Saturday, June 17, 2017

How a 53-year-old Letter Between Sisters -- and the Research Path it Provided -- Led to the Discovery of the Probable Reason Behind the Smallpox Death of George Henry Cooke in December 1872

In August 1964, my maternal grandmother, Ruth [Cooke] Carpenter, received a letter from her older sister, Helen [Cooke] Roberts. The letter included information about their grandfather (my great great grandfather), George H. Cooke, as indicated by my grandmother's writing on the envelope for the letter (shown above). The letter was postmarked August 7, 1964 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where my grand aunt Helen lived.

George Henry Cooke was born November 18, 1843 in Boston, Massachusetts to Russell Cooke and his wife, Mary Vinal Otis. George was the fifth of the seven children of Russell and Mary Cooke (two girls and five boys). George was the third of the five boys.

Russell & Mary Cooke family circa 1853. From L to R: Russell Cooke; Mary Vinal [Otis] Cooke with son Charles Willis Cooke on her lap; William Russell Cooke with curly hair; Albert Francis Cooke sitting between his mother and sister, Abby Ann Ruth Cooke; Edward Otis Cooke in checkered vest behind Albert; Mary Thomas Cooke standing at right; and George Henry Cooke standing far right in what looks like military-style clothing. 

After having recently rediscovered my grand aunt Helen's 53-year-old letter to her sister -- my grandmother Ruth [Cooke] Carpenter -- I read it closely for more information about my Cooke ancestors and relations. In the letter, Helen refers to their father, Walter Wilson Cooke (1869 - 1944), as "papa." Walter was the only son of George Henry Cooke (1843 - 1872) and his wife Susannah Catherine Appell (1844 - 1906), but George and Susannah had one other child, a daughter named Flora Appell Cooke born in 1868. Flora died at about age 30 in 1899.

George Henry Cooke

Susannah Catherine [Appell] Cooke

Walter Wilson Cooke

My grand aunt's letter, written when she was 72, records many of her recollections about her father and other members of the Cooke family. Some excerpts from her letter will illustrate the nature of the recollections and the genealogy clues they provide for research and verification.

Of her father Walter, Helen wrote, "Papa had curvature of the spine when young & was in a brace for a year - taken out of school & sent to his grandfather's home in Scituate Mass. to recuperate. He used to chin himself in the barn to stretch his spine, etc."

The grandfather of Walter Cooke was Russell Cooke, father of Walter's dad, George Henry Cooke. As the above excerpt also states, the house where Walter was sent to recuperate was Russell and Mary Cooke's home in Scituate, Massachusetts and the home was later owned by "Ed Cooke" a "cousin" of Helen and Ruth's father Walter. Ed was said to be a lawyer and Helen recalls having visited the colonial-style home on "a hill above the railroad depot."

Much of Helen's letter to her sister Ruth is about their grandfather, George Henry Cooke. As the scan of the first page and part of the second page indicate, Helen recalled that George Cooke was a glass engraver who "worked for his uncle." She also reported hearing that their grandmother (George's wife Susannah) had a pension based on George's service in the Civil War -- possibly in Louisiana. George was apparently "very fond" of his brother-in-law -- his wife Susannah's brother, Jacob Appell (who was a doctor). And Helen explains that when there were smallpox outbreaks "in those days" people were "so frightened of small pox that the Doctors sometimes had to bury them." Helen tells her sister Ruth that George "went about with [his brother-in-law, the doctor] a good deal" and then states that George himself died of smallpox "after helping as a volunteer, to take people from a burning building" during a "huge Boston fire" and it was surmised that George contracted the smallpox from one of the victims he helped evacuate from the fire.

My grand aunt Helen's letter provides many intriguing tidbits about my Cooke genealogy, but the question became, "How accurate were her recollections and family stories when she recalled them for her sister at age 72?"

It was fairly easy to find corroboration for one claim in the letter. The recent discovery of the comprehensive two-volume Cook/Cooke genealogy titled "Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island" compiled and published by Jane Fletcher Fiske (Oxford. Massachusetts, 1987) provides a wealth of sourced information about many of my Cooke ancestors and relations.

