It is tremendous fun to show people their names on a census record, military listing or other document, especially people you’ve known all your life.
That was certainly the case when my mom and I visited Jake and Arlene (Knowlton) Jordan in Sangerville a few days after Jake’s 86th birthday to take him a copy of a U.S. Navy muster roll from World War II.
I had found Seaman 1st Class Lawrence C. Jordan on a muster roll of enlisted men for the USS General Harry Taylor, AP145, which sailed from New York, New York, to LeHavre, France, on Feb. 19, 1946. The Harry Taylor was a Squier-class troop transport, 523 feet long, which saw considerable service in the Pacific before crossing the Atlantic to bring home troops.
Jake also was on the May 31, 1945, muster roll for the USS Mount Vernon, which he explained to me was a former luxury liner. After serving at a Navy supply base in Oran, North Africa, he was on board the ship, which was cruising through the Mediterranean to Italy. In fact, he was on the ship when Germany’s surrender was announced.
I grew up knowing that Jake and my dad shared the same June birthday, my dad being two years older. But I learned a few things from talking with Jake.
“We played baseball together” at Guilford High School, Jake said. Moreover, despite their difference in age, their boot camp stints at Newport, R.I., overlapped in the summer of 1943.
“I used to go up the hill to see him,” Jake said. “He was in the 9th Battalion, and I was in the 10th.” My dad’s group comprised mostly Maine men, he said.
Jake’s duties on ship varied according to its location. When the ship was docked, he and the other sailors performed maintenance duties such as chipping paint. At sea, he took his turn on the quarter deck, where he might have to steer the ship, which operated under auto gyro.
He also was called on to play taps on the bugle, and actually played with the American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps back home.
I learned quite a lot from chatting with someone I’d known all my life. I asked him, also, whether he was among the Maine veterans who have obtained a World War II walking stick from Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor. Indeed he is. In addition, Jake told me he also had purchasing a walking stick from Peavey Manufacturing in Eddington for his brother, Harold, who earned a Purple Heart at Iwo Jima and lived in New Hampshire.
My dad joined the Navy at 19, while Jake was just 17. “I tried to join up at 16,” Jake told me, “but they wouldn’t take me. They told me to come back after I turned 17.” And so he did.
It still amazes me how a bit of genealogical information can help start such an enjoyable conversation.
A recent press release announced that progress is being made on indexing the 1940 Census, which was made public in April. See what you can find by visiting the1940census.com.
Keep in mind that Bangor Public Library, like most public libraries in Maine, allows patrons with a library card to use its subscription to ancestry.com free.
Descendants of James E. Emerson will hold their 71st family reunion at noon Sunday, July 15, at the home of David Smart at 22 Taylor St., Lincoln. Please bring a potluck dish to share and family information from the past year. Beverages and tableware will be provided. For information, contact Alison at 794-8227, Ursula at 794-3905 or David at 794-8470.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.