Sunday, December 3, 2017

Birthdays are For The Birds

My 2nd birthday present from my maternal grandfather
December 4, 1949


Birthdays are for the Birds
The Year of the Wrinkled Owl


Turning 70 tomorrow will be a big milestone for me. I have now outlived the only grandfather that I knew. He was 69 when he died of renal failure in 1955. I made the most of being with him because I was only 7 when he died.  

He was on dialysis treatment, it was a big deal in those days as it was a machine that took up a whole room in a Boston hospital. The days after treatment, he would feel better and we would spend time looking at the birds in his yard and watching things that made him laugh on TV. He bought one for my parents house and one for his house sometime in 1953 because I remember the coronation of Queen Elizabeth

Very vaguely, I remember my maternal great grandfather (my grandmother's father) coming to visit.  He died in November of 1949. The old people in my life were a great joy and have become even more vividly remembered to me through my years of research.

My maternal grandmother lived to be 98 and my daughter remembers her well. The TV brought the world to her and helped her stay alive when she was bedridden. Technology helps us live the life we have now. We are so lucky to have what we have today despite the annoying bad news.

My paternal grandparents had a much harder life. They died at 50 and 53. They produced four children who lived long lives. None of us first cousins remembered our grandparents but I was told stories about them. I've researched them extensively.
I remember my parents turning 70 and then 80. It seemed that they got slower but time passed more quickly. 

I am trying to keep moving forward. But, generally, life in the first year of old age is for the birds. My mother told me that she didn't have wrinkles until after she was seventy. That was untrue but we nodded in affirmation anyway. I have a wrinkle near my eye that bothers me. I resorted to eye cream that is expensive. Such is life in the fast lane.

I might not blog as much as I used to but I am still researching and writing. What keeps you young?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The House on the Corner

Notice of Funeral
The House on the Corner
Corner of Beach St. and Elm St. Westerly, Rhode Island

City directories (1911, 1913, 1915) for my maternal 2nd great grandparents, Joseph and Sarah (Gardiner) Schofield, state that they lived in a house on the corner of Elm and Beach Streets in Westerly and that he ran a variety store out of his home. As the house is no longer there and the property is owned by a business, I can't be sure that the house was turned into that business.  Corner properties are a valuable piece of real estate.

What I did learn from the newspaper article about his funeral (posted here) was that the funeral was held in his home. Land evidence records in Westerly tell me that on the 14 of December in 1910 ( Book 40 page 203), that the property was sold to them by a man named Orville G. Barber. 


Joseph Schofield was a very personable and smart man. In addition to serving in the Civil War, he was an engineer and a bicycle repairer. I learned from this article that he was the foreman of the fire company called the Rhode Island Ones. I expect he maintained the fire equipment. My grandmother told me he could fix anything.

In 1910 when he bought this home he was 67 years old. My grandmother told me that he was stout, loved rich food and had gout.  He died in 1917 and his wife continued to live in that house. 

Joseph and Sarah only had one child, Nellie (Ellen) who married James Frederick Barber in 1890 and their first child, my maternal grandmother was born in 1893. My grandparents married in 1914 and moved sometime in 1916 after my mother was born but came back to Westerly for my uncle to be born in 1917. 

Now, my job is to figure out who lived in this house until it was sold.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Little Gloria Josephine Bliven

Gloria Josephine Bliven, privately held by Midge Frazel, 2017
First Cousin, Once Removed
1923-1933
10 years, 1 month and 24 Days

This is the only known photo of Gloria, who died before I was born. Her mother, Dorothy Palmer, Bliven, was her mother. Dorothy was my maternal grandmother's sister and someone I knew quite well and loved.  I altered the photo to look more carefully at her face and her clothes. It is undated, but I would say she is between two and three years old.

Gloria's middle name was Josephine which was my grandmother's middle name. Everyone called my grandmother, Jo or Josephine and not Hannah, which was her first name. My mother was named Dorothy after little Gloria's mother. 

Gloria's father was Harry Manuel Bliven. He was handsome, dark haired and loved to drive fast cars. My mother was scared or him but my uncle thought he was cool. At the time of their marriage, my aunt worked for her father who was in the automotive business and smooth talking Harry sold automotive parts. My Mother destroyed the photo of him in a boat with her and her brother but not before I looked at it. Little Gloria's mother was petite, blonde and blue eyed. 

My mother told me that Harry and Dorothy divorced. I don't know for sure if that was before Gloria died, but I do know after years of research, that he married again, to a woman from New York named Mildred Britton and they had 4 sons. The first one was born in 1929.

My mother was 17 when Gloria died, at home at 160 West Broad St. in Pawcatuck, CT of bronchial pneumonia and myocarditis.  

Fancy Goods: Mrs. Young's Gift Shop

Missing Puzzle Pieces

Fancy Goods

In genealogy, we try to make sure that we have every piece of evidence researched to the best of our ability. When my late mother gave me this pamphlet (1908-1958) on the family business, I was very surprised. How had I not seen this before? I read it out loud to her hoping to get her reaction on what was said. She just kept saying. "That's right!". I tucked in into my bag so she wouldn't discard it as she was prone to do.

I am still not sure who wrote this or if my mother did the vehicle drawings. They do look like her "style" of drawing. 

I assumed that the Mrs. Young mentioned was the woman who was my grandmother's friend so I went looking for that woman's granddaughter whose name I knew. I found her and she said that her grandmother never had a gift shop. So that puzzle piece went unsolved until this month. Using Providence City Directories, I found this gift "store" in Providence. At least I had now had a name to research.


Working backwards in time, I found that this gift store was once at another location. This clip that says Thayer is an earlier date of 1931. She must have done well in business to move from Thayer to Angell St. 


