Saturday, August 16, 2014

SNGF: My Genea-Bucket List

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is to create and share my genealogy bucket list. Specifically, he asks...

What is on your Genealogy Bucket List? What research locations do you want to visit? Are there genea-people you want to meet and share with? What do you want to accomplish with your genealogy research? List a minimum of three items--more if you want! Tell us about it in a blog post.....

This isn't something I've actually thought much about. I've got lots of research questions, but they don't seem to be what Randy's looking for. I'll list a few places I'd like to go and people I'd like to meet, in no particular order.

1. I'd like to do a leisurely research trip from Missouri to Virginia, backtracking my maternal ancestors' migration pattern and spending time in the places where they lived. All of her lines appear to have followed fairly similar routes, so I should be able to answer a few of my research questions.

2. I'd like to spend some time researching in Texas....and possibly meeting some of my paternal relatives. I've never met any of my father's kin or had any luck getting them to respond to my letters and calls. But as far as I can tell, there are still a bunch of them in Texas.

3. I'd like to travel to several areas in Sweden and to the Åland Islands, where my husband ancestors came from. He has a cousin who still owns the old family home on Föglö, which I'd love to see.

4. At some point, I really need to publish all of the research I've been doing for 40+ years. It would be fantastic if I could come up with a meaningful way to share all this information with my kids and cousins--a way that might actually interest them. I've done several short individual stories to send to my maternal side cousins every other year, but can't seem to get my head around pulling everything together. It might help if my papers and files were more organized, but that doesn't seem like a valid bucket list item.

5. Unlike Randy, I don't have any great desire to attend any more large genealogy conferences. I've found to ones I've attended (FGS, NGS, RootsTech) quite disappointing and don't think they're worth the time or money. I would, however, like to attend one of the genealogy institutes for a week, preferably one taught by either Tom Jones of Elizabeth Shown Mills.

I've shared my genea-dreams. What are your's?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

SNGF: Elementary School Memories

Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge for this week is to share some elementary school memories. I've noticed that the first two responders posted multiple appropriate photos with their blog posts, but I'm not that organized and don't have the energy to go looking for photos to scan. So....

I was an Army brat until the summer before 4th grade. I was supposed to start kindergarten in Groton, Massachusetts, but refused to go. Kindergarten must not have been compulsory back in 1953, because my Mom apparently humored me and let me stay home with my little brother.

The next summer we were transferred to Vint Hill Farms Station, near Warrenton, VA. When we lived there it was out in the country. Now it's practically part of Washington, D.C. and is a private development. I rode a school bus with my older brother and sister to the elementary school in Warrenton, VA. My recollection is that it was an older brick building with a primarily dirt playground and an annex on the far side of the playground with an auditorium and some more classrooms. I must have attended that school for three years, until my Dad retired from the US Army in June 1957. My only memories of grades 1-3 are:
  1. My first grade teacher was mean. She would make us "nap" with our heads on our desks. One hand had to be draped over the edge of our desk. She would walk around and lift our fingers to see if we were asleep. If we weren't, she'd rap us with her ruler. Not a fond memory.
  2. The first of May was a big deal. The older kids did a "May Pole Dance" with fancy costumes and there was a program that included a minstrel show. My older brother had to put charcoal on his face to be in the show. Even at age 8 I thought it was stupid.
  3. One time we got caught in a hurricane while on the school bus heading home. The bus flipped and my brother's mouth was bleeding all over. The boy next to me broke his arm and the bone was sticking out. I don't remember getting hurt, but I do remember being scared out of my wits!

In 1957 we moved to State College, PA (home of Penn State) and rented a small house on Aiken Place. The town had just built a big new high school, but was woefully short on elementary schools, so I attended 4th grade in one wing of the high school. My younger brother, older sister and I walked to school through a little "pocket park," down a hill and across a huge field. My teacher was Mrs. Torkelson, who I've always remembered fondly. Somewhere I still have a postcard she sent me the next summer when she was on a trip to the west coast. Imagine my astonishment when I read her obituary in The Seattle Times a few years ago. Since 1977 I have lived about 2 miles from where she was living when she died. If I'd only known.....

