Sunday, February 19, 2017

How Presidential Were Your Ancestors?

This weekend—in the United States, at least—is a three-day holiday weekend, thanks to the holiday-conserving legislation back in 1971, moving the traditional observance of our first president's birthday from the actual day (February 22) to the third Monday in February. And voila! Instant three day weekend.

This always brings up the question—at least in my mind, and especially as the observance moves from just focusing on one president to honoring the office of president in general—do you have any presidents in your family history?

I've always known I've come close, thanks to meeting a fellow researcher online who pointed out the fact that some in-laws among my maternal grandmother's ancestry were related to Ulysses S. Grant. Other than that, the best I've come up with is distant cousins who once were state governors.

Thinking of relationships with notable historic figures brings up the app offered by, known as "We're Related." Of course, any blog-reading genealogist will, in the same breath, bring up mention of genea-blogger Randy Seaver's regular commentary on that app, in which he reviews each of the app's suggested cousin relationships on a weekly basis.

On his analysis this past Friday, the app suggested that he is related to U. S. President Calvin Coolidge (see his entry number thirteen here). As is his usual style, Randy systematically reviewed the documentation to make his assessment whether the predicted relationship is Likely, Possible, Unlikely—or (drum up the Bronx cheer for this one) Highly Unlikely. I've watched Randy go through the paces to determine each suggested relationship, step by step, and more often his conclusions land closer to the Highly Unlikely rank than the Highly Likely side. Surprisingly, considering that track record, Randy judged his relationship to President Coolidge to be Likely.

It's not my style to reach for an app to determine such relationships, but I can safely say, if you keep your eyes open to history as well as surnames, you will usually get a sense of whether your line gets close to something presidential. Since I make it a point to research collateral lines on my family tree, I have stumbled upon names that perk up my ear. Familiar sounding names, plus a quick lookup in history timelines, helps point out some also-rans in the Presidential derby: senators, governors and others who tried their hand at running for the land's top office in years gone by. I may not be related to any presidents, but at least I've come close.

Perhaps your research has led you to some famous names, and you're certainly entitled to brag about that. (I'd love to hear about it here!) Whether presidents, generals, representatives in Congress or state houses, or people well known in their own time, they make up the ones who become our carrots to dangle in front of our family and friends when they wonder what we see in this pursuit called genealogy. There's nothing like discovering a person is related to someone interesting, no matter who it might be. And face it, isn't it because we're always up for a fascinating story? 

Above: "Washington's Birthday—Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street," 1916 etching by American impressionist artist Childe Hassam; courtesy Google Art Project via Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fishing in All Three Ponds

Anyone who has attended a workshop on using DNA testing for genealogical purposes has certainly heard the advice, "Fish in all three ponds." Especially those who are addressing issues of unknown parentage, such as adoptees.

While I'm not an adoptee, myself, I consider that sound genealogical advice—and not just for DNA testing. Couldn't that same advice be applied to any type of cousin bait? After all, we post our family trees online in hopes that someone else will notice a mutual ancestor's name and think to reach out and connect. So wouldn't it benefit researchers to put that tree out there, not in just one place, but in as many well-traveled sites as possible?

The bulk of my research work has found its public home at, but before that, I had posted my tree at Since that has long since become part of the domain hosted at Ancestry, it's virtually like having my tree in only one place, but at least at one time, I had made the attempt to secure two locations to hang my pedigree shingle.

There are more places than just that for posting a tree now. The main site many people think of for an alternative is the tree-building capabilities added at But there are others, too.

A while back, I took up the sales offer at FindMyPast for a limited access subscription, always meaning to upload my GEDCOM there. Procrastinator that I am, I never did get around to posting that tree. This three day weekend would be an excellent opportunity to get to work on that project. After all, that would be the equivalent of putting my cousin bait out in an entirely different pond. Why not?

I'm still somewhat undecided about whether to proceed with one other type of tree-posting service: the kind in which other users can publicly "correct" my information. A universally-linked tree, like the one at, scares me. I'm quite proprietary about my research. Not that I don't want to share, but I work hard at confirming my discoveries with the data to back them up; I admit I'd take it poorly if someone just waltzed in to proclaim it incorrect.

And yet, even a site like that is another "pond" in which I can do some cousin catching. I'll probably come to a decision on whether to utilize that resource after completing the task at FindMyPast—after all, I'm already paying for that subscription, so I need to attend to that one first. But afterwards, hopefully I'll take a good look around and come to a decision as to what to do. Perhaps by Monday, I'll have yet another tree up and ready to be viewed—and critiqued—by the world.

Let the cousins c'mon in! I'd love to connect.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Snapshot of Life at Home

While some family photographs don't provide the specifics a genealogist seeks, they can round out the picture concerning what life was like for family members during certain times.

