Tuesday, May 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: #21 Owen James Henn (1878-1962) of Burnside, Michigan



Climbing My Family Tree: Owen James Henn, 1899
Owen James Henn -1899
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Owen James Henn, my great-grandfather on my father’s side, was born November 14, 1878 to John and Elizabeth (O’Brian) Henn in Burnside Michigan. He was the middle of five children, born five years after his parent’s marriage.  He had two brothers and two sisters: Otto Henn (1875-1946), Ella May (1876-1942), Floyd O. (1880 – 1943), and Olive “Ollie” E. (1884-1938). By the time Owen was born his father was a farmer, although the property to become known as the Henn Family farm (one mile south of Burnside, MI) was not bought until the next year.

I am going to refer to him as “Owen James” even though he went by “Owen” throughout his life, and even though it's clunky, because there appears to be at least one “Owen” per generation in the Henn family, albeit with differing middle names. Using both his first and middle names will help us keep track of what generation we’re speaking of in the long run.

On August 11, 1896, C. J. Dandel organized the Burnside Cornet Band and Owen James and his brothers Otto and Floyd became charter members of the band, which traveled around to local communities playing concerts through 1904. Owen became the leader of the band.  (He’s wearing his Burnside Cornet Band uniform in the photo above.)  On August 10, 1901, they played at Novesta Corners, MI, and Cass City, MI.  Thereafter, though they had stopped practicing and regularly playing concerts, the band members met annually at least through 1931 (as per the Cass City newspaper), and I get the impression from family references that they continued to meet annually for life.

Owen lived at home and worked on his father’s farm until he was 22, when he married Myrtie Mabel Wilcox (21), whose relatives farmed the property kitty-corner to Owen’s father’s farm.  Myrtie was a teacher. Owen James and Myrtie attended the Brown City Baptist Church. They lived to share 52 years together and had eight children: Ervin John (1902-1992), Hazel Annette McArthur (1902-1962), Earl Owen (1904-1904), Lowell Floyd (1905-1984), Owen Carl(1906-1988), Irma Jane Sutton (1911-2006), Frank Elwyn (1913-1995), and Lucille Elizabeth Robson (1915-1993.) In 1904, they had to deal with the sorrow of the death of a child when baby Earl Owen died. It was normal then to give a deceased child's name to a later born child, particularly if the dead child was named for someone the parents still wished to honor. So the name “Owen” was also given to the next son born after the baby died, my grandfather, Owen Carl Henn ["Carl"].

As they started out their married life, Owen James continued to work as farm labor on his father’s farm. But by 1915, he had his own farm (see land record  for Burnside Township below); his father had bought each of his children a farm, to be paid into the estate after his wife died.  Over the course of his lifetime, Owen James became known as one of the “big” farmers in Burnside. He owned 200 acres and worked his uncle Phil’s 140 acres and his brother Otto’s land (115 acres), and along with his brother Frank, he pastured “Uncle Tony’s land” (perhaps Anthony Esper, husband of Ella Mae Henn, Owen James’ sister).

Climbing My Family Tree: 1915 Land Record for Burnside Township Michigan
1915 Land Record for Burnside Township Michigan
Owen's land is just below the space between the 'N' & 'S' in BURNSIDE printed across the middle of the page.
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When he registered for the draft for WW1 in 1918, at 39, Owen James was described as being of medium height and medium build, with brown eyes and black hair.

During WW1, emotions -- and paranoia (manifested via the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 and vigilante groups reporting every perceived disloyalty to government enforcers) -- were running strong in this country against Germans and other non-Americans and recently immigrated Americans,  and most immigrant families in this country were being particularly careful of how they acted and spoke. Owen James and Myrtie were first generation Americans: Owen James’ father had emigrated from Germany and Myrtie’s parents had emigrated from Canada. Richard Rubin, in “The Last of the Doughboys” describes an America where immigrant Americans and their families had to prove their loyalty repeatedly in many ways. There were several Liberty Bond campaigns focused directly on immigrant Americans, including one campaign wherein the posters were loaded with patriotic symbols and the words: “Are You 100% American? Prove It! Buy U.S. Government Bonds.”

It was in this atmosphere that Owen James sold some cattle and took the money to the bank and bought some Liberty bonds, and when, a month or so later Dolph McNary canvassed the neighborhood selling Liberty Bonds, he told McNary that he didn’t want to buy any, instead of saying that he had already bought some, because he didn’t think it was anyone else’s business whether he bought any or not, according to my grandfather, as told to Grand-Aunt Lucille. McNary told the whole neighborhood that the Henns were pro-German, and his son repeated it all over school and started calling the kids the “Kaisers”. Later that was shortened to calling my grandfather “Ki” and the nickname stuck far longer than the memory of why it was imposed did. Fortunately for the family, the threat of being accused of being disloyal did blow over eventually.

Owen James was one of the last farmers to give up farming with horses and start using a tractor.  My grandfather told a story to Grand-Aunt Lucille, that when a Moline Tractor dealer opened up in Brown City, the dealer wanted to sell Owen James the first tractor as it would be a huge boost in sales if he could say Owen James bought a 2-wheeler tractor, or walking tractor, from him (which, as I found out, is a single-axel tractor, self-powered and self-propelled, which was used to pull and power other farm implements while the driver walked along side it or rode on the attached piece of equipment– see picture below).  Owen James didn’t want it and said so, but the dealer kept pushing the price lower until he finally said he’d take it. After he paid for it outright, Owen James took it across the street to the International dealer and traded the Moline for an International, and took the IMC tractor home. I guess he really didn’t want to be used as anyone’s advertisement! I didn’t have enough of a description to find a picture of the IMC tractor but the Moline tractor was likely the one pictured here.

