Tuesday, November 24, 2020

5th Blogiversary of Debby's Family Genealogy Blog

A look back at the last year:

Over the past year I have created and published only 28 blog posts. This is about half of what I normally post… but wait a minute, a lot has happened over the last year. Everything in life was going well and in the second week of March I became the proud owner of a 2020 Winnebago Travato. I was making plans for retirement and getting on the road in my new RV. A week later Covid hit and everything changed in all our lives. Similar to many others I was suddenly working from home and everyone was trying to determine what exactly was going on and when our lives would ever get back to ‘normal’. I had a very difficult time blogging in March and April and May with everything that was going on. While I was safe many others were not. With the uncertainty of the time blogging just didn’t seem that important to me.

I continued to dream of retiring and taking my genealogy road trip. At the end of June I did retire after 35 years as a Special Education Teacher. Retirement during Covid was very different. Eventually I made the decision that I could safely travel in my camper with my dog Harley. I knew what to do to be safe.  I believed I could travel, be safe and still do many of the things on my genealogy road trip list. (see post Genealogy Road Trip 2020) After about 10,000 miles and a little over three months I am back home safely with my trusted companion Harley. The unpacking is done and I am ready to start blogging again … and adding to the list for the next road trip.

Some of my Favorite Posts this year:

Visiting the home where my grandfather was born and grew up - The History of the Warner Homestead and Visiting the Warner Homestead.

Going to places where my ancestors lived is so important to me.  Completing my post Gerald G. Warner, Land Owner was a success because I found my great uncle’s land in South Dakota and was actually able to stand on land that once belonged to him. 

Finding out about my great grandmother’s siblings (The Missing Rowan Children-Who Were They?), who died very young, was important to me so that these children would not be forgotten.

All time History Page Views - this year went from 96, 989 to 115,077.

Followers – this year went from 22 to 24

In Case You Missed Them, My Top Five Most Viewed Blog Posts Were:

The Missing Rowan Children-Wo Were They?

Visiting the Warner Homestead

The Wyoming Massacre and Congress

Genealogy Road Trip 2020

The Life of Merrit Howell, Jr.

What I’ve learned:

When possible, being able to actually visit repositories is invaluable when searching for those elusive records. (See post- The Twists and Turns of Finding Baptismal Records for 1878 )

Visiting the land/area where my ancestors lived gives me more insight into who they were and how they lived. I can’t get the ‘feel’ for an area from pictures alone.

Developing chronologies of my ancestors’ lives in a story format helps me better put together the pieces of the data that I have found.

My Frustrations:

Finding the time to write the posts about all that I have learned about my ancestors continues to frustrate me.  I hope that retirement will give me more time to write.

Several ancestors remain elusive but with time I hope I will learn more about them.

I have several projects in the works related to my ancestors and hope that being retired will help me accomplish them sooner.

My goals for this next year:

Now that I am retired, I am hoping to finally complete my edit of my paternal great grandmother Carrie’s Letters in a digital format so that my cousins and others can easily read them.

To once again publish at least 50 posts.

To figure out how to add writing blog posts to my agenda while camping. This year as I embarked on my first genealogy road trip I focused mainly on how my camper works, traveling with Harley, seeing family and friends and doing some research.


I was able to meet three cousins (a first cousin, a second cousin and a third cousin) in the last several months that I had found through DNA. What an amazing experience!! I cherish the time I was able to spend with them and look forward to our time together in the future.

I have been blogging now for 5 years and have published 234 posts. When I look back that seems like a lot but I have so much discovered information that I want to write about. Now it’s just setting aside the time to write the posts and get the information published to continue to tell my ancestors’ stories.

Despite all that has been happening since March I was able to publish 28 blog posts over the last year.

A VERY SPECIAL THANK-YOU TO ALL MY READERS!  I enjoy the comments you make and/or questions you ask.  I’m always looking for new directions to search or information that is questionable and needs verification.

My updated Surname word cloud:

It has been an interesting, and at times, very exciting year for me as a blogger.  On to new discoveries and new cousin connections.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Genealogy Road Trip 2020

I haven’t published any posts in a while and if you have wondered why…let me explain.

