24 September 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Joseph Barnes and Polly Vinal Family Register




                          F A M I L Y  R E G I S T E R
Joseph Barnes                                        Polly Vinal
born in Hingham                                    born in Scituate
March the 4th 1778                                March the 20th 1784


NAMES                           BIRTHS                     DEATHS
                                    Month Day Year         Month Day Year
William Barnes           August 4th 1804
Mary Barnes               June 16th 1806
Cushing Barnes          June 16th 1808
Priscilla Barnes           February 23d 1811
Joseph Barnes Jr.        September 10th 1814
Elijah V. Barnes         September 10th 1818
Elisha J. Barnes          September 10th 1818
Israel M. Barnes         September 23 1821
              Lith & Pub by N. Currier, 2 Spruce St. NY
-------------
This is a hand colored lithograph of a “Family Register” produced by Nathan Currier. It has been in the family since it was created, precise date unknown. Perhaps the best reason this item is to be treasured lies in how it was discovered. As a frugal young bride, my mother asked her mother if she had any picture frames she wasn't using. My grandmother gave her a little frame she didn't care for and when they removed the picture, they found this register hidden behind it! Turns out it was the original, 100 year old frame.
It gives birth dates and places of Joseph Barnes and Polly Vinal and birth dates of their children. It would be very easy to give this document a very high evidentiary value given its apparent age and probable source (mother). The problem is that the data does not entirely agree with the very reliable published Scituate vital records. Should we trust it or not? How can you tell?
There are lots of clues in this one little piece of stained paper. First of all, publisher's information allows us to narrow by date of printing. Nathan Currier was in business on his own, before Currier & Ives, from 1835 to 1856, but only at 2 Spruce Street from 1838. So it could not have been created before 1838. It also could have been started as late as 1856. We therefore know that none of the entries was contemporaneous with the events it records, and this slightly reduces their value as a source.
Next, take a look at the handwriting: it is uniform, seemingly done in one hand and one ink. The way the words line up vertically indicates it was perhaps written in one sitting, as it drifts left and right in a smooth way. The handwriting is typical of  mid-nineteenth century. We can imagine a mother whose eight children are perhaps all in school finally getting enough time to fill in such a register, and doing it by memory.
In addition, at the base of each column is a space in which to write the death information of the parents. The two empty plaques near the bottom of the page could indicate that neither parent has died as of the creation of the register. Joseph Barnes died 16 January 1843 [Foster, Vital Records of Scituate, Mass. to 1850], so we can at least guesstimate that it was done between 1838 and 1843. Polly did not die until 23 December 1868 [NEHGS, "MA Vital Records 1841-1910,"subscription database linked to digital images of state copy of vital records; newenglandancestors.org, Deaths 1868:213:218].
Finally we look at how the information correlates with other sources. The first four children’s births agree with published vital records [Foster, Vital Records of Scituate, Massachusetts to 1850], but the second four are all off by either one day or one year. You can imagine that the dates of birth of her earlier children would be more easily remembered than the later ones when her house was probably a lot more chaotic and she was older.
For instance, take my gg grandfather, Israel M. Barnes, last born child. The published vital records of Scituate has the following entry for him:
“ BARNES, Israel Merritt, s. Joseph and Polly, Sept. 22, 18[torn] [rec. after ch. b. Sept. 9, 1817]. [[h. Olive L.] Sept. 23, 1820, G.R.8] [Sept. 23, 1820, P.R. 12]”


It gives various dates and lists three sources for that information: September 18[torn] (citing town records), 23 September 1820 (citing gravestone), and 23 September 1820 (citing Barnes family bible). We can add to that the entry here of 23 September 1821, and also NEHGS Deaths 1892: 428, 605, Israel M. Barnes with age at death of 72 years, 3 months rendering a birth date of September 19, 1820. That makes three sources that give a year of 1820, one undetermined and one of 1821. Personally, I'd give the most weight in this case to the family bible, death record and gravestone.  
The town record book is torn in the place where it would show the year of his birth. That birth was registered immediately after one on 9 September 1817, and presumably was one or both of his elder twin brothers, Elisha and Elijah (as that is their date of birth in the published records). His birth is listed in the Barnes family bible (P.R. 12) as 23 September 1820 also. However, the family register conflicts with the bible, listing his birth as 23 September 1821.
Although it would seem that the family register would be highly reliable, the fact that it appears to have been created well after the birth dates of the children renders it a little less so. It is also interesting to note, too, that it differs from the family bible. I concluded that this was created from memory later in life by Polly Barnes without consulting the bible, and is therefore not quite as reliable as the published town records which were created from church records, town vital records and the Barnes family bible, now vanished.
Regardless of its evidentiary value in proving a date of birth, it is still something I cherish. It hangs on the wall in our dining room keeping me deeply rooted in the past.

20 September 2009

SNGF- Ahnentafel Roulette




Last night's request for SNGF (Saturday Night Genealogy Fun) by blogger Randy Seaver from Genea Musings is Ahnentafel Roulette. Here are the instructions:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along:
1) How old is your father now, or how old would he be if he had lived? Divide this number by 4 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your “roulette number.”
2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ahnentafel. Who is that person?
3) Tell us three facts about that person with the “roulette number.”
4) Write about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a Facebook note or comment, or as a comment on this blog post.
5) If you do not have a person’s name for your “roulette number” then spin the wheel again – pick your mother, or yourself, a favorite aunt or cousin, or even your children!

Here is mine, a day late, hopefully not a dollar short:

My father, James Edmund FitzGerald, was born 1 August 1910, so he'd be 99 today. Wow. Divide that by 4 and you get almost 25.

# 25 in my Ahnentafel is Olive (Litchfield) Barnes, 31 Dec 1820 to 22 August 1886. She's my gg grandmother. Olive is one of my favorite ancestors, mainly because the above image of her hung on my Aunt Louise's and then my brother Jed's wall all through my childhood. Poor Olive was the subject of great mocking by children because of her dour expression. I bet she was about the age I am now, 54, when this portrait was done.

