“We’re so sorry Uncle Albert ….” – Paul and Linda McCartney
In the fall of 1978, shortly after our marriage, I was introduced to various members of my bride’s family. While our families were different in many ways, they were inherently the same, causing the young family historian in me to take note about who was who with regard to my wife’s relatives. One of the relatives to whom I was introduced was “Uncle Albert.”
I should mention that have I never actually met Uncle Albert. I never shook his hand or spoke with him. However, Uncle Albert was to become one of my most poignant and memorable “brick walls.” Continue reading Lost but not forgotten 2→
Many of the vernacular photos I’ve bought in the last few months have no information about the sitter – sometimes the subject is identified by a nickname, such as “Stinky.” I recently bought an intriguing image of a man (apparently) dancing, and I was delighted to find his full name and date of birth on the reverse: Cecil Calvert Taliaferro, born 24 January 1922.
A glance at Ancestry.com for Cecil suggested a complex identity: he appears in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index as Cecil Calvert Taliaferro (born 24 January 1923), also known as Chet Tolliver, also known as Chet Toliver. It is as Cecil Taliaferro that he is buried at Melvin Cemetery in Melvin, McCulloch County, Texas, but Ancestry links Cecil and Chet at the Social Security Death Index. Continue reading Also known as→
Inspired by the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, Horace Walpole gave us the word serendipity. The following three tales shine among my past treasures as extraordinary encounters that would have been lost to history had I not been in the right place at the right time.
In the fall of 1983, I drove to West Wareham, Massachusetts on a mission to find my great-grandfather’s grave. As I searched in vain for the stone, an elderly man who lived across the road from the cemetery spied my Vermont license plate and asked for whom I was searching. “Millard Morse, father of Emory,” I said. He retorted, “Who ARE you?” Continue reading Serendipity→
Recently, the New England Historic Genealogical Society participated in “Free Fun Friday,” a yearly summer event sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation for no-cost admission to cultural venues in Massachusetts. A couple who attended the event at NEHGS on August 19 sat down at the “Archivist for a Day” table that I was manning with co-workers and asked if they could quickly write some notes before their consultation with Research Services. The husband inquired about my department, the Jewish Heritage Center (JHC) at NEHGS, and mentioned that his family was Jewish and that his uncle had actually been a rabbi. Continue reading An unexpected discovery→
My photography collection recently took a decided step into new territory when I started acquiring vernacular photographs – images characterized, generally, by their lack of provenance and offering limited opportunities for identifying the subject. When I bought one large lot, though, I was surprised and pleased to find quite a lot of information on the reverse of the prints, enough that I am hopeful more can be learned about the people shown.
For starters, the (presumably female) scribe who wrote neatly on most of the prints dated them precisely: most are from 3 September 1944, with one or two from four days later. The focus of her interest is clear: Wayne Ehler, whose gymnastic endeavors she much admires. Two photos are marked in another hand, and perhaps this one is male, since he subtly denigrates Wayne and boasts of his own comparable accomplishments (not shown). Continue reading Friendly rivalries→
My maternal grandparents were born in 1932: they were just nine years old at the beginning of World War II. They grew up blocks from each other in the Bronx: Nana in The Alley, and Papa on the other side of the tracks (literally; train tracks separated their neighborhoods) on Elton Avenue. When I come to visit, they often talk about their childhood – and I always listen. And while I am a wonderful and attentive listener, I am terrible at recording our conversations. My most recent visit, however, I was determined to conduct a proper interview. Continue reading A Bronx tale→
For a recent research case, I was trying to locate a naturalization record which had been listed in an index to the Declarations of Intention, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York1917-1950, at FamilySearch.org. However, when searching through the actual records, I found that the file number for this record was attached to a record with another person’s name. Continue reading Overseas military naturalizations→
The recent gift of some family photos reminds me that, well as in some ways I knew my maternal grandfather, there will always be things one cannot know, save by lucky chance. My grandfather was a career Naval officer, one who later went into business and then, in retirement, was ordained an Episcopal minister. A native of Norfolk in Virginia, Frederick Jackson Bell (1903–1994) was appointed to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1919, when he was 16, and for the next 28 years he led a peripatetic existence, from Scotland and the Mediterranean to California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War. Continue reading “Brought to ‘attention’”→
My ancestry is replete with American patriots, soldiers – veterans. From Anthony Morse Jr., a lieutenant in the militia at Newbury, Massachusetts, in the 1660s, to Samuel Morse, a soldier in the War of 1812; from Thomas Morse, a patriot in the American Revolution, to Colonius Morse, a private in the 19th Massachusetts Regiment during the Civil War, I have ancestors who served in most major U.S. conflicts from the colonial period to the 1970s. I often wonder what life was like for my family in these times of turmoil. How did war affect the young men who served? How did it change them? Continue reading Transformations→
When I contemplated the subject of my first post, I decided that I should write about the person who sparked my genealogical interest in the first place: my paternal grandfather, Adrian Sidney Todd. Adrian died young, and I never had the chance to meet him, so I thought I would use genealogy to see what I could find out for myself. He was born 6 February 1918 in Georgia to Adrian Sidney and Susie (Stanley) Todd, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps in both World War II and Korea. Continue reading A sojourn in California→