At the end of June I retired from work as a Special Education Teacher. I had worked at this job full time for over 35 years. What to do next? Lots of Genealogy among other things!! Well, in March, a week before Covid hit, I brought home my first ever camper, a 2020 Winnebago Travato.

Several years ago I decided that to celebrate my retirement I wanted to do a Genealogy Road Trip. I started keeping a list on Evernote with places I wanted to go visit and basic information I wanted to learn. Yes, you can keep a list in many of the family tree software programs but this was a little different type of list. I arranged items/locations by states and that helped me plan my trip, more or less.

Harley and I started our “Enjoy the Journey Road Trip 2020” at the end of July and just returned a couple of weeks ago after traveling for over 3 months, 10,000 miles and visiting 27 states.

I decided that despite Covid I still wanted to go on my trip. I listened to the experts about how to stay safe and used all the necessary precautions I could to keep myself and others safe. As I was getting ready to leave on my trip my son suggested that before I begin this journey I should think about what my primary goal was for the trip and then see if what I thought before beginning was still true at the end. (Great idea and made me think of all the trips he and I took while he was growing up. I would ask him each day what his favorite part of the trip had been and saved many of those on a postcard from the place we visited.)

With Covid I knew that I had to be FLEXIBLE, that things were likely to change as I headed around the country. Along with genealogy information or pictures to gather there were people I wanted to meet. I had found and corresponded with several newly discovered cousins through DNA that I really wanted to meet for the first time. There were also family and friends to see. The answer to my son’s question before I started was…I wanted to see the people and spend time with them. The genealogy information could wait (a lot of places may be closed due to Covid) but the people were the top priority!

So, how did I do? I was able to meet one first cousin, one second cousin and one third cousin I had never met. I was able to see a dear friend I hadn’t seen in years, see other friends and spend precious time with my family as we created many new memories.

What about the genealogy research you ask? Well, I was able to visit a lot of cemeteries. That’s one place that is easy to visit during Covid. Several were way out of the way and it look some time looking but I found them!

Oh, where to begin looking?? This might take a while.

I think Harley was getting tired of traipsing through all the cemeteries with me but it was a good time for a walk. I only found one cemetery in Pennsylvania that stated no dogs were allowed.

I did get to add in some unexpected little side trips. I grew up watching old westerns and when I saw a sign for this cemetery I just had to stop…

(click on images to enlarge)

Gravesite for Billy the Kid

How ironic that as I walked in to the cemetery, good friend and fellow blogger, Diane Gould Hall would call me. Like she knew I was going in to a cemetery lol.

I found it very valuable to physically be in the areas that my ancestors lived. Yes, I could look locations up on maps but it’s not the same as actually being there. Physically being there gave me insight in to distances people might have traveled, how far they lived from each other, what the terrain was like, etc.? Talking to the people also led to new discoveries and/or new leads to pursue that I hadn’t thought of before.

I was able to visit two county buildings and gather information so I could go and stand on land ancestors had once owned which was so amazing! (See post Gerald G. Warner, Land Owner.  More to follow in later posts on other discoveries.) It was exciting to go back to my Evernote list and say…’Done’ next to certain items.

Hopefully, the next time I start out on my road trip Covid will be a thing of the past, or at least under control enough, so that I will be able to cross more things off my list. While driving I decided on another visual that will help me concentrate my efforts back East on searching all the different towns where my many ancestral lines lived. I also needed to figure out the whole camping thing as well as traveling full time with a dog. That adds a new layer to going and doing research. This is the main reason I didn’t do more blogging while on the road. Several posts were started but I was unable to finish them with everything else that I had to do and that I was learning about camping in general.

Well, my camper is unpacked, cleaned and restocked. Ready for the next road trip. I thought about the ‘purpose’ of my trip. My answer was still the same as when I began-to see and spend time with the people that I cared about.

A very special thank-you to all who helped make this an amazing trip! If I was unable to see you this year then I hope I will be able to see you on the next trip. 

What a beautiful country we live in!

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.

Enjoy the journey,

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Wyoming Massacre and Congress

In an earlier post entitled 3 July 1778 the Wyoming Massacre I wrote about the Wyoming Massacre that occurred during the Revolutionary War and the connection to ancestors of mine. Visiting this historic site was very important to me in order to pay respect to all those who died for our country and be grateful for my ancestors that survived this attack.

