Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fairy Skinner

It may sound like some kind of monstrous creature, but I can assure you that Fairy Skinner was a cousin of mine. I've only just learned this thanks to's October release of the Iowa Birth & Christening Index.

I knew a lot about her before that, actually. I knew her parents were Stephen Douglas Arbogast and Catharine "Kitty" Melvina Gammon, that she was born in Centerville, Iowa in 1897, and that she married Marion James Skinner and had a son, Melvin James Skinner.

My mistake? I didn't know her first name. I had her in my family tree as "Armilda D Arbogast." When I found her in the birth index I got a surprise. She was listed as "Fairy Armilda D Arbogast."

With that discovery, I've now found her and her husband on a variety of records I didn't have before.

According to the index of her obituary (I can't find the actual obituary anywhere online), she went by "Jo." From census records, I've discovered that she had three sons, of which I had only known one. After Melvin James in 1920, she and her husband had Robert G. Skinner in 1921 and Donald Durkee Skinner in 1929. She died on October 25, 1998 in Escondido, California, nearly 101 years old. Her husband predeceased her in 1975 and her eldest son in 1964.

Robert graduated from Pasadena Junior College in June of 1942 at the age of 20. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserves as a Cadet in 1944. I don't know anything else about him until his death in 2006.

Donald also graduated from Pasadena Junior College, but in 1950. As far as I can tell, he is still alive.

Sometimes, it's remarkable what you can learn when you get just the right piece of the puzzle, even when you thought you'd found all you needed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shared Photos

I was recently contacted by a blog writer on asking to use a couple of photos from my Flickr account for an article. Of course I agreed! The blog post was published today, and you can see it here. She used this photo of my great-grandmother Claudia Wetherill (Fries) Overington and one of her sisters:

What I didn't realize when I got the request was that she had come across my photos on a website called Retronaut, which had posted one of my other photos of Claudia Wetherill (Fries) Overington on October 9 as a sort of survey of the Flickr group "The Smiling Victorian." That page is here. This is the photo they used:

Retronaut edited it a bit before posting, which I somewhat disagree with because it takes away some of the feeling of oldness, but I suppose they can do as they wish. It's just a personal preference of mine to leave old photos unedited, as you can see if you've visited my Flickr gallery.

It is really amazing to know that a lot of people are looking at pictures from my family and to think that maybe they are bringing a little bit of joy into their days. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hello Frankford Gazette Readers!

Wow, I am so grateful to Joseph Garvey for sharing my family's history and this blog with the good people of Frankford. I feel very fortunate that I was born into a generation that can share things so easily over the internet.

My Overington family posts are mainly the last several on the front page here, but there are one or two more available if you click on the word "Overington" under the header "Labels" down on the right.

My photos are on Flickr. The Overington family photos are mostly here:

There are more Overington relatives in the photo sets for the Burns-Yarnall family (William Overington Jr.'s mother was Jenny Burns), as well as the Newman-Overington and Jones-Overington families (my great-grandmother Claudia "Poppy" Overington's two marriages). The first several photos in "Miscellaneous Relatives" are Overingtons as well.

My family tree is on under the name "Gammon Family Tree." Here's a link to Poppy's page in it, if you are interested in the various family members.

Thank you for sharing an interest in the Overington family.

If you didn't come from the Frankford Gazette, their post is here.

William Overington, I

William Overington, I by dressedupinwords
William Overington, I, a photo by dressedupinwords on Flickr.
This is the only photograph I have of William Overington. I'm sure I have the original somewhere but I can't find it. This copy was in a newspaper many decades ago.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Frankford, Philadelphia Historical Photographs

While looking up photos of Oaklands for my last post, I found these two photographs that I thought might also be of interest to the Garveys, particularly if their family also has history in the area. 

The top image has no notes on it other than a stamp identifying the photographer as "Dan. E. Paul, Commercial Photography, Bell Phone, 2225 N. 2nd St., Phila, PA." The second one has writing on the back. It says "Literary Club Nov 7, 1922. Historical Pageant." Then the people on the carriage are named, other than the driver and one passenger. Left to right, based on visible faces, are the driver, Mrs. Blood, Mr. Thorp, Mrs. Overington, Mr. Overington, (unknown), Mrs. Ervien, Mrs. Murray, Mrs. W. Whitaker, and Mrs. Fuller.

The Overingtons are visible in the first photograph, as well. They are on the right side in the back, wearing the same hats as in the second picture. Most, if not all, of the other Literary Club members are there, too. 

For more Overington pictures, including pictures of the house, check out the rest of my blog.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Banner

I've updated the banner at the top of the blog. Instead of the title and the names of my ancestors, I've used a photograph of my great-grandmother as a girl, looking through photo albums on the porch at Oaklands. I think it is a better representation of what my blog is to me. I hope anyone who visits this blog enjoys it as well.

