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 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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

52 Ancestors: Going to the Chapel

This week’s prompt is Going to the Chapel.  I’ve written about many marriages of my ancestors:  My parents, my paternal grandparents, and even my paternal great grandparents.  So with this prompt, I’ll focus on my maternal side of the family.

My mother’s parents, Clara Fitzgerald and Earle Martin, were married 23 June 1923.  While that marriage brought my mother, Geraldine Martin, into the world, it did not go well and somewhere in the late 1930’s, Clara and Earle divorced.  My mother didn’t talk about it much so I don’t know any of the details.

But then a new man, Sheldon Abb Hunter, came into her life and on 18 Feb 1942, the two traveled from Fresno to Las Vegas to be married.

Clara Martin Sheldon Hunter Marriage Fresno Bee Republican 18 Feb 1942 Page 6
The Fresno Bee Republican
18 Feb 1942, Wed – Page 6

Mrs. Clara M. Martin, who, with Sheldon A. Hunter, left today for Las Vegas, Nev., where they planned to be married late this afternoon.  They will establish their home here.

Late Afternoon Wedding Rites Planned by Mrs. Clara Martin, Sheldon A. Hunter

Mrs. Clara M. Martin and Sheldon A. Hunter left this morning for Las Vegas, Nev., where they planned to be married late this afternoon.

The couple, who motored (?) in Las Vegas, will have a wedding dinner in El Rancho Vegas after the ceremony.  They will remain in Las Vegas for the weekend, returning to Fresno Monday.  The couple will reside in The Californian temporarily. 

Mrs. Martin’s wedding attire is a navy bitte custom suit, trimmed at the neckline with a collar of white organdy.  Her hat, with a touch of white trim, and other accessories also are navy blue.  A corsage of white orchids wil complete the ensemble.

The bride is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Fitzgerald of Fresno.  She is afilliated with the Eastern Star and has been employed at The Californian as social hostess and secretary in G. Vorn Snorgrass, manager of the hotel.

Hunter, who has lived in Fresno for many years, has been local manager of the Western Union Telegraph Company for twenty two years.  He has been employed by the company for thirty five years.

The bridegroom is a member of the Fresno Rotary Club, the University-Sequoia and Sunnyside Country Clubs and is the treasurer of the Fresno Childrens Summer Camp.

My mother was not quite 14 at the time of their marriage.  Where was she?  Did she stay home with her father?  Her grandparents?  Also interesting that she wasn’t mentioned in the newspaper article.

Again, so many questions without any answers.  I’m happy, though, that I came across this newspaper article to learn more about their wedding.  Note to self:  send away for a copy of their marriage certificate.  Not sure what it will tell me that I didn’t learn about here but I’ll never know if I don’t see a copy.  (SWEET!  I just ordered it online while the draft of this post was processing!)

These photos are not necessarily from the exact time period but I think fairly close.  While Clara wasn’t the packrat that my paternal grandmother was, she was nice enough to put notes on the back of most of her photos.  Thanks, Grandma!

Sheldon Hunter Thinking
Sheldon Hunter
date unknown

Clara Fitzgerald c 1942
Mrs. Sheldon A. Hunter
date unknown

It’s always fun to learn about my ancestors getting married!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

52 Ancestors: Military

Sig Military
Sigmund Levy, c. 1918

My paternal grandfather, Sigmund Levy, served in WWI – I’ve written a lot about his time as a Flying Cadet (he had to sit on a pillow when flying!).  But it all became a little more real when I discovered some new information.

It looks like just an old binder but when I opened it up, I found this on the inside cover.

This is my grandfather’s “stuff” from his Flying Cadet Days!  It looks to be class notes, sketches, schedules – so much information that I could never capture it all.

And look – this shows the instructions for newly arrived cadets and that he was assigned to Squadron A 61. 

Squad Assignment

Binder tabs didn’t look all that much different in 1918.  Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to use them and just put everything loose inside the binder.

Lots of notes.  My grandfather didn’t have great handwriting but this is all really tough to read.  I’m sure he figured he’d be the only one to read it plus it’s all Greek to me.

He had a schedule of his daily activities.  This card was compliments of Aviator’s Exchange.  It’s interesting to see their advertisements along the side of the card – the Aviators could check their excess baggage of free of charge.  I also notice they had Aviation Stationery – I wonder if that’s where Sig bought the stationery he used to write letters to my grandmother (which are safely tucked away in my closet).

