Friday, April 28, 2017

Do You Remember . . .


I've just returned from visiting the Freedom Tower in New York City. It's both a sobering reminder of an occurrence we'll never forget, and a re-immersion into the mood of the moment when the unthinkable unfolded, before our eyes, in painful slow motion.

Despite the distance of the fifteen years separating us from the event, almost everyone alive then can recall precisely what they were doing, the moment they heard the news. Something about the urgency of the moment cemented those memories in our minds.

For those alive at the time, the same can be said for the precise moment the news struck the airwaves about the assassination of American president, John F. Kennedy. That moment will also be forever cemented in mind.

"Do you remember when" becomes a question which, for those still alive from that era, can bring back vivid memories paired with the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, too. No matter how far removed that event might have been, those still alive can give a report of the minute details of their day at the moment the news hit.

Perhaps it is the adrenaline rush that pairs with crisis situations. Whatever the reason for those undying memories, they provide a peek into the day to day life being lived by our relatives, leading up to the unexpected turn of events. While it would be too painful to recall, just after the event, when the distance of time makes it possible, not only is it therapeutic for people to share their memories of the moment, but it provides a micro-history for others to understand the feelings surrounding the event, coupled with the everyday life observations surrounding the crisis.

Sharing these memories also helps family members catch a glimpse of what life was like for a specific member of our family. Such micro-histories, shared and passed down to younger generations, allow the rest of the family—descendants, in particular—to see, in retrospect, what their ancestors had experienced through the dire passages of their lives.

The museum organizers were careful to preserve the memories of many who survived that day, back in September, 2001, drawn from many aspects. Many walks of life contributed to the collage of memories, representing all who were part of that tragic scene. Employees, neighbors, rescue workers, and many others lent their voice to recordings, explaining in sound bites the whole array of that day's experiences and its aftermath.

I couldn't help but wonder, walking through the displays at the museum, what became of those who were related to the men, women and, sadly, even children impacted by that day. My mind started envisioning a family tree of those involved in that day—what was the legacy of that experience?

My mind naturally runs in that direction, which helped me realize the same treatment could be applied to our own research. We can apply the same questions to our own family's memories—most certainly for those still with us who lived through the Second World War, or the Kennedy assassination—or even an event more close to the current time.

Admittedly, asking "Do you remember when?" concerning crisis events may not always be as fun an interview opportunity as recalling the birth of the first grandchild, or when one's baby had his first haircut or went off to kindergarten. Invoking a more introspective process, it can also be more revealing, both of the details of everyday life—with the crystal-clear recall embedded in that adrenaline-infused experience—and the personality-revealing observations shared in the process.

I know I certainly was instantly transported back to that morning as I walked through that museum. If asked, I could certainly fill pages with recollections of my everyday life from just before and just after hearing the news. Notes like that, captured in interviews, notes, and other recollections from family members, could provide us with the material to preserve our own family's stories in those moments of time when it seemed all the world stood still.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

One More Phone Call


With so much of the work behind me—of determining the family featured in the mystery photo album I found in northern California—it might seem like it is time to wrap up this story and move on to another. But no, not quite yet. There is one more item of business to attend to. Remember, that photo album still needs to find its way back to Ireland. And I want to figure out how the thing made its way to California.

There is one member of the Reid family who may know the answer. Now that I'm returning home from my most recent trip, I'll be set to make another phone call to hear the details on what may well be a plausible explanation. Today, I heard from that branch of the extended Reid family, asking to schedule a time to talk. Believe me, I can hardly wait.

This family will also likely be the very ones to deliver the album back home to County Cork. You see, the family is planning a trip to Ireland later this year, including a visit with none other than the very granddaughter of Harry and Alice Reid whom we've already deduced was the right couple.

My task, hopefully to be completed this weekend, is to arrange a phone conversation with this new family connection. Hopefully, that will include even more details that can be shared about this research journey, from personal remembrances this person has of the Reid family. Remember, the album was put together in 1936, and we are now over eighty years beyond that Christmas date. Those memories will reach far into the past of someone's lifetime, surely. I'll be interested to hear every detail that can be shared.

But first, a long flight home today as I head from Connecticut to California on a journey of my own.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Going Back a Long Way


Working on this Hawkes line from the mystery photo album I found in a local antique store reminds me that I have much research to do to verify the generations preceding the ones pictured in the album. The Hawkes family has such a long, interesting history, and yet, I've not been able to secure documentation for much of it beyond John Pim Penrose Hawkes' grandfather. Judging from the Hawkes family researchers I've corresponded with during this research, though, the family's pedigree can be traced back a long, long way.

One reason this comes to mind is due to the many people who have helped, along the way, with this search. Of course, it is easy to find several trees on Ancestry containing these Hawkes relatives, but it is correspondingly disappointing to see, as the owners' resources, such "verified" source documents as "Ancestry family trees." This, in my eyes, is no better than the blind leading the blind.

One reason I've wished to obtain documentation from a few generations prior to our target family members is, as I've mentioned, that I've been communicating with some other Hawkes descendants. Not from the immediate family of Alice Hawkes Reid's parents, of course, but with distant Hawkes cousins. So distant, in fact, that even they aren't sure just how they relate.

Since one reader, Intense Guy, had provided the link to a family tree naming one of the children mentioned in the post about the tea party at the Hawkes residence, I was led to an email address permitting me to correspond with one Hawkes descendant in Canada, and the very person, still in Ireland, who had been featured in that tea party group photograph.

It's been a treat to be able to correspond with those two women. Though neither was able to directly lead me to the descendants of Harry and Alice Reid, they certainly sent me kind responses to my questions, which I appreciated. It is certainly an odd inquiry to receive in one's inbox, agreed. To have such gracious responses was heartening.

So, yesterday was a day to send out thank you notes. Agreed, again, that such thank you notes are also unusual entities. But perhaps that will someday become the norm, as we delve further into genealogical connectivity in this age of universal contact, thanks to the Internet.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Another Trip, Another Phone Call


Has it been only a month since my trip back east to Florida—the very day in which I received the message confirming connection with the granddaughter of the Irish couple from my mystery photo album? It was in the airport that morning I had checked my messages one last time before boarding my flight. There, Heather had responded, confirming she had received my messages and wanted to talk.

Phone calls in busy airports, though, do not blend well with this type of conversation, so we waited until a mutually convenient—and quiet—time to make our first phone contact.

Once again, I've received an answer to a tentative message—in the affirmative, and with a request to talk by phone. If not from the actual recipient of that mystery photo album, from someone who could possibly be the oldest living relative of this family line. She likely has a lot of information to share. And I am keen to hear it.

But travel plans have once again gotten in the way. For a phone call of this type, I'd not only need a quiet place but a space to spread out with note paper and my online database—that "secret" family tree I constructed to help keep track of my guesses as to who this family was that sent the album, and just who its recipient might have been.

Meanwhile, though, we do have email. And we've been exchanging notes—on my part, pumping out an endless volley of questions about the Reid and Hawkes families, and from the other end, a gracious stream of answers plus the bonus of more photographs.

Once that call has been made, all that remains is to make arrangements to return the album to the family in County Cork whose grandparents had sent it westward, over eighty years ago. In the interim, though, I have one more small bit of research business to attend to: contact all the others researching these family lines who had helped me along the way to accomplishing this goal.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Going Home


They say you never can go home again—not really. With the passage of time and all the experiences that entails, things are never quite the same as they were the last time you left.

