When I got up this morning and picked up my phone, FamilySearch had reminded me that today, September 6, is the birthday of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Orienta A. Gustin, and I thought, what a better day to learn more about her than her birthday?
Orienta A. Gustin was born on 6 September 1851 in Scio, New York, a town in Allegany County to Benjamin Gustin and Nancy Return Gault. Benjamin was a farmer and between 1865 and 1870 they had moved to Pennsylvania, where Orienta met and married Winfield Scott Warner, a farmer and Civil War veteran in 1869.
Orienta and Winfield settled in Sharon Township. In 1877 their oldest daughter, Mazie Lorenia was born, followed by Cymanthia Lencretia in 1881, Jeanette in 1887 and Catherine “Cassie” Belle in 1890. In 1899 Winfield died, leaving Orienta to finish raising her 2 youngest daughters solo.
Having an uncommon name like Orienta I have found an article or two in the newspapers. Below is one of my favorites about Orienta and her daughter, Jeanette (aka Nettie).
As far as I can tell though, Orienta did her best to take care of her children. In 1918 when Jeanette’s husband, Thomas Bergan, fell on hard times and passed away, Orienta moved in with her to help her and get her and get her on her feet.
In 1922 when Cymanthia came down with cancer living in California, it was Orienta who travelled across the country to first care for her daughter and assist with her grandson’s. Orienta eventually moved to Akron, Ohio where Mazie and Jeanette both lived.
Orienta Gustin Warner passed away on December 23, 1928 at the home of her daughter, Mazie, in Akron, Ohio. She passed away from Brights Disease, which is Nephritis of the Kidneys, and Myocarditis. She was 77 years old. She was buried in Sharon Center Cemetery in Potter County with her husband.
When I see these photos of Orienta, she appears to be a no-nonsense woman who loves her family. I am so grateful to be descended from such strong women, as her daughter Mazie, my 2nd-great-grandmother was the same way.
When I began my family history journey, I remember how I made sure in countless ways before I added someone to my tree that they belonged. I had to have censuses showing that they were in the family with my relative for me to truly believe that they deserved to be on my tree.
I’ve been working on my tree for 4 years now and for the most part I have stayed true to this theory. Occasionally I will forego and add people I see, for example, many online trees had a Wealthy Blair listed as a daughter for my great-great-grandparents. Even my late cousin Darlene had Wealthy listed on a family sheet for the same said 2nd-great-grandparents. I’ve never found any information on her, she was born and died before 1880. When I look at the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census which asks how many total children a woman had, there are always 3 children that had passed for my great-great-grandmother, and I always assumed one was Wealthy (one other was Margaret, born in October 1879 and lastly an unknown child I just have listed on my tree as I have no birth or death dates for them).
But since I began organizing my DNA matches I’ve found myself getting envious of tree size. I see people with 48,987 people on their tree and my eyes just widen and my jaw drops. What a glorious tree!
And then I find myself going new person after new person checking out the hints and adding (always logically, but still adding) them to my tree. One after another and I’m fairly certain most of my people are legitimate people with fairly good dates off said hints (I am rational enough to NOT add people who were born 100 years earlier coming on a boat from England when they were born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania), but still, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in hints on Ancestry and the one big tree on FamilySearch.
So I’ve started over from scratch in a way. One by one I’m going through my people in my personal family tree software that I keep on my computer. This is my main tree, the tree I don’t really share with the world and the one I find to be the most accurate. I’m going through one by one and making sure all the documents that I have in my online folders are included on the tree. Some items I have, like the beforementioned great-great-grandmother who my late cousin Darlene hand wrote her obituary and this is the only way I have it, I knew I had it in an envelope of documents Darlene had sent me, and now I have scanned it and added it to her profile.
I’m also comparing them to the Ancestry tree just in case there is a random document that I have on there that I hadn’t downloaded (that happens sometimes when I’m out and about and am not on my regular computer to save the documents as easily). By doing this I can clean up the Ancestry tree at the same time.
In the long run I must remember it’s not the size of my tree that matters, it truly is quality that counts. I’ve worked so hard and I want to be 100% positive that I’m putting the correct people in my tree.
This was all brought to my attention when I was working on my mother’s side of the family. I’ve haven’t delved into the Fairhurst branch often, but I have learned there are many William and Thomas Fairhurst’s out there, and trying to make sure I select the correct one was getting me quite confused.
So I took a deep breath and slowed down. It’s not a race. I’ll find each and every ancestor when they want me to find them.
For the past few months I’ve been getting more and more intrigued in working with my DNA. Last year at this time I took a DNA test through Ancestry to solve a genealogy puzzle, and it worked, I discovered who I am fairly positive is my biological great-grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.