Here are three quick facts:

1. Of of her four grandparents, three were Litchfields.

2. Olive's paternal grandfather, Capt. Daniel Litchfield [Sr.] built a house in Scituate which my brother bought in the 1970s. When Aunt Louise gave Jed and his wife Regina the portrait of Olive it was as if she had come back home.

3.  She died of a cerebral embolism.

The most striking element of Olive's life concerns the children she bore and lost. She and her husband, Israel Merritt I had only one child who survived to adulthood: Israel Merritt Barnes II. The Vital Records of Scituate, Massachusetts to 1850 showed the deaths of two little girls within eight days, both of them from tummy troubles: i.e. "dysentary" and "bowel complaint." My mother always said that IMB II spent away the family fortunes, and did so because he was a spoiled brat, born an incredibly long 17 years after their deaths. Plenty of time to long for, and then spoil a child.

In pursuit of certification, I looked into this family in more detail and was quite thrilled to uncover the birth of another baby, which took place between the deaths of the two girls and birth of IMB II. It started with an entry on Ancestry World Tree, a place I don't often visit for serious genealogical pursuit. However, I was really puzzled as to why someone from Scituate would have entered this birth and death, so I contacted the author. It turned out her mother was a friend of my Aunt Abbie, grew up in Scituate, and probably got the information, whether directly or indirectly, from an elderly genealogist friend of the family, who may have actually remembered the event! I knew her mother's name very well: Polly. I'd heard it growing up but don't think I ever actually met her. I can count on one hand the number of Pollys I've met. I couldn't ignore that posting, so I persisted and eventually pinned down a newpaper notice that confirmed the birth and death of a baby Webster in 1855, 11 years after the girls died, 6 years before IMB II was born. Following that, I found conclusive evidence in church records in the Scituate Archives.

It's always hard finding information on women. The poor things were restricted in what they could do, so they didn't leave anywhere near as many records. However, the joys and pains of childbirth are something I can relate to, and though I used to mock poor Olive in my youth (see below), I have a great amount of respect for her now that I've grown up.


Making the Dour Olive face, 1986
Laura FitzGerald, Priscilla FitzGerald, Polly FitzGerald.

16 September 2009

Cousin Frank's Violin

My mother kept her ironing basket in a laundry closet right outside my bedroom door when I was very young. I loved it because it also held her most treasured personal keepsakes: fancy gloves (which she never wore); costume jewelry; letters from her pen pal; and buried at the back under wrinkled dress shirts and aprons, an ancient violin. When I wouldn't go down for a nap, she would sit by the closet and fuss around with her things while I eavesdropped from my crib. Hearing her rustling set off my imagination and usually did the trick. 
Once in a blue moon I'd awaken from my nap with questions about the violin. She would pull it out with solemn reverence and open the battered case. The strings were broken, the finish dull, and it had a musty smell that could knock a three-year old girl right over. She probably initially brought it out just to humor me, but I wasn't allow to touch it! Here was this beat-up old violin and she wouldn't let me fiddle with it, literally! I would get frustrated that it couldn't be played and I think because of that shunned it when later in life I chose to play the flute instead. 

As I grew up, we'd occasionally pull it out on days when absolutely nothing was going on: probably in the highest heat of summer. What I remember most is that I could see she had really loved playing it when she was young. She had been tutored in music by her "Cousin Frank," who I had always thought was a Jones relative (her mother's maiden name) from Lawrence. Her eyes would sparkle as she reminisced about the letters he would send her when he wasn't visiting the homestead in Scituate. 

Now. I sort of forgot about this guy. My mother gave the violin to her sister, Abbie, who gave it to her daughter, my cousin, because she played the violin. I think they had it appraised and it wasn't worth much, so I don't believe she ever restored it to playing condition, if that was even possible. Note to self (ask Betsy!) If Priscilla was playing it as a young girl, it couldn't have been very valuable or my grandmother wasn't very smart. Since I know Grandma was a highly intelligent lady, then it must have been a run-of-the-mill student instrument. Anyway, it was always love, not value that made my mother's eye twinkle. That's why she gave it to Betsy, aka "Pet."

But who was this Cousin Frank? My mother passed away in 1996 when I was in the throes of raising two out of three of my wildly boys, and by then her mind was confusing details. When we talked genealogy, which was frequently, it was on the topic of brick walls and mostly in direct lines.  Looking back now, I realize that no matter how confused her memories were getting, I should have just sat down with a tape recorder and got her to tell me everything. I bet she would have got the Cousin Frank story straight because she was an original source, and it happened when her mind was fresh.

So I was left wondering. Was he the same guy that she went out of her way to honor every Memorial Day? An isolated grave, far away from the main family graves, that we would also decorate? All I knew was that she had the same kind of wistful smile when we visited that grave as she did when she talked about Cousin Frank.  I searched the cemetery but the only Frank I found was Frank E. Clapp who fought in the Spanish American War. A quick check on Ancestry places him in the 1880 household of Charles W. and Abby B. Clapp. His birth year is 1871. Looking at the NEHGS online database "Mass Vital Records 1841-1910," (Births 1871:242:441) I find he is son of Charles Whitcomb Clapp and Abby Billings (Merritt). You can't say no relation when they've all been living within two miles of each other for two hundred and fifty years, but I'll say no close relation. So the Frank Clapp is just a red herring and will have to rest in peace.

Happily, I have two artifacts in my possession that have helped me identify this Cousin Frank. They have been in my "treasures" box of old family papers and photos, preserved, but not published. It wasn't until I started the process of becoming a certified genealogist that I really began critically examining every scrap of paper. In my portfolio, I refer to these treasures as "Barnes Family Papers." Just so you know.

I found the calling card shown below and surely let out a huge AHA at the time!


