Fosket Brothers: North and South

Every last one of my ancestors lived in the northern states once they arrived in this country.  They ALL, on both sides, lived in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and all over New England, and then some of them went west.   But NONE of them went south.

At least I thought so until now.

For many years, I’ve been researching the ancestry of my mother’s grandmother, Sarah Fosket.

Sarah Ann Fosket, my mother’s maternal grandmother

I’ve traced her Fosket line back to her grandparents, Alexander Fosket and Sarah Ann Evans, who married in Troy, New York in 1837.  Alexander and Sarah had at least four children, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on just two of them, Alexander E. and Alonzo.

Some descendants of Alexander Fosket

Sarah Fosket’s father, Alonzo, was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War.  He enlisted in Michigan and mustered in at St. Louis.  It’s still a mystery to me what a  New York City man was doing out there!

Alonzo Fosket, Missouri Infantry

I have few records and even fewer clues for Alonzo’s parents, Alexander and Sarah.

There’s a family in the 1840 U.S. Census in Albany headed by “Alex Fosgate” (as you know, the 1840 census only names the heads of households).  The surname isn’t quite right, but the ages were correct for both Alexander and Sarah, and for their first child born in 1839.  There was also an older woman in the household, but of course I had no idea who she was, and I wasn’t even certain that this was the correct family.

I haven’t found the couple in any other census record.  They didn’t own land. Records are scarce.

Both Alexander and Sarah died young.  Sarah died when she was between 30 and 40 years old.  Alexander was a 45 year old widower when he died of consumption in New York City in 1858, leaving four children under 18.  The three youngest children were raised by one of Sarah’s sisters; the oldest, Alexander E. Fosket (Alex Jr.), was nowhere to be found until 1870 when he was in New York City, a single man, boarding with strangers.  He then purchased a house in Brooklyn in 1873.

One of the unusual facts about Alex Jr. was that his first child, Henry, was born in South Carolina in 1872 (see above chart).    And his wife was born in Germany, not South Carolina.

I couldn’t make sense of that: Alex Jr., who was single and living in New York City in 1870, suddenly traveled down to South Carolina where he married a German woman, had a child, and then came back to Brooklyn to buy a house in 1873? I filed the information to be considered later.

There’s a confederate soldier in the Georgia Infantry by the name of Alexander E. Fosket, who was ultimately taken prisoner by the northern army.  There is quite a bit of correspondence between the Northern and Southern generals regarding his release.

Alexander Fosket in the Georgia Infantry

This didn’t fit with anything else I knew about the family, either.  Why would a guy from Albany and NYC enlist in Georgia?  Surely it was another man with the same name.  I filed the information to be considered later.

There’s a death notice in an Albany newspaper about one Amelia Fosket, a resident of Albany, who died of cholera in 1849 at age 62 while visiting her son in Colleton County, South Carolina.  I had no idea who she was, but thought this could somehow be related to the other southern connections – you never know.  So I filed the information to be considered later.

Joel Munsel, Annals of Albany (Albany: J. Munsell, 1869), 373.

Now I’m finally in Albany, researching at the New York State Library, which has all of the Albany City Directories on microfiche.

The directory for 1841 lists three people at the same address:  Amelia (a widow), Alexander, and Sarah Ann.  There’s only one Fosket family in Albany.

Do you know the feeling when you’re staring at the new discovery on your screen, mouth slightly open, and you can hear the loud “CLICK” in your head as all the puzzle pieces fly together and connect as though a magnet is pulling them to the center?  That’s how it was for me.

The Amelia living with Alexander and Sarah Ann in 1841 is surely the older woman in the 1840 census record, and the same woman who died in South Carolina while visiting her son.  It’s also highly likely that she’s Alexander’s mother.

When Alexander died in 1858, Alex Jr. was about 19 years old.  I think the young man chose to go live with his paternal uncle in South Carolina, while his younger siblings stayed in New York City and lived with their maternal aunt.  Then the Civil War started, and Alex Jr. enlisted in the Confederate Army.  He was, after all, a southern boy at the time.

Why Alexander enlisted in Georgia when he was living in South Carolina is as much a mystery as the question of why Alonzo enlisted in Michigan when he was living in New York City.  But that’s what happened.  So you hear stories about the Civil War, where brother was fighting against brother, and it turns out to have happened in my family exactly like that.  I plan to examine the activity of each company in great detail to see if the two brothers were ever on the same battlefield, opposing each other.

Of course, I stayed up until all hours that night looking for the Fosket son/brother/uncle in South Carolina, and I found him.  Fosket is an old New England name, not a southern name, so there was just one candidate:  Don Alonzo Fosket, a.k.a. D. A. Fosket.   The fact that he was born in New York, and that his name was Alonzo, were both big clues that he belongs to my family.

