Linda's Orchard

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Month: May, 2012

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries


Life is just a bowl of cherries. What exactly does that mean? I’ve heard that it means life is good, be happy, enjoy. Yesterday I decided to pick the cherries from my tree. In the early afternoon there were hundreds if not thousands of just-ripe cherries. I decided to wait until evening to pick the lot. But I was sidelined by the ducks in the pool. And the cows mooing on the hill. And the chickens clucking down the street. And the woman riding her horse in front of my house. And the woodpecker pecking away at my “barn” (which has been converted to a bonus room).  The cows, horse and chickens are fine, but the ducks and woodpecker annoy me. By the time I got back to the cherries, they were half gone, and half of what remained were half eaten by the birds. I suppose that’s what happens when you live in suburbia, that grey zone between urban and rural life. If I can see cows grazing from my bedroom window, is it rural? If I’m less than a mile from the highway, five minutes from Walnut Creek and thirty minutes from San Francisco, is it urban? Does it even matter? With the remaining cherries picked, yet the pumpkin seeds still unsowed, I will choose to embrace life as it comes my way, part rural, part urban, always enjoyable. Yes, I think life really is just a bowl of cherries.

Toot Corville

Tuchia Irene Corville. Isn’t that an unusual name? Her siblings had rather ordinary names: Richard, Florence, John, William, Josephine, Ellen, Catherine, Stanley, Ralph. Where on earth did her parents come up with Tuchia? Tuchia is a musical term. It is also a Hebrew word meaning something akin to wisdom. None of these really made sense. But tuchia is the reddish oxide by-product of bronze making and Tuchia was a red head, the only one in the family, as far as I know. Relatives recall that she had wild, fiery hair with a temper to match.

Tuchia Irene Corville was the tenth known child of Emerson and Maria Corville. She was born in Healdsburg, California on 15 March 1883. Her siblings called her “Toot”.  Toot was known for her rebellious streak. As a teenager, she fell in love with an older man by the name of William Ambrose. He wrote a book of love poems for her and hand bound it in blue velvet. In his poems he indicated that he would “wait” for her until she came of age. On her 17th birthday, Tuchia and William were married in San Francisco. He was 40 years old. In the marriage announcement from the San Francisco Call, their ages were declared as 22 and 38.

Tuchia and Will had two children together, William Ralph and Ruth Margaret, who was my grandmother. During the early years of their marriage, the familly lived on Collingwood St. in San Francisco. She worked for many years as a milliner. On 14 August 1914, Tuchia filed for divorce from Will. The divorce became final on 16 August 1915. Four days later she married Charles Jesse White. Charles was from Healsdburg and likely knew the Corville family for many years. He died of Spanish Influenza in 1918. About this time, Tuchia began to use her middle name, Irene. She went on to have at least two more husbands, though family member indicate she more likely had three. She had no more children.

Tuchia bought property in Marin County on Mt. Tamalpais near Muir Woods. She built a hodge podge cabin called “Camp Pile Inn”. To get to this weekend and summer place, the family would first take the ferry from San Francisco to Larkspur. From there, they would take a train up the side of the mountain. When extended family gathered at Camp Pile Inn, they often attended theatrical productions put on by the Mountain Play Association, which is still active today. Tuchia’s daughter, Ruth, kept a photo album which documented these experiences.

Tuchia had a long history of stroke and senility, as did three of her four sisters, her maternal grandmother and her maternal aunt. After residing for a number of years in a nursing home, Tuchia died 2 October 1940. At the time, she had two grandchildren; a third was born after her death. All but two of her descendants still live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tuchia “Toot” Irene Corville Ambrose is buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

Continuing the Thread of My Female Ancestors

Modeste. Such an unusual name. She was born in 1908, quite a bit after the advent of “behavioral” or “virtue” names such as Prudence, Justice, Charity, Justice, Honor and Thankful, all women in my lineage. Modeste was the second child of John Wesley Etheridge and Harriet Mae Lane. Hazel arrived first, following the Missouri marriage of her parents, a double wedding at the home of the two brides; Harriet “Hattie” Lane and her sister Francis “Frankie” married, as per a copy of the Willaby Etheridge family bible, on 26 October 1905, to John Wesley Etheridge and John Long, respectively. John Wesley Etheridge was a handsome man with deep-set eyes and a striking jaw line. Legend dictates that his mother was full Cherokee, though I currently have no proof.

