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Posts Tagged ‘52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’

Just less than 20 years ago, my friend Barbara mentioned that she was working on her family’s genealogy. She had one of the first versions of Family Tree Maker and showed me how it worked on her computer. She had notebooks full of research.

Within a year and a half, my mom had given me a few small boxes of old photos. We sat at her dining table going through each one and labeling them to the best of her knowledge. Around the same time, my sister-in-law – with some collaboration from a distant cousin as well as my father-in-law – had completed two family history books on my husband’s line. I talked to my friend more about this software program she had. Before too long, I had gotten a copy and was using it. Through dial-up, I was able to get on the internet. Cyndi’s List was the first “genealogy” website I found. At my local public library, I also found another website run by the Church of Latter Day Saints – FamilySearch before it was really called FamilySearch! Then the site mainly had family histories acquired by the church – no real census records or anything else.

I don’t remember how much longer after that it was that Barbara suggested she take me to the Dallas Public Library to the Genealogy section. She had been there many times so I wouldn’t feel like a complete newbie! We set a day, she picked me up, and made the trek just south of us into downtown Dallas.

Once we got to the 8th floor, Barbara helped me sign in and showed me the procedure for pulling microfilm as well as finding which one I needed via census index in the books. We found two empty microfilm readers and settled in for the day. First, I was struck by how many items there were on the shelves to look at. Second, I figured it was going to take me a long time even with the right microfilm roll to find what I was looking for. I had brought some blank census record research sheets that I had gotten out of my copy of “The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook” by Emily Ann Croom in order to write down my findings. (I hadn’t planned to spend much on making copies of microfilm pages.)

I found a name on my matenal family line in one of the census indexes so I carefully retrieved the microfilm and threaded it through the reader. After going backward and forward a few times (a little too fast!), figuring out how to bring the image into focus at the size I wanted, I finally saw my great-great-grandmother’s name on the 1870 census record.

The image above is the first time I found Melissa (Malissa) Goul Blazer on any official record. I think I smiled the rest of the day! She was real. She was counted. And not only that but my great-grandmother Katie was the 6 year old living with her. I knew it was the right family because I was aware of the names of the other children. I was a little confused why Melissa’s husband wasn’t living with her (it would be many more years before I realized that Melissa was a young widow). Suddenly, there was a need for me to find others: other ancestors of mine. And that drive is still there – except with a more discerning eye. But that name written on the census record – that was probably the turning point in my family history research. And it all began with a trip to the library!

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The Week 3 prompt for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Unusual Name.” I’ve been thinking about this most of the week – not sure what name I was going to pick. I mean, I have an Uncle Bervil (my dad’s brother) and a cousin to my maternal grandfather was named Urmine. Those are pretty unusual. In my family tree database I have some “Z” names – Zilpha, Zora, Zerilda, and Zellica. Then there’s the ones that start with “V” – Valorous, Vaughna, Vashti, and Valley. How do I pick just one?

That’s when I remembered my maternal grandmother’s first cousin. She was the daughter of William Frank Clawson and Margaret Ellen Stern. I’ve seen her name as Nancy on some records. Well, that’s pretty common. Nothing unusual about that! On the back of a picture my grandmother had the label gave her name as “Nanny” Clawson. Then a few years ago, I found her memorial on Find a Grave. Her headstone reads Nana Jane Welch (her married name).

What I find also interesting is that my grandmother went by “Nana” as her grandma name, as do I!


W.F. Clawson, Nana Clawson, and Margaet Ellen (Stern) Clawson

Nana Jane Clawson was born on August 19, 1886 in Noblesville, Indiana. She was the oldest daughter and second child in the family. Her older brother died at 13 months and her younger two sisters and one brother all died as infants. Nana and her youngest brother Ralph survived to adulthood. She married George C. Welch on November 29, 1905 in Madison county, Indiana and then moved to California where their two daughters, Dorothy and Leonore were born. Nana died at the age of 34 on April 19, 1921. She is buried at the Santa Maria Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California. Her husband George lived until April 5, 1966 and is buried in Cypress, California at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

(Images: Name pins – Creative Commons; Clawson family – Original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

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The  Week 2 prompt for “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is Challenge. And do I have a challenge ahead of me! In October 2017, I accepted a position on the Board of Directors for my local society – Chariton County Historical Society. At the first board meeting I attended, I was asked if I would accept the role of Vice President/Program Coordinator. I was excited about helping the organization find new and exciting programs for their quarterly meetings.

Fast forward to July 2018 when the President of the Board resigned after many, many years of being very active on the Board and with the museum. At the July board and quarterly meetings, as Vice President I stepped up to chair the meetings. October is the month to elect new officers. Besides the one new member who was asked to serve to fill the empty spot, the other seven and I agreed to continue on the board. I really enjoyed my position and said I would continue as VP, but then one other lady said she could be VP but not President. So I consented to the position.

