25 April 2017

Other People's Ancestors : Success and a Reunion

This photo of  George Wickham Metcalfe
is soon to be reunited with his family.

G.W. Metcalfe is heading home!

I'm thrilled to report that I've been able to reunite this photo of George Wickham Metcalfe with his family. [You can read more about George in an earlier post on this blog.]

George's granddaughter contacted me via Ancestry.com, where I had created a tree for George and uploaded his photo. I included in every note space available on that site the invitation for a family member to contact me to reclaim the photograph. And it worked!

This is a photograph of George that his granddaughter had never seen. She was kind enough to share some of her memories of him with me, and I treasure that. I feel like George is part of my family too, after spending so much time researching him.

Happy trails, George!

13 April 2017

Easter 1964 : Bonnets!

Ah, Easter! Chocolate bunnies, jellybeans, dyed eggs, and the dreaded Easter outfit. Please, take a moment to absorb the rediculous things that we are wearing on our heads. [You can click on the images if you want to make them larger.]

In our Easter bonnets... The Dixon/Traina ladies showing their Spring style. 1964, Warinanco Park, Union Co. NJ. collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
Mom, Grandma, and me. Easter 1964. Warinanco Park.
Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
That's my Mom, Mary (Dixon) Traina, in the black mushroom hat, complete with some sort of half-veil thing. No idea what is on the veil. It looks like a bug.

My Grandma, Sophie (Karvoius) Dixon, looks a lovely in neutrals, with her spiky ribbon pouf-hat. Her purse looks big enough to put me in!

 And then there's little me. Snappy double-breasted camel-hair coat, eh? You can see my whole ensemble below.

A four-year old Liz, wearing a cute little yellow suit and a hideous daisy-covered Easter bonnet. 1964. Warinanco Park, Union Co. NJ. Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
Easter 1964. Liz enduring the indignity of The Bonnet.
Warinanco Park, Union County, NJ.

Check out my little yellow suit! This may be the most well-coordinated outfit I've ever worn in my life! But really, what the heck were they thinking with the hat? The daisies are bad enough, but what's with the mound of yellow bow meringue on top?

The Easter bonnet was my least favorite holiday tradition. And I probably had a few unkind thoughts about the gloves and the saddle shoes as well. But what's a four-year-old to do?

Endure. Simply endure. The Easter baskets full of treats are on the horizon...

05 April 2017

Sophie (Karvoius) Dixon : Safety First!

"How to Keep My Family Safe"

"...an ideal way for the lady of the house to improve the safety of her family..."

Promotional photo taken of the winner of the 1959 Esso Bayway safety contest - my grandmother, Sophie Dixon. E. Ackemann 2017.
One of the promo pictures from the contest.
Sophie (Karvoius) Dixon, 1959.
Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.

On 19 Feb 1959 a letter went out from G.R. Murrell, Manager, to the employees of the Esso Standard Oil refinery in Bayway for a safety contest. In it he invited "the wives of our employees and the married women employees at Bayway to develop a Home Safety Program for their families." Entry forms and instructions were included with the letter. The forms listed the leading causes of home accidents and asked the entrants to explain the ideas that they found successful in preventing these types of accidents. "English composition will not be judged, only the safety activities presented..." in each contestants submission. (1)

Offering a total of $750 dollars in prizes, each contestant was also eligible to select an award from the Esso safety award catalog. (1)

My grandfather, Wally Dixon, was employed at Esso. He retired in 1960 after 28 years of service. (2) He probably encouraged his wife to enter. I would love to see the completed form that my grandmother submitted for this contest.

And the winner is...

Western Union Telegram to Sophie Dixon informing her that she won the 1959 Esso Bayway safety contest. E. Ackemann, 2017.
You're a winner! I would have loved to have seen my Grandmother's face when she got this telegram.
E. Ackermann, 2017. (1)

 On April 15 my grandparents went to the Bayway Refinery so my Grandmother could accept her award.

