Monday, December 30, 2013

A Feeling So Familiar....

There is something with family that feels so familiar. The photos you look at of your family bring warmth to your soul; they nourish your being; and sometimes you even touch them with feelings of fondness.

I love looking at other people's photos and often immerse myself into their family life, as well. But, looking at my own family photos puts me back at home - a place I can always go back to, lets say, when I am much, much older and be able to reminisce about.

It's that feeling of familiarity that keeps our family photos so near and dear to our hearts. And, it's not just the photos - other relics such as china ware, jewelry, clothing, personal belongings of those who've come and gone before us; which are items we hold very close to our hearts.

These are by far material items, but they have memories attached to them. Unlike inherited money, these are the items that shaped us throughout our youth and even into our adulthood.

Some items that my Grandma has, such as her lovely red velvet drapery in her bedroom may look old and dated to others; but to me, this is how it's been ever since I was a child - something that remains unchanged. In that sense, it's something I like returning to because it brings a feeling back from my childhood - a time in my life that is slipping away further and further into that black hole of infinity - a minute space in time compared to the billion year history of our mighty large universe - but a time in my life that will always remain whimsical and full of special moments - something that time can't take away.

Hold on to these moments; they will mean ever so much more when you are awake one night, longing for something that feels familiar; something that brings you back home again.

A Christmas Wedding - 1914 - The union between George Roehm and Lydia Herr

I can't help but think of the beautiful costumes featured in the show, "Downton Abbey" and not help but imagine what my great grandparents wedding must have felt like, which happened on Christmas Day, 1914. Downton Abbey's costumes during the time that Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley fell in love and married later on.

I have only heard bits and pieces from my Grandmother, who said it was a large event with many guests. She said it lasted for several days.

Here is a photo of them on their wedding day. My great grandfather was much taller than my great grandmother, so she was actually standing on a wooden crate to make it look less dramatic of a difference. I believe he stood between 6'1'' or 6'2''. She only stood 4'11''. Notice the detail in her dress, the clasped metal wrapping around her upper arm; the wreath around her veil - all trademark designs from wedding dresses during that time. She was known to be a great seamstress and very likely made this wedding dress herself. Her father owned a large mercantile store in town and so she may have had access to all the newest fabrics. I can just picture her laboring over her beautiful wedding day gown.

They were both very young here. She was just shy of turning 19 (she'd be 19 on March 20th 1915), and George had just turned 22 (born October 16th 1893). However, it was young love that brought them together. Their union lasted until George's death in 1948; a 33 year marriage that brought them 7 children and many more grandchildren and great grandchildren and now, great great grandchildren. 

See examples below of similar fashion styles from 1914 for wedding gowns: 

Note: Also on her wedding day, Lydia received this lovely clock from her father that is still in our family. It will be 100 years old this next Christmas 1914. I spotted a similar one at Disneyland, of all places, inside their Penny Arcade. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Destination Genealogy: The Sexton Family

My great, great grandparents on my mother's paternal side came to America by the Malta ship, which boarded from Liverpool.

However, prior to leaving, they were married on April 9th, 1871 at Southwark Cathedral in London, U.K. I recently found the photo (left) of the cathedral in a HDR effect and I thought it sure was an impressive photo of the cathedral. I could really envision my ancestors getting married here on that early Spring day, with the anticipation of coming to America ahead of them.

The following document is one I received from a recent correspondence with someone at Southwark, who was able to find the marriage record of Michael Sexton and Bridget O'Meara (O'Mara), with names of her sister, as witness. The interesting part is the record is written in Latin. I had to look up some of these words so I could decode them. 

It notes that Michael Sexton lived at 22 Vauxhall Square - which I believe is in today's term actually Vauxhall St., in Lambeth, London, near the Thames river. What is interesting is that by looking at a map, Southwark is very close to Vauxhall, so it was likely not a stretch for them to marry here.

One thing we're trying to still confirm is how Michael Sexton came to England and why? And, how was Bridget introduced to him? How did Bridget also get to London? Michael was was born in or near Limerick, as the Sexton's come originally from that area. 

Here is a map showing the proximity of Vauxhall and Southwark in London. 

They went up to Liverpool shortly after they married and boarded the Malta. This ship was to take them to Boston Harbour and and they arrived on April 28th 1871. 

For about seven years, they lived in Boston, MA. I have found one record that has them living at 83 Cove St., in Revere, MA, which is north of Boston, heading up the Atlantic coastline. 

