Everyone feels out of place at times. I know I always do and even now when finding relatives through genealogy I find my portion of the Blair family “out of place”.
Most everyone else still lives in Pennsylvania while my grandfather, Leroy Blair, received an apprenticeship in Gary, Indiana, for the sheet metal trade. So, my little section of the family (and it is small compared to others as my dad was an only child) isn’t included in a lot of functions as others are.
My dad also notes when telling stories, that his grandmother, Bertha Childers, often treated him differently than the others simply because she didn’t see him as often as her other grandchildren, as even after his apprenticeship was over my grandparents moved to Akron, Ohio, never returning to Pennsylvania to live (only to visit).
For week 2 of the genealogical writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the prompt is favorite photo. One of my favorites (as this is a theme every year it’s fortunate we have so many photos to love) is a photo of my dad. He received a camera for Christmas in 1956 and according to the note on the back from my grandma (Anna Maria Morgart), he was taking a picture and it “exploded” and accidentally took a picture of himself. I like to joke it’s the world’s first selfie.
When I saw the prompt for Week 1 of the 2023 version of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks by Amy Johnson Crow, one thought jumped into my head, but alas, I wrote about that in my 2021 Week 26 Conflict post. Then there are all the usual suspects… Andrew Blair, Suzanna Akers, Mazie Warner… to name a few off the top of my head. And then it hit me, a man I’ve been curious about, a man who got his name in the newspaper for not necessarily the best of reasons (can you say moonshine?), so for this the first week of 2023 I will write about my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise as a person I’d like to meet.
This is a photo of my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise. He just looks to me like a very nice man. I don’t recall too many stories about him from my Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) as he had already passed away before she was born. The one story I do remember was when my Grandma mentioned his marriage to Anna Maria Leighty, there was an age difference, it was probably not as much as she may have been thinking, Anna Maria was 4 years older than Jonas, but there is an age difference with my husband and I, and when I first began being interested in him, my Grandma likened it to their relationship, showing that even when the woman was older, the marriage could work. (She also went on to say that since women live longer than men, not sure if this is true, but it was in her world as she, her mother, and her granny all lived longer than their husbands by a good twenty years), she was optimistic that my husband and I may die at the same time. Only time will tell.
Jonas Wise was born 3 March 1855 to Philip Wise and Barbara Waite in Liberty, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the 6th of 9 known children, the others being Elvina, William, John, Sarah, Margaret, Henry, Emmanual, and Mary Ann. In the 1850 Census Phillp was listed as a farmer but 10 years later in the 1860 and 1870 Censuses he is a coal miner.
Jonas married Anna Maria Leighty around 1875 with their oldest child, Henry James, being born on 3 August 1876 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Jonas and Anna had a total of 14 children, with 10 dying at birth. Their next surviving child was Riley born 25 February 1885, then Mary Ann born 25 September 1888, Margaret Dora born 11 February 1891, and lastly Hannah born 14 March 1894 (I have no record of her death, and she is not listed on the 1900 Census so she must have passed away before the turn of the century).
Living on the Edge
In the 1880 Census Jonas’ occupation was listed as Coal Miner, in 1900 he was a day laborer, and then in 1910 a woodchopper. But along with mining, day laboring, and chopping wood, Jonas Wise had a side gig. He made his own liquor and got caught selling it.
But he wasn’t caught just once, he was caught multiple times. And there is nothing like having a headline of “Whiskey Dealers in Trouble” and the first individual mentioned is your ancestor.
The offense in Huntingdon County was actually written up in a variety of local newspapers. I’m sure that made my great-great-grandmother a happy woman.
What Would I Ask Him?
One of the first questions I’d ask would be how did he become deaf? Or was he deaf his entire life? It’s not noted on any census over the years, but it was noted on the bottom of a photo that my 1st cousin once removed, Hope Dipko, had at her home. (Someone left the photo behind at a Wise Family Reunion she had attended one year).
I suppose I’d ask if making hard cider was worth the fines and jail time he often endured when he was caught? Was he caught more often than what was printed in the newspapers? I’d almost like to give him a glimpse into the future of the home brewing people do of beers and such now and wonder how impressed he would be?
I wonder what he would think about his daughter, Margaret Dora “Maggie”, living to be 96 years old when he only lived to be 57? (He died of pneumonia on 12 January 1913). I’d ask him the question I’d also like to ask his wife, was George Mullen her son (and his stepson)? She is listed as his mother sorta on his marriage license (I say sorta as it’s the wrong name but I’m guessing that is who he means – it’s Martha Wise with the father’s name unknown), and she is who he was living with in her later years, and it’s alluded to on the above photo.