F. B.[sic] Barnes
March and Circle.
1. Waltz,
2. Galop,
3. Quadrille,
4. Schottische,
5. Waltz,
6. Lanciers,
7. Caprice,
8. Polka,
9. Portland Fancy,
10. Waltz,
11. Galop,
12. Lanciers.
13. Schottische,
14. Galop,
15. Waltz,




F. P. Barnes' Concert Ball Room Orchestra,
694 Washington Street, Boston



A search on his background reveals that he is Franklin Pierce Barnes, son of Elijah Vinal Barnes and Lydia D. Studley [NEHGS (Births 1853:74:16)]. This means that he was the first cousin twice removed of my mother! His father Elijah was one of my mother's great-grandfather Joseph Barnes' twin brothers, the other being Elisha.
And what's that in his hand? A violin! He looks like a lively sort of fellow, just the kind that would turn a little girl's head. He probably taught the girls to dance, too. No wonder she got a twinkle.
To seal the deal, I found a charming letter from him to my grandmother Vernetta. At this point, my mother, Priscilla, the eldest, would have just been turning 20. Her only brother, Billy/Willie, wwould have been 14, a lot older than he sounds here.
-----
                                Boston Dec. 20th 1934
Well _ Well Well Vernetta,  
That was some card I received this A.M.
and was very much pleased with It
I see little Willie in it holding the
lantern and Myself Playing the Great Great
Big Fiddle (Tell little Willie) with my
tall hat on.
Who the Lady was singing I can not
make out, I seem to think the man
with the tall Hat, playing the trombone
is A man that drives one of the
White Milk Trucks from Wollaston, down
through Scituate. (Tell little Willie and the
children) I am very much pleased with
the card, Tell the Cildren, and how they will
laugh. and what a time they wil have
talking about it. I can well understand –
I am sorry to hear about your Cow.
We are having good weather for this
time of the year, and I hope it will
continue. When it is convenient for you,
you let me know when to come Down,
and talk music to the Children
                                                       over
Tell the children the music
on the card, was very very very
melodious, and charming, (and how
they will Laugh). What a time they
will have when you read this note
to them.
Ask Priscilla to keep at all of
them. to know the. Do. De. Ray. Re.
me.Far. etc. up and down the cromatic
scale. that is the sylablic,
they can then go ahead very fast.
Ask Her Please to have little Willie
stand up with them.
I hope you are all Well. and Please
let me know when to call.
(Is Wm. going up and down in his Car-
this Winter?)
        So good by to all hands
        until later. And a Merry
        Christmas and Love to the Children
        Franklin P. Barnes
        #83 Carver St__
                                     Boston__
How could you not love this guy? So focused on children at 81 years of age! I haven't done any more research on him, but I tend to think he had no children. Someday I will add more detail to his life (is he buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Scituate, e.g.?), but for now it is enough to reflect on how one man's spirit can trickle down through the ages. Thank goodness we have people like Cousin Frank! My son Daniel plays the violin now. And he loves his music teacher. The teacher is nothing like Cousin Frank, but he loves Dan, too, because he's an old soul. He says Dan is the only student he has that lowers his blood pressure. I just hope that someday Dan's teacher gets remembered as fondly as good old Cousin Frank is remembered today.

15 September 2009

Tombstone Tuesday – The American Cemetery in Normandy



Last summer we took the boys to England to visit relatives and friends. From there we embarked on a 10-day holiday in northern France. When they weren't whining about missing their friends and championship sporting events, they really enjoyed being tourists. Despite themselves, I think they may have also learned a thing or two.

One of our most moving stops was Normandy, site of some of the most brutal fighting in World War II. In a bizarre parallel of the Invasion of Normandy, we traveled by ferry from Southampton to Cherbourg. It was a smooth sailing, and as we dined comfortably on breakfast, we tried to evoke images in their young minds of what it must have been like for those soldiers en route on 5-6 June 1944. We had watched a few movies before setting off, like The Longest Day(for Myles and me) andSaving Private Ryan (for the boys, too gory for me. I can imagine evisceration without it being graphically depicted, thank you), and this made a convenient reference for certain parts of the battles.

We drove along the still very sparsely populated coast, through tiny but familiarly named towns like Pointe du Hoc and Ste Mère Eglise. We stopped there to to glance around, imagining the horror of war, and even saw the effigy of the poor parachutist who got stuck on the church tower (see above). We were there just a few days after the celebrations of the 64th anniversary of D-Day, and I noticed the boys casting sidelong glances at some elderly gentlemen, obviously veterans, who were also touring the countryside. I wanted to invite them to come along with us. They are precious.

The locals were all very friendly and welcomed us with smiles and a courteous attempt to understand the boys' (and my!) French. You can see that even people who were not alive in WW2 still recognize the contributions the Americans, British and Canadians made. We were glad we had skipped Paris – this time, at least.

Next day we motored over to the American Cemetery in Colleville Sur Mer. Most people have at least seen it on television, as we had, but there is nothing like being there. It is set in a most splendidly glorious spot on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. When you first arrive, you admire the setting, noting how beautiful the world can be. It is so still that you hear the birds, even with 3 boys in tow. The museum is strategically placed so that you visit it before entering the cemetery. I think it serves both to educate and to prepare people for the experience.

BOOM, there you are, transported back in time, watching scratchy black and white films of wave after wave of seasick and petrified soldiers jump off the boats to almost certain death. Relentless Nazis gun them down. "They are all so young," I tell the boys, "That's you, next year, Ry." You see bits of their uniforms, photos of old French peasant women running down the tiny streets, waving and smiling, offering loaves of bread to soldiers. Young girls kissing them. All the while the sounds of guns and waves and death screams meander in and around the speeches of leaders lending hope and inspiration.

Then BOOM again. You emerge, blinking, into the bright sunshine. Echoes of the battle din reverberate in the stark silence. Perfect weather mocks their memory. All is calm and serene. You stand there in a bit of shock. Now you're ready to visit the cemetery.

