Learning from the past, living in the moment, and leaving footprints for the future. Stories of lov

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Remembering Babunia

Antonia  Chicanowicz, a Polish woman, was born in Vilna, Russia in 1894.  From 1795 to 1918 the area was under the Imperial Russian Rule and it had a strong grip on the Polish people.  They were not allowed to speak Polish on the streets and the stores could only post signs in the Russian language. 

Russia during this time was made up of Lithuanians, Jews and Pols.  All three were striving for cultural domination. The languages spoken were Yiddish, Polish, and Lithuanian.  The man she would eventually marry, John Kopcych, was also born in Vilna, Russia in 1892 and immigrated to America in 1910, at the age of 18, due to the strong hand of Russian rule and cultural unrest and most assuredly searching for a better life.

At the start of WWI in 1914, at the age of 20, Antonia immigrated to America.  It was here that she married John Kopcych and together purchased land on Hayward Place, in Bridgewater, Massachusetts and began a life of farming.  Their first child was a daughter, Stella born in 1916 followed by another daughter, Mary Rose born in 1917.  A son Anthony was born in 1919 known to me as Uncle Tony for he married my father's sister, Bertha. Their fourth and last child, a son was named Joseph after John’s father.

I came to know Antonia, a widow, at this time, now living next door to my parents. Her home was built on land owned by her son Anthony. We called her Babunia, which is grandma in Polish. She made great cookies.  I remember sneaking one from her kitchen as a child.

She loved her booze and did imbibe a little too much at times.  I remember her picking up about a two foot long log from her wood pile that she kept for her wood stove and then would carry it out to the edge of the street and set it on end. Somewhat over weight, she would firmly plant herself down with feet apart on the ground for balance and yell “hey” as she waved to the cars as they drove by. A practice we saw more than once, that we found somewhat humorous.

It is believed that a wood stove caused her home to catch fire.  Her son, my Uncle Tony, lived on the other side of our house. 

In the middle of the night, my father's cousin, Eddie, who lived two houses down, woke my parents by banging on their bedroom window.  My mother was startled and screamed for the reflection from the fire made it look like our house was on fire. 

Her son, Tony, who lived in the house between us an Eddie, ran to his mother's home. In an attempt to save her he broke the glass in the window to get to her. He believes he heard her yell for help. It was a valiant effort in futility for the house was totally engulfed and the flames too hot.  Tony cut his hand on the windowpane and was bleeding heavily.  Knowing he was not able to save his mother, he walked over to our house leaving a trail of blood though the snow.  My mother while sitting on the back steps wrapped his hand in a towel to stop the bleeding as the fire trucks and police arrived.

Sadly, Antonia died in that fire in 1955, most likely from smoke inhalation as she slept.  I was eleven years old as I looked out our living room window at all the activity and the night air red with fire.  I watched as she was taken away in a black body bag. 

Only the foundation of her home remained.  It stayed that way for decades as weeds and trees grew hiding the caving cement walls before the land was sold and a new home was built.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


DNA has become the hot topic of conversation these days. You see it advertised on television just about every day where people express being surprised to find they were part Native American.  Still another was surprised to find out they weren't German after all but actually Irish. 

I decided that I don't need to do my DNA.  I'd been doing genealogy and researching my lineage for so many years that I was sure I knew exactly who I was.  My maternal side led me to Germany, Scotland, Ireland with a little bit of Spanish thrown in there. Dad's side took me to England over to the Netherlands and the Mayflower brought me to the new land called Plymouth.  Have Irish on dad's side too. I also found some French and few other European countries. Seems that people crossed the border to find their spouse, what a surprise.  So why spend money doing my DNA when I already knew all the answers?

Should I be so cocky as to think I know it all?  What if I am missing something?  The advertising pressure had become just to tempting and bringing some doubt to mind.  So what do I do?  I broke out my piggy bank and ordered a DNA kit through Ancestry; on sale of course.

It arrived fairly quickly.  I opened the small box, read and followed the instructions to the letter. Thank goodness I didn't have to pee in a bottle.  I mailed it in the next day and was told to expect an answer in about six weeks. Now I had more time than I cared to, to wonder and worry about what I might find out about me.  Has anyone ever been shocked or disappointed about what they learned I wondered. 

