Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reunion Time

Sometimes, in doing genealogical research, I think I’ve “got it made” when I run across an unusual name to work on. Couple that with a limited geographical location, and I figure I’m sure to find the person I’m seeking, easily.

That, however, is not always how it goes.

Trying to find Zemla Doke Griffith, the woman who wrote the letter we began reading yesterday, is not turning out to be as easy as it seemed—even after uncovering details on the woman in her own letter.

Zemla is not a name I’ve ever seen before. Evidently, neither had the census enumerator for Fort Meade, Florida, in 1920: he marked her in the record as “Zemlar.”

Well, that was close enough to find her in her father Lacy B. Doke’s household. With her mother’s name written as “Milie,” seventeen year old Zemla was joined in that census record by siblings Mary, Thomas, John and Moses.

That didn’t do it for the previous census, though. Even with that full set of family names, I could not find Zemla—or even "Zemlar"—in the 1910 census, and she was evidently not yet born at the time of the 1900 census. It didn’t matter how I tried spelling either her given name, Zemla, or her surname, Doke. I tried searching under her father’s name and even her brother John’s name—just in case the opposite happened and a name as common as John would do the trick.

Apparently, from all the material Zemla had inserted in the envelope along with her letter to her friend Rubie McClellan Davis, she was sharing news of a special gathering of the class at the Fort Meade High School in 1912. Since Rubie, my grandmother, lived in Columbus, Ohio, at the time of this 1983 letter, it must not have been a good time for her to make the trip back down to Florida. After all, by this time, she would have been eighty four years of age. And her husband’s health was beginning to decline.

She had, however, in her style of organizing, filed this letter along with ephemera from a previous high school reunion which she was able to attend—all of which I’ll share over the next few days, as well as what I can find about those who were named in the clippings, programs, and other memorabilia Zemla sent to her Fort Meade school-days friend from so many years ago.

            I am enclosing some things I thought you would be interested in. I really can’t understand why you were not in the school in 1912. I thought you were here when real young, however I don’t remember you until High School. I was in the 5th grade that year and Marie Scaggs was my teacher. There were three of my class besides myself here for the re-union. They were Lawrence Adams, Don McAuley, and Austin Clifton. I am sure you will remember some who were here. It was a real nice affair and I enjoyed it.
            I had a letter from Elizabeth recently. She is still going strong. I marvel at how well she does. She had just returned from a trip to Atlanta with her daughter. She said she had a letter from Marie and she had just lost a sister.


  1. You have to wonder about people who name one child John, one Mary, and another one Zemla. They don't sound like they could be from the same family. I wonder if Milie had a midwife or someone in the neighborhood she was honoring with that name.

  2. Well, there must have been a tectonic shift in the Doke family naming philosophy. Zemla came right before Moses. I think we see the beginning of a trend here...although I can't rightly find anything like Zemla in my concordance...

  3. What a name Zemla was, I cannot imagine anyone spelled it correctly:)

    1. Worse than that, I wonder how many people assumed she was actually spelling "Zelma" wrong and tried to correct her!

  4. Zelma is an unusual last name (it's Polish) - so perhaps it is a family surname further back in her tree?


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