Monday, December 30, 2013

(My)Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Left: Primrose Fitzgerald and Christine  Right: Barbara Walsh and Duncan
On New Year's Eve 1952 a future genealogist was born. Duncan was about two weeks older and never let me forget it. The picture was taken about a month later, but  I think this was about as close to a "newborn" picture as you might have gotten back then. Oddly I just noticed the picture on the wall. It's a repro of a Wanda Gag lithograph chock-a-block full of cats.  The print hangs in my house to this day. My future as an ailurophile was portended.

Thankfully my mother was a packrat. I found this tidbit as well:

The day I was born just happened to be the birthday of my grandfather Harry W. Rogers, who had passed away the previous February. Another interesting coincidence I think. A New Year's Eve birthday...well any holiday birthday...is not ideal in the mind of a young child. Today I look at it as a fresh start in every way for the new year. Happy New Years!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Chris in 1954- Amesbury, Massachusetts
Every family passes along those Christmas traditions- open the gifts on Christmas Eve, open the gifts on Christmas Day, white elephants, gift swaps, name pulls.... and it goes on and on. But Christmas food traditions are pretty interesting. In my mother's family it was always hot oyster stew on Christmas Eve. This came from her father's side of the family and I began to wonder why.

After a thorough search of the internet I had no clear answers and apparently lots of people wondered the same thing. I found the question asked and answered in a million different ways. Some said it comes from the Feast of Seven Fishes where Catholics avoided meat on certain feast days. Somehow in Anglo-Protestant America this origin became quietly obscured. Some say the Irish brought it with them substituting oysters for the traditional ling fish. Others had the origins in Germany. My mother's family was not Catholic or Irish or German. They were Yankee, Protestant and went back in New England to coastal Maine and Cape Cod. Chances are good it was a practical decision. Oysters were cheap and plentiful. Christmas, the next day, was an occasion for a big holiday meal. It would make sense to have the somewhat lighter meal of stew the night before. My family was in good company. In the December 23, 1931 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel I found this:
Brockelmans was a popular Fitchburg grocery vendor of the time and this was a thinly disguised advertisement. 39¢ a pint is a great price for New England oysters. I paid considerably more for mine.
One thing I did find in my search is that while oyster stew was a tradition in many families all over the country, the commenters were evenly divided between the oyster lovers and the oyster haters. After years of oyster stew, the tradition quietly died among the haters and new food traditions were born. My brother is one of the haters. I however, will make my stew, thinking of my mom as I do and upholding the family tradition for just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's in a Name?

Primrose Rogers at about 4
I've been thinking a lot about family names. Not the last names so much, but the first names.
You see, my mother's name was Primrose Rogers and her mother was Primrose Victoria Tapply.
My joke has always been "there but for the grace of God".......My mother spent a lot of years
hating and resenting her name, but in the last years of her life she embraced it. I was surprised a bit because I had heard so many complaints over the years.

There is a naming tradition in our family that has come down several generations: my great great
grandfather was Winslow Brainard Rogers. Nowadays naming in honor of someone is considered a curse in some circles, but I think it's very nice. Thus we have:

Now no one could tell me where the names Winslow or Brainard came from. I have found no evidence of anyone further back in the tree with that name, but Winslow Brainard died in the American Civil War and now we have several generations in memory of him and his family.

There are a lot of "names in honor of" in my tree, but those aren't the names that fascinate me. My grandmother's family was late Victorian/early Edwardian so Primrose and her sisters Mabel, Ethyl and Beatrice make perfect sense and yet they sound so strange to modern ears. I once heard this type of name referred to as "heavily embroidered" and I would say that is accurate. I've written about the mystery of Cassandria Hooper Harrington, another interesting name. But I have Sophronia Richardson Smith on the other side of the tree. You may not realize it, but if you read The Five Little Peppers  you've heard this name. Remember Phronsie? And one of Sophronia's  brothers-in-law was Greenleaf Smith. Wow! That's an interesting choice. The mid-nineteenth century is full of Abigails and Lavinias and Letitias and Claras. Names went in and out of style then, just as they do now.