And lastly, I’d ask him for any advice for me as I enter my 50’s this year. It would be interesting to find out what information would be the same and also that which would be entirely different from the changes in technology and just life in general over the past 100 years.
If you would like to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks genealogical writing challenge click here. It’s fun to take the time to write about your ancestors that you research, and you don’t have to do it each and every week.
For the final month of 2023 the prompt is “New Horizons”. The first person who popped into my head is a relative who is not a direct ancestor for myself, but someone I’ve been curious about learning more about. Her name is Rachel Snell Morgart, she is the younger sister of my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart. She was born in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania and made her way to North Dakota to teach.
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was named after her father’s older sister, Rachel Morgart, who married William Snell. Rachel was the 8th of 10 children to her parents, her siblings including Katherine Amanda, George Washington, Mary Elizabeth, Rebecca Jane, Arabelle, James Henry, Sarah Ellen, William Baltzer, and Ida Florence.
When Rachel was just 7 years old, her father died 19 August 1870.
Not much is written about Rachel in the newspapers to find out what her life was like after her father died. I did find an article from 13 September 1881 stating that she scored a 91 3-5 attending the Prof Bachtel English and Classical Institute.
I then decided to find out what kind of school this Institute was, and so I found this, and it may have been a similar article in the newspaper that convinced Rachel to attend.
The other puzzle is how Rachel ended up undergoing instruction in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and ending up in North Dakota as the next document I can find her in is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census where she is listed as a teacher. In the 11 April 1883 the Everett Press lists how they had received a copy of the North Dakota version of the Daily Minnesota Tribune to review. I tried to see if this was a part of Newspapers.com or even Genealogybank.com but I did not find the newspaper listed. I was curious to see if there was any sort of advertisement for teachers.
By continuing to use newspapers I was able to discover that Rachel taught at the Ypsilanti and Montpelier schools in what was originally the Dakota Territory as North Dakota did not become a state until 1889. I found her with the following timeline:
1885 – Listed on the Dakota Territory 1885 Census
1886 – Teaching at Ypsilanti
1887 – Teaching at Montpelier School #5
1888 – Teaching at Montpelier School #2 (she had 15 students)
In the Dakota Territory school began in late April and went for 6 months. In some winters Rachel attended the Valley City Normal School for additional instruction, in the winter of 1887 she returned to Pennsylvania and visited with her family.
Marriage & Family
On 31 July 1895 Rachel Snell Morgart married Daniel Halfpenny.
After getting married children came, daughters to be exact, 4 of them over the course of 10 years. First was Dorothy Evangeline who was born 8 June 1896, then Ruth Morgart born 1 April 1901, and finally twins born on 7 May 1906 Margaret Rebecca and Mary Kathryn.
All 4 girls took on teaching as their vocation at some point in their lives. Ruth Morgart and Mary Kathryn lived their entire lives in the North Dakota area, (Mary Kathryn actually lived her final years in Montana). Dorothy Evangeline and Margaret Rebecca both ended up moving to the San Diego area.
Reverend Daniel Halfpenny died on 21 January 1928 at the age of 75. Within 10 years on 29 September 1937 his bride would die from injuries she sustained in a car accident earlier in the month when her back broke in two places.
Ever since I discovered a couple of years ago from a distant cousin who descended from Rachel Snell Morgart of her journey, she has intrigued me. I wish I had more information in regard to her move to North Dakota, it amazes me that no newspaper was impressed with her moving across the country. I tried to see if she had any siblings that may have gone that way and maybe she tagged along, but that is not the case. Her brother, William Baltzer, does end up settling in Idaho, but was living in West Virginia in the 1880’s when Rachel moved to North Dakota. Such gumption she had to do such a thing. And it was a decade before she married, simply amazing!
Did you have any sort of “pioneers” in your family tree? If you do I’d love to know where they went, and if they didn’t go anywhere, maybe they did something that made them a pioneer. Share your ancestor in the comments.
In the past year, John Andrew Akers has popped up on Thrulines as a potential father for one of my favorite brick walls, Suzanna Akers. I have even had John Andrew Akers written down on a piece of paper and looked into him a few times myself but never felt I had enough information to officially list him as my 4th-great-grandfather (I really try to be quite thorough when working on my tree and not just plop people down).
Anyhow, I’ve opted to take the time to do some in-depth research to try to come to some sort of conclusion about whether John Andrew Akers is truly the father of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Suzanna Akers.