John set off for California with his brother, Garfield. They found work as lumberjacks near what is now Yosemite. I can just imagine John and his large frame, towering over his petite wife and tiny daughters. They lived for a time in a tent cabin. Those of us who have visited Yosemite are familiar with the Curry Village tent cabins as vacation destinations. Can you imagine living in one, giving birth in one, raising a family in one? I can’t.

After a short time, the young family moved closer to the town of Fresno. Five children quickly followed: Paul, Esther, Earl, Charles and Clarence. The family had varying stories as to what happened next. Harriet died of influenza. No, Harriet died of tuberculosis. Upon receipt of her death certificate, it became clear that Harriet died of TB, following a bout of influenza. The conclusion? She died from both TB and influenza. From this, any researcher will understand that it is important to listen to all of the legends in the family tales, and then ascertain the proof.

John married Cora a few years following the death of his beloved Hattie. They had one child, Eugene,  but sadly Clara died not long after the 1925 caesarean birth, a rarity for the time.  As a side note, Eugene Etheridge died just a few months before the posting of this blog. John then married for a third time. He and Helen Dean had four children together, making John the father of a total of twelve children. In a consistent tale of events, John’s father, Willaby, also had several wives, in fact, at least three and quite possibly as many as five. John was orphaned as a young boy and he claimed that he always wanted to keep his family together. Unfortunately or not, this proved to be a burden on some of his children. Modeste was not quite twelve when her mother died. She and her older sister, Hazel, became the primary caregivers for the younger six siblings.

Modeste was reportedly the “beautiful” sister who won titles in county competitions. While I don’t have proof of those titles, photographs certainly confirm her beauty. She had an early marriage to Henry Steitz which ended in divorce. Later she married the love of her life, a handsome man by the name of Neil Eugene Orchard, who was my grandfather. They met in Oakland while both were working. When they married, Modeste fibbed a bit on her age as she was supposedly embarrassed to be older than her husband. Soon they were expecting twins, which caused quite a stir at the  time. However, Modeste was aware of the fact that multiples ran in the family. She gave birth to a son and daughter, Roger and Diane, on 18 August 1937. Life was difficult in the post-depression era. It is difficult to say whether environment or genetics played a greater role, but Modeste suffered from alcoholism and depression throughout most of her adult life. She died a premature death at the age of 58. Her adult children were only 29. She had seven grandchildren who would loved to have known her.

The Women in My Past, My Present, My Future

So often in genealogical research we focus on the men, their surnames, the y-dna, the path of least resistance. But it is the women who compel me to continue. Why did they marry who they married? Why did they study what they studied? How did they feel when a loved one died? How did they persevere when life looked bleak? Why did they do whatever it was that they did? How can I learn more about these women? Their stories, no matter how new or how old, intrigue me. I suppose that my quest for maternal lineage is only natural. Afterall, women typically are the family historians. We work together, generation after generation, we tend to congregate together, to share our stories, and to pass along our histories, our experiences and our life knowledge. Grandmothers before me were in quiliting bees and church groups. Mom loved her bridge group.  I am passionate about book club.We each find our own women’s collectives, but it is the female mentors in my life that really have meaning.  And find them I have. You have steered me through my struggles with writing, with family, with cross cultural conflicts, with life’s challenges. I am so blessed to have women among me as guides as I blindly travel this path called life.

Where Do You Think You Are?

Mike Didio and Linda Okazaki in the Oneida County Courthouse

Looking for records isn’t quite like the television show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and if it were, I probably wouldn’t be interested. Records don’t magically appear on pristine mahogany desks, with translated documents and white gloves for turning delicate pages. It is the hunt which appeals to me. It is going to the libraries, courthouses, cemeteries and historical locations that drives my passion.

