Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Glimpse of the Past in Fitchburg

For my blogiversary, a treat from YOUTUBE. I found this old film just full of old images of Fitchburg, Massachusetts from about 1941. (note: there are some problems with the picture in the first bit and a high-pitched whine throughout) It credits Leo McManus. I thought this might be the Mr. McManus my grandmother worked for, but alas not. Also, of note is that the images are from a time when my mom was still a student at the high school. She graduated in 1942. I didn't see her or any other faces I recognized in the images, but someone else with sharp eyes might. The images of a Fitchburg in days gone by are a real treat.
Happy Blogiversary to me!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hidden Talents

The Princess's Theater- London
Every once in a while, I run across a story that piques my curiosity. This is one of those stories. It concerns a more distant branch of the Tapply family. Mary Ann Charlotte Tapply is only a 2nd cousin 4 times removed. Not a close family member. When I started following the clues for her family, I discovered a really interesting story and a bizarre twist.

Mary Ann married a man named James Baker Husk Junior. The census referred to him as a vocalist. A little more digging led me to this small bio on the site of the D'Oyly Carte Opera company.
"James Baker Husk was a member of the jury when Trial by Jury received its first performance at the Royalty Theatre March 25, 1875, under the management of Richard D'Oyly Carte. The Company was on tour from June to October 1875, then returned to the Royalty, but under the management of Charles Morton, rather than Carte. While on tour, Husk was promoted to Foreman of the Jury, a role he played only until November, when he was succeeded by W. S. Penley.
Husk had a musical career dating back to the 1840s. It ranged from the London Sacred Harmonic Society to the Cyder Cellar music hall. He was the father of D'Oyly Carte singer Rosa Husk."
Another site described him as a vocalist and music teacher and music hall chairman of the Cider Cellar and Dr. Johnson's Tavern. Apparently this last place was a Victorian age landmark. It seems that his talents were "opera with a touch of music hall". 
Mary Ann and James had nine children and lived in the area of London near St. Pancras called "Kentish town". This isn't far from where my great-great grandmother lived. Of the nine,  three followed their father into the music profession. William, James Charles and Rosa were all described in various censuses as vocalists. William died relatively young, but Rosa had some success in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
"Rosa Alexandra Husk toured with D'Oyly Carte organization in the early 1880s. She appeared as Kate in The Pirates of Penzance (April-December 1881) with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's "C" Company, and later had two tours as the Lady Angela in Patience with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 1 "Patience" Company (March-April 1883 and March-July 1884). During the 1881 Pirates tour she appeared as Kate Husk, but for the subsequent Patience tours she was billed by her real name of Rosa or as Rose." 
She got a number of good reviews, but eventually retired, married and ended up in Los Angeles.
The eldest brother, James Charles, is where the strange twist come in. James was also a professional singer and a member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. They toured England bringing opera to various smaller cities all over the country. The Princess's Theater, shown above, is one of the places the Carl Rosa Opera Company mounted productions. He sang for many years, but his eyesight began to fail and he turned to his other talent to make his living. In this life, he was known as Cecil Husk.
Raymond Buckland describes Husk this way in The Spirit Book:
"From early childhood, in England, Cecil Husk was aware of his potential mediumship, frequently experiencing clairvoyance and psychokensis. His father was a singer, but also a Spritualist which made it easier for Cecil to understand and accept his gifts... Husk had five spirit guides, the main one being John King. While traveling on tour, Husk would give seances. He sat two or three times a week. At his sittings, musical "fairy bells" would be heard and would be seen flying around the room like orbs."
Unfortunately, not everyone was impressed with Cecil's "skills".  Wikipedia tells this tale;
"In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters Husk was exposed as a fraud. He was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material. It was noted by investigators that the materializations of Husk had fine singing voices and sounded similar to himself.[2] Husk also claimed to have the psychic ability to push his entire arm through an iron ring with a size that did not allow its passage over the hand, however, it was discovered that he performed the trick by using a local anesthetic on his hand."
Although he was "exposed" a number of times, he continued to make a living with his mediumship. Eventually, ill and destitute, a fund was set up to provide for his care. He died around 1920.
The story doesn't end there. Cecil's brother Percy was a journalist, but  his daughter also became a singer who performed under the name Ray Wallace. An online source describes her as a serio-comic ballad vocalist. "She commenced her imitations of music-hall favorites in 1899 and has appeared in every hall of note in the United Kingdom."
Judge for yourself.
Sometimes the true stories you find in your family history are much better than anything you could possibly invent!

