The first time I heard of my second great grandfather, Thomas Mowatt, was when I was going through my father’s personal files about 1992, ten years after his death. I had started researching our family, and was following the advice to start with what you know. As far as I knew, my father had no interest in genealogy or family history, but evidently his family DID and had sent him some letters, photos, and documents over the years. He never shared any of this with me when I was growing up, but somehow had the foresight to not throw away the few things that he had that were relevant to his family history.
Thomas Mowatt was my father’s great-grandfather and had died about ten years before my father was born. I was raised knowing I was Scottish on both sides of my family and had proudly worn a wool jumper sewn by my mother out of the Mowatt tartan when I was in fifth grade- but that’s all I knew about the Mowatts. So when I looked through my father’s files and found a typewritten document about this unknown ancestor, Thomas Mowatt, I was curious.
The document reads:
This certifies that Thomas Mowatt, a native of this neighborhood, of credible parentage, leaves this country for N. Brunswick, wishing to better his situation in that land. He is a member in full communion with this Presbyterian Congregation and has always acted as becometh the Christian.
He is of a mild inoffensive disposition, exceedingly peaceable, quiet and retiring, very highly esteemed as a servant, well acquainted with husbandry in all its modern improvements. He has had for several years the oversight of a corn mill, and is very capable of managing such a concern, so he is likely to prove an acquisition to any gentleman improving his estate.
He leaves us in comfortable circumstances, with his brother, James. But if a mysterious Providence should visit them with shipwreck or disaster, the British agent or Consul must afford them protection, and the humane may rest assured that they lend aid to the deserving.
Given in the name of the members, Trustees and Elders of this congregation, Thomas Hall, minister
Crookham, County of Northumberland May 21, 1837
It had been transcribed from the original by a grandson of Thomas Mowatt.
Flash forward a few years to 1996, and my husband, son, and I were driving through Northumberland, England to Ford, the birth place of Thomas and which he had left with his wife and brother James and friends and neighbors on the Cornelius, headed for New Brunswick, Canada. Ford is a small village, but has a castle, a church, some homes- and a mill!
It turned out that the mill, restored and fully operational, is the same one where my ancestor worked- and that there has been a mill on this site since the 1300’s! There was a tour going on, and when we were approached by the person in charge, I showed him the transcribed document. He was thrilled- and introduced us all around as the Canadians who were descended from the local Mowatt family! Our status increased immensely!
I was not a photographer back then, but of course took many photos, and this one of the mill is a favorite. I had scanned the photo with a little portable scanner a few years ago so decided to make a little art piece with it for my photo class this week. I think my father would have been pleased- more with the photography than the genealogy!
When Lonnie and I walked into the Visitor Center at New Mexico State University, we did not have high expectations of finding anything.I explained to the very nice receptionist that my grandfather had been a coach there from 1910 to 1914 and that I was hoping to at find out that there were some buildings left from 1910 that I could photograph. We were told that no, the buildings from that era did not survive and that it was too late to meet with the archivist who might have some documents from that era (her office was closing at 4:00). They were being very helpful, however, and marked up a map of how to get to the library where the archives were and wrote down the contact information for the archivist so that I could let her know that we were coming.
While this was going on, Lonnie was in the adjacent conference room looking around, and he spotted a football up on a bookshelf. As he looked closer, her realized that it had my grandfather’s name on it- and that it was the game ball from when the team won the 1913 Southwest Championship! You can imagine our excitement!
As I was photographing the ball, the employee mentioned that there were old yearbooks in the archives. How exciting! But right there on the bookshelf were yearbooks; just as she was saying that these were the more recent ones, we saw some very small yearbooks in the collection. You guessed it- the yearbooks from the years Grandpa was there!
As I realized what a treasure trove we had come across, my hands started shaking, and I got chills- it was an out of body experience. We took some time carefully taking cell phone shots of the pages that featured Grandpa- and found a goldmine of photos and articles. An unbelievable find! One article was especially moving to me, because it told of his kindness and emphasis on sportsmanship and fair play over winning. Those were the qualities he demonstrated his whole coaching career- and what made him so beloved by his players and the community- and by our family.
Below is a photo composite- the football overlaid upon a photo of the champion team of 2013.
The next day we met with the archivist and discovered that the entire collection of student newspapers was online. I searched for Badenoch- there were 93 entries! There seemed to be an almost equal number of articles about my grandfather AND my grandmother! Mimi, as we called her, had a beautiful classical singing voice and performed at events through the college and elsewhere while living in New Mexico- and also managed to have two babies between 1910 and 1912 (her first child was born in Chicago)! The archivist found a file of correspondence between my Grandpa and the president of the college from when he applied to coach there. It was emailed it to me when we got home.
So now my task is to organize this information and integrate it into my genealogy software program. Family history, like laundry, is never done!
