Tuesday, September 16, 2014

George Rutherfurd, Part 2

George Rutherfurd

Not long after moving to Los Angeles in 1913, at the age of seventeen, my great-grandfather George Rutherfurd accepted a job at Pacific Telephone and Telegraph.  This decision would change the course of his life several times.

In 1910, there were two telephone companies servicing Los Angeles, Pacific Telephone and Telegraph and Home Telephone and Telegraph Company. These companies merged in 1916 and became known as the Southern California Telephone Company.  George was a bright and ambitious young man.  While he hadn't had the benefit of a college education, he went above and beyond at the telephone company and moved up in the ranks rather quickly.  My grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, told me the following story about her father's work at the telephone company.

My father went to work at the telephone company and did a lot of extra studying about what made a telephone work.  He was once on a night shift and there was an emergency because the circuits weren't working for some reason, and he was able to go and fix it because he'd just read about it.  He was promoted quickly.  He was a general manager of a district that included Hollywood and the nearby area when he was thirty years old. 

The first two ways that the telephone company would change George's life became apparent early in George's career.  In his first years there, while working at the switchboard, he met his future wife, Julia Ellen Barrett.  Julia was working as a telephone operator when George met her.  They had much in common.  They were both the eldest of five children, working to help support fatherless families.  George adored Julia, whom he always called by both of her names, Julia Ellen.  They married in Salinas, California on August 18, 1917, shortly before George shipped out to fight in World War I.

Julia Ellen Barrett in 1917, while she and George Rutherfurd were dating.

The second way that George's choice of employment would impact his life became clear as the United States drew closer to entering World War I.  The United States Army convened a unit of telephone and telegraph operators, the 411th Telegraph Battalion.  This was created for a specific purpose: to lay cable in front of advancing troops in Europe and ensure that military units could effectively communicate.  While this was not a safe job, it was far safer than the assignments of most soldiers in this war.  World War I is known for its trench warfare and brutal battlefield conditions.  The official tally of American dead in World War I is 116,516.  It's very possible that George's life was spared due to an assignment that kept him out of the trenches and off the front lines.

One of George's fellow officers, C.H. Moore, wrote a wonderful book about the 411th, entitled "Memories of the 411th Telegraph Battalion In the World War Here and 'Over There.'"  At the beginning of the first chapter, he recollects how the battalion was formed.

Very shortly after war had been declared The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company issued a Bulletin announcement that a Telegraph Battalion was to be organized, enrollment in which was to be composed entirely of employees.  The Bulletin also announced that The Telephone Company would pay to individuals accepted by the Government for service in the proposed Battalion the difference between their pay at the time of entering service and the government pay, for a period of at least one year.  Applications for enlistment were sent to all portions of the Company's territory, comprising the States of California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and part of Idaho.  The question as to "where to enlist" for men in the telephone and telegraph service was immediately answered by this plan, as it not only offered a field where the technical ability and knowledge of telephone and telegraph men could be best utilized in serving their country, but also presented the opportunity of becoming affiliated with an organization composed of men who had been trained to think along the same lines, thus at once establishing a bond of fellowship and comradeship.



George registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, two months after the war began.  An interesting detail can be found on his draft card.  It states that George had prior military experience, having served four years in the Wyoming National Guard, ranking as a first lieutenant.  George was only seventeen years old when he left Wyoming, which would have made him thirteen at the time of his enlistment.  Currently, you would have to be a high school senior to join the National Guard in Wyoming.  I'm unsure if the rules for enlistment were different in the early 1900s or if there is some other explanation for this assertion.



On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. George joined the 411th Telegraph Battalion in Monterey, California on June 29, 1917 for training.   Julia moved to Monterey with George, and two months later they were married in nearby Salinas. 

Just a small piece of a panoramic photo of the 411th Telegraph Battalion.  George is third from the left.

George and the other members of his battalion left San Francisco on January 24, 1918 on U.S. Steamship Great Northern and traveled via the Panama Canal to New York.  On February 18, 1918, they departed New York on U.S. Steamship Covington, bound for France.  George would be gone near a year and a half.

