11 September 2010

Sharing Sources, Research, Etc.

One of my favorite chefs is Mario Batali.  I was shocked when I heard him say he didn't keep any cooking secrets -- he was willing to share recipes and techniques with anyone!  He was comfortable in his shoes and unthreatened by others knowing what he knew.  And besides, it was all about the food.

I have been researching my family tree for about four years, but didn't get serious about doing it right and sourcing everything until this year.  Now whenever I discover a distant cousin also doing family research, almost always my first request is for their sources.  I am glad to share mine, although because I am a newbie at sourcing I have a limited supply.

So far, most of my new-found "cousins" are like what I was -- essentially a name collector and have no sources.  The next step up, barely, are those whose "sources" are the online family trees of name collectors!  But the worst, at least in my opinion, the absolute worst, is the successful genealogist who has been researching our mutual ancestors for decades and has documented everything. . . . and won't share the sources.

I know how it must feel, to have put in all that hard work, money, and time, and then some newbie comes along and wants it handed to him or her with little effort.  But I wish you would take a lesson from Mario Batali.  It is about family.  Isn't that why you started genealogy in the first place?  Is there any better way to honor your ancestors than to share the truth about their lives with a relative who wants to know?  It does them no honor to keep it to yourself.

I know it is easy for me to say, I am one of those newbies.  And I am certainly in no position to tell you what you must do with the product of all your hard work and expense.  But I am not too far removed from when I started researching, to remember "family" is why I got started in the first place.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

9/11/2001 Memory

I was still in bed while my wife was getting ready for work.  She had just gotten out of the shower and had heard on the radio that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, she saw me stirring and told me.  I figured, at first thought it was some tiny two-seat propeller plane accident, but turned on the radio to listen.  Just then the second plane hit the second tower, and I sat up in bed like a rocket, this was no accident!

I watched several hours of the television coverage, glued to the set.  The boys came home from school early and so did my wife from work.  This gave us a chance to sit down and talk together and deal with any fears or anxieties in a rational way, and at the same time exercise our family bonds making them stronger.

That afternoon we headed down to DesPlaines Conservation Area to train our dogs like we did every Tuesday.  There was a surreal feeling about doing the norm on that day, continuing to listen to the coverage over the radio in the truck.  It didn't help that there were much fewer people outside and cars on the road.  It almost felt like we were behaving wrongly.

While we were out training, a single airliner flew high above us in the sky, when all other had been grounded.  It was Air Force One accompanied by two fighter jets heading back to Washington, D.C., from Offutt AFB in Nebraska where the President was first taken for safety.

Nine years later and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  It is true when they say you will never forget where you were when we were attacked in our homeland, September eleventh, two-thousand and one.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

01 September 2010

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 4: A Scare and An Angel

We were on the way back to the other side of the cemetery to visit the grave of my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862), when we stopped to visit the graves of a couple veterans in the middle and back of the cemetery far from the road.  When we returned to my son's car it wouldn't start.  It sounded to me like it wasn't getting any fuel, but my son insisted on trying to jump it, so Jane pulled her car up, and we tried a jump which proved fruitless.  We decided to leave the car and walk the rest of the way to visit Aaron.  It was hot, I was sweating, and Jane gave us bottled water.

The mystery of "A.W."
We put down the rocks we brought from home up against Aaron's marker, and my son gave him a flag.  The marker next to him says simply "A.W."  I am yet to locate the grave of his wife, my g-g-g-grandmother Submit (Clark) Walker who outlived him.  Since Aaron and Submit were already elderly when they came to Illinois from Belchertown, Massachusetts, it is not likely their child.  Was this a placemarker for her and she never made it there?  Another question for the sexton.

After an hour my son walked back to the car and it still wouldn't start.  It is late on a Sunday evening in a cemetery in a small town that doesn't even have a motel or a car repair shop.  We call our insurance company for roadside service, and they must be using the same location service as our TomTom GPS because they can't locate the cemetery either.  Jane, a local, gets on the phone to give them our location and they still can't find us.  Panic is starting to set in.

We get out the GPS and hit the "Where Am I?" button and give the insurance company what the GPS says.  Still no soap.  We give them the coordinates for the longitude and latitude, and aha!  Now they found us.  The tow truck is now on the way.

But what to do when it arrives?  The GPS is wonderful.  It told us where were the nearest car repair shops as well as hotels/motels.  But they were many miles away in other small towns, and it was late Sunday evening.  We were calling them on our cell phones, and striking out.

Jane was an angel.  After all she had already given us, she wasn't done.  She sat there and waited with us for hours as we tried to resolve our situation, stuck in a remote cemetery as the sun is going down.  She began planning on how she would take us to a hotel, then come for us the next day and take us to our car after it is fixed.  She apologized for not being able to bring us to her home, but it is small and they have rented out the spare room.  Note, I am summarizing here for brevity, the true extent of her generosity was breathtaking. All the time we are sitting there, she is thinking of ways she can help us.

Just as the sun was going down the tow truck arrived.  The driver looked the car over and discovered my big foot had loosened a wire on the passenger side that controlled the electronic fuel injection.  I was right, the engine wasn't getting any fuel.  The driver tightened the wire and reset the controls, and like magic the car was fixed.

We each gave Jane a hug, and repeatedly thanked her for her consideration and generosity for a couple of brand spanking new acquaintances.  She said, "That is the way we do it in small towns."

And so ended our adventure.  Lots of surprises, a scare, and an angel.  We are already thinking when we can do it again!

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

31 August 2010

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 3: More Surprises

We spent a couple hours visiting with the Duttons, but we knew we wanted to also spend a good amount of time with my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862) so it was time to move along.  But before we did, the sexton Jerry had told me about the oldest part of the cemetery, so secluded and far back in the woods, there was no road to it.  Jerry was confident there were no Walkers or Duttons back there, but my son wasn't going to leave without walking the area, so we headed back there.

As soon as we turned off the road and started driving down the path we came upon a couple isolated graves, and my son shouts "It says 'Dutton'"!  And he put the car in park.

As is our custom, we each put a stone we brought from home on the marker to show it had been visited.
"Eunice Hazen, wife of Marvin Dutton, born in Hartford, Vt. Jan. 10, 1799, died Aug. 31, 1885."  Marvin Dutton (1799-1872) was the older brother of my g-g-g-grandfather Samuel Dutton (1806-1835) and Norman Dutton.  As a reminder, my g-g-g-grandmother Nancy (Smith) Dutton married Samuel, gave birth to my g-g-grandmother Louisa, Samuel died, and as a widow she married Norman, who was Samuel's younger brother.  Follow all that?  Geesh they make it complicated!  Next to Eunice was a small slab marker, again worn smooth.  Not even the shaving cream trick could bring up anything on it.  Was it Marvin?  Or was it a child?  I am hoping to get the info from the sexton.

On the other side of Eunice was this marker --


Theodore S. Barton (1826-1888) and his wife Almira M. (1836-1899).  The Bartons have made an appearance in my blog before!  As you can correctly guess, Almira Marie (Dutton) Barton is the daughter of Marvin and Eunice Dutton.

Next to Theodore and Almira was another marker (almost completely illegible without the shaving cream, and completely legible with it, not saying that is an excuse to keep using it, it is not) --


 "Dora A., Dau. of  T.S. & A.M. Barton, died Mar. 25, 1872, Aged 4 Yrs. 5 Mos."

I must say I have been overall impressed with the amount of information my ancestors have decided to put on their stones.  ESPECIALLY maiden names, one of the hardest things to locate in the rural midwest predating marriage licenses.

Much more to follow in Part 4.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Tombstone Tuesday, S.E.: Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 2

Oakwood Cemetery does not exist.  At least that is what my TomTom GPS says, we had to punch in the longitude and latitude to get it to work.

The trip down was fairly uneventful.  It was a hot and sunny day, and I got a little sunburned.  We were running a little behind schedule so the sexton Jerry had to cancel meeting us.  I must admit my heart beat just a little faster when we passed the sign announcing "Woodford County."  So many of my ancestors are from there -- the towns of Metamora, Secor, and Washington are continually appearing and reappearing in my research. 

I wouldn't exactly call the cemetery "beautiful."  There is almost no uniformity.  But it is very peaceful and restful.  It is extremely shaded by centuries old oaks, so the grass does not grow very well at all, but the overall feeling is one of comfort.  When we pulled into the cemetery we were greeted by FaG volunteer Jane who was there photographing gravemarkers for the website.  She was only too happy to show us the burial sites for our ancestors that we had driven to see.

