Thursday, February 1, 2018

Memoir: Cap't William E. May and wife Mildred

Captain William E. May (1905-1970)
and his wife Mildred E. Lawson May (1907-1968)
Neighbors of my Aunt Anne and Uncle Jack Crompton

Photos captured from my parent's undated home movies
Location 42 Dedham Ave. Providence. RI
Blog posts should include remembrances or memoirs of people that touched your lives or the lives of your ancestors because in the larger scheme of things they add information to the neighborhoods and communities of long ago. These people may have been included with your family in holiday events or simple backyard cookouts. Let's hope they are not forgotten.

As my aunt and uncle were childless, they had a wider circle of friends than most people of that time. Time was passed by playing cards, listening to the radio and eating out at neighborhood restaurants.  

Mr. May and his wife lived at 16 Dedham Ave. in Providence, "up the street" from my aunt and uncle and they also had no children. Included in my paternal family events, it is to my family's credit that no one be excluded. As a curious child, I asked questions about people at these events and was rewarded with answers. This is how a childhood genealogist thinks about family.

Mr. May was a Providence Policeman, who rose from the rank of Patrolman in 1940 (1940 census) to Captain by 1964 (1964 Providence City Directory). My aunt, after a long day on her feet at various jobs, including one at Victor Cleansing Co., my family's business, helped care for Capt. May's wife Mildred (Lawson) May both before and after work. Capt. May's job was juvenile offenders. 

Crime & Delinquency , Vol 6, Issue 1, pp. 91 - 93, First Published January 1, 1960
located in Sage Publishing Journal [] accessed 1 Feb 2018
One day, I went home with my aunt and was picked up by my father after we ate supper there. My aunt, an excellent cook, fed my dad when he lived with them, before my parent's were married in 1946. He lived in a room upstairs, which he showed me that night.

We had just returned from taking "a plate" (whole meal) of supper to Mrs. May. We walked down the sidewalk to their home with the hot food. Mrs. May was wheelchair bound as she had rheumatoid arthritis. She opened the door and her dog, an English bulldog, growled. She reached down and said to the dog, "Friend" and he settled down and we entered. He was the first working animal I ever saw. He obviously was trained as a police dog. I was only allowed to pet him when she gave the command of Friend. He then transformed into a wiggly friendly animal. My aunt told me he was there to protect Mrs. May as she could not walk very much. He growled at my aunt every day without fail. That night, she let the dog outside and we waited until Mrs. May wheeled to the table to eat before we let him back inside for his own food.  

My aunt helped her twice a day every day for many years. This was the kind of person that my aunt was, helping others before her own needs. Aunt Anne lived until age 92, long after her husband, Uncle Jack died. My daughter's middle name is Anne after this strong woman.

As we were ready to leave, Capt. May returned home. He looked enormous in his police uniform, complete with gun and handcuffs. He left the room to secure his weapon and my aunt set out his supper before we went out the door. The dog stayed with her on alert the whole time.

Capt. and Mrs. May are buried in St. Anne's Cemetery in Cranston, RI. along with his two sisters and brother-in-law. I remember them.

Friday, January 5, 2018


2009 Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, CT.

Fifty-Two Ancestors


Future posts will be at Granite-in-my-Blood

I have decided as part of the family history book I am writing that I will seek out and transcribe family obituaries. It is a tedious task and one that I have not been doing as I go along. It was more important for me to use the resources in my family Bible, family journals and census records in my last and ongoing project called "Close to Home". 

I have been tracking family homes, a family business and finding the gravestones for more than 15 years now, knowing I might not be physically able to do so when I retired. 

I may not follow the project guidelines (which are very good), but this Start week (January 1-7's) suggestion, included "a relative that started a business". That fits.

In this photo taken in 2009, on a hot day in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic, CT, may not be very flattering but I am sitting on the huge gravestone of my maternal great grandparents, Charlie and Adah (Evans) Stewart. My mother called her grandparents, not by their first names but by their last. A formal, now "old fashioned" New England practice that has helped me be sure of surnames. 

Charlie (Charles Edward Stewart 1859-1937) was the closest family historian to me. He died ten years before I was born so I did not get to ask him to dinner or find out why there are no photos of his wife. His interests in life mirror my own. He and his wife had two very different sons. He finally parted ways with one son and moved his business closer to his elder son who was my grandfather. Charlie was the owner of my family Bible and kept at age 15, a newspaper scrapbook journal. I copied the pages I wanted (and the cover) with genealogical information and then donated it to the North Stonington Historial Society. 

My grandmother was his daughter-in-law and said that I was a "lot like him". So, it is fitting that this project is dedicated to him. However, I will not limit this project to my maternal ancestors, I will work on my paternal ancestors too because for a while, all of these people lived in the same town. That makes it interesting. 

As you know, obituaries have changed drastically over the years and now that the funeral homes and families write them together, that will give a different slant. I wrote obitaries for my deceased in-laws and it still cost a thousand dollars each which were paid for by their estate money. 

In high school, my English teacher taught a few weeks of journalism. I learned that the death notice, was required by law, here in New England. The obituary was optional but it was a journalist's first writing assignment. I am fortunate that my family was literate and the newpapers liked printing ones about my family.

My late aunt saved obituaries of my father's family and I inherited them. My friend and distant cousin, Barbara Fallon, volunteers in the Westerly Public Library and has been able to obtain my paternal grandparents obituaries. Those are heartbreaking and/or "sensational" news. 

The problem with newspaper obituaries is that they are seldom dated or have the name of the newspaper. Great-Grandpa Charlie's is glued into my family Bible. I can't remove it to look at the reverse side for clues. 

It must have been published in the Providence Journal (and Evening Bulletin) once a prominent and excellent newspaper in Rhode Island, published twice daily in the past. It is hard to imagine newspapers published twice a day or that postal mail was delivered twice daily. 

This building, across the street from the Rhode Island Convention Center (taken by me in 2015), no longer exists. Beware of newspapers.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Proceed with Caution: New Year Ahead

Proceed with Caution:
New Year Ahead

After many years of blogging, I have been taking a break to write a family history book about my maternal grandparents and their lives. It is going to take awhile. 

So this year, I am going to participate in Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors Project so that I have something to share in my Granite in MY blood blog. That blog is by far, my most popular one so I will reach more readers there instead of here. 

My paternal ancestors came here from Scotland, New Year's Eve is a big deal there and I set aside today to think about them and the hard life they lived. DNA has confirmed that my cousins that descend from that line match me and that makes me happy since it has been hard and expensive to track them back.

Today, as I think of them, I am posting a quote from this book, found at Google Books of Scottish proverbs, published in 1876.

My favorite quote is about the topic of Caution. Being careful with your genealogy work bears repeating, especially with investigations of DNA. This quote is on page 5.

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
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.