In my case, it's been several years since the last time I left my childhood home in New York. But this week, I'll at least get a chance to drive by my old home, pass the church and high school I once attended, slip down the one road which could qualify as the town's Main Street—don't blink—and see if the old pizza parlor where we hung out on Friday evenings is still in business.

That's not the only reason I'm going back, of course. Like the draw of genealogy, itself, it's the people drawing me to the destinations I visit, not the static elements of dates, names and locations. I'm touching bases with family I haven't seen in years. While we can now connect—even daily, if we wish—by text, phone, or even video chat, there is nothing like being there in person, where we can talk, face to face. The more the years separate us from a daily life of living all together, I'm grateful for these opportunities.

Today, in particular, I'll be traveling with one sister to visit another sister. Over the years, the family has split from our one home state to establish families of our own in several different states, and even across the continent. Having the chance to drop in for a visit becomes infinitely more complicated, once our lives have pulled us in so many different directions.

I think the draw of family history research mirrors the mystique of that familial tie that binds. Love them or not, the folks we grew up with are, well, family—and there is an unspoken something that pulls us back together. Could it only be the pull of the DNA that we share? Surely there is much more than that, no matter how powerful that invisible link may be.

Tracing the wisps of that tie, the echoes from previous generations—the fruit of which made us the individuals we are—becomes the pursuit of family history. We re-enact—on paper, at least—the ties binding members of previous generations together and commemorate once again that mystique of familial ties.

While we may never truly be able to return home again—to that place where we all once lived—we still seek to capture tho relationships and experiences in the micro-histories we draw up to represent who we once were as a family. The passage of time may erase the place we once called home, and even the faces which once could be found inside that familiar front door. But the stories we capture on paper—these we can preserve and pass down through the generations, the intangible (and only) part we can return to, generation after generation.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Favoring the Irish


It's time to tally my progress for the last two weeks of family research. This is always a difficult time for me, because from week to week, I have such a variance in my schedule that research may sometimes rocket ahead...and other times languish. Keeping count helps me at least try for consistency.

However, having spent the past several weeks researching someone else's Irish family tree, it put me in the mood to do some Irish research of my own. So what did I do? Head over to my father-in-law's tree to see what new hints could be found.

There was quite a bit to polish up. As new collections get added to the Ancestry holdings, some trickle down to my own trees, so there is a constant need to revisit and spruce up documentation.

Though I did quite a bit of work linking already-existent people in the tree with newfound documents, I actually didn't add many new names. Five, to be exact. But at least that now brings up my count for that tree to 1,086. Every little bit of progress counts.

Surprisingly, my own father's tree gained a small amount, as well: inching forward to a total of 403, with the addition of fourteen new names. While this is my smallest tree, it is also my most challenging, so I'm pleased with any progress I can make at all.

The two mainstays of my research progress, as always, are the maternal lines: mine, and my husband's. Even so, I haven't seen the type of progress I'd experienced, back at the end of last year. In the past two weeks, on my mother's tree, I added fifty four new names to total 9,836 in that database. On my mother-in-law's tree, I hit some easy-to-find family lines and managed to add 162 new individuals, bringing that tree's total to 10,777.

Our DNA results, while up from the last two week period, are still much slower than during sale seasons. Thankfully, we'll likely see an uptick in matches, once the DNA Day sales get processed. It's always nice to see new matches, so I'm all for the sales—even if I'm not the one in the market to buy.

At Family Tree DNA, my husband's matches advanced forty five to total 1,272. At AncestryDNA, he gained fourteen new matches at the level of fourth cousin or closer, with the total now at 252. Interestingly, at 23andMe, his match count went down, supposedly as other clients retract their results from the DNA sharing portion of that company's website. He now has 1,285 matches there.

For me, FTDNA matches came in at 1,988, up sixty four. AncestryDNA was 528, up twenty eight. And I'm still awaiting my results at 23andMe, which for some unexplained reason took longer to make it from northern California to Los Angeles than from L.A. to the final destination on the east coast. Go, USPS.

One bright side in all these numbers is that I took a look at my stagnant count for my mtDNA test. I have only four exact matches there for my matrilineal details, at least two of whom are adoptees. One of the others, I just noticed, added a pedigree chart, so I jumped over to that file to take a look. It didn't take long to discover our nexus: at the level of my seventh great grandmother. No wonder we never saw any match activity on our respective autosomal test results!

Bit by bit, I keep plugging away at all these trees. Slow and steady may be very boring to consider, but in the aggregate, it can sometimes turn up some encouraging results.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fear of DNA


If you pay any attention to the genealogy world, you've no doubt heard of the sales in celebration of what is dubbed National DNA Day. The designated day, April 25, refers to the 1953 publication date of the James Watson and Francis Crick article in the scientific journal, Nature, announcing their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. (April was also a good month for DNA benchmarks in 2003, with the ahead-of-schedule completion of the human genome project on April 14. But, just as we Americans do for Presidents' Day, we've demonstrated we can celebrate two events on one single day—and that day has been designated to be April 25.)

So let the sales begin! Family Tree DNA started the volley of announcements when it launched its celebratory sale on April 20 with, among other things, an autosomal test price of $59. You know Ancestry.com had to get into the action, as well, with their twenty percent price markdown for U.S. customers (and various other offers for customers in the U.K. and Canada). And newcomer to the DNA scene, Living DNA, offers $40 off their current price.

DNA sales come and go. Remember the winter holiday season? That was the first time—at least as far as I recall—when the autosomal test at Family Tree DNA dipped as low as their current $59 sale price. If you sprang for that price, you were in good company. Holiday sales significantly pumped the number of participants in the database of each of the then-three major testing companies.

But not everyone who purchased a test sent back the completed specimen. How do I know this? I have a relative who wanted a test for Christmas, received it, then...chickened out. Perhaps he was afraid of what he'd find.

He's not the exception. I asked a distant cousin if she—or one of her siblings—would be interested in participating in testing. As it turned out, one of the siblings decided not to participate. While that is a person's own prerogative, I often wonder whether there are some who fear what they would discover. There is definitely an unclear edge to that unknown. For some, it might mean discovering an ethnic heritage which turns out to be a surprise. For others, it might mean meeting up with an unexpected close relative.

We do have to tread tenderly as we progress into the unknown of this brave new DNA testing world. When I read, on Randy Seaver's blog Genea-Musings, the Living DNA announcement of their new partnership with one of Germany's largest genealogical societies to "map the genetic history of Germany," I wondered how that announcement would resonate with those familiar with Germany's more recent history. If you've read Christine Kenneally's excellent book, The Invisible History of the Human Race, you'll recall her recounting of the German requirement, leading up to World War II, for citizens to keep a notebook of their own family's pedigree.

For those who remember that dark side of human genetic interests, perhaps breathless announcements like Living DNA's latest collaboration may not seem as welcomed as would be hoped by the company's investors. The idea behind the premise seems sound, even exciting; according to the Living DNA announcement,
the project's aim is to...build up the most detailed and accurate regional map of Germany's genetic history—prior to the loss of territory and mass departures from the eastern parts of Germany that occurred as a result of WW2.

Just as Living DNA did for its British Isles genetic genealogy project, in this German collaboration, they are seeking individuals willing to participate who can demonstrate that all four of their grandparents were born within fifty miles of each other. With the development of a healthy-sized database drawn from such fine-grained details, it will be interesting to see how accurately the resulting reference population can pinpoint predictions of German ancestral origins within specific regions.

