Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

Google Image

Sometimes I like to play Hide-and-Seek. It's a pretty predictable game with little children.

I get so frustrated when someone breaks the rules. It's memories of calling the police and frantically trying to remember what a child was wearing, the color of their hair, and distinguishing physical characteristics that have me not a huge fan of the game with medium to larger-sized children.

Finding themselves bored with the game they have randomly quit and fallen asleep in a closet or the top of a bunk bed, hidden under piles of blankets.

Family history is like a great Hide-and-Seek adventure. Other times it feels like Blind Man's Bluff, or Marco Polo!


Frederick Lester Lowrie was a master of the game in life and death. Or so he has led me to believe. Did he just give up and stop playing? Seems so.

Maybe you could read this with a magnifying glass!

In 1901 he married Ottilie Schweigl in England. He and she raised 4 children for at least 8 years. Every family member that I've interviewed said that he died "traveling the Continent" around 1909. All I know for sure is that by the 1911 census, Ottilie (aka Olga) is still saying she's "married" but her husband isn't on the record. Seems that he found the edge of the world and jumped off.

If he was dead why not just say so? If they divorced, why not record it? What's the big deal?

I have a few more facts which lead me to speculate about a few things. But speculations still need to be substantiated.

Google Images
In 1926 he was a passenger  on the "Rochambeau" headed from France to New York. Birth years and place match. Is it the MY Frederick L. Lowrie?

In 1928, two years later he's returning to New York via the "S.S.President  Garfield". Same person as before.

In 1930 he makes his final recorded journey to New York on the "SS Degrasse".

I feel so close.

I think there's one thing Frederick didn't count on. I don't buy the "traveling the Continent" story completely. And I don't give up until every stone has been unturned.


Some things may stay hidden from sunlight for years. But eventually someone comes along and finds some buried treasure! Today it was I who did the digging and I was pleasantly surprised.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricanes Past and Present: It's Time to Go Home

 Yesterday we spent time removing potential projectiles from our yard, selling a car to make room for the rental in the garage, and doing our best to prepare for Hurricane Irene. I talked to our daughter in New Jersey and she said they'd bought a generator, a chain saw and a bunch of supplies.

As I crawled into bed my husband said, "I've told you the story of my dad and the 1938 hurricane, haven't I?"

Main St. Woods Hole, Ma. 1938

He is so much like his dad! I was sure I'd heard it before. He repeats the stories every time his memory is triggered by something.

 So I said, "Yes, you have." thinking I could throw the switch and send the train down a different track. But, I knew that he'd tell me again anyways no matter what I said.

Google Image

So I listened.

Google Image

My father-in-law, Marsh I called him, was 12-yrs.-old and was out doing his paper route. He was coming down the hill from The Nobska Lighthouse when he saw beach houses (they weren't on stilts like they are now) floating over the street from the beach to the pond.

"He decided it was time to go home!" my husband said. Good decision! I'd never heard that part of Marsh's story. I'm glad I listened.

 It got me thinking.

Back in 1938 there were no hurricane warnings. They weren't given public names until 1953. If a storm progressed enough to make you nervous you went home and did the best you could with what you had until it passed.

All but 2 of my nine children have had a paper route. Some started as young as 5-yrs.-old. I took time for me to get used to them making the mile-long circuitous route back home. I'd always go with the younger ones. They had no cellphone, so I was always on edge waiting for them to come home.

Irene is beginning to show her face here in Hudson, New Hampshire this morning. The 4am. paper delivery guy drove by and threw the paper out the car window onto the neighbor's driveway. The power may go out. Church was cancelled last night. We're staying put.

The kids have talked to their friends on the Cape. Towns are shutting down for the day they announced yesterday.

The last I heard there were 6 deaths blamed on Irene. Compare that to the 600 deaths for the 1938 hurricane.

I find it interesting that some things change, and some things never change. When the storms of life threaten, whether or not we've been warned, we all  think about what matters most and think about keeping our loved ones safe and comfortable.

For me that's what family history is all about; gathering in those I am related to and responsible for, making sure they are "home" with me, and that they know they are loved and needed.

