Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 Genealogical Finds of 2015

Photo by Pierce Place

As 2015 comes to a close, I’d like to step back and reflect on what I’ve learned over the past year.  So in my best David Letterman voice, I bring you my fifth annual Top 10 genealogical finds of 2015

Number 10:  My great grandfather, Abraham Gunzendorfer, invented the cash carrier.  

The Monterey New Era
Thursday, April 28, 1892

I would say, since the family owned a mercantile, that this was a pretty useful contraption for them in the 1890's.  Pretty cool!

Number 9:  My grandfather, Sigmund Levy, apparently spent quite a bit of time trying to convince people that my dad should be allowed to go back to his studies at Stanford University rather than serve in the military in 1945.  Click here to read the post.  I was able to follow along with his correspondence and see the response he received.  My dad did end up going overseas but, thankfully, the conflict was over.

Number 8:  Isn't it rewarding when we can finally figure out the mystery that lies before us?  I found a photo of two handsome gents and finally paid attention to what it was telling me.  
Abe and Gustave Gunzendorfer
Taken about 1890
My grandmother had actually written on the back:

But try as I might, I just couldn't figure out what not driving horses meant.  And, thankfully, a couple of very, very smart readers helped the light bulb to go off for me.
Abe is not driving the horses, as the reins are in the other man's hands. Ergo, Gus is driving the horses.

Number 7:  Facebook has been a great tool for me to learn about the areas of the world where my ancestors lived.  I've joined several groups, mostly historical societies, and thought they were pretty helpful.  But imagine my surprise when I received a comment on my blog that said:
Your grandfather was mentioned in a Facebook post today on Fresno's Past page. 
>>AVIATIONby Sigmund Levy(Fresno Realtor)"Glaring National Headlines proclaimed Fresno as the scene of the first attempt to deliver newspapers by air express when Glenn L. Martin flew 100 copies of the Fresno Morning Republican to Madera on April 13, 1912.Martin had just stepped into the aviation picture & was predicting that airplanes would some day be used to carry passengers, mail & express over land & sea. In providing basis for his predictions, he brought Fresno its first recognition in the field of aviation."(Source: Fresno County Centennial Almanac)
You are also mentioned in that particular post. Don't know if you follow the FB page or not. 
Wait - WHAT?  Not just my grandfather but I'm mentioned on a Fresno Facebook page? So of course I immediately joined the group and found several posts and comments linking back to my grandfather and my blog posts!  How cool is that?  Even thought it's only been a month or so, I can see already that this is going to be FUN!

Number 6:  Earlier in the year, I received another comment on my blog that made me smile - a new cousin found me from my blog.  Her husband sent me a message and told me that her 2x great grandmother, Lilly Gay McAboy Langworthy, was the older sister of my great grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald.  Once again, someone found me through my blog.  And not only that, she was able to see photos of Lilly, an ancestor she had only seen once before.  Welcome to the family, Terese and Bart!

Number 5:  After my mother passed away, my siblings and I had the daunting task of cleaning out the home our parents had lived in for over 55 years.  Since none of us lived in the same city, we had to do this pretty quickly so we packed up a bunch of stuff and each went back home.  The task of documenting and researching everything is overwhelming but I decided to just do what I could, when I could.

One of the items that I ended up with was the Family Photo Album.  What fun it was to relive my early childhood.  Here's my favorite photo from the album - my dad even captioned this photo from 1957 The Greatest Photo Ever Taken.  

That's me on the right

Number 4:  Yearbooks are an amazing find for a family researcher/historian - it is so fun to look through them and learn what our ancestors were doing during those times.  One of my first purchases when I got started with this was a copy of the Monterey High School yearbook from 1915, the year my grandmother, Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, graduated from high school.  It was especially fun to see her friends and as I documented her scrapbook from about that time, I was able to really get a feel for what life was like then.

As we were cleaning out the house, I just couldn't leave the high school and college yearbooks of my parents behind.  Thank goodness I didn't!  And then I found even more yearbooks from my grandfather and his brothers from Fresno High School, the same school both of my parents went to.  The publication was called The Owl and even though I'm just starting to document these priceless books, it is fun to go back to the early days of the 20th century and see how things have changed.

I've posted some blog posts on the Fresno's Past facebook page and have been able to find a photo for someone of a family member she has never seen before.  Love that!

Number 3:  My dad was quite a guy and was loved by all who knew him - I still can't believe he's been gone over 10 years.  But thankfully, my family saved everything so I have been able to find gems that just make me smile.

