Sunday, August 2, 2015

That was too close for comfort!

I haven't blogged in almost a month, even though I keep promising that I'll be doing more.  My last blog post (from July 7th) was the culmination of months of working on my Korstanje line.  When I got done I uploaded my GEDCOM to www.rootsweb.com.  I'm not sure why because I never use the site anymore but I did.  On July 13th I returned to work from vacation.  On my break I went to work on my tree some more but my computer wouldn't load.  I got a black screen that said I needed to load an operating system.  I talked with a tech geek buddy of mine who said that it's possible the cable to the hard drive had come loose.  I have a toddler who has knocked that laptop down several times so it was a plausible explanation.  I got home from work and when I took it out of the bag my laptop was so hot I had trouble holding onto it (the battery was HOT).  I tried re-seating the drive with the same results.  I then went to Best Buy and bought a new laptop figuring the old one was toast (not only was it hot but there was a burning plastic smell).  I bought an enclosure to try to make my old hard drive into an external drive so I could access the files and all I got was a high pitched squeal when I tried to plug it in.

Now I have been doing genealogy since 1992 and I understand how important it is to back stuff up.  I have a system where my files are all on my laptop and an external hard drive.  When I get new stuff it goes into a "to be sorted" folder and it's sorted into both drives.  The problem is I'm in my family tree file daily and I just back that up occasionally.  Upon loading my new laptop I discovered that "occasionally" meant April 29th, almost 13,000 names ago.  I was devastated to say the least.  I decided to pay a company to try to recover the file so that I didn't have to redo everything.  That too failed.  So I resigned myself to having to redo my work.  Remembering that I'd uploaded to rootsweb I decided I'd have to go family by family and copy/paste all of my work (and then rebuild all the living persons information since I have them privatized).

On the 25th it dawned on me that I'd uploaded the file to rootsweb and perhaps they could recover it for me.  I emailed their support and then googled to see if there was a solution.  I bet that drives those techies nuts when people do it in that order.  Upon googling it I found where to go and downloaded my GEDCOM.  Even though I'd privatized living persons everything was there.  I only lost 6 days worth of work (of which I'm now caught up)!

So, now whenever I finish a family line I'm working on I'm uploading my GEDCOM to rootsweb.  The fact that I randomly chose that day to do it saved me and I'm not risking that again.  I'm also looking into online backup services as I had a temporary scare that my videos of my grandpa and Jacob were also lost (I found them on an external drive I rarely use).  Having never experienced a hard drive failure before this was certainly a wake up call!  There were no indicators there was a problem - just poof, gone...........

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Distant relations

So I see it has almost been another month since my last post.  As predicted, I got myself off on another rabbit trail (as I figured I would), but for the moment I'm done with it. 

Given that my last name (Korstange) isn't very common, it's always intrigued me that there are other Korstange families near me that aren't easily connected to mine.  I actually went to high school with a Korstange who's name was so similar to mine that our accounting teacher used to mix our test grades up.  Upon researching and using a Korstanje genealogy book I have I was able to find that we are half 7th cousins, 1x removed (we have the same 7th great grandfather, back to 1705).  What made it amazing to me is that he lived in the house that my paternal grandfather lived in............just a small world. 

So, my last rabbit trail was completing all the Korstanje lines that I could trace in America.  I wonder if my immigrant ancestor Jan Korstanje knew he was related to so many people in west Michigan?  Here are the immigrant ancestors and their connection to me - if you're descended from the Korstanje line and your immigrant ancestor isn't listed fire me a message - I'd love to connect more Dutch-American families.

