Friday, December 25, 2009

Birthday Of The Month: Our Own Christmas Angel

: What do Santa's elves learn in school?

On Christmas Day in 1994 our family received a special gift, a sweet baby girl, our very own Christmas angel.

She was a cute blonde baby,

a darling child,

as photogenic as a model,

a caring big sister,

a fashionable girl who loves shopping,

a singer and dancer in a performance group before she started school.

You only have to meet her once to love her.

She has always loved babies and young children, and they love her in return. Several years ago at a family reunion she met her Great-Uncle J's young granddaughter. The next time the 3-year-old visited J, she said, "Where is my friend? I want that girl!"

She was the family peacemaker from a young age. At age 3, she showed us a picture she had drawn, a yellow scribble in the middle of the paper with a tiny brown figure blob in the middle of the yellow. She said, "When Mummy and Daddy fight I show them this." I said, "What is it?" She said ,"Baby Jesus." Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

1994 was the "International Year of the Family", and C's family depended on her every day. She was always her mother's right hand. Her mother told me, "She's amazing."

Like her mother as a child, her smile could light up a room.

C has described herself in these 2 internet bios: I am an Irish step dance assistant instructor, which pretty much is my life. But when I'm not at dance I am just a regular 13 year old girl.
Second Bio: I am an Irish dancer, dance instructor, virtual school student, computer lover, obsessed with Japanese dramas, music listener, movie watcher and 5'4" ft tall.

But angels do not adjust easily to life on earth, and ours has had many trials. Pure innocence seems to attract evil. She has suffered from frequent excruciating migraine headaches since babyhood. She became my hero when one day at age 5 she awoke early, crying in pain. I gave her the prescribed pain medicine, and later asked if she felt better. She shook her head no, and I said, "But you stopped crying." With her eyes still closed against the light, her little face white and pinched with pain, she said, "Mummy says crying doesn't help." Those are the most courageous words I have ever heard.

1993-2000: William Clinton president of US from before birth until age 6
1996: DVD video recordings first made at age 2
1997: Mars pathfinder lands at age 3
2001-2009: George W. Bush president of US from age 7 to 2008
2001: Wikipedia goes online at age 7
2004: Water verified present on Mars by Odyssey lander at age 10
2006: Wii ships from Nintendo at age 12

Grammys awarded in 1994:
Record of the Year: "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston
Song of the Year: "A Whole New World" (Theme From Aladdin)

Movies of 1994: Forrest Gump, The Lion King, The Mask, Miracle on 34th Street, The Next Karate Kid, Richie Rich, Stargate, The Swan Princess, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park, Little Women, The Flintstones.

Top Songs for 1994: The Power of Love by Celine Dion
Hero by Mariah Carey

On TV in 1994: Star Trek: The Next Generation; Babylon 5; The X-Files; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Home Improvement

Toys in 1994: Beanie Babies; Sega 32X; Pogs

Books in 1994:
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; The Giver by Lois Lowry

Riddle answer
: The elf-abet

Friday, December 18, 2009

We're Giving Family History Projects for Christmas

: What do snowmen eat for breakfast?

While taking a break from blogging, due to some distasteful comments from self-professed present day witches who apparently confuse history with religion, Grampy (the amazing technical side of our duo) and I created some family Christmas presents.

Gift #1 - This blog
Grampy printed and comb-bound it. A daughter recently said, "You do have it backed up somewhere, don't you?" Well, now we do, and our children each have a copy. The only drawback is that the photos won't enlarge when clicked on with a mouse. This is really apparent in the high school yearbook group photos. It's printed with a white background (to save on printer ink cost) on both sides of matte photo printing paper (from Sam's Club), and the color photos turned out great.

Gift #2 - A short novel
Our talented 15 year-old granddaughter used a blog to print her 16-chapter book as she wrote it. Blogs put the newest entry on top, so her chapters read backward. I printed them in order, and Grampy bound copies for her and her cousins.

Gift #3 - The Revolutionary War pension of Mark Frost
I had photocopied this from microfilm about 30 years ago at the New England branch of the National Archives. To share it with family, and for easier reading, I transcribed Mark's application and the depositions by reading them to Grampy, who types much faster. I printed the transcriptions, Grampy scanned the original photocopies and bound it all with covers. The pages with original handwriting are on the left side, and the typed transcriptions are on the right. This way the reader can see the sometimes difficult-to-read early 1800s handwriting without having to decipher it, and the story of a man born in 1749 can touch our hearts. He is buried in Belgrade, Maine, 8 miles from where one of Grampy's brothers lives. He and the Belgrade Historical Society have copies, and also our children's families.

