Showing posts with label Wood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wood. Show all posts

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Remembering the Dads on Father's Day

For Father's Day, I want to remember, with love, some of the Dads on both sides of the family.

My husband's Dad was Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) and his Mom was Marian McClure (1909-1983). My late father-in-law is shown in the color photo below, arm and arm with my hubby on our wedding day!

Edgar's father was James Edgar Wood (1871-1939), shown below right, who married Mary Slatter (1869-1925). And James's father was Thomas Haskell Wood (1809-1890), who married Mary Amanda Demarest (1831-1897).


My Dad was Harold Burk (1909-1978)--shown below left with my Mom, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981), on their wedding day.

Researching the life of my paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943), started me on my genealogical journey 19 years ago. Isaac is pictured below right with my grandma Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), in 1936.

Isaac's father was Elias Solomon Birk, a farmer in Kovno, Lithuania, who married Necke [maiden name still not certain]. I never knew Elias was a farmer until my newly-discovered cousin told me she learned that from her grandfather, my great-uncle.


Happy Father's Day to all the Dads of cousins in all branches of our family trees!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Pages from the Story of Wood and Slatter

The Story of James Edgar Wood and Mary Slatter Wood is written, photos and maps are in place, and I'm going to bring the .pdf to be color-laser-printed in the local copy shop. In all, I needed 21 pages to tell the story of hubby's paternal grandparents James, Mary, their family backgrounds, along with a brief overview of what happened to their four sons (including my late father-in-law, who took these photos of the 1917 Ford).

Just in time for the June Genealogy Blog Party, here are two pages from this newest family memory booklet, and a few lessons learned along the way toward preserving this family history:
  • Maps help readers follow along as ancestors migrate or take a trip (as in the page at top, a 1917 trip from Cleveland to Chicago).
  • Photos personalize the story and bring readers face to face with faces and places from the family's past. I included lots of photos!
  • Include quotes from ancestors to keep their voices alive for descendants who never met them. I had quotes from interviews, letters, a diary.
  • Include a timeline to give descendants a better sense of what happened, where, and when. I constructed this last, after I pieced together the entire story.
  • Include sources for that rare reader who asks: "How do we know that?" The actual booklet has a few document excerpts but full documents are sitting in my files.
  • Caption all photos. I have 2 pages of captions at the end of the booklet, with lots of details, including a reminder of the relationships between people in the photo and the readers ("Mary Slatter's older sister" is an example, plus an explanation that Mary Slatter was my husband's paternal grandmother). 
Don't forget to include a family tree! I included one in the back of the booklet, showing this branch and how it extends back three generations on James's side and on Mary's side.

This is only one way I'm sharing my family's history with the next generation. More ideas are in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Motivation Monday: Telling the Story of Wood and Slatter

Sample page from my Wood/Slatter family memory booklet
Hubby's family has a reunion planned for this summer. That's motivated me to prepare a new family memory booklet, telling the story of his paternal grandparents, Mary Slatter Wood and James Edgar Wood.

It's quite a story, with the Wood family's generations-old tradition of working in wood and their Mayflower connection, plus the Slatter family's Whitechapel roots and their illustrious bandmaster relatives. The family knew very little of this background when I began researching more than a decade ago.

Now, thanks to century-old photo albums, field trips side-by-side with my husband cranking microfilm readers and pulling courthouse documents, and a Genealogy Go-Over to double-check data and records, we know a lot about these ancestors. There's still a lot we won't ever know (exactly how and when Mary and James met, for example). But it's time to begin the writing process, and include plenty of photos to bring these ancestors alive for the generations to come.