  • Pieter Cornelis Korstange 3/4/1894, Samuel C Korstanje 3/27/1891 and Johannes Hendrik Korstanje 11/28/1901 - 4th cousins, 3x removed (all 3 brothers)
  • Hubregt Korstange 1/30/1858 - 7th cousin, 6x removed
  • Anthonie Korstanje 8/20/1855 - 1st cousin, 5x removed
  • John Korstange 1/12/1845 - 8th cousin, 5x removed
  • Janna Korstanje (Daane) 4/21/1854 and brother Jan Korstanje 1/25/1861 - 8th cousins, 5x removed
  • Pieter Korstanje 12/9/1809 - 6th cousin, 7x removed (his brother Jan was the father of Hubregt b. 1858)  (His granddaughter Maud DeBok (via daughter Dena) married Matthew De Leeuw, son of a Cornelia Korstanje, unk link at this point)
  • Anthony Henry Lemmer  5/21/1925 - 10th cousin, 3x removed (Mayor of Portage MI abt 1967)  (His grandmother Cora Cook was a granddaughter of Pieter) - listed separately as it's amazing to me that (possibly) concurrent mayors of a city were related. 
  • Engel Corstange 4/18/1923 - 11th cousin, 2x removed (Mayor of Portage MI 1973-1985)
  • William Corstange 6/12/1885 - 9th cousin, 4x removed
  • Hubrecht Corstange 11/23/1884 - 7th cousin, 4x removed
  • Martha Corstanje Karelse 3/12/1857 - 8th cousin, 5x removed
  • Pieter Corstanje 4/21/1851 - 8th cousin, 5x removed
  • Leunis Korstange 4/16/1840 - half 3rd cousin, 5x removed
  • Jan Quakkelaar 1/21/1888 - 2nd cousin, 4x removed (son of Gabriel and Neeltje Korstanje Quakkelaar)
  • Pieter de Leeuw 10/21/1860 and sister Catharina de Leeuw 3/14/1869 - 7th cousins, 4x removed (children of Willem and Stoffelina Korstanje de Leeuw)

These are families that came to America but didn't settle in Michigan:

  • Marinus Korstanje 9/2/1880 and sister Jannetje Korstanje 2/12/1887 (California) and brother Nicolaas Korstanje (Oregon) 6/16/1884 - 2nd cousins, 4x removed
  • Bastiaan Korstanje 11/9/1898 - (Ohio & West Virginia), Peter Korstanje 6/29/1896, Marinus Korstanje 8/20.1902 and Mary Korstanje 3/25/1910 (California)- all siblings, 4th cousins, 3x removed.   (Their brother Dignus 7/26/1906 traveled extensively and appears to have settled in Canada)
  • Cornelis Rietveld 8/14/1881 - 9th cousin, 4x removed, (son of Leendert and Leuntje Korstanje Rietveld - Janna Korstanje Daane is Leuntje's sister) (Minnesota)
  • Gerard Korstanje 12/28/1870 - 8th cousin, 5x removed (Illinois)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My "Genealogy Do-Over"

Wow, I've been gone awhile!  That wasn't intentional but I've done my version of Thomas MacEntee's "Genealogy Do-Over".  When I first read his post I thought he was nuts!  I've got too many years into my file and too little time to do what he's purporting.  I'm not saying he's wrong, just not something I think I could find myself doing. 

That said, I know a LOT of my early genealogy was done incorrectly and so many records have been added online to be able to verify my work.  When the 1940 census was released I started going through my families, one at a time and adding the census transcriptions for each family.  This expanded to me putting all census records for each family into my file, in order with birth and death and war registries all in chronological order.  That took a LONG time.  Then ancestry.com threw a wrinkle into my plans to "take a break" and released Michigan marriages and divorces through 1952, www.seekingmichigan.org released death certificates through 1952 and familysearch.org added a huge collection of Michigan obituaries.  Given the fact that almost all of my family was in Michigan by the 1880s I decided to do another "do-over" and go through my file again

I see in my first blog post that I had 44,993 names in my tree in March of 2014.  I'm not a "collector" of names but I do add whatever offshoots I can as tracing down other lines has led me to so many rewarding connections that I've lost count.  Here I am a year and a couple of months later and my tree has ballooned to 55,414 people.  That's how many blanks this new information filled in.  The number of "starter" marriages/divorces/remarriages I found was incredible.  The "Susie Unknowns" in my file got surnames and allowed me to find other records.  All in all I'm very happy with what I was able to put together. 

