Home movies: Kansas mid 1950s

For today’s post, I’d like to share another home movie that my father Keith Black digitized and that I recently found on his computer.

This home movie is from the mid 1950s (probably 1954 or 1955) and captures Keith Black as a teenager, with his younger brother Gary Black, and their parents Vernon Black and Dorothy (McMurry) Black. This film documents the same trip that was documented in Dorothy (McMurry) Black’s photo album that I wrote about in this post.

I’m hoping that family members (especially my uncle Gary and my Kansas cousins) will help me to identify many of the people and places shown in this film. Please leave a comment below if you can help me identify anyone or any locations.

I’ll write up additional details here as soon as I have them.

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Mayflower descendancy, part 4

Today’s post is an update on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society).

I mailed off my application, fees, and dues to the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Sate of California on May 1, and hope to hear back from them with a worksheet in the coming week.

I finally received the two Washington birth certificates I wrote away for (for my father and paternal grandmother), and I’ve got to say I’m a bit disappointed in the results. Whereas previously I’ve gotten a certified photocopy of the actual record, this time I was only given incomplete transcripts of the originals. I suppose they’re trying to prevent undue wear and tear on the originals, but it’s still disappointing. 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

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

To Kansas in 1941 (part 1)

Dorothy enters WyomingIn a recent post, I shared photos from two trips to Kansas in the mid-1950s that my grandparents Vernon Black and Dorothy (McMurry) Black made with their kids, Keith and Gary. In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some photos I just discovered of a much earlier trip back to see Vernon’s family, a trip taken in 1941.

This morning I was going through an old photo album that my grandmother Dorothy (McMurry) Black put together in the early 1940s. I had quickly skimmed through it a few years back and made a mental note that it was a photo album of their wedding and of their newborn son Keith. When I went through it today, page by page, I discovered that, sandwiched between the pages devoted to those two events, there were several other “chapters,” each documenting an adventure of the newlywed couple.

One of these adventures was their cross-country road trip back to Kansas in May, 1941. They had been married for about five months, and this may have been the first time that Dorothy got to meet Vernon’s family. It was certainly the first time she saw where he had grown up.

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Back to their Kansas roots

1953?- Entering KansasToday’s post isn’t so much a post as it is a visual travelogue. While scanning hundreds of loose negatives that once belonged to my grandparents, I’ve found about 40 photos that appear to document two trips that Vernon Black and his sons Keith and Gary (and probably his wife Dorothy, too, although she doesn’t appear in any of the photos) made from California back to Vernon’s childhood home in Kansas.

For those of you who didn’t previously know about these trips, please enjoy the photos. For those of you who either went on the trip or were among those who hosted and/or visited with the Black family on their travels, please spill all you know about these trips in the comments section below. Whether you remember details of the trips, can recognize any of the Kansas relatives in the shots, or can help fill in the story of these trips, please share that information with the rest of us!

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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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Mystery photo #4: Fort Collins child

Mystery ChildI found this photo in a collection of photos that I believe once belonged to my great-aunt and great-uncle, Dorothy (“Dot”) Mary Bailey (1896–1987) and Clarence Humphrey Bailey (1895–1982). These photos would have passed to my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry (1917–1997) upon the death of Dorothy Bailey (Dorothy McMurry’s maternal aunt). Upon my grandmother’s death, they passed to my father, and he generously let me have them a few years ago.

The photo in question is a cabinet card image of what appears to be a young girl, aged one to two years old I would guess, dressed in a white gown and black boots and standing on a wicker chair. The photo was taken in Fort Collins, Colorado, by a photographer named Seckner. My initial ballpark estimate is that it dates to 1880–1900.

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