I have some special women in my ancestry on my mom’s side, including my mom. This post is about some women on my dad’s side. I have outlined their names in purple on the chart below.
Because I didn’t grow up with my dad, all I can do is try to piece together the stories and run on logic and some imagination to get that personal connection with these women that I wish I had.
My dad was a truck driver from New Jersey, and he and my mom met while he was stopped in Indiana during a snow storm in 1960. Because of the distance and circumstances I won’t go into, the only time that my mother visited my dad’s family of origin in New Jersey was in April, 1965, when my dad went to his step-father Thomas MILLAR‘s funeral. That was about 13 months before my birth, and about 3 years after their first child, my sister Ellen Sue, was stillborn. They went on to parent me in 1966 and my brother in 1967.
Here they are in an early photo, all dressed up.
My grandmother Adele Marie (ANTON) MILLAR had glaucoma, and she was blind by 1976 when she died. While I don’t know the state of her eyesight a decade before then, I do remember my mother telling me my grandmother had some loss of vision by the time of that visit. My mom told me that my grandmother Adele let her go through some photographs and pick out the ones she wanted, and while Adele wasn’t able to tell her much about them because of her eyesight, those photos have left a little legacy for me to feed off of now. I am very grateful to my mom for having the wisdom to know that she should get these photos for her children-to-come.
This neat photo is of my grandmother Adele and my dad when he was about three. Cute little booger, wasn’t he?
Marion Ann RENFRO was the daughter of John Marion RENFRO of Rock Island, Illinois, and Mary COTTER, who had emigrated with her family from Ireland into New York in about 1870. I know a bit about their parents and family, but I won’t go into them here.
My great grandmother Marion Ann RENFRO was born 15 November 1874 in New York, New York, and by 1880, she was living with her mother and her uncle, Patrick COTTER and family. At that point, Marion Ann’s father John Marion RENFRO was nowhere to be found. Mary (COTTER) RENFRO gave her marital status as widowed in the 1880, 1900, and 1910 U.S. Censuses. There is a story there, but again, I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that I have recently found evidence that John Marion RENFRO was alive and remarried that whole time.
Marion Ann RENFRO appears to be Mary’s only child. In about 1892, Marion Ann RENFRO married Henry ANTON, who was born about 1873 in New Jersey, and whose parents were both born in Germany.
Here is a photo of Marion Ann (RENFRO) ANTON holding my dad in what looks like a Christening gown. My dad was born in January 1929, so this photo was taken circa 1929. Cute little booger, wasn’t he?
I would recognize the handwriting on the photo anywhere. It was my mom’s, and I can imagine my grandma Adele holding the photo up close to her eyes so she could tell my mom that this was a picture of my dad and his grandma, Adele’s mom Marion. I only have a few pictures of Marion Ann (RENFRO) ANTON, but she looks kind in each of them. Or at least I like to think so. She could have been the exact opposite, but I don’t have to think so, so I won’t.
This picture of her is from a group photo taken at the beach, and everyone in it is squinting. It must have been a sunny day.
Here is the group photo with my dad the cutie being held by his oldest sister, Marion, on the left.
In the 1900 census, the ANTONs and Mary (COTTER) RENFRO were living in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey, where they stayed for at least 13 years. Henry ANTON was a chemist and his mother-in-law Mary, age 49, was employed as a “shirt maker.” My grandmother Adele was 6, and her mother Marion was 25. Henry ANTON was the head of household, and he was renting their home. Mary is stated to have had one child who is living. This would be Marion. Marion is stated to have one child who is living. This would be my grandmother Adele.
Their address in 1900 was 30 Rankin Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey. If 1900 house numbers were the same as they are today, from Google Maps, it appears that the house is still standing. The image on Google is of a skinny two-story, shingle-sided, brown house. I’d like to walk inside it and have the walls talk to me about my grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother all together in that house when my grandmother was a little girl.
In 1910, the U.S. Census has them all four still living together in Elizabeth, New Jersey, this time at 221 Baltic Street. Henry was still a chemist (at a “Chemical Co.”), Marion was a cook in a “private house,” and my grandmother Adele was 16 and still in school. Her grandmother Mary (COTTER) RENFRO was listed as Marie RENFRO, age 65, widowed, immigrated in 1870, and not naturalized. Henry was renting, and it appears there was another family living in the same house. It was probably a two-family dwelling. Henry ANTON and family had a little girl living with them, a “boarder” age 7 named Edna GIBSON who was born in New Jersey, but whose parents were both born in the West Indies with English as their native language. I can’t find Baltic Street on Google Maps. Old newspaper articles lead me to believe that it was a casualty of the New Jersey Turnpike in the 1950s (1).
