Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Small Bonuses of Family Genealogy

Blanche Lowell of Auburn, Maine
I receive messages here on the blog from time to time, but more often there are messages over at my Ancestry account. Sometimes, it's a cousin looking for family details, sometimes it's a total stranger. I got a message last week from someone I didn't recognize, and after some cautious back-and-forth I discovered a website and a mission I'd never heard of before.

Chris Hodge of Heirloom Archaeology likes to haunt junk stores and antique shops. Often, he discovers old family photo albums or other ephemera. He's made it his mission to return these, when possible, to the family members who might treasure them. That's where his email to me came in. He had found a photo album with roots in Lewiston, Maine. There are names in the list I recognize: Lowell, Newell, and Cummings all sounded familiar. It was the Lowell connection in my tree that Chris spotted. Sadly, these folks are pretty far off in the tree, so probably not the best home for the photos. Little Blanche Lowell is my 4th cousin 3 times removed. But Chris was gracious enough to share the images with me, so we all get to enjoy Blanche and her doggie friend.
For the cousins, this is how we are related:
Four steps down the tree and I'm 3 steps removed from Cora. That's how it works. I checked out Charlie Gorham Lowell and found that they lived around Auburn, Maine until the turn of the century. He was a farmer who married Maude Flora Randall. It appears that Maude didn't survive long, but their daughter Blanche did. Here's the picture Chris sent of Maude:
I can't find any trace of Maude after about 1885 when Blanche was born. Charlie and Blanche lived on Long Island, NY for a while and then in Manhattan where, as an adult, she was a house servant. The census lists her as divorced. Other trees have Charlie remarried later and back in Maine. I haven't been able to verify that. Chris also sent three other very cute pictures of Blanche which I enjoyed seeing.
All these photos seem to have been made at the same photographer's studio in Lewiston. So, it would appear they DID return to Maine periodically.
A.E. Nye Studios, Lisbon Street, Lewiston, Maine

She was certainly a cute and well-dressed young lady. I did determine that the photos Chris has are probably from somewhere in the immediate Lowell family. He lists Grace Lowell Young, who I found was Blanche's first cousin. One of the uncles or great uncles had a bunch of daughters, so I suspect the album came from a first or second cousin right in the area. 

If any of the names I've mentioned or the photos here seem familiar, follow the link I provided and contact Chris Hodge. He'd love to restore them to a family member. And what do I plan to do with the scans? Well, they'll go into my archive and on the tree, of course. But I have another plan in mind. My friend Stephanie Rubiano makes shadow boxes with old photos- she's especially clever with photos of Victorian children and their pets. Blanche's photo may or may not find a forever home, but as a piece of original artwork she can live on my wall. She'll remind me of the small bonuses of doing family genealogy.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Charlie - A Family Hobby Begins....

Not long ago there was speculation on the family Facebook group about this photo. Mark and Launa came across the picture in her attic. The consensus was that this is Charles Earnest Tapply, who I knew as Uncle Charlie. Charlie had a history with horses, so I wasn't surprised to find a photo and article in the December 14, 1950 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel.
The picture isn't too clear, but this is the story I remember being told. Charles Tapply was a harness race driver at the Saratoga Springs track in New York. The article also mentions that Charles had being training colts "since he was 15 years old".   By the time he appeared in the first picture, he was already an experienced horseman.
Of course by 1950, Charlie was already 63 years old. There is a theme running through the family though....Charlie was into horses, Bob's boys Warren and Norm are into horsepower of another kind -classic cars. Kevin collects old cars and a beaut of an old fire engine.  Buzz's son, Todd, raced cars in Las Vegas. The Tapply boys must have a need for speed. The apple never falls too far from the tree.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Some Recent Discoveries....The Tapply Immigration Mystery Partly Resolved

As you know, I've been teasing out the puzzle of great-grandfather Charles Tapply's immigration. Family stories had him "stowing away" to come to America. Professional genealogists tell us that story is right up there with "grandma was an indian princess".  Seldom true. But I have recently found a few more clues from records that are now available online.

