Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friends with Family in the Right Places: Thanks!

While putting some research into my American Revolutionary Patriot ancestors, my 5th great grandfathers who were also brothers, Colonel Daniel Moore and Lt. Colonel Robert Moore of New Hampshire, I learned that Robert Moore (or Moor) was born on May 26, 1726, in Londonderry, NH and died on  October 25, 1778, also in Londonderry, NH.

Londonderry, New Hampshire is now known as Derry. And it just so happens that some of my very best friends have family in Derry. So this past summer, June 2012, my friends Andrea and Laszlo along with their children and mothers traipsed to the Forest Hill Cemetery in Derry, NH for me to find Moore family headstones.

From what I understand, it made for quite a field trip. Laszlo wasn't so sure they'd be able to find the graves. And sometimes it takes a lot of time to find graves if the cemetery lacks a directory or someone of the staff present to help you find the headstone. Nine out of 10 times my relatives don't even have headstones. They were generally a poor people who couldn't afford stones. Next time your walking through a cemetery and come across an "empty spot" in the middle of rows and rows of headstones, that empty spot is probably a relative of mine. In any case...

Andrea was kind of astonished that headstones from the late 1700s still existed. I was kind of astonished that she was astonished. See, in Hungary where Andrea was raised, gravesites must be financially maintained by the family in order to stay intact. I am hoping that Andrea will read this post and use the comment section below to explain the European practices in more detail.

Additionally, I think the adventure also provided her children with some fun. I think it was kind of neat that they got to see some history of their grandparent's town; a town that my family helped to found but that I have yet see.

Colonel Robert Moor(e) is interned in the Forest Hill Cemetery right near his parents; my 6th great grandparents John and Janet Moor. Colonel Daniel Moore is buried in a different location in a nearby town. When I have the opportunity to venture up that way I will be sure to visit his gravesite too.

Its incredibly wonderful to have real friends; friends who will take the time of their travels to do a genealogical kindness. Here are the pictures the family took for me of the Moore Family headstones in Forest Hill Cemetery in Derry, NH:

 Gate to Forest Hill Cemetery, Derry, NH
A memorial stone for my 5th great grandfather, Revolutionary soldier, Colonel Robert Moor(e)

 Headstone of my 5th great grandfather Colonel Robert Moor(e).

 Headstone of my 6th great-grandfather, John Moor(e), the father of Robert and Daniel Moore
and my 6th great grandmother Janet Moor(e)
 The nearby church

A little history about the settlement of Londonderry, NH (now Derry, NH).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

More on my Moores

On pages 40 and 41 of J. Clifford Moore's book, The Life and Times of a High School Principal in Rural Quebec, Mr. Moore writes the following about my 4th great grandparents, William and Eleanor Moore of Kingsey (outside today's Drummondville), Quebec, Canada by way of Londonderry, New Hampshire, U.S.A.:
"The Moores, the second settlers
"The second settler to arrive in Kingsey was William Moore, with his wife Eleanor, from Londonderry, N.H. in the year 1802. They staked out their claim on Range 3. Lot 22 or 23 on land later acquired by Joseph Henry Moore, about a mile distant from the Wadleighs [the first settlers in Kingsey]. After they had built their cabin and cleared some land, they returned to Londonderry. There, they gathered up their household goods, loaded them on the backs of oxen and, with their children, made the return journey to their new home. When they arrived there, Eleanor and the children had to wait while her husband cut a door into the cabin. Their first night was spent with only a drape for a door. Before long, William and his sons had erected a fine cluster of buildings. The house was a veritable mansion with a crescent-shaped driveway, bordered by some beautiful pine trees. The barns were sufficiently large to house their livestock, equipment and drygoods. All that remains of this once beautiful property is the Moore cemetery on the river bank across the road. Due to the interest and care of some concerned friends, this cemetery is kept in a state of good repair. Recent vandalism has spoiled their good work.
"William and Eleanor were first cousins. William, born in 1763, was the son of Lt. Colonel Robert Moore. Eleanor, born in 1767, was the daughter of Colonel Daniel Moore of Bedford, N.H. They were married in 1784. William died on July 8, 1817. Eleanor died in 1836 [October 19]. Both were buried in the Moore cemetery."

Moore, J. C. (1996). The life and times of a high school principal in rural Quebec. Lennoxville, Québec: Townships Sun. 

William and Eleanor Moore begat a daughter, Ann Moore.
Ann Moore married Peter Sharp. They begat a son, Daniel Sharp.
Daniel Sharp married Lydia Ann McLean. They begat a daughter, Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp.
Mayme Sharp married Almond Desjardins (a.k.a. Albert Gardner). They begat a son, my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner.
I do so love begats.

 The Moore Family Cemetery

The headstone of my 3rd great grandmother, Ann Moore-Sharp, 
and her son, my 2nd great grandfather Daniel Sharp

Photos of the Moore Family Cemetery provided by Mr. Guy Dussault.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Examine "Facts" Relative to the Sources: Finding my Patriot

For at least a decade now I have longed to join the Daughters of the American Revolution; the DAR. Don't ask me why really. I'm not a joiner for the most part. I guess I just think it would be cool for someone to acknowledge the quality of my genealogy research.

To become a member of the DAR one has to unquestionably document her direct connection to a soldier who fought for the cause of American independence from Great Britain. In many instances the women who belong to the organization enter on the coat-tails of their mothers or grandmothers; someone else had their genealogy accepted by the DAR. My mother, neither of my grandmothers, nor were any of my great-grandmothers members of the DAR. I'm on my own here and I just know, in my gut, that I am descended from a patriot.

One line on my father's side is well documented as early settlers in the New World. However, at the time of the American Revolution those ancestors of mine lived on Long Island, New York which was a loyalist stronghold. In other words, those ancestors of mine were probably shooting at the Daughters' ancestors; that's not going to get me into the DAR.

