52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 15: Taxes

At first, when I read this prompt, my thought was, “Nope. Got nothing.”

And, then I decided to see what I could dig up, based on interesting finds for other prompts I almost dismissed.

But, first, a slight digression, which does play into the scenario, I promise.

Back several weeks ago, I went to Utah to attend RootsTech. One of the sessions I attended was given by Diana Elder of Family Locket. (If you remember, I won the RootsTech pass on a giveaway through her blog.)

Diana gave an excellent presentation on why and how to organize your genealogy files, both physical and digital. You can find her presentation slides and notes here. I highly recommend you taking a look.

Diana’s digital file-naming system was the most helpful thing I learned during her class. Oh, yes, I thought I had a good, consistent naming protocol. I mean, I had all the vital information there, right? But, I was fooling myself. Trust me, her system is so much better. And, I will tell you why.

I had been naming files something like this:


Sometimes, it looked more like this:

diamond-sarah-1764-birth-marblehead vital records-vol 1.jpg

Or even this:


Do you see the problems? The inconsistencies? No wonder I had trouble finding stuff.

Diana’s suggestion was to name files like this:

date-document type-last name-first name (and maiden)-place

She explained that if your folder was correctly named, i.e. GARD-jeremiah-BROWN-experience, the name of the individual really wasn’t the most important part of the file name. It’s there in the folder structure, so it doesn’t have to be the first item in the individual file name.

But, what will be important is the date the document or photo was created and the document type. So when you are searching through your files, all the files with this file naming protocol will be neatly in chronological order, making a nice, clear, concise timeline for your ancestor, right there in your folder. Ta-da!

So, for the files above, I have renamed them like this:

  • 1810-will pg3-GARD-jeremiah-union township PA.jpg
  • 1750-51-marriage-CLAFLIN-timothy-GOULD-mary-lynn MA.jpg
  • 1764-birth marblehead vital records-vol 1-DIAMOND-sarah-marblehead MA.jpg

I have already experienced the ease of finding a document when using this system.

Here’s a screenshot of one of my folders before I have renamed the enclosed files:

What a mess! Nothing is easily found!

Now, here’s a folder that I have worked on:

Whew… So. Much. Better. Everything is in chronological order, with the document type after the date. Not all files have dates; they will be listed by document type first and fall after the files with dates listed first.

I have already found that I had duplicates of many documents, especially census records. When looking in a folder with my prior system, there was no easy way to tell if I had all or any census pages. Now, I can easily search, because records are in chronological order, and quickly see that yes, I have 1850, but not 1830 or 1840, for example. No more multiple downloads of 1850!

All that to say, it was difficult to find a tax record in the jumble of files in my folders! I think I’ll have an easier time from now on, or I will have, once I finish this BIG project. I will be able to easily search for the document type right after the date in the file name.

So, do you want to see what I found?

This is not exactly a tax record, but rather an assessment for a possible future tax liability. My DAR patriot is Jeremiah Gard, who moved west from New Jersey to settle in the frontier of Pennsylvania, in Union Township.

1798-land assesment-GARD-jeremiah--union township fayette co PA-ancerstry.jpg

This document is the “Particular list of description of all lands, lots, buildings, and wharves, owned, possessed, or occupied on the first day of October, 1798, in Union Township, Fayette County…”

Jeremiah Gard is number 64 on this page, the third and fourth lines from the top. He owned two lots, but occupied only one. On the occupied lot, he had one “cabbin” worth $8.00,  one sawmill, and one “old log barn.” This land and lots subject to valuation were a total of 260 acres and 80 “perches.”  The total valuation of “tract, lot wharf, and etc.” was $2088.00. The unoccupied lot was valued at $40.00.

Not bad, Jeremiah!

‘Til next time!



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 10: Strong Woman

I pondered this prompt for a few days, again thinking that I had too much to choose from and not knowing where to go. And, then it struck me yesterday: one of many strong women in my family was actually named “Strong.” So, here we go!

My Nanna Wells had one sister, Dola Zella (Gard) Strong, my great-aunt. I’ve written much about my Nanna, and trust me, there’s more, but I’ve not written much about her younger, and only, sister.

