Everyone feels out of place at times. I know I always do and even now when finding relatives through genealogy I find my portion of the Blair family “out of place”.
Most everyone else still lives in Pennsylvania while my grandfather, Leroy Blair, received an apprenticeship in Gary, Indiana, for the sheet metal trade. So, my little section of the family (and it is small compared to others as my dad was an only child) isn’t included in a lot of functions as others are.
My dad also notes when telling stories, that his grandmother, Bertha Childers, often treated him differently than the others simply because she didn’t see him as often as her other grandchildren, as even after his apprenticeship was over my grandparents moved to Akron, Ohio, never returning to Pennsylvania to live (only to visit).
For week 2 of the genealogical writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the prompt is favorite photo. One of my favorites (as this is a theme every year it’s fortunate we have so many photos to love) is a photo of my dad. He received a camera for Christmas in 1956 and according to the note on the back from my grandma (Anna Maria Morgart), he was taking a picture and it “exploded” and accidentally took a picture of himself. I like to joke it’s the world’s first selfie.
When I saw the prompt for Week 1 of the 2023 version of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks by Amy Johnson Crow, one thought jumped into my head, but alas, I wrote about that in my 2021 Week 26 Conflict post. Then there are all the usual suspects… Andrew Blair, Suzanna Akers, Mazie Warner… to name a few off the top of my head. And then it hit me, a man I’ve been curious about, a man who got his name in the newspaper for not necessarily the best of reasons (can you say moonshine?), so for this the first week of 2023 I will write about my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise as a person I’d like to meet.
This is a photo of my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise. He just looks to me like a very nice man. I don’t recall too many stories about him from my Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) as he had already passed away before she was born. The one story I do remember was when my Grandma mentioned his marriage to Anna Maria Leighty, there was an age difference, it was probably not as much as she may have been thinking, Anna Maria was 4 years older than Jonas, but there is an age difference with my husband and I, and when I first began being interested in him, my Grandma likened it to their relationship, showing that even when the woman was older, the marriage could work. (She also went on to say that since women live longer than men, not sure if this is true, but it was in her world as she, her mother, and her granny all lived longer than their husbands by a good twenty years), she was optimistic that my husband and I may die at the same time. Only time will tell.
Jonas Wise was born 3 March 1855 to Philip Wise and Barbara Waite in Liberty, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the 6th of 9 known children, the others being Elvina, William, John, Sarah, Margaret, Henry, Emmanual, and Mary Ann. In the 1850 Census Phillp was listed as a farmer but 10 years later in the 1860 and 1870 Censuses he is a coal miner.
Jonas married Anna Maria Leighty around 1875 with their oldest child, Henry James, being born on 3 August 1876 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Jonas and Anna had a total of 14 children, with 10 dying at birth. Their next surviving child was Riley born 25 February 1885, then Mary Ann born 25 September 1888, Margaret Dora born 11 February 1891, and lastly Hannah born 14 March 1894 (I have no record of her death, and she is not listed on the 1900 Census so she must have passed away before the turn of the century).
Living on the Edge
In the 1880 Census Jonas’ occupation was listed as Coal Miner, in 1900 he was a day laborer, and then in 1910 a woodchopper. But along with mining, day laboring, and chopping wood, Jonas Wise had a side gig. He made his own liquor and got caught selling it.
But he wasn’t caught just once, he was caught multiple times. And there is nothing like having a headline of “Whiskey Dealers in Trouble” and the first individual mentioned is your ancestor.
The offense in Huntingdon County was actually written up in a variety of local newspapers. I’m sure that made my great-great-grandmother a happy woman.
What Would I Ask Him?
One of the first questions I’d ask would be how did he become deaf? Or was he deaf his entire life? It’s not noted on any census over the years, but it was noted on the bottom of a photo that my 1st cousin once removed, Hope Dipko, had at her home. (Someone left the photo behind at a Wise Family Reunion she had attended one year).
I suppose I’d ask if making hard cider was worth the fines and jail time he often endured when he was caught? Was he caught more often than what was printed in the newspapers? I’d almost like to give him a glimpse into the future of the home brewing people do of beers and such now and wonder how impressed he would be?
I wonder what he would think about his daughter, Margaret Dora “Maggie”, living to be 96 years old when he only lived to be 57? (He died of pneumonia on 12 January 1913). I’d ask him the question I’d also like to ask his wife, was George Mullen her son (and his stepson)? She is listed as his mother sorta on his marriage license (I say sorta as it’s the wrong name but I’m guessing that is who he means – it’s Martha Wise with the father’s name unknown), and she is who he was living with in her later years, and it’s alluded to on the above photo.
