Lines To My Wife

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I was having a bit of writer’s block tonight, so rather than trying to force some new thoughts to come together, I thought I’d share a piece of family history.

“Poppa”, my great-grandfather Joseph McCombs, wrote a poem after his first wife died.  A copy of the poem was made for my Aunt Jeanette, one of his daughters, and given to her as a gift.  After her death, it was given to my Aunt Georgia who then passed it on to me.

A scan of the copy I have is below:

On the cardboard backing the parchment, the inscription reads “To Aunt Jeanette–Christmas, 1983”. James Ray Slaughter, who copied this poem was the son of Jessie Rae McCombs, Jeanette’s sister. My great-grandfather, Joseph Jeremiah McCombs, wrote this poem some time after the death of his first wife, Georgia Almeda Brazal (referred to as Meda in these lines).  After Aunt Jeanette passed away, my Aunt Georgia (daughter of Mattie Beatrice, another sister) kept this poem. One day, when I was visiting her at her home in Lapeer, she passed it on to me.

‎–Lines by Joseph Jeremiah McCombs–

“Lines to My Wife”

Oh, Meda Dear; Thy Toil Is Done
Thy Work on Earth is O’er;
That Gentle Word, That Pleasant Smile
Will Greet Us Here No More.

I Gaze into That Marble Face,
In Life so Dear To Me;
Yet Dearer Still in Death Thou Art,
With All Thy Purity.

Of Soul, That Shines Upon Thy Face–
The Celestial Light of Heaven
The Smile Upon Thy Coral Lips–
Sweet Token of Thy Welcome.

Our Little Girls, Thy Tender Care
Will Forever Be Denied.
By Other Hands, Less Fond Than Thine,
Their Wants Must Be Supplied.

Our Pathway Here was Sometimes Rough–
Strewn With More Thorns Than Flowers,
But Thou Wert Ever By My Side
To Beguile My Lonely Hours.

But Now Thou’rt Gone To Thy Reward,
We’ll See Thee Here No More.
Those Loving Smiles And Tender Words,
We’ll Miss Foverevermore.

Forever, Did I Say? Well No,
When My Here is O’er,
That Beauteous Form Again I’ll Clasp,
Upon The Other Shore.

Together Then, We’ll Ever Roam
The Fields of Paradise,
Our Dear Ones All Be With Us There,
Oh Won’t That Be So Nice.

I Wonder if Thou Cans’t Look Down
From Portals in The Sky,
And See And Know Our Deeds And Thoughts
As Time Rolls Swiftly By.

I Only Hope Thou Cans’t, Dear Love
Look Down on All We Do,
Our Deeds Shall Thy Approval Meet,
Our Thoughts, of You of You.

J J McCombs

(Copied 1983 by his respectful & devoted grandson – James Ray Slaughter)

The first time I read it, I was struck by several things.  I could see how very much Poppa had loved Meda.  I could see that he was dealing with how he would be able to raise their girls.  And, I could see his faith through these words, knowing that while they were parted in this life, they would meet again in Heaven.
The other thing that struck me was that the rhyming pattern and format was very familiar to me.  I knew that many traits could be passed on through the generations, but I did not know poetry style was one of those traits.
Here is a poem I wrote almost twenty-six years ago.  It is a summary of my faith, and it ties me to Poppa in a way I never imagined.

Little Lambs

I often think of little lambs
So gentle, meek, and frail;
Their little voices – how they bleat!
Their coats so curled and pale.

Always bounding off somewhere
In search of pastures green;
Looking for something better
That ever remains unseen.

Then I think of one Little Lamb
So gentle, meek, and mild,
Who came into this world for us;
Our God’s most holy Child.

This holy, sacrificial Lamb,
His sinless life He gave;
For all of us–HIS little lambs–
He went into the grave.

Then rose again on Easter morn,
And reigns with God on high.
I gave my life to this holy Lamb;
His little lamb am I.

©Pamela J. Sabados 30 July 1986

In Search of…Baby Taylor

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Does anyone else remember the television show “In Search of…”?  I used to love watching it.  My Dad turned me onto it at first.  It was in the late 70’s and early 80’s; about the time I was in high school.  The show was hosted by Leonard Nimoy, and was done documentary style.

