Saving the Squalus

In May 2014 the spousal unit and I paid a visit to the Iowa kin en route from Nebraska back home.  I was working a conference in Nebraska and it was a great opportunity to stop in, see family, and talk some genealogy.  They were gracious enough to let me photograph and scan some items in their care that belonged to my Uncle Frank.  I haven’t had a chance to write much about the Conwell side of my family because I’ve been concentrating my efforts on lesser-researched branches of my family and the spousal unit’s family.

I think the Universe is trying to tell me to start writing about them.

Rewinding to March 2014, I briefly wrote about Uncle Frank (who is technically my great-uncle) in Christmas Came Early in Genealogy-land when a gentleman from Oklahoma contacted me about some Conwell family items that had come into his possession.  Several of these items belonged to Frank.  So I devoted part of a blog post to the excitement of first contact but didn’t pursue writing about the Conwell side.

During our visit the Iowa kin mentioned they planned to take some of Frank’s items to Bismarck, North Dakota where Antiques Roadshow was going to be filming.  We thought that was pretty cool and shared their excitement about the trip but it didn’t really enter our mind that they would really make it on the show.  But they did.  So what did they take?  They took items from Frank’s Naval career.  A very basic explanation of a salvage diver is a Naval diver who assists with any type of salvage operation.  They also have other job duties like construction and demolition but Frank’s 10 minutes of fame related to his work in salvage.

On May 23, 1939 the submarine U.S.S. Squalus set out on her final test dive.  Her final dive began well but ended in disaster when she sunk with her crew aboard.  In an unprecedented rescue, 33 of the crew who survived the initial disaster were rescued from the Squalus, which rested 240 feet below the surface.  As with any heroic effort, there was a great deal of publicity about the rescue of the Squalus crew and the divers involved in the rescue operation.  It was an effort worth the recognition it received.  Much less publicized was the salvage of the Squalus after the crew’s rescue.  This is the part of the diving operation Frank participated in.  Diving in 1939 was a very dangerous activity.  The environment was unpredictable and the equipment was cumbersome.  Ascending to the surface too quickly meant serious medical complications for the diver.  An incorrect move or calculation by a diver or sailors assisting the diver could mean an untimely end.

Diving Suit
                 Diving Suit (Pixabay)

So what does any of this have to do with Antiques Roadshow?  Frank was awarded the Navy Cross for his participation in the salvage dive.  His Navy Cross and citation along with a photo album of the salvage of the Squalus, a wooden carving of a diver (hand carved by Frank while on ship), and Good Conduct Medal were pieces of the collection which the Iowa kin took to the Antiques Roadshow taping.

Frank never talked about his medals that I can remember.  I don’t recall him mentioning the Squalus, nor do I remember him ever talking about having saved the life of a bystander watching the Squalus salvage operation but he made the newspaper for both of those acts.  I heard about all of it from my grandfather.  I also heard about the medical issues Frank had because of his diving activities from my grandfather.  My uncle was a man who enjoyed the company of family and thought the world of my son, nicknaming him “The Boss” when he was just a toddler.  I always equated him with the carvings which held real estate in my grandparents’, and then my parents’ homes.  They’re absolutely gorgeous carvings and each one was hand carved by Frank while he was ship-bound.

Conwell Frank Russell Deep Sea Diving Suit Carving
Deep Sea Diver carving by
Frank R. Conwell

The episode of Antiques Roadshow featuring Frank’s items aired on February 16, 2015 and can be viewed here for you dear readers who are interested.  A follow up article entitled “Saving the Squalus” was posted after the episode aired.

The Universe’s final knock on the door came recently.  A fellow researcher contacted me through Find A Grave asking if I was related to Frank.  When she found out how I was related she generously offered to send me copies of the diving log from the Squalus rescue and salvage operations, which not only had entries made by Frank, but also contained his signature and an entry regarding his treatment in a decompression chamber.

Frank was born 1 August 1912 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May McCabe.  He joined the Navy in 1931.  During his time in the Navy he completed training for Carpenter’s Mate Second Class, Carpenter’s Mate First Class, Deep Sea Diving (attaining a dive depth of 300 feet in 1939), was awarded numerous swimming medals, a Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Navy America Defense Service Medal and Naval Cross.  He re-enlisted several times and obtained apprenticeship training as a plumber.  Frank married Maybelle Victoria “Mabel” Boileau on the 19 November 1940 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut.  They didn’t have any children together but Mabel brought one child into the marriage.  Mabel died on the 27 May 1988 in Jamul, San Diego, California.  Frank lived several more years and died on the 13 April 2001 in El Cahon, San Diego, California and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

On my lengthy list of genealogical documents to obtain is Frank’s military service record.  I’ve seen some of the photos he took while in service and am very curious where he sailed and what ships he served on.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #1 – Anna Rhoda (Greenway) Bowlby

Today’s ancestor is Anna Rhoda (Greenway) Bowlby, my husband’s second great-grandmother.