Dola was born November 1, 1902, six years after her sister, Vida, (my grandmother). Dola and Vida were the only surviving children of my great-grandparents parents, Willis Gard and Eva Kesterson. Willis and Eva also had a son as their firstborn, Lex Bion (no idea where that name came from), in 1888. Little Lex only lived two years, two months, and 11 days.

vida and dola gard 1911 e. 2nd st. 1905-1
Vida and Dola, aged 9 and 3, LosAngeles

I don’t know that Vida and Dola were close as they grew up, but I knew them to be so as adults.

vida and dola gard, 1907 e. 2nd, st. los angeles, ca

gard-dola-miss america benj franklin dedication parade-los angeles
Dola as Miss America in the Benjamin Franklin Library dedication parade, Los Angeles, June 1916.

Just today in my research for this post, I found out that Dola graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, not far from where I live. Take a look at these images from her yearbook:

1920-poly tech HS yearbook-gard-dola-long beach CA (1)


to vida, june 22, 1920, dola z gard-1
Dola, age 19, high school portrait, 1920


In 1922, Dola graduated from the University of California, with her General Elementary Certificate. Both Vida and Dola would become teachers with long careers in the Los Angeles school district.

dola gard's graduation brochure cropped (1)

dola gard's graduation brochure (2) edited

Dola and Vida, on Vida’s wedding day, October 3, 1920.

Aunt Dola married my Uncle Frank Strong on July 29, 1923, when she was 22.



Dola and Frank never had any children, but they were a wonderful aunt and uncle to me and my siblings. Stern, but very loving. Much like my grandmother!

Another thing Aunt Dola had in common with my Nanna was her lack of culinary skill. Neither of them were very good cooks, but rather average with forays into awfulness, thankfully punctuated with many restaurant meals. They were both career women, not homemakers.

One epic Thanksgiving at Dola’s house (Frank had passed away at this point), we all struggled to eat a horribly gooey, seemingly raw, pumpkin mousse pie. My kids got a very stern eye from us, with a mouthed and stage-whispered, “Eat it! Just eat it! Don’t. say. a. thing. Don’t! If we have to eat it, so do you!” 

In their later years, Dola and Frank moved from Los Angeles to Fallbrook. They bought an avocado farm and built an adobe brick house with historically accurately thick walls nestled in the grove. It was lovely, cool and shady.

strong-frank-dola-house in fallbrook (2)
Dola and Frank’s new front porch in Fallbrook.

Our family would often visit Aunt Dola on our vacations from Oregon to California. We were always greeted with hugs, pressed to her strongly girdled mid-section. Just like Nanna’s. She would often generously send us home with furniture or heirlooms. We have several lawyer’s bookcases that she kindly gave us.

Aunt Dola passed away in 1989, a few years before we moved back to California from Oregon. She lived out her last few years in a nursing home, where we would visit and have lunch with her in the grand dining room.

She was a strong woman, way ahead of her time educationally and professionally. Her strength was tempered by her affection for me, and I knew she loved me.

“Til next time.

Morristown: Revisited

I have a soft spot in my heart for Morristown, New Jersey. It’s the hometown of my DAR Patriot, Jeremiah Gard. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this little town several times, but I distinctly remember my first time there.

I had just begun to work at the Big Airline, and one of my very first layovers was in Morristown. I loved it. I simply walked around slack-jawed, amazed at the town green surrounded by lovely stone churches with ivy-covered bell towers. I walked into a little diner, and it was just like the set of “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. (Well, not mine.) Every time the door opened, it was “Hey, Bud! How’s the wife?” Or, “‘Morning, Joe. The usual?” It was like nothing this West Coast gal had ever seen.

I called my husband to tell him that I wanted to move to Morristown.

I just felt a kinship with the place. I had more layovers there over the years, enjoying each one, until the Big Airline closed its Newark hub, and the layovers petered out.

In 2016, I made a resolution to fulfill my Nanna’s wish and join the DAR. I remember the day when researching my Gard ancestors that I discovered that Jeremiah Gard (my DAR patriot) and his family had not only lived in Morristown, but they were some of the first settlers there. I got goosebumps, and all plans for making dinner went out the window as I dug deeper.

Those churches with the tall bell towers? The Gards worshiped in one of them.

2017-06-19 10.32.41

The cemetery behind the church? There are ancestors buried there.

2017-06-19 13.10.22

The town green? My family walked there.

2017-06-19 10.35.54

There’s a theory in genealogy called genetic memory. It’s the idea that memories become part of a person’s genome (DNA) and can be passed on just like eye color or height. It’s one explanation for savants, i.e. people who have the sudden ability to speak a foreign language or the immediate mastery of calculus or a musical instrument.

