Monday, December 30, 2013

Religious Freedom

Buckingham Congregational Church
Glastonbury, Connecticut

     If religion is part of one's DNA, it might explain some things about me.  My family included just about every branch of christianity.  These included Huguenots, Roman Catholics, German Reformed, Puritans, Methodists, Presbyterian, Methodist-Episcopal and possibly some Mennonites and Amish.
     The Hugus family were French Huguenots, who left Abries in the French Alps in the dead of the night.  They headed up into Germany.  From there they crossed the seas to Pennsylvania around middle part of the eighteenth century.
     The Flick, Fabian, Neeley, and Shoup (Shupe) families appear to have been Swiss Mennonites who moved into Germany and left for America about the same time as the Hugus family.  At the very least these families moved in the same circles as the Mennonites.  The Flicks, Fabians, and Shoup families lived in Bucks and Northampton counties along with John Hugus.  These families migrated west to Westmoreland County after the Revolutionary War.
     Jacob Berlin arrived in Philadelphia having traveled with a large group of Amish.  It is unknown whether the Berlins were, in fact, practicing Amish or just  happened to be on a ship where the passengers were primarily Amish.  The Berlin family settled in York County before moving to western Pennsylvania. 
     Even though some of these families may have arrived here as members of various faiths, they all seemed to end up in the German Reformed Church.  It would appear that the German Reformed Church followed a Calvinist theology which I believe would have been similar to the theological teaching that they brought with them to the colonies.       
     The Gardiner, Blandford, Gates, Beaven, Craycroft, and Miles families left England in the seventieth century to practice their Catholic faith in Maryland only to need to leave Maryland and head to Kentucky after a few generations because restrictions were again placed on practicing Catholics.  Catholics were barred from holding public office; barred from certain professions; forced to pay a double tax; and required to have their children baptized in the Anglican Church.  
     The Stratton, Fox, Hollister, Goodrich, and Hill families appeared to be Puritan families who left England in the seventieth century for Massachusetts. This group of immigrants seemed to follow a version of Calvinist theology.  They stayed in New England until the 1830s when they migrated west to Ohio.
     Amongst these early colonists were many clergymen and women.  In fact there are leaders among the different religions in almost every generation.  There were ministers, priests, and bishops as well as leaders of female religious orders in Kentucky.  

Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral
Bardstown, Kentucky


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Please, Not In My Back

Site of  Magnolia Church1

     In the spring of 1863 the Union army, under the command of Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, was moving across the Mississippi near Port Gibson.  Early on the morning of May 1st, as Company E of the 29th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment neared the Old Magnolia Church, James B. Ireland was seriously wounded.
   Years later as James was applying for a pension a surgeon wrote, 
" . . . [James] received a musket ball in his back on the right side below the ribs which lodged against the spine from which position it was extracted. A permanent lameness of the back is the result."2
   As a result of the wound, James Ireland spent some time in Mary Ann Hospital in Grand Gulf, Mississippi.3
    The nature and location of the wound makes one think about the circumstances of the battle. Was the wound a result of friendly fire?   Was he shot from the front as he twisted and turned around tress and rocks?   Did the Union troops pass by some Confederate soldiers who shot James from the back?   Was James' unit retreating at the time?   
     The Military History of Wisconsin (Quiner 1866) says "After changing direction to the left, in an open ravine, and before the left wing was yet upon the new direction, the regiment was assailed by a heavy fire from the enemy on the top of a ridge, across the ravine, and also from woods on the right. They were forced to halt in this position. The ground on the left did not permit the left wing to form in line to repel the attack. The right wing was faced by the rear and opened fire."5  This account of the battle sounds like many other battles where there is action from all directions. In this account, James B. Ireland is listed as one of the wounded. 
     James B. Ireland recovered from his wound received at Port Gibson and returned to his unit, only to be wounded a year later at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads.2

Daily Ohio Statesman4

1.  "Battle of Port Gibson - National Park Service." 2006. 17 Dec. 2013 <>

2.   Record for Rhoda  Ireland; Civil War Widow Pension Data File, ; National Archives at College Park, College Park,MD

3.   List of Wisconsin Soldiers at Mary AnnHospital, Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, Madison, Wisconsin, 27 June 1863

4.  Daily Ohio statesman. (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

5.  E.B. Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, (Chicago, Illinois: Clarke & Co., 1866) (accessed December 26, 2013), chap. 37.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Special Christmas Stocking

