Sunday, March 29, 2020

52 Ancestors: Nearly Forgotten - Pamela Jean

This week's blog prompt is Nearly Forgotten.  There are many people who have been nearly forgotten, and maybe some who have not yet been found.  But one nearly forgotten child was my husband's older sister, Pamela Jean Ast.  *The family name was originally Ast - more to come on the name change in a future post.

My husband was the third of three sons but early in our relationship I remember hearing about two "lost" babies - one boy miscarried at 4 months and one born alive at 8 months, Pamela Jean.  Over the years I learned that she was born with what I believe was  Anophtalmia - a birth defect where a baby is born without one or both eyes.  My mother-in-law told me that in addition to having no eyes at birth, she also had heart defects.  But other than that, she never talked much about Pamela.

When I started this genealogy journey, I asked my mother-in-law about Pamela's date of birth, death, burial, etc., and she said she didn't know.  She thought it was somewhere between the years of 1951 and 1955 since that's when two of her sons were born.  But nothing else.

As I started researching, I stumbled upon information for Pamela.  Date of birth was 22 May 1952 and after a short life of just 54 minutes, she died at 8:20 a.m.. 




I find it interesting that the cause of death is not listed.  Is that common to not have that on a death certificate?

And from the death certificate I found her burial place - Alta Mesa Cemetery - and after an e-mail exchange with a cemetery employee, I learned that she was cremated and placed in Community Niche A, Ct. of the Stars #2 in Mausoleum #2.

When I told my mother-in-law about this information, she was stunned as she said at the time of death she told her husband to take care of the arrangements but either apparently never asked, or didn't remember, where she was interred.

So Pamela Jean Ast, you have not been forgotten.  RIP, sweet baby.


Monday, March 23, 2020

52 Ancestors: Popular - Fresno High School 1944

When thinking about this blog prompt, my thoughts immediately went to my dad, Gordon Levy.  I'd always known he was popular in high school (and beyond) so pulled out his year book from 1944, the year he graduated from Fresno High School, to see what I could find.  Since my mom graduated from Fresno High School in 1946, I'm a little surprised to only have one (where is hers?) because as you probably recall, MY FAMILY SAVED EVERYTHING!

The Owl, Fresno High School, 1944

Sure enough, there were dozens and dozens of well-wishes from his classmates.  Here's a sample.



Of course, I instantly looked for the message from his girlfriend, and my mother, Gerry Martin.  And here it is.

I'll leave it small in order to preserve some privacy

What's really interesting is that I knew my dad graduated on June 9, 1944, just three days after D-Day.

Commencement Exercises
Fresno High School, 1944

My dad was the Valedictorian of the class and gave a speech entitled "To Promote the General Welfare, to Secure the Blessings of Liberty".  I'm still on the lookout for a copy of the speech.




And here he is on the list of graduates from June.  His BFF from his early days and throughout his lifetime was Jimmy Bradshaw, who is also on the list.  I don't really recognize any of the other names.



The last page shows the January graduates, those who would graduate in July, and the Seal-Bearers, those who have on their diplomas the gold seal of California Scholarship Federation.  And there is dad and Jimmy Bradshaw again.  Proud daughter moment.



Puzzled that I don't see dad's cousin, Gilda Levy, on any of the lists since she was only 2 months younger than dad.  I know she was there in 1943 as she and my dad worked together on the Owl staff.  I don't see her photo in the class photos, either.

My dad was the Fall Semester President.



These are the notes below describing the Executive Committee, Fall Semester.

With a platform of better rallies and assemblies and more interest in student body government, President Gordon Levy began the semester by appointing a hard working executive committee, which gave the administration a flying start.

It goes on with more detail but I won't bore you with that.

There are several pages of collages and this photo caught my eye.  It is titled 6 boys and a girl so it doesn't really help me much but I'm wondering if the young man circled is my dad.  Maybe, maybe not.



This leads me back to D-Day, June 6, 1944.  It's really at the forefront of my mind because during this time of social distancing and staying home, we have been watching Band of Brothers and The Pacific.  They are produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (get well soon, Tom) and are exceptional.  I am NOT someone who typically likes war movies/series but these are outstanding.  I'm sure you can find them elsewhere but we're watching them through Amazon Prime.

So my popular dad has led me to D-Day.  Who knew?




Friday, March 6, 2020

52 Ancestors: Strong Woman - Minnie Dauterman

My last post was Favorite Discovery where I wrote about my favorite discovery being the one I found that day.  And as luck would have it, the next day I found a new favorite discovery but because I haven't blogged since, here it is today.

Minnie Dauterman Guzendorfer
about 1896

Minnie Juliet Dauterman, born 17 April 1864, was married to my great grandfather's brother, Gustave George Gunzendorfer.  I wrote about Gustave awhile back and was confused as to the end of their marriage, potential divorce, and how Minnie ended up taking back her maiden name.  You can read it HERE

But then a few weeks ago I found new information about Minnie.


