Pooch Finds a Home

A while ago, my mom gave me a stack of yellowed note papers, clipped together. It was the beginnings of a story that her mother, my grandmother, scribbled down years and years ago, the story of their dog Pooch.

I knew right away that I wanted to make this into another book for my grandchildren, so I was eager to get home and begin. The first chapter told the story of how Pooch came to live with my mother’s family; the second chapter had only scant beginnings, but was about the friends Pooch had in his new neighborhood.

There was plenty of story in what was Chapter One to round it out to become a single story/picture book. So, that’s what I did!


I came away from writing this book with a MUCH higher esteem for children’s book illustrators. Go take a quick gander at the artwork in a random illustrated storybook, and then think about the work, imagination, skill, and dedication it took! Amazing!


The photo above is my mom, Bula Helen Wells Keene, with her beloved Pooch.

‘Til next time!

A Quick Update

And, here it is: my long-wanted DAR certificate.

I am so happy with this, as it wasn’t easy to get. But, more so, I’m so pleased that my mother and my daughter joined with me. We have consecutive national numbers, three more generations in this family where each generation, as far as I can go back, has served this country and its military. The freedoms we enjoy today came at a cost to someone’s family and loved ones. I don’t want to take that lightly.

And, it fulfills my homage to my Nana, who influenced me greatly as I grew up. She was an amazing, strong, rather fearless woman. I loved her deeply. I only wish I had done this while she was alive. I know it would have meant much to her.

vida wells, 1966

So, thank you, Nana, for helping me to see that who my people were in the past is what has shaped who I am today.



Seaman 2nd Class George Keene: The Morning the Bombs Fell

I’ve just finished up another children’s book, my third. I love writing these!

This time, I’ve gone over to my father’s side of the family, to his younger brother, George. My Uncle George is a Pearl Harbor survivor, one of the last few remaining. I was shocked to realize that for even my children, World War II is in a galaxy far, far away. I felt the need to write a story for the next generation, hopefully in a way that makes history interesting, and most importantly, personal.


I’ve ordered enough copies for my grandchildren, and also copies for my uncle and his two daughters, my cousins. They, like me, are now grandmothers, so these books for those young ones will be about their grandfather. I can’t wait to give my uncle’s book to him. My dad is gone, so he’s the closest thing to a father I have these days. I hope to honor him while I can.

A Father’s Letter, Part 3

Today, I’ll finish up with William Gard’s letter to his eldest son, Jesse, my great-great-uncle, and half-brother to my great-great-grandfather, William Perry Gard.

“In the next place, from the very time you come to do business for yourself, always bear in mind the disadvantage of being in debt. That so long as you are in debt you are laboring to a fourfold disadvantage and living on the mercies of your creditors.

Be not in haste to contract marriage for perhaps it may not prove so great a blessing as you may think, for, if so, the longer time in procrastination the less time you will have to live in trouble. For you must remember it is for life. This advice you must communicate to your sisters and brothers, of whom you are the older, and attend to their welfare as far as circumstances will admit of. This advice with that you you can get from good authors and that of your aged friends, who will be willing to advise you for your good, may suffice to take you through this world by making use of good economy yourself. 

Therefore, I must leave you, hoping that the God of Heaven may smile upon you and the balance of the family, is the sincere wish of a father and friend to his children.

William Gard”

Upon William’s death in 1827, Jesse, who was away working in another town, returned home to take care of the family, just as his father wished. He would have been proud.

Now, I will leave you  a photograph. This is Nora Gard Cummings, 1871-1941, youngest daughter of William Perry Gard and Phebe Stewart. There is no date on this photograph, but she looks to be late teens. She seems a very composed young woman.


A Father’s Letter, Continued

Welcome back! I am picking up where I left off in in my last post in Part 1 of William Gard’s letter to his eldest son, Jesse.

“In the next place be very cautious not to keep company with those of bad character for you will be branded with the same, marked by those who stand and look on, that is of a better character. Avoid making use of bad language for it is an evil habit and mark of bad breeding and disgusting to good company. 

