Monday, December 20, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Letters from Finland

Last year I was very fortunate to meet a cousin through who had many items of importance to my Finnish family history research. Among these items were 34 letters from my great grandfather Matti Wiita Reini's sister's family in Finland that were sent to the US. I was also very fortunate to receive a tremendous amount of help translating these letter from Finnish to English from my wonderful Finnish friends, members of the FinnGen community and, eventually, Finnish cousins that I was able to track down thanks to information from the first few translated letters. You may notice that the English is a bit awkward since we strove to preserve the original intent/wording of the letters as much as possible. I edited the translations provided to me just a bit to make them readily understandable. These letters were mostly written right after WWII and show the suffering that the Finnish people were enduring. I chose this one to post because it so clearly shows the state of affairs in which many Finns found themselves.

Lapua, Finland - 26 May 1946.
Dear relatives!
Aunt and cousins, a lot of thanks to you for the parcels that have arrived. I have to describe Mother’s joy- if only you would have seen how Mother enjoyed keeping a a package of coffee under her arm, and saying, "It is good that my dear sister still lives and remembers me and my children and also her children take so much care". This is because mother hasn't had a chance to drink real coffee in such a long time. Now there have been no breaks, as cousin Ernest has sent so many parcels and there has been coffee in all of them and so many other good things that we have not had in many years. A lot of thanks for all the clothes and shoes as we now in summer time get only paper shoes with wooden soles. Also the quite new fabric that we have not seen in many years. It is so odd here that you have to be a good friend with the dealer, then you are sold to under the counter. That's as things are so that sometimes there's new fabric in the shop, but you have to be at the shop right away. We can't as the shops are far away and there is nobody to save any for you, so you have to be without. Liisa’s husband is in the book store and they do not have that type of stuff. It is so wonderful to see fabric with a summer look.
Original in Finnish, Courtesy Sara Grostick
Original in Finnish, Courtesy Sara Grostick
Here the summer is soon at its most beautiful. The leaves on the trees are half grown and the cuckoo is calling and the birds build their nests - in everything you see the beauty of the Creator. It would be lovely if I could shake your hands and thank you, but it is not possible, so I thank you from my heart for everything that I have received from you. The shoes were too big for me, but Mother swapped her smaller size shoes with me so I got the right size anyway. So, we thank you for everything.
With many heartily greetings,
Sanna Liisa and Saima (Honkaharju)
*Translation by Ismo Nuuja*

Finland was decimated by the wars that raged there from 1939-1944. Then, to add insult to injury, the Soviet Union imposed heavy war reparations on Finland after WWII. Most Finns had almost nothing - not even the basic staples of life. In response, the US organized a program called "Finnish Relief" or "Help Finland, Inc", overseen by the former US President Herbert Hoover, to send over desperately needed packages of food, clothing and shoes. Judging from the letters, Matti's sister Josefina (Wiita) Kitinoja was sending these supplies to their sister Sanna Liisa (Wiita) Honkaharju and her children. Most of the 34 letters are from this time period and are full of appreciation for the, obviously, much needed supplies. Lucky for me, some even contained extremely valuable genealogical information.

It was a real eye-opener to be able to read my Finnish family's actual feelings and experiences, especially at such a trying time in their history. Although the letters were often sad, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the various writers' personalities through their individual styles and stories. I can't help but wish that I had letters like these from my own great grandfather, Matti. Unfortunately, that is probably an impossible wish since he did not keep in touch with his family back in Finland or his siblings in the US.

That, however, is a story for another day. One that I am sure to tell...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Identifying an Unknown Photo

This was another photo from Great Aunt Gladys' album.  Fortunately, that gives me a good starting point for identifying it since all of the old photos in the album seem to be Gladys' family. Gladys didn't appear to be in contact with her father's side at all and her close sister Hazel married her Cole first cousin once removed, so I should be related to pretty much everyone in the album. I didn't immediately recognize any of these people, although they do have a family resemblance to some of my known Cole relatives.

This is a Real Photo postcard with AZO symbols and arrows pointing up. This website is a great resource for identifying antique postcards and tells us that this postcard was made between 1904-1918. Now, assuming that the photo wasn't a copy of an older one, that narrows the time frame down to a very manageable window. Someone familiar with old fashions could probably tell me the time period of the clothes as well, but I don't know much about that myself.

Next, I looked through all of my other photos to see if I could recognize anyone from identified photos. These three looked like hits:
1. Jessie and Nettie (Cole) Smith
2. Betsy Jane (Thompson) Cole
Photo #1 is Nettie Cole and her husband Jessie Smith. Nettie was the daughter of Samuel Cole who was the brother of my ggggrandmother Amanda Cole. She was also the sister of Ned Cole who married Gladys' sister Hazel. Nettie and Jessie were married in 1908 in Washington. In the postcard above, I believe that the man standing on our right is Jessie and the young woman sitting in front of him is Nettie.
Photo #2 is Betsy Jane Cole (1852-1927), the wife of Samuel and mother of Nettie. I believe that she is also the woman sitting next to Nettie in the photo above. She is quite a bit older in this photo, but her facial structure looks exactly the same to me. The photos are even taken from the same angle, which helps a lot for identification.
3. Edward "Ned" Cole
Photo #3 - I only have this one photo of Ned Cole that is positively identified. Again, it is obviously many years later, but the facial structure, and even the ear, of the man standing next to Jessie looks extremely similar to this photo. Its even the same angle again! The timing also fits since he is Nettie's closest sibling and he didn't get married until three years after she did.

This photo was most likely taken sometime between Nettie and Jessie's 1908 marriage and Ned and Hazel's 1911 marriage (since Hazel is not pictured). All of the identified people were living in Washington at that time. Knowing the approximate time and place helps to narrow down who the other two family members may be. I am pretty confident that this is a photo of Samuel and Betsy Cole's family. Based on the probable time frame of 1908-1911, we can exclude most of their children.

