03 June 2014

Apology to the Seven-Year Veteran I Insulted on Boston Common Today

Today at a parade I unintentionally did something hurtful. It took me a few minutes to realize it but now I feel awful about it and first want to examine how it happened, then apologize to the universe for my unthinking response.

Why I Should Know Better
I perform two kinds of genealogy research: traditional and forensic. Forensic cases usually have some kind of legal implication and include sub-categories like probate heir search, dual citizenship, oil and gas mineral rights, and military repatriation. I focus on military repatriation and dual citizenship. When I mention that I've done repatriation cases for the US Army people congratulate me and tell me what a great thing I do. But I'm not in the military. I don't deserve any praise. Their thanks is misplaced, but that's okay--I know what they mean. Like I am, they are glad that we are returning the remains to the families and paying tribute to the service of their loved ones. I feel honored to work on these cases, and they leave me with a feeling of satisfaction that other genealogy work sometimes does not.

Why I Shouldn't Have Done It
I think a lot about the trauma servicemen and women have suffered: the PTSD, difficulties re-integrate into society and trying to quiet their minds. War is godawful and nightmarish, and none of us can really understand what they go through. I get that. I thought I was sensitive to it. So imagine my horror today when I pretty much laughed off someone suffering from PTSD. 

I went into Boston to attend June Day, the parade and election ceremony of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, the oldest chartered military organization in the US. They hold Drumhead--a ceremony where they tally their election results on the head of a drum, as it was done in 1638. This year's honored guests were the Honourable Artillery Company of London. There were servicemen everywhere, proudly marching in uniform, wielding flags, beating drums, looking impressive. And there were historical re-enactors about as well. Tourists, schoolchildren, and crusty Bostonian curmudgeons alike stopped and watched as they all filed from Faneuil Hall to the Boston Common.

As the parade passed, several of the units paused to shoot volleys into the air and they were LOUD. And SUDDEN. And there was lots of SMOKE in the air. My first thought was of the victims of last year's Boston Marathon bombings. Wouldn't this make them nervous? What must it be like for people who have suffered to suddenly be in a situation just like one that hurt them? It's not like today is Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Who's ever heard of the Ancient and Honorable Military Company anyway? As the kids would say, it was so "random." So I did think about it, but apparently not for long enough.

As we hurried along to get to the spot on the Common where they would celebrate the Drumhead I overhead two men talking. One of them said, very animatedly, "They should tell people! I came out of Walmart and almost hit the deck!" He was sort of smiling and I thought he was just being funny. I found this highly amusing. How could they tell everyone? We had just been discussing how poorly advertised this event was, and what a shame that was no one knew what it was for.

At that precise moment it did not occur to me that this, right in front of me, was PTSD in action. Despite his demeanor, he was shaken. I guess in my imagination I thought he would be shaking or crying or freaking in some way, but he was just excitedly telling his friend. His body language did not indicate distress. So I told a few of the ladies about it, saying "Oh, how could they tell everyone? Isn't that cute? They couldn't even publicize it for people who were dying to know about it" sort of thing. The guy, still not annoyed or looking at all traumatized, then came up to me and said, "You have to understand, this affects me because I did seven years over there." WHAM. Oh. These guys are tough. They don't necessarily collapse in a heap when they are upset about something. His way of dealing with it was to tell his friend, and I guess even that is a stretch for some people. I just didn't recognize it for what it was. Once he actually told me I was appalled, of course. Here I thought I was so sensitive to the issue, and still didn't see if for what it was.

I can only hope that my moment of stupidity has served to bridge that gap and that I will never unthinkingly assume everyone around me comes from the same place of safety and peace that I do. Mr. Seven-Year Vet, I'm so sorry. I hope for you that the beauty and pride of this ceremony, and the acknowledgement of gratitude to servicemen like you that was expressed over and over today will help mend your pain.

I feel strongly that the US does not currently take good care of our veterans. Basically, the VA system is irreparably broken and it costs too much to hand out insurance to every vet. No one wants to pay for it because, hello, that payment would come in the form of taxes, and many Americans seem to think no cause is worthwhile if it can only be paid for with taxes. The servicemen I research are deceased, but these returning vets are alive. We can show them our gratitude by taking care of their wounded bodies and souls and helping them heal. 

25 May 2014

Just a Few Civil War Dead From Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

My previous post lists the 29 men on the Civil War Monument on the Shrewsbury, Massachusetts town common. Most of their deaths are recorded all together in the vital records of the Town Clerk of Shrewsbury, and can be found here on Ancestry.com. The clerk took the time to mention some details of their enlistment and death circumstances. Here are just a few.

John F. Howe
17 March 1864, John F. Howe, 18 years, 2 months and 24 days old, died in Shrewsbury [Camp Nelson?], male, single, laborer, born in Shrewsbury, son of William H. Howe born Shrewsbury and his wife Eliza Shaw from Palmer or Brimfield. He died of cerebro-spinal meningitis, and is interred in Shrewsbury. Undertaker or informant was A. F. Maynard, recorded Jan. 7, 1865. "Mr. Howe enlisted from Shrewsbury Jan. 4 1864 in 21 Regt. M. V. M. Co. G. as private and died as above recorded."

Nathan B. Garfield
10 May 1864 (sic), Nathan B. Garfield, 28 years, 3 months and 27 days old, died in Petersburg, Va., male, single, apothecary, born in Shrewsbury, son of Jonas and Rhoda Garfield, died of "gunshot wound in abdomen. Mr. Garfield enlisted from Shrewsbury… in 25 Regt. Co. I as private and was wounded in abdomen during the battle in front of Petersburg, Va. May 9, and died the next day."

Jonas M. Wheelock
18 August 1864, Jonas M. Wheelock, 17 years, 6 months, 27 days, died in Andersonville, Ga., male, single, laborer, born Shrewsbury, son of Abraham Wheelock, born Northboro, and wife Mary C. Maynard [illegible], interred at Andersonville, Ga., informant A. F. Maynard, registered 7 Jan. 1865. "Mr. Wheelock enlisted from Shrewsbury March 7, 1862 in 11 Regt. U. S. I A. F. as private. Taken prisoner at Chancellorsville, Va. Carried to Andersonville, Va."

Several died of bullet wounds: Franklin J. Perry was "shot through the head and died instantly at battle of Coal Harbor, Va." on And Charles F. Rice died at Spottsylvania, Va. of gunshot wounds on May 8th of 1864. And Master Sergeant William H. Williams, 20, bootmaker, died in the Battle of the Wilderness, Va., "at the head of his men, by being shot in forehead, neck and breast."

Several others died of of chronic diarrhea: on 22 July 1864, 30 year-old married shoemaker Charles F. Gleason died at Broad and Cherry Street Hospital, Philadelphia; and 24-year old shoemaker Albert W. Carey died in the hospital at Point of Rocks, Virginia on 19 September 1864.

24 May 2014

Civil War Memorial, Town Common, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

East-Facing Side

Nathan B. Garfield
Chas. F. Gleason
Frank L. Hapgood
Hollis Holden
Amasa S. Hyde
John F. Howe
Michael O’Laughlin


South-Facing Side

Alonzo B. Louks
Calvin C. Pratt
Franklin J. Perry
Alfred F. Porter
Chas. F. Rice
Edward P. Richardson
Geo. W. B. Sawyer


West-Facing Side

Elijah Smith
Geo. E. Sprague
Henry A. Sawtell
Jonas M. Wheelock
Wm. H. Willson
Chas. G. Ward. Adjt.
J. J. Witherbee, M. D.