Climbing My Family Tree: Moline Two-Wheeled Walking Tractor, 1920
Moline Two Wheel Walking Tractor, 1920
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Although he farmed all his life, Owen James also had a teaching certificate.  Additionally, he served as the Burnside Township Clerk for ten years and at some point was justice of the peace, according to his obituary.

You have to remember that when Owen James and Myrtie started their life together they didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing, or even a car.  They used to tell their daughter Lucille that when cars were first on the road, whenever they heard one coming, they’d go outside and watch it go by. One day there was a car coming from each direction and they were going to have to meet! This was such a big event that they remembered it until they died.  Can you imagine?

On January 20, 1923, Owen James bought his first automobile, a  1922 Chevrolet Touring Car (see picture below); Grand-Aunt Lucille remembered it as having curtains that were put in or taken down depending on the weather (she still had the receipt!). About four years later he bought another, more beat up, ’22 Chevy Touring car for parts. The beat up one is the car all his kids learned to drive with. His 1931 driver’s license describes him as age 53, white, male, 5’5”, 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1922 Chevrolet Touring Car Advertisement
Advertisement for 1922 Chevrolet Touring Car
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[Note: In 1922, $1 was worth $13.05. The average wage in 1922 was $991 (today's equivalent $12,930), a gallon of gas cost 25 cents (today's equivalent $3.26)  and the average house cost $8024 (today's equivalent $104,691); in 1925, a pound of bacon was 47 cents, a pound of bread was 9 cents, a pound of coffee was 50 cents.]

In 1927, Owen James took in a sick uncle, Philip Henn, who had never married, to help him get well, and he and Myrtie gave up their own bedroom for him. He never left the bed again, until he died three years later, still in their care.

When radios started being sold to the public, those in rural areas with no electricity would buy them and power them with car batteries brought into the house, and it was listened to with headphones as the radio didn’t come with speakers at the beginning. Myrtie’s uncle Albert had one of those. Grand-Aunt Lucille recalls that her father, Owen James, eventually got a radio after they came with speakers, but it was still hooked up to car batteries in the living room of the house. She said that “Dad and the boys all had to be home by 7:00 PM each night to hear the Amos and Andy show", a popular radio comedy that ran live shows nightly from 1928-1943. (Here’s a six minute sample of The Amos ‘n Andy show, recorded on the eve of the 1928 election – mislabeled 1929: http://youtu.be/16vmYLXKdn8; there are recordings of other Amos ‘n Andy radio shows on YouTube as well that run about thirty minutes each. And here’s a short, interesting article on the show: http://www.otr.com/amosandy.html.)

Owen James and Myrtie didn’t get electricity until 1935. All of their children were nearly grown by then.  The first four had homes of their own and the youngest three would be married with a year. It was a time of changes and of losses.  In 1938, Owen James’ youngest sister died, at age 53, only five days after contracting pneumonia.  It had to be hard a hard time for him.

When he registered in the Old Man’s Draft for WWII, in 1940, Owen James was 62 years old. He did not get called up in either World War.

His wife, Myrtie passed away in 1953, after a short illness. Owen James lived 9 years longer. He was active until the end, when he, too, died after a short illness. Approximately a month before he died he wrote a letter to his daughter Hazel, who was in Chicago at the time, explaining that he was going to Lucille’s to watch the Rose Parade on television and would stop by Hazel’s house to water the plants. He died on February 8, 1962, at age 83. Funeral services were held Saturday in the Carman Funeral Home, the Rev. Erwin W. Gram, pastor of Brown City Baptist Church, officiating. Burial was in Burnside Twp. Cemetery.

Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book (Members of the Flock) says that she and he watched John Glenn orbit the earth together just before he died but that happened two weeks afterwards. However, ten months before, the Russians had sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the earth. Just think, in his lifetime he used horses to farm, then the first tractors, saw the first cars, got electricity for the first time in his home at age 57, saw airplanes cross the skies for the first time, and just before his life ended saw a man go into space.  Wow!

[P.S.: I just noticed that Owen James' father, John, was the Census enumerator for the 1900 census! Dolph McNary was the enumerator for the 1910 Census, and Owen James Henn was for the 1930 Census.]


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I’ve discovered, to my dismay, that either not as many historical Michigan newspapers are online as I found in Ohio for Mom’s side of the family, or they are more difficult to find. I’d like to find local newspaper stories on Owen James. I figure he had to have made the paper through the Cornet Band and through being Town Clerk, at minimum.

I’m shy on stories and records after 1940 and would like to fill in the last 22 years of his life better.

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Federal Census  1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940; draft registrations for WWI & WWII; CASS CITY CHRONICLE, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1914, p. 1 & FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 1931., p.1 (Rawson Memorial Library Collection. http://newspapers.rawson.lib.mi.us/search/); "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N38F-DHW : accessed 27 May 2014), Owen Henn and Myrtle Wilcox, 02 Sep 1901; citing Romeo, Oakland, Michigan, v 3 p 523 rn 187, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2342519; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-wheel_tractor;http://thecostofliving.com/index.php?id=148&a=1; http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2006/Jun/18/op/FP606180308.html; "The Last of the Doughboys", by Richard Rubin; “Members of the Flock” by Lucille Henn Robson

Monday, May 26, 2014

Moving on to Dad's Side of the Family




Now I’m going to flip to my father’s side of the family for awhile. The surnames that I know of so far are Henn, Wilcox, O'Brian, McClean, McGregor, Currier, Sharp, Bennett, Grigor/Gregor, McFarlane. (It would appear that I have far more Scottish roots than I was aware of. I thought I was mostly of German extraction until I started all this, lol.)  As in Mom's side, I will not be naming anyone who is alive, or posting recognizable pictures of anyone who is alive, absent explicit permission (baby pictures may show up).

