28 April 2016

Throwback Thursday: Dix, Nebraska Post Office, 1921

Mattie Mae (Needham) Walker, postmaster in 1921.
Mattie Mae Walker (1884-1938) was my paternal grandmother.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

27 April 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Dorothy Grace (McNeill Walker) Nitzsche (1912-1948)

Circa 1945

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

26 April 2016

Unintended Consequences of Large Families

Wistrom kids, circa 1942.

My Dad came from a family of eleven brothers and sisters.  The eldest sibling was Beulah "Lee" Wistrom, who was twenty-two years older than my father.  So here are some unintended consequences.

Pictured above are aunt Lee's three children, my cousins, (l-r) Virginia Lee Wistrom (1928-1994), Robert Arthur Wistrom (1930-1999), and Richard Linnie Wistrom (1926-1986).  My dad was born in 1929, get the picture?  My dad had nieces and nephews older than he was!  And I had cousins the same age as my dad.

It was no big deal, really.  My dad and Bob Wistrom were best friends.  More like brothers.  But it was a fun fact for them to startle friends with when they explained it.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

25 April 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Answer to Inquiry About Henry M. Walker, Jr. (1864-1952)

Sept 26, 1973 
Mrs. Stanley Paist
2730 Avenue G
Kearney, Nebaska 68847 
Dear Mrs. Paist:
     I inquired from several of the older residence about Henry Walker but none knew anything about his family.
     I found out when he passed away and went through the files of the paper and could only find the following.
     Henry Martin Walker, 88, passed away October 13, 1852 at the Lizer Nursing Home in Stockton, Ill.  He spent the last three years at the above home.
     Henry was born in Metamora, Illinois June 19, 1864 where he spent most of his life.  He came to Lena in 1924 while working as a watchman on Highway 20, which was being built.
     He was survived by nieces and nephews.  Funeral services were held at the Schreier Funeral Home in Stockton with Rev. H.D. Bedinger, of Stockton Nazarene Church officiating.  Burial was in Ladies Union Cemetery in Stockton.
     Sorry but this is all I could find out for you.  Hope this helps. 
     Curtis R. Taylor 
     Ruby Tull     Lena Ill.     City Clerk of Lena
"Mrs. Paist" is my dad's cousin Flora "Mae" (Walker) Cunningham Paist.  According to my grandfather, Mae was the only one Henry stayed in touch with after he left the family.  Must not have stayed in touch very much if she is left sending off inquiries.

It appears Mr. Taylor relied heavily on the faulty newspaper obituary.  He did not spend most of his life in Metamora; he had a wife and kids; he tried to kill his wife and went to prison, etc., etc.  Regular readers here know the story.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

24 April 2016

Sunday's Obituary: Keith Glenn Walker, 1894-1980

     Keith G. Walker, 85, of 1901 Central Avenue died Thursday at Mountain View Towers.
     Born in Arnold, Neb., on Sept. 30, 1894, Walker had been a Cheyenne resident for 35 years. His prior residence was in Dix, Neb.
     He worked in maintenance of way for the Union Pacific Railroad for 38 years until his retirement in 1959.
     A member of the First United Methodist Church, Walker is survived by his children, Mrs. Leroy (Betty) Strasheim, Cheyenne; Mrs. W.L. (Lee) Wistrom, Kimball, Neb.;  Jennifer Cosgriff, New York City, N.Y.; Violet Walker, Omaha, Neb.; Arthur D. Walker, Cheyenne; Paul Walker, San Lorenzo, Calif.; Wayne Walker, La Crescenta, Calif.; nine grandchildren; nine great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren.
      He was preceded in death by his wife, Mattie, in 1938, a daughter, Dorothy, in 1948, and a son, Ralph, in 1969.  He was also preceded in death by two infant sons.
     Friends who prefer may contribute to the charity of their choice.
This newspaper clipping was found unsourced in the possessions from my aunt Jenifer's estate.  But it is clearly from the Cheyenne, Wyoming paper.

