While writing my post yesterday, it occurred to me to wonder what the house at 14041 Rosemont Ave. in Detroit looks like today. I have an old photo of the house as it looked just after it was built by my Grandpa Stoelt in about 1929. Back then, it was probably on the outskirts of Detroit, surrounded by lots of nothing!
This image was easy to find on Google Earth (you can also do this on Google Maps).
Go to http://www.google.earth.com
Download the Google Earth software.
Open up Google Earth and type in the address you're interested in seeing.
When Google Earth "flies" to that address, zoom in close and then look for the little gold figure to one side. With your mouse, drag the figure to the street in front of your address (this will only work if Google has street view images in their database). Google Earth (or Google Maps) will zoom down and plop you right in front of the house, and then you can use your mouse to swivel around 360 degrees!
I think my grandfather would be proud of his house that is still standing, over 80 years later, along with the one he built in 1932 or 1933. This house at 14883 Faust Avenue in Detroit was the one I grew up knowing as "Grandpa Stoelt's" house:
This post begins with a sad story - the first of many that I have come across in my years of doing genealogical research. I had grown up knowing that my mom lost her mother when she was 5 months old, and that her father had remarried a year later. Grandma Stoelt was the only grandmother I had ever known, and I loved her dearly. To put "Bessie Blanche Randall" in the space for my maternal grandmother on the pedigree chart I was creating, instead of "Gertrude Ervilla Varran", felt very odd. My mother had grown up in a Christian Science household, and had never known why her mother had died.
So, following the directions in the genealogy books I'd read, I sent away for my grandmother's death certificate. I remember clearly the day I received it - I opened the envelope standing in our kitchen, with my mother eagerly looking over my shoulder. My grandmother Bessie Blanche Stoelt had died at home, 14041 Rosemont Street in Detroit, of pernicious anemia complicated by myocarditis. She died on the 21st of December, 1931 - on her husband's birthday, four days before Christmas, at the age of 33. Her parents (my great-grandparents) were Herbert K. Randall and Claudia Thompson, the great-grandmother I was named for.
That would seem to be sad enough, to begin with, but over the years I discovered there was more to the story. According to Grandma Ervilla Stoelt (who'd heard the story from Grandpa Stoelt), Bessie had had a falling out with her parents the summer of 1931, in the later stages of her pregnancy. The last time she saw her father, he shouted at her and slammed the door in her face. My mother Mary Elizabeth Stoelt was born in August, and at the end of October Bessie's mother Claudia Thompson Randall died (coincidentally) of liver cancer and pernicious anemia. In Claudia's obituary, there was no mention of her surviving daughter Bessie or the new granddaughter, only her son Ray Thompson Randall.
I think the myocarditis was a broken heart.
Bessie Blanche Randall Stoelt
10 Nov. 1898 ~ 20 Dec. 1931
In 1972 my paternal grandfather Maurice Leonard Reed died on the other side of the state in Bradenton, and my father, who was the executor of his estate, made the 3-hour trip every weekend in order to wrap up his affairs and sell the house. One of the many things my dad brought home (besides stacks of hand-woven rugs, antique lamps and clocks, and my grandfather's complete set of journals covering 1928 to 1957) was the files of family papers and records.
I was immediately hooked. There was a typewritten family tree (done by a professional genealogist for the family back in 1936) showing our history back to William Bradford, several letters and poems typed on onion-skin paper, and scribbled notes on the backs of envelopes. Plus a luggage tag, which I held onto, and which proved to be a major clue in my later research.
My next step was (naturally) going to the public library, where I checked out Searching for Your Ancestors, by Gilbert Doane. I started writing letters to everyone I could think of - my other grandparents in Michigan, elderly aunts and uncles, and Michigan libraries and courthouses. I started haunting the mailbox, whooping with joy when I received an answer in the mail.
I was on my way!
When I was 12 years old my father got a job with Boeing at the Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and our family moved to Merritt Island from Forest Park, a little suburb of Cincinnati. Being an avid bookworm in a family of readers, one of our first stops was at the Merritt Island Public Library. In 1967 it was a distinct step down from the small storefront library I had known as a little girl - it was housed in a dilapidated cabin with peeling yellow paint and rickety wooden steps, surrounded by wild morning glories. It couldn't have been over 900 square feet, and the rows of books flowed from one little room to another. In the heat of a Florida summer, it was lovely.
I was standing in front of the row of adult fiction, just exploring the worlds beyond Narnia, Carolyn Haywood and Beany Malone. My mother joined me, picked a book from the shelf and handed it to me, saying, "Here - I think you might like this." It was Dawn's Early Light, by Elswyth Thane, and was my introduction into the world of historical fiction. As my years in junior high and high school went by, I read and re-read all the books in the Williamsburg series that began with Dawn's Early Light and continued with Yankee Stranger and Ever After. The later books had family trees on the endpapers, which fascinated me, but even more important, imparted a sense that who your parents and grandparents were mattered - that those who came before you made a difference in who your are today. "The Spragues were strong and unruly, enterprising and irresistible...The Murrays were a tough, adventurous, passionate, intensely masculine breed of men with a flair for making money...And the Days were likely to be bookish, thoughtful, homekeeping, loving people." (Ever After, p.13)
Not unlike the Reeds. For me, that's where it all began.