While I was searching for the location of the monument (Wyoming Valley, PA) the GPS on my phone was having difficulty pinpointing the actual location. I realized that I needed to get further directions the old fashioned way and ask someone. A local man helped me with directions and informed me about a connection between the Wyoming Massacre and Congress that I hadn’t heard before. He stated he was grateful to help because I was telling the story of the Battle of Wyoming and it’s significance in history.

Did you know that there are bronze doors in Congress at the House wing and the Senate wing? Each half of the door consists of three panels and a medallion depicting significant events in American history.

The bronze doors at the east portico entrance of the US Capital’s House wing were designed by American sculptor Thomas Crawford in 1855-1857. After Crawford’s death William H. Rinehart took the sketches and had models made between 1863-1867. The models were stored in the Capital Building Crypt until 1903 when they were cast in Massachusetts by Melzar H. Mosman. The doors were installed in 1905.

The panels on this door depict the following events:

  • Upper left: Wyoming Massacre, Pennsylvania
  • Middle left: Battle of Lexington
  • Lower left: Presentation of Flag and Medal to General Nathaniel Greene
  • The medallion on the left represents the Death of General Montgomery
  • Upper right: Public Reading of the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia
  • Middle right: The Signing of the Treaty at Paris Between the United States and Great Britain
  • Lower left: Washington’s Farewell to His Officers in New York
  • The medallion on the right represents Benjamin Franklin in his studio

You can learn more about the Capitol building at Architect of the Capital.

How interesting to know that a historical event that my ancestors were part of helped shape the colonists’ response during the Revolutionary War and that this event would be important enough to be part of the Capitol Building. I wonder how many people walk by this door every day and have no idea of the significance of the panels?

While I always love learning about what my ancestors’ lives were like I very much enjoy learning how their experiences helped shape the history of our Country. I am so grateful to the man I met while looking for directions who helped me learn more about my ancestors’ connection to history. You just never know how those chance meetings with strangers can help you learn more about history and where that history will be displayed. A very special thank-you to this man who took the time to help me learn more!

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Twists and Turns of Finding Baptismal Records for 1878

St. Matthias, Cascade, Iowa

When we are researching our ancestors back in the 1800s we will not find a birth record. At that point one of the ways to verify their birth is to find a baptismal record. I have been on the search for such a record for my maternal great grandmother Susan Bentz Hamman. The family came from Luxembourg to the Dubuque area in the eastern part of Iowa before moving to Remsen, Iowa in the western part of the state.

So, what do I know and where do I start looking for the baptismal record?

When I learned about Susan’s life (see post The Life of Susan Bentz Hamman) and look at census records I know that she was born about 1877 or 1878 in the Dubuque area of Eastern Iowa.

According to US Federal census records I know:

  • On 22 June 1870 the family (father John Sr, mother Mary and children John Jr., Clara, Catherine, Nicholas, Nicholas, yes, 2 sons named Nicholas with different ages, and Jacob) living in Cascade Township, Dubuque, Iowa.
  • Susan was supposedly born on 18-20 August 1878 (see post Sunday Obituary for Susan Bentz Hamman) in Worthington, Iowa.
                        Happy 142nd Birthday Great-Grandmother Suza

  • On 14 June 1880 I find the family (father John, mother Mary, son Jacob 10 years old and daughter Suza 3 years old) living in Dodge Township, Worthington.
  • I knew the family was Roman Catholic from Luxembourg and spoke German. What churches were in the area in 1878? St. Paul’s is the Roman Catholic church in Worthington, Iowa. In 1994 I called the church and received a written reply stating “I cannot find any information in our baptismal register in any part of the year 1878 for Susan Bentz (or Benz). If she was truly born on August 28, 1878 perhaps she was not baptized at St. Paul’s.” UGH!

Cascade and Worthington are only about 5-6 miles apart today but back in 1878 that was a long distance to travel by horse and cart.