The summer of 1958 my parents purchased a home across town from the rental house. It was HUGE--6 bedrooms, 2.5 baths--partly unfinished on a huge lot that had no landscaping, just lots of wild blackberries. My folks got a great deal on the house because the builder went too far in debt and couldn't finish it. We lived there until after I was out of the house. Corl Street Elementary school was just a long block from that house, down a pleasantly treed path and across the playground from our house. For 5th grade I had Mr. Cox and for 6th grade I had Mr. Lee. Mr. Cox became principal the year after he taught my class and Mr. Lee had a heart attack while teaching my class. We must have been a challenge. I remember Mr. Lee having a terrible temper. One time he got so mad at a kid who was sassing him that he picked the kid up and then threw him down to the floor. That stunt was quickly followed by a heart attack. We had subs for a long time after that. After my mother died in 1996 I discovered a book about the early families in Centre County that was written by Mr. Lee. Pity I hadn't discovered genealogy yet when I was in 6th grade.

I was always into sports. Neither of my brothers (one older, one younger) ever had any interest in athletics; nor did my sister. But my Dad had been a semi-pro bowler and I think had played every sport available to him growing up. He tried to sneak me onto the Little League team, but no girls were allowed. The boys my age wanted me to play; the parents wouldn't allow it. But I always got to be the pitcher when we played during or after school. And the boys always came knocking at the door when they wanted to get a pick-up game going.

My Dad started me bowling when I was 8 or 9. He started the "Bantam" league at the local bowling alley in State College. He would take me out to the alleys around noon on Sundays (the PA Blue laws didn't allow them to open on Sundays) and make me practice picking up spares. I didn't mind, except when he gave me too much advice. Then I'd get ticked off and throw a straight ball--not the hook he had taught me--and invariably get a strike or pick up the spare. The first year I won the high average trophy for my 99 pin average. Not bad for a 9-year-old.

I don't remember liking any particular subjects. I read voraciously in grade school, finishing all of the Hardy Boy, Nancy Drew, and biography books in our school library. According to my sister, I was always "Miss Goodie Two Shoes" and vying for teacher's pet. I don't remember it that way, but it was probably true. When we were young, she was the boat rocker (a year ahead of me in school) and I was the "good" kid.

I was in the Brownies and then Girl Scouts. Each of our mothers helped us with a different badge. Carol Confer's mom was a home ec teacher and did the sewing badge with us. The sock darning was a bit tedious, but I loved the rest of it. My mom taught the music appreciation badge. In hindsight, that was really amazing. She had a tin ear and knew nothing about music. My Dad subscribed to some "great music" records, so she just read the descriptive information and played the records for us. I don't remember what other badges we did, but I stayed in the Girl Scouts all the way through high school, was a troop leader in college and grad school, and again when my daughter was old enough to join.

I'm impressed that others can remember who their best friends were in each grade. I can't. Not a clue. After we moved to Metz Ave. in 1958, there was a big bunch of us who were together through high school. We had a group of 5 or 6 girls who did all sorts of things together, but I don't remember any one of them being my best friend.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

SNGF: Ahnentafel Roulette

Once again, Randy Seaver of Geneamusings blog, has posted his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) challenge, and I'm tired enough from gardening to need some respite. So.....

1. What year was one of your great-grandfathers born? Divide this number by 80 and round that number off to the nearest whole number. This is your "roulette number."

My father's father's father, Alvah Clyde SHARP, was born in 1871. 1871/80 = 23.39, rounded off to 23. I'm beginning to suspect that everyone's number is going to be 23.

2. Find the person in your ahnentafel chart with that number. Who is that person and what is her vital information?

Number 23 is my father's mother's mother's mother, Elizabeth MOHR, b. 17 Dec 1838 in Germany, d. 1 Mar 1888 in Houston, Texas. She married Herman SONNEN in New Orleans, Louisiana, ca. 1858.