Ellen Tapply appears as Mrs. Tapply along with Annie and Daisy on the manifest for the steamship Bolivia in June 1881. The Bolivia was on the Anchor line and this journey took them in steerage from London to Castle Garden Immigration Station  in New York. (Ellis Island wasn't opened yet) The two pictures above are of sister ships on that line. I'm thinking the one on the left is the closest image.
Ellen Tapply was only 26 years old and Daisy was an infant. The passenger list doesn't reveal much more about them besides age, gender and country of origin. I looked for someone of the right age to be an incognito Charles, but haven't found that yet. I will go over the list more carefully, but what I mostly see are family groups.
This is a period photo of Castle Garden. I'm thinking Charles had already arrived and was there to meet them. The evidence for this is what I found next.
The newest piece of information to go digital was immigration documents. Jon had already gotten this one, but I had been convinced that immigrants filled in a much more extensive question document. Apparently, NOT.  One thing I've learned doing indexing for Family Search (data entry for files they've photographed to make them searchable) is that they wrote down as much or as little as the immigrant volunteered. So if you gave the city, county and country or origin, they often wrote it all down. Charles is very specific here. He arrived "on or about the 10th of March 1881". So now to find a boat arriving in New York around that time. Well, so far nothing. But I will continue to look.
I've tried using just his age, just his first name, just his last name, and variations on that. I also tried using Ellen's maiden name and her mother's surname. I figure at the very least he was traveling under an alias.

This is the type of record I'm looking for. We have Charles Freed. The age is correct, his occupation is given as carpenter which isn't too much of a stretch. The problem is that the Nederland arrived in New York in August of 1881. If Charles were going to lie to immigration, I suspect he would have just been vague and given the year. So this isn't Charles.

I also found the documents for his father James Henry Tapply and his brother-in-law Stephen Hodge. Nothing so far for Thomas. In those days wives and children were grandfathered in when the man took his citizenship. That's a shame, because there's always interesting information.

At least with this latest information we know that he didn't sail back and forth. It settles the question of the timing of Daisy's birth. (when I thought he has arrived earlier, I wondered about that) I still think about that young woman traveling with a tiny infant and a 3-year-old in steerage for a long ocean voyage. The motivation for a new start must have been strong. This doesn't completely discount the story Charles told his children and there is still a bit of mystery there for me to pursue.
Good. I like a good mystery.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Remembering Brainard Winslow Rogers

Brainard, about 1983
My brother has always referred to our Uncle Brainard as "the gentle giant" and I think that describes him perfectly. As you can see, he carried on the name from our Civil War ancestor, Winslow Brainard Rogers, which was probably both a point of pride and a bit of a burden. (although I never heard him complain)

Brainard Winslow Rogers was born in 1933, almost a full decade after my mother.  He grew up in the house on Garfield Street and later the first house on the corner of Rogers Avenue and North Street.  His childhood was at the height of the Great Depression when my grandfather finally went to work for the department of streets (most probably through a WPA program) and my grandmother briefly had a little shop to bring in extra money.
Uncle Brainard and me, Christmas 1954
He enlisted in the Air Force at the end of the Korean War, but ended up fulfilling his service in various reserve units. I remember him going off to serve with the SeaBees in Biloxi and coming back appalled at the heat and humidity! Generally, though, he seemed to enjoy his reserve weekends.

Brainard was brought up on the tales of the animals in Thornton Burgess and while he did some hunting in his younger days, by the time I knew him he was a birder and conservationist. He was sensitive and a bit shy, but very warm when you got to know him. My cousin, Lynn,  shared a memory of Brainard and his famous "walks" in the woods. Everyone in the family got to do one of these sooner or later and they were memorable.
"I remember all those long walks (fondly and not-so-fondly) he liked to take in virtually any kind of weather.  When I was young, I didn't appreciate it during the winter months - but he sweetened the deal at the end, wisely, with cups of hot cocoa at a diner. Dad's form of walking was infamously closer to almost -jogging, speed walking.  When I did move back to Fitchburg for my first year of college, and he was still doing his 5-mile per day walk in the hills behind Burbank Hospital, he was a bit taken aback by how fast I had become.  Our regular walks were almost like races and I was proud that he seemed to find it a challenge to keep up with me sometimes!  When I came home from California with my husband-to-be, and Dad offered to take Mike for a 'walk', Mike returned exclaiming "That was no WALK!", and Nancy immediately chided him, knowing what he could be like to walk with!"
Lynn is right. Speed-walking was about it. I remember huffing and puffing along behind him- I was young and in fairly good shape. He was middle-aged and could run circles around me.