The focus of the show was to explain mysteries and phenomena.  Some shows dealt with natural occurences like tornadoes.  Others delved into things like ESP or UFOs.  Several shows dealt with mysteries of historical significance as well, like Jack the Ripper, the lost colony of Roanoke, Virginia, or even Dracula (Vlad the Impaler, but of course, they did touch upon the vampire as well).

“In Search of…” never claimed to have the correct answer.  It gave the facts, provided some possibilities, but ultimately, it left it up to the viewer to make up their minds as to what the explanation really was.

In going through my family history, I have a few mysteries.  One that keeps drawing my attention is a child without a name.  So today on my genealogical journey, I’m going ‘In Search of…’ Baby Taylor.

I’ve actually mentioned this baby before.  I first discovered information about this child on the 1900 US Census when tracing my great-grandparents’ travels from their native West Virginia.

My Grandfather and His Family

My great-grandmother has eight living children, but had nine children in total.  The ninth child, Baby Taylor, is our mystery.  When and where was the baby born?  Was it a boy or a girl?  How long did the child live?  When and where did it die?

Assuming the child was not born out-of-wedlock, the date of birth would be some time after my great-grandparents were married.  My great-grandfather’s obituary stated:

He was married on March 15, 1883 to miss Georgia Chrisman and to this union nine children were born….

I was able to confirm the date of the marriage using data from a vital records search at the West Virgina Division of Culture and History site (West Virginia has been probably one of the easiest places I’ve found to search for such information, and if you have family members that are from West Virginia, I would recommend searching there).

The date of the 1900 US Census was the 29th of June.  So, I was looking at a window of birth somewhere between March 15, 1883 and June 29, 1900 (about a 17 year window).

Looking further into my great-grandfather’s obituary, it provided me with more information:

He moved with his family to Nebraska in 1884 and for nine years resided in that state. In 1893, he moved to Gallatin, Mo., where he made his home for sixteen years, moving from there to Arkansas, where he lived for three years.

So, unless born on the move from West Virginia to Nebraska in some state between those places, the baby would have been born in West Virginia, Nebraska, or Missouri.  Those were the three states the family lived in within that 17 year window.

The birth months and years on the census of the 8 children known are:

      • Millard D. – October 1885
      • Oscar R. – March 1887
      • Boyd – July 1888
      • Lucy D. – April 1891
      • Ethel – November 1892
      • Anna M. – February 1894
      • Hazel – May 1896
      • Floyd R. – April 1900

I decided to look at the gaps between events:

      • From Marriage until birth of Millard D. – 31 months
      • Between Millard D. and Oscar R. – 17 months
      • Between Oscar R. and Boyd – 16 months
      • Between Boyd and Lucy D. – 33 months
      • Between Lucy D. and Ethel – 19 months
      • Between Ethel and Anna M. – 15 months
      • Between Anna M. and Hazel – 27 months
      • Between Hazel and Floyd R. – 47 months

I excluded any gap that would be too small for another baby to be born (assuming a normal term of 9 months for each baby, that would mean less than 18 months).

So, that left me with the following possibilities for Baby Taylor’s birthday (assuming the baby was not a twin of a sibling):

      • Between March 1883 and January 1885
      • Between April 1889 and July 1890
      • Between January 1892 and February 1892
      • Between November 1894 and August 1895
      • Between February 1897 and July 1899

The third one I found highly unlikely.  My great-grandmother would have been almost constantly pregnant!

One day on familysearch.org, I was searching for more information on my great-grandparents, and I got a suggestion for an ancestral file.  I went to look at it, and it showed the names of both my great-grandparents, and there were correct dates, including the date of their marriage.  Underneath that it said “Show Children (9)”.

I figured that perhaps when I clicked on it, I would get eight names and then some “?” type entry for Baby Taylor.  Instead, I got a name:

name: Amy C TALOR
gender: Female
birth: 15 Dec 1883
,, WV
death: 11 Aug 1885
afn: 6WK2-VK

AFN stands for Ancestral File Number, and is a unique indicator for that file.

