It Must Have Been All Too Much for Him

I have been a ‘man with a plan these past few weeks. I’ve cleared off my computer desktop and emptied my download folder, except for photos. I’m planning on tackling the photos in a separate tear through my digital world.

Today, I’m working in my Genealogy folder. I’ve reorganized it to make it much easier to navigate, based on what I learned in a webinar that I watched last week featuring Cyndi Ingle, of Cyndi’s List.

I’ve made folders for each married couple, using numbers for generations in the folder name, so they are automatically sorted into chronological order. It makes it SO much easier to find the right place to move a file to.

Here’s a quick little example before your eyes roll too far to the back of your head:


Now, doesn’t that look like I have my stuff together?

Don’t be fooled; it’s a work in progress.

But, in that progress today, I came across a document that made me gasp.

It was a death certificate. And, I have a lot of those. And, to be honest, I’m becoming a bit hardened to yet another child in a family who died. So, death certificates or notices don’t usually bring about that reaction from me.

But, this one did.

1922-death certificate-garrett-arthur-unionville-putnam co-mo

Do you see it, too?

Cause of death: Gun shot wound inflicted by own hand with … intent.

Arthur Garrett was a great-great uncle of my husband, brother to Edward Garrett, great-grandfather of my husband.

Arthur was born January 17, 1860, in Lockport, Illinois, son of William John Garrett and Isabella Kissack, immigrants from Isle of Man. He was the fourth son of the couple, but only the second to survive infancy. Their first two boys, William and George, both passed away as toddlers.

Arthur was working in a fence factory by the time of the 1880 census, when he was about 20. He was still living with his parents and siblings in Joliet, Illinois.

He married Josephine Coop in 1896, and their son, Gilbert Charles was born in December the same year.

In 1900, Arthur was living in the household of his brother, Edward, my husband’s great-great grandfather in Liberty Township, Missouri. He gave his occupation as farmer, claimed he was married, and that he had been so for four years.

But, Josephine wasn’t living in the same household.

I found her living with her parents, John and Susanah Coop, and her little boy Gilbert Charles in Unionville, Missouri.

By 1910, Arthur and Josephine were living together with Gilbert Charles on their own, mortgage-free farm in Wilson Township, Missouri.

In 1920, Arthur and Josephine were living in Union Township, Missouri, owning their own farm once again. Gilbert Charles has apparently grown up and left the nest.

Sadness came when Josephine passed away May 19, 1921. She was 64.

Now, did you note the death date for Arthur? May 26, 1922.

I’ve seen it over and over again; one spouse passes away and, all too often, the other doesn’t live very much longer. But, Arthur’s circumstances are very, very different.

He died by his own hand almost a year to the day of Josephine’s passing.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence… 

It’s a guess, and only a guess, but I imagine that his sadness was just too much for him to bear. I’d love to know the whole story.

’til next time.






George Augustus Keene: Inventor

First, a quick progress report: I have cleaned off my computer desktop! Yay! I can now see Norway clearly! I might even go fetch a new set of photos for my background.

And now I’ve moved on to my downloads files. Yikes… I really need to put a system in place for when I download files.

While cleaning off the computer desktop, I found several more patents of my great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene.

I might have mentioned a while back that my he had held quite a few patents for his inventions. He had even listed his occupation several times as “inventor.” Alas, neither he nor our family ever profited long-term from his ideas. According to my Uncle George, George A. drank away several fortunes and died in poverty.

But, let’s set the stage, shall we?

George Augustus Keene was born in about 1833, the first son of Washington E. Keen and Lydia Ann Kent.

When George was about 11 years old, his father, Washington E., died of tuberculosis at the young age of 34. Washington’s wife, Lydia, remained an unmarried widow until her death 1895, at the age of approximately 86. I think the family must have had a hard time making ends meet, based on the recollections of George later in life.

