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18 July 2017

Genealogy, It's for the Living

 Addie Virginia Hayes Reese
 Sep 10, 1923 - Jul 16, 2017
Genealogy research usually focuses on events that happened long before, but how do we grieve and realize that it’s just genealogy in the making?

When my almost 94-year-old Grandmother, Addie Virginia Hayes Reese aka “Granny Reese”, passed away this past Sunday morning I was gripped by grief before wanting to write her story (obituary) and release it.  Since my grandmother was from a small town south of Nashville, I started listening to Patsy Cline music to get in the right frame of mind. Once ready, I got my laptop and logged onto my Ancestry tree to begin creating what I hoped would accurately portray and respect her memory.

Virginia with my grandfather,
Wilburn Petty Reese in 1942
As the words began to flow and her tale began to take shape, I felt much calmer and happier.  It was cathartic to get her record down and feel like I was somehow contributing to her memory, rather than just being tortured with emotion. By taking action, it relieved the pain of losing her.


Virginia with my daughter Katie in 2016
Of course it also made me do a bit more research and complete her narrative just a bit more.  That’s the thing, our genealogy is never done, it’s just waiting for another life event to happen.


Photos courtesy of Shannon Reese


Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

15 July 2017

Genealogy Secrets of a Photo


by Cassie Arnold

My mother and maternal grandmother had chaotic childhoods. So not many artifacts from those years survive – either lost in frequent moves or discarded because of bad memories.

But my mother always held on to a portrait taken of her mother and herself as an infant. My mother takes pride in the fact that the photo ran in the Oakland Tribune announcing her birth. According to my mother her birth was newsworthy because her father was a football star at St. Mary’s College.

That story seemed suspect to me, but my mother had few good childhood memories, so I never challenged her on it.

Detective work begins
When my parents moved into a senior living community a year ago, I came into possession of the portrait – a color version and a black and white version that was used by the Tribune. It was in a file with some other glamour shots of my grandmother that were taken about the same time.

I thought it would be fun to find the complete news item in the Tribune. My mother said it was a photo and a caption. I went over to the Tribune archives at the Oakland Public Library one afternoon to find the original in context. My grandfather’s name was Aloysius, so he is easy to search.

Turns out the occasion for the story was the fact that my grandfather had successfully completed his parole and was now happily moving on with his young family. The arrest stemmed from a fight with one of his mother’s tenants who was trying to skip out on his rent. The article also noted that he was a former St. Mary’s football star. This was in June 1932.

My grandparents married because my grandmother was pregnant. She was attending Berkeley High School at the time and dropped out in the Spring of her senior year. She always said she dropped out when she was 16, but that was to accommodate the fact she always lied about her age. It seems my grandfather had already graduated.

I found reference in the Berkeley High yearbooks to my grandfather playing on the football team and leaving before the 1930 season, but he is not included in the Spring 1930 graduates.

This seemed like a strange timeline, so I thought it would be helpful to find out when they got married.

Since their marriage lasted just over five years, it wasn’t something anyone in the family celebrated or cared to remember. So I went to the Alameda County Clerk’s office to see what I could find. Since I didn’t have a date or even a year, I had to rely on my grandfather’s unusual name. Alameda County had no records, but the clerk recommended I try San Francisco (SF) because “a lot of people were going over there to get marriage licenses at that time.”

Clearing up the mystery
I few weeks later I went to the SF County Clerk’s office. No luck there either. My next thought was to try Contra Costa County since that’s where St. Mary’s College is, but a trek to Martinez was a major undertaking, and I put it aside.

One morning when I was cleaning up the office, I happened to turn over the color version of the portrait. It was inscribed! I’ve been looking at this picture for all of my life and never thought to turn it over.



It says, “To Daddy from your loving wife and daughter on our first anniversary May 4, 1932. Mother 19 yrs. Alice Jeanne 6 mos.”

So they were married on May 4, 1931. I don’t know where, but at least I know when.
About the Author


Cassie Arnold is an Alameda-based business and financial writer as well as a second-generation Oakland native. She is working on a history of Oakland/Berkeley from 1919 to 1941 from the perspective of her maternal ancestors.

Photos courtesy of Cassie Arnold



Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

13 July 2017

Chris' Genealogy Journey: Discovery at the Tennessee State Library & Archives


by Chris Pattillo

The next chapter of my Genealogy Journey is all about doing research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I located several documents and resources that I’d never seen before and learned the difference between land deeds and land grants. I spent time looking at both types of records for my family plus surveyor’s records, marriage records and estate inventories.

Did you know that one of Franklin D Roosevelt’s “put people back to work projects” engaged citizens to transcribe historic documents? This was one of my new discoveries while at the library. If you’ve never been to a state library before you are in for a treat – they offer a virtual treasure trove of genealogical jewels.

The fun begins
I set my alarm for 6:30 this day in hopes of getting to the Tennessee State Library and Archives early enough to get a parking space. I succeeded. On June 7th and 8th I was one of the first five visitors to enter the library.