Samuel and Betsy had nine children:
1. Earl (1869-1905) - passed away before this photo was taken
2. Mertie (1875-?) - married and living in Minnesota when this photo was taken
3. Maude (1877-?) - no information, but too old to be the young girl standing next to Ned
4. Lucy Blanche (1879-1962) - married with children when this photo was taken
5. Cora Bell (1881-1967) - married with children when this photo was taken
6. Edward "Ned" (1885-1964) - pictured standing third from left
7. Nettie Beatrice (1887-1955) - pictured seated in the front second from left
8. Nora (1890 - ?) - no information, but the right age to be the girl standing second from left
9. Daniel (1892 - ?) - no information, but the right age to be the boy standing first from left

My conclusion is that this is a photo of Samuel and Betsy Cole's four youngest children plus their mother and brother-in-law. I was discouraged when I first saw that this photo had no identification on it. However, with a little systematic sleuthing, it is often possible to, at least, partially identify and date your old family photos. So, treasure all your photos - identified or not. One day, with a little luck, you may be able to figure out who they are.

For more great Sepia Saturday posts, please visit my friends here.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Follow Friday: Iowa Old Press for Iowa genealogy

While researching my Travis family for a post earlier this month, I came across a treasure trove of transcriptions of historic newspapers at the wonderful Iowa Old Press. On their site they state, "This IAGenWeb Special Project is dedicated to the scores of newspapers that are printed chronicles of the lives and times of Iowa and Iowans. Join us as we step back in time and learn how the Press reported the news & influenced our Iowa ancestors in the 1800's and early 1900's..."

If you are researching ancestors in Iowa, by all means, be sure to visit this site. There are myriads of genealogical gems. Even the entries that don't mention my family have my rapt attention. The details that these articles give on family structure (including adoptions), migration, deaths, local businesses and social events is amazing. I am constantly struck by how much this information could mean to many family researchers. I would like to publicly thank the volunteers who spent many hours transcribing for this excellent site.

When I entered "Travis" into the search engine, I got 52 hits. Most of those (if not all) are "my" Travises. There were many exciting tidbits on my Travises and even some promising hints to help solve the mystery of Asa Travis' origins.

After at least thirty-five years of research, none of the Travis family researchers have been able to successfully tie our branch into other Travis families. The recent DNA results of my third cousin have shown that we are indeed related to the New York branch of this family and, most likely, connect all the way back to the Colonial Travis family. However, we still do not know how. Perhaps the newspaper clips below will help to sort the connection out.

1. THE FREMONT SUN. September 3, 1896. "William Travis of Ottumwa [Wapello County, Iowa] is a cousin of the Travis brothers" 

I believe that "Travis brothers" refers to my great grandfather Abraham, a frequently mentioned pioneer of Fremont, and his brother Nicodemus who came together to Iowa in 1852. Ottumwa is right by Fairfield where they lived upon arrival. William was previously unknown to us as a family member. I found a William Travis in the right area at about the right time who was born in New York, Dec 1835/7.  He married Mary Taylor and lived in Carthage, NY in 1880. Both of his parents are listed as born in New York in the federal censuses. One Ancestry Tree lists his father as Joseph. 

THE FREMONT COUNTY HERALD. September 5, l929. "OUR OLDEST SETTLER TELLS OF EARLY DAYS. Came to Fremont County When Sidney Was But Two Years Old. SEVENTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO".--(Joseph Hiatt, Jr., the oldest settler of Fremont county now living, relates the following historic facts of the county in early days...)
In the fall of 1852 I came with my parents from Peoria county, Illinois, to Fremont county, then spoken of as the wild and woolly west. It sure was all this and more. It was a land of deprivation and hardship unknown in our nation today... we lived in a double log house together with Abe [my 2nd great grandfather] and Nick Travis and families. This house was located on the south side of the road across from the old Dr. McCracken place in west Sidney. It was here the late Sadie Travis Gordon was born...The claims were filed at the land office in Council Bluffs, known then as Kanesville."

If William is a cousin to Abe and Nick, then William's dad should be Asa's brother.

2. THE FREMONT HERALD. April 2, 1896. "Grandpa Travis died, aged 85 years, 6 months- son is M.A Travis of Sidney."

I found an Amos and Sarah Travis (b. born about 1807 in NY)  living with Martin A Travis of Sidney in 1885. Martin was born 1846 in Ohio. Amos was called "Grandpa Travis" and my Abraham was called "Uncle Abe". Amos was born in 1810 in Greene County, NY and his parents were probably Gilbert Travis of New York and Phoebe Fish.  Gilbert was one of the early settlers of Linn County, Iowa. He was born about 1775 and may have been Asa's brother. Maybe it is a coincidence, but Amos' wife was Sarah Emeline Armstrong Travis and Abraham's firstborn was Sarah Eveline Travis. Abe also had sons named Amos, William and Joseph.

I don't know how this all ties together yet, but it is very important new information.

I also found these articles about my family along with many other mentions:

1. THE FREMONT COUNTY HERALD. May 18, 1906. "STORIES OF OLD TIMERS". -- A. Travis came to Fremont county in 1853 and located two miles southeast of where Sidney now stands. He has mowed grass within what is now the city limits and stated that a most excellent spring was once where the town well now is...

2. SIDNEY ARGUS HERALD. Jan 1934. "TWENTY YEARS AGO". -- Abraham Travis, pioneer of Fremont county, passed away Monday at the age of 86 years. Deceased was born in Ohio December 1, 1827, came to Iowa in 1852, was married in Jefferson county and settled in Fremont county the following year. The father of twelve children, he was a continuous resident of this county until his death.

3. THE FREMONT COUNTY HERALD. September 2, 1897. "FAMILY REUNION". -- One of the most remarkable family gathering in the history of Fremont county occurred at the home of Uncle Abe Travis last Sunday. It was the first time in twenty years that all of this family were together, and it will, in all probability be the last. Within the last 45 years death has entered this family but three times and then taking grandchildren. The immediate family circle, consisting of father, mother,and twelve children remains unbroken. It was indeed a happy meeting and one long to be remembered.

