thegenealogygirl


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Ellis Album, Photo 51 – Blanche Lenore Cheney

CHENEY, Blanche Lenore

Blanche Lenore Cheney

Blanche Lenore Cheney is my 2nd great-grandaunt.  She was born 5 January 1886 in Laketown, Utah.  She was the youngest of eight children born to Joseph Thompson Cheney and Louise Maria Austin, my 3rd great-grandparents.  In 1921, she married Farrel Andrew Whitlock.  They had four children that I know of.  Blanche passed away 15 February 1971 in Fullerton, California.  Blanche was the maternal aunt of my great-grandmother, Blanche Octavia Huband, the creator of this wonderful album.  Isn’t this a lovely portrait?

 

 

This photo comes from the twenty-seventh page of the album.  Here are pages twenty-six and twenty-seven to give context for this photo:

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This post is part of a series sharing this wonderful old family photo album.  You can learn more about the album here.

 


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Photograph Showcase: Two Brothers, for Nancy

PETERSON, Peter and Thomas, sons of Peter B & Ann Powell Peterson

Peter Powell Peterson & Thomas William Peterson, brothers

Thomas William Peterson is my 2nd great-grandfather.  He was born 27 August 1872 in Huntsville, Weber, Utah to Peter “B” Peterson & Ann Powell.  Peter Powell Peterson is Thomas’ next younger brother.  Peter Powell Peterson was born 14 September 1874 in Hooper, Weber, Utah.

Both brothers are seen here with Peter on the left and Thomas on the right.

Their parents, Peter “B” & Ann, were immigrants.  He from Denmark, she from Wales.  When they met, they did not speak the same language.  Their love story is a favorite of mine.  This comes from a history of Peter “B” Peterson written by his granddaughter-in-law, Mabel Alice Green:

“About this time {early spring 1869} he met Ann Powell, daughter of Bishop Thomas and Margaret Powell of Marriott, Weber County, Utah, but it was quite a challenge to court the young lady. At that time there was no bridge across the Weber River, so Peter would remove his clothing and swim his horse across, holding his bundle of clothing high over his head to keep it dry. Upon reaching the opposite side, he would dress quickly, hidden by the willows growing on the banks and then proceed to the Powell residence. Neither could converse in English. She was Welsh and he was Danish, but as he said, “We know we loved each other.” They were married December 12, 1870.”

The back of this wonderful photo is labeled with the brother’s names, but I wish I knew the date and the occasion.  I’m wondering if they were both about to depart to serve LDS missions.  I know that Thomas served a mission for one year in California from April 1901 to April 1902.  You can find him in the “Early Mormon Missionaries” database here.  I cannot find Peter in that same database.

Interestingly, Thomas was married the day after he was officially a missionary.  Now I am super curious about whether his wife, Lettie Taylor, went with him or stayed home.  I need to learn more about these 2nd great-grandparents!

 

Photo back:

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This post is for my cousin Nancy.  Thomas is also one of her ancestors.  Nancy, maybe you know, what did Grandma Peterson do while Grandpa was serving his mission…?

 

 

Happy Thursday, I hope you make a wonderful photo discovery today!!  xoxo

 

 


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Photograph Showcase: Another Image Upgrade from a Negative ❤️

 

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Francis Cyprien Duval & Alice Hyde, 1903, Oakland, California

Isn’t this photo of my 2nd great-grandparents beautiful?

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It was in a small bundle of negatives my Mom left with me a few years ago.  I recently scanned it and was so delighted by the clarity of the image.  It’s not the original negative.  I believe it is a negative created by my great-grandfather, the son of this couple, by taking a photo of the original photo.  When I first worked with this image I was so happy to see a better version of a photo I already had.  But when I tried to find the “other” version I realized it was actually a different shot from the same photo shoot.  This is the photo I had before:

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

Francis Cyprien & Alice Hyde DUVAL

Both are lovely.  But I am so happy with this new photo!

I spent a little time cleaning it up.  Here is the original scan of the negative:

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Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic photo discovery this week!  xoxo

 

 

ps – I was scheduled to have cataract surgery today but it was moved to next week.  I’m nervous and excited.  Here’s hoping it goes well!  (I’m a big fat chicken, so it’s probably going to take A LOT of deep breaths for me to make it to the actual moment of surgery.)

 


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Catching Up & A Special Gift

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Me, at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, California

March & April have been bananas for me!  March started off while I was at RootsTech.  I had a week of catch up and then I was off to Washington to help my Mom & Auntie V.  Then the first week of April was Spring Break and our California adventure.  And then, I buried myself with a bigger than expected project.

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My amazing oldest

You see, my amazing oldest son, who is serving as a missionary, is about to turn 20.  He is a happy, fun-loving kid who inspired this funny photoshop creation.  He really is the center person.  A friend put his head over the two Sister Missionaries heads.  It was Valentine’s Day in this photo and a nice old man had purchased flowers for the Sister Missionaries and somehow my funny boy was asked to hand them the flowers, and from there, we got this delightful creation.