On page 418 of Volume One of Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island, Ms. Fiske confirms what I have long known about my Cooke genealogy (as the photos and letter support) -- that Russell Cooke married Mary Vinal Otis and that my great great grandfather George Henry Cooke was one of their five sons. But the same entry for the Russell and Mary Cooke family states that Russell was a tailor in Boston before he moved to Scituate, Massachusetts "after 1850" where he farmed, was a storekeeper, and a Deacon of the Congregational Church. The Cooke home was apparently located on the corner of First Parish and Stockbridge Streets in Scituate.

This information supports my grand aunt Helen's recollection that her father Walter recuperated at this grandfather's farm in Scituate after he wore a back brace for a year.

The same genealogy by Jane Fletcher Fiske also provides support for Helen's letter, which states Russell's home in Scituate was later owned by Edward Otis Cooke who was a lawyer.  Edward Otis Cooke was an older brother of George Henry Cooke and so was related to Helen's father Walter -- but not as a "cousin" as Helen states.  Edward Otis Cooke was Walter's father's brother and so was Walter's uncle, not his cousin!

At page 615 of Volume Two of Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island, Ms. Fiske states that Edward Otis Cooke, son of Russell and Mary Cooke and George Cooke's older brother, was indeed a lawyer and lived in Scituate, Massachusetts.

The Cooke genealogy by Ms. Fiske also provides evidence for the statement in Helen's letter that George Cooke worked as a glass engraver "for his uncle."

At page 419 of Volume One of Thomas Cooke of Rhode Island, Ms. Fiske states that a brother of Russell Cooke (George's father), James Monroe Cook, was "well-known as a manufacturer of stained glass" and "produced work of considerable excellence" according to the History of Suffolk County 3:434. As cited by Fiske, "Advertisements in Boston Directories and those of other areas at that time proclaimed 'Stained and Cut Glass Manufactory by J.M. Cook, at 131, 139, and 141 Congress Street, Boston: Glass for Church Windows in Every Style.'" Thus there is evidence to indicate George H. Cooke might very well have worked in the stained and cut glass industry for the brother of his father -- his uncle James Monroe Cook.

Helen's letter to her sister also stated that their grandfather George H. Cooke served in the Civil War.  This was easily verified by reference to U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 1861 - 1865. As shown below, George Henry Cook, a glass cutter from the town of Scituate, Massachusetts enlisted at age 18 in Company L, Massachusetts 3rd Cavalry on November 1, 1861 and mustered out on June 11, 1862. His birth date is shown as November 18, 1843 (which matches the birth date from Fiske and other sources).

This then brought me to try to verify the story my grand aunt Helen wrote about her grandfather, George Henry Cooke, dying of smallpox after helping to evacuate people from a burning building during "a huge Boston fire."

While researching more about Edward Otis Cooke, I came across a source called the Index to Obituary Notices in the Boston Transcript 1900 - 1930, Vol I A - F.  In this particular source at page 571 of 988 is an entry noticing the death of Edward O. Cooke on March 6, 1911. The parenthetical -- "(T. March 7)" in the indexed notice means that publication of the notice was in the Boston Transcript (also known as the Boston Evening Transcript) on March 7, 1872.  The Transcript was a daily afternoon newspaper published in Boston from 1830 until 1941.

Sources such as a Massachusetts Masons membership card confirm that Edward Otis Cooke, lawyer and resident of Scituate, Massachusetts, died on March 6, 1911.

But it was the casual research of the Boston Transcript in Wikipedia that then provided an interesting link to the possible reason for the smallpox death of my great great grandfather, George Henry Cooke, as mentioned in my grand aunt Helen's letter. It seems that the Boston offices of the Boston Transcript were completely destroyed in what is now known as the "Great Boston Fire of 1872." As stated at the Wikipedia article on the fire,, the fire of November 9, 1872 raged for twelve hours and consumed 65 acres and 776 buildings.  While some $74 million dollars of damage was caused, somehow only thirteen people died in the firestorm. [At the Wikipedia link, the reader can view amazing photos of the devastation caused by the fire.]

This quick research led to some additional analysis of Helen's statement in her letter that George Cooke was fond of his brother-in-law, Jacob Appell (who was a doctor) and that George "went about with [Jacob] a good deal." 

The 1860 federal census indicates that George Henry Cooke's future wife, Susannah Catherine Appell did indeed have a brother named Jacob F. Appell, who in 1860 was 20 years old (six years older than Susannah) and was then working as a clerk.

