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I love participating in the SNGF series from Genea-Musings. You can see the original post about this week’s topic here.

This week’s prompt is:

1) What was your best research achievement in 2016? Tell us – show us a document, or tell us a story, or display a photograph. Brag a bit! You’ve earned it!

My best research achievement this year was a breakthrough on the details of the life of my great-grandfather Walter Howard Bell (1881-1934). Walter has been a mysterious character. His ancestors were easy enough to trace back very far (thank you Quaker records) but his own life was murky. He was a traveling rep for an oil company and lived everywhere from Illinois to Montana to Minneapolis to New York to Ohio. I was aware from early in my research that Walter was married more than once. I had found a little information about his first wife but that was it. This year I really set out one weekend to follow Walter wherever he took me. After browsing 50+ city directories, using a free trial of and ordering some vital records I discovered a lot of new information about Walter’s life!

I already knew Walter was born in Illinois and moved with his family to Kansas then to Helena, Montana. Walter’s father was an architect who won a contest to design the state capitol building in Montana. As a young man Walter had worked as a clerk in a bank in town and in 1906 he ventured away from home to Minneapolis (not Chicago like the city directory said!)

  • Walter met his first wife, Anna Hertel, daughter of German immigrants, while working for a quarry ibell-1907-newspaper-walter-anna-hertel-10-jan-anaconda-standard-news-mt-th_an_st-1907_01_10-0011-copyn Minneapolis. From the city directories I learned that his wife’s sister was a secretary at the company and I’m assuming that is how they met. Walter and Anna eloped in Montana in 1907 with the help of a doctor who convinced Anna’s parents she needed some “fresh Montana air” for her health. Walter’s brother and fiance met them there, had a double wedding and returned to Minneapolis together the next day! I confirmed this by locating marriage licenses for both couples. Walter and Anna had a daughter, Claudia Margaret/Marguerite. I later learned that Anna suffered with tuberculosis most of her life. She and Walter separated/divorced in 1908 and about 10 years later she died in a tuberculosis hospital in Minneapolis. I also finally found her burial location thanks to her death certificate and within days a kind volunteer had shared a photo on FindAGrave.
  • In addition to learning about his first wife, I was able to track more of the rest of his life, including a possible second marriage to a woman in New Jersey, where he was living when later that year he married his third wife, Leda Curtis. Walter spent a few years living in New Jersey while he worked in New York City, which is where the oil company’s headquarters were. Together they moved to Chicago and had a son. Shortly thereafter they moved to Ohio and within a year they had separated. Interestingly the wife returned to Chicago after the separation and she remarried. I was able to find a photo of her and their son on Ancestry.

I already knew this information, but to end the story: Soon after the separation from his third wife Walter married my grandmother, Grace McKee. (I have yet to find a record of an actual marriage though.) They were married for 10 years and had just moved across the state for Walter’s new job as a regional manager for another oil company when he suddenly passed away in 1934.

2) We all have elusive ancestors. What research problem do you want to work on in 2017? Tell us where you want to research and what you hope to find.

After the discoveries above I’m still hoping to learn more about Walter H. Bell. I want to confirm Walter’s possible 2nd marriage and locate a record of his 4th marriage. I am also very interested in identifying and making contact with possible descendants of his other children in order to confirm the relationships with DNA. I would love to hear if any stories have been passed down from the other perspective, since there were certainly none from my family. My primary lead for this is a cousin who possibly has the information or knows where to find it. I have struggled to locate the daughter after her mother passed away and I cannot locate a marriage of the son but I hear he did get married.

I also can’t talk about research problems without hoping I’ll break through my brick wall and locate the birth date, birthplace, death date, death place and parents names of my ancestor John H. McKee! I mostly ignored him in 2016, but maybe 2017 will be the year I finally figure him out!

I can dream, anyway.


I always have fun playing along with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Genea-Musings! You can check out his prompts on his blog and join in on the fun! I missed last week’s prompt, but here are both of them together.

