12 Ancestors in 12 Months, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Month #7: Identity

Three years ago, I learned the identity of my great-grandfather, Paul Harrison Geer (or at least who I am pretty sure is my great-grandfather). Today I am going to do the best I can to outline his life as I never got the chance to meet him in the 11 years that our lives overlapped.

Paul Harrison Geer

Paul Harrison Geer was born on 21 September 1905 in Akron, Summit, Ohio. He was born at home to Clyde Ellsworth Geer and Gertrude Van Buskirk.

This was found on Ancestry.com in the Birth Card Index for the state of Ohio. Standard birth and death certificates did not begin in Ohio until 1908. Another index lists the home as 102 E York St, which is where the Akron City Directory for 1906 has Clyde and Gertrude living as well. These places were just around the block from each other.

Paul was only 3 years old when his mother died on 26 October 1908 of acute pneumonia. From there he was raised by his maternal grandparents, George Van Buskirk and Lydia Cunningham. Though Paul was not listed in the 1910 census in his grandparents’ home, he is not listed with his dad, Clyde, either. (It appears Clyde lived with his brother, Fred, and his family after Gertrude passed away). Paul’s older brother, George Ellsworth Geer, and his younger sister, Ruth Cloe Geer, were both accounted for on the 1910 census, my guess is that Paul may have just been missed. At this time the Van Buskirk’s lived in Akron at 745 Elma Street (this house no longer stands).

The photo that allowed me to figure out my DNA puzzle, was the headstone of George VanBuskirk, Lydia Cunningham VanBuskirk, Fred VanBuskirk, and Gertrude VanBuskirk Geer. This photo was taken by William A. Davies III and was found on FindAGrave. It was also selecting George VanBuskirk that lived a few blocks from where I presently live to research that helped to point me in the right direction.

Being an adolescent between 1910 and 1920 there is not a paper trail of documents to be found for Paul. In the 1920 census, he is listed as living with his grandparents still. They have moved to Lake Township in Stark County, Ohio, and live on Akron Canton Road.

By the 1925 Akron City Directory, Paul and his siblings began living with his dad, Clyde, and his second wife, Helen (they got married on 23 April 1921) at 71 Rosalind Court in Akron. He was a driver at this time, an occupation he would have later in life as well.

Paul Meets Mildred

But by living at 71 Rosalind Court I know Paul has now met my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar as my 2nd-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, and her second husband, Samuel Randol, had lived at 75 Rosalind Court since moving to Akron in 1916.

This photo was taken from Google maps (as it would be a tad odd to get out of my car on a dead-end street to take photos of these homes, or maybe that’s just me). Both are still standing and according to the Summit County Auditor’s real estate tax website, these were the homes that both families lived in. 75 Rosalind is on the left, and 71 Rosalind is on the right.

I am not certain how long Paul and Mildred knew each other as it may have been prior to 1924 when Clyde and Helen are known to have moved into 71 Rosalind Court. I believe that Clyde Geer worked at Swinehart Rubber Company for an overlapping year with Samuel Randol, Mildred’s stepfather. I think the two men may have become friends, which may explain Clyde moving next door to the Randol/Dunbar household.

But even if it was by just sheer coincidence, Paul and Mildred became neighbors in 1924, and with my great-grandmother being sweet sixteen, I imagine that Paul was her first love. Fast forward a few years to 17 September 1927 and the happy couple gets married by Reverend Orris W. Haulman (a popular local minister) at the Grace Reformed Church when it was still located at 207 North Portage Path.

Found a copy of Paul Harrison Geer’s and Mildred Laura Dunbar’s marriage license using FamilySearch

After they married the Geers settled at the Randol’s former residence of 75 Rosalind Court (with Mazie and Samuel moving to 622 Carpenter Street, not far away). Their happiness was short-lived as Mildred filed for divorce on 15 January 1929.