Women of this time who lived in that area, near Brown University,  frequented gift shops (like we go to HomeGoods today) to buy items to decorate their homes. They also sold toys and candy and I remember visiting some of them with my grandmother when I stayed with her.  

What my grandfather did was pick up items to be drycleaned, take them to the main plant in Pawcatuck/Westerly and then take them back to Mrs. Young for the ladies to pick them up. It must have been a terrible commute in the winter. That's why the cleaning and laundry business had drivers who did that in the 1940 and 1950s. 

Not long after they married, my grandparents (and great grandparents, too) moved from Westerly to the Providence/Cranston area. 

The Terrible Year 1944

Westerly City Directory 1944, Ancestry.com
Photo at Flickr
The Terrible Year, 1944

In my project I call "Close to Home", I am trying to do things to be ready for the 1950 Federal Census release. I am looking for evidence of death of as many family members as I can so that I can eliminate them from the list I have been building since the release of the 1940 Federal census. My search, limited to two areas, Westerly, RI and Stonington/Pawcatuck, CT sounds like it should be easy, right?

City directories and Newspaper articles are the key to success for getting exact locations of my family members on my maternal line.  But, as I gather the names, dates of death and burial locations, I discovered that one year stands out all too clearly. You can see by the orange highlighting, that this directory gives me the exact dates of death on two pages. My mother, described this year as the terrible year, and it certainly was correct.


29 May 1944
16 Jun 1944
10 July 1944


James Frederick Barber, my maternal grandfather, lives at 160 West Broad St. Pawcatuck, CT in 1945 and his wife Ellen ("Nellie") died 16 June 1944. 

Ellen ("Nellie") widowed mother lived with them at 160 West Broad St. Pawcatuck, CT died 29 May 1944.

Harold S. Barber, my great uncle, died 10 July 1944 and his wife Martha Blanchard was living at 12 Elm St. Westerly. 

Soon, two more family members would die. My maternal great grandfather, James Frederick Barber in 1949 and my uncle Evans Stewart, Jr. in 1951.

I have been with the help of Barbara Fallon, gathering causes of death. Trust me, you don't want to know about that.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Attack of Tonsillitis

Attack of Tonsillitis

No matter how trivial, when you find a date of an event, you must add it to your timeline, your genealogy records and analyze it.

When I was about 6, I had my tonsils out at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. This was common for us baby boomers and most everyone I knew had their tonsils out. I was horrified because they put me in a crib with no way to get out and no adult supervision. After the surgery, I woke up in the dark and couldn't talk. I banged on the metal hospital crib until I started to wake up other kids who started to cry. It is still an effective was to get attention in a hospital. I threw blood up on the nurse who came to see what all the noise was about. I'll bet she was sorry she went out for a "smoke."  

When I was allowed to go home, I wondered why my grandfather was so worried. He was very sick from kidney disease and was on dialysis. My mother kept me in bed at home. I got presents and a lot of ice cream.  Now, I know why Grandpa was worried. I'd bet he thought that this attack of his might have been the cause of his kidney problems. He might have been right.

This newspaper article confirms the date and location he was living in 1913. He was living in Westerly, RI on 8 Narragansett Ave. with his parents and his younger brother. He was commuting to Providence to start up the family business of dry cleaning as he had been doing since 1907.  Sometime in 1912, he and his family moved from nearby Pawcatuck, CT to Westerly, RI. He joined a Masonic Lodge around then too.

I wonder if his girlfriend, my grandmother, bought him ice cream for his sore throat?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mystery of the Chinese Box

The Chinese Box, 2017, photo by Midge Frazel
The Mystery of the Chinese Box
Who doesn't love a good mystery?

This family heirloom, given to me by my grandmother, was a favorite thing of mine to play with whenever I visited my grandparent's home.The top has a storage area not easily shown in this photo. A locked drawer (with a key) and two storage drawer make it a useful and fun heirloom.

Before she died, my mother wanted me to write down whatever I could remember about things that my grandmother or grandfather owned. Fortunately for me, I knew my mother had an ulterior motive, she wanted me to appreciate and keep all of the family antiques. As this is a common problem of all genealogists, I pulled out the notes I took those days I interviewed her. 

Most all of that furniture I sold when my mother died because it would never have fit in my small house. My grandmother, not a sentimental person would have understood. My mother would have been very angry.

I enjoyed talking to Grandma about some of the things and when I got to this box, she told me to put it out in our car. My mother saw me do that and interrupted me when I asked my grandmother about it. She thought it ugly so why would I want that? The answer was simple, I used to play with it when I stayed at my grandparents house. My parents went to parties and I stayed with my grandmother.  I never asked where they went and never mentioned what I did. 

What I wrote down that day was that this box was "owned by Mrs. Morgan of Westerly". Until this week, I have not know who that might have been. While researching houses that my maternal family lived in, I found out that my great uncle Harold's wife, Martha Blanchard was a housekeeper for Mrs. Charles A. Morgan and his wife Clara. 

When Uncle Harold (my grandmother's oldest sibling) married Martha, Harold moved in and they lived with this Morgan family. Clara died in 1912. The Chinese box may have been a wedding gift for my grandparents who married in 1914. The Morgans had no children and neither did Harold and his wife Martha. It takes time to find women's maiden names but between Martha's family and my Westerly contacts, I started to piece it together.


Norwich bulletin. (Norwich, Conn.),
27 Dec. 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1912-12-27/ed-1/seq-6/>
This box must have been given to my grandparents in 1914 by my grandmother's brother, Harold Schofield Barber and his wife Martha Blanchard.