In an interview with a Lynn, Massachusetts, newspaper in 1916, George recalled:

“At the age at which I would just be eligible for the Boy Scouts if I was living it over today, I was thrown upon my own resources. I became a mill hand in the cotton mills of Massachusetts. In those days the only excitement about child labor and the only thought given the matter was in favor of it. From pulpit and rostrum the importance of teaching the young industry and diligence was lauded as a virtue. There were no eight hour laws for children in those days, no workmen’s compensation, few labor saving devices, no industrial welfare departments, and dust and dirt of the mills and shops was actually believed to be strengthening and beneficial.”

After working in the mills for a few years, he related that he had worked as a cooper, making barrels. Eventually, he made his way to work as a ship’s navigator, which might have been the genesis of the invention of which he most proud.

KEENE-george augustus

Through the years, George had a variety of professions.

  • 1850: In the US Census, he was just 17, living with his mother and siblings, and working as a carpenter.
  • 1853: In his marriage record for his first marriage with Ellen Piper, he lists his profession again as carpenter.
  • 1858: In a Newburyport, MA city directory, he is a lounge manufacturer.
  • 1860: In the US census, his profession is upholsterer.
  • 1863: In the Newburyport, MA, city directory, he is listed again as a carpenter.
  • 1865: In the Newburyport, MA city directory, he is once again an upholsterer.
  • 1865: In the Massachusetts census, he is a machinist.
  • 1876: In the marriage record for George and Lydia Thompson, he gave his occupation as rubber manufacturer.
  • 1880: In the US census, he gives his profession as an inventor.
  • 1889: In the Newburyport, MA city directory, he is also an inventor.
  • 1900: In the US census, he is listed again as an inventor.
  • 1909: In the Lynn, MA city directory, he is an inventor.
  • 1910: He has no profession claimed, only “own income.”

Hummmm… I find in interesting that in all those years, on all those various forms, he never gave his occupation as a mill worker, a cooper, a navigator, nor a fireman, all professions he claimed to have had when he gave the interview with the Lynn newspaper.

keene-georgo augustus

George begins to apply for and be granted patents about 1860. His earliest patent that I could find was a bed for invalids. This piece was convertible, making it easier for an ill person to move.

This bed converts into a chair that converts into a commode:

1860-bed patent-KEENE- george augustus- augustus-MA.JPG

From the patent document:

Be it known that I, George A. Keene, of Lynn, in the county of Essex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, have invented a new and useful Reclining Chair and Extension Bed Combined…

In 1881, he designed a different piece of furniture, an improvement on a reclining chair:

1881-reclining chair patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1892, he designed an improvement to a bath tub seat, making it collapsible and easily stored when not in use:

1892-bathtub seat patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

He began to design new and improved funnels in the 1860s, eventually being granted patents for three different versions.

In 1862:

1862-improvement in funnel measures patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1880:

1880-funnel patent-KEENE-george-MA.JPG

And, in 1898:

1898-improvement in  measuring funnel-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1864, he was granted a patent for an improved cattle stanchion:

1864-cattle stacnhion patent-KEENE-george augustus-lynn-MA.JPG

And, another product for animals, he received a patent in 1876 for an improvement on harness rosettes for horses:

1876-hraness rosettes patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1867, he invented a paper neck tie :

1867-neck tie patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

Who knew that paper neck ties were even a thing? But, apparently, they were. The neck ties were to be made “of paper, either of uniform color, plainly embossed, or embossed or printed in patterns of any desirable color or character…”

He had several patents for improvements of household objects, in addition to the measuring funnels.

In 1871, he designed a laundry dryer:

1871-laundry dryer patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1882, a window washer:

1882-windowwasher patent-KEENE-goerge augustus-lynn-MA (1).JPG

In 1885, a floor mop:

1885-floor mop patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1906, a sink cleaner:

1906-sink cleaner patent-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

He held two patents for improvements in carriage steps, including the addition of rubber tread to prevent slips, which were quite common and could be devastating.