George headed to France.


To be continued...


Monday, September 8, 2014

George Rutherfurd



George Rutherfurd was my great-grandfather; the much-beloved father of my Grandma, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  For the first two years of his life, his name was George Roscoe Griffin.  His parents were Anne "Annie" Amelia Dickson and John T. Griffin, and he was the only child of their very brief marriage.  George was born on January 23, 1895 in Douglas, Wyoming, months after his parents separated.  There is no indication that he ever met or communicated with his natural father, John T. Griffin, who lived in Detroit.  When his mother, Annie, married Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd in 1897, George was adopted by his step-father.  His legal name became George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd.*

George as a baby in 1895

George spent the first seventeen years of his life in Douglas, Wyoming.  His mother Annie's family had settled there just a few years before George's birth, when one of Annie's brothers took a job in the Douglas telegraph office.  His stepfather, Malcolm, had arrived in Douglas as a Scottish immigrant intent on owning a cattle ranch.  After Malcolm and Annie were married, they had four boys of their own: Malcolm Archibald Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1898), Archibald Dickson Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1899), Robert Leslie Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1903) and Arthur William Oliver Rutherfurd (b. 1906).  Apparently, George got along well with his half-brothers, but my grandmother always said that he was gentler than his younger siblings; more interested in academic and artistic pursuits.

George and his brothers

The ranch where George was raised was a busy place, and George and his brothers were expected to earn their keep.  From his earliest days, George was riding horses, doing chores and working with the cattle.  However, he liked to sneak away and visit with his maternal grandmother, Mary Bellangee Dickson, who read him poetry and encouraged his interest in literature. 

Mary Bellangee Dickson with her grandsons, George (left) and Malcolm (right)

There is some indication that George may have disliked the strictness of the household in which he was raised.  My uncle Tom Smith said that George, known to him as "Pappy," spoke of being beaten regularly for childhood misbehavior.  He claimed that Malcolm would beat or whip all five boys, something he described as "being beaten on Saturday for all the things they did wrong during the week."  Whether this was corporal punishment typical of its time or rose to another level is unknown, but it seems George objected to it.  George also told his grandson Tom that Malcolm's strict Presbyterian teachings put him off religion for life.

George in 1905, at age ten

George told his grandson, Tom Smith, a tale about growing up on the ranch in Douglas.  One day, Malcolm and Annie were away from the ranch, and a fox approached the family's chicken pen.  When the fox jumped up on the fence to attack the chickens, George grabbed a rifle to defend them.  He knew he was not allowed to use the rifle, but he also knew that he had to save the chickens.  He killed the fox.  When his mother and stepfather arrived home, Malcolm congratulated George on the kill, but then punished him for using the rifle.

The Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming

Malcolm Rutherfurd died suddenly on April 12, 1913.  He had contracted pneumonia and was dead within days.  He was thirty-eight.  This unexpected loss had major consequences for Annie and the Rutherfurd boys.  Annie sold the ranch and took her children to Los Angeles.  The reason for this choice isn't entirely clear.  Annie's parents, George and Mary Dickson, and her sister, Elizabeth Dickson, had moved to Oregon at least three years before Malcolm's death.  The most likely scenario is that they had moved again, to Los Angeles, prior to 1913, and Annie was simply joining her family there.  Her parents and sister were soon reunited with Annie and the boys in Los Angeles and helped them settle into a new life.

Life on the ranch.  Malcolm Rutherfurd is second from the left in this photo.

This major life change occurred at a critical time in George's adolescence.  He was seventeen, on the verge of manhood.  Now, he was suddenly responsible for supporting his family.  He might never have had the opportunity to go to college had his stepfather lived, but once Malcolm died and the weight of responsibility became clear, that door was conclusively shut.  By all accounts, George was a very bright young man, one who would have loved academia and flourished at a university.  Beyond his passion for literature and poetry, George was fascinated by the sciences.  He had an endless curiosity for botany and geology.  He liked to paint and became interested in photography.  Arriving in Los Angeles, George set those interests aside to focus on earning a living.

