For week 11’s prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was “Luck”. It made me think of the story of my maternal great-grandmother, Phoebe Boone Fairhurst, and how she came to America from jolly old England. Or I guess I should say how she was suppose to come over.
According to my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, he told me on more than one occasion that his mother was suppose to come over on the RMS Titanic. She wasn’t feeling good so she opted to stay home and not come to America on the ill-fated ship. I was going to say what great luck that she wasn’t feeling well, especially since my grandfather wasn’t born until ten years later (he was born in Ohio in 1922).
But tonight after doing my due diligence, like looking to see when the Titanic set sail (why do I keep thinking it was 1914???), it was April 15, 1912. I’m thinking the story is an old wives tale as my great-grandmother had 2 children in England before settling in Ohio. Elsie was born in November 1912 and Wilfred was born in July 1914.
My great-grandfather, James Fairhurst, came over to the United States on the ship Mauretania and arrived in New York on 8 December 1913. Unless of course as a couple James Fairhurst and Phoebe Boone were to arrive initially together.
Trouble is every time my grandfather told the story, he spoke only of his mother. Which makes me go back to the conclusion that this was just an old wives tale.
For this week’s topic in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks by Amy Johnson Crow, it’s “Strong Woman” and from when I first discovered what were to me secret’s of my maternal great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, she is the first person who popped into my head for this week’s challenge.
My First Big Discovery
When I began working on my family tree 3.5 years ago, one of the first things I found at the library using Ancestry Library Edition was that my great-grandmother had been married not once, not twice, but three times in six years time.
Now I will confess, this particular great-grandmother passed away when I was 8, almost 9-years-old and so I knew her but never had any chance to ask questions and get to KNOW her (though I do have great memories of her babysitting me often). When my mother would speak of her, it was as if she were a saint and could do no wrong.
So when I came home with my finds to tell my mother about how Mildred had been married 3 times, needless to say it didn’t go over too big. Since my mother died my father has told me he is fairly positive my mother knew of my grandmother’s 3 marriages (we knew of 2) but because my mother had put her grandmother on such a pedestal, it was something she didn’t really want to speak of, and so we didn’t.
But it all depends on your outlook on things. My mother was a person who saw things in black and white. You either saw things her way, or the wrong way. There were no shades of gray. And this can be related towards my great-grandmother. Some could look at her three marriages as very taboo – but to me when you hear the reasons for her divorces, I look at her as a very strong woman.
Mildred Laura Dunbar
Mildred Laura Dunbar was born on 15 March 1908 to Arthur James Dunbar (who died in 1912 of polio), and Mazie Lorena Warner in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Potter County. In 1916, Mazie had remarried and she and her new husband, Samuel Randol, along with 2 of her daughters from her first marriage, moved to Akron, Ohio (her third daughtder, my great-great-aunt Myrtle married in 1914 and lived in Elmira, New York).
The Randol’s and Dunbar’s settled in the North Hill section of Akron (not far from where I live today) when my grandmother was 8 years old. When Mildred was about 17 (going off the dates of the 1925 Akron City Directories) the Geer family moved onto her street. Paul Harrison Geer would have been 20 years old when he moved in next door, and the romantic in me likes to think he was her first love (I have no actual proof he was).
My great-grandmother married Paul Geer on 17 September 1927. The marriage, however, did not last long, with my great-grandmother filing for divorce 15 January 1929 for gross neglect, he apparently liked to gamble and visit houses of ill-repute. The divorce was final on 5 September 1929.
On 30 September 1929 Mildred married for the 2nd time, to Albert Nank. Three days later, Alberta Lou Nank was born but in 1933 she (Mildred) was once again filing for divorce from Albert for gross neglect, extreme cruelty and his aversion to do an honest days work (can I just say I love old-time divorce records). This marriage was final on 27 May 1933.
On 5 August 1933 Mildred married her final time to Howard Fleming. She had 2-sons with him and was married to him until he passed away at age 63 in 1972. My great-grandma passed away 10 years later at age 73.
Where my mother may have been ashamed of my great-grandmother’s situation, I myself see a strong woman. Women didn’t get divorced from men who weren’t treating them well in the 1920’s and 1930’s, let alone twice! This just wasn’t done, so for her to stand up for herself, in my world, is incredible.