In 1874:

1874-carriage step tread patent-KEENE-george augustus-MA.JPG

In 1877:

1877-improvement in carriage steps-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

His most promising invention was a feathering paddle wheel. Steam-driven paddle wheels were the primary means of river boat power in the mid-1800s. But, they were rather inefficient, as the paddles would by design need to push up against the water for the wheel to complete a turn. George’s designs involved feathering the paddles, making them turn as a rower turns an oar when bringing it up through the water.

He first designed his version of the feathering paddle wheel in 1865:

1865-patent feathering paddle wheel-KEENE-george a-MA.JPG

In 1911, he had improved it:

1911-paddle wheel patent-keene-george-MA (4).jpg

George formed a company in New Hampshire and offered 1,000 shares of stock for sale at $10 each to the public to raise funds. From the Lynn newspaper: ” … all matters considered, a more separable investment for capitalists it would be difficult to find. The company propose to furnish wheels, or to permit parties to build them themselves at cost on paying a royalty.”


Unfortunately for George, the days of the paddle wheel river boat were ending, as newer and more efficient means of power were found. His invention came to naught.

Only a few years after being granted this patent, my great-grandparents, George and Lydia, were depending on money sent home by their son, my grandfather, Charles.

George A. died in Illinois in March 1919, as he, Lydia, and my grandparents, Charles and Perpetue, were traveling across the country to California.


Heartache and Loss

Happy New Year, my friends! I wish a wonderful 2019 for you and yours.

As I mentioned in my last post, my resolution this year is to get my genealogical house in order. I have so much information, and because I haven’t been diligent in my housekeeping, I don’t even know what I have!

My first task is to clean up my digital desktop. It is a visual mess, cluttered with files downloaded or copied and pasted and sprinkled over my beautiful screensaver of photos of Norway.

As I was working on renaming and filing this morning, I came across a census from 1870 for William C. Kendall and Alice Jane Crew Kendall, 3x great-grandparents, through my mother’s mother’s side of the family.

They look like a couple who has had more than their fair share of sorrow, don’t they? The look on Alice’s face just about breaks my heart. She looks like a woman who needs some comfort.

I think I know why. So let me share what I learned today with you.

To beign, I renamed the file in the format I learned from Diana Elder at RootsTech 2018: year-file type-LAST NAME-first name-location. When files are named in this way, they are automatically filed in the folder in chronological order, making a nice little visual timeline.

So, the renamed census file now looks like this:

1870-census-KENDALL-william-alice jane crew-james-william jr-alice ida-charles-mary-randolph township-IN

As I pasted it into the KENDALL folder, I noticed other files that I hadn’t attached to my family tree software. In the software tree, I had only three children for William and Alice. But, in my folder was a handwritten record, seemingly copied from a family Bible, with the birth dates for nine children. Yes, nine


William and Alice were married in 1847.

In the 1850 census, they were listed as having one daughter, Sarah, my 2x great-grandmother.

In 1860, the children in the household were Sarah and James. But, according to the record above, William and Alice had had five children by 1860. Where were Winfield, John, and Samuel?

In 1870, the children in the household were James, William E., Alice Ida, Charles, and Mary. (Sarah was married and no longer living at home.) Nine children were born in the space of 22 years, with three little ones gone.

The back of the birth record page lists death dates for the family:

kendall-crew-family record (2)

Winfield, John, and Samuel, the second, third, and fourth children to be born, never lived to their second birthdays. As a mother, I can’t imagine the heartache of watching one after another of my babies pass away, knowing that I am absolutely helpless to do anything about it.

But, that’s not all. Alice died in 1876, at only 45 years of age, when her youngest child, Mary, was only about seven years old.

And, then in 1880, at only 19, young William died.

1876-headstone-kendall-alice jane crew

Only four of William and Alice’s nine children survived to adulthood.

