Monday, March 31, 2014

Gates Family in Early Maryland

     For the last dozen years or so I have been chasing and researching the ancestry of Elisha Gates.  We first met Elisha Gates in Nelson County, Kentucky where he owned land, raised a family, died, and is buried.  He served in War of 1812 while living in Kentucky.  We quickly found his marriage record in Prince George's County in 1817 to Christina Ann Summers.  From there the trail ran cold.  Mary Louise Donnelly had researched members of the Gates family in Charles County but neither Elisha nor his father were mentioned in her books.  As we found out later that was because Elisha and his parents were a couple miles and two counties away in Prince George's County.  Robert Cady Gates published Records of the Gates Families of America From Colonial Period to 1860 (3rd Edition) follows thousands of people with the surname Gates. He fails to connect Elisha to his parents but in truth his book is a compilation of known records and one could not expect him to connect these dots.  His book was a massive project. There are over two dozen men with the name Elisha Gates mostly in Connecticut and other parts of New England. Any connection with our Maryland family would probably be in England prior to settling in the colonies if there is any connection at all.  
   After joining the Prince George's County Genealogical Society, I purchased a CD-Rom containing back issues of their newsletter.  This turned out to be a good purchase because buried deep inside a reference mentioned an orphan record for Elisha Gates.  Unfortunately, the only known copy of this record was in the Maryland Archives in Annapolis.  It took me about seven years before I made it to Annapolis but while there I found a couple records that stated that Elisha was the son of James T. Gates and Mary A. Gates.  
     Eventually more records about Elisha and his sister, Elizabeth, showed up on family  These records had not been filmed before this and these 42 pages firmly connected Elisha to a James Truman Gates and Mary Ann Gates.
     By examining land records and wills, I was able to show that James Truman Gates was the son of Peter and Jane Gates.  Once this relationship was established we were able to connect to several more generations.
     Over the next few blog posts we will establish the following relations in the Gates family.  We will also list known siblings of the direct ancestors.  The Gates family lineage includes the following generations 
1)  Robert Gates married Dorothy Hunt 
2) Robert Gates married ____________
3) Peter Gates married Jane _______
4) James Truman Gates married Mary Ann _______
5) Elisha Gates married Christina Ann Summers

     These families lived in St. Mary's, Charles, and Prince George's Counties.  Even though they lived in three counties the various land holdings lay within a few miles of each other.  

An image from Google Maps showing the portions of three counties in Maryland where five generation of the Gates family lived.

     The documents that have helped me trace these relationships include guardianship records, land deeds and probate records found on as well as Family History Library microfilms.  I also used Land records found on MDLANDREC.NET, an Archives of Maryland Online Publication. As I said before, I also made a trip to the Maryland Archives and later contacted an archivist for an additional record.  In addition, two books that helped tremendously were Robert Cole’s World Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland, which I uncovered on Google Search and Charles County, Maryland My Colonial Ancestors Plus Others.  Both books are now in my library.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Letters From The Front - Part III

     The third and last letter in the collection was written by John B. Armstrong, on Feb 16, 1944.  By that time he had made a fourth amphibious landing with the Third Infantry Division at Anzio.  The men had been trapped near the beachhead for over a month. Interestingly on the day this letter was written his silver star had been approved.  He received a silver star for gallantry in action that had occurred on November 10, 1943 near Mignano, Italy.  It was also a day when the Germans counterattacked the Allied position.
     When Dorothy finished college she was hired by Mills College and was placed in charge of nutrition.  She remained there for a year before moving back to Ohio.  Mills College is located in the San Francisco Bay region while my father and mother lived in the Los Angeles area. 
     Again, below is an image of the letter followed by the transcription.

Dear Dot and Everett,
     Hope everything is fine with all of you.  How is Charlie getting along  -  is he walking yet?  When he does don’t let him start off on his left foot.
     There isn’t anything (?) here.  The rains have slowed down and we get to dry out every once in a while.  The mud, Rain, & cold sure made me homesick for goo old Calif.  They say they’ve had lots of rain there this year.  There wouldn’t be any mud though.  Do you ever wish you were back there?  I’ve met some boys over here that used to go with girls from Mills.  One of our officers went to Standford. 
     Jane says you are thinking of moving to a larger house.  Mother & Daddy are also thinking of moving I guess.  I told them they ought to go to California while they have a chance.                      John

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Letters From The Front - Part II

     The second letter in the collection from Lt. John B. Armstrong to his sister Dorothy Armstrong Naylor is dated Sept 7, 1943. By this time the third division had fought their way across Sicily and was preparing to invade Salerno.  The invasion occurred two days later.  
     My father had not seen his family for over a year.  His second child and oldest son, John, had been born the previous November.  He would not see them for another year. He knew that Dorothy was expecting her first child.  Her son, Charles, was born a week after this letter was written although Charles was probably born before this letter arrived.
     He mentions that his brother, Jim, is in love.  Jim and Marie were married on Oct 24, 1943, about six weeks later.  This meant that he missed the wedding of both of his younger siblings while he was overseas.
     The return address shows that he was at headquarters.  For a period of time he had been transferred to headquarters because he had a gift for military tactics.  He was there when his company was ambushed in a field laced with mines.  His captain and a large number of his fellow soldiers were killed.  He was spared because of the time he had spent at headquarters.  

