Who are all these people again?

If you’ve just recently joined us (ME) here at this blog, here’s a fresh introduction to the folks whose lives I’ve been researching, as well as few I plan to talk about soon.

All of these people are related to me through my mother’s father, Malcolm MacGregor Jameson, known to me as “Grandpa Mac” and to others in the family as MacGregor. He didn’t talk much about his family and the relationship I had to him and my grandmother wasn’t a close one. So some of this stuff I’m learning is very new to me.

On Mac’s dad’s side is my great-great-grandfather Joe Lee Jameson, a Texas bureaucrat who had been bookkeeper at an insane asylum, the State Revenue Agent of Texas, endorser for an adding machine, and had recently become an oil company executive when he died of typhoid fever at the age of thirty-four. He was married to Amaryllis Routh Jameson (whose later married name was Ward and who took the nickname “Jamie”), and at least half the stuff I know about this family comes from her scrapbooks, so she is my hero.

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Joe Lee Jameson, looking very important

They had three children,* all born in Texas:

The eldest, Malcolm Routh Jameson (my great-grandfather), also died relatively young, in his fifties. He had been a Naval officer during WWI and later in life became a science-fiction writer. I’ve built a web site for him and I’ll sometimes call him MRJ for short.

The second child was Vida Jameson (or “Vida I” because MRJ named his daughter after her). She died when she was just five. *There were also twin boys in the family who were born and died (or else were stillborn) in 1901. They’re the ones with unsettling little angel baby jpegs on their Ancestry.com profiles (no, I don’t know who put them there).

A year after the twins, and two years after Vida’s death, House Baker Jameson (named for his father’s mentor, Colonel Edward M. House), was born. He became an actor and worked on stage, radio, TV and film from the 1930s into the late 60s. His first wife was Edith (Edie) Taliaferro, a stage actress who had been a child star and who also had appeared in a handful of silent films, only one of which survives. After she died, House remarried, to actress and dancer Liz Mears. (And while he’s not a blood relative, I’ll tell you about her dad sometime, because… well, you’ll see.)

MRJ was the only one of his siblings to have children of his own: my Grandpa Mac (the second born), and Vida Jameson (aka Vida II), who as a young adult became friends with some Golden Age sci-fi writers her father knew, and eventually published stories of her own.

Vida and Mac’s mother was my great-grandmother Mary MacGregor Jameson (I grew up hearing her referred to as “Nana”), who first met MRJ when they were kids, when both his family and hers were living in the administrative staff quarters of the Southwestern Insane Asylum in San Antonio, Texas, around 1897. If you’re following along, you’ll remember my great-great-grandfather Joe Lee Jameson was the bookkeeper; my other great-great grandfather was the superintendent.

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MRJ and Nana (Mary), 1920s: “Of course we’re crazy about each other. We met at the insane asylum!”

Like MRJ, Mary was the only one of her siblings to have children. She was the second of five sisters, the four others being:

  • Anna MacGregor Collins, the oldest, who was the family archivist and genealogist, and whom I have to thank for saving a lot of this stuff.
  • Helen MacGregor, who never married and became a schoolteacher (oh, but she left some compelling stuff).
  • Margaret MacGregor Morgan, who moved to New York City in the 1930s. Still trying to figure out her story.
  • Kathryn MacGregor Burgess, who along with her sister Anna married military officers stationed in the Philippines.

The MacGregor sisters’ parents (see how I pivoted and am now going backward through the generations of my Grandpa Mac’s mother’s line?), were my great-great grandfather Dr. William Wallace MacGregor, a physician and surgeon, and Anna Jones MacGregor, my great-great grandmother (whose birth was celebrated in this lovely letter).

Beyond this generation and going backward, Anna Jones’s line is the most well-documented—most of the material I have from the 1880s and earlier is from her side, and she and some of her daughters claimed DAR membership based on her ancestors (the Moores, the Markses, and the Meriwethers). We’ve already had a glimpse of Anna’s maternal relatives, and there are some letters from her father and his people too.

I’ve also started to find out a little more about Dr. MacGregor’s family, who I think came over to the US from Glasgow, Scotland, around 1850. I have a few scraps (and I mean, literally, scraps) from that side.

And then, jumping ahead about a century (oh, the whiplash!), I have some stuff that provides some interesting glimpses of my mother’s very early childhood in New York, when she and my grandmother lived with MRJ and Nana while Grandpa Mac was off in the Pacific in WWII.

