Vacations and Visiting Relatives #AtoZChallenge

V is for Vacations and Visiting Relatives. Twenty-second of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Holidays and summertime still evoke memories of vacations and visiting relatives during my elementary years. My family often took to the road in our Pontiac station wagon — and I well remember our seating arrangement inside the car.

https://pixabay.com/photos/dunes-sand-dunes-sunset-boat-352593/
Beach and dunes on Cape Cod. For two weeks every summer General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. Photo: Pixabay

My dad was a road warrior and generally in the driver’s seat. On long trips, my mom sat in the back seat behind him. Why? So she could be in reach of all of us kids if we needed something — or if we got out of line and required a firm hand. Also, she could tap Dad’s head as a wake-up call if he  seemed to be nodding off.

Up front, I rode shotgun with my brother Mark in the middle, Jeff and Amy were in back next to Mom — and Carol, alas, had to sit in a cleared spot in the station wagon’s trunk. And thus we traveled from Endwell, N.Y. to our various destinations.

Vacations

General Electric, where my dad worked, closed down for two weeks every summer — and that’s when we made our annual family trip to Dennisport, Mass. on Cape Cod. We rented a family-friendly wood-frame house withing walking distance to the beach — and it became our home away from home for a fortnight.

https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/capobject/?refd=MS028.01.012.019
Cape Cod souvenir matches. During college, my mom broke up with my dad before her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod. Then she thought it over and sent Dad some souvenir matches — and that’s how they got back together. Talk about serendipity! Photo: historicnewengland.org

I associate Cape Cod with my childhood — but later learned of an important family history connection, too. Mom told me she used to go there with her parents (aka Boom and Gramps) — and during college before one of those vacations she had broken up with Dad, who she was dating at the time.

“But while I was at the cape, I thought it over and sent your father a box of Cape Cod souvenir matches,” she said. “And that’s how we got back together. Can you believe it?” Wow, talk about serendipity!

The cape was a great place to vacation as a child: hot, salty days on the beach and cool, foggy sweatshirt nights; weekly auctions of little trinkets outside the camp rental office, followed by fireworks; eating fried clams at noisy Kream ‘N Kone — and one time even boiling a lobster for my sister Carol’s birthday.

Plus there were tons of other children — some also from hometown GE families — to hang out and play with. My siblings and I all still love Cape Cod based on our fun childhood vacations there.

Visiting relatives

Other trips — usually for weekends or holidays — involved visiting relatives and gave me a larger sense of family.

Family buggy ride (1956). A visit to my grandparents’ farm was always fun. Here, we ride in an antique carriage that my grandmother was likely planning to sell through her antique business. I am sporting ringlet curls my grandmother created with tied rags. Out of sight is my grandfather, who acted as the “horse” to pull us down the driveway. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

Visits to my maternal grandparents Tony and Liz (Stoutner) Laurence on the farm were always fun — and sometimes surprising, as illustrated by our brief carriage ride above.

We kids loved running around in the fields, splashing in the small nearby creeks, skipping stones on the pond and feeding grass to the cows next door. But there were family gatherings, too.

A summer gathering of my maternal Italian- and German-American relatives. Boom and Gramps, my maternal grandparents, often invited their families over from Gloversville, N.Y. for family picnics at their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years. Photo: Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence

My grandmother was big on keeping family connected, so she would invite her German-American and my grandfather’s Italian-American family over from Gloversville, N.Y. for big family picnics on their Altamont, N.Y. farm — giving me a chance to meet everyone during my elementary years.

Dad’s North Country family

On separate trips, we drove north of Utica, N.Y. to visit my dad’s family — his three brothers, their wives and children and the paternal family patriarch Grandpa Charboneau. And sometimes, in the summer, we visited their camps in the Adirondacks.

Dinner with Dad’s family in New York’s North Country (circa 1962). I’m on the left in a red blouse in this photo of a dinner with some of Dad’s brothers, their families and Grandpa Charboneau. Photo: Peg (Laurence) Charboneau

That’s how — little by little, through these regular visits to faraway relatives — I became acquainted with my extended family during my elementary years.

Up next: W is for Weeping Willow: Our backyard tree. Please stop back! 

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Upward and onward: Sixth Blogiversary! #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 517. U is for Upward and onward: Sixth Blogiversary! Twenty-first of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

During my elementary years, I could not have imagined writing a genealogy and family history blog, much less blogging every week — and even daily in April during the annual A to Z Challenge!

Yet as a child in Endwell, N.Y., I kept a somewhat-daily diary of local goings on. And at thirteen as my journal turned to more serious topics, I first had the idea of writing as a calling.

Dec. 2, 1963. I’ve decided to be a writer. I was talkin’ to Dad & he said the ideal profession was writing! I could work for a newspaper! Maybe I could even write about JFK!!

https://pixabay.com/vectors/birthday-candle-number-six-2024499/
Sixth Blogiversary! Completing year six means I have beaten the five-year curse — the point when many bloggers stop posting. Artwork: Pixabay

How prophetic! Today I am retired from a long writing-editing career and blogging away on Molly’s Canopy — sharing ancestral stories and research techniques one blog post at a time.

Beating the five-year curse

I am particularly happy to be writing today’s post because some industry surveys have indicated that on average bloggers hit the wall and stop posting at year five. Yikes!

Admittedly, there were points after my Fifth Blogiversary when I wondered whether this might happen to me. But new genealogy research and a pivotal summer road trip saved the day — and renewed my enthusiasm for making family history discoveries and blogging about my ancestors’ lives.

The Blakeslee saga

https://www.artic.edu/artworks/180709/the-lovers
The Lovers by William Powell Firth (1855). Sometime between 1854-56, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee of Brookdale, Penna., met and got engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull of Corbettsville, N.Y. Writing her Blakeslee family’s  story led to one of my longest blog series. Image: Art Institute Chicago

My renewal process began in February 2019. Wanting to learn more about my second great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — wife of Union Army veteran Arthur T. Bull and later a Civil War widow — I wrote A bewildering Blakeslee saga bemoaning what little I knew about her family line.

Mary’s back story led to her parents’ story and one of my longest ancestral series to date — pieced together week by week as I researched then wrote about my findings.

A surprise divorce

By last summer I had made the surprise discovery that Mary’s parents — my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — were divorced in Pennsylvania in 1866! After she left him in 1858 and moved to New York State!

http://panewsarchive.psu.edu/lccn/sn84026112/1866-08-28/ed-1/seq-3/#city=Montrose&rows=20&proxtext=Zebulon+Blakeslee&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=0&words=Blakeslee+Zebulon&page=1
Blakeslee divorce decree made the papers. Montrose Democrat, 28 Aug. 1866, p. 3. Source: panewsarchive.psu.edu

That bit of breaking news prompted a summer 2019 trip to the Susquehanna County Courthouse in Montrose, Penna., to unearth the Blakeslee divorce records.

Happily, my genealogy journey was a success — yielding 15 pages of divorce filings and testimony and the details of Zebulon’s second marriage after his divorce petition was granted. Genealogy research doesn’t get much better than that!

https://www.mimimatthews.com/2019/04/28/have-carpet-bag-will-travel/
1882: Going into the World by Evert Jan Boks (1838-1914). My third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were divorced in Pennsylvania in 1866 — after she left him in 1858 and moved to New York State. Image: mimimatthews.com

So I blogged about the Blakeslee divorce through the end of the year — building a circumstantial case that might explain why Hannah left Zebulon, since she did not respond to subpoenas to testify.

Albany research trip

As the Blakeslee series wrapped up, I went on a research trip with the N.Y. Genealogical and Biographical Society to the New York State Archives and Library in Albany, N.Y. — a journey that also sparked a series of blog posts.

My ancestor’s listing in the GAR roster. My great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull is number 30 on the list, enrolled as “A.T. Bull.” He was not a founding member of Nathan Crosby Post 550, but joined soon after moving to Salamanca, N.Y., from the Adirondacks region. Photo: Molly Charboneau

While in Albany, I accessed records and artifacts about my Civil War ancestor’s 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery Unit and the Grand Army of the Republic veterans group he belonged to.

I also researched my Broome County fourth great grandfather Waples Hance in early 1800s tax records and identified a neighbor David Chapman as the possible father of his wife Rachel (Chapman) Hance — and my possible fifth great-grandfather!

Portrait of Andrew Stoutner Sr. –– my maternal German immigrant great-great grandfather of Gloversville, Fulton County N.Y. (circa 1890). Scan by Molly Charboneau

My Fulton County ancestors

And I began researching my maternal German and Italian ancestors in Fulton County, N.Y. city directories — creating a timeline of their first listings and commercial ads and learning about previously unknown family addresses.

My discoveries prompted a new series earlier this year — to be continued — on my German-immigrant Stoutner ancestors of Gloversville, N.Y.

Resuming the A to Z Challenge

Finally, the surest sign that my blogging energy is back is my participation in this year’s A to Z Challenge. I did my first challenge in 2016 writing on Ancestors A to Z– and learned a lot about how to do marathon blogging and support other participants with visits and comments on their posts.

Me and my brothers circa 1955. Adding my own story to the ancestral mix is a way of leaving the type of diary we wish our ancestors had left for us. Photo: Norman J. Charboneau

I had so much fun, I was back at it for the 2017 A to Z Challenge chronicling my own life in Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont Childhood — adding my story to the ancestral mix as a way of leaving the type of diary we wish our ancestors had left for us. Which prompted my sequel in this year’s challenge — Endwell: My Elementary Years.

My blog Molly’s Canopy has been a particularly welcome refuge for me this year — as we shelter at home during the coronavirus quarantine and face an uncertain short-term future. As I enter my seventh blogging year, I believe my family history blog will continue to keep me going — with many more ancestral stories still to tell!

Up next: V is for Vacations and visiting relatives. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Trick or Treat and Halloween mayhem #AtoZChallenge

T is for Trick or Treat and Halloween Mayhem. Twentieth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Holidays came and went during my elementary years in Endwell, N.Y. But for the 50-or-so kids who lived on my block the only one that really counted was Halloween — especially the weeks and months of neighborhood pranks that led up to the final night of trick or treat.

When I arrived on the block at age seven, the practical jokes were confined to a couple of weeks before Halloween — commencing about the time that colorful fall leaves started showing.

https://pixabay.com/photos/fall-foliage-leaves-colorful-3705550/
Autumn leaves. As soon as the colorful fall leaves appeared — and sometimes weeks before — the kids on my block began meeting to plan our annual Halloween pranks. Photo: Pixabay

But we kids enjoyed plotting our mayhem so much that we kept pushing back the start date. Soon our planning sessions had moved from mid October to late September and finally — according to my diary — to August, before school even started!

Aug. 26, 1961. At 9:00 Debbie, Danny, Evans and I were talking about soaping windows. 11:00 Eclipse of the moon.

Soaping windows  and ringing doorbells were favored activities  — driving our parents nuts and majorly riling up a couple of the more high-strung dads on the street. In short, tons of fun!

Ringing doorbells

The premise of ringing doorbells was pretty basic. You waited until after dusk — in the last hour of outdoor play after dinner  — then bucked up your courage, rang someone’s doorbell and ran like mad before the door flew open.

There were famous stories of close calls and missteps. One kid got caught ringing a doorbell when a dad — standing at the ready — suddenly whipped the door open. “Can Joey come out to play?” asked the quick-thinking youngster as he stood trembling on the porch.

https://pixabay.com/photos/halloween-ghosts-pumpkin-1743251/
Ghosts and pumpkins. Soaping windows  and ringing doorbells were favored pre-Halloween activities during my elementary years — driving our parents nuts and majorly riling up a couple of the more high-strung dads on the street. In short, tons of fun! Photo: Pixabay

Then there was the time a visiting boy, unfamiliar with our back yards, ran into a hurricane fence when a bunch of us ducked between houses to make our escape. He was ahead of me — and not hurt — but the sight of him bouncing off the fence got us all laughing so hard we were nearly caught.

Soaping windows

Ringing doorbells, although annoying to the grownups, was a fairly innocent prank. But soaping windows with bar soap rose to a whole other level. And it was usually reserved for the houses of the most defiant dads — the ones who yelled at us or sat out on their porches as if daring us to try. So try we did — and usually succeeded.

One year, I remember standing with a bunch of kids in the street opposite the porch-sitting dad as he laughed at us. From there we watched smugly as another group of kids snuck into his back yard in the dark and boosted each other up to quietly soap his windows.

Waxing windows

Soap wasn’t too bad, since it was easy to wash off with a water hose when Halloween was over. Worst of all was waxing windows — using the wax tubes filled with sweet, colored liquid that we got at Michael’s 5 & 10 candy counter.

We’d drink the liquid and stockpile the tubes to wax the windows of the yelling dad — which drove him completely berserk. It took him days of tedious scraping with a razor blade to remove all the wax.

https://pixabay.com/photos/candy-corn-candy-treat-halloween-3725011/
Candy corn. Sure, we kids enjoyed dressing in costumes and going door-to-door for candy with our little trick-or-treat bags. But until the following summer, we would miss the strategy and camaraderie that came with planning and executing our annual Halloween pranks. Photo: Pixabay

Trick or treat

Yet after a couple of months of these diverting pranks, Halloween inevitably arrived — to the disappointment of us youngsters and sighs of relief from our parents.

Not that we kids didn’t enjoy dressing in costumes and going door-to-door for candy with our little trick-or-treat bags. But until the following summer, we would miss the strategy and camaraderie that came with planning and executing our annual Halloween pranks.

Up next, Upward and onward: Sixth Blogiversary! Please stop back.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time