Schedue Card

On Mondays and Tuessdays at 8:10 a.m., Sig attended Machine Guns (class, I guess).  Here’s a sample of his notes.

Machine Guns

Wanna know more about the Theory of Flight and History of Flying?  Good luck with that (I can barely read a word).

History of Fllight

And they learned about the Articles of War – I love that he reminded himself that Article II was important. 

Articles of War

Inside were a couple of folders – this one was about Airplanes.


The first page was an airplane sketch.  An airplane sketch today would sure look different.

Airplane Sketch

Of course they learned about Morse Code.  Is that even used these days?

Morse Code

They were really getting prepared.

Map Signs

Map Signs Detail

Thankfully, Sig never left the United States and went on to lead a long and productive life.  I don’t remember him ever talking about his time as a Flying Cadet and for that matter, I don’t remember my dad mentioning it, either.  Did Sig not talk about it or was I not listening?

As we honor the fallen this Memorial Day, I take this opportunity to remember my two ancestors who were killed in the line of duty.

My 2nd great grandfather, William J. Brooks, killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862.  Buried in Dials Cemetery, Laurens County, South Carolina.

And my mother’s step brother, Robert Melvin Hunter, killed aboard the USS Oklahoma, Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941.  Buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (aka The Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Hunter Robert Melvin

Rest in peace.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Ancestors: Another Language – Joseph Steen

This week’s prompt for the challenge is Another Language.  Not sure where to start or what to write, my brain churned for an inspiration.  While I assumed that many of my ancestors spoke another language since they came from Poland, Germany, and other countries in Europe, I don’t know that any of them spoke or understood another language.

But wait – being 50% Ashkenazi Jew meant there was sure to be some Hebrew or Yiddish, right?  And then I remembered that my 3x great grandfather, Joseph Steen, was buried with a beautiful Hebrew inscription on his headstone.

And, fortunately, I have a transcription.
Moshe Yosef 
A noble and a faithful devoted man to God
Died on the eve of Shabat on 15 Av and was buried on 17 Av.
A man of integrity and honesty,
Hard worker and with clean hands and heart.
Never gossip nor lying.

From this world you departed but peace with God you found.

While I don’t know specifically that Joseph or his family spoke Hebrew, it was obviously important enough for them to inscribe his headstone with the words in Hebrew.

Joseph was born in Poland in about 1826 or 1827 and emigrated from Posen to England in about 1850.  With him when he emigrated were his wife, Hannah Plotzky, and his daughter, Rebecca (my 2x great grandmother).  Another child was born before they found their way to New York where son Samuel was born in 1855.  Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Santa Cruz where Joseph opened a bath house and five more children were born.

I don’t know much about Joseph’s short life.  He was enumerated in 1860 in Santa Cruz where he lived next door to Louis Schwartz, Rebecca’s future husband and my 2x great grandfather.  And next door to Louis and his business partner, Solomon Fisher, was the Barnet family.  I have a lot of research to do on this family but I do know that daughter Grace graduated from Santa Cruz High School with my great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz, and served as a bridesmaid in Bertha’s wedding to Abraham Gunzendorfer.  As I’ve started to research them, I found someone with a family tree on Ancestry that also shows up as a DNA match for me.  So maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that the Barnet family is in some way related to my family.

1860 Census Joseph Steen Family
Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.Original data - 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records

In 1863, Joseph was listed on the IRS Tax Assessment List.  I have zero experience with this type of list so it’s all Greek to me.

Joseph Steen Tax Assessment May 1863
Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data - National Archives (NARA) microfilm series: M603, M754-M771, M773-M777, M779-M780, M782, M784, M787-M789, M791-M793, M795, M1631, M1775-M1776, T227, T1208-T1209.

Uh-oh, he’s back on the list in October, 1864.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Joseph Steen Tax Assessment Oct 1864
Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.Original data - National Archives (NARA) microfilm series: M603, M754-M771, M773-M777, M779-M780, M782, M784, M787-M789, M791-M793, M795, M1631, M1775-M1776, T227, T1208-T1209.

In 1864, Joseph lost a stock certificate of 10 shares of stock.  I sure wish I knew if this was ever found.