Marsh died 4 years ago. I wonder what he's thinking. He's probably saying to all of his buddies," Bunch of wusses! '38! Now THAT was a hurricane!"

So, my message for today, Sunday, August 28, 2011, three weeks shy of the 1938 hurricane's 74th anniversary is,

I'ts time to go home.

I'ts time to remember.

Are we including the most important things in our preparations?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Evelyn's Out of the Closet. Again!

Sometimes it's the simplest thing that'll make me feel more connected to my ancestors.

This morning I pulled out my 4-generation Pedigree/Family Group Worksheet, and file #4/5 from my File System. That's the folder for my father's parents. I felt the urge to find a story to share with you. I keep getting drawn to my Grandpa Ken, my dad's dad!

 So I start looking at his documents again, and before I knew what was happening I was deeply immersed in his first wife's story.

She's my dad's mother, Evelyn Michaele Earles. I wrote a bit about her in "Forgive Me If I Slip Away". That post seemed so sad.
 This one makes me laugh. But I do have a strange sense of humor.

How did that happen? Honestly, I can't tell you! I wanted to fill in some gaps on his timeline and got sidetracked I guess when it came to figuring out ages and circumstances surrounding his marriage to Evelyn.

On the one hand this woman must be very shy or full of guilt or shame. On the other she won't leave me alone. She's SO indecisive! My computer crashed twice, the scanner stalled about three times and I could never get the 1930 census record to download properly!

So guess what I found? I'm looking at the 1930 census for Evelyn and she shows up in two places, First at home with her parents in Seattle and also at a boarding school in Tacoma, Washington.

She's a 17-yr.-old "pupil" at The Annie Wright Seminary in 1930. She was living about 45 minute from home.

I get the chills! No. I didn't go there.

The Annie Wright Seminary opened its doors in the Fall of 1884 to daughters of the pioneers of the territory. It was an all-girls' school "that would make possible Christian education for the rising generation of daughters of pioneers."

I was 17 when I boarded at Walnut Hill School in Natick, Mass. It was founded in 1893, just 9 years after my grandmother's school.

I went there on scholarship to study and to dance. I'd started ballet as a freshman in high school and somehow ended up in an all-girls school, about 1 1/2 hours from home. I knew we didn't have the money for that school! Maybe the scholarship covered it? My mother was a genius when it came to meeting our passion's needs.

Okay, maybe this is a bit strange to you, but I got a huge chuckle about what I'd talk to Evelyn about. Wow! We had something in common. We both went away to school. The schools were both all-girls' schools. Maybe we'd talk about how crazy it was having no boys around? Or how I never got to go to the prom because WE had to ask the boys and none of us knew any in town?

Or maybe she'd just stare at me like a "deer in the headlights".

You see, I liked boys. Turns out, after a brief marriage to my dad's dad, she decided she liked girls more.

There Evelyn. We've added a bit more of your story. Own it! I love you!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

This post looks at the value of a PASSPORT, more importantly a PASSPORT APPLICATION. I have the original, but has a copy. 
I found birth dates and places for my grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather on it.
My great grandfather was the applicant, so his physical traits and occupation and reasons for travel are on the document as well.
The passenger's list and ship's name were also on
Google images gave me the picture of the ship AND its history.

Passport photo March 21, 1921
Edward deZeng Kelley (1876-?) and Howard E. Kelley (1905-1971)
My mother's father and grandfather

Looks can be deceiving!

My memories of Grandpa are few and far between. We'd visit him and my grandmother at their hilltop home on St. Thomas every Spring. I'd see him drinking the milk from the bottom of his cereal bowl as I walked into the marble-floored kitchen, hoping to make a connection over breakfast, the only time I'd ever see him during the day.

 "Good morning Grandpa!" I'd try.

"Mmm." he'd manage back.

My impression was he'd rather have been somewhere else.

So, I'm looking at this passport application and I think, boy, was life THAT serious for them? I keep reading. Edward was a broker. His son Harold worked on Wall St., too, when he grew up. Not a whole lot of fun there to me. I don't think I would survive a day in that world! 

So where WERE they going?

 Cuba. That's where. 

