I have just finished the book No Surrender by Chris Edmonds and Douglas Century. The book is about Chris Edmonds quest to learn about his father’s Roddie Edmonds World War Two experiences. While he knew the broad-brush story, the real story with complete details was a hidden and almost lost story. It is a story that could have been lost forever, if not for a school project his daughter was assigned. She was to make an oral history of a family member about a notable experience in their life. She was to pick her deceased Grandfather, Roddie Edmonds. In his efforts to help his daughter with the oral history project, he came to realize how little he knew about his dad. Confessing to his wife about his lack of knowledge, he said, “I feel like I’m letting Lauren-and her sisters-down. I should know more, but I just don’t, and I can’t even tell you why I don’t. Had I not cared enough to ask him? I hardly know anything about Dad’s childhood during the Depression or what he was like in high school. Or even his military service. It was like Dad lived an entire lifetime before I was born.”
Chris started to discover his father’s story and learned that his father had faced an angry Nazi POW camp commandant who had held a pistol pressed to his forehead. He also was to learn much more about his family, that he never knew. All of this information was just one generation, and in reality, only a few short years from being lost forever. The steps and methods used by Chris to research his father’s story are what genealogists use every day in their research. I was struck how, in many ways, this captivating story was almost a textbook on how to do field research on our family history. Also, it is a good insight into how he put his father’s story together and put real flesh and blood on the few bare-bone facts that he had at the start of his journey.
I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best reads I have had in a while. It is a story of human strength and endurance in the face of evil in its worst manifestation. It is, at the same time, a story of love, faith, and family. It is well worth your time to read this book, and when you do, you will soon be lost in the story.
As family historians, we all should be digging for our own family story. While the story we find may not be as grand as the one in “No Surrender,” I am willing to bet many could come close and may even surpass it in many ways. Some of your stories could be just under the surface just waiting to be discovered, just like Roddie Edmonds’s story, while other stories are buried deeply and could take great effort to find and bring to life. But finding these stories and researching the details, and then writing about them is what we should be doing. Anything less on our part is not doing a complete job. So, dig deeper, ask more questions, learn the history of the events you uncover. Be prepared to find stories and new information that may both delight and shock you. Whatever the outcome, shine a light on it and tell the story.
In her book, The Secret Life of Objects, author Dawn Raffel shows how seemingly everyday objects found in people’s homes hold stories about family history. It is pointed out in the book that the stories these objects hold must be told and recorded; otherwise, they will be lost all too soon with the passing of time. In many of our homes, the objects that have some of the oldest and most tender stories can center around special occasions and holidays. Perhaps no holiday can pack more of these emotions and stories than Christmas. Each year countless millions of homes unpack these objects so full of memories and set them in places of honor where they will decorate our home and warm our hearts. Then when Christmas has come and gone, they will be taken down and repacked and stored in their keeping place until they are brought out once more to bring back our cherished remembrances.
In our nearly fifty years of marriage, my wife and I have managed to make a few memories around Christmas and to preserve a few from our childhood. It was among our first Christmases that we put together a nativity scene. In the first few years, they were very small, cheap, and disposable, as they did not hold up very well. The one pictured above we have had now for about forty years and has been on display in our many homes for most of our Christmases. The village pictured below has been a very long prosses to obtain. It has many parts from a park, churches, one Catholic, and one we believe is Methodist. This is for the two main religions in our family, but trust me, we have more. We have shops and places of businesses that mirror our family’s interests and areas of work. You can see a little bit of our family history by looking over our village. The village has grown over the years, and our personal dwelling has gotten smaller, so it is rare when the whole town is on display.
We also have a few Santa’s that make it out of the boxes each year. Pictured below is a ceramic Santa that my wife made sometime in the 1970s.
However, we have a much older Santa that is also pictured below. I do not remember a Christmas without this Santa. It is made out of plastic, and as you can see from his damaged foot and the bandaged hand, he has served long and well. He used to be in the thick of the action right under the tree, but he is now retired to a much safer and quieter place. In the second photograph below taken in 1954, you can see him on the floor in the lower left-hand part of the picture.
