Time travel to an ancestor with Dr. Who

This month’s Genealogy Blog Party prompt is about time travel with Dr. Who. Here’s my response:

If The Doctor asked, “So, who do you want to meet?”, it wouldn’t take me long to decide.

Jeremiah Daniel Thomas, called Dan, was my great-grandfather, the father of my beloved grandmother, Florrie Thomas Martin, who lived with my family until she passed when I was 19.

JD Thomas-2

Dan Thomas probably in his 20’s, circa 1880’s

Dan is the perfect intersection ancestor, the one who would yield the most genealogical information from his generation and the two before him. I would choose to visit Dan in the mid-1910’s before age, and possibly dementia, stole away his memory of his parents and his grandparents.

Would I tell him who I was? Gosh, that’s a hard one. Dr. Who always says NO. It messes up the time continuum or something like that.

To be safe, I would instead tell him that I was recording the history of people in the area and hope he’d be willing to talk. (There actually were a few men in Richland County, South Carolina where Dan lived who were doing that in the 1920’s, so this wouldn’t be a farfetched story.)

So many questions, so many questions.

First, I’d ask factual stuff like How did your sister Sally meet her husband, Henry Grant, and how did Henry die?  I would ask about Dan’s grandparents, Renatus and Mahaly Thomas…what were they like, where are they buried?  Who were Mahaly’s parents and how did Renatus’ father end up in South Carolina?

Tell me about your parents, I’d say. What were they like? How bad was your father’s war injury? Was your mother a good cook?

I’d move on to his other grandparents, John and Mary Davis. Were they from Richland County? If not where did they come from? What did they look like? What were they like?

I’d want to know about Dan’s life, too, like how he felt when he was sent to Chesterfield to help Sallie when Henry died, and how long he courted my great-grandmother. What brought him back to Richland County? And so much more.

I’d want to know his favorite book of the bible and his favorite verses, and I’d ask him to pray with me. I’d ask him to tell me a joke because I’m told that he enjoyed a good laugh…just like his daughter, Florrie.

Vest_Tintype_High_Resolution of group tintype

The tintype that haunts me.

Finally I have a tintype with his name scratched on the back. That tintype haunts me. Who are these men, when was it taken, where are they, and what are they commemorating? And is that you in front on the left?

I will say, though, that as much as I would love to know about the tintype, I would let that go to get all my other questions answered.

It would be hard to leave him. One question always leads to another. I could stay with him for days and still have questions to ask. The Doctor would have to tell me it was time to go. I don’t think I’d take Dan to the future with me. That would probably mess up the time continuum, too. 😉Genealogy Blog Party


Ada Lambright: she loved her family

Ada V. LAMBRIGHT was born in Maryland in 1891. Her mother was Georgianna M. HEISER (1855-1950); her father was James L. LAMBRIGHT (?-1897). Ada is my first cousin, twice removed.Maryland sign

Ada’s father died when she was about eight. Georgianna remarried soon after James’ death to Harry E. ESTERLY. Harry helped Georgianna raise Ada and at least three of her siblings. They lived in Frederick, Maryland.

Marriage and Pennsylvania

By 1912, Ada was married to Clarence W. CUDDY (1893-1964). They lived in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. I don’t know when she married him for sure or how she met him.Pennsylvania welcome sign

They lived at 1251 Bailey Street in Harrisburg, close to Clarence’s parents. One of his brothers lived on the same block, too. Click here to see their home on Bailey Street. It’s the green one.

Clarence worked at the Morehead Knitting Company, and Ada kept the home. Clarence and Ada were socially active, participating in picnics and more with Clarence’s workmates at Morehead. In 1915 and 1918, Ada gave birth to Geraldine Pearl and June Leona.

Family was important to Ada

Ada was close to her sister. In 1917 Ada’s sister, Pearl and her boyfriend Hayes MEISLING, came to live in Harrisburg for a time. Pearl was waiting on a divorce from her husband, Elmer Hensel. I wrote about Pearl here.


Ada was close to her family and Clarence’s like this family of meerkats

Ada came back to Frederick to visit and when family members passed. In 1946 Pearl came to live with Ada and Clarence after Hayes died because she was bedridden. Pearl passed while living with Ada and Clarence.

