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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What a Difference a Sale Can Make

It's Sunday—and another biweekly chance to check on research progress. Hint: after falling down on the job while away at SLIG and then returning home, bearing the "gift" of a traveling flu bug, I didn't get much done.

What did happen in the meantime was that the long-awaited DNA test results for my husband's two sisters came in. Finally.

Sales can be a wonderful thing. They pump up the traffic with all those additional shoppers, unleashing their pent-up demand. On the other hand, all that additional business overwhelms the system, and makes everyone have to wait.

I got to be one of those thousands waiting for the holiday sales rush to get processed.

Back in November, around Thanksgiving time, Blaine Bettinger had run a five-part article on his blog, discussing a technique he called Visual Phasing. I thought it looked fascinating and wanted to try my hand at it. There was only problem: he suggested using test results for three siblings; I don't have two additional full siblings.

I asked my husband if he thought his sisters wouldn't mind becoming genealogical guinea pigs. Happy news: they were game. They thus became my newest "science project."

By that time, the start of the Christmas shopping season was here in earnest. The $59 autosomal DNA test sale at FTDNA was taking everyone's breath away. I knew sales would be brisk, but the impact of that statement didn't hit me until I saw how long it took, just to receive the test kits—let alone return the sample and wait for it to be processed at their lab.

But I can be patient. Anything for a sale that good.

By the end of January with still no results in sight, I admit I was beginning to lose patience. I wore out my keyboard with continual log-ins to see if, just maybe, the test results had posted (I serve as admin for each of my sisters-in-law's tests).

Of course, that was when I got hit with the flu. Flat on my back from the moment I returned from SLIG, I wasn't worth much on the researching front—nor on the impatient customer front, either.

So guess what showed up while I was too sick to keep looking?

You are right.

Meanwhile, I'm sure you'll find it no surprise to learn I also didn't get much work done on my regular genealogical research duties. I made absolutely no progress on either my father's line or my father in law's line. But then, I seldom do; those two have me stymied.

On my mother's line, I somehow managed to eke out two additions to her tree, putting the count at 9,458. My mother in law's line was the only tree seeing action. There, I added 130 names, bringing the total there to 9,948. That, however, is no surprise, for in preparation to examine matches for my two willing sisters in law, I had to spruce up some records, which inevitably led to discoveries that other stuff needed fixing, too.

Testing close relatives can reveal some interesting trivia. For instance, I hadn't thought much about the variances I might observe in my husband's generation of his family. After all, we each gain roughly half of our genetic material from each parent: fifty/fifty, mom/dad. Right?

But which part of Dad's fifty comes from his mom and which comes from his dad isn't as neat a split package deal. One paternal grandparent's genetic signature can come down, loud and clear, for one grandchild, while another grandchild—a sibling of the first—can have a vastly different array. That, after all, is the purpose of attempting this visual phasing exercise.

So when I saw how many DNA matches one sister had, in comparison to my husband—her count was 1,239 to his 1,022—I realized right then I'd be seeing some clues that I hadn't been able to discern, just from using his results. And when his other sister's results came in, that effect was amplified even more: this sister's number of DNA matches was 1,338.

Of course, that simply means that there are more people out there who, coincidentally, tested and match the one sister than the other two siblings. But being able to find those "more people" may lead me to some family history clues I might not otherwise have found. That initial telltale sign alone is exciting.

If you've taken the time to read Blaine's five part series on visual phasing, you know I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I'm looking forward to trying my hand at it—whether I actually understand the instructions enough to correctly perform the analysis or not is another matter. But at least I'm trying. I think getting the hang of the technique is the first step. Then, I'd like to branch out and see what else might pop out from the data by adding in the details from, say, a cousin's DNA test as well.

The clues we can glean for family history from DNA testing always awe me. Of course, the price exacted is a steep learning curve. But the observations can be fascinating, in my opinion, and the benefits to our research can't be denied.

The only drawback might be that I get so taken with the process of phasing that I neglect pursuing my paper trails. That's where the concept of good old fashioned balance comes in. A little bit here, a little bit there, not neglecting the traditional tasks for those flabbergasting new-fangled techniques, is the best approach for now.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Off the Shelf:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Truth be told, while this spot in the month's posting lineup is usually reserved for books languishing on my shelves which I really did mean to read, today's book does not fall into that category. I never did mean to read it. The reason for that is simple: it wasn't my book, thus I never felt that obligation. In fact, having seen it, I never even felt the slightest twinge of desire to borrow it.

