Friday, January 05, 2018

52 Ancestors: Start

2009 Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, CT.

Fifty-Two Ancestors

I have decided as part of the family history book I am writing that I will seek out and transcribe family obituaries. It is a tedious task and one that I have not been doing as I go along. It was more important for me to use the resources in my family Bible, family journals and census records in my last and ongoing project called "Close to Home". 

I have been tracking family homes, a family business and finding the gravestones for more than 15 years now, knowing I might not be physically able to do so when I retired. 

I may not follow the project guidelines (which are very good), but this Start week (January 1-7's) suggestion, included "a relative that started a business". That fits.

In this photo taken in 2009, on a hot day in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic, CT, may not be very flattering but I am sitting on the huge gravestone of my maternal great grandparents, Charlie and Adah (Evans) Stewart. My mother called her grandparents, not by their first names but by their last. A formal, now "old fashioned" New England practice that has helped me be sure of surnames. 

Charlie (Charles Edward Stewart 1859-1937) was the closest family historian to me. He died ten years before I was born so I did not get to ask him to dinner or find out why there are no photos of his wife. His interests in life mirror my own. He and his wife had two very different sons. He finally parted ways with one son and moved his business closer to his elder son who was my grandfather. Charlie was the owner of my family Bible and kept at age 15, a newspaper scrapbook journal. I copied the pages I wanted (and the cover) with genealogical information and then donated it to the North Stonington Historial Society. 

My grandmother was his daughter-in-law and said that I was a "lot like him". So, it is fitting that this project is dedicated to him. However, I will not limit this project to my maternal ancestors, I will work on my paternal ancestors too because for a while, all of these people lived in the same town. That makes it interesting. 

As you know, obituaries have changed drastically over the years and now that the funeral homes and families write them together, that will give a different slant. I wrote obitaries for my deceased in-laws and it still cost a thousand dollars each which were paid for by their estate money. 

In high school, my English teacher taught a few weeks of journalism. I learned that the death notice, was required by law, here in New England. The obituary was optional but it was a journalist's first writing assignment. I am fortunate that my family was literate and the newpapers liked printing ones about my family.

My late aunt saved obituaries of my father's family and I inherited them. My friend and distant cousin, Barbara Fallon, volunteers in the Westerly Public Library and has been able to obtain my paternal grandparents obituaries. Those are heartbreaking and/or "sensational" news. 

The problem with newspaper obituaries is that they are seldom dated or have the name of the newspaper. Great-Grandpa Charlie's is glued into my family Bible. I can't remove it to look at the reverse side for clues. 

It must have been published in the Providence Journal (and Evening Bulletin) once a prominent and excellent newspaper in Rhode Island, published twice daily in the past. It is hard to imagine newspapers published twice a day or that postal mail was delivered twice daily. 

This building, across the street from the Rhode Island Convention Center (taken by me in 2015), no longer exists. Beware of newspapers.

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