Monday, November 29, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Irish Tombstone Transcription

Our library’s professional genealogist is adept at suggesting interesting genealogy research projects.  A couple of years ago he mentioned that some of the Irish tombstones in the Old St. Rose Cemetery contained place of origin.  He thought it would be great to capture this information, publish it in Connecticut Ancestry, and post it on the Genealogy Club of Newtown’s website.  I took the bait.

With no experience at tombstone transcription or plan I walked the cemetery looking for stones that had county and/or parish information included.  I found some women’s stones listed maiden names.  I quickly realized these stones were a veritable gold mine for those researching their Irish ancestors. 

Peter Cavanaugh
The above stone belongs to Peter Cavanaugh who died 22 Nov 1862 at the age of 34. The back of the stone states he was a native of “Ballanabrackee” Kings County, Ireland.

This project led to a transcription of all Irish tombstones in Fairfield County, CT that include “native of” information.  Those transcriptions have all been published in Connecticut Ancestry.

I loved walking the cemetery and getting to know these long ago souls, and I learned some valuable lessons. 
·      Always respect the cemetery and the stones; get permission from the church and/or cemetery association when necessary or if in doubt.
·      Have a plan; plot out the cemetery so you can easily find the stones again.
·      Safety first - carry a cell phone; work in pairs.
·      Carry water and a soft vegetable brush to clean the stones.
·      Never use harsh detergents, bleach or wire scrub brushes.
·      If stones are down, carefully cut the grass around them with an edging tool.
·      Carefully brush the grass from the stone, squirt water, and gently brush.
·      Carry a mirror to help see the inscriptions; time of day and lighting are important.
·      Visit for further step-by-step instructions.
·      And most of all enjoy this exhilarating experience.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Those Places Thursday - Coldwater, Michigan

Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck intertwines the story of the unlikely murderer Hawley Crippen of Coldwater, MI and Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of the telegraph.  As I got into the book, I said to my husband, “Don’t you have an ancestor in Coldwater?”  His answer, “Yes, why?”  “Well, because it says here that there’s a picture in the Coldwater library of early settlers.”

Dr. S.S. Cutter - middle row, right

Dr. Stephen Starr Cutter was born June 9, 1819 in Enfield, Tompkins County, NY. In 1842 he moved to Coldwater, MI where he continued to study and practice medicine, as well as being involved in educational, town and state affairs.  He served on the Special Commission on Penal, Charitable, and Reformatory Institutions that produced as one of the recommendations for a State Public School at Coldwater for pauper and indigent children.

A call to the Coldwater Library resulted in the librarian knowing exactly which photo my husband referred to, and she put him on hold while she went to retrieve it from the wall. Yes, Stephen Starr Cutter was one of the photos.  Did we want a copy sent? “No,” my husband replied, “I think we need to drive there and see it ourselves.” And that is how we ended up visiting Coldwater, Michigan.

Since we are from the Finger Lakes Region of New York it was interesting to discover that a large number of Coldwater’s early settlers were from the Rochester, NY area.  We enjoyed our stay and genealogy research experience in Coldwater, and of course had to drive down Cutter Street.  If you have ancestors who lived in Michigan, you are in for a research treat.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wedding Wednesday

My great-grandmother Jessie Agard began her diaries in 1944. On the left hand pages she wrote about her wedding day. An interesting account written in third person.  Jessie writes:

"June 26, 1901, Arthur C. Agard and Jessie M. Tucker were married in her home in Enfield. Arthur was the son of John and Sarah Agard of Mecklenburg. Jessie was the daughter of William and Adelia Tucker of Enfield. They were married by the Methodist Minister at Enfield Center. They were married at 4:00 p.m. at her home called, “The Tichenor Place” in Enfield. The house on the main road from Mecklenburg to Ithaca just before you get to Millers Corners, one mile north of Enfield Center. Those present were: Frank and Carrie Beardsley, John and Ollie Rightmire, Addie Tucker, Belle Hubbell and Father and Mother Tucker. We were married by Methodist minister Rev. Wilcox.

After the wedding they went to Newfield to Hattie Phoenix’s wedding at the home of Jay Phoenix. The horse they drove was given to Jessie by her Uncle Martin Hausner and the buggy was owned by Arthur. Hattie Phoenix was a cousin of Arthur and she married George Gardner at 7 o’clock June 26, 1901. After the wedding, George and Hattie went with Arthur and Jessie to the Tichenor Place for the night. The next day they spent at Enfield Falls and had dinner there."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bertha Agard

Bertha Agard

We live in a town where one woman’s generosity continues to make a difference. Mary Hawley used her inheritance - money her father made in westward expansion – to provide her hometown with a new elementary school, a new town hall that had a bowling alley and a full size movie theater where movies would be free, a beautiful library, and a town green that she hoped to make into a rose garden similar to Elizabeth Park in Hartford.  Unfortunately, Mary Hawley died in 1930 soon after laying the cornerstone for the town hall and before she could plant her rose garden.

I am telling you this, because although not every town or family has a benefactor like Mary Hawley, we do come across people who have made a difference in our lives – albeit on a much smaller scale.

In our family Bertha Agard made a difference. After she graduated from Cortland Normal School and then Cornell University, she supported herself by teaching English at Nottingham Terrace High School in Schenectady, New York. From all indications, Bertha lived a quiet life, teaching, and being involved in education.  She died January 31, 1942 at St. Elizabeth Hospital. I suspect she knew she was very ill as she took a leave of absence from her teaching position and had visited her family just before her death. In her will, Bertha left my grandparents, Merritt and Maude Agard, $3,000, in which four years later greatly helped with their down payment for Taughannock Farms Inn. (See previous blog Maude Agard’s Dream)  I suspect Bertha’s bequest did not alter our family history, but it might have helped my grandparents make a life altering decision. How much, we will never know. This entry is my way of thanking Bertha for her thoughtfulness and generosity. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who is Norman Agard?

Although I love using the Internet for genealogy research, I absolutely love the experience of researching in a library.  I love walking down the stacks, lightly touching the book spines, and imagining what information they might contain. I like to choose my personal workspace and then feel the excitement as I settle in and open a book to see what secrets it might reveal. 

Last week we researched at the New York State Library in Albany.  I had just finished going through a number of books on Seneca County and in particular Morrison’s Town & Village Of Ovid, Seneca County, NY 1789-1889, when my husband asked me to watch his briefcase and our laptop while he copied the 1875 NYS Census for Newfield, NY from microfilm onto his USB flash drive. Consequently I was trapped in my carrel, unable to walk the stacks with all that I had to carry.  So my attention went to the books directly across from me. They dealt with wars – Revolutionary, War of 1812, Civil War, etc.  Not to waste a minute of my library time, I started pulling these books off the shelf.  I was familiar with some of my family members who fought in the Revolutionary War, so was not surprised to see their names appear. But one name I was not familiar with – Norman Agard.  In the book Record of Service of Connecticut Men, Revolutionary, War of 1812, Mexican War, I found poor Norman had enlisted as a private 11 March 1814 and died 18 December 1814. 

Upon my return home I went immediately to Frederick Browning Agard’s book, Agards in America to find out to which of the five branches of the Agard family Norman belonged. I found Norman on page 92, the appendix, under “Three Loose Ends.”  Norman was loose end number two.  Apparently, Mr. Agard did not know where Norman fit into the family either.

What I love about genealogy is just when I find the answer to one question, another mystery presents itself.  Enjoy the journey!

Friday, November 12, 2010

John Wesley Agard

John Wesley Agard
John Wesley Agard, “…like his father, was a scholar and a farmer. Although he was only privileged to complete the eighth grade, he educated himself further with his constant reading. Because he highly valued education, on his own initiative, he studied Greek, Roman and American history and philosophy. He was a pillar of his Methodist Country Church,” remembers his granddaughter, Ella Agard Hague.  John was born to Noah and Rebecca Agard on March 4, 1857.  John’s love of learning was evident in the fact that he and his wife, Sarah, moved from the small rural town of Mecklenburg, NY to Cortland, NY so that their two daughters could attend Cortland Normal School.  John worked as a carpenter in Cortland to support their education.  Later, Sarah operated a boarding house in Ithaca so that the daughters could attend Cornell University.  In the meantime, their son, Arthur Agard, was not forgotten. John and Sarah purchased the Colegrove Farm in Willow Creek so that Arthur could earn a living farming the land.  (See previous blog - Nurturing the Land)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Toombs Family Bible Pages

The Friends of the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown, CT has one of the largest (and best organized) book sales in the Northeast, and I am honored to be a member of this group.  Recently a very large 1822 Bible was donated to the book sale. The cover of the Bible was inscribed: A.J. and C.D. Toombs.  I carefully leafed through to the family pages and found handwriting. I have transcribed these pages and am in the process of figuring out where to post the document so family members might find it. Most family members were born in the New York City area – Staten Island, Brooklyn, New York. A few were born in Boston.  The family names in this bible are: Toombs, Chase, Cloyd, Dongan, Hutchinson, Rogers, and Waters.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Harry Nunn - Mary Nunn Maki - 110 years later...

Today I stood on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Home in Peekskill, NY where my grandfather, Harry Nunn and his siblings were sent in 1900. How different it must have been for these children who had only known the streets around 2030 First Avenue in New York City.  I imagine the surrounding forests and wide Hudson River would have been scary for a ten year old. I can only hope that Harry and his siblings thrived under the care of the sisters there.  The children had to go through a quarantine period, getting all the proper medical care before joining the 1,000 children at the school. But once there, they were integrated into a family style setting. Individuality was encouraged and the sisters did everything possible to safeguard each child’s “inherent right to his personality.”  I felt very close to my grandfather today, and now know why he turned out so well.