52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Week 12: Loss

As a human being, we all lose members of our family. But when you lose a parent it’s comparable to losing a limb. This week’s theme is Loss for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Weeks, and I’m going to discuss one of the biggest losses of my life, my mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, and you will get some of her insights as I have used her scrapbooking pages from her own blog to aid in my telling about her life.

Cynthia Anne Fairhurst

My mom was born on 22 December 1947 at 2:31am in Akron, Ohio, the oldest child of Harold Fairhurst and Alberta Lou Fleming.

It wasn’t long before others came along. My Aunt Terry was born in April 1949. Here is a photo of the family of four that following summer.

In July 1950 my Uncle Eddie was added to the mix and then my Aunt Debbie 4 years later.

Her Childhood

My mom’s early years had her living in the North Hill area of Akron. By the time she was in second grade her family had moved to Cuyahoga Falls.

Third grade had her going to Grant Elementary School (which is now a community center in Cuyahoga Falls as they consolidated schools when I was in 5th grade and closed 3 elementary schools down).

Below is a photo of her from 4th grade when she attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

Cindy was always very close to her grandmother, Mildred Laura Fleming, spending a lot of time at her house. Below is a memory she had of Christmastime.

My mom and her siblings love to go and hang out at the Gorge, one of the Summit County Metro Parks where you can hike, fish, and ice skate (there are 3 different hiking paths that are a part of the annual hiking spree at this location alone). My mom, who wasn’t an overly nostalgic person (I have gotten all my pack rat sentimentality from my grandmother), still had a pair of her ice skates hanging in the room underneath the steps in our home. Most of her fondest memories of growing up were of her and her siblings playing at the Gorge. Below are some pictures I’ve taken over the years when I participate in the Fall Hiking Spree, but two (the black and white ones) I found on a Facebook Post (I think). The other I did re-find and is a photo by John McMillan.

From left to right on the top: A photo of where the ice skating pond is in the winter time, next is a photo of the Gorge hiking trail leading to Mary Campbell’s Cave (the others not shown are Highbridge and the Glenns), the pipe is a spot my mother claims to have crossed over countless times and I find this hard to believe as she was extremely afraid of heights, next is a photo of the Cuyahoga River looking towards the Falls (which is to be torn down soon – they claim there is another falls behind this but this is actually part of the dam used by Ohio Edison or FirstEnergy for electricity), next up is just a photo of the river again (I must have thought it looked artsy and wanted to share), then there is the photo I’m not sure where I found it but it was on my phone of kids using one of the heaters in the winter months, and lastly a photo by John McMillan of ice skating. I remember sending this photo to my mom and joked that maybe she was somewhere in it! She actually went on to scrapbook a page using the photo.

This scrapbooking page can be found at my mom’s blog at Gramma’s Happy Place, my mom loved to scrapbook, it became one of her passions the last years of her life.

After graduating high school in 1966 my mom worked as a nurses aid at Green Cross Hospital (which changed to Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital and is now Western Reserve Hospital). My mom loved working in the hospital and it was her dream to become a nurse.

Getting Married & Having a Family

At the age of 19 she got married to her first husband, Joe Sullivan and had my sister. Things didn’t work out with that relationship, Joe wasn’t the right guy for my mom, being a more fly by the seat of your pants type to her responsible nature. Eventually they divorced and my parents met while she was working as a bartender at Falls Recreation, a bowling alley, and I believe she worked in a bank during the day.

On October 2, 1971 my parents got married, oddly enough on my Grandma’s birthday (my mom’s mom). A year-plus later I came along and her family was complete (you do stop at perfection, right? Okay, I’ll stop before my sister gets mad).

By this point in time Cindy became a “stay at home” mom. But she didn’t believe in pampering us, we walked to and from school, even in the rain (that’s what umbrella’s are for – I tell you, I wish I still had an umbrella now like I had when I walked home from school – it was clear with red trim and a red curved handle and the top completely wrapped around you, so your entire top stayed dry, not just your head!). This caused issues with the other parents because they wanted her to help with carpools.

But in the grand scheme of things I can’t complain about my childhood. I had chores to do (dishes, floors, bathrooms – nothing horrible – but ask 18 year old me and I’m sure I would say something completely different). But she let me be a kid, and for that I am eternally grateful. She didn’t make me feel bad for sneaking downstairs to my play room and play with my dolls when many would have thought me “uncool” (though when I was 5 she did hide my Fisher Price People from me, and that hurt).

Mishaps

I have so many times when odd things happened that always looked bad for my mom. For example one night, I was probably in third grade (I think?) and my mom and I were sitting at opposite ends of the couch. She stretched out and ended up kicking me in the mouth. The next day at church people asked me happened, and me being my usual, blunt self stated “my mom kicked me”.

But even before that when I was probably 4, my mom would take my sister and I to the band show at the high school. My favorite was always watching the majorettes, I always thought their costumes were so pretty. Anyhow on this particular hot August day I was to clean my room. When my mom came in to inspect she found a faux rhinestone bracelet on the floor. She got mad and flung it at me and where one of the clasps that was missing a stone cut the skin just below my eye. All of the sudden there was blood everywhere – and that night as I had a small gash when the people around us asked what was wrong with me, I just said “my mom threw a bracelet at me”.