The day before I looked at their books on Carter County and found several things of interest. My treasures included: 

1) a detailed list of each of the 24 persons buried in the Fitzsimmons Cemetery with details of what information is on every headstone. Four of my ancestors are buried there including William Stover, my third great grandfather. This document was prepared by the Historical Records Survey which was one of President Roosevelt’s WPA programs to put people to work during the depression. I hadn’t known about this before. 

2) A History of the Iron Industry in Carter County to 1860 written by Robert Nave, a local historian and archivist who had generously spent a day with me in 2012 taking me to all the places where my ancestors had lived. This book is of interest because William Stover owned the Speedwell Bloomery Forge in Carter County ca. 1855. 

3) Five years of Tax Lists from 1796 to 1800 for Carter County, and 

4) The book Images of Carter County had several interesting photos including two in particular. One was a picture of Daniel Stover’s home before it was restored. Daniel was my fourth great grandfather. There’s also a good photograph of the Sinking Creek Baptist Church, which is relevant, but I cannot recall why just now.



On the second day I looked mostly at deeds. I started with the Index for 1795-1880 and made a list of 17 deeds for my Drake family line and 65 for my Stovers! My goodness, my ancestors bought and sold a lot of pieces of property. At this rate I’d be here a month, so I decided to only look at the Stovers for the period 1880 – 1895 and found only 28 additional documents. By 1895-1911 the numbers were much reduced and the names less familiar – only 12 more, so I decided to skip 1911-1928. Want to know the rest of the story? Click here.


Photos courtesy of Chris Pattillo


Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

12 July 2017

Wordless Wednesday: SCGS Genealogy Jamboree 2017

Front row: Tim Foley, Diana Edwards & Lisa Gorrell
Back row: Lavinia Schwarz & Ron Madson


Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society

09 July 2017

Chris' Genealogy Journey: Handley Cemetery & Tarrant County, TX


by Chris Pattillo

Cemeteries and Courthouses...a genealogy goldmine. My next highlighted stops as I continued along my genealogy adventure had me in Texas with visits to the Handley Cemetery, near Fort Worth, and the Tarrant County Courthouse.  So take a quick break now and enjoy a bit of genealogy travel and research along with me, a fellow California Genealogical Society member.

Handley Cemetery
After the Stock Yards on the 24th I drove to Azal, a little northwest of Fort Worth, where I found an RV Park for the night. My spot had a very nice view of a field with a small herd of Angus cows grazing in it. I planned to find the Handley Cemetery, the following day, and look for the grave of Wirt W. Pattillo. Wirt was listed on the 1880 census with his parents and his birth information showed he was born in May of that year. I Googled “Handley Cemetery” to I could find the location and the Find A Grave site came up – a tremendous resource for genealogists.


I entered “Pattillo” and three burials were listed. I was taken aback to find three infant sons buried in the Handley Cemetery. Previously, I’d known about two infant boys that had died but now I found that there were three. Wirt W. Pattillo was born May 25, 1880, James H. Pattillo, named after his grandfather, was born September 18, 1882 and died November 11, 1883 – just 13 months old, and Infant Pattillo, a son died January 31, 1884. In just three years James and Carrie Pattillo had lost three children. How very tragic. I’d like to know the causes of death but those records were lost in a fire, as I learned later in the day at the Tarrant county Courthouse.  For more photos and the end of Chris' tale, click here.

Tarrant County Courthouse

When I left the Handley Cemetery I drove south to Camper World to have my solar power converter fixed. I arrived a little early for my 1:00 appointment but spent the time shopping for a few things I needed. After the lunch break I went out to the shop to show them where the converter was hidden. The technician asked me a couple of questions about what the problem was, he tested for electricity flow, then moved a little black switch into the “on” position and voila my problem was fixed – No charge! So, now all my technical problems were fixed and I had time to visit the Tarrant County Courthouse that afternoon.

It is a beautiful building designed by Gunn & Curtis Architects in the Renaissance Revival style. The original cost of construction was $408,840 and the citizenry thought the politicians were so extravagant at the time they voted them out of office.  The interior of the building is also spectacular. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.


After finding a parking space directly across the street from the courthouse, I made my way to the City Clerk’s office. The man at the front desk informed me that the marriage record I sought for my great grandparents did not exist because there had been a fire and ….. just then one of his co-workers, Mary Boyd, returned from her break and chimed in, “oh, yes we do have those records”. The front desk person looked dubious but Ms. Boyd escorted me into the adjacent room filled with computer workstations and within five minutes had located my prize. She explained, “we only get requests for these old records about once every five years, so they forget that we have them, but I love looking for them.”  The story continues here.

Stay tuned for my next adventure at the Tennessee State Archives.  If you've got ancestors from this neck of the woods, you'll enjoy this one!

Photos courtesy of Chris Pattillo


Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society