Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Overnight Success

There is no such thing as an overnight success, of course, but the mere mention of that concept within earshot of my mother could render her somewhat testy. In her younger years, she had tried her hand at breaking into acting, and had gotten to know—or at least hear about—the struggles of some of her peers in the industry. Nothing could make her go ballistic more quickly than a suggestion that someone was an overnight success—for those she personally knew, her immediate defense was usually, "she worked hard to get where she is!"

I imagine the same can be said for those who have "won" a title in any contest—especially a beauty contest. Admittedly, some people are fortunate to be born with some exceptional qualities. But it still takes work to capitalize on those benefits. Raw talent in any form is just that: undeveloped.

So it was no surprise, as I trawled through the several newspaper citations I found for my fifth cousin in the Tilson line, that young college coed who fancied herself a beauty queen. Let's take some time to rewind her story from the point where we met her yesterday, back to her earlier years to find out what kind of price Joan Spinks Melton paid in order to place well in those competitions she participated in during her college years.

The first mention I found of Joan was a blip of an entry within a larger article buried in the back of the April 21, 1946, Greensboro Daily News. The title announced the overarching theme: "Cherished Dream Realized by Eight Young Musicians." What followed was a listing of those eight, and their accomplishments which led them to the invitation to appear as a soloist with the North Carolina Symphony.

To attain the honor of being named a child soloist, each musician had to audition. Of the roster of those who were included in the final selections, none was over the age of seventeen. The youngest of the group, by far, was Joan, who at the time was only eight years of age. For her appearance, Joan performed the Mozart concerto in A major.

This, of course, requires the observation that one does not just pop up on stage at the age of eight and perform such a piece on the piano without considerable preparation ahead of time—like years ahead of time. One of the later newspaper articles mentioned that our Joan had been studying the piano since she was three years of age. You can be sure that included hours of practice daily, well before she arrived at her eighth birthday.

By her eighteenth birthday—about the time Joan participated in the Miss North Carolina pageant—she was an accomplished classical pianist, one who had a goal of continuing her education to become a piano virtuouso. While she may not have previously had much recognition for her talents—and hard work—her choice to step out on this particular stage was about to change that for her.

Though she may have seemed to suddenly burst into the public's view, you can be sure she wasn't just another "overnight success." She worked hard to get where she found herself at that golden moment of her appearance on stage for the Miss Carolina pageant.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cancel Monday's Piano Lessons

There is no denying it: some aspects of genealogy are downright tedious. The constant sifting through documents—made only minimally less painful through the assistance of computer searches—does not make for what I'd call excitement. Even for those of us who love the sport of the search, if it weren't for the power of those "Eureka!" moments, there would be precious little to entice us to return to the task.

Still, if we are to have those gratifying moments, our dues must be paid. Thus, behind the scenes, while I've been waiting for an answer to my queries about any living descendants of the couple who sent that 1936 mystery photo album I found, I've been tramping through the lines of descent for specific ancestors of my own.

My main focus has been the Tilson line—descendants of Stephen Tilson, son of Edmund, an Englishman who arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, some time before the birth of his son in 1717.

Among Stephen's grandsons was one named Peleg. By the time Peleg was welcomed into the Tilson family, they had moved on to Washington County, Virginia, where he eventually took a wife—Rebeccah Dungins, according to some renditions, including transcriptions of his 1785 marriage record in Washington County—and raised a large family.

I've already worked my way down the direct line of descent from Peleg and Rebeccah, bringing me through my maternal grandfather's father, but I never intended to stop with the completion of that task. My purpose is to do what once was the norm in genealogy: document all the lines of descent from a common ancestral couple.

Thus began the long process—mostly in hopes of helping me diagram placement of the distant relatives showing up in my DNA matches—of cataloguing all the Tilson descendants, starting from Peleg and Rebeccah Tilson.

Just as I am six generations removed from that couple—Peleg and Rebeccah—it turns out there was another line whose sixth generation removed exploded with newspaper articles concerning that specific descendant. I first stumbled upon this while working my way down the line of descent. Instead of following the line of one daughter—Rachel Tilson who married James Davis and eventually became my third great grandmother—I followed the line of her older sister, Jennet Tilson.