When my wife and I had to close up her parents’ home, one of the few things we kept for ourselves besides pictures were the ornaments that were used on her Christmas trees when she was growing up. A few were all that we managed to save. One of them is pictured below.
My wife, over the years, has made each member of the family their very own Christmas Stocking. The front part is pieced and quilted with a solid fabric for the back. These stockings are very sturdy, with many over twenty years old. Pictured below is the newest stocking, which was made this year for our great-grandson, the newest member of the family.
Also pictured below is one of the many quilts my wife has made over the years. This Christmas quilt was pieced together to look like an old fashion tree ornament with the light being reflected off it.
Many things of value and family history cannot be packed and unpacked from a box. That will be a blog for perhaps next year. However, two I would like to share at this time. Below is pictured the inside of St. John The Baptist Church, in Plattsburgh, New York. I cannot begin to tell you what an oasis the Christmas Midnight Mass was for me during my mid to late teens. In those years, this was my Christmas.
But as everyone knows who truly understands genealogy and family history, it is the people that count. All those that have come before us and those with us now and those to come is what this is about. This year when you gather tell some stories, write them down and take a few pictures of your objects and write their story’s down. So, when you pack things away, you will also pack away for safekeeping a part of your family’s story. So that long after we are gone, our story and those of others that we have preserved will still be with the family. Then the laughter we share at Christmas and other family events will echo for generations.
As family historians, we have many records and sources in which we can find our family story. The Censuses and DNA testing being two of the most popular. While I have made good use of these sources, I find myself going more and more to online newspaper archives. No other source has put more flesh on the bare bones of the genealogy facts of birth, marriage, and death. The following is a small example of how newspaper research can tell a story.
My mother often told the story of how a little girl ran into the road and struck her moving car. The girl was then thrown to the pavement where another car ran over her. My mother told how the other driver attempted to drive away, but she confronted the man and told him he was not going anywhere and that she had his license plate number. In short order, police and medical help were on the scene. My mother always pointed out that she was never ticketed and that the little girl recovered. Then she would end by saying to always look both ways before crossing a street and never run into the road. While doing some research on my mother, I came across the news article regarding the accident. While I know my mother’s story after the accident, I became curious about the little girl. That was the beginning of my investigation using archived online newspapers.
Above is the newspaper article telling about the accident. At the time of the accident, I was less than one year old. My mother was only 27. The driver of the other car was Mr. Hormidas Rousreau, and the little girl is Patricia Ann McDonough. In this article, we learn that Patricia has suffered a broken leg and possible internal injuries and shock. Patricia’s condition was given as serious at Champlain Valley Hospital. Later that week, in an article in the April 5, 1952, Plattsburgh Press-Republican, we learn that Patricia is improving and that she also suffered a broken shoulder as well as a broken leg and internal injuries. Below is the headline and the small part of the article that concerns our story. It seems Matthew McDonough, Patricia’s father, was bringing everyone to court regarding the accident. I learned through the newspapers that Mr. McDonough was a man who wore many hats. He was at one time or another a funeral director, school bus driver, sheriff deputy, chief of the Keeseville Fire Department, and a justice of the peace. I was not able to find out how the court case was settled. I do not recall my parents ever speaking about it.
In a September 1963 article in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, we learn that Patricia has entered the Champlain Business College at Burlington, Vermont. Below I found a news story a few years later that tells of Patricia’s successful completion of her college studies.
Patricia also met Robert Fisch while at Champlain College and were married in 1966. Their wedding story, as it appeared in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, is below.
Patricia was married almost 49 years before her death in 2015 at the age of 70. I found two obituaries for her one in The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, CA. the other in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, of Plattsburgh, N.Y. Patricia, at the time of her death, had two sons and four grandchildren. She and her husband Robert moved to California in the 1970s, where she worked in several technology companies. Using the information I was able to gather through the newspapers, I was able to make contact with Patricia’s sister Susan. She was kind enough to give me a little more of the story and to send me the picture of a very young Patricia. The picture is dated June 1955, and the inscription on the back says in part, “Pat’s last stage of recovery from her accident.”