Earlier this year I started trying to push past my 3rd great-grandparents. Yes, I can name all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents. Some of their lines I can take back much further but still others of those 3rd greats represent the brick-walls in my research. In the push I began working on finding more information about Annie Moore-Sharp, my mother's, father's, mother's, father's mother (how is that for a wiggly branch?).

All I really knew was that Annie Moore was the mother of Daniel Sharp, the wife of Peter Sharp, that she lived in Kingsey, Quebec, Canada, and she was born around the 1780s. I knew that based on church records I found pertaining to her marriage and the baptism of her son, Daniel. That's quite a lot actually but I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who her parents were, where she was born, and when exactly she died.

I hit the ground running with the last ditch effort of broad Google searches; the "Hail, Mary" play of genealogy research. I uncovered a Google book, The History of Bedford, New Hampshire from 1737 being statistics compiled on the Occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town, May 15, 1900. There on page 995 of the 1903 edition was a Moore family genealogy which included the following:

"IV. Ann, dau. of William (3), b. 1785; m. Peter Sharp; res. in Kingsey, P. Q.  Had two ch.: Daniel (5) and Christopher (5)."

I had no reason to doubt that this was my Annie Moore-Sharp. The most interesting part was that reading back through that genealogy I learned that Annie's father William was the son of Lieutenant Col. Robert Moore of Londonderry, NH. Annie Moore's mother, Eleanor Moore, was the daughter of Col. Daniel Moore; yes, Annie's parents were first cousins and yes, her BOTH of her grandfathers had served in the American Revolution on the side of the Americans. I had not one but two patriots and of all places on a line that I considered to be my Canadian line.

The question is though, can I back up this clue from this secondary source with factual evidence from primary sources? 

At this point I have found any primary sources to connect Annie to her parents. I have, however, several secondary sources. I have not yet applied for membership to the DAR and thus have not had my resources evaluated by them so I do not know the definitive answer to that question...yet.

Further investigation turned up another published Moore Family genealogy. This one included in a book titled, The Life and Times of a High School Principal in Rural Quebec by J. Clifford Moore. In this secondary source the following information was provided on page 89:
"William was born in 1763, while Eleanor was born in 1767, and they were married in the year 1784. We know little about their movements prior to their coming to Kingsey. However, four of six children were born in the United States, probably Londonderry.
"Ann, who was born in 1783, became the wife of Peter Sharp;..."

Later on in the same text, on page 107, the author records the headstones in a Moore Family cemetery situated mid-way between the towns of Richmond and Drummondville, Quebec.:

"Sharp. Daniel Sharp, died October 12, 1898, aged 76 years 7 months.
Anne Moore, wife of Peter Sharp, died January 14, 1868, age 85 years".

A few more internet searches led me to a man who lives not far from the cemetery who offered to photograph the headstones for researchers; I took advantage of his genealogical kindness. Headstones, for all intents and purposes, are also secondary sources though. They're usually created close to the time of the event of one's death but the information they provide about age and dates can be just as erroneous as a death certificate. The photos do serve as yet another secondary source, though.

Will these secondary sources be enough to replace the evidence of a primary sources?
As a group they provide much more proof than they do independently.

Will they be enough to secure my membership in the DAR?
In conjunction with other primary sources about Annie's son, husband, and brother, I may have enough of a case to satisfy the DAR.

We shall see.

But the lesson is that in the absence of primary sources gather as many secondary sources as you can. Conduct what is often termed a "reasonably exhaustive search." Search a variety of documents; obituaries, church records, census records, land deeds, etc. Examine the facts relative to the sources; understand where the information is coming from and why it was recorded. That birth date on that death certificate could very well be 100% correct; can you find the birth date on other resources from various points in time?? That is the best one can do to "know."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources

I think I speak for all genealogy researchers when I say that primary sources get me all jazzed-up. I'm over the moon when I get my hands on an original document especially one written in an ancestor's own handwriting. Letter, diaries, family bible entries put me in such a state it would make you blush.

A primary sources is a source of evidence created at the time of the event. For example, a death certificate is a primary source for an individual's date of death, the cause, and the location at which the death took place. A death certificate is NOT a primary source for the individual's date of birth even though it often contains an accurate date of birth. A diary is a primary source for the writer's day-to-day experiences.

A secondary source provides interpretation and analysis of primary sources. Secondary sources are one step removed from the original event. So back to that death certificate, that is a secondary source for the date of someone's birth because the informant provided the most accurate information that they knew which of course is not always accurate. My grandfather always lied about his age; at the time of his death his own children weren't sure what year he was born. A book is a secondary source; the author may use that diary mentioned above as a resources for insight into writing about a historic event but the book produced is a secondary source.

There are even something called tertiary sources which I won't bother your pretty little head with...

As a genealogy researcher, one wants all the primary sources he/she can get; not only for that super tingly feeling one derives but also to be able to state facts. A death certificate let's a researcher say, "He did die on June 1st. His birthday may have been March 2nd. He was probably 90 years old when he died."

Facts are what researchers want. There are many instances though when primary sources just don't exist though. For example, civil registration of births did not begin in New York state until the later half of the 1800s. So your relative that was born in New Amsterdam in 1640 isn't going to have a birth certificate. A birth register may have been kept by the religious institution your family belonged to and perhaps you'll be fortunate to find such a resource still in existence in some archive somewhere. However, a lot of primary sources have been lost to the ravages of time; fires, floods, poor conditions, and handling.

So how do you know?

Well, you may never know. That is just the coldest hard fact. You may never know.

Can secondary sources be trusted?

Genealogy research does, however, require a wee bit of trust. Just because a source is not a primary sources does not mean it is wrong. If that were the case, why would we have any books at all?? Secondary sources CAN be incredibly reliable. Just remember to examine your "facts" relative to the sources.

