The Family Historian

When her oldest son, Frederick, was a US Naval officer about to be stationed in London in 1953, Emma wrote her Ancestry of Witzel Brothers (pdf) now in the archives of the California Society of Pioneers. Frederick had it transcribed in the 1970s and his daughter later added illustrations from Emma’s extension collection of photos and clippings.

One such clipping (Farewell Banquet Today) describes the luncheon given for her father-in-law, John Frederick Witzel, in honor of his return visit to Germany in the Spring of 1905. He and his partner, Mr. Baker, owned a butter and eggs distribution business at the time. According to his grandson Everett, Witzel & Baker eventually closed after dairymen formed cooperativea that eliminated the distributor middleman,

Keepsakes mattered to Emma, especially anything related to her family.  She took many photographs (her 1905 walk to the beach will may appear one of these days),  created scrapbooks, etc. She made notations directly on documents,  pinned notes to objects, or stuffed them into boxes with an explanation of where the contents came from and to whom she wanted them to go. Usually she recycled whatever envelope or paper came to hand (“waste not, want not”), which often adds intriguing information for us today.

For example, consider the brass medal pictured below. We can’t be sure today how much sentimental value it held for Emma, but probably a lot since she labelled it “Old Records of 1850. Keep.”

But look at all the information on the envelope! “Papa got this when he was young after saving a boy from drowning” is scrawled on the front in a large hand. Who is “Papa” and who did the writing? Emma supplies the answers so her children will know the boy was her father, “Romain C DeBoom,” and the writer their grandmother,  “Bonnemaman Caroline De Boom.”

Perhaps “Bonnemaman” was the one who taught Emma to recycle envelopes. In any case, this one is dated October 6, 1922, and the Post Office cancellation stamp advertises the California Industries Exposition coming to San Francisco the following day. More interesting for our family, however, is that Emma’s brother, William John DeBoom (“Uncle Willy”) was living at the time at 1777 Page Street, their parent’s home.  This house stands today, a lovely Victorian, purchased by RC after the 1906 Fire and Quake destroyed their South Park residence.