If you are interested in learning more about Mildred’s story, I wrote up the results of my DNA test which revolved around Mildred, Albert, and my grandmother. Click here for my post from last September, I Took a DNA Test & Figured Out a Mystery.
I’ll admit I’m a week behind for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge of 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks but I’ll confess, I was busy reading and hadn’t paid much attention (will hang my head in shame). But I’m back for those who like to peruse my posts as this disaster always brings tears to my eyes.
25 March 1939
Ever since I discovered this fire a few years back, this date is now so ingrained in my brain I can’t help but remember it. On this day almost 81 years ago, my great-great-uncle and his wife, Charles and Ethel Childers, decided to take a trip to the store, leaving their children in the care of their older brothers. The brothers had gone fishing, and Eva, who was 9 at the time, began getting dinner started. When she put the kerosene in the stove, it spilled and caused the oven to explode. Eva ran outside, rolled around on the ground to extinguish the flames then ran more than a mile to the nearest neighbor for help. From there she was taken to the hospital where she died.
By the time the neighbor made it to the house, the entire home was gone. 2-year old Ralph Childers died as he was upstairs napping and was unable to be saved.
Other children did get burns on their hands as they tried to put out the flames on Eva before she rolled on the ground.
The Newspaper Article – Altoona Mirror 27 Mar 1939
Eva & Ralph
I tried to find Eva & Ralph’s graves when I went back to Pennsylvania last summer. I found their parent’s and their older brother but there was no grave marker for the two who had perished in that horrible fire. My husband pointed to a plot of land that dipped down next to Charles and Ethel’s grave, stating they were most likely there (along with the other 3 young ones who passed, Orval, Phyllis and Denney).
I was surprised at how this fire has been exaggerated when you read about it on public family trees on Ancestry. Because overall Charles and Ethel Childers had 3 other children pass away young (poor nutrition) many have poorly assumed they died in this fire. Just 2, but in my world these 2 were too many.
My Own Bad Attitude
I know it’s a different time and place but I couldn’t imagine going off to go shopping and leaving my kids alone in the care of their brothers. I know they didn’t know their older boys would go off fishing, and I know girls at age 9 often did the cooking for the family back then, but I look at my own daughter and never would have dreamed her cook a meal at the age of 9 (she hasn’t offered and she just turned 16).
For a long while I use to refer to Charles and Ethel sarcastically as the “greatest parents in the world”. At the time that Eva and Ralph died in the fire, Ethel was pregnant. Her daughter Phyllis Fern was born 30 May 1939 and ended up passing away on 10 October 1939 of Malnutrition. The same happened with a son who was born 9 August 1944, dying on 7 December 1944.
How I’ve Come Around
After realizing that Ethel had other issues, I’m wondering if after having lost her children in a fire, if she was also dealing with post partum depression on top of regular depression. Various newspaper articles have reported her being in the hospital herself within a month of her babies passing. Where I use to be quite judgmental of the couple, especially Ethel, I find myself compromising that there was more going on with her situation than meets the eye. I probably wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if something happened to my children, and its so nice we have other options in this day and age if our children aren’t getting the nutrients they need there is now formula. I know my own mother had issues with my older sister and she had to switch when my sister was very young. She never even tried, she just formula fed me.
But there is also birth control, and I think that in a nutshell may have helped Ethel a bit. No one acknowledged post partum depression in the 1920’s through the 1940’s, and it appears she was quite fertile and that probably didn’t help her mentally either. And with depression getting such a bad reputation back in the day she was probably fearful of being placed in an asylum.
I’m quite happy things have changed in the 81 years since this fire. Kerosene isn’t a regular way of cooking inside a home anymore. More safety precautions are in place and going to the store isn’t an all day excursion (well, depending on what you are looking for). But everyday more and more is being done for mental health.
As for Eva and Ralph – may their souls still rest in peace.
Over the course of 2020 I have been participating in the genealogy writing challenge of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks that Amy Johnson Crow puts on each year. This week’s topic is “My Favorite Discovery” and as I sit here and think about what I can write about, there are so many finds flitting through my brain that bring a smile to my face… my DNA discovery that the man named on my grandmother’s birth certificate was not my grandmother’s father popped into my head, but as I sit here 1 week away from my birthday I know my favorite discovery was just re-brought to my attention in the form of a Facebook memory just last Sunday, February 9, when I discovered 3 years ago that my 5th-great-grandfather was at the Battle of Yorktown and saw Cornwallis surrender to my hero, General George Washington.
