My great-grandfather Robert Andrew Young was a hard-working, responsible man. He was the only surviving child of Thomas and Ella (Steele) Young; his two younger sisters died in childhood.
You get a sense of his nature when you read Ella’s Civil War widow’s pension. Robert and his wife Clara took care of Ella in her final days. Robert wrote this letter to his congressman on 18 Apr 1940:
My mother was a soldiers widow… She kept her own house until two years before her death. Doctor’s bills, fuel bills and necessaries of life soon eats up 40 dollars [Ella’s monthly pension], so when she died there was $116 doctor’s bill. The last 14 months she lived she was helpless and had to be cared for like a baby. My wife took the best of care of her… I am a poor man, have raised a big family and trying to pay for a little farm. I am not able to meet these bills but I am the only child and am responsible for all mother’s debts. The New Deal might be O.K. but I prefer a square deal…
My dad remembers his Grandpa Young as hard-working and fairly no-nonsense. Once when Dad and his siblings were visiting their Grandpa and Grandma Young in rural Ross County, they came across a big Mason jar filled with some clear liquid tucked in a tree in the woods. This seemed pretty strange to the kids, so they took it back to their Grandpa.
“Where did you find this?”
“Tucked in a tree in the woods.”
As Dad said, there were miles and miles of trees surrounding their house and they had explored all day. How were they to know which tree it was?! Grandpa Young was concerned that the moonshiner would find that his stash was gone and come looking for whoever took it. Since they couldn’t return it, Grandpa Young went out back and without saying a word, poured the whole jar of moonshine on the ground.
Recently, Ancestry updated its collection of World War II Draft Registration Cards. (They added Ohio! Yay!) What is online is the 1942 Fourth Registration, often called “The Old Man Registration,” as it included men born on or between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897. Robert fits in this category.
It’s tempting to skip a record like this when you know so much about the person already, but I’m a firm believer that you never know what you might find. Yes, I found Robert’s draft registration right where I expected it: Granville, Licking County, Ohio. What I didn’t expect was on the back of the card:
Tattoo on left forearm?! Sure, today everyone and their brother (and sister) have ink, but back in the day, that was pretty much reserved to soldiers and sailors. Robert was neither.
I called Dad and asked him about his Grandpa Young’s tattoo. Did he remember it? What was it?
“I didn’t know he had one. Being a farmer, he kept his sleeves rolled down all the time.”
Robert Young, ever the responsible one. Did he keep his sleeves rolled down to avoid sunburn? Did he keep them rolled down to hide his tattoo from his neighbors and friends (and maybe his wife)? I don’t know. I do know this:
- Never skip a record just because you think you know what it’s going to say.
- Always go to the next image when you’re looking at digital images. This wonderful little gem of information was on the back of the card.
Robert Andrew Young died 8 July 1953 in Newark, Licking County, Ohio. He is buried next to his wife Clara in Wilson Cemetery.
This is an interesting and touching story. I love it when our ancestors come alive! I am kin to some Youngs, so will have to see if we connect! thanks for this.
Mine were from Pathhead, Scotland and ended up in Washington County, Ohio (with a few stragglers in Wood County, (West) Virginia.
Its all in the details isn’t it? I just love it when there are documents that help fill in the details of our ancestor’s lives in a way that we can see some of their personality. This is such a good example of slowing down and really reading what is there and not just grabbing the essential name, date, place and moving on. Beautiful story.
As Mark Lowe is fond of saying, we need to “mull and ponder” when we’re researching
Obituary is in The Newark Advocate, July 20, 1953. He died on the 18th rather than the 8th of July.
Thanks for that info. I have his death certificate and his obit (though undated). I must have had a typo somewhere…
Thanks, Amy, for highlighting our great-grandfather. I wasn’t quite 4 years old yet when he died, but I do remember him. The story I’ve heard about him is that he never called me by my first name, but by my middle name. Mom (Aunt Clara to you said he always called me “his little Joy.” I’ve always felt especially close to him because of that!
I never met Great-grandpa Young. I always wish I had, and your story makes me wish that even more! What an incredibly sweet thing!
What a great find! Thanks for telling his story!
You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed this little tidbit from my family
Enjoyed the story, yes you never know what you’ll find by going just one more page – as soon as I read tattoo, I laughed. I love discovering such surprises! What will the future generations think of us and all our stories? Will they think us crazy in this 52 week challenge or love us for all we’ve given to the them!
I don’t think that them thinking us crazy and loving us for writing are mutually exclusive 😉
Great story and tip. I really like the draft registration cards because they do give that description on the back and you just don’t know what you will find. Your find is priceless!
One of my pet peeves in genealogy is when people say, “I didn’t bother looking at that record. It’s not going to tell me anything I didn’t already know.” Wow, are they missing out or what?!
You are so right about searching forward and backward. Perfect title to accompany some sleepless nights wondering hat that tattoo looked like!
I have to admit that I was a wee bit disappointed when my dad said he never saw it. 😉