Mabel In the Market: The Search for the 1920’s Doughnut Shop {Part 2}

I’ve never played hide and seek with a city or a ghost before. But that’s exactly what I did with Mabel in Seattle. I was on a mission to find my great-grandmother’s doughnut shop, which according to family lore, was located in Pike Place Market sometime between the years of 1922 and 1940.

Mabel in 1907; Pike Place Market sign in 2017

If this were a movie, I’d find her by doughnut crumb trail.  I’d hop off the plane with weeks of research in hand, pop over to the market and seek out the very spot where Mabel,  my school teacher-trained, Iowa native, Seattle transplant great-grandmother would have rolled out daily stacks of doughnuts during the early 20th century.

I’d scurry through market hallways and stallways…

Pike Place Market Stairs

passing sign after sign…

until I reached my moment of satisfaction. The final destination…

… actual proof, at long-last,  that my Mabel’s place of productivity was here and that her baking legacy survived in these doughnuts still being prepared and displayed in the same way she would have made them 100 years ago…

But this is not a movie and the trail of this baking mystery did not roll out so smoothly. I did go to Seattle and I did go to the market. And I did discover Mabel. Just not exactly the way I thought I would.

As it turns out Mabel just might be the biggest fan of hide and seek I’ve ever known.  She popped in and out of this whole adventure playing her game of come find me in the most superlative of ways.

Before I left for Seattle I had trouble locating any supporting documents that would pin Mabel down in the market. I searched for weeks, trying all sorts of different avenues leading from Seattle to Iowa and back to Seattle again, hoping for a picture, a newspaper article, a copy of a market receipt, a letter home to her family… any small detail that would mention a doughnut or a day stall.   I came up empty handed on all fronts except for a picture I found of her sister Katie with whom Mabel was close…

Hello to Katie!

Taken around 1900, this was a great new addition to the family photo collection. We don’t have any pictures of Mabel’s seven sisters taken while they were young. Katie has no connection to Seattle or to the market that I know of yet but it was encouraging, a good luck sign, perhaps to see the sisterly face of someone who was so important and so close to Mabel.

Back to the market mission,  I was hoping that research helpers at pikeplacemarket.org would be more successful combing their city directories and market archives. They too tried all possible avenues on their end. Had there been a shop name or a specific date things would have been, could have been easier.  Working on it up until the eleventh hour we were communicating back and forth about potential scenarios and information but valid, concrete documentation would elude us both in the end. Mentions of Mabel in the market were nowhere to be found.

It wasn’t all disappointment at this stage though. Mabel came through in another way. A better way actually then documents and even doughnuts. She came to me in the form of dishes…

Dating to early 1900, this is Mabel’s antique flow blue china made by W.H. Grindley in the Portman pattern which had been stacked away, unbeknownst to me, in my sister’s house for years.  How exciting! Dishes that Mabel actually touched in her daily life and that survived her 1,800 mile journey from Iowa to Washington. I could just imagine one of her lovely little doughnuts sitting on this plate. Like her sister’s portrait this was a more delicate and intimate side of Mabel then I ever hoped for. A tangible piece of history and a part of her that I could carry with me back home.

Even though there was no factual info to be had about Mabel’s market days my sisters and I  headed to Pike Place anyway to see if some visual clues might strike us.

We saw fish and flowers, pigs and produce, wall murals and a great busker band. We even saw a real-life Hobart, an invention we blogged about back in May. ( I think I was the only one standing in line at this vendor that was more excited about seeing the mixer then the menu offerings).

But there were no signs of Mabel.  We commiserated over grilled cheese sandwiches and doughnuts on the wharf and talked over the possibility that perhaps Mabel just worked at a doughnut shop instead of owned one. Maybe the family story got muddled and misdirected over time. Maybe Mabel was a cog in the wheel instead of the actual wheel.

We left the farmers market feeling satisfied with food but not with family history. The search continued. Questions were still unanswered.

Further investigations led us out to the suburbs where Mabel popped up again. This time in the form of a house with a big garden yard – the place where she lived for a time in the 1950’s.  And we saw her again in two churches that were built by her only child Philip, just outside of Seattle…

Those three places didn’t provide any new clues but they did suggest a new possibility. What if Mabel made so many doughnuts at the market and on such a large scale that she never wanted to look or think or talk about another doughnut again? What if, when she moved out to the suburbs in 1940, she was done with doughnuts completely? What if that is the reason the family stories never stretched farther than the market mention?

On the last day of my trip, after I made peace with the fact that I would not discover any new information about this family story for the immediate time being,  Mabel sent out a consolation prize.  While doing a little antique shopping, my sister found an old cookbook from 1902 with a woman who looked a little like Mabel on the cover…

Flipping through it look what recipe I found on page 256…

Iowa doughnuts! A recipe from Mabel’s home state nestled in with a whopping 13 other recipes for the willing doughnut maker.  What are the chances of finding such a time appropriate cookbook with such a specific and applicable recipe?  To make this find even more Mabel-fied the inside cover of the cookbook was stamped with the name and address of the previous owner. And guess, dear readers, where that previous owner lived?

The small town where Mabel had her big garden yard and where her son built two churches!

