Sunday, March 29, 2015


Herbarium:  A collection of preserved plant specimens.  These may be whole plants or part plants: these will usually be in a dried form mounted on a sheet but, depending upon the material, may also be kept in alcohol or other preservative.  (Wikipedia)

Looks like my grandfather, Sigmund Levy, had his very own Herbarium!

The Kenilworth Herbarium and Plant Analysis, copyrighted in January,1899, was a series of blank forms (11x14 inches) on one side of which the plant was mounted and classified, and upon the other side an outline was given for a complete and systematic analysis of the plant, with space for drawings of important parts.

When I opened up the book, I found this written on the inside front cover.

Looks like it might have been a hobby or even a school project for Sig.

The book gives a pretty nice order of description for the owner to follow – and it looks like Sig followed the instructions perfectly!

Here’s the page that faced this with the actual plant still mounted into the book.

Based on the date of March 20, 1903, Sig would have been just shy of his 15th birthday.  I can't get over the perfect handwriting - I have quite a few things of Sig's with his handwriting and it is never this perfect.

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Here’s another interesting page.

Cemetery?  Sig, WHICH CEMETERY?  What were you doing there?  Just collecting plants or visiting a relative?  So many questions!

Delphinium Photo
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

So it looks like Sig was a packrat in his own right.and I can completely understand where my dad got his packrat tendencies.  Note to self:  don’t follow too closely in my ancestor’s footsteps.

I can’t believe this book is 112 years old.  Thanks for leaving it for me, Sig!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Memorial Tributes – Mabel McAboy Fitzgerald

I’ve had this box of things tucked away in a drawer and I decided to finally get it out and look through it.  I guess it’s official that my paternal grandparents weren’t the only packrats in the family – they shared that gene with my maternal grandmother, as well.  Although I will say that I can completely understand hanging on to the things you received when your mother died – how could you throw something like that away?  Inside the box was this book.

Memorial Tributes

And when I opened it up, I saw it was memorializing the death of my great grandmother, Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald.  For the most part, the book was blank except for telling me that the services were held at the John N. Lisle Chapel in Fresno on November 15, 1966 at 2:30 p.m. with the Rev. Chester Snyder officiating.  But this page had some interesting information on it.

Clarence & Lorraine Follett (Mabel’s granddaughter and her husband)
Clara Hunter (Mabel’s daughter and my grandmother)
Warren Crawford (husband of Mabel’s daughter, Viola)
Stanley Fitzgerald (Mabel’s son)
E.F. Fitzgerald (Mabel’s husband and my great grandfather)
Viola Crawford (Mabel’s daughter)
Mr. & Mrs. Ferd. Fries (unknown but a pallbearer)
Mrs. Weisbrodt (unknown)
Winifred Hoey (daughter of Clara McAboy Hoey and Mabel’s niece)

And the funeral card.

Funeral Card Front

Funeral Card Inside

I don’t remember anything about this funeral and have no idea if I was even there but my dad was a pallbearer.

And more stuff!

I went through each card – some were cards which were attached to floral arrangements and some were ‘announcing’ the presence of someone at the service.  Here’s a few interesting ones.

Card Sig Levy

Looks like my paternal grandparents were there.  And that’s Sig’s handwriting.

And so many people sent flowers and someone wrote the type of arrangement on the back of the cards.

Flower Card Henry Langworthy

Henry was the son of Mabel’s sister, Lilly Gay McAboy, and William Ralph Langworthy.  Henry sent pink and white carnations.

Flower card John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald was the brother of Edward Fitzgerald (my great grandfather) – Jack and Elfie were his son and daughter-in-law.  They sent lavender chrysanthemum and pink carnations with a pink bow.

Flower card Sig Levy

And my paternal grandparents sent flowers and this is Loraine’s handwriting – I’d know it ANYWHERE!  They sent a bronze mum plant and someone added on the back Please Give Water.  Hope someone did that!

Flower card Gordon Levy

Even my parents sent flowers!  They sent a wreath of lavender mums, pom poms and pink roses.

This one just breaks my heart.

Flower card Ed Fitzgerald

Oh geez, he sent flowers?  The spray sounds beautiful and had a satin ribbon saying “Loving Wife”.  I do remember after she died Great Grandpa was overcome with grief and cried for months.  As I remember, the two of them were having some sort of disagreement so Mabel decided to spend the night at my grandmother’s house where she died in her sleep, just 6 days before their 65th wedding anniversary.  And being a sensitive 12 year old, I also remember just a month later picking out cloth handkerchiefs as my gift to him for Christmas.

Mabel is buried in I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Fresno.

Mabel grave

I don’t know why this is spelled Mable – everything I’ve seen is spelled Mabel including the record of her birth.  A mistake?  Did no one care or did no one take the time to make it right?

Mabel McAboy c 1965
Mabel Viola McAboy Fitzgerald
6 Jun 1883 – 12 Nov 1966

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Things I remember

Today is International Women’s Day which has caused me to think a lot about the women in my life who have come before me.  And as time marches on, I find myself the oldest generation in my family and it causes me to stop, take a breath, and really think about these women so whatever memories I have left of them aren’t lost forever.

Geraldine c 1949
My mom
Geraldine Martin Levy

Of course the most important woman in my life was my mother, Geraldine Martin Levy.  My mom had a pretty disjointed childhood as her parents were divorced when she was about 10 and for several years she either lived alone with her mother or with her Great Aunt, Anna Fitzgerald Sronce.  For whatever reason, my mother either didn’t have many memories of her childhood and “life before Dad” or she just didn’t want to talk about them.  Once I started on this genealogical journey, though, she seemed to share more of her memories.  But I learned that she would tire easily of my questions so I tried to limit them to small chunks at a time.  And now that the time is gone, there are still so many questions I want to ask her.