For one thing, if you think the title somewhat unusual, I haven't told you the entire story. The full title goes on to include the subtitle: "A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures."

Perhaps, like me, you find medical tales not your cup of tea. Nor may the cultural aspect seem enticing to you. And the term, "Hmong" may sound as foreign to you today as it did to our community over thirty years ago, when the first of these southeast Asian refugees began flooding into our local area.

It was back then that, coincidentally, I had taken a fresh-out-of-college "real" job (finally!) with our local civil service, and had been placed with the Medi-Cal branch of our welfare department. Shortly after completion of training, my assignment became case manager for refugee clients.

While that episode in my own life is far behind me now, I can't say I have enough of an affinity for that time period—certainly no nostalgia—to want to relive those work experiences.

So why read this book?

It was solely on a recommendation from my daughter that I picked it up. The little paperback volume is actually hers—one she read for a college class, herself.

Since I have been wanting to take some of the research I've been writing up here in this blog and turn that into a book featuring our family's stories, my daughter thought reading Anne Fadiman's tale of an epileptic Hmong refugee child would be an excellent primer. My daughter's specific reason is to let the author's skill in weaving the threads of background material, cultural relevance, medical details, and multiple narratives inform me as to how I might better handle such strands in my own writing.

Good point. Take the story of my grandmother's fourth cousin, John Syme Hogue—the guy who likely deserved to be hanged in Ontario for murdering the Winnipeg immigration official who was deporting him back to the United States, where he was to stand trial for safe cracking. How do you manage the multiple streams of information required to adequately unfold a story like that? There are numerous settings—West Virginia coal mines, midwestern billiards halls, a jail in Winnipeg, a long train ride across Canada, a man hunt in Ontario, international negotiations over legal issues and pardons, an eleventh hour release (straight into the arms of another arresting officer), even a mine explosion.

So, I've been studying the Fadiman book to gain inspiration on how authors do handle smooth explanations of sticky details. It certainly has been informative, though I still have quite a bit more reading to do.

It's amazing how much detail you can absorb from such a narrative, if the author has handled it right. Perhaps it all comes down to technique—how much the author can saturate the text with pertinent technical information is dependent on how able the writer is to transform each fact from obtuse, stand-alone detail to comfortably contextual package deal. If it's seamless, you don't notice how much you've come to know about the topic; after a while, you find you just know all that stuff. Without even realizing you learned it.

While for me, with my personal flashback to early work experiences remarkably within easy recall after all those years, the story may not be the same as it would be for you, the book still is not only an excellent example of how to blend details and narrative but an insightful unfolding of a complex cross-cultural dilemma. I've yet to complete it, of course, but now that I'm well into the middle of the volume, I'm thoroughly prepared with all the back-story and technical information.

With all the investment it took to mount that steep learning curve, I'm obviously keen to see how the key characters handle the continued unfolding of the problem. If all this detail hadn't been wrapped around a compelling human-interest story, you know there would be no way a simply curious onlooker would have stayed interested for this long. It's the story that makes the difference—but it's a story line which was able to absorb a great amount of technical detail and hold it without getting over-saturated in the process.

An informative tip for those of us wanting to share our own detail-laden family stories.


Friday, February 10, 2017

A Little Tea Party

Whether it was on the occasion of Penrose's travels across the ocean to visit his homeland or for a different reason, in July, 1936, the Hawkes and Reid families decided to host a tea party at Bride Park. Too late to capture the full group at the close of the event, one of the hosts thought to gather the remaining guests together for a group photograph on the lawn. Thankfully, Alice Hawkes Reid had the foresight to label the names of those present for the impromptu portrait, thus giving us one more significant listing from that mystery photo album to help guide our research.

Whether this additional page will advise us in our quest to determine just who the photo album was sent to as a pictorial greeting that next Christmas, I'm not sure. But for now, let's take a look at some of the friends and family of Harry and Alice as we close out this week's research attempts.

The photo was labeled—in Alice Reid's handwriting, as we've now learned—"A little tea-party at Bride Park when Penrose was home - July 1936." Along the right side of the photograph, Alice provided the names of all included in the photo, by the three rows of their seating arrangement.

