Sunday, December 7, 2014

Finding Our Ryders - A Course Correction

The Family Of My Maternal Grandfather

Arthur Fremont Ryder, a noted genealogist and librarian at Wesleyan University's Godfrey Memorial Library of genealogy and Family History in Middletown, CT (originally from New Jersey), in Preliminary Materials for a Genealogy Of The Rider (Ryder) Families in the U.S., Middletown, CT 1959, (available as a database on found three volumes of Rider stories in America:

“…nearly 40 entirely independent American Rider-Ryder families receive here some record, ‘independent’ in the sense that they have descended from that many different immigrant ancestors.”

Fremont Rider is not a relative of my family but here's an example of that: there were two unrelated Fred Ryders living in Chicago in the early 20th century and one of them is my maternal great-grandfather. It is embarrassing to admit it, but for about four years, I picked the wrong Fred Ryder family and researched it extensively.  This post is a brief confession.  It is not a sourced genealogy post.  

Frank Thomas Ryder
I started searching through with Frank Thomas Ryder because there was some oral tradition about him, but no facts.  He is the father of my mother Mary Virginia Ryder Wilmes who died in 2000.  I knew Frank well and as spent a great deal of time with him. However, identifying our grandfather Frank Ryder’s father Fred Ryder is a key to confirming the genealogy of our Ryders among Fremont Ryder's 40 families. In our oral family history, nothing was really known about him, not even his name.  After correcting my research based on the correct Fred Ryder, I see that is a rich westward migration story.   I look forward to telling the story in this blog.

I must also acknowledge here that another cousin had earlier created a genealogy which correctly identified Azariah and Fred.  It was unsourced and for that among other reasons, I went with the "Chicago people" story I had heard when I evaluated the early research.  My apologies to the cousin.  

Brookside Museum
I realized the problem with my conclusion in two pieces.  First, in August this year, during our annual vacation to Saratoga,New York, for the horse races, I visited the picturesque Brookside Museum of the Saratoga Historical Society in Balston Spa, Saratoga County, New York ( With the help of their research coordinator, I explored their McCarthys materials.  I was searching for Fred's wife, my great grandmother Mary McCarthy's family. Despite an entry in an 1880 census record for Milford near Balston Spa. where many McCarthys lived for decades, there was no record of our Mary and her father Timothy McCarthy.   If not there, where?

Thomas Francis Ryder Baptismal Record
In October this year, this question was answered in part when I received two documents from the Archivist of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sioux City, Iowa - copies of the Register of Baptisms for 1884 and 1889. Frank was baptized there on October 24, 1889 as Thomas Francis Ryder and his date-of-birth is shown as October 13, 1889.  His older brother Arthur Benjamin Ryder was born there on July 3, 1884 and baptized on July 13, 1884.   Sometime before late 1883 the McCarthys moved to Sioux City.

I do not know where Fred Ryder and Mary McCarthy were married. A federal 1880  census document shows that after the Civil War, Fred's Ryder's family had moved to Sioux City from McHenry County, Illinois, where it is assumed he was born.  In 1880, Fred is shown as an unmarried 19 year old living in Sioux City with his Civil War-veteran father Azariah and mother Mary Jo Jacobs Ryder.    

The McCarthys probably were in Galena, Illinois for some time before moving to Sioux City, but it is not clear when they arrived. It is possible that Mary was born in Galena since one brother was born there, but there is no record so far of Mary.  Later, probably because of relatively easy railroad travel, Fred and Mary moved back and forth between Sioux City and Chicago but the move dates are not clear.   

I had grown up hearing that the Ryders were "Chicago people", and I thought they did not arrive in Sioux City until Frank went there to work for Cudahy in the Sioux City stockyards.  Fred Ryder and Mary McCarthy were married and living with Fred’s father Azariah Rider and mother Mary Jo Jacobs Ryder and Arthur Benjamin there at the 1885 Iowa Census. 

It has taken me a few months to obtain any important facts and documents.  I first read Fremont Rider's three volume index in the spectacular Othmer Library of the Brooklyn Historical Society (   In addition to the Brookside Museum in Balston Spa, New York, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Sioux City, Iowa, there are three critical sources of information:  
  • The McHenry County Historical Society, 6422 Main Street, P.O. Box, 434, Union, Illinois 601980 and Society Researcher Craig Pfannkuche (
  • The Bath County Historical Society, P.O. Box 212, Warm Springs, Virginia 24484 and Karen Buzzard as well as Katie E. Smith, an independent local researcher (
  • The Rider-Ryder Family of Virginia, written by Gordon J. Rider, 1993, published by Gateway Press, Inc., 1905 Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21302.  This self-published book is an out-of-print narrative of a lifetime of family research but the publisher has become an online book publisher, a letter to the author's address was returned and the phone listed is disconnected. Gordon's own biographical information in the book shows that he was born in 1919, so he would be 95 years old if still alive.   I accessed the hardcover book on reserve in the New York Public Library's Milstein Division of United States History and Genealogy (www.nypl/ on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. There is no digital copy available online.  
Choosing the wrong Fred was a very big mistake but the American history and the genealogy I learned were rewarding and useful as I began again.  I also had made a very good friend (unfortunately no longer a cousin) in the process and helped her visit some places in New York City where her ancestor lived and worked for Governor Peter Stuyvesant in Dutch New Netherland.  I am embarrassed to admit it to the cousins I already misinformed, but it has to be done.  Much of the other completed research will be sent to the historical societies in Jefferson County, New York (especially the Lyme Historical Center), who were very helpful to me.  Some of the stories may be told here later.  

