Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Two Andrews

My Two Andrews
My Great Grandfather, Andrew
My Son, Andrew

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Woodman of the World: This One Has Me Stumped

Despite driving by this tombstone everyday, I never noticed it was a tree stump. So I stopped, took a few photographs, and after some research, I discovered what a Woodman of the World Memorial is. (click these links for more info: Southern Graves and Woodmen of the World)

I also noticed that Mr. McIver is buried next to an ancestor (how did I not notice the tree stump headstone before?!)...and he shares the same last name as my ancestor's wife...and they died the same year. Could this stump be part of my family tree?? Sounds like a fun genealogy mystery to me!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Military Monday - Part I: History of the 666th AAA Machine Gun Battery A/B

My husband's grandfather served in Burma during WWII.  I am lucky enough to have a copy of a history of his experience. This history was written by Warren M. Knight.  Papa said that one of the men in his unit (I believe it was Knight) kept a journal...another had a camera - neither of which were allowed.  But thankfully for genealogist and historians, they did!  Enjoy this first edition on training.

666th AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) Machine Gun Battery A/B (Airborne) History from December 19, 1942, to July 14, 1950
"The 666th Headquarters was at Logan Heights, Fort Bliss, Texas, which was then about 12 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas.  The majority of the enlisted men got to the battery on March 5, 1943. The battery consisted of a total of 90 men, 5 officers, and 85 enlisted men.  There were 52 men from Florida and the rest were from the northern and western states. The battery had three platoons with four gun squads to each platoon.  Each squad had five men including a squad leader and each squad had a .50 cal. water-cooler machine gun."
"In the course of the battery’s airborne training, many road marches were made to condition the men for the twenty-five mile hike into the desert. From April 1, 1943, through the month of May, the battery made two weekly marches in various terrains which averaged ten miles in length. The weather conditions were usually very good until May, when the heat increased greatly. On May 10, 1943, the battery made a forward march of nine miles in fifty-five minutes. Of the fifty-four men and two officers who started the hike only eighteen men and the officers finished as a group. Fifteen more made the march in an added ten minutes, the balance straggling in. Weather was hot and clear. Terrain was level desert road."  
"On July 2, 1943, the battery made its long awaited 25 mile road march. We departed camp at 1830 hours carrying full field packs and marched for the first nine miles before a short break was taken. At the end of the next six miles, a hour break was taken, during which the men were allowed to purchase light refreshments. The return march was begun at 2330 hours, and the battery reached camp around 0400 hours. All the men and the four officers finished the march with the exception of two enlisted men. The morale was very high, most of the men singing and joking up until the last five or six miles. The weather was cool and the sky overcast. Roads were wet and muddy." 
"September 28, 1943, the battery joined the 50th AA Group for a tactical maneuver, traveling 23 miles by truck convoy. A defense of a landing strip was set up with all positions dug in and well camouflaged under desert conditions. All needed measures against gas attack were taken. Camouflage was effected and sanitation measures were taken. On September 30, 1943, the battery marched, with full field packs over sandy desert roads in the full heat of the day, the distance of 21 miles to Biggs Field, Texas where an AA defense was organized. On October 1, 1943, the battery marched from Biggs Field, Texas to Fort Bliss, Texas, a distance of 4 miles. Weather for entire period was clear and hot. Morale was high."
"Papa" - William Locke

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Evelyn

Pearl Evelyn Jensen the name of the beautiful young lady featured on this blog.  She is my grandmother. She is the best grandmother you can imagine. She...

...has a great sense of humor
...loves candy (especially peanut M&Ms)
...cusses (no other grandmother I know would dare cuss)
...has the biggest dimples when she smiles (lucky for me I inherited this trait)
...wraps restaurant leftovers in a napkin and stuffs them in her purse despite being given a to-go box
...stores kleenex in the wrist of her long sleeve shirts or sweaters just in case
...wears a size 4 shoe
...lived in Chicago in the 20's
...loves to watch Soul Train because she "loves the way those kids move"
...did not marry until she was in her mid-thirties
Lucile, Ostense, Evelyn, and Andrew Jensen
...misses her sister, Lucile, very much
...almost died giving birth to identical twins, my father and uncle
...worked for the candymaker Mars (she would bring home pockets filled with candy to share with her mom)
...loves to listen to talk radio (me too!)
...bites her fingernails when she worries
...loves me!