3. Tell us three facts about that person.
4. Write about it in a blog post....

I don't know a lot about Elizabeth, but I'll see if I can come up with 3 facts.
   * Elizabeth and Herman had at least 9 children born between 1860 and 1879.
   * The family moved from New Orleans to Houston between February 1871 and March 1873, based on children's birthdates.
   * Elizabeth is buried in the family plot in Washington Cemetery, Houston, Texas. Her maiden name is misspelled "Moore" on the tombstone.
   * At the time of Elizabeth's death in 1888, she apparently still had relatives living in New Orleans and St. Louis, Missouri, as her very short obituary in the Houston Post ends with "New Orleans and St. Louis papers please copy."

I have tried numerous times over the years to identify Elizabeth's family with no success. If anyone has any suggestions for finding them, please let me know.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

SNGF: Semi-Random Research

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is to do a little semi-random research.

1) We're going to do a little bit of Semi-Random Research tonight...
2) Go to your family tree database of choice (you know, like RootsMagic, Reunion, Ancestry Member Tree), and determine who the very first person on your list of C surnames is. Or the first person on your list of J surnames. Or P surnames. Or any other name you need to research. Your choice!
3) What do you know (or not know) about this person based on your research? It's OK to do more research if you need to - in fact, it's encouraged!
4) How are you related to this person, and why is s/he in your family tree?
5) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook Status post or Google+ Stream post.  

So...I opened up my FTM2014 Swicegood database, which focuses on my maternal lines, and selected the letter "E".
The first person under "E" was "Sarah E".
No last name listed.
So I went to that name in my database and discovered that I had neglected to enter the Surnames for most of the children of Levi Henry BROOKSHIRE (1854-1923), a first cousin of my great-grandfather, Charles Christopher BROOKSHIRE (1872-1947). I never met Pop Brookshire, but his wife was my idol growing up, so I heard lots of stories about him.
The only information I had on "Sarah E Brookshire" was a birthdate of May 1888 in prob. Cooper Co., MO, based on the 1900 census.
Searching Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Mocavo, I did not find any additional information on Sarah E Brookshire from Cooper County, Missouri.
She is not listed with the family in the 1910 US Census in Elbert County, Colorado. I did not find any records for her in Elbert County, Colorado (or elsewhere in the state). One of her brothers, Houston George "Hugh" Brookshire was living in Clayton, Norton Co., Kansas in 1915, so I also searched Kansas records. Nada.

Since Sarah seemed to be a dead-end, I decided to see if I could fill in some blanks on her parents, Levi Henry BROOKSHIRE and Alice Orena DAVIS and their other children. FindAGrave proved to be a great resource for this family. I spent the better part of two hours following links to various family members on FindAGrave and verifying the birth/death dates through Ancestry and FamilySearch.

I'm too lazy to list everything I found on this family. Suffice it to say, it was a couple of hours well spent.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

SNGF: My Father's Mother's Paternal Line

It's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) night again. Randy Seaver's challenge for tonight is to answer the following questions:

1)What was your father's mother's name?
2) What is your father's mother's patrilineal line? That is, her father's father's father's ... back to the most distant male ancestor in that line?
3) Can you identify male sibling(s) of your father's mother, and any living male descendants from those male sibling(s)? If so, you have a candidate to do a Y-DNA test on that patrilineal line. If not, you may have to find male siblings, and their descendants, of  the next generation back, or even further.
4)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, or in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook or Google Plus post.

1) My father, Alva Curtis SHARP (1917-1978), was the second son of Harold Herbert SHARP (1893-1934) and Virginia Corine MELDRUM (1896-1980).

2) Virginia MELDRUM's paternal line is as follows:
     -father = David James MELDRUM, Jr. (1867-ca.1908)
     -grandfather = James Braithwaite MELDRUM (1840-1876)
     -great-grandfather = David MELDRUM (1819-1901)
     -gggf = Unknown

3a) Virginia MELDRUM had two brothers and one sister:
     -John Harvey Sonnen MELDRUM (1899-1989) married at least twice, but I don't see any sign of children from either marriage in census or other records. The obituary I have for him is minimal, thanks to his being a member of the Neptune Society.
     -Curtis Braithwaite MELDRUM (1904-1975) married Gladys W. WOOLLEY in Harris County, Texas in 1930. They had two daughters. No Y-DNA there.

