Monday, January 31, 2011

Herbert Samuel Kuhn
(05 November 1898 – 10 December 1972)

Herbert Samuel Kuhn
When his father, Adam E. Kuhn, died on 20 October 1912, my grandfather was a young boy in school, only 13 years old. However, the family suddenly had no means of support so Herbert became the man of the house, working full time at Fostoria Glass Company in Moundsville, WV. Of course this meant that he had to quit school, receiving only an 8th grade diploma. The family included Herbert's mother, Hattie May (Clark) Kuhn, and three younger sisters: Margaret, and twins Alma and Agnes.

Approximately 4½ years later, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered World War I on 06 April 1917. At age 19, Herbert was required to register for the draft on 12 September 1918 in Moundsville, Marshall County, West Virginia. Per his draft registration card, he was still a glassworker at Fostoria, and was described as follows: medium height, slender build, gray eyes, light hair, and with no defects. Apparently he was never called to serve as he was not a veteran.

Herbert married Nellie Church on 19 February 1921 at Wellsburg, Brooke County, West Virginia. They eloped and then kept the marriage secret … but that will be the subject of another blog post, so remember to check back for the full story!

Fast forward to 02 October 1929, and Herbert and Nellie moved their family to a farm on Fork Ridge, about 8 miles from Moundsville. They now had three sons: Philip Lee, Dale Milton and Donald Glenn.  The photo below was taken on the road in front of their house - and the notes were written on the back by Nellie.

Herbert & Nellie Kuhn family ~ Fork Ridge

In the 1930 federal census, Herbert was recorded as a retail merchant in the milk industry – he delivered milk to his customers in glass milk bottles.

At some point, Herbert returned to glassmaking and was employed by Imperial Glass Corporation in Bellaire, Ohio. It was hard work in tough conditions, and it was taking a toll on his health. Eventually his doctor, Harold Ashworth, MD, informed him that if he did not leave Imperial it was going to kill him.

He did put glassworking behind him and turned to carpentry to supplement their dairy farm – that's the time period I remember. I lost the only Grandpa I had ever known when he died while I was a junior in high school. His life ended on 10 December 1972 at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, West Virginia.  He was buried in the Fork Ridge Christian Church cemetery.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dessie Charlotte Aston Harris (1899 - 1986)

Grandma Dess - my maternal grandmother.  She was born on 29 August 1899 at Fork Ridge, Marshall County, WV, to Charles Gibson "Crane" Aston and Cancedella "Della" McGary.  The family's farm was located at the intersection of Fork Ridge and Aston Ridge.

When Dess was 21, she married Charles McClure Harris, age 36, on 20 September 1920, at Moundsville, WV.  A short 12 years later, she became a young widow when Charlie died from a brain tumor on 15 June 1932 (see blog post dated 1/26/2011).  Dess was left to care for two young daughters who were only 10 and 7 years old. 

According to my father, Charlie and two of his brothers, James "Jim" and Oscar "Bones", had joined together to buy a farm on Brushy Ridge, off Fork Ridge.  Both of the brothers' wives had died in 1916.  The brothers' father, Samuel, became a widower in 1926 when his wife died.  I haven't yet checked the deed to confirm this co-ownership of the farm, but the 1930 U. S. Federal Census does confirm that all of the following were living on the farm:  Charles M., Dessie, and their daughters Eva M. and Alda L.; his brother James A. and son Lawrence J.; his brother Oscar L.; and his father, Samuel.

I've been told that Dess led a hard life on the farm - she was raising two girls and cooking for them as well as all of the men, caring for animals (chickens, sheep, dogs, cats), and no doubt helping on the farm in other ways (I'm not sure if they had dairy cows then).  At some point, Dess operated a telephone switchboard out of her kitchen.  One time she was using the switchboard during a storm when lightning struck it and knocked her to the floor.  Mom always reminded us of that story if we were talking on the telephone anytime there was thunder and lightning!

Fast forward a few years, and Dess was still living on the farm with her daughter, Eva, and Eva's husband and three children.  That is the time period I remember as I often stayed with them when I was young.  Mom had a lot of health issues - anytime she was very sick or was in the hospital, I usually stayed with Grandma Dess, Aunt Eva, Uncle Cy, and my cousins.

Grandma Dess must have sensed that I would be the grandchild who would become really interested in genealogy as she gave me two photo albums of old family photos.  Unfortunately, there are many unidentified photos - and I never really got into them until it was too late to ask her who the people are.  I'm grateful that there were names written in one album which had been her mother's (it contains a note that it had been "Presented to Della McGary 1988 by J. L. Hood").

When Grandma Dess died in May 1986 with Alzheimer's Disease, she was being cared for at the Mound View Nursing Home in Moundsville (now the Mound View Health Care Center).  Like many of her family, she was a member of the Fork Ridge Christian Church and she was buried in the cemetery there with her husband, Charlie.  In fact, Dess was a Sunday School teacher of the church youth for many years.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charles McClure Harris (1884 - 1932)

My maternal grandfather ... I never knew him.  In fact, he died when my mother was only seven years old, so she barely knew him herself.  He was taken at the young age of 48 from "glioma of the right frontal lobe of the brain" in doctor-speak (a brain tumor to most of us).

When I read that on his death certificate, I wondered if there was a reason for specifying the right frontal lobe; why not just say a glioma of the brain and leave it at that?  I've learned that frontal lobe activities include intellectual functioning, thought processes, behavior, and memory; and depending on whether he was right- or left-handed, could also have affected his speech and writing.

According to his obituary, "During his sickness and untold suffering for many weeks he never uttered a word of complaint and was ready to go when God called him.  Complications of diseases caused his death."  Mom always said he died from a brain tumor; she never mentioned complications.  Perhaps there were issues that she was unaware of at her young age - issues that her mother never spoke about later.

My grandfather's obituary also stated that, "He was born and reared on a farm and spent his entire life toiling at farming as an occupation."  Yes, he was born on a farm on Fork Ridge (Marshall County, WV), and yes, he was a farmer ... but he was also a street car conductor according to my father.

In the photo at the top, my grandfather is wearing his streetcar uniform and a hat with the number 295 on it.  I have a pair of large, oval antique frames with photos of my grandparents in which he is also wearing the streetcar uniform.  The Marshall County WVGenWeb Virtual Wheeling Area Trolley Museum includes several photos with motormen wearing the same style hat as my grandfather, and one Benwood photo shows men in the same white shirt and white tie combo that he is wearing.  It appears likely that my grandfather would have been employed by the Wheeling Traction Company, the name under which the Wheeling Railway Company was reorganized in 1899.

Although my grandfather's birth registration says he was born on the 23rd of January 1884, there is a lot of conflicting info that says it was actually the 20th.  Charlie, as he was commonly known, married Dessie Charlotte Aston on 29 September 1920.  They had two daughters, Eva Mae born in 1922, and my mother, Alda Louise born in 1925.  My grandfather's death on 15 June 1932 marked the end of a three-month battle against the brain tumor.  As he had become a member of the Fork Ridge Christian Church in October 1908 when he was 24, he was buried in the cemetery that sits behind the church.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Memoriam - Donald Glenn Kuhn

For several years, January 11 was the day our family celebrated my nephew's birthday.  Now January 11 is also the anniversary of my father's death.  Don Kuhn died in his sleep two years ago ... peacefully and quickly ... just the way he wanted ... but totally unexpected. 

We knew he had health problems - he had been diabetic for many years and that affects the body in so many ways. As it turned out, Dad's kidneys were failing ... what my sister and I didn't know was how advanced the failure was.  Thankfully, a heart attack took him before he reached the dialysis stage - he would have hated that with a passion.

Nearly ten years prior, our family had to make the difficult decision to move Mom into a nursing home due to the progression of Alzheimer's Disease.  For a few years, she continued to recognize my sister and me, but it was Dad whose presence could make her eyes light up even after she could no longer speak.  A testament to the strength of their love, he visited Mom every day, feeding her lunch and dinner, and sitting with her throughout the afternoons.  As the disease progressed and Mom ate less and less, Dad still visited every day, patiently coaxing her to eat.  How many men would do that?

Dad was a loving husband, father and grandfather ... he had extra special relationships with his two grandchildren.  He was strong in his Christian faith and loved to sing hymns and listen to gospel music.  On this two-year anniversary of his death, I like to picture Mom and Dad in heaven ... he is singing while she is lovingly listening ... just as they used to do. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sharing Family History

I've wanted to share my research online for some time, but my fear of publishing info that may prove incorrect some day has held me back.  One of my biggest beefs with internet genealogy is the wrong info that gets repeated over and over because folks want to take the easy way out.  Rather than doing their own research to confirm the accuracy of data they find online, they automatically assume that if someone has posted it online, it must be correct.

Unfortunately, if I wait until I'm 100% sure my data is correct before I take my research online, it will never get published.  Human nature means errors occur even in official records such as birth registers, marriage licenses and death certificates.  Some errors are simply mistakes ~ some are intentional misrepresentations of age in order to get married or to enlist in the military ~ some are due to the foggier memories that come with age.  And the list goes on and on.

So this is the year to forge ahead and go online with some of my info in a limited format.  My policies will be to:
  • Include detailed information only for persons who have been recorded as deceased in my database.
  • Generally exclude living persons in the interest of privacy.  (However, they may appear in photos, or be included in transcripts of commonly available records such as obituaries.)
  • Identify my sources while limiting the level of source info revealed (no addresses, telephone numbers, etc.).
I think I'll go into more detail regarding privacy issues and source documentation in future blog postings.  I've got waaaayy to much to say about them and I don't want to turn this posting into a book!! 

Suffice it to say that I'm making progress and I'm "a fixin' to git ready" to share my family history.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Another New Year

I started experimenting with this blog in November ... and then promptly failed to add any posts at all during the month of December.  Where did the time go?  Two weeks in Colorado, a week to get ready for Christmas, two Christmas get-togethers, and a half week in Lexington, Kentucky to spend New Years with friends.  Whew!! 

So now the holidays are past and it's day no. 2 of the new year.  Time to get serious about this blog if I'm going to stick with it.  One of my biggest dilemmas has been deciding how to best share the genealogy info I already have while connecting with others who can provide updates/corrections and additional info.

For some time I've had a family site on for my Church relatives.  Even though it was never as active as I had hoped, it did prove useful for sharing family photos with each other.  The folks at worked on a new version of the program that provided a whole new "look and feel" and I migrated my old site over to the new version.  Unfortunately, it seems that is now letting the sites die a slow death (a long story that I won't go into here) so I've started looking into other possibilities.

I toyed with uploading a GEDCOM file to but I haven't yet shared it with anyone.  I'm just not sure I want to go that route:  it requires that folks have yet another user name and password; and GEDCOM's aren't one of the strengths of my genealogy software.

In 2010, I joined facebook and created a group for my Church relatives.  A lot of my family already has facebook accounts, so it's easy to make a connection with them there.  My biggest complaint with facebook is that group pages cannot handle photo albums.  Photos, yes; albums, no.  The recent changes facebook instituted for groups still don't enable the use of albums, something that really disappoints me.  It's a feature that many folks desire, so maybe if I wait long enough it will happen.

At this point, I'm leaning toward a combination of methods to reach out to others:
  • facebook to reach the social networkers with family photos
  • my own website to provide the details of my research via individual histories, pedigrees, photos, etc. (more on this in the future when I'm ready to launch the site)
  • this blog to discuss any number of things related to my genealogy quest
By providing links to tie all three together, I hope to begin sharing my info on a new level.  Here's to a new year!