We started at the Dutton family plot.  It is marked by a column with the names of eight deceased but is marked on the ground by at least nine graves. 

Dutton family monument in back, individual stones line up to the west facing each other.
 Jane had warned me that many of the markers at the cemetery were broken, missing, and even rubbed smooth.  In the case of the Dutton family plot, two were rubbed smooth, one was broken and missing, one was cracked.

We were able to identify six of the markers on the ground -- Norman J. Dutton (1810-1889), James M. Owen (1846-1883), Ella Dutton Rickets (1854-1887), Henry M. Dutton (1852-1853), Horace S. Dutton (1843-1862) and finally, drum roll please, Roxa Smith (1785-1868)!

Roxa Smith's marker with the Dutton monument in the back.  We believe the stone to the left is not a gravemarker but a cornerstone of some type.
Roxa's gravemarker was probably our biggest surprise of the visit.  A little backstory -- when I learned that the remains of Norman Dutton had been dug up in Kansas and reintered here in Oakwood Cemetery, Metamora, Illinois, I knew immediately there had to be a reason.  And I was correct, this was the location of the gravesite of his wife, my g-g-g-grandmother Nancy (Dutton) Smith (1812-1868), but not in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would also locate her mother, my g-g-g-g-grandmother Roxa (Rich) Smith!  We summize that Nancy must occupy one of the other graves with a smooth stone, or broken and missing stone.  The grave between her husband Norman and her mother Roxa is has the broken missing stone, our best guess that is Nancy because of the placement.

Another necessary comment about the appearance of the above stone.  The first time I saw one like it that Jane sent me I was horrified, I was just sure she was splashing the stone with bleach or hydrogen peroxide!  But she assured me that she felt as strongly as all of us that the stones need to be protected and she would never use anything that would harm them.  She uses shaving cream, smears it on, and then squeegee's off the excess, and when the rains come they wash off the rest.  Made sense to me, shaving cream is especially known for being gentle.  Well it turns out I found out after I got home that the use of shaving cream can also be harmful to the stones.  I didn't know then, now I do.

Anyway, more to come about our surprising and eventful trip to Oakwood Cemetery in part 3.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

30 August 2010

"Close" Only Counts in Horseshoes and Tiddlywinks, not Genealogy

Oh the heartbreak.

As reported here previously, my g-g-grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. (1929-1865) died in a troop train accident during the Civil War.  It was March 2nd, 1865, and he was a member of Company A, in the Thirty-Third Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  Now let's get a bit of perspective.  There were several hundred of regiments fighting in the Civil War.  And most all regiments had several companies.  So what are the odds?

Researching the Thirty-third and the train accident, I found a 1914 publication of the Illinois Historical Society indicating that I might find useful a book written in 1883 by Alfred O. Marshall called Army Life or Recollections of a Private Soldier which I was lucky to find online here.  And I got really excited to begin reading that he was a member of Company A in the Illinois Thirty-Third!  And it is over four hundred pages long!  What are the odds?!!

Jumping to the end of the book, I couldn't have been more crestfallen to read that the book ends when Mr. Marshall was mustered out -- three months before my g-g-grandfather enlisted, and five months before the train accident.  Sigh.  What are the odds?

Ugh.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Oakwood Cemetery Trip, Part 1

I have known for a long while that my g-g-g-grandfather Aaron Walker (1788-1862) was buried in Oakwood Cemetery some three hours away in Metamora, Illinois.  But when I discovered his daughter-in-law Louisa (Dutton) Walker's stepfather Norman Dutton (1810-1889) had been reintered there from Kansas, I knew it was time to try and set up a road trip.

Norman John Dutton passed away and interred in Kansas, reinterred in Illinois with his wife.

Transportation and companionship was not a problem.  My oldest son is a bona fide "graveyard rabbit" and is always up for visiting a cemetery, especially an old one; The older the better.  He enjoys spending hours walking the cemeteries local to us reading gravemarkers, interpreting, and learning, and applying what he learns to local history.

I only wanted to make the trip once, so I wanted to do research ahead of time to make sure we got to visit all our ancestors.  I found allies in two FindaGrave.Com volunteers named Deb and Jane.  They made multiple trips to the cemetery on my behalf locating ahead of time what ancestors my research put there, looking for ancestors I suspected might be there, AND BEST OF ALL -- finding an ancestor who I never dreamed of finding on this trip!  But more about that later.  Jane put me in touch with the cemetery sexton Jerry, who could not have been more courteous and helpful, offering to meet me out there with his maps and book of names to show me around.

So the trip was set for yesterday and I am here to report we made it there and back.  A trip full of surprises, a scare, and the encountering of an angel.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

23 August 2010

My Blog Pays Me Back -- Signatures of my Great-Great-Grandfather and Great-Great-Great-Grandfather

I had two main reasons for starting this blog.  The first was to keep my family and relatives abreast of my research.  The second was to try and make connections with other cousins researching the same lines so we can share data.  The hope being that through searches on Google and other search engines would hit this site, and the cousins would come visiting.  Well it finally happened!  This weekend I got an email from from a "not-really-cousin" who was Googling my g-g-grandmother Nancy Dutton.  She wrote that Nancy's mother "Roxa was the 3rd wife of my great-great-great grandfather Elisha Collins.  My ancestors are from Cynthia Osborn his 2nd wife."

Since Nancy's father was likely Sylvanus Smith of Vermont, my new found friend and I are "not really cousins" but she did provide for me something I was not likely to find anytime soon -- Roxa (Smith) Colllins' application for a Revolution War Widow's Pension, in the name of her deceased husband Elisha. And what did I find but the signatures of my great-great-grandfather Henry M. Walker, Sr. and his father, my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Walker as witnesses!


The date was April 5, 1860.  In the family's timeline, Henry had been married to Roxa's granddaughter Louisa for four years.  Henry and Louisa's first child Letta was almost three, and Louisa was three months pregnant with their second child Samuel.

More to follow from this resourceful document as I transcribe it.  Thanks to my new found friend and contact for pointing it out to me.  And if I have any other cousins or "not-really-cousins" out there reading this that want to share data, my contact email is not very cryptically on the right.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

19 August 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Signatures of TWO Great-Great-Great-Grandmothers on ONE Document!!

If you follow my blog you know that my great-great-grandfather Henry Martin Walker (1829-1865) died in the Civil War, leaving behind his widow Louisa Lorena Walker (nee. Dutton, 1833-1913), and three children -- Letta Agnes Walker (b. 1857), Samuel Clark Walker (b. 1860), and Henry Martin Walker, Jr. (1864-1952).

I ordered Louisa's Civil War Widow's Pension Application from the National Archives, and they sent me the first hundred pages (I still have to obtain the remaining).  What a wealth of information!  Tons of resources!  But the real treasure for me was on one of the first affidavits testifying that she was the mother and guardian of the three surviving children.  The hand-written paragraph reads --
Nancy S. Dutton is the mother of the claimant and Submit C. Walker is the mother of the deceased and they have both resided in the same town as the claimant and children for the last fifteen years and have both of them been present at the birth of all the above named children.
And there affixed below, the signatures of BOTH my great-great-great-grandmothers --


-- Five generations back from me, and six generations back from my children.  I got goosebumps!

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

17 August 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Grandparents Bruce and Thelma Gibson

I know it appears I have been on a theme lately, so I thought I might as well keep up with the appearances --


Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

16 August 2010

"Do You Remember Grandma's Lye Soap?"

Thanks to Dick Eastman over at Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter for both educating me and rekindling a wonderful memory --

YES!  I remember grandma's lye soap!  My grandmother Thelma Gibson (1903-1991) actually made the stuff and my mom kept some of it around principally for fighting the spread of poison oak and poison ivy.  She would also reach for it as a "last straw" when commercial soaps or cleansers were not up to the job she was performing.  Actually, truth be told, my mom kept lots of bars of it around, more than she would ever need.  The bars were huge, and she kept many.   I wonder if she took that much to appease my grandmother?

No, I am not old enough to remember the song, a big hit apparently selling over two million copies back in 1952.  But what seems strange to me is people from 1952 asking "do you remember" grandma's lye soap, when we were still using my grandma's lye soap into the '60s and '70s?

However, I do remember my mom jokingly singing the song around the house!  What a fun memory.  You can hear the tune and read the lyrics by clicking here.  You can see YouTube videos of the song being performed by clicking on the link above to Dick Eastman's website.

