Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Louise Frances Bickford - Descendant of second Mayflower voyage?

I was exploring my sister-in-law’s ancestors and found she has a first cousin, once removed, that was an opera star.  I found several articles about the cousin, but one excited me like a dog chasing a Frisbee in the spring. Now, it isn’t often that I encounter something that makes me giddy with the excitement of the chase but this article did.  I asked my sister-in-law if she knew about the cousin and what the story said.  She remembered the cousin but didn’t know the tidbit in the article.  She didn’t know where her cousin had got that bit of information, because it wasn't in her oral history.  I know that newspaper articles get things wrong and that sometimes things are made up for the papers, but this tidbit is too exciting to pass up. 

Lewiston Evening Journal
August 15, 1959
Courtesy: Google News
The August 15, 1959, article in Lewiston Evening Journal runs two pages in the magazine section and provides information about “Luisa Franceschi,” the stage name for an opera star whose birth name was Louise Frances Bickford. According to the article, Louise’s ancestors "Date back maternally to the early sailing days, while on the paternal side go back to the second voyage of the Mayflower, 1632."

Wow. Louise’s paternal side ancestors would also be my sister-in-law’s ancestors. I’ve heard the stories that my sister-in-law’s family had been in New England for a long time, but that long? Could it be? Besides the original Mayflower, there was a second ship also called the Mayflower. According to Wikipedia, that second Mayflower made crossings in 1629, 1630, 1633, 1634, and 1639. Humm – No voyages in 1632 – Something is definitely amiss.

A mystery for sure. Is the article true? It will take some time, but that tantalizing bit of information fuels my enthusiasm towards another research area. I am excited and will, hopefully, find out the truth.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

100 Years ago – The Howells of North Carolina.

James Dallas Howell - c.1905
Source: The Howler

James Dallas Howell (1789-1964) & Mary Lillian Hobbs (1885-1964)

In 1915, James Dallas Howell and his wife, Mary Lillian (nee Hobbs) were living in Clarkton, Bladen County, North Carolina. The household consisted of the couple and their two oldest sons, three year-old James Dallas Howell, Jr. and one year-old Ashley Long Howell. James was 36 years-old and Lillian, was 30.

Rev. Howell was a minister at Pastor at Clarkton Baptist Church. 

Internationally, the “Great War” was in full swing in Europe but the United States was still natural. Germany began “unrestricted” submarine war and German mines sunk two US ships, the SS Carib on February 23rd, resulting in 3 lives lost, and the SS Evelyn sunk on February 19th with 1 life lost.[1]

Local sports highlighted the local newspapers of the day. An upset of the Freshman basketball team over the Sophomore basketball in a 12 to 10 contest was the top story in the Daily Tar Hill newspaper Feb 25, 1915. It is so hard for me to comprehend a basketball game with a final score of 12 to 10. How times have changed. Also on the front page of the paper, Virginia beat Carolina 43-26 the previous Thursday. [2]  An ad for Velvet Tobacco, touted the tobacco as being satisfaction in either corn cobb or meerschaum pipes, giving testimony that Velvet made everyone equal regardless of economic class.[3]
Clipping of an Advertisement for Velvet pipe tobacco.
Advertisement: Velvet Tobacco
Source: The Daily Tar Heel
Feb 25, 1915 · Page 2
Via Newspapers.Com   

James’ father, Peter Fletcher Howell,  was alive, living about 175 miles away in Weldon, Halifax County, NC. His mother had passed in 1910.

Likewise, Mary Lillian’s father, James Ashley Hobbs, was alive, living about 185 miles away in Williamston, Martin County, NC, but her mother had passed away also (in 1913).

I have a lot of research to do regarding both James’ and Mary’s siblings. I know that one James’ sisters, Anna Lee Boseman and one of his brothers, David Bushrod Howell were alive. I don’t know if his other two brothers, John D, and G. C., were alive. Nor do I know if his other two sisters, Augusta E, and Martha F. were alive.

