Do you know who I’m going to discuss with this topic? If you guessed my Grandma Blair then you’d be right!
Anna Maria Morgart loved to can vegetables and she pickled beets and eggs! One of my Grandma’s jobs when I was little was getting up in the wee hours of the morning (well, probably 6 am but when I was 8 that seemed so incredibly early). She would walk over to her friend’s, Mrs. Juhas’ house (she was the mother of my dad’s good friend growing up), who had a huge garden, and they would weed that garden. As payment, Grandma got her pick of green beans (this is how stories are fabricated I’m sure – I just knew she canned lots of green beans and there is no way the little garden in the back of her house produced what we ate the rest of the year). I also use the word “job” loosely as I am pretty sure she was just paid with produce. For her it was a labor of love.
But for now, I continue. My Grandma would make homemade jelly out of grapes and strawberries, made probably 100 Mason Jars or more of green beans every year. She made pickled beets (I’ve been yearning for some as of late and I have tried what the store has, and they are okay, but they don’t have quite the same punch as what my Grandma made.
The green beans were my favorite. I don’t think I had a can of green beans from the store until the late-1990’s as we always had plenty of the jars that she canned each year. My sister remembers her also freezing corn, canning tomatoes (they were the base for so many yummy homemade soups), pickles (mainly bread and butter, but a few dill) and peppers (this I remembered as well).
With the leftover juice from her pickled beets, she would make pickled eggs. I don’t recall enjoying these too well, but I have an aversion to yolks. The only eggs I like are scrambled. My mom claims this was all in my head, as a child she would tell me she took the yolks out of the soft-boiled eggs, and I’d eat it. I didn’t like them, but she told me she took them out, so I trusted her, how was I to know she was lying (because you know, lying is bad, but she never saw my point. Anyhow, I still only eat scrambled eggs though I like whites only of fried eggs – and I use to love the Egg White Delight McDonald’s had on their menu until they took it off their menu. Sigh.).
Grandma would keep the food for herself, but she’d give away just as many, if not more. It’s like I said, I never had a green bean from the store until 1997 to 1998. My Grandma was diagnosed with macular degeneration, so she was unable to do some of the things she did for years, like working in the garden and canning. My mom attempted to buy green beans from a local produce place and can one year, but I think it was more than she wanted to take on.
I never thought to take a photo of canned goods when I was little so I found this photo on the Library of Congress website. Mullen, Patrick B. Florence Cheek with quilts and canned food, Traphill, North Carolina. United States Traphill Wilkes County North Carolina, 1978. Traphill, North Carolina, None , 8. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/afc1982009_pm_015/.
Did your relatives can? Share with me the yummy veggies that you experienced!
This seems to happen a lot the past two years; I get all excited because it’s Family History Month and then I don’t seem to get any of my own family history done due to so many other activities in the real world. These past two years has been with my son who is in the Marching Band. I am so proud of him, yet, at the same time I wish I had more time for my wonderful hobby.
I have started focusing on my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, Eliza Horton, and trying to focus on who her parents are as even past genealogists who have authored books seem to have no idea where she fits into the family, but she took care of her grandfather in his final years so she has to be related somehow!
But here is a wish that you were able to have success as we near the end of this wonderful month. I hope you were able to work on your tree and that perhaps you were able to take a class or two as well!
I previously wrote a post on joining a genealogical society. The one I have joined that I get the most out of is my membership to NGS, or the National Genealogical Society. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, NGS has been around for 119 years. In the past few years, they have combined with the Federation of Genealogical Societies, where they assist local genealogical societies as a part of their mission
If you feel you want to join NGS, click here to go to their membership page. As part of your subscription, you receive the NGS Magazine that is filled with an abundance of great articles and often relays information about the upcoming NGS Conference, stories about the area where it is taking place, and food for thought on types of documents where you might find your ancestors living or working.
The other periodical you receive is the National Genealogical Quarterly, which presents members cases about how they have proved they are related to their people. It’s always informative as it could give you an idea on how to go about your own brick wall in your own family tree.
