30 September 2013

It's Been a Long Afternoon

The mailman, come to kill us all! (And to drop off a package.) The ever-vigilant whippet, barking fiercely, frightens him away! (The mailman left the package at the door, and went back to his truck.)

The whippet is really quite pleased with himself.

The package is sitting on my desk.

I can't open it until Scarecrow quits work for the day, but I know what's in it, at least approximately. It's stuff my brother found when he was cleaning 65 years of accumulated detritus out of my mom and dad's house. It's stuff he didn't know what to do with, so he put it in a box and sent it to me.

It's been a long afternoon.

22 September 2013

But It's Not Fall Yet!

It sure looks like fall. It's blustery and blowy and fall-colored leaves are sailing past my window. But the autumnal equinox isn't until 1:44 PM. We should get another four hours and 10 minutes of summer!

It's not like we didn't have a summer this summer. We did. We had more than our usual share of beautiful warm sunshine.

I'm just not ready for it to end.

21 September 2013

Surname Saturday

This should probably be filed under 'When we get bored, bad things happen.' If it crashes your browser –– or your machine — apologies. Really. Sackcloth and ashes.

But if it doesn't, is this fun, or what?
You put some words into this Web app, kill much of a perfectly good Saturday afternoon messing with colors and sizes and shapes and all, and get something to take home for your mom to stick on the refrigerator door.

Cool, no?

Starting with my family surnames, I came up with a graphic that reflects the superior fecundity of the French-Canadian habitant over, well, pretty much everybody. There is one non-French-sounding name you don't need a magnifying glass to read (Baltes), but the rest are pretty hard to find.

OK, it doesn't really reflect any such thing. What it really means is that the Catholic Church in Québec kept voluminous records, a lot of them are online, and I'm lazy.

And that when we get bored, bad things happen.

14 September 2013

Searching Cemeteries

There’s one nice thing about dead people. They’re not going anywhere.

Several of my mother's forbears are buried in the St. Philip Neri cemetery in Empire, Michigan. The parish still exists; they even have a website. The website even has a history page.
"The history of St. Philip Neri Church begins in the middle of the 19th century when the first Catholic settlers came to the Glen Lake/Empire area. Over 30 priests have served as regular pastors here, while the descendants of the first settlers have stayed to help build the parish.

"In the year 1855 Fr. Mrack traveled from Peshawbestown to attend to the settlers' spiritual needs.… Fr. Mrack continued to serve the people of this area until his appointment as Bishop of Marquette in 1869 to succeed Bishop Baraga. Following Fr. Mrack's appointment as Bishop. Fr. Herbstrit was assigned to Suttons Bay. Upon his departure, he was followed by Fr. Zom. Fr. Shackeltown succeeded Fr. Zom, and was then himself succeeded by Fr. Zussa. Fr. Zorn then returned and remained until 1877."
This list of pastors is starting to have the same effect on my attention as the lists of begats in the Bible.
"During this time the area was becoming more populated. Frank Payment sailed the Great Lakes and landed in Glen Haven."
Wait! Frank Payment? I know Frank Payment! (I'm using 'know', here, in the genealogical sense. Frank Payment is my mother's great granduncle.)
"Impressed with the area, he encouraged several people from his hometown of Ogdensburg, N.Y., to emigrate after the Civil War, and about the year 1867 they settled in East Empire."
Or something like that. For one thing, Ogdensburg, New York wasn't Frank Payment's hometown. Frank was baptized François Xavier Payment in 1842 in Ste-Geneviève-de-Pierrefonds, near Montréal. His three older siblings, and three (maybe four) of his six (maybe seven) younger sisters were also born there. Ogdensburg is on the St. Lawrence River, immediately across from Prescott, Ontario, and guessing from census records and where the youngest three girls were born it seems the family lived in this general area for some years, sometimes on one side of the river, sometimes the other. It's still a puzzle.

I know Frank was in Michigan when he registered for military service in 1863, but then he enlisted with the 76th New York Regiment and served with New York units for the duration of the war. After the war it's clear that somebody must have rounded up the in-laws and outlaws and herded them to Michigan, but I didn't know Frank was the instigator. I still don't know why they all left Canada, or why they left New York, or how Frank came to be in Michigan in the first place. But somehow, between 1865 and 1875, nine of Frank's 10 (maybe 11) siblings, and his parents, settled within a couple of miles of each other, east of Empire, Michigan.
"Soon Masses were being held in the homes of Pat Kams and Tom Deering."
(Tom Deering was Frank's brother-in-law.)
"During this time the only road of any sort was the Benzonia Trail. To arrive at the farms where Mass was being celebrated the early settlers blazed a trail through the forest. Often they remained overnight, returning home the next day so they would have the advantage of daylight to find their way.… In 1906 parishioners built a horse barn on the northeast comer of the property to keep the horses dry and warm. It could accommodate more than 20 teams. This was a necessity because Mass frequently would start two hours late because of the number of confessions."
Who knew a parish church website could be so darned entertaining?

Anyway, the reference to Ogdensburg as Frank Payment's home town sent me off to see if I could find anything more about the time the family spent in that area. No luck with birth or marriage or death or cemetery records, and no census records I didn't already know about. Then I stumbled onto an online archive of historical newspapers from northern New York State.

Newspapers were the Facebook of their day, full of items like:
"Alexander Poirier has returned to his home in DeKalb Junction from the Ogdensburg city hospital.

"Ms. Ella O'Leary of Ogdensburg is a guest of her mother, Mrs. Julia O'Leary, in Potsdam.

"A number of venturesome people have crossed the river between Brockville and Morristown on foot during the past few days, but they are taking long chances as the channel is very unsafe and the ferrymen frequently break through the thin ice covering where the current is strongest.

"John Hazen of Canton, a student at St. Lawrence University, is spending a few days with Harold Leonard.

"An unusual accident happened recently to one of Edwin Sweet's cows on his Massina farm…"
I don't usually think to check newspapers. What fun are they, if you can't read? Most of Frank's forbears, including his parents and several of his siblings, were illiterate. Frank could read, though, so maybe it was worth a look. In the St. Lawrence Republican, Wednesday, 5 January 1915, page 3, column 3, I found this:
"Mr. and Mrs. Frank Payment and Mrs. Matilda Scott of Empire Michigan, are visiting their sister, Miss Teresa Beau."
Virtual happy dance! Frank's wife was Louisa Bow, and her hometown was Ogdensburg, New York. Since Frank also had a sister-in-law and a brother-in-law in the Bow family (long story for another post), I've been trying to track these guys down for the best part of forever. Bow can be a tricky name. It can be Bow, or Beau. Or Bean. Or Boe, or Baye or Boh, or Boie, or Boye, or Bothe, or LeBeau, or Debow, or Vanderbow… They can come from France, via Canada or not, or Scotland, or Ireland, or Germany, or China… They might have changed the way they spelled it. In fact, they did.

"Miss Teresa Beau."

I'll find them. No rush. They're not going anywhere.

08 September 2013

It's Not That Big a Deal

I've been keeping a blog for a while now, but I'm still trying to figure out this whole blogging thing.

I started it because it was a cool techie thing. I wanted to try it out; mess around with it a bit, you know, just for grins. The mechanics of entering some words on my computer, then uploading them to some mysterious place, where they're magically available to anyone on the Interwebz. Look at that, will ya? OK, that was fun. Now what?

Some years later, when I had to give up my day job, I thought I'd use the blog to document my adventures applying for Social Security disability. Since I anticipated this lengthy drama would generate a potentially overwhelming number of notes, forms, phone conversations, office visits, appeals, and possibly litigation, a write-as-you-go blog would be a good way to keep track of everything that happened. My expectations (some, in retrospect, inaccurate) were formed from reading other people's accounts of this process, so putting my experience online for whoever might stumble across it seemed like a way to pay it forward. Or back. Whatever. Besides, it would give me something to do. Then, three weeks later, it was a done deal. A great relief; also, a bit of an anti-climax. Now what?

Since then, I've been nattering on, off and on, to no particular purpose. Does a blog need to have a purpose? There are blogs that do; people who have something to say, or something to sell. I don't. Unlike the paper journal I used to keep, I know blogs aren't private. This is the Internet, after all. Seriously. Thinking you're anonymous on the 'net is like thinking you're invisible because you've got your eyes shut. Still, most of the visits to this site are from web crawlers, and that's probably just as well. I've made the acquaintance of a few truly fine Blogger Buddies who tolerate my Internet ADHD. Speaking of which, there's a lovely Steller's jay on the fence outside my window. I like reading about what my Blogger Buddies have been up to, and I don't mind if they read what I put up here. If I thought I had a significant number of real Readers, well, I just don't think I could stand the pressure.

So why is it, I wonder, that I feel like I should always have something to blog about? A blog post should have a topic. It should be like an essay, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well thought out. There should be some point to it. Looking back over random previous posts I see these elements may not always be discernible – in fact, they may not always exist – but I always feel like they should.

Can't I just scribble down some random observations about the weather, or about the annoying guy who lives next door, and call it good? That's what I did in my old paper journal. I wrote every day. Sometimes it was two lines, sometimes two pages. Whatever. Why does it have to be such a big deal?

Maybe it's a blog thing. I'm still trying to figure it out.

04 September 2013

It Must Be That Time

A few leaves on one of the bigleaf maples outside my window have gone yellow, and the black cottonwoods are starting to look tattered and worn. Scarecrow is starting to whine about having to sweep the leaves off the deck. We've had an amazing summer, but it won't last forever. It must be that time. Fall is on the way.

Juvenile dispersal is a big deal to biologists. Where juveniles go affects population growth, resource utilization, the genetic structure of the population, all kinds of stuff.

It must be that time. Tuffy went off to Japan. One of her friends is in the military, stationed in Hawaii (that should count as dispersal, since she's from Seattle, and in the service there's no telling where she'll wind up.) A friend's son just left for a year in France. In a few days my oldest nephew, Arkman, is leaving for 18 months in Bahrain. They'll all be doing interesting things, in interesting places. I'm looking forward to sharing their adventures; it's one of the advantages of belonging to a relentlessly verbal family.

I recently discovered that Tuffy's relentless verbosity is all Scarecrow's doing. A couple of weeks ago, pretty much by accident, I stumbled across a couple of things written by Scarecrow's fourth great-granduncle, Walter Bates. One was a narrative concerning, among other things, the early days of the revolution, "with some account of the sufferings of the loyalists." I knew that Walter's brother, William (Scarecrow's fourth great-grandfather), was a sergeant in the Queen's Rangers during the Revolutionary war. After the war, being less than welcome in the newly United States, William went to Nova Scotia, and eventually settled in Ontario. I didn't know anything about Walter, who apparently became High Sheriff of Kingston, Nova Scotia, in which capacity he wrote the concisely titled The mysterious stranger; or, Memoirs of Henry More Smith, alias Henry Frederick Moon, alias William Newman, who is now confined in Simsbury mines, in Connecticut, for the crime of of burglary: containing an acount of his confinement in the gaol of King's county, province of New-Brunswick, where he was under sentence of death : with a statement of his succeeding conduct before and since his confinement in Newgate. He also wrote some really bad poetry. Who knew? Judging from his narrative, he was a man of strongly-held opinions; another trait he seems to have bequeathed to his descendants.

Family history explains so much.