Whoa!  Not only a name, but a birth date and a death date too!  The birth date and place listed was plausible; it was exactly nine months after my great-grandparents were married (that must have been some wedding night)!

But, before getting too excited, I wanted to check this out.  Could I find the records that matched the information?  Was Amy C. Talor (not sure why the different spelling) truly Baby Taylor?

So, back I went to my favorite vital research page in West Virginia, typed in Amy C. Taylor (figuring the Talor was a misspelling), Lewis County (last residence place of my great-grandparents), 1883, female, and hit search.  I got back…nothing.

I started playing around with it.  I changed the search to All Counties.  Nothing.  I changed the spelling to Talor.  Nothing.  I changed it back and just tried Amy.  Still nothing.

Finally, out of frustration, I decided just to search just the last name.  Show me all female Taylor babies born in West Virginia in 1883.  That time, I got a list.  Two results on the list of 25 caught my eye:

7 Annie C Taylor 1883 Lewis 1390 Kb
23 Taylor 13 Dec 1883 Upshur 856 Kb

My great-grandparents were also born in Upshur county, and the date was two days off from the date given on the AFN record.  While record 7 said Annie C. instead of Amy C., it was the same initials, and Lewis county was a possibility as well.

The unnamed Taylor girl did not turn out to be the right one.  While the father’s name was listed as Wm., the mother was Idella M. and not Georgianna.  Would I fare any better with Annie?  See what you think:

The father’s name is hard to read here.  It looks like a W and another letter.  On the opposite page is listed the mother’s name, and the name of the person who reported the birth.  The mother’s name is listed as “Georgie”.  I wondered…would someone have heard the name Georgianna and thought it was two names instead of one (Georgie Anna)?  I looked over to the name of the person that reported the birth.  It happened to be the father, and he was listed as W. H. Taylor.  The birth date was December 15th, an exact match to the record for Amy C.!

I thought of what that would mean that my great-grandparents had a child in 1883.  They would have traveled miles with the baby in a wagon across several states to reach Nebraska.  Where was she when she first started to crawl?  In which state would she have taken her first steps?  How would she have been kept occupied while her father worked on building their home?

Of course, I thought too about the death date that was listed.  Annie would not have been quite two before she died.  What happened?  A sickness?  An accident? Where would I find confirmation of the death date and would that provide other information?

Unfortunately, answers to those questions have yet to be answered.  I have yet to confirm the death date, but I’m working on trying to reach the submitter of the AFN to see if I can get more details.  I’m still looking for any other data on the family.  I was hoping the 1885 Nebraska State Census would be helpful, but it hasn’t.  I haven’t found any record of my family in it, even though I know they were there for Millard D.’s birth in 1885.  They were supposed to have moved to Nebraska a year before that.  Had something delayed them on the journey?

If I find out more information, I’ll share it when we go ‘In Search of…’ Baby Taylor Annie C. Taylor.

Memorial Day Memories

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While I don’t remember doing it every year, I can remember many a Memorial Day visiting the graves of my paternal grandparents.  On some occasions, I went with my Aunt Georgia, and I can remember her showing me how to use a knife to cut away some of the grass that was starting to encroach upon the edges of the headstones.  While I worked on my grandparent’s stone, I believe she worked on that of my Uncle Orvall, her first husband.  We also cleaned around the stone of “Poppa”, my great-grandfather (and my Aunt’s grandfather), Joseph Jeremiah McCombs.  I can remember being shown how to bring up the urn that was a part of my grandparents’ headstone, so we could place the flowers we had brought.

I can remember visiting with my Mother as well.  The area in Flint Memorial Park where my grandparents were buried was near to the area set aside to bury children.  By this time I knew I had a younger brother, Michael, that had died only a few days after being born.  I had wondered where he was buried, and I think I asked my mother that day.  I thought she and I would be walking over to where the children were buried, but I learned that day that Michael was buried at my grandmother’s feet.  No headstone marked the place where he lay.

The last time I visited Flint Memorial Park on Memorial Day, I was alone.  I was in college by that time.  I did the work by myself, cleaning around each headstone.  I think I had picked some early lilacs and had brought them with me (lilacs usually didn’t start coming in on our bushes until June).  I pulled up the urn and placed the flowers and stood there a moment, reflecting on the past before getting back in my car.  I went out that afternoon, not to a picnic or a barbecue, but to go visit my Aunt Georgia.  I would tell her of my visit that day, and listen to her tell me her memories of my father, my uncles, and my grandparents.

