The rasp of her son’s cough hadn’t stopped for a fortnight, and it seemed (as Mrs. Hatton would later write) that there was “no medicine on earth that could reach his disease.” It was terrible to watch him wasting in his struggles. There certainly was no ease or comfort for the boy. There appeared to be no cure.
According to family stories, my great-great-grandmother Anna Elisabeth Mohrmann emigrated in 1864 from Germany to Cleveland, Ohio. She was supposedly about 17 and came with other young women from her community to marry men who had preceded them to America. For some reason Anna and her intended husband did not marry. There has been a lot of speculation in my family about why the marriage did not occur. Maybe her betrothed was dead? Maybe he had married someone else? Maybe Anna called off the marriage?
In any case, soon after her arrival Anna met my great-great-grandfather Henry Dauber, a “perfect stranger,” and supposedly married him after three days. Continue reading Anna’s origins
Last Memorial Day, after writing a post on my great-great-great-uncle John Merrick Paine of Woodstock, Connecticut, a lieutenant in the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, I became interested in researching other soldiers in this regiment also from northeastern Connecticut. Several of them were from families I had researched previously, with one surprising connection to a colleague here at NEHGS. Continue reading The 29th Connecticut
I do a lot of lectures, courses, and online webinars about immigration, with my favorite period concentrating on the 1882 to 1924 period. This isn’t so much because of the improvement of the passenger lists, but more as a result of the many changes to the immigration laws in this period that began to limit what was considered an “acceptable” immigrant. Physical limitations, inability to get a job, and certain “loathsome and contagious” diseases were just some of the reasons an immigrant could have traveled all the way from their old country to America only to find that they wouldn’t be admitted. Continue reading Uncertain immigration
Last fall I was asked to do some research for a local historical society called Oregon Black Pioneers about a group of coal miners recruited to work in Coos County, Oregon, at the end of the nineteenth century. The project was entirely open-ended, so I decided to present it in two main sections: an organized compendium of newspaper articles about the Black miners at Beaver Hill, Oregon, and an attempt to trace the history and descendants of every Black miner in Coos County who appeared in the 1900 census. Continue reading Beaver Hill miners
I have been struggling with a dilemma for months – how (and if) to tell the story of a loving father whose actions would lead to unintended and tragic outcomes for his family. When encountering very unusual and difficult family information in your research, what do you choose to publish? In seeking community comment and guidance, I will outline the core issues, but use pseudonyms and avoid other identifying information. I am aware of no genealogy on-line or in print that encompasses this family; it is not in my direct line, but related. Continue reading Sic transit
The landline rang unexpectedly last Friday. Its sudden clamor gave us all a bit of a jolt. A day or so before, I’d made the journey north to Oregon for a visit with my father and my once-upon-a-time “force to be reckoned with” step-mother. As the phone rang that day I remember thinking, Darn that noisy dialer, why are you disturbing us? I’d been just about ready to settle into the hush of yet another (the umpteenth) episode of Laramie on the TV. Continue reading Landlines
In the summer of 1962, when I was three, my parents bought their first home on the corner of Prospect Street and Highland Avenue in Fall River, Massachusetts. They paid $9,500! The house had 13 rooms, four fireplaces, two heating systems, servant call buttons – and my favorite device for childhood eavesdropping, speaking tubes (literally pipes through the walls). All light fixtures had combination gas jets and light bulbs. Like many substantial homes of the late Victorian era, a separate enclosed servants’ staircase went from the cellar to the third floor. That portion of the house had never been renovated, the carpeting on the stairs worn thin. Continue reading Good deeds
I’ve now lived in Boston for eighteen years. During the first five years I lived in three different Boston neighborhoods – Allston, Brighton, and Fenway, before buying our home in Jamaica Plain. All our apartment leases began on September 1st and ended the next year on August 31. As those who live in Boston know, September 1 is the big move in day for many college students and other residents. With many people moving out of one place by midnight and moving into another apartment the next morning, this can frequently create some chaotic situations! Continue reading Allston Christmas
One does not turn readily to probate matters for cozy human interest stories, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find a momentary bright spot in the will of my great-great-grandmother Emily Anne Finlay, the “relict of Francis G. Ilsley, deceased.” Emily’s family background is suggested in bequests to her children Beekman (“the family Bible of the Beekman family”), Francis (“two oil portraits of Dirck Lefferts and his wife”), and Sara (“my tea set of silver service”), but in fact the estate was a small one, with two house lots in Newark, New Jersey as the major asset. Continue reading “Love and affection”