20 June 2009

WHITMAN family - Gulf Hammock, FL


Place: Gulf Hammock, FL

Date: circa 1900

With a name like St Clair WHITMAN, this family was easy to find. Along with Ms. Rene (see previous post), I found the WHITMAN family photo in a bin in a strange antique story in Micanopy, Florida. Most photos from this bin seemed to originate from the Cedar Key area of Florida on the Gulf Coast. The WHITMANs were no exception: according to the caption on the back, this photo was taken in Gulf Hammock Florida. To me, the girls' dresses suggest Easter time. Although this photo only says "WHITMANS" on the back, I was fortunate to also come across a number of Grand Lodge F. & A. M. membership cards in the photo bundle. These cards show St Clair WHITMAN as a Lodge member in Otter Creek, FL and Gulf Hammock, FL form as early as 1918 to to as late as 1957.

A search of the Census confirms the location of the family. In 1900, a Clare WHITMAN was living in Cedar Key, Florida with his wife Nellie. According to this record, "Clare" (St Clair) WHITMAN was born in September, 1868 in Missouri, but his father was born in Massachusetts and his mother in New York. This is unusual, as families did not tend to move back east in this time period. However, considering they ended up in the gulf side of Florida, they potentially took a boat down the Mississippi and to the coast of Florida. Who knows? Anyway, a geographical aside. Nellie, St Clair's wife, was born in Florida, but her father was born in Canada and her mother in New Jersey. The children at this time were a son named Charles, age 11, and two daughters Hattie (age 7) and Nellie (age 5). Also listed with the family was St Clair's father Charles, whose parents were born in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The family composition matches the people in the photo above: St Clair is probably the tall gentleman in the hat with the short(er) beard, and his wife Nellie is probably to his left. You can see a young man peeking through the back, who is probably the young Charles, while grandpa Charles--check out that beard!--is to the left. Two of the girls are Hattie (far right) and Nellie. The people unaccounted for are the other two girls, and the woman with a baby to the far left--perhaps a nanny? Maybe the 1910 Census has clues...

Well, as it sometimes happens in family history research, the 1910 Census raises some questions. First, there are no additional children listed with the family, which is surprising given the photo--who are these four other people? Are the little girls St Clair's nieces? If so, did they live with the family for awhile or were they just visiting at the time of the photo? Second, the 1910 Census contains some conflicting information. St Clair's information is the same, but now his wife is listed as Elen O, whose father was from Ireland and mother was from South Carolina. This information is different enough to suggest a second wife, but this is not the case--the Census indicates they have been married for 22 years. The oldest son is now listed as Frederick Charles, as opposed to just Charles, and the two daughters are noted as Harriet and Elen--but both logical full names for Hattie and Nellie. Grandpa Charles is still hanging in there at age 77. We do get more information about their occupations: St Clair is a foreman at a fiber factory (?) and Frederick is a salesman.

The 1920 Census mostly matches up with all of this information. The family is still living on Cedar Key. Poor old grandpa Charles is gone now it appears, and Frederick is no longer in the household--no one likes a man in his thirties still living with his mama. The two daughters, Harriet and Elen are surprisingly still at home though ages 26 and 23; probably reaching spinster-hood in those times--poor girls! They were also working at the fiber factory. Makes me glad I live in the 21st century.

By the 1930 Census--which I must note has St Clair's name as "Sivert"...all the more reason to hand-comb through Census records because of the indexing mistakes--it's just St Clair, Nellie, and poor umarried Harriet. At least she no longer works at the fiber factory though! She now works in a grocery store.

But the questions still remain...who are the other four women in the photograph? And how/why did St Clair and Charles come to Florida from Missouri? Is Nellie Whitman's family from Canada or Ireland...or somewhere else entirely?

