Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 1951, Middletown, CT
Mathilda Alfina Johnson Anderson & Howard Bierly Matthews

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday's Faces From the Past - Group Photo

One of my favorite photos (if I can even really pick favorites) from Dad's basement stash is this group photo of family members and friends of my grandmother's family.  Of course, the first thing I noticed was the numbers, in red marker, on the photo itself! Oh, boy!

But it is the people who are not marked, not identified, who are the reason for this post. I have had a little bit of luck finding cousins through this blog, so why not some descendants of my ancestors' FAN clubs?

1 - Carl Johan Anderson, my great-grandfather.
2 - Albin Johnson, my great-grandmother's brother.
3 - Anna Johnson, my great-grandmother's sister.
4 - Charles Johnson, Anna's husband.
5 - John Anderson (Lil' John), relationship unknown, but may have been a boarder according to a 1900 census.
6 - John Carlin - no relation, but possibly the brother of Selma Carlin, Anna and Alfina's friend.
7 - Mrs. Carlin - probably John's wife.
8 - Axel Heinrich Anderson, my great-uncle.
9 - Elmer Carl Anderson, my great-uncle (brother of Axel).
10 - Lillian Hildur Ingeborg Johnson, my first cousin 2 x removed, daughter of Anna and Charles.

There are no indications as to exactly when or where this photo was taken, but many of these people lived in and around Manchester, CT. And from the ages of my great-uncles, I can estimate that it was taken around 1900 when my great-grandparents and great-uncles (my grandmother wasn't born until 1905) had just moved into what is now a two-family house that my great-grandfather built on Garden Street. (The number now is 68 but I believe the numbers changed over the years.) He purchased the land from the Cheney family who owned the mill where he worked and built the home large enough to take in boarders who became my great-grandmother's responsibility. The 1900 census lists a John Anderson as one of their boarders, though it is unclear if the John Anderson above is the same man. The other boarders listed were Albin Johnson (likely my great-grandmother's brother), Alexander and Axel Bergrin (likely Berggren) and Charles Larson - all from Sweden and all employed at the Cheney mills. Any of them could be in this photo, or not.

So, if you have any of this rings a bell to you, please take a closer look at this photo by clicking on it and if you recognize anyone, please let me know!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Selma Carlin Olson

My paternal grandmother's mother, Mathilda Alfina Johnson, was born in Sweden and immigrated to the United States in 1890 with one of her four surviving sisters, Anna Olivia, and their friend Selma Carlin. The sisters and their friend joined at least two other Johnson sisters in Illinois.

L-R: Anna Olivia Johnson, Selma Carlin,
Mathilda Alfina Johnson

As I have learned in the past two months, my great-grandparents had been childhood sweethearts in Sweden. My great-grandfather, Carl Johan Anderson, had immigrated to the United States in 1888 and settled in Connecticut. When he felt he was settled enough for a family, he sent for Alfina and she moved to Connecticut to marry him, joined by Anna and Selma who also settled there, married and raised their families. All now rest in Manchester's East Cemetery.

I had been to East Cemetery on a trip to Manchester in May of this year and found the plots of the Anderson family (Alfina), the Johnson family (Anna) and the Gustafson family (Anna's daughter Lillian) but I didn't know about Selma then. On my more recent trip to Manchester in October to take the Cheney Historic District Walking Tour, we had just a few minutes to stop at the cemetery thanks to construction traffic and I had forgotten to call the cemetery office during the week to ask for Selma's plot number, so I wasn't even planning to look - it's a biiiig cemetery.

As luck would have it, though, while parked on the road to the left of the Anderson headstone, I noticed a headstone on the other side of the road that said Olson, Selma Carlin's married last name. I thought, "No way." Then I ran around to the other side of the stone and saw Carlin. What??  Sure enough, right across from Alfina's plot was Selma's family. No other related plots in that cemetery, that I know of, are so close together.

I still have much research to do about all of my relatives in Manchester and more headstones to find, but a little good luck along the way is always to be celebrated!

Thank goodness for blogging prompts! Our little dog, DJ, continues to improve with the adjusted meds and diet and the subcutaneous fluids but he does need an extra walk or two per day, one of which has been in the middle of the night for the past week. I just don't have the brain power and energy to do any constructive research at the moment. (Although you know I made an hour to do some scanning after seeing that local house gutted by fire over the weekend.) Here's to the coming Thanksgiving Weekend and four days off!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Backup, backup, backup!

This weekend Donald and I got a shocking reminder that you can loose everything in a matter of minutes.

We used to walk by this beautiful 85-year-old, 2 1/2 story house at least a few times a week. Saturday night we saw that a tall fence was now surrounding the property and then we realized that the streets were full of water and the house was black. Walking around the front revealed the full extent of the damage, the house had been gutted by fire and partially collapsed.

Most importantly, no one was hurt, but when we walked by the next day we could see the family in the yard trying to salvage anything they could find, I can't imagine that there was anything. It made me shudder just thinking about all of the precious mementos, photos and negatives that I have yet to scan and save.

Just another reminder that many things in life are out of our control, but timely back-ups are not!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day - So Much Still to Learn

Veteran's Day reminds me that there is much more research to be done about the military histories in my family.

I always thought that only members of my mother's family served in WWI and WWII.

George W Smith (my mother's father) WW1
Lt Col George W Smith (second from left) WW2
Herbert Smith, my grandfather's brother.
Lt. George Robert (Bobby) Smith - cousin - 2nd fm. left
Lt Col George W Smith - Maternal Grandfather - 3rd fm right
Capt William John White Smith - great-uncle - 2nd fm right
About Spring '44

My grandfather's WWII service file, which I received recently from Library & Archives Canada, contained information previously unknown by my mother or by me. She thought she knew every detail, but some information was new even to her. We can't wait until the archive gets to the Smiths in their WWI digitization project to learn even more.

I only learned of service by a great-uncle and cousin in the U.S. on my father's side when I visited a cemetery in Connecticut last year and saw these headstones. I have yet to research their military service. It's a shame I didn't know about this when my dad was alive.

Headstone of my great-uncle,
brother of my paternal grandmother.

Headstone of my cousin, son of my paternal grandmother's
other brother, Axel Anderson.

I also discovered recently that, whether I can prove it or not, I am descended from at least two Revolutionary War patriots. I found my great-grandfather's sister in a DAR book as descended from two veterans, but since I am so far unable to prove my great-grandfather's birth, I may not be able to prove this lineage for his descendants. In any case, I hope I have time soon to learn more about their service.

Charlotte Fisk was the sister of my great-grandfather,
George Robert Smith.

But whether it is Veteran's Day or Memorial Day, I always pause to remember by grandmother's brother, L/Cpl. Lawrence Nimmo Dean, killed in action in Holland on April 2, 1945.

L/Cpl Lawrence Nimmo Dean

Although I didn't fully appreciate the experience then, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit his grave with my grandmother and mother 32 years ago.

Headstone of L/Cpl Lawrence Nimmo Dean
Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Nijmegen, Holland
Taken by my mother ca 1958

I never knew Uncle Lawrence, but recently found his service file on Ancestry and found myself near tears as I looked through the 60 pages of documents.  He was wounded twice and gravely injured in a motorcycle accident, suffering a fractured skull and losing several teeth. He suffered from headaches even after his discharge from hospital and had to have a lower denture put in to replace the teeth. Even so, he fought to stay in action rather than be sent home. Ultimately he was killed on a reconnaissance mission just 34 days before V.E. Day.

His file was also full of tiny little details we had not known previously that filled in a few of those little cracks and helped to flesh out the details of someone I never met. I hope that someday I can do this for all of my Veteran ancestors.

Plaque in memory of Uncle Lawrence
hanging in the Minton United Church, North Hatley, Quebec.

UPDATE: Our Basenji, DJ, continues to struggle under the weight of his illness which has now been revealed to be complicated by azotemia, insufficient filtering of the blood by the kidneys. His meds have been adjusted, we are adjusting his diet and I am having to learn to give him fluids subcutaneously.  We hope to see him bounce back soon, but his condition is still serious.