With the announcement of Ancestry changing how they give us results and taking some of our matches away, I’ll admit, I have been like many who are probably plowing through their results as I type this hoping they can save something, anything that may be that key to a mystery.
This was my thinking. My darn brick wall consisting of Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers (I think that’s her last name?). I was afraid that maybe, just maybe, one of those 6-7 centimorgan matches may be the answer I am seeking to break down my brick wall. The key to where my 3rd-Great-Grandfather was before he showed up on the 1850 Federal Census in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
So I’ve been slaving away for the past week in my free time, trying to figure out who goes where. And don’t forget the many matches who you have no matches with.
All in all it’s exhausting.
I did stop for a little bit as one of my matches lines up to be the sister of Andrew. I will admit, someone’s tree on MyHeritage showed this relationship but I’d never seen head or tales of her. So this gave me hope.
So I plugged in an ominous “Blair” for their father and placed Sarah Permelia Blair as Andrew’s sister on my tree, wondering if maybe something, anything would come up for a mom, or even more information for a dad… but nothing.
So it also stated that Sarah was born in Washington County, Maryland. I began looking there for Blair’s listed on the 1810 Census (Sarah was born in 1816 and don’t you know there is an Andrew Jackson Blair who lived there in 1810??? Andrew Blair’s and Suzanna Aker’s second oldest son’s name is Andrew Jackson Blair – he is my 2nd-great-grandfather). So yes, I got really excited for about 30 seconds because this Andrew Jackson Blair’s son, Andrew Jackson Blair was born in 1825 and my Andrew has 4-censuses stating he was born between 1812-1815.
Do you think I can find any other information about this Andrew Jackson Blair quickly? No. However, I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Jackson, so with his being born in the late 1700’s and being named Andrew Jackson made my day as he wasn’t named after the War Hero/President (took a class in college while getting my history degree called “Jefferson to Jackson” and the more I learned the more I came to dislike both Jefferson and Jackson).
For the past year in my hunt for Blair men in Pennsylvania with people aged 25-30 in their house in the 1840 census, various names have repeatedly come to the forefront of my search, one being a John Blair. I finally decided to throw him and his wife as the parents of Andrew and Sarah into my Ancestry tree. They didn’t have an “Andrew Blair” listed on anyone else’s Ancestry tree, but they all have a gap in their children around 1812, so I figured it didn’t hurt to try. It took a long 24 hours but it gave me the answer I needed. I had 4 hits – it wasn’t enough for John Blair and Mary Perdew to be my 4th-great-grandparents (I’d had 23 matches with Andrew and Suzanna, so I should have had at least that many or more for them to lineup; more than 4 anyhow). Some would see this as a failure. I chose to see it as I had matches so I made progress. John Blair is a member of a much larger Blair family in Pennsylvania and it appears I may be in the ballpark for finding a connection. I quickly removed them as I have my tree public (I like to help others as I’ve viewed other’s trees for assistance over the years).
So I now only have a day or so to go before the algorithm changes for Ancestry’s DNA matches. I am still trying to get matches grouped but I am no longer in the rush I was. If I get any of the 6-7 centimorgan matches, great. I like to think I may not know what I’m missing. But I find organizing my matches fun. And I love that I have several on my dad’s side that have overlapped with my mom’s side. It’s funny – this particular branch of my dad’s are all settled in south central Pennsylvania while my mother’s is north central PA, all I can figure is that some came and met in the middle. Weird enough that my half sister (we don’t have the same dad) has a blue dot which represents my dad’s last name.
Fingers crossed that my DNA helps hold the key to my 4th-great-grandparents on my Blair side of the family, and this new algorithm is all that and more. Time will tell!
This week I am going to share another installment of my Warner family by exploring my great-great-great-grandfather, Winfield Warner.
Winfield S. Warner was born on 14 April 1847 in Potter County, Pennsylvania. His parents were Oliver Charles Warner and Mary Ann Jones and he was the youngest of their five children, the others being Emeline, Angelia, James, and Roscoe. His dad was a successful lumberman and farmer, as lumber was a very lucrative trade in Potter County at this time.
At the age of 17, Winfield joined the Union Army. He was a private in Company K 13th Regiment of New York with the heavy artillery, which was used in attacks on fortified positions. According to the Adjunct General’s Office Register, Winfield enlisted on 17 October 1864 in Mount Morris, New York to serve one year. He mustered out with the company on 28 June 1865 due to the end of the war in Norfolk, Virginia.
