thegenealogygirl


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Photograph Showcase: Three Guardian Angels

 

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Great Grandmas – Mary Jo Shumway, Deane Alice Duval, & Charlotte Whitesides

 

That wee little chap up there is my amazing oldest.  A few months after he was finally home from the NICU, we had a family gathering all about him in Lewiston, Idaho.  Those lovely ladies with him are three of his great-grandmothers who traveled from Star Valley, Wyoming, Kaysville, Utah, & Spokane, Washington to join us that day.

Now that boy of mine is nearly twenty and serving an LDS mission in South Carolina.  He has been gone for 20 months & 2 days.  He will be home this August.

Four months after my son left, Grandma Mary Jo passed peacefully in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s.  Nine months after that, Grandma Deane passed peacefully at home from Leukemia.  And then on Tuesday, Grandma Charlotte passed peacefully in a care center from Liver Cancer.

And so, that amazing boy of mine has gained three guardian angels who have loved him his whole life long.  I can’t think of three women I would trust more to watch over my boy.

 

 

Do you have a living grandparent?  If so, call them today.  If you are the living grandparent, reach out to your precious grandbabies today.  That link is so precious.  ❤️

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Introducing John Baptiste Jerrain

John Baptiste Jerrain and Willow Jeane

John Baptiste Jerrain & Willow Jeane

Many years ago, my Grandma’s Maffit cousins decided to put together a book about their family.  It was quite an extensive effort.  Emails and phone calls went back and forth across the US as cousins tried to identify family members in old photo albums, recall family stories, and put the best information together that they could.  Somehow, I didn’t end up with a copy of that book.

Weird, right?

Well, ever since I found out about it – too late to get a copy – I have been trying to get my hands on the CD of photos that was created at the time the book was finished.  It has not been a fruitful effort.

But then.

Several weeks ago, I was at my parent’s home to help my mom for a few days.  She mentioned that the plastic tub sitting on the guest bed was some family history “stuff” from Grandma’s house that I may want to look through.  It sat for a few days before I got to it.  There were plenty of interesting items.  Partway through the collection, I came across a CD that was marked “SAVE” in big black sharpie.

At this point, I must interrupt myself to share with you, dear reader, that my Grandma was notorious for throwing away family treasures.  I will not subject you to the pains of rattling off a list of the items I know she tossed, or my speculation on what else may have been cast aside.  Except I can’t help myself.  Here is one small example – she had about 13 large tintypes that were not labeled.  She showed them to me and said she would be scanning them.  Somehow they ended up in the trash and if she ever scanned them, I don’t know where the scans ended up.  Her reasoning?  They weren’t labeled anyway.  Sigh.

So there I was, sitting on the guest bed, looking at a CD that Grandma had loudly labeled “SAVE” and hoping it was the CD of precious images from the Maffit family book.  I hopefully and joyfully added it to my already bursting suitcase.

Later that day, I mentioned to my Mom that I thought I had found a CD I had been hoping to get my hands on for years.  She tried to tell me I couldn’t take it.  Oh boy!  She hadn’t even looked in the tub, but when she thought there was something good, she wanted to hang onto it.  I just told her nope, I was taking it.  And I would share.  She couldn’t really argue.  Haha.

Finally last week I had a minute to download the photos from the CD.  It absolutely was what I thought it was!  Hooray!!

 

And so, I would like to introduce you to my 3rd great-grandfather, John Baptiste Jerrain.  Doesn’t he look dapper in his bowtie?

 

{Insert major genealogy happy dance here!!  🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉}

 

The photo is labeled with two names, John Baptiste Jerrain & Willow Jeane.  The person who shared the photo was my Grandma’s 1st cousin, Willow Jeane, great-granddaughter of Grandpa Jerrain.  That Willow Jeane was born 6 years after Grandpa Jerrain died.  However, he had another granddaughter named Willow Jeane who was born in 1904, 26 years before Grandpa Jerrain passed.  He also had another great-granddaughter named Willow Jeane who was born in 1929, 1 year before his death.  Based on the age of the child, I would imagine that IF this child is Willow Jeane, she is Willow Jeane Jerrain, born in 1904, daughter of Prudent Arthur Jerrain & Jessie Campbell Shirky.

