Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maga: Another Grand-Mother (Grand-Mothers IV)

Helen Farthing at 18
(or 16, or maybe 14)
My maternal grandmother was Helen Lois Farthing (1910-1984).  In 1932 she married Frank Maxwell Perry (1910-1970).  Helen & Frank were divorced in 1950, and Helen married Joseph Matthew Solana (abt 1895-1961) in 1958.  Helen’s parents were Mamie Clyde White (1884-1957) and Irving Colquitt Farthing (1885-1974).  We called my grandmother Helen “Maga”, pronounced mah’-gah (emphasis on the first syllable).  The family story is that she didn’t want to be called “grandma”, so of course everybody tried to get her first grandchild to call her that.  But no matter how many times they said it, “gramma, gramma”, over and over, when he pronounced it he reversed the syllables, and a baby-talk “gamma” came out “maga”.  And that’s how she got her name.  But she wasn’t alone in having a unique name within the family.  Frank was called “Daddy Mack”, Joe Solana was “Pop”, Irving was “I.C.” to his friends and colleagues, and “Papaw” to his us, as his wife Mamie was “Mamaw” to her grandchildren.  There is some variance in spelling, Papaw-Pappaw and the same with Mamaw-Mammaw.  We pronounced them with a short “a” in the first syllables, like “pat” and “mat”, and the long drawl of “–paw” and “–maw” trailing after, so I’ve adopted the single middle consonant spelling.

I haven’t yet obtained copies of Maga’s marriage licenses or her death certificate but hope to do so this summer.  Mamaw and Papaw were married in 1907, and I do have a copy of their marriage record from the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website.  They obtained their marriage license from Laurens County (Dublin) on 30 November 1907 and were married the next day, 1 December 1907, by A.L. Hobbs, N.P. & J.P (Notary Public & Justice of the Peace).  And there’s plenty of information on the next three censuses.  In 1910, they were renting at 217 Gaston Street in Savannah.  Irving C and Mamie (they stretched the truth a little bit, claiming 3 years of marriage), their twins Elmer C & Ethel F (1 7/12 years old), and Papaw’s brother Troy. Under employment it looks like I.C. was in the Const [?] Dept, Insurance, and Troy was an Insurance Agent (my mother remembers her mother’s Uncle Troy; I think he might have been Papaw’s favorite brother maybe).  In 1920 the family had moved a bit north of the city to the small town of Pooler and were renting on Morgan Street (no house number was recorded).  My mother said that her grandfather rented all his life.  He never bought a house.  He didn’t believe in going into debt for anything.  Irving C and Mamie are now living with five children: Ethel F, Elmer C, Helen L, Bernard C & Alvin R, and I.C. is a lawyer.  1930 found them back in Savannah, living in rented digs at 205 W Gwinnett, and paying $40 per month in rent.  Irving C., Mamie C, Ethel F, Helen L, Bernard C & Alvin R live together, Elmer having moved out and gotten married.  Papaw is still a lawyer, and interestingly three of the children are working: 21-year-old Ethel is a stenographer in a loan office, Helen, 19, is a saleslady in a department store, and even 13-year-old Bernard works “curb service” at a drugstore.  Only the youngest, Alvin, 12, doesn’t work outside the home.  No doubt he had more than his share of chores to keep him out of mischief!

Robert White's marriages
Since Mamie and Irving were both born in the 1880’s and the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, there’s only one earlier census for each of them.  In 1900 Mamie was living with her father Robert A White, brother Robert and step-mother Valeria in Dodge County.  Mamie’s father was a teamster, which in 1900 may have meant he actually handled teams of work horses in addition to hauling freight.  Meanwhile, Irving was living with his father Reuben Farthing, a blacksmith, mother Martha, and eight brothers and sisters.  Unfortunately, this is nearly a dead end for Mamaw’s family until I can discover more clues or uncover more documents.  My mother was always told that Mamie’s mother’s name was Elizabeth Rozier or Rosier, and that she died when Mamie was a little girl.  I found a marriage license recorded in Laurens County for a marriage between Robert White and Valeria Warren on 19 February 1894, but so far the only close match in a marriage record I’ve found for his first wife is for Robert White and “Leona Rozar”, married 18 July 1880, also in Laurens County.  I can’t find any Rozars, Rosiers or Roziers in Laurens or the surrounding area in 1870 or 1880 with a daughter names Elizabeth or Leona of the appropriate age.  Nor can I find a family with a young Robert A White.  I did find a Robert D White, aged 28, in the 1910 census living in Dublin with his wife Lula E, 27, daughter Vida Pearl, 2, and father Robert A White, 51, but the 1900 census has father and son named Robert A White, and their ages are 39 and 17.  So it’s acceptably close if I could find more corroboration.
The Farthings are another story.  There is a long line of blacksmithing Farthings stretching back at least a hundred years, but that’s a tale for another day.

Helen Farthing with Tim, 1958
Here’s your summary:
  • Family stories and histories can provide valuable clues.  Sometimes all you need is a name to help confirm some documentation.  It’s not proof, but it can move up the probabilities, so that it becomes reasonable to pursue additional research which can provide corroboration.
  • Census forms, particularly from the decades surrounding the turn of the last century, are often rich in details which can add to the texture of your family history.
  • The handwriting on the census forms can be difficult to decipher.  Don’t waste time trying to decipher the printed column headings.  Use a resource such as the census blanks available from or another source.  Many websites provide the blanks in downloadable form, and they can also be obtained from most FamilySearch Centers (formerly Family History Centers).
  • Don’t forget to try to confirm facts with multiple sources.  Tombstones, marriage records, death records, family Bibles, census forms and family histories should all be weighed and considered carefully.  No single document can provide all the evidence you need, but each is a piece of the puzzle.

 Later y’all,


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