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,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

SNGF: Researching on

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings is:
1) You're going on a scavenger hunt - for records of one of your relatives.  You can pick a relative who lived in the 1800 to 2000 time period.  A brother of one of your ancestors might be best (since males don't change their surname).  Or the husband of a sister of your ancestor.  Tell us the name of your chosen relative. 

2)   Go to FamilySearch and search for records for that relative.  Start on the Search page -  Search any way you want.   

3)  Tell us what you found in the FamilySearch record collections.  Did you find something new about that relative?   

4)  Write your own blog post, comment on this post, or write something on Facebook or Google+.

 I’ve been scanning photos from an old album of my mother’s and ran across this photo of her grandmother, Martha Elizabeth “Mattie” Coffey Swicegood, and Mattie’s sister, Aunt Belle. Belle’s full name was Melinda Isabell Coffey. She was born on 27 Oct 1869 in Maries County, Missouri; married John T. Fields 23 Aug 1888 in St. Clair County, Missouri; and died 24 May 1965 in California. I’ve never really researched this line, so now’s as good a time as any!

A search for “Melinda Isabell Coffey” born 1868-1870 in Missouri, father’s name Squire Coffey, turned up only one appropriate record on

·        1870 Census []: Melinda, age 0, is listed with her parents, Squire (43) and Drusilla (36) COFFEE and 5 siblings ranging in age from 16 to 3 and living in Jackson township, Maries County, Missouri.

A search for “Belle Coffey” born 1868-1870 in Missouri, father’s name Squire Coffey, did not turn up any additional records.

So, I switched to searching for Belle’s husband, John T. Fields, born 1862, died 1928 and found:

·        1880 Census []: John T., age 17, is living in Jackson township, St. Clair County, Missouri with his parents, C. R. (Caleb R), age 71) and Elizabeth (age 41) Fields, and 4 siblings—Mary E. (15), James R. (13), Lonora A. (11), and Emma (5).

·        after scrolling through 10+ pages of results—mostly Civil War records, even though I set birth year as 1860-1865—I got fed up and quit looking for any more relevant records.

·        I attempted to look in the FamilySearch Family Tree, but was thwarted when I tried to sign in. Even after changing my password, I couldn’t get in and there is apparently no online account support. Very frustrating.

In short, I found very little for either Belle Coffey or her husband, John T. Fields, at FamilySearch. This may have been the most frustrating search I’ve ever done on FamilySearch. Even when I clicked “exact search” I got huge numbers of totally spurious “matches” and nothing very useful.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

SNGF: Counting Cousins

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF) challenge from Randy Seaver of the Genea-musings blog is to count your first cousins. Specifically:

1)  Take both sets of your grandparents and figure out how many first cousins you have, and how many first cousins removed (a child or grandchild of a first cousin) you have.
2)  Extra Credit:  Take all four sets of your great-grandparents and figure out how many second cousins you have, and how many second cousins removed you have.
HINT:  Make a Descendants Chart with your genealogy software program!
3)  Tell us the grandparents and great-grandparents names, but don't give the name of living cousins unless you want to.  
4)  Are there any of those lines that you don't know all of the cousins names?  Do you care?  

5)  Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post of your own.  Be sure to drop a comment to this post to link to your work. 

1a. My maternal grandparents were William Earl SWICEGOOD and Molly Fay BROOKSHIRE. They had 6 children. The photo at right was taken in 1984, I think, at a family reunion. From left to right: Dee, Bob, Leah (my Mom), Nina, Bill, Patty. Only Uncle Bill is still alive.
   As for cousins, Aunt Dee had two daughters. One has 3 children, who I don't know, and the other has 2 children, who I keep in touch with regularly. So...2 first cousins, 5 first cousins once removed.
   Aunt Nina had two daughters. One has 1 son; the other (now deceased) has a son and a daughter. So...2 first cousins, 3 first cousins once removed.
   Uncle Bill married, but had no children.
   Aunt Patty had three children. Her oldest daughter has one natural daughter and 3 step-daughters. Between them they now have 15 children. The next daughter had one son, who has 2 sons. Her son has one natural daughter and I'm a bit fuzzy on his step-kids; there are either one or two step-daughters. So...3 first cousins, 3 first cousins once removed, 4 or 5 first step-cousins (?) once removed.
   Uncle Bob had two kids, a daughter and son. The daughter has not married; son has one daughter. Tally...2 first cousins, one first cousin once removed.
Total for Mom's side: 9 first cousins, 12 first cousins once removed.

1b. My paternal grandparents were Harold Herbert SHARP and Virginia Corine MELDRUM. They, too, had 6 children. Unfortunately, my Dad had no contact with his family from age 17 on and was unwilling to answer any questions about his family. He even claimed I was named after the state we were living in when I was born (Virginia) rather than admitting that I was named after his mother and/or sister.
   Anyway, based on census and vital records, I believe my Dad's family consisted of the following:
   Older brother Harold, who I believe married but had no children.
   Younger brother Dawes, who has been married at least 4 times and has fathered at least three children, a daughter and two sons. One son has at least one child; I don't know anything about the other two.
   Sister Virginia who I believe was married three times and had one child each by her first two husbands. Each of her kids have been married at least 3 times, according to Texas marriage records online. I have no idea how many kids they've had.
   Younger brother Jack married and had at least one daughter.
   Youngest brother James married and I think had 5 children, 3 of whom had at least one child each.
Total for Dad's side based on limited information: 11 first cousins and no telling how many first cousins once removed.

skipping to #4: I am pretty close with several of my cousins on my mother's side and with my one surviving uncle, even though we live half a continent apart. I try to get back to my mother's home town in the Ozarks every year, primarily to visit cousins, but also to do research. None of the family actually lives there any more, but the extended family still has a couple of houses in the town. I think of Weaubleau as more "home" than anyplace my family actually lived.
   I've never met anyone on my father's side of the family. My Dad died at age 60 and his mother survived him. When she died without a will, his family tracked my mother down through the V.A. and one brother, Dawes (who I think is still alive) came and visited her. However, she didn't mention this to me and I didn't discover the sheet of "family notes" Dawes had given her until after Mom died in 1996. I was able to track my aunt Virginia down--who assured me I was named after her, not their mother--but would not share any family information with me. I found an address for Dawes and sent him 2 packages of family history information and a couple of short notes, but never got a response. I guess I should try to track down some of my Sharp first cousins, but Texas is a long way from Seattle and I'm really not sure what I have in common with any of them. Someone posted a Sharp family tree on Ancestry a couple of years ago that includes this line, but is has since been taken down. I tried 3 times to contact the "owner" of this tree, but never got a response.

Funny I hadn't noticed until writing this blog post that both of my parents were the second children of six. Mom's siblings were more spread out than Dad's, from 1915 to 1932 versus 1916 to 1926. But from all I can tell, my Mother's family was much closer knit, though further spread out geographically, than Dad's. All of his siblings stayed in south Texas; none of Mom's family stayed very close to home.