Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Not To Be forgotten: Adella Kent

Pictured here from the left is Adella Kent, her sister Etta (Kent) Dewey, her great nephew, Dix, Myrtle (Schmitt) Dewey and great niece Dorothy Dewey. According to a note on the back of the picture, it was photographed on 27 August 1922. The note was written by Etta (Kent) Dewey. Although little is known about Adella, I feel I must write about what I know about her so she can be remembered. Adella was my great grand aunt.

Adella Kent was born the youngest daughter of Abel and Maryetta (Snedeker) Kent on 26 March 1865 in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The family called her Della. By the time Della was born her eldest sibling Theresa Kent was 16. At the tender age of 3 Della's mother died and by the time she was 14 years old Della was an orphan upon the death of her father in 1879. The 1880 census showed Della was living with the family of her sister Amelia (Kent) Meeker in Bridgewater, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania where Della attended school. Della never married or had children, she never owned property and because of this she left very few records. The paper trail we all leave behind us that may tell more about our journey through life was very sparse for Della, however, census records and Binghamton, New York City Directories have allowed us to get a brief glimpse into her life.
By 1900 Della had moved in with the family of her brother John in Binghamton, New York. Della was working as a "servant" then. In 1903 the widowed John married a new wife. This may have changed the living situation for Della because the 1903 Binghamton, New York City Directory showed Della living at 39 Broome Street and working as a furrier. She would work at a dry goods store as a furrier until her retirement many years later. This change in position would have afforded her a better life and was a fairly good position for a woman during this era. After 1903 she lived in various rooming and boarding houses. The census records and city directories showed she moved often. Of course, we know from the photograph on this page she traveled to Elgin, Illinois to visit her sister in 1922. Since the majority of Kent siblings lived in Binghamton, New York, I am sure she visited with her sisters there also. Sometime between 1930 and 1935 Della moved into the Fairview Home For Aged Women in Binghamton, New York. The 1940 census shows her living there then, and the Binghamton, New York City Directory of 1944 shows her at the same address. The 1944 city directory is the last evidence I can find of her. It is currently unknown when she died, however in 1944 she was 79 years old so it is safe to say she lived a long life.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Joseph Maiola: A Hollywood Story

The movies have a long history dating back to the 1890's when the first short films were made. During the silent film era the "movie star" was born. By the early 1920s it was a profitable booming business. Young men and women began flooding Hollywood in the hopes of becoming the next big star seeking fame, fortune and adventure. In 1921 a film came out titled "The Kid" starring Charles Chaplin and a very young boy named Jackie Coogan. The film was huge and as a result, mothers everywhere began bringing their children to Hollywood in the hopes of their child becoming the next young star.
This film inspired members of my own family. Frank Maiola was my father's uncle. He and his wife Anna (Bova) Maiola had 4 children. Their first child named Joseph was born on 10 October 1918, followed by a daughter they named Natalina on 7 August 1920. Anna became pregnant with their third child but two months into her pregnancy the six month old Natalina died. That September she gave birth to a baby boy named Frank Jr., however, six months later, he died also. 1925 saw the birth of the last child of Anna and Frank whom they named Robert. Both Robert and Joesph lived well into adulthood, married and had children.
Before the birth of Robert, and after the deaths of Natalina and Frank Jr. Anna and Frank packed up their son Joseph bound for Hollywood hoping to make young Joe a child star. The photograph shown here was taken in Hollywood of Anna, Frank and young Joe to mark their trip. You can see in the photo that young Joe had a haircut very similar to the style Jackie Coogan wore in the popular 1921 movie The Kid. According to family stories I heard, the family stayed in Hollywood for a few months. Young Joe never got his big break or a movie. But as this photograph clearly shows, the young family had a wonderful adventure in Hollywood which was relived many times by telling the stories of their adventures in Hollywood during a very exciting time of the young budding industry. Although I recall many stories being told of this adventure, I do not recall enough details to retell them.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Genealogy Goals for 2015

It has been over a year since I published any blog posts here. This is my first and last blog post for 2014. Personally, 2014 was the worst year of my life. I am glad to see it go and hope 2015 will be kinder. At least now I can think about my goals to accomplish in 2015. Since my life is just beginning to return to "normal" I am keeping my goals short and realistic so I do not set myself up to fail. I can always add more goals later. Below is my list.

1. Learn! Attend training sessions, conferences, etc, that will expand my knowledge base and improve my organization and skills.
2. Take at least 1 genealogy road trip to explore archives, libraries, etc. that will assist me in my personal genealogy goals
3. Resume blogging (at least one post a month), social media and working on my websites.
4. Expand my genealogy business.
5. Update my Power Point skills!
6. Read a book each month that involves history to expand my knowledge of history.
7. Review this list in 6 months to hopefully add to it.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dix D. Dewey, Jr.: The Forgotten Uncle I Never Knew

Pictured here is my mother's older brother Dix. The family called him Dixie. Dixie and my mother were very close and she never got over his death. He died many years before I was born. I heard many stories about him throughout my life. Dix was born Dix Darius Dewey (Jr.) on 27 July 1917 in Chicago (Cook County), Illinois. He was the first born child of my grandparents Dix and Myrtle (Schmitt) Dewey. My mother was born two years later in April, 1919, sister Sue was born a few years later followed by another brother Chuck (Charles). In the early 1920s the family moved to Elgin, Illinois. According to my mom, Dixie was very athletic and excelled in many different sports in school and at the Elgin Y.M.C.A. On Saturday, June 13, 1931 when Dixie was just 14 an event took place that would change his life forever. Dixie was one of five young teens representing their Y.M.C.A. chapter for the Y.M.C.A. junior track and field state championship in Chicago. The director of the Elgin Y.M.C.A. Arthur Wild drove the 5 boys in his car, however, they never made it to the championship games. On the way there a fire extinguisher truck hit the car the team was in so hard that it flipped the car over. The emergency crew that responded to the accident had to extricate everyone in the car before rushing them to the Belmont Hospital. All 5 boys were severely injured and the director, Arthur Wild was rushed into surgery where he died on the operating table. My uncle received a serious head injury. The story my mother told me about this accident perfectly matched all the newspaper articles I found about the incident. According to my mother, less than a year later, Dixie began suffering from epileptic seizures. The family always believed that his epilepsy was a result of his head injury. Despite his epilepsy, Dixie continued to participate in his favorite sports, in particular, track, javelin throw competitions and his favorite of all, swimming. On May 24, 1935, Dix was at the "Big Seven" meet measuring the distance of a javelin throw when he was severely injured in the leg by a javelin. After Dixie graduated from Elgin High School he continued to work with the students athletic endeavors there. He was a volunteer member of the Maroon Athletic Club where he helped train young athletes and mentored them. By the age of 18 Dixie had already attained the degree of master builder in his local Masonic lodge where he was very active. Dixie was an intelligent young man who did very well in school. But as he entered the workforce his epilepsy had to be kept as secret as possible because in 1930s Elgin, no one would hire anyone with handicaps. Every time he would have a seizure at work, he would be fired. As word got around Elgin that Dixie had epilepsy, it became more difficult for him to find jobs. The final job he had at the time of his death was a tax assessor.
Despite all this, Dixie still was able to participate in the sports he loved so much. His passion was swimming and diving though. In the summer he went every day to the stone quarry pool in Elgin to swim and dive. On June 26, 1948 Dixie went to the quarry to swim. He was standing near the diving platform when he had a sudden epileptic seizure and dropped into the deep water. Grant Steffen saw him fall in and rushed in to recover him. Life guards assisted and the police and fire departments were called. Attempts were made from the time he fell into the water at 3:20 until 5 pm to resuscitate him, however, to no avail. Dixie died at the age of 30. My mother was on a date with my father at the time in Chicago. My father drove my mother home from their date and as the car approached the house, they knew something was horribly wrong. They could see several police cars parked in front of the house. Since my mother's 2 elderly grandmother's lived with them, she assumed something happened to one of them. When she found out what really happened, she was devastated.
I doubt there is anyone living now who remembers him. He left no widow or children. His awards, trophies and all evidence of his life is long gone. All that remains is his bible which is in my possession. But I will always remember all the memories of him that my mother shared with me. Although he did not live long, he lived a full life and made every day count.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Impressions Of My First FGS Conference

Last week I attended my first FGS Conference. Having worked for my dad since I was a child on internationally attended conferences and seminars, I know exactly how much work goes into them. In my opinion based on my experience at the FGS Conference they worked very hard and it showed. Aside from a fire alarm that went off Thursday all went extremely well. The sessions and their speakers were all outstanding. Of course, my favorite speakers were Elizabeth Shown Mills who inspires us all to be the very best and thorough as we can be as well as how to properly conduct research, document and of course, site those sources. I cannot forget to mention Judy Russell (AKA The Legal Genealogist) whose passion and humor not only teaches but inspires and entertains. I think if Judy wanted to, she could add professional comedienne to her list of professions. In addition to that, Judy keeps us out of trouble. Based on her session on copyright law, I think I had better go through my websites and check those images! I was also impressed with Laura Prescott's obvious passion. But all the speakers were great and they had quite a list of speakers that represented the best genealogy has to offer. I attended this conference to learn and with their impressive list of speakers, I certainly did that. I also had the opportunity to meet many people, network and have fun.
The exhibits in the exhibit hall were all great and several book and map vendors were there. I had been to their booths every day looking through their collections of books and maps. They had books on everything you could imagine. I found books on researching every state in the United States, African American, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Scandinavian, Slovakian, Czech, Serbian, Russian, Jewish even several Caribbean Islands. What I did not find was anything related to Italian Roots. One vendor had a map of Sicily and Naples. That was all for Italian resources! I have been aware for years that the genealogy community in general has mostly ignored the Italians. But not a single session included anything Italian related and even the vendors have ignored those with Italian roots. Family Search understands well how many people with Italian roots are looking which probably explains why they have put so many Italian records online. I think the time the genealogy community begin to offer at least something for the Italian community is long overdue. My experience at the conference did not entirely lack an Italian experience though. Thanks to Dr. John Phillip Colletta and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Italians did have some representation. Dr. Colletta was the speaker for the APG luncheon and did an outstanding, extremely funny speech regarding the keepers of the records and his experiences in Sicily. His presentation was very funny and he rocked an awesome imitation of the Italians.
Lessons Learned
If you want it buy it now: I found several books I wished to purchase in the exhibit hall, however, because I found them on short breaks between sessions and did not wish to carry these heavy volumes around, I waited. When I returned to purchase them, they were gone. One of these books was a 2 volume set on Colonial Virginia printed in 1906. The set was offered for an extremely reasonable price of $50 for the pair and was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. Next time, I will at the very least ask if they can either hold them until the end of the day after I purchase them or have them shipped. At least one of the book vendors did offer free shipping for purchases.
Carry light: I have a huge bag I use all the time when visiting repositories, etc. It is a huge heavy thick leather bag with big brass clips. Empty this bag weights about 5 pounds. Next time, I leave that bag home! By the time I packed everything I needed into that bag, it felt like it weighted 50 pounds! I doubt it did but by the end of the conference my back and shoulders were hurting quite bad.
Book the hotel early! By the time I committed to go, the venue hotel was booked, as was the hotel across the street. In fact, my top 4 choices were all booked. Next time I will book the hotel before the conference - as soon as the dates are announced.
Come early, stay late! This particular conference was held in Fort Wayne. Located here is one of the largest genealogy libraries in the country. Next time I attend a conference (particularly one with a genealogy library I can use) I will book a hotel at least a day early and stay a day after the conference so I have more time for research. Roots Tech will be held in Salt Lake City, the Mecca of genealogists. Booking an additional week still would not be enough time to go through the amazing collections of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I need to choose a few lines to concentrate on and be super organized for this visit.
Overall it was a great experience that I cannot wait to repeat.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Death Records: A Love Hate Relationship

Recently I have been trying to help someone at one of my Family History Centers who is new to Italian records. She was confused because things were not making sense. Things were not making sense because she was tracing the wrong family. Hence, this blog post.
I learned early that death records can provide the place of birth, the parent's names and more. Many United States death records also provide a cause of death. I love death records! The biggest problem with death records is, the information contained on them is provided by another person. Although I will be using Italian examples, most of the content here works with American records also.
This is the death record of my paternal second great grandmother, Caterina Nicastro. According to this death record (atti di morte or act of death) Caterina died at the age of 80 in November of 1904. The record identifies her as the wife of Filippo Napolitano so we know we have the correct Caterina Nicastro. The record also states that her father was the late Giuseppe and her mother was Carmela Alfano. Great! So now we have the parents of Caterina, right? Wrong! The first question I had when I found this record was how can Caterina's mother still be living when Caterina was 80 years old? The fact is Carmela Alfano was only 9 years older than Caterina. Next we look at the people who reported her death. Pasquale Arturi, age 40 and Emilio Arturi, age 27 reported the death. Two of Caterina's daughters married men named Arturi, however, neither of these men were close family members to her son in laws. Pasquale was a 2nd cousin to one of her son in laws. So, how did they know Caterina's parent's names? The answer may be that they guessed. If they did, they guessed incorrectly. Caterina was actually 75 years old when she died, not 80. Her father was actually the late Francesco Nicasto and her mother was the late Isabella Fullone. The only correct information on this record is the date and her name. So, how do I know this? Her marriage, processetti and birth records.
This is a portion of Caterina's marriage record that clearly shows her (still living) parent's names. Both Caterina and her parents were present so we can assume that this record is correct, however, her birth record provides further confirmation.
My own grandfather's death record was incorrect. His son reported the death, however, his children never knew his true age nor where in Italy he was born. I love death records but I never trust them by themselves.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday Dudley Kent Of Suffield, Connecticut

When I visited Suffield, Connecticut in 2011, I was very disappointed that my local ancestor's headstones no longer exist. I was told by a staff member at the Kent Memorial Library that the church had expanded and renovated over the years and built the additions to the church over the graves. Although I was very disappointed, I was happy to find this wonderful headstone for Dudley Kent. Dudley was born to John Kent (my ancestor) and his first wife Abigail Dudley (who is not my ancestor). Dudley was born in Suffield on 23 October 1695 and married Ruth Ruggles who bore him 10 children. Dudley lived to be 71 years old.The headstone is a typical style for the Hartford County area of this period. We are very fortunate his headstone exists in remarkable condition considering it is over 246 years old!