Future posts to Long Since Dispersed will describe many of these relatives and what I have learned, as well as what remains to be researched.  Some of the stories are very interesting because they are 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


My Father's Voice
November 30, 2014
By Sherry Wilmes

A fantastic discovery!  Last Saturday, during a cable outage that made both television football and genealogy impossible (without using up valuable cellular time), it seemed reasonable to attack a little clean-out project - a small bureau full of old electronic equipment (mostly very old cables and power supplies) for recycling.

However, in the bureau, I found an eight or nine year old Olympus DTS 10, a small recorder I used to record some work-related training events!  With fresh batteries, it worked!

And, to my very tearful and grateful surprise, it included a special recording.  Exactly six years to the calendar day and day of the week, it was a nine minute interview with my father James A. Wilmes, who died on St. Patrick's Day this year at 92 years and 9 days old. I had simply forgotten that we created this.

He was a simple man and there is nothing elegant here.  But it was a sweetly emotional gift to hear his voice again.  This picture is my father Jim at a fish restaurant north of Omaha riverside on the Missouri about three years ago. 

The only document we have to prove his birth is a poor copy of a baptismal record from a Council Bluffs, Iowa, Catholic parish with a date of birth in Mercy Hospital there could be an 8 but also might be a 3(rd) day of March, 1922 and somehow Social Security decided to use the latter instead of the 8th.  

There ensued a long series of encounters with Social Security which finally led to my repeating "He uses March 8, 1922, but Social Security uses March 3, 1922" to all the pharmacists, doctors, insurers, Medicare Part D providers, and others who inquired about that date.  There are military forms which use the "correct" date.  Someone believed him in 1941 when he enlisted!

That Sunday, we sat in his house on North 533rd Street in Omaha, Nebraska, his home of 48 years at the time.  It was Thanksgiving weekend, and on the recording there are sounds of cooking in the background, pots clinking and muted conversations.  But Dad and I sat at the kitchen table and he answered my questions about what it was like for him during the Depression.  He had an amazing memory and enjoyed telling us about his life.  Some things he repeated often, but some of these things were really facts I could not remember having heard.  So, this was a belated but excellent second chance.

It would be terrific to insert an audio file here, but the media in this little recorder, the kind that reporters used pre-smart phones to catch impromptu questions and answers, is a 64MB SmartMedia or MMCwafer and although I have in the last few days found Switch Sound File Converter and Audacity software (an audio editor and recorder), both free and used them to successfully transfer the recording to a computer, there hasn't been time to master clipping some unrelated discussion.  When I do, I will definitely upload my first audio file to Family Tree Maker, Ancestry and perhaps  I transcribed it and have inserted some of it here:

Sunday, November 23, 2008, Partial Interview with James A. "Jim" Wilmes

NOTE:  I label this partial because there is a little story of an unfortunate neighbor lady who was murdered and I did not have time to document her story!

Sherry:  Tell us what you remember of the hard times around the Depression.  You were living on North 35th Street?

Jim:  35th and Chicago.  when Dad (Henry J. "Hank" Wilmes) had his garage (Farnam Ford), he could do an overhaul ofr $15 for a transmission.  This was at 29th and Farnam which is npow the Interstate (I-480).

Sherry:  Fords?

All cars.  Fords and idifferent ones.  We had a grocery store called Nelson and Nanufsen (sp?) at 43rd and California Streets and when you walked in there they had things along the walls (bins?) and you could get a pound of coffee and sugar in a glass and they had trucks for deliveries.  When Dad (Hank) would do work on his cars, he (the owner) traded for groceries instead of money.  On Sunday, there was a place (a Chinese or Japanese restaurant?) between 29th and 30th (on Farnam) and he did work on their cars, so about every two weeks we had chicken chowmein (chuckle).  You could get a pound of round steak at Wohlner's Grocery for 39 cents if you had 39 cents (and according to Aunt Joanne, Jim's sister), heart, kidneys and liver were thrown in for free)!

Sherry:  Were you working then?  Did you work s a teenager?

Jim:  In high school.  Well, on Saturday morning I worked at a grocery store at 33rd and Cass for $2 from 6 am to 6 pm.  At 6 pm, I would go to the Boagards' drugstore (across the street) and work until 11 pm for 20 cents an hour  On Sunday, I would go to work from 3 pm to 11 pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sherry:  Did you get paid cash?

Jim:  I got a check for it, money (cash) once a week.

Sherry:  Was there anything withheld then, payroll taxes or anything?

Jim:  No.  I quit and I played baseball for one year in high school.

Sherry:  When you got out of high school, you had a hard time finding a job?

Jim:  When I got out of high school (St. Cecelia's Cathedral), I had a hard time finding a job for a couple months so I coached baseball at Cathedral.  There was a fella named Mack McCormack who was the manager of the National Cash Register (later NCR) office here and so I got a job there on September 22, 1941, because I had graduated (he then worked for NCR for 42 years).  After that, on a December Sunday, we were playing football on the grounds at Cathedral School and somebody had an old car there with a radio and they said that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

Sherry:  So when you worked at the grocery store, were you bagging groceries and at the drug store, were you making sodas and delivering?

Jim:  At the drug store, I was delivering prescriptions and I was a soda jerk.  I could make the best sodas! Vanilla, raspberry, strawberry.  We made small cokes for 5 cents.  Cherry,  Whatever you wanted.  I delivered on a bicycle.  The longest trip I ever had to make was 50th and Underwood (two large hills in that trip).

Sherry:  Who were the customers for the drug store?

Jim:  Oh all kinds of people who would come in for ice cream sodas, malts and sundaes, strawberry, chocolate.

Sherry:  Did the streetcars stop there from downtown Omaha?

Jim:  Yes, then it would turn north and go to North 33rd and Parker.

Sherry:  Did you listen to the radio and the Roosevelt Fireside speeches?

Jim:  Yes the speeches.  When I would come home from school, I would turn on KFAB and they would have the best music you ever heard (Big Band Era hits).  And I used to listen to that.

Jim:  When I enlisted (August 27, 1942), I went to Ft. Crook (Bellevue, NE) and then the same day took a train to Ft. Leavenworth (Kansas) that night, getting in at 2 am.  Some guys had to stay up and do fire patrol.  We got up at 6 am and had breakfast and then got all our new outfits (uniforms), the outfits that we would have for three and a half years.  You could send your civilian clothes home if you wanted to.  Before we left Ft. Crook, they called our folks and told them to come out and bring your necessities.

(interview end)

So, imagine high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors working 19 hours a day Saturdays and then five hours a day on Sunday and twice weeknights from 6 pm to 11 pm!  And, he did it cheerfully and without complaint 75 years later.  Today, of course, most grocery stores don't feature wooden bins for produce; except in major cities, grocery deliveries are not made by bicycle, if at all; and there are probably not many pharmacies that include soda fountains.

I have no photos here in Brooklyn of my father at that age, but in his Omaha house there are several photo albums of many later events as he was a good collector.  Using these "copies of copies" photos of  his sisters, Marjorie and Joanne, I can share my handsome father's world with you.

The first is a picture of his sisters (left to right) Joanne and Marjorie with a neighborhood friend ice skating in Gifford Park in 1939 behind their home.  There is an image in the distance of a car my grandfather Hank might have repaired (perhaps a 1939 Model A Ford like the one he maintained for years, so long that I rode in it as late as approximately 1950-1953). 

Here is an early photo of Dad in his Army Air Corps uniform, probably early 1943.

This photo is from the flightline checking fighter training plane radios at Minter Field, Bakersfield, CA.

A later picture of Dad and Aunt Joanne polishing Hank's car on No. 35th St. while on leave.

At a Los Angeles area military base with his brother John Henry "Jack" Wilmes late in WWII.

So, what is next for my genealogy searches?  First, finish learning the new software to add audio and video files.  And beyond that, Nebraska and Iowa genealogy makes searching for extended family tough. Their documents are rarely digitized, though I understand there are very limited records at the Nebraska Historical Society in Lincoln, NE.  Even the state records wiki page acknowledges that courthouse by courthouse searches are necessary but records are good quality. District Court clerks are busy and there are no online ordering systems.  Newspaper archives have not been digitized.  Future searches will require library, courthouse and newspaper company office trips.

This brief recording was a discovery to be treasured and preserved.  It generated a busy week searching for strategies for conversion software for audio and photos; retrieving scattered photos; consulting non-traditional sources (such as Omaha's Cathedral High School Alumni Directory 1991, published by Bernard C. Harris Publishing Copany, Inc. White Plains, NY 1990,one of Dad's prized possessions); visiting by phone with Aunt Joanne in Omaha to confirm some details; and, sharing it all with my two sisters.

I could add many more documents, photos and stories and use an updated digital format but the Share A Memory deadline looms today and I would like to share this memory of Dad.  I appreciate the opportunity to do that.  And I appreciate my reliable little Olympus DTS 10, ancient though it may be.