 At some point I may start sourcing my tree differently.  I mentioned in an earlier blog how I currently do my sourcing.  I actually LOVE this system as it provides links to the actual records and shows how the record is transcribed if it needs to be quickly found again.  That said, when I try to share reports with others it's cumbersome to say the least.  I also want to get my tree up at rootsweb.com but I can't get it to take without the bio notes and given I've transcribed so many obituaries that shouldn't be posted like that for various reasons I've had to take the tree down.  So perhaps my next big project will be to go through and re-source.  That'll be a time consuming mess for WAY down the road but I still would rather do that than have to find everything again!

So what now?  I think I'll take a respite from the tree for the summer.  I'm sure new information will come forth and drag me back in but the heavy lifting is done.  In the meantime I've got some blogging to catch up on and papers to organize.  These are much less time-consuming than what I've been doing! 

An example of what my tree currently looks like, taken from my 2nd great grandfather George Delmer Comstock's "notes" section:

Delmer Comstock Dies; Furniture Worker Here
Delmer Comstock, 86, furniture worker here many years until his retirement in 1920, died of a heart attack Tuesday night at his home, 1105 Burton-st., SE.  He had suffered a dislocated shoulder in a fall at his home March 15.
Native of Grandville, Mr. Comstock came to Grand Rapids when he was 2.  He was a wood turner in local furniture factories and had been employed by the Fancy Furniture Co. 18 years prior to his retirement.  He was a member of Plymouth Congregational church.
Surviving are his wife, Augusta; a son, Charles D.; two daughters, Mrs. George Swank and Mrs. William Swank; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, all of Grand Rapids.
The body is at the Eggebeen funeral home.  (unknown newspaper - clipping from my grandmother's belongings)

Delmer Comstock, aged 86, passed away suddenly Tuesday evening at the residence, 1105 Burton-st., SE.  Surviving are his wife, Augusta; two daughters, Mrs. George Swank and Mrs. William Swank; a son, Charles D.; three grandsons, a granddaughter, two great grandsons and several nieces and nephews.  Mr. Comstock reposes at the Eggebeen Funeral Home, 330 Eastern-av., SE. where funeral services will be held Saturday at 1:30.  Rev. A. E. Potts officiating.  Burial in Wyoming Township cemetery.  (from the Grand Rapids Herald 4/6/1950)

According to Grand Rapids City Directories:
Ran GD Comstock Grocery at 40 Fountain from years 1889-1891.
In 1882 listed as boarder with mother working for GR Chair Co as a machinehand.
1892 listed as an insurance agent with "The Gilbert" and living at 80 Houseman
1893-1897 listed as a "lab", "checker", and "sealer" for C&W M Ry, at 18 Lamont Ct, still living at 80 Houseman in 1894.
1903 listed working at GR Chair Table Co as a wood turner

Name:    George Comstock
Titles and Terms:   
Event Type:    Census
Event Year:    1900
Event Place:    Precinct 3 Grand Rapids city Ward 2, Kent, Michigan, United States
District:    51
Gender:    Male
Age:    36
Marital Status:    Married
Race:    White
Race (Original):    W
Relationship to Head of Household:    Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):    Head
Number of Living Children:   
Years Married:    12
Birth Date:    Mar 1864
Birthplace:    Michigan
Marriage Year (Estimated):    1888
Immigration Year:   
Father's Birthplace:    Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace:    York State
Mother of how many children:   
Sheet Number and Letter:    3A
Household ID:    53
Line Number:    25
Affiliate Name:    The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number:    T623
GS Film Number:    1240721
Digital Folder Number:    004120233
Image Number:    00804
Household    Role    Gender    Age    Birthplace
George Comstock    Head    M    36    Michigan
Augusta B C Comstock    Wife    F    39    Germany
Clara B Comstock    Daughter    F    11    Michigan
Charles D Comstock    Son    M    7    Michigan
Minnie A Comstock    Daughter    F    3    Michigan
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MSMR-4FS : accessed 7 March 2015), George Comstock, Precinct 3 Grand Rapids city Ward 2, Kent, Michigan, United States; citing sheet 3A, family 53, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,721.