I believe I got the family history gene from this side of the family because there are several family trees in existence for several branches of the family on this side. They will be a great help in my attempts to “fill in the dash” on my ancestors lives and tell their stories, even though mostly (not entirely) they simply map out connections and give birth-marriage-death dates without a much citation. 

I remember Dad talking about what all Grandpa did in his family research, so I believe the research was done and was solid, but the citations were not put on the trees and so I don’t have them, and I’ll be attempting to verify the information by finding a source to support it, while researching for information to "fill in the dashes" in their lives between the dates. Additionally, I am blessed with a copy of Great-Aunt Lucille Henn Robson’s book, "Members of the Flock", in which she rounds up memories of her parents and grandparents, and those of her husband, and of the town she & they all grew up in. It is a delight! And I will use it as a source for stories herein as I figure that the next generation (my nieces and nephew) may not have read it.

I only have a very few pictures for this side of the family (perhaps even fewer than I originally had for Mom’s side, before Mom’s cousin found the blog and scanned hers and made copies and sent me pictures!).  So I will be illustrating the stories with other sorts of pictures as I have all along when portrait photos were in short supply. Hopefully, they will be interesting too. 

I know more photos of the families exist because in some of the family trees Dad has loaned me there are photocopies of old photos. But they appear to have been done in 1972, or before, when photocopiers weren't as good quality as we have today, and some are appear to be photocopies of photocopies. I tried to scan some into my computer to use but it didn't work at all well.  If anyone wants to send scan and send me family photos by email or disk, or make scanned copies of photos to send me (but I know photo paper is expensive), I’d be happy to receive and use them. If you are willing to risk them to the U.S. Mail, you can send them to me and I’ll scan them and then mail them back to you. See the “Contact Me” page for my email address, and I’ll be happy to send you a mailing address if you need it. (You can send me family stories too if you want to. )

My first post on this side will be on Owen James Henn, my great grandfather, and it will either go up later tonight or tomorrow evening , depending on when it gets finished.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Help With Baby Names - Maternal Side of Family


photo credit to Adrian Dre├čler /www.flickr.com/photos/adriandressler/8664251239/ via  photopin (http://photopin.com) via creative commons license



I’ve been watching as some friends try to pick a name for their impending baby. Very entertaining. I’ve also noticed that what you might call “historical names” are in fashion now (or something completely original). This gave me an idea, and I thought I would help out any members of my family who might be looking for historical names for their impending baby (whether about to be born or just a thought on the horizon). Because how cool would it be to choose a historical name AND say “Oh, it’s a family name,” when asked where it came from?


So I had my family history software run a report on all the first & middle names used on the maternal side of my family, and have divided them up into Female and Male lists.  Some of them would also seem to fit the category of “very original--or “weird”-- as well. [I tried to do columns to make it easier to read, or at least more aesthetic, but the blog hosting site won't take it that way. Sorry.] Here you go (if there is a plus sign it’s a name that repeats through several generations): 



Climbing My Family Tree: Baby name ideas - Female names of my family tree, maternal side
Baby name ideas - Female names of my family tree, maternal side
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Climbing My Family Tree: Baby name ideas - Male names of my family Tree, maternal side
Baby name ideas - Male names of my family Tree, maternal side
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Monday, May 19, 2014

52 Ancestors - #20 Clarence W. Snyder (1910 – 1984)

Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence W. Snyder at 17 (1910-1982)
Clarence Snyder at 17
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This is my 20th post for the “52Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the “No Story Too Small” blog.

I love the kindness and generosity of genea-bloggers. Dara McGivern of Black Raven Genealogy found my grandparents’ marriage license and sent me a link to it and now I have a digital copy, which I will share below [it’s an interesting one ;-) ] Thank you Dara!

My grandfather, Clarence Weldon Snyder was born on March 22, 1910 to Philip Snyder and Pearl Pauline Bailey Snyder. His parents had been married almost exactly one year and he was their first child.  At the time of his birth, his father worked in the timber business in Findlay, Ohio. They went on to have two daughters and two more sons: Christina Belle (1911-1942) [link], Phyllis Ardyeth (1914- 2005), Paul Alexander (1915 – 1975), and Donald (1918-2012) [link].

Grandpa Snyder, Clarence, made the paper less frequently than my Grandma Snyder (Mabel) did, and although I know there was one I have been unable to find a copy of his obituary, so I have less documented on him than I have on my grandmother. But I did find his and Mabel’s 1927 high school year book on Ancestry.com, and that was cool!

My grandmother and grandfather knew each other in high school and dated.  My grandfather, Clarence Snyder, played football his junior and senior years and was the captain of the football team his senior year.  He also played on the basketball team. He was secretary and treasurer of the Varsity Club and a member of the Senior Hi-Y Club (which was a club that promoted “clean speech, clean sport, clean scholarship and clean living throughout the school and community.”). He was also president of the Student Council during his senior year [which gifted him with the task of organizing class reunions from then on].  

Captain of his High School Football Team
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At college, Ohio University, he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity which was focused on creating “a lifelong commitment to strive to achieve true friendship, equal justice and the fulfillment of learning as part of our overall responsibilities to the broader communities in which we live.”   Here’s a neat fact: he played center on the last Ohio University football team to beat Ohio State University! (OSU then refused to schedule any other Ohio colleges for many years – talk about sour grapes!)

