Memorial Monday: Ancestors Who Served

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

In honor of Memorial Day, here’s a quick run-down of my military ancestors:

My dad — US Army Reserves; Korean War, WWII (pictured left with his brother, Edmund, who served in the Navy)

Grandpa Wild — U.S. Army

Grandpa Corley — Iowa Infantry; Spanish-American War

Obediah Basham (my 4Ggrandfather) — Revolutionary War (I haven’t submitted a DAR application yet because I’m still collecting the necessary documentation, but others have)

I’m betting that I also had ancestors on one or both sides of the Civil War, but I haven’t collected/found proof of this yet.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Memorial Day Edition

Today’s post is about the U.S. flag my family received after my father was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. As I’ve posted in the past, my father served in WWII and the Korean War as a radiologist. Only recently did I discover some of the stories about his service.

My dad died of natural causes, after a very long and full life, when I was only 7 years old. There was so much I didn’t understand when I attended his funeral, but the memories of that day are quite vivid, including the folding of this flag and its presentation to my mom.

Recently, I received my dad’s military personnel file, several months after requesting it from the National Archives and Records Administration. I learned still more about my dad and his service. What a treasure trove. If you are the direct descendant of a now-deceased veteran, I highly recommend taking advantage of the resources NARA provides — request their records as a way to honor them for Memorial Day. You’re sure to learn a lot!

Tombstone Tuesday: Corley

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

For those who followed my series on Arlington Abbey Mausoleum (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), you may remember that when I read up on the mausoleum and its unfortunate history of vandalism and looting, I learned that the remains of several of my ancestors were missing. Shortly thereafter, my half-brother remembered an old copy of our father’s will in which he stated that he’d bought a a burial spot for relatives bearing his last name at another cemetery.

A phone call to Parklawn Memorial Park in Rockville, Md., confirmed that my paternal grandfather and his parents are indeed buried there, and I found out the exact location of where their remains can be found today. Saturday, I was in the area and paid a visit to the cemetery. When I arrived at the building described to me by the cemetery staff, my eyes lit upon my surname almost immediately.

Bingo. But, I must say, the genealogist in me was a bit disappointed. The name “Corley” is all that’s engraved into the marble face of their vault. I had hoped to see all three of their names listed. I harbored a twinge of jealousy after seeing the other vaults with more detailed information listed.

Because this genealogist is a bit unsatisfied, I do plan to call back the staff at the cemetery and see if I can get a copy of the burial record. After all this searching, I want more tangible proof that all of them really are in there.

Still, I was glad to get the chance to visit the cemetery and I’m also so thankful that this mystery is solved. Others whose ancestors were buried at Arlington Abbey are not so lucky. The remains found scattered there (or that are missing altogether) may never be sorted out.

Wordy Wednesday: Me, My Dad and an Irish Almost Pub Fight

When I was nearly four years old, my parents and I visited England and Ireland (my dad had a medical conference in one of the two countries). It was very eventful and I have many memories: watching the rabbits on the front lawn of our hotel, riding through the Gap of Dunloe in a horse-drawn carriage, etc.

One incident that I *don’t* remember is still one of my favorite tales to tell from that trip. It’s the time I saved my dad from an Irish almost pub fight.

As those who may have traveled to Europe know, many roads were not paved with large or even small vehicles (or even bicycles) in mind. They are beyond narrow. It was down such a road in a town in the Ring of Kerry that my father was navigating our rental car when he accidentally sideswiped another vehicle. That other vehicle was parked outside of a pub.

Being the upstanding citizen that my dad was, he went inside the pub to try and find the car’s owner. Either the proprietor of the establishment or another pub patron told him, “Well, that car belongs to Johnny and he’s in the loo [do the Irish say "loo?"]. We’ll send him out to talk with you when he comes back.”

So my dad returned to our car and waited. I probably didn’t really understand what was happening, but I could feel the tension crackling in the air as my parents waited for the car’s owner to emerge. Influenced by said tension and my small stature, one can hardly blame me for my reaction when the door to the pub opened.

Now, you must understand, my dad was 6’1″ tall. Not a small man. But the man who emerged from the pub was taller, with flaming red beard and hair.

So I did what any other self-respecting almost-four-year-old would do.

I started bawling. And screaming, “A giant! A giant’s going to kill my daddy!”

And then I started crawling over my mom to try and get as far away from the giant as possible.

Well, Johnny the Giant, obviously wasn’t expecting me. He immediately apologized to my dad for scaring me and waved away the damage to the car. “Go on and enjoy the rest of your vacation,” he said.

And so we did. And I eventually forgot about Johnny the Giant until about 10 years later when my mom told me the story. She said Johnny probably wasn’t even the owner of the car that my dad hit — the bar patrons probably wanted to play a joke on the American tourists by sending out the biggest, scariest man in the bar. Well, what’s the biggest, baddest Irishman against four-year-old me? A big ol’ softie, that’s what.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Google Maps

Here’s this week’s challenge from Amy at We Tree:

“Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, a parking lot or a field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses in Google Maps, don’t forget to use the Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you were right there where your ancestors once stood. If you’ve used this tool before, take sometime and play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.”

I decided to look up the address my paternal grandfather listed on his WWI draft registration card. The address is in Northwest Washington, D.C. By looking at the various views on Google Maps, I was able to determine that he lived near the National Zoo:

And that the location is now nestled between a bank and a Verizon Wireless store:

Google Maps states that a management company (with some pretty negative reviews) currently is housed at the address, but there’s a For Rent sign in the window on Street View.

My grandfather was a physician and it’s likely that his practice was housed in this building as well, especially since it appears to be a mixed use area. I know that the family used to live on the premises because I have other documents, including a letter written by my father as a teenager, bearing the address.