Sadly the Irish side sounds very Catholic and pretty traditional...at least what I've found so far. I would love to turn up a good Sinead or Fintan, but that seems unlikely.

Of course the Colonial ancestors turned up some of the names one might expect...poor Thankful Ham.  I also found another interesting naming tradition which you can read about here. One of my ancestors was named Benoni Eaton Knapp. This intrigued me. I found out that the name Benoni was given to babies born "under unfortunate circumstances" such as the death of the mother, the father predeceasing the child, or an illegitimate child. The name literally means "Alas, my poor son". Kind of a sad thing to visit on a child and so far I have not discovered how this poor man was "unfortunate".

I think names are an important consideration when doing genealogy. They can give you important clues about family relationships. What stories are waiting to be told?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Mysterious Andrew Fitzgerald

I know very little about my father's side of the family. I know even less about his father's side of the family. When I began I knew that someone on that side was possibly named Andrew and he married Catherine. She was a Fitzgerald as well. The census records bore this out. I found Andrew, Catherine, my grandfather John J. and his siblings. I kept working back and back through the records trying to piece that side of the family together. I found what I was sure was an early census, a marriage record and then....a passenger list. But the curious thing was that on every document I found a different birth date for Andrew Senior....different ages. It was all very curious.

My father never knew much about the family. Almost nothing about his father's family. His cousin Catherine knew a little bit, but she was never close to my father. And he said the family was always "secretive" and closed-mouthed. My dad was an only child and his closest cousins were on his mother's side. A dead end.

I decided to try something that was suggested on Ancestry and make a table with all the pertinent information. Maybe my error would reveal itself.

From this I would guess that the passenger I found was the wrong Andrew. I remember seeing an immigration certificate in the family papers that gave 1850 as the year he arrived. But this can't be him.
I suspect that the 1870 census was possibly a mistake by the census-taker or a lie. But why? And the birthdates are all over the place. I looked carefully at each record. In each I found Andrew Fitzgerald and his wife Catherine, an address in Charlestown (in later years Charles River Avenue) and his profession stated as laborer or teamster. My guess is that he worked on the docks as a driver.

If Andrew was born in 1814 or 1815, he would have been 82 when he died. If he were born in 1834 he would be in his 60's. Certainly whoever certified his death would have known the difference. I can understand why an immigrant would make himself older...but almost 20 years older?

So I'm no closer to an answer, but at least I have a timeline for his life. I'm hoping someone out there may have an suggestion. It's all very mysterious....

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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rebecca Shelley Chamberlain

Not so very long ago, a woman in her sixties, a woman who seemed overfond of her cat and most certainly a woman alone would have been the subject of local gossip. Rebecca Chamberlain was in her sixties, respectable, married and the mother of 12 living children. She lived in Billerica, Massachusetts with her husband William. How she got caught up the hysteria is not known. In fact, not much is known about Rebecca beyond these basic facts.  She was arrested on the charge of "mischief"and was jailed in Cambridge. Later accounts state that she was accused of witchcraft- "mischief" was the common euphemism for that charge. Rebecca, my ninth great grandmother, died in jail in September 1692 before a trial could be held.  On this day, when modern mischief has an entirely different meaning, it's good to reflect a moment on how far we've come.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Leaf Twig and Stem is a Genealogy Gem!

One of the first things I did when I began working on my family tree was looking around for advice and help from other family genealogists. I read a lot of blogs, I visited a lot of pages and I checked a few books out of the library. It was overwhelming. About the same time I began going to the gym every day and I needed something to fill that time on the cardio equipment. Podcasts became my go-to entertainment. Almost immediately I discovered The Family History Podcast-Genealogy Made Easy. This took me step by step through some of the processes I had found confusing. I worked my way back through all the episodes and then I discovered Lisa Louise Cooke's newer podcast: Genealogy Gems. Lisa has recently really embraced all sorts of technology, so this was a great new find. When Lisa did a three-part series on genealogy bloggers I was interested and intrigued with the idea of carrying my research one step further-but not totally convinced. Blogging is work, right? But as I listened to other bloggers who wrote in to tell her of their blogging success, I began to think about this more seriously. And that is really how this blog was born.

