Donna in a Roland West sketch at Keeney’s

February, March, and April, 1919.

Records about Donna’s early vaudeville years are sparse. For example, I know that the January 31,, 1919, issue of Variety, under New Acts mentions, “Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler in a new sketch by Roland West.”[i] We also see an ad for them in the same issue of “Variety.” From that issue of Variety, we have no idea what the show was about, where it played, nor who Trixie Bressler and Roland West are.

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Weekly, Jan 31, 1919, Page 59

In the February 28th issue, we learn that Donna and Trixie are “Two Girls with a Single Thought: TO ENTERTAIN YOU. [ii]

Crop of Montran and Bressler ad.
Variety Magazine, Feb 28, 1919, Page 67

Two weeks later, we learn that Trixie appears to have been replaced. Donna Montran and Jessie Kennison are now the “Two Girls with a Single Thought: To ENTERTAIN YOU.” We also learn the show is playing at Keeney’s, Newark, and Keeney’s Brooklyn for the week beginning March 17th.[iii]

Crop of Montran and Kennison ad
Variety Magazine, March 14, 1919

A month later, things seem confusing because Trixie is back. They are still playing at Keeney’s Newark but only doing four shows.[iv]  Was Trixie gone for a couple weeks or was the ad showing Jessie Kennison a mistake.

Crop of ad Montran and Bressler
Variety Magazine, April 14, 1919

Finally, a week later, on April 21, Variety runs one final ad for Donna Montran and Trixie Bressler that doesn’t have any dates or places for the two.

Roland West

Roland West became known as a Hollywood director. Born in 1885, he began acting in vaudeville productions as a teenager. In his early 20s, he was writing and directing Vaudeville productions. He went to California and in 1925 he directed the classic silent film, The Monster, with Lon Chaney, Sr.[v] He also directed the 1929 film Alibi which was nominated for three Academy Awards.[vi]

Trixie Bressler

I know very little about Trixie. I do know that she was a young dancer. In May 1918, she presented a dance revue at the Ithaca Star[vii]. Trixie was probably either 19 or 20 years old. Omaha Marriages indicates that Trixie Bressler married George D. Schwartz on 20 Jul 1919. [viii] and that Trixie was 20 when they married. Trixie’s vaudeville career appears to end with her marriage.

Jessie Kennison

I have been unsuccessful learning anything about Jessie Kennison.

Further Research

Find Trixie Bressler Schwartz’s descendants and see if they have any memorabilia from Trixie’s vaudeville days.

Find advertisements and write-ups about the shows at Keeney’s Newark and Keeney’s Brooklyn and determine if I can learn more about the “Roland West” show with Donna and Trixie.

Learn more about Jessie Kennison.


Endnotes

[i] 1919-01-31 – Variety Weekly, New York, NY, Vol 53-Page 20.jpg

[ii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, March 14, 1919.

[iii] 1919-03-14 – Variety, Motion Pictures, Vaudeville, Theater, Film Industry, Trade Magazine, New York, NY, 1919, March 14, 1919.

[iv] 1919-04-14 – Variety Magazine (New York, NY) Page 75.

[v] Wikipedia – Roland West entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_West

[vi] Wikipedia – Alibi (1929 Film) entry – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alibi_(1929_film)

[vii] Ithaca Journal (Ithaca, NY) 4 May 1918, Page Six, Advertising Bottom right of page – via Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/254416940

[viii] Omaha Area Marriages – Schm-Sci – https://omahamarriages.wordpress.com/schm-sci/ – SCHWARTZ, George D.

It’s Another First Cousin

Roberts DNA
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.One of the benefits of using Ancestry DNA for Genetic Testing is their vast database.  Because there are so many people in their system, you are much more likely to have a DNA match. Sure enough, it happened again. This time, a previously unknown person, Debra contacted me via Ancestry Messages with the simple message, “My DNA results says that you are my 1st cousin.”

Oh my, here we go again.

I clicked on View the Match, then clicked on the little “Info icon” to see how much DNA we shared. Debra and I share 621 centimorgans across 25 segments. According to the chart I use, that amount of shared DNA put us in an overlapping range of first cousin and first cousin one removed. I then clicked on “Shared Matches” and saw that she also matched with my Roberts half-siblings. Because I can view my half-sister’s matches, I looked at her results and saw that she and Debra share 893 centimorgans of DNA across 37 segments. Solidly in the first cousin range. For sure, Debra is a first cousin and now I knew that we share a common grandparent on my paternal side.