Name:    George D Comstock
Titles and Terms:   
Event Type:    Census
Event Year:    1910
Event Place:    Grand Rapids Ward 11, Kent, Michigan, United States
District:    114
Gender:    Male
Age:    46
Marital Status:    Married
Race:    White
Race (Original):    White
Relationship to Head of Household:    Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):    Head
Birth Year (Estimated):    1864
Birthplace:    Michigan
Immigration Year:   
Father's Birthplace:    Massachusetts
Mother's Birthplace:    Massachusetts
Sheet Number and Letter:    14B
Household ID:    319
Line Number:   
Affiliate Name:    The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number:    M1283
GS Film number:    1374671
Digital Folder Number:    004330156
Image Number:    00393
Household    Role    Gender    Age    Birthplace
George D Comstock    Head    M    46    Michigan
Augusta B Comstock    Wife    F    47    Germany
Clara B Comstock    Daughter    F    20    Michigan
Charles D Comstock    Son    M    16    Michigan
Minnie A Comstock    Daughter    F    12    Michigan
William R Comstock    Son    M    8    Michigan
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/ML5B-8LB : accessed 7 March 2015), George D Comstock, Grand Rapids Ward 11, Kent, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 114, sheet 14B, family 319, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,374,671.

Name:    George D Comstock
Titles and Terms:   
Event Type:    Census
Event Year:    1920
Event Place:    Grand Rapids Ward 3, Kent, Michigan, United States
District:    78
Gender:    Male
Age:    56
Marital Status:    Married
Race:    White
Race (Original):    White
Can Read:    Yes
Can Write:    Yes
Relationship to Head of Household:    Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):    Head
Own or Rent:    Own
Birth Year (Estimated):    1864
Birthplace:    Michigan
Immigration Year:   
Father's Birthplace:    United States
Mother's Birthplace:    Massachusetts
Sheet Number and Letter:    17B
Household ID:    400
Line Number:    63
Affiliate Name:    The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number:    T625
GS Film number:    1820778
Digital Folder Number:    004311616
Image Number:    01006
Household    Role    Gender    Age    Birthplace
George D Comstock    Head    M    56    Michigan
Augusta Comstock    Wife    F    58    Germany
Charles D Comstock    Son    M    26    Michigan
Minnie A Comstock    Daughter    F    22    Michigan
William Comstock    Son    M    18    Michigan
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1920," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MZ31-YBW : accessed 7 March 2015), George D Comstock, Grand Rapids Ward 3, Kent, Michigan, United States; citing sheet 17B, family 400, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,820,778.

Name:    Delmer Comstock
Titles and Terms:   
Event Type:    Census
Event Year:    1930
Event Place:    Grand Rapids, Kent, Michigan, United States
District:    0095
Gender:    Male
Age:    66
Marital Status:    Married
Race:    White
Race (Original):    White
Relationship to Head of Household:    Head
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):    Head
Birth Year (Estimated):    1864
Birthplace:    Michigan
Immigration Year:   
Father's Birthplace:    New York
Mother's Birthplace:    New York
Sheet Number and Letter:    25A
Household ID:    316
Line Number:    13
Affiliate Name:    The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number:    T626
Affiliate Film Number:    1004
GS Film number:    2340739
Digital Folder Number:    004608261
Image Number:    00203
Household    Role    Gender    Age    Birthplace
Delmer Comstock    Head    M    66    Michigan
Augusta B Comstock    Wife    F    65    Germany
Clara B Comstock    Daughter    F    39    Michigan
William R Comstock    Son    M    28    Michigan
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1930," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XQBL-DJ9 : accessed 7 March 2015), Delmer Comstock, Grand Rapids, Kent, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 0095, sheet 25A, family 316, line 13, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1004; FHL microfilm 2,340,739.