There is also a monthly email which provide you with articles pertaining to methodology and news dealing with genealogy.
Were you aware that there are classes you can take if you have a membership to the National Genealogical Society? You can, and some are FREE! (Yes, it’s my favorite word again). Others do have a fee, but those are for more advanced learning or in regard to a specific topic. (If you do not want to join some of these courses are offered at a higher price to non-members).
I am presently working my way through the Foundations 101 course offered by NGS on the basics of genealogy. There are 5 modules detailing Getting Started, Home Sources, Family Stories, Traditions, and Interviews, Names & Establishing Identities, and lastly the Research Plan. Once completed I will move on to Foundations 201. You can purchase these classes individually or bundled together.
The National Genealogical Society has published a number of books to help researchers find the members of their family tree. From beginner books such as “Paths to Your Past, An Introductory to Finding Your Ancestors” to books that deal with advanced topics like “Genetic Genealogy in Practice” or “Mastering Genealogical Proof” or “Genealogy and the Law”, NGS offers a variety of educational books to help you succeed with your research.
Forum is a newer feature to the NGS website. It is an interactive community for individual members, society, library, archive, and museum delegates, while they also have another area pertaining for NGS committees and workgroups. In order to use Forum there is an entire page of faqs detailing your username and password, how to update/create a profile, how to make contacts and connections, and how to join and subscribe to communities.
It is highly stressed that Forum is to be a safe place for members. And you must be an NGS member to participate. They have different communities relating to the NGS Conference, methodology and best practices, another specifically for Family History Month, and lastly one for societies and organizations. Once you join a community you can receive email’s relating to the current material in updates as it happens or a daily digest.
Each year the National Genealogical Society has a conference that is hosted by a different area of the country. Since I’ve been a member of NGS their conference has been in St. Charles, Missouri, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sacramento, California, and next year will be in Richmond, Virginia.
Each conference has a theme and respected speakers who share their knowledge with diverse programming. With the merger of NGS and the Federation of Genealogical Societies they now have a dedicated day to SLAM (Societies, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) and how to grow and maintain these essential organizations.
In recent years NGS has had both in-person and virtual offerings for their conference, and an “on demand” package can be purchased to view classes at your leisure once the conference has ended.
As you can see the National Genealogical Society has a lot to offer individuals and organizations in their pursuit of their ancestry. If you have never checked out the website, I encourage you to do so, as I really feel I get a great deal out of my membership each year, between the publications, the emails, and the educational opportunities that the society provides.
Today would have been my grandmother’s 93rd birthday so what a better day than today to share the life of Alberta Lou Fleming with you all!
My grandmother was born on 2 October 1929, a preemie, to Mildred Laura Dunbar. The name listed on her birth certificate for her father was Albert Nank, her namesake, as he and my great-grandmother had gotten married just 3 days before on 29 September 1929 (I have since determined her biological father was actually my great-grandmother’s first husband, Paul Geer, whom she filed for divorce in January 1929 and it was finalized on 5 September 1929). The story goes that my great-grandmother was sent home with her little girl and a hot water bottle, and that if she somehow made it through the night to feed her the next day. Lucky for me, she survived. No one alive now seems to know how premature she was as I have asked.
The marriage to Albert Nank was over by 1933 as that is when Mildred got her second divorce and married her third and final husband, Howard Fleming. He was the man who raised my grandmother along with the two boys that he and my great-grandmother had. (Don’t feel sad at all for Albert, he chose not to see my grandmother growing up, and when my grandfather made my grandmother visit him as an adult, he didn’t say a word the entire visit. I think he knew that she was not his daughter but never said anything. And in other documents I’ve found, be it when he joined the military or when he died, it always said “no kids”).
Initially times were tough, Howard, Mildred, and Alberta lived with Mildred’s mother Mazie at her home on Carpenter Street. Howard, a carpenter, would go out every day with his tools doing odd jobs to make a living to support his bride and daughter. Alberta’s childhood was during the time of the Depression, where food was rationed and grease and aluminum foil were saved for the war effort. Eventually Howard Fleming provided a good home as he was hired as a carpenter at BF Goodrich, one of the 3-big rubber companies in Akron, Ohio. In 1936 Alberta’s brother, Herschel was born and in 1943 the youngest son, James, was born.