Of Lillian’s eight siblings, three, Annie Elizabeth (Hobbs) Armstrong, Rolland Rivers Hobbs, and James Floyd Hobbs were living. Four are known to have died before 1915, George Samuel, Mattie D. Mary Emolyn, and Fannie Hobbs. I don’t know the status of her eighth known sibling, Charles Leon Hobbs .
Mary Lillian Hobbs
Source: Flikr: Debby Ziegler

Further Research:

Determine Vital information for James Dallas Howell’s siblings:

  • John D Howell
  • G. C. Howell
  • Augusta E. Howell
  • Martha F. Howell

Determine Vital information for Mary Lillian Hobbs’ [Howell] oldest sibling:

  • Charles Leon Hobbs


[3] The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) - Feb 25, 1915 · Page 2, - Newspapers.Com

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Donna in Hamilton, OH, at the Palace Theater – March 22-25, 1925

Photo of the Palace Theatre with a wagon in front advertising "Down on the Farm" - about 1920.
Wagon Advertisement for the Palace Theatre
In front of the Palace Theatre, 1920 *

Photo via Photobucket 
I haven’t figured out exactly where Donna was before she played at the Palace Theater in Hamilton, Ohio, on March 22nd to March 25th, 1925. We know that in February she played in Kokomo, Indiana, however, I have a lot more research to do to fill in the gaps.

The first advertising I found for her show was in the March 17th Hamilton Daily News. Under the Movies heading, it read:


According to announcement just made known, the Palace management has succeeded in obtaining a most unusual and decidedly high-class bit of entertainment to be offered to its patrons starting Sunday next. It is known as The Hollywood Bathing Girls Revue, and presents an exceptionally interesting half hour of pleasure. Miss Donna Darling, a winner of numerous beauty prizes is the star of this spectacular Revue. She played the principal role in the late musical comedy success Chin Chin, and is a talented singer and dancer as well as possessor of pulchritudinous charms. Before Miss Darling left the California studios, she selected several accomplished motion picture bathing girls to accompany here on her brief tour of the Eastern states. Each of them will do a specialty number, singing, dancing and comedy. And there will be a fashion display of different styles of bathing suits from Grandmother’s day on down to the present. Betty Bryant, who was selected as “Miss America,” in a recent Atlantic City contest has an important part in the presentation of this Bathing Girls Revue; and others included in the cast are Alyce Louyse, Mildred O’Brian, tiny Anita Walker, Todd Watson, Clarice Allyn, Al Ross and Gerry Gene, all of whom have won recognition in the “movies.”[i]
The following day, the exact same “article” appeared in The Hamilton Evening Journal. There was also a small ad indicating the show was coming “Next Sunday.” [ii]

It is interesting to note that Betty Bryant isn’t in the list of Miss Americas. The first Miss America was Margaret Gorman who won in 1921. Her title was “The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America.” It wasn’t until the following year, when she defended her title, that the title “Miss America” was used. So, Betty Bryant must have been a contestant either before 1921 or in another pageant.

March 21st was a big day for the show. There were ads on both page 2 and on page 27. Additionally, there were two articles about the show on Page 27[iii]. That longer of the two articles reads:

Bathing Girls at The Palace

The Journal News (Hamilton, OH)
March 21, 1925 - Page 27

Bathing Girls from the Western motion picture studios will make a personal appearance at the Palace theatre starting tomorrow. The star of this spectacular Hollywood Revue is Miss Donna Darling, a winner of numerous beauty prizes, and portrayer of the principal role in the late musical comedy success “Chin Chin.” Miss Darling is not only beautiful, but can sing and dance with unusual ability. Her presentations are so charming that she has been justly called “The Girl with the million dollar personality.”
Miss Darling selected several accomplished motion picture bathers to accompany her on her brief tour of the Eastern states. Tiny Anita Walker sings as well as she wears a stunning black and white satin bathing suit. Todd Watson and Clarice Allyn, as gypsy dancers, entertain with a difficult and spectacular number, which is followed by an aerobatic novelty by the talented movie star, Gerry Gene. Al Ross, one of the life-guards, is an eccentric dancer who also appears with Alyce Louyse in the comedy number, “1000 Bathers.” Alice Lenyse is at her best in the Hawaiian dance. Mildred O’Bryan as a beach flirt does a nifty song and dance.

This revue displays the different styles of bathing suits from mother’s day, in which Miss Darling appears in an elaborate silver and orchid gown—a comedy number of 1900—on to the present day bather, when Betty Bryant, late of the Ziegfeld Follies, appears in a scarlet bathing suit as “Miss America of today.” Miss Darling as the “Globe-trotter” presents bathers of various beaches of other nations as well as the fashionable bathing centers of our own country. These include the Chinese, Spanish, Egyptian, Hawaiian, and Palm Beach bathers.

The gowns of this revue are elaborate, special interest centers about the rhinestone bathing suit, which Miss Darling wears in the finale. Much time and effort has been spent in selecting the stage setting and the elaborate lighting effects of this revue. The management of the Place theatre is to be congratulated for succeeding in procuring such clean and enjoyable entertainment as is “The Bathing Girls Revue.”

