Category Archives: Photographs

Digital Storytelling to Capture Family Stories

Genealogists long ago adapted family stories and photographs as a means of sharing their family history, but I have not seen a great deal of digital storytelling in family history yet. Digital storytelling is a relatively new mode of storytelling. Depending on your level of expertise, you might want to take a class to learn how to do it. If you do, I can’t recommend the Center for Digital Storytelling more highly. I took one of their three-day courses for educators last summer in Denver. However, they offer workshops for people from all walks of life.

Because my grandparents are still living and actually live in the Denver area, I took the opportunity to interview them. I had most success capturing their voices with my computer, but if you have a good camera for taking video, you may choose to capture video instead. Even if you are not able to interview family members, you can still tell a digital story about them. Take a look at this guideline for writing good digital stories:

This presentation was created by Joe Lambert and follows the Center for Digital Storytelling’s elements of creating a good digital story.

The first step, Owning Your Insight, involves finding your story and deciding what story to tell. One important thing I learned is that somehow, even if you are telling someone else’s story, the story also needs to be about you. You need to bring insight and connection to the story you tell. It is easy to fall into the trap of telling an ancestor of family member’s story and taking yourself out of the equation, but your story will offer more to connect to if it is also about you. The facilitator in my workshop recognized this problem in my own digital story idea, and she challenged me to figure out “how is this story about you?” That is not to say you can’t tell the story of a family member or ancestor, but you want to identify why you want to tell their story. What do you connect to in their own story? Are you proud? Embarrassed? Consider your own insight and what it will bring to telling the story of your family. This video is a good example of what I’m talking about:

Holly McClelland was one of the facilitators in my workshop, and what she does in this story is really turn the focus on herself and her own feelings about her relationship with her father rather than discuss her father, whose story she can’t truly tell. You might not feel comfortable sharing these types of stories with an audience. It’s up to you to decide how personal to be.

Next, CDS recommends Owning Your Emotions. This part is tough. Family stories can sometimes be very personal, and you should only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Your feelings should come through in the story. Sometimes I find that I discover how I feel in the process of creating the story itself. Here is a video that I think is a great example of owning your emotions:

Daniel Weinshenker is the Rocky Mountain/Midwest Region Director at CDS.

Step three involves Finding the Moment. This is the part of the story you want to tell. It’s best to keep stories fairly short. In fact, my CDS workshop facilitator recommended five minutes or less. So you need to get to the essence right away. What is the moment of change? What is the turning point? That moment will determine what story you decide to tell. I like the way this story zeroes in on one moment:

The moment in this film, as I see it, is discovering that what was lost was found again in a discovery of old film.

Seeing Your Story involves selecting the images and video you want to use. Don’t necessarily put this step first, but it is okay to begin selecting images as you are thinking about the story you want to tell. You might find that the images suggest a story you want to tell. Images do not have to be your own, but you will want to use images that are either in the public domain or licensed by Creative Commons unless you want to pay to license copyrighted images. Here is an example of a video made with only a handful of images. The rest is public domain footage from

Josef: A Digital Story from Brad Johnson on Vimeo.

As Johnson explains, “95% of the images and footage is from I have about 5 shots of my grandfather in there that are mine.” He adds, “I was experimenting with telling a personal story using footage that was ‘public’ and that was about the ‘larger, American immigrant’ story that seems part of our collective identity (or at least for many of us).”

Hearing Your Story is your opportunity to either use interviews or your own recorded narration to tell the story. As I said, we were advised to keep the story to five minutes or less. That’s between 300-500 words, and really should be on the lower end. Once you draft your script or storyboard, you will quickly discover it’s not very long. It will be important to zero in on one story. Remember, you can always make other digital stories to tell other parts of the story. The best digital stories clock in from two to five minutes or so. Five minutes is really on the longer end. They are snapshots of a moment in time rather than a full documentary.  Some video-making software comes with sound effects and music, but you will probably find that you want to explore options for music. It’s important to be careful of copyright concerns when using music. I look for music that is Creative Commons licensed. The perfect piece of music will really pull your whole video together.

What strikes me most about this particular video is that the music is perfect and perfectly timed to go with the pictures and narrative. I find it to be a great example of the power of a simple but perfect piece of music to create a digital story.