Alberta and her brothers grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It is where their kids grew up, where myself and my cousins grew up, and where my own children go to school now. Cuyahoga Falls is a suburb of Akron, Ohio and is the Indian word meaning “crooked”, referring to the river that runs from Lake Erie and the “falls” were notable, as they had a drop off longer than Niagara Falls. While reading up on what Native American nation that coined the word Cuyahoga – it’s a cross between the Mohawk, Wyandot, and Iroquois that all seemed to have left their mark in this area.
Meeting Harold Fairhurst
At the age of 17, Alberta Lou Fleming met Harold Fairhurst. He was 7 years older than she was and had been previously married. On 29 June 1947 they got married, with my great-grandmother, Mildred, signing off on the marriage license and giving her approval.
A few months later on 22 December 1947 my mother, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, was born. A total of 5 children were born of this marriage. Their life wasn’t easy as Harold was not a very nice man.
While Harold was a golf pro and also worked in construction, Alberta took care of the children by day and bowled in the evenings. She was an excellent bowler, often being invited into leagues where you had to have a very high average to be a part of the group.
Harold and Alberta were divorced on 14 November 1968. Less than a year later she married Bernard Szemplenski on 2 September 1969. This marriage didn’t last very long as according to my uncle he was an “old school man of the house”. She divorced him on 16 March 1973 and married James Edward Metzger on 31 March 1973 (Grandpa Jim often eluded to how he paid for that divorce).
Her Life with Jim
I know Alberta as Grandma Metzger, as she married Jim about a month after I was born. Jim was the complete opposite of Harold Fairhurst, he would talk in a funny voice to get a laugh and was a much happier guy than the grumpy, silent man that I knew Harold to be.
Their (Alberta’s and Jim’s) time together seemed like it was filled with joy, they managed apartments and condominiums together, she worked in the office while he was the handy man for the complexes. It suited them. When I was about 3 or 4 they moved to Florida to do their thing in the Sarasota area.
My family and I visited them when I was 6 over Spring Break from school. I remember going to the Ringling Museum and stopping to see my Aunt and her family as they lived in Tennessee on our way down. We went down with my Great-Grandma Fleming (Mildred Laura Dunbar) and it was a fun time.
My sister and I went and visited my grandparents after she graduated from high school in 1986. We spent 6 weeks in Florida, helped them move, went to Disney and Busch Gardens Tampa and got reacquainted with my Aunt Teri and her youngest son. Strangely enough my Grandpa Fairhurst was living with Aunt Teri at the time, so he was there too. There was a Sunday when everyone came over where they lived at the condo where you walked about 100 steps out the front door and you were at the pool, a 100 steps out the back door and you were at the Gulf of Mexico. This was my favorite of the two places she worked while we were there. It was on Turtle Beach as part of the Siesta Keys and was just a great place.
It was this trip to Florida that I really got to know my Grandma and her wonderful sense of humor which included an extremely quick wit. I wish I had her comebacks because she was the absolute best. I forget what was going on when but out of the blue she exclaimed “Shit! Fire! and save matches!” and I had never heard that expression before but I giggled so much from it.
It was this same trip that I learned how abusive my Grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, was to her and her kids. It was something that my mom eluded too but I didn’t really know how bad it seemed to be.
In 1988 Alberta was diagnosed with throat cancer. I remember the year from when I was driving up with my sister to visit her at University Hospital in Cleveland. Her and Grandpa Jim had moved up to Ohio the year before and began managing apartments in Bedford (a suburb of Cleveland). The radiation treatments and chemotherapy got rid of the cancer, but they destroyed her salivary glands, and she had a difficult time eating after that. My sister just commented the other day about how Grandma could make an amazing sandwich and she was unable to do so after cancer.
But the big C didn’t get my Grandma down for long. She still had her Christmas Eve party each year and normally had a celebration on the 4th of July for her oldest son’s birthday. I enjoyed the get togethers as it was the one time of the year when the whole family would get together and I’d get to see my cousins.
