Sunday, May 15, 2011

The world's oldest 3rd grader!

This one had me puzzled beyond all words. Well obviously not, since I'm about to put quite a few words to it - but flummoxed. 

This "report card" is from a box of papers that contained letters and items belonging to my great-grandparents Gee and Catherine Conway Sawyer. I've glanced at it dozens of times, seen their daughter Clevel's name, public schools and moved right on.  I did wonder why only Clevel's report card was in that box, but having found report cards for other Sawyer children elsewhere, assumed it had been misplaced by one of the earlier Keepers of the Sawyer Stuff (perhaps I should start adding KSS after my name). Recently however, having scanned the original, I decided to add some metadata to the digital file. In mental scanning mode, I noted the 3d grade, the 1909 date and Cocke County, Tennessee.  And then - FINALLY - I stopped. 

Aunt Clevel was born in 1891. What ever was she still doing in 3rd grade eighteen years later? Her family lived in Greene County. What was she doing going to school in Cocke County? Why did they have a her listed as a him? And then - FINALLY - I looked. 

It's embarrassing how much I assume without actually thinking. It is NOT a report card. I'm certain you noticed this right away. It IS Clevel's teaching certificate, authorizing her to teach third grade across the Nolichucky River in Cocke County. Wonder of wonders she shows up on the 1910 census listed as a teacher! The school principal may have been surprised if he was expecting a Mr. Sawyer and a 5' nothing bird of young woman marched in with her certificate. But not as surprised as he would have been if she'd been waving a third grade report card.

The joys of being an ADD researcher....

Primary School Teaching Certificate for Clevel Sawyer, 1 Jul 1909; digital image. Privately held by Susan Clark. 1996. 


  1. Great story! We ALL have our moments where we go back over a document and realize we missed something like this. It's just part of the journey. :)

  2. Review, review, review! One of my top lessons for newbies!

    And, EVERY time I do same, I find something I missed the first, second and maybe even the third time through!

    Love your story, WAHHHOOOOO.

  3. I can so relate to your post.

    As I was transcribing an obit for today's post on my blog, I found all sorts of details about the deceased that have been patiently sitting under my nose (and on my hard drive and two flash drives) for six months.

  4. What a good reminder for us to carefully look and record information accurately. Clevel is a very interesting name. I've never heard it before.

  5. Great story! It's so easy to miss details when quickly looking through documents.

  6. Glad you finally really looked! Wonder what is sitting in plain sight that I'm not looking at over here?

  7. It's so easy for that to happen. What makes you a good researcher is that you went BACK to it! you looked again and again-- and finally saw what you needed. I have a "passport" from my grandmother. In fact she wrote on it "My Pass from 1911." It looked like a passport - had info like a passport. In fact, on the ship's manifest that brought her to America, her name was misspelled exactly the same way as on the passport. But guess what? A German professor who saw this pointed out to me - it's a 'Dienstbuch" -basically a resume of sorts -- listing all her employers. But so official, I believe was able to use it as a passport. I'm posting about it in a few weeks and you can take a look. So many secrets hidden among our artifacts.

  8. Thanks all! I can't tell you how very stupid I felt when I figured out what I'd done. The only lemonade I could come up with was this cautionary tale!


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