Row upon row upon row of symmetrically placed crosses stand at attention in military precision overlooking the beaches, bearing witness to the horrors of war. I sent the boys off on a mission so I could enjoy the peace. I was moved by the occasional Star of David marker, and when I came upon the one below, of Sam Rubin, I stopped to photograph it.

SAM RUBIN
PVT 358 INF 90 DIV
MO JUNE 15 1944


As I took my face away from the camera, one son came along and said, "Oh, somebody left dirt on this one," and swiftly brushed it away, before I could let out a yelp of alarm. For Jews it is an act of respect to continue in the "mitzvah" of marking a grave by placing pebbles or dirt on the stone. It is a way to indicate participation in the mitzvah of erecting a tombstone, even if only in a more symbolic way. It shows that someone has visited, someone remembers.

After a brief lecture by Mom, suitable replacement stones were laid with great ceremony, accompanied by an apology to Private Rubin.

We looked at hundreds of stones that day, came across makeshift flower memorials that get cleaned up every evening by the staff. We found Medal of Honor winners and all sorts of funny names and things to spark the imagination of boys. But the one we remember most will always be Sam Rubin.



14 September 2009

A Patriot Non Compos Mentis


So far, I've only discovered the term non compos mentis applied to one ancestor, and that happens to be my DAR Patriot, Benjamin Barnes [Jr.] Benjamin was born in 1747 in Hingham, Massachusetts, about 20 miles south of Boston, right on Massachusetts Bay. He owned quite a bit of land that reached right down to Hingham Harbor, where I recently had the pleasure of boating with my best friends from college.

Benjamin has a pretty nice Revolutionary War pension application file, submitted in 1832 on his behalf by Ned Cushing, his caretaker, when Ben was 85. They mention that Benjamin was "himself incapable of recollecting the past events of his life with correctness" so they get his war buddies to give affidavits telling about his service: in 1775, like half of the state, he was called to Lexington to "march on the alarm of April 19, 1775, then he "guarded the sea" in Hingham (they don't mention that he could probably do that from his front yard!); in 1776 he did the same in Nantasket" (two minutes up the road). But in 1777 he was present at the surrender of Gen. Burgoyne. And there is more. Length of service for him was anywhere from three days (Lexington) to eight months. I believe he remained a Private for the entire war.

What is sort of interesting is that the service accounts vary slightly. Of course they do! How can 75-85 year old men remember back 58 years to which three-month stint they served with whom? Because in the Revolutionary War that was the volunteer militia's term of service: three months. Not a year, certainly not four years. Nearly sixty years after the fact, these very old men were putting their heads together on behalf of poor Benjamin so that he could get some relief from the government.

I love pension files because you find attestations by Town Clerks to vital records. In this, case it is said elsewhere in the pension that this birth was found in the diary of Rev. Ebenezer Gay, not in the church or town records. I love that. And someday I will go gaze at it, for I believe it still exists.

Benjamin Barnes, son of Benjamin & Hannah
born June 7, 1747 ––
A true copy from the Records of births in Hingham
Attest
James I. Lewis
Town Clerk

Beneath that it says that the Town Clerk "verily believes it to be a record of the birth of Benjamin Barnes of said Hingham now under the Guardianship of Ned Cushing who applies in behalf of said Benjamin for a pension under the law of the United States passed in June last –– and I hereby certify that the said Lewis is personally known to me and that his reputation for truth is unquestionable.
Ebenezer Gay, Jus. Peace

Then, it makes me laugh because on the next page, they get the Register of Probate to attest that Ebenezer Gay is honest and forthright as well. Then George Washington does the same for the Register of Probate. Just kidding. But really, when does it end?

I use the Revised Fourth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 1968 because it is pretty good for older legal terms. On page 1200 you can find a definition of Non Compos Mentis:
"Lat. Not sound of mind; insane. This is a very general term, embracing all varieties of mental derangement. See Insanity. [Then, the best part follows...]
Coke has enumerated four different classes of persons who are deemed in law to be non compotes mentis: First an idiot, or fool natural; second, he who was of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it; third, a lunatic, lunaticus qui gaudet lucidis intervallis, who sometimes is of good sound mind and memory, and sometimes non compos mentis; fourth, one who is non compos mentis by his own act, as a drunkard, Co. Litt. 247a; 4 Coke, 124."

I think that poor Benjamin, after his honorable service to the cause of freedom, was an example of Coke's definition number two: "of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it." I'm just thankful that everyone else was there to help him pick up the memories. Benjamin died in 1834, so he had a few comfortable years at least. I hope someone took care of Ned, too.

11 September 2009

Marking the Day - The Terror of 9/11

The north tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Cen...Image via Wikipedia

Some details of that horrific day are starting to fade, so before I forget, a brief note for my descendants...

Myles and I had been married 13 years on September 10, 2001. We chose to go into Boston for a romantic dinner and overnight stay in a hotel. I think it was Mrs. Potter who babysat our sons who were 10, 8 and 4. So on the morning of September 11th, we weren't even home. We were enjoying a fine breakfast in bed on the tenth floor of a Back Bay hotel admiring the beauty of a cloudless September view of Boston. You could see all the way to Logan airport and we watched the planes coming and going, wondering how they managed not to collide. We turned on the TV and towards the end of the Today Show, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer (I think!) brought us the news of a plane striking the World Trade Center. Not many days before that, a small plane had crashed into a building in NYC, so no one was particularly alarmed, and certainly no one seriously thought "terrorist attack." They may have mentioned terrorism, but the media is always trying to jack us up emotionally, and we were used to dismissing their excited chatter as the usual hype.

It was when the second plane hit that it sunk in. From that point on, we were riveted to the TV, occasionally switching channels to make sure Katie and Matt weren't hallucinating. Information was coming in from so many sources that no one had time to vett it and certainly couldn't make any sense out of it. They announced that air traffic was being halted all across the country. Glancing out the windows again we found the view of Boston was now eerily still. A city frozen in fear. I started feeling a bit vulnerable up there on the tenth floor, and wanted to leave, but Myles wanted to watch events unfold, and swept aside my anxiety with a dismissive, "Oh, relax!" News of a third hijacked plane came in. Accounts varied as to where it might be headed. the White House, the Pentagon, the Capitol?