When you begin Assembling Your Story, economy and pacing are important. You want the images and video clips to line up well with the narrative and music. You shouldn’t feel the need to fill up the entire space with words. Sometimes you can allow images and music to fill in and speak. “Lost and Found” by Susan Becker above is a well-paced story.

Your last consideration is Sharing Your Story. Who is the audience? How do you want to share it? There are lots of online video sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo. You can also create DVD’s and share the videos with loved ones who might want a copy.

I created these two videos based on interviews I did with my grandparents.

I used some images footage of the Seabees in World War II and some images taken of the Army’s 7th Division on Attu as well as censored letters, but aside from those pieces, the images all belong to my family.

I liked how this came out, but I wish I had done more with the music and practiced a bit more economy in the storytelling. My video with my grandmother integrated these two elements a little better.

I am very happy with how the music works, and I like the pacing. I found this story, even though it is my grandmother’s story, really has the personal connection, the “moment,” when my grandmother reveals she hasn’t been able to sew. She had just recovered from a serious illness, and she has since been able to sew a little bit. It’s sad to me to enjoy something so much and not be able to do it.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the more technical aspects, such as where to find images and music and how to record yourself. Because all software is different, I won’t post a tutorial as such, but should you decide to create a video, either taking a class or finding online tutorials for your specific video editing software will help.

Omar Alfred Gearhart

Some time ago, I began a series of posts on relatives I remembered from my lifetime, writing about the four great-grandparents I knew on my mother’s side of the family. I did not personally know any of my great-grandparents on my father’s side. All of them probably* died before I was born, and things are complicated by the fact that my grandfather David Swier was adopted, so he has two sets of parents: his adoptive parents and his natural parents. I have been able to learn a great deal about them both through research and through connecting with cousins who descend from the same family.

In this series, I plan to share what I know of my great-grandparents on my father’s side, beginning with my natural great-grandfather, Omar Alfred Gearhart.

Omar Alfred Gearhart (standing) with brothers John and George

Omar Alfred Gearhart had the unusual birthday of February 29, 1884. He was born in Colo, Story County, Iowa to George Douglas Gearhart and Ruth Ella Willhide.

I learned a lot about Omar Alfred Gearhart from his World War I draft registration card. He was living in Spokane, Washington on September 12, 1918 when he registered. My grandfather David would be born in that same city in 1921; however, the 1920 census lists Omar’s residence as Wallula, Walla Walla County, Washington. He is described as having a medium height and build, gray eyes, and black hair. His wife’s name is given as Gertrude Gearhart. Gertrude was born Gertrude Nettie Perkins.


Omar Alfred Gearhart and Gertrude Nettie Perkins with their oldest child John Douglas Gearhart

They married on Christmas Day in 1910.

His occupation is listed as “Laborer, Mechanical” on his draft card, and indeed he owned a garage later on. I wish he had passed his aptitude for car mechanics on to me, but he did pass it to his son and grandson (my father). At the time of his draft registration, however, he was working for the city of Spokane. I wonder if he might have been responsible for keeping city vehicles in working order. Omar Alfred Gearhart would have been a young man when the earliest cars were manufactured, and I find it interesting that he was on the ground floor of this new industry.

Family lore holds that he survived gunshot wound to the head, but that the head injury altered his personality. I don’t know the circumstances, but he would later be murdered in his garage by his business partner, leaving behind Gertrude, who was pregnant, and their eleven children. Gertrude was unable to work, and though the eldest children picked up work here and there, ultimately the family was torn apart when Gertrude gave her children up for adoption.

In a letter to her daughter Bessie, Gertrude shares some family information, including that she believed her husband’s origins were Dutch. They were not. The family who adopted my grandfather was Dutch, but his natural ancestors on his father’s side were German—Pennsylvania Dutch, corruption of the German Deutsch, which may be the source of Gertrude’s confusion.

While Omar Alfred Gearhart’s parents would remain in Story County, Iowa for the rest of their lives, Omar moved to Washington State. I’m not sure what brought him there. He was certainly living there before 1910 when he appears on the census in Moran, Spokane County, Washington. In the 1900 census, he is still living in Iowa with his parents, which makes sense, as he was 16 years old.

