A Horse with No Name

The band America had a hit in 1971– A Horse with No Name

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”

Of course I remember the song because I was in high school when it was a hit.
In fact, it might have been playing in the background while I worked on my high school year book – carefully inserting the names of the seniors beneath their pictures – probably in alphabetical order. Enabling future generations to find their parents, or their father’s girl friend.

It might be okay to be in a desert on a horse with no name but it is definitely not okay to create a high school year book without names. Yet that seems to be exactly what the staff of the Union High School Yearbook of Burgettstown PA decided to do in 1941. The year my father-in-law was a high school senior.

Seniors Union HS. 1942

I could live with names being out of alphabetical order, or even having to flip from one page to the next to match the location of the picture with a list of names on another page. But in this particular yearbook there is no way to make the connection between the picture and the “senior statistics” that appear on the following pages.

Now fortunately, because we have pictures close enough in time, we know that my father-in-law, Frederick William George,  is third from the left on the fourth row up from the bottom. But that doesn’t help us much in finding the friends he remembered from high school: Jay Jackson, Glenn Nichols, Donald Tope, Clark McKenzie, Frank Rumbaugh, Donald Bywaters and Dwayne Reed.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what they looked like? But alas, we can’t tell whose picture is whose because for some reason the staff of the Union HS Yearbook in 1941 thought it would be a good idea to just sort the seniors in random order without putting their names under,  or even on the page beside, the pictures.

They knew how to alphabetize things because the “Senior Stats” on the pages that follow the pictures include the favorite expressions, career aspirations and hobbies of each Senior. That’s how I know that my father-in-law Fred wanted to be a doctor (and he became one) and that his hobby was playing the saxophone. And his favorite expression was “Did ja know.”


It’s the USC philosophy of no names on the backs of the football players’ jerseys. “We’re a team – it’s not about the individual wearing the jersey.” I’m a fan, so I accept that – and #16 will always be Rodney Peete and # 42 will always be Erik Affholter (sorry Ronnie Lott and Ricky Bell but you were before my time). It might work on the gridiron but definitely has no place in high school year books.

What’s amazing is that back in the early 1990s when we lived in California about 5 minutes away from Dad, Rick and Dad spent time together on Tuesday nights. Sometimes it was a movie and dinner and sometimes it was sitting around Dad’s family room with Rick asking questions and Dad reminiscing, while Rick captured those memories on a cassette recording. And it is great to have those recordings and to be able to hear Dad’s voice eighteen years after he died.

And it is quite remarkable that Dad had such a good memory of his high school days more than 50 years later. So now that the wonders of the internet make it possible for me to see Dad’s high school year book, wouldn’t it be great to be able to look up the names he mentioned and see what his friends looked like?

Yes it would, but it’s not going to happen because for some reason that defies all logic – there are no names beneath the pictures of the seniors in the yearbook !!!

Oh well, we must content ourselves to know that two of Dad’s friends wanted to be doctors (Glenn Nichols and Jay Jackson) and to know that his friend Donald Tope wanted to be a petroleum engineer. Interestingly several of Dad’s friends listed their hobbies as hunting and fishing (four of them) but his was playing the saxophone.

I’ve searched the other Union High School yearbooks from the time period and fortunately a couple of years later, in 1943, when Dad’s younger brother Richard was a senior, the names and senior statistics appear with the photo, which is why we have this picture of Uncle Richard.

HS Senior.YearbookPic.1943




The Path That Led Us to Custode

It’s time for me to set the record straight. It is true that I currently spend more time than Rick does researching the George family. But it is also true that Rick is responsible for getting us on the path to finding his family.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile you know that when Rick got a DNA test in April 2013, he found a match who turned out to be Terry Colaluca who we met in July 2013. Terry’s great grandfather was Pasquale George, Adrian’s brother.

But before that, when Rick was researching his father’s name in hopes of finding his grandfather, he came across this draft card from 1917 on Ancestry.com.

The card is really cool because:

  1. It has Fred George’s signature, which is VERY neat. Someone made sure he had good handwriting – hmmm… wonder who?
  2. It tells us that on September 12, 1918, Fred George was a clerk at P.R. Rys Co. (a drug store maybe) in Dunbar, Pennsylvania.
  3. It tells us that at age 18, Fred was short and slender with brown eyes and dark hair.
  4. It tells us that a woman named Custode George, who has the same address as Fred, is someone who will always know his whereabouts.

And that’s how Rick discovered that his great grandmother’s name was Custode George. (Finding her maiden name is another story but I’ll save that for another post.)

The discovery of her name (thank goodness her first name was unusual) led him to a google search for “Custode George,” which led him to this result which is from a 1912 lawsuit. He found it on Google Books.



This image is really sad, because the court goes on to rule against Custode on the grounds that the court in one county can’t overturn the decision of a court in another county. It seems that “Andy” and his brother Pasquala George, were in cahoots to find a way to deprive Custode (AND HER 8 CHILDREN!) of the house they lived in.