Before I took my DNA test which is how I learned Paul was most likely my biological great-grandfather, I thought him to be this horrible person, that my great-grandmother was lucky to be rid of him. Now I hope my great-grandmother exaggerated as she just didn’t want to be married to him anymore. On the chance that what she stated was true, well, I like to think that Paul changed for the better over the years, and maybe he was just young and stupid.

Mildred’s reasons for her divorce are as follows (the below is quoted directly from the records I received from the Summit County Probate Court):

Page 1 of the divorce filing by Mildred Laura Dunbar to Paul Geer, I obtained from Summit County Clerk of Courts in October 2016

He “has been grossly neglectful of his marital duties towards her in that ever since March 1, 1928, he has wholly failed and refused to provide her with food or clothing or the other necessities of life and that she has been compelled to rely upon her own resources and her parents for sustenance and clothing” and “that the defendant has willfully wasted the real and personal property which they possessed at the inception of their married life and that he worked for a short interval at any one place and that he wasted his earnings in gamboling houses and other places of ill repute”.

The divorce record stated no children, and I don’t believe there was one in January when she filed as my grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming was born prematurely on 2 October 1929. The story goes that Mildred was sent home from the hospital with my grandma and a hot water bottle and if she (Alberta) survived by morning for her (Mildred) to feed her. Lucky for me she lived.

Anyhow, I digress, I do not know how much of a preemie my grandma was, but I’m guessing Paul and Mildred had one more amicable night together before the divorce was final. That my great-grandmother married Albert Nank on 30 September 1929 and listed him as the father of Alberta on her birth certificate must just show how much she wanted Paul out of her life.

Paul Meets Juanita

I have been unable to find Paul in the 1930 census. He is single as the divorce from Mildred was final on 5 September 1929. He does pop up in the 1934 Akron City Directory working at Goodyear and living at 209 West Center. In 1937 he is still working at Goodyear but moved to 166 West Center. Then he marries Juanita Dodd on 30 December 1939, in a joint ceremony with his father, Clyde Geer, who was marrying Juanita’s mom, Stella Long, at the First United Methodist Church. (As a side note, it has always pleased me that Paul took an entire decade to re-marry. If he truly was guilty of all the things my great-grandmother accused him of in her filing for divorce, I like to think he learned his lesson).

The record of Paul Harrison Geer’s marriage to Juanita Dodd was found on FamilySearch

By the time the 1940 census came about, Paul and Juanita had moved to Detroit, Wayne, Michigan where Paul was working as an assembler in an auto factory, but by 1943 they have returned to Akron, living at 207 Carroll Street, #4 (no place of business is identified). By 1946 he and Juanita have a daughter and he is once again working for Goodyear, living at 571 North Summit. By the early 1950’s they have settled in Akron, living at 230 West South Street, and Paul has begun a career as a truck driver for Dixie-Ohio.

This was saved from Newspapers.com, the article is from the 5 April 1955 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal

I don’t find a whole lot of other information about Paul and his family. On 24 November 1960, he won tickets to see a movie at the Strand Theater, I wonder what movie did he see?

This was published in the 24 November 1960 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal, which I found using Newspapers.com

Two years later in December 1962, Paul’s father Clyde died of an acute myocardial infarction at the age of 82. Clyde had been living with Paul and his family for at least 6 years (the things you can learn using City Directories).

This was found on Newspapers.com, it is the 16 December 1962 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal

Twelve years later his brother, George, died in 1974, and then his sister, Ruth, in 1975. Paul lived to age 78, passing away on 27 February 1984.

Here is a shortened version of Paul’s obituary that ran on 28 February 1984 in the Akron Beacon Journal, I’ve cropped it so it does not include the names of the living. This was found using Newspapers.com

The photo in his obituary, and one other in that of his wife’s obituary, are the only 2 photos I have of Paul. You can read about my adventure in discovering through DNA how I figured out Paul was my great-grandfather here. After 3 years of composing a letter, I did reach out to Paul’s daughter to see if she could share with me what he was like as I’m quite curious. I mailed the letter out in early to mid-July and have not heard anything. To say I’m bummed is an understatement, but I understand. It took me 3 years to summon the courage to mail that letter to her simply because I was afraid of rocking her world. But to my knowledge, I don’t think Paul had any idea he had a child with Mildred. But it doesn’t lessen my curiosity at all.

