Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.
Showing posts with label Family letters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family letters. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letters From My Grandfather

In all the letters I have transcribed, there have only been two references to my grandmother, who died in 1938. This is the second in a letter dated April 12, 1943 to my Uncle Johnny:

  " It is difficult for me to speak or write of affection for you or Frank, but I would be a very peculiar parent indeed, if I did not have great affection for both you and Frank and since your Mother's death all of my affection has been given you boys, however inexpressive I have been it just isn't my nature to be otherwise. I am thinking of you boys at all times and of you a particularly large amount of my waking hours since you have been away in the army.  "

Some things run in the family.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Monday, November 15, 2010

How's That for Historical Context?

One of the things I have really enjoyed in transcribing these World War II era letters from my grandfather to my uncle, is the news of everyday life. Whether it is the description of grandpa wading through a sewer in waders up to his armpits, or news of the war effort. In the current letter I am transcribing, grandpa mentions that Packard Motors is building airplane engines. A trip to Wikipedia elicits the fact that Packard was licensed to build the Rolls Royce Merlin engine. This particular engine was used  to power the P-51 Mustangs.

I discovered in earlier letters from my dad's Aunt Bessie and cousin James in Claremont, California, that rationing was much more stringent in California than it was in Detroit in early 1943. I learned my dad had trouble holding jobs as a teenager. That probably doesn't make him different than teens of any era. But since he held his last job 34 years, it is mind-boggling to me. Holding a job during the War years was important, because if you were unemployed and 18 or older, it was an automatic draft notice. Big Brother was watching.

What I haven't learned is who "the bird in the back" was. Grandpa was referring to the tenants in the back bedroom; he was unemployed and facing induction into the army and she was on the nest. And it seems that Frank, my dad, knew everyone's business. Sure wish Grandpa would have spit out that name for me. It's making me crazy and I don't have a Detroit city directory from that era to check it out. I guess that goes on my to-do list for next trip to Library of Michigan or Allen County Public Library.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, November 12, 2010

He Said He Was a Fighter

I'm back to transcribing letters from my grandfather to my uncle and finding lots of tidbits here and there. The latest tidbit was finding out my dad hadn't left his fighting ways behind him in elementary school. In March of 1943, he was fired from a job at Ford Motor Parts division for fighting (the other guy lost his job, too.) The U.S. Employment office gave him a job ticket for Willow Run - a distance of over 25 miles to someone who did not have a car - insurmountable. There has been no subsequent mention of whether or not he went there or not. At the time this letter was written, Grandpa and my dad lived about five blocks from the Fisher Building in what subsequently became the New Center area.

I shouldn't have been surprised at the fight. My dad, when we did our "interview" was up front about his fighting. I think he had given it up by the time he married my mom and we came along. Yeah, he had quite a temper and a BIG voice, but I don't remember any fights.

A letter from cousin James Rankin to my uncle told me that because of the cervical fracture of his neck, James didn't feel any pain, and had some surgery, and actually enjoyed the hospital stay.

One letter, grandpa gives a little geography lesson to Uncle Johnny about Alexandria, Louisiana and references statistics from the 1930 census! Pretty cool for a genealogist to come across something like that in a letter.

Time to get back to the transcribing.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Monday, September 13, 2010

One Project Leads to Another

As I scan and transcribe letters, coming across the rare reference to a family member and the even rarer photograph, I've been contemplating adding to my heritage scrapbook. So far I've worked only on the Percival family, scrapbook-wise, but my thoughts have been straying to the Bowman line and how I might incorporate related lines. I certainly lack photos, but information is more plentiful. To be included in the Bowman line are the Webbs, Rankins, and the Rogerses. The Rogers line is problematical since I have very little information about Mary Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of Hugh & Frances Bowman Rogers, other than her marriage to Charles Bowers. I've been trying to keep a list of whom to include with each family, mostly because I have so little on these related lines. I keep reminding myself it is like working on a yearbook layout, but more fun, but some of it is work organizing and for crying out loud, coordinating papers! Stay tunes.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Walk Down Someone's Memory Lane

Today is Relatively Speaking Day; please be sure to check out "cousin" Karen's blog here.

Now that I am totally immersed in the letters written to my uncle Johnny by various Percival & Bowman family members way back in the World War II era, I have gotten pretty curious about some of the "players" in these letters. First was Bill Badgero. His name was fairly significant to me since I knew he and Janet Dean were the "elopers" that my yet unmarried parents went to Fremont, Ohio with in July 1946. Since my parents also got married on that trip and Bill & Janet returned the witness favor, their name has stuck with me.

The other name that rings a bell, because my parents mentioned this couple often, was Fairchild, more exactly Keith and Loie Fairchild. Keith's parents were the boarding house owners where the male Percivals lived. My mother and aunt also lived at the Fairchild house. Must have been pretty interesting.

I got curious and it appears Bill Badgero died in 1983, no record of his wife; and Keith Fairchild died in May of this year.Wife, Loie still living.