Do you remember grandma's lye soap?  "Yes, I do."

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Amanuensis Monday: The Obituary for Lucy (Surpluss) Turner, 1874-1933

The El Dorado Times, Saturday, April 15, 1933 --

FORMER RESIDENT DIES IN CALIFORNIA

Word has been received here of the death recently in Inglewood, Calif., of Mrs.
Lucy Surpluss Turner, formerly a resident of the Rosalia community. Mrs. Turner
was 58 years old and was well known throughout Butler County, her father,
Nelson Surpluss, having been one of the first settlers in Rosalia Township.

Surviving are a brother, J. A. Surpluss, of Topeka, and two sisters, Mrs. J. A.
Armor, and Mrs. Mary Hembree, both of Wichita. Mrs. Surpluss was buried at
Whittier, Calif.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

12 August 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandma's Afghan Crocheted Just for Me

In her twilight years my beloved grandmother Thelma Gibson (1903-1991) with great forethought decided to make a blanket or afghan for each of her six grandchildren.  Here is mine, ironically made up of "granny squares." It is being modeled here by my beautiful wife.



Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Grandpa Gibson the "Millionaire"

From the September 17, 1942 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen --


-- According to this website if you adjust for inflation, $75,000 in 1942 is the equivalent to $1,044,914.52 today in 2010.  My grandfather Bruce Gibson (1902-1994) was making "in excess" of an annual equivalent salary of over a million dollars.  But less than a year later after this article appeared, he declared bankruptcy.  My aunt, his eldest daughter, and I obtained his bankruptcy papers from the National Archives and we cannot find any clue "why" he went bankrupt. The search continues.

What we do know is he moved his family to northern California and worked very hard to restore his family to financial security.  And he was successful at it!  The family was the epitome of middle class for the decades to follow.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

10 August 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Keith (1894-1980) and Mattie Walker (1884-1938)

Since I got past the morbidity of the subject matter, I have found the FindaGrave.Com website one of the most rewarding on the whole Internet for family historians.  My grandparents Keith Glen Walker and Mattie Mae Walker (nee. Needham) are buried in Kimball, Nebraska.  Realistically, when is the next time I am going to make it to Kimball?  Sadly, no time soon.  So I post a photo request on FindaGrave.Com, and one of the thousands of members of FaG's army of volunteers goes to work!  Thank you "custer1963" for the reward you have given me and my relatives by taking this picture for us --


Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

09 August 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Obituary for Mrs. Keith Walker (Mattie Mae Needham 1884-1938)

From the Arnold (Nebraska) Sentinal September 29, 1938 --
DEATH OF MRS. KEITH WALKER

Mrs. Keith Walker of Dix, Nebr., formerly Mattie Needham of Arnold, passed away Tuesday at a hospital in Omaha, where she had undergone an operation several weeks ago.  Mrs. Walker is survived by her husband and several children, and her sister-in-law Mrs. Hattie Needham of Arnold.

Funeral services and internment are to be at Dix, Friday afternoon, according to word received this morning by local relatives.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Poem: "A Crazy Quilt"

An elderly neighbor passed away and his widow found out I was interested in genealogy so she gave me all his study materials.  I found the following poem included amongst the papers.  The citation reads "From the 'Romance of the Patch Work,' by Douglas Mallock, seen at the display of rare old quilts, Denver Museum, June 2. 1970."
A CRAZY QUILT

They do not make them anymore
For quilts are cheaper at the store
Than woman's labor, though a wife
Men think the cheapest thing in life
But now and then a quilt is spread
Upon a quaint old walnut bed.
A crazy quilt of those old days
That I am old enough to praise.

Some women sewed these points and squares
Into a pattern like life's cares.
Here is a velvet that was strong
The poplin that she wore so long,
A fragment from her daughter's dress,
Like her, a vanished loveliness;
Old patches of such things as these,
Old garments and old memories.

And what is life: a crazy quilt
Sorrow and joy, and grace and guilt
With here and there a square of blue
For some old happiness we knew;
And so the hand of time will take
The fragment of our lives and make,
Out of life's remnant as they fall,
A thing of beauty after all.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

31 July 2010

Not So Fast!: The Newspaper Record of the Death and Burials of Norman J. Dutton (1810-1889)

Norman Dutton was the step-father of my great-great-grandmother Louisa Dutton (1833-1913), and was an early settler of Metamora, Woodford County in Illinois.  So we go to the Metamora Herald newspaper seeking his obituary and here is what we find in the March 22nd, 1889 issue --
Word has been received by Mrs. Theodore Barton that her uncle Norman Dutton, formerly a citizen and early settler of this locality, had died at his home near Great Bend, Kansas last Monday.
Well there I go!  The attention of my research, including to find his gravesite, switches to Kansas, right?  Not-so-fast!  Research provides us with a second entry.  In the October 4th, 1889 issue of the same publication we find --
The remains of Norman Dutton were brought here yesterday, from Great Bend, Kansas, for burial.  Mr. Dutton died last March and was buried in Kansas, and has now been removed to Oakwood Cemetery for final rest.
Usually the researcher hopes for a long obituary loaded with information.  Here we have a small entry, but it gives me a wealth of clues!  We now know where he is buried, is this a clue where to find his wife, especially since they went to the trouble of moving his remains here?  Louisa got remarried to her fourth husband, one James Easterling while in Kansas, which confused me.  Additionally, her son, my great-grandfather Henry M. Walker (1864-1952) married my great grandmother Lucy M. Chesley (1866-1940) while in Kansas.  Now this all makes sense -- the family, three generations, moved there together.  One final "long shot" to look into -- Great Bend, Kansas is in "Barton County."  The Bartons of Illinois were closely tied to the Duttons, including multiple intermarriages.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

28 July 2010

Wordless Wednesday: My Two Sons


Whom I love more than life itself.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

27 July 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Norman (1921-1922) and Kenneth (1923-1923) Walker -- Baby Uncles

When I was growing up it kind of creeped me out to hear my father talk about his brothers Norman and Kenneth who died as infants, long before he was ever born.  But they were his brothers, and they should not be begrudged that fact, just as they are my uncles.  Doing genealogy, researching my family tree has been therapeutic for me.  I have increased my understanding, and thereby my emotions have evolved.

My Dad says he did not even know about these two brothers until his early-teens, and they were really only ever spoken about at funerals.  The marker is in the Dix Cemetery, Dix, Nebraska.  Norman was nine months old when he died, and Kenneth died the same day he was born.  My Dad no longer remembers how they passed.  Will I ever learn?  Possibly.  But since I am just starting my serious research, the focus is on direct ancestors first.


Thanks to user custer1963 on FindaGrave.com for taking the picture for me.

 Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

23 July 2010

Obit: Betty Jo Strasheim, 1924 - 2002

The following obituary is transcribed from the March 15, 2002 edition of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle --
Betty Jo Strasheim

1924-2002

Betty Jo Strasheim, 77, of Cheyenne died March 12 at 3128 Boxelder Dr. in Cheyenne.  She was born Sept. 30, 1924, in Dix, Neb., and had lived here for 54 years with prior residence in Kimball.  Mrs. Strasheim had retired after 15 years as the secretary at Trinity Lutheran Church.  She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.
Mrs. Strasheim is survived by her husband, (LIVING) of Cheyenne; a son, (LIVING) of Cheyenne; two daughters, (LIVING) of Jackson and (LIVING) of Cheyenne; two brothers, (LIVING) of San Lorenzo, Calif., and (LIVING) of Yorba Linda, Calif.; a sister, (LIVING) of Omaha, Neb.; and five grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Keith and Mattie Walker; two brothers, Ralph K. Walker and Norman Walker; a half-brother, Arthur Walker; and two half-sisters, Beula Mae Wistrom and Jenifer Cosgrif.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church with the Rev. David Caspersen officiating.  Interment will be in Cheyenne Memorial Gardens.

Friends may contribute to Trinity Lutheran Church or the Alzheimer's Association.
Note: It is "Beulah Lee Wistrom" not "Beula Mae."

Note: The obituary informant forgot Dorothy Grace Nitzsche, who was Betty's half-sister, and died in 1948 decades before any of the other siblings.

Note: It might seem silly for me to replace the names of the living in a published obituary, when that information is readily available from the newspaper itself.  But I am endeavoring to protect the privacy of my living relatives on this blog, and if someone wants that information bad enough they can work to get it.

 Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

19 July 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Prison Record of Henry Martin Walker, Jr. (1864-1952)

From the Nebraska State Historical Society, this is the NE Dept. of Correctional Services Descriptive Record to Inmates entry for Henry Walker as I could best transcribe.  The writing was done by hand in ink, very small, and in cursive (paranthetical remarks are mine and not a part of the original) --

Name: Henry Walker
No.: 3033
Received: Dec 16, 1896
County: Custer
Crime: Shooting to Wound
Sentence: 5 years
Age: 32
Occupation: Farmer Lhd. (Left-handed)
Height: 5' 7 5/8"
Complexion: Light
Hair: Light-brown
Eyes: Blue
Where Born: Ills.
Religion: Methodist
Servitude: None
Politics: Republican
Tobacco: None
Habits: Temperate (choice of "temperate," "moderate," or "intemperate")
Wife: Lucy A. Walker, Callaway, Neb. (Lucy's real middle initial is "M")
Father: Dead
Mother: L.L. Easterling, Lake, Okl.
Brother: Samuel C. Walker, Anchor, Ills
Sister: Letta N. Clark, Ferris, Ills (actually is Letta A. Clarke)
Friend: G.L. Miller, Gordon Cy, Ne
        Robert ?????., Milldale, Neb
Education: R+W (Can read and write)
Guilty or Not: Guilty
Term When Convicted: Nov 96
Time Expires: Dec 12, 1901   Write Wife (notation)
Good Time: Sept 12, 1900     Write Wife (notation)
When Discharged: Sept 12, 1900
Description: Weight 143 1/2, foot 10 1/2, men's 8
             Scar on left shin
             Vacc. mark on right arm
             Lower right tooth out
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

09 July 2010

What I Do

Thomas MacEntee over at Geneabloggers.Com has suggested that all the geneabloggers post what technology they use to do their blogging and genealogical work. --

* Hardware: The last computer system I ever bought was a HP 286, back circa 1990.  Since then I have built my own.  The heart of my system is a homebrew AMD Phenom Quad-Core 2.41 GHz system built on an ASUS motherboard, with 8gigs memory, dual widescreen monitors, numerous hard drives and disk drives, networked with a cable modem and Linksys router to three laptops, one for each -- myself, my wife, and my son.

* External storage: Three external hard drives -- 1TB Seagate for backup, 500GB for storage, 350GB for music files.

* Backup: Acronis TrueImage Home

* Firewall: ZoneAlarm

* Virus protection: Multiple

* Spyware: Multiple

* Printer: Canon Pixma MP610 All-in-One (I have had a lot of printers over the years, this is the BEST!)

* Phone: Motorola RAZR2 v9

* Music player:  Sony 16gb Walkman

* Browser: Firefox

* Blog: Blogger (duh)

* Text editor: MS Word, but I am not above using NotePad

* Graphics: Corel's PaintShop Photo Pro x3 (leaves all others in the dust)

* Screen capture: PrtSc and Paste (old school)

* Social media: Facebook and Twitter (both I rarely use)

* Office suite: MS Office 2007

* E-mail: MS Outlook, Gmail

* Genealogy database: Legacy 7.4 (is my core), Family Tree Maker 2010 (for interacting with Ancestry.Com)

* Genealogy tools: GenSmarts, GenMerge

* Other tech stuff: Canon LIDE200 Mobile Flatbed Scanner (powered by USB, invaluable for research trips)

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

05 July 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Happy Belated Independence Day

I love Independence Day holiday!  No greater proof is needed that how busy I was yesterday.  I never got around to posting on my blog what I wanted to; I never got around to calling my parents to wish them a happy holiday, and I didn't get to do any of my "fun work" like research.  My son and daughter-in-law flew in from the east coast to spend the weekend with us, and it has been fabulous!  What a fine couple they have matured into.

My wife decorated our house inside and out with a patriotic theme.  We had a large meal with my barbecued smoked spareribs at the center.  We spent much of the day sitting outside drinking and talking, shaded from the mid-day heat by awnings.  We watched the 1972 musical 1776 on TCM, which was once an annual family tradition.  The city fireworks were on Saturday night, so we spent the evening playing card games indoors.  It was a great time.

So today I offer the entry for my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather John Needham who served in the Revolutionary War, taken from the published family history The Ancestors and Descendants of Horatio Edmund Needham and Lucina Bagley, Who Married 25 November 1852 in Royalton, Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Wise, 1995) by Melva Kinch Breffeilh and Shirley Kinch Morrison. --
John Needham was born in Salem on 22 Jan 1736, the son of Daniel and Isabella (Armstrong) Needham.  Some time around 1755, his father moved the family to Norwich, Ct. and on 11 Aug 1763, John married in East Haddam, Ct. Esther Willey, daughter of Noah and Sarah (Hart) Willey. . . .John served in the Revolutionary War aboard the ship General Putnam, in the expedition against the British at Penobscot (Maine) in 1779.  Serving with him were his son John, his brother Elias, and several of his Connecticut Valley neighbors.  The General Putnam was commissioned April 23, 1778.  Her master, Capt. Allen, posted these notices: "Gentleman Volunteers who are inclined for a cruise are desired to apply on board, or at Nathan Douglas's Tavern."  Following the war, the family moved to Washington County, New York, and John Needham, Sr. probably died there between 1790 and 1800 (Censuses).  In the 1800 census. Esther is listed as the "head of household" and probably died soon afterwards.  Both Esther and John Needham, Sr. were probably buried in or near Granville, N.Y. but no record  of their graves can be found.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

29 June 2010

For TOMBSTONE TUESDAY: A Wonderful Gift!

A very nice couple in Omaha kindly posted a picture of my mother and stepfather's gravesite on FindaGrave.Com.




Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

28 June 2010

Aunt Dorothy R.I.P.? Not Yet.

Last month I posted about my feelings for my Aunt Dorothy Grace (McNeill Walker) Nitzsche (1912-1948) and my desire to find her gravesite.  It was not in her obituary so the next obvious step was to order a copy of her death certificate which I did, and it arrived last week.

I was a little disappointed to discover she had been cremated on the realization there might not be any marker for her, but realizing still her ashes might have been interred I knew more research was required.  The certificate said she had been cremated by "California Crematory" which no longer exists by that name.  Some more digging and I discovered it still survives under the name "Chapel of the Chimes."

I called the Chapel and was pleased to get a friendly, caring and helpful lady.  I asked if there was any record of my aunt's remains having been interred?  She put me on hold for several minutes while she looked in her records, Dorothy died sixty-two years ago, these are not records at your finger tips.  The nice lady came back on and said "We have your aunt but I am afraid, she is not interred."  She goes on to explain that the ashes were originally handed off to Dorothy's husband John M. Nitzsche (1905-????), but nine years later her ashes had been discovered in an abandoned apartment in Berkeley, and since they still had the name of the crematory on the container the police returned them to the crematory.  My aunt Dorothy's remains were now being held in storage with the remains of everyone else who were not wanted.  I was stunned and shocked, thanked the nice lady, and hung up.

I began gathering my thoughts.  Obviously my first thought was that my Dad and my Uncle, the last two surviving siblings from this large family, will need to be contacted.  But second all the surrounding questions began.  What happened to her husband, and how did her ashes get abandoned?  Was there a police record?  I called the nice lady at the Chapel back.  She said the only records she had left were from when they took possession of Dorothy's body, which included the order for cremation.  She would check them but it would take a couple hours and call me back, which she did.  The only new thing we learned relevant was that Dorothy's ashes were destined for Cheyenne, Wyoming for interment. Cheyenne was the home of my grandfather Keith Glenn Walker (1894-1980) who adopted Dorothy after marrying her mother, my grandmother Mattie Mae (Needham) Walker (1884-1938).  I asked the lady at the Chapel if I could have copies of all the records mailed to me, and she said yes, and I received them today.

I cannot believe how many times the ball was dropped!!  First there is the gem of a husband who never got her ashes to Cheyenne nor made any permanent plans for them.  Conceivably it can all be laid at his feet.  Indeed while my grandfather never completely followed up, perhaps he was unable to, perhaps John Nitzsche disappeared?  And did my grandfather make arrangements for her interment in Cheyenne, did he pay for a space?  No one survives who would know.  Then there are all my Walker relatives, a huge family albeit with a limited presence in northern California, eight of her siblings survived her and for sixty-two years not one stumbled onto the fact that her remains were missing?!?  Unreal.  Such is a commentary on how contemporary society, and my relatives in particular, feel about cemeteries and things related.

