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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Surprising Find...

Sarah Jane Padgett Fuller Calhoun was my great great grandmother. She was first married to my great great grandfather, Alexander Fuller, and together they had two children.  Alexander died in the Civil War.  Sarah next married William Calhoun who also served in the Civil War.  They had several more children together.  In searching for a picture of Sarah Jane, I first made the acquaintance of a distant cousin who shared a picture of her in her older years.  I also received a copy of a picture from my aunt that I shared in a previous blog of two grandmothers and a great grandmother collectively looking at a new baby.  I was happy to have copies of these pictures because my immediate family did not have any pictures of her....or so we thought.

This year my husband and I became grandparents...and so I was going thru old boxes looking for my baby book.  We wanted to compare my baby picture to my new granddaughter's picture.  I found the old box with my book in it and as I was going thru it a picture fell out from between the pages.
I picked up the picture and it was the picture of a woman that I thought I recognized.  On the back of the picture it was labeled as "Grandmother Calhoun".   I have no idea how it got there.  I have gone thru my baby book many times over the years and have never seen the picture before.  What a wonderful surprise!!!

               *Picture of Sarah Jane Padgett Fuller Calhoun from the collection of Debra Waggoner
#52Ancestors  #Surprise

At the Library...

One fun thing I like to do while researching my ancestors starts at the library.  At lot of libraries will have a collection of city directories.  By using a city directory you can find an address for where your ancestor lived during a certain time.  My great, great grandfather, Tilghman Overton, lived with his brother, Mark, when he was in Lincoln.  On a visit to Union College Library in
Lincoln, NE I found a directory listing where Mark Overton was living at the time.


He was living at 2110 Q St., in Lincoln.  I used the address and plugged it into Google Earth to see if the home still exists.  In this case it did not, but I still was able to get an idea of the area.

*Google Earth PRO
Where the home used to sit there are now great walking trails.  It is hard to tell from the "street view" but what I see are sculptures and walking paths.

*Google Earth PRO

*Google Earth PRO

Another address I found in the Omaha Public Library belonged to my great uncle George Boehler.
He was living at 102 S. 52nd St., Omaha Ne.  I had a lot more luck viewing this home.  George was a dentist in Omaha and he was a bachelor.  He did not own this home but rented a room here.  He died at a young age from compications of an appendicitis surgery in 1933.  I love being able to google an address and see where my ancestors resided.  Somehow this makes them more real!
#52Ancestors  #Atthelibrary

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Elizabeth M. Byers Overton

If I was given the chance to talk to one of my ancestors....I would have to chose my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth.  I  would pick her because she is such a mystery to me. I don't have the usual records that I would normally collect for my ancestors.  No pictures, marriage records, or cemetery records.
What I do know is that in 1850 she was living with her family in Miami Co, IN. From this census record I can estimate Elizabeth's birth to be circa 1840 in Ohio.  Her mother had already died and her father, Isaac Byers, was remarried. I was able to find a marriage record between Isaac Byers and Margaret Potterf in 1849 in Miami Co, IN. to support this.


 Isaac died 16 May 1854 in Jasper Co IN where he is buried in Saltillo Cemetery indicating that the family had moved there by 1854.  In the 1860 census I can find several of the children living with other families.  Elizabeth is living with the N.P. Lefler family and listed as help.  Her husband to be, Tilghman H. Overton, is also living in Jasper Co, IN.


By 1870, Elizabeth and Tilghman are married with 3 children and living in Sarpy Co, NE.   There is not a marriage recorded in Nebraska so I suspect that they married in Jasper Co, IN before moving to Nebraska to homestead.  The Jasper County courthouse burned and the early marriage records were lost so I can only guess.


In the 1880 census Elizabeth is gone and Tilghman is married to a Maria Adkins. Their oldest daughter, Margaret, is living in the household of James Davidson and listed as a servant. Robert is living with Elizabeth's sister, Matilda, and listed as a farm laborer.  I was unable to find Anna after the 1870 census.  I checked cemetery records for Sarpy Co but could not find anything for Elizabeth or Anna.
I searched the land records and found that Tilghman and Elizabeth had taken a mortgage out on their land in 1871 from James Preston but by 1876 the mortgage had not been paid off and Mr Preston is asking for the sale of the land to recoup his money.  It was in the court documents that I found Elizabeth listed as Tilghman's wife and that she had died since the mortgage was taken out.

And the said plaintiff further saith that the said Tilghman H. Overton & Elizabeth M. Overton, his then wife, for the purpose of securing the payment of said promissory note did on the 14th...