The elder William lived until 1900, to age 75. As far as I could tell, he lived the last 20 years of his life without marrying again. I will guess that was self-preservation, avoiding the possible sorrow of more loss. 

‘Till next time.



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 52: Resolution

Well folks, this is it.

The End.

Week 52.

When I began this project at the beginning of the year, I truly was unsure whether or not I’d be able to finish. But, once I got started, I began to enjoy the challenge more and more, looking forward to what I  might discover on the way.

And, here we are at the start of another new year. I’m sure that there will be more discoveries along the way. New stories to tell.

I’ve just resolved to go about it in a different way in 2019.

This past year, as I’ve collected more and more records and photos, both physical and digital, I’ve fallen down on organization. In my haste to get blog posts written, I’ve too often just thrown the pictures on my computer desktop or in a box, telling myself, “I’ll get to this later.”

In short, my genealogy records are a hot mess. Now is later.

I’ve got file folders in the garage. Boxes in the spare bedroom closet. Binders in my office cabinets. Family scrapbooks in the attic.

Digital files run amok on my hard drive. Photos aren’t properly named and sorted. Duplicate galore. Unscanned photos and documents too numerous to count.

So, this year is the year of getting my genealogy house in order.

I’ve resolved to:

  1. Clean up my digital files. I need to properly name and file all photos and documents.
  2. Organize my physical records, deciding what to keep and what to toss. Those that I keep need to be properly filed in binders or folders, preferably archival. I need to find one place to keep all physical records and mementos.
  3. Unscanned photos and records need to be scanned, properly named, and filed.
  4. As I find records on my computer that I haven’t attached to my family tree software, I will add those while I double-check my tree’s accuracy.
  5. As I sort through records and photos, I need to upload to my online trees any records that might be of value to other researchers.
  6. I need to make sure that all my digital records are properly backed up.
  7. And, finally, as I find new information or stories along the way, I will post about them here. I enjoy sharing family history stories and discoveries, and I’m resolved to continue.

Whew… It’s going to be a busy year. I’d better get started.

Happy New Year!

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 51: Nice


It can appear to be, well, a rather vanilla word. At first glance. Sort of an all-purpose, fill-in-a-blank sort of word when you don’t know anything more specific to say about someone or something.

“She’s nice.”

“Dinner was nice.”

“We had a nice day.”

On the other hand, it’s also a lovely, descriptive word, when used with purpose.



Who doesn’t want to be pleasing, agreeable, or delightful? Or amiably pleasant and kind? How about having accuracy, precision or skill?

Do you know that some of the nicest people you can find are genealogists? I sure have found this to be true. I have been helped numerous times during my family history journey by others who did so without expecting any sort of recompense. It’s been delightful.

  • I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution because of the kindness of a fellow member who spent hours helping me to find records and fill out my application.
  • Another DAR member, who I never even met or spoke to, researched in the Family History Library without even being asked to do so, finding a brick-wall breaking record in the process.
  • At the Manx Museum, the librarians and archivists were more than just doing their job when they found documents and records for Doug’s family and eagerly showed us more than we asked for.
  • The Switzerland, Indiana county genealogist who, with a friend, tramped out in the woods to take photos of a family cemetery and headstones for me.
  • Random My Heritage and Ancestry members who have posted photos and records, making them public, in order to help others in their research.
  • My two cousins, Peter and Judy, fellow genealogists who have given freely, abundantly of their research and knowledge over and over.

I have had the most agreeable time this year on this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks journey. I have had discoveries and breakthroughs. Surprises.

It has been also been a challenge at times, but in a nice, pleasant, way. The prompts this year have forced me to greatly increase my genealogical accuracy and skill. I have had to learn to write with much more precision, as genealogy can be a slog to those for whom “second cousin twice removed” sounds more like the teacher voice in a Charlie Brown film than English.

So all that to say that I’ve had a nice time this past year. Thank you for coming along with me.

