Ordinary Ancestors – Also have Stories

You have compiled the family tree (or at least most of it) and you have names, BMD dates, locations, children, occupations and any military service of your ancestors. However, the most important of all to is locate any information which could be part of their life history. You are putting some ‘flesh’ to your ordinary ancestors because each does have a story that needs to be written and preserved. Don’t try or worry that a whole novel has to be written, sometimes the best stories are only a couple of paragraphs.

So how to locate those tidbits or extra on an ancestor? Do start by asking living relatives of any occurrences, events, or tales they may have heard about relating to an ancestor. Do not swamp the relative you are asking with a long list of ancestors – suggesting just one or two that they may have knowledge of. Write down and keep a backup of any such stories, because you will want to do some investigating about that story also.

Do investigate on your own an ancestor’s land and tax records at the local courthouse. Online there is Ancestry.com with databases on numerous hometown land and tax records. Also at the courthouse will be for males those who served in the military. See if a Will was filed in the hometown or check the last known residence (the county).

Another important element to add relating to an ancestor is the hometown itself. What type of events took place in the town when your ancestor lived there? To find more on that topic, review if a hometown or home county newspaper is available. Also contact the county’s historical museum, the county historical society and its genealogical society. Go to the regional and state level archives, many databases and photos are held there. You have no idea until you totally research what some of these places could have in their files.

An example, recently I located that a person had moved from Connecticut to southeast Florida during the ‘Boom’ years – 1922-1928, hoping to make a name for themselves. In looking what some of his family members had on him, I believe they had no idea he had lived for a few years in Florida before returning to Connecticut. As it turns out, he did make a name for himself in a small town in Florida, worked as a writer for the newspaper and was the ghostwriter for a book on a very famous outlaw gang in the area.

Here is another example of a tale told to me that I was able to verify.

Frank Sinatra’s 1945 USO Tour in Italy

In early 1945, military career officer, U. S. Army Air Corps Capt. Harry Kershaw, was stationed in Pomigliano, Italy serving with 515 Air S.V.G.P. (Air Service Group) which was part of 60th Troop Carrier Group of the 12th Air Force. It was his responsibility to make arrangements and assist the various performers who came to entertain the American troops stationed on the west coast of Italy.

On Sunday, July 1, 1945, Capt. Kershaw had the Frank Sinatra USO Tour performing in Pomigliano. With the young Frank Sinatra was a veteran entertainer, Phil Silvers, who would later star as Sgt. Bilko in the TV “Phil Silver Show“. It was actually Sinatra’s first time overseas to entertain the American GIs. Also on stage was singer Jo-Carroll Dennison, Giselle ‘Fay’ McKenzie was a well-known singer and actress, appearing in over 30 movies during the 1930s and 1940s. Saul Chaplin was the pianist and musical arranger. Saul would later be the music director and producer for such productions as The Jolson Story, An American in Paris, West Side Story and The Sound of Music. However, it was the famous young singer, Frank Sinatra, who was the headliner of the tour.

It was a very warm Italian summer day and everyone did their best for the troops. Just Capt. Kershaw’s comment years later about working with the Frank Sinatra Show placed a new spin of those events in July 1945. Kershaw stated that of the entire cast, it was only Frank who was a little too arrogant and demanding while America was still at war for everyone’s taste. Capt. Kershaw acknowledged he came very close to giving Sinatra one quick punch to the jaw for his behavior.

So see what tidbit of interesting occurrence you can locate on your ‘ordinary’ ancestor.

Photos: Glandon family at home in Bridges Chapel in Tennessee 1920s; Italy 1945–far right was Frank Sinatra, then Jo-Carroll Dennison, Phil Silvers, Giselle McKenzie and Saul Chaplin.

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