What, really, are the chances of that? Seattle is a big city and the suburbs are dense and bubbling places. The antique shop where we found the cookbook was far from the town where Mabel lived and where her son built the churches. Not every state in the cookbook got its own doughnut recipe (only Iowa and Nebraska). And after almost fifteen years of antique collecting I’ve never come across this specific cookbook before. All signs pointed to Mabel and the magically meant to be.

So even though I didn’t exactly find out all the information I was looking for heading into this trip, I feel like I got to know Mabel so much more than just being able to reiterate some facts and dates. I touched (and took home!) dishes that she herself touched.  I saw the first-time face of her sister.  I saw the house of her senior years and I stood before two big buildings that her son built. And the icing on the doughnut is the found cookbook; owned by a person who lived in the same town as her; and that contains an obscure recipe from her home state for a sweet treat that eventually bore her business. That’s a tidy little package.

The hunt for her market days info is far from over and this story doesn’t yet come full circle but it does come full-spirit. When we eventually solve this mystery of Mabel in the market there might just be a movie style ending. Stay tuned for new updates as the research continues. In the meantime if you missed Part One of this post catch up here.

Cheers to all the “spirited” storytellers out there.

Mabel in the Market: The Search for a 1920s Doughnut Shop

Somewhere between the 1920’s and the 1930’s my great-grandmother Mabel had a doughnut shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This has been family lore for generations but like other interesting tidbits that lurk around the ancestry closet… a New York City Rockette, an indentured servant, a lost family fortune… there isn’t a lot of information or validation to support this entrepreneurial endeavor. But in a couple of weeks I hope to change all that.

Mabel grew up in Iowa, the youngest child of an 11 member family.  She trained to be a teacher in the rural country schools surrounding her hometown…

Mabel, aged 18 pictured in her teacher’s attire about 1905

But once she met and eventually married William Earle she gave up the teaching profession all together.

Mabel’s Wedding Portrait taken in November 1907, and a photograph of William Earle, unknown date

Earl, as she called him, was a salesman for the National Biscuit Company but he suffered from some sort of health issue that was bothered by the heat of the Iowa summers. So a few years following the birth of their only child, Phillip, they packed up and headed west in a 1917 Model T Ford towards the cool climate of Seattle.

All three of them – Mabel, Earle and Phillip, plus their belongings traveled half the width of the U.S. (over 1800 miles) in this car – the  1917 Model T Ford.

This was 1922 and my grandfather Phillip remembers sitting in the back of the Model T on top of bed rolls and tents, squished between pots and pans and spare tires. It took them 8 weeks to get to Seattle where they eventually settled into the Capitol Hill neighborhood overlooking downtown. William Earle went to work as a foreman at a biscuit cookie factory.  Presumably this would be the time period that Mabel also went to work – in her doughnut shop in the bustling big city market. By 1940 Mabel and Earle would say goodbye to the city sweet treat businesses of factory and farm market to take on country life once again in a move out to the far suburbs to pursue dairy farming. That put an end to the doughnuts at least in the professional sense.

Mabel’s poem to her granddaughter on her 5th birthday written in 1947.

Mabel was a very creative lady – a clever writer, a sketch artist and a baker. We have a few of her recipes in the family cookbooks but no mention of any prized doughnuts and no mention of any experiences running a business at Pike Place Market, which makes for an interesting little mystery.

Depression era photo of Pike Place Market chicken vendors. Photo courtesy of pauldorpat.com and the Seattle Public Library.

 

What must have it been like to be a  female entrepreneur in the early decades of the 20th century? Especially as a newcomer in a much bigger, more metropolitan city and with no professional experience to bolster her confidence? How did a country school teacher become a city doughnut maker? What made her start and ultimately what made her stop? Did she do it by herself or have a partner? How big was her space? What did it look like? What were her hours and how many doughnuts did she make in a day? And maybe most importantly, why doughnuts?!

Pike Place Market first opened in 1907 and quickly became a cross-cultural beehive of people and products offering everything from fresh fish to flowers, art to textiles and practically everything inbetween.  You can feel the excitement in this 1914 ad from the Seattle Star as the market gained momentum…

Advertisement from The Seattle Star April 17, 1914. Photo courtesy of

By the 1930’s, when Mabel was making doughnuts, the market was bursting and bustling with success and sales. There was a sizzle in the air of possibility and potential that must have felt catching and all-consuming. When I head out to Seattle in the middle of June I hope to answer all the questions raised about Mabel and her doughnut endeavor. I hope to be able to walk in her shoes for a time and learn more about what must have been one of the most interesting and intriguing periods of her life. Perhaps a doughnut recipe or two will even be discovered!

Stay tuned for more on this front as I report directly from the Market mid-month. In the meantime, cheers to mysterious Mabel and her doughnuts. Happy National Doughnut Day!

History Hitting Home: Franklin and the Four Faces

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Clockwise from top left: Fountain Branch Carter, his wife Polly Carter, Albert Thornton Edwards, Albert’s wife Martha Jane Brewer

In late November of 1864 bullet holes riddled the house of Fountain Branch Carter and his wife Polly. The shots were fired by thousands of men in a little known but significantly bloody battle that took place in Franklin, Tennessee during one of the final fights of the American Civil War.