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 50: Naughty

We are coming to the end of this year at a rapid pace. Christmas was this past week, and the New Year is only a few days away. And, if I concentrate, I just might get all 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks actually completed in the allotted time!

This is one of those prompts that I have had to ponder. There just aren’t that many rouges, scoundrels, or miscreants in my family. I haven’t uncovered any hushed-up scandals. Brushed under the rug disgrace. Hidden crimes.

For sure we have the usual assortment humanity’s faults: failed marriages, alcohol abuse, and broken relationships. But, we have been proven, for the most part, to be just an average, normal, run-of-the-mill family.

So, I have decided on the more light-hearted interpretation of naughty. The more playful, impish definition.

My dad personified that definition.

Perhaps it is the season and holiday-induced nostalgia. Perhaps it was my recent trip to Pearl Harbor with my Uncle George and wishing my dad could have shared that. Perhaps it is just my own looming mortality and the general fragility of life, upon hearing of another old friend’s passing.

Whatever the reason, I have been missing my dad lately. I miss his sense of humor. His quirky expressions. His eyebrow twitches and ear wiggles. The fake stern looks, with a wrinkled brow, that he couldn’t hold for very long without breaking out in laughter. The way he loved teasing my mom.

I can see that playful naughtiness in photos so very clearly.

bearded daddy.jpg
Dad and my older siblings, circa 1950s
china lake039.jpg
Dad with my brother, Don, circa 1955
china lake017.jpg
Mom and Dad, circa mid-50s
salt lake.jpg
The Great Salt Lake; my dad chasing me through the water. 
thanksgiving 1963, bula, charles
Dad and Mom, circa 1963
1972, charles, in fez
Dad, in his fez, circa 1972
mom's birthday, 1972, charles, bula
Mom’s birthday, 1972
jan 1975, charles
Dad, circa 1975, with the mustache he was so proud of.
oct 79, on our way to oregon, barbara, doug, rachel, charles
Me, Doug, our first-born, and Dad, circa 1979

He passed away in 1996, at the relatively young age of 77. He went to the doctor complaining of stomach pain, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and was gone just six short weeks later.

I miss you, Dad.

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 49: Winter

As I’ve mentioned here before, I grew up on the California desert.

The desert stereotype is that it is hot, always. But, that’s not entirely the whole story.

Yes, summer is beastly; fall and spring can actually be nice. Occasionally.

And, then there’s winter. Which can be lovely on the desert as well; I have lots of photos from Christmas Day where we are wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts and the doors are open.

1969, christmas
Christmas Day, 1969

But, the winter nights can be icy cold. There’s no steel and asphalt to hold in the heat as in the cities, so the temperature can drop quickly.

Occasionally, just occasionally, we would get snow. The snowstorms came more often and were heavier when I was younger; I don’t remember many in my teen years.

inyokern, with dog, i remember this dog!
Winter, 1959


inyokern snow 1961 (3)
Winter, 1961


1974 snow
Winter, 1974


looking north
Winter, 1976


I don’t have strong memories of winter as I do summer. Summer is literally burned into by brain. I think I’d appreciate the beauty of winter much more now…

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 48: Next to Last

I had to think about this prompt a bit. In fact, I came very close to just skipping over it, hoping no one would notice. But, as a recovering perfectionist, it just wouldn’t do. I would have known, and it would have bothered me until I did something about it.

I’m recovering, not recovered, you see

I thought about several different approaches:

  • I’m the next-to-last child in my sibling group, so I could write about me, but ugh...
  • How about the next-to-last time I saw a grandparent, but I couldn’t remember with any confidence…
  • I could write about the next-to-last photograph in a random pile. (Not that I have any of those.) But I kept picking up ones that were unidentified…

Then I decided to look for the next-to-last child in a family group, someone that I hadn’t written about yet. And, I found Berton Handley Wells.