At one time, his brother John was living with him (1920 census), and it appears as though they were in business together. Interestingly, family researchers seem to have some confusion about his location. Another John Gearhart living in Missoula, Montana and married to a woman named Margaret appears to have been grafted onto this tree. He can’t have been in both Missoula and Wallula, Washington in 1920, and the census clearly lists John Edward Gearhart as Omar’s brother, so there can be no confusion about whether he’s the correct person. I have no reason to believe John Gearhart was involved in Omar’s death, but I also cannot find him or his wife in the 1930 census, which would have been taken in either the year before or the year that the murder took place. I should note the Missoula, Montana John Gearhart was also born in Iowa, although in 1884 rather than 1880. Perhaps he was a cousin or other relative of John Edward and Omar Alfred Gearhart’s. It’s confusing, though, because he was in Montana when he registered for the draft during World War I.

I should note, however, that I also can’t find Omar Alfred Gearhart on the 1930 census; though his death date was given by Gertrude in a letter to her daughter Bessie as December 29, 1930, this date doesn’t make sense with other information because my grandfather had already been adopted by the Swiers by the time the 1930 census was taken, and his sister Jessie and brothers John and Donald were living in different homes, all listed as boarders. However, it could be that the details of the story are confused and that the children were taken away before their father died. On the other hand, in that same letter, Gertrude couldn’t remember the date Bessie was born, and she also said her husband was Dutch. I couldn’t find the other children or Gertrude on the 1930 census, either. I hope that the 1940 census may shed some light on what happened, but until I can do some serious searching in newspaper archives, I don’t think I’ll learn much more about Omar’s death. I do have one living great-aunt, but she did not remember the details of the event and indeed didn’t realize she’d been adopted until my grandfather told her about it at school. She would have been around two years old or so when it happened.

*I don’t know when my great-grandfather Frank Chatman died.

Unknown Subjects

Do you ever watch Criminal Minds? Maybe un-subs isn’t the best terms for these folks. As far as I know, they’re decent, law-abiding people. My aunt Carolyn sent these photos to me hoping I could identify the people in them, but I can’t. We think they may be connected with the Kennedy family. If you recognize anyone, feel free to enlighten us.

This appears to be the same man. I am wondering if he might be Michael Danaher. The image in that previous post did have “Uncle Mike Danaher” penciled on the reverse.

The man in this next series of images appears to be the same person. He resembles Palmer Danaher, but these photos are too old to be of Palmer, which makes me wonder if the man in the images above could possibly be a Kennedy, perhaps one of the sons of William Wesley Kennedy and Cynthia Walker Palmer Kennedy. My reason for saying that is my great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling had a severe sort of countenance, especially along the brow, which looks to be a straight line, just like the man in those images. So, first an image of the Bowlings before the series with the same man. My great-great-grandmother is the woman seated on the right.

If Michael Danaher is in these images, then the woman is likely Adelia Parthenia Kennedy Danaher, and to be honest, she does resemble Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling, who would be her sister. However, the images could just as easily be George Payne and Panthea Narcissa Kennedy Payne, another aunt and uncle Stella mentions often in her diary.

He kind of resembles my great-great-grandfather William Jones Bowling (the man in the photo with the family above), but I feel sure my aunt would have been able to identify photos of him. He did have a brother named Isham Merriman Bowling, and it could as easily be a picture of him.

This is probably the same woman as above with the photo of the couple because it was attached to the second images of the man above in a hinged frame.

I wonder if this one is of LulaBab Danaher:

The quality of this image is fairly bad:

I have a hunch that the photos are of various members of the Danaher and Kennedy families, but I’m not sure.

These photos were in a box belonging to Aubrey Bowling Cunningham, who was my great-grandfather Herman Cunningham’s younger brother. Carolyn noted that it is not like my great-great-grandmother Stella Bowling Cunningham to leave the name off the back of an image—thanks to her good habits, almost all the photos Carolyn has are identified, I believe.

The Danahers

My aunt Carolyn sent me a lot of photos hoping to solve a mystery. In the hopes that perhaps someone might happen upon this blog and help me identify the pictures, I plan to write a series of posts about what I know of the photos. I am going to start with some photos I do have identified. Carolyn suspects the photos are from the same family of Kennedys. My great-great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling was a member of this family.

