ohio. Nothing seems like a direct hit. Next, I look for anyone named Crouch born about that time in the U.S. Indian Census and the Dawes Commission Index. Again nothing.
So does that mean the Ella May Crouch born in Kansas is my Ella? No – just because I can’t find Ella easily anywhere else, that doesn’t make this one her.
To really follow Ella back further in time, you’re going to need to dig deeper. I’d suggest finding a death certificate and a marriage certificate – either one may hold clues that are the key to this puzzle. I would start looking first in Mitchell County for a marriage certificate. You contact the county court house or a local history society for more information. Also, try to find newspapers from that area in 1890 as well – there may be a mention of the wedding, which could provide a clue to Ella’s parents and ethnicity. Also post your questions on the Ancestry.com message boards – someone there may be able to point you to additional resources.
Lastly, one more thing: if you know the names of your great-grandmother’s brothers and sisters, they could act as clues to link her to her family before marriage.
Your research task is tough – but it will be fun. And exactly the type of mystery that’s worth solving.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Will a Name Change Make My Family Harder to Find?
Question: My father’s birth name was James Ralph Walsh, but then he changed it to James Ralph Welsh. Will this make it more difficult to follow him and his family? He was born in Ohio in 1898 and I believe the birth month was February. — Donald T. Welsh
Answer: Actually, the name change might make success even easier for you. Knowing a bit more about changing names could put you ahead of the game in understanding historical documents. Here’s how:
Our ancestors didn’t think too much about the spelling of their surnames until the modern era, when we developed the idea of a legal name. Walsh, Welsh, Welch – if it sounded the same, it was the same. Smith had four possible common spellings: Smith, Smithe, Smyth, Smythe. And an ancestor named Jeremiah Smith could turn up in a census record as any of them.
Take, for example, the births listed on this page (above) from a family Bible, which uses two different spellings for the same surname, Gillespie/Gillaspie. But each name appears to be written in the same hand. Spelling wasn’t an exact science.
Bottom line: Even if your ancestor hadn’t changed his last name, you’d still want to search for him with a few different spellings. You’re just a step ahead since you’ve already discovered two of the variations for which you’ll want to search.
Ask Ancestry Anne: What's the best way to connect my family to an American legend?
Question: My middle name is Lee for General Lee, a rumored relative of my paternal grandmother. I’m also said to be related to Martha Washington, but I can’t find a connection to either. Which way should I work – forward from the legend to my family or backward until I reach the legend? - Martha Garstang Hill
Answer: The short answer is start with your own family. Family legends are often a mixture of a fact or two with some wishful thinking thrown in, so trying to trace from the famous to the modern day is very much like searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
Instead, start with your paternal grandmother. Who were her parents? Document each one then focus on her grandparents. My guess is you will find the evidence you’re looking for in either your great-great-grandparents or your great-great-great-grandparents. Remember, since you’re trying to prove if a legend is true, the best and easiest place to start is with what you know and systematically work your way back. That way you’ll be sure you’re discovering your family, and if you happen to find Robert E. Lee along the way, that’s even better.
Be skeptical of all family legends no matter how attractive they are. Skepticism will lead to better research on your part. My own family always claimed that we are related to “Bigfoot” Wallace. I’ve never found any facts to support this, but I’ve found plenty of other great family stories that are supported along the way.
As you research your own family, pay particularly close attention to any males born between 1818 and 1846 to see if they served in the Civil War and, more specifically, if they served in the Army of Northern Virginia. If it turns out that your family isn’t related to Robert E. Lee, this may turn out to be the source of the legend – your ancestor may have served under Robert E. Lee instead.
Also, look into history to see if it can lead you to answers. Robert E. Lee’s wife was Mary Anna Randolph Custis, the great granddaughter of Martha Washington and her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis. Robert E. Lee had seven children, but only two of them had children – William Henry Lee and Robert Edward Lee. A quick Internet search on both of these gentlemen will probably tell you if either could be in a direct line of your own ancestors.