At first, young George got work riding a horse in Western movies.  He'd grown up riding, so this was a natural fit for him. However, he soon became disenchanted with the treatment of the horses on set.  In those days, trip wires and prods were still being used to manipulate the animals, and George found it cruel.  Then, he took a job at Pacific Telegraph and Telephone.  He would remain there for the rest of his career.  This choice of employment had huge ramifications.  It would determine which branch of the armed services George entered during World War I, and it was the place where he would meet his wife.

To be continued...


* A note about the Oliver Rutherfurd surname:  In the 1700s, the Scottish Rutherfurd family found themselves with only a female heir.  That heir, Jane Rutherfurd, married William Oliver in 1771.  The surnames were then combined, so that the Rutherfurd name would live on, and both were given to all the children in this family for many generations.  While the surname is technically Oliver Rutherfurd, in modern times only Rutherfurd is used on legal documents.


Friday, August 29, 2014

DNA Testing and Unending Questions



I've been dipping my toe into the world of DNA testing for genealogy. Some months ago, the genealogy society I belong to hosted a wonderful evening with a DNA expert who presented compelling arguments as to how DNA testing can expand genealogical research and smash brick walls. I started doing some reading on my own and was intrigued. I ordered an Autosomal DNA test from Ancestry.com.

Autosomal DNA looks at both your paternal and maternal genetic material and is a good way to get an overview of your ethnicity.  It can also help you identify cousins who have a common ancestor within about the last 150 years.  After my Autosomal DNA results came in at Ancestry, I uploaded the raw data to Family Tree DNA to get their analysis.  The summary was mostly what I'd expected.

According to both companies, I am 100% European, with the vast majority of that being British Isles heritage.  This is correct, as my known ancestors are largely Irish, English and Scottish.



However, there were some surprises.  Neither company made significant mention of my Dutch and French ancestry.  My French ancestors left France in the late 1600s, during the exodus of the Huguenots, so with all the intermarriages since then, it simply may not register significantly on an Autosomal test that's looking at more recent history.  The big mystery to me is why my Dutch ancestry is not acknowledged.  My great-grandfather, George Beck (formerly Gerhardus Beukenkamp), emigrated from Amsterdam to America in the early 1900s.  His family was in The Netherlands for many generations prior to that time.  I am one-eighth Dutch.  The Ancestry test says I may have 2% Western European heritage, a percentage which doesn't seem to stack up with what I know about my family.  I understand that these tests have their quirks and are not 100% accurate, but I'm puzzled by this omission.

My great-grandfather, George Beck (formerly Beukenkamp)

Another question mark for me is that both tests claim I have some Eastern European ancestry.  Ancestry's results claim this is a trace amount, but Family Tree DNA indicates it could be as much as six percent.  I am baffled by this.  I can't find so much as a single Eastern European ancestor anywhere in my family tree.

However, both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA did immediately connect me with several second cousins that I already knew.  Through Ancestry, where I find it easier to look through family trees and see potential areas of connection with suspected cousins, I've also met a couple of people who appear to be linked to me through specific families.  We're having fun trying to identify the common ancestor.

My dad and me, 2004

Any questions that I might have had about my results pale in comparison to the eyebrows that were raised when my father received his DNA results.  I encouraged him to do a Y-DNA test on 67 markers through Family Tree DNA.  Y-DNA traces the patrilineal line.  The Y chromosome is passed down, unchanged, from father to son. Theoretically, this testing would connect my father with other men with his surname, Lacey.

A Y-DNA 67 marker match with another person gives you a 95% probability of having a common ancestor within the last 150-200 yrs.  We are confident of my father's line back to his second great-grandfather, Bartholomew "Bartley" Lacey, who was born in Rossadillisk, Ireland in the early 1800s.  Because this family comes from a small corner of Ireland, we were very excited to connect with other Laceys. 