Name:    George Comstock
Titles and Terms:   
Event Type:    Census
Event Date:    1940
Event Place:    Ward 3, Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids City, Kent, Michigan, United States
Gender:    Male
Age:    76
Marital Status:    Married
Race (Original):    White
Race:    White
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):    Head
Relationship to Head of Household:    Head
Birthplace:    Michigan
Birth Year (Estimated):    1864
Last Place of Residence:    Same House
District:    86-167
Family Number:    222
Sheet Number and Letter:    10B
Line Number:    71
Affiliate Publication Number:    T627
Affiliate Film Number:    1902
Digital Folder Number:    005461854
Image Number:    00492
Household    Role    Gender    Age    Birthplace
George Comstock    Head    M    76    Michigan
Augusta Comstock    Wife    F    78    Germany
William Comstock    Son    M    38    Michigan
Citing this Record:
"United States Census, 1940," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH3H-9VY : accessed 7 March 2015), George Comstock, Ward 3, Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids City, Kent, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 86-167, sheet 10B, family 222, NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 1902.

Name:     G Delmer Comstock
Event Type:     Death
Event Date:     04 Apr 1950
Event Place:     Grand Rapids, Kent, Michigan, United States
Gender:     Male
Age:     86
Marital Status:     Married
Birth Date:     11 Mar 1864
Birthplace:     Grandville, Michigan
Birth Year (Estimated):     1864
Father's Name:    David B Comstock
Mother's Name:    Barbara Harris
GS Film number:     1972831
Digital Folder Number:     005237796
Image Number:     02350
Citing this Record
"Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KF3P-L7J : accessed 02 May 2013), G Delmer Comstock, 1950.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

My grandpa's war stories



My grandpa didn't talk much about his time in the war.  When my dad and I took him to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial Museum in Muskegon MI 5/17/09 (the USS Silversides) he opened up a little bit, pointing out to me where he stood on the ship to fire his guns when looking at a replica that was on display there.  We really enjoyed the trip here but his ultimate goal was to see the LST-393 that is docked in Muskegon.  We were able to take him there the 6/9/11 and then he really opened up.


 We walked the deck of the LST after having explored the interior of the ship.  As mentioned in a previous blog he was insistent on getting into the engine compartment.  He was on oxygen, borrowed a wheelchair, got quite winded and sat down often but he really enjoyed the day.  In this picture he's pointing to the area of the deck where the deck gun he manned was located.  The guns are gone but there are large circular steel plates in their place.  It's unfortunate because we would have loved a photo of him with the gun. 
At the end of our tour a local reporter happened to be on the scene and asked if he could interview my grandpa.  My grandpa had gotten over into a chair so I took his wheelchair while the museum curator and my dad looked on and I videotaped the interview (other than the first few seconds before I realized what was going on).  It's a 24:38 interview that I wish I could post on here.  The audio quality isn't great because it's on a regular camera and there is a lot of background noise, especially given that my grandpa wasn't speaking very loud but it's irreplaceable.

A couple of stories stand out (not necessarily from the interview - stories he'd told me also):

The most vivid story involved the kamikazes.  The repeatedly told the story of a kamikaze that flew into the ship next to theirs.  As he retold the story he added details that he hadn't previously told.  During the visit to the LST in Muskegon he told us again about the kamikaze.  He said the plane was diving right towards their ship.  He said they were firing on him and it seemed "at the last second" that he pulled up, went over their ship and crashed into the ship next to his.  The way he described it and the motions he demonstrated my guess is they shot the kamikaze which caused him to jerk back on the steering wheel.  As he was standing their telling the story he said "I can still see his eyes" as he's flying towards us.  At one time I had found a picture of that LST (he had told me the number).  When I googled it there was a picture of the ship on fire and what I believe was my grandpa's ship in the foreground.  If I can find it again I'll post it here.

