Visiting our ancestral towns: Part 2

I love to travel, and I love genealogy. So it was only a matter of time before I combined the two. My mother’s paternal grandparents came from Italy, but we didn’t always know where in Italy. In fact, at one point, I recall my mom saying she thought they came from Florence. I think Sicily was mentioned once before too. But after I started doing genealogy research, I learned they both came from the south of Italy. Francesco Carlo was born in Rosali, Calabria, and Maria Teresa Bianculli was born in Pisticci, Basilicata. After finding their birth records, which also listed their street addresses, the idea of a trip back to Italy was already forming in my mind. It wasn’t difficult to convince my mom and sister to visit this often untouristed area of Italy with me.

Part 1, when we visited the ancestral hometown of my great grandmother, can be read here.

The second part of our trip focused on visiting the ancestral town of my great grandfather. Francesco Carlo was born in Rosali, a small town outside Reggio Calabria, and immigrated to the US around 1902, where he became known as Frank DeCarlo. Prior to our trip I had documented the addresses listed on his and his sibling’s birth records (antenati) and planned to locate them in person.

About 1 month prior to our trip, on a whim, I decided to mail letters to four current residents of Rosali. With the use of the Italian white pages and Google Translate, I wrote a letter explaining who we are, who Francesco Carlo was, and that we were hoping to find relatives. I also mentioned that we would be visiting at the end of September. A few weeks later I received an email from one lady who didn’t think we were related and suggested I contact the church. The next day I received three Facebook friend requests from some Carlos living in the area. I later learned that the lady had shared my letter on Facebook and the three Facebook requests were from people who thought we were related. I emailed a few times with one of them, a young man (GR) who currently lives in Rome but whose father was born in Rosali. I determined we are 3rd cousins. The other two men were father and son (AC and GC) and also 2nd cousin, once removed/3rd cousins to me. All three men are descended from one of Francesco’s brothers, Pietro. Other than a few back and forth emails with GR, and accepting the “friendship” of AC and GC, I didn’t have any other contact with them. My expectation for our trip at this point was that we would go visit Reggio Calabria for a day, then swing by Rosali and try to find the address on Frank’s birth record.

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Once we were in Italy, AC messaged me and asked when we would be in town and if we could meet. I told him our plans for visiting Reggio and Rosali and we made a plan to meet in Reggio. Our comunication had been in English up to this point, but when he arrived, it quickly became apparent that he’d been translating his messages. Thankfully I had the Google Translate app on my phone and we were able to use the conversation feature and my basic Italian to communicate. We arranged a time to meet him later and he went home and got his son, GC (who spoke some English) and some photos. They referred to Frank as “Uncle Ciccio.” They didn’t have any photos of Frank, but had some of his brother Antonino “Nino” who also immigrated to the US. We learned that they have tried to find their family that went to America before but hadn’t been successful.

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The address where my great grandfather was born.

 

They took us to Rosali and showed us the address where our great grandfather was born (the actual house was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1908 devastated the region) and took us inside AC’s father’s house. They showed us more photos, documents with Francesco’s name (some legal something or other I still need to translate), and their father’s passport. We tried to visit the cemetery with them but it was closed. Then they took us to meet Francesco’s 95 year old nephew, CC, the oldest living Carlo from our family. We had brought photos of Frank and his son, my grandfather Thomas, to share with them. We also met GR’s father, who was visiting from Rome.

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After our visit, they returned us to Reggio where we had gelato and coffee with them, and then we said our goodbyes. I went in to the trip thinking we would be some out of place Americans wandering the unmarked streets of Rosali and instead we had family as personal tour guides! I’m so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and mailed those letters.

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The view from my great grandfather’s home.

 

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Visiting our ancestral towns: Part 1

I love to travel, and I love genealogy. So it was only a matter of time before I combined the two. My mother’s paternal grandparents came from Italy, but we didn’t always know where in Italy. In fact, at one point, I recall my mom saying she thought they came from Florence. I think Sicily was mentioned once before too. But after I started doing genealogy research, I learned they both came from the south of Italy. Francesco Carlo was born in Rosali, Calabria, and Maria Teresa Bianculli was born in Pisticci, Basilicata. After finding their birth records, which also listed their street addresses, the idea of a trip back to Italy was already forming in my mind. It wasn’t difficult to convince my mom and sister to visit this often untouristed area of Italy.