Promptly at high noon father, mother, eight sons and four daughters were seated around the family board and thorougly discussed a bountiful dinner served on the highest art of the old fashioned school of cookery, where eatables take the place of dishes and style. In this gathering were 12 members of this branch of the Travis family, father, mother, 12 children, 20 grandchildren and 8 children-in-law. Mr. Travis has lived here 42 years.

The HERALD extends congratulations to Uncle Abe and wife and wish them many more such joyful occasions.

4. THE HAMBURG REPORTER, Hamburg, Iowa. Friday, January 9, 1914. Abe Travis, 86, died at the home of his son, A.L. in Sidney. Uncle Abe as he was generally called has been a resident of this county for many years and has seen the prairie when there were few houses on it and when there were few towns in this part of the state. In company with H.F. Brumback he laid out the town of Hamburg and Mr Travis owned one or two lots in Hamburg at the time of his death...The funeral services were conducted at Sidney Wednesday. He leaves several children among them Mrs H. Hayes of this city...
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Another Priceless Family Photo FOUND

Courtesy Yvonne Jackson, Australia
This photo is my great great grandparents George and Flora (Chitts) Allen with their infant daughter. Prior to locating this photo, I had never seen their faces. My great grandfather, George Henry Allen, was the only family member to leave Australia and, as far as I know, all of the other descendants of this couple are still living there. Apparently, my grandmother, Wanda Allen Moore Bloomfield, kept up a correspondence with our family in Australia, but, unfortunately, with her death that link was lost.

The hunt for my Australian cousins and the eventual discovery of this photo was quite an undertaking. First, I searched Ancestry's Public Family Trees to locate the names of any descendants. Luckily, I did come across some information on George and Flora's grandchildren in Australia and followed their families as far as I could. What I was especially looking for was an unusual name among the descendants. Eventually, I found it -"Bartheyl". My next step was to go to Facebook and search for that surname. As luck would have it, there were only four and they were all members of the same family in Australia. I sent a polite message (to the one who looked the oldest) inquiring about possible shared Allen heritage. Just two days later, to my great pleasure, I received an affirmative response. My newfound cousin then referred me to another Australian Allen cousin, who shared this photo with me. It was quite a search, but incredibly well worth it.

The photo was labeled on the bottom "George and Flora Allen, Baby Flora." If that is indeed who is pictured here, then this photo had to be taken in either 1886 or 1887. "Baby Flora" was the last child born to this couple due to Flora's premature death in early 1888. Flora Georgina Allen was born in 1886 in Cheltenham, Victoria, Australia. Since she looks about one year old here, it was likely taken within months of her mother's death.

I find it a bit strange that none of their other three children (Angelena Elizabeth b.1876, George Henry b.1880 and William James b.1884) are pictured here. This makes me question if the photo might be misidentified and the little girl here is actually their eldest child, Angelena. If that's the case, it would mean that the photo was taken c.1877-8. On the other hand, the provenance of the photo does point to it being "Baby Flora", since it is her descendants who shared it with me. The description that my cousin gave me of the original, leads me to believe that it is an ambrotype. According to Wikipedia, in the United States, the ambrotype was only popular in the 1850s and 1860s. However, Australia may have had a different time frame for their adoption and discontinuation of photographic processes.

Regardless of who the child is, this photo is very meaningful to me. One of my favorite parts of genealogy is finding "new" family photos. George and Flora have been gone since 1913 and 1888, respectively. Who would have thought that I would be able to discover this treasure more than 7000 miles away and a century later?

To have the opportunity to look upon the faces of my ancestors is priceless.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wedding Wednesday: Daniel Hewitt Proctor and Amelia "Millie" Travis, 1900

My great grandparents, Daniel and Millie (Travis) Proctor, Wedding- 1900

Right up front, I want to say that my grandmother Aune Reini Proctor said that Dan and Millie were the nicest people she ever met. Since she was their daughter-in-law, this is pretty significant. Aune met a lot of people in her 96 years of life and I never heard her say the same thing about anyone else. For this alone, they deserve to be remembered. Fortunately, this is not all that I know about them.

Thanks to the wonderful people over at Iowa Old Press who have transcribed and posted so many gems about my Travis family, I found their wedding announcement:

October 25, 1900

On October 24, 1900, at 7:00 o'clock p.m., Mr. Daniel H. Proctor and Miss Amelia Travis, Rev. E. Dickinson officiating. The wedding was a quiet one and took place at the home of the bride's parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Travis, the immediate friends of the contracting parties only being present, with Livingston Mitchell who played the wedding march. The couple left on Tuesday morning for Omaha and will make a tour through Kansas to look up a location for a home. Their many friends extend warmest greetings and prayers for their happiness and success. 

Millie was 30 and Daniel was 34 when they married - unusually late for a first marriage in those days. I have found no evidence of an earlier marriage for either of them and in the 1900 Federal Census, just prior to the marriage, both lived with their tight-knit families. The Travises were one of the founding families in this area of Iowa and Millie was born and raised there, so it is a bit surprising that their wedding was such a quiet affair.

Daniel's family had moved from Equality, Illinois, the place of his birth, to Sidney sometime between the 1880 Federal Census and the 1885 Iowa State Census. I have not yet discovered what precipitated this move by Daniel's widowed mother, Mary Hewitt Proctor, and her children. Judging from the number of Proctors there in later censuses and in the cemeteries, it appears that others from the extended Proctor family may have been involved. Daniel's father, Ephraim, passed away in 1875, so Mary and the children may have been somewhat dependent on family members who decided to relocate. (Whatever it was, I am thankful!)

