100 years ago today, “Somewhere in France”

Exactly one hundred years ago today, my great-uncle William Alonzo Bailey (the boy in the header photo above) wrote the following letter home to his mother, Ellen Caroline (“Carrie”) Severson Bailey (the older woman in the header photo above).

Will was serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. The Dorothy he mentions is his sister, Dorothy Mary Bailey, from whom I inherited this and dozens of other letters from World War I. The Cambrai he refers to is the Battle of Cambrai in France at the end of November to early December 1917. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to family and friends near and far! Today’s post is a selection of Christmas cards (actually Christmas postcards and one Christmas telegram) that were received or sent by ancestors and relatives from the early 1900s until the mid-1940s.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas—hearts filled with good cheer, bellies filled with good food, homes filled with family, and a future filled with hope and good tidings for everyone.

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Dot’s last letter from her father

While Christmas is often the happiest time of the year in our family, it can also sometimes be one of the saddest times. While today’s post is about one of those sad times, I promise that a more upbeat Christmas post is coming after this one.

This week has been a sad one for our family, so when I came across this letter, written 94 years ago today, it seemed an appropriate subject for today’s post. My great-aunt Dot (Dorothy Mary Bailey) had just married Clarence Humphrey Bailey in Fort Collins, Colorado, just two days before this letter was written.

Dot’s father (my great-great-grandfather) William Noble Bailey was suffering from diabetes and was too ill to travel to see his youngest daughter get married. In fact, he was so ill that he died just a week after writing this letter, on December 31, 1923, at his daughter Lucinda (Bailey) McMurry’s house in Olympia, Washington. Continue reading

George Faulkner McMurry, part I

Today’s post will be my first look into the life story of George Faulkner McMurry, one of the two brothers adopted by James Miller McMurry and his wife Grace Aitken. My cousin Crystal turned me on to this story, and if you haven’t read her post on George, you should go read it now!

Crystal learned that George and his brother Douglas survived a shipwreck that killed their parents. The brothers were then adopted by James and Grace McMurry in Port Townsend, Washington. She also learned that George was married briefly, and that he was murdered in San Francisco in June, 1945. All tantalizing stuff!

In addition to this story having a lot to recommend it on its own, I suspect that the story of George and his brother may shed light on Grace Aitken’s family in New York, and that it may help explain why widower James McMurry moved in his later years to Sutter County, California, where he apparently had no family. Continue reading

Vernon’s WWII family photo wallet

For this Veteran’s Day post, I’ll be looking at an artifact that illuminates the early relationship between two veterans in my family—one who served during WWII, and one who was still two decades away from serving and was too young to understand the sacrifices his father and his family were making.

This post is about a wallet of loose photos that my grandfather, Vernon C. Black, carried with him during World War II to remind him of his family back home. My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black, took the photos, captioned them, and mailed them in letters she sent almost daily (most of which still survive and will undoubtedly be the topic of a series of blog posts in the future). She also cared for the wallet and photos for decades and thoughtfully left a note giving a brief history of the wallet.

This photo wallet was carried by Vernon Curtis Black with these pictures in it during WWII (carried in his right hip pocket.) —Dorothy R. Black

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James McMurry’s letter to the “grands”

Today’s post is about a letter that James Miller McMurry wrote to his “Grands”—presumably his grandnephew Arthur (Art) and Art’s wife Ezelpha. I received a photocopy of this letter from my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black—Arthur’s first cousin. I saw the original letter in 1990 when visiting Art, and I’m hoping someone in the family still has this letter.

I hadn’t read this letter in over 25 years, and upon re-reading it I discovered a bounty of new information: I learned of another two relatives who fought in the Civil War, including one who possibly died at Shiloh. I realized that the recipient was my cousin Arthur Edgar McMurry, not my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry. I learned a bit about James McMurry’s wife Grace Aitken and her life before she and James met. I learned a bit more about the timing of the McMurry’s move to Arkansas, and the location of their land there. I got a bit of description of the area around James’ last home, in Sutter County, California. I also learned a bit more about James’ adopted son and his latest sailing voyage. Continue reading

Mystery Scott photo album, part 1

Today’s post is about a photo album that’s intrigued me since I first saw it about four years ago. I’ve shared a couple of the photos from the album in previous blog posts, referring to the album in which I found them as an album that probably belonged to my great-great-grandfather Frank Scott. The album itself is quite fascinating and is filled with photos from the 1920s of a well-to-do couple named “Roland and Flo” who apparently liked to travel quite a bit.

The photo album presents a comfortable but curious mix of people from two distinct socioeconomic strata. The first group includes my known Scott relations (my great-grandmother Gertrude Scott Askew, her sister Cassie Scott, her father Frank Scott, and his second wife Lois Lanudge Scott)—poorer folk working multiple jobs to make ends meet and living in rural Wadena county, Minnesota. The second group appears to center around the couple named Roland and Flo—an apparently well-heeled and well-traveled couple.

But who were Roland and Flo? Until last week, despite having records on over 13,000 people in my family history database, not a single one of those people was named Roland, and none of the women named Flo or Florence were possible candidates for Flo in the photo album. Continue reading