Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hurricane Eloise, September 23, 1975

Hurricane Eloise, September 22
The recent news about the very destructive hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific this year have caused me to think about the one severe hurricane I was in.  Although it seems relatively small compared to the sizes of hurricanes nowadays, Hurricane Eloise was the most destructive of the 1975 Atlantic hurricane season, at least according to Wikipedia, and the name is on the retired list.  Today is the 43rd anniversary of it making landfall in Florida.

As with all hurricanes, you "watch" for the "warning."  This means that the hurricane watch comes first, when they start telling everyone in the area that you need to start making your preparations to leave in case the hurricane stays on its current path.  The hurricane warning is issued when the hurricane is actually expected to hit the area.

At the time of Eloise, my family lived in Villa Tasso, Florida, a small unincorporated community (maybe 200 people?) in Walton County, on the county line with Oklaoosa County.  Villa Tasso is right on the water, on Choctawhatchee Bay.  Being close to shore during a hurricane usually means more destruction due to storm surges.

When they issued the hurricane warning for Eloise, my parents decided we would not leave the area.  We did evacuate our home in Villa Tasso, which was two mobile homes connected together (because everyone knows that God hates mobile homes), but we went to stay in my father's garage in nearby Niceville (in Oklaoosa County), which was built of stone and had a very high probability of surviving the predicted storm.  It also was not as close to the water.

For three days my family of five (father, mother, brother, sister, and me) and my father's business partner were stuck in that building, with the business partner's two Doberman guard dogs locked in a room in the back.  The building was a great place to ride out the storm and took no damage.  My mother was talking on the phone during our stay and was zapped by lightning on the line.

When the rains finally let up, we drove back to Villa Tasso to see what had happened to our poor mobile homes.  Several trees on our property had been knocked down by the hurricane, but, amazingly, only one had actually hit a trailer.  Even at that, all it did was scrape the edge of the roof and land on the porch.  Our home had survived the storm!

After going through just one hurricane, I decided I didn't want to do that ever again, so when I graduated high school I chose to move back to the West Coast, where all we have to deal with is earthquakes!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Is Your Earliest Memory?

This is really cool.  Randy Seaver decided he liked one of my suggestions for a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun topic:

Here is your assignment, if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

What is your earliest memory?  How old were you, where did you live, who are the characters in your memory?

(2) Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your post.

Thank you to Janice Sellers for suggesting this topic.  If you have an idea for an SNGF topic, please let me know.

Part of the reason I suggested this topic is because of the very clear early memory I have.

As a child, for many years I had remembered taking a train trip from Los Angeles (really east Los Angeles County) to Las Vegas to visit my grandparents.  I remembered my mother and her sister being on the train, and clearly remembered throwing up and my mother being upset about the mess.  I didn't remember leaving Los Angeles or arriving in Las Vegas, just the part when I threw up, who was there, and where we were going.

I finally asked my mother about me throwing up on the train and whether she remembered it, and if so when it had happened.  She looked stunned and said I couldn't possibly remember that.  I added the details about us traveling to Vegas and Aunt Sam being with us.  My mother looked utterly flabbergasted.  She told me I was remembering it correctly, and that it had happened when I was only two and half years old.  She could not fathom that I remembered that trip.  I guess, in my mind, it was such a traumatic event to throw up on the train that the memory imprinted itself permanently in my brain.

At the time we were living in eastern Los Angeles County.  If I was 2 1/2, and my sister was already born, we were probably living in La Puente.  I can kind of picture the house in my mind, but I don't think we have any photographs of it.  It's the house where I remember seeing a swarm of bees when I was a little older.  Before La Puente we lived in Montebello, and after La Puente I think is when we moved to Pomona.

What I found interesting was what I didn't remember about the trip.  Apparently my brother (one year younger than I) and sister (two years younger) were also on the train with us, but I have no recollection of them being there.  In fact, now that I think about it, we were probably going to visit my grandparents so they could see the new baby.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Was the First Genealogical Society You Joined?

Randy Seaver is back with a new challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!):

What was the first genealogical society you joined?  Why did you join that one?  What other societies are you a member of?

(2) Share your response in a comment on this blog post, in your own blog post (and provide a link in a comment on this post), or on Facebook or Google+.

NOTE:  Thank you to Jacquie Schattner for suggesting this topic in 2016.

Well, the first genealogical society I joined was the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS).  I've been a member since 2005.  I've been researching my family history since 1975 and just did stuff on my own.

I really don't remember how I learned about SFBAJGS.  Maybe there was a flyer at the Oakland Family History Center, or I might have heard about a meeting being held at the Jewish Community Center in Berkeley.  I remember I attended meetings for about a year before I officially joined, which I did because at that time I was primarily focusing on researching my mother's side of the family, it was the local Jewish genealogical society, and I wanted to support it.

Over the years I took on responsibilities for the society to support it further.  I became the publicity director in 2008, which meant I became a board member at the same time.  I started handling the program scheduling in 2010.  Also in 2010, I took over as editor of ZichronNote, the society's quarterly journal.  Those are all things I continue to do.  From 2015–2017, I was also the vice president, a position I stepped down from when I moved to Oregon.  And I've presented talks to the society several times over the years.

I am currently a member of two additional societies — Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon (since 2017) and California Genealogical Society (since 2011) — and three professional organizations — Association of Professional Genealogists (since 2005), Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (since 2012), and Genealogical Speakers Guild (since 2011).  Past memberships include California State Genealogical Alliance (which closed down in 2016), Gesher Galicia, and African American Genealogical Society of Northern California.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Cornelius Elmer Sellers, November 7, 1874–September 14, 1918

Laura May (Armstrong) and Cornelius Elmer Sellers

Today, September 14, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the death of Cornelius Elmer Sellers, my great-grandfather.  None of his grandchildren knew him, because he died well before any of them was born.  This is some of the information I have learned about him through my research, none of which my family knew previously.