I’m pretty sure there was at least one more instance like this that I am forgetting, I really am surprised that social services was never called to our house.

When I Was Sick

I was a sickly kid. Not in a really super bad way, but I was a kid who every year during the change of seasons, I came down with a cold. Actually, it was more than a cold, it was croup (most people get this once a lifetime, I got it at least 3 times a year – when I was a teen it was more like laryngitis that lingered forever, oddly it went away when my mom quit smoking when I was 19 years old and my dad began smoking outside only).

Anyhow, my mom always took good care of me. When I had to have my tonsils out. When I came down with the chicken pox (she figured it out because we were watching Donny & Marie and I didn’t want any popcorn. I kept itching my side and that’s when she made me pull up the top of my shirt and see I had a spot. My sister had already had chicken pox so it wasn’t a big deal. It was the second half of second grade that I came down with it. Daddy got in trouble because he went out to work in the garage while my mom and sister went to church and I did the one thing I wasn’t suppose to do – I itched a spot on my face and made the scab come off – RIGHT UNDER MY EYE. I was fortunate, only on a bad day can you see the scar (like when I’m super tired). But she didn’t know that (my sister has a spot in the middle of her forehead).

Another memory of when I wasn’t feeling too good my mom always called me pumpkin, not sure why, but thinking of it now brings a smile to my face.

When My Grandfather Fairhurst Moved In

When I was in fifth grade my Grandfather Fairhurst moved in with us. His third wife (the one he married after my grandmother) decided she wasn’t going to put up the abuse anymore and divorced him. He returned to Ohio and somehow ended up at our house, living in the basement.

As I’ve said before in a previous post, my grandfather was not a nice man. I didn’t mind it when he first moved in because I wasn’t aware of how my life and my mom’s was about to change. After about 6 weeks I acted like my grandfather wasn’t even in my presence (which I think freaked my mom out a little). He sat across the table from me and I’d act like he wasn’t there. He took over the television (which for an 11 year old is a big deal after school in the winter time), we think he is part of the reason my first dog disappeared, and didn’t have too many nice things to say about anything.

While all this happened, my mom slowly began to change. She became a shell of herself, and just began sitting at the table while she smoked cigarettes (several packs a day) and played solitaire. Her dad sat on the opposite side of the table doing the same thing.

Finally Harold met someone and got married again, Connie was her name. They didn’t stay married for long, my dad always figured that she must have thought he was loaded or something. Was she in for a surprise. But his stint at our house had taken it’s toll on my mom. She slept all the time and began complaining of headaches and she was just a mess. All the suppressed memories and horror of her childhood caught up with her when her dad moved in. And like my dad will say to this day, it never hit him how long my grandfather had lived with us.

After a while my mom was encouraged to get some professional help. In the span of 5-8 years, my mom saw 2 therapists. The first encouraged her to do the one thing she had always wanted, she went back to school and became a nurse.

Cindy Becomes a Nurse

In the Fall of 1988 my mom enrolled in a year-long program to become a licensed practical nurse at the W. Howard Nichol School of Practical Nursing. Never had I seen my mother work so hard (well, except for cleaning). Every night she made flash cards to learn her anatomy, studied with some of the other students in the mornings at Arby’s and came up with clever ways to remember who did what (no disrespect to people with mental issues – but the one that I always remembered was “Dingy Dorothea” as a way to remember Dorothea Dix who advocated on behalf of the mentally ill, it may have not been the most positive way to remember her, but here it is 31 years later and I still know this fact).

Cindy didn’t miss a day of school and she came in 2nd in her class (and that made her so mad). I remember attending her graduation in September 1989. On October 25 she made her way to Columbus with her other classmates and took the State Boards. She passed!

What Cindy journaled: “I always wanted to be one, but could not get there right out of high school. I even participated in a vocational program my senior year of high school. I worked as a nursing assistant at the local hospital in the mornings and went to school in the afternoons. I was the oldest of five children and my dad worked in heavy construction so no work in the winter, so they could not afford to send me to nursing school, besides I did not have a car so no transportation besides the bus. I would have been willing to ride the bus back and forth but no money for tuition. So I worked as a nursing assistant for several years. I would have joined the Waves also to have them pay for my education but my dad was dead set against that.
So life went on, I married, had a daughter, Kellie. I then divorced and then met and married Bob. I was a stay at home mom for many years-until Kellie decided she did not want to go to college and Becky was still in high school. I finally got my chance. It was May 1988 when I scheduled to take the entry exam into nursing school! Then we got the news that my Mom had throat cancer. I knew she was going to need support. I took the entry exam anyway. I was told I would hear from them in a couple of weeks about my results. Lo and behold they called me the next day and asked me to come in for my interview. I had tested so well they were offering to let me start in September. My Mom’s treatment would be over by then, so I was accepted into the W. Howard Nichol School of Practical Nursing. It was 1988-I was forty years old! Was I crazy? Had I lost my mind?
I went anyway!
I worked very hard studying every night but Friday and Saturday the first half of the year. Then we made it to Capping-yes they were still wearing caps then! After that things got harder! Learning the normal body the first half, then the abnormal the second half of the year. So I only took Friday nights off from studying then. I loved every moment of my schooling. The human body is such a miracle.
I graduated second in my class of thirty students. I was proud I worked so hard! I was finally a Licensed Practical Nurse-In my life that was and to this day is

AWESOME!!!!!!