Maria Teresa’s family came from Pisticci, and further back some of her relatives came from Montalbano Jonico and Moliterno. Pisticci is a good size, and our Italian skills are basic, so I decided to hire a guide for the day we spent there. I’d already found the birth records for Maria Teresa and her siblings, along with her mother’s death record and parent’s marriage record. Our guides, the husband and wife team Bryan and Valerie, met us in Pisticci. We first went to the city hall. The records they were looking for there weren’t accessible due to someone retiring and no one else being able to access them (such is life in Italy).

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Next we went to the library. They explained that Pisticci is unique in that they keep their birth, death and marriage books at the public library, whereas most towns keep them at city hall, where they may or may not be accessible. Let’s just say, their shelves of these books were a genealogist’s dream come true. These are records that I’ve seen online before, but being able to see the original books in person, was amazing. We flipped through a couple to find our ancestors and posed for a few photos with the books (nerd alert). Before leaving the library they pulled a book off the shelf that documents the surnames and notable people of Pisticci. I believe this was a book likely written by someone for their thesis or similar, something we would not have known about had we gone alone (let’s be honest, we would never have thought to visit the library).

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We walked around Pisticci, stopping by to take photos of the church Maria Teresa’s parents were likely married in. Then we set out to find the address where Maria Teresa’s mother was living when she died, and the address where Maria Teresa was born. The first was in the main part of Pisticci.

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The second, the house of her birth, was in the Dirupo district. This is a part of Pisticci that was built on the site of a landslide that occured in the 1600s. The peasants built on top of the rubble, and all the home were built in a similar style of small, one story white homes with peaked roofs.

We found the house she was born in and snapped some photos. After that we worked our way back toward the main part of town, but not before a shop owner invited us into her store to see the magnets she handpainted. As our guides spoke to her and translated, we learned that she shared one of our ancestral surnames. When she found this out, she proceeded to tell us all about her family! We don’t have any way of knowing if we are distantly related, but you never know!

Our visit to the town of Francesco DeCarlo’s birth is coming in a separate post.

#52Ancestors | At Work

It’s always funny how I discover new things about my ancestors just in time for these 52Ancestors prompts. I’d been researching my mother’s paternal grandfather recently, and while I’ve known he worked in fruit and vegetable markets, it suddenly dawned on me that he wasn’t my only ancestor who did. In fact, three of my four great grandfathers worked in the produce industry in some way.

  1. Francesco “Frank” DeCarlo was born in Rosali, Calabria, Italy but immigrated to the U.S. around 1902. He first lived in New York City, then moved with his growing family to New Jersey. He worked for Joseph Milan Producer Dealer on Little West 12th Street in New York City. One of my mom’s cousins recalls that “Grandpa worked with his brothers in a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in NYC. They distributed to local vendors.”
  2. My mom’s maternal grandfather, James William Warner was a farmer in Delaware.  They raised  hogs and chickens, but he and his wife also grew vegetables and flowers on their farm and sold them at farmers markets.
  3. On my dad’s side, his paternal grandfather, William John Fitzgerald was employed as a produce packer and foreman for the Yakima Fruit Growers Assocaition. The Yakima Valley was known for its fruit industry. My dad’s aunt recalls living amongst apple orchards and playing in warehouses across the street from their house

And what about that 4th great grandfather, the one who wasn’t involved with the produce industry? Edwin Seyler was a miner.

 

 

#52Ancestors | Challenging

When I saw the theme for the week was Challenging, I knew I wanted to write about my Zutavern family, who I have found challenging to research. The head of the family is my 3rd great grandfather, William (Wilhelm) Zutavern, who was born in Germany. According to the 1900 census, he immigrated in 1854. He made his declaration for naturalization in 1856 and his petition was granted in 1859. William himself hasn’t been difficult. It’s his wives and children than have posed the challenge.

Part of the challenge was that both his wives were named Mary, and it wasn’t obvious at first that there were actually two Marys. The other difficulty was inconsistent names for the children and birth and death records that didn’t align.