That's on the bright side of genetic genealogy: the positive take on what we can learn about our own family histories. On the grim side, though—and evidently there are some for which these details evoke dark memories or cautions—there is a track record from the past which gives some pause to consider the need for embedded protections.

What is it about DNA that prompts some to jump eagerly into the pursuit of such discoveries—and others to shrink back cautiously? DNA is like a light that shines on our deepest secrets, uncovering clues about everything from our past relationships to our future health problems. Whether about personal or national issues, we need to respect genetic genealogy applications such as DNA for the powerful tools they really are.    

Friday, April 21, 2017

We're Stuck in Lodi, Too


Back before Saint Patrick's Day, when the unsolved mystery of that photo album I found pushed me to go hunting, one last time, for a living descendant in Ireland, I posed my quandary to a Facebook group of genealogical society members in County Cork.

When I mentioned I found the album five thousand miles from where it originated, one of the group members piped up, "So what's five thousand miles away?" When I informed this seasoned society member the answer to his question was a town called Lodi, California, he retorted with the inevitable: "Stuck in Lodi."

Yes, it's true: if anyone from that time frame remembers anything about the place, they remember the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival release by that same name.

Lodi, however, has a life of its own, separate and apart from that doubtful claim to fame. A city of about sixty five thousand, among other features, it sports a revitalized downtown which is finding its way amidst the exurbs of the more tony Bay area communities.

Right on the main street running through that downtown area sits the antique shop where I found the photograph album that turned out to belong to Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid of County Cork, Ireland. That's the shop where I returned, the other morning, to see if I could find an answer to my question of how the thing managed to get here from there.

The name of the place is Secondhand Rose. According to the shop's website, it has been in existence for twenty years, and has been established in the same location since 2000.

The difficulty—well, for me, at least—is that this is not just one shop. It is actually a collection of "shops," each the domain of a separate dealer. Right now, the store boasts forty five such dealers in their cooperative. And one of them—an unnamed one of them—is the person responsible for finding the album which eventually got sold to me. But I won't know anything more about the details unless this dealer decides to give me a call.

And so, I'm stuck, too—stuck in Lodi.

You know me: impatient. I want to know the answer now. But it's been two days since making my request, and I haven't heard a thing. I've even answered what turned out to be spam calls, all for the sake of not missing this caller from the antique dealers' secret society. Do you know how hard that is for me?! This is true dedication.

Meanwhile, it seems I may have an answer coming from a different direction. The person Heather had thought might know something about the album's journey to California has responded to my tentative plea via Facebook messenger. We are going to talk. Soon.


Photo courtesy Wren.

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Where We Started


Some things are never easy—but they are still worth the try.

It occurred to me, while puzzling over how a 1936 photograph album from Cork, Ireland, could make it all the way to California when there was no one in the family living here at the time, that perhaps I could find a different way to answer my question.

After all, though it took almost three months to figure out where the album came from—and who the family was, sending it—some things may not lend themselves best to genealogical solutions. Perhaps there was another way to discover how the album landed in the antique shop where I found it.

I had noticed there were two unobtrusive white stickers affixed to the back of the album. The purpose of one of them, of course, was to notify the potential buyer of the asking price. The other, also bearing numbers, was likely a code of some type—though handwritten, hopefully some sort of tracking or inventory code.

I don't know much about how to run an antique store. Presumably, the owner goes to special locations where such treasures may be bought, obtains items most likely to move quickly off the store's shelves, and adds them to the store's inventory—hopefully for the duration of a brief shelf life.

Since it was my daughter who introduced me to the antique shop in the first place, I ran my idea by her to see if it was reasonable: go back to the store and see if the code could lead me to where the item had been obtained by the shopkeeper.

We made a mid-morning coffee date and started out on our expedition, back to the antique store. Arriving in town at what seemed to be a quiet hour of business, we breezed in the door and found ourselves talking with the woman behind the counter in a matter of minutes. While she was willing to help, right away she brought up the down side: the store was actually a consignment shop, and the code on the back of my album actually told her which contact person was responsible for that object.

Only problem: for whatever confidentiality reasons there are among antique dealers, she could not reveal her source for this sale item. But she did offer to forward to that person any message I might want to send.

So there I was, yesterday morning—before my cup of coffee—pulling out a business card and scribbling a note on the back.

How do you explain a story like the one we've just been through in the past three months? It doesn't really fit on the back of a business card—nor on the paper the shopkeeper so kindly offered for the continuation of the tale. I thought about including a link to A Family Tapestry so this antique dealer could read it for herself—but then, I found out she was likely not online, herself.

All I could do was write my plea for assistance, and walk out, hoping for the best. And really, considering I probably bought the album at least two years ago, how could I expect anything at all?

Well, at least I could expect my cup of coffee. With a shorter visit than expected at that lovely little antique store, now we'd have even more time to enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Headed to California


If a single item from one's family estate ended up in California, wouldn't it be reasonable to presume the rest of the estate might have been kept in California, as well?

Of course, my premise that the mystery photo album I found in a California antique shop came from a local estate sale may be flawed. Who knows? Perhaps antique dealers search far and wide for the trinkets they sell for under twenty dollars. But I doubt it.

Then again, perhaps the album, while ending up in California, might have originally been mailed to a recipient who lived elsewhere in the United States—or anywhere else on the continent, for that matter.

I think these things out, over and over, as I try to discern that invisible pathway taken by that mystery photo album, from the County Cork home of Harry and Alice Reid to its unknown destination, back in 1936. Since no surnames were used in the notes accompanying the photos on each page of the album, I presume that means it was a gift meant for family, who would know, despite their lack, just who was meant by each nickname.

But which family member might have been the recipient? After all, though Alice Hawkes Reid had only one brother—an unmarried one at that, back in 1936—she also had twelve aunts and uncles, just on her father's side of the family. I haven't even begun to trace the generations descending from her mother's side of the family. And if the recipient was someone on her husband's side of the family, Harry had at least seven siblings that I've been able to find, and several more half-siblings much older than he.

Of those possibilities which I have been able to document, I had found one brother on the Hawkes side of the family who might eventually have settled in Los Angeles. While that city might be the epitome of California in many people's minds, it also is a distance of at least three hundred fifty miles from the shop where I retrieved the photo album. Besides, the 1948 California death record for Richard Hawkes, while providing the right mother's maiden name and birth outside the country, also contained the wrong middle name. Could it be just a coincidence that his parents' surnames were Hawkes and Gibbons?

True, Alice Hawkes Reid had two uncles who had immigrated to another part of the United States—both originally heading to the New York metro area, then moving beyond. But we've already examined the life of Thomas Gibbons Hawkes—who, incidentally, had died long before the 1936 album was composed—and that of his descendants for possible California connections without much success. And his brother—and their father's namesake, Quayle Welsted Hawkes—though moving to Westchester County in New York, had also died long before our mystery album was sent.

On the other side of Alice's family, though, there may have been some in-laws who could qualify as California recipients. Not that they were there in California in 1936—but at least they arrived there some time after that point, bringing their belongings with them. At least, we can presume.

The one most likely candidate family would be that of Harry Reid's older brother, Richard. Born in 1887 at Grange Cottage in County Cork, Richard eventually enrolled as part of the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force during the first World War. Eventually, he ended up in Canada, where he married Amy Lucking. Together, they became parents of a son and three daughters.