And lastly, I’d ask him for any advice for me as I enter my 50’s this year. It would be interesting to find out what information would be the same and also that which would be entirely different from the changes in technology and just life in general over the past 100 years.
If you would like to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks genealogical writing challenge click here. It’s fun to take the time to write about your ancestors that you research, and you don’t have to do it each and every week.
For the final month of 2023 the prompt is “New Horizons”. The first person who popped into my head is a relative who is not a direct ancestor for myself, but someone I’ve been curious about learning more about. Her name is Rachel Snell Morgart, she is the younger sister of my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart. She was born in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania and made her way to North Dakota to teach.
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was named after her father’s older sister, Rachel Morgart, who married William Snell. Rachel was the 8th of 10 children to her parents, her siblings including Katherine Amanda, George Washington, Mary Elizabeth, Rebecca Jane, Arabelle, James Henry, Sarah Ellen, William Baltzer, and Ida Florence.
When Rachel was just 7 years old, her father died 19 August 1870.
Not much is written about Rachel in the newspapers to find out what her life was like after her father died. I did find an article from 13 September 1881 stating that she scored a 91 3-5 attending the Prof Bachtel English and Classical Institute.
I then decided to find out what kind of school this Institute was, and so I found this, and it may have been a similar article in the newspaper that convinced Rachel to attend.
The other puzzle is how Rachel ended up undergoing instruction in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and ending up in North Dakota as the next document I can find her in is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census where she is listed as a teacher. In the 11 April 1883 the Everett Press lists how they had received a copy of the North Dakota version of the Daily Minnesota Tribune to review. I tried to see if this was a part of Newspapers.com or even Genealogybank.com but I did not find the newspaper listed. I was curious to see if there was any sort of advertisement for teachers.
By continuing to use newspapers I was able to discover that Rachel taught at the Ypsilanti and Montpelier schools in what was originally the Dakota Territory as North Dakota did not become a state until 1889. I found her with the following timeline:
1885 – Listed on the Dakota Territory 1885 Census
1886 – Teaching at Ypsilanti
1887 – Teaching at Montpelier School #5
1888 – Teaching at Montpelier School #2 (she had 15 students)
In the Dakota Territory school began in late April and went for 6 months. In some winters Rachel attended the Valley City Normal School for additional instruction, in the winter of 1887 she returned to Pennsylvania and visited with her family.
Marriage & Family
On 31 July 1895 Rachel Snell Morgart married Daniel Halfpenny.
After getting married children came, daughters to be exact, 4 of them over the course of 10 years. First was Dorothy Evangeline who was born 8 June 1896, then Ruth Morgart born 1 April 1901, and finally twins born on 7 May 1906 Margaret Rebecca and Mary Kathryn.
All 4 girls took on teaching as their vocation at some point in their lives. Ruth Morgart and Mary Kathryn lived their entire lives in the North Dakota area, (Mary Kathryn actually lived her final years in Montana). Dorothy Evangeline and Margaret Rebecca both ended up moving to the San Diego area.
Reverend Daniel Halfpenny died on 21 January 1928 at the age of 75. Within 10 years on 29 September 1937 his bride would die from injuries she sustained in a car accident earlier in the month when her back broke in two places.
Ever since I discovered a couple of years ago from a distant cousin who descended from Rachel Snell Morgart of her journey, she has intrigued me. I wish I had more information in regard to her move to North Dakota, it amazes me that no newspaper was impressed with her moving across the country. I tried to see if she had any siblings that may have gone that way and maybe she tagged along, but that is not the case. Her brother, William Baltzer, does end up settling in Idaho, but was living in West Virginia in the 1880’s when Rachel moved to North Dakota. Such gumption she had to do such a thing. And it was a decade before she married, simply amazing!
Did you have any sort of “pioneers” in your family tree? If you do I’d love to know where they went, and if they didn’t go anywhere, maybe they did something that made them a pioneer. Share your ancestor in the comments.
Today I am going to focus on what I call my “new” side of the family. But I guess it’s no longer that new, as it’s been 3 years since I discovered that my maternal Grandmother’s real dad was most likely Paul Harrison Geer, my great-grandmother’s first husband. Since then, I have done some research on the Geer’s, but have yet to really dig in and find out who they were, so for me it’s like they are this big shadow, no photos, no stories, just odds and ends found in the newspapers here and there with documents I have found to create a trail of where they lived, what they did (I thank city directories for providing these details). There aren’t even many pre-existing trees on Ancestry to give me a bigger picture of who this family really is.
I was also hoping to have this posted yesterday, but I also wanted to do it justice, so here I am a day late, but I hope it is worth it.
