Week 49: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Artists in the family

Ancestor of the Week: Gladys (Childress) Hays (1914-1993) My paternal great-grandmother
Prompt of the Week: Craft

My great-grandparents, Lester and Gladys Hays, probably taken in the 1950s – color slide.

Back in the early 1970s my great-grandmother Gladys took some painting classes and painted a handful of canvases, mostly landscapes and still lifes. A few of them hung on the walls of my grandparents’ house for many years. I remember seeing them as a kid, and I can still picture where they were – probably because they were still in the exact same places when we were cleaning out the house after my grandfather passed away in 2011. All the paintings were gathered up and stacked together with a lot of other items as the house was prepped for an estate sale. I ended up taking most of them home since there didn’t seem to be much interest from other family members.

They pretty much just sat in a box in a closet for a few years until my wife and I bought a house last year and I decided to hang up my favorites.

As an artist myself, I always kind of admired them and thought it was cool that she had been a pretty good painter. I only knew her in her later years as she was declining from Alzheimer’s. She passed away when I was 8. Of course I’ve heard stories and seen many pictures of her in her prime, but I feel a little more of a connection having something tangible that she created. Her son, my grandfather, dabbled in watercolors and ceramics, and his stuff is pretty good as well, so I like to think I take after them with the talent that I have.

Week 48: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Robert Musler runs afoul of the law

Ancestor of the Week: Robert Winfield Musler (1892-1961) My 3x great-uncle
Prompt of the Week: Thief


Robert W. Musler, right, with his mother Mary (Baldorf) Musler, courtesy of my 4C1R Sandy Willis.

This relative of mine isn’t so much a thief, but had an unfortunate incident happen and had to answer for his carelessness. The incident is described in a newspaper article from 29 April 1914 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and can be found on Newspapers.com. Robert, who was actually employed as a chauffeur at the time, was driving his wife and others to a wedding when he ran down a pedestrian – a 12-year-old boy who survived, but with two broken legs. He was apparently speeding – going 40 miles per hour (must have been very fast for 1914 standards!). He plead guilty and was sentenced to a year in the “workhouse.”

Another sad angle to this story is that a 16-year-old boy, who was a witness in Robert’s trial for the “felonious wounding” of the 12-year-old, committed suicide in May of 1914, shortly after the trial. According to the newspaper article, he was worried about the loss of his job at an insurance firm, which was probably unrelated to the trial. He drank carbolic acid and was found dead in a park.

It’s not hard to find tragedy surrounding the Musler family. Many family members were involved in bad relationships, questionable activities, or met tragic ends. I’ve written about a few of them before, here, here and here. In addition to what I’ve discovered in my research, a 4th cousin once removed on that side put together a book of her research, which is how I first became aware of the articles I mentioned here.

Week 47: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – George T.M. Tierney, born in the south, fought for the north

Ancestor of the Week: George Thomas Michael Tierney (1844-1906) My wife’s 3x great-grandfather
Prompt of the Week: Soldier

GTM Tierney grave

George Thomas Michael Tierney’s grave in Red Bluff, photo taken by me in 2015.

George Thomas Michael Tierney, the son of an Irish immigrant, was born in the south, fought for the north in the Civil War, and settled in the west. We have visited his grave a couple times in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Red Bluff, California. Details of his life are scarce, but the biography published on his Find-A-Grave page summarizes well what is known about him. I do wonder though how he got from Louisiana to Wisconsin – his early life is definitely an opportunity for further research.

Biography from Find-A-Grave:

George Thomas Michael Tierney was the son of Thomas Michael Tierney and Cecelia Tierney (McMahon). He served in the “Civil War”, Company B, 42nd Wisconsin Infantry, enlisted in Aug. 1864 and mustered out in June of 1865. He married Mary Elizabeth Lundy (born Ireland) on Oct. 9, 1870 in Pierce County, Wisconsin. They lived in Wisconsin until abt 1883 and then left for North Dakota. In about 1894 they came to California and settled in Red Bluff, Tehama County, CA., in the “Bend” Colony of Tehama County. He was a “Bend” farmer in 1896 and 1902. He then became the Postmaster of the “Bend” from April 1904 until his death in 1906. He raised 9 children, Ellen “Nellie”, Alice Frances, Mary Elizabeth “Minnie”, Thomas R.J., Agnes “Aggie” Cecelia, William James “Jim”, Susanna “Anna” (Headrick), Josephine “Josie”, and Lucy.