Remember to focus first on finding your own family. That way, whether you watch their lives unfold in history books or census records, you’ll always know that you’ve uncovered the moments that matter most to your family tree.
Ask Ancestry Anne: I Found a Death Record -- How Can I Learn More?
Dear Ancestry Anne:
I’ve been looking for my grandfather’s birth record but no luck. I have his death record, which provided me with the following information:
Name: Henry Clinton Jones Birth: February 9, 1855, Kansas City, Missouri Death: January 24, 1942, Las Vegas, New Mexico Father: John Jones (an aunt confirmed this) Father’s birth: 1819, Mercer County, Kentucky Father’s death: 1863
Here’s my problem: I don’t have enough information about John Jones – his name is so common and we’ve also been told he may have gone by Robert Jones – and the dates are simply years. Various family trees I’ve seen list John’s wife as Mary Elizabeth Kanfield, born in Virginia or Illinois, died in either Dent County, Missouri, or Fort Bend, Texas. I’ve also heard that my grandfather had a sister named Fannie Jones Chumley; I’ve researched her and learned she was born in 1851 in Kentucky, married young and had lots of children. But so far, I cannot find anyone in my grandfather’s family ever living together. Where do I look for next? - Mary Lou
Dear Mary Lou, First, good for you for wanting to verify that the birth information for your grandfather on his death certificate – it’s highly likely that the person who reported the information on the death certificate wasn’t present for your grandfather’s birth and may have some information wrong.
To find the birth certificate, start by going straight to the Ancestry.com place pages. Click on the search tab or visit http://search.ancestry.com/search. Scroll to the bottom of the page, where you’ll find the U.S. map. Click on the state where you think your grandfather was born and look for Birth Marriage and Death listings to see if there’s a data collection at Ancestry.com that fits the years you need.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, try an alternate route. For example, if you’re looking for your grandfather’s parents and not just a confirmation of his birth date, search for all census records that would have been created for him during his life span. Start with the last-available census record: 1930. Where was your grandfather? Was he already in New Mexico? Was he living with his family? Note the informant listed on the death certificate, who could be a clue about your grandfather’s living situation at his time of death – if it’s a family member, track down that person in 1930 to see if Henry was living with or near that person then, too. Also ask a few more questions, if possible, of the aunt who confirmed Henry’s father’s name – does she know more about Henry’s life, family or whereabouts?
Once you’ve pinpointed Henry in a census record, use all identifying information to try to work your way back through his life. Note details like birthplace for him and his parents as well as his occupation, address and any other family members he may be living with who could point you to him in earlier years. Also review a few pages before and after your grandfather’s census record for other family members.
If you can’t locate your grandfather, try following the person you believe was his sister and follow her back through history to see if the two ever meet up (this will either help you locate your grandfather or determine if he was really related to the Fannie you found). You may find her living with the parents either before your grandfather was born or after he moved out of the house.
Use all census records you find to help you sort through clues and point you to new search locations. For example, if you find Henry and Fannie living in the same household and their birthplaces differ, you’ll want to search for information on these siblings in both of those states.
Your grandfather died in 1942, which means there’s a chance he or someone else collected social security benefits. If he appears in the SSDI, send off for his social security application, which will give you more than a few genealogical goodies there such as birth information and parents.
By the way, don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a birth certificate for your grandfather. States weren’t required to keep vital information until the 20th century, although some states started earlier. And remember, on occasion records that were kept may have been later destroyed by fire, war, flood or some other calamity.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Can You Help Me Find My Great-Grandfather's Father?
Question: I am trying to find William Foxworth, who was married to Sallie Andrews in Wahee, Marion County, South Carolina. Sallie is listed in the 1880 census in Wahee as a widow with four children, William (or Willie), Annie E., Julius, and Bennie. In the 1880 census, Sallie and her daughter are listed as white, but Sallie’s sons are all mulatto. I am assuming that her husband must have been black and maybe even a former slave. I would like to find him. Willie, by the way, was my great-grandfather; I learned Willie’s parents’ names, William Foxworth and Sallie Andrews, from his death certificate. But I can’t find anything about the family in the 1870 census. Please help. - Ronald H. Foxworth
Answer: You’re starting your search with a lot of great detail about Willie’s family but it may not all add up. And realize that while the information on Willie’s death certificate provides fantastic clues, the person who reported the information may have supplied incorrect information since that person likely wasn’t present at Willie’s birth. So I’ll take a different approach to see what else we can learn about the family.