To my surprise the results returned in about two weeks.  Oh boy, here we go as I nervously began reading the results.   And guess what?  I really did know who I was. I am 100% European.  The only new information I found enlightening were the percentages.

The great part of this whole story is that for nine days this past early summer I was privileged to go on an Avalon Cruise down the Rhine River.  This nine day journey took me back to where 47% of my western European roots began, Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.  In Germany I came to within 150 miles from where my 3rd gr grandfather, Mathias Roesch, lived along the foothills of the Black Forest. I fell in love with beautiful Germany.  A journal was my constant companion writing diligently every day and took over 200 pictures to make sure I would remember it all.  It was the most meaningful, wonderful, fulfilling and heartwarming journey of my life.

So go ahead, take the DNA leap, you may be surprised by what you learn.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Drawing Parallel Lines

 “Necessity is the mother of invention”, meaning, when the need for something becomes imperative.  That quote, author unknown, has guided men and women thoughout history mostly for good, but sometimes for the bad.
Our Ancestors occupation depended upon where they lived, the era in which they were born and the services that the community they lived in needed. Some communities like Potosi, Wisconsin was a lead mining town and that ended when the gold rush began in California and men everywhere, including Potosi, left to seek their fortune.
To say the least, convenient grocery stores weren’t available; so people depended on the many who were cattle farmers who raised beef and produced milk, and the vegetable farmers for their successful crops. Some immigrants from countries who suffered and starved during the potato famine became just that, potato farmers, for this was their main staple.  
The only transportation at one time was the horse or horse and buggy.  So you had the blacksmith shops. Not only did they shoe horses, they forged tools, made agricultural implements, complex weapons and armor to simple things like nails.
Life hasn’t been easy over the generations.  Always you have the good and the bad affecting individuals. All it took was severe weather such as a drought, or hurricane and the farmer lost everything. That in turn effected the citizens.
In building new communities it was a necessity to hold more than one job, such as my own great grandfather.  His occupations included, citrus farming, Mayor, Postmaster, Volunteer fireman, owner of a newspaper, and the Tiger fence Company.
World wars took our men away and women had to step in to fill the gap doing so called man’s work. As we became more advanced we became less self-sufficient.  Political and financial factions affected our lives.  Just as the fall of Wall Street put thousands out of work and the era of depression began.

The government started the WPA, Works Progress Administration to provide employment, working on our roads and highways, and we saw soup lines to feed the hungry. In 1935 the Economic Security Act was proposed and then before being enacted, Congress changed the name to the Social Security.
So as you go through history you can draw a parallel line of opposites, one for the bad, and one for the good that came out of changes through time, but sometimes how what was meant to be good such as nuclear power can turn bad because it can be used as a weapon.  Now mark the events in history where Necessity became the mother of invention”, in your family tree.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wherefore Art Thou Joseph - Found

Joseph H Smith, my great grandfather decided that he would leave Bridgewater, Massachusetts and move back to Maine, the state of his birth.  He asked his wife to go with him, but all her children and grandchildren were here, so her answer was no.  He told his wife Eunice, kiss baby Genie (his granddaughter) goodbye for me.  And so, in 1930,he left, never to be heard from again.

I had heard that his wife was a difficult woman.  Perhaps he had enough and that is why he left. The ironic thing is that years later, their son Forrest did the same thing.  He left was never heard from again.  (Read story Wherefore Art Thou Forrest) Thankful Thursday, Forrest Has Been Found   I finally found him after seven years of research.

Now I have found Joseph, after eight years of research.  The only thing I have not found for father and or son, is their burial site.

Puzzle solved re: Joseph H Smith and where he went when he left his wife Laura Eunice Jones in Mass and moved to Maine. I last saw Joseph living in Portland, Maine with Gardner and his wife Sarah Lovejoy. See if you can follow this winding trail. It just might give you a headache.  I find it amazing that I found this at all. Do you know how many Joseph Smith's there are?!