Ada was close to Clarence’s family, too. She had what appeared to be a good relationship with her mother-in-law, Sarah. The newspaper account of the Sarah’s death reported that she and Ada were visiting at Ada’s house. Sarah was laughing while telling a funny story about buying some shoes when suddenly she slumped over, dead from a heart attack. That was in 1928. Clarence’s father, Jessie, came to live with them for a while after Sarah passed.

In 1930, Clarence and Ada were doing well. Ada is 39 and Clarence is 37. They owned their home, and they even had a radio. Clarence was a hard worker, but the Depression was too much for him. In 1934, Clarence and Ada lost their home. In the 1936 city directory, Clarence wasn’t working at all.


Life goes on

The economy got rolling again when WW2 started. Clarence found regular work once more, and he and Ava were eventually able to purchase a home on Walnut Street in Harrisburg. Click here to see the neighborhood.

I don’t know much about Clarence and Ada after that. The records are not so easily accessible. I expect they stayed close to their daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren along with their own siblings and their families.

Ada and Clarence pass away

Clarence passed in 1964. Ada lived for another 15 years, passing in 1979 at 88 years of age. They are buried together at East Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Earl Price: Industrious, popular & tragically lost

Earl PRICE, the oldest child of Lawrence S. PRICE (1883-1941) and Georgia TURNER PRICE (1893-1933) was born in May 1909 in Maryland. Lawrence was the brother of my grandmother, Goldie PRICE HEISER. This makes Earl my first cousin once removed.Maryland sign

On the 1910 census, Earl and his parents lived in Barnesville, Montgomery County, Maryland next door to Lawrence’s parents and siblings. Lawrence worked as a laborer at a stone quarry.


In 1915 Earl’s brother, Linwood, was born; in 1917, brother Harvey was born.

In 1920, the family was still in Barnesville but no longer next to Lawrence’s parents. Lawrence’s parents and siblings had moved to Frederick, Maryland sometime in the 1910’s. Lawrence still worked at a stone quarry. Earl attended school, and Georgia took care of the home and the younger boys.

The family breaks up

Early in the 1920’s, Lawrence and Georgia divorced. Georgia remarried and had five more children before her death in 1933. I have suspicions that Lawrence went to prison. I’m still working on that angle.

I don’t know much about Earl’s life in the 1920’s. I do know that in 1929, he and Harvey were living with their grandmother, Ida Turner, near Dickerson Station in Montgomery County. Linwood is nowhere to be found in the 1920 census, but he is found later. Why weren’t any of these boys with one of their parents who were both living? Good question.

Tragedy on a hot July day

Quarry swimming hole

Typical quarry swimming hole

July in that part of Maryland is hot, usually around 90°, and humid. Just miserable. On Saturday, 13 July 1929, Earl and Harvey went swimming at an abandoned quarry pool.

The Frederick Post reported, ‘No one was present except the two boys. According to the younger lad his brother swam across the pool and started back. When about two-thirds of the way back he disappeared beneath the water. His body arose again to the surface and again disappeared.’ The newspaper article continues below:

PRICE Earl article about his drowning cropped for blogpost

Click on the aricle for a larger view

The final paragraph said ‘the lad was well known in the vicinity in which he lived. He was industrious and popular among a wide circle of friends.’

Earl’s funeral took place on Monday afternoon at his grandmother’s home. I was unable to find out where he is buried. How awful this must have been for Harvey and their grandmother.

Rufus Terry: textile worker & restaurant operator

Amuel Rufus TERRY, Sr. was born in South Carolina on 7 Aug 1895, probably in Richland County. His parents were John D. TERRY (1874-1942) and Mariah MARTIN TERRY (1874-1950).