Clyde Ellsworth Geer was born on 21 December 1879 in Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County, Ohio to William Henry Harrison Geer, (according to city directories he went by “Harrison”) and Amelia Dailey. From the information I have gathered, Clyde was the youngest of 4 children, with Kate, Mary Luella, and Frederick Gurdon preceding him (though there is a 7-year gap between Fred and Clyde). Harrison was a carpenter working for such companies as the W.B. Doyle Company (a lumber mill that once stood in the heart of downtown Akron), and AA Bartlett & Company (manufacturers of sash, doors, blinds, and mouldings, according to the 1893-1894 Burch Akron City Directory).
His oldest sister, Kate, died on 17 May 1882 of a Typho-Malarial Fever. She was just 15 years old. Another article in the Summit County Beacon from 7 June 1882 stated she died of just typhoid fever. Both were characterized by a similar definition, “Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever cause similar symptoms. People with these diseases usually have a fever that can be as high as 103 to 104°F (39 to 40°C). They also may have weakness, stomach pain, headache, diarrhea or constipation, cough, and loss of appetite. Some people have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots”, (taken from the CDC’s website). Clyde was just 2 years old when Kate died.
By 1882 the family had moved to Akron living on Glenwood Avenue, “1 house from Howard Street” according to the Burch Akron City Directory 1882-1883. The family owned that home until Amelia died in 1908.
By the time he was a teenager Clyde began working as a driver, first for Strobel Brothers in 1896, then for Unique Laundry in 1897, then he returned to Strobel Brothers which is where he worked when his father died 16 January 1900 when Clyde was just 20 years old. William Henry Harrison Geer died of “convulsions of the brain” according to the Akron Daily Democrat from 17 January 1900.
Marriage with Gertrude
Within two years of his father’s death, Clyde met Gertrude VanBuskirk. on 3 March 1902 they had their first child together, George Ellsworth. Six months later they were married on 6 September 1902. Their second child, son Paul Harrison Geer was born on 21 September 1905, and finally their third and final child, Ruth Cloe Geer was born on 25 July 1907.
Throughout their married life they lived in North Hill, a section of Akron, a majority of the time living at 21 Glenwood Avenue, and he worked at such places as Akron Belting Company and Goodrich Tire Company. But then on 26 October 1908 Gertrude died of acute pneumonia. She was just 32 years old.
Earlier in the year, on 27 May 1908, Clyde’s mother had also passed away of diabetes. Amelia had been living with Clyde and Gertrude.
After Gertrude died his 3 children went and lived with Gertrude’s parents, George VanBuskirk and Lydia Cunningham. Clyde lived with his brother, Fred, and his wife, Ida.
Marriage to Helen
On 23 April 1914, Clyde married his second wife, Mary Helen Forbes (McCormick) at the home of his brother, Fred. Helen was 12 years older than Clyde.
With his new wife he also worked at Firestone and Swinehart Rubber Company (this is where I believe Clyde met Samuel Randol, my great-grandmother Mildred Laura Dunbar’s stepfather). While married to Helen, Clyde came into a sense of vocational stability working at the Akron Belting Company, a place he was to work for several years to come.
Around 1925 Helen and Clyde moved to 71 Rosalind Court which was next door to my great-great-grandmother’s, Mazie Warner, and her husband, Samuel Randol’s home. This is when Mildred Laura Dunbar most likely met Paul Harrison Geer (assuming they didn’t know each other already).
Sadly, Helen died 6 February 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 63 years old.
Less than 2 years after Helen’s death, Clyde’s brother Fred died of heart disease.
In the years following Helen’s death Clyde continued to work at the Akron Belting Company and lived in downtown Akron with his son’s. At this point in time Paul was working for Goodyear and George (though according to the City Directory he was going by Ellsworth) worked as a janitor/painter.
Marriage to Stella
Clyde’s marriage to Stella Myrtle Long has me intrigued the most. Why, may you ask? Because Stella Long was also the mother of Clyde’s son’s Paul’s second wife, Juanita Faye Dodd. And Clyde married Stella the same day Paul married Juanita, so it truly was a family affair (and to make matters more interesting, Clyde’s daughter Ruth married Stella’s son, Shirley Roscoe Dodd as well). I’ve often wondered if Paul met Stella as they both worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber in the late 1930’s.
Clyde’s marriage to Stella was his only marriage that ended in divorce. It was also his last marriage. They were married on 30 December 1939 at the First Methodist Church. Their marriage ended on 7 February 1947 (unlike their children whose marriage lasted 44 years). The reason was just “gross neglect”. Stella was the plaintiff, Clyde the defendant in the proceedings.