     This old Christmas Stocking has certainly seen better days but it is going to be around as long as I am walking around.  It may not get the front and center position that it once did but that doesn't make it any less special to me.  
     My father, John B. Armstrong, served as an officer in World War II, rising to the rank of captain in the infantry.  He made amphibious landings in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and southern France.  He received a silver star near Mignano, Italy. This stocking was one of his socks from his time in the army.  This stocking has survived for at least sixty-eight years.  He was discharged from the army shortly after I was born.    
     Each of his nine children hung one of his stockings over the fireplace on Christmas Eve.  In the morning, we found them filled with oranges, apples, tangerines, and nuts of all types.   That old army sock could hold a lot of fruit and nuts as well as battle weary feet.  I wonder is my stocking is the one he wore while he was on the beach at Anzio.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Even though this picture is dated Dec '64 it has to be from 1963.  We moved from this house during the summer of 1964.  Eight of the stockings were in use at this time.  By that time, my oldest sister, Diane, was a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

Monday, December 23, 2013


     The other day I wrote a blog on some ancestors who lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and attended the same church.  (St. Peter's Tohickon Union Church) I ended the blog with the speculation that Anna Margaretta Shoup and Veronica Francy Shupe might be sisters.  Anna Margaretta married John Hugus,  while Veronica's descendants included the Berlin Family.  Samuel Hugus and Inez Adella Berlin, my great-grandparents, were married in 1886, over 100 years later. (Samuel and Inez were third cousins and/or fourth cousins. It depends upon whether you start with the Fabian family or the Shoup family.)
     Today, while looking through Bucks County wills, I found the will of Jacob Shoup.  Jacob's will was written on Jan 11, 1766 and recorded on April 11, 1766.  The will includes one line that helps our research.  
". . . The remainder of all to be equally divided amongst all the surviving children, viz. Jacob Shoup, Margaret, now Hocus,Henry, John, Ann, Larrance, Francy, and Michel. . . ."

Portion of Jacob Shoup's Will1

     The name Hugus was spelled Hocus.  I have seen similar spellings in other documents.  The document also names Jacob's wife, Francy.  

Records from St. Paul's Tohickon Union Church2

     Tohickon Church Records show Jacob and wife, Veronica at the baptism of Veronica.  It seems that both mother and daughter used the name Veronica at times and used the name Francy at other times.  The church records show that Veronica (daughter) was born in 1761.  Since the will mentions that Margaret was married, it would appear that, Margaret was at least ten years older than Veronica, possibly more.
     Both women, together with their husbands and children, migrated to Westmoreland County, in western Pennsylvania soon after the Revolutionary War.

1.  "Pennsylvania, Probate Records, 1683-1994." Vol 3 Page 137-8 Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013.  

2.  Lineages, Inc., comp. Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1744-1801: Tohickon Union Reformed Church [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Spending Time Coding With My Granddaughter

     Part of my job as a family genealogist is to pass down stories of my life.  So I am taking a detour today.  And spending some time with my granddaughter.
     The other day, I came across an email that was publicizing a campaign to teach computer coding to the young and old.  I wrote my first computer program back in the 60s when we were using punch cards and computers were the size of rooms.  Long Beach State had a single class devoted to computers. It was listed in the math department.  When I started teaching, only a couple people knew anything about computers so I was drafted to teach computer programming.  The students wrote some good software but computers were still limited compared to what can be accomplished today.  Then the funding changed and computer classes were dropped.   Then they started up.  Later they were dropped again. When they decided a few years later to start back up, I begged off and stuck with my math classes. But I had written some software to calculate grade for my classes and students liked knowing where they stood after every assignment. (They also didn't argue about their grades because a computer never lies.)  I should have been smarter because years later all schools were buying software to keep track of grades. Who knows, maybe I could have been computer mogul during the dot com boom. 
     When I got my first personal computer (an IBM with 128K of memory) I wrote a few programs but I started focusing on software that might help my classroom instruction.  Occasionally, I would play around with HTML but nothing serious.
     Some twenty-five years on down the road the capabilities of computers have changed but the logic I always used is still valid.  So I decided to try out this new Hour of code campaign.
     Since the lessons were written for a wide audience, I realized that my granddaughter wouldn't have any difficulty going through the lessons.  So after school Abbey and I sat down and in no time Abbey was teaching the zombie to move around the maze. 

Later we taught the bot how to move around and turn on all of the lights.

The next time I get together with Abbey our task will be to make a Christmas card.  Here is one that I put together for Abbey.  

Tree For Abbey

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

    I always thought that the logic necessary to program a computer would help young people in math and science, particularly Geometry.  But maybe that is an old math teacher talking.  The coding website claims that when Abbey and I finish the lessons we should be able to code an App for the iPad.   We shall see.    Even if we don't write any Apps we will have had fun together.