I start by looking at the 1880 U.S. Federal Census that you referenced.
Sallie Foxworth (Andrews) is listed as age 33, born about 1847. The only child listed who would have been alive on the 1870 census is Willie, age 12, born about 1868. But I, too, can’t find the family in the 1870 census (FYI – the 1870 census has a reputation for missing people, especially in the southern states).
Moving forward to 1900, however, I can find Sallie with her son Bennie, still living in Wahee.
Both Sallie and Bennie are listed as “white,” and Sallie has four living children. If this is accurate, it suggests that the four children in the 1880 census are Sallie’s only children. I look for more information about Sallie in the 1910 census, but I can’t locate her. Sallie may have died sometime between 1900 and 1910, but this is just a guess.
Since I can’t find Willie in 1900, I turn to a different technique: I try tracking down his other brothers and sister to see if they can provide additional family information. In 1900, Julius is also living in Wahee, now with a wife and two children. His race is indicated as “black.” He also appears in 1910 in South Carolina and in North Carolina in 1920.
Julius died in North Carolina, which is where I locate his death certificate. The informant was Edward Foxworth, who was probably one of his sons.
Julius’s death certificate provides some clues: first, his parents are listed as Charlie Berry, born in Marion, South Carolina, and Sallie Foxworth, born in Florence, South Carolina. So maybe all of the children did not have the same father.
Next I search for William Foxworth in 1870, who, according to Willie’s death certificate, was his father. I find a good match in Wahee for William with a son named William. Even the ages are correct. But the mother is Margaret, not Sallie.
Moving forward to 1880, Margaret and William and son William are still living together, which seems to rule this family out since you found your great-grandfather Willie living with his mother Sallie in 1880.
What now? Your next step should be to search for obituaries between 1900 and 1910 for Sallie Foxworth in Marion County, South Carolina. Or if you know the denomination of the church they attended, look for all churches in Wahee of that faith and contact them about records they may have for the Foxworth family. This may be the best way to unravel more about the family mystery and finally discover Willie’s father’s name.
Ask Ancestry Anne: I've Found My Grandpa but What About His Wife?
Question: My grandmother, Era Thompson, married my grandfather Arthur R Hobdy, Sr. I have all sorts of records for Arthur but I’m stumped when it comes to finding records about Era. I know she came from a small community north of Nashville, Tennessee called “White House.” Can you help me get started? - Harriette Hobdy Wilson
Answer: We know we’re looking for Arthur R. Hobdy, who was married to Era Thompson. Given that Arthur is a senior, there is a good chance that Arthur and Era have a son named Arthur as well. Using the little information I have, I create a small tree.
Honestly, dates would help. Even so, I already have a hint for Arthur Hodby, the son of a Arthur and an Era T. I click on it to find out it’s for the 1930 census, which shows me the following:
Arthur Senior was born in Tennessee as were his parents. Era was born in Kentucky, her father was born in Louisiana and her mother was born in Kentucky. All the children were born in Kentucky. But there is something odd about this particular family: the children have their mother’s birth place as Tennessee. Was Era not their mother? Or was she really born in Tennessee and the enumerator got her birthplace wrong – or did the enumerator get the the birthplace of the children’s mother wrong?
I suspect this is the correct family, but I do a search for all Arthur Hodby’s in the 1930 census. There are a few other variations of Arthur Hobdy, but none of them have parents named Arthur and Era, so I’m pretty sure I’m on the right trail.
