Thursday, June 20, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: Great Grandma Jessie's 1915 Common School Diploma

Jessie Luetta Halstead
A few weeks ago, one of my dad's first cousins, Ann, contacted me to see if my sister and I would like a couple of things that had belonged to our paternal great grandmother, Jessie Luetta Halstead Brittain. What a nice surprise! I thought that Cindy might like to have Grandma's silverware set, and I'm happy that she'll get to think of Great Grandma Brittain whenever she uses it.

I was most excited, however, that Ann had Great Grandma Brittain's Common School Diploma. I eagerly took Ann up on her offer to send it to me, and this is what showed up at my office a few days ago:

The document reads:


Jessie Halstead

has completed the regular course of study prescribed by the State
Board of Education of the State of Oklahoma and has passed
a satisfactory examination in all subjects of the Common School
Course and is, therefore, entitled to this Diploma which admits
the holder to any High School, State Normal School, the 
A&M college and all secondary colleges in
the State of Oklahoma.

Given at Oklahoma City this 5th day of May 1915

Grandma Brittain's test scores (pardon my obtrusive camera work...)
As you can see, someone had the diploma framed in double-sided glass, which was nice because Grandma Brittain's test results were recorded on the back of the document. I had a chuckle at her 70 score in arithmetic. My own former math teachers would agree that the apple did not fall far from this branch of the family!

Grandma Jessie was 16 years old when she passed her exams and received her diploma. I'm guessing that she and her family were very proud, especially since a lot of rural kids, especially girls, didn't complete their education back in those days. I don't know if she went on to high school, but she didn't marry my Great Grandfather, Andrew Lee Brittain, until after another four years, so it's entirely possible that she did continue her studies.

Grandma's diploma now hangs in my bedroom. I'm quite proud of her for her scholarly achievement -- mediocre math grade, and all!

Thanks again to Cousin Ann for sharing this treasure with me!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not So Wordless Wednesday: GGG Grandparents, Claus Schlichtmann and Anna Sophia von der Lieth

When I was home in Tracy, California, a few weeks ago, I stopped by the Tracy Area Genealogical Society (TAGS) to do a little research on my Bruhns and Schlichtmann family. I had known that my Germans came to California in the 1860s and 1870s, and were successful farmers in the Tracy area, but I really didn't know an awful lot more about them prior to their arrival in the States. I was surprised to find that the TAGS group had a LOT of information about my Tracy pioneers, including some fantastic photos.

My favorite picture that I unearthed that day is this one. It's of my GGG grandparents, Claus Schlichtmann (1831-1899) and Anna Sophia von der Lieth (1830-1901). 

I had never seen a photo of either of them before, and it somehow really touched me to look upon the faces of these brave maternal ancestors who risked a lot to bring their family to a whole new world of opportunities. In addition to the photos I found at the TAGS office, there are more documents that tell the story of how the Schlichtmanns came to the US, and to Tracy, California. There's even a bit of romantic mystery that needs some more research (perhaps, we're related to German royalty!). More to come on all of that in the weeks ahead. 

Meanwhile, please say hello to Claus and Anna!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Claus Schlichtmann (1834-1899) and family

Last month, on my way to visit my mom for our annual birthday celebration (cake, steak and gambling!), I stopped by my old hometown of Tracy, California, to check out the cemetery where some of my pioneer ancestors were buried. I mostly grew up in Tracy (we moved there from over the hill in Livermore when I was almost eight, in 1973, and my mom finally moved away after Dad passed away in 2003). Lately, I've been trying to dig a little further into my Tracy roots, and it occurred to me that I hadn't yet even bothered to visit my ancestors who "lived" so close to me. Shame on me!

So, here is is the tombstone and burial plot of my Great Great Great Grandfather, Claus Schlichtmann. His name and information are inscribed on the front of the monument and his mother, Anna Maria (von Holte-Schlichtmann) Katt, and daughter, Anna Maria (Schlichtmann) Genzer, are both memorialized on the side and back of the monument.