Clarence and Mabel secretly got married while Clarence was still in college, on January 5, 1929, in Crawford County Ohio by a minister in Bucyrus Ohio; then she returned to her home with her mother and sister and he continued with college, until he graduated and they could be together. The interesting part about the marriage license application is that they both lied about their ages – he said he was 22 and she said she was 21 (they were both 18), and she may have lied about her residence, as she reports that she is living in Crestline in Crawford County Ohio (a small town between Bucyrus and Mansfield, Ohio) and I have nothing else placing her there – but it may be that I have nothing else placing her there yet.  I know that it is my grandparents’ license because  its states the groom was born in Findlay Ohio and his  parents of the groom are as P.A. Snyder (Philip Aaron) and Pauline Bailey, and the bride was born in “Lewisville” Illinois and her parents are Verne Erwin and Frances Hartman. I don’t know why they lied about their ages, even at 18 they were above the legal marriageable age in Ohio at that time.  For those relatives concerned with whether the lies voided the marriage, likely not. [My first legal job was for the Legal Aid Society of Dayton Ohio, in the Domestic Relations unit. It’s been awhile so I double-checked my recollection to the extent I could (this is not to be considered legal advice). ] Lying about one’s age on the Marriage License Application is not considered to be lying about a material fact since they were of legal age anyway and would thus not void the marriage. Likewise, lying about one’s place of residence – if she did – is also not considered to be a material fact and would not void the marriage. Moreover, assuming arguendo that it did, Ohio recognized common law marriage until 1993 and they fit the Ohio requirements for that (mutual consent to be married; mutual intent to marry; consider themselves as husband and wife; be legally capable of entering into a valid marriage; cohabit and hold themselves to the public as husband and wife). So either way, the marriage is legal and my mother and her siblings are legitimate.

Climbing My Family Tree: Snyder-Erwin Marriage License Application and Certificate
Clarence Snyder & Mabel Erwin Application for  Marriage License and Marriage Certificate
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By 1933, Mabel and Clarence were living together as man and wife in Findlay Ohio, at 301 E. Main Cross Street, and he was working as a teacher.  He taught Chemistry and Physics.  Their first child was born to them the next year in Findlay. (Note, I will not be giving names or exact birthdates as the children are living.)  In 1935, the couple lived in Jewett, Ohio, in Harrison County, where he taught Chemistry and Physics, coached football and basketball , and was promoted to Principal. They had four children in six years and then nearly a decade later another two children.

When Clarence and Mabel started their family it was at the height of the Great Depression, when it was extremely difficult to find work and provide for one’s family.  In 1932, Ohio's unemployment rate for all residents reached 37%; and those who retained their jobs usually faced reduced hours and wages.  Many people couldn’t afford to pay their property taxes and so school districts were underfunded. Many teachers had their salaries cut, and there was no money for supplies. Many schools cut both the school day and the school year; some simply closed. It was a rough time to be in education. I don’t know whether he lost his job or left it but by 1939 the family was living in St. Clairsville, Ohio and Clarence was a salesman at a car dealership. This was also an awful job to have in the Depression because automobiles were still a luxury item and people weren’t buying luxury goods then. But Clarence took the jobs he could find to try to support his growing family.  Grandpa supplemented the family table by hunting and fishing; and when she was old enough ,my mother would go hunting with him. She remembers eating squirrel stew at times.

As WWII spread across Europe in 1939 and 1940, the U.S. government and military began to lay a infrastructure to support the war, building 67 ordnance factories across the country (on approximately 44 million acres of land taken by eminent domain from private citizens), and recruiting workers to staff them. Recruiters especially sought those with science backgrounds. The jobs were to be temporary, for the duration of the war, but they were attractive because they were secure and meant a steady paycheck for the duration; they were patriotic; and since they were deemed “essential”, a person working there would not be sent overseas to fight.  Due to his chemistry and physics coursework in college, Clarence was offered a choice between working at the Plum Brook munitions/TNT plant about 5 miles south of  Sandusky, Ohio or at the Atomic Bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Mabel objected to the primitive conditions at Oak Ridge, so they took the Plum Brook job and moved to Huron Ohio, on Lake Erie. Plumbrook’s first production line of TNT started on November 15, 1941 – 22 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor (Plumbrook eventually produced more than one billion pounds of ordnance throughout World War II -- over 400,000 pounds per day).

Even though it was steady, necessary work, it was not an easy place to work. A history of Plum Brook put together by NASA noted that since the buildings were considered temporary, they weren't insulated sufficiently for the cold Ohio winters, and workers worked in their heaviest coats as “icy blasts tore through the warped window casings,” and managers regularly had to brush snow off their desks. Plum Brook employees were also subject to strict conservation and rationing for the war, and were strongly encouraged to set aside 10% of their pay to buy war bonds. They saved gas by carpooling or biking to work (even in the winter).  Many families planted “Victory gardens” to supplement their food  needs as the federal government imposed rationing on the American people to limit the amount of scarce goods civilians could purchase (so more could be sent overseas), starting in the spring of 1942, the rationing eventually came to include sugar, meats, butter, oils, cheese, juices, dry beans, soups, baby food, ketchup, and bottled, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Clarence and Mabel maintained a garden , and Clarence continued to go hunting and fishing for the family table.

In September 1942, Clarence’s sister Christina died in a car crash that also severely injured her husband. Directly after the accident, Clarence and Mabel took in one of Christina’s daughters, intending to raise her as their own, but the father’s family asked to take care of her pending her father’s recovery, and the girl was sent to Florida to live with them instead.

Also late in 1942, Clarence’s brother, Don, who was in the Army, was sent off to the Pacific Theatre to fight the Japanese. So at this time, Clarence was working in very difficult conditions, trying to support his wife and four daughters, grieving the death of his sister and fearful for the safety of his youngest brother. The stress load must have been enormous. But many at Plum Brook and around the country were suffering similar stresses and so they weren’t ever talked about. After the surrender of Japan, production at Plum Brook came to a halt.
Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence W. Snyder  1943
Clarence W. Snyder, 1943
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After the war, in the late 40’s and throughout the 1950’s, the family’s economic station improved. Clarence became a manufacturer’s representative for a variety of toy and sporting goods companies, going around to retail stores and chains in his territory and convincing their buyers to purchase his clients' products. Mabel kept the books for Clarence’s business, utilizing her accounting degree. As the economy as a whole improved, people were more willing to spend money on frivolous items, and as the soldiers and sailors came home the baby boom followed, and Clarence benefitted by both.  Although you have to wonder how his family felt as he travelled a lot for his job and, at times, was gone for a month at a time. Clarence established a tradition of taking each of his kids, in turn, with him, at least once, on a trip to Detroit, so they could see a big city.  

