Sunday, August 29, 2010

Girls and their Dads

This past week was very stressful at work. It flew by and I felt like I was just not on my game at all. I really hate feeling that way, and don't know that I agree with the concept that in order to grow we have to step out of our comfort zone. This was my three day weekend (which flew by) and included a hair appointment on Friday and a fun craft party on Saturday. Last night I stayed up late cutting stencils while watching a biography on Led Zeppelin. That was cool and actually made me feel like "me", rather than some stressed out "worker". Wow, wasn't that something I swore I wouldn't be in my teens. During this coming week, these stencils will find themselves on dishtowels. I'll post that as they come to life. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the stencils I cut.

So, where am I going with this? Tonight, one of my friends shared these amazing memorial celebration cards she made for her dad. Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of his passing. They were just beautiful and very heartfelt. Three days from today will mark five years and four months since my dad passed away. Not a day goes by that I don't think about my dad. I think about everything, I guess. The times he encouraged me, bitched at me, got mad at me, laughed with me, provided for me, and ultimately depended on me.

My dad, as I've mentioned here before, did not have an idealic, charming childhood, yet managed to overcome that and provide for his kids what he didn't have. Mind you, we didn't get "everything" we wanted. If we wanted a coke from the drive through, we were told no, we had coke at home. You wanted cheese on that burger, no, we had cheese at home. You wanted that Easy Bake Oven, no, we had an oven at home. This could really go on forever. With my dad, we had to learn that if you wanted something, you had to work for it and earn it. After all, "money doesn't grow on trees". I never liked that saying because, to this day, I want that tree! Surely at the time of my bratty youth, I didn't like this, but now, I appreciate it.

My dad, like so many other dads, grew up in a different time and were able to accomplish things and succeed beyond their fathers. The obstacles they faced are beyond our comprehension, really, and this does not go unnoticed by me. When I think about my dad, daily, I think about the funny things, the annoying things (surely I annoyed him more than he could have ever annoyed me!), the lessons, his patience, and how much I now miss him. I also daily think about and wish for the conversations we didn't have. That by far, is the hardest thing.

If you're lucky enough to still have your dad around, do take advantage of that and don't wait until it's too late to wish for what you could have said, done, or had. I feel I said most things, but when it came to my grandmother, he wouldn't talk and I didn't push too hard. Darn. If only I had. Who knows, really. My dad was pretty stubborn, to be honest. And, if you're lucky enough to still have your dad around, I envy you. Take full advantage of that.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Forest Lawn Cemetery

On Saturday, August 14, my sister and took a trip to Forest Lawn in Glendale, CA. We went to find the grave of our great uncle Bill's second wife, Edith. She died in 1959 and is buried there with her parents and siblings. In an earlier post I said I'd address this trip. Here goes.

Not only did we venture out there to find and photograph Edith's grave (and her family), but we thought we'd honor some of the photo requests for Forest Lawn on a fabulous website called Why not, I've actually added two photo requests myself, plus, I was going there so I was in a position to "help" someone out.

The Forest Lawn website has a great index of grave locations, yet no maps. Hmm. We got there. It was hot and there were a few funerals going on. We stopped upon arrival at the info booth and asked for maps (none online) and got a map of the cemetery. This map showed the locations in the cemetery of the various plots, but did not, like Inglewood Park Cemetery, have maps of the plots that showed the locations of the graves!

So, we wasted so much time walking through plots, in the heat, up steep hills, attempting to read ancient markers to determine if we were anywhere close to the location within the plot we needed to be. What a challenge and what a realization that I'm out of shape. This was tough. I couldn't believe that this big chain called Forest Lawn, had such poor map options! After much sweat, panting, and just getting nowhere, we decided to head back to the info booth for help. What we got was a very helpful employee that attempted to give us a photocopy of the area of the plot where the graves we were looking for were located.

Needless to say, this did not really include the street names within the cemetery and was just not helpful. We'll have to go back for another attempt. In my humble opinion, this HUGE chain and HUGE cemetery should really get up to speed with their maps. Can that really be so hard? Looks like I'm going to have to call FL and suggest they check out Inglewood Parks website for help.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Bessie was Lola's older sister. They were about a year or so apart. As usual, I was hitting non-stop brick walls in my search for my grandmother, and decided to focus some of Bessie. She was born in Illinois in 1893. I haven't been able to find much on Bessie yet; here's what I have so far.

In 1900, she was living with her family in Joliet, IL. By the 1910 census, she was a teenager living as a border with a family in Decatur.

