Tag Archives: children

Kids Working (and dying) in the Coal Mines


I’m still tracing my Pennsylvania coal mining roots. The Engle family and the Thomas family joined when Charles F. Engle and Anna May Thomas married in 1897. They were married in Taylor, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. The Engles were originally from Germany and the Thomas family was from Wales. Anna’s father’s John Thomas had to sign for her as she was underage. Charles Frederick Engle was my biological great grandfather, born in Pennsylvania in 1874. Anna May Thomas was my biological great grandmother, born in Pennsylvania in 1879.

anna and charles

I’ve had a hard time trying to trace the Thomas side because their names were so common. I found them all listed on the 1880 Federal Census.

Thomas family 1880

Please note that the father, John, was a coal miner. My Great Grandmother, Anna Thomas Engle, is 9 months old at the time of the census.

If you think all of the old documents were this easy to read, please think again. All of the original records were hand written. Patient volunteers have generously given their time and skills to index the records and to make them digitally available.

Below is what the original 1880 Federal Census shows for the Thomas Family.

original 1880 census

I have tried to trace the family forward, but the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed in a fire in Washington, D.C. in 1921. The first I can find the family again was in the 1900 census. I found Anna and Charles Engle (married) and Anna’s sister, Gwennie, living with them. I also found William. I haven’t been able to find the parents, John and Mary, or the boy James.

Something brought me back to the 1880 census and I noticed that James was listed as working in the mines. Because I couldn’t find him again in the 1900 census, I wondered if something had happened to him.

james thomas

The mine accident reports have all been digitized and are easy to find on the internet. I did a quick search and found a listing for a James Thomas, age 14, who died in an 1884 mine accident. I can’t be positive that this is my relative, but the ages fit. His age was listed as 9 in the 1880 census and his age was listed as 14 in the 1884 report — he may have had a birthday.

james thomas death

I will keep searching to find out if this is the same James Thomas. I defy anyone to say that they had a crappy childhood in comparison to these little kids working underground in the mines.


I urge everyone to take up genealogy because it is an easy and personal way to learn history. The stories become your stories and mean more because it happened to your family.

R.I.P. little James Thomas.


More photos of people I don’t know — only this time they are all mothers in honor of Mother’s Day. And a few of the Mother’s Day cards from my daughter (who is now a mother)


We Love Thrift Stores. . .Like Daughter, Like Mother


Snoogy is my nickname for my daughter. She responded with Momoogy for me.







Mother’s Day 1947 is written on the back of this photo.






More Old Photos of People I’ve Never Met . . .and Never Will

I made another trip to the Andover Antique Mall to check out my favorite booth of old photos and postcards.  If you live in the Wichita, KS area and haven’t been to this antique mall, you must check it out.  It is also a great stop if you have guests in town and run out of other shopping venues.

First up are two photos of young people with strange raccoon eyes.  These kids are scarey.  Perhaps they were so thin that their eyes look abnormally large.  Or maybe they weren’t well.  Anyway, these are wonderful additions to my old photo collection.

Raccoon Eyes

Raccoon Eyes

Arthur, Dora and Clarence Stilgenbaurer

Arthur, Dora and Clarence Stilgenbaurer

The people in the old photos I find are always thin. Food wasn’t as plentiful as it is now and some of the photos were taken during the depression. Plus they didn’t have the vast assortment of Ding Dongs, cookies, Cheetos, etc. that grace our present day grocery shelves. I finally found a photo of a chubby couple. And I must say, especially the Mrs., they look fat and happy.

Chubby Couple

Chubby Couple

The next photo was taken in 1938 and is of a sweet little girl on the occasion of her First Communion. It is so sad that most of the photos I find have no names or places written on them. Remember to always write names and dates on the back of your photos so you and your relatives will be able to identify who is in them.

First Communion, 1938

First Communion, 1938

Below is a photo from 1921 titled “Everts Family”. I don’t know where they lived, but the man on the far right has on overalls and the woman next to him looks like Granny Clampitt, so maybe they lived on a farm.