William G Smith, my great great grandfather had a sister Hulda who married a James Tarbox. It was, I believe, their grandson, Arnold Tarbox who married Sara Lovejoy. So Sarah married into the Smith family. (Later she married into the Jones family. (Wm G Smith son Joseph H Smith married Laura Eunice Jones. Explanation below)

Taxbox children were the children of Sarah Lovejoy Tarbox born 25th of Nov 1884, Augusta, Maine. She was married to Arnold Tarbox a farmer from Westport, Maine. She was 19 he was 31 when they married. This was Arnold's 2nd marriage, first one ended in divorce. Sarah's father was Frank Lovejoy, farmer from Augusta, Maine. Her mother was Josephine Marr of Washington, Maine. The Tarbox children all born in Maine: Edna, at age one was living with her mother and Grandfather, Frank in Salem, Mass. Sarah was 25 at that time listed as married, but Arnold was not listed in that 1920 census. Sarah and her brother Franklin who was also living in Salem was 22 years old, single living in same household 1920. Next child Arthur, two years young than Edna died in 1981 in Farmingdale, Maine. Then Mildred Marie was one year younger than Arthur. she died 2001 in Fort Fairfield, Maine.
Joseph H. Smith and the Tarbox children and a Doris Jones child were living 2 Park Street, Augusta, Maine. .

Sarah Lovejoy married Arnold Tarbox. When Arnold died she married a widower, Gardner Robinson Jones. He was the son of Warren A Jones brother-in-law to Joseph. Warren was a brother to Joseph's estranged wife, Laura Eunice Jones whom he left in Massachusetts. Therefore, Joseph was a cousin to Gardner. So Joseph moved in with his cousins wife, Sarah. Gardner had been married before to a Cora. So the child, Doris Jones was Gardner's by his first marriage.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Faces From The Past - Place of Honor

Some ancestor pictures cry out to be placed in a frame and hung in a place of honor. It was difficult to choose which ancestor picture to use, I could easily wallpaper the entire room. This  project was just completed.  I personally know them all, it certainly feels that way.  It's as if I actually met them when they walked the earth.  Research has taught me much about these wonderful people, who they were and what they did. Their personalities speak so loudly you can almost hear their voices.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Motivation - Learning - Sharing

This past March I began a Genealogy Club.  What did I get myself into? Not everyone has the tools for research so I sit with them individually to search for answers. Examples of questions I have faced.

I don't know who my father was. My mother died young and I was raised by an aunt. (We found him  and his grandparents, gr grandparents, etc.)

I believe I was illegitimate. I don't think my parents were ever married.  I was raised by my mother  and her husband. (They were indeed married a year before she was born but died when she was an infant)

I heard my mother came to America with a girlfriend and I would like to know who she was. (The manifest revealed that and more)

When we discussed black sheep I could see by the looks on their faces and their silent voices exactly how they were feeling about this topic. How does one overcome family secrets of long ago and not feel ashamed or embarrassed by them? Once I shared a few of my own they learned that every family has them and suddenly the group turned into true confessions.  I reminded them of the saying "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, well what happens here stays here.  We all laughed.

We choose a topic such as a wedding, military, tragedy, child, etc. and write their stories and share them with each other during our meetings.  We do a "Show and Tell" and bring in family heirlooms to share.  The items are so heartwarming. Everyone exhibits a sense of pride.

They learned that it is impossible to separate genealogy from history for they go hand in hand.

We have and continue to take excursions, such as to Pilgrim Hall to view an exhibit of samplers, the oldest by Loura Standish, the daughter of Miles Standish.  We learned about gravestones, the meaning of symbols and markers, about the stone cutters.  What does it tell us about the person's life buried beneath?  We will be discussing American Epidemics at our next meeting and did our ancestors fall victim.

This picture was recently taken at the gravesite of Francis Davis Millet.  He was an artist and writer who graduated from Harvard.  He was a drummer boy in the Civil War.  He drowned in the loss of the ship "Titanic" on the 15th of April  1910.  One of our members happened to have a copy of one of his paintings,  "The Sheep" and shared it with our group.

So what did I get myself into?  I learned what it was like to be challenged and how rewarding that would be. Helping them find their ancestors, discovering answers to questions that have lingered in their minds and hearts forever, has brought me so much joy, especially when I see the excitement on their faces. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sentimental Sunday - Missing Yesterday

Genealogy is an interesting journey for those of us that wish to find our ancestors. Who were they, what did they look like and how did they live their lives.  It always makes us feel closer to them and ultimately helps us to know ourselves, especially when we find their picture, or find their gravestone because it makes them real, not just a story from the past and we celebrate their existence.