What a treasure.

There are so many wonderful photos on the CD.  I am delighted!

 

But there is one more thing.  I almost hate to mention it.  But here goes.

 

The photos were scanned using what was likely the best scanning technology at the time.  Quite a long time ago.  Most of the photos are very, very small digital files.  Like very, very, very small.  This is one of the largest ones, by at least triple.  So if you are one of my Maffit cousins who happens to have any of the old originals of the family photos, how about scanning them again?  Or mailing them to this cousin to promptly scan and mail back to you?  I promise to share my scans.  🙂

 

 

Happy Monday, I hope a long sought for family treasure makes its way to you very, very soon!    xoxo

 

 

ps – Monday is not my normal day for a Photograph Showcase post, I have several other posts that are in varying stages of completion that were intended for today.  But I was so distracted by the joys of seeing my 3rd great-grandfather that I just had to share – TODAY!

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Great Grandma Costello, Before She Was A Great Grandma

 

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Mary Brown Young Costello in front of her home at 7505 N Regal Street, Spokane, Washington.

 

I love this new-to-me photo of my great-grandmother, Mary Brown Young.  She has always been Grandma Costello to me.  We would visit her at the care facility where she spent many of her last years in Spokane, Washington.  She was a spunky little Scottish lady.  I wish I had paid more attention during our times with her.  She probably shared some stories with my Mom on our visits, but I don’t remember any of them.

We have very few photos of Grandma Costello.  This one comes from Aunt Barbara’s collection.  Aunt Barbara is the daughter-in-law of Mary Costello and has been one of my most valuable sources of information, photos, stories, and details on my Costello line.  I am so thankful for her!

 

I did a little bit of editing on this photo to clean up dust.  It’s a bit light so I also did a few other edits to create these two versions.  I can’t decide which of the three I like best.  Which do you prefer?

 

 

Happy Thursday, I hope you find a fantastic new ancestor photo today!

 

 


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Courage To Seek the Man Who Left

 

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Vince, December 1956

I have one living biological grandparent.

Vince.

That is all I have ever called him.  I didn’t decide to call him that, my Mom, her Mom, and her siblings did.  I don’t know when they decided to do that.  I’m sure they must have called him Dad at one point.  But for my entire lifetime, he has been Vince.

As a young child, I was completely unaware of his existence.  I’m not sure when that changed.  But when I was 16 years old I met Vince for the first time.

Meeting wasn’t his idea or mine.  It wasn’t even my Mom’s idea.  It was Uncle Dan & Aunt Barbara’s idea.

They tricked him.

His mother had been in a nursing home for many years.  Dan & Barbara were daily visitors.  But there came a point when they knew she didn’t have much time left.  Dan insisted that Vince come and see his mother.  It took some persistence, but finally, Vince and his wife Dena planned a trip to Spokane from California.  Dan also insisted on taking Vince & Dena out to dinner one night while they were in Washington.  What Vince did not know is that Dan & Barbara called my Mom and her siblings and told them that Vince wanted to see them all.  They set up a family dinner at my Uncle’s home.  The evening of the family dinner, all of us minus one cousin were gathered at my Uncle’s home.  Dan & Barbara had Vince & Dena in the car and as they approached, Dan explained what was actually happening.  Vince was shocked but had no graceful way out, and so for the first time in many, many years, Vince was with all of his children at the same time.

As a 16-year-old who had been shielded from basically all of the feelings of my Mom and her siblings towards Vince, I did not view this as an important moment.  The only part of that evening I can recall in detail was the only moment I spoke with Vince.  I had been playing the piano.  As I finished and stood, there was Vince sitting in a chair near the piano.  He said to me, “What is your name?”  I answered and he asked, “And who is your parent?”  I answered and felt more than a little bit of annoyance that he had no idea who I was.  That was it.  I answered and walked out of the room.

That was the entire extent of my experience with Vince, my grandfather, during my growing up years.