What is Thrulines?
For those of you who are not familiar with AncestryDNA, I will enlighten you on what Thrulines is. Thrulines is a DNA tool that uses both your DNA matches and the family trees of your matches to create a view of who your ancestors may be.
A key point of Thrulines is that it is only as accurate as your matches trees.
See how important that statement above is? I bolded it because it’s the piece of the puzzle that many don’t realize. If your distant relative has just plopped information down that they have taken randomly from hints or other peoples trees, their family tree may not be accurate, which would then lead to a false identity on Thrulines.
This is why I am going to do an examination of John Andrew Akers, so I can discover if he is in fact Susanna’s dad. For some reason I don’t recall finding a census for him that would have a female of the correct age for him and that is why I wasn’t willing to think he was my guy. Or maybe he did and other trees that I saw had females listed for the age leaving no room for Susanna. But maybe they were wrong. At the time I did not take the time to do a research plan on him. Today is a different day and I’m up for the challenge.
One last thing about Thrulines. I presently have 28 DNA matches on Thrulines claiming John Andrew Akers is my 4th-great-grandfather. We shall see.
The Research Plan
In an effort to keep myself on track, I’ve created a research plan. Here is what I have down. It’s very rough and may evolve as I go along and that’s okay. It’s 8:30am on a Wednesday and so my mind may not be as technical sounding as I should (especially when I have to head into work here in about 10 minutes). But here is my start. I created a table in Word (I took a screenshot so my nicely bolded header is not so bold). I literally have no information on John Andrew Akers so I’m starting from scratch. This could be very difficult because I know these are dealing with census records from before 1850 so I will not find a lot of good information like you do post-1850. But you have to start somewhere.
I began seeking using Thrulines to come up with a birth and death date and created a family tree on Ancestry that I made private so I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking to heart what I may or may not find. I really am not wanting to offend anyone in my search because I am having difficulty believing people who suddenly think this man is their relative. I should note one key piece of evidence with Suzanna: with as little documentation that I have on her, one fact is consistent on all the censuses I have for her – she always has a birth date of 1826. Andrew Blair’s age is all over the place, but Suzanna is consistently 1826. Here is my list of events in my Legacy Family Tree Software for Suzanna and she is listed being 24, 34, 44, and 54 for each census I have for her (1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880).
Like most everyone else when doing my family history, I opted to go backwards in time. On Ancestry there was an inventory listed as a hint that would correspond with John Akers death date of 4 January 1866. Finding this inventory leads me to believe that John Akers died intestate, so this should be easier than I thought, as I should just find the probate record because all heirs should be listed in the record if he died without a will.
And I found just that, his daughter, Lucretia, petitioned the court and all his children are listed, along with his widow.
As you can tell in the snippet of the record above, no Suzanna is not listed. And I have census records from 1870 and 1880 to prove she was still alive when John Akers passed away in January 1866. In case you are unable to read what I have shown, the name of John Akers children are: Lucretia, Ann, Matilda, Joshua B., John Thomas, and Erastus J (with John and Erastus being deceased when their father died).
The DNA Matches
It’s interesting, once I began writing this blog post (which I thought was going to take me longer than it did) I thought I was going to have this in-depth research plan all documented, never realizing the intestate probate record was the key to everything (thank you Susan Monson for your fabulous Family Tree Webinar “No Will, No Problem” which really brought the entire intestate process to light for me). Anyhow, after working on this for a day or so John Andrew Akers was no longer coming up named on my Thrulines, but as an “Unknown” person was. I didn’t know if this had anything to do with the private Akers tree I created for this project if it would have thrown confusion to my algorithm (I doubt that would do THAT much), I stand corrected, I deleted the tree a few hours ago and he is back on my Thrulines. At least I now know without a doubt that John Andrew Akers is NOT my 4th-great-grandfather.
As for the DNA match, as I looked more closely, most of the matches I had for John Andrew Akers were the same matches that I have for Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers, all but 1, and he is also a match with my Morgart-Ritchey line so he could actually be related to these Akers where I am not.
The Finished Research Plan
As a genealogist who always wants to do things correctly I can honestly say I’m so glad I took the few minutes (because it really only took a couple of minutes) to type up this research plan in Word using tables. It really helped me stay focused on the objectives I was seeking. And a few times when I began to make things more difficult for myself in my head (as I am often my own worse enemy) this research plan really helped me stay calm and carry on (to steal a quote from a very popular meme).
