Showing posts with label Smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smith. Show all posts

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, 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!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day and the Spanish American War


For my Memorial Day post this year, I'm looking at one of my relatives who fought in the Spanish-American war.  My great grandmother's younger brother William Frederick Smith served in old Sixth Massachusetts infantry, Company D.  This company's campaign was in Puerto Rico, as you can see from the map I found.
The red line shows the area marched as my great uncle mentions in a letter home. I went back to my old standby, The Fitchburg Sentinel, and sure enough they published a portion of his letter home to my great grandfather George. I feel so lucky to have this resource!
His complaints don't sound too different from many soldiers: poor food, hard marching, mud, bad weather and disease...oh, and equipment that doesn't work properly. Puerto Rico in August must have been a shock to a New England boy. I love the line "It rains about every five minutes."
     In one of the online archives, I found a whole book just on the Sixth Massachusetts. There in the roll for Company D was my great uncle. He served well, returned home safely and lived out his life in Fitchburg and Leominster working for a shipping company. So this Memorial Day I salute Frederick Smith, 1876-1931. Thank you for your service.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Matters of Life and Death


"Here lies the body of Thomas Mulford aged about 60 years. Died June 8, 1706". This is Thomas
Mulford who lies in the Old Cove Burying Ground in Eastham, Massachusetts.  He was one of the founding settlers of the town of Truro. The original settlers "claimed the land as their own" from the Pamet indians who lived there. No surprise. The history of Truro describes Thomas's land as:
"Thomas Mulford's two lots, one of which was near Hog's Back and the other toward the pond south of Pamet great river."

Truro is on the "upper cape" and you can see the area described on this modern map. It is all well within the area preserved and protected as part of the national seashore.  Mulford seems to have been a farmer, but perhaps did a variety of things. There was this note in the town history:
"The shells of the shellfish being needed for the manufacture of lime, in 1705 these proprietors enacted that after June first next no shellfish should be dug by any person not a resident of Pamet. In 1711 the proprietors voted that no wood be cut within the limits of the common lands for the burning of lime, except by the rightful owners." 
 So Thomas Mulford may have done a little farming, a little fishing and perhaps some lime production. For the cousins, here's how we are related to Thomas Mulford:


So we are actually related to him through two branches of the family. 

Ancestry has just released a whole series of will and probate records for most of the states. Some of the records are just "records of records" telling us where to find a will should we go looking. But some contain the actually will, and inventory and other interesting papers.
This is the actual will of Thomas Mulford.  I love that  he says "being weak in body but of powerful mind and memory. Calling unto mind my frailty and mortality..." He goes on to mention various family members and name his bequests. This is where this document becomes useful. If there are children who have seemed to "disappear" in  time, you can find them in the will papers. This is especially true for the married daughters. He also speaks of "my beloved wife Hannah"....very sweet.
The most fascinating part of the paperwork, for me, is the household inventory. It gives a window into life in the 18th century and a perspective on what was considered "valuable". You can see here the "iron pots, table, chair, trunk, earthen jars" etc. His total valuation was 141 pounds, 8 shillings, 7 pence.
That's approximately $15, 000 in today's money. Not rich, but certainly prosperous.

Aside from the rather "nosey" aspect of reading someone's will papers, there's a lot of valuable information here.  It certainly provides another perspective on the lives of my ancestors.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday's Children


Sometimes you find a very sad story in your family tree. The story of the children of Reuben Lowell Smith and his wife Sophronia Richardson Smith is one of those. I did a number of searches with
________Smith and the two parents as the parameters. Every time I searched, more children popped up. And this image appeared on FindaGrave. These are the five daughters of Reuben and Sophronia who were born and died between 1841 and 1850. Sandwiched in between was my great grandfather, George Frederick Smith, who luckily survived. There's no indication of how each of them died, but at least two died of croup and they all seemed to have lived about a year. This is a sad reminder of how fragile live was even then. The story doesn't stop there.....
Reuben and Sophronia moved to Massachusetts and continued to have children.  Both Ellen and Jennie died in their late teens/early 20's. Jennie died of consumption not long after her 18th birthday. I also found a record which may indicate yet another child. So of 11 children we know about, only 4 made it to adulthood. There was a lot of sorrow in that house.

