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Thankful Thursday: #My Colorful Ancestry

Birthplace Excel Chart, inspired by J. Paul Hawthorne.
Birthplace Excel Chart, inspired by J. Paul Hawthorne. (Click to enlarge.)

McMurray Family, Helbling Family (Click for Family Trees)

Sometimes it seems I am ‘wasting’ time by reading so much on the internet, but one can learn fantastic things. There are also fantastic people who share their fantastic ideas with the world via the internet, and for that I am so thankful- not only on Thankful Thursday.

Today, gratitude goes to J. Paul Hawthorne, who posted “A Little Thing That Went Viral… #MyColorfulAncestry” on his blog, “GeneaSpy.”  Of course, I am behind the times as it went viral last March, but that is what happens when one lives with one foot in the present, and the other back in the 1700s, 1800s, etc.

The above chart is for the children of Edward A. McMurray, Jr. and Mary Theresa (Helbling) McMurray.

Note how color-coding the Excel cells helps to show migration of a family.

Grayed cells are unknown birthplaces, although they most likely were in the same country as where the more recent generation was born, such as Germany or Ireland.

Follow the links on J. Paul’s blog for templates to use, as a number of other genealogy bloggers have added generations. I do recommend that one clear the cells of text, or use all caps when inputting your own ancestor’s birthplaces. When all the words are in the cells, then go back and change colors so that each state and country are different.

The chart also follows the genealogical convention of an Ahnentafel chart, with the father’s name on top, mother’s below. So the largest bright green box for Iowa is for Edward A. McMurray, Jr., and the largest rose-colored box for Missouri would be the birthplace of Mary (Helbling) McMurray. Mary’s father, William Gerard Helbling, was born in Missouri, so is represented to the right, with the lower box being for her mother, Anna May (Beerbower) Helbling, who was born in Indiana. Take a look at the associated family trees for names and details.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. A Little Thing That Went Viral… #MyColorfulAncestry” by J. Paul Hawthorne in his blog, “GeneaSpy.” http://www.geneaspy.com/2016/03/a-little-thing-that-went-viral.html. Thanks to J. Paul for sharing such a cool idea!
  2. There are many excellent versions of this chart found throughout genea-blogland.
  3. Excel is an excellent tool for timelines, one-name or one-place study, data analysis, etc. Many videos and webinars are available online and information is available on FaceBook and genealogy blogs as to how to use Excel as more than just a numbers-cruncher.
  4. Make sure that you note the problem with dates in Excel- it only recognizes those that go back to 1900! So all my dates are in three columns in Excel- one each for day, month, and four-digit year. The months can be listed as numbers for easy sorting, or Excel has a function that allows you to tell it to sort by month order. See Teresa Keogh’s Excel videos, especially, “Example 7 – The Date Issue in Excel” at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hj6FS2QViI

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
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Sorting Saturday: Armed Forces Day

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., 1943, likely taken in boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., 1943, likely taken in boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri.

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

Today, the third Saturday in May, is Armed Forces Day in the United States. It is a day to honor our military service members in all five branches of the service: Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army, and Coast Guard. So it was somewhat serendipitous that while sorting through and organizing computer files today, this image surfaced.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., (1924-2010) served his country proudly in World War II in the Army-Air Corps. He was an aircraft mechanic in the South Pacific.  He told his family that the Marines would go in and take a little Pacific Island from the Japanese, the Army would secure it, the Navy Seebees would bulldoze a landing strip, and the Air Corps pilots landed their airships and mechanics were brought in to service the planes. Barracks, hangars, and supply areas were quickly built, all with a wide strip bulldozed between them and the jungle. They knew the Japanese were often still out in the jungle, as they could hear them at night rustling through the vegetation. If the men had not worked so hard during the hot, stiflingly-humid days with frequent rain showers, sleep might have been a problem with knowing the enemy was just outside the compound, waiting for a chance to attack.

Although they were not in combat, their work itself was inherently dangerous. A pit was dug for scrapping used oil, rags, engine parts, and sometimes the airmen had to get down in there to try to find a needed part or push things closer together so they could continue to add to the pile. One day Ed was taking a break, and the pit caught on fire, possibly from a lit cigarette. He said that he was supposed to have been working in the pit at that time, but was ‘goofing off’ – hard to imagine as he was SUCH a hard worker his whole life, even as a young boy per his mother! Sadly, it was impossible to rescue all the men in the pit, and Ed said the screams and the smell of burning flesh would always remain with him. It must have been horrific for all concerned. Ed may have been just barely 20 when it happened, and although he was a stoic individual, this incident affected him even into his later years.