Jennet was born nine years earlier than Rachel, in 1792. She ended up marrying a Tilson relative by the name of Thomas, thus never exchanging her maiden name for a different married surname. Jennet's line of descent seemed fairly predictable: she and her husband Thomas named a son Thomas. That younger Thomas married Susannah Franks and, among others, had a son whom they named John. John, in turn, married Nancy C. Hurst—or possibly Hawkes, though I believe that was a stress-induced error in a subsequent death certificate—and had, in turn, several children of their own.

Among those children was a daughter who was labeled—in the Tilson genealogy book many have relied on, over the years—as Fay M. Tilson. It took a little studying to realize that there was an error in the labeling of that daughter's name. As it turned out, she was actually named Foy Mae—an understandable twist insuring misinterpretation in the compiling of such an immense genealogy.

I count unusual names as a boon to my research. Where it would be incredibly useless to Google a name like John Smith, for instance, trying to locate a woman named Foy would yield far more promising results.

Foy Tilson, as it turned out, married a man who also claimed an unusual name—and, possibly, an unusual life. His name was listed as Stokeley McMillan in the few documents I was able to locate—well, plus reasonable spelling variations. Though he showed up in the listings found on his marriage record and his wife's death certificate, those were the only two places where he could reasonably be found.

I won't get drawn into conjectures about just what might have become of this Stokeley McMillan, but after the birth of his and Foy's only child, he seemed to disappear. Still, with a name like Foy McMillan, our Tilson descendant and her daughter, whom she named Helen, were fairly easy to trace through subsequent census records.

Helen, as it turned out, also had a penchant for the unusual in names. At least, I presumed the unusual name that began to show up as I traced this family belonged to Helen. What I began seeing was the name Mrs. Spinks Melton.

Fortunately for me, that was the name listed for the informant on Foy's death certificate, for the last census record in which I found Foy showed her in the household of someone named Pinks. The handwriting on that 1940 enumeration was nearly illegible, so I couldn't tell whether it said Milton or Melton. It was also hard to decipher the relationship as mother in law. Confirmation via second record certainly boosts the confidence level.

With the gift of yet another unusual name, I decided to take this search to my website of choice for archived newspapers, GenealogyBank. The first thing I ran into was a photograph in the July 30, 1956, edition of the Greensboro Daily News. The caption read, "Mother Awaits Beauty Queen Daughter."

There, in the photo, was a perky woman in starched cotton summer dress, being interviewed at the airport by a local radio announcer. The woman's name was given as Mrs. J. Spinks Melton.

An article in the Greensboro Record the following Wednesday explained the aftermath of the excitement. Upon the arrival of the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. Spinks Melton, she had been feted with the honor of being personally welcomed home by the mayor, then escorted through the city by motorcade. An avalanche of congratulatory phone calls and bouquets of flowers streamed in to the Melton home, beginning with Joan Spinks Melton's arrival that Sunday night, prompting her mother—a church musician and piano teacher—to order, "Cancel Monday's piano lessons!"

This flurry of activity followed the momentous announcement—at least to her hometown of Albemarle, North Carolina, a city of barely twelve thousand people at the time—that one of their favorite daughters had just been named Miss North Carolina. Joan Spinks Melton would soon be headed to Atlantic City for the Miss America contest.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quickening the Pace

Despite overnight temperatures dipping back down to the thirties and the threat of floods still at our doorstep, I can't help but fall for a serious case of Spring Fever. Somehow, the sunshine and first sighting of blossoms quickens my step, both outdoors and inside.

When it comes to making genealogical progress, I want to step up the pace, as well. The winter was rough on family history progress, with a succession of holidays, illnesses—and even good stress, like the chance to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. It's time to get back to work.

Nothing accentuates that sense of urgency like the exploding numbers on my DNA matches. Thanks to Family Tree DNA making the move to publicize its willingness to accept raw data transfers from other testing companies, my match count has zoomed upward. That may seem like good news—and it is—but it also comes with a down side: yet more matches for whom I cannot find any connection.