(And yes my aunt Jenifer did spell her name with only one "n" although it appears the only people who know this are the people who knew her.)

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

23 April 2016

Story of a Family Secret that was Part Myth

Grade school souvenir, teacher Mattie Mae Needham pictured. 
So one of our family secrets has been handed down this way.  "Your grandmother Mattie was a teacher and married.  She fell in love with one of her students who was your grandfather Keith, got pregnant by him, had to divorce her first husband and marry your grandfather.  But they were in love, had five more children, and were happily married until death."  Well it turns out while being factually true, it isn't as salacious as it sounds.

In 1904 my grandmother Mattie was an unmarried twenty-year old, teaching my ten-year old grandfather Keith.

She married her first husband in 1906.  She got pregnant by my grandfather in 1917, when my grandfather was an adult of twenty-three years.  Not when she was his grade school teacher and he was her student.

So yes, a teacher did have an affair with one of her students, got pregnant and married him.  But long after he graduated from grade school.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

22 April 2016

Thank You Grandpa

Keith Glenn Walker, 1894-1980
We were not sure what to think of you.  We really didn't --

  • You were a shutterbug and took thousands of pictures of us and yourself, and the places you visited;
  • You gave away to us ten times as many photographic prints as you kept even when we didn't ask for them;
  • You always wrote the names and dates and sometimes places on the back of the pictures you kept;
  • You wrote the names and dates and sometimes places on the backs of the photographic prints you gave to us;
  • You wrote thousands of letters to your hundreds of relatives, even distant cousins; 
  • You kept all the the letters from family you received, writing on the outside of the envelopes some form of identification of the person who sent it to you, "Beulah's daughter" or "my cousin" or whatever;
  • You kept in a huge envelope every scrap of paper with a name and/or address and/or phone number and/or birthdate of a relative on it; 
  • In your retirement, you traveled the country six months out of the year visiting relatives, talking to us, telling us about our family if we would listen; 
  • And you kept taking more pictures of us

-- We didn't understand you.  You were sort of queer, not like everyone else at all.

But now, thirty-six years after you are gone, I get it.  You were wise beyond what we understood.  Thank you.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

21 April 2016

Unofficial Marriage Certificate: Henry M. Walker, Jr. and Lucy M Chesley, 26 Oct 1884

This Certifies That
The Rite of
Holy Matrimony
Was Celebrated Between
Mr. Henry M. Walker of Osborn Co. Kans.
and Lucy Chesley of Osborn Co. Kans.
on 24 of October 1884 at her Fathers house
by J.C. Lawrence J.P.
Witness C.H. Chesley    Witness P.C. Chesley
I was going through my latest batch of papers to arrive from my aunt's estate and found this.  My heart jumped into my throat and my jaw hit the ground.  This was torn out of some sort of Family Bible with parts of the Gospel of Matthew still attached.

Lucy and Henry were my great-grandparents on my father's paternal side.  I believe they were in Kansas less than two years, on their way from Illinois to Nebraska where they finally settled.  The witnesses were Lucy's parents, Charles and Phoebe Chesley.

Lucy and Henry, married at home by a Justice of the Peace.  Their firstborn came eight months later.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

20 April 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Dorothy Grace (McNeill Walker) Nitzsche (1912-1948)

Circa 1935

My 300th blog post.  How apropos.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

19 April 2016

1/15/1910 "A Date That Will Live in Infamy"... for this genealogist

Custer County (NE) courthouse fire.

There goes all my third and fourth generation paternal vital records up in smoke.

But hey, at least I got a picture!