When I married my husband, my Mom insisted that we send Vince & Dena an announcement.  I was ambivalent but complied.  Vince & Dena sent me a gift.  It was a precious moments figurine of a couple on their wedding day.  I was not softened.

Almost ten years later I was copying VHS tapes of our family movies of that year for each of our grandparents.  It was our Christmas gift.  As I started the last tape I realized that I had another grandparent.  It struck me that even though I viewed him as simply ‘Vince’, my mother’s biological father, I was 1/4th – him.  And I didn’t know a thing about him.  I made one more copy and sent that along with a handwritten letter explaining my a-ha moment and the fact that I knew nothing about him and I wanted to.  I gave him my address, phone number, and email address along with the letter and 2 hour VHS of my children.  That Christmas we were out of town visiting family.  When we returned, there was a voicemail from Vince.

I bet I listened to that voicemail at least 20 times.  I had reached out and asked for contact but I was nervous to call him back.  Before I had worked up the courage to do so, he called again.  I had caller id and knew it was him.  I answered.

We talked.  He shared that this has been hard for him – I never did clarify what was hard, my reaching out, or the separation from his children.  He went on to share that the divorce had been hard.  Seeing his children after the divorce had been hard – not the seeing them part, but the returning them part.  Apparently, my Grandma made that moment very uncomfortable for everyone.  There was a lot of strife.  He slowly saw them less and less.  His family was not happy about the divorce.  But they were even more unhappy about his remarriage to Dena.  They felt it was shameful that he married his sister’s divorced next door neighbor and worried what people would think.  Vince was feeling pushed away by everyone.  He got a job offer out of state and took it.

He ran away.

I can’t really blame the guy.  He was young.  Divorce was taboo.  My Grandma was a fighter.  His family was embarrassed.  He ran away from his problems and created a new life.

He told me that he thought it would be better for his kids if he quietly stepped out of their life.  What he said next was so sad.  “I hoped that when they were old enough they would look me up.  They never did.”

My letter and VHS opened old wounds.  But it wasn’t all bad.  We talked a few times on the phone.  I learned a bit about him.  He showed interest in me and my children.

And then my entire world imploded.  I didn’t have the energy necessary to feed this newly formed relationship with Vince.  I allowed it to wither away to a Christmas Card relationship.  I didn’t know how to explain my sudden disappearance to him.  So I didn’t.  I sent Christmas Cards and other items of interest.  He sent Christmas Cards as well.  When my oldest graduated from High School, Vince sent a card and money order.  My son thought I was crazy when I photographed his signature on the money order.  But I had never seen his full signature before.  And likely wouldn’t again.

Then sometime last year I decided I really wanted Vince to take a DNA test for me.  I printed a very large fanchart for him.  He was in the center.  His mother’s lines look pretty good, but his father’s line is completely blank.  I also printed my fanchart so he could see a comparison.  I once again handwrote a letter asking if he would take a DNA test for me.  I told him I would purchase it and send it to him.  I mailed my package and waited.  My Grandma asked me over and over again if he had agreed.  It seemed like she was going to call him and give him an earful if he hadn’t and that seemed like a bad idea.  It was only a few months later that my Grandma passed away.

I started thinking more and more about Vince.  He was my only living biological grandparent.  (Biological is an important distinction here because my Grandpa is very much alive.)  I hadn’t spoken to him in years.  I had only met him once.  I felt this strong sense of urgency that I needed to see him and talk to him as an adult.

I mentioned what I was thinking to my Auntie V.  She said, “Well, if you want to do that you better do it soon.  I hear his health isn’t very good.”

I decided I needed to do it.  What I couldn’t decide was if I should show up at his door unannounced or call ahead.  Finally, I decided to call Aunt Barbara and ask her opinion.  She thought I better call first.  She said, “He’s not mean, he’s just absent.”  She told me he would not make an appointment and then not be there (like his sister once did).

So I called.  No answer.  I left a message.  I explained that I would be passing through and wondered if I could stop in for a brief visit.  I told him I would call him back the next day.  I did just that.  He didn’t answer.  I proceeded to call him back and got a busy signal.  I called 21 times that day and only heard that annoying busy signal.  I decided to quit trying to call.  Showing up seemed best.