Susannah's brother Jacob was born on December 13, 1840 and his full name was Jacob Franklin Appell. He died in October 1902 in Lake City, Florida where he was an allopathic physician.

And then there is the fact that in 1872 the city of Boston had an outbreak of smallpox. During the 63 year period from 1811 to 1874 the year 1872 had by far the greatest number of smallpox deaths at 738 such deaths that year.  In fact, the next greatest year for smallpox deaths was 1873 at 302 deaths for the year. By the time the outbreak of 1872 was over in the first weeks of 1874, more than 1,000 Bostonians had perished as a result of smallpox. It appears that my great great grandfather, George Henry Cooke, was one of them.

Table from the February 1881 edition of the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. 

George Henry Cooke died in Quincy, Massachusetts on December 2, 1872 just twenty-three days after the Great Boston Fire of 1872 was brought under control on November 10, 1872. The incubation period for smallpox is on average 7 to 17 days. [For more information on the 1872 smallpox outbreak in Boston see]

The timing for the possible exposure to smallpox victims in Boston during the Great Fire of November 9- 10, 1872 and the documented death of George Henry Cooke from smallpox about twenty-three days later (see his Quincy death record immediately below) makes the story in Helen's letter quite probable.

The letter from my grand aunt provides a good example of why we genealogists need to read such family documents very carefully and then use the "factual clues" and stories contained in them as starting points for methodical research toward verifying the information contained in such documents. In this case, the information provided by Helen holds up quite well under careful scrutiny and attempts at verification. One glaring error is the relationship between Helen's father Walter Cooke and Edward Otis Cooke.  Helen states that Edward was Walter's cousin when in fact he was the brother of Walter's father George Henry Cooke -- and thus was Walter's uncle, not his cousin. Almost all of the other claims made in Helen's letter are indeed documented as accurate or lead to the conclusion that her information and family stories are most probably true.
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Photos and scans of the August 1964 letter from Helen [Cooke] Roberts are all from the originals in the collection of the author.

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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Wallingford, CT World War II Honor Roll -- close-up photos Part 2 (May 30, 2017)

In my blog post of May 29, 2017, I contributed to the 2017 call for additions to the Honor Roll project of Heather Rojo.  My contribution for Memorial Day 2017 continued the process of transcribing the hundreds of men and women from the Wallingford, Connecticut area who served their country during World War II (my father being among them).

As the above photograph of the WWII memorial on the grounds of the Wallingford Town Hall illustrates, there are seven panels each with triple columns of the names of those who served. My 2016 Veterans Day post covered many, but not all, of the names listed on the first panel. The names are in alphabetical order across the entire seven panels and the first panel contains all the surnames beginning with A through B and some of those beginning with C.  

My post of November 10th, 2016 transcribed and listed all the names on the first panel from George C. Abbott, Jr. to Joseph E. Buza -- 244 names all together. My Memorial Day 2017 post listed all the surnames on the Wallingford WWII memorial that begin with C through E -- 298 names in all. In keeping with my intent to also post close-ups of the panels containing names I have transcribed and listed, this is the post of panel close-ups to provide photographs of all the surnames that begin with C through E. This is the process that will be followed for the remaining six panels over time in order to keep the transciption posts to a manageable size.  The transcribed names will be posted first and photographs of the panel close-ups covering the posted names will follow shortly thereafter.

I am very indebted to my cousin, Bruce Marquardt of Wallingford, for so willingly photographing the panels in close-up for me after my efforts to do so failed.  Thank you Bruce!

The following nine close-ups cover the names on the Wallingford WWII memorial from Joaquin Cachucha through Edward W. Eylward. Please note that in order to be sure all names were photographed, the photos overlap and some names are therefore shown twice and can thus be used to orient the precise order of the names from Cachucha to Eylward  The alphabetical order flows down the first column and then up to the top of the second column and finally up to the top of third column on each of the panels. The surnames starting with C start in the third column of the first close-up photo below.  

Photo No. 1 

Photo No. 2 

Photo No. 3 

Photo No. 4

Photo No. 5

Photo No. 6

Photo No. 7

Photo No. 8

Photo No. 9

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All close-up photographs of the first panel of the WWII memorial are by Bruce Marquardt of Wallingford, Connecticut.

