Sunday, September 30, 2012

Uncle Tom


My grand-uncle Thomas Napoleon Dudley was born December 12, 1890 in a one-room cabin in Clark Township, Clinton County, Ohio.   He was the fifth of six sons born to Jesse and Mary Shaper Dudley.  My grandmother, Mary Dudley Donaldson, was the youngest of the Dudley children and the only girl.

The earliest clear photo of Tom shows a sweet-faced teenager with a determined expression.  After working as a laborer for a few years in his hometown of Lynchburg, Ohio, on October 1, 1913 he enlisted in the United States Navy at Cincinnati, Ohio.  The country boy wanted to see the world.  His enlistment papers state that Tom was 5’ 9 ¾” and weighed 145 pounds with hazel eyes, auburn hair, a ruddy complexion, and scars on his left knee and his left index finger.  He had a star tattoo on his left forearm, a common tattoo among sailors symbolizing their hope to find their way home safely.  He reported to the Naval Training Station at Norfolk, Virginia as an apprentice seaman a few days later.

In Norfolk, Tom was assigned to the receiving ship U.S.S. Franklin for training.  In January 1914, Tom was appointed an apprentice chief petty officer, which he performed in an “excellent” manner.  His instructor wrote that Tom was a “hard worker – attentive and subordinate.”  He held this appointment until he was transferred to general service as an ordinary seaman in February.

On April 1, 1914, Tom reported to the U.S.S. Arkansas.  Soon the Arkansas was en route to Veracruz, Mexico, landing later that month to defend United States interests during the Tampico Affair.

Returning from Veracruz to Norfolk, Tom sustained a compound fracture of his right leg on October 5, 1914.  There is no documentation in his military service file of how he sustained this injury, except that it was not in combat, was in the line of duty, and was not due to misconduct.  Tom entered the Naval Hospital at Norfolk on October 7, 1914.  On January 18, 1915, a medical report stated:
Both bones of right leg broken at junction of middle and lower third. This has been a very difficult case to treat and many efforts have been made to get the bones in proper position. At present, the union is solid, but there is still some tenderness and swelling persists. He still uses crutches in walking. It is thought that in about thirty days he will be entirely well.
He remained in the Naval Hospital until May 1915, nearly seven months.  He then returned to the Norfolk Training Station before reporting to the U.S.S. South Carolina in June.    While war raged in Europe, the South Carolina conducted battle exercises at home and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Tom’s rating was changed to Seaman in November 1915.  He was assigned to the South Carolina until April 1917 when he was assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Tom sent this picture to his sister Mary.  He wrote, "This picture was taken while
coaling ship at Guantanamo Bay Cuba.  Some dirty gang.  I think I am the worst
on the extreme left."
The United States was now involved in World War I.  Tom served on the S.S. H.C. Folger as an armed guard on overseas duty from June 6, 1917 to July 13, 1917.  I have been able to find very little information on the H.C. Folger, but it appears to have been a privately-owned oil tanker used to deliver fuel to the allied naval fleet.  The U.S. Shipping Board commandeered private vessels and shipping yards for use in the war effort, which probably explains how Tom ended up serving on the H.C. Folger.  Tom had returned to the Philadelphia Naval Yard by July 1917 and remained there until he was honorably discharged on October 12, 1917.

He reenlisted at Philadelphia on October 23, 1917 with a rating of Gunners Mate 3rd Class.  Since his first enlistment, he was a little bigger, a little more scarred, and a little more tattooed.   He served as an armed guard at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  His rating changed to Gunners Mate 2nd class on January 1, 1918 and to Gunners Mate 1st Class on April 3, 1918.  Tom was only disciplined once during his time in the Navy, on April 1, 1919 when he was out of uniform when going on liberty. 

 On July 1, 1919, Tom was assigned to the U.S.S.  J. Fred Talbott, which departed for the Mediterranean Sea to assist with post-war stability and reconstruction.  On July 30, 1919, Tom requested that the length of his enlistment be changed from four years to Duration of War.  At that time and at the time of the 1920 census, Tom was in Spalato, Dalmatia (now Split, Croatia).  He served on the J. Fred Talbott until June 28, 1920.  He was honorably discharged at the Philadelphia Receiving Station on June 30, 1920.  For his service in the U.S. Navy, Tom received the Mexican Campaign Medal, the Armed Guard Clasp, and the Victory Medal.

Gertrude Clemons Dudley
After leaving the Navy, Tom remained in the Philadelphia area and married Gertrude Irene Clemons on November 26, 1926.  He continued to work with ships, making his living as a rigger.  

Tom and Gertie moved back to Lynchburg in the 1930s.  Tom’s health was failing.  My mom was very young when Tom died, but has one memory of him.  She was standing outside the theatre in Lynchburg with some family members and Tom bent down and picked her up.  My mom also has fond memories of Gertie.  Tom and Gertie never had children of their own.

