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Looking closer at our families

It’s something The Legal Genealogist is so so so guilty of doing.

I look at people who are closest in my family, people like — say — my mother’s siblings.

And I say to myself, “Oh, I know all about those folks…”

Except when I don’t.

And occasionally I get slapped upside the head by the fact that I don’t.

In my email this morning was one of those lovely reminders from MyHeritage that it has a ton of neat city directories online,1 among them some of the very first California directories in which my mother’s brother Monte would have appeared after his marriage to my aunt Zena.

And indeed there they were in an apartment in San Diego in 1957.2

And by the very next year in the house where they lived all the rest of Monte’s life there in El Cajon.3

San Diego 1958 directory

And, in both of them, next to his name, the fact that he was an assistant foreman at Convair.

And I realized… I had had no idea of what he’d done for a living all those years he lived and worked in California.

Birth, check.

Military service, check.

Marriage, check.

Three children, check.

Death, check.

Burial, check.

And how he lived all those years?

Just the memories of the times when we visited with him and his family, or when he and his family visited with us.

I had nothing, not even a clue, as to what he did each and every day of his working life.

It turns out that Convair was “an American aircraft manufacturing company that later expanded into rockets and spacecraft” that was “best known for its military aircraft; it produced aircraft such as the Convair B-36 Peacemaker, the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, the Convair F-106 Delta Dart interceptors, and the Convair B-58 Hustler strategic bombers. It also manufactured the first Atlas rockets, including the rockets that were used for the manned orbital flights of Project Mercury.”4

Color me gobsmacked.

And chagrined.

I’d love to know exactly what his job entailed.

I’d love to know whether he worked on any of those early rockets.

I was able to verify that he was still with Convair’s parent company of General Dynamics in 1971,5 but I’d love to know even if he stayed at Convair and/or its parent company of General Dynamics until he retired, or if he ended up somewhere else for a time.

And I’d love to be able to say that I ever asked him about what he did.

Lesson learned.

We need to document our own.

And never ever ever allow ourselves to say “Oh, I know all about those folks…”

Because, all too often, we don’t.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Documenting our own,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 27 June 2020).


  1. See “U.S. City Directories,” ( : accessed 27 June 2020).
  2. Ibid.; Polk’s San Diego City Directory 1957 (Los Angeles: R.L. Polk Co., 1957), 187, entry for Monte B. Cottrell.
  3. Ibid.; Polk’s San Diego Suburban Directory 1958 (Los Angeles: R.L. Polk Co., 1959), 165, entry for Monte B. Cottrell.
  4. Wikipedia (, “Convair,” rev. 9 May 2020.
  5. Polk’s San Diego Suburban Directory 1071 (Monterey Park, CA: R.L. Polk Co., 1959), 165, entry for Monte B. Cottrell; digital images, “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” ( : accessed 27 June 2020).
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