Her 65th Birthday
I’m going to guess it is her 65th birthday that Grandpa Jim had a surprise party for her. Below are some photos from the special day. From left to right is James Metzger, then a photo of me (my back is turned), my cousin Tommy Weekley (his back is also turned), and my other grandma, Anna Maria Morgart, then a photo of Alberta Lou Fleming heading up a line of well-wishers, and the large photo at the bottom is me again (still my back is turned), Alberta Lou Metzger, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst (my mom, she is profiled), and then on the far right you can see the face of my cousin, Jaclyn Dawn Fairhurst (with the white baseball cap on).
Eventually my grandparents moved to Columbus in the mid-1990’s and finally settled at a trailer park in Groveport. There were a few family get togethers the weekend before or after Christmas, but never the same as Bedford (not everyone had the time to drive a few hours to and fro).
Her Last Few Years
After Jim passed away in 2001 her children moved Alberta back up to Cuyahoga Falls for her to live near them. She still had her own apartment but for the last 3 months of her life she lived with my aunt as she had both dementia and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My aunt said they “played Scrabble every day and the last day she went in to feed her on her feeding tube and she said, ‘You ready to eat, and she (Alberta) said no but if it makes you feel better go ahead’ and she died a few hours later”. If memory serves my cousin Tracy and my mom (Cynthia) where with her when she passed. She died on 24 July 2006.
At the very last minute this morning I had the idea to contact my aunt, uncles, and cousins about their favorite memories of Alberta, and here are the responses I got in order of receiving them back.
My cousin Amanda said… “Well one of my favorite things to do at Grandma Metzger’s was to play with her seashells and shark’s teeth. I used to love going over there on my Dad’s birthday to watch fireworks in her side yard when she lived in Bedford. Staying with her when I had chicken pox… Watching “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” when she would cook, and every time I see a cardinal, I am reminded of her. I also miss her fish kisses”.
My cousin Stacy wrote… “My favorite memory was when I was pregnant with my daughter and Jim was very unsupportive and told me that I should get an abortion and Grandma looked at him and said “If i did that every time I was pregnant at not the right time in life there wouldn’t be anyone in this room”. Subject was done after that. Also, I will never forget the tinsel tree at Christmas. Her hugs were hugs you felt into your soul. Her smile was infectious. I did not get a lot of time with my family on dad’s side but when I did, she showed me so much love. My mom and I were just talking about her and how when Eddie and I were little she would ride the bus over to help mom get Eddie out of bed and helped with me, put Eddie back to nap and she would get on the bus and go to work. My mom said she was a great mother-in-law and loved her very much”.
Kellie, my sister, remembers… “How much fun her Christmas parties were… and a very specific one. I was living with them in Columbus, and I was wearing a particular dress, she says ‘Kellie, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but that dress makes you look fat’. I looked back and said, ‘Grandma, it’s not the dress, I am fat’. She spit out her water and laughed until she cried. I also used to love to hear her sing”. My sister later remembered that our mom (Cynthia Anne Fairhurst) often said she “gave her a son-in-law for her birthday” as today would have been my parents 51st wedding anniversary.
My cousin Tracy responded with… “Christmas time is a favorite … all her orange cats … I did spend a day gathering data and writing a paper for a Women in History class I had and that was cool to learn about too. I wish I knew where it was because I know I kept it. We had to pick someone born in the 20s. and she fell into that range”.
