Just Trying to do a Good Deed.

Where do we start?

Where do we start?


I like many of you have been helped along in our genealogy research. Many times it was a complete stranger, perhaps thousands of miles away. I also have at times tried to help other people. The good feeling you get when you are able to help someone is for me reward enough. One of the things I do is to help direct a genealogy group at my local library. We have many beginning genealogists that attend the meetings, and helping them gather family data is very rewarding. I, however wanted to do a little more. A website that has given me much information has been “Find A Grave.” So I signed on to try and fill photo request at local cemeteries.

I only had to wait a few weeks when a request came in. It was for Fly Creek Valley Cemetery. While not exactly in my backyard it was only about 45 minutes away. It is very close Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an area my wife and I know very well and are down this way often. I checked the listing “Find A Grave” had for this cemetery and found they have a total of 30 requests. So I printed out a list and thought I would put a real dent in that number. My wife was talked into going (she is much better at spotting names on the markers) my note pad, camera, and list were all packed up and away we went.

The day was very warm in the high 80s and very humid. However we were very comfortable in our air condition car. Which was a good thing because after having to turn around about six times it was getting a little warm between my wife (who was attempting to read the map) and myself. Like true explorers, we managed to stumble on the correct cemetery. Since I was not able to get a cemetery map we got out of the car and started to look around. We picked an older section to start in and began to walk up and down the rows. I was sure we would find someone on the list as the numbers were on our side. It was a fairly small cemetery with 3539 residents of which 30 were on the list for a photo. The odds were with me that I had to find a few of them.

In the end it was just me, being closely watched.

In the end it was just me, being closely watched.

Did I mention that it was very hot and humid? After about an hour of looking my eagle-eyed scout, announced that she would be heading back to the car. However I was free to look as long as I wanted. I said that was very nice of her. But all I got was the look. If you have been married any time at all you know what the look is. I must say in our 43 years of marriage I have seen that look a few times. I stomped through the cemetery for an hour plus but did not find any of the names on the list. Also knowing that out of the 3539 residents only 58 photos had been taken of headstones, I thought I would take some photos of the older or more interesting stones to post them to “Find A Grave”. I won’t say how many I took, but believe me it was a good number. Not willing to give up yet I joined my wife in the car, and we drove through the cemetery seeing if she could spot any names from the car. No luck.

A great place to stop when in Fly Creek, N.Y.

A great place to stop when in Fly Creek, N.Y.


The best part of the day was we drove into Fly Creek to have a quick bite to eat. We went to our favorite place the Fly Creek General Store. Here you can buy gasoline, groceries, clothing, DVDs, fishing bait, and sandwiches from a great deli. I was reminded that we had worked past lunch time. Since it was about 3pm we decided to split a turkey sandwich and not spoil our supper. The food as always was great and we bought a loaf of homemade apple bread with Carmel drizzled over it to take home. As luck would have it right across the street was a moving sale and we purchased a nice lamp. On the way back we stopped at a quilt shop in the area my wife likes. But we arrived too late as they closed early on Saturdays during the summer. I was reminded that if we had stopped on the way down (like she wanted) she would have been able to look around and perhaps buy a few things. I turned the air conditioner up, as it was getting a little warmer.

A nice lunch to relax with.

A nice lunch to relax with.


Oh yes out of all the photos I took that day only one was not already taken. Of the 58 that were already taken how did I ever manage to take the same ones? Also how could I manage not to find one of the 30 names I was looking for? After all I was just trying to do a good deed

A nice yard sale to explore

A nice yard sale to explore

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Hiding In Plain Sight

I had nothing but smiles this day.

I had nothing but smiles this day.

In his book “Descendants of Thomas Dakin of Concord, Massachusetts” A.H. Dakin has my 2nd great grandfather Abraham Morton Dakin death date as January, 1914. The book was printed in 1948 and I thought that more up to date information had to be available. However, I was wrong. No exact date of death, no cause of death, or even where he died. This lack of information was like a pebble in my genealogy shoe that was very irritating.

In my search for this information, I was to learn much about the man, and he has become one of my favorite ancestors. He had a strong partner in his wife Elizabeth Moral Warner, with a marriage lasting 63 years until her death in 1909. Abraham was to enlist in the Union Army in 1863 at the age of 43. At that time, he was farming and Elizabeth was pregnant. In fact, four out five of his brothers who moved to Maine fought in the Civil War. All were to survive the war. Abraham’s children all were to receive an education. However, this is not a story of his life, but an attempt to show what we must do to get the information we need. For the advanced genealogist, I am sure my suggestions will sound all too familiar. However, you may be able to give some pointers in the comments.