Mariah was a sister of Adolphus Burdine MARTIN, my great-grandfather. This makes Rufus, as he was called, my first cousin twice removed. I previously wrote about Rufus’ bother, Oliver Terry. Click here if you haven’t already read about Oliver.Rural Ohio Farm

Like most of my ancestors of that time, Rufus was born into a farming family. He probably graduated high school since he was attending school at the age of 15 according to the 1910 census.Cotton mill photo

From the farm to textile work

In 1917, Rufus registered for the World War 1 draft. He was single at the time and living on his own in Columbia, South Carolina. He worked for Glencoe Cotton Mills in Columbia. Also, according to his registration Rufus was of medium height and build, and had grey eyes and brown hair. He did serve as an Army private during the war, but I have no other details than that.Welcome to NC sign

In 1921, Rufus married Pearl GILBERT BALLARD TERRY (1892-1973) in Gaston County, North Carolina. Rufus and Pearl had two sons – Graham born in 1922 and Rufus, Jr (called R.J.) born in 1924. I don’t know what brought Rufus to North Carolina, but it was probably work in the textile industry.

The family lived in Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina in 1930 according to the census. Rufus was 34 and Pearl was 38. Rufus and Pearl both worked at a cotton mill. Pearl was a spinner, and Rufus was a comber fixer. They rented a home, and they didn’t have a radio.

At some point between 1930 and the mid 1950’s Rufus and family moved to Mt. Holly, Gaston County, NC. They lived at 604 Rankin Ave at the corner of W. Glendale Ave, Mt Holly, from the mid-1950’s until Rufus passed away. Rufus, Pearl, R.J., and R.J.’s wife all worked in local textile mills.

Click here to see 604 Rankin Ave. I believe it’s the same house that Rufus and Pearl lived in.

Fork and plate

From textile work to restaurant work

In 1957, Rufus retired from textile work at 63 years of age. In 1958, he and R.J. began operating the lunch counter at Perfection Spinning. They ran the counter for at least two years, but probably a bit longer than that.

In May 1975, Rufus had a stroke. After lingering for a month, he passed away on 10 June 1975 at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was 79 years old. Rufus is buried alongside Pearl in Pineview Cemetery, Mt. Holly, North Carolina.

Walter Martin – a hardworking boy and man

Walter Glenn MARTIN was born 29 Apr 1869 in Richland County, South Carolina, the oldest of six children born to Jesse Allen MARTIN, Sr. (1845-1905) and Ella MILES MARTIN (1838-1930).

Tree cut for gathering sap to make turpentine

a tree cut for gathering sap to make turpentine

Walter’s great-grandfather, Joel E. MARTIN, is my 3rd great-grandfather. This makes Walter my 2nd cousin, twice removed.


Men’s work starts early 

In the 1880 census, Walter is employed as a distiller helper, probably working for his father who was a turpentine distiller in the Center Township of Richland County. Walter was 12 years old. He had received enough schooling to be able to read and write.

In 1890, Walter married Lishie RIMER MARTIN (1871-1961). Over the next 18 years, they would have eight children, 2 girls and 6 boys.Lumber

Lumber work to farming to lumber work again

Walter and family were living in the Upper Township of Richland County in 1900. Walter was 33 years old. He rented a house, and he worked as a sawyer. His father was in the lumber business, too.


not his farm…just A farm

In 1910, Walter was no longer a sawyer but a general farmer in Fairfield County, which is next to Richland County. Walter was farming in 1920, also, but now his address was Blythewood, South Carolina which is in Richland County and less than five miles from the Fairfield County line. (Blythewood is also about 18 miles from Columbia on present-day Interstate 77).

Goose family

Walter and Lishie and their children stuck close together like this family of geese

In 1930, at age 63, Walter was back to lumber work as a laborer at a lumber mill. I guess farming had gotten old. Walter and Lishie and five of their grown children lived in the same house. Three sons were laborers at a lumber mill, too. Another son was a carpenter. His daughter living with him was working at home, helping her mother run the household no doubt. And another son and his family lived next door.

The last year

In 1938, Walter was diagnosed with heart disease. When he died on 28 March 1839, his death was unexpected. Yes his health had been declining but his death wasn’t imminent. He was 72 years old.

According to his obituary, he ‘was one of Blythewood’s most prominent and best known residents.’ He was a member at Sandy Level Baptist Church in Blythewood which is where he is buried.

I didn’t find a lot about Walter, but I would say he and Lishie had a tight knit family considering that all of their children were still living in Blythewood when Walter passed away. I would also say he was a hardworking man all of his life.

