Sunday, October 16, 2011

What If?

A few years ago I was walking from my bus stop to work.  As I approached a street where the traffic travelled one way to the north, the “Don’t Walk” signal began flashing.  I heard sirens approaching as I stopped at the corner.  As I stood there, I saw a car speeding on the intersecting street with a police car in pursuit.  The car turned south onto the street I was preparing to cross.  It was a “What If?” moment.  What if my bus had been just a couple of seconds earlier or I had walked a little faster or I hadn’t stopped to let someone exit the bus before me?  I would have arrived at the corner before the “Don’t Walk” signal started flashing and likely been in the middle of that street at exactly the time that car made the wrong-way turn to elude the police. 
Our lives are filled with these What If moments.  However, we are also the result of What If moments in our ancestors’ lives.  It is awesome to contemplate how events in our ancestors’ lives, some seemingly insignificant, resulted in our very existence. 

What if my second great grandfather Peter Ballein decided to remain in Bavaria instead of immigrating to the United States?  What if he settled in New Orleans, where he first set foot in this country, instead of Brown County, Ohio?  What if his first wife Margaret Yochum hadn’t died so young?  There would have been no Hite Ballein, Esther Ballein, Russell Lee Davis, or me.
My dad told me that his parents met at a store near his dad’s home.  Although both Quincy Davis and Esther Ballein lived in Brown County, Ohio, they lived around 11 miles apart when they met.  There were probably a lot of stores between her home and his.  Did that store carry some type of merchandise that other stores didn’t?  Did she have friends in that area?  Why was she there?  I’ll never know what led my grandmother to visit that store, but if she hadn’t, it is unlikely my dad would have been born.

If my grandfather Eddie Earl Donaldson hadn’t moved from Oklahoma to Cincinnati, if he hadn’t found work where he did, if my grand-uncle Charles Dudley hadn’t worked at the same company, if Charles hadn’t introduced Edd to his little sister Mary, my maternal grandparents would have never met, married, and had ten children.
My mom has often pondered what her life would have been like if her father hadn’t died when she was seven years old.  Edd Donaldson was an alcoholic who sometimes abused his wife, Mary Dudley Donaldson.  My mom wonders if she would have graduated from high school, gotten a decent job, or been in church if her father hadn’t died.  If she and her family hadn’t attended the same church as my dad and his family, they most likely wouldn’t have met and married.

As a family history researcher, I typically only learn about the big events in my ancestors’ lives – births, deaths, marriages, military service – and not the decisions, accidents, illnesses, hardships, successes, tragedies, and victories.  However, these things happened to my ancestors just as they happen to all of us and set the course for their lives and, in turn, mine.  I think that’s why it is so important to me to learn more about my ancestors.  In a sense, it helps me understand why I am here.
As amazing as it is to recognize that the events of my ancestors’ lives resulted in my unique existence, I am humbled by the realization that one small change in the course of the life of any one of my ancestors might mean I wouldn’t be here. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Santford and Sarah Ogden

I'm getting lazy.  I will be taking the easy way out this week and instead of writing my own post, I will let the September 7, 1905 News Democrat do the writing for me. 

To provide a little background (well, maybe I'm not so lazy after all), Santford Ogden was born March 19, 1836 in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio, the son of Alfred and Hannah Harriet Leonard Ogden.  Sarah Steward was born February 17, 1838 to Francis and Catherine Price Steward.  Santford and Sarah were married in Brown County and had at least ten childen, including my great-grandmother, Rosa Ogden Davis.  The article that follows describes their golden wedding anniversary celebration.

The golden wedding of Sanford Ogden and wife of this place was celebrated on Saturday August 26, 1905, with a large dinner and family reunion, their nine living children all being present for the first time in ten years. About the noon hour the ladies began to bring out the baskets and boxes and the men began to prepare a table and when it was finished it was 60 feet long and and 4 feet wide. Among the good things we counted 22 large cakes and other good things in proportion. 115 persons were present - 9 children, 30 grandchildren, 2 brothers of Mr. Ogden and their wives and 74 friends and neighbors. Among those from a distance were W. H. Ogden and little daughter of Dayton, Ohio, Alfred Ogden and wife of Huntington, Mrs. Lizzie Palmer of Dayton, Ohio. Charles Redmon brought his graphophone and Alvin Roots his accordian, and to say we had a good time is putting it mildly. At a late hour we parted, wishing Father and Mother Ogden many such events to brighten their old age. The aged couple were the recipients of many handsome and useful presents.

Sarah died October 16, 1907.  Santford died November 10, 1920 in Pike Township, Brown County, Ohio.  They are buried in the Warner Cemetery in Clark Township, Brown County, Ohio.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charles Henry Dudley - A Life in Pictures

A few years ago I was looking through a collection of family photographs and mementos.  I was struck by the number of photos of my grand-uncle, Charles Henry Dudley and his family.
Uncle Charlie was the eldest son of Jesse and Mary Shaper Dudley and brother of my grandmother Mary Dudley Donaldson.  He was born October 18, 1878 in Clark Township, Clinton County, Ohio.  Below is the earliest photo I have of Charlie. 
Charlie grew up in Clark Township with his brothers Lew, Frank, Ab, Tom, and Clarence.  By the time my grandma was born in 1898, Charlie was already a young man.  Just a little over a year later, Charlie married the pretty Anna Dora Meyer and they made their home in Clark Township near his aunt Marietta Dudley Himes and her family.  Charlie worked as a day laborer.