  • I left a message again at St. Paul’s. Nothing yet.
  • I searched Roman Catholic church records at the Basilica of St. Francis in Dyersville (about 10 miles from Worthington). They have many ledgers for churches is the area, some of which no longer exist. No luck.
  • I was able to get the name of an Archivist at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque. I was told they may have records from way back for churches in the area.  Thank-you to 
  • Dan told me there was a German Church (St. Mary’s that was established in 1857) and an Irish Church (St. Martin’s). These two churches merged in 1991 and are now referred to as St. Matthias. He thought it that might be worth checking with St. Matthias. He gave me a contact and I called. Thank-you Dan!  Shellie was skeptical that they still had any records from that far back but I was welcome to come and look with her. She said people get their hopes up that they have the records and she hates disappointing them when they can’t find anything.

Shellie searched and searched the records for St. Mary’s. Susan’s parents were John and Mary Bentz. We tried a variety of spellings and years before and after 1878 and …nothing. Disappointing! She said they were trying to set up a data base for the records and thought she should double check that as well. Nothing for Susan but she did find a record for:

John Bentz (no middle name or initial listed), baptized at St. Mary’s on 22 August 1869. Birth 29 July 1869. 

Parents- John and Margaretha (Robin) Bentz. Priest- Michael Lynch. Sponsors- John Tnies and Maria Sadey.

WAIT…Susan’s mother’s name was at times listed as Margaretha and her maiden name was RobinWAIT! When I reviewed my records I knew Susan had a brother named Jacob that was born in 1869. This must be the baptismal record for her brother Jacob. Perhaps he was baptized ‘John’ Jacob and only the John was listed in the records but the dates and parents’ names match. YES!

Well, it wasn’t Susan’s baptismal record but still this is valuable information! This confirms that they attended church in Cascade where they were reported to be in the 1870 census. Now I know they were there earlier in 1869 before moving to Dodge Township, Worthington in 1880. This also confirms the spelling of Mary’s maiden name which I have seen spelled a variety of ways.

Continue to search when you can’t find something at first. Don’t give up! A VERY special thank-you to Shellie for her patience and perseverance in wanting to help!! I would never have thought to look at an ‘Irish’ church for the records. Perhaps it was closer to where they lived?

  • I know that the family showed up in Remsen about 1880. Perhaps in 1878 the family was already heading west when Susan was born? Now I will need to search other churches in the area to see where she might have been born. While it wasn’t Susan’s record it is still valuable information. I wondered if the Hamman and Bentz families knew each other before Remsen. After seeing the distance between Dyersville and Worthington I believe it was highly unlikely they knew each other before Remsen. I flew in and out of Luxembourg in the early 1990s just after finding out that one of my ancestors had come from Luxembourg. I remember how green it was and all the rolling hills. As I looked at the landscape in the area I saw rolling hills and lots of green here in Iowa as well. Did this land remind them of home?

Perhaps a descendant of Jacob Bentz has been looking for his baptismal record and hasn’t been able to find it because his name is listed as ‘John’ on the record and he was baptized in an ‘Irish’ Roman Catholic Church instead of the German one?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Gerald G. Warner, Land Owner

In my last two posts I have followed the life of my paternal great uncle Gerald Warner (The Childhood of Gerald Gilbert Warner and The Adult Life of Gerald Gilbert Warner). I know that Gerald moved from Long Island, New York to South Dakota about 1912-1913. According to the 1930 and 1940 US Federal Census records Gerald rented a home but was listed on the Farm Schedule. Hmm…what does that mean?

    When I searched FAQs about the 1930 Farm Schedules I found that most of the Farm Schedules are missing. So, no help there. I did find the following information about crops in Brule, County:

I went back to the 1930 census, to see what I had missed previously. On this one I had missed the fact that Gerald owned his home in 1930. I know that in 1920 he was in Plummer Township in Brule County and in 1930 he was in Plainfield Township also in Brule County. I wondered if I could find a land record for this purchase?

Before I started searching for a land record I needed to know about the land in the area. I am used to searching for land records back East where the system of Metes and Bounds (system of describing the land or real estate commonly used in the East based on a system used in England) is used when surveying land. What system is used in South Dakota? (I like to go to the FamilySearch Wiki to start my research.) South Dakota uses the rectangular land survey system of section, township and range. Townships were six-mile square blocks of land, divided into 36 one-mile squares called sections. The township was numbered north and south, starting from the centerline, and the range was numbered east and west starting from the centerline.