But going back to that photo above, his cheekbones. My grandmother had those cheekbones. My cousin does as well, then again, she really looks like my grandma.

Here is a photo of my Grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming. She had these taken some time in the 1990s. From my personal collection.

I’m still hopeful I’ll hear from Paul’s daughter, my half-grand-aunt. Not only did I ask what Paul was like, but Clyde, George, and Ruth as well. I want to know about all of them, I wish I could get answers about his mother, Gertrude, but that is pretty much a lost cause unless I come across another family historian who talked to people years ago.

I am gathering up names to do another genealogical visit to the Summit County Health Department to gather birth and death certificates, and Paul is on my list to discover what his cause of death was.

To finish this up properly my hubby and I went out to Greenlawn Memorial Park where Paul and his wife, Juanita are buried. It took us about 50 minutes to find his grave as the layout of section Y was a bit challenging, but for me worth it. You always get that feeling of closeness when you are near your departed relative, even if you never met them in person.

My own personal photo of the headstone of Paul & Juanita Geer from Greenlawn Memorial Park in Akron, Ohio, taken 12 August 2022

I’m glad I took the time to do this timeline about Paul Harrison Geer. From the comments on his wife Juanita’s obituary, they seemed like a very nice couple, which led to my coming around about him not being as bad as the divorce document states. In the end, isn’t being a good person what you want to learn about your ancestors?

12 Ancestors in 12 Months, Genealogy, My Family Tree

Month 3: Females

The dynamic between mothers and daughters is one of the most intense relationships that I feel has ever been developed. I’m not sure why, exactly. I know for the past year especially I have had more issues with my daughter than I have at any other period of her life. Between skipping school, arguments about grades (apparently I’m offensive because I wanted C’s or higher? To be fair my son gives me the same amount of lip about it and as a person who got more A’s than C’s in high school, I feel I’m being generous), and the latest one seems to be about curfew (so angry at this she up and left a month ago and has yet to return, I’m quite confident she isn’t coming back, my hubby seems to hold out hope – she feels she is 18 and doesn’t need a time to be home, I feel she is living in my house and should still follow some rules, but let me add I’ve included if she just lets us know where she is she can stay out later, just let us know when you’re going to be home). But I digress.

I remember a year or so ago when I was researching my second-great-grandfather, Randall Childers, that one of his daughters knew where he was at when he up and left Pennsylvania and moved to Tennessee. Well, maybe I am overstating, I’m not sure if Jennie Childers May knew where her father had relocated, but seeing her name as the “next of kin” on his paperwork was a surprise to me.

I remember when first finding the memorial for Sara Jane Fesler on Find A Grave where in the paragraph below it stated the “issues” that Randall and Sara had in their marriage. When I saw that Randall had died in Tennessee, I just assumed he’d left his family behind for a different life. I was never approving of his marrying a second time, and I always wondered what Sara thought. Was she happy he was gone? Sad? Mad? I could see myself going back and forth between the latter two emotions.

But for some reason things changed for me when I found a document on Ancestry from the US Homes for Disabled Soldiers that noted in 1905 that Randall was a widower and that his next of kin was Mrs. A. S. May, I was somewhat blown away. I suppose there is that chance she had no idea… but what if Jennie knew? I don’t think I’d be happy if my dad told the government my mom was dead when she wasn’t.

But what if Jennie didn’t get along with Sara? What if she was a daddy’s girl? (As I myself am). Did she know of her dad’s new life in Tennessee? Did she keep such information from her mother? Did Sara even want to know? These are questions I’ll never have the answer too.