You see, I was born on George Washington’s birthday (I know, old news as I mention it from time to time), so after being told this my entire life, one of the first biographies I ever read in school was about George. The more I read, the more I admired George (pardon my familiarity, I like to think he would understand my calling him by his first name). Yes, he is flawed. Like many of those who were responsible for building the foundations of our new country, they made mistakes, compromising things for “the greater good” only to have it come back and haunt them 200+ years later.
But George never had an easy job despite being the only unanimously voted president of the United States. Many wanted him to be a king, but we just overthrew king-rule, he knew that wasn’t what was best for our country. Putting all the precedents in place to create the land we now live in wasn’t easy, but it’s one of the reasons I genuinely feel that George Washington was our greatest president.
But when I learned that my relative witnessed Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown literally gave me chills. That he was related to me through my Grandma Blair (Anna Maria Morgart) was even better, she was the best friend I will probably ever have.
Peter Morgart is my 5th-great-grandfather who was born in 18 April 1758 in New Jersey. His family moved to Virginia and he signed up and ended up being at the battle of Yorktown.
Peter Morgart was my first relative I discovered that fought in the Revolutionary War. I have since found others, Solomon Sparks is another 5th-great-grandfather who fought in both the Revolutionary War and became a Captain in the War of 1812. On my mother’s side I have Ichabod Warner (6th-great-grandfather), David Ryther (7th-great-grandfather), and Joel Chapin (6th-great-grandfather). But Peter will always have that extra special spot because not only was he the first relative I found to fight in the American Revolution, but he saw that wonderful surrender that ended the war.
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you want to get better about writing about your ancestors, the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a great opportunity. As you can see from my own headings for this challenge I have not participated in each week as sometimes I can strain the brain trying to find someone to fit a category and it doesn’t always jump out at me. First and foremost this is a fun activity, so don’t overstress if you don’t have something to write about each week. But I do recommend it as practice always helps you share the stories about your relatives.
This week’s topic for 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Week’s is the Same Name. Do you have ancestors with the same name? You know the ones, they drive you crazy because they are all back to back to back and you aren’t sure which ancestor they are talking about because they are father and son and they overlap.
I have the same name. Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson is a name that turns up on both my paternal and maternal sides of my dad’s side of the family. On my Blair side I my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather are both Andrew Jackson Blair’s with my great-great-great-grandfather being Andrew (he may be an Andrew Jackson as well but I’ve not had any confirmed documentation stating such). Then on my grandma’s side I have a great-great-great-grandfather named Andrew Jackson Morgart.
Andrew Jackson Blair (1881-1926)
The first Andrew Jackson Blair I will discuss was my great-grandfather. No one alive today ever knew him as he died before any of his grandchildren were born. Andrew was a miner and died when rock began falling within one of the mines and it crushed his chest. His brother-in-law, Abraham Childers, was injured when the ligaments in his leg were torn.
Above is the only photo known to have been taken of my great-grandfather. The story is that it was taken as a group shot of his Sunday School class and they managed to snip him out of the group shot so we have it. When I was sent this photo a few months ago I was so happy, I love seeing what my relatives looked like.
I have never found any marriage record yet of when my great-grandparents wed. But using Newspapers.com I have been able to piece together their marriage date of March 19, 1906.
Andrew, or AJ as I have seen him regarded as often, was buried in South Fork Cemetery.
Andrew Jackson Blair (1851-1899)
I don’t know a whole lot about my great-great-grandfather. He was born in March 1851 in Cambria County, Pennsylvania and passed away of a Paralytic Stroke on June 20, 1899 in Bedford County, PA. On the 1870 Census he was still living at home and was a woodchopper but in the 1880 census he had married the former Susan Jane Foster and had 3 children, all girls, and was a miner. In the 1880’s he and his wife would have 3-boys and 2-girls to add to the mix, bringing their total children to 9.