Michael Danaher was born in Maryland to Irish immigrant parents and married Adelia Parthenia Kennedy in 25 Jul. 1866 in Fayette County, Tennessee. In the 1880 census, his occupation is described as owner and superintendent of a shingle mill, and the family were living in Ludington, Mason County, Michigan. I should note that some of his son’s records identify Michael’s birthplace as Pennsylvania.

Michael Danaher
Photo identified as Michael Danaher

Their daughter May became an artist. Here is her picture.

May Danaher
May Danaher

Isn’t she beautiful? She was my great-great grandmother Stella Bowling Cunningham’s first cousin. In her diary, she recorded that cousin May gave her a breast pin as a wedding gift. Stella married Amos Blakey Cunningham on 30 May 1894. Stella’s mother Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling was sister to May’s mother Adelia Parthenia Kennedy Danaher. The fact that the Bowlings and Danahers stayed close is demonstrated by the fact that Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling named one of her sons Oliver Danaher Bowling. Sadly, the child only lived to the age of two. Mary Elizabeth Kennedy Bowling gave birth to eleven children, but six of them would die in childhood. Stella refers to her aunt Adelia Parthenia Kennedy Danaher as “Aunt Delia” in her diary. Mary and Delia were daughters of William Wesley Kennedy and Cynthia Walker Palmer. I’ve seen some erroneous information on family trees linking William Wesley Kennedy to a woman named Malinda Richardson. To my knowledge, he was never married to anyone else, and his wife’s name on census records is always given as some variation of the name Cynthia:

  • 1850 Census, Tippah County, MS: Cynthia W.
  • 1860 Census, Tippah County, MS: Cintha W.
  • 1870 Census, Lauderdale County, AL: C. W.

The Alabama Marriage Collection also has a record of his marriage to Cynthia W. Palmer on 10 Mar. 1840. A reminder to check your sources before attaching people to your tree, folks. This is how major confusion sets in.

May Danaher painted this summer landscape in 1924 (found via Artfull Eye Gallery):

May Danaher art

Here is cousin May with LulaBab Danaher (her name is given as Lulu Babb on the 1880 Census). I am not sure of the exact spelling of her name, as it is given several different ways: Lula Babb, Lulu Babb, Lula, and LulaBab being some variations.

May and LulaBab Danaher
May and LulaBab Danaher

Here is a picture of their brother Palmer, whose name likely derives from his grandmother’s maiden name:

Palmer Danaher
Palmer Danaher

Palmer’s age was given as two on the 1880 census, but his World War II draft card lists his date of birth as July 14, 1879. He looks about four or so here, I estimate this photo dates from about 1883 or 1884. I’m kind of curious about Palmer. The 1920 and 1930 censuses list him as a roomer in what looked to be some sort of large boarding house. His World War II draft card reveals this location to be the Hotel Pines. It was located on Main Street, Pine Bluff, AR. His occupation is given as lawyer. I wonder what he was doing living in that place. He was single, so it stands to reason that he did it as an expedient—someone to take care of the wifely duties he perhaps didn’t want to perform. He certainly lived there a long time. He is listed as living with his parents in 1910, but his World War I draft card dated 12 Sep. 1918 lists his residence as the Hotel Pines, so he lived there over 20 years at least.

This last photo is a mystery. It’s Kent Danaher, but I’m not sure who he is or how he’s connected to the rest of the Danahers, unless he is May, LulaBab, and Palmer’s brother Kennedy Danaher. I can only find him on the 1880 census, so I wonder if he might have died young. He definitely resembles Palmer in the face.


Kent Danaher
Kent Danaher

The Old House in Lockney

My aunt shared with me this portrait of my great-grandparents’ home in Lockney, Texas. (Click for a larger image.)

The watercolor was painted by Ted Bell in July 1977. My great-grandparents, Herman Cunningham and Annie Jennings Cunningham, bought this house in 1936 and lived in it until they both passed away in the 1980’s.