My father's results match him with 24 people who are ranked as either 0: Very Tightly Related, 1: Tightly Related or 2: Related.  More information about exactly what those levels of relationship indicate can be found at Family Tree DNA.  Of those 24 matches, there is not one person with the surname Lacey.

The closest connection, the one person classified as Very Tightly Related, has the surname Elliott.  In fact, 15 of the 24 men on that list have the surname Elliott.  Elliott is not a surname that I know to be in my father's family tree at all.  Other surnames in this list of matches are Hall, Pryor and Glendenning.  None of these surnames appear in my father's family tree.  The ancestors of all these matches appear to be Scottish, some of whom seem to have gone to Northern Ireland and England.  None are truly Irish.  None are Laceys.

Rossadillisk
Rossadillisk


One thing to keep in mind is how small the pool of male Laceys is.  Bartley Lacey had three sons, only two of whom, Valentine and Mark, had male descendants of their own.  I believe there are a couple of living male Laceys from Valentine's line who are second great-grandchildren of Bartley.  Bartley's son Mark Lacey was my second great-grandfather.  He had six sons, three of whom were killed in the Cleggan Disaster before having sons of their own.  Of the remaining three, only my great-grandfather, Thomas Lacey, is known to have had children.  Following his line, this means that it's possible the only other direct male descendants of Bartley Lacey are my father and my two brothers, my father's cousin, Skip, my father's brother, Mike, and his son Matt, and now Matt's newborn son.  That's seven descendants, plus a few more out there from Valentine Lacey's line.  There simply aren't a lot of people who would be close Y-DNA matches for my father.

This still doesn't clear up the mystery of the Elliott matches, however.  I'm at a loss to explain them.  Thus far, DNA testing seems to have created many more questions than it has answered.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Patrick Barrett and Catherine Reynolds

Patrick Barrett and Catherine Reynolds were my third great-grandparents.  They were the parents of Albert Patrick Barrett, whom I recently profiled on this blog.

Patrick Barrett was born in 1841 or 1842 in Mount Savage, Maryland.  He would remain in Mount Savage his entire life, working on the railroad and raising his own family there.  He was the the eldest son of Anthony Barrett and Ellen Lavelle, and the second of their eight children.  His parents, Anthony and Ellen, were both immigrants from Ireland who settled in Mount Savage in the 1830s due to its abundance of mining opportunities and large Irish immigrant community.  

A modern day view of Mount Savage (source)

Catherine Reynolds was born about 1841 in Maryland, likely in Mount Savage.  She was the daughter of Francis Reynolds and Catherine O'Toole.  Her parents were both Irish immigrants and her father, too, worked in the mines in Mount Savage.


Industry in Mount Savage

In the mid-1800s, men in Mount Savage were primarily employed as miners, metal workers and railroad employees.  The Mount Savage Historical Society's website provides a glimpse of what the town was like at the time that the Barrett and Reynolds families were living there.

The region developed agriculturally at first and the farm community was practically self-sufficient. Iron ore and coal discoveries, however, along with the proximity of transport routes dictated Mt. Savage’s future. As English and Scotch entrepreneurs passed through the area, they saw not only the beauty of the area, but also that these beautiful mountains were invaluable in mineral wealth.

Soon the English, under the leadership of Benjamin Howell, established the Maryland and New York Iron and Coal Company. In 1839 beginning with the construction of two iron furnaces. Production was begun and eventually a railroad was built which connected Mt. Savage to Cumberland and distant domestic markets through tidewater ports. To supply the blast furnaces of the iron works, coal mines also were opened in the Mt. Savage area. In 1844, the first solid-track iron railroad rail produced in the United States was rolled here. Before that, all iron rails were imported from England.

The Iron Works Company brought hundreds of primarily Irish workers here in the 1830’s and 40’s and built twenty-two three-story houses along Old Row to accommodate the families. Other ethnic groups were also well represented as the town and industries grew. 