One of the men on the firing side was Albert Thornton Edwards, Ms. Jeannie’s great great grandfather. At the time of this battle he was a young Union soldier of 24, serving in the Ohio cavalry.

The Confederate army was on their way to Nashville to recapture their state capitol. The Union Army was coming up from Atlanta to stop them from capturing the city. The small rural town of Franklin, and the plantation of Fountain Branch and Polly Carter happened to be on the way and consequently in the way.

Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

The Carter House – home of Fountain Branch and Mary Armistead Atkinson “Polly” Carter. Photo courtesy of franklintrust.org

It was early morning on November 30th, 1864 when Union General Jacob Cox  knocked on the front door of Fountain Branch’s house, walked in and declared his intentions to set up headquarters. He told Fountain Branch that he and his family were free to go about the house as they liked and continue their usual activities of the day. He then laid down to take a nap in the front parlour while his aides shuffled in setting up field camp materials in the two front rooms of the house.

Union General John Jacob Cox

Union General John Jacob Cox

No one expected that a battle would take place that day in the backyard of this pretty plantation. Not General Jacob Cox, not Fountain Branch Carter and certainly not any of the residents of the peaceful town of Franklin. But of course, war has a way of surprising everyone.

By nightfall, Union soldiers would attack the Confederate soldiers and the Confederates would fight back. Within a five hour time time span from mid-day to sundown over 10,000 casualties would be sustained and 3,000 soldiers, both Union and Confederate, would lose their lives right there in the yard including one son of Fountain Branch and Polly.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

Backyard of the Carter House where most of the fighting took place. Photo via pinterest.

When bullets were blazing fast and furious Fountain Branch took his family, house servants and some neighbors down to the basement where they waited out the warring in a dark, cold room made of brick and stone. On the outside, in the yard, Albert fought his battles for the Union cause on horseback, a select skill that took so much training the military almost deemed it pointless for the amount of  time it consumed and experience it required. As night crept across the sky it became harder and harder for  the soldiers to see who and what they were shooting at. Mayhem set in and men fell on both sides. Some piled two or three bodies high all around the plantation.

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Ms. Jeannie toured the Carter House last week unaware of the fact at the time that Albert had participated in the fighting there. Her sympathies that day definitely lay with the Carter family and the horrific hours they had to endure as the war raged all around their home. She was especially struck by the haphazard splattering of bullet holes still evident in the clapboard on the back porch.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

Bullets holes in the walls of the back porch. Photo via pinterest.

It wasn’t until Ms. Jeannie was back at home herself going through the service records of Albert (one of her only ancestors to fight in the Civil War) that she discovered his involvement there at the Carter House. One of those back porch bullet holes could have come from Albert.

It is startling to know that an ancestor witnessed such a tragic day but even more so knowing that he actually played a hand in making it tragic.  Of course Albert was just doing his job – trying to be a  good soldier two years into fighting a war he believed in. But there he was nonetheless, shooting at a house with innocent people inside.  In looking back on that event and these two men of history who faced each other on opposites sides, Ms. Jeannie couldn’t help but think how similar they really were.

Fountain Branch and Polly were long-time loves, married for almost 30 years and had 10 children between them. Albert following the Battle of Franklin would muster out of the military 8 months later and head home to Ohio so he could marry his bride Martha and move west via covered wagon to Iowa. Albert and Martha would go on to have 11 kids and celebrate 56 years of marriage. Neither spouse in either family remarried after their significant other passed away. Both families knew the loss of young children, both were farmers, both revered citizens in their communities and both of course survived the horrors of the Battle of Franklin. Albert sustained eye injuries somewhere between Franklin and Nashville which he carried with him for the rest of his life. Fountain Branch lost his 24 year old son Tod in Franklin who had insisted on joining the fight that day to defend both his family’s land and the ideals of the Confederacy.

The one main difference of these two men living in 19th century America was their philosophies on equality for all people. While Ms. Jeannie isn’t excited that Albert could have potentially destroyed someone’s home and family she is proud that her great great grandfather was fighting for the very freedoms that she enjoys today, 150 years later. She’s also thankful that the Carter House has survived all these years so that she can see first-hand her family’s impression on history and walk in the footsteps of a man who lived four generations before her.

Read more stories about Albert and Martha here, here and here including pictures of Albert’s civil war inkwell and Martha’s honeymoon quilt handmade on her wagon trip west just after she was married. Read more about the Carter House and the Battle of Franklin here.

If you have any surprising stories in your family history, please share them in the comments section. You just never know what we might discover!

 

It’s All In the Initials: Sewing Advances at the Fair

One hundred and twenty years ago, in the summer of 1893, newspapers across the country were reporting on a grand spectacle of an event taking place in a big city. That big city was Chicago and the event was the Columbian Exposition also known as the World’s Fair.

Silk Handkerchief Souvenir from the World's Fair Chicago 1893

Silk Handkerchief Souvenir from the World’s Fair Chicago 1893

For six months, from May – October, the reception gates welcomed visitors to the downtown Chicago lakefront staging area that was a marvel in size, scale and execution.

Aerial view of the Chicago World's Fair. Photo via pinterest.

Aerial view of the Chicago World’s Fair. Photo via pinterest.

A staggering 25% of Americans attended the Fair in those six months, and Ms. Jeannie is excited to report that one such visitor was her great great grandmother, Martha.

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Martha traveled from Iowa to Illinois, armed with a summer’s worth of knowledge about the Fair thanks to the frequent reporting of her local newspaper, the Vinton Eagle who kept it’s readers up to date on all aspects of the Exposition from logistics to exhibits, history to happenings.

In illustrated glory, all the details of the World's Fair as reported by The Vinton Eagle in a July 1893  edition

In illustrated glory, all the details of the World’s Fair as reported by The Vinton Eagle in a July 1893 paper

That year, the Fair commemorated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America and celebrated the latest advances in industry and technology occuring throughout the world.  It was an exciting place to be, not only as an eyewitness to progress, but also for all the hope and possibility that hung in the air as our nation quickly approached the dawning of a new century.

Opening day of the Chicago World's Fair. Photo via pinterest.

Opening day of the Chicago World’s Fair, May 1893. Photo via pinterest.

No doubt, Martha was caught up in the fever and wonder of such marvelous new sights like the first Ferris wheel, the first automatic dishwasher, the introduction of food novelties like gum and ready made pancake mix and the debut of the zipper.

Also in the sewing category came a new piece of machinery, which drew delight to many attendees, especially among the ladies, Martha included. Debuting at the fair was the first on-site embroidery machine that could embroider names and initials on fabric while you waited.

The Palace of Mechanical Arts was where most of the textile exhibits were located. Photo via pinterest

The Palace of Mechanical Arts was where most of the textile exhibits were located. Photo via pinterest

Martha was so enamored with this “instant gratification” concept that she purchased a colorful souvenir handkerchief…

A silk handkerchief momento

A silk handkerchief momento depicting the layout of the entire Exhibition.

And had her name embroidered in the corner…

M. J. Edwards

M. J. Edwards

If you look closely, you’ll notice there is no “s” on the end of Edwards – whether that was accidental or limited due to a specific amount of allowable letters, Ms. Jeannie will never actually know. But she loves that this handkerchief carries a personal touch of her great great grandmother at an event that was so creative and inspiring.

The handkerchief itself is in wonderful condition.  The silk fabric so delicate yet bright with its vivid colors and detailed drawing of the fairgrounds.  The embroidery looks like it was sewn yesterday, instead of over a century ago.  Ms. Jeannie wonders if Martha ever wore it or used it in any way or if it remained stored away as a special reminder of a special trip.

Martha was a sewer herself, so maybe she just appreciated the fact that a machine could now produce something as equally lovely and delicate as initials without having to do it by hand.

At the time of the Fair, Martha was 47 years old, she had been married for 29 years, and had birthed 11 babies. Waiting for her back at home in Iowa, in addition to her own kids  (the youngest which was aged six)  were 10 grandchildren all under the age of 7.

Ms. Jeannie bets that Martha saw her fair share of mending projects involved with that large brood! It’s no wonder that she amazed by this speedy embroidery machine. Imagine how fast all those sewing projects would go if she had one of these machines of her very own!

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So maybe this handkerchief represents a time-saving industrial novelty, or maybe it represents a fun travel adventure or perhaps just a stunning flight of fancy from one sewer to another… either way, Ms. Jeannie is thrilled that it has stayed in her family and survived intact for 120 years.  That’s a true marvel in keeping with the theme of the World’s Fair itself!

August 20th – The {annual} Day of Doughnuts

August 20th is a special day in the Ology household.  It’s a food holiday tradition of sorts – on par with other such food holidays like Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day. Ms. Jeannie’s holiday is called The Day of Doughnuts – in honor of her grandfather Herbert, who was born on August 20th, 1908.

You may remember Herbert, or Herbie, as Ms. Jeannie sometimes liked to call him, from a previous post about the long line of Chicago firemen in Ms. Jeannie’s family.  Here’s a picture of him to refresh your memory…

Grandpa Herbert holding Ms. Jeannie's dad.

Grandpa Herbert holding Ms. Jeannie’s dad.

Of German – American descent, Herbert loved lots of foods, particularly ones that were part of his heritage: beer, sauerkraut, bratwurst. But if Ms. Jeannie had to pick one food that was most synonymous with him – it would be the doughnut. Grandpa Herb adored them. So much so, in fact,  he’d enjoy one almost  every morning with his coffee and his crossword puzzle.  He liked them in all their vast variety from the simple round old-fashioned rings  to their fancier counterparts – the crullers and the danishes.

Doughnut Wall Art by DianaPappas

Doughnut Wall Art by DianaPappas (click for more info)

Technically, fried dough has been around for centuries in many different cultures,  but the round “traditional doughnut shape” and size is wholly American.  The writer, Washington Irving, was the first person to refer to the word “doughnut” in his writing’s in the early 1800’s, where he noted ‘flour dough balls mixed with sugar and fried in hog lard.’ Sound tasty?! !

Vintage Washington Irving portrait from dogsbodysalvage (click for more info)

Vintage Washington Irving portrait from dogsbodysalvage (click for more info)

According to Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather, a cup of strong, black coffee and a doughnut was the perfect way to begin the day. While he ate his breakfast, he’d work a crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper.  When half of the squares were filled in, he’d set the puzzle aside and go about his daily activities.  In the late afternoon, he would carry a fresh cup of coffee out to the sun porch, along with a cigar, and while he smoked, he would complete the rest of the puzzle.

In Ms. Jeannie's shop! A view of the crossword section of an original  1969 Virginian Pilot newspaper.

A view of the crossword section of an original 1969 Virginian Pilot newspaper from Ms. Jeannie’s shop. (click for more info)

Ms. Jeannie once asked him why he never worked the whole puzzle all at once and he said it was because it gave him something to look forward to every afternoon.  That was Grandpa Herbert in a nutshell. Delighting in the simplest of activities in the simplest of ways.

If Ms. Jeannie was lucky on those porch days,  and the crossword was an easy one,  Grandpa Herbert would sit back with his coffee and his cigar, in the shade of the giant hibiscus bush, and tell her stories about life in the firehouse.

Herbert with his fire company Engine 33 - Chicago, 1940's

Herbert with his fire company Engine 33 – Chicago, 1940’s

Her favorite stories were always the ones where he rescued pets and babies. He had this one story in-particular about a residential building fire and a woman hysterical, down on the street, because her baby was in the apartment. Up went Herbert into the flames, listening for a crying voice.  He broke down the apartment door to discover a giant dog in the room. The fire was too hot and the flames too high to go back down the stairs, so he wrangled the dog up in his arms and out they went through a window and down the ladder.  The “baby” made it to safety! Ms. Jeannie cheered every time!

Perhaps,  because Grandpa Herbert had seen so many life and death situations ignite and extinguish for so many years, he felt humbled and satisfied just to be alive. He had a beautiful wife, a smart and driven son, grandchildren who always couldn’t wait to see him, a tidy little house in Florida,  a car, friends, impeccable health clear into his 80’s (even with the doughnut diet!), a great sense of humor and a smile that always quick to appear.   “What do I have to complain about?” he’d often say.

So on the annual Day of Doughnuts, black coffee and breakfast treats are always served. It’s a simple no-fuss homage to a simple no-fuss man who made it a point to always look for and appreciate the small little joys in life.  May we all be equally as aware! Happy Day of Doughnuts dear readers!

The traditional Day of the Doughnuts - August 20th.
Marking the Day of Doughnuts – August 20th, 2013

Storytime (and a Challenge!) with Ms. Jeannie: How Old Photographs Can Spark The Imagination!

When Ms. Jeannie first started doing her genealogy research, the holy grail of success for her was finding the faces of her ancestors. She worked close to a year before she uncovered any. Ironically, that first photo that opened up the pictorial floodgates, was right under her nose… in an album Ms. Jeannie’s mom had forgotten about in the back of a closet!

The day Ms. Jeannie looked at the face of her great great grandmother Martha, for the first time, she was so overcome with emotion, she cried!

The first picture of great great grandmother Martha

The first picture of great great grandmother Martha (on right)

Silly but true. Ms. Jeannie is not really the weepy kind, after all. Anyway, she just got caught up in the moment.  All those months of researching Martha’s  life  – her 11 kids, her journey in covered wagon from Indiana to Ohio to Iowa, her husband’s military service in the Civil War, her farm life in Iowa… all those details rolling around Ms. Jeannie’s head for all that time. And then suddenly – there was Martha!  There was the shape of her face, the evidence of glasses, the style of her hair.

Since then, through help from online forums like ancestry.com and genealogy.com and the kindness of sharers, Ms, Jeannie has found handfuls of family photos. Her family.  Spread out over many trees, many lines and many countries. These are some of the more recent finds…

Great Grand Aunt Anna's house in Iowa

Great Grand Aunt Anna’s house in Iowa

Great Great Grandfather Albert

Great Great Grandfather Albert

Fourth Great Grandparents Maria & Garret

Fourth Great Grandparents Maria & Garret

Great Grand Uncle J. William

Great Grand Uncle J. William

Grand Aunt Leona

Grand Aunt Leona

Great Grandmother Juna and her sister Hannah

Great Grandmother Juna and her sister Hannah

Had she never done the research, Ms. Jeannie would never have known what any of these people looked like. With the exception of great grandmother Juna, these were all brand-new faces of family.

Ms. Jeannie likes to look at these pictures and think about the context in which they were taken. What was great Aunt Leona thinking about? Why were Juna and Hannah wearing paper dresses? What was the pin on the lapel of J. William? Noticing small details like this paints a vivid picture for the imagination!

In the same vain, whenever Ms. Jeannie comes across old photographs for sale, she can’t help but do the  same exact thing – she thinks about the back story surrounding each image.  She has several examples of this in her Etsy shop… let’s take a look…(click on any of the pictures for more information about each photograph)

On first glance, you might just see a picture of a girl on a bench…

Ms. Jeannie named her Nina!

Ms. Jeannie named her Nina!

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But crawl inside Ms. Jeannie’s head and she’ll tell you this story…

“Nina waited patiently for Spring. Well, technically, she was waiting for summer – but you had to get through spring in order to get to summer, so she had to dream in order. This summer, she’d be done. Done with high school. Done with wearing plaid skirt uniforms and done, done, done with all that homework, thank goodness. Sure, she was going onto college in the Fall, but that would be different. There would be boys, and classes she wanted to take and parents that she only had to see on breaks. At college, her preferences for life would bloom and Nina couldn’t wait for that. She’d study literature and she’d become a writer and her very first piece would be about the suffocation of long skirts and loafers.”

Here, you see two bathing beauties…

1940s Swim Photographs

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And Ms. Jeannie sees Rose and Evelyn…

“Rose and Evelyn stayed in their swimsuits the whole entire vacation. And who could blame them? With that ocean stretching out behind them and the infinity pool disappearing in front – it was all they needed. This was the vacation where Evelyn perfected her dive, and where Rose realized that she was now technically old enough to flirt with boys without looking ridiculous. It was an ego-booster for both of them, this vacation.”

This one is a school scene from the 1920’s…

microscope

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Sometimes, Ms. Jeannie sees many stories in one scene. Such is the case, with this one! Here is all she imagined…

“There’s the obvious one, of course, about how smiling Dorothy is in love with Gilbert and absolutely thrilled that her crush of the past two years is now sharing elbow space with her. 

There’s the story about lively Pauline (in the forefront) and how she talked her way into getting the traveling photographer to stop by her Biology 101 class. “You’ll want to document the budding scientific genius occurring in room 9, sir. I guarantee you that.” 

There’s the story of Mr. Whipple, first year science teacher, who doggedly fought the school board for months over the right to buy 37 microscopes so that each student in his class (not just the boys) would have use of their own scientific study instruments. 

Then there is the story of three friends, who spent all summer in the science lab researching why the bullfrogs in Tillman Pond were genetically bigger then the bullfrogs in every other pond in town. 

And let’s not forget about humble Pauline who was the first girl, in the state of Texas, to win first place in the national science fair, which yielded not only a cash prize for her, but new textbooks and supplies for her school. 

Oh, Ms. Jeannie could practically write a novel with all the situations going on here! Now it’s your turn to look close and see what stories you see…”

This one is a miniature portrait…

marion

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Ms. Jeannie called her Marion and wrote about her neighbor, Arnie (short for Arnold)…

“Marion’s got a suitor in her neighbor, Arnie, across the street. Well, technically he’s not really her suitor yet – but one of these days she’s going to fall head over heels for him. He just knows it. In the meantime, he does his best, on a daily basis, to try to impress her – nothing’s really gone gangbusters so far. Most of the time she stands there, with her arms crossed and that same as ever are you kidding me expression. But Arnie’s of a hopeful mindset…one day, she’ll see it.”

Ms. Jeannie got a little help from the inscription on this photo postcard…

bobbie

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This is what she thought was going on inside Bobbie’s world…

“Oh that Bobbie – she’s quite a clever kidder, calling her beau a schnook like that. She hopes this subtle Merry Christmas postcard tactic is all that she will need to make handsome Dean realize that she is quite over the moon for him. It’s only taken her the whole semester to get her nerve up – but what the heck does she have to lose now? It’s Christmastime and she’s feeling hopeful. She’ll just slide it under Dean’s dorm room door before she heads home for the holiday. Let him stew on that during winter break!”

Of course, all these photographs are open to interpretation,. You may see something totally different in the bathing beauties or in Bobbie’s cheering stance,  but that is sort of the fun of these old photographs. Don’t you think?

Following this train of thought, Ms. Jeannie came up with a fun little challenge for all of you dear readers!

Here it is..

What is this scene all about?

What is this scene all about?

Now it is your turn to come up with the back story about this picture above!  Write your own quick little story snippet about this photograph and email it to msjeannieology[at]yahoo.com

It doesn’t have to be long… just a few sentences is great.  The most creative entry, as determined by Mr. Jeannie Ology (for fairness, of course) will win the picture! The challenge will be open for one week so be sure to get your entries in by midnight on Tuesday, February 26th. Winner will be announced via blog post, and also email, on Wednesday, February 27th.

Lucky for you – there’s a little extra help with this challenge! On the back of the photo, written in pencil, it says…

“Grace & Me. I have on Grace’s hat and she has mine on.” 

Here’s a few more close-up views of the photograph. In case you want to know the size – it measures 2.5″ inches x 3.5″ inches.

hat2

hat3

hat4

hat5

Good luck and happy imagining!!!

A Family of Firemen and the Women They Loved

Last week found Ms. Jeannie, unexpectedly, in sunny Florida, helping her father who had fallen and hit his head. It was a scary week involving the Intensive Care Unit, doctors and specialists, prescriptions and timetables and making what felt like a million pots of soup.

In the midst of all the bad, Ms. Jeannie searched for the good. Happily, she found it staring right in front of  her on the walls of her dad’s house….

Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather, Herbert (second from left) and his pals

Family photos she had yet to record in her family history information!

Herbert (pictured above – with the curly hair)  is Ms. Jeannie’s grandfather. He was a firemen in Chicago for over 40 years. His father Joseph, was also a fireman in Chicago, as well as Joseph’s father,  Jacob, who immigrated from Germany.

Herbert and his dad, Joesph

Joseph first became a fireman in the mid-1910’s.  He was an engineer with Engine Number 24 in Chicago.  Here’s a picture of Joseph, in his uniform alongside his wife, Mary. Mary was also from Chicago – not too much is known about her yet (more research to do!).

Mary and Joseph in Chicago

Joseph with his engine company in Chicago. Joseph is in the top row – second from the right. You can just make out the fire truck behind them.

Mary and Joseph had two boys: Herbert & Charles, but Charles died when he was a baby. Joseph eventually found his way to the Army Air Force base in Sarasota in the early 1940’s where he was fire chief.  This is a picture of him with Ms. Jeannie’s dad. She just loves this photo!

Joseph in Sarasota, FL with his grandson.

Tragically, Joseph died after being run over by a cement truck. He was 67 years old. Mary died 20 years later. It must have been hard.

Joseph’s son, Herbert married Cecylia Lucille, whom everyone called Lucy. They were married in 1933 in Chicago.

Herbert and Lucy on their wedding day in 1933

Lucy was born in Buffalo, New York  to parents, Jozef and Jozefa,  who immigrated from the province of Posen in Germany.

Jozef and Jozefa on their wedding day in 1902 in Buffalo.

Jozef was a tailor in Buffalo throughout his life. Together, he and Jozefa had eight children. Four years after the last one was born, Jozefa died from burns sustained when her clothes caught on fire in the kitchen. Jozef wrapped her in a blanket to extinguish the flames but the burns covered over 80% of her body.

Unprepared to raise 8 children on his own and overcome with grief, Jozef had to place his children in the Catholic orphanage in Buffalo. Family members eventually collected all the children again, but most of the 8 grew up at the orphanage – Lucy included. She was 18 when she left there.

This is a picture of Lucy’s first Holy Communion, which must have been taken just about a year before her mother’s death.

Lucy photographed on her First Holy Communion.

Although Herbert was not yet a fireman, when he and Lucy married, Ms. Jeannie thinks it must have been reassuring for Lucy in some way when he became one.  For all the sadness that surrounded Lucy’s childhood, happiness in her adult life with Herbert really made up for it. They were great loves and had a lot of fun together.

Herbert and Lucy

Herbert in his fire uniform.

Lucy was always a very stylish dresser. Ms. Jeannie wishes she inherited her lovely wavy hair. Herbert’s curly genes seemed to be more prevalent though!

Herbert at the the firehouse – Engine 33 in Chicago. Herbert is in the top row, second from right.

In addition to being a fireman, Herbert was also the firehouse cook. Boy could he make a mean bowl of chili! He was great at making big pots of things – but Ms. Jeannie guesses after 40 years of cooking for a company full of firemen, it must be hard to scale down!

Lucy and Herbert

Lucy died when Ms. Jeannie was just a baby so she she doesn’t really remember her, but Grandpa Herbert remains strong and lovable in her memory. He was a marvelous grandfather, full of fun and kindness. He was forever bringing little treats and presents to Ms. Jeannie and her sister. And he told wonderful, exciting stories about life at the firehouse.

He also loved to sing and tell jokes, believed in playing the lottery every week, had a fondness for doughnuts with coffee, and a cigar in the afternoon. He loved crossword puzzles and baseball games. He loved all types of affection and he loved to dance. He taught Ms. Jeannie how to be a card shark when it came to poker, how to love unconditionally and how being pleasant, good-natured and grateful was far nicer then being opinionated and troublesome. Everything about him was just lovely.

Herbert died in his mid 80’s of cancer, having never been sick in his entire life. In his final months,  he gave many of his old family photos to one of the nurses aides that watched over him, simply because she expressed an interest in antique photographs. That was his way, always giving, so we can’t fault him for his generosity,  although this has left Ms. Jeannie with quite a challenging genealogy project on her hands. She thinks one day, that the photos Herbert gave away, will eventually find their way back to the family.  “When the time is right,” as Herbert would’ve said.

In the meantime, Ms. Jeannie likes to keep her eye out for firehouse-related antiques. Etsy has quite a few amazing finds like the ones listed below… maybe one day she’ll find something from Herbert’s or Joseph’s fire companies. Wouldn’t that be spectacular?! (click on each image for more info) 

Antique Fire Hose from 86home

Antique Fire Station Bell Control Box Top from OhioPicker

Antique Brass Fire Extinguisher

Antique Waterbury Fire Department Buttons from stbthreadworks

Antique Booklet – The Great Chicago Fire from MsHuggerNeck

Vintage NY Fire Dept. Collapsible Bucket from LathandPlaster

Antique Fire Chief Insignia

Vintage Fire Hose Nozzle from CopperandTin

Antique Fire Prints from SurrenderDorothy

Antique Icebox from the Willimatic Fire Co. from wearesellingit

Antique Brass Fireman’s Tool from 40thStVarietyStore

Vintage Emergency Telephone Call Box from MoonMayfairVintage

Antique Tintype of Two Firemen from diabolus

Pair of Firemen’s Hooks from 21GristMillLane

Vintage Fire Alarm from LunchLadyVintage

Antique Toy Fire Truck from ChompMonster

Journey of a Norwegian American Family: An Adventure in Research

For a time, when Ms.Jeannie was small, she thought she was Asian.

She recalls a story, her mother was telling at the dining room table one night about her great grandparents, the Wongs. Certainly Ms. Jeannie didn’t look Asian, with her dark blond hair and green eyes, nor did any of her family members look Asian. But Ms. Jeannie had a wonderful imagination as a child and of course, she was a subscriber to National Geographic.

She could picture the Far East with it’s geishas, it’s red paper dragons, it’s rice fields….the silk brocades, the fishing villages, the serene gardens. She could here the gonging of the metal.

As the dinner conversation continued, Ms. Jeannie learned from her mother that in fact the Wong ancestors were not really Asian at all. They were Norwegian actually.  Their named just happened to both look and sound Asian.

Well, from that moment Ms. Jeannie was hooked. She peppered her mother with questions about her Asian sounding now Norwegian ancestors. But Ms. Jeannie’s mother knew very little, so the questions went unanswered, and the spark laid dorment for a time.

Years later, taking matters into her own hands, Ms. Jeannie emabarked on a mision to find out just who these Nordic people were. She started with this information from her mother…which turned out to be the only things that her family knew about the Wongs at that time.

So she knew that Martin & Clara had eight children and she knew there birthdates & the parents death dates. It was a mystery where they were born, where they lived, the last name of mother Clara and what happened to all the kids.

So the research began! Through careful study, the process of eliminaton and millions of census records, the mystery of the Wongs started to unravel.

Ms. Jeannie learned the Wong name was really spelled Wang (and pronounced Vang) so out the door the Asian culture theories flew!  Now that Ms. Jeannie had the correct spelling, her search got much simpler.

She narrowed it down to households containing the name Martin & Clara and all the children.  There were only two families with similiar names, one in North Dakota and on in Wisconsin. Ms. Jeannie’s grandmother was born in Wisconsin, so she started researching that family. Luckily she was on the right track! Through ancestry.com she found a few records for Martin Wang and a picture of he and Clara…

Martin & Clara Wang

Exciting! Through the information provided in the census, Ms. Jeannie learned that Martin & Clara were from Ostre Toten Norway and Hurdal, Norway respectively.   And Clara’s last name was Erickskillet. Martin applied for American citizenship in 1876 as determined by this document:

Martin Wang’s citizenship card

Martin & Clara actually had nine children. J. William Wang died when he was 12 years old. Ms. Jeannie uncovered this picture of the Wang family taken at J. William’s funeral. Everybody looks sad, especially little Edwin (the one holding the frame)…

Ms. Jeannie was on a role now – gathering various bits and pieces of information. Martin had a glass eye. He was a cabinet maker. They lived on a farm.

Martin built a church in Wisconsin:

The church that Martin built

Interior view of the church.

Contemporary picture of the church.. It’s still there!

Ms. Jeannie’s mother found a box with some old unmarked family photos and now they could add names to faces…

Wang Family Portrait

Juna Wang.

Originally everybody thought this was Nora Wang – Juna’s sister. But extra research put the right name with the right face.

Juna and her sisters.

Juna and her sister. Unidentified men -pPossibly her brothers.

Meeting other Wang family relatives on ancestry.com led to the sharing of this picture of Clara Wang in her senior years. She sure looks like a hard worker.

Seeing this picture, Ms. Jeannie’s mother realized she had  this  picture of Clara that was taken with Clara’s granddaughter.:

Clara Wang with grandaughter.

Ms. Jeannie’s mother now recalled stories  of  Clara not being able to  speak any English. The census lists the family as speaking Norwegian in their household. Possibly Martin spoke English and Norwegian, in order to conduct business in America.

Ms. Jeannie has now learned quite a bit about of information about the Wang Family. She has all their birth & death dates and places, information about all the children, who they married, where they lived and died, etc.

It’s exciting to see that Ms. Jeannie started here:

And wound up here:

Custom Ancestry Chart by msjeannieology

If you’d like help tracing your family stories and photographs, send Ms.Jeannie a message! She would love to spark your interest in genealogy!

Want to learn more stories? Watch celebrities trace their roots on  Who Do You Think You Are on NBC every Friday at 8:00pm.  They are already in their third season!

Here’s a clip from one of Ms. Jeannie’s favorite episodes from season 1 featuring Lisa Kudrow:

Who Do You Think You Are

Search for amazing Norwegian antiques on etsy.com. You never know…you might find something that once belonged to your relatives!

Antique Scandinavian Oval Wedding Box from mustnc

Antique Norwegian Baptismal Spoon from davidjp1927

1879 Norwegian Psalm Book from Bill

1927 Map of Norway & Sweden from ImSoVintage

Antique Photo Card – Lady in Norwegian Uniform from christmasangel

Miniature Norwegian Folk Art Chair from BlackRoosterVintage

1920’s Norwegian Christmas Card from BurtsFirstRodeo

1920’s Ivar T. Holt Brooch from ZoesGems