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

Month #8: Helper

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

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.

Copy of Darlene Reese’s birth certificate found on Ancestry.com

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.

As my Grandma’s caption states, Darlene (baby) and her older brother, Buddy in 1937 (from the personal collection of Anna Maria Morgart Blair)

In the 1940 census, the Reese family was still living in Gary, Indiana where Charles was a mechanic and Vada a housewife.

Copy of the 1940 Census found at Ancestry.com, they are the first family listed at the top of the page
Darlene Reese with her dad, Charles Reese. Photo from the Anna Maria Morgart Blair private collection

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.

Darlene Reese in 1943 from the photo collection of Anna Maria Morgart Blair

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”.

From the Anna Maria Morgart Blair photo collection

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”.

Darlene Reese circa 1953 (from the Anna Maria Morgart Blair photo collection)

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.”

Robert Prosser & Darlene Reese around Christmas 1957-58 (from Anna Maria Morgart Blair photo collection

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.

Vada Blair, Charles Reese, and their granddaughter September 1960 (from the photo collection of Anna Maria Morgart Blair)

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).

Photo of Vada & Charles home/shop, you can see where the hotel was as well (from the Anna Maria Morgart Blair photo collection)

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.

Bob Prosser and Darlene Reese 1959 (from Anna Maria Morgart Blair personal photo collection)

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.

12 Ancestors in 12 Months, Paternal Side

Month #6: Conflict

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.

Certificate of Birth for Anna Maria Morgart, obtained through the Pennsylvania State Archives
Death Certificate of Anna Maria (Morgart) Blair obtained at the Summit County Health Department

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?

The above marriage certificate was found on FamilySearch as part of Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007

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?

Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Who Did You Find in the 1950 Census?

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

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

My Mom

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

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

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

My Dad

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody Else

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

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

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

Month #2: Branching Out

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

Collateral Relatives

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

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

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

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

Cities and Towns

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

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

The book Bedford And Its Neighbors by Arcadia Publishing

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

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

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

Week 51: Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 50: Lines

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

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

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

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

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

Week 48: Strength

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

Her Beginnings

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

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

The Loss of Loved Ones

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

Everett Press, 10 May 1895 found on Newspapers.com

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

Everett Press, 30 August 1895, Newspapers.com

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

Her Strength

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

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

Her Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 46: Birthdays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 45: Stormy Weather

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

Bertha Childers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bertha Childers and her dog Lulu Belle, 1943

Margaret Dora Wise

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

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

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

Irie Earl Custer & Margaret Dora Wise 1939

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

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

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

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

Week 43: Shock

Have you ever found a shocking discovery while working on your family history? I have found a few with it literally being a shock when I discovered a distant cousin was electrocuted by the State of Ohio (see my tale of Ralph Reed here). I found out via DNA that the man listed on my grandmother’s birth certificate was not her dad (see that discovery here).

But I will never forget standing in the Bedford County Historical Society trying to obtain more information on my fifth-great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, who I discovered previously was at the Battle of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, only to learn he was an antagonist of the Whiskey Rebellion and a reason President George Washington went to Bedford County, Pennsylvania to settle things within our very young country.

The Whiskey Rebellion

The Whiskey Rebellion was an “uprising of farmers and distillers in western Pennsylvania in protest of a whiskey tax that was enacted by the federal government“. In 1790 Alexander Hamilton pushed for the American government to take over all the debt each state sustained during the American Revolution. Though President Washington was against the tax in the beginning, after talking to local Virginians and Pennsylvanians, who seemed “enthusiastic”, he (Washington) took these positive declarations to Congress and the bill was passed in 1791.

Protests began immediately as the new tax was unfair to small producers. Where the larger distilleries paid a yearly tax at 6 cents per gallon, with even more tax breaks the more whiskey was produced, the smaller distillers paid 9 cents per gallon and had to pay with cash.

Initial protests were refusals to pay the tax, but then they began intimidating officials and violence broke out. For example, 11 September 1791 Robert Johnson from the excise office, went to collect the tax, he was surrounded by 11 men dressed as women where they stripped him naked, tar and feathered him, and stole his horse, leaving him alone in the forest. Mr. Johnson recognized 2 of the men and warrants were issued for their arrest. When John Connor went to take the arrest warrants to them, the same thing happened to him. They resigned after that.

In 1792 Washington tried to resolve things peacefully, but by 1794 actions began to get out of hand when a fire was set to the home of the regional tax collector, John Neville. President George Washington organized a militia and headed to western Pennsylvania. By the time he arrived the rebels had “dispursed” with 2 being found guilty of treason (they were both later pardoned by Washington).

Peter Morgart

My fifth-great-grandfather on my paternal grandmother’s side witnessed Cornwallis surrender his sword to George Washington at Yorktown. So that he was one of the many men refusing to pay the tax blew my mind. He paid his fine (to my relief) but it had me rather unsettled that my relative was one of the reasons my hero had to go to Bedford County.

I am not sure if Peter Morgart was a distiller himself but he did build the Morgart Tavern in the late 1700s. I’m sure being the owner of a tavern brought about it’s own sort of related payments to the whiskey tax.

The Tavern went on to be owned by my fourth-great-grandfather, Baltzer Morgart.

The Morgart Tavern and how it looked in July 2019