As Ed was stationed in the South Pacific, they were frequently on board ship, heading to the next small island that had been laboriously taken by our combat troops. Ed said they frequently lost men overboard when it was rough, or sometimes even in calm seas from a misstep on the deck. At night it would have been almost impossible to find a man treading water in the ocean. It was challenging during the day, too, as it often was some time before it was realized that a man was missing. Ed also spoke of the sharks that followed the ships (partly because they threw their waste overboard). It was especially frightening around the Great Barrier Reef of Australia- he said a man did not have much of a chance of survival flailing around in the water there. That being said, they did all go swimming at times off the aft deck of their ship. Ah, the joys of youth and a feeling of immortality, even in wartime.

So thank a Veteran today, and think about those who came before, those who are serving us today, and those who will serve in the future to protect our freedoms. Think about those who did not come back home too, whether they were serving overseas, or on our own land in the French-Indian Wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, or our bloodiest war, the Civil War. We need to honor them all, every day- and especially today, on Armed Forces Day.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Portrait from our family treasure chest of photos.
  2. See also “Veteran’s Day: Honoring Edward A. McMurray, Jr.“, “Military Monday: Edward A. McMurray, Jr. in the Pacific Theater of WWII“, and “Edward A. McMurray, Jr. at the Surrender of Japan, 02 Sep 1945“.

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2016 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted. 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright or use of our blog material.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Family Scrapbooks, Photo Albums, and Shoe Boxes

Section of page 2  in Edith Roberts' college scrapbook with sorority invitations. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy in the days before scanners.)
Section of page 2 in Edith Roberts’ college scrapbook with sorority invitations. Edith was attending college about 1919- very few women were enrolled at the University of Iowa (in Iowa City) in those days. (Apologies for the poor copy- it was a photocopy back in the days before scanners.)

I recently read a great post that was linked on the Oct. 12, 2014 GeneaBloggers Daily by Gordon Belt: Scrapbooks: the Original Social Media. The article is by Katherine Hoarn, and her premise is intriguing:

“As a means of creating and communicating self, … scrapbooks operate in much the same way that popular forms of social media do for students today.”

Ms. Hoarn continues in her article to discuss how scrapbooks served the same purpose years ago as Facebook does now- to allow communication between family and friends and give a sense of who the person was at a certain point in their life.

Scrapbooking- and by extension the paper ephemera passed down that we family historians so cherish- is also an act of curation, Ms. Hoarn explains.

12 June 1892- Will McMurray's Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.
12 June 1892- Will McMurray’s Graduation program from Newton High School, Newton, Iowa.

She compares this collecting of text and images to Pinterest and Tumblr sites that showcase interests, passions, and events. Whether neatly organized onto boards on Pinterest or into a scrapbook, autograph book, photo album, diary, or even a shoebox, most of what we have inherited has been culled through generations to be the most important ephemera of a life. If we are lucky, we may even have commentary attached to give us more insight into a life.

"Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish." Probably William Hanford Aiken.
“Heap good shot. Ketch plenty fish.” Probably William Hanford Aiken about 1910, when he was living in Florence, Colorado with his family.

Instagram, of course, is today’s electronic version of the photo album and if we are REALLY lucky, our old images will also be “tagged” with names, dates, and places.

Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. '28 [1928] on the front.
Mabel Mulhollen is written on the back, Nov. ’28 [1928] on the front. Sadly no place clues for this photo.
A caption can touch our hearts or give us a giggle- sometimes both at the same time.

About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created  in the late 1940s.
About 1929? Edward A. McMurray, from his own photo album in which he wrote the captions, created in the late 1940s as he was preparing to get married.

As one who laments the passing of paper and worries what treasures will be left for the next generations to cherish in their even more ephemeral electronic world,  I truly treasure the scrapbook, photo albums, and shoe boxes of photos and papers left by our ancestors. I am so glad that we do have ways of sharing the old-timey via new technology, though, so all can gain a bit more insight into those who have gone before.

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1)  Geneabloggers Daily: http://paper.li/geneabloggers/1306385546

2) In the near long ago, boys graduated to long pants as they matured- a rite of passage that was longed for by many, much as our generation cannot wait until we can drive.

3) While searching for appropriate pictures for this post, I found the above image of Mabel- we have a younger picture of her that until this moment we thought was the only one- see Mystery Monday: Mabel Mulhollen. She may be more important in our family than we realized since there is more than one photo of her. We can also use this photo of her at an older age to compare to other family images from the same time period that include people we do not know. Is she family or part of the FAN Club? More research needed.

4) FAN Club= Friends, Associates, Neighbors; researching these folks can help us learn more about our ancestors.