So of course, before I sat down to write about this family, I figured I’d give it another try and asked for some help on a genealogy group I belong to on Facebook (RAOGK). And what do you know, I solved some of my “problems.” Despite that, there are still some questions.

William first shows up on a census in 1860, with a wife, Mary, and two daughters, Mary and Ann E. His wife is aged 29 and was born in Pennsylvania. Ten years later, in the 1870 census, there are a few more children, and everyone, except for the wife, has aged an appropriate amount of time. Mary is still 29, but now born in Germany. Interestingly, in 1870, a 2nd enumeration of the census was taken, five months after the first. But this time, there are two less children. Mary is still 29 and born in Germany.

1860 Census 1870 Census(June) 1870 2nd Enumeration(Nov) 1880 Census 1900 Census
William-30 William-40 William-42 William-52 William-74
Mary-29 Mary-29 Mary-29 Mary-39
Mary-2 Mary-12 Mary-13
Ann E-8/12
Minnie-9 Amelia-10 Minnie-19 Whilomena Sumner-38
Cath-8 Kate-9 Kate-18
William-6 William-7
Elizabeth-4 Elizabeth-5
Susie-2
Melie-4/12
Tillie-3 Tillie-22
Pauline-1/12

I had previously found a marriage record for William Zutavern to a Mary Hoser in 1870, which led me to believe that his first wife passed in 1870, after the birth of Amelia, but before he remarried (another Mary, because why not be confusing?). This also explained the lack of age progression and the change in birth location from the 1860 census to the 1870 census. After I requested help from the RAOGK Facebook group, I found the death certificate for Mary #1, confirming my theory.

The children were difficult to track due to some name and nickname inconsistencies: Minnie/Amelia/Wilhelmina for one daughter and Amelia/Melie for another. At first I could only find birth records for a few of the children, but only death certificates for others. As an example, Wilhelmina’s birth year was a moving target, ranging anywhere from 1860 to 1868 (death certificate and headstone have different years). At one point, I thought she and Kate might have been twins. I had searched various misspellings of the surname (Cutavern, Zutervan, etc). But it was when I asked for help on the RAOGK group and someone suggested I search with a wildcard (Zut*) that I was able to make a breakthrough. I found even more misspellings or transcription errors for Zutavern. But I also found birth and death records so I could more accurately account for all the children (and found a previously unknown child!). And I found Wilhelmina’s actual birth year was seven years before the birth year listed on her death certificate!

Two of the kids from the “first batch” have their mother listed as Mary Rieg and Mary Rich on their baptism records. One also has their mother’s name listed as “Mary Greek” on their marriage record, which I suspect was the result of a German accent. So Mary #1 was Mary Rieg/Rich. And Mary #2 was Mary Hoser.

I do still have some remaining curiosities:

  1. John Henry was born in May 1871. This was noted on his baptism record. Fritz Max dies Aug 17, 1871 at the age of six weeks. This means a birth of approximately 6 Jul 1871….only two months after John Henry. Not likely in that time period! So why is there a birth and baptism record for John Henry, but not Fritz Max? Are they the same person, with a name change and wrong age at death? It just doesn’t make sense! 
  2. We run into this same situation with Sarah E. and Mary. Sarah’s birth is 29 Mar 1873, taken from her birth record. But Mary, surprise, surprise, doesn’t have a birth record, only death. Her death record states she died on 16 Jul 1873, aged three months, which means a birth of April 1873. Is she the same person as Sarah E, who was born at the very end of March? Was there some reason for changing a name at death (though this didn’t occur with the other children that died)?

After all this record gathering, I determined that William had the following children:

Mary Katherine 1858 1919
Anna Elizabeth 1860 1860
Wilhelmina “Minnie” 1861 1944
Catherine ‘Kate” 1862
William Peter 1863 1899
Heinrich “Harry” 1864 1864
Anna Elizabeth 1865 1874
Susie 1867 1870
Amelia 1870 1870
John Henry 1871
Fritz Max 1871
Sarah E 1873
Mary 1873
Sara Matilda 1877 1914
Rose Pauline “Lena” 1880 1970

 

In addition to the censuses, I was able to track William in city directories and city tax assessments. William and his family lived in the Germantown area of Philadelphia initially, but later in life in the Chester and Ridley Park areas of Philadelphia.