 

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Me, still hopeful about collecting some DNA from Vince on the day we set out.

 

So last week, during Spring Break, I loaded my family up and we drove to the middle of California and stayed in a hotel in Vince’s town.  The next morning we got up, packed the car and drove toward his home.  Until we encountered the locked gate around his community.

I can’t adequately express what I felt as we sat in our car staring at that gate.  I was so close!  I had two DNA tests in my purse.  I had a million questions.  His house was mere feet from where I sat and I could not get to it.

Several cars came and drove through.  I toyed with the idea of just following the next car.  But I wasn’t sure what would happen.

I called Vince, again.  He didn’t answer.  Again.

We sat there.

And then a nice woman turned the corner of the sidewalk and was about to enter the neighborhood on foot.  My husband got out of the car and talked to her.  He explained that my grandfather lived behind the gate and we were trying to get in.  She asked his name.  After my husband’s reply she said, “Oh Vince, I know Vince.  He is such a great guy!”  I was already weirded out by my husband calling him my grandfather, but her response was even more difficult to reconcile.  She said that she probably shouldn’t tell us this but if we went around to the front and typed in a specific code we could enter the neighborhood.  So we did.

As we pulled up to Vince & Dena’s home, Vince was outside getting the mail.  I hopped right out of my car and walked up to him.  With a million complicated feelings going on inside of me, I offered my hand and said, “I’m Amberly”.  He was quietly shocked.  His ignoring me hadn’t worked.  But as Aunt Barbara said, “He’s not mean, he’s just absent.”  And so he let me and my family in.

For the first time in my life, I had a face to face conversation with my grandfather.  A real conversation.  Not just the exchange of a few words.  And for the first and second time in my life, I hugged my grandfather.  We weren’t good at it.  But we hugged, twice.

We also talked.  I didn’t tell him, but I recorded our hour-long visit.  He shared a few stories.  Answered a few questions.  Showed me a few family treasures.  And he took a picture with me and my children.

He would not take a DNA test for me.  He wouldn’t even talk about it really.  I could sense that it wasn’t worth pushing and so I let my long-sought dream slip through my fingers and I focused on what he would give me – a bit of his time, bits of information.

It was a really nice visit.  Vince is very quiet.  Very gentle.  Very organized and orderly and clearly likes things to be neat and calm and peaceful.  As I sat there I had to really concentrate to see that man I knew from old photographs.  But he was there.  His dark eyes were intently focused on me as we spoke.  I knew with absolute certainty that there was no way he and my Grandma could have made their marriage work.  They could not be more different.  I also felt a sense that he and Dena had very carefully constructed their world to protect them from past hurts.  And here I was opening old wounds.  But he let me.

It took a lot of courage for me to fight my way to his doorstep.  But I feel a sense of peace now that was worth every bit of my effort.

I will likely never see Vince again.

And that is okay.

I will probably still call him Vince.  But describing him as my grandfather as I type is becoming less and less uncomfortable each time.  I may always think of him as Vince, but after last week, I think I will be okay with also thinking of him as my grandfather.

The moment that will stay with me until I leave this life is the moment he spread his arm wide, inviting my teenager into his embrace for a photo.  Vince squeezed and jostled my son a bit, just like my Uncle does.  My son smiled.  And then we all stood together for a few pictures.

 

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It turns out 6-year-olds also don’t view a moment like this as important.  No real smiles from my little darling, but this photo is a treasure anyway.

 

I can’t possibly heal the deep wounds of the past.  But last Tuesday I accomplished something that I hope will open a way for Vince’s posterity to know just a little bit about him.  To think of him as more than just the man who left.

I hope I built a bridge of sorts.

I hope.

 

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Cool Uncle Dan

 

COSTELLO, Dan, June 1957 in Cheney

Daniel Ramon Costello, June 1957, Cheney

 

Have you ever come across an old family photo that just reaches out and grabs your attention in a special way?  This photo does that for me.  There is just something about it that I really love.  I’m sure part of it is the family resemblances I see, part of it is how casual and comfortable Uncle Dan looks, and part of it is that the photo is just really cool.

