• Carla | The Redbud Genealogist

Family Research Leads to MLB Family Connection

My grandmother's doctor recently "upgraded" her from dementia to Alzheimer's. I despise that phrase "upgraded to Alzheimer's"... as if it suggests improvement.

Gram needs help - no denial there. She stays is in an assisted living home ran by a pleasant staff who help her with housecleaning, laundry, meals, and more.

Fortunately, she was having a good day when my sister and I dropped in for a visit shortly after the new diagnosis. It was clear she knew who we were even though she couldn't remember details and repeated only a few questions throughout.

We took her to lunch and talked about her Rawlings ancestry. She remembered a surprising amount about her childhood in Joplin, Missouri. I suppose her long-term memory is still well intact. Most of what she shared was accurate to my previous findings.

The day before our visit, I dug into her family history trying to go back as far as I could in time.

She still remembers her Chenoweth grandparent's address. Like I said, she was having a good day... so of course, I had to Google Map it!

It looks nearly the same according to her. She told me about swinging on the porch swing with her grandpa before I showed her this picture:

"He was such a fun guy," she told us with a smile about her Grandpa Carl Chenoweth. I can imagine them happily swaying on this porch and singing or talking. She loves to sing.

"Grandma used to make lunch for me every day. I can still remember her waving to me down the street as I walked back to school," she said.

I don't know about you but I love these

conversations more than genealogy.

But I wanted to know more about her Rawlings family. The Chenoweth family has been extensively researched and recorded by a distant cousin.

Victor, her paternal grandfather, was a skilled Tailor and lived with them briefly when he moved to Joplin. He then taught my great-grandmother how to sew.

"From then on, my mother made all of our clothes," Gram recalled. "He was a fine clothing maker."

During the pedicure that my sister bought her, Gram chatted on. I was researching as far back in time as I possibly could while we chatted. I finally reached one Daniel Rawlings born in Maryland circa 1770s.

And then I was stuck!

There are two ways out of this.

DNA test and filling out the branches of the family tree!

Besides getting to visit my Gram and talk about family history, I also had a selfish motivation for visiting. I wanted to ask her to take a DNA test so I could further my research.

With her help, I now hope to find out more about my Rawling’s family and get past Mr. Daniel Rawlings. She claims that we come from an "Irish" Rawlings family but, in my limited research, I've only seen "English" Rawlings surnames.

There may be some truth to this since my DNA results show a 41% Irish inheritance and only 7% British. Still, her Chenoweth line hails from Cornwall, Great Britain, so... ?

I don’t know yet what is truth, so hopefully her DNA test will lead to a breakthrough to an immigrant ancestor. I am so thankful that she agreed to take the test and grateful that she was interested in the things I found out about our Rawlings family.

Now to fill out the branches of our family tree...

because we know that DNA and the paper trail

must work together to create a solid case.

About that...

I found a surprising and delightful discovery in my research!

I discovered Gram's grandfather had a first cousin who played in the major leagues. His name:

Johnny Rawlings

Johnny Rawlings, shortstop and second baseman, debuted with the Cincinnati Reds in 1914. He went on to play for the Kansas City Packers, Boston Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates. He also managed teams for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League; taking his teams to the playoffs six times.

Yeah, he sounds pretty great so far... but then this:

He played in the 1921 World Series against the New York Yankees - and yes, against the Sultan of Swat! Rawlings hit .333 (10-for-30) with three doubles and four RBI for the 1921 Giants World Series champions.

Here's an excerpt taken from Wikipedia and the Evening Tribune (San Diego, California) about the 1921 World Series Championship game:

"Of particular note was the last play in the series, the last time a best-of-nine game format was used. With the Giants winning in the 9th inning and the Yankees facing elimination, Yankees manager Miller Huggins sent Babe Ruth in to pinch hit to lead off the inning.

Ruth had knee and elbow injuries and had missed Games 6 and 7 completely, and hat sat out Game 8 thus far. He grounded out to the first baseman unassisted.

Aaron Ward coaxed a walk, and represented the tying run.

The next batter was John Franklin "Home Run" Baker. After fouling off several pitches, he hit a ball that appeared to have eyes for right field. Ward took off on contact. Rawlings reached the ball, and after tumbling, threw to first base from his knees to get the out. Ward inexplicably continued running, rounded second base, and with his head down, barreled toward third. An astute throw to Frank Frisch at third base nailed Ward for the third out, and the Series was won by the Giants.

Six seasons later, the winning pitcher, Art Nehf, then with the Cincinnati Reds, would call Rawlings' snag the best play he had ever seen. [1]"


Think about this: if I had not decided to look into my grandmothers' paternal side during our visit, would I have ever found out that we were distantly related to a ballplayer who made MLB history?

Maybe so, but it would have taken much longer. I'm certain.

Need help discovering more about your ancestors? Contact me.

[1] Evening Tribune (San Diego, California) – March 15, 1927 – p. 27 - Wikipedia; Johnny Rawlings, accessed March 2018.


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