My great-grandfather, Willis C. Wells, had two younger siblings, Berton and Hattie May, Berton being the next-to-last. And, I thought, why not?

So, Berton, this one’s for you.

Berton was born March 14, 1870, in Dodge Co., Wisconsin, the second son of Matthias Wells and Alberta Pettingill Wells, my great-great grandparents.

Matthias had moved to Pine Valley about the year 1871, around the time Berton was born. From the History of Clark Co. Wisconsin:

There was a logging stable on the place, in which they lived the first summer, while he built a log house and barn. He had obtained his land by trading for it a team of horses, and they being gone, he had nothing left to start with. For seven years he carried supplies home on his back from Neillsville, except on those rare occasions when a neighbor would help him. He had oxen in the summer but had to sell them in the winter, as he had no feed for them. The winters he spent in the woods and the summers on his farm, working out much of the time to support his family, and clearing his land in his spare time. His work in the woods was continued for eight winters. His possessions were acquired slowly and with difficulty. At one time he bought a cow for which he paid $40, earning the money by working for $1.25 a day and having to walk eight miles to his work. For thirty-one years he lived in the old log house and then erected a seven-room frame house and a basement barn, 34 by 56 feet. He cleared about forty acres of his land, using the rest for pasture and raising graded Guernsey cattle and Poland-China hogs. 

Berton grew up working on his father’s farm, and I’m sure, learning from Matthias’ example of hard work and determination.

The Wells family: Willis C., Matthias, Hattie Mae, Alberta, Berton

In a 1906 Pine Valley, Wisconsin land ownership map, Berton is shown as owning a plot of land next to his parents, Matthias and Alberta. Ed Lloyd, husband to his younger sister, Hattie Mae, also owns a plot next to the Wells’. Look for the large numerals 21 and 28, to the left of the river in the lower left quadrant of the map below.

1906-ownership map-WELLS-berton-WELLS-matthias-pine valley WI
1906 Ownership Map of Pine Valley, Wisconsin

Berton served for 19 years in the 3rd Infantry Regiment Wisconsin National Guard. Apparently, he was a highly regarded marksman.

Sgt. Berton Wells (1)
Sgt. Berton Wells

Berton married Nettie B. Charles January 22, 1907 in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Berton was 36, and Nettie was eight years older. It was Berton’s first marriage, and Nettie’s second, information I gleaned from the 1910 census.


In the 1910 US Census, they are living with Berton’s parents, and their ages are 40 and 48, respectively. Nettie is reported as having one child, but none living. Berton has no children, so Nettie’s deceased child was most likely from her first marriage. Berton’s occupation is a farm laborer, and Nettie’s is “none.”

1910-us census-WELLS.JPG

In the 1920 US Census, Berton and Nettie were living in Pine Valley, Wisconsin. Berton was working as a farm laborer.

I believe that sometime before 1923, Nettie passed away, as Berton married Zadie Mae Carver on March 3 of that year. Zadie was born in Wisconsin March 21, 1871, so she was a year younger than Berton.

Zadie and Berton were married in Sacramento, California. I wondered if that was a mistake, as they were both born in Wisconsin. But, no; according to the 1920 US Census, Zadie was living in the household of her brother-in-law, her sister’s husband. Zadie’s father was also listed in the household occupants.

Berton and Zadie Wells
Berton and Zadie Wells

April 14, 1924, Berton’s father, Matthias Wells, passed away at Berton and Zadies’ home in Neillsville. This death came just three weeks after the death of Berton’s mother, Alberta. I’ve seen this over and over in my research; long-time spouses passing away weeks, or sometimes just days, of each other.  

In the 1930 US Census, Berton and Zadie are still in Wisconsin. He was working in a furniture store and she was recorded as having no occupation. They were ages 60 and 59. Berton is recorded as being 47 at the time of his first marriage. That is a mistake, as he was actually just short of his 37th birthday when he married Nettie. Either Berton or the enumerator could have made a mistake in either the math or the recording of the information.  Which is a good reminder to not assume all census records are correct.