Gerald lived in Brule County. This is the map of the counties in South Dakota in 1930: 

    According to the FamilySearch Wiki on South Dakota: When South Dakota was acquired by the United States most of the land became public domain. The federal government surveyed the land into townships and transferred the land to private ownership through local land offices. The first land office was established at Vermillion, South Dakota in 1861. Land could be obtained by paying cash or by Homesteading after 1862. The records for these transactions are in the County Clerk or Recorder’s Offices.

Chamberlain, South Dakota is the County Seat for Brule County. I began looking in the Index book of Grantors and Grantees but nothing was listed for Gerald Warner as Grantee (buying land) in the land records. I had previously noted that on both his World War I and World War II Draft Registration Cards Gerald signed his name as G G Warner. Ah, there it was… G G Warner purchased land in Plainfield County in 1923. That has to be my Great Uncle Gerald! This is the land deed I was able to locate:

Transcription:  1 December 1923.  The Northeast quarter of section 19 in township one hundred three  North range sixty seven West of the 5th P.M. containing 160 acres more or less according to the US Government survey thereof, and free of encumbrance.  Revenue stamps $7.00.  

Gerald bought the land from a woman named Mamie Westendorf, a single woman from Los Angeles, for the price of one dollar and other good and valuable considerations.  I wonder what those were?  The Register of Deeds said there is rarely anything other than $1.00 listed as a price back then.  Interesting. 

OK, but where is that land today? I really wanted to go see it and stand there. To know that someone cared enough to come and see his land. Well, very special thanks to Register of Deeds, Glenda Andrea and Kris. They took time out of their busy day to help this stranger from California with a most unusual request on a late Tuesday afternoon in August. They were able to show me on a map of the County where the property was and they gave me directions: Take route 90 East, get off the Exit for Route 45 South. Go to the Golf Course and turn right on road 253 and go 2 miles to road 365 and the property will be on the left. I was surprised to see that many roads don’t have names just street numbers. I missed the golf course the first time but finally found road 253 and drove about 2 miles :

and the road ended. The property is now part of a much larger farm and there are wind turbines off in the distance. Gerald’s section seemed to be vacant but…I found it and this is what it looks like today:

No houses or barns are visible now, but, I found it and stood on Gerald’s land!

I wonder if this picture

was a picture taken to send back East to family to show his new land purchase? Maybe? I wish there had been buildings to help me determine this. I did get the name of a local historian I can contact. I also applied to get a copy of a death certificate for a Gerald G Warner in Brule, South Dakota to see if this is my great Uncle’s. That may take a while to get. I also need to get a copy of his Will. The office I needed was closed while I was there, unfortunately.  More to follow at a later date.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Adult Life of Gerald Gilbert Warner

In my previous post (The Childhood of Gerald Gilbert Warner) the letters written by Gerald’s mother played a major role in giving me a glimpse of his childhood. I still had many unanswered questions about my Great Uncle. So, I asked my father and several of my second cousins and I was able to gather some more information. What I learned was Gerald went to college in Ct, met someone from South Dakota and decided to move there. He was a farmer and never married.

I always like to use these family stories as starting points. I thought that must have been very adventurous of him in the early 1900s to just pick up and leave his family and move to South Dakota. I’m guessing he mainly communicated via mail. Then I dove into online data bases and newspapers. Here is what I was able to learn about the man that Gerald became:

  • In The County Review dated 19 May 1911 in an article entitled Good List of Entries for Athletic Meet-Twelfth Annual Field Day in Riverhead Promises to Break all Records- Riverhead’s Many Entries-Splendid Lot of Trained Athletes From Several High Schools Will Take Part in Numerous Contests I find Half-Mile Run-Harold Downs, John Burgess, Jr., Francis W. Reeve, Harrison Tyte, Gerald Warner, Riverhead…”. Interesting to learn that Gerald was an athlete and participated in distance running.
  • In The County Review dated 12 April 1912 under Baiting Hollow “Mrs. Harold W. Young entertained a large party of friends at Rose Manor, last Thursday evening, in honor of her sister, Miss Viola A. Downs, of Killingly, Conn. The evening was pleasantly spent playing games and dainty refreshments were served. Among those present were the Misses Amy Prince, Marjorie Young, Ada Wells Prince, Marjorie Young, Ada Wells, Emma Munro, Florence Munro, Eleanor Warner, Clara Culver and Josephine Howland. Mr. and Mrs. Harold Robinson and Messrs. Harrison Tyte, Claude Hulse, Dan Warner, Gerald Warner, and Charles Fordham.”
  • In The County Review dated 31 May 1912 under Baiting Hollow “Miss Louise Volecker entertained a party of friends at the home of her sister, Mrs. John J. Wicks, on Wednesday evening, of last week. Music, dancing and games were enjoyed until 11:30, when dainty refreshments were served. Among those present were the Misses Sadie Wells, Ada Wells, Gertrude Squires, Amy Prince, Clara Culver, Emma Munro and Josephine Howland. Messrs. Claude Hulse, Charles Kuff, August Lewin, Austin Luce, Gerald Warner, Daniel Warner and Kenneth Terry.” How interesting to see that Gerald was out at social events (until 11:30 at night, oh my goodness) and to see who was also at these parties.
  • When Gerald was 18 years old according to The County Review 30 August 1912 under Baiting Hollow, “Stanley Munn and Gerald Warner left this morning for Mt. Hermon, Mass., where they will attend school the coming year.” When I searched Mt. Hermon, Mass. I found a school entitled The Northfield Schools. At the time there was a school for boys and one for girls. Founded by the Protestant evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody. Moody viewed Christian religious education as an essential objective of his schools. I wonder if this is where Gerald went and for how long? What did he study? This may have just been a prep school for boys.  Hmm, further investigation is needed.
  • In The County Review dated 1 August 1913 under Baiting Hollow, “The Christian Endeavor society will enjoy a basket picnic at Roanoke beach, Thursday afternoon, August 7,…Christian Endeavor meeting at 7.30 p.m. Topic, The Ideal Christian-His Perseverance. Assigned leader, Gerald Warner.” The Christian Endeavor Society was the first national church youth organization.
  • The 1915 South Dakota, State Census lists Gerald as 21 years old, Single, Race- White, Nationality-American, Arrival year in State-1912, Religion-Congregational. I find it interesting that it states he arrived in SD in 1912 when above it states he was going to school in Massachusetts, hmm?
  • 5 June 1917 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Card Gerald Gilbert Warner, Marital Status-Single, Birth Date-15 August 1887, Age-29, Farmer, Self-Employed, Birth Place-New York, Residence Place-Kimball, Brule SD, Do You Claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)-Bad eyes, near sighted, Tall, Slender build, Eyes-Brown, Hair-Brown, Bald-no. Interesting that the year of birth is written as 87 when it should have been 84.
  • The US Federal Census 17 March 1920 for Plummer Township, Brule County, South Dakota lists Gerald as Single, 30 years old, able to speak English, Farmer, General Farm Industry, worked for himself, Rented his home and had a 62 year old boarder named Henry Bickner.
Gerald’s father, John B. Warner died on 20 June 1920 in Aquebogue, New York. John was reported ill for about six months before he died.
  • In The County Review newspaper on 2 July 1920 under Aquebogue, “Gerald Warner, of South Dakota, is spending a few days with his brothers in this place, having come east to attend the funeral of his father, John B. Warner. Although unable to reach Aquebogue in time for the funeral, he was present at the burial, which was postponed until his arrival on Thursday.”

I have had and known about a picture of all six brothers for as long as I can remember. I never really thought about when the photo was taken until I started working on writing about the life of Gerald.

back left to right : Olin, Hollis Gerald
front left to right: J. Wesley, Milton, Terry

One of my cousins has a copy of the photo with 1920 written on the back. I was able to find no record in the local newspaper of Gilbert visiting the family in 1920 before he came for his father’s funeral in June 1920. Was the picture taken then, after the burial, when all the brothers were together or some years earlier? I cannot find any mention of Gerald visiting his family after he left for South Dakota until he came for the burial. Brother Terry would die tragically in October 1921. It is possible Gerald came and it was not recorded in the newspaper. Are all the issues available online? My grandfather (Olin-back left) was 15 years old when his father died. I think he looks younger than that in the photo? Milton (front middle) would have been not quite 13 years old in 1920.  Or I wonder if it was taken perhaps years earlier when Gilbert left for South Dakota?  I wonder what the lapel pins are that Milton and Olin are wearing?

