Just hours ago, a friend (Becky) commented on one of my genealogy related remarks. Searching the Internet for a photo of my great grandfather hadn’t even occurred to me, but I’d mentioned that he was one ancestor I’d like to have in my photo files, and Becky gave me a heads up.
My interest in the man didn’t have a great deal to do with genealogy in the classical sense. That is, I’ve never cared much about the idea of researching my entire family tree or anything like that. After all, believing in reincarnation as I do, my real past history may not even have all that much to do with the DNA powering my current body. But great granddad interested me because of something my father had once told me when I was around seventeen years of age.
We’d been chatting while we worked, loading hay from a stack to feed to the cattle herd in midwinter, when he’d mentioned the spendthrift ways of his own sire…and the warning his own father’s father had given him when he was a young man.
“Be careful around your old man,” he told Dad. “He broke me, and he’ll break you, too, if he gets the chance.”
Interesting tidbit, right there.
And it came back to ring in my ears years later, when I was going through hard financial times of my own. At one point, in utter desperation with no other visible options, I asked my parents for help. I was truly in need of assistance, too, having a pair rubber checks out there making the rounds, getting ready to bounce. One was for a bit more than $1,000, the other in the $2,000 range. Both had been sent to the MoorMan’s livestock feed company for inventory…on the come. Most of us who were employed by the company as feed salesmen (MoorMan Men) did this. The company knew it, and everything was fine as long as we sold fast enough during the week to cover the checks by the time they hit the banks.
But I’d written those checks when I was roaring and boring, cranking out good sales and expecting to keep the streak going…and the day after the second check was sent, I’d hit a sales death spiral.
By the end of that week, I was toast and knew it. A call to my state manager got him to our apartment in Big Timber, Montana, in record time, cranking his big Buick at an average speed of 103 mph over a nearly 200 mile run to consult with me. We liked each other. He didn’t want to lose me. I was figuring to cut my losses, quit, find a way to survive, eventually maybe figure out to get started in hog farming–about which I’d learned a huge amount in my four months of route selling.
Nay nay, said he. “Get your checks covered, and I’ll promote you to District Manager.”
And that’s when my then-wife and I ended up spending the weekend at Mom & Dad’s place, begging. They stalled us all weekend–we knew the answer was going to be no–and in the end, my kid sister saved my bacon with a loan my erstwhile parents described as, “…pounding sand down a rathole.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten the distinct impression they thought I was lousy with money. Why? Yes, there were a few glitches here and there, but my money management wasn’t that bad.
Over the years, we finally figured it out: I reminded them of Granddad more than I did of Dad. Granddad was a spendthrift. Therefore, obviously….
Fast forwarding to today, Becky’s assistance included the thought that I might need no more than my great grandfather’s name to find him on the Net. Since I wasn’t 100% sure of the name–and in fact, as it turned out, was indeed slightly off–I began by looking up ye olde spendthrift grandfather, or at least the man my parents had perceived as a spendthrift. A great page on him (inaccurate in places but still helpful) popped right up at findagrave.com…and it even included a photo of the man I’d never seen before. We do have pictures of my grandfather, definitely, but none like this.
One look at the mischief this photo shows…wow. I suddenly got it. If my parents saw me like that (and even I could see the resemblance, more than to my Dad), yeah, no wonder they figured me for a rounder.
Where did the site get the picture? From which of my distant (or not so distant) relatives? I have no idea, but yes, I did copy the pic, both for our family records and to show our readers. (I didn’t see any copyright notice, but if someone complains, I’ll be more than happy to give credit and/or pay for the copy, and ditto that for the other pics posted on this page as well.)
Mischievous looking fellow, isn’t he?
Fortunately, the findagrave.com listing also provided the names of Granddad’s parents…and even a link to their page for Edward Oscar Baker, the fellow I’d told Becky I’d kind of like to see.
UPDATE NOTE, February 26, 2017: My cousin Robin (Baker) Pewtress was the one who posted those listings on findagrave.com, but I didn’t realize that until today, when she left a comment (see third comment following the main post) pointing out that I could at least have given her credit where credit was due. Which forced me to confess that I certainly would have given credit–but in my ignorance, I hadn’t even realized that Robin Pewtress was, you know, my cousin! But now that she’s politely rapped me on the knuckles to get my attention, I’ve found out that if you Google “Robin Pewtress,” sure enough, she pops right up #1 in Google results as a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, with her contact information and address in Boise, Idaho.
So if you need a pro to help you go family tree hunting, she’s in the business!
And there he was. How easy was that?
But wait. There’s more. Edward Oscar Baker’s parents were also listed: Erasmus O’Bannion Baker and Lucy N. (Ware) Baker. Interesting. My mother and my great grandmother were both Lucy ladies.
Wait. That didn’t come out quite right….
Hold on, now! Erasmus? More to the point, O’Bannion?! Well…growing up, we were repeatedly told that we had in us, “English, German, Scotch, Irish, and French.” I’m still not sure where the French bit sits, but yeah, there’s the Irish!
Of course, my family also discovered later on that there was a bit of Danish in there, too, whereupon a bunch of relatives began referring to themselves as Great Danes, but that’s another story.
Most importantly, there was a picture of Erasmus O’Bannion Baker…and he looked very, very familiar. Where had I seen that face before?
Hmm. Oh, yeah. My great great grandpa looks a bit like a sketch I once did of the historical Sheriff Seth Bullock of Deadwood, South Dakota. Of course, they were more or less contemporaries; it might just be the era look?
Erasmus Baker wasn’t a law enforcement type, though; he was more of a merchant.
Anyway, all that research online took less than an hour (after Becky lit a fire under my tail). The reason I say the Internet is making such genealogy searches ever easier? Why, simply this: The findagrave.com listing for my grandfather, Ralph Baker, was posted on June 29, 2013–just last summer!
There are still limits, of course. I hit a brick wall when it came to the parents of Erasmus. They appear to be Martin Baker and Barbra (possibly Barbara) Rowe Baker, mostly of Virginia, with Martin having been born somewhere round 1827, but that’s about it so far.
Which is pretty good, even so.