Friday, July 13, 2018

Prickly Summer: Largely Attended Funeral

25 April 1937, Westerly Sun, Westerly, RI
courtesy of Barbara Fallon and the Westerly Library
At first when I read this, I didn't realize that such an awful thing to happen as suicide would have a "largely attended' service. But, I went back and read the write up of "Dead at Home" article and worked out the organizations that my grandfather belonged to plus I thought about the large number of people who worked at the Bradford Dye, on Bowling Lane and in the town of Westerly, RI where my grandfather lived after he married my grandmother and moved to Bradford, RI.

The Caledonia Society is an organization for people of Scottish heritage. The Highland Pipe Band was quite large and as you can see by the photos, Thomas was a member for a number of years. I have inherited a copy of another professional photo with some men identified which I will scan and post.

It is possible that they would have helped, along with the workers at the BDA to pay for the funeral and possibly pay for the headstones, The burial plot record, I have a photograph of, doesn't indicate any information about payment. I do think, from the time period, that it was a casket funeral for both my grandparents and that is why the headstones are close to the edge of the plot. 

Holding the funeral four days after the death did give family time to travel from where they lived to Rhode Island. I am quite sure that the John Broadfoot who is listed as a bearer was my grandfather's brother who lived in California. Dow and Wright were also family members.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Prickly Summer: Dead at Home

Westerly Sun, Westerly, RI Cropped top article,
22 Apr 1937, page 2
Prickly Summer: Dead at Home

Suicide in a small town is often sensationalized but thankfully, this article appeared on the second page of the newspaper. Most of the time, there is just a death notice, a notice of service or burial and an obituary. Even though it is awful to read, the factual information is useful to my family history records and writing. My grandfather was only 53 years old when he died.

This "Takes Life by Inhaling Gas" gives me much needed information about this moment in time. This is just the top part of the article. Reported are these facts:
  • he was despondent by his wife's previous sudden death 
  • both the family and the doctor and the ambulance crew (Westerly Sanitary Crew) tried to revive him
  • he had died after his daughter and son left for work at about 8:30 AM
  • estimated time of death was between 10 and 10:30 AM
  • my father was first on the scene and my aunt arrived quickly
  • he did not work the previous day or the day he died
  • his spirits seemed OK so the shock was greater
  • the gas stove tubing was pulled out and he inhaled the gas
  • the Narragansett Electric Company arrive to clear the air in the house and to turn off and repair the stove
  • because it was a suicide the town medical examiner was brought in so it would not be considered a murder
  • my father was identified as Thomas Broadfoot, Jr., which is incorrect as my father had a middle name and his father did not.
The article goes on to report his correct place and date of birth, where everyone in the household was employed,  the organizations he belonged to and that he was an accomplished curler.

The survivors match my research and the places they lived are correct. The funeral notice and the obituary are in the correct order and are factual.

Westerly Sun, 25 Apr 1937 page 5.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Prickly Summer: Thomas Broadfoot: Town Death Record

Westerly, RI Town Death Record , p. 298
photographed by Rosalie and shared with me.

Prickly Summer: Thomas Broadfoot: Town Death Record
I went to our annual visit to my Aunt Ann and Uncle Jack's house in Providence, RI for Uncle Jack's birthday. I helped my aunt carry inside some of the dishes and she asked me, "Did you know that your father found his father's body? I didn't. I did know this happened ten years before I was born from the gravestone. I did ask my father about it after we went home and he told me only the bare minimum and said that my Aunt Ada was "in charge" since she was the oldest daughter in the house. Not long after this, I began to prepare to ask questions of each family member that was there for the next Thankgiving. 

My friend and fellow Aiken researcher, Rosalie, went to the Westerly town hall, with a gift of chocolate and they allowed her to look at records. She took this photo for me. It was a game changer. My grandfather was an alcoholic. That was not good news for my own health.

This week, I decided to find out where everyone lived at the moment this happened so that I can make a timeline. I knew that my grandmother died in 1934. That made Ada the "head of household".  She was single. My father and my uncle were living at 116 Bowling Lane with her. Annie married Jack in 1929 and from my research, they were living in Providence at 57 Pettyes Ave. until about 1939 when they bought the house at 42 Dedham Ave.

Now that I know where they live at this moment in time, I can add in the information that Barbara Fallon located for me. Noting that his report was made by the town medical examiner, I put this in my family tree.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Prickly Summer: Tom and Annie My Paternal Grandparents

Paternal Grandparents Gravestones at River Bend Cemetery
Photos taken by Midge Frazel, 2002
Prickly Summer: Tom and Annie, My Paternal Grandparents

When I was a child, we decorated the gravestones of our close family, near Memorial Day.

One year, I went with my father, without my mother, but just to River Bend Cemetery in Westerly, Rhode Island. 

As I stood in front of the gravestones of the grandparents that died before I was born, I realized that they were fairly young when they died and that they died only a few years apart. Seeing the expression on my face, my father and my aunts told me I had nothing to be afraid of. They mistook my expression as fear not as questioning. When I said that I wasn't afraid, they left me alone. We planted the geraniums and left.

Some stories can only be told from the end. They can take years of research and recording. In this case, several other researchers have been invaluable help. I have blogged about this before, but all of what I have learned needed to be written cohesively. 

My father, the son of this couple, and my mother rest in this plot. Most New England families of the past are buried together. I now know that my maternal grandfather bought plots in nearby Elm Grove Cemetery, in Mystic, CT for himself and his wife and for his children but that is not how it worked out. So, my mother agreed to be buried here with my father's family. 

As people in my father's family have passed away, I have inherited photographs and papers that have helped me piece together this timeline. It has taught me a lot about how genealogy works. For the next few months, I will be writing what I know so my descendants and my cousin's descendants will understand. There's always more to uncover, but for now, I have to stop and get this done.

The last days of a person's life is often the hardest to write about. That's what makes this prickly. You'll see.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Prickly Summer: Would You Like a Beveridge?

Oral Interview Sheets by Midge Frazel, 1971
Prickly Summer: Would You like a Beveridge?

While my soon to be husband was in Vietnam, I decided to interview my father's family on Thanksgiving, so after dinner, I went with my father to his sister's home and started with simple names and dates. The thing I remember most clearly is that it became obvious that my family didn't know everything about their own generation. The most fun was the surnames and listening to them try to decide how to spell them. As you can see I spelled Aiken incorrectly and my aunt fixed it. It did turn out that it was only partially wrong.

After my aunt wrote her mother's name, the men wandered into the living room and my aunt said, "Do you want a beverage?" So, we had to stop while dessert was served in the kitchen. I looked at the four interviews I has conducted, while my aunt put a big piece of pie and a cuppa in front of my father without asking him what he wanted. 

My Aiken and Beveridge family has been a lot of work and this week, I finally figured out what a family member said about the birth of my great grandparents first born child. He was born in 1879 and his parents weren't married until 1881.