15 tidbits from tax returns

Doing the taxes is not pleasant. But reviewing our ancestors’ tax returns is a most pleasant activity. Tax returns are yet another way to add facts and depth to your family history. Let’s take a look at 15 tidbits of information that can be found on your ancestors’ tax returns.

We’ll start with the basics found on most tax returns. (tidbits 1-7)

  • Address of taxpayers and their dependents
  • Occupations
  • Income
  • Employer
  • Who lived with them
  • Birth years of dependents
  • Social security numbers

In the example below, I have drawn a red line around these items found my parents’ 1961 Virginia State tax return. The green lines are around the location for the social security numbers. (This return is a handwritten copy of the one my parents sent so my mother didn’t bother filling in the social security numbers on this particular copy.)

Tax Return Scan 1 for blogpost

Tax return showing tidbits 1-7








Next you can find handwriting samples and signatures of the taxpayers (tidbits 8 and 9). Years ago, tax returns were completed by hand either by the taxpayer, a friend or family member of the taxpayer, or a paid preparer. If the taxpayer completed the return, you have a wonderful example of his or her handwriting and signature. If someone else completed the return, it still might contain the taxpayer’s signature on the kept copy.

Below is my father’s 1955 District of Columbia tax return. My father rarely wrote anything because my mother had beautiful handwriting, and he believed his handwriting was awful. Examples of his handwriting are cherished by my sister and me since they are so rare. (I blocked out part of his signature in this example.)Tax Return for blogpost-2








You can discover details about your ancestors’ everyday lives by looking at their itemized deductions. Itemized deductions include taxes paid, charities supported, and miscellaneous deductions. (tidbits 10-12)

Tax Return for blogpost-3

Dog tag and union dues are seen on this page

I knew my parents had a cocker spaniel before I was born. Now I know when from looking at their 1957 Virginia tax return which shows them paying for a dog tag. See the view of the return below. On that same return, I discovered my father belonged to a union.

Tax Return scan 4 for blogpost

Charitable contributions on Schedule A



On their 1980 Federal Schedule A, I see what charities my parents supported. This information gives insight into what and who they valued.




Tidbit # 13 is personal property tax. Some states collect or previously collected personal property tax from their residents. Some returns have detailed lists of what the taxpayer owned, as well, since household goods like furniture were often subject to personal property taxes. The 1958 Virginia personal property return below shows what car my parents owned in that year.Tax Return for blogpost-5


Tax Return photo 6 for blogpost

The addresses for my aunt and uncle were found on my parents’ tax return.




Addresses for people other than the taxpayer may be found on a tax return. That’s tidbit #14. For example, one of my cousins lived with our family for a few years. My parents claimed him as a dependent even though both of his parents were alive. One of the forms included with my parents’ 1963 Federal return gave the addresses of my cousin’s parents.

Tax Return for blogpost-7

A list of medical costs created by my very organized mother

The final tidbit is costs of doctors, dentists, health insurance, and more. My mom was super-organized. I found a handwritten list of medical expenses for each year. The cost of medical care was shockingly low compared to now. Below is a list from 1962 that shows the portion my parents paid for doctors, dentists, and insurance premiums. This amount was entered on the Schedule A of their Federal tax return for that year.

Tax returns are an often overlooked source for genealogists, but they are helpful for filling in the years between census records and for going beyond names and dates. I hope this list of tidbits will help you glean valuable information from any ancestors’ tax returns you find.


Daniel Grant, Jr. : WW2 casualty

Daniel Laban GRANT, Jr. was born in Texas City, Galveston County, Texas on 28 October 1913. His father, Daniel Sr. (1881-1954), left Chesterfield County, South Carolina to work in the oil business in Texas. Daniel Sr. met and married Mary Alice McKAY GRANT (1883-?) in Texas. Daniel Sr. and Alice, as she was called, also had a daughter named Verna.

How is he related to me? Daniel Jr’s grandmother, Sallie THOMAS GRANT, and my great-grandfather, Jeremiah Daniel THOMAS, were siblings.