To try coding yourself try this link. 

Made using: Khan Academy Computer Science.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

St. Peter's Tohickon Union Church

     In 1743, German immigrants established St. Peter's Tohickon Union Church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  (Tohickon - an old Indian term) A wooden church was built in 1746 and a stone church was built in 1766.  The church that is still in existence today was built in 1838.  The current church actually housed two distinct congregations when it was built.

    Most of my maternal grandfather's ancestors entered Pennsylvania in the first half of the eighteenth century.  Philadelphia was the port of arrival and shortly after arriving they migrated northwest to Bucks County.  They must have all lived in or around Bedmeister Township since all of them ended up a members of the Tohickon Union Church.   Michael Fabian and his wife, Dorothea Welz; Nicholas Neely and Margaret Fabian;  Paul Flick and Catherine Fabian; John Hugus and Margaret Shoup; Paul Neely and Veronica Shupe;  All of them are mentioned in the church records1
     At least three of them served in the Revolutionary War.  (Paul Flick, Nicholas Neeley, John Hugus)  Several famous  Revolutionary war sites are located within a few miles of the church.

     Not all of them stayed in the area.   After the Revolutionary War, several of the families moved to western Pennsylvania.  A number of them migrated to Westmoreland County.  Several of the Hugus and Neely families are buried there.  Later generations moved on to Allegheny and Clarion Counties. 
     One research technique that was reenforced when I was looking for names in the book and burials in the surrounding cemeteries was the need to be aware of different spellings.   
Schupp, Shupe, Schub, Shupp, Shoup, Shoupp, Schup, Schaup.  In my list of names above I need to figure the relationship between Veronica Shupe and Margaret Shoup.  Sisters? Cousins?       Further research is due.     

1. Hinke, Rev William, A history of the Tohickon Union Church, Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania : with copy of church records, Tribune Publishing, Meadville, 1925

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Thing Leads to Another

     In the process of writing a blog entry on John Buryl Ireland, who was the father of Sarah Nina Ireland Prinslow, I made a chance discovery.  I had been trying to find out more information about a Civil War battle where he had been wounded.  For some reason I googled his full name, not really expecting to find much.  I noticed one search result that mention the Prinslow name, which wasn't by itself surprising since John B. Ireland's daughter married Charles Prinslow.  What was interesting was that this search result sent me to a blog about Prinslow genealogy.   Naturally I had to contact the blogger and ended up on a Facebook page about John Ireland and Rhoda Hartson Ireland.   It turns out that the blogger's grandfather is a cousin of our Pop, John Prenslow Boyd.  The blogger even had a picture of John B. Ireland that we had not seen before. Yesterday was a good day.
   But one thing lead to another. Things got better because our 'new' relative, Sarah Prinslow Frempong also was researching the surname Neely.  Neely is a surname that is is my family tree.  Back around 1805, Elizabeth Neely, my 3rd great-grandmother married George Berlin.  I visited George and Elizabeth's son, Jeremiah Berlin's gravestone last summer.  Rick Platt and I hiked around Allegheny Cemetery looking for the grave of George's father and another son, Jesse.  Back in August I wrote several blog entries about this part of the family.  See Nicholas Berlin and Anna Marie I hadn't found much about the Neely family but part of the problem is the spelling of Neely.  So today while goggling  'John Paul Neely' I spotted an entry that lead me to a Findagrave Memorial for Him.  Now I know why I hadn't found it before.  First the picture has not been online all that long and I had not researched the Neely name in the last year.  The other reason was the spelling.  I had been aware that Neely was sometime spelled Neleigh.  Now I have several new spelling to look for.  Neely had morphed into Naly 

NEELY; NELEIGH; NELIGH; NELICH: NALY; and who knows what else will open the door.