Now what to do?  The first decision is left up to my father and his brother, as I said, the last two surviving siblings.  I am confident they will rectify the situation.  But if they don't, my two sons and I have already decided we will.  We wouldn't be able to live with the guilt if we didn't.  "Treat others as you would want them to treat you in the same situation" is our motto.

So aunt Dorothy may not yet "rest in peace."  But she will.  And whatever happened to her husband is a mystery yet to be solved.



Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

24 June 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: Father-Daughter Letters

One of the casualties of the Great Depression was my grandfather Bruce Gibson's (1903-1994) logging business in Arizona, forcing him to go into bankruptcy.  He quickly began rebuilding his life caring for his family principally by overseeing the building of roads and highways in northern California.  This was the late 1940s, a time of a huge boom in housing and transportation, but also the monstrous discovery of oil overseas.  Roads needed to be built to ferry the oil out of the fields and into heating homes and propelling automobiles.  So on the behalf of the the huge oil companies my grandfather packed his bags for points abroad.

He regularly wrote his three daughters, my mother Brenda Kay (1938-1989) included.  In our family treasure chest we have a collection of just some of these letters and postcards to my mom.  They represent Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Anchorage, Alaska.  One of my aunts tells me she still has her letters too.

Remember, you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.


 Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

20 June 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Father's Day -- Dear Dad, You Did the Best You Could!!

Dear Dad,

Usually when someone says "you did the best that you could" it is intended as a platitude to comfort someone who fell short.  I am going to say it and mean it to its fullest intention -- YOU DID THE BEST THAT YOU COULD!  And nothing more could be asked of any of us.

You have been a great Dad. When I was young, you went out of your way to spend time with me.  You took me hunting when my boots were so big on my feet they got pulled off by the sucking mud.  You took me fishing when learning water wears down stone.  You took me camping when I was too excited to sleep that "relaxing with my eyes closed" was almost as good as sleep.  You took me around the USA.  You took me to Canada.  You took me deep into Mexico. You showed me a world outside my immediate surroundings.  You would make sure I was experientially enlightened.

The divorce judge told you that you could have my brother and me every other weekend.  So you made sure to take us every other weekend!  If that was all you were going to get, then that is what you were going to use to its fullest!  You would take us to the movies or the ballgame, but sometimes you would just take us to your apartment and watch tv, because you were going to spend with us all the time the law allotted you to spend with us, recognizing the importance of a present father, regardless the activity we spent together.  I grew up in a generation of broken homes.  Do you know what an exception you were?!?  Most of my peers were "abandoned" by their broken-off parent!  You were different, you evidently cared!  And that was not lost on me.

I am not an only child.  I willingly share you with my brother.  You were a public school teacher for what, thirty-five years?  I necessarily share you with tens of thousands of students to whom you dedicated your best.

But dearest Dad, there are things that are just mine.  Until I was three, you sang me to sleep with the "Wabash Cannonball."


With apologies to my younger brother whom I love, there were some advantages to being the first born.  On Sunday mornings before church, we read the newspaper together.


And then there are the stupid dogs.  It was you who introduced them to me.  It was you who taught me to love them.  It was you who set me on the road to raising and training and competing with them.


I love you Dad.  Life threw its curve balls at you, and you not only never stepped out of the batter box, you choked up on the bat!  Be proud.  Recognize you did the best that you humanly could.  And that is the most that can be asked of any one of us.

Happy Father's Day.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

18 June 2010

Follow Friday: The You Go Genealogy Girls

My heart and soul belong to Nebraska (despite my never having lived there), and these two Nebraska grandmas make me wish I was ridin' right along with them on their family research travels!


The bonus for me is that both Ruby and Cheri have multiple blogs, so I am not stuck just waiting for the one to be updated to get my Nebraska fix.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Bohemian Congregation of Freethinkers

I am a religious scholar by vocation, so I was excited to learn something new from a copy of a marriage license for my step-mom's grandparents.  It is from Chicago (Cook County, Illinois), dated 26 Oct 1907, and states that Vaclav Derfler (age 25) and Caroline Vykoukova (age 19) were united in marriage by minister Frank B. Zrubek of the "Bohemian Congregation of Freethinkers."  That was new!

From the Encyclopedia of Chicago History article of "Free Thought" --
Free thought embraced reason and anticlericalism, and freethinkers formed their ideas about religion independently of tradition, authority, and established belief. A product of the Enlightenment, free thought was deist, not atheist. In nineteenth-century Chicago, freethinkers, many of them immigrants from Europe, institutionalized irreligion.

Within Bohemian (Czech) Pilsen, on the city's Southwest Side, the irreligious might have outnumbered the religious six to one, and they built an elaborate social network. The Congregation of Bohemian Freethinkers of Chicago, Svobodna obec Chicagu, founded in 1870, became a central community institution. That congregation published the largest Czech-language newspaper in the city. These freethinkers set up building and benevolent societies, maintained a school and a library, organized children's programs and adult lectures, and sponsored musical and dramatic programs. Their congregation offered secular baptisms for their children and secular funerals, in the Bohemian National Cemetery, for their dead. . . .
From Encyclopedia of Chicago History article on "Czechs and Bohemians" --
Religious or philosophical differences divided Chicago Czechs and their institutions. Although most Czechs in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were content to subscribe to the state religion on official documents, with the result that the overwhelming majority identified themselves as Catholics, many emigrants espoused free thought (rationalist) and socialist views in the United States. The immigrant institutions founded as the Czechs became established, including mutual benefit societies, fraternal organizations, savings and loan associations, and gymnastic societies (Sokols), were frequently identified with one group or another within the community. Schools were attached either to Catholic parishes or to freethinkers' societies. Burial was equally segregated: the Bohemian National Cemetery, a cemetery for freethinkers, was founded in 1877 and remains in existence today. The immigrant press was also divided. By the 1920s there were four main Czech-language newspapers in Chicago: the Narod (Nation, founded 1894) served the Catholic community, Svornost (Concord, founded 1875) served the freethinkers, Spravedlnost ( Justice, founded 1900) served the socialists, and the DennĂ­ Hlasatel (Daily Herald, founded 1891) was a “neutral” paper for the larger Midwestern Czech community.
Again from the article on "Free Thought" --
Free thought became disreputable in the minds of native-born elites, as it increasingly attracted a working-class audience after 1875. By the end of the century, free thinkers were becoming socialists, and institutionalized free thought barely survived into the twentieth century.
A cursory read of other sources indicate there is a lot more to the story!  There are accounts of free thought in the old country; There are accounts of free thought religious meetings ("revivals"), and there are interesting interactions between the freethinkers and the Christian evangelicals of the era, remember these are the days of D.L. Moody.

But my job is to find out how this movement influenced Vaclav and Caroline.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

15 June 2010

An Incredible Photo Restoration

The guys over at Legacy Family Tree News Blog posted a before and after example of the photo restoration done for them by Miles at 399retouch.com and I was so blown away I had to submit one of my own.

This is a picture of Mattie Mae Needham (1884-1938) with her parents Arthur Herrick Needham (1831-1921) and Camilla Elizabeth Needham (nee. Porter, 1844-1910).  Mattie was born in 1884, so I date this picture circa 1895.  Mattie was my Dad's mother, and my grandmother.  Arthur and Camilla were therefore my Dad's maternal grandparents, and my great-grandparents.  This is the picture before the restoration done by 399retouch.com --



And here is the picture after the restoration by 399retouch.com --


The difference absolutely blows me away!  Miles not only fixed the damage to the photo, but he brought my ancestors to life!  Click on the pictures to blow them up to larger size.  Look at the details, the cut of the ladies' dresses, the wear on their hands.  My wife said "those are working hands."  Unreal.

Anyway, the price was fair for the work done, and the feeling the results gave me.  If I need anymore pictures restored, I would definitely give Miles first crack at it.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

14 June 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Biography of Norman John Dutton (1810-1888)

(Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.  "Amanuensis Monday" is a blogging theme hosted by John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch Genealogy Blog.)