In 1958, their youngest daughter, at age 12, had to have spinal fusion surgery that required eight months thereafter in a body cast. While she was in the hospital, Clarence and Mabel had the carport converted into a room to hold a hospital bed so that she could be cared for at home.  As Clarence did not have insurance, expense of the surgery and other medical care was paid for in cash. Later, his son needed ear surgery while in college.

All of Clarence and Mabel’s kids worked and saved money towards their college education – I think it is admirable that Clarence and Mabel fostered a family mindset that said, of course, their daughters and son would go to college (that still wasn't normal for girls) but were honest and let them know that they must earn money to help pay for college because they couldn't pay for college for six kids alone.  I also understand that Grandpa had a standing, partially facetious, offer to give any daughter who eloped $1000 [the equivalent of $6929 now] - none of them took him up on that (I think Grandma would have been very upset if they had, even though she had eloped).

Later after his older girls got married and began having families, I would say that us grandkids loved his job as a toy salesman because he would give us his samples; he gave us some of the biggest and best stuffed animals, dolls, stuffed football player dolls, and fascinating board games! I loved my stuffed animals.
Climbing My Family Tree: My Grandpa, Clarence Snyder, holding me (L) and a cousin (R)
Me, Grandpa, and a cousin
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In Huron, Ohio, Clarence was active in his local Presbyterian Church and served as a deacon several times. He was also active in the Freemasons, and was elected Commodore of the local yacht club multiple times (he had a yacht named “Our Toy”, which won an award for being the “prettiest” in a regatta in 1964). He was also President of their home owners associations at Grand Forest Beach and later Beach Wood Cove, helping to insure that the city put drainage ditches and sidewalks in the neighborhoods.

My grandfather had a daredevil streak in him. I have heard stories of him swimming across the Sandusky Bay  of Lake Erie to get a package of hamburger and swimming back holding it above his head, out of the water; he also swam across the Hocking River while in college; he would ride a bicycle on the pier so close to the edge that his children were afraid that he would fall in, and then he would repeat it – riding backwards.  Once he picked up hitchhikers who pulled a gun on him, then hit him with it and knocked him out. I remember riding with him in a car that was going so fast on the hills that we went airborn in our seats as we crested the hills – I also remember my brothers excitedly telling Mom about it when we got back to the Camp…Mom was not amused, and told him off! I don’t think we were allowed to ride with him again.

In or about 1969, when I was about 9, Clarence & Mabel retired to Yankeetown Florida, where they bought a house near the Withlacoochee River, on one of the inland waterways, a canal. I remember going to visit them several times. I have a vivid memory of an alligator crawling out of the canal into the backyard.  I don’t know if that happened more than once, but once was enough for me!  After retirement to Florida, Clarence got restless and purchased and operated a 7/11 store there. I have vague memories of the store. He was an active member of the Parson’s Memorial Presbyterian Church and loved singing in the choir. He was also a member of the Masons, and liked to play golf with Mabel and with male friends, including his brother, who lived in the area.

Unfortunately, Mabel developed dementia in her later years. After awhile it got to the point that Clarence could not care for her at home and he moved her to the Crystal River Geriatrics Center in about 1982. Clarence died about two years later of  leukemia. His body was returned to Findlay Ohio and buried in the Maple Grove cemetery. Mabel was buried beside him after her death in 1990.

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I would like to find more documentation/pictures of his years between 1940 and 1982.
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U.S. Census for 1920, 1930, 1940; The Findlay City Directory; The Findlay Republican Courier; The Sandusky Register; http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Great_Depression?rec=500 ; “Education during the great Depression” by Barb Jensen (http://voices.yahoo.com/education-during-great-depression-823239.html); NASA’s Nuclear Frontier: The Plum Brook Reactor Facility, by Mark D. Bowles and Robert S. Arrighi . Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 33. August 2004 (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4533/Plum%20Brook%20Complete.pdf); http://wiki.answers.com/Q/1000_in_1960_is_worth_what_today?#slide=2; Social Security Index; and Ohio Obituary Index. Also memories of myself, my parents, and my aunts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

52 Ancestors - #19 Mabel Erwin Snyder (1910 – 1990)


Climbing My Family Tree: Grandma Snyder (Mabel Lere Erwin Snyder) and me
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Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel LeRe Erwin Snyder (1910-1990)
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This is my 19th post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the “No Story Too Small” blog. I know many bloggers are doing stories about their mothers this week. My Mom is a very private person and would not be happy if I wrote about her life on my blog. So this week I'm writing about my Mom's Mom, my Grandma Snyder.

My grandmother, Mabel LeRe Erwin was born July 16, 1910 to newlyweds Fannie Hartman Hart (38) and Vernon Erwin (38)  in Louisville, Illinois, who had married in 1909. She was Vernon’s first child and Fannie’s sixth child. Fannie had been previously married to Orley Hart and was widowed by his death in 1905. Vernon and Fannie had another daughter, Dale Hart Erwin (1912- ??), two years later. Mabel’s half siblings were: Lester Dene Hart (1894-1981); Gladys Hart (1896-1902); Reed C. Hart (1898-1954); Verne Allen Hart (1900-1982); and Julia Ann Hart (1903-1978).

Fannie's and Vernon's marriage broke up when Mabel was approximately five years old and Vernon left, leaving Fannie to raise her children alone. By 1920, Fannie, Mabel, and Dale had moved to Hancock County, Ohio, where Fannie was raised and her extended family still lived. Fannie became a live-in housekeeper for a farmer and his elderly father and the girls lived with their mother on the farm.