Photo of the entire memorial is by the author.
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Adding a Special Marigold (May 29, 2017)

One week ago today, the Tew and Winkler families welcomed a very special marigold into our lives. Although the debut was delayed by 14 days we were all wonderfully rewarded by the arrival!

Our granddaughter, Nora Winkler Tew, and her family welcomed Nora's baby sister, Marigold Winkler Tew, at 1:06 PM on Monday, May 22, 2017. Marigold unfolded in the world at seven pounds 10 ounces. Her parents and sister are doing well and Marigold at one week old is blossoming nicely.

As when her sister was presented after her birth, we could not resist recalling and humming Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely!" as we looked on her for the first time. Nora is clearly fascinated and is already wearing proudly her newly presented "Big Sister" shirt.

Marigold newly born on May 22, 2017

Nora meets her baby sister Marigold, May 23, 2017

Nora comforts her baby sister Marigold, May 23, 2017

Marigold at six days old, May 28, 2017

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Field of marigolds photograph used through the kind permission of a wonderful year round garden center in Wilton, New Hampshire called House By The Side Of The Road. HBTSOTR has been in business since 1971 and maintains a visually beautiful and informative website here. Thank you HBTSOTR!

Newborn photo of Marigold by her maternal grandmother, Nancy Winkler.

Photos of the first meeting between Marigold and her big sister Nora by the author.

Photo of Marigold at six days old by her father.

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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Heather's Honor Roll Project (Memorial Day 2017) -- Wallingford, Connecticut World War II Memorial Part 2 -- C through E

Wallingford, Connecticut Town Hall

Monday, May 29, 2017, is Memorial Day. 

Among the Honor Roll memorials located in Wallingford, Connecticut on the grounds of the Town Hall is one for those who served (and in some cases died) in World War II. It is by far the most extensive memorial listing of veterans of war who lived in Wallingford.  The list contains hundreds of names -- in fact so many that it will take several posts to get them all transcribed and published. This is the second post of names from the Wallingford WWII Memorial. It will cover all the names in alphabetical order from C through E . . . and that comprises 298 names. [For the first post listing the 244 names from this memorial that begin with A or B, pease see the earlier post here.]  

I know that finding a database of transcribed names is one thing for those who are searching for ancestors and relatives, but for those who cannot make a trip to see the actual memorial, a photograph of their family member's name would be a very useful gift for inclusion in family genealogies; therefore, it is my intention to do a blog post shortly after posting each list of transcribed names to publish the photographs from which I worked to do the transcriptions. Please check back here periodically after you see a listed name of an ancestor or relative in a post and you will then be able to get a photograph of the name in a close-up of the memorial panel containing your family member's name.  [UPDATE: The close-up photos for surnames C through E on this memorial were published on May 30, 2017. You can view the close-up photographs here.]

For readers who take the time to scan the names, you will notice that unlike memorials for earlier wars there are a significant number of women listed on this memorial. Also, apart from the sheer number of names on the World War II memorial, one will note the wonderful ethnic diversity of the names in the list. And there are a number of obvious family members listed so that it appears several possible brother, father/son, and cousin combinations are listed.

My father is listed on the World War II memorial in Wallingford since he briefly attended a year of post-high school education at Lyman Hall in Wallingford before he entered Kings Point, the United States Merchant Marine Academy.  Prior to 1957 what is the present Town Hall was the Lyman Hall High School. [1]  I previously posted a close-up of the section of names containing my father's listing here. This post continues the transcription of the hundreds other names that are honored on the World War II memorial. The transcription posts will be submitted as part of Heather Rojo's wonderful Honor Roll project to create a searchable listing of all U.S. war veterans on memorials erected in this country.

One other point to make on this Memorial Day regarding memorials to World War Two veterans .  .  .
The names on this and other WWII memorials around the country list members of what has often been called "The Greatest Generation."  The names on these memorials recognize the hundreds of thousands of men and women who sacrificed years of their youth or middle age -- and in many cases their very lives -- to combat an undeniable evil. My father is now 94 years old. He turned 19 years old at the very end of November, 1941 and the United States declared war on Japan and Germany on December 8th and December 11th, 1941, respectively.  Before my father turned 20 years old he was attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and shortly thereafter was making voyages to deliver supplies and materiel in the war effort. Today as we commemorate those members of the greatest generation who died in WWII, it is important to pause and realize -- with respect to this particular memorial and so many others like it -- that almost all of the men and women enumerated on WWII memorials are no longer with us. If they survived the war, the great majority have lived their lives and passed on. Very, very few remain with us today. Lift a glass today to all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to those who served!   