Some basic facts:
Name: Anna Rhoda Greenway Bowlby
Born: 31 October 1882
Parents: William Richard Greenway and Rosa Belle (Childers) Greenway
Spouse: Joseph Victor Bowlby
Marriage: About 1900
Divorced: Before 7 May 1920
Died: 7 May 1977

Anna was born 31 October 1882 in Sullivan, Indiana, USA.  She was born to William Richard Greenway and Rosa Belle (Childers) Greenway.  She married Joseph Victor Bowlby sometime around 1900.  Joseph and Anna had six children: Sherry Victor Bowlby, Percy Richard Bowlby, Richard Samuel Bowlby, Jennie Bell Bowlby, Lillian Augusta Bowlby, and Thelma Louise Bowlby.

I’ve been unable to locate birth information for Anna but verbal data from the family indicates she was born 31 October 1882.  Her tombstone indicates she was born in 1883.  Census data has indicated she could have been born as late as 1885.

Anna and Joseph divorced sometime before May 1920.  She appears as head of household, with five of her six children on the 1920 U.S. census.  Interestingly her marital status shows widowed and not divorced on that census.

Anna remained in Kansas, eventually remarrying before 1930.  She appears as the wife of Lester Ward on the 1930 U.S. census, along with five children (Lilian, Louise, George, Rose and Daisy Ward) and her mother (Rosy Greenway).  I haven’t yet determined if Lilian shown with Lester and Anna is the same Lillian that appeared on the 1920 census with Anna.  The age is correct for her to be the same person but I need to resolve the question of why the name is Bowlby in 1920 and Ward in 1930.  And also with Louise and George on the 1925 Kansas census.  Again, the ages are correct for them to be the same Louise and George from the 1920 census.  Did Lester adopt the children after he married Anna?  Or did the people providing the information to the enumerators assume the children’s last names were Ward?  I believe Rose and Daisy were Lester’s children with Anna but I haven’t confirmed that yet.

Anna died 7 May 1977 in Pratt, Pratt, Kansas.  She’s buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt, Kansas.

Here’s my genealogy list for Anna:

Have:

  • 1900 Federal Census
  • 1910 Federal Census
  • 1920 Federal Census
  • 1925 Kansas State Census
  • 1930 Federal Census
  • 1940 Federal Census

Need:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate (Joseph Victor Bowlby)
  • Divorce Paperwork
  • Marriage Certificate (Lester Ward)
  • Death Certificate
  • Check for appearance in additional Kansas state census records

52ancestors-2015

Google It!

How many times have we heard that from someone?  What was the score for that baseball game?  Google it!  How do you take care of an orchid?  Google it!  How do I locate my ancestors?  Google it!  Okay, no, it’s really NOT that easy (don’t all genealogists wish it was?) but Google can definitely be a friend in genealogy.

Obviously Google has become a tool which many, many people utilize.  That much can be determined by the use of the word Google as a verb and the fact that Google (as a verb) has made it into the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Which, I might add, is pretty funny to me since I’m of that age group that remembers when people used to tell you to look in the card catalog.

card-catalog-prehistoric-googling
From The Dork Side (FaceBook)

You can use Google to help you research how to do just about anything, find just about any place or understand just about anything.  But have you, as a genealogist, Googled your ancestor’s name?  I’ve previously Googled a couple of ancestor’s names and had no luck finding anything so usually what I use Google for is your standard internet look up.  But the other night, on a whim, I decided to try Googling another name of one of my ancestors.  I wasn’t expecting to find anything but I needed a break from my research so I figured “what the heck!” and typed my ancestor’s name and last known location, Guian McKee Kentucky, into the search box and hit the search button.

The first few entries were some pretty standard items: a WikiTree entry, some old emails someone had posted to the internet and some Ancestry forum entries.  It was rather interesting to read the old emails and see that others had been searching for this same ancestor but it was one of the Ancestry forum messages that really intrigued me.  A user was asking anyone if they knew of a source for a book “Descendants of Guian McKee, Sr. & Abigail Lane” other than the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  And there was a reply to the question.  How exciting!  Even more exciting was the fact that the reply contained a link to a current blog that was supposed to have a synopsis of the book on it!  A quick perusal of the first few blog posts revealed nothing about the book or my ancestors but blogger KevinW had both a search box and list of labels on the right side of his blog.  Fantastic!  And what to my searching eyes should appear in the labels section but the name of “McKee”.  Even better!

Queue a click of the McKee label and perusal of the blog posts lists under it.  This led to an immediate add of the blog to my Feedly genealogy feed because it was quite obvious KevinW was researching another branch of Guian’s descendants.  Now I was wondering why in the world I hadn’t done this sooner?

I always try and contact potential cousins on the off chance that they might want to exchange information.  Most of the time I strike out, but lately, I’ve been getting lucky and finding cousins who are happy to exchange information.  KevinW was one who was glad to share his knowledge.  I now have some new reading material thanks to his willingness to share what he knew about Guian.  I hope one day I can return the favor.

There are some tricks to Googling your genealogy.  Find My Past posted a good article here by Daniel M. Lynch which discusses some tips and tricks to Googling your family tree and Kimberly Powell wrote a good article on About.com which provides 25 Google search tips for genealogists.  Lisa Louise Cooke has some fantastic resources on using Google in your genealogy, both paid and free.  You should take a minute to check out her website here.  Typing “Google” into her website search box will provide you links to past blog posts about Google and it’s tools (if you haven’t seen her webinar on Google Earth you are absolutely missing out!) and she’s got several Google-related items which have received really good reviews in her online store.

Googling your ancestor can be hit or miss but, as with any tool, learn how to use it and it can provide you with successful results.  And remember: “If at first you don’t succeed, call it Version 1.0.” (Author Unknown)

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition

Last year I stumbled upon the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge and made an attempt to complete the challenge.  I won’t say that I failed to complete the challenge, even though I didn’t post for all 52 weeks but I did enjoy what posts I did complete.  My goal was to get as many of my spousal unit’s ancestors out in the public eye as possible.  And even though the 2014 challenge has ended, I’m still not giving up because…

There’s a 2015 Edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks!

52ancestors-2015

Oh yes, I get a second chance to complete this challenge and I’m pumped.  A little late getting started obviously but better late than never!  So I’m going to do my best to catch up to the current post while still doing justice to my post subjects.  And what better place to start than where I left off in 2014?!  My last 52 Ancestors post in 2014 was on the spousal unit’s second great-grandfather, Joseph Victor Bowlby.  So that’s the point I’ll continue from with the 2015 challenge.

There’s been the addition of monthly themes to the 2015 challenge but the themes are optional.  I’m going to try and just continue along my theme of highlighting my husband’s family.  To quote a favorite of my father: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” (http://www.enotes.com/topics/henry-5/etext#etext-dramatis-personae).  So we’re going to channel our inner Doughboy and dig into those genealogical trenches and try to complete the 2015 Edition of 52 Ancestors!  Who’s with me!

british-trench
British soldier keeping watch in a French trench at the Battle of the Somme
United Kingdom Government Photo, Public Domain

 

Projects, projects, projects!

My two most recent projects seem to have taken me away from blogging lately. I can’t believe how long I let my blog go without writing. Color me embarrassed. One of the projects I’ve been letting occupy all my blogging time is that I signed up for one of the Mastering Genealogical Proof Standard study groups. It was a very good course and I highly recommend the study groups for all genealogists. The groups work through the book “Mastering Genealogical Proof” by Thomas W. Jones and participate in discussions about the items covered in the book. It was a great opportunity for me to continue expanding my genealogical knowledge-base. I learned a lot about the standards I should be employing in my genealogy research and was happy to see that I had actually been unknowingly trying to incorporate some of the recommendations made by Jones into my current research. Of course, that does jut create another project LOL. I need to review all my proof and make sure it meets the GPS. While some of it might, most of it probably does not.

The other project I’ve been allowing to occupy my blogging time has been the DNA test I took several months ago. Not being a very technically-minded person I’ve set my sights on learning more about DNA for genealogy and how to understand the results I received from my test. It’s been very interesting so far. My test was originally taken with AncestryDNA but I’ve uploaded my matches to GedMatch as well and have been playing around with the tools available on GedMatch. (reference GedMatch blog posts) I’ve seen several people talk about FTDNA’s transfer option so I’m considering the possibility of uploading my results to FTDNA as well and see what kind of matches I get there.

What projects are currently occupying all of your time? 😉