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Parties Were More Fun Back Then

September 3rd, 2012 1 comment

A hundred years ago, my great-grandfather, James M Dobbs, Sr. was a delegate from the state of Georgia to the 1912 Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore, Maryland in June of that year. Back then only few states held primary elections and unlike today the party’s nominee was not decided until the delegates met in convention. The Georgia delegation was pledged to Oscar Underwood, an Alabama congressman who was running on an anti-Klan/anti-Prohibition platform. Other contenders for the highest office were Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson. The convention was quite contentious complete with floor fights – literal fist-fights on the floor that required police intervention – and it took a record breaking number of ballots to finally decide who would be the Democratic nominee for US President. The stand-off finally ended after 46 ballots when Champ Clark accepted the backing of the New York machine. When word got around that Clark had turned to Tammany Hall for support, William Jennings Bryan took to the podium to give a rousing speech denouncing Clark as the “Wall Street candidate” and throwing his support behind Wilson who finally won the nomination.

The Republican convention at Chicago that year was even more combative than the Democratic convention. The GOP split in two when former President Theodore Roosevelt stormed out the convention taking a large number of delegates with him to form a third party of Progressives known as the Bull Moose Party.

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Where Were They in 1940?

September 3rd, 2012 1 comment

Every ten years the US Census Bureau makes public the census from 72 years prior and back in April they made public the complete images of 1940 US Census. At that time there was not a name index for the records thus making it very difficult to find anyone in the census unless you knew the exact street address where they lived in 1940. I had a fairly good idea of where my parents and their parents and grandparents were living in 1940, but I had an exact street address for only one those households and even then that proved to be a challenge. I know that my mother’s grandparents owned a home in Louisville, Kentucky at 1528 South Third Street and I know this because their house still stands in what is the Preservation District in Louisville. Yet what I did not realize is that it 1940 there were actually two different houses in different parts of the city that were listed as 1528 S. Third Street and this really complicated my search.

As it turns out the city of Louisville had started a program of re-numbering the streets back in the mid-1920s but fifteen years later due to budget constraints the process was not yet completed. Even though I had a street address, not having a name index to the census records, it took me a number of hours examining numerous records before I found my great-grandparents. I did this search at the US Census 1940 web site:

In 1940, my great-grandfather, Erhard Joseph (Jo-jo) Kollros, a CPA by profession, was working as a statistician for the WPA (Work Progress Administration). He was 60 years old and had an annual income of $858. He and his wife, my great-grandmother, Catherine (Beenie) Kollros, lived with her brother, Arthur J Bannon. Uncle Artie’s age was listed as 58 and he was a Plasterer-Building Contractor with an annual income of $1,380. My great-grandmother was notorious for lying about her’s and her husband’s age. In 1940, Catherine was actually 64 and her husband was the same age as her younger brother.

Today I discovered that there is now a name index for US Census 1940 and it can be found at Having a name index makes a big difference and in matter of minutes I was able to locate the rest of my parent’s family in the census records.

In 1940, my dad’s family lived at 218 West 10th Street, Hastings, Adams, Nebraska. My grandfather was a medical doctor and in 1940 he was earning $5,000 a year. He was 45 years old in 1940. His wife, Geraldine was 46. Daughter, Geraldine De Backer was 21. Leo was 18. Dick was 14. Martha was 13. My father, David was 11. Bobbie was 9 and Judy was one year old.

My maternal grandparents were divorced in the mid-1930’s. In 1937 my grandmother remarried and in 1940 she and her second husband were living near the Cumberland River outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They lived at 1429 McAlpine Ave in what is the Inglewood area of Davidson county Tennessee. My mom’s step-dad, John R. Coarsey was a 41 year old real estate salesman making $2,000 a year. My grandmother, Dorothy was 32 years old in 1940. My mom was 11. Her sister, Joie was 9 and her half-brother, John Robert (Bob), Jr. was two years old. Unlike the previous censuses, the 1940 census asks where the respondents lived five years earlier. So we know from the records that my mother and her family were living in Tampa, Florida in 1935.

My maternal grandfather, James M. Dobbs, Jr. lived in his home state of Texas in 1940. He also had remarried and he, his wife, Helen (Mewhinney) Dobbs, and his mother, Helen (Spiegel) Dobbs were living at 1605 Ashland Ave, Fort Worth, Tarrant, Texas. Jimmy Dobbs, age 37, worked as an auditor for the US Soil Conservation Corps and had an annual income of $1,800. Helen, age 41, who previously also worked for the US government, was now un-employed. My great-grandmother, Helen (Nellie) (Spiegel) Dobbs was 67 years old. From the record I learned that my grandfather and his wife had lived in San Antonio in 1935 and my great-grandmother was living outside of Atlanta in College Park, Folsom county, Georgia in that same year.

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My Life As Seen From Outerspace

December 4th, 2011 Comments off

Right after Google Earth was released in 2005, I thought that it would be interesting to see if I could locate all of the places that I lived over the past 50 years (1955-2005). I collected snapshots of satellite pictures of the places that I resided and schools that I attended as kid. Six years later I finally got around to putting it all together in a presentation that documents these shots. In each of the shots the pictures are oriented facing the front of the structure. On most of the pictures there is compass rose showing the orientation of the map. If you hover your mouse over some of the maps you will see tips regarding some of the features.

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Map Shows De Backer Windmill in 1770′s

December 2nd, 2011 Comments off

A few years ago a correspondent in Belgium sent me an image of a map of Ronse, Belgium made in the mid-18th century. He wrote that the structure depicted in the lower center of the map was of a windmill owned by my ancestor (ggggg-grandfather) Judocus (Joos) De Backer (1723 – 1797) and that the windmill stood in what is now a city park in Ronse known as the Bruul (see here for that image). Last night I came across a very detailed map of Belgium made by the Austrian cartographer, Joseph Jean François, count de Ferrari, in the 1770’s. The Ferrari Cabinet map, made between 1771 and 1778, was commissioned by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and her son Emp. Joseph II to detail their Austrian Netherlands, as Belgium was known in those years. A page of that map shows the city of Ronse (Renaix) in the 1770’s and upon close inspection one can see that two windmills are depicted in this sector. In the second image below the windmill in the lower left corner corresponds to the windmill drawn in the earlier map from the early 18th century.


The Ferrari map can be seen in detail by going to Ferraris Cabinet KBR Map Viewer.

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