My own situation has really got me thinking about my own ancestors and how well all the mothers and daughters got along. I believe my mom got along with my grandma pretty well, at least I don’t recall her getting into any big kerfuffle with her. Now my older sister and my mom use to get into it, I didn’t as much but I watched and learned. I saw how mouthing off to my mother didn’t get my sister anywhere, so I would make my mom mad by sitting there and just letting her get her anger out. I often thought my mom wouldn’t even be that mad at my sister, she was just looking for someone to argue with and she happened to be an easy target. Well, maybe that’s being a bit too blunt, my mom knew exactly what to do to push my sister’s buttons. And frankly, my sister did the same to my mom.

I feel that females have much stronger emotions compared to men. Granted part of that could just be our ability to overthink everything. And I believe that these feelings tend to get the best of us, but this is what makes us females so wonderful.

Did you have some feisty females in your family? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Who Did You Find in the 1950 Census?

Ever since the clock struck midnight on Friday, April 1 the genealogical world has gone crazy trying to find their ancestors in the newly released 1950 census. Were you prepared to know where you had to search for your loved ones? I was a last-minute person, looking up the enumeration district for my mom and giving my dad a call to find out what state he was living in when 1950 rolled around. You see this was the first census my parents are in so I will admit I was a little excited.

I contemplated staying up until midnight when it was released to the world, but I was so tired I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stay awake that long. So, I made sure I got up at my usual 6:11am (the time I normally get up to get ready when my kids are going to school, they happened to be on Spring Break last week, so I was able to sleep in an extra hour), got ready, ate early and made sure I had a good solid hour before having to head out the door to focus on the 1950 census.

My Mom

Of my parents, finding my mom was a little easier. I thought initially she and her parents were already living on North Main Street in Akron, Ohio but I was wrong. I am glad I took the time to look up their information in the City Directory to find them living in Cuyahoga Falls, which is where I myself was born and raised (and it’s literally a 2-minute drive in either direction from where I live presently). It made it even easier for me to find except I selected the wrong enumeration district. Where they lived on Second Street there were multiple choices. It was odd though, I never had paid attention that they lived there before and here I drove by where their house was every day when I took my kids to school, or when I was a member of the Natatorium a few years back. (It appears that it’s a vacant lot where the building once stood).

I found my Mom in the 1950 using the National Archives website in enumeration district 77-69 for Summit County, Ohio. They were of course on the very last page. Harold Fairhurst was the head of household.

On my mom’s side of the family, I found her parents, Harold Fairhurst, Alberta Lou Fairhurst, herself, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, and her younger sister, Terry (Teri) Mildred Fairhurst.

My Dad

My dad was a little trickier. I had called him the night before to ask if he knew if they were in Ohio yet, or if they (he and his parents) were still living in Indiana. My dad would have been 7 in 1950 and apparently all of his schooling was here in Ohio, so that narrowed it down. However, when they first moved to Ohio, they didn’t live in Akron, they lived in the Village of Lakemore, which was near Akron. This is one of those places that I have heard of, but I am not sure if I have ever been there.

I threw “Lakemore” into the enumeration district page to see if anything came up, but it wasn’t helpful. Luckily Google exists. I searched Lakemore, Ohio and luckily it came up and I was able to discover the zip code for it.

I then went to the Ancestry.com and they had a tool you could throw in your zip code and such and it would provide the enumeration districts for the area. So, I put in 44250 and I was able to narrow my search to 77-114, 115, 116, or 117, which translates to about 100 total pages to scan.

I lucked out, they were halfway through 115, and not only did I find my dad and grandparents, but my grandfather’s brother was living right next door with two of their kids as well! So, the total family I found for my dad was his dad, Leroy Blair, his mom, Anna Maria Morgart, his uncle, Donald Blair, his aunt, Anna Smzrlich, and two of their children.

My grandfather, Leroy Blair, is about 4 people down and is the head of household. This can be found at the National Archives website.

