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On this date 79 years ago, my brother was born in (present day) Fairborn, Ohio. Back then it was Fairfield – Bath township to be exact – because Fairfield and Osborn had not merged yet. My brother was the oldest child born to my mom – and the only child born out of her brief first marriage to Leslie Lovejoy. A marriage that I knew nothing about for many, many years. Their son, (birth name) Leslie James Lovejoy was born on January 2, 1940 after at least two days of labor for my just turned 18 year old mom.

Jimmie (as he was known) was a handsome fella – adored by his maternal grandparents. It was Jim who gave our grandmother the moniker of Nana. And it was Nana who took care of Jim for the first few years of his life while Mom became a working mother and figured out what she was going to do about her less than ideal marriage.

On June 22, 1946 in Berrien county, Michigan my brother was adopted by my mother’s new husband (my dad), and his name was legally changed to James G. Amore. It was known that “G” stood for Glen after our maternal grandfather Glen but there was just an initial. When my parents married just before Jim turned 4 on December 3, 1943, my brother called his new dad – “Daddy Gene.” It wouldn’t be until Jim was about 16 when he would re-meet his biological father and meet his younger half-sister.

If Jim were still living, he would be turning 79 today – which for me is mind-blowing. I often wonder how life would have played out if he had not had pancreatic cancer and passed away on August 31, 2001. I can’t call or write him yet I know he is with me. I miss you, Jim.

(Original and digital image in possession of Wendy Littrell.)

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My maternal grandmother, Vesta Christena (Wilt) Johnson, was the middle child (and oldest daughter) out of six children born to her parents Martha Jane Stern and Joseph Napolean Wilt. She had three older brothers – Clarence, Jesse, and John, and two younger siblings – Nellie and Clifford. My great-grandparents divorced before my grandmother was ten. Martha went on to marry her late sister’s widower, William Frank Clawson. They did not have any children together; however, Joseph married Anna Park and they had a son named Albert – my grandmother’s younger half-brother.

It was apparent throughout the letters my grandmother wrote to her siblings as adults that none of them spent any time with their father or his new family following the divorce. I’m not sure if my grandmother ever met Albert, but she did have a picture of him at about 16 years of age. There was also a picture taken later of a tombstone shared by Joseph and Anna as well as Albert who died in 1933. The birth year listed 1917.

As new records were added to online databases, I discovered that Albert’s age was listed as 5 years old in the 1920 census and as age 15 in the 1930 census. At least a two year discrepancy according to his tombstone. Then I discovered his birth certificate showing that Albert was born on October 21, 1914! That meant that someone made a big error on his birth year listed on the tombstone.

Then I discovered Albert’s death certificate. Joe was the informant listed on his son’s death certificate and listed August 1, 1914 as the date of birth. There was an inquest to find cause of death. And that is when I read the horrible information. Albert died due to his skull being crushed; struck by a railway train as he was walking along the tracks. No wonder some of the information was off – as a grieving father, Joe may not have been thinking clearly about his son’s birth when his tragic death was fresh on his mind.

How did Albert not know a train was coming? Not paying attention? It happened too fast? Or could he have been deaf and not felt the vibrations in the ground soon enough? I bring up deafness because an earlier collateral relative on the Wilt side – brothers Charles and Absolam Hottinger, “deaf-mutes” according to the Rockingham (Virginia) Daily Record on November 9, 1912, were struck by the Chesapeake Western freight train near Penn Laird. Absolam was killed almost instantly, and Charles had extensive injuries.

I find it quite sad that my grandmother did not have a relationship with her younger brother, and instead of stories and her memories, all we are left with is one close-up photo of him.

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I have a difficult time picking just one photo of an ancestor or relative that is my  favorite. Many of what I consider in the top five include my maternal grandmother, Vesta Christena (Wilt) Johnson. I called her Nana because I believe it was my brother – the oldest of the grandchildren – who gave her that title.

As a child, many people would always comment on my blue eyes and ask me where I got them. My dad and siblings all were blessed with blue eyes so I would say that I got my blue eyes from my dad. There were also others who would tell me that I looked like Nana. I just couldn’t see it. I was a pre-teen or teen, and my grandmother was 63 years older than me. How could anyone tell?

However, in the last ten years or so, as I’ve shared photos of Nana online, many have repeated those assertions – that I did resemble her. Since I am much older now, I do see it. And then back in December, my cousin posted a picture that I had never seen before. It was of my grandparents with my uncle (my cousin’s father) when he was a baby. I cropped the photo to show just my grandmother and compared it to a photo of me about the same age. Well, what do you, my readers think?

This is a post in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for Week 2. For more information or to sign up to participate (all free!!), check out Amy Johnson Crow’s post: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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john lafayette johnson birthday 001

This is a picture that my mother told me was taken for my great-grandfather’s birthday. When I asked her who everyone was (besides those whom I knew), I don’t remember if she told me or if she just said “relations.” I’ve slept since then and of course – it is NOT WRITTEN on the back of the picture. I dug it out again last week and decided it was time I tried to figure out who was at the birthday celebration.

I knew it was taken in 1939 – two months before my great-grandfather (he’s the older man on the far right), John Lafayette Johnson, passed away from pancreatic cancer. Even if I hadn’t been told that was the year, I could look at the image of my mother – third from the left in the sweater with the “B” on it – and know that she was still in high school. In 1939, she was 17 and played basketball for her high school, Bath Consolidated Schools, located in Bath Township, Greene county, Ohio. My great-grandmother, Katie (Blazer) Johnson, had passed away in 1930 of stomach cancer which explains why she wasn’t in the picture.

