Saturday, May 26, 2012

WWII: Uncle Bernie Lands at Omaha Beach

So here's the deal: Uncle Bernie and his sibs didn't learn how to swim as kids. They grew up during the Great Depression and there wasn't much time for that sort of thing. Dad used to sneak off to a watering hole and taught himself to swim, but Bernie missed out somehow. There was a community pool but it cost money to get in or something like that so, well, just know that he never learned to swim as a kid.

When WWII broke out Uncle Bernie joined up. Went to Fort Bragg for basic training where Mom and Dad took the train to see him. It was hot and standing room all the way there, Mom said recently. But they saw him even though there wasn't a proper sleeping room to be had in the whole town... so they stayed in someones house on a dirty old bed. Gross!

Off Bernie went and as it turned out, he was one of the troops who landed at Omaha Beach. You can read all about Omaha Beach at

File:1944 NormandyLST.jpg

Now you might be ahead of me here in the telling of this story, especially if you've served. He was loaded down with his pack and arms... and couldn't swim!! Sunk like a stone. So as human instinct would dictate, he threw off his pack and arms, thrashing about in the too deep water. His CO yelled, Bernie responded, and they all stormed the beach. The rest as they say is history.

Just for fun, click on the photo of the storming of Omaha Beach above and just look at how much gear the boys were carrying! At least the guys in the photo were in shallow water!! (And I do realize that this is probably the only way in which the storming of Omaha Beach could possibly or remotely be seen as fun.)

Photo from the Archive:
Uncle Bernie, 1942
Fort Bragg.

Cousin Cynthia posted this to facebook about Uncle Bernie and Omaha Beach: He never wanted to talk about it, but he did say that when he jumped off the boat with the other soldiers, he had to swim underwater to the shore to survive. He threw off his gun and the cptain told him to go back to get it. First time he ever disobeyed orders. He said there were plenty of guns on the shore to use.

The URL for this post is:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Uncle Delbert: VE Day!

I've been calling Uncle Delbert and he's been telling me stories. He's 91 so he remembers what he remembers... don't we all?! Mostly he likes to talk about his military service and I'm happy to hear all of what he has to say. The other day he told me about the day the war ended in Europe, VE Day.

He was in Marseilles, France when peace broke out. Everyone took to the streets and loved to love on our boys in uniform. Just like in the movies. He somehow got his brother, also in the Army, on the phone and they made plans to meet on the beach in Normandy. Uncle Delbert got a jeep and drove all day to meet Bernie. And it happened: they met on the beach at Normandy after the war. Just like in the movies:)

Now I don't know how accurate this story is and I really don't care. It's precious to me. The thought of my two uncles meeting up on the beach at Normandy in close to proximity to when the war ended in Europe is spectacular drama. I don't care if it took Delbert a week to get there by train and foot, or how he truly contacted his brother and how he knew where Bernie was. Somehow in some crazy way they ended up on that beach after VE Day. And that's pretty cool when it comes to my family story archive. Thus it was told to me by Uncle Delbert and thus it is recorded.

Photos from my Archive. You've seen these before:

The URL for this post is:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Uncle Delbert: The Boys Go To War

Was talking to Uncle Delbert yesterday about going off to WWII. What was the mood, I asked? Looking at the photos taken before the boys in his family went off to war, they show a group of people smiling (perhaps bravely) hugging each other for dear life, together and not knowing what the future held. Here's what Uncle Delbert said about that.

He framed the mood: he was born in 1920 and grew up mostly in the Great Depression. His Dad, my Grandfather, was a coal miner. Dad, he said, came home from the mines with his week's pay of a 50-cent piece. That was it. Groceries were bought on credit at the store a couple of houses away and each week the tab would be paid off. His Dad made extra income by cutting the other miner's hair in a tiny barbershop in back of the house for 25 cents a cut. His Dad, I know, had learned to cut hair from his father-in-law, Gus Zeller, the notorious barber (and Drinking Man) often mentioned here. They really "lived on that extra income" he said.

Uncle Delbert described home life with six kids as fun, and happy with a solid sense of home justice which kept the boys in check. They never thought of themselves as being "poor" even though times were tight. (Mom has said almost the exact same thing of her home life growing up.) It's a wonderful thing that none of the three boys ended up in trouble with the law, he mused. They could be full of bedevilment, I know, from the storied my Dad told about growing up with three rascal brothers! Boys will be boys.

He had never been out of Frostburg when the attack at Pearl Harbor took place changing all of their lives. He was called up for duty, passed the physical and off he went on possibly the adventure of his life. His brother Bernie went too. Dad was called up, as I've mentioned here, but couldn't pass the physical due to severe burns to both hands when he was but two years old. Instead, he served by working in Allegany Ballistics Laboratory nearby. The brothers wrote as often as they could. The war years passed and fortunately they were all reunited after the war.

Uncle Delbert has told me three stories so far about his service years and I hope that there will be more to come. The next to come will be about him meeting up with his brother on VE Day. It brought a tear to my eye.

Photos from the archive:

Uncle Delbert in uniform.
Looks like a photo booth picture to me.

Uncle Delbert, 1942

Uncle Bernie, in uniform, about 1942.

The URL for this post is:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Uncle Delbert's Stories

You know how it goes: you lose direct contact with a couple of relatives over time. People have busy lives and move all over the place and it's hard to keep up. Their name comes up in conversations and you hear news of them and their extended family but direct contact is kinda' missing. You might feel like you're in touch but you really aren't.

And so it was with my Uncle Delbert, my Dad's brother and one of Grandma's six kids. He's 91 and I always get news about him and his son Kevin but I just didn't think to pick up the phone and call him. Until just last week. I asked myself: What am I waiting for??!!

Well, first off I had to explain to him who I was!! He got me confused with my sister, which I realized when he asked about my 3 kids. Oh crap, it's been so long that I'm off his family radar! But then we got that situated and on to memories. Actually I was prompted to call him because Mom had seen him at Cousin Cynthia's Cinco de Mayo party Derby Fest... so many drinks, so little time;)

Anywho, Uncle Delbert remembered that Mom is the family genealogist and archivist and asked for copies of old photos she might have, "and whatever else you have on the history of the family." Now you don't have to ask Mom twice for stuff like that! She told me about it and was wondering how to get the pictures to Uncle Delbert and I piped up and said, "I'll do it!"

Next thing I know I have a stack of picture album pages done up in Word weighing in at 40 pages, along with a chart and ancestor report, the former almost 30 pages and the later almost 40 pages. I'm thinking that if I send this to Uncle Delbert and a strong winds blows up he'll never make heads or tails out of it! So off to the local UPS store to see what they could do for me in the way of binding it all together.

It was beautiful, if I do say so my own self:) There was the entire known history of the family in one document.

Uncle Delbert phoned me when he got it and said that he'd been looking at it for the last three hours straight. The next day he called Mom and Mom told me that it was the first time he'd ever called her in the entire time they've known each other! "How did you do this?" he wanted to know. He was blasted away by Mom's research prowess. He knew Mom all those years but never stopped to inquire about her genealogical research. But he will now!!

And I'll be calling Uncle Delbert to listen and write down his stories. I have two really good ones already!

Mom and Uncle Delbert, June 1942

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Blogiversary to This Blog!!

It was just a year ago that I woke up in the morning with the thought to blog about the genealogy work Mom and I were doing! Wow, as they say, the time sure has flown by! And it's been tons of fun. I've found cousins distant and closer, put forth my efforts and gotten top quality feedback, worked through problems because I had to write it down, and often, seen the error of my ways in my own words. I mean, really often;) I can say with total authority, my newbie status is still in tact!

So Happy Blogiversary to Nuts From the Family Tree! (So many nuts, so little time.)

Me and the cousins at my second birthday party,
October 1948.
I'm in the top row, second from right.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I'm supremely frustrated! Here's the deal. The Eckhart story of the family being swindled out of land that came down through the generations and finally into my family would, it seems, be born out and proven by an article in the New York Evening Post newspaper of 22 OCT 1860. I've found the digitized images of that very issue on Old Fulton Post Card Company's web site. Downloaded it to my computer and viewed it in PhotoShop. BUT... I can't see it clearly enough to read it. There it is, I have my hands on it but I can't read it!!

H. Andrew Brown who wrote the book, "George Adam Eckhart and Philip Hansel of Allegany County, Maryland" says that he tried to find this article but could not. The original exists or existed somewhere, but where? And can a better copy be had at some location or other?

Or is it the way I'm looking at the image? Is PhotoShop the best way to read an old digitized newspaper image? I don't know.

If you have any thoughts on how I might proceed I'd really be happy to learn what to do next!

Photo of the day from my Archive:

My brother being held by Grandparents,
Helen Zeller Kelly and John Lee Kelly
of the Eckhart clan.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Two Books, One Location

I have two new best friends: Samuel Doak Porter and H. Andrew Brown! Actually they are both deceased as are many of my new friends;) You know how it is... you "meet" ancestors or whatever online and the next thing you know you are dreaming about them, right Mom?

I ordered up two microfilms of books about ancestors through and the Family History Library. Had been trying to get a copy of each forever, trolling bookseller web sites, gazing longingly at WorldCat to see which libraries held them, and wondering how on earth I was going to travel to far-away locations. Then I noticed that one of the WorldCat listings was for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Hmmm... could I get them on microfilm?! YES!

So I ordered them up to be sent to the local Family History Center here in San Diego. And I've seen them. Not only that but I scanned the relevant bits and made copies for Mom! I'm thrilled!

The first is about my Eckhart ancestors, "George Adam Eckhart and Philip Hansel of Allegany County, Maryland," by H. Andrew Brown. It's mostly about the Hansel family because Andrew Brown descended from that line, but never mind. There's enough meat in it about the George Adam Eckhart side to interest me.

My big "take-away" moment from the Brown book is the mention of an article in the 22 OCT 1860 New York Evening Post about the Eckhart heirs being "cheated out of land". That goes along with family oral tradition and to my knowledge this is the only thing ever written about that whole affair. (Scroll down to read more about the Eckharts and their land.) Andy Brown was not able to see that article from himself, and he was a super researcher, you can tell by reading his work. Interestingly, Mom has correspondences with him in her file about the Eckharts when he was writing the book. Now I'm wondering, how can I get to see that article?

The second book on microfilm is "A genealogy of the Porter family of Maryland, West Virginia, Michigan," by Samuel Doak Porter. I've been after it for a long time and here's why. George Adam Eckhart's grandson Jacob Eckhart (1801 - 1836) was married to Delilah Porter (1812 - 1881). Mom and I have tried repeatedly to figure out who her father was. There are tons of Porters in the area and the generations use the same handful of given names over and over which drives us to distraction! You ever run into that? Yikes!

I've only had the most basic peek at the Porter book - which I scanned at the Center yesterday afternoon - but I can tell already that this is going to be a real challenge to sort out. The author pretty much starts the book by saying that it was frustrating for him as well as many others trying to trace this line when sorting out all the various Moses, Samuel, and Josiah men!! But Mom is a really good detective and there are a couple of telling moments in the lineage where Delilah and her presumed brother Josiah could fit in. This mystery will be an educated guess at best with no solid proof available, I'm sorry to say.

The interesting thing for me right off the bat is how these families, the Eckharts, the Porters, the Frosts, the Workmans, the Combs and all the rest living just a few short miles from each other, one hill away, married and re-married in to each other's families again and again. Geography determining biology once more. Seems like church was the of the day;)

The photo of the day from my archive:

The Eckhart land, in part, Eckhart Maryland.

The Eckhart Cemetery, Eckhart Maryland
Looking toward the Porter property on Rose Hill... sort of.

The Porter Cemetery, Rose Hill.

See the yellow? All Josiah Porters! Yikes!!
(From the Samuel Doak Porter book.)

The URL for this post is:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another Drinking Man Story

Actually, this is a drunken story about an ancestor who didn't drink much at all. And Mom might "spank me" for telling it, but I'm willing to bet not because it's about someone who was good and true and we both loved very much, my Grandpop Williams.

Grandpop Williams was a real sportsman in the old sense of being a wonderful hunter and fisherman and his family ate all that he caught or bagged. I can clearly remember him making his own flies for fly fishing and they were beautiful and treasured. When he passed, the only thing my Dad wanted of his was a small case of his hand-tied flies. I too found them fascinating. Some of my favorite photos of him were with his catch or kill.

He only drank when he was out hunting or fishing and just to keep warm. Seriously, he was not a Drinking Man, and believe me we know who our drinking men were and have plenty of stories about them, most already blogged about here! (If you want to read the other Drinking Man stories, just type in "drinking man" in the search box to the right.)

Mom only remembers her father being "in his cups" one time. He came home from a particularly cold day hunting, smashed. Now there are a wide variety of drunks from surly and mean to jolly and happy, and he, as it turned out, was of the jolly variety.

"Children," Grandma Williams said to the three little ones and furious at his showing up in this state, "Just look at your father! He's drunk!" She was really mad!

"Yes," the Jolly Drunken Father replied with an enormous grin, "Yes children, just look at your father!" he retorted with an enormous grin. Insert rollicking laughter here;) And off he went to bed to sleep it off.

Mom remembers this story and can see her Dad in her mind's eye as clear as if it was yesterday. Her father's big grin was a treat! What fun, especially because it was the only time she ever saw him drunk.

Photos of the day from the archive:

Grandpa Cambria Williams (Mom's Dad), 1897 - 1960.
Top: with big bass.
Bottom: seated with his kill, rabbits maybe.