Sunday, February 25, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Heirloom

I'm very lucky to have more than a few wonderful heirlooms in my collection. As the only child of two only children, I continue to be the recipient of some special family artifacts, but because my grandparents and my father were gone before I started researching and archiving, and because Dad had no siblings, there are some blanks I just can't fill.



This pendant was once a brooch that belonged to my great-grandmother. Which great-grandmother? I don't know. I do know that it was one of my father's grandmothers and I think it was his father's mother, Ada Merritt Hobbs, but I really can't be sure.

Dad gave me this pendant when I was about nine or ten. He told me that my great-grandmother wore it with her high-necked lacy blouses on special occasions. I thought she was even wearing it in a photo, but I can't find it if she was.



Ada Merritt Hobbs 


Dad passed away in 2005 and I didn't start researching my family until 2008, so I can't beat myself up over this. But I can make sure that I get my mother's input on every possible heirloom from her side of the family, and ask her what she might remember about those from Dad's side.

And I can implore anyone reading this post to do the same. Even if you think you know the stories of your heirlooms, write them down now. It's an exercise that I promise you will reveal any blanks in your knowledge and push you to get those blanks filled-in while you still can.

My great-grandmother's pendant is still a family heirloom and still means a lot to me because it was given to me by my father. But it would mean so much more to future generations with the full story attached. So don't wait and don't procrastinate, get those stories now!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Proving my Kezar Line II - Eva Maude Bean

Last summer my mother and I went to North Hatley, Quebec for a family reunion. On the way home, we stopped at a cemetery that was once part of the farm of my fourth great-grandparents, Moses Bean(e) and Betsey Kezar. That inspired me to work on Bean research when we got back but I took a detour in September when I found a genealogy of the Kezar line compiled in the 1980s by a distant cousin. He claimed to have traced the Kezars to my 10th great-grandfather who may have arrived in Massachusetts with the Winthrop Fleet; I am fascinated. This line will be my primary research focus for at least 2018.

Eva Maud Bean was my maternal grandmother's mother. Her parents were Denison M. Bean and Jane Louisa Emery1. She was born in Quebec, probably in Waterville in Compton County, where she and her family were enumerated in the 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses2.

Eva's baptismal record tells us that she was born on April 23, 1874, but the date of her baptism in August of 1891 presents a problem; it occurred 17 years after her birth, making that information less reliable than if she had been baptized as a baby3.

The census records from 1881 and 1891 at least explain the gap, showing each member of the family to be a Free Will Christian Baptist.  Eva could not have been baptized as an infant; as the name of this denomination implies, she had to be able to learn and to believe in order to be baptized of her own free will. Somewhat surprisingly, when she was baptized, it was in a Methodist church4.



Ten years later, in the 1901 census, Eva's religion is recorded as Methodist and the rest of the family as Congregationalist5.

The 1881 census was enumerated beginning on the 4th of April and the Denison Beans were visited on the 7th6. (Census instructions can be easily accessed at Internet Archive.) Eva's age is recorded as 6, which is consistent with the date of birth in her baptismal record7. 

The 1891 census was collected by enumerators beginning on the 6th of April and the Denison Beans were apparently visited on the 16th8. I say apparently because this enumerator, his commissioner, or someone else changed the date at the top of the page, and all of the pages in the Waterville sub-district, to show the 6th and did so in a different way than was spelled out in the census instructions for correcting errors9. Eva's age was recorded as 17 but should have been recorded as 16 since the instructions regarding age had not changed since 1881; meaning it was to have been given and recorded as her age on April 6th. So was the date of April 23rd in her baptismal record incorrect? Did the enumerator make another error? Or did her father jump the gun by a week? Maybe Eva was so excited about her approaching birthday that her father told the enumerator she was already 17. Whatever the case, they certainly could not have imagined that 137 years later, one of Eva's great-granddaughters would be analyzing this information so closely. In fact, Canadian citizens were told that no one would ever see their names except the "commissioners and others engaged in taking and compiling the census", so what difference could a week make10?

The 1901 Census of Canada, which was enumerated beginning on April 1, 1901, not only asked for age but for each person's date of birth11. Eva's birthdate was once again recorded as April 23, 1874, and her age as 26; consistent with other records but another ten years removed from the event12.



In 1902, Eva married James Louden Dean in the same Congregational church where he was baptized in 187013. It was likely also Eva's parents' church since it was in Waterville and they are buried in the adjacent cemetery which I have visited. The church record of the marriage again records the names of Eva's parents, including her mother's maiden name, Emery14.






Following their honeymoon, Eva began her new life at Louden's farm in neighboring Hatley Township in Stanstead County. They were recorded there in what would be Eva's last census in 191117.

Enumerators began collecting information for the 1911 census on June 1, 191118. Eva's month and year of birth were recorded as April of 1874 and her age as 37. The entire family was recorded as Methodist19.

Eva and Louden had four children by 1912 (including a son with the middle name Emery20) when Louden lost an arm in a farming accident. Through a newspaper article about the accident21, I found written evidence for the first time of the illness that would eventually take Eva's life.



Eva and Louden had one more son in 191422 and then, just weeks before his second birthday and my grandmother's twelfth, Eva died on February 28, 1916, of what oral family history says was creeping paralysis23.



And that brings us to one last discrepancy regarding Eva's age. The headstone24 gives Eva's birth year as 1876. As of now, I don't have any records or oral family history to explain this inconsistency.

Eva is buried with her husband at Reedsville Cemetery in North Hatley, Quebec. Also remembered on their headstone is their youngest son, Lawrence Nimmo Dean, who was killed in the last weeks of World War II and rests at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Holland which I visited with my mother and grandmother in 1983.




Although I tend to believe that the birthdate in Eva's baptismal record is correct, this analysis puts a few items on my to-do list: to inquire about the availability of cemetery records, additional local newspapers, and school records and to investigate the possibility of non-sacramental church records, like bulletins and newsletters that might have an item about a family's new arrival. And as long as I'm shooting for the stars, I can always hope to find a Family Bible. Fingers crossed!

___________________________________________________________________________


1. 1881 Census of Canada, SubDistrict "O"- Village of Waterville, Compton County, Quebec; population schedule p. 4-5, dwelling and family 18, Denison M. Bean household, digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 12, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-13162 to C-13286. Also 1891 Census of Canada, Sub-District Waterville Village, Compton County, Quebec; population schedule p. 17, family 82, Denison Bean household, digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 12, 2018 citing Statistics Canada Fonds
Microfilm reels: T-6290 to T-6427. Also 1901 Census of Canada, Sub-District 9-Waterville Village, Compton County, Quebec; population schedule p. 12, D. M. Bean household, dwelling and family probably 126 (illegible on Ancestry and Library & Archives Canada sites), digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 12, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556. AlsoQuebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. H>Hatley>Methodist Church>1891 p.17, leaf 9. Baptism, Bean, digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 12, 2018, and Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. W>Waterville>Congregation Church>1902 p.10-11, 10th leaf.


2. 1881 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, pp. 4-5, dwell. and fam. 18, Denison Denison M. Bean family. Also 1891 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 17, fam. 82, Denison Bean family. Also 1901 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 12, fam. 126, D.M. Bean (also indexed as Been) family.

3. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. H>Hatley>Methodist Church>1891 p. 17, Baptism, Bean.

4. Ibid, p.1, First Leaf.

5.  1901 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 12, fam. 126, D.M. Bean (also indexed as Been) family, Column 16.

6. For the census start date, see Department of Agriculture (Census Branch); Manual containing "The Census Act," and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the second census of Canada, (1881). (Ottawa: Printed by Brown Chamberlin, 1881), p. 8; digital images, "Manual containing "The Census Act," and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the second census of Canada, (1881)," Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/1881981881i11882engfra : Accessed February 16, 2018.) For the Bean family enumeration date, see 1881 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 6. Per census instructions p. 26, "The date of each day's enumeration is to be entered by the enumerator on the last line filled of Schedule No. 1, opposite the last name registered, and only at the end of each day..."

7.  For Eva's age, see 1881 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, pp. 5, line 1, column 9. For baptismal record, see Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. H>Hatley>Methodist Church>1891 p. 17, Baptism, Bean.

8. For the 1891 census start date, see Department of Agriculture (Census Branch); Manual containing "The Census Act," and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the second census of Canada, (1891). (Ottawa: Printed by Brown Chamberlin, 1891), p. 4; digital images, "Manual containing "The Census Act," and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the second census of Canada, (1891)," Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/1891981891i1891engfra : Accessed February 16, 2018.) For the Bean family enumeration date, see 1891 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 17, the date is at the top of the page.

9. Department of Agriculture (Census Branch); Manual containing "The Census Act," and the instructions to officers employed in the taking of the second census of Canada, (1891).p. 18

10. Ibid, p. 2

11. For the 1901 census start date, see Department of Agriculture, Census Office; Fourth Census of Canada 1901, Instructions to chief officers, commissioners and enumerators. (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1901), p. 4 #4; digital images, "Instructions to chief officers, commissioners and enumerators." Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/1901981901I1901eng : Accessed February 16, 2018.) For instructions regarding columns 8-10, Ibid, p. 13 #50.

12. 1901 Census of Canada, Compton Co., Que., pop. sch., Waterville, p. 12, fam. 126, Eva M. Bean (also indexed as Eva W. Been) Row 23, Cols 8-10.

13. For Eva and Louden's marriage record, see Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. W>Waterville>Congregation Church>1902 pp. 12-13, Tenth leaf. For Louden's baptismal record, see Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) W>Waterville>Congregation Church>p.7, Fifth and sixth leaves.
 
14. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. Waterville Congregational Church, Tenth leaf.


15. Bean, Eva Maud, and Dean, James Louden. Photograph taken ca. 1901 (the author believes it to be a wedding photo), privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2017. The photograph was passed from Eva Bean's daughter to her granddaughter to the author, her great-granddaughter.

16. "WATERVILLE," The Sherbrooke Examiner, 24 October 1902, p. 5, col. 4, digital images, Google News Archives (http://news.google.com.newspapers : accessed 26 May 2017.

17. 1911 Census of Canada, SubDistrict 10- Village of Hatley, Stanstead County, Quebec; population schedule p. 10, dwelling 115, family 116, Louden Dean family, digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 16, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-20326 to C-20460.

18. Department of Agriculture; Fifth Census of Canada 1911 Instructions to officers, commissioners and enumerators. (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1911) p. 12 #28; digital images, " Instructions to officers, commissioners and enumerators." Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/1911981911I21911engfra : Accessed Feb 16, 2018.

19. 1911 Census of Canada, Stanstead Co., Que. pop. sch. Hatley, p. 10, dwel 115, fam 116, Louden Dean family.

20. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. M>Minton>1906, p. 10, Tenth leaf. digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 16, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.

21.) "Minton," The Stanstead Journal, 17 Oct 1912 p. 5, col. 4; digital images, Google News Archives (http://news.google.com/newspapers : accessed 28 May 2017)

22. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. M>Minton>1912, pp. 4-5, Second leaf. digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 16, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.

23. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968. L>Lennoxville> Methodist Church>1916 p.4, Third leaf. Digital image Ancestry ((http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 16, 2018, citing Statistics Canada Fonds, Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.

24. Bean, Eva Maud Headstone. Photograph taken in November of 2000 and privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2017.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Valentine

George Washington Smith and Marjorie Elizabeth Dean
Their marriage certificate.

In a recent post about my maternal grandmother, I wrote a bit about the relationship between her and my grandfather. They met when she was briefly dating one of his younger brothers.

Other than that I never heard any stories of my grandparents' romance. I do have a few letters between them from WWII in which they use nicknames for each other, and also the most romantic item in my entire genealogy collection, the very photo of my mother and grandmother that my grandfather carried with him overseas.

My grandfather carried this photo of my grandmother and mother while he was overseas during WWII.

A few weeks ago, while we were going over some of my grandfather's military documents, my mother told me a story I don't remember hearing before.

By November of 1945, my grandfather, Lt. Col. George Washington Smith, O.B.E., E.D., C.D., had been overseas for three years. My grandmother had been worrying about him, about three of his family who were in Europe and her own brother who had been killed shortly before V.E. Day. She was more than ready to see her husband again.

Grandpa's ship from overseas landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia and from there he took a train to Montreal. My grandmother and mother traveled the 140 miles there to meet him.  As the train pulled in, my grandfather was in the doorway of his car, waiting to jump down and find his family as soon as he could. My grandmother, anxiously scanning windows and doors of the train for his face, spotted him while the train was still moving and as a band began to play "God Save the King." You must understand that you don't move a muscle during the playing of "God Save the King," that is unless you're my grandmother and you haven't seen your husband in more than three years.

People tried to stop her as she ran down to my grandfather's car, practically dragging my eight-year-old mother down the platform in the process, but she did not care. She would be waiting directly in front of that doorway, in her new black straw hat with the pink ribbon, when he was able to disembark.

And one of these days I may even have documentary evidence of some of the story. Mum told me yesterday that the three of them had their picture in the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph that day. Unfortunately, after doing a little searching I have learned that the year in question is part of a period that is not digitized and can only be found at the library of the National Assembly in Quebec City. Not that I wouldn't welcome a visit there, I would love it in fact, but it may be a while before I can make that happen. I may have to pay someone to dig this up instead, it's just too good!


After my grandfather's return from the war, my grandparents had another 34 years together before his death in 1979. Although I must have heard my grandmother admonish my grandfather with the more than occasional, "Oh, George!" (there are stories about me mimicking this), I don't recall ever hearing a truly cross word between them. They were each other's valentines for 44 years.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

(1) Smith, George W. and Dean, Marjorie E. Photograph taken August 10, 1935, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2017. The photograph passed from the Smiths to their daughter Janet and was given to her daughter, the author in 2008.


(2) The United Church of Canada, Sherbrooke, The Presbytery of Quebec. Marriage Certificate of Smith, George W. and Dean, Marjorie E. Privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2010. The certificate passed from the Smiths to their daughter Janet and was given to her daughter, the author, in 2010. The church record can be found in Register III, United Church, page 123 Lennoxville, Que.

(3) Dean, Marjorie Elizabeth and Smith, Janet I. Photograph taken ca. 1942, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2008. The photograph passed from the Smiths to their daughter Janet and was given to her daughter, the author in 2008.

(4) Smith, George W. and Dean, Marjorie E. Photograph taken ca. 1960s, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2017. The photograph was in an album that passed from the Smiths to their daughter Janet and was given to her daughter, the author in 2017.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Proving my Kezar Line I - Marjorie Elizabeth Dean

Last summer my mother and I went to North Hatley, Quebec for a family reunion. On the way home, we stopped at a cemetery that was once part of the farm of my fourth great-grandparents, Moses Bean(e) and Betsey Kezar. That inspired me to work on Bean research but I took a detour in September when I found a genealogy of the Kezar line compiled in the 1980s by a distant cousin. This genealogy claims to go back to my 10th great-grandfather and that he came to America with the Winthrop Fleet; I am fascinated. This line will be my primary research focus for 2018.

Marjorie Elizabeth Dean was my maternal grandmother. Her mother was a Bean and her second great-grandmother was a Kezar. She was born in North Hatley, Quebec on March 4, 1904, to James Louden Dean and Eva Maude Bean.




She was baptized at the Methodist church in Lenoxville, Quebec on July 31st of that year.



Grandma was the oldest of five children born to Louden, or J.L., and Eva.


1911 Census of Canada

My grandmother lost her mother just days before her own 12th birthday.


1921 Census of Canada

Thankfully, although her father did not remarry for more than seven years, my grandmother was still able to attend school regularly and once her father did marry again in 1923, she took the secretarial course at nearby Stanstead College.

It was while she was working as a secretary for The Asbestos Corporation in Thetford Mines, Quebec that she met the second youngest son of a large family who was also in asbestos mining, Francis Parker Smith. Thankfully, for me, things did not work out between my Grand-uncle Parker and my grandmother, but she did meet another of the Smith sons and they fell in love.

Marjorie Elizabeth Dean married George Washington Smith on August 10, 1935, at the Minton Methodist Church right down the road from the farm where she was born.





My grandparents welcomed their only child, my mother Janet, in 1937.

My Grandpa George died on Easter Monday, April 17, 1979. Grandma passed away on May 19, 1996. They are buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Sherbrooke, Quebec.



(1) Dean, Marjorie Elizabeth. Photograph taken ca. 1905, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, and digitized in 2017. The photograph was given to the author by her mother, the subject's daughter in the summer of 2017.

(2) “BIRTHS - DEAN,” The Sherbrooke Examiner, 9 March 1904, p. 4, col. 5; digital images, Google News Archives (http://news.google.com/newspapers: accessed 26 May 2017).

(3) Work in progress. In the meantime, follow this link http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/ecivil/affichage.html?serie=05S_CE501S81&a=g_l > 1904 > janvier-decembre > p. 12B

(4) 1911 Census of Canada, Subdistrict 10-Hatley, Stanstead County, Quebec; population schedule p. 10, dwelling 115/family 116. Margary [Marjorie] Dean; digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 7, 2018); citing Statistics Canada Fonds microfilm reels T-20326 to T-20460.

(5) 1921 Census of Canada, Sub-District-06 - Hatley Centre (Township), Reedsville (Village), Stanstead County, Quebec; population schedule p. 9, dwelling 106/family 109. Margary [Marjorie] Dean; digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed February 7, 2018); citing Statistics Canada Fonds.

(6) Work in progress. In the meantime, follow this link - https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1091/d1p_31880951/6484381?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/6288705/person/-487745612/facts

(7) Dean, Marjorie Elizabeth and Smith, Janet Isabella. Photograph taken in April 1937, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY, and digitized in 2017. The photograph was in an album given to the author in 2016 by her mother, Janet I. Smith.

(8) Headstone of Dean, Marjorie Elizabeth. Photograph was taken on August 6, 2017, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, NY.

Monday, February 5, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Favorite Name

Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson was my paternal grandmother. She was a first-generation Swedish-American, daughter of Carl Johan Anderson and Mathilda Afina Johnson.

Viola is my favorite ancestral name, no contest. Before I studied family history I called it one of her middle names, but now I know that middle name was not a term used in Sweden. All of her names other than her surname would have been considered first names or förnamn.

Below are some of my favorite images of my grandmother from infancy to marriage.






Friday, February 2, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - In the Census

"In the census" is a great topic. Ten years later, I distinctly remember that goosebumpy feeling I got finding family in census records for the first time. I was building my first tree on Ancestry without a paid membership when I finally got a "shaky leaf" for a record that was free to access; the 1860 U.S. Census. I clicked and there was my great-grandfather, George Smith (in yellow below), only five months old, enumerated with his parents, Benjamin and Mary Ann, and five of his six siblings, just as they were listed in the family Bible!



With so much family living in Quebec, I soon discovered that Canadian census records could be accessed for free at Library and Archives Canada and I was really off to the races. Like the U.S. Census, early Canadian records only identified the head of household by name with tick marks for the ages of the rest of the family, but later censuses asked more detailed questions, including something not asked here in the U.S. - religion.

In these census records, I have encountered Methodists, Anglicans, Congregationalists and Presbyterians, denominations that are known to me. I have also encountered denominations that are less-well-known and unknown to me like F.W.C. (Free Will Christian) Baptists, Plymouth Brethren and ancestors enumerated as "Fellowship."


I found this so interesting, especially when combined with the fact that some of my ancestors were enumerated with different answers from one census to the next, that I started a spreadsheet to help me study this more closely (click to enlarge). The spreadsheet isn't finished obviously, but writing this post has put it back on my active to-do list.


I think that some of the back and forth is probably just incorrect; either the enumerator assumed that everyone in the household was of the same denomination or the head of household told the enumerator that was the case. And then, of course, some of the women may have changed denominations after marriage.

I wish I could say that having this information led me to other records, like the "missing" burial records for Elizabeth Louden, my 3rd great-grandmother and Elizabeth Nimmo, her daughter, but this hasn't helped in that regard so far. But who knows where this information might lead me once I have filled everything in here that I can.

If I do come to any interesting conclusions once this is finished, I will be sure to let you know.

Tip: Can't read a Canadian census image? Ancestry and Library & Archives Canada don't use the same images of Canadian census records (except 1921 which is not on the LAC website). If you are having trouble with an image on either platform, try the other to see if the image is more clear. It has worked for me more than once!
__________________________________________
1860 U.S. Census, Newark Ward 5, Essex County, New Jersey; population schedule p. 252, dwelling 1612/family 2208. George Smith; digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed January 31, 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication M653.

1911 Census of Canada, Danville, District of Richmond and Wolfe, Quebec; populations schedule p. 8, dwelling 66/family 81. Elizabeth Dean; digital image Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed January 31, 2018); citing Statistics Canada Fonds microfilm reels T-20326 to T-20460.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Invite to Dinner

My mother and me raking leaves ca. 1971.
When I first saw Amy Johnson Crow's prompt for this week, I started making a mental list of all the ancestors who died before I was born who I might want to have for dinner. Would it be my 2nd great-grandfather, Benjamin Smith, so I could ask him who his parents were and exactly where he was born? Or would it be my 4th great-grandmother, Betsey Kezar, who was Hatley, Quebec's first schoolteacher, making her way home each evening through thick woods always on the lookout for bears apparently, until she married Moses Bean, raising at least six children in the virtual wilderness?

The answer that I came away with surprised even me. Although there were many tempting guests, my ancestor dinner would only include people who I knew in life. I would have one last holiday dinner with both of my parents and all of my grandparents; out of, this group only my mother and I are still alive.



Thanksgiving 2010 was the first time that I had the opportunity to host Thanksgiving dinner. My father, who was almost always the holiday cook, had passed away in 2005. After that, we had Thanksgiving at the Long Island Ronald McDonald House where Donalds' mother, the House Manager, spent all day in the kitchens making dinner for dozens of guests. In 2010 she had retired and was recovering from minor surgery, giving me the opportunity to host.



That morning I was out of bed before sunrise and out walking our dog, DJ, while there was still a hint of darkness to the West and a little bit of fog. The village was eerily quiet as we set out with no one in sight. A few blocks into our walk, we found ourselves at the corner of the street where I grew up, our little house about six houses down. In the quiet and fog and nostalgia of that morning I had this overwhelming feeling that if I just turned the corner instead of crossing the street as planned, that I would find that the clock had turned back over thirty years; my grandfather Matthews' Buick would be in the driveway, my father would be in the kitchen and one of my Grandmother Matthews' infamous cheesecakes would be tempting us from inside the fridge.



What an amazing day it would be; the house filled with the aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven, maybe a fire going in the fireplace, definitely the sounds of laughter if my grandfather Smith was regaling us with a story or two.



I would ask all the questions I would never have thought or known to ask the last time we were all together for Christmas in 1978. I would gather all of those mystery photos and take copious notes about the subjects and the events. I would tell my grandfather that I had found his parents' wedding date and the last name of his father's first wife.

Mostly though, I would revel in the unconditional love of my parents and grandparents and the familiarity of our little house on Windsor Avenue. And before the spell was broken and DJ and I returned home, I would make sure that they all knew how that love was returned.