Thursday, January 29, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday

I recently came across a little box that was rather discreet. However, it held inside a very nice treasure that I was not expecting to find!

Inside was an engraved watch. This watch, from further examination, had my great grandmother's name engraved on the back. It read "Lydia Roehm." There was a little note inside the box that exclaimed it was given by her father on her wedding, on Christmas day, 1914.

I didn't have my camera on me that day to take photos of it, but part of me was jumping inside with glee to have come across such a delicate and personal piece of family history. When I came over the following weekend, with my camera in tow, I took the camera out and captured it.

On further examination, you could tell this watch was well loved. It has little nicks here and there, some discoloration inside the mechanics, and some of the gold plate looks to be folding away. The watch was made by Elgen National Watch Company, which was a very popular, 100 year old company when it closed it's doors in 1968.

Lydia received quite a few nice gifts from her father on her wedding day - a mantle clock, an engraved wrist watch, a dining set - all, I presume, were items he purchased from the family mercantile store that he owned with his brothers (and took over after his father's death in 1916). I think Lydia was very well loved as a daughter. She was a hard worker, earned her keep, was well respected as a friend and confidant, and for all of those reasons, I think is why her father returned the favor to his first born daughter on her wedding day; granting her many wedding treasures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Working Wednesday - Working the Murphy Ranch

William Murphy Sr, father of William Murphy Jr (who Lydia Roehm married after her first husband, George Roehm passed on) is seen here working on the ranch he owned in Brentwood. It looks like he's on some kind of tilling machine, but I am really unsure of what he's doing. It actually looks more like a chariot he's on, haha.

I have seen very few photos of William Sr show up among our many family photos and documents, but this is one of them and it's nice to put a name to a face. He died in 1910. He was very young when he passed on.

Here is a very nice biography written about him around the time he passed on:

Prominent among the men who were conspicuous and influential in developing and advancing the agricultural resources of eastern Contra Costa County was the late William Henry Murphy, a son of Thomas Murphy, an honored and esteemed citizen of this county, who came to California in 1856. Thomas Murphy, the father of William H., was born in County Cavan, Ireland, March 24, 1830. At the age of five years his parents left him in the old country with an uncle and came to America, residing in New York for five years. Thomas joined them at the age of seven. His parents removed to Connecticut. Thomas received a common-school education and in June, 1856, he started for California via the Isthmus route.

He intended to return to New York State in one year, but, liking the climate and resources of California, he remained and sent for his family. On joining them he went to Napa Valley and followed farming until 1867, when he removed to the eastern part of this county and purchased four hundred and eighty acres where Knightsen is located. In 1873 he purchased eleven hundred acres in Round Valley. At a later time he purchased more land in Round Valley, and had at the time of his death, which occurred in August, 1905, sixteen hundred acres. Thomas Murphy was married in Mystic, Connecticut, to Miss Alice Ross. To this union have been born five children, William H., the subject of this sketch, James B., Annie L., Alice, and Hattie. William Henry Murphy was born in Napa, California, and died June 9, 1910. He received his education in the Iron Horse and Eden Plain schools, after which he attended the University of the Pacific, at San Jose.

Finishing his education, he returned to the home place, where he was identified with general farming and stock-raising until his death. He was a systematic and thoroughgoing farmer, and after his father's death, by his enterprise, rendered both ranches the most attractive in this section. He was held in the highest esteem by his fellow-men. William Henry Murphy was united in marriage to Miss Catherine Braun, a native of San Jose, and a daughter of C. W. and Florentine Braun. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy were blessed with five children - Arthur Ray, born near Antioch, March 9, 1889; Katie, born near Antioch, July 24, 1890; William Henry Jr., born in Round Valley, April 2, 1892; Esther, born in Round Valley, June 24, 1895; James Campbell, born at Brentwood, November 3, 1906.


This land, which was divided between William Murphy Sr's children after his wife passed on in 1949, has since turned into a regional park. Bill Murphy Jr's brother, Jim Murphy, sold a large portion of the acreage to the park district in 1988, after his passing, as it was his wish that it remain as lovely as it was when her grew up there. Bill Murphy's portion, which is where my Grandma currently resides, was partially sold off in the late 1990's, finally completing the Round Valley Regional Park and giving them access to build a bridge over Marsh Creek and create trails and fences. I have found through many people who really love this park and I am thankful that people have embraced the land as much as I hold it so closely to my heart.

Sometimes when researching the property, I notice that the media makes no mention of my Grandmother's part in selling her part of the property to complete the transaction of making it a park. It frustrates me at times to know that giving up that land was a difficult decision for her, but fortunately, she still owns 10 acres of it privately and we can still enjoy it as our own for sometime longer.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Creatively Speaking

The other day, I had an idea to photograph some family photos in a collage style setting with some scrap booking materials that I own (but never seem to use!) I love these papers, but never get to show them off. I buy them, collect them and then they just get put away. I guess I just have a thing for collecting pretty things that cross my path (hmmmm, I wonder where I get that from??)