From the 1930 census, we know that Arthur Sr. was born about 1877, and Era was born about 1889. Their oldest child in the 1930 census was born about 1910. I’m guessing they were married between 1905 and 1909; the information in the “age at first marriage” field helps me narrow this down to approximately 1905. I look next for the 1910 census. Here’s what I find:
This is one of those genealogical moments that happen too rarely. Arthur and Era are living with what appears to be Era’s father. Arthur is listed as the son-in-law of Wether Thompson, Era as the daughter. Wether is a widower born in Louisiana, his father in North Carolina and his mother in Alabama. No Tennessee connection yet.
Also, we see that Era and Arthur have been married five years, and each is in their first marriage (M1 indicates first marriage, M2 would indicate a second or later marriage).
Now I look for Era Thompson living as the daughter of Wether, moving back to the 1900 Census.
I find Era Thompson, daughter of Wilber Thompson and Emmer Thompson (Wilber and Wether? I can see how handwriting could make those two look close to the same). While Willber’s parents are both listed as being born in Louisiana, I still I suspect these are the same people. However, If this were my family and wanted to be sure, I’d start gathering every source I could find so I could verify I’m looking at the right people. But for the purposes of this exercise and since I’m just testing a theory here, I’ll continue on.
Emmer Thompson’s father is listed as being as born in Tennessee. Is this the Tennessee connection?
Next I jump back to 1880, but I couldn’t find any Wilber or Wether Thompsons in the 1880 census who seemed like the right person. I then did a search for Emmer’s born between 1865 and 1869 and living in Allen County, Kentucky or surrounding counties to see if any of them had a father born in Tennessee and a mother born in Kentucky. But I didn’t find one.
I also checked Kentucky marriage records for a Wether/Wilbur and Emmer, but found nothing. Searching courthouse records, however, could turn up more.
So what now? Since I’m pretty sure that I’ve found Era Thompson’s parents, I need to find more sources to back up this assertion. Here’s what I’d do next: • Hunt down the marriage record for Wilber/Wether and Emmer • Find a birth record for Era and/or her brothers and sisters – any one of these might hold valuable clues as to who Wilber/Wether and Emmer were and where they came from. And since locations for birthplaces vary from document to document for this family, I’ll be very careful as I hunt them down. I can’t assume the first one I see will be the correct family.
As for Era Thompson’s Tennessee connections, it appears that she was born in Kentucky. But maybe one of Era’s parents was from Tennessee. The mystery is not solved, but we did get a few steps closer. Happy Searching! Ancestry Anne
Ask Ancestry Anne: How Do I Find a Confederate Soldier?
Question: Can you find William Smith of Rockbridge County, Virginia? He’s the father of Mattie Smith, who married John Wesley Duling. And William was also a Confederate soldier.
Answer: We have names and locations here but no date. However, if Mattie is the child of a Civil War veteran, I’m guessing that she shows up married to John Duling in the 1900 through 1930 censuses. And I’m going to take it on faith that you have a record that shows that William Smith was Mattie’s father and was from Rockbridge County. It is typical of Virginia marriage records in the 1800s to state that information.
My first step is to look for John Duling in the 1900 census in Clifton Forge, Virgina. If I can find John and Mattie in the 1900 census, not only will I have the year they were born, but the month they were born. I find John W and Martha Duling on the 1900 census in Clifton Forge:
Note that although John is transcribed as John N Duling, if you compare the initial with the W in Willie in line 72, this is most probably John W Duling. Martha H was born in Virginia in July 1859 and “Mattie” is a known nickname for Martha. Both of Martha’s her parents were also born in Virginia. John and Martha have been married for nine years, so they were married around 1891. If this is Martha’s first marriage, it is very likely we will find her on the 1880 census with her father.
I find a Mattie H Smith born about 1860 in Bath, Virginia in 1880. She is the daughter of William and Agnes Smith and has brothers and sisters Emmit, David, Maggie, Mary and James.
Bath County is north of Clifton Forge and west of Rockbridge County, so it is in the realm of possibilities that this is the correct family. Martha/Mattie’s middle initial is also the same. I then search for this family in 1870. I find them again in Bath County.