Sophie Dixon accepts the first place award in the Esso Bayway safety contest. 15 Apr 1959. Esso/Bayway Refinery Photo. E. Ackemann, 2015.
Sophie Dixon accepts her award from G.R. Murrell.
Her husband, Wallace B. Dixon looks on.
Esso Standard Oil Co. Bayway Refinery.
Photographic Group. Number 1016-2. 15 Apr 1959.
Collection of E. Ackemann, 2017.

"Wins Esso Safety Contest." Clipping about Sophie Dixon, Singer employee, winning Esso Bayway safety contest. June 1959 issue of E'Port Observer. E. Ackemann, 2017.
"Wins Esso Safety Contest"
click image to enlarge
E'Port Observer, June 1959
E. Ackemann, 2017
 According to this article in The E'Port Observer, newsletter of the Elizabethport Works of the Singer Corporation, "It took a Singer employee, Sophie Dixon of the Oil Milling Department, to win first award in an Esso Bayway Refinery safety contest." (3)
"Mrs. Dixon used a humorous approach to offer practical safety suggestions. Among them: "If the roof of the car must be held up. the car or the driver should be replaced." Another comment was that people who work in gardens and backyards should not go beyond their limit, lest they overcome garden fragrances with liniment. She encouraged drivers to "leave baby shoes where they belong" because they clutter up visibility in a car."
I was thrilled to find this article which provides a glimpse into the winning entry, as well as a little snapshot of what other members of the family were doing at the time."Mrs. Dixon has been with Singer for 18 years. Her sister, Estelle Karvoius, is chief clerk of Dept. 33 and a daughter, Mary Traina, is in the Employment Office." It also reports that my grandfather was on sick leave from Esso at the time.

All the winners of the Esso Bayway Refinery 1959 safety contest, along with their husbands and the plant manager, G. R. Murrell. 15 Apr 1959. Esso Bayway photo. E. Ackemann, 2017.
All of the contest winners and their spouses. The Dixons are on the far left, Mr. Murrell is in the center.
Were my grandparents very short, or are all those other people freakishly tall?
Esso Standard Oil Co. Bayway Refinery. Photographic Group. Number 1016-8. 15 Apr 1959.
Collection of E. Ackemann, 2017.

Safety First!

Photo of Wallace B. Dixon pointing to the steel-toe shoe that saved his foot from the lawn mower. Date and photographer unknown. E. Ackemann, 2017.
Wallace B. Dixon, showing the shoe
that saved his toes.
E. Ackermann, 2017. (1)
The caption my grandfather wrote on the back of this photo says

Wallace B. Dixon
Summer 1953
Sheer luck!
Safety shoes purchased at Bayway

Be careful out there! (Especially when you're mowing the lawn.)

[This photo is probably not related to the 1959 contest, but I thought it was fun.]


(1) Sophie (Karvoius) Dixon - Correspondence and photographs relating to Esso Home Safety Contest; E. Ackermann, 2017.

(2) Esso Standard. Retiree Identification Card. Issued to Wallace Be Dixon. Esso Standard, Division of Humble Oil and Refining Company, Bayway Refinery. E. Ackermann, 2017.

(3)  "Wins Esso Safety Contest," E'Port Observer; A Publication of the Elizabethport Works of the Singer Corporation. (June 1959): p. 2.  

30 March 2017

Wallace B. Dixon 1912

Wallace Bernard Dixon, age 7. Portrait taken by E.L. Jenkins & Co. NY in 1912. Held by E. Ackermann, 2017.
Wallace B. Dixon. 1912.
Held by E. Ackermann, 2017.

Wallace B. Dixon in 1912, at the age of 7. Photo by E.L. Jenkins & Co., 122 Front St., NY. Held by E. Ackermann, 2017.
The original photo of Wallace B. Dixon. 1912
E.L. Jenkins & Co., 122 Front St. N.Y.
Held by E. Ackermann, 2017.
This is my grandfather, Wallace B. Dixon, at seven years old. The photograph was taken by E.L. Jenkins & Co., 122 Front Street, New York. The handwriting on the front of the original mounting is my grandfather's.