Texas flag





Life in Texas and maybe Mobile

The family lived in Texas City for several years. Daniel attended school there, as did Verna. From looking at city directories, it appears the family left Texas City and moved to Mobile, Alabama for a time or at least Daniel’s father did. City directories show Daniel’s parents both in Mobile in 1938, 1941, 1943, and 1949.

Census records, though, show Alice and Daniel (the son) living in Texas City at 428 6th Avenue, North, both in 1935 and 1940. Daniel (the father) is not anywhere to be found in the 1940 census. Click here to see where Alice and Daniel lived in Texas City.

Perhaps they maintained two residences with Daniel (the father) traveling between the locations because of his job in the oil refinery business.

In 1940, Daniel (the son) worked as a bookkeeper at a shipping warehouse office. He was 26 years old.Money and calendar

Coast Guard Reservist

In July 1942, Daniel enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve. Two years later, in 1944, he was transferred to the USS Serpens which was sent to the south Pacific.

At some point, he married Doris Coleen something. I have no idea what her maiden name was, where he met her, or where he married her. Perhaps it was a whirlwind romance that took place before his ship launched. Her address in 1945 was Hayward, California.

The Serpens stayed in the south Pacific transporting dry provisions, general cargo, and rolling stock between ports and anchorages. She could be found in New Caledonia, Bora Bora, the Solomon Islands, and several other places.

An accident takes Daniel’s life

On 29 January 1945, the Serpens was anchored off Lunga (or Lungga) Beach in the Solomon Islands, northeast of Australia.

Several crew members went ashore while the rest remained on board to load depth charges into the hold. While they loaded, the Serpens exploded. After the explosion only the bow of the ship remained, and it sank soon after that.

Only two crew members on board survived. Daniel was not one of them.

USS Serpens Memorial from MrTinDC on Flickr

USS Serpens Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Mr.TinDC on flickr.com Click on photo to visit his page there.

At first the enemy was suspected as the cause of the explosion. But after a thorough investigation, the navy determined it was an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

The servicemen’s remains (including Daniel’s) were initially buried at Guadalcanal, but later exhumed and laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Were your ancestors poisoned during Prohibition?

Much of my learning about Prohibition came from the movie The Untouchables.  Thanks to a challenge from my sister, I know more now.

Beginning in 1920, Prohibition was mandated through the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Legislation was passed to set down rules for enforcement and for defining the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited.Liquor bottles

There was much corruption as you can imagine. Police, judges, senators, congressmen, and others were cursing drink in public but enjoying drink in private at their homes and in their clubs.

Ken Burns stated in his documentary Prohibition that those with money or those in powerful positions didn’t need to worry about the purity of what they were drinking. Everyday people though were not so fortunate.

Drinkable liquor was made by ‘renaturing’ denatured industrial alcohol.  Bootleggers hired chemists to make this happen according to this article from The Slate. Sometimes other chemicals were added to cancel out the effect of the denaturing chemicals; these new additives weren’t always effective and they introduced their own set of problems.Antique pharmacy

According to the same article, “new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons” like kerosene, mercury salts, gasoline, cadmium, either, chloroform, acetone, and more. The article says, “The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added – up to 10 percent of the total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.”

Edward Behr, author of Prohibition, wrote about hundreds of New Yorkers dying from alcohol poisoning and hundreds of thousands more suffering irreversible injuries including paralysis and blindness.

Think about your ancestors that lived during Prohibition. Were any of them blind or suffer with paralysis, have curious early deaths, or act crazy like my grandmother’s brother, Gilbert Price? Although it’s not black-and-white that Gilbert suffered from side effects of bootleg liquor, it’s easy to see the possibility knowing what I know now.

Gilbert Price: victim of Prohibition?

Ernest Gilbert PRICE, called Gilbert, was my grandmother’s brother. His parents were Montgomery PRICE (1859-1946) and Sallie PYLES PRICE (1862-1940). Gilbert was born 8 July 1899 in Dickerson in Montgomery County, Maryland.Maryland sign

Gilbert had a common upbringing. His father was a stone mason for the railroad; his mother kept house. Gilbert attended school and could read and write. In 1910, the family was living in Barnesville, also in Montgomery County. Gilbert was the youngest of Montgomery and Sallie’s four children.

