A Woman’s Will to Learn

Group photo in front of a house in Gainesville.

That’s Mam-ma, front left holding my mom. They were in Gainesville to attend UF.

I spent this afternoon scanning documents from my grandmother’s photo albums. I didn’t get through everything, but I did process a whole bunch of her report cards from the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women.

She did not do well.

Seeing quite a few Cs and even a couple of Ds really surprised me. Mam-ma was a teacher and believed strongly in education. My mother, who was here going through the documents with me, muttered, “She always expected us to make good grades.”

I don’t remember Mam-ma giving any lectures about doing well in school. She provided incentive — $1 for every A on a grandchild’s report card, 50 cents for a B. The price went up in high school. I think if we made a D or an F we were supposed to pay her, but I generally made A-C in every class, so that wasn’t an issue.

Mam-ma almost always taught 4th grade, and she still had many of those books on her shelves. She and Pap-pa (who was also a teacher) talked with us kids about a lot of different things, and I’m sure I learned many things when I had the chance to stay at her house.  Mam-ma (like my mom) also read in front of us, leading by example. She valued education.

Willie Aline Stevens was born January 13, 1909. Her mother went to school through third grade. I’m not sure what her dad’s education was, but I remember her or my mom saying that he didn’t want Willie to go to high school. He thought 8th grade was plenty of education for a girl. Willie, however, had ambitions. Tate High School had a teacher prep program. If she finished the course, she could earn a lifetime teaching certificate in the state of Florida, and she wanted that badly. She cried and pleaded and made promises, and he let her finish high school. She graduated in 1927 and went to work that fall, at Walnut Hill School in Escambia County.

Now, I haven’t come across her high school report cards, but I do have a booklet from when she finished 8th grade at Muscogee School in 1923. There, she’s listed on the honor roll. So, I know she was studying hard.

Muscogee School, Escambia County, 1923

Mam-ma – Willie Stevens – made the honor roll in 8th grade.

The year after she graduated high school, with her first year of teaching behind her, she attended summer school at the Florida State College for Women.

Willie Stevens' report card from Florida State College for Women, 1928 summer school

Yikes! I never knew Mam-ma made a “D”!!

Now, I have to point out that she made a lot of Bs and Cs, too. And the occasional A. After 1933, she was married. After 1937, she had a child. I don’t know what other stresses she may have had in her life during each class. And I’ll have to do some research to find out what these classes were. Maybe the teachers were jerks, even.

But she persisted. She never gave up. She didn’t quit when her dad pressured her to drop out. She earned her teaching certificate, so she could have a good professional job, but that still wasn’t enough. She wanted to keep learning and earn a college degree. She married a hard-working man who at times was a farmer and a building contractor, and he removed stumps from a field for 50 cents a day, and, by the way, he was also a teacher. And they attended summer school together. (Mom says Mam-ma would grumble that Pap-pa could sleep through a class and still make a better grade than her.) So she had support at home to keep bettering herself. And in 1956, they both received their Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Florida.

Report card showing graduation in 1956.

Final report card from UF, and look at those Bs!

I’m proud of my Mam-ma. She was always quiet, while Pap-pa was more the showman, but she was strong, and she persevered, more than I ever knew, so she could have control of her own life, and contribute to her family and community.

I like to think those qualities run in the family.

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Troublesome German on Passenger List

I’m researching my husband’s grandmother, who emigrated from Germany around 1908. I think I’ve found her on a passenger list for a ship called the Pretoria. I could, of course, read the typed words easily enough to type them into the Google translator. The place of last residence looks like München, which is where our Helen Schiesl was from.

Then I come to the “occupation” column. The word looks like Prisat. Or Prinat. Or Prisal. I tried typing all those words into the Google translator, and it didn’t recognize any of them as words. She was a domestic servant in her first U.S. Census (1910), so I tried translating that to German, and Google gave me a completely different word.

Samples of word that I cannot quite make out on the document.

What is this German word?

I found one other passenger who looks like he had the same occupation. Another line looks like the same word, but starting with Kinder — child.

The full page is below. I know sometimes it helps to look at other words to see how various letters are formed.  I highlighted Helen’s line in yellow.

List of passengers who arrived in the U.S. aboard the Pretoria circa 1907-1908.

List of passengers who arrived in the U.S. aboard the Pretoria circa 1907-1908.

If you speak and read German (Deutsch) and can make out what this is, I would appreciate your help. Please comment below.


Here’s another passenger list which I was lead to believe was from the same voyage of the Pretoria, but as most of the names are different — and the only two passengers that match the other list have different ages, I’m back to the research on this one.

Passenger list from the Pretoria.

Passenger list from the Pretoria.

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Sneaking Streaming Time

I don’t have a Netflix account, but I’m trying to win a 6-month membership by sharing how I sneak a little time to watch my favorite shows.

For now, I use streaming services with free options like Vudu and Crackle, as well as watching some videos (like “Last Week Tonight”) on YouTube. The way I do this is, I wait for my husband to leave the room, then quickly search for and start watching the show I want. This can be tricky. I can’t start too late because I need to sleep sometime, and if I try to start when hubby’s just out of the room for a minute, he’ll come in and try to talk to me. LOL Not that I don’t enjoy conversation at the right moment, but sometimes, you do want to pay attention to the TV. I can get in an hour when he calls his mom on Wednesday. If he’s going out to work on a project or going into the office to check his email, I know I’ll have a few minutes in the clear to start watching my shows.

Thanks to #MomSneak for the opportunity to enter for the free membership. I will really have to put my foot down to catch up on all my favorite shows if I win a free Netflix membership for just a few months.

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Navigating a Person Page on FamilySearch

I have been using FamilySearch for about a year and I find it pretty easy to navigate. Plus, it has the added benefit of being free. If you’re just getting started with the site, here’s a look at how the Person Page — details on an individual — is laid out. Sorry the image is so small; the width is pretty limited in the WordPress template.

Be aware, if you click on the word “Tree” along the top menu (right under the FamilySearch logo) or on “View Tree” under the person’s name, it shows you their family tree. It puts them at center with their immediate ancestors and descendants on either side. This is great if you’re working on a side branch or part of your tree that’s way in the past, so you’re not scrolling forever.

The "Person Page" for Rev. Matthew Floyd.The banner includes name date & photo. Click watch to be notified of any changes.

Memories may include photos, documents, and stories (written or recorded).

The life sketch is a place for a bio.

Vital Info includes birth, christening, death, and burial details.

Other Info is where you add nicknames, work history, and other random links to the past.

Click on any blue name and a pop up will show you basic vitals. Click on the blue name within the pop-up to go to their person page.  To see the children from a different marriage, click on the down arrow next to the word “children” by that marriage.

The person you’re looking at is on the left, and his/her parents are in the right column. You can see that Matthew appears under his parents, in the list of children. The person you’re looking at is the only name that’s not a link.

Sources are documents. The ones with the FamilySearch logo next to it are stored on FamilySearch. Click to see an index, and if there’s an image, you can click through again to see the original.

If there’s a little planet next to the link, that’s taking you to a website; often someone has linked to a record on Ancestry.com or some other paid site when that happens.

Discussion is a place to list conflicting information or questions. In this case, someone thinks that Jordan and James Floyd are not Matthew’s sons but are really part of a different Floyd family.  I’ll take a closer look at the documents sometime and see if I can figure it out.

Notes provides a place for descriptions of where you found certain information, or explanations of apparent conflicts.

I’m by no means an expert, but if you have any questions, post them below, and I’ll certainly be glad to try to answer them.

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FedEx Incompetence

Last week, I ordered cat food from Chewy.com, an excellent site that offers fair pricing on good products, quick order processing, and the owners even sent a personally signed Christmas card. Way to go, guys!

I expected the order to arrive on Monday, December 5, and I was surprised when I clicked the tracking button over to the FedEx site and saw an estimated Friday delivery.

The package didn’t arrive. I checked the tracking number Friday night, and it said to expect delivery on Tuesday. I didn’t understand why they skipped Monday, but okay.

On Monday afternoon, the tracking information showed that they attempted delivery on Saturday. “Why?” I wondered. It’s my husband’s work address, business name included on the label, and their office is never open on Saturday. It also said delivery would not be attempted on Monday because of bad weather. Yes, it was raining buckets and parts of the area were under tornado advisories. I accepted that.

Tuesday, the weather was clear. It was a day previously promised for delivery. And yet, no package.

I tweeted FedEx on Tuesday, and their agents responded that it was another weather delay. What? The weather was fine, the roads had drained, and Fort Walton Beach (between Pensacola and the FedEx warehouse in DeFuniak Springs) even held their Christmas parade Tuesday evening because the weather was so fine.

Certainly the package would arrive on Wednesday, right? Weather is still clear. The driver has already had one make-up day for the storm day.

Wrong. Mid-afternoon, the package still hadn’t arrived. I called FedEx and asked when my package would be delivered? They couldn’t say. “It’s on the truck,” they said. Well, yes, I can see that by looking at my computer screen.

By 5:00 pm, when the office was closing, the truck still had not arrived, and my husband called. “It’s on the truck. It will be delivered by 8:00 p.m.” Imagine this in a thick foreign accent. Could he wait on the sidewalk and accept the package if the truck appeared? No. Which is a good policy to prevent fraud, but not at all helpful in this case.

I mean, the driver (or “a” driver) tried to deliver this package on Saturday. He (or she) knows it’s a business. The business name is part of the mailing address on the label. Why would you attempt delivery after business hours?

We got home, and lo, and behold, delivery was attempted at 6:06 p.m. I called again. The (again foreign) agent tells me that ground deliveries are not time sensitive. Then what is the point? They can carry this package around on their truck for six weeks and if they arrive after 5:00 p.m. or on a weekend, the office is going to be closed. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Work smart, people!

I demanded to speak to someone who could actually take some action, and I was transfered to “Escalations” — an American-sounding person who assured me that the driver should have noted the business name on the package and prioritized delivery during business hours, and she promises we’ll get our package on Thursday.

In the meantime, I tweeted again and tagged Chewy.com — they are also taking action from their end and providing some compensation, which shouldn’t even be their responsibility. Did I mention how awesome they are? If you need pet products, definitely check their website.

And if you have an issue with FedEx, don’t wait around like I did, ask immediately for “Escalations” and maybe you’ll get somewhere.

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Unusual Documents for #Genealogy Research

Photo of John Jurdan Cooper and Arminta Stephens Cooper.

Photo posted to FindAGrave by Little Robert (Cowper). It also appears in “The Heritage of Baldwin County.”

Sometimes genealogical discoveries come in the most unexpected places. I was researching my G3 grandmother Arminta Stephens – or sometimes McKenzie – and I came across an unusual account offering new clues about her family. It started with a Google search for her stepfather, Daniel McKenzie. That’s how I stumbled across a medical report detailing her childhood brush with yellow fever.

The “Report on the Epidemic Yellow Fever of 1853” was compiled by the New Orleans Sanitary Commission. Dr. N.B. Benedict attended Arminta and her neighbors in September of that year, at their homes “in the pine woods, in the vicinity of a place of summer resort named ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Freeman’s,’ situated on the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay” in Baldwin County.

Dr. Benedict’s ten-page report goes on to describe the general landscape and the clearing where the McKenzie home stood. The same clearing also held two other houses, and the disease struck all three.

The fifth case occurred in the second house described – that of Daniel G. McKenzie – in the person of his daughter, Araminta Alice, aged twelve years; born in Coffee county, Alabama; resident, the last four years, at this place; a remarkably fine, healthy, and interesting child.

Aha! Now I know where Arminta was born, as well as where she lived in the early 1850s. Scanning through the rest of the article, I also found reference to her little sister, who also survived.

The seventh and last case was that of a second daughter of Mr. McKenzie, named Francis Jane; born in Stockton, Ala.; brought here when five weeks old; present age four and a half years; never but once at the bay shore, a year or two since, and never in any house in its vicinity.

Just before I would have moved on, a sentence caught my eye that suggested I should pay a little more attention to the other cases in the neighborhood. It was in a description of the first house struck by yellow fever that summer: “On the 19th, the family and the neighbors (who were all near relatives of the patient) were found perfectly beside themselves with panic.”

The three families were related! Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t find it necessary to explain the relationships, but he did list several members of each household.

The first house the doctor visited belonged to the Stevens family. A child named Michael Elliott was the first to fall ill. Dr. Benedict describes him as “an orphan boy of six years; born in Florida; of a half-breed Indian and a white woman, and brought to this vicinity while an infant. He was a bright little fellow, with an eye and complexion resembling the Indian.”

The next case was that of H.M. Stevens; a native of South Carolina; age 26 years; had resided constantly here for four years.

The third case was that of Mrs. Frances Stevens; the mother of H.M. Stevens. She was born in South Carolina, in 1791, and had resided here constantly for four years. She described herself as “A Methodist, living in slavery and sin, and working herself to death.”

The two remaining cases, of the seven in that neighborhood, were in the home of William H. Croft. His four-year-old daughter Melissa Ann recovered. So did his nephew, Thomas H. Stephens, who fell ill after digging a grave for little Michael. Thomas, the doctor wrote, “until now, had resided with H.M. Stevens, in the house where all the deaths had happened. Born in Barbour county, Alabama; aged, seventeen years; resident here four years.”

I found a couple of marriage documents for Daniel McKenzie and his wife Catharine or Katherine Webster Stephens. They wed in 1849, when Arminta was about five years old. Census documents show she was born in South Carolina. The next step is finding Arminta’s father and his relationship with the Stevens/Stephens family who lived next door in 1853. The only clue I’ve found so far is that a “T.H. Stephens” stood up with John Jurdan Cooper when he married Arminta in 1857.

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On the Trail of a Florida Pioneer – #Genealogy

I never thought of my ancesters as being pioneers. That’s a term I associate with the American West, and my people lived mostly in the East and South. When I identified my great-great grandfather’s parents, I learned that, indeed, they did blaze a new trail, right here in Northwest Florida.

Map of Western Florida in 1827 from The Florida Center For Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida.*

Map of Western Florida in 1827 from The Florida Center For Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida.*

Let’s start with my great-great grandfather, Isaac Pittman. Boy, was he a tough nut to crack. My mother remembered his name, and her grandmother, Mollie Pittman Stevens, had a framed portrait of him. We did not know who his parents were or where he was born.

In researching his wife, Mosella Elizabeth Thompson Pittman, I had found some U.S. Census records with a little bit of information. Trouble is, it was contradictory.

The 1880 Census, when Isaac and Mosella were living with her family in Alabama, says Isaac was born in Mississippi. So were his parents.

In the 1930 Census, his daughter Mollie (my great-grandmother) said her father was born in Alabama. Her brother Cleve (short for Grover Cleveland) reported the same thing.

I started asking myself if I’d somehow made a mistake.

Then, I finally found the 1900 Census, the last one while Isaac was living. It was mis-indexed under Patman instead of Pittman. That one says Isaac was born in Florida.


Three U.S. Census records. Three different birthplaces for Isaac Pittman (and his parents).

Three U.S. Census records. Three different birthplaces for Isaac Pittman (and his parents).

I had to make an educated guess. In 1880, he was living with his in-laws. I don’t know who was giving the census taker the information but Isaac might not have been home. His children may have assumed he was born in Alabama because that’s where they were born. But in 1900, he was the head of the household, and probably he or his wife were giving the information. Therefore, it had to be the most accurate.

Turns out, that was the right choice.

When I started looking in Florida, I found a 9-year-old Isaac Pitman in the 1850 Census. He was living in the newly-formed (as of 1848) Holmes County with his parents, Thomas E. and Elizabeth. Thomas E. Pittman was, indeed, listed as born in South Carolina (although Elizabeth was born in Georgia). I still felt I was on the right track, because Isaac named one of his sons Thomas E. Another of his children is Nancy Charity, just like his sister. It appears to show Thomas the elder’s parents living with them; their names are Isaac and Rutha.

U.S. Census for 1850 shows Isaac Pittman living in his parents' home and confirms he was born in Florida.

U.S. Census for 1850 shows Isaac Pittman living in his parents’ home and confirms he was born in Florida.

By 1860, most of the family had moved to South Alabama. Thomas’s son George Washington Pittman stayed in the Hurricane Creek area, according to a Holmes County Heritage Book, and was quite prosperous.  Isaac the younger married Elizabeth Thompson (see my previous post for more on that), and after his death, the family returned to Florida, this time to Escambia County, where some of his descendants still live.

I found a couple more interesting documents for the pioneering family. One is a land grant to Isaac Pittman for property in what is now Holmes County.

U.S. Land Grant designating property in the Territory of Florida to my great-great-great-great grandfather Isaac Pittman.

U.S. Land Grant designating property in the Territory of Florida to my great-great-great-great grandfather Isaac Pittman.

The other document is the voter rolls from Florida’s first election in 1845 listing Thomas Pittman on line number 28.

Document from Florida's first election in 1845 showing voter Thomas Pittman.

Document from Florida’s first election in 1845 showing voter Thomas Pittman.

The final piece in the puzzle came via email from my cousin, who has Mollie Stevens’ Bible in her possession. A note at the top of the page says it’s copied from her husband’s family Bible. It confirms that Isaac’s mother was born Elizabeth Thompson. It lists two children who died very young, one named W.O. after her father, the other named Ruthia after Isaac’s grandmother. Their names never appeared on a census, but in 1900, Elizabeth Thompson Pittman reported that she’d had nine children and seven were living.

Pages from Mollie Pittman Stevens' Bible.

Pages from Mollie Pittman Stevens’ Bible.

I’m now searching for additional documents to confirm the chain from Isaac Pittman, born 1967, down to me, in order to apply for Florida Pioneer Status. My ancestors deserve to be recognized for their part in Florida’s road to statehood.

*Map courtesy FCIT.

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