I have many more Akers to go through to try and figure out who Suzanna’s parents are. One day I’ll find them.
Today I’m going to introduce you to my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler, who was born 175 years ago today! Her life was not an easy one, as her “Find a Grave” article states, her marriage was “troubled”.
According to her death certificate (I know, a secondary source, but it’s the only record I have that states her birthday), Sarah Jane Fesler was born on 17 Nov 1847 to George Fesler and Mary Elizabeth Oakman in Wells Tannery, Pennsylvania, a township in what was then Bedford County (it became a part of Fulton County less than 3 years later). Sarah was the oldest of 10 children born to her parents. Her siblings were John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James, Rebecca May, Margaret, Frances, George Henry, Jr., William, and Lillie May.
Sarah’s dad, George Fesler, had a variety of vocations over the years. In the 1850 Census he was listed as a laborer, in 1860 a farmer, in 1870 and 1880 a Stone Mason, then back to being a farmer again in 1900 and 1910.
In the 1860 Census, Abraham Childers and George Fesler’s families are listed on the same page, with just 4-families between them, so they lived in the same area of Fulton County. This would be my best knowledgeable guess at how Sarah Jane Fesler met Randall Childers. The word “troubled” seems to be a regular recurring word when it comes to their marriage. They had a total of 9 children over the course of 28 years (with Sarah being just 18 when Mary Etta Childers was born in 1865, possibly 1867).
According to Randall’s Civil War Pension file, Randall and Sarah were married on 22 February 1866. Randall would have just returned from fighting for the Union in the Civil War where he went in as a Private in 1861 and came out a Corporal, mustering out in Victoria, Texas on 25 September 1865. Randall did take a furlough from the Army in 1864 to see his elderly parents according to his Civil War pension file, I can only assume that he and Sarah must have spent some time together if Mary Etta’s date of birth really was 4 February 1865, however Randall’s pension file states Mary was born in 1867.
By 1870 their oldest son, George Harry Childers was born on 30 December 1868 but the 1870 Census can make you scratch your head as Sarah is listed as “Jane”, age 21, the wife of Randall Childers on page 10 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census dated 9 June 1870, but on page 12 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census, “Sarah J” is listed as a child of George Fesler, age 23.
Sarah is listed as “wife” with Randall in the 1880 Census. By this time, they have had 5 of their 9 children (all their children’s names are Mary, George, Abraham, Jennie, William, Elizabeth, Bertha, Bessie, and Charley). Randall came out of the War with health issues, with repeated references to “disease of the testicles (as a result of mumps), chronic diarrhea, and malarial poisoning, and due to these lingering ailments that he obtained during the war, he began requesting a pension around 1870.
But through the wonders of newspapers you can find out little details about your ancestors lives, and one such article lets me know that Sarah stayed in contact with her dad throughout the years as she apparently stayed the weekend with him in 1902 with her daughter (my guess is that she went with Bessie).
Sarah and Randall stayed together until according to his pension record, he left Pennsylvania in 1904 and first moved to Goldsboro, Maryland, and then in 1906 to moved to Lenoir City, Loudon County, Tennessee, where he lived for the rest of his days.
While Randall moved out of state and on with his life, I imagine life was a whole lot different for Sarah. She was left with all the world to know that she had been abandoned. While Randall was telling the government that she died in 1907 and getting remarried to Nanny Rocky, Sarah continued to live in a world wondering, like her children, where was Randall and was he ever coming home?
In the 1910 Census Sarah is living as the Head of Household in Tod Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, with her 3-sons (Harry, William, and Charley) all residing with her. In 1920 she has moved in with her youngest daughter, Bessie, and her family. The 1920 Census was taken on 14 January 1920 and Sarah died just 2 days later.
In her final years, Sarah had gotten ill with a sickness that seemed to linger.
I always feel sad when I read her obituary as she was still referenced as “Mrs. Randall Childers” even though he had left her some 16 years previously.
The cause of death for Sarah was chronic interstitial nephritis, which is when “the spaces between the kidney tubules become inflamed” (per Google). It could be caused by any number of autoimmune diseases that probably hadn’t been identified back before 1920, but explains why she had been ill for a few years.
Though Sarah is buried at the Wells Valley Cemetery across from the Methodist Church I was unable to find her grave specifically when I traveled there in 2019. I can only assume it is near her parents and siblings.
I wish I had more anecdotal stories about my 2nd-great-grandmother, instead of the rather sad tale of woe in relations to her life. She deserved to be loved, and it doesn’t seem like she had a lot of time to be happy due to her sick husband.