I had never heard that Dan and Millie considered living in Kansas before reading the snippet above. I have wondered what motivated them to move away from Millie's well established family in Sidney and settle in the Seattle area. This tells me that they had planned to move from the outset of their marriage, so it wasn't a spontaneous or rash decision. Judging from their children's birth dates and places, they came to Washington State between March 1903 and March 1905. Since their daughter Cleo Proctor Cavanaugh wrote in a letter from 1990 that she was born in the first house that Daniel built at 4221 Ferdinand St, Columbia City, they must have been there for awhile before her birth in March 1905 to allow time for the construction, thus narrowing the window.
4221 Ferdinand St, Columbia City, WA
I was so happy to find on my recent road trip to Washington that it still stands along with several other houses that Dan and his sons built. Isn't it pretty? It really was special to be able to touch something that my great grandfather created over 100 years ago.
[Update - Thanks to Scott R's comment below, I did some research on the house. Apparently, the current owner is running a yoga studio out of it (it must have good energy!). I will have to take a yoga class next time I am up there. Also, the state archivist is in the process of retrieving a photo of it from 1937. It was built in 1904.]

Millie and Dan spent the rest of their lives in the Seattle area and raised a happy family of four sons and one daughter. I have many photos of them in their later years, but I especially like the one below for the following two reasons:
1) They look every bit as pleasant as my grandmother Aune described them.
2) I am quite confident that I recognize the shadow on Millie's dress.

I find it a fitting metaphor that just as Aune's remembrances of Dan and Millie shaped my understanding of them, her silhouette is clearly visible in this image. In our search for our ancestors, we often find ourselves "chasing their shadows," so be sure to find out all you can about your family history from your older relatives. It may be the only real chance that you have to get to know those who have gone before you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"My Tangled Vine" nominated for Family Tree Magazine's 40 Best Genealogy Blogs

I am honored to announce that this blog is among the nominees for Family Tree Magazine's "40 Best Genealogy Blogs" in the category New Blogs. Congratulations to all of the fantastic bloggers recognized. To review all of the nominees, you can click through to the full list at Geneabloggers. There are a lot of fabulous blogs on the list, so be sure to check them out!  

The voting is open until Monday, December 20th, and you can vote as many times as you would like. The winners will be published in the July '11 issue of  Family Tree Magazine.

If you enjoy reading this blog, I hope you will consider voting for it. Look for "My Tangled Vine" under Category 7. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Tough to Track- Laurence Travis Murphy (1892-1954)

Courtesy Jack Cavanaugh - Kent, WA
This is another old family photo from Cleo Proctor Cavanaugh's album. The back says, "Aunt Etta's son -Mom's nephew", then in different writing, "Laurence Murphy". Aunt Etta would be my great grandmother Millie Proctor's sister, making Laurence my first cousin twice removed. I have no information about him at all, so I will have to search the available records to see what I can piece together about this confident looking young man.

His parents were Arthur Douglas Francis and Etta May (Travis) Murphy. According to Laurence's WWI draft record, he was born on August 12, 1892, in Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa.  In the 1910 Federal Census, he is living in Pierce, Page, Iowa with his parents and little brother Maurice. On June 5, 1917, when he filled out his draft card, he was single and still living in Iowa. He was described as tall, medium build, blue eyes and light hair. He was working as a drug clerk for C.A. Hill in Ottumwa. Interestingly, it is noted that he had "2 years of university training".

In the 1920 Federal Census, there is a Reverend Laurence Murphy working as an assistant pastor at St. Anthony's Church in Davenport, Iowa. The age is correct, but both parents are listed as being born in Ireland and "my" Laurence's parents were born in Iowa. The only other one who looks possible is a Lawrence Murphy in Chicago. He was born in Iowa and so were both of his parents, but he is listed as 31 which would mean he was born in about 1889. Since I am not satisfied with either of these, I can't be sure where he was in 1920, which is probably about the time this photo was taken.

The sign behind Laurence reads, "Sargent's". There was a Sargent's Jewelry Store in Mt. Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa. According to the Daily Reporter from October 27, 1879, the proprieter was J(ames) F(ranklin) Sargent, Jeweler, Watch and Clock Repairer. He was also a "dealer in school books, stationery, blank books of every description and a thousand other items". The store was located on the "North side of the Park, Mt. Pleasant". After James' death in 1899, his family continued to run the store, so it may have still been there in the teens and twenties. I don't know if the storefront in this photo is the same one, but I think it is possible.
[Update- I did some more research on Laurence's employer C.A. Hill listed on his June 1917 WWI draft card. Finally some luck! It turns out that C.A. Hill bought out W.L. Sargent's drug business in Ottumwa in 1917! According to the Bulletin of Pharmacy (Volume 31, part 1, page 45), Mr. Sargent sold Mr. Hill his business and gave him a long term lease on the building located on the corner of Main and Market Streets in Ottumwa. The article also noted, "The business will be continued under the name of 'Sargent's.'" So, we now know exactly where this photo was taken! Based on this new info, I will place the date of the photo a bit earlier - c.1917. Like I always say, persistence does pay off!]

By June 11, 1924, when Laurence married Ruth Hulda Jones, he was in Burlington Junction, Nodaway, Missouri. In 1930 he was still there, farming with his wife and two children - Bill and Patricia. A couple of trees on Ancestry have his death listed as occuring on Feb 20, 1954 in Maryville, Nodaway, Missouri, however I can't find anything in the Missouri death records to support this.

I spent a couple of hours researching Laurence and, unfortunately, didn't come up with much. Notably, I am missing his 1900 and 1920 Census records. I checked Ancestry, Family Search Beta, Iowa Old Press and Google without a lot of luck. Some people are just more difficult to research and I guess Laurence is one of them. Oh well, better luck next time!