Evidently, Don Alonzo was a rascal who stirred up trouble, was tried for murder multiple times, but was also a contractor for the U.S. Postal Service, and was elected Coroner of Edgefield County, South Carolina in 1870.  It’s going to take a lot more research to figure him out.

I also found a Miss Amelia Fosket in South Carolina who was born in 1819, and traveled with Don Alonzo from New York to Charleston by steamer just after Christmas in 1871.   I believe she is a sister to Don Alonzo and Alexander Fosket, named after their mother.

Here’s my working hypothesis now for my Fosket family:

Expanded Fosket tree with new relationship hypothesis

It’s amazing how one little line in a city directory could pull all of the other records together into a scenario that makes sense.  As is often the case, this new discovery raises more questions than it answers, but the important thing is that it moves my research forward.  One step at a time.





Albany, New York

For the last two weeks, I’ve been at this lovely little campground on the Mohawk River in Schenectady called Arrowhead Marina and RV Park.  It’s about a half hour drive from Albany, my primary research target.  Here’s a visual:

View of Mohawk River from Arrowhead RV Park office.
My camp site at Arrowhead

The campground is beautifully maintained, with lots of grass and trees. The sites are a bit too close to each other for my taste, but thankfully the neighbors are all extremely quiet.  I try to take a long walk every day; there’s a nice little walking path across a bridge over to the other side of the river.  I took this photo of the campground from over there:

View of the campground from the other side of the river

The day after I arrived, I drove (in my car) to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for a follow-up lung scan, about four hours away.  It was excellent news:  my lungs are completely clear!  Whew!!  Now I’ll just have annual scans to screen for lung cancer.  After the appointment, I visited with my friends Agnes and Cindy in Bucks County, and then drove back to Schenectady the next day.

The agenda for the rest of the week included catching up on all kinds of things:  my online classes, my personal bookkeeping, my travel planning, this blog, scanning my genealogy files, and preparing for my Albany research.  It’s amazing how much time it all takes, and I’m so glad I scheduled a month here!  I tend to procrastinate on a few of these items (i.e. bookkeeping, scanning, classes), so I told myself I couldn’t do any more research until I caught up with everything else.

During the second week, I spent six full days going to various archives, libraries, courthouses and historical societies.  We have slews of ancestors throughout the state, but my primary research focus is to solve a couple of mysteries about ancestors on my mother’s side, who lived in Albany, Troy, Clifton Park, and various locations in Rensselaer County in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  Much more on that later!

I’ll be making another side trip to Bucks County again next week, which will be my last opportunity to offload excess baggage in the RV.  I won’t be back there again until next May, but I also need to consider the fact that my RV will be in storage in California until next October. So, if I think I’ll need something next summer and fall which is currently in the RV (perhaps for the cruise, for example), but that I won’t be taking to England, then I need to leave it in storage now.  Jeez, it makes my head hurt!

But here’s the real reason I’m going to Bucks County for another visit:  my son, Kyle, is moving back to Newtown!  He received an offer he couldn’t refuse – he’s going to be a real estate agent for The Cosack Team with Fox and Roach.  Kyle graduated from college last year and then drove out to Seattle, where his sister has been living for many years.  Although he enjoyed it there, it just wasn’t a fit for him.  He’s beyond excited to start this new career!

If you’re wondering whether or not Kyle’s news has an impact on my long term plans – you bet it does.  I’ve made no decisions, but I certainly need to consider where my kids are living when I ultimately settle down.  We’ll just see how it all plays out!

Fun in Vermont!

I loved my time in Vermont!!  I may not have gotten a lot of research done (see previous post), but I had a ton o’ fun and the area was stunning.  Here’s a picture of my campsite:

My campsite at Waterhouses Campground, Lake Dunmore, Vermont

I stayed at Waterhouses Campground and Marina, which was very wooded and you had to go over a sweet little stream to get to my site:

Stream going through campground

But the best part was Lake Dunmore – the campground is also a beach and marina:

Beach at Waterhouses
Marina at Waterhouses
Lake Dunmore from Waterhouses Marina

No wonder I was a little distracted from my research work, right?!?

My best friends from childhood, Carol and Debbie, came to visit me for three nights.  It was so exciting for me to have guests and I love being with my sistas!!  There’s a little restaurant on the water called Paddler’s Pub, which is part of the marina, and we had some great times there having cocktails and a couple of meals.  And we had fun just hanging around the campfire, too.