In 1853, Mt Savage was the heart of the area railroad operation. Here were located the locomotive repair shops, roundhouse and shops for building and rebuilding railroad cars and engines. Besides the industrial output of the shops, hundreds of young men were trained in a variety of trades related to the railroad industry. Most of the railway and maintenance crews lived in town.

Illustration of a railroad brakeman (source)

Rather than working in the mines like his father and his brothers, Patrick took a job with the railroad.  The 1870 census tells us that he was employed as a brakeman at that time.  The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore provides this information about the job of brakeman:

One of the most dangerous jobs on the early railroads was that of brakeman. It was not a job for the faint of heart. It required strength and coordination, not to mention courage. The brakeman had to climb to the roof of the railcar and turn the wheel that engaged the brakes on each car. The air brake was invented in 1869, but not widely used because it was deemed too expensive. It was not until the 1880’s when railroads finally began widespread use of air brakes that the job became less hazardous. (source)
 
In 1880, the census indicates that Patrick was a conductor, so he'd advanced in his career in the past decade.  A conductor would have been in charge of his train, managing other crew members and making sure it ran on time.


The Marriage of Patrick Barrett and Catherine Reynolds

Patrick and Catherine were married on March 11, 1866 at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Mount Savage.

Marriage registration for Patrick Barrett and Catherine Reynolds

The witnesses to their wedding were John Lavelle, John Sheridan and Mary Reynolds.  The service was officiated by Rev. Richard Brown.  Mary Reynolds was likely Catherine's elder sister, one of her six siblings.  John Lavelle would have been Patrick's maternal uncle or cousin.  I'm not sure what relation John Sheridan had to the bride and groom.  He may have been a family member or just a friend.  Richard Brown, who officiated at Patrick and Catherine's wedding, was an influential religious leader in Mount Savage.  He oversaw the building of St. Patrick's Church in the 1860s. The church still stands today.

St. Patrick's Church in Mount Savage

The Barrett Family

Together, Patrick and Catherine Barrett had eight children:
  1. John Barrett
  2. James Barrett
  3. Ellen Barrett
  4. Albert Patrick Barrett
  5. Anthony Barrett
  6. Mary Barrett
  7. Julia Barrett
  8. Catherine Barrett
John and James Barrett were twins, born on April 22, 1866, just a month after their parents' marriage, if you believe the dates provided by the church.  As you'll see below in regards to the birth dates of the other Barrett children, there may be some cause to question the dates noted in parish records.  James and John were baptized at St. Patrick's Church on April 25th.   The baptismal sponsors for  James were John Sheridan (likely the same who was a witness at the Barrett-Reynolds wedding) and Bridget Monihan.  The sponsors for John were Anthony Reily and Mary Barrett.

The baptism of James and John Barrett

Ellen Barrett was born on October 21, 1869, according to parish records, and baptized at St. Patrick's Church on October 24th.  Her baptismal sponsors were James Reynolds and Bridget Barrett.  Ellen married William H. Evans.  They ran an inn in the mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, as detailed in my earlier post about Albert Patrick Barrett.

The baptism of Ellen Barrett

Albert Patrick Barrett, my second great grandfather, was born on February 19, 1870.  At least, that's what his death certificate tells us.  Obviously, he could not have been born just four months after the birth of his sister Ellen.  Census records clearly indicate that Ellen was older than Albert, and that Albert was older than his brother Anthony, born in 1870 or 1871.  The exact dates are uncertain, however.  These three siblings were very close in age, which may explain the close relationship they seemed to share.  My guess is that Ellen was born in 1869, Albert in 1870 and Anthony in 1871, but that their birth dates were recorded incorrectly at St. Patrick's Church.

Albert Patrick Barrett's death certificate

Anthony Barrett's baptismal record states that he was born on September 24, 1870.  Again, this date is confusing given the birth dates of his siblings Ellen and Albert.  Anthony married a woman named Ida and they had nine children between 1902 and 1918.  Like his grandfathers and his brother Albert, Anthony was a coal miner.

I know very little about the three youngest Barrett children, Mary, Julia and Catherine.  They were all born in Mount Savage; Mary in about 1873, Julia in about 1876 and Catherine in November 1878.

Catherine "Katie" Barrett is found living with her paternal aunt, Bridget Barrett Barnard on the 1900 census, in Cumberland, Maryland.  At that time, she was working as a clerk.  I have no marriage or death records for Katie or her sisters Mary and Julia at this time.


The Deaths of Catherine and Patrick Barrett

Catherine Reynolds Barrett died before the 1880 census was taken on June 19, 1880.  She was in her late 30s.  Her youngest child, also Catherine, would have been younger than age two at the time of her death.  Her husband, Patrick, is listed on the 1880 census as a widower, with all eight children still in his household.

Patrick Barrett died on February 3, 1903 in Mount Savage.  While he survived Catherine by more than two decades, it appears he did not remarry. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Albert Patrick Barrett

Albert Patrick Barrett

Albert Patrick Barrett was my second great-grandfather, the husband of my second great-grandmother, Nellie Barrett.

Albert was born on February 19, 1870 in Mount Savage, Maryland.  His paternal grandparents, Anthony Barrett and Ellen Lavelle, were Irish immigrants who settled in Mount Savage in the 1830s.  Albert's given name may have been Alloysus, as he is identified on the 1880 census, but he appears to have only gone by the more conventional Albert.

Sometime between 1880 and 1893, Albert moved to Illinois.  It seems that he made this move alone.  His parents and siblings remained in Maryland.  In Illinois, he met Helen Cecilia "Nellie" O'Hare, who had been born and raised in Williamson County.  They married in Belleville, Illinois on October 18, 1893.  Their first child, my great-grandmother Julia Ellen Barrett, was born a year later.

Albert's father, Patrick Barrett, had worked on the railroad in Maryland, and there's some possibility that Albert may have followed the railroad west to Illinois.  However, in 1900, 25-year old Albert was working as a coal miner.

Here is some information about coal mining in the Belleville, Illinois area:

An immense deposit (400,000 acres) of bituminous coal was found in St. Clair County. By 1874, some farmers had become coal miners. One hundred shaft mines were in operation in and around Belleville. The coal brought the steam railroad to town, which allowed for the transport of many tons of coal to be shipped daily from Belleville to St. Louis. Later, Belleville would have the first electric trolley in the state. (Wikipedia)

The 1900 census tells us that Albert and Nellie were living in nearby O'Fallon, Illinois with their daughters Julia and Magdalene in 1900.  Also living with them was Nellie's widowed father, Michael "Mike" O'Hare.  Just a few short months later, a new baby would join the household.  Albert's eldest son, Stephen James Barrett, was born on August 27, 1900.

In total, Albert and Nellie had five children:

Julia Ellen Barrett (1894-1941)
Martha Magdalene Barrett (1897-1970)
Stephen James Barrett (1900-1949)
Charles William Barrett  (1903-1975)
Bernard Theodore Barrett (1906-1990)

In late 1906, Albert moved his family to Bakerton, Pennsylvania. His sister, Ellen Barrett Evans, had been widowed there and Albert moved his family to assist her. Albert and his sister Ellen were close.  He had named his daughter Julia Ellen in her honor. Ellen had been married to William Evans, and together they had six children. William died suddenly of typhoid fever on September 22, 1906, at the age of 34.  When her husband died, Ellen's children were still very small.  Madeline, their youngest, was born the year of her father's death. William and Ellen had run an inn together, and after William’s death, Ellen struggled to keep the business afloat and make ends meet. Her brother, Albert, came to assist.  Between Albert and Ellen's families, there were eleven young mouths to feed.

The Barrett family lived in Bakerton, a small, gritty coal mining town in Cambria County, for the next four years.  Albert is listed on the 1910 census as the proprietor of a public house, so it appears that he had some success in helping his sister Ellen keep the business alive.  Unfortunately, Albert's health deteriorated during his years in Pennsylvania. He may have been drinking before the move, but apparently this tendency grew steadily worse between 1906 and 1910. Whether this was simply Albert's predisposition, or perhaps exacerbated by the stress of running a business and the convenience of a bar in his workplace, we cannot know.