In my next post I'll provide and example that clarifies exactly what I mean by "examine your 'facts' relative to the sources." Until skeptical. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Great-great-great Grandma Mary Something-Henry

There is some confusion about my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Henry's, maiden name. Mary died on the 8th of January in 1907. Her son August Henry was listed at the informant on her death certificate. Noted on the certificate is that August could not ascertain his mother’s maiden name.

On April 16, 1906 August Henry married Mary Arsenault at St. Elizabeth's Church in Woodhaven, Queens, New York. On his marriage certificate his mother's maiden name is listed as Carrion; as opposed to Carrian which is listed on her death certificate above. I am not hung up on the spelling of the name. Every genealogist knows that the concept of correct spelling is  a 20th century notion. I just wonder if August was correct about this mother's maiden name at the time of his marriage.

August's best-man was a gentleman by the name of Harry Carillion. Could Carrillion been his mother's maiden name? It does soundex the same as Carrion and Carrian. Could Harry have been a cousin on his mother's side?

According to all the census records I have found listing my Mary Henry, she was born in the U.S., in New York in October of 1855 to parents of French origin; not Swiss. On her death certificate above it says her parents were Swiss but we know August was unclear about other facts at the time of her death; did he make a mistake there too? Mary's husband, Victor Henry, was of Swiss descent. Were Mary's parents French speaking Swiss?

I did attempt to find a Mary Carrion/Carrian in the 1870 census; before she was married. I did find a possible match; a Mary Carrion, line 36 below, aged 13 years old which would have put her birth in about 1857. That could be, however, her parents are listed as being born in Ireland. Eh, this is probably not my Mary since she lists her parents as being born in France in later census records. Interestingly enough though, this Mary's older brother works in a tin factory and my great-great-great grandmother Mary's husband, Victor Henry, was a tinsmith. Hmm...

For now Mary's maiden name will remain a mystery but it saddens me that our mother's lines are often lost to the patriarchal conformity of our culture. When women marry they traditionally give up their maiden names; granted those names are taken from their father's but still that tradition can make maternal research extremely challenging. And so researching Mary Something-Henry's family line has hit the brick wall. Don't worry though, Mary, I won't give up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Inheriting Estrangement

Several years ago I became enamored with a documentary called Traces of the Trade and a book titled Inheriting the Trade both of which were about the descendents of the largest slave trading family in the United States; the DeWolf Family of Bristol, Rhode Island. Both really examine what history we inherit as individuals, as citizens, as a society.

I remember the first time I read a family will in which among the bedding and silverware were the names of people. I was 16 at the time and devastated, absolutely devastated that my family, family here in the great state of New York, owned slaves and treated humans as property. Devastated.

The DeWolf's story began to make me ponder what other intangible things we inherit; what other qualities are passed down through our families. For me I have discovered a history of estrangement. It's really a rather painful issue for me. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, estrangement is the breakdown of a once harmonious relationship into one that is characterized as, at worst, hostile but at the very least, indifferent. To say one is estranged from someone else is to say they no longer have a functioning family relationship. It is usually a devastating process. I am estranged from my mother.

It wasn't until the passing of my maternal grandfather in 2004 that I began to research my mother's genealogy. Grandpa wasn't keen on talking about family and I never knew my maternal grandmother, she died before I was born. I consciously chose to wait to investigate mom's side. I didn't outright state I would wait until grandpa died; I never wanted to think of that day but I did always sort of think, "well, I'll wait." After grandpa passed away though, my interest in mom's line began to gnaw at me.

I came to learn that my grandfather was estranged from his older sister, Lois. That my grandmother's father, James Fay, along with his other siblings, shunned a sister for marrying a man of Chinese descent. My grandfather's paternal grandfather, Damase Desjardins, had a son from a first marriage that he left with family in Montreal when he moved to the U.S. I don't know what their relationship was like but considering Damase did not attend his son's wedding I suspect they were estranged.

All these relationships clarified for me that my family has passed down an acceptance of such behavior. We've learned that it is okay to lob off the limb of the family tree that, for whatever reason, we just can't get along with.

Well, I don't think that it is okay.

It is rapidly approaching the 1st anniversary of my Aunt Nancy's death. She was the one of my mother's siblings that really did obviously try to keep family together. Her passing was a dramatic event on many many levels. The day she passed I had an epiphany; a striking revelation that I will never lose...

The lesson of family is to learn to accept one another as they are.

You don't have to love them. You don't even have to like them. What you need to do is learn to accept them as they are with some sort of respect. They don't have to live in your house. You don't have to go out of your way to see them. But what you really really shouldn't do is turn your back on them. You might really be all they have; the only person they have any sort of connection to; a connection that was assigned to you.

As the holidays approach, while you're rolling your eyes at the repetition of some family story at some family function you might not really want to be at, remember that this is what you have inherited. Pass on something greater. Teach acceptance. Teach tolerance. Love.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Well-connected and Psychic Friends

I have a friend who's sister is a medium. Regardless of how you feel about psychics, this woman is no joke. I had never had a reading before until I sat with Mary. She said the most amazing things to me; things no one could have possibly know. And I am sure everyone who goes to a psychic and is taken by what they say says just that, "She told me things no one else could possibly know." But could they tell you the story I am about to share with you?

Several things really stand out to me from that reading but most memorable was Mary saying to me that it was wonderful to read someone who knew their family history. It made it easy for me to understand who she was connecting with. Without getting into all the details she shared with me, towards the end of the session Mary said to me, "You're going to come across two family names in your research; Williams and Evans." It didn't strike me as remarkable at the time; I mean, they aren't that uncommon of names. In fact, I completely dismissed the Williams name because my Cousin Kelly has recently married into a Williams family. I took what Mary said with a grain of salt and filed it away.

She asked me, "Who is David?" I shrugged. I didn't really know a David. I had worked with a few. My father's cousin had a son named David, but I don't really know him well. Nope, I didn't know any David really well.