Evelyn passed away in 1987 - the very day, the very minute I drove out my driveway to go to Converse College for my freshman mom says it was her way of making sure I made it to school.  I was her only grandchild so I guess it is safe for me to say I was her favorite.  She lived with me and my parents for ten years after my grandfather passed away.  I would not trade those years for anything.

Grandpa, Grandma, Dad & me
I miss you grandma!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday - Not So Hidden Treasure!

A treasure that my mother-in-law found in a desk  proves that my husband's family is a First Family of Panama City (ie lived in Panama City, FL before 1913).

Wahoo! Now if only all documents were this easy to find!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Military Monday - Attack on Kesternich and a Lesson in Determination

The early morning of 14 December was extremely cold and the snow that had fallen during the past four days was glazed and deceivingly deep. The troops had spent a miserable night. Every man was tense and excited. Feet were half frozen and fingers brittle. The need for arctic overshoes was certainly apparent. Rest was almost impossible during the night because of intermittent artillery and mortar fire. Consequently these non-battle wise soldiers spent most of the night improving their individual positions. (from "The Operations of the 2D Battalion, 310th Infantry (78th Infantry Division) in the Attack on Kesternich, Germany, 14-16 December 1944, pg. 12)

When I first began my genealogy research (two years ago this October), I knew military history and records would be a big part of my search. My family has a rich history of military service. I just never imagined how personal those records would be.

Boldly googling my grandfather's name, Niram L. Sauls, I stumbled upon a monograph written by him posted on the 78th Division Veterans Association website. Well...almost. My grandpa's report had just been removed by the webmaster due to storage issues. So admitting defeat, I bookmark the site and move on to "easier" research.

Less than two years after that initial search and a few half-hearted glances at the Association's website later, I find myself wanting that report. I type my grandfather's name in the Association's search box once again - this time with more determination.

Surprisingly, within the past few months, another researcher posted on the message board a request for various reports including my grandpa's! So sheepishly, I post a request and email the webmaster, Tom, for a copy of the monograph my grandfather had written 60 years ago. With little hope of a response, I once again move on to "easier" research - so much for determination.

A few hours later, while on a break from my "easy" research, I open my inbox hoping to find a response - and there it is! Tom emailed the report! He also supplies me with additional information about the monograph and a link to his Wikipedia site [] - seems Kesternich is a personal research project of his.

So thanks to Tom and his dedication to researching WWII, I now hold a piece of history - personal history. My grandfather died in 1990 and did not talk much about his experiences in the war - especially to his granddaughter. But thanks to genealogists and history enthusiasts like Tom, the heroic acts of my grandfather and the men of the 78th Infantry, including Tom's father, will live on.

Besides learning about my grandfather's determination, I learned something about having determination in genealogical research. Determination - no matter how sheepishly it appears - does win in the end.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday's Obituary - A Youthful Life Ended

Several years ago, while working for the Panama County Club in Lynn Haven, FL, I discovered a mystery!

One of the perks of the job is taking golf carts for rides around the beautiful course and this day was my first tour. A seasoned employee of the country club, Pat is at the wheel and I, riding shotgun, hold on for dear life as we zoom across cart paths dodging Fox Squirrels. Pat is on a mission to show me the cemetery on the golf course. We arrive and quietly come to a stop. Nestled between Live Oaks and a fairway is a small cemetery with a handful of headstones. If Pat is telling me anything about the people buried there or which fairway is nearby, I am not listening, because I am struck by the lonely, peacefulness of the scene.

Flash forward to a week ago. Still wanting to know who is buried at the golf course, I email a few members of my local genealogical society to see if they have any information about this cemetery. As several emails pass from member to member, I discover that this cemetery and surrounding area used to belong to the Gay family.

