All posts by Pamela Athearn Filbert

Pamela Athearn Filbert

About Pamela Athearn Filbert

Pamela Athearn Filbert was born in Berkeley, California, but considers herself a “native Oregonian born in exile,” since her maternal great-great-grandparents arrived via the Oregon Trail, and she herself moved to Oregon well before her second birthday. She met her husband (an actual native Oregonian whose parents lived two blocks from hers in Berkeley) in London, England. She holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon, and has worked as a newsletter and book editor in New York City and Salem, Oregon; she was most recently the college and career program coordinator at her local high school.

Curiouser and curiouser

The interior side of the Hancock Mansion’s front door, preserved in the Massachusetts Old Statehouse. This is the side that Cato Hancock would have known well.

I truly went down a rabbit hole recently, and all the credit goes to NEHGS’s Chief Genealogist, David Allen Lambert. He recently reported in Vita Brevis that his second academic sabbatical was spent transcribing the 1800 “Taking Books” (tax records) for Suffolk County, Massachusetts. I commented then that I looked forward to checking out this new database, and recently I got around to doing so.

I’d already discovered my ancestor, George Athearn, in Boston city directories for 1798, 1800, 1803, 1805, 1806, and 1807, but it was still fun to check out his entry in the Taking Books. I noted wryly that his surname and that of his business partner, Stephen Fales, were both misspelled; additional notes were “Merch[an]t: ½ Store on Spears W[harf], partners w[ith] Fails, Large Ho[use]” with real estate valued at $3,000. Continue reading Curiouser and curiouser

Preventative measures

Nancy de Freitas, aged 8.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from a woman curious to know why her grandmother was in my online family tree. This is hardly a unique occurrence, since I enjoy tracking down fairly distant family connections. In this case, however, our connection was very close (at least by my standards): her mother was the great-aunt of my first cousin’s husband. I even personally saw my correspondent’s first cousin at my cousin’s wedding!

My husband, father, and I were able to represent the Mainland contingent of our family at her wedding on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a fascinating experience, complete with island customs such as leis,[1] a whole pig roasted in an imu,[2] poi,[3] and miniature kahilis[4] as party favors. Continue reading Preventative measures

‘They shall not grow old’

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

One of my sons discovered last month that we had an opportunity to view Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary constructed from World War I motion picture footage owned by the Imperial War Museum in London. The movie was shown on only two dates in December, but apparently will be released more generally beginning in January, so all is not lost if you missed seeing it.

The film’s premise is to restore the humanity of men who, up until this time, have been caught in a silent world of flickering black-and-white images. Modern digital techniques allowed Jackson’s crew to rebalance the density/lighting and speed of the film, and – in some footage – to add realistic color. Continue reading ‘They shall not grow old’

Gifts from Genealogy Santa

My Christmas gifts, lying under a simulated scrimshaw ornament of Nantucket’s Pacific Bank.

I’m sure that many of you asked for – and even received – some genealogical resources this holiday season. Hopefully they will be as rewarding as the items Genealogy Santa delivered to me! A few were things that I requested, but a couple were glorious surprises.

In the category of things requested were the latest mystery novel by my distant cousin, Cynthia Riggs, whose house on Martha’s Vineyard I wrote about last June; a very back issue of Historic Nantucket, the magazine of the Nantucket Historical Association; and a book published this year by history professor Everett U. Crosby. Continue reading Gifts from Genealogy Santa

The dress is all

At the end of October, I shared the exciting experience of touring the Gov. Bellingham-Cary House, where my distant cousin – the Rev. Thomas Cary (1745–1808) – spent time as a young adult. I mentioned near the end that I’d found something curious at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art vaguely related to his family, and now it’s time for the “reveal.”

While I don’t know what Thomas’s father or mother looked like, his mother’s sister, Katherine (Graves) Russell of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was painted by John Singleton Copley around 1770. The portrait, at left, is in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art. Continue reading The dress is all

“Grandfather Mustache”

Fred Athearn’s official portrait for his second year on the University of California football team, 1899.

The 31 October edition of NEGHS’s Weekly Genealogist ran a quiz asking readers whether they had any ancestors who participated in organized sports as adults. It reminded me that this past Thanksgiving marks one hundred and twenty years since my great-grandfather first played in “The Big Game” between the University of California (Berkeley was its only campus at the time) and Stanford – this year’s game will be played tomorrow.

Fred Athearn played a variety of sports at Pomona College, and when he transferred to the University of California he was urged by both students and faculty to be part of their football team. Cal had never beaten Stanford, but they’d just hired a new coach from “Back East,” and hoped that this – plus new blood among the players – would yield better results. The stakes of this rivalry were now higher than ever, since U.S. Senator James D. Phalen had just offered to place a statue on the campus of whichever university won two successive games. Until that happened, the statue would remain on display in Golden Gate Park. Continue reading “Grandfather Mustache”

The fabric is all

It has been a while since I’ve written an installment about the Rev. Thomas Cary’s diary. Indeed, it has been a while since I’ve written a post about anything, since I’ve been on a five-week trip with my husband along the East Coast as part of his sabbatical. Now I’m back and have loads of great new stuff to share!

The first is my pilgrimage to the Chelsea, Massachusetts, house that Thomas wrote of staying in regularly sometime after his mother’s death. Continue reading The fabric is all

More fires

Stone sculptures purchased on vacation in British Columbia were the only items in my father’s house to (mostly) survive the October 1991 Oakland Fire.

Just after 5:30 a.m., last October 9, I got a text from my half-sister letting me know that she and her children were safe at her mother’s house, but that her own home just outside Santa Rosa, California, had very likely burned. She’d awakened after midnight to the smell of smoke, and upon investigation discovered that wildfire was below her hill. Throwing on clothes, she and her kids evacuated down their winding, country road, as she blasted her car horn all the way down to alert neighbors of the danger. It appeared that Jennifer had become the one in our generation to be tapped by the finger of our family curse. Continue reading More fires

Great fires

James Athearn’s Washington House hotel on fire. Photo courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association, image 1896.0128.001.

In my last Vita Brevis post, I mentioned that an enormous wild fire had swept through the area where my maternal grandmother’s family has farmed for more than a century. A distant cousin told me, “The fire is total devastation for many: the total loss of this year’s crop, homes, combines, and equipment. For us it could have been much worse. We lost no equipment or buildings, only about 500 acres of wheat.” A tragic loss of the best crop folks could remember in many, many years. Continue reading Great fires

Contributing citizens

Several years ago my mother gave me a family picture that is unlike most family pictures; in fact, without the identifying information on the back, it doesn’t seem to be a family picture at all. Thank goodness for the label, which gives a ton of information, not only about the location, date, and people, but also about farming practices at the time. Continue reading Contributing citizens