Not more than 3 days later I was going through some family papers, papers I had looked at a hundred times if I had looked at them once, and there on my great grandmother, Mayme Sharp's boarder crossing card from Canada into the United States I noticed a name. Mayme listed that she was headed to Lowell, Massachusetts to see her Aunt Belle EVANS. EVANS. And Mary's words floated back to me.

Who was this Evans woman? I don't recall finding an Aunt Belle in the research I had done. Now I was on a mission. A mission that would take me a very long time and depend upon the kindness of well-connected friends.

I began searching census records for Aunt Belle. I came upon a Belle N. Evans married to a Fred Evans in Lowell, Massachusetts. Since the time of my reading I had befriended a genealogist in Massachusetts; whose name was...wait for it...wait for it....David. It never really struck me that now I knew a David. Sincerely, I had almost forgotten that Mary had asked me about a David.

I called upon his expertise to helped me locate a marriage certificate for this couple even though I was not 100% sure that this Aunt Belle was really my great-grandmother's aunt; she could have been a friend of the family as is often the case with that side of my family. There are many instances when very close family friends are called Aunt and Uncle despite the fact they are not related; it can and often is just a term of respect. Sometimes Aunt and Uncle are titles given to near relatives too. For example, I call my father's first cousins Aunt Ro, Uncle Charlie, Uncle Ed, etc. So was this Aunt Belle really an aunt to my great grandmother?

David helped me to secure this document:

If you look at the details about Isabelle you'll see her last name is listed as no-other-than Williams. What?!?! Yes, Williams, the surname of her first husband. And in parentheses after the Williams you will see the name McLean. 

Great-grandma Mayme Sharp-Gardner's mother's name was Lydia McLean-Sharp. My great-great grandmother's parents were Donald McLean and Elizabeth Walker-McLean; this I knew! Without a doubt I also now knew that Isabelle Nancy McLean-Williams-Evans was the sister of Lydia McLean-Sharp. Aunt Belle was absolutely the biological aunt of my great grandmother Mayme Sharp-Gardner.

And there it was; Williams and Evans. Staring me square in the face were the names I was told I would research. A document I probably would not have seen if not for the help of David. Mary is no joke.

And Aunt Belle played a pretty critical piece in my family's history. She was the person who facilitated my great-grandmother's move from Canada to the United States. Several generations before this line had lived in New Hampshire but moved up to Canada for land. Here they were moving back to the U.S. in the 1910s for work. Had great-grandma Mayme stayed in Canada someone else would be writing this blog. I'm grateful to Aunt Belle.
As I always tell my researching cousins and friends when their hit their genealogical brick walls; some ancestors just do not want to be found but some, oh some relatives most definitely want to be found, definitely.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Power of the Sea

It has been a long time since I have written. My only excuse is that I have been overwhelmed with the end of the semester. As a post-graduate student I am only taking one class, but still it was a rough semester battered mostly by Hurricane Sandy which caused havoc in my homeland of Long Island, NY. 

My family, in general, fared well. We all lost power at some point. My Uncle Thomas was the hardest hit being that he lived on a canal. My sister was also displaced for sometime. She gave birth to my niece, her first child, just days before the storm and returned home to a house filled with 5 feet of water. My niece, Sofie, spent the first two weeks of her life living in my childhood bedroom with my sister, my brother-in-law, and their dog. Needless to say it all seemed normal to Sofie.

But all this talk of storms and the ravages of the sea has made me think of my great-great grandfather, Abraham Earle who died at sea. The Earles were a seafaring people who lived in Twillingate, Newfoundland until my great-grandfather Abram Thomas Earle emigrated to the United States at the turn of the century with his sisters; he was about 8 at the time and his mother had died. 

Abram never knew his father. He was born after his father's death. Often when I say that people seem confused. Yes, that can happen. His father died while his mother was pregnant. His father, Abraham took to sea on a ship called The Rise and Go in the fall of 1890. Abram was born in January 1891 and on March 21, 1891 this article appeared in the Twillingate Sun.

"When on the wide and boundless path Of desolation doom'd to flee, Say, sunk she mid the blended wrath Of stormy cloud or raging sea? Or where the laud but mocks the eye, Went drifting on a fatal shore? Vain guess all ---- her Destiny was dark ---- She ne'er was heard of more, Oh! were her tale of sorrow known, 'Twere something to the aching heart; The pangs of doubt would then be gone, And fancy's dreams would then depart. It may not be ---- there is no ray By which her face we can explore, We only know ---- she sailed away, And ne'er was seen or heard of more."
"The beautiful lines of the poetess bear a most faithful and painful resemblance to the fate of one of our fleet of schooner, the Rise and Go, of Twillingate, Thomas WARR, master, which left this harbor late last fall with a cargo of fish from W. Waterman & Co., and bound for St. John's, and has not been heard of. Doubtless, she succombed to the fury of the gale which sprung up a few days after leaving this harbor, but no positive or definite account of how, or where, or when she was lost or disappeared, has ever reached the anxious and sorrowing relatives of those on board, and all hope that any such news will ever reach them must now be abandoned.
"In the meantime we would offer to the afflicted mourners our deepest and heartfelt sympathy in this their day of sorrow and suffering, and we feel certain that a like wide spread sympathetic feeling exists in the hearts of the general community, where the lost ones were well known and esteemed. It might not be a difficult, but it would be a very melancholy and painful task for the imagination to picture the anxious waiting, the harrowing suspense, with the fitful gleams of hope that must at times have agitated the hearts of those despairing mourners, looking --- oh how vainly looking for the return of the missing and beloved ones to the homes now, so desolate and deserted; but we confess our inability to enter on such a painful task, or to dwell on the irreparable loss they have sustained. The missing ones are now we trust in "That land of pure delight, Where Saints immortal reign." And we know that all will reverently join us in commending the bereaved families to the guidance of One who has promised (and his promises are Yea and Amen) to be a husband to the widow, a father to the fatherless, a friend to the friendless, and a very sure refuge in every time of need.
"The six men composing the crew of the ill fated Rise and Go were the master, Thomas WARR, and two sons George and Daniel, Abraham EARLE, Elijah SHARPE, and Thomas SIMMS, who have left four widows and fifteen children."
Note: The dates on this headstone are wrong. Erected by his children long after his death, Abraham Earle died at sea in the fall of 1890. His body is not interned here.