What I remember about Mom. 

First and foremost, books.  My mom loved to read and she always had a book with her.  I mean, ALWAYS.  In fact, when she was admitted to the hospital a few days before she died, she took a book with her.  I’m not sure how much of it she read during her stay but when we took her personal effects home, her book, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, was half read.  But she’ll have it with her always as we placed it in her niche.

Mom loved to play solitaire.  This was long before anyone had even thought about computers, iPhones, or apps.  She played with a deck of cards at the kitchen table.  And she knew a lot of cool games that I can’t remember now.  I don’t know how many hours a day she played but my memory of coming home from school always included Mom sitting at the kitchen table playing cards.  And bridge.  She and Dad played in several different bridge groups and I can remember helping to get the house ready before it was their turn to host.  Little silver dishes with nuts and chocolates were prepared and we always liked snitching a few as they were put out on the tables.  After Dad died, Mom continued to play with different partners and her happiest days were those when she would join the group at the San Jose Country Club for a day of bridge.

Thursdays and Sundays were always golf days – Thursdays with the women’s group and Sundays with Dad and their friends.  I remember when I went into labor with my first child on Thursday, Mom said she would come to the hospital after she finished her golf game.  Good thing grandmas weren’t allowed in the delivery room because I think my mom was probably on the 16th tee when her first grandchild was born.

In 2012, Mom asked each of the kids and our spouses to join her on her annual trip to Kauai.  I’m so glad we were all able to go as it turned out to be our last time together.

Clara Fitzgerald
My maternal grandmother
Clara Maxine Fitzgerald
Martin Hunter

This photo is exactly how I remember her – a beautiful woman with a twinkle in her eye.  I don’t know what it was about her but she was always so happy and seemed to genuinely love to see us.  Grandma Clara was a chicken farmer – I’ve written about that here – and we loved to spend a day at her house helping with the eggs.  I can still visualize those warm, summer Fresno days sitting at the picnic table out by the garage with her beloved San Francisco Giants playing on the radio in the background.  And we’d help Grandpa load up the eggs into the station wagon for his delivery route and visit with customers who would come by the house to pick up eggs.  Grandma loved to play bridge, too, but I don’t think she was able to play much during this stage of her life as she was all consumed by chickens and eggs.

Loraine Adult
My paternal grandmother
Mildred Loraine Gunzendorfer Levy

Loraine was sure one of a kind but, unfortunately, I don’t think I appreciated that until long after she was gone.  She would always fuss at us – don’t do this, don’t do that – but deep in my heart I know she loved to see us.  When we visited Fresno we always stayed at her house, since Clara’s was too small, and we always had to be careful not to disturb things.  Many times when we’d arrive she would make milkshakes for us with little squares of ice cream – where in the world did those come from?  I remember traveling with her and we always had to arrive at the airport hours ahead of time and sit and wait.  Maybe that’s why I like to arrive at the airport so early?  I remember her ‘clicking’ her teeth (dentures?), playing bridge (that gene stopped with me), and saying “I couldn’t give it much” or “that was bunk” when she didn’t like something.

Sadly, the last time I saw Grandma was in the nursing home about 6 weeks before she died.  While I planned to surprise her with a visit, it got out that we were in town and she knew we were coming.  When we arrived she was sitting in her wheelchair by the front door, decked out in a fancy silk suit, red lipstick smeared on her face, but a big smile nevertheless.  She loved the two little girls I brought with me, her only two great grandchildren at the time.  They used to ask me why she didn’t know her own name because she always asked them “who am I?” so she could hear them shout out “Great Grandma Loraine”!  She sure loved those girls and died with a picture of the two of them in her hands.

Mabel McAboy 1
My maternal great grandmother
Mabel Viola McAboy

Mabel was the only other grandmother I knew.  She also lived in Fresno so we would see her when we visited.  She spent a lot of time helping out with the chickens so we spent time with her while we all cleaned eggs.  I don’t remember much about her except that she always seemed old.  I guess when you’re 10 anyone over 40 is old. 

There are so many other women whom I’ve gotten to know over the last few years but since I never knew them personally, I don’t have any direct memories of them.  But I’m learning about them now – boy, am I learning!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

First Signs of Civilization

Sometimes I run across interesting items in the boxes of items my grandmother held onto throughout her life.  Not just throughout her life, but those before her and those after her, including me.  Today was no exception.

Monterey Argus 30 Jan 1880

Now this would have been an interesting exhibit to see!  Abe Gunzendorfer (my great grandfather) was just 17 years old in 1886 so this was probably a school project or something.  What’s really odd is that this article from the Monterey Argus is actually glued to a piece of paper that someone used as a scratch pad to do some math problems – they couldn’t rely on a calculator in those days.  Maybe someone was trying to figure out someone's age?

Scratch Paper

Abe left quite a few quirky items for me.  I know he spent quite a bit of time putting together a miniature railroad for his family's store, The White House – he even left pictures!

Station and Power Plant

Trestle Scene

Forest Scene

Looks like he was a pretty handy guy! 

Here’s another picture of the train, the A.B.G.R.R (A.B. Gunzendorfer Railroad)

Model Train

And a close of up of the first few cars.

Model Train Cropped

I sure wish I’d known him – it seems like he was an interesting guy!