     Below is an image of the letter followed by a transcription.

7 Sep 1943
Dear Dorothy & Everett,
     Hope everyone is fine.  I suppose by now your baby is here or will be by the time you get this.  I will be waiting to hear about it.
     I hear Adele, the children, Jim & Marie were all up to see you.  I guess Jim is pretty much in love.  I haven't heard from him for some time now.
     How did you like my family by now?  I guess they've really grown.  Its been over a year now since I was home.  I hope it won't be that much more.  Things are looking good now.
     Be sure to write to me & tell me the news.  I'll be waiting for it. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Letters From The Front - Part I

     Every once in a while I read where people discover old wartime letters.  These letters can provide insight into the lives and thoughts of soldiers and their families.  There are a few projects whose purpose is to save wartime letters. See The Center for American War Letters (CAWL)  &  The Legacy Project.
     My parents saved letters that they had written during World War II, however these letters somehow got destroyed when my mother passed away.  I was extremely upset to learn of the fate of the letters. 
     So last week was I surprised when I received an email from Rick Platt, opened the attachment, and found images of three letters written by my father to his sister Dorothy.  (Dorothy is Rick’s grandmother.)  A huge amount of gratitude goes out to Rick for sharing the letters with me.
Below is an image of the first letter followed by a transcription and some notes about context.

23 May 1943
Dear Dorothy,
     Sorry I haven’t written more but I figure you and Everett are getting to read my mail home & I don’t write many letters.  There is not too much to write about.  
     How do you like the picture of Diane by now?  I sure wish I was home with them.
     Some day I’ll be able to tell you what all we’ve been doing here in Africa but for now I have to keep quiet. The place reminds me of Calif. but not enough to make me feel at home.  We might (?) be going elsewhere soon.  We’ll get to see a lot of the world I guess before we get home.  Everything you see though makes you want to see the U.S.A. again ( ?).         Love, John

Notes:  My father, Lt. John B. Armstrong, had departed from Norfolk, Virginia with the 3rd Division on Oct 24, 1942.   Dorothy Armstrong married Everett Naylor two days later.  John had left his wife and young daughter in Southern California, while Dorothy and their parents were in Ohio.  In early November the 3rd Division took part in the invasion at Casablanca.   Earlier blog on this topic.
    By the time he wrote this first letter on May 23, 1943, his unit had moved east and was in the region around present day Skikda, Algeria (along the coast, just west of the border with Tunisia).
     He couldn't tell where they were going next, if he knew, for security reasons.  We know now that they were preparing to invade Sicily in early July.  
     My father referred to a picture of Diane who was about 2½ years old at the time. This picture of Diane may be the picture he referenced.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

HIstorical Fiction - Jasper Tudor and the White Queen

     Having always enjoyed historical fiction, both novels and films, I recently enjoyed watching The White Queen.   The White Queen is a miniseries, based upon a series of novels by Philippa Gregory.   Of course, not every event and person depicted in the series is completely accurate but it was still enjoyable to watch.  (Note: It is not for children.)
     One thing that made it fun to watch was the fact that several of my ancestors/relations were characters in the series.  If all research is correct, Jasper Tudor was my 13th great-grandfather.  Some historians claim that one Wyllyam Gardynyr (William Gardiner) was a common soldier who dealt the death blow to King Richard III and was rewarded with wealth and status. He was allowed to marry the illegitimate daughter of Jasper Tudor.  It was fun to watch the relationships between the families and how they used and changed relationships  in order to gain alliances and power.  It is interesting how people of power both then and now express their religious convictions, and at the same time have affairs and commit murder.   