You’ll note on the census that not only is the birth state given, but the county is as well, even though they are crossed out. This states that William is from Pendleton County, Virginia, and is wife is from Bath. Three children are listed as being born in Rockbridge, David, Martha and Maggie, which would mean, if correct, I will find the family in 1860 in Rockbridge County, Virginia. And sure enough, I do:
You’ll notice in 1860, 1870 and 1880, that William is listed as a tailor which leads me to believe that this is definitely the same family. You’ll also notice that on this census, Martha/Mattie is listed as M Hester, which now explains the initial H in other census records.
So is this the correct William Smith and the correct Mattie? It is possible and even probable, but it’s still not definite. If you have access to the marriage record and can verify that Mattie’s mother’s name was Agnes and/or that Mattie was born in Rockbridge County, you can feel much more confident that this is the correct family.
You stated that William Smith was a Confederate Soldier. Given that he lived in Virginia his whole life, he probably enlisted in Virginia. There is a William Smith who enlisted in Staunton, Virginia in 1861 at was the age of 45 (birth year 1816), who is listed as a tailor. This could be your William Smith, but the age is off by almost a decade, so it is far from definitive. When you examine the muster and discharge records for this William, you’ll see that this William was born in Kentucky, so it is very unlikely he is your William. I did find a Pension Request (at the Library of Virginia site) for a William H Smith who was living in Clifton Forge, Virginia in 1902, that stated he enlisted in Rockbridge County, Virginia in April of 1862. In this record he states that he is a shoemaker. However, no records can be found that indicate he actually served.
I also checked the local history “A History of Rockbridge County” which lists the different units and the men who served. William is not listed.
William Smith is a common name — he may be in the records and I may have not been able to locate him. There is a gap between Maggie Smith, born in 1861, and Mary Smith born in 1866 that supports the idea that he served in the war.
Here are my recommendations are these: 1. Find the marriage record for Mattie and John. 2. Learn more about Mattie’s brothers and sisters; there may be clues there. 3. See if you can read the pension file I mentioned or order a better copy (that one is hard to read).
Hopefully this is enough information to get you restarted on your search.
Ask Ancestry Anne: How Can I Find Someone Who Was Living in Germany in 1920?
Question: “My grandfather’s parents are listed on the 1920 census as being born in Germany. But I’m not sure how to find them overseas. Any suggestions? –Marnie Little
Answer: The first thing you should to do when you start searching for your ancestors in another country is familiarize yourself with what’s available for that country on Ancestry.com. Just as every state in the U.S. differs in the records that they have, every country does as well. There are two places that I recommend to learn more.
Place Pages: On the navigation bar, click on the Search tab, and then scroll to the bottom of the page.
You will see the “Explore By Location” panel,
If you are searching for German records, click on Europe, then on Germany. You will see a page that lists all the data collections we have specific to Germany.
On the right, you will see data collections specific to German states as well.
Card Catalog: If you click on the arrow next to Search in the navigation bar, you will see a drop down, and you can click on Card Catalog. [march-image4.jpg] On the right hand side, you will see a Filter by Location:
Choose Europe and then Germany. You will see all of the data collections we have that have German records in them. You can then narrow those down by record type or era if you like.
You can then click on a data collection and search it individually.
And don’t forget, back on the “Search Homepage” (you get there by clicking on Search in the navigation bar), in the upper right, you will see the Recently Viewed Collections panel. This allows you to go back and look at collections you were searching earlier.
Ask Ancestry Anne: I can't find a birth certificate for my grandfather
Dear Ancestry Anne: I have my granddad’s birth information: John James Sells, born April 15, 1877, Pennsylvania. But I can’t find official birth details or a certificate for him. I’ve found him in the 1880 census in Philadelphia with his mother, Mary Anne (listed as Ada on the 1880 census), and sister Georgianna. I also have Georgianna’s birth certificate, which was found for me by a kind person. But that person couldn’t find one for John.
Because I have his exact date of birth is there a chance of finding his birth record? I really need his father’s name to carry on and I’m not sure John’s father was the same as Georgianna’s father. My granddad noted on his own marriage certificate that his father’s name was also John Sells; Georgianna’s birth certificate indicates her father’s name was George Sells. Additionally, I can’t find a marriage certificate for John and Mary Ann.