In addition to this unusual attraction a picture of rare merit—“Forty Winks” – Featuring Viola Dana, Raymond Griffith and Theodore Roberts, will be offered as the feature film. And the regular run of short subjects will also be offered.

Owing to the enormous cost of this big double bill, the Palace Management finds it necessary to slightly increase the price of admission, but it is said that this presentation will well be worth the increase in price.

The Bathing Girls revue will be presented four times tomorrow—at about 2:30, 4:30, 1:10 and 9:15 p. m. During the remaining three days of its run at the Palace theatre it will be presented three times. [iv]
One additional thing about the Newspaper ad of March 21st.  It had a disclaimer which read:
To the Public:-- 
   All rumours and reports in the contrary notwithstanding, we hereby guarantee this Bathing Girl Revue to be absolutely CLEAN, free from all vulgarity or suggestiveness and suited to the tastes of the whole family. It conforms in every respect to the Palace Theatre standard of presentation, and once again bears out why the Palice is known as


Newspapers articles and advertising also ran on the 24th and 25th in all three papers, Hamilton Evening Journal, the Hamilton Daily News, and the Journal News

They performed 13 shows in 4 days and headed on to their next stop, Rushville, Indiana, performing the next day.

Palace Theatre — 215 South Third Street, Hamilton, OH

The Palace Theatre was built in 1919 with the exclusive intent of showing movies. It was an opulently appointed silent movie theater. A newspaper of the time said that the $100,000 facility was "a replica of the famous Rivoli Theater in New York City." The theater was designed by the managing director of the theater, Fred S. Meyer, and a renowned Hamilton architect, Frederick G. Mueller.

The theater’s ornate columns and windows were covered over in the in the 1960s, when the theater was "modernized." In 2003, Greater
Hamilton Civic Theatre (CHCT) purchased the building and restored the original, rather striking, 1919 facade. Today, the Palace Theatre is used for GHCT theatrical support need.

Further Research

Research the other cast members of the show:
  • Anita May Walker 
  • Todd Watson 
  • Clarice Allyn 
  • Gerry Gene
  • Al Ross
  • Alyce Louyse 
  • Mildred O’Brien
  • Betty Bryant


*  Source info for the 1920 photo of the Palace Theater indicates that the photo is from 1928, however, the billboard movie "Down on the Farm" was released in 1920 and is unlikely playing at the Palace in 1928.

[i] Hamilton Daily News (Hamilton, OH) 17 March 1925, Page 2 – “Bathing Girls Be At Palace.” Source: Heritage Microfilm, Inc. and Newspaperarchive.com.
[ii] Hamilton Evening Journal (Hamilton, OH) 18 March 1925, Page 11 – “Hollywood Bathing Girls Will Appear in Person at the Palace.” Source: Heritage Microfilm, Inc. and Newspaperarchive.com.
[iii] The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) · Sat, Mar 21, 1925 · Page 27 – Source: Newspapers.com.[iv] The Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) · Sat, Mar 21, 1925 · Page 27 – “Bathing Girls At the Palace.” Source: Newspapers.com.

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The house of Kocun: the Stagecoach Makers

by Jenne M. (guest blogger)

During her later years, my grandmother did compile a family history of sorts, but I no longer have access to it and no idea where it has gone. I remember some details, though: some of her ancestors – a grandmother, I believe – were Russian or Polish, with a long name beginning with a Z. This likely accounts for my dabbling of Russian genes, although I don't know whether this line stems from the house of Kocun or Swentko.

In truth, I could chase down little in terms of documentation for any of my mother's maternal line. Luckily, I did ask my grandmother while she was alive.

Her father Nicholas – the first of his line in the records I have been able to find – was born in 1895 in the town of Stara Lubovna – Old Lubovna – in what is now Slovakia, nine miles south from the current Polish border in the Tatras Mountains. Like many such towns, it was juggled back and forth between empires and languages: Hungarian, Polish, Czech. The very name Kocun – pronounced “kotsun” – bears witness to the polyglot nature of the community, as well as the family's original trade: it was the Slovak version of a Hungarian word for “stagecoach-maker.”

Nicholas came to the United States in 1911 at the age of 16 and married Victoria Swentko when he was 33. He worked for American Smelting and Refining in Perth Amboy, according to his World War II draft card; I can find no evidence that he fought in World War I. He was an iron worker at American Smelting and Refining. Family pictures show him to be a fair-haired man of thin build, Slavic in appearance – and likely with some Polish or Russian ancestry. He died at the age of 77 from colon cancer. No records remain as to his own parents or siblings, but he must have had the latter, since the name still exists in central New Jersey. There are references to a Steven Kocun that could have been his brother – and explained his son's name – and a Charles, from whom the New Jersey Kocuns seem to be descended. There are John and Joseph Kocuns as well, who could have been cousins or brothers.