Monday, March 10, 2014

Anti-aircraft Guns near Los Angeles

     After the attack on Pearl Harbour, Angelenos  lived in fear of air raids by the Japanese.  When my father went in the army he told my mother to move up near the mountains in Altadena.  That is the reason for the location of the family when my father returned and when I was born. He felt that the Altadena/Pasadena area would be safer than their old home close to downtown Los Angeles.
     Jayme's mother moved around frequently as a child but for at least a short amount of time she lived in Sun Valley with her mother.  I am not certain when Garna's mother married Ole Henrikson but I know it would have been after the 1940 census and before November 20, 1944.  (more on this at a later date)
      Recently, as I was going through some old photos I found one that showed some soldiers stationed at an anti-aircraft gun. Written on the back of the photo is
"Soldiers stationed across
 from Garna's house 
WWII and her dog Tipper 
Roscoe (Sun City)"

          In trying to locate where this photo was taken, I mistakenly thought that  they must have lived on Roscoe Boulevard in Sun City.  I knew I was close when I checked the skyline on Google Maps but I was only close.  Later I found an envelope addressed to Mrs. Betty F. Henrikson at 7737 Arcola Avenue Roscoe, California.  Unfortunately the city of Roscoe doesn't exist on Google Maps.  A little research told me that Roscoe was a neighborhood of Sun Valley.  
The new address was about one mile south of Roscoe Boulevard.  Obviously, the neighborhood had changed tremendously since 1944.  The freeway didn't exist at that time and there had been a thousands of homes built since the war. 

     But I am fairly certain that the anti-aircraft gun was located just east of this address.  I couldn't see the hills from the known address because of the trees and newer houses.  But, if I moved about ¼ mile east, I think the mountain profile is close to matching.  The Verdugo Mountains serve as a backdrop to the anti-aircraft gun.  I posted the original picture again so the mountain profile could be more easily compared.

The Verdugo Mountains serve as a backdrop to anti-aircraft gun.

 Verdugo Mountains on wikipedia

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Price Was Right.

     In 1940, Guy McBee married his second wife, Lillian Warner.  Shortly after the wedding they purchased a  house out in the San Fernando Valley. Full price was just $1095.  Doesn't sound like much but since this was just after the depression money was tight and  it probably stretched their budget just as much as as houses do today. 
     Below is an advertisement for their house, followed by a picture of Guy and his brother.  Below that is a view of what the house looks like today.  It looks like someone is remodeling.  
    Within two years Guy was a working further south and so the family had moved to Long Beach.  
The Herbert B. Pratt Co. was about
 half of a mile from the house.

Guy McBee (right) with his brother, John, in front of Guy's house

View Larger Map

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Exciting Times

     Even though I haven't written for a few days, I have been busy.   For twelve years I have been searching for the ancestry of my GGG-Grandfather, Elisha Gates.  Elisha's father passed away when he was only about 5.  His mother died six years later.  So by 1801, Elisha and his sister, Elizabeth were orphans. 
     Within the last month I have broken through the barrier in a big way.  I have been busy writing my findings along with documentation.  When I finish I will post the findings in this blog.  This has been an exciting week.  
     Within the last few days I have found wills and deeds which document four generations past Elisha.  I have ordered a book which details the life around the plantation where Elisha's ancestor was a servant.  I will keep you posted.  I used some Amazon gift cards to order the book. Thanks, Janie!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part IX - Postscript

     Back on Feb. 18, 2014, my blog post referenced a photo and story in the Columbus Evening Dispatch1.   I stated that I didn't have the entire article.  Thanks to Rick Platt (my first cousin once removed) I now have copies of both pages of the newspaper.  Rick has caught the genealogical bug and is doing some great research.  Thanks for going out of your way, Rick.
    The newspaper article confirms some of the events, fills in some details about other events and corrects my memory of other events.  I would not have known that we left midweek.  The article states that we arrived in Chicago at 12:30 pm which does not explain why I have memories of changing trains when it was dark.  
    On a side note, I didn't know my dad was a track star.  I vaguely remember some talk about track but no details. And it is too late to ask my dad.

Thanks again, Rick.  

1.   "Family from Coast Here for Fourth." Columbus Evening Dispatch, July 2, 1955. pages 1,2

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Night Life #2

     Jayme's mother loved big band music.  One of her favorite songs was  "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller.   I don't have proof the Garna ever went to listen to live bands at night clubs but I rather doubt it.  She didn't have much money and she was not quite eighteen when she married.  
     We do know that her first husband, James Leggett, went to Sweet's, a fairly famous night club in Oakland while he was in the navy.  James, from Texas had joined the navy upon graduating from high school in 1944.  He had gone through basic training in San Diego. And then it seems that he had been stationed in Tiburon, California about this time.  Garna was certainly not with him since she was working at the Long Beach Shipyard at the time.  Below is a souvenir photo of James Leggett and his navy buddy, George Corral, at Sweet's Night Club.
     Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Frank Sinatra were among many famous entertainers who performed at Sweet's during the World War II era.  The photo of James Leggett and a friend was taken at Sweet's about 11 months before he married Jayme's mother.

A Night on the Town
James Leggett (Jayme's birth father) on the right

Inside Sweet's
In this Google map street view you can see the entrance to Sweet's is visible although it is occupied by another club at this time.