The Christopher Columbus In My Family

Growing up, my mother would always tell me – “you have a great-grandfather named Louis Christopher Columbus Robinson.”  As I delved into my genealogy more in-depth, I learned more about him.  Given the current timing with Columbus Day approaching, I thought this would be a good time to post about him and his middle name.

My mother’s father was Herman Robinson, and Lewis was his father. I have previously posted about Lewis’ occupation as a longshoreman, but for awhile now, I’ve wanted to write about his middle name.  When I started with my genealogy “obsessively” a couple of years ago, one of the first places I started was with Lewis. I was able to locate Lewis in the 1920 census, but that was pretty much it. It was only with the help of a distant cousin of mine whom I “met” through a message board,  that I found him any earlier – this time in 1900 living a few doors away from his future wife, Lucinda.  It took me a little while longer, but thanks to the efforts of the New York Italian Genealogy Group that has provided an online index of deaths in NY, it was through their index that I located his death certificate.  I have so far however, found no documentation of his middle name being “Christopher Columbus.”

If his middle name really was Christopher Columbus, I certainly know why. His birthday is either October 11 or 12- he was born about 1886.  His WWI Draft Registration card has  his birthday as October 11. This was recorded in 1917.  His death certificate does not have a birth date. His 1900 census record says he was born in October 1886.  Lewis died in 1928, 9 years before Columbus Day was made a national holiday.

However, October 11, 1886 was the second Monday of that month. This is the day when we now celebrate Columbus Day.  And, even though it was not a national holiday until 1937, it was celebrated in New York for years prior, since the mid-to-late 1800′s. Lewis and family lived in New York for many years (I think I found him in the 1910 census as a boarder in NY, but I can’t be for sure it’s him, so that record is not part of my official file).  So, I would not be surprised if realizing that he was born on “Columbus Day” for the time, he was thus called Lewis “Christopher Columbus” Robinson.  Or maybe because his birthday was “close enough” that became his nickname.  It would be so cool to find his middle name somewhere recorded, but somehow I doubt that I will.

Another Christopher Columbus

There is another Christopher Columbus in my tree – Christopher Columbus Cherry. He was born April 9, 1934 in Washington County, NC and is on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. He passed January 8, 2004.  I don’t know him or his family, but his great-grandfather, Christopher D. McNair, and my great-great grandfather, Andrew D. McNair, were brothers – making me his  3rd cousin once removed.  I hope in time through more research and contacting more family members on that side, to one day learn the story behind his name too.

Found Him!

Today my mother received the SS5 form for her aunt Ethel. It’s been two months in the waiting, but we were happy to get it. We learned from it that apparently, Ethel was born in North Carolina, and not New York as we’d thought. I now have to try and see if it is possible she had a birth certificate (though this is before NC started birth certificates).

Then, inspired by this, I decided to search for my grandfather’s family in the 1930 census. I had not been able to find them with previous searching. And I found them! I tried a different searching strategy and good thing – the family is listed as Robertson instead of Robinson. Also, my great-grandmother is listed as Lucille instead of her name of Lucinda. But, it’s the right family. Her husband had died by now and she was raising the kids on her own. My grandfather Herman was 4 years old.

I’m so glad I found them! From this record, we learned a few extra details as well. It seems one of my grandfather’s brothers, John, was given their father’s name as his middle name, so he was John Louis Robinson. I don’t know much about John Louis except that family tradition has it he died as a teenager and was in the Navy. His job as listed on the census is “Advertiser” – wonder what that means?

The USS Boxer

In looking at my grandfather Herman’s Report of Separation again over the weekend, I started to do some research on his service. He was enlisted in the US Navy from May 1944 to approximately June 1946. During this time, his records indicate he only served on one ship – the USS Boxer. He was a Stewards Mate 1st Class and I understand from my mother, that he had cooking responsibilities on the ship.

The USS Boxer was launched in December of 1944. It was the fifth ship to be named Boxer (CV-21) and it was an aircraft carrier. I found this wonderful picture of it’s launch on the US Naval Historical Center website of it being launched.


The ship’s first deployment was in September of 1945 and I don’t have any more specific details of my grandfather’s attachment date to the ship, but I would imagine he would have been on it by the time it went out to sea for the first time. Now, interestingly enough, I had always heard growing up that my grandfather had served in the Korean War, but now that I have his papers, I see that was not the case – he got out before the Korean War started (it started in 1950). I do know from the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships that from September 1945 – August 1946 the ship operated out of Guam and during this time went to Japan, Okinawa, the Phillipines and China. The ship returned home to the states to San Francisco in September 1946 and stayed there until deployed again in January of 1950.

We have this picture of Herman that was supposedly taken in Korea, however, I am trying to verify that the ship actually went to Korea during his service time.


Though my grandfather was off the ship by now, I love this 1950 picture of it in the bay of San Francisco with the crew members spelling out the ship’s name.


More information on the USS Boxer can be found at Wikipedia. My grandfather’s Report of Separation also indicates that he had four medals. I need to do some research on those – that will be a post for another day.

Lewis "Christopher Columbus" Robinson

Today while reading some information related to my job, I learned of a new resource that explains the environmental hazards of working/living near a major water port. That prompted me to do a blog post about my great-grandfather, Lewis Robinson. We don’t know much about Lewis, as he died when my grandfather was just three years old. He is described as being short (and my grandfather and many of his brothers were tall, so where did the height come from?) In fact, his WWI Draft Enlistment Card has his height as 5 feet, 5 inches tall – cool to see this fact confirmed by documentation! There is a whole story around his middle name being “Christopher Columbus,” but that is a post for another day. What I do want to post about right now is his job, apparently, he was a longshoreman for at least the last 8 years of his life.