One of the first steps I did was to find Abraham in the censuses. I found him in all the censuses from 1850 up to 1910. I even found him in the 1890 Veterans Schedules taken of the surviving Civil War Veterans. This provided me with two big clues. The first was that he had served in the Civil War and that he moved to Pennsylvania. In fact, I was to find that Abraham was to move often. From what I am able to gather he moved to Pennsylvania from Maine. Then he moved to New York, back to Pennsylvania, and was to move from one side of the state to the other. When Abraham and Elizabeth reached an age where they could no longer work they were to stay with their children’s family. However, it was John his last born child who was to provide a place for his parents to stay.

Now that I knew where he was living I researched all the cemeteries that were online near where he lived. I would recheck this often as new information was added and more cemeteries would go online. I also contacted local libraries and historical societies. In all the places that I asked them for help, every one of them tried their best to get the information I needed. To give you an idea of how many places I worked, let me give you some numbers. Abraham had seven children who lived to adulthood. Also, he had 21 (yes 21, this is not a typo) brothers and sisters. I researched where they lived in case he was buried there.

Newspapers were another source I would use. With more and more of them going online, they hold an ocean of information. I also subscribed to few pay sites that contain many newspapers just waiting to be explored. While I found many interesting nuggets of information about my ancestors, I found no new information about Abraham. However, while viewing a county web page, I was able to find much information on Elizabeth. She died while they were living with their son in Yates County, New York. I had not seen any of this information about her before, so I believe I was breaking new ground. I was able to find her small obituary in the newspaper. Also, she was listed in the Register of Deaths Town of Milo, Yates County. Someone had transcribed her maiden to Washer from Warner.. When I visited I was able to view the records and I am sure it is Warner. However, I could find no record of Abraham.

A well cared for cemetery. This is Abraham Morton Dakin's  finial resting place.

A well cared for cemetery. This is Abraham Morton Dakin’s finial resting place.


A very useful tool and the one that gave me my breakthrough is Find a Grave. Every few months I would cast a wide net and look for him on this site. This year I found Abram Y Dakin. It showed a gravestone with the date of death being 1913. The middle initial was wrong and the death of death was off by one year. I was able to contact the cemetery association which provided me with more information. The person buried was Abram Dakin. They had no middle name and showed the burial date as 1913. The owner of the lot was a John Dakin. In fact, Abraham was occupying just one of eight sites. They other seven are not being used. At this point, I was almost sure that I had the right person. I could not yet explain the Y for the middle initial. The picture on Find A Grave did not show enough detail. So I then contacted the library which also houses the historical society. They were able to find a very short death notice in the Montrose Democrat dated September 3, 1914. It gave the date of death as August 28th. Here at last was my 1914 death date.

The next thing I had to do is wait about a month until Ancestery.com put up its file of death certificates for Pennsylvania between 1906 to 1924. My understanding that they will be adding more dates in the future. When I was able to view the certificate of death, I knew I had found my 2nd great grandfather. I then was able to make the trip down to his grave and pay my respects. Also, I was able to explain away the Y for his initials. The picture below will explain the misunderstanding.

If you look closely you can see the middle initial is a M and not a Y. Also the year of death is wrong. It should be 1914.

If you look closely you can see the middle initial is a M and not a Y. Also the year of death is wrong. It should be 1914.

Abraham Dakin's Death Certificate.  This was the proof I needed.

Abraham Dakin’s Death Certificate. This was the proof I needed.

Finding out about my 2nd great grandparents was a journey that took me to many places. The best part was while I was not getting the information I wanted about them, I discovered much about my Dakin family. I was on the hunt for many years. The one thing I can tell you is if you have a so called “brick wall” keep trying. New information is going online every day. The day you give up could be the day the clue you need is posted, just waiting for you to find it. Also keep checking your facts. It would have been very easy to see the Y and just skip over it. Also, I could have kept the date of death as 1913, but by searching for all the facts I got the right date of death. Who would think that the gravestone and the cemetery records could be so wrong? That is why you keep looking and checking what you find.

Here I am getting the picture.

Here I am getting the picture.

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Do Our Family Treasures Have a Secret Life?

Objects

We all have them. Those items we gather as we move through our life. They may have been handed down to you by your parents, grandparents or passed down from many generations. It could even be a silly souvenir that you purchased on that great family vacation a few years ago. If you still do not know what I mean, these are the things you would grab as you leave because of a fire. You know the things that have no monetary value, but are priceless because selling them would be like selling a part of yourself. Do the people in your family know their story? Do they have a secret life so that their story is not known? Their story is your story, your family’s story and needs to be told.

I have just finished reading “The Secret Life of Objects” written by Dawn Raffel. The author would choose an object, her 14-year-old son Sean Evers, would provide the illustration. Dawn would select an object as a coffee mug, rocking chair, watch, prayer-book, just an ordinary item until she told their story. Then they would come to life because their story was her story and that of her family’s. In her telling the stories of these objects, we learned the deep meaning they had for her but also served in the forming of her memoir. The book is an enjoyable read, and I came to an end way too soon. I recommend that anyone doing genealogy read this book.

