Month: September 2013

Grampy Otto

I have a few overriding memories of my grampy.

The first is that of his sneezes – they came from nowhere and rocked the room, scaring the bejesus out of me as a child.

The second is of my gran calling him “Frizzel” – a term of endearment created from his surname.

As mentioned in a previous post, I grew up knowing that he was German and had been a POW – which is how he’d met my grandmother. I also knew that his family were from what was the German Democratic Republic from 1949 to 1990 so communication was … limited.

I never asked him about his childhood in Germany, where he was from or what he did in WWII. One of the many regrets that haunt the background of genealogy. “I should’ve asked … Why didn’t I … If only …”

I do have a few bits and pieces, from here and there, that I’m going to share.

As previously mentioned, I had ordered a copy of Otto and Eva’s marriage certificate, and this showed his father was Laudislaus Frysol, a Parish Nightwatchman.

Erich Otto Frysol

Erich Otto Frysol

One of my uncles has Otto’s Reichspass, and from there I was able to add to what I know.

Erich Otto Frysol was born on 01 March 1921 in Paproc, Poland. Had he been born three years earlier, he would’ve been a subject of the Prussian Province of Posen. It wasn’t until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that the area came back under Polish control, and the final borders of Poland weren’t ratified until 1921. Germany once again invaded Poland in September 1939, and he became a subject of the Third Reich.

Two younger sisters were born – presumably also in Paproc: Luise Elfride Gisela Frysol in 1925 and Martha Luise Frysol in 1933.

I wrote to a niece of Otto, a daughter of his sister Martha (known as Luise – Luise was known as Gisela), who confirmed that their parents were Ladislas Frysol and Anna Gleissner. Ladislas was one of four children, and Anna had 11 siblings. She was also able to give me the names and details of her own branch of the family. The elder sister married an older man but never had children of her own.

Descendant Chart for Ladislas Frysol

Descendant Chart for Ladislas Frysol

Knowing that Otto had been a POW in England during WWII, in 2008 I wrote to the International Committee of the Red Cross, asking for their assistance. Unfortunately they didn’t have anything in their files, but suggested I contact the Deutsche Dienstelle (WASt) in Berlin.

They maintain the records of members of the former German armed forces who were killed in action. Formerly called the Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle (WASt) this agency also provides information about the fate of foreign and German soldiers as well as prisoners of war in Germany.

I received a letter back, stating that they had information regarding his military career in the Navy.

Service Period: 15 February 1943 – 08 May 1945 (date of German surrender)

For the first 3 months, he was a recruit, at first in Buxtehude, Lower Saxony, and then at the garrison in Husum, Nord-Friesland. This was for the 2 and then 18. Schiffsstammabteiling (essentially personnel training and depot units, recruits received their basic military and nautical training).

06 May 1943 – 15 August 1943 – Training for the Stützpunktabteilung (“Base Department”) in Cuxhaven, at the mouth of the Elbe River.

16 August 1943 – 26 November 1943 – Harbour Protection Flotilla Gironde. The object of the flotilla was to monitor and secure the coastal zone , such as mine clearance , outpost and escort duties. From mid- 1943, the existing port protection flotillas were resolved to saving personnel.

27 November 1943 – 28 February 1944 – Transferred to “Headquarters Company” in Paris, Personalbereitstellung ‘Porterage Service’.

29 February 1944 – 08 May 1945 – Hafenkommandant St Malo bzw Festung Kanalinseln – which I think (well, Google thinks) translates as “Port Commander St Malo or Fortress Channel Islands”.

Looking at the awards he received, there are two.

The first has no date marked, but was received for: “War Badge for mine detection, U-boat-hunting and security associations”. The second was received on 23 August 1944 and was the Wound Badge (Black).

German Wound Badge in Black

German Wound Badge in Black

These were awarded when a member of the German Armed Forces was either frostbitten in the line of duty or wounded by enemy action. The badge had three classes: black (3rd class, representing Iron), for those wounded once or twice by hostile action (including air raids), or frostbitten in the line of duty; silver (2nd class) for being wounded three or four times, or suffering loss of a hand, foot or eye from hostile action (also partial loss of hearing), facial disfigurement or brain damage via hostile action; and in gold (1st class, which could be awarded posthumously) for five or more times wounded, total blindness, “loss of manhood”, or severe brain damage via hostile action.

