30 June 2011

A different sort of genealogical search

Back in the latter days of winter we purchased a boat. I know - strange timing, right?

My husband had his eye on this boat for a number of years. It was resting on a trailer in the parking lot of a winter/summer sports shop, under wraps. All we really knew about the boat is that it was the right size, the right shape and it was a wooden boat that seemed to resemble the boat we really wanted - a Whitehall rowing boat.

Unfortunately, it wasn't for sale.

Until unforeseen circumstances came up prompting the aging owner to close up shop and finally retire from the business he had grown and loved. I went into the shop to find some cross-country ski socks, and maybe find a pair of skis, on sale. I didn't find either, but when the sales clerk said was there anything he could help with, I half-jokingly said - well, is the boat for sale? He said that it wasn't, but on a hunch, he said - wait a minute, let me speak with the owner...

To cut the story short, the boat is in our backyard now.

The boat... ca. 1910 fantail launch?

We don't know exactly what kind of boat it is. We suspect it might be a fantail launch, built in the early 1910's. It has a Massachusetts boat registration numbers on the hull. No motor, but we can see where there was one - possibly a diesel engine. It came with an "antique" fuel can, that sadly has already been recycled.

From the information we received from the former owner, we know he got it from a man in Massachusetts - and his intention was to restore it to its original state. An exhausting (yes it is exhausting to search on an unknown topic in the beginning) search on the internet actually gave us a few hints at identifying the boat. We found a few images that could be in the same boat family... from a website from the Finger Lakes Antique and Classic Boat Society...http://www.flc-acbs.org/. Not an exact match, but it's a start.

We went to the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic Connecticut, hosted by the Mystic Seaport Museum, http://www.mysticseaport.org, last weekend, hoping to get more information on identifying and restoring the boat. Wow! Gorgeous boats everywhere... from the humble dory to the magnificent Charles W. Morgan (now in restoration process). The wonderful folks from Wooden Boat Magazine,   http://www.woodenboat.com/,  really know how to put on a show! Luckily, for all of us, the rain held and we enjoyed a lovely weekend at the shore. We learned about lofting, spiling and caulking wooden boats; cruised down to the ocean and back aboard the Sabino; rowed around the harbor a little; and we met a lot of nice boat people along the way.

The highlight for us was a treasure hunt through the closed portion of the museum that was opened to the public for two hours on two days of the show. We were told by some antique boat restorers that there might be a fantail launch in the storage area... and I believe we found it! All of the boats are in their original condition and all have been donated to the museum. And they are stacked from floor to ceiling with just enough space to squeeze through. Some of the boats have been measured and have plans made of them available for purchase. All of them could be if one were motivated to initiate the process, and pay to have it done. The fantail launch was not one that had been slated for plan making. Darn.

So our search continues... every now and then we start a new search on the computer, and each time we get new information. I have found back issues of Rudder Magazine on Google Books with articles referring to the fantail launch. I have to say - I love Google books - and I have quite a collection of old books that offer a lot of good reading on various subjects - mostly historical references - Court Records of early Connecticut,  History of Everett, Massachusetts. You really ought to take a look if you haven't already.

And since there is no harm in asking -

Can you identify this boat?

15 June 2011

You never know what you will find...until you look.

I recently found a little box of stationery that my mother kept in her desk. I have always liked the design of the stationery, but I was surprised to find what was inside - a small collection of photographs of a trip taken by my mother Marcia of my grandmother Mildred and a mystery woman - Aunt Margaret. I decided to do a little sleuthing based on the few (usually one or two) words written on the back of the photos, and came up with a remarkable amount of information and a plausible description of their journey.

Well, it wasn't that hard, it turns out. Thanks to Google, Wikipedia, Ancestry.com, The Cunard White Star Line and all the record keepers from New York to Southampton, England, and - of course - my grandmother and mother for jotting down at least a word or two on the reverse of the photographs, I have a pretty good idea of what the trip was like...


It is an interesting time to take a trip abroad for the women.

The Spanish Civil war is in its penultimate year; concentration camps are being built in Austria; Czechoslovakia mobilizes armed forces along the German border; and France has a new prime minister.

The first step was to log onto Ancestry.com and see if there were any passenger records for Mildred and Marcia. Indeed there were... UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960 (for the departure date), and New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 for the return date). The actual passenger list has entries for Mildred Stoddard and Marcia Stoddard, birthplace and what their intended address is. Once I discovered that Aunt Margaret (Thanks Ann!) might be Margaret Russell, I poured over the passenger list again and found her listed with her husband Frederick.

Mildred Dikeman Stoddard, with her youngest child Marcia, now twenty, embarked on a month's tour of England and Scotland in the company of Margaret Russell, Mildred's close friend. Clifford Stoddard, is busy with his law practice and the boys are off on their own pursuits now, so the women will travel on their own. Margaret's husband, Frederick, also a lawyer, who accompanied them on the voyage, stayed in London while the women went on tour.

The traveling companions arrive in Southampton, England on July 3, 1938 disembarking from the Georgic of the Cunard White Star Line,  http://www.cunard.com/About-Cunard-Line/Cunard-Heritage/The-Fleet/Georgic/.

The image of the RMS Georgic was found on the Google images site. 

Unfortunately I don't know in what order the following landmarks were visited, as no known travel diary was left behind. The handful of photographs do leave clues as to where the group went, and what they experienced. I placed the photographs in order of how I would have made the trip, judging by the means (car and driver) and the geography.

The first stop is at the hotel in London, at 123 Pall Mall, W1. I really don't think they stayed at this particular facility:   http://www.iod.com/home/premises/london---pall-mall/ - but one that would be suitable for two women traveling on their own. The Russells stayed at a different hotel in London upon arriving in England, according to the passenger lists.

Setting out on their journey, the trio is driven out to visit Stonehenge, in Salisbury.  


Traveling in 1938 style. No timetables, 
no worries about driving on the wrong side of the road; 
someone to carry the bags. Sigh - the good old days

Mildred D. Stoddard sitting on a rock at Stonehenge.

You can't get this close to Stonehenge anymore. I last visited Stonehenge in 1970's and was saddened to see that it was carefully roped off, preventing visitors from recreating this particular photo opportunity. The standing stones are HUGE, and it is worth the trip to see them - but I don't think the effect is the same when viewed from afar, rather than walking around and touching the stones that hold the secrets of its creators. 

Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. The driver and Aunt Margaret.

Mildred D. Stoddard with Ely Cathedral in the background.

I don't know how much personal planning went into the trip to England and Scotland. Had Mildred always wanted to see the cathedral of Ely? Or was this just one of many popular tourist destinations they were taken to? That Marcia took this photo of her mother without much of the cathedral showing, made me think that perhaps Marcia wasn't "into" sightseeing as much as her mother was. Cute hat by the way. http://www.elycathedral.org/

Hikers trekking the Honister Pass in the English Lake District
I think this must have intrigued and impressed Marcia. Throughout her life, Mom walked several miles every day for as long as she was able to. She delighted in spotting and identifying wild flowers and local birds, often painting the former and photographing the latter. http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/honister-pass.htm

Mother and Aunt Margaret walking below the wall.

Two mysteries here. Who the heck is Aunt Margaret? And what wall? It took several emails to my cousins, and a careful search of all the passengers aboard the Georgic to discover "Aunt" Margaret's identity. Though I don't have complete confirmation, I'm going with  Margaret Russell who was a close friend, close enough that Marcia called her "aunt", she quite possibly married into the Russell family. The wall, frankly was easier to identify - once I interpreted the scribble as Linlithgow, http://www.marie-stuart.co.uk/Castles/Linlithgow.htm the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.

Lochinvar Hotel, ca. 1938
The hotel has not changed all that much... it is located in St. Johns town of Dalry, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, DG7 3UP Scotland about 85 miles south of Glasgow.  It is reported to be an excellent stop while cycling the western route from Land's End to John O'Groats and is close to a national forest a favorite place for hikers.  http://www.lochinvarhotel.co.uk/index.htm

Mildred standing outside Robert Burns' cottage, 
Murdoch's Lane, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland

Of a' the airts the wind can blaw,

I dearly like the west,

For there the bonnie lassie lives,

The lassie I lo'e best:

There wild woods grow, and rivers row,

And monie a hill between;

But day and night may fancy's flight

Is ever wi' my Jean.

I see her in the dewy flowers,

I see her sweet and fair:

I hear her in the tunefu' birds,

I hear her charm the air:

There's not a bonnie flower that springs

By fountain, shaw, or green;

There's not a bonnie bird that sings,

But minds me o' my Jean.

                                                                                                         Robert Burns

You may remember Auld Lang Syne better though...  http://www.ayrshire-arran.com/ttsad/burns/

The gardens at Robert Burns' Cottage.

Chester, England

Located about twenty miles south of Liverpool. I think this must be near the end of the trip... it's a rather ordinary photograph, of a delivery wagon outside an ale house. A sign of sightseeing fatigue? Marcia missing the countryside at home? Where are the photographs of the Cathedral, the River Dee, Chester Castle - or the gorgeous buildings at Eastgate, Northgate or Westgate? http://www.chesterwalls.info/index.html

Mildred and Marcia returned to New York on board the Queen Mary on the 22nd of August. I don't remember Mom saying she sailed on the Queen Mary... that must have been quite an experience! The Queen Mary had been completed in 1936, and was built for speed. A voyage in 1938 was recorded to be the fastest transatlantic crossing yet. The ship made its last commercial voyage in 1940 and went on to carry troops off to war. http://www.cunard.com/About-Cunard-Line/Cunard-Heritage/The-Fleet/Queen-Mary/

It may not have happened quite this way, but the essence of the trip is here. I wish I had been with them.

14 June 2011

Arrrrgh! It's coming up soon...

If you always wanted to surround yourself in 18th century Liverpool, Nova Scotia, but you don't want to spend a lot of time immersed in the Diaries of Simeon Perkins... well, there's an app for that.

No, not really.

But there is a really fun event in Liverpool, NS at the end of June that celebrates the early privateer era that the town is known for: http://www.privateerdays.ca/  This year it will be held from June 30th to July 3rd. The photos below are from a 1990 trip to NS to discover our roots and celebrate Pop's 80th birthday.

Wedding performed during Privateer Days celebration.

Beautiful house in Liverpool

Privateer Days reenactment participants - the Militia

Halls Harbor on the North Shore

My nephew standing on a rock in the river - Mill Village, NS -
the Mack family lived here - Samuel owned a lumber mill

South Shore of Nova Scotia - maybe Port Medway, maybe not.

Oh, and the best souvenir... (aside from the photos and memories of our trip of course)

Samuel Mack 1736-1783, Port Medway, NS
Oldest gravestone in Old Port Medway Cemetery

There should be an app for it though. See you there?

C'mon everybody say it with feeling...