I like the idea of “Follow Friday”, but I feel a little silly at the thought of trying to advise more experienced family researchers. For all the hours I’ve devoted to finding out more about my own family, I’ve really only been doing this since 2011. Which is nothing compared to the decades I know that many others have put in!
So this list is geared toward genealogy “newbies.” I do think I’ve come a long way in my first couple years of research, and I couldn’t have done so without the following sources. (Genealogy veterans probably know about all of these — but if one of you learns something new, then all the better!).
Bear in mind that this list only includes resources that I’ve personally utilized; I haven’t yet tried any of the genetic testing kits, for example (such as 23andMe), so they aren’t included on the list.
In no particular order (except perhaps numbers 1 and 2):
10.) Libraries: Life in the “digital age” means it’s easier than ever before (or so I’ve heard!) to delve into our family histories. Sure enough, through my web searching, I’ve come across photos, newspaper articles, and other gems that I never would’ve guessed I’d find floating around online. Still, for all the treasures just waiting to be discovered on the Internet, there’s an ever greater wealth of information that hasn’t been archived (and might never be). That’s where good, old-fashioned libraries come in!
Some people are lucky enough to live near libraries devoted entirely to genealogy. Salt Lake City’s Family History Library is one obvious example; but it certainly isn’t the only one. Myself, I’m overdue to visit the family history library in Tacoma, WA (which, at 30 or so minutes away, is the closest one I’m aware of to where I live). However, on a visit to Santa Rosa, CA last summer, I did get to visit the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Annex (pictured above). The building was small, yet packed with books divided by location (not limited to California) and year; directories; and (my favorite) archived newspapers dating back over 50 years. I stayed there for over 2 hours — and afterward wished I’d had more time to spend!
Meanwhile, if you don’t live near a genealogy library, I’d still recommend checking out your regular library. You never know what books might be sitting on its shelves. The library here in Olympia also has a couple of stations set up for people who are interested in family research (I think this is a common trait for libraries) where you can access programs such as Ancestry Dot Com for free!
Pros: Free; access to information you might not be able to find online; librarians available to help you out.
Cons: Limited hours; libraries aren’t always quiet; some branches might not offer as much as others.
9.) Family-specific forums and websites: If you’re so overwhelmed by the thought of research that you don’t even know where to begin, why not start with one branch of your family and focus on that name for awhile? It doesn’t have to be your given name (although, of course, it’s fine if you do choose to start there!). Many families seem to have forums that are at least semi-active over at GenForum; the Tillinghast Forum there is where I first encountered my distant cousin, Todd Lawrence, who maintains his own database of Tillinghasts (and thus, was able to tell me my line from ancestor Pardon all the way down; he also sent me a pdf file FILLED with names of descendants of my 2nd great grandparents. From that list, I’ve connected with numerous cousins-once-removed, second cousins, and third cousins that I hadn’t known existed before; I’ve even met some of them in person!).
Some families not only have forums, but actual websites dedicated to history and research. Whipple Website, for example, includes links to articles, notable family members, reunion and DNA info — and, of course, the Whipple GenWeb. (Whipple WhatWeb? A “GenWeb” is another excellent resource; basically, they’re a variation on a website, and can include everything from tailored search engines to family trees to historic photos.)
Pros: Free; you can connect with fellow researchers and family members; many family websites are kept up-to-date and are quite thorough (with cited resources, etc.).
Cons: A lot of families don’t have websites or GenWebs; some websites are out of date; lack of activity on many forums.
8.) Yearbooks: Unfortunately, I don’t own any old yearbooks of family members (if you do, you’re lucky!); however, there are places online to view archived versions of entire yearbooks from all over the country. I found the above photo — and many others — at Classmates Dot Com. I think you have to register to view the yearbooks, but I used an account from years ago and didn’t have any trouble looking at them (and didn’t have to pay anything, either). Even a family member who had a few of these yearbooks back in the day was surprised to see some photos resurface after I shared them!
Pros: Free (if you own a hard copy of a yearbook or view it at Classmates Dot Com); you could find a clue or two inside, and even if you don’t, they’re a great place to see photos that you might not find elsewhere (in the case of my cousin, Marjorie Tillinghast, pictured above — who died in 1960 — the yearbook photos I found online are the only ones I’ve seen of her). I even found a few of my parents’ old yearbooks at Classmates!
Cons: Some yearbooks might be hard to find or not very useful for research; registering at Classmates Dot Com could be too much of a bother.
7.) Google: Yes, Google! The search engine alone could lead you to family trees, family websites or GenWebs, obituaries… you name it. Try searching for a family member’s name in different ways: type it in quotes, vary the spelling, search for it along with another family member’s name or with a relevant phase (i.e. a location where that family member lived). Who knows what you might find? I once came across an old Yahoo! mailing list archive dedicated to descendants of my great grandparents — which hadn’t had any real posts in years, yet included anecdotes about them… and a transcribed letter from my great grandfather (see this post for more on that!).
If you’re trying to track down family members who are still living (and don’t feel too stalker-ish), a Google search could also lead to something like a MyLife or WhitePages Dot Com page. I don’t know how accurate the information on these pages tends to be (I haven’t actually contacted anybody using MyLife or WhitePages) but you might be able to verify an age or connection with another family member; I’ve had some luck with this (verified after contacting the family member in question later on, or asking somebody else knowledgable).
Then there’s Google Books, which is even more fun than regular old Google! I’ve found a lot of interesting stuff on here just by typing in my ancestors’ names; some searches will yield a page or two, others pull up entire (public domain) books. If you don’t want to read the books straight from Google, you’ll at least have the information to try to locate them elsewhere.
Sadly, I don’t believe Google maintains a News Archive anymore, but that was just as fun as Google Books; the news archive is where I first found the shocking-yet-fascinating news story about my 3rd great grandfather and the 75 criminal charges filed against him (when he was about 75 years old!).
Pros: Free; endless possibilities; Google Books.
Cons: Questionable accuracy on some search results; not every search is fruitful; no more Google News Archives!
6.) Social networking: While Genealogy Wise caters specifically to genealogy (there aren’t very many participants there, but some forums remain active), really any social networking website can come in handy for your research. I’ve used good ol’ Facebook for tracking down long-lost cousins (mostly from that list Todd Lawrence sent me). Of the people I’ve sent friend requests to, about 2/3rds accepted; of those, at least 50% initiated communication and/or responded to questions I had. In other words, I can’t speak for others’ experiences; but none of my family members seemed to mind my contacting them, and many of them seemed happy that I did so. (So be courteous, of course — but don’t be shy!) I’m now in touch with several of these cousins on a fairly regular basis.
You can also join or create family-specific groups on Facebook (some of these groups are public, others are private; if you create or moderate a group, you can decide which privacy level you prefer). The activity level of these groups varies — but in general, they’re another great way to meet cousins, share photos and information, or plan get-togethers or reunions. The possibilities are infinite!
Pros: Free; convenient (if you’re already on Facebook or whatever social networking site you want to use), direct contact with family members.
Cons: Privacy isn’t guaranteed; social networking sites aren’t for everyone, you might meet a family member who you… don’t like (or simply don’t wish to hear from anymore; or it could go the other way, and you might meet a cousin who doesn’t like you!).
5.) Obituaries: Often genealogical treasure troves, obituaries can be found via many of the other sources in this list. I’ve used them to verify connections; I’ve discovered some connections that I wouldn’t have even known about if I didn’t read certain obituaries. Of course, they’re also nice ways to learn more about family members — and to uncover stories that, again, you just won’t find anywhere else. For example, I read in one 4th great grandfather’s obituary that he was trampled by a horse after suffering a heart attack in his barn (yikes!).
Pros: You can verify names, dates, and family connections, learn names of survivors, and read interesting stories. Free (depending on which site/source you use to access the obituaries).
Cons: Some obituaries aren’t as thorough as others; names or other relevant bits of info are occasionally inaccurate or left out.
4.) Find A Grave: And here’s an excellent place to find obituaries new and old. This utterly addicting website vows to eventually list the burial location of every person who ever existed. I’m not sure how close they are to fulfilling that goal; however, I do know that the database grows every day. I’ve already found an impressive number of my family members!
Some pages are pretty sparse; but most of them will at least list a burial location. Many pages include photos of gravestones (which are awesome for research — gravestones don’t lie!). Some link to family members, and many of the pages include obituaries and family photos.
You can create a Find A Grave page for your own family member if you have enough relevant information (i.e. a name, burial location, and ideally date of birth and/or date of death). The website discourages “duplicate” pages, so check to make sure your family member isn’t already listed in the database (if somebody else has already created a page, you can request a “transfer” of ownership; and anybody is free to leave messages and a certain number of photos on each page, regardless of ownership. The exception being some “notorious” famous people, whose message functions have been disabled.)
Best of all, it’s all FREE!
Pros: FREE!; addicting; interactive; a great source for photos, stories, and connecting with others.
Cons: The “transfer” process can be kind of annoying, especially for pages that were created by Find A Grave and can’t be transferred (i.e. my grandfather’s); not everybody is listed; dates and names are sometimes inaccurate (but in general, I’ve found this to be a reliable website).
3.) Non-Ancestry.com genealogy sites: Everybody has heard of Ancestry Dot Com, but there are similar sites out there that are certainly worth a look.
FamilySearch Dot Org is operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s free! From my experience, FamilySearch isn’t as thorough as Ancestry Dot Com — and some of the family trees and other search results can be hard to navigate — but I’ve come across a couple of records there that I couldn’t find anywhere else (i.e. the death record of a cousin who died as a baby; before I found this record, I was starting to wonder if he’d even really existed). So I appreciate the website for that.
Archives Dot Com is not free — and is actually owned by Ancestry, if I’m not mistaken. Still, it’s a little more affordable than Ancestry, and some might think it’s less overwhelming. I’m not really sure if you can find information on this site that can’t be found elsewhere.
GenealogyBank isn’t free, either, but it might be up your alley if you’re looking for obituaries or other news articles. I’m not crazy about their signup process (to me, ‘get unlimited 30-day access’ indicates some sort of trial period, which is… not really the case). I’ve tried their services twice; I didn’t have trouble canceling the first time, but the second time, I had to call and “remind” them that I’d canceled my membership after I was unexpectedly billed (I had no further problems after that).
On the plus side, their database seems pretty large; I found at least three obituaries that I haven’t seen at any other site!
RootsWeb is another Ancestry Dot Com-owned company. I’ve questioned the accuracy of much of the information I found there. But it’s a good starting point — and it’s FREE!
These are just some of the genealogy websites to explore beyond Ancestry. There are tons of others — and some of them are scams, so use your best judgment! (Except for the slight sketchy vibe I mentioned regarding GenealogyBank’s signup process, I can vouch that none of the sources included in this list are scams — at least, they don’t seem to be, based on my experience with them.)
Pros & Cons: Nothing I haven’t already mentioned… see above.
2.) Ancestry.com: Sure, it’s expensive. But, to me, it really is the most comprehensive source of its kind — and I keep coming back to it! Not only are you able to create your own family tree… the scope of information here is enormous. There are censuses; birth, death, marriage and military records; yearbook photos; news articles and obituaries; personal family stories and pictures; etc., etc., etc.
I also use Ancestry’s software program, Family Tree Maker. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessary, but it’s nice if you want an additional place to document your tree (you can “sync” the software with your online tree, so you only need to enter names and other information one time and it will save to both places).
By the way, don’t focus too much on other users’ public trees; sometimes, the information is accurate, but other times people will list a mother whose birth date falls after her supposed child’s — or other “facts” that don’t make sense. Still, these trees can be good starting places. And you can verify what you find with the censuses and other, more trustworthy documents that are available right there at the very same website!
Pros: Huge library of documents and information; addicting; informative.
Cons: Not exactly cheap; occasionally overwhelming; often inaccurate information on public family trees.
1.) Family members: Nothing beats your family for learning family history! Whether you’re lucky enough to own documents such as family bibles, or you’re relying on the memories of those who were blessed to know your deceased grandparents or great grandparents. I’ve cracked more than one mystery just by talking to family members (including my cousin-once-removed, Marlene, who sent me the photo above. Which is one of my favorites!)
And if you don’t have luck the first time, try again! My mother didn’t think she knew anything about her grandmother’s history. But she was able to recall just a few key names, and from there (after a few Ancestry Dot Com searches) I was able to verify what she told me, fill in several spots on my family tree, and make some new connections!
Pros: Stories more personal than you’ll find anywhere else… heck, what isn’t a “pro” about learning family history from your family?
Cons: I suppose some family members might have their facts wrong (it’s still fun to talk to them, find out what they know, and get their perspective).
Whew! There you go. I hope this helps at least one person out there.
Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments (or shoot me an email!).
Remember in my last blog post, when I wrote that I’d never seen a photo of my great-grandfather, Wilmer (aka “Bill”) Atkinson Tillinghast? I didn’t mention this then, but I’d also (to my knowledge) never seen a baby photo of my father, NOR had I seen more than one photo (and the one I saw was over a decade ago) of my paternal grandfather, George Horace Tillinghast. Well, ALL of that changed last Friday, thanks to my Uncle Steven! He was kind enough to scan several pictures of the family and share them on Facebook. He also (just as kindly) gave me permission to re-post the photos here.
So here they are! As you can see in the photo above, there are three generations of Tillinghasts: Wilmer, Daniel (my dad), and George. This picture was taken in Healdsburg, CA, around October of 1952, just three months after my father was born. Cute baby, wasn’t he?
(Sorry that some of these photos aren’t the most clear. I know that you can’t really make out Bill… but I can see enough to determine that — surprise, surprise — he looks nothing like Wilford Brimley!)
How about some more pictures?
Here’s my grandmother’s father, George Von Batenburg. I’m not sure if I’m spelling his name correctly. I didn’t even know his name until last Friday! So far, Google and Ancestry dot com searches haven’t turned up anything on him (though it seems the surname might be German?) but you know, right now it’s exciting just to have his name — and this photo! (I can even see a little bit of my father in him… in the eyes, I think.)
Speaking of my grandma, there she is, on the right; the woman next to her is her mother, Hazel! This picture would have been taken in the mid 1960’s. Right now, I don’t know Hazel’s maiden name, but I have a feeling I will find out more about her at some point (I hope so, anyway!). Especially because (way in the very back of my mind) I remembered that her name was Hazel — which means somebody either told me that, or I read it somewhere (this would’ve been looong before I started “officially” researching genealogy). As for my grandmother (born Clara Ann Cornwell) her second husband (Harold — my grandfather’s brother) nicknamed her “Susie.” I’m not sure where that name originated, but it stuck. From what I remember, the name “Susie” seemed to fit. (She is buried as Susie Tillinghast.) I didn’t get to spend MUCH time with my grandmother, who passed away in 2000; but I do have fond memories and am blessed for the time I did have with her!
And here she is again! With my grandfather, George. I’m not sure when this photo was taken (sometime in the 1940’s?). But I love that they look so happy. They sure had their share of sadness later on — BUT photos like this show they definitely had their happy moments, as well. And, I must say… they made quite an attractive couple!
You can’t see my great grandmother (Daisy Mae Richards Tillinghast) very well at ALL in this photo… but, awww, look at the baby (I know him better as my father!).
And speaking of babies…
The baby in this photo is my cousin, Kenny. I’ve known of him for most of my life; though I’ve never met him. But how’s this — for a large chunk of my life, I actually believed that he was a professional (albeit “chump”) wrestler in the WCW, based on something my dad told me (probably facetiously). See, there was a wrestler billed as “Kenny Kendall” who (according to my dad) would have been “about the right age” to conceivably be one and the same with my cousin — that is, if the wrestler’s name was actually Kenny Kendall! (I later found out his real name was something like Barry Jones.) Oh, well. As for my cousin, I think I tracked him (the real one) down one time. (I haven’t contacted him, though; among other things, I’m not sure what I would say.)
Now, if you’re wondering who the lovely woman holding Kenny is in this photo — she’s my aunt, Sharon. She died in 1966 or 1967 at a very young age (22 or 23). I’m not sure of the circumstances that led to her death. According to records at Find a Grave, it happened in Idaho (I now know she lived there at the time; thanks, Dad!). Hopefully someday I can find out more about Sharon. I think she’s quite pretty in this photo!
Here’s another great picture of my paternal grandfather, George Horace Tillinghast. He was in the service in I think the early 1940’s, so I assume this picture was taken then. (And this observation is sort of random and silly, but in the above photo — not so much the others — he sort of reminds me of comedian Ben Bailey.)
I saved the best for last; I think this is my favorite of the photos my uncle shared. Here there are, my grandparents, Clara (before she was Susie!) and George Tillinghast. He had a kind face. And she looks so young and in love here. I wonder if this was a wedding picture? I’m not sure (yet!).
Meanwhile, this week, I’m at my parents’ house in Gig Harbor; this happens to be the week of my annual cancer scans (for those who don’t already know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 at the ripe old age of 27. I’ve been doing quite well for quite awhile; this Thursday, I’ll learn whether or not that pattern continues. As for the actual scans, I had them done earlier today. Oral contrast = YUCK!)
I’m enjoying the time with my parents (if only I was here under better circumstances); however, I’m looking forward to this weekend. Among other reasons, my weekend plans include going over to my Uncle Steven and Aunt Darla’s… where I’ll get hopefully get copies of these photos (and more?) and learn some of the stories behind them. I’ll certainly keep you posted on what I find out!
But right now, it’s time to break for some coconut cake!
Last year, one of the first things I learned in regards to my personal genealogy was my official “Tillinghast line” (thanks, Uncle Bud and Todd Lawrence!) and I quickly committed it to memory. For the benefit of my Tillinghast cousins, here’s my branch of our tree (for everybody else, pay attention to the fourth-to-the-last name!):
Robert – John – Pardon – PARDON – Pardon – John – Pardon – Stukely – Stephen – Isaac – Stephen – Isaac Fred – Wilmer – George – Daniel – and… yours truly.
(As you might guess from the many repeated names, it wasn’t all that hard to memorize my line.)
Capitalized Pardon, by the way, is the Pardon… the reason we American Tillinghasts are all here. Robert Tillinghast (1540-1613) of Sussex, England is the earliest known Tillinghast that I’m aware of. As for my 6th great grandfather Stukely Tillinghast (sometimes cited as “Stutely” — allegedly also called “Snuffy” for the “dull” color of his coat), he’s the father of the legendary Rhode Island “vampire”, Sarah Tillinghast. But more on all of them in future posts.
The other day, right after debuting this blog, I decided to go on a Google hunt for other Tillinghast blogs. I didn’t find any blogs — but that was okay, because I stumbled across something just as valuable (I LOVE finding treasure when I’m not even looking for it!).
It was the archives of an old Yahoo! mailing list. Actually, the list is still active, though barely so… anyway, if you’re wondering what’s so exciting about an old Yahoo! list — the group was/is devoted specifically to descendants of my paternal great grandparents, Wilmer Atkinson Tillinghast and Daisy Mae Richards!
The list was started by my Uncle Bud way back in 1999, and most of the relevant material was posted prior to 2005 (before people started flooding the list with off-topic posts, as tends to happen on mailing lists; I’m not sure if the off-topic stuff “killed” the activity — I also noticed some outright spam, which I’m sure didn’t help — but in any case it has since slowed down to maybe one or two new posts every couple of years. Had I known about the list, I would have participated sooner! I casually joined it anyway.)
No big deal on the lack of recent activity (though, with that said, I’d love to try to get some conversation going again; in fact, Bud asked me if I’d like to try taking over the list. I told him, sure!) I still found plenty of interesting tidbits in those archived messages.