Everybody Else

I’ll admit I have hundreds of people I am sure I need to look up and find in the 1950 census. My great-grandparents on all sides of my family would have all been alive and kicking still, but I’m more than happy to wait until I can search by name and save it that way. I figure if I come across someone else that I just need to find, I will, but I have time (and not fully understanding the layout of Pennsylvania towns, who knows how long it would take me to find them).

Did you enjoy the fun of finding your ancestors in the 1950 census? How many people did you find? Share in the comments below!

12 Ancestors in 12 Months, Genealogy, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Month #2: Branching Out

If I’ve learned anything from the countless classes, webinars, and presentations I have attended/watched over the last six years is that you need to branch out to get the full story about your ancestors. Branching out includes researching your collateral relatives and even researching the town(s) where your family lived.

Collateral Relatives

In case you are not aware of what a “collateral relative” is, it is your aunt, uncle and cousins, however distant they may be. It may seem strange to investigate these non-direct relatives, but sometimes you can learn things about your direct relative as researching their sons and daughters can find missing pieces of your own genealogical puzzle.

As I was looking up information on my Grandma Blair’s older brother, Charles Edward Morgart, referred to by my Grandma as “Eddie”, I came across both his birth certificate and a delayed birth certificate that they went and applied for on 11 January 1943. I don’t even have to look the date up, as I thought it was funny that they went and got this delayed birth certificate the same day my Grandma gave birth to my dad in Indiana. But that isn’t the only interesting thing I found out, when signing her name to the delayed birth certificate, my great-grandmother, Margaret “Maggie” Wise signed her full name, Margaret Dora Custer (she was married to her second husband, Earl Custer, at the time). Until this document I was unaware of what the “D” stood for.

Revised or delayed birth certificate for Charles Edward Morgart found on Ancestry.com

Another reason searching for information on your collateral family members is a smart thing to do, sometimes names are spelled incorrectly, and people don’t always show up in search results. By getting as many documents as possible for your extended family you may find missing relatives intermingled with others. For example, parents and grandparents can be found living with their children or grandchildren.

Cities and Towns

You can indirectly learn information about your ancestors by researching the cities and towns they lived in. If they were farmers, you can get an idea about what type of farm your relative had by researching the area where they lived, which comes in handy for someone like me whose relatives live in a state where the agricultural index for the census has been destroyed.

Sometimes you may be lucky enough that your family was important enough to be written about in a book about the history of the town. I was lucky enough to have the Morgart Tavern listed in a photographic book about Bedford County. My elation when I recognized names when I came across the book, simply trying to find out more about Bedford County, I wanted to jump up and down for joy. It’s a shame one has to be quiet in a library. (I thought I had taken photos of the book to share with others, but apparently I didn’t – presently hanging my head in shame).

The book Bedford And Its Neighbors by Arcadia Publishing

Branching out in your genealogical research is essential to finding everything you need to know in your family tree. I always research all siblings and children of my relatives. I don’t always research parents of spouses of extended people because sometimes you have to stop, but there are times when I still do, like siblings married siblings so sometimes when you can’t find where a person is the answer may be with the other set of associated parents (I have done this with George Washington Blair, son of Andrew Blair and Susannah Akers, as he is married to his younger brother, Samuel Alexander’s wife’s sister).

Have you found out any interesting facts about your direct line ancestors by researching collateral relatives or where they lived? I would love for you to share in the comments.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 51: Holidays

All my life my favorite holiday has been Christmas. My mom always preferred Thanksgiving because family would get together for simpler things: family and food, she felt with Christmas and Easter the gifts and candy were the reasons people got together. But it wasn’t just gifts that have made me love Christmas, it was the tree and all the decorations, baking cookies and that little bit of magic that all the very special ornaments and lights can bring.

As I have gone through the photographs that once belonged to my Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart) and her mother, Margaret Dora Wise, I saw photographs of Christmases past. This delighted me to no end, as it made me feel that my love of Christmas was something that is in my soul, and that I have inherited from those who came before me.

Christmas 1953 – Margaret Dora Wise standing in front of her tree.
My Grandparents – Leroy Blair and Anna Maria Morgart in their home on Christmas Day, 1963 (You can see the photo of my dad as he was off in the Navy at this time).