Chalk board from the school days of Emma Craft.

Chalk board from the school days of Emma Craft.

Pictured above is the slate chalk board that was used in school by Emma Craft. Emma was my wife’s great-grandmother and was born in June of 1866. You may not be able to see in the photograph where Emma carved her name into the wood. At the time, she was going to school this would have been used to work out math problems and many other exercises. Paper cost money and the chalk board was used in place of paper. Also, her school would have been a one room school house. Emma was married at age 25 to Oreon Monty. According to the write up in the Plattsburgh Sentinel “A very pretty wedding was that of Miss Emma Craft and Mr. Owen Montey, which took place at the residence of the bride’s father, Mr. Stephen Craft, ..at five o’clock, P.M..” Please note the complete misspelling of the Groom’s name. The article goes on to say ” Supper was served, and a most agreeable air of sociability prevailed…They were the recipients of many beautiful and valuable gifts, tokens of love and friendship.” Pictured below is a homemade cedar chest that was made for her wedding day. Draped over the lid is a hand embroidered pillow case that was crafted by Emma’s daughter Florence Monty Gonya, my wife’s great aunt. My wife has very fond memories of riding her bike to the Gonya farm and visiting with her great aunt.

Cedar Chest and Pillow Case.

Cedar Chest and Pillow Case.

The clock you see pictured below at one time hung in my grandmother’s living room. It does not work now but as a child I could watch the movements of that clock and day-dream the time away. Since my grandmother lived just a few blocks from me, I would often go to her house for a visit. I especially liked Sunday dinners at grandma’s house. She was a great cook and the meals were always delicious. I would always know where my seat was. It was the one with a bottle of Coke by the plate. Drinking soda with your meal was not allowed in my house. However, at grandma’s house she overruled this and the soda was mine. My grandmother died when I was 24 years old. I was told I could take anything I wanted from her house. The only thing that I could think of was this clock. It reminds me of days that seem so far away.

Grandmother's Living room clock.

Grandmother’s Living room clock.

Objects from the life of Robert Lyon.

Objects from the life of Robert Lyon.

The above picture is of a wooden bowl with its cover, and a certificate admitting Robert A Lyon the privilege of practicing law in New York State Courts. Robert was to leave for war soon after his high school graduation. The army put him through some college, but after a couple of years he found himself on the way to Italy. He was to be a clerk typist but at various times found him operating a Browning Automatic Rife or as they were called a BAR. Italy was to touch Robert in a very special way. As Robert tells it, he did not keep his derriere low enough and collected some shrapnel and a purple heart. He never told his mother about being wounded. Instead, he brought back that wooden bowl. We have hundreds of letters that Robert wrote to his mother during the war. By reading them, you see the formation that made him the man he became. Once back from the war he got married, worked and got a law degree all at the same time. He set up his law practice in rural northern New York. He worked at night at a dairy farm to earn the money needed to get his law office going. When he died almost every farmer in the county were his clients. My wife has memories of him being paid off in vegetables and meat from these farms. I was with him one day when somebody asked him what type of law he practiced. He smiled and answered “oh anything that comes through the door”.

The picture below is of an old World War 2 garrison cap. I cannot begin to tell you the hours I spent playing with that hat. With that hat, I was the general that led his troops into battle that we always won. We would play outside for hours saving the world from the bad guys. I would even put it on when playing with my plastic army men indoors. However before I wore it, my father had use of it and not for play. It was part of the uniform that my father wore while he was in the army during World War 2. I now have his medals and the knowledge of the terrible price that came with that cap. He saw more bloodshed and inhumanity than anyone should ever have to. When he came home from the war, he got married and went to work every day at the foundry. He would speak very little about the war. He kept it locked up inside and also in a heavy footlocker. There it stayed waiting for a young boy to discover. The flag in the picture covered my father’s casket. He died when I was fifteen years old. It’s funny the things you never forget. When they handed the folded flag to my mother, the airman said, “from a grateful nation”.

Garrison Cap and Flag.

Garrison Cap and Flag.

I only gave you a quick peek at the secret life of these objects. The stories could be longer and more detailed. Long or short version of their stories, it is up to you to tell them. We all work so hard to get our genealogy right. Why would we pass up the chance to tell everyone what these heirlooms are and what they mean? Just take one object a week or a month and tell its story. By doing this, you will be keeping your family history alive. That’s better than finding your treasures on sale at a flea market.

