Monday, August 13, 2012

Family History Intrigue

When I wrote the 1940’s Census blog on  August 4, telling what the census revealed about my mother’s family in that year my it also left me with a couple questions…mysteries if you will. The biggest one for me concerned my grandfather’s mother, Catherine (Sitzmann) Wilkins. According to the 1940’s census, she was living next door to my grandfather by herself  but was listed as married….but with a line through the M. Yet I knew that her husband, my great-grandfather Wilkins did not die until the mid-40’s.  Moreover, the census also revealed that in 1935 she had been living in Long Beach, California, so clearly, at that point she was not living next to my mother and grandfather who were still at the same address.  What was going on?

I decided to try to see if I could locate my great grandfather Ed Wilkins.  I found an Edward Wilkins listed in Yuba City, California quite a distance away.  His age was approximately that of my great grandfather but a couple years older.  He was listed as a handy man at what appear to be a campground. Moreover, he was listed as living at the same address as a housekeeper (I believe her name was Ella Longley) who was two years younger and originally from Canada.  Because both Edward and Wilkins are common names, the possibility that this was my great grandfather seems pretty slim, except for two things.  He was listed as having been born in Missouri, the woman listed as a housekeeper was listed as widowed while Ed was listed as being married, and, most importantly, to the question of where he was living on April 1, 1935, the answer was Long Beach, California, the same city that Catherine A. Wilkins was living in.  Moreover, his original age had a line through it, changing it to 77, giving him a 1863 birthday.  All of this is circumstantial, but pretty convincing to me that he was the same man.  This does not answer the question, though, of why Ed and Catherine were separated (if still married) and why Catherine was living next door to my grandfather and listed as married but head of household. What happened between 1935 and 1940?
                            This picture shows a few of the players in the drama above.
                            Starting on the bottom left is my grandfather, Victor Wilkins.
                            next to him is his mother Catherine and next to her his father,
                            Ed. My mother's Uncle Ray (for whom she did child care)
                             is standing in back. He'll be the subject of a future blog.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Maya's TV Interview

In June of this year, Maya traveled to Las Vegas to attend  a conference that met at Technology and Marketing University.  While there she was interviewed by Austin Wright, the host of Stay Ahead TV and filmed for local television.  The interview was great and can be seen at Sabre Travel NetworkTo see the interview just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on Maya's picture.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Education and Generation

One of the things that looking through family censuses and other historical documents has shown me is just how each generation has increased in the number of years of schooling they had.   Using myself as the referent point, I’ve taken a look as far back as I have information for on my mother’s side.

Relationship to me
Years of Education
Ed Wilkins
Great grandfather
Victor Wilkins
Elvera Northen
3 years HS
Michael Northen
College grad
My children

College grad

My grandfather's younger brother, Raymond also had eight years of schooling so that seems pretty reliable for people born on a farm in his generation.  I could also note that my dad (James Northen) graduated from high school, but that is a bit deceptive because of eight children in the family, only he and his sister graduated high school.  Another somewhat misleading stat here is my graduation from college.  Although I was fortunate enough to be able to go to college and graduate, none of my brothers or sisters did.  At the time I graduated in 1964, graduating from high school was a real accomplishment and considered sufficient education.  It was probably about evenly split between those who went on to college of some kind (junior college in my case) and those who didn’t.  By the time my children graduated from high school, though, college had become an expectation.  Whose knows what my grandchildren will face?

Up until 1862 when Lincoln signed the Land Grant College Act, most colleges were private and it was only those who had the wealth and leisure to attend college that could go.  The Land Grant Act was intended to allow those like my great-grandfather Ed Wilkins who lived on farms to be able to better their lot by attending college. Obviously, it took quite a few years for our family to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.  When I began Fullerton Jr. College in California in 1964 it was pretty much of a case of paying for your books and a few student fees.  The great irony to me is that “what goes around comes around” and we are now in a situation where once again only the rich can afford college without having to taking out a loan that mortgages their future to do it.  As I said, who knows what our grandchildren will face. 

Of course, there is a partial solution.  Make the first two years of college free the way high school is. But God forbid that we should have to pay higher taxes so that our grandchildren and everyone else’s can have a better future.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

1940's Census

             For at least the last six months, has been touting the fact that the 1940’s census is going to be released as public information and little by little the release of each state’s information has been completed.  This is a time period that is of real interest to me in our family history because Mom’s family had left South Dakota during the depression and then turn up again in the 1950 at the Van Ness St. house in Santa Ana where we eventually came to live. Yesterday I got an email saying that the full census was available and each state’s information complete.  I immediately did a search in the 1940’s census for my grandfather (i.e. Victor Wilkins, my dad’s father was dead by then) and actually found it a listening for him.  Moreover, a bigger surprise to me was that my mother was on that census, too.  Despite the relatively few clues censuses give about flesh and blood people, they are like a mystery to me from which I enjoy reconstructing the narrative of their lives.  Here are some of the things that I found.
            They lived at 1415 West Fourth St. in Santa Ana.  Other than her parents, my mom was the oldest person in the family listed at that address.  She was 18.  Since she was the third oldest in the family what that means is that her oldest sister, my aunt Lucille was out of the house and probably married and that her next oldest sister, Elaine, had already died of diabetes.  My mother is listed as having finished 3 years of high school, and as working as a housekeeper for a private family.  The census reveals that from March 26-30 she had worked 48 hours, which confirms the story Mom always told about having to live at her Uncle Ray’s during the week and bring the money back home for the family.
            Another interesting fact is that right next door at 1405 a Catherine A. Wilkins is listed.  This has to be my grandfather’s mother (Katie Sitzmann)  since she is listed as 73 years old and having been born in Wisconsin.  I never realized that she had actually lived so close to them, though I vaguely knew she had been in California at some point. At that point, my grandfather and Mom must have been supporting her.  Unfortunately, for some reason it does not list my grandfather’s occupation.  Catherine Wilkins is the only one listed at her address and is listed as the head of the family.  Where the marital status is designated, she has an M but the M is crossed through and something that looks like a lower case l is there instead.  Others on the page have a W or D next to their name to indicate widowed or divorced, but she does not and since Ed Wilkins (her husband and my great grandfather) was still alive at that point, I’m curious about what the situation was.
             The 1940’s census also helps to narrow down the time that the Wilkins family moved out to California.  The three youngest children in the family Alice (aka Sister Karen), Shirley and Armond were all listed as born in California and the next youngest in the family Ardell was born (and is on the 1930’s census) in South Dakota.  Sr. Karen was 8 years old in the 1940’s census which means that the family must have come out some time around 1931.   We have all read about the Great Depression and how it changed the lives of people in this country and in the landscape of the country itself, but to see how it affected individuals in your own family specifically, really makes history come alive. Obviously, I get quite carried away with these things.