She initially got a job on 3rd shift working at a nursing home but it didn’t take her long to realize that was not her calling. A few months later she got a job working for allergists near Akron Children’s Hospital and this was the job she loved. She ended up learning how to make the allergy vaccines and giving a majority of the shots.

Her Real Calling

While my mom worked as a nurse, I finished high school, went to college (twice) and then finally found someone to marry. But this is when I gave my mom I believe to this day was the one thing she truly loved being more than anything else, “Gramma”.

You can tell by the way she is looking at them how much she loves them!

I have always said to my kids that I wish I had their Gramma as my mom. She did things with them that she never thought of doing with me – swimming in the backyard pool (you know the ones, the blow up wading pools), took them to fairs (they were unsafe when I was little) and pretty much got them everything their hearts desired along with a hefty dose of her love.

Scrapbooking

As you can tell from this post, I’ve filled it with my mom’s own thoughts from her scrapbooking pages. She loved to scrapbook. I took her to a crop at my aunt’s in I think 2011 and she was hooked. I recommended she do what I did when I began a few months before, pick an event where you have a handful of photos and go. She did and never looked back. Here is one of my favorite photos she did – a picture of her as a child and as she looked when she did the page.

This photo is actually my background on my phone
No one was surprised more than me when my mom decided to take up fishing!
Biking was another hobby she tried but it would wear her out too quickly
Left to right: My sister, my mom, me, my kids, and my dad

Influenza B

Sunday April 1 was Easter Sunday and it was a wonderful day. We had dinner at my parents house, we played a board game and I showed both parents the many photos I took from my family’s trip to Washington D.C. over Spring Break (we missed the cherry blossoms by a few days). I honestly can’t remember a better holiday.

Then the day after Easter 2018 our world was blown apart. While my kids were at her home after school my mom suddenly got very sick and an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital. She ended up being there for about a week and had to be hooked up to a respiratory tube to breath. It took them a while to figure out that she had Influenza B that attacked her lungs. She was already struggling with atrial fibrillation and having difficulty breathing but this was a lot. I still have the message she left me on my phone, telling me she was going home that Saturday. They wanted her to go into an assisted living place so she could undergo physical therapy of walking up and down the steps again but she refused and did it at home.

I taught my kids the sign language sign for I Love You when the were itty bitty so that I can wave it to them and they know in school, up on a stage, etc. It came in handy for this post and truly touched my mom’s heart, it was her last posted page on her blog, everything else was cards she had made.

As time went on my mom continued to have issues with her breathing. She began going to see one of the doctors she worked for wondering if some of her issues could have been handled in a different way as one of her doctors for years had chalked it up to her being overweight and needing to lose a few pounds. But she was barely eating and I think that played havoc with her body as that can make you not lose weight sometimes too.

Monday, May 28, 2018

I know her body was still weakened after having the Influenza B and on Monday, May 28 in the morning, my mom died. It happened quick. One minute she was talking on the phone to her above friend/doctor, she had chatted with one of her co-workers about how she was feeling on Facebook Messenger that morning, sent my dad to Wal-Mart to pick up some things. Then reminded him he needed to water the flowers, he came in and saw her struggling and called 9-1-1.

My mom knew she wasn’t feeling well all weekend. She had told me a couple of times on the phone that she may go to the hospital for a breathing treatment. So when my dad called me and told me they were headed to the hospital I poorly assumed that this was the case. I took my time getting ready, it was going to be a while before they were going to let me see her.

Little did I know when I got a second phone call a half hour later from my sister what was really happening. I live the closest to the hospital they took her too, the one I told you about before where she worked as a nurses aid after high school, Western Reserve Hospital, aka Green Cross Hospital.

My husband and I weren’t in the ER waiting room long when the doctor came out and said they had done everything they could. I never cried so much at once. Never had my chest felt so heavy. And for days.

The paramedics began working on my mom as soon as they got to the house. A neighbor claims they were punching her chest pretty good as they left the house and got into the ambulance with her trying to re-start her heart. My dad said that they did get it going briefly in the ambulance and once again in the hospital. But as I am the family historian and when I made a genealogy appointment at the health department and I got a copy of her death certificate it was called before I ever got to the hospital. My dad kept having them work on her, but after 45 minutes he finally said stop. They already had.

A Mix of Feelings

I don’t think you can ever be prepared to lose a parent. I was not expecting to lose my mom that day. If you notice I stress the date. That is what I do. She died on Memorial Day. I can’t have every Memorial Day ruined now because it happened to land on the observed day of Memorial Day (it’s bad enough it was the day before my husband’s birthday – yeah, she really screwed him, and she really liked my husband).

Telling my kids was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Especially my daughter, as my mom had made her the center of her world. She could do no wrong, and she pretty much knew it. My son on the other hand you have to be careful even now. He went the other way with things, getting mad at her for never going to the hospital and having that breathing treatment.