This painting of the house is exactly like I remember it. The windmill was one of our favorite playgrounds. We used to climb it, which was probably dangerous. You can see a tree between the house and what I think was a small barn or shed. There was a knothole in that tree. My great-grandfather used to whittle and carve out of nut seeds and fruit pits—little owls, little baskets. He had hidden one of his owls in the knothole of that tree. He called me over to show it to me, and I remember being filled with wonder. I also remember feeling very special. I didn’t see my great-grandparents much, and when I did, it seemed there were always so many people that a moment of attention from my great-grandfather, whom we called Pa Pa,  felt very special.

The tree in the front of the house near the road had low-hanging branches that were perfect for climbing.

The barn had brand new kittens inside it, and the whole farm was littered with Pa Pa’s Prince Albert Tobacco cans.

It was amazing to be able to see it again in this watercolor. I’m so glad it exists.


Stella Ophelia BowlingAugust 11, 2010 will mark the 72nd anniversary of the death of my great-great-grandmother, Stella Ophelia Bowling Cunningham. I find her endlessly fascinating, perhaps because I know more about her than I many of my other ancestors. She left behind a diary (pdf), a letter to my great-uncle Alvin Cunningham, and several other letters I haven’t shared on this site.

Stella’s father served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, as did most of my ancestors who were the right age because most of my ancestors lived in the South. If I had relatives in the Union Army, I haven’t discovered them yet. He was captured and sent as a POW to Camp Douglas in Illinois, where he had a conversion experience and became a minister. Stella’s mother was Mary Elizabeth Kennedy. Stella and her mother both played the organ. They came from a musical family. Family legend has it that David Kennedy, Stella’s great-great-grandfather, charmed the secret for making gun locks from the New York factory from which he purchased them for his gunsmithing business by playing the fiddle for the workers. Probably untrue, but a great story.

Stella and her family traveled from Tennessee to Texas in a covered wagon and settled near Dallas, living in Wise County (1880 Census) and perhaps Collin or Denton County, as Stella married in Collin County, and her family lived in Denton when the 1900 Census was taken. She definitely lived in Denton with her husband after her marriage.

Stella was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Texas in the 1880’s and 1890’s. She seemed primarily to be concerned with keeping good order in her classes. She stayed with different families, one of which was the Cunninghams. She married their son Amos in 1894. They had seven children together: Herman Cunningham (my great-grandfather, 1895-1980), Dessie Mary (1897-1992), Lillie Manila (1899-1974), Alfred Morgett (January-April 1901), Velma Helen (1903-1996), Aubrey Bowling (1908-1977), and Nina Varena (1910-1990).

The family moved out the Panhandle region of Texas between 1910 and 1920. Stella lived in Swisher County, where my grandfather was born, and in Armstrong County. Her son Herman would meet his future wife Annie Lola Jennings in the same way that Stella met Amos: she was a teacher and boarded with Stella and Amos.

Stella had been engaged previously to John William Tolleson and Roscoe M. Payne. I actually had some really nice exchanges with descendants of John William Tolleson a few years back. All of us were very interested in the story of our ancestors’ engagement. Stella mentions burning some of Tolleson’s letters with Amos, though she did keep some from Roscoe, which I have copies of and have promised not to share. It looks as though Stella broke off her engagement with Roscoe because she didn’t approve of his business, which sounds like a pool hall.

For a time in the 1930’s, she lived in Rosebud, New Mexico, a town that no longer exists. Stella died in Claude, Armstrong County, Texas.

Perhaps one of the reasons I find her so interesting is that she did leave enough of herself behind in her writing for me to get a sense of her personality. To me, that’s what family history and genealogy are all about: learning about the real people in your family, what they were like, what they did. It saddens me that so many people think it’s a waste of time or that genealogists are only interested in finding famous ancestors.

Artamissa Sparks

Artamissa Sparks WillisArtamissa Sparks Willis is my great-great-great-great grandmother. She was born on 15 January 1816 in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. She married my great-great-great-great grandfather Andrew Jackson Willis about 1834. They would have eleven children together: David, Newton Allen, Catherine J., Nathaniel A., Milton, Mary, Andrew Jackson, John L. (my great-great-great grandfather), Samuel, James Joseph, and Daniel.