Everts Family, 1921

Everts Family, 1921

The couple on the couch in the next photo may be celebrating the Holidays in some fashion. The date on the photo is January 1960, but doesn’t say anything else. The man taking the photo is reflected in the mirror behind them.

January 1960, Couple on Couch

January 1960, Couple on Couch

Hazel Palmer is the subject of the photo below. I wish I knew more about her. I love her hair and she has a sweet expression.

Hazel Palmer

Hazel Palmer

No clue as to what the next couple is doing. On the back is written, “isn’t this good of the clothes line? Nearly strung up – eh? what? Note the big toes clinging fearfully to the shoulders, ha”. And I also don’t have any idea what that meant either!

Couple with Clothes Line.  Taken at Oswego, NY

Couple with Clothes Line. Taken at Oswego, NY

I didn’t realize men had comb overs this long ago, but the wind certainly has his hair standing on end. Taken at a beach.

Man with Comb Over Holding a Baby at the Beach

Man with Comb Over Holding a Baby at the Beach

This couple will be fashionable forever. They look so sporty in their summer attire — sort of like an early version of a Ralph Lauren ad.

Early Fashionable Couple in Summer Attire

Early Fashionable Couple in Summer Attire

And last, some twins. This photo is of Richard and Russell Lahm (twins) and their little brother Arthur, Jr. Taken about 1930. And including their dog.

Richard, Russell and Arthur Lahm.  Taken about 1930.

Richard, Russell and Arthur Lahm. Taken about 1930.

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby . . .Not So Fast

Ugly Children

Ugly Children

Joan Rivers says that when she comes across an ugly baby and can’t think of what to say, she comments on how nice the crib is!

Here is some background in case you haven’t read my earlier posts. My older brother and I were both adopted from The Willows Maternity Sanitarium in Kansas City, Missouri. We aren’t related genetically, but grew up together and are close. As close as two complete recluses can be.

My brother is four years older. After my parents adopted him, they immediately set the wheels in motion to adopt another baby. Single child households were not common back in the late 1940’s – early 1950’s as these were the baby boom years after WWII.

In order to adopt another child, my older brother was taken to a child psychologist and interviewed. I’ve copied what the psychologist wrote about him.

Psychologist's Evaluation

Psychologist’s Evaluation

And she was dead on about my brother. From an early age, he showed incredible mechanical genius. He was a mad inventor even as a little kid. My brother made rocket fuel in the basement. He created a mechanical witch that popped out of the clothes hamper in the bathroom to scare me when I got up in the middle of the night to pee. And on and on. Mom said that whenever she visited his elementary school unannounced, he was always standing out in the hall being punished for one thing or another. Honestly, he was just bored. A.A. Hyde Elementary School didn’t appreciate his aptitude and also didn’t know how to handle him with the exception of making him stand in the hall.

In 1951, my parents were given the opportunity to adopt a baby girl (me). One month after my birth, they drove to Kansas City to pick me up. As you can see, I was skinny, very red and hairy. My eyes appeared oversized, much too big for my face.

Me at One Month.  Taken when Mom & Dad picked me up in Kansas City

Me at One Month. Taken when Mom & Dad picked me up in Kansas City

My big brother and me.

My big brother and me.

Four Month's Old

Four Month’s Old

The state of Missouri has finally changed their laws on Sealed Adoption Records. If both biological parents are dead (and you can prove it), you can petition the Court to receive a copy of your adoption file. (I have written more on this subject in earlier posts)

I finally received a very thick manila envelope of paperwork from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Inside were pychological evaluations of my parents, letters of reference, copies of receipts, etc.

Of course, I have read through this file several times. I thought I had thoroughly read everything until yesterday when something new caught my eye!

Luckily for me, Mom didn’t see me through other people’s eyes. If she had known what the home visitor had written, that I was not pretty and not precocious, she would have driven to Kansas City and kicked her in the butt! Once they got us, Mom and Dad were the most loyal parents ever.

