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.
As I was going through and organizing a series of letters home from my great-great-uncle Clarence H. Bailey while he served in Europe in World War I, I came across one letter that was not from him. Instead, it was a letter to his future wife from a man named Byron O. Seeburt.
Rather than set the letter aside and focus on Clarence’s letters, and risk Byron’s letter being forgotten or lost with time, I’d like to briefly spotlight it here. Perhaps by doing so, Byron’s descendants or family may one day find it.
Byron’s letter is a century old, having been written on December 17th, 1918. The letter itself is just three pages of cursive writing in ink on ruled paper, held together in the top left corner by a straight pin.
In his letter to Dorothy Bailey (“Dot”), Byron refers the Spanish Flu epidemic, to trench warfare, to time spent with Dot and her friend Olive in Tacoma, and to all the food that a home-sick American soldier dreams about in the trenches.
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, so I figured I’d write an easy post about a mystery photo I keep stumbling across. I’m hoping that someone out there reading this might be able to help me identify it. Maybe you’ll recognize the people, or the machines, the song list on the back, or the handwriting of the song list.
I found the photo in a small pile of papers that my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black inherited from her aunt, Dorothy “Dot” Mary Bailey. Most of the papers were about Dot’s husband Clarence—his WWI service, his life insurance, his parents, and his recent death. Dot had apparently gathered together papers to help her collect Clarence’s life insurance and widow’s benefits. Clarence died in 1982.
There were, however, three prints from my grandparents’ 1955 trip to Disneyland, and an envelope of what look to be color negatives from a 1950s? family vacation. So from the context in which the photo was found, it appears to be from my father’s side of the family. Continue reading →
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 →
I was lucky enough to know my dear “Aunt Dot” well into my college years. Aunt Dot was Dorothy Mary Bailey (1896–1987), and she was my grandmother Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black’s aunt, so she was my great-great-aunt. She was an impressively graceful, charming, loving, and selfless woman. In fact, she also appears to have been a poised little girl as well. You can see for yourself—she’s the little girl in the center of my site’s banner photograph.
Dorothy and her husband Clarence had no children of their own, and treated my grandmother as the daughter they never had. I often felt that I was also the great-grandson they never had. In any case, when Dorothy died, she left everything she had to my grandmother. When my grandmother died, it all passed to my father, and with my father’s death two years ago, I inherited a lovingly cared-for set of photos, letters, documents, and other artifacts that I’ll be sharing with you over the coming years.
For today’s post, I’d like to share Dorothy Bailey’s high school graduation program. Dorothy graduated from William Winlock Miller high school 104 years ago today—May 28, 1914. Continue reading →
I often like to tie my posts into larger research or historical contexts, or to publish a post on a significant anniversary that the post discusses. Sometimes I’ll take a deep dive into a mystery photo or object to see if I can discover some previously lost context. And then there’s today’s post. I suppose this can be a new category of post—silly things that make me laugh.
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 →
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.
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 →
Today’s post will be a short one to update you on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society). In part two of this series, I mailed off my Preliminary Review Form for the California Mayflower Society and sent off requests for four certified birth certificates. I got a phone call on Tuesday from Thurston County, Washington, saying that two of those birth certificates were on their way, but I haven’t received them yet.
What I did receive just yesterday was the oldest of the four birth certificates that I’ve so far requested—from 1860. I thought this would be the hardest of the four to secure, yet I received it first. Without further ado, here it is: Continue reading →