In 1920, she was married to a man named Ben and living in Greenville, IL. Ben appears to have been from a large family, having brothers William, Horace (father of Grace) and Charles (father of Lillian), plus several sisters. I found Ben's WWI Draft Registration where he indicated that he was married and living Greenville, IL. That was June of 1917. So, I'm assuming they married around 1914 - 1917 (a marriage certificate I'll have to locate).

Then, there is the 1930 census. Bessie is a patient at Alton State Hospital! So, naturally, I wonder what was up with that! Why was not only Lola in a State hospital in California, but her sister was in one in Illinois. Why was Bessie a patient there and for how long? I did some message board research and found that the State of Illinois is about as difficult to deal with as California when it comes to obtaining these records even though it was SOOO long ago and the "patients" are long gone. Some interesting advice that was on the message boards was that some people had success (not from the hospital) but rather from obtaining the probate files. I'm going to try to obtain Bessie's probate records. Maybe these will tell stories.

Bessie's mother, Effie, died in 1931 in Decatur, IL. Bessie was mentioned in Effie's obituary as a surviving daughter, wife of Ben and living in Greenville, IL. Besides that, the other thing I found on Bessie was her death in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and her brief obituary. According to the obituary, she was the wife of Ben and, among her many survivors were her two nieces, Lillian and Grace (see above). She died in a nursing home in Peoria, IL in 1976.

I found that I could order Bessie's death certificate (it was more than 20 years ago) as a "genealogy copy". I got that certificate this past Saturday. Most death certificates I've seen indicate the number of years the person lived at the "residence". In Bessie's case, not so. I hoped to find out how long she had been in that nursing home. A few other "interesting" things on her death certificate were her date of birth and name of her parents. Now I realize that a death certificate is only as accurate as the informant, and in Bessie's case, the informant was an employee apparently from the "Mortuary Records".

So, Bessie's d/c listed her date of birth as May of 1894. All censuses Bessie was on indicated her DOB as July of 1893, including her social security death index. But not the d/c. Actually the birth year of 1894 is more in line with Lola. Lola, from what I have found so far, was born around October of 1894. The other odd thing was Bessie's parents. They were correctly identified as George and Effie, however neither had the correct last names. George's last name on Bessie's d/c was Lola's married last name and not his last name! Effie's last name (which should have been her maiden name) was an incorrect version of her last name when she was married to George.

This got me wondering what the heck was up. Earlier this year when I went to the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder's office to the marriage records of their brother William (aka Bill), I found that he had listed his mother also with Lola's married last name! That was in 1942. Bill did have an adopted sister who died in Los Angeles in 1941, and her first name and that of Bill's "mother" were the same.

A few other earlier things I found and cannot be certain they are relative to my great aunt. Bessie's husband Ben (as mentioned above) had several brothers, one of them being William. I found William's 1942 World War II Draft Registration and he listed a "Mrs. Bessie" as the person who would always know your address". I also found that William died in 1944 and I ordered his death certificate. The informant was his wife, Bessie. Hmm. So, was this my Bessie, or was that just a common name and these two brothers just happened to be married to women named Bessie. The widow on William's death certificate did not have a birth year similar to my Bessie; the "widow" Bessie was younger. Again, another reason to get my Bessie's probate records.

A few final notes - I have yet to find Ben's death. I totally believe he is dead, as he was born well over 100 years ago. Also, I have been able to track some of the family of Bessie's above mentioned nieces, Lillian and Grace. I did reach out to one of Lillian's descendants (or so I believe) but haven't yet heard back. I have just yesterday found one of Grace's descendants via Ancestry (I believe this person to be Grace's great grand daughter) and will now reach out to her. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that either she knows something, or can put me in contact with someone who does.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inglewood Park Cemetery

I made a trip out to Inglewood Park Cemetery this past Friday to photograph the graves of Lola's aunt and uncle Hattie and William; and Lola's cousin (Aunt Zadie's daughter) Mabel. My sister went along for the "photo shoot".

I called the cemetery in advance to find out the burial locations and was given that information. I then was able to print the plot maps from the website. What a valuable tool that was! We were able to find the graves we were looking for in no time, unlike our Saturday trip to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale (yes, the burial place of Michael Jackson). More on that "photo trip" in another post.

We found and photographed Mabel's grave. I was so hoping that her husband, Delmer, would have been buried by her so that I could "close" that on my tree. That wasn't the case. She appeared to be buried alone. We then followed the map to the plot where Hattie and William are buried. We parked at the plot and followed the map to the lot number. There Hattie was. Next to Hattie was a square of grass and then next to that grass, another grave marker of someone else. Seeing that, just bothered me. My sister and I felt that their son, Estel, must have blown through the money his parents had. He was living with them in 1938 when his mother died (this was after his wife filed for divorce) and he was the informant. His father died 10 years later (after spending 10 months in the facility known as Norwalk State Hospital).