Regarding his military service in the Civil War, Ancestry has a record listing the activities of his regiment. He served at the end of the war, so it seems his experience was relatively uneventful, in that he didn’t fight in any major battles, but his contribution is of course still valuable. Someday I hope to find a photograph of him – I heard recently that the majority of Civil War soldiers were photographed at one time or another, so I’m hoping that with further research or by contacting distant cousins that I can obtain a photo.

Week 46: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – George Childress – A young father gone too soon

Ancestor of the Week: My 2x great-grandfather George Childress (1890-1918)
Prompt of the Week: Poor Man

George Childress

The only photo of George Childress I have (of course a copy of copy of a copy…)

I chose this ancestor to write about not because he was financially poor, which I don’t think he was, but because he met an untimely end. He seemed to have everything going for him as a young man. According to the 1910 census, at age 20, he was a farmer with steady employment in Moodys, Cherokee County, Oklahoma. He had married my 2x great-grandmother Fannie May Kaufman a year earlier, and from 1910 to 1916 they had four children – Oma, William, Gladys (my great-grandmother), and Charles. George also worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad as a machinist helper.

George died at age 28 on Dec. 5, 1918 from pneumonia caused by influenza – right smack in the middle of the Spanish flu pandemic. He fit right into the statistics of those who were hardest hit by the disease – healthy young adults, and nearby Kansas is hypothesized to be an epicenter of the virus. So I can’t help but feel sorry for his young family – the children losing their father at such a young age, and his wife Fannie becoming a widow two days before her 25th birthday.

Fannie went on to marry five more times, and have two more children, one of which was given up for adoption. (An open adoption apparently, as he was always known by the family) I have found only marriage records for all her husbands, but no divorces or death records, so it’s still a mystery what happened to each of them… but that’s a story for another blog post.


George’s headstone, Hoisington Cemetery, Hoisington, Kansas. Source: Find-A-Grave

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George’s obituary.

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George’s death certificate.

Week 45: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Richard Gley

Ancestor of the Week: My wife’s 2x (step) great-grandfather Richard Gley (1859-1938)
Prompt of the Week: Rich Man

For the “rich man,” I thought I’d write about an ancestor named Richard. He’s not a blood relative, but he’s the step-father of my wife’s great-grandfather. (Well this great-grandfather turned out to not be biological thanks to an Ancestry DNA test, but that’s a story for another blog post!) Anyway, Richard Adolf Albert Gley was born in Wittstock, Ostprignitz-Ruppin, Brandenburg, Germany on May 12, 1859. He married Anna Mitchell in 1883 in Germany and they had four children before immigrating to the U.S. in 1889. They settled in Connecticut and had five more children, before Anna’s death in February 1906. Later that year, Richard traveled back to Germany, this time followed by a widow named Emma Barkowsky and two of her children, Walter and Ella. Richard and Emma were married in Manhattan, New York, the day after their arrival, on Oct. 21, 1906. They were all living together in Connecticut on the 1910 census. Richard and Emma divorced in June of 1918. He had filed for divorce in January 1918 on the grounds of desertion, and the article announcing their divorce states it had been since July of 1914. Richard remarried in August 1918 to a woman named Hannah Kennedy. Richard worked in textile mills during his career, according to census and city directory records. Richard died on Aug. 27, 1938 in Taftville, Connecticut and is buried in Mystic with his first wife Anna.

That’s pretty much all I know about Richard. I can only speculate why he brought Emma and her children from Germany – my hypothesis is that they may have been related somehow and he was fulfilling some sort of obligation after she was widowed in 1905. In researching both their families, I discovered that the surname Schnell came up – Emma’s maternal grandmother was Maria Schnell, and Richard’s mother was Friedericke Schnell, but I have yet to connect them. I quit actively researching that branch when I discovered that my wife wasn’t biologically related to Emma’s son Walter. There’s other mysteries that I haven’t solved regarding that line, like what happened to Richard’s third wife Hannah, and why Emma’s children seemed to cut the Gleys out of their lives after the divorce, that I could get back to someday, but I got interested in the actual bio line through DNA.