Albert died on May 6, 1910 in Carroll, Pennsylvania.  The cause of death listed on his death certificate is acute alcoholism, with a contributing factor of meningitis. He'd been suffering from meningitis for four days prior to his death at age 40.  His wife Nellie and their five children all survived him.



After Albert's death, Nellie moved her family to Los Angeles, California.  Her health had also suffered during the years in Pennsylvania.  Nellie had severe asthma, and doctors suggested a warm, dry climate free of coal dust might improve her condition. 

Albert's sister Ellen managed to eke out a living without her brother.  She took in lodgers to pay the bills.  In 1920, according to the census, she had four steel mill workers living under her roof, along with the younger four of her six children. She did not remarry.

Albert lived a short life filled with hard labor and tough circumstances, but his line continues with his many descendants.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How My Grandparents Met


My grandparents, LaVerne Rutherfurd and Glenn Murray Smith, at LaVerne's high school graduation, 1935.

Right now, I'm working on transcribing the autobiographies written by my maternal grandparents, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith and Glenn Murray Smith.  I'm so glad that they took the time to write down some of their stories, as I've already gleaned much new information.  I've also smiled often, knowing that a certain usage of words or funny incident is right in line with how I remember them.

It's actually quite a bit of work piecing together these autobiographies.  My grandmother left many typewritten copies of hers, some with pictures photocopied amongst the text, but there is not one complete version.  I have multiple partial accounts which I'm having to stitch together.  Figuring out what goes where has not always been easy to determine.  My grandmother also typed up my grandfather's autobiography and it presents the same challenge.  There are bits and pieces of it scattered throughout various files.  I was thrilled to discover the original, handwritten version of my grandfather's autobiography tucked into a folder, but seems to cut off abruptly at page 36.  I don't know if there's more that was written and is now missing, or if that's all he wrote.

My grandfather's memoirs

I decided to compare the handwritten version of my Grandad's memoirs to the typewritten translation provided by my grandmother.  My grandfather's handwriting is not always easy to decipher, so this has been a long task.  What's interesting is that I've discovered a couple of occasions where my grandmother seems to have altered or omitted some of my grandfather's words in her translation.  For instance, my grandmother glosses over my grandfather's description of a teenage party where farts were lit on fire. The farts, apparently still memorable when my grandfather was of an advanced age and recalling his life, are nowhere to be found in the typewritten translation.  Knowing my grandmother and her distaste for any unseemly behavior, I cannot help but believe that this particular omission was intentional. She also adjusted the wording concerning a breakup during my grandparents' college years.  My grandfather recalls the event they were attending and the words that were said one way, while my grandmother's translation changes the name of the event and the particular insult that was uttered.  She must have felt that my grandfather remembered it incorrectly.

My grandmother's memoirs

 As to my grandparents' original meeting, my Grandma does not address it at all in her translation of my Grandad's memoir.  That entire section is missing.  It's possible that it was simply lost, so I'm glad to have found the original document for reference.  It's also possible that she didn't favor my grandfather's recollection of the event.  I've always known that my grandparents met as teenagers at a party hosted by a mutual friend in Los Angeles.  In her autobiography, my grandmother says it was a Valentine's Day party and declares that it was love at first sight for both of them.  What she unsurprisingly does not mention is that there may have been a game of "spin the bottle" and a kiss in a closet on that fateful evening.  That is, if you believe my grandfather's version of events. 

How my grandparents met, from my Grandma's autobiography:

"During my sophomore year in high school I met Glenn Smith at a Valentine party given by one of my classmates. It was love at first sight for the both of us.  We went horseback riding, swimming at State Beach in Santa Monica, to parties in friends' homes and to movies.  On our first date, which turned out to be Glenn's 17th birthday, we went to Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to see King Kong."