From THE PAST AND PRESENT OF WOODFORD COUNTY, ILLINOIS (LeBaron & Co., Chicago, 1878) --
DUTTON, NORMAN, farmer and
stock raiser ; Sec. 9 ; P. 0. Metamora ;
one of the early settlers of the county ;
was born in Lamoille Co., Vt., Feb. 14,
1810 ; he resided there until he was 23
years of age, and then came to Lake Co.,
Ohio, where he remained two years ; he
then came to Illinois, spending a year in
Morgan Co., and settled in Woodford
Co. in 1836 ; he was married Nov. 7,
1835, to Mrs. Nancy Dutton, of Morgan
Co., who was born in Canada ; she died
in March, 1868, leaving six children-
Louisa L.: Samuel S.: James H., Julia
E. ; the oldest two being the children
of her former husband ; Mr. Dutton was
married again June 6: 1869, to Miss
Maria Sleeper, who was born in
Hillsborough Co., N.H., Dec. 1, 1825;
he owns 100 acres of land valued at $6,400.
Before I found this entry, all indication was leading me to believe Norman was my direct ancestor, father of Louisa, my great-great-grandmother.  But this simple little paragraph provided me with two clues to a small little family research sidetrack.  The first clue was obvious, "the oldest two children were of a former husband."  Louisa was second oldest, she was not Norman's daughter!  So who was her father?  Second clue, her mother Nancy's surname is shown as "Dutton" the same as Norman's.  But her maiden name was "Smith."  Further research would show Nancy's first husband, and Louisa's father, and my g-g-g-grandfather was Samuel Dutton (1808-1835), Norman's older brother.  Nancy was widowed for seven months before marrying Norman.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

08 June 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Arthur H. and Camilla E. Needham

 Following yesterday's post on the biography of Frank Needham, I thought today I might go with his parents.  This is the joint gravesite of Arthur Herrick Needham --
"Father"
Arthur H.
Sept 7, 1831 - March 24, 1921
Member 2nd Iowa Cavalry
-- and Camilla Elizabeth Needham (nee. Porter) --
"Mother"
Camilla E.
Apr 11, 1844 - Feb 2, 1910
She hath done what she could. Mark 14-8
 
Here are Camilla and Arthur pictured holding my late aunts Frances Irene "Jennifer" McNeill Walker Ball (1909-1993) and Beulah Lee McNeill Walker Wistrom (1907-1980).


Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

07 June 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The Biography of Frank E. Needham (1866-1932)

(Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.  "Amanuensis Monday" is a blogging theme hosted by John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch Genealogy Blog.)

 The following is a biography of my great-uncle taken from HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY, NEBRASKA: A NARRATIVE OF THE PAST, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS UPON THE PIONEER PERIOD OF THE COUNTY'S HISTORY, ITS SOCIAL, COMMERCIAL. EDUCATIONAL, RELIGIOUS, AND CIVIC DEVELOPMENT FROM THE EARLY DAYS TO THE PRESENT TIME by W. L. GASTON AND A. R. HUMPHREY (Western Publishing and Engraving Company, Lincoln, NE, 1919). --
FRANK E. NEEDHAM is a substantial
citizen of Custer county, where he owns valuable
farm lands and also a business building
and a cream station in the town of Arnold.
He has spent almost his entire life thus far
in Nebraska and hence considers himself almost
in the light of a native son. He was
born at Princeton, Iowa, August 3. 1866, one
of the four children of Arthur H. and Camelia
(Porter) Needham, the others being: Leroy,
who married Grace Chappie : Bertha, who is
the wife of Grant Mills : and Mattie M., who
is the wife of Keith Walker. The mother of
Mr. Needham died February 20, 1900, but his
father survives and makes his home with his
daughter Bertha (Mrs. Mills), at Forest
Grove, Oregon.

Frank E. Needham was two years old when
his parents brought him to Nebraska and settled
twelve miles east of Lincoln. In 1882 removal
was made to Custer county and a preemption
claim was secured, situated five miles
south of Arnold. There Frank E. Needham
grew up, having as many advantages as the
ordinary farmer boy at that time, as to schooling
and recreation. He remembers that the
Fourth of July was about the greatest day in
the year's calendar, and to celebrate it seemed
almost a patriotic duty. He found, one year,
that he would have to earn the money in order
to enjoy celebrating, and therefore he engaged
to plow a neighbor's corn field. He was only
ten years old at the time, the task was pretty
heavy, and along toward noon he mentioned
to his employer that he thought it was a very
long forenoon. All the satisfaction he received
was a benevolent look from the old farmer
and the consoling remark: "Son, don't you
know while man makes the forenoon, God
makes the afternoon?"

Mr. Needham was united in marriage August
7, 1893, at Broken Bow, to Miss Hattie
Burk, a daughter of James and Martha
(Crabb) Burk. He and Mrs. Needham have
one daughter, Ruth, who has prepared herself
to be a teacher and was graduated in 1918
from the Nebraska Wesleyan University, at
University Place, near Lincoln. Mrs. Needham
has three brothers and two sisters, namely:
John, William, Albert, Mrs. Laura
Rodgers, and Mrs. Emma Beltz. Mr. Needham
owns several properties that he has under
rental, and he is also the owner of twenty-two
acres of land and a substantial business
building in the town of Arnold, where also,
as mentioned above, he conducts a cream station,
in which town he is an influential citizen
in many ways.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

30 May 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Memorial Day, Part 2 -- Ralph Keith Walker (1918-1969)

Now for something new.  My fondest memories of growing up are the days I spent with my Dad and my uncle Ralph, usually hunting.  We hunted ducks, geese, doves, quail, and pheasants.  It was my Dad and my uncle Ralph that introduced me to working Labrador Retrievers, and are primarily responsible for how integral they have become in my life.  You see, I was too young to take much interest in Dad and Ralph's conversations on our hunting trips, so I spent all my time bonding with the dogs.

Ralph voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1938.  He was stationed aboard the battleship USS West Virginia in communications as a radio operator.  In early 1941, Ralph was transferred to the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis.  On December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the USS Minneapolis was 20 miles north participating in gunnery practice.  But the USS West Virginia was sunk, killing over a hundred of her crew.

Ralph saw lots of action in World War II, earning five medals and accommodations with service stars (three in Asian Pacific, one in Atlantic off coast of north Africa) that represent actual engagement with the enemy.  He was at Wake Island, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf;  He helped liberate the Philippines and allied forces invade north Africa.  In addition to the USS West Virginia, and the USS Minneapolis, he also served aboard the USS Walker, the USS Titania, and the USS Terry.  He separated out in October 1945, two months after the surrender of Japan and the end of the war, serving a total of seven and a half years; enlisting before it began, exiting after it was over.



Ralph died in 1969 at age 50 from a kind of cancer that is now curable in over 90% of the patients who contract it, but for which they didn't have a cure back then.  He left behind my aunt "Betty" (Florence Esther Spurrier, 1920-2009) and a daughter.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Memorial Day, Part 1 -- Capt. James Walker (1732-1806)

For this Memorial Day I wanted to post "something old and something new" to express the timelessness of it all -- war and sacrifice.  One of the things I love the most about genealogy is the history I learn, and a couple days ago I came across a quote from a veteran who said it wasn't fighting for liberty he minded, "But why do we have to do it every twenty-five years?"  My sentiments exactly.  Liberty is worth fighting for, but why must we do it so often?

This Memorial Day, I remember first my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Capt. James Walker (1732-1806) of Belchertown, Massachusetts.  He was a town Selectman, Constable, church Deacon, and veteran of both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.  From E.W. Foster's WALKER: A Genealogy Giving Some of the Descendants of Samuel Walker of Woburn, Mass. (s.n. 1930) --
[Capt. Walker] became a member of Captain Nathaniel Dwight’s Company of Colonel Israel William’s regiment and in 1757 marched with that company to the relief of Fort William Henry. He was afterward captain of the company.

His home was in the district of Belchertown known as “Turkey Hill,” now better known as Chestnut Hill. His children were all born and grew up on the farm and as his sons became of proper age they also joined the military company of the town. When the alarm of 19 April 1775 was heralded, there was a generous response in Belchertown to the call. James Walker with his oldest son marched on the morning of the 20th for the front. Captain Walker was Sergeant in Captain Cowles’ Company, Col. Woodbridge’s regiment. He remained at Cambridge until 14 May when he was discharged and returned home.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

26 May 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Walker Brothers (ca. 1945)


Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

25 May 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: The Grave of James Burr on the Grounds of Wheaton College (IL)

 I know this is not directly related to the surnames I am researching, but Wheaton College of Wheaton, Illinois is my alma mater, and the following is a neat little story I thought you might find interesting.

Wheaton, Illinois and the Illinois Institute (now Wheaton College) were founded in 1853 by strict Wesleyan Methodists who were strong abolitionists.  It is said that the school's first President Jonathan Blanchard's home was a part of the Underground Railroad, hiding runaway slaves in a room on the top floor of his home.