Her youngest son, Stephen wrote… “I have a memory of my mom and I sitting around listening to 1940’s music. Mostly Glenn Miller, but other swing bands also”. Another memory was… “When I was in High School and we were living on Loomis. Mom had just married Jim. Mom and I had plenty of evenings where we would get time to ourselves. Maybe I had just gotten home from working at the bowling alley. We would put on some of her music., mostly Glenn Millers Greatest Hits. Sometimes a compilation of 40’s swing artists. We’d talk about what was going on in life. Mostly about me (parents find out so much that way). Got a lot of history that way. She knew a lot about the depression, WWII, and the way Cuyahoga Falls was back in the day. How much public transportation was used. Not many had cars and very few families had 2. Stories of the collectors coming around during WWII to collect aluminum foil and used grease. How her dad, Howard Fleming, would walk to the Silver Lake area to do woodworking and housebuilding jobs before he got on at the Goodrich. Which is how they spoke of it. The Goodrich like it was its own little entity. Also, when I learned that unlike most of her friends, she liked Bing Crosby and the crooners more than Frank Sinatra and those type of singers. It wasn’t a long period of time that we did this, but the nights are still etched in my mind. They all kind of blur into one long night of sitting around and learning about each other”.
One of my favorite memories was when my sister graduated from high school and my grandparents took everyone out to dinner at my favorite restaurant (though this occasion was my first time going there), the Triple Crown. I had my very first Shirley Temple and everyone was there in my family…. or at least many of us living in the area of Cuyahoga Falls… and it was just a happy occasion. I held onto the red drink mixer thing for all these years (and that I just went to the basement and retrieved it from a plastic bin I think has my hubby a little weirded out).
My cousin Emily commented…. “My love of ginger cats (orange) came from Grandma Metzger and Muffin. I always loved going to her house to see her and Muffin. When I was about 10 years old, we went down to see her and Grandpa in Columbus and she had this tiny ginger kitten that had walked up to her out of the woods. She had taken him in, and I fell in love with him. She knew I wasn’t leaving her house without that kitten, and she was right. Arthur came home with me and growing up with him I always felt like Grandma and Muffin were always there with us because the connection of how Arthur became to be my cat”.
Alberta’s oldest son remembers “when Mom and Dad would start arguing over something stupid like the definition of a word they would go back and forth and back and forth until she said ‘I’ll bet you’ then Dad shut up”.
Her youngest daughter, Debbie, recalls… “I’ll never forget the day I was about I don’t know, seven or eight, and she had to explain to me what a douchebag was because I kept calling Terry a douchebag”. She went on to further comment about how good her mom was at Scrabble “I’ll tell you what, she would have a fit about “Words with Friends” and some of the words they allow, she was all about following the rules when it came to Scrabble, and it was hard to beat her. She would win at Jeopardy every night, we told her she should go on the show, but she never would”.
My cousin Todd remembers…. “My favorite memory of grandma was when she took me in when things were stressed in Florida. But I would fish during the day and in the evening me and her would work on puzzles together. We would talk and build those it was my warmest best memory of her and Florida”.
My cousin Tim added… “Ah, Grandma Metzger, funny that Kim, Patrick, Timmy and I went bowling last night- A small venue (24 lanes- I remember Falls Rec as having 20 but I could be mistaken). I guess we were channeling Grandma. I will say that no Fairhurst or Fleming would claim us if they saw the sorry scores we put up. My memory of Grandma Metzger was that of an unflappable family matriarch. She helped each of us through some good times, some bad times, and some in between times. You would never know which of the three you were in because Grandma was the same – unfiltered and funny, caring and graceful”.
Many could have given me more but it’s so nice to know that Alberta has such a wonderful legacy. We all should be so lucky.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year – Family History Month – and with it comes so many wonderful opportunities for learning about how to find our ancestors. I remember back in October 2018 my dad found a post in our local paper about how they were having a family history day at my local Family History Center and I attended. I remember just being taken away by an entire day devoted to learning about genealogy. It was after that I decided to attend my first conference in Spring 2019, which was just an incredible experience.
Seize the month of possibilities, I kick off my learning tomorrow with a free webinar that I discovered scrolling on Facebook where the speaker tells us how becoming a member of DAR helped them research, and her relative constructed a gun for George Washington (and we all know I’ll listen to anyone talk about George). I’ve also been curious about joining a lineage society and this is a great way to learn more.
Have you signed up for any classes? Share in the comments!
Check your local library to see if they have any events going on. Mine always has a “Late Night at the Library” event each year where they give tours of the Special Collections area, and you learn all the different items available in the department that you can use to find your people. Sadly, it’s on a Friday night which coincides with my son and his marching band, so I don’t get to participate, but in two more years I will once again be there!