5) The Newton (Iowa) High School Class of 1892 included Lillie Brown, Ella Clarkson, Marie Hass, Henry Jasper, Fred Kennedy, Belle Lambert, Artie McKinley, Willie McMurray, Hettie McCord, Fred Meredith, and Lillian Patten.

Veteran’s Day: Honoring Edward A. McMurray, Jr.

 

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., 1943.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., 1943.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., was just completing his first semester of college  when the news on the radio told of the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1942. He was working in a gas station to help with college expenses plus helped support his mother as he could. He had dreamed of going to college, but felt he needed to go to war, since he was 18 years old. His duty to his mother as an only child prevailed, however, and he continued with college and work. By the time  December, 1943 rolled around, however, there was no escaping it- he needed to put his dream of being a doctor like his father on hold. Ed enlisted in the Army Air Corp on 24 Oct 1943 in Des Moines, Iowa, and officially began boot camp on 13 Dec 1943 at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri; like all Reservists at that time, he spent his tour on active duty throughout World War II.

Ed wanted to be a pilot, so had signed up for a training program at college for flying (possibly the Civil Air Patrol?); unfortunately, his eyesight was not good enough to be a military pilot. His second choice was to go into the Medical Corps, but by that time, they had enough trained men to fulfill the need.  So Ed went to boot camp at Jefferson Barracks, then was off to his training school to become an aircraft mechanic.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in uniform with unknown friend. c1942 in Newton, Iowa.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., on right in uniform with unknown friend. c1943 or 1944 in Newton, Iowa.

Mac’s unit left the United States for the South Pacific on April 28, 1944. (See my previous post about his time in the South Pacific here.) He spent 22 months overseas, returning 14 Feb 1946. He had served in the 3rd & 4th Engine Over-Haul Squadrons and the 13th Depot Supply Squadron, and remembered his Serial Number even into his later years: 17152911. Ed separated from the Army Air Corp on 22 Feb 1946, just eight days after returning from overseas. He was honorably discharged.

In 1949 Iowa offered its World War II veterans a service compensation bonus. Mac filled out a two page application that detailed his squadrons and service dates. (What a treasure for genealogists!) The  WWII Service Compensation Board determined he had earned a bonus of $345.00.

Thank you, Edward McMurray, and all the brave men and women who have served throughout the years to keep our country, and our world, free. Freedom, of course, is not free, and so many were prepared to pay the ultimate price if needed. We are so grateful that Ed and so many others came home.

 

Make sure to thank a veteran today.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; ARC: 1263923. World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.

2) Military Monday: Edward A. McMurray, Jr. in the Pacific Theater of WWII: http://heritageramblings.net/2014/09/08/military-monday-edward-a-mcmurray-jr-in-the-pacific-theater-of-wwii/

3) Ancestry.com. Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: WWII Bonus Case Files. State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa.

4) Not quite sure how the WWII service compensation was calculated, but they looked at his months of foreign duty (22) as compared to active domestic service, which they noted as 29 months. Not sure where that number came from, as he had signed up in October 1943 but did not leave the US until Feb. 1946; that was only four months, for a total of 26 months in service.

 

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Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.

Military Monday: Edward A. McMurray, Jr. in the Pacific Theater of WWII

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in South Pacific or Australia, c1944.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in the South Pacific or Australia, c1944. (Click to enlarge.)

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., called ‘Mac’ by so many, was an airplane mechanic in the Army-Air Corps (technically in the Reserves though he served on active duty his whole service time). He told his family stories of how the Marines would go in and take one of the small South Pacific islands in fierce battles with the Japanese, the SeaBees would then bulldoze an airstrip, and his unit would be the next to come in to service the airplanes flown in by the pilots. He had wanted to be a pilot himself, but was too young- just 17- when Pearl Harbor occurred on 7 Dec 1941 and brought the US into the War. Although he wanted to join up right away, he also had to help support his mother, so he finished high school and continued working part-time. Ed then started college, hoping to be a doctor like his father, but enlisted two years after Pearl Harbor, in December 1943. By that date the military had already trained a lot of the pilots needed, and had a greater need for aircraft mechanics; additionally, he had worked at a Newton, Iowa gas station so had some mechanical experience, thus the military made him an aircraft mechanic.

Ed’s active duty began in boot camp at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. He went next to a military training school, and then overseas. He spoke of his trip to the Pacific and being packed into the troop ships (converted from passenger ships) like sardines, with hammocks six high- one couldn’t even turn over as the guy above was only inches above- and the heat of all the men and the tropics sweltering. He crossed the International Date line and endured whatever ceremony the sailors enacted upon them- he would never tell us details, as it was supposed to be secret.