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

The Godfather

Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna. Year 1975

Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna. Year 1975

We all should take a second look at the family records that we have gathered in our search for family history. You may find some surprises when you re-examined them. I have re-read many of the family’s obituaries and researched the names of long past cousins. By doing this, I have been able to gain much new information. Also, the more current obituaries have led me to cousins I never knew existed. By current, I mean anything in the last seventy five years. I just recently found a second cousin who went to school with my wife from an obituary from the year 1984. Perhaps one of my most surprising discoveries was not even discovered by me. It was my mother’s telling the story of my baptism that had me running to check my baptism certificate. I have looked at my baptism certificate many times but had never noticed the blank spot where the name of my god-father should be. I have always been told that my Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna were my god-parents. But as they use to say “now for the rest of the story” my mother was now about to share. I was baptized on July 15, 1951. It was a rainless day that was to reach a high of 83 Fahrenheit. I am willing to bet it seemed warmer in the church that day with a few storm clouds in evidence. The family had gathered for my baptism that Sunday after all the masses having been said. However, a hitch had developed that threatened my baptism from taking place. My Uncle Lawrence was not Catholic but was a Methodist. Being Methodist made him ineligible to be my god-father. Arguments ensued, but matters were even made worse. The priest would not let my uncle stay in the church. My uncle had to wait outside on the church steps while I was being baptized.

Missing Godfather

Missing Godfather

When I first heard of this, I was stunned. I had to blink and hide the tears that were coming. I could not and still can’t think of anyone that this action could have hurt more. My uncle was a gentle and loving person. In all my years I never once heard him use a profane word. He taught me about stamp and coin collecting. Every summer I would stay a week or two at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Massena, New York. They lived about 90 miles from my hometown. Every Sunday, my aunt, would go to her Catholic church, and my uncle would go to the First United Methodist church. They say examples speak louder than words and the way both my Aunt Verna and Uncle Lawrence lived spoke very loud indeed. You may notice in my picture that my Uncle Lawrence lost his right arm. It happened in a work related accident. He had to learn to write with his left hand and to do many things we never have to think about. While I am sure, he had his downtime I never heard him complain once. I can remember well the day of my father’s funeral when he gave me a hug with that arm. The look in his face as he tried to form words but could not. His eyes were saying it all.

Uncle Lawrence with my first born child  Year 1975

Uncle Lawrence with my first born child Year 1975

I always had god-parents. But not on paper. I had them when I needed them in real life. They set the bar pretty high. My uncle just proved you cannot shut a good man out.

 

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Mail Call 1945

Edward Endres. Courtesy Endres family

Edward Endres.
Courtesy of Endres family

 

This is a continuation of my post Mail Call 1942 and Mail Call 1943. I would advise you to start reading in Mail Call 1942 to get the complete story. I purchased about 200 letters at an auction and discovered that the letters told a great story. It was about a family, a time, a way of life, of sacrifices that were made for future generations, and perhaps most of all about love.

We were forced to start in 1945 as I have only one letter in 1944. A few weeks ago I noticed more letters from this family were being offered at auction. I went to try and purchase them. However when the bidding went to $50.00 I had to drop out. A decision I regret very much now. But more about that later. I talked to the lady who bought them and she is an antique dealer. She plans to sell them off in her shop. She was not sure if as singles or as a package. I believe many of the letters from 1944 were in that group.

The first letter in 1945 is from George Endres to his father Baptist Endres. It is dated 13, January, 1944 but, in fact, it is 1945. The confusion of the date is understandable considering the event of the previous weeks. We find that George has taken part in perhaps the American army’s greatest battle, The Battle of the Bulge. He has taken part in the defense of St. Vith. A nasty blood bath that was a part of this great battle. The result a badly out numbered and out gunned group of American soldiers held off at least two German armies for about five days. George in his letter writes the following.

Somewhere in Belgium

 Dear Pa, … Now that censorship has been lifted I can tell you about the battle we were in all by our lonesome at St. Vith. I guess I aged about five years in a few days. We were called all the way from Germany & drove into the town to try and check that whole German drive. The Germans threw a couple of armies against us but we held like a stone-wall for five days. The German drive was split in half. We went out of one end of town with our aid-station & the Germans came in the other. That night the town was all ablaze. For a time I didn’t think we would make it. The German radio said that the 7th Panzer U.S. Division was cut to pieces but we’ll be around to give them many a jolt in days to come…. Well, Pa I am well & so far so good. Take care of yourself & someday I hope to see you again. Your son George.

George’s next letter is once more to his father. If you read between the lines of these letters you can see that the carnage of war and his own mortality is now a horrible and constant part of his life. It is dated 15, January, 1945.

Dear Pa, Just the usual few lines to let you know I am O.K.. Things are about the same here. Life as usual is pretty rough & winter is very much in evidence….Am cold most always….Had a few spare moments today so thought I would write. A fellow never can depend too much on the future & I do want to write to you as often as possible. …Lola writes every day, but the service is poor due probably to the weather & the greater need for other things. The war picture does look good & the Germans are being driven back pretty steadily. Even in the Pacific the news is real good. …I may not be able to write so often all the while but don’t you worry. I’ll try to keep in touch with you. Maybe with a little luck I’ll be home Christmas. I do hope so. Be good. As ever your son George.

 

Mass in the forward area. This is not the beautiful St. Francis de Sales Church. George's hometown church. But I am sure prayers were never said with so much faith. Note the weapons beside the soldiers . George is in the background.