Another name that cropped up was that of Freddy Payne. Freddy played with the Detroit Tigers from 1906-1908 and then with the White Sox from 1909-1911. In 1943, Fred worked as an inspector in my grandfather's department at the Detroit Water Board.

It's fun, like opening a treasure chest to see what is in each letter, what secret will be told, what information can be garnered.

L-R: John Percival, "Bob," and Frank Percival,  1943
I found this gem of a picture, which as grandpa says was the "best of the bunch" and still I had to adjust it a bit. It was taken the evening before Uncle Johnny reported for service.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, September 3, 2010

Letters & Secret Lives

I like to think as a family historian that I have done my part by interviewing my parents many years ago. One of the things I asked both parents were what jobs they had.

One thing I learned when starting the newest scan & transcribe project was that my dad worked for General Motors in the Cadillac Division and the Parts Division before he went into the Navy in 1943. We lived in the Detroit area, I am married to someone who spent 30+ years working for Ford's Steel Division, and in its afterlives, Rouge Steel and Severstal, NA. Did he think that wasn't relevant? Maybe working pulling parts orders wasn't the most interesting job he could have had, but ya think he might have mentioned it? Well, it sure was news to me.

I also learned that in 1943, the Percival men (John Sr., John Jr., and Frank) lived in the Fairchild household. Now I knew they lived there in 1945 and 1946, but I had no idea they lived there in 1943. The interesting thing is that my mother and her sister, Margie also lived there, but I don't know what year they moved in.

In these letters, written by my grandfather, my dad, my grandfather's sister-in-law, Bessie Bowman Rankin, his mother, Helen Maitland Percival, his cousin, James Rankin, Jr., his other grandmother, Elizabeth "Maw-Maw" Bowman, other family members are mentioned. Yay. I am annotating (I love that word) these letters when necessary so that any reader will know the relationship between the writer and John Jr. They are pretty interesting with more interesting stuff to come.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, August 27, 2010

Anticipation - Is Keeping Me Waiting

Okay, now I am anxious to get started on the next project, transcribing letters written to my uncle John S. Percival during World War II. As I've said before, I've taken a sneak peek at them and now that I have other things cleared up I'll be starting the tedious process of scanning, naming, and transcribing them. There aren't as many as my grandfather wrote to my future grandmother, but enough to keep me busy for a while. No doubt some of them will have to be laid flat for a while before scanning begins. Fortunately, they aren't as dusty/musty smelling as the older letters and hopefully won't trigger allergy attacks.

I'll start them as soon as I recover from the Scrapbooking Luau!

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, August 20, 2010

Whew-That's Done! The Calendar Project Revisited and Other Random Things.

Well I am almost done with it. I'm now in the process of finishing up the vital records I found during the search. I'm amazed at how many "closed" people there are now. I'm hoping that over the next few years I can figure out how to fill in the information for those centenarians still on my list. Most of my problems are twentieth century vitals, so I've been adding where possible to my Allen County Public Library Genealogical Collection to-do list. If you are within a day's ride of Fort Wayne, Indiana and have not visited this treasure, make plans to do it soon. It is a wonderful repository of genealogical information.

For a few minutes the other day, I actually had my desk fairly clear, and then I emptied a box that had been sitting on my floor during the great John S Percival letter transcription project. I just had this terrible need to clean it out. Now it's left me with a pile of recyclables and a pile of shredding and a pile of filing. Actually, the box reminded me of cleaning out Older daughter's room after she moved out of state and Younger daughter moved into that room. Once Younger Daughter also moved out, I cleared out the room, we pulled up the carpet, painted, recarpeted and moved me into a new office. That room was 11 x 13 compared to my 6 x 9 foot current office. It's funny, but I like my current office better with my desk positioned under the window facing out. While the lack of space is sometimes inconvenient, I like having everything within a chair scoot. It's in desperate need of  tidying at the moment.


I still haven't embarked on the newest project of scanning and transcribing letters one of my Percival cousins sent home for me. These were letters written to her dad by other family members during World War II. I found myself cheating and taking a sneak peak. I suppose once I finish up the current work-in-progress and tidy up a bit, I'll start the tedious business of sorting, scanning and naming the files and transcribing as I go. There were a couple of surprises as I did my random sampling.

I am trying to organize myself into readiness for a Scrapbooking Luau I've signed up for at the end of next week. I've mostly decided what I want to do and I need to gather all my materials in preparation for that. Hmm. I can't wait!

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Monday, August 9, 2010

Taking a Sneak Peak - More Family Letters

One of my Percival cousins in Holland (Michigan) was kind enough to send me home with a couple of bundles of letters written to her dad, my uncle, during World War II. Among the writers are Helen Maitland Percival and Elizabeth Webb Bowman "Maw Maw", my great grandmothers, my dad's cousin James Rankin, Jr, Mary Percival French, my grandfather Percival's sister, Bess Bowman Rankin, my grandmother Percival's sister and a couple people I don't know. Finally, some other family members are mentioned, and so far I know them all. I wish I was all caught up from vacation so I could sort them all into date order and start copying and transcribing! Looks like I'll need some more binders!