The Morro Castle 
Scrapped about 5 years after Edward and Harold's trip.
This is a Google image of the famous Morro Castle built a few years later.
It made regular trips from New York to Cuba.
 It had a reputation as a "floating whorehouse"!
Its 1934 disaster made headlines.

I have a memory of playing with cigar boxes as a little girl. My mom would give them to us periodically. I still remember the smell. I would put shell collections and anything else that was valuable to me inside the stiff cardboard box with a hinged lid. I never asked where those boxes came from. My dad may have liked cigars. I'll have to ask my mom. 

Now I'm wondering if some of those boxes were from Grandpa? Was it that trip to Cuba that helped him fall in love with the tropics and want to build a home in the Virgin Islands? Seems high-powered people end up on islands a lot.

The passport says Edward was 45. Harold was 16. Says they'd never applied for one before. I always assumed they'd travelled for business, Edward showing Harold "the ropes".

There's a line that asks, "Object of visit"?

 Someone typed in "Recreation". 

Guess they had to leave the country to have some fun.

What happens in Cuba stays in Cuba?

I looked at their picture again and again and wondered. 

"A picture is worth a thousand words", they say. 

I say, "You may have fooled a lot of people. But I think you had your moments when the suit and ties came off."

To be a fly on the wall!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And Their Hearts Shall Turn

There are days and weeks that are so overwhelming because they are full of problems to be solved, decisions to be made, and behaviors to be understood. 
Yesterday was one of those days.

My grandmother, Madeleine Lowrie (1907-1998), outstretched hand, palm down, slowly waving up and down, drawing my eyes up to her kind face, sat with me whispering clues to answers to the chaos in my mind and heart, encouraging me to slow down and find some buried treasures.

Mimi was fun! She was dressed as a man here. I
think she was a student at Parson's in this pic.

"Keep looking", I heard as I poured over photos of her where she was a little girl, then a teenager, young adult art student, working artist and mother. I was taken aback and little things started to make sense.

"See how I look like your Madeleine? I was shy and vulnerable, had a flare for the dramatic and was always dabbling with paints.  Your Madeleine will be fine. There's nothing wrong. Look at me! I turned out well. Let her paint and make a mess. Send her to art and dance classes. Her soul aches for those things."

I was starting to feel like Ebenezer Scrooge travelling through time as she helped me to notice dates and ages and circumstances that explained so much. It was as if she knew that if she could show me her family's story I'd see mine better.

She seemed calmly desperate to give me a new perspective.

"Betsy, do the math. Do you see how young my brother was when he stowed away on a ship, running from memories of his (possibly) deceased  father? I was only 4 and was pretty sad and confused myself. He was only 12 or so. Just like your boy, Connor. 

"He was only a little older when he failed to pick up that trunk on that Canadian dock. You know the one I mean? The one my mother sent with all of the family documents in it? He carried the stigma from that one event for the rest of his life. Sure, everyone joked about it. But it also might have hurt his self-esteem a little.

"Can you see why he would have forgotten or just shrugged off the responsibility? 

"Forgive Connor. He's young. His brain is growing so rapidly. He cares. He just moves from one project to the next, always in a hurry for the next adventure. He really doesn't see the mess he leaves in his wake. Just let him grow up. He means no harm nor disrespect"

Now, just one more.

 "Your Kelley and I look alike and we are kindred spirits. She's about my age when I started college. She's got a good head on her shoulders. I went to boarding school, then to Parson's School of Design in New York when I was just 17, and then to study art in Paris. What an adventure!

"My mom traveled with me sometimes. But a lot of the time I was on my own. I made friends and a life full of memories. Push her gently. She's young and is out of school a year early. Give her time to grow. She'll figure it out. 

"Show her my story. She may find something in it for her. This one's between me and her. She needs to see more possibilities. I can speak to her soul. I'll help her. Maybe I'll nudge her past some of her doubts and insecurities."

Yesterday I was looking for a good story to tell. But nothing was coming together. It wasn't until I started paying attention to the thoughts and feelings in my heart that I found one. The facts that I was finding were opening my eyes to three of my children who are at different stages in their lives. When I studied Mimi's life I felt like I had a mentor sitting beside me. She got to that place in my heart where I find the most strength. One that judges with understanding and compassion. I just needed to breath. I was reminded to remember.