It wasn't until the first tower collapsed that we looked at each other and started moving. We got a call from the desk telling us the hotel was being evacuated and we should check out right away. We hustled downstairs but instead of checking us out they just waved us away, barking out, "Just go! Go!" There were lots of people standing on the street, and police everywhere. Later we found out that the hotel was evacuated because they had already traced some terrorist suspects to the 9th floor, just one floor beneath us.

We had come in separate cars and I was really freaked out driving home alone in heavy traffic on the Mass. Turnpike. I called Myles and we stayed on the phone during the ride, silent, listening to radio accounts. All I could think of was that my little quiet town of Shrewsbury would never be a target for this sort of attack. I wanted to be near my children. Even if they were only in school, I needed that proximity so that if I had to I could even walk over to get them. It was listening to the radio in the car that really made me very afraid. They were following the course of the plane over Pennsylvania and trying to predict where it was headed. It just felt at that moment like someone was targeting everything we Americans look to for authority and protection. How many planes had been hijacked? Five, ten, fifty? Which news accounts were true, and which were panic? I already felt the psychological damage this would have on our country.

The stark irony of that gorgeous blue sky portending such danger was impossible to reconcile. We watched TV all day. They recommended that we prepare children, yet keep them away from the broadcasts. We greeted them as they got off the bus and tried to brace them for turmoil. Then for days and days Americans watched as the full horror unfolded. More and more accounts came in. The Pentagon, the plane in PA, all of the people lost in NY, makeshift memorials, relatives and friends pleading for information. And so many tears. We were totally vulnerable and bewildered. The whole nation was depressed, lifted occasionally by stories of great heroism.

September 11th, 2001 marks a vast division in the psyche of the nation. Before that date, most people had heard about terrorist attacks but pretty much ignored them because they did not take place on American soil. Newscasters would report disasters overseas only by relating how many Americans were killed. We were an insular, self-absorbed country, trusting that our own goodness would keep us safe. But when you stop being vigilant about your actions, and not protecting yourself, you are likely to get hurt.

I've lived in several foreign countries. When I lived in Italy in the late 70s and early 80s, I found out what it is like to know that terrorist attacks may strike. You just go on living –– but if a terrorist does strike, it does not have the devastating effect of shock as 9/11 did on Americans. It had never actually occurred to most people that we could become victims. Coming back to live in America, I knew it was just a matter of time. Our borders seemed wide open compared to those of other countries. If you read the newspapers, you were aware that there were many groups who hated or blamed the United States and the Western world in general for just about anything they didn't like. Fundamentalism, poverty and ignorance had combined to create a steaming cauldron of rage. I wasn't shocked, just petrified.

A chasm separates the day of our 13th anniversary, September 10, 2012,  from September 11th. Like Adam and Eve gazing down at their own nakedness, we are now cognizant of both our own vulnerability and aware that we have some accountability. We moved forward with ideas on how best to protect ourselves that mark a political split as well. We are now a nation sharply divided, driven to extremes by the intense fear of that day. I just hope that one day our great nation came come together on those values that we share, which are many more than divide us, and work together to keep America safe.
Enhanced by Zemanta

10 September 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Georgia's Glass Jar


Certain items in my possession
were passed down to me with a higher-than usual degree of decorum. This cut glass jar with sterling lid is one of them. My mother told me, when she presented it to me with a flourish, that it is the only surviving item from my great-grandmother, Georgianna (Hagerman) Jones (1868–1932). This makes a girl sit up and take notice. Your mother's mother's mother and one item remains? You bet I was listening!

My mother kept marbles in it, crystals, just like I do. She kept it in a secretary desk that my father brought home "from Sam's" one day. Sam's was an antique/second hand shop used that he used to frequent, owned by a man named Sam Castano. Sam and Pops became best buddies, despite the fact that each was taught in early childhood to despise the ethnic group of the other. When my father grew up in East Boston, gangs of Italian kids used to fight gangs of Irish kids. That's the way it was and still is: new immigrants fighting slightly older immigrant groups for a piece of the pie. According to angelic Pops, he never partook in these activities, and actually, I sort of believe that he didn't, for his bark was far worse than his bite. Yet, it scarred him and left him wary of Italians in general. I'm sure Sam felt the same way about the Irish. So when Pops and Sam first had dealings with each other it must have been against each's better judgment! Yet, Pops continued to frequent Sam's, and they became very close friends. I learned as a small child that whenever Daddy brought a treasure home, it must have come from Sam's. I still remember the day that the secretary arrived, mostly because my mother was pleased with it. Generally she could think of better ways to invest the family income than in antiques! But on that day she was ecstatic and immediately began loading her favorite keepsakes onto the shelves.

Like much of the content of my mother's house, the secretary passed down to my brother Tim and family. With three small children, the secretary's function changed from curio display to videotape library, and after a few years the scratched and battered secretary was banished to his barn. I asked him one fine day if I might adopt its warped and mildewed self, and Tim obliged, so we carried it back to Shrewsbury. It stunk badly of mold, and aggravated some hearty allergic reactions. We had it refinished and finally I was overjoyed to place Georgianna's glass jar upon the shelf once more.

Georgianna and her husband Jared Smith Jones (1860–1943) were born in New Brunswick, Canada. They were both descended from Loyalists who had fled the brand new United States at the conclusion of the American Revolution. A century later they were part of the mass immigration into the US in the late nineteenth century, in search of jobs and a better life. They went to Lawrence, Massachusetts and Jared worked variously in the textile mills and driving a team of horses. I know that they had very little money. I wonder if, and want to believe that the glass jar belonged first to Georgia's mother, Louisa (Carr) Hagerman.

