Musings of the History Queen of The Dalles, Oregon

Musings of the History Queen of The Dalles, Oregon

I’m trying to research information on news events that happened between 1958 and 1965 in The Dalles, Oregon, and having no luck on the web. However, I did find some resources worth sharing for future reference.

In particular is the blog by Winquatt called Musings of the History Queen with the tagline “Celebrating life in Historic The Dalles.” I’ve only scraped the surface of all the information on the site, but “On the Hunt for History” lists many local, state, and national resources for the area.

Guess it’s time to head down to the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon History Museum and library to dig through more recent archives and newspapers. I’m so used to digging through old historical stuff, this will be refreshing.

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Uncovering the Past on Place Names

In another brilliant family history and local history piece, Winquatt of Musings of the History Queen brings us “The mystery of Justin Chenoweth.”

In The Dalles, Oregon, Chenoweth’s name (spelled Chenowith by the locals) is plastered all over town. There’s the Chenowith area, meaning the west side of town. Chenowith Elementary School. Chenowith Middle School. Chenowith Rim Apartments. Chenowith Loop Road. Chenowith Creek. There isn’t a more recognized namesake in this town.

You don’t have to delve very deep into local history to run across the fact that Justin Chenowith/Chenoweth ran the mail between The Dalles and the Upper Cascades on the Columbia River in the early 1850’s.

As a historian in a town rich with history, I just hadn’t gotten around to researching Justin Chenowith/Chenoweth, beyond discovering the reason for the confusion about the spelling of his last name might have stemmed from the fact — a conclusion based on his signature — that you couldn’t tell WHICH way he spelled it.

So I was unprepared for the discovery of how little history on Chenoweth is in the normal local archives.

With the help of several other researchers, she uncovered almost nothing about Justin Chenoweth in The Dalles records. “For someone who has been feted with so much name recognition, we owe it to Justin Chenoweth, our community, and history’s children, to honor his contribution as a pioneer of the Mid-Columbia.”

She’s right.

What do we know of the names on the signs for places and buildings all around us let alone where our families lived throughout history. There is history everywhere, yet do we stop and really ask how these places came to be named and what these people did or how they contributed significantly to our communities to get name recognition on a sign.

The art and study of naming things is serious business. Onomastics is the study of the proper names and origins of names of everything. Toponymy or toponomastics is a branch of onomastics, which focuses on the study of place names. Continue reading

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Family History Blogging Tips and Resources

In anticipation of a series of workshops and classes I will be teaching soon on family history blogging, I’ve put together “Family History Blogging Resources and Tips” as a long list of family history and genealogy blogging tips, techniques, and resources.

I’ve included links to my articles on family history blogging as well as extensive basic tips for using WordPress and

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Identifying Old Photographs with the Photo Detective

Photo Detective is the blog of photo historian Maureen Taylor, author of “Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.”

She helps readers play detective with their photographs for free. The details are usually in the photograph such as the hairstyle, clothing, location, signs, and the tiny details we often miss.

In her post, ““Downton Abbey” and Family Photos,” she discusses the popular television show’s dedication to emulating the period clothing. The show depicts the struggles of an aristocratic family from before World War I through the war. The clothing styles for both men and women shift and changed during that time period, as did class lines and values.

While she (and all of us) talked about how much she is enjoying the visual and historical eye candy of the show, she brings it back around to the details that are so important to dating and researching a photograph for family history.

Photo identification and dating an image relies on information. What a person wears is helpful, but not the whole story. Pictorial context is important–where was it taken, who took the image and what else is visible. Adding up the clues can solve the mystery, date the image and identify the person.

Taylor has published several books on preservation and researching family photographs, as well as historical fashion styles. If you have a mystery photograph, consider submitting it to her or studying her site for tips and tricks to help you identify your own.

I’ve got a few that I’m struggling to identify, including those in my Do You Know These People? category. Lately, I’ve been working on identifying photographs of the USS Arizona from my grandfather’s scrapbook and Coast Guard Insignias and Ranks to help me identify the rank and time period of photographs of my grandfather in military uniform. Identifying photographs goes beyond just faces and places.

Here are some other articles of Taylor’s worth reading.

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Puget Sound Navy Museum, Bremerton, Washington

Puget Sound Navy Museum, Bremerton, Washington

Bremerton Naval Base in Washington State - unconfirmed - photograph by Howard W. West Sr circa 1926.

This is an unconfirmed picture of what I think is the Naval Base at Bremerton, Washington, circa 1926. It was taken by my grandfather, Howard W. West Sr.. He was on the USS Arizona during its stay there for refitting and maintenance. I have photographs I’m trying to identify from his scrapbook of the base, ships, and area. My father may have been there for a short time as well.

The Puget Sound Navy Museum is in Bremerton, Washington, and is another place on my research list for the next time I head up towards Seattle.

The location of the museum is 251 First Street, Bremerton, Washington, and it is open Monday through Saturday from 10-4 and Sunday from 1-4, though closed Tuesdays during the Winter (Oct – April) so scheduling during the week needs to take that into consideration.

Hopefully they can help me identify some of the images from that time period and they may have more information on my grandfather’s time there.