Today I am going to share with you my helper in my genealogy search. She was my first cousin once removed who I only think I ever met in person once when I was in second grade and long before I ever became enchanted with my family history. At that time, I was a girl who loved the Muppets and I showed her a really cool science experiment (that I sometimes still do to this day to be honest). In November 1980 when I had my tonsils taken out Darlene Reese Prosser got me “The Muppet Book” for me to peruse while recuperating. I did and then some. I’m fairly certain that book is up in my attic struggling to keep it together as the binding came completely apart. But I loved that book as it had so many of my favorite sketches in type and colored photos for me to remember (I was always fond of Veterinarians Hospital and Pigs in Space).
But it was Darlene I turned to when I was in college and began a slight interest in working on my family history. She had sent me copies of family group sheets she had on our shared ancestors of the Blair’s to help me get started. I held onto that envelope of merchandise and scanned them into my own records that I have a few years ago (she also sent me a hat of my dad’s she had taken and finally returned to him, it’s still in the same envelope, she apparently took said hat when they were kids. Darlene was 5 years older than my dad and they were both born in Gary, Indiana.
It was also Darlene I have turned to off and on from 2016-2020 while I became obsessed with researching my family tree. She had begun working on our tree back in the 1980’s when everything was done with letters or in person, talking to her was always the perfect food for thought for my own research as we would discuss people and it would really click sometimes and send me on a new adventure of trying to find Andrew and Suzanna (yes, she was stuck there, too). When her daughter sent me the gedcom of Darlene’s research I was so excited and was amazed we had almost all the same information at least people-wise.
But today I am going to share with you the story of what I know of Darlene Reese Prosser, my genealogy helper, who I wish was still here to guide me.
Darlene Reese was born 9 May 1937 at St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital in Gary, Lake, Indiana to Charles Randall Reese and Vada Blair (Vada was the oldest sister of my grandfather, Leroy Blair) at 2:07 am.
Darlene was the youngest child of her parents, following the birth of her older brother, Charles Blair Reese (more commonly known as Buddy) in 1929.
In the 1940 census, the Reese family was still living in Gary, Indiana where Charles was a mechanic and Vada a housewife.
I find it interesting that one of the photos my Grandma had of Darlene was from 1943 and I liked it so much that I put it in the header of my blog. I think she is so cute and just stands out amongst all the faces in my collage.
At some point in time between 1940 and 1950, Charles, Vada, and Darlene moved to Arizona where they ran a hotel on Buckeye Road in Phoenix. I asked Darlene’s daughter if she knew why they left Indiana and moved to Arizona and her reply was “Charles got disgusted with it raining for X days straight in Indiana and decided to move west. They intended to go to California but stopped in Phoenix and stayed. Maybe he figured it would never rain in a desert as opposed to living on the West coast”.
Her daughter also elaborated, “They gave her (Darlene) total freedom to be a kid. This included riding the bus alone to go downtown to movie theaters when she was young. She’d sit behind the driver, so no weirdo would bother her. If they followed her, she’d cross the street. If they were in the theater she’d move. I swear she must have had a guardian angel”.
More from her daughter: “Throughout her life, she got her way most of the time. She’d done exactly as she wished as a child, and she carried on doing exactly that until the end of her life. She also tried to make sure those she loved also got their way.
She was endlessly loving, but she also had a temper – and she let you know when you made her mad. She had no problem putting the words together to say exactly what you’d done wrong, what she thought of it, and why you should never so much as think about doing it again in the future”.
Meeting Robert Lee Prosser
One of the specific questions I’d asked her daughter was how her parents met, as Darlene got married to Robert Lee Prosser on 18 March 1956. “My parents both went to West High in Phoenix. He was a senior when she was a freshman, and she knew of him only because: 1) he played drums for the band at the school dances; 2) he was cute. The year after he graduated, he broke up with his girlfriend (a redhead, as my mother liked to point out) and then asked a mutual friend if he know of any “petite girls”. The friend thought of my mother because she was 5’2″ and maybe weighed 100 pounds.
The friend introduced the graduate to the sophomore, and that was that. They dated until she graduated and for months after that. My father spent a lot of time at my mother’s house, sleeping on their sofa, until my grandfather told her to marry the guy because he wanted his sofa back”.
Darlene’s daughter was not sure when they got engaged, “but I think it was after she’d graduated. She often went to Pennsylvania to her cousins in the summers. She told me she didn’t want to come back the last year she went because she knew she’d get married.