In 1999 my dad, a very dedicated Rotarian, was asked to speak at a meeting and as luck would have it, he kept the speech he wrote documenting his life.  What a treasure to have! You can read about it here.

Gordon Levy
c. 2005
Number 2:  Once again, a cousin I met through my blog and ancestry has given me a gift by sharing a photo with me.  Not just me, but my new found cousin (see Number 6 above) also loved the photo of her 2x great grandmother and my great grandmother.

Lilly Gay McAboy Langworthy (L)
Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald (R)
c. 1952
Thanks again, Kris!

Number 1:  This genealogical find is so recent that I really haven't been able to absorb it yet.

As we cleaned out our parents home, we were overwhelmed with photos, slides, movies, and many other sentimental items.  My brother took the movies home and the plan was for him to watch them and covert them into DVD's.  I know the project was completely overwhelming (thank goodness he took it on) but when he finally got to it, he learned that just watching movies from the 1930's could damage them.

He was able to find an expert to restore them and convert them and we (my siblings and I) decided that our Christmas present to each other would be tackling the first set of films and getting them converted.  And just in time for Christmas, these arrived in the mail.

That's right, movies from my grandfather from 1936-1942!

What a treat to see my father, his older brother, and their parents on vacation in Washington D.C. and New York.  And so many other places they visited that I have yet to figure out the locale.

And film - not just a still photo but actual FILM - of my great grandparents, Abraham and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer from the early 40's.  Playful film of the family in the back yard of the home my dad grew up in, film of the new car they bought in the late 30's, my uncle looking sharp in his officer's uniform, and even film of the Golden Gate Bridge being built.  And since I'm trying to get better about backing things up and keeping notes of what I have, I had an extra copy made which I put notes on and packed away in the safe deposit box.

So that's what I've been up to in 2015.  I really felt like it was a slow year but now that I've listed some of the things I've found, I feel like it's been more productive than I thought.  I've found new family and friends, I've learned even more about my family, and I've documented things for future generations.

Who knew?


Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Owl - December, 1905

Next up from my collection of The Owl, Fresno High School's publication, is from December, 1905.

WAIT - what?  Sigmund Levy, Editor?  My grandfather was the editor?

Looks like he really was.  Or as my dad would say - "well he was"!

Yep, there it is in black and white.  Sigmund Levy, Editor.

Here's the back cover.

I just love looking at all of the advertisements.  The Undertakers are still advertising - and this one has a Lady Assistant!

Brunswick was also a big advertiser.

I would love to know more about "gentlemanly exercise".  Or maybe I wouldn't.

Here's another shaving parlor.  New porcelain baths and no waiting - what more could you ask for?

And here you could buy foreign postage stamps and old coins.  Since my dad loved to collect stamps, I can imagine my grandfather did, too.  I'll bet he was a customer here.

Fresno Pharmacy looks like a pretty interesting place.  My grandmother's family owned a mercantile in Monterey and the pictures look much like this.  I'll bet it was a fun place to shop.

At the time of Sig's death in 1968, he worked for Pearson's Realty, which was established in 1919.  I wonder if this was the first Pearson business in Fresno.

It was fun to see an "Alphabet in the Christmas Stocking".  Here's a portion (of course, I had to include the "L").

And Sig was the captain of the tennis team.

I knew that Sig played tennis - I love this photo of him which looks to be after high school. But I had no idea he played in high school or that he was the captain!

Lots more yearbooks to come.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Owl

As I've mentioned probably too many times to count, I come from several generations of Fresno natives.  And within the last few weeks, I was made aware of (and joined) a wonderful facebook group called Fresno's Past.  As I was going through some things, I came across many, many 'yearbooks' from Fresno High School called The Owl.  Not only did both of my parents graduate from Fresno High School, but so did my paternal grandfather, Sigmund Levy, and all three of his brothers.  And I'll bet if I looked hard enough, I'd find other ancestors who graduated, maybe even my maternal grandparents who were both born in Fresno.  Add that to the list of things to do.

The earliest Owl copy I have is from May, 1902.  It makes me wonder, since I have copies from several months of the same year, if it was published monthly or just what the schedule was.

If you look closely in the top right hand corner, you can see Leon Levy, 04 FHS.  So this would have belonged to my grandfather's older (by 2 years) brother, Leon.

And in 1902 they put advertisements on the back cover.

I like looking at the advertisements.  For some reason, seeing an embalmer/funeral director advertising in a high school publication seems odd to me.  But I see it over and over again.

And The Owl staff was listed.  Maybe one of those names will be an ancestor of someone who reads this blog.