 

One Hit Wonders

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In music, a “one hit wonder” is when a singer or musical group has one chart-topping song.  They have one big hit and that’s it.  However, some of those single hits for one group have gone on to be hits for others.  Still more of them have gone on to be featured in countless collections of hits from their era, or have been immortalized in movie soundtracks.

I personally didn’t know who Bobby Day was, but say the name of his one hit wonder “Rockin’ Robin” and I not only think of the Jackson 5, I also think of one particular hand clapping game we used to play to this tune; the first verse was pretty much the same as the original, but the second was a bit different.  I don’t recall the original lyrics being “Your Daddy’s in the back yard, shootin’ them dice/your Mama’s in the kitchen, cookin’ that rice.”  And, I didn’t know that before a group called the Crew Cuts did the song “Sh-boom”  (aka “Life Could Be a Dream”) that it was a one hit wonder for a group called The Chords.  If you’ve seen Pixar’s movie Cars, then you heard this song playing as the cars were cruising the neon lit streets.

There are plenty of other examples in music of course.  However, the “one hit wonders” that I am referring to in this case are those in our genealogy.  They are children in our families that show up on a single census.  Their presence is a one time occurrence for a single decade’s list, and they are never seen again.

When going through the 1940 US Census, I was looking for a potential one hit wonder in my own family.  When I started looking into my mother’s side of the family tree, I had mentioned the tragic circumstances of her older sister’s death.  Because of when she was born, I knew that 1940 would be the only census on which she would appear.  The question remained though:  would she be on it at all?

The family lore varied a lot on when she had actually died.  Some made it sound like she was just a baby or toddler.  My gut feeling though was that she would have been older.  I made that conclusion based on the story.  If she was trying to go after a bottle of nail polish on a fireplace mantle, I felt she would need to be at least three or four to attempt to climb or reach up to the mantle.

I knew where the family should be at this point, because I was able to find birth records for both the sister and my mother in the same location.  Letcher County, Kentucky is where I started my search.

The hard part was that I didn’t know exactly in what section of Letcher County to start.  I used the 1940 Census Enumeration District Finder created by Stephen P. Morse, PhD  &  Joel D. Weintraub, PhD to show me all the districts for the county.  I then looked at the descriptions.  From the 1930 Census, I knew that my grandfather’s family had lived in Magisterial District 1, which had four possible enumerations districts that made it up.  I decided I’d have to search page by page.

In enumeration district (ED) 67-1, I saw the name ‘Whitaker’ a few times, but almost all the names were unfamiliar.  One name I tucked away for a future date to research because I thought it might be a son of Vetter Whittaker, whose name helped me link up several spelling variations on multiple censuses.  So, not finding any of my family in that district, I went on to ED 67-2.

I was eleven pages in and I almost missed it.  It wasn’t my mother’s sister, but it led me to believe I was on the right track.  It also thoroughly convinced me that somehow, the census takers had decided to make things difficult for me because once again, they were mixing things up on me again.

For the fourth time, they have spelled my great-grandmother’s name wrong! And, they got my great-grandfather’s wrong as well!

The reason I almost didn’t catch this was because both of my great-grandparents’ names are incorrect.  Manford is listed as Langford, and Thenie is listed as Dina!

So, you might ask, how do I know this is really my family?  It’s because of the twins.  However, once again, we have a gender-bending census taker, because Rolie and Trolie Lawson were actually identical twin boys!  Rolie and Trolie (or as I knew them, Uncle Roll and Uncle Troll) were not just names to me.  I knew them both growing up, and they were both down to earth with great senses of humor.

In finding my great-grandparents and two of my grand-uncles, I figured I was starting to get nearer to finding the family.  In fact, on the next page, I found another possible relative.  The name was listed as Esta, but I think it might be Delbert Estes, another grand-uncle.