In the next place, for the good of your health and the good of society and a comfortable living, make use of common industry, so that you may live without being dependent of strangers with whom you will be left, and let your life be marked with strict honesty and benevolence should you be blessed with this world’s goods, in plenty never withhold your hand from helping the needy for you know not how long prosperity will last with you, and if adversity crowds upon you, bear it with fortitude, like a man, always keeping the golden rule before you and by so doing you will find friends in a strange country, whether in prosperity or adversity.” 

I’ll finish up this missive in my next post, but for now I will leave you with a little treasure I found. This is a photo of William Gard’s youngest son, William Perry Gard, and his wife, Phebe Stewart, my great-great-grandparents. William Perry was only a year old when his father, William, passed away, so he never had the benefit of knowing this truly wise man. This was taken in July 1861, in Indianapolis, IN, right at the beginning of the Civil War.

gard-william perry-phebe stewart-july 1861-indianapolis-in

Until next time!

Application Status: Filed!

I can’t say enough about the Clara Barton chapter of the DAR in Huntington Beach, CA. I just couldn’t have done it without the help of Jenice, 2nd Vice Regent, and Sharon, Registrar. They both put in hours of their own time to help me research and then to fill out the application and proper paperwork.

Thank you, ladies!

Our application was submitted the first week of May. I was told to expect to wait weeks, perhaps months, to hear back. Because of my mother’s age, 94, the process might be accelerated, so I was hopeful it would be.

The next week, I got an email from Jenice saying that the DAR genealogy department would be sending out letters to all three of us, probably requesting more information. Neither she nor Sharon knew what would be needed, but that I should call as soon as I got my letter and we’d get working. Truth be told, that was a bit discouraging.

The next day, I see an email from Jenice: Call me right away! So, I did.

Jenice: Are you sitting down?

Me: Yes…

Jenice: You’re VERIFIED!

Me: WHAT??? HOW??? WOW!!! Etc., etc., etc.!

Jenice’s thought was perhaps another genealogist reviewed the application and decided that all was indeed in order. We will never know, but according to the DAR website, we’re in!

There will be a vote June 5th, so I’m keeping my emotions in check, and not telling my mother, until I know without a doubt. But… squeal!

And, even though I (probably) won’t be needing the information I gathered after the application was submitted, I am very glad that I did a bit more digging.

For years, there was a publication called The Guardian Quarterly. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now, but the past issues are digitized at Family Search and are a goldmine of Gard family information. And, in its pages, I found this letter, written by William Gard to  his eldest son, Jesse, half-brother to William Perry Gard. I believe William wrote it during his last, fatal illness. It was copied from the Record of Births, Marriages, and Deaths in the family Bible by Uncle James McHenry on April 9, 1849.

Jesse, my son,

After I am dead and gone, I want you to take good care of this record, for your own benefit and the benefit of the family; and, as you are the oldest, I must commit to to your care , so as you may all know your ages, and by looking this over, you will see that you once had a mother, although you had very little recollection of her, and when my name is entered on the death page just below where your mother’s death is recorded, there you will see the name of a father and friend, although I expect to be called from you while you are yet young and ill-prepared to be left without father or mother. I must therefor recommend you to the hands of your Creator with following advice:

Strive to gain as good an education as you can for your opportunity. all this advice has been given to you while I am alive, but much neglected. Therefore I hope that this, my last request, will not be neglected as it had for your own benefit; and no one else can enjoy the benefits of that study only as a public good that every one ought to enjoy and without it you will step into the world like a man from the clouds entirely naked.

There is more to this lovely letter, but I shall save it for another day. Until then, I will leave you with this photograph of William Perry’s wife, Phebe Stewart Gard.

gard-phebe stewart


The Search Continues…

We thought everything was ready. A stack of documents. Completed applications with notarized signatures. Money was involved.

