Friday, November 11, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

Do you ever marvel at how small the world is?

Yesterday I was wondering about Ralph Skarr, Hans Peder Rasmussen Skarr's second child. For a few days I'd been collecting records, perusing data and searching for THE story I would want to write about his life.

Problem is I don't have much to work with. Just bits and pieces and a lot of questions.

Want to know what lit me up about Ralph? I'll tell you in a minute. You'll probably think it's crazy. But it's the little synchronicities of life that make the hairs on my neck stand up and excite me. 

Most people wouldn't get a rush out of what I find the way that I do....

So, I'm following Ralph from Hawaii in 1884, the year he was born and over to the States just a year later. The family ended up in Port Orchard, Washington, a coastal town. Something I've learned from experience is that if you're born near the water you're drawn to it forever. There's a freedom in the endless horizon of the ocean.

By 1917, according to his World War I Draft Registration card, he was living in San Pedro, California, at the Alexandria Hotel. A hotel? Who lives in a hotel? All I cloud think of was poverty. But as I studied the hotel's history I realized that I had new questions about Ralph. Questions aside, it seems he just used the hotel as his home base.

Was he lured away from home by the intrigue that Hollywood had in that day? He was 32-yrs.-old by then and I can't find him between 1900 and 1917, so I don't know how long he'd been there. But that hotel has some fun history with guests ranging from Charlie Chaplin and Valentino to President Theodore Roosevelt. Interesting.

The registration card gave me more information than I'd thought I'd find. It gave me the correct spelling of his last name (two R's). It is so thrilling to see an ancestor's signature that's almost 100years old! I laughed when the boxes "tall" and "medium build" were checked. I thought to myself, "All depends on the point of view of the person filling out the form." Maybe Ralph had. That's even more amusing. Was he really tall? Or was he a "wanna-be"? 

I'm easily amused... 

Lastly, almost, he had light brown hair, blue eyes and was a US citizen.

Yes, I'm a bit bored, too. Sorry Ralph.

One fun fact from the registration card was that he was employed by the US government at Ft. MacArthur as a carpenter. I thought my brother would get a kick out of that because he's a skilled carpenter amongst other things. Again, I'm left wondering how much of our skills and passions are passed down through the generations, sometimes skipping a few, landing serendipitously on the soul of a like-minded descendant? Read more about Fort MacArthur here. It was fun imagining which buildings Ralph might have built.

Ralph died in 1936 of pancreatic cancer. He never married nor had children as far as I can tell. I hope he stayed with Tillie or Agnes, his sisters. It's not good to die alone. He was only 52.

I looked at the one last fact on that card and the fun began. I know! Finally.

 Let's see if you enjoy it as much as I did...

Ralph listed his "nearest living relative" as Mrs. Howard Campbell, of Beacon Hill, Seattle Washington, Ward 7.  Mrs. Howard Campbell is Ralph's sister, Tillie, 23-yrs.old. Guess where Tillie lives?

16th Ave., Seattle, Washington.

Want to know who lives a block away 
on 15th Ave.?

Bridget Earles and her children. Her eldest daughter is Margaret, 23-yrs.-old as well.

Isn't that the best?!! Maybe you need more information to see what I see.

Ralph's cousin's son, Carl Kenneth Carlson, would marry Bridget's husband John's cousin's child, Evelyn Michaelle Earles in 1935, 18 years in the future. So Tillie and Margaret may have crossed each other's paths as they shopped, went to church or took a walk. You never know.

I love picturing my Grandpa Ken explaining his relationship to his first wife, Evelyn to his son (my dad), or his friends.

"My dad's (1) wife's (2) sister (3) lived a block away from my wife's(4) dad's (5) brother's wife (6) in 1910.

Six degrees of separation.

And EVERYONE he was talking to would do the same thing that EVERYONE in my house did as I excitedly told them what I'd found. 

They'd say, "So? And...." 

And they'd wait for the punchline. 