They never set a date for the wedding, Mom was still living at home and Dad at his mother’s when they were out on a double date one evening, and the other couple asked when Bob and Darlene were getting married. No time like the present? So, Mom went home to get a dress and told her mother she was getting married. My grandmother didn’t believe her. They went to a justice of the peace (no idea how they reached him that night) and were married by him. I don’t know whether it was at his home or at a city hall. Don’t know where they went afterward.
They rented an apartment but a few weeks later Dad got drafted into the army. Spent 2 years away, most of it stationed in France. Mom said they likely would have gotten a divorce if he hadn’t been drafted because she wasn’t mature enough to be married. She moved back home and could have gone to France with him after his basic training was done but she refused. She got a job at AT&T tracking payments/accounting and said she spent her salary on phone calls from France.”
And Baby Makes 3
“From the time she was a teenager, she wanted a daughter, and she wanted to name her what she named me. When she was expecting me, her doctor told her she was having a boy (no idea how he knew). She cried for days.” Their daughter was born in December 1959.
I came on schedule, and she had me on a rainy Monday (rare for Phoenix) at 4:58 am. She didn’t have labor pains until the final stage – go figure. She walked the hospital corridors out of impatience, to move things along. Which likely didn’t work.
Dad couldn’t deny I was his: I had a cowlick in the same place and looked like he had as a baby. Mom had thick black hair. Dad had curly auburn hair. So did I when I was born. Then it fell out and came in blond. She never held it against me. She just made me grow it long and loved playing with it when I was a child and permed it for me when I was a teenager because it was dead straight.
Her Daughter’s Memories
I was fortunate enough to get 7 pages of memories from Darlene’s daughter with stories about her mother. I’m including everything for the simple fact that I enjoyed each and every word.
“I gave her a strawberry cake once, and she told me her mother nicknamed her Strawberry because she looked like one when she was born.
She always had a short-haired black cat while I was growing up because she loved them, though she loved all cats, black was the one that most fascinated her. Dad and she had a running joke that she was a witch because of this. She collected black cats throughout her life – knick-knacks, elegant Egyptian-like statues that book-ended our living room window, pictures, books. People would give them to her, and she’d prowl thrift stores for them.
She loved second-hand stores, junk stores, as she called them. Goodwill, Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul’s, any used store. Their prices were terribly cheap in those years, and she bought a lot of clothing, books, decorative items for every room, Christmas and birthday presents for everyone. She traveled a lot for years with my Dad (who sold John Deere industrial machinery, and whose territory was all of Arizona north of Phoenix) and always had to check out those stores.
We all had a lot of used clothes. Her reasoning was once a new piece of clothing was washed, it was used, so no shame in wearing used.
She sewed a lot of clothes for me while I was in high school. My inseam is 33”, so it was impossible to buy pants long enough for me, so she’d make them. Occasionally she’d find used pants that were long enough or buy men’s Levis on sale from western-wear stores, then take in the waist.
I grew up in the 70s, when maxi-dresses were popular, and wore them to church and dances. She’d take me to a fabric store and have me choose wedding-dress patterns I liked. She’d then have me choose the fabric and would make me a dress.
She let me be a kid because she’d gotten to be a kid. She was having me hang my Christmas stocking at the fireplace, and giving me Easter baskets, well into my 20s. I didn’t say a word; I knew I had it good.
There was a bath every Saturday night. Afterward, she’d roll up my wet hair on fat pink rubber rollers and make me sleep in them so I’d have curled hair for church. Dressed me in pretty dresses with scratchy net slips, and colored leotards that never fit right because my legs were too long. Put me in a red coat, patent-leather shoes, scratchy hats, and made me carry a muff! One of her favorite child movie stars was Margaret O’Brien. I wasn’t a Shirley Temple, so I think Mom turned to Margaret for inspiration.
She never forgot anything that happened, or anything someone told her. Woe betide you if you lied; she couldn’t stand being lied to or being betrayed. The flip side to this was that if she knew you liked something – a book, a movie, a performer, whatever the thing was – she’d keep an eye out for it/them in her travels and get it for you. All you had to do was mention it, and at Christmas or birthday or out of the blue, she’d present it to you. She loved hunting for treasures that way, and she always thought of others – that they’d like, what would make them happy.
Throughout her life, she got her way most of the time. She’d done exactly as she wished as a child, and she carried on doing exactly that until the end of her life. She also tried to make sure those she loved also got their way.