Well, to answer that question - I know I get it from both of my Grandma's. My Dad's mother, I recently learned, loved to peruse second hand stores and bring home things that caught her fancy. I had a feeling she had a good eye for a good find. I know my fine taste has to come from somewhere. But, my mom's mother is also a great collector and has a keen eye for things that are of great value. Her house is like walking into a museum. She has beautiful things all around in which she's inherited. I can spend hours there and never tire of all of the fun things to look at.

So, I think this creative spark has been passed down the generations. My mother was very craftsy with us kids. We'd work together on school projects together, making all kinds of fun creative things. My mom would also make some really well decorated birthday and holiday cakes (one year she made the Statue of Liberty out of a patina colored icing - another year she drew a large Mickey Mouse on a cake)

My cousins and I are carrying this creativity gene with us to a new generation of artistic lovers and creators. Many of us love to write, photograph (3 out of the 4 grand daughters own DSLR cameras), paint and draw (that's me!), design, and so much more. Even some of the guys have it, too - David was in an a cappella group in college, was a great juggler and a Renaissance fair swordsman - and he plays the guitar. My other cousin, Sam, has taken his creativity into the world famous Northern California Wine industry and has his own winery in the Dry Creek/Healdsburg area.

My other male cousin, Jesse, is a great videographer and video editor for his evangelism endeavors. He also loves to sing!

This is just on my mother's side!! My cousin's on my father's side are also creative. One does deep sea scuba diving and photographs his findings and he also is a creative photographer on land, too. My cousin Stephanie has a great knack for drawing, painting and especially textiles and creating really neat items with fabric. I feel grateful to be the recipient of a few of her hand-made items.

Anyhow, enjoy the following creative photos - I enjoyed making them and will make some more!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Travel Tuesday - Check Out Grandma's New Ride

               After Bill Murphy, my great grandma Lydia's second husband, passed away in 1973, she and my Grandma Annette started traveling across the country, visiting family members through many different states. My Grandma was in her early 40's and Lydia was in her mid-70's, but they were having the best time together, traveling everywhere, collecting mementos along the way, while traveling in their new cars (Lydia would say instead of going in a car that may break down, they'd trade their car in for a new one for each new trip and Annette would carry her shot gun in the back of the car - you didn't want to mess with these two ladies! Thelma and Louise were on the loose!).

Lydia would often refer back to this time as some of the best times in her life, even though when most of their travel halted in the early 1980's, Lydia still had a zest for life.

Some of the photos don't show all of the places they went to, but they also went as far as New York City and Hawaii. Lydia was well into her '80s by the time they slowed down their traveling, but wow, she was quite the go-getter. People only had good things to say about her. She lived a life of staying out of people's business, as her motto used to be, "MYOB" Mind your own business.

In a few months, I will devote some time on her life, as without Lydia in our lives, our family would be very different.

Here are some photos of the cars they drove and some places they visited on their travels.

Lydia (age 79) at the ranch, ready to take off in their new 1975 Oldsmobile Regency

Visiting friends up in Farmington, WA, circa 1981

Annette at Teddy Roosevelt Park, South Dakota, circa 1977-78

Visiting Annette's cousin Jeannette Werre Hellund, in Minnesota, circa 1970's

At a casino in Las Vegas, NV, circa 1976-77

Annette and Lydia at Annette's home, circa 1975-76, a break between their travels.

Lydia with Annette's son, visiting in Virginia, circa 1972-1973

Lydia at a possible grave marker, circa mid-1970s, Illinois

Annette's son, Terry (age 21-22) in Virginia, circa 1972-73

Lydia visiting her first husband's sister, Ida Roehm, in Wyoming, 1981.

Lydia (age 85) has the Texas Blue Bonnet in her hands, making a stop while driving through Texas, circa 1981.

Lydia and Annette, with Annette's grandchildren, Virginia Beach, VA, circa 1981

Lydia (age 85), Terry (Annette's son - age 30) and Annette, (age 52) circa 1981, Virginia Beach, VA.

Lydia (age 78) and Annette (age 45) with Lydia's niece's children (Annette's 2nd cousins), in Severna Park, Maryland, circa 1974

Lydia (age 81) & her daughters Izetta (age 59) and Annette (age 48) in Hawaii, 1977

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

(Genealogy) New Year's Resolutions

So, a new year is here. 2014 seemed to come and go so much faster than years before. I have a feeling 2015 will not be any less forgiving - darn, we're already going into our 2nd week of the year.