Thanks for reading and please go here to read posts from my talented friends at Sepia Saturday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Dating a Photo

Courtesy Jack Cavanaugh - Kent, WA
This is a Real Photo postcard of the Gordon home in Sidney, Iowa taken around the turn of the last century by "J.F. Lewis of Sidney, Iowa". According to various issues of the Fremont County Herald, Mr. Lewis opened a photography studio in Riverton, Fremont County in 1889 and ran his business from there until his studio burned down. He then moved to Sidney, Fremont County where he was again eventually burned out, moving West in 1917. I haven't yet been able to find the exact date that this move to Sidney happened, so it is difficult to date the photo from the photographer alone. Fortunately, I do have some other information from the back of the photo that should help to date it. The home is identified as that of Sadie Gordon, my great grandmother Millie Travis Proctor's sister. From other photos I recognize Sadie (Sarah Eveline Travis) as the woman standing on our left, so the man sitting next to her is most certainly her husband Andrew Marion Gordon. They married in 1893, so that narrows the date to after that year. A close-up of the photo gives me more clues. Although the three people on our right are unidentified, I have a pretty good idea of who, at least, two of them are. Sadie's parents were my 2nd great grandparents, Abraham and Ruth (Stolebarger) Travis. I own one photo of each (below).

From comparing these to the postcard, I am pretty confident that the elderly man and woman are Abraham and Ruth. Since Ruth died in June 1901, that further narrows the date to between 1893 and 1901. The photo that I have of Ruth was taken in 1893, so the postcard must be a few years later since she looks substantially older. It is pretty exciting to me that I have most likely discovered another photo of my great great grandparents!

I'm not sure about the younger woman standing on our right, but it is possible that she is my great grandmother Millie. She married my great grandfather Daniel Proctor in Oct 1900. Prior to that date, she was living with her parents in Sidney. The body, stance and arm look very much like hers from later photos that I have, but the face doesn't look quite like her wedding photo. I would conclude that it was another of the Travis sisters, but I have seen photos and it definitely isn't them. Below is a direct comparison of the young woman in the postcard versus Millie in a full length photo from later years and a close-up from her wedding photo in 1900. Could it be her? Looking at it like this, I think it just might be!

From all of this, I think I can safely conclude that the photo was taken no earlier than about 1897 and no later than June 1901. If that is Millie in the photo, that further narrows the time frame to before Oct 1900. The Gordons lived at 21 Clay St, Sidney Town, Iowa in the 1900 Federal Census, so I can further conclude that this photo was likely taken at that address.
Pretty neat what you can do with a little research!

For more great posts visit my friends at Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mapping Out a Life: Joseph Travis

Courtesy Jack Cavanaugh -Kent, WA
Last spring, we went on a roadtrip to visit relatives in the Seattle area. While there we had a mini-reunion for my mom with her Proctor cousins. During the get-together, our host, Cleo Proctor Cavanaugh's son Jack allowed me to go through his late mother's photo albums and scan family photos. Over the next few months, I am going to post some of them here and discuss the people in them.

This photo is of Joseph Travis and his wife Florence Byram Travis of Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa. He was the brother of my great grandmother Amelia "Millie" Travis Proctor. As you can see from the writing on the photo, it was taken in July 1913. It is a Real Photo postcard and was sent through the mail from Sidney to Seattle. On the back, it discusses Millie and Joe's father Abraham Travis' deteriorating health, who died on January 5, 1914. Their mother was Ruth Ann Stolebarger Travis who passed away June 23, 1901.

Joe (26 Dec 1866-21 Nov 1942) lived his entire life in Fremont County, Iowa. Like most of his siblings, he didn't marry until relatively late for that time and did not have any children. He and Florence married on October 6, 1897.  He appears to have lived a pretty simple life, running a farm and spending time with his eleven siblings. Most of the Travises stayed in Sidney and they remained a very close family.

Julia M. Travis' book All in the Family discusses this family in great detail and is, undoubtedly, what first sparked my interest in genealogy when it was published at the end of 1975. Detailing the many descendants of Asa Travis, the book included me and my family in its pages - very exciting for a six year old.

To get a better look at Joe, I cropped and enlarged the photo below. His horses made the cut since they were probably an important part of his family.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sepia Saturday - My Norway Connection: The Herstad Family

The Herstad Family of Trondheim, Norway c. 1885
My father was 25% Norwegian through his mother's mother, Fredrikka Herstad Allen (1871-1953). She was the daughter of Peter Martin and Sofie (Einersen Vibe) Herstad. Pictured above is her family in Stjordalen, Norway. Fredrikka is seated on our far right. Next to her (moving to our left) is her sister Petra, her mother Sofie, her sister Ann, her father Peter and then two unknown people who may be Fredrikka's brother Axel and maternal grandmother Henricha Myhre.
This was a well-to-do family who owned and operated a store in Trondheim, Norway. Family records claim that Peter's father was a standard bearer for the king and his mother was a Danish baroness. I have not been able to substantiate these claims and strongly question their authenticity. However, I am not very experienced with the Norwegian records, so I am sure there is a lot more research to be done before I discover all that I can about the Herstads.
I have pored over the details in this photo in an attempt to get to know this family better. Notice the incredible pipe in Peter's hand and please don't overlook the cute potted plants on the window sill. Their clothes are just exquisite and the vines covering the house are really beautiful. The biggest mystery is the two people on our far left. This certainly appears to be a family photo, so I would think that they are both family members. From the arrangement, one would think that the elderly woman seated next to Peter is his mother, however from researching the Norwegian records, I have found that Peter's mother died when he was only 4 years old. Sofie's mother Henricha Myhre could be the woman pictured. She was only 16 at Sofie's (illegitimate) birth in 1838, so she would be about 63 in this photo. Another possibility is that she is Peter's stepmother Serine (Skott) Herstad who raised him after his mother died, but she would be about 83 in this photo. The person standing behond her is a real enigma to me. Is it a woman or a man? What is he/she wearing? Is it a dress or some kind of uniform? The hair parted in the middle leads me to believe it is a woman, but there are no other women in this family that are not already pictured and the person looks more like a young man to me. Axel was born in 1868, two years before my great grandmother. That would make him about 17 in this photo. Since I learned from an article in the New York Herald that he went to sea when he was 16, this photo might have been taken before he left in 1884. Comparing this person to the drawing of Axel in the preceding link leads me to believe that they are one in the same. What do you think? I welcome any input on this photo.

You can visit other interesting Sepia Saturday posts here.