I’m so happy that Aunt Barbara pulled it out on my recent visit!

 

 

Daniel Ramon Costello is my granduncle, son of my great grandparents John Costello & Mary Brown Young.

 

Happy Thursday, I hope you come across an old family photo that reaches out and grabs your attention in a special way this week!  xoxo

 

 

ps – I photographed this photo using my new ShotBox.  I really need to write up a post about that gem.  It is so handy!

 

 

 

 

 


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Treasures: Man & Beast

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My great-grandmother, Hope Estelle Maffit Duval, was very talented.  Among her many well-developed hobbies was a love for ceramics.  She created, painted, & fired hundreds and hundreds of various ceramic items.  This pair – a Native American Man and a White Buffalo – are among those many ceramic items.  They currently live on top of a bookshelf in my parent’s home.  While I was there a few weeks ago, my Mom had me photograph them (along with several other items).

I love the details on the Buffalo so I took lots of pictures of him.  My mom told me that Grandma Duval tore up a terry cloth towel and used bits of terry cloth dipped in silt to help create the fur.  She said that Grandma loved White Buffalo and that she thinks it was because they were considered “lucky”.  A quick Google search reveals that White Buffalo were considered “sacred or spiritually significant” in many Native American religions.  Because Grandma Duval spent a lot of time with Native women who lived near Spokane, I would guess that she was honoring Native American tradition with her White Buffalo rather than just viewing him as “lucky”.  Either way, she definitely put a lot of time into her White Buffalo!

Did any of your family members create ceramic items?

 

 

Happy Monday, I hope you find a special family treasure very soon!  In person, or online.  If not, I hope you will choose to preserve and share photos of a family treasure this week.   xoxo

 

 

ps – I photographed these two fellas using my new ShotBox.  It is super handy!  The man was too tall but I still used the backdrop and lights outside of the box and it worked great!!

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Two Sets of Five Duval Siblings

 

DUVAL family, 28 March 1938

Duval family, 28 March 1938, l-r: Alexander Valmore Duval, Alice Hyde Duval, Annie Marie Elvera “Vera” Duval Hunter, Francis Henry Duval, Dolores Lenore Duval, & Leon Howard Duval.

 

 

On Monday I shared the story of Leon Howard Duval’s triplets.  I thought a few photos of some of the people mentioned would be nice.

The first photo, seen above, is of the Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde Duval family.  Francis Cyprien Duval died in 1919.  Almost twenty years later, Alice is seen here with her only living children, the five who survived childhood.  I believe this is also the last photo taken of this group before the big events of 1941 – Leon’s death, and the imprisonment of Valmore, Alice, Frank, Dolores, and Vera’s husband Bill.  1941 was a rough year for this family.

 

 

DUVAL, Leon's children on couch

Leon Howard Duval & Annabel Freda Yock’s children, l-r: Ronald Keith Duval, Stanley John Duval (the surviving triplet), Leon Howard “Tiny” Duval, Alice Ann Duval, & Francis Adrian Duval.

 

 

Interestingly, just like the family he grew up in, Leon also had five children who survived infancy, as seen here.  Because this photo was in the collection that belonged to my grandmother, I think it is most likely that one of my great-grandparents took the photo.  Would that mean this is the front room of my great-grandparents home?  I’m not sure.

Because little Alice was born in Great Falls in 1938, I would guess this photo was taken in about 1940.  Where the photo was taken is uncertain.  The possibilities are Great Falls or Washington State.

 

DUVAK family, 28 March 1938 - back

 

This is the photo back of the first image.  I love it when someone takes the time to label a photo back!  It makes my job so much easier.

 

Happy Thursday, I hope you find an ancestral photo or two this week!  If not, I hope you choose to preserve and share one that you already have.  ❤

 

 

 

ps – Have you picked up on the baggage in this part of my family this week?  I have been artfully avoiding talking about it while my Grandma was still living.  Deciding what to share and when gives me lots to think about.