As a young girl, Mabel was interested in the theatre. According to the October 28, 1921 Findlay Republican Courier, Mabel Erwin was one of  26 small girls chosen to  perform the part of the “Dream Kiddies”  in “Kathleen, “ a romantic musical comedy to be performed at the Majestic Theatre in Findlay, Ohio as a benefit for the America Legion on November 3 & 4, 1921. She would have been 11 at the time.

As a teenager, Mabel was very active in multiple clubs in town and in school. I get the impression that she was an extrovert (I am not an extrovert and looking at the list of mentions I unearthed in the Findlay Republican Courier makes me was want to hide  …with a book). At age 13, Mabel was mentioned as telling several jokes at a meeting of the “Buds of Promise”.  At age 14, she is written up on the women’s society page as attending the birthday party of Elizabeth Hartman (likely a relative, as Hartman was Fannie’s maiden name).  At age 15, she hosted her Sunday school class in her home on North Main Street for a St. Patrick’s Day party. At 16, in her junior year of high school, she performed as one of the lead actors in the Junior play, “Her Husband’s Wife;” performed in a Thanksgiving Program play as “Bob, the grocer’s boy”;  and  was very active in the “Justamere Club”  where she gave speeches on “America” in at least three meetings (the “justamere club” was an all woman club promoted in the late 1920’s by Laura Ingalls Wilder [wrote "Little House on the Prairie"]; the club was devoted to intellectual inquiry and current events and was described as “a self-improvement study group for women who wanted to do more than merely take care of their families and manage a household and go beyond socializing to cultivate their minds and increase their knowledge” in Ingalls' biography by John E. Miller).  

In her senior year of high school, when she was 17, she was part of the group that produced the High School Yearbook and was on one of the teams of students canvassing local businesses for donations in exchange for ads in the yearbook;  involved with the Mah-Kaw-Wee Camp Fire Girls and presented a talk on “Loyalty”; spoke on “honest Taxpaying” at a Senior Chapel Service; was a member of the Girl’s Reserves, a charity and social group that met at the high school; and was a member of the Debate Club, where she took the affirmative position in a debate on the subject “Resolved: That Findlay Adopt The City Manager Plan”.  And, perhaps most impressively to me, she did all this while maintaining grades of 90% or higher in all of her classes in all four years of high school, making the Honors “E” Class! My grandmother was a very smart girl with a lively mind when she was young.  Later she worked her way through college and obtained an accounting degree from Findlay College, where she also worked on the college yearbook. 
Climbing My Family Tree: Clarence Snyder & Mabel Erwin at 17 (1927)
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My grandmother and grandfather knew each other in high school and dated.  My grandfather, Clarence Snyder, was the captain of the football team.  In the fall of their senior year, on the evening of October 15, 1927, Mabel and Clarence were riding in a car, driven by Donald Simpson, 18, of Findlay, Ohio, with two other couples (all three of the boys played on the football team), when the vehicle was involved in an collision with a freight train at the East Main Crossing of the New York Central Railroad.  The train was traveling at about 25 mph, and the car at about 10 mph; and the car hit the third freight car of the train.  All occupants were thrown from the car (this was before seat belts), and the car was totally demolished, but only the driver was seriously injured.  (He recovered.)

Perhaps this scare solidified my grandparents’ intentions to one another.  They became serious, and once while Clarence was at college at Ohio University (I get the impression that he may have graduated a year after she did but I’m not sure), they secretly got married, on January 5, 1929,  in Crawford County Ohio (they lied about their ages on the application, but would have been of legal age even if they hadn't); then she returned to her home with her mother and he continued with college, until he graduated and they could be together. [To see the Application for Marriage License and Marriage Certificate, see Clarence's story.]

The 1930 census shows Mabel, 20, living with her mother and younger sister at 425 Hardin Street and a bookkeeper for a garage. The 1931 city directory is a bit more detailed, showing Mabel as a bookkeeper for the Davison-Harrington Chevrolet Company.  By 1933, Mabel and Clarence were living together as man and wife in Findlay Ohio, at 301 E. Main Cross Street. Their first child was born to them the next year in Findlay. (Note, I will not be giving names or exact birth dates as the children are living.) They had four children in six years and then nearly a decade later, in the mid-1940’s, had another two children. Mabel became quite ill with amoebic dysentery for several years after the birth of her last child, which she and others caught in a hotel in the Midwest, and this adversely affected her ability to do much of anything as she lacked the energy as a result of being constantly sick. The girls cleaned the house while she slept at that time.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder and her first four girls
The girls are not being identified because they are living.
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Mabel and Clarence got married and started having children at the height of the Great Depression, when it was extremely difficult to find work and provide for one’s family; even those who were employed weren't paid much. Much of the country was on austerity measures just to get by, wearing clothes that were mended and re-mended, stretching food, and hunting to supply meat for the family meals, and based on family stories, and Mabel and Clarence did all of that and more.  Even so, the little family was lucky in that Clarence was employed.  

Mabel and Clarence first moved to Jewett in Harrison County, Ohio and then to St. Clairsville Ohio, and by 1942, the family, had moved to Huron, Ohio, when Clarence obtained a job with one of the war industries and again they were lucky as Clarence's job was deemed "essential" and he was not sent to war. 