Thus, my resolve to pick back up on expanding my trees by entering all the siblings in each generation of my direct lines—and then researching their descendants, as well. While others may push backwards in time—doesn't it make you envious when you see someone's tree stretching back all the way to the 1600s and beyond?—I have had to settle it in my mind that it will be more useful for me, given my interest in DNA testing, to have the material that will help me confirm connections with my matches. Some may disagree with that approach, but that's what I've decided to try, for now.

So, where do those trees stand at this juncture between a sluggish winter of research and a spring-y anticipation of better research days ahead?

My two main trees are my maternal tree and my husband's maternal tree. In the past two weeks, I advanced the count in my mother's tree by seventy one, to total 9,529 in that database. I did much better in my mother-in-law's tree—perhaps spurred on by the fact that my husband's two sisters were willing to complete their autosomal DNA tests. That tree gained 513 documented names in the same two weeks, bringing the tree's count to 10,461. That surprised even me. Hopefully, it will help place some of those DNA matches more easily.

As far as total count of DNA matches, while my husband's count at AncestryDNA only increased by ten to 216, you'll see what I mean by exploding growth when we take a look at his matches at Family Tree DNA. In the past two weeks, 126 matches were added to his account, bringing his total number of matches to 1,148. As for mine, AncestryDNA added sixteen to total 462, but FTDNA increased by 206 to total 1,825.

Another detail I'll be tracking, starting with this week, is my husband's additional test done at 23andMe. Currently, he has 1,346 matches at that company, including some cousins we knew had already tested there. This will be another learning curve for me, as I learn the ropes at this new-to-me company.

I'll also be keeping an eye on two additional tests—though I won't include them in stats here—as I serve as administrator for both my sisters-in-law's tests. It's interesting to see the comparisons between siblings, not just on the FTDNA chromosome browser, but in the number of matches and the listing of those who match the various siblings. The things I'm observing through these DNA results continually reminds me how awesome this DNA actually is.

Of course, while racing ahead with these two maternal trees, I've unfortunately neglected the paternal sides for both my husband and myself. Someday, I keep promising myself. In the meantime, I'm primed for making progress where progress can be easily had.

Above: "Spring in the Erzgebirge" by German landscape painter Bruno Moras (1883-1939); courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Behind the Society Curtain

There's always the thrill of chasing down yet another clue on those elusive ancestors in my family tree, but that is not the only way I participate in genealogical endeavors. As you may have already gleaned from my various posts, I'm quite involved in our local genealogical society as one of their board members.

Lately, our small society has taken a big—and maybe scary—step. We've graduated from the society websites of yesteryear—those so-nineties websites kindly hosted for free at Rootsweb.com—to have a website of our own. Thanks to the leadership of our president—Sheri Fenley, whom so many know as the blogger behind The Educated Genealogist—a small group of our board's members have been working behind the scenes in converting that website vision into reality.

Not that we're doing all the coding, of course. Who do you think I am—Superwoman? While we aren't so fortunate as to have a talented member able to take on that challenge, Sheri found us something better: a company which works well with small societies such as ours, which is able to put together a site meeting all the functional requirements we could wish for.

For the past two months, we've been working with Tom Ryder of EasyNetSites. We now have what the company calls a "template-driven" website which will automate many of the functions a small society like ours would need to have done. It will take us a long time to exhaust the capabilities inherent in this design, and we are only beginning to see the possibilities.

Apparently, our small society is not alone in celebrating the discovery of this website design company. This, I discovered when checking out the many societies whose websites are on display on the portfolio page at EasyNetSites. While some of those groups are local organizations like ours, others using EasyNetSites include state organizations, international interest groups—and even the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Come to find out, when I registered for that DNA class at SLIG, I did so on a website designed by EasyNetSites.

Seeing so many societies listed in the EasyNetSites portfolio was like having the curtain pulled away to reveal the behind-the-scenes workings of those groups which seem to have it all together. Apparently, this is one of their best-kept secrets.

Not that the completed website is a turnkey operation. We've spent several hours with Tom via webinar, as he trained us on how to get our site up and running. We are the ones inputting the data, deciding where to insert photos, announcements, schedules, and other features of our society's offerings. It takes a while to learn all the features of our new website—and to spruce up all the finishing touches before our grand opening. That's why our website won't be fully functional until mid-March: we have a lot of work yet to do!

While local genealogical societies are usually small in numbers—and often in available funds and enough hands to get the job done—there still are ways to put forth a professional presence and invite the public to join in our activities. Sometimes, that entails being able to obtain the services of those who are knowledgeable in specialties outside our own areas of expertise.

Computer programming definitely qualifies as something outside our board members' skill sets. Lest you find your local organization in the same situation and think there is nothing that can be done about that, think again. Apparently, there is an answer, even though it may have been your neighboring society's best-kept secret up til now.

Above: "'Blame the thing—I can't make it work!' complains Cleveland over the keyboard." 1893 political cartoon by Bernhard Gillam depicting then-President Grover Cleveland attempting to manipulate the Democrat Party as if it were a typewriter. Courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Of Beauty Queens and Presidents

What do you do when the end of one story comes before you're ready to take up another? As you can probably tell, I've been mourning the inability to connect with family members who could claim the mystery photo album I found in a town near my home. Of course, reaching out to connect with someone in County Cork, Ireland, is a challenge from California, but up to this point, we've done our best.

Now, it's time to move on. What next?

Well, behind the scenes, while that Hawkes family story was unfolding, I couldn't stop working on my own family tree. I have several long-term projects I'm working on, both on my trees and on those of my husband.

For the most part, routine genealogical research isn't something you write home about—unless you want to subject all your relatives to that "my eyes glaze over" reaction. So I just keep connecting documents to names on those trees, one dreary click at a time, during spare moments like lunchtimes alone or while standing in long lines in town. That's the type of work that goes on, behind the scenes. You can tell how much drudgery has been accomplished in any given time period, based on my biweekly reports—but other than that, it's mostly silence to which everyone owes some gratitude. Not every family story is scintillating.

In the past few months of plugging away at this, though, I did run into a couple interesting stories. One involves a distant cousin who apparently won a significant beauty contest and found herself in the running for a chance at becoming Miss America. Another story led me down the descendants' trail from a colonial ancestor to a woman who married a man with a familiar surname—I kept thinking, "Wasn't that the name of a senator?" As it turned out, yes, a descendant in that line did indeed turn out to become a senator, and before even that, someone who had married the daughter of a President.

So, while we await any news of connections with the descendants of Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid—if we even hear at all—we'll use the opportunity next week to explore the stories which have popped up during that routine, behind the scenes, research I've been doing to round out that family tree.

Above: "Washington Arch, Spring," 1893 painting by American artist, Frederick Childe Hassam; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Glacial Pace
of Genealogical Research

There is something about hearing family history researchers confidently declare their "research goals." Yes, it's nice that you want to pursue your roots in Sweden back to the 1600s. Whether you achieve your goal of finishing that project by next fall may not be entirely within your own control. There is the little matter of those other parties out there who may or may not operate on your timetable.

So then, the question becomes, what to do while being unable to complete those genealogical goals. Despite the well-meaning advice I've heard about not being all over the board with my research pursuits, I find it necessary to have a Plan B project in that back pocket for such dilemmas. Since it is near-impossible to force one's correspondent to answer an email or send a requested document in rapid response, researchers sometimes need the grace to know when to retreat or change directions.

While nobody is answering, where to turn next? In our case of being so close to presenting that mystery photo album to a direct descendant of the woman who created it, the story is almost all told—all, that is, except for the storybook ending that could have been, if the right people answered the call. Our only remaining option is to settle for a waiting game. Also out of our control, that wait may take a few more days—or months upon months. It may never see that hoped-for closure.

In the meantime, I'll put the pages back in the proper order, wrap up the covers in the ribbon which so neatly tied them all together, and tuck the album into a safe place. But I won't just wait; I'll be on to a next project.

And you know there's been one in the wings. Not as fascinating, admittedly, as the one we're wrapping up (literally), but you know it will be a genealogical pursuit that comes with a story. There is always a story, when you delve deep enough into the lives of ancestors.

Yet, it will be hard to say goodbye to the Penrose Hawkes family, and to Alice Hawkes Reid, who brought us—unsuspectedly—so many weeks of interesting tidbits about her extended family. Though it wasn't even concerning my own family, it's been a journey I've been glad to have stumbled upon. If nothing else, it's opened my eyes to the treasures stored in unexpected places—sometimes, quite far from the place family once called home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Maybe the Neighbors Know

If, in my quest to find a living descendant of the couple who mailed off a photo album from County Cork, Ireland, back in 1936, I can't make any connections via the usual family history means, perhaps reverting to the tried and true FAN Club principle may bring results. I'm willing to try anything at this point.

The FAN Club, if you haven't heard of the term coined by genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, is a cluster of people in the milieu surrounding a mystery ancestor, and may present some viable clues about those research brick walls we struggle to overcome. The acronym FAN stands for friends, associates and neighbors.

With the discovery in that mystery photo album, last week, of a friend (or neighbor or associate) of the Hawkes and Reid families known as Chris, we also had been introduced to a place labeled simply as "Chris's bungalow." In my mind, the term bungalow can be easily interchanged with the label cottage. And it just so happened, back when I was searching for any online clues about Bride Park House, that I came across some entries for a place called Bride Park Cottage.

Could Bride Park Cottage have been Chris' bungalow?

Fortunately, there are many leads to the current day Bride Park Cottage. Apparently, the current owners have a custom of offering their home to host an annual charity fund raiser during the holidays. Thus, I was able to find a write up on their place in the November 11, 2016, edition of the Cork Evening Echo (in which, by the way, a photograph toward the end of the article displays a "water garden" reminiscent of the one attributed to Chris in the 1936 photo album). An article on the event in an earlier year—that one published in 2012 by the Irish Examiner—included a photograph of the cottage exterior.

Although a quick visit to Google Maps showed Bride Park Cottage to be a mere one minute walk's distance from Bride Park House, from the photograph, it is apparent that Bride Park Cottage does not look like the bungalow shown in the photo album. Though it apparently isn't Chris' bungalow—whoever Chris was, and wherever her bungalow might have been—it provides yet another vehicle to use the "neighbors" in the FAN Club principle to track down more information on the Hawkes and Reid families.

I went on an online hunt to see if I could locate anything further on Bride Park Cottage. I discovered another photo of the place put up on the website known as Flickr—which, in an almost eerie coincidence, turned out to be placed there by the very researcher (Damian Shiels) who has recently written the book, The Forgotten Irish, that I mentioned in my January book post. Far predating the time period in which the Hawkes family had lived in the area, Bride Park Cottage was once the childhood home of Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, who eventually attained the rank of Major General in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

While none of that further informs me about the Hawkes or Reid families—or even about Chris or the whereabouts of her bungalow—it does remind me that, even if I never hear back from the people I've contacted about connecting with a living descendant of Alice Hawkes Reid, I can try a second approach in finding some answers. Part house history, part crowdsourcing attempt through local media, perhaps reaching out to the neighbors may yield some answers I might not otherwise be able to access through traditional paper-based research. We are, after all, shifting from history to current events with this next move.

Above: Revisiting Chris' bungalow—not appearing to be one and the same as the Bride Park Cottage seen in current newspaper publications.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

No Mail . . . Yet

I'm not very good at waiting. Snail mail—not withstanding its ability to connect people, no matter how far removed they each are—lost its allure for me, once email was invented. When it comes to correspondence, I prefer instant gratification.

So, yes, I realize I'm letting myself grow impatient over a message I only sent out this past weekend. But perhaps you understand my perspective. I'm awaiting an answer from a person who may well be the grandchild of the Harry and Alice Reid who, eighty years ago, sat down and addressed an envelope carrying a family photo album sent as a Christmas greeting.

There has been progress on another front in this attempt to contact people mentioned in that mystery photo album. Taking a chance that an email address, posted online over ten years ago, was still a good address, I composed an introductory note to another person researching the extended Hawkes family. To my great surprise—and partially owing to the distance between time zones of sender and recipient—I awoke after sending my late night query to find it had already been answered!

That connection is leading to yet another person who may lend a hand at helping that family photo album find its way back home to County Cork, Ireland. I am excited to see where that correspondence will lead. There is nothing like interviewing the people who have firsthand knowledge of the subjects at hand. Wouldn't it be perfect if all this assistance leads to the ability to connect with a direct descendant of Alice Hawkes Reid? That, at least, is my hope.

Meanwhile, the note I most hope to see answered—that message to a woman who may well be a granddaughter of Harry and Alice Reid—had to be sent through a genealogy website to which she last had made contact nearly a year ago. If I can receive an answer from a ten year old email address, what are my chances that contact information from a mere nine months ago will still be viable?

In answer to my own question, I don't know. But I hardly can stand the wait to discover that answer.

 Harry, Mother + Self - Aug. 1936.

Monday, February 20, 2017

To Do or Not to Do: That is the Question

Some people live or die by their to-do lists. Me? Not so much. I do, however, keep a general idea in the back of my mind regarding where I intend to go with a project—a more free-form approach to getting things done.

That approach may have been a bit too free-form for you to determine just what I was up to, last week, so I feel a recap is in order. If you were wondering about my Saturday morning musings over which other genealogical services I should use to upload my family tree, this will hopefully provide somewhat of an explanation. And it will also help tie in to my Friday comment about striking out into the "real" world to see if we can locate any clues as to that mystery photo album I found and just whom the intended recipient might have been, back in December of 1936.

I may be slow at arriving at my goals, but I do eventually get there—even without a strict to-do list.

Over the weekend, I attended to that task of uploading my family tree to my new subscription at FindMyPast, so I can check that off my list call that goal done. There wasn't too much angst over whether I should do that or not; fishing in one more pond is definitely to my benefit, if my goal is to dangle more cousin bait out there, in hopes of connecting with fellow family researchers.

Where I did face that angst, though, was when I finally came to the question of whether to tinker with a family tree at Geni.com. There are, in my mind, several drawbacks to that research tactic. For one thing, it always seemed to me to be one of those universal trees, where others can "correct" entries that I have spent considerable time confirming. I don't like the arbitrary feeling in that sort of milieu.

The second main concern I have is that there is no possibility to simply upload a GEDCOM and be finished with the task in a matter of moments. I understand the reasons why, of course, but it can be a rather daunting task to add the nearly ten thousand names, for instance, that I have on just one of my trees.

As the weekend was drawing to a close, however, I figured I may as well take the leap. I didn't transfer the entire monstrosity of my maternal tree, of course, but strategized to come up with a choice that would get me uploaded without too much work: I selected my paternal tree. That one, if you remember from my biweekly stats, happens to be the smallest of the trees that I manage. It also happens to be the one with the most international connections. Keeping in mind the symbiotic relationship between Geni.com and MyHeritage—a company with a widely international customer base—I thought my Polish roots might bring up some interesting connections. What did I have to lose there?

I did have, however, an ulterior purpose for uploading a tree to Geni.com. It has nothing to do with being able to make connections with distant Polish cousins. But it does have to do with the family tree we've been speculating about, ever since I began writing about the mystery photo album I found in that northern California antique shop.

You see, bit by bit, as I was writing, some kind readers have been feeding me hints gleaned from astute searching on the Internet. Some of those hints were posted directly below my entries, in the comments section. Some were emailed to me privately—and for good reason: they have to do with living persons, whose privacy we must respect.

As you may have guessed, that connection with a possible living descendant of Harry and Alice Hawkes Reid has much to do with my decision to painstakingly enter portions of my family tree at Geni.com. Posting a tree and becoming a subscriber entitles one to permission to connect with other Geni users. And one of those users—as I found out, thanks to Iggy—just happened to post an entry on one of the Hawkes family members. Now, that's a researcher I want to talk to!

Now that I've settled that question of whether to post my tree on Geni.com, I have a new question gnawing away at me. Will this new research contact answer my email? Or not?

I can hardly stand the wait.

Ruby - playing robbers - June 1936.

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 Ancestry.com, 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 Ancestry.com, but before that, I had posted my tree at Rootsweb.com. 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 FamilySearch.org. 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 Geni.com, 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 irishgenealogy.ie, 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 Ancestry.com, I would likely have not found it. Nothing came up on my search for Alice Hawkes in the civil records at irishgenealogy.ie. 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 Ancestry.com, or go direct to the source by subscribing to FindMyPast.ie, 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 Ancestry.com 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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...