Campfire at Waterhouses

We also rented a pontoon boat for a day.  Our childhood home was in Massapequa, Long Island, New York, in a section called Nassau Shores, which was on the Great South Bay.  Deb actually lived in a house right on the water.  So we all were familiar with boating from a young age, but none of us had driven one in many years.  It was quite an adventure and a memorable day! Here’s a picture of me on the boat:

Chris on the boat at Lake Dunmore

During my last weekend there, I visited some very old and very dear friends in Burlington.  I’ve known Jeff since I was 20 years old, and his wife Dawn for almost as long, but I haven’t seen them in decades.  I actually introduced them, and it was great to see them still so happily married after thirty years.  Amazingly, it felt natural and comfortable to be with them, even after all this time.  I love them!

They took me out to a fabulous dinner, and then we watched the sunset on Lake Champlain.  From there, you can see the Adirondack Mountains in the distance – it’s just lovely.  Jeff took an amazing photo:

Sunset on Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont. Photo by Jeff Schneiderman.

Jeff is a professional wedding photographer and took a picture of me.  I usually avoid having my photo taken and hate all pictures of me, but I guess this one isn’t too bad (not a comment on Jeff’s skills – I’m talking about the subject!):

Christine Roberts taken by Jeff Schneiderman.

So, you can see why I loved my time in Vermont, and why I have to go back!

Research in Vermont

I’ve been yearning to go to Vermont for over five years, since I first communicated with the wonderful folks at the Town of Orwell over the Christmas holiday in 2011.  I was researching my 3x great-grandparents, Clark Abbott and Betsey Crouch, who were pioneers in Whiteside County, Illinois in the 1840’s.

The records in Illinois weren’t clear about their places of birth.  Betsey died two years after arriving in Illinois, so she didn’t live long enough to be named in any census record. A Whiteside County history book stated that she came from New York and he from New Hampshire. Most of Clark’s census records state his place of birth as Vermont, but one says New Hampshire.

Clark and Betsey’s gravestone in Whiteside County, Illinois

One day, I was googling Clark and Betsey for the hundredth time, and finally got a hit.  Someone had posted an index of marriages in the little town of Orwell, Vermont, and there they were, married 6 October 1833.  That’s when I wrote to the town clerk.

Clark Abbott and Betsey Crouch Marriage Record, Orwell, Vermont

The clerk’s office was amazing, sending me stacks of information which provided the names of Betsey’s parents, Captain John Crouch (War of 1812) and his wife Sally Jennings.  After further research, I was able to identify Sally’s parents, Joseph and Faith Jennings of Hubbardton, Vermont, both born in the mid-1750’s and settling in Vermont after the Revolution.  From there back, the Jennings line has been fairly well researched by others.

Joseph and Faith Jennings Gravestone, Mountain View Cemetery, Hubbardton, Vermont

But I still didn’t know Clark Abbott’s parentage, or Captain John Crouch’s, so these were the puzzles I hoped to solve during my stay in Vermont. Unfortunately, I didn’t make near as much progress as I would have liked.

I originally scheduled two weeks in the area, which was cut short by two days because of my “Adirondack Adventure” – instead of arriving on Sunday the 16th, I arrived on Tuesday the 18th of July.  And then my best friends from childhood came to visit, which was fabulous (more on that in the next blog post), but it also meant fewer days for research.

It took me a while to figure out where the records for Orwell can be found.  Land and vital records are at the Town level in Vermont, and probate records are in one of two probate districts in each County.  Orwell is in Addison County, which was created from Rutland County in 1785, and its Probate District is the Addison District of Addison County, which suffered from a fire in 1852 in which all the probate records burned.

Fortunately, the little town of Orwell wasn’t annexed to Addison County until 1847, and by then my ancestors had either died or left Vermont.   Since Orwell was still in Rutland County in my time period of interest, the probate records should be located at the Fair Haven Probate District.  After more digging, I discovered that the Fair Haven Probate District Court was closed a few years ago, and combined with the Rutland District Probate Court.  So I trotted off to the Rutland County Courthouse, where I was told that they only had records for the past ten years, and that anything prior had been transferred to the Vermont State Archives.

Dontcha love a good treasure hunt?!?

By the time I sorted all this out, I had one research day at the Vermont State Archives.  The best part about my day  was handling documents from the time of the Revolutionary War, seeing familiar historical names in correspondence, and touching the same piece of paper that my ancestor touched when he signed his name.  It literally gives me goosebumps.

Signature of Joseph Jennings in 1794
Signature of Joseph Jennings in 1811

I still haven’t solved any mysteries regarding Clark Abbott – I have no idea where he came from.  But I do have a candidate for the father of John Crouch, and I have a few new leads to follow.

It was absolutely thrilling to see the gorgeous countryside, visit the cemeteries, and imagine what it was like when my ancestors lived there 200+ years ago.  As my stay in Vermont came to an end, way too soon, I consoled myself with the reassurance that I can come back any time, and I most definitely will!