My dad, he was really mad for a very long time. I think he was a bit like my son, wondering why didn’t she do the breathing treatment, why didn’t she tell us she was as sick as she was.

But in the end, her quality of life was going downhill and maybe it’s good it happened fast, that she didn’t have to suffer anymore than she did.

But on Monday, May 28 you couldn’t tell me all this. I was the one who was told the least (well, outside of my children that is). I was the baby of the family, and in many ways my mom still saw me as such. When she had doctor’s appointments she told me what was going on but in layman’s terms so I understood it all (I can’t stand the sight of bags of blood so I knew a medical career was never for me). She also knew I got anxious when my parents had to get procedures. I was the internal worrier even if I didn’t let the world see it.

My mom and I had a very complex relationship. But until the end she was my mom. For me we were never friends or buddies like many mom’s and daughter’s do. She was the mom and I was the child. She was critical of me even the day before she died. My last phone conversation was her hanging up on me because I was in the middle of fixing a taco salad for dinner and wouldn’t rush off to turn on the Cleveland Indians baseball game. Later that night she messaged me how it ended and that was our last interaction.

Cynthia Anne Fairhurst was a woman who only saw black and white, right or wrong. It was a world with no grays. So I often disappointed her because she couldn’t understand why I did things (for myself or with my kids even). My dad could, and most of their arguments stemmed around why my sister and I did things that my mom thought was just not the way to do it (yeah, examples of this are escaping me at the moment).

More Memories

I remember after I graduated from college in 1996 (the first time, the 2nd time was when I went for 1 entire year and got my history degree, that was 1999). Our family had planned a vacation to Williamsburg (family being me, my mom and my dad). My dad ended up having jury duty so he didn’t go. He thought being a fireman would get him out of it, he was wrong, but stating he had vacation plans would have (insert person slapping their forehead emoji here). So my mom and I went on the trip together.

This still makes me laugh because I love history and my mother doesn’t. Williamsburg was fun, for some reason she only ever remembers George Wythe’s House (he was a lawyer and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, last odd fact, if you do relative finder using your FamilySearch.org account, I’m supposedly related to George Wythe on my mom’s side of the family, she would have been so excited!). She also thought it weird when I got emotional at Yorktown – I could have been walking where George (Washington) walked! How does she not see that as thrilling (and must not have noticed me doing the same thing 7 years before when my parents and I visited Washington, D.C. and we went to Mount Vernon). I can’t even remember what she was lecturing me about but we didn’t even make it to Jamestown because I was done. I remember her telling me the exit is there but I didn’t care – I was going home. And that is what I did.

I still have yet to see Jamestown.

But I do have a lot of funny memories of that trip. Somehow every time we tried to get to our hotel (the now defunct George Washington Inn) we ended up at Camp Peary (here I thought it was an Army base but it’s apparently a training place for the CIA – that’s even funnier). It was always our turn around point. Here my husband figured it out on our honeymoon seven years later, there are 2 highways side by side and we always got on the wrong one to get to the hotel. Oddly enough he couldn’t find Camp Peary so the one day I drove and found it in minutes. I’m talented that way.

But my mom and I did have some really good times. In 2000-2001 we signed up for the National City Bank Broadway Series in Cleveland where once a month we went and saw touring Broadway shows. That year they had some really good ones – Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Fame, Cabaret, The Scarlet Pimpernel (so funny!), Swing!, and my mom’s favorite, Fiddler on the Roof. She enjoyed hearing “If I Were a Rich Man” the way Theodore Bikel sang it. When I emailed who I thought was Theodore Bikel’s agent to see if such a recording existed (it does not) I ended up chatting via email with Theodore Bikel himself!

Another love of my mother’s was watching the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, so back in 2002 when they came to Cleveland the first time I took her. And we had front row seats (I thought we were going to be row 2). She was so happy, she always commented to everyone that if the girls hadn’t shaved she would have known it as she was so close she could count the hair on their legs (sadly no photos, we didn’t have phones with camera’s quite yet, or if the world did they weren’t common yet).

We also watched a lot of baseball and football together. She was the die-hard Cleveland fan where my heart took me to other places. I love the New York Football Giants (because Bud Carson cut Matt Bahr before the 1990 season and then Raul Allegre got injured and Matt joined the team, I’m sure it helps the Giants won the Super Bowl that year but 30 years later I’m still a fan) and the New York Yankees (I thought I was a fan of both teams but in 1997 during the Divisional Playoffs my mom and I went to game 5 with my cousin and her husband, I claimed I didn’t care who won with my Omar Vizquel jersey and my Yankees baseball cap, but when Sandy Alomar hit that home run off of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th and the Yankees lost, I wasn’t happy Cleveland won, I was devastated the Yankees lost, and that’s how I discovered I was a Yankees fan). Anyhow – we went years watching games together. And though Cleveland went to a couple of World Series but never won, I am happy she watched my Yankees with me to see them. She was happy. And though she preferred the Indians I know she was like me and enjoyed watching those Joe Torre led Yankees teams of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. When Derek retired I remember her posting a story on my Facebook page stating “can you believe we watched his entire career?” It was wonderful.