Courtesy of LAB on
Paul Neely on Findagrave      Veronica Shupe Neely

Courtesy of KRL on

Monday, December 16, 2013

Charles Prinslow - Germany to South Dakota to California

       Charles Prinslow was born in Germany in 1853.  In 1869, he arrived in New York, heading west fairly quickly.  We believe the his father took the family to Wisconsin because that is where he is in 1880 and 1885.  (I haven't found Charles or his father in the 1870 Census.)  By 1880 Charles had settled in Lincoln County, South Dakota.  He met and married Sarah Nina Ireland in 1881.  Charles Prinslow and his family lived about two miles east of the border with Turner County in Brooklyn Township .
     The directory in the 1910 Lincoln County Atlas1 states that Charles was a "Farmer, Feeder, Buyer, Shipper and Breeder of Thoroughbred Polled Angus Cattle and Duroc Jersey Hogs."  It also shows that he had amassed almost 1000 acres. 
     He invested in businesses in Centerville, including The Centerville Telephone Exchange, although Exchange turned out to be an unsuccessful venture.
     A history of Centerville1 included information about Joy School, the school that at least the youngest Prinslows attended.  A picture in that history shows the two youngest children at the school.  Charles Prinslow, Elmer Prinslow, John Prinslow, and Charles Prinslow, Jr. all served on the school board.  Gretchen Epple, who grew up in the area, worked as a teacher at Joy School and later married Elmer Prinslow. 
     In 1915, he traveled to San Francisco to visit Panama-Pacific International Exposition and then spent time traveling south to San Diego.  The following year he returned to California and purchased land in Harper (much later named Costa Mesa).  Some of his sons remained in South Dakota working on the farm.  He became involved in the community in California, serving on the water commission.
    When he passed away in 1933, six of his children each received a quarter section of land in Lincoln County.  Another son received land in California.  He died in California but is buried in Centerville, near his farm.

The Prinslow home in South Dakota

     The map3 below shows the location of Charles Prinslow's Land and suspected location of the family home.  The location of Joy School is indicated.  The markers indicates which of the children received that quarter section of land upon Charles' death.  
    Unfortunately for us, Charles passed away when his grandson, John Prenslow Boyd was three years old, so he doesn't have any memories of Charles Prinslow that he can pass down to us.  
     Note: John Prenslow Boyd's middle name is not misspelled even though the name came from Charles Prinslow. That spelling is another story. 

1. _______,  Standard Atlas of Lincoln County South Dakota, George A Ogle & Co, Chicago, 1910 

2. Centerville Centennial Book Committee, Centerville, Dakota Territory - Sunshine State:Our home town. Freeman, SD: Pine Hill Press, 1983.

3. Google Maps Engine, Google Imagery 2013 Digital Globe, State of Ohio / OSIP, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Charles Prinslow & James B. Ireland

     My favorite genealogical website is familyseach.  I make a point of checking a few times each week to see what records have updated by checking the column heading "Last Updated".  At least once records, which had not shown up on microfilm, have showed up as digital records online.  Last night, ten different record collections were updated.  One collection caught my eye.
     Charles Prinslow had settled in the Lincoln County, South Dakota at least by 1884 and James B. Ireland had arrived in Turner County by at least 1887. When 'South Dakota, School Records, 1879-1970' showed as being last updated on Dec. 13, 2013, I had to go do some more research. Schools in Lincoln County are not yet in the data base but Turner County Records are included.  
     The school records are not indexed but with some effort we should be able to locate some useful records.  While trying to decipher the school district number that might be useful, I ended up in Centerville, SD and noticed a link for some records and photos for Riverview Cemetery.  This site had some photos and a map that Findagrave does not have on their site.   (By the way, I will get back to that school research.)
     By combining information on that site with a Google Map we can see approximately where family members are buried.  If you click on the markers you should be able to see pictures of the graves.

     In this second map you can see the land that Charles Prinslow was able to purchase (outlined in yellow).  He owned around 960 acres.  This land was in Lincoln County.   James B. Ireland owned 160 acres (outlined in a peach color).     His land was in Turner County.  James had difficulty farming his land because of injuries suffered in the Civil War so he eventually moved into Centerville. The blue line is the border between Turner County to the west and Lincoln County to the east.  The orange dot (a rectangle if you zoom in), north of Centerville is the location of Riverview Cemetery.  

     The picture below is of the Prinslow home in Brooklyn Township, Lincoln County, South Dakota.   When Minnie Prinslow Boyd, daughter of Charles, passed she offered her son, John Boyd, a chance to farm 160 acres in Lincoln County.  John, a native Californian, decided to stay in Orange County. 

Prinslow Homestead in South Dakota

Thursday, December 12, 2013

James T. Lorton and Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery

     It seems that several times a day we get unsolicited phone calls wanting to sell us something or at least trying to separate us from our money.  Thank goodness for Caller ID.  We are able to screen out most of the unwanted calls.

     For the most part these calls are the modern day equivalent of the snake oil salesmen of the nineteenth century.  The following excerpt from a 1898 newspaper advertisement indicates that John Boyd's great-grandfather, James T. Lorton must have fallen for some miraculous potion.

