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28 February 2012

Memories of donuts!

Remember when it wasn't sinful to eat donuts for breakfast?  Sunday's sermon involved the story of our associate pastor talking about his memories of stopping at the local donut store on his way to school.  He went on to tie this to lent and avoiding temptation.

The memories came rushing back immediately for me.  As a tiny 'bonie Joanie' I would take a nickel from mom and dad most mornings and stop at Smitty's donuts on Keo and 19th in Des Moines, Iowa on my way to St. John's Catholic Grade School.  Ahhh, the smell! Smitty's has been torn down for generations, but I can still imagine the screen door, often propped open because the small donut factory was always so warm inside.  They had huge windows along the sidewalk where you could watch them make the donuts.   As you entered the store there were two donut cases in a  "V" shape....and my favorite, cake donuts with white or chocolate frosting, were on the left.   I would have to keep my donut in a sack til after church.  Since I attended Catholic school, we went to Catholic mass every morning, and in pre-Vatican II days, that meant we were required to fast for 3 hours prior to Holy Communion.  And everyone had to go to communion...if you didn't that meant you had committed a mortal sin!

In my mind, I can still taste those donuts...their icing!  I joked with hubbie the reason that no other donut has every compared is that the bake shop was probably filled with workers smoking and embedded that special essence in the donuts!  :-)

Those times were pretty treacherous in Des Moines. The late 1950's and early 1960's were times of extreme transition ..gangs, white kids, leather jacketed with knives, were the dangers of our streets.  My earliest memories were hiding in the bath tub with a big old butcher knife until one of my parents would come home; I was a latchkey kid before that term was invented.  I've spoken with a few people from the old neighborhood in recent years and they don't want to talk about those days.

But the memories of those donuts....yum!  Sure wish someone had the recipe for Smitty's donuts!

23 February 2012

Special Collections and a letter from the King

During one of the classes at RootsTech in Salt Lake City this year, the instructor kept emphasizing how we should not discard unlikely places for the answers to the questions we seek.
'yea, yea, yea' I thought. Sure I'm going to spend time going to out of the way places to find an arcane piece of information.

Yet, today I have found 2 off the wall places for some great information and I just had to share this one.  I was searching on google for information on the Battle of Lys [France] during the Great War [World War I].  I had recently obtained the discharge papers for my husband's grandfather and it listed that battle as one in which he had been engaged.

According to an army military website, only 500 Americans had fought in that battle.  The battle was fought from 9-27 April 1918.  In looking for additional info and any photos from that time, I came across the University of South Carolina's Special Collection of The Samuel Bloom World War I Archive. This archive contains papers of PFC Samuel Bloom from New York.

The website gives this overview of the collection:
"Overview of the archive: the archive covers the experience during and after World War I of PFC. Samuel Bloom (1895-1976).  It includes Samuel Bloom’s
 diary in the months before the war, and either diaries or the draft of a book recounting his war experienceweekly letters home (often of 8 or 10 pages) to his parents in New York; letters from the family to him (usually written by his brother Hyman) recounting family and current political events in New York; letters to him from friends, both in the army and back home; army documents; material on the Army School Detachment at the University of Montpellier in spring 1919 (including seven issues of the newspaper, theSoldier-Student); soldiers' guides for leave in Paris and elsewhere, and other guidebooks; and a group of postcards. "

 What I found most interesting, however, was this note from "Windsor Castle" signed by George and dated April 1918 to the Americans joining the war....was this note for the American soldiers going to the Battle of Lys?

06 February 2012

Mystery Monday: The Maine Milburns (or Millburns)

Freshly inspired after a week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and a few hours of online streaming from RootsTech (and snowed in by the blizzard in Colorado) I dived into one of my boxes of genealogy papers and started scanning and typing.

I have neglected my Milburn tree because, well, "everybody" else has worked on it and written books about it and seemed to have it all sewn up.  But AH HA!  A mystery has surfaced.

I was looking at the records for my grandfather's nephew (or as states; 'my great grand uncle').
John Oliver Milburn.  John's parents, Joseph Milburn & Martha McNutt had married in Nova Scotia, Canada, lived in New Brunswick, and as they made their way to Iowa, Martha gave birth to John Oliver Milburn in Calais, Washington County, Maine.
The profile page for John Oliver Milburn and his wives, Henrietta Stapleton and 

John apparently marries Henrietta Stapleton, probably around 1858 - 1859 in Maine.  They have a daughter Mary who is born in Long Island, Hancock County, Maine in 1859.  A family story said that John was a first mate on a merchant ship that sailed out of Boston, around the world and that his wife and child had died while he was at sea!  He supposedly left the sea life at that time and went on to build the first steel bridges in Texas, one of which was over the Brazos River north of Houston.  He worked for the King Bridge Company and also built bridges in Richardson County, Nebraska.   He eventually moved to Pilger, Nebraska.

John shows up in Iowa in 1880 married to Mary Hower with whom he has 4 children (they eventually move to Nebraska).

The note I found states that Henrietta Stapleton shows up in the 1880 census in Washington County, Maine with daughter Mary, living with Cynthia Winchester as a boarder, and next door to Etta Milburn.  (though I can't find this record just now).

So ... the mystery...  Did John just abandon his wife and daughter?  Were they divorced?  What happened to them?  Where is that 1880 census record the note mentions?

Further info can be found on John's brother, Joseph S Milburn at this google site.
I had also posted a query on Ancestry's Message Board for Stanton County, Nebraska.

04 February 2012

I love this guy! Ron Tanner-Product Manager New Family Tree

Ron Tanner, Product Manager, New Family Tree at
RootsTech 2012 is concluding today, and they definitely saved the best for last!  If you ever dreamed (genealogically speaking) about the PERFECT genealogy tool where everyone could contribute, discuss, receive notifications, correct and see a history of corrections and have it all SOURCED, is coming THIS YEAR, and GUESS WHAT ?  IT IS FREE!  Product Manager for the new family tree at, Ron Tanner gave a presentation on many of the new features and abilities of the new family tree at his presentation this morning.

Ron Tanner is hilarious and a visionary.  They are working with affiliate vendors so we don't have to retype all the hard work we have already done.  AND Ron Tanner is accepting BETA TESTERS for this new service.  He even told everyone who wants to be a beta tester to send him an email: tannerr at familysearch dot org.

The AncestryInsider did a great post on Ron Tanner when he became the product manager.  

Although I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy last week to work on my own family history, RootsTech is a great conference for techies and newbies alike to learn and discuss all the technical resources available to us genealogy obsessed individuals.  Thank you to RootsTech for making so many of their presentations available online and for free.