In his adult life, he was a plant manager for various large power stations at the Boston Navy Yard,
Pease Air Force Base, Fort Devens and Fitchburg State College. He was Stationary Steam Fireman, which means he lit and monitored the big boilers.  At the college, he had a huge plant to take care of and Lynn said she found the boilers quite intimidating. He didn't. He used the hot boiler surface to cook up apples and make home-made apple sauce for a tasty snack.

For a shy person, Brainard got around. I probably could have shaved a few years off my research if I'd had him as a resource for genealogy. He was an avid fan of railroad lore and probably knew all about our railroading ancestors. He kept far-flung contacts in the family with Roger Frost and family of the Smith branch and Holly Jones' brother Dwight Jones of the Tapply branch.  I believe he was also in contact with Wally Cambridge and Sherman Coates as well. He would mention names in passing, but genealogy was not on my radar at the time. What a shame!
Grandma Kinsey, Jim, Jill, Lynn and Brainard- 1965
Brainard was married first to Judy Kinsey and has three children: Jim, Lynn and Jill. When he married Nancy Elliott, as the children grew up, he became more active in birding and the camera club. He grew a luscious vegetable garden every summer. They took some nice trips and really got to enjoy life. Lynn and her husband had them out to California. This story is very typical:
"One of my favorite memories of all was when he and Nancy came to visit Mike and I in Southern California, and we all went to dinner at a local restaurant.  Now, my father had never in my lifetime taken a sip of alcohol.  At his second wedding to Nancy, he drank a flute of ginger ale.  So imagine my surprise when my husband talked him into ordering one of the delicious peach daquiris that the rest of us were enjoying - and he LOVED it, and looked just like a kid in a candy store, sucking that drink down rather quickly.  As I remember, he wandered off for a lengthy time shortly thereafter, and we were concerned and sent Mike looking for him.  Maybe he went to the bar and had another one, who knows?"

Brainard was taken from us far too soon, on the 9th of September in 1990. He would have been 83 on the 19th of this month. He is missed by his two girls, his wife Nancy, his grandchildren, and all of us who knew him. People always underestimated my uncle. Those of us who loved him knew better.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Great Grand Challenge: Crunching the Data

 A little while back, Randy Seaver of Genea Musings posted the great-grand challenge. You can find out more about it here.  He also posted some brief directions for the challenge:
1) We each have 16 great-great grandparents. How did their birth and death years vary? How long were their lifespans?
2) For this week, please list your 16 great-great grandparents, their birth year, their death year, and their lifespan in years. You can do it in plain text, in a table or spreadsheet, or in a graph of some sort.
3) Share your information about your 16 great-great grandparents with us in a blog post of your own.

I thought this sounded like a fine idea, but as you can see, I have a bit of a problem. The paternal ancestors are still a bit lacking. Food for future research. However, I decided that I would see what I could do with the maternal side for great-great grandparents and both sides for great-grandparents. So, here is what I found presented in a fan chart.

For the known ancestors (great-great-grands) on my maternal side the average birth year is 1828. The birth years run 47 years from 1806 (Benn) to 1853 (Johnson). The average life span was 63 years. (Men had an average of 60 years and women an average of 65) A little noodling on the internet told me that life expectancy for men born between 1800 and 1830 was 38 years at birth and by age 5 had increased to 55 years. This would be due to the large number of infant deaths, as I have discovered working on my own tree. Women could be expected to live 39 years at birth and it jumped to 59 if they survived to age 5. Overall, my maternal great-grands beat the average by almost 5 years.

When I looked at the great-grandparents on both sides things improved. Of course we can imagine that between 1850 and 1900 more women survived childbirth and more babies survived to age 5. The great-grandparents fell into the years where medical care was more available and all of the great-grands on my tree worked in occupations other than farming.  The Industrial Revolution made a real difference in their lives. That had to have improved their chances.