Mary Shaper Dudley and her sons, Charlie, Ab, Tom, and Clarence
Tom was diagnosed with throat cancer in early 1939.  According to a local newspaper, in September 1939 he was hospitalized in the Veterans Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.  The newspaper reported that his health was improving and that he would be returning home soon.  However, in January 1940, the newspaper again reported that Tom was in the Dayton Veterans Hospital .   That same month, he was transferred to Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Hospital near Chicago, Illinois.  He died there on March 13, 1940.  Tom is buried in a corner of Troutwine Cemetery in his hometown of Lynchburg, Ohio.






Monday, June 18, 2012

It Was 80 Years Ago Today . . .

80 years ago today, June 19, 1932, my dad, Russell Lee Davis, was born to Quincy and Esther Davis in Williamsburg, Ohio.  As I was leaving work today, I pondered what I could write about him in honor of his birthday.  One thought led to another and I decided upon his love (or hatred, I'm not sure which) of politics.

My dad was not an educated man.  He wasn't exactly a devoted student and didn't graduate from high school.  However, he read the newspaper from cover to cover, watched the evening news and news programs, and read news magazines.  He understood the news of the day and the news makers.

When describing prominent citizens in old county histories, the subject's political affiliation was typically noted.  Being fiercely pro-union, my dad would have likely identified himself as a Democrat, though he wasn't really a big fan of either party.  Sometimes he voted, sometimes he didn't, though he would never hesitate to try to influence his family members' votes.  At least once he cast a vote in a presidential election as sort of a protest against both major parties that made my mom concerned about possible FBI surveillance!

The first time I realized how interested my dad was in politics was during the Watergate hearings.  I was a child and didn't really understand what was going on, but I became familiar with Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Dean.  I recognized every line on good ole Sam Ervin's face.  We knew to keep our voices down while my dad was watching the hearings.  He wanted to see President Nixon taken down and never forgave President Ford for pardoning him.  Of course, the future held even more televised hearings to capture his attention, including the Iran-Contra hearing and Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing.

My dad told me that his favorite president was Harry Truman.  When I think about the number of times I heard him say that the United States should "drop an A-bomb" on some country, I fully understand why he admired President Truman.  Needless to say, my dad wasn't really concerned with political correctness.

He and I used to watch the political conventions together.  Back in the day, all three networks would have extensive coverage of both political conventions.  In later years, they limited their coverage to  an hour each night.  However, PBS still had at least three hours of coverage and my dad and I would watch it together.  It was almost like watching a baseball game with him.  We would talk about the action and players.  It was fun and I will miss our banter this summer as I watch the conventions for the third time without him.

My dad, Russell Lee Davis, and I before  our political convention viewing days


Now, a preview of what I hope is to come.  Since I attended the NGS conference, I have been full of ideas.  My primary research subject right now is my grand-uncle, Tom Dudley, though I also have a few other irons in the fire.  I have received Uncle Tom's military records and requested his death certificate.  I need to do some additional research to pull everything together and then, hopefully, I will have an interesting story to tell.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 National Genealogical Society Conference

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been in a research rut and needed some inspiration.  I was hoping the 1940 census would do it.  I found my parents and other family members, but as exciting as it was (for me at least) to show my mom her name on the census, there were no groundbreaking discoveries.

However, last week I attended the National Genealogical Society conference in my hometown of Cincinnati.  Well, now I am inspired!  I have so many new ideas and research techniques, I don't know where to start.

My plan in attending the conference was to learn about new resources, since I felt I was out of ideas.  Although I learned about  resources that were new to me, it was much more exciting to learn about research techniques from top genealogists.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Elizabeth Shown Mills or Thomas W. Jones speak, I highly recommend them.  All of the sessions were excellent, but these two speakers opened my mind to new research possibilities.

I hope that I am now equipped to track down my elusive Dudley and Tankersley ancestors.  I know that the research I am going to undertake will be neither quick nor easy and will take keen organization and reasoning skills, but I am going to give it a whirl.  I also plan on requesting some records - hopefully easy finds - to keep me interested while I pursue the Dudleys and Tankersleys.

I also learned from one of the presenters after a lecture that there are records pertaining to widow's and orphans' pensions for my 4th great-grandfather Samuel Kincaid, who died on May 5, 1813 at Ft. Meigs, Ohio during the War of 1812.  Accessing them might not be easy and may require a trip to the National Archives (ah, well, I need an excuse to visit DC), but at least I know they exist.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me!  I will report back with new findings.



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Brown County, Ohio Genealogy Facebook Group

For those of you who, like me, are researching ancestors in Brown County, Ohio and have Facebook accounts, there is now a Facebook group devoted to Brown County genealogy.  The link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/369871666379886/.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Orphan Photos

Well, I still haven't found that spark that will again make my family history research an obsession again.  I keep trying to find that one record that will open the door to new avenues of research.  It will come - it always does - but right now I'm still in a rut.

This morning I was searching for some good cooking blogs to follow.  In the process, I came across a couple of blogs about "orphan photos" - old pictures the bloggers have found or purchased and for which they have no information.  This inspired me to post some of my orphan photographs.

