My Family Tree

Anna Maria Morgart

Thirteen years ago on this very day I lost one of the greatest human beings I ever knew.  My paternal grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart died at the age of 93 years and a part of me has been lost ever since.  On this anniversary of her death I will honor her.

Her Childhood

Anna Maria Morgart was born on 2 April 1914 in Broad Top Township, Pennsylvania at 11:55am to Charles Jackson Morgart and Margaret Dora Wise. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty Wise. By the time she was 5 years old, her father would commit suicide and her mother would re-marry.  From the many stories I heard, my grandma thought the world of Irie Earl Custer, so much so my dad’s middle name was his middle name, and the name he (Mr. Custer) used, Earl.

She always told me about how much she loved school, and though she didn’t get the best of grades, she did love English and handwriting.  She loved to write.  Her handwriting was so distinctive, you can see it below in the “Blondie” on the photo on the right.

Into Adulthood

One of her first jobs, she told me, was how she cleaned a bank.  She claimed she got down and cleaned the floor with a little brush.  She may or may not have said tooth brush but as a little girl that’s always what I pictured so that might be where I got that idea in my head.  When I visited Pennsylvania last Summer my cousin, Hope, was so nice to show me where the bank was – and here it is – it’s where you pay your utilities in Saint Michael now.

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The photo below was taken of her in 1933 – she was just 19 years old.  It’s odd how much my dad looks like her in these photos.

Anna Morgart 5Mar1933

I never quite knew when my grandparents met, I’m still not certain how they met either.  I think I asked my dad but he isn’t entirely sure either.  However I did come across this article from the Everett Press from 7 July 1933 where it shows they attended a Fourth of July picnic together at my Grandmother’s aunt’s home (Mrs. Bartley Noggle was Anna Rebekah Morgart, sister of Charles Jackson Morgart).

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I Do

My grandparents got married on 24 April 1937 in Elkhart, Indiana.  I’ve not found any wedding photos or even a marriage announcement, but I have found a copy of their marriage license on FamilySearch.

My grandparents moved to Indiana because my grandfather, Leroy Blair, was offered an apprenticeship in sheet metal.  This was a much-preferred occupation as his father had passed away in the coal mines when he (Leroy) was just 14 years old, and according to my dad, Leroy also had an accident in the same “room” where his dad had died.

My Grandfather’s older sister Vada also lived in Gary, Indiana and she and my Grandma were best friends.  I often talked to Darlene, Vada’s daughter, and she always remembered how close they were.

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Left to right – Bertha Childers (her back is towards us), Vada Blair, Anna Maria Morgart, and Charles Blair “Buddy” Reese.

Despite living in Indiana, my Grandma still found a way to go back to Pennsylvania and visit her family.  She was very close to her family.  Her mom, Margaret Wise and brother, Charles Edward “Eddie” Morgart lived in Pennsylvania, but she would also head up to Detroit Michigan to visit with her older sister, Virginia. (Below are photos from 1940 of my Grandma, her with her brother-in-law, Joe Dipko, and lastly one of her and her sister, Virginia).

 My Daddy Makes 3

On 11 January 1943 my dad was born.  My Grandma was so happy to have a little one, and my dad was her only child.  They were still living in Gary, Indiana when he came along, and since World War 2 was taking place, amongst the photographs was the ration book that was used for my dad.

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In the 1950’s my grandparents moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio.  Initially they lived in a trailer but by 1955 they had money to move into a house.  My Grandma had never been so proud of a house as the one she made her home.  I couldn’t tell you how many photos she had of her house on Roslyn Avenue. That’s her standing in the door below. (She lived here the rest of her life).

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My favorite was the photo she had of how there was nothing in the yard so my Grandfather, aka Pappy, decided to grow ears of corn in front of the living room window (however I am not finding that photo at the moment).

Another story of how they found their house was that as long as my Grandma could walk to a store she was going to be happy (she didn’t drive, apparently when she was younger a suitor attempted to teach her but she ran off the road and never got in the driver seat again). Pappy did well, he found a home for her and my parents got her a shopping cart that she could push her groceries home.  She was also a master of coupons, and this was before couponing was a thing (or at least before I knew couponing was a thing).

