Wednesday, February 29, 2012


          According to an old Irish legend, Saint Bridget made a deal with Saint Patrick that would allow for women to propose to men on Leap Day (February 29th).  A man had to pay a penalty if he refused a woman’s proposition of marriage on this day. Now, I don’t know if any of the women in my family took advantage of this Irish legend, but I do know that we had a Leap Day Baby among my ancestors. 

          My paternal grandfather Charlie had a half brother named Joseph Gary.  Joseph was born on Leap Day in 1912 to Bridget Elizabeth Chambers (Charlie’s mom) and her husband Joseph Francis Gary.  At the time of his birth at their home (located at 310 Huron), the father Joseph was 28 years old and employed as a caulker for the city of Chicago and Bridget (his mother) was 35 years old.  Joseph was Elizabeth’s 5th child but only her 2nd living one. 

          Joseph Gary married a woman named Jessica.  I haven’t had any luck finding out her maiden name, where she was born, etc.  However, I did have the opportunity to meet her several times as a child.  She was a very nice woman.  I can’t find Joseph in the 1930’s census so I am definitely hoping that I have much better luck with the 1940’s census.

          Joseph and Jessica (or Jesse as she was known to us) lived in Glendale, California.  I found them in several city directories of Glendale in the 1950’s.  In the 1953 directory, it listed Joe as an “armature winder”.  Okay, definitely needed to look up that one and found that it meant his job was to locate the broken part of an electric motor (and more specifically its coils) and to repair or replace it. In the 1954 directory, his job was listed as electrical repair and then machine operator in 1955.    Then from 1958 to 1960, he was a gardener for the Board of Education.  

          Joseph died on March 6, 1974 in Glendale, California.   His funeral was held at the Holy Family Catholic Church.  He was buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. 

          In the above photo, Uncle Joe is the man sitting at the bottom of the photo, while his wife Aunt Jesse is the hair with the white hair in the rear left.   I remember my Dad and Grandpa Charlie always making a big deal about Uncle Joe’s birthday.   They thought it was utterly fascinating that he only had a birthday every 4 years.   So, even though in 1972, he was 60 years old, he really had only celebrated 15 birthdays.  

          Happy Birthday, Uncle Joe, who if still alive, would be celebrating his 100th birthday today and only his 25th actual birthday celebration! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Religious Calling -- Nature vs. Nurture

          Growing up I knew that several of my distant relatives were priests.  In my baby book, there was a copy of a handwritten letter from a Reverend Bernard Tobin, welcoming me into the world.  I also had heard of a Father John Baggarly, who was supposedly a relative of ours.  I didn’t know how they were related to us, but being a Roman Catholic myself, thought it was rather cool to have a few priests as relatives.  

          After getting interested in genealogy, one of my quests was to find out how these “men of the cloth” were related to me.  When I received a copy of the family history of the Chambers from my cousin Betsy, it spelled out quite nicely how Father Baggarly was related.  We were 2nd cousins, once removed. 

          I then asked my cousin Kevin, who had known Father Tobin personally how we were related and his answer was “on Grandma Sherlock’s side”, which wasn’t very specific.  I didn’t realize how unspecific that answer was until I started researching the Homrich’s and Nebgen’s and found out that probably a third of the state of Michigan was somehow related to them, but of course, that is for another post. 

          However, researching my German ancestors, I did come across a family – the parents were Bernard Homrich and Ella Valley – who had 2 children who joined religious orders.  One daughter became a nun and one of their sons was a priest, serving as a missionary in Bangladesh.  This got me thinking about the whole nature vs. nurture argument (okay, I did earn a BA in Psychology which may make me more likely to think this way) and how did it relate to religious orders.  Perhaps, it was much less genes and much more the atmosphere and environment provided by these two parents.  

          Finally, two weeks ago, I did figure out how I was related to Father Bernard Tobin, which made me very happy.  We are half second cousins, once removed.  My great great  (or is great x2) grandfather and his great grandfather were the same person.   I was surprised, however, to find that several of Bernard’s siblings were either nuns or priests.  In fact, of Rose Schmidt’s and Joseph Tobin’s ten children, five of them heard the calling to join a religious order.  Both Bernard and his brother Gerald became Redemptorist priests.  Gerald served as a missionary in the Brazilian jungles while Bernard served as a priest in a parish in Fresno, California.  Another brother, Francis, served as a priest in Oakland and Fresno, California.  Two of Bernard’s sisters served as nuns – Sr. Rose in Panama and Guatemala and Sr. Lorraine in Michigan.  

          I am trying to imagine the type of family life that would encourage and foster five of their children to accept the calling for religious life.  It must have been a very loving, giving and supportive family and one that encouraged service to others.  I am proud to be related to them and am continuing my search to see “what else I can dig up”.