The World War II memorial on the grounds of the Wallingford Town Hall

The names of the men and women honored on the Wallingford World War II memorial with surnames beginning with C through E are as follows . . .

Joachim Cachucho                        Mario Cachucho                 Fred John Cadete
Joseph Calabrese                          Victor R.Calabrese              James E. Calamari
Theodore F. Campos                     John F. Canell                     Albert G. Canelli
Edmund J. Canelli                        Adrian Canning                   Charles J. Canning
Francis J. Canning                        James R. Canning               John W. Canning
William T. Canning                      James R. Cannon                Robert J. Cannon
Casper J. Caplan                           Jacob J. Caplan, Jr.             Anthony L. Cappella
Alan A. Carey                               Dominic A. Carini              John B. Carini
Arthur G. Carlson                         Gustave A. Carlson            Walter J. Carmody
August Carretta                             Francis W. Carroll, Jr.        John H. Carroll
John W. Carroll                             William F. Carroll              Carmel M. Cascio
Raymond J. Cascio                        Sebestian J. Cassarino       Anthony J. Cassella
Albert Cassello                              Frank M. Cassello             George E. Cassidy
Robert F. Cassin                            Joseph A. Catala                Archie J. Caturia
Peter F. Cefarilli                            Paul D. Cella                     Richard J. Cella
Albert J. Centner                           Frank Cerato                     Louis Cerato
Raymond W. Cerato                      Frank C. Cerri                  Walter P. Chandler
Wilbur R. Chandler                       Harry W. Chapman           Andrew Chappo
Joseph F. Chappo                          Louis P. Chappo                John P. Charnysh
Joseph F. Charron                         Marvin M. Cherico           Joseph Cherry, Jr.
Joseph Chervak                            William F. Chervak           Joseph Chiarelli
Teddy Chiz                                   John J. Cholefsky              Joseph Choti, Jr.
Frank J. Chovitz                           Joseph R. Christoni           Charles Ciko
Leo S. Ciszek                               Stanley J. Citak                 Theodore J. Citak
Samuel T. Clapp                           Frank A. Claps                  Frederick W. Clark
Louis Clark                                   Olive M. Clark                 Paul Clark
Francis B. Clarke                          Francis J. Clarke              Lawrence Clarke
Richard Clarke, III                        Guy M. Cleborne             Max Cohen
William J. Colby                           Henry G. Collins              Lester T. Collins
Raymond M. Combs                     Francis D. Comerford      John E. Comerford, Jr.
Warren B. Comiskey                     Edward P. Condon           George J. Condon
Robert W. Condon                        William J. Condon, Jr.     Robert E. Connelly
Dominic P. Conte                          Vincent B. Conte             Julio L. Conti
John F. Coogan                              Norman P. Coogan          Charles E. Cook
Edward F. Cook                             Eugene L. Cook              George E. Cook
Thomas J. Cook                             William E. Cook             Carroll J. Cooney
Deforest J. Cooper                         Lloyd G. Cooper             Ralph A. Coppola
Vincent Coratella                           Victor J. Coratelle           Donald E. Corazzini
Basil Corradino                              Albert Correia                Manuel R. Correia
Ralph Correia, Jr.                           Gabriel Correia              Charles E. Corriveau
Alexander Cortes                           Joseph G. Coss               Joseph Costa
Jean C. Cote                                   Mabel A. Cote                Francis T. Coughlin
Edward T. Cox                               Dan D. Coyle                  Robert F. Coyle
John R. Craig                                 Theodore H. Craig          Kenneth B. Crawford
Donald J. Crean                             James F. Crean                Francis J. Crebase
David E. Creed                              Edward H. Cremo           Gartrell Crenshaw
George N. Cross                            Charles G. Crump           Harold C. Crump
Richard E. Cullen                          Thomas F. Cullen, Jr.      Thomas F. Cullins
William H. Curtis                          Vincent J. Cusimano       Edward P. Cutter
Charles S. Cwirka                          Joseph F. Cwirka            Joseph J. Cwirka