For September’s prompt in Amy Johnson Crow’s 12 Ancestors in 12 Months, I’m opting to go back and explore more documents in an effort to figure out who is the mother of Oliver Charles Warner.
For those who aren’t familiar with Oliver Charles Warner, he is my 4th great grandfather who was born in Massachusetts in approximately 1809, which should make him a child of Joel Warner and his wife, Thankful Chapin. Thankful died on 3 April 1812 and Joel remarried Rebecca Phelps Ackerly 2 months later on 10 June 1812.
I just need to find definitive proof of when Oliver Charles Warner was born so I can establish who was his mother, Thankful or Rebecca.
But an interesting occurrence happened when I went to FamilySearch to double check the sources that were on file for Joel Warner – and listed as a child was suddenly “Oliver Chapin Warner”.
My first thought was “I like that”. Thankful’s maiden name as Oliver’s middle name. Not to mention Thankful had a brother named Oliver which was one of the reason’s I rationalized in my head that Oliver was Thankful’s son. So I went and contacted the person who made the middle name change to Oliver and contacted them to see how they came across Chapin as a middle name. And when she got back in touch with me late Wednesday evening, she had attached a document she found on Ancestry, probate records from the minor children of Thankful and their choice of a guardian and it lists all her minor children: Climena, and Charlotte (above the ages of 14) and Oliver Chapin and Horace (below the age of 14).
You can only imagine the happy dance I have done since finding this most wonderful document. And my 10th cousin on FamilySearch who responded to me and linked the information on Thankful’s page is now my new best friend! Well, at least my genealogical hero as she is most deserving.
So now Oliver Chapin Warner has his rightful name and his parents. It’s wins such as this, from a relative I don’t even know where they live, that makes this hobby so wonderful.
I didn’t get to do as much “exploration” but I’m glad I opted to begin this again where I have now gotten a chance to end my constant wondering – now my brick wall can go back to being exclusively Andrew and Susanna.
Today a very sad thing happened in the world, Queen Elizabeth II of England has died. We all knew she would not live forever, but I guess I never really considered that there would be a time and place where she wouldn’t be a part of the world.
I’ve always been quite curious of the Royal Family. I am supposedly related to Princess Diana on my mother’s side, I haven’t found her yet, the regular everyday people being just as, if not more interesting than any famous person who might linger amongst my people.
But as far as the Queen was concerned, the older she became, the more I seemed to like her. She was a lot like you and I, she was this pillar of sanity and common sense with a bunch of crazy kids. Who couldn’t relate?
But she seemed like a beautiful soul who had exquisite taste in jewelry and clothes (I’ll miss her bright colors that she wore so people could see her in the crowd).
Below I’ll share my all-time favorite meme one last time (it’s referencing the 4th of July). She was a wonderful servant for Britain, and may she Rest in Peace.
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.
So last month an advertisement came across my Facebook page for the Genealogy Scavenger Hunt. I had heard about it in the past while listening to Julie Cahill Tarr talk to Denys Allen of PA Ancestors (click here to view the podcast on the PA Ancestors YouTube page).
What Is It?
The Genealogy Scavenger Hunt is a challenge every month where you explore records you may not necessarily use every day in your genealogical pursuits. When I signed up, I was able to get the previous 5 months challenges, so for February you were analyzing documents associated with the enslaved, for March it was a female homesteader, and for August it is coroner’s reports.
Why It’s Awesome!
Why am I enjoying the Scavenger Hunt? Because I’m using records I wouldn’t necessarily use. All of my people have been in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, or Massachusetts, I’ve not had any reasons to look up resources for the enslaved. It has been refreshing to get out of my comfort zone (and that is the perfect phrase as I haven’t always been excited about the findings, especially in February’s use of the documents for the enslaved individuals). But searching through the Homesteaders information on the Bureau of Land Management’s site was fun to utilize as well, I’ve not had a whole lot of success on the website with my own ancestors but feel better prepared now whenever I am fortunate enough to get lucky!