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

18 April 2016

Colorado Marriage Record Keith G. Walker and Mattie (Needham) McNeill, 11/16/1917

County: Sedgewick
Husband: Walker, Keith G. age 23
Wife: McNeill, Mattie age 32
Place: Julesburg, Colo. Date: Nove 16, 1917
Official Performing Ceremony: G.H. Austin, County Judge, of Julesburg Colo.
Reported by: Fred Filatreau, of Julesburg, Colo.
This marriage was under a cloud.  My grandmother was pregnant by my grandfather and married to another man.  She divorced her first husband, the new couple moved out of state, and here got married by a county judge instead of a minister. To their credit they remained together until death.  As the years rolled by my grandparents were conscious of their age difference and whenever possible wold lie about their ages to decrease the difference; My grandfather would get older by a few years, and my grandmother would get younger by the same. Nothing is easy for the genealogist.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

17 April 2016

Obituary Sunday: Mattie Mae (Needham) McNeill Walker, 1884-1938

     Funeral services for Mrs. K.G. Walker, 54, of Dix, were held Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Union Presbyterian church at Dix, Reverend John C. Weston, of Kimball, pastor of the Dix church officiated.
     Mrs. Walker died Tuesday at the University Hospital in Omaha following two months' serious illness.  She had been in poor health the past two years according to a Kimball physician under whose care she had been during that time.
     Mattie Mae Walker, daughter of Arthur and Camilla Needham, was born at Arnold, Nebraska, May 5, 1884.
     She was baptized and joined the Methodist church at Arnold at the age of 14.  She was a graduate of the Arnold high school and the Broken Bow Normal school and taught school five years.
     In 1906 she married Clifton McNeil and to this union four children were born who are: Lee, Frances, Dorothy and Arthur.
     She was united in marriage to Keith G. Walker of Arnold at Julesburg, Colorado, in 1917.  After residing at Arnold for about a year, they moved to Dix.  To this union were born seven children; two infant boys preceded her in death.
     The family moved near Weir, Colorado, in 1930 where Mrs. Walker was a member of the Methodist Episcopal churches at Julesburg and Ovid, Colorado.
     Returning to Dix in 1936, Mrs. Walker spent the remaining years of her life there until her recent illness.
     At Dix she was a faithful member of the Presbyterian church and Ladies' Kensington Society.
     Relatives who survive are her husband and nine children: Mrs. W.L. Wistrom, Violet, Betty, Paul, and Wayne, all of Dix.  Frances Walker of Denver, Mrs. Tracy Ringoldsby of Cheyenne, Arthur Walker of North Platte and Ralph of San Diego, California; a brother Leroy Needham of Forest Grove, Oregon; and three grandchildren.
     Reverend Weston's theme at the funeral service was "If it Were Not So I Would Have Told You."
This is my paternal grandmother, dying from cancer when my father was only eight years old.  I do not know yet from which Nebraska newspaper this is taken, the clipping was found in the effects of my aunt Jenifer's ("Frances") estate.

It was from this obituary I discovered the marriage record for my grandparents in Colorado, after assuming it was destroyed in a county courthouse fire in Nebraska.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

14 April 2016

Little Mysteries in Grandpa's Little Black Book

One of the many things I inherited from the estate of my aunt Jenifer Cosgriff was one of my Grandpa Keith Walker's little black address books.  It is chock full of little pieces of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers, because the spaces in the book are all filled.  He had to use a large rubber band to hold it together and everything inside.  But then there are these inside as well, little newspaper clippings --

-- You can click on the image to enlarge so I am not going to bother transcribing them.  But why did my grandfather keep these?  Were they things he wanted to remember, or to show someone, or did he just find them interesting?

I have no idea.  Just another mystery to be figured out.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

13 April 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Dorothy Grace (McNeill Walker) Nitzsche (1912-1948)

Circa 1930

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

11 April 2016

The "Responsibilities" of the Family Historian... Or Not... Or Maybe

I apologize in advance to my readers.  I usually form my thoughts clearly in advance, what I want to say and how I want to say it, before I sit down at my computer.  But this subject is so emotionally driven and heartfelt, I am not sure my mind is capable enough to separate it out into a rational syllogism.  So I am afraid this will be a bit stream of consciousness.