Many researchers in her line mistakenly believe she is a descendant of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins. This lineage is erroneous. It is reported as follows:

Stephen Hopkins
+Bethia Hopkins
++John Kelsey
+++Esther Kelsey
++++Hiel Parmelee
+++++Giles Parmley
++++++Mary Parmely
+++++++William Sparks
++++++++Artamissa Sparks

There is one major problem: Bethia Hopkins is not the daughter of Stephen Hopkins. According to fellow genealogist Gregg Wager:

The long tradition that assumes that William Kelsey’s wife’s name was “Bethia Hopkins” is based on Hinman’s misreading the 1663 record regarding William Kelsey’s daughter Bethia and her husband David Phillips. This confusion was further compounded by attempts by zealous genealogists to link this “Bethia Hopkins” to the pilgrim Stephen Hopkins. There is no reliable record of William Kelsey’s wife.

Stephen Hopkins had two daughters named Elizabeth (one died before the other), but both died before marrying and could not be Bethia. In any case, William Kelsey’s wife is not proven, as Wager stated. Over zealous people (I hesitate to use the word genealogist for something so sloppy) have linked Bethia to Stephen Hopkins in order to provide a Mayflower passenger for their family trees, but any cursory study of Stephen Hopkins’s life reveals he had no such daughter. Being a Mayflower pilgrim, his life is more carefully documented than many others of his time. It’s been my experience that many sloppy family historians try to make three connections: 1) Pocahontas, 2) a Mayflower pilgrim, 3) nobility and royalty. I am not saying that folks don’t have those connections, but not as many folks as claim to.

Artamissa Sparks’s name is often also given Artamissra and Artamissia. I don’t know much about her. She is reported in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses as living in Franklin County, Alabama. Artamissa Sparks is an ancestor of my grandmother Doris Thurman Cunningham, and I have often found it interesting that the Jennings family, ancestors of my grandfather, Udell Cunningham, were living in the same county at the same time as the Willises. I have strong gut feeling that they must have at least known of each other if not known each other well. How coincidental that their descendants would marry less than 100 years later in Texas. To my knowledge, the families had not been in contact. The Willises lived mainly in Oklahoma after Grover Cleveland Willis, my great-great grandfather migrated there from Alabama, while the Jennings family migrated to Texas. My grandmother was born in Oklahoma, but her family did have some connections to Texas on her father’s side, which is possibly how her family wound up living in Texas in the 1940’s and early 1950’s when my grandparents met and married.

If you look closely at Artamissa’s hands, you’ll see she has six fingers on one. I have not heard of other family members with polydactyly, but I find it interesting. While the photograph is poor quality, it is possible to tell that she looks like a Willis, as one might say. I see my great-grandmother Lucille Willis Thurman resembles her, anyway.

Here is a picture of Artamissa’s son John L. Willis with his wife Ann McNatt and two youngest children, Elisha Clayton Willis and Bell or Belle M. Willis:

John L. Willis family

Here is a picture of Artamissa’s grandson Grover Cleveland Willis with his wife Melvina Meeks.

Grover Cleveland Willis and Melvina Meeks

And here is a picture of Artamissa’s great-granddaughter and my great-grandmother, Lucille Willis Thurman:

Lucille Inez Willis

The Willises have deep-set eyes that they appear to have received from their ancestor Andrew Jackson Willis, but I see something of Artamissa passed down through the generations, too.

Artamissa Sparks Willis died on August 6, 1886, making next Friday August 6 the 124th anniversary of her death.

Note: Photographs of John L. Willis and family and Artamissa Sparks were found on via users rhoades1160 and jones6360.

Graham/Burkhalter/Cunningham Family Reunion

I was able to go to a family reunion and meet some distant cousins, including my third cousin once removed, Helen, who has been a wealth of information with regards to the branch of my Cunningham family who stayed behind in Georgia (mine moved to Texas). I really enjoyed talking to my cousin Walter Burkhalter and his son Ed Burkhalter, who are my second cousins twice removed and third cousins once removed respectively. I don’t have a lot of pictures yet. I didn’t bring my camera, but my mother and her father’s cousin did. The three of us—my mother, her father’s cousin, and me—were the only representatives from the Texas Cunninghams.

Helen said the reunion takes place every year, and has for as long as she can recall. Indeed, I have some pictures from a reunion in the early 1950’s (there seems to be some dispute as to whether it’s 1952 or 1953), which might be the last time any of the Texas Cunninghams came to the reunion.

This first photo is my great-great-grandfather and his sister.

Amos Blakey Cunningham and Cadelia Elizabeth Cunningham Burkhalter
Amos Blakey Cunningham and Cadelia Elizabeth Cunningham Burkhalter

In this photo, Amos Cunningham appears to be saying grace. His sister Cadelia Burkhalter is seated.

Amos Cunningham

I like how the food is set on the back of a wagon in this picture; my cousin Helen said she was at this reunion, so she might be in this photo somewhere:

Cunningham/Burkhalter Reunion

In the following picture, Amos and Cadelia (seated) appear with Johnson Franklin Cunningham, whose mother (possibly both parents) had been slaves in the Cunningham family. My father’s cousin Mary Elder Davis, who came with us to the reunion yesterday, is the girl standing to the right of Cadelia.

Cunningham/Burkhalter Reunion
Johnson Franklin Cunningham with Dessie Gray, Amos Cunningham, Prentice Elder, Mary Elder, Velma Elder, Clifford Case, Manila Case, and Virgil Case and Amos’s sister Lizzie Burkhalter
Irene Burkhalter Hamilton, Dessie Cunningham Gray, Unknown (Burkhalter daughter), Velma Cunningham Elder, Florence Burkhalter Steele, and Manila Cunningham Case.
Irene Burkhalter Hamilton, Dessie Cunningham Gray, Mattie Burkhalter Turner, Velma Cunningham Elder, Florence Burkhalter Steele, and Manila Cunningham Case.

Finally, here is a picture my mother took at yesterday’s reunion of Helen and me (I’m in the turquoise shirt) looking at photos on my computer while my grandfather’s cousin Mary Elder Davis examines one of the genealogy books Helen has created. Alas, we weren’t able to identify who the subjects of the photos were, so they will comprise a future post in the hopes someone can identify them.

Left to Right: Me, Helen, and Mary Elder Davis
Left to Right: Me, Helen, and Mary Elder Davis

Letter from Gertrude Perkins Gearhart Lightle to Daughter Bessie, April 6, 1940

My cousin Dara sent scans of the following letter from my great-grandmother, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart Lightle.  I have discussed her story previously on this blog.

Kiona, WA

April 6, 1940

Dear Bessie,

I was sure glad to hear from you again. I looked in vain for a letter all winter.

I have been sick so much but did not go to bed as I had too much to do.

Alice and her baby were here after she left the hospital [Gertrude’s daughter Alice]. She was too weak to do anything for quite a while, then the baby got sick, too. He just began to get better when Tom came home from PWA camp sick with the “flu.” He took that & was a very sick baby. They went home with him so they took care of him, but I took it too.

I  was in bed off and on for a month, then I began to be bothered with my eyes & they are bad yet. I wear glasses to read or sew, but I couldn’t do either one for several weeks. Now I can only read a few minutes at a time.

I am glad you [sic] Mother Zeiglar is better. I think of her so often.

Now for your questions.

  1. You were born in Metaline, Pend O’Reile Co. Washington [Pend Oreille County] March the 26-27 or maybe 28th 1924. I have forgotten the exact day, but you have that already.
  2. My maiden name was Gertrude Nettie Perkins.
  3. I was born at Hector, Minnesota September 13, 1887.
  4. Your fathers [sic] name was Omar Alfred Gearhart born in Iowa (I don’t know what town) February 29, 1884.
  5. [Omar Alfred Gearhart] Died in Spokane, Washington December 29, 1930 age 46.

I never had a birth certificate for you.

Your father was Holland Dutch decent [sic] [actually Pennsylvania Dutch, or German] and his ancestors settled in the Ohio Valley. If you will write to Grandma Gearhart she can tell you more than I can. Mrs G.D. Gearhart Box 196- Maxwell, Iowa.

I am English on my fathers [sic] side. His folks settled in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War and were English Quakers. My mother’s folks were Scotch & Irish & one Great-great-grandmother on her fathers [sic] side was English, named Smith.