Well one of the first bits of trivia that "Wheaties" first learn when they come to the school is that the grounds of the college hosts the actual grave of an abolitionist!  His name was James Burr, and he was an anti-slavery activist.  In 1841 he was ambushed in Illinois by slave owners, and taken to Missouri where he was tried and imprisoned for "stealing slaves."


From the article "Good Soil" by David Malone, November 5, 2008 --
The Illinois Institute had been founded in 1853 by Wesleyan Methodists who had split from the main body of the Methodist Church over the question of slavery. Early in 1859, two months before his death from consumption, which he probably contracted while in prison, he prepared a will leaving $300 of his $4000 estate to the Illinois Institute in Wheaton. This money was “to be used for the educating of indigent fatherless young men who were wholly devoted to the cause of Christ wishing a preparation for such a calling and wishing to preach said gospel to all irrespective of color and who are opposed to slavery and sin of every grade and in favor of the reformers of the present day.”
The question of how Burr’s grave came to campus remains an unsolved mystery. According to a brief letter in the Christian Cynosure of February 20, 1879, by George Thompson, Burr was buried there “by special request.” He wished his grave to be on grounds untrampled by slavery. There were many other ties between the tiny school and the city where Burr lived. In 1860 two of the trustees of the institution, Rufus Lumry and Owen Lovejoy, (another zealous abolitionist), list Princeton, Illinois, as their home address. In addition, John Cross, who taught in the school, was also from Princeton. Undoubtedly, Burr was well acquainted with the sympathies of these men and knew of their efforts to aid runaway slaves. Given tuition costs of $24 per year for the college by 1860, his legacy endowed a full scholarship. When forced to reorganize in 1859-60, the administration naturally looked for a man who felt as deeply as they did about the issue of abolition. Consequently, they invited Jonathan Blanchard to become the president of the struggling school and he arrived in January, 1860, almost a year after Burr’s burial. No one knows whether these two men were acquainted, but it is almost certain that they knew of each other and their joint sympathy for the abolitionist cause.
For years Burr rested quietly, his grave officially decorated once each year by students. Then the damage done by pranksters to the tombstone caused campus officials to remove the seven-foot high marker and replace it with one flush with the ground. In April of 1959, there was a special commemorative service in his memory, focusing attention on his life. Although speculation about Burr waxed and waned following that occasion, he didn’t return to prominence until 1987 when the new James E. Burr Scholarship for first-year minority students was announced.
Another good article on the abolitionist history of Wheaton, Illinois can be found here -- "Abolitionists in Wheaton" by Alberta Adamson.

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

24 May 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Casattas - Frank Wedding Announcement

(Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.  "Amanuensis Monday" is a blogging theme hosted by John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch Genealogy Blog.)

The following is from the Tuesday, June 29, 1954 issue of the newspaper SUNNYVALE STANDARD --

Helen Frank, Paul Casattas Say Vow in Nuptial Ceremony
Helen Marie Frank and Paul Steven Casattas Saturday morning repeated nuptial vows in a formal double ring ceremony performed by the Reverend Joseph G. O'Gara at St. Patrick's Church, San Jose.

Helen, the daughter of Col. and Mrs. Clarence A. Frank of San Jose was given away by her father.

The bride selected a wedding gown of chantilly lace over satin with a fitted bodice, full-length skirt, long sleeves and a long train.  Her fingertip veil was secured to a pearl crown.  A spray of stephanotis arranged on her great-grandmother's prayer book centered with a white orchid and white satin streamers composed the bridal bouquet.

Carol Eason maid of honor wore a blue net over satin gown with a bouffant skirt fashioned with three rows of inserted ruffles and appliqued roses on the tucked bodice.  She wore a band of net ruffles in her hair and carried a colonial bouquet of pastel blue delphiniums backed with pale blue satin.

The three bridesmaids, who preceded Helen down the aisle, wore gowns identical to the maid of honors.  Serving as attendants were Mary Elizabeth Frank, sister of the bride; Joan Waterman, cousin of the bride, and Linda Whelan, cousin of the groom.

Best man for the rites was Lawrence Estevan, Jr., while Robert Bevans, Harold Waterman, and William Whelan, showed guests their places.

Approximately 350 friends and relatives attended a reception honoring the couple at the De Anza Hotel.

Mrs. Frank, mother of the bride, wore a changeable pastel blue silk shantung afternoon dress to her daughter's wedding, complemented with a white picture hat and gloves.  She wore a pink cymbidium orchid corsage.  The benedict's mother was costumed in a navy blue two-piece crepe suit, with navy blue and white accessories.  She too wore an orchid corsage.

Casattas, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl G. Casattas, of 571 N. Bayview, is a graduate of St. Joseph's High School in Alameda, and San Jose State College where he was affiliated with Theta Kappa Phi Fraternity.  his sisters are Mrs. Jens Juhl and Sister Julie of the Holy Family Order.

Helen graduated from Notre Dame High School, San Jose, and San Jose State College where her sorority was Epsilon Sigma Alpha.  Her sisters and brothers are Clarence A. Frank, Jr., Eugene P. Frank, Sister Dorothy Cecillia of Notre Dame, Mary Elizabeth, and Eileen Frank.

For her going away outfit, Helen wore a sand-hued two-piece pure silk suit overlaid with turquoise and white print.  She pinned an orchid corsage at her shoulder.

After a honeymoon in Southern California, the newlyweds will make their home in San Carlos.
Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

Great Find = Great Idea for Family Historians!

My late grandmother Thelma Gibson (nee. Surpluss) grew up in Rosalia, Kansas.  Her daughter, my aunt has been very supportive of me in both my family history and genealogical quests.  I just received from her one of the greatest finds I could EVER have imagined!  It is a copy of A Pictorial History Of Rosalia, 1869-1935 by Harold J. Borger (unknown publisher, 1972).

"So what" you say?  "What makes that so special" you say?  It is loaded with personal notes in the margins from my late grandmother!  "This is our doctor."  "This church was across the road from the cemetery."  "I went to school with him."  And on and on.  When the book comments on the Kafir Corn Festival, my grandmother wrote, "We always went, it was like a fair."  About one town doctor she wrote, "This is the doctor that moved to Texas and Mexico, and was said to be using goat glands for the men in town to keep them young and productive."  Next to one lady's name she wrote, "Always recited 'The Blue and the Gray' every May 30th."

What a find, and what an idea!!!  I have two county history books from where my Dad grew up.  When he comes to visit this Summer I an going to ask him to make as many personal notes in the margins that he can recall.

Thanks dear aunt for this wonderful contribution you have made to the family history!

Copyright © 2010 by Kevin W. Walker

17 May 2010

Amanuensis Monday: "The Civil War Letter"

(Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. "Amanuensis Monday" is a blogging theme hosted by John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch genealogy blog.)

Growing up there were three items we all knew with evident family history value -- the family Bible, some Civil War era tin-types of ancestors, and "the Civil War Letter."  The letter is from my great-great-grandfather Charles Chesley to his wife Phoebe, who we have recently posted about.

The Civil War Letter was carried around in my father's coat pocket for many years. To this day he is not exactly sure why, all he knows is that he knew it had value as it offered him a form of connectedness to his roots as he moved around the country.  I think those of us who cherish family history know exactly what he means.