In the 1940 US Census, Berton and Zadie are still living at the same address as in 1930, at 222 S. Court St. in Neillsville. They are 70 and 69, and no occupation is listed for either.

wells, with sunflowers in garden
Zadie Wells and Hattie Mae Wells Lloyd looking on as Willis and Berton (on the ladder) measure the sunflowers.

Zadie passsed away July 10, 1955 in Wisconsin. She was buried in the Neillsville City Cemetery, Neillsville, Clark County,  Wisconsin.

Berton passed away on his birthday, Mar. 14, 1960.  Below is the text of his obituary from the Clark County Press, March 17, 1960:

Burton (SIC) Wells, who died on his 90th birthday Monday, will be buried today on his wedding anniversary.

Mr. Wells, a widely-known and long-time resident of Neillsville, died from a heart attack about noon Monday while waiting to see a niece at the bus depot here.

Funeral services will be conducted this (Thursday) afternoon from the Georgas Funeral Home at 2:00 p.m.  The Rev. Virgil Holmes, pastor of the Methodist Church, will be in charge, and burial will be made in the Neillsville City Cemetery.

Members of the Methodist Church, of which he had long been a member, had planned a supper and program tonight in recognition of Mr. Wells’ 90thbirthday.  The event has been cancelled.

Mr. Wells was born March 14, 1870, in Dodge County to Mathias and Alberta (Pettengill) Wells.  He came with his parents to Clark County as a small child, and was engaged in farming in the Town of Pine Valley for 45 years.

He moved to Neillsville in 1916, and resided on Court Street for many years.  He was employed for 18 years by the late H. H. Eberhardt.  After he “retired” he operated an upholstery shop at his home and did some carpentry work and cabinet making.

Mr. Wells was an ardent horticulturist and took great pride and pleasure in his flower gardens.

He served with Company A, 3rd Wisconsin Regiment, a fore-runner of the present local national guard group, for 19 years and gained the rank of first sergeant.  In that connection he won a medal for marksmanship.

For the last few years he has made his home with a niece, Mrs. Vera Shumway, on West 7th Street. 

He was married March 17, 1923, to the late Zadie Carver in Sacramento, Calif.

Surviving in the immediate family is a brother, William (SIC), of Hamilton, Mont.  Several nieces and nephews also survive.

Wells, Willis and Burton
Willis C. Wells and his brother, Berton Handley Wells

There are a few minor mistakes in the text above; another reminder to always verify facts and not assume that since it’s in the newspaper (or on the internet) it’s correct.

So, there you have it: another normal, respectable life lived out with tenacity and good will. My tree is filled with such folks. And, that’s not a bad thing…

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 47: Thankful

Some of my very favorite memories of my childhood are the big Thanksgiving dinners at my Nana Keene’s house.

It wasn’t unusual to have every seat at the dining room table filled and one or more card tables set up in the living room as well.

My dad had five siblings, and several of those siblings had multiple children, and then the grandchildren started coming fast and furious.  There could be a lot of us, depending on who showed up that year.

thanksgiving 1969, nana keene's
Thanksgiving 1969 at Nana Keene’s home.

It was noisy, boisterous, and wonderful.

Aunt Betsy, Uncle Jake, Don, Bula, holiday at Nana Keene's
A typical Thanksgiving dinner scene at Nana’s house. Through the archway is the dining room, with a card table set up in the living room.

And, then there was the special kids’ table in the kitchen. It was legendary among the cousins. We all wanted to sit there. It came out of the wall and unfolded. 

I’m telling you, it was magic.

No one minded sitting at the kids’ table at Nana’s.

Not only was the Magic Kids’ Table just too cool for school, but we were sequestered in the kitchen, where any and all shenanigans were out of sight of the adults.

And, then my kids got to sit at this magnificent table, too.