Oaklands - the Overington Family House

At the request of Mrs. Garvey, who lives across the street from Overington Park, I've taken the time to look at my pictures for glimpses of Oaklands, the house my ancestors lived in on that property. According to Brian H. Harris's book on Frankford (a neighborhood of Philadelphia) for the Images of America series, the house was built in 1847 for William Overington, my 4x-great-grandfather and the first of the Overingtons to come to America. The earliest map I have found is from 1849 and clearly names the 37-acre property "Oaklands" under the ownership of W. Overington.

On later maps the buildings' footprints are shown more clearly - probably more accurately, as they are in different places - and the property has visibly shrunk as parcels were sold off. On this map from 1920 (note: rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise from the one above), you can see that Allen Street has been renamed Overington Street. There is also a semi-circular drive approaching the back of the house from Pilling Street. Earlier maps show an L-shaped drive that came off Leiper Street to the front of the house. In fact, the house's address was 4606 Leiper Street. The other visible (square) building on the property is the stable. 

There are not too many pictures of the house itself. The earliest I've ever seen is in Harris's book. I have reproduced it here, hopefully not in violation of copyright. I assume that it must be an early photograph because the trees around the house appear quite young, and in later photos the columns on the porch are white.

Here is a picture I had of the house, showing the driveway up to the front. It is probably not much later than the one above, based again on the trees and the appearance of the porch.

And here is one we've had hanging on our wall for years. On the back it lists all the babies that were born in the house, ending with my grandmother's uncle William Overington III in 1910. My grandmother wasn't born in the house but she was the last child to be raised there.

Here is a much later photograph showing the drive off Pilling Street, visible in the second map:

And here are two more pictures of the front of the house. Apparently the driveway remained in the front but does not appear to be paved, which may be why it was not drawn onto later maps.

This picture is from the "big snow" one year:

A much earlier photograph of my grandmother's grandmother and her sister on the porch of the house, showing the doorway:

This photo appears to be of some kind of theater group but in any case it's a better angle to show the porch and doorway:

Here my grandmother is a baby, being held by her mother on the porch (ca. 1925-26):

And finally, my grandmother's mother as a girl at the pump by the stable. This is the only photograph I know of that has the stable in it.

I apologize for all the time-skipping in this post but I thought this arrangement would be best for showing the house.

Oaklands was in disrepair by the time my grandmother came along. I am not sure when it happened, but I suspect it was in the 1930s that the property was sold to the city or some such body, which subsequently leveled the house and turned the lot into Overington Park.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who is Annie McMillan?

While surveying Ames Municipal Cemetery in Ames, Iowa, looking for Willis & Elsie Gammon, I came across this confusing headstone for Annie Witherell Gammon, wife of William McMillan, who lived from April 28, 1850 to August 26, 1901. 

I cannot figure out who this woman is! It doesn't help that I don't know which of her names might be her maiden name. She could have been born a Witherell and married a Gammon before William McMillan or maybe Witherell is her middle name and Gammon her maiden name. She could have even married both a Witherell and Gammon before McMillan (probably not, though, she was only 51 when she died). 

She must be related somehow - she's a Gammon! Witherell is also suspiciously close to Wetherill, a name I know very well from a completely different branch of the family. One of my 5x-great-grandmothers was Mary Wetherill (m. Earl). Now, she is in the records as "Mary," "Polly," and "Anne," but she died in 1853 so this cannot be her stone, even leaving the Gammon/McMillan confusion aside. 

One day, maybe I will figure her out. Until then, she will remain an enigma.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Helen Marea McKee

I've been having a good time going through family photos and posting some up here, so I thought I'd continue with that. Today I'm going to present some pictures of my grandfather's cousin Helen McKee. First, here is the family tree:

It's got a bit more information than usual but I figured I'd try doing it this way. I'd like to point out that I don't know the maiden name of Stillman's wife Mary Ramona, hence "LNU" - last name unknown.

Helen never married or had children. I don't know much about her other than that she spent her old age writing poetry to her cat - we have a whole book of it.

Anyway, let's move on to the photos! Some of them also have her younger brother Walter in them.

Helen McKee

Helen McKee

Walter Leonard & Helen McKee

Walter Leonard & Helen McKee

Helen McKee

Helen McKee

Helen Marea McKee - 1941

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Women Before

These are the women of my father's side of the family.