     "In the spring of 1890," writes Mr. Smith, "I took a severe cold which settled on my lungs and chest, and I suffered intensely. I tried several of our best physicians here, and they gave up all hope of my recovery; they said that I had consumption and could live but a few days or weeks.  Mr. James Lorton, a neighbor, came to me and told me to write to Dr. Pierce —that  he could cure me.  I did so, and he wrote me what kind of medicine to get.  I took five bottles of Dr. Pierce's Golden Medical Discovery and now I am sound and well. I feel better than I have in ten years. I gladly recommend the 'Golden Medical Discovery' for I know it saved my life."1

     Maybe that last phone call from a unidentified number was really Dr. Pierce's computer robo-calling to sell us some of his Golden Medical Discovery.

1.  Los Angeles Herald, Volume 25, Number 164, 13 March 1898

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sarah Johnson in 1860

     Yesterday we showed the marriage record for James H. Matthews and the much younger Sarah Johnson.  
     In the 1860 Census, there is a Sarah Johnson living in Lafayette County, which is the county where they married.  Is this our Sarah?
     Here is some information that should lead us to believe that it is.  Only five pages in the census separate James and this Sarah. They were both enumerated in the Paris Postal District, so they lived in the same general vicinity.
     In 1850, James H Matthews was enumerated adjacent to an older couple, Ire D. Mathews and his wife Lucy.  In 1860, Sarah Johnson is living with I. D. Mathis and his wife Lucy.  This has to be the same couple that live next to James in the previous census.  (Remember that Mathis and Mathews are used interchangeably throughout known records.)  
     Some later family records also show Sarah's daughter Lena using the name Lucy.
     Putting this together would lead us to believe that the Sarah, who lives with I. D. Mathis is the Sarah, who marries James.   In addition one might be inclined to think that this I. D. Mathis is related to James and possibly his father.
More research is necessary. 

1850 Census showing Ire D and Lucy Mathews living next to James H. Mathews1

1860 Census showing I. D. and Lucy Mathis along with Sarah Johnson2

1. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Census Place:  , Lafayette, Mississippi; Roll: M432_375; Page: 269B; Image: 95.

2. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Census Place:  , Lafayette, Mississippi; Roll: M653_585; Page: 52; Image: 56; Family History Library Film: 803585.

Monday, December 9, 2013

An 1861 Marriage in Lafayette County, Mississippi

     On March 10, 1861, James H. Mathews married Sarah Johnson in Lafayette County, Mississippi1 Sarah (Sallie) was probably about 17 years old when she married James.  James was about thirty years older than Sarah.  She was younger that three of James' daughters.  And she was probably James' third wife.  
     In the 1850 Census, James is living with his wife, Matilda, and four daughters, Nancy(age >11), Mary(age 11), Emily(age 8), and Martha(age 6). Since a marriage record for James and Matilda is dated in 1846, it would seem likely that Matilda was not the mother of these four girls.  No record has been found for a marriage prior to 1846 in Mississippi.  (I am still looking.)  It is possible that his first marriage was in Georgia (birthplace of James) or Alabama.  However, if he married in one of these states he moved to Mississippi soon after his marriage since the birthplace of Nancy, Mary, Emily, and Martha is given as Mississippi in that 1850 Census.  
     In the 1860 Census (dated in mid-August), James is living with Matilda.   What happened between August and  the marriage in March?  Based on the census record Matilda had given birth ten months earlier. It is possible that the child might have been 10 days old instead of 10 months old.  The birth date given on the death certificate of the child, Lewis Rickman Mathews, is given as August 9, 1960.  Could Matilda have died from complications of childbirth?  No death record for Matilda has been uncovered, yet.  In any case, James found himself another wife in less than seven months.  How does a seventeen year old step-mother deal with daughters of the same age?  Hopefully we can uncover more information about Jayme's 2nd great-grandmother, Sarah Johnson. 

1.  "Mississippi, Marriages, 1800-1911," index, FamilySearch
( : accessed 27 Sep 2013),
James H. Matthews and Sarah Johnson, 1861.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santa Cannot Be Drafted

    Everyone is susceptible to the draft during wartime.  Well, not quite everyone as my grandfather, Major Elmer J. Armstrong (later Colonel) explained. 