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Seattle Coast Guard Museum – The History of the Coast Guard and Pacific Northwest Maritime

Seattle Coast Guard Museum - The History of the Coast Guard and Pacific Northwest Maritime

There is a Coast Guard Museum in Seattle, Washington. This will be invaluable as I dig more into the lives of my father and his father, both serving in the Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Ocean.

The address and information is found on the official web page for the museum, a simple static web page on one of the volunteer or organizer’s websites:

Coast Guard Museum Northwest
1519 Alaskan Way South
Seattle, WA 98134
(206) 217-6993

Hours: MWF 9-3

According to the description the museum features thousands of Coast Guard historical items including a Lighthouse Service clock from about 1860, uniforms, ship parts and pieces, a piece of the HMS Bounty and USS Constitution, models of the various Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard Cutters, and more paraphernalia of the Coast Guard’s history.

What is even more important are the over 2,000 books and periodicals covering Coast Guard and Northwest maritime history which will serve me in researching two branches of the family, the West and Knapp families.

It also includes 2500 historical documents, clippings, and vessel plans, and over 15,000 photographs dating back to the 19th century.

These maybe the folks who can help me identify all the ships in the scrapbook of Howard W. West Sr!

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Check Out Genealogy Insider Blog for News and Tips

Genealogy Insider is the blog for Diane Haddad, Family Tree Magazine blogger and staff member, stuffed with tons of information and resources for family history researchers.

She publishes a link roundup called Genealogy News Corral of the latest news, books, and tips on genealogy, as well as news, tips, and information for genealogists.

Recent articles include:

I recommend you add it to your feed reader and resources as there are often discounts and special events from Family Tree and other resources featured.

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Can You Spot the USS Arizona?

My grandfather, Howard William West Sr. served on the USS Arizona in the early 1920s. In researching his life on the ship, culling what information I can from his USS Arizona Log Book 1924-1925 and the History of the USS Arizona, I’m trying to identify some of the US Navy ships he photographed as he traveled throughout the Pacific Ocean.

My first task is to identify which of the ships are the USS Arizona since it is a famous naval vessel much photographed. That will cull those from the collection of scrapbook photographs, leaving me with less to identify. That’s the hope.

Unknown US Navy Ship photographed by Howard West Sr. circa 1926.

Unknown US Navy Vessel photographed by Howard West Sr. circa 1926.

I thought the article, “How to Identify U.S. Naval Ships,” by should be useful. It recommended looking for the hull number and looking it up on the US Navy site, without a clear link to where to look. I found a starting point at US Navy Ships. Many of the photographs I’m identifying do not show the hull number, so that’s not helpful, but it’s a start.

The page features the different types of ships in the US Navy including Aircraft Carriers, Amphibious Assault Ships, Cruisers, Littoral Combat Ships, Destroyers, Frigates, and Subs. According to Wikipedia, the USS Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship. Battleship isn’t on the US Navy list. Wikipedia defined the Pennsylvania class as a “Standard-type battleship” defined as a super-dreadnought. Another not on the Navy list. Continue reading

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Genealogy, Archives, Libraries, and Museums Resources for States in the US

Top 75 State Genealogy Websites of 2012 by Rich Crume of Family Tree Magazine is an extensive listing of US State Archives, libraries, museums, and other online resources to help you with your family history research.

For my own research, the following state sites will be of the most value.

That covers the key states in the United States I need to research. Excellent.

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Searching for Coast Guard Insignias and Ranks

Howard William West Sr posing with unknown fellow in the Coast Guard circa 1940, photograph by Faye Vaughn West.

In this photograph of my grandfather, Howard William West Sr. (tallest) and friend, based upon the US Coast Guard Military History PDF file of ratings, ranks, warrant, marks and insignia (PDF File), my grandfather was a Petty Officer, Quartermaster, 2nd Class or a second or third Oiler 2nd Class Petty Officer at the time of this photograph. I’m still hunting for his military records and I have no clear date on when this photograph was taken, though I may assume as it was while he was stationed in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State circa 1935-1949. He was stationed at the San Diego Marine Base when he was a Marine, but this resembles the picket fence of other family portraits at the lighthouse on Friday Harbor where he was stationed for many years.

The two graphics are similar when viewed at this distance.

Coast Guard 2nd and Third Oilers - 2nd Class insignia.Coast Guard Quartermaster 2nd class insignia.

It is most likely, from the stories passed down, that he was a oiler, though he moved into security later in his military career as he shifted from Lighthouse Brigade, which eventually became Coast Guard, to Marines, and Navy, not in that order. The United States military, especially when it came to war on the water and along the coasts, was still evolving at the time.

Two Howards, Howard West senior and junior in Coast Guard uniforms circa 1957Compare that photograph and uniform to this one featuring my father, Howard West Jr, and his father, the senior Howard West still in the Coast Guard, a decade or more after the one above was taken. This image is from circa 1958 when my father entered the Coast Guard. He made it through boot camp and served less than 18 months, discharged for medical reasons.

In that photograph, both are wearing the modern insignias for the Coast Guard, the bright red stripes and the distinguishing mark of the Coast Guard on the left forearm sleeve. Continue reading

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