San Francisco Examiner
1 Feb 1924, page 11
Uh-oh.  Gustave, a successful attorney, couldn't pay his alimony in cash but instead wanted to pay in booze. 

Minnie must have been very strong for in those days, I'm not sure too many women would have pursued things.  I don't know, maybe I'm wrong but then I found this.

San Francisco Examiner
28 November 1924, page 17

My hunch was right in that Gustave left Minnie and from what I can find, she wasn't too happy about it.  I'm going to keep searching and see if I can find information on how the case ended up.  Then THAT will be my favorite discovery.

More research needed but this is an interesting rabbit hole I'm going down.



Sunday, February 16, 2020

52 Ancestors: Favorite Discovery

This weeks' blog prompt is Favorite Discovery.  Like most people researching their family, there isn't just one favorite discovery.  I have a few "top" discoveries but since I've written about them before, I'll just share a link to those posts.

Emery Waller's grave is marked

Bertha's bracelet

Generations photo

So today I'm taking the liberty of changing the prompt to Favorite Discovery TODAY.  Because if I open a box or letter tomorrow, I'll have a new favorite discovery.

This morning I went into the storage closet to retrieve another batch of the letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother from 1916-1919.  I've transcribed all of the letters she wrote to him but I'm still working - slowly - on the letters he wrote to her.  And there I saw a box marked MISC LEVY PHOTOS.  When I've found photos that I can't identify or don't want to think about I put them in a miscellaneous box by surname.  Over the years I've pulled some out, scanned them, and put them in archival boxes.  Seems pretty organized - if they're in the box they're scanned - and if that's all the photos I had, I would agree.  But I have SO MANY photos that it's just overwhelming to move forward.  Hey, I still have the letters to transcribe.

So I opened the MISC LEVY box and there on the top was this photo.


 This really isn't a "new" photo as I've seen it before and have shared it before.

Old Family Home
Located on Van Ness Ave between Kern and Inyo opposite Hotel
Californian.  Built 1887
Picture taken about 1890 shows Herbert, Leon and Sig

Close up showing Goldie (Benas) and Herman Levy
Herbert, Leon and Sig Levy
Sig is my paternal grandfather

The two photos are identical, although it's puzzling to me how it looks to be printed on material not typically found in the late 1800's.  Did someone somehow make a copy of it?

And then I did something I always forget to do when I'm sure what I'm looking at - I turned the photo over.  I don't know, maybe it was already turned over and the writing on the back is what caught my eye.

It says pretty much the same thing except that this includes the address, 946 K Street.  But what really makes it a favorite discovery is that the handwriting is my grandfather's.  Remember those letters I'm slowly but surely transcribing?  After the hours upon hours I've been reading his handwriting there is absolutely no question that this is Sig's handwriting.

Okay, so maybe not the most exciting discovery of all time but it sure is the most exciting thing I've found today.  Now back to the letters...



Monday, February 10, 2020

52 Ancestors: Same Name - Winfield Scott Byrd

Winfield Scott Byrd was my husband's maternal great grandfather.  As you can imagine, he (along with many others) was named for the celebrated Winfield Scott, who was known as the Grand Old Man of the Army for his years of service.

Winfield Scott was the son of William and Ann (Mason) Scott and was born on 13 Jun 1786 near Petersburg, Virginia.  He was a General in the U.S. Army from 1814-1861 and served in the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, and the early stages of the Civil War.  Historians consider him to be one of the most accomplished generals in U.S. history.  In 1852, he was the Whig party presidential nominee but was defeated in the general election by Franklin Pierce.  In 1855, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, the first U.S. Army officer to hold that rank since George Washington.  Winfield Scott died 29 May 1866 at West Point and is buried at the West Point Cemetery.

Winfield Scott
photo  by Wikipedia
But enough about that Winfield Scott - let's focus on Winfield Scott Byrd, my husband's great grandfather.  My mother-in-law was the only child of Winfield's son, Marcus Burket Byrd, and Pearl Grumer.

Winfield Scott Byrd was born 29 Aug 1847 in Hawkins County, Tennessee.  He was the 5th (out of 13) child of James Anderson Byrd and Margaret/Margerite (Kelly) Byrd.