Riding the School Bus

     St. Mary's School, in Taft California, was built in 1926.  St. Mary's was a two-story school building taught by the Dominican Sisters of Kenosha, Wisconsin.   About halfway through the 1958-59 school year classes were moved down the street to a new and bigger school.  Grades one through four were located on the ground floor.  I remember thinking how big I was when I got to fifth grade and moved upstairs.  I wish that I had a picture of the old school building. 
     City schools in Taft had an unusual relationship with parochial schools.  I attended St. Mary's Elementary School for eight years and the entire time I traveled to and from school on the Taft City School District bus.  I rode from our house about 2.5 miles outside town to the end of the line at Roosevelt School.  Then with my siblings I walked the last mile to St. Mary's.  It was a pretty good deal.  This relationship certainly doesn't exist now because St. Mary's closed down some years after I moved away from Taft with my parents.      
     Taft was flush with money from the oil companies that was the reason for Taft's existence. The pastor of Saint Mary's was a go-getter and he had a good working relationship with the city leaders.  I would imagine that these had something to do with the fact that we were allowed to ride the school bus even though we went didn't attend city schools at that time.
In the 50s and 60s there was a yellow bus stop near the burned palm tree

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holiday Puzzle

    One of our holiday traditions is working on a jigsaw puzzle.   We usually set up a table with a puzzle and family members work on it throughout the day.  I missed getting a picture this Thanksgiving with six of us around this 500 piece 20"x16".   
 This puzzle of a view of the Santa Barbara waterfront was special.  Not many puzzles include a picture of one's high school.  I attended St. Anthony's Seminary from 1959-1963.  You will see St. Anthony's behind Mission Santa Barbara in the upper left portion.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Visiting the Grandparents

    Yesterday, I said that I didn't have the opportunity to visit my grandparents  during the holidays.  I guess that this isn't quite true.  I was looking at pictures that I scanned during one marathon scanning session.  Here is one of the pictures that was taken during a trip from California to Ohio.  Being a grandfather myself, I love this picture of my grandparents.
That's me on my grandfather's left arm

Dick, David (me) Linda, Chas, Johnny, and Diane
     I had narrowed the date of the picture to the winter of 1946-47, based on the ages of the grandchildren involved and those not yet born.  But my brother John says he remember the trip and it was at Christmas time.  My father had been working temporarily in New Orleans and had flown up to Ohio for Christmas.  He remembers picking up my father at the airport.  
    Grandma and Grandpa Armstrong ended up with eighteen grandchildren.  Diane, the oldest, was born in 1940 and Mark, the youngest, was born nineteen years later.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving with Grandma

     My mother didn't enjoy the cold in Ohio and wanted to strike out on her own so she left for California.  My father followed soon afterwards.  They raised a family of nine children out west.  One of the disadvantages of living in a different state, far away from the rest of the family, were holidays like Thanksgiving.  
     One always hears stories about going to grandma's house for a turkey dinner.  I visited my grandparents in Ohio three times.  Only two of those were when I was old enough to remember.  We never visited Grandma's for Thanksgiving. 
    One also hears horror stories about relatives at Thanksgiving so I don't know if a visit to Grandma's house would have been a good memory or a horror story but I prefer to think it would have been a good memory.

Grandma's dinner table set for sixteen with the china that she purchased in Panama.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

For the times they are a-changin'

     Yesterday, when I was using Google Maps, I noticed some changes around where my childhood home had been located.  After my father returned from World War II, he was hired by Standard Oil of California.  He worked for a while in Santa Fe Springs.  His work was a difficult drive from our home in Altadena so we moved to Long Beach in 1948.  In 1951 my father was transferred to the oil town of Taft, California.  We lived in a company house over two miles from town in a place called 1-C Camp.
     In 1951, our house in 1-C Camp was about 250 feet from a 'gasoline plant'.  The plant did mysterious things like separating gasoline and different gases from the oil that had been pumped from the ground.  We lived 250 feet from the plant for thirteen years.  It operated day and night - 24/7.  And was it loud.     (I think those years of living next to constant noise is at least partially to blame for my current hearing loss.)  
     When we moved into 1-C Camp there were somewhere around 18 houses.  As men retired or got transferred the houses were sold and move.  We were the last to go.  Our house was used for storage of cores from the oil wells.  It eventually burned to the ground.  And now if you examine the aerial view from Google Maps, you will see that in 2013 'the Plant' is going.  
     The two palm trees that were in our front yard are still standing.  You can see them in the aerial view.  (Don't ask me how they are still surviving with no apparent water source.  They may be the last to go.
A 2008 view of 'The Plant" from where our house had been located.

