Those Places Thursday: Postcards from Mexico, Part 2: Taxco

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)


Cactus prickly pear vendor, possibly from
Taxco, 1937. From Benita McCormick’s scrapbook.

Without having them here to share their itinerary with us today, we must rely on the postcards my great aunt and great uncle, Benita and Phillip McCormick, saved in their scrapbook from their 1937 vacation in Mexico to show us where they went and what they saw.

Benita we called her “Aunt Detty” – an artist in her own right, had a keen eye for composition, and she chose her postcards carefully.  Each one in this collection is itself a  photographic work of art, giving us a glimpse into the much simpler life in some of the more rural areas of Mexico in the mid-1930s.  

Street view of church, Taxco, 1937.  From
Benita McCormick’s scrapbook.

These postcards are of the mountaintop town of Taxco, in the southwestern state of Guerrero.  

Located about 100 miles southwest of Mexico City, Taxco is world-renowned for its silver mines and exquisite silver jewelry.  

Artists flock to the area to paint its picturesque colonial buildings, red tile roofs, and steep narrow cobblestone streets.  It is easy to imagine Aunt Detty, sitting at an easel with a palette of watercolors in the town square, or zócalo, while Uncle Phil strolls up and down the hilly lanes of the town. 

Street market, Taxco, 1937.
From Benita McCormick’s scrapbook.

Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

Wordless Wednesday: Postcards from Mexico, Part 1

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)

“Tipos Mexicanos,” or “Mexicans,” reads the
caption at the bottom.  1937; from Benita
(McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook

My great aunt and great uncle, Benita and Phillip McCormick, were enamored of Mexico and bought quite a few postcards during their visit there, mailing a number of them to their son and daughter, Phillip “Bud” and Jane.  These first two samples begin a series of their artistic and historic collection.


Taxco, Mexico.  1937; from Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook.

To read the other installments in this series, please click on the links below:

Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully



Travel Tuesday: Vacationing in Mexico, 1937


Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)

Caption by Benita reads, “Phil & I at Fountain.”  Mexico, 1937; exact location unknown. From her scrapbook.

In the summer of 1937, my great uncle and great aunt, Phil and Benita McCormick, traveled from Chicago to Mexico for several weeks, leaving their eight-year old son and daughter, Bud and Jane, in the able care of close relatives back home. 

As the freight service manager for the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad in Chicago, Uncle Phil enjoyed the enviable benefit of free rail travel for himself and his family.  Though we do not know the route they traveled, they might have taken one of the B & O’s “streamliner” trains, such as the Abraham Lincoln, from Chicago to Saint Louis.  From there, they most likely changed trains once or twice before arriving at their destination on one of the trains of the National Railways of Mexico. 


Timetable Brochure, National Railways of Mexico, July 20, 1937.  From Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook. 

During their Mexican sojourn, Phil and Benita visited not only the capital, Mexico City, but also many Mexican villages. They fell in love with the country, and Benita took several art classes while there.

They traveled the country with a tour group, a safe way to travel in 1937 for those who spoke little or no Spanish.  Uncle Phil probably had some working knowledge of the language; when I was young, I remember he was always studying Spanish!  

In the photograph above and below, Benita and Phil sit contentedly in front of a lovely unidentified fountain.   The next photo shows them in front of the same fountain with their tour guide and a couple they met on their trip, John and Mary Coates. 

Caption reads, “4 Americans & Guide.”  From left to right:
John and Mary Coates, unnamed tour guide, and Benita
(McGinnis) and Phil McCormick.  Location unknown.
Mexico, 1937.  From Benita McCormick’s scrapbook.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

Motivation Monday: Eight Years of Sharing Stories – and Here’s to Many More!