3b) Stepping back a generation, David James MELDRUM had two brothers and a sister.
     -William L. MELDRUM (1869-?) I lose after the 1900 census, when he's living with his mother, who is now on her third marriage. He is now 30 years old and still single, working as a gardener (following his father's and grandfather's occupation).
     -John H. MELDRUM (1870-1894) died unmarried of tuberculosis.

3c) Stepping back yet another generation, James Braithwaite MELDRUM only had one brother, William MELDRUM, who died just before his first birthday back in Leeds, England, before the family emigrated to the United States.

4) You're reading my blog post, which turns up ZERO candidates for MELDRUM Y-DNA from my father's mother's line. Bummer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

SNGF--What did your father love to do?

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver is as follows:

1) It's Father's Day in the USA on Sunday, so let's talk about our fathers.
2) What did your father really like to do in his work or spare time? Did he have hobbies, or a workshop, or did he like sports, or reading, or watching TV?
3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

My father, Alva Curtis Sharp (1917-1978) was one of those people who was good at everything he did. I'm guessing that if he tried something and wasn't any good at it, he didn't do it again. He spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and told stories about hustling bowling back in Texas when he first enlisted. He'd hang out at the base bowling alley, rolling right-handed. When some poor unsuspecting GI would come by and challenge him to a game, he'd switch to bowling left-handed and crush him. I remember him telling me about being a "semi-pro bowler" at some point, but have no idea exactly what that meant or how old he was then. When Dick Weber came to State College on some sort of PBA tour, my Dad was greeted as an old friend. He helped establish the bowling leagues at the bowling alley in State College and volunteered to start a junior league (which I participated in). At one point, he bowled in 4 different leagues, including a traveling league that bowled all over central Pennsylvania. He entered many state and regional tournaments. He had an impressive collection of trophies, one of them almost three feet tall. Mine were neither as numerous nor as impressive.

Dad was also a baseball player in his youth. Unfortunately, neither of his sons had any interest in sports. But I did. He would play catch with me for hours and tried to sneak me onto a Little League team. Unfortunately, girls were not allowed on Little League teams in those days (late 50s/early 60s), so I was relegated to beating the boys on the playground. And going to Pittsburgh Pirate games with him. Forbes Field was a good three hour drive from State College, but we would drive down there at least once each summer and take in a game, always stopping at a little diner for pie and coffee/pop both directions.

He also liked to watch the Friday night fights on TV. I never appreciated his interest in boxing and wished we could watch just about anything else.

And after us kids were out of the house, he took up golf. Actually, he had played golf when we lived in Japan (1950-52) and he was stationed in Korea. The only present I remember him picking out for me was a starter set of golf clubs when I took golf as a phys ed elective in college. I still have them. When I returned to State College for grad school, he and Mom had moved out to a townhome on a golf course. We would walk out their front door in the early evening and play four holes. Mom's rule was that if you swung three times and didn't hit the ball, you could pick it up and throw it. Obviously she was not the athlete in the family!

Dad was always into woodworking. While he was still in the Army, he would use the Base shop. Once he built a "hi-fi cabinet" with inlaid top. I have no idea what happened to that cabinet. When we bought our house in State College, he set up a shop in the basement and built my Mother a complete dining room set--sideboard, table, chairs. Later he added a tall china hutch with glass shelves and lighting so that she could display her pressed glass collection. He also built a set of end tables. For some reason, everything he built was made of cherry wood, apparently one of the more difficult woods to work with. I inherited the end tables and china hutch and hope to pass them down to our kids.

Another of Dad's early hobbies was photography. He apparently had a full portrait photography set up when we were in Japan. I'm not sure what happened to all the photos; I only have a few of them. But I do have a box of glass slides of photos he took in Korea. All are carefully labeled in his tiny handwriting.

Dad also worked with my older brother to build an amazing HO gauge model railroad layout. Charles was written up in Model Railroader for both his layout and some of his scratch-build structures. I know Dad built the supporting structure and I think he also painted the backdrop. I know he had a brass locomotive that he had purchased in Japan, so model railroading must have been an interest of his long before we moved to Metz Avenue in 1958.