Claus Schlichtmann, Born Sept. 4, 1831. Died July 5, 1899. A native of Germany
Claus Schlichtmann was my 3rd great grandfather on my mom's side. He was born in 1831 in Hanover, Germany, and immigrated to the US in 1862. Not long afterward he sent for his family, including his wife, Anna, and my great great grandmother, Christina Schlichtmann Bruhns, who was just a baby when they made their voyage. They lived in Pennsylvania for a time, and then finally they made their way to California, living for a short time in San Francisco before they settled in Tracy. Claus died in San Francisco on July 5, 1899, at the age of 68, and was buried at the Tracy Public Cemetery in Tracy, California. The plot is in the oldest section of the cemetery, right at the corner of Schulte Road and McArthur Boulevard. Growing up, we drove by there at least a few times a week on our way into town. 
Claus' daughter, Anna Maria Genzen, Born Sept 14, 1860. Died Feb 3, 1896. A native of Germany  
Claus' mother, Anna Maria von Holte (Schlichtmann) Katt, Born Nov 12, 1802.
Died Jan 17, 1901. A native of Germany.
Mystery stone, but I think it belongs to Claus' wife, Anna Sophia, or one of his other daughters.
Claus' wife (and my GGG grandmother), Anna Sophia von der Leith, is not memorialized on the stone.  However, I believe she is buried with her family in the plot. It's possible that this broken stone that was leaning against the base of the memorial stone belongs to her or another family member. Next time I'm in Tracy, I'm going to visit the cemetery office to see if I can get some records that might help me determine exactly where Anna Sophia is resting.

I enjoyed my first "tourist" visit (meaning, not there for a funeral) to the Tracy Public Cemetery, and I'm having fun getting to know my German ancestors. In fact, on my way back home to Oakland that week, I stopped in at the Tracy Area Genealogical Society office and did a little more research into my Schlichtmann and Bruhns families. What a treasure trove! More to come on that soon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: Reblogged -- A Tribute to Dad

In honor of Father's Day this year, I'm reposting a tribute to my dad, William Lee Brittain, that I posted a couple of years ago. The sentiments still ring true, and I sure do wish Dad was here for me to wish him a Happy Father's Day and give him a big hug in person.

Dad, Cindy and me
Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. This is a bittersweet day for me since my own dad passed away on January 4, 2003, from congestive heart disease and a heart transplant that went badly. I was a "daddy's girl" and I still find it hard to talk -- or write -- about him without getting very emotional. Instead, I'm going to share with you some photos of him, as well as the tribute I read at his memorial service. 

Tribute to My Dad (read at his memorial service on January 11, 2003)

When Cindy and I were growing up, we often heard friends tell us how cool our parents were and how lucky we were to have such great relationships with them.  We always knew that was the case and, even during those turbulent teen years, we valued and respected our Mom and Dad -- as both parents and friends.

Today, I’d like to share some memories that Cindy and I have shared, separately as well as together, with Dad as well as Mom.

Mom, Dad and me

* The first time I remember seeing Dad cry was when I moved away from home to go to college in San Diego.  My roommate came to pick me up, and I was so excited as we started to drive off to our new lives as young adults in a new city.  Then, I turned around for one more wave goodbye to my family and saw that my Dad was crying.  Of course, I knew that he would miss me, but I was so touched by his show of emotion.  Needless to say, I bawled for a good thirty miles or so down the road

* Even though my family and I missed each other while I was living away from home, we never went too long without visits.  I always loved it when my parents came to visit me in college -- it was so much fun to show them the sites and take them to my favorite bars in San Diego and, later, in San Luis Obispo.  Some of my favorite times where when they would bring my sister, family friends or aunts and uncles.  A particularly memorable time was when they and Mike and Lois Brenkwitz visited me in San Diego one July 4th weekend.  I took them on a rather lively tour of Tijuana that will remain in our memories for years to come.  In more recent years, I’ve relished visits from Mom and Dad to my home in San Francisco.  Dad was NOT a city person, but he was always willing to hand over the car keys and let me be his tour guide

* Dad and I had many things in common.  We tended to drive Mom and Cindy crazy with our deep -- and, at times, incessant -- discussions/debates on politics and social issues.  It’s from my Dad that I inherited my addiction to news and political commentary -- we didn’t always agree on issues or candidates, but we found that we generally were coming from the same place.  We also loved discussing technology and sharing new “toys” with each other -- another topic that drove Mom and Cindy crazy.  Finally, Dad and I shared a passion for music.  He taught me to appreciate western swing and the older country music of Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, Marty Robbins and many other artists.  He and Mom also let me tag along with them and the McCrearys to jazz festivals.  One of my last happy memories with Dad was when he was in the hospital at Stanford and one of the hospital musicians came into to his room to play guitar and sing a few songs.  Dad had been very depressed, but when Jeff started playing “San Antonio Rose,” and I sang along with him, Dad’s eyes lit up -- he was so uplifted that he joined in the singing as well.  
Dad and Cindy

