Monday, May 17, 2010

Albert H. Pounds - Searching for Al! (Part 2)

I finally decided it was time to research and locate information on my long lost father. That was a good first step, but finding the resources to tackle the job was another matter. Had I started this search ten or more years ago, then this would have been a formidable task at best. To my good fortune, the Internet has revolutionized genealogical and family history research in the past decade and made a search like mine possible and affordable too.

It was clear that I needed a way to organize my research and to catalog the family members I was aware of, and for those I would undoubtedly discover along the way. I heard of Family Tree Maker by and decided to give it a try. In retrospect, I wish I had taken more time to consider other tools. FTM has worked very well, especially in conjunction with the subscription service that produces those little "shaking" leaves, but I did learn one valuable lesson.

Don't be too eager to embrace anything and everything other researchers have published on Ancestry--they could be wrong. After hurriedly filling in all the new ancestors I thought I had found on the site, I started to notice some of the Ancestry member information, which was the source for many of the new finds, contained incorrect dates of birth, death and marriage on some distant family members. In all those cases, I have copies of vital or other written records that contradicted much of the “unsourced” information on Ancestry’s website. Fixing some of that has been very time-consuming, not to mention the laborious task of adding “hard” sources whenever I can to fill in the gaps. It’s more work that you might think. In any event, I learned to think through all information and look for thorough documentation before drawing conclusions about individuals in one family line or another. Initially, I let the thrill of the hunt get in the way of better scholarly judgment. Genealogical research is fun, but it can be confusing if you don't document your sources. Lesson learned. I intend to touch on some of those issues in later blog posts.

With my Ancestry account in place, I started searching for anything related to Albert Pounds, but nothing popped up. My Dad Jim provided another clue with an old and faded newspaper clipping from the Springfield newspaper. It was Sharon and Albert’s wedding announcement. The announcement didn’t indicate when my mother and father were married, so I had to do a little research. It turned out that the answer was on both sides of that clipping. The front side mentions they were married on June 21, but with no year. Of course, it would be assumed that the reader of the time period would know the year, so it wasn’t necessary. On the reverse side of the announcement however, there is a portion of an article that reads:

The Hungarian Ministry of Justice announced June 17 that Nagy, Gen. Palmaleter and two journalists had been tried and executed on charges of creating a rebellion against the government.
Plugging in "June 17" and "Hungary" into Google Timeline showed newspaper articles condemning the Hungarian and Soviet backed execution of former Prime Minister Imre Nagy on June 17, 1958! Google to the rescue once again! I was able to determine that Sharon K. Slack and Albert H. Pounds were married on June 21, 1958. It’s a goal of mine to eventually secure a copy of their marriage certificate to confirm that date, just to be sure.

That wedding announcement settled another question. I always assumed Al's name was "Alan" since that is my middle given name. It's clearly Albert, but I never knew that. My mother and I rarely ever talked about Al, so it's little wonder I didn't even know his full name. Now I am left to wonder, where did the "Alan" in my name come from? Yet another mystery I hope to solve one day.

I am fortunate that my mother's younger sister is still available to help fill in the gaps. I gave my Aunt Sally Niday a call to see if she had any information I could use. Sure enough, she said the "H" in Al's middle name was "Hersol", but she wasn’t sure of the exact spelling. She also mentioned that Al had a sister named "Catherine", and that she lived in Springfield, Missouri at the time my mother and father met. Wow, all that information for the asking. Thanks, Aunt Sally! I was hot on Albert's trail and felt very close to discovering more about my father.

Unfortunately, that's where the trail went cold. Albert didn't show up in the Social Security Birth and Death Index on line, or for that matter, any of the enormous number of Ancestry databases. I searched many other on-line databases to include the Missouri Digital Heritage Death Records and the Family Search site. Nothing. The summer of 2009 came and went with little to show for the effort. Not all was lost, however. I did uncover a flood of information on many other family lines, but unfortunately nothing on the Pounds surname.

Then one day in mid-October, while cleaning out the garage, I came upon a box of old mementos from my high school and college days. My Dad and his second wife Shirley gave me the box during a trip to El Paso a few years earlier. On that day in October, I decided to empty the contents and scrutinize every paper, picture, postcard, and keepsake. After a few months of combing through on-line information, I came to appreciate the value of a box of written material. About an hour into my mini-forensic investigation, I noticed a small envelope with my name on it, written in hand writing I didn't recognize. When I looked inside, my jaw dropped. There was another copy of the small family portrait of myself, Mom and Al along with a tiny obituary measuring a mere one square inch simply titled: "Pounds". It was my father's obituary with a date of death of February 19, 1977. I had finally found a bit of vital data to work with and ironically, I had it all along. Evidently, as best I can determine, the envelope was sent to me by Al's wife, Marie shortly after his death. I honestly don't remember seeing it and wonder if my mother ever showed it to me. I'll never know.

That little obituary has been a goldmine of information. One of the most intriguing parts includes the surviving children of Marie Augustine, Al’s second wife. Odds are, I thought, one or more of Marie’s children are still alive and possibly living in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Working on that theory, the next step was to find at least one of them and try to make contact. I did a number of Google searches on all the names but came up empty handed. I then wondered about the social media website--Facebook. It was a long shot, but with millions of people linking on Facebook every day, it was worth a try. It's a good thing I did, because I found and was able to email Carol Loehr! A few days later she wrote me back and confirmed that yes, she was the Carol in that obituary. Eureka, I found a step-sister.

Stay tuned for Part III of "Finding Al" where I discuss the many exciting tidbits of information discovered about Al, to include clues uncovered through his military records.

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