My Adirondack Adventure

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one sums it up:

Getting ready for a ride! Wheeeee!!

Yep, the truck overheated going up a 12% grade on State Highway 9N heading east into Elizabethtown, New York.  So it turns out that my anxiety and my hand-wringing were well founded, and I should have heeded those instincts more closely!

On the way up the hill, I knew the engine wasn’t happy, but the gauge wasn’t showing it was hot.  I was chugging along, trying to maintain 25 mph, and got to the top where I thought things would calm down a little.  Then the engine just stopped.  You know how the power steering and brakes go out when the engine stops?  Scary.  I felt lucky to be able to get over to the side of the road and park on the teeny tiny shoulder, before the highway made a big downhill run which might have been disastrous.   I have to admit that my heart was pounding.  Some of you have called me brave to do this?  HA!

And once I’d pulled over, I looked at my phone to make a call – and there was no cell service.  Murphy’s Law at work.

The good news is 1) I was able to unhook my car, which might have been impossible because I was on a downhill slope which can create too much forward pressure on the hitch, 2) I have a roadside assistance policy for the RV with Good Sam, which includes towing, and 3) I’m in a gorgeous part of the country – there are worse places to break down.  Always trying to look at the positive!!

As planned, I had taken the scenic route, which starts on Route 3 out of Carthage, NY, and winds through the Adirondacks to Saranac Lake.  From there, I took Route 86 and then 73 to Keene, and then got on 9N to Elizabethtown, headed for Vermont.   I was doing really well and feeling rather cocky that I’d made it across the Adirondacks, when I hit that steep grade.   I thought I would at least be able to make it to the town to stop and get checked, but it was not to be.

Actually, I made it to Elizabethtown with my car, and fortunately, Verizon cell service worked great there.   It was probably about 10:30 am when I broke down, and about 3 pm by the time the tow truck got to my rig and hooked me up, ready to head about 40 miles to Saranac Lake – back the way I came.

The RV arriving at the shop.

I felt fortunate to find a room at a cheap hotel right near the garage.  There was no mechanic on duty yesterday, but I walked over to the shop this morning (Monday).  The long-awaited call came at 6 pm this evening, reporting that they had to replace a clamp.  The engine had severely overheated, and the old clamp failed, which released the hose and all the anti-freeze.  They test-drove it, and the engine is just fine now.  Whew!!  It certainly could have been far worse.

So now the question is:  which route do I take to Vermont?  Well, I did my research, and found a terrific resource – an e-book  for $25 called Mountain Directory which outlines all the above-average grades on roads across the country.  And yes, that little stretch of road where I got stuck is in the book.  So I was able to plan my 100 mile trip tomorrow to avoid steep grades, and I’ll know better for next time.  Wish me luck!!

Breaking New Ground

When I left Pittsburgh, I realized that from then on, I’d be traveling on roads and staying in campgrounds which are new to me.  Most of my routes this year  – Georgia to Bucks County to Pittsburgh – have been routes I’ve traveled before, and I’ve even stayed in the same campgrounds.  But now, I’m breaking new ground, going into upstate New York and Vermont.  And this makes me just a little anxious on travel days.

The thing is, I never want to get into a situation where I might take a wrong turn, and get stuck.  I have to study my route closely to avoid it.  And Eric taught me that I always have to know my escape route – I can’t pull into a place without knowing how I’m getting out – so I work very hard in advance to minimize the possibility of a mistake.  Thank goodness for Google Earth!

For every trip, I plan where I’m going to stop.  If you’re in a car, you just go until it’s time to stop for gas, and you find a gas station, right?  Not so for me and my rig – I have to know EXACTLY where I’m going to stop.  You can’t always tell from the road whether or not there’s an exit route once you pull in to the pumps, so I need to do major reconnaissance.

I know about how many miles I can comfortably go on one tank of fuel, so I plan my gas stops accordingly.  And, my general rule of thumb is to drive about 120 miles (2 hours) before I need to stop for a stretch and a bathroom break.  So when I start out a day of driving, I have to know how much gas is in the tank, and how many miles I can go before needing fuel. Then I can decide whether that first stop should be a rest area or a gas station, or if I’ll need gas sooner than my normal two hour stretch.  Once I know that, I search my route on Google maps to see where I’ll be in about that many miles.  And then I look in that area for a place to stop.