Mass in the forward area. This is not the beautiful St. Francis de Sales Church. George’s hometown church. But I am sure prayers were never said with so much faith. Note the weapons beside the soldiers . George is in the background.

 

February finds George a little better off. In a letter dated the 24th, George writes to his father the following.

Dear Pa, … It still seems much like Spring here. The snow has been gone for a couple of weeks now. Received a letter from Eddie dated February 7th. He just got back from a furlough to Naples. Ed said he didn’t have a very good time….Things will never seem like home over here regardless of where you go. My mail has been coming along a lot better. Lola’s latest letter was dated February 12th. I also received 22 newspapers from home & that gave me a chance to catch up on local news in my spare time….I go through them from one end to the other & I don’t miss very much…. Got two bottles of Coke yesterday. Pretty good. Your son George.

 In March and April a hope for victory is vibrating through George’s letters. In a letter headed, Somewhere in Germany, 2 April, 1945 he writes the following.

Dear Pa, How are you these days? Hope you are well. I am fine….I doubt very much if the war will last more than a couple of months now. It really does look very good with our troops and the Russians deep in Germany. there probably will be some battles to come but the Germans can no longer win. Guess they shot their wad when they invaded Belgium last December…. Take good care of yourself. Hope by this time next year I’ll be able to see you again. Bye. Your son, George.

 Somewhere in Germany, 8, April, 1945. Dear Pa, Just a few line to let you know I am O.K. so far…. Haven’t heard any real late war news. It all seems good though. I hope to see it end by Fall. We still are having rough times and there are bound to be more ahead. Germany’s battle is a losing one and I’d like to see it end soon…. Well Pa I’ll say goodbye once more. Hope to be able to write again soon. Take care of yourself. Your son, George.

George at his Aid Station in Germany.

George at his Aid Station in Germany.

Once the peace was won in Europe, George had a new worry.

Eilenbug, Germany, 2, June 1945. Dear Pa, how are you getting along these days? Hope you are well…. Have no idea what will happen to me. Eventually, I’ll probably be going to the Pacific. Looks like we shall be here for a while yet anyhow. Perhaps a couple of months or longer. I’m hoping to get home on a furlough first. Most of the combat outfits are going that way…. Your son, George.

By looking at this envelope you can see that Eddie Endres is on his way home.

By looking at this envelope you can see that Eddie Endres is on his way home.

 

We are at the last of the letters. Eddie is home or on his way by now. George never had to fight in the Pacific, to his relief and to the relief of all the collective servicemen in the armed forces. The best information I can find shows that George’s unit was inactivated in Virginia on October 9, 1945. So it does look like he made it home to his family and into the arms of his wife Lola for Christmas. So it looks like Lola finally got her wish that she expressed to George in a letter dated May 7, 1943.

 I love you and miss you so, that’s old news to you now. Take care of yourself, Hon. If you only were here so we could talk together. I’ll be so glad when I can see you again. Goodnight Hon. All my love, kisses your loving wife.

 When I first bought these letters I did what most of us do in our own family genealogy. With the help of my granddaughter, we read each letter wrote down the names given and tried to see how they were all related. Then I checked Ancestory.com to see if anyone was researching this family line. Also, we were able to get many family records from ancestory.com. We obtain United States census records for the family. I also got a copy of the passenger list for Baptist and his family when they left Germany in 1900 to come to America. I have also Baptist’s passport application that shows he became a U.S. citizen in 1906. World War Two army enlistment papers for George and Edward also were found. I also found the Social Security Death Index for members of the family. A Google search also turned up where many members of the family were buried. I was unable to find very much information in newspapers that were digitized in the area. I could not find any detailed obituaries and for most of the family none at all.

 

photo 1 (2)

Herkimer’s Library, a very helpful place.

 

So Nicole my granddaughter and myself went to Herkimer the Endre’s hometown to see if we could discover any new items for our research. Our first stop was at the public library, which proved to be a great help. The staff was so helpful and seemed to care that we find what we were looking for. For anyone doing genealogy research, I always advise to make a trip to the local library of the area you are researching. If a trip is out of the question then use the phone and tell them what you are looking for. Herkimer’s library had a small room that they keep their genealogy records in. As a result, we were able to obtain full and detailed obituaries for most of the family. Everyone should make an effort to support their local libraries as much as possible.

George and Lola on their wedding day. Nov 22, 1942

George and Lola on their wedding day. Nov 22, 1942

We learn that Lola and George were married for 49 years before the were separated by George’s death in 1991. They had two daughters. George continued to teach and was very active in school events. He also worked with the Boy Scouts and taught hunter training classes. Lola passed away in 1999.