At the October quarterly meeting (our “big” meeting), the slate of Board members and Officers were approved and without any nominations from the floor, were elected. Immediately, I realized that I was really out of my comfort zone. I didn’t grow up in Chariton county. I didn’t know that much about most of the artifacts in the museum. I didn’t have a clue about the “business” of being President. I did however know that several of the board members and our hostesses are a wealth of information, advice, and guidance. And I can delegate! (Insert maniacal laughter!!)

This year will be challenging, but one thing I learned many years ago is that a challenge is just another opportunity. Missouri is coming up on the 200th Anniversary of statehood in 2021. Every group, society, and organization will be having some sort of birthday celebration of sorts. And in 2020 it will be Chariton County’s anniversary! I foresee many amazing things for the Chariton County Historical Society, its members, the community, and all the visitors!


Wheelwright Shop Display at Chariton County Historical Society & Museum


General Store exhibit in “Main Street” area

I can’t conclude this post without inviting all of you to come visit us at 115 E. 2nd Street in Salisbury, Missouri. The museum (which has a genealogy library and a large Veterans area) is open from the first Tuesday in April until the last Saturday in October, Tuesday through Friday from 1-4 p.m. or by appointment. Check out the website for Chariton County Museum and our Facebook Page.

If you would like to join the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, please click here to be taken to the link. (Hint: you don’t have to write about an ancestor – as this post shows – nor do you need to have a blog. This is a way for you to just start writing!)

(Images: Top – digital image use via Creative Commons; all other photos: photographer – Wendy Littrell, original digital images in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

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As a young teen, home alone while Mom and my grandparents were on a day trip to Urbana, Ohio to viist cousins, I took the opportunity to peruse the photo albums. Either that same evening or another day, as I was talking to Mom about photos, she brought out a medium sized box full of photos. (Side note: I wish we had labeled the photos then when Mom’s memory was better and my grandparents were still living.) 

I began taking out pictures one by one. Who was in the photos? I really don’t remember. I do know that several of them were face down. I picked one up and turned it over and immediately hollered at Mom. It was someone in an open casket. What was this madness?! Mom chuckled – obviously this was nothieg new to her. I hadn’t been educated in the “why” of post-mortem photos.

It seemed as if I ran across a ton of post-mortem photos – in reality, probably not very many. I don’t know what happened to that box of photos. In probability, I probably have them all now – but they were broken out in to smaller boxes. And the post-mortem photos? I have 3 of them (there were several copies). I can’t remember all these years later who it was in that first photo but it was either my great-grandfather John Lafayette Johnson, my great-grandmother Katie J (Blazer) Johnson, or my mom’s baby sister Lois Evelyn Johnson.

I won’t post those photos – for many reasons. If my kids want to see them, I’ll dig them out, but I won’t make them public for anyone’s morbid curiousity. I will post photos of when they were living (except my baby aunt as I don’t have any).

John & Katie Johnson
about 1929 in Anderson, Indiana

This is Week 1 post of “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge by Amy Johnson Crow. The prompt for this post was “First.” To participate, please go to: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

(Top image courtesty of Creative Commons. Original & digital Image of John & Katie Johnson in possession of Wendy Littrell – address for private use.)

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This week’s theme is on “Military” so I am writing about the United States Air Force. Not only did my father and maternal grandfather serve but I was born at a USAF Base medical center. As Yoda would say: “The Force is strong with this one.”


Glen Johnson

My grandfather Glen Roy Johnson (whom I’ve written about several times before) entered the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918 during WWI. My grandparents had been married not quite 14 months and had a son who had been born in mid-December 1917. He went to basic training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas before being assigned to the 14th Balloon company with training at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. During training, one of the balloons exploded killing two and injuring over 30. Either then or at another time during training, my grandfather’s hand became injured resulting in a permanent curve to two of his fingers.

Gen Pershing is 5th man from the right

My granddad left for France in July 1918. The day after they landed, General John Joseph Pershing insisted on inspecting the 14th and 15th Balloon companies. Years later in life he was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “We were just off the transport after 11 days at sea and most of us hadn’t had a bath. He [Gen. Pershing] was quite impressed that we were enlisted men.” (The Fairborn Daily Herald. Lucille Rue. 8 Aug 1978.)


Photo taken of a display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio
Caption reads in part: Balloon of the 14th Balloon Company – following Armistice

After returning from France and being discharged as a private, Granddad won a reserve commission while he was a civilian worker. It was to the Quartermaster Corps. At the time he was living in Greene county, Ohio in a town called Fairfield which would eventually become Fairborn (along with the merge of neighboring town Osborn). In 1942 he re-entered active duty in the Army Air Corps which would become the United States Air Force. He retired on December 1, 1958 as a Colonel.