Remember that we can all be recipients of a promise made long ago to our generation:

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.."
Malachi 4:6

It's quite a little miracle to me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Father and Son Stories

Don't you love a good story?

Google image
Imagine a wet, drizzly day. It's September 24th so it's probably a bit chilly, too. You're 21. Just another normal day. You set out with a friend to go to work in a nearby forest with a gun, ammunition and some lunch because you expect to be gone most of the day. You cross the river, meet up with other men, find your work area and a hollowed-out log where you'll keep your stuff dry while you work.

A year later the stuff is still in the log, safely hidden. The only evidence that could prove it was you who was there is concealed as worried friends and townspeople start the search for you and your friend.

It's 1724. There are always concerns about Indians and being captured and scalped. Those were the days. Turns out Nathan Cross and Thomas Blanchard, and the rest of the work party were missed after a while when they didn't come home for supper. I've had those awful feelings when my children don't show up when they're scheduled, or aren't where they said they'd be. Times may have changed, but I'm learning that danger just changes faces.

Merrimack River, New Hampshire
It took a while, but by following clues along the shores of the Merrimack river the search party found the group being held captive by a group of Mohawk Indians from Canada. They had a skirmish when confronted, rescuing all but Nathan and Thomas who were carried up into Canada where they'd spend a year until they found a way (I can't imagine what that was) to pay their ransom.

The guns and provisions that were secreted away were found exactly where they'd left them in the log in the woods. Nathan's musket can be seen in a museum in Nashua.

Can you imagine telling your children that story?

Well I'm sure Nathan did. Along comes his son, John Cross in 1735.

 We're still in Hudson, New Hampshire, but the country is slowly waking up and changing. By 1777 John is married with 7 children, ages 1 to 18. His wife Elizabeth is 42. Grandpa Nathan has been dead for 11 years. But I'm sure John kept his dad's memory and story alive for the 4 children who never met him.

 I can hear Grandpa Nathan saying, "Sure! Who wants to sit on my lap?" when begged for the umpteenth time to tell his story of the famous kidnapping by the Indians. Was that the only story he had? I have to wonder.

John and Elizabeth may have watched as those little faces regarded their grandfather with awe and admiration.  But there would be a new story to tell within a few years. This one from John himself.

The Revolutionary War would borrow their dad for a while with no promises to send him home alive. How would that feel saying goodbye to your dad as he got the call to march to Fort Ticonderoga in New York state, over 160 miles away? Maybe he was already with his company of about 30 men and had said goodbye days or weeks earlier. I don't know.

Fort Ticonderoga, New York
(Google image)
All I know is that on July 5th, 1777 they started marching. They had a mission. Help save the fort. They were about 70 miles into the trek when they got word that the fort had been taken, lost to the British in what is now known as the "Saratoga Campaign". Did they turn around and go home? What was the mood of the company? 

All I could think of was John on the one hand sighing with relief that he'd see his family soon, and on the other kicking himself for losing an exciting story to circumstances that he could have told alongside his dad's.

There is a lot of history about this little family and about our country that is calling to me now. What fun! I can picture the country and my husband's 4th and 5th great grandfathers' lives during that time more vividly now.

But the story for me was really about a father and a son and their adventures; the ones they'd tell their children and grandchildren. You know those stories that always try to outdo each other? The "Well-I-walked-10 miles-to-school-in-the-dead-of-winter!-What-are-you-complaining-about?" ones. Did father and son laugh about their adventures? Would the stories get grander over time? Would they embellish them with bears in the woods and suffering of thirst and fatigue as they walked and feared for their lives?

I would have loved to have been there listening!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An Emotional Payoff!

This is my beautiful boy, Brody. He came home for the weekend yesterday. I wasn't planning on being busy. I wanted to sit and enjoy him.

 But, I spent the morning painting the kitchen, hallway and stairs, and swimming with the little ones.

Finally, I made my way upstairs and got the last gallon of paint out to apply to my daughter's bedroom walls.

And then Brody came in, sat down, and breathed new life into my weary soul. He doesn't know that. He will when he reads this because he always reads my stuff. He is a quiet support to me.