Year Census Tax Assessments City Directory
1860 hotel keeper
1861 lager beer saloons
1862 retailer of liquor
*1863 inn keeper retailer of liquor
1864 retailer of liquor
1865 retailer of liquor
1866 retailer of liquor
1867 tavern
1868 lager beer saloon/wine & liquor dealer, retail
1870 hotel keeper wine and liquor dealer, retail
1872 lager
1880 print works
1889 clerk
1891 flour
1892 feed
1893 flour
1894 feed
1897 paper hanger/laborer
1900 gentleman
*1863 census is the Pennsylvania Septennial Census

Of 13 (or 15?) children, only six lived into adulthood. Mary Reig/Rich (#1) died in 1870; Mary Hoser (#2) died in 1892 of diabetes; William died in 1901 of paralysis. His (unmarked) burial plot in the Chester Cemetery includes his second wife, son William, daughter Wilhelmina, daughter Rose Pauline, a son-in-law, and a 7th person whose relationship I have not identified.

So, a few lessons I learned, which can help with challenging searches:

  • Just because a record isn’t online today, doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow or next year. It’s worth going back and redoing searches to see if anything new turns up.
  • Use the wildcard  * when searching surnames that are often misspelled. I had searched the various misspellings of Zutavern that I knew of, but it turns out there are more. Searching Zut* is what led me to find the “missing” birth and death records.
  • Ask for help.
  • Table or timelines are handy for sorting and comparing data

 

 

#52Ancestors |Earliest

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I’d loosely researched my family tree back in the 4th grade, when it was a school assignment, and then later, as an adult. But I’d always focused on my mom’s family, specifically, her Italian side. About 5 years ago, when my genealogy interest was ignited again, it was with my dad’s family.

My earliest (the 3rd time around) genealogy research started with my paternal grandfather. I’d been visiting my parents for the holiday weekend and for some reason, I had my dad pull out whatever documents and photos he had regarding his father, who had passed in 2007.

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So it all (re)started with this dried up, falling apart birth certificate. Prior to that, I don’t think I even knew that my grandfather had been born in Washington. I’d always assumed it was Montana, since that was where my dad was from. The early research was enhanced by a letter and photos from my great aunt, Lona, my grandfather’s sister. 

William Ray Fitzgerald was born on February 4, 1931 in Yakima, WA, to Grace Martin and William John Fitzgerald. My great aunt Kay says that their mother had wanted a girl to call Patricia, so they called him Pat as a consolation. He was known as Pat in his younger years, but later switched to Bill, when he moved to Montana. As I’ve written before, the family lived in the Yakima area where his father worked in the fruit packing sector. When his father died of pneumonia, Pat, his mother and 2 sisters moved to Renton to be closer to his father’s cousin. The kids were enrolled in Catholic schools. Pat didn’t finish high school, leaving before he graduated. He had been working for a girlfriend’s dad that had some white Lipizzaner show horses and they traveled to Montana for a show and he either stayed or later moved to Montana. He lived in Anaconda in some apartments and worked for the Anaconda Company at the smelter. Somehow he ended up in Butte working in the mines.  

He met my grandmother, Wilma Seyler, we think through their friends, Millie and Philip Aguirre. He and Wilma were married in 1951 in Butte, MT. He was 21; she was 15. Over the next 20 years they had 11 children. Wilma died in 1978 and William later remarried in 1983.

His youngest sister, Kay, recalls that she went to visit Bill in Montana one summer. She said her brother was so proud to show her off. He drove them to his wife’s Uncle Bob’s ranch in “Pete Pickup.” Kay initially sat up front, in the cab, but then moved to the back. It was very dusty going down the dirt roads and at one point they stopped so they could wash their dirty faces in the creek. 

I have few memories of my grandfather. Growing up in a military family, we only lived in the same state as him during my earliest years. I remember his house, his small dog, named Taco, and the doll he gave me. 