  • 17 December 1920 in The County Review newspaper under Aquebogue states “Gerald Warner, of South Dakota is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Hollis Warner.”
  • The 1925 South Dakota, State Census lists Gerald as 34 years old, Single, Race-White, Ethnicity-German, Years in the State 13, Arrival Year 1912, Religion-Congregational, parents’ birthplace-New York. Well, the Ethnicity is definitely not correct.
  • The US Federal Census 18 April 1930 for Plainfield Township, Brule County, South Dakota lists Gerald as Single, 43 years old, can read and write, a Farmer, in the General Farm Industry, works for himself, is not a Veteran, number of Farm Schedule 17.
  • The 1935 South Dakota, State Census lists Gerald as 47 years old, Single, Event Place Plainfield, Brule County, South Dakota, Post Office-Kimball, South Dakota.

  • The US Federal Census 16 April 1940 for Plainfield, Brule County, South Dakota has Gerald as 51 years old, Single, Highest grade completed College-2nd year, Farmer, property is a Farm, Hours worked the previous week-38, Weeks worked in 1939-52, yes-Income from other sources, Rented his home and is living with a 58 year old laborer named Fred French. Number on Farm Schedule 7. I wonder what the other income was? Investments, perhaps?
  • 27 April 1942 U.S., World War II Draft Registration Card lists Gerald with a birth date of 15 August 1890, and 52 years old, Residence-Plainfield, South Dakota, Mailing Address R. F. D. 3 Kimball, SD, Self Employed, Height-5’10”, Eye Color-Blue, Hair Color-Brown, Weight 196, Complexion-Ruddy, Name of Person Wo;; Will Always Know Your Address-Olin Warner, Calverton, NY. Again the birth year is wrong?
  • The 1945 South Dakota, State Census lists Gerald as 54 years old, Single, Parents both born in New York, Event Place-Plainfield, Brule County, South Dakota, Post Office-Kimball, South Dakota.
  • The Country Review reports on 8 April 1948 under Calverton “Gerald Warner of Kimball, SD, spent a few days last week with his brother, Olin Warner and family.” This was also at the time of the wedding of Gerald’s niece Betty Warner who married Robert McMurtrie.
  • 16 November 1949 the Argus-Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota reports in an article entitled Shrine Class Here Biggest Since 1920 and that there were 186 men initiated by El Riad Temple at their Fall ceremony held the night before and that this was the largest according to Masonic officials. Among the candidates listed was Gerald Warner, Kimball. This would explain the picture I found among my grandparents’ things:

I wonder if El Riad has any information on Gerald?
  • 30 March 1950 in The County Review newspaper under Aquebogue states “Gerald Warner of Kimball, S. D. who has been spending the Winter in Florida, has been visiting his brothers in this vicinity before returning to his home. He spent Wednesday night with his brother Wesley and since has been with his other brothers. Mr. Warner who has been living in South Dakota for some time, operates a large ranch there.” and “Gerald Warner of Kimble, S.D., visited his aunt, Mrs. George Billard [Ella Terry Billard] part of last week, after spending the winter months in Florida.”

Gerald died in 1951 in ?. The Florida Death Index has a Gerald G Warner Death date 1951 with Death Place as Palm Beach, Florida. I also find a South Dakota Death Index with a Death Date as 24 March 1951 and a Death Place as Brule, South Dakota.

  • Which one is right? Definitely more research needed on this mystery.
  • I did a little ‘quick’ digging and I did find a Gerald G Warner listed in the City Directory for 1944 living in St. Petersburg, FL with an occupation of US Army. That is definitely not my ancestor and may answer the confusion about the 2 death listings.
  • I was told a family story that Gilbert left SD for FL and became ill. Did he go back to SD or did he make it to FL and die there? If he died in FL would both states issue death certificates? I think I need to get a copy of the SD death certificate.

2 stories I was told Uncle Gerald shared were:

  • The snow in South Dakota got so high one winter about 10-15 feet that Gerald had to go out the second story window in the house and across the snow and go in the upper door of the barn to get to the animals so he could feed them.
  • Gerald took his horse and wagon in to town to do things.  When he was headed home he would wrap up in a blanket and lay on the floor of the wagon out of the wind and elements and even sleep.  He would tell his horse to go home and let the horse go on his own to take them home.