The thing that I think haunted him the most was the image of the sailors jumping off the burning ship, many covered in oil and on fire themselves.  He described the charred bodies floating in the water.  It was obvious when he talked about this that it really bothered him.

On a lighter note he'd always giggle when telling the story of his shipmates using the ships crane to steal a Jeep from one of their island stops.  They simply hoisted it onto their ship and down into the hull and then used it to drive around future stops.  He always laughed at the thought of how the person responsible for the Jeep was to explain how it vanished from an island!

He and his shipmates walked the streets of Nagasaki a couple weeks after the bomb was dropped.  He described it as "leveled."  He said there was absolutely nothing alive left, not even a bug.  The only recognizable items were the foundations of the buildings and the heavy duty safes.  When they got into a city where they encountered the Japanese he said they were nothing but friendly to them.

One time his ship took a hit and he recalled the smoke being so thick that he was certain he was going to die.  He said he got on the deck and smashed his mouth around a crack in the deck and breathed the air from below.
**************************************************************************

I wish I had more stories but he really didn't talk about it.  I remember in the fall of 2009 the History Channel was playing "WWII in HD."  I went over to my grandparent's house to see them and my grandma was at Bingo.  I could hear that he was watching the show in his room.  He came out and sat at the dining room table with me and I told him I'd also been watching it.  He started talking about the kamikazes, started to shake, pulled out a handkerchief and nervously worked it in his hands and then just stopped talking altogether.  It was obvious that he could still see some of the horror and for the most part he just bottled it up for 70 years.  My grandma said it affected his sleep as well but I'm sure he'd never have admitted to it.  So many stories going to the grave........too hard for the storyteller to tell.  

As a sidenote:
 
I got him added to the Naval memorial:
http://navylog.navymemorial.org/korstange-morris

I also got his picture of the ship he served on onto the Navsource website:
http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/161022.htm


Thursday, November 27, 2014

My grandpa's WWII possessions

I've now blogged about my grandpa's war medals and about his photo finishing/photography during WWII.  There are a few belongings that I got from him that he brought back from the war and I want to get them shared/documented.  Tonight my oldest saw me going through these to photograph him and asked to look at them.  I'm not sure if that was a sign of a spark of interest or not but I'll take it!

This is a flag from Japan from WWII.  My grandpa told me how he got it (I can't for the life of me remember).  I don't believe it was anything as cool as him snatching it from the hands of a Japanese soldier during battle or anything like that.  It seems he was given the flag for some reason.  He always kept it folded up so I've kept it that way as well.  It's starting to show signs of it's age but I'm not sure what to do with it as it's at least 2'x3' and would cost a lot to frame and, quite frankly it's ugly so who'd want to frame it?


This money he brought back came from the Phillipines and from Japan.  There are Centavos and Yen and some of them are in excellent condition given how far they've traveled and how often he'd pull them out to show them to me.  I'm not sure what I'd like to do with them so at this point I'm just leaving them in the envelope he kept them in.  (Hey, it's preserved them for almost 70 years so it's working). 



This picture contains his Navy belt that he wore throughout the war, a wallet he bought in Panama and a shell he brought back from the Phillipines.  At my grandma's there is a box of these shells with a note specifically stating where he picked them up - this shell he gave to me as a kid.  I'm not sure how much he used the wallet but it's worn like he did.  The belt..........I've never unrolled it for fear of damaging it but I feel like there's got to be a better way to store it.  It also makes me feel pathetic because we were the same height but obviously different waist sizes!

My grandpa gave me this dog tag when I was in my early teens.  I really didn't even grasp the significance of what it was until about 10 years ago.  My dad has another set that's on a chain that he got from my grandpa.  I'm happy to have this and am considering if there's a way to get it mounted in the shadow box.  Perhaps I could get the belt mounted in there as well?