Gene Amore – 1950s – Japan

My father, Eugene (Gene) Amore enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on November 16, 1939. He went to Iceland in August 1942 where he was stationed for 15 months as an airplane mechanic with the air transport command. After he returned and following the marriage of my parents in December 1943, my Dad was stationed in Great Falls, Montana for awhile. In early 1953, he was sent to Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. My mom, brother and sister followed several months later. Most of the 1950s saw my family living in Japan through two tours of duty. He retired from the US Air Force in 1960. After returning to the Dayton area, my dad worked Transporation in Civil Service. During the Air Force museum’s move from a building off Broad Street in Fairborn, Ohio just inside the gates of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, my dad was responsible for the transportation of all of the aircraft, etc. to their new home located off of Springfield Street in Dayton – the present location.

I am very proud and thankful for my Granddad’s and my Dad’s service to the United States and the Air Force. The Air Force is in my blood. Each time I wander through the Museum filled with aircraft, artifacts, and history, I get goosebumps knowing that my family played a part in all of that.

(All pictures – original and digital in possession of Wendy LIttrell. US Air Force Logo – courtesy Wikimedia commons)

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All of my life while my mother was alive, I heard the word “Gomennasai.” This was the Japanese word for “sorry.” After living in Japan a total of 7 years in the 1950s, Mom used some of the words she learned quite often. By the time I was in school, I knew by context what gomennasai meant. Another phrase she used was “Doumo arigatou” – thank you. She pronounced it “dom airigato.”

Mary (Johnson) Amore wearing kimono in Japan

I was fascinated by her use of the Japanese language. By the time I was in fifth grade, I knew how to county in Japanese. Then my grandmother taught me to count in German. As a freshman in high school taking Spanish, I could also count in that language. It would be nice to say that I speak four languages – Japanese, German, Spanish, and English – but only if we are talking numbers!

My Spanish classes were only for two years. I had signed up to take a third year until I realized that only Spanish would be spoken and written in class. My problem was that I hadn’t learned to think in a foreign language. I could memorize the words but speaking, reading or writing, I would have to think it in English and slowly translate that to Spanish. So after moving from the midwest to the Dallas area after high school, I really did my best to communicate with people in a factory where I worked who spoke nothing but Spanish all the while they were trying to find the English words to speak to me.

My middle daughter took two years of French so I was completely lost when she would talk. My son took Latin – excelled in it and loved it. And my youngest daughter took three years of AP Spanish who now teaches her children Spanish.

Yet the one language I feel we should all practice is love. Being courteous, polite, helpful, respectful, and kind to one another – no matter what language comes from our lips, forms more of a common bond than words. Go Speak – of Love!

(Top image: Creative Commons. Image of Mary Johnson Amore – digital and original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for private use.)

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After losing a mother, it is especially difficult that very first Mother’s Day following her death, but it is especially trying when it happens all at the same time.

My mom died on May 1, 2009 – a Friday. Her memorial service was held on May 6 – a Wednesday. As soon as we returned to her home that day, the funeral home called – her ashes were ready to be picked up. Such a beautiful urn we had picked out for her – which was still sitting on the dining table when Sunday – May 10 – Mother’s Day – rolled around. In one sense, Mom was still there with my sister and me, and in another, she was now gone. We’d walk by the table – a room we had to walk through no matter what – and touch the urn lightly and say “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” Bittersweet phone calls came from our own children to wish us the same. Yet, on that first Mother’s Day, without my mother, “happy” was not the right word.

A year later as a crisis unfolded among my family, it still didn’t feel like it should be “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was sad for many and had found it difficult to even look at greeting cards that year. Yet, I needed to find cards for my mother-in-law and my stepmother.

The years began passing by, always with the thought of Mom, but I kept busy and life was good. The middle of April in 2013, my mother-in-law had to be admitted to a local nursing home for hospice care. Her cancer was winning, and her fight was coming to an end. During my daughter’s baby shower on May 4 before we all left, we received the news that she was gone. What had been a joyous day filled with anticipation of the new little boy soon to be gracing our family turned into sorrow. The next morning – Sunday – we headed from Texas to Missouri to say our final goodbye.

Mother’s Day 2013 was on May 11, just a few days after my mother-in-law’s funeral. Instead of two cards that year, I only had to buy one to send to my dad’s wife.

Now, it has been nine years since that first Mother’s Day without my mom and five years without my mother-in-law. My dad’s wife is still with us – and so I continue to buy one single card. I am blessed that my three daughters are all mothers so I do send them cards. I am able to read Mother’s Day cards now and instead of grief, I smile and know that both Mom and my mother-in-law are aware of what they both meant to me.

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