Groucho Marx:”Well, whaddya say girls? Are we all gonna get married?”
Woman: “All of us? But that’s bigamy!”
Groucho: “Yes, and it’s big-a-me, too.“
Researching the collateral relatives of my great-great-grandfather John Henry O. Record has brought a host of complicated characters. From “liars, whores, and thieves” and murdering wives, to throat-slashing cousins and snake oil salesmen alongside lawyers for the KKK, to the accompanying tragedies of kidnapping and allegations of rape, it’s no wonder that some of them ran off to join a traveling theater, or, oddly enough (and contrary to all other indications), the police force. Yes, my folks from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Del Marva peninsula were a colorful bunch to say the least. Continue reading An alter-ego’s tale→
I am nearly finished going through all the family pictures, papers, and heirlooms inherited from my parents. But, I wonder, will the task ever be truly finished?
Photos were the first to be sorted. Photos are relatively easy to catalogue, copy, and share, and they give us that glimpse of the ancestors we never knew. I do tend, however, to convince myself that I can glean more about the people in them than is justified. Can they truly reveal anything about a person’s character or personality? Was John Young as glum as he looks? Best not to guess. Continue reading Riding the rails→
After my son was born, I developed an interest in finding out more about his father’s surname, Sadler. Not much was known about the origins of the Sadler line, since my boyfriend and his siblings did not grow up knowing their father. From time to time I would get asked to explore this family line. At some point, there was even a tale that perhaps the Sadlers were related to James Thomas Sadler, of Whitechapel district in the east end of London, who was accused of being the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper! Continue reading Family lore→
Recently I was researching marriage records in Vermont and was reminded of the existence of Gretna Green towns in Colonial New England in the mid-eighteenthcentury. It turned out some English customs were just too convenient to leave behind, and British colonial towns like Chester, Vermont continued to mirror the infamous Gretna Green found just over the southern border of Scotland. We have likely encountered more references to the notorious town and hasty marriages in historical romance novels than we have in our own genealogical research. Still, it made me wonder about the origins of the scandalous towns and the non-traditional marriage custom the new inhabitants continued to practice after arriving in the New England colonies. Continue reading Clandestine marriages→
File this one to “You never know what you might find…”
I have written before about my great-grandparents’ house in Goshen, New York, built on land that had belonged to the Steward family since the eighteenth century. In the course of collecting family photos – generally, groups of (likely) house guests gathering on the front steps to be photographed – I’ve become familiar with some of the house’s features. At this point, I might be one of the very few who could look at a photo and say “Oh! the Steward house in Goshen.”
I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, since the book I was paging through was my great-great-uncle’s history of the Harvard Polo Club. Amos Tuck French was one of the founding members of this iteration of the club, and he begins engagingly: “Polo was started at Harvard in 1883, many years before it was even thought of at any other college. In fact it was not generally understood what the game was, for we received a challenge from Yale to play a match and discovered on enquiry that the Elis wanted to play hockey on roller skates!”Continue reading The Harvard Polo Club→
As a custodian of Our Old House, I’m always conscious of how to maintain it and still make twenty-first-century changes without drastically altering or (gasp) destroying the historic integrity of the property. Making those decisions is not always easy, especially when there is clearly no choice in the matter. Cue the drafty ancient windows, the continually-aging floorboards, the old garage with the “waving roof,” and the 90-foot rotting maple trees.
We still deal with the windows and the floors (not a level inch anywhere in this house!), but the garage is gone, and so are the trees, those huge maple trees that graced the front of the property, blocking dust, noise, snow, wind, and the hot summer sun while shading the front rooms. They provided sap for maple syrup and sugar for even the earliest generations of my family, bushels of leaves for mulch, and perches for multiple varieties of birds. Continue reading Tree begone→
My grandmother, Emma Mueller, never really knew her father. Her mother, Marica Michelic Muhvic, a widow – born in Stari-Tsg, Slovenia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1873 – had emigrated alone to New York in 1903 to seek a better life. Marica changed her name to Mary and found a job working as a housekeeper in the German Evangelical Home for the Aged in Brooklyn, New York, where she was living in 1905. Here she could interact with people that made her feel like she was in her home country, since they shared a common language and culture. Continue reading A case of mistaken identity→
Several months back, Chris Child and I started playing a game we’ve dubbed “Genealogical Clue.” Playing a good game of it can be quite fun and challenging. Largely, it’s a game whereby we attempt to locate an individual in our respective family trees with a first name that resembles or is near identical to their surname. From this jumping-off point, the post or story is then titled by how we “place” those individuals in a Clue game-like situation. Keeping up with a master player like Chris hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve really had to dig deep to find some of my better “game board connections.” Sadly, most of my potential protagonists never seem to quite cut the ‘Colonel’ Mustard. (lol) Continue reading “Miss Winters in the drawing room”→
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.
The doctors the Hattons had called upon at Baltimore lauded the Playfair method for flushing his lungs.Good Lord, his mother had thought, he is but two years old!Continue reading Peart’s Elixirs→