The prompt for April 4:

The prompt for April 11:

The current series of SNGF is to respond to some questions on the topic of “When I was young…” from Alona Tester’s blog “LoneTester HQ“. It is a three week series, here are the first two weeks:

  1. Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.) I’m sure there’s plenty of photos. I’m fairly certain we have baby shoe Christmas ornaments. My mother made our christening gowns, so those are probably in a box somewhere.
  2. Do you know if you were named after anyone? I was not named after anyone. Since I am a twin, my parents decided to each choose half our name. My mom chose my first name and my dad chose my middle name, vice versa for my sister.
  3. And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you? My mom always tells me that at the time I was born she really liked the name Jessica. She also says she was worried about naming my sister “Molly” because she thought it would be too common and there would be a lot of kids in school with the same name. It turned out there was only one other Molly at school, and she became my best friend!
  4. What is your earliest memory? My earliest memory is probably when my brother fell down the basement stairs and my mom called an ambulance to check him out. I was really scared which is probably why it sticks with me. Apparently it was three year old me’s fault for leaving the basement door open. I remember hiding from the EMTs and that he got a big white teddy bear.
  5. Did your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these? My mom used to sing Brahms’ Lullaby to us and I loved that as a child. She also used to read to us all the time. In fact, one of our favorite family activities was sitting around while my mom read books to us. She read almost every Roald Dahl book aloud on car trips. We also read The Hobbit. But my favorite was that she read all the Harry Potter books aloud to us with voices up until the 5th one. My mom was also known for storytelling. She and I went to storyteller gatherings and she actually came into school one time to tell stories and I got to help, very exciting as a 4th grader.
  6. When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be? In 3rd grade we read the “Amelia’s Notebook” series and we all got notebooks. I filled mine with ridiculous stories and drawings. I wanted to be an author and illustrator. Then I realized my stories weren’t very good and after that I wanted to be a children’s librarian. I even wrote the local children’s librarian a letter about how much I wanted to be like her! Then in middle school I wanted to work on a cruise ship after our family went on a cruise. I wanted to be the dining room manager. In high school I wanted to be a math teacher but after one disastrous year of math I decided I wanted to teach French. I put that on my college application and never looked back!
  7. Did you have a favourite teacher at school? I was a real teacher’s pet, I loved a lot of my teachers. My favorites were probably Madame Easley, my high school French teacher who inspired me to become a French teacher. I think of her almost every day that I teach. I also really loved my high school orchestra director. Most students thought she was mean but I could see that she was so demanding because she wouldn’t settle for anything less than our best. She pushed us to become better musicians and we did. I was never very good, mind you, but I could see that she really cared and I’ve always thought about that as I teach.
  8. How did you get to school? We lived in the ideal location in town. There was an elementary and middle school about 1/8 mile north of our house and the neighbors let us cut through their yard to walk to school. The high school was about 1/4 mile south. In fact, I didn’t get my drivers license in high school because I had no incentive to drive to school, it would have taken longer than walking!
  9. What games did playtime involve? Having a twin sister meant that I had a constant playmate. We played a lot of dress up. We also had American Girl dolls that we loved, my mom sewed clothes for them. We played a fair amount of Barbies too. There weren’t really any kids in our neighborhood but we played outside. Our back yard was up against a church property and part of a cemetery and there was what we called “the woods” between them. It was about ten yards deep of locust trees and honeysuckle but we loved it. We spent hours our there building forts and playing games.
  10. Did you have a cubby house? We built some stick forts in “the woods”, the top of the swing set where the slide was also became kind of a fort. We also were pretty good at building forts in the basement by draping blankets over the piles of old furniture left over from when my grandparents lived in the house.
  11. What was something you remember from an early family holiday? First of all, we had an invented family holiday called Nosredna Day (Anderson spelled backwards) on August 12th. We determined the date by taking the number day of the year of each family member’s birthday and averaging them. We didn’t do much but we went out to dinner and usually did something as a family. Edit: I realize the OP is Australian so “holiday” here refers to a vacation, in which case, here is my answer: When I was in first grade we went to Maine and stayed in a beautiful home right on the water. It was really one of my first tastes of what other places were like (aside from the standard Disney World trip). We walked down to a dockside dive for dinner and walked on the beaches. I fell in love with the beauty of Maine and for a long time I wanted to move there when I grew up.
  12. What is a memory from one of your childhood birthday’s or Christmas? Christmas for me meant three Christmases! We started early in the morning with breakfast at our house consisting of brown sugar coffee cake then opened presents. Then we were expected to get dressed and go to my grandmother’s condo for a lunch of finger foods and a couple more presents. Sometimes my cousins from Indiana would be there. Then we went home for a few hours before going to my other grandparents’ house for dinner and presents. Cousins would usually be up from Florida so after dinner we played for hours until we were exhausted.
  13. What childhood injuries do you remember? I never broke any bones, thank goodness. I have fuzzy memories of going to the hospital in the middle of the night as a child but I don’t remember much other than I came home with Barbie bandaids. I also lost my big toenail completely as a child when I didn’t want to go to my room but my dad shut the door after I stuck my foot out. Luckily it grew back.
  14. What was your first pet? We never had pets, my parents had a dog but they got rid of it when they had kids because my grandparents were allergic and they were over a lot more to see grandkids. It turns out I am allergic too.
  15. Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of “when I was young ..?” I didn’t hear a lot of those stories. I heard a few from my grandfather about growing up fairly poor in New Jersey. He talked about playing baseball, working at his father’s pool hall and learning to drive from a friend. But most of what I know about my grandparents’ childhoods has been pieced together from genealogy research.

