I was recently going over some older documentation I had gathered about my grandfather, Bill Prettyman (1919–1998) in preparation for writing a biographical sketch of him and I made a charming discovery I’d like to share with you.
I was interviewing my grandfather around 1982, and he relayed a little story I hadn’t thought about much since hearing it from him. Bill said that when his parents took him to the church to be baptized, his parents intended that he should be named “William Frank Prettyman.” His maternal grandfather, F. E. Gores (short for Franz/Frank Eugene Gores, pictured in the thumbnail above) had other ideas. F. E. Gores was apparently a prankster who liked to pull practical jokes. According to Bill, F.E. Gores pulled the priest aside and told him to change the middle name from Frank to Eugene and the priest complied. So ever since, Bill’s middle name was Eugene instead of Frank. Continue reading →
Early this morning, we lost a sensitive, intelligent, funny, loving, and devoted man, Dan Prettyman. My uncle was many things to many people, and a caring friend to so many people. He was an epicure who loved to enjoy food and wine, and loved to entertain others. He loved music, both listening and creating music with friends. He loved a good joke and always had one at the ready. He loved to travel, especially with friends. Above all else, though, he loved his wife Ginny.
Dan and Ginny were inseparable. She was his north star, and her happiness was his greatest concern. When Ginny fell ill a few years ago, Dan was utterly dedicated to keeping her happy, healthy, and safe. He set aside concern for his own health to ensure hers.
When the disease that ravaged Ginny left her no longer able to recognize him, and when he had done everything he could to ensure his sweetheart was safe, he had nothing left for himself. His descent was startlingly rapid. He left us in the wee hours of Saturday morning, July 16th, a devoted and loving man to the end.
William Horan is my 3rd-great-grandfather, and like his wife Anora (Lee) Horan, whom I wrote about yesterday (see the post here), the details of his life have proven elusive.
William Horan was born in Ireland, but we don’t know when he immigrated to the United States. His parents reportedly ran a hotel called the “Horne Hotel” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but I have yet to find evidence of the hotel’s existence. At some point around 1863 or 1864, William Horan met and pursued Anora Lee, a young woman working in the Hotel. The two married on July 24, 1864.
Yesterday I received additional details about William and Anora from my cousin Lorna:
William wasn’t a very reliable father and husband. He came and went from the household. Anorah worked at the Moffet Castle in St. Paul to earn money for the family. William stole a team of oxen and was sent to State Prison for two years in 1882. (His children were told their father died.) While he was in prison Anorah divorced him and married Francis Marion Prettyman.
Anora (“Anna”, “Annie”) (Lee) (Horan) Prettyman (1847–1892) was my 3rd-great-grandmother and she has been something of an enigma to all recent researchers—myself included—who have tried to discover who she was and where she came from.
Thanks to new information I’ve gotten from a handful of newly discovered cousins, I think I’ve got a much better handle on Anora. While there are still large gaps and unknowns in her story, I’ve revised so much of her history that a new post is warranted. Most notably, I had the misidentified her parents (there were two girls named Anora/Anna/Annie Lee born in Indiana at the same time, and I was tracking the wrong one) and I got some details of her early years wrong.
I’d like to thank my newly discovered cousins Lorna, Suzette, and Michael for sharing what they know about our shared Prettyman ancestors as well as Anora’s first husband, William Horan. I’d like to give special recognition to Lorna for responsibly caring for, recording, and organizing so much Horan and Prettyman history and photos. Without her and her late father’s impressive memory, many of the details of Anora’s life would have been lost forever. Continue reading →
What if you had an unexpected chance to hear your long-deceased grandmother’s voice again? That hypothetical question became very real for me in the last couple of weeks. I chose to do what I could to hear her voice, and the voices of several other deceased relatives and to do my best to share them with you.
My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black has been gone for over 23 years, and I 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. The audio recordings were merely note-taking aids that were reused once they were transcribed. Or so I thought until this week.
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 composed of footage shot between May 1968 (just before my sister was born) and the summer of 1970 (just after my sister began walking). It captures Michael Black, Jill Black, Keith Black, Polly Black, Vernon Black, Dorothy Black, Gary Black, Mala Gayer, Bill Prettyman, Harriet Prettyman, Dan Prettyman, Jerry Young, Sue Mawer, Bob Mawer, Jimmy Mawer, and others. The fashions—especially my paisley pants and Harriet’s bold print dress—are really something. Sideburns also feature prominently.
I’ve written up a guide to the scenes below, but please leave me comments about anything I missed or may have gotten wrong.
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.
Most of my recent posts have been about people who lived centuries ago, so I thought it would be nice to focus on more recent history in today’s post.
Before he died nearly three years ago, my father—Keith Black—thoughtfully digitized several reels of 8mm home movies that he had found while going through his and his parents’ belongings a couple of years earlier.
I haven’t had the chance until very recently to see any of this video for myself, and now that I have seen it I want to share it with anyone who might be interested. I’ll share the others over the coming weeks. These home movies were shot between the late 1950s and the early 1970s.
Today’s video is entitled “Our Merry Christmas 1967 with Mikie.” I was surprised to see me called Mikie in the title, as family lore states that when I was less than six months old my great-grandfather Clyde Askew held me in his arms and declared “Don’t ever call him Mikie.”
Starring in the movie below are Michael Black, Polly (Prettyman) Black, Keith Black, Gary Black, and Gary’s girlfriend Sandra Sederberg. The first part of the film was shot on location at either our Haskell Avenue or Vesper Avenue house (let me know if you know which) in Van Nuys, and at Vernon and Dorothy (McMurry) Black’s Hamlin Street house, also in Van Nuys.
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.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there, whether living or amongst the ancestors.
My own father, Keith V. Black, died a little over two years ago. I miss him sorely, but he left a lifetime of memories that will keep him forever alive in my heart and in the hearts of those who loved him. My dad was a complex person with several sides to his personality. He was always young at heart—in many ways, he was a teenager well into his seventies. He was an outdoorsman, an enthusiastic participant in the car culture of 1950s Van Nuys, an aspiring photographer, a businessman, an enthusiastic early adopter of technology (he computerized his business in 1978), a passionate fan of music of all genres, an artist, an avid learner, a solitary recluse, and an outgoing man who made friends wherever he went.
He was also a father who was terribly proud of his kids. We may not have always known just how proud he was of us, but as I’m going though his papers I’m learning just how much he defined himself as being the proud father of two children he loved more than we knew.
Here are a few shots that capture my dad doing what he loved more than almost anything else—being a dad. Continue reading →