Andrew is actually buried in Duvall Cemetery, which is on the land of his wife’s great-grandfather, Basil Foster. I didn’t see his grave when I visited last year, but I also was unaware of his being buried there until my final day in Pennsylvania when I discovered his death record at the Bedford County Courthouse.
Andrew Blair (@1812 – After 1880)
Andrew Blair is my 3rd-great-grandfather and also one of my biggest brick walls (the other is his wife, Susannah (Suzanna) Akers and his son, George Washington Blair). Though he isn’t an Andrew Jackson, he is the Andrew that at least began it all (or so I think). I can honestly say I’ve not gotten any further than just the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses for my great-great-great-grandparents. His occupation is just a laborer, and he rented his home so there is no land ownership. In 1850 he lived in Conemaugh Township, Cambria County, then in 1860 he lived in Huston Township in Blair County, and in 1870 and 1880 he lived in Bedford County, first in Broad Top Township and then in Coaldale.
Along with a vague occupation, I have no definitive birth or death date for this elusive man. One day I will find out more about my ancestor – it will just take time and plenty of patience.
Andrew Jackson Morgart (1824 – 1870)
On my grandmother’s side of the family is my 3rd-great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Morgart. This Andrew Jackson was a farmer who lived in West Providence in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. On June 4, 1847 he married his wife, the former Rebecca O’Neal whom he had 10 children with, I’m an offspring of his oldest son, George Washington Morgart.
He died August 19, 1870. According to his obituary he must have been sick for a spell as death was not unexpected, but at the same time he was only 46-years-old. Wow, that’s the same age I am, but he was actually younger as I’ll be 47 next week.
To Sum It Up
To my knowledge, these are all the Andrew Jackson’s in my family. Now, Andrew Jackson Morgart did have a grandson named Charles Jackson but that’s another story for another time.
I guess the most fascinating part of having all these Andrew Jackson’s in my family is that in college I took a class entitled Jefferson to Jackson where it focused on the history of the United States while Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson where president. During this time period Andrew Jackson was such a hero, saving our new country from the British in the War of 1812 which led to his presidency. But I so disliked Andrew Jackson, still dislike him to this day. It would just figure that I have all these relatives named after him.
Though a part of me would love for my Andrew Blair to be an Andrew Jackson Blair too – as he was born in 1812 (maybe sooner) it could possibly make it a family name and not in honor of the famous war hero.
But I am going to have to break down that brick wall first.
This week’s topic for Week 5 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “So Far Away”. My family that I am going to discuss is my maternal grandfather’s family, the Fairhurst’s, who I have traced back to England. It’s not that England is that far, I am just at a stand still because learning how to do a new type of research (I know it’s the same language, but it’s still a different sort of system) I guess I’m just waiting until I have another branch to delve into records for more than one side of the family at a time.
My great-grandfather came over from Leigh, England in 1913. He travelled on the ship the RMS Mauretania. He came straight away to Jefferson County, Ohio to live. He worked as a miner and became a naturalized citizen on May 14, 1920. Eventually his family moved to Akron, initially working for the Seiberling Rubber Company (it was the second rubber company that F.A. Seiberling founded, the first being Goodyear Rubber Company – I know all this as I worked at his house, now a historic estate, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens), then the WPA in the early 1940’s, and then once again finding employment as a rubber worker at Firestone Rubber Company.
His wife, the former Phoebe Boone, was pregnant with their second child so she was delayed coming over at the same time James did. A tale that was told to me by my grandfather, Harold, when I was doing my family history for my 6th grade Social Studies class, was that my great-grandmother was originally suppose to come over on the Titanic, but because she wasn’t feeling well, she opted to go at another time. Lucky for me if this was really the case as my grandfather wouldn’t be born for another 8 years. I have not yet looked to see if any of this is true, I just assumed it was false but a fun story for my family to tell.
I’ll admit another reason I don’t research this portion of my family is that I wasn’t overly fond of my grandfather, and therefore it’s being reflected on his entire family. He was an angry man who took things out on everyone around him. I have learned from conversations with his 2 of his 3 remaining children that he seems to have gotten that characteristic from his mother. So while other portions of my family tree tend to go back to the early 1800’s, sometimes even the 1700’s, my Fairhurst and Boone branches stop in the late 1800’s.