But here's the gem: he told me he loves the stories about his ancestors! Brody is and always has been someone who marches to the beat of his own drummer. He'll master anything he sets his mind to. And here he was talking to me about genealogy. My heart started racing and I had to catch myself because I can get overly excited when it comes to this stuff. (I know when that is happening 'cause he'll start laughing).

He said he'd been so inspired when hearing stories about his ancestors that he was wondering about a career in genealogy. I don't know much, but I told him it's pretty much a labor of love. It's NOT a hobby! It's an important work to be in love with. There are things he's meant to do with his life. Part of that will be to help to find more ancestors, get them in order, and share their stories. He'll figure out how to do that while sharing his music and other interests.

Annual Jan.1st Polar Bear swim.
This pic. is old and he's going to kill
me for sharing it! But he's a fun guy. Just had to add it.
What I really want to share is my surprise. Surprise that someone whom I regard as fun and fully-engaged in life and all of the adventures it has to offer, shares my passion. Family history touches a deep part of us, a place where all of our emotions live. It's not always a place you get to in a busy world.

But Brody came to visit. And I found out that he goes there sometimes, too. When I didn't think anyone was listening. When I was writing because I felt compelled to share their stories because they'd bug me 'til I did. You know...those invisible people.

I don't know if I can convey well enough what the new connection I feel with my son means to me. To know that by doing what I love someone else that I love was touched and inspired. Such a simple thing. But it could have been something I'd never have known about my son had I not had the courage to just be me, doing what I love to do, sharing it bit by bit.

Thanks Brodes! You made your mama smile. You gave me a reason to keep going. Thanks for listening. And thanks for talking to me. I love you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Hate Saying Goodbye

This post is all about feelings. Feelings that I've had since I was a very little girl, living on Cape Cod in my beautiful, old Victorian near the ocean. It was way back then when I was first becoming aware of the world outside of myself that I could feel a deep connection to people, even if we'd just met. I'd get all choked up when it was time to say goodbye.

I still remember standing outside one summer day giving hugs and kisses as a group of people was getting ready to leave from a visit. My heart hurt so much. And I barely knew them. I was shy and never talked to them or played with them. But I "knew" them. You know what I mean?

Well, yesterday our landlord came by for a visit. He's selling the house. We have to leave. Soon. We've been here almost a year. We've all made friends. But that's not unusual.

What's unusual is I've made deep connections with my husband's ancestors here in this town. I didn't know they were here when we chose this town to live in. But a lot of them are buried right down the road at Alvirne Memorial Chapel's Cemetery.

This beautiful stone church is within walking distance of my house in Hudson, NH.
Its cemetery is right behind it. The children love to walk its grounds checking out
their ancestors' headstones.

I'm not ready to say goodbye to them. I know they're not going anywhere. Right? But I think they like me hanging out on their old stomping grounds. I think they're going to miss me being right down the road. No, I don't believe they live in the cemetery. Maybe they'll come hang out on the Cape if we manage to get back there.

Visiting the town hall, the Historical Society, the museum in Nashua are all great places to find documents about their lives. But what I'll miss is them going with me. The feelings of their presence when I walk where they walked, or see what they saw are what I'll miss. The shared excitement as I finally put my hands on something that they touched once, too. They like that I'm curious about their lives. Doesn't everybody?

But I have to say goodbye, like it or not. And I'll remember them and how they made me feel like I'd come home. I came kicking and screaming. I leave with a heavy heart. It has been my privilege to be their "champion", to be their friend. And they've supported me in this crazy and sometimes lonely work of family history research where two worlds coexist.  Where you make friends that you can't bring home to dinner because no one else can see them.

They understood my passion.

They know I get it.

They know that I care.

They are happy to be remembered. It took over 200 years, but it happened! I just hope they know how much I love them, and how much they've enriched my life. I can't thank them enough for getting my family here, and for being so patient as I have so much to do that's not related to them.

I hope they know I'll keep working to find every family member and will put them in order with as accurate a story as I can create. Then I will have paid them back for all they've done for me this year.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Value of Sharing

Google images

"There is no delight in owning anything unshared"

20 years ago I walked into the Family History Center in Portland, Maine because I was told that I could sit down at a computer and someone would be there to help me get started on my journey finding my 4 generations of ancestors. The consultant asked to see what I had to start with and I showed her.