I found these photos in a chest containing photos and documents that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson (1898 - 1976).  I believe that many of the items in the chest were passed down to her from her mother, Mary Elizabeth Shaper Dudley (1861 - 1947).  I believe that most, if not all, of the photos are family and friends of the Dudley and Shaper families of Clinton and Highland Counties in Ohio.  However, it is possible that some of the photos were from the family of my maternal grandfather, Eddie Earl Donaldson (1897 - 1943).  His family lived in Huntington and Wabash Counties in Indiana and Clark and Rogers Counties in Oklahoma.

If you have any ideas about the people, locations, and dates of these photos, please leave a comment.

This photo appears to have been taken in my grandmother's hometown of Lynch burg , Ohio.  However, I don't know who the man is.

Here's a handsome man.  At first, I thought he looked like a Donaldson, but
I  kind of wonder if this is my grand-uncle, Thomas Dudley.


I suspect that someone who knows how to date photos might  be able to tell me what era this is from.  I have a book on dating photos, but I don't think I'm any good at it!


Grandpa, daughter, and grandkids?  Old husband, young wife, and kids?
I think the woman looks a little like actress Margaret Hamilton of The Wizard of Oz fame!


A really poor quality photo, but perhaps someone recognizes her.

Here's a respectable looking family.  I wonder who they are!

Yep, I'm clueless about this one too!  If I can figure out who the subjects
of these pictures are, I will work on cleaning up the photos.


This orphan photo has possibly intrigued me more than any other.  A well-dressed
man with brooding good looks and a bicycle.  Am I related to this guy or is
this an early 20th century of a pin-up?

Who is this cute little girl?  I would love to see the rest of her dress.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1940 Census Indexing


I have been a bad, bad blogger and researcher recently. I go through these periods when I feel like I am hitting brick wall after brick wall and temporarily suspend my research. Then I find one small clue or piece of information, the floodgates open, and I'm back in the swing!

I know I'll get back in the swing in less than three months when the 1940 census is released. I can't wait to find my mom's name in a census for the first time and be able to show it to her. I plan to help in the effort to index the 1940 census. I have started indexing other genealogical records on FamilySearch.org to become comfortable with indexing before the 1940 census is available. Access to the 1940 census will be free.

If you are interested in helping index the 1940 census, please click this link for more information:

https://www.familysearch.org/1940census?CID=adwords&gclid=CK7LxajUy60CFTOCtgodbWSNiA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What If?


A few years ago I was walking from my bus stop to work.  As I approached a street where the traffic travelled one way to the north, the “Don’t Walk” signal began flashing.  I heard sirens approaching as I stopped at the corner.  As I stood there, I saw a car speeding on the intersecting street with a police car in pursuit.  The car turned south onto the street I was preparing to cross.  It was a “What If?” moment.  What if my bus had been just a couple of seconds earlier or I had walked a little faster or I hadn’t stopped to let someone exit the bus before me?  I would have arrived at the corner before the “Don’t Walk” signal started flashing and likely been in the middle of that street at exactly the time that car made the wrong-way turn to elude the police. 
Our lives are filled with these What If moments.  However, we are also the result of What If moments in our ancestors’ lives.  It is awesome to contemplate how events in our ancestors’ lives, some seemingly insignificant, resulted in our very existence. 

What if my second great grandfather Peter Ballein decided to remain in Bavaria instead of immigrating to the United States?  What if he settled in New Orleans, where he first set foot in this country, instead of Brown County, Ohio?  What if his first wife Margaret Yochum hadn’t died so young?  There would have been no Hite Ballein, Esther Ballein, Russell Lee Davis, or me.
My dad told me that his parents met at a store near his dad’s home.  Although both Quincy Davis and Esther Ballein lived in Brown County, Ohio, they lived around 11 miles apart when they met.  There were probably a lot of stores between her home and his.  Did that store carry some type of merchandise that other stores didn’t?  Did she have friends in that area?  Why was she there?  I’ll never know what led my grandmother to visit that store, but if she hadn’t, it is unlikely my dad would have been born.

If my grandfather Eddie Earl Donaldson hadn’t moved from Oklahoma to Cincinnati, if he hadn’t found work where he did, if my grand-uncle Charles Dudley hadn’t worked at the same company, if Charles hadn’t introduced Edd to his little sister Mary, my maternal grandparents would have never met, married, and had ten children.
My mom has often pondered what her life would have been like if her father hadn’t died when she was seven years old.  Edd Donaldson was an alcoholic who sometimes abused his wife, Mary Dudley Donaldson.  My mom wonders if she would have graduated from high school, gotten a decent job, or been in church if her father hadn’t died.  If she and her family hadn’t attended the same church as my dad and his family, they most likely wouldn’t have met and married.

As a family history researcher, I typically only learn about the big events in my ancestors’ lives – births, deaths, marriages, military service – and not the decisions, accidents, illnesses, hardships, successes, tragedies, and victories.  However, these things happened to my ancestors just as they happen to all of us and set the course for their lives and, in turn, mine.  I think that’s why it is so important to me to learn more about my ancestors.  In a sense, it helps me understand why I am here.
As amazing as it is to recognize that the events of my ancestors’ lives resulted in my unique existence, I am humbled by the realization that one small change in the course of the life of any one of my ancestors might mean I wouldn’t be here.