A grandchild of Winfield Scott has provided us with some stories, although there is no documentation to verify if these are true.  We have heard for many years about "Old Man Byrd", Winfield's paternal grandfather.  I cringe when I hear him called old since at the time of his death he was younger than I am.  We do know many details about William (aka Old Man) and even have a book with some interesting information.  But this is a story that the grandchild of Winfield wrote:
Life was pretty simple in these parts til the Civil War started building up steam, and since this part of Tennessee was not aligned with either the North or the South, tensions were running high between neighbors.  The Byrds' sympathies were with the North.
Some men neighbors, and Southern sympathizers, came by the Byrd farm with the intention of 'bushwhacking' some Northern men.  They asked old William where his sons were, and since they weren't there, they took the old man around the orchard, they leaned him against a tree and shot him explaining "Couldn't get anything out of the old S.B., had to kill him".  This is a quote from granddad Winfield, who was hiding in the barn."
The story continues:
After the Civil War was over, emotions around this part of Tennessee were still running high, and some of the local fellows raised a rebel flag over the courthouse in Whitsburg.  The patriotic teenager, Winfield, climbed to the roof of the building, sawed the pole and let it drop.  In the process, he dropped his saw and broke the handle.  It was never repaired.  Winfield used this saw all his years as a tradesman and carpenter, sharpening it until the blade was thin.  It was his most prized possession.
Winfield married Serena Chestnut in 1869.


Marriage of Winfield Scott Byrd (Bird) and Serena Chestnut
28 September 1869
Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002
While looking closely at this, it could be that Serena was her middle name - could her first name be Mariah?


On 18 July 1870 in Russellville, Tennesse, daughter Una was born.  Several years later a sister was born and in 1876, mother and daughter died of typhoid pneumonia and little Una went to live with her grandparents.

In 1877, Winfield married Mildred Mace.

Marriage of Winfield Scott Byrd and Mildred Mace
11 July 1877
Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002

Together Millie and Winfield raised nine children.  "Little" Una helped raise Byrd kids until she caught the eye of a local realtor, William Moore, who was 20 years her senior.

Clay Center, Kansas was going to be a rail center and the town was booming.  Carpenters were in demand so at some point in the early 1880's, the family joined the boom.  It was there that my husband's grandfather, Marcus Burket Byrd, was born on 18 May, 1887.
But by 1901, the growth of Clay Center had slowed and the Byrd family moved on.  They became pioneer travelers again, and by covered wagon moved to Oklahoma, where Winfield and one of the boys got land grants and began homesteading.  Things went well until a prairie fire destroyed their efforts.  They moved on after that.  This time to Idaho, where some of the older boys worked for the railroad in Pocatello.
They bought a dairy, and the family milked cows.  Winfield followed his trade as a carpenter, and Mildred ran a boarding house for railroad workers.
Millie died from a cerebral hemorrhage on 2 June 1925 leaving Winfield a widow for the next 15 years.  Winfield Scott Byrd died at his home at 905 S. Main in Pocatello on 17 February, 1940.



Winfield is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Pocatello, Idaho.  Sadly, we were in Pocatello about 20 years ago and at the time had no idea Winfield was interred there.  Next time we will stop by the cemetery to pay our respects.



RIP, Winfield Scott Byrd.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

52 Ancestors: Close to Home - Fresno

Many of my ancestors stayed close to home.  I'm sure it was fairly common back in the "olden" days but these ancestors are more current.  And so many of them stayed close to the same home - Fresno, California.


As a child, I knew that my parents were both born and raised in Fresno but I never really thought much about it.  We visited a lot - both sets of grandparents lived there and my dad's parents still lived in the house they moved into when he was just a young boy.  I loved sitting in his room, looking at all of the pictures and awards on the wall, and imagining what life had been like for him.  But that was the extent of it.

But now that I've researched things, I find that many generations on both sides of my family spent the majority of their lives there.  Starting with my parents:

Gordon Levy - born in Fresno in 1927.  Left for Stanford University in 1944 and never lived in Fresno again.

Geraldine Martin - born in Fresno in 1928.  Left for Stanford University in 1946 and never lived in Fresno again.

My paternal grandfather, Sig Levy, was born in Vallejo, California - the story passed down was that his mother went to Vallejo  (did his father go, too?)  to escape the July heat in Fresno.  Is it really that much cooler in Vallejo?  I suspect that it was more about Sig's maternal grandmother living in Vallejo at that time.  Two of Sig's brothers were born during the winter in Fresno while the other two were born during the summer in Vallejo or San Francisco.  Coincidentally, I'm fairly certain that grandma lived in the corresponding city at the time of their births.  So, maybe it was less about the heat and more about being near her mother.

Sig brought his bride to Fresno after their marriage in 1919 and the two of them raised their sons, lived their lives there, and are interred at Chapel of the Light Columbarium. 

I imagine it looked something like this in 1919


Sig's parents, Herman Levy and Goldie Benas, were not born in Fresno but lived most of their lives there.  And they, too, are both interred at Chapel of the Light, not far from Sig and his brothers. 