Plaintiff further says that Elizabeth M. Overton, the former wife of said defendant has since the executions of said deed of mortgage, died: that the legal title of the land at the time of the executions of said mortgage was wholly and entirely in the ...

Elizabeth must had died between 1871 and 1876.  Anna is also gone...Robert is alive in 1880 but is not found after that time.  I have not found death notices or cemetery records for any of them.

I would love to talk with Elizabeth and hear stories about her family, her marriage to Tilghman, homesteading and so much more.  #52Ancestors  #I'dLiketoMeet

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Unusual Surnames...Bantam and Boehler

My mother’s maiden name is Bantam.  This sounded like a perfectly normal last name to me but then there were a lot of Bantam families in my hometown.  My grandfather and his two brothers each married and raised medium to large sized families in my hometown so there was no shortage of Bantam families in Harlan Co. Nebraska. 

My dad’s surname and my maiden name is Boehler. My great grandfather, Conrad Boehler, was the only one in his family to come to the United States.  So basically my dad’s family was all there was in the area leading me to believe that it was more uncommon than Bantam.  That was before I started doing genealogy!

Once I learned how to research the families that notion changed.  While there weren’t many other Boehler families directly related I found that the name was not as uncommon as I had originally thought. 

A fun tool to use to see just how many families of a certain name were in the United States at a period of time is found on   Below you can see how many families and where they were living in 1920.  My families were both in Nebraska in 1920 but as you can see there were a lot more states with people of the surname Boehler in the US than there were of the surname Bantam. also allows you to select different time periods.  If you wonder how unusual your surname really is you should check it out. 

*Screenshots were taken from

#52Ancestors  #Unusualname

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Challenges of Married Life...

My great, great grandfather, Tilghman H. Overton knew the challenges of married life all too well.

Tilghman was married 3 different times with two of the marriages ending in divorce.  His first marriage to my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth M. Byers ended with her death sometime around 1872.  Together they had 3 children with my great grandmother, Margaret Overton, being the only one to live to adulthood.

In 1876 he married for a second time in Sarpy County, Nebraska to a widow, Marie Algeo Adkins.  This marriage did not last for long.  We see them living apart around 1881 with Tilghman at a boarding house in Omaha and in 1886 he is living and working as a contractor in Lincoln Nebraska.
Later in land records it is stated that Marie is divorced.  I am still searching for the divorce record for Tilghman and Marie.

His third and final marriage was in California to an Elvira C. ____.  I found information about this public divorce in the newspapers and then was able to obtain a copy of the divorce.  The divorce papers state that they were married on or about the 20th day of October, 1887 in Los Angeles, CA.  No marriage record can be found.

Wife leaves Tilghman -

*Oakland Tribune, 13 Feb 1894, Page 1

San Francisco news. -
*The San Francisco Call, 14 Feb 1894, Wed, Page 10

According to the divorce record filed by Tilghman, Elvira had left him and could not be found.  It states that she has been extremely cruel to Tilghman, she demands all of the money that he makes and then goes off to the Opera with another man.  He states that she has said that she no longer loves him and calls him a "damned old fool". In the statement he says, "Defendant is a woman of much personal beauty and plaintiff was very fond of her and did everything in his power by kindness and attention and by giving her the money which he earned to make her happy and contented. One night he would not give her all of his wages because he wanted to retain a portion for his own use, she became very angry with him and cursed him and struck him several violent blows on the head with a heavy umbrella handle and broke it over his head and called him a damned fool and she said that she wished he would die and she took a large butcher knife and told him she would kill him with it and he had great difficulty in getting the knife away from her.

Elvira could not be found to serve her with the divorce summons so it was served by publication.

Tilghman did not venture to marry again....I guess he wasn't up to the challenge!

#52 Ancestors #Challenge

Saturday, January 5, 2019

First Boehler Ancestor in the United States

Conrad and Amelia Boehler - Golden Wedding Anniversary

   The following was posted in the local newspaper about their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1925: 