Back row -
Harry, Laddie Nicholson, Self, K. Allen, W. Hawkes, Mrs. Allen, Mr. Nicholson
Middle row -
L. Hawkes, Mrs. Nicholson, Vicky Allen, Mother
Front row -
Ruby, Sonny Nicholson, Daireen Foott, Iris, Alfy Allen

One thing that stands out right away on this list is the appearance of two people with the surname Hawkes. Unfortunately, only initials were provided for first names: W. Hawkes and L. Hawkes. Perhaps, because the album was intended to be received by a family member—or at least someone familiar with those in the extended family—Alice felt no need to spell out their given names. On the other hand, if the album were intended for family members, wouldn't she have labeled the two other Hawkes family members by terms of their relationship, along with a first name—uncle William, for instance?

Almost as an afterthought, Alice added, "Other guests gone home before this was taken." Too bad. It would have been quite informative, for our purposes, to learn who else might have been included in the guest list.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now That We Know

Confirming the identity of the woman behind all those white-inked comments in the photo album I found at a local antique store certainly helps amplify her personality. Can't you just hear the older sister in her comment labeling her brother Penrose's photo outside the front door, "Penrose, looking very cross!"?

We now know just who the mom was who doted over the two young girls in the album's pages, Ruby and Iris. (And believe me, there are more photos of Ruby and Iris to be had!)

While many of our other questions about this family might not yet be possible to answer—Irish records available online for births must be farther removed from current day than one hundred years, marriages greater than seventy five, and deaths beyond fifty years—we can still extrapolate a few more details about our target family.

For one thing, now knowing that the Harry and Alice who signed the Christmas greeting in the photo album were Harry and Alice Reid, we can be almost certain that the children's names were Ruby Reid and Iris Reid. Furthermore, since their mother revealed their ages at a fixed point in the album, we can estimate their years of birth. Using that fixed point of June, 1936, as the basis, Ruby was probably born in the summer of 1928 and her younger sister Iris toward December of 1929.

Granted, records of these two are as sealed up as can be made possible—although we can only speculate as to whether either of them is still alive. The likelihood of either daughter's subsequent marriage adds another twist in the path to connecting the album with its family's rightful heirs.

There are, however, some threads to this story for which we can find closure—albeit not a very satisfying closure. There is the matter of what became of Penrose, himself. And there is that small detail of the several photographs I've yet to share with you from the album's remaining pages.

Apparently, part of the purpose of the 1936 visit to his homeland by Penrose—or at least an outcome of the occasion—was a social gathering, for which several guests joined together for a group portrait. Thankfully, many of those names were recorded in the album, itself.

We can only hope, in working through those details, we may glean more useful clues, not only regarding the family who sent the album, but the ones who were intended as its recipients. After all, there is that one additional question in my mind: how did that album make it from the hands of Alice Ruby Bridget Hawkes Reid into my possession, nearly half a world away from her Bride Park home in County Cork, Ireland?

Rest assured: we are not done with this search, yet.

Another move in the game! Looking very harmless!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Clues From Old Records

It was thanks to a death record that I discovered the married name of Penrose Hawkes' sister Alice. Only for a genealogist would that statement not sound morbid.

With the advent of so many vital records of prior centuries being upload by various Irish repositories in the past year, the closing details of this chase to discover the players in the mystery photo album I found seem to be easily giving up their secrets.

Of course, first I had to confirm the name of the mother of our key subject, Penrose Hawkes. Frankly, trying to find any of the family's names wasn't leading me anywhere until I tried a search on Mrs. Penrose Hawkes. Discovering her name at birth was Sarah Susanna Ruby—thus revealing the source of her granddaughter Ruby's name—I was able to locate one record in the death register for a "Sara Susan" Hawkes.

Embedded in that record, along with the necessary documentation of the last day of her life, was a bonus for us. Listed in the column labeled "Signature, qualification and residence of informant" was a person listed as Alice R. B. Reid. Her "qualification"? "Daughter of deceased." To finish off the details, she specified her residence as Bride Park House, Ovens.

The entry in the death register was given as 17 September, 1951. By then, Sara Susan Hawkes, aged eighty six years, had been a widow of "independent means."

While it would be nice, at this juncture in her family's history, to insert a copy of a local newspaper's obituary, you know what my laser focus is seeking. It's a rush to discover just who it was that Alice had married. Since we are already perusing the records at, it's a simple matter of another search, conveniently on that same site. Right?

You're holding out for Harry, aren't you?

Well, it wasn't so easy. In fact, if it hadn't have been for the telltale indexed record mentioned to me through the hints at, I would likely have not found it. Nothing came up on my search for Alice Hawkes in the civil records at Going to FamilySearch to circumvent the problem didn't help, as it only brought up the transcribed information for that specific individual only—no mention of the spouse's name. (Not to mention, getting the initials for her middle name wrong, as well.)

