Sunday, December 11, 2016

6 December 1967 Letter

This is a letter written by my maternal uncle to my paternal aunt on 6 December 1967, while he was stationed in Vietnam.  He had been out in the field for a few weeks, and was hoping to be back at base camp by Christmas and home by September.

Four days after this letter was written my uncle and his company were in a terrible fight with an
Photo taken by Paul Branyan in the
days leading up to his death.
enemy that was dug in at a ditch.  He was on an armored personnel carrier and was passing ammunition to a fellow soldier, Drew Shipley, as he was firing a 50-caliber machine gun.  Sargent Shipley was shot in the head and killed.  Despite knowing the danger, my uncle took over the machine gun and, tragically, met the same fate.

At the time of his death, my uncle had been in Vietnam for 100 days.  He was twenty years old.

Sadly, my aunt received the letter from my uncle the day after he died.

This is a link to an article that describes the battle that occurred on the day my uncle died.

Paul Branyan's Virtual Vietnam Veterans War Memorial page
Memorial Page for Paul Branyan
Web site for 1st Battalion 50th Infantry

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

20 November 1967 Letter

This is a letter from my maternal uncle to my paternal aunt.  He wrote it on 20 November 1967 and she received it a week later.  He wrote it after he had returned to the field in Vietnam after a short break at base camp.  He closed his letter by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  He was looking forward to getting home the following September, but he died in battle less than a month after this letter was written.

Memorial Page for Paul "Ozzie" Branyan
Virtual Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Page for Paul "Ozzie" Branyan

Monday, November 28, 2016

16 October 1967 Letter

This is a letter from my maternal uncle to my paternal aunt.  He wrote it while stationed in Vietnam on 16 October 1967.  My aunt received it on 24 October 1967.

He mentioned my dad's visit home on leave from the army.  My uncle joked that it was a two hard weeks with my aunt and my mom around and that my dad would be ready to get back to the army life.  He also joked about Vietnam, calling it "The big Southeast Asia summer resort area."  And how "everyone is going there this year.  It's where all the action is."  In reality, he was looking forward to coming home the following September and getting out of the army.  Sadly, he would die in combat less than two months later.

Paul "Ozzie" Branyan's Memorial Page
Virtual Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Page for Paul "Ozzie" Branyan

Sunday, November 27, 2016

20 September 1967 Letter

I have found that old letters can be a gold mine of information, and a little glimpse into life at that
Paul "Ozzie" Branyan
moment.  They can hold clues and provide missing pieces of a puzzle.  It can put personality to family members gone long ago.

This is a letter written by my maternal uncle to my paternal aunt.  He wrote it on 20 September 1967 from Vietnam and she received it six days later.  I know the date she received it because she wrote that date on the envelope.  A great piece of information to have!

My uncle opened the letter by inquiring how everyone was doing, asking if my dad, who was also in the army, had gotten to take leave yet, and how my aunt liked school.  I imagine my uncle was missing the every day life of home.

My uncle went on to briefly describe his trip to Vietnam on the USS General John Pope and how they stopped in Okinawa just long enough to refuel.  He wrote the letter while they were sitting in a bay in Vietnam, unloading equipment and some men.  He still had to spend a couple more days on the boat to travel up the coast.  He complained about the heat and that it felt like it was getting hotter.

He was looking forward to getting back home the following September, but would die in battle less than three months later.

Paul "Ozzie" Branyan's Memorial Page
Paul "Ozzie" Branyan on the Virtual Vietnam Veterans War Memorial

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo taken of my paternal aunt taken on a beach, probably in Delaware, in the mid-1950s.

Diane Odgers
(1951 - 2002)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Christmas Toys

I love looking at photographs taken on Christmas morning.  The smiles, the excitement, the mess....and the TOYS!  I find myself studying every detail I can see.  I also like comparing Christmases from year to year.  This black and white photo was taken in the mid-1950s of my paternal uncle and aunt and the color photos were taken in 1963.  I see how much my aunt had grown and how the toys had changed.

James Odgers (1954 - 2007)
Diane Odgers (1951 - 2002)

Diane Odgers
(1951 - 2002)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt sitting on a car at a beach, probably in Delaware, in the early 1950s.

Diane Odgers
(1951 - 2002)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt taken in her family home in Delaware some time after Christmas 1952.  She was one year old.

Diane Odgers
(1951 - 2002)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

School Pictures

Today was school picture day in our house.  It got me thinking about all of the school pictures I have.  Not only my children's, but all of mine, family, friends, and friend's children.  They are always fun to look at and compare from year to year.  How many arguments were there about what to wear and how to style hair?  There are so many stories behind those smiles.

One thing I noticed is how few of these pictures have anything written on the back of them.  How old were the children in them?  What grade were they in?  What school did they attend?  Little details that were common knowledge to the people looking at those pictures at that time, but big missing details today.

This has made me be very conscientious about putting details on the back of my children's school pictures.  It also gets me excited about putting the pieces of the school picture puzzle together for all of the others that I have.

Diane Odgers Veasey
(1951 - 2002)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Obituaries and Funeral Cards

Lately, I have been going through a lot of obituaries and funeral cards that my dad has collected over the years and generously gave to me to add to my collection.  So much information!  I find myself going over them with a fine tooth comb just to make sure I have recorded all of the details.  It still amazes me how one little fact can lead to so many questions, which leads to more discoveries and more questions.  Birth dates, death dates, next of kin, employment, cause of death, date and locations of funeral and interment....I could go on forever.  These are the discoveries I live for.  (It sounds kind of funny saying that about someone's obituary, but it's true!)

It's one thing reading over an obituary of someone I knew pretty well, but so fascinating to me going over one of a relative that I saw very infrequently.  I have gotten a better picture of who these people were and have put a lot of faces with names and vice versa.  What a gift!

All of this got me questioning the roots of obituaries and funeral cards...just because that is how my mind works.  I never knew obituary is from the Latin word obit, which means death.  It's such a great bit of information to have.  Published death notices have been using the word obituary since the 18th century.  This is pretty encouraging.  How awesome would it be to find an obituary of an ancestor that died in the 1700s?  I know now this is one of my goals.

I have a wonderful collection of funeral cards.  It's a great source for birth and death dates.  Some of the ones I have been going over lately are bigger and have more information on them, like location of the funeral and interment.  Some even have the officiating clergy.  All of those tidbits of information get me excited!

My advice to everyone is to clip from the newspaper (or print from the Internet) all those obituaries and keep all those funeral cards.  They are filled with invaluable information, as well as being a sentimental memento.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Photo of the Day

I love wedding photos, and this is another I have added to my collection.  This is from the wedding of my paternal aunt on 27 November 1970.

Diane Odgers Veasey (1951 - 2002)
David Veasey (1946 - 2014)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt and great-grandfather (her maternal grandfather) taken at her 21st birthday party in 1972.  As a side note, the photo was developed in May 1972, but her birthday was in March.

Diane Odgers Veasey (1951 - 2002)
Hayward LeGates (1896 - 1978)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt taken at a Memorial Day weekend picnic that was held on 26 May 1991.  She is standing in the kitchen in the home of my great- aunt and uncle in Galena, Maryland.  She was 40 years old.

Diane Odgers Veasey
1951 - 2002

Monday, August 1, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt taken on Christmas Day 1992 in the kitchen of her home in Bear, Delaware.  She was 41 years old.

Diane Odgers Veasey
1951 - 2002

Happy Birthday!

Recently, I came across some photos from my paternal aunt's 21st birthday party.  I love looking at photos from family celebrations of the past.  Everything from what people are wearing to what food is on the table fascinates me.

The thing that caught my eye in these pictures is that my aunt's birthday celebration included not one, but TWO birthday cakes.  One has vanilla icing and the other has chocolate.  Either someone was very thoughtful about giving people an option of cake flavors, or there were a lot of people at this party.  Whatever the reason, my aunt looks pretty happy.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Diane Jumping in Pool

My granny always told me to make sure that I wrote the names of people in a photo on the back of it, because I may know who is in the photo now, but some time in the future when I go to look at the photo, I may forget who those people were.  She was so right!  And I am glad I took what she said to heart.  I have painstakingly taken the time to write on the back of every photo I have...and it's a lot.

I think about my granny's words every time I look through the old photos that I have.  I am always so excited when there are names and, even more excited, when there are dates and places.  It makes things so easy for me.

Recently, I came across a photo that made me think of the advice that my granny gave to me, and I had to laugh.  It is a photo of my paternal aunt that was taken at the home of my great-aunt and uncle during a Labor Day weekend picnic, a family tradition.  It's a great action shot taken with a Polaroid camera of her jumping into the pool.  The date, September 3, 1978, is written on it...Score!!!  But the best is what is written above it, "Diane jumping in pool."  Just looking at it, it is obvious that she is jumping in the pool.  I guess someone wanted to make sure it was know that it was her that was doing the jumping.

I am thankful for the details...and the laugh!

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt and uncle taken on 21 May 1994 outside of my aunt's home in Bear, Delaware.  She was 43 years old and he was 39 years old.

Diane Odgers Veasey (1951 - 2002)
James Odgers (1954 - 2007)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my paternal aunt at the home of her paternal grandparents.  It was probably taken on Easter some time in the 1950s.  I don't know what I like more...her pretty outfit or the clashing of the furniture and the wallpaper.  If you look closely, you can even see an ash tray on one of the chair's arm rests.

Diane Odgers
1951 - 2002

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is my paternal aunt's senior picture.  She graduated from De La Warr High School in New Castle, Delaware in 1969.

Diane Odgers
1951 - 2002

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Memory to Hold

Kathryn Bunting Branyan
(1915 - 1998)
My maternal grandparents were married on 28 November 1942 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Trenton, New Jersey.  My grandmother looks so happy in this picture, but I remember a story she told about how mad she was at my grandfather and her brother that day.  Evidently, my grandfather showed up to the wedding feeling pretty rough after my great-uncle had taken him out for a night of partying.  It seems that as the years went by, she found the whole thing pretty funny, because she told the story with a chuckle in her voice.  My grandmother took life as it came and had a great sense of humor.

Recently my mother gave me the handkerchief that was carried by my maternal grandmother, my mother, my aunt, my sister, and me during our weddings.  I look at it and see all the beautiful memories of those days.  Someday I hope to put it in a shadow box with this picture and some more of the things I find from my grandparents' wedding, so I can look at it and think of all the beautiful memories of them.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Photo of the Day

I love candid shots, and this is one of my favorites.  This is a photo of my maternal great-grandmother trying to surprise my great-grandfather by throwing water onto him outside of their home in Trenton, New Jersey in 1942.  I wonder what his reaction was.

Margaret McCartan Bunting (1889-1956)
Albert Bunting (1888-1956)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my maternal great-grandmother taken outside of her home in Trenton, New Jersey in 1938.  She was about 49 years old.

Margaret McCartan Bunting

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my maternal grandfather taken on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey in August 1979.  He was 61 years old.

Paul Branyan, Sr.
(1917 - 1986)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Remembrance of First Holy Communion

This certificate was given to my maternal grandfather to commemorate his first holy Communion on 3 May 1925.  It is falling apart, but it is pretty awesome to find something that was given to my grandfather 91 years ago.  It must have been important to him because he kept it for the rest of his life.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Family Tree Rough Draft

My dad remembered doing a family tree project when he was in school, and he thought that it may still be somewhere in his family home.  I have yet to find it among the boxes of stuff I have, but I did find a rough draft that my grandmother wrote for his project.

As I looked over what she wrote, I was happy to see that it confirmed a lot of my own research. There's even some new clues that I am excited to follow.  It is so nice to know that my grandparents knew so much about their family tree and that their family history meant so much to them.

I feel so blessed to have found the this rough draft, but I would love to see the actual family project that my dad did.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

One Forgotten Piece of Paper - Three Notes

I found this piece of paper in a Girl Scout Handbook that belonged to my aunt.  It looks like she had to keep track of her activities.  She spent 11 hours shopping at the shopping center at the Cross Road Center.  (That seems like a lot of shopping!)  She spent four and a half hours babysitting at the home of her mother's friend.  She spent one hour cleaning the cellar in her home.  And she spent 48 hours cleaning the attic in her home.  This all came to a total of 64 and a half hours.  I wonder over how long of a period she kept track of these activities.

The first note on the back of the paper looks like it contains a time and place she had to be, maybe for some Girl Scout activity.  The address belongs to a home in New Castle, Delaware.  She wrote Saturday, 1:00 a.m.  I'm thinking she meant to write p.m.  She even drew a little diagram of where she needed to be.

The last note looks like she jotted down some things she needed to do on her own time.  When I looked in the handbook on page 473, she had little check marks at numbers two (Pantomime good posture in several daily activities.), three (Have a health examination.  Make a record of the things the doctor advises and carry out his suggestions.), and five (Discuss what is necessary in a well-balanced diet for a girl of your age.)

I will never know if she even remembered that she kept this piece of paper tucked away in her Girl Scouts Handbook, but I'm glad she did.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my maternal uncle taken in his family home in New Castle, Delaware in 1967.  He was killed in action in Vietnam on 10 December 1967.  He was 20 years old.

Paul "Ozzie" Branyan
1947 - 1967

Friday, May 27, 2016

Last Will and Testament

This is a copy of my paternal great-grandfather's will.  A Last Will and Testament is a legal document which identifies those individuals that are to receive the deceased's property and possessions upon their death.  There is very little specifics in this will, but I feel very blessed that my dad gave it to me.

My great-grandfather left everything to my grandmother and her two sisters, and they were to share everything equally.

The one specific in the will is that my great-grandfather wanted to be interred in lot number 495, Garden of Gethsemane at Gracelawn Cemetery, New Castle County, Delaware, next to his first wife (my great-grandmother).  I believe that one of the reasons he was so specific is because he had a very short-lived second marriage and he wanted no question as to which wife he meant.  As a side note, I noticed that cemetery is spelled incorrectly in the will.  Pretty funny for a legal document.

My great-grandfather named my great-aunt (the oldest sister) as the Executrix.  The will states that if she should have died before he did, he would then appoint my grandmother as the Executrix.  Ironically, my grandmother died seven and half years before he did.

There were two witnesses to the Last Will and Testament.  One name is familiar - my great-aunt's (the Executrix) neighbor.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Girl Scouts List

Every once in a while I come across something that gives me glimpse into a family member's everyday life, and I love it.  This is one of those things.  It is a to-do list that my paternal aunt made for a Girl Scouts Christmas party that was occurring on December 20th, probably in the 1960s.

She was going to ask one of her cousins to go to the party with her, so I'm guessing she could bring a date.  She needed to buy one gift for a girl and one for a boy.  Each needed to cost between $.75 and $1.  She also needed to bring a soda and $.20 to a meeting.

I wonder if she had a good time at the party.  Maybe I will come across a picture some day.

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my maternal grandmother and her sister taken outside of their family home in Trenton, New Jersey in 1937.

Kathryn Bunting (1915 - 1998)
Laura Bunting (1921 - 1994)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Photo of the Day

This is a photo of my maternal grandmother and her (future) sister-in-law taken in 1938, probably in New Jersey.  My grandmother would have been 22 or 23 and my great-aunt Bert 24 or 25.

Kathryn Bunting (1915 - 1998)
Bertha Evans (1913 - 2012)

Always Look on the Back

As I have gone through all of my boxes of old photos and papers, I have been surprised by all the newspaper clippings that my family had collected.  There are the usual things like birth, wedding, and death announcements, and they are packed with useful information.  But once in a while I come across something even more interesting that leaves me with some questions.

Like this photo of my paternal great-aunt working with Wilmington, Delaware's new (at the time) fire-police reporting system.  The first thing I wondered is what year it was in the news paper.  No one wrote a date on it, so I decided to look on the back to see if there were any clues.  That's when I read about a man with the last name of Musmanno who was running for senate.  I did a little Internet searching and found that Michael Musmanno lost the Pennsylvania Democratic nomination for senate in 1964. Now I have a year to put with the clipping!

From some previous research I did, I knew that my great-aunt was a telephone operator in 1946.  It looks like she stayed in the same profession for at least 18 years.  And the best part is I have a picture to put with her doing her job.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Wedding Treasure

My paternal grandparents were married on 1 June 1946.  I had seen their wedding picture, but knew very few details about their wedding.  Going through some of the things I found at my grandparents' home, I was lucky enough to find an invitation to their wedding.

The invitation is very simple, but now I know they were married at the Brandywine Methodist Church in Wilmington, Delaware at 4:00 in the afternoon.

I am so thankful that my grandmother saved this wedding invitation and I am looking forward to finding more details about their wedding.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Civilian Conservation Corps Enrollee's Cumulative Record

The Civilian Conservation Corps existed between 1933 and 1942.  It employed millions of unmarried men between the ages of 17 and 25 on projects in rural areas owned primarily by federal, state, and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men, to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States.  The men served a term of six months, but they could serve up to four terms. They earned $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to their families.

This is a copy of my maternal grandfather's cumulative record which includes information about his parents and past educational, occupational, and military experience.

My great-grandfather died when my grandfather was nine years old.  When he finished grammar school, my grandfather got a job to help support his family.  At the time he signed his application to join the CCC,  he had been unemployed for two years.  He left his job as a grocery clerk in December 1932 at 15 years of age.  $25 of his $30 a month earnings while in the CCC was sent home to his mother to help support his family.  Most men in the CCC did the same, naming their mothers as their dependent relative.

My grandfather was in the CCC from 1934 to 1938.  He entered when he was 16 years old and was discharged when he was 19 years old.  He was in two companies and two different camps during that time.

His birth date appears to be 8 November 1917 on the first form, but it really was 18 November 1917.  It just may be the quality of the copy of the form or a written mistake.

My grandfather participated in a number of educational programs.  They included leather work, flower gardening, cooking, first aid, and truck driving.

Most of my grandfather's time was spent doing mosquito control in Lewes, Delaware.  His unit drained mosquito-infested swamps on Delaware farms by digging drainage ditches leading away from the marshy areas. Stagnant ponds and streams, mosquito breeding places, were freshened by pumping fresh water into the stagnant water areas. The fresh water killed the mosquito larvae.

During his time in the CCC my grandfather's interests included sports, reading, leather craft, and flowers.  He also earned certificates in first aid and cooking.

He was discharged on 8 April 1938 when his enlistment expired.  He left without having a new job secured, but in the 1940 census he was working in a smoke house.

Bills of Repairs September 24,1904

 This cover sheet is found in the Civil War Pension File of my paternal third great-grandfather.  The bills were submitted by a pension atto...