1st Left: 4x-great-grandmother Elizabeth Love (Yarnall) Burns
1st Center: 4x-great-grandmother Elizabeth Caroline Wetherill (Earl) Riddle
1st Right: 4x-great-grandmother Elizabeth (Harding) Overington
2nd Left: 3x-great grandmother Armilda Eliza (Myers) Gammon
2nd Center: 3x-great grandmother Jenny R. (Burns) Overington
2nd Right: 2x-great-grandmother Anna Mary (Seufer) Gammon Bird
3rd Left: 2x-great-grandmother Claudia Wetherill (Fries) Overington
3rd Center: 2x-great-grandmother Sarah Helen (Smart) McKee
3rd Right: Great-grandmother Claudia "Poppy" (Overington) Newman Jones
4th Left: Great-grandmother Carrie Bernice (McKee) Gammon
4th Center: Grandmother Claudia Overington (Newman) Gammon
4th Right: Me!

Missing, because I don't have any pictures of them, are:
3x: Christina (Leopold) Seufer, Sally (Swain) McKee, Sarah H. (Pearson) Smart, Malina R. (Hawkins) Newman, Mary Margaret (Durbin) Whitfill, and Mary Earl (Riddle) Fries
2x: Rebecca Jane (Whitfill) Newman

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Short Life of Sylvia Ann McKee

Sylvia Ann McKee, the favorite sister of my great-great-grandfather Albert Finley McKee Sr., lived only twenty-four years. She was born in Ohio on the 24th of January 1840, and died of diphtheria on the 24th of March 1864 in Watervliet, Michigan. I have recently discovered four photographs of her.

Around 1850, with her brother Albert:

She is on the left here, with one of her sisters:

This appears to be from the same negative as the tintype above:

I love her dress here:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Four Generations of Girls

Ladies of the Family by nameless.ship
Ladies of the Family, a photo by nameless.ship on Flickr.
The baby there is my aunt Mary Margaret Gammon. Holding her is her father's mother Carrie (McKee) Gammon. Left to right the others are her mother's mother "Poppy" (Overington) Jones, her mother Claudia (Newman) Gammon, and her great-grandmother Claudia (Fries) Overington.


Upon discovering that I have a Flickr account, I decided it would be a great place to upload all my old photos! Many are on but it's not the kind of place where you upload hundreds of pictures. I have begun uploading photographs but it will be a long process, mostly because of the time it takes to go through my scrapbooks looking for dates. For convenience, I have sorted them into family sets based on marriages with a Miscellaneous set for people I don't have many pictures of. There are a ton of tags already, probably more than is necessary, but I hope that it will help me stay organized.

Enjoy looking through the photos if you like.

Elizabeth Caroline Wetherill Earl Riddle (1825-1859),
my 4x-great-grandmother.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going to Iowa

As I've mentioned a few times, the Gammon family moved to Iowa around 1850. After that, the family spent a couple of generations there. Some branches still live there to this day. Around the time that I started compiling a map of all the graveyards containing my ancestors, I developed an interest in traveling to Iowa myself and I am finally making the trip!

The Iowa map above consists of twenty graveyards in eleven counties, containing nearly a hundred of my relatives. That cluster to the south there is Decatur County. It may seem a little macabre to be planning a graveyard tour, but I can think of no better way to connect with the people who have come before me. My mother and I have always had an affection for cemeteries and I look forward to sharing the experience with her. It is amazing that she is willing to do this with me even though she is only related to these people by marriage. I am so lucky to have a family that supports my interests.

We plan to drive out there from our home in New Jersey early in July. If you have any tips on traveling in Iowa or going grave hunting, let me know!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Victorian Era Photographs

A lot of people, when they think of old photos, think of people standing or sitting stiffly in uncomfortable clothes with severe, bored expressions on their faces. This is evident in many very old photographs, it's true. This began to change as people bought their own personal cameras instead of having to hire a photographer to take a professional portrait. One of my favorite parts of researching my family history has been finding these old but expressive and sometimes intentionally comedic photographs.

The following photographs are all from my great-grandmother Poppy's family, as represented below. The individuals in blue are in the photos.

Claudia Wetherill Fries & husband William Overington II

Claudia Wetherill Fries & her sister, probably Helen Earl Fries

"Grandmother's wedding gown"
Claudia's daughters Peggy and Poppy

Claudia Wetherill Fries and her daughter Peggy

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Leroy H Gammon and Nellie M Cain

I got a message on today from a man who asked me how I was related to his great-great-grandfather William Henry Cain, who is in my family tree. I honestly had no idea, so I looked it up. As it turns out, Williams's daughter Nellie Cain (pink)  married my great-great-grandfather's cousin Leroy Gammon (blue):

I couldn't give the man who contacted me any new information about his family because I only know about Leroy and Nellie through my research. However, I came across an interesting question.