The Sexton's had their first daughter here, Mary Helen Sexton, on May 17th, 1872, however, Mary passed away only 7 months later of Cholera. The Sextons did recover from this untimely death to have two more daugthers, who were born in San Francisco, CA. Somewhere along the way, the Sextons made the long journey out west to try their luck in the beautiful San Francisco Bay. Their two daughters, Agnes (born 1887) and Bridget Ann (born 1878), would meet their mates and settle as true Irish Californians. Agnes married a man with the last name of Forrest, and Bridget Ann married Frank Connors, Sr. Bridget Ann is my great grandmother.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Year to Remember - 1942

When my maternal grandmother was just 13, the family uprooted from her hometown of Wishek, North Dakota, a very tight knit town in which about 90% of the people there were from Russia. However, these were a unique set of people from Russia. They were German in ethnicity, but had left their homeland to live in parts of Russia - especially chosen by Catherine the Great in the 1700's, who was of German descent herself. She had her German fellows come to Russia to work the land and cultivate it. These parts of Russia were especially difficult to grow much in, but they still came to a foreign country. What drove them to do so? To look for a new life? Escape hardship they were already facing in Germany? It's hard to say why someone would go hundreds or thousands of miles from their home, especially if they'd never been there or had never seen it.

But, this is a whole blog post in itself, so I will have to delve into this at another time.

Back to 1942, my grandmother, her mother and father, and a baby on the way, drove out to California, for her father to find work in the Richmond shipyards. Once there, her father worked for the Kaiser shipyards, the same Kaiser who developed what we know as today Kaiser Permanente HMO healthcare. As a side note, I recently learned that her older sister worked as a typist for Kaiser.

My grandmother would start a new life in the new town of Richmond, CA. Fortunately, her sister lived not too far away in a town called Linden (near Stockton). She was married to one of the Purviance sons, who were known for their oil drilling in the area. My grandmother would often go down to visit her sister and see her nephew and spend time with the Purviance family.

Here are a few pictures during this time in the early 1940's when they were knew to the area and new to California. However, I think they adapted well to California. The weather was far more milder than North Dakota's harsh winters; the scenery was not quite as flat and of course, there was the beach! And, dance halls - where she'd meet my grandfather (sometime in 1947) who was a native to El Cerrito and part of a very large Irish family.

Grandma with her youngest sibling, James (Jimmy), Richmond, CA, 1945

Grandma at the kitchen table, Richmond, CA

Grandma outside their Richmond, CA home, a common spot for poses, circa 1942-43

 She is holding a flower (not a cigarette - Grandma never took up smoking)

In Linden with her nephew

Not long before they headed out to California, circa 1941, Wishek, ND

Grandma with her close middle-school and HS friend, Babe, circa 1942-43

Grandma at age 15, circa 1944

Thanksgiving, Pilgrims & the Chilton Family

I remember one morning around the week of Thanksgiving, right before leaving school, our local paper published all of the names of people who were aboard the Mayflower. My Dad showed it to me and was so proud to see names of our ancestors on this famous boat - the Chilton's. There is some folklore that the daughter, Mary Chilton, was the first person to step foot on Plymouth Rock and also of of the few surviving pilgrims to witness the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

My father's mother was a Chilton. It was her maiden name (Bonnie Lucille Chilton, born August 20th, 1932 - Died: May 24th 1980). Her father came from Texas, and further down the Chilton line, many of them came from Tennessee. I have yet to go as far back as the 1820's on the Chilton's but I think I can do so once given a little more time.

We still have the newspaper article from that day (sometime in 1992), and we added it to a family history book of my brother's he had to make in the 4th grade (sometime in 1988-89). We kept adding things to it after he made it. I made my own family history book in 1997 and extracted some items out of it, but for the most part, his stayed in tact.

Thanksgiving is one of those days were our family has had many varied celebrations. Often they were at one of our family member's home, or we'd go out and celebrate. Nevertheless, being with my cousins and extended family made our Thanksgivings a very meaningful time of year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Hello! My name is Kristen and I have designed a blog to help chronicle my family history findings as I research or learn new facts. I intend this blog to be rich with stories, photos and a "love of heritage."

I feel a deep connection to the family ties in which I was born into. I am not sure why I feel this connection unlike most others, but it is something I value very much. Family means a lot to me. Knowing the stories, the whereabouts and the ideas my ancestors had, gives me an intimate connection to them and maybe in some way, let's me feel a closeness to them as if I actually knew them.

I have been researching for over 16 years, but more heavily since about 2009.

I am excited to get this blog going as it's been a vision in my mind for years. I had a personal blog which I chronicled some of my family history, however, I decided to put that blog to rest about two years ago. It was a time in my life in which I needed a new start.

Please come along and join me on this fun ride of discovery of one's roots. I hope it can allow you to gain more perspective on your own and help you start researching and collecting facts!

All my best!