With that information in mind, I search several indexes on our society's website and discover one of the girls buried there has an obituary.  With excitement building to finally meet this young lady, I search the Panama City Pilot, which has recently been digitized. After clicking a few pages, I find her obituary:
A Youthful Life Ended - Mrs. Lee Porter died September 18th at the home of her father, R.W. Gay, on North Bay. Mrs. Porter had gone to visit her parents, and was seized with a fatal illness shortly after her arrival. She was given the best medical attention to be had, but without avail. The deceased was an amiable and attractive young woman, who had many friends in this vicinity, where she was born and raised. She was about 19 years of age. February 27, 1913 she was united in marriage to Lee Porter, who together with her parents and other relatives, have the sympathy of the community. Funeral services were held September 19th at 1 o'clock conducted by Rev. W.S.R. Burnett of Lynn Haven, and interment in the family burying ground at the old homestead. (Panama City Pilot, 25 Sep 1913, pg. 4 col. 1)
Ironically, as I sit down to write this post, I notice that she was buried 97 years ago today. So while her life was tragically cut short, it is nice to know that through the efforts of fellow genealogists, I know who Myrta May Gay Porter is...know that she has family and friends...know that she is loved...and know that she has a beautiful and peaceful final resting place.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hurricane Ivan - 6 Years Ago Today - How My Family Survived!

Before Ivan
Six years ago today Hurricane Ivan hit my parents' house and changed their lives for ever...and I believe for the better.

My parents, who live near the Gulf of Mexico, safely evacuated further in town to my house, which had just sold a few days before and was empty. With everything they could carry including their cat, Lacy, my parents road out the storm.  Though my house was virtually untouched, my parents feared their house was not so lucky.  So against better judgment, they ventured outdoors to see what was left of their home.  Despite debris covered roads and down power lines, they made it to the entry of their neighborhood and walked the rest of the way to the house...and, by some miracle, they discovered that their cell phones were working, so my mom was able to call me.  She reported that they were fine, but that the house was "just gone".

"What do you mean gone? How bad is it mom?"
"Suz, it's so bad my underwear is in the trees!"

After Ivan
Must be bad when the President visits your neighborhood!
Now, those words have become a punch line to a family story, but at the time it was very true.  My parents' house was a complete loss, and their clothes were literally hanging in the trees.  It took several years for them to rebuild...they had to fight insurance companies and builders...they had to find a temporary place to live...they had to recover what they could from the house.  And they did all this together.  Most marriages would crumble under the strain of a disaster like this, but my parents' relationship thrived. Quickly they realized what was important - family (in fact, a few days after the storm, my son and I traveled to Gainesville, FL where my parents' were staying on the way to be with my aunt and uncle, just so my mom could hug her grandson).

Hurricane Ivan took some family pictures and some sentimental objects, but it did not take the most important item - family.
We are still in one piece.
We are still a family.

The New House

Monday, September 13, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - 1952 Trip to Japan

This is a letter from my mother's paternal grandmother to my mother's maternal grandmother about getting ready for a trip to Japan.  My mom (Sharon), her mother (Wilma), her sister (Muriel), and her brother (Jimmy) flew from Florida to California to board a ship to Japan where her father (Roy Sauls) was stationed. Hope I have not confused you too much...enjoy!

[I apologize for the quality of the pictures...these are scanned copies of a copy of the original letter.]

Feb 2, 1952 at 7am

Dear Alvie,

Here is the snap of our children dressed and ready for breakfast at “Minnie’s and Nellie’s” house.  The film must have been crowded in the camera for the doorframe is crooked.  I just love this picture.

This is a few minutes later.  Leila had to have a picture too.  She looks more like the Blairs all the time.  She and Muriel are about the same height but Leila is heavier.  Jimmie looks sleepy and I suppose he was for they got up at 6:30.


7:30 and breakfast. Nellie on the piano bench – she thought she wouldn’t show in the picture.  I’m sure our house isn’t this crooked.  The cake saver looks as if it might fall off any minute.  Breakfast is over, it was very light.

Now at 7:35.  They were on their way out to the car and their last ride in the blue Buick.  I’m sorry Sharon’s coat don’t show more for it was so pretty.  Muriel’s hat was krimmer trim and matched the old coat very good.


On to the plane at 9:25.  They let Priscilla inside the gate to take this one.  Jimmy refused to carry his top coat and pants so Sharon is loaded down.  They were all so excited and happy.  The plane was a 50 passenger sleeper.  But we were glad when this day was over.


Right on schedule they went up into the “wild blue yonder” then made a return and took off toward St. Pete and the Gulf of Mexico.  Now if we only had a few snap shots of their landing and meeting with LeRoy.

Best Love,