Axel Herstad "discovered" by Mrs. Frederick W Vanderbilt, 1894

My paternal great grandmother Fredrikka Herstad had an older brother named Axel Herstad who was born on 19 May 1868 in Hommelvik, Trondheim, Norway.
He was an artist.
A rather lengthy article appeared on November 27, 1894 in the New York Herald, the headline of which is above. This article explained that Axel was a sailor on a ship called the "Conqueror" when his artwork was noticed by Mrs. Frederick Vanderbilt (Louise Holmes Anthony Torrance). She decided to sponsor his art education and placed him in the studio of the successful New York artist Robert Reid (misspelled in the headline). The article is a wealth of information on Axel's life and, judging from it, his future sounds very promising. In 1895, he was living in Brooklyn and in 1896 married Helga Ihle there.  It is difficult to determine what happened next since by 1900, he is back living in Trondheim, Norway. Sadly, he is recorded as a steamboat driver in this census. What could have happened to his promising art career? The article mentions that his painting of Christiansand Harbor was then hanging in the Scandinavian Sailors' Home in Brooklyn, New York. I imagine, as his patron, Mrs. Vanderbilt must have also owned some of his artwork. I am hoping that one day I can track down one of his paintings and witness, with my own eyes, his talent that so impressed Mrs.Vanderbilt. How incredible that would be!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mapping out a Life: On the Trail of John Armstrong Moore...

John Armstrong and Clara Moore c.1921, Seattle
I found this photo in my mother's box of family pictures. Luckily for me, someone long ago identified it on the back as "Grandfather's oldest brother John Moore and wife".  In this case, "grandfather" refers to Willard Calvin Moore, my great grandfather. He was the youngest son of Calvin Benjamin and Mary (Armstrong) Moore of Tuscola, Michigan. John Armstrong Moore was their oldest son. This photo inspired me to investigate John's life a little further. Using and Family Search, I was able to map out an outline of John's life.

The Basics:
I already had the 1860 Federal Census of the family, where John appears as a one year old with his parents, grandmother and paternal aunt in Kalamo, Eaton, Michigan. Then, in 1870, the growing family appears intact in Columbia, Tuscola, Michigan. In 1878, John's mother Mary died, so when the family appears on the 1880 Federal Census farming in Akron, Tuscola, Michigan, it is without her. Unfortunately, I can't be sure what John was doing in most of his early adulthood because we don't have the 1890 Federal Census and I haven't found him in any state censuses yet. However, the 1900 Federal Census does give me an approximate marriage date for John and his wife Clara McDowell of 1885. Since, I found Clara working as a schoolteacher (perhaps teaching John's younger siblings) and living near John's family in the 1880 Census, this probably means that he stayed in Tuscola until, at least, 1885 when they married. By 1900, John and Clara are found farming all the way in Surry, Virginia. None of their family members appear to have moved with them, so I will probably never know what motivated that move. This census does list a birth month/year for John of Oct 1858. Since, I have not found a birth record for him yet and it seems to fit with the 1860 Census, I will go with that until I have additional information. Going on to the 1910 Federal Census, I find John and Clara all the way on the other side of the country in San Francisco! John is working as a carpenter and Clara is listed as the mother of 0 children. Then, in 1920 John and Clara have moved to Seattle. John is still a carpenter and Clara is working as a "special nurse".  I found Clara's death certificate on Family Search, which lists her as having died on October 16, 1923 in Seattle. Next, John is found in 1930 as a widower working as a farm laborer in McKee, Marion, Oregon. I was unable to find a death record for him.

By integrating the family stories that have been passed down with the records above, I am able to make sense of some of this information.
John and Clara sure moved a lot! This could possibly be explained by John's father's remarriage. After Mary's death, Calvin married a neighbor, whom none of the children liked. This caused the family to split. In fact, my great grandfather left home at fifteen for this reason, traveling all over the country. In 1900, he is found in Cascade, Montana. A letter from my grandfather Fred Moore explained that Willard was following his much older brother John when he left home. From this, I could surmise that John may also have spent some time in Montana during the "lost" years of 1885-1900 on his way east to Virginia. I don't imagine they had any money to buy property, so there may not be many records to document their whereabouts, unless they happened to be recorded on censuses. The commonness of John's name and his state-hopping also makes it difficult to track him. The letter goes on to say that Willard later spent time in the San Francisco area, attending business school. Perhaps, he and John met up out in San Francisco sometime between 1900 and 1906 when Willard was married in Washington. It is clear that both men were forced to make their own way since circa 1900 their father Calvin, fed up with his second wife, left Michigan and all of his possessions, including the family farm, to her and her son. Willard settled in Seattle and was able to forge a very successful career as a businessman, but it seems that John may have struggled. He often appears as a boarder on the censuses and, judging from his frequent moves, was never completely settled anywhere. I was happy to see that he was in Seattle in 1920 near his brother Willard. Hopefully, my great grandfather was able to help him during his time there. The photo is labeled as 1921-22, so they were clearly in touch with each other. However, the next part of John's story gives me pause and tugs at my heart a bit. I can't help but wonder why John, a 72 year old widower, was living in Oregon alone, working as a farm laborer in 1930. Why wouldn't he have stayed close to his successful little brother in Seattle after his wife's 1923 death? Willard died suddenly in 1933, but that doesn't explain John moving away, by himself, before 1930.  Could they have had a falling-out? I sure hope not!

