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.

From dicionary.com:


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
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Dad with my brother, Don, circa 1955
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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:

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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.