Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Jennie Morrison Cooke

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Jane Morrison Cooke, Leighton & Marion Cooke, c1906

My mother’s maternal grandmother was Jane (Jennie) Morrison Cooke, born on 2 October 1871 in Larksville, Luzerne County, Pennsyvania. She was the fourth of five children born to Scots immigrants Charles Morrison and Margaret Brookmire. Her parents were founding members of Snowden Memorial Presbyterian Church in Larksville and Jane was baptized there on 28 October 1872.

The 1870’s were difficult years, including the deaths of two of Jane’s four siblings. Her father Charles, an injured Union veteran of the Civil War, was a coal miner who survived a mining accident and suffered probable brain damage. He was admitted to the Danville State Hospital for the Insane in November 1874, leaving his wife Margaret and three small children to fend for themselves. He owned no property, so there was nothing to inherit. It is possible that Margaret worked as a nurse, an occupation she was known to perform in later years.

In 1880 Jane’s mother Margaret married again in Wilkes Barre, PA, telling her children that their father was dead, although he still a patient in Danville Hospital.  Jane did not know of the deception for many years. By spring 1890, the family had moved from Pennsylvania up to New York City, where her step-father Andrew Seger grew up. He worked as a boot maker but was disabled due to injuries received in the Civil War. Jane’s sister Isabella married in Brooklyn in 1890 and her brother John in 1895.  Their father Charles died in the hospital in November of that year.

Jane Morrison married Robert Thomas Cooke on 9 August 1899 at South Third Street Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. It’s possible that they met through their parents: Jane’s step-father Andrew Seger and Robert’s father William Cooke were both shoemakers in Brooklyn. Through their married life, Jennie and Robert lived in Brooklyn and Queens, moving back and forth between boroughs. They had two children, daughter Marion Stokes Cooke (my grandmother) born in May 1902 and son Leighton Brookmire Cooke, named for his grandmothers Eliza Leighton and Margaret Brookmire, born in March 1904.

IMG_20180719_152229By 1920, Rob and Jennie’s home included their children and her mother and step-father, who were in their 80’s. Rob died on 2 September 1925 in Brooklyn, and Jennie moved across the Hudson River to 900 Lake Street in Newark, New Jersey, five houses down the street from her daughter Marion. She owned the home, valued at $13,000. Her mother lived with her and in 1930, so did three boarders. When her mother died in 1939 at age 93, Jennie moved to Madison, New Jersey, and lived with her son Leighton and his family. She died on 25 March 1946 in the Home for Aged Women in Newark.

Robert and Jennie enjoyed each other, their children, and their extended families, who also lived in the New York area. They were not wealthy but their lives were comfortable. He worked as a “paper dealer” or salesman (details not known) and she kept the house and raised the children. As a family, they attended South Third Street Presbyterian Church. Jennie was an expert needlewoman who made beautiful cutwork pieces that are still being used today. She passed that love and skill on to her daughter Marion, who graduated from Pratt Institute with a degree in trade dressmaking.

4-Generations

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52 Ancestors #12 – William Marvin Myers

My paternal grandfather was three years old in 1909 when both of his parents died of the flu.

Bill and SusieWilliam Marvin Myers, known as “Bill,” was born on 16 January 1906 in Perquimans County, North Carolina,  the youngest child of Josephine Emma Goodwin and William Myers. Josephine passed away in March 1909 at the age of 35; his father followed in October 1909, leaving their three small children orphaned.  Lucinda (Goodwin) Curtis took in her sister’s children – Percival (age 9), Nellie (age 4), and William (age 3) – and raised them with her own three children in a crowded rural farm house.

By 1920, Percival was dead of typhoid fever and sister Nellie was married. Bill completed two years of high school and worked as a farm laborer on his uncle’s farm. He moved west forty miles to Williamston in 1927, where he met Susie Lanier Keel one day at the movies. She was a farmer’s daughter herself and something sparked. Susie found herself pregnant and she and Bill married in July 1927 in the Baptist minister’s parlor. What she remembered most of the wedding was that her parents didn’t attend, probably because of the pregnancy.

BillandTomMyers-c1959Originally working as a farm laborer on his father-in-law’s farm, Bill soon began working for the W.I. Skinner & Co. Tobacco Company in a year-round capacity. He was a truck driver on the Williamston/Norfolk route and also worked as a warehouse foreman, retiring at age 57 in 1963 due to declining health.  He died on 14 June 1964 of metastatic cancer.