Eight years…can it really be that long?
My trusty Underwood typewriter, its ribbon now worn,
keeps  me company as I write.  A gift from my great-aunt
Detty, it once belonged to my great-grandfather Thomas
McGinnis, who used it to write an autobiography
of his adventures at sea.
Actually, it’s eight years and two days…171 posts, and 30,959 page views.
That’s right. According to Google statistics for this site, Many Branches, One Tree has had 30,959 page views since it debuted on June 21, 2006.
I remember my first post, a “welcome” message to my new readers and a hesitant dip into the world of family history writing.  For as long as it took to get started, it was a good thing I wrote that piece on the longest day of the year.
To be sure, 171 posts over eight years pale next to the number of posts written by some of my more prolific family history colleagues who impressively post a story (or more) every day.  By comparison, 171 posts works out to more like 21 stories per year, or almost two posts per month.  
At this rate, I won’t break any records.  On the other hand, despite the urgency I feel to write about the lives of the people who have paved the way for us, I also struggle to fit it into the balance of family time, work, and play. 
So I write what I can, the best way I can, as often as I can.  And it comes down to this:  if you, dear reader, not only learn the facts about the people who appear on this site but you also can picture yourself in their shoes, in their predicaments, in their journeys; if you can feel the air about them and hear the rhythm of their hearts through their words and actions, then I have done my job.
Don’t ask me to pick a favorite story.  That’s like asking which of my three children I love the most. The answer is that each post is different, yet I feel attached to all of them.  Whatever I am writing becomes my “favorite” at that moment.
It’s easier to look ahead. My future plans are to explore my husband’s family, the Tullys, Barons, Hoppins, Makepeaces, Fays, and Rineys. It’s only fair that our children know more about my husband’s side of the family, a fascinating group of people with an amazing history.  Eventually, I will come back to my ancestors, as the McGinnises, Huescas, Perrotins, and O’Gradys still beckon for attention.  

Is there a book in here somewhere?  Some have suggested there is and have encouraged me to write one.  It is a tempting thought.

Lastly, my own children have asked me to write autobiographical pieces, so they will know their own mother’s stories.  I want to do this for them but am somewhat reluctant to do it here. We will have to explore the options.

Here are some fun statistics about this site.
According to Blogger, the five most popular posts until now:
1.  Family Recipe Friday:  Arroz con Leche, the story of my Abuelita (Grandmother) Catalina (Perrotin) Huesca’s comfort food, Mexican Rice Pudding, wins the prize for most views at 1,194.  If only there were a prize – I suppose it would have to be a dish of the real thing.
2.  Madness Monday:  Cold War Mania, about my family’s experience during the Cuban Missile Crisis and my parents’ decision to move us to Mexico.  That story has been viewed 505 times.  It was not viewed much when it appeared a year ago, but every day it seems to attract more readers.  I can’t figure out why.
3.  Remembering Mary Jane and Elizabeth Gaffney garnered 410 views. My best guess is that people liked my mother’s first-person childhood memories of her grandmother and great-aunt, who raised her during the Great Depression.
4.  Family Recipe Friday:  Abuelita’s Mexican RicePeople really like stories about food! This was another story about my grandmother’s cooking.  Well, she was known for her culinary talents and her warm way of making people feel loved. Whether it was cooking for my grandfather, their 11 children, her mother and sister, or the family’s guests at their hotels and restaurants in 1920s Mexico, her most important ingredient was the love she put into it – and that made it memorable.  363 views.

5.  Patricia Ann Fay, a biography of my delightful mother-in-law, was viewed 284 times.  I only wish she were still alive to see that, but at least my darling husband can enjoy the thought that his mother has touched many people’s lives.

Those readers, and more, come from all over the world.  Sitemeter, a visitor counter, counts the top ten countries, along with the number of readers in each:
United States     17,948
Russia                   5,099
Mexico                     794
Canada                     732
Germany                  637
France                      527
United Kingdom     511
Poland                      315
Ukraine                    210
China                       208
Readers are split almost evenly among the sexes, with 46% females and 54% males.  Though many are referred here by other blogs and websites (most of them genealogy-related), the majority come from Google searches, Pinterest pages, and the Geneabloggers website.  Some of the most popular phrases in Google searches have been:
cold war
many branches one tree
Conneaut Ohio
Nickel Plate Railroad Conneaut
Hyde Park
origin of Huesca name
It has been a joy to memorialize family members (and occasionally, close family friends) on this site and to hear your own insights.  Sometimes you offer thoughtful speculations and  share new revelations.  Sometimes you discover a common ancestor, or something our ancestors had in common with us.  The best times are when you rediscover family  you either thought you knew or never knew – or we discover each other.  It sends a chill down my spine every time.  You make this site worthwhile.
I am pleased and honored that you have taken the time to share your own memories and insights.    Sometimes, I have even had the thrill of meeting “new” cousins, from near and far.  What blessings you are!
Many thanks to all of you.  Whether we share a common ancestor or simply a common love of family, tradition, and a good story, I am grateful to you for reading, commenting, and even sharing this site.  