"US landings" by General MacArthur's General Staff - MacArthur, Douglas (1994) [1950] Reports of General MacArthur (Vol. 1 ed.), Center of Military History, p. 432.
“US landings” by General MacArthur’s General Staff – MacArthur, Douglas (1994) [1950] Reports of General MacArthur (Vol. 1 ed.), Center of Military History, p. 432. Note #32 is Biak, with US landings on 27 May 1944. (Click to enlarge.)
Mac was stationed in Australia, New Guinea (where there were still head-hunters in the remote mountains), a tiny island called Biak, which always intrigued him- we did find it later on a map (see above)- and many other small Pacific islands. He said they would bulldoze a wide strip around the camp and barracks on the islands, but you could still hear the enemy rustling out in the forest at night, just beyond that strip. (It must have been terrifying to live like that day after day.) The Pacific War often gets overlooked with the horrors of the Holocaust, but the Japanese practiced similar horrific torture, ‘scientific experiments,’ mass killings, and unendurable POW camps.

Possibly Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in South Pacific or Australia, c1944.
Possibly Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in the South Pacific or Australia, c1944. (Click to enlarge.)

There were horrors within the Allied camps too. To get to aircraft engine parts that needed working on, sometimes the mechanics had to clean out those areas first- there might be bodies, body parts, and/or blood and other fluids in those areas, depending on how much fire the aircraft had taken on the latest mission.

Maintaining our military readyness could be a dangerous job even though Mac’s unit was not on the front lines.One of Mac’s duty stations had a big pit dug for them to dispose of the used and mangled aircraft parts, oil, etc., and gasoline would have been everywhere within. Of course, in those days, much of the population and many of our service people smoked cigarettes. One day, Mac was off on a break when someone possibly threw a lit cigarette into the pit; whatever the cause, the pit exploded in flames. He had been working in there and was supposed to have been working there at that time; he always had ‘survivor’s guilt’ that he was on a break when the conflagration occurred. So many of his friends and coworkers died or were burned terribly. They rescued as many soldiers as they could, but the horrors of the day included the smells of burning flesh and screams of the dying; they stayed in his mind forever after.

Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in uniform with unknown friend. c1942 in Newton, Iowa.
Edward A. McMurray, Jr., in uniform with unknown friend. c1942 in Newton, Iowa. (Click to enlarge.)

Being on the other side of the world, so far from home must have been incredibly difficult for all those sweet 19-year old Iowa boys, and those from elsewhere, but their committed service shows the true grit they had, and their determination to save the world from the Axis powers and their planned world domination. When asked why he enlisted, Mac replied that it was his duty to protect his mother, his future family, and the innocent people of the world. These men and women truly were, “The Greatest Generation.”

 

Notes, Sources, and References:

1) Family photos and oral history.

2) US Landings in the Pacific: “US landings” by General MacArthur’s General Staff – MacArthur, Douglas (1994) [1950] Reports of General MacArthur (Vol. 1 ed.), Center of Military History, pp. p. 432. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_landings.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_landings.jpg. Accessed 9/1/2014.

3) To illustrate the zeal of the Japanese soldiers, the last Japanese soldier to surrender did so in 1974- he had been holed up on an island in the Philippines for 29 years. Hiroo Onoda thought that reports that WWII was ended were Allied/American propaganda to entice him to give himself up. It required a trip by his former commanding officer to the P.I. to convince him that the war was really over. See interesting articles about Onoda, who died 16 Jan 2014, at http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/world/asia/japan-philippines-ww2-soldier-dies/ and http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/17/hiroo-onoda-japanese-soldier-dies.

4) For an American point of view, see Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It chronicles the life of juvenile delinquent Louis Zamperini,  who became a track star and participated in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. A favorite of Hitler, Zamperini was on target to break the four-minute mile, but the cancellation of the 1940 games due to the war never gave him that chance. He enlisted and his harrowing life as a pilot and prisoner of war are detailed in the book and an upcoming movie (to be released Dec. 25, 2014) directed by Angelina Joile. Zamperini, who died in July, 2014, also wrote 2 memoirs about his life: Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in Word War II (William Morrow Paperbacks, reissue 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0062118851), and Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life (Dey Street Books, 2014, ISBN-13: 978-0062368331), to be published November, 2014. See also:

http://www.louiszamperini.net/?page=bio

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/04/arts/louis-zamperini-olympian-war-survivor-unbroken-dies.html

 5) The Pacific, an HBO Miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, tells the story of three real Marines and their experiences in the Pacific.

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images.

Copyright 2013-2014 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

 
We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post, and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.