This must have touched someone else in the family as well. The stone in the picture above has a placement date long after the deaths. Someone remembered these little girls...

Monday, June 1, 2015

What's My Line?


If you are of a certain age, you probably remember the game show What's My Line?  Watching Downtown Abbey has made me even more curious about the occupations of my ancestors...particularly the English branches, but the American family is fascinating as well.  So I've been going through the tree and doing a little digging.

Of course I found farmers..lots and lots and lots of farmers. Farmer in Maine in the Smith, Lowell and Richardson families. Farmers in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia in the Dunn, Johnson, Archer families. And of course farmers in Massachusetts in the Rogers family. What I found was the some families farmed the same land or the same area for many generations, but as the United States went through the industrial revolution I found lots of tradespeople as well: coopers, grocers, salesmen of farm equipment, a few blacksmiths, mechanics and factory workers. In the mill towns of Massachusetts I found a LOT of boot makers. Holden had a shoe factory that employed many members of the Rogers family.

The next generation became professionals: Isaac Johnson was a lawyer (although he maintained farm land as well). Samuel Milton Archer was a doctor in the Salinas Valley of California.  

And some professions became a family affair: George Smith, Reuben Lowell Smith, and Edward Rogers were all firemen/ conductors for the railroad. The Tapply family has been in the building trades for several generations. James Henry Tapply worked at various times as a carpenter and bricklayer. Two of his sons are listed as builders: James Henry Tapply Jr. and Harry Tapply. His son Charles, my great grandfather, was a paper hanger and painter after he left the police force. Charles Earnest Tapply Sr. (his son) was a lumberman. And even today we have Mark Tapply who does fine woodwork and cabinetry and did his father Chuck Tapply before him. Charles Earnest's other son William R. and his son were lumberman.  William's grandson Billy Tapply deals in fine wood flooring. Amazing how many members of this branch have "builder" or  "carpenter" in the census records.

Even though there were farmers and people "in service" on the Freed branch of the family, it appears that the Tapplys were merchant/craftspeople. This is where the research got interesting. Of course I've talked about James Henry Tapply's father John who was a master cordswainer. You can read more about them here.  I found a wonderful description of the cordwainer's art on this website along with a reference to a district in London where they once practiced their art.
The professionals all had guilds dating back to medieval times. They persist today with elaborate guild halls in London. It seems many of them do charitable work these days,  but the buildings maintain records which could really be useful for genealogists. Edward Lansdell Tapply was listed as a master linen draper which appears to be a dealer in dry goods, but another source said that in the mid-1800's he may have been a bespoke dealer of fine goods for shirting.
The Draper's Shop
This same branch of the family had a number of family members in the coffee, tea and spice business. Edward Lansdell's brother William Tapply and his sons dealt in these goods as well as pickles. Perhaps they were members of the grocer's guild. I love that part of their coat-of-arms includes a clove harking back to the days when people traveled to the Far East to bring back spices.
William's son, Richard Tapply, is listed as a brewery director. Of course the brewers had their guild as well. It was Richard's son Allan who penned the Tapply family history.

On the other side of this family we have John Benn, father of Ellen Freed Benn Tapply. He was a hansom cabbie in London. He is still a cypher in my research so perhaps a visit to the hackney and cab driver's guild will reveal records of his license.
So while my relatives were never the "lords of the manor" like the Crawleys, they all seemed to do pretty well for themselves; truly the "butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker".  Records of their apprenticeships, records of their businesses, land purchases and agricultural census records can all inform your family research. I look forward to finding even more clues in these records.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

No reproduction or downloads without
express permission
In honor of a hot July day, I thought I'd take a trip to the beach. My family liked to go up to the Maine beaches, but the back of the photo doesn't tell us where this was taken. From the back we have:
Lotta Smith, Primrose Rogers Tapply, Clara Smith, and Primrose (Primsy) Rogers. Love those bathing costumes and the bathing shoes. This was about 1930.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pruning and Maintaining my Tree

I hate loose ends. When I look at my online tree at Ancestry, nothing makes me crazier than seeing this
No birth or death date.
I was amazed at how often just entering a guess for the birth date will help. Start with a date the same year as the spouse's birth. Very often the hints on Ancestry just pop up.
And there we are! I never did find a sure death date for her, but I found a death date under Minnie Tapply. I used a resource I found looking for Dora North and Frank Summerfield Tapply.
So these entries for the reading of wills very often name the spouse as beneficiary (so you can be sure you have the right person with the myriad Tapplys and Tapleys) and give the place of residence. By entering this place in Dora North's  file, I found her death entry and I used the same method for Minnie.
I've been going through the tree trying this methods with people on both sides of the Atlantic, and I've at least got either a birth or death date for the older parts of the tree. Amazing how entering a date and possible location unlocks those doors.

The next problem I tackled was this:

I've been round and round on this portion of the Smith family. Marion L. Smith had four children. Two were named Dietche and two were named Otto. I felt sure that there had been two marriages, but I couldn't find any record anywhere for the two children or for her. And her second husband was Otto Dietche. Was this a record mistake? I didn't think so. Her marriage record and the census name her as a widow. So I went back to the son and tried again on Family Search.
And lo and behold this showed up:
There it is. Allan G Otto in Fitchburg, Massachusetts who seemed to have died just after the birth of the two children. So plugging THAT into the tree for father and Robert Allan Otto for the son, the hints just fell into place. I found a directory entry for Allan and Marian living in Fitchburg just a year before his death.  I also  found exact birth, marriage and death dates for the children and neatly tied up another loose end.

It doesn't work every time. Older records are difficult. Families with many people of the same name are almost impossible. But using FindaGrave, Family Search and Ancestry I've made good progress. I found a few duplicates, loose ends, branches that needed pruning altogether and satisfied my own urge to tidy up the tree.  It may only be January, but it's time to try a little spring cleaning.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Another Mappy Monday


A map of Spencer, Owen County, Indiana where the Johnson, Archer, Dunn and Harrod branches of my family lived. My great great grandmother left Spencer to marry George F Smith and live (eventually) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day

my dad-possibly somewhere in England
Today, in honor of Veterans Day, I want to spend a moment on just a few of the veterans in my tree.
As I began my research I knew about my dad and my Civil War ancestor. I found many, many more.
So here's a salute to just a few:
John J Fitzgerald -World War II
Brainard Winslow Rogers- Korean War
William Frederick Smith- Spanish American War
Winslow Brainard Rogers- American Civil War
Isaac E Johnson- American Civil War
Aaron Rogers-Revolutionary War
A nation's gratitude to them all....and mine as well.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Edward Winslow Rogers-The Story of the Railroad Men

On the left you have Eugene Harrington Rogers. At the time this story begins, he had lived in Fitchburg, Massachusetts for some years, was working as a sign and artistic painter and living on Chestnut Street. On the right is my great grandfather Edward Winslow Rogers. I made a surprising discovery, which has lead to what I think is a romantic tale and the merging of two old families.