My grandmother Vernetta was Georgianna's only daughter. Vernetta had four daughters. The matrilineal line died out in my Aunt Louise's line and in my mother's line, since my sister and I do not have daughters bearing daughters. I have inherited the glass jar purely by chance. But I want this jar to remain a matrilineal, mitochondrial DNA kind of hand-me down. So, when I die, it will go to one of the female descendants of either my Aunt Anne or Aunt Abbie (twins) both of whom have daughters with daughters with daughters! Though she may not know it, some little girl had an ancestor who cherished a piece of cut glass and kept it safe to pass down, just for her. What good is studying family history if you don't bring it to life for younger generations? Maybe, in some small way, this jar will do just that.

09 September 2009

Barnes/Vinal Tomb, North Scituate, MA


This is the infuriatingly mysterious Barnes/Vinal tomb in Scituate, Mass. It is across the street from the Barnes ancestral home where my family lived when I was really young. My older siblings all played in the woods around it, and were lucky enough to be able to explore inside. My brother tells me that there was nothing left inside when it was bricked up sometime in the mid-1900s.

The only printed reference to a burial here that I could locate is that of Polly (Vinal) Barnes (1784-1868), for whom I am named. The reference is made in a newspaper article about 35 years after her death, and says she was the last to be entombed there. I have to assume that her husband, Joseph Barnes is also there beside her, along with other relatives. I just wonder if some of them aren't also buried in the area around the tomb, since it is marked off.

08 September 2009

Not Your Average Joe – The Tombstone of Rabbi Judah Monis



Here lies buried the Remains of RABBI
JUDAH MONIS. MA. late HEBREW
Instructer at HARVARD College in
Cambridge in which Office He continued 40
years. He was by Birth and Religion a jew but
embraced the Christian Faith & was publickly
baptizd at Cambridge AD 1722 and
departed this Life April 25 1764. Aged
81 years 2 months and 21 days
A native branch of Jacob see
Which, once from off its olive brok,
Regrafted, from the living tree Rom. XI. 17 24
Of the reviving sap partook.
From teeming Zion's fertile womb, Isa. LXVI. 8
As dewy drops in early morn Psa. CX.3
Or rising bodies from the tomb John V.. 28. 29
At once be Isr'els nation born

I was shown this tombstone a few weeks ago by my historian friend, Harry. Harry is the greatest repository of local history you can imagine. He keeps everything in his enormous skull (illustration by an early psychic artist reproduced above). He's a retired teacher (in deed, not in spirit) and rejoices in bring new knowledge to anyone who is willing. This unusual gravestone is located in the old First Parish Church Burial Ground on Howard Street in Northboro, Mass. It contains the graves and beautifully carved stones of lots of typical British-type colonials. And then we find this startling inscription. An Italian Rabbi who migrated to New York, then to Cambridge, Mass., converted to Christianity and is buried in the sticks of Northborough.

The illustrations on the stone are of the skull and crossbones (death -duh!) and a grafted tree, which refers to his conversion. Just because some people have suffered death to defend their religion doesn't mean everyone did. The squeaky wheel gets written about in history books. I'm sure that masses of quieter people sort of went along with the general population in a kind of false assimilation, while still practicing behind closed doors. After a few generations, no one knew the difference, even family members. Depending upon the source you consult, there are different theories as to why Judah converted. On the Jewish Virtual Library website [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/monis.html : accessed just now; no sources given for info, so beware] we learn that Judah was himself descended from Portuguese conversos. So maybe knowing that, it wasn't so hard for him to revert. In any case, he vehemently denied accusations that Harvard's restriction on dealing with anyone other than Christians was his reason. He wrote three tomes defending his decision. He went on to teach Hebrew and write the first Hebrew grammar printed in the colonies. Word has it that he was a bore, though.

Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 52 [books.google.com : accessed today] has a very detailed article in which it is evident that the author consulted numerous original documents. If you are interested in Judah, I'd start here. He states that Judah was a merchant and owned a shop when in New York and Cambridge. He married Mary Marret, whose sister was married to John Martyn, Pastor of the first Church in Northboro. I love to imagine the awkward silences at the dinner table. Worse than that, dinner hour was probably filled with endless discourse on the nature of the Trinity and other lighthearted subjects. I'd rather do dishes.

I'm grateful to Harry for showing me this grave and look forward to another jaunt. He's been telling me for years about some slave graves in Princeton. Luckily, every week has a Tombstone Tuesday!

07 September 2009

Monday Madness - an Excuse to Go Goofy

These blogging prompts are fun. On Mondays we are encouraged to discuss madness, whether that of ancestors or our own in crazy pursuit of them. I love how the blogging world lets you just take the prompt and run with it, so tonight I shall release a little pent up anxiety and frustration over the fact that I never seem to have enough "thoughtful time" to actually work on my genealogy. It makes me crazy! Not in the same way my Aunt Mary was crazy. I mean, I'm not collecting empty milk cartons and lining them up all around the edges of every room in my house. I didn't have a nervous breakdown because the local pharmacist promised to marry me but instead ran off with his own wife. Yeah. And I've never howled like a banshee on Christmas Eve. Poor Aunt Mary. I feel sad about her life, and they never even let me meet her.

But I'm not that kind of crazy – just the highly vexed kind of crazy. The kind where you are hyper aware of the irony in carefully researching and writing about your ancestors whilst hurriedly caring for your descendants. And lamenting the fact that you can't spend enough time on either because you have complete strangers to research for: ones that expect quick turnaround and don't want to hear that your eldest son just broke a knuckle trying to take out the next son in line, and you didn't expect to be at the doctor's three times in a week, once for surgery. Clients are not interested in the fact that living with four males with ADD (only one diagnosed, and that is only borderline, but trust me...) can make for scatterbrained living.