But, back to his upcoming birthday.  I asked him what he wanted or needed.  He said he wanted nothing now, and requested that I just save a little money for him to buy new clothes when he gets home.  An understandable request.  But it’s like he didn’t know who he was talking to.  😉

Of course, I couldn’t do nothing to mark the end of his teenage years!  I’m a fan of meaningful gifts.  So after plenty of mulling, I decided he would be getting 20 gifts of 20 items to celebrate his passage into his twenties.  Now if you are thinking that is basically the exact opposite of what he requested you would kind of be right.  But most of the gifts cost absolutely nothing.  Or almost nothing.

As a family, we put together several things like – 20 jokes, 20 ridiculous pieces of advice, 20 birthday wishes and so on.  The two items that took me the most time were 20 favorite memories of him and 20 ancestor cards.  For the 20 favorite memories, I made a list of several off the top of my head, but I even went through some journals and typed up a few entries that were especially sweet.

And then we get to the gift that was my favorite.  Twenty ancestor cards.  Ahhhhh.  Genealogy gifts are my favorite.  The ancestor cards were created using Adobe Illustrator.  I then printed them as 4×6 photos at Costco.   Here are two of the cards I created:

mary brown young ancestor card-01

seth maffit ancestor card-01

I simplified things to try to appeal to my son.  I reduced place names to city & state or city & country.  I shared some highlights from the person’s life.  Things I thought might interest my son a bit.  I intentionally chose ancestors who were immigrants, some type of pioneer, or someone who overcame big challenges.  I wanted him to see how diverse our family history is.  I wanted him to be able to draw some strength from his ancestors’ stories.  I hope this gift will be interesting and meaningful to him.  But the good news is that I LOVED making it.  So even if it isn’t his favorite, it was worth the time I spent.  Now I need to go back over them and perfect them a bit and share them with my siblings.

Now that the 20 gifts of 20 things are all done and in the mail, and I’m back home for a while, I have some serious catching up to do!  I’m behind on everything.  😉

 

 

Happy Friday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery this weekend!  xoxo

 

 

ps – I’m sorry I haven’t been around to read any of your wonderful posts in a few months.  Hopefully, I’ll be back to my normal routine again soon!  I’ve missed hearing about your genealogy successes.  ❤

 

 


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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: Leaving California and The Coffee Cup

 

DUVAL, Deane and Francis Duane, leaving California - edited

Deane & Frank Duval

 

My great-grandparents were adventurous at a time when being adventurous kept your family fed.  They traveled around with their little family of four, working where they could find a job, and leaving when the job ended or they needed more – more opportunity, income, etc.  Eventually, they settled in Spokane, Washington and started a photography studio in their home.  But before settling down was what seemed best, one of their stops was in Pacific Beach, California.

According to their daughter, my Grandma, as they were traveling through California, they stopped and her dad decided it was a great place for a restaurant.  So for a time, they owned and ran The Coffee Cup.  This photo taken in front of The Coffee Cup has a simple inscription on the back:DUVAL, Deane and Francis Duane, leaving California - back

Leaving California.

As I have studied the photos from this time period and gone over my notes I am a little bit puzzled.  Was the Coffee Cup in Pacific Beach or in a different part of California?  This photo doesn’t look very much like the San Diego I am familiar with.  Also, there are photos of my Grandma in Pacific Beach that seem to be taken well after this photo.  Did they make two California stops?  I really wish that simple inscription contained one very important detail – the date!  😉

Oh well, I imagine as I continue going through photos, the timeline will become more clear.  So for now, I am going to enjoy this awesome photograph of my Grandma and her younger brother sitting atop their trailer in front of their little restaurant as they leave it behind in search of the next adventure in their journey.

My great-grandparents were such excellent photographers!  They gave me no end of photos to stare at, wonder about, and puzzle over.

I am so grateful.

 

Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!  If not, maybe label a photo or two so your great-granddaughter won’t be left to wonder.  🙂

 

 


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Major Milestone Right Here!

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Last week I filed and filed and filed letters.  Do you know what a treat it is to open letter after letter and see your grandparents handwriting?  To touch the pages they touched?  To hear their sweet and enduring love for each other?  It was completely joyful for me.

I am soooooo happy to say that I filed every single letter for the 5 1/2 years they wrote to each other!  Ten Hollinger boxes filled with letters.

(Of course, I still have the letters from the 1960s when my Grandpa was in graduate school.  But we won’t even think about those yet.)

As soon as I finish scanning Aunt Vera’s scrapbook – these letters are next on deck for scanning.  I think they deserve their own blog.  Maybe this fall.  😉

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These four boxes were mostly full on Wednesday when I started.  They look so beautiful empty, I might just leave them on my table for a day to enjoy their tender place in my heart.

 

Happy Monday, I hope you conquer a special genealogy project sometime this year – it is an incredible feeling!