In order to gather the information on Patricia, I used two pay subscription sites, Newspaper.com, and Genealogy Bank. I also used the free site NYS Historic Newspapers, which is a must-go-to site if you are researching family in New York State. NYS Historic Newspapers is easy to use and covers every county in the state. I recommend that everyone make online archive newspapers a must for all their family research. I found many different articles regarding Patricia and her family that assisted me in learning her story. My advice is to use these newspapers whenever you can. They will give you a much more complete family story.
The above photograph is kept in a frame and is on display in
our home. It was taken almost twenty years ago in Burlington, Vermont.
The two main characters in the picture are Clifford the Big Red Dog, of course,
and my Granddaughter Nicole. However, I would like to tell you the story that
the image does not tell, nor would anyone else in future generations know about
unless someone records the story so it won’t be lost.
My daughter was to find herself a single young mother of two
daughters who was working full time and going to college full time also. It was
at this time that she and my two granddaughters lived with grandma and me.
Nicole was the younger of the two daughters. At the time, I was the manager of
a movie theater and would work late into the night coming home at about one in
the morning. Many mornings I helped to get breakfast for the girls (and truth
be told for the rest of the family) and get the oldest one off to school. That
gave Nicole and me the morning to find things to occupy our time. Our local PBS
television station had some great programming for children at that time of day,
so as often as not, we ended up watching it curled up on a chair. Needless to
say, Clifford the Big Red Dog was a favorite with Nicole.
One summer, we were vacationing in the Plattsburgh,
N.Y. area, and decided to take the ferry
across Lake Champlain and spend the day in Burlington, Vermont.
Part of the downtown in Burlington
is closed off to automobile traffic and is for pedestrians only. On the day we
were there, they were having a parade of dogs. The parade was being led by the
biggest dog of all, Clifford. Now I swear I had a firm grip on Nicole’s hand,
but somehow she broke free and streaked across the walkway and ended up giving
Clifford the biggest bear hug she could muster. I mean, she would not let go.
We had to go out there and pry her off from Clifford so that the parade could
continue. Someone in our family had the presence of mind (it could have been
me, but I am not sure) to take the picture of Nicole and Clifford.
Where has the time gone? I have no idea; it has passed way too fast. I am sure it is the same for all of you also. We must tell our family stories because if we don’t, they will be lost within a generation or two. The picture below is of Nicole. The time has gone way too fast.
Long ago, I made a vow to myself to learn the story of what happened to my father’s family and what happened to each of his brothers and sisters. I had no idea it would take me over 50 years and then still not know the complete story. This is a story that centers on Raymond Moore, one of my father’s younger brothers, who was adopted out of the family. Raymond was one of seven children that were living in 1924 when the family was to fracture, sending the children off in all different directions. While I have spent many years tracking down and gathering information about these seven people, Raymond has been one of my greatest mysteries. Raymond was adopted and would, in time, leave his Moore family origins behind. I have discovered that he was adopted by Harry and Emogene Stone. But let’s start the story a few years before in 1920. That is when the following news story appeared in the Potter Enterprise newspaper.
In an interview with a daughter of one of the children described in the above article, she told me that her father described how “the men came in and wrapped the body of his mother in a white sheet and carried her out of the house.” A few years later, in a 1924 news article in the Potter Enterprise shows that things had gone even more terribly wrong. The article reported that “Conditions squalid beyond belief…seven children who range from a wee tot to a daughter about twenty years of age… Five of the children are now being cared for at the county home but will be taken to the Tier Children’s Home in Harrison Valley later…” The Harrison Valley Children’s Home will figure in this story a little later.
However, I believe this story had its’ start in the year 1918.1918 finds Harry and Emogene Stone grieving over the loss of their only son Newton. In the extraordinary for the time period obituary, because of its’ size and the fact it was for a very young child, we learn some interesting facts about the Stone family. We learn that they have a daughter named Leah and no other children.