#52Ancestors | Legend

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In researching my Dempsey family history, I kept coming across various stories involving a round barn, a Kentucky Derby winning horse and my 4th great uncle. That sure catches the eye, but as I researched, I found that the the truth was likely twisted and misinterpreted several times.

Let’s start with the legends:

One “source” claims that my 4th great uncle, John Dempsey, was the jockey who rode the horse Spokane on his winning romp at the Kentucky Derby in 1889. John would have been 14 at the time, and too young, so the source claims that he used an alias, Thomas Kiley. 

Another “source” claims that Spokane’s career ended when his rider, John Dempsey, was thrown off, and then trampled and killed by Spokane at Garfield Park in Chicago. 

And now for the facts:

Doncaster Barn is a round barn in Twin Bridges, MT, built in 1882 to house race horses. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s claim to fame is as the birthplace of the Kentucky Derby winning horse, Spokane. Spokane was trained here for a few years, then shipped east for race training. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1889, the only horse foaled in Montana to ever do so.

John Dempsey was born to Robert Dempsey, a Montana Pioneer, and “Margaret” Bright Star, a Shoshone Indian, in 1875 near Twin Bridges. He shows up in only one census, in 1880, at the age of five. This is where the official records end, thanks to the missing 1890 census, until he next appears at his death.

Newspapers report that John Dempsey was indeed riding a horse at Garfield Park in August, 1892. But he was riding another horse, Fauntleroy, when he was thrown and trampled by half a dozen horses. He suffered broken ribs, a lung “pressed in” and abdominal injuries. He died 2 days later. His death certificate states he came to his death “from shock and injuries received by being accidentally thrown from the horse Fauntleroy on Garfield Park Race Track Aug 11th, 1892.” 

There is no mention of Spokane being present at Garfield Park and trampling a young jockey that day. But there wouldn’t be, because Spokane was retired to stud two years earlier, in 1890. 

As for the claim that John rode under an alias due to being too young,  according to the records for the Kentucky Derby in 1889, Spokane’s jockey was indeed a Thomas Kiley. However, he was not a young Montanan riding under an assumed name, but a 30 year old from Illinois. The real Thomas Kiley died in 1914 at the age of 55.

All in all, I suspect that John may have had some connection to Spokane, likely the Doncaster Barn. John was born and raised around the Twin Bridges area and his father was known for being good with horses. It is possible that John worked at the barn and maybe even began his jockey career there. Maybe he helped train Spokane. But I think that is likely where the connection ends. 

Lastly, I will add that I have no conclusive proof that the John Dempsey who was trampled to death at Garfield Park that day was my John Dempsey. He was about the right age, but it is a common name. Unfortunately, my John’s life was short, and little else is known about him.

 


File:Doncaster Round Barn 01.JPG. (2016, September 17). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 23:51, June 29, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doncaster_Round_Barn

#52Ancestors | Dear Diary

 

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Pat, Lona and “Pat Dog” – 1938

The prompt for this week, Dear Diary, was a little troublesome, seeing as how I don’t have any journals from ancestors. But I do have a letter that my great aunt, Lona, wrote. She penned the letter shortly after my grandfather died, recounting her memories of their childhood. I’ve taken her words and written them in diary format. I’ve tried to add as little embellishment as possible. And you’ll have to excuse the fact that she would have been very young when “writing” these journal entries. I added some approximate dates to a few entries when known.

Here are the key players:

  • Pat….my grandfather, William Ray Fitzgerald. Pat was his childhood nickname.
  • Daddy….my great grandfather, William John Fitzgerald
  • Mother…. my great grandmother, Grace Martin Fitzgerald.
  • Pal….their dog, a collie
  • Others mentioned are explained in context.

 

December, 1936

Dear Diary,

Pat and I got a new knife and fork set for Christmas. I guess we got a little bored because we took them outside and cut the bark off a young tree. Daddy caught us. He got some strips of fabric and wrapped the bark back around the tree. I hope it lives.

 

May, 1937

Dear Diary,

For my birthday, I got a life size doll with a long pink dress. I cried because I didn’t want it. I had asked for a baby sister. So Daddy drove me to town for a grape soda as a special treat.

