Sunday, September 15, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (September 15, 2013)

[If you should choose to adopt this prompt to contribute your own stories of folks who have gone out of their way to lend genealogy-related assistance to others, I would greatly appreciate a mention to Filiopietism Prism whenever you do so.  Thank you!  And please do use the same photograph below to illustrate the prompt.  ;-) ]

In 2001, Good Samaritan Frank Medeiros of Dartmouth, Massachusetts was at a church rummage sale when he came across an old scrapbook that was for sale.  He looked through its pages and saw such items as Mother's Day cards, clipped newspaper articles, wedding invitations and an occasional photograph.  Rather than see the scrapbook that someone had so painstakingly assembled end up in a trash bin, Mr. Medeiros bought the scrapbook.

The first items entered in the scrapbook dated back to the 1920s and the last entries ended in the late 1950s.  Mr. Medeiros tried to find a descendant or anyone related to people in the scrapbook, but was unsuccessful until he enlisted the aid of another Good Samaritan, Karen Stefanik, the Branch Manager of New Bedford's Wilks Library.  After numerous hours of meticulously perusing the scrapbook, Karen collected every single name she could find in the book.  From among the names mentioned in the scrapbook, Karen carefully pieced together the identities of the Margaret and James Murphy family.

Margaret and James Murphy had four children: Roy Xavier, William, Hazel, and Walter, but Karen and genealogist Paul Cur of the main library were unable to locate any descendants of a family with such a common surname.  They went to Steve Urbon of the Standard-Times and sought his help.  Since the Murphys' only daughter, Hazel, married a man named John J. Conaty, a bit more unusual surname than Murphy, Mr. Urbon started there.

Mr. Urbon used all the modern search tools he could think of and finally came across a blog by a man who lived in Fall River.  The former radio talk show host had used his blog a few years ago to thank some influential teachers in his life and among them was one Hazel (Conaty) Donnelly. Hazel is now retired from teaching at Durfee High School and is 80 years old.  Once she was contacted about the scrapbook, she took a trip to the Standard-Times newsroom with her son and looked at the rescued scrapbook.  In short order it became clear that the scrapbook she was holding had been assembled by her grandmother all those years ago.  When Hazel Donnelly left the newsroom, she had the scrapbook with her along with a lot of genealogical gold to pour over at home.  Read the full story here.    
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Photograph of the The Good Samaritan sculpture by Francois-Leon Sicard (1862 - 1934).  The sculpture is located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.  The photograph is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and has been placed in the public domain by her. See,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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