09 June 2009

Rene RICHARD - Cedar Key, Florida

Names: Rene RICHARD, Remie RICHARD
Locations: Cedar Key, Florida; Gary, Indiana
Dates: 1910s, 1930
I found Rene in a strange, dark antique hole-in-the-wall shop in Micanopy, Florida where her photo was filed amongst numerous other ancestors astray from the west coast of Florida.
According to the back of this photo, Renee RICHARDS was living in Cedar Key, Florida. From her dress--which I'm coveting a bit, I might add--I'd guess this photo was taken sometime in the late1910s or so. My usual search techniques have been unsuccessful, and frankly I'm a little surprised: how hard is it to find a woman named Rene, a fairly uncommon name, in a small place like Cedar Key? The 1930 Census indicates a number of Richard or Richards families living on Cedar Key...but none even remotely sounding like "Rene". A searh of the 1920 Census failed to even return someone with the last name of Richard living in Cedar Key.
A global search--forgetting about Cedar Key and searching the whole country--revealed a Rene Richard, born 1896, living with a husband Remie in Gary, Indiana in 1930. This Rene was born in Paris. Cedar Key was actually a busy port back in the day--but it is even possible that a French woman could have ended up there, when she later lived in Indiana? It is unlikely, but intriguing. Rene RICHARD's context will have to go unknown for now...but maybe someone will find her....

Update: Hazel reunited with family!

An exciting update: the very first ancestor from the Ancestor Rescue Mission has been repatriated! In a short letter to Garnett TOOHEY, Hazel Cooksey COX's sister, I explained that I had the photo album of her sister and that I would like to return it to the family. One week later I hear from Hazel's nephew via email--they are elated and excited about the album! Thanks to the US Postal Service, the State of Arizona archives, and Ancestry.com, Hazel and Talmage have returned home to Louisville, Kentucky after a circuitous voyage from goodness-knows-where, to Phoenix, to Orlando.

This is what the mission is about!

19 May 2009

Talmage COX and Hazel COOKSEY

Names: Hazel (COOKSEY) COX, Talmage B COX

Locations: Sulphur Springs, KY; Louisville, KY; Cincinnati, OH

Dates: 1946-1948

This was the couple that started it all! Well, Hazel really. I rescued Hazel and Talmage ("TB") from an antique store in Phoenix, Arizona, where Hazel's photo album of their courtship and first years of marriage was slowly going the way of art projects and who-knows-what. Luckily, I got there in time to salvage the actual album, and over 100 of the images. What makes this album so special--and enough to single-handedly inspire this blog--is how personal it is. Hazel wrote captions for every photo, many of which are casual snapshots of the young couple goofing off and hanging out with their friends and family. It truly is a treasure!

More about the lovely couple though. Luckily they were rather easy to track down, given the unusual name of Talmage, and relatively uncommon name of Hazel. Look for a marriage between a Talmage and a Hazel, and that's all there was to it! Let's start with Hazel, the charming woman who created the album.

Hazel L COX was born Hazel COOKSEY on 8 October 1921. According to her obituary, kindly provide by the Arizona State Archives, she was born in Ohio County, Kentucky. The obituary gives the name of a brother, Roy COOKSEY, which gave me her maiden name. She was also survived by a son, Marshall COOKSEY and a sister who married a man named TOOHEY. The sister's name is difficult to make out from the poor quality of the microfilm, but appears to be something like "Garnett". Census records did not help confirm the name of the sister, but the 1930 Census shows Hazel living in Sulphur Springs, Kentucky with her father Jesse O. COOKSEY, her mother Bertha M COOKSEY, two older brothers Blemmer (!) and Willie, and a younger brother Roy. The Kentucky Birth Index also shows that the maiden name of her mother Bertha was CRAWFORD. Hazel was a purchasing department employee at Good Samartian Hospital in the Phoenix area, and died on 17 Jul 1996. She is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona.

According to records, Talmage B COX was born on 30 Mar 1919 in Taylor County, Kentucky, to Jollie COX and Mary HOGAN, both born and bred in Kentucky. The 1930 Federal Census, shows the family living on 112 Old Lick Gap Dirt Road in Mannsville, Taylor County, Kentucky. Talmage appears to be the oldest of the children, with a younger sister Elizabeth and a younger brother named Elmore or Edward C. Sometime between 1930 and when he enlisted in the Army on 17 September 1942, Talmage moved to Illinois--but enlisted in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a private, and enlisted for the duration of the War plus six months. At this time, he was listed has having 4 years of high school education, was not married yet, and previous work on farms. His reported height was 6' tall and 151 lbs. Talmage died almost two years after Hazel on 22 Mar 1998.

