Half of Southern California consists of mountains and deserts. The other half is where the people live. 24 million of them in 2020. 21 million in 2003. What used to be a land of a thousand towns and villages is now one big metropolitan area stretching from San Diego on the Mexican border to Santa Barbara 218 miles up the Pacific coast. In August of 2003 we embarked on a one-week roadtrip to see if we could find the descendants of Everett and Mabel Dwyer among those 21 millions. Well, we really did some homework before we set out, making a number of phone calls, writing a couple of letters and sending out numerous email messages before we left our home in Northern California. So we weren’t just driving blindly. But did we drive!
I got interested in my personal genealogy back in the 90s and after retiring in January, 1997 I soon fell into the groove of visiting local libraries and archives to find the story of my Dwyers — where they lived and when they died. That was fine as long as they lived and died in the SF Bay Area. But my grandfather’s little brother Everett and his wife Mabel settled in southern California and their obituaries were gathering dust in the LA Times microfilm collection at the LA Central Library. I knew I would have to go there someday to connect the story of Everett to all the other members of The Dwyers of San Francisco. That someday finally came during the summer of 2003.
Becky Munoz, one of my wife’s best friends from Guam, became seriously ill that Spring and had to be flown to LA to receive special care at Good Samaritan Hospital. And so we began to make plans. Bennette would spend some time with Becky and her relatives and I would walk over to LA Central Library just a few blocks away and get my research done.
As it turned out, Becky was to be discharged the day we arrived and so we picked her up at Good Sam and drove her and her husband Frank to Long Beach to visit some cousins and then to Oxnard where Becky would be staying with her sister for a few days before returning to Guam. The next day Bennette stayed in Oxnard with Becky and her relatives and I drove back to LA to search for Everett.
Those microfilm reels were treasure chests and I obtained a wealth of knowledge on Everett and his family. Obituaries are often considered among the most important sources for genealogical data. Almost all obituaries contain the exact date of death and usually also mention the date and place of burial. But they also almost always include the names of family members, including the married names of female children. Without that knowledge it is almost impossible to go forward and gather the genealogy for the next generation. I discovered that day that Everett and Mabel’s daughter Margaret married a fellow by the name of George Sweeney and I found their obituaries, too, as well as the names of their children. I also browsed a few city directories and phone books and found the address for George D Sweeney in Pasadena. George would become the key to open all the doors in my search for Everett. He gave me some names and phone numbers and those I contacted gave me more names, more phone numbers, more email addresses. I had no idea that my search for Everett would be so successful!
We drove home the next day and I started to work on my list of long-lost relatives and we began to plan our return to southern California to meet as many of Everett’s descendants as we could. I will tell the story of that trip in my next post — The Search for Everett, Part Three. Stay tuned.
In the summer of 2003 Bennette and I packed up and drove down to southern California on our genealogical quest of the year: to see if we could find any descendants of my grandfather’s brother Everett who moved with his family to Los Angeles more than a hundred years previously. Soon we would discover that this search for contact between North and South actually began 26 years before our trip when Dot Byrne, one of Everett’s five children and my Dad’s first cousin, wrote a letter to Dad requesting some family history information. I was still in my 30s in those days and not yet interested in my family history and never knew of this letter or my Dad’s eventual reply the following January. A couple of years after our search for Everett I went through a box of my Dad’s papers and found Dot’s letter.Continue reading “The Search for Everett, Part One”
I posted this little story on my other blog nine years ago and thought I would include it on my new website, too. It was one of my Dad’s favorite stories. Mine, too.
My Dad moved to St. Emydius parish in San Francisco when he was 8 years old and he lived with his sister and parents there on Westwood Drive until he and Mom married in 1936. Dad was very friendly with the priests of St. Emydius during the 30s, especially Father (later Monsignor) Leo Powleson, and the two shared a great interest in college football and professional baseball. In those days Catholics used to go to confession every week or so and Dad would often try to disguise his voice so the priest wouldn’t recognize him. One Saturday afternoon Dad felt pretty smug with his fake voice as he exited the confessional and began to kneel at a nearby pew to say his three Hail Marys when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Father Powleson! “Hey Don,” he whispered, “What’s the score of the Notre Dame game?”
I joined the U.S. Army Reserves when I was 17 and every Monday night for the next six years I traveled to Crissy Field in the Presidio of San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge to attend a Reserve meeting. Well, the Army left the Presidio in 1994 and Crissy Field was restored by the National Parks Service and is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
A few years ago I drove across the Bay for a Crissy Field get-together with three of my siblings who still live on the west side of the Bay. In fact, Jim and Joan still live in San Francisco while Betty resides in nearby Millbrae.
Our youngest sister Marie wasn’t available that day because she lives in Alaska. Most years she comes down once or twice but we haven’t seen her in person this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all still see each other virtually via monthly Zoom sessions, though.
I’m sure glad the Army left the Presidio. Now we have a beautiful urban National Park!
I posted this on my other blog in 2010.
During the parade and celebration today (in case you haven’t heard, the Giants won the World Series!) I thought of my Dad. Don Dwyer was a die-hard Giants fan for 42 years but he died in 2000, ten years too early to ever witness a world championship.
Dad loved baseball. In his youth he read all of the Ralph Henry Barbour books about Baseball Joe and when I turned ten he gave them to me and I read them, too. For the first 48 years of his life my Dad was a Seals fan. His father took him to Recreation Park to see his first Seals game when he was eight years old. Pretty soon he was going to a game just about every Saturday. And when the Seals were away he would go and watch the Mission Reds play.
He used to reminisce about the times when his Uncle…
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