Lisa put out a call to genealogy bloggers and I responded. This month she featured some of those emails and blog links on her latest podcast. Leaf Twig and Stem was included. You can listen to the podcast here. I was thrilled to be included and happy to be able to report to her that one of my blogging goals had already been met; one of the GeneaBloggers is a cousin through two different family lines. So I am reaching those missing family branches!

If you want to check out the original Family History podcast series, Lisa had made it available here.
Thanks for the mention, Lisa.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Mappy Monday- Finding the Tapplys in 1915

I enlarged this map as far as Blogger would allow, but this reproduction of the panoramic view of Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1915 hardly does the full map justice. I found this gem in the map collection site for the Library of Congress. You can go here and see if there is a panoramic view of the place your ancestor lived.  It is a wonderful collection.

I spent a long time zooming in on various parts of this map to see what I could recognize. Of course
I spotted the top of Main Street and the familiar church building right away.
The drawing of the buildings is really charming and it appears that there was a streetcar running up and down Main Street in those days. The little vignettes around the border of the map are of various important buildings and businesses in Fitchburg. Of course the reason I picked the map from 1915 was that Charles Tapply and his family were living in Fitchburg having moved there from Newton. A look at an old city directory gave me a listing for the family.
My aunt Bea was working as a stenographer, my great grandfather was a grocer and Aunt Mabel was living at home. This is the 88 Winter Street house that my grandmother recalled from her girlhood. A quick zoom on the map shows about where that would be.
The red arrow points to the corner of Winter and Boutelle Streets, right about where number 88 would be. Uncle Charlie was working as a teamster and living nearby on Pacific Street.

The area where my grandmother lived when I knew her is on the far left of the big map and is just shown as woods. Fitchburg was still a growing city in 1915.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Now and Then in Holden, Massachusetts

I'm always on the lookout for interesting photos that relate to the family. Today I was noodling around
and ended up on the website of the Holden Historical Society in Holden, Massachusetts. It was
interesting because the photo was taken at the intersection of Main Street and Boyden Road. The Rogers family homestead, where members of the Rogers family lived for over 100 years, is just down the street about half a block.
Courtesy of the Holden Historical Society
You are looking down Main and you can see Boyden just to the right. The small cape style building on
the right was a school building known as Center School. It was built in 1820 to replace an earlier building, but this photo dates from 1880-1900.  I imagine members of the family went to school in that building. Amazing to see how rural Holden was even then!


So of course I had to go to Google street view and see what it looked like today. That little white building in the center of the picture is that same one-room schoolhouse which is now a hair salon. And you can see Boyden Road on the right. Main Street is a busy road these days, but Holden is still a pretty, green little suburb.

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.

Friday, September 27, 2013

First Cousin Friday

This picture from my collection was dated 1964. I think this must have been a combined birthday party; my brother and my cousin Jim were July/August birthdays. It was taken in Grandma's back yard. You can see her in the background. My father was an only child. No immediate cousins there. Mom had one brother. So these are my closest relatives. From the left Lynn Rogers(Kamrath), Jim Rogers, Lee Ellen Fitzgerald, Jill Rogers (Pratzon) and Mark Fitzgerald. I'm missing for some reason. Cuties for sure.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

John Tappley- Master Cordswainer

I am always intrigued by the job descriptions on the old census records. I have found that the English records use more formal terms like "agricultural laborer" while the American census will just say "farmer". Every once in a while there is a term that completely confounds me. I was reminded again of this when I watched Crista Cowan's Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube. This is a GREAT resource, by the way and you can see the episode on your ancestors' professions here.

As I traveled up the Tapply tree, I found that my ancestors in that line were solidly tradespeople. There were grocers, butchers, a spice merchant, a linen draper and a cordswainer. A what? Well that's where this resource supplied by Crista is a great resource. But I noticed a few things as I examined the old census records for John Tappley. John was my 3X great grandfather who lived in Wittersham, Kent, England. In the 1841 census we see this:
So here is John Tappley living with Sally and it lists his occupation as shoemaker.  I went through the census pages and found that he had a fair amount of competition in the village; three or four other men were listed as shoemakers.