Then we dig deeper to find our ancestors personal stories, what did they contribute to their community, and what did they do for work.  You even find the street they lived on, and sometimes actually have the opportunity to see the house they once lived in. You discover who their neighbors were and most likely they too were ancestors for the trend back then was for family to live near one another. We don't do that today, i.e. transportation. Were they happy?  Were they sick?  Did they live a long life or died young?  Did they suffer the loss of a husband or child(ren).. How did church and faith influence their lives?   It is like we knew them all along. 

So here we are, so many years later, our genealogy books are filled with names and dates, census records, birth and death records, newspaper articles, photographs and anything and everything else we discovered .  The books are busting at the seams for all we have garnered.  Our history neatly tied up and sealed safely away for future generations so they might have the gift of their family history.

So what is the lesson learned? What is not so much the obvious?  What is behind what we have uncovered, revealed or exposed about the good and the bad, the happy and sad, and the successes and failures of those from generations past.  You learn that people really don't change, only time does.  The behavior of yesterday is the same as it is today. That alone may give comfort to some.

As time marches forward places and things have a way of disappearing. Just look around. Grandma's house has been torn down to make way for the new, the oldest buildings in the center of town have made way for the strip malls.  Our children are kept so busy and controlled so they have no time to discover, explore, play make believe and use their imaginations, all so important for personal growth and discovering oneself. Childhood is gone in the blink of an eye.  Ever wish you could have your small children to enjoy once again?

I truly want you to get your education so you can get a good job. Go ahead and make as much money as you can to enjoy all the luxuries life has to offer. I truly want you to do this if you wish .Just don't forget the true gift of life. Remember what is most important.

What I learned and has given me guidance is that time doesn't stand still, it doesn't wait for anyone.  Never miss an opportunity when it is presented to you.  Never say no to an offer to go somewhere with family or friend.  These special moments that would have created wonderful memories may never come again. These are the stories that bring laughter and warm smiles.  These are the stories of love that you want to pass down to your descendants.  Don't look back one day with regret. I won't.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Society Saturday, Opium and Southworth Gammons

Southworth Gammons, my 4th great grandfather was born in Middleboro Massachusetts in 1769.  He died on July 25, 1827, suddenly, it is written, by opium. Now that caught my attention and I just had to learn more.

At the beginning of the 19th century, opium was used as an everyday remedy for common ailments. Even President Harrison was treated with opium in 1841.  During the Civil War the Union Army used opium, a predecessor to morphine. They treated conditions such as malaria, known as "ague".

My 2nd great grandfather, Philip Roesch, who served in the Civil War wrote in his diary that he suffered from the ague and was put on a ship with others that were sick.  He wrote, "The person at my head,  and to the left and right side of me rolled over in death, yet I continued to get well".   Now I realize that he too was most likely treated with opium.

Other ailments treated with opium included rheumatism, diarrhea, excessive drinking, and even childbirth.  So now I can include my great grandmothers and great aunts for they too might have treated? Opium was known as "God's Own Medicine".

I wonder how many ancestors were treated with opium and perhaps even died because they became addicted?

The acceptance of opium was so general that societies gave awards for growing the poppy and medical practitioners were among the prize winners. It wasn't until 1879 that a growing number of doctors documented the dangers of addiction with opium use.  It wasn't classified as a dangerous drug until 1920.

So where does this lead us?  Remember the Wizard of Oz and that massive field covered in poppies.  Poor Dorothy, the lion, and the scarecrow all fell asleep. I guess they had a massive overdose of opium. That witch really was wicked. The book was written in 1900, 20 years before opium was declared a dangerous drug. 

Oh well, the Wizard of Oz is still a good movie.  Just close your children's eyes and ears as Dorothy and the gang run across the opium field.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thankful Thursday, Forrest Has Been Found

In August of 2007, I wrote:  Forrest was rumored to have moved somewhere out west with his wife. We are told that his mother did not like his wife.  When Forrest and his wife wanted to return home due to financial problems, he was told  you can come but your wife, Marie, (marriage 1926) can not.  Forrest was never heard from again. 

For the last seven years I have been searching for my grandfather's brother, my great uncle Forrest. Finally, I have found him, perseverance has paid off.