But I knew a record had to have been there, thanks to the mention at Ancestry. And it wasn't part of the blackout for those marriage records less than seventy five years old.

In the end, it turned out to be merely a clerical case of misspelling on the original form, showing Alice's maiden name as Hawks. And there, with all the details easily seen at last, was what we were seeking.

Seeing Alice's father's name given as John Pim Penrose "Hawks" of "Bride Park, Ovens," was reassurance enough that we had the right person.

The marriage was solemnized at the Athnowen parish in County Cork on October 13, 1927, with witnesses listed as J. P. P. Hawkes, P. L. Ruby, and H. O'Malley.

Alice's husband's name? Henry. So was his dad's name. I'll take Harry as a possible nickname for the junior member of that Reid household. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Getting Back to the Source

Sometimes, it is easy to get so entangled in the little details of the search that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

In trying to figure out the identity and details on the main people featured in a photo album I found at an antique store, it was easy to stick with what resources we had at hand. After all, not only did our Penrose Hawkes migrate to New York in his teen years, but at least two of his uncles had done likewise in the previous generation. We had the luxury of many resources here in the States to inform us about Penrose, his life's work and personal concerns. Of course we were going to gobble up all the resources we could find in that setting.

But in trying to determine just who Alice was—the "Self" of the couple who signed their names on that 1936 Christmas album as "Harry and Alice"—we could search those United States resources forever and not come up with the answer we needed. Why? This Alice was likely still living back in Ireland.

How could we have forgotten that? Tunnel vision. It's easy to get so focused on one route of discovery that we fail to stand back and get the bigger picture. Of course Penrose's family would still have some people who remained back in Ireland.

For those who have an international subscription to services such as, or go direct to the source by subscribing to, the next step would be quite easy: just look up the Hawkes family in County Cork for the 1901 and 1911 census enumerations. After all, Penrose didn't leave home until he was about sixteen, so both those documents would help us determine the family constellation.

Of course, we are still lacking some information on the full family. We know Penrose was named after his father, and that his full name—same as his dad's—was actually John Pim Penrose Hawkes. But we know very little about the rest of the family, other than that, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, Penrose was born in Ireland around 1900.

Almost immediately, using my international account, I located Penrose's family in the 1901 census. That discovery informs us that Penrose's mother was named Sara. And it also provides us with the details about his only sibling. You will be relieved to learn that that sibling was indeed a sister—she was an older sister by about one year—and that her name was...ta da...Alice.

It wasn't simply Alice Hawkes, though. What would you expect from a family who named their son John Pim Penrose Hawkes? The two year old daughter is listed in the 1901 census as Alice Ruby—now giving us an early hint as to where Alice's daughter Ruby's name may have come from.

Just to double check, I looked up the family in the next census. There in Grange in County Cork was the same family. Well, almost. The names are mostly the same, except the now-twelve year old daughter is called Alice Bridget. I suspect that is simply a matter of Alice receiving three given names, just as her brother had done. For now, we'll use the name as Alice Ruby Bridget—and adjust accordingly, as we find other documentation.

So, without any fanfare, there in two simple—albeit international for us—documents, we resolve the issue of just who "Self" might have been. After all, if "Self's" mother, "Grannie," is the woman known as Mrs. Penrose Hawkes of the 1930s kennel club shows, it stands to reason that Self and Penrose are siblings. And here is the listing for Penrose's sister's name. Perfect.

That discovery, however, leads us to Alice's maiden name—not her married name. But once we focus on records in the Hawkes' homeland, it will likely once again be an easy matter to discover who she married, and whether she had two daughters named Ruby and Iris. We'll take a look at what we can find on that account, tomorrow.

Above: Excerpt of image of John Pim Penrose Hawkes' household entry for the 1901 census, courtesy National Archives of Ireland.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Yet Another Harry and Alice

In trying to determine the identity of the woman who sent a family photo album from Ireland in 1936, all we have to go on is the fact that the frontispiece included a Christmas greeting signed "Harry and Alice." That, plus several notes in the album's pages, identifying a young mother only as "Self."

It's my guess that "Self" and "Alice" are one and the same person. The only trouble is, this family—now that we've uncovered just who they were—seemed to have a love affair with the given name Alice. Indeed, there was even another woman identified as Alice in the album, itself.

My problem is, unless I can figure out who this Harry and Alice were, I will likely have a hard time determining just who it might have been who received the album from them—and thus, lack any means to speculate on just how that album made its way from County Cork, Ireland, to an antique shop located nearly halfway around the world.