I knew the photo was taken in front of the home on Ohio Street in Fairfield (now Fairborn, Ohio) because I have seen other pictures of the same house and in the 1940 census, my grandparents were still residing there. My first thought upon seeing all the other people was that it was Johnson relatives, but when I shared it with some distant cousins hoping they would recognize someone, it was a bust. Anyone that it might have been had already died by 1939. Besides, the Johnson relatives lived in Indiana.

So I turned to my great-grandmother’s family. They lived in Urbana, Ohio – about an hour’s travel today. Her brother, Wesley Blazer, was still living in 1939 but I had never seen a picture of him. His son, Glen O. Blazer, I had known and had pictures that I could compare as well as his wife, son, and sister. Below are the comparisons. The picture on the right was taken in 1976. Looking at the ears, chin, mouth, nose and eyes led me to believe this was Glen. Based on that deduction, all I needed to do was compare photos of his wife, Nina (Cushman) Blazer, and his sister, Ada D. Blazer, as well as place them in that time frame.

glen blazer comparison

Below, the picture on the right of Nina Cushman Blazer (Glen’s wife) was taken at a reunion in 1969 – 30 years after the one on the left.

nina cushman blazer comparison

The comparison collage below of Ada Dell Blazer show how she looked in 1939 (left), around 1918 (top right), and at a reunion in the early 1970s (bottom right).

ada blazer comparison

Based on the photographic evidence, I was able to see the picture more clearly (pun intended!). Since Wesley Blazer was still living and would have been 76 years old, I believe he is the gentleman with the hat sixth from the left. The young man standing just over Nina’s shoulder would be Marion Blazer – son of Glen and Nina. In 1939 he was about 16 years old. The man peaking out from behind Ada’s head would be her second husband, John Black, and their daughter would be in front of her.

Below is the photo after I added the names of those in the picture.

john lafayette johnson birthday

 And just for more comparison – here’s a few photos taken in 1969 and the early 1970s that include my grandparents, Glen & Vesta Johnson, as well as Glen and Nina Blazer, and Ada (Blazer) Black.

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glen_gleno_nina_ada

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alice foley 001

This picture was among hundreds of other photos I ended up with many years ago. Most had belonged to my maternal grandparents, Glen and Vesta (Wilt) Johnson. The name on the back (hurray! There was a name on the back!) was Alice Foley. My mother told me she wasn’t related – just a friend of my grandparents. Ten to fifteen years ago, I didn’t have very many resources to figure out just who she was.

Today, I looked on FamilySearch.org for an Alice Foley living in Madison county, Indiana about 1920. Living at 206 E. Fourteenth Street (about 2 1/2 miles away from my grandparents) was 34 year old Alice Foley as a boarder in the Charles and Ina Miller household. Alice was single and born in England as were her parents. She was employed doing housework in a private home.

There is also an Alice Foley living at 1623 Arrow Avenue – a few houses away from my grandmother’s parents. This Alice is age 28 and married to the head of household, Harry Foley. She was also born in England and came to the United States in 1906. Included in their home were children: Mary A. Foley age 5, Philip Foley age 3 years and 2 months, and Anna B. Foley age one year and 3 months.

Between the two choices, I’m more inclined to believe that this is a picture of Sarah Alice Bullock, born in September 1891 in England, and married to Harry Foley in Anderson, Indiana on August 9, 1910. However, the woman in the photo is not wearing a wedding ring which could mean that she did not have one, this photo was taken prior to being married, or I’m wrong about who this is.

However, if someone is reading this who happens to be a descendant of the correct Alice Foley or Sarah Alice Bullock or whomever it is – please let me know so I can solve the mystery!

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A Special Photo

mom&dad2

The photo above is one of my favorite pictures of my parents. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you probably have noticed that I don’t post many pictures of my parents together. I’ve done that because I wanted to respect both of them since they were divorced when I was twelve. My father is still living but isn’t connected to a computer or the internet. I post this here today because for me, this photo represents a time when they were in love with each other. They were young and looking toward a future filled with possibilities.

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 4: “Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.”

I am lucky enough to have original my maternal grandparents’ original marriage records as well as her parents (Joseph N Wilt and Martha J Stern) and my great-grandparents’ (Emanuel B Stern and Nancy Caylor). I don’t have wedding pictures of either of those couples, but I do have a wedding picture of my maternal grandfather’s parents (Katie J Blazer and John L Johnson).

katie_john_wedding

John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J Blazer – married on Wednesday, July 4, 1883
Katie was not quite 19 years old.

I have digital copies of marriage records via FamilySearch for John L Johnson’s parents (my 2nd great-grandparents), James Wilson Johnson and Amanda Eveline Mullis, and for Amanda’s parents – John Mullis and Darlett Stanley (married in Wilkes county, North Carolina) on February 22, 1811. Recently, I found the marriage license and certificate (digital copy) for my great-grandfather, Joseph N Wilt, and his second wife, Anna Park. On the line that asked if he had been married before, he listed “no.” When I saw that, I exclaimed “Liar!” at my computer screen (he had walked out on my great-grandmother, Martha, and 6 kids under 14 years old). Perhaps, he didn’t know if the divorce had ever been finalized (it had) and didn’t want to have to legally be bound to getting that information.

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