Below is copied from a letter that Mom wrote to the social worker in Kansas City. (a copy of her letter was in my big manila evelope)

Her hair is very dark for a tiny baby and her head is beautifully shaped. I have seen pretty babies, but none as pretty as Jan. Now, if we can just teach her all the things that must go with her being so beautiful.

I wish our pictures truly could show you how sweet our baby is, but some day we will be in Kansas City and we will bring her to see you.

Thanks Mom and Dad! R.I.P.

What Ever Happened to Harry, Part II.

Back in January, I wrote about Harry Morris & his disappearance.  You can see the earlier post published on January 13, 2013.  His grandson Joe & I have spent many hours searching online for Harry & have never found anything.  He simply disappeared from Kansas City — leaving his wife, Flora (Blume Kremer) Morris, with six children to care for.  Because a person can’t completely vanish in today’s world, I have had a hard time accepting that he just walked out.  I understand divorce and separation, but I can’t imagine never coming back to see your children. Thanks to Flora’s other recent immigrant family members from Russia and Lithuania, she somehow managed to keep her family together. And she eventually remarried and lived to be 81 years old, living from 1890 to 1971. Flora (Blume Kremer) was a resourceful and resilient woman.
Flora Kramer

Now with better communication, computers, DNA tests, etc., it is a rare occurrence that a man (or woman) can go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes & never return.  Harry’s grandson, Joe, has had his DNA tested on familytreedna.com and maybe some day, someone will be a good DNA match and the pieces can be put together.

My interest in Harry Morris started when I began trying to help my daughter’s Russian & Eastern European side of her family create a family tree.  Over the last weeks, I have read many articles about the difficulties that these new immigrants had in adjusting to their lives in America.  I bought a used book titled “Mid-America’s Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry” that was edited by Joseph D. Schultz & published in 1982.

Mid-America's promise
I bought this book hoping that it might contain some references to my daughter’s family members. Unfortunately, there aren’t any with the one exception of a photo of Robert “Bob” Bernstein who invented the McDonald’s Happy Meal. But, from this wonderful book I have learned how these Russian & Eastern European immigrants, at the turn of the 20th Century, ended up in Kansas City, MO.

I will try to keep this short, but a brilliant man named Jacob Billikopf was instrumental in the Kansas City immigration story. He was a recent immigrant from Lithuania who worked with other Jewish leaders to try and remedy the situation in New York. The wave of immigrants had begun to overwhelm New York’s resources and the city leader’s were quickly becoming desperate. The book explains how Jacob created the “Billikopf Route”. Many representatives of American Jewish charities traveled to Hamburg & Bremerhaven to try and convince the immigrants to land and move further west from NYC. Jacob Billikopf basically created the Galveston, TX route in order to help the immigrants find a “more assured future”. He managed Kansas City’s Jewish social services and found jobs and housing for the people willing to travel further west.

That said, it doesn’t explain what happened to Harry Morris. While many Eastern European immigrants were able to quickly assimilate, some were not. The ones who landed in NYC could hold onto their old ways, Yiddish language, and customs longer than the immigrants who moved further west. There was more pressure on those who took the “Billikopf Route” and some felt very isolated in their new country. There were also social and cultural rifts between the older German Jewish population and the new poorer Eastern European immigrants.

Desertion, the poor man’s “divorce”, happened so often among the Eastern Europeans that a National Desertion Bureau was formed to help locate the wayward Jewish husbands and fathers. Jacob Billikopf became very disturbed by the problems created by desertion and death. He and Judge Edward Porterfield wrote and passed a bill in 1911 that established a “Mothers’ Assistance Fund” in Kansas City. This bill was a forerunner to the Aid to Dependent Children programs across the country.

The problems caused by desertion didn’t occur only in Kansas City. The situation was so bad that the Jewish Daily Forward, the largest-circulation Yiddish daily in the world, began running the “Gallery of Missing Men,” a page full of mug shots of these husbands. It was published to shame them into returning to their families. Or maybe to warn other women about these scoundrels.
gallery of missing men

Time for Some More Embarrassing Family Photos (from Daddy Ray’s slides)

I mailed a box of Daddy Ray’s slides off to http://digmypics.com/ They have great recommendations & after the job they did on these 50 plus year old slides, I am very happy with them. If you have any old slides that you would like made into jpeg files, I recommend them.