The average birth year for the great-grandparents was 1850. This spanned 52 years between 1820 (Fitzgerald) to 1872 (Smith). The average life span for my paternal great-grandparents was 73. (70 for the men and 76 for the women) On the maternal side the average life span was 79 (80 for the men and 78 for the women). Looking again at those general statistical averages, my great-grandparents did significantly better- about 20 years.

Finally, I looked at my grandparents. The average birth year here was 1887. There was a span of 20 years in births-much closer than the previous generations. Both sides show the differences in a modern life with modern health problems; both grandfathers only lived to their 50's. This was actually just about average for men in their birth years. My grandmothers lived to be 95 and 93. These women exceeded the statistical average by almost 30 years.

So what does all of this tell me? It's interesting data, but what does it mean? When I look at my family tree now, especially at this fan chart, I see something more than numbers. I think back to my study of history in school where I was struck by the lives of our ancestors: the war, the disease, the lack of medical care, the dangers of daily life. I was amazed at our survival. Now some might say this is Darwinism in play. I see the great-great grandfather who just happened to father a child just before marching off to the Civil War- only to die. I see the great-great grandfather who lost sisters older and younger to vicious Maine winters and croup. Why the four infant sisters, but not him? And of course I think of all the women who survived 6 and 8 and 10 childbirths under the most basic conditions when other women did not. I can't help but think there is something more at play here. It first occurred to me several years ago as I began this work on the tree, although I can remember thinking about this long before. I heard someone on Finding Your Roots express just the right sentiment in almost the exact words I have said to myself for years: for of all of the war, disease, accident and happenstance, we in the current generation are the result...the very lucky result. If you're thinking this implies the need for a measure of gratitude, a bit of awe and some responsibility, I would agree.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Setting the Scene- Ellen Freed Benn


    This is Ellen Freed Benn, the matriarch of our particularly large branch of the Tapply family tree. There is no date on the picture, but it's bound to be early. She had12 children in all, 11 living. Her ancestry is a knot still to be totally unraveled. I've been working on that for a while now.

     Sometimes it's worth sending off for vital records, even if they cost a bit. This was once of those times. The family Bible said that Ellen Benn was born in Sutton Valence, but her records didn't turn up there. Oh, I found a christening entry, but no birth record. When London turned up on the hints in Ancestry, I had to know more.
    From this record we have an exact birth date, a place, her father's occupation and some information about her mother. By March, when this certificate and the christening entry were filed, her mother  Mary Ann Frid (Freed) was recorded as "deceased".  Perhaps this was in childbirth, birth complications, or illness. Life was tough back then in the poor neighborhoods of London. A little research into Somers Town has told me that.
     Crawley Mews doesn't exist anymore. At some point when roads were straightened and reorganized, the road and the mews disappeared.
    This is the corner of Eversholt Road where Crawley used to be. The mews would have been behind the houses on the left. If you look at the cross street of Lidlington, behind these houses, you can see a wide garden space that must have been the mews at one time.
    This all looks very leafy now, but the descriptions online of Somers Town at the time are of real poverty. Charles Dickens' childhood home is only a block away.
This is from a book about the mews of London. Imagine now that John Benn kept his "rig" and his horse in the stable and mews below. He and his wife and child lived above. 
    The neighborhood of SomersTown is near Old St. Pancras Hospital, St. Pancras Station and King's Cross Station (of Harry Potter fame). Today it's a very mixed bag of working people and immigrants. Even then, the police blotter that  cousin Holly found describes some blocks as very affluent and some as quite poor. To give you some context, I found an antique map where you can just read "Crawley" inside the red circle. I suspect the three horizontal buildings there are the mews. The modern map below shows how changed it all is.
    For Americans unfamiliar with London, I'm including a wider map too.
     After her mother's death, Ellen went to live with her Freed relatives in Kent. First she lived with her aunt, then an uncle. I believe this aunt is the "mother" who presented her with the family Bible. My research leads me to think that her father may not have survived long after her mother.  I don't find anything that's certain, but he seems to disappear. The police notes Holly found come from the London School of Economics and they chronicle an officer walking his "beat" in 1898. He makes note of a "cab master who is a considerable proprietor" living on Crawley Mews. So Crawley Mews continued to be home to London cabbies for a time.
     The police blotter also records that "the gardens of Oakley Square remain private". I was trolling around the internet trying to find some very early pictures of Somers Town. I found a few pictures of Old St. Pancras church and the railway stations, but the picture that made me smile was this one.
This picture from that very time is of the hippo in Regents Park Zoo. Somers Town is right on the edge of Regents Park. With the local green space closed to them, I like to think that maybe John and Mary Ann Benn took a stroll through Regents Park and perhaps enjoyed a look at the animals in the zoo. It's a nice thought, since their happiness was so brief.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Taking Care of Business in Litchfield, Maine