Both the 1920 census and his death certificate from 1928 indicate that this was his occupation. As I know absolutely nothing about what it means to be a longshoreman, this is my opportunity to learn and a chance to get some of this in writing.

What is a longshoreman? According to a Wikipedia entry, a longshoreman is generally responsible for loading and unloading ships. Longshoremen should know the proper techniques for lifting and loading equipment and be physically strong. It seems that in the early days, most cargo was tied down with rope tied with Stevedore knots. This picture, from 1912, shows some longshoreman on the docks of the Hudson River in New York (very likely where Lewis worked given that he lived in Manhattan.)

His employer: Lewis worked for the Panama Lines, and while I plan to do more extensive research into the Panama Lines, I have done some quick looking online. Panama Lines was a steamship line operated by Panama Railroad Company. There is a 1991 article from the Journal of the Steamship Historical Society that talks about the history of the Panama Railroad Company and the steamships they operated. The Line was established as a connection between ports in US and the Panama Canal. I am interested in learning about the ships that Lewis may have loaded/unloaded and thus far, it seems that ones in operation while he was working may have included the ADVANCE, the PANAMA, the COLON, the CRISTOBAL, the ANCON, the ALLIANCA, LAKE FLATTERY, LAKE FANQUIER, the BUENVENTURA, and the GUAYAQUIL.

This image from one of the Lines’ 1949 brochures’ aims to showcase the experience.

The ship in the brochure appears to be the Cristobal, as best as I can tell from other pictures of the ship on that same website. These two flags were also used by the company.


How cool! I would love to find some books that can provide me with even more details about the longshoreman work habits and the history of the Panama Lines. Given Lewis’ work on the docks, I find it cool that his sons (at least 3 of them) would all go on to serve in the US Navy.

Anniversary of a Wedding

Yesterday was also the day my parents got married – January 18, 1975. I was there :-) (okay – me as a fetus was there!)

A few months ago, I asked them questions about the ceremony because one day, I plan to do a scrapbook page about it. My parents got married in New York. My mother does not remember the name of the church, so I’ll have to do a little research.

The bridesmaids were Ella (daddy’s sister), VK (daddy’s sister), Loretta (mommy’s friend) and Vera (mommy’s friend). The groomsmen were Adolph (daddy’s brother), Curtis (daddy’s cousin), Dennis (daddy’s friend). The flower girl was my cousin, Keesha, and the ring bearer was my uncle, Morgan.

Mommy tells me that originally, her father was not going to attend the wedding, but his brother-in-law laid him out so he ended up coming after all at the last minute. Mommy’s brother was going to give her away, so his tux was the same as Daddy’s father’s tux as it was too represent the “father.” My grandfather’s girlfriend, Mariah, made the bridesmaids dresses.

one day i’ll get around to scrapping this – i promise i will!

Happy Birthday Calvin!

I missed posting this yesterday, but yesterday would have been my uncle Calvin’s 49th birthday. He died back in 1994, but was my mother’s youngest brother and the baby of the crew. While I did not know Calvin all that well growing up, when I was about 13, he moved back in with my grandmother and I got to know him much better from then until he died. My mother tells some funny stories about him. Yesterday, I asked mommy to tell me a story that I did not know. Apparently, when they were all younger, if Grandma was oversleeping on a Sunday, Calvin would go try and wake her up so they could go to church. Mommy and her other two brothers hated that because the wanted to sleep in!

Genealogy wise, I still need to order his death certificate and get a picture of his grave site. I do have his birth certificate and newspaper obituary.

Happy Birthday Calvin Earl Robinson – January 18, 1958 – January 11, 1994.

Great discovery

Over the weekend, I had a great confirmation and discovery! My mother’s paternal grandfather had been quite elusive for us in official records. With the help of a fellow researcher, we did think we found him in the 1900 census living a few doors away from the woman he would eventually marry, my great-grandmother Lucinda. If this was he, then we would finally have his parents names – William & Rebecca. Well, I was waiting to receive his death certificate from the state of NY and it came Saturday. Sure enough, his parents were William & Rebecca! My mother and I are quite thrilled about this! We have now added a new generation.

In other genealogy news, I have picked up a new genealogy book and my mother found two more over the weekend that she is sending to me. I’ll post more on them later. So far, I am learning quite a bit from the reading I have been doing on genealogical research.

Headstones

A few days ago I received pictures of two more of my relatives headstone markers. My great-aunts Lucinda and Ethel. Unfortunately, Ethel’s name is not on the marker with her husband, but she is there. Also, my great-grandmother Lucinda (Ethel & Lucinda’s mother is buried in the same cemetery. However, she does not have a marker of any kind. My mother and I are looking into how we may be able to get one for her now, even after all these years (she passed in 1969).

More Resources

Last night brought some more information! I received two emails in response to some posts I made on Ancestry that yielded some beneficial information.

1) Someone was able to send me a list of marriages of persons of color from the book Somebody Knows My Name by Barbara McGhee White. In the list is the marriage of my great-great-great-grandfather, James Koonce, to his first wife Susan. They got married in 1860 and I learned her maiden name – it was Craff.

2) I also was provided a link to an online database of deaths in the five boroughs of NY from 1891-1945. In searching that database, I think I have located the death date of my mother’s grandfather. There is only one Lewis Robinson listed that comes close to even being him! My uncle lives in NY, so he is going to the Municipal Archives sometime within the next couple of weeks to check it out and if it is him, get a copy of the death certificate for us. Maybe, just maybe, Lewis’ death certificate will have his parents names — here’s to hope. Furthermore, it turns out I am going to help contribute to the cause and will be helping add more records to the database! The coordinator is going to send me papers that I will help transcribe into Excel.