By the time the third child was born, the family was no longer living in the Toronto area, but in Buffalo, New York. While I realize Buffalo is a far cry from California—even northern California—the family does eventually get around to making a California connection. At least two of the four children spent some of their adult years living in California. A third may also have lived there for a while. Best discovery yet: some of those California residences could be considered to be reasonably close to the location of the shop where I found that photo album.

Could any of those nieces or nephews of Harry and Alice Reid have inherited a photo album sent originally to their parents in Buffalo, New York? Could they have kept it all those years, while moving cross-country to a new home in sunny California?

Those are the types of questions I have for one of those family members, once we connect and can talk about it.

In the meantime, another idea occurred to me: what if the owner of the antique store kept a log of where each inventory item originated? Could it be possible that there is a record of where the photo album was obtained by the shop?

That's a project for another day. Soon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

That Secret Family Tree


It started out as a place to accumulate—and then sort through—all the miscellaneous facts I had been gathering as I pondered the family whose discarded photo album ended up in my possession. The jumble of notes over hunches, guesses, conjectures and outright mistakes needed some sort of mechanism with which to make sense of it all. So I started a new family tree.

Not in the usual manner, of course. All the trees I've posted at Ancestry—and elsewhere over the years, for that matter—have been publicly accessible. I wouldn't have it any other way. How else would I tempt distant cousins to get in touch? If I made my trees a secret, no one would have the incentive to connect.

This tree was different, though. For one thing, it wasn't my family tree; it was someone else's—and a stranger's, on top of that. What if someone became incensed over my gall in posting details on a family that didn't even belong to me? Worse, what if I got something wrong? No sense putting errors out there, in the ether, for passers-by to snatch away and add to their own mismatched tree.

So when I put up my jumble of notes on the Hawkes—and then, eventually, the Reid—families, I made the whole thing not only a private tree on Ancestry, but an unsearchable tree. A secret only I could know.

Now that I've met Harry and Alice Reid's granddaughter, Heather, I've learned more about the family related to those creators of that photo album sent as a Christmas greeting, back in 1936. In particular, when Heather reminded me to take a look at the Reid side of the family, I discovered a family, much likes the Hawkes family, with many siblings, all striking out in life, headed in far distant directions.

As it turns out, there were several candidates from Harry Reid's generation who could have been the recipients of the couple's photography gift, some of whom actually may have lived in California, the Irish album's final destination. While I've already reached out to contact a descendant of one of those family members, it would be helpful to review all the possibilities here, one by one, over the remainder of this week. Each candidate has his or her pros and cons, thus the choice may not be an easy one. Mulling over the possibilities by writing out these thoughts may help zero in on the likely candidate.

In the meantime, that secret tree may not remain such a secret. I'm finding that, with each family member I contact, I may as well invite that person to view the tree and advise me on its accuracy. After all, I've now heard from two family members who mentioned wanting to share an old, barely legible handwritten family tree passed down through the years. In exchange, I may as well offer to share the details I've gleaned from this fascinating journey learning about the history of two families from County Cork, Ireland.


Above: Undated photograph of Alice Hawkes Reid at Bride Park with her parents, John Pim Penrose Hawkes and Sarah Suzanna Ruby Hawkes, and one of the Bride Park Westies. Photograph from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid families; used by permission.
  

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Last Hurdle


It's been quite a trip to go from finding a discarded photograph album in a local antique shop to actually determining whose family was featured on its pages. At this point, the goals of discovering the 1936 family's identity and getting in touch with a direct descendant can both be checked off our list. At some point soon, the little photo album will be making its way across the ocean, back home to Ireland.

There is, however, one more goal I'd like to see accomplished: to figure out just how the album made its way from County Cork to San Joaquin County in California.

While I've been writing about the various facts uncovered by researching the Hawkes and Reid families—the families of Alice and Harry, originators of the album—I've been testing possibilities for a family tree. Once I had discovered the likely identity of our easiest-to-determine member of the family—Penrose Hawkes, Alice's brother who immigrated to upstate New York to join a family member's business concern there—I had started sketching out a rudimentary family tree.

There were, of course, twists and turns. Guesses aren't always as insightful as we might hope they are. In time, I just gave up with the pen and paper route, and opened up a new tree on my Ancestry.com account. Making the tree not only private but unsearchable—lest someone think I was actually a relative or, worse, think I was the very one who held the key to bust through their unfathomable brick wall—I felt free to test my craziest hypotheses and juxtapose conjectures alongside confirmed relationships.

Since discovering Penrose's surname—well, maybe since confirming I had the right Penrose (as if there could be any others)—I had been working on my secret family tree. Since early January, the slow process of testing and discarding possibilities has yielded me a tree of 127 names. A modest count, that number is sufficient to help me find my way around the family constellation, although certainly not enough to confirm relationships I've since become aware of. After all, Penrose's father had twelve siblings, some of whom remained in the area around their County Cork home and some of whom had also made the trip across the Atlantic to either the United States or Canada.

In trying to put together a path of descendants—and thus the likely trail taken by that mystery photo album to its final destination in California—I've tested several possibilities which subsequently had to be discarded. I couldn't quite figure out who might have been the recipient of Harry and Alice's Christmas greeting album.

Of course, their granddaughter Heather has since reminded me to look to the other side of the family tree for answers. And, in that same phone conversation a couple weeks ago, she made a suggestion of her own. Perhaps if I contacted one specific family, I'd be able to talk to someone who might have some ideas on the subject.

Once again, I find myself reaching out and then holding my breath, hoping for an answer, but all the while thinking this is, indeed, a crazy pursuit.


  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Changing Nature
of Holiday Celebrations


When we think of holidays, we often think "tradition." And when that topic of tradition comes to mind, we think of never-changing patterns. For those who celebrate Easter today, you likely think you are re-enacting traditions as they were kept by your parents and their parents before them.

A quick check through our own memory banks should reveal a slightly different viewpoint. While today's holiday celebration may come with Easter egg hunts or the same big dinner we ate last year at this time, I can remember a time in my own childhood when Easter was all about going to church and rejoicing in the choir's rousing rendition of favorite hymns—and Easter bonnets and new outfits, as well.

On a lark, I turned to the U.S. Library of Congress online catalog to check out what I could find on Easter festivities of prior generations. As it turned out, there was an ample selection of photographs of Easter activities in New York City in the early 1900s. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, representing files from one of America's earliest news picture agencies, these photographs gave a glimpse of holiday preparations and festivities from an era perhaps better known to our great grandparents.

Yes, there was the Easter Parade down Fifth Avenue. And all those stunning bonnets adorning the heads of church goers awaiting Easter morning services at Saint Thomas' and Saint Patrick's. Perhaps some things never do change. But there were also several photographs of people heading to the thriving market at Union Square on "Easter Saturday" to purchase "Easter flowers." That may or may not be a principal feature of your holiday festivities this spring.

While the changes in holiday celebrations occurring from generation to generation may be more nuanced than, say, the way wars have been fought from century to century, or how the modes of transportation have changed since your great grandparents' time, they do open one's eyes to the influences the cultural contexts of our ancestors' experiences bore upon their everyday lives. Knowing what our great grandparents experienced in their daily routine—and even their special celebrations—can help us see who these people were so much better than just finding the paper trail confirming the basic dates of their existence.


Above: Easter Saturday, Union Square in New York City; undated photograph, early 1900s, from the George Grantham Bain collection; courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Playing With Anniversary Dates


On this day in 1912, the largest ship afloat collided with an inconveniently-placed iceberg in the waters of the north Atlantic, costing the lives of over fifteen hundred passengers. While that was one of the greatest tragedies of its time, we've had over one hundred years to distance ourselves from that horror. And yet, we still remember.