The table of contents for THE STORY OF JAMES EDGAR WOOD AND MARY SLATTER WOOD currently reads:
  1. James Edgar Wood's Family Background
  2. Mary Slatter's Family Background
  3. What Was the World Like When James & Mary Were Born (circa 1870)? (To give younger relatives a sense of daily life before the automobile, electricity, etc.)
  4. James & Mary's Life in Cleveland
  5. James as Carpenter and Home Builder (see sample page, above)
  6. Driving the 1917 Ford to Chicago (documented in a family photo album)
  7. At Home with the Wood Family (with photos and quotes from descendants)
  8. How the Woods and Slatters Stayed in Touch (postcards to/from cousins, border crossings showing visits)
  9. What Happened to Mary and James (moving, later life, remarriage, burial)
  10. What Happened to the Wood Brothers (brief overview of their adult lives)
  11. Where, When, and Sources (timeline and sources used to confirm details)
  12. Photo Captions (names/dates/places or as much is known)

Rather than spend a fortune printing a bound book, I'll have the 20-odd pages of this booklet printed on good paper using the laser color printer at my local office supply store. Then I'll insert them into a clear report cover for presentation. If we want to add or change something later on, it's easy to remove the spine and switch out one or more pages.

As suggested by my good friend Mary, I'm including my sources. But instead of putting them in the main narrative, I'm relegating them to a section in the back of the booklet, to avoid slowing the flow (and to keep younger readers engaged).

My goal is to bring the story of Wood and Slatter alive for future generations with a colorful booklet combining facts and photos into a narrative that flows. It's part of my promise to "share with heirs," as I explain in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Remembering Moms

On Mother's Day and every day

Remembering hubby's Mom, Marian McClure Wood (left).

Remembering my Mom, Daisy Schwartz Burk (right).

With love!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Postcard to Wallis at Age 7

Another colorful postcard sent to my hubby's uncle, Wallis W. Wood. The date is March 27, 1912, and the Wood family was living in the Lancelot Avenue home in Cleveland built by James Edgar Wood, which still stands today. Wallis was 7 when this postcard arrived. His older brother Edgar (my late dad-in-law) was 9, younger brother John was 4, and youngest brother Ted was 2.


This postcard was sent from Columbus Ohio and signed from "Uncle Jim," James Sills Baker (1866-1937), the husband of "Aunt Ada," meaning Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter (1868-1947). Jim and Ada lived in Toledo for years, but moved to the Cleveland area sometime between 1910 and 1920. "Aunt Ada" was the sister of Wallis's mother, and as usual, this postcard indicates that the family was focused on remaining in touch despite living miles apart.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Virtual Field Trip to the Wood Homestead of 1914

On April 10, 1914, Ada (Adelaide Mary Ann) Slatter Sills in Toledo mailed this pretty Easter postcard to her nephew, Wallis W. Wood, in Cleveland. (Wallis was a younger brother of my late father-in-law. Ada was the older sister of Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter.)

Thanks to postcards like these, I have compiled a listing of addresses for Wally and the Wood family from 1907-1918. The address for 1914 was 456 E. 124 Street in Cleveland.

The color photo (left) shows what the house looked like in 2016. Now see the b/w photo of two young Wood brothers standing in front of their house on Lancelot Avenue (at right) in 1911.

The homes were literally around the corner from each other in Cleveland. Apparently my husband's great-grandpa, James Edgar Wood, built the same style home many times during his long career as a carpenter and home builder in Cleveland.

Taking relatives on virtual field trips like this helps keep family history alive and relevant for the next generation!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee, Pt 6: Message Boards for Gen Do-Over

Surname and locality message boards for genealogy are free, readily searchable, and easy to use. Back in the day, we all used them for genealogy. Now, if you're doing a genealogy go-over or genealogy do-over, remember to go back and check message boards again.

Sure, they seem so last century compared with Facebook genealogy groups and other social media tools. But they can be helpful, especially if you're trying to connect with a cousin or researcher who posted a query at some point in the past.

During a Do-Over or Go-Over, use message boards to search, not necessarily to post queries. Look for clues and connections that weren't there last time you searched, or were posted since you last searched.

I found my husband's genealogist-second cousin through a message board years ago. He was trying to locate descendants of hubby's great-grandfather, Thomas Haskell Wood. I was looking for Thomas Haskell Wood's ancestors. We had complementary information and I was the lucky beneficiary of his 30 years of research, including ancestors on the Mayflower and even earlier! (Thanks again, Cousin L.) 

This encouraged me to keep searching. As this screen shot taken today indicates, some queries are still being posted on Rootsweb message boards, for example. The vast majority are from years earlier. But keep in mind--even old queries include details like names and dates, which always come in handy, even if the researchers are no longer active on the message board. Or you may get lucky and, like me, connect with cousins through the message board.

Message boards are free and worth searching for surnames and locations. If you've ever posted, be sure to keep your email address current just in case a distant relative answers your query. If you want to post a message-board query, summarize what you already know in the post and be clear about what you want to know (follow the tips on my post here.)

Do-over or go-over, social media is so much quicker for new queries, because this is where most family researchers now flock. Use the search bar on Facebook (or check Katherine Willson's definitive listing of FB genealogy groups) to find genealogy pages and click to join, then post or answer. Good luck!

NOTE: All my Genealogy--Free or Fee posts are listed and linked in the landing page along my header here.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Military Monday: Edgar Wood Goes to Camp Perry

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), had this pin from his time serving at Camp Perry, Ohio in the Citizens' Military Training Camp, National Defense.

The original idea behind such camps was to develop future military leaders in case of national defense.

Ed participated in training at Camp Perry some time between 1935-1940. He served part-time in Troop A of the National Guard, 107th Cavalry.

As shown on the map, the facility (location B) was on Lake Erie, about 50 miles or so from where Ed and family lived in Cleveland (location A). Today, Camp Perry is a conference center.

By the time WWII was declared, Ed had three children, and was not in the age bracket to serve first. He never was in the war, in fact. But his grandson treasures this pin as a memory of Ed's earlier service.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Treasure Chest Tuesday: Valentines in the Family

For Valentine's Day, a selection of valentines sent to ancestors on both sides of the family.

At right, the inside of the first valentine sent by my Dad (Harold Burk, 1909-1978) to my Mom (Daisy Schwartz, 1919-1981), in 1946.

They were engaged on New Year's Eve and had to wait to set a wedding date because of the housing shortage after WWII, with Dad and so many other GIs returning from the service and settling down.

At left, a holiday postcard from hubby's family. This was sent by Nellie (Rachel Ellen) Wood Kirby (1864-1954) in Chicago to her young nephew, Wallis W. Wood (1905-1957) in Cleveland, around 1910ish.

I also have to include a different postcard sent by Aunt Nellie to her nephew Wally, shown at right.

Happy Lincoln's birthday!




Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sorting Saturday: The 1924 New Year's Day Marriage of Ethel and Clay

Because of my 2016 resolution to continue linking ancestors to spouses, parents, and children on Find A Grave, I've uncovered all kinds of interesting info. Above, last night's find, which probably has a fascinating story behind it. Let me explain.

I was busy linking all the children of my husband's great-grandparents, Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest, including their fifth son, Charles Augustus Wood (1862-1895). After finding Charles on Find A Grave, I researched his wife (Martha Ellen Hale) to link her.

Then I continued down the rabbit hole for another hour and looked for their children on Ancestry, Family Search, and F-A-G. (Lesson learned: Now I always have three windows open when researching to check those three sites simultaneously.)

The only daughter of Charles and Martha was Carrie Ethel Wood (1888-?). She married Clay Harry Focht in December, 1908. After nearly 15 years of married life together (and two children), they divorced on November 10, 1923. Somehow, one of them convinced the other to try again.

Clay and Ethel took out a second marriage license on Christmas Eve, 6 weeks after their divorce, as shown here. They married on New Year's Day in 1924. And a few years later, they had one more child together. Why they divorced, and why they remarried, I don't yet know. (And by 1940, he was living separately and said he was "single" again--his death cert says he was divorced.) It's quite an unexpected find as a direct result of doing research to link people on F-A-G. For which I'm grateful! And now future generations will know more about these ancestors.

