Sunday, March 26, 2017

School projects and family history serendipity

Marion Taylor Bird driving "Shiwea"
29 March 1924 - Citronelle, Alabama
My son is reading The Great Gatsby at school and has an assignment to do a major project relating to that era. He is a car buff and so chose 1920s cars to research. Last week our family watched the PBS documentary on Henry Ford. Great program, and particularly interesting because my dad was born in Detroit.

 As he was working on his project yesterday, I had a very clear memory come to mind of a photograph of my grandfather (mother's father) driving a very interesting car. I found the photo and was pleased to see that it was taken in 1924: perfect for the project! We will have a nice print made to go on his project board. 

The serendipity gets better! Later that day I was documenting descendants of one of my dad's mother's ancestors, hoping to help an adoptee that is one of my closer DNA matches. After exhausting all the usual databases and coming up empty, I googled the woman's name and got a hit that was a snippet view of an obituary available on Newspapers.com. I signed up for the 7-day free trial and read the obituary (which turned out to be full of wonderful details about her siblings and children - score!). 

As I studied the obituary, I realized it was from a Detroit newspaper. My dad's ancestors have lived in Detroit since the 1870s. The Detroit Free Press via Newspapers.com is a gold mine in you have Detroit ancestry! I quickly found obituaries for many Berger family members, as well as a variety of interesting news stories. (Might just need to add another website to the annual genealogy budget...)  Then I stumbled across this gem:


It seems clear Adolph Berger was kind of a character. My dad never knew his father, and he wasn't raised in Detroit, but there must be some of Detroit in the family DNA! Cars were important to my dad. My son (who carries his name, which is also Adolph Berger's middle name) has a passion for cars that would definitely make both my father and his father smile. 

If I hadn't been trying to help someone else find something, I would never have learned about my grandfather's connection to my son's Great Gatsby project!