On 22 July 1953 Clyde’s sister, Mary Luella “Lulu” Geer Montz died of pulmonary edema and broncho-pneumonia. She was 89.
It appears that Clyde retired from Akron Belting in the late 1940’s and worked as a doorman briefly before he stopped working completely. Most of the last decade of his life was spent living with Paul, Juanita, and their daughter before he passed away of acute myocardial infarction and advanced arteriosclerosis with senility being secondary on 14 December 1962. He is buried at Rose Hill Burial Park.
I remember when I wrote my letter to Paul’s daughter it wasn’t just Paul I inquired about, but Clyde as well. I wondered if she had stories she could share about them all. I wish I had more than just a paper trail of these people. What did they look like, what were their mannerisms, I know my grandmother (Alberta Lou Fleming) had Paul’s cheekbones, did they get them from Clyde?
I often hope that whom I presume to be my half aunt has held onto my letter and maybe will one day respond to it. She is the key to unlocking the shadows.
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 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.
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?
One of things I wish I could achieve in my genealogical journey would be to join a lineage society, specifically Daughters of the American Revolution (as I am a huge fan of the Revolutionary War). However, with this goal also lies one of my largest conflicts in my family history as I would like to join under my 5th-great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, simply because this is through my Grandma Blair’s (Anna Maria Morgart) family, as I had always had a special bond with her and my obsession with genealogy began as I was missing her back on 10 August 2016, and I signed up with FamilySearch and the rest is now history.
My conflict exists because both my Grandmother’s birth certificate and death certificate have the same incorrect name listed for her father. Instead of the correct name of Charles Jackson Morgart, A Jackson Morgart is listed instead.
Now, in my dad’s defense, who was the informant on her death certificate, his paternal grandfather’s name was Andrew Jackson Blair, so I can relate to his boo-boo in his time of grief. But no one was more surprised than me when I ordered up my Grandmother’s birth certificate from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission back in January 2020 to find her dad’s name would once again be listed as A Jackson Morgart instead of Charles Jackson Morgart.
To cause me more grief is the fact that Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide on 24 July 1917, and with my Grandmother being born on 2 April 1914, there is no census that has both listed on the same document as father and daughter. I’ve also never found an obituary or death notice in the newspaper to shed light on his death, so nothing that would state that he had a daughter named Anna Maria Morgart (or at least not yet).
I do have her marriage license that states her father’s name is Charles Jackson Morgart, but would that document be enough?
I suppose if I needed more evidence I could hope that the birth certificate for his older son, Charles Edward Morgart, which does have the correct name listed would work, and that I could hope that I have a DNA match with one of his descendants which could give me the argument I need to prove I am his great-granddaughter, and connect me to the rest of the lineage that would lead to Peter Morgart.
Has anyone out there in cyberspace had this sort of genealogical problem? How did you get around it? Is the marriage license enough?
For the 12 Ancestors in 12 Months challenge for this month the word is “social”. I find myself talking about myself again but it’s because I am not a social type of person. I am an introvert to the nth degree, and this is a part of my personality that I really need to work on if I am going to be the person I truly want myself to be.
Why did this come about now? Because last night I learned that on 6 June 2022 one of my older relatives passed away. I feel horrible as my dad always thought to call her later in the day and with her being 88 he didn’t want to call at that moment in time and wake her up. When he couldn’t reach her I threw her name into Google and her obituary came up. And then I cried as I had met Hope on more than one occasion, and she was a lovely woman. My most recent meeting was when I went back to Pennsylvania in 2019 as she was excited to share with me the photo she had of her great-grandparents, my 2nd-great-grandparents. You see, Margaret Hope Dipko was my first cousin once removed on my dad’s side of the family.
As the memes on social media highlight, “a library has been lost”. Because of Covid I wasn’t able to get back to Pennsylvania and ask Hope questions I should have asked about my Wise side of the family. I thought she may have had answers about the Morgart side as I was semi-focused on them when I visited in 2019 but she was unaware. I wasn’t prepared for Wise questions and now I’ll never know (she attended the Wise Family Reunions with my grandmother years ago).
So, in honor of Hope, I am going to learn to get out of my comfort zone and begin talking to people. I’ll start out locally and begin interviewing those I know, (but do I really know them?) in order to practice on those I am not as familiar with. I’m going to make sure I interview my relatives and be more social and learn as much from those who are still here. Genealogy is a social hobby, how else am I going to fill in all those dashes, the important part of a person’s vital statistics.
Go be social. Talk to your relatives. All of them. You never know what kind of wonderful information is lurking in someone’s memory just waiting to entertain you with a fabulous story about their life. One of the best ways you can honor your relatives/ancestors is to keep their spirit alive by sharing the story of their life.