Victor A. Cwirka                           John Cyganik                  Stephen P. Cyganik, Jr.
Charles Cziko                                John J. Czine                  Aldo D. D'Agostino
Angelo D'Agostino                        Daniel J. D'Agostino      Mario V. D'Agostino
Philip V. D'Agostino                      William D'Agostino       Maxime Daignault
James J. Daly                                 John J. Daly                    Lawrence D. D'Amico
Theodore J. Damm                        Edward J. Daney            Firmino Danio
Alfred T. Danorovich                    James F. Darin                John A. Darin
Raymond V. Darling                     Edward H. Dauplaise      Howard C. Davidson
Stanley A. Davidzonek                 Barbara H. Davis             Ralph R. Davis
Steve A. Dawidzionek                  Julius S. Dean                  James J. Debaise
Mathew Debaise                           Merino D. Debaise          Michael J. Debaise
Pasquale J. Debase                       Edmund C. Dechert          Francis D. Dechert
Henry Delgreggo                         Anthony Delsanto            James B. Deluca
Leo V. Delucia                             Albert G. Demarko           Louis Demarko
Henry P. Dembiczak                    Walter Dembiczak            Walter J. Dembiczak
Daniel H. Demeo                         Glendon H. Deming         Howard F. Deming
Norman S. Deming                      Andrew Denigris              George Denigris
John T. Denigris                           Michael Denino, Jr.          George F. Denya
William J. Denya                         Richard A. Deroy              Emery Desjardins
Raymond M. Desjardins              Leroy A. Desmond, Jr.      Salvatore Diamonte
Joseph F. Dicarlo                         Xavier J. Dicarlo               Morgan P. Dickerman, II
Anthony Dicosimo                      Anthony L. Digennaro      Ernest J. Dighello
Frank J. Dighello                         Fred J. Dighello                Dominic J. Dinuzzo
Nell J. Dinuzzo                            Anthony Diorsi                 Edward F. Divine
William J. Docker                        Emil A. Doehr                  Charles F. Doll
Herbert J. Doll                             George W. Dombroski      John J. Dombroski
Harry S. Doolittle                         Henry A. Doolittle           Lawrence P. Doolittle
Raymond C. Doolittle                  Robert E. Doolittle           William R. Dorau
Kenneth Dorsey                           Peter Dorsey                     Romeo Dorsey
Charles H. Dougan                       James M. Dougherty        Charles F. Downey
Edward J. Downey                       Raymond J. Downey        Richard N. Downey
Emery J. Downing                       Real Downing                   Frank P. Doyle
Arthur A. Draghi                         John W. Dringoli               Louis J. Dringoli
Joseph S. Drost                            Charles F. Drum                Stephen A. Dsupin
Michael Dubar                             Nicholas Dubiago             Dennis O. Dubois
Dudley A. Dubois                        John H. Dubois                 George E. Duffy
Harold F. Dunbar                         Charles E. Dunn                Dorothy Dunn
Edward P. Dunn, Jr.                      George E.Dunn                 Howard J. Dunn
John J. Dunn                                 John W. Dunn                   Joseph R. Dunn, Jr.
Wilfred J. Dupre                           Daniel J. Dwyer                John J. Dwyer
Robert A. Dybec                          Joseph A. Dzeima             Alfred R. Eckert
Bruno W. Eckert                          Edward J. Eckert               Frank L. Eckert
Walter S. Eckert                           Dorothy A. Edell               Frederick E. Edell
John M. Edell                               Allyn F. Ehler                   Merril W. Ehler
Lester L. Eichorn                         Anthony J. Elionfante       Dorothy M. Emerson
Robert S. Emerson                       Frank A. Encauskas          William G. England
P.J. Erdos                                     Frederick F. Erff                 Joseph F. Eskenazi
Antonio Esteves                           Manuel J. Esteves              David C. Everett
Frank J. Evon                               Steve L. Evon                    William J. Evon
Edward W. Eylward                                  

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[1]  Lyman Hall (1724 - 1790) was born in Wallingford and served as a representative to the Continental Congress from Georgia.  He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later served as a Governor of Georgia.