 

George, Baptist, and Edward Endres. Courtesy of Endres family

George, Baptist, and Edward Endres. Courtesy of Endres family

Edward married Beatrice in June 1945. They must have gotten married as soon as Eddie was out of the army. Bea was to work as a surrogate’s clerk at the Herkimer County Court until 1976 when she retired. Eddie was to work at Remington Arms for 37 years, retiring in 1978. He was an avid fisherman and member of the Ilion Fish and Game club.

However, the best news was that through my efforts in contacting people who were researching this family I was contacted by a cousin. He put me in touch with Lola and George’s daughters. They had no idea about the letters, and it all was a surprise to them. They wrote to me in part.

My dad was a teacher, first teaching in a 1 room school house north of Utica, then over 30 years at Owen D. Young School , in Van Hornesville. During the summers he loved to fish along the creek behind our house, walk up the hills surrounding the town and pick wild strawberries, wild raspberries, and wild black berries and share them with the neighbors. He was a boy scout leader and so appreciated by the community and his students. My mom was kind and gentle, raising my sister and I with love and caring… Again, finding these letter after 70 years is extraordinary! Wish we could write a book, to let people know that surprises can happen when you least expect it……and can bring happiness, in learning more about the lives of their parents through letters lost until now.

George and Lola's little girls

George and Lola’s little girls

We are to meet soon, and the letters will be returned. They will reimburse me my cost in buying the letters. I now wish that I had bid until I won that auction for that second lot of letters. However, in my defense I had no way of knowing what a happy ending this would be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lost and Found | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Mail Call 1943

My granddaughter reading and researching the letters.

My granddaughter reading and researching the letters.

This posting is a continuation of Mail Call 1942. If you have not read that posting, I will advise that you should. This is a story of a family and their lost letters of World War Two.

The end of the year 1942 brought to a close America’s first full year in the war. As the number of American causalities begins its’ slow, sorrowful climb, Americans start to gird themselves for a long and uncertain war. Rationing was the law across the land. The last automobile was made with no more produced until 1945. The “Dear John” letter was named for all the broken relationships that were done by mail. Our soldiers were to learn to appreciate Spam, powered eggs, and other culinary delights courtesy  of the  armed forces.

The first few days of January finds Lola sick, and bed ridden. She writes on January 11, 1943

“The doctor just left. I’m swell. I wanted to go downstairs, but he won’t let me get up until Wednesday. Isn’t he mean? My temperature went down to normal about 3 this morning. Mother slept with me all night. Its normal now, so, I’m fine. He said I had tonsillitis. My throat has even gone down to normal. He doesn’t want me to have a relapse, so I have to stay in bed. Yesterday my temperature  was up a bit above normal it was just 102, he said. … Father McCarthy is sick again. I wasn’t to Mass myself, but they said another priest was there.”

Father McCarthy from the letters I have read was a friend as well as a spiritual advisor. I found in the letters a strong belief in God. Letters were anticipated and read and re-read daily. A typical start to a letter is given in this letter from Lola to her George.

“My Dearest Husband, OH! Honey I received the longest and grandest  letter from you today. Gee it was swell. I’d never in a million years be able to write so much in one letter. Really. I don’t know how you do it.”

St. Francis de Sales Church Photograph by Nicole Moore.

St. Francis de Sales Church
Photograph by Nicole Moore.

The picture above is of St. Francis de SalesChurch in Herkimer, New York. This was the faith center for the family. In the letter below dated February 24, 1943, we learn of the death of Father McCarthy.

“My Darling husband…. I went up to church to see Father he looked awfully nice. I might go to the funeral tomorrow.” On February 25, Lola writes the following. “My darling husband. It’s the old woman again…Today I got out of work at ten o’clock. Miss Papeno and I went over to the funeral. Was it ever crowded, only 800 were there, including nuns, priest, and people. I rode back with her too, so, I was in time for work this afternoon. Sure, am getting around with my boss. She was a close friend of Father too. I use to have more fun with Father. I’d say anything to him. Rita was right when she told you, I did. I use to tell him I would get lipstick on him, golly, he’d laugh. I could get away with anything I’d said. I could tell him joys, troubles, and everything he was always the same.”

On Friday, March 5, 1943 Lola wrote her husband the following.

“My darling husband, hello hon…. Father Kehoe from Mohawk is taking Father McCarthy’s place. You probably have seen him. I saw in the paper tonight where we can eat meat for the duration except Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”

Catholics at that time had to reframe from eating meat on Fridays. This is what Lola is talking about. George was to receive a letter from his brother Edward, who was stationed in England. It still showed how naive many of us was at that time. Date of the letter is March 8, 1943.

“Dear George, Received your letter of February 14, yesterday and as usual was glad to hear from you…. Rationing must be getting plenty tough in the states according to your letter. I doubt that they will draft all men 18 to 38 at the end of this year because I don’t think the war will last that long.”

On April 17, 1943 Lola writes to George a letter that may give a hint that his brother Edward is on the move and may be heading toward the front lines. She writes the following.

