Receiving loads of old papers and photos has been a godsend for me as a family historian, but sometimes they come in like a tsunami and I don’t have time to properly pore over everything before I must turn my attention back to work and the rest of my life. So it was with me and a couple of boxes of family-history-related items I brought back with me from my grandmother’s house after talking with her for several hours about family history. Normally I would have taken months to go through every last tidbit I brought back, but before I had a chance to do that I travelled to my grandmother’s home town (Wadena, Minnesota) for 10 days and I came back with enough data and scans to occupy me for a couple of years.
Among the items I brought back from my visit with Harriet were a number of photos and written notes that Harriet herself had inherited from her aunt Eva (Scott) Martes, who died on November 22, 2006. Eva was the younger sister of my great-grandmother Gertrude (Scott) Askew (1897–1980). I had time to scan a few hundred photos and sheets of notes before I had to set the project aside to prepare for my Wadena visit. Continue reading →
World War I—the “war to end all wars”—was ended by an armistice that took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson gave an address to the nation on what had come to be called Armistice Day in the U.S. and allied countries. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday, and in 1954 the day was renamed “Veterans Day” to honor all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, not just those who served in World War I.
My family has a proud heritage of serving our country. My father Keith V. Black served in the Navy immediately before the Vietnam War. My paternal grandfather Vernon C. Black served in the Army in Europe during World War II. My maternal grandfather William E. Prettyman served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. And many, many more of my ancestors and relatives have served in the many wars our nation has engaged in over the past 400 years.
I present this list to honor their service and their memory.
William Horan is my 3rd-great-grandfather, and like his wife Anora (Lee) Horan, whom I wrote about yesterday (see the post here), the details of his life have proven elusive.
William Horan was born in Ireland, but we don’t know when he immigrated to the United States. His parents reportedly ran a hotel called the “Horne Hotel” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I have yet to find evidence of the hotel’s existence. At some point around 1863 or 1864, William Horan met and pursued Anora Lee, a young woman working in the Hotel. The two married on July 24, 1864.
Yesterday I received additional details about William and Anora from my cousin Lorna:
William wasn’t a very reliable father and husband. He came and went from the household. Anorah worked at the Moffet Castle in St. Paul to earn money for the family. William stole a team of oxen and was sent to State Prison for two years in 1882. (His children were told their father died.) While he was in prison Anorah divorced him and married Francis Marion Prettyman.
Anora (“Anna”, “Annie”) (Lee) (Horan) Prettyman (1847–1892) was my 3rd-great-grandmother and she has been something of an enigma to all recent researchers—myself included—who have tried to discover who she was and where she came from.
Thanks to new information I’ve gotten from a handful of newly discovered cousins, I think I’ve got a much better handle on Anora. While there are still large gaps and unknowns in her story, I’ve revised so much of her history that a new post is warranted. Most notably, I had the misidentified her parents (there were two girls named Anora/Anna/Annie Lee born in Indiana at the same time, and I was tracking the wrong one) and I got some details of her early years wrong.
I’d like to thank my newly discovered Horan cousins Lorna, Suzette, and Michael for sharing what they know about our shared Horan and Prettyman ancestors. I’d like to give special recognition to Lorna for responsibly caring for, recording, and organizing so much Horan and Prettyman history and photos. Without her and her late father’s impressive memory, many of the details of Anora’s life would have been lost forever. Continue reading →
Irene (Jeglum) Rinaudo (1912–1993) was my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black’s first cousin, the middle daughter of Dorothy’s father’s younger sister Maud “May” Belle (McMurry) Jeglum. Her full name at birth was Lucy Irene Jeglum, but she went by her middle name Irene throughout her life. Irene was born on July 24, 1912, in Irma, Alberta, Canada. She was the middle child of three daughters born to Melvin Elmer Jeglum (1884–1965) and May Belle (McMurry) Jeglum (1888–1931). Her older sister was Ella May (Jeglum) Moore (1911–1986), who I was lucky enough to correspond with in the 1980s, as she was an active family historian. Her younger sister was Verna Mabel (Jeglum) Arthur (1914–1990).