Nellie, from what I can tell, lived in Illinois her whole life until the 1910 census when she is listed as Leroy's wife of six years in Eden, Iowa. Leroy lived in Eden his entire life. So, how did they meet? I went back to the 1900 census record I had saved to Leroy and discovered the answer.

That's the 1900 Census from Eden Township, Iowa. First is William E. Gammon and his wife Caroline as well as their son Leroy H - the Leroy in question. The next family is the one of interest. The household consists of Watson and Julia Cain as well as a great-nephew and great-niece. I recognized the Cain name and looked up Watson in the family tree of the man who contacted me. Watson, it turns out, is Nellie's grandfather, who lived next door to Leroy and his parents in 1900. He's in green in the tree above.

It's not often that we know how two people met, especially not if they are from different places. It is really amazing to find that connection for someone in my tree.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eugene Arthur Gammon - WWII

Eugene Arthur Gammon, my third cousin twice removed, was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on the third of June, 1915, to Eugene Gammon and Gertrude Evelyn (Dunning) Gammon.

I do not know when he joined the Navy, but I have no record of a draft card so it would seem that he enlisted. He was assigned to serve in the Southwest Pacific Theater on the USS Canopus (AS-9) as a warrant officer. The ship was a submarine tender. The Canopus was scuttled after the surrender of Bataan, and her crew were evacuated to Corregidor, where they served in the Marines 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th battalions. Most of the crew were captured at the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, including Eugene Arthur Gammon. He was taken as a POW by the Japanese military and apparently held captive for two years.

The Japanese used unmarked freight ships to transport their POWs in horrible conditions, earning them the name "hell ships." These ships were often attacked by American forces who were unaware that they carried American soldiers. One such ship was Arisan Maru, which was hit by three torpedoes from an American submarine, either the USS Shark or the USS Snook, on October 24, 1944. It was carrying almost 1800 prisoners from Manila to Japan, including Eugene. Only nine prisoners survived the sinking of the Arisan Maru. Eugene Arthur Gammon was lost when the ship sank in the South China Sea. His name is among the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

He has two gravestones in America. One is in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado. He is also  included on his parents' gravestone at Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. Here's a photo of the stone in Denver:

Eugene was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Prisoner of War medals, presumably posthumously. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Possible Duplicity of Lulu Johnson

Lulu Johnson is the daughter of Rebecca Johnson and sister to my great-grandmother Florence.

Lulu was born in 1895 in New Jersey and died about 1971. Her childhood is rather interesting - she is apparently listed on the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census twice, both with her biological family and an adoptive family.

You may recognize this image from my earlier post about her mother - this is the family in Bradley Beach, NJ in 1900 when Lulu was five. 

At the same time, on Atlantic Avenue in Neptune Township, we find the Landin family:

Lulu Johnson is listed here as George Landin's niece.

Now, in 1910 she is again listed with the family:

And also with the Landins, although here their name is spelled Landis. Now she is listed as an adopted daughter.

I'm not completely sure that this is the same Lulu, particularly because the one with the Landin/Landis family is listed as being black and because they have different birth months in 1900 - the one that I know is my relative is listed as being born in February 1895 while the other says May 1895.

However, there has been talk among my mother's family about Lulu being given away as a child so it seems odd that she would be listed with her parents at all. It's not impossible that her adoptive family didn't know her birthday. And the census taker could have assumed that George Landin's niece/adopted daughter was black because he and his wife were; perhaps he never saw Lulu himself.

I wonder if we'll ever conclusively solve this mystery.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Johnson was my great-great-grandmother. One of her daughters, Florence, had a daughter named Phyllis, who had my mother Wanda. has a feature on the profile page of everyone in a family tree; when you add an event with a date attached, it automatically displays the age the person was when that event occurred. I noticed today that Rebecca Johnson's profile listed her marriage in 1888 - when she was just fourteen years old. This is indicated by the 1900 U.S. Federal Census (click to enlarge):

There is the family living in Bradley Beach, NJ in 1900. The third-to-last column on the right is "number of years married;" Rebecca and George reported 12 years. Their oldest child, Helen, was eleven in 1900, and was therefore born the year following their marriage. The last two columns are "Mother of how many children" and "Number of these children living." As you can see, by the age of 26 Rebecca had already given birth to five children and lost one. This snapshot of her life is very meaningful to me, at twenty-two. I'm not married nor do I have children, and I cannot imagine the struggles and joys of this woman without whom I would never have been born.

Rebecca's maiden name and married name are the same. I don't know her parents' names but have been assured by family members that she was a Johnson before she married George Washington Johnson, who was eighteen at the time of their marriage. He died at the age of 56 in 1926. Rebecca at least matched his age; I don't know when she died but the 1930 Federal Census shows her living with her son Walter in Belmar, NJ.