Charles & Anna Dudley 
On August 14, 1900, Anna gave birth to the couple’s first child, Walter Sherman Dudley.  Sadly, the child died on September 17, 1900.    After Walter’s death, Charlie and Anna had three more sons.  James Logan was born January 25, 1902, Wilmer Matthew was born August 11, 1904, and Charles Henry was born August 19, 1906.  My grandmother was closer in age to her nephews than she was to her brother Charlie.  I love this photograph of my grandma and Charlie’s and Anna’s boys.
Henry, James, Mary, and Wilmer Dudley
In 1910, Charlie and Anna were living in Lynchburg, Ohio.  Charlie was working as a grocery salesman and Anna was a hotel landlady.  They lived in the hotel with their three sons.  Among their boarders at the time of the 1910 census was Charlie’s cousin, Carl Himes.  The photo below is labeled “Dudley Hotel.”  I recognize Charlie in the back wearing a bow tie and his mother Mary Shaper Dudley standing next to him.  I’m not sure, but the lady standing in the doorway between Charlie and his mother may be Anna.  I wonder what occasioned the taking of this photograph; there are some distinguished-looking gentlemen in this picture. 
In the early 1910s, Charlie also did home repair work in Lynchburg.  This was his letterhead:

Some time during the early to middle 1910s, Charlie and Anna divorced.  Their sons continued to live with Anna.  My mom believes that Charlie then moved to Cincinnati and where he found a job.  At work, he met a teenager named Eddie Earl Donaldson.  Charlie introduced Edd to his sister Mary and they were married on December 7, 1915. 

Charlie and his sister Mary, around the time of her wedding.
I’m not sure exactly when and where Charlie met Ida May Boice Ostrander.  Ida was a widow with two children, Helen and Arthur.  I believe she was living in the same area of Cincinnati at the same time as Charlie, so I assume that they met in Cincinnati.  However, they were married in Detroit, Michigan on December 11, 1916.  I don't have any photos of Ida or Helen, but do have this photo of Charlie and his step-son Arthur during World War I.
At the time of his second wedding, Charlie was working as a machinist.  I’m not sure where he was working at that time, but by 1920 he was employed by the Packard Motor Car Company and lived walking distance from the factory.  The 1930 census listed his occupation as an inspector at an auto factory, but said that he had not worked the previous work day.  I’m not sure whether he was still employed by Packard; he was then living a few miles from the Packard factory.   
Charlie (right) and unknown man at the entrance to the Packard factory
Charlie also seems to have had an appreciation for family history.  He compiled the Dudley album, a collection of family information and photographs that is truly a family treasure.  On December 9, 1922, Charlie copied the Dudley family record “through the advice of Jessey Dudley,” his father.  He supplemented the album with additional material through the years.  This album has provided me with so much information that I never would have known otherwise and which is most likely not documented elsewhere. 
Charlie had the opportunity to visit his family in Ohio, though I'm not sure how often.  He made a trip to Lynchburg around 1939, when he was able to visit with his mother Mary Shaper Dudley, his aunts and uncles, and his brothers and sister.
Mary Shaper Dudley and her sons, Charlie, Ab, Tom, and Clarence around 1939
My mom first remembers meeting her Uncle Charlie in 1957, when she travelled by Greyhound bus to Houghton Lake, Michigan with her mom, sister Helen, nephew Eddie, and niece Ruth Ann.   They had a layover in Detroit and Charlie came to the bus station to spend time with them until the connecting bus arrived.  However, she had previously met him when she was a small child at the time of his visit around 1939, as is displayed in the photo below.
Dottie Lea Donaldson, Charlie, Rosemary Donaldson, Mary Shaper Dudley, my mom, and Mary Dudley Donaldson
Charlie visited his sister Mary in the early 1960s.  By that time, Ida had died.  My mom shared this memory of that visit:
I found him to be a gentle, soft spoken man.  He had suffered from colon cancer but was still going strong.  In fact, he climbed a ladder to paint the trim on our house, in spite of his advanced age and physical condition.  He seemed to enjoy his visit and complimented me on the love and care I gave to my Mom.
Charlie and his sister Mary, early 1960s
I believe the last photo I have of Charlie is the Christmas card shown below.  I find it one of the most interesting photos of Charlie.  I like that he is wearing his overalls and posed with his two little dogs.  I wonder if he did the landscaping and planted and tended the garden.  It looks like there was a bird bath nestled in the shrubbery.  Since he used this photo for his Christmas card, I think his dogs and his beautiful yard must have made him very happy.
Charles Henry Dudley died on May 11, 1965 in Detroit.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.