I’ve yet to get a 100% on everything (though with the August one I apparently mis-read the month of when something happened), I had the date and year correct. Still with each month’s completion you earn a badge.
If you are interested in a great genealogy challenge that will allow you to expand your knowledge of different types of records and actually put them to use for an exercise, go and check out the Genealogy Scavenger Hunt on Julie Cahill Tarr’s website Genealogy in Action.
Please note, Julie Cahill Tarr is not aware of my writing about her challenge, though I am hoping she does not mind. I am simply writing about my own experience about how these challenges are helping me be a better researcher. I am not getting compensated in any way for this review.
Three years ago, I learned the identity of my great-grandfather, Paul Harrison Geer (or at least who I am pretty sure is my great-grandfather). Today I am going to do the best I can to outline his life as I never got the chance to meet him in the 11 years that our lives overlapped.
Paul Harrison Geer
Paul Harrison Geer was born on 21 September 1905 in Akron, Summit, Ohio. He was born at home to Clyde Ellsworth Geer and Gertrude Van Buskirk.
Paul was only 3 years old when his mother died on 26 October 1908 of acute pneumonia. From there he was raised by his maternal grandparents, George Van Buskirk and Lydia Cunningham. Though Paul was not listed in the 1910 census in his grandparents’ home, he is not listed with his dad, Clyde, either. (It appears Clyde lived with his brother, Fred, and his family after Gertrude passed away). Paul’s older brother, George Ellsworth Geer, and his younger sister, Ruth Cloe Geer, were both accounted for on the 1910 census, my guess is that Paul may have just been missed. At this time the Van Buskirk’s lived in Akron at 745 Elma Street (this house no longer stands).
Being an adolescent between 1910 and 1920 there is not a paper trail of documents to be found for Paul. In the 1920 census, he is listed as living with his grandparents still. They have moved to Lake Township in Stark County, Ohio, and live on Akron Canton Road.
By the 1925 Akron City Directory, Paul and his siblings began living with his dad, Clyde, and his second wife, Helen (they got married on 23 April 1921) at 71 Rosalind Court in Akron. He was a driver at this time, an occupation he would have later in life as well.
Paul Meets Mildred
But by living at 71 Rosalind Court I know Paul has now met my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar as my 2nd-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, and her second husband, Samuel Randol, had lived at 75 Rosalind Court since moving to Akron in 1916.
I am not certain how long Paul and Mildred knew each other as it may have been prior to 1924 when Clyde and Helen are known to have moved into 71 Rosalind Court. I believe that Clyde Geer worked at Swinehart Rubber Company for an overlapping year with Samuel Randol, Mildred’s stepfather. I think the two men may have become friends, which may explain Clyde moving next door to the Randol/Dunbar household.
But even if it was by just sheer coincidence, Paul and Mildred became neighbors in 1924, and with my great-grandmother being sweet sixteen, I imagine that Paul was her first love. Fast forward a few years to 17 September 1927 and the happy couple gets married by Reverend Orris W. Haulman (a popular local minister) at the Grace Reformed Church when it was still located at 207 North Portage Path.
After they married the Geers settled at the Randol’s former residence of 75 Rosalind Court (with Mazie and Samuel moving to 622 Carpenter Street, not far away). Their happiness was short-lived as Mildred filed for divorce on 15 January 1929.
Before I took my DNA test which is how I learned Paul was most likely my biological great-grandfather, I thought him to be this horrible person, that my great-grandmother was lucky to be rid of him. Now I hope my great-grandmother exaggerated as she just didn’t want to be married to him anymore. On the chance that what she stated was true, well, I like to think that Paul changed for the better over the years, and maybe he was just young and stupid.
Mildred’s reasons for her divorce are as follows (the below is quoted directly from the records I received from the Summit County Probate Court):
He “has been grossly neglectful of his marital duties towards her in that ever since March 1, 1928, he has wholly failed and refused to provide her with food or clothing or the other necessities of life and that she has been compelled to rely upon her own resources and her parents for sustenance and clothing” and “that the defendant has willfully wasted the real and personal property which they possessed at the inception of their married life and that he worked for a short interval at any one place and that he wasted his earnings in gamboling houses and other places of ill repute”.
