Picnic for Twelve ā€” A Family Memoir


I am happy to report that one of my clients has published Picnic for Twelve, a book about his parents and their growing family as they navigated The Great Depression and other events over the last century. If you are interested in the life of Irish-Americans during the 1900s, have Boston-area ancestors, or are just looking to read a cleverly written yarn, I highly recommend that you download the book for your Kindle or purchase a print copy.

I provided genealogical research support on the Driscoll and Sheehan families. This was a fun and challenging project to work on, as various members of the family moved around a lot, originating in or living in locations including New York City, Southern California, here in Maryland, and of course, Massachusetts and Ireland. Along the way, vital records unlocked most of the clues needed to solve a few family mysteries. As part of the project, I read an early version of the manuscript. The author is a former editor of the Boston Globe and a great storyteller ā€” I highly recommend this book!

Album Rescue Project: Album 1, Photos 2-3

The next two photos in my Album Rescue Project were floating loose, but apparently were originally displayed on the second page of the album. Photos that originally appeared on the first page are no longer there, sadly — they either were removed or fell out before I bought the album.

Here is Photo 2 and what’s written on the reverse (click on the images for larger versions):

Well, here is a dilemma. There appear to be two different dates assigned to this photo. On the front is written “S-1917,” but the back has the notation “Oct. 1914 Elizabeth Shugars.” I am thrilled that there’s a name, but now I can’t trust that the notations on the front of each photo contain accurate date information.

Now, is the name the identity of the woman or the child pictured? A search on Ancestry brought up several Elizabeth Shugars, but two are holding my interest for now. The albums, I know, contain photos of sites around Washington, D.C., and possibly Baltimore. There is an Elizabeth Shugars living in Baltimore in 1930 according to the U.S. census. She was born in 1870 or 1871 in Virginia. If this is the right Elizabeth Shugars, she must be the woman pictured in the photo, instead of the child. There is still another Elizabeth Shugars, born in 1899 and also living in Baltimore.

Fortunately, the piece of tape on the back isn’t also attached to the front of the photo.

Moving on to Photo 3 (and its reverse side):

Red Bridge Park

Here we have the same little girl as that in Photo 1, in my opinion. She doesn’t look very happy, does she? The notation on the front reads “S-1916,” but the writing on the back is more exciting. It says “Red Bridge Park.”

The bulk of Google results for “red bridge park” refer to a park in Cicero, Indiana. Here is one web site with a photo of the park’s main buildings. Note how the conical shaped roof of the gazebo mimics that of those in Photo 3.

That said, a Google Images search brings up an old photo from a Red Bridge Park near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. That looks like the park behind the girl in Photo 3.

To read all of the posts about my Album Rescue Project, use the corresponding category here on my blog. Stay tuned for more!

Tombstone Tuesday: A Beauty, But a Head Scratcher

Check out this ornate tombstone at Copps Hill Burying Ground in Boston, Mass.:

Here is a close-up of the top portion:

What’s confusing is that the top portion claims it belongs to the tomb of Samuel Winslow. The bottom portion states, however, “Here Lyes the Mortal part of William Clark, Esq.” The rest of the lower portion is hard to read in my photo and there appears to be some damage to the text anyhow. The photo on FindaGrave isn’t much better.

I sure would like to know how these two gents were related.

Tombstone Tuesday: William DOWNE, Esq.

Still working through the photos I took in Boston last summer:

Here lies Interred
the Body of
William Downe, Esq.r
Age 40 Years
who departed this Life
May 6, 1759

This grave can be found in the Granary Burial Ground in the heart of Boston. Here is the FindaGrave record for William.

Tombstone Tuesday: Elizur Holyoke

Back to Boston for this week’s Tombstone Tuesday post:

Here is interr’d
the body of Elizur
Holyoke, who
Died (ey) 11th day
of August 1711
Aged about 60

The above photo was taken in Granary Burial Ground. You can view the FindaGrave record here.

I like the elaborate carvings — there’s a winged death’s head at the top, an urn flanked by two angels, many flowers and vines.

Friends Album: Checking in with the Neighbors

A while back, I found a 1920 census listing for Friends Album subject Frederick A. Young and fam and noticed that there was a family by the name of Wilson in the household next door. Is this a coincidence, given that there’s an Ellis Wilson in the Friends Album? Certainly ‘Wilson’ is a very common surname, but I felt I needed to dig deeper to see if I could find a connection to these neighbor Wilsons.

Ellis’ parents were Clarence T. Wilson and his wife, Susan. I haven’t really fleshed out their extended family or previous generations at this point because I was more interested in looking for more recent generations.

The Wilsons living next to the Youngs in 1920 are George R. (age 58), his wife Libby A. (age 60) and George’s mother, Elizabeth A (age 74). George is listed as a farmer.

The Wilsons are living next door to the Youngs in 1910 as well. Daughter Emma M. (age 24) is in the household at that time, as is son George E (age 15).

In 1900, the clan is even bigger. Another daughter, Libbie Belle, is with the family, along with mother-in-law Emily Hirst. Not only that, but there is another Wilson household right next door to them (on the other side from the Youngs): Albert and Annie, along with their son, Charles.

Most of these neighbor Wilsons have roots in New York, Connecticut or England. After looking a bit more into Clarence’s family history, however, he and his siblings were born in Massachusetts. Clarence’s parents hailed from Connecticut though. I’m trying to flesh out his father’s life a bit, but for now, there’s no clear connection between Ellis and his family and the Wilsons who were neighbors to the Youngs.

I suppose that there doesn’t really have to be such a connection between Ellis Wilson and the Youngs pictured in the album. The album is titled “Our Friends” and so it could be a hodge-podge of a acquaintances who are not related to each other in any way.


1900 U.S. Census, Fairfield County, Connecticut, population schedule, Newton, page 10, dwelling 90, family 94, Albert Wilson and family; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 May 2011).

1910 U.S. Census, Fairfield County, Connecticut, population schedule, Newton, page 15, dwelling 170, family 174, Geroge R Wilson and family; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 May 2011).

1920 U.S. Census, Fairfield County, Connecticut, population schedule, Newton, page 14, dwelling 240, family 249, George R. Wilson and family; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 May 2011).

Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas Webb

Here lies deposited the Remains
of Mr. Thomas Webb
who Died Very suddenly much
lamented y 8th July 1769
Aged 33 Years

He was born in the City of
Gloucester in England.

You can read more about him and the rest of the inscription on his tombstone on FindaGrave. Photo taken last summer at Granary Burial Ground in Boston, Mass.

Fun with Old Maps

I follow Historic Map Works on Google Reader and was pleased to see that the site recently added maps of Somerville, Mass., where I used to live. I decided to see if I could find my old address near Inman Square in the new maps available from the 1800s.

The first map (c. 1830) was hardly recognizable to me except for the name Prospect Hill. I lived very near that area.

I needed to see a more recent map to get my bearings. Fortunately, another map, circa 1892, was made available at the same time.

I was still having trouble pinpointing where my house would have been on these maps, which are oriented slightly different from what we see on Google Maps. I lived along one side of a triangle created by Prospect, Webster and Cambridge Streets:

This triangle is visible in both of the 1800s maps, but not in the same orientation. Whereas the triangle above points between 12 and 1 o-clock, on the 1800s maps, it points to 11 o’clock.

If you zoom in on the 1892 map, the triangle is located in the lower right corner, along the Cambridge city line. It’s in the bottom center on the 1830 map.

By the way, Prospect Hill figured prominently in the Revolutionary War. I took this photo several years ago on a walk around town one day:

Friends Album: Photos 11 & 12

I have acquired an old photo album containing many pictures from the late 1800s. Iā€™m going through the album to catalog the photos with as much information as can be gleaned from them. My hope is to return the album and photos to the descendants of those pictured. Read about the first photos in the album here. **Click on the images below for larger versions**

And we’re off to Massachusetts to try and find out more about Photo No. 11 (no written identifying marks on this photo):

Friend No. 11

Here we have O’Flynn’s Studio in Millbury, Massachusetts, which is really close to Worcester. I found a Thomas F. O’Flynn, photographer, in Worcester in many 1880s city directories.

Here are the addresses I found, all smack in the middle of Worcester:
244 Front (1884; 1888-90 [O’Flynn & Shaw; home 8 Barclay])
18 Grosvenor (1885-6; boards)
326 Main Street (1888; boards 18 Grosvenor)

I’m not convinced that this is our photographer, because he’s so thoroughly ensconced in Worcester and I’m not sure why he would then list Millbury in his imprint, but I’m filing this information away, just in case. Interestingly, it appears that this individual went on to become a school teacher, from other records I found.

The next photo is my favorite so far. Look at this face:

Friend No. 12 (Ellis B. Wilson)

The other reason this is my favorite is this lil’ babe has a name!

Reverse side of Friend No. 12's (Ellis B. Wilson's) photo.

Ellis is back in Danbury, Conn., and our old friend Charles Blackman took the photo. I investigated him in my post on Photos 5 & 6.

Ellis Burton Wilson was born 4 March 1893, according to many sources. He eventually moved to Hartford and went into the landscaping business. I located his death record. He lived to the age of 78, passing away 27 Jan 1971. FamilySearch has his WWII draft registration card, which includes a wealth of information, as does his WWI registration card on Ancestry.

I have high hopes for finding his descendants. [Update 3/12/11: I posted an update on my progress here.]

[Photos 13 & 14]


1900 U.S. Census, Fairfield County, Connecticut, population schedule, Danbury Town, page 3, dwelling 43, family 57, Ellis Wilson; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2011); National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm Roll: T623_132.

The Worcester Directory 1885-86, Thomas F. O’Flynn, page 252. Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2011).

Worcester, Massachusetts 1884, 1886, 1888-90, U.S. City Directories. Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2011).

Worcester, Massachusetts Directories, 1888-90. Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2011).

World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ellis Burton Wilson; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 March 2011).

World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Ellis Burton Wilson; FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 11 March 2011).

One Tomb, 83 Years of Archbalds

Back to the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, where this tombstone can be found (click the picture for a larger version):

Here’s the FindaGrave record for (the Rev.) Dr. (Mather) Byles, who starts off the list (be sure to check out the note left by a visitor to this page; also note who created this record). Here’s the record for Azor Archbald, whose tomb is pictured.