The 1851 Kent Directory of Occupations lists him the same way:
However, by 1851 there are only two other men listed in Wittersham doing this job. Shoemaking as a handcraft was a dying profession. I looked up information on the Industrial Revolution and found this:
"Lyman Reed Blake was an American inventor who invented a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers. In 1858, he received a patent for his specialized sewing machine." 
So the hand-sewing of shoes was probably on the wain by this time. The 1851 census shows the Tapply family like this:

And this is where I first ran into the term master cordwainer. He had become experienced enough to earn this extra title and had one apprentice and one journeyman working with him. I was still curious about what separated a shoemaker from a cordwainer. 

A little more searching on the internet gave me this distinction:
"The English term cordwainer first appears in 1100. Since this date the term cordouan, or cordovan leather, has been applied to several varieties of leather. Today cordovan leather is a vegetable tanned horse "shell," and like the Medieval cordwain is used only for the highest quality shoes. A distinction preserved by cordwainers since the earliest times is, that a cordwainer works only with new leather, whereas a cobbler works with old. Cobblers have always been repairers, frequently prohibited by law from making shoes. Going so far as to collect worn-out footwear, cut it apart, and remanufacture cheap shoes entirely form salvaged leather, cobblers have contended with cordwainers since the Middle Ages. In 16th-century London, the cordwainers solved their conflicts with the cobblers of that city by placing them under the authority of the cordwainers’ guild, thus merging with them."

A cobbler or shoemaker might make the simple clogs and everyday shoes or perhaps do repairs; only the cordwainer could handle the fine leather.

John Tapply would most probably have belonged to a local guild centered out of Maidstone or Canterbury that regulated the men of his trade. I haven't found those records yet. But I found the contemporary counterparts still making fine shoes in London.

The Worshipful Company of Cordswainers is still making the very finest high end shoes. Should you find that your cordwainer ancestor lived in London, they might have those records in their archives.
I love this photo of the contemporary cordswainers in all their ceremonial regalia.
This is why you should always take the time to look carefully at census records. You never know what new things you can learn about your ancestor.

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.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

FINDAGRAVE

Early in my research I read that graveyards can be a fine source of information for your family tree.
Because I knew so little about my father's family, I went back to the one document I had that might
be of some use. It was an old envelope that once held a deed to a cemetery plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts and on the front was the address of the plot. Most cemeteries are very cooperative, and for a small fee will send you particulars about a cemetery plot. What I got back from Holy Cross was a list of the Cook relatives buried there and the ages at death and internment dates. This gave me some great clues to go on to solve the mystery of Mary Feely, my great grandmother who seemed to vanish after the 1930 census. Eventually, when the 1940 census was released I found her in a rest home in Roxbury. From there it was a matter of sending for a death certificate and THAT gave me the names of two great-great grandparents in Ireland.

After I'd been doing this a while, I discovered FindaGrave. This is an effort to catalog online all the cemeteries and the folks buried there. If you have a city or better yet the name of a graveyard, a volunteer may have made an entry for your family member or may have taken a photograph of a gravestone. I found LOTS of my Rogers relatives this way. I joined and made a few entries of my own. Through the kindness of a member of the local historical society, I now have this photo for my Civil War ancestor, Winslow Brainard Rogers.


This is the memorial stone put up for him by the Civil War Veterans society. Another kind person went to the town hall and added a photo of the inscription there which includes his name.

You can also put in a photo request. The chances of getting to Malden anytime soon are slim so when I got to the Fitzgerald side of the tree I turned to this service. I knew my grandmother, grandfather and probably my great grandparents were also in Holy Cross. I put in a photo request and crossed my fingers... I had to go back and give the volunteer a little more information, but an 800 number call to Holy Cross gave up the Avenue and Plot. And now I have this memorial at FindaGrave.
Turns out that family finances were tight in 1896/97, so the grandparents and great grandparents are apparently under one stone. 

The blue links are a way to link one family member to another. So once you find one relation, you can often get information for an entire family. Be careful however, I have frequently found that these entries have differences in dates and other information from the official records. The cemetery often got information from family members and the FindaGrave entries are done by volunteers or family members as well. The happy news is  finding an entry with lots of biographical information: what he did for a living, who he married and in what order, military service, etc.