This process is more difficult and time consuming than it sounds.  My objective is to find a gas station near the highway with an approach to the pumps which is parallel to the station’s building rather than perpendicular.  Or, if it’s perpendicular, it has to have a pump at the end of the row which would allow me some sort of exit strategy – either going around the back of the building, or another driveway to the street.  Here are some examples:

Gas station with poor RV access

Above is a gas station layout which I would never want to stumble into by accident!  I would have to enter the pumps nose first, perpendicular to the building, and then pull up pretty far to get the RV’s gas tank to line up with the pump.  Then when finished,  I would have to try to turn sharply enough so I miss the building and any cars parked in front of it, while at the same time hoping that the RV’s rear end and towed vehicle don’t crash through the pump.  Not a good option for me!

Below is one that would be OK.  The pumps are perpendicular to the building, which isn’t ideal, but the gas station is roomy and on a corner.  I could probably pull into the far pump and then exit out the other driveway.

Perpendicular approach with an exit

The configuration below is the one I prefer.  See how the entrance and exit is so easy when the approach to the pumps is parallel to the building?  But it’s amazing how long I have to search sometimes to find one like this on my route.

Parallel approach

Rest areas are easy – as long as they’re available along the way, they’re perfect for me.  They always have an area for trucks, and I pull in right there next to them!

That’s me feeling very safe at a rest area between two trucks!

In addition to scoping out rest stops and rest areas, I carefully examine the map to make sure I know exactly what exits to take, and where to turn.  No wrong turns allowed, cause I can’t easily un-do it!   I download campground maps from the website so I’m very familiar with exactly where I need to go to register, where I can unhook my car (need a straight and flat spot), and where to find my campsite.

Sometimes a campground is remote enough that neither Google Maps nor the GPS can find it.  For example, the address for  my campground in Lowville, Lewis County, NY was a highway name and a town, and, alternatively, latitude and longitude.  Google Maps recognized the campground name, but when looking at the satellite image, there was no campground to be found.  When I plugged in the latitude and longitude, there was still no campground.  After playing around with it for a while, I found it up a side street, two turns off the main highway.   So I don’t just rely on the GPS – I spend the time to do my research.

This system has worked very well for me so far.  Since leaving Pittsburgh, I traveled about 300 miles to Hamlin Beach State Park near Rochester, New York, for four nights, and then another 200 miles to Lowville, Lewis County, New York where I’ve spent the past week, all without incident.

Today, I’m planning my 200 mile trip to Salisbury, Vermont.  I have a GPS which is specifically programmed for RV’s.  Supposedly, it will put me on the best route to avoid low bridges and other big-rig hazards, and it has a preference for interstates.   The GPS tells me that the best route from here to Vermont is along Route 3, which is a scenic route through the Adirondacks, past Lake Placid.  I’ve gone through much hand-wringing, trying to decide whether or not to take the chance that my rig will struggle with the hills on that route.  The other alternative is to go way south and then north to stay on interstates, which is longer but seems much safer.

Well, I’ve decided to be brave and take Route 3.  I’m leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning (Sunday, July 16th).  I’ll report back and let you know how it goes!


Busy Month in Pittsburgh

My stay in the Pittsburgh area was crazy busy, filled with great stuff; the month I spent there literally flew by.

For the first week and a half, I hung out most days with my second cousin Melody.  We went to courthouses and libraries, and also scanned a bunch of photos at her house, which took several days.  She’s spent most of her life in the area, and knows exactly where the old farm is, so we drove up there and she shared her memories about it.  I had been there years ago with my Mom, but wasn’t exactly sure I could find it again, so the tour of the farm and the old stomping grounds in Finleyville was fascinating to me.  Melody and I also had dinner with two sisters who are third cousins to us.

Farm in Coal Bluff, looking up the hill, circa 1930’s
Farm in Coal Bluff, looking down the hill, circa 1930’s
Coal Bluff farm today.

Then my friends Sandra and Bob joined me for a week.  They’re the folks I met when we were all living in the same neighborhood in Woodland, California about 27 years ago, and they’re also living full time in an RV – amazing coincidence!  We spent our days hiking, swimming, sightseeing in Pittsburgh, and getting various errands done.

Bob and Sandra at Point State Park, Pittsburgh.

We played cards every night, except for the night we went to see a Frankie Valli Tribute band play in a concert along the Monongahela River.  Probably the most fun thing we did was to take a tour of a coal mine!  I just loved feeling that connection to my many coal mining ancestors.

Generations of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors worked in the mines.

Next, I spent a week studying genealogical citations with Dr. Thomas Jones at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, held at LaRoche College.  The majority of attendees stay in the dorms on campus, which I’ve done in the past.  But I decided to commute this time, and I’m not sure I would do that again!  I drove an hour in rush hour traffic each morning and evening; sometimes it took an hour and a half.  Classes went from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, and there were also evening activities which I chose not to attend because of the long drive.  The commuting part was a bit stressful – it definitely reminded me of going to work!  Otherwise, the week was fabulous, and zipped right by.

