Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Top 5 Favorite Dead People

It may seem strange to say this but I really have bonded with some of my dead people. I never knew them and yet I feel them close to me; not in a spooky, I-see-dead-people kind of way but close to me. While researching some of their lives, they have lead me to some amazing discoveries; while others have plagued me with a lack of documentation.

Today I share with you my top 5 fav dead people, in no particular order. Most of them I have written about before in this blog. I will link to more detailed stories about them when possible. In this post, though, I will, to the best of my ability, explain how they came to be my favorite:

5. Jacob Raynor (born ??? - died 1829. Long Island, NY)
I grouse about this guy extensively. He is not just my genealogical nemesis, he is also my 6th great-grandfather; the stonewall of my Raynor line. My inability to find anything definitive about his parentage drives me nuts. I am constantly trying to chip away at this Teflon-Don to no avail. BUT, he is how I met so many of my researching cousins include the often mentioned, Cousin Mary whom I just adore. I talk shit about Jacob but secretly, shhhhhh, I love him.
4. Damase Desjardins (born October 1850, Montreal, Quebec, Canada - died October 9, 1911, Patchoque, Long Island, NY)
Oh Damase, you excessive procreater you! Damase is my great-great grandfather on my mother's paternal line. He fathered 11 children; 1 with his first wife Victorine Desjardins-Desjardins and 10 with his second wife, Malvina Ethier-Desjardins.

I love Malvina too. She lived through such trying circumstances; losing her husband, a child, and a grandchild all in the same year. It was her naturalization papers which startled me by providing me a photograph of her; my grandpa looked so much like her.

But it was researching Damase's life that first required me to learn a little French, encouraged me to visit Montreal and the outlying town of Mascouche, Quebec, and helped me to understand the persistent experience of estrangement that remains within this family line. Damase also had a great obituary that explained the family name change from Desjardins to Gardner.
3. Isabelle Nancy McLean-Williams-Evans (born 1871 - died May 24, 1922, Lowell, Massachusetts)
Aunt Belle. It was a medium who told me I'd research this woman which is probably the strangest of all my genealogy research stories.Aunt Belle was my great-great grandmother's younger sister. She moved from Canada to Lowell, Massachusetts prior to WWI. When her niece, my great grandmother Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp-Gardner, moved to the U.S. with her brother Daniel Sharp, it was Aunt Belle whom they went to live with.
As I tell many a researching-cousin, some relatives want to be found and other do not. Unlike Jacob Raynor above I believe Aunt Belle just wanted to be found and so I celebrate her.
2. Ambrose Weeks (born June, 1819 - died May 3, 1900, Hempstead, Long Island, NY)
I just recently wrote about Ambrose. First off I just love his name, Ambrose. He was the brother-in-law of my 4th great-grandmother, Lydia Smith-Losee. He was married to Lydia's sister, Elizabeth Smith-Weeks. Lydia and Elizabeth were daughters of Jacob Raynor mentioned above. Ambrose is a distant relationship to me but still one of great interest. He is a sad, tragic figure who breaks my heart every time I read about him in the various newspaper articles I have found about his life. 
1. Benjamin Franklin Losee (about 1844, Freeport, Long Island, NY - died Fall or Winter, 1865, Point of Rocks, VA)
My beloved Civil War soldier, Ben. Oh how I cherish this man. His story is one so steeped in American history; just a poor, young boy who went off to fight for his country but really to financially support his family. He died in the hospital tents of typhus at much too young an age.

He was one of the very first names I stumbled across and his existence is what really pushed me into research my family history. I have used his story and pension file to speak to classrooms of children about the Civil War, family history, and primary resources. At times I have felt his spirit soldiering me on (pardon the pun) to continue my research. And for this, the greatest genealogical kindness I have ever given to my ancestors was to Ben; I had his military issued tombstone replaced with one bearing a correct spelling of his last name.


  1. I think everybody who does family history research finds at least one person on their tree that they connect with - either they have a story that draws you in, or they're that one ancestor who just wants to be found, or they're that one ancestor who does NOT want to be found, lol...but it's those ancestors who don't want to be found who usually help bring researching cousins together! :)

    Is Ben Losee the one whose grave we visited on our way down to Charleston?

  2. Yes, Mary, Ben is the grave we visited in Hopewell, Va while on our way down to Charleston, SC. I'd love to read about your top 5 favs.

    1. Have been in need of a blog entry idea, so will need to begin narrowing down my faves!