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Chit Chat > Family stories from 1900-1945

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
So a few comments in the New Discoveries thread got me thinking, what stories do each of us have about this time period? We may have family members who served in the World Wars, or those who stayed home and waited for their return. Perhaps people were emigrating during this time period, serving in the British empire, or fleeing the Dust Bowl. What family stories do you have?


message 2: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments I can only think of a couple at the moment. None are as interesting as the ones shared in the other thread.

My great-grandfather (on my mom's side) lied about his age and said he was older so he could fight in WWI and then lied about his age and said he was younger so he could fight (well, he was a chaplain) in WWII. He didn't return to my great-grandma after WWII ended, just lived his own life elsewhere.

My grandfather (on my dad's side) couldn't serve in WWII because he'd fallen out of the rumble seat of a car in the 20s, broke his arm, and never had it set properly.


message 3: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I had a great-uncle in WWI. He was killed at Verdun. He volunteered to stay and keep the enemy occupied so that his unit could retreat. For this act, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.He has a statue in Baltimore, is a member Baltimore and Maryland Halls of Fame. There was a Liberty ship named for him.

A couple of years ago, my cousin, Uncle Gilbert's niece, told me about a book that featured him, To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 by Edward G. Lengel. My uncle gets a minor mention - basically the medal write-up - this is partly because he was killed in the same battle where the author's cousin, Alvin York, was a hero. He admits his bias. But I thought it was generous of Mr. Lengel to contact my cousin.

My father was a pacifist so he became a minister and didn't have to go to any wars. Although a number of his friends in seminary signed up, probably thinking there would be no war when it was time for them to fultill their contract. Many of them had to go to Korea as chaplains. One made a career of the military and wound up one of the highest rankings chaplains. They alternate religions for the chief chaplain.

As far as I know, my father had one cousin who went to WWII. He was killed at Omaha Beach. My brother was named for him.


message 4: by Jennifer W (last edited Mar 18, 2013 07:36AM) (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
I'm particularly interested in all of this because I'm currently researching my ancestry. My favorite family story of all is this:

My paternal great grandfather, Wilhelm, was a nurse in Germany at the turn of the century. He was serving on a trade ship when he fell ill. As he was the only medical personnel on board, he was dropped off at a port in the Pacific Northwest (possibly Brittish Columbia, though he shows up in Oregon census records in 1910). He may have had appedicitis. Whatever he had, it was curable. When he returned to the docks to rejoin his ship, it was gone! Supposedly, he returned to the doctor who treated him, and he gave my great grandfather a job. Records indicate that he came to the US in 1902 or 1906. By 1910 he was married to a young woman from New York and by the start of WWI, they had returned east. I think I have photo copies of both his WWI and WWII registration cards. Given that he was a nurse, you'd think they would have wanted him, but he never served. My guess is because he was German. He Americanized pretty quickly and didn't teach his children to speak German.

I just love this story!


message 5: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments It is a good story. Might he have had children by the time WWI broke out? He may have been more reticent to sign up if he had children. Although it didn't stop my uncle.


message 6: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments I had a great-grandfather who escaped from Libby Prison in Richmond during the Civil War. We think he was a German immigrant. My great-grandmother was, at the time, keeping house for her brothers in Richmond. They were Irish immigrants. I suspect that she may have helped him escape. Otherwise, we do not understand how a woman who spoke mainly Gaelic hooked up with a German. Many escapees sought refuge in "friendly" houses before continuing across the swamps. Daddy Kraft had lost his arm, so he was not in perfect health at this time.

The brothers were marble cutters and would hang off the side of the mountains cutting the marble. The Irish were considered good employees for this line of work. Not sure that a lot of skill was required and if they felll - so what? They could always get another Irishman to take his place.


message 7: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments I have quite a few anecdotes some funny and some not so. Currently putting them into context and asking my mother a bit more about them. Starting in India late 1800s possibly during the uprising involving WWI period through to my mother shooting her brother during the war when she was 12 (dont panic this is one of the lighter moments) and the Manchester Blitz.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments Not quite from 1900-1945 but from late 1800s, whilst greatgrandparents were in Indian. Patrick was Army and his wife Mary spent some time in Indian, still working on the exact dates and regiment. This little snippet that knit in with one of the books on the reading list "Women of the Raj". The family story is sparce, but it is as follows "One day 'they' came for the servants', I'm not sure who 'they' were, but my my greatgrandmother hid the servants under the dirty laundry. I just wish I knew more. Would my greatgrandmother have been punished if so how, and I guess she knew that, what a strong character. WWI posts to follow.


message 9: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Family stories are great but many are like legends...I've no idea if its true but I could be related to Gertrude Bell, which would be very exciting!


message 10: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Ally wrote: "Family stories are great but many are like legends...I've no idea if its true but I could be related to Gertrude Bell, which would be very exciting!"

That would be interesting. Not too long ago I picked up Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell. I haven't read it yet, but it looks really interesting. Got some great photos, some of family.

My mother always claimed to be related to the actress Marie Dressler as a cousin of her mother (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0237597/?r...). Then a cousin talked about the family being invited to view the Marie Dressler Museum in Coburg, Ontario. I think it has since burned down.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I have several uncles who served during WWII - Perry served as a tail-gunner in Italy (& probably other European locations), after the war he never flew in an airplane again, had a fear of enclosed spaces & his hearing was permanently damaged from the noise of the guns he fired from the rear of the planes.

Ben was captured in the Phillippeens (sp?) early in the war and was help as a prisoner of war by the Japanese, until Gen. MacArthur and his troops came to rescue Ben & the other captives near the end of the war. Ben told me once, that when MacArthur came, they could only transport a few of the prisoners at a time back to a hospital. Although all of the prisoners suffered from malnutrition and many, many other illnesses/injuries, Ben was classified as one of the "healthier" prisoners, so he and several others were left on the island for a few weeks, until MacArthur returned to get them. Ben said he "cried like a baby, when MacArthur left them on that beach."

And one other uncle, Alfred, served in the Marines and was killed on Iwa Jima during the final weeks of the war. He was 21 years old. Alfred was my father's oldest brother. My father says he happened to be at home when his parents received the telegram telling them that Alfred had been killed. Dad said it was one of the most tragic things he'd ever seen and fifty years after the war, he'd get choked up and teary-eyed telling me about Alfred.

Whew! That's enough sad stories for a Saturday morning! I think all family stories from this period of time are fascinating!

p.s. Ben and the other prisoners of war from his camp would get together for reunions and some of the Japanese soldiers that were their captors joined them. There was one Japanese man in particular, whose name I don't know, who had been kind to Ben in the camp, came to the reunions and he and Ben were friends until their deaths.


message 12: by Bronwyn (new)

Bronwyn (nzfriend) | 651 comments With famous/interesting people we're related to, on my mom's dad's side we're related to Lucy Maud Montgomery. Her family and mine were both from Cavendish on PEI. She and my great-grandfather were second cousins and she nearly married a Simpson, which is our line. There's a quote about Simpsons, Clarkes, and McNeills that she used in a few sorties just with different names (I can't remember it exactly at the moment but something about pride of one, something of another, and vainglory of the third). My family has Simpson and McNeill and she was McNeill I believe. I love that we're related even if only distantly as I just love her books.


message 13: by Val (last edited Apr 09, 2013 10:48PM) (new)

Val My paternal grandfather and his elder brother both joined the Connaught Rangers as regular soldiers and served in WW1. The Rangers were an Irish Catholic regiment of the British Army, perhaps most famous for their marching song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". Grandad would hardly ever talk about the war.
He did have one story from when his battalion was at home in Ireland. The regiment was being marched towards the village where they were to be stationed and the locals had felled several trees across the road to impede their progress, which sappers had to blow up. The villagers must have been a little worried as they heard the explosions getting closer and closer, then the word went around that it was an Irish regiment on the way, because when they eventually arrived the entire village turned out dressed in their Sunday clothes and waving tricolours to welcome them.
Edit: This may have given a false impression. The regiment were part of the British Army and had the job of stopping the IRA from running guns and blowing up police stations, the same as any other British Army regiment.
The regiment was disbanded in 1922 and my great-uncle left the army. My grandfather's battalion had suffered very heavy losses on the Western Front and the remnant were incorporated into the nearest other Irish regiments, so he stayed in the army, in The Inniskilling Fusiliers, an Irish Protestant regiment.
He served in China, Singapore and India between the wars and my father and his brother spent some of their childhood abroad. My Dad had some great stories from that time and a few words of Chinese, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Malay and Swaheli.
During WW2 my grandfather trained Commandos who took part in the D-Day landings, but he was considered too old to take part himself. He finally left the army in 1946 after 32 years service,
and became a civilian clerk at another army training base.


message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments Val - I think the Irish regiments were re-branded in 1881 i'm trying to locate my maternal great grandfather's regiment - he was from Roscommon. Anyway WWI - My maternal grandfather was in the lancashire fuseiliers and was honourably discharged due to injuries in 1917. Having known of an officer shot for desertion (working on that story), possibly his brother killed (working on that story) he said many went there as boys and came back as old men. He spoke little of it and only after a whisky and then stop and take himself off to bed - I think he'd seen quite enough. When my mother asked they the officer for desertion he replied 'if they hadn't we would have deserted.' My paternal great-grandfather was 35 when he went to war (WWI) he was a butcher by trade and was sent there as a cook. I don't think he was the same when he came home, he quite like a drink afterwards - I wonder if his butchery skills were ever called upon?Pure guess on my part. WWII to follow which will include some 'lighter' moments.


message 15: by Val (new)

Val 1881 would have been the Childers Reforms I think. Another regiment was amalgamated with the Connaught Rangers then to form a two battalion regiment. One battalion would usually be home and one overseas. Extra battalions were formed during WW1.
If your great-grandfather enlisted in Roscommon then the Connaught Rangers would have been the usual regiment to put him in. If he wanted a different regiment he would probably have travelled elsewhere to enlist.


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments Hi Val, following further family history (reviewing census returns) it appears my Irish ancestor was in the Royal Hampshire Regiment this fits in with bith places of his children. Why that regiment that's another question.

Bringing family stories up top date, my mother was born in 1933 and my uncle Billy died 1936 aged 15, my grandmother always said he died of poverty. My grandmother's house which I remember being the classic '2 up 2 down' terraced house, in which there were 2 parents, 1 grandparent, 8 children, dog, cat and a budgie. Anyway after losing Billy my grandmother'fell out' with God, following the WWII he was reconciled with God as at least she knew where her son was buried and could go to his grave. It is sad post but does show the reality of war. Also my mother recalls my grandmother with a tear in her eye when the news during WWII gave details of enemy aircraft shot down when my mother asked why are you crying their not ours, 'ah yes but today some mother has lost a son' - Says it all really.

The next posts will be light hearted - I promise.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 239 comments As far as I can ascertain I am not related to anyone famous or indeed infamous. We are steadfastly working class, I am related to Thomas Hardy sadly not the writer but a warehouseman. My mother's uncle is Henry Higgins but no sign of Eliza Doolittle. I think just because an event isn't documented doesn't preclude an impact of that event.
The area of Manchester my mother is from is Bradford once the industrial heart of Manchester, with an electric works, gas works, coal mine, steel wire works, and AVROs factory fabricating aircraft wings, I believe, needless to say it was known to the Luftwaffe. Air-raids were a common occurance. My mother along with her closer siblings were evacuees and sent to Blackpool, a coastal town in the northwest of England, to avoid the bombings. As time went on they returned home still during WWII just in time for the Manchester Blitz - great timing!! My grandmother said 'well if we have to go we'll all go together'. That area now has the Commonwealth Velodrome and Manchester City's football Stadium built on top of of the old coal mine!!


message 18: by Jan C (new)

Jan C (woeisme) | 1526 comments Well, Michael, not everyone is related to people famous. My father did have a distant cousin who was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor for about two weeks. He only remembered having occasional basketball games with him. But he did have a family name, that was what drew my father's attention to him.

And my other grandmother did date Jock Whitney and won a couple of gold trophies with him. (I think my mother sold them for the silver.) He had asked her to marry him but she had indicated to my mother that it would just be like marrying her father again - the kind with a girl in every port, or street (if you will). Except he would have been a lot wealthier. I believe he married one of the Cushing girls a few weeks later. They were a famous trio of sisters, one married Whitney, one married Paley - the head of CBS and the other married Leland Hayward, a Broadway producder.


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