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Wann family genealogy

About once a year I get the itch to work on family genealogy of the Wann/Cox/Christy families, especially when I’d go back home over the holidays and have access to old photographs. I guess it appeals to my need to review and organize data, and to keep track of who is who. It’s mostly casual work on Ancestry, yet I try to be very careful and skeptical around the hints it provides, only use information from first party sources, and try to verify it with cross referencing against other data. It’s very easy to point and click around, accepting sources from god knows where and build out a pretty chart, but really how accurate is it?

My grandma Inez and her mother Corene have literally of thousand of family photographs between the two of them, stretching back to the 1900s. Family from all parts of the country would come visit, it seemed like they knew everybody. If you came to visit, you were having your picture taken a few times. There’s even some 8mm film of a 50th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately the vast majority of the photos are unlabeled as to who or where or when they were. Before dad died I’d pick his brain on identifying people and he did what he could, even as far as going as scanning and labeling photos himself. He admitted he wasn’t very sentimental and never looked at photos nor kept track of extended family.

Some of the photos had names written on the back, and I’d find bundles in envelopes where photos and notes were mailed to other relatives in attempts to identify the people in them. These were like gold, I brought these home to scan (front and back) to preserve them and add to the tree. But the dozens and dozens of other people in the photos, their identities are now sadly lost to time. It took a couple of years of procrastination, I finally have a couple hundred of these painstakingly scanned in now. A 1600 dpi scanner does wonders for those tiny photos from the 1920s.

Grandma was also a scrapbooker, one book was positively stuffed with newspaper clippings of relatives over the years. Another scrapbook was from her college years which had some interesting photos of people that were obviously important to her, but again no names to identify them. She had even taken a notebook and wrote a couple dozen pages on growing up.

I found one Wann family photo album that went back a couple of generations, this was also very valuable as it has the only photos I know of my [great]-great-grandparents. Dad had told me what he had heard was that when his grandpa re-married, the new wife decided to burn all of the old family photo albums. Apparently some photos survived somehow, and while I’m grateful for my grand-aunt identifying people in the photos (some names seem to be slightly off), I don’t have any other photos or information to cross-check against.

Which leads me to ambiguity of names! I already knew from previous work that people played pretty loose with names when transcribing them, copying from 80 year old documents written in cursive, and whatnot. I was focusing on my great-grandpa’s family and some poor woman’s name was spelled Paralee, Pairlee, Pairley, Pareelee, Pearly, I’m not even sure what made it on the tombstone.

In particular I’ve had a lot of people named Robert and James. I originally thought my g-g-grandfather was Robert James Jr, and his dad was Robert James Sr, but apparently the elder has James Wann on his tombstone, and some other trees imply he went by James instead of Robert. But then my g-grandfather had a sibling called “J.R.”, did this mean James Robert?  or was he a Robert, Jr.?  Some years the census form would be filled out “Robert J” and the next would be “James R” for the same person! Then there was another brother who was known as Jim, sometimes James; then a son called James, Jr. Then of course Jim had a Jim, Jr. It was all very confusing! I think I finally sorted out all the seniors and juniors, the Jims and James and Robert, until somebody tells me otherwise. James/Jim is extremely popular in that swath of the family. I’m still troubled by how somebody else has my g-g-g-grandfather as a James Sr, what is true?!

One nice thing I did this time was splurge for Newspaper.com and Newspaperarchive.com subscriptions. (Ok I signed up for 7 day trials and got sucked into a subscription). They’ve been super helpful for looking up people, although very slow and tedious going over searches. So far I have had the best results dialing in newspapers by name in an individual city and searching for the family name, or looking for a person on a statewide basis.

Through newspaper archives I’ve uncovered countless marriage/divorce/obituaries/birth announcements that Ancestry doesn’t have in their databases, and more than a few arrests and jail records. The Newspaper/Newspaperarchive collections aren’t very complete, I often find myself searching both of them and finding news articles in one that isn’t in the other website. This is also how I found out the Kinta State Bank once had it’s vault blasted by dynamite and robbed in the 1920s, I thought this was only a movie trope. I’ve found a Bryan William Wann that was here in California in the 40s who was constantly in jail for this or that, ranging from vagrancy, selling liquor, failure to pay fines, breaking the peace in Santa Cruz, to concealed carry of a weapon.

Right now I’m mostly focusing on people alive in in the 1930s-2000s, as that’s the best information I have. I have seen several other people more serious and trying to trace our families back all the way to Europe in the 1600s. I will happily let them do that work, they seem much better equipped than me to do it. Best I can tell everyone kind of winds up at Wann in the late 1600s, either being English or Irish.

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