Between 1942 and the mid-1990s, all we know about Hazel and Talmage is what can be gleaned from the photo album. In 1946, Talmage took his first trip to Hazel's home, which was potentially still in Sulphur Springs, KY. Hazel and Talmage got married around October, 1946 and apparently honeymooned in Cincinnati. Most of the other moments captured on film were outside, picnicking in various parks: Shawnee Park in 1946, visits to "Tucker's Lake" and "Cox's Lake", Iroquois Park in 1947, Cherokee Park in June 1947. They spent the Easter of 1947 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Around December 1947, the couple had their first child, Marshall Roy. From the photos around this time, it looks like the family lived in a suburban area of a city. A single page has a street address noted on it: 4202 South 2nd Street. From the rest of the images, I figured it was probably either Cincinnati or Louisville. The address didn't seem to match anything reasonable in Cincinnati, but I struck gold in Louisville--thank you Google Streetview! Check out the houses in the background of this photo (below right) of baby Marshall and Talmage, and the street view today (above right) of the 4200 block of South 2nd Street. Further proof this is the right place? Lousville has some very substantial parks by the names of Shawnee, Iroqois, and Cherokee.
The photo album contains a number of other people who consistently crop up. "Sis" is usually pictured with a man named Harold. Judging from the photographs, "Sis" appears to be the same woman also labeled as "Betty", which could feasibly be a nickname for Garnett, or she may have the middle name of Elizabeth...or it could be Talmage's younger sister, Elizabeth. Another couple featured consistently is "Iona and Paul", whose relationship to Hazel and Talmage is difficult to surmise. Both of these couples seemed to be linked to them via Talmage, as a whole page is devoted to "TB's gang" which includes both Harold and Paul.

It's amazing just how much can be discovered through a simple photo album. I'm hopeful that this book, and all of its keepsakes, will find its way into the hands of a family member. There are some leads on potential relatives of Hazel who may still be living. Up next? Writing a letter to a Mrs Garnett Toohey in Kentucky.

- B.G.

26 April 2009


Name: Merrill HIGGINS
Location: Portsmouth, Ohio
Date: 1891/1892

This striking photograph completely caught my eye. That is one intense baby gaze!!

According to the back of this photo, taken in "Portsmouth, O.", the baby pictured here is named Merrill Higgins. Merill Higgins was luckily pretty easy to find. The name Merrill isn't terribly common, and the image came from Lutz photography studio in Portsmouth, Ohio--not a big town. I did a quick search and found out quite a bit about how this striking baby grew up. According to the 1900 Federal Census and his WWI draft card, Merrill was born on Dry Run Road, Scioto County, Ohio 16 July 1891. He was the son of a grocer, Amois L Higgins and Dora A, both of Ohio. They had three other children at the time: Leroy, Ollie, and Ralph. By 1917/1918 was married with two children, and was living on 2113 7th Street, in Portsmouth, Ohio as a shoemaker for Selty shoe company.
From here, Merrill's path is harder to follow, and is easily confused with another Merrill Higgins in Ohio, but born four years later in 1895. Is this your Merrill? And what became of him?


19 April 2009


NAMES: Clarie Morrossey, Irma J. Chappel
LOCATION: St Louis, Missouri
DATE: unknown, circa 1930?

These ancestors were rescued--framed!--in an antique store in Gilbert, Arizona. According to the back of the image, the two women are named Clarie Morrossey and Irma J Chappel and are "on the St.L.Mo side". The dog's identity is a mystery. If you squint at the factory in the background, you can make out the word "Cahokia". There is no date on the image, but judging by the clothing and the style around the image, I'd guess sometime in the early 1930s.

At first, I thought Cahokia was the name of the factory--but it's actually a the name of a part of East St Louis, Illinois, across the river. In fact, google maps show that the factory, with its characteristic double-stacks, still exists today (see map, left). This puts the women and the dog across the river in the Kosciusko neighborhood. Judging from the google streetview of tagged railway tracks, probably not the best place for a twenty-first century stroll.