We are all aware that the ethical and responsible genealogist and family historian has any number of "responsibilities."  My gosh, the list seems endless -- cite your sources, use a proof standard, backup your data, stay organized, protect originals, preserve keepsakes, etc.  In the field there is a separate list -- tread lightly, be friendly and polite, ask for permission, treat gravemarkers respectfully, handle records carefully, etc.  But I want to move onto a third category of "responsibility," not even sure it is a responsibility, or whose responsibility it is?

I remember many years ago, the first time I found out an ancestor did not have a gravemarker.  It was a great-aunt I never knew.  My heart sank for her and I wondered what if anything I could do about it?  Was it my "responsibility?"  I think I am the only one that cares.

I found a cousin researching the same Dutton line as mine.  Where my branch went to central Illinois, his branch went to southern Illinois.  I noticed his are all buried in the same family graveyard.  Unkempt.  Weeds are overtaking it, stones have fallen over, and as the trees take over, I suspect in ten years it will be gone.  He feels helpless to do anything.  What would I do if they were my ancestors?  Would I do anything?

Over the last two decades I have discovered any number of broken stones and missing markers, not just for indirect relatives, but also for direct ancestors.  I have yet to lift a finger.

As regular readers here know I have embraced two causes.  First is the case of my aunt Dorothy whose ashes were abandoned by her husband in an apartment, and returned to the crematorium by the police, where they have sat now unwanted for almost seventy years. I am in the process of securing them and having them interred with her parents, my grandparents.  Second is the case of my 2xg-grandfather Henry Walker, Sr. who died in the Civil War and is buried in a National Cemetery under a marker that reads "Unknown."  Using government documents I have identified his grave, and I am working with my congressman to get that fixed.  But that is where my activism ends so far.  "Activism?"  Or is it "responsibility?"

There are practical considerations.  One of the broken stones of a direct ancestor is my 3xg-grandfather, and on the other side of the family tree is a 3xg-grandmother in a cemetery that is unkempt and about to be swallowed up by urban sprawl.  No offense to my 3xg-grands, but I have thirty-two of you!  Where do I begin?

Now if my family was large enough I could form a family association where we all contribute a little to make a lot, which could grow and become enough to get some things done with!  But alas, I do not have a large family.  And I am kind of the only one interested in these things, or cares.  Most of my family consider me an oddity.  The only one who feels any "responsibility" to the dead.

All my life I have sought to treat others the way I would want to be treated in the same situation, I am nowhere near perfect, but I try.  And as weird as it sounds, it is also across generations, including the deceased.  "Absurd" you say, "They are dead and gone, they don't care."

But I care.  I feel responsible to do what I can.  And maybe that is the answer.  I am not perfect, and I do not live in a perfect world.  Maybe my "responsibility" is to do what I can.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

04 April 2016

Family Heirloom: Uncle Bud's Railroad Pocket Watch

My Uncle "Bud" was Arthur Donald McNeill, born 6 May 1916 in Arnold, Custer, Nebraska, and died 22 November 1985, in Colorado City, Mitchell, Texas.  My father's much older half-brother by a different father.

Bud worked most of his life for the railroad in multiple capacities.  He did what they needed him to, where they needed him to do it.  "Company man."

This pocket watch is his official railroad watch, and he was required by his work to have it regularly serviced to keep accurate time.  It is an Elgin Rail Road model in a Rail Road case. It is a B W Raymond style, 21 jewel mechanism, in 12K gold.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

03 April 2016

Family Heirloom -- School Hall Pass

Our family is lacking of family heirlooms but I am trying to fix that.  My still-living father taught math at the same middle school for thirty-four years, retiring in 1992.  This was his class hall pass.  It is about eight inches long.  Not easy for a truant to forge.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

01 April 2016

OH MY GOD! Genealogy Gold!!!!!

My stepmom was going through her storage and found a cassette tape of my eighty-three year old grandfather telling our family history, three years before he died!

This was twenty years before I started genealogy.

I am shaking.  I will digitize it immediately and then make a transcript.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker