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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Entries in usha (4)


    Princess Diaries: Looking for Answers in the 1940 US Census

    Princess Usha Holkar, The Maharani of Indore India, was one of my mother's playmates during the years that the Princess lived in Santa Ana, California with her father, the Maharajah of Indore and his second wife, American Marguerite Lawler.

    Mom remembered playing with the Princess's fabulous toys and dolls in a corner playroom under the watchful eye of her governess and birthday party snapshots show the girls together in party dresses. But, memories are a tricky thing, and it's been hard to pin down dates and places. I am looking for answers with the release of the 1940 U.S. Census to help figure out who lived where, and when.

    "Party Picture, 1912 N. Spurgeon, Santa Ana, Ca, Front Row L-R Patty Bright, 
    Kathy Bright, Susie [Brown], Usha, Fran in back sticking out tongue"

    This birthday photo shows Mom and her sister Frances with Princess Usha and three other little girls. In recent years, Mom remembered the event as her own birthday party, although when assembling her photo album in the 1940's she noted it as "Frances Party." Both sisters had January birthdays, and the address on the back of the photo adds to the confusion. I wrote more about this puzzle in Wordless Wednesday: Dating a Photo of Princess Usha at the Brown Girls' Party. The 1940 U.S. Census may hold a clue to the mystery.

    The Brown Family moved frequently, the census should help pinpoint where they were living on the census date and we can work back from there to January, 1940.

    More About the Brown Girls and Princess Usha

    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County House


    Photograph: "Party Picture" photograph, in Susie (Brown) Freeman Photo Album, ca. 1942, unpaginated; 
    privately held by Denise Levenick, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Pasadena, Caliifornia, 2010.


    Wordless Wednesday: Dating a Photo of Princess Usha at the Brown Girls' Party

    Mom remembers this special birthday party attended by her school friend, Princess Usha Holkar. A note on the back also identifies other friends Patty and Betty Bright, and Mom's sister, Fran, in the back row sticking out her tongue at the camera. The young woman next to Fran may have been Usha's governess.


    "Party Picture, 1912 N. Spurgeon, Santa Ana, Ca, Front Row L-R Patty Bright,
    Kathy Bright, Susie [Brown], Usha, Fran in back sticking out tongue"

    "Party Picture" photograph, in Susie (Brown) Freeman Photo Album, ca. 1942, unpaginated;
    privately held by Denise Levenick, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Pasadena, Caliifornia, 2010.

    Mom loves removing photos from albums, a trait she shares with her own mother, Arline. I think she hopes to find a hidden caption, and if not, she sometimes she adds her own at this later date. All the bits of information help, even if the notes were written at another time, and we are fortunate to several clues to work with. According to the album index sheet, this was "Frances Party," although Mom remembers it as "her" birthday.

    I thought I might be able to use the list of addresses from our Family Home Tour to help date the  photograph, however Mom's and Auntie's recollections conflict with the address on the back of the photo. Mom remembers playing with Usha when they lived on 20th Street; Frances remembers being in the second grade when the family lived at 1912 North Spurgeon. Fran and Susie both celebrate their birthday in January, but January of which year?

    Was it  January of 1939 (Fran 8, Susie 6), or January 1940 (Fran 9, Susie 7), or January 1941 (Fran 10, Susie 8). I am not sure of Fran's age in second grade. Maybe she can answer that question. She was a smart little girl and may have been young for her grade.

    I also looked at postmarked letters from these years and found three letters addressed to family members at Spurgeon in December of 1940, six letters addressed to the family at 3rd Street from Sept 1939 through Feb 1940; and 10 letters addressed to 20th Street from October 1938 through June 1939; and 44 letters addressed to No. Broadway from 3 Jan 1941 through June 1944. It may be that a closer at the individual letters will show where the family was receiving mail in January of each year, and help  solve this little puzzle.

    From Mom's "Princess Diaries"

    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County House



    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County Palace

    Earlier this week I was in Orange County to meet my sister and brother-in-law for lunch and she handed me a newspaper feature on the Santa Ana home of Princess Usha of Holkar. It didn't take much encouraging to make a very short detour to drive by the house at Heliotrope and Santa Clara Streets. It doesn't look like the palace has changed much since Mom played with the Princess in the upstairs nursery, although the holiday lawn decorations are surely new.


    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    From Mom's 'Princess Diaries'

    My Mother has pushed and pulled me along our genealogical journey, and this week she brings out yet another surprise. Mom often talked about her little playmate, The Princess of Indore, and this week she asked me to make an Internet Appeal for Help – she would like to reconnect with her fondly remembered playmate, Usha-Devi Holkar.

    My research has revealed an intriguing family history (see below) and we are excited to see what more we can learn. If you can help, please leave a comment below. Mom will be watching!

    Princess Usha and family


    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday Usha Holkar,

    Happy Birthday to You.

    Happy Happy Birthday Usha, The Maharani of Indore, India.  I remember our fun days when we attended Hoover School and then we would go to your Palace to play. What fun times we had.

    I remember celebrating with other school friends your 6th Birthday party in your upstairs playroom.  You were a fun friend and playmate and I have thought of you often over all these 70 years.  

    Celebrate and enjoy your October 20th Birthday.  

    Love, Susie Brown Freeman


    Mothers are always right.

    In 1937, the handsome young Maharajah of Indore, recently widowed and still in mourning for his first wife was reportedly visiting Southern California with his five-year-old daughter when he fell ill with bronchial asthma. He was admitted to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles where he met an attractive young American divorcé, Marguerite Lawler, born in Fargo, North Dakota. She later accompanied the pair to Europe as the child’s governess and was married to the Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar on September 19, 1938.

    That same year, the Maharajah moved into his newly-completed Southern California palace with his bride and young daughter. The Santa Ana Register noted, "A man's home is his castle, and the castle being built for the world's richest man, the Maharajah of Indore, in Santa Ana is not only a castle; it is literally a fortress. It will guard that which is more dear to him than all of his income-it will guard the safety and continued well-being of his daughter, Princess Usha."

    The gracious home at the corner of Heliotrope and Santa Clara in Santa Ana was estimated to cost $50,000 to build at the height of the Depression; another $150,000 was spent on furnishing the mansion. But while the Maharajah enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle that included custom automobiles, international travel, and over a dozen homes, his daughter Usha enjoyed attending the neighborhood public school, Hoover Elementary, and playing with the local children. Susie Brown was one of the little girls invited to join in playtime at the Princess’s palace home.

    Today Suzanne recalls the big black car that brought the girls from school to the palace, and the upstairs playroom filled with toys and games. A governess or other attendants were always within sight, the Princess was never alone.

    Too soon, life changed at the Palace for Usha and her little friends. The Maharajah and his bride, Marguerite returned to India where they enjoyed a much different lifestyle. In 1942, Marguerite returned to the United States, and the Maharajah followed the next year to file for divorce.  As part of the divorce settlement, she received the Santa Ana home and the couple’s home in Emerald Bay, along with the care of Princess Usha.

    Only hours after his Reno divorce from Marguerite was final, on 6 July 1943, the Maharajah married Mrs. Euphremia Watt Crane.  Their son, Richard Shivji Rao was born 18 May 1944. 

    Ever resilient, Marguerite joined the Waves and Princess Usha returned to India at age 10 to live with her family. Marguerite married again and lived once more at the home on Heliotrope and Santa Clara until moving to Corona del Mar where she lived until her death in 1963.

    Little Princess Usha inherited the throne of Indore, and now contributes to her native country as a generous patron of culture, medical advancement, and the arts. She will be 76 years old this year. Happy Birthday Princess.

    Usha-Devi Maharani Sahiba Holkar XV Bahadur


    Many thanks to footnoteMaven for pushing me to uncover more of Mom's Princess Diaries and for confirming Usha's story on the Internet.


     “The Fabulous Cars of the Holkars of Indore.” Indian Royalty, Maharajas and More, 9 September 2009.

    Indore, The Holkar Dynasty

    Marsh, Diann.  Santa Ana, An Illustrated History (Heritage Publishing, 1994), excerpt in “Santa Ana’s Richest Resident, The Maharajah of Indore.” Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society.

    naneria. Yeswantraro Holkar, Lifesketch of Yeswant Rao Holkar Bahadur.


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