What I want to know is if some of the photos I have of my dad were taken at this address, including his ever-popular Rick Astley shot, which would have been taken around the time the family lived at this address. Has the neighborhood changed that much or was this photo taken at a different location?

Folks who like this kind of task may get a kick out of the Historical Aerials web site. It’s not comprehensive, but you may luck out and be able to see what your ancestral locations looked like from the air decades ago. I was able to find a view of the above street corner from 1963.

[This post constitutes Task A in the Expand Your Knowledge Event of the GeneaBloggers 2010 Winter Games and earns me a bronze medal!]

Christmas Cards

This is post #4 in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Today’s Advent Calendar prompt asks: “Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?”

I don’t really remember my mom sending out a bunch of Christmas cards every single year. I started doing this myself after college — I found it was a nice way to stay in touch with folks after moving away from my home state.

I went through some childhood mementos to see if I could find any Christmas cards that I received as a child. Instead, I found the gem below, which my mom helpfully labeled “Melissa’s Christmas Card to Santa 1980″ (I was 4).

Xmas Card to Santa 1980

I remember those stickers vividly — actually they were stamps and had to be licked to make them adhere to the paper. Mom used to stick them on gift tags she attached to Christmas presents. I distinctly remember licking those stamps while sitting at a tiny white table I had in my playroom in the basement of the house we lived in at that time. Perhaps I’m remembering making this exact card? I can only assume that the letters at the top were my attempt to sign my name…

From a genealogical perspective, this card has more than sentimental value. You may be able to tell from the scan that there’s also a drawing (actually, a watercolor painting, also by moi) on the reverse side. Turns out, the picture on the back and this card were made using a piece of my dad’s medical office stationary* and his office address is printed on the reverse.

After many years of buying Christmas cards that only required me to include a quick note and to sign my name, I’m making my own cards again this year. I’d like to think my technique has improved a bit — I’m still using plenty of stickers though! See below for some examples. The materials came from this year’s featured project by Creative Memories.

Handmade Xmas Cards 2009

*My parents embraced recycling early — in addition to stray pieces of stationary, my dad would bring home reams and reams of discarded EKG printouts from the medical offices where he worked. Many a drawing was done on the back of these printouts — my sister and I were still using them for scratch paper years after he retired.

Tombstone Tuesday: Arlington Abbey, Part 3

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

As I detailed in two previous blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2), the remains of three of my ancestors were once buried at Arlington Abbey Mausoleum in Arlington, Va. However, that site fell into disrepair decades ago and was subjected to vandalism and worse. When the Army Corps of Engineers tried to close the facility in the late 1990s, they couldn’t reach all of the families of those buried there. When I tried to find more information about my relatives, I learned that their remains were missing.

As I said in my last post, it appeared that one of three things had happened: 1) a family member removed my ancestors’ remains to another location during a time when records of such removals were not recorded; 2) the urns holding the remains were stolen or destroyed; 3) the remains were among a bunch of unmarked urns found scattered inside the mausoleum, with no way to trace them back to the crypts to which they belonged.

I’m happy to report that while discussing this mystery with my half-brother over the Thanksgiving holiday, we found the answer. In an old version of our father’s will (dated only a year after I was born), he stated that he had purchased a crypt at another facility for “ashes of deceased members of my family who bore the name Corley.”

I called that facility when I returned home Saturday afternoon. After giving them the names and dates of death of the missing ancestors, the facility called me back in short order to let me know that they indeed have their remains. I now have their exact location and I hope to visit the memorial park soon.

I’ve sent this information to the Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist who assisted me in my search for my missing ancestors. My hope is that now that we have found my relatives, this may help narrow down the possible identities of those remains found on the floor of the mausoleum.

Continue to Part 4 (Tombstone Tuesday: Corley).

Wordy Wednesday: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day Memories of My Dad

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My Dad

My father passed away when I was young. He served in both WWII and the Korean War as a doctor in the Army Reserves. I didn’t get to hear many stories from him personally, and I continue to be amazed by what I find through my research.

Earlier this year, while searching for my surname online, I discovered the book The World of Surgery 1945-1985 — Memoirs of One Participant by James D. Hardy had several mentions of my dad’s name in it. I was even more surprised to learn that the book was in the stacks of the University of Maryland, College Park, main library (I work on this campus).

dadwxraysA portion of the book covers the author’s time with the Army during World War II and that’s where my dad’s name appears — my dad was the author’s unit commander at Camp Lee Regional Hospital (p. 85). I was delighted to find passages mentioning my dad, such as:

“7 Apr 45. Miraculously, we were ready today to recieve flocks of patients. Headquarters  (Lt. Hurand), registrar (Lt. Elliott), and Maj. Corley have done a bang-up job…” (p. 98).

And this amazing excerpt:

“11 Jul 45. Lt. Col. Banks, CO, was wounded seriously… by a bullet accidentally discharged by a Luger being cleaned some distance away. Struck and dazed while sitting on his bunk, he staggered out of his tent calling for Major Corley. The bullet itself had passed through the tent wall and lodged in Corley’s bedroll.” (p. 110).

My father was on the medical team that helped to treat surviving concentration camp prisoners from Dachau and surrounding locations after the Germans surrendered in the spring of 1945. I have a copy of “The History of the 81st Field Hospital,” which spares no detail in describing some of the horrors witnessed there.

Dad also served in a M*A*S*H unit in Korea. I have fond memories of watching the TV show of the same name while sitting on his lap when I was about five years old. He absolutely loved that show.

rotc

Dad in his high school R.O.T.C. days.

After Dad retired from the Army (rank: Lieutenant Colonel), he went on to become chief of radiology at Kimbrough Army Hospital at Fort Meade, Md.

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James D. Hardy, The World of Surgery 1945-1985 — Memoirs of One Participant, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.