All posts by Jeff Record

Jeff Record

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. An Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.

Returning Elijah

Elijah Burson (1807-1886)

A year ago last summer I was contacted by a gentleman from Zeeland, Michigan. While out weekend bargain hunting, he had come across an antique photograph for sale at a local flea market. The gentleman wrote with empathy about family history, and he seemed to have at least a hobbyist’s eye for old pictures. His curiosity was piqued by this one particular picture, so he purchased it, no doubt saving it from the fate of some Michigan land fill.  He said that the only identifier as to who the person in the photo might be were the words “Grandpa Burson” written on its back.

From what I could gather, the man from Zeeland enjoys following where the clues in any old pictures might take him. Continue reading Returning Elijah

A memory bank

Mrs. Alta V. Lee with her daughter and grandson in Long Beach, ca. 1955.

Recently, on a trip to Long Beach, California, I did what most people do when they visit their home town. I did a bit of sightseeing. With my daughter and her fiancé, we hit the urban streets hoping to find the perfect little Italian restaurant. I hadn’t been downtown in literally decades, so it was interesting to see what about my old city had and hadn’t changed.

Naturally, the kids had to listen to me talk about ‘the old days,’ what used to be ‘here or there,’ and of course they had to hear tales of the old roller coaster that went way out over the ocean in a death-defying swirl of creaking bolts and lumber.[1] (I’ve decided it’s sort of fun to watch the kids’ eyes glaze over…) However, a curious thing started to happen to me as we went up and down one of those streets. I became a little boy again. Continue reading A memory bank

A tale of two Ogles

Mary Elizabeth (Kraus) Ogle (1886-1970)

There is a remote area in the study of family history. Some will call it a myth, or say it has no proper place in the field of study. It hides from anyone who would study it like a registrar, and rarely cloaks itself in any vital records. I’ve taken to calling it existential genealogy, and while hardly essential, I believe it is something all of us who study or experience family history encounter from time to time.[1]

As a young boy there was no one more revered in my family than my great-grandmother “Mrs. Ogle.” You may have heard me mention her before – with deference being given to her feelings concerning my grandmother’s adoption.[2] Continue reading A tale of two Ogles

Who was Stillman Burr?

Courtesy of Maps.com

One of my ‘favorite’ brick walls (talk about an oxymoron!) is that of my great-great-great-grandfather Stillman Burr. He is reported born in Massachusetts circa 1797,[1] married Zeruah Kenyon at Woodstock, Vermont in 1817, and is believed to have died sometime after 1870 – possibly at Henderson County, Illinois.[2] And yes, I’ve always been proud to have been a part of the Burr “clan” – no matter what bad “P.R.” might necessarily go along with the old name. Continue reading Who was Stillman Burr?

Seduction’s double

Horace Fenton Bloodgood (1867-1928)

Recently, I was prompted to take a ‘second look’ at my wife’s grandfather, Horace Fenton Bloodgood. Fenton married my wife’s grandmother, a young Spanish girl named Magdalena Murrieta,[1] in Buena Vista, Sonora, Mexico, in 1908 while working for the railroad.[2] (He was 41 and she 16.) Family lore was that the senior Bloodgoods were so outraged by Fenton’s errant disrespect of the status quo that he had already been largely disowned prior to his parents’ deaths and his marriage to Magdalena. Indeed, Fenton was left only the proverbial $1.00 in the will of his father Julius Bloodgood. Continue reading Seduction’s double

What the heck are they doing?

Image A. “Spirit of Wyoming”

We all have them. Yes, those stacks of old photographs passed down to us. They are images from someone else’s life; what can be daunting is that these are pictures we have to appraise even when we know nothing about what they mean. Often disorganized, unidentifiable, and fading, we can’t quite bring ourselves to put them out for the mid-week trash collection. It just isn’t who we are.

In going through my grandmother Alta Sage Lee Dixon’s old photographs, I understand that many of the people in her pictures may always remain unknown to me. Yet I can’t help wondering if there aren’t patterns in her collection. I’m resolved to try and put these “pictures of unknowns” into at least a few “photographic categories.” After all, this is my grandmother’s life – so maybe if I understand how she pictured her own collection, I might understand more about her. Continue reading What the heck are they doing?

A knock at the door

Grace Brickley (1904-2004). Click on the images to expand them.

She was not pleased to see me – this paternal first cousin of my (biological) great-grandmother, Opal Young.[1] Her name was Grace,[2] and we had arranged our meeting through the mails, never having spoken to each other by telephone. Before, as I had stood on her stoop waiting for her to answer my knock, it was hard for me to believe that I would be meeting with a blood relative of my grandmother’s – one outside the small circle of my grandmother’s own descendants. I wondered how she might appear to me (part of me thought surely on a broomstick?) and I wondered what of “her family” she might recognize in me, too.

In some ways I am not sure why Grace agreed to see me at all. She was, after all, a 91-year-old spinster living alone in the hills above Glendale, California. While I had done my best to answer her many questions in advance, the prospect of meeting a strange relation at the door that day must have both daunted and intrigued her. Continue reading A knock at the door

John Henry’s honor

John Henry Record and his family. Click on the images to expand them.

Blame it on expediency and not paying attention, but I’ve misrepresented myself. Yes, I know occasionally we all do such things, but in this instance I need to clarify and correct – so as to set ‘the Record’ (pun intended) straight. It involves a statement I made for my “bio” here at Vita Brevis.[1]

My bio states that I enjoy “helping [my] ancestors to complete their unfinished business” (certainly true) and that I “successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge” (not true!). Continue reading John Henry’s honor

Flower power

A Sage family gathering: June Sage Peck (1896-1991) next to husband Ernest Bedford Payne (1902-1970), fourth and fifth from left.

Sometimes in the course of studying family history it helps when the right sort of inspiration knocks at our door. Blog sites like Vita Brevis and different forms of social media allow ways for like minded people of similar genealogical concerns to reach out to one another. And while I would not exactly consider Findagrave.com a “social networking site,” a recent experience reminds me that the inspiration to study family history can come from many different sources.

Seven years ago, I placed virtual flowers on-line for the memorial to my great-uncle Ernest Bedford Payne (1902–1970).[1] I find placing virtual flowers on findagrave memorials does two things: (a) it allows me to pay respect to my loved ones, and (b) allows me a trail of bread crumbs letting me know if I have previously visited a memorial I might not readily remember the next time around. I must confess I hadn’t been back to visit Uncle Ernest’s memorial in quite a while. Continue reading Flower power

Never mentioned

“Some secrets never leave us alone…” – Diane Capri

Opal Young (1895-1978)

In my father’s house, there was a subject we were forbidden to speak of. This was the subject of my grandmother’s adoption and her biological mother.[i] Under pain of reprisal, we were told never to speak of it – or of her. We didn’t even know her name, and what leaked through the hushed whispers of grown-up conversation was not murmured with much kindness.

The secret of grandmother’s adoption was the order of the day as long as my adopted great-grandmother was living. My great-grandmother was greatly revered, so for us to cause her any duress would rank as an unforgivable transgression. These “never to mention” rules stayed in effect long after my great-grandmother’s death in 1970 – though this maxim certainly didn’t stop the budding genealogist in me from finding new angles to find out the truth behind the whispers. Continue reading Never mentioned