But not on just my dad’s side of the family, oh no, my maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming, loved Christmas as well. I have so many photos between Christmas day and her yearly Christmas Eve parties when she returned from living in Florida.

Here is a photo from Christmas 1949 of Santa, my aunt, Terry (Teri) Mildred Fairhurst, and my mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst.
This one is from Christmas 1957 and has all my mom’s siblings. From left to right is Alberta Lou Fleming, Howard Fleming, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst (in blue), Mildred Laura Dunbar (in red), and the other blue-grey jumper is my aunt, Terry Mildred Fairhurst. The other three are still alive so I’ll respect their privacy.
This was either the late 80’s or early 90’s at a Cardinal Village home that my grandparents use to manage in Bedford, Ohio. My mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, is seated to the left, her face partially covered by her hand), standing is my Grandma Metzger (aka Alberta Lou Fleming, and facing the tree in red is her husband, James Edward Metzger.

Though Christmas is my favorite, to me the holidays more or less begin on Thanksgiving and don’t really end until New Year’s Day. So many wonderful memories throughout the years and sometimes they all just flow together. If no other time family gets together, it’s a holiday. We get together with my husband’s family on Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. We changed it up and have gone to my cousin’s on the 4th of July (which is nice as it’s our shared uncle’s birthday, too).

All in all, holidays are just very special days, no matter how you celebrate them. It’s just extra special to share them with those you love.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 50: Lines

It doesn’t take long for our ancestral lines to quickly multiply within our family trees. By the time I arrive at my great-great-grandparents I already have 16. I have a total of 61 surnames on my family tree, and I am sure there are just as many, if not more, unknown to me.

Sadly, there are some I know more than others. I tend to be more familiar with my paternal side than my maternal side as I didn’t do much research on my mom’s side as she always seemed to be upset with whatever information I found. Odd part was I didn’t even work on her dad’s side of the family because I know she wasn’t fond of him. But when I came home with information about my great-grandmother, I think that made her even more unhappy (as I’ve stated in past posts, like my Grandma Blair was to me, my mom was very fond of her maternal grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, and to be clear, I loved her very much as well).

My goal in the coming year is to get to flesh out some of my family more. I’ll admit working on 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks does get me writing, but I’m a full-time working girl, it doesn’t give me a lot of time to actually research. I miss that. So, I’ve signed up, but I do not anticipate writing every week (but I’m happy that even though I didn’t get it published on the week it was due, I will have gotten all 52 prompts done this year).

Below is word art of my 61 surnames (or I hope I got them all), or my known ancestral lines. So much to learn. Always learning.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Week 49: Homemade

When it comes to the holidays most of our food is all made from scratch, except maybe rolls, but even for a couple of years I made those homemade as well (until I realized I was getting in the way of my husband, who normally makes the turkey at Thanksgiving, or the ham at Christmas).

My job was making the cookies and the pies. So far this year that hasn’t happened as I was diagnosed as a diabetic, so where I would have started cookies a weekend or two ago, I was pushing temptation off until the end. And no cut outs this year as they are my kryptonite. I was making peanut blossoms with the cherry cordial Hershey kisses (as I am not a huge cherry fan) and was going to make Russian tea cakes for my daughter (and I’m not a huge fan of nuts).

As for pies – my daughter asked if I could make cherry pie this year for something different, I said sure because I don’t need to create temptation by making my Dutch Apple Pie anyhow, so I figured this year we could have cherry and pumpkin pie (have I mentioned I don’t like pumpkin either? Yes, I’m one of those weird, picky eaters).

But alas, we were recently diagnosed with Covid – so now none of them are being made because though I’m fortunate to have been vaccinated, I still have what feels like a bad cold (which is what I thought it was because I ALWAYS get a cold in December – countless choir concerts with laryngitis).