Anniversary dates seem to have a pull on our fascination, and not just for history buffs. Granted, there is something more attention-grabbing about saying an event happened on this date, one hundred years ago. But one hundred or one hundred and an extra five, we still pause to remember.

We don't only recall dates of the somber, of course. We also find interest in remembering more upbeat anniversaries. Like the one hundred twenty eight years since an anniversary date we just passed at the end of last month—March 31, 1889, the date the Eiffel Tower was completed—for those preferring something a bit more romantic.

Dates from history come in all shapes and sizes. There's surely one that can pique your curiosity—whether about a hobby, a career, or another point of affinity. Perhaps it has something to do with our weakness for trivia intriguingly presented. Finding a way to grab the attention can sometimes open the door to introduce further details.

I've often toyed with the idea of blending the genealogical details I've discovered through my research with the traction people get from utilizing anniversary dates. For instance, would those we know take a second glance at family history facts if they were wrapped up in a package called, "On this Date in History"? What about putting together a calendar where, instead of the usually designated holidays, dates of ancestors' weddings or graduations were listed?

Or a bingo game containing life events from five different ancestral lines? (How's this: the Bauers, the Ingrahams, the Nelsons, the Gianellis, and the O'Neils.)

Every year, our genealogical society holds a potluck social. One of the most popular games we've played during this event we've since dubbed, "Three Things You Don't Know About Me." Ahead of time, each attendee submits three unusual facts about himself or herself, which is then entered without the accompanying name, in random order, on a printed game form. Some of the statements we've received have to do with unusual places of birth, unusual or famous relatives, or unexpected accomplishments from years past.

On the evening of the event, each guest is given the game form, along with a list of each participant's name. The goal is to match the right name with the right three statements. There is, of course, a prize for the astute member who is most successful at rightly aligning which statements belong to which participant's name. But everyone wins because we all come away from the event getting to know something more about our fellow society members.

Finding a way to integrate the more fascinating details of our ancestors' lives into our current festivities—whether for holiday gatherings or other family events—allows us to use the pull of anniversary dates and the fun of games to awaken further interest in our own family's heritage.   

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Trouble With Nicknames


When it comes to researching a name like Dolly, one can be fairly certain that is not a given name, but a nickname. When I tried to match the names on the Henry Reid family tree with those I had seen in that mystery photograph album I had found, I couldn't find any documented place for a name like Dolly. Nicknames require a researcher to find a way to know the rest of the story.

Now that we've met up with a descendant of the Reid and Hawkes families who has been quite gracious to provide the rest of the story on the people in that 1936 album, the names and faces are coming together. Except Dolly's.

Indeed, I wasn't even sure I had the right name. The handwriting on the page listing Chris and her companions at her "bungalow" had me wondering whether one of the women was actually named "Bolly."

But, as explained by Heather—Harry and Alice Reid's granddaughter whom we've since met here online—there was another family member who was called Dolly. Perhaps that was the one on the right of the threesome peering out the window in that old photograph. After all, we've since discovered that the other two women in that picture were sisters.

While Heather did send me several emails with photographs and descriptions, the way I found out about Dolly was a bit different. In trying to recall all the information she provided, I had thought at first that the little detail about Dolly had been discussed during our phone conversation. But looking back over my notes, I didn't find any mention there. Reviewing all the emails turned up not a clue as to where my memory had gleaned that detail.There had been such a flood of information coming all at once, and I had lost track of which source provided which fact—a sure signal that I need to reorganize my notes.

There had been one more item sent by Heather. It was a scan of a handwritten family tree. In impeccable—but tiny—print, it detailed the siblings from Harry's generation of the Reid family. Above one of his sisters' names, in even tinier print, was added the note, "Dolly."

It appears, then, that the Reid sibling who was known by that nickname was Harry's next older sister, Aphra. Born on May 31, 1889, in County Cork, by the time of the 1901 census, she was living elsewhere with an older Reid sister whom we've already met: Elizabeth, later to become Mrs. William O'Malley.

Apparently, at that time, Elizabeth was serving as a "national teacher" away from home in the County Cork village of Monkstown. In the household with Elizabeth was her half-brother Edmund Lombard Reid and her half-sister Aphra. At that point, Aphra was only eleven years of age. She was listed as a "scholar," and perhaps was staying there, rather than at home, for the educational opportunity.

By the time of the next census in 1911, Aphra was back home, presumably at Grange Cottage, with her father, another sister, and her younger brother Harry.

From that point on, there is little that can be gleaned from official documents, as the more current census records aren't available. However, a note from the superintendent registrar's district of Bandon provided the sad news that Aphra had passed away at the age of only fifty six, on March 28, 1945. Despite the winning smile she flashed for that photograph back in 1936, the one the family remembered as "Dolly" had remained single all her life. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Discovering More About Chris




It was back in the middle of February when we were introduced, thanks to that mystery photo album I had found in an antique store, to three women named Chris, Alice and Dolly. A photograph showed the three of them peering from a window. The album's creator had labeled the picture "at the sitting room of Chris's bungalow."

Of course, we've since learned that the couple who sent that photo album—as a gift to an unnamed person or family—was Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid of County Cork, Ireland. The Alice in this particular photograph was not the Alice who had composed the collection, but, as we've discovered, Harry Reid's sister. With another photograph subsequently sent to me by a descendant of this family, we now learn who Chris was.

You will not find it surprising to learn that Chris was also a sister of Harry Reid.

Almost twenty years after that 1936 family photograph album was compiled for a Christmas gift, the Reid family was snapping pictures for another family occasion: the wedding of their daughter Ruby. One of the poses captured by the camera that April day in 1956 was that of the father of the bride, Harry Reid himself, standing with three of his sisters.

Along with a copy of this more recent photograph, his granddaughter Heather provided me with the names of each of them. There was Alice on the far left, arm in arm with her brother. On the other side of Harry was his sister, by then known as Edith Logan. And at the far right was Chris—yes, that Chris—known then by her married name as Chris Mack.

What I also realized, in reviewing those photographs I shared with you back in February, was the identity of another person named in the subsequent photo labeled "in one of Chris' fields." We've mentioned her yesterday, when realizing that "W. O'Malley" might actually be the Reids' brother-in-law, married to Harry's half sister, Elizabeth.

Sure enough, there was one more woman standing in the group out in Chris' fields, called Lizzie O'Malley. I'll take that as the Elizabeth who became bride of William O'Malley.

This photo album is turning out to be far more of a Reid family collection than one for the Hawkes family. I had certainly taken a wrong turn in my research assumptions; perhaps I was too smitten with the Hawkes family history and heritage to remember to gather details concerning both sides of the family history.

Now, if only we could figure out who Dolly was, we'd have the complete picture on those three who were smiling down from their bungalow window, back in the summer of 1936.


Above: Standing, left to right, on the day of Ruby Reid's 1956 wedding, were her aunt Alice Reid, her father Harry Reid, and her aunts Edith Logan and Chris Mack. The likely setting was at the Bride Park home of Ruby's maternal grandparents, John and Sarah Ruby Hawkes in County Cork, Ireland. Photograph from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid families, used by permission.
 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The O'Malley Connection


Almost as an afterthought, when Heather and I were exchanging emails on the Reid and Hawkes families, she added one little detail. I'm not sure why she thought to mention it, as she was mainly helping me understand how the various people in the two families related to each other, but I'm glad she did.