Granted, I’ve cried a river writing this blog over the past 3 or 4 days. Normally tears I shed for my mom are often unexpected. In the middle of the grocery store when I see something I know she would love and I pick up my phone to tell her only to remember she is no longer here. When I see something happen with my sports teams that I know she would be excited about (for example Mariano Rivera making it into the Hall of Fame unanimously – she liked Mo and Derek Jeter a few years later though he missed unanimously by 1). When the kids do something awesome and go to share it.

When my mom surprised me with a 40th birthday party. She laughed as I walked in with many friends and family and I said “I guess this means no chicken pot pie” she made the best homemade chicken pot pie, it’s what she made me every year for my birthday.

I miss my mom. At times I feel like I was still nothing but a disappointment but more and more it’s just the fun memories I remember. Everyone tells you this but it’s the truth, tell your parents you love them. Hug them (I know it’s difficult presently because of Covid, so glad my mom wasn’t around for this). You never know when that last time might be.

This was taken when we spent a day at the farm in southern Ohio I believe in 2014. My mom was not fond of this picture, but I love it as she looks happy as she was wearing my son’s hat while was riding the ATV with his dad and had a helmet on. Overall, it was a fun day!

Thank you for going through this journey, I surprised I found so many items on my mom’s blog to use. I rather enjoyed having her words intermingle with my own to tell her story.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Week 8: Power

The word “power” brings so many different ideas into ones head. Merriam-Webster defines power as:

  1. ability to act or produce an effect
  2. possession of control, authority, or influence over others
  3. physical might
  4. powers – an order of angels
  5. the number of times as indicated by an exponent that a number occurs as a factor in a product (oh my gosh, I’d completely forgotten about this)
  6. a source or means of supplying energy
  7. magnification (again – totally didn’t think of this)
  8. scope
  9. the probabilty of rejecting the null hypotheseis in a statistical test when a particular alternative hypothesis happens to be true.

And that is it’s meaning as a noun (it can be a verb and an adjective too).

Though it was the source of supplying energy that popped into my head initially but I don’t really know how quickly my ancestors got electricity into their homes to make their lives easier. And despite being the history buff I don’t think I ever took the time to learn when this became the “norm”.

And since I have not yet found a mathematician in my family – exerting one’s authority over others will be how I approach the theme for week 8 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

Harold Fairhurst

The person who comes to mind when I think of someone exerting power over others is my maternal grandfather, Harold Fairhurst.

Harold was born on 11 April 1922 in Amsterdam, Ohio in Jefferson County to James Fairhurst and his wife, the former Phoebe Boone.

Unlike my most my relatives who have me stuck in Pennsylvania, James and Phoebe came to the United States from Leigh, Lancashire, England in late 1913 (James) and early 1915 (Phoebe). In 1920 James had become a naturalized citizen taking the Oath of Allegiance on 14 May 1920.

While James worked as a Coal Miner, Phoebe ran a boarding house. However, by 1930 the Fairhurst’s and their 6 children (Elsie, Wilfred, Edwin, Doris, Harold and Evelyn) moved from Jefferson County to Akron, Ohio where James began working for the rubber companies and then for some of the WPA projects.

From stories I’ve heard life was not easy for the boys. Phoebe pitted brother against brother and most resolutions came with their fists. Phoebe also expected all her children to hand over their paychecks to her to help support the family. From my own experiences with my grandfather, I can easily see his not liking this, and it explains why he was married at the age of 21 in 1943.

Unlike his brothers, my grandfather did not work for the rubber companies, he was a construction worker and became a Mason. He was also a golf pro, but both vocations had him unemployed a few months each year because that is how life is in Northeast Ohio.

As I stated before, Harold got married to his first of 5 wives in 1943. His marriage to Helen Juanita Ferguson did not last, ending in divorce 6 January 1947. Shortly after their divorce was final Harold meets and marries my grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming on 29 June 1947. They had 5 children, my mother being the oldest.

My grandfather was not a nice man. He was verbally and physically abusive and repeatedly cheated on my grandmother (I was told by my mother that his one girlfriend was Catholic and that is when the older 3 children attended Catholic school).

I don’t really have any happy memories of my grandfather. When I was little he lived about an hour or so away from us (translated – for a little girl it seemed like forever to get there but after Googling the distance between Cuyahoga Falls and Lodi it is apparently only 36 to 45 minutes away – yes, I’m blown away). My grandmother finally divorced my grandfather in 1968 because he was having an affair with the girl next door, who became wife #3. Mary Lynn, was the same age as my mother. I think this was why when she asked me to call her “Grandma Mary” it made me feel uncomfortable. I guess lucky for me we did not visit frequently and soon his wife and three kids moved to Tennessee. The one perk was that these kids were basically my age, so I had playmates. But I was never fond of my grandfather. Ever.

But as I’ve said before, my grandfather was not a nice man. When he was married to my grandmother he would beat her and their children horribly for what I consider dumb reasons (they left a mess in the living room with their toys, basic kids being kids reasons). My grandmother was a terrific bowler, if he didn’t think she bowled good enough he would make her practice over and over and over again when she got home, it didn’t matter that children were sleeping and had school the next day. And if she still didn’t bowl to his expectations, he threw her into the wall.