 I have relished a great resource on Ancestry in the local and city directories. Some of these go back a long way, some list occupation and some will list a death date. That was how I tracked down a date for my grandfather Fitzgerald. But I was looking at the Fitchburg Directory for 1891. Most unexpectedly I found this
So this is the first listing of Edward in Fitchburg, where he had moved from Holden to be near his brother. I knew OCRR meant railroad....but which one? That lead me to the story of the Old Colony railroad. The Old Colony Railroad served lower Massachusetts, the Cape and parts of Rhode Island. They ran large steam trains and I found a good example.
Old Colony did very well for a time, carrying people to the shore at a time when few people might have had an automobile. As the line prospered, they added a northern spur which ran to Fitchburg.
Courtesy of the OCRR museum
Edward became a railroad fireman, boarded on Day Street which was walking distance to the wonderful old Union Depot in downtown Fitchburg.
Sadly that station was torn down in the sixties. Several rail lines ran out of the station including the Fitchburg Railroad. I knew that my great grandfather Smith had worked for the Fitchburg Railroad, but I never knew that "Ned" had been a railroad man as well. So I went back to the directories to be sure.
And there was George F Smith, a railroad engineer for the Fitchburg Railroad, living on Goodrich Street with his grown daughter boarding in his home. My imagination began to work. George had contact with the other engineers and firemen who came through the station. Here is this newcomer to town, Ned Rogers, a lonely boarder and George invites him home to Sunday dinner. At the dinner table are his three lovely daughters, including his eldest, Cora. Now maybe it didn't happen quite that way, but I'd like to think that I've discovered the story of the meeting of Cora Elizabeth Smith  and Edward Winslow Rogers, my great grandparents. They were married in 1893.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sophronia Richardson Smith

Or Genealogical Coincidence....
South Russell Street

Yesterday I was exploring the recently indexed records that have been added to FamilySearch and of course that led down another rabbit hole. Before I knew it I was exploring the unindexed records (which you have to browse) using dates from my tree to narrow the search. I found the death record, or I should say the coroner's report, for my 2X great grandmother Sophronia Richardson Smith. Sophronia came from Litchfield, Maine, married Reuben Lowell Smith and raised their family in the area around Boston. They lived in Waltham, Groton, Concord, and Littleton. What caught my attention was the address on this record:
44 South Russell Street is an area on what's called the "back side" of Beacon Hill. The large houses were broken up into small apartments. So in 1894, at the time of her death, Sophronia was living in an apartment in that neighborhood. Maybe with one of her children. But that address seemed awfully familiar. So I did some poking in my records and found this:
This record is from the City Directory files on Ancestry. This is the 1948 directory from several pages
of Rogers living in Boston. In 1948, my mom Primrose Rogers, had left her hometown of Fitchburg and was a secretary living in Boston at 54 South Russell in a little apartment. As a child I heard many stories about her life in Boston at this time just before she married my dad.

Sophronia's great grandchild ended up living just a block away from her last home. Not a wild coincidence, but considering the size of the city of Boston??  I thought it was interesting.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mappy Monday

MORE SMITHS IN LITCHFIELD, MAINE
Following up on my last post.....
This excerpt from an 1850's map of Kennebec County shows the various landowners of Litchfield and Litchfield Corners.

So this larger view gives you an overview of the county.
I found a lot of Smiths on this map, so I went back to my 1850's census and took a closer look.

Sure enough I found Thomas Smith Junior,  Reuben Lowell's father, with his neighbors Mr. Emerson
and Mr. Hatch. That would be the area in the pinkish circle. Down in the lower left corner is Litchfield Corners where the other Smiths lived and ran a small store. That would be the light blue circle. With a little closer study, I'm sure I can identify a lot more family members.
Check here for some excellent map resources.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When the Lines Converge

The Smiths of Litchfield, Maine and the Rogers of Harwich, Massachusetts

It wasn't surprising to me to find that the lines of my tree crossed in a few places. I found lots
of overlap in the line that ran back to Cape Cod; the marriage options would have been limited
in the early days of the colonies and the families were large. No surprise there. What was a surprise was finding a crossing of the lines of my two great grandparents.