Happy new year 2017!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Surname Saturday: Celebrating Family Holiday Traditions


In my husband's Wood family, the tradition was for first cousins to send each other greeting postcards for major holidays.

This Christmas card was sent to my husband's "Uncle Wally" (Wallis Walter Wood), in the 1910s, from first cousin Chester Maxwell Carsten (1910-1967) in Toledo. No postmark, so this was probably mailed with a bundle of cards to the Wood cousins in Cleveland.

My family's holiday traditions were different. Here's a b/w photo of my Mahler/Burk cousins at a Hanukkah party we all attended in the late 1950s. Note the desserts and chocolate milk for kids!

Also, a surprising number of my ancestors and relatives were married on Christmas Eve (including at least one of my 2d cousins). My previous post mentioned my great-uncle Alex Farkas marrying Jenny Katz on Christmas Eve, and here's the only photo I have of that wedding. Alex was my grandma's older brother.

As identified in the photo, my grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz is at right, with long dark hair. Her husband Ted Schwartz is next to her, wearing a funny hat. In front of them is their young son, Fred. Mom and her twin weren't even a gleam in their eyes--yet.

Wishing you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays! Celebrate with your family's traditions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Happy New Year with Shamrocks and Pig

Have you ever seen anything like this new year's postcard sent to a young Wallis Walter Wood in Cleveland, circa 1910s?

The greeting on the back reads: Dear Wallace, Wouldn't you like to be this little boy. I am sure it would be fine fun, chasing around with the pig. How do you like the snow. Tell Mama we have not had much snow . . . yesterday we saw lots of green grass but today it has snowed and rained quite a bit. It is nasty. With love to Wallace.

No signature, but my strong suspicion is that one of the Slatter relatives in Canada sent this, because Tuck's says they are "art publishers to the King & Queen." Wallis's mother, Mary Slatter Wood, had three brothers in Canada--this was most likely from the Toronto branch, although it's just my hunch.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Happy New Year 1913

This pretty new year's card is part of my long-running series of greetings sent to hubby's uncle in Cleveland, early in the twentieth century.

Postmarked January 1, 1913, the card was sent to Wallis W. Wood by his first cousin, Edith Eleanor Baker (1901-1989)--well, this is Amanuensis Monday, so read on for the real story.

Edith was one of two daughters of Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter (1868-1947) and her husband, James Sills Baker (1866-1937). I wrote a week ago about Adelaide's poverty-stricken childhood in Hamlet Towers, London, which I was researching when looking at a holiday card sent by Edith's sister, Dorothy, to Wallis.

Edith was 11 and living in Toledo with her family when this New Year's greeting was addressed to 7-year-old Wallis in Cleveland:
Hello Wallis, This is from Edith. She hopes you will have such a good time this coming year. I forgot to say the girls had to go to school this week excepting Wednesday. With love from all, Edith
Doesn't this greeting sound like Edith wrote it from dictation? I doubt her cousin Wallis knew how to read cursive yet, so I suspect it was a message meant more for Wallis's mom, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), who was Adelaide Mary Ann's baby sister. By the way, in the family, Adelaide was known as "Ada."

Here's the advantage of having a series of cards sent in a short time. I compared the handwriting of "Edith" (from the 1913 card at top) with the handwriting of "Aunt Ada" from 1914 (at right).

Both cards were addressed to "Master Wallis Wood" in Cleveland (and postmarked from Toledo). Same handwriting, wouldn't you agree? So Ada was writing on behalf of her daughter, Edith, to Ada's nephew, Wallis Walter Wood. Keeping up the family tradition of having the cousins stay in touch with each other, clearly.