Granny’s father came to this country before the Civil War & settled in Wisconsin. His name was Montgomery & his wife’s name was MacGregor, both scotch [sic]. My uncle Sherm Young at 1320 So. 7th Street in Yakima can tell you about them.

You had mumps and chicken-pox and no real accidents & was never inside of a hospital while I had you.

I had 13 children, one was still-born (dead) and one premature as far as I know [word missing] are 11 living.

The one[s?] born dead were never named. The others are:–

John Douglas Dec 25, 1911
Ruth Isabelle Apr 9 1913
Eva Marie Aug 13 1914
Jessie Nadine, Apr 6, 1916
Alice Gertrude, Nov 23, 1918
Donald Omar, July 11, 1920
Edwin Guy, Dec 29, 1921 [my grandfather]
Frank Manley, July 12, 1923
Bessie Louise, Mar 27, 1924
Margery Feb 2 1927
Alfred Aug 5 1929

Do you know whether Margery is adopted or not? I forgot to ask them when I was up there.

Lots of love & kisses,

Your [missing word]

It’s important to know the family background in order to put this letter in context, and the story I linked at the beginning of this post is the best place to start. Until this week, I had never seen a photo of my great-grandmother. Within the space of two days, I have received two different photos from two cousins and an additional photo of Omar Alfred Gearhart, my great-grandfather.

This first image depicts Omar Gearhart with his brothers John and Earl:

Omar, John, and Earl Gearhart

This image is of Omar Gearhart and his wife Gertrude Nettie Perkins with their oldest child John Douglas (circa 1912):

Omar Gearhart, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, and John Douglas Gearhart

This final picture is of Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, her mother Isabell Lowe (sometimes listed as Mary Isabell, Mary Isabelle, or Isabell M. on the census; Lowe is the surname of her second husband, Guy Lowe), and Isabell’s mother Ophelia McKilrick (name unverified) with John Douglas Gearhart in 1912:

Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, Isabell Lowe, and Ophelia McKilrick with John Douglas Gearhart

iGene Awards

iGene AwardThe current Carnival of Genealogy asks genealogy bloggers to share their top posts in the following categories:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Screen Play
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Biography
  • Best Comedy

I was fairly silent on this blog in 2007 as my family, career, and other interests pushed genealogy into the back seat. It is not my intention to stop posting on this blog, but I don’t foresee posting regularly any time soon. However, I really liked this particular carnival idea. I will be interested to see what others select as the best of their blogs.

The Best Image posted on this blog is this one:

Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Amos Blakey Cunningham

This picture features Johnson Franklin Cunningham (left) and my gg-grandfather Amos Blakey Cunningham (right). Johnson Franklin Cunningham is named for Amos’s father. The two men played together as boys before Amos and his family moved to Texas around 1880. It was interesting for me to learn more about Johnson Franklin Cunningham and his own family. I’m not sure what this picture says, but I am drawn to it. It was taken at a Cunningham family reunion in the 1950’s. It was featured on my February post “Slavery in the Family.”

If “World War I Veterans Reunite After 50 Years” could be expanded and perhaps given the Hollywood treatment, it might make an interesting movie; therefore, it is my nomination for Best Screen Play. I’m not sure who I would get to play the parts, but if I could pick anyone, I suppose my great-grandfather Herman’s young self would be played by Ben Affleck, while John Roy McCravey’s younger self would be Matt Damon. As to who would play their older selves, I’m not sure… for some reason I can’t think of older actors who resemble either man as they are pictured in the post. Well, for that matter, I guess Ben Affleck and Matt Damon don’t either. For some reason I just thought it would be an interesting pairing for the topic of the post.

If I could flesh out the details a little more and fill in the gaps, I think “Civil War Records of William Jones Bowling” would be worthy of the Ken Burns treatment, so I nominate this post for Best Documentary.

The Best Biography posted this year was a tribute to my grandmother, whom I call Granna, back in March. She read it and enjoyed it very much.

For Best Comedy, I would nominate my gg-grandfather Amos’s “Horse Story,” posted in March. I actually worked this one into a short story for children once, but I am not sure where that story is.

I will check out the other posts when this carnival is posted, and will be sure to link it here. I can’t wait — should be very interesting.

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