Photographs of the extensive list of names on the World War II memorial in Wallingford, Connecticut were provided to me for transcription by my cousin, Bruce O. Marquardt, of Wallingford.  This transcription contribution would not have been possible without Bruce's very kind and willing efforts to make sure I had legible photos from which to do the transcriptions.  THANK YOU BRUCE!
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday Serendipity (May 27, 2017)

Following another brief hiatus (the reason to be presented in a future post), Saturday Serendipity returns this week with a very few recommendations for your weekend reading.

1.  In my family trees I try to get photographs of ancestors and relatives at various stages of their lives to add an extra dimension to their life stories. This week The Weekly Genealogist newsletter of NEHGS mentions a photographic project that I found to be very interesting. In Faces of Century, photographer Jan Langer presents a collection of then-and-now photos of men and women in their youth and when they have lived an entire century.  See an amazing sample of the photographs and learn more about the project, here   

2.  As we know by now, the advent of DNA analysis has opened up a variety of new means for solving various puzzles in genealogy and other disciplines. This week The Weekly Genealogist also brings to us another example of DNA analysis providing new insight to a long-standing human puzzle
.  .  .  Who were the people that built Stonehenge, and what happened to them? Read here about the fascinating huge gene study that appears to have arrived at a conclusion.        

3.  For history and map lovers, The Vault blog from Slate presents some intriguing 1938 - 1939 maps from Ken magazine. Ken only last for 16 months, but became famous for having published Ernest Hemingway's dispatches from the Spanish Civil War. The magazine was co-founded by Arnold Gingrich, a founder, publisher and editor of Esquire. See here three maps published in Ken that demonstrate how many people in the U.S. both feared and ridiculed the global rise of fascism in the 1930s.         

4.  The wait continues on FTM 2017. The March 31, 2017 planned release of Family Tree Maker 2017 by Software MacKiev has not happened yet. There are many folks "test driving" the software, but it apparently is not yet ready for prime time and general release. It is all explained here on what is  NOT a progress report by MacKiev. Like many, although I have pre-ordered this new product, I choose to wait until all the testing is done and the "bugs" are worked out at MacKiev and with Ancestry. MacKiev was to meet with Ancestry yesterday (May 26th) and promises a progress report after that meeting. You can check at the link above for that progress report and others if the general release continues to be delayed. As the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait." I continue to wait for what should be a wonderful product if and when it is ready for prime time.

5.  And speaking again of maps, the Library of Congress has now provided FREE access to the Sanborn Insurance Maps.  These maps show buildings in U.S. cities and towns and eventually there will be some 500,000 maps available.  Presently there are maps available online that were published prior to 1900, but maps will be added to the collection through 2020. These should prove to be very useful to genealogists tracing ancestors and relatives to places they lived and worked. Read more about the collection and get a link here at UpFront With NGS blog.     

6.  Marian Wood of Climbing My Family Tree blog has added two more posts to her helpful series Genealogy, Free or Fee. One provides a reminder to exhaust all the free information that resides in the hands and memories of family members. See that post here. The other post provides a comprehensive checklist of resources for information about ancestors. You no doubt have used many of the resources listed, but you will also find others you have perhaps never considered or forgotten about . . . and it is always handy to have a list at the ready. See Marian's checklist here.           
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Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Christmas Tree of Memories

EDITOR'S NOTE: Recently I attended the 2017 NERGC (New England Regional Consortium) genealogy conference in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was my first genealogy conference and during the four-day conference I stayed at a wonderful Bed & Breakfast (pictured above) in the Forest Park section of Springfield run by Carol Kerr and her husband Neville .

One morning before returning to the conference center for another day of genealogy immersion, Carol asked me and Nancy -- another guest who was also attending the NERGC conference -- how the conference was going. As part of my answer I mentioned attending a session titled, "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past: Where Will Your Research and Collectibles Go?" by New England blogger Marian Wood. Carol then shared with Nancy and me the touching and wonderfully creative solution she came up with when faced last year with her mother's passing and the need to collect and deal with her mother's possessions. Upon hearing Carol's story I immediately asked her if she would be willing to write up her story for a guest post here on Filiopietism Prism. She agreed. 

I am thrilled and honored to be able to share Carol's story and photos with all of you on this most appropriate day .  .  . Mother's Day. I suspect that -- like Carol and Neville's house last Christmas Eve -- there will be many a moist eye in the blogosphere after reading . . .    