The divorce record stated no children, and I don’t believe there was one in January when she filed as my grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming was born prematurely on 2 October 1929. The story goes that Mildred was sent home from the hospital with my grandma and a hot water bottle and if she (Alberta) survived by morning for her (Mildred) to feed her. Lucky for me she lived.
Anyhow, I digress, I do not know how much of a preemie my grandma was, but I’m guessing Paul and Mildred had one more amicable night together before the divorce was final. That my great-grandmother married Albert Nank on 30 September 1929 and listed him as the father of Alberta on her birth certificate must just show how much she wanted Paul out of her life.
Paul Meets Juanita
I have been unable to find Paul in the 1930 census. He is single as the divorce from Mildred was final on 5 September 1929. He does pop up in the 1934 Akron City Directory working at Goodyear and living at 209 West Center. In 1937 he is still working at Goodyear but moved to 166 West Center. Then he marries Juanita Dodd on 30 December 1939, in a joint ceremony with his father, Clyde Geer, who was marrying Juanita’s mom, Stella Long, at the First United Methodist Church. (As a side note, it has always pleased me that Paul took an entire decade to re-marry. If he truly was guilty of all the things my great-grandmother accused him of in her filing for divorce, I like to think he learned his lesson).
By the time the 1940 census came about, Paul and Juanita had moved to Detroit, Wayne, Michigan where Paul was working as an assembler in an auto factory, but by 1943 they have returned to Akron, living at 207 Carroll Street, #4 (no place of business is identified). By 1946 he and Juanita have a daughter and he is once again working for Goodyear, living at 571 North Summit. By the early 1950’s they have settled in Akron, living at 230 West South Street, and Paul has begun a career as a truck driver for Dixie-Ohio.
I don’t find a whole lot of other information about Paul and his family. On 24 November 1960, he won tickets to see a movie at the Strand Theater, I wonder what movie did he see?
Two years later in December 1962, Paul’s father Clyde died of an acute myocardial infarction at the age of 82. Clyde had been living with Paul and his family for at least 6 years (the things you can learn using City Directories).
Twelve years later his brother, George, died in 1974, and then his sister, Ruth, in 1975. Paul lived to age 78, passing away on 27 February 1984.
The photo in his obituary, and one other in that of his wife’s obituary, are the only 2 photos I have of Paul. You can read about my adventure in discovering through DNA how I figured out Paul was my great-grandfather here. After 3 years of composing a letter, I did reach out to Paul’s daughter to see if she could share with me what he was like as I’m quite curious. I mailed the letter out in early to mid-July and have not heard anything. To say I’m bummed is an understatement, but I understand. It took me 3 years to summon the courage to mail that letter to her simply because I was afraid of rocking her world. But to my knowledge, I don’t think Paul had any idea he had a child with Mildred. But it doesn’t lessen my curiosity at all.
But going back to that photo above, his cheekbones. My grandmother had those cheekbones. My cousin does as well, then again, she really looks like my grandma.
I’m still hopeful I’ll hear from Paul’s daughter, my half-grand-aunt. Not only did I ask what Paul was like, but Clyde, George, and Ruth as well. I want to know about all of them, I wish I could get answers about his mother, Gertrude, but that is pretty much a lost cause unless I come across another family historian who talked to people years ago.
I am gathering up names to do another genealogical visit to the Summit County Health Department to gather birth and death certificates, and Paul is on my list to discover what his cause of death was.
To finish this up properly my hubby and I went out to Greenlawn Memorial Park where Paul and his wife, Juanita are buried. It took us about 50 minutes to find his grave as the layout of section Y was a bit challenging, but for me worth it. You always get that feeling of closeness when you are near your departed relative, even if you never met them in person.
I’m glad I took the time to do this timeline about Paul Harrison Geer. From the comments on his wife Juanita’s obituary, they seemed like a very nice couple, which led to my coming around about him not being as bad as the divorce document states. In the end, isn’t being a good person what you want to learn about your ancestors?