Family lore has it that Otto was wounded whilst in St Malo. Given the dates, it would appear that he was not wounded in the battle for the liberation of St Malo, which was completed on 18 August 1944, but may have been located on Ile Cézembre – a fortified island off of St Malo that was part of the Atlantic Wall. It was heavily bombarded by land artillery, naval artillery, and air strikes, including some of the first uses of napalm bombs. The island eventually capitulated on 2 September 1944.

The letter ends by saying:

Your grandfather became on 08 May, 1945 in British captivity, from which he was released on 31 December, 1948.

Was he captured in St Malo? The date of his Wound Badge seem to indicate he was around that area at the time of the Normandy invasion, and the number of German POWs in the UK increased dramatically at this time, or was he not taken until the end of the war, as the letter seems to infer? Difficult to say for sure either way.

I do know that he was one of the over 400,000 German POWs held in Britain by 1946, and one of the 170,000 POWs undertaking agricultural work. It was through this work, working on farms in Wiltshire, that he first met my grandmother, Eva.

Following the end of the war:

“… many prisoners were soon on their way back home but a programme of re-education was devised to supposedly prepare the prisoners for a new life in a different Germany. The full horrors of the Holocaust were put on show and one prisoner who was at the time a hard-line Nazi remembers that many of his comrades did not believe that the Holocaust had taken place,  thinking it was British propaganda designed to shame the German people even more. This process of re-education determined whether a prisoner would be sent home early or not and interviews took place to determine the prisoners attitude. Many who at first showed contempt for the British realised that the war was now over and the only way to secure their release was to change their attitude. Many did and the first repatriations took place in 1946. Some were less flexible however and at these interviews (which took place every six months) would show their loyalty to the Nazi regime by marching in to the interrogation room and giving a Nazi salute to the British officer present which would mean a further six months in captivity.”

The last prisoner repatriations took place in 1949 but approximately 25,000 prisoners decided to stay in Britain where they became known as “DPs” or displaced persons. Others married local girls and stayed in Britain.

Otto and Young Veronica, Easton Royal

Otto and Young Veronica, Easton Royal

Whatever his reasons, Otto also remained in Britain and married Eva in 1953.

Do I wish he and I could have spoken about what had happened to him? Yes.

Do I understand why we didn’t? Definitely.

I’d still like to know more about the Frysol family. The only extant ones with that spelling I can find in records online are all my family. One of the items on my genealogy To Do list is to employ a Polish researcher to find any baptism records for Otto and his sisters to gain a fuller understanding of his family unit, and then work backwards from there.

Until then … this one’s for you, Grampy.

Otto and Veronica, Wedding 1967

Otto and Veronica, Wedding 1967




There are a lot of plants I don’t like. Ornamental cabbage, hollyhocks, begonias, chrysanthemums, ranunculus, impatiens and dahlias spring to mind all-too readily, but I’m sure if I put my mind to it then there are others that promote nothing but ire in me (if you like them, good for you – just don’t expect me to gush over them for your benefit).

There are also plants that I used to like and now don’t (pansies) and – possibly rarer still – those plants I used to dislike that are now bosom buddies. Such as the heucheras (incidentally, I’m including heucherellas -hybridised offspring of heuchera and tiarella- in that nomenclature).

The genus Heuchera are herbaceous perennial plants in the family Saxifragaceae, all native to North America. They are tough, will tolerate and even thrive in a semi-shaded position and they are not pH sensitive. Quite importantly for me in my garden, Heuchera are not attacked by slugs or snails (whether they enjoy being alternately dug up or urinated on by cats remains to be seen …). They are predominantly grown for their striking foliage (further hybridisations by commercial growers create new colours almost every year), and the leaf colour may also change in response to lower temperatures, giving rise to dramatic autumn highlights. Heuchera can grow out of the ground over time, but lifting and replanting deeper will re-invigorate old plants.

Something I didn’t know was that Heuchera are resistant to the chemical juglone produced by walnut trees to suppress vegetation beneath the canopy.