Once the Civil War ended, Winfield returned home to Pennsylvania and married Orienta Gustin around 1869. They settled in Sharon Township in Potter County where he was a farmer. They had their first daughter, Mazie Lorena on 21 Jul 1877, their next daughter, Cymanthia Lencretia was born 18 March 1881, Jeanette was born in July of 1887, while their youngest, Catherine Belle, was born 25 August 1890.
Because he was a Civil War soldier, Winfield was listed in the still remaining 1890 Census for the Veterans Schedule. When it asked if he had any disabilities from the war, all that is listed is Sunstroke.
Sunstroke (or heat stroke) is the most serious form of heat injury that can cause damage to the brain or other internal organs caused by prolonged exposure to the sun while being dehydrated with a core body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Other symptoms include headaches, seizures, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness, dizziness, a lack of sweating, and disorientation. It can take from 2 months to a year to overcome heat stroke (WebMD). However, it has been noted that most heat-related issues during the Civil War were noted as sunstroke regardless of how severe the ailment was (Ithaca College)
Winfield Scott Warner passed away on 21 March 1899. His obituary described him as an “old soldier” but what is sad as that he was only 51 when he died. I guess this leaves a lingering sting as I’m 4 years away from that age myself. I guess this is one of the ways the world has changed in 121 years.
Of his family Winfield is the only member I don’t have a photo of at this time. I have a couple of photos of his wife, Orienta, and 3 of his 4 daughters (Mazie, Cymanthia, and Jeanette), and photos of his parents. On his Civil War papers he is listed as having brown hair, black eyes and a light complexion. He stood 6 foot, 1 inch tall. Hope that one day when the National Archives opens up again and I can retrieve his military and pension records that maybe within it there will be a photograph as well. Fingers crossed.
Thirteen years ago on this very day I lost one of the greatest human beings I ever knew. My paternal grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart died at the age of 93 years and a part of me has been lost ever since. On this anniversary of her death I will honor her.
Anna Maria Morgart was born on 2 April 1914 in Broad Top Township, Pennsylvania at 11:55am to Charles Jackson Morgart and Margaret Dora Wise. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty Wise. By the time she was 5 years old, her father would commit suicide and her mother would re-marry. From the many stories I heard, my grandma thought the world of Irie Earl Custer, so much so my dad’s middle name was his middle name, and the name he (Mr. Custer) used, Earl.
She always told me about how much she loved school, and though she didn’t get the best of grades, she did love English and handwriting. She loved to write. Her handwriting was so distinctive, you can see it below in the “Blondie” on the photo on the right.
Anna Maria Morgart, about 1925 or 1926 or earlier
Below red school house. Looking at Geo Wise
One of her first jobs, she told me, was how she cleaned a bank. She claimed she got down and cleaned the floor with a little brush. She may or may not have said tooth brush but as a little girl that’s always what I pictured so that might be where I got that idea in my head. When I visited Pennsylvania last Summer my cousin, Hope, was so nice to show me where the bank was – and here it is – it’s where you pay your utilities in Saint Michael now.
The photo below was taken of her in 1933 – she was just 19 years old. It’s odd how much my dad looks like her in these photos.
I never quite knew when my grandparents met, I’m still not certain how they met either. I think I asked my dad but he isn’t entirely sure either. However I did come across this article from the Everett Press from 7 July 1933 where it shows they attended a Fourth of July picnic together at my Grandmother’s aunt’s home (Mrs. Bartley Noggle was Anna Rebekah Morgart, sister of Charles Jackson Morgart).
My grandparents got married on 24 April 1937 in Elkhart, Indiana. I’ve not found any wedding photos or even a marriage announcement, but I have found a copy of their marriage license on FamilySearch.
My grandparents moved to Indiana because my grandfather, Leroy Blair, was offered an apprenticeship in sheet metal. This was a much-preferred occupation as his father had passed away in the coal mines when he (Leroy) was just 14 years old, and according to my dad, Leroy also had an accident in the same “room” where his dad had died.
My Grandfather’s older sister Vada also lived in Gary, Indiana and she and my Grandma were best friends. I often talked to Darlene, Vada’s daughter, and she always remembered how close they were.
Despite living in Indiana, my Grandma still found a way to go back to Pennsylvania and visit her family. She was very close to her family. Her mom, Margaret Wise and brother, Charles Edward “Eddie” Morgart lived in Pennsylvania, but she would also head up to Detroit Michigan to visit with her older sister, Virginia. (Below are photos from 1940 of my Grandma, her with her brother-in-law, Joe Dipko, and lastly one of her and her sister, Virginia).