Rachel, Nathan, Brenden, June 1985, Nana Keene's kitchen, the kids' table and ironing board
Circa 1985, in Nana’s kitchen.

Occasionally, we kids let the adults use the Magic Kids’ Table:

charles, carving the turkey in nana keene's kitchen.jpg
My dad carving the Thanksgiving turkey.

Nana Keene was a good cook. Grandpie was the professional chef of the family, but Nana was the one at home, feeding all those hungry kids. I remember her fabulous range, across the kitchen from the Magic Kids’ Table.

nana keene, ducky
Nana Keene at her range, making something delicious, I’m sure.

We also had Thanksgiving dinners at my Nanna Wells’ home, but as my mom was an only child, they were never as loud and busy as those at Nana Keene’s.

thanksgiving at nana wells'
Nanna Wells’ Thanksgiving table.

I have so much to be thankful for these days, including my own children and grandchildren at our Thanksgiving table.

I hope you are so blessed.

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 46: Random Fact

This past week, I spent a few days in Honolulu with my Uncle George and his family for the 77th remembrance service of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This was the second time that I’ve been; the first was two years ago for the 75th.


While this not as large a commemoration, it was still incredibly moving. There were only about 12 military survivors attending, as their group dwindles rapidly.

2018-12-07 09.19.38
Uncle George meeting the Governor of Hawaii, David Ige, a very gracious man.

There were civilian survivors there as well. I sat a seat away from a lovely woman, 94 years young, who was a 17 year old girl on Ford Island in the harbor when the attack occurred. I think we sometimes forget about the civilians who perished, were injured, or who suffered the aftereffects of that day.


As I sat there, surrounded by military personnel from every branch of our services, it dawned on me that I wasn’t alarmed by their presence. We in the United States are fortunate that, for the most part, our armed forces are nothing to be feared. There are too many countries around the world where that is just not so.

In addition, every one of the men and women in uniform, mostly very young, were faultlessly patient, humble, and gracious to the visitors, and especially so to the veterans. I believe the defense of our country is in good hands, if this is the caliber of young people in our armed forces.

I’m certain it was this way as well in 1941, when 2,335 of them perished that December morning 77 years ago.

But what, you say, does all this have to do with the prompt for this post?

I might be stretching it a bit, and it won’t be the first time I’ve done it, but I find it interesting that my family has several little ties to Hawaii while it was still a territory, in addition to my Uncle George’s service.

Random Fact #1: My Grandpie Keene worked on the Matson Line, regularly sailing between the west coast of California and Hawaii.

1936-black sand beach pum a hawaii-wild strawberries with lunch-KEENE-charles sr
Grandpie Keene on the Big Island on a black sand beach, circa 1936.

Random Fact #2: My Nana Keene accompanied him at least once on the voyage.

KEENE-perpetue-1939-329 w ave 38 ready to leave on ship for hawaii
Nana Keene, dressed to the nines and ready to leave on the ship to Hawaii, circa 1939.

Random Fact #3: My dad enlisted in the Army in the Territory of Hawaii in 1938, when he was 19.  The family lore is that he was too short (5’3″) to enlist in the States, but the height requirement wasn’t as strict in the Territory. He was stationed on Oahu at Schofield Barracks, in the 19th Infantry band.

Dad's Army Scrapbook (24)
From Dad’s Army scrapbook, circa 1938-39

Random Fact#4: Apparently, as I just learned this past week, my Uncle Jake’s sister married into the royal family of Hawaii and is buried in their family plot in Honolulu.

Aunt Betsy and Uncle Jake arriving in Hawaii from a United Airlines flight.

Random Fact #5: Grandpie Keene would meet up with both of his sons from time to time when in the Territory.

Dad's Army Scrapbook (4)
Grandpie Keene visited Dad January 1, 1939.

I wouldn’t have minded too much if Dad had decided to stay…

‘Til next time.