 

July, 1937

Dear Diary,

Pat and I went to pick some wildflowers for Mother’s birthday today. There was a snake close to me and Pal barked until Daddy came out and threw a hatchet to kill it. Mother is going to keep the rattler.

 

Dear Diary,

We have to get rid of Pal. A neighbor kid ran a stick on the fence today. Pal jumped the fence and chased the kid, so now we have to get rid of him.

 

1937

Dear Diary,

We’ve moved to Cowiche. Our new house is next to an apple orchard. There’s a barn and a warehouse across the street. We’ve been warned not to go over there.

 

Dear Diary,

Our new neighbor, Gordon Davis, came over today. He wanted to go to the barn across the street, so we did. I dared him and Pat to jump from the loft. Pat bit his tongue almost off when he landed!

 

Dear Diary,

We got a new dog today! His name is Pat Dog. He’s a black water spaniel.

 

Dear Diary,

We went over to the warehouse today. I know we’re not supposed to and we shouldn’t have because Pat stepped on a rusty nail that went straight through his bare foot!

 

Dear Diary,

Today I told Pat to stick a hair pin in a light socket and he did! His hand was pretty scorched after that.

 

Dear Diary,

Aunt Ella, Mother’s youngest sister, came to live with us for a while to finish school.

 

Dear Diary,

There’s a big weeping willow tree in front of the house. We’ve been climbing it and sliding down the branches, landing in Daddy’s hedges. Today Daddy found the big hole we’d made in the hedges.

 

September, 1939

Dear Diary,

I finally got a baby sister! Martha Kay was born this morning!

 

Dear Diary,

Pat and Gordon have been using me as their target for their BB guns. There’s a BB stuck  in my right knee cap.

 

October, 1940

Dear Diary,

Daddy is sick. He went to the hospital.


 

I’ve ended the entries here. Their father died of peumonia 2 days after entering the hospital. He was 51 years old. Pat was 9, Lona was 8 and Kay was 2. The family moved to Renton, WA shortly after that to be near their father’s cousin, Grace.

At the beginning of her letter, Lona describes her father as “a very gentle man” who “would do anything for you.” She wrote that he “would get angry with us but only scold, never spank.” She added that “Mother always let him discipline.”

 

#52Ancestors | Namesake

In thinking about this topic, I realized that everyone in my immediate family has a namesake. My mom is Theresa; her paternal grandmother was Teresa. My sister and I are named after our paternal and maternal grandmothers, Wilma and Mary, respectively. And then there’s my dad, Edwin John (neither of which name he actually goes by). Turns out his maternal grandfather was Edwin, and Edwin’s twin brother was John—–> Edwin John.

So I decided to write about Edwin and John Seyler, my great grandfather and 2nd great uncle.

SeylerHappyWehrleGloomy

John (Happy), Wehrle, Edwin (Gloomy)

Edwin and John were born on November 23, 1909 to Amos and Sarah Irene Seyler. At some point during their lives, they acquired nicknames: Gloomy for Edwin and Happy for John. For some reason, both of their birth years were often listed incorrectly (anywhere from 1908 to 1910, including on a headstone). Also, John shows up as John Seyler Jr. in many records, including his draft registration which he signed as John Seyler Jr. Too bad their father’s name was Amos!

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Twin Bridges, MT Public School, 1920. #120 is John, #121 is Edwin

Edwin and John attended school in Twin Bridges, MT. Edwin’s highest level of education was one year of high school.  They took different paths once in adulthood. Edwin worked first as a miner (1930) and then a carpenter (1940). He married Olive Mae Magee in 1935 and together they had three daughters. When he registered for the draft in 1940, he was working for the WPA Projects. In 1941 Edwin applied for a job with the Northern Pacific Railway Company and was hired as a section laborer at 40 cents per hour. He likely returned to mining later and retired in 1960. John worked as a ranch laborer until he was drafted into the Army in 1942. He served overseas during World War 2 and was honorably discharged on November 24, 1945. He then returned to ranch work.

On their draft cards, both men were blue eyed with brown hair, though John was reportedly 2 inches taller.

John passed in 1978, Edwin in 1987.

