Dorothy remembers her dad

In my family history archives, there sits a ca. 1980s notepad bought and written in by my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, and titled “For Mike—Family events.” For years, I thought it had only one and a half pages of information, as the next page was blank and the rest of the notepad seemed blank.

For years I did not give it the attention it was due, as I was more interested in pushing my family tree back as far as I could go, and my grandparents seemed too recent to pay more than passing attention to. When I talked to my grandparents about family history decades ago, I was usually asking them to tell me about their parents and grandparents and further back, instead of asking them about themselves. I regret that now, now that it’s too late to ask them any more questions.

Today, I was re-reading this notepad that my grandmother had given me so many years ago, and I noticed that a couple of pages further on, she continued writing. How had I not noticed this before now? My grandmother died 21 years ago last week, but just today she gave me another present—a story about her childhood.

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Lucinda’s DAR acceptance

Today’s post will be a short one, about a formal card my great-grandmother Lucinda Tracy (Bailey) McMurry received in late June, 1926, while spending the summer at the summer house her father built. It’s also about finding yet more hidden documentation left behind by my ever-thoughtful late paternal grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, Lucinda’s daughter. Continue reading

Puzzling out Ray Shearer

It seems odd to me that while I’m able to trace my family back on dozens of lines more than 400 years, my own patrilineal great-grandfather—my father’s father’s father—is nearly a complete mystery to me. I would normally begin an exploration of his life by saying that his name was Ray Shearer, but even that is a bit of a mystery. While many people called him Ray, more often than not, he referred to himself as Zyionyi Ray Shearer. As with many of my difficult-to-research ancestors, I keep setting aside his information, waiting for some hint or help to emerge, as they so often do.

And so it was with Ray. Just this past week I got an unexpected letter from my cousin Peggy, who’s a cousin on my Shearer side. Her great-grandmother was Ray Shearer’s mother—Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer Stokes. Peggy’s grandmother was Ray’s younger half-sister, Zealia Faye Stokes, and Zealia apparently was very interested in preserving family stories and history, and she passed much of this on to Peggy.

Today’s post could not have been written without Peggy’s help. Thank you, Peggy! 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

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

Mystery photo #4: C.A. & Rose Prettyman

Today’s mystery photo is only partly a mystery. Well, mostly a mystery, really. But I do know some things about the photo.

In this photo, a dashing gent in a flat cap, knickerbockers, a leather car coat and argyle socks is showing off a pan of something while posing between two women. The hats and clothing of all three is evocative of the fashions of the Roaring Twenties (roughly 1925–1932), and the little bit of the automobile that we can see also looks like a 1920s-to-earliest-1930s model.

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G.I. Prettyman (1887–1977)

George Irvin PrettymanGeorge Irvin Prettyman (or G.I. Prettyman, as my grandfather told me he liked to be called) was my grandfather’s uncle. I recently learned that a cousin was looking for some information on G.I. and his wife Frances, and I discovered that while I had some new information for him, a lot of what I had was contradictory and could use some dedicated research. For instance, my grandfather William Prettyman once told me that his uncle G. I. Prettyman didn’t make it past the fourth grade, as he was needed to help out at home on the farm. However, according to a contemporaneous biography (Minnesota and Its People, 1924, by Joseph Alfred Arner Burnquist),

[G.I.] “was reared and educated in Hewitt, attended the grade and high schools of the town, and then took a course in a commercial college at Little Falls, Minnesota. He was then sixteen years old and after completing his education entered the banking business and continued in it until 1911…”

I’m hoping that relatives reading this summary of what I’ve learned about G.I. Prettyman may be able to contribute considerably more than I’ve presented here. Please leave a comment below if you have additional information or stories about G.I. Prettyman or his family.

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A lost history, found

GeorgeWBailey1Lately I’ve been spending a couple of hours each weekend day reorganizing our family history archives. In the yet-to-be-organized portion of the archives, I’ve got a dozen large, plastic storage boxes, each of which holds hundreds of papers, photos, mementos, and other items judged at some point as worthy of being preserved.

One of these boxes is filled with memories and keepsakes from my great-great-aunt Dorothy Mary (“Dot”) Bailey and her husband Clarence Humphrey Bailey. You may know Dot as the young girl pictured at the center of my site’s header photo. Dot and Clarence were distant relations (third cousins; although they apparently didn’t know this when they met) and had the same last name before marriage, so I can’t be sure whether Dot adopted Clarence’s “Bailey” surname according to tradition, or whether she was an independent maverick who bucked tradition and kept her own “Bailey” surname.

I was lucky enough to have known them both as a child and to have known Dot until I was a young man in college. They were incredibly thoughtful, gentle, intelligent, and modest people, but for whatever reason, they never had children. My grandmother, Dorothy McMurry Black, their niece, was like a daughter to them and she was their sole heir. Their tangible memories have now passed to me, and I’m making my way through them.

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Who was Paul Gores?

On the Prettyman side of my family, Paul Gore’s name keeps coming up, but I know next to nothing about him. I have no identified photos of him, and I’ve heard only a couple of snippets of stories about his life, so I’m writing this post in the hopes that someone among my Prettyman relatives might be able to identify him and tell me more about him.

The name he went by as an adult was Paul N. Gores, according to my grandfather, William Prettyman (Paul’s nephew), and he was born Paul Nicholas Gores. Paul was born on June 7, 1898, in Wadena, Minnesota, probably the youngest of 6 (or possibly 7) children born to my great-great-grandparents, Judge Fredrick Eugene Gores and Veronika Evertz (also spelled Everts, Ewertz, or Eberts):

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