As time went on my grandfather would break his daughter’s arm. I remember he gave me what is called an Indian Rug Burn on my arm when I was joking with him. He didn’t think it was funny and grabbed my arm, twisting and squeezing it simultaneously. I was in 7th, possibly 8th grade.

I don’t know if my grandfather got his bullying like power from being the youngest boy in his family – constantly being tormented by his older brothers? If he just didn’t live up to the same standards his brothers did to his mother? Rumor has it when Wilfred, the oldest of the 3 Fairhurst boys, but the second to die, leaving just Harold, Phoebe, their mother, told my grandfather that now she had no sons.

Ouch. Who says that to their child?

It just shows how words can hold the same sort of destructive power as fists.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Family Legend

The theme for week 2 in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Family Legend” and the story I am going to tell is what popped into my head. I don’t hear many tales from either side of my family, but this is one of the few that I do remember hearing frequently over the course of my life.

The Fairhurst Brothers

My maternal grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, had two older brothers, Wilfred Fairhurst who was born in Leigh, England on 15 July 1914 and Edwin Fairhurst who was born in Jefferson County, Ohio on 23 May 1917. Both were raised in Ohio, moving to Akron by 1930. When World War II claimed the United States, both were working for the rubber companies, Wilfred for Goodrich and Edwin for the Seiberling Rubber Company (this was the Seiberling’s venture after they resigned from Goodyear in 1921). Wilfred joined the Marines while Edwin signed up for the Army.

The Battle of Saipan

On a transport on 5 June 1944 that left Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and made its way to the Pacific Island of Saipan, both Marine Sergeant Wilfred Fairhurst and his brother, Army Staff Sergeant Edwin Fairhurst were on board.

The battle of Saipan was the Pacific Theatre’s D-Day. The battle officially began on 15 June 1944 and ended with a United States victory on 9 July 1944. Initial bombardments began on 13 June 1944 by battleships, destroyers and mine sweepers. Naval bombardments began on 14 June 1944 and then 8,000 Marine Corps landed the West Coast of Saipan on 15 June 1944 that officially began the battle with the Army arriving in Aslito on 16 June 1944.

The fighting was intense despite General Hideki Tojo, Japan’s Prime Minister, swearing that Saipan could not be taken. He was ousted out of office a week after the United States declared victory on 9 July 1944. The battle resulted in 3,000 deaths and 13,000 wounded for the United States and over 27,000 Japanese soldiers were loss, as well as thousands of Saipan’s civilians, fearful of the United States due to the Japanese propaganda, as they jumped to their death from cliff’s at the northern end of the island.

The battle that took place on Saipan was important for the Pacific Theatre as it provided the United States with a strategic location to have a base where our new long-range B-29 bombers could be launched.

Guerilla Attacks

Despite the Battle of Saipan “officially” ending, Japanese resistance soldiers and civilians led by Captain Sakae Oba evaded American troops throughout the jungle and conducted attacks. Though it isn’t clear from any of the news articles I’ve read, I’m guessing that one of these such attacks is what killed my great-uncle, Staff Sergeant Edwin Fairhurst.

On 18 July 1944 while cleaning up after the battle, a Japanese fighter threw a grenade that exploded leaving shrapnel in Edwin’s stomach and legs. He died July 22. Wilfred claims that Edwin “got the fellow before he fell“. The legend in our family lore goes that it was Wilfred who went and picked his brother up off the battlefield and carried him to safety.

Article from 10 Aug 1944 Akron Beacon Journal

He Finally Came Home

It wasn’t until 5 years later that Edwin’s body returned home to be buried. His official funeral took place on 15 January 1949 with his final resting place being Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Cuyahoga Falls (Wilfred is buried there as well, though he passed away in 1956).

Photo from Find A Grave (photo uploaded by VLH)

Edwin was never married and had no children.

If you are a budding genealogist and would like to write more about your family but aren’t sure where to start, take a peek at Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.

Genealogy

Using Newspapers in your Genealogy Research

When researching your ancestors, do you have any stories to go along with each person? This tends to be the more difficult aspect of doing genealogy as it’s so easy to go on FamilySearch, Ancestry, Find My Past, or even MyHeritage and find out when and where they were born, where they lived throughout their lives and even when they died. But figuring out who they were is a bit more challenging.

One of the ways I have learned about my family members is using newspapers. There are a variety of options available for free and with subscriptions for you to find stories about your relatives.

Free Options

Some historic newspapers are available for free (one of my favorite words). The most popular is Chronicling America ( https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) which is a joint endeavor between the Library of Congress and National Endowment of the Humanities. It has newspapers from 1789-1963 that are digitized for your use.

Another free option may be available with your library card is Newspaper Archive Academic Library Edition (my library has this and can be accessed from my house, check out to see if your library has a newspaper database similar to this).