I guess I shouldn’t let my feelings get the better of me. It’s entirely possible that Thomas, Rachel, Enoch and Susannah are perfectly fine people living a splendid life in Leigh, England, and I won’t ever know until I start finding out about them. I didn’t know anything about the others either until I began researching. But for the time being they are over in England, with all their records, an ocean away.
My favorite photo from my family history journey? I have to pick just one? I have so many that seeing an ancestor seems to have changed my life that picking just one seems so difficult. Until I realize it isn’t.
The photo I chose is actually (at the present anyhow) a part of my header here on my blog.
I’ve included it just as it was scanned off my dad’s flatbed scanner that he is allowing me to use. This photo includes 2-great-grandmothers and my paternal grandparents. It was taken at my grandparent’s house in Akron, Ohio in 1961. From left to right is Bertha Childers, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, Anna Maria Morgart, and Leroy Blair. This photo just seems to exemplify the personalities of them all and just looking at it brings a smile to my face.
I’ve heard from more than one person that Bertha (aka Mrs. Chappell, the last name of her second husband) was always mad at someone. So seeing her cross on the end of the sofa makes me wonder which of my other relatives was she upset with? Bertha is the mother of my grandfather, Leroy Blair. I never had the chance to meet Bertha, she passed away in 1963.
Margaret “Maggie” Wise
Next up is Maggie Wise, my Grandma’s mom. I actually have very fuzzy memories of visiting Gammy (that’s what her grandkids called her) in the nursing home when we went back to Pennsylvania to visit. I only recall meeting her a few times, and she passed away at the age of 96 in 1987 (I was 14 at the time). She always seemed happy and I remember her playing the “mouth organ” or harmonica.
My Paternal Grandparents
I love seeing my grandparents (Anna Maria Morgart and Leroy Blair) so happy in this picture. Now it’s hard to make out, even with the original photo in your hand, but from the note on the back of it, they are playing with a bird (not just any bird mind you, Skippy #1. My Grandma Blair went on to name every bird she had Skippy over the years, so it’s rather cool to see the original). Not having ever met my grandfather, I never knew that much about him, and stories seemed to fall all over the place. Seeing him having a good time with my Grandma makes me happy.
Anna Maria Morgart
My Grandma Blair was probably the best friend I will ever have. I could talk to her about anything and she never judged, just listened, and gave me the best advice she thought I needed. Gosh, I miss her. She passed away almost 13 years ago but sometimes the pain seems like it was yesterday.
My grandfather, affectionately called Pappy, died when I was 2-years-old so I really don’t have any recollections of him. My mom’s favorite story of him was how every time he came over to our house, I’d be asleep and he would say “I just want to go in a look at her” and somehow I always woke up. I have heard from other relatives how he just loved little girls and he would have probably spoiled me rotten (not that he wasn’t fond of my dad). I wish I could have had him in my life. He seems like he was just a good man, and in the end, isn’t that what you want from your relatives?
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.
I’m a little late in starting but I’ve decided I’m going to partake in Amy Johnson Crow’s family history writing exercise “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”. Seeing as writing about my ancestors always seems so daunting, I hope that doing it weekly on a different member of my family that maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel more comfortable.
Week 1’s topic is “A Fresh Start”. I’m going to be super generic and talk about myself – I’m going through a fresh start in my genealogical journey as I am going through all my people and making sure they belong and that I have the documents I need for them, and that I have the full information for each ancestor.
For example on New Year’s Eve, I discovered in my Legacy software all the people who I have just a year down for their birth date or death date – all their reminders came up on December 31. And it wasn’t just a few I had, it was for 134 dates!
In some ways I stand by the dates, something is better than nothing, so when I see a child who shows up on a Census or two and all I have is that random year of birth that’s given, I use it with a hope of someday finding additional information such as a month or an actual day to go with it.
I also ran a potential problem report and was fortunate it was only a page in length. I’ve fixed most of these mistakes as one person had a death date before their birth date (I typed 1930 for their birth instead of 1830 – an easily fixed typographical error, but an error nonetheless).
Going more in-depth and trying to find out what I don’t know is going to make me a better family historian. We all deserve a fresh start every now and then – and mine has begun, even with this challenge, as it will allow me to get to know my ancestors even better.
If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.