George F Smith came from a family from Litchfield, Maine. His line runs back directly to a James
Smith who settled early on Cape Cod. His great grandfather, Thomas Smith, was a farmer in Litchfield. Thomas married Mehitable Baker. Mehitable Baker's mother was born Mehitable Smith.
Her parents were Elizabeth Smith and Moses Rogers. That line of Smiths runs back to a Ralph Smith, also of Cape Cod. I've never seen a connection between James and Ralph, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Mehitable Smith, her brothers Deacon Thomas Smith and Benjamin Smith all ended up in Litchfield, Maine along with their nephew John Rogers. Elizabeth Smith married Moses Rogers and her son Aaron Rogers settled in Holden, Massachusetts. Several generations later the two lines converged when Cora E Smith married Edward W Rogers.

 I have two completely different lines of Smiths in Litchfield alone. Four of them have the same name. It was convenient when the records said "Thomas Smith husband of Hannah" or "son of...", but records were usually hand-written and seldom that precise. This is where writing out a timeline for the people in your tree might be helpful. Sometimes by dates alone you can tease out the threads of the truth. Sometimes you have to look for deeds, bills of sale, wills and other primary sources. Not all of this is online yet. I have some footwork ahead of me.

Now for a confession. I have never chosen a numbering system for my tree. The genealogy software I use numbers my offline tree using the Ahnentafel system, but my online tree would benefit by choosing a numbering system and using it. In fact, I find the whole numbering question fairly intimidating. There are some good resources online starting at Cyndi's List. If you are new to genealogy, do yourself a favor and number from the start. It may not keep the old records any straighter, but you'll know which Thomas Smith you're studying at a glance. Crossed lines are ok, a granny knot is NOT.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lotta May Smith

Lotta May Smith
No download or reproduction without express permission
Isn't this a sweet picture? This is Lotta May Smith, my great grandmother's younger sister.  Lotta lived her adult life with her sister Clara, a schoolteacher, and neither ever married. My mother once included her and Clara in a short story which gives a pretty accurate picture of the aunts she knew as a child.
"Lotta, as tall and erect as her sister Cora, but already quite gray, looked out at the world through large, dark, anxious eyes. They (Lotta and Clara) seemed to live in a perpetual state of apprehension, nursing imagined slights and disappearing into their room or going off on walks to whisper..."

As a child, all I knew was that Lotta had had a promising musical career cut short and that she had to be institutionalized with some mental illness.  My mom's writing reveals the family story or perhaps my mother's version of it, "She had a magnificent singing voice...She was auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera. When Mama died, Lotta made a vow she'd never sing again - and she never has."

The truth is both sad and perhaps a little different. At the turn of the century she was singing with the Orpheus Quartet and shows up regularly in reviews in the Fitchburg Sentinel. By the 1920 census she was living with her sister and her mother in Worcester, Massachusetts and working as a clerk. By 1930 she was a hairdresser. What turned her from her singing career we'll never know, but by 1920 she was already 30 years old. Had signs of mental illness already begun?  She shows up one more time in the 1940 census living with Clara and doing hair, but by the time I was born in the fifties she was in an nursing home or institution.

Lotta's father George F Smith was from Litchfield, Maine. Her mother, Letitia Ellen Johnson, was from Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. It was researching her mother's line that gave me the first clue to Lotta's real story...or at least part of it. The 1860 census reveals this
1860 Census-Spencer, Owen, Indiana













Elizabeth would be Margaret Elizabeth, Lotta's grandmother. The note on the right gave me pause.
Letitia, Lotta's mother, was only 4 years old. Margaret was only 29. A quick email to a family member revealed that early onset Alzheimers ran in that side of the family.  At only 29 she seems pretty young for Alzheimers, but in those days they wouldn't have know what it was anyway.
The 1880 Census shows that by this time the family couldn't manage.
1880 Census- Indiana State Hospital for the Insane

What a terrible choice her husband would have had to make! I did a little online research on the Indiana State Hospital and found it horrifying. Now I understood what probably happened to Aunt Lotta. Luckily, Lotta's care was more benign and her sister Clara was devoted to her for her entire life.

No one goes into genealogy looking for medical ailments, but this story gives information that might be useful to me or to family members.  It also filled out my picture of Aunt Lotta. It's nice to know a little more about the charming young girl in the photo.