An aerial view of 1-C Camp from Google Maps
We had oil wells all around our house.  Not ours, unfortunately.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nov. 22, 1963 - A Date in History

     Taft College (a two-year community college) was situated next to the high school in Taft.  They shared many of the same facilities.  My chemistry class was in the science building at the high school.  They had a similar relationship with Taft Union High School District Transportation Department.  The high school bus picked up high school and college students from outlying areas some as much as 30 miles away.  It seems strange now but back on Nov. 22, 1963, I caught the high school bus as usual out on Lincoln Highway near where we lived at 1-C Camp.          
     Nov. 22, 1963 started out as a normal Friday although it didn't stay normal. I attended classes until someone came around in the early afternoon and let everyone know that President Kennedy had been shot.  Classes for that day were cancelled.  For some reason the high school buses were not running on the same schedule (high school may have been dismissed earlier) so I remember walking the two and one-half miles home.  I stopped by my father's office on the way out of town but he couldn't break free so I finished my walk home.  (At least it wasn't uphill in the snow.)
     I had a lot of time to think on my walk home. I do remember it as a sad time. It was disappointing that someone felt it necessary to kill our county's leader.  
     I don't remember much else about that historic day.  We didn't have a television back then so most of what I remember actually was from television clips years afterwards.  We did get a newspaper (The Bakersfield Californian) so we kept up with the news that way although back then news would have been at least a day late.  I think that class was cancelled on the day of the funeral.  With today's 24 hour news coverage people would have a more visual memory of all of the history.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is this Uncle Gus?

     My grandfather, Elmer J. Armstrong, enlisted in the Army on Jan. 26, 1905 in Springfield, Illinois.  A year later he was discharged at Fort Logan, Colorado and the re-enlisted for a period of three years.  While at Fort Logan he served in the Hospital Corps.  The picture below show him behind a counter dressed in white.  Recently, my older brother saw this picture for the first time and asked where I had gotten the picture of Uncle Gus.  He is certain the the soldier standing in front of my grandfather is Uncle Gus.  

     August F. Uhl, Jr., our Uncle Gus, was born in New York to German Immigrants.  Based on records that I have found he enlisted in the army in 1909.  He married my grandmother's sister, Maud Blandford in 1916 in Colorado.   I have a couple pictures of Uncle Gus when he was much older so it is time to compare.   
Uncle Gus is pictured here with his niece, Dorothy Armstrong.  Dorothy was born to Elmer Armstrong and Mary Catherine Blandford the same year that Uncle Gus married Aunt Maud.   
Uncle Gus top right

So, what so you think?  Is the first picture of Uncle Gus?  If it is, did Grandpa introduce Aunt Maud and Uncle Gus?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Forgetful Vampires and Ancestors

   Numerous unnamed members of my family have been telling me for a few years about the magnificance of a certain vampire.  So, it was a surprise today when I was browsing the the digital images of Petitions for Naturalization and Petition Evidence 1840-1856 from Hudson County, New Jersey that I found that Edward Cullen was a forgetful vampire.
    An Hudson County Index of Petitions for Naturalizations had pointed me toward some information for James Armstrong on Oct. 18, 1852.  I didn't find anything regarding my ancestor's naturalization (yet) but I did find an Affidavit of Edward Cullen as to loss of Certificate of Naturalization  on the same date.  It appears that this vampire must have lost his certificate and needed another.  So he appeared in court to obtain a new certificate.  I am sure that I will be corrected within a few days regarding this Edward Cullen.  Is he the well known vampire that appeared in a recent movie?  Was he a forgetful vampire?  Was he even a vampire at this time or did that transformation happen later?  
"New Jersey, County Naturalization Records, 1749-1986." Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013.
   A significant number of men appeared before the court on Oct 18, 1852, probably because of the upcoming election between Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire (Democrat) and Winfield Scott (Whig) of New Jersey.  It was written in my great-great-grandfather's obituary that he had voted for Winfield Scott.  I am hoping to find James David Armstrong's naturalization and I widened my search to counties neighboring Mercer County.  I wonder if my ancestor met the vampire, Edward Cullen at the courthouse on that date.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

No Matter What You Call Nov. 11 - Armistice Day; Remembrance Day; or Veterans Day

In remembrance of all veterans, especially those
 in our family who have served to protect us.

In Flanders Fields 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) 
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 

In Flanders fields.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nov. 10, 1943 Silver Star