Now, let’s get back to those stories.



Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: It’s All Relative

Phillip Eugene “Bud” McCormick (1927 – 2004)
Benita Jane “Janie” (McCormick) Olson  (1927 – 2011)
Joan (Schiavon) Huesca (1928 – 1987)

My great-aunt “Detty,” or Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, and her younger sister (my grandmother, Alice (McGinnis) Schiavon), lived several blocks apart on the South side of Chicago, both from each other and from their mother, Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis. Their children – my mother, Joan Schiavon, her brother Tom (Thomas Schiavon), and Jane and Buddy McCormick, played together happily most days.  
Usually, my uncle Tom, ever the bookworm, kept to his inventions and scientific experiments, while my mother, Joan, was a tomboy and usually played outdoors with Buddy and his best friend, Jack O’Brien.   Jane, on the other hand, was more ladylike, preferring books and dolls to climbing trees and catching bugs.  They also acted in a children’s play, Darby and Joan, at the Medinah Chidren’s Theater in downtown Chicago.  
This photograph, taken in about 1931, during the height of the Great Depression, must have brought many a smile to Benita, Alice; their husbands Phil McCormick and Ralph Schiavon; and their extended families. Jane and Bud look to be about five or six years old here, while my mother would have been about four.  

Nothing is cuter than small children, except maybe small children with small animals. One can easily imagine people who desperately needed to make money to feed their own children, bringing their domestic animals up and down residential streets, perhaps borrowing cameras, and offering souvenir snapshots to those who answered the door.  


My mother, Joan Schiavon, and her cousins Jane and Bud McCormick, pose on a billy goat and cart.  Chicago, Illinois, circa 1931.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Matrilineal Monday: Two Little Bundles of Love

Benita Elizabeth (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip Columbus McCormick (1892 – 1981)
Phillip Eugene “Bud” McCormick (1927 – 2004)
Benita Jane “Janie” (McCormick) Olson (1927 – 2011)

Christmas 1927 brought a very special gift to my great-aunt and great-uncle, Benita and Phil McCormick.  


These two little cherubs, “Buddy and Jane,” or Phillip Eugene and Benita Jane 
McCormick, were named after their adoptive parents, Phillip Columbus and Benita 
Elizabeth (McGinnis) McCormick.  Chicago, Illinois, December 1927.

Make that two special gifts.  

Unable to have children of their own, Benita and Phil adopted two infants, a boy and a girl.  Given their adoptive parents’ first names and the respective baptism (middle) names of their uncle Eugene McGinnis and grandmother Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, Phillip Eugene and Benita Jane were nicknamed  “Buddy” (later “Bud”) and “Janie,” names that stuck with them all their lives.  


 Adoption announcement card, designed by Benita
(McGinnis) McCormick, whimsically depicts two
young babes in diapers knocking on the door of the
McCormick home.  
Though the blond, blue-eyed babies were referred to as “the twins,” the newest little McCormicks may have been about the same age but in fact were not related by blood to each other at all. Bud was born on February 26, 1927, presumably in Illinois.  Benita Jane, called “Janie,” was born Shirley Ann Althaus on May 20, 1927, in Iowa, to a young German-American farm girl named Bernice Althaus.  


Benita designed a whimsical adoption announcement heralding the new additions to the McCormick family. The pen and ink illustration on the card depicts two young babes in diapers, clutching small suitcases.  Standing on a welcome mat, they rap confidently on the front door of their new home.  The “8032” on the door was the street number of the family’s residence at 8032 Vernon Avenue, on Chicago’s South Side. 
The idea of Benita and Phil ringing in the New Year by inviting friends and family to join them in welcoming two little cherubs into their world was typical of a couple who enjoyed celebrating life and loved ones.
Inside of adoption
announcement and invitation
to meet Buddy and Jane McCormick
on New Year’s Day, 1928.


Mr and Mrs. Phillip C. McCormick,


8052 Vernon Avenue, announce the 


adoption of Benita Jane and Phillip


Eugene, December 18, 1927, and request


the pleasure of your company on


New Year’s Day to meet their


son and daughter.


From 8:30 p.m. to 12 o’clock    R.S.V.P.





Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Family Recipe Friday: (Old-Fashioned) Salad Dressing

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)

This recipe was written in Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s hand on a back page of Congregational Church Recipes.  The book, first published in 1916 in Conneaut, Ohio, was a gift to her in 1921, presumably as a wedding gift, from her maternal aunt, Delia “Di” Gaffney.
The cookbook eventually made its way to my mother, Joan (Schiavon) Huesca and then to me.  It is now in the possession of my cousin, Suzanne, Benita’s granddaughter.
“To My Dear Detty,” reads this
inscription from Delia Gaffney,
on the inside first page of 
“Congregational  Church 
Recipes,” dated 1921.

Salad Dressing 

To one scant cup of vinegar, add a lump of butter the size of a walnut, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp. salt.  Set on stove in a glass.

Put in a dessert spoon full of cornstarch and ½ spoon flour, 1 tsp dry mustard and mix well.  Add enough water to make a smooth paste.  Beat egg and enough milk to fill the glass.  Stir well and add to vinegar mixture.  Cook till thick.


Being a good no-nonsense midwesterner, Benita titled the recipe simply, “Salad Dressing.”   Presumably, she used this recipe often, because the page on which it appears is mildly stained.  Her descriptions of the ingredients (“a lump of butter the size of a walnut”) are amusing yet typical of the time.
I wonder if she got the recipe from her mother?


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully

Treasure Chest Thursday: Sharing a Gift from the Railroad

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)


Indian Tree pattern teacups and double-handed
bouillon cups, part of a 1921 wedding gift to Phillip

and Benita (McGinnis) McCormick, from his employer, 
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

Of all the wedding gifts my great-aunt Detty (Benita) and great-uncle Phil McCormick received  on October 3, 1921, this charming dinner service of English porcelain is still with us today, symbolizing the enduring love of an unforgettable couple.

The transfer ware set of “Indian Tree” china was a special gift from the management of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (popularly known as the “B &O”), where Uncle Phil worked as a freight service manager in Minnesota and later Chicago, Illinois. 
In the early 1900s, before automobiles became the primary form of transportation in the United States, the railroad industry offered its employees good pay, incentives for hard work, and job security.  The B & O treated its employees like family.  It encouraged them to save money, helped them buy new homes, rewarded them for personal and professional development, celebrated their marriages and the births of their children, and recognized them when they retired. It should not be surprising, then, that a gift such as this was a testimony to the railroad’s deep appreciation for Phil McCormick’s contributions and their best wishes for his future.

Popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Indian Tree china was first manufactured in 1801 by the Coalport Porcelain Company in Shropshire, England. It is characterized by a rising crooked tree branch amid an exotic floral array of flowers and leaves in vivid colors of pink, green, blue, yellow, and brown.  Graceful bands of brown and gold border and define each piece.  The pattern itself was inspired by either an old Indian or Chinese textile design, depending on whom you ask.

Salad plate, Indian Tree pattern.
Aunt Detty and Uncle Phil used this china on a daily basis. With her artistic love of all things beautiful, my aunt appreciated the detail and delicate colors of the dishes and the elegant way they looked on a simple white tablecloth.  On my weekly visits to their San Mateo, California, apartment in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it felt like a privilege to help Aunt Detty serve dinner on them and wash them carefully afterward for her. 


After Uncle Phil and Aunt Detty died, their daughter, Jane (McCormick) Olson, inherited the china. She had her own everyday, off-white dishes in a lovely basket-weave pattern, but from time to time she liked to take out her parents’ china as a special treat, always referring to it by name.  “Shall we use Indian Tree tonight?” she would ask, a twinkle in her eye as she waited for the inevitable “yes.”  It was always a delight to see those dishes again, as they brought back fond memories. 

Phillip and Benita McCormick, on their 50th
wedding anniversary, recreate a pose taken on
their honeymoon in 1921.  October 3, 1971,
on their balcony, San Mateo, California.

About ten years ago, she called me on the telephone with an announcement.  “I want you to have Indian Tree after I’m gone,” she said matter-of-factly.  She memorialized her wishes in a letter shortly after that. Not wanting to think about her being “gone,” I put the letter away and forgot about it until her daughter Suzanne gave me the china some months after Aunt Jane died in 2012.

