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.