Up until now, I knew next to nothing about my great grandparents. I never met them. They were both born in 1881, and died in the 1960’s (I didn’t come around until 1979).
Last year, when I started to explore my genealogy, I learned their names, and that they were both born in Pennsylvania (in my great grandfather’s case, in La Plume; I’m not sure what part of the state my great grandma came from). They married young, and had their first child in 1900. Altogether, they had 8 children.
The family re-located to Sonoma County, CA sometime in the 1920’s (based on information from the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses), which made my great-grandfather the first of our direct Tillinghast line to go “out west.” (He was not the first Tillinghast to do so.) I’m not sure what brought the family to Sonoma County, but they stuck around; my dad was born in Sebastapol, and many of Wilmer and Daisy’s descendants still live in that area!
That’s about the gist of what I knew about my great grandparents before I found this Yahoo! list (except that I also know at least the names of all of my cousins who are also descendants, thanks to a list that unofficial Tillinghast genealogist Todd Lawrence kindly sent my way several months ago).
I wish I could post a picture of either or both of my great grandparents, but I don’t (yet) have one, nor have I ever seen one. For some reason, I vaguely picture my great grandfather to look like Wilford Brimley… but I have no idea if he actually did resemble “Gus Witherspoon” (I doubt it). As for my great grandmother, Daisy — well, if you’ve clicked the “Brick Walls” link on this blog, you’ll know that I’m really lacking information on her, including her parents’ names.
Based on tidbits and memories shared in the Yahoo! list, I now know that:
-Daisy had long hair and a “wonderful smile” (she was described as very beautiful when she was young). She was known to take her time doing things and not rush.
-My great grandparents differed in their politics; she was “an ardent FDR Democrat” and he was a “died in the wool Republican”, according to a post from my Uncle Bud (based on words and memories from his father). It didn’t affect their marriage; they just didn’t discuss politics around election time! I don’t really want to discuss politics either, but I will say that (for more than one reason) this anecdote made me smile.
-They spoiled their grandkids. (There were several examples posted on the mailing list to back this up!)
I read all 280+ messages in the Yahoo! list and appreciated every detail (no matter how small) that helped me form a better picture of Wilmer and Daisy; but the best message of all came in the form of a letter transcribed by my Uncle Bud that was actually written by Wilmer Atkinson Tillinghast, Sr., my great grandfather… whom I’ve always thought of as “Wilmer Atkinson Tillinghast” or “Wilmer A. Tillinghast” (because those are the names I see in Ancestry dot com). But after reading his words, I feel like I have a better grasp on who he was; and for starters, he didn’t go by Wilmer, he was Bill!
Here’s the letter, which is addressed to his niece, an “Elizabeth Henry” (Ancestry confirms that his brother, Albert Brundage Tillinghast, had a daughter Elizabeth whose married name was Henry). I love that the first part of the letter is actually about genealogy.
___ Reed Court
December 12, 1960
[According to Find A Grave, Bill passed away almost two years to the date after he wrote this letter.]
My Dear Elizabeth;
It seems to take the spirit of Xmas to jar me out of my absorption in purely personal matters long enough to give some thought to other members of my family.
I have always had a pride of family, probably exaggerated out of all proportion of reality.
[I feel closer to him already!]
so come Xmas time I begin to wonder what is happening to other members of the family with whom I have only infrequently contact.
I don’t know whether your Dad or your grandmother Tillinghast told you that our original ancestor, Pardon Tillinghast, came to this country in 1643, with a 1/4 interest in the original grant to what is now the city of Providence, R.I. He built the first Baptist Church in America and on his own land and preached in it until the time of his death at 96 years of age.
This is all confirmed in Appletons Encyclopedia, which is available in most public libraries.
[It’s true; we Tillinghasts are very proud of our ancestor, Pardon… something that has clearly been passed down through the generations.]
You are also related to Thomas Edison and Woodrow Wilson.
The Edison connection is through his mother who was the daughter of a blacksmith named Brundage, in Orange, N.J. who was a cousin of our Grandfather Brundage.
The Woodrow Wilson connection is through the grandfather of my mother who was Dr. Bruce Wilson, whose brother settled in the valley of Virginia and became either the father or the grandfather of Woodrow Wilson.
A couple of years after my mothers death I received a letter from a Dr. Wilson in Princeton, N.J. stating that he was asking me to furnish him with vital statistics concerning my family as he was writing a continuation of the Woodrow Wilson family and they had already had a record of the birth of myself and my brothers and sisters but had no information later than that.
So your Dad’s name and mine are already recorded in the Wilson family history.
[VERY interesting! I actually knew about the Edison connection; though, oddly enough, I think I traced it through a different set of ancestors. The ancestors I found in common with Thomas Edison are my 6th great grandparents, Samuel Ogden and Phebe Baldwin; I have that their daughter, Phebe Ogden, b. 1759, married James Brundage, b. 1761. James and Phebe Brundage were the 2nd great grandparents of my 2nd great grandmother, Bill’s mother, Edith Brundage. This is all based on information I found originally at Ancestry dot com. However, I think that Edith Brundage’s grandparents were… cousins, so that might explain some of the confusion. I still have a lot to learn about the Brundages! As for the Woodrow Wilson connection, that’s ENTIRELY new to me! What I would do to get my hands on that book!]
I have the Tillinghast family record from Pardon Tillinghast down to my generation and always intended to bring it down to date but there are so many matters of which I have no information that I will probably never get it completed.
[Well, that’s what I’m here for, Great Grandfather. I wonder whatever happened to his records?]
My family here are growing so fast I can hardly keep track of them. We now have 29 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.
Your Aunt Daisy is still in the hospital over two years now and is completely helpless’ can move only her head and arms, and can talk only a few words, and is just dying by inches.
[This part almost made me cry. On an interesting, albeit sad note, her date of death is listed almost three years after his, so I wonder if she recovered for at least a short period after he wrote this letter?]
George and Frances are both dead, also one granddaughter, Harold’s girl Margie is gone.
[I felt sad for Bill here, too. How strange it must be to outlive not only your children, but at least one of your grandchildren. George and Frances were Bill and Daisy’s two youngest, by the way. George is also my grandfather; he committed suicide in 1958. I don’t say this in a judgmental way, for I’m sure when he ended his life he must have felt for whatever reason that it was his only choice; but I know it affected my dad, who was only 6, and this letter made me think for the first time about how it must have affected his parents.
On a happier note, my grandmother, Clara… better known as Susie… later married George’s brother — the Harold mentioned in this letter, who is also the father of Bud, who transcribed this letter! — and they remained together until his death in 1976.]
Our oldest boy Bill Jr. is Deputy Agriculture commissioner.
Dick is in Fresno in charge of that territory for the Blue Chip trading stamp Co
Harold is a building contractor, now living with me here as he is divorced
Bob is manager of a cabinet company in Santa Rosa. Steve is still running a delicatessen in Elizabeth, N.J. and Harriet’s husband is voltage tester in the Pacific Gas and Elect. Co.
Frances husband is a chef in a restaurant in St. Helena, Calif .
I have always wanted to get back east for a visit with all of you but as I had a second heart attack a couple of months ago, which put me out of circulation for three weeks, and since I’m nearly 80 years old it seems rather doubtful if I can make it.
May God Bless you all, Sincerely, Uncle Bill
God bless you, Great Grandfather Bill. I hope you made it back east for a final visit.
I’m so glad that I found that Yahoo! group and got to read this letter. (And very grateful to Uncle Bud for sharing it!) Logically, as my great grandfather was born 100 years before me, even if he’d lived to 100 years, I never would have known him. But if this letter is any indication, I know that I would have liked him… and, that we would’ve had plenty to talk about!
In fact, with his interest in family, he probably would have appreciated this blog (at least, I hope so!). Hopefully I can keep it going, continue his work, and make my great grandfather proud.