courtesy of the Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, Maine
     This is the old "town house" for Litchfield where town meetings were held after 1840. Before that time, the meetings were held in the home of a Mr. Nickerson. I know this because I've been trolling the old minutes of town meetings again looking for ancestors. Of course, I found them.
     I expected to find my Smith relatives first as the place was once "Smith Plantation", but to my surprise I found a Richardson ancestor. Abijah Richardson started out as the town constable, but rose rapidly in the town to become the moderator of the town meetings and town treasurer. Here is a sample of the minutes from 1797. Of course Maine was still part of the state of Massachusetts at that point. You will see Abijah's name, but I think you'll also recognize the name of the candidate for governor.
     I kept trolling the records because the custom in those days was to incidentally record town minutes and birth, marriage and death records all together. Pretty soon all the Smith relatives showed up as well in a variety of town offices including a number of years as selectmen. It was the names of some of the town jobs that got me looking further.
Courtesy of Litchfield Historical Society
     Ok, so the surveyors of highways and collector of highway taxes is pretty straightforward. My ancestor Elkanah Baker was elected to that post among others. After that, I had to look around on the internet for some information.
Tything men collected alms for the church, but they also had a variety of other duties as described in the New Hampshire History Blog:
"It was the tithing man's duty to detain and arrest Sabbath travelers, unless they were going to or from church or to visit the sick or do charitable deeds. His job was also to keep the boys from playing in the meeting-house, and to wake up any who might fall asleep during meeting."
They carried something called a church stick with a large knob on one end and feathers on the other. Sleepers would either get a sharp rap with the knob or a tickle, depending on gender.
Surveyors of Lumber made sure that the townspeople were getting their money's worth at the sawmill. They had to be experts in the measurement of lumber and assure that it was good grade.
Fence Viewers inspected new fences and settled disputes over older ones. They also settled disputes where livestock had escaped their enclosure. Since so many of the boundary fences in New England are hand-made fieldstone walls, this was a very important job. Many of those walls stand to this day. Robert Frost was right.
Culler of Staves inspected lumber which was often used for payment of taxes in lieu of cash.
"Great quantities of staves were taken by the town in payment of taxes assessed upon the inhabitants; and these must all pass through the hands of the culler. Persons might, of course, at any time make staves from timber taken from their own land; but timber for this purpose might also be taken from the common, under certain regulations."
Hog Reeves In the very rural South, it was not uncommon to turn loose hogs to forage in the woods and be recollected in the fall. Not so in New England.
"Owners of hogs were responsible for yoking and placing rings in their noses, and if they got loose and became a nuisance in the community, one or more of the men assigned as hog reeve would be responsible for performing the necessary chore for the owner; who could be legally charged a small fee for the service. There were punishments and fines established for not having hogs yoked and failing to control animals."
Field Drivers This was another job involving roaming livestock. A quotation from Massachusetts law describes it best.
"Every field drive shall take up horse, mules, neat cattle, sheep, goats or swine going at large in the public ways, or on common or unimproved land within his town and not under the care of a keeper; and any other inhabitants of the town may take up such cattle or beasts going at large on Sunday, and for taking up such beasts on said day the field driver or such other inhabitants of the town may in tort recover for each beast the same fees which the field driver is entitled to receive for taking up like beasts."
On the page above I can see several of my Smith relatives filling these jobs.
There was also a full page of descriptions of ear notching to identify livestock. It got very creative, but I'll save that for another post.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that this blog passed the three year mark on June 2. Happy Blogiversary
to me!