Other fun facts include that many native North American people used it medicinally. The Tlingit used H. glabra as a remedy for inflammation of the testicles caused by syphilis. To the Navajo, H. novamexicana was a panacea and a pain reliever. The roots of H. cylindrica had a variety of medicinal uses among the Blackfoot, Flathead, Kutenai, Okanagan, Colville, and Shuswap. Needless to say I am not advocating self-medication using any of the above …

There shade-loving and evergreen attributes are what made me look them over again when I was researching plants to go into the ‘shady border’. A trip to a garden centre later and I was the proud owner of three Palace Purple.


Palace Purple, June 2013

Palace Purple, June 2013

As you can see in the above photo, they were joined by a number of other plants – including a pair of misplaced Japanese anemones,  Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’, two Convallaria majalis (Lily of the valley) and a number of annuals at the front. The trunk to the right of the picture is of a lilac (probably Syringa vulgaris) and the main cause of the shade here (the other being the privet hedge to the rear of the border – tragically untrimmed by the neighbours).

A month later and they had definitely settled in …

Palace Purple, July 2013

Palace Purple, July 2013

Following the removal of the honeysuckle plant (you can just make it out on the left in the top photo), and a reshuffle (and addition) of plants, a visit to the garden section of a local farm shop saw me purchase another. This was Cherry Cola.

And then came another three …  Sugar Berry, Tapestry and Lime Marmalade…

These are now all happily ensconced in the enlarged shady border and, following a recent phone call from my mother, will be joined by another five in October: Caramel, Paris, Lime Rickey, Kimono and Obsidian.

Where are they going to go? I have no idea. But they’ll go somewhere … even if its a bit of a squish!


Dom and the Dinosaurs

I suppose that I should really suck it up and out myself.

I like dinosaurs.

I possibly more than like them, and it goes wider than just ‘dinosaurs’ – stretching into all kinds of prehistoric beasties.

I should also say that I am firmly in the “BAD” camp – that is, birds are dinosaurs. Not ‘possibly’, not ‘maybe’, not ‘common ancestor’ … birds are dinosaurs. No debate here. (Slightly scary that I just typed ‘birds are dinosaurs’ into Google and one of the auto-suggestions was ‘birds are mammals’.)

Why Birds Are Dinosaurs

Why Birds Are Dinosaurs

To quote the guy who made that drawing:

Telling “dinosaurs” and “birds” apart is as ridiculous as telling “amphibians” and “frogs” apart. It’s physically and logically impossible. But can you tell “frogs” and “salamanders” apart? Certainly.

I genuinely don’t want to turn this into a BAD rant (or an anti-BAND rant) so I’ll leave it there …

I’m not sure quite why the usual childhood fascination with prehistoric life remained with me through to adulthood, but it did, and it is firmly entrenched. Up to the point where I take a MOOC (massive open online course) in dinosaur paleobiology), and the recent artwork …

It fascinates me.

I think it stems from the same place, in a way, as my love of family history. Its about wanting to know what comes before, the journey, how things came to have the forms that they do now, and also why they don’t have any of the other myriad forms that have gone before.

When I was little, my favourite dinosaur was either Diplodocus or Styracosaurus, although I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a suitable reason for either of those. Possibly aged 8 it would’ve been something like “coz they’re cool”. Which is honest, if not very eloquent –  it took me a few more years to master ‘parietosquamosal frill’, for example.

Close-up of the AM5372 skull, American Museum of Natural History

Close-up of the AM5372 skull, American Museum of Natural History

Nowadays? I don’t think that I would be able to give you an answer. Or at least not a succinct one. I always get cheesed off when browsing palaeoart sites because people tend to focus so much on the “sexy” dinosaurs. That is, predominantly the Maniraptoriformes. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot to get excited about here – but it seems its like these get all the attention, and have been since JP came out. Those and Tyrannosaurus rex.

I quite like Poposaurus (which is not a dinosaur – its a pseudosuchian archosaur therefore more closely related to living crocodiles), but mainly for its name. Abelisaurs also fascinate me slightly, with their vastly reduced – atrophied, almost vestigial – forelimbs and hatchet-shaped skulls.

Therizinosaurs also have to be on the list somewhere. Yes, they’re maniraptoran theropods – but giant, herbivorous ones. Despite the whacking great claws …

Replica of a fossil claw of Therizinosaurus cheloniformis. Found in the Upper Cretaceous Nemegt Formation (about 70 million years old), Mongolia. Collection of the Sauriermuseum Aathal, Aathal, Switzerland.

Replica of a fossil claw of Therizinosaurus cheloniformis. Found in the Upper Cretaceous Nemegt Formation (about 70 million years old), Mongolia. Collection of the Sauriermuseum Aathal, Aathal, Switzerland.

Its still not an answer, is it? Eesh. You know, I don’t think I can. Especially if you factor in all the awesome pre-Dinosauria creatures, and then all the fantastic ones that have come since …

So I’m going to end with a link to one of my favourite dinosaur blogs at the moment – Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs. In their own words, the guys who run it state:

Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs is a fairly frequently updated blog about dinosaurs. It’s been going since the summer of 2009, including regular features like Vintage Dinosaur Art, sharing visions of the Mesozoic by paleoart icons as well as jobbing illustrators working on obscure books, and frequent roundups of dinosaur news and blogosphere action called Mesozoic Miscellany.

Personally, I love it more for the Vintage Dinosaur Art (one of which I was able to submit) postings – showing how the representation of dinosaurs has altered through the Dinosaur Renaissance of the last couple of decades. That’s not to say terrible outdated renditions don’t still crop up from time to time, including the same old recycled memes, but to a far lesser degree than the standards of the 1960s, 70s and even the 80s. Check it out, its a lot of fun.

Then and Now … Sort Of …

As I mentioned in a previous post, Green(ish) Fingers, my garden runs approximately 300′ in a north-south orientation, with the house at the southern end. It also slopes somewhat, with the ‘bottom’ of the slope nearest the house. The natural rise is probably about a metre or so, with the steepest part of the rise again fairly close to the house. The ground where I live is predominantly clay. Close to the house, you don’t have to go down more than a few inches before you reach thick globs of the stuff. Luckily fairly quickly the upward slope gives an all-important extra couple of inches of topsoil.

I don’t mind clay soils. Given the right treatment (i.e. plenty of organic material) they can be worked okay, and are often very fertile. Looking at other gardens around here, clearly nobody has any major issues with what they can grow!

I thought I’d share a few photos of ‘then and now’ to show the large-scale changes in the garden over the past 16 months or so. This set of photos were all taken within a week of us moving in – end of May/early June 2012.

These are some shots of the similar views taken in September 2013:

We moved in with a few pre-existing ‘features’ which have either been improved, moved or, ahem, removed. There’s a small bed at the edge of the patio, leading up into the garden (currently mostly herbs – including a lemon balm which my mother swears will take over the world and possibly murder us all in our beds like some sort of vindictive triffid). Then a little further up the garden, on the left is a strange bed. The two ends are anchored with a sawn-off fir tree (not done by us, I add) and a lilac. In the middle of these used to be a honeysuckle. It was an old plant and very woody in the bottom. It had been grown up a single post (why would you do this to a climber??) and the top had become a messy nest of old growth that the fresh tendrils wrapped around and around. For the past two summers this (and the honeysuckle growing along the fence elsewhere in the garden) suffered terribly from some kind of blight. So much so that I decided to put the plant out of its suffering and pulled it up, post and all. This part of the garden now makes up my main border and the ‘shady border’. More on that at a later date …

Cater-corner to the lilac is another bed (known as the ‘half-moon bed’ for possible obvious reasons). Then right up at the top of the main section of the garden we have another planter, this time smaller than the one that held the potatoes. Opposite this is a raised bed. Then there’s the shed, and a gated fence across. Behind this is the last third of the garden – currently I haven’t really touched this section other than having the grass cut a few times a year, although there is an apple tree up there. (Kindly ignore the dead plant … it was a sweet rocket that became covered in caterpillars so I moved it to allow them their munchies.)

North, top 'third' of the garden

North, top ‘third’ of the garden

The main thing we inherited in our garden was a large amount of forget-me-not (Myosotis) that grew everywhere with wild abandon. I’m not saying that its not pretty – it is – but its sheer fecundity in my garden has made it a real pest. Despite pulling it up before it has a chance to set seed, I am still pulling up seedlings today.

In future posts I’ll talk about some of the specific borders and areas and how they’ve changed, and plans for the future!

Grandfather Stanfield … er, Payne … er, Tisdale …

So now I’ll turn my attention to the search for my father’s father, which in a lot of ways was easier than looking into my other grandfather’s family.

My mother had for a long time kept a letter that had belonged to my father’s mother, Norah, and had been written by a lady called Geneva. The letter talked about “Bob” wanting to keep in contact with his son. From this letter I learned a couple of important things – that my father’s father was Robert Stanfield, that he’d married after the war to a lady called Geneva, and also a geographic area of the USA in which to concentrate any searches – Battle Creek, Michigan.

Upon researching this town, I emailed the town library to ask if they could help in locating Robert or Geneva. I initially received a response stating that a search had been conducted and there was information from the 1930 census, that Robert was drafted in 1941, and that in the 1949 city directory he was listed with his wife Geneva. No obituaries could be found for either Robert or Geneva.

Four days later I received another email from the librarian, stating that he’d managed to find an obituary for Robert in the Battle Creek Enquirer from 1969. This confirmed he was a veteran of WWII, and had been a self-employed truck operator, hauling mobile home trailers. It also stated that he’d been a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, and went on to list details of his family. A final email then arrived with the address of someone with the same surname living in the same town.

After some careful thought, I sent a letter to this person, explaining who I was and who I was looking for. I didn’t know if I’d get a positive reply, if any at all.

It was a surprise, therefore, when roughly a month later I received a letter from Geneva, the lady mentioned in the librarian’s first email and in the obituary. Reading the letter, I was immediately struck by the sincerity and warmth of this lady in sharing memories of her husband. Geneva wrote that she’d known about Bob’s English son, and there were also a number of photos included with the letter.

It turns out that the gentleman I had sent the letter to originally had been a cousin of Bob’s who had passed away some years before. His widow had worked with the Kellogg factory in Battle Creek with Geneva, and passed along the letter.

Following Geneva’s words was a section written by one of Bob’s daughters, who added:

I’m curious about your father, my half-brother. I learned of him when I was 15 years old and saw a picture of him in uniform that your grandmother had sent my Father.

Geneva had included a little information about Bob’s military service:

Robert joined the Army before WWII started. He wanted to see the United States. Well, he was sent to Fort Custer, about 10 miles from Battle Creek. When the war started he was sent to Iceland, then to England where he met your grandmother. He came home in 1945. This was all before I knew him.

Insignia of 19th Field Artillery

Insignia of 19th Field Artillery

One of the photos shows Bob’s grave marker, on which it states that he was a Private in Battery C, 19th Field Artillery. I am currently investigating what 19 Field Artillery did during WWII.

I also managed to locate a copy of his WW2 Army Enlistment record. This states that he enlisted on 27 January 1941 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and had one year of high school. He gave his occupation as “Semiskilled construction occupations, n.e.c.”, was single with no dependents and weighed 127lbs.

Everett & Nellie Payne

Everett & Nellie Payne

Geneva’s letter also made mention of Bob’s parents. He was born 15 November 1917 to Everett and Nellie Payne, but was adopted by his aunt and uncle – Robert Taylor & Nina Stanfield (Nina and Nellie were sisters). According to family lore, Everett and Nellie separated and Everett returned to Oklahoma where he was from. This left Nellie raising their three daughters – Mildred, Hazel and Arlene. (In fact, in 1930 the three girls are listed as “inmates” of House of the Good Shepherd in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

This adoption explains the shift of name from Payne to Stanfield (Bob’s American family still use Stanfield to this day). Researching the Payne family further back, we reach Everett’s grandfather, John Sanford Payne, and his parents Hannah Dehaven and John Tisdale. Again, according to family legend John senior “disappeared”. John junior was adopted by his mother’s sister, Sarah, and her husband Baylor Payne. John’s sister Jennie remained with their mother.

So my surname? I guess it should be Tisdale …

A bit of a whistle-stop tour of available records and learnings, but this family has some interesting twists and turns – something I will undoubtedly be returning to in later posts!

I would also like to point out that in the 10 years since first receiving that letter from Geneva, I have remained in contact with my American aunts, uncles and cousins … and for the last 10 years I’ve been promising myself that I’ll get over there and visit them all. And I will … I will …

Grandfather Adams …

This is really a continuation of my last post, Grandfathers & Other Animals. I wanted to share my explorations into the lives of my two American grandfathers – Ellis Howard Adams and Robert Leslie Payne – and this is the entry for my mother’s father, Ellis.

Whilst my great-grandmother was alive, with her dandelion-fuzz hair and easy smile, she once sat my mother down with a photo album. After she died, the album made it to our house, and was kept in the dresser with the rest of the family papers, birth certificates, locks of hair and the rest. On a few occasions my mum would get this album out and we’d sit down with a mug of tea and she’d tell me about the people captured within.

There on page 9, unremarked and unremarkable, was a picture of a man in a cow field. Dressed in a military uniform of some description, handsome in his own way, quiffed hair blowing in an invisible breeze, tie tucked into his shirt between two buttons. My mother recounted the story of how on one occasion her grandmother had tapped the photo with a finger and said “That’s your dad.”

Ellis Howard Adams

Ellis Howard Adams

Other than his name, a picture (which remains the only photo I have of him to this day), and that he served in the American Army during WWII, nothing of detail was known about him.

Two of the main proponents of genealogical research are to work backwards and work with what you know to be true. The first thing that we knew to be true was that Ellis and my grandmother Eva had been married, so I set about searching for their marriage certificate. Whilst a copy of that certificate – and any subsequent divorce papers – may have originally been amongst my grandmother’s papers, upon her death they were … removed from her house. Using the General Register Office website, I ordered a copy of their certificate.

Once it arrived I had a few more details.

They had married on 23 November 1944 in The Register Office, Devizes in front of two witnesses – Eva’s parents. Ellis’ details stated that he was 20 (putting his birth at around 1924) and the divorced husband of Pauline Adams formerly Harper, spinster. It also stated he was a Private First Class in the American Army, gave his Army number and also his employer outside of Army life – Checkers Building Company – and that although currently residing at the barracks at Roundway (near Devizes), he was a resident of Sarcoxie, Missouri. He also stated that his father was named Joseph and that he was a farmer, but deceased.

Now that I knew a few important facts, I thought that I would try to locate his Army service record. After some online research, I printed, filled out and posted off a form for the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. The response that came back in a couple of months was … not exactly what I was hoping for. Unfortunately, in July 1973 a fire in the NPRC destroyed a portion of the records held there. Ellis’ full military record was one of those destroyed. However, they were able to send me a copy of his Report of Separation. This shed a few more interesting facts about him.

  • Private First Class, Infrantry, Rifleman 745
  • Date of separation: 12 May 1945, Brigham City, Utah
  • Date of induction: 9 March 1943. Date of entry into active service: 16 March 1943, Fort Leevenworth, Kansas
  • Service outside of the USA: 14 May 1944 – 26 March 1945, European Theater of Operations
  • Foreign Service 10 months, 12 days
  • Continental Service 1 year, 3 months, 12 days
  • Longevity for pay purposes: 2 years, 1 month, 24 days
  • Honourable discharge due to “anxiety hysteria”
  • Fought in the “Normandy and German Campaign”
  • Wounded in Battle 27 July 1944
  • Awarded Purple Heart, two Bronze Campaign Stars, European-African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon

So what does this limited information tell us? We know Ellis was wounded in action in July 1944, undoubtedly the reason why he was awarded the Purple Heart. The Bronze Stars were  awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone – but I have no idea what he did on each occasion to receive them. The EAME ribbon (there was no medal attached until 1947) was awarded for military service in the geographical theater areas of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East and covered a variety of military campaigns. Comparing information from different sources and that on the separation report I can assume that he was involved in the D-Day landings and possibly also the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine or the Western Allied invasion of Germany. However, without knowing his exact regiment its impossible to say for certain – and so far that seems to be unlikely.

“Anxiety hysteria” as far as I can tell is a historical term for a psychological condition which combines an anxiety disorder with a conversion disorder – that is:

… psychologists once believed that physical symptoms manifested as a result of an anxiety disorder. Such disorders were once collectively termed “hysteria.” While it is certainly true that some anxiety disorders can be linked with conversion disorder, these two conditions can also appear independently. Patients diagnosed with anxiety hysteria were typically treated as neurotics, and the mode of treatment selected was not always entirely beneficial, sometimes because the patient suffered from a genuine neurological problem which remained unidentified.

Nowadays one would assume that it would be something along the lines of PTSD – hardly surprising.

The report also gives some other personal information:

  • Place of birth Neosho, Missouri
  • Date of birth 10 April 1924
  • Brown hair, brown eyes, 6’0″, 180lbs
  • Occupation: laborer
  • 8 years of grammar school
  • Address at time of entry into service: 513 Williams Street, Carthage, Missouri
  • Permanent address for mailing purposes: 1555 East Main Street, Stockton, California
  • Married, with one dependent

Lets look at that last one. Assuming he was telling the truth on his English marriage certificate, the “married, 1 dependent” could well be my grandmother and mother as he was shipped back to America after having been married for 4  months, and 3 months before my mother was born.

A search of the Stockton City Directory for 1945, 1947 & 1949 comes up blank on Ellis. By 1950 he is resident once again in Carthage, Missouri, but has disappeared by 1953. No other obvious marriages can be found, and so far I don’t have a concrete location for his death. The United States Social Security Death Index has an entry for Ellis H Adams, date of birth 10 April 1924 who died 14 August 1971 … but last place of residence is blank. A recent hint seems to suggest somewhere in Virginia, and steps have been taken to investigate that one … I’ll keep you updated!

But that search – which included his Social Security Number – allowed me to request his SSN application (well, via a request in an online forum and a very kind lady).

The details of that confirmed his date and place of birth, including the same address in Carthage. It also listed his parents names: Dollie Clara Falkner and Jacob Calvin Adams (not Joseph as listed in his marriage certificate).

Using that information I was able to locate Ellis in the 1940 and 1930 US Federal Census returns, living with his family in Missouri.

I was also able to uncover a marriage license between a Howard Adams and a Pauline Harper in Webb City, Missouri (roughly 10 miles from Carthage).

Marriage License - Adams/Harper

Marriage License – Adams/Harper

So far that’s it for Ellis Howard Adams. Once a death certificate can be found then perhaps new avenues will surface. I have made contact with relatives of Ellis – descendants of siblings – but they all say that the family was fairly fragmented and not close. Nobody knew what had happened to Ellis after the war. Answers remain to be found out there. And more questions too, no doubt …

Grandfathers & Other Animals

Everybody has their own route into things. Different inputs leading to similar outputs – or at least travelling down similar roads.

In the case of my journey into genealogy – family history – the inspiration was my grandfathers. All four of them. Yep. You read that right.

Growing up, every Friday we would visit my mother’s parents – Eva and Otto Frysol – and have tea with them after school. I suppose at some point I might’ve asked why Grampy spoke with a funny accent. I suppose at some point my mother (or possibly one of my brothers) told me that he was German and had married my grandmother after the war. I think this blew my mind somewhat as I knew that, well, the Germans were the enemy during WWII. At some other point I was told, or found out, that my mother’s maiden name was not the same as Otto’s. This was due to the fact that her father was not Grampy, but an American soldier, named Ellis Howard Adams, who Eva had met and fallen in love with and then married. Parental forces had stopped my young grandmother and her daughter from crossing the ocean to be with him (or so I have been told – although the picture of Eva below was taken to be her passport photo).

I can’t say that my mother’s parentage was ever an issue – it certainly wasn’t for Otto. He was her father. End of story. He was my Grampy. End of story. But what of Ellis? My mother remembers playing with his two Purple Heart medals as a child, and also of receiving birthday cards upon occasion, and there were letters to Eva. Apparently two of my grandmother’s sisters attempted to trace him in America through The Red Cross – unfortunately the response was that he had remarried and didn’t want any contact. Which seemed to be enough for my mother. She had her ‘dad’. She didn’t need anybody else. But curious? Perhaps.


My father’s parents were a different story. His mother, Norah, was older than Eva, and I only ever remember her as an old woman – shrunken and papery. Which is a shame. I only saw her a few times a year … maybe my birthday and Christmas when we’d deliver her Just Brazils and Simple soap. Consequently she didn’t play a large part in my childhood mind. She had been widowed the year I was born. I can’t recall meeting Grampy Eddie, but he met me nonetheless. The story has it that he was severely ill in hospital whilst my mother was pregnant, but wanted desperately to see his youngest grandson. He held on until I arrived and was presented to him. To honour him, I was given his name – Edward – as my middle name.