I was hoping (and maybe this is a stretch) that I'd find a grave with Lola's name on it near either Hattie or Mabel, but, no such luck. Maybe I need to consider the possibility that Lola, upon being released from Norwalk State Hospital, either remarried or changed her name. It is just too strange that I cannot find any indication of her death. The search continues...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Death Certificates Arrived...

and they were enlightening (greater knowledge and understanding about a subject or situation). So, my previous post addressed my great grandmother Effie's death certificate and my being advised to pay close attention to her "other contributing factors" to death. Hmm. I didn't know what to expect. When I opened the envelope, I wasn't really surprised. She died from a condition called "interstitial nephritis" (inflammation of the kidney). It was "chronic" I gather from the abbreviation on the certificate.

The not so surprising part was the contributing factors - chronic alcoholism. In a previous post about Effie, I shared some of the newspaper articles about her, and they did seem to revolve around her being intoxicated in public. When I shared this information with my mom, she wasn't surprised. She seemed to recall my dad saying that Lola and Red were drinkers. I kind of wonder if Lola's drinking contributed to her being locked up in a State Mental Facility in the 1930s. After all, that was a time when women (in particular) could be committed seemingly easily.

In fact, Lola's sister, Bessie, was a patient in an Illinois State Hospital in 1930! She was married and I cannot seem to find her husband in 1930. I wonder. These were women that had hard lives and I am really trying hard to gather information and details about them to understand this. Not only does California require the mysterious "court order" to obtain hospital records for someone deceased, Illinois does as well. Ugh. I did order Bessie's death certificate and hope to receive that soon. I'm curious as to her cause of death and contributing factors, as well as informant. I imagine the informant might be a nurse, as she died in a nursing home. Her obituary did mention nieces as survivors, and I have attempted contact with descendants, but to no avail at this time. I may need to make another attempt to contact these people via email (I found a message board post where he gave his email address - my unanswered contacts in this case were via Ancestry account.)

I also got the death certificate of my great grandfather, George (Lola's father). I saw the name of his parents. Additionally, I ordered the death certificate of George's sister Kate. It looks like they had the same father but different mothers. I also got place of birth for their parents. I found that Kate's informant was her daughter Emma. Well, know who would think that two women named Emma, living in Kansas with daughter named Maxine, born in Illinois with last names so similar that I assumed the newspaper made a typo, could exist. When I typed in the first name Emma and the last name in the article, living in Kansas, in the Ancestry search, I found an Emma in Kansas with a daughter Maxine. The last was SOOO close, I thought it was her. This Emma was married to Fred. Well, when I got Kate's death certificate I found that Emma was not Mrs. Fred, but rather Mrs. JA. I found them. The correct Emma was not born in Germany and was not raised by another family. I can't express the value of death certificates, if you are doing genealogy search - searching for people you knew absolutely nothing about.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Suspense is Too Much

This week I became a member of ISGS, Illinois State Genealogical Society. I thought this would be a great way to get research help, tips, and ideas from experts in the state where my grandmother and her family lived. You can also order copies of 1916 through 1947 death certificates through ISGS. A nice benefit of being a member is that ISGS can get the copies for you for $6 (members) or $10 (non-members). When I joined, I also ordered six death certificates. Too bad they do not offer the same service for the archived marriage certificates that I want to get my hands on!

Shortly after I joined and submitted my order for the six death certificates, I received communication welcoming me from a member! I replied and gave her an overview of my search (and the people in my tree I'm researching) and what I hoped to be able to achieve. I also mentioned my planned upcoming trip to Illinois in the fall and told her I'd like to be as well prepared as possible and welcomed suggestions in order to best utilize the time there.

So, after a few back and forth messages, I did ask if I'd receive the death certificates via email or US mail. I heard back from her this morning and she put them in the US mail on Monday, so I should be receiving them any day now! She also told me to pay special attention to Effie's, writing, "I think it is going to give you some ideas of the family dynamics re: contributing cause of death." I can't wait for the documents to arrive and I'm not sure if I'm excited to see it or scared to see it! Either way, it sounds interesting. Funny thing though, originally, I wasn't planning to order Effie's d/c and I couldn't tell you why other than I have her obituary and didn't see the point (stupid reason I think). But when I was placing the orders, I had a last minute feeling and added her. Oh man.