There is another somewhat newer site called BillionGraves. I haven't explored their site extensively, but it seems to work in very much the same way. Both places rely on volunteers to put up memorials and take photographs that have been requested. The polite thing to do would be to fill a request with a trip to the local cemetery. When it gets a little cooler, I'll go over to Hollywood Cemetery and see what I can do to pay it forward.

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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eugene Harrington Rogers


Eugene Harrington Rogers
No download or reproduction without express permission
This is Eugene Harrington Rogers, son of Cassandria and brother of my great grandfather. I'm not really sure where this was taken, but perhaps this was his studio. I love the large artist's palette and his generous muttonchops. His life is not a great mystery; he was born in Holden, Massachusetts and lived most of his adult life in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. We're not sure when or if he had much formal training, but he married Mary Clark, opened a sign painting and advertising business at 304 1/2 Main Street in Fitchburg and lived on Arlington Street. They never had children and he died of a heart ailment at only 45 years old.

You may have noticed the large painting and recognized the "White Rock fairy". This is actually a very
good copy of a painting called "Psyche" by Paul Thumann.  Thumann's original was exhibited to some great attention at the Chicago World Exhibition and I would assume White Rock bought the rights after that. Being an artist myself, I always wanted to know about Eugene. A small oil still life hung in our house all my childhood and larger pastel of a Newfoundland dog hung in my grandmother's house. These were the only existing works the family knew of. My cousin, an illustrator and art restorer in Manhatten, looked around on the internet from time to time and discovered that some of his work was registered. Tracing backwards she found that it was in the collection of the Fitchburg Historical Society. Sure enough, when I visited I found an enormous charcoal drawing called "Overlook Reservoir and Mt. Wachusett". It was a lovely landscape with which our family was quite familiar as it's a popular hiking spot in Fitchburg. A little more research by my cousin, my aunt and myself found a mural at the local Baptist church and another large charcoal landscape at the Westminster Historical Society. My cousin says they are all quite good. Now all three of us were intrigued....

One of the best sources of small town information for genealogists is digitized newspapers. Luckily the
Fitchburg Sentinel has digitized much of its collection and Eugene showed up regularly between 1870 and 1900. The accounts of his sales are complementary and lively as is the story of his rivalry with another sign painter.  At this time he was doing landscapes, small still-lifes and animal portraits of hunting dogs in oil, pastel and charcoal. The Sentinel described his success this way "The sale increased so rapidly that the demand was far ahead of the supply within 10 days....Mr. Rogers' work went to the shores of the Pacific and throughout the West and South." Queries in the historical society newsletters have turned up no further clues. The signature on the work would be E.H. Rogers.
If you live in the West or South or even in New England and have a work with this signature, the family would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tubbercurry or Tobercurry - the Cooke and Feely clans


Working on the Irish side of my tree was something I'd always hoped I could do while my dad was still alive. Sadly that was not to be. He wasn't able to be very helpful with information about his family-from what he said they could be close-mouthed and secretive. As a young boy in a working-class household where the adults had other worries,  I'm sure he was more interested in swimming at the Boy's Club and playing kick-the-can. I pried as much as I could get from him while he was alive and he surprised me by showing a bit of curiousity about my searches for his extended family.

 I found some American census records and a few death records. Focusing on Boston, there were a few more hints. Dad said there were some Feely cousins he remembered from his childhood. He thought the Feelys had a car dealership in Roslindale. So far, that search hasn't yielded much.  I also found a Maurice Feely living with the family on an early census. If anyone out there thinks this rings a bell, I'd love to hear from you.

Experienced genealogists tell you to "go with what you know" and re-examine every document. Now it was time to try to "jump the pond". So I went back to my grandmother's Irish birth certificate. Sure enough, right across the top was the first piece of the puzzle.