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Sense of Character- An Addendum to My Tale of Michael S. Cooke

Michael Cooke's business stationery-courtesy of Ralph Lane
One of the things I enjoy about finding records, notes, letters and newspaper stories about the more distant ancestors is that it gives you a real sense of their character and their personalities. My cousin Mark Tapply made this point in a previous point about Charles Tapply's army desertion: "Who in their right mind, would go off and fight for a huge corporation (the British East India Company)and their profits, while leaving his wife and 2 kids alone to fend for themselves? That took a lot of courage!"   Good point. His comment made me see things through the eyes of my great-grandfather and gave me an insight into his thinking.

After my last post a few days ago, I was back again at trying to find anything more I could add to the story of Michael Stinson Cooke. I found it.
Michael Stinson Cooke died on the 27th of October, 1897 at his home in San Francisco. Less than a week later, this touching story ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. I've transcribed it for you because it's a bit difficult to read in the image:

Followed Its Master; They Were Inseparable In Life and In Death

     The officers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were called upon yesterday by people living in the Richmond district to kill a horse that had become quite historical in that locality, but which, since the death of its master about a week ago, had lost its value in this world.
     About a week ago M.S. Cook, residing at the corner of Cook street and Point Lobos avenue, died at his home. Through life he had been well known in the district, and Cook street had been named after him. Cook possessed a beautiful sorrel horse, which for the past twenty-five years has been his constant and inseparable companion. One of the sights of the district was to see old man Cook and the horse out every day for their constitutional. They both grew old together.
     When Cook died a week ago his family did not know what to do with the horse. During life it was too dear to Cook to part with, but since Cook had died the animal's vocation in life ceased. Fearing that if allowed to live the horse might fall into other hands, and having for themselves no further use for it, the family decided to have him shot. When Office Walton arrived, Mrs. Cook refused to have the shooting done in an other place save the lot where the animal has been brought up. So he was compelled to kill the animal there.

What a lovely and touching story this is! And it reveals so much about the character of these people that they showed such concern and compassion for the horse that had become a member of the family.
Just another reminder that good genealogy is about more than facts and figures.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A San Francisco Pioneer

Ann Cooke, Mary Ann Cooke, Michael Stinson Cooke
The pictures of their parents were taken earlier, in their thirties, perhaps. Mary Ann is about 20 in her photo.
Meet my latest discovery in my search for the Irish side of the family. Ciaran Brett had been in touch with someone online who said his ancestor was a Cooke who hailed from Clooningan. Well, if that proved true, this had to be another family member. Clooningan is a tiny little townland. If you're a Cooke from Clooningan, you're some kind of family.

Here's a tree to make it clearer.

Ralph Lane, who has so kindly provided the photos, is my fourth cousin once removed. His ancestor, Michael Stinson Cooke was a San Francisco pioneer.

Many of the Irish who came to early San Francisco settled at the top of Portrero Hill. Michael Cooke, however, settled in what was once thought of as the sand wastelands at a place called Lone Mountain. He and a partner owned the land on the north slope of Lone Mountain in the area where the university is now. He was a dairyman. His daughter described the early home as a "two room shack" where the boards were brought in one board at a time. Mary Ann used to say that she was the first white child born west of Larkin Street. Her birth date is given as 1855. This was very early San Francisco. It would have been rugged. 
Here he is in an early San Francisco directory. By 1862, the city fathers already had plans for this area. You can see what their plans were by looking at the directory: "nr. cemetery". When they began planting the dead all around his land, Michael Cooke sold the land to Bishop Alemany for the creation of the Catholic Cemetery. He did some tenant farming in the East Bay and earned the money to build on a lot back in the old neighborhood.
Ann Cooke in front of the house at Cook Street and Point Lobos (now Geary)
Here is Ann Smith Cooke in front of the house they built. It was right on the corner of Cook Street and what is now Geary Boulevard. Ralph Lane says there is a tire shop and an empty lot there today.
The area outlined in red is the land Michael once owned. That's Golden Gate Park at the bottom left. The cemeteries were moved to Colma after the turn of the century. Just north of the red area you can see Cook Street and Geary where the newer home stood between Cook and Baker. Michael went on to work at various jobs. Later censuses list him as a teamster. Ralph wrote me this " I have an invoice from 1879 on stationery of M.S. Cook, dealer in Hay, Grain, Feed, Wood and Coal, corner Geary and Cook Streets, (goods delivered to all parts of the city and suburbs free of charge"
Cooke house looking from Lone Mountain
In this early picture looking down from Lone Mountain, you can see the Cooke house under the red arrow. The wooded area at the dead end of Cooke Street was a cemetery, the bare land in the far ground is what is now the Presidio.  Point Lobos (now Geary) runs in front of the house.