     John B. Armstrong didn't talk about his war experiences much. When he was interviewed by his grandson, Daniel, he barely mentioned why he received a Silver Star.  He told Dan, "...The next day my regimental commander sent me forward to investigate because another company had been isolated and because of this he gave me a Silver Star."
     About 10-12 years later when he was interviewed by another grandson, Tony wrote "he was commanded to find out what was causing the communication problem after her rejoined his battalion south of Cassino near Mignano…He had to go over ditches and through trenches where he had to climb over dead bodies while the enemy was dropping motor shells all around. He reestablished communications and that is why he received the Silver Star."
     I think he minimized his gallantry. The following is taken from the official record of his award:
          *  *  *  *         E_X_T_R_A_C_T          *  *  *  * 
     I - AWARD OF THE SILVER STAR.  Under the provisions of Armsy Regulations 600-45, a Silver Star is awarded the following named officer:
JOHN B. ARMSTRONG, O-354947, First Lieutenant, 15th Infantry. For gallantry in action. On 10 November 1943, near Mignano, Italy. Lieutenant ARMSTRONG, with complete disregard for his personal safety, crossed 1000 yards of open field, exposing himself for two hours to heavy small arms, mortar, and artillery fire, with shell fragments and bullets striking within 10 yards of him, in order to reach a company which was not in contact with the battalion.  Upon reaching the company he found it under artillery and motor fire. Displaying exemplary courage, he aided in reorganizing the company and the reestablishment of its communications, reporting the situation to the Battalion Commander.  His gallant actions were instrumental in the formation of necessary plans for the company to proceed to its objective. Residence at appointment: Los Angeles, California.
                *  *  *  *         E_X_T_R_A_C_T          *  *  *  * 
                By command of Major General TRUSCOTT

Probable movement of Lt. John B. Armstrong at the Battle of the Mignano Gap1

"Across the Volturno - US Army Center Of Military History." 2007. 10 Nov. 2013 <>

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nov 8 - 11, 1942 - The 15th Infantry Regiment: Fedala to Casablanca

     On Nov. 8, 1942 the United States attacked the beaches near Casablanca.  The Third Division came on shore sixteen miles north of Casablanca at Fedala. Lt. John B. Armstrong was part of the 15th Infantry Regiment. The path of the 15th Regiment is shown as a red line on the adjacent maps.  The blue line represents the border between the 7th Regiment and the 15th Regiment.  I  took that map and used it as an overlay on Google Earth. then after removing the overlay I can see the path taken by the 15th Regiment.  
     From November 8 - 11 the Third Division advanced towards Casablanca.  On Nov 11, the Vichy French surrendered.   The next few months saw the third division stay in this region until they were needed at Tunisia.

Map from the History of the Third Division in World War II 1
Google Earth with previous map overlaid on top 2
Google Earth showing path of 15th Regiment 3
A map showing the Terrain 4
1.  Taggart, Donald, History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II, Battery Press, Nashville. 1987

2. Google Earth." 2005. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

3. Google Earth." 2005. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

4.  "Google Maps Engine Lite." 2012. 7 Nov. 2013 <>

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Convoy Zig Zags to Casablanca

     Beginning on October 24,1942, the 3rd Infantry Division, 15th Infantry Regiment sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, bound for French Morocco.  
     On the attached map you can see that this was a joint exercise with the British.   This map is from a British book so it is more detailed about the British portion of the operation.  (The dates are also written in the European style with the day/month so 3/11 = Nov. 3.)  The British passed through the Straights of Gibraltar and landed farther east.  
     The Americans were scheduled to land in the area around Casablanca.  The course followed by the American fleet was designed to make the Germans think that they might have a different objective.  The zig-zag course was also used to avoid the German U-boats.  
     Lt. John B. Armstrong was in the group that was scheduled to land near Fedala at daybreak on Nov. 8, 1942.  Fedala was 16 miles north of Casablanca.  Casablanca was under control of the Vichy French who, of course were under German control. 
       Fedala was the was the first amphibious landing where Lt. Armstrong was a participant.  He also participated at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and St. Tropez.  At that point he returned home for some R&R and began training for the invasion of Japan, which thankfully never happened.  

1.  "HyperWar: HyperWar: War at Sea 1939-1945, Vol. II: The ... - Ibiblio." 2005. 6 Nov. 2013 <>

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Camp Pickett, Virginia - Oct 23, 1942

     During the summer of 1942, the Army 3rd Division trained at Fort Ord in preparation for the United States' involvement in World War II.  In September of that year the Lt. John B. Armstrong as a member of the 3rd Division was transferred across the country to Camp Pickett near Blackstone, Virginia.  At Camp Pickett the 3rd Division went through final training for what was then a secret operation.  According to history books only 800 people in the army and government in America and England knew the final objective.
     Word must have trickled down to Elmer John Armstrong, at that time a Major in the Army and stationed at Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio. He somehow learned that his son was about to be sent  overseas.  He visited his son at Camp Pickett only a few days before John was deployed.
     The following picture of Major (later Colonel) Elmer Armstrong and Lt. (later Captain) John Armstrong was taken on Oct. 23, 1942.  On Oct 24, 1942 over 100 ships and 35,000 troops began leaving Virginia and other locations on the east coast for the start of Operation Torch.

Father and Son on Oct 23, 1942 at Camp Pickett
Major Elmer J. Armstrong and Lt. John B. Armstrong