Someone, maybe my dad, had mentioned Roscommon in connection with the family. Clearly I was looking in the wrong county. So now I had county of SligoAclare district, town of Tobercurry. Exceeepppt..well look at the photo and then look at the certificate..yup..is it Tobercurry or Tubbercurry? Apparently, even the Irish don't agree as a Google search will tell you. And the Irish changed and simplified a lot of names at one point.  But I had a place to start.

Irish records are challenging. Many weren't kept, some were burned and some have been destroyed by time. The Catholic church has some parish records and in those the names are often in Latin. Yet another challenge. Luckily both Ancestry and FamilySearch had this record:



Comparing the two, you can see my great grandmother Mary Feehily (Americanized to Feely) and Michael Cooke (Cook) marrying in Tobercurry just before the birth of their oldest child. At some point soon I will go off the the local Family History Center and order this record. Hopefully, it will have a little more information to help me along the way. Further searches in the Irish records have shown me that there are and were a LOT of Cooks, Cookes, Feehilys and Feelys in and around Tobercurry. I'll need a few more clues.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Tapplys of Wittersham

Charles and Ellen Tapply-Whitehorse Beach, Cape Cod abt 1931
No download or reproduction without express permission
Family myths and family stories are a funny thing. They tend to take on a life of their own. My mother wrote a letter to England during the Blitz of WWII because her grandfather's brother George Tapply
was living in Kent, in the path of the bombers. He wrote back from a little village called Whitstable,
which is right on the coast on the Thames estuary. Apparently it's known for oyster farming. Ever
after that my mother reported to various family members that the Tapplys came from Whitstable. Or
at least by the time she was grown and people became curious that was the family story. When I began
looking into the Tapply family I had this reported to me as absolute fact by various members of the Tapply family. Courtesy of mom as I soon discovered.....

I began by looking for census records for Charles and Ellen somewhere in Kent. When I found them and their various family members a family myth fell to pieces. As it turned out, the family of Charles'
generation and his father James Henry lived in the tiny village of Wittersham near Tenterden. I found them there on multiple census records along with James Henry and various brothers and sisters. Later, when the family was almost grown, they moved to the small city of Maidstone. This is where the story of Charles and Ellen really begins, just before their emmigration to America.

The picture above shows Ellen and Charles on what I am told was a yearly trip to stay at the beach. I love the "driving" duster on Ellen and the bathing costume hanging behind them. To compound the  family story, my mother reported that the Tapply clan made this yearly trip to the area around Hampton Beach and Rye Beach, New Hampshire. When mom finally made it to England and to Whitstable she reported that she now understood why they liked Hampton Beach. Whitstable looked like Hampton Beach and it must have "reminded them of home". Perhaps it did. In it's way... The truth is that Charles' brother George worked for the British postal service for many years and when he retired he lived in Whitstable. For George, this little seaside town was a slice of "home". His job for the postal service had been in Brighton- another somewhat larger and more touristy beach spot. I'm sure he found Whitstable restful.

All of this reminds me to keep in mind the first advice for every amateur genealogist. Use the family stories as clues, but don't become wedded to them as fact. I still like the story of the whole Tapply clan decamping from Fitchburg for a vacation at the shore. I like to think at least that part is true....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Indexing