   "On January 12, 1875, Conrad Boehler and Amelia Spitley were united in the bonds of matrimony at the Catholic church at Lincoln, Illinois, Rev. J. Schmidt officiating.  The groom, a native of Baden, Germany was a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War leaving the fatherland for the New World at the close of the war, arriving in New York in 1872.  The bride, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Spitley, was born and grew to womanhood in the vicinity of Lincoln, Illinois.
   The young couple engaged in farming near Lincoln, Illinois.  They left Illinois, heading for the land of opportunity in 1878 settling near Beatrice, Nebr.  In 1893 they located in Harlan county on the farm now owned and tilled by Frank Boehler a son.
   In 1908, having through thrift and frugality, accumulated a competence Mr. and Mrs. Boehler retired from agricultural pursuits and moved into their beautiful home in Alma, Nebraska.
   On January 12th the Golden Anniversary was celebrated.  At 9 a.m. the family and many friends attended mass at St. Joseph's Church, Rev. R. J. Healey, celebrant.  Father Healey paid a beautiful tribute to Mr. and Mrs. Boehler in an eloquent ten minute sermon.  At mid-day the wedding party autoed to the old home.  A Golden Wedding ceremony performed by Rev. Healey was followed by a sumptuous repast partaken of by the immediate family and Rev. R. J. Healey of Alma and  Rev. J. L. O'Donnell of Roseland, Nebraska.
   The wedding party returned to the Alma home, where from two till five and from seven till ten o'clock p. m. Mr. and Mrs. Boehler kept open house greeting the numbers friends calling.
   The decorations of white and gold were mostly of flowers and and were very tasty.  On the table, a beautiful bridal cake, from the Petey Bakery, for a center piece, with elaborate decorations of cut glass and silver greeted the eye in the dining room.  
   Exceedingly tasty refreshments of coffee, ice cream, cake and fruit cocktail was served during the reception.
   In the afternoon Mesdames W. G. Haskell, W. D. Flanigan and H. M. Mead were hostesses.  In the evening the hostesses were Mesdames S. C. Gould, Fred Colgan and Miss Lula Haskell.
   A fine and highly appreciated part of the evening program were the musical numbers by Mrs. C. G. Gould, of Alma and Mrs. H. McCaffrey of Orleans, Miss Lula Haskell, accompanist.
   Many old time melodies were rendered in a most pleasing manner.  The most pleasing feature of the occasion was the present of all the surviving children:  Joseph J., Frank X., and Caroline of Alma; Dr. G. M. Boehler and E. C. Boehler of Omaha.
   From the children, Mr. and Mrs. Boehler received a beautiful gold watch, elaborately engraved; Mrs. Boehler being remembered with a lovely gold circle ring.
  Grandfather received a gold Eversharp and Grandmother a gold thimble from the grand children.
   They have rounded out fifty years of married life, forty-seven of which were allotted to Nebraska.  The trials and tribulations, the joys and sorrows of those early days can be appreciated only by the pioneers who shared them.  That they have been useful, well-spent years was evidenced by the hosts of friends who greeted them on their joyous anniversary and who wish them many more years of the contentment and comfort they so richly deserve."

#52Ancestors   #First

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Howard's Story

A few years ago my mother did a story on her 2nd cousins life long dream of becoming a pilot and how he lost his life for our country when he was shot down in WWII.  I asked her if I could share it here on my blog post and she thought it was a great idea.

First Lieutenant Howard W. Smith 

                                        March 23, 1923 --- June 10, 1944


June 26, 1944 was a beautiful summer day in Eldorado Township, Nebraska, near the Kansas border.
Assisted by his nephews, Dale and Bryan Bantam (who lived nearby), Laurence Smith was at work on his farm.
Sometime during the day Laurence looked up to see two official looking cars approaching up the lane. His nephew said later his uncle was frozen in place! Laurence knew it meant terrible news about his only son Howard William Smith.
From that day forward, life on this farm was never the same.
Howard would never come down that lane again. He would never be home again except in spirit. 

Because those who gave their lives to save our freedom must not be forgotten, this is our family's story of a lost son.

 These words from the book "The Flying 463rd" with narrative by Harold Rubin express our feelings best:

Howard was the second child and only son of Laurence Little and Una May (Abbott) Smith. He had one sister, Erma Jean Smith (Nicoll) who was two years older. His childhood was spent on the family farm which was named ìSpringbrook Farmî, enjoying the large trees and a natural spring that was unusual for the dry southern Nebraska countryside. His grandfather, William Porter Smith, was a Civil War Veteran who served with Co. A, 2nd Missouri Cavalry.*
As a child growing up, Howard was fascinated with flight and his room was decorated with airplanes.
The family home stands abandoned, but an area of one wall in what was Howardís bedroom still displays the original airplane wallpaper. 

Howard attended District 26 'Springbook School' and graduated from the
8th Grade in 1936. (See next page)
Like many others who attended District 26, he often rode a pony to school. 

*Early family history has fortunately been compiled by Lela Bantam Fidler in her book "The Bantam-Smith Connection -- Clippings From My Grandma's Purse 1926-1991". Anyone interested in early family history will want to contact Lela. 


Howard attended Long Island Kansas High School and graduated with the Class of 1940. One of his classmates was Wilmer Hogan who was able to give me the facts that follow:

"Because of the distance from his home, Howard rented a little house in town from a family named Culbertson. His roommates were brothers named Frances and Phil Benson.
He was a good athlete and played center on Long Island's six-man football team, one of the first six-man teams in Kansas.
He was quiet but a little mischievous--a very nice person."

Footnote: Wilmer also joined the Army Air Corps, was a bombardier on a B-17. When his plane was shot down he broke his ankle and spent the rest of the war in a German prison camp. 


Because Howard wanted to fly, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserve in May, 1942. He was not called into active duty until November 6, 1942.

He worked in an aviation factory in Bakersfield, California and had enrolled in Junior College there for the fall term. His sister, Erma Jean, had also moved to California and was working in an aviation factory in Inglewood, California.

He began his pre-flight training as a pilot on November 10, 1942 at Kelley Field near San Antonio, Texas.

On March 21, 1943 he was transferred to Cimarron Field, Oklahoma, to begin his aviation cadet training. His first instructional flight was on his 20th birthday, March 23, 1943. When he completed his primary course, he had a total of 65 hours in the air. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his parents while in Oklahoma: 

On May 25, 1943 he was transferred to Strother A. A. Field, Winfield Kansas for more training.

On July 30, 1943 he went to Pampa A. A. Field, Pampa, Texas to attend advanced Flying School, graduating with the Class 43-I on Friday, October 1st 1943. Just two pilots received their wings at that time. The other officer was Edward Weiss. He was older than Howard and had a family. His plane was shot down in May, 1944 and he was held as a POW for a period of time.

On September 30, 1943, Howard was given an Honorary Discharge "for the convenience of the US Army" so he could accept a Commission as Second Lieutenant. This is how the Army promoted an enlisted man to Officer's rank.

Pictures of the planes he flew during his training are shown in the SERVICE RECORD kept by his mother. 

The SERVICE RECORD follows and has been copied just as she wrote it.

After Howard graduated from Flight School and had earned his wings, he came home for a furlough. He was home October 5-11, 1943.

During that time the entire extended family gathered for a picnic. I was six years old and in awe of this strong, handsome soldier. I remember swinging on the tire swing that was tied to a large tree over a creek. Other cousins mention this same memory.

No one knew it would be his last days at home.

Shown with Howard are his mother (Una), Father (Laurence) and sister (Erma Jean). 

Following his time at home on furlough, Howard was assigned to the 19th Bomb Group in Peyote, Texas. There he took part in advanced combat training. When the 19th Bomb Group was disbanded he was assigned to the 463rd Bomb Group, 775th Squadron.

This is a picture of the group that he trained with on the B-17G Flying Fortress airplane: (This is the group with whom he would go overseas) 

Top row left to right: A. J. Brown, Top Turret & Engineer; K. M. Glitch, Radio Operator; H. F. Scott, Tailgunner; W. A. Taft, Right Waist Gunner; R. M. Anderson, Left Waist Gunner; H. T. Tripp, Ballturret Gunner.
Front row Officers left to right: Lt. D. W. Borchert, Bombardier and chinturret gunner; Lt. John S. Frazeur, Pilot; 2nd Lt. H. W. Smith, Co-Pilot; 2nd Lt. L. A. Gatz, Navigator.
Howard was the only one in this photo to have been lost. Why? Fate. How? More information is on the next pages.
Others in the front row survived the war without being taken prisoner or shot down. Those in the back row were aboard a plane that was shot down 4 days after Howardís plane was lost. They were able to escape the plane by parachute. All were taken prisoners of war but were returned home in 1945.
 I spoke by e-mail with the grandson of John Frazeur. He was searching for more information about his grandfather and could not add any information I didn't already have, nor could I tell him more about his grandfather. He commented on the "cocky 40's attitude" in the grins of Howard and his grandfather. (John S. Frazeur would later serve during the Korean and Viet Nam wars.) 


When Howard completed the advanced training, his crew was sent to Lakeland, Florida. As part of the 463rd Bombardment Group, 775th Squadron, he flew as co-pilot of a B-17G Flying Fortress plane with the crew pictured on the page just before this one. The Aircraft number was 42-31841.