The fact that the Stone family had no other children is also supported in the 1920 Census with part of a transcript from the Potter County Historical Society, which is shown below. Please note the occupation of Harry Stone is listed as “drill oil wells.” My father always said that Raymond was adopted by a family named Stone and that “he took their name.” This was again backed up when I found my cousin Susan in 2004, living in Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. Susan is the daughter of another of my father’s brothers. She introduced me to an old family friend who was born in 1927 and lived in Shinglehouse her whole life. She had known Raymond and his family. She stated that Raymond Moore was, in fact, adopted by the Stones. While she could not be sure of Mr. and Mrs. Stone’s first name, she did give a few clues. She said that Mr. Stone was in the oil business and also was a judge.
Now, if you look at the 1930 census below, you will note a few key items. Raymond has made his first appearance in this family. He is listed as 13 years old. That would be old enough to be mentioned in little Newton Stone’s obituary and certainly should have been recorded in the 1920 census. Also, if you look at Harry Stone’s occupation, you will see it listed as; “driller oil lease.”
Even with all of the above, it still was not enough to be able to say positively that Raymond Moore and Raymond Stone were the same person. In all the records I researched when Raymond Stone appeared, Raymond Moore disappeared. I have, over the years, been to and been in contact with the Potter County Historical Society, which is the county that Shinglehouse is found. In a letter from them dated September 18, 2015, which in part says the following. “Enclosed are the materials that I emailed you about…I could not find an adoption record for Raymond or Ainslee in the Potter County Courthouse. It is quite possible that both of those adoptions were recorded in New York. The Hulett family had children quite older than Ainslee, so they must have been forthright in her being adopted and listed her as so on at least one census. The Stone family, however, did not…but I am most sure that Raymond was the son of Frank and Elzada.” Also, at the Potter County Historical Society was an elderly research volunteer that I met in 2004 who stated Raymond stone was, in fact, Raymond Moore. Also, I would like to point out this person was not the letter writer. My big break came while searching online newspaper archives. How I love those sources of information. Below is what I found.
There it was, Harry Stone adopts a boy, and the boy was from the Harrison Valley Orphanage. I have not found another Harry Stone in the area other than the Harry and Emogene Stone family. In 1958 Harry Stone died, and I was able to find his obituary. The information confirms that he was a driller and that he held the office of Justice of the Peace. It also showed that Raymond was now living in Rochester, New York. He was to marry Sephronia McCarthy, and they would have at least three children. He was later to settle in Wellsville, New York, less than 30 miles from Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. Raymond worked at Burke Steel in Rochester, New York.
I now felt confident that Raymond Stone was, in fact, my Uncle Raymond Moore. But I continued to search for more proof. Once again, old newspapers that have gone online gave me more proof. When I spotted the newspaper article below, any lingering doubts disappeared.
How did this rather short piece of social news cement for me that I had indeed found my father’s missing brother? The answer lies with the conversations I had with my father. My father was a combat veteran of World War Two. I had asked him if he was ever hurt in the war, and he informed me that he never got hurt at all. He did tell me about his brothers who did. He said his brother Raymond broke his leg. Somehow he had known this about his adopted out brother. I suspect most likely he learned this through his older sister Ethel Moore Hunter. She is, in fact, a story that will be told in the future. I must have read that 22-word news article a hundred times. I now had all the proof I needed. I found some other articles regarding Raymond, being transferred to a hospital in Brigham City, Utah, and his being discharged after serving about four months in occupied Japan. Below you will find Raymond’s draft registration card.
his date of birth is December 31, 1916. Proof he was alive when Newton Stone
died and should have been included in his obituary and the phrase “Newton D
Stone, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry D Stone…” should have never been
written. It also shows once more his father as Harry D Stone.
