52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Father’s Day

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In 1972, my dad traveled Europe with his friend for nearly three months. We had his photo albums sitting on our bookcase growing up, and we would hear some stories about his visits. However, my favorite story was uncovered through letters given to me about my grandma died.

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My dad wrote countless letters home during his visits, and in one he told a particularly colorful story of how he acquired a mug from the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany.

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He wrote to his parents how his friend and fellow traveler Randall and another guy they had met distracted the security guard so my dad was able to swipe a mug. This story was never retold. In fact, after my dad died and my mom sold our childhood home, the mug was donated to Goodwill. We had no idea the mug was acquired in such a way!

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Most of the letters are filled with details of his travels, like being able to see the Grateful Dead in concert or how much his luggage weighed (which is so my dad). My grandma saved every letter, every postcard, and ticket stubs and other items. One letter even includes a sample of European toilet paper (or as my dad wrote, we know it as wax paper).

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I am glad you wrote all these letters, so we had these stories to read after you passed.

You can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

And you can follow along on Instagram as well: @familyhistoryfood.

Until next time,

Meredith

 

 

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52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Going to the Chapel

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For Oregonians wanting to run off and get married, Washington is a short jaunt across the river, where you can get married with no waiting period. Three generations of my family went to Vancouver and were wed.

The first instance I remember clearly, the marriage of my paternal aunt Susan. We had a family gathering at our house, and my aunt wanted to show a video, which turns out was  of her wedding.

 

I had never seen my grandma so mad. I was six at the time, and didn’t really know what the big deal was, but now I know that because of that wedding my aunt lost the ability to claim her dad’s social security benefits.

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They remained married for 26 years, until Roger’s death in 2014.

The second marriage was of my paternal grandma and her first husband.

Veva with first husband, Edmond _Chad_ Comstock
I assumed my grandma destroyed all photos of her with her first husband, but after she died my aunt found this hidden behind another picture in a frame.

My grandma was only 17 at the time, and her new husband Chad had just turned 23. She would later tell me she was too young, but would also only refer to him as “the bastard,” even when I was a kid. I am not sure about their marriage, but their divorce had a lot of hostility.

They had one son, David, born on their third wedding anniversary. Chad and Veva divorced in 1946, and she married my grandpa Gerald Eby the following year. Chad remarried in 1948.

Veva Crowe and Chad Comstock marriage

The final marriage is that of my great-grandparents.

Myrtle Sanford and Chester Crowe

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Obviously as a genealogist I love their marriage certificate the most, because it lists addresses, parents names, and even occupation. Their witnesses were Myrtle’s sister Eva Sanford Lebengood and her husband, Carl.

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Chester and Myrtle remained married for 54 years, until Chester’s death in 1972.

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

And you can follow along on Instagram as well: @familyhistoryfood.

Until next time,

Meredith

52ancestors

52 Ancestors: So Far Away

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I have written before about my mysterious great-grandfather, and my efforts to learn more about him. John August Gall has been a tough person to research. I know he was in the Prussian Army and had a photo taken in Danzig (now Gdansk).

John Gall in Prussian Army uniform
John August Gall.

However, we actually have a couple items that he brought with him to the United States, one being a steamer trunk. This trunk came from Germany to the U.S., ending up in San Diego, where it remained for many years. My mom had the trunk shipped to Oregon in 1990, where it now lives with us.

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It is beat up, has a broken handle, and a quite lovely musty smell, but all those things have stories behind them.

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But the most interesting part is the inside, where my great-grandfather glued photos, cartoons, advertisements, and even cigar bands throughout. If nudity offends you, scroll down past the first image.

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My mom always wanted to display the trunk, but was afraid the parents of our friends would not approve.

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We have no idea who the woman in the photos are. John Gall was divorced when he married my great-grandmother, so it may be her.

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Some of the items have dates (and his name!), so we know that he was here for a while before he married by great-grandma in 1912.

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My goal is to photograph and research each item, as one of them may hold a clue to who John Gall was.

This is just a sample of what is in the trunk! If you see anything that stands out to you, please let me know!

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

Until next time,

Meredith

 

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52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Military

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I wrote a post here about my great-grandfather Chester Crowe, who served for the United States Army during World War I. He passed some of his records to my grandma, who left them for me, so I am lucky to have to have them.

Both of my grandpas also served the country during World War II. My paternal grandpa served in the U.S. Coast Guard, both in Washington’s Puget Sound and in New York harbor.

My maternal grandpa, however, served in the Merchant Marines. He joined after having to drop out of the college due to the Depression.

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William Gordon McCallum. This photo (in this exact frame) has always been displayed in our home.

My mom had heard stories of his travels throughout the world. We even have some momentos: trunks and dolls from Japan, a doll from India, coins from Egypt.

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A doll from India, which is stored away while our home is under construction.

A couple years ago, my mom acquired his service records. It was incredible to see his travels in print.

His records show his service in World War II, entering into active duty on 22 June 1942, and being discharged on 18 April 1945. The records also list his rank and which ship he was on, and any decorations, medals, badges, and citations.

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His World War II service records.

There is also a picture and many places with his signature.

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William Gordon McCallum, from his Merchant Marines service record.

The records do not show specifically where he was sent, but do show where he left port and returned, usually for three month periods.

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Example of William Gordon McCallum’s Record of Entry.