Ada and her family moved to Cleveland from Toledo some time between 1910 and 1920, I knew by comparing their addresses in the Census from those years. With these cards, I could see that Ada didn't move until at least after April, 1914.

In 1920, Ada and family lived in the 26th ward of Cleveland, the same ward where Mary Slatter Wood and family lived. But Mary was living in a single-family home built by her husband, carpenter James Edgar Wood, while Ada was living in a two-family home rented not far away. 

By the way, I checked, and the last Wednesday in 1912 before New Year's was Christmas Day. No school on Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sorting Saturday: "Best Xmas Wishes" from Cousin Ernest

Yet another colorful holiday card among dozens received by Wallis Walter Wood from his cousins and other relatives. (WWW was my hubby's uncle.)

This time, the sender was cousin Ernest J. Carsten (1906-?). Ernest was one of a handful of children born to Mary Amanda Wood (1884-1917) and August Jacob Carsten (1884-1975).

Reading the 1910 Census where Ernest is listed with his family in Toledo, Ohio, I noticed that August was a carpenter. Since Mary Wood's brothers were carpenters, maybe she was introduced to future husband August through one of them?

This postcard has no postmark...but Ernest was already writing in cursive, so it was probably sent in 1915 or 1916. I doubt it was sent later.

Sadly, in January, 1917, Ernest's mother Mary died at age 32, in emergency surgery as doctors tried to save her life. The cause written on her death certificate is "extrauterine gestation, tubal," with the contributory cause being "internal hemorrhage and shock." 

Late in the summer of 1917, his father remarried and the family had a new step-mom (Mathilda C. Kohne, 1892-1948). And that was the summer WWW and his brothers (including my late dad-in-law) took a road trip in their new 1917 Ford to visit Cousin Ernest and his siblings.



Friday, December 9, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Postcard Leads to Two Shocking Discoveries

For this week's Sepia Saturday, I began by scanning one of the few postcards I have from Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981), to her first cousin, Wallis W. Wood (hubby's great uncle).

The year was 1912, and Dorothy was living with her parents (Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and James Sills Baker) and her younger sister (Edith Eleanor Baker) in Toledo. 

Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and her four siblings were born in London, and I went to my online tree to do a quick search on her name.

I found something quite shocking. Adelaide and all of her siblings had been admitted to Bromley House--a workhouse--for several nights in May, 1874.

This is the kind of sad place for the poor where, a few lines above the Slatter siblings in this same ledger, a 50-year-old laborer admitted for a few nights was found dead in his bed. Bromley House added to its defenses, according to records, to prevent "inmates" from escaping. Not the sort of place you'd want two little girls, ages 7 and 5, to stay for a few nights.


After catching my breath, I went back to my other research about the Slatter family living in a terribly poverty-stricken part of London, Tower Hamlets in Whitechapel.

I knew the three boys had been sent to a military training ship on the Thames in 1875 and were lucky to escape a devastating fire. All three brothers went on to serve with distinction in the military, with Captain John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) becoming a renowned band leader based in Toronto.

But until now, I didn't know all five siblings had been bundled off to Bromley House, the workhouse. According to the admission and discharge book, they were sent by the matron of the Forest Gate School.

Why?

Well, I had a guess. I've never been able to find the death date of the mother of these children, Mary Shehen Slatter. Born in 1840, I thought Mary died before 1888, the year when her husband left London forever and came to America.


But maybe I was wrong. This was my second shock. Above, part of a ledger from "UK Lunacy Patients Admission Registers" for the year 1877. A Mary Slatter was admitted to Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum (later called Banstead Asylum) on September 28. This Mary died on April 19, 1889. According to the death index, this Mary was 52 years old.


So if Mary Slatter wasn't able to care for her children from 1874 on, it makes sense that they could be shuttled from school to workhouse to training ship (the boys).

Yet John Slatter sailed off to America and by 1893, was living in Cleveland along with a wife, Louisa (I've never been able to locate a marriage record for these two, so perhaps she was a "wife"). So did he leave a wife in the asylum and start a new life to forget the misery of the old one?

More research is in my future to determine whether the Mary in the asylum was, in fact, my husband's great-grandma.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Chickie Pitcher and Butterscotch Brownie Traditions

Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party continues this month by celebrating family traditions.

This adorable ceramic chickie pitcher has been a tradition in my husband Wally's Wood family for nearly 80 years. Originally, it was filled with fresh milk to lighten coffee after dinner. These days, we fill it with half and half--but it still puts a smile on our faces because of the whimsical chicks and the memories from holidays past.

Interestingly, Wally's mom, Marian Jane McClure Wood,  became a ceramic artist years later--taking lessons from famed ceramicist Edris Eckhardt and specializing in animal sculptures, reflecting her love of art and animals.

Another long-time tradition in hubby's family: Grandmother Floyda Steiner McClure's Butterscotch Brownies.

The recipe, shown here, has been passed down for several generations. It makes a delicious dessert alone or a special treat topped with ice cream and whipped cream. Happy holidays!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sorting Saturday: Happy Halloween 1913

That favorite Wood aunt, Rachel Ellen "Nellie" Wood Kirby, sent this adorable Halloween card to her Cleveland nephew, Wallis Walter Wood, in 1913.

Wallis ("Uncle Wally" in the family, 1905-1957) was one of four sons of James Edgar Wood (1871-1939) and Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925). His brothers were: Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), John Andrew Wood (1908-1980), and Theodore William Wood (1910-1968).

Although James Edgar Wood was a builder--a carpenter from a long, long line of carpenters in the Wood family tree--none of his sons entered that trade. All pursued careers in business and, in their spare time, tinkered with home-improvement carpentry here and there.

My late father-in-law Edgar James Wood had these colorful greeting cards carefully stored away for many years. How wonderful that they've been passed down in the family for 103 years, and counting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Finding Great-Aunt Nellie's Gravestone

No tombstone photo for Tombstone Tuesday, but instead, a story about a favorite great-aunt in my hubby's family. I found her tombstone only today on Find a Grave, nowhere near where I expected to find her.

Rachel Ellen Wood (1864-1954) was one of 17 children in the Wood family of Toledo, Ohio. When she grew up, married, and moved away to Chicago, she remained an important part of the glue keeping the next generation in touch.

For every holiday, she would send her many nieces and nephews postcards with a loving message. She signed her cards from "Aunt Nellie," as she was affectionately known in the family.

Here's a Halloween greeting she sent to her middle nephew in Cleveland, asking whether he was still taking violin lessons (the answer was yes, at least at that point).

Until today, I hadn't been able to find Aunt Nellie's final resting place. But because I wanted to write about her, I did a bit more searching. I knew she died in Chicago. Turns out she wasn't buried anywhere near there.

I shouldn't have been surprised to discover, after trying a few different searches, that she was buried in the Wood family plot of Forest Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio, where so many of her siblings were laid to rest.

The Find a Grave listing shows her as "Nellie Wood" but the photo shows her name as "Nellie Wood Kirby" and includes the inscription "Sister." RIP, Nellie, a beloved sister, aunt, and great-aunt in the Wood family, and be assured I'll ask for the memorial to be edited on your behalf.  PS: Find a Grave is updated!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Edgar Wood Saw "Shuffle Along" in 1922


Ninety-four years ago today, Edgar James Wood (my late Dad-in-law) was sitting in Selwyn's Theatre on Park Square in Boston, viewing what he knew to be a theater sensation.


Shuffle Along had opened on Broadway the previous year, a groundbreaking all-black "musical melange" that ran in New York for hundreds of performances. In 1922, the show and its talented performers were touring America and Boston got its turn in October and November.

Ed absolutely loved the theater, and he played piano with a jazz band to pay for his college tuition. In the fall of 1922, having enrolled at Tufts, he bought a ticket for Shuffle Along. Shown here is the program he received for the October 9th performance (he punched the holes to keep the program in a binder as a keepsake).

Ed would have heard lots of buzz about this musical, with Eubie Blake at the piano. The program also shows Josephine Baker as one of the "Happy Honeysuckles" (a big break that helped launch her international career) and Blance Calloway as one of the "Jazz Jasmines" (she was Cab Calloway's older sister and this was her pro debut).

A few weeks later, I hope Ed was tuned in to another "first"--when WNAC broadcast the show live to Boston-area listeners in November. It was the first time a Broadway show was broadcast over the radio with its original cast. 

Shuffle Along has recently been in the news after a Broadway revival, prompting this Sentimental Sunday entry about Ed seeing the show when he was a college freshman. Music was always an important part of Ed's life. He played piano professionally, working nights and weekends at weddings and other events during his 30-year career as an insurance adjuster.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ancestor Appreciation Day: Seeing Possible Futures in the Family's Past



On Ancestor Appreciation Day, I'm struck by the insights of Alison Light, in Common People--In Pursuit of My Ancestors. She writes:
"As I have written this book, many questions have weighed on my mind but one more than any other: why do we need these stories of people we can never know? What is it we are after and why do we so regret not talking (or not listening) to our elders when they were alive?"
Her answer is that we want "to apologize to them for not realizing that they too had lives like ourselves--fallible, well intentioned, incomplete--and to understand how mistakes were made that resulted in our lives; how much was accident, how much choice." She adds that we might seek to see our parents as young again, "full of possible futures."

An eloquent and poignant passage that resonates with me on this day, in particular. I appreciate that my ancestors may not have always acted out of choice but out of necessity or desperation or simply severely limited options. Each ancestor had any number of possible futures but one that actually became his or her path and ultimately my past.

If these ancestors had gone down a different path my husband and I would not be here today. Not infrequently, their paths were arduous (braving dangers to come to America, never again returning to their country of birth, making sacrifices to survive). Not infrequently, their personal dreams had to be put aside for the sake of their siblings or parents or children. In another age, who knows what possible futures they would have chosen for themselves?

With possible futures in mind, I want to recap what I know about the earliest ancestors identified in my husband's tree.
  • Mayflower ancestors. The Wood family has four Mayflower ancestors (Degory Priest, Mary Norris Allerton, Isaac Allerton, and Mary Allerton) and a Fortune ancestor (Thomas Cushman, who married Mary Allerton). Talk about limited options and possible futures not foreseen! Two of the four Mayflower ancestors didn't survive the first year...but the others did, and the rest truly is history.
  • Wood ancestors. Thanks to wonderful genealogist-cousin Larry, we know my husband descends from the Wood family of Little Compton, RI, whose ancestor was John Wood Sr. "The Mariner" (b. about 1590 in England, d. 1655 in Portsmouth, RI). John "The Mariner" was married to Margaret Carter on Wednesday, January 28, 1610 (see marriage record above). Given the Wood surname, it's not surprising these ancestors were shipbuilders and captains, carpenters and homebuilders, and others who worked in wood--the name was the family's destiny until well into the 20th century. In fact, even today, some Wood relatives have chosen the path of becoming carpenters and builders.
  • McClure ancestors. James Andrew McClure is the earliest McClure ancestor we can identify, married in Raphoe Parish, county Donegal, and father of the McClure journey-taker (Halbert McClure) who brought the family to America in the early 1700s. The McClure family realized its dream of owning land in America and giving members a stake in this new world.
  • Larimer ancestors. The family legend is that the journey-taker, Robert Larimer, was sent to sea by his father, with a trunk of fine Irish linen, to seek his fortune in America. Alas, a shipwreck ruined that possible future and caused Larimer years of servitude before he could choose his own path and acquire his own land. If Robert's ship hadn't wrecked, what would he have chosen to do when he arrived in America? Who would he have met and married? What possible future would he have forged if the accident had not changed his life forever?