I’ve set up a category list in the sidebar to be a sort of index, so feel free to click on those names (or places or details) to see where else they come up. And I’ll be updating the family tree info when I get a chance. Until then, consider this your cheat sheet. Any questions?

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Edie’s first marriage

You know how you sometimes forget you already knew something? That’s what happened with me when it comes to (my great-great aunt-by-marriage) Edie’s previous marriage. I’d long suspected that House wasn’t her first husband, given her age and the age difference between them, but it completely slipped my mind that I’d found and saved a snippet of info that confirmed this.

So after writing last week’s post and realizing there were all sorts of little clues leading in the direction of an earlier marriage, I looked Edie up in some other family trees on Ancestry and found “Thomas Earle Browne” listed as her first husband whom she married in Canada. Of course Ancestry won’t let me see the Canadian record without signing up for their international plan, but the metadata lists the year as 1912, when Edie was around 18. (So Wikipedia was partially right: she married someone that year, but not House).

When I saw the name Thomas Earle Browne I looked back in my Evernote files and remembered that I’d snipped this thing from Google Books, where it had appeared in a theatre magazine from the late 1910s:Dramatic_Mirror_of_Motion_Pictures_and_t.html

Then another search on Ancestry showed Edie and Earle living together on 83rd street in the 1920 census. So there you go. From what I can tell, Earle Browne was a screenwriter and actor with a handful of Broadway and early film supporting role credits. He was nearly 20 years older than Edie and died in LA in 1944. Here’s a picture of him I found.

Still no idea when Edie and House were married—or for that matter, when Edie’s divorce took place. Looking up an actress in the marriage and divorce announcements on Ancestry winds up being a hilarious fool’s errand, since apparently the database flags instances of the word engaged” appearing alongside names, so every article about Edie being engaged to appear in a production of “Private Lives” or “Young Wisdom” comes up in the search results. And did the fact that Edie married Earle Browne in Canada meant perhaps that the divorce had to be filed in Canada? Is that how it worked? Both Edie and House went through Canada on their way to and from an Australian theater tour in 1930, so maybe they tied the knot then? (I also have a few other questions which I don’t want to put on a public site… anyone who knows anything should email me!)

I’ll keep looking. In the meantime, here’s one of the few pics of House and Edie together, looking very happy. IMG_7444

The New York City years (Part 1) with bonus House & Edie mystery!

Way back in late 2012 I promised to post my photos from New York, where I’d visited places where the Jamesons and MacGregors (well, Margaret at least) had lived in the 1930s and 40s. So here’s 244 E. 48th Street in Manhattan. The building shows up in a photo album that belonged to (my great-great uncle) House Jameson and his wife. Edith:

2016-02-20 21.51.53 But since there are almost no notes or captions the album (shakes fist at ancestors ) I didn’t know this was the 48th Street place until I went there myself, using an address that I’d found for House in the 1930 census. And as it happened, it looked almost exactly the same:

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Obviously this was an ideal location for House and Edie, who were both performing in Broadway plays on a regular basis at the time (and House’s radio career might have started by then too).

But apparently, for a time, House’s brother and his family lived in the building too. Here’s the 1930 listing for all four of them—Malcolm and Mary (my great-grandparents), 13 year-old Vida, and 11 year-old Mac, my grandfather.

recordWhich is why the row of buildings across the street from the 244 building looked so familiar:

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Malcolm (my great-grandfather) and his mother-in-law, Anna Jones MacGregor (who must have been visiting)

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Mary (my great-grandmother), her daughter Vida, her sister Anna, and her mother.

The family posted for several photos at this spot. When I visited this street, I noticed  those ornaments between the windows on the top story of one of the buildings across the street, and they helped me confirm I was in the right place. Cool, huh?

According to the census record, Malcolm was working as a salesman for International Correspondence Schools at the time. He had retired from the Navy just a few years before for health reasons, and after working various jobs in Texas (I think), perhaps it seemed a good idea to join his younger brother in the city. I also found a brief mention of this time in a journal written in the 1990s by my grandmother (Mac’s wife), who said that Malcolm and Mary had originally come to New York with plans to open a Mexican restaurant. Really?

House had been in the city after graduating from Columbia in the late 1920s (except for the times he toured with theater companies around the US and Australia). I’ve found a couple of other Manhattan addresses for House, but in at least one case the entire block had been razed for office buildings. This block on East 48th is relatively unchanged, although the 244 building has since been rehabbed into a single-family home that sold for over four million dollars a few years ago. (It originally listed for $12M!) But at the time the Jamesons lived there the building had several units, with Malcolm and Mary and the kids in one apartment and House and Edie in another. At least that’s what it seems when you go by the 1930 Census, which visited Malcolm’s place one day, and House’s place a few weeks later.

Which brings me to the little mystery about House and Edie that arose from reading their census record! See below. (I know, it’s hard to read. You can look here, too. And here, and here.)

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You’ll notice that Edie is listed as head of household, and House is a “roomer.” Interesting! But weren’t they married to each other by then? We thought so, but the census lists “Edith Brown Taliaferro” as married and House as single. Oh my. Of course census records get stuff wrong all the time, and it’s possible that the census-taker didn’t know how else to list two people with two different last names (which House and Edie had for professional reasons) living in the same place. Or perhaps the place had been Edie’s first and her name was on the lease. (She was ten years older than House, after all.) Or maybe House and Edie were having a bit of fun with the census-taker. At any rate it makes me realize that we don’t seem to have a record or even a date for when House and Edie got hitched. Edie’s Wikipedia page says she married House in 1912, but that would have been when House was ten, so let’s assume that was wrong. Perhaps Edie married someone in 1912…maybe that’s where the odd “Brown” in her name in the census record (which I’ve never seen anywhere else) comes from. But I guess I’ll have to add House and Edie’s marriage record/date to the list of things I need to look for.

Stay tuned for more New York photos (at some point), including one photo—the only one I’ve ever found!—that shows Edie with other Jameson family members. And I bet you want to see more House and Edie, too, don’t you?

How’s this for starters? IMG_7477

Letter: Aunt Hannah to baby Anna Jones, 1862

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Letter to Anna Jones MacGregor (my great-great grandmother), who was exactly three weeks old at the time, from her aunt Hannah Moore. It’s one of the first letters I transcribed, and it’s so completely charming that it was worth the effort:

Corpus Christi Texas
May 23 1862
My dear little Niece
Welcome three welcome to this beautiful world of ours  May yours be a life of sunshine and happiness    A blessing all around you.
Grand Pa told us of your arrival as soon as he came. The news was received with many smiles and exclamations from your many Aunts and Uncles.
Uncle Chappie declared he could not sleep for thinking of you. And call himself Uncle Chappie all day. Aunt Nelie says she will nurse you and take the greatest care imaginable of you —If you are pretty. But she seem to doubt that.  She has some things to hand down to you as soon as Mama  can trust you with them.
I fear you will find Uncle John a rough but loving Uncle. Aunt Maggie will be as patient as possible with you.
All the servants from Aunt Peggie down had some comment to make about you, wondering if you looked (like) your Pa or Ma.
We are all very anxious to hear from and see you.
Ask your Pa to write soon and describe you to us.
Perhaps you will wonder what use to make of letters.  The best use to make of mine is to pull them out of your Mama’s hand and tare it to pieces for amusement.
Don’t let Grandma spoil you while she is up there. You had better come down with her and visit the sea shore.
Kiss yourself in the glass for me. Give my best love to Pa Ma and Grandma and accept a large share for yourself from your loving “Aunt Hannah.”

 

Anna’s records show she was born in Montgomery, Texas, about 250 miles from Corpus Christi. “Aunt Hannah” is Hannah Moore, sister to Anna’s mother Mary Ann Moore, who was 23 at the time of her first daughter’s birth.

Down in Corpus Christi, Hannah was 19, apparently still living at home with a passel of mostly younger siblings—all of whom, from the sounds of of this letter, had just become uncles and aunts for the first time and were thrilled to bits. “Uncle Chappie,” AKA Elisha Chapman Moore, who was nine at the time; Cornelia, AKA “Nelie,” who was 11; John, 16, and Margaret, “Maggie,” 21. (There was an eldest sibling, William, who seemed to be elsewhere.)

The letter is even sweeter when you see this adorable photo (tintype?) of Anna:

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KISS YOURSELF IN THE GLASS FOR ME, YOU CUTE LITTLE THING

This letter was found in a binder that Anna Collins (Anna’s daughter) had put together in the late 1960s. Thank God for the note she left along with it, otherwise I don’t know if I’d have been able to figure out who the hell these people were.

Version 2

Based on Anna C’s note I was able to go into Ancestry and link to some family tree info that matched the information in the letter. These Moore kids were all born in either Alabama or Mississippi (!) and show up in Corpus Christi in the 1870 census.

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Aunt Hannah had gorgeous handwriting and she sounds fun. I’ll keep my eye out for photos of her.