That Friday, my friend Agnes came for a weekend visit.  We hung out by the pool, went out to eat, hiked, made a campfire, and generally chatted non-stop the whole time.  It was the first time I had a guest in the RV, and it worked out really well!  I gave her my bed, and I slept in the over-the-cab bunk.  It was so great to have a buddy for a couple of days!

On Monday, July 3rd, I spent the day at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh.  Actually, technically it was the City-County Building.  I had ordered my grandparents’ 1944 divorce file from offsite storage when I was there earlier in the month.   Both of my grandparents re-married and then divorced again, so there are tons of juicy marital issues to be discovered – this is where you find out what was really going on, if it can be believed!

On the Fourth, I took a long walk through the gorgeous Mingo Creek County Park,

Path in Mingo Creek County Park has its own covered bridge!

and then I did a tour of all the houses where my mother lived when she was a child.

One of the houses in Mt. Lebanon where my mother grew up.

After that, I visited the cemetery where they are all buried, including my parents and brothers.

James Chapel and the cemetery, a long time ago!

During the whole day, I thought about the family gatherings held on the 4th of July at my mother’s grandparents’ farm in Finleyville.   Patriotism runs in my family, and it comes directly from my great-grandparents, James William Furlong and Mary Payne.   James was the son of an immigrant, and Mary came to this country with her parents at the age of 11.  They were proud Americans, and celebrated the 4th of July each year in grand style!

James William Furlong and Mary Payne; my grandfather Norman Furlong is in the back holding the dog.  Unknown woman on the right. Estimated to be late 1920’s.

Their six children all brought their spouses and kids to the farm for the big celebration every 4th of July. My mother said they gathered for the Fourth as long as she could remember, and the picture above shows that they did it before she was born as well.

James Furlong often wore all white to celebrate the day, and there was a huge American flag.  All of the aunts were busy in the kitchen making the picnic fixins, which included  ham, potato salad, homemade bread and ice cream, while the cousins all played games.  Grandma and Grandpap gave each of their grandchildren a silver dollar every year, and many photographs were taken which we all SO enjoy and appreciate today.  And I still have the silver dollars my mother received – she saved every one of them.

My grandparents, Norm and Viola, in the center; grandfather is holding one of his nieces.  Note the big flag in the background!

It seemed very appropriate for me to spend the Fourth near the farm in Finleyville, feeling patriotic and envisioning those many, many happy times my mother told me about, and which I can clearly see in the old photos.

When it was time to go the next day, I wasn’t ready to leave.  It felt good to be there, and I have lots more research to do.  So I know I’ll be back, and hopefully next time it’ll be a longer stay!

Long Term Schedule

A few months ago, I sat down and literally made my bucket list.  There aren’t many touristy travel destinations on the list – most items involve my genealogy research.  And since I have a “life is short” approach to planning, I feel a strong need to front-load the high priority items on the list.  In other words, “someday” is NOW!!

I created a Google map with pins in all the places I want to go, which helped me to visualize my path back and forth across the country.  But I also have places on my list which I can’t get to with my RV.  So here’s my long term schedule:

Summer 2017

I’ve already posted the details of my summer plans this year – I’ll be in the cooler climates of upstate New York and Vermont.  Then, after a week at a conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I’ll head west on Labor Day, starting with Butler, Ohio for two weeks.

Fall 2017

I pretty much learned last fall what my limits are in terms of temperature.  For the first ten days of October last year, I was in Cortland County, New York, and I saw frost on the ground.  I have a heater in the RV, and it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the pipes, but I don’t want to be in weather any colder than that.  So I know I’m taking a bit of a chance with my plans to be in Wisconsin for the last two weeks of September.  My ancestors lived in Washington County, just north of Milwaukee, so it’s not way up there, and I’m hoping it’ll be OK.

Washington County, Wisconsin

For the first two weeks of October, I’ll be in Illinois, camping on the banks of the Mississippi River.  If the weather in Illinois is similar to the weather in Pennsylvania, which I think it is, then it will be chilly but not freezing.

Fall camping along the Mississippi River

Next, I’ll spend several days in mid-October meeting a first cousin (for the first time) in Missouri, and then I’ll high-tail it to Phoenix, Arizona, driving 1,200 miles in three days, arriving on October 23.  I’ll stay three nights in a campground just outside the city.

Then, I’ll put my rig in storage, stay in a hotel near the Phoenix airport, and fly to Puerto Vallarta.  Eric gave me a week of his timeshare as a gift, and I was able to exchange it for a week in Mexico.  And, I’m using frequent flyer miles, so the trip isn’t going to cost me much at all.   I’m thinking that I’ll be ready for some pure R&R after seven months of living in the RV and doing my research.  My good friend Sandra and her daughter will go with me (my daughter declined the offer – not her habitat!!).

Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I’ll retrieve my car and RV in Phoenix when I return, and then drive up to Fresno, California to stay for a month, doing some research on my father’s family there.

For Thanksgiving week, I’ll drive my car to my Uncle’s house in the LA area, and I’m flying my kids down from Seattle to join us.  I’m so excited to see my Aunt and Uncle, and to spend the holiday with family!

I’ll return to Fresno after Thanksgiving,  and prepare to put my RV and car into storage for 10 months.

Winter/Spring 2018

As I did last year, my plan is to fly to Seattle for Christmas.  I’ll spend a week at an Airbnb in the city itself beginning in mid-December, and then our little family (Eric, our two kids, and I) will spend Christmas week at a cabin in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, near Steven’s Pass.

Near Stevens Pass, Washington

And then, on December 29th, I’m flying to London, England.  From there, I’ll either fly or drive up to Northumberland County, way up near Scotland.  I’ll spend two months there in a furnished flat in the same little town where my great-grandmother, Mary Payne, was baptized at St. Cuthbert’s Church in 1870.

St. Cuthbert’s Church, Bedlington, Northumberland, England

At the beginning of March, I’ll drive to South Wales and spend a month in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, and then a month in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, which brings me to the end of April.

That’s me inside of the church in Cosheston, Pembrokeshire, Wales, where the Furlongs were baptised, married and buried in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do for the first two or so weeks in May, so I haven’t yet booked my return flight.  I think I’m going to take a break from genealogy, take advantage of being in Europe, and go somewhere just for fun.  I’m thinking maybe Italy.

I’ll be returning to Bucks County, Pennsylvania at the end of May for my annual doctor appointments, and will rent a car there for a couple of weeks.

Summer/Fall 2018

For the summer of 2018, I’m planning to sublet an apartment in Manhattan.  I’m still in touch with a few people from my college days who live there and go to New England for the summer, so I’m hoping to be able to easily find a place.  Not only do I have endless research to do in NYC, but I’ve always wanted to live there for a short time.   It’s a good time to go since I’ll already be on the east coast, and I won’t have my car or my RV – neither will be needed in Manhattan!

New York Public Library

I don’t have precise plans yet for the month of September, but I would love to spend time in Boston or Washington DC, or maybe both.  I have until September 24, when I’m planning to fly to Ft. Lauderdale with my friend Cindy and her husband Fred, and embark on a two week Panama Canal cruise, which ends in San Diego.

East to West Panama Canal Cruise on Celebrity Cruise Line

And that puts me back on the west coast to retrieve my car and my RV by about mid-October 2018.

As you can see, I’m a planner, and I already have ideas about winter of 2018 and on into 2019.  I have lots to do on the west coast, including genealogy research in California and Oregon, visiting friends and family, and spending a long time camping near the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  My next big trip will be to Germany to solve a family mystery, which I hope to do in 2019, perhaps in the fall.

So at the moment, I have no plans to buy a house and settle down – way too much to do!

Second Cousins

For the month of June, I’m staying in the Pittsburgh area, where my mother grew up and where her family settled in the 19th century.   They were all coal miners from South Wales and Northumberland, England.

The list of people I’m researching is ridiculously long with many collateral branches, and I’m starting to feel a little obsessive compulsive about it.  I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of the facts I still need to confirm, and so far it has about 160 people on it.    At the Allegheny County Courthouse, I drove the clerks a little crazy because I requested documentation on 31 marriages!

I love the research, but the highlight of my stay so far has been meeting my cousin Melody for the first time.  She’s the daughter of my mother’s first cousin Grace, which makes us second cousins.

People often get confused when it comes to understanding the relationship between second cousins and beyond.  Here’s a visual which might help:

Relationship Chart, Melody and Chris

Since Melody and I are second cousins, that makes our daughters third cousins.  What about the once-removed part?  That just means it’s a different generation.  So Melody’s relationship to my daughter Caitlin is second cousin once-removed.  My relationship to my mother’s cousin Grace is first cousin once removed.

Melody and I spent several days going through pictures in her mother’s house.  I brought my Flip-Pal portable scanner and wore out the batteries over and over again!  Melody’s mother had pictures of my mother, my grand parents, and my great-grandparents which I had never seen before.  The most exciting one was an unidentified photograph which I believe is a picture of my great-great-grandparents, John Payne and Jane Weightman.