So here are photos of cookies and pies past – all made from scratch (well, Libby’s canned pumpkin does help with it). I know the drop sugar cookies were a recipe of my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar. The Dutch Apple pie was one my mom made, not sure if it was passed down but I know it was good (I’m not a pie person, but I love this pie). The cut-out cookies may have been from a family member, I know I switched to a Taste of Home recipe because what my mom made wasn’t coming out right anymore and the Taste of Home was so yummy (and had sour cream like the drop sugar cookies, the icing recipe is included). The peanut blossoms were from the church I went to when I grew up, Northampton United Methodist Women’s cookbook.

I will admit I may cheat in many other ways of cooking, but when it comes to desserts, they must be homemade. Store bought doesn’t cut it and hasn’t for some time. Especially with chocolate chip cookies – those must be homemade (it is my all-time favorite cookie).

Who knows, maybe I’ll get something made before Christmas is officially here, and maybe I can spare a cookie or two.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 48: Strength

Strength is such a valuable commodity. You need both physical and emotional strength to get by in today’s world. For the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt of “strength” I’m going to discuss my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Ritchey.

Her Beginnings

Mary Ann Ritchey was born on 19 June 1851 in Rays Hill, Bedford County, Pennsylvania to Daniel Ritchey and Anna Cypher. She was the sixth of eleven children they had, with George being a well-known farmer in that end of Bedford County.

On 27 June 1872, Mary was united in marriage with George Washington Morgart in East Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Like her father, George was a farmer and had already purchased the farm when his dad, Andrew Jackson Morgart, passed away on 19 August 1870. While George worked the land, Mary Ann kept house, raising their five children: Charles Jackson (born 1873, and my great-grandfather); Edward Daniel (born 1875); Anna Rebekah (born 1878); Stella Mary (born 1886); and Altie Pearl (born 1888).

The Loss of Loved Ones

Mary Ann’s strength came on 5 May 1895 when her husband of almost 23 years died. George had not been feeling well for a bit but was able to continue to work the farm despite his issues.

Everett Press, 10 May 1895 found on Newspapers.com

Losing your husband at any age has to be devastating but Mary Ann powered through. She had it a bit easier as three of her children were grown adults. However, this was not the last of her sorrow for the year 1895. Her youngest daughter, Altie Pearl died just a few months after her father.

Everett Press, 30 August 1895, Newspapers.com

And within 3 years her father would pass away at the age of 88 on 19 November 1898.

Her Strength

My great-great-grandmother suffered a great deal of loss in a very short period of time when she lost her husband, daughter, and father within three years.

On 16 February 1898 she did what women were supposed to do and married her neighbor, Bartley Hughes, and the properties were merged. (A side note, Bartley’s mother and George Washington Morgart’s grandmother were sisters, so in a way it was keeping the property within the family).

Her Death

Mary Ann Ritchey’s strength ran out on 14 August 1908 when she took her own life. Her death certificate was quoted as “Suicide by shooting in left breast with rifle – death was almost instant”.

Death Certificate of Mary Ann Ritchey as found on Ancestry.com

She was laid to rest next to her first husband, George Washington Morgart at Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery. Her parents are buried there as well.

Photo of Mary Ann Ritchey’s headstone at Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery. I took this photo on my research trip to Pennsylvania in July 2019

I have no proof but I always wondered if my great-great-grandmother suffered from depression after losing her husband and youngest child in less than 4 months. She had another daughter, Stella Mary that was born in 1886 and appears to have died just a year later. I have no true proof of how many total children she may have had, she did not answer that question on the 1900 census.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 46: Birthdays

The theme for week 46 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Birthdays. And I am not sure what day of the year for sure has the most birthdays, but I know off the top of my head that April 2 is high on the list for my ancestors.

I have a total of 9 birthdays that appear on 2 April, the oldest being born in 1725 (my 7th-Great-Grandmother, Martha Shattuck) and the youngest being born in 1949, my Aunt Teri (which would be the 6th-Great-Granddaughter of Martha).

Here is my list of names, how they are related to me, and how old they would have been in 2021.