Birth certificate of Frederick Lester Lowrie, husband of Olga  "Whoever-You-Are" Lowrie

We got on the computer and accessed a record that showed the name of James Frederick Lowrie, A descendant was living in Utah and had put her information online for others to see. I was euphoric. I think the consultant was relieved! There are many great and unexpected finds in genealogical searches. But more often than not it's a walk through a dry, hot desert. Once in a while there's that mirage of the ever-elusive nourishment. I guess that's what keeps us searching, and digging.

 Following clues.

Waiting for rain.

Where would I be today if the descendants of the one common ancestor of  Frederick Lowrie hadn't made their records available to me? It took that one success to convince me that I wanted to continue finding more people to make the picture complete. By the way, our family history is NEVER complete! Even when you have all of the documentation, and everyone is in their proper place there are still at least two more things to do. We've talked a lot about writing their stories. But there's another gift you can give them and their descendants who are scattered around the world.

Share what you have with your family and the world.

Google images

 People who are thirsty will drink just about anything, first filtering out as much waste as they can. It's the same with family history researchers, To keep this work alive and flourishing we need documents. We'll make sure through careful comparisons to see whether or not people actually fit in family lines. But we can't do it without those documents.The Internet has made it so easy. Hasn't it?

Share what you have. Even if it's only with family and friends. Be as generous as you want to be. Take baby steps. Start a family history blog. You can make it public or keep it private. At sites like you can find a wealth of information, ideas, and help. I started a tree at It works for me. I've connected a few of my lines (carefully  researching their research!) that match and connect with a common ancestor in someone else's line.

We're all connected. And like pieces of a puzzle, we fit uniquely together. That's thrilling to me. Sometimes I'm looking for the piece that's sitting in your pile. Over there. In the corner. In that box. Would you get it out for me? Maybe today, maybe next month, we'll stumble across each other. one giving, the other receiving. And a link amongst the living and the dead will be formed.

  • What is your favorite way to share your research?
  • Do you have a site or software you'd recommend over another?

Monday, August 1, 2011

You'll Be Someones Ancestor Someday

Have you ever considered that fact?
You will be someones ancestor someday.

an·ces·tor (n s s t r) n. 1. A person from whom one is descended, especially if more remote than a grandparent; a forebear. 2. A forerunner or predecessor.

The last thing on the younger generation's mind is their ancestors and their descendants. They are ALL about living today to its fullest. The little boys in the picture above are my grandmother's brothers. I'm sure all that they were thinking as they posed for that picture was,"Can I play now?"

So, off they'd go, one day running into the next until their life was a series of mostly forgotten moments. I read a blogpost today that stirred me: World War II London Blitz Diary . I would have loved to have a journal like Ruby has. One that would expose me to the thoughts, stresses, sorrows, and challenges of someone I'm related to. That would make them come "alive" to me. I'd see them as a source of wisdom.

You could start a journal today.

Do you understand what that would mean to your children and grandchildren? You may think that what you are going through doesn't matter. But if you leave your written journey from beginning to end of a specific problem or challenge you will be a source of strength to someone. You'll have made a difference.

What if Olga had written about her feelings and how she grieved for her son Roy (above) after receiving news that he'd been killed in action in France during WW1? Don't you think seeing the process of what she went through as she mourned her loss would help me with any future grief I might experience?

Don't you agree that having a first-person narrative of what it was like for my grandparents to live during the Depression would help me with my self-esteem as I face uncertain and precarious financial challenges? Sure, they would give me only one point of view. But just knowing that someone else struggles with the same things (and sometimes succeeds!) creates a sense of camaraderie and support.

Know that your life matters.

Start today. Start small. Update it whenever. But write something down. What's going on right now? Write the truth. Ex[press all of your feelings whether they be joyful or full of doubt and frustration. 

You can make a difference.

Share with me, if you will, what you think about journaling. Have you started one. Do you have one of your ancestors? Leave a comment. I know people are interested in what you have to say.