(I told you I'm easily amused.)

That was it... 


  1. It IS a small world, we just don't stop very often to consider how small it really is.

    (I for one am glad the Earth is not much larger; consider the crushing gravity on Jupiter, and how uncomfortable it must be to live there.)

    OK, all joking aside: I have relatives scattered throughout the 4 corners of the globe, and in my hometown, I have all these fifth cousins I've never met because one of my great-grandfathers (I think) liked to sow his wild oats. Needless to say, I am deathly afraid of dating any women born there. We might be more closely related than I'd like. :P

  2. You're a nut! But I'm with you. Stay away from that town. But you know how people move about, Don't you? LOL! Thanks for adding your fun!

  3. I completely followed it, and I would be excited about the same thing! I love looking through census records to see if the same names might be close to one another throughout the years. It's interesting to see how the families are intertwined and where the relationships cross. Fun times! Glad to find your blog!

  4. So I wouldn't find you rolling your eyes, yawning and looking around the room desperately waiting for me to end? LOL! THANK YOU! And thanks for finding me. Where's your blog? And do you blog a bout family history?

  5. What was he doing at the hotel?

  6. Stan! Your guess is as good as mine. I researched the hotel's history (not thoroughly because it was repetitive and focused mainly on the present day refurbishing of it) and concluded that he must have been living there when it was in it's "heyday", as it said over and over again. I'll track down his living relatives, the Campbells, and ask them. The story may change!

  7. Betsy, my own ancestry is a bit like a plate of spaghetti, cousins marrying, the same surnames repeating, despite there being no obvious connection. My own grandparents were 6th cousins & absolutely had no idea. The reason was that my ancestors, except for my Grandmothers father, all we're from the Surrey, Sussex & Hampshire borders in England - around a 30 mile radius & had been so for around 200 years! I have the odd strands who move away within the UK, & some to other areas of the world. The likening to spaghetti? Well I am half Italian!

    You might see on the US Sky / satellite channels the BBC series of Who do you think you are? There was one episode involving Sir Bruce Forsyth whose Great Grandfather I think it was lived in a hotel in New York. Despite being married twice he lived until he died at the hotel, & died penniless. Was the definition of a hotel then really the same as now? Or was it more for a group of people renting rooms because they were alone? Perhaps a kind of hostel? Did your chap leave a will? Where is he buried? In the program, Sir Bruce finds his ancestor at the hotel, finds the death certificate & images of a flash headstone (there had been previous wealth) the grave revealed a plot with no headstone. Which set off a whole set of more questions.

  8. Hi Julie,

    Spaghetti! That's funny. You do look Italian AND Irish (?)
    I miss WDYTYA EVERY time it's on! So I haven't seen that episode. I think a lot of them can be seen on Youtube.. aghhh! Watched all of it and then it ended 15 mins. in! I'll have to search for the whole episode. My great uncle was a landscape architect...
    Anyways, you have good questions.
    I've come to the conclusion that I'm not writing complete stories, but snippets that someone (probably my daughter Kelley, or son Brody,) will finish.
    I know that the Alexandria Hotel eventually became home to a lot of the city's homeless and downtrodden, but not in Ralph's day.
    The years where he went missing might be full of marriage and children. He evaded the 1920 census. Maybe he went to Hawaii to stay with relatives? Possible. I have yet to find a death certificate. His relatives posted a bunch of unsubstantiated "facts" on Ancestry.
    We'll see. It's all fun!
    Thanks Julie!

  9. Ralph's hotel is in Los Angeles, California. I think (but I didn't get to see the whole show) that the one on WDYTYA was in New York (?).

  10. What happened.....I commented and it went away....

  11. I wanted to share this article from our local paper:

  12. I believe Ralph had a son Robert Ralph and wife Viola Shofner.

    1. Hey! Can you send me more info? I looked everywhere for Ralph's information! Thank you! Who are you? Are we related?


What do you think? I'd love to know.