Subscription Options

Newspapers.com is one of the larger subscription sites for newspapers available for genealogy. They are owned by Ancestry.com so if you have a tree there, it is easy to attach the articles. Some subscriptions of Ancestry now include Newspapers.com (I believe you are accessing the articles through Ancestry searches though). Newspapers.com has 2 levels of subscriptions, basic and Publishers Extra. Publisher’s Extra is the higher priced edition but seems to have most of the newspapers I truly needed to find information and obituaries on my people (primarily because of the Akron Beacon Journal – but there were some key newspapers for the different areas of Pennsylvania I needed as well).

GenealogyBank is another popular website who is also expanding out from just newspapers to adding census information and the like. They have a great blog that is emailed out monthly as well.

Things to Look For

If you are going to spend the money on a subscription site I highly recommend looking at what newspapers that are available and the published years they have. I’ll confess I accidentally signed up for a subscription site and it was of no use to me because the issues they had published didn’t really help me in my genealogical searches (for example they had the Bedford Gazette from 1854-1857 only, and I needed from 1870 on). Both Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank list what newspapers they have available and their years of publication that is available on their sites (Newspapers.com will also note which newspapers are available on their more expensive level, Publishers Extra).

All of the websites have ways to narrow your search by state, date, name to help bring to light the information you are seeking.

What Can You Find?

You may be lucky enough to find all kinds of interesting tidbits about your relatives when you do newspaper searches. They can range from everyday occurrences to being a bit on the juicy side (older newspapers use to have sections detailing who checked in to the local hotels, and just good old “gossip” sections).

Below is one of my favorites that I discovered on a free weekend of Newspapers.com last Spring that actually convinced me to purchase a subscription. It is an article from The Potter Enterprise from the Thursday, February 11, 1904 edition:

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Feb_11__1904_

Orienta (Gustin) Warner is my 3rd-Great-Grandmother on my mother’s side. They have her daughter’s name mis-typed here, it’s listed as Nellie but her nickname was Nettie. Her name is Jeanette Warner and she is my 3rd-Great-Aunt. I am assuming the fatherless child is her son, Thomas who was born in 1904.

In keeping with the same family, here is another article from The Potter Enterprise from August 14, 1913 edition – this actually lists my 2nd-Great-Grandmother (Mazie Warner Dunbar) twice, and her daughter (Myrtle Dunbar) once.

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Aug_14__1913_

I’ve also learned that using newspapers can give you the full story on tragedies in your family as well. On my dad’s side, my 2nd-Great-Uncle, Charles Peter Childers, had 2-children die in a house fire. Going off stories typed up on Ancestry it makes it seem that half of his 13 children died in this fire, but when reading the newspaper headlines (along with finding the death certificates) you know it was only 2-children, Eva Childers, age 9 (the article is incorrect and have her listed as age 11) and Ralph Childers, age 2. This article I found using the library website. The below clippings (they were on 2-pages of the newspaper) is from the March 27, 1939 edition of the Altoona Mirror:

When I found the following article from the Akron Beacon Journal about my grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, my aunt proceeded to add to the story about how my grandfather had won a year’s supply of Pepsi for his hole in one, which jogged my memory of my mom telling me the same. It is from Thursday, September 17, 1964 edition:

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Thu__Sep_17__1964_

I continue to learn a lot about my family members by using newspapers. If nothing else, they are a wonderful source for obtaining obituaries so I am able to fill in the burial date and cemeteries in my genealogy program if I don’t have a death certificate.

If you have never taken the time to investigate your family in newspapers, I recommend checking it out. The weekend Newspapers.com was free last year was amazing me for me as I found so much interesting information. Now, if it could only make it easier to find George Blair in Blair County, PA, then I’d be set (FYI – anytime Blair for the County is mentioned I get a ding so when I searched just now there are 1,299,020 possibilities in Pennsylvania alone).

If you find or have found any interesting stories using newspapers, please share in the comments!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, My Family Tree

Week 11: Luck

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.

 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week #5: So Far Away

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.

Ancestors of Harold Fairhurst

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.

 

Genealogy

Giving Your Ancestors a Life

A big difference between my husband and myself is how we relate to our families.  He has just started, so maybe I shouldn’t judge him so harshly, but he views his ancestors as names on a screen.

Names on a screen!

Then there is me, I sit there and though they may initially be names on my tree (I will confess my aunts, uncles and distant cousins I do refer to as filler people until I get to know them a little better), I enjoy finding out what I can on them, where they lived, how long, did they marry.  I especially try to find out as much as I can on the little ones.  You know, the ones who pass away before they ever have a birthday, I fear they may be the easiest for time to forget.

The more I research my ancestors, whether it be government documents, city directories, or newspaper articles, I enjoy getting a sense of who they are.

Harold Fairhurst – My Grandfather

Within the last few weeks Newspapers.com was free for a few days and I so enjoyed learning new things about my relatives.  One article that ran in the Akron Beacon Journal on September 17, 1964, referred to when my grandfather, an area golf pro, hit a hole in one.  It was interesting as when I had found it my Aunt Debbie had relayed how he had hit one and won a years supply of Pepsi. He had only hit a hole in one once, so this had to be the time.

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Thu__Sep_17__1964_

When I threw my grandfather’s name to find articles about him I was floored when I saw how many hits I received.  My mother had always told me he was a golf pro, but I never realized he held course records in my hometown and was a semi-serious contender.