While I want to use due diligence in my speculations—reasonably exhaustive search and all—I'm not beyond engaging in some quick and dirty thumbnail sketching along the way. (Not to worry, though—I'll always steer back to the tried and true path before finalizing any assertions.)

So, in one of my fever-crazed deliriums this weekend, I poked around what can be found on Ancestry for any trees containing our Hawkes family. Believe me, there are several to be had. Sadly, in the end, I couldn't work up enough confidence to buy their conclusions—but I want to use this detour to bring up a few observations.

First of all, if we are looking for Alices in the Hawkes family, there are several to be had. And not all of them are blood line descendants. If we take the given name Harry to actually be a nickname for the more proper Henry, lo and behold, the possibilities for cousins expand, as we find the Hawkes family was in love with this name for their progeny, as well.

Thus, not unsurprisingly, I ran across one member of the Hawkes family called Harry—to differentiate from his dad, who was also named Henry—who ended up marrying a woman named Alice. Et voilà, right? There we have it: Harry and Alice.

I ran across that tidbit while perusing those other Hawkes family trees on Ancestry. And as we all know, while is a wonderful tool for building one's family tree, that does not mean everyone who uses it does so with the utmost of care for meticulously documenting all assertions.

But let's set that concern aside for the moment and consider the possibilities. If this assertion were correct, how would this Harry and Alice Hawkes relate to our anchor character for this pursuit? Let's go back to the line of descent we rehearsed a while ago about Penrose Hawkes. He was son of John Pim Penrose Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland, who in turn was son of Quayle Welsted (or Welstead) Hawkes.

From this same Quayle Welsted Hawkes, we've already observed the connection to the Alice we were studying last week. Her father, Thomas Gibbons Hawkes, was another son of this same man.

As it turns out, the Harry and Alice we are looking at today also tie in with another son of Quayle Welsted Hawkes. This time, though, the line of descent goes from the patriarch to his son Henry, and then—supposedly, according to this other tree's records—to Henry's son, nicknamed Harry. Harry, as it turned out, did not have a sister Alice. So he found an Alice to marry.

Once again depending on someone else's family tree, I found that this Harry was born in New York, about five years before Penrose was born in County Cork. And yes, Harry and Penrose would have been cousins. It's tempting to assume this would be the answer to our puzzle.

Except for two things. First, I can't really use something I haven't yet proved for myself. And second, this Harry and Alice had three sons. Not two daughters, as we've come to presume, based on all the cute photographs of Harry and "Self" in poses labeled "family group," along with two charming daughters. This other Harry and Alice had no sign of anyone in their immediate family named Ruby or Iris.

I bring this up for two points. First, as tempting as it is to use other family trees—yet as frowned upon as it is in proper research protocol—I'm not against using it as a tool to quickly steer me away from other possibilities which might, in the end, provide a fruitless chase. More importantly, as a second point, I try to view other researchers as trail blazers for their own family's pedigree, taking their information as suggestion (possibly with insight which I would otherwise be lacking). Taking this quick tour of the lay of the land in the Hawkes generations has shown me that it is rife with occurrences of Harrys and Alices. Oh, my.

While online resources in the United States have provided so many digitized documents to supercharge our genealogical research, we have to remember that we are inquiring into a family who, while partially immigrating to this country, still had many branches back in their homeland—and some which had left the island for England, apparently, during Ireland's war-torn era between the Easter Rising of 1916 and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

While we were able to gain some research headway using these American-based resources, our lack of further progress may be a small hint urging us to broaden our search horizons just a bit more. For that, tomorrow, we'll move our search across the pond to other, more productive venues.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rethinking Research Journey Strategy

It's been over a week since I returned from the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, a fantastic learning opportunity set in a prime research destination. It's been no surprise to hear that some fellow SLIG attendees opted to stay on in Salt Lake City for a few days to avail themselves of further research opportunities at the Family History Library. Some even announced their intention to make the trip a double-header, staying on long enough to take in RootsTech, as well.

I wonder how many now regret what seemed like a good idea at the time. Just the other day, on the private Facebook group set up for SLIG attendees, someone mentioned coming down with the flu right after the closing banquet. Those five days reserved for further research? She spent those flat on her back in her hotel room.

Believe me, I'm not much better off than she. While I caught the first flight home after the Friday closing, here I am, smitten by the flu, too. At least I have the luxury of being miserable in my own bed.