My grandfather remained in the Merchant Marines after the war, until the early 1950’s. Until the 1970’s he kept up with his certifications, and remained in the shipping industry until he retired.

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

Until next time,

Meredith

 

 

 

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52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Another Language

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As I have mentioned before, my mom’s side of the family were rather new arrivals to the United States. As such, many of the documents I encounter are in another language.

On my maternal grandma’s of the family, her father John August Gall was born in Germany (exact location TBD), and her mother Ida Catherine Borchert was born in Michigan but conceived in Germany.

In my research on my maternal line, I come across a lot of German.

Hermann Peter Borchert birth certificate
The birth certificate of my 2x great-grandfather, Hermann Peter Borchert, born 13 December 1860 in Luxembourg.

Hermann’s mother, Catharine Genot, had her roots in Luxembourg, which makes for a fun bit of research. Her birth record, due to changing borders, is actually in French:

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The birth record of Catherine Genot, both in Luxembourg on 5 April 1839.

The layout is similar, which makes for (somewhat) easier research. I cannot read French or German, but I can pick out names and dates.

The Luxembourg records I have found listed both the mother and the father, which is (obviously) very handy when researching family history!

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The birth record of Catherine’s father Francois, born in 1802.

 

So my tips for researching in a language you do not read or speak:

  1. Look for familiar words. Names are probably the easiest to pick out.
  2. Focus on typed words. In these Luxembourg records, the registrar is simply filling in a form, so it helps to focus on words that you can clearly read (and maybe pop into Google translate).
  3. DO NOT rely on Google translate for the whole record, however. It will commonly translate strange things. One or two words, yes, but not the whole document.
  4. Ask for help! I am always surprised how much someone can remember from a language they only studied in high school.

That’s all for this week! Not too much, but I am looking forward to next week’s prompt: military!

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

Until next time,

Meredith

 

 

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52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Close Up

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On our trip to San Diego three years ago, my mom’s cousin wanted to take us to the Marston House, a historic site in San Diego’s Balboa Park that is also a part of our own family history.

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Marston House, San Diego.

My great-grandma, Ida Gall, actually worked for the Marston family as their pastry chef in the late 1940’s and into the 1950’s.

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Ida Gall.

Our family took a tour and were able to see the kitchen she baked in. My mom’s cousin remembered going with her dad to pick up her grandma and standing in the entry, but never went any further in the house.

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The kitchen at the Marston House.

It was such a unique experience to stand where she once worked. The kitchen was styled in such a way where I could picture the time period and her working away in the kitchen.

A few pictures:

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I loved seeing the staging of all the kitchen items.
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Baking items!
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Where she would have cooled her pies.
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My mom and her cousin Bobbie, standing in the Marston House kitchen.

Visiting the Marston House uncovered another family story. My mom inherited a rather large dining room table when I was young, and it is believed that the table came from the Marston family. These chairs in the kitchen of the Marston home match the set! We were able to hear about the table, which was listed on a shipping manifest but those who work there had no idea what happened to it. If it is the table (we are pretty sure but cannot guarantee it), Theodore Roosevelt once ate at it!

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These chairs match the set we had growing up, which now reside with my sister’s family.

My mom always wondered why the table was so low, so much so that she had to put lifts on the legs so anyone could sit at it. We learned that Mrs. Marston was rather petite lady, and the table would have been made for her. It was incredible to hear the story behind the table set!

Visiting the Marston House gave our family a better sense of who Ida Gall was, and we were able to hear a side of her we didn’t know! Family history is so much more than researching documents, and if you are able, it can be really rewarding to visit places your ancestors lived or worked.

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

Until next time,

Meredith

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52ancestors

52 Ancestors: Cemetery

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Every Memorial Day weekend I would make a trip with my paternal Grandma to the cemetery where my grandpa and her parents were buried. We would leave flowers (always pansies for my great-grandma Myrtle). I have been there so many times I know exactly where the cemetery is, and where they are buried. I could probably find the cemetery where my maternal grandparents are buried in Washington, and I know they are in the mausoleum.

Cemetery visits were always common for our family when on vacation, so when my mom and I went to San Diego three years ago we spent a few hours with my mom’s cousin visiting cemetery’s. We had visited a couple of the sites when I was a kid, but the pictures I had were dark and I had a hard time reading the information on the gravestones.

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A better shot of my great-great-grandparents headstone in Mount Hope Cemetery, my main cemetery goal when visiting San Diego. (And I do have one sans flowers, since they block Herman’s month of death.)

On our trip we did some genealogy, so I had a notepad and a file to make notes and keep everything together. There was only one cemetery where I had to look up a location, because my mom’s cousin was able to lead us to the rest.

I am a visual person, so not only did I take direct shots of the headstones, but I also took photos of identifying information, like a tree or building nearby, so I would have a reference point.

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A larger monument in the background of my great-grandparents gravesite.
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The headstone of my great-grandparents, buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego.

Sometimes the gravesites didn’t have a notable landmark nearby, but I took distance shots. One such instance was at the grave of my great-grandma’s sister, at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. The cemetery was split, so only one side overlooked the ocean, so I got that in the background.

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The gravesite of Pauline Borchert Coombs, which overlooks the Pacific.

Visiting cemeteries may not be fun for everyone, but they can be a wealth of information!

If you are interested, you can find the rest of my 52 Ancestors posts my clicking the tag at the top of the post.

Until next time,

Meredith