Okay, I get it, “Andy” may have been trying to escape the Black Hand (one version of why he left Dunbar) but he obviously took time to go to New Castle and give his brother a promissory note for $3,000 before he skedaddled. I may be reading between the lines but it seems that he really had it in for Custode and didn’t care too much about his own children who would suffer the consequences.

But of course, the REST of the story is that Custode did not take one adverse ruling against her as an answer. She pursued legal action for at least two years and in the end she got to keep two of three properties.

When Rick and I stopped by the courthouse in Uniontown on our way out of Pennsylvania last July, we didn’t have long enough to study things thoroughly, but in the deed books it seems that Custode may have owned several more pieces of property than the two that were the subject of this lawsuit. We definitely need to plan another trip for some more research.

How can you not be totally impressed with Custode Iacobucci George?

A young Italian immigrant woman who had been abandoned by her husband had the wherewithal to fight against what she knew was wrong and to keep fighting until she prevailed. This was before women could even VOTE in this country! After less than 10 years in America she owned property in her own name! And even though her husband forced her to sign it over to him, she fought and got it back.

That is ONE AMAZING woman who leaves so many of us (probably more than she ever knew) forever indebted to her.


So let’s not forget to thank Rick for setting us on the path that brought us together.




Friday Foto Feature – Circa 1906

Thanks to Lainie who sent me this picture that she found yesterday. The notation on the back indicates that it is a picture of her father’s brother – Fred’s school picture from Dunbar, PA but it doesn’t indicate where Fred is in the picture. Would anyone like to guess where he is in the line up?  I think we might get several different opinions but I’d love to hear what you think.

This might be one of the earliest pictures of Fred unless someone has a baby picture

Please answer by using right and left in relation to how you are seeing the picture. For example, “the first boy from the left on the first row is wearing a bow tie and the second boy from the right on the first row is not facing the camera.”


Happy hunting!

Thursday Tidbit – Marriage Records

MarriageLicense.22Nov1921From Ancestry.com online records, I knew that Frederick William George, first son of Adriano and Custode George, married each of his wives in West Virginia. Wellsburg, West Virginia to be precise. I suppose there was something that made it easier, faster or cheaper to get married in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.

Knowing something because you see it neatly indexed on-line vs. seeing a copy of the document (or big heavy record book) evokes a completely different feeling in me. Seeing the original document in the courthouse where the event occurred, sometimes with the actual signatures of the persons involved, puts me “over the moon.”  It is such a thrill to see a document created at the time an historic event occurred. (I fully accept the fact that to most people this classifies me as a complete genealogical geek, but I’m fine with that!)

It isn’t always possible to visit the local courthouse, library or historical society so I am thankful for digitized versions of records. Especially because I’m still early enough in my genealogical journey to find significant documents when I spend a random evening relaxing at home. Like the Marriage Record shown above from Wellsburg, West Virginia, documenting the marriage of Frederick William George and Evelyn Clark, which took place on November 22, 1921. Proof of their marriage appears at the bottom of the right-hand page.

Or the one below (bottom left page) when Fred married Betty Collins on November 2, 1932:

Marriage License.2Nov1932

One of the main reasons my husband grew up without knowing his Giorgio relatives (other than the fact that his father was happy to abandon snowy Pennsylvania for sunny California) was that his father was only 7 when Fred and Evelyn divorced. In fact he was younger than that when the two separated because the 1930 Census shows Evelyn living in California with her sister with her sons, Fred and Richard, while Fred was living in Midland with his brothers Hubert and Victor.

The fact that Fred’s children with Betty did not know about their half siblings while growing up, suggests there was very little, if any, contact between Fred and the sons he had with Evelyn. The fact that my father-in-law changed his name from Frederick William George, Jr. to Frederick William George, III, suggests an effort on his part to distance himself from his father.

So when Rick finally meets his half-aunt, Lynnette George Burnett the youngest child of Fred and Betty later this summer, it will be quite a cause for celebration. Yes – it really is true that time heals all wounds.

Friday Foto Feature – Frederick William George

I am so thankful for those of you who have shared your stories and photos of the Giorgio family. If anyone reading this has more to share please get in touch with me. There seems to be a strong history of George family members joining the Navy. I’d love to create a photo montage of all of George men (and women – like our niece who joined the Marines) in uniform.

So I’ll start with these two – the first FWG (not in uniform) on the left, and my father-in-law Frederick William George, Jr. (who went by Frederick William George, III) on the right.  I think these pictures capture father and son at about the same age.

Frederick William George (born 1899)

Frederick William George (born 1899)

Frederick William George (born 1923)

Frederick William George (born 1923)

WOW – when I look at these two photos side by side, I see remarkable similarities between the two. What do you think?