For the past couple of years, I have dilly dallied with old childhood memories. There are two of them that are so brilliant, I felt I owed it to myself to at least make an attempt to see what they were about. This is what I've been working on:
- I remember visiting a farm with my dad. I remember walking behind him in a field of grass that reached up to my waist. I do not remember any of my brothers being with us -- which is crazy, because my dad usually hauled us kids every where.
- My dad called the man we were with "Uncle Howard."
- After the funeral of my grandfather, Don Dee Drake (he died after MY dad), we went to a farm. At this farm there were horses, and I met a cousin named Marti (also my name) Manigold, and we road ponies all day. I knew she was connected -- somehow -- to "Uncle Howard."
- The farm couldn't be too far from my grandparents in Union City, Michigan as we didn't have a chance to get bored on the drive over.
- My dad had a favorite cousin named Majorie.
In 1975, I was listening to the radio and there was a news report that a small plane had crashed over by Niles, Michigan. The pilot and three passengers were killed. One of the passengers was a Marti Manigold who was a year younger than myself. Years later, I wonder why we never followed up on that, why we didn't go to a funeral or something. Then I remembered that it was right around this time (January 8) that my mom was diagnosed with cancer and we probably weren't thinking about anything else.
In the last couple of years I've done some random sporadic research and have found absolutely nothing. Then, I found a tribute to my cousin Marti Manigold -- also known as Martha Ellen Manigold -- that's right -- same first and middle name and our birthdays are 1 day and one year apart. She writer and classmate of Marti, wrote lovingly about her, but there wasn't any details that I could track down. I even tried to track the writer down but no such luck. Back on the back burner.
Then one day, I randomly started googling small plane crashes around the Chicago area and I found two articles. Unfortunately, the article had been read and transcribed by a computer. It was hard to decipher, but at least I learned where and when the crash had occurred. What I was looking for was surviving family, but, alas, the article was only partial. Still, not to be daunted, I emailed the public library in Berrien Springs, Michigan, to see if they had back issues of the local newspaper. A research librarian emailed me back that they, indeed, had microfilm for the dates I was inquiring about. Well, it wasn't ideal, but I was going to be going to Michigan in the winter and I thought I could take a day and make a run down there. I emailed the librarian and asked her what their hours were going to be over Christmas. She emailed me back and said that if I could provide her with the dates I was looking at, she would try and look it up for me. WHAT???? Really????
And so I did.
A week later I received another email from that lovely librarian in which she informed me that she had found a couple of articles concerning the plane crash. She wanted my address so she could mail them to me. Are you kidding me? I asked her how much I owed her for copies and postage and time and she said NOTHING. Consider it a random act of genealogical kindness.
And at the end of one of the articles was a list of the survivors which included Mr. and Mrs. Howard E. Berry, Union City.
Okay. This means I wasn't crazy. Now what?
Back through the family tree again. There was NO Berry family to be found. Then I went through all the women I could find to see if someone -- anyone -- had married a Berry, or had a daughter that married a Berry. No freaking luck.
So I've been mulling this over. And over. And over.
Then, I went to FamilySearch.org and found a marriage record for Howard Herbert Berry and Anna Elmira Dickey. Married in 1918. Howard Herbert Berry was born in 1898, two years after my Grandpa Don Dee Drake. Howard was born in Barry, County -- not too terribly far away. Then I thought maybe I was looking at this wrong. Fall back and regroup. Again.
Today, I found another marriage record for Howard Herbert Berry. In the 1930 United States Census, there is a Howard H Berry living in Union, Branch, Michigan. His wife's name was Noldine and they had a daughter, Majorie Ellen. Bingo! And there the name Ellen was cropping up again.
So, I started looking into Noldine. And I found another marriage license with the bride being a Noldine Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was the last name of my Grandpa Don Dee Drake's second wife. I knew HER to be Ellen Fitzgerald and when she married my grandfather she had a son named David. I have always ASSUMED (and you know what that means) that her married name was Fitzgerald. I ASSUMED she was a widow. Anyhoo, I found a United State Census from 1910 with Noldine Fitzgerald listed as the 12 year old daughter of Guy E. and Etta Fitzgerald. There was also a a son -- Markham -- and a little baby girl named Elizabeth. Who was 0 years old. The year was right for my step grandmother's birth, but her name was Ellen. Not Elizabeth.
A little backtracking through Censuses and I found Guy Fitzgerald. His mother's name was Ellen. So my next question -- and I didn't expect much -- was Elizabeth's middle name Ellen? And did she go by Ellen? My family is a great one for calling each other by their middle names. My dad was Donald Duane Drake. All his friends and coaches called him "Dobbie" -- which is another long story. All the family called him Duane. Only my mom called him Don.
So then I went to Ancestry.com and did a search on public family trees and there I found my step grandmother Elizabeth Ellen Fitzgerald. Correct birthday, and it shows her marrying a Don Dee Drake. Apparently my family isn't as important to them as it is to me.
This is great news. I can safely say that Howard Berry was not actually an uncle, but a step uncle with his wife Noldine and my step gran being sisters.
You would think this is the end of it but it's not. I now have a whole bunch of unanswered questions. I don't think actually pursuing them would do me any good, as these involve family members that are not blood. How hard do you pursue something like that? I only have so much time.
I will eventually transcribe the newspaper articles concerning my cousin Marti Manigold's death.