Monday, August 2, 2010

George and Kate

George was my great grandfather, my dad's grandfather, and Lola's father. Going into this "family history" research, I probably knew just a slight bit more about George than anyone (besides Lola). I knew what my dad told me and that was that George left his young family to "return to Germany to fight for the Kaiser". That little bit of family "history" made sense when I began my on-line search and discovered the family not living together in 1910, and that George appeared to have vanished. I have been able to find him (on-line) after 1900, and then he resurfaced from what I can find in 1915.

Again, I have been able to find him either through the historical documents on or in my new favorite "search engine", I spent nearly the entire past weekend doing research and opted to focus on George and the fact that in an old newspaper article, George was in town visiting his sister! Well, I was jazzed. The article was appropriate for the time. Back then women were identified as Mrs. and the first and last name of their husbands. I then searched Ancestry for her husband and I found them. Not only did I find Kate or Catherine (each document has her name different or spelled different - Katie, Kate, Catharine, Katherine, Catherine), but found they had three children - Armand, D'Arlene and Grace. Her husband was also named George and he was a physician and surgeon. I also looked back at George's WWI draft registration and found he listed Kate (that is what he called her, so I will call her that, too) as his "Nearest Relative".

In order to add Kate as my great grandfather's sibling, I had to add a father. That was easy - I just used the surname and nothing else. I was then able to add Kate and then search. I found them in both 1920 and 1930. Then I decided to search the newspaper archives for Kate's last name in Decatur and found that in 1928, a Louise and her three children were in town to visit her parents, George and Kate. The article listed her with a hyphenated lasted name (maiden and married). I searched Ancestry for Louise by her married name and found her in 1920, newly married to Harry and then in 1930 as head of household, with three young children (Virginia, Clayton and Armand). It was actually hard to read the letter used for marital status so I'm not sure if it was D (divorce) or W (widow).

Naturally, I had to dig further to find out about Louise prior to her getting married and so I searched Louise by her maiden name and found her! Thank God she was a modern gal and went by her maiden and married name, otherwise it may have taken me a bit longer to put the family member pieces together. My search of Louise by her maiden name explained why I didn't find her when I searched for her step-father, George. In both 1900 and 1910, the last name was spelled wrong on the census and therefore, transcribed wrong into the searchable database. The other thing I found, was Louise's brother John.

I can look and these historical documents over and over, and each time I will notice something I hadn't noticed before. The 1900 census had some great questions such as "age at first marriage" and "mother of how many children" and "number of children living". She was the mother of four children, and three were living. OK, this was June of 1900. Kate and George married in March of 1900, and their three children were born between 1905 - 1910. Three children living, yet only two were living with her. Mind you, I have several windows open so that I can jump between my different databases, and when I noticed that Kate had three children, I went back to my NewspaperArchive search and found an article about her recovering from a serious illness and that her son John and daughter Emma from Kansas were visiting! Wow, Emma (and her little daughter Maxine). This article gave Emma's last name and I found her in Kansas married to Fred and with a daughter Maxine. This one will be a little more challenging as she lived and I believe died in Kansas (or so another great databased,, indicates)!

Emma was born in Germany and immigrated to the US the same year her mother did, but it so far seems that she may have lived with another German immigrant family and I think I shall have to research this to determine if Kate knew this family and immigrated with them. George did immigrate a few years before Kate and I still have not been able to find him at least in the 1880 census (I have seen his year of immigration listed as both 1876 and 1879, nor can I find parents or guardians as he was a young boy when he arrived.

There is one other search engine I'm quickly becoming attached to that is falling into FAV category for me and that is The Illinois State Archives database. You can search for marriages pre-1900 (although more are being added regularly beyond 1900), deaths pre-1916, and deaths 1916 - 1950. I have been able to find the dates and certificate numbers for many of my family members (my family is from Illinois), and have ordered several. I hope to prove that Kate and George are truly siblings and should be able to prove that my the documents listing names and birthplace of parents. The other cool thing these documents list is informant (death certificates) and witnesses (marriage certificates). It might not seem like it, but that is some "priceless" information to have when trying to find people.

Through the database, I discovered that two of Kate's daughters, Louise and D'Arlene, both died young. Louise died at 38 in 1930 and D'Arlene was 26 when she died in 1935. How sad that they died so young, I thought, so I've ordered their death records as I'm curious about that. I also wonder what became of Louise's three young children - who took care of them? It really does never end, this search, and still, I'm no closer to finding Lola, but I've found so many more people and I hope that through research, I'll finding living descendants and that someone will know something. I also got the death dates and death certificate numbers of George, Kate and Effie through the State Archives, as well as the dates of Kates two marriages - to John in 1886 and George in 1900, along with the date George and Effie married. I'm ordering these records as well as the death records and can't wait to get them!