As She Grew Older

My Grandma always had a smile and a kind word for everyone.  She loved birds and family.  The below photo I shared before.  My Grandma and Pappy (right side) are playing with their bird, Skippy #1, while my Grandma’s mom, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, is laughing along with them, and Bertha Childers, Leroy’s mom, is just as grumpy as can be.

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My Grandma was one of the most generous people I knew.  During the summer months she would get up super early in the morning and go to a lady’s home, Mrs. Juhas was her name, she was the mom of one of my dad’s best friends growing up, and she would help her in her garden.  She shared green beans and tomatoes with my grandma as payment (though we use to go over weekly for my dad to help my Grandma with a very small garden she had in her backyard).  Until my Grandma got macular degeneration and could no longer can green beans, which was around 1997, I’d never had green beans in an aluminum can until about the year 2000.

Leroy/Pappy died on 14 May 1975 so I don’t really have any recollection of him (I was born in 1973).  But Grandma went everywhere with us.  She spent the night before Christmas so she was there to watch us open our presents.  She was always invited over to functions on my mom’s side of the family (she was 1 of 5 kids so there was always something going on).  My husband for the longest time didn’t believe this, especially when I began having trouble going places after my Grandma passed.  I realized Grandma was who I sat with at these functions so I could entertain her, and frankly so she could entertain me (I’m quite the introvert at times). But after my maternal grandma passed, my aunt gave us a bunch of photos that we were in that she had, in every photo was my Grandma Blair beside me.  I laughed so hard to prove my husband wrong.

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This is my maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming Metzger, 65th Birthday Party.  From left to right is me (in black), Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart in pink), Thomas Ray Weekley (blue stripes), my mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst Blair (polka dots). Oddly, the little bit of curly hair between my cousin Tommy and the beer can is my Grandma Metzger (Alberta Lou).

When She Turned 93

The last six weeks of my Grandma’s life were not the best.  She had gotten a case of shingles on her legs and didn’t tell anyone.  It got into her bloodstream and made her pretty sick and she ended up in the hospital. This is where she was on her 93rd birthday.  I remember my dad and I going to visit her on her big day, 2 April 2007.

From there she was moved into a nursing home not far from my house to go through therapy so she could walk and move around again.  I would go and visit her often and slowly her appetite was decreasing.  My husband made her sweet potatoes and it was the last solid food she ate.  About a week later, I did what I didn’t want to do, which was tell her it was okay if she wanted to go “home”.

I’ve hated myself for 13 years for doing that.  I know it’s what she needed, I know it was probably the right thing to do, but a selfish part of me hates myself for doing it because my kids never got to know her.  My son was 7 months old and my daughter just 3 years.  She has vague recollections, but that’s it.

But the thing is my kids have gotten to know her.  I’ve shared with them all the wonderful stories I have of my Grandma Blair.  Just today I told my daughter of the time when my Grandma was watching my sister and I in 1976 after my cousin Tracy was born.  My mom helped drive my Aunt Barb to Texas to be with my Uncle who was in the Air Force.  Aunt Barb had been in my room so I was staying in Kellie’s room on bunk beds.  My sister had finally let me up on the top bunk and very quickly she decided I had overstayed my welcome.  She went to take me off the top bunk by force but I quickly pushed her off the top bunk and on to the floor.  My Grandma came back to see what was wrong, there was me on the top bunk and there was Kellie on the floor.  My Grandma reached up for me and told me it was time to leave Kellie alone.  As Kellie cried Grandma just told her that she would be okay and to get up off the floor.  I really dodged a bullet that day.  Don’t worry, some day I’m sure you’ll hear part 1 of this story when Kellie dragged me around the walls of the living room by my feet giving me rug burn (there is no love loss between my sister and I, even to this day).

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A little over 2 years ago as I sat at a band concert with my mom, I can’t even remember what we were talking about but my mom looked at me and said that every day I reminded her of more and more of my Grandma Blair.  It was the greatest compliment she could have ever given me.  And sadly she (my mom) passed away a few weeks later, so I’m glad she said it when she did.

I hope I make my Grandma proud.

And I hope she misses me as much as I miss her.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week #7: My Favorite Discovery

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.

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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.

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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.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week #2: My Favorite Photo

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.

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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.

Bertha Childers

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.

Leroy Blair

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.