After that, page after page went by without seeing another familiar name.  Then, turning to my 26th page to review, I found what I was looking for (and more):

The first family listed is my great-grandmother with her second husband, and two of my grandfather’s half-siblings (I think that the last name is Juanita, which means we once again have a census taker that is a sex change artist).  You can see that the census taker probably missed filling in one field, and he was entering things in the wrong spots.  He had to go in and make corrections, and unfortunately, his correction for Juanita made her a boy.

The final line contains the name of my one hit wonder:  Anna (Mae) Newell.  As you can see, she is the only child at the moment.  Not for long though.  You see, my grandmother was a few months pregnant by this time, and before the year was out, she would be giving birth to my Mom.

My grandfather used to tell us about how when Grandma was pregnant with Mom, she would chew ice all the time.  He would say, “All day long she would just be crunchin’ on that ice.  Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch!  Sounded like a hog chewin’ on corn!”  I guess she got over it eventually; I was told when she had one of my aunts, it was peaches that she craved.

I was glad to see Anna Mae on the census.  I had already found her birth record.  Seeing another record for her made her seem more real to me.  She had lived.  She would have been about 18 months old at the time of the census, so she would have been walking and talking.  But, I knew at the same time, this young girl would in a few years die tragically.  It was a bittersweet discovery, but one that I feel helped me make a deeper connection to the aunt I never knew.

I wonder if any of you have any one hit wonders in your family?

A Mother is to…

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When I was in either second or third grade, our teacher had us make books for our parents.  Since Mother’s Day was yesterday, I thought I would share the book I made for my Mother.  It’s been about 40 years since I wrote this.

The cover shows amazingly little wear, despite its age.

We wrote the book with a simple formula.  Each page started with “A Mother is to”, and then we would write what we thought a mother was expected to do.  Looking at this book is a peek back at the things I felt important at the time.  It has a lot of good memories associated with it.

With each part of the story, we drew an illustration.  I can’t say that my artwork shows much imagination, but then again, I was a young child at the time.  Our teacher typed our stories and then bound them into books for us.

I’m going to present the book page by page.  If you scroll over the picture, there will be my comments as an adult looking back on what I wrote.

A Mother is to Take You to the Beauty Shop to Get Your Hair Cut
by
Pam Taylor

A mother is to help you with homework after school.

A mother is to go to the market with you after school.

A mother is to keep you company when there’s nothing to do.

A mother is to join you in brownies.

A mother is to take you to the beauty shot to get your hair cut.

A mother is to let you make gingerbread by yourself.

A mother is to boss you.

A mother is to take you places.

A mother is to move things.

A mother is to help you in bed at night.

Happy Anniversary!

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It’s been years since this picture was taken, but I’m happy to say that Bill and I are still together, and still very much in love.

Even though we had a daytime wedding, our wedding took place under the stars.  The building behind us is the Longway Planetarium in Flint, Michigan.  We said our vows under the dome, beneath the stars projected above us.

It was my second marriage; Bill’s first.  So, he was the one that got to wear white. 😉  One of my Aunts made my dress, which is white satin overlayed with royal blue lace.  Royal blue is my favorite color.

Our friends Carla and Brenda were the Maid and Matron of Honor.  Our friend Derek was Bill’s Best Man, and my Brother Tim and his son Timmy were groomsmen/ushers.  Tiffany, my niece, was our flower girl.  My Dad (kind of out of sight in this picture) was able to finally walk his daughter down the aisle (the first time, I eloped).

As you can see, the star theme carried through into our decorations.  Tiffany carried  a star wand rather than a basket of flowers.  The bridemaids’ dresses had a fabric than kind of reminded me of the Milky Way.

My grandparents, my brother and his wife and family, most of my cousins from my Mom’s side, and some of their children.

Bill, his Aunt, two of his cousins and their families.

Unfortunately, Bill’s Mom and Dad weren’t able to make it out from Oregon to our wedding, but one of his cousins came with his family from Arizona.  The rest of his family came up from Ohio.  Much of my family was already in Michigan, but I did have one Aunt and Uncle and a cousin that came in from the East Coast.

We spent a weekend up in Harrison Michigan at a bed and breakfast.

One corner of our room at the Carriage House Inn.

