‘My spice in life’

Not surprisingly, this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme is “Love” and today is Valentine’s Day. So it seems a perfect time to write about my maternal grandparents and a Mother’s Day long ago.

Joyce Walker and Warren Tinseth cut their wedding cake, 1952.

It was Sunday morning, 11 May 1975. I imagine my maternal grandfather, Warren Tinseth, waking up at “oh dark thirty” to start a pot of coffee. My grandmother, Joyce, loved her coffee. While the rest of the house slept, Warren held open the front door at 628 Infantry Post Road on Fort Sam Houston for Bowser to run outside to do his business. He stood on the wooden front porch, letting the screen doors shut behind him as he perused the neighborhood and made sure the dog didn’t wander too far off.

Warren took a few steps down to the sidewalk to pick up that day’s edition of the San Antonio Express-News, whistled for the dog and went back inside.

He had plenty of quiet time to read the paper. The kids wouldn’t wake for hours. On any other Sunday, he might skim the headlines on the front of each section and then start reading the one with the most interesting news.

But not this morning. Before he settled into his reading routine, there was something he had to find.

The front page screamed “CIA spy network found in U.S. firms,” but he wasn’t interested in that just yet. The top of the B section had a picture of a custom car with a bunk bed for a roof. Page 1-C had an odd mix of photos of a Silkie terrier dressed in unusual duds, a story from England about motorcycle-riding vicars, and a report from Havana about the state of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. He moved on.

Then he reached the D section. The nameplate at the top read “The Golden Twins” and underneath was the slogan “Largest classified and real estate section in South Texas for more than 100 years.” He wasn’t in the market for a house or a job. Army quarters served just fine for now and the career helicopter pilot wasn’t quite ready to retire.

He flipped past articles about new developments, floor plans for new apartment complexes, and advertisements for condos and houses touting tax credits and financing deals. Finally, on page 7, he found Category 110 of the classifieds, the Special Notices. The top left quarter of the page sported the headline “Mother’s Day Messages.” He started skimming.

Some of the little ads were as short as one line: “GAYLE I Love You Mommy! Holly.” Some were an inch tall. He quickly realized all the messages were alphabetized by the first word and his eyes skimmed for the J’s.

There it was in the middle column, sixth message down. Just as he had written it:

Mothers_Day_message_to_Joyce_from_Warren SAEN 11 May 1975

My grandfather’s Mother’s Day message to my grandmother.

“Joyce Carol Tinseth; Mother, Sweetheart, Lover, Wife. You have been my spice in life, Warren.”1

Satisfied, he took a sip of coffee and pondered his next step. Should he put the newspaper back together again and see if she’ll find it? Or should he leave this public declaration of love out for her to see?

I imagine he settled on the latter, folding the paper just so, ensuring the special section couldn’t be missed. Maybe he even took a pen and circled it, then set it in on the table in front of her usual seat.


Mother’s Day Messages in the classified section of the San Antonio Express-News, 11 May 1975.

As he went back to his routine and started reading the paper, she shuffled into the kitchen, making a beeline for the coffee pot. He played it cool, trying not to grin. She poured her cup—no cream, no sugar, always black—and made her way to the table.

“What’s this?” she asked, setting down her cup.

He stood up, wrapped his arms around her, and planted a big kiss. “Happy Mother’s Day, JC!”

“Oh, Warren!” she replied, and kissed him back.

TINSETH_Joyce and Warren Infantry Post house edit crop

Joyce and Warren Tinseth at Fort Sam Houston, mid-1970s.

Of course this is a completely fictionalized account of that morning, but imagining it makes me smile. Growing up, I never doubted my grandparents’ love for each other. They found each other as teenagers and stayed together their whole lives. The benefit of having young grandparents is I had them in mine for many years.

They didn’t leave a treasure trove of old love letters—at least not that I know of—but Grandpa said so much about their relationship in those three short lines.

I ran across this classified ad last year and wanted to write about it for their anniversary but didn’t have a chance. When doing newspaper searches, whether online, on microforms, or hard copies, we often look for obituaries, wedding announcements, birth notices, and, of course, news articles. But we shouldn’t forget that we also can find rich, personal genealogical gems in the classifieds!

Have you ever found an ancestor in a classified ad? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about it!

#52ancestors #genealogy


1. “Joyce Carol Tinseth,” Mother’s Day Messages, San Antonio Express-News (San Antonio, Texas), 11 May 1975, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed February 2019), page 7-D, col 3, item 6.

Caroline Golembefski Lanz

A long line of firsts

Happy 2019! This year I resolve to blog more frequently! To that end, I’m joining the #52Ancestors challenge. Let’s get real, though. I feel absolutely confident that I will NOT manage to keep up with 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. However, I do look forward to drawing on the prompts for inspiration as often as possible.

