Sunday, June 17, 2018

52 Ancestors: Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day in the United States – a day that each year is a difficult reminder that my dad has been gone another year.  I still see the Father’s Day cards in the store and it punches me in the gut to know that once again, I won’t buy one. 

But there is another father whom I don’t know much about, my maternal grandfather, Earle Laurence Martin.  I have a lot of dates and places saved to my tree but I have almost no memories of him as my mother was a bit estranged from him throughout my lifetime.  Sure, we received Christmas greetings each year (and, I’m assuming, birthday greetings) but I only remember a visit with him once, maybe when I was about 10-12 years old. 

Earle was born 23 Jul 1900 in Fresno, California, and was the youngest child born to Robert Lewis Martin and Francis “Fannie” Brooks.  When I first started researching, I connected with someone who said she had seen both 1900 and 1901 for his birth date but after asking my mother (and getting a copy of both his birth and death certificate), I am certain that the year was 1900. 

Being that Earle was born after the 1900 census was conducted, the first time I found him was in 1910 when he lived on Palm Avenue in Fresno with his parents and five of his seven siblings (Lillie, Pearl, Nellie, Dessie, and Ethel – William and Guy were living outside the home).  My mom always told me his father’s name was Guy but I think somewhere along the line she got mixed up and remembered his older brother rather than his father.

On 12 Sep 1918, Earle registered for World War I in Fresno County.  He listed his address as Route E, Box 37, Fresno and his occupation as a Clerk, California Peach Growers.  His next of kin was his father, Robert L. Martin, at the same address.

By 1920, Earle was living on Maple Avenue in Fresno with his parents and Nellie, Guy, and Ethel.  And new to the household was his maternal grandmother, Sarah Miller Brooks Anderson.  I’ve writtten about Sarah HERE and HERE.

On 23 Jun, 1923, Earle was married to my grandmother, Clara Maxine Fitzgerald.  During the 1924-1926 time frame, it appears that they were living at both 1335 Glenn Avenue, Fresno, and 2844 Liberty, Fresno.  Earle was an Inspector at Burroughs Adding Machine and by 1925, Clara was a Purchasing Agent (that’s the first I’ve heard of that).

The 1930 census brought changes as by that time their only child, Geraldine Martin (my mother), was born and the young family was living at 1023 Thorne, Fresno.  Living with them was Ruby Jones, a servant.  What?  I realize my mother was just a toddler at the time but I don’t remember her ever mentioning a servant in the household. 

Earle Martin_Gerry Martin 1928
Earle Martin and Geraldine Martin, 1928

My mother always remembered the Thorne Avenue address and I had a memory of that address, as well.  But it wasn’t until today that I connected the dots - by 1940, Clara’s parents, along with her sister and two nieces, were living at that address.  I’ve been unsuccessful finding Earle in the 1940 census but I know that by that time, he and Clara had divorced and Clara and my mother were living in Oakland.  So my assumption is that when Earle and Clara divorced, they either sold the house (or Clara’s parents were renting it to them) because the 1940 census shows Edward and Mabel (McAboy) Fitzgerald owned the house. 

Clara_Earle_Gerry_Francis Brooks
Clara Fitzgerald, Francis Brooks, Geraldine Martin, Earle Martin
Was this 1023 Thorne Avenue?

I know that in 1937, Earle and Clara (with my mother, I’m sure) were still on Thorne Avenue.  But the next few years go cold and I haven’t found them.  And then by 1940 they were divorced so my guess is that they divorced during that missing time frame.

I have this photo of Mom with her dad in 1937 – were they still a family or was this a special time together?  I wish I knew.

Earle_Gerry 1937

On 14 Feb, 1941, Earle was remarried to Verda Nelson in Las Vegas.  And then exactly a year later, Earle registered for the World War II draft and listed his address as 131 Highlands Drive, Bakersfield.  His sister, Nell, was listed as Next of Kin and I was treated to a description of him:  5-91/2 inches, 170 pounds, hazel eyes, brown hair, and light complexion.  He was employed by Burroughs Adding Machine, Fresno.  But no mention of Verda?  I know they remained married until his death in 1986 but not sure why she wouldn’t show up here.

I know that Verda brought two children into the marriage, whom Earle adopted, and together they had two more children.  Since one of these children is still living, I will refrain from providing details but I don’t believe I ever met any of these children.  I’m somewhat connected to the youngest, who is close to my sister’s age, and I hope in the future we can share information.  I am a picture junkie and would just love to see Earle later in life.

Earle died 11 Oct 1986 and is buried in Belmont Memorial Park, Fresno, California.

Martin Earle

And that’s about all I know about my maternal grandfather, Earle Laurence Martin.  While I know so much about my other grandparents, I wish I could say the same about Earle.


  1. Have you tried connecting with his other children or grandchildren? It would be interesting to hear their side of the family story and learn more about them.

    1. Not sure why I didn't get an e-mail that there was a comment here. I have somewhat connected with his only living child a few times over the years. New news - last night she contacted me based on this blog post so maybe I'll learn more about the family.

    2. Wow, that's great! One of the many gifts of blogging!

    3. Yes, but I worry she'll go silent again. Sigh.

  2. Being estranged from a member of the family certainly intensifies the curiosity and urgency to learn more.

    1. I heard from his only living child based on this blog post so I hope to learn more.