My grandparents, Bert Allen Roberts and Essie Pansy Barnes, had five children. The amount of DNA shared was not enough for Debra to be my half-sibling, so that ruled out my biological father, Hugh Eugene Roberts, from being involved. In subsequent messages, she indicated she knew who her mother was, so that eliminated Pansy and Helen, leaving only two potential sources for her to be a first cousin – Uncle Bert and Uncle John. Between the two, Uncle Bert was, by far, the likely candidate.

Photo of Bert Allen Roberts, Jr with two (unknown) women.
Bert Allen Roberts, Jr. and two unknown women, c. 1947.

Then, Debra let us know that her sister told her that her father’s name was Bert, but never knew his last name. Debra also sent a photo of Bert, her supposed father, from the late 1940s. My half-brother Tom knew Bert and was able to identify Uncle Bert from the picture.  Mystery solved!

So, welcome cousin Debra Edwards to the growing Roberts clan. I am so pleased you were able to identify who your father is after so many years.

So far, DNA test results have led to my learning about:


Note: I wish Family Tree Maker had a better way to indicate offspring producing relationships.  Creating a “spouse” and then set the relationship set to “Friend” or set to “Other” is cumbersome at best but doesn’t describe the relationship. Sigh….

 

 

Vinson/Vincent line of Halifax, NN

Researching the Vinson/Vincent line of Halifax, North Carolina

Howell-Darling-2017 Research
Howell/Vinson/Vincent Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

Getting to know ancestors that lived before 1850 is always difficult. The census records before 1880 do not include relationships and census records before 1850 only include the name of the head of the household. Because of that, it is really difficult to know all the names and to learn all the relationships. It isn’t a wall, but certainly researching families before 1850 can feel like a closed road.  For me, my wife’s third great-grandfather, Burkett Vinson is such a person.  He shows up once in the 1840 Census with a small household of five individuals. After a frustrating time trying to find more about him, I decided to do a name/location study regarding his surname in his location. Such a study can help associate people into relationships and can help reduce errors.

Using Family Search, I searched the 1850 Census for surname Vinson in Halifax, North Carolina. The system returned six results from two families. Both were new to my research:

  • Littleberry Vinson, Age 34, his apparent wife, an apparent daughter, Laura, and an apparent son Robert.[i]
  • Robert Vinson, Age 30, and his apparent wife, Martha.[ii]

Next, I enter the information into my software, (I currently use Family Tree Maker 3.1.) documenting my sources very carefully.

Besides the obvious family units I’ve discovered, it was also interesting to learn many of the little nuances of the individual’s lives. For example, Littleberry Vinson distinguished himself in testing at Brinkleyville Academy in 1831[iii]. He became a lawyer. Then, in 1840, he toasted vice presidential candidate John Tyler for devotion to Republican principals and support of the Constitution. That article’s use of “Esqr.” confirms that Littleberry was a lawyer. His toast suggests his political affiliation indicating that Littleberry Vinson was likely a Whig.[iv] (Harrison and Tyler ran on a Whig party ticket. Also, today’s Republican Party wasn’t established until 1854.)

Unfortunately, my experience researching this family is that Vincent and Vinson were used interchangeably depending upon the ear of the person hearing the name. Sadly, a search for “Vincent” yielded another 13 results and three new previously unknown households.

  • John Vincent, Age 32, with his apparent wife, Leonora, and three daughters, Virginia, Elizabeth, and Susan. Also in the household is a 30-year-ood Eliza Beasley. (These were my wife’s ancestor family. John is my wife’s 2nd great-grandfather and Susan is her great-grandmother.) [v]
  • Elizabeth Vincent, Age 64 with a 25-year-old Nancy Vincent in the household.  (This would be the wife and daughter of the deceased Burkett Vinson.)[vi]

New Households:

  • Michael Vincent, age 27, his apparent wife and an apparent son, Walter.[vii]
  • James Vincent, Age 19 & John Vincent, Age 16[viii]
  • Phil Vincent in the household of James Snow.[ix]

Of course, all the “apparent” relationships above are guesses. I’ll add that, because of the ages, I’ll guess that James and John (ages 19 & 16) were brothers.

Next, I need to expand upon these Vincent families and understand how they fit into the larger picture.


Endnotes

[i] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Littleberry Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina. See: 1850 Census – Lettleberry Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina.pdf. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-343.

[ii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Robert Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-XH3.

[iii] Roanoke Advocate (Halifax, NC) · 1831-11-24 · Page 2 – Various Vinsons achieve honors (Newspapers.com)

[iv] Roanoke Advocate and States Rights Banner  ((Halifax, NC), ), Newspapers.Com, 1840-07-29 · Page 4 – Volunteer Toasts – Littleberry Vinson

[v] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – John Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-QTG.

[vi] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Elizabeth Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-QTB.

[vii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Michael Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BH-BDY.

[viii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – James Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-QZ7.

[ix] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Phil Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4BC-NTY.

Harvey Nelson and the USS Mongolia

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I always enjoy a fresh, new, project. Jumping in and documenting a new tree getting to know new ancestors is my idea of fun. My client knew very little about her maternal line, so I began looking closely at her grandfather.  Certainly, I have more research to do for Harvey Nelson, however, this is a good start. Harvey was a wandering soul. Born in Wisconsin to Danish immigrants, he moved and bounced around quite a bit in his youth.  Finally, he settled down in Southern California, but still moved throughout the area living in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties.

Cassel Project 2017 – Ancestor #6

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Harvey Nelson
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Lars Nelson

Harvey Nelson (1891-1974)

Harvey (NMN) Nelson was born on 19 April 1891 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin[i].  We know he had at least five older siblings — four brothers and a sister. His parents were Lars P. Nelson and Nicoline “Lena” Larsen. Lars and Lena were born in Denmark, married in 1872, and immigrated to the United States in 1873.

  • Chris born in 1874 in Pennsylvania.
  • Ann Elizabeth born in 1878 in Wisconsin.
  • Theodore “Ted” born in 1882 in Wisconsin.
  • Emil (or Amiel) born in 1884 in Wisconsin.
  • Arthur born in 1887 in Wisconsin.
  • He certainly had another sibling whose birth and death occurred before 1900.
  • It is unclear if he had one or two more siblings. He may have had a sister, Hortense and possibly brother, R.C Nelson.

Sometime between 1891 and 1900, the family relocated to Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. They lived at 321 Kansas Ave.[ii]  Today, Realtor.com indicates the house at that address was built in 1920 so there does not appear to be a photo of the family homestead in Nebraska.

I am not sure where Harvey Nelson was during the 1910 Census. There are several Harvey Nelsons who were living in boarding houses around the country, but there are none that are clearly Harvey.

The Great War

When the Great War draft occurred in June 1917, Harvey was living at 1732 ½ Derby, Portland, Oregon. He was single, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, medium build, slightly bald, light hair, and had blue eyes[iii].

Library of Congress photo of the USS Mongolia
U.S.S. Mongolia covered with soldiers

Harvey enlisted in the Navy on 10 Oct 1917[iv] and served aboard the U.S.S. Mongolia. The S.S. Mongolia was launched on 25 July 1903 as a 616 foot, 13,369 ton, passenger/cargo liner. In March 1917, the Mongolia was chartered as an Army transport and received a self-defense armament of three 6-inch/40 caliber (150 mm) guns which were manned by U.S. Navy gun crews. It was the first American vessel to encounter, and drive off, German submarines after the US’s entry into World War I.

On 27 April 1918, the US Navy requisitioned the vessel, reconfigured her for greater troop capacity, and commissioned her on 8 May as USS Mongolia (ID-1615). She completed twelve turnarounds at an average duration of 34 days and transporting over 33,000 passengers, before being decommissioned on 11 Sept 1919.  Harvey Nelson was on board during this time.

Photo of U.S.S. Mongolia
U.S.S Mongolia – First American ship to sink a German U-Boat after the US entered the war.

Harvey wrote a letter to his sister, Mrs. William Binderup of 6320 East 44th Street, Portland, OR in July of 1918 and said:

“The new German submarine is 318 feet long and has eight-inch guns. They don’t travel alone anymore, but go in squads. They get a range on a ship then they take a chance on getting hit. It is hell when you see a bunch of four or five of them come up and you don’t know from one minute to the next how long you can float. But, we made the trip fine and dandy and are still floating. We have good gun crews, the best in the navy. We had target practice going over and every gun got four shots out of five good square hits. We worked like a lot of Trojans going over, had 4000 men and they all got sick and had a rotten time of it for a while. They were mostly drafted men. Coming back, however, we had it fine.[v]

U.S.S. Mongolia 10 April 1919

Harvey was released from Military duty on 20 August 1919. Three months later (Nov 1919), he applied for a marriage license to marry Florence Hanson.

Marriage:

It wasn’t until 17 March 1920 that Harvey and Florence (or Flora) Hansen tied the knot. Both were living in Long Beach, California. Harvey worked as a steelworker.

The young couple lived throughout southern California for the rest of their lives. Laguna Beach in 1930[vi], Los Angeles in 1940[vii], Corona Del Mar in 1942[viii], San Diego in 1960[ix], and Encino in 1974.  Harvey worked as a painter through much of his adult life.

Harvey Nelson died on 22 December, 1974 in San Diego, California. I have not been successful in finding funeral information regarding Harvey, so far.

Endnotes


[i] Los Angeles, California, Ralph Thomas Cassel – Rosalie Elizabeth Nelson – 18 Sep 1942. “California, County Marriages, 1850­1952,” database with images,: 28 November 2014), FHL microfilm 2,114,963. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8VT-K9C.; Family
[ii] 1900 Census, Family Search, Lars P Nelson – Hastings, Adams, Nebraska – ED 12, Sheet 2A. Line 1 – Accessed 2 June 2-17. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3BN-DGD.
[iii] U.S., World War I Dra  Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson – Birthdate: 19 Apr 1891. See:  U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 – Harvey Nelson.pdf. http://Ancestry.com.
[iv] U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson – Birthdate 19 Apr 1891 – No Image. http://Ancestry.com.
[v] Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), 1918-07-09 – Page 5 – Harvey Nelson. Story at bottom of 1st column. http://Newspapers.com.
[vi] 1930 Census (FS), Family Search, Harvey Nelson – Laguna Beach, Orange, California – ED 30-47, Sheet 6B. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCDK-CWL.
[vii] 1940 Census (FS), Family Search, 1940 Census – Harvey Nelson – Los Angeles, California. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9HL-VR1.
[viii] U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson. Residence 1942 – Corona Del Mar, California. http://Ancestry.com.
[ix] 1960-08-25- Ann Elizabeth (Nelson) Powers – Obit.pdf., Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California (Newspapers.Com).

We’re Related – Churchill, Gates, Disney

We’re Related – Second Look for my Wife

Famous Friday
by Don Taylor

There are new people every week using “We’re Related” so I thought I’d take another look at the three of my wife’s new matches.  My wife’s two closest matches were Winston Churchill and Bill Gates, both supposed 8th cousins. At 9th cousins, there were several matches that I had seen before when was looking at my famous cousins. It was exciting to see my wife had similar relatives to me. If my wife and I share the same cousin then she and I must also be related. I had looked at my relationship with Stephen King before and determined my relationship to him was unlikely, so I decided to look at my wife’s relationship with Walt Disney, whom I had determined was at least possible before.

 

Winston Churchill

Photo of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill is certainly one of the best-known politicians of the last century. He was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and again Prime Minister from 1951 until 1955. He is also, potentially my wife’s 7th cousin, once removed.

The relationship follows her Darling line:

I have confirmed Sally Ann Munsell as an ancestor, and I concur that Timothy and John are likely Sally Ann’s father and grandfather respectively.  I haven’t found any information about John Munsell’s parents yet. However, I suspect that the relationship is likely.

Bill Gates

Photo of Bill Gates
Bill Gates

William Henry Gates III, is, according to Wikipedia, the richest man in the world, worth about $87 Billion. “We’re Related” suggests that he is my wife’s 7th cousin, once removed. Again, this relationship follows the Darling line.

I have confirmed Abner Darling (Sr.) as an ancestor, and I concur that his mother was Mary Hakes and his grandmother was Anna Billings. I haven’t found information about Anna Billings’ parents yet. However, I suspect that the relationship is very likely.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney - 8th CousinWalter Elias Disney is a great film producer and fun maker. His creations of Disneyland and Disney World are the template for theme parks.

According to “We’re Related,” the relationship of my wife to Walt Disney is an 8th cousin, once removed. The relationship follows her Darling line:

I have confirmed Sally Ann Munsell as an ancestor, and I concur that her mother was Elisheba Smith. However, I haven’t found information about a Chadwick line for Elisheba. I judge that the relationship to be Possible.

Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.According to “We’re Related,” my lineage to (8th cousin, twice removed) Walt Disney follows a Roberts/Blackwell/Harris/Brown line to the supposed common ancestor of Benjamin Brown. I’d be a lot more comfortable that my wife and I are related if we ended up at the same supposed common ancestor, or at least see a common surname. With us coming from two entirely different directions I suspect that one (or both) of the supposed lines to Walt Disney is incorrect. As such, I judge the relationship of my connection to my wife through a common ancestor of Walt Disney to be possible but improbable.

“We’re Related” is fun and I enjoy looking at possibilities. It makes me think about key relationships in my tree and provides clues for further research.  Ancestry appears to have improved its algorithms as none of the matches this time were unlikely or impossible. I enjoy the application.