From Lakeland, the 463rd Bomb Group was sent to join the battle. The ground support crews left on ships and rejoined the air crews at Celone Army Air Base in Italy. The flight crews had stops in South America and Dakar, Africa. A letter (below) from Howard tells his travel until he reached Dakar, Africa. On March 15, 1944 they arrived at the Foggia, Italy airfield. 


This was Howard's last base, in Italy. When a crew was shot down, another crew moved into the tent--often before all of the effects had even been removed. 


On the next page are the highlighted missions we can document that Howard flew. Through May 18, 1944 he flew with his original crew
on the original plane 42-31841. (The information is taken from several sources and may in some cases be inaccurate, but it is as close to the actual actions as possible.) 

While Howardís crew was on a rest, another crew flew that plane and it was hit and lost on May 24, 1944. The pilot at that time was a Lt. Orf. All of the crew bailed out and were made prisoners of war, except for the pilot, who was impaled on a branch of a tree and was killed. The co-pilot was Ed Weiss, who graduated with Howard from Pilot School. The entire crew was taken Prisoners of War until 1945 when they returned safely. After that plane was lost, Howard was promoted to pilot and flew several different planes, with different crews.
One of the worst missions Howard would have flown prior to June 10 was to Ploesti on May 18, 1944. (This oil field produced 1/3 of all of Germanyís oil supply and was a primary target for the U. S.) Exceedingly bad weather was encountered that morning and the Air Force sent out a recall signal which was received by all groups but the one to which Howard was assigned. Making the lone run on Ploesti, about 150 of Goeringís yellow nose fighters attacked their formation of 35 planes. Six B-17s were lost to flak and the fighters. Finally a large force of P-38ís appeared and drove off the Luftwaffe. If they had not arrived, all of the planes would have been lost. For this and their other missions the Group received a Commendation from the USAAF Commander-in-Chief General Spaatz.
After the loss of the 42-31841 on May 24, 1944, Howard was promoted to Pilot and flew these planes: Pictures and what happened to these planes is found in the APPENDIX to this story. The 4 planes with * after their names were lost.

A/C #42-31832 "The Biggast Bird" 25 May 1944

A/C # 42-97536 No known nickname 26 and 27 May 1944* 

A/C # 42-31742 No known Nickname 28 May 1944*

A/C # 31821 "Mary Lou" 31 May 1944*

A/C #42-102909 "Nobody's Baby" 4 June 1944

A/C #42-31809 "Nameless" 6 June 1944* 

FINAL DAY: JUNE 10, 1944.
On June 10, 1944 Howard was assigned to pilot A/C #42-37997 "Miss Behaven". This is an earlier photo of the actual plane: 

Top Row L - R: Hugh Diggins; Grover Jenkins; Scott Rousseau; George Wray; Lloyd Upchurch; Front Row L - R: Malcolm Coulman; Kent Polkinghorne; Frank Gilbert; Edward Biga; John Palmer All of the highlighted names are men who were on the plane with Howard on June 10th, 1944. Not shown is Joseph Russo, who was the 10th man on the crew. All 10 were lost.

On June 10, 1944, led by their commander, Major Allyn, the "Irish Orphans" with 27 planes flying in formation dropped 81 tons of bombs on the Mestre, Italy marshalling yards. One plane (Howard's) did not return. 

The account given in the above Army Status Letter differs from the classified Missing in action reports (MACRs) that follow. In 1944 the Army did not tell all that it knew.
Damaged? The plane exploded in mid-air! 

The 1944 published report indicated ìfive chutes left the plane before it crashed into the sea. P-38ís went down to drop life rafts for the men.î (We know this didnít happen). But when Air-Sea rescue arrived none of the men were to be found.î However, the MACR reports gave no indication that any airmen were alive when the parachutes were blown out of the plane as it exploded.

 Crew aboard the plane with Howard:

The asterisks in front of the name indicated Missing in Action and the crosses indicated Killed in action. This list was taken from a book that was printed after the war ended.

According to Army Air Corps procedures Howard, as pilot, would have been the last one to leave the plane if there had been time for anyone to do so.

Eye witness accounts by airmen in other planes have been de- classified. They are known as MACRs (Missing Air Crew Reports) and now can be found on the internet. A transcribed copy of MACR #5846 is included in the appendix of this story.

Statement given by Staff Sgt. Jack Raille:

"The first time I noticed Ship No. 48-37997, the whole right wing was leaking gas. There was a trail of black smoke from number 4 engine. I noticed the right wing burning and the plane fell out of formation. A few seconds later the right wing fell off and the ship exploded. I saw 5 chutes open, I believe these to have been blown out of the ship."