52 Ancestors: Week 4

Invite to Dinner

This week’s prompt is to tell what member of your family tree you would invite to dinner. I would throw a dinner party! All of my great-grandparents would be invited, which would make for an interesting assortment of guests – farmers, coal miner and railroad man, tailor, homemakers, immigrants, Catholics and Protestants.

There are so many questions I want each of them to answer. For Ed and Viola (Bennett) Dow: Did you really bring your family and belongings from Michigan to Florida in two railroad cars to settle on land you purchased sight unseen? For Joseph and Angelina (Previti) Damato: Tell me all about the Jacksonville Fire of May 1901 and how it impacted your lives. For James Ball and Laura (Lee) Fletcher: Why can’t I find your death certificates when you died in the 1920’s? For John and Alice (Allen) Dukes: Tell me about my grandmother when she was a young girl newly married to your son.

I would also invite my parents to the dinner so they could ask questions they would like to ask them. My mother never knew any of her grandparents, and my daddy only knew his grandmothers.

I’m sure there would be some interesting conversation overheard – especially if I strategically arranged the seating!


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52 Ancestors: Week 2

My Favorite Photograph

Although I’ve posted this photograph on my blog before, it is still my favorite. It’s actually part of a larger family photograph taken during a family gathering. I titled it “The Look of Love.” This is my paternal grandmother, Flossie Dow, looking lovingly at her soon-to-be husband, John Damato.Look of love

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52 Ancestors: Week 3


As far as I know, there are no centenarians in my ancestry. However, a combined group of family members descended from my immigrant great-grandparents worked in the post office system in Duval County, Florida, just short of 100 years.

My great uncle, Louis Damato, started working at the post office in 1911. He started as a clerk and became a foreman in 1927, an assistant superintendent of West Bay Station in 1943, the foreman of mails in 1955, and tour superintendent of West Bay Annex in 1960 until he retired in 1963. Uncle Louis actually held (and may still hold) the longevity record for continuous service at the Duval County post office system – 52 years. [1]

While Louis worked, other relatives followed his lead. His son Richard worked in the art department of the post office as an artist-illustrator who created posters. His nephews, John Anthony Damato, Jr. and Joseph Damato, Sr., found work at the post office after World War II and military careers. His niece, Angelina Bell Damato, met her husband, Al Duncan, while working at the post office.

The Damato tradition of landing jobs at the post office continued to the third generation of descendants of Italian immigrants Joseph and Angelina Previti Damato. Louis’ great nephews Tony Damato and Joseph (Joey) Earl Damato were the last of the Damato descendants to work for the postal service. Joey was a walking mail carrier at Neptune Beach. His sudden and untimely death on New Year’s Eve 2010 ended the tradition for the family just short of 100 years by a few months. [2]

Angelina Bell Damato Duncan stated in a 1981 letter to her extended family, “Our motto once was ‘the sun never rises or sets that there is not a Damato in the post office.’”[3]


[1] “Post Office Supervisor Louis Damato Retires at 70 After 52 Years Service,” The Florida Times-Union, 4 November 1963.

[2]Larry Hannan, “Death of Neptune Beach Man Ends 100 Years of Family Service at Post Office,” The Florida Times-Union, 8 January 2011, (http://www.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2011-01-08/story/death-neptune-beach-man-ends-100-years-family-service-post-office : accessed 22 February 2018).

[3] Ibid.


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52 Ancestors: Week 1

Getting Started

I credit two people who are technically not my ancestors for my getting started in genealogy. The definition of “ancestor” is one through whom a person descends. I am not descended through either of these people, but we share common family members.

The first is my aunt Angelina Bell Damato Duncan. She was the first person on my daddy’s side of the family to start the genealogy quest. I have inherited her genealogy notes, notebooks, and family group sheets via my daddy. Aunt Ann wrote many letters to courthouse clerks and cousins as well as traveled to courthouses, libraries, and cemeteries in search of our family history. I’m so grateful to her for all the work she did which was a launching pad for my own research. I have a cassette tape (yes, I know that sounds ancient, but I have a cassette player so I can still listen to it!) of her, her sister, and my daddy discussing the family history and lore.  What a treasure for me. Another interesting tidbit about Aunt Ann (also known as Annabell) is that she is named for both of her grandmothers and my great-grandmothers – Angelina Previti Damato and Viola Bell Bennett Dow.

The second person I have to thank is my husband’s uncle, Earl Spencer Chatraw, who at the age of eighty bought a computer and started writing the Chatraw and Jones family histories. He emailed me a “chapter” at a time and then answered all the questions I asked him after reading each email. My husband’s father passed away when my husband was three years old, and both of his grandparents died when his father was about sixteen. So, there was only the uncle and his younger sister to tell the story of this family.

These two people did a lot of ground work for me, and I’ll be forever grateful that I did not have to start my research from scratch as they must have done.

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September Baby – 1829

September 24th marks the birthday of my great-great-grandfather, James David (David James) Lee, in 1829 in Hamilton County, Florida.

This post continues the affidavit of David Sistrunk concerning the children of Everett Lee who was the subject of the last post (Died in Service to His Country).

