Photos of 17th and 18th Century Structures in MA

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  I recently learned about a resource that might be of interest to genealogists researching older structures in central and eastern Massachusetts.  Photographs of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Structures Taken in Massachusetts 1887-1945 by Harriette Merrifield Forbes is an electronic resource available via the American Antiquarian Society website.  Author and historian Harriette Merrifield Forbes (1856-1951) was the mother of Esther Forbes, the author of Johnny Tremain.  The images in the collection are indexed by place, name, and subject.  The collection includes approximately 800 images, with the majority of images taken in Worcester and Middlesex counties.  Coverage of Worcester area structures is excellent.  

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Books of Interest: Worcester History

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) This is a list of books that I either have as part of my collection or use for research.  The list is by no means comprehensive, simply books about Worcester history that I use and/or enjoy on a regular basis. 

Berhman, S.N. The Worcester Account.

Greenwood, Janette Thomas. First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester Massachusetts, 1862-1900.

Hultgren, William O. Eric J. Salomonsson, and Frank J. Morrill. Worcester 1880-1920.

Koelsch, William A. Clark University, 1887-1987: A Narrative History.

Knowlton, Elliot B. and Sandra Gibson-Quigley (eds.). Worcester's Best (Second Edition): A Guide to the City's Architecture

Moynihan, Kenneth J. A History of Worcester: 1674-1848.

Nutt, Charles. History of Worcester and It's People (available on Google Books).

O'Toole, John M. Tornado!84 Minutes, 94 Lives.

Proko, Barbara and John Kraska Jr., Janice Baniukiewicz Stickles. The Polish Community of Worcester.

Prouty, Olive Higgins. Pencil Shavings.

Sandrof, Ivan. Your Worcester Street.

Sawyer, Christopher and Patricia A. Wolf. Denholms: The Story of Worcester's Premier Department Store.

Southwick, Albert B. Once Told Tales of Worcester County.

Southwick, Albert B. More Once Told Tales of Worcester County.

Wagner, David. The Poorhouse: America's Forgotten Institution.

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Reflecting on My American Experience This Thanksgiving

(This is a re post of a piece written for Thanksgiving 2010.  Warm wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers, family, and friends.)

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I've been thinking about how my son's collective ancestry typifies a large part of what I think of as the American experience as defined by many of the major events in history since the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts in 1620. As a genealogist and family historian sometimes I think it's easy to look at individuals rather than our ancestry as a sum of many parts.

While my son's ancestors didn't come to America on the Mayflower, they did arrive in Rhode Island in 1633. They survived cold New England winters, disease, and deprivation. They later fought in the American Revolution and as the old saying goes saw the whites of the Red Coat's eyes at Bunker Hill, and after the colonies won their independence, settled along the Mohawk River Valley in New York where they farmed the land for the next two hundred years. As time progressed they watched Scots Irish immigrants come into the area to help construct the the Erie Canal with mule teams and watched factories spring up in the towns and cities that dotted the length of the Mohawk River.

Other ancestors populated Acadia, or Nova Scotia, during the seventeenth century until they were forcibly removed by the British during the Seven Years War or what Americans call the French and Indian War. Some of the ancestors expelled from Acadia eventually ended up in Louisiana, others managed to find their way back to French speaking Canada to resettle in Quebec. During the mid-nineteenth century some made their way to California to seek their fortune during the Gold Rush. Ancestors fought, were wounded, or died of disease during the Civil War. They participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. After the Civil War ancestors joined the great migration of immigrants from Canada to New England to work in the lumber camps of the Green Mountains and the mills of Massachusetts.

At the end of the nineteenth century another set of ancestors left their homeland in Europe. They left their families--mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters--behind and set off in search of a better life in America. They endured difficult conditions on ship and arrived at Ellis Island with the rest of the "yearning masses" also hoping for a better life in their new land. Immigrant ancestors found their way to the Midwest, to Chicago to work in low wage jobs in the steel industry. When they lost their home due to fire they made their way to Massachusetts to join other family members, also immigrants, in the steel mills. They worked long hours in difficult conditions to pursue the American dream.