Where can I look? Jean Sells (in Australia)
Dear Jean: On the 1880 census, both John Sells, age 3, and his sister Georgie, 11 months are shown. Their mother, Ada, or Mary Ann, is listed as a widow.
If the father of Georgie was George Sells, we can guess that he died in between 1878 and 1880. We know from the census that he was born in Pennsylvania. He may or may not have been John’s father, but John is using the Sells surname. Since John was born in 1877, if his father is also deceased, the date of death would have been between 1876 and 1880. Since your grandfather John never knew his father, he also may not have known his father’s actual name.
There are two George Sells in the 1870 census living in Philadelphia. Either one is a candidate to be the George who married Ada/Mary Ann. The first was born in 1851 in Pennsylvania, and is in the Philadelphia Ward 17 District 51, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; his father and younger brother are both named John. The second was born about 1850, location unknown, and is in the Philadelphia Ward 2 Dist 4 (2nd Enum) Philadelphia, Pennyslvania. Also realize it’s possible neither is the correct one, but they’re both work looking at carefully.
I would investigate both the George Sells from 1870 and see if you can find out more about them and their families. You may also want to track down newspapers in the span of 1876 and 1880 and see if you can find an obituary or a death notice for a George or John Sells. There may also be a will or settlement of his estate which could have his children and wife listed. Also, in 1880, we also see that Ada/Mary Ann is living at the same address as a Davis family. She may just be boarding there or they may possibly be relatives. See what you can learn about this family and investigate all the possible candidates for John’s father. You may find clues in the brothers and sisters of the pair of George Sells from 1870, too.
And finally, just because the kind person who found Georgie’s birth certificate couldn’t find John’s doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. You may want to see if someone else can search for you.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Why Do I Find Trees with Parents Who Are Younger Than Children?
Dear Anne: I’ve run across family trees in which someone listed a mother or father who was born after their children or were very young – say 8 years old – when their supposed children were born. Why does this happen?
- Sylvia Valencia
Anne’s Answer: Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone built trees that were 100 percent sourced and had all the appropriate images and explanations included?
It’s likely one of two things happened in the trees you reference: either you’re looking at a stepchild/stepparent scenario or someone mistakenly input bad data into the tree. The latter can happen because a simple mistyping — I found a trees with my mother’s date of birth in the 1600s, which I just don’t think is very possible — or because the person wasn’t paying quite enough attention when merging information into the tree.
While you may not be able to fix the problem in the tree you’re viewing (although if you have proof that’s contrary to the tree’s details, you can try sending a friendly message to the tree owner that includes what you believe to be the correct information), you can prevent the same type of error happening in your own tree.
First, think before you merge. There is a lot of great data out there – and even an un-sourced tree can lead you down a path of investigation you’d not thought of before – but it’s always good to do a reality check on anything before you accept it as fact.
Second, explain oddities in your own tree and offer proof whenever available. If your family tree includes a mother who was a younger second wife, note that on the tree and provide a trail of documents to back it up.
Ask Ancestry Anne: What Does That Census Notation Say?
Question: In the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Guilford Township, Pennsylvania, is a listing for a Peter and Elizabeth McFerren. On the following page, in sequence, is their son Henry. But the next listing is for a Peter and Lydia McFerren. Next to this Peter’s name is a ditto mark and something that may say “Junior.” Could you take a look at it and tell me whether it is Junior or something else?
- Jack Novicki
Thanks for the question, Jack. Let’s start by looking at the two images (below).
It does look to me like it says Junior; however, for more proof, you can also compare the “J” in Junior to a name with a “J” in it written by the same census taker:
But a word of caution: don’t assume a junior was always the namesake child of the senior. A junior designation may have also been a way of distinguishing between two men in the same town with the same name, one being older, one younger.
However, this particular set of census images leads me to suspect that these two gentlemen are likely related. Same goes for George in the next family.