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the Utica Courthouse in Oneida County, New York. I found some wills, though not the ones I had been hoping for. Then it was time for deeds. Mike Didio is a retired gentleman who works mornings in the land records “office”, a cavernous space literally stuffed floor to ceiling with assorted documents, deed books and boxes, lots and lots of boxes. After exchanging pleasantries he let me loose. The grantor and grantee indexes were on the back wall. Knowing that I only had an hour and a half before Mike left, I set to work looking for anything to do with my Hubbards.  I already knew that James Hubbard had inherited land from his mother, Julia, but there was no probate file for her. Within a few minutes I found documentation that Julia was also known as Juliana, she was married to Levi Hubbard who predeceased her, land was transferred to her son James R. Hubbard and his wife Louisa, and that same land was later sold to Louisa’s father, Jonathan Moffat, a resident of Jefferson County. It was a virtual gold mine. I continued to search for deeds while Ted managed the copy machine. By the time I finished, we had printed nearly 60 pages, including some indexes for future research.

Next stop, McDonald’s. Really. It isn’t exactly on my Weight Watchers plan, but this establishment always has free wi-fi. I took the opportunity to regroup and plan the afternoon. Where should I look next?  Should I stay in Utica looking at more land records of lateral lines, or travel to a different courthouse? Considering that this was my last research day in New York, I decided to head north to Lewis County. It was time to try to figure out my Redinger family.

The hour and a half drive along the western edge of the Adirondack’s was beautiful and quite rural. Produce stands advertised local maple syrup. Butter,  cheese and ice cream establishments dotted the roadside, announcing that this was dairy country. The county seat of Lowville is fairly small, with a population of about 5,000. The courthouse came as a complete surprise. It was as new as the Utica courthouse was old. Once again, I didn’t have much luck with probate files but the land records were fantastic. Here, in this remote small town, the land records have all been digitized dating back to the late 1700’s. Imagine, a searchable database right in the courthouse that even included naturalization records. Not only was everything digitized, but it could all be printed right from the computer without even lifting a deed book. Of course, the original books are all there, but the digitized database saved so much time while also preserving the integrity of the original documents. The database is not online and the search still requires a trip to the courthouse.

The trip to both Utica and Lowville was productive. At the California Genealogical Society and Library there is a poster called “The Tip of the Iceberg”, explaining to researchers that most records are not available online. That is so true. I understand that it isn’t so much who I think I am, but where I go that is key to finding my family history.

Happy Mother’s Day

Searching for my female ancestors has been especially rewarding. Whether it’s my direct maternal line, or an entirely new branch, finding those elusive women has been challenging and fun. I have tremendous respect for the women who came before me, many of whom lost children along the way. Today is the perfect opportunity to honor those mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and so on, who came before us, as well as those moms who are missing their children. Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Diane Judith Orchard 18 August 1937 – 7 March 1990

Librarians: An Underutilized Resource

As genealogists, we know that most of our time will be spent in locations other than the internet. While is a fantastic site and the quantity of documents digitized is truly amazing, not everthing is there. And the Family History Library has an unbelieveable amount of microfilmed resources, some of which are online, all of which are easily accesible. But nothing quite speaks to the genealogist in me than a dusty courthouse or a quiet library. It is in these locations that the real treasures wait to be discovered. For the past four years I have made a biannual pilgrimage to Syracuse. My main motive has been to visit Sam, but considering that she is a college student, she doesn’t keep the same hours as I do, nor does she want to spend all of her waking time with her mom, the compromise is that I get to spend as much time as I want in the Onondaga Public Library Main Branch in downtown Syracuse. Throw in a few side trips to Fulton, Rome, Utica, Dexter, Brownville and Watertown and I am one happy camper.  One of the greatest resources in their Local History and Genealogy department is the index of New York State Vital Records. The indexes cover deaths from 1880 and births/marriages from 1881, outside of New York City. This valuable resource is located in only a few choice locations, including the State Archives, the National Archives and some large public New York libraries. For further information, go to

Today was likely my last day in the OPL.  Sam graduates this weekend and I don’t anticipate many Northern New York vacations in the near future.  I am going to miss that library. I loved the fact that every time I walked in, Theresa remembered me as the woman from California.  Librarians and library staff members are among the most underutilized resources in genealogy. They are educated, smart, informed and generally love what they do. I have yet to meet a librarian who wasn’t enthused, but the staff at the Onondaga Public Library has been truly amazing. Sure they can give an introductory class in genealogy to anyone who walks in and they can show each patron the quirks of their particular microfilm readers or give them a crash course in, but beyond that, they have a wealth of information ready at their fingertips. Can’t figure out the difference between a town and a village with the same name? They will show you on a map, give you a book and explain it all in one fell swoop. Confused about historical changes in counties over the years? They will explain the changes and back it up with documentation. Need more help than you can get in two days? They will actually offer to correspond with you via email. Now, I know that not every librarian can do this, but the staff at nearly every library where I have done research has gone beyond all expectations. It amazes me that more genealogists don’t utilize local librarians in their quest for information. They are the best.

Left to Right: Linda Okazaki with OPL Staff Kim Kleinhaus, Holly Sammons, Barbara Scheibel, Theresa Maunes.

What Goes Around Comes Around

Almost exactly four years ago, Samantha clicked “yes” and chose to attend Syracuse University. At just about the same time, I learned that my second great grandparents lived for a time in Syracuse, and they both died there. It took only a little bit of digging to find out their story. My great-grandmother, Louise Bacon, was raised in Oneida County, New York. She and her sister, Christine, were the daughters of John J. Bacon and his wife Sarah Cornelia Moffat Hubbard. A third daughter, Ella, died as an infant in 1890.  Louise and Christine both attended Utica Conservatory of Music. Christine became a violinist and Louise a concert pianist. In 1906, Louise married Dr. Hambley Samuel Orchard, a dentist who was educated at the University of Pennsylvania. Their lives as newlyweds had such a promising beginning. Unfortunately, Louise suffered much sadness over the next ten years. Her first son, Leroy was born with a birth defect impacting his left arm. A few months later, her beloved grandmother and namesake, Louisa Moffat Hubbard, died in Utica. Louise and Hambley went on to have four more children. My grandfather Neil was born in 1910, followed by Gilbert, Harold and Edith. Neil suffered from Typhus as an infant, but lived to the age of 52. Harold died from a congenital birth defect in 1914 at just two weeks of age.  Gilbert, three years, and Edith, three months, as well as Louise’s 56-year-old mother, died in March 1915. If that weren’t enough, Hambley succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis the following year. He died on  August 25, 1916. Louise sold his dental practice and after a brief legal entanglement in which her mother in law sued her for $1,000, Louise purchased a brand new home for her and her parents on Lancaster Avenue in Syracuse. She and her boys only lived there briefly before starting a new life in California. But imagine my surprise when I discovered that the home which Louise purchased in a period of great sadness, was literally around the corner from Samantha’s residence during her last year and a half at Syracuse University, a joyful time for her.

Who Were John Orchard’s Parents?

In 1820, John Orchard married Mary Hambley in the parish of Lesnewth, Cornwall. They started a family, left Cornwall for the Americas and set up a life for themselves and their children in New Hamburg, New York. But who were John’s parents? I have proven Mary’s parents, grand parents and great grandparents. And there were a good number of Orchard families living in the Lesnewth area for several generations. Sometimes the name was spelled “Orchett”. Of the probate records located so far, most of the Orchard men in that area were “husbandmen”, which simply means farmers, gardeners or orchardists, as per wikipedia. John was initially employed as a gardener when he arrived in New York, so I’d like to think that the surname actually has occupational origins. But I haven’t found proof of John’s parents. I think I’ll need to scroll through the baptismal records again. Maybe I missed it. Maybe it isn’t there. One thing is evident, if John were an orchardist, I have inherited his interest. My roses are blooming like gangbusters. The fruit trees are full of green leaves, now that the blossoms have fallen. I’m a bit late planting the pumpkin seeds this year, but will get to that this week. Even if I can’t find John’s parents, he would be happy to know that the Orchard line continues in spirit.