Urban blight aside...who exactly are these ladies? They were probably in their 20s or 30s when this photo was taken, giving them a birth year of 1900 +/- 10. When I searched for an Irma Chappel born around 1900 living in St Louis Missouri, I got a pretty good hit: according to the 1930 Federal Census for the Independent City of St Louis, District 397, there was an Irma Chappel living at 2127 S 4th Street with a woman named Margaret Riley and her son, Martin. Though the streets through this part of town have changed in the passing decades, the building numbers on the still-existing 2nd Street put this address just blocks away from where--judging from the view of the factory--this photograph was likely taken! Strong evidence that we got the right gal. When we get into the details from the Census, we can see that Irma was renting her place for $10.00/month, most likely from the widowed Mrs. Riley. Interestingly, Irma is listed as married for nine years, but there is certainly no husband listed as living with her. She had not attended college in the past year, but she could read and write. The Census also notes that she was born somewhere in North Carolina to two parents also born in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, initial searches for information on Clarie Morrossey have turned up empty--even when looking page by page through the same district where I found Irma in the 1930 Federal Census.

Think you're related to Clarie or Irma? Drop a line!

- B.G.

Introduction...what is this blog about?

About the time I really began to research my only genealogy--a highly addicting but rewarding hobby--I was visiting my parents out in the Phoenix area. I had just spent a delightful morning carefully thumbing through old family photographs, many of which we didn't even know we possessed. Putting faces to names made all of the research and family stories really come to life. Who knew that in the 1930s, the men of my family had a striking resemblence to the Mafia? And strikingly similar to one another too: as one distant cousin said, "Seen one Cornish man, seen 'em all."

That very afternoon we went to a funky antique store downtown. The store was packed with neat pieces, and a fabulous chair with zebra print that I would have gladly lugged home--were home not 2,000 miles away in Orlando, Florida. As I continued to poke around, I came across what I can only describe as a treasure: an entire photo album following the courtship of a couple, Talmage and Hazel. The photos were being sold for 25 cents each. God knows how long the album was in the shop, being cannibalized (ok, that's a strong word, but you know what I mean) photo by photo. Having just seen pictures of my own ancestors, I felt immediately drawn to this photo album, and felt not just a desire, but a need to rescue it from its poach-ified fate. So I counted up the 149 remaining images and bought the courtship of Talmage and Hazel, lump sum.

But what then? Though I'm a big fan of anything old and authentic, I couldn't really see keeping this photo album of strangers around. In some people's eyes, it could even be a little creepy. I thought about the grandchildren of Talmadge of Hazel--and then thought about how I would freak out if somehow a photo album like this existed for my own family, somewhere, on a dusty shelf next to some depression glass. Was Great Grandpa Frank now someone else's "instant ancestor" somewhere? Maybe. And I'm sure I'll never know. But it became my mission--and the start of the Ancestor Rescue Mission--to reunite Talmage and Hazel with their rightful family.

Now I troll around estate sales, antique stores, and eBay, searching for wayward antique portraits and snapshots that contain some clues to the images' contents, be it names or places. It is my hope that by posting these images and researching the people in them, that I can help reconnect families to their visual histories.

- Boomlet Genealogist

Question: Is this some sort of commercial site? What's the deal?
Answer: No! I am doing this as a hobby. If I have posted an image of your family member that you would like, please get in touch. The intent of this site is to get photos back into the hands of their families--not to make a profit.

Question: Hey, that's me/my uncle/my grandmother on there! Can you take me off?
Answer: Of course. If you or your family member is in the image, and you do not feel comfortable wit it being posted on the internet, please get in touch and I will take it doown. Please also keep in mind that all research I do on the images is from public records...there is no private information being unveiled on this site.

Question: I have some old photos of people I don't know. Can I post them here too?

Answer: No, at least not right now. The website isn't set up for multiple users. However, if there is any sort of name or location indicated on your image, and you can send me a scan of it, I am happy to do a bit of research and post it.