Friday, January 17, 2014

The Obituary.

The small Obituary read:

  NUNN--In State Park, Big Basin,
  Sept. 27th, H.S. Nunn, a native of 
  England, aged 28 years.

It had been attached to a letter, sent from Santa Cruz, California to my Great Grandfather Gordon Sturley Nunn, in England, on October 1st, 1906, about his brother Howard.
Dear Mr. Nunn,

I write to inform you of the sad news of Howard's death; he was cutting a tree which fell on him killing him instantly.  Howard had told his wife that if anything should happen to him to be sure and let his brother Gordon know...Howard was working hard to try and make both ends meet, so of course has left his wife, who is not very strong, entirely unprovided for... 

I thought a great deal of Howard and little thought when I was his groomsman two years ago how soon I would be called upon to do the last for him a friend could do.

The services were held from the Episcopal Church and the large number of people there showed how many friends Howard had made in the short time he had lived here.

Yours sincerely,

Geo. C. Middleton.

I have quickly gone from not knowing of his existence, to caring about a Great-Uncle 
who died over a hundred years ago.

A touching story from the Santa Cruz Sentinal published days after his death told how Howard at the age of 22 went from England in 1900 aboard the full rigged Wynford to Cape Town, South Africa.  He "followed the sea for a year and a half, landing in Australia and worked a year on a cattle and sheep ranch in Queensland.  From there he took to the life of a sailor, going to Honolulu, later arriving in San Francisco, Cal., on board the Oceanic steamer Sonoma.

He came overland to Santa Cruz, arriving in this city in 1903, where he has been working since in different places.  Howard tried many occupations.  He rented a small berry ranch, another time a chicken ranch.  He worked for several people in and about Santa Cruz.

He used to say, "I like this town of Santa Cruz.  It is the best place I have met with since leaving England".  Among his keepsakes were several photographs.  One was of his home in England where he was born.  A lovely home it was: an old stone house several hundred years old and partly overgrown with ivy.  Another photo of a bunch of English blooded race horses, the horses at one time owned by his father.  'Some day I will surprise my folks by coming back to them suddenly when I have raked up a little fortune'.

The two months that Howard stopped at our home quite a warm friendship sprang up between him and me.  He was a very interesting young man, telling me of his travels on sea and in foreign countries.

Howard was steady, upright and kind.  He leaves a loving wife, Mrs. M.H. Nunn of Blackurn Gulch.  She has the deepest sympathy of her many friends and in faraway England where dwells the fond father and mother and two elder brothers* of Howard Nunn -- some day they will hear the sad fate of their son and brother."

"What happened to his young widow?", you ask.  It seems her father petitioned the Governor for compensation and received assurance, that when requested it would be forthcoming.

And so it would seem that one branch of my family tree was felled far too soon.

I have much more sleuthing to do as I know that Howard's brother Colin died in South Africa in 1963. Though it is not mentioned, did he travel with Howard to South Africa and choose to linger on and make it his home ?

When I began delving into my family tree I never imagined that family long-dead would become so "alive" to me.

How about you ?   Have you begun searching your family tree ? and if so, has anything unexpected appeared on its branches ?

* in fact Howard had three older brothers and two younger brothers.


  1. Great stuff Sybil! I'll give you a call as soon as I can to check in. I look forward to integrating your results in my own database.

    1. Thanks hon. I need help learning to use your database. And what happens when we both make changes and share ? I hope the mutual results are merged and that one does not over-write the other ? Love, Auntie S.

  2. Great stuff Sybil! I'll give you a call as soon as I can to check in. I look forward to integrating your results in my own database.

  3. Utterly fascinating that you can find this kind of information on line. Good sleuthing work! And I can see how these distant old-time relatives can grow in your heart when finding out about them. I also know very well how a tree could fall on someone and kill them. It can be dangerous felling in these here woods.

    1. Actually it's a lesson how I found this info. I found a "7 day free trial" searchable database of newspapers. They got my VISA info and I did searching and then forgot to go back and cancel and now I've been billed $79 for one year's subscription. 'cept now I've noticed that they only have papers for the U.S., a few in Canada and a few in England. I discovered this when I went searching for relatives info from South Africa. Sigh ...

    2. Awww, double sigh...

  4. What an interesting find. My family tree was faithfully done by an older cousin, on my father's side, going back to the 1600s I think. On the other hand, my mother's side leaves a lot to be desired. Good luck to you in your searching.

    1. That's terrific that you've got it back so far Bonnie. Mine too is weaker on the female side. I'm enjoying the searching ...

  5. Fascinating story!

    My family tree...there are huge branches missing in some areas, and an over-abundance of leaves and seeds in other areas. It's complicated!

    1. It sure does get complicated doesn't it ? I have huge gaps in mine too.

  6. So sad that he died so young.

    My cousins have done research on each side of my family. One coz made a booklet and it is very nice. One cousin is researching both sides of our paternal side of the family. She has done lots of work and not finished yet. We've gone to cemeteries and the library geno. dept. All very interesting. She has old letters and some photos as well.

  7. It's amazing how wrapped up in it that you can get. I think it's great that your Cousins have done all that work. My cousin out in Saskatoon has done far more of the researching than I have. It's a fun way to spend a cold winter day.


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