North-Facing Side

Edward A. Andrews
Albert W. Carey
Horatio A. Cutting
Jas. H. Cutting
Silas N. Cater
Hiram W. Doane
Thos. B. Eaton
Leander Fay


Visit Waymarking.com for some detail.

08 March 2014

Capt. Ezra Vinal, Died at Sea

My seaside hometown of Scituate, Massachusetts has a Maritime and Mossing Museum that features not only fascinating displays about the 19th-20th century Irish mossers, but exhibits on Scituate seafarers from earlier times as well.

A fabulous oil painting of a sea captain was identified to me on one visit only as Capt. Vinal. I was hoping it might be a sea captain ancestor of mine (we have the same rosy cheeks), but later discovered he was Capt. Ezra Vinal, who had died at sea. I have no Ezra Vinals in my direct line but wanted to find out if we are related. I was named after a Polly Vinal after all! (I'm so glad they didn't name me Polly Vinal FitzGerald ––"Just call me Pollyvinyl: tough but resilient.")

I consulted FindAGrave, where a C. Krueger had written a short biography with basic citations, and uploaded three images: two pages from the printed vital records of Scituate, and a death announcement from the 14 September 1821 issue of the Haverhill [Mass.] Gazette, which states: "On his passage from St Jago to Boston, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, aged 47."[1]  Krueger's biography gives Ezra's birth as 20 January 1774, in Scituate, child of Joseph and Thankfull. He gives Ezra's death date as 16 August, 1821 and says his body is buried at sea. Seems fairly solid, and no reason to doubt it so far.

The published Scituate Vital Records mention only one Ezra Vinal in the deaths: "VINAL, Ezra, Capt., _____, 1821, a. 47, at sea." So far, so good! Of course we'll want to check with the original records, but as a guideline we're okay for now. There are quite a few Ezras in the births, but only one born anywhere near 1774, and that is the son of Joseph and Thankful, as Krueger has mentioned.   Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal (sic) were married on 8 November 1763. The Scituate VRs also provide the marriage of "VINAL, Ezry [int. Ezra] and Polly Hammon [int. Hammond] on 27 October 1800, citing the records of the First Church of Scituate. [2] 

So let's add a bit o' conflicting information to stir things up a bit. Strap on your cerebral seat belts. Deane's History of Scituate mentions only one Ezra Vinal, a captain, in a family sketch. Deane's syntax is often confusing and ambiguous and sometimes downright incorrect. In this case he writes, "[Vinal] Joseph, married Martha Jenkins 1745. Children, Joseph 1749, Asa 1753, Martha 1756, Capt. Nathaniel (whose son is Dexter) and Capt. Ezra, who died at Matanzas, leaving children in Scituate." [3]   

What? Different parents, different birth date, different time frame! So what is going on here? Is this a different Capt. Ezra, with each Capt. Ezra Vinal only mentioned once in each source? Or are there just serious errors in our sources?

Ezra #1 was born 20 January 1774, son of Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal who were married 8 November 1763. Both events are listed in the Scituate VRs. His death in 1821 at 47 reported in the newspaper is consistent with this date of birth.

But that conflicts with

Ezra #2, Deane's Ezra, the son of Joseph Vinall and Martha Jenkins who were married in 1745. This Ezra is not listed in either the published vital records or the Scituate town records online at Ancestry.com. [4]  He would have born about 30 years after their marriage if he were 25-ish when he married Polly. Yet Deane says these are his parents. But I propose that he just morphed the children of two Joseph Vinals together and attributed the parents of Ezra #1 incorrectly, thereby creating massive confusion in online trees and forcing people like me to untangle it all. This is not the first time Deane has inconvenienced me in this manner!

Krueger mentions an article in the Columbian Centinel but provides neither any detail from it nor a citation. I located the article he referenced: "Died...On his passage from St. Jago to Boston, Aug. 16, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, aged 47, master of sch. Indus." [5]   So this is where we get the exact date of death, Ezra's age, and his ship, as well. [6]   

Another article reveals a bit more: "Deaths...On the 16th ult. on his passage from St. Jago to Boston, Capt. Ezra Vinal, of Scituate, master of schooner Indus. He has left a wife and family to lament his untimely exit, and irreparable loss. Capt. V. was an industrious and enterprising member of the community, and an experienced and correct navigator. Although death has arrested him in his mortal career, far from his family and friends, and consigned his remains to a watery grave, they still have the consoling asurance, that he was a firm believer in the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and a convert to the truth of that divine precept, which declares that "every one and in every nation that feareth God and worth righteousness, is accepted of him."[7]   

In June of the year he died the New York National Advocate printed a notice: "At Quarantine, schr. Indus, Vinal, from St. Thomas." [7]  And in another revealing article, from September, we read, "Arrived at Quarantine, sch. Indus, Wilkinson, (late Vinal, who died 5 days out) 29 days from St. Jago de Cuba, cargo sugars, to P. and T. Curtis.––Schr. Hope, Briggs, for Boston, sailed 9 days before. Capt. Mayhew, of Schr. Native, died day before the Indus sailed. It was very sickly at St. Jago." [8] 

So where is Matanzas? Let's keep digging. If you go look at family trees on Ancestry.com not only will you find the same confusion about Ezra's parents, but also about his place of death. Quite a few of those trees supply a place of death as "Matanzas, Sea, Sulawesi Tengah, Indonesia."  Well, like St. Jago [Santiago], it turns out that there was more than one place by that name.

Carribean Map courtesy of
There is a Matanzas in Indonesia, but there is also one in Cuba, a much more likely destination for Capt. Ezra in general, and consistent with the St. Jago mention in the articles, just at the opposite end of the island. We researchers need to be so careful about information found in public trees! They are created by people who vary greatly in the attention they pay to detail. Add to that the fact that sometimes software will auto-complete a locality for you and you end up with Indonesia instead of Cuba! Don't think that just because you see this information in more than one tree it must be true. Incorrect information proliferates as quickly as correct!

So, summing up, C. Krueger's information was correct, but we could not know that without investigating his incomplete sources and resolving the conflicting information from Deane. We now know that Ezra Vinal, son of Joseph Vinal and Thankfull Vinal, born 20 January 1774, was captain of the schooner Indus when he passed away, enroute to Boston from St. Jago (Santiago), Cuba. He left behind a wife and family. I'd want even more corroboration, through land and probate, church and other records, but the above is enough to prove that Deane was mistaken.

His death was likely caused by illness, not accident, as evidenced by the repeated quarantining of ships during that summer. Diseases of the time for which a ship would be quarantined might be cholera, yellow fever or even plague! A ship would be detained in total for 60-65 days. [9] 

His grandparents were my 6th great grandparents: Jacob Vinall, stonecutter, born 1700, and Elizabeth Simmons. [10]  Our calculated relationship is 2nd cousin 5x removed. I guess those rosy cheeks are mere coincidence!
1. C. Krueger, "Capt Ezra Vinal (1774-1821) – Find A Grave Memorial," no cemetery given, but the note "Body buried at sea," memorial #88781603, added 19 Apr 2012; Find A Grave, Inc. (http"//www.findagrave.com : 13 May 2013). Krueger cites both the Scituate published vital records and the two newspaper articles in his sources, though he does not state where he viewed the articles.

2. Vital Records of Scituate, Massachusetts to the year 1850 (Boston: 1909; reprint, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1976), 1:386 (birth of Ezra); 2:459 (death of Ezra); 2:312 (marriage of Joseph and Thankfull); and 2:310 (marriage of Ezra and Polly).

3. Samuel Deane, History of Scituate, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1831 (Boston: 1831; reprint, Scituate: Scituate Historical Society, 1975), 365. Deane is known to have inaccuracies in his history, and his family descriptions can get very grammatically complicated and confusing. 

4. "Scituate Town Records, with Births, Marriages, and Deaths," database with digital images, Scituate Town Clerk, 19th century transcription, from Holbrooke microfiches; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 14 May 2013.

5. "Died," Columbian Centinel, 12 September 1821, p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

6. "Deaths," Boston Commercial Gazette, 13 September 1821, p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

7. "Shipping," New York Advocate, 14 June 1821,  p. 2, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

8. "Shipping News," Boston Commercial Gazette, 10 September 1821, p. 3, col. 4, digital image, "Newspaper Archives"; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 13 May 2013).

9. "Quarantine," webpage; Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine : 13 May 2013).

10. Vital Records of Scituate, 1:388.

22 October 2013

Woman's Relief Corps

"We hope that in the years of the future, some historian may glean from these pages many evidences that the Woman's Relief Corps of Massachusetts honored the brave men of the Grand Army of the Republic." [1]

Soldiers' Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts, where "Men, crippled, paralyzed and
penniless, as a result of their war service, are tenderly cared for under the roof
of this home which shelters 330 veterans of the Union Army." [2]

The only officially recognized auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic was the Woman's Relief Corps, the first Department of which was organized in Massachusetts on 12 February 1872. [3] This was a group of patriotic women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends of Civil War veterans who found a way to contribute to the welfare of those men in a very significant way. They raised money for soldiers homes, for gravesite maintenance, but they also used their domestic skills to create beautiful quilts and items for the soldiers to use on a daily basis. They tirelessly held bazaars and solicited donations from the public in order to supply bibles, flags, food, and clothing to those in need.

Many towns in Massachusetts had their own corps, and Scituate was no exception. Even today there is still evidence that the ladies cared for graves. Back in June I went on an exploration of the Merritt Cemetery in Scituate with my second Cousin, Charlie Hollis. I posted about that here. While we were mucking around we found a flag holder apparently left by the Women's Relief Corps! The gravestone was missing or covered with growth (see photo at end of post), so we couldn't even tell which grave was decorated. The marker says: Mass. Dep'm't. Womans Relief Corps, Corps 121 W. R. C.

Here is a little blurb about the GEORGE W. PERRY CORPS No. 121, Scituate, Massachusetts.

On April 5, 1889, through the earnest efforts of Mrs. Marion L. Bailey, Corps 121 was instituted by Mrs. Elizabeth V. Lang, Department Inspector, with nineteen charter members. The officers were publicly installed in the evening in the presence of the members of the Post and other interested friends.

A Relief Fund was started which has received additions from time to time, and although there are not many calls for relief in the quiet little town of Scituate, assistance is always cheerfully rendered whenever necessary.

The Corps takes great pride in appropriating funds to make the Grand Army Hall attractive and comfortable. The Post is assisted by the Corps each Memorial Day in preparing garlands for the fallen comrades, and both organizations unite in a memorial service for those who sleep in unknown graves.

Membership, fifty.

Mandana C. Morris........1889, 1890 
Mary F. Prouty...............1891,1892 
Martha W. Pierce............1893 
Annie M. Soule..............1894 [4]
These were the officers of the Scituate Corps 121 in 1902:
Clara A. Osborne, President
Martha W. Pierce, Senior Vice-President
Annie Patterson, Junior Vice-President
Past President, Mary F. Prouty
Delegate, Lizzie L. Dalby
Alternate, Rachel N. Burrows

Polly Kimmitt, digital photograph of unidentified graveside flag holder,
Kilburn Merritt Cemetery, Scituate, Massachusetts, taken 18 June 2013.

1. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, History of the Department of Massachusetts Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, from date of organization, February 12, 1872, to January 1, 1895 (Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co., Printers, 1895); Archive.org (http://www.archive.org : 22 Oct 2013), Preface.

2. Ibid., 60.

3. Ibid., viii.

4. Ibid., 255.

5. Women's Relief Corps, Department of Massachusetts, Journal of the Twenty-Third Annual Convention of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman's Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic, Boston, Mass., February 11 and 12, 1902, (Boston: E.B. Stillings & Co., 1902), 33.

02 September 2013

The Ar Foon Family of Chelsea and Scituate, Massachusetts

Why I am Researching a Chinese Family
Gravestone of Henry S. and Grace Ar Foon,
Mount Hope Cemetery, North Scituate,
Massachusetts; taken by Polly Kimmitt,
15 Sep 2008.
Scituate, Massachusetts, a suburb on the South Shore of Boston, "the most Irish town in America," is 97.9% white, according to the 2010 census. It has a sprinkling of other races, with Asians now accounting for 2.1% of the population. [1] In the first half of the 20th century the demographics were much the same, but there was one man who stood out for being different, and that was Henry Smith Ar Foon.

Henry's gravestone is near my own ancestors in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Scituate's West End. It turns out he was a neighbor and friend of my family, and I remember hearing his name when I was little. I have one photograph of my grandmother's large yard with a seated figure in the distance, labelled as Henry Arfoon. I'd love to show it to you, but of course, I can't find it right now... Anyway, being the curious sort, I've done a little research to see how Henry came to plant himself in Scituate. I didn't really figure it out, but I learned an awful lot about him.

If you're not from the Boston area, you won't be pronouncing Henry's name as I heard it when I was little. What I heard was Henry AH Foon, almost as if the speaker had stopped to sigh in the middle of saying his name. When I figured out how the non-rhotic Boston accent was interfering with my understanding, I assumed it was written as Henry R. Foon. The pronunciation is important because it impacts how you search on his name. Eventually I determined the actual spelling (sometimes Ar Foon, sometimes Arfoon, sometimes Smith--read on...), and am told that may be significant in learning where his family was from in China. [2]

Basic Framework
Henry turns up regularly in the censuses, and between those, newspapers on GenealogyBank.com, and the marvelous Massachusetts vital records system, we have a nice window into his life. You can set aside any preconceived notions about him now. No, he didn't run a laundry, whereas my own father did, which sort of turns stereotypical notions on their head now, doesn't it!

Henry Smith Ar Foon and Gracie E. (Lloyd) Moffatt, both of Holbrook (an inland town south of Boston), were married on Saturday, 14 Dec 1918, in Boston. Henry was 46, a clerk, born in Boston about 1872, the son of Robert S. Ar Foon and Lottie, both Chinese. Gracie, 34, was born in Worcester to Philip Lloyd and Martha O. Chapman. This was her second marriage. They were married by minister Jason F. Chase of West Roxbury. Henry was Chinese, Grace was white. [3] I wonder how they pulled that off and what life was like for them.

Boston Herald, 15 Dec 1918
The same year they married Henry bought property in North Scituate. See the article here. [4] I don't know if he kept the chickens, though. In the 1920 and 1930 censuses there are no children in the Ar Foon household, so I'm assuming they never had any. Lottie moved to Scituate with them and appears in the 1920 [5], but not the 1930 census [6]. Grace died in 1935, according to her gravestone, and Henry in 1955. I wish I knew was how they chose Scituate. How did Henry meet Grace, who was from Holbrook? So far I haven't discovered that.

For that matter, how did Robert Smith and Lottie Ar Foon came to America? I went back through the censuses and found Henry living with his parents in Chelsea, a small, coastal city adjacent to Boston. His birth was difficult to find, and hard to read, but eventually I found it: Henry R. Fon, born 28 Mar 1872 in Chelsea to parents Robert, a cook, and Lottie, both Chinese. They lived at 88 Cedar Street. [7] I had no luck finding Robert and Lottie's marriage.

In 1880, "Smith Ar Foon" is 50, and runs a cigar and fruit store. Lottie is 38, son Henry is 8, and they live at 92 Winnisimmet, right near the water. They have two boarders––Ming C. Tong, 18, and Ten Moon Chung 25, both b. China and attending school. Could these be relatives? [8]

Each census presents us with new clues, so I looked at 1900. They had moved to 129 Division Street in Chelsea. They were listed under the surname Smith, so it took a little hunting to dig them out, but I was rewarded with the news that Robert was naturalized and had immigrated in 1860, Lottie in 1859. [9] But to and from where?? My searches online have revealed nothing so far, but I haven't dug in too deeply.

Boston Herald, 24 Dec 1900
Robert Smith Ar Foon died of paralysis in 1900. His parents are not listed on his death certificate, unfortunately. His occupation is laborer. [10] He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, but I do not find any entries on FindAGrave for him or Lottie. I haven't yet searched out Lottie's death information. From a short article on his funeral we learn that he was a well-loved member of the Mt. Vernon Congregational Church. The writer goes out of his way to point out that his those who attended his funeral were "all American neighbors and friends of the family," aka not Chinese. [11] Did Robert make it a point, as some immigrants do, to separate himself from his native community in order to completely assimilate? I'm thinking that he made a conscious effort to do so, and his son Henry followed by marrying a Yankee. Just a theory, of course, but sometimes you just have to stop thinking and listen to the evidence in a more intuitive way.

The Interesting Bits
More fun than actually tracking vital records and census is putting some meat into the story of someone's life, and I found out a few things about the Ar Foons by reading the newspaper. Of course I also got more clues to chase down, but for now I'll just report on a few interesting tidbits.

The Life of a "Chinaman" in Boston in 1876
Library of Congress, American Memory
Digital ID codhawp 10021654
In reaction to "ill treatment which the poor Mongolians receive in San Francisco," an attempt was made in Boston to "teach the Chinese with religious influences to show them that Christian civilization is not all a mere thing of adjectives." Invitations were quietly sent out to "some seventy Chinamen in Boston and vicinity"to attend a private affair at the YMCA. There was an exhibition of Chinese stereopticon pictures with a talk by missionaries, an elaborate tea was served, and the guests were entertained by a large choir performing "some grand old chorals, such as "Jerusalem, my Happy Home, the Hallelujah," and more. They offered English as a second language courses and introduced the guests to ladies who held an evening language school for Chinese scholars. Most of the Chinese had arrived within the past two years: "Sixty of them are engaged in laundry establishments, of which there are about thirteen in all, and their average income is about ten dollars a week, as near as can be estimated, and as they are frugal in their habits and live on a small sum, they are doubtless enabled to save a great part of their earnings. Most of them are young men, very pleasant looking, quiet and polite." Wow. Some forty Chinese attended the event, "attired in their neat and inexpensive home costume," including Mr. Ar-Foon, who "keeps a store on Winnisimmet street in Chelsea." [12]

The article describing the event gives us one clue as to Robert and Lottie's origins: "...explanations were repeated in Chinese by Mr. Ar-Showe, in a clear and distinct voice. The dialects of different parts of China are so different that few present would have understood Dr. Treat's Peking language, since nearly all were from the south of China, and a few from the centre."

The Bombs Bursting in Air
Henry was one of four people severely injured by a wayward firework bomb at a 1888 Republican rally. The 16-year old sustained a deep gash to his left thigh, and was taken to his home to recover. "It was a fortunate circumstance that more persons were not injured." [13] In 1891, at 19 years old, he sued Benjamin Wedger for his injuries, and the court was "asked to decide if the maker of fireworks is responsible for a premature explosion of the fireworks in the hands of a third person." [14] Well now. I haven't followed this up, but I can't wait to do so!

According to His Mother
A stroke of luck brings us the words of Harry's mother, quoted during a Women's Festival celebrating various nations: "Mrs. Ar Foon, in Chinese costume, who has lived here since her childhood, told what the public schools had done for her, and what they are doing for her young son, who is to be one of this year's graduates from the Chelsea high school."[15] Again I say, wow!

Boston Herald, 25 Feb 1897
Next thing you know, Capt. "Harry" Ar Foon and Manager J. B. Hewes are leading the Winnisimmet Cycle Club's baseball team to victory in the ACC tournament, with eyes firmly fixed on winning a pennant! [16] Young Harry was taking Chelsea by storm, and in an upset victory was elected president of the same Winnisimmet Cycle Club in 1897. [17] He was only 25 years old at the time. His parents must have been so proud of him.

Finally (because really, I must stop), a 1911 article mentions Harry as a member of the Chelsea Yacht Club" and the only Chinaman yacht owner in this city" with a boat that was 32 feet long with a 16-24 horsepower motor--and this wasn't his first boat! "The new boat will be used about Boston this summer and her owner plans a cruise to Florida for next winter."[18] So by the time he met Grace, he was an extremely eligible bachelor and probably ready to settle down. I still want to know what got him down to Holbrook, though.

Unanswered Questions Plus More Questions!
I haven't even come close to finding how Henry's parents got here and where they were from. If Lottie was 12 when she came over in 1859, did she come over with her parents? But now I also want to know how Henry acquired so much wealth. Was it his industrious father, living a disciplined life and slowly accumulating enough money to pass on to his son? Did Harry win the fireworks case and get a handsome settlement? In the various censuses his occupation is listed as stenographer, "private secretary to a rich man" (!), or clerk, so perhaps he just made his own fortune? Does there exist a photo of Henry or anyone else in his family?

There are plenty of records left to explore, but I just thought it was fun to delve in a little and see what the lives of this family were like in Boston 100-150 years ago. Though I don't think Henry's life was typical, it was fun to uncover. It is very strange to research someone who left no descendants. Does anyone care but me? Henry was an only child. Maybe Grace had siblings who left descendants that remember Uncle Henry. I hope so, because from what I can tell, he was quite a guy.

Addendum: Since I originally published this post I have heard from some family members with what they remember about Henry. In particular, my Aunt Abbie, who was very firm that I should not use the term "hanging around" to describe Henry's relationship with my grandmother. I meant nothing untoward, just that he was friends with and associating with our family!

Abbie's memories validate my research: "Henry was a secretary to a big shot in Boston. They were very intelligent, and perhaps visited Scituate in the summer time. They had a lovely home on the salt creek right near the Cohasset line. I think Grace was in mother's bridge club. Then she and Henry used to play bridge with my parents. They both seemed to like our family of five kids. I think they had no children.

Once a year our Dad, Henry and two other men used to go to a lodge in N.H. for a week of fishing.

When we were about 10 or 12 [ie, ca 1934-36] our father got Aaron Bates (I think) of Cohasset to build a flat-bottomed boat for us kids to use in the creek. Well, the ArFoons let us moor the boat behind their house on the creek.

What took them from Chelsea to Scituate, I do not know. Most anything  I would think."

And my sister, Ann Vernetta, remembers that Henry had a friend named Eddie A. Tick! Oh no!!! Here I go again!!

1. United States Census Bureau, US Department of Commerce, American FactFinder, "Scituate town, Massachusetts," drawing on data obtained in 2010 US Federal census; (http://factfinder2.census.gov : 2 Sep 2013).

2.   I'm hoping my friend Alice Kane will read this and give me some tips on the meaning of the name, Robert and Lottie's origins and how to track their arrival in the US. Alice is a genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, specializing in Chinese genealogy. Alice has already told me that Ar is an honorific title, intended to indicate respect.

3. "Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988," Ar Foon-Lloyd, 14 Dec 1918, Holbrook,  p. 85, image 654; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

4. "Hall Active in Real Estate," Boston Herald, 15 Dec 1918, 20; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 2 Sep 2013).

5. 1920 US census, Plymouth Co., Mass., Scituate, ED 144, sheet 12A, image 781, Blossom Street (no number), dw. 302, fam. 209, household of Henry Ar Foon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

6. 1930 US census, Plymouth Co., Mass, Scituate, ED 98, sheet 14B, dw. 402, fam. 412, household of Henry Arfoon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 2 Sep 2013).

7. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," Births, 1872, 243:32,  Henry R. Fon, 18 Mar 1872, Chelsea; AmericanAncestors.org (http://americanancestors.org : 15 Aug 2013).

8. 1880 US census, Suffolk Co., Mass., Chelsea, ED 787, sheet , 92 Winnisimet, dw. 239, fam. 341, household of Smith Ar Foon; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 15 Aug 2013).

9. 1900 US census, Suffolk Co., Mass., Chelsea, Ward 1, ED 1551, 129 Division St.,  dw. 65, fam. 93, household of Robert Smith; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Aug 2013).

10. "Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," Robert S. Ar Foon, 21 Dec 1900, Chelsea, mf 004289814, image 667; FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org : 15 Aug 2013).

11. "Chelsea Chinaman Buried," Boston Herald, 24 Dec 1900, 4;  GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

12. "Chinamen in Boston," Boston Traveler, 2 May 1876,  2;  GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

13. "An Unfortunate Accident: the Bursting of a Bomb Causes the Injury of Four Persons in Chelsea," Boston Journal, 27 Sep 1888, vol. 15, iss. 18171, 2; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

14. "Law and Equity: Interesting Cases That Are to Come Before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court," Boston Traveler, 3 Nov 1891; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013). 

15. "Loyal Women's Festival: Unique Entertainment Being Held in Faneuil Hall," Boston Herald, 20 May 1890, 4; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 16 Aug 2013). 

16. "Winnisimmet Cycle Club," Boston Herald, 19 Jul 1896, 24; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

17. "Beaten By a Chinaman," Boston Herald, 25 Feb 1897, 3; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

18. "Inter-Club Wants Trophy," Chinese Owner of Yacht, Boston Herald, 18 Jun 1911, 4S; GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : 15 Aug 2013).

13 August 2013

Carissimo Figlio, Why Won't You Write?

Some things never change! From the private collection of a friend, today's gem is a letter written in Italian from a couple in Fiume to their son in New York, in 1831. That's a little early for Italians to be in New York, so I was interested. 

When I first read this letter I noticed that the verbs sometimes get placed at the end of the sentences, as in German. I wondered if perhaps Italian were not the author's native language. Not having studied Italian literature, I am not sure, but think that it may just be the style of writing at the time. The author uses the formal you (Voi) even though he is addressing his own son. I do think there may be a little bit of dialect here as well.

Come to find out, this little part of the world has a most fascinating history. Today Fiume lies in Croatia where it is known as Rijeka, and it still has a mix of ethnicities. It is nestled at the top of the Adriatic sea, across from Venice. Because of its strategic position, Fiume has been vulnerable to constant power struggles over the centuries, especially between Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia. 

The gist of the letter is one great nag of "We love you, but why don't you write, you ungrateful wretch of a son?" Most of the handwriting is legible to me, but there are a few places where I wonder if it's a word I don't know or the author misspelled it, or it's dialect.

I'll put my best transcriptions here, but if you can read the Italian handwriting or can translate it better than I, please contact me and I'll amend! My translation is in blue. It gets pretty hairy towards the end when I can't figure out the sentence structure. Perhaps I am misreading the handwriting.

Al Stimatto
Sig.r Wincenzo Fronk
Bibietz nella contra[cut off]
N. 88
New York    Novajorka

To the Esteemed 
Mr. Vincenzo Fronk 
Bibietz, number 88 [? street] 
New York

                    Carissimo Figlio
                                      Fiume li 14 Luglio 831(sic)
                    Dearest Son
                                      Fiume, 14 July 1831

     Corso gia un lungo tempo, che noi giorno in 
giorno aspettavamo un qualche dalla nostra amata 
prole foglio, il che al oposto nulla ricevuto abbiam
e pare, che affatto abbiate in oblio posso il Sommo 
Iddio, ed i vostri amati genitori:

     A lot of time has already passed during which we've waited, day by day, for something from our beloved progeny [foglio? It means sheet of paper, unless he meant to write figlio, or son]--but on the contrary, we have received nothing, and it seems that indeed you may have forgotten the Lord God and your beloved parents.

     Nulla ci fatte palesi dal vostro stato, se sia
buono o cattivo, se siete amogliato o nubile, purre
potevate dire una qualche parola ai vostri genitor
ri, almeno ricordarsi di loro con qualche presente
se non per altro, solamente per quei 9 mesi, che
la vostra mezza morta Madre, la quale [mi] disse
i 9 mesi vi [po]Le [porte?] nel suo ventro, e vi do' la vita.

     You don't send us any information about your status--whether it be good or bad, whether you are married or single. You could have said a quick word to your parents, at least remembering yourself to them along with some present: if for nothing else, for those 9 months that your half-dead mother, who carried you for 9 months in her abdomen, to give you life. [That's my favorite bit!]

     Scritto avete, che spedito 200 collonata mediante un
vostro amico avete, quali in questi [L]idi non giungessero
ne a Trieste, ne a Fiume, ricordatevi di noi, se volete com
pare felice, ma speriamo, che ci avreste sempre pel vostro
Labro, gia da lungi non ricordarsi di noi, neppure
per una chichera di Caffé, direte con qual occa
sione voglio spedire, nulla vale, sapete molto
bene, che li non mancano dei Mercanti, e Conso
li, i quai per queste parti hanno dei riscontri
e comunicazione; e poi nulla altro, e senza dubbio
vi potevate ricordare della patria goffra. E
cosi samano i genitori Padre e Madre ? Vi bas
cio per ricordarvi, se Iddio vi vuole del bene.

Pieces of Eight, Spanish Dollars, Pillar Dollars

You have written that you sent 200 Spanish Dollars via a friend of yours, which in these [days?] haven't reached either Trieste or Fiume. Remember us if you want to, happy friend, but let's hope that you always have your Labro [ancient name of city?]. Already for a long time you've forgotten about us, not even for a cup of coffee, I'd say with that occasion I want to send, no value, you know very well, that there there is no lack of merchants, and consuls, which in these parts have responses and communications, and then nothing else and without a doubt you could have remembered the disgraced homeland. And what do the parents Father and Mother know? Lower yourself to remember, if God wishes you well.

E se a caso vi volete ricordare della Va Patria
[si] non mancano occasioni, ne Bastimenti, e noi
sapendo più per poter vi animare, se non Salutan
dovi tutti della nostra nostra famiglia. Padre. Madre
Sorella Cattarina. Spadoni, natta dal intesso utero
che voi, e la Foniza, nostra amata Sorella
giuniore, e in nomma tutti amici dei amici
e [de mei] Sara possibile: ci dichiariamo i
                                      vostri affez. Genitori
                                       Giuseppe, e Maria
                                       Frank, detti Bibietz

And in case you want to remember your country, [if] there is no lack of opportunity or ships, and we, knowing more to be able to bring you to life, if all of the members of our family do not send greetings. Father. Mother Sister Cattarina. Spadoni, born from the same uterus as you, and Foniza, our beloved Sister Junior, and basically all of the friends of friends of my that are possible: we declare ourselves your affectionate parents
                                     Giuseppe (Joseph) and Maria (Mary)
                                     Frank, called Bibietz [this is like a dit name]

Phew. I can't figure out a lot of what he's saying except I just know he's whining! Let me know if you can do better!

28 June 2013

William Frederick Fitzgerald: Lifespan--One Holiday Season

In Memory of Uncle Freddie, 16 November 1912 - 6 January 1913. At one month, 22 days he could coo, he liked high pitched sounds, and he was only another month away from sleeping through the night. Despite what everyone else said, his mother KNEW that he was smiling, not grimacing from gas pains. He smelled good. When his aunties held him he would gaze at their faces, already beginning to work out the complicated use of language and social cues. He couldn't roll over yet, but was tracking his brothers and sisters with his eyes. He was at the bottom of a very steep learning curve, but he had a big family to teach him.

One of the dormant projects in my "brick wall" category was the case of Uncle Philip. Or Freddie. Or, "it could be anything, really." Born after 1910, or maybe in the 1906-1910 sibling gap. Lots of maybes and what ifs. And a nightmarishly common name like FitzGerald in Boston at turn of the 19th century that dulled my enthusiasm for the hunt. So it remained on the back burner for decades.

In 1989 we went to Ireland to visit the townlands of my Irish grandparents. We read the parish registers and I tried to pump my mother for information. She suddenly told me for the first time of the existence of this baby! She couldn't remember his name, but thought it might be Philip. This would have been a bit odd since one of the other children had Philip as a middle name, but it happens.

One of the reasons it took so long is because research at the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records proceeds at a snail's pace. You consult an index, create a request slip, wait for a call for slips (every 20 minutes, and only 3 at a time!), wait 15 minutes for the books to come, and check them. If they are wrong start the process all over again. There were only open for 3 hours at a time, so you could never examine more than 12-15 records, and that only if you were very lucky, and a whiz, and not intimidated by the staff.

I tried it and realized I was none of those, so I waited until the records from this time period were moved to the Massachusetts State Archives where they are open for a full day and you have free access to the microfilm. I remember about fifteen years ago giving it a good try. The goal: examine every male FitzGerald baby born in Boston 1906 to 1915 or so [laughs shrilly]. After that, I put it away and forgot about it.

So here is why we love the internet. Last night I was just goobering around on FamilySearch because I was pouting about Ancestry's intention to remove the Old Search function. I'm sure it will be fine, but it did put my nose slightly out of joint... Anyway, I was using that delightful trick of entering parents names and seeing all of their children magically appear when I thought of long lost Baby Fitz. And I found him!

William Frederick Fitzgerald was born 16 November 1912 to my grandparents, Patrick J., Longshoreman, and Annie (Sullivan) Fitzgerald (this lower case g in Fitzgerald is making my relatives cringe but that's what the record reads...sorry, folks!) It gives 2 Lamson Court in East Boston as the family's address. [1] Now of course this makes me wonder about how little William F. was welcomed into the world. He had three brothers and two sisters: Mary, 15; Jack, 13; Teresa, 10; Frank, 6; and my father, James, 2. I'm sure Mary and Teresa helped their mother out around the house, and Jack probably had a part-time job to help the family. It was a busy household. Annie must have been out of-her-mind tired! And it was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

One month, 17 days after his birth, Baby Freddie came down with broncho-pneumonia. It lasted for 5 days. He would have been fussy, had trouble eating from his blocked up nose, and it must have been scary as anything to see a baby suffer like that, not having the reassurance of antibiotics in the back of your mind. Five days later, Baby Freddy died, on 6 January 1913, Epiphany. [2] (I just suddenly realized that my father was always adamant that the Christmas tree remain up until Epiphany. I wonder if that year they had taken it down earlier.)

Here is Freddy's death record. He died at home, at what I believe to be the correct address: 12 Lamson Court. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden, by undertaker NJ Kelly.

A quick phone call to the helpful lady at Holy Cross Cemetery reveals that he is buried in the Baby Section, at 7 South St. Anthony, Grave 99 West. He was the second baby to be interred there, the first being James Sullivan who was buried on 1 September 1912. There are also Baby Sullivan, and Nora Sullivan. The grave was purchased by Catholic Charities at the time of the James Sullivan's death, and she was unclear whether or not it had a marker. She recommended I apply for one if there is not, as they are free. She is emailing me a map and when I get a chance, I'll rope my dear sister into going over to have a look and lay some flowers down in Uncle Freddie's memory.

As a young mother I was absolutely terrified that something might happen to my babies. I used to wonder often how mothers in earlier times coped-- days fraught with tension even just about kids catching colds. Our fellows suffered from croup, ear infections, pneumonia, and allergies, but I always had the comfort of wonder drug antibiotics. Annie and Patrick didn't have that, and they suffered what I was so afraid to. It is no wonder that they are often described as being somewhat gruff.


[1] "Massachusetts Births, 1841-1915," online database linked to original images, William Frederick Fitzgerald, n. 18099, 16 Nov 1912, Boston, no v. number, p. 403, image 1152; FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : 27 Jun 2013). Also, same database, William Frederick Fitzgerald, n. 18798, 16 Nov 1913 Boston, no volume n., p. 418, image 422.  Second record is off by one year, as he died on 6 Jan 1913, but has correct residence address of 12 Lamson Ct.

[2] "Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," online database linked to original images, William F. Fitzgerald, reg. n. 213, 6 Jan 1913, Boston, no v. number, p. 217, image 762; FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : 27 Jun 2013).

21 June 2013

Kilburn Merritt Cemetery–A Neglected Gem

Genealogists are so weird. We treat a visit to a cemetery like a day at the carnival. We are the happiest people cemeteries have ever seen, easily recognized by the camera, broad grin, and high-spirited step. I'm somewhat ashamed to confess that even at a funeral my gaze has been known to slowly wander towards the ancient slate-stoned section. I'm very sorry about that but it is completely involuntary.

I found myself in this delighted state of mind at a private burial ground in my hometown of Scituate, Massachusetts last week. Long, long ago, my best friend in high school, let's call her "P," told me of her family's private cemetery hidden deep in the woods behind her house. Or that's how I remembered it. I kind of remember discussing it during an episode of Tales from the Darkside, so my facts could be a tad confused. Sadly, we never managed to get out there to explore it.

Forty-plus years later my cousin, herein referred to as "C," sent me some photos of this burial ground and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I knew that the Town of Scituate, in their infinite wisdom, had commissioned a study of all of the burial grounds in Scituate, published in 2007. It is an exquisite little report, detailing the history, ownership and condition of each site, and making recommendations for improvements. Cousin C. also mailed me the link and got me jazzed up about it all over again, and we planned a visit.

The published survey says this about the history of this site:

"The Merritt Cemetery (also known as the Kilburn-Merritt Cemetery) was established c. 1811 as the family burying ground of the Merritt family who owned land in this area of North Scituate. Surrounded on four sides by a dry laid stone wall, the cemetery was originally accessed from two points, (1) a dirt road leading from Clapp Road southward in a straight line to the cemetery, and (2) via a meandering footpath leading from the Merritt home (on Clapp road to the east of the cemetery) through the woods. Today the meandering footpath is no longer visible, but the dirt access road remains. Other than the 1811 tomb, the earliest burials date to the 1830s and 1840s, and the most recent burial took place in 1938. Today, a descendent of the Merritt family, [Xxxxxx] Merritt, cares for the cemetery grounds. The cemetery covers approximately 1⁄4 acre of land."[1]

Six years after the report was published, I'm here to tell you that this cemetery is suffering from neglect, and I've got the photos to prove it. C and I wandered around, snapping photos, straightening flags and lifting those stones we could to a better position. Some will require heavy equipment. There is a lot of brush at one end that needs to be cleared. We left with a sense of purpose: find out if the Town plans to intervene, map out the stones, investigate WPA surveys from the 1930s, and especially, talk to P's mother to see if she has more information.

This stone cries out to be righted!

Tomb of Unknown Revolutionary War soldier
This cemetery does appear on FindAGrave and has photos of many stones, a few of which I didn't catch myself. [2] And I took a few that the FindAGrave author didn't have. I will upload them soon.

Until then, the only direct relatives of P that I've identified so far (but I've hardly begun) are her gg grandparents, Martin Dawes Merritt and Debby Bailey. Some of the stones, including this one, are very hard to read. More investigation imminent!!
June 18, 1882
Aged 80 years &
His wife
Die May [1?] 1865
Aged [60?] years
[ illegible]


[1]  Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants, and CME Associates, "Scituate Burial Sites Survey" (prepared for Town of Scituate and the Scituate Historical Society, 2007); Town of Scituate (http://www.town.scituate.ma.us : 22 Jun 2013), 26.

[2]  "Merritt Cemetery," website with images of gravestones; FindAGrave (http://www.FindAGrave.com : 22 June 2013).

17 June 2013

The Miserable Life of Miss Dora L. Jones, Latter Day Slave

"Mrs. Ingalls Guilty of Slavery Charge," Boston Herald, 20 Jul 1947,
p. 1., cols. 5-6; GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com :
 14 Jun 2013)
My last post included a newspaper photo. On that same page I happened to notice this account of the bizarre and disturbing case of a couple who kept their maid in bondage for over 40 years! Mrs. Elizabeth Ingalls, 62, "descendant of Massachusetts colonial Governor Bradford," was "convicted... of enslaving her maid," 58-year old Dora Jones! The DA held that Mrs. Ingalls and her husband, Alfred Wesley Ingalls, 64, a former Boston lawyer and legislator (!), "reduced the maid to slavery for 40 years by threatening to expose her affair with Mrs. Ingalls' first husband, Walter Harmon of Washington." [1]

Now maybe everyone else knows about his, but I certainly didn't. It cries out for research! Why should the maid be afraid of the affair being made known? Wouldn't the married man be more worried? Maybe that's what caused the divorce. Wasn't it awkward having Dora living under the same roof with husband number two if she had had an affair with husband number one? Was this seriously the first slavery case tried since 1880? I found it curious, and decided to have a look in some original and contemporaneous records, working backwards from 1947.

What Do the Records Say?

In 1940, 52-year old lawyer Alfred W. Ingalls lived with his family at 28 Bassett Street in Boston. His wife, Myra E. was 51, and with them were daughters Ruth, 32, and Helen, 20, both single. Ruth was born in Washington, DC, Helen in Mass. Also with them was Dora Jones, 50, a maid born in Alabama whose race is described as "Neg." [2] This matches the newspaper account pretty well, assuming Myra's middle name was Elizabeth. Interesting to note is the 12-year gap in the daughters' ages.

Let's look at the 1930 census: The family are in the same house at 28 Bassett Street. Their ages are off somewhat: Alfred-47, M. Elizabeth-45, Ruth L.-22, Helen-10, Dora-40. They also have Elizabeth's widowed mother, Estelle Kimball, 70, in the household. Oh, and Dora's race is now white. [3]

In 1920: Same house, same cast of characters, ages are somewhat in line with 1930--Alfred-27, Myra-38, Ruth L.-11, Helen K.-2 months, and Dora-30, who this times is called Mulatto. [4] So they've all been together for at least 27 years.

In 1910 Elizabeth K. Harman, 26 lived in Washington, DC with her first husband, Walter P. Harman, a 29-year old government clerk born in Vermont, and their 2-year old daughter Ruth L., plus Dora L., 20, Mulatto. [5]

What happened between 1910 and 1918?? Well, for one thing, Elizabeth and Walter broke up. The WWI draft registration card of Harman gives his father as his closest relative. His permanent residence is at 137 Grove St., Rutland, VT, but he works in NY, NY. [6]

In 1920 Walter P. Harmon was 38 years old living in DC (born in Vermont), a single clerk working for the US government and  boarding with an 80-year old widow. [7]

On 15 November 1923, in Rutland, VT, Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, born Bennington, VT, son of Henry A. Harman and Ellen Bromley, married Myra May Hulst, his second marriage. [8] Another wife named Myra, just to confuse future genealogists. (For a while there, I thought Elizabeth might have been living a double life!)

In 1942 Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, registered for the World War II Draft giving his date of birth as 12 Jan 1881. He provided his nearest relative as Mrs. Walter P. Harman. This would have been his second wife, Myra. [9]

These records not only confirm information in the article, but help us put together a rough timeline of their lives.


1907  (ca) Walter P. Harman and Elizabeth Kimball marry
1908  Ruth L. Harman, daughter of Walter P. and Elizabeth Harman, is born in DC.
          She is not Alfred's daughter.
1910  Walter Penfield Harmon and Elizabeth Myra (Kimball) Harman are living in Washington
           DC with daughter Ruth L. and a servant named Dora L. Jones.
          Walter and Elizabeth break up
          Elizabeth marries Alfred Wesley Ingalls of Lynn, MA
1918  Walter lists his father as next of kin on WWI Draft, so is probably single
1918  Helen Ingalls, daughter of Alfred W. and Elizabeth Ingalls, is born in Massachusetts
1920  Walter lives in DC, is single.
1920  Elizabeth lives with 2nd husband, Alfred Wesley Ingalls, at 28 Bassett St., Lynn, MA
1923  Walter remarries, to another Myra (!) in Vermont
1930  Alfred W. and family still live on Bassett St.
1940  The family is still at Bassett St.
1942  Walter Penfield Harman of Takoma Park, MD, registered for the World War II Draft
           giving his date of birth as 12 Jan 1881.
1942  Alfred registered for the World War II Draft, stating...
1947  Case comes to trial

Wider Implications for Civil Rights

Yikes! I mean, Mira Elizabeth Ingalls [13]
According to the article, the Ingalls were the first to be charged with slavery in the United States since 1880, a violation of the 13th amendment. In The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, Risa Lauren Goluboff refers to this incident as a "watershed case" and goes into considerable detail. It was the Ingalls' younger daughter, Helen (Ingalls) Roberts, who reported her parents to the Department of Justice. [10]

The sordid details of the case were that Elizabeth kept Dora working without pay and in bad conditions by threatening her with prison or a mental institution if she did not comply. Dora's offense thirty-eight years earlier, or circa 1909, was having had an affair with Walter and an abortion after that. She told Dora she could be arrested for that, and either go to prison or a mental institution.

Goluboff states, "For more than twenty-five years, Jones had been 'required to arise at an early hour in the morning and perform practically all of the household labor in connection with the maintenance of the Ingalls household. She was forbidden to leave the household except for the commission of errands and performed drudgery of the most menial and laborious type.'" She was forced to sleep in a car on the street, or in bathtubs, not provided with sufficient food, and given only cast-offs for clothes.

They were unable to convict Alfred, but Elizabeth was sentenced. What made this a watershed case was the fact that not only did Elizabeth have to pay damages to the US government, but she also had to pay poor Dora the sum of $6,000. Elizabeth's prison sentence was suspended, however, perhaps due to fears expressed by her counsel that her life would be threatened.

Some Questions Answered, But Take With Grain of Salt!

An article in the Toldeo Blade provides more detail. "The five-foot, 100-pound maid, Theodora Lawrence Jones... was 17 when she was befriended by the present Mrs. Ingalls, then Miss Elizabeth Kimball, a missionary school teacher in the reconstructed south. When Miss Kimball married her first husband, Walter Harmon, they took Miss Jones to Washington DC, where ten years later they were divorced...In 1918, the former Alabama teacher married Ingalls. [11]

Another article worth mentioning is "Slave Trial Jury Told Dora Jones Was Pushed Down Stairs." We learn more details of Dora's sad existence: that Helen had actually tried to rescue Dora from Elizabeth, who had struck and scratched her, among other things. And finally, we get some great genealogical information: Elizabeth's other daughter Ruth's married name was Castendyk, and she was in Chicago in 1947; Dora had at least two siblings--Myrtle Turrentine of Athens, AL and Arthur Jones of St. Louis! [12]

Alfred Wesley Ingalls, 1947 [14]
There are many, many articles on this case, and by reading them all, you can fill in the timelines with much more precision. Though sometimes contradictory or wrong, they do provide hints on where to search further. Here is a link to another one: "Coronado Couple Held on Charge of Holding Housemaid in Bondage," in which we learn that Elizabeth and Alfred married in 1907 and were divorced in 1917. There are more details of Dora's horrible treatment, and best of all, photos of the offending couple. [13]

Now I ain't no Judy Russell, but this is one interesting, groundbreaking, horrifying and amazing case. And the only reason I found it was because my little mind was wandering to other articles on a newspaper page!

Bygone Era Be Gone!

I found it interesting that "the Jury went out to dinner at 10:30 and resumed their deliberations at 12:00 o'clock." I wonder why they went so late. Was it perhaps to avoid the cost of putting up the jury overnight? I was also sort of surprised at this, too: "Mrs. Ingalls heard the guilty verdict without a quiver. She was remanded to the custody of the US Marshall, who escorted her and her husband to dinner." How very civilized that they were escorted to dinner. Why the hell didn't they take DORA to dinner? By all accounts she needed it. and clearly, Elizabeth was well nourished.

Oh yes, it was an era of stoicism and gentility and SLAVERY. We've come a long way since 1947, but even then this case was outrageous. Newspaper accounts about a crime like this can exaggerate or just be wrong, so these articles should not be considered completely reliable! You can read a summary of the trial at United States v. Ingalls, 73 F, Supp. 76, District Court, S. D. California, S. D., 29 July 1947. [16]

I like to imagine that Dora took that money, went back to her family and lived an easy life thereafter. She certainly deserved it. There are no words for the vile behavior of this couple and I can only hope that they were ostracized from their socialite community for the rest of their lives. They really should have gone to prison for life. It would have been sweetest if Elizabeth had been forced to work for a living, for someone such as evil as herself.


[1]  "Mrs. Ingalls Guilty of Slavery Charge," Boston Herald, 20 Jul 1947, p. 1., cols. 5-6; GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : 14 Jun 2013).

[2] 1940 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, ED 19-34, sheet 64A, household 365, of Alfred W. Ingalls; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[3] 1930 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, ED 151, sheet 9A [penned], sheet 278 [stamped], dw. 130, fam. 260, household of Alfred W. Ingalls; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[4] 1920 US census, Essex County, Massachusetts, Lynn, Ward 3, ED 146, sheet 5A, dw. 69, fam. 103, household of Alfred W. Ingalls;  Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[5] 1910 US census, District of Columbia, Washington, Prec. 10, ED 203, sheet 18A, 425 [Mien?] Pl., dw. 327, fam. 391, household of Walter P. Harman;  Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[6] "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," Walter Penfield Harmon, Serial n. 490, Order n. 1264, b. 12 Ja 1881, employed at ; 347 Madison Ave., NY, NY, Local Board Rutland, VT, for Div. N. 1, City of NY, NY, 7 Jan 1918;  Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[7] 1920 US census, District of Columbia, Washington, ED 284, sheet 5A, 1613 Irving St., dw. 25, fam. 92, household of Maria J. Miner; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[8] "Vermont Marriage Records, 1909-2008," Harman-Hulst, n. 138, 23 Nov 1923, Rutland; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[9] "World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," Walter Penfield Harman, Serial n. 0303, no Order n., b. 12 Jan 1881, Bennington, VT, Local Board n. 3, Prince George's Co., 27 Apr 1942; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 16 Jun 2013).

[10] Risa Lauren Goluboff, The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007), 162-68; GoogleBooks (http://www.books.google.com : 17 Jun 2013).

[11] "Slavery Trial is Opened for Couple in California," Toledo [Ohio] Blade, 24 Jun 1947, p. 2, cols. 7-8; GoogleNews (http://www.news.google.com : 17 Jun 2013).

[12] Ted McKenna, "Slave Trial Jury Told Dora Jones Was Pushed Down Stairs," The [St. Petersburg, FL] Evening Independent, Home Edition, 3 Jul 1947, p. 2, cols. 2-4; GoogleNews (http://www.news.google.com : 17 Jun 2013).

[13]  "Bondage Charge Faced by Couple," and "Coronado Couple Held on Charge of Holding Housemaid in Bondage," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927, p. 1, col. 3, and p. 3A, col. 2; GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : 17 Jun 2013).

[14] "Alfred Wesley Ingalls," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927,  p. 3A, col. 2.

[15] "Mira Elizabeth Ingalls," San Diego Union, 26 Feb 1927,  p. 3A, col. 2.

[16] United States v. Ingalls, 73 F, Supp. 76, (S. D. Cal. 1947); Leagle (http://www.leagle.com : 17 Jun 2013).