I always have fun playing along with Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Genea-Musings! You can check out his prompts on his blog and join in on the fun! I’m a little late this week but, what can I say, there was a hockey tournament this weekend!

The prompt for March 15:

This week’s prompt is to track down some information about the date of birth for one of your grandmothers and to explain how you found the information. This was a tough one for me but I managed to do it!

Marilynn Ruth Anderson (28 Jan 1924 – 31 May 2006)

"June 9-1943 All ready to leave 'State' after happy freshman year"

“June 9-1943 All ready to leave ‘State’ after happy freshman year”

1. What day of the week was your Grandmother born (either one)? Tell us how you found out.

January 28, 1924 was a Monday.

This was easy to find out. All you have to do is Google “What day of the week was” and up pops a list of date calculators. I used the first one on the list: It was so easy to use I did it from my phone while we were on our way to one of the hockey games.

2. What event was a headline in the newspapers on that date?  Tell us how you found out.

This one was tough! A lot of newspapers I found didn’t go back that far or weren’t available online. I ended up browsing several websites that are linked from this Wikipedia page until I stumbled upon a site that existed and turned up results. I ended up at NYS Historic Newspapers. Here is the headline from the Plattsburgh Daily Republican on January 28, 1924:

“72 Miners Lost in Explosions: Hope for Forty Men Behind Rock Fall at Shanktown Given Up”

3. What has happened in recorded history on your Grandmother’s birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events.

I searched “January 28 history” on Google and came up with a Wikipedia page on the subject.

  1. 1521 – Diet of Worms begins
  2. 1547 – Henry VIII dies
  3. 1813 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is published for the first time.
  4. 1896 – Walter Arnold of Kent is issued the first speeding ticket for going 8mph (the speed limit was 2mph)
  5. 1956 Elvis Presley makes his first TV appearance

4)  What famous people have been born on your Grandmother’s birth date?  Tell us how you found out, and list five of them.

The same Wikipedia page as above also lists famous births. I struggled to find five names I recognized.

  1. 1912 – Jackson Pollock (artist)
  2. 1955 – Nicolas Sarkozy (former French president)
  3. 1968 – Sarah McLachlan (singer)
  4. 1977 – Takuma Sato (Indycar driver – woohoo!)
  5. 1981 – Elijah Wood (actor)

The Accidental Genealogist is running her annual “Fearless Females” month of March. I’m so happy to be joining in, although admittedly a little late. I will attempt to catch up before the end of the month. If you want to see her blog and prompts you can look here:

The prompt for March 5:

“How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

Are you ready for the least exciting post ever??? I have no stories about how my parents and grandparents met!

Maternal Grandparents: William Straughen and Peggy Barbour

I’m not exactly sure how my grandparents met but my grandmother was a nursing student in Harrisburg and my grandfather was finishing medical school somewhere around there. I asked my mom and she said she never heard any stories about it. I know somewhere I have an oral autobiography my grandmother made and my grandfather did try to write some notes about his life somewhere in the boxes of genealogy I inherited. Maybe one day the story will reveal itself.

Paternal Grandparents: Milton Anderson and Marilynn Bell

I don’t really have a story here either. I know they were from towns about 20 miles apart but there just doesn’t seem to be any intersections in their lives before they married. I asked my dad and he said he heard they met at a party after my grandfather came back from WWII but that is all he knows.

Parents: Craig Anderson and Heidi Straughen

My parents met while working at a pizza place, my dad was finishing college and he was the manager and my mom was working there for the summer after high school. They dated all four years that my mom was in college before they got married. We used to go to that pizza place all the time until it closed around 2000.


Anderson, Bell, McKee, Hartzell, Cather, Straughen/Straughn, Barbour, Coleman, Fisher, Leppert, Shimp

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