There is an Irish sensibility in me, passed lovingly down through the generations, that tends to make me want to put special things like heirloom china away for “special occasions.” But through the years, I’ve gained an appreciation for not waiting for a “special” day but living each day to the fullest. I still can’t bring myself to use Indian Tree every day, but I don’t wait for special occasions to use it.  It offers a cheerful and soothing reminder of family and days gone by as much as an opportunity to make new memories with the family present today.  It feels right to not only enjoy such an heirloom, but to add our own story to it.
Some day, God willing, Indian Tree will go to my children.  But it will be minus three pieces, which I’ll mail today to each of my sisters, who also loved Aunt Detty, Uncle Phil, and Aunt Jane.  They, too, will surely treasure it as much as I do for the happy memories of our beloved McGinnis-McCormick relatives. 


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Traveling Tuesday: Kegfully Yours

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)


Newlyweds Phil and Benita McCormick took the train out west to Southern California for a month-long honeymoon.  One of the many places they visited was Santa Catalina Island, just off the coast.  The island became a favorite place of theirs, as much for its beauty as for the memories they made during their sojourn there.  Half a century later, they used this photograph, taken in the island town of Avalon, as the cover of the invitation to their golden wedding anniversary celebration.

Honeymooners Benita (McGinnis) and Phillip McCormick linger on an oceanside bench in the town of Avalon, on Catalina Island, October 1921.

On October 10, 1921, while staying at the famed Beaux-Arts Rosslyn Hotel in Los Angeles, Benita received a letter from an unidentified correspondent from Chicago.  It read,  

Dear Madam,

I am shipping to you today one keg of beer and hope it reaches you in nice shape.  Wish you were here.

Yours etc.

Sears, Roebuck & Co.


While it would be nice to learn who sent the note, it would be even more interesting to know whether the sender actually sent, or intended to send, a keg of beer across the country at the height of the Prohibition era.

Never at a loss for words, my great-aunt Benita immediately dashed off a reply:

Dear Mr. Sears, 

If you really sent me a K.O.B. I know damn well I’ll be in nice shape.  Thanking you for your beer I am

Kegfully yours,

Mrs. P.C. McCormick



Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully


Sentimental Sunday: Not About to Let Her Get Away

Benita (McGinnis) McCormick (1889 – 1984)
Phillip C. McCormick (1892 – 1981)


Phil McCormick had found someone special in Benita McGinnis, and he was not about to let her get away.  
On June 20, 1921, he went downtown to a diamond importer, August Rassweiler, where he selected a diamond engagement and wedding ring for his intended bride.  He paid $271.00 dollars for the set, equivalent to about $3,200 today.  The couple would later playfully dub the venerable gem, nearly a carat in weight, “San Dimmo,” or Saint Diamond.


Receipt for the San Dimmo diamond engagement and wedding ring set, sold to Phillip Columbus McCormick on June 20, 1921. From Benita (McGinnis) McCormick’s scrapbook.

Either that day or shortly afterward, Phillip proposed to the 31-year-old Benita.  She gladly accepted.  Soon afterward, Phil invited Benita’s family to celebrate their engagement at their future residence at 1435 
Midway Plaisance, near the University of Chicago.  It was a happy occasion, as the photograph below shows the beaming McGinnises dressed in their best Sunday clothes. Though Benita’s brothers Gene and John are not in the picture, her maternal uncle and aunt, Thomas and Cora (Terrill) Gaffney and daughter (her cousin), Agnes, were there, along with her parents Thomas and Mary Jane, and her sister Alice.

Left to right, back row: Thomas Charles and Cora (Terrill) Gaffney, Phillip McCormick, Benita McGinnis, Alice McGinnis,; center row: Thomas and Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis;  front row: Agnes Elizabeth Gaffney and unknown girl.  Circa late June 1921; taken in the back yard of the engaged couple’s home-to-be at 1435 Midway Plaisance, Chicago, Illinois.


Some four months later, Thomas and Mary Jane McGinnis proudly announced their daughter’s marriage to Phil McCormick on Monday, October 3, 1921, in Chicago: 
Announcement by Thomas and Mary Jane (Gaffney)
McGinnis to friends and family of the marriage of
their daughter, Benita, to Phillip McCormick.


Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Eugene McGinnis
announce the marriage of their daughter
Benita Elizabeth
to Mr. Phillip C. McCormick
on Monday, October the third
One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one
Chicago, Illinois

At Home
after November the first
1435 Midway Plaisance

The happy couple:  Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Columbus McCormick,
on their wedding day, October 3, 1921, in front of the
bride’s family home, 8052 Vernon Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.


Copyright ©  2014  Linda Huesca Tully