How my grandparents met, from my Grandad's autobiography:

"...I had become quite adept at the roller rink in Culver City.

It was at this rink where I met the girl who was to become my bride. A group of us first met a girl named Annabel Bagley who invited us to a party the feature of which was spin the bottle. This led to a tender kiss in the closet with my future wife."

There are many lessons to be learned here.  One is certainly to always check the original document and not rely on translations.  Another is to think about your subjects and the reasons they might have had for providing a certain version of events. 

I am very glad to have these memoirs written by my grandparents.  They provide so much insight as to who they were before I knew them and brings their personalities fully to life.  I'm grateful to be able to include these stories when I tell my children about Glenn and LaVerne.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Richard Stockton: Signer of the Declaration of Independence

The signature of Richard Stockton on the Declaration of Independence

 My family moved to a small town four years ago.  The Fourth of July is a big deal here and a large chunk of the community turns out for the annual Fourth of July parade.  It's a lot of fun, and we all get into the spirit of the day.

This year, after the parade had ended, the cookout was cleaned up and the kids were in bed, I dug back into the bins of photos and documents left to me by my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  Inside, I found a short letter written by my grandmother that detailed how her interest in genealogical research began.  It reads as follows:

At a family supper on the Fourth of July in 1957 the children wanted to know about the American Revolution we were celebrating.  Then came the question, "Did we have anyone in the Revolutionary War?"  "Of course," came the response.  Then the hard one: "Who?"  That began the search which has led to endless interesting searching and down many side roads of family history.

The coincidence of finding this on the Fourth of July made me smile.  Yes, as my grandmother discovered over the years, we do have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.  Even better, we have a semi-distant relation who signed the Declaration of Independence.  While Richard Stockton is not a direct ancestor, his contribution to American history is certainly worth highlighting here. 


 Richard Stockton is my second cousin nine times removed.  His great-grandparents, Richard and Abigail Stockton, are my tenth great-grandparents and the Stockton line's immigrant ancestors, having emigrated from Cheshire County, England to New Jersey in the mid-1600s.  Richard Stockton, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born on October 3, 1730 in Princeton, New Jersey.  He was the son of John Stockton and Abigail Phillips.  His father, John Stockton, was wealthy and influential, having served for many years as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in the County of Somerset, New Jersey while America was still a British colony.  Together with four other local men, he donated the acreage and funds necessary to establish Princeton University.

Statue of Richard Stockton located in the United States Capitol
Richard Stockton was the eldest of John and Abigail's children.  He became a lawyer and a good friend of George Washington.  He served as a trustee of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University.  He was also a member of the King's Council for New Jersey.  As tensions between Britain and its colony heightened in the mid-1700s, Richard Stockton was torn between his belief that America should separate itself from the crown, and his career and longtime friendships with devoted loyalists.  The book "Biographies of the Signers" by John Sanderson details Stockton's difficulties during this time and his conflicting allegiance. Eventually, Stockton fell firmly into the rebel camp, working on behalf of American independence.

In 1776, Richard Stockton was elected to the Second Continental Congress, and also elected the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.  He turned down the court position in order to retain his role in Congress.  On July 4th, he signed the document that the Congress had drafted declaring the colonies' independence from England.  His son-in-law, Benjamin Rush, husband of his daughter Julia, also signed the Declaration of Independence.


On November 30, 1776, Stockton was captured by loyalists and turned over to the British.  He was jailed at Perth Amboy.  Stockton was freed six weeks later, but his health was never the same.  He had been subjected to freezing temperatures, starvation and brutality during his prison stay, and the effects of that mistreatment lingered until his death from cancer on March 7, 1781.

An image of Richard Stockton can be found in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.  He is also featured in John Trumbull's famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence which hangs in the Capitol Building's rotunda.  In that image, he is between Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock, seated on the left in a group of four men.



It is an indirect relationship, but one that certainly inspires pride.  To be connected, however distantly, to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence is pretty amazing.