Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Content at Before My Time is protected by copyright and may not be copied for publication elsewhere without permission. © T. K. Sand.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Great Depression

written in 1993 by Mary KERR Krentz

Evelyn and Mary Kerr in the 1930s

When we heard a knock on the back door, we knew immediately that someone was hungry.

It was 1933, four long years since the stock market crash, and still no end in sight for the Great Depression that rocked our world. More than twelve million people lost their jobs, and ultimately lost everything they owned. Over 5000 banks failed, and 32,000 businesses went bankrupt. Men sold apples, at five cents apiece, on street corners to earn a few cents to buy milk and bread for their children. Many of them hopped freight trains, going from city to city hoping to find work.

Some people called them bums. A more dignified name was hoboes. They were good men who simply were down on their luck. When they knocked on our door... never the front door, as a guest, but on the back door as a beggar... they would say, "Could you spare a bite to eat? I haven't eaten in two days." And Mom would always fix them a plate of food.

We were a bit more lucky than most. Dad worked as a buyer for the City of Detroit, and the work of government must go on. Although there was no money in the treasury to pay these workers, the government printed what was called scrip. It looked like money, and shopkeepers accepted it in exchange for food or merchandise. It was accepted everywhere simply because some method of exchange was necessary.

Visit DepressionScrip to learn more about scrip
and to see examples from other places.

Ten dollars was our weekly food budget. Mom was a super manager, for with this amount we bought groceries to feed our family of four, plus anyone who stopped by, or was invited at mealtime. She could even make leftovers look like a gourmet feast.

In those desperate days people helped each other. Even the hoboes would leave a chalkmark on the curb in front of a house where they were fed, so that those who came after them would know where they would be welcome. We didn't learn about that until much later, although we sometimes wondered how so many found their way to our house.

The most amazing part of those years was the fact that we never felt poor. We made do or did without and never thought too much about it. It was a way of life, and we were all in it together. We found joy in the simple things... things that were free. We entertained at home, enjoying simple party games and conversation. We listened to the radio, or read, or took long walks, or played ball in the street, or skated down the sidewalk. We played tag or hide and seek in the evenings and never felt sorry for ourselves.

And we all pitched in when it came to earning money. Mom rented out one of our bedrooms for five dollars a week. And by the time I was twelve, I was able to earn a little bit by babysitting, and by putting handbills on the doorknobs of houses to advertise the week's grocery specials at the C. F. Smith store. I walked six or more miles, up and down the steps of each house, and when I finished the job, I was paid twenty-five cents.


Originally published in The Krenz Intermittent (Volume 1, Number 1 - January 1997), this is part of a manuscript my mother wrote about her childhood memories.


Click for more on
How the Great Depression Changed Detroit.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Peek at the Parlor

(click to enlarge)

This was the parlor of Andrew Jackson Kerr's Mercer, Pennsylvania home in the early 1900s. Don't you just want to go there and touch stuff?

Note the two large pictures hanging in the corner. They are visible in the photo below, a portrait of family members seated on the sofa. My Kerr cousin, who shared these fabulous photos with me, has identified Andrew Jackson Kerr in the lower right corner and his wife, Esther Alice Carroll, at the far left.

(click to enlarge)

Further identifications are welcome and can be added in the comments section. I am especially interested to know more about the pictures on the wall. If anyone can provide any information about either of them or knows who might have them now, please click on "comments" at the end of this post and let me know. If your comment includes a way for me to contact you, rest assured I will not publish the comment to this blog. All contact information will remain private.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Andrew Jackson Kerr Family Portrait, 1908

(click to enlarge)

I was so excited to receive this family portrait from my Kerr cousin. I'd never before seen a picture of my great great grandparents, Andrew Jackson Kerr and his wife, Esther Alice Carroll.

Pictured with them were two of their three children: Ralph and his wife Adda Isenberg, and Alice with her husband Charles L. Howe and their two daughters.

Missing was my great grandfather Milton, who died in 1895. His first wife Bess Zahniser was also deceased, but their daughter Bessie was present with her husband Walter Marshall and their son.

Also missing from the photo were Milton's second wife, Kate Efner Pettis, and their sons Milton and Rosmer.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Andrew Jackson Kerr & Esther Alice Carroll

(click to enlarge)

Recently I was contacted (through this blog!) by a Kerr descendant I've never met. We're enjoying a lively exchange of photos and information, and I look forward to sharing some here.

My "new" cousin emailed me a digital scan of a photocopied page from the Kerr family Bible. I'd never seen the Bible; in fact, I'd never even heard about it. He'd had it in his care for quite some time, but eventually passed it on to someone else, keeping only a photocopy of the page listing births in the family.

I was pleased to add a few dates to my Family Tree Maker database, and to find confirmation of many more that I already had.


Descendants of Andrew Jackson KERR

1 Andrew Jackson KERR 1832 - 1911
.. +Esther Alice CARROLL 1836 - 1912
........ 2 Milton E. KERR 1863 - 1895
............ +Bess K. ZAHNISER 1862 - 1887
................... 3 Bessie KERR 1887 - 1966
....................... +Walter R. MARSHALL 1888 - 1923
........ *2nd Wife of Milton E. KERR:
............ +Katharine E. PETTIS 1864 - 1937
................... 3 Milton E. KERR 1891 - 1961
....................... +Marie Clara LETTERER 1894 - 1958
................... 3 Rosmer Pettis KERR 1892 - 1969
....................... +Evelyn Elvina HAUER 1894 - 1988
........ 2 Ralph C. KERR 1865 - 1936
............ +Adda J. ISENBERG 1869 - 1953
........ 2 Alice Esther KERR 1869 - 1960
............ +Charles Lester HOWE 1866 - 1951
................... 3 infant son HOWE 1899 - 1899
................... 3 Marion Flower HOWE 1903 - 1998
....................... +William A. CHALLENER Jr. 1900 - 1994
................... 3 Elizabeth Adelaide HOWE 1907 - 1910

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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