During the twentieth century ancestors fought in World War I, World War II, and Korea. When both parents in one family died within two days of one another during the great flu pandemic of 1918, their children were adopted by family to become part of an extended family. Ancestors were affected by the crash of the stock market in 1929 and struggled with varying levels of success through the Great Depression. They participated in the Civilian Conservation Corps and joined the military.

One ancestor served his time in the military in the late 1930s and early 1940s, only to be discharged in November of 1941, eighteen days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He reenlisted in February of 1942, served in the Pacific theatre, and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, the Marshall Islands, and Okinawa. He survived. Another family member fought with Patton's army in the European theatre. He witnessed the liberation of Buchenwald. After World War II family displaced by the chaos of the war in Europe, lingered in a DP camp for years until they were finally able to make their way to a new life in the United States.

Our ancestors survived war, deprivation, and hardship. They survived childbirth when health care was rudimentary or nonexistent, and during times when mothers knew death from childbirth was an ever-present possibility. They suffered from small pox, rheumatic fever, whooping cough, flu, measles, mumps, and a host of diseases our children, thankfully, will never know. There were bad times, but there were of good times as well. They lived life the best they could given their circumstances. That's four hundred years of history in my son's ancestry. He IS my American experience. That's a lot of weight to carry on those little shoulders.

When you sit down to dinner with your family this Thanksgiving, think about the people that came before you. It doesn't matter if they were French, Irish, Polish, Italian, or African American. It's doesn't matter if they came on the Mayflower or not. They were the ultimate survivors. We are here because of them, and our lives are better because of them. I know I have a lot to be thankful for.

What's your American experience? Take some time to write about it, and then share it with your family over Thanksgiving dinner. Almost four hundred years of history should give you something to talk about. Now, please pass the gravy...

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Holidays Are Like People...

Dinner at My House, Thanksgiving 2002
(This was originally written for the 112th Carnival of Genealogy in December of 2011. Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  When I started thinking about our Carnival of Genealogy topic for December, Thanksgiving traditions, it occurred to me that my Thanksgiving holiday celebrations have changed over the years.

When I was little my family and I always had dinner at my aunt Helen Bulak's house.  Auntie Helen and my grandmother shared a duplex house in their later years.  Thanksgiving was always on Auntie's side of the house, and Easter was always on my grandmother's side of the house. Thanksgiving dinner included extended family and involved a fancy dinner table set with Auntie's Lenox china.  There was turkey, of course, a special Polish poultry dressing made with turkey or chicken livers (which for the longest time I did not like), mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, broccoli with Polish crumbs, gravy, cranberry sauce from a can, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert.  Auntie Helen always made the turkey while my mom and my grandmother supplied everything else.

One of my favorite things was and still is broccoli with Polish crumbs or "garnish Polonaise," as I heard Julia Child call it once.  Things always sound better in French, don't they?  Polish crum...oops...I mean "garnish Polonaise" is a garnish made from dried bread crumbs which are browned in butter in a pan on the stove top until they take on a toasted flavor and a crunchy texture.  Sprinkled over broccoli or most other vegetables they are delicious.  It's amazing how something so simple can liven up a dish!

As long as my dad and my grandmother were still with us we continued to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.  By 1990 Dad and Gram were both gone, and I was busy with work and graduate school.  Rather than cook dinner at home Mom and I decided to start having Thanksgiving dinner out, a tradition which we carried on for a number of years.  

After I had a family of my own I cooked dinner at our house.  I made the traditional favorites--turkey, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry-orange relish, and my personal favorite, stuffing.  Mom joined us for Thanksgiving for as long as she was physically able.  Mom died three years ago, so now we join my husband's family in upstate New York for the holiday.