Good to know that Cutter's Fountain was open.  But, sadly, I DON'T know what that means.

This is interesting.  Have you ever heard the term Tonsorial before?  I sure hadn't.  But I learned from Merriam Webster that it means of or relating to a barber or the work of a barber.  Who knew?

Next issue is October, 1903.

Look at the list of athletes - my grandfather's brother was the Treasurer of the B.A.A. (Boys' Athletic Association?)

And also a member of the Senate.  I think all four boys participated in the Senate but it seems that Leon was probably the most active.

This reminds me of social networking of today - what are the alumni up to?  I wonder what a P.G. course is?

Look, it's an ad for undertakers again!  And not just one but two, side-by-side!

This cracks me up - SWELLEST???

I'm puzzled about the term Fresno Boy - my grandmother used to call my grandfather Boy.

And then we're on to December, 1903.

Here's The Owl staff in December, 1903.

Whoa!  Wonder why they're crossed out?  Was Leon upset that he wasn't on the staff? Did he cross off those he knew?

This must be a reverse psychology marketing ploy - PLEASE STAY AWAY?

I'd love to visit the Big Busy Drug Store for some hot chocolate with whipped cream.  I'll bet it really was the "best ever".

More to come!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

An Anxious Father

Based on correspondence by my grandfather, Sig Levy, it seems he was very determined to see that my father did not go overseas during his stint in the Army Air Force and spent quite a bit of time in November, 1945 sending letters to people in hopes of getting some assistance.   He wrote to U.S. Congressman Bertrand Gearhart in October and again on November 17.  But it appears that he couldn’t stop there and wrote another letter on November 19.

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 1

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 2

Thankfully, he left me several typewritten versions – several without recipient’s names and one which was addressed to Hon. Sheridan Downey, a lawyer and Democratic U.S. Senator from California from 1939 to 1951.

Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 1typed Anonymous Letter 11_19_1945 page 2 typed

November 19, 1945

Hon. Sheridan Downey
United States Senate
Washington D.C.

Dear Sir: -

You are receiving this letter from a father of one of the thousands of boys now serving the AAF after being called to active duty under the air corps enlisted reserve program.  I was a pilot with the army air forces in World War I, and I will not sign my name to this letter as it has been stated that communications such as these have been turned over to army and navy officials who, in turn, doled out severe punishment to our sons.

These were the teen-age boys in colleges who patriotically answered the government’s appeal for air combat crew volunteers . . . they were willing to give their lives under the stress of war.

These boys have served many months, and just at the time when they were entering AAF technical schools were ordered overseas to man the occupation forces.  But the only reason they could find was the old army policy of “everyone do his share.”

However, it appears that these younger boys are being the victims of discrimination in discharge methods.  Practically all of the involved AAF men who were called to duty before May, 1945, are separated from the service by now, while these younger boys who enlisted on the same basis and under the same qualifications are being sent overseas to do their share . . . the 30,000 pre-cadets are not being asked that sacrifice.

This is a problem which involves more than just getting out of the service.  It involves, very probably, the future of the democracy that we strove to uphold.  It involves, very possibly, the world war of the future which we dread to face, armed or otherwise.  We understand the necessity of occupying our defeated enemies’ countries, but we ask if it is necessary to continue to send these men with educational ambitions off to a life of boredom?  Are there not enough men in the armed forces with no educational ambitions who can man the army of occupation?  Or do we have to continue to break off college educations which may, in the very near future, mean the peace of the world.  It is not a silly story—and it is for us who have failed to keep the peace of World War I to give the next generation a chance to do a better job.  As a father and a veteran, I say we should have learned a bitter lesson.

If the army’s answer is that men are drastically needed to replace overseas veterans, why were older boys in the AAF discharged and these younger ones left with the burden to finish up the job on their shoulders.  And also, why are present draft boards now deferring men who are engaged in college educations?  Is it fair to penalize these men who volunteered their services a year or two ago and who have done their share already?

Let us hope that American will never repeat another Pearl Harbor within our borders.  These young boys, previously designated as the cream of the nation, may have the key to a better world.  They should be given half a chance.  We ask you, as a capable representative of our chosen form of government, to ask for the fair rights of these highly educated boys who bear the finest characters of your youth.

I quote from H.H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, under date of 1 May, 1945:

We are most appreciative of your interest in the AAF and the fighting spirit that prompted you to volunteer as a member of an AAF combat crew.  It has been possible to train our flying personnel ahead of our present planned needs.  Therefore, future training will be mainly for ground crew, precluding entirely your opportunity to train as a member of the air combat crew.