All that to say, perhaps I need to rethink preparation for research journeys. Treat them more like training for a triathlon, and less like indulging in the pampered treat we've come to expect from SLIG. After all, the one drawback to attending genealogical institutes in the winter is, well, it's right in the middle of flu season. And I don't know if you are like me, but I'm particularly susceptible to catching everyone's germs when I fly places.

My target list of activities to nix is pretty obvious. Do the homework—if the class expects homework—but quit early enough to get a decent night's sleep. Don't cut out on breakfast because you're running late. And don't think that one of those yummy hazelnut chocolate croissants and a sugary Starbucks coffee are all you need to get you through the morning. In fact, if I could have found a restaurant to provide me a spartan plate of steamed vegetables for dinner, I'd be doing much better now.

It is tempting to allow yourself to be pampered during conferences and institutes, but heeding an athlete's long-term mindset might be a much better approach to maximizing the return on a research journey.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Now Indexing:
Something Sure to be a Safe Choice

In the genealogy world's time-honored tradition of giving back, I try to regularly spend some time contributing to efforts to make more records available for online researchers. Thus, my routine posts on what I'm indexing at Because this is not an entirely altruistic endeavor, I try to find a project to help which also shares one of my research focuses. Anything from New York or Chicago, for instance, fills the bill.

For today's project, unfortunately, I couldn't find anything to augment those goals. My default option, then, had to be something which could be done without undue angst over handwriting, blurry source documents or other transcribers' woes. I opted for the collection labeled "California Birth Records 1824-1974," a set of records from my home state. What could possibly go wrong?

For one fleeting moment after clicking on my choice, the date 1824 flashed, once again, before my eyes. I panicked, entertaining images of old priests in musty offices of remote missions and the obsolete hand they might have used nearly two hundred years ago. Not to worry, though, for all the documents served up to me in this session involved births in the city of Los Angeles for the year 1900.

What I didn't count on, though, was the fact that Los Angeles, in addition to being home to many immigrants from south of the border, also played host to multitudes from China. Knowing what little facts as I know about Chinese culture, I spent the next few minutes agonizing over whether I should fill in the first name—as in, the first name written on the form—as the individual's given name or surname. After all, don't the Chinese offer this information in the opposite format from western cultures?

So...would the entry listed as Fong Lee really be the entry for the child of proud father, Mr. Lee? Or Mr. Fong?

I think things out too much. In the end, I decided to index the forms just as they were given to me. Hopefully, the bureaucrats in 1900s Los Angeles were sensitized to those cultural differences and provided the information, just as it needed to be.

Or not.

While I tell myself I am indexing because I'm grateful for all those many people who, when I was a beginner, were so generous with their help, I find that indexing has become an eye-opening exercise. It helps me gain empathy for those who struggled to make those impossibly scrawly hand-entered documents accessible through the streamlined processes of computer-assisted search programs. It helps me recall the gratitude I felt, the first time I didn't have to spend nauseating hours poring over microfilmed records. And it certainly provides a boost to all of our research efforts, speeding up the process and guiding us to facts which would have been near-impossible to find, otherwise—like those wandering ancestors who seemed to turn up in a different state, each time the tally came up for the U.S. Census.

In the end, no matter how frustrated I feel while I'm in the process of doing some volunteer indexing, after my brief stint is completed, I remind myself that it is all of us, doing our small part on a regular basis, which will chip away at the mountains of documentation that hold the family secrets we are striving to uncover. In the end, the effort is worth it. And really, with such a small contribution—but multiplied on the part of all of us—we can achieve so much in the end.

Above: Portrait of manuscript illuminator and scribe Jean Miélot, in the service of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, attributed to Jean Le Tavernier circa 1456; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Seeking Another Alice

In genealogical research, we sometimes end up testing hypotheses which turn out to be wrong. If we want to find the answer after such a false lead, obviously we need to get back on the research trail.

While we can congratulate ourselves that we have likely identified the right key people in the mystery photo album I found abandoned in a local antique store, there is still more work to be done. Among other things—and keep in mind, I have yet to share a few more photographs from the album with you—we need to identify who the woman called Alice in the pictures might have been.

But there's another pursuit, as well: to determine just who the writer was who left those white-inked comments on each page of the album. While she only used the identifier, "Self," I have my guesses. One of those guesses is that she also carried the name Alice.

Let's look at the first identification puzzle today, and I'll continue with the other one when we pick up the tale again on Monday.