By the 1915 New York State Census, my grandmother Adele was married to my grandfather Earl Lawrence TRAUTMAN. And then there were five, all living together in one household, this time in Queens, New York. The ladies stayed home doing “house work,” Henry was still a chemist, and Earl TRAUTMAN was working as a bookkeeper.
In the 1920 U.S. Census, they had by then landed on Staten Island (Richmond County), New York. Mary (COTTER) RENFRO was no longer in the household. By 1920, she would have been age 70. I suspect she was deceased, dying sometime between 1915 and 1920 in either Queens or Richmond County.
The 1920 household consisted of my grandparents Earl and Adele (ANTON) TRAUTMAN, their first three children (my dad was not born yet), and Adele’s parents Henry ANTON and Marion Ann (RENFRO) ANTON. The census says they were all in a rental at 139 Mountain View Avenue. The owners of the house and their family lived there, too.
By 1930, the family was living at 253 Dubois Avenue on Staten Island. This is the house in which my dad was born. It was owned by Henry ANTON, so at some time in there he had made the decision to buy a house. Its value was $7,500. The family even owned a radio set. Oddly, Henry was no longer working as a chemist and was, instead, a watchman in a soap factory. Perhaps the beginning of the Depression affected his employment. Perhaps he also had eyesight problems and could no longer work at his chosen profession.
In 1930, my grandmother Adele was listed as married, but my grandfather Earl TRAUTMAN was not in the household. He was living as a roomer with an Irish woman named Minnie O’NEILL at 1597 Castleton Avenue, also on Staten Island. His occupation was as a salesman in the “Soap Industry,” which makes me wonder if his father-in-law Henry ANTON and he worked for the same company.
Adele Marie ANTON and Earl Lawrence TRAUTMAN, my grandparents, had married in Cleveland, Ohio, where my grandfather was born. Some of the greatest puzzles for me are how couples meet. She was in New Jersey, he was in Manhattan, I think. At least he was in 1910. They married in 1913, and they went all the way back to Cleveland to do so. I have written about my grandfather’s father Charles TROUTMAN, and if you read that, you can understand why I would find it hard to believe that Charles was even living at that point, let alone that his son would go back to Cleveland to have the wedding there because of him. Perhaps it was more likely that Earl needed his birth certificate for the marriage. Or most probably, I am missing something.
Adele went on to marry Thomas MILLAR who was a loving father to her children, particularly her youngest, my dad. Adele and Thomas MILLAR had one child of their own in 1938. When my dad joined the Navy at age 17, he had to get his birth certificate. It was then that he found out Thomas MILLAR was not his real dad. According to what he told my mom, he was devastated, and the lie affected him for many years.
Adele Marie (ANTON) MILLAR and Thomas MILLAR were together until Thomas’ death in 1965. It was then that my mom and dad made the trip out to New Jersey for his funeral.
Marion (RENFRO) ANTON died in Richmond County, New York, on 17 July 1934. She was 59 years old. In the 1940 U.S. Census, the family was still living at 253 Dubois Avenue, and the house was owned by Thomas MILLAR. Henry ANTON was 67 and had no occupation, so I would imagine he was retired. Thomas was listed as a proprietor of a grocery store, and one of his step-daughters worked as a sales assistant in a retail grocery. My guess is it was the one owned by her step-father.
In 1940, the children were all listed with the last name of MILLAR, which is consistent with my dad thinking that his father was Thomas. My dad was 11 years old by then. My mother had told me that he thought that he and his little sister were both Thomas’ children, when in fact, only his little sister was a MILLAR by blood.
I wish there were someone out there who would read this and write me and say, “Hey! I am a grandchild of Adele, and I have hundreds of photos I will share with you!” One photo is a treasure, yet a hundred is never enough. I can’t hear these women’s voices or know what they thought. I don’t know their points of view or what they enjoyed doing.
They all lived in the same house, making a home, raising children, and taking care of each other. Did they have happiness and love? Anger and dysfunction? What did they eat? What were some of their favorite dishes to cook? Who did most of the cooking? Did they have pain? Did they sing? What did they listen to on the radio? Did they drink, play cards, dance? I know that they were Catholic, but how often did they go to mass? Was Adele really able to divorce Earl TRAUTMAN, being Catholic? More will be revealed.
This is a photo of my dad and me when I was about 7-8 months old. Cute little booger, wasn’t I?