I'm sure there is lots more to be discovered. Ralph has also forwarded a letter and an obituary that shed more light on the family, both the San Francisco branch and the Clooningan branch. The more I discover, the more I want to know. I spent a year in San Francisco and never had a clue about the gold right under my feet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Past

Of course, I had grand ideas of collecting all kinds of family stories of Christmas traditions past....and no one particularly wanted to "play". Oh well, the holidays are fraught and people are busy. So I'll offer you a few things I do have. First is Bunny Tapply's Santa, which stood every year on her mantle. This has great sentimental value to the Charlie Tapply branch of the family.

Holly Jones did offer a couple of family pictures from the Beryl Tapply Jones branch of the family.

First the Jones clan in 1960. That's Holly in the middle in the blue sweater.
Next, you can see Beryl with all her family around her in 1970. That's Holly, I believe, in the white sweater behind her father.

I was challenged to find a good group photo of my family. (Dad was usually the photographer) I did find this gem from 1955 when I was still an "only" of about 3 and had just received my first tricycle. That's Prim Tapply Rogers looking much younger than I ever remember her! (That chair still sits in my house)

I've had an interesting year in my family history research. I've reconnected with an older member from my Smith branch and discovered a whole new set of cousins from the Cooke side in Ireland. I've added to the ancient and living branches of my tree and I make new discoveries all the time.
This is a wonderful adventure and I invite you to follow me into the new year. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lil' Punkins for a Throwback Thursday

Melissa, Melanie and Holly Jones on the steps in Lunenburg some time in the late 50's. For my cousins, here's how we are related.
Another cute picture from the Tapply cousins and very timely.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Nostalgic Look Back

From the left: Cindy Tapply Letarte, Susan Tapply Ingraham, William R Tapply Jr. and Joyce Tapply Bingham
To me, this photo looks like it ought to be a promotional photo for a classic TV sitcom. It's just such a nostalgic photo of a particular time. These are my Tapply cousins about 1960. The race car looks like something straight out of  "The Little Rascals".

Susan Tapply Ingraham explains that her grandfather Charles built a small subdivision of homes on Maple Parkway in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Maple Parkway was on a small hill, so perfect for a race car in the summer or a sled in the winter. Here's what Susan was able to tell me about the photo:

"Some of the homes were built by Grandpa Charles and I think he named the road. Uncle Chuck, Charles Jr. built some. Uncle Bob, Charles's son raised his family there also. It was a wonderful neighborhood where all the boys would build their carts and race down the hill. We had huge games of capture the flag in the woods behind the houses and also went sledding on what is now Walmart Mountain. The Ruggles family, four boys, would hold Jimmy Fund fairs and the entire neighborhood would become involved. We had wonderful memories in that neighborhood that Grandpa Charlie began. Uncle Bob's daughter, Launa, still lives there. She has carried on the Tapply construction creativity in her remodeled childhood home" (The Jimmie Fund is a charity that raises money to fight pediatric cancer)

Mark Tapply added that the race car was built by his father, Chuck and by Robert Tapply's son, Buzz.
For those trying to keep score with all the Tapply names, here's a greatly simplified chart for the names in this post:

I love photos that evoke a certain period and this one really does!

Grandma Katie's Quilt

Katie Cooke Fitzgerald   We've heard the story of Katie's birth in Ireland, her immigrant family, and some tales of their life in Bo...