She had sent a volley of small commentaries during the preceding hours—including a hand-drawn family tree for the Reid side of the family, that critical component I had been missing. And, of course, she had sent more photos. Those wonderful family pictures.

Late into the evening—for her, at least—Heather sent one last brief message:
Almost forgot! Harry's half sister, Elizabeth, married a William B. O'Malley.

O'Malley! That was one of the surnames I hadn't been able to place in the family constellation. It was such an inconsequential part of the overall scheme of family relationships in that 1936 photo album I had found that I presumed I'd never figure it out. I had just assumed the man was a friendly neighbor stopping in to join in family festivities who had been captured forever in the family's photographic record.

But if you remember Alice Hawkes Reid's page labeled, "Off on a Spree," besides Harry Reid, his wife and the other Alice—the one whose identity we now know, thanks to Heather—there was a fourth person. Mrs. Reid had labeled that fourth person, simply, W. O'Malley.

And here we have a William B. O'Malley suddenly inserted into the family tree. Could "W" stand for William?

Harry Reid actually had several siblings. We've already learned that Alice Reid was his younger sister. Harry's father was actually married twice, and Harry and his sister Alice were among the children of the second wife. Thus, Harry had several older siblings, including, evidently, a half sister named Elizabeth.

Just to check, I turned to IrishGenealogy.ie, where among the digitized civil records I was able to locate a candidate for this Reid family marriage. Yes, there was a William Barnard O'Malley, son of "Alleyn Bernard" O'Malley, who had married a daughter of Henry Reid named Elizabeth.



The groom, at the time of the wedding, was an accountant who lived at 27 Old Blackrock Road in the city of Cork—a street name still in existence today. The bride-to-be, on her part, provided a reassuringly familiar residence name: Grange Cottage, the same location the Reids had mentioned in labeling some of the photographs in that 1936 album.

The wedding took place on August third, 1905, in the Reid family's church in the parish of Athnowen in what is now known as Ovens, County Cork, Ireland. Henry Reid—though it's not clear whether this was Elizabeth's father or brother—signed as one of the witnesses to the ceremony.

If it turns out that the man standing to the left of Harry's sister Alice Reid in the photograph from that 1936 album was one and the same as the husband of Harry's older sister Elizabeth, we now know just a little more about what Harry's brother-in-law looked like.




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Alice's Wedding Day


It's been such a delight to see additional pictures of the family I first met by a chance encounter through an antique shop's old photo albums. Thankfully, there were enough details in that family keepsake to help me figure out just who that family might have been. Now that we've connected with Heather, a direct descendant of the family featured in that album—the Hawkes and Reid family from County Cork, Ireland—we have the opportunity to learn more.

Yesterday, I shared a photograph Heather sent me, showing her great grandmother, Sarah Susanna Ruby Hawkes, sitting sidesaddle on her horse. That provided a nice contrast to the later photograph we've already seen of Mrs. Hawkes in 1936.

After my introductory phone conversation with her, Heather provided another photograph which included Sarah on the day of her daughter Alice's wedding. The date was October 13, 1927, and the event was held at Bride Park House, which we've also seen, thanks to the family's photograph album.



At that earlier date, Sarah's husband, John Pim Penrose Hawkes, was still alive, providing us now with the only likeness we've seen of him. In addition, having Heather confirm the wedding date allowed me to find the digitized version of the marriage record for the couple we met as Harry and Alice. Harry, apparently, was formally known as Henry, but likely because he was son of another Henry Reid,  he informally was known by this nickname.

What is interesting to note, on this marriage record, was the listing of the witnesses to the ceremony. The person listed as J. P. P. Hawkes was likely Alice's brother, who himself was named after his own father, John Pim Penrose Hawkes. After the listing of the second witness—what looks like P. L. Ruby, doubtless a cousin to Alice from her mother's side of the family—there is another name listed: H. O'Malley.

We've seen that O'Malley surname before, in a couple entries in the 1936 photo album. As it turns out, Heather has provided some additional hints that there were some O'Malley relatives, so the few mentions in various photographs may well have been referring to family members.



Above: Pictured, on the day of Alice Hawkes' marriage to Harry Reid, were her mother, Sarah Susanna Ruby Hawkes, Alice, and her father, John Pim Penrose Hawkes. Setting of the photograph was in front of Bride Park House in County Cork, Ireland. Photograph, from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid families, used by permission.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Finding More About the Family
Through Photographs


Being introduced to someone dubbed, simply, "Grannie" in the photo album I found in a local antique store, we saw an unnamed woman in 1936, dressed to go to church. Her dark clothing painted a somber picture, yet her posture presented an alert, energetic personality. There was no way to know, at the time I first saw the photograph, that "Grannie" was actually Sarah Susanna Ruby, the seventy one year old widow of John Pim Penrose Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland.

There is something inviting but often misleading about forming mental pictures of strangers, based solely upon what you see in their photographic likeness. I would never have guessed that that 1936 photograph belonged to a person of that age, though now that I've learned the family's history, I can verify that.

It is helpful to be able to view other portrayals throughout the person's lifespan to catch a glimpse of the personality. Thankfully, now that we've learned who the people in that photo album were, and have subsequently connected with a living descendant of "Grannie," we have the opportunity to not only view other pictures throughout their lifetime, but to learn more about them from our new contact person.

Heather, the great-granddaughter of the woman we first met as "Grannie," kindly sent a photograph of Sarah in her younger years—a picture its owner granted permission for me to share with you. Undated, the portrait shows Sarah sitting sidesaddle on one of the family's horses. Apparently an accomplished horsewoman, she was skilled at riding in that difficult position.

When Heather and I talked earlier this month, she mentioned how difficult it was to ride sidesaddle. Interestingly, I had just been at a carriage museum in central Florida in which a sidesaddle from that time period had been displayed. The chance to closely examine the saddle's configuration was fresh in my mind when Heather and I discussed her great-grandmother's riding capabilities. Perhaps this discipline was what contributed to her posture and bearing, all those years later when her likeness was captured, heading out the door one Sunday morning for church in 1936.



Above: Sarah Susanna Ruby Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland, riding sidesaddle in an undated photograph from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid family; photograph used by permission.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Balancing Act


It's a dream life when one can research her family history, unhampered by obligations of daily life.

Who are we kidding here? That never happens. Especially after having to tap dance double time upon returning home from travels. So, once again, I find myself at the end of a two week span, not having accomplished much more research than I had in the prior weeks on the road. Life is a balancing act, where work, play, study, meetings and mundane obligations all try to cram into the same space at the same time.

Maybe someday, it will all slow down, I tell myself. Or at least I'll develop the knack of simultaneously meeting commitments from multiple facets of my life.

As far as this time's research goes, it looks like my mother in law's tree is winning the name count derby. Her family tree now sports 10,615 family members, after adding a modest forty two additional names in this sequence. My mother's tree is not that far behind—up eighty six to 9,782—so with a little push in the next two weeks, maybe we'll balance out the attention spent on each side of the family.

Of course, not a whit of work has been accomplished on my father's line or my father in law's family. Now, there's a lot of "balancing act" I owe. Only problem is, I'm not sure exactly how I'll be able to break through on those research quandaries.

Monitoring our DNA matches lately has made me wish it were time for another whopping sales offer. At Family Tree DNA, I've received an additional twenty nine matches to bring my total to 1,924—a good number, though certainly not the astounding 206 I received once the winter holiday sale bulge finally worked its way through the FTDNA system at the end of February. Ancestry has slowed down even more, giving me an additional eleven matches in the past two weeks for a total of 500 matches. How's that for round numbers?