Elmer, as he was known, was born November 7, 1874 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Cornelius Godshalk Sellers and Catherine Fox Owen.  His father died when he was 3 years old, and his mother remarried in 1882 in Mount Holly, New Jersey, to George W. Moore.  The family appears to have stayed in the Mount Holly area from that point on.

Cornelius and Catherine Sellers had three children who died young, and George and Catherine Moore had at least two children, only one of whom survived to adulthood.  Elmer's surviving sibling was Howard Evans Moore.

On November 7, 1903, Elmer married Laura May Armstrong and accepted her 7-month-old son, my grandfather Bertram Lynn Armstrong, and raised him as his own.  They went on to have eight additional children I have documented, three of whom lived to become adults.

Elmer was in the New Jersey National Guard.  In 1905, he received a service medal for five years' service, which was reported in the Trenton Times of March 20.  After five years, he was still only a private.

Elmer registered for the World War I draft on September 2, 1918, only two days before he passed away.

Elmer's occupation was listed as plumber on his 1903 marriage record, farmer in the 1915 New Jersey state census, and ship builder on his 1918 draft registration, but I have been told that the family was always poor and never really had any money.  When Elmer died, however, the funeral home costs were more than $100.  It took me a while to figure out where the money had come from — Elmer's mother had paid for the expenses.  She outlived him by five years.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Grandparents Day 2018

So today is Grandparents Day here in the United States.  While cynics may believe it was created as a manufactured holiday designed to sell cards, I think it's a great excuse to post a photo of myself with all five of my grandchildren.  This is from June of this year, after a day-long visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Crazy Thing Did You Do?

I knew right away what I would write about for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music, please!), provided by Jacquie Schattner:

What was the craziest thing you did to get some genealogical information? 

(2) Write about your "crazy thing" in your own blog, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook.  Please leave a comment on this post with a link to your response.

Several years ago, I was scheduled to travel to Montreal for a work-related conference.  I knew that I was supposed to have many cousins in Ottawa, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to meet some of them, while I was "in the neighborhood."  I looked up bunches of names, addresses, and phone numbers and then tried to find out how far apart the two cities were and how long it might take to get to Ottawa (this was before the days of the ubiquitous Internet and Google Maps, so it wasn't as straightforward as it is now).  I spoke with my travel agent, who told me it would take several hours to travel to Ottawa from Montreal.  I figured I didn't have that much time in my schedule and decided not to pursue it.

When I arrived in Montreal, however, I learned that it was actually only about two hours by train or bus to go to Ottawa.  Two hours?!  I had to do it.  Because I had decided not to go before leaving on my trip, I had left all of my carefully researched names and contact information at home.  Scrambling around with what I remembered, I was able to find one phone number of a store that belonged to three brothers, who were among my cousins.  With that in hand, I bought a train ticket and headed off.

When I arrived at the train station in Ottawa, I found a pay phone (I said this was a while ago, okay?) and called the store number.  One of the brothers answered.  I told him my name, explained that we were related, and said that I had come to town to try to meet some of my cousins.  He gave me his home phone number and said to call his wife.  I called, got an answering machine, and left a message explaining who I was and that I was at the train station.

Rather than just stand around and wait, I called the store again.  This time I got a different brother.  I repeated my little story to him and mentioned that I had left a message for the first brother's wife.  He did almost the same thing his brother had:  gave me a number and suggested I call his cousin.  And I did the same thing:  got an answering machine and left an explanatory message.

Again, not wanting to just waste time waiting, I called the store again.  I actually got the third brother on the phone that time.  After hearing my story, instead of suggesting I call someone else, he handed the phone to another cousin, who was working there in the store.  That cousin and I then started the fun game of "okay, how are we related?"

We had been talking on the phone for about five minutes when a woman walked into the train station.  By this point, I was the only person still there, so she walked over to me and asked, "Hi, are you Janet?"  I said, "I'm Janice, not Janet."  She said she had gotten a message on her answering machine from a possible cousin who was at the train station, and I said, "That's me!"  I gave her a quick run-down on the activity that had led up to that moment.  Debbie got on the phone with the cousin at the store (who had been politely holding on), told him that she was at the train station with me, and said she would be taking me around town.

She dropped everything she had been planning on doing that day and drove me all around Ottawa to meet cousins.  I learned that her family (my family!) had the only glatt kosher bakeries in Ottawa, started by her grandmother and her children when they immigrated to Canada from Europe.  We went to both stores (and I was sent back with tasty bialys and bagels).  I met many, many cousins, who were thrilled to meet me and learn how we were related.  One cousin let me make copies of photographs.  The most important one was of a December 1924 wedding in New York City that had my great-great-grandfather, my great-grandparents, and my grandmother in it, along with many other relatives.

It so happened that Debbie was the only person in this branch of the family who was interested in genealogy.  She had actually created a two-page questionnaire (on long Canadian-sized paper) for family members to fill out, and had received them back from almost everyone.  She made copies of all of them for me!

The final adventure of the day came when it was time for me to return to Montreal.  I had thought the return train was leaving at 7:00, but I hadn't realized the time was noted by the 24-hour clock, so it had actually been at 5:00 (1700), and I missed it!  Luckily, we were able to find a bus I could catch instead, and I was able to get a refund for the half of the train ticket I hadn't used.