Though this photograph from the mystery album—sent somewhere in the United States by Alice Hawkes Reid from County Cork, Ireland—doesn't help to explain just who some people are, we can get a good idea of what was important to the one woman called, simply, Chris. The description of this next photo, enclosed toward the end of the album, almost makes me wish it wasn't a composition set only in black and white.

 Chris's water garden with heather + shrubs round it + Tim Connell reading.

Sadly, there isn't much more in the album to divulge the identities of Chris or Dolly—let alone the O'Malleys or even Tim Connell, despite having his surname appended to every mention of the man. Even after all these pages, I'm still not sure who the other Alice was. All we've managed to do is figure out who Penrose Hawkes was, and through quite a bit of effort, uncover the identities of the Harry and Alice who signed their Christmas wishes to that unknown recipient of the album, back in December of 1936.

What's left, at this point, is to strike out into the wide unknown real world and see if any connections can be made with those now living in the area who may once have known about this Hawkes family from Bride Park House in County Cork, Ireland. We'll commence on that part of the journey next week.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Bit More About Chris

Sometimes, we can march right into the unknown with our research, having the faith that adding just one more bit of information will lead to discovering another clue.

Sometimes, we keep adding...and nothing seems to materialize.

Try as I might to figure out who, from yesterday's photograph in that mystery album, Chris and Dolly might have been, I am uncovering no clues. However, we can learn a small bit more by observing another photo.

Included toward the back of the photo album, the writer—whom we now know was Alice Hawkes Reid of Bride Park House in County Cork, Ireland—inserted this detail about the woman she listed as Chris.

Chris, Alice, Dolly + Lizzie O'Malley with Tim Connell, in one of Chris' fields.

Though that one entry doesn't tell us much, it does provide additional information. No matter how infinitesimally small, we'll store each clue in the hopes it will lead to something. Whether that turns out to be the case, we can't yet know.

Let's take a look at what we've gleaned from the addition of this new photograph. Though we still don't know who Chris or Dolly were, we find they were joined in this photo by two other people. One of those people brings up that O'Malley surname we've run into in the past—once, back at the beginning of this chase, when we were introduced to Alice's traveling partner, Mr. W. O'Malley, and again for an H. O'Malley when we discovered the names of the witnesses to Harry and Alice Reid's wedding in 1927. Still, neither of those occurrences mentioned a Lizzie O'Malley. But knowing we've found other instances of that O'Malley surname may mean something about a connection between the O'Malley family and the Hawkes or Reid family.

The other name was for Tim—or perhaps Jim—Connell, the man standing atop one of the horses. Though the women seemed dressed for a pleasant outing, Mr. Connell appears dressed for work. It is my guess that he was the one who actually handled those horses. If, as was sometimes the case during that era, he was a servant residing on the family's property, he may become our one clue, through census records, to help determine just who Chris might have been.

The other clue, of course, belongs to Chris, herself, in Alice's note mentioning the place they were visiting in the picture was "one of Chris' fields." Chris, apparently a landowner, was likely situated in County Cork, perhaps near the Hawkes' own Bride Park House. Although I have yet to find any such indication, perhaps she was another Hawkes cousin.

Alternately, she could have just been a good friend of Alice Reid. This last thought, however, I tend to doubt, remembering the voice Alice would have been employing for the intended recipient of the album. If the album was intended for someone who knew both Alice Reid and her brother, Penrose Hawkes, it seems more likely that offering photos of Chris and Dolly, sans surnames, suggests a familiarity with all those named by the album's intended recipient.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Matter of Handwriting

In perusing the notes in the family photo album I found, there were some quirks that showed up in the handwriting on some pages. One of those pages involved a listing of names, which I was keen to decipher. Before sharing one example in particular, we need to make a detour to discuss handwriting.

Those of us who learned our cursive hand under the strict attention of our grade school teachers may think that, of course, everyone had to write the same way. Not so, as we broaden our exposure to what others learned while sitting under the noses of their school teachers.

Couple that with the experience of school children in a country like Ireland—where, while we don't often give this a thought, the place was actually a land of two languages—and we introduce yet another influence over just how children were taught to form their letters.

So, what becomes of the handwriting of an Irish student whose every exposure to the written word had two kinds of print—both English and Irish? Consider, for a moment, the header to the 1950s form upon which we had found the death record for Alice Hawkes Reid's mother. Notice the two languages and their very different fonts.

I'm thinking, in particular, of the letters D and B. If you click on the example above, you'll notice both of these letters have unusual ascending lines—something we don't, at least in America, include in the formation of those letters. For instance, observe the handwritten portion on the top line to the far right, indicating the District of Bandon, a town in County Cork.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at one of the photos Alice Reid had included in the family album we've been studying. Here, she shares a picture of three women, and provides their given names. But is it Chris, Alice and Bolly? Or should we make that Dolly? It does include an oddly-formed first letter for that third name.

Chris, Alice + Dolly - at the sitting room window of Chris's bungalow.

Of course, we can be fairly certain that the Alice in the middle of that threesome was the other Alice we had already met when she and Mr. W. O'Malley were "off on a spree" with Harry and Alice Reid. In fact, though we have yet to figure out just who she was, this Alice figured quite prominently in the pages of the album.

But now we have two other women introduced in the collection of Hawkes friends and family. And I'm not sure this addition makes it any easier to determine just who they were.

Still, the use of the word "bungalow" was a tantalizing hint. Intimating a smaller place—at least than Bride Park House itself—it caused me to wonder whether there were any other buildings close enough to the original property to be considered part and parcel of the same estate.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Another Detour

You may have been wondering, in helping me puzzle over the source for that mystery photo album I found in a local antique store, whatever became of Penrose Hawkes after losing his wife so early in their marriage. After all, perhaps that might be the route for the possible nexus.

While it was true that Penrose lost Marion before they had even reached their seventh anniversary, Penrose was, after all, forty four years of age when that happened. Any hopes that they had children who might have carried the photo album forward was nipped in the lack of any such mention in Marion's obituary.

Still, when I found a subsequent wedding announcement in the September 25, 1950, Dallas Morning News, for whatever reason, I had in mind a, well, younger sort of bride.

Apparently not. The former Pauline Parker was evidently forty seven at the point at which the couple exchanged their vows in New York City. While it is possible the couple could have left children, I doubt it—though it is hard to tell, as each seemed to be rather private people, leaving not much of a mention at their passing.

Penrose, himself, passed away in Corning, New York, sometime in October, 1972. Pauline Hawkes remained in Corning, her husband's adopted hometown, for many years afterwards, dying there on March 20, 2001. A transcription of her obituary—the only version I could find online—noted,
Pauline P. "Polly" Hawkes, 96, of 249 Wall St., died Friday, March 30, 2001, at Corning Hospital. She was a Corning resident for 51 years.

The only survivors listed were a great nephew and great niece, likely the descendants of Pauline's one sister who had lived in Houston, Texas. There was to be "no calling hours" and private services were to be "held at the convenience of the family."

If you had been thinking a second marriage would have provided the explanation for just how that Hawkes family photo album made it across the Atlantic from County Cork to New York—or somewhere—to, eventually, northern California, kiss that thought goodbye. Yes, it might have been a possibility. But now that we know the rest of the story, we need to be realistic and discard any such romantic notions, no matter how convenient a solution they might have presented.

Ruby + Iris - Off for a ride.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hearing the Voice

Other than a few remaining pictures—which may or may not resolve the remainder of our questions concerning the mystery photo album I found here in northern California—there is not much of a "big reveal" left to discuss. We've determined that the pictures were taken in County Cork, Ireland, and that they mostly have to do with the family of Mrs. John Pim Penrose Hawkes of Bride Park House. The dates were provided to us: the summer of 1936.

In the course of studying the family, we learned that a number of Mrs. Hawkes' in-laws (her husband had twelve siblings) had emigrated from Ireland. The most interesting of those settled in the New York area, most notably Thomas Gibbons Hawkes, founder of the cut glass manufacturer bearing his name. Mrs. Hawkes' own son, also named Penrose, eventually moved there and became a key figure in the company's success.

Mrs. Hawkes' only other child was a daughter who opted to remain in Ireland, marry and raise a family. It was she who turned out to be the one creating the photo album and sending it as a Christmas gift—but to whom?

This is the question that will take some quiet contemplation. Almost as if we are listening to her voice, we need to glean the clues from her album notes. For one thing, because she addresses her brother in the third person—"Penrose, looking very cross!"—it is unlikely that the album would be sent to him as a memento of his visit. And yet, it had to go to someone for whom the dig would have elicited the same response as his sister's.

Because the sender also addresses the other Alice in the album in the third person, it is unlikely that the album was meant as a gift for her—if, indeed, my guess is correct that that Alice is T. G. Hawkes' daughter, who made regular trips from New York (and later Canada) to Ireland.

I have already discussed another possibility—my initial thought that perhaps the album was meant for Penrose's wife. That, however, we've long dismissed, as Penrose and Marion weren't married until well over a year later.

The label on the photograph of the tea party guests threw me off, not including any relationship labels for the Hawkes family members in attendance. This made me think the album was not meant for a mutual family member. The more I think about it, though, perhaps Alice was merely cataloguing names at that point. Perhaps I shouldn't read so deeply into every action.

We'll take a look at a few more photographs in the next few days. These bring up some names we haven't yet considered—although whether they offer us any further clues, I can't say. Still, it would allow us to put some closure to the rest of the album, regardless of whether we ever solve the mystery of how a family photo album mailed from County Cork, Ireland, in 1936 ever ended up in California when none of the family had moved here.

Iris - doing "la grande dame"! - June 1936

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