SS Patricia
Photo: Courtesy Norway-Heritage 
His parents may have been Jozef Kocun (1865 – 1922) and Mary Kocun (1869 – 1943); their age would be correct. All of the Kocuns are buried in the same cemetery: Holy Trinity in Perth Amboy. They were likely relatives at the least. Josef emigrated from Tzeniskowica – listed as Russia, but likely in Poland judging from the name, and the fact that Jozef was described as Polish in origin – in 1909 on the ship Patricia. No Russian or Polish town with that name exists today, and the passengers were all from Russia/Poland and Hungary/Austria.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My genetic genealogy activities - Feb 2015

Photo of "The maze, Longleat safari park near to Horningsham, Wiltshire, Great Britain"  © Copyright Brian Robert Marshall and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License 3.0.
Maze, near to Horningsham, Wiltshire, Great Britain
Photo by Brian Robert Marshall
via Geograph - Creative Commons License 2.0.
At times, I feel like I’m lost in a maze of DNA possibilities. I start down what looks like it will be a great path only to find it ends.  As I mentioned before my Y-DNA tests have resulted in many frustrations.  Tantalizing close but dead ends everywhere.   I think the biggest issue with the Y-DNA tests is it seems like no one is doing them any more. Ancestry.Com quit their Y-DNA testing. I don’t think 23 & Me ever did Y-DNA, which only leaves Family Tree DNA.  In my case I’ve only seen one new match with them in the past year and that person was very distant – 80% likely to have a common ancestor in 8 generations.

I turned to autosomal DNA testing to see if that would help.  It seems like that is the test that everyone is doing.  I used FamilyTree DNA for my atDNA testing. What is really cool about their system is if you can have a parent tested as well as yourself, you can then search “FamilyFinder” for matches that match both of you and for matches that match the child and not the one parent.  In my case, this allows for a search for potential matches to the “baby daddy.” 

Because my Y-DNA testing suggested that I am most likely descended from a “Roberts” I’ve been looking at possible Roberts connections in atDNA test results.  Again, a lot of tantalizing paths, but dead-ends again. 

Then, I found a really cool new match in my atDNA results. Looking at only my paternal side, the two closest matches to me were matching each other on the same chromosome in the same segments as me. Wow!
Family Finder result showing same segments on same chromosome of LV, CMA, and myself.

As I understand it, with segments this large matching, they have to have received the segment from a common ancestor.  I too have to have received the same segment from the same common ancestor.  That means if we can figure out exactly who is their common ancestor, that ancestor has to be common to me. (Please - someone tell me if I have it wrong.)

Anyway, one of the lines is pretty complete. [LV] has the vast majority of ancestors identified going back 5 or 6 generations.  Sadly, the other individual is new to genealogy and only six of his 16 2nd great grandparents identified.  Family Tree DNA suggests that this individual, I’ll call CMA, is a 2nd to 4th cousin.  First cousins share grandparents, and 2nd cousins share great grandparents.  I decided to create a new working tree and called it atDNA tree.  I added CMA to that notional tree and added his known ancestors. He has six of his eight great grandparents identified, so I decided to determine that ancestor for him.

It took a while but I discovered his grandmother was the child of a second marriage of his great grandmother.  I found her first name, Mary, and the surname of her first husband quickly, but his first name and, more importantly, her maiden name eluded me. 

I found the complete family in a census record that provided names and birth years for the children of that first marriage.  I then traced those children and discovered one of them died in 1937 and a copy of his death certificate was available on line.  That death certificate identified both his father’s first name and his mother’s surname.  VoilĂ  – I now have the names for seven of CMA’s eight great grandparent’s.  I checked LV’s tree, nope, not a surname match.

RAF Tilstock Inside the Maze 2 by Broomhalla - Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.
RAF Tilstock - Inside the Maze 2 by Broomhalla
Courtesy: Deviant Art
For the eighth one, CMA has a first name, just not a surname. So, that will be my next task.  If I can identify the eighth person, his great grandmother Catherine, is not related to LV, then I’ll know that none of us are second cousins and I continue with second great grandparents to determine if we are third cousins.  

My “brick wall” of learning the identity of my biological father now has a new entrance into it.  It may be the entrance into a new maze, but it is an entrance.  Entering the maze is part of the fun of genealogy.   Wish me luck and hope I don’t get lost. 

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