These stories give me a little more of about his daily life in South Dakota.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Childhood of Gerald Gilbert Warner

One of my paternal great uncles was Gerald Gilbert Warner. Gerald never married and he died before I was born. All I remember hearing when I was growing up is that he had a farm in South Dakota. Who was he? What type of person was he? Why did he move to South Dakota from Long Island, New York? When did he move to South Dakota? What was his life like in South Dakota? These are just a few of the questions I have.

Gerald Gilbert Warner was the third child (and third son) born to Carrie Terry and John Benjamin Warner on the 15th of August 1894 in Baiting Hollow, Suffolk County, New York. Gerald’s maternal grandfather was named Gilbert (Terry), so, I guess that is where his middle name came from.

Thank goodness Carrie wrote all these letters over the span of 32 years to her sister Ella, who saved them, and I have them to refer to. (See post Carrie’s Letters-Bringing Ancestral Letters to Life) These letters give me glimpses into everyday life and tell me the little things that I would never know if the letters didn’t exist.  

Luckily, I have scanned and transcribed the letters and indexed all the people mentioned in the letters.  I wondered what I could learn about Gerald as a child from these letters?

  • The first mention in his mother Carrie’s letters I find of Gerald is when he is 13 months old (1895) and she states “Gerald was sick all last week.” Over the years Carrie talks to her sister Ella Terry Billard about making the clothes for her sons and Ella helping with that until she herself married and had three sons of her own.
  • When Gerald is two years old (1896) Carrie states, “Gerald bothers me so I can not write.” In another letter she talks about her seven year old son Wesley writing a letter to his maternal grandfather and how “Gerald got it and put his mark on, much against Wesley’s feelings.” I can so picture the two year old Gerald doing this just like any other two year old might.
  • In a letter dated 31 January 1897 when Gerald was about two and half years old Carrie states, “Gerald is beginning to talk at last, says almost everything though not very plain yet.” 
  • Later on 19 April 1897 we learn that “Terry (oldest child and nine years old) and Gerald get along quite peaceably but put Wesley (second child and seven years old) between them and they both have somebody to pick on.” 
  • About a month later on 18 May 1897, 11 days after the birth of the fourth child, yet another boy, named Hollis, Carrie talks about still feeling ill and glad that Wesley is off visiting his maternal grandparents and aunt. “Gerald (age three) is an awful trial and if Wesley was here too believe they would set me crazy. Gerald don’t want any one to do any thing for him but John or I.” Sounds pretty typical between brothers even today.
  • The last mention I find of Gerald is in a letter dated Monday, 25 December 1905 when Carrie tells her sister “Hollis (eight years old) and Gerald (eleven years old) were getting up soon after eleven Sunday night. I had just been up with the baby (my grandfather Olin) so heard them and sent them to bed again.” At this time there were now 5 children, all boys.  Guess they were excited about finding their Christmas gifts?

From these letters, and only looking for the mentions about Gerald, I can begin to see Gerald, the child. Gerald seems like a very typical child growing up.  In a family of 6 boys I wonder if he maintained the closeness he seemed to have early on with his older brother Terry?

Gerald’s mother would die suddenly and tragically on 2 June 1910, just 2 months before his 16th birthday, and leave her husband and six sons to go on without her.

But what can I now learn about the man Gerald became and of his life in South Dakota?

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

NOTE: When I am researching my ancestors in a particular time period I enjoy learning about things like the furniture or clothing of the time.  I wondered what a cradle would have looked like about the time Gerald was born.  I found the cradle on the top of the post in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog with the following advertisement:
"A $2.50 Cradle for $1.40
You would not think after seeing this cradle that it was possible to make it for the price, but the manufacturers are long on cradles and short on cash, and we are hence able to name our own figures.  We give our customers the advantage of every squeeze in the market.  We recommend this article as most desirable in every respect and quoted at an unheard of Price.  This cradle is made of the best selected hard wood with bent wood work and finished in antique or dark finish, as desired.  The size is 24 inches by 44 inches, and is shipped knocked down when taken apart, thus saving very largely on freight.  It is very easily set up and put together with screws."