Here is the letter by letter transcription, all mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. belong to my g-g-grandfather:

K Co. 8th Ill. Cav
Benton Barracks St. Louis Mo
June 28th, 1865

Dear Phebe,

I received your letter of the 18th last night while in bed and was truly glad to hear from home once more.  We left Fairfax Station on the morning of the 19th.  I was taken quite ill at Fairfax Courthouse but after remaining a short time I went on to Washington where I overtook the regiment.  That evening we got on the cars of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, laid over one day at Cumberland and then came to Parkersburgh, West Virginia.  There we took Steam Boat and landed at Lawrenceburgh, Indiana on the 25th where we again got on the cars, passed through the States of Indiana and Illinois and landed here yesterday evening and here we are in Missouri.  How long we will stay or where we will go next I do not know, we hear a great many yarns in reference to our destination.  Some tell us we are going to Texas, some say we go to Kansas.  I think we will go to Illinois, but how soon I do not know.  I cannot believe we will remain here any great length of time.  I see nothing fixing up here to remain, another thing we are not getting any soft bread, no cooking utensils or other conveniences for staying any length of time.  I ought to have told you that my sickness was only temporary.  I had a friend who stayed with me and I soon recovered, and had quite a pleasant trip considering the inconveniences we had to contend with, having no opportunity to cook.  Only at Cumberland where we did a little cooking, and the Sanitary Commission gave us coffee.  When we landed at Lawrenceburgh the citizens very kindly invited us to dinner at there houses & had they known we were coming they would have given us a jublie dinner.  It is the first, last and only town we passed through where we were treated like white folks or where the people seemed to appreciate the services of the soldiers.  We are encamped on the most beautiful place I have been in since I enlisted.  Very level, all the Barracks painted white.  I think the grounds contain about 40 acres, probably more.  There are a great many troops here, and as far as I can learn they are all homeward bound, except the Missouri troops and the Regulars, this makes me believe we will not remain here any length of time.  We have very beautiful weather, not very hot, yesterday was quite cool with a little rain.  I am at present in very good health but somewhat tired after our long trip of twelve hundred miles.  Yesterday evening after we got into our Barracks one of Co. D was shot by the accidental discharge of a Carbine through the carelessness of another of the same Co.  He lived about 15 minutes but never spoke or showed any indication of being conscious of what was passing around him.  If you write soon direct your letters to me at Benton Barracks St. Louis Missouri instead of Washington.  When we leave here I will write to you immediately on stopping at the next place.  Having nothing more of importance to write, and hoping you are in good health, accept the love of your devoted Husband.

C. H. Chesley
K Co. 8th Ill Cav
© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

14 May 2010

Milldale, Nebraska

According to the homestead records when Lucy Walker (nee. Chesley) and her Chesley relatives were homesteading Custer County, Nebraska, they gave the town of Milldale as their post office.

Milldale is no longer a town, not even a ghost town, it now exists as ruins; It exists now mostly on the midwestern winds.  Just a little over a hundred years old.

In 2005, the tenth graders in Mr. Swingle's science class at Arnold (NE) High School did a brief report on Milldale and put in online.  Make sure and follow the links they provide to even more interesting info.

© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

13 May 2010

How Many of Us?

The U.S. Census Bureau has published a list of all the 151,671 names on the 2000 census and ranked them according to commonality.  I thought it would be interesting to look up the surnames that make up the lower branches on my family tree.  Here they are ranked --
  1. Walker - 28th
  2. Gibson - 119th
  3. Mack - 441st
  4. Frank - 454th
  5. Needham - 3,074th
  6. Chesley - 10,779th (tied)
  7. Derfler - 87,348th
  8. Surpluss - 110,523rd (tied)
  9. Molfino - (not listed)*
  10. Casattas - (not listed)
The "Casattas" results were not surprising.  Our research says it was a made up name for one family line, and the last remaining person with that surname is my wife's aunt, who is a nun!  The surname will die with her passing.  The "Molfino" results surprised me, but perhaps there are residents of Italy still using it.  I will have to check. 

"Walker" remains common, but just a couple decades ago it was in the top twenty.  However with the recent high number of immigrants from Mexico and Asia, it has been overtaken by such names as "Garcia," "Lopez," Hernandez," "Lee," and others.

My wife is 1/4 Casattas, and 1/4 Molfino.  I am only a newbie in genealogy, but my limited experience is that this is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, just like the commonality of "Walker" is not necessarily good or bad.  The less common surnames are often easier to research, but the more common surnames often lead to others who are researching the same family and with whom you can share notes.

To the best of my knowledge I am the only one researching Casattas, and possibly Molfino, and possibly even Surpluss!  Believe me, I welcome anyone who can show me differently!

email me at amiable160 [at sign] gmail dot com

* -- White Pages shows at least ninety-six individuals currently with the surname "Molfino" in the U.S.

© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

12 May 2010

Dorothy Grace Nitzsche (nee. McNeill Walker) 1912-1948

How can I have a crush on someone seventeen years older than my father, AND who died over a decade before I was born?  But I do.  Perhaps it was how glowingly my parents spoke about her when I was growing up, including by my mother who never met her?  Or maybe I just think she is pretty?  I don't know.  I am just embarrassed to admit it, but my heart goes all aflutter when I see her pictures.

Aunt Dorothy was born December 2, 1912 to Clifton Leslie McNeill (1884-1969) and my paternal grandmother Mattie Mae Walker (nee. Needham, 1884-1938), and was affectionately known as "Pat."  When Mattie divorced Clifton and married my grandfather Keith Glen Walker (1894-1980) in 1916, he legally adopted Dorothy.  So she was my father's half-sister.  But to hear my Dad tell it, there never was any recognition of any familial differences among the siblings, they all treated each other like full siblings.

 Pictured above is my Aunt Dorothy and my father.
 Finding anything on Aunt Dorothy has been very hard, perhaps because she only lived 36 years; Perhaps because she was a woman, perhaps she lived under the radar.

 Dorothy (left) parties with two unnamed friends.
 Whatever the case, while scoring an obituary is often quite commonplace in family research, for me scoring Aunt Dorothy's felt like a home run!  From the Oakland Tribune - December 19, 1948, Oakland, California:
NITZSCHE -- In Oakland.  December 16, 1948.  Dorothy Grace Nitzsche, loving wife of John M. Nitzsche; daughter of Keith Walker, sister of Mrs. Genifer Gordon, Mrs. W. L. Wistrom, Violet Walker, Mrs. Leroy Strasheim and Arthur, Rlaph(sic), Paul and Wayne Walker.  A native of Nebraska; age 36 years.
Friends are invited to attend services Monday, December 20, 1948, at 1 o'clock p.m. at the Truman Chapel, Telegraph Avenue at 30th Street.  Dr. Harold Kelley, officiating.
The next step is to try and discover her gravesite and get a picture.  So here is to you Aunt Dorothy, from a nephew who never met you, but is somehow sure he loves you.



 © 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

11 May 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Warren Denslow Copeland (1859-1942)

"Tombstone Tuesday" is a daily blogging theme used by many genealogy bloggers to help them post content on their sites.

Today I offer Warren Denslow Copeland, 15 Oct 1859 (New York) - 01 Mar 1942 (Arnold, Custer, Nebraska).


My paternal grandfather Keith's step-father, but the only "father" he ever knew.

 
© 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker

09 May 2010

Mother Phoebe Chesley (nee. Ward) 1830-1928


When I think of "mother" relative to my ancestry there is no stronger image than that of Phoebe Chesley, mother of eight (one of whom had Downs Syndrome), grandmother to over thirty, and great-grandmother to an untold number many of whom she lived long enough to see born.

Pictured above are two sets of four generations of women, three generations on each side of the baby! Standing L to R -- Flora Mae Hutchens (nee. Moore), Bessie Ann Walker (nee. Hutchens), Lucy May Walker Copeland (nee. Chesley); Sitting  L to R -- Elizabeth Moore (nee. Johnson), Beulah Walker, Phoebe Chesley (nee. Ward).  The baby's father was Lynndon Walker, Lucy's son.

Phoebe ruled with a strong will and a compassionate heart.  She was the glue that held that huge family together, some of the time without the presence of her husband Charles who served in the Civil War.  After the passing of Charles, she lived with my great-grandmother Lucy.  At first thought I would say it was an honor.  But research says it was likely because Lucy needed the most help.

From Settling the Seven Valleys 1872-1982 (Loup Valley Queen, 1982) --

Some notes on Charles H. and Phoebe Ward Chesley and their eight children.  They were married in 1848 in Plattsburgh, New York, where they grew up and here their first four were born, George 1849, Candis 1852, Charles E. 1854, Ida 1856.  With one nursing baby and three toddlers the couple traveled by wagon train to Morrison, Illinois the summer of 1857.  One year later twins Catie (Eva) and Carrie were born (Carrie died at three months), in 1860 Cyrus Henry and Lucy May, 1866. . . .
In 1870, when the oldest George was 21 and the youngest Lucy May was four, the family emigrated to homestead near Osborn City, Kansas. . . .
In 1889 Charles E. moved his family to Custer County, Nebraska.  By 1894 the entire clan had joined him there, including the elderly Phoebe and Charles H. now in their sixties.  Some of the families homesteaded, some bought existing farms, my great-grandmother Lucy homesteaded.

Phoebe Ward Chesley, the mother, grandmother, and great grandmother to the above families lived to be 98.  She was cared for in the home of her youngest daughter Lucy Walker Copeland.  She was still making quilts until the last years, always wore a neat ruffled bedcap, used a magnifying glass to read her Bible.  She died in 1928.

 © 2010, Copyright Kevin W. Walker