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Divorce notice, Norwich Bulletin, Jan. 1918

Gley divorce 1918 copy

Divorce announcement, Norwich Bulletin, June 1918

RIchard-Anna Gley grave

Headstone for Anna and Richard Gley. Anna’s maiden name is sometimes written as “Ratchel” or “Mitchell”

Week 44: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Letting creativity run wild at Halloween

Ancestor of the Week: Me!
Prompt of the Week: Trick or Treat


Me as a ghost – Halloween 1985, age 16 mos.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’ve always been an artistic person, and I think what appeals to me is all the opportunities to be creative. (I am a graphic design after all) From carving a big bright orange pumpkin, being able to become a character in costume, and decorating our home – the color palette of orange, black, purple, green, etc. is so visually stimulating, and all of it just makes me happy. And as a kid, I was allowed to kind of do what I wanted with it all, and let my own creativity drive.

Growing up, I always had fun carving pumpkins, dressing up, going to school in my costume and trick or treating. Visiting a pumpkin patch and picking out the perfect pumpkin was (and still is) a tradition for us, and my dad would help my brother and I carve them a few days before Halloween. My mom would usually sew our costumes. I remember we would go to the fabric store and look at the big books of costumes and choose something, find the pattern package in the big drawer, and then go pick out the material. We did some decorating around the house, but not much. As I got a little older, I’d make things to decorate my room with for Halloween. And we always got a bucket from McDonald’s to trick or treat with. It was a 90s thing! 🙂

From the time I was probably three until age 12, my parents would take us trick or treating at the mall. I remember it being very busy and each store would have someone giving out candy. I guess my parents thought it was safer that going through the neighborhood. After the mall, we would visit all of our grandparents’ houses. Most of the memories I have of being at my great-grandmother’s house were on Halloween nights. She would usually have cookies or something like that. Sometimes at my paternal grandparents’ house we’d run into our cousins who would be making the grandparent rounds as well. It was fun to see their costumes and hang out with them too.

Now as an adult, married, with our own kids, I really enjoy seeing them exercise their creativity with their pumpkins and costume choices. I seem to add to our home and outdoor decor a little more every year, sometimes to my wife’s dismay. I love visiting the Halloween stores as soon as they open for the season, walking the aisles, and taking everything in – imagining what I could do if I had an unlimited budget (ha!). I do end up spending a little more than I should, but sometimes I just can’t help myself! My wife often has to remind me to rein it in. Where I work, there is a Spirit Halloween store right across the street every year and I can see it from the windows right across from my office, with its neon orange banner calling to me… Anyway, I also decorate my office and I am fortunate to have a workplace with an annual costume contest and coworkers who are creative like me and like to celebrate Halloween in style as well.


Me and my younger brother in costumes my mom made, with our trusty McDonald’s buckets – Halloween 1989.


My brother and I at our great-grandma’s house – Halloween 1991 (I rocked those tights! haha)

Week 43: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – From Irish immigrant to California carriage driver

Ancestor of the Week: My wife’s 3x great-grandfather William McLaughlin (1837-1901)
Prompt of the Week: Transportation

My wife’s 3x great-grandfather experienced much transportation in his life. He was born in 1837 in Ireland and was a young child during the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852) and immigrated to the U.S. in 1857 at about age 20. He settled in San Francisco, California and married another Irish immigrant Catherine Gore about ten years later. They had six children that I’m aware of, and all lived to adulthood. The first census I found William in was 1870, and his occupation is listed as “hack driver,” which I learned was basically a taxi driver, and in 1870 he most likely drove a horse and carriage. This is further confirmed by the 1880 census, which calls him a “carriage driver.” In 1900, near the end of his life, he was listed as a “carriage maker.” William died the next year at the age of 64. Transportation seems to have been a big part of William’s life and career. I wish I knew more about his life – the records for him are relatively scant, so he leaves behind many questions, like why San Francisco? The gold rush, maybe? What type of carriage did he drive? Was it an everyday taxi type, or did he drive around San Francisco’s rich and famous? Does a photo exist of him? Maybe further research will be able to answer some of these.

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William’s obituary, published in the San Francisco Call newspaper, 19 Jul 1901. Fortunately it identified the parish in the county in Ireland where he was born.