Joseph Steen Lost Stock Certificate Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel 12 Nov 1864 Sat page 3
Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, 12 Nov 1864, Sat, page 3

And then his life was cut short.

Joseph Steen Obituary Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel 4 Aug 1866 Sat Page 2
Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, 4 Aug 1866, Sat, page 2

Consumption is an old term for wasting away of the body, particularly from pulmonary tuberculosis.  It has been said that tuberculosis was known as a “good death” as the slow progress of the disease allowed the patient to arrange their affairs.  I can’t imagine a 39 year old man with a young family facing the task of arranging his affairs.

To read the story of how I found Joseph’s grave (the same cemetery as my father!), click HERE for my #2 genealogical find of 2012. 

מנוחה בשלום, יוסף
Rest in peace, Joseph.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

52 Ancestors: Close Up

This week’s prompt was puzzling to me at first – close up?  What did that mean?  I read some comments from other bloggers and ideas starting swirling in my head.  I could look close up at the quilts my great grandmother and her mother made which are safely tucked away.  Or, I could take a closer look at the small tuxedo that surely belonged to my grandfather.  But as I rummaged around the storage closet, I came across this.

This was too good to pass up – the box of memories from our wedding in 1974.  Had I really kept this stuff - I needed to take a closer look!

Of course, I had to start with the invitation.  Remember, I was just 19 and this was the mid 70’s when daisies seemed to be quite popular.  I remember there was quite a bit of ‘drama’ because I’d failed to mention the groom’s who, by then, had remarried.


There were some really cute little response cards included with each invitation.  I remember being so excited to get the mail and find a card in the stack the mail carrier delivered.  Of course I had to keep the entire box (why keep just one – 50 would be much better) and even found a few stamps included.

I must have spent quite a bit of time planning for the special event.

And then came the shower.  Or maybe it was more than one?  I kept the decorations which were brilliantly made by Hallmark and even had matching napkins.

I went through a few of the cards – most of them had a small square of wrapping paper included which, I assume, was cut out from the paper the corresponding gift was wrapped in. 

And then came the big day.  All of the gift cards were inside the box. 

There must have been a shortage of card designs because we received 5 of the same card.  What’s especially humorous is that one of these was from my husband’s father and step-mother, one from his paternal grandmother, and one from her sister – they all shopped at the same place!

So many of the attendees are no longer with us – not just the older generations but many of our high school friends. 

There were a few very special notes.  Here’s one from my favorite uncle (shhh, don’t tell anyone he was my only uncle), my dad’s brother, Rob.  I love his referencee of a cozy heart.

Rob Levy Envelope
Rob Levy Letter

And, of course, a very special card from my grandmother, Loraine (Gunzendorfer) Levy.  Grandma gave us the generous gift of a trip to Honolulu for our honeymoon – not bad for two young kids!

Card from Loraine frontCard from Loraine inside

And inside the card was another note.

Note from Loraine frontNote from Loraine inside

I laughed at her grandmotherly advice to put the check into traveler’s checks (are those even used anymore?) so I wouldn’t lose it.  And I laughed again when I found I had done just that.  No surprise that the wallet was empty!

We still laugh at some of the events of the day – the hair dresser who did my sister’s and my hair thinking we were going to the senior ball and the groom ‘forgetting’ to pick up my brother on the way to the event.  But it all worked out.  Unfortunately, these two memories have seen better days and I really am not sure what they even are – maybe the bells were on top of the cake?

And the book of wedding guests is priceless – so many names that probably didn’t mean much to me at the time but now from my research, I see so many familiar names.

I found so many honeymoon memories – why did I save our boarding passes from the plane? 

This was fun to see.

So nice that the hotel provided this waterproof utility bag and if they hadn’t told me it was “yours for the taking”, I might have left it behind.  But it was perfect to wrap the glasses we brought home with us.

What is that it is wrapped in?  Is that decorative toilet paper?  I do remember feeling quite adult since the drinking age was 18 in Hawaii so we were able to order drinks in the restaurant.  I guess it made such an impression that I decided to bring the glasses home.

While I was tempted to just toss everything once I’d gone through it, I remembered how exciting it was to find the wedding invitation for my great grandparents so I boxed up a few things and hope that, one day, my grandkids and their descendants will have a good laugh looking at these things.

Boy were we YOUNG!

Ron Debi wedding