I never really knew my father. He was William A Oswald, and he died when I was five years old, leaving my mother penniless with four children: my two younger brothers, my younger sister and myself. My siblings were adopted by families in Olathe KS where my father died, and I went West with my mother to Seattle WA, and eventually to Brawley CA in the Imperial Valley where I grew up. When my father died I was just old enough to know I was a member of a family that I did not know, and had many unanswered questions about that family and its history. Repeated questions directed toward my mother brought few answers. This resulted in a curiosity that developed into a lifelong quest for answers that are the essence of this history. Some of the things I discovered are unbelievable, and it wasn’t very long into the project that I realized my mother knew little of what I discovered. What she did know, she probably did not care to share.
My father was twenty-three years older than my mother, and to say that he had a life before my mother is an understatement of giant proportions. It wasn’t very long into the search of his background that I found he was born in Illinois and that his family moved to Kansas, near where I was born, when he was a young boy. Not knowing any better, I directed my search to those two states and points in between, all to no avail. At the suggestion of a nephew I requested information from the government under the Freedom of Information Act. This opened up a whole new episode in my search and led me in many different, and fruitful directions far removed from Illinois and Kansas, where I had been searching.
Moving to Northern Utah in the early 1980’s, my wife, LaVonne, who has been a faithful companion throughout this project, and I were able to spend a great deal of time in the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, digging out knowledge on both mine and her family names. Then, in the late 1980’s we started a decade-long trek to county courthouses all over the Western United States, doing on-site research, with original court documents, on a number of family names. During that ten-year period we visited nearly 1000 county courthouses. That included every county courthouse in fourteen states and some in nine other states. The records we reviewed included marriage records, civil and criminal court records, probate records and, where available, birth and death records. We also went to an unbelievable number of libraries where we gathered information from published local histories, census records and newspaper archives – mostly obituaries. We visited lots of cemeteries as well. We also interviewed a good many family members along the way. My primary family names researched were HARRISON, HARTER, JENKINS, NOWLIN, OLIVER, OSWALD, POWELL, SHELLEY, THOMSON and ZUMWALT, plus a number of variations on those names.
A number of notable individuals are a part of this expanded family. Most of these have articles on Wikipedia.org or may found by a simple goggle:
Frank Boyd Gary – Judge and U S Senator from South Carolina.
Charles Hopper Gibson – U S Congressman and Senator from Maryland.
Katherine Hepburn – Academy Award winning actress.
Albert Sidney Johnston – Civil War Confederate general.
Leven Powell – Revolutionary War figure and early Kentucky developer.
Lucien Whiting Powell – Renowned landscape artist.
Virgil Thomson – Composer and critic. Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the National Medal of Arts.
Henry St George Tucker – Jurist, law professor and U S Congressman from Virginia.
John Randolph Tucker – Lawyer, author and politician from Virginia.
Daniel Kindle Zumwalt – Instrumental in the creation of Sequoia National Park.
Elmo Zumwalt – Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations, U S Navy.
Oral Zumwalt – Cowboy Hall of Fame rodeo performer.
All our research was long before the internet and the avalanche of genealogy sites available today. I looked at some of these sites, but early on made the conscious decision that I had so much data from original source documents that I should concentrate on my on-site research rather than use second-hand data from the internet. That being said, there are two sites that I have used to some advantage. They are the Social Security Death Index (this was available in libraries before widespread use of the internet) and FindAGrave.com. I have used these sites primarily to verify information I already had and to add information to my findings when their information appeared to be creditable. To be completely honest, there have been times when I have made calculated assumptions to come to my conclusions, but have attempted to enter only verifiable facts.
Family histories involve the Five W’s. Who, What, When, Where and Why:
Who – Usually we know the Who, but on occasion we may not know either the first or last name. In those instances I have indicated the part of the name I don’t know with ______.
What – Most genealogies concentrate on the usual birth, death and burial information. I do, as well, but whenever I have found interesting biographical data such as occupation, hobbies and interests, I have included it in my display.
When – Included whenever known.
Where – The Where’s are extremely important, especially when doing research. One has to know where to look for information. For that reason, as you will notice, I have emphasized the “Where’s” in the display of information on my relations. Two things must be mentioned in that regard. First, a lot of the places a person lived when they died was derived from the Social Security Death Index, and may well be where the final check was sent, not the actual place of residence of the deceased. Second, there are instances where the person lived, was born, or died near a town, just across the county line. The city listed may not be in the county listed, but near the county line of the listed county.
Why – Sometimes obvious, but most times not. One has to walk in their shoes to know most of the Why’s.
There’s an incredible amount of information, gathered in more than 40 years of research. To say there are no errors in my presentation would be a huge understatement. I have done my best to minimize those, both of a factual nature and typographical, as well. I have reported what I have been able to find, but there’s so much I don’t know about my ancestors and have been unable to find. There may be places where you can add missing information you would like included. Whether a correction of something I have reported in error or information I don’t have, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate who you are and give supporting documentation. Anything deserving correction or inclusion will be addressed as time permits.
Beyond the normal list of acknowledgements, given in the next paragraph, I want to mention a special person who has come into my life these last couple of years. With this comes a little story. My father had four children (that I know of) before I came into this World. After diligent searches for many years I was able to locate three of those half-siblings, now all deceased. Some years ago I was able to meet one of the four shortly before she died. One of my half-sisters, Mary Maxine Oswald, remained elusive until a little over a year ago when her daughter, Norene “Nonie” Frances (Smith) Berry contacted me and asked if I could possibly be her half-uncle. Bingo!! I now had a whole new avenue of family knowledge available to me. Nonie has helped fill in a large gap in my family history and I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am. Many thanks to Nonie for not only filling a void in my history that I had long since given up on, but she has been more than helpful with her encouragement to bring this project to a successful completion. Another little side piece tied into this story – Mary Maxine never even knew her father’s name. Her father attempted to gain custody of her, but was prevented custody by legal action from his in-laws. Mary Maxine didn’t ever know her birth name and was given the false impression by her mother’s family that her father had deserted her, which wasn’t the case. As we all know, life isn’t always fair!
Finally, I want to express my appreciation to all those who gave me information included in this history, altogether too numerous to mention here, but included in the list of citations, where applicable. However, four people, all deceased, have to be especially mentioned for their contributions. Byron E Harter, who spent a lifetime researching the HARTER surname deserves special recognition. Early ZUMWALT researchers, Paul Reed and George Zumwalt, laid the groundwork for later ZUMWALT studies. And Helynn M Carrier, who, with invaluable consultation with Nita (Zumwalt) Robbin, spent years researching the ZUMWALT surname, needs to be mentioned. These all did their work long before there was an internet. I have used my work, along with some help from the internet to expand upon their earlier work. I only hope I have done justice to their earlier research. Also, many thanks to my precious wife, LaVonne, who, without her help, support and patience, this project would never have gotten off the ground and finally reached this website presentation. The final coding of this website was provided by Jake Lambert of Mobile AL. Many thanks, Jake.
By the way, there are nearly 20,000 names, and growing, in the list. Although the primary names are listed above, there are only about 6,000 persons listed with those names. The other 14,000 are names related to those 6,000 by marriage, or other reasons. Enter a name into the system. Any name! You may be surprised at what comes up.
Bill (Oswald) Lee
14 July 2014