With that, I do have some genealogy related New Year's resolutions - ones that I hope I can stick to. Also, I feel having an itemized list will be beneficial for me - i.e. if I feel like I am running dry on blogging ideas or just need a little inspiration, I can always come back to this post to see what my hopes were for genealogical reasons (and blogging reasons, too)!

So, here's a go at it  -

1) My Irish Ancestors - I feel I am really neglecting this side of my roots, and I have quite a few tales to tell. Fact of the matter is, I need to hunker down and get more research done on my Irish ancestors. Things can often run dry in that area since many Irish records are still becoming digitized, but I will make it an aim to delve in this area a little more throughout the year!

2) My Father's Side - Recently, my Dad's sister has been writing me beautifully written accounts of her childhood (with memories of my Dad and the other siblings) and what she remembers of our grandparents and her parents and so on. These are priceless and I am protecting them like gold. They are all hand written, which to me, makes them even more special. I need to firstly digitize them so if they ever do get lost, I will always have a digital copy. Then, I would like to transcribe them into a word document. As for my blog, I would like to share more of my father's side. There is much to be revealed.

3) Use more Writing Prompts - I'd like to use more writing prompts to spice things up on here a bit more. I see quite a few websites that do a very good job of this and share their prompts with you. I aim to try some out and see what I can unearth in the process!

4) Network - I want to do a little more blog networking. I aim to give more comments on people's blogs or write a note of thanks for their knowledge. I'd like to see my blog in the future as a resource, in some ways, on certain genres of genealogy, especially the Black Sea Germans, which I feel my most comfortable with and have the most background in (which is why you see many related articles on them on here now and sure to see more in the future) - I am hoping my blog will bring in more Black Sea German researchers who are looking to share their memories or thoughts on the topic.

5) Noticing Interesting Patterns Interweave - Sometimes I find some interesting patterns during the migration of my ancestor's.  I'd like to focus more on these patterns and similarities as it's fun to point them out and make interesting connections. Some that I will focus on are two different waves of German colonization my ancestors were involved in - The Black Sea Germans to North Dakota and the Germanna Colonization in Virginia.

This is all for now - but maybe a year from now, I will be glad to have seen I met all of these goals.

Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Living in the Now

Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our past as fervent genealogists, that we can lose a sense of living in the now.

 Sometimes I know genealogy is taking me over when I find I am having dreams of my dead ancestors. In some ways, hey, that's pretty cool and in other ways, it can be waaaaay creepy!

 So, sometimes it's good for me to take a step back and just live in the now - as John Lennon once sang, "Life is what is happening while we're busy making other plans."

 I used to be a professional photographer, but gave it up to focus more on my drawing and painting skills and to work full time in Commercial Insurance. I still photograph like a crazy person, but now it's more on my terms, and that makes me a happy camper. When photography became work, it was no longer a passion for me. It lost a lot of it's allure for me, especially the editing process.

 In a way, I don't want my genealogy to become a job. I love to just "stumble" across things at a leisurely pace. I love to help others I know also discover their family trees, but not have to sell them on something. Again, taking a step back for a bit allows me to love genealogy as it should be - a fun hobby.

 However, my obsession with old photos - that will probably never subside! And my dreams of dead people, well, they may just continue whether I want them to or not. And, you know what, that's okay. Some of my passed on family and friends are alive for a brief moment and that's a great comfort :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cold Days Ahead

The coldness of North Dakota, I heard from my Grandma, was at times unbearable. She used to have to share her bed with her sisters and one of the sisters would always take the sheet away from my Grandma. Then there was the outhouse. During the cold months, I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to have to go out in sub-zero weather and attempt to use the rest room. I am sure she tried to not do it.

These were still the pioneering days in the 1920's and 1930's and also the Great Depression. Living out in the middle of nowhere meant modern day conveniences for even that time were not readily available.

Here are a few photos showing some of the cold winter months in North Dakota from our family collection.

I have a better photo of this picture somewhere, but this was the only copy I could locate. This is my Aunt Doris, sometime around 1925, playing in the snow.

This is my Grandma (second from left) with her Babitzke cousins and their dog, Swifty (the cutest dog name and dog ever!!)

My great Aunt Martha (aka Mart) and cousin Donald Herr on a very simple looking boat on what could be Red Lake, near Wishek, ND.

Another photo of Mart and Donald (cousins)

A closer up, studio shot of Martha and what looks like a very warm coat and cute hat, circa 1915

Great Aunt Mart, George Roehm and Lydia with their newborn and first born, Doris, in 1915. These are my great grandparents. My grandma would come many years later.

Great Aunt Mart attempts to shoot something in the great plains of ND, circa 1915.

George Roehm Jr., Izetta Roehm, one of the Herr children, Doris and Joyce Roehm and possibly Babtizke cousin, circa 1927-28