With the resources immediately available to me, I was able to piece together much of John's life on the surface, but many questions remain. I plan on continuing to look for some of the missing records at a state level - any record of his birth and marriage in Michigan and his death record in Oregon. I checked both Seeking Michigan and the Michigan marriage collections on Family Search, as well as the Oregon State death records on and Family Search, with no luck. More is coming online every day and, as I have so often learned in genealogy research, patience and persistence pays off. Although I may never get the answers to some of my questions, you never know what will pop up on the Internet tomorrow!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Boy and His Dog

For Sepia Saturday this week I am posting this photo of Daniel "Eddie" Purdy and his dog from c.1896.  Eddie (the brother of my great grandmother Blanche) was born on March 5, 1886 in Minnesota to Jennie (Cole) and Jonathan Edward Purdy. His father tragically died in 1893 and in 1904 Eddie and his family moved to Everett, Washington. I had heard stories that he had died young, but it took me quite a long time to finally find his death certificate, on which he is incorrectly listed as Edward Purdy. From it I learned that on January 17, 1907 his body was found on Getchell Hill in Marysville, WA. He had apparently suffered a fatal heart attack at the young age of 20. Strangely, his death record lists his deceased father's name, but his mother is listed as unknown. Since he was living with her at the time of his death this is surprising. My best guess is that Jennie could not afford to bury him, so she was not able to claim the body. What a sad ending to a once promising young life.
P.S. Check out the size of his feet!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Young Love

I had another hard drive crash, so this Sepia Saturday will be short and sweet with no detective work needed. As a follow-up to last week's post, this week's entry is a small snapshot of my grandparents Everett and Aune (Reini) Proctor. They were married in May 1927 when Aune was only 15 years old and Everett was 23. I don't know if this photo was before or after they married, but it is from right about that time. You can tell how happy they are. Notice how they lean into eachother and Aune has both of her hands toward Everett. They had recently met at a dance (one of my grandmother's favorite activities) and Aune always said that she immediately thought that Everett was "the best looking man" she had ever seen. I think they both look pretty dapper in their stylish clothes. This photo is a real treasure because it clearly communicates to their many descendants the young love and happiness of which they are the result.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sweethearts of our Ancestors

My post for Sepia Saturday #44 is about the choices our ancestors made that, ultimately, determined our fate. It feels strange to look at this photo of my grandfather Everett Proctor with his girlfriend Francis Lee and muse on the fact that I would not exist if he had married her instead of my grandmother Aune. Many of these types of photos are doomed not to survive since often the future spouses make sure they end up in the trash or the fire. The only reason that I have this one was because my grandfather's sister Cleo Cavanaugh had saved it in one of her photo albums, tucked away from my grandmother's jealous gaze, for me to discover all of these years later. How many other suitors must all of our ancestors have had? How many myriads of life decisions and choices led to our very existence? If one little thing was different in our collective past, would everything be?
This photo has also led me to musing on an altogether different subject. Since I have Francis' photo here and some of her family as well, I decided to do a little research on and Family Search to see if I could find her. Her parents were close friends of my great grandparents Daniel and Millie Proctor, so they must have lived around Seattle, Washington. The only Francis/Frances Lee that I found who seemed to fit the bill was born on October 28, 1908, the daughter of Charles Anderson Lee and Margaret Curtis Lee of Seattle. That makes her a bit younger than my grandfather, but still older than my grandmother, so that fits. My grandparents married in May 1927, so this photo must have been taken before that. Francis is probably about 18 in this picture and my grandfather about 23. During my research,  I couldn't help but notice that Francis is listed on an Ancestry Member Tree as dying June 8, 1931. (I confirmed this at She was only 22 and the wife of Ben Whitehouse, still living in Seattle. On the 1930 Federal Census they are enumerated with no children in the household after two years of marriage. I wonder what happened to her?  If this is indeed my grandfather's Francis that I have tracked down, it may explain Cleo's reluctance to dispose of her photos.

Why does genealogical research so often unearth such sad stories? *Sigh*

If you click on this picture, enlarging it, you will be able to see the faint pattern of a fingerprint over their faces and in the upper right hand corner. I wonder whose it is? Our ancestors have left their marks in so many ways.

**Update - I just received an Ancestry message that informed me that Francis died giving birth to twins, who survived. I am hoping that there are descendants with whom I can share this photo as well as the others of her family.
               -- My contact (Francis' niece) looked at the photo and confirmed that it this is Francis Lee Whitehouse, as I suspected. I found a few more photos of the Lees, which I just emailed to her. Judging from the photos, the Proctors and Lees must have been very good friends and I am so happy to be able to share with Charles and Margaret Lee's granddaughter all these many years later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Identifying Mystery Photos

My Sepia Saturday post for the week is this photo of James Frederick Grandy (1876-1955):

Jim Grandy, Everett, WA - c.1909
This was originally a mystery photo. It was in the album that I inherited from my great aunt Gladys Phelps Roberts. It was taken at Rigby & Rigby run by the Rigby sisters in Everett from 1905-1915. A lot of my family lived in the area, so that information alone didn't give me an immediate answer. On the back of the cardboard in very light pencil is written what looks like, "Jim S." Since from what I could tell, Gladys' albums only contained family photos, I thought it was a family member, but just couldn't figure out who it was. So, I emailed a couple of my genealogy cousins who are related through this line and one of them came up with the idea that it could be James Grandy. That was a very good (educated) guess since, according to the US Federal Census, he lived in Everett in 1910 and was 34 years old at that time. Then, another cousin visited the Everett Library and, from the city directories there, he found that Jim Grandy was in Everett and working as a millwright and a pipe-fitter in 1909.
Upon reexamining the back of the photo, I believe what I originally thought was an "S" is, in fact, a "G," which fits perfectly with the theory that it was James Grandy. I held the cardboard backing of the photo up to the sunlight and it looks like it may have even said, "Grandy" at one time, but has been rubbed away over the last 100 years. The writing goes at an angle and holding it upright, it looked like "Jim S," but if you turn it slightly with the angle of the writing, it looks like "Jim G!" Since Jim was the half-brother of Gladys' mother Jennie Cole Kint Purdy Phelps, it makes sense that she would have his photo. From the beginning, we all agreed that the man in this photo resembled the Cole family. Also, finding that he was living in the area and working with pipes in 1909-1910 further clinched it for me.

Working together I am confident that my cousins and I have successfully identified this mystery photo!