Love Mom's white sunglasses

Love the glasses that the Kelley sisters are sporting.

Two Year Old Birthday Party.  I think it was probably Pete's birthday.

Two Year Old Birthday Party. I think it was probably Pete’s birthday.

Grandma Page & me in our kitchen.

Great photo of Grandma Page (& baby Jan)

Tim and I enjoying our big picture books.

I am amazed that cousin Tim could read “The Brave Little Steam Shovel” all by himself.

Aunt Helen's fabulous turkey.

Aunt Helen’s fabulous turkey, along with some goofy girls & Aunties Helen & Harriett

Here's that darn Bumpas family.

Here’s that darn Bumpas family.  Darn those Bumpases (is that plural for Bumpas?)

Breakfast in the Kelley's yard.

Breakfast in the Kelley’s yard.

I must have been the birthday girl since I have the crown on!  Make a wish!

I must have been the birthday girl since I have the crown on! Make a wish!

Cousin Martha & Jan taking the combine out for a spin.

Cousin Martha & Jan taking the combine out for a spin.

Ursula 1000 fabulous videos! the best son in law that any protective mother could ask for! xoxo, dear Alex

Wonderful Family Christmas Cards from 50 Years Ago. How quickly time flies.

I received a surprise package in the mail today from a childhood friend who was visiting her 97 year old father. The connection point here is Winfield, KS. Her grandfather & grandmother were friends of the Kelley family as her grandparents were Dr. & Mrs. Wilmer. Her mother was Mrs. Josephine Wilmer Moore, a good friend of all of the Kelley girls. As my friend was going through her parent’s albums, she came across a bunch of our family (from the Kelley side) Christmas cards. She thoughtfully put them in the mail and voila! I decided to post them as a reminder of all of our Christmas’s past.

from the Moreland family, Virgil Moreland & Patricia Kelley Moreland

The Moreland Family

The Moreland Family

The Moreland Family

The Moreland Family

From the Bumpas Family, Andrew Bumpas & Margaret Kelley Bumpas

Timothy Bumpas

Timothy Bumpas






And Finally the Robert Kelley Family!


Adoption, Adoptees, Adoptive Parents

From 1940 until about 1970, up to 4 million mothers in the United States surrendered their newborn babies to the adoption process.

I’ve copied the text below from Wikipedia

Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the original parent or parents. Modern systems of adoption, arising in the 20th century, tend to be governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations.

Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, illegitimacy began to be defined in terms of psychological deficits on the part of the mother. At the same time, a liberalization of sexual mores combined with restrictions on access to birth control led to an increase in premarital pregnancies. In most cases, adoption was presented to the mothers as the only option and little or no effort was made to help the mothers keep and raise the children.

All of that said, I was an extremely lucky newborn and was adopted into a loving and secure family. While I was searching through old photographs today, I found the cross stitch picture that my Mom made for us. They truly felt this way about us and we never doubted their love or loyalty.

Mom’s Adoption Embroidery

Some of John Franklin Britt’s Children


John Franklin Britt (1862-1929) and his wife Margaret Strain Britt (1865-1945) had nine children. I am not sure which of the nine are in this photo, but do know that they belong to John F. & Margaret (Maggie) Britt. They lived in Barbour County, Alabama.

Posts About Dead Relatives

All Gene Pools Need Chlorine

Your Genetic Genealogist

All Gene Pools Need Chlorine

Unclaimed Ancestors

Connecting old photos with the families searching for them.


How the hell did I get here?

V.L. Brunskill

writer, reunited adoptee, former music journalist

Ephemeral New York

Chronicling an ever-changing city through faded and forgotten artifacts

Posts About Dead Relatives

All Gene Pools Need Chlorine

Chips Off the Old Block

A blog devoted to genealogical wanderings - dedicated to family near and far, through distance and time


crowdsourcing genome wide association studies