Alberta Lou – My Grandmother

I found out some interesting bowling information on my mom’s mother too!  I knew my grandmother was on a bowling league but I never knew she was on a league of women bowlers where you had to bowl a 600 series.  My uncle (her son) he gave me the information after I found and shared the following article with him.  It was posted once again in the Akron Beacon Journal on March 14, 1971.

The_Akron_Beacon_Journal_Sun__Mar_14__1971_

Orienta Gustin Warner – My Great-Great-Great-Grandmother

I learned some juicy information about my relatives too.  Again, visiting my mother’s side of the family, this time it was my great-great-great-grandmother, Orienta Gustin Warner who is mentioned in the following article from the Potter Enterprise that ran on February 11, 1904, along with her daughter, Jeanette Warner (Nettie) my second great-great-aunt.

The_Potter_Enterprise_Thu__Feb_11__1904_

Real-life stories of your ancestors help to put them into perspective far more than just dates and names on a computer screen.  The aforementioned Orienta Gustin Warner lived here in Akron, Ohio for the last 6 years or her life.  She passed away at 644 Carpenter Street and I’ve driven past the house, which is less than 5 minutes from my own home.

I’ve used Google to see what all the houses look like (most are still standing, some have been torn down). Once I figure out locations for homes in other areas I plan on doing the same.  This is when technology is at it’s best.

Samuel & Mazie Randol

By using the city directories, I saw how my great-great-grandmother let her daughters move in with her when their marriages failed, I saw her and her husband, Samuel, finding a new house to live in while her daughters stayed in their old one with their new husband, and I saw the pattern repeat. So to me, this shows me Mazie was truly a good person, going out of her way for her girls.  And taking them back in when they needed help and support (and yes, after a while I got a little judgy as I think Mazie and Samuel might have had 2 years alone before he passed away in 1938).

Speaking of Samuel, my father gave me a box of mementos that belonged to my mother’s side of the family. He had no need for them after my mom passed last year, so about 2 months ago he handed the photos off to me.  Inside the box was the book from the funeral home from when Samuel Randol passed away.  He was a trucker when he died in Decatur, Illinois.  He apparently became ill, went to the hospital, and died within a short period of time.  I’ve not ordered up his death certificate yet, I may have difficulty as he is not a blood relative and I think Illinois laws may be a bit more strict than they are here in Ohio. Anyhow, never had I seen so many names in a book of those who visited the funeral home as those who paid their respects to Samuel.  I was dumbfounded.  To me, it’s further proof that he and Mazie were good people.

Ralph Reed

To be fair I’ll throw in the black sheep of my dad’s side of the family.  In the early months of my going to the library and using Ancestry Library Edition to search about my family, I came across the following death certificate for my second cousin twice removed.  His name is Ralph Reed.

RalphReedDeathCertificate

Notice his cause of death?  Electrocution by Legal Execution.  I used a link using my library’s resources which has an academic version of Newspaper Archive on their website.  It’s nice as I was able to use it for free from home using my library card number.

Turns out Ralph and his friends decided to rob a company payroll office one day when companies still paid with cash.  Problem was they beat the cash there, decided to rob the office workers and Ralph shot the one worker in the back (yes, the headlines were man murdered for $60).  They drove off in their getaway car but nearby some telephone repairmen were fixing a wire and watched exactly where they drove off too.  Ralph was sentenced to death while the others had life in prison.  I don’t think the punishment held for all of them though, as I believe at least 2 may have been released (I’ve not thoroughly researched them yet, I will need to take a day to travel to the Ohio History Center in Columbus to find out more details. In 1948 the accused were tried, sentenced and put to death all within a years time.  On May 4, 1949 Ralph was electrocuted. Below is his photo (courtesy of the Ohio Pentitentiary in Columbus, Ohio).

RalphReed-PrisonPhoto

Resources to Use

Maps, probate records, newspaper articles, city directories, all these useful sources can help provide background information on your ancestors.  Even if you can’t find stories directly about them, you can see where they lived using old maps, you can find out what the weather was like reading articles about the area, and if they fought in wars, even if it wasn’t their personal account, reading the diaries of others fighting in the same war can give you insight as to what they went through.

So take the time to search through newspapers, you can get a subscription to such sites as the aforementioned Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com or visit the free Library of Congress website ChroniclingAmerica.org to see if you can find some information (trust me, sometimes they just pop right out, other times you have to go through lots of names to find what you are looking for).

Check out your library to see if they give you access to resources such as Newspaper Archive that I mentioned previously.  Sometimes you can get access to library editions of other searching tools such as MyHeritage or Fold3 as well.

Government Records

Government records work too – the census gives you where your ancestor is at a specific point in time, probate records can illustrate how their life was at the end and who their relatives are/were, if they are males registrations for wars come in handy as it lets you know next of kin, eye color, height, any interesting marks (such as scars, birthmarks, etc), all of this can give you a better indication of who your ancestors were.

So now I’ve given you more reasons to analyze those documents you’ve found to find out the story behind the story of your ancestors.  It’s worth going the extra mile because they become far more memorable when you have a story to tell than if they are just a name on the screen.

Have you found out anything interesting about your family?  Share with me in the comments below.