*James Frederick Grandy was the son of Amanda Cole and John Ira Grandy. He married Ida and had a daughter named Mabel.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Helia Justine Reini (1907-1925)

Helia Reini c.1917, Seattle, WA
Courtesy Viola Petersen 
My entry for Sepia Saturday #42 is this photo of my grandmother Aune's beloved sister Helia Justine Reini. She was born Jan 29, 1907. I am guessing that she is about ten in this photo, so that would make it c.1917. The photographer's imprint says, "Aiko Studio, Seattle, Wash".  The Library of Congress has photos from this studio dated 1911 and I found others online from 1912 to 1918. My family has always remarked that Helia looked a bit Asian in this photo and, coincidentally, every single photo I found online from Aiko Studios was of Japanese Americans (which Helia was not, although she likely did have Saami ancestry).
My grandmother used to tell a story of how one day Helia took it upon herself to get dressed up, carefully curling her hair, and went down to the local photographer to get her picture taken. I wonder if this is that day. They were a very poor immigrant Finnish family, so I wonder how she got the money together for the photo. (She probably even made this dress for herself since she was a talented seamstress from a young age.)
[Update - Aiko Studios operated in Seattle at 613 1/2 Jackson from 1911-1925. Helia and her family were living at 108 Broadway in January 1918 according to her father's naturalization application. This is less than 1/2 mile away! Judging from this new information, it very well may be the photo taken the day of the story above. The family had moved away by September 1918.]
Helia was said to have possessed psychic ability. From what I am told (surprisingly, by family members who don't believe in such things), before she could read, Helia would pretend to read the newspaper to her parents, making up news stories about neighbors and local events. Strangely, on several occasions the events she described were reported to occur AFTER she "read" them. I have no way of knowing if this is true, but she does look like an "old soul" in this photo.
She did extremely well in school, making straight A's, sewed beautiful clothes for her family and played a large part in raising her four younger siblings. From all accounts, she was a very talented, kind and well loved girl.
Tragically, Helia passed away at the age of 18 on Oct 10, 1925. Her death certificate lists the cause of death as "diabetic coma". At this time she was the wife of George G Hawke. Her family was understandably brokenhearted to lose this very special girl. Aune thought so highly of her sister Helia that she spoke of her with deep love and in the most glowing of terms, almost on a daily basis, for the rest of her long life (96 years). Because of this, I grew up feeling like I knew her, so I am pleased to be able to share this memory of her with you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dressed up like cowboys c.1910

"Cliff Purdy and Uncle Lou" 

The back of this photo that I inherited from my Great Aunt Gladys (by way of my Aunt Yvonne) says, "Cliff Purdy and Uncle Lou". Cliff (on the right) was Gladys' and my great grandmother Blanche's brother. His real name was Jonathan Clifford Purdy, but everyone always called him Cliff. He was born on April 17, 1892 in Minnesota to Jonathan Edward Purdy and Jennie Cole Purdy. Jennie was raised by her Cole grandparents and grew up with her uncle Lewis Fredrick Cole. I believe that Lewis is the "Uncle Lou" in the photo (on the left). He was extremely close to Jennie and it has been said that he considered her his sister rather than his niece. Since Cliff's father died shortly after his birth and Lewis never had any children of his own, it is not hard to imagine that Cliff may have also enjoyed a close relationship with his (great) uncle. Lewis was born on June 4, 1855 in New York -the last child of Asa Cole and Mary Eastman. He lived in many different places during his life, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Washington.

Since this Real Photo postcard has AZO and four triangles pointing up where the stamp is to be placed, it must be from between 1904-1918. Only in the 1910 Federal Census were both Lewis and Cliff living in Washington State, so that timeframe fits nicely. There is no photographer stamp, so I have nothing else substantial to go on to place an exact date for this photo. I did find other "fake cowboy" photos from 1910 and, in one, the men were even wearing fuzzy pants just like Cliff is wearing here. In 1910 Cliff would have been 18 and Lewis would have been 55, which looks about right, so I will tentatively date the photo then.

I wonder if they were at a fair or just went to a studio to have their photo taken for fun. Cliff (like his mother)obviously enjoyed having his picture taken since I have inherited so many of him, including a number of other Real Photo postcards. It is funny to me that they pretended to be cowboys. Lewis had, no doubt, experienced many real adventure while moving West along the frontier, yet he apparently still enjoyed a good game of dress-up (or, maybe, he just wanted to please his favorite nephew)!

Happy Sepia Saturday!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Family and their Cars #12: c.1927 Model T

Roy Proctor and the family Ford

This may be the same car as #7. If so, it is 1923.
Update: Footnote Maven pointed out that the hood ornament is different than #7, so this is a different car. This family sure had a lot of cars! Thank you FM!

Thanks to Norie and her husband, I have tentatively placed this as a 1927 Ford Model T. Thank you!

My Family and their Cars #11: c.1921

Jack and Fred Moore with Jennie Cole Kint Purdy Phelps in background

Fred is my grandfather and Jennie is my great great grandmother. The boys were born in 1908 and 1909, so that should help to date this photo. Any ideas?

Norie and her eagle-eyed husband pointed out that the license plate says 21 and that this may be a 1921 Packard. Thanks for the great tips!

My Family and their Cars #10: c.1937 Packard

Cliff Purdy (brother of my ggrandmother Blanche) and his BIL George Roberts

Gladys Phelps Roberts, sister of Cliff and Blanche Purdy (my ggrandmother)

My Family and their Cars #9: Late 1920s Packard

Cliff and Martha (Block) Purdy

Cliff was the brother of my great grandmother Blanche Purdy Moore. This is probably somewhere in or around Seattle. Notice the old Coke sign behind the car.

Thanks again to Norie and her hubby for the hints!

My Family and their Cars #8: c.1910 Packard?

Willard Calvin Moore, my great grandfather
Any ideas on the year?

My Family and their Cars #7: 1923

Daniel, Cleo, Ray and Millie Proctor, 1923

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Family and their Cars #6: Built by hand, 1920s

Built by Everett Proctor, my grandfather (standing in the back)

My Family and their Cars #5: 1950s

Aune (Reini) Proctor, my grandmother

My Family and their Cars #4: c.1930

Jean and Aune (Reini) Proctor, my aunt and grandmother