52 Ancestors: Military


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.

William Gordon McCallum
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.

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.

list of ship and ranks
His World War II service records.

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

William G McCallum
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.

record of entry
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,







52 Ancestors: Another Language


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:

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!

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,





52 Ancestors: Close Up


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.

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.

Ida Gall, after church
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.

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:

I loved seeing the staging of all the kitchen items.
Baking items!
Where she would have cooled her pies.
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!

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,