But, as is obvious, there is another twist in this story. Eddie wasn’t my father’s biological father. That lay with a man named Robert Leslie Payne (although – to complicate matters further – he’d been adopted by his maternal aunt and her husband so was known by the name Robert Leslie Stanfield for the vast majority of his life). He had also been a soldier in WWII, and also American. Unlike Eva and Ellis, Bob and Norah weren’t married. And unlike Ellis, Bob wanted to know my father – even going so far as offering to adopt him, something Norah was against.

Again, my father was raised by his stepfather and considered him ‘dad’, and that was as far as it went. There were a few phonecalls as a teenager and even when he was engaged to my mother, but no true contact. Almost 15 years ago, in a restaurant, I asked my parents’ permission to try and trace their fathers and any related family. They agreed, with certain caveats.

And that was how I developed my obsession interest in genealogy. What I found and where it took me? That’s for another post. But these four men – Ellis, Otto, Eddie & Bob – all contributed to my life, either through nature or nurture, and their presence is felt in everything I do.


Green(ish) Fingers …

Be under no illusion. Geoff Hamilton I’m not (and that’s probably dated me and the programmes I watched as a child …). But I enjoy gardening. Like cooking, this was something that was fostered somewhat by my mother. She always was a … well, the cliche is ‘keen gardener’ but I think that slightly underplays her devotion to all things horticultural. Obsessed might be closer to it. When she’d visit other gardens (both private and public) she’d always make sure that she had a jacket with deep pockets, and possibly her garden knife with her in order to … appropriate cuttings to take home. These, if they were lucky, were dunked in hormone root powder, or a pot of the rooting gel, left in the windowsill for a while and then stuck in the garden. If they were unlucky then they’d just be stuck in the dirt. Invariably they’d take root and sprout with gusto regardless. That’s just the kind of green fingers I had hoped to inherit …

Jerusalem sage flower

Jerusalem sage flower

Possibly one of the nicest stories (because its to do with me – sorry, time for my self-awareness medication …) is that of the Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa). The hardy Mediterranean shrub was growing quite happily in the grounds of the hospital where I underwent heart surgery as a child so, as expected, my mother took a cutting or two and took them home with her and ‘just stuck them in’. And they flourished in her large and sunny garden in rural south-west England. She parceled them out to friends, family and neighbours, and whenever we moved house, a cutting or two (or more) always came with us. Since I moved out of home my mum has always wanted me to have a garden in order, at the very least, for me to have a cutting of ‘my’ plant.

This year's cutting

This year’s cutting

As luck would have it, in late May 2012 I moved into a (rented) house that has a large garden. When I say large, its approximately 300 feet (or 90 metres or 100 yards in very old money) by about 8 feet (2.5 metres), but runs more or less due north (or at least whatever Google Maps says is north). The house was chosen by us primarily for the amount of garden as we have a dog of … mature years who isn’t always up for a walk but likes a good snuffle about. That said, as soon as I saw it I knew it was ripe for me getting my fingers grubby.

I’ll get around to doing a more detailed post about the garden as we moved in and what I’ve done to it over the last year (some hits, some misses) … but in July I took delivery of a batch of plants from my mum (more on that later, too) which included a cutting of the Jerusalem sage. Hurrah! I had to rather stick it in somewhere as it didn’t fit with my immediate plans … so its in some rather gritty and very free-draining soil almost in the eastern fenceline, tucked underneath an old willow tree. I’m sure it’ll be okay for a couple of years at least, whilst it gets established, but at some point it’ll have to be moved somewhere sunnier that’s been improved somewhat.

But so far … two months in to its sojourn … its definitely looking healthy. Hopefully it’ll last the winter and next Spring can get down to making a whole heap of growth. And maybe even a flower or two …

In other news … I’ve just purchased 3 new plants through eBay. Yes. eBay.

Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’

Heuchera ‘Sugar Berry’

Bergenia cordfolia ‘Purpurea’

I’d not heard of Libertia before today, but after a quick search I found that they might be exactly what I’m after to fill in a particular space (more on that at a later date). The heuchera and bergenia are both shade tolerant so they’ll make excellent additions to what I call the shady border (which is new this year and has been a mixed success). Definitely will be doing a post specifically about that border at some point!