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder - around 1942
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After the war, Clarence moved more into business for  himself as a manufacturer’s representative (salesperson of a sort) for several  toy and sporting goods companies, a traveling position that took him away from home a lot; Mabel did the accounting for his business, in addition to being a homemaker and doing volunteer work in the community.  She made almost all of her children’s clothes. She did not work for anyone else outside the house, but (according to what I found in The Sandusky Register) she was involved in a lot of charity work and social clubs over the years.  She was often the leader of the Parent-Teachers Association, the local March of Dimes fundraising drive, and the local Camp Fire Girls unit, and a local Girl Scout unit; and later she was a den mother for a cub scout unit. She was a member of the Eastern Star, the Library Fundraising Committee, and the local yacht club decorating committee; and she was also in charge of publicity for the Grand Forest Beach Association and later the Beach wood Cove Association (local homeowner’s associations for the neighborhoods in which they lived). Mabel was also active in the Huron Presbyterian church and for many years was the head of the missionary education committee, and in charge of national missions, and, at least once acted as their representative to the World Council of Churches. Additionally, she entertained as a means to support and further Clarence’s career, and because she enjoyed it; she also planned and hosted beautiful weddings for her oldest four daughters throughout the 1950's.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder prepping for one of her daughters' weddings
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In 1958, their youngest daughter, at age 12, had to have surgery that required eight months thereafter in a body cast. While she was in the hospital, the carport was converted into a room to hold a hospital bed so that she could be cared for at home. 

I can remember that Grandma Snyder was an excellent cook, as is my mother, who learned from her.  She sewed and knitted, and she liked to read.  I was told that Mabel and Clarence played cards together (gin and bridge) and played competitive bridge against others. She also golfed, with Clarence, and in women’s tournaments. I found several mentions in the local paper of her winning ladies’ golf tournaments and ladies’ bridge tournaments. 

My own main memories of Grandma Snyder are of her cooking for large family get-togethers, of her with Foo-Foo, her poodle (actually, now I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were a succession of poodles named Foo-Foo, as Foo-Foo is in almost every memory I have of her and that’s a long time for a poodle  to live), and often of her animatedly involved in a discussion with my father and other family members.
Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel Erwin Snyder and Foo-Foo
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In or about 1969, when I was about 9, Mabel & Clarence retired to Florida, where they bought a house in Yankeetown Florida near the the Withlacoochee  on one of the inland waterways, a canal. I remember going to visit them several times. I have a vivid memory of an alligator crawling out of the canal into the backyard.  I don’t know if that happened more than once, but once was enough for me! Mabel was initially an active member of the Yankeetown Women’s Club, the Parson’s Memorial Presbyterian Church, and the Order of the Eastern Star.

Unfortunately, Mabel developed dementia in her later years. Now that I know how intelligent and active she was when she was younger, it seems all the more tragic. After awhile it got to the point that Grandpa Snyder, Clarence, could not care for her at home and moved her to the Crystal River Geriatrics Center in about 1982. Clarence died about two years later, and the family decided that it was better that she stay in an environment that she was used to, so she continued to live at Crystal River,  and her daughters and son visited her there. Her Alzheimer’s continued to progress.  She died on June 2, 1990, and was buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Findlay, Ohio, next to Clarence.

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I  need to :

I'm still looking for documentation for period between 1940 & death, beyond newspapers (although more newspapers would be nice), to corroborate memories (mine, those of my parents, and of my aunts).

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Census for 1920, 1930 & 1940; City Directories for Findlay Ohio; The Findlay Republican Courier; The Sandusky Register; The Florida Death Index, and the memories of myself, my parents, and my aunts.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thoughts, Contemplations, and Musings


A round up of thoughts on disparate details.

Vernon Erwin.

I’ve received an email from someone who reads the blog, suggesting that Vernon Erwin may have had unrecognized  PTSD based on his time in the Spanish-American war, which could explain some of his actions and inability to settle down to married life and several children. I think that’s a real possibility and I’ll be editing the post to reflect that possibility.

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My maternal grandparents, Clarence and Mabel Erwin Snyder

I’ve noticed that a lot of the blogs which are doing the 52 Ancestors Challenge start with the writer’s grandparents and moving up. On the other hand, so far I’ve spoken of everyone but my grandparents. In some ways it’s more difficult to research people who are closer on the tree to me. It’s more difficult to source my information, unless they make the newspaper, as the last census that has been released is the 1940 census. True, I have memories of them, but I was a child and therefore I’m uncertain as to whether my memories are of true events or whether my young mind misinterpreted what was happening . I’ve asked family members for memories but due to the difficulties mentioned above, and the fact that I’m still rather inexperienced in genealogical research, I find it difficult to corroborate many of the memories with sourced facts. (I’m an Administrative Law Judge – what can I say? We like cites.) I was going to skip writing about them for this reason, among others, but that didn’t feel right. So I will write about them now and just do the best I can with what I have and verify later when it becomes possible. At least by doing them last before I start writing about the other side of my family, you are familiar with the families that formed them and that may give a bit more insight into them than starting with them would have. My grandmother, Mabel Erwin Snyder, will be post #19 for the 52 Ancestrors posts, and my grandfather, Clarence Snyder, will be #20. The next post after that will be from my father’s side of the family (I’ve no idea who yet.)

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I’m moving.

I have started researching my Father’s side of the family as I worked ahead and the last several posts on the Snyder/Erwin side have been prepared in advance. That said, it’s possible, maybe even probable, that I will fall behind in my posts in the early part of summer as I’m moving July 1 to a nicer but smaller apartment and must first reduce the stuff I own, then pack the rest of it for the movers, and then unpack it after the move – while working full time. This will not leave a lot of time for research and writing up bio-sketch posts, and definitely not one a week – each one of these things takes about 8 hours to write, not including the major research. I hope to catch up and still end up posting about my preliminary research on 52 different ancestors by the end of the year.