“My Darling Husband,… Today Bea received  a card from Eddie. Remember my telling you about Rick being over there? Well, Ed wrote a card to Bea and had him mail it when he got back in the states. It was from Baltimore. He told her not to worry as he wasn’t near a combat area. Rick must have just left there, you know he’s in the Merchant Marine. Please don’t mention it to anyone. It might get them in trouble. Bea said they aren’t suppose to take mail like that…. Maybe, hon you better burn this letter.”

Edward writes to his father. In all of his letters he tells the family he is in a safe place.

Edward writes to his father. In all of his letters he tells the family he is in a safe place.

The letter shown above was written on a very important date. It also showed that Edward was where the action was. Edward was with the 815 Engineer Aviation Battalion. Their job was to build and repair airfield runways. The 815th arrived in North Africa on November 8, 1942. They were to go to Sicily August 10, 1943 and was with the action in Italy on September 28, 1943. They were not to return to the United   States until May 1945. Edward was to spend just days short of three years overseas. Much of it in combat areas. The date of the letter is they day that Germany surrendered in North Africa. Estimates put Germany’s losses at one million. It seems that the word has not gotten to Edward yet as he says nothing about it in his letter. He writes.

“Dear Pa, Just a few lines to let you know I’m safe and well. I haven’t been able to write anyone in the past few days as we were busy moving. …I’m glad to hear you saw Jack Rich, so you know just about how it is over here. Don’t worry about me as I am still in a safe place…Eddie ” 

 In a letter dated July 24th, 1943 George writes home to his father  You can feel the concern he has for his brother. But only gives a casual mention of it in his letter. I am sure he does not wish to upset his Father any more than he must be already.

“Dear Pa, hope you are well and getting along ok. Lola always mentions that you are fine…. Haven’t heard from Ed since June 15. I suppose he has moved again since that invasion of Sicily started. The way it looks now the war with Italy will be over soon. The Italians never seemed to really want to fight anyhow. Hope Ed gets through this battle in good shape. Once the boys get busy on Germany from one side, and Russia on the other side war won’t last too long. I sure feel a lot better if the European war would be over, and I expect it will by next year at the latest. I expect to see everything finished in a couple of years. Guess, if it wouldn’t take any longer, I could stand being away from home for that length of time. Your son, George”

This is the picture Lola sent to George.

This is the picture Lola sent to George.

I was about this time that Lola sent George a picture a friend took of her. This is the photograph shown above.  Edward wrote his father From Sicily August 22, 1943. He tells of a conversation he had with German prisoners. Given his German heritage I wonder if he spoke with them in the German language. He writes.

“Dear Pa,  How are you today? I am fine and just got back from church a little while ago. The bishop said mass in a little chapel near camp…. I talked to some prisoners after Tunis fell, and they thought they still held Algeria and Oran. One guy asked me what I thought about the German bombing New   York. When they are filled full of that “bunk” it is no wonder they keep on fighting.  Eddie”

George was being kept busy training all through the year. When he had finished at Camp Polk, Louisiana he was sent to California for desert training. From there he was sent to Fort BenningGeorgia. He was to rise in rank from private to sergeant. He has been looking forward to a furlough for some time now. The letter below he is talking about his third attempt to get his furlough. He writes to his father on September 23, 1943.

“Dear Pa,… I’ve been pretty busy lately for five of us were transferred on Monday. It came as a surprise for I didn’t expect it for a week or two longer. I am a real doughboy now for we are in the infantry the roughest and toughest , outfit in the army. So far I am still in the dispensary, and it isn’t too bad. I don’t know what is going to happen next. As you probably know by now, I haven’t had my furlough date decided on. It was all changed by the transfer. I sent Lola a telegram that I wouldn’t leave Sunday. She has probably told you by now. Boy, it sure was a big disappointment for me. I haven’t gotten over it as yet. This outfit isn’t giving furloughs for they are out guarding German prisoners. George.”

In a letter dated December 24, 1943 from Ed to George it seems that the furlough never came through. Instead, Lola went to Georgia to steal some time together. From Italy Edward writes.

 “Dear George,… Tomorrow is Christmas but with the exception of the turkey dinner it will just be another day. Did you have a good time when Lola came down?… I got a swell picture that I’m keeping of a Jerry air raid. It was taken one night and you can see the flares they dropped and the sky full of tracer bullets.  Eddie”

We come to the end of 1943. The family is scattered all over the globe. While not being shown in this write up they have brothers, uncles, and many cousins engaged in the fighting of this war. Please look for my next posting Mail Call 1944 / 1945 in the next few days.

Posted in Lost and Found | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

MAIL CALL 1942

War time letters of the Endres family.

War time letters of the Endres family.

On February 23, 1942 a letter from Ilion, New York was mailed to Private George Endres  at Camp Polk, Louisiana. George’s profession was teaching. However now he was trying to keep up with the whirlwinds of military life in war time. Almost 72 years later this letter along with 196 others were heaped in box to be auctioned off. This auction of letters was sandwiched  between auction lots of dishes, old knives, lamps,  mason jars, and other such household items.

