I am joining in on the No Story is Too Small Blog’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. This weeks theme is Fresh Start and this is my post about Harry Kenneth Jackson, my pain in the butt ancestor.
Harry is my great grandfather. He was born 24 of January maybe in 1871, or so the family say. His daughter, Julia, said that he was born in Bristol, England, but his death certificate says Liverpool.
He was said to be one of 18 children. His mother died when he was around 8 years old and supposedly he did not like his step mother so he split the scene and stowed away on a ship. He traveled the world several times and ended up on San Francisco’s shores sometime around 1900.
I have not been able to prove any of it. Harry Kenneth Jackson was incredibly gifted at leaving no trace of his life before San Francisco. The first hint of a trail is 1904 when he married Margaret Mary Jones in San Francisco.
They set up roots at 449 Natoma Street. Harry worked for Key System as a marine fireman.
The couple was just celebrating the birth of their first child when calamity struck. With their 3 week old and Margaret’s father in tow, they ran for cover from the 1906 earthquake and fire. They spent a couple of weeks in the camp at Golden Gate Park and they tried to repair the scraps of their life.
The couple first lived on Aztec Street in San Francisco, but soon after moved to Peralta Avenue in Oakland, across the bay. They eventually ended up on 25th Avenue. By this time, they had 5 children, 4 girls and 1 boy.
Harry continued to work for Key System. In 1918, he was employed as an oiler. According to my grandmother, he worked on the ferry boats that plied between the two cities.
I don’t know what happened, but the marriage started to go bad in the 1920s. By 1930, they were divorced. I have searched in vain thus far for the divorce papers. There should be something somewhere, including the newspapers, since my great aunt told me that Harry was determined not to let them have the house and attempted to set it on fire. I’m pretty sure attempted arson makes you noteworthy…and gives you a pretty good jail sentence. The jail sentence could explain why Harry seems to go missing from 1929 to 1933. There was no contact with the family after that. A grandson remembers him only by the name his grandmother used “That Damn Jackson”.
He was still employed by Key System in 1940. Though he is listed in city directories, he stayed away from the census in 1930 and 1940. He died 10 years later on 13 Jul 1950 in Oakland. The informant was a woman named Julia Nattinger who I have no information on. The obituary lists no other relatives except for his surviving daughters who had not talked to him in years.
I have snippets of remembrances from my grandmother’s childhood of a man who once berated a teacher for making his left handed daughter write right handed against God’s will. And, the man who got angry when the children used watermelon rinds as skates and stained the sidewalks.
There is also the little thing his daughter, Julie, once told me. Harry was not allowed to become a US citizen. She had no idea why but thought he committed a crime prior to settling in San Francisco. An FOIA request didn’t turn up anything.
I would very much like a fresh start on ol’ Harry. The stories, the myths, and the lack of documentation have made his a jumble of statements and facts. It seems everywhere I look for Harry I hit a wall. Why wasn’t he named something Jebediah or Ezekiel? Maybe then I could separate him from all the other Jackson’s. Perhaps my autosomal DNA test will give me the fresh start I need on him. Perhaps somewhere out there is a descendant of one of his siblings, someone I share a 2nd great grandfather with or who is Harry great grandchild from an illegitimate offspring. Oh, wouldn’t that be fun?
If you’re listening somewhere out there, Harry, throw me a document with your parents names on it, will ya?
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com