Friday, July 23, 2010


My English grandfather a skilled carpenter, from Birmingham, sailed from Liverpool to Ellis Island and became an American citizen. He was an adventurous man traveling west from Alabama to take part in the gold rush in the Klondike. Handwritten journals he kept of his journey are housed at the Jefferson County Library archives in Birmingham, Alabama. His name is mentioned in Jack London's book 'The Call Of The Wild'. A fascinating man and I wish I could have known him.

Before leaving England he had served for both the Royal Army and the Royal Navy and it is said he was part of the Queen's guard all before the age of 22.  A letter was discovered from a relative that he had written Washington DC with his take on how to proceed in a particular advancement within the Civil war. A reply letter did in fact come thanking him but pretty much assuring Mr. Biddle that all was under control. I find it humorous but really in keeping with a a particular kind of personality handed down to his sons, one of them, my father. My father was an older man when I was born. Born in 1909 and my grandfather who lived an amazing full life but he died when my father was only 11 years old, from a fall off of a lodge he was building. Many structures remain in the town of Mentone, Alabama that he was responsible for.

                    (Another photo Joseph Biddle with my grandmother, Besse Cook)


bencorde said...

Birmingham was the industrial centre of the world once. Your Grandfather came from an amazing city but its no wonder he left for a better life. My brother did the same after starting out at Lucas and made it big in the Mid West although Cedar Rapids is not a place I'd like to live. His standard of living was so much better than in UK and they respected his ability and paid him accordingly without him having to beg on his knees.
Our Industrial relations were generally not something to be proud of. Only a few large companies thought that workers should not be treated as slaves and respected with decent pay and living conditions.
It seems when they do, they either go out of business or move abroad to compete until things come full circle and we become a low wage poor country once more.
Your grandad sounds a really interesting person.I hope you can research more info on him.

Karla said...

You know, I'm not sure if there was a particular reason for his leaving or not. I know he went to the sister city of Birmingham Alabama. My brother who has made a blogger page and I THOUGHT he was going to be more active on, (he'll eventually read this..haha) has dates and more facts than I do. I'm not great at date remembering.
Sparkhill is mentioned, driving through there now is almost embarrassing to admit... but peeling back what the town has become, I'm sure at one time was very nice. Apparently I have cousins still living here/Sparkhill.. unless they moved, in which I can see why they would..terrible place now. I believe too, he was born in Ladywood.. (hope that's correct) but we are thinking there are some ties in Shropshire and Warwickshire.
And I agree with you on Iowa, one of the plains states, can be very mind numbing just driving through. Although I don't know much about the city itself.

bencorde said...

Well Cedar Rapids is okay but prone to terrible floods. I didn't like the climate, too hot or too cold and the surrounding countryside is boring.
As for Sparkhill, it was bad when I was a kid even. We used to go shopping there and I remember my first shoes from there.Like Handsworth it was where the immigrants went and I guess the place is pretty deprived.
I was born in Handsworth and moved to Hall Green before Kings Norton, Shirley then Redditch, before I fled the nest for London after failing to get to Uni.That's a whole different story.

Karla said...

Yes, Andy has said on occasion that Sparkhill has always been bad.. Don't know about the 1800's though..I may look at some history of it, see if there is a particular reason of its reputation.

Driving through Iowa, Kansas and Missouri are hard to take.. takes a special kind of person to 'want' to live there...Again though, I don't know about the towns themselves, always sticking to the interstate just hurrying to get through. Miles and miles of flat fields of corn or wheat etc. found it hard just to keep my eyes open, while driving!!

I'd like to hear that story by the way..(University)

Lisa Ford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Ford said...

Interesting blog of your family history Karly and love the pictures to.Makes me want to do some digging into my own family history.Your grandfather has lived,a very fascinating person,would like to hear more about him sometime.

Lisa Ford said...

Sorry about that had quite a few typos in it felt so lame!

Mad Martyn said...

I am well in to genealogy and have traced my family back to Dorset back in the early 1700’s. Whenever I see a story about someone else’s family, it makes me want to see if I can trace any further back. I went to the records office in Dorset two years ago to see the records for myself. I had problems understanding the writing on the documents so didn’t really learn much more than I already do. I have to wait until they have been transcribed and put on the internet, but that could be quite a wait.
I really enjoyed your post and will look forward to seeing anything else you find out about your family and share with us. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Karla said...

We have names on the great, great grandparents and then it stops. My brother has a very good start on our genealogy and has collected a fair amount of documents. One of them being the ships log with my grandfather's (above) signature. He sailed aboard the Teutonic all those years ago with his wife and a son, who returned to England deciding with the wife deciding she didn't like America. He must have been happy and determined because they divorced, leaving her here in England. After that at some point he met and married my grandmother who at the time was I think, only 16. I have an Aunt that says he kept my grandmother 'barefoot and pregnant' while he went off on his journey's. It is fascinating to find out these things.....the good and the bad and the not so complimentary traits..LOL All things have reasons I suppose.

Graham Kennedy said...

This is great, facinating. I lived for 10 years in Bham...I'd have moved fact, I did :-) now in leafy Northants & loving it. Great history, and I love the photos

Karla said...

Thank you Graham... it would have been great if my brother, who I mentioned in comments, would actually get on blogger... he has many more facts about our grandfather. I love history!

I'm not particularily fond of B'ham either! lol