John Payne and Jane Weightman, maybe

Compare that to this one which I already had, and which was taken many years earlier:

John Payne, Jane Weightman (seated), James Weightman, and Thomas Weightman, ca 1871

It’s hard to tell if they’re the same people, but it’s certainly possible – I’d love to find another descendant with a photo so we can compare.  I have other photos of John Payne, and he’s always got that white beard so he looks like the same guy to me.

I loved seeing photos of my mother with her grandparents, who she loved so much:

Mary Payne Furlong, James William Furlong, and Mary Payne, about 1940

and I just love this one of my Mom:

Mary Payne Furlong, about 1947

Melody shared many, many other photos with me, none of which I would have otherwise had, and all of which I will cherish.  Researching your collateral relatives and finding second and third cousins is definitely worthwhile – you each might have different pieces of your family puzzle to share with each other!

Back in the 215/609

I’m just about wrapping up a two week stay in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, my former home.  I’ve had ties to the 215 and 609 area codes since I was 16, when my family moved from the south shore of Long Island, New York to Pennington, New Jersey.  I left at 18 for college, went west, and then returned in 1997 at age 41, settling across the river in Bucks County.  So it’s natural that being here stirs up lots of memories.

Like, my father and my brother Jamie died in the 609.  My mother and my brother Chuck died in the 215.

I really AM trying to dwell on the positive.  This is where my children grew up – there were certainly many happy times.  And I’ve SO MUCH enjoyed seeing friends I’ve missed greatly over the past nine months.  I’m truly thankful for the many warm relationships I still have here, but those sad thoughts creep in just the same, triggered by familiar landmarks in the area.  It’s definitely been bittersweet.

One of the highlights was a three-day side trip to Long Island to visit my lifelong friend Carol.  No RV, just my little car.  We went to the resort-y town of Greenport, way out on the east end of the island, to visit her new grandson, and then had a wonderful night out.  I love her like a sister!

My beautiful friend/sister Carol with her grandson, Michael
Chris and Carol out on the town!

Another highlight was getting back together with my friend Agnes.  She was my BFF for twelve years, and then we had a falling out around eight years ago.  Now we’re just looking forward, and it feels soooo comfortable, natural and – well, just fantastic all the way around.  She took me out to dinner on my birthday last week, which was a real treat – any time spent with Agnes is special.  Here we are, “back in the day” –

Agnes and Chris, circa 2009

Speaking of birthdays, I was excited to turn 62 and qualify for the National Park Service senior pass…well, kind of excited…  But you should know that the price for a lifetime pass is increasing from $10 to $80 sometime this fall – so if you’re 62 or older, get yours now!

I also spent time with friends from my former workplace, my genealogy buddies at the Bucks County Genealogical Society, and my girlfriends Cindy, Denise, Kim, Else, and Nancy.  It was wonderful to be with them all, and I hope it made them feel good to be with me, too.  I’ll carry that feeling with me for a long time.

I’ve done so much socializing that I’ve hardly done any work – that’s a good thing!!  But even with all the hugs and kisses going around, I did still have to get things done.  I met with a genealogy client, and a new one came along that I’m very excited about.  I completed some of my online self-paced genealogy classes, but I’m still one class behind (I take two per month – I haven’t finished one of my May classes, and it’s already June!).

I was also hoping to do a bunch of scanning of my genealogy research files while I’m here near my storage.  I need my files with me as I do my research, but of course I don’t want to lug them around.  I did get SOME scanning done, but not all.  I have a little reprieve because I’ll be making an unexpected (but brief) trip back to Bucks County at the end of July, so now my plan is to scan the rest of them over the next two months, and return a box of files to storage then.

I was able to off-load some stuff from the RV back to storage: a couple of tubs of genealogy files which I’ve already scanned, and a huge tub of books which is VERY heavy (what was I thinking??):

Tote full of HEAVY books!

There are several genealogy books which I need to have and will keep, but for pleasure reading I’ve started buying used paperbacks at book sales, and will recycle them back to Goodwill so I’m not carrying around books I’ve already read.  I also installed an Amazon Kindle on my laptop, and I can get free or very inexpensive downloads from Amazon and other sources.  Slowly trying to change my habits to accommodate my new nomadic lifestyle!

I love the campground here, and except for Memorial Day weekend, I had it pretty much to myself:

A nice, quite campsite
Empty campsites all around

But now it’s time to say goodbye to the 215/609 – except for that quick trip at the end of July, I won’t be back until May of 2018.  Returning to a place I used to call home after being away for so long sure puts a different perspective on life in general.   I’m expecting that next year, with more time behind me, the acute sadness I’m often feeling in this place more than others, will dull a little more.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to simply enjoy the good memories, and all the people still here who I love.  Now, on to the many adventures in store for summer of 2017!!