Raymond died in 2005 well before I had the chance to meet him. At least I have learned a little part of his story. I have reached out to some of his family, but the people I contacted do not think that Raymond was adopted and do not accept what I believe to be the true story. Raymond had decided to leave the Moore family behind and fully embrace the Stone family. But he had so many answers to questions I have to ask, and now I have no one to ask. I do take some solace that what I believe to be the true story has been discovered and now is known to my branch of the family. I would have liked to have gotten to know his family better, but at least one more family mystery has been solved. The picture below is one of several I have been able to obtain in my research.
A recently discovered family picture with no one identified. We are working to identify these people!
Family pictures and portraits–don’t you love them!? A couple weeks ago, my sister found a small album, about 3″ x 5″, full of old family pictures! The picture above is one of those pictures! I love that picture, but who are those folks?! What a treasure! There were maybe 50 pictures–but only two were actually labeled as to who was in the picture! Now my sister and I are in our 70’s—born in the 1940’s, as was my older brother. Our younger brother was not born until 1955. These pictures look like they were mostly taken in the early 1920’s! Some people looked familiar, but we are just guessing! A treasure and a puzzle!
Our Mom died in 1980, Dad in 1988. After Dad died we cleared out the house that had been ours…
The above picture represents what many of us put into our
genealogy research, time, and money. I believe that if we wish to have a
complete as possible family history, then we will have to utilize both of these
resources. How much we use them depends on how much we have of these items to
give in this pursuit, or in many cases how much we are willing to give.
Time is perhaps the more important of the two. If you are
not willing to spend time in the hunt for our family history, then take up
another pastime. Unless you have an unlimited amount of money to pay people to
do the work for you, then spending time is something you cannot avoid. On
occasion, I help people (free of charge) in their genealogy research. I met one
gentleman at a local library with a subscription to Ancestry.com for its’
patrons to use. After spending some time with him learning about his family and
what he was looking for, we logged on Ancestry.com to look up some records.
Within 15 minutes, we had found many new records and new information. Using
what we had learned, we found some more records that had several hundred
possible finds for him. I showed him how and what to look for. I was then going
to work on my research while he did that. About ten minutes later, I looked up,
and he had not even started. I asked him if he had any questions. He told me
that there were too many records to look through and wanted me to do it for
him. I explained at most he had only an hour’s work and perhaps only five
minutes if he got lucky. A few minutes later, he was packing up his stuff,
saying he did not have time to “Look through all those records.” Also, he was
upset that I would not do it for him. He just was not willing to spend the time
and make an effort. I wish I could say this is my only example. Time is
something we all spend while doing genealogy. Perhaps that means giving up our
television watching, spending less time with our other hobbies, or just
becoming better organized in our time management. As you will see, even when we
spend money, it necessitates the spending of time.
Now let’s talk about money. I have heard many times that
there are many avenues in which you can do your genealogy research without
spending money. While this is correct, the fact of the matter is that your
finished result, which is your family history, is only as good as what you put
into it. I am not saying that you have to throw money into an endless pit, but
the wise expenditure of your money (and time) will give you much better
results. We have so many subscription sites that offer so many services and
records that everyone should at one time or another take advantage of them. If
you are not sure which one to use most of them offer a free trial period for
you to explore them. One area I have spent money on is the online newspaper
repository sites. Everyone should look into this resource in their genealogy
work. I have discovered so much more about my family by doing this that I rank
them as important as the census, and DNA. But if you only spend money on the
for-profit subscription sites, you miss out on so many other genealogy tools.
Other areas that money could be well spent on are equipment, education, travel,
genealogy magazines, historical society memberships, and much more. It also
goes without saying that for each expenditure of money we make, time must be
used to make it worthwhile.
I understand budgets and all those daily expenditures that
we all must face. I have been working on my family’s genealogy for years, and
many times I had to put off spending money on genealogy for more essential
items. But I have had conversations with too many people who proudly state
“I’ve never spent a dime on my genealogy” and after looking over their work I
would have to agree with them. In the end, we all decide what we want to spend
our money and time on. For me, my genealogy research has been enjoyable and
very educational. But the very first piece advice I give anyone who wants to do
their family genealogy is that “genealogy is a long term commitment.”