The sea is a powerful and mighty force. It has affected lives then and now and will continue to do so for as long as humankind exists. Nature always wins.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

FOLLOW-UP: February 17, 1950: Rockville Centre Train Derailment

I searched the New York Times Historical database today to see what more I could learn about the Rockville Centre train derailment that took place in February of 1950.

I found this article that not only listed each of the casualties and all those injured but showed the exact location of the accident.

I wish I could make it larger so it was easier for you to read:

February 17, 1950: Rockville Centre Train Derailment

The other morning I woke to find my father had left me a stack of old family photos bundled together by a rubberband. Really dad, really?? A rubberband?

Anyway, among the photos were these 7 pictures. I can not identify anyone in them or where exactly it was photographed or by whom BUT, there is a date written on the back; "Feb. 1950."

 So I googled "Long Island train derailment February 1950" and found this entry in wikipedia

February 17, 1950 – Rockville Centre, New York, United States: Two passenger trains collide head-on at Rockville Centre train station. The engineer of train number 192 ignored an Approach and the following Stop signals and collided with train number 175 on temporary gantleted (overlapping) track which had been installed to facilitate a grade separation project. Both engineers survived but 31 people were killed, and more than 100 people injured.[1] 

My father would have only been 2 1/2 months old at the time of this accident. My grandfather was a machine operator. I suspect he may have been the one to take these pictures and perhaps he worked on the crash site. I don't know for sure but I am now on the hunt to understand how we came to hold on to these pictures for so long.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Salvaging Family Photos

Part of the reason I have not been posting to my blog is because I live on Long Island, NY. On October 28, Hurricane Sandy hit my beloved island hard. I was not here at the time of the storm as I was delivering a paper at a conference in Baltimore; a much safer, saner place for me to be.

Prior to my departure for the conference my sister gave birth to my parents' first grandchild; a girl, Sofia. She is beautiful and she is living her first few days with us here rather than in my sister's house because of the storm. Sandy unleashed 58 inches of water into their basement. It would be unsound to bring their newborn home until issues of power, heat, and mold have been resolved. And so Sofie sleeps without a care in the room her mother grew up in surrounded by her parents, grandparent, pet bulldog, Aunt April, and friends; oblivious that this is not normal.

I have been lending a hand to a dear friend who was affected by the storm as well. He fared pretty well all considered; however, he did lose his car and some cherished family photos. That is where I come in. I am trying to save whatever pictures I can for him. We haven't really had a fight about it, although we have had some cross stares with furrowed brows. He says that this is just stuff that he lived these images he doesn't need to save them; but I am certain he says this out of frustration and being overwhelmed. I keep saying that you have to save them or else how will they know. How will Who Know What? How will your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, ect. know of the love that brought them here, how will they know who you were if they have no objects, no tokens, no documentation of the lives that existed that brought you here.

I am not talking about saving snapshots of nothing. I am talking about saving photos from the 1800s, baby pictures, first Christmases, wedding photos, photos of souls long gone, moments of love... We know not the degree to which that love existed but for the people in the photos it was a moment they wanted to capture in their own time and somehow it remains. I have to try to save them.

In any case, if your photos have been water damaged, they can often be salvaged. Photos are made in water. If need be you can soak them apart. The best course of action is to remove loose dirt and debris by rinsing your photos in a basin of cold clear running water until the water runs clean. Do not run water directly on them as this may cause further damage to the already softened emulsions. Lay them flat to dry. Do not cover them at this point. Let them fully dry. If they curl up simply take them once they are fully dry and press them in your heaviest books. Here are some more in depth tips from Image Permanence Institute: 

As I have said, my house and family photos remained unharmed through this severe storm; thank God! This morning I woke to a bundle of old photo my father left on the kitchen counter for me before heading off to his job at the Long Island Power Authority. Among them was this photo; my Grandpa Edwin M. Earle Sr., his maternal Uncle Luman Losee, and grandpa's brother Allen Preston Earle circa 1945. 

Grandpa was a Navy man. Until this morning I had never seen this photo. I had never seen him so young. And only now I recall images of him with thick dark hair; like Sofie's. Since the moment I saw Sofie I have said that my Grandpa Earle (a.k.a. Poppy) would have loved those cheeks of hers. How will she know anything of him if I do not save this photo for her and fill her ears with stories of him and his ultra-sensitive crabby ways. How will they know?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dark Records

At this time of year an awful lot of thought is given to the macabre; cemeteries, skeletons.

I am going to relay a story, a dark, serious story that many of my relatives would not want me to share. I do, however, feel it is an important family story to retain; a skeleton, if you will. And so here I go airing laundry in this very public medium.

It speaks to the character of my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner (a.k.a.: Whitey Gardner), love of family, and deep dysfunction.

To understand this man you need some back story...

My maternal grandmother, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner (a.k.a.: Lynne), died on June 5, 1972 at the age of 41 due to cancer of the liver. She left my grandfather a widower at the age of 44 with 6 children. Since I was not born until 1974 some of what I am about to relay is pure conjecture on my part; pieced together from stories I have heard from various relatives and feelings I have picked up on.

I sense my grandfather deeply loved my grandmother as evidenced by the fact that he never remarried. he did have a very close companion, though; Pat. She was a little kooky but the what member of the family isn't?

Grandpa was a warm and loving man in a quiet, unobtrusive way. He was the kind of man who you could go months, even years without speaking to but should you call, when he answered, it would be as if not a day had passed. He was always happy to talk to me and always wanted me to come see him at his home in Florida. Thinking back on it now, I don't know if my grandfather ever called me in his whole life. I am not even sure he knew my birthday...but I had no doubt he loved me and was very, very proud of me. I was the oldest of his 9 grandchildren; and named after my grandma. My full name is April Lynne Earle.

You see, after grandma passed and my mom got married, and my uncle was off on his own, Grandpa Whitey sold his home in Merrick, Long Island, NY and bought a trailer home in West Palm Beach, Florida. He took his four youngest children with him. I believe he wanted to start life anew; I suspect that he wanted to escape the memories of life with Lynne.

In any case, after my parents' divorce and my mother's subsequent remarriage, I would spent my summer vacations in Florida. I would divide my two months there between time with my grandfather and time with my father's sister. It was my opportunity to not only escape my evil step-father but to bond with my distant relatives; mainly grandpa.

He would take me on little excursions; long drives in the truck; museums; zoos; but mainly we played monopoly. Yes, one summer long game of monopoly.

Grandpa did not live in his past. Maybe his heart, maybe his mind carried the pains and scares of days gone by but grandpa lived in the now. He took what those would give him at face value and expected nothing; at least that is how he felt to me. We cherished every moment we spent together.

In the family's shadowy past existed my evil step-father who died many years ago. My mother had two children with that man; children who have not had an easy deal in life. My step-father taught his children to mistreat my mother who deserved nothing but love and respect really. My sister has matured into a warm and loving soul. My brother, who I really do not know at all, was a very troubled child. The treatment my mother received from them as small children, I believe permanently damaged her emotionally, but I digress.

At one point my grandfather, this non-intrusive man, could no longer bear to watch my mother be abused by her son and so grandpa filed a suit to have my brother removed from my mother's home for her own good. Needless to say it caused a huge rift between grandpa and mom and my brother. 

She would hate me for writing this. Grandpa would probably also be ashamed of me for airing such family matters; but I do not care to hide my history. It has shaped how I am today. 

So in among the papers I have gathered about my family history is a document I secured from the State of Florida acknowledging that Clarence A. Gardner made this plea to remove my under-aged brother from my mother's home. He did so because he loved his daughter. In his quite, strong, unassuming way he stood strong by what he believed in. He LOVED his daughter and needed to protect her at any risk; regardless of the results.

Ultimately the suit was dropped. My brother remained with my mom. 

So why save and this story of dysfunction, drama, and disdain?

Because these are the people I come from.

Because last night I had an incredibly intense dream about my grandfather. One of those dreams so vivid you wake up unsure where reality is. Here or there, I know he is with me. Although he may not have been a very present figure in my day-to-day. I know without a doubt he loved me like no on else.  

In the dream he told me share to this. That someone needed to read this. He told me that the advice I sort from a friend was the right friend to seek it from. And that even though the advice I was given did not yield a positive reaction; I did the right thing. He told me to be who I am, just the way that I am, and to love the only way I know how which is  OUT LOUD! Incidentally, not they same way grandpa loved.

And families are messy. I hate when people where their ancestry with snobbery or elitism. Your existence is a badge of honor and it is fine to polish it off, but believe me, I know what kind of crud can accumulate on it.

And not every picture of the past is a sepia-toned pose...but there is beauty in every fucking one.

Thanks, Gramps!

 Grandpa Whitey and I circa 1979.

Grandpa Whitey and I circa 1990

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Labeling Family Photos

I love old family photos. I don't even care who's family they depict; something about capturing a moment of familial love sort of warms my heart. Look at those people gathered attempting to document and share what is important to them; love them.. 

The one thing I would really appreciate, though, is that you label your photos. If these people and events mean so much to you, please take the time to leave some written clues on the back of the photo. I say this know fully well that I possess many photographs that are not labeled. In all honesty, my labeled photos far, far outweigh my unlabeled ones; that's the librarian in me!

My great-grandmother, Ethel Mae Losee-Earle, left a wealth of photographs among her possessions when she passed. Over the course of the next few days I plan to share some of my favorites on this blog.

Sadly, most of her photo have no identifying information. She had a small address book sized album that contained about 20 small  2x3" photos. Although she did not identify the people in the pictures, her son and daughter-in-law (my paternal grandparents) were able to help me label some of the images. When doing so it is important to indicate when you're labeling the photo. It is obvious the photos were taken in the 1920s; I made sure to write "labeled by April Earle, 2000" on the back of each photo. In 100 years should some other ancestor have the photo they'll hopefully understand how credible the information on the back of the photo is; I could have easily misidentified people given it was 80 years after the photo was taken. I am only reasonably certain who those people are.

The funny thing is that the only photo great-grandma Ethel labeled was one of her brother, Luman D. Losee, milking a cow and her eldest son, Allen Preston Earle, then about 3 years-old, was holding the milk pail. She didn't tell you her brother's name, no, not at all; she doesn't tell you what year the photo was taken, nope; she only identified the cow as Martha.

Reads: This is a pretty good picture only Martha isn't as thin as this look. Lu.
Allen Preston Earle, Luman D. Losee, Martha "The Cow" Losee.
Photo taken circa 1920. Labeled by April Earle, 2000.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crossing New York City Streets in the 1920s

I came across a funny little video on called Driving Around New York City - 1928. I love the music, the humor, the reality of the scene.

Sadly, though, it was an automobile that took the life of my great-great grandmother, Sabina Krantzel-Prinz in 1926 on the streets of Manhattan; specifically the intersection of 76th Street and First Avenue on April 24, 1926 at 6:45 a.m.

I learned this detail through obtaining Sabina's death certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives.

What could a 65 year old woman be doing walking across 1st Avenue that early in the morning? Was she on her way to church, perhaps? I never think of my mother's side as especially religious. Could she have been off to work?? I know my great grandfather, James Fay, this woman's son-in-law, owned a laundromat or dry-clearner's store in that general area of Manhattan but who knows.

Can you imagine trying to cross a street like this at a time when they had few if any traffic controls??

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Finding my Michael Fay

Anyone who invests themselves in genealogy research comes to learn that there are those ancestors who want to be known and those who just want to be left alone. As a researcher though, one can be a bit thick when it comes to accepting that last truth. For years and years I tried to find my Michael Fay, my great-great grandfather. It was such a long arduous process that I know I can not accurately detail for you all the steps I took to finally find his resting place; but I did, I found it.

I do recall trusting my hunch that he would be found interned in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. This hunch was based on the fact that I had found his wife and three of his children interned there; not all in the same plot mind you but in Calvary Cemetery.

This burial location hunch also came with the strong suspicion that Michael died in the great City of New York. Using the German Genealogy Group's New York City Death Index, searching for Michael Fay with no known date of birth (just an approximation taken from census records) and no known date of death resulted in far more many Michael Fays that I wanted to believe existed; 44 to be exact. Michael Fay is not quite the genealogical purgatory of say searching for a John Smith but still it was rough.

After applying what processes of elimination that I could, I narrowed the list of results. I knew he was listed in the 1910 census and that by the 1930 census his wife, Agnes Joyce-Fay, was living with her daughter, listed as a widow. I couldn't find either of them in the 1920 census. That alone reduced the results from the New York City Death Index list down to 10. Then by estimating those Michael Fay's birth years I limited the list further to 6 possibilities.

If you know a name and date of death for an individual interned in Calvary they are happy to provide a plot location over the phone; however, if you don't have a date of death then they charge a great deal to do the research for you. I don't recall the exact fee but it was enough for me to arrive at a different course of action.

Every week I would call Calvary and ask for a plot location for one of the 6 possible Michael Fays. Some weeks they would say, "Sorry, no Michael Fay buried here in that month." To which i would reply thank you and simply cross that man off my list of possibilities. Some weeks I would call and they would give me a plot location; that happened for 3 of those possibilities. On my 6th call, the woman who answered my call with a reply I recognized as a family plot. 

"Yes, Michael Fay who died on January 13, 1915 is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Cemetery #3, Section #17, Range #22, Plot EE, Grave #12."

That was the plot location I had for his two children, Leo Joseph Fay and Anna Fay who both died in 1918 with in days of each other.

The woman on the phone informed me that there were 4 internments in the plot. And so still there is the lingering question as to who the 4th interment is but at least I know great-great grandpa is there...without a headstone but the unmarked grave directly in front of this headstone erected for my 3rd great grandparents, John and Mary Ann Joyce; Michael Fay's in-laws.

Again, some ancestors would rather be left alone and others, others are begging to be found.

1918 Flu Pandemic: The "Spanish Flu"

I have mention in previous posts that my maternal grandmother, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner, passed away before I was born. Thus, most of what I have learned about my Fay line I have found on my own and through the kindness of researching cousins. It was through a distant researching cousin, Mary Anne, that I learned that my great grandfather, James Fay, had two elder siblings who are believed to have been a dance team that preformed on the vaudeville circuit. This great-great uncle, Leo Joseph Fay, and great-great aunt, Anna Fay, are rumored to have contracted the Spanish Flu while touring.

Now I have found nothing to this point to confirm their vaudeville connection but the did both die during the flu pandemic of 1918. Most victims were healthy young adult as opposed to typical influenza outbreak which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or sickly individuals. The pandemic lasted from January 1918 to December 1920; and it is estimated to have killed between 20 and 50 million people making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

For those of you Twilight fans, the fictional character Edwin Cullen was dying from the Spanish flu when he was turned into a  vampire; or so I'm told.

Leo Fay passed first on January 27, 1918 at the age of 29; the day before his 30th birthday. His cause of death is listed as "inherited T.B. diathesis, probably." His occupation is listed as laborer. He died at home. 

Anna Fay passed 6 days later on February 5, 1918 at the age of 28; just two days after her birthday. Her cause of death is listed as Pulmonary Tuberculosis. Her occupation is listed as embroiderer. She died at metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, NY. 

The two are buried side by side in a family plot in Calvary Cemetery in NY.

I tend to believe that these two were obviously close siblings in life and death, regardless of their occupations. And even though their cause of death is not listed as influenza, I would tend to believe that that is what they both actually fell victims to, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, based on the dates on which they died which were early in the epidemic's siege and that lingering word in Leo's cause of death; "probably."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

One of the greatest short stories to be born out of New York is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Washington Irving in 1820; available on Google books []. The story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow stirs fearful images in the minds of children and adults alike; the ride of the Headless horseman. But the real life Sleep Hollow Cemetery is the resting place for literally thousands of souls that called the area home. Death is scary, cemeteries can be seen as scary or at least sad, but that is not really how I see them...

A few days ago I wrote about the importance of tourism. I believe if you want to be successful in your family history research you must learning about the history of the place in which your ancestors lived. Today I am headed up to Tarrytown, New York where the legendary cemetery is located. My friends and I are off to experience an event known as Blaze; an exhibit of over 5,000 jack-o-lanterns. On the journey, though, we plan to stop at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. There are literally dozens of famous individuals interned there; and many other ordinary individuals. While there I will look for the grave of my great grandmother's 1st cousin; Frances Klementina Calder.

Frances Calder was born on June 27, 1903 to Edward Calder and Fannie Prinz-Calder and died on August 3, 1904; so sad, she was only 13 months old. She is interned in the children's section of the cemetery; Lone Valley, section 43, row R, grave 15, between plots belonging to Galligher and Griffin. Frances died of colitis in Irvington, NY. The undertaker was C. Vanderbilt; which makes me think of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the wealthy railroad tycoon for whom Vanderbilt University in Tennessee is named for; but trust me, it is not him. Vanderbilt is just a good ole New York Dutch name.