I try so hard. I'll be editing a footnote, for instance, realizing that I've erroneously placed the [penned] page number before the enumeration district, and I calmly highlight and cut the enumeration district, but before I have time to paste it in it's proper place, someone lets out a bloodcurdling scream, and with that shot of adrenaline, I'm out of my chair, ears pricked, waiting for the thud. Any thought of pasting the enumeration district totally obliterated. It's not like you can go back and see the error again, because half of it is gone. You have to hope you'll notice there is now no enumeration district, but because the adrenaline is still doing its thing, you may not.

For this reason I am glad that it is back-to-school time. I am in desperate need of long stretches of time in which to complete sensible editing. I love being a Mom. I adore my boys and love to be with them, but in summer it is really hard to find those large chunks of time. Whether it be for an orthodontist appointment, to cycle another load of laundry through, to drive them to the park to play flag football, or to a trombone lesson, or to cook for them and their overnight guests, or even the eternal grocery shopping, a LOT of my time is dedicated to them. And that's the way I want it. Hubby and I both consider it the ultimate luxury for a family to have a parent who can be at home with the kids. Mine are getting older now, but we all still see great value in this. Soooo, I work when I can. And in summer, that means less.

I have a couple of client reports that are well overdue and it is eating away at me. Starting tomorrow, I hope to start eating away at them instead! It's only a four-day week, but it seems like plenty of time to start getting caught up. Wish me luck!


06 September 2009

Black Sheep Sunday


I know I must have lots of ancestors who were badly behaved. We all must. I guess I am a bit of a black sheep, too, or I would have published this on Sunday, instead of Monday, heh heh heh.

One of my favorite bad boys was Nicholas Colby. He was born in Amesbury, Mass., son of Nicholas Colby and [Mrs.] Judith Wells, on 22 October 1777, according to the Amesbury published vital records [Mass VRs to 1850 at newenglandancestors.org].

I needed to prove the parentage of my known ancestor Nathan Colby, a sailor from Haverhill. The death record gives his parents as Nicholas Colby and Elisabeth ["Mass. Vital Records 1841-1910 NEHGS (newenglandancestors.org : accessed 7 Sep 2009; Deaths 1853:75:125]. There is only one Nicholas Colby in the area who married an Elizabeth recorded at that time: Elizabeth Kimball in 1796 [Mass VRs to 1850 at newenglandancestors.org]. However, there are several reasons why they don't work out as parents of my Nathan, so the work continues. But because something feels familiar about this character, I'm willing to be that he is my ancestor.

Sadly, the entry for Nicholas in the Colby Family in Early America by Frederick Weiss is flawed. It both combines and omits some of the children of two Nicholases, and one is from Lynn. My Nathan does not appear. The late Greg Laing, wonderful librarian at the Haverhill library, confirmed my suspicions about the poor scholarship in the book, and had even edited in his own corrections in his copy of the book. In the course of working out these relationships, I discovered that at least one of these Nicholas' was naughty!

I must return to the Haverhill Library and retrieve notes I lost in a computer failure, but according to an oral account taken down on an anniversary of the town in about 1888 [?] Nicholas would sit on the banks of the Merrimack River and intimidate children. He was described as small and dark, with a temper. He used to sit beside the Merrimac and tell the little ones not to throw stones in the river because they’d stop it up and they thought he owned the whole river. He happens also to be a major brick wall, so he gets double points. I wanted to use him in my certification portfolio first time around, but the brick wall, alas, was too high and too thick and my time too limited. [Update: I did use him in my 2013 renewal, but it was a vast undertaking.]

A notice of his death gives a little insight into why he might have had troubles. Like many black sheep, there was probably a physical cause for his inability to conform: “Sudden Death.–– We learn from the Amesbury Transcript that Mr. Nicholas Colby, of that town, was found dead on Sunday afternoon week, near the house of Mr. Page Ring. He was subject to apoplectic fits, and it is supposed had one on his return from the village, and falling into water by the road side was drowned.” [Haverhill, MA] Date: 1845-04-17; Paper: Sun, genealogybank.com] [Update: turns out this was another Nicholas!]

~~~

To end on a note of positive redemption, I am fervently hoping that the Nicholas described in the following account is mine. His father was still alive at this time, but would have been too old to have performed in such a manner. This is from the History of Haverhill, Massachusetts by George W. Chase (Haverhill, Mass, 1861).

On 24 May 1807, in the middle of a terrible nor'easter, a scow capsized and six out the eleven men in it were instantly drowned. After the boat capsized, Nicholas Colby, who was a good swimmer, succeeded in getting the remaining "four upon the bottom of the scow, which barely kept afloat. He tried hard to save Hoyt, who clung to him, while beneath the surface, with a death grasp, but finding his strength rapidly failing he was obliged to exert his whole remaining force in tearing himself from the drowning man; and, having nearly exhausted himself in his efforts, Colby endeavored to persuade Moses Kimball, who could swim, to swim ashore and find help, as it was evident the wreck could not long be kept afloat. But Kimball’s brother positively forbid his making the attempt. Finding all entreaty unavailing, Colby at length resolved to make the attempt himself, though scarce expecting to be able to reach the land, and bidding them good-bye, he struck out for the shore. John Ingersoll, of the Rocks’ Village, a young man lately returned from sea, observing the severity of the storm, and having a curiosity to see its effect upon the river, was that morning walking along the shore, when he suddenly came upon a man feebly clinging to a rock near the water’s edge. It was Colby, too much exhausted to drag himself out of the water, or even to speak aloud. With great difficulty, the brave man explained the perilous situation of his companions. Ingersoll immediately ran to the village below, gave the alarm, and, after trying in vain to induce some one to assist him in the attempt, embarked alone in a small skiff, and after great peril succeeded in finding and saving the four persons on the wreck! Surely the names of Nicholas Colby and John Ingersoll well deserve an honorable place in our history. They have it, and may their noble example never be forgotten by their posterity.”

And may every black sheep have his redeeming qualities!

05 September 2009

Thomas and Elizabeth Frances "Lizzie" (Preston) Drapes

My husband, Myles, is English. Kind of. It's complicated. First of all, he was born in Kenya. His English parents were working for the British government in Kenya which was a British colony in 1960. So he is a British citizen. But there's another reason I say sort of. He's got lots of Irish blood in him!

This photo was given to me by Myles' Aunt Sheelagh, aka Aunty Tealy. Sheelagh is the daughter of the young woman on the left, Elsie Drapes. Elsie was Myles' grandmother. The elderly gentleman is Sheelagh's grandfather, Dr. Thomas Drapes. I hadn't done much research on this family, but I did know that Dr. Thomas was born 17 January 1847 in Lakeview, County Cavan, Ireland. His father, also Dr. Thomas, died when young Thomas was only 5 months old "On the 17th instant [July], at Lakeview, in this county, Thomas Drapes, Esq., M.D., in the 32nd year of his age, of malignant typhus fever, contracted in his attendance of the Fever Hospital in his district."
(http://www.irelandoldnews.com/Cavan/1847/AUG.html : accessed 4 March 2007)

Aunty Tealy was visiting us from England recently and after asking me all about my genealogy work, told me that at 84 years old, she is suddenly aware of how very little she knows about her own ancestors. So we did some googling and found a beautiful obituary for her grandfather Thomas. He was a very distinguished psychologist and the Resident Medical Superintendent at the District Asylum in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, for years. He published many articles in which it is evident that he was intelligent and thoughtful.

"In the Journal of Mental Science in October 1894 Thomas Drapes, Resident Medical Superintendent of the District Asylum, Enniscorthy, delivered a paper ‘On the Alleged Increase of Insanity in Ireland’. Ireland, he pointed out, ‘possesses the unique and unenviable distinction of a continuously increasing amount of insanity with a continuously decreasing population’ and he then went on to a thoroughgoing analysis of what statistics were available to him and to comparisons between the Irish and English scenes. ...In summary, Drapes claimed: ‘The net result, then, of this examination is to show that, while there is an undoubted increase in occurring insanity, as indicated by the records of first admissions, by far the larger part of the apparent increase in insanity generally is due to accumulation, and that the seeming preponderance of insanity in Ireland, as compared to England, is fictitious, and depends entirely on the greater amount of accumulation in Ireland, occasioned by the lower death-rate in that country, and (possibly) the lower rate of discharge of the unrecovered." (http://www.hrb.ie/storage/publications/hrbpublications/mentalhealth/Mental%20Illness%20in%20Ireland.pdf

MENTAL ILLNESS IS IRELAND 1750-1922 : accessed 10 May 2009).


Thomas and Lizzie moved to a lovely house, "Milleen", on a bluff overlooking the Irish Sea in Dalkey shortly before Thomas died in 1919. Dalkey was in County Dublin, just south of Dublin. Lizzie remained there for the rest of her life, living comfortably with plenty of servants to help her out. Aunty Tealy has fond memories of spending summers with her Granny there. She and Rosemary, Myles' mother, would travel with their mother via ferry from Holyhead in North Wales from their home in Chester, England. For the rest of her life, Rosemary would get a charge out of passing the Kish Light in Dublin Bay, a signal that they were close to Dun Laoghaire harbor and their beloved Granny. Tealy remembers that they used to be met by a horse and "cab" at the boat – there were no taxis at that time. The driver was named Cavanaugh and "had weepy eyes". He couldn't get up the hill and had to have someone help him, every time! They all traveled with trunks, and knowing my mother-in-law in later years, I would imagine those trunks were both numerous and very heavy! Tealy used to pity the poor horse, who constantly had his head in a sack, so she would steal biscuits to give him strength: pretty ones with pink and white marshmallow topping. Maybe she should have given something to Cavanaugh, too!

On the veranda at Milleen, Grandfather had left a very powerful telescope through which the girls would gaze across the harbor and see "right over to Hove and the whole of the Irish Sea." They liked to look at people on the boats coming in and imagine their itineraries. They kept themselves busy running up and down the huge staircase that led to Milleen, hiding in cupboards looking for sweets and giggling until Granny would exclaim that she could hear mice. They chased chickens in the "yard," and generally rattled around, bringing life to the huge home. Granny would send the girls out to the town common behind the house with a shopping list. They'd pick flowers on the way back and learned the fine art of floral arrangement from a patient Lizzie. Tealy even remembers doing an arrangement inside a matchbox once.

Lizzie died in 1944, just after she received a call about her son Bertie dying after lingering from a stroke for seven years. Sheelagh remembers, "She got the call, had her boiled egg and said, 'Now I can die.'" And she did. I would love to have met Lizzie. My mother-in-law, Rosemary, and Aunty Tealy were/are delightful ladies, and I just know that the love and nurturing they got from Lizzie gave them a sense of security and joy that is evident today.

Thomas and Lizzie had 8 children, 7 of whom were boys! Tealy's mother was the only girl. Three of the boys died young: Arthur Vernon 1881-1896; John Sloan (1884-1884); and Walter Ardaugh (1886-1886).

Pictured above are Thomas and Lizzie with their four remaining sons and Myles' grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Stephens "Elsie" (Drapes) Churton. Elsie was the youngest of the living children. I'm not sure right now which brother is which, but they are: Dr. Thomas Lambert "Bertie" (1878-1943) - this is their eldest, and one that died right before Lizzie; Alexander Plunket Preston "Alec" (1879-1901) who participated in the Alaskan gold rush and settled in Montana; George Russell (1880-1935) of whom we know very little except that he perhaps married a "dreadful woman"; and Francis Colley (1883-?) who worked on the stock exchange and also had an "awful woman" for a wife. Note to self: must clarify this!

When she was about 18, or ca 1903, Elsie met English engineer Harry Leslie Churton, when he was installing the electrical system at the Asylum. He is the only one of Myles' four grandparents who was English. This means that though my maiden name is FitzGerald, I actually have more English blood than my "English" husband.