The Cashmans and the Clarks

ELIZABETH'S GENEALOGY GEMS

ELIZABETH'S GENEALOGY GEMS

The Living and the Dead

July 31, 2014

 

The faces and names may be different, but the stories of those who came before us are as old as the sun. E.B.

Most of my readers are aware that I have recently completed a soon to be published family narrative history entitled: The True Story of the Clarks of Bay State Village. My research spanned more than a decade; writing the narrative took over a year. The project has been rift with delays from the start and publication of the book has been postponed until later this year. Despite ongoing issues that left me frustrated and discouraged, I was determined to complete the project.

My intention when I began this project was, as the title implies, to write a fair and honest account of the lives of three generations of the Clark family.  However, as the project came to a close, my intentions and principles were put to the test by a dilemma that tugged at my emotions and kept me awake for several nights. The issue at hand was whether or not to include negative information in the narrative about a well-known and highly regarded uncle.  A relative who had been close to him before his death in the early 1970s was not happy about the disclosure and the more I thought about it, I found myself questioning the wisdom of my decision.

My uncle was a good man. He was a prominent figure locally and is still remembered by many for his good works for the communities he served. However, no one is perfect and in the very distant past he was known to drink heavily. This indulgence nearly cost him his marriage and had he not curbed his alcohol habit, his contributions would have been few. However, he was a stubborn and strong personality. He won the battle with the “bottle” and moved on to a productive life.

I heard about his hard drinking days from my mother many years ago. However, when writing about his very large life, I had forgotten that once upon a time, for a short period, he was known within the family as a “drunk”. When compared to his many good works, his Achilles’heel was a small flaw in an otherwise stellar life. From my perspective, his alcoholism did not define him. It was a transient problem and I did not consider disclosing it in the book.

However, at the prodding of a relative, I contacted an extended family member to interview her about my uncle’s wife and their married life. Her most vivid memories of the family were connected to my uncle’s drinking days. She had personal knowledge of his affliction and how it affected those closest to him. Her stories were supported by information I received from other family members. I was stymied as to how I should proceed.  

For me, the issue was not about preserving my long deceased uncle’s image as a public figure. It was about the living; the few surviving people, who loved him during his life and still held him in esteem because of his good qualities. Certainly, he had worked hard for his family and for his community. He had earned the respect he received both in public and in his private life. I asked myself if I was being unfair to him and his loved ones by making public this little known fact. Moreover, I was writing history and for better or for worse, what I wrote would be read by generations to come. Still, another part of my psyche shouted that this was a story of redemption; a story of a man who had fallen from grace and found his way back to a better life.

Apart from grappling with my principles, I also knew that if I did not include this negative piece of information, readers in the “know” would question why I did not write about “it.” Omitting the information would bring into question the veracity of other information I presented in the narrative.

I concluded that since alcohol abuse was prevalent in the Clark family and because I spoke of it freely when writing about other generations, to omit the information pertaining to my uncle’s drinking days was at best disingenuous, if not dishonest. Family members knew the truth. Furthermore, omitting that brief, dark period in his life would belie the title of the book and my objective in writing the narrative in the first place.

To write about it or not, I asked myself for the one hundredth time? I sat down at my computer and began to tell his story without judgment and without prejudice. My uncle’s transient issues with alcohol were covered in two short paragraphs.

When I completed the biography, I felt I had created a balanced accurate portrayal of my late uncle; the man he was and the man he later became.

I knew the depiction of my uncle as a young alcoholic was not going to get favorable reviews from a few family members. However, it was just one of many portrayals of my less than perfect and all too human ancestors. No doubt readers will not envision any of them floating above the ground with halos over their heads. What they will envision is individuals and families over a century ago dealing with the eternal issues that have plagued humankind since the beginning of time.

At the end of the day, alcoholism is written about and discussed freely in the media. It is not a new affliction and as I have thought to myself  so many times when researching my ancestors and the ancestors of my clients: The faces and names may be different, but the stories of those who came before us are as old as the sun.

 

Rest in Peace...

July 27, 2014

                                                                           Edward Vincent Cleary

                                                                       June 6, 1935- July 22, 2014

Edward V. Cleary born in Massachusetts on June 6, 1935, passed away on July 22, 2014 in Lorton VA.  He is survived by his loving wife Carol Cleary, his children: Carolyn Luke, Maureen Cleary, Donald Cleary, James Cleary, and Joseph Cleary; and his step-children: Carol-Ann Lingenfelder, Pamela Layton, and Joseph T.  Freeman.  He is also survived by 16 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Services will be held at Mountcastle Turch Funeral Home 13318 Occoquan Rd, Woodbridge, VA on July 26, 2014 at 1:00PM. 

ELUSIVE ANCESTORS

June 26, 2014

This is a repost-

 

THE ELUSIVE ANCESTOR: HIDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE

 

I know you’re there!  I just need to find a way to find you. - E.B.

The proverbial brick wall can be likened to a nagging headache that continues unabated until it broken down. I don’t know anyone who engages in the business of genealogy, who doesn’t have at least one pesky ancestor, who wandered away from the fold and vanished into the ethers.

There are people who die and are never identified. There are those that vanish by their own volition, change their name and disappear into the crowd, but not very many. Almost everyone has a paper trail. If someone is looking for them, they will be found.

I experienced my first brick wall when searching for a long lost uncle, who boarded a train and eventually lost contact with his family. I remember sitting at my desk day after day, staring at his vital statistics. No one in the family knew what happened to him. No one had a clue. I believed the answer to the mystery was hidden somewhere on that page and indeed it was staring back at like a huge red flag.

My missing uncle served during the Spanish-American War. After some research on military records and a flurry of phone calls, I was able to retrieve a copy of his military pension file. The mystery was solved. The pension file was a road map of his life after he left Northampton, Massachusetts. Affidavits told the story of his travels through the West and his encounter with a stranger, who attempted to steal his identity and his military pension. Most touching was the hospital records that documented the details of his death and the funeral home records that described the suit he was buried in.

At the end of the day, I came to realize that a good working knowledge of resources and well-developed analytical skills are the keys to finding an elusive ancestor. When I consider all of the trial and error internet searches, phone calls to relatives and days spent pouring over the same information, I shake my head. Everything I needed to know was on that tattered sheet of paper.

When confronted by a brick wall, think about other resources that might contain the information you are seeking. As an example, instead of relying on an internet search or census records to locate children, consult the parent’s will or probate record. Research newspapers for obituaries for known family members, which will name next of kin.

Stick with it. Your elusive ancestor is hiding right in front of your face.

Need assistance with your genealogical research? Go to: http://www.eabanasgenealogyservices.com or write to Elizabeth Banas at fh_research@hotmail.com.

Finding John and Hannah's House

June 15, 2014

Check out the September issue of  Family Chronicle Magazine to read my tutorial and article to finding your ancestors homes though deeds and other sources.

The True Story of the Clarks of Bay State Village (1837-1955)

May 29, 2014

It is nearly June and I am still waiting for the copyright certificate. There is a reason for everything and I suppose the reason this is taking so long will unfold in the future. In the meantime, I am organizing material for my next book. God Bless! Elizabeth

Message from the Webmaster

May 4, 2014

Posts unrelated to this site are not published unless they receive approval from the webmaster. It is the policy of this website to delete posts unrelated to genealogy, family history or comments pertaining to the blog posts. Just an FYI-The Webmaster

 

The True Story of the Clarks of Bay State Village (1837-1955)

March 30, 2014

This book project is nearly complete, but it looks like I will not meet my deadline. I am still waiting for the copyright to be processed and I am still working on editing the final copy. This has been a long and arduous process, which I hope will have a happy ending. I will notify everyone when the book is available on Amazon.com.  Elizabeth

 

Albert Goodhind-March 1, 1932-January 16, 2010

January 16, 2014

                                    There is nothing new under the sun...

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving! The projected publication date for The True Story of the Clarks of Bay State Village is late March 2014. I will see you at winter's end. Wishing you a joyous and safe holiday season-Elizabeth

 

 

When the news isn't good: Finding my family in long forgotten letters

June 25, 2013

Years of research brought me to a place where I believed, I had exhausted all resources. They left nothing behind, I thought. Where great-great grandpa came from, went to the grave with him. EAB

Those who know me are aware of how preoccupied I am these days. I am working diligently to finish a narrative history of the Clark branch of my family. I have spent years researching and compiling records pertaining to my elusive great-great grandparents. Aside from bits of family tradition that made little sense from an historical perspective and vital records relevant to their children, I had very little information to begin my research. It was as if the first generation of Clarks in the United States dropped out the sky and landed in Northampton, Massachusetts.Years of research brought me to a place where I believed, I had exhausted all resources. They left nothing behind, I thought. Where great-great grandpa came from, went to the grave with him.

It was serendipity that led me to a collection of letters between family members which spanned over forty years. I knew the relatives that authored the letters. My only impetus to explore the collection was a faint, burning hope that I would find a clue buried somewhere between the lines of an old letter that would help me break down the impenetrable brick walls that kept me from finding my great-great grandfather. It was a long shot, but it was all that I had left.

I found myself on a cool spring morning in mid-April in a quiet corner, surrounded by stacks of boxes containing manila folders filled with old personal correspondence between several family members, who have been gone for many years. After skimming over a half dozen letters, I surmised that I was on a dead end street and my day was a waste. I simply did not care if it was raining on April 22, 1956 or if the snow was falling at six o’clock on New Year’s Eve in 1960. A few more letters and I am done, I thought. Not more than a minute later, I caught sight of my grandmother’s name scrawled in a letter written in 1955. The author had penned a clearly unflattering description of her and her children, which included my mother. I should have taken offense, but instead, it struck me as very funny. I read the paragraph aloud to Geo and we both laughed.

Over the years, I heard similar sentiments stated by my grandmother regarding family members. Apparently, there were few people in the family, who liked one another.  I always wondered what provoked the issues between this brood of brothers, sisters and in-laws and as I browsed through through letter after letter, I realized that the cache of old and obviously very personal correspondence between mother, father and son was an uncensored peek into their thoughts and opinions on the ever present family strife, how they viewed important life events and the challenges and issues they faced in their daily walk. I felt as if I was peering at their world through their eyes. There were jaw dropping revelations about people close to me; allusions to the circumstances of the birth of a family member, a criminal case and the strange story of an in-law, who wound up in a psychiatric hospital due to the influence of a relative. I was quite certain the person who wrote about the circumstances of the committal never imagined that one day I would have access to such an admission. How bazaar!  No, the news wasn’t good.

There is nothing new under the sun, I thought for the one millionth time. Sibling rivalry, jealousy, family disputes and tantalizing gossip between family members will always exist. Life is never perfect or painless and talk is always cheap. Still, I found some of the revelations in the letters very believable and stunning. I wondered how I would present this material in the narrative and if it would change how this family is remembered by those still living.

While there was vitriol and gossip contained in the letters, there were passages pertaining to mundane and ordinary daily events, as well; narratives about cold raw January evenings spent on the divan watching “the fights” and Sunday afternoon visits from family, who brought gifts of fresh eggs from the chickens they raised in the backyard;  a remark about  a good pot roast dinner and  a touching description of  the lavender dress my great-grandmother wore when the family buried her. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, even though, I was not there.

As I read on, images of my childhood and the carefree days I spent with my grandparents, drifted into my consciousness. I recalled my grandmother’s Hermit cookies and trips to Lilly Library to borrow books that set my imagination on fire. I remembered the sound of change rattling in my grandfather’s pockets when he walked and chocolate ice cream at a place called the “Two Cows.” So many perfect moments I had forgotten were mine again. Even though the news contained in the letters wasn’t good, I felt lifted and I thought to myself, how lucky I was to have been loved by such wonderful light-filled beings.

It was serendipity tugging at me or perhaps dumb luck that caused me to reach for the simple red spiral notebook wedged in the back of a box. To my utter surprise, it contained a draft of an unfinished family narrative that contained biographical information about my great-great grandfather! I now had new territory to explore and a new perspective from which to write.

At the end of the day, as I gathered up my belongings to leave, Geo and I both agreed that it was unbelievable that the letters and the notebook existed. I said a little prayer thanking God. The news wasn’t good, but I was leaving with an insightful glimpse into the challenges and issues of long departed family members and I had found a notebook filled with genealogical treasures. Moreover, I had found a lost part of my spirit.

Keep diggin' for those gems!

Elizabeth

 

 

             Elizabeth Banas

Elizabeth is a professional genealogist. She is a member of the National Genealogical Society, Association for Professional Genealogists and the New England Association of Professional Genealogists. You can send your research requests to eabanas123@hotmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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