My cousin Linda sent me a few of her mother Irene’s albums and photos to digitize and research. This post is on the first album I’ve digitized—a photo album of Irene’s life from about 1924 to 1928. This album covers Irene’s life from when she was 12 years old and living in Nampa, Idaho, until she was 16 years old and living in Porterville, California. During these four years, she also visited several sites in central and southern California.
Today marks a milestone for BlackenedRoots.com—the first BlackenedRoots video podcast. The reason? I think it’s the best way to share a long audio recording while simultaneously providing transcripts of the sometimes unclear voices, while offering pertinent commentary and clarifications, and being able to share relevant photos. Do let me know in the comments below what you think of this new presentation format to supplement the usual written posts?
My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black died over 23 years ago, and I (and I imagine the rest of our family) haven’t heard her voice in that entire time. As far as I knew, there were no surviving home movies of her, and no surviving recorded interviews of her voice that I could watch or listen to. Her family films were silent vacation reels that appear to have focused on recording beautiful panoramas for the folks who weren’t there. I remembered tape recording the conversations we had nearly 30 years, in late September and early October 1990, but I hadn’t seen those tapes in nearly three decades and assumed they were lost to time.
What if you had an unexpected chance to hear your long-deceased grandmother’s voice again? That hypothetical question became very real for me in the last couple of weeks. I chose to do what I could to hear her voice, and the voices of several other deceased relatives and to do my best to share them with you.
My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black has been gone for over 23 years, and I haven’t heard her voice in that entire time. As far as I knew, there were no surviving home movies of her, and no surviving recorded interviews of her voice that I could watch or listen to. Her family films were silent vacation reels that appear to have focused on recording beautiful panoramas for the folks who weren’t there. The audio recordings were merely note-taking aids that were reused once they were transcribed. Or so I thought until this week.
Today’s post is a short one. I want to share an enigmatic postcard that I found among my grandfather Vernon C. Black’s childhood memories. The postcard itself is a charming artifact, but it presents so little information that I may never be able to resolve most of the questions I have about it.
In September 1932, when he was 15 years old and had just graduated from the eighth grade, Vernon received a postcard from Bruz, a small town in southeastern Brittany, France. The postcard appears to have been sent by a Monsieur Rivière, but it is just signed “M. Rivière,” so might be from a man or a woman whose name starts with an “M”. The postcard is written in French by a person whose handwriting indicates s/he was educated in Europe.
In my quest to learn about my biological great-grandfather Zygonia Ray Shearer (who understandably went by the name “Ray”), I’ve written several posts over the past couple of years (see here, here, here, and here). Despite my investigative digging, I still know almost nothing about who Ray was as a person. Today’s post won’t shed much light on Ray, but it will help understand how his son—my grandfather, Vernon C. Black—dealt with the death of his father.
As I have a good amount of extra time on my hands on account of the mandatory shelter in place orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic (I still have to work from home, but I save over two hours of commute time per day), I’ve decided to start digging through the family history letters and postcards I’ve digitized but not yet written up. There’s a goldmine of information in this correspondence.
Today’s post is about one of these initially overlooked letters—actually two letters. These letters are from just before Christmas 1937. Vernon was 21 years old and had apparently borrowed money from his mother to strike out on his own, traveling across the western U.S. to find work and his future. Shortly before he wrote these letters he landed a door-to-door magazine sales job that I’ll discuss in a later post.
For several years in the mid to late 1950s my father Keith Black and my uncle Gary Black had a foster brother named Richard Bearden. You may remember him from the post I did on my family’s visit to the opening day of Disneyland in July 1955. Where he came from before joining our family and where he went to after leaving our family have been a mystery to me. My grandparents never spoke of Richard to me other than saying “oh, yeah, that was Richard Bearden” when I asked who the mystery boy in the photo was. Keith and Gary had little to say about Richard. The unanswered questions have bothered me ever since I learned about the existence of this foster uncle (?) of mine.
Who was Richard Bearden? Who was his birth family? How did he come to be a foster child in our family? What was he like? Where did he go? Why does no one talk about him?
I recently found a letter from Vernon Black to his mother and stepfather Catalina and Frank Black, dated February 13, 1955, that answers many of these questions. Vernon realized that his parents would have just the same sorts of questions I have had. Understandable questions, I think, when a new family member suddenly appears. For today’s post I’d like to share that letter with you.