*  Cindy felt especially lucky and privileged to have her Daddy walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.  Most of you know that Dad was not a man of many words, but the toast that gave that night was so moving because it came directly from his heart -- he was so proud of his little girl.  It was also icing on the cake knowing that Luis, her new husband, and Dad already were developing a great relationship.  After spending so much time in a family dominated by women, we think it made Dad very happy to be finally getting a son

*  The morning after Evan was born, everyone showed up at the hospital for a visit.  Liam got up on the bed with Cindy to meet his baby brother.  When Dad walked into the room and saw his daughter and two grandsons together for the first time, a tear came to his eyes.  This moment was especially touching for Cindy and is something she’ll hold dear to her.

*  Dad was such a proud grandpa, and he loved Liam and Evan so much.  I know that it bothered him that he didn’t have the energy to run after the boys or get down on the floor to play with him the way he would have liked to, but to see his eyes light up whenever the boys came to visit him and Mom was something to behold.  Liam and Evan loved their Papa Cow, too, and they both talk about him often and miss him very much.
Cindy, Mom, Pepper, Dad and me
at our house on Bird Road

* While Cindy and I had many separate memories of Dad, we also shared wonderful times with him together.  Some of our earliest memories of Dad were when he’d take us horse shoeing with him around Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.  He would let us hand him whatever tools he needed to do his job, or just let us loose to play with the kids or dogs who lived at the various ranches.  We’ll never forget the smell of horses and sweat that lingered in his ‘67 Ford pickup.  It’s a scent that -- even today -- both of us find sweet.

* While we were growing up, our family didn’t take trips to Europe, or even across the country.  Instead, most of our family vacations happened up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, usually camping with a motley group of family and/or close friends.  I think that one year, we camped in Yosemite at least four or five times -- we experienced that magnificent place in every season.  Dad loved the mountains more than anywhere else in the world, and he instilled that same love in Cindy and me.  When Cindy and I were old enough to have summer jobs, our parents started occasionally going up to the mountains without us -- while we were excited that they trusted us enough to leave us at home alone, I think that we secretly were a bit envious and sad that they were enjoying our favorite vacation stomping grounds without us!

* As we got older, we enjoyed many road trips with Mom and Dad -- big and small, well-planned as well as spontaneous -- but always memorable.  Their spur-of-the-moment trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with Cindy and Luis always inspires laughter -- just mention the word “lizard” or ask about the “two dead coyotes driving down the road” and see what kind of reaction you’ll get.  It was during my trips to the Southwest with Mom and Dad that I developed an appreciation for Native American culture as well as the history of West.  I was always so honored to receive the occasional phone call from Mom and Dad, saying that they were thinking about taking a weekend road trip to Shasta or Eureka or wherever, and would I like to come along.  As you can see from the picture board and photo album we‘ve brought along today, these trips were treasured -- not just for the travel -- but for the special times we got to enjoy with both our parents.

Finally, one of my all-time favorite memories of both Mom and Dad together was witnessing a very fleeting, yet loving, moment between them just a few years ago.  I was home one weekend, watching TV in the living room.  I looked up to see Mom and Dad standing in the dining room with their arms around each other sharing a kiss and an “I love you”.  I thought, how cool is it that, after all these years, my parents are still in love with each other.  Their relationship was the solid foundation for our incredibly close-knit and loving family.

It’s so sad to think that we won’t have the chance to create more memories with Dad, but we’re so happy to have had all the happy times with him that we did.  We also know that Dad created memories with just about all of you, and we know that you are treasuring them in your own ways.  We miss Dad so much, and I know that he’s keeping an eye on us and will continue to share in our future memories in his own special way.
Again, Happy Fathers Day to everyone out there. While I'm missing my Daddy, I cherish all our memories together, and I hope you're all able to enjoy yours, as well.  
Dad, Mom and me on one of our Southwest vacations

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not So Wordless Wednesday: Madsen Family in 1912

Once again, I've been contacted by a cousin wanting to share family pictures and stories. I'm always happy when my new-found cousins are excited for me to post their treasures here on my blog because I know how much it means for all of us to have these rare glimpses into our families' pasts.

So, thanks to my cousin, Jim Cole, for this gem! This handsome family is Jim's grandparents, Han Terkelsen Madsen and Maren Christiansen Caspersen, their six children, AND Hans' youngest brother, Lars Hansen Madsen. Yep, that handsome young Danish chap standing in the back with his hand on his hip was my Great Grandpa Louie!

Hans came to California from Aero, Denmark, in 1891. Born in 1870, he was the oldest of ten children and 23 years older than his little brother, Lars, who followed him to Livermore, California, in 1908.

Here are the Madsen family members in this photo, which I think was taken in about 1912, likely in Livermore:

Front (l-r): Louis C. Madsen (1906-2000), William Hans Madsen (1910-1973), Hans Terkelsen Madsen (1870-1956), Maren Christiansen Caspersen (1870-1972), Casper Marion Madsen (1907-1986).

Rear (l-r): Katie M. Madsen (1896-1976), May Christine Madsen (1904-1981), Julia C. Madsen (1899-?), Lars Hansen Madsen (1893-1971). It's entirely possible that I have May and Julia mixed up here, but based on birth dates, I think this is correct.

Cousin Jim Cole is the son of May Christine Madsen, and he's been sharing wonderful stories about his memories of my Grandpa Louie, whom they all called either 'Little Louie' or 'Uncle Louie,' and my Great Grandma Hannah. Jim is visiting our families' homeland in Aero, Denmark, later this summer, and I can't wait to hear more stories when he returns!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not So Wordless Wednesday: Four Generations of Hunts

Here's a photo I found in my Grandma Edith's collection awhile ago. It's of four generations of her Hunt family, and I believe it was taken sometime around 1953.

On the left is my great great grandmother, Georgia Francis Ann Purser. She was born October 7, 1871, in Searcy, White County, Arkansas, and died July 14, 1956, in Henderson County, Texas. She was married to William Calhoun Hunt

Next to Georgia is her oldest child, and my great grandfather, James William "Earl" Hunt. James was born January 1, 1891, in Lee County, Texas, and died April 7, 1961, in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was married to Ethel Modena Martindale.

Next to Earl is his youngest child, and my Grandma Edith's younger brother, George Lee Hunt. Uncle George was born January 11, 1927, in Oklahoma, and died November 1987 in Tulsa, Tulsa County, Oklahoma. 

Standing in front are George's two sons. I think they are Lester Wayne Hunt and James Lee Hunt, but I'm not entirely sure (if any Hunt cousins are reading this and know for sure, please feel free to let me know!). 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: F.H. Brittian

Frederick Harmon Brittain
(not Brittian...)
Yes, I realize that I spelled my own last name incorrectly in the title of this post. There's a good reason for that. Let me explain...

A couple of years ago, I was busy working on my Daughters of the American Revolution application, and was running into a couple of brick walls in my attempt to prove my direct lineage back to my Revolutionary War patriot, Nathaniel Brittain.

One of the issues I had was in documenting the death of my great great grandfather, Frederick Harmon Brittain (1859-1921). I knew that he had died in 1921, in Rupert, Van Buren County, Arkansas, but I just couldn't find the proof. Finally, I sent a request to the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website, to ask if anyone had access to cemetery records in that area (the original RAOGK site is now defunct, but a wiki workaround was created last year). Thankfully, a fellow genealogist had a cemetery record book that listed "F.H. Brittian" as being buried in the Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Van Buren County, Arkansas, and she was kind enough to scan the page and send it to me.
As you can see, Grandpa Brittain's last name is spelled incorrectly. This is actually one of the more typical misspellings of our name that I see on a regular basis (and it never fails to annoy me just a little bit). Nevertheless, it was a big help in proving my relationship to Nathaniel Brittain, and I figured it was just an error in the record keeping until a couple of days ago.

So, back when I had originally posted my request at the RAOGK site, I also posted a request for a photo of the grave on the Find A Grave website. I had completely forgotten about that query until I received an email saying that someone had fulfilled my photo request for me! Thanks to Dan McGuire, I now have a photo of Frederick Harmon Brittain's grave stone and, sure enough, the name is misspelled as "Brittian." Sigh...
Photo by Dan McGuire
By the way, this is my ancestor who, according to family lore, was wrongly put in a US Jail in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1900 for horse thievery (the horse's previous owner finally showed up to vouch for him). The poor guy couldn't catch a break, even in death!

Thanks so much to Dan McGuire and all of the other kind family historians out there who are willing to share documents and trudge through old cemeteries to take photos.

And, this was another lesson for me to remember to check alternate spellings when searching through documentation. It wouldn't have occurred to me to switch that "a" and "i" around, even though people get my name wrong all the time!