It’s absolutely exhilarating to bust through a genealogical brick wall and reveal more “Chambers” that until now had been hidden from our family. Since 1980 when I first started manually compiling our history I had gleaned only limited information about my dad’s maternal Chambers’ family from Pennsylvania.
If you read my post from a couple of days ago, “My Family of Secrets,” you will recall that my dad, Frank Burton Boling, was raised without his mother, Helen Louise Chambers. Her mother, Lottie L. Taylor, and Frank Maynard Chambers separated when Lottie’s husband Frank left her in 1939 and then disappeared entirely–as if dropping off the face of the earth. Further, Lottie was hospitalized for much of her adult life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which limited our family’s quality time with her.
My dad, now 84, told me that he only knew his maternal great-grandmother from when he was very, very young. His memories recall his grandfather Frank Chambers’ mother as “little grandma,” and that she went to live in a home for members of the Masonic and Eastern Star in Washington, DC.
So again yesterday morning, I decided to start over once more with basic research techniques for the elusive Chambers within our family’s ancestors. Among my review of earlier research and findings of Frank Maynard Chambers, through my contacts with the Las Vegas Bunker Memorial Cemetery, I had noted the names of Frank Chambers’ parents: John L. Chambers, from Pleasant Unity, and Maude Johnston, from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
I had never heard of Pleasant Unity so I googled it. Low and behold I came across a new research resource: AmericanTowns that had targeted information available on the town of Pleasant Unity which helped me filter and shortcut the numbers of search results I needed to sift through.
The Unexpected Happens and New Questions Surface
At that moment, I entered a new search that focused on Maude born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And then it happened–a new find! It was an approved emergency passport application for Maude Chambers married to John L. Chambers to depart for Balboa, Panama Canal, dated September 7, 1917. Here was the new information I’d been looking for on my dad’s undiscovered grandparents at long last.
Now I asked myself why would a 56-year-old Maude Johnston Chambers, wife of John L. Chambers be traveling to the Panama Canal on an emergency passport when she had returned from there two years before on August 8, 1915?
A little further into reviewing the search results, I found Cyndee’s public ancestry tree that included a citation from an International Database Index-Family History File. Someone had submitted a LDS form on April 10, 2008, that cited John L. Chambers death on July 14, 1917–and not only that included the names of his parents–my 3rd great-grandparents:
JOHN LATTA CHAMBERS; Male; Birth: 10 SEP 1861 Greensburg, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania; Death: 14 JUL 1917; Father: FRANK SELBY CHAMBERS; Mother: AMANDA MAC DONALD; Batch Number: 7527401 Sheet: 63 Source Call No.: 0884638 Type: Film
Next, I found the widowed Maude Chambers in the 1920 Census, just as my dad had remembered, she was living at the Masonic and Eastern Star Home in Washington, DC.
And the Walls Came Tumbling down!
And, as in Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Once I added all the great-grandparents information to my ancestry tree, the hints just started popping up everywhere. And now that I found ancestors going back to the mid-1700s, there are new outstanding questions to be answered, but we’re well on our way to better knowledge about the Chambers from Pennsylvania. Next, I’ll be moving on to the elusive Taylor’s, Johnston’s, and McDonald’s–the maiden names of women who married Chambers’ men.
And at the conclusion of this post, it has become more apparent to me that the number of divorces in earlier generations may have been fewer than for today’s, but the numbers of unhappily married and family estrangements and secrets seemed to be plenty–at least in the Chambers. If only those walls had had ears!