However, the registrar of the DAR chapter we (myself, my mother and my daughter) are joining, noticed something we had overlooked.

There was no supporting evidence between William GARD and William Perry GARD to document the father-son relationship. Oops.

So, we are scurrying around trying to fill in the blank: Phone calls, research, the random acts of kindness that fill the genealogical world.

And, in all the searching, I’ve found some interesting facts to round out the story of William’s life.

He was born in 1788 in Fayette, PA, but as a young man he moved to Ohio. I’ve found that lots of Gards lived in Ohio, including relatives that I can’t sort out. They might have been uncles, cousins, or nephews. It’s a tangled web of Jeremiahs, Levis, Jacobs, and Ephraims.  It’s a job for another day.

Once in Hamilton, Ohio, William married Sarah Woodruff in 1810. They had two children, Jesse in 1811 and Elizabeth in 1813.

In the mean time, William had volunteered for the Butler Co., Ohio volunteer militia for the War of 1812. Also in his unit were Ephraim and Levi Gard (relationships to be determined).  And, sometime before April 1813, he was taken prisoner in Detroit.

(Which answered a mystery. In my research, I’ve run across countless family trees that have William dying in Detroit. I couldn’t figure out why that random fact kept popping up. But, my theory is that someone, somewhere mistakenly thought he had died either in battle or in prison when his unit fought in the Siege of Detroit. And, it keeps getting copied to new trees.)

Sometime around April 1813, William was released and then mustered out. Three days later, on April 27, his wife Sarah died, leaving a tiny new-born Elizabeth without a mother.

Sometime later that year, William married Sarah’s sister, Phebe, in Hamilton, Ohio. Both his parents, Jeremiah and Experience, died soon after, also in 1813. It was a difficult year for William, I’m thinking.

Years later, William was a prosperous farmer in Indiana, having received a land grant for his service in the war. He was also one of the first representatives to the state legislature. He and Phebe had three children, Julia, Sarah, and William Perry, born in 1826.

On his way home from a legislative session in late 1826 or early 1827, he was caught in a storm, became ill, and never got better. He died April 14, 1827, and he was buried on his farm in York. He left Phebe with  five children, including my ancestor, William Perry, not quite a year old.

Probate 158 (1)

Above is a page for the probate of William’s estate. He had extensive possessions and property. The papers list his wife, Phebe, but there is no mention of his five children. I also have census records for 1830 and 1840, listing Phebe as the head of the household. But, until 1850, only the heads of households were named; all others were only counted in their appropriate age groupings. Below is the 1830 census.

gard-phebe-1830-census-york township indiana

It appears that Phebe never remarried. She passed away in Clinton Co., Indiana, in 1859.

I’m hoping that there is a guardian record on file in an Indiana courthouse to find the evidence I need. Until then, we are going to try to make our case with the information we have.

Until next time…

My Promised Follow-Up

In my last post, I wrote about Cyndi, the genealogist in the Switzerland County recorder’s office. And, yes, bless her; she did go out to the Gard Cemetery, spoke with the owner of the land, trekked out a mile off the road, and took pictures of William Gard’s grave and tombstone(s).

And, there’s more.

She went with a friend, also on the local cemetery committee. (Who knew that there was even such a thing?) They literally poked around in the area, finding what might be one or two more unmarked graves.  They weren’t sure if what they found was truly a grave or a rock; there needs to be more investigation to be sure.

And, there’s even more.

The local American Legion has offered to move William’s grave to the East Enterprise cemetery and rebury him with full military honors.

That just gave me goosebumps. I’d love to do this, for a variety of reasons. Where the grave is now is on private property and hard to access. Cyndi mentioned that the land will soon be up for sale, and that while the current owner has been gracious in allowing access, there’s no guarantee that future owners will be.

I’ve posted in genealogy pages on Facebook and on Find a Grave, asking for other Gard ancestors’ input. I’m not even sure if I have the legal authority to authorize a move. I need to do more searching, trying to find other descendants.