Those number patterns get repeated when I look at my husband's matches. FTDNA increased twenty six for him over the past two weeks. He now has 1,227 matches at FTDNA, and 238 at Ancestry, up six.

Still, the up side was that both of us had some promising contacts with matches—one of which was a Flowers line descendant who actually contacted us, a refreshing switch from the usual process. Meanwhile, I've also added two more family members' tests to the list of DNA results I'm tracking as administrator. On top of that, since 23andMe just offered a sale, I sprang for it for a test for myself, so now both my husband and I have tested at three different companies.

With the advent of DNA testing offers from such companies as Living DNA and MyHeritage, I'm not sure we'll spring for yet another two tests for the family. However, since a niece recently asked for my input on her family's tests with MyHeritage, I may as well face the learning curve there and familiarize myself with their readouts and tools—not to mention, brush up on my spreadsheet skills. This is becoming way too much data to just carry around in my head.



Above: Spring in the Mountains, 1912 oil on canvas by Swiss painter Giovanni Giacometti; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Off the Shelf:
Team of Rivals


The conduct of the republican party in this nomination is a remarkable indication of small intellect, growing smaller. They pass over...statesmen and able men, and they take up a fourth rate lecturer, who cannot speak good grammar.

Don't worry: this blog has not strayed from genealogy to politics. Nor has it lost its sense of history. However, in a déjà vu moment, in reading the introductory pages of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, I found her quote of this passage from the May 19, 1860, edition of the New York Herald pause-worthy.

The comment, of course, was referring not to any current political aspirant, but was a reflection on the then-recent nomination of Abraham Lincoln for President of the United States.

How different things turned out to be.

In pulling an untouched book down from our family's well-stocked bookshelves for this month's read, I confess to wandering from my own past purchases to those of my husband. I have a reason for that. In a matter of only a few months, I will most likely find myself becoming the president of a small genealogical society. Admittedly, that is absolutely no comparison to a task as monumental as leading an entire nation, but I sense there is something to learn from looking to Abraham Lincoln's historic example.

So this week—as if I didn't have enough books of my own to finish—I found myself asking to borrow a book from someone else's bookshelves. I asked my husband to bring me that "slim volume" about the "team of rivals" Lincoln had assembled for his cabinet.

My sense of the matter is that leadership calls for the skill of being able to assemble well-qualified people with conflicting points of view to accomplish the organization's goals. If we guide our organizations by a body of leaders who collectively see everything eye to eye, we lose the perspective that may come only with dissent. Since so many tend to shy from disagreement, we prefer surrounding ourselves with "yes men." That, as we've seen in the past, is a recipe for group-think Kool-Aid, the kind that makes us drunk with the desensitized feeling that everything will run okay, despite indications to the opposite.

It is unquestionably a skill to be able to assemble a group of leaders who can tackle overarching corporate goals by pulling together in the same direction while also possessing differing outlooks, experiences, and opinions that can spark disagreements and dissension.

Granted, without those divergent views, meetings can run more smoothly and everyone will seem happier. But working in lockstep can also mean not being able to predict missed opportunities—or worse, avoid looming pitfalls. Having the ability to take in a 360 degree view, while providing the antidote to that groupthink trap, also means being willing to expose one's self to divergent viewpoints—plus the risk of disagreement and the hassle of debate that comes with such territory.

When Doris Kearns Goodwin penned the introduction to her book, she listed several qualities she observed in Abraham Lincoln's "extraordinary array of personal qualities" which contributed to his "political genius." For those brave enough to harness the raw power and benefit of divergent thinkers, we can all take a leadership lesson from her list. Here are some of the skills she saw in Lincoln that "enabled him to form friendships with men who had previously opposed him" in his political career:
  • To repair injured feelings that, left untended, might have escalated into permanent hostility;
  • To assume responsibility for the failures of subordinates;
  • To share credit with ease;
  • To learn from mistakes.

The author's commentary on Lincoln's political prowess concluded, "the qualities we generally associate with decency and morality—kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty, and empathy—can also be impressive political resources."

The lessons on Lincoln's leadership style were enough to fill over nine hundred pages in Goodwin's book. So much for my mistaken memory of a "slim volume" on that team of rivals. While those lessons go far beyond such interpersonal skills mentioned in the points above, they do exhibit one key: much of leadership comes down to relational skills. Whether for a national position or for a more humble mission, these are lessons in leadership which, applied in good measure, would make any organization a more effective—and fulfilling—entity.





Friday, April 7, 2017

Remember Alice?


Call this the genealogical equivalent of Monday morning quarterbacking. We need to deconstruct the logic behind my assumptions in dealing with that mystery photograph album I found in a California antique store.

Granted, it was a pretty good job, finding my way from that lost album to the home of its originator, back in Ireland. But in the process, I did veer off in the wrong direction with some guesses.

Lesson learned: never forget to consider both sides of the family.

As much as I eventually knew the surname of the couple sending the gift of that album—it was Harry and Alice Reid—it never occurred to me to reconstruct a family tree for the Reid side of the family.

I have my excuses, of course. For one thing, there was such a focus on the Hawkes family—Alice Hawkes Reid's family. There were pictures of "Grandma"—her mother. Of course, there were some shots of Alice's perennially grumpy brother, Penrose, without whose unusual name I probably wouldn't even have considered purchasing the album. The group photo of the tea party guests included a listing of several Hawkes family members. There were even photographs of the Hawkes family's dog, Periwinkle, whose kennel club victories helped clinch the identity of the family's surname.

Other than that, the few stray mentions of other surnames didn't seem to provide any research traction.

And then there was the other Alice. The one whose unknown identity twisted me in contortions. I had tried everything—remember, the Hawkes family seemed to have a love affair with that name—yet nothing seemed to work out to provide me with confirmation of those guesses.

Now that I've connected with Heather, a Hawkes family descendant, in almost an instant, I've discovered my mistake. I was looking on the wrong side of the family tree. That mystery Alice was born a Reid, not a Hawkes.

It turns out Harry Reid had several siblings, including a sister who was about six years younger than he. Her name was Alice, and her arrival in the family constellation occurred in 1896.

Considering this gaping hole in my research, thanks to Heather's guidance, I'm making amends by filling in the Reid pedigree chart. Joining Alice were several siblings and half-siblings. And just like the rest of Alice Hawkes Reid's family, some of them dispersed to the four corners of the world, including Canada and the United States.

Hmmm. A clue. Perhaps, when I was considering the "voice" Alice Hawkes Reid used when penning her comments in the photo album, I should have remembered that other side of the family. It certainly makes sense, in reviewing her white-inked words, that the familiar tones regarding first-name-only family members could also have been reserved for the Reid side of the family.



Above: "Off on a Spree," Alice Hawkes Reid had labeled this photograph from their Christmas, 1936, family album. The four people listed left to right were "W. O'Malley, Alice, Harry + self." Alice Hawkes Reid always referred to herself in the album as "self." The woman standing second from the left, as it turns out, was actually Alice Reid, sister to Harry Reid.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Introducing a Grandchild


Her name is Heather. Long before she was born, her grandparents mailed off a small Christmas parcel containing a family photograph album. Who they mailed it to is a question still unanswered, but Heather and I are now on a joint mission to discover who the intended recipient might have been.

That 1936 album eventually made its way to an antique store in northern California, where I found it nearly eighty years later. Trust me: I am neither related to the Reids, who sent it, nor the Hawkes family which was mentioned in the album's pages. Finding the album was a chance occurrence. Considering the parcel traveled about five thousand miles in its journey from its origin in County Cork, Ireland, let's make that a very rare chance occurrence.

It took nearly three months of puzzling over the few hints provided in the album to determine the identity and location of Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid, the couple who originally sent the album. By now, almost all the questions prompted by the album have been answered—some noted in blog posts earlier this year, others resolved by information Heather provided in our several emails and a phone conversation.

Now, the focus is specifically on that last question still awaiting an answer: just how the album made its way to California. Who could it have been sent to? For me to guess—and I tried, every way I could, to figure this out—would have been an attempt so limited, especially because almost everything I know about the family is based on conjecture. But for Heather to assess the situation, it would be based on what she already knows about her relatives.

Heather, by the way, has given me permission to post these details on the rest of the album's story. In respect of her privacy, we agreed to call her, simply, Heather. She is quite as interested as I am in seeing the story about the album's journey completed, for which I am grateful. After all, you've got to admit, it is a curious landing place for an album which began its journey in Ireland. There is more to this story.

Not only will we examine some possibilities for recipients of the album, but Heather has kindly agreed to share some additional photographs of the people we've met in the album's pages.

That, however, I'll save for next week. The first item of business that needs to be tackled in this debriefing of the pursuit is to examine the point at which I missed the mark in my search. You see, I made some assumptions which may have led me in the wrong direction in my search for possible recipients. We'll take a look at the possibilities tomorrow.



Above: "The Dandelion Clock," by Irish-born American artist, William John Hennessy (1839 - 1917); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

An Unexpected Gift


I've already mentioned that, in my quest to locate a descendant of the family who dispatched that mystery photo album from Ireland in 1936, I finally made contact with one of Harry and Alice Reid's grandchildren the morning after Saint Patrick's Day. I had been running that morning, trying to get out the door and catch a flight to Florida, so I didn't actually bother to check my messages until I settled in at the airport. But yes, for me, it was still morning when I read the news.

The message came in on Facebook Messenger, the same medium which I had used to send the plea to the Cork Genealogical Society Facebook group—the request that made its stellar debut on Saint Patrick's Day.

This time, the answer wasn't as mundane as the mere granting of permissions to access a website. But it was a definite answer in the affirmative. After a polite "good morning"—remember, Irish time and California time differ by eight hours—my correspondent went on to confirm, "Yes, you've found the right family!"

The woman messaging me confirmed some details about the family of Harry and Alice Reid we've already noticed from the photo album. The Reids were her grandparents, and yes, they did live at a place called Bride Park. She confirmed the location in Ovens, County Cork. Wrapping up, she thanked me for being "so tenacious" and welcomed our continued correspondence.

You can be sure, airport setting or not, I was ecstatic—and lost no time in answering the message. Of course, I had to explain that we were en route to the other side of the continent, and that I wouldn't be able to say much more for the remainder of the day, but that—oh, believe me!—I certainly wanted to talk her ear off. There were so many more questions I still had to figure out.

As it turned out, what seemed like the unfortunate timing of having to be out of touch at the very moment in which a cascade of questions had erupted worked out for the best—and in the most charming way. While the success of my connection with the Reids' granddaughter was eclipsed by the necessities of air travel, my newfound friend in County Cork had her own schedule complexities to navigate.

You see, the same day she received my message, she was celebrating a special day of her own: that very day just happened to be her birthday. Bet she had no idea our connection would make its debut during her birthday festivities.



Above: "When the Boats Come In," oil on canvas by Irish Impressionist landscape artist, Walter Frederick Osborne (1859 - 1903); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

From Forums to Facebook


Once genealogists discovered the power of the Internet, researching our family history changed—for the better, in my opinion. My quest to connect with a living descendant of the Irish couple whose 1936 family album ended up in an antique store near my home provides a case in point.

Used to be, in the early days of online access, a researcher could post a "query" on a forum geared to readers who shared the same interests. There were a number of such communities online, of which the old Rootsweb forums are still in existence as one example, thanks to the fact that they are now hosted by Ancestry.com.

Anyone wishing to ask anything from simple requests for obituaries to more complex questions on a wide variety of topics could pose their question to a ready-made audience of other genealogy fans on these forums. Free, easy, with ready access, forums were an obvious go-to place for researchers in the 1990s and early years post-Y2K.


The buzz has migrated away from those old forums to new digs, now. With "everybody" on Facebook lately, it was a logical jump to ditch the old fashioned forums for a perkier place for instant access to genealogical answers.

Don't think that is a lightweight choice. The same social media which bring us mind-numbing digital drivel ("and this is a photo of what I had for lunch today") prove to be quite effective at dishing up instant answers to our research questions.

In fact, so many people have voted with the click of their mouse to head to Facebook that there are apparently over ten thousand Facebook pages and groups in the English language alone dedicated to talk about genealogical pursuits.

That fact was not lost on me when I puzzled over the best strategy for sending my mystery photo album back home to Ireland. I knew that many of the Facebook genealogy groups were organized by geographic location. If there was a group dedicated to researching genealogy for County Cork, Ireland, I wanted to find it.

It's easy to find organizations on Facebook: just enter the terms you are seeking in the search bar at the top of any Facebook page. The only drawback is that there are two types of entries on Facebook. One is for "groups" and one is for "pages." If an organization chooses the "groups" format when they set up their Facebook entity, they may choose to make that group open or closed.


Unfortunately, the County Cork entry on Facebook was a closed group. The bright side, though, is that most closed groups are quite willing to grant admission, just upon the mere request to be allowed to join. So I asked.

And waited.

It was then that I noticed the Cork Genealogical Society also has an open page, so I followed the links. Eventually, I noticed a sidebar mentioning the group's Facebook Messenger link and, next to a link with the words, "Message now," the promise, "typically replies within a day."

That was the spot where I jumped at the opportunity and sent my query. Even if the Society didn't permit me access to their closed group, I could still send my message. Hopefully, someone there wouldn't mind seeing if my target Hawkes and Reid families had descendants who still lived in the area.

Just before heading to bed the night before Saint Patrick's Day, I sent my official query via Facebook Messenger to the Cork Genealogical Society. By 1:51 the next afternoon (my time), the group's contact person informed me that I had been admitted to the closed group, and added, "Would you like me to cross post [my query from the open page messenger system onto the closed group] on your behalf?"

As soon as I could, I sent back a resounding, "Yes!" About fifteen minutes after that point, she responded, "I'll tag you so you can see the comments."

By that time—in the matter of one hour and eleven minutes of members' comments on that Saint Patrick's Day—the discussion thread was thirty responses deep. I had clippings of newspaper articles regarding the family, hints from other Society members, and a claim to have obtained the address of a specific, named, living descendant. It was at that spot in the sequence that someone mentioned recalling that the descendant may have been on Facebook, herself.

That was when I held my breath and tapped out a quick note to a total stranger, asking forgiveness for my intrusion on her privacy but...would she possibly be the granddaughter of one Harry and Alice Reid?

Facebook is wonderful in that it brings researchers together to crowdsource the answers to our research problems, but in no way can it actually guarantee that one participant will answer the question posed by another Facebook user. While this Saint Patrick's Day did indeed bring me some exciting news, the day closed without my actually achieving my goal of contacting the Reid family descendant I was seeking.


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