Some of Dad's hobbies came out of necessity. After he took up golf, Arrow quit making the two-pocket shirts Dad preferred. Since he was a lefty, he needed a pocket on the right for his cigarettes. So he taught himself to sew and made his own shirts. One of his projects at work required highly precise glass lenses. He wasn't satisfied with what the techs at work made, so he did his own glass grinding. He also bought a lathe and made some sort of supports for another work-related project. Since most of his work was top secret, we rarely knew what he was working on.

After his first heart attack, Dad decided that he needed some more passive hobbies. That was about the time Rosie Greer's book Rosie Greer's Needlepoint for Men was published. He talked Mom into signing up for a needlepoint class and went with her. Of course, his sampler was perfect; Mom's was more normal. He also took up weaving. Of course he couldn't just buy a simple table loom. He built his own. He built 3 floor looms (one never actually finished) and a tapestry loom and wove some very nice pieces.

But Dad wasn't all work. He loved to tease kids. I remember a family we knew through his work. They had two boys (the older one was the same age as my younger brother) and then a little girl. Dad teased her mercilessly, trying to convince her that she was a little boy. I'm sure he would have done the same with our kids, but he didn't live long enough to meet them.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Keystone Radio School in WWII

My mother was a WAC. According to her “Report of Separation,” she enlisted on February 3, 1943 in Los Angeles, California. She had been a comptometer operator in civilian life, working for the Soil Conservation Service in Columbia, Missouri.[1] The Army trained her as a “radio operator” at the Keystone Radio School in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

After my mother died, I found a photo album she had created of her time in Hollidaysburg. There is curiously little written about this place. In several years of searching, I have found only one newspaper mention of this school:


Mom’s album says she arrived in Hollidaysburg on April 7, 1943 for Class 1-W. The first photo in the album is labeled “Highland Hall, Ye Olde School.”

She labeled a photo of Duncan House as “Barracks-Keystone Style.”

From the photos in the album, it’s clear that this radio school wasn’t exactly all work and no play. There are lots of candid photos of her classmates, both at the school and visiting the town, a carnival, and on various outings. This photo is labeled “WAACs resting in front of Highland Hall.”


There’s also a whole series of photos of the women marching.....

But most of the photos in her album are of the women she trained with. In one photo, she identifies the women in her unit. I have tried to track down these women, with very little luck. I thought I had found down one of them who appeared to still be alive in northern California, but I got no response to the letter and photos I sent her. 
Caption: Room 1 – Early June ‘43
Marion Sterne                   Nancy Swicegood
Coral Howard                    Genevieve Long
Olive Wicker                      Viola Noirot
Dorothy Smith                   Mary Sparks
Sue Wills                             Mary Strome


Both Fold3 and MyHeritage have recently added the U. S. World War II Army Enlistments database to their search results. I found my mother listed in these records as “Nancy S. Sharp”, born 1917 in Missouri, residence = Los Angeles, CA, enlistment = Aug 6, 1943 at Hollidaysburg, PA, Technician 5th grade in Women’s Army Corps.

There are several odd things about this enlistment record. First, it suggests that she didn’t enlist until after she had already graduated from radio school. Second, she’s listed by her married name, which she didn’t obtain until June 1944. And in the above record, it said she was divorced, not married. Weird.

Searching this database for other people who supposedly enlisted at Hollidaysburg on Aug 6, 1943 generated 23 additional women’s names, 21 of them were listed as “married”, one was single and one divorced. I could not match any of the names to the women identified in my mother’s photo album. I doubt that any of them were married when they enlisted in the Army and attended the Keystone Radio School.

There were clearly more women in this group than show up in the enlistment records. I believe that this photo is of the women at graduation:

There appear to be about 50 women in this photo. My mother is in the first row, 4th from the left.
I would love to know more about this school and where the women went from here. The US Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle, PA, claims no knowledge of the Keystone Radio School. It also isn’t identified in any of the Signal Corps records that NARA has put online. Highland Hall is now a National Historic Site and is currently used for Blair County offices. I don’t know what became of Duncan House. If anyone who reads this knows more about Keystone Radio School or any of the WAACs who trained there, please contact me through the “Comments” button below.

[1] 1940 US Census, Columbia, Boone County, Missouri; Roll T627_2086; ED 10-16A, page 9B.
[2] The Daily News, Huntingdon, Pa., Monday, April 5, 1943, pg. 6,