Those are the facts. But the truth of the man is harder to find because he was a hard man to know, keeping largely private and to himself. My father doesn’t recall much affection between his parents when he was growing up, nor much affection between father and children, either.

Bill had less education than his wife and lived with her parents in a community where her family had lived for 200 years and he had few friends. He was poor all his life and quite possibly resented being tied to my grandmother in a shotgun wedding. He was a quiet man who didn’t talk much, didn’t read, didn’t play or have interest in sports, or spend time with others. In spite of the kind words of his obituary, Bill didn’t attend church often, either. He was just a quiet, boring man in a dead-end job with little to bring joy to his life – and who didn’t enjoy the children he had.

Which is really so sad. Not only do I not know him, his children didn’t, either.


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Recognizing the Irish in Me

Mom always made me wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day when I was growing up in recognition of my Protestant Irish roots. And because her mother made her do it when she was growing up. According to AncestryDNA, I’m 29% Irish. Mom was 56% Irish, and Dad is 15%.  Of course, ethnicity estimates are only really accurate to the continent level, but today is St. Patrick’s Day and I’m celebrating my Irish roots.

William Cooke (1829-1912) and Eliza Leighton (1838-1916), two of my maternal g-g-grandparents, came to New York City between 1854-1857 from Belfast, Northern Ireland. They may have been already married when they arrived, as no marriage record for them has been found in New York. William was a shoemaker and he and Eliza raised their family in Brooklyn, where they were members of South Third Street Presbyterian Church. Only five of their 13 children lived longer than one year. Their son Robert Thomas Cooke, the second child of that name, was my great-grandfather.

Cookes

More maternal g-g-grandparents were also Irish. Alice Heginbotham (1842-1927) was born in Dublin in 1842 to her Irish mother Anna Cairnes (1820-1878) and her English father, Thomas Heginbotham (1816-1892). Thomas was a hatter as was Anna’s father, William. The Heginbothams arrived in New York City from Dublin on 22 August 1853,  traveling in steerage on the Freja and bringing Anna’s widowed mother Alice (1789-1876) with them.  They lived in Manhattan where Thomas worked as a hatter. In the 1870 census, Thomas and four of his children were working in the hat trade.

Alice’s husband Peter McCormick (1842-1898) took a less direct route to New York City. We don’t know where in Ireland he was born, but on 14 May 1856 he was indentured as an apprentice to stone mason James Galloway in Glasgow, Scotland. His father, Patrick McCormick, signed the agreement. James died in bankruptcy before the terms of the agreement were completed and in 1861, Peter was with Patrick and the rest of his family in Liverpool, England; Peter, Patrick, and his brothers Francis and John were all stone masons. Peter arrived in New York in September 1867 and worked as a mason or contractor until his death in 1898. He and Alice married in May 1875 at St. Ignatius Loyola parish in Manhattan. Their daughter Charlotte was my great-grandmother. Peter was naturalized in New York on 15 October 1886.

Charles Morrison (1837-1895) and his wife Margaret Brookmire (1845-1939) were born in Scotland.  What little we know about Charles indicates his parents were also Scots. Margaret’s parents were Robert Brookmire (b.1821) and Isabella McAusland (b.1817). The McAuslands are also an old Scots family, but in Robert and Isabella’s marriage record, it was noted that Robert’s father John Brookmire was in Belfast. They were married on 3 July 1840 in the Church of Scotland Parish of Campsie.

Brookmire McAusland Marriage

Robert worked as a Calico Printer, an occupation that was thriving in the Belfast, Ireland, area with many workers coming to Scotland to work in the same trade. It’s quite probable that he was actual Irish rather than Scots, upping my total.

My father’s Irish roots are a complete mystery, as I have yet to figure out how any of them even got to North Carolina much less where they came from. Sometimes I think they were dropped by aliens. But DNA doesn’t lie and there is Irish in there somewhere!

 


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Et Tu, Shrewsbury?

There are way too many people on my family tree named William, Elizabeth, John, and Sarah. Oh, there’s the occasional Charlotte, Cleopheous, and Jabez, but honestly, I have four generations of William Flanders who married someone named Elizabeth. It’s ridiculous.

Shrewsbury Flanders would be different, I was sure of it. I mean, Shrewsbury wasn’t something you see every day, right?  The Shrewsbury Flanders in my tree was born in 1817 in Little Downham, Cambridgeshire, England, and was the younger half-brother of my g-g-g-grandfather William Flanders (b.1811).  Yes, another William.  They shared their father, Smith Flanders (1777-1846), but had different mothers. William’s mother was Smith’s  first wife, Elizabeth Reed (1784-1815), while Shrewsbury’s mother was second wife Sarah Lee (1786-1874). He was the eldest of this “second family.”

Go back a generation and we hit the name jackpot: Smith Flanders’ parents were John Flanders (yes, another one) and Sarah Shrewsbury!  It seems obvious and logical that one of their grandchildren was named for his paternal grandmother. But wait! More sleuthing in parish baptismal records on FindMyPast uncovered a William Shrewsbury Flanders born in 1775 to John and Sarah. Again, the name made sense.

FLANDERS Shrewsbury - Marriage to Mary Elizabeth Wells - 1842Shrewsbury Flanders married Mary Ann Dewey on 7 December 1830 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. But wait, that’s wrong. Shrewsbury was only 13 at the time! What’s going on here?  Shrewsbury Flanders also married Mary Elizabeth Wells in Feb 1842 in Banham, Norfolk, England – but this Shrewsbury lived in Methwold, not Littleport. Did Mary Ann die before he married Mary Elizabeth?

Let’s look at some other records. If the Parish Records can be believed, Shrewsbury Flanders had 19 children from Mary Ann and Mary Elizabeth – several Williams, Georges, Marys, and Elizabeths because so many died as infants. But still, something was very wrong.

So I went back and did more searching for Shrewsbury, changing my search strategies, and this time found two baptismal records: Shrewsbury #1, son of John and Elizabeth, was baptized at age 3 on 4 Jun 1811 in Downham, Cambridgeshire. Shrewsbury #2, son of Smith and Sarah, was baptized on 25 Dec 1817 in Littleport, Cambridgeshire.  They were different people! That should have been obvious had I approached this in a more systematic way but still, it explained all the inconsistencies.

John Flanders and Sarah Shrewsbury had five children:  John, William Shrewsbury, Smith, Susannah, and Thomas. Both John and Smith had sons named Shrewsbury, who were first cousins and grandsons of Sarah Shrewsbury. They were born nine years apart and died one year apart:  John’s son Shrewsbury (#1) died in 1895, Smith’s son Shrewsbury (#2) died in 1896 (the GRO index helped clarify which was which, since it gave age at death). In between these Shrewsburys farmed land in parishes separated by only 8 miles and were probably part of each other’s lives.

Now if only Mary Ann and Mary Elizabeth had had different names!


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52 Ancestor #3 – Longevity of a Search

Longevity can be defined as “long life” or “long existance or service,” which covers a few more options. While I have some long-lived relatives (Great Aunt Mary Magdalene, who was 98 when she died, or Great-Great-Grandmother Margaret Brookmire Morrison Segar, who died at 93), I’m taking this in a different direction: the length of time I’ve been searching for the parents of Grandpappy Jim.

Sometimes a search can yield results in a matter of minutes. You pop into a database, put a name into a search box, and filter resultsJamesLKeel by location and time frame, and Voila! A marriage record from 1906 for your great-grandparents, found online in Ancestry or FamilySearch or FindMyPast. And you’re ready for the next question.

But sometimes those searches take a long, long time. I’ve been looking for my great-great-grandfather’s parents for over 40 years. Sometimes I think he popped out of the earth or was dropped by aliens.

My paternal grandmother got me started with enough basic information that I could find the Keel family, her family, in the microfilmed census records, but they weren’t accessible anywhere near me so it took time to figure out what I could and couldn’t confirm. I lived in another state and traveled to North Carolina to look at courthouse and land records, but many were lost in courthouse fires in 1862 and 1884. Plus the state of North Carolina was thoughtless enough to not require state-wide birth and death records until 1913 and James Keel died in 1908. Rats.

Before computers, there was only so much I could do from a distance. Research trips were spread out – and once I moved to New England, they didn’t happen. I got copies of his military records in 1975 which were a treasure trove of other information – the man was captured at Gettysburg and went to a prison camp at Ft. Delaware, where he changed sides and became a prison guard. He went AWOL and was later captured and court-martialed, but then was returned to copmlete the rest of his service before he disappeared for 6 years. I would have disappeared, too, if I’d done that.

With so much online now, I can search many records from my home, but tax, land, estate records, and existing probate have been silent regarding Grandpappy Jim’s parents.  I’ve connected with cousins also working on the line and no one has been successful finding resources. We found the graves of Jim and his wife Betsy and have photos of their tombstones, but his parents are not buried in the same cemetery.

There have been false steps along the way and long periods of doing nothing while I worked on other lines; picking this one back up again over time meant repeating research because I wasn’t very meticulous in recording the steps I’d already taken. My research strategy has been far from strategic and it’s dragged on for a very, very long time. It’s time to sit down and actually come up with an actual research plan.

 


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52 Ancestors #2 – Four Generations Photo

I had so many favorite photos that I decided to write each of them up! This one is a four-generation photo taken in the spring of 1929 at my grandparents’ home in the Forest Hill area of Newark, New Jersey.

4-Generations

Here we have my aunt with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Their clothing and hairstyles are so very different, but you can see the facial resemblances.

  • The baby is my Aunt Jane Anne, born October 1928 in Newark, NJ. Round of face, barefoot, happy, she was the eldest of two beloved daughters.
  • The woman on the left is my grandmother, Marion Stokes Cooke Flanders, dressed in a white flapper-style dress that she undoubtedly made, as she made all her clothes. She is wearing pearls, a watch, bracelet, and rings, so this is not a casual photo. Marion was born in New York City in May 1902 and died in 1960 at age 58.
  • Marion’s mother and my great-grandmother, Jane Morrison Cooke, is the woman on the right. Jane, or Jennie as she was called, was born in Pennsylvania in 1871 to Scottish immigrants. Her husband died in 1925 and she wore black, as she is doing in this photo, for the rest of her life.  She wears a practical watch and a wedding ring, and long knotted pearls that gleam on her shapeless black dress. Jennie died in 1946 at age 74.
  • Margaret Brookmire Morrison Segar, my great-great-grandmother, sits in the center of the picture. She was born in Scotland in 1845, outlived two husbands, and died in New Jersey at age 93 in 1939. Margaret was a practical nurse and a practical woman, marrying her second husband while the first was in an insane asylum. Her hairstyle and black dress are very old fashioned, with lace at the neck and a long skirt in the age of flappers. Her snow-white hair is carefully arranged and she wears small wire-rim glasses.

I love this photo, seeing four generations of women in my family together. Each born in a different place and time, each dressed in their best but different fashions in clothing and hairstyles, showing that this photo marked an Occasion in their lives.


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52 Ancestors #2 – Favorite Photo, Marion Cooke

This week’s writing prompt is “Favorite Photo” and I have so many that I love!

But this one is my current favorite: my grandmother Marion “Mimi” Stokes Cooke, taken about 1924 in Brooklyn.

Marion (2)

I love my grandmother’s direct gaze in this portrait. She faced life head-on with her head held high, confident and clear-headed.  Life wasn’t always easy for her but you can see the strength in her eyes.

She was the eldest child and adored daughter of Robert Thomas Cooke and Jane Morrison. She was born in 1902 and lived in Brooklyn and Queens with her parents and younger brother Leighton until she married my grandfather in March 1927 and moved to Newark, New Jersey. She died of colon cancer in 1960 at age 58 when I was five years old.

Mimi was the first member of our family to go to college, graduating in 1920 with a diploma in Trade Dressmaking from the Pratt Institute School of Domestic Arts and Sciences. She made dresses, coats, even bathing suits, for herself and her daughters, and smocked baby clothes for me.  The wedding dress she created for my mom and her sister was beautifully and intricately made of satin and lace.

When she married in 1927, she moved into my grandfather’s childhood home, complete with a mother-in-law who refused to allow Mimi to cook meals until World War II rationing became too hard for her to deal with. Mimi developed a treasure trove of dessert recipes for my grandfather’s sweet tooth and I’m fortunate to have her recipe box, though some would be hard to make now since directions are sketchy.

My grandmother was all about family. She had a large complement of Cooke cousins and during the Depression, her mother and grandmother moved from Brooklyn into a house a few doors down the street so she was able to see them often.  She was playful with a sweet smile, and enjoyed vacations at their beach home in Manasquan. We lived an hour away when I was a child and she and my mom were able to see each other often. She died too young.

Although I have many pictures of my grandmother, this one is my favorite. I love her eyes, her soft but not quite perfect hair, the big flower on the dress that I imagine she made herself. She looks like someone who knows herself and is looking straight ahead at life.