After that, it was time to finish packing, as the rest of our honeymoon was spent travelling cross country in a Ryder truck, bringing all my stuff from Michigan out to California.  We both said if you can survive a week together in a Ryder truck, you can survive anything. 😛

We did have one companion on our trip West.  My last day of work, I took one of the M&M dispensers with me.  Blue, the M&M guy, became our travelling buddy, and Blue wrote back to my former co-workers about his exploits on the road.  We stopped at St. Julian’s winery in Paw Paw, Michigan, before heading down to Berwyn, Illinois, where a branch of the bank I had worked for was located.  From there we continued our trek West, and got to see many interesting sights with Blue.

This Polaroid shows some decay, but you can still see Blue on the dashboard of the Ryder truck with the statue of the Jolly Green Giant in the background.

Bill and Blue posing in front of Mount Rushmore.

I believe that is Old Faithful in the background.  We are at Yellowstone Park.

One last thing I’d like to share with you.  We didn’t write our own vows, but I did write a poem that we both recited as we exchanged rings.

Happy Birthday to…ME!

Me as a baby. I was probably about one.

Yep!  It’s my birthday!

I thought I’d share this photo of me today.  It was my first ever portrait studio picture.

I have been told that my Grandma Taylor bought the outfit that I wore that day (she also bought my brother a suit that he wore for his own portrait).  Since I believe that I am about one in this photo, this would have been shortly before my Grandma Taylor passed away.

Though I’m older now, I still have the same eyes (surrounded perhaps by a wrinkle or two), and the same smile (thankfully, with a lot more teeth; all still my own).

At this age, I think I looked a lot more like my Dad.  As I got older though, I look much more like my Mom.

My Father

My Mother

Here’s a picture of each of them.  See what you think.

 

 

 

 

A more recent photo of me.

Strolling Through the Old Neighborhood in 1940

In starting my research into the 1940 US Census, I started to wonder about where I grew up and how it would have looked back then, over twenty years from when I was born.  At one time, my grandparents had lived in the house that was home to me from the time I was just a few years old until I was almost thirty.  I was pretty certain that my grandparents would not be living there in 1940, and I was right about that.  My father had told me he grew up on Knickerbocker, which was a few blocks away from where I grew up.  And Knickerbocker was right where I found them.

My paternal grandfather and his family in 1940.

I learned a few things about the family from this census.  First, they had lived in the same place in 1935.  I know that in 1930 my grandparents had lived within the city limits of Flint, Michigan.  Now, they lived just outside the city limits.  My grandfather worked in an auto factory doing motor repair.  I had already known he worked at the factory, but now I knew what he did.  From what my father has told me, he was a participant of the Sit-Down Strike of 1936-37 in Flint.

I was surprised to see that neither of my grandparents had completed high school, but knowing that, I wasn’t surprised to see that my grandmother had two more years of schooling than my grandfather did.  Since her father, Joseph McCombs, was a school teacher, I have a feeling that he would have done his best to see that his girls received an education.

The children listed are my aunt and my two uncles.  My father was the youngest and would not make an appearance on the census for another ten years.  I know that my grandparents were married in Missouri, but their first child was born in Illinois.  Their oldest son was born in Missouri, and the youngest at this time was born in Michigan, as my father would be.  I wondered what had prompted the move from Missouri to Illinois and then from Illinois back to Missouri.  I knew my great-grandfather had not had his first stroke until 1931, and my uncle’s age said that he was born a few years before that event.  Was there perhaps some other family issue that caused the move, or perhaps was it a result of the financial complexities that resulted from the Great Depression?

Regardless of why my family moved from Illinois to Missouri, I know that my grandfather came to Michigan to get a job in the auto industry.  He was not alone.  As I began my journey down Genesee Avenue, I was able to find many people whose place of employment was listed as “Auto Factory”.

As I went through the records, I could see that the census takers were walking down the streets as far as they could go, and then back up to Saginaw Street, the border between Mount Morris and Genesee Townships.

1940 Enumeration District Map showing the area where I grew up. You can see both Genesee Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue on the map. It is a distance of about one mile from Coldwater Road to Carpenter Road, the northern and southern boundaries.