The neatest thing he brought back from the war is a Japanese bayonet.  My dad has that tucked away for safekeeping.  I need to work on at least getting a photo of it.  If I can swing that I'll add the photo to this blog post. 




Sunday, November 16, 2014

My grandfather's "photo finishers" box

My last post I wrote about my grandpa's WWII medals.  I've got another blog idea regarding documenting some of the stories he told me and also another one planned for a few other items (such as his dog tags) that I have.  For now I'm focusing on one item he gave me that I'm trying to determine the future of.

While I was going through the documents that he still had I stumbled on his "Photo Finishers Certificate."

 I asked him about this and he told me that he used to take and develop his own photos during the war.  I've got an envelope with about 30 pictures that he took/developed while at sea and during some of their "landfalls" and he also took the picture of his ship (LST-1022) posted in the previous blog





 He always had this black box in his garage.  It measures 29" long, 15.5" wide and 12.5" deep.  It's made of a pretty solid wood (it's heavy) with metal reinforcement around all of the edges.  It's got a metal handle on each side to help in lifting it.  As you can see, the top appears to be torn up but the top has some sort of leather covering that is indeed cracking and peeling away.  Underneath the leather is the same solid wood that's showing all the way around. 

My grandma is actually the one that told me to take the box out of the garage and take it home (when my grandpa's health had gotten poor enough that he couldn't even get to the garage).  I did end up talking to him about it afterwards and he wanted me to have it. 

My current quandary is that I have this box sitting atop a shelf in my garage.  My garage is cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  The box is 70+ years old and I don't want it to get any further damaged.  


My ultimate plan for this box would involve using it to store my genealogy books and papers and almost making it into a piece of furniture, kind of along the lines of a cedar chest.  There are 2 strikes against me if I try to do this:  1)We live in a shoe and there isn't anywhere to put it currently and 2)It's currently quite ugly and I don't believe my wife would want it inside anywhere where it could be seen by anyone but us. 

When my grandpa passed away my grandma was sorting through his papers (he was kind of a pack rat - she even found the original building permit for when he built their house fifty-some years ago).  She found a couple pages he wrote about his time in the war when I asked him to write some of his experiences down for my oldest son.  He never finished them but what he did I've put away for him but later in the same pad of paper she found this:

I'm not sure when he wrote this but I'm suspecting a couple years ago (his handwriting got quite bad - this is about halfway between his normal handwriting and the last things I saw him write). 

He undoubtedly intended that this be found and knew that I would want to know more about the box.  I'm sure at some point he told me this information but being younger I never wrote it down and I certainly didn't remember it. 





So fellow family history enthusiasts and bloggers - my question for you:  What would you do with this box?  Would you leave it as is or would you have it 'restored' to ensure it's strength and to fix the peeling top?  Would you repaint it or leave it as it is?  I'm leaning toward trying to find someone would could restore it for me but I'm not even sure where to start on such a task.  Perhaps someone is reading this from Michigan and would have an idea.

I leave you with some photos that my dad found (after my grandpa died) in a canister labeled "WWII 35mm".  My dad got them developed and some of them were pretty neat.  Unfortunately we don't know who the other people in the photos are but the assumption is that he took most (if not all) of them.

 I had seen this "series" of photos before.  I can't remember where he told me this was but I want to say it was Guam and it was an old cave where bones were stored.  My grandpa's in the front in the dark outfit.
 Grandpa is on the left in this one.  There is another one that is much clearer but I don't know who the guys in it are
 I wish we'd have known about this roll of film and gotten them developed before he died.  I'd love to know the story behind this one.  There is some sort of camp in the background. 
 A couple of pictures that I have to assume were taken while he was aboard his ship.  I wonder what mission they were on or battle they ended up finding?  I see an awful lot of ships which makes me think they were getting ready for something. 


