Something That’s Not About Rehab!

It seems as though I’ve done nothing but rehab and physical therapy for months and months. Because, well, I have. Other things are creeping in, though. I spend part of every day down in the library working on the group puzzles (a great alternative to doing them at home with cats scattering pieces willy nilly). I’m getting sick of Halloween themes or landscapes so think I will offer up a few 1000 piece puzzles with cats. I have more than a few on hand.

But mostly I’ve been working on genealogy and getting excited for the first time in a long time. One of my friends here asked me to get some information about her grandfather, who died in 1906 in Wisconsin. She’s done a little work over the years – and is 93 so her personal memory goes back far! – but has done everything manually with scribbled pieces of paper and incomplete files, and without access to some of the many online tools that I use all the time.

It’s refreshing to work in a new-to-me jurisdiction with different laws about record retention and access, with a different history and ethnic groups, and with new names and relationships. I’m building her a tree on Ancestry and having a ball finding census and vital records, immigration and citizenship files, military and pension records, and lots of newspaper articles that the family had never seen. I love using research skills learned as a genealogist and librarian to refine search strategies and branch into new directions that bear fruit.

Genealogy work is never actually finished because there are more generations, more siblings, more DNA matches, more records, more analysis. But I’ve pretty much stopped working on my own family except for a little browsing here and there. It’s not perfect, and there are lines that haven’t been proven to my level of satisfaction. FamilySearch and Ancestry trees for those people have more info and possible ancestors but while they may be correct, they don’t have sources that I can verify myself. And frankly, I don’t really care at this point. I’ve worked on it for over 50 years and have loved the satisfaction of finding what I found. But I can get the same satisfaction helping other people answer questions about their own families.

I’m certainly having fun with the Wisconsin people I’m working on now.

Stray Genealogy Bits and Pieces

I have two boxes of pictures and decades-old printouts and notes on assorted people in my tree. I’ve been working on my lines for over 50 years and some of this stuff dates from the early days of my research which has been either confirmed or thrown out the window by subsequent research that’s properly sourced. Many of the pictures are duplicates of things I’ve already scanned, filed, and added to my tree. Others aren’t but they’re of people I barely know – and if I don’t know them, I know my brother won’t have a clue who they are. And we’re the only ones left.

I find myself wondering why I’m bothering to review all this stuff again. If the boxes disappeared, no one would know what went with them. I’m not sure I would know after all this time. And I’m not sure that anyone would care. You have to know what they are and whether they fill missing holes to care. I’m the only one who knows what they are and even I don’t care about most of it.

So why am I doing this? Really, why? Is it not enough that I have better images already scanned and sorted? I understand the value of all the scraps of paper that have given me genealogy treasures in the past. And it’s not THAT big a project to go through them all, search online, check files, etc. to see if I already have these pieces in a digital form.

But I just don’t want to do it, which is why they’re still sitting in their folders and acid-free boxes waiting for me to look at them again. I took the first step and moved everything out into the living room, but I still don’t want to do it. Maybe tomorrow.

More Goodwin Finds

For a genealogist, happiness is sometimes finding an obituary, especially for people who died before official records were kept. Newspaper archives such as Newspapers.com and Genealogybank.com (both require paid accounts) are great sources. Actually finding the person you look for can take a lot of time and creativity in spelling and truncation, but older papers (and older issues) are being digitized and added all the time, even for smaller jurisdictions, and I periodically continue to search for people in my direct line that have holes in their history.

A few weeks ago I wrote about finally finding an obituary for my g-g-grandfather Lemuel S. Goodwin, who died in 1907 in Suffolk, Virginia. I’d been trying to find that information for 45 years. His wife Mary Jane Thach Goodwin (well, his second wife – he had three) was my g-g-grandmother and she was another who died without any records that I could find. He was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah. Nope, couldn’t find her either, although I did find unsourced family trees at Ancestry that indicated she died in 1901.

Until this week. First I found Mary Jane’s obituary (above) which told me her maiden name and that, though she lived on Market Street with her husband of 42 years, her funeral would be at Bethel Church in Perquimans County, NC. I already knew that both she and her husband Lemuel were born in Perquimans County and had lived there for at least half of their married life. I knew that they had two married daughters living in that county at the time she died. But it was a big surprise to see that the funeral was there, and gave me a clue to look for burial also in the county, probably in a family cemetery (because I haven’t found it yet).

Then I found Beulah’s obituary in a different paper but also from Norfolk, VA. This one made me so sad because it described Beulah as a consistent member of her church, “bright and winsome, young and pretty and had many friends.” She died of consumption, which today we know as tuberculosis. It was was the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the most feared diseases in the world. It was also the cause of death for Beulah’s brother William, who died in 1899. I still can’t find Beulah’s burial information but am hoping that eventually I’ll find her with her parents somewhere in Perquimans County, NC. For now, I’m happy to know where they died and to give them some closure, at least on my tree.

I waited a long time for this

Lemuel S. Goodwin Obituary, 1907

This morning, after researching this family line for at least 45 years, I found the obituary for Lemuel S. Goodwin. He was my grandfather’s grandfather, born in Perquimans County, North Carolina in April 1833. He moved to Suffolk, VA at some point between 1880 and 1892, when his daughter Josephine married William Myers. The last we knew of him was the 1900 census when he was a widower living with his daughter Beulah.

But wait, there’s more!  I found a tiny newspaper clipping from Dec. 1903 with news that he had obtained a marriage license with widow Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. He’s not in the 1910 census, so he had to die in there somewhere. She died in 1930 and is buried next to her first husband with no mention of Lemuel. So maybe he died before they could get married?  Mystery!

This morning I found his obituary at GenealogyBank, a newspaper database that I was thinking I might cancel. Ah, maybe not.  No wonder I never found it, with one name truncated and one name misspelled. But this is the guy. Lost but now found.

Lemuel was married three times. His first wife, Sarah E. Long, died one day after the birth of their daughter, within a year of their marriage in 1856. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve 1857, he married Mary Jane Thach, my great-great-grandmother. They were married for 43 years and had eight children that I know of. At some point between 1880 and 1892, they moved from the farm in Perquimans County to Suffolk, Virginia, where Lemuel worked in the City Market. Their son William died of consumption in 1899 and Mary Jane followed in the spring of 1900. Lemuel was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah.

But that was it. It was too early for state death records in Virginia and I found no property or probate records and no cemetery records for any of them. Maybe they returned to North Carolina for burial but I found nothing there either. All of the family trees I found on Ancestry and FamilySearch have Lemuel’s death date as “after 1900”. I was determined to find him, but it took a very long time.

Last year I located a tiny notice in the Norfolk Landmark newspaper from December 1903 that a marriage license was issued for Lemuel S. Goodwin and Mrs. Martha Elizabeth Spivey. Hmm. Who was she? Where did she come from? And who was Mr. Spivey? I did some poking around at Newspapers.com, one of my favorite sites, and found a fascinating article about Peter Spivey’s burial in 1899 at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suffolk, VA with his elaborately carved tree memorial. His wife Martha Elizabeth was buried next to him on her death in 1930.

So what happened to Lemuel? Why isn’t she buried next to him? What was he, chopped liver?

Not exactly. Lemuel and Martha were widowed within a year of each other and were neighbors on Morgan Street in Suffolk. Martha had small children – her youngest child was only a few months old when Peter died – and she was 25 years younger than Lemuel. We don’t know for certain but it is probable that they married for companionship and to help Martha raise her young family.

In March 1906, Lemuel was “confined by illness to his home on Morgan Street” [Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), Thursday, 15 March 1906, p.7, col. 3; digital image, Genealogybank.com, accessed 5 August 2020). A year later he was agained confined by “serious sicknesss” to his home; his obituary ran in the Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, 20 October 1907. It mentioned that a service would take place at the Christian Church the afternoon after his death, but a burial spot was not indicated nor has one been located. We know his widow Martha was buried next to her first husband; Lemuel quite probably is buried next to Mary Jane, his second wife. I haven’t found her grave yet either. But I haven’t given up.

A Gem in My Mom’s Handwriting

I found a blue spiral-bound copy of The Bride’s Notebook yesterday while emptying and sorting drawers. It has pages and pages of notes and names in my mom’s handwriting, dating from the months before her wedding in December 1951. Using my clever math skills, I realized it was almost 70 years old. Yikes!

Some things never change. This little book includes sections for everything the 1950’s bride needed to keep track of – wedding details, etiquette, wedding invitations and announcements, gifts, clothes, and room-by-room things you want for your new home. Not sure if brides registered at department stores then, but this at least told me what Mom thought she needed. [UPDATE: Apparently bridal registry started in 1924 at Marshall Fields. The stores listed in Mom’s book (Bamberger, Kresge, Hahnes) are no longer around under those names if at all.]

Most interesting to me were the list of wedding guests, in alphabetical order and with my mom’s perfect handwriting. Entries included full names and addresses, as well as checks and X’s to indicate who had accepted. My grandfather had many business associates who were included on a similar list for wedding announcements. Reading the names was a walk down memory lane: I remembered many of the people, either from my childhood or because my mom or grandfather talked about them.

And of course there were family members that I never heard of for years but now recognize: my great-grandmother’s sister Belle and her children; Grandma’s brother Leighton; my grandfather’s many Heginbotham and McCormick cousins. On my dad’s side were the Dails and the Keels. Funny, it never occurred to me that my grandfather Myers’ sister would have been invited but yes, of course. She didn’t come, but she was invited.

Then there was the meticulous list of wedding gifts. Silver trays and candlesticks were big that year. So were tablespoons and place settings in their Old Master silver pattern, and money. Because I was curious, I looked up the values today – a $10 gift in 1951 would be $99 now. Some of the gifts recorded looked more like items a bride would get today at a shower: electric broiler, waste basket, vases, clock, lamp, ash tray. My mom’s sister gave her a set of 12 towels, hand towels, and washcloths, which made me wonder what Mom gave her for her wedding 3 months earlier in the same church, the same dress, with a lot of duplication on the guest list.

But really what got me were the names and Mom’s beautiful handwriting. I remembered so many of the people. Minnie Mae Gautier in Wisconsin sent a bone carving set that I passed on to my brother after my dad died. I always loved her name. She was a private secretary in 1930 when she was a boarder in my grandfather’s home during the Depression. Mom remembered her and obviously she remained on good terms with the family after she moved back home.

Also the Coughlins who lived in Flushing, NY, where Dan was a policeman. They rented the “little house” in Manasquan for years. I never asked or knew how they knew my grandparents, but they were always part of our summers at the shore. Mr. Margolis from Williamston, who ran a men’s clothing store and made Daddy a loan to buy the engagement ring. Roy Ackley and his wife in Orange, NJ, who worked with my father and grandfather and was actually the one to introduce me to genealogy in 1970. Aunt Belle Glidden in Ormond Beach, FL, which is a new piece of genealogy information for me. Grace Kellner, my grandfather’s secretary for years (and how on earth do I remember that??).

Remembering these people made me smile and remember my parents and grandparents, too. And as long as I remember them, they still live a little longer.