In case you are wondering why there is such a large gap in the middle of the map, that is no accident.  Between Downey Avenue and Cass Avenue there were three places that I know of that were there when I grew up (I’m not sure however, if all of them were there in 1940).  From Saginaw Street to Summit Street was the grounds of Saint Francis of Assisi Church (this was the most likely structure to have been there in 1940).  The spacious (and mostly treeless) grounds made it a wonderful place for us to fly kites growing up, and they had a playground that we would often visit to swing or to go down the big slide (probably about three times the size of the one on our swing set at home).  Facing Summit Street on its west side was Summit Junior High School, and facing Detroit Street on its east side was Buell Elementary School, with a large field running the rest of the distance between them.  Past Detroit Street, I don’t know, because Detroit Street was the border my parents set for us to the west.

So, when the census takers started their walk, they had just finished with South Cornell on its western edge, and were walking east on Genesee Avenue back toward Saginaw Street.

The first thing I noticed was that the street numbers were all different from when I was younger.  I wasn’t sure why they had been renumbered.  That in some ways made it more difficult to figure out where I was on the street, but as I got closer to where I lived, it got easier.

I stopped as I found familiar names.

Two names stood out for me in this section.

The first name that stood out for me was Trovillion.  My family knew a family named Trovillion, and I wondered if this might be the parents of the Trovillion that they knew.  Since I knew that the Trovillions we knew were about my parents’ ages, I decided that, like my father, they hadn’t been born at the time of the census.

The second name that stood out for me was Leo France.  Now, the part that surprised me was that in this census, that Leo was widowed.  The reason that it surprised me was that while I don’t think that I ever met Leo, I did know his wife quite well.  You see, his wife was the grandmother of three girls that lived only a few blocks down the street from me (probably closer than what I guessed Leo lived to that location in 1940).  I became friends with all of them, lost touch when they and I moved out of the area, but, thanks to the wonders of social networking, we now keep in touch on a more regular basis.

I do have reason to believe that this is their grandfather though.  During one of those times when my own searches were hitting road blocks, I did some research into their family tree a bit.  I confirmed with them some of the things I found.  Their great-grandparents’ names were William and Marion and they were born in New York and Canada, respectively.  Mary I believe would be a shortened form of Marion, so I believe the parents he has living with them are my friends’ great-grandparents.  He would then have married again, and had more children, since my friends’ mother was born a few years after the census.

More familiar names appeared.

The last name Nelson was one I knew.  There had been a Nelson family living at the corner of Genesee Avenue and Summit Street.  Perhaps this gentleman was related.  I saw that he was divorced and had a live-in housekeeper.  The housekeeper’s last name was also familiar, as I went to school with one or two girls with the last name Schwalm.  The name Royal sounds familiar too; I think one of them named their son Royal.  I think it is likely that this would be their grandmother and perhaps also their father.

Finally, we got closer to Saginaw Street; closer to where I lived and I could tell because the names were extremely familiar.

Three names showed up on this page on Genesee Avenue that I knew.

I knew a Healey family that lived just down the street from us.  They lived across the street and a few doors down from the three friends I mentioned earlier.  However, the Healeys here would have been much older than the Healeys that I knew growing up.  Perhaps they were the parents of Mr. Healey.

I knew where I was when I got to the Pero house though.  I don’t know if I had ever met Mr. Pero, but Mrs. Pero (I don’t think I ever knew her first name) I did know and would visit from time to time.  The were actually our next door neighbors; there was an empty lot between their house and ours.  Well, in reality only a portion of the lot was empty, but I’ll come to that in a moment.  Mrs. Pero kept a nice garden in her yard, and I would go over once in a while when she was outside and talk to her.  She was a sweet lady.  Her son lived in the house after she passed away.

The Ayottes were our next door neighbors on the other side.  They were nice people too, but I didn’t get to know them as well as the Peros because they weren’t there as long.  I got to know the family that moved in after them much better.

I thought I was about done with my journey through my old neighborhood, when I spotted one last set of names.

While the neighbors to either side of us were important, so were the neighbors on the street behind us. The Henrys were our neighbors for longer than any of the others.