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Vertical Pedigree of Clarence Weldon Snyder


I previously did a chart of the direct line members of my Mom’s maternal side of the family  
I could find, so I want to do a chart of those direct line members of Mom’s paternal line I've found before I move on. And here it is:

Vertical Pedigree of Clarence Weldon Snyder
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors #18 Vernon/Verna/Vern Erwin (1872-1947)


Vernon Erwin in 1947 in Huron Ohio, with granddaughter
Vernon Erwin with granddaughter, 1947, in Huron Ohio
(Note: granddaughter is not named because she is living.)
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This is my 18th post for the “52Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the “No Story Too Small” blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Vernon Erwin is my great-grandfather on my Mom’s mother’s side. He was born on February 15, 1872, in Louisville, Illinois, which is in Clay County. His parents were John Erwin(1841-1917) and Amelia Ann Conley (1847-1915). They had six children including Vernon; the others were: Luella Erwin Baird (1869- abt  1910),  Troy Erwin (1873-1874); Katurah Erwin (1876-1895); Mabel Erwin (1879 - ?aft 3/12/1910), infant Erwin (1883). Only Luella, Vernon, and Mabel lived to adulthood.

Vernon grew up in Louisville, Illinois. His father owned a hardware store and sold farm machinery. His father and three uncles served in the Union Army in the Civil War. Perhaps that is why Vernon  (“Verna”) enlisted in the army on May 10, 1898. He served one year as a private with G company  of the 4th Illinois Infantry, in the Spanish-American War. The 4th Infantry participated in the Battle of El Caney, Cuba and the Seige of Santiago Cuba. For a good description of troop movements, etc., of the 4th Illinois Infantry in that war see: http://scouts87_90.tripod.com/id39.htmlHe was wounded during service, but I don’t know how yet. Later he drew a pension based on his service (pension # C-1 233 759). 


Headstone Application for Military Veterans, Verna Erwin
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It is possible that Vernon suffered from undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the war ("Shell shock " or PTSD wasn't recognized as a condition until WWII, before that its effects were likely to get you punished, or killed, for insubordination, while in the Armed Forces,  (based on a book I'm reading about WW1) and seriously screw up one's life after he leaves the Army. PTSD could explain some of Vernon's behavior in the balance of his life.

I’m not sure whether he went home first after discharge but, in the next year, the 1900 census found him in Scappouse, Oregon, (outside of Portland) working as a day laborer.

I lost track of him for 9 years, but by 1909, he was back in Louisville, Illinois. In that year, at age 37, he married my great-grandmother, Fannie Hartman Hart, a widow with four children. I’ve not found an earlier marriage for him to date. This marriage to my great-grandmother did not work out well, although they did have two children: my grandmother, Mabel LeRe Erwin Snyder (1910-1990) and Dale Hart Erwin Crawford Shapiro Spicer Ludwig (1912 - ????) [Note: I’m not actually sure where Ludwig falls in that order other than knowing he’s not first]. According to a letter sent to my Mom from her cousin A (who was doing family history research), Vernon had left Fannie by 1915. Mabel would have been 5 and Dale, 3.

I then lost track of him for fifteen years. I have a few possibilities but no certainties. Sometime in those fifteen years it appears that he and my great-grandmother were divorced. I haven’t found the documentation yet.

1053 Cary Ave, San Pedro CA (the duplex on the right), courtesy of Google Maps
1053 Cary Ave., San Pedro CA is 1/2 of the duplex on the right
Photo courtesy of Google Maps, photo taken 2011
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I remembered my mother’s stories of him living in Los Angeles, California and being a policeman or a detective, and I think I’ve found him again in 1930, at age 58, living in San Pedro, California, (part of Los Angeles) where he is a watchman for a steamship company, and is married to Bertha, who is three years younger than he and also from Illinois (Bertha may have been previously married to another man also with the last name of Erwin, as she was at the same address before my great-grandfather with a man named Burt Erwin, or it could be my great grandfather if he was using a middle name -- I don't know his middle name). The age of this Vern Erwin is dead on, and the census reports he is from Illinois, that he is a veteran and that he fought in the Spanish-American war [“Sp”]. I know that retired policemen often become watchmen or security guards, so it’s plausible. At any rate, having found him in the census, I then found him in the San Pedro City directories at 1053 Cary Av, married to Bertha, and listed as a watchman in 1930 (age 58), 1932 (age 60), and 1937 (age 65). Over the years the city directory spells his first name several different ways. On April 3, 1940, the census finds Vern (68) and Bertha (65) in Elsinore, Riverside, California; his occupation is listed as a detective for the Pinkerton Agency. The 1940 city directory still had him in San Pedro, but at a new address on Neptune Avenue. Vern & Bertha may have moved partway through the year to Elsinore, or they may have been in Elsinore for a few years and Vern may have moved back to San Pedro when Bertha died on September 1, 1940. He was 68 in 1940; Bertha was 66 when she died.

The picture at the top was taken during a visit to his oldest daughter in Huron Ohio, after Bertha died. If the date on the back of the picture is correct, it was taken the year that he died.

Vernon/Verna/Vern died in Los Angeles CA, on November 18, 1947 (the death index notes that his mother’s maiden name was “Conley”, and he was born in Illinois, confirming it is the right person – I have to write off for the death certificate). He is buried is the Los Angeles National Cemetery, a Veterans’ cemetery, at 950 South Sepulveda Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90049, Section 261 Row C Site 11.

Los Angeles National Cemetery
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photo credit: Kevin Baird via photopin - cc



If anyone knows more about Vernon Erwin and is willing to share with mew, please either contact me through my email on the Contact Me page or leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

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I need to find where Vernon was during the missing years between 1912 -ish and 1930, and try to confirm whether or not he was a police officer.
I want to obtain his military and military pension records.
I also want to obtain/see a copy of his divorce records (from Fannie) and his later marriage record (to Bertha) and/or find out if California ever had common law marriages
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Sources, in general (I have more specific elsewhere): Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011: San Pedro City Directory; US Census for 1880, 1900, 1910, 1930, 1940; Fold3.com; "Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1934," index, FamilySearch; U.S. Veteran's Grave sites; U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans; California Findagrave.com memorial # 370264; California Death Index.