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.
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.
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.
While re-reading Anelia Shearer’s letter to me from 1994 (the subject of my previous post), I realized her letter is due for an update. In preparing to write that update, I’ve been trying to do additional research on some Shearer descendants that to the best of my knowledge haven’t received any research attention.
One such person is my great-grandfather Ray Shearer’s only full sibling, his sister Annetta Fern (“Anita”) Shearer. In her family history of the Coddington, Shearer, and Stokes families, Anelia (Shearer) Hayes had only the following brief lines about her, her husbands, and her son:
I and others have tried to find more information, but it seems no one has been able to go further than this. Until today, that is. I decided to test my hunch that Anelia (or whomever Anelia got this information from) got the name “Horandez” wrong. My first guess as to the correct name (“Hernandez”) turned out to be correct, and I’ve now learned quite a bit more about Anita’s husband and son.
Normally I don’t write about cousins unless there’s a compelling story to be told, and with Anita’s son Gilbert Hernandez, there definitely is. I don’t know all the details yet, but I’ll share with you what I’ve learned so far.
A little over twenty-six years ago (December 12, 1993) I wrote a letter to my great-aunt Anelia (Shearer) Hayes asking her what she knew about her father Ray Shearer’s family history. Anelia was my grandfather Vernon’s sister. My grandfather was old enough to remember his father Ray Shearer leaving their family, and he went to lengths to distance himself from his birth father, including unofficially but permanently changing his last name to that of his mother’s second husband, Frank Black.
Vernon’s sister Anna Cornelia (she preferred “Anelia”) was born around or just after when her father left the family. Unlike her brother, she kept her father’s surname and she went on to develop a deep interest in family history. Anelia was the one who compiled the “Edell Family History” in 1991 and hosted the Edel/Edell family reunion.
Today’s post is about the response Anelia sent to my letter of twenty-six years ago. When I received her response, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new fascinating information she provided to me. To this day, the letter she wrote is still the sole source for many pieces of Shearer family history that might otherwise have been lost forever.
Today’s post is just a brief one to share an interesting discovery with you. I just learned that my third-great-grandfather Frank (“F. E.”) Gores traveled to England in 1930 with his second wife Gertrude.
Traveling with them on the six-day transatlantic return trip were Frank’s 64-year-old sister-in-law Mary Magdalena (Doffing) Gores, her youngest daughter Gertrude Josephine Gores (27), and her daughter Magdalena (“Lena”) Margaret Gores (38). The elder Magdalena’s husband and father of the two girls was F. E. Gores’ eldest brother Nicholas Paul Gores, who had passed away two and a half years prior on March 9, 1927.
While in England, they were all staying at the Royal Hotel in WC1 London. I haven’t been able to find a photo of the hotel, but I did find this fabulous photo of a London street taken in April 1930 that might help you visualize the London that Frank and his family saw.
As I was making drinks for my wife and mother last night in our home tiki room that I named after my grandfather Bill Prettyman (“Prettyman’s Atoll”), my mother reminded me that the previous day (March 1) was Bill’s birthday. I’ve never been good with birthdays, but I can remember years, and so when she said that, I realized that March 1 was the 100th anniversary of Bill’s birthday on March 1, 1919. Had he lived, he would have turned 100 years old on Friday.
I feel like the 100th anniversary of his birth calls for a post, but as these posts usually take days to write and I only have a few hours before I return to the workaday world, I’ll see what I can do. I’d love to write a full biography of him, but given the short time I have, I will instead present a short sketch of the first twenty-five or so years of my grandfather’s life.
Exactly one hundred 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 then 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.
This is a revised version of a post I did five years ago. Since then, some family members have died, and I’ve discovered twenty-seven additional family members who served our country. Note that I have included only relatives who served the United States or the colonies that would eventually become the United States.
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.