 Born on this date in 1875: Leslie Chinn, son of Christopher Columbus Chinn and Margaret Cordelia Warren.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Monday, July 5, 2010

Takin' a Break

I've been really busy transcribing newspaper articles. Most recently, I've been transcribing murders. See my Thriller Thursdays for the lurid details. I'm also still in the process of proofing the family letters. Wowsa. There are a lot of them. In between times, DH and I have been taking advantage of the slightly cooler, slightly less buggy evenings. Temps have been more in the normal range of 80's rather than 90's and the humidity/dew point has dropped - a lot! In between times, I have been trying to prep for our next trip which is thankfully longer than 2 nights!

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, April 16, 2010

That Stubborn Streak and Other Family Traits!

I will admit that my family has a stubborn streak. Even my kids inherited it, although they come by it from both sides of their family.

In transcribing my grandfather's letters, I am discovering he was pretty single minded himself and stubborn too. It was kind of a relief, because my dad did remember his mother and always said she was a real lady. She may have had a stubborn streak, but it wasn't evident in anything I have ever read.

My point? My dad was really stubborn and according to his recounting, was expelled from the local public schools in Detroit for fighting. So to see evidence that his father was somewhat stubborn explains a lot.

Grandpa was also single-minded in his love for my grandmother and in that too, my father was like his father. Once my parents met, my dad was determined to marry my mother and he did. I don't think the families thought it would last, my mother being Catholic and my father not. My dad eventually converted and my parents were together almost 57 years before my dad passed.

I wish more letters from Grandma had survived, there are only about five. Those date from Grandpa taking the job in Detroit and getting settled in there. I can't wait to get to them.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Project

For the past week, I have been working on transcribing a box of letters written by my grandfather for the most part to his fiancee during his time in the Army during the Great War (that's World War I.)

I was moving along just great, when I realized grandpa had misdated a series of letters. These were letters from January and February 1918 from Betancourt, France. I didn't realize until I got to the first April 1918 letter that he had just then gotten to France and that the others were misdated. It isn't a huge deal, but since I saved the image files as 19180102 JSP to MB (date in reverse order; JSP is grandpa and MB is grandma) followed by a, b, c, d, etc indicating the page. So now I have to find those five letters and rename them, make the correction on the transcribed copy and refile them in correct chronological order.

I've had this box probably for about 3 three years? I'm sure I moved them from Michigan to Tennessee when we moved here. It may even have been a little longer. I am really glad to have them and have enjoyed transcribing them.

I've sorted through the other treasures in that box and will photocopy, preserve and figure out what to do with that stuff too, when I am done with the transcriptions.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Friday, April 9, 2010

Historical Context

As I may have mentioned once or twice (chuckle), I am transcribing letters written by my grandparents to each other during the period of 1917-1919, and in 1927.

Of course, the letters written in the 1917-1919 time frame were written by my grandfather to his fiancee back home. While most of his letters say, he is busy, he is fine, the weather is fine, and Mary's (my grandmother) letters were mighty fine to receive, in some letters, he gives little details of the towns he was billeted in while in France. He resided in Nevers, Recicourt, Betoncourt, and Langres, so far in my perusal of the letters. I discovered  he did not care for either Vin Blanc or Vin Rouge. He was amazed that most of the French dwellings were made of stone with slate or tile roofs.

I was always under the impression that one could not disclose the location where one was stationed. But apparently due to the lack of censoring facilities behind the lines, if you were NOT in the Zone of Advance, you could tell your family where you were.

I think some of his opinions were definitely colored by war, but he was also in France well after the Armistice. Rumors were rampant about the company being sent home, being stationed elsewhere in France, or being sent to Russia.

There is one extremely long letter - 23 handwritten pages - in which he details everything he did since being sent to France. Another letter tells of tensions between the volunteers and the drafted men. Mostly his letters tell of the plans he was anxious to make with his fiancee when he returned home.

Mostly, his letters tell me what it was like for a man missing his girl, his family and being 4000 miles from home in a land where he didn't speak the language.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The "What If" Game

In transcribing the letters my grandparents left behind I've come across a couple of "What ifs."

1. What if my grandparents had moved to Minnesota after their marriage? My grandfather was considering this while stationed in France during World War I. If he had done so, would my parents have met? Not likely. They only met because Grandpa P took a job in Detroit.

2. What if my grandmother had not died at the age of 45? Would my grandfather's attitude towards my mom and dad's marriage have been different?

3. What if my grandmother hadn't died at the age of 45? Would my parents have met? Possibly, but since they met because my mom and aunt were living in the same boarding house as my dad's father, who was a widower, probably not. That means I wouldn't be here either.

I think this What If game is giving me a headache.

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes