29 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Badly Beaten by Victim

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912 (evening)

Bandit is Badly Beaten by Victim
The Blood of Fighter Flows through Veins of Louis Goubert

The great grandfather of Louis Goubert of 230 Seventh street fought with the great Napoleon at Waterloo and some of the fighting blood of his ancestor has been inherited by young Goubert. As a consequence a robber who attempted to hold up the fighting Frenchman fared ill, and in addition to being badly bruised in an encounter, was captured and consigned to a cell in the city prison.

Goubert is an employee of Chanquet Bros. wine and liquor merchants of 734 Broadway. While on his way home from the store about 1 o'clock this morning, he was accosted at Seventh and Webster streets by a stranger, who struck Goubert with his fist and then started to reach for his purse.

Goubert was not slow to respond to the attack and came back with a right swing which cut a gash in his opponent's cheek. While struggling Goubert shouted for reinforcements.

Patrolmen Green and Gardiner were in the neighborhood arresting a drunk, and brought up a posse which started in pursuit of the robber. The man was followed to the Bethel lodging house, 823 Harrison street, where he was arrested and identified by the cut in his cheek by Goubert.

The prisoner gave his name as Albert Kersting of Alameda, but refused to discuss the holdup. Kersting was placed in detinue, and is being questioned by Inspectors T. J. Flynn and Dennis Holland.

23 November 2011

Beautiful Books: Brecknock

A gorgeous title page from 1809:

22 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Girls in Male Attire

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912 (Evening edition)

4 Girls in Male Attire Arrested
Sixteen year-old Maiden Says She Had Long Wanted to Be Boy.

"Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a boy, and this was my first chance," explained pretty Blanche Sizzelove, aged 16 years, when she appeared in Judge George Samuels' court room this morning following her arrest with three other girls for masquerading in boys' clothes on the street as a Hallowe'en prank last night. The other girls arrested by Patrolman William Tusher while sporting coats, shirts, and trousers were Celeste Dufin, 567 Sixth street, aged 16; Frances Sheen, 602 Sixth street, aged 18 years, and Helen Flentt, 564 Sixth street, aged 18.

The girls were arrested last night and were later released on $5 bail each, furnished by their fathers. When they appeared before Judge Samuels this morning Prosecuting Attorney W. J. Hennessey questioned them and received demure replies from all but Blanche Sizelove [sic], who declared that not only on Hallowe'en by every other day of the 365 she wished to wear male attire.

No complaints had been filed. On the motion of Hennessey the cases were dismissed and the bail returned.

Due to the strict orders issued by Chief of Police Walter J. Petersen for the observance of the curfew law, few acts of vandalism were reported to the police last night, and Oakland passed one of the quietest Hallowe'en celebrations in its history.

16 November 2011

Beautiful Books: A Dainty Authoress

It may just be me, but I love the author photos of the women who created a number of our most genealogically-valuable books. What strikes me most is that the male authors tend toward very stoic portraits of them in waistcoat with chain, while the women seem to opt for being shown with their weapon of choice: their pen.

From: Biographical History of Cloud County, Kansas (1903).

The Full Story

I love newspapers, because they give us so much information, but sometimes what we learn is so tantalizing, I can't help but wish I could get the full story. Like this Want Ad from the 02 November 1912 issue of The Oakland Tribune:
REFINED young lady (blond) is desirous of meeting dark complected gentleman between 30 and 35, temperate habits, medium height, comfortable income; object matrimony; no triflers. Box 87??, Tribune.
Of course, who knows what her "object" really was, but I can't help but imagine a petite young woman dropping off this want ad at the Tribune offices. I wonder if she ever found what she was looking for? Judging by what I remember from dating, probably a whole lot of "triflers!"

15 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Into a Tub of Water

From: The Oakland Tribune, 01 November 1912

Jaw Dislocated; Goes to Hospital; Loses Prize

While bobbing into a tub of water for an apple at a Hallowe'en party last night, John Coyne of 1414 West street opened his mouth so wide that he dislocated his lower jaw. The police ambulance was summoned and Coyne was taken to the Receiving hospital, where the dislocation was reduced by Dr. W. H. Irwin and Steward Emlay. He then returned to the festival but in the meantime the prize had been carried off by a competitor. Coyne is an electrical worker and 31 years old.

10 November 2011

Defining Research, Part Two: The Internet vs. Research Skill

"Mother, what are these strange things?"
In my last post on the topic of defining research, I ranted about discussed what I consider to pass only falsely as real genealogical research. But, shy of getting irate about calmly considering how such people influence the overall tenor of the genealogical community, the thread of importance involved in assessing the calibre of their research seems to end there. Much more interesting, to me, is how, when interacting with other genealogists, our personal definitions of research (and even our own estimations of our abilities) can get in the way of the potential for productive discussion.

By way of an example, I was lucky enough to volunteer for the daylong Ancestry Day in San Francisco this past weekend, a one-day genealogy "mini-conference" that was hosted by the California Genealogical Society, of which I am a member. I was able to work through the day as one of a battalion of genealogical consults, sitting with researchers and spending a strict 15-minutes helping these clients review issues or dead-ends they had reached in their research. It was an amazing experience, and a great chance to connect with some people who were incredibly enthusiastic and excited about their research adventures.

But something struck me about these consults, and  made me realize how definition of terms can be incredibly important... namely, how one defines "research." In essence, it gets to the issue, I think, of how records and resources available on the internet have fundamentally defined the concept of research for most genealogists.

Here's what I mean: in the course of speaking with a number of my consults, I was struck time and time again by them saying that they had "done the research," that they "couldn't find a trace" of their ancestors, and that these ancestors had, as far as their research was concerned, disappeared.

It took me a few consults to get the hang of the tight time, so after a few I began to ask, "When you say research, what do you mean?" or "You say you researched, which records did you check?"

In most cases, the answer was "Well, I looked on Ancestry."

Now, despite the fact that many of these consults self-identified as intermediate level researchers, the truth was that many were actually still in the beginning stages of their research experience. Many had never written for a vital record, hadn't visited the NARA website, and some were unaware that the Catholic church kept extensive records that would be of help to genealogical researchers. So, in many ways, I don't fault these researchers for not looking beyond the internet to solve their research problems. What I found myself saying, again and again, was:

"You're going to have to move your research offline."

My advice to many researchers included how to write to various offices, how to order records from NARA, and how to go about ordering microfilm to be reviewed at a local FHC. Not terribly complicated stuff, but a revelation for many of my consult clients.

Now, when it comes to defining "research," if I had not asked explicitly in what places, in what resources, and in what record groups these individuals had looked, we may have run in circles for quite a long time. Why? Well, when speaking to a researcher who considers themselves intermediate I would assume that they have already done things like contact county offices regarding death records, or searched for probate documents, or even taken the time to determine the religion of the people they are researching. I would never assume that they had searched on Ancestry and then, finding nothing more, determined that they had run into a brick wall.

But this, I think, is a consequence of the emergence of records on the internet. Digitization facilitates research immensely, and I am one of its largest and strongest advocates. I like to go to sleep at night dreaming that every record I may need will be online some day. But, of course, they aren't, and so genealogy remains an endeavor that is aided by technology, but still depends upon some very dusty, blurry or even archaic means of discovery.

However, the quick successes that internet-centric genealogy affords also, I think, gives a false sense of research success to individuals, who, instead of plotting out specific approaches to solving research problems just type a name into a database interface and hope for the best. The former approach is focused and targeted, while the other is simply casting a wide net and hoping to find something of import. Both yield results, but only one builds skill and increases knowledge. Only one, in my opinion, is research. Many who may believe that they are intermediate researchers, but the truth is that many have only accumulated names and cherry-picked online records--leaving them with substantial trees but very little real research skill.

Of course, it's been said time and time again that even as companies like Ancestry increase the efficiency and abilities of us all to complete our research, it does, in some way, retard the generation of true research ability by truncating the experience that leads to improved research skills. In a way, we become dependent upon the easy availability of online records, and I wonder, if in the long run, this hurts us as researchers--even as much as it helps us as genealogists.

What I do know is that those who are starting genealogy now are at even more of a disadvantage in this regard than someone like me, who has been researching for just ten years. When I began, much was online, but the offerings have become staggeringly robust in the past decade, to the point that many of the records I sent off for and files that I ordered when I was first beginning (as well as books I consulted and resources at offices I visited) are now available online. New researchers can save time and money over what I had to expend, but they do, I think, lose something in the process--mainly an understanding of what research truly is, and how, in reality, it takes offline experience to gain the sorts of skills that can help solve some of genealogy's most difficult problems.

09 November 2011

Beautiful Books: Nebraska's Resources

Not sure what this is all about, but it did catch my eye:

Could be there because the book was sponsored in a way by the Nebraska Farmer Company.

From: A Condensed History of Nebraska (1903).

08 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Music Teacher, Armed with Spike

From: The Oakland Tribune, 21 October 1912

Music Teacher, Armed with Spike, Party to Peace Disturbance

For the purpose of defense purely the matrimonial alliance of Mrs. Eva Lincoln, a music teacher, and H. C. Rodgers, her divorced husband, was resumed yesterday when the police went to the latter's home to arrest him for disturbing the peace of Mrs. Charles Conlin, a neighbor. Mrs. Conlin telephoned to the police that Rodgers had played a hose through her parlor window.

Corporal James Flynn and Patrolman Nick Williams went to Rodgers' home at 2724 West street to make the arrest, and Mrs. Lincoln thereupon alleged to have gone to the defense of her former husband with a a wagon spoke, aiming her blows at the complaining witness.

Rodgers started to run and was tripped down the front stairs by Flynn. The divorced couple were taken to the city jail in the patrol wagon. This morning the neighborhood wrangle was adjusted to the police court of Judge George Samuels when the husband pleaded guilty and his wife pleaded innocent. The former will be sentenced October 23 and the wife will be tried on the same day.

04 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays Follow-Up: Death Stopped Wedding

I posted earlier this week a Tribune Tuesday story about Alice Atwood, whose fiancee died just three days before their scheduled wedding in 1904. A few people mentioned in comments and emails how sad and haunting the story was, and most wondered what the rest of Alice's life was like.

Well, I did too, so I set off to find out!

Now, what follows here is a mash-up of what I've been able to find online, so I haven't gone and ordered any records or consulted anything in person, however, I think I've been pretty successful in finding out about Alice's life.

Armed with the knowledge that Alice Atwood was living in Oakland in 1904, and was the daughter of E. N. Atwood, I started out checking Alameda county voter registrations to see if I could establish her father's first name. I was able to locate an Edward C. Atwood, but nothing more. Searches of directories turned up blank.

I had my first big clue when I went back to the noblest source of all (NEWSPAPERS!) and found this item in the Oakland Tribune, 30 June 1907:
The marriage of Miss Alice Atwood and John Madison Walthal was quietly solemnized last Tuesday at Trinity Episcopal Church. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. John Bakewell. There were no attendants and only the immediate relatives of the couple attended the wedding.
The bride has won many friends by her gracious personality and attractive manner. She is popular in society about the bay.
Walthal is a graduate of the State University and is prominent in politics, holding the office of District Attorney in Modesto.
After a honeymoon trip Mr. and Mrs. Walthal will make their home in Modesto.
Now, nothing here corroborated that this was the same Alice Atwood, but I found it peculiar that two likely young people would celebrate a wedding in so restrained a fashion--particularly when the society pages were overflowing with details about the elaborate (and costly... and large) weddings that seemed to typify the time. If this were the same Alice Atwood, it seemed to me, the muted nature of the 1907 wedding would have happened out of a sense of respect and sorrow over the death of her first intended.

With this information, I looked up Alice and her husband in the 1910 US Federal Census. I found a listing in Modesto for a "Mathew L. Walthall" and his wife, Alice A. Walthall, who was born in Maine. Although the name for the groom was off, this seemed likely to be the right household. In 1920, in Modesto, Stanislaus, California, I found this:

Walthall, John M., 48, California, Attorney
Walthall, Alice A., 35, Maine
Walthall, Sidney, 8, California
Atwood, Elizabeth, SIL, 32, Maine

It seemed clear I had identified the Alice and John who were married in Oakland, and I now had a name of one of Alice's siblings: Elizabeth. Taking this under advisement, I jumped back in time to see if I could identify Alice in the 1900 census, and get a fairer idea if this was the correct woman.

In the 1900 Federal Census for Lake Valley, El Dorado, California, I found the following clincher:
Edward Atwood, 38, Maine
Alice Atwood, 16, Maine
Bessie Atwood, 14, Maine
Lillian Atwood, 13, Maine
George Whitefield, 25, England (Physician)
Remember, of course, that the name of Alice's intended that had passed away in Los Angeles was named Dr. Whitfield [sic], a physician from England. The same, it appears, was enumerated along with the family in 1900, as a visitor! There's Alice, born in Maine abt. 1884, and her sister Elizabeth from the 1920 enumeration, born in Maine about 1886.  Why were they in Lake Valley in El Dorado county? My best guess is that, as the census was performed in June, the family and guest were enjoying themselves in Lake Valley--perched on the beautiful southern shore of Lake Tahoe.

Feeling sure that I had found "our Alice," I moved forward to find out more about her life after her marriage to J. M. Walthall. And, by all apparencies, it seems to have been a good one.

Firstly, Mr. Walthall wasn't a shabby looker, as you can see by a portrait of him in the History of the Bench and Bar of California, 1901:


And, according to a passport application Mr. Walthall filed in 1908, he stood at 6'3" tall... the perfect imposing height for a man working as an attorney-at-law. 

This same passport application revealed Alice's birthplace and birthdate, including the lines "accompanied by my wife, Alice A. Walthall, born at Portland, Maine, on the 17th of September, 1883..." The couple, it seems, travelled abroad for a bit in 1908, returning to New York City from Liverpool, England on 16 September 1908 aboard the ship Etruria. I couldn't help but wonder: did she visit Dr. Whitefield's home and family while she was there?

The 1921 History of Stanislaus County included the following information on John Madison Walthall and his wife, Alice Norton Atwood:
At Oakland, on June 25, 1907, Mr. Walthall married Miss Alice N. Atwood, a native of Portland, Me., daughter of Edward N. and Emma Atwood. Mrs. Walthall's grandfather was an analytical chemist and discovered a process to make kerosene out of a liquid found in Lake Trinidad ; but about the same time oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, and John D. Rockefeller put the scientist out of business before he had really begun to accomplish his aim. Afterward, Edward N. Atwood was employed by Mr. Rockefeller as an assistant to Henry Rogers in the Philadelphia office of the Standard Oil Company; and when his health broke, he settled in Oakland, where he became general western manager for a large Eastern life insurance company. And in Oakland, in October, 1909, he passed away, esteemed by all men. 
Mrs. Walthall went to college, and also attended the Convent of the Holy Names in Oakland, receiving there that finish to an education and culture which have always been recognized as among her real accomplishments. Mr. and Mrs. Walthall have one daughter, Sidney, nine years of age, a bright pupil in Modesto grammar school.
 The "E. N. Atwood" who was mentioned in the 1904 article turns out to be Edward N. Atwood, and Miss Alice Atwood turns out to be a rather accomplished and educated lady in her own right.

The Modesto papers on which I did a general search turned up a number of tidbits about the Walthall family, featuring, as they did, prominently on the society pages. They hosted bridge clubs, and summered in their cabin on Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest. Life, it seemed, was pretty good, at least until J. M. Walthall died on October 6th, 1933.

Her daughter, Sidney, didn't turn out to be a slouch, either, if one can judge by her interesting and heartfelt obituary posted on SFGate.

Sidney's obituary mentions that in 1938, "after the Japanese surrounded Peking," she left China with her young son and went " to her mother's home in Alameda, California." The obituary also notes that Alice's middle name was Norton... a few more details that might help track down Alice's final years.

So what happened to Alice after her husband's death? 

I lost the thread on Ancestry and other sites, so decided to do a general Google search on "Alice Walthall" +Alameda. What I found was a cemetery survey for Mountain View Cemetery, listing what seems to be a burial for "Alice A. Walthall Peck," born 1883, died 1976. The plot was shared with a Lillian Peck, and Elizabeth Atwood as buried in the plot. 

Had Alice remarried?

My first stop to investigate the new information was the California Death Index, where, sure enough, there was listed an Alice W. Peck, born 17 September 1883 in Maine, died 15 January 1976 in Alameda. 

It seemed apparent that Alice, after her husband's death in 1933, had remarried.

Diving back into the newspapers, I located a 30 July 1937 Oakland Tribune article about growing tensions in "Peiping" and some of the Bay Area residents who were living in China at the time. Mentioned was Sidney Walthall Lismer, along with a picture and a note that Mrs. Lismer was "a niece of Elizabeth Atwood and Arthur Peck of Alameda."

Did Alice marry an Arthur Peck?

A death notice from the 13th December 1934 issue of The Oakland Tribune provided another interesting twist to the mystery:
PECK- In Alameda, December 12, 1934, Lillian Atwood Peck, loving wife of Arthur Preston Peck, mother of Alison Preston Peck, and Norton Atwood Peck, sister of Mrs. Alice A. Walthall, and Miss Elizabeth Atwood, aunt of Sidney Walthall; a native of Maine, aged 48 years. [Interment Mountain View Cemetery]

So, it appears that it was actually Alice's sister Lillian who married Arthur Peck, and perhaps not Alice at all. So what to do with the information we have and how can we reconcile it?

Without having seen a photo of the gravesite enumerated in the Mountain View Cemetery, I can imagine that there is a large plot headstone with the name "Peck" engraved on it, then listings of the individuals buried in the plot, which include Lillian's two sisters, the maiden Bessie Atwood and Alice Walthal. Thus, in the course of the gravesite listing, Alice may have been listed as a Peck.

How to explain, though, the question of the California Death Index's entry for an Alice W. Peck, with the same birthdate and place as our Alice? Did Alice coincidentally marry a man by the name of Peck? Or perhaps an in-law of her sisters? Or did she marry her dead sister's husband? Or is this an error in indexing or record creation? Of course, the mystery may be solved by ordering the actual certificate... but since I probably won't be dropping the $14 for it,  I guess this mystery will have to stand for now!

Overall, I think this afternoon-long exercise in online resources offers a good glimpse of poor Alice Atwood's life after the tragic death of her young husband-to-be, George Whitefield. Her descendants--through her daughter Sidney and her son Peter--still live in the Bay Area, and who knows... they may even run across this blog entry! Should they turn up, I can only say: what a wonderful family story.

02 November 2011

Beautiful Books: A Bright Legacy

Another in the line of donation/collection stickers that would be of interest to genealogists:

I wonder if the scholarship is still in effect?

From: A History of Preston County, West Virginia, Part One (1914)

ed.: Apparently, this scholarship is still in effect, along with a slew of other ancestral-related scholarships!

01 November 2011

Tribune Tuesdays: Death Stopped Wedding

From: The Oakland Tribune, 18 May 1904

Dr. Whitfield Passes Away on the Eve of Wedding

A romance which promised to culminate in the marriage of Miss Alice Atwood of 587 Merrimac street and Dr. Whitfield has terminated sadly with the sudden death of the young groom elect in Los Angeles. A few weeks ago the pretty home on Merrimac street was the scene of busy preparation for the coming wedding and gifts and good wishes poured in upon the young bride-to-be. The marriage was to take place at the home and the relatives and young friends of Miss Atwood were bidden to the ceremony when the telgram came to E. N. Atwood, the father of the young girl, telling the sad news of Dr. Whitfield's death, just three days before the date set for his marriage to Mr. Atwood's daughter.

Early that day Miss Atwood had received a letter from her fiance intimating that he was not feeling as well as usual, but full of hope and promises to be in this city the next day. Following close on the wake of that hopeful message came the sad tidings of death, and the first shock of grief. Mr. Atwood and his daughter left for Los Angeles to attend the funeral.

Dr. Whitfield was a bright and promising young physician whose home was in England, but who had traveled extensively on this continent. During his visit here he met and wooed the American girl, who was to accompany him to his home as his bride.

Dr. Whitfield had been an interested tourist in the southern part of California and at the time of his death was visiting Monrovia, the pretty suburb of Los Angeles. The young physician's mother is in England and the news will come as a heavy grief to her. She was expecting her son with his young bride.

Miss Atwood is now in Los Angeles, and seems overcome with the sad calamity which has befallen her. Plans are in progress, however, for her to accompany her father to the East, and it is hoped that travel and changes of scene will lessen the great grief which has clouded her life.

Update 04 November: You can read about the follow-up research I did on this story in another post.