Gift #4 - A photo collage
This was a combined gift. I chose and Grampy printed (in various sizes) about 75 photos of our oldest grandchild and mailed them out-of-state to his sister, who will assemble a collage on a large foamboard for him. Much easier than us trying to mail a 2 x 3 foot package.

Gift #5 - Our High School Yearbook Photos
Grampy scanned all of the yearbook photos that we were in, printed them full-page size on both sides of matte photo paper and bound them. Now our grandchildren can see real 1950s clothes, with us wearing them!

Gift #6 - Tribute books
Grampy's Dad was born 100 years ago. We are working on a tribute book of his military service, and a book of his father's poetry. These are nearing completion, but aren't finished yet. They just keep growing, and we don't want to leave anything out. Isn't that the way with all genealogy? We found out that small projects completed are better than large projects planned.
I also have a 3-ring binder of information on Grampy's grandmother's adoption waiting for completion, and a couple of great Civil War pensions.

Being unemployed is a harsh way of having enough time for projects, but it seems to be working.

Riddle answer
: Snowflakes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our Family In The Salem Witch Trials, 1692: part 1

Some of our descendants (of2 different generations) thought the new Harry Potter movie was dull, so here for you is a true story of good and evil, medieval superstition, false accusations, church feuds, ghostly hauntings, property disputes, grudges, Indian attacks, imprisonment, escape from jail, even death - all involving your ancestors! And so it won't be quite as long as HP6, it is divided into parts.

History is best told through the lives of those who lived it. I started this blog to tell the stories of some of our ancestors, and so bring them and their part in history to life. Truth isn't only stranger than fiction, it is far more fascinating.

Just as in the American Revolution, we have ancestors on both sides of the Witch Trials in Salem, MA. It was a tragedy for everyone involved. Brought on by fear, superstition, jealousy, greed, paranoia and religious misbelief, 20 people were executed, and 5, including our ancestor Roger Toothaker, died in prison. Three other ancestors, on the jury, condemned these innocent people to death in a court of law with witness testimonies of ghostly specters and the presence of the Devil. How this happened in small Salem Village (now Danvers), MA, home of English Puritans who came for religious freedom, has been studied and written about for over 300 years.

Witchcraft - the Devil's magic - has a long history, and many were still being put to death in England in the 1600s. Belief in supernatural powers and evil spirits to explain illness, bad weather, crop failures, earthquakes, eclipses and any other misfortune was common in all levels of European society. Who but Satan could be responsible for these strange occurrences? If your wife/husband/child/cow got sick or acted strangely, your milk/cheese/butter went bad, blame the odd-looking old neighbor woman who had walked by your house the day before, perhaps muttering to herself and casting an 'evil eye' on you. Most people who lived in the 1600s believed in witches. Folklore, the occult and magic (both 'black' and 'white') were part of centuries of cultural heritage. Evidence of Satan's conspiracy seemed all around the Salem Puritans.

Salem Village (now Danvers), Massachusetts
In Jan 1692, Betty Parris, age 9, her 11-year-old cousin Abagail Williams, and Ann Putnam, 12, began acting strangely. In Feb a doctor was called in, and finding no physical cause but not wanting to say so, suggested witchcraft. Pressured by ministers and others to say who did this to them, the girls named the Parris's West Indies servant Tituba and 2 other women. Other girls claimed the same afflictions and named more women, who were all arrested and jailed. Under "intense questioning" (it is thought that many of the accused were tortured), 55 confessed and were not executed. Strangely, confession avoided the gallows. Family members of the prisoners began to be accused. In April the first man, husband of one of the accused, was arrested. The girls then accused the former minister. On May 18, our ancestor Dr. Roger Toothaker was arrested. Nearby jails being full, he was sent to prison in Boston. On May 27, MA Gov. Phips commissioned a court and named judges.

June 10, the first hanging (our ancestor's step-mother, Bridget Bishop) took place on Gallows Hill.

Photo: The judge's wax seal on Bridget Bishop's death warrant.

In court, the witnesses, who were also often the accusers, gave 'spectral evidence', based on their dreams and visions. They testified that the accused witch's spirit/specter appeared to them as a black cat, etc, who bit/pinched/choked them. This was actually admitted as evidence, and none of the accused were allowed to have defense counsel.

June 16, 1692, our ancestor Dr. Roger Toothaker died in Boston Jail. He was there because Salem, Ipswich, Charlestown and Cambridge jails were filled with the accused.

The last executions were on Sep 22. On Oct 29 Gov. Phips prohibited any more arrests, released many of the accused and closed the court. (Could the fact that someone dared to accuse his wife have influenced his decision?) In Jan 1693 most of those accused of witchcraft were released, because their arrests were based on spectral evidence. In May 1693 the rest were freed - free to go as long as they paid their jail fees. Many stayed in jail for months longer because they could not pay their bill.