I learned all this information through documents shared by a researching cousin I met via is great for that! When I saved a record from Ancestry there was a note that another Ancestry member had saved the same record. It was through that that Carol and I connected. She shared with me the family tree that she had compiled for my great grandmother's line, the Prinz Family and in turn, I shared with her what I had gathered about the same line.

I knew my great grandmother, Mary Prince-Fay; that is to say that I met her once or twice when I was a small child. Mary was born October 15, 1893 in New York, New York and died on July 17, 1983 in Florida at the age of 89; I was 9 at the time of her death. Mary would have been 10 at the time her infant cousin, Frances, died. I am not sure if she would have attended the burial of this child but I am sure she would have known about the child's passing.

As morbid as it may sound, I like to visit the graves of those ancestors of mine that do not have direct descendants; those that did not have children of their own. Often these people were children themselves. I like to go because I feel that through the generations these people tend to be forgotten. Yet, I know that the death, the loss of a child, greatly impacts a family.

...I see cemeteries as the permanent residences of lives gone by. I'm simply going to visit a remind her she was loved.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Naturalization Papers Surprise!

For the last few days I have been writing about my mother's paternal line, the Desjardins/Gardner Family of Montreal, Quebec, Canada / Astoria, Queens County, New York / Patchogue, Long Island, New York.

On my father's line, a lot of my research was handed to me by various researching cousins. Oh, don't worry, I verify everything that is given to me with documentation and my own research. My mother's line, though, I have done almost all my discoveries on my own. No one has really taken me by the hand and pointed me in the right direction or handed me family trees until very recently. It is only within the last 3 years or so that I have found other researching cousins on my mother's side. Everything up until my 3rd great grandparents I found with very little help or guidance. I had just a few notes to work with from Grandpa Gardner and that was all. Unfortunately, Grandma Gardner passed away before I was born. To reach my 4th, 5th, 6th, and further generations of great grandparents, I did have to connect with researching cousins; they are the greatest resource I have! But at least in the case of Malvina Ethier-Desjardins, my great-great grandmother, everything I know I learned on my own.

The greatest document I have about her life her naturalization papers. For years and years I scoured the various New York District Court Records - - found nothing! And then I learned that Suffolk County's Naturalization Index was available online: Suffolk County Naturalization through the Italian Genealogy Group. Suffolk County is Long Island, New York's eastern most county and the one in which Patchogue is situated. That is where Malvina lived for the latter part of her life. And sure enough, that is where I found her naturalization papers.

It resolved one big mystery; Malvina did not arrive through Ellis Island, like so many newcomers to New York, Malvina came from Montreal via RAILROAD! Her port of immigration was Grand Central Station! Not only does the document reveal this, it list her date of birth, her address, her date of arrival in the U.S., and all of her natural-born U.S. citizen children's dates of birth and residencies, the document includes a photo. A photo! I had never seen a photo of any of my grandfather's relatives - none. And here on these documents from 1938 was a picture of my great-great grandma. 
Doesn't she look a lot like my grandpa?
They are each about 75 years old in these photos.

 Malvina Ethier-Desjardins circa 1938

Her grandson, my grandfather, Clarence Albert Gardner, circa 2003

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Desperate Times for the Desjardins - 1911

Yesterday I wrote about the passing of my great great grandfather, Damas Desjardins, in October of 1911. I shared his obituary from the newspaper, The Patchogue  Advance, which was the local newspaper for Patchogue, Long Island, New York.

Another article ran in that same paper two months later on December 28, 1911. It read as follows:
Mrs. Desjardin who has started a little store at her home on Avery avenue finds her business has been injured by reports that her husband died of a contagious disease. This is not true and her friends who sympathize with her efforts protest against this unkind attitude which is severely damaging her. Mrs. Desjardin's stock is entirely new and she is endeavoring to support a family of six and keep them together. She has has three deaths in less than three months.
Great great grandma, Malvina Ethier-Desjardins, did not have it easy; certainly not in 1911.

I know that one of those three deaths mentioned at the end of the article was that of her husband, Damas Desjardins who died on October 9, 1911.

In the family plot at St. Francis de Sales Cemetery in Patchogue, I discover the second death to be that of Anna Desjardins who, according to the headstone, was born on July 30, 1911 and died on December 18, 1911. I suspect that Anna may have been a grandchild of Malvina and Damas; whose child Anna was though, I am not sure. In 1911, Malvina was about 47; I suppose Anna could have been the child of Malvina and Damas but I doubt it.

The third death to take place in the family in 1911 occured on October 10, 1911; just the day after Damas died. On the 10th, the family lost a newborn, Clement Mono, aged 3 months. I learned this by purchasing the plot records for a grave in Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens County, NY. Clement was the son of  Emma Desjardins-Monno and Clement Monno, Sr.

In 2009, I was able through the use of the New York City Death Index provided by The German Genealogical Group's online, to track down the death certificate for my great grandfather, Albert Gardner.

I then purchased a copy of the certificate from the New York City Municipal Archives.

From that certificate I learned that Albert was interned in Calvary Cemetery.

Upon contacting Calvary Cemetery via phone, I learned Albert was interned with three others.

I visited the cemetery to learn there was no headstone which was not a surprise really, my relatives rarely have headstones.

The only way for me to know who was buried in cemetery 3, section 36, range 10, plot G, grave 16 was to order a plot record. I do not recall the exact price but in my opinion, it was steep; I remember that!

However, that plot record provided information about three relatives that I may have never otherwise discovered; Clement Mono, Edward Desjardins who the plot was purchased for in 1903 and who was the brother of my great grandfather Albert Gardner, and Alinna Ethier who I believe to really be Olivine Page-Ethier, my 3rd great grandmother who was born in Quebec, Canada and who was buried in Calvary Cemetery on December 14, 1906 at the age of about 70. I suspect Olivine died in the City of New York but I have never been able to locate a death certificate for her.