Who were these people who’s deepest thoughts, fears and their great love for each other, was now on public display? A winning bid of forty dollars was to lead me on an exploration of some real heroes in their time. These letters would teach me once more the human cost of war and how strong the ties of love for country and family can be.

A letter home to Pa.

A letter home to Pa.

George’s younger brother Edward Endres was training at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In a letter home to his father, Baptist Endres, Edward describes some of the training he is receiving.

“Dear Pa…

                   Monday morning we get up at 3am and go out to the rifle range and shoot for record. This week was one of the toughest weeks yet. We worked 22 hours one day and 17 hours another. I don’t mind it for a change but I wouldn’t care for it as a steady diet. They are still chasing us around with tanks and now they even dive on us with airplanes. I wonder what the hell they will think of next.”

Edward was training to be an army engineer.  The brothers and their sister Helen, who was married and living in Troy N.Y,. were very close to their father. Anna, their mother, died in 1940 at only 59 years of age. Both mother and father were born in Germany. All the children were born in Herkimer, New York. A quick check on ancestory.com provided many records for Baptist. From his passenger list I learned he sailed to America from Hamburg, Germany on August 26, 1900. He was 17 years old when he crossed the ocean. He was married four years according to the 1910 census. Helen, their oldest child, was three years old and would have to wait  till 1915 for her brother George, to come along. Edward would be born in 1920.

Address to send mail to.

Address to send mail to.

On September 5, Edward wrote to George that he was now in England.

“Dear George,

                       I arrived safely in England and everything is fine. The climate here is cloudy and very damp. Did you hear how Pa is getting along? You probably won’t hear much from me as it takes a long time for mail to get there. Your letters will get to me quicker by air mail. Have you heard from Helen lately? Things are going fine with me, so don’t worry about me. I suppose you will be shoving off soon. Is there anything new happening back home? Probably Bea will write to me as soon as she gets my new address. Take it easy and I hope you can stay where you are for a while yet. Good luck Eddie.”

Bea, whom he mentions in the letter, is the girl he hopes to marry after the war. As you can tell by the letter, Eddie is anxious for news from home and letters. The card pictured above is to let people know of his new address. The APO number is the post office that will get his mail. It is done this way, so his exact whereabouts is unknown.

Pictures of friends and neighbors going to war.

Pictures of friends and neighbors going to war.

Starting in October of 1942 I am introduced to Lola Keddell. I quickly learn that she and George are engaged to be married. Lola sends news clippings in her mail. Above is one such news clip. She points out the people they know. In a letter dated Sunday, October 11, 1942 she writes,

“My dearest George,

                                 Hello hon. How is everything today? Hope you are well. This morning your aunt phoned me, and said your Uncle Lawrence wanted me to come up to dinner with Bea. It was simply delicious. She had potato balls, I never had them before, but were they ever good, roast pork, and brown gravy, salad, sweet pickles, coffee, and cinnamon buns, I think you call them. Everything was grand.”

She closes the letter in the following manner.

“Hon take care of yourself. You know I love you with all my heart. I wish you were here tonight and every night. It seems, I haven’t seen you in ages. It was two months yesterday I went down to see you. I was looking at your old letters when I came home this afternoon. I really enjoy doing that once in a while. Goodnight love. All of my love and kisses your Lola.”

She has 41 X’s to close out the letter. It is easy to read between the lines to hear the sorrow of separation and the underlining of fear. In December,  I noticed she no longer uses her Maiden name of Keddell. She now is Mrs. George Endres. George was able to come home to Herkimer, and they got married in the family church, St. Francis De Sales, in Herkimer, New York. In a letter to George dated December 5, 1942, Lola in part writes the following.

My Darling husband,…

                                      Honey I am getting so anxious to see you once again. Golly, Its swell. This time, I am going down to see my husband. Hon, I love you more and more every day.

In a letter dated December 19, 1942 Lola, seems to be getting her wish to see her husband. Also, she seems to be getting a little mischievous.  She writes in part the following.

“My Darling Husband,

                                      As for me getting thin i think I’m getting fat, at least, I haven’t lost any weight. Honest, “Doc” do you want to examine me? I really will let you now….

I will have to let you know when I see you Wednesday night how long I can remain with you. Hon really it doesn’t seem possible I’m leaving Monday night. I am so happy I can be with you. Our Lord, is so good to us I know He always be too, if we have faith in him. Darling I will say goodnight for now I will write you a letter tomorrow. Your loving wife Lola.”

George was named “Doc” as he was training to be a medic. He was also called “Prof” as he was a school teacher before the war. I will be posting Mail Call 1943 in a few days. We will see how the family is doing as the war heats up.

Posted in Lost and Found | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments