Thursday, February 9, 2012

Honoring Pearl (DeZarn) Willoughby

Pearl DeZarn (25 Jan 1944)
Today is the 87th anniversary of the birth of my husband's mother, Pearl (DeZarn) Willoughby. She's been gone from this world for 28 years now and Michael still misses her every single day.

Pearl was born in Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana on 9 February 1925 to Frederick "Fred" and Nannie (Gambrell) DeZarn. Pearl would be the second of four children: an older sister Lavadia Eris "Boots" born in 18 May 1923 in Clay County, Kentucky, a younger sister Nancy born in Ohio, and a younger brother Raymond Louis born 11 April 1933 in Williamstown, Grant County, Kentucky. Michael's middle name is Ray after his uncle.

Despite Ray's birth in Kentucky, the DeZarn family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tragedy struck in 1938 when Pearl's mother passed away on 3 September. Pearl was only 13. I can't imagine what it must be like to lose your mother at such a tender age.

I don't know exactly when or where Pearl met James "Jim" Willoughby (born 16 May 1911 in Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky) also living in Cincinnati (hopefully the 1940 US Federal Census will help to clear that up). Jim and Pearl were married on 10 August 1945 in Cincinnati. Jim was a widower and Pearl would become the step-mother of Jim's daughter Loretta (born 14 June 1932) who was also age 13 when her mother died.

Somewhere between 1945 and 1948, Jim and Pearl would leave Cincinnati for Houston, Texas. Jim would find work as a machinist and all three of their children would be born there.

Jim and Pearl (date and place unknown)
Michael is the oldest of the three children, followed by Juanita a couple of years later and Perry born 29 November 1962. Pearl's brother Ray had also moved to Houston by the early 1960s. Michael remembers his Uncle Ray living with them for most of his childhood. Pearl would often return to the Cincinnati, OH/Covington, KY area to visit her sister Nancy. Nancy is still living and loves to talk about Pearl, often remembering how close they were, how lovely Pearl's hair was, how much she loved her. The DeZarn children would lose their father in 1966 and their oldest sister "Boots" in 1969.

Fred DeZarn and Pearl Willoughby with Nancy's children, ca. 1951
One of Michael's favorite early memories of his mother is of her baking in the kitchen. He loved to help her mix the batter in the bowl and to lick the spoon afterwards. He remembers being read nursery rhymes, and going to the corner store for her.

Jim would lose his battle with leukemia in 1978, five months shy of their 33rd wedding anniversary. Pearl would become a grandmother for the first time in January of 1979. By the end of March 1982, she would have five grandchildren: 2 girls and a boy for Michael; 2 girls for Perry. I wish she could have lived to see her youngest grandchildren, our children, Laura and Zechariah.

Pearl's health was not very good towards the end of her life; she had smoked most of her life and was no stranger to alcohol. Her body finally gave out and she passed away at her home on 6 January 1984. She was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Houston, not far from her husband.

Grave Marker for Pearl Willoughby
Michael with Zechariah and Laura
Even though Pearl is not with us anymore, I swear I can feel her presence, usually in the kitchen when I'm cooking. Which is weird because we've never met. But I can feel her standing there on my right, just a little behind me, and I feel like she's giving me pointers and suggestions as I cook. I've been cooking a long time now so it's not like I don't know how. I think it's because I'm cooking for her son and she's helping me to get it "just right".

So many times when I look at Laura, I can see Pearl. It's in Laura's hair (that infamous hair), her cheekbones, her eyes. Even the whiteness of Laura's skin. Not to mention that headstrong, insistent personality. Pearl is with us, of this I am sure.

Happy Birthday, Pearl. You will always be in our thoughts, forever in our hearts.

Love, Niecey

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Mystery of the Two Surnames

Just before the holidays, I "met" a new cousin, Diane, who had sent me an email saying that she was researching her grandmother's family and had come across one of my trees on On my tree is my grand-uncle Gerhard Herman Demut (1921-2010). Gerhard was my Granddaddy's younger brother.

Diane went on to say that Gerhard and her grandmother were related, and was very fond of Gerhard,  but she wasn't sure of the full relationship between the families. Then she said that her grandmother's mother was Maria "Mary" (Muller/Mueller) Kroll and she had thought that Gerhard and my Granddaddy (Arthur) had been half-brothers.

Connecting with Diane brought my research back to my paternal side of the family. As far as I know and according to the documents I have, both Gerhard and Arthur had the same father, Theodore. Maybe the reason why Diane thought they were half-brothers is because Arthur's surname was Spedowfski and Gerhard's was Demut.

This is the mystery I am working on at the moment -- Theodore, his wife Martha, their 3 children and why there were two surnames. It appears that my Great-Grandfather also used the Demut surname at various times during his life, and his death certificate records his name as "Theodore Spedowfski aka Demut". Martha's death certificate records her as "Martha Ida Spedowfski" and underneath as "Martha Ida Demut".

Here are the names for Theodore on various documents I have found so far:
  • "Theod Spidowski" on both the Hamburg departure passenger list (1) and the New York arrival passenger list (2)
  • "Theodore Spedowfsky" on indexed marriage record (3) to Martha Muller; his parents are listed as Herman Spedowfsky and Louise Demut.
  • "Theodore Spedowpky" on birth certificate (4) for son Arthur Theodore Spedowpky. 
  • "Theodore Spedowfski" on World War I Draft Registration Card (5).
  • "Theo Demut", also wife Martha, in 1917 San Francisco City Directory (6).
  • "Demut" surname for father on indexed death record (7) of daughter, Mildred Beatrice (Demut) Kirby.
  • "Theo Demut", also wife Martha, in 1918 San Francisco City Directory (8).
  • "Theo Spedowsky", also wife Martha, in 1919 San Francisco City Directory (9).
  • "Theodore Spedwoffki" on 1920 US Federal Census Record (10), with wife Martha, son Theodore and daughter Mildred.
  • "Demut" surname for son Gerhard on indexed birth record (11), U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Record (12), and indexed Social Security death record (13).
  • "Theodore Spedowfski" on 1930 US Federal Census Record (14), with wife Martha, son Theodore, daughter Mildred, son Gerhard.
  • "Theodore Spedowfski" on World War II Draft Registration Card (15).
  • "Theodore Spedowfski", listed as spouse, on death certificate (16) for Martha Ida Spedowfski aka Martha Ida Demut.
  • "Theodore Spedowfski aka Demut" on his death certificate (17).

It is very interesting to me that my great-grandfather used the "Spedowfsky/Spedowfski" surname on all Federal documents but apparently went by the "Demut" surname in city directories. I am also curious as to why his oldest child received the "Spedowfski" surname and his youngest two children were given the "Demut" surname.

I'm hoping additional research and joining forces with Diane will uncover the mystery of my great-grandfather and his two surnames.

~ Niecey

(1) > Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 > 1890-1900 > Direct Volume 100, October 1, 1898 - 31 Dec 1898 > Image 47 > Line 10
(2) > New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 > 1898 > October > 29 > Auguste Victoria > Image 10 > Line 2
(3) > California, County Marriages, 1850-1952 > Film Number 1405837 > Digital Folder Number > 4640217 > Image Number 00459 and 00460
     Marriage License #29674 > Photocopy privately held by author
(4) Birth Certificate of Arthur Theodore Spedowpky #5744, 21 Sept 1914, San Francisco, San Francisco County, California; photocopy privately held by author
(5) > World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 > California > San Francisco > 3 > Image 925
(6) > All Titles > City Directories > California > Publication: City Directories-San Francisco > 1917 > Page 607 > Image #208427863
(7) > California Death Index, 1940-1997 > Place: San Joaquin > Date 24 May 1994 > Mildred Beatrice Kirby (born 17 Jan 1918)
(8) > All Titles > City Directories > California > Publication: City Directories-San Francisco > 1918 > Page 527 > Image #194249571
(9) > All Titles > City Directories > California > Publication: City Directories-San Francisco > 1919 > Page 1532 > Image #202155377
(10) > 1920 United States Federal Census Record > California > Alameda > Oakland > District 140 > Image 17 > Lines 17-20 
(11) > California Birth Index, 1905-1995 > Birth County: Alameda > Birthdate: 30 Jun 1921 > Demut
(12) > U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 (NARA)
(13) > Social Security Death Index, Master File > Issue State: California > Issue Date: Before 1951 > Gerhard Herman Demut
(14) > 1930 United States Federal Census Record > California > Alameda > Oakland > District 189 > Image 55 > Lines 14-18
(15) > U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (NARA) > California > S > Palmer, Alfred Flock - Zwaal, Lolke > Image 464
(16) Death Certificate of Martha I. Spedowfski #6015-4890, 21 Aug 1962, Oakland, Alameda County, California; photocopy privately held by author
(17) Death Certificate of Theodore Spedowfski # 3900-1953, 6 Nov 1962, Stockton, San Joaquin County, California; photocopy privately held by author