Saturday, October 19, 2013

Working on a Box of Roots, and Overlooked Clues

It’s finally happened – I’m tired of working and cleaning around the boxes of genealogy goodies I brought up from the basement months ago.  I’m working on the many storage bins full of this and that, trying to make sure everything is scanned, and put into archival sleeves in three ring binders.  My hope is that by putting things in binders, the originals will not need to be “disturbed” nearly as much, plus, I’ll be able to find things a little more easily.  I’m finding many things that just aren’t made for a binder, so I’ll still have boxes, etc. of things, but it should be much more manageable with fewer, and well-labeled, boxes.

I’ve learned a lot this week, but first and foremost is the need to go back and review old documents with a fresh mind.  I found a number of old letters from my great-grandparents, Pete and Ella Christensen, after they moved to California in 1946.  I had these items scanned and transcribed, but decided to print out the transcription for each letter, put it in a sleeve, with the original kept in the envelope behind the transcription.   But this time, I noticed the envelopes.  Ten years ago, when I first scanned these letters, I completely overlooked their value.

As I mentioned, Pete and Ella Christensen moved to Gardena, California in 1946.  Ella passed away in 1952, and her daughter Lillian and family (of which my mother was one of the children) moved to California for a year.  For some time, I’d tried to find where their home was located, but apparently street names had been changed at some point, as Market Street was no longer shown anywhere in Gardena.  I sat down with my mother, and we attempted to find the general vicinity of the house, based on her memories of landmarks from 60 years ago – an elementary school across the street, and a church to the back of the house, but the memories were too faded to remember the names.  As one could probably predict, it wasn’t very successful.

Then came the envelopes.  As my mother recalled, Pete and Ella’s son Clarence lived a short distance from the house on Market Street, and I just happened to have a couple of letters Clarence had written with his return address on the envelope.  Luckily, Manhattan Place must not have been included when the street names were changed.  His house appeared to be on, or near the corner of Manhattan Place and 162nd Street.   We knew it was pretty much a “straight shot” to Clarence’s house from Pete and Ella’s.

I “googled” Gardena Elementary Schools, fully expecting that after 60 years, buildings would be gone and schools relocated, but one school, Denker Elementary, had been at the same site since 1932, an address on 162nd Street... the same street Clarence lived on.  Using Google Earth, I looked at these two addresses, and especially focused on the block across the street from the elementary school.  Mom remembered Pete having two lots, the lot to the back being full of fruit trees, and the church, possibly Seventh Day Adventists, was behind that lot.  Here is what I found on Google Earth:

Right above the “A” marker would have been where Pete and Ella’s house stood – there’s now a house behind it where the lot of fruit trees stood, and behind that – a Seventh Day Adventist church.  Toward the bottom of the picture, in the center, is Denker Elementary School.
I feel comfortable that this is where 1605 Market Street was located, and where my great-grandparents lived.  I tried to find information on street name changes in Gardena in the 1950s, but there’s nothing online, so I will need to get confirmation from the city by snail mail. 

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