My cousin is getting married on Saturday! We aren’t able to make the wedding, unfortunately, and actually will probably not be able to watch the ceremony live (we will be visiting our newest grandson, Caleb!)- but we wish her well!
Yes, I’m talking about THAT wedding!
One of the benefits of working on genealogy for almost 30 years is that you know who your ancestors are- so, when I saw an article on my iPhone’s CNN app naming Capt. Christopher Hussey (one of the original proprietors of Nantucket Island) as an ancestor of Meghan Markle, I must have gasped out loud- Christopher Hussey is my ninth great grandfather!
Since then, I have researched Meghan’s ancestry in order to place her in our family tree. We are actually both descended from Christopher Hussey’s daughter Mary Hussey and her husband Christopher Page. This makes us eighth cousins once removed (8C1R in genealogy lingo).
Here’s a screenshot from my genealogy program:
I actually tend to add famous people to my tree whenever I find a connection- just for fun. I can’t say that I’m descended from anyone famous (Lonnie is one up on me, because he has a Mayflower ancestor. . .), but I do share DNA with quite a few names you’d recognize (including several presidents, writers, Hollywood people, and . . . a serial killer). You likely have famous relatives too- perhaps Meghan Markle!
BTW, the title of this blog refers to the Kevin Bacon Game (6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon), which was a fad about 20 years ago, in case you forgot. And, not to be a name dropper, BUT- I’m only a few degrees away from Kevin Bacon himself (through marriage not DNA, alas).
Ok- back to photography . . .
When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the antique gold pencil that was kept in the chest that held the good silver. My mother said it belonged to a great-great grandmother, but that I was not named after her- which was obvious to me, because Melinda was SPELLED WRONG! My mother was not particularly interested in family history, but I was, even at a young age. I wondered who that Malinda could be (and why her named was spelled wrong).
Of course, I didn’t realize at that time that variations in spelling are the norm rather than the exception in genealogy- as are inaccurate family stories. When I started doing genealogical research, I discovered that Malinda Tucker was actually the second wife of my great-great grandfather, Luther Bean, whom he married after my great-great grandmother died. My mother’s mother would turn out to be Luther’s only heir after her aunt died, so we have quite a few of his things.
As you can see by examining the photo, he was in the Civil War as a surgeon. He grew up in New Hampshire, and he and my great-great grandmother, came from a long line of New Englanders- going all the way back to the early colonists (right AFTER the Mayflower). Later in life he moved to Waukegan, Illinois, where he continued to practice medicine.
Another inaccurate (I think) family story was that I had a great-grandfather who was in the battle of the Monitor vs the Merrimack, which I learned about in school. I remember being proud to tell my sixth grade class all about it- minus the name of this mysterious great-grandfather. I have searched and have yet to find him, the most likely candidate being Luther- but there is no record of this in his service record that I can find. This story may be as false as the story that my husband’s grandfather was “half Indian”- and his mother grew up on a reservation in Oklahoma. Wrong!
Oh- about the spelling of Malinda/Melinda– on her gravestone, her name is spelled with an E, like mine!
Photography note: the gold lines under the pencil in the top photo are reflections.
I’m on a mission to finish up my genealogy research and organize it in some meaningful way to pass on to future generations. There are so many aspects to this whole project that it seems overwhelming at times, and I get paralyzed with indecision over what to tackle next. I’ve researched the ancestors just about as far as I can go at this point, have a file cabinet, binders, and boxes filled with research, and have had my DNA done (twice), but I still have boxes and boxes of photos left to deal with.
I recently reorganized our front hallway dental cabinet so that the drawers are organized to make sense again. I use this chest to store and display family memorabilia from my husband and my childhoods and (mostly) from our parents’ and grandparents’ lives. I got the idea of putting this together from a newspaper article given to me by my friend, Kathryn, who spotted it and gave it to me, knowing my interest in genealogy and that I owned a similar cabinet. I’m sure I’ve mentioned more than once here that it belonged to my father who bought it used when he opened his dental practice in the late twenties. It was painted white when we acquired it, but we had it stripped to its natural mahogany. I think I should stop calling it a dental cabinet now- it’s our Family History Cabinet!
Here is a drawer with some items from my grandmother and great-grandmother. Both photos are of my grandmother, Marion Bean Badenoch, known to her grandchildren as Mimi.
My latest genealogy/photography project is to scan and restore some of my old family photos. I have hundreds, not counting those from my childhood and my children’s childhoods- so obviously, I am going to have to be very selective. I believe that the photo of Mimi in the oval frame was taken when she was sixteen (that’s what my mother told me, I think), but I’ve also considered that it could be her wedding portrait- it’s a pretty fancy dress! She went to finishing school in Boston, so it could have been taken around that time.
Here is the photo as scanned:
And here is the restored one:
Contrast alone makes a huge difference, and I attempted to eliminate most of the scratches and marks as well. I haven’t made a final decision about tone. The tutorials I’ve watched showed converting all the images to a plain black and white, but I think I prefer some brown in the tones to give a bit of a vintage look to them. Another decision to make!
I think my next photo restoration project will be the cute childhood image of Mimi sitting in the chair.
Get a cup of coffee or a glass of wine- this is going to be the longest post I’ve ever written.
Genealogy has been a passion for me for almost 25 years- and an interest of mine since childhood. I am an only child, who was blessed to have three of my grandparents living with our small, quiet family for much of my childhood in Chico, California, where my father had his dental practice. A desire to know how our family connected with others, plus an interest in history, led me to finally start actively researching my family’s ancestry when my daughter left for college in 1992. My father had died ten years earlier at age 80, and I began to realize I needed to find out the answers to all my questions before my mother and father’s generation was gone. This was the days before internet research, so I started writing letters and doing research at LDS libraries. I was hooked.
Flash forward to January of 2015: Most of my family lines go back about as far as I can take them, I’ve met many cousins online, and my genealogy is now uploaded to ancestry.com. Last week, I was sitting at my computer idly looking at the leaves on my parents’ branches of my online tree. The leaves are placed on an ancestor’s name when Ancestry’s computer finds a record or family link to someone in your tree, and, since I thought I knew all about my parents, I hadn’t looked for information about them very assiduously. When I clicked on my father’s name, there were several clues about census records I already had, as well as his death record.
Then I noticed something new.
There was a link to a Find A Grave record. Find A Grave is an internet site that indexes cemetery records- very useful for genealogists. My mother and grandparents and many other relatives and ancestors can be found on there- but my father should not have been listed for reasons I will explain shortly. When I clicked on his listing- there was my father- correct name (with the middle name misspelled), correct birth and death dates, and correct rank in the U.S. Navy. He was interred at the Northern California Veterans’ Cemetery in Igo, California (just outside Redding).
I was in shock. My parents were very private about anything related to death. As a young adult, I had never known (or even thought about) where my grandparents’ resting places were. There were no graveside services or visits. It wasn’t until my mother was near death and we had to start thinking about her arrangements, that my husband made some calls and discovered that my grandparents’ ashes were at a cemetery in Chico, where they had lived their final years. However- we knew that was not the case with my father.
When my father died suddenly in 1982, my mother said that he was to be cremated, and that his ashes were being scattered at Lake Almanor, where he and my mother had spent many happy times in their retirement years. I cannot remember the conversations exactly, but both my husband and I remembered that this was to be done by helicopter or plane. It never occurred to me to think that this had not been accomplished. I was a busy mom, with young children, lived 100 miles away, and was still at the stage of not questioning my mother’s decisions and or taking charge of her affairs. Besides, I thought that Lake Almanor was a fitting resting place for him, and was happy knowing that’s where he was.
So. . . last Monday, after finding that my father’s ashes were at a veterans’ cemetery instead of scattered at the lake, I called the cemetery. I cannot begin to say enough about how impressed and grateful I am with the speed at which everyone concerned called me back and the care that was taken (with me- and with my father’s remains). I was called FOUR times that day by various people involved in this story- and I had my answer.
Here’s the story: amazingly, my father’s ashes remained at the mortuary from 1982 until 2009. In 2007, a group called Missing in America had been formed to find unclaimed remains of veterans, search for relatives, do the necessary paperwork, and place their remains in a veterans’ cemetery with a full military service. My father’s remains were discovered at a funeral home in Chico- and the only information about him was a piece of paper in his urn with his name and birth and death information- no instructions for the ashes. Since he was a World War II veteran, Missing in America took charge of his remains, placed a notice in the local paper asking for relatives to contact them, and filed the necessary paperwork with the V.A.
Twenty-seven years after his death, my father was laid to rest on November 18, 2009 at the Northern California Veterans’ Cemetery in Igo.
I never knew.
Several people have asked me how I feel. It’s only been a few days, but I can say I feel grief, guilt, sadness (and have shed lots of tears)- but also immense gratitude to Missing in America for taking care of my father- and many others- all across the country. I cannot place blame- I don’t know how or why this happened. Knowing my mother, she may have been too shocked or upset to follow up on the scattering of the ashes. Or perhaps it was neglect on the part of the funeral home- or whoever was to do the scattering. But, according to Missing in America, this situation is all too common. And, of course, we’re not just talking about veterans.
The genealogist whom I had spoken to from Missing in America went to the cemetery Wednesday to take photos for me- and is sending me photos that were taken at my father’s service. There was a TV news crew at the service as well; it’s possible there may be video available.
I still cannot believe this happened.
I have signed up to be a volunteer genealogist with Missing in America and to take photos of graves for Find A Grave. My hope is that my interests in genealogy and photography will come together to help other families like ours.
Linking to Kim Klassen’s Friday Finds.