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

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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Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 3)

In the first installment of this series, I introduced my fourth-great-grandfather, Hiram Scott, who died in New Orleans while serving the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War. On observation of this past Memorial Day, I wanted to honor his memory by learning as much as I can about him, with a eye towards uncovering his birth family and his early life. If you haven’t yet read the first and second posts in this series, you should read them (here and here) before continuing with this post.

In today’s post, I’ll be laying out what I know about Hiram Scott’s military service during the U.S. Civil War. I haven’t yet been able to find his Civil War Compiled Service Record, so I’ll be relying on inferences I can draw from his personal history and from the regimental history of the 95th Illinois Volunteers. Continue reading

Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 2)

In the first installment of this series, I introduced my fourth-great-grandfather, Hiram Scott, who died in New Orleans while serving in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. This Memorial Day, I want to honor his memory by learning as much as I can about him, with a eye towards uncovering his birth family and his early life. If you haven’t yet read that first post, you should read it now before continuing with this post.

In this second post in the series, I’ll lay out, examine, and document everything I know about the life of Hiram Scott, so that I’ll have a broad base of information to use when evaluating potential evidence for Hiram’s early life and birth family. Continue reading

Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 1)

Unlike Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. veterans, Memorial Day was specifically set aside for remembering and honoring those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice and died while in military service. For this Memorial Day, I want to honor the memory of one of my direct ancestors who died while serving his country in the U.S. Civil War: Private Hiram Scott of Company C of the Illinois Infantry Volunteers.

Hiram Scott is my fourth-great-grandfather. He was the great-grandfather of the the great-grandmother I was lucky enough to know for the first fourteen years of my life—Gertrude Scott Askew.

Hiram Scott fought for the Union Army along with the three of his sons who were old enough to serve: Horace, Willard, and James. Willard and James survived the war, while Horace “contracted disability which resulted in his death” five years later. Their father, Hiram, however, never returned home from the war. To this day he remains buried where he died—in New Orleans, a long way from his home and family in northern Illinois.

Horace’s birthplace, parents, siblings, and pretty much the entire first half of his life have been an enduring mystery for me. Over the past three decades I have repeatedly hit brick walls while trying to uncover the details of his birth and the first half of his life, including the identities of his parents and siblings. What little I information I have found about his early years has been sparse, often speculative, and frequently contradictory. In this post, I want to do my best to break though this brick wall to learn about Hiram Scott, an ancestor I want to remember and honor on this Memorial Day. 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

Will the real Lewis Black please stand up?

Lewis Black? photo #3My adoptive great-great-grandfather Lewis Black took on the air of an almost mythical ancestor when I was young. No one I’ve ever known knew Lewis personally (he died in 1901), but everyone seemed to know things about him and have things inherited from him. There’s no question he was a real person—I’ve got loads of research to back that up—but I’ve started to wonder if everything I’ve seen and heard about the man can truly be traced back to just one man—Lewis Black.

I started to suspect this a couple of decades ago, when any question I had about the original owner of any of several heirlooms from our Kansas roots was met with the same answer: “I’m pretty sure that belonged to Lewis Black.” And then came the photos.  Continue reading

In memoriam: Keith Black (1942-2016)

Details on my father’s memorial service will be posted here in the coming weeks.

You can also sign Keith’s guestbook and see his obituary here.

I’m writing a series of posts on the chapters of my father’s life. Links to these are below. One thing I’m realizing as I write these is that I know little or nothing about large chunks of my father’s life. If you’d like to share any memories or stories to help fill holes in my father’s story, whether privately or for inclusion in a biographical post, please do so by leaving a comment below.

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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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Veterans Day

US_Flag_BacklitNinety-five years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed with Germany to cease fighting the Great War. One year later, on November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the day would be called Armistice Day, to honor those who fought in World War I. More than three decades later—after the “war to end war” gave way to World War II and to the Korean War—the holiday was renamed Veterans Day, and was intended as a day to honor all veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

In today’s post I’d like to honor all of my family members who served in defense of our country.

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