Forrest was 5'8" tall.  He lived at one time with his wife Marie on 31 Jefferson Road, Scarsdale, NY. It appears that he and Marie had no children.  In 1938 at the age of 37  Forrest, listed as a widower, joined the Merchant Marines. In 1943 he became a seaman on the SS John Catron, a Liberty Ship, working as a wiper right until 1955 to the age of 54 when this search ends. 

A wiper is the most junior crew member in the engine room of a ship. The role of a wiper consists of cleaning the engine spaces and machinery, and assisting the engineers as directed.

The SS Catron ship construction began on September 3, 1942 and launched on July 11 1943.  Its' fate was to be scrapped in 1972.

Liberty Ship Construction began in 1936

In 1936, the American Merchant Marine Act was passed to subsidize the annual construction of 50 commercial merchant vessels to be used in wartime by the United States Navy as naval auxiliaries. The number was doubled in 1939 and again in 1940 to 200 ships a year.

 Merchant Marine Act of 1936 The Merchant Marine Act of 1936, provided for establishment of Federal training for merchant marine officers. The U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps was officially founded March 15, 1938 under the auspices of the U.S. Maritime Commission, chaired by Joseph P. Kennedy (father of President John F. Kennedy), a position taken over by Admiral Emory Scott Land.

Initially, training of cadets was given aboard government-subsidized ships under the direction of shore-based Port Inspector-Instructors. In February 1942, administration of the training program was turned over to the Coast Guard, but in July 1942 it was given to the War Shipping Administration.

In 1941, the requirements for appointment as cadet were:
American citizen between 18 and 25
Good moral character, unmarried
Between 5'4" and 6'4," in height
Meet Navy physical requirements
Meet requirements for sight, color perception, speech and hearing
At least 15 high school credits
Good teeth, good feet, good posture
The U.S. Merchant Marines are made up of individuals who work on U.S. civilian-owned American flagged vessels that are responsible for transporting services, goods and people to markets outside the country, for the purposes of commerce.


An ordinary seaman works two four hour watches a day, seven days a week. His duties include the following:

Upkeep — Painting, cleaning, and polishing of ship bright work; the collection and disposal of garbage; maintenance and repair of various types of equipment
Cargo — Handling ropes and wires; storing and securing of items; assisting with the movement of cargo on and off the ship.
Lookout — Standing watch both in port and at sea.Other Duties — Assisting with any aspect of the ship's operation and maintenance that the superior Seamen or Officers feel is necessary.

In the United States Merchant Marine, in order to be occupied as a wiper a person has to have a Merchant Mariner's Document and STCW certificate issued by the United States Coast Guard. Because of international conventions and agreements, all wipers who sail internationally are similarly documented by their respective countries.

Never willing to give up, I will continue my search to discover the rest of his life. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Moving On Is Hard To Do

It was six months ago that I lost the love of my Life.  My husband Merrill passed away quietly at home on June 26 2013. Since then, I sold our home of 35 years and moved to a one level two bedroom two bathroom home that is easy for me to care for. It is in a lovely adult community that includes a clubhouse and an opportunity to meet new people and enjoy the many activities, 

There still isn't a day that goes by without shedding a tear.  But I am blessed with four children that give me great comfort.    They have been, and still are, with me every step of the way and I know this has been hard on them as well.  All we can do is love and comfort one another.

I have been diligently trying to put one foot in front of the other.  I dipped my toes into the water and hope to start a genealogy group next month within my new community.  The word is out and it appears that there is a genuine interest among many. I am hoping that will help me resume doing something I genuinely enjoyed and help heal the hole in my heart.

What brought me here today was remembering a poem I wrote years ago.  I would like to share it with you.  It is called.

Eternal Love

Yesterday our love was young
I think of all the songs we'd song
learning of each others ways
What happened to all those lovely days?

Today our love is deeper yet
since the first day that we met.
Four children now throughout the years
along with gladness and lots of tears.

Tomorrow our love grows stronger still
and every day still brings a thrill.
Alone again with memories past
and yet new journey's do we cast.

Into eternity my love went
oh how lonely my days are spent.
Wait for me, I'll join you soon there
our greatest love in heaven we'll share.

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