Rather than the one who sent the photo album as a Christmas gift in 1936, signing it from "Harry and Alice," I wonder if the Alice we're currently eyeing might have been the visiting Alice. Keep in mind, if this guess is correct, not only are we talking about a cousin of Penrose as well as a fellow New Yorker, but a daughter of the man who started the company which Penrose had been invited to join—the T. G. Hawkes cut glass manufacturers in Corning, New York. Of all the Hawkes cousins, it is most likely that Penrose's closest relatives would be those with whom he shared an adopted hometown, over in the States.

True, this Alice, daughter of Thomas Gibbons and Charlotte Isadore Bissell Hawkes, was born quite a bit before Penrose—the age difference was about fifteen years—but taking a look at the few photographs we see labeled as Alice, she does seem to be a bit older than both Penrose and his supposed sister, "Self."

Since we learned, from Alice Hawkes Robinson's own story, that she returned regularly to Ireland after the death of her parents to attend to the family's property there in County Cork, we can presume this might have been one of her routine journeys across the Atlantic.

But the question remains: why didn't Alice's older brother Samuel take on those responsibilities? Or, for that matter, her older sister Charlotte? This is clearly an area that needs to be inspected further. Not to mention, as strong-willed and capable as this Alice might have been, by 1936, she was the mother of a nineteen year old son—Thomas Gibbons Hawkes Robinson—and her fourteen year old daughter Alice Dewart Robinson, whom we've already met. If the photos in the album were of this Alice Hawkes Robinson, why didn't her family join her during this visit in 1936?

Still, as far as I can tell so far, this is the only Alice who presents herself as a possibility in the Hawkes family constellation.

We can't conclusively say we've done an exhaustive search yet, by any stretch of the imagination—even though we can convince our discerning minds to decide that the Alice in the photo album looks, oh, about fifteen years older than Penrose and his sister.

While it might be nice to identify the Alice mentioned in the album, rather than continue in a tight loop, let's move on and ponder the possibilities for the other mystery person: the young mother who calls herself simply, "Self."

Above: Photograph of the family's picnic visit to Crosshaven, County Cork, during the summer of 1936. From left to right: "Self," Harry and Alice.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

At the Gates of Her Home

Step by step, we're picking up clues that help build a composite sketch of just who were the family members related to the people we found in a discarded photo album, here in northern California. Because our task seems to be such a merry divertissement, it takes on the aspect of a treasure hunt. Because these are people we don't really know—certainly not anyone we are related to—it becomes a trivial pursuit. Entertaining, and not much more than that.

Even in the context of a story of strangers, though, there are some occurrences entering the narrative that are so dreadful, it is hard to continue the pursuit without being drawn further into the realm of personal concern. What happened to Alice Hawkes Robinson only a few years after the death of her husband was one of those points.

We learned, after the March, 1948, passing of Edward H. Robinson, that it was not in Canada that Alice's husband had died, but in Florida. While news reports indicated that he "had been vacationing," those articles also revealed that Alice's brother—Samuel Hawkes, by then owner of the successful cut glass manufacturer in Corning, New York, which bore their father's name—maintained a residence in Daytona Beach, a four hour drive to the north of the Florida city where Dr. Robinson had succumbed to a heart problem.

Perhaps this small detail provides a hint as to why Alice was in Florida during the month of March once again, five years later. Having spent much of the winter of 1953 down in Florida, Alice—by then just turned sixty eight—had that day completed the long drive northward to return to the family home near Newmarket, just outside Toronto, Canada.

As a reunion celebration, along with her son and his bride of only two years, she had gone out to dinner. Returning to Inniscara—named after the old Hawkes family estate in County Cork, Ireland—they had paused on the highway to await a safe moment to turn into their long driveway when a car approaching from behind them struck their vehicle, puncturing the gas tank in the rear. The force of the collision overturned the Robinson vehicle, trapping the three passengers inside.

The incident occurred at "the height of the Friday night traffic." Though "dozens...raced to the rescue," yanking on door handles to no avail—the handles were actually pulled off by their efforts, yet with no success—no one was able to extract any of the passengers in the Robinson vehicle. The two men in the other vehicle were dragged from their car just moments before it exploded, showering the area with flaming gasoline. In a horrific finale no one would ever want to observe, witnesses said they "heard the trapped victims moaning and screaming inside," but there was nothing that could be done.

News of the tragedy was reported back in Corning, Alice's hometown, as well as in the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard, the Robinsons' former residence and current home of Alice's brother-in-law. A week later, a front page article in The Newmarket Era and Express declared,
The community has still not recovered from the shock of a tragic accident which took the lives of three well-known residents of the Newmarket district last Friday the gates of her home.

Having not only completed the long journey from Miami to Toronto, but a life's journey taking her through service in two World Wars, Alice met an unexpected end which literally took the breath away from all who heard of it. The only one left to her family, besides her brother Samuel and his wife and children, was the Robinsons' daughter—also named Alice.

The one gleam in this tragic episode—at least for us as genealogical interlopers in this family's difficult moments—was that the many news reports provided one additional family clue: the younger Alice, now long past her wartime Canadian Air Force duties, had married and was now the mother of at least two of the grandchildren of Alice Hawkes Robinson.

While I still have reservations as to whether this unfortunate Alice Hawkes Robinson was part of the couple who signed their names as "Harry and Alice" in the photo album I found, this small detail provides a clue to help examine whether this was the route bringing the photo album west to California. Yet, whether that route proves correct or not, the episode reminds us to tread circumspectly as we unfold the stories of unknown others in our research. We can barely imagine the anguish which such stories brought to those for whom these subjects were so much more than mere players in an entertaining puzzle.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Anything From a Jeep to a Lorry"

Miss Alice Hawkes sailed for Ireland to spend some time at Inniscara House, the Hawkes family estate.

Sometimes, despite all the hard work invested in a genealogical search, the conclusion reached turns out to be disappointing. In our case with this puzzle of the photo album found in an antique shop, we are struggling to determine the identity of the couple—Harry and Alice—who sent the album to an undisclosed recipient for a Christmas gift in 1936.

While we did find an Alice in the Hawkes family who seemed to fit the parameters for our mystery couple, it turns out she didn't marry anyone named Harry, thus ruling her out in our search.

However, in the process of doing so, I discovered so many interesting details of this woman's life that I can't simply set her aside and continue, laser-focused, to cut through every other possibility. We can at least take some time to recognize the unique contributions this Alice made during her moment in history.

Alice Hawkes—later to become Mrs. Edward H. Robinson, the woman we saw mentioned in two family obituaries, traveling back home to Corning, New York, from her current residence in Ontario—lived an active life from an early age until her premature death. Though faced with a seeming set-back during her return to the Hawkes family estate in Ireland in 1915, as soon as she could, she found a way to volunteer to serve during the first World War, a path leading her through posts in both Britain and France before her marriage to a British Army physician, with whom she eventually settled in Canada to raise her family.

Several newspapers, including this June 15, 1944 reprint in the Corning Leader from the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard, have preserved her story.

     Pvt. Robinson was born in Corning. After the death of her parents, she went to Ireland to take charge of her properties there. When the first war broke out, she was en route to New York, but the ship turned back.
     She was all alone in Ireland, her friends in the Army were being wiped out swiftly in the early phase of the war. The first thing she did was to offer her large home in Inniscara for use as a hospital. Then she moved to London to volunteer for canteen work. The official opening of the canteen at the Liverpool station was attended by King George V—and despite the royal presence the coffee pot just wouldn't work.
     From the canteen she proceeded to France to work in the wounded and missing office in Boulogne under the British forces. Then when the United States entered the war, she became a nurses' auxiliary—similar to a nurses' aid now—in an American hospital near Paris.
     After the war she was married to a Canadian subject.

That "Canadian subject," as we've learned, was Edward Robinson. Together, Alice and Edward raised a son—Hawkes Robinson—and a daughter. It will be no surprise to learn that the daughter's name was also Alice.

The newspaper account, however, provided the explanation for the senior Alice's involvement in the first World War. This, as you've likely noticed, was a report published in 1944, in the midst of the second World War.

There is a reason for this. As much as one would expect the wife of a respected physician to enjoy her station in life, by the time of Canada's involvement in World War II, Alice Hawkes Robinson was ready to jump back into the action. She became a member of the transport division of the Canadian Women's Army Corps., where she was likely to be found driving "anything from a Jeep to a lorry."

By then, both her children were grown and concurrently serving in the war effort—notably her daughter Alice, who had enlisted in the women's division of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Not long after the close of the war, an entry back home in the Corning newspaper pinpointed the next event in the family's timeline. Alice's husband passed away on March 8, 1948, while vacationing in Coral Gables, Florida. While a sad yet inevitable episode in any family's history, it certainly didn't come close to matching the next occurrence in the story of this Alice and her branch of the extended Hawkes family.  

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