Caroline Golembefski Lanz

Caroline “Carrie” Golembefski Lanz

This week’s prompt, “first,” is beautifully vague. All day I’ve pondered which ancestor should come first. I decided to go back to the beginning … of my blog. If you’re just tuning in—or you need a refresher—here’s my first post. In it, I mentioned my name almost was Carrie, which would have been a nod to my maternal great-great-grandmother, Caroline Laura Golembefski Lanz Walker, aka “Grandma Carrie.”

Over the past few years, I have learned so much about her and her family and yet I know I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re looking for details, you’ll have to wait as I have plans to write more about her later. For today, what matters is she was the first-born daughter of her parents and their only child not born in America.

And I am her first daughter’s first daughter’s first daughter’s first daughter.

#52Ancestors #genealogy

Election recollection

In the wake of last week’s mid-term election, Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist) challenged her readers to document their own ancestors’ forays into politics. I thought it sounded like a great way to dust off my blog and start writing again.

I know of two ancestors who ran for office, but having recently moved (and not fully unpacked) I could only lay hands on an artifact for one of them. I dug out my box of mementos of my grandfather, George Ivan Sansbury, to find this card promoting his candidacy in 1956 for District 2 County Commissioner in Dale County, Alabama.1

1956 GIS election card  001 cutout feather med.png

My father remembered riding around with his dad when he passed out these cards. The only thing I knew was Grandpa had lost and I would have to add a search for details about this race to my genealogy to-do list.

Before I posted, I decided to try a newspaper search. The papers most likely to have covered this primary, The Southern Star (Newton, Alabama) and The Dothan Eagle (Dothan, Alabama), are only available online (at Newspapers.com) through 1937 and 1951, respectively. But I lucked out and found enough information in The Montgomery Advertiser to know who ultimately prevailed. (I have a Publisher Extra subscription to Newspapers.com, which provides access to much more recent editions of certain publications. For the Advertiser, available issues span 1858 to present day!)

First, I learned from an election preview article that Grandpa was one of two candidates hoping to unseat the incumbent commissioner.2

19560501 Mtgmy Adv-Dale Commissioners Race Develops Most Candidates - Dist 2 crop.png

I could not find any reporting on election results for this particular primary race when I searched for “Sansbury.” Searching for “Allen P. Curry” and “Allen Curry” turned up a variety of references to actions undertaken by Dale County officials, among other things, but, again, no election results. So then I searched for the other candidate, first using “Merlyn Borland” and then just “Borland,” figuring the surname is unique enough that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the results. Finally I hit pay dirt! A December article indicated Borland would take office in January, succeeding Curry.3

19561210 Mtgmy Adv-New commissioners will be sworn in (Borland won) crop.png

Note that this piece wouldn’t have turned up in the earlier searches because:

  • Curry was identified by his initials and I hadn’t thought to search that way;
  • Borland’s first name was hyphenated and split between two lines; and
  • Borland’s first name was spelled differently than in the first article and I wouldn’t have predicted that alternate spelling.

This was a good reminder that when it comes to newspaper searches, one often has to try multiple approaches to overcome problems in the original publications (like typos and line breaks) and limitations of OCR (optical character recognition) technology.

As for my genealogy to-do list, obviously there are other potential record sources to explore. Eventually, I’d like to learn more about what was going on in the community at the time that may have prompted my grandfather to run and, of course, I’d like to find the vote totals.

Even though he lost his one and only bid for public office, I’m proud he took it on. George  I. Sansbury served his community and country in many other ways, including as a military policeman in the U.S. Army, a surveyor for the county, and a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. To steal a phrase from his campaign card, his active support is much appreciated.

#genealogy #sansbury @legalgen


1. George I. Sansbury election campaign card, 1956; privately held by Jen Sansbury, [address for private use], Texas, 2018.

2. James H. Kelley, “Dale Commissioners Race Develops Most Candidates,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 1 May 1956, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed November 2018), page 6, col. 1, para. 4.

3. Stuart X. Stephenson, “The Passing Throng,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 10 December 1956, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed November 2018), page 20, col. 1, para. 13.

Searching for Sansburys

I haven’t quite recovered from my Salt Lake City trip yet and already found myself immersed in another full day of genealogy. My local genealogy society, the Houston Genealogical Forum, sponsored a British research seminar today with Paul Milner. This was another one of those experiences that reminds me that I still have so much to learn.

I dutifully took notes as he explained English parish and probate documents and map resources. I was itching to multi-task and search for my English ancestors as he showed us how to explore online sites with British records. After all, my maiden name is SANSBURY! If that doesn’t scream English, then I don’t know what does!

(Do you sense a “but” coming? You should!)

BUT I don’t know where my Sansbury ancestors came from!

I will admit I haven’t done exhaustive research on this yet. What I have done, and what I have seen of others’ research efforts, ends in Darlington District, South Carolina, with a Revolutionary War patriot named Daniel Sansbury. He died in 1816 and a transcription of his will is available on the South Carolina Department of Archives & History website. (More on him some other time.)

Having a relatively rare surname means you can do fun things like set up standing searches on eBay auctions and Google Alerts. (Don’t try this unless you have an uncommon name or your inbox will be flooded!)