I hope you will continue your interest in aviation.  The AAF is grateful to you for wanting to fight on our team, and I take this opportunity to express my personal appreciation of your desire to serve with us.”

As the war was in tense progress, these patriots accepted the option of whatever training the AAF had to offer.

Now the war has supposedly been over for many months.  Why can’t this group be returned to their studies and educations as the balance of the AAF team.

That is why we look to you guardians of democracy to look to your leaders of tomorrow and guarantee them a rightful chance to fight for the peace as they volunteered to do in war.  Our country’s fate lies in their hands more than it does in ours . . . this is why we feel they are the ones who should be given the real chance.  We are looking for your public answer.  We have won the war—now let’s really try to win the peace.


Looks like Sig was trying every avenue he could think of to get his youngest son, my father, back to his college education at Stanford University.  And since he was such an avid newspaper ‘clipper’, he also spent some time clipping some interesting articles. 

Here’s an example.

Duration Too Long

I just can’t imagine the desperation he felt and the energy he spent trying to do something.  ANYTHING.  But, unfortunately, it was not to be and off he went.  You can read about his time as an Editor and reporting from the Nuremberg Trials here

I guess I’ll never know if AN ANXIOUS FATHER's letter made a difference in the lives of the young men.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dear Friend Bud

I recently shared correspondence that my grandfather, Sig Levy, sent to Congressman Bertrand Gearhart as my dad entered the Army Air Force in 1945 here.  Did Bud respond?  It looks like he did on November 10, 1945.

From Bertrand Gearhart 11_10_1945




Interesting, although it doesn’t mean too much to me except that Gordon should contact Congressman Gearhart directly.  Wonder if he did?

But Sig DID contact him on November 17, 1945.  I have the handwritten version of his correspondence which is quite crumpled – I would like to know the story behind that.  Did he consider not sending it?  Did he change his mind about throwing it away after it was typed up?  I’m glad he kept the typed version as it is much easier to read than his handwriting!

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 1 handwritten

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 2 handwritten

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 1

Bertrand Gearhart 11_17_1945 page 2

November 17, 1945

Hon. Bertrand W. Gearhart
Congress of the USA, Ninth District
House of Representatives
Washington D.D.

Dear Friend Bud:

Yes, Gordon is home on a 15-day delay to say “goodbye” as he is on his way overseas.  He reports to Greensboro, N.C. on December 3rd to AAFORD.  It is apparent from his orders that the army now has a definite policy to ship every eligible teen age boy overseas to man the occupations ofrces [sic].

Gordon says he wants no inivudal [sic] favor, for he realizes that someone must do the job, but he wonders if it really is an indiscriminate choice.  He thinks it somewhat unfair that all enlisted AAF men who were called to duty two or more months earlier are being completely dischraged [sic].  It appears to be dsicriminating [sic] against the younger boys who enlisted on the same basis under the same qualifications.  No wonder he is dubious about the so-called policy of “every one do his share.”

The is why, Bud, we feel that if the need isn’t actually so great, that the men with stern ambitions in life and who enlisted ahead of time to serve their country should have the same chance as the present draftees who are being deferred once they reach college.

The boys are all hoping that when they arrive overseas they will be placed in important work so that they may be of real service to their country.  They hope they will not be kept there too long, as they naturally feel that they are entitled to get back to their colleges and complete their educations.

I assure you, Bud, that the parents of all these young boys are bitterly opposed to the policy, and I have heard from many of them.  They fell [sic], as I do, that it is no longer necessary to break up educations, for there are plenty of men who have no educational ambitions at all who can man the occupation forces.  It appears that these volunteer boys of the war days are now being penalized for their patriotism just because they were two or three months younger than the rest.

Bob is still in the army..he is information and education officer at Fort Lewis, Washington, and I get reports from other officers that he doing a fine job up there.

See you are making the front pages everyday re Pearl Harbor.  I guess that it is keeping you very busy.

I hope my couple of notes haven’t burdened you, and here’s hoping that you guardians of democracy won’t let the kids down.  They will be doing your job in the next generation.

So long now and with kind regards,

Sig Levy


One thing I can’t be sure of is if he ever actually mailed the letter since I found an envelope addressed to Congressman Gearhart that was never used.  Maybe the typist/secretary (fg) typed an envelope even though Sig had already hand addressed one?  One thing I do know from all of the typos is that Sig should have found a different typist!

Envelope to Bertrand Gearhart