My Daddy Makes 3
On 11 January 1943 my dad was born. My Grandma was so happy to have a little one, and my dad was her only child. They were still living in Gary, Indiana when he came along, and since World War 2 was taking place, amongst the photographs was the ration book that was used for my dad.
In the 1950’s my grandparents moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio. Initially they lived in a trailer but by 1955 they had money to move into a house. My Grandma had never been so proud of a house as the one she made her home. I couldn’t tell you how many photos she had of her house on Roslyn Avenue. That’s her standing in the door below. (She lived here the rest of her life).
My favorite was the photo she had of how there was nothing in the yard so my Grandfather, aka Pappy, decided to grow ears of corn in front of the living room window (however I am not finding that photo at the moment).
Another story of how they found their house was that as long as my Grandma could walk to a store she was going to be happy (she didn’t drive, apparently when she was younger a suitor attempted to teach her but she ran off the road and never got in the driver seat again). Pappy did well, he found a home for her and my parents got her a shopping cart that she could push her groceries home. She was also a master of coupons, and this was before couponing was a thing (or at least before I knew couponing was a thing).
As She Grew Older
My Grandma always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She loved birds and family. The below photo I shared before. My Grandma and Pappy (right side) are playing with their bird, Skippy #1, while my Grandma’s mom, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, is laughing along with them, and Bertha Childers, Leroy’s mom, is just as grumpy as can be.
My Grandma was one of the most generous people I knew. During the summer months she would get up super early in the morning and go to a lady’s home, Mrs. Juhas was her name, she was the mom of one of my dad’s best friends growing up, and she would help her in her garden. She shared green beans and tomatoes with my grandma as payment (though we use to go over weekly for my dad to help my Grandma with a very small garden she had in her backyard). Until my Grandma got macular degeneration and could no longer can green beans, which was around 1997, I’d never had green beans in an aluminum can until about the year 2000.
Leroy/Pappy died on 14 May 1975 so I don’t really have any recollection of him (I was born in 1973). But Grandma went everywhere with us. She spent the night before Christmas so she was there to watch us open our presents. She was always invited over to functions on my mom’s side of the family (she was 1 of 5 kids so there was always something going on). My husband for the longest time didn’t believe this, especially when I began having trouble going places after my Grandma passed. I realized Grandma was who I sat with at these functions so I could entertain her, and frankly so she could entertain me (I’m quite the introvert at times). But after my maternal grandma passed, my aunt gave us a bunch of photos that we were in that she had, in every photo was my Grandma Blair beside me. I laughed so hard to prove my husband wrong.
When She Turned 93
The last six weeks of my Grandma’s life were not the best. She had gotten a case of shingles on her legs and didn’t tell anyone. It got into her bloodstream and made her pretty sick and she ended up in the hospital. This is where she was on her 93rd birthday. I remember my dad and I going to visit her on her big day, 2 April 2007.
From there she was moved into a nursing home not far from my house to go through therapy so she could walk and move around again. I would go and visit her often and slowly her appetite was decreasing. My husband made her sweet potatoes and it was the last solid food she ate. About a week later, I did what I didn’t want to do, which was tell her it was okay if she wanted to go “home”.
I’ve hated myself for 13 years for doing that. I know it’s what she needed, I know it was probably the right thing to do, but a selfish part of me hates myself for doing it because my kids never got to know her. My son was 7 months old and my daughter just 3 years. She has vague recollections, but that’s it.
But the thing is my kids have gotten to know her. I’ve shared with them all the wonderful stories I have of my Grandma Blair. Just today I told my daughter of the time when my Grandma was watching my sister and I in 1976 after my cousin Tracy was born. My mom helped drive my Aunt Barb to Texas to be with my Uncle who was in the Air Force. Aunt Barb had been in my room so I was staying in Kellie’s room on bunk beds. My sister had finally let me up on the top bunk and very quickly she decided I had overstayed my welcome. She went to take me off the top bunk by force but I quickly pushed her off the top bunk and on to the floor. My Grandma came back to see what was wrong, there was me on the top bunk and there was Kellie on the floor. My Grandma reached up for me and told me it was time to leave Kellie alone. As Kellie cried Grandma just told her that she would be okay and to get up off the floor. I really dodged a bullet that day. Don’t worry, some day I’m sure you’ll hear part 1 of this story when Kellie dragged me around the walls of the living room by my feet giving me rug burn (there is no love loss between my sister and I, even to this day).
A little over 2 years ago as I sat at a band concert with my mom, I can’t even remember what we were talking about but my mom looked at me and said that every day I reminded her of more and more of my Grandma Blair. It was the greatest compliment she could have ever given me. And sadly she (my mom) passed away a few weeks later, so I’m glad she said it when she did.
As most of the world is resigned to stay home and be in isolation, I finally have found my genealogy groove. And though I normally try to partake in Amy Johnson Crow’s fabulous challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks, I find myself struggling with the recent week’s prompts. So I think I’ll focus on a specific surname in my family, and I’ve chosen the Warner’s (I suddenly have the Animaniac’s theme going through my head, if you have never watched this outstanding cartoon brought to us by Steven Spielberg you really should, I discovered it in college and it is one of the greatest animated shows ever, if I do say so myself). I figure this can be the first of many tributes to my Warner clan and could possibly get me to find out more about them.
Mazie Lorenia Warner
The last of my line of Warner’s was my great-great-grandmother Mazie Lorenia Warner. I know I’ve spoken of Mazie before because she is one of my favorite relatives on my mother’s side of the family. She was born on 21 July 1877 to Winfield Warner and his wife, Orienta Gustin in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She had 3-sisters: Cymanthia Lencretia, Jeanette, and Catherine “Cassie” Belle.
Mazie was one of my first successfully solved puzzles. Just getting her name correct was one of my first obstacles as every document I found seemed to be something different – Mazie, Magie, Daysa (still trying to figure that last one out), but then my mom clarified it all for me (she was going off memory as Mazie passed away 2 years before my mom was born).
Mazie married my great-great-grandfather, Arthur James Dunbar on 2 Jan 1894. To this marriage came 4-children with the 3-girls surviving: Myrtle Iona, Merle Winfield (he passed away at 8 months), Ina Mae and Mildred Laura (she is my great-grandmother).
On 18 Dec 1912 Arthur died of polio (adult onset). A few years later Mazie married a second time to Samuel Randol, in 1916 they moved to Ohio and this is how this portion of my family settled in Akron. Oddly enough the area of Akron where they settled is not far at all from where I live with my own family.
Mazie and Samuel had a son, Richard LeHoty, but he passed away when he was 5-months old.
Because my library (Akron Summit County Public Library) has digitized the local city directories, I have been able to follow where Mazie and Samuel lived from 1916 until Mazie passed away in 1945. Mazie has come across as a loving soul, always taking her daughters in when their marriages failed (or at least that is how I assume her to be as my own great-grandmother returned home more than once and Mazie even let her and her third husband live with them for a bit when they first got married while I assume they saved up for a house – I have nothing to confirm these stories because my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have all passed).
At one point in time Samuel and Mazie ran a store on Howard Street, and I believe it was called SJ Randol’s according to the 1924 city directory, and back in the 1920’s Howard Street was the place to be. According to a lady my parents’ were guardian’s of, Clara Mueller, she claimed that you could find things at the shops on Howard Street that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Samuel passed away on 16 Oct 1938 in Decatur, Illinois. He was a truck driver and wasn’t feeling well and passed away after he had been “ill for a week over a complication of diseases” according to the 17 Oct 1938 edition of the Decatur Herald. This made me sad to learn of Samuel’s death. The 1937 City Directory is the first where my great-grandmother, her husband and my grandmother finally moved into their own home, which gave Mazie and Samuel basically 1-2 years to finally enjoy life together.
Mazie continued to live alone until 1943 where she moved in to her old house which is where her daughter, Ina lived with her second husband, Ralph, and her daughter, Almeda. She passed away there on 19 May 1945.
I drive down Howard Street every day when I go to and from work and I look to the spot where the store stood that Mazie and Samuel ran. I look to the abandoned lot with just a very slight portion of a brick wall standing that would most likely been the back of their store, and wonder what it would have been like to know her, if she ever looks down on me and is happy to know that I am making sure my family doesn’t forget her and her legacy.
For week 11’s prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “Luck”. It made me think of the story of my maternal great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone Fairhurst, and how she came to America from jolly old England. Or I guess I should say how she was suppose to come over.
According to my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, he told me on more than one occasion that his mother was suppose to come over on the RMS Titanic. She wasn’t feeling good so she opted to stay home and not come to America on the ill-fated ship. I was going to say what great luck that she wasn’t feeling well, especially since my grandfather wasn’t born until ten years later (he was born in Ohio in 1922).
But tonight after doing my due diligence, like looking to see when the Titanic set sail (why do I keep thinking it was 1914???), it was April 15, 1912. I’m thinking the story is an old wives tale as my great-grandmother had 2 children in England before settling in Ohio. Elsie was born in November 1912 and Wilfred was born in July 1914.
My great-grandfather, James Fairhurst, came over to the United States on the ship Mauretania and arrived in New York on 8 December 1913. Unless of course as a couple James Fairhurst and Phoebe Boone were to arrive initially together.
Trouble is every time my grandfather told the story, he spoke only of his mother. Which makes me go back to the conclusion that this was just an old wives tale.
For this week’s topic in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks by Amy Johnson Crow, it’s “Strong Woman” and from when I first discovered what were to me secret’s of my maternal great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, she is the first person who popped into my head for this week’s challenge.
My First Big Discovery
When I began working on my family tree 3.5 years ago, one of the first things I found at the library using Ancestry Library Edition was that my great-grandmother had been married not once, not twice, but three times in six years time.
Now I will confess, this particular great-grandmother passed away when I was 8, almost 9-years-old and so I knew her but never had any chance to ask questions and get to KNOW her (though I do have great memories of her babysitting me often). When my mother would speak of her, it was as if she were a saint and could do no wrong.
So when I came home with my finds to tell my mother about how Mildred had been married 3 times, needless to say it didn’t go over too big. Since my mother died my father has told me he is fairly positive my mother knew of my grandmother’s 3 marriages (we knew of 2) but because my mother had put her grandmother on such a pedestal, it was something she didn’t really want to speak of, and so we didn’t.
But it all depends on your outlook on things. My mother was a person who saw things in black and white. You either saw things her way, or the wrong way. There were no shades of gray. And this can be related towards my great-grandmother. Some could look at her three marriages as very taboo – but to me when you hear the reasons for her divorces, I look at her as a very strong woman.
Mildred Laura Dunbar
Mildred Laura Dunbar was born on 15 March 1908 to Arthur James Dunbar (who died in 1912 of polio), and Mazie Lorena Warner in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Potter County. In 1916, Mazie had remarried and she and her new husband, Samuel Randol, along with 2 of her daughters from her first marriage, moved to Akron, Ohio (her third daughtder, my great-great-aunt Myrtle married in 1914 and lived in Elmira, New York).
The Randol’s and Dunbar’s settled in the North Hill section of Akron (not far from where I live today) when my grandmother was 8 years old. When Mildred was about 17 (going off the dates of the 1925 Akron City Directories) the Geer family moved onto her street. Paul Harrison Geer would have been 20 years old when he moved in next door, and the romantic in me likes to think he was her first love (I have no actual proof he was).
My great-grandmother married Paul Geer on 17 September 1927. The marriage, however, did not last long, with my great-grandmother filing for divorce 15 January 1929 for gross neglect, he apparently liked to gamble and visit houses of ill-repute. The divorce was final on 5 September 1929.
On 30 September 1929 Mildred married for the 2nd time, to Albert Nank. Three days later, Alberta Lou Nank was born but in 1933 she (Mildred) was once again filing for divorce from Albert for gross neglect, extreme cruelty and his aversion to do an honest days work (can I just say I love old-time divorce records). This marriage was final on 27 May 1933.
On 5 August 1933 Mildred married her final time to Howard Fleming. She had 2-sons with him and was married to him until he passed away at age 63 in 1972. My great-grandma passed away 10 years later at age 73.
Where my mother may have been ashamed of my great-grandmother’s situation, I myself see a strong woman. Women didn’t get divorced from men who weren’t treating them well in the 1920’s and 1930’s, let alone twice! This just wasn’t done, so for her to stand up for herself, in my world, is incredible.
If you are interested in learning more about Mildred’s story, I wrote up the results of my DNA test which revolved around Mildred, Albert, and my grandmother. Click here for my post from last September, I Took a DNA Test & Figured Out a Mystery.
I’ll admit I’m a week behind for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge of 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks but I’ll confess, I was busy reading and hadn’t paid much attention (will hang my head in shame). But I’m back for those who like to peruse my posts as this disaster always brings tears to my eyes.
25 March 1939
Ever since I discovered this fire a few years back, this date is now so ingrained in my brain I can’t help but remember it. On this day almost 81 years ago, my great-great-uncle and his wife, Charles and Ethel Childers, decided to take a trip to the store, leaving their children in the care of their older brothers. The brothers had gone fishing, and Eva, who was 9 at the time, began getting dinner started. When she put the kerosene in the stove, it spilled and caused the oven to explode. Eva ran outside, rolled around on the ground to extinguish the flames then ran more than a mile to the nearest neighbor for help. From there she was taken to the hospital where she died.
By the time the neighbor made it to the house, the entire home was gone. 2-year old Ralph Childers died as he was upstairs napping and was unable to be saved.
Other children did get burns on their hands as they tried to put out the flames on Eva before she rolled on the ground.
The Newspaper Article – Altoona Mirror 27 Mar 1939
Eva & Ralph
I tried to find Eva & Ralph’s graves when I went back to Pennsylvania last summer. I found their parent’s and their older brother but there was no grave marker for the two who had perished in that horrible fire. My husband pointed to a plot of land that dipped down next to Charles and Ethel’s grave, stating they were most likely there (along with the other 3 young ones who passed, Orval, Phyllis and Denney).
I was surprised at how this fire has been exaggerated when you read about it on public family trees on Ancestry. Because overall Charles and Ethel Childers had 3 other children pass away young (poor nutrition) many have poorly assumed they died in this fire. Just 2, but in my world these 2 were too many.
My Own Bad Attitude
I know it’s a different time and place but I couldn’t imagine going off to go shopping and leaving my kids alone in the care of their brothers. I know they didn’t know their older boys would go off fishing, and I know girls at age 9 often did the cooking for the family back then, but I look at my own daughter and never would have dreamed her cook a meal at the age of 9 (she hasn’t offered and she just turned 16).
For a long while I use to refer to Charles and Ethel sarcastically as the “greatest parents in the world”. At the time that Eva and Ralph died in the fire, Ethel was pregnant. Her daughter Phyllis Fern was born 30 May 1939 and ended up passing away on 10 October 1939 of Malnutrition. The same happened with a son who was born 9 August 1944, dying on 7 December 1944.
How I’ve Come Around
After realizing that Ethel had other issues, I’m wondering if after having lost her children in a fire, if she was also dealing with post partum depression on top of regular depression. Various newspaper articles have reported her being in the hospital herself within a month of her babies passing. Where I use to be quite judgmental of the couple, especially Ethel, I find myself compromising that there was more going on with her situation than meets the eye. I probably wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if something happened to my children, and its so nice we have other options in this day and age if our children aren’t getting the nutrients they need there is now formula. I know my own mother had issues with my older sister and she had to switch when my sister was very young. She never even tried, she just formula fed me.
But there is also birth control, and I think that in a nutshell may have helped Ethel a bit. No one acknowledged post partum depression in the 1920’s through the 1940’s, and it appears she was quite fertile and that probably didn’t help her mentally either. And with depression getting such a bad reputation back in the day she was probably fearful of being placed in an asylum.
I’m quite happy things have changed in the 81 years since this fire. Kerosene isn’t a regular way of cooking inside a home anymore. More safety precautions are in place and going to the store isn’t an all day excursion (well, depending on what you are looking for). But everyday more and more is being done for mental health.
As for Eva and Ralph – may their souls still rest in peace.
So for a while now I’ve been on the fence about taking a DNA test. I became even more curious about 18 months ago when my mother-in-law got my husband one for his birthday. It took him a while to finally take the test (I came home from an Evening of Genealogy at the library where I saw a mutual friend and Sandy advised he had better do it as it’s possible that it had an expiration date). So he did and though his tree was limited it was fascinating to see his ethnicity estimate and the DNA matches he had.
So ever since then, I’d been on a teeter-totter, half wanting to take a test and half afraid like so many others about big brother finding me (though I’m not sure exactly why). But this past Fourth of July convinced me to take a test when I went and spent the day with my mom’s side of the family at my cousin’s house and my aunt told me offhandedly “You know there is a chance that who you think is mom’s dad isn’t”. Her reference to mom was my maternal grandmother.
Now, if you are any sort of genealogist you know what I am thinking at this point. This person, we’ll call him hubby #2, who I have listed as my great-grandfather, because that’s what my grandmother’s birth certificate states, who I’ve spent hours researching, hoping to make sense of why he ignored her, even as an adult… may not be my great-grandfather?
The DNA Test
On this day AncestryDNA was on sale and it was the last day of the sale. At 11:51pm I purchased my kit and just had to wait.
The following Wednesday the kit arrived in the mail. I was ready – I came home, spit in the vial and boxed it up and by 8:30am the next day, it was at the post office being mailed. The following Monday as my husband and I went cemetery hopping, I got the email stating that it had arrived at the testing facility, and by Friday, July 26 I had my results.
84% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe
12% Ireland & Scotland
Well, if nothing else the ethnicity estimate summed up why my skin coloring is so pasty white (I’m fair – like I was wearing a black dress and black flats the other day and you’d think I had on white tights pale).
But one over the course of the next week and a half that I figured out was missing were matches to any of hubby #2’s surnames. So I guess what my Great-Great-Aunt Ina stated after my great-grandmother’s funeral was correct – hubby #2 wasn’t my grandmother’s dad.
But who was?