My maternal grandparents were both born in Fresno:

Earle Laurence Martin was born in 1900 and lived in Fresno until the late 1930's when he and my grandmother divorced.  At that time he relocated to Bakersfield.  I really have few details about his life from that point forward as he and my mother did not have much contact with each other.  Did he move for a job?  Did he want to move and Grandma declined or just what happened?  Inquiring minds want to know!  While he died in Bakersfield, he is buried in Fresno in the same cemetery, Belmont Memorial Park, as many other family members.

Clara Maxine Fitzgerald was born in 1903 in Fresno and lived her ENTIRE life there.  Oh wait, I'm lying - she and my mother spent a short amount of time in Oakland after the divorce.  I'm really not certain how long they were there - why didn't I ask my mother?  Although now that I think about it, I did ask my mother as I was trying to find her in the 1940 census and either she didn't remember the details or was trying to forget.  Either way, I never got the information I was seeking.  Clara is also buried in Belmont Memorial Park.

Clara and Earle, along with Gerry, lived at 1023 Thorne Avenue in Fresno in 1930.  I have a picture of the family, along with Earle's mother, from the early 1930's (I suspect based on my mother's birth in 1928) which I believe is that house.

Clara Fitzgerald, Frances Brooks, Earle Martin, Gerry Martin
Do you think it's the same house?  I know, hard to tell.

1023 Thorne Avenue today

Earle's parents, Robert Lewis Martin and Frances Maria Brooks, were both born in South Carolina but found their way to Fresno in the late 1880's.  In February, 1887 their son, Guy Lewis Martin, was born in Arkansas and their daughter, Pearl, was born in Fresno in December, 1889 so their arrival in Fresno would have been somewhere between those two births.  Both are buried in Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno.

Clara's father, Edward Fitzgerald, was born in 1879 in Yolo County.  His mother died just 6 years later which left his father alone to raise the children.  Mathew Fitzgerald was in Fresno by 1888 as evidenced by the California Voter's Registration.  So Edward lived his entire life in Fresno from about the age of 9.  After his death in 1968, he was also buried in Belmont Memorial Park.

Clara's mother, Mabel McAboy, was born in 1883 in Illinois but it appears that she moved to Fresno with her family by the early 1890's.  What took them there?  She, too, spent the rest of her life in Fresno until her death in 1966.  She is also buried in Belmont Memorial Park next to Edward.

There are so many other ancestors who lived in Fresno.  Did we ever see any of them during our visits there?  When I think of Fresno, I think of "old people" as it seemed those were the only people we saw.  I haven't been back since 1982 when my grandmother died.  However, I now know new cousins, blogging friends, and even high school friends in Fresno.  One day I hope to make a visit - I'll visit the historical society and, of course, the cemetery.

I have a lot of roots in Fresno because these folks stayed close to home!



Friday, January 10, 2020

52 Ancestors: Favorite Photo - Birdie Schwartz

I am fortunate to have so many photos of my family over the last 150 years (yikes, did I just type 150 years??).  When I thought about my favorite photo several immediately came to mind, many of which are photos from the late 1800's showing many generations of my family.  Those are definitely in my "top" favorite photos but when it came to choosing just one, this one came to the top of the list.

Bertha Schwartz

Bertha "Birdie" Schwartz was my great grandmother.  Her daughter and first child was Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer, my paternal grandmother.  For those who are regular readers, you know Loraine as the "Packrat".

While I love this photo of Birdie and will cherish it always, what I love most is the story that's been told about it for many, many years.  You see, this photo was always proudly displayed in my parents' living room - always in the same spot and I can't remember a time when it wasn't there.  You can see it in its place of honor below.


Growing up, I really don't remember "knowing" this person or how she was related to me.  Over the years I learned her name was Birdie but I really didn't connect the dots who she was.  Do children ever think about the fact that their grandmother wasn't always "old" or that she, in fact, was once a child and had a - gasp - mother?  But as the years went by I learned her name and who she was.  Did Loraine ever talk about her or even mention it was her mother as a young child?  I'm guessing she did but like most children, I didn't pay attention.

I don't know if it was just parental bias but over the years I heard on many occasions that I looked just like Loraine and her mother, Birdie.  And now that I've done research, learned about them, and have so many photos of them, I'm honored to think that someone saw a family resemblance.  Here's a photo of the two of them together, shortly after Loraine was born.

Loraine Gunzendorfer and Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer
c. 1896

So I pulled out some photos of me at about the same age to see if I could see the resemblance.  Sadly, I don't see it but it was fun taking a stroll down memory lane.





I don't see it when I compare Birdie's high school graduation day to that same day in my life.

Bertha Schwartz, Santa Cruz High School, 1890

Debi Levy, Pioneer High School,

Maybe I should look in the mirror and compare the current me to Birdie at about the same age :-)

Bertha (Schwartz) Gunzendorfer, 1944

From all the stories I've heard, Birdie was much loved by all.  How I wish I'd known her!