The Christmas Tree of Memories
Carol Kerr

My parents didn't have much when they came to America by boat from Germany in the mid fifties. They had a few suitcases, two children, a violin.  There was never much in the way of possessions or heirlooms to pass down.

Mom lived with me for almost 20 years. When she died in August, there was really no inheritance to pass on to her children. She owned no car, no home,  no insurance money. She had a small amount of savings, but even that was not in her name.

What Mom did have was stuff. Lots of it. Old photos, items she had knitted (she was a prodigious knitter), mementos, dishes, stemware, books, tchotchkes, things that her children had given her over the years, paintings she had painted, travel souvenirs. In short, the story of her life in ephemera, trinkets, glass, and costume jewelry.

For the last couple years of Mom's life, my husband and I turned our dining room into a large bedroom/sitting room for her and provided her with a storage room upstairs and parts of several other rooms as well. Mom had lots of stuff, and we had a home large enough to accommodate all of it. After she died, it was time to repurpose the downstairs to a dining room again, and create a guest room upstairs from the storage room.

Then, I had a dilemma. I had all of it . . . everything my mother possessed. I didn't want to keep everything, yet I couldn't bring myself to just get rid of so much. Her possessions represented so much of her life . . . and so many memories. Plus, in my mind was the thought that the other children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she left behind had nothing of her.

At some point in my mind I made a decision to give stuff to my three siblings. But then the question was what to give and to whom. And what was a fair division? Should the brother with three daughters and a new grandbaby get more than the sister with one son? Or, should the other sister who already had a son, granddaughter, and three great grandchildren receive a larger share? Would they even want any of it? There was nothing of value beyond sentimental.  

In the end, I decided to give something to everyone, and let them decide what (if anything) they wanted to keep. And with Christmas just a few months away, I had an idea to give them this stuff when we were all together for the holiday. And from there, Mom's Last Christmas came to me.

I bought 10 moving boxes (3 siblings, 4 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren = 10 boxes) and set them all up in a side room. Then, I started going through all Mom's things while at the same time converting rooms. As I came across her things, I would put them in the boxes. I tried to evenly distribute as much as possible. Everyone got some old photos, everyone got something she knitted, everyone got something from her china cabinets, everyone got one of her cookbooks and some jewelry. I distributed evenly and randomly, so that even I wouldn't know what was in each box.

Then I found a series of cassette recordings. Mom married for a second time in her early sixties. For their honeymoon, they went on a tour of Germany to travel and to introduce Richard to all the family. Each night they would turn on the recorder and just discuss the day they had. It was wonderful to hear their voices. My husband, Neville, transferred all the cassettes to disk and I put a disk into each box.

Filling these boxes took about three months. Seems like every room I cleaned, there was more and more. Every room had bits of Mom in it. I think that going through it all helped me with the grieving process too. At some point it occurred to me that if I stacked the boxes 4, 3, 2, 1 it made a large pyramid which could easily look like a Christmas tree if decorated. 

When the boxes were filled, I wrapped each in festive holiday paper, added lights, garland, large balls, and a few ornaments. It turned out to be, by all accounts, a beautiful Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve, after dinner and after all the other presents were distributed, it was time to open the gifts from Mom. Box by box we dismantled that Christmas tree as each person took one.

Opening each box was full of joy, surprise, and memories. People kept holding things up to show what they got in their box. Mom's signed photo of astronauts from her visit to Houston, her framed wedding invitation, her paintings, her knitted and crocheted hats, sweaters, and throws, her special wine glasses, her old family photos from Germany, her handwritten recipe books, the small bibles that she saved, photos of all of us, little statues, all things Egyptian, dishes, servers, cups, her favorite books, letters, cards, everything and anything. I encouraged everyone to feel free to trade amongst themselves.

In the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. We cried together, we laughed, and we all felt very close to Mom and to each other. Everyone agreed it was an amazing Christmas and a fabulous way to remember Mom.  As we headed up to bed, in place of the tree was just a heap of lights, garland, balls, and ornaments left for Christmas Day. It was beautiful!

I like to think that years from now as the grandchildren become adults, this will be the Christmas that will be remembered and they will tell their children about the Christmas Tree of Memories.

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All photos by, and courtesy of, Carol Kerr.

Copyright 2017, Carol Kerr.
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