Part of David Sistrunk's affidavit for pension application for his grandchildren - Pension File 12113 (Crpl. Everett Lee)

Part of David Sistrunk’s affidavit for pension application for his grandchildren – Pension File 12113 (Crpl. Everett Lee)

“…That the said Everett and Nancy had 5 child children all born in lawful wedlock, to wit – David Lee 16 years old Jessee 14΅ M Lucinda 13΅ Moses 11΅ & Henry 9 years old. That the said Nancy lived the widow of the said Everett Lee from the day of his death till June 15th ^1840 when she was again married to Daniel Hall of Hamilton county, Fla. That she now resides in Madison county, Fla (from some cause) this deponent reason to believe that Capt Smith mustered out some man in said Lees name and did not note his death on the Roll as the said Smith drew his pay with the rest of his Company without le… [page torn] of Administration.  To the truth of the above statements I am fully satisfied

Sworn to and Subscribed the day and year first

above writen [sic] before me                                         [his]

Benjam  Lanier                                             David            Sistrunk

Justice of the Peace                                 [mark]”

In this pension file, there was also a real treasure. It was a family record of the births of the children of Everett and Nancy Lee. It is almost impossible to determine who wrote the paper, but it certainly was not Nancy (Sistrunk) Lee Hall or her father, David Sistrunk, as both of them made their marks rather than signing the affadavits.


Family Record of Everett Lee and Nancy (Sistrunk) Lee located in Pension File 12113 (Crpl. Everett Lee)

It appears to have been written all at the same time after the birth of the last child. There is no apparent change in handwriting or ink which would indicate the births were recorded as they occurred. It is also not a page from a family Bible. Regardless, I wish I had something of this nature for all my ancestors who were born before the days of birth certificates.

This document is referred to in correspondence written by the attorney, C. H. Blood, found in the pension application file as “the little yellow piece of paper originally filed as Family Record I know I had it in the Clks Office in Columbia Co and you will see the witness refer to it_  I must have left it there or it has got into wrong packages Mr Wilson Clk will no doubt remember having seen it_­ and noticed it was old and correctly copied_­ I trust I shall find it regret that I have not [undecipherable] to return

C. H. Blood”

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Died in Service to His Country

Cards from Compiled Military Service Record of Corporal Everett Lee - Florida Wars

Cards from Compiled Military Service Record of Corporal Everett Lee – Florida Wars

Corporal Everett Lee, my great-great-great grandfather,  died of a fever in service to his country during the Florida War on 15 September 1838 at Charles Ferry in Madison County, Florida. Below is a transcription of the affidavit of David Sistrunk, his father in law, about his death when Lee’s widow, Nancy Hall, applied for a pension for her children (Pension File No. 12113). These documents are housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Florida                  §

Madison County  §

Be it remembered that on this  30th day of April 1845

Personally appeared before me, David Sistrunk,

of the county aforesaid who is well known to me a creditable witness

of lawful age and made oath in due form of law, that he is the

Father of Nancy Hall late the widow of Everett Lee, That her maiden

name was Nancy Sistrunk that she was lawfully married to the

Said Everett Lee on the 11th day of June ^1828 by Rev. David Bryan

in Hamilton County Fla That they lived together as man and wife

from their marriage till the day of his death which took place at

at Mrs Rebecca Charles, Columbia Co That this deponant and

the said Everett Lee joined a Volunteer Company Fla Mla and

was mustered into the service of the United States under Capt Geo

W. Smiths about the 16th day of March 1838 That they marched from

Hamilton Co Fla to Madison County and was stationed at

Charles Ferry Suwannee River That sometime about the first

of Sept the compy as ordered to the Okefanoke Swamp. The said Everett

Lee was sick when the company left and was taken to Mrs Charles

where he died on the 15th of Sept. 1838 of a fever. That deponant had leave

of the Capt to stop behind and take care of the said Lee or remove him

to Hamilton County (home) as soon as able, but he died as above

set forth at Mrs Charles while said Company was up to the Okefa

noke Swamp some weeks before said company was mustered out

of service, said company was for six months but was not mustered

out till sometime after the time had expired …

Declaration of David Sistrunk - page 1

Declaration of David Sistrunk – page 1

Declaration of David Sistrunk - page 2

Declaration of David Sistrunk – page 2

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Coal Miner’s Daughter

Flossie Irene Dow 1891 - 1954

Flossie Irene Dow
1891 – 1954

Like Loretta Lynn, she was a coal miner’s daughter. Flossie Irene was born the fourth daughter of Edward E. Dow and Viola Bell Bennett on 7 September 1891 in Coalton, Jackson County, Ohio. 

Flossie and her family moved from Ohio to Saginaw, Michigan, at least by the time she was in fourth grade. She had perfect attendance in the fourth grade at the Otto Roeser School and sixth grade at John Moore School. She loved reading very much all her life, and even read a few of the Harvard Classics.

She played the piano, and I know of at least two jobs she held as a young adult – waitress in a hotel in Saginaw, and film editor for a movie studio in Jacksonville, Florida (before the days of Hollywood) 

I asked my daddy to tell me some character traits he would use to describe his mother. I created the acrostic below based on his comments. 


F – fun-loving

L – liked by all

O – hOspitable – sorry, I couldn’t think of an O word

S – spunky

S – servant-hearted

I – intelligent

E – enjoyed a challenge in puzzles and contests

1891 Birth Register - Jackson County, Ohio - Flossie Irene Dow on line 49. "Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003," digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 07 Sep 2014), Jackson > Birth registers 1890-1899 vol C > image 46 of 241.

1891 Birth Register – Jackson County, Ohio – Flossie Irene Dow on line 49.
“Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 07 Sep 2014), Jackson > Birth registers 1890-1899 vol C > image 46 of 241.

To read more about Flossie Irene (Dow) Damato, see my other posts at Flossie and A Street Car Named Ortega.

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