Friday, February 17, 2012

Tangled Web

This has been a terrible week - I've been sick, and everything has gone wrong, messing me up in my classes something fierce.  In the midst of all this, in working on my St. Augustine project, I discovered a problem.

Looking at the transcribed information in the marriage document of Diego Carreras and Clara María Pacetti, I found Diego's parents identified as Juan Carreras and María Triay.  In the marriage license application of Diego and Clara, which I transcribed myself from the microfilmed original, the information states that one of Diego's parents was dead and the other living in Menorca, the island in the Balearic chain, in the Mediterranean off the southeast coast of Spain, which was the family's home. 

Yet there is a married couple, Juan Carreras and María Triay, living in St. Augustine.  Other records state that Diego had two brothers, Juan and José.  This Juan Carreras, the one living in St. Augustine, was born in 1746.  José Carreras was born in 1755, and Diego in 1757.  This Juan Carreras was unlikely to have been the father of Diego. 

With some grim and ghoulish humor, we may be put in mind of Oedipus, but the records state that in the 1786 census, when Juan Carreras of St. Augustine (Juan the younger) was 40, his wife, María Triay, was 21 years old.  There is absolutely no Oedipal event here.  She whom I will call María Triay the younger was also apparently Juan the younger's second wife, as the 1784 census shows Juan as a widower.

What I am left with is the possibility that the parents of Juan, José, and Diego were named Juan Carreras and María Triay, who never left Menorca; and then Juan the younger just happened to marry a girl named María Triay, who lived in St. Augustine.

So what I need to do now is find a marriage document for Juan (the younger) and María (the younger), and possibly other documents which will name the parents of Juan and of José.

Genealogical truth is quite often stranger than fiction, and forms a tangled web, indeed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Family History Writing Challenge: Getting to Know my Father

I had just turned seven years old when my father, Arden Packard, died in 1954.  Pneumonia took him off.  I never really knew him, save for a few stories my mother told me and some very sketchy memories.

A few years ago, I finally got around to ordering his service record from the National Personnel Records Center.  One of the surprising things I found out is that my father spoke Spanish.  It makes sense, I suppose, since he was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised there.  Has that anything to do with my own affinity with the language, to the point that I am about to receive a bachelor's degree in Spanish and history from the University of North Florida, and am studying a Spanish colonial period of Florida?  Who can say?

In the service record there is a document titled Acceptance and Oath of Office.  This is the document recording his promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Navy, dated 11 August 1937.  His signature is on it, and I can see how similar my brother's signature was to our father's.  The document also touches history a little bit, as it is signed by the then Captain W. F. Halsey, who as Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, was one of the chief naval commanders of World War II. 

Unfortunately, my father had a delicate digestive system.  My aunt has told me how grandmother Packard would cook his meals in a special cooker called a "water cooker."  He learned to "Fletcherize," which meant that he chewed his food forty times before swallowing it.  My mother may have been exaggerating when she told me that he chewed Jell-O and milk, but possibly not by much.  Mom also told me that dad would look at us kids and tell us never to do what he was having to do.  I have to say that I have taken his advice much to heart!

These problems led to surgery in 1939, and he was then medically retired. This was a blow to him, because all he had wanted to do was join the Navy and fly.  He had taken flight training at Pensacola, Florida, Naval Air Station, and that is where he met my mother.  The telling thing about this is that he was called back to active duty in October of 1941.  Someone knew something was about to happen, if the Navy was calling back broken-down old pilots!

Kept from flying in combat, he became a flight instructor.  He would much rather have been in the air; however, he saw and did his duty readily.  On a fitness report dated 31 March 1944, Admiral A. C. McFall, his commanding officer, said:  "Lieutenant Commander Packard performs his duties of ground training officer in a most satisfactory manner.  He is a constructive thinker, which with his initiative, energy, and general ability, makes him an excellent man in his present assignment.  Packard is a man of excellent character.  He is fully qualified for promotion and is so recommended."

In his service record I also found an answer to a family story.  My mother told me that my father had, during World War II, been sent to England.  She said it was during the Blitz, the concentrated bombing attacks Germany made on England, hoping to break the spirit of the English people.  The Blitz took place between September of 1940 and May of 1941.  It turns out my father was not there during the Blitz. He went to England in 1944.  His assignment was to attend the Empire Central Flying School, outside of London at a location called Hullavington.  He was there to be instructed in the tactics the British had developed against the Germans in air combat, and bring that knowledge home to his students at the Jacksonville (Florida) Naval Air Station.

I know what he would have thought of my brother having joined the U.S. Marine Corps out of high school.  Mom and Dad had a dog whose registered name was Ceiling Zero (an aviator's term for being socked in with fog), but her day-to-day name was Smokey, which had been my father's nickname at the Naval Academy.  He would prepare two identical bowls of dog food, and set them down on the floor.  He would point to one of them and say, "Marine chow," and to the other and say, "Navy chow."  Smokey went for the "Navy chow" every time.  Dad also taught Smokey a trick.  "What would you rather be, a dead dog or a Marine?" he would ask the dog.  Smokey would roll over on her back, with all four legs in the air.

I have to wonder what he would have thought of me, however, when I joined the U.S. Coast Guard.  First, there would have been all the jokes about my height (5'4") and being a "shallow-water sailor."  In his day, women did not do such things as join the military -- until World War II broke out, then women did all sorts of jobs they had been "unsuited for" just a few months before.  I also think he would have been proud of me for having worn the uniform of our country.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Famliy History Writing Challenge: "Do Day"

When I was young, my aunt was the Director of Health Information for the Florida State Board of Health (now called the Department of Health and Human Services).  She traveled around the state giving lectures and teaching the public about health.  As she worked all week, Saturday was her day to get her errands (banking, shopping, etc.) done.  I would accompany her on these errand runs, which she referred to as "Do Day."

We all called our aunt, Elizabeth Reed, "Sissy" because she was our mother's sister. "Sissy" had a great sense of humor, and we would have silly conversations and sing silly songs.  She taught me "The Midwives' Song," which sounds silly but has a serious message.  The song was a teaching tool to educate barely literate country midwives in the necessity of such steps as washing the hands.  "Sissy" had a 1955 Chevy, wonderful car which is now a classic.  It was on that car that I, in 1962, at 14, learned to drive.  It steered like a truck, and was a great builder of arm muscles!

We would go to her bank, the American National Bank on Hendricks Avenue in San Marco, a shopping district of the old style -- independent shops lined up along the street.  Not like a mall at all, and the sort of shopping district the 21st-century "town center" style of shopping area is designed to imitate.  San Marco's shopping area is still there, and definitely is more authentic than the artifice of the "town center" design.  In the bank, an employee minded a cart which carried orange juice and lemonade, which she served in small paper cups.  The lemonade was just the thing on a hot Florida summer day.

"Sissy" patronized other shops in San Marco, too.  There was the Silk Shop, a fabric store owned by the family of an elementary-school classmate of mine.  When you walked into the store, if your eyes were sensitive to the sizing in the fabrics, you would very soon have red, itchy eyes.  It affected me, as did the smell of the sizing.  All of that is just a memory now.

"Do Day" was a fun time, and a great way to spend time with my aunt.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Family History Writing Challenge

I have signed up for the Family History Writing Challenge.  I have not committed to a word count, because I will be writing what I can when I can, as a busy college student with an honors thesis to get finished within the next five weeks!

Today I am going to talk about my grandma.  She was not genealogically or biologically my grandmother, but my great-aunt.  However, my mother was ain intra-family adoption.  Her father, Benjamin Franklin Reed, died in a railroad accident in 1917, not long before my mother's first birthday.  The Reed family ended up pretty much taking my mother and my aunt away from their mother and adopting them into the family.  My aunt went to one great-uncle and his wife, and my mother to another.

But my grandma was my grandma.  I never knew any of my grandparents, as three of them died before I was born, and the last one died when I was just four years old.  My grandma, Mary LeSourd Reed, was a baseball fan.  She loved to watch baseball on television on a lovely spring day or a warm summer day, and I would go over to her house, just around the block from ours, to visit.  I got into the habit of watching baseball with her.

I formed an attachment to the Brooklyn Dodgers, possibly because of the superb pitching of Sandy Koufax and the great catching of Roy Campanella.  The Yankees could have Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (both of whom I did admire for the superior athletes they were); the Dodgers were my guys.

My grandma had a "curse" that we would chant when the opposing batter came up to bat.  We would make clockwise circles with one haind, fingers extended, and chant, "Cat fuzz around that bat!"  That was great fun, and a bit of "witchery" that we shared with no one else.

When my mom gave my grandma a Dachshund for Christmas one year, the dog, Peanuts, became part of the baseball audience with us.  He would curl up beside the ottoman on which my grandma rested her feet, and remain, ever faithful and vigilant.  He was not bothered by our occasional shouts at the game, or our practice of our "dark art."  Talk of "cat fuzz" disturbed the dog not.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for baseball and the Dodgers, in spite of revelations about the economics of the game that make my blood boil, and other shortcomings which have come to light in recent years.  But there's nothing like a good game on a spring day to cheer me up.