Question: I found a person who was listed in the 1850 census as “deranged” and then in the 1860 and 1870 census as “insane.” In all three cases, the person was living at home, not in an institution. What modern condition would this correspond with – could the person have epilepsy or would this indicate a condition like Alzheimer’s or another such illness? Also would the family report this label to the census taker or would the census taker apply it because he or she knew the family?—Michael Brockman
Answer: I found one of my ancestors listed as “idiotic” on a census. He was elderly and most likely suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. One can assume that whatever prompted this person to be reported as deranged or insane, it most likely meant that he was not capable of making decisions for himself. The person may not have been in an institution because there may not have been an institution to place him in or maybe because the family was capable of taking care of the person themselves.
As to whether the family or the census taker made the assessment, it is impossible to say. But given that the condition is listed in three different census records in the same manner, I suspect that that family helped supply that information.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Are Duplicate Census Entries Common?
Question: My great-great-great-grandfather, John H. Hipkins (1825-1903) seems to be listed in the 1870 census four times. On June 2 he was in Denison, Iowa, listed as shoemaker; on June 30, he is listed as soldier in Fort Leavenworth Reservation, Kansas; on 11 July he is in Smoky, Trego, Kansas, listed as teamster; and on July 28, he is a shoemaker again in DesMoines, Polk, Iowa, as a boarder. I looked up Smoky, Trego – it was a stagecoach station for Butterfield Overland Express. I learned that the Army often went to those stations to protect the stage lines and station personnel from Indian attacks.
John Hipkins is also listed twice in the 1880 census: once in the army at Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming, and once visiting his family in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Have you seen this type of duplication before?—Don Westfall
Answer: I found the four census records you found. The 1870 census states it records the name of every person whose place of abode on the first day of June, 1870 was in a given family. Now not every census taker may have done that accurately. And not every respondent may have answered each question correctly.
Here’s what was reported: • June 2nd, 1870, in Denison, Crawford, Iowa, there is a John Hipkins, male, white, age 44, who was a shoemaker born in Maryland. The “family unit” appears to be a hotel as the first person in the household is labeled “Hotel Keeper.” Whether Hipkins is a worker or renting a room there is unknown. • June 30th, 1870, in Fort Leavenworth Reservation, Leavenworth, Kansas, there is a John Hipkins, male, white, age 44, who was a soldier born in Maryland and living in the barracks. • July 11th, 1870, in Smoky, Trego, Kansas, there is a John Hipkins, male, white, age 44, who was a teamster born in Maryland and listed as not being able to read and write. The head of the family unit is a wagon maker. • July 28th, 1870, in Des Moines, Polk, Iowa, there is a John Hipkins, male, white, age 44, who was listed as a shoemaker living in a boarding house.
All four of these men could be the same man, but it seems unlikely.
Now let’s look at 1880.
• June 4th, 1880, there is a John Hipkins, in Ford D A Russell, in Laramie, Wyoming, listed as white, male, 54 and is a soldier. He is married to Sarah. He was born in Maryland, his father in Virginia and his mother in Pennsylvania. • June 14th, 1880, in Council Bluffs, Pottwatamie, Iowa, there is a John Hipkins, male, white, age 55, listed as a boarder. He was born in Maryland, his father in Virginia and his mother in Maryland. He is married to Sarah.
These could be the same people, but maybe not.
There are also two John Hipkins in Maryland in the 1860 census, who don’t look like the same person but were both born in Maryland around 1826.
I suspect there are at least two John Hipkins in this story and maybe more and some duplication in the 1870 census. As great as census records are in helping reveal our families, sometimes they also reveal more questions than answers.
To determine which one or ones point to the John Hipkins in your own family tree, you’ll need a bit more proof, particularly other records associated with each John – vital records, deeds, military records, etc. Look for marriage records for John Hipkins and Sarah; check both Kansas and Iowa. See if there are military records available that can tell you more. And determine what other types of records could have been created at any of these stops and search for those, too.
Ask Ancestry Anne: When I should start recording a married name in my family tree?
Question: At what point in my family tree do I change from a woman’s maiden name to her married name? It’s nice to have her maiden name to continue searching but the later censuses have her married name and so does her death certificate. It also looks like she’s never been married down the tree when you’re attaching children.