  • Martha Shattuck – 7th-Great-Grandmother – 296
  • Elizabeth Naill – Wife of 4th-Great-Granduncle – 222
  • Eliza Horton – 3rd-Great-Grandmother – 208
  • William Harrison Geer – 3rd-Great-Grandfather – 181
  • Arabelle Morgart – 2nd-Great-Grandaunt – 165
  • James Stevenson – 1st Cousin Twice Removed – 112
  • Anna Maria Morgart – Grandmother – 107
  • Willis Mellott – 3rd Cousin Once Removed – 84
  • Terry (Teri) Fairhurst – Aunt – 72

My software program that I used to track my genealogy has a calendar maker and in the beginning of this year I contemplated printing one out to honor my relatives. I was astounded when I saw I had so many events on 2 April that my Grandma wasn’t even listed in the primary box. At the time she was the second youngest to my aunt (I’ve since added Willis Mellott).

So funny how some dates have so many whereas I am the only person on my birthday so far (which makes me feel special).

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 45: Stormy Weather

For week 45 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the theme is Stormy Weather, and I’m choosing to write about the the struggle my two paternal great-grandmothers, Bertha Childers and Margaret Dora Wise, endured when suddenly becoming widows.

Bertha Childers

When I think about rough time that my great-grandmother, Bertha Childers, must have faced when her husband, Andrew Jackson Blair, passed away on 16 November 1926.

As was written about here, my great-grandfather was killed instantly when a coal mine collapsed. But as horrible as his death was, I can only imagine what life must have been like for my great-grandmother, who was left a single mother of 4. Granted, Genevieve had just gotten married to Earl Vivian the week before Andrew passed, but Vada, Leroy, and Donald were still at home (Vada was 19, Genevieve 16, Leroy 14, and Donald 9).

I know from the 1930 census that Bertha was still a single mom of Donald, and the late 1920’s, early 1930’s was a tough time for a single mom (as it still is 90 years later).

Working for a Coal Company, more than likely Andrew and Bertha lived in a company home, he was paid with company money, where all purchases were from a company store, and when he died she probably lost everything.

I know in the late 1920’s my grandfather, Leroy, began working in the mines as well, but after having an accident in the same mine where his dad died, he found something else to do.

But I can’t imagine what life was like for my great-grandmother. Bertha had to have been devastated to lose the man she loved, her home, basically her life as she knew it. She did eventually re-marry William Chappell who was also a coal miner.

Bertha Childers and her dog Lulu Belle, 1943

Margaret Dora Wise

Life changed for my other great-grandmother on my dad’s side of the family when on 24 July 1917 Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide leaving Margaret Dora Wise alone to care for 3-children ages 7, 6, and 3.

To my knowledge no one knows why Charles took his life. My mom had thought she had heard he was ill, but my dad heard that infidelity could have been involved (not on Charles’ part). But regardless of why, it had to be a huge shock to lose your husband, even if your situation wasn’t idyllic.

Unlike Bertha, Maggie Wise ended up getting married to Irie Earl Custer by 1920 (according to the 1920 Federal Census). Earl was a coal miner and she stayed married to him until he passed in 1949. They never had any children together.

Irie Earl Custer & Margaret Dora Wise 1939

Having younger children Maggie probably had to pick up the pieces more quickly in order to raise her kids. I know she ended up raising her children in the town of Saint Michael a stones throw from South Fork where coal mines were located (Saint Michael was built where the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club was located before the huge Johnstown Flood of 1889).

I feel Maggie had the better end of things when she married Earl Custer. My Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) always spoke quite highly of her Step-Daddy as he basically raised her (she was 3 when her dad died), and chose Earl to be my Dad’s middle name.

Both of my great-grandmother’s survived the hardships they faced, but both of their husband’s died so unexpectedly. It’s never easy to loose someone you care about, but having my own mother die out of the blue, I know how hard it can be when you don’t have the closure of saying goodbye, and even I love you one last time.