I haven't been able to learn much about the photography studio, but I did find another photograph with the same mounting by way of a Google search. Interstingly, that photo of a young man also appeared to have been taken outside, next to the front steps of a building. I wonder if this was Jenkins's particular style of portrait photography. If you know anything about them drop me a note.

You can see a photo of Wally B.'s son, Wally A. Dixon, at about the same age in my previous post, "Wally Jr. Strikes a Pose."

27 March 2017

Wally Jr. Strikes a Pose

Wallace A. Dixon [Wally Jr.] strikes a pose. This photo was taken c. 1936, probalby in Elizabeth, NJ. Buddie the dog is in the background. Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
Wallace Andrew Dixon [Wally Jr.]. b. 1926 - d. 1988.
Taken some time in the early-mid 1930's?
Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.

I love this photo of my Uncle Wally. That pose! Those socks!

Buddie, lounging on the porch.
"@ 120" 1936. Elizabeth, NJ.
Colleciton of E. Ackermann, 2017.

And then there's the dog, Buddie, making a cameo appearance in the background. I have other photos of Buddie lazing on a porch that are dated around 1936, so that puts this photo in that ballpark. The photos are labeled on the reverse "Buddie @ 120. 4 '36" and although I have done my best, I have yet to identify a Dixon residence that had the number 120. [You'll find a photo of my Grandfather's sister, Hazel, on the same porch in a previous post. She is in a slightly more precarious position.]

I think it's possible that "120" could have been family shorthand for 125 West Grand St., the home of my Great-grandmother and her second husband, Thomas Payne, from 1930 until around 1938. My grandparents lived at 763 South Broad St. during that time period, so it's not their home.
Other possibilities are 121 Elizabeth Ave. or 127 E. Jersey St. Or it really could be some other relative's home with the address 120. Always a mystery!

13 March 2017

Julian Place

A place and a moment in time.

My great-grandparents and their children moved frequently, though mostly within the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey. When I find them in a city directory I can guess that they had moved on from the listed address by the time the book was printed and distributed. That leaves me always one step behind as I try to piece together their lives.

I do know that on 9 April 1924, Mary Elizabeth (Klein) Dixon and her three youngest children lived at 2 Julian Place. (1) George Thomas was 26 and my grandfather, Wally, was 19. I'm sure they were both working and helping to contribute to the household. Hazel, the youngest, was 15 and was likely going to school.

The first mention that I found of my grandfather
living at 2 Julian Place.
Mary Elizabeth had filed for a divorce from her husband, William A. Dixon, the previous year and this address is mentioned in a deposition given on the 9th of April. The same address is also given on my grandfather's motor vehicle registration for that year.(2)

Prior to 1911, when the postcard below was mailed, we get a glimpse of the place they called home in 1924. Fast forward thirteen years and replace some of those carriages with automobiles and you can imagine what their street might have looked like.

The corner of Julian Place (on left) and Morris Ave. (on right), Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Postcard in collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
In a snippet from the 1922 Sanborn Map (3), the size and shape of the building at the intersection of Julian Place and Morris Avenue are a match. The only real puzzle is that the map only shows addresses starting with number four, and it appears that the very corner space has an address on Morris Avenue. This leads me to believe that perhaps the residences on the upper floors were given the number 2, while the street level businesses started at 4. The map shows a staircase leading to the upper floors to the right of the office at number 4. In the postcard you can see the entry next to the leftmost striped awning on the first floor.

1922 Sanborn Insurance Map. (3)
Elizabeth, N.J. (Vol. 1, Sheet 3). Princeton University website.

Meet the neighbors 

Residents of Julian Place.
1924 Elizabeth (NJ) City Directory
* denotes person has telephone (4)
 Here are the folks that lived and worked on Julian Place. This is the whole street – it was only one block long. Notice that the Dixon family isn't listed here. They don't appear at all in the 1923 or 1925 directories either. Perhaps they choose not to be in the listing, or maybe they were boarding with one of the other residents. We'll probably never know.

If you notice, the left side of the street is occupied by the Central Rail Road of New Jersey passenger station. So not only can you imagine the sights and sounds of an urban neighborhood, but you can add to that frequent passing trains, and all those folks getting on and off the trains. What a busy place!

The neighborhood was also full of businesses – real estate brokers, express agents, plumbers, painters, auto and bicycle repair, restaurants. The business at number 8, A.B. Swick,  probably explains the rather extravagant awnings on the corner building. 

Julian Place today

A look at the same block today shows some changes. The buiding that my Great-grandmother and her children lived in is no longer standing. The lot is now occupied by a restaurant with outdoor seating on the corner. The old train station still stands across the street, although it looks like it now houses a restaurant. Train passengers board from the elevated platform on the bridge that crosses North Broad Street. A number of the older buildings on the block on Morris Avenue are still there, giving a bit of a feel of the old neighborhood.

Corner of Julian Place and Morris Avenue, Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The buiding on the corner, where my Great-grandmother and her children lived is no longer standing.
Today that space is occupied by a restaurant with outdoor seating. There's still a nice view of the old train station.
Image : Google Earth.

Buidings on Morris Avenue, heading away from Julian Place. Elizabeth, New Jersey.
It looks like a lot of the old buildings still stand.
Image: Google Earth


(1) Dixon, Mary E. vs. Dixon, William A., 25 July 1923, Chancery Court Records; Superior Court Records Management Center, Trenton, New Jersey; NJSA microfilm 2-23, file number C64-517, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey.

(2)  Passenger Vehicle Registration, NJ Dept. of Motor Vehicles; Wallace B. Dixon Collection; privately held by Elizabeth Ackermann, [address for private use], 2016. 

(3) Elizabeth, N.J. (Vol. 1, Sheet 3). Sanborn Map Company. New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1922. Princeton University website http://map.princeton.edu/mapviewer/#/xs55mf363 . Accessed 12 March 2017. 

(4) Elizabeth City Directory 1924. Newark, New Jersey: Price & Lee Co., 1924. Page 574. Digital images. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : [Accesed 12 March 2017].

22 February 2017

Everything was not just as it should be

When my grandfather, Wallace B. Dixon, was nineteen years old his mother filed for divorce from his father. The year was 1923, and, according to the divorce documents, William A. Dixon had deserted the family in September 1912. (1)

The divorce documents are decidedly one-sided, as William chose not to respond to the suit in any official manner. We only get his wife's side, but affidavits given by Mary Elizabeth (Klein) Dixon and others tell a story of an abusive husband who drank away the rent money, forcing the family to move frequently — often several times in a year. Mary Elizabeth says "My husband made so much disturbance and did not give me money to pay the rent, so I had to move."

Mary Elizabeth testifies "For two years before the desertion, I lived on Livingston Street, between First and Second Streets; Second Street, between Jersey Street and Fulton Street, from there to Marshall Street, between Second and Third Streets, and then to South Second Street, and from there to Elizabeth Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets."

In May of 1912 William deserted the family for the first time, out of fear that Mary Elizabeth would have him arrested again for abusing her. He was gone for three months. Returning to the family, he "promised faithful to do what was right."

At the end of September 1912 William was drinking again. The family had been living on Elizabeth Avenue for a little over a month when a visit from the landlady prompted Mary Elizabeth to ask her husband for the rent money. According to her, William became abusive and told her to get the money herself, he did not care how she did it. Fearing further abuse, Mary Elizabeth went to her daughter Clara Viola (Dixon) O'Hare's house on Marshall Street and stayed the night. At that time she would have had three children aged eighteen and under – George Thomas, eighteen; Wallace, seven; and Hazel, three years old. Presumably she took them with her. My grandfather states in his testimony that he went to his sister Viola's house with his mother.

Q. Why did you go to your sister's.
A. I don't recollect now. Everything was not just as it should be.
Q. There was some trouble between your father and mother?
A. That had happened quite a few times.

Mary Elizabeth and her children stayed away from home until the following afternoon. "I then went back home and everything was gone, it was an empty house. The people downstairs said that he had sold some, and took some with him." Wallace adds "...there was a few odd pieces of furniture left; the house had practically been stripped."

According to Wallace, they went back to his sister's house for a few days, then moved to West Orange for a while before returning to Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth petitioned the Overseer of the Poor, Mr. Sattler, to help her find her husband. The authorities did find him. They "ordered him to pay" and when he did not he was arrested and sent to jail for six months for failing to support his family. When he got out of jail he made a few meager payments to his wife, and then quit. Eventually the family learned that William had moved to Staten Island. Mary Elizabeth had to support herself and her children, going out to work and taking in boarders. Her son George Thomas was probably working by that time, and likely contributed to the family's support, as did my grandfather when he became old enough to work.

William A. Dixon with his two youngest children; Wallace Bernard Dixon and Hazel Dorothy Dixon. Circa 1920. Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.
William A. Dixon with his two youngest children,
Wallace Bernard and Hazel Dorothy.
I believe this was taken around 1920.
Held by E. Ackemann, 2017.
At the time of the divorce William was living at 124 Grand View Avenue in Staten Island. He was employed as a carpenter at the Brewer Ship Yard, also in Staten Island. My grandfather testifies that he and his sister, Hazel, had made several visits to their father at his home there. So, presumably they maintained some sort of relationship with him.

On 29 May 1924 Mary Elizabeth was granted a divorce from her husband. She was given custody of Wallace and Hazel, and was granted permission to resume her maiden name.

On 20 April 1927 she married Thomas Payne(2), a long-time acquaintance and boarder with the Dixon family. Thomas had been a boarder with the family in 1900, prior to his first marriage.(3) By 1918 he was again living at the same address as Mary Elizabeth, 159 West Grand Street (4), and he and his youngest son were listed among several boarders in her household at that same address on the 1920 U.S. Census.(5) After their marriage the couple moved into a house that they owned, 125 West Grand Street, and for the first time in her life Mary Elizabeth had a home that she could truly call her own.(6) I would like to believe that they lived together happily until her death on 3 October 1938.(7)

William A. Dixon was living back in Elizabeth and was employed as a carpenter when he died on 23 May 1927, at the age of 64. I don't know who the informant was for his death certificate. That document records that at the time of death he was married to "Mary Kline".(8)


(1) Dixon, Mary E. vs. Dixon, William A., 25 July 1923, Chancery Court Records; Superior Court Records Management Center, Trenton, New Jersey; NJSA microfilm 2-23, file number C64-517, New Jersey State Archives, Trenton, New Jersey.

(2) Marriage record for Thomas Payne and Mary Eliz. Klein. No. 11913, 20 April 1927. The second marriage for both bride and groom, took place at the Municipal Building in Manhattan. New York City Department of Records and Information Services, Municipal Archives, 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007. Certified copy held by Elizabeth Ackermann, 2016.

(3) 1900 Federal Census, Union County, New Jersey, population schedule, , ; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed ); FHL microfilm: 1240996.

(4)"United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZJ6-D9V : 12 December 2014), Thomas Payne, 1917-1918; citing Elizabeth City no 3, New Jersey, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,712,099.  

(5)"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4YG-CQK : accessed 15 February 2016), Mary E Dickson, Elizabeth City Ward 10, Union, New Jersey, United States; citing sheet 10A, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,821,070. 

(6)"United States Census, 1930", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X4F1-D1T : accessed 15 February 2016), Thomas Payne, 1930. ED 61, sheet 7B; household 166. Citing The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. GS Film Number 2341121, digital folder 004951973, image number 00896.

(7) Mary E. Payne, death certificate. New Jersey Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records, Trenton. NJSA microfilm roll 827 (Death Certificates 1938: Nason – Poz), organized alphabetically by surname. New Jersey State Archives, Trenton.

(8) William Dixon, death certificate No. 611 (23 May 1927), New Jersey Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Trenton, New Jersey.