 

#52Ancestors | Military

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There are so many of my ancestors who served in the military. I’ve chosen to write about my 2nd great-grandfather, Patrick Henry Magee. I’ve written a little about his parents and his family before. Patrick was born in Utah in 1888. He moved to Montana with his family by young adulthood and became a plumber. He married Olive Francis Smith at the age of 22. Together they had 3 children: Walter, Olive Mae and Joseph. Sadly, his wife passed away after 5 years of marriage, leaving him with 3 small children.

The following year, on July 19, 1917, Patrick enlisted in the Forestry Regiment of the US Army.1 By December, he was part of Company A of the 30th Engineers (1st Gas Regiment) and the day after Christmas, he shipped out of New Jersey, aboard the President Grant, headed for Brest, France.2 During the trip, the ship narrowly avoided a torpedo; the German submarine that attacked was sunk. The President Grant arrived in Brest on January 10th, 1918. The troops took a train to Wizerns, then marched to Helfaut where they began 5 weeks of training.3 Though he was part of the 1st Gas Regiment, Patrick served as a cook.

Here is a video of the US 102nd infantry cooks preparing meals for troops during World War 1 at Vailly in France (not Patrick’s unit). It shows them preparing food, loading it into horse drawn carriages and delivering it to soldiers in the trenches.

Here is the Manual for army cooks, 1917 that Patrick may have used. It includes regulations for rations, preparation and sanitation of food, mess management, field cooking, and of course, recipes (that make 100 servings).

From September 26, 1918 until the Armistice on November 11, 1918, Patrick’s unit was involved in the Argonne-Meuse Operation.3 This was part of the final Allied offensive of World War 1 and helped to bring an end to the war.

Patrick returned back to the States on February 2, 1919 and was honorably discharged at the end of the month.4 He returned home to Montana and his children (who’d resided at the Children’s Home in his absence) and resumed his plumbing career. He never remarried. He was an active member of the local American Legion and served as Vice Commander of the Post. He died in 1951 at the age of 62. He is buried in the veterans section of Sheridan Cemetery in Sheridan, MT.


  1. The Daily Missoulian, Missoula, MT. Eight more sign for service in Army yesterday. 18 Jul 1917, page 2. Online database: Newspapers.com, accessed 7 Jun, 2019. 
  2. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 533 U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. Online database: Ancestry.com. 
  3. Addison, James Thayer. The Story of the First Gas Regiment. Houghton Mifflin company, Boston and New York, 1919. Accessed via archives.org on 6 Jun, 2019. 
  4. Military Enlistments (Montana), World War I, (LODE-MCIVER), image 830. Montana. Adjutant General’s Office; Montana. National Guard. Online database: mtmemory.org, accessed 6 Jun, 2019. 

#52Ancestors | Road Trip

I’ve previously written about an epic road trip along the Oregon Trail. This time, I’m writing about a  much shorter and more modern road trip.

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Lona, Grandma Grace, Pat at Mount Rainier

This was a trip taken by my grandfather, William Ray “Pat” Fitzgerald, his parents, William John and Grace, and his younger sister, Lona in 1937. Sister Martha wasn’t born until two years after this trip. Pat, as he was called back then, was about six years old at the time of this trip. Lona was five.

The family was living in Cowiche, WA at that time. They motored over to Paradise Park in Mount Ranier National Park. Their home was about 107 miles from Paradise Park. Today that would take about 2 hours, 45 minutes to travel; I suspect it would have taken longer back in 1937. Did they go for a day trip, an overnight, or maybe even a long weekend? I’ll probably never know. Unfortunately, I don’t have any details about that trip, just these photos, which were labeled and given to my parents by Lona, who has since passed. My great grandfather was likely the one behind the camera, given that he isn’t in any of the photos.

Lona and Pat posing with a small guitar (ukelele, maybe?) by a tree. Was it their instrument, or their fathers? Was it just a prop?

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The caption on this one says “Pat with salt shaker.” It looks more like a soda can to me, but Lona labeled it as a salt shaker. Why is he holding a salt shaker? Did they pack their own provisions for lunch and bring the salt with them? If so, why is he seemingly holding it here, with no food in sight? His expression looks like he is watching something, tentative. I love his suspenders. He is wearing them in other photos I have of him too.

I previously wrote about how they acquired their car here.