In 1918, Gilbert registered for the WW1 draft. He was living at 617 Chapell Alley in Frederick, Maryland, and he worked as a trackman on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Gilbert was of medium height and build, and he had blue eyes and brown hair.Train still another one

On the 1920 census, Montgomery and Sallie were living in Frederick at 321 N. Bentz Street. Gilbert lived there, too, and so did my father who was raised by Montgomery and Sallie after his mother died in 1919. I wrote about her here: Goldie Price. Gilbert, now 21 years old, was a street laborer. 1920 was also the year Prohibition started nationwide.

321 N. Bentz Street in Frederick, MD. House where Charlie raised by grandparents, pic taken in 1984

Photo of 321 N. Bentz Street (the right side door of the brick building) taken in 1984. The house is still there now, but has been updated.


My father told me that Gilbert was often in trouble with the law. Looking at the Frederick newspaper, I have to agree. I found several articles about Gilbert being arrested for drunk and disorderly, disturbing the peace, assault and battery, and more. He was even arrested one time in 1928 for inviting a man to drink and buying liquor from a bootlegger.Liquor bottles


When I told my sister about this, she recalled a TV show called Boardwalk where the characters talked about cutting the bootleg liquor to make more money from it. Interestingly enough, a lot of crazy behavior in my dad’s family went on during Prohibition. She challenged me to research bootleg liquor during Prohibition which I did.

During Prohibition, bootleg liquor was cut with water and other things to make more money for the illegal producers. But it also had additives (courtesy of the federal government) like kerosene, gasoline, carbolic acid, acetone, mercury salts, and a variety of other poisons in an attempt to dissuade people from drinking it.

This didn’t dissuade much of anyone. But it did kill people, directly and indirectly, and made others act crazy, like Gilbert seemed to act. Plus the bootleg producers used yet more chemicals to counteract the effects of the additives which wasn’t always effective and added yet another set of problems.
skull and crossbones sign

In September 1929, Gilbert was arrested once again. According to The News, Gilbert caused a disturbance at the police station. He was ordered to serve 10 days in jail. At the jail, Gilbert ‘became increasingly disorderly, and finally broke a water pipe in his activities.’

Springfield Hospital by Forsaken Fotos something on flickr

Springfield Hospital, photo by Forsaken Fotos. Click on photo to see more photos by Forsaken Fotos.

He was sent to Montevue Hospital ‘where his disturbances continued. After breaking up his cot and otherwise damaging his room at the institution, he was declared to be out of his right mind’, and as a result was taken to Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville, Maryland for examination. Springfield was a mental hospital, as you can guess.

Six months later, on 25 March 1930, Gilbert became ill with a duodenal ulcer. Probably brought on by drinking all that poison-laced bootleg liquor. Six days later, on 31 March, Gilbert died from a peritoneal hemorrhage from the ulcer. He was 30 years old.

Gilbert’s funeral was held at his parents’ home at 321 N. Bentz Street. He is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland.

Please don’t follow this advice

AARP’s March 2016 Bulletin has an article entitled “20 Ways to Declutter Your Home” by Marni Jameson.  I agree with most of the suggestions, but I cannot support one of them in any way.

Tip 2 is about love letters. This is what it says: Keep them if they’re yours. But if they’re your parents’, they’re not really yours. They’re part of a romance between your parents, never meant for you. Burn them ceremonially and send the love back into the universe.

I am speechless. There isn’t even a suggestion to digitally save them before burning them like the author advises about photos and important papers.

1913 Nov 10 Dan to Florrie-3

The second part of this page and the first part of the next (below) gives a hint that my grandfather wanted to talk marriage with my grandmother.

I have the letters sent between my grandparents before they married, about 15 of them. Letters that my cousins and I cherish.

These letters give a glimpse of my grandparents’ lives at that time in history, and of their personalities, my grandfather being more stoic and my grandmother being more carefree.

1913 Nov 10 Dan to Florrie-4








They are a family treasure. They are part of our family’s history.


If you must discard old love letters, at least save them digitally first. Someone in the future will cherish them. Someone will read them and smile. Someone will be thankful you did.