I’ll keep you posted!


Genealogists: Some of the Kindest Folks

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been working on my DAR application, and by jove, I’me just about to have my application sent in! And, not just mine, but my mother’s and my daughter’s, as well. My mom is 94, and her application might be expedited. I’m hoping that all three of us will have consecutive numbers, just like our consecutive generations.

Today, in searching for proof of my ancestor, William Gard, 1788-1827, living in Switzerland County, IN, I called the records office for the county. I just wasn’t coming up with anything through the usual search engines.

Now, you must understand, I really dislike using the phone, especially to call strangers out of the blue. But, if today is any indication, I need to get over it. Because, you see, genealogists are just the best people. They get it.

When I called the recorder’s office, I explained that I was looking for deeds for William Gard, and could this office point me in the right direction to find them? The woman who answered the phone said that she couldn’t, but that the office had a genealogist. She was out for lunch, and could I call back?

Well, yes, I could, thank you!

When I called back a bit later, the genealogist, Cindy, answered the phone. I explained what I was looking for, and she said she’d look and call me back. Which she did, about 30 minutes later.

She’d not found any deeds, but she HAD found land patents; was I interested? She walked me through the steps to get to the government site for land grants and patents, and sure enough, there was my William!

Before we signed off, I asked if she could help direct me to the right people who might have a photo of his grave site, said to be on his farm. And, this is where it gets good!

She said that she was on the cemetery committee (Who knew such a thing even existed!?) and would ask around for me. And, once again, she got right back with another phone call.

She had found that his grave was in the Gard Cemetery (What?), and that it was raining, but a soon as it cleared up, she’d be out to get a photo for me.

Wow. Just wow… the kindness of strangers, indeed.

Here is the land patent granted to William, while he was still living in Hamilton County, Ohio:

And, the list of patents led me to his son’s, William Perry Gard, as well:

gard-william perry-1851-land patent-tipton co-IN- B 001

I have no doubt that Cindy will provide me with a photograph. I’ll let you know!

The Long-Lost Birth Certificate: Found!

I’ve been working on gathering all the necessary paperwork, i.e. birth, death, and marriage, for me, my parents, and my grandparents. One of my goals for 2016 is to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, and these certificates are necessary. I was able to get copies of everything, except for two: birth certificates for my mother and her father.

My grandfather was born in South Dakota in 1901, and his birth was apparently never registered there. I do have an affidavit written by his mother 39 years later, attesting to his birth. I’m not sure yet if this will suffice for the DAR.

As for my mother, well, it was quite the run-around! I ordered it with several others from the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office, for $28. For my $28, I got back a letter saying that there was no record of my mother ever being born in LA Co., and that I should request it from Shasta Co.

Shasta County???

We had always been told that she was born in LA, in the newly renovated maternity cottages that would one day become part of LA County Hospital. Shasta Co. made no sense whatsoever. My mom and siblings were just as puzzled.

It was about this time that I noticed that on My Heritage, on the record page for Mom, was the California Vital Records Index, saying that sure enough, she was born in Shasta Co.

So, I spent another $38 (for the certificate and the online electronic payment service charge) to order said certificate from Shasta Co. And, for my $38 I got back a letter saying that there was no record of her having been born in Shasta Co., and that I should try the state vital records in Sacramento.


Turns out, genealogy can be expensive!

But, yay! This story has a great ending!

I’m just back from a visit with Mom, and guess what she has had all along? Yes, her birth certificate from the city of Los Angeles! The city! Not the county. So, perhaps, if I had begun my search at the state level, I could have saved a bit of money.

Or, if Mom had remembered that she had it, tucked away in her lock box… but, that’s another story.

This photo below is of my new-born mother, with my grandmother, at the maternity cottages in Los Angeles. I am amazed that in 1921, someone took this. Now, it’s common place, but this is the only photo like this I have among thousands of family pictures.

I think it’s lovely.

vida wells and newborn bula