The engine compartment of the LST-1022.  This one is important to me because we took grandpa on a tour of the LST-393 that's docked in Muskegon MI 6/9/2011 and despite the fact that he was heavily on oxygen and having trouble walking he absolutely insisted that he get down into the bowels of the ship to show us the engine room.  They had a recording you could play of the engine noise and it was deafening!


Here he is next to the LST-393 engine compartment.  He worked on these engines and was absolutely thrilled to be able to see them again (it'd been 65 years since he was last on one of these ships).  I've got oodles of pictures from that trip.  When the curator found out he had someone that had actually served on an LST aboard he was all over helping us on the tour and making sure that grandpa had everything he needed.  At the end of the tour there was a local news reporter there that wanted to interview him.  Thankfully I was able to turn my camera on and record the interview.  He rarely opened up about the war but when we got him around the ships he seemed to really want to share what he remembered. 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

My grandpa's "lost" WWII service medals

My paternal grandfather Morris "Jerry" Korstange passed away 12/20/2013 at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.  When I started blogging I was going to start with him but decided it was too fresh.  There is so much I could write but I thought I'd start with  the story of his "lost" medals.

Jerry enlisted in the Navy 1/18/1944 at Grand Rapids MI, just 2 months and 23 days after turning 17.  I don't know what drove him to enlist but he came from a broken home and I personally believe he just wanted to leave.  He did drop out of high school to enlist yet went on to retire as the head building inspector for the city of Wyoming MI so I'd say he did pretty good for himself! 

US Navy Training School, Great Lakes IL 1/1944
He served on the LST-1022 (Landing Ship Tank).  Their job was to ferry supplies (tanks, Jeeps, ammunition etc) and they also participated in the battles (the big deck guns are clearly visible).
Photo taken by M. Jerry Korstange

Photo taken by M. Jerry Korstange

My story for today stems from his attempt to show me his war medals.  He really didn't talk much about his service time but had given me a few items.  One day we got to talking about his medals after I was looking at his discharge papers and noticed them listed.  He had me come upstairs with him to show them to me.  He opened the cedar chest and they were gone.  I won't get into where they went, only will say we all know what happened to them (same thing that happened to his Navy ring amongst other valuables). 


A couple of years passed and I stumbled on a message board post by someone inquiring about replacing lost medals.  I went to the website, printed and filled out the necessary paperwork and made the necessary copies, but got a return letter stating I needed him to sign for them (what do they do when the veteran has passed away and a descendant wants to get the medals)?  I resubmitted everything and was confident he'd be getting his medals by Christmas 2004.  Christmas came and went, then spring and even summer and nothing.  I made some phone calls and ended up speaking to a horribly nasty woman who rather curtly told me that my grandpa was one of thousands asking for replacement medals, that they were on back order and it would be another 6 months to a year.  I explained to her that his health wasn't good and I wasn't sure he'd live long enough to see them (thankfully he lived another 10 years).  She made it clear to me that wasn't her concern.

I was discussing this situation with a coworker one day and they mentioned that they knew someone that worked in Senator Carl Levin's office and that he had a liaison who's job it was to deal with veteran's affairs.  I figured it couldn't hurt so I called his office.  I was greeted very pleasantly and given clear instructions on what I needed to do to get their help.  I mailed them the necessary documentation and within 3 weeks the medals arrived!

My grandpa was thrilled to see them.  He got them made up into a shadowbox complete with the above picture of his ship.  He made sure to attach the envelope the medals were in to the back of the box and include that he wanted me to get it.  (I wrote his name and room number on it when he was at the Veteran's Facility as my grandma and I hung it in his room during his short stay there).

 It's hard to get a good photo of the shadow box but here's a picture of what the board looks like:
This will someday be mine but for now I'm happy to let it hang in the spare bedroom at my grandma's house, above the flag case with the flag presented at his funeral and a framed photo of the picture above, the 17 year old who went off to war.