Answer: Usually in an online family tree, or a family tree desktop software package such as Family Tree Maker, you will list the woman by her maiden name, even if she’s been married multiple times. If you have a marriage date listed, anyone looking at it will assume that she was probably listed on census records and other documents with her married name. However, if you’re the one searching, you should look under both. You can either type both names into the Last Name search box, such as Smith Jones, or you can search them one at a time, which is my preference.
Ask Ancestry Anne: Was my great-great-grandfather really born in England ... or Georgia?
First published: 13 September 2010
Question: I am trying to trace (and document) my great-great grandfather James Joseph Hester (5 April 1853 – 24 June 1940) and his parents, William Hester and Elizabeth Black (or Blackwell). My problem is this; according to my grandmother’s memories and writings, her grandfather J.J. Hester was born in England and came to the states as a young child with his family, settling in Arkansas. James later moved to Floresville, Texas where he lived for more than 40 years. I have a copy of my great-grandfather William Reese Hester’s death certificate that also lists his father’s birth place as England. I have family letters and news clippings sent from cousins to notify the family members of J.J. Hester’s death in Floresville. I contacted the Texas Department of State Health Services for a copy of James Joseph Hester’s death certificate and just received that – it lists his birthplace as Walker County, Georgia and his parents’ birthplaces as North Carolina. I have found the 1870 census with James his parents William and Elizabeth in Arkansas, again listing his birth place as Georgia and both parents as born in North Carolina. Every census between 1880 and 1930 confirms this.
My great-grandfather is listed with his parents and a number of his siblings on the 1900 census so I know that I have the correct James & Eliza (Henry) Hester. But here’s the problem: there is another James Hester with the same approximate birth date (1855) and parents named William and Elizabeth in a number of records from England, including birth records and census information from 1861 and 1871.
My question is twofold: first, do I assume that family history is incorrect and that my grandmother and great-grandfather were misinformed and that my great-great-grandfather was NOT from England at all? Shouldn’t the oral family history be fairly reliable information when it is passed from father to son to daughter and written, too? Or second, is it possible that James Joseph Hester simply lied and stated his birthplace as Georgia rather than England to make things easier for him? Family history does say he came to the states as a very young child, so maybe he didn’t know, but that doesn’t explain his parents’ birthplaces being listed as North Carolina.
—Liesl M. Lindley
Ancestry Anne’s answer: What a interesting problem you have! Let’s go through this, detail by detail:
*You grandmother was told that her grandfather J.J. Hester was born in England and came to the states as a young child, later moving to Texas. This is possible. However, it should be noted that this is what she was told. She has no direct knowledge of this as she was not alive at the time James Joseph moved to the United States.
*William Reese Hester’s death certificate lists his father’s birthplace as England. It would be worth your time to see who reported this information. Was it a relative from the Hester side of the family? Information such as this on a death certificate is far removed from the actual event, i.e. the birth place, and would have been reported most likely by someone who was not there for the birth of James Joseph.
*On James Joseph’s death certificate it lists his birthplace as Georgia and his parents’ as North Carolina. Who reported this information? (It should say on the death certificate.) Was it someone who was close to James Joseph, such as a spouse or sibling? Or was it a child or friend, who may not know?
*You have the 1870 census showing James with a birthplace of Georgia and parents with birthplaces North Carolina. This was information may have been taken by one of James’ parents who would have direct knowledge. And later censuses match this information.
The people closest to the information, James Joseph, his parents, and whoever reported the information on his death certificate, all claim Georgia and North Carolina. The people furthest from the information, the grandson and great-granddaughter say England. (And if James Joseph is in the 1870 U.S. census, it is not very likely that he is the same James in the 1871 census in England.)
Sometimes the answers can be found from brothers and sisters. Did James have any? Where are their reported birthplaces? Where do they list their parents’ birthplaces? Search the 1860 census for the family in Georgia or Arkansas – maybe that will help clear things up.
Maybe the oral history has been confused over the years. And maybe the ancestors from England are a few more generations back.