March 13 — Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.
When my Grampy, Henry Bowen, was dying of pancreatic cancer in May of 1973, my grandmother, Lil, had to show incredible strength and courage.
Grampy in March of 1971
On May 24, 1973, just 4 days before Grampy died - Nana's sister, Mary, died. Nana never let my grandfather know that not only was she dealing with watching her husband die, she also had to attend the wake and funeral of her sister in between her bedside vigils for my grandfather. She put on the brave face and continued to visit him and he never knew that Mary had died.
Nana and Grampy in December of 1971
I can't even begin to imagine the heartache she went through at that time. Grampy was the love of Nana's life. At the time of his death, Nana and Grampy had been married 41 years and had 15 children together. It must have been tearing her heart out to watch him slipping away - and then to lose her sister at the same time. She did it, though. She did what needed to be done and got through it as hard as that must have been for her.
March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
I tend to write more about my father's Irish/Catholic side of the family, only because I know more about them. My mother's side of the family was Protestant and I knew very few of them.
St. Patrick's Church, Roxbury, MA
Religion played a large part in our lives growing up. We attended St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury, MA - St. Pat's for short. I attended St. Pat's grammar and high schools for 12 years and at one point, even wanted to be a nun! My great-aunt was a Sister of Charity until her death a little over a year ago. I can't remember what her original 'sister' name was, but later in life it was Sr. Frances Boyle. Here I am with her at my First Communion:
When I was younger, religious events were great celebrations - not so much anymore. Weddings, baptisms, Confirmation, funerals, First Confessions, First Communions - all were celebrated with High Mass. The adults wore their very best and after each event, there would be a big family get-together.
My father with his father (Grampy) on his First Communion
Here I am with Nana and Grampy Bowen at my First Communion
We wore our best clothes to church every Sunday and would never dare to show up in jeans or sweats. Little girls wore their chapel veils and boys always took off their hats before entering the church. The May Procession, celebrating Our Blessed Mother, was a beautiful occasion. Mary's statue would lead the procession throughout the neighborhoods, followed by hundreds of the faithful carrying flowers and singing: "Oh Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today. Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May." I can't believe I still remember those words! But I guess that's how much of an impact it made on me and what a beautiful memory it is.
We strictly followed the rules: no meat on Fridays in Lent and always found something to give up for Lent; completely silent from 12 noon to 3 PM on Good Friday; church every Sunday and if you didn't go, you better have been dead - or close to it; no eating for an hour after Communion - writing that reminded me of the scene in Angela's Ashes after Frankie McCourt made his First Communion. If you haven't seen that movie and want more of an idea of what it was like to grow up Irish/Catholic - it's a must see. Of course I didn't grow up on the streets of Limerick, but the basic tenets of the movie still apply. Going to Confession every Saturday afternoon was a must. Of course, I had to make stuff up every week because I was such an angel. Just ask my mother, I'm sure she'll confirm that! ;-)
The church pictured above has housed the celebrations of generations of my family - but no more. No family members are left in Roxbury as of the early 1990s. Religion doesn't seem to play that big of a role in our family anymore. I have nieces and nephews who have never been baptized. Weddings are done by ministers or a Justice of the Peace now.
During the 1880s, St. Pat's issued postcards for just a few years. I found a laminated one online and bought it. Even back then, members of my family were attending this church.
Philetus Pollock and Susan Brewster are my 3rd greatgrandparents and they are one of my biggest brick walls. Philetus was born in 1826 in Canterbury, CT and Susan was born in anywhere from 1832 to 1835 in Franklin, CT - depending on which census you look at. I've never been able to definitively find Philetus' parents, but I think his father may be William Pollock, born 1800 in CT. I have Susan's death certificate, so know who her parents are, but have never been able to find a birth record.
I got a copy of Philetus' NARA record and in those records is a form he signed stating he and Susan were married on October 12, 1848 in Franklin, CT by the Reverend Dr. Nott. I've called several town clerks in that area and no one has a record of that marriage. However, I called the Franklin town clerk again today and she found a marriage record for Philetus Pollock and Susan POLLOCK from May 3, 1857! They have a daughter, Emma, who was born in 1853. Did they divorce and remarry?? The clerk read the marriage record to me and of course, no parents' names are listed, but it did say that Susan was born in Franklin, CT, so hopefully her birth record will be on the film I've ordered from familysearch.org.
The clerk also gave me the name and number for a person at the church in town that keeps the records of Reverend Dr. Nott but I haven't been able to reach her yet.
I think a road trip to Connecticut is in order for this spring to see if I can solve this mystery!
Thanks for reading!
ADDENDUM: I did end up finding the original marriage certificate - of course, no parents' names for Philetus. So it does look like they married, divorced and remarried.
March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.
My personal favorite recipe from my grandmother is definitely not a favorite of others in the family! Creamed fish! YUM! It's made with dried, salted cod and served over potatoes or toast. I usually wing this recipe, so am trying to write from memory.
Dried cod fish (the kind in the wooden box) 1 box frozen peas Stick of butter 2 cups of milk Flour/water thickening paste - (1 cup of water, add flour to make a syrupy texture)
Soak the fish overnight in a pot of water. I personally love the more salty taste, so I don't soak it overnight, just for a few hours. Next day, replace the water and bring to a boil. Cook until the fish flakes.
While that's cooking, melt the stick of butter in a frying pan and then add the milk and peas. Add the thickening mixture and cook over low heat, stirring frequently. When the fish is done, add it and let it all cook until the mixture is like a thick gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes or toast.
My grandmother lived 'up the street' (family joke) and she would send creamed fish 'down the street' to my father. I would drive him crazy as a kid because more often than not, I'd eat half of it on him! But what goes around comes around - my daughter now does the same thing to me. :)
March 6 — Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)
The only things I've ever inherited have been from my grandmother, "Lil", Elizabeth Catherine (Boyle) Bowen. When she passed, some of her belongings were given to me: her watch, pearls, mink stole, the last check she wrote and a letter that she wrote to her kids that went with her will.
My grandmother's "Mother's ring" was inherited by her daughter, Anne. When Anne passed, the ring was given to my daughter. The ring is very special - it has 15 stones - one for each of her children. I can remember looking at it as a child and asking her which stone was for my father. She always wore the ring on her middle finger and after my grandfather passed, she wore his onyx on her other middle finger. Here is my daughter, her namesake, modeling the mink stole and ring.
I loved her mink stole and always thought how glamorous she looked in it!
March 5 — How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?
My mother was 13 when she met my father - totally by accident! She was sitting in class when this boy came in and told her teacher he was her brother and he was there to take her out of class. She looked at him and thought to herself: "I don't know who the hell that is!" and didn't go with him. When she got out of school, there he was, leaning against the hood of a car - and it was love at first sight. My mother has two older sisters and when my father went into the classroom, he thought he was in the classroom of one of her sisters! Oops!
Here they are at my brother's wedding about 25 years later.
March 4 — Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.
I don't really have any stories about any of my grandparents' or greatgrandparents' weddings. It seems, though, that they all had one thing in common: they were small weddings with immediate family and friends only.
My father's parents, Henry Bowen/Elizabeth Boyle, were married in the priest's residence near where they lived on Cabot Street in Roxbury and had 15 children together.
My mother's parents, Walter Adams/Mildred Pollock, were also married by a priest at 75 Union Park in Roxbury in 1937. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of Walter and no early pictures of Mildred. My paternal greatgrandparents, Simon Boyle/Ella Hegarty, met while Ella was serving as a domestic at a party in Dedham, MA. They were married on the 4th of July, 1909 at 21 Minot Street in Dorchester, MA. Ella died in 1958, Simon two weeks after her - it is said of a broken heart. (We're Irish - of course that's going to be the lore!)
Ella and Simon with my grandmother, Elizabeth, (standing right) and Uncle Joe, sitting on Ella's lap. That's Simon's brother, James, standing in the back.
Click the marriage records to see larger images
Henry Anthony Bowen and Mary Louisa Craibe were married on February 8, 1906 in St. Patrick's Church in Roxbury - the same church where future generations celebrated weddings, Christenings, burials and graduations. That church holds a lot of history for our family. Henry, his son, Henry and my father all worked there for many years.
Henry Anthony Bowen and Mary Louisa Craibe
My maternal greatgrandparents, George Pollock and Evelyn Pierce, married on September 30, 1911 in Fall River, MA. They ended up having 16 children together! I have no early pictures of them, either.
My other maternal greatgrandparents were Walter Jonathan Adams and Theresa Curran. Their date of marriage is still under investigation (see my earlier blog) and I have no pictures of them, either.
March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.
My name, Diane, is not a family name - I was named after my mother's best friend. I have no ancestors (to my knowledge) who share the name. This gives me the chance, though, to write about Mehitabel Cary - I love that name! Mehitabel (1670-1724) was my 8th greatgrandmother:
Mehitabel married Elisha Adams in 1689. Elisha was the grandson of Henry Adams, who was also the 2nd greatgrandfather of President John Adams.
But wait - there's more!
After Elisha's death in 1698, she married for a second time. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw who her second husband was: Miles Standish (1669-1728) - the grandson of THE Miles Standish of Plymouth Colony!
Although that marriage did not make me a blood relative of Miles Standish, I am a blood relative through a different line. They married in 1700 in Rhode Island and then moved on to CT, which was their place of death.
Little did Mehitabel know - she had married into two historically important early American families!
March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?
Mary Louisa Craibe (1881-1939)
Henry Anthony Bowen (1884-1957)
Year taken: unknown
Mary Louisa was my father's grandmother, my greatgrandmother. I chose this picture mostly because I like the look on her face. She reminds me an awful lot of my aunt Clare. Clare was a tough, red-headed spitfire and to me, Mary Louisa looks the same. Of course, I could be completely wrong - she could have been a meek little thing - but I don't think so. From the stories I've heard and the documentation I've found on Henry A, she had to have been pretty tough to put up with his antics! He is definitely going to be a subject for another blog entry.
When Mary Louisa and Henry were married in 1906, they lived on Dudley Street in - where else? Roxbury! They later lived on Fenwick Street, moving to 283 Eustis Street, probably half a mile from where my mother's grandmother lived (Evelyn Pierce Pollock). I wonder if they knew each other
I don't know when this photo was taken but I think that maybe it was their engagement/wedding photo, so that would make it around 1905/1906.
Today's Assignment: March 1 — Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.
There are many women in my tree that I'd like to learn more about, but the one who has been the most elusive is my greatgrandmother, Theresa (Curran) Adams (1886 or 1890 -1957).
I don't know much at all about Theresa and her son, my grandfather, Walter Adams. Walter and my grandmother divorced when my mother was very young and she only saw her father a handful of times in her life and doesn't know much about him. My aunt did visit his grave once and Theresa's grave is right next to his - that's how I learned her age and date of death. Using that information, I found a birth record in MA Vital Records for a Theresa Curran born in 1886 in Boston. I know for sure that her maiden name was Curran because it was on my grandfather's birth certificate.
I've only found one record that proves she actually existed. Here she is in the 1930 census, living with my greatgrandfather and grandfather at 103 Brookline Avenue in Roxbury, MA. Through street directories, I learned that she lived at that same address until her death in 1957. In several of those directories, she is listed as Theresa C. Adams. How did she support herself for those 20 years after her husband's death in 1937? She had to have worked somewhere but I can't find any record of her. She's not in the SSDI.
According to this census, she was 40 years old in 1930, making her date of birth 1889/1890 - but that conflicts with the age on her headstone. Another interesting thing: according to this census, her age at her first marriage was 15 and my greatgrandfather was 17. Thing is - he was married once before to a 22-year-old Katherine Quinn in 1904. I've never been able to find any record of a divorce or of Katherine's death. I also have never been able to find a record of Theresa Curran and William Adams' marriage online.
Could Theresa have had a previous marriage? Or has the information been misinterpreted?
I have a couple of theories. The first is that whoever supplied the information at her death gave the wrong age and she really was born in 1890. The second is: could the Katherine Quinn who married Walter Adams actually be Theresa Curran? Was the record transcribed incorrectly? Theresa did use the middle initial C. Maybe Catherine was her first name and she went by her middle name, Theresa. If these theories are correct, then she would have been 15 if she was the 'Katherine Quinn' who married Walter Adams in 1904. BUT Katherine Quinn was 22 when she married Walter Adams. Did she lie about her age?
My goal is to find definitive birth information for Theresa and from there, hopefully find that she had siblings who may have passed down pictures and/or information to their kids. My next step will be to order Theresa Adams' death certificate. Hopefully, that will clear up this mystery! I also plan to visit the cemetery this spring and if I can, take a look at her burial record. To my knowledge, my grandfather was her only child so he would have been the one to sign paperwork. That would be great to actually see his signature - I've never even seen a picture of him.