Genealogy seems like a "tame" adventure to some who know me. When I talk about my discoveries I have friends who listen avidly, or politely and others who roll their eyes. Yeah, the hobbies of a middle-aged white girl. Right. But this is actually something that interested me from the time I was a young girl hearing about the tangle of aunts, uncles and cousins in my mother's family. Who were these people? What did they do? What were they like? As part of the younger generation moved far away from the small hometown, I drove my parents crazy with questions. My mother was reasonably forthcoming, my dad not so much. So when I started my search 4 years ago I had a number of mysteries to solve. For those of us not lucky enough to travel and do research in person, online resources have become a treasure. I soon discovered FamilySearch, an online repository of records kept by the Mormon Church. Records that are indexed are searchable by name or place or date at the click of a mouse. Many more records have been scanned or photographed and are browsable online. I was delighted to discover a written household inventory and will for a family member from the early 1800's. I knew the approximate date and place, but had to patiently browse through the volume. Time consuming, but rewarding. What a glimpse I got into his life! Last spring I got an email from FamilySearch asking me to volunteer to help them index the 1940 census. This simply means looking at a scanned document and keying data into a large form for a database. Boring right? Actually not. One of the lessons I've learned online is that getting to know the unique characteristics of the forms you discover can make your search much easier. Let's say that your family member shows up living in New York City in 1940, but you are unable to find him before that. Looking at the 1940 Census you discover that there is a field for "Residence in 1935". Voila! Your relative was last living in Albany. That 1940 Census, by the way, was indexed in record time by thousands of volunteers. They knew, as I do, that the faster the records are indexed, the sooner they are out there at TheFold or Ancestry or FamilySearch for all of us to use. FamilySearch is always looking for new volunteers. (BTW, I'm not affiliated in any way-just an enthusiastic volunteer) You download some simple software and work whenever you can. Each project has a deadline, but no one keeps track of how often you work. You can even download projects to work in bits and pieces. They especially need people fluent in other languages. Right now they are indexing manifests for immigrant ships. Does that pique your interest? Imagine finding your ancestor on the very boat that brought him to this country! So, if you have become as ensnared by this hobby as I have, consider volunteering to do a little indexing for FamilySearch.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cassandria

Cassandria Hooper Harrington Rogers
No download or reproduction without express permission
Through this blog, I'm hoping to connect to family members and widen the research I started almost four years ago on family genealogy. At the heart of the mystery is this lady, Cassandria Hooper Harrington Rogers Kauffman. Here's what I know: She always maintained on census records that she was born in Massachusetts-Worcester to be exact. Now whether that was the City of Worcester or Worcester County I have no idea. She first shows up boarding in a house in Holden on the 1850 census. She and a group of young, teen-aged girls were all boarding with this family and from what I know of Holden she would have been a mill girl. One of my lines of research may be to find the mill closest to the boarding house and see if anything in the way of records exists-doubtful. Stranger things have happened. Being a newbie genealogist I didn't think at once of exploring this couple to see if there was a family connection, but once it occurred to me I did and couldn't find a family link. The next record is a marriage record which records her birth date as 1833 and her parents as Joseph Harrington and Nancy. No last name. This is where the brick wall occurs. Worcester County was full of Harringtons. There was a very old and established Harrington family and several were named Joseph. But in no document or family history can I find one named Joseph married to Nancy (or Anna, Hannah or Agnes-which Nancy was sometimes a nickname for) and sadly, before 1850 the census only listed the male head of household. Cassandria married Winslow Brainard Rogers of Holden in 1851 and had two sons, Eugene and Edward. Edward was my great grandfather. Born during the Civil War, Edward never met or knew his father. Winslow Brainard died of smallpox in Vicksburg just after the siege and capture of the city. When I was a girl, we had letters from him to Cassandria. They were incredibly sad. Cassandria stayed in Holden and lived with various members of the Rogers family until her sons were almost grown. At that point she married William Kauffman. She died in 1904 in Orange, Massachusetts. There are two registries for her death-one in Fitchburg, where she is buried. The other was a card filled out by William Kauffman. On it he lists the birthplace of her parents as Connecticut. This disagrees with the 1880 census but agrees with the 1900 census. I've looked for siblings both male and female in the Worcester County area who have matching data, but with little success. I did find a Joseph Harrington Junior who died in Shrewsbury, and his death card reads Joseph and ? Green. So I pursued Joseph Harrington and Nancy Green which led me to Windham County, Connecticut in the Barbour Collection. There's a marriage record, but no way to know if these are the right people. Oh, and Hooper? A red herring I think. A nice lady at the New England Historic Genealogical Society spent part of one afternoon trying to help me and was as stumped as I am, but for one thing. She found a Cassandra Hooper Bliss who was a popular evangelist in New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts around that time. She suspects this great great grandmother was named in honor of her. The photo is a gem. I love the expression and the large cat on her lap. Recently people have commented that I look like her. I don't see it, but maybe so. She was a strong lady, that's for sure. And sure of herself as well. When I got the pension application from the National Archives her name is signed in a strong hand Cassandria H. H. Rogers. Something in her name was important to her. Maybe someday soon I'll know what that was.