I’m not saying that I believe this theory; it’s just interesting to ponder. I do know that there are many, many stories of serendipity and amazing coincidences in genealogy. Enough that at least three books have been written about them: Psychic Roots and More Psychic Roots, by Henry Z. Jones, Jr., and In search of Our Ancestors, by Megan Smolenyak.

I’m not claiming that my immediate connection with Morristown was genetic memory, but there was a definite, deep attraction.

Last June, I finally had another layover in Morristown, the first since I made this discovery about my roots there. After a delicious gluten-free breakfast of waffles to power up, I wandered the town a bit, eventually ending up at the local public library. I was delighted to discover that there is an entire genealogy section on the bottom floor. I was in heaven.

I spoke with the librarian on duty, and she quickly disappeared, only to reappear with huge map plats of the town and an entire vertical file on the Gard family. I quickly dug into the pile.

I only had about two hours until I had to get ready to go work, and those hours flew by too fast. I quickly snapped photos of letters and notes to read more thoroughly once I got home.

I think I might have even found some proof of the identity of  Jeremiah’s father. It will need further study, but, now I know where to look.

2017-06-19 12.15.50

Until next time!


My Nanna

My mother’s mother, Vida Bula Gard Wells, known to me as Nanna, had a huge influence on me growing up.

She was a formidable woman in both body and spirit.

In body, she was a life-long corset/girdle wearer, so her hugs weren’t soft, but rather like hugging a tree trunk. In her later years, she permed and colored her hair into a curly red cap that didn’t move. I never saw her in pants; she was always in a dress with stockings and proper shoes.

In spirit, she was determined, strong, and smart. She attended normal school and became a teacher. She held a steady job through the Great Depression, while my grandfather was self-employed, and the family depended on her regular and sufficient salary. In 1935, she drove herself, her mother, and my 14 year-old mother across the country to Kansas at a time when most women didn’t have a driver license, let alone their own car.

She was born in 1896, and married my grandfather in 1920. She was 24; he was 19. I suspect this caused a bit of a stir.

She was a terrible cook, but thankfully, she often took us out to eat when we visited.

For lunch, we went to the five-and-dime, where I would get a club sandwich (Three slices of bread! Bacon! Little toothpicks with red, yellow, or green cellophane toppers! Bread cut into triangles!).

For dinner, we would all get into her big car and she would drive us to LA’s Chinatown, where we always went to the same restaurant. It was fabulous! A dozen or more different, and to this country girl, exotic, dishes arrayed out on the table. Egg drop soup. Chow mein. Little cookies with messages. Almond cookies with a single slice of nut in the middle of their crusty tops.

She was a life-long member of the Methodist church. On Saturdays, she would arrange the flowers for the next day’s service, and I often was allowed to tag along. Strangely, I don’t remember ever attending a service with her.


I loved her, but I do wish I had loved her better. I miss her now.

A Family History of Veterans

I come from a long line of military veterans. It makes me proud that there were men (yes, only men it seems) who were willing to lay down their lives for this nation. And, amazingly, it seems that all of them survived the various wars, engagements, skirmishes, expeditions, etc., that cover such a wide definition of military service.

Beginning with the Revolutionary War, on my mother’s side of the family, my great-great-great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gard served with the militia in New Jersey and, later, in the ill-fated and ill-reasoned Sandusky Expedition. Through the near-perfect hindsight of 2016, I can’t say that the latter is exactly a matter of pride, but I can’t judge the motives and judgment of someone who was living in very different and perilous times.


The Sandusky Expedition Soldiers

His son, William Gard, served in the War of 1812 and was taken prisoner by the British in Detroit. He was released and sent home, only to arrive a few days before his wife died, leaving him with a toddler and a new-born. He quickly married his wife’s sister, which I’m sure was the act of a desperate, grieving man.

gard-william-1827-grave (5)

The Original Tombstone for William Gard

William’s son, William Perry, who was just a baby when his father passed away, served in the Mexican and Civil Wars.

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

William Perry Gard and his Wife Phebe

On my father’s side, he, his brother, and his father all served in the military. My dad enlisted in the Army twice. Once in 1938, and again in 1944. My uncle, his brother, is also WW2 veteran, having served in the Navy,  and he is a Pearl Harbor survivor. Their father, my grandfather, was commissioned in the Merchant Marines.


Uncle George


My Father and Grandfather

So, to all these men, I hold a debt of gratitude for the freedoms and privileges I have today. And, to their families, especially their wives, who sacrificed, too.

Thank you.

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!