The Search is On
So a week or so passed and one evening I sat in my recliner and decided to just focus on the third cousins who make up my DNA matches and put them in the categories of my ancestors: Blair/Foster’s; Childers/Fesler’s; Ritchey/Cypher’s – you get my point. But there was a name that kept popping up – so I decided to focus on it.
So I pulled up the 1930 census to see if there were any “V’s” living in the vicinity of my great-grandmother (her name was Mildred) as I knew she lived in the realm as I now live, an area called North Hill. Sadly by the 1930 census, she is living with her second husband in Cuyahoga Falls (FYI – my grandmother, was born in 1929).
When I didn’t find the information I was looking for in the census, I decided to look up the “V’s” in the 1930 City Directory. There I found a “V” who was a lawyer with an office at a main intersection in the area. I had seen his name on a family tree of one of my “matches” and he was in my great-grandmother’s age range, but as odd as it was I saw another “V” who lived just a few blocks from where I live now listed and I decided to further investigate.
I threw this second “V” into Ancestry and found him right away. He was 89 in 1930 and my Great-Grandmother would have been 22 – I hoped he wasn’t who I was looking for. I looked to see if he had a son, he did, so I clicked to see some information about him, wondering if he was married or had children because they would probably be Mildred’s age (she was born in 1908 – he passed away in 1906). When I clicked on the link to Find A Grave, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a photo of a tombstone of 89-year-old “V”, his son, wife, and daughter. But was most surprising was that the daughter’s last name rang bells in my head… it was the same last name as my great-grandmother, Mildred’s, hubby #1!!!
Mildred’s divorce from hubby #1 was final on September 5, 1929. She married hubby #2 on September 29 and my grandmother was born prematurely on October 2. With all the DNA matches to the “V’s” this made total sense. What further proved my hypothesis was the following photos. The first is the obituary photo from the February 28, 1994 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal of hubby #1 while the other is a photo of my Grandmother I believe taken in the 1990s.
It’s the same nose and the same high cheekbones. If hubby #1 isn’t her father, I need to find out who in his family is (but I do have matches to both “V’s and “G’s”, I just have to go up to my 4x great-grandparents on the “G” side).
Sharing the News
I was so excited when I discovered all this. I quickly got on Facebook and shared what I found with my Aunt who began this whole mystery for me. I was surprised she was still up at 11pm.
All my research of hubby #2 and his family wasn’t a total loss. In the end, he was still my great-grandmother’s second husband. I’ve just disconnected him as the father of my grandmother and now have hubby #1 in that place (he was already listed in my program as well).
I’ll admit I was happy to find out her first husband was my grandmother’s dad. I considered my great-grandmother a strong woman for divorcing him in the late 1920s and then hubby #2 in the early 1930s because they weren’t the men she deserved. But the thought of someone else intermingled didn’t exactly thrill me either.
My great-grandmother had reasons for divorcing hubby #1, he was apparently gambling their money away.
Hubby #1 didn’t get married a second time until 1939, 10 years after his divorce with my great-grandmother was final. He was married to his second wife until he passed in 1984. I like to think in those 10 years he grew up. From the comments on his second wife’s obituary, they were both wonderful people who everyone seemed to love. This makes me feel good.
Then again, who is going to go onto a website and say how awful someone was? Well, at least not on an obituary site (I hope not anyhow).
What I am still puzzled about was there was a point in my grandmother’s marriage to my grandfather where he forced her to go meet her dad, hubby #2. The entire visit he did nothing but ignore her. Not one word was said. I’ve heard that story from different people and it’s the same. I can’t believe he would be so mean to my grandmother. My guess is that he knew she wasn’t his. He noted on other documents I found that he had no children. This is fine. But why not just tell her when she was an adult visiting him? Why keep quiet? At this time what was to be gained?
My Aunt commented to me it just goes to show how much Mildred wanted out of her marriage that she didn’twant to risk hubby #1 finding out he had a child. But it makes me wonder if everyone’s life would have changed had they known? Maybe he would have straightened up earlier?
Or maybe he did know?
Ninety years later, we will never know.
* I’ve used the simplistic codenames of hubby #1, hubby #2, and hubby #3 in regard to my great-grandmother’s husbands for the simple fact that hubby #1 was remarried and has a daughter. At this time I am mulling over whether I should contact her, but since to my knowledge she is unaware I thought I’d respect her privacy, so no names. I know she could do a search of her dad’s photo and find out, but I’m also DNA matches with her relatives so there is that chance she may find out anyhow (or who knows, maybe she is a match). One of my matches was actually a girl I went to school with, who is semi-related to my friend’s husband and I believe she has been told (I was excited to share my story with someone interested in genealogy having no clue her hubby was related to them). Maybe one day I’ll add the picture of the headstone that tied everything together.