The Henrys were great neighbors, and I knew them the best of any family that was living in this area in 1940.  Our yards were separated by some fencing that aged to the point of non-existence by the time I was in my teens.  Again, I don’t think I knew the senior Mr. Henry, but I did know Old Mrs. Henry, as I called her (the designation Old was likely as much to do with her age as to distinguish her from her daughter-in-law.  Remember that mostly empty lot between the Pero house and ours?  It belonged to the Henrys and that’s where Old Mrs. Henry kept her garden, and a wonderful garden it was!  It would begin to bloom as soon as Spring arrived, with Crocus, and then would come the tulips and daffodils.  She didn’t just have the yellow daffodils that grew in our yard.  She had other types as well.  And the tulips were so varied as well.  She had single and double varieties.  There were variegated ones, and solid colors from bright white to a deep purple that almost looked black.  In May there would be Periwinkles and Lilies of the Valley.  There were bushes of beautiful lilacs that would bloom in early June, and several varieties of peonies and some roses as well.

I can remember playing in the backyard, and seeing Old Mrs. Henry going back to work in her garden.  There was an old, tiny trailer (an Airstream perhaps) that held her tools, and I would often hear her whistle a tune as she worked (she’s the only woman who I had ever hear whistle a tune before or since).  I would get permission now and then to pick flowers, and I was careful not to pick too many of any one type.  After Old Mrs. Henry died, I would sometimes go out into her garden and admire her flowers, and though her son kept them watered and weeded, they did not thrive for him the way they did for her.

I would visit over the fence with Mr. and Mrs. Henry from time to time, and I made occasional visits to their house.  I would sometimes cut down their driveway when I was going to and from school in Junior High.  It became an accepted practice, and I often would say hello to them as I was getting ready to cross over from their yard to mine.

My last visit to them was the day Bill and I got married.  They were not able to come to our wedding, but we paid them a visit our way to the reception.  I can remember Mrs. Henry’s sight was failing then, and I don’t remember her being in the best of health.  But I can still remember her face lighting up as we talked to her, and I was so glad to see them one last time before leaving for California.

It amazed me how much taking a stroll through my old neighborhood years before I ever lived there would help me to remember so many things.  I would recommend looking at where you grew up, even if it was years before you were born.  Even if your family wasn’t living there, perhaps there were neighbors there that you’ve forgotten that the Census could help you remember.

Checking In

My week’s normal schedule at work was changed this week.  Since I didn’t have Wednesday off, I didn’t have my normal opportunity to write a mid-week entry.  However, that means I don’t work Saturday (well, except for working on our taxes).  I hope that all your journeys into the 1940 census are going well, and I hope to catch you up on mine over the weekend.

Happy Census Day!

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I know a lot of us are excited about the 1940 US Census being available for the first time today.  I’m wondering what your plans are, and who you plan on looking for first?

Unfortunately, I’ll need to wait another ten years before I’ll be able to see my parents on the census.  However, I still look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles on my Dad’s side of the family.  And, on Mom’s side, I look forward to seeing her older sister make her only census appearance.  I mentioned her in February; the little girl who died tragically.

Only “Poppa”, my Aunt Jeanette’s father, was my only living great-grandparent on my Dad’s side, but my great-grandparents on Mom’s side (with one exception) should all be alive.  And, I was interested to find out more about their children and where they were in 1940.

I asked Bill who he would like to find out about first on his side of the family, and he said if possible, he’d like to find out more about his great-grandparents.  We knew his great-grandmother Sabados would still be alive.  We also knew his great-grandfather Schreckengost would be alive.  However, we had no idea about when his mother’s maternal grandparents had died, and we had so far come up empty on the 1930 census, so they might be long dead, or we just hadn’t found the right connection to them yet.

One of the things I’m also excited to do tomorrow is that I have volunteered to help index the census records.  I’m looking forward to it.  It’s a way of giving back to the genealogical community, a community that has been so great in answering questions and giving advice to help further my adventure.  I’m setting a goal to transcribe 1,000 names for the month of April.  That’s about one full census sheet a day.  I know it’s probably just a drop in the bucket, but together with all the others that will be volunteering, it will help in getting the information out there to all.

So, I wish you all the best in your searches.  Good hunting!

Happy Census Day!

🙂 Pam