She was endlessly loving, but she also had a temper – and she let you know when you made her mad. She had no problem putting the words together to say exactly what you’d done wrong, what she thought of it, and why you should never so much as think about doing it again in the future.
When I was four or five, and she was on the phone, I took a bottle of blue India ink out of her secretary and carried it around the corner, into the living room. I then opened it on the coffee table and promptly spilled it on myself…and on the carpet. Not on a rug, on the CARPET. She was furious – not only with me for touching her things, but also for herself for being on the phone. She covered up the stain (no getting that out) with a rug and couldn’t afford to replace the living-room carpet for the next five years or so. She never stopped mentioning to anyone who’d listen how I’d ruined her carpet. She was still mentioning it the year she passed away.
She had used a fountain pen while taking shorthand in high school, and she used the pen while keeping a diary for years – hence the reason she had India ink. When I was 12, she gave me a Sheaffer school fountain pen which took ink cartridges or bottled ink. This started my lifelong interest in fountain pens, so she got her revenge. I also learned my lesson: I’ve never spilled another bottle of ink on any surface (knock wood).
When I was 11, Kurt Weinsinger moved to Flagstaff and went to our church. He was a music professor at Northern Arizona University who also directed our church choir. Through his influence, Mom began singing the opera / musical theatre choir at NAU, and I got to watch. She sang in Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Faust, and Camelot. I fell in love with Camelot / King Arthur, she had the Broadway soundtrack, and I decided I wanted to learn to sing like Julie Andrews. I didn’t tell her. Whenever I was home alone, I snuck-sang with her musical LPs, and told Weinsinger I wanted to sing. The first time she knew of it, I got up in church to do a solo, and she thought, “Where did that come from?” I wasn’t shy, I was introverted, but no one understood that, then. I was also terrified of piano recitals yet had no problem singing in public.
She encouraged me to keep singing. In addition to piano lessons, she supported me to the point I was able to sing in the top high-school choir, madrigals, perform in drama, and make it to regional and state choir. The audition for the state choir took place at West High – which I think was then a community college and no longer a high school. Years later, I also ended up singing with the same musical-theater director she’d had for Camelot and the operas. And Weinsinger gave me voice lessons for years at NAU. So that’s what you get for dragging your kid to The Sound of Music, Camelot, Funny Girl, and the like. She was always too shy to do anything in public, whether it was teaching Sunday School or singing a solo, but she seemed to be proud of what I was doing. No matter what I became interested in, she supported it. Except for wanting a horse. She and Dad didn’t want me getting hurt, so there was never a horse in my life.
When I was ten or so, she decided she wanted to take a trip back east to visit relatives and do genealogical research. This was pre-internet, so any seeking of birth/death certificates, civil records, etc. had to be done in person or through the mail. She and Dad owned a 1965 Chevy truck with a camper shell and foam-rubber mattresses in the back. The plan was for Mom, Grandma, and me to stay in KOAs along the way for this 6000+ round trip. Dad later said he expected her to turn around after 200 miles or so and come back home. Didn’t happen.
Did I mention she could be stubborn? (Before I forget to tell you, her method of dealing with anything she didn’t want to entertain or discuss was to meet your query or comment with silence. She could ignore things into oblivion.)
I spent the trip reading books in the back, and I have sporadic memories of the entire trip. But it does involve memories of your grandparents because it was the first of two times I visited them in Akron and went to the farm. One of the trips was the year a PBS special on Leonardo da Vinci was airing, and it was important to me that I saw it every week we were on the road. Your grandfather was amused I was interested in da Vinci.
I didn’t meet your Dad because he was in the military at the time, but I slept in his bedroom. He had a ticking alarm clock that I put under the bed and covered up because the ticking bothered me.”
She went into more details about my grandfather that I did cut just because this is about her mom, not Pappy. But she did say my Grandma had great pies, and she did.
“I remember my mother was given an antique round table in Pennsylvania on that trip. Into the back of the camper it went, and we climbed over its top and pedestal for the rest of the trip. I also remember visiting an old, old graveyard whose headstones were weathered to the point of being unreadable – at least to me. One had even been taken over by a tree growing next to it. Maybe Mom told you about this trip.
She loved antiques. My grandfather and she would go to auctions, and she’d buy boxes full of piano sheet music for cheap at the last auctions of the day, when most everyone else would have gone home. No one wanted 19th-century furniture in the 50s. Grandpa had a store – mainly a shed and a yard on Buckeye Road – where he’d sell appliances and furniture. (This was after giving up on the motel).