During 1692, 200 had been arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges, and more accused. Several dogs were accused and two were even executed as suspected accomplices of witches, since dogs were believed used by witches as agents to carry out their devilish commands. Lasting over a year, the Salem witchcraft hysteria finally burned itself out. Not only the victims and their families, but Puritanism, a major force in New England religion and government, had been damaged.

In 1702 the General Court declared the trials unlawful and in 1711 a legislative bill restored the rights of those accused of witchcraft and granted 600 pounds in restitution, divided among their heirs.

Witchcraft accusations in our family even before 1692

Grampy's ancestors
Jane Walford (abt 1600 - bef 1681) of England, Charlestown, MA and Portsmouth, NH. She was accused of witchcraft in 1648, 1656, & 1669. She was acquitted in court each time, yet the "stigma of witchcraft .... was apparently passed on to all 5 of her daughters." Descriptions of Jane (who was "witnessed" transforming into a variety of cats) have evolved into the present-day depiction of a witch - an old bent-over crone dressed in black, wearing a pointed black hat, a cat by her side.

Thomas Philbrick (1584 - 1667) of England and Hampton, NH. He testified against accused witch Eunice Cole: "The deposition of Thomas Philbrick: this deponent saith that Goodwife Cole said that if this deponent's calves if they did eat any of her grass she wished it might poison them or choke them and one of them I never see it more and the other calf came home and died about a week after... Sworn in court Sep 4, 1656"

Next - Part 2

Friday, July 10, 2009

Our High School Yearbooks: Scarboro ME 1956-61

: What did the Calculus book say to the Math book?

In celebration of our oldest grandchild's graduation from high school, let's look back at our school years in the 1950s.

Note: Click your mouse on each photo to enlarge it.

Gorham, ME High School. Grampy went here 3 years, 2 for junior high (7th and 8th grade) on the 1st floor, and 1st year (Freshman) of high school on the 2nd floor. He said his favorite part of school was the cafeteria, where the lunch ladies were generous to hungry boys, and music classes in the auditorium. He was always an honor roll student.

The new Scarborough, ME High School, 1956

My Freshman Year: 1956 - 1957
I started at Scarborough High School in 1956 as a Freshman (9th grade). Scarborough was a small rural town back then, but a new 4-year high school had just opened about a year before, within sight of my house. With a capacity for 350, it seemed huge to me and my class of about 60 students.

Our Sophomore Year: 1957 - 1958
Grampy moved from the neighboring town of Gorham in late summer of 1957, starting as a Sophomore (10th grade). We were both in the College Course. There were also Secretarial, Home Economics, General, and Industrial Arts courses, or tracks. All classes were taken with those in the same group, so even in a small town we had classes with few of our classmates. Only some went on to college, but we had a classical education in preparation for it, with excellent history and literature courses, and 2 years of Latin.

Our Junior Year: 1958 - 1959

Grampy was on the cross-country team. He's on the left, behind (and between) the guy in the tie and the one in the striped shirt.

My Senior Year: 1959 - 1960

My Senior Play
(I'm the one without a mustache).

Voted "Most Studious"
This photo, posed by the photographer, looks more like I'm going to whack John than study with him.

Here I am (on the right) in the ad for the WGAN TV station in Portland.

I was Valedictorian of my class, as shown on the Alumni page in the 1961 yearbook.

Grampy's Senior Year 1960 - 1961
Since Grampy was on his own from age 16, and had to support himself, he had to postpone his Senior year (12th grade) to work, in Massachusetts, for his room and board. He returned to Scarborough High School and graduated with honors in 1961.

Grampy's School Letter was for Cross-Country Running.

Grampy would have liked to be a Math teacher, but got a full scholarship to Tufts University School of Engineering in Medford, MA.

Grampy's Senior Play
Grampy (on the right) was an Admiral. He got to wear a fancy uniform and a fake mustache.

There were more in his class, but here's the part with Grampy's photo.

Scarborough High School Song
‘Round the royal purple standard the sons of Deering throng,
‘Neath the folds the hues of Heaven fair Portland’s sons belong,
But no colors how e’er cherished gleam forth with clearer light
Than the banner of old Scarboro with its glorious red and white.

Red for courage, nerve and prowess, white for purpose pure and true,
Red and white for all that’s noblest, dear Scarboro in you,
Should defeat before us threaten, we will never yield the fight
While above us floats the banner of our dear old red and white.

Riddle answer: You think you've got problems!