Through eBay, I’ve learned Noritake has china pattern named Sansbury and that I’d pay a pretty penny for vintage cufflinks and buttons made by Sansbury & Nellis. I once bought a patch for the Sansbury/McTavish School in North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada, because, well, because it has my name on it!

Sansbury patch 5x5

Google Alerts have brought me interesting articles about Australian Aboriginal elder Tauto Sansbury’s activism and stories about other Sansbury newsmakers around the U.S. and U.K.
I’m not ready to launch a one-name study, but as I move forward in researching my Sansbury ancestors, here are some of my burning questions:

  • Are the South Carolina Sansburys related to the Sansbury lines that seem to come out of Maryland?
  • Did my Sansburys come from the Isle of Man? (I heard that a few times growing up, but without even enough of a story to qualify as family lore.)
  • Is Sansbury a variant of place name that will lead me back to a quaint little village somewhere in England? (If so, I must visit!)

Paul Milner rightfully cautioned me against jumping to any conclusions: I need to work on Daniel and his associates and neighbors a lot more to help give me more certainty about where to look when I finally cross the pond.

In the back of my mind I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, I will discover that we are kin to the founders of Sainsbury’s, the huge UK supermarket chain. I may not be heir to a grocery store fortune, but maybe they’ll send a poor American cousin some cool Sainsbury’s swag.


Sainsbury’s store, Sainsbury’s (http://about.sainsburys.co.uk/news/media-tool-kit : accessed 3 February 2018), public image for journalists and bloggers.

Are you a Sansbury or do you have Sansbury ancestors? Drop me a line!

#genealogy #sansbury #sainsburys

Am I losing it?

I love genealogy institutes because they provide such a great environment for a deep dive into a topic. But let’s face it, by the fourth day, we’re a little loopy(er than usual) from the 24/7 immersion.

I spent a whole day rebuilding a DNA database even though I’ve concluded it was probably OK to begin with. I turned my purse inside out, went down to the concierge, and posted in the SLIG Facebook group about a lost USB drive that I later found on my bed under my institute name tag. I even asked a question of an instructor that I realized sounded like I hadn’t paid a lick of attention to his presentation, even though I had AND I knew I sounded ridiculous as soon as the words left my mouth.

These are all signs of SLIG-induced sleep-deprivation.

Or perhaps the after-effects of wearing balloon representations of endogamous chromosome segments on my head.

IMG_3298 Paul Woodbury

Legacy Tree Genealogists’ Paul Woodbury and me. Paul used his skills in balloon art while presenting on endogamy’s effects on DNA analysis.

#SLIGExperience #SLIG2018 #SLIGfun #genealogy

My genealogy tribe

For the second year in a row, I’ve traveled to Utah for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. It’s a weeklong adventure in skill-building, researching at the incredible Family History Library (home of FamilySearch.org), and networking with fellow genealogists.

Last year I was a stressed-out newbie, trying to absorb the experience while simultaneously starting the 15-week online Certificate Program in Genealogical Research from Boston University. I knew a few other SLIG attendees who belonged to my genealogy society back home, but otherwise didn’t really know anyone here. My roommate, a fellow Houstonian who I affectionately call a social butterfly, worked on pulling me out of my shell by introducing me to many new and interesting people.

I learned so much about researching my Norwegian (and my husband’s Danish) ancestors in SLIG’s Scandinavian course and enjoyed getting to know the genealogists who sat by me all week. I also met BU instructors, teaching assistants and a classmate, which helped me feel so much more calm about that intensive online program.

Over the past year, I survived the BU program (not everyone does!) and attended a national conference and two other institutes. I have met many wonderful and interesting people and no longer feel so much like an interloper in the genealogy world. Seeing friendly faces who recognize me and stop to chat thwarts my introvert tendencies.

Six classmates from my BU group came to SLIG this year, including my roommate, blogger Bonnie Wade Mucia of Keeper of the Past Genealogy. Even though half of us had never met in person, it feels more like old friends reuniting.

IMG_3243 BU23Grp3 by Bonnie

Six members of my spring 2017 online Boston University genealogy class (OL23 Group 3) are attending SLIG 2018. Photo by Bonnie Wade Mucia.

Those of us who geek out over genealogy often lament that it’s difficult to share our excitement and discoveries with others in our lives. Our family and friends may love to hear about our findings, but have little interest in the journey to discovery. An institute like this surrounds you with fellow travelers. Most have more experience than I do, but they embrace all newcomers who have a genuine interest in practicing responsible genealogy.

I’m extremely excited about the class I’m taking this year, which focuses on using DNA to prove genealogical relationships. But I’m also thrilled to spend a week among friends and colleagues from home and around the country who are passionate about family history research and eager to share the successes and mistakes that help us all learn to cast a wider net, dig deeper, analyze more thoroughly, and tell more accurate and engaging stories about our ancestors.

#SLIG2018 #SLIGExperience #BUgenealogy #mygenealogytribe