Mom had her pick of the antiques. Among other things, she chose an upright piano (that was later taken to Flagstaff, and I learned on it), a secretary, a cedar chest, a tapestry featuring Spanish galleons in port, two brass incense burners, and an assortment of big and small tables (but not the kind you eat on).
She didn’t like domestic chores or cooking. She wanted her freedom, to explore her corner of the world and see what there was to see. She loved Christmas and would take far too long traipsing through the woods in search of the perfect tree for Dad to cut… to the point of exasperating him. She’d wander off – not only in the woods (after he’d told her not to), but in Costco as well, leaving my Dad and me to fulfill the shopping list and wait for her in the commissary section. She’d get her own goodies…she did love a good treasure hunt, after all.
She was a beautiful woman, inside and out, who loved with fierce loyalty, compassion, and caring. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother, or Dad for a better wife. He always commented that she took good care of him, and she did it for years. She took good care of her mother and me as well. She didn’t really let others take care of her, except for Dad. He’d get her a box of dark-chocolate nougats every Christmas. She loved those, and black licorice.
I remember taking her to see Ladyhawke. The theatre was empty except for a few other people. Matthew Broderick / Mouse’s lines made her laugh out loud.
She loved Barry Manilow long after he was a pop music icon and inherited the LPs of him that I’d collected in the 70s and lost interest in. She took me to one of his concerts because she liked him, but she also took me to one of Michael Crawford’s in the 90s because I liked him. My best friend loves Kermit / Jim Henson, and Mom got tickets to an exhibition on Henson in Phoenix more than a decade ago… and bought Jim Henson videos for her whenever Mom ran across them. My friend was also into dressage and Arabians and Anglo-Arabian horses, so Mom was always on the lookout for things she’d like.
I hope she’s off in the Afterworld exploring everything and anything that interests her, spending time with Weinsinger and other friends who have moved on. I hope she and Dad are travelling together, and that she’s getting to do all of the things she didn’t have time to do.
I miss hunting treasures in second-hand shops with her and talking with her for hours on the phone. I miss hearing her laugh, and her endless questions about my life. I miss her”.
Her Next Chapter
Darlene passed away on 6 March 2020 after having a fall. For a woman I had only met in person once when I was 7, her death really affected me. Until reading her daughter’s memories I learned I had more in common with her than even family history, I love Barry Manilow, too, and always get lost in stores because I’ll just stop to look at something and not care what whomever I’m with is doing. And I like to think she has met Andrew and Suzanna in the afterworld and is somehow trying to get me to next level up in our family tree. Or at least I can hope she is.
Rest in Peace, Darlene. You were one in a million and are missed.
One of things I wish I could achieve in my genealogical journey would be to join a lineage society, specifically Daughters of the American Revolution (as I am a huge fan of the Revolutionary War). However, with this goal also lies one of my largest conflicts in my family history as I would like to join under my 5th-great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, simply because this is through my Grandma Blair’s (Anna Maria Morgart) family, as I had always had a special bond with her and my obsession with genealogy began as I was missing her back on 10 August 2016, and I signed up with FamilySearch and the rest is now history.
My conflict exists because both my Grandmother’s birth certificate and death certificate have the same incorrect name listed for her father. Instead of the correct name of Charles Jackson Morgart, A Jackson Morgart is listed instead.
Now, in my dad’s defense, who was the informant on her death certificate, his paternal grandfather’s name was Andrew Jackson Blair, so I can relate to his boo-boo in his time of grief. But no one was more surprised than me when I ordered up my Grandmother’s birth certificate from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission back in January 2020 to find her dad’s name would once again be listed as A Jackson Morgart instead of Charles Jackson Morgart.
To cause me more grief is the fact that Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide on 24 July 1917, and with my Grandmother being born on 2 April 1914, there is no census that has both listed on the same document as father and daughter. I’ve also never found an obituary or death notice in the newspaper to shed light on his death, so nothing that would state that he had a daughter named Anna Maria Morgart (or at least not yet).
I do have her marriage license that states her father’s name is Charles Jackson Morgart, but would that document be enough?
I suppose if I needed more evidence I could hope that the birth certificate for his older son, Charles Edward Morgart, which does have the correct name listed would work, and that I could hope that I have a DNA match with one of his descendants which could give me the argument I need to prove I am his great-granddaughter, and connect me to the rest of the lineage that would lead to Peter Morgart.
Has anyone out there in cyberspace had this sort of genealogical problem? How did you get around it? Is the marriage license enough?
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.
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).
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.