Grandmother's House (My Mother-in-Law's Family Homestead, Photo Circa 1900)
I love Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  We usually have dinner at my sister-in-law's house.  She and her family still live on the old family homestead. My mother-in-law's Ladd ancestors built the house around 1800, and the Ladd family has lived there ever since.  Again, we have all the traditional dishes--turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry-orange relish.  My mother-in-law is a pie baker of awesome talent.  She makes apple pie and butternut squash pie for dessert.  This year my son had fun helping Grandma make cranberry-orange relish!

I often think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations of my childhood.  I miss my parents and grandmother profoundly during the holidays.  My life has changed, but I enjoy Thanksgiving with my son and my husband and his family.  My in-laws are incredibly kind and welcoming. I feel like I'm part of their family now. 

Holidays are like people.  Time passes, and people change.  I've changed.  My Thanksgivings now aren't any better or any worse.  They are just different.

Submitted for the 112th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

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Hilda I. Bullock - Funeral Card Friday

(Digital Image. Funeral Card Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)

Hilda I. Bullock
Died February 11, 1964
Age 59

I have a number of funeral cards in my possession.  I know all the the people named on all of the cards except for one, Hilda I. Bullock.  I figured she was a relative given the name, but I didn't know exactly what the connection was and never took the time to investigate. Tonight I decided to do a quick search on Ancestry and learned that Hilda was the wife of John F. Bullock [Bulak]. John was my grandmother's first cousin, the son of Adam and Maryanna (Bialobrzywska) Bulak.  I mention Maryanna in this post here.

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Budlong Cemetery - Tombstone Tuesday

(Digital Image. Photograph Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photograph and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) We drive by this little cemetery in Schuyler, New York whenever we visit relatives in the area.  It intrigues me, because it looks like a place time forgot.  The cemetery is in the middle of a corn field.  My photo was taken last spring just after planting time.  You can see the little corn seedlings if you look closely.  By the end of summer tall corn stalks surround the cemetery, and in the winter the wind whips the barren, snowy field.  A list of people buried in the cemetery can be found here. The list refers to an earlier list which mentions the cemetery may be in East Schuyler, but the cemetery in my photo is actually in West Schuyler.

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The Life of a Doughboy, 1918 - Veterans Day

(This is one of my favorite posts and was originally written for Veteran's Day 2010.  Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette. Keep the Home Fires Burning, by Lena Gilbert Ford, Available Under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

These photos were sent from my grandfather Adolf Szerejko to his then girlfriend, my grandmother Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko. My grandfather served in France during World War I.

On the back of the photo: "Augusta, GA 7-2-18"

Written on the train: "Going to GET the Kaiser, Scranton, Pa, US Aviation Section Regulars, Going to Germany to Berlin via France"

On the back of the photo: "Taken at Rocky Mountain South Carolina Adolf"

"Camp Greene Charlotte, NC."

On the back of the photo: "Those are my friends, front row from left to right J. Coyle (best) J. Erns. Percons. Szerejko At the back Anctile. Moore. Sanders. Four Irish, one French and the last man I don't know his nationality Adolf" The spelling may be off as the handwriting is very difficult to read.

" I'm next."

"Camp Greene, Charlotte N.C."

"Kolacja na "hike" (Dinner on the "hike")"

Written on the back: "What we got ourselves into"

"Camp Greene, Charlotte, NC."

Keep the Home Fires Burning ('Til the Boys Come Home)

Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning.
Though your lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark cloud shining,
Turn the dark clouds inside out
Till the boys come home.

Thank you veterans for your service. Happy Veterans Day!

Special Thanks To: Marek for his translation of the Polish into English.

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Kids (And Adults) Say The Darndest Things, So Write Them Down!

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  Sometimes my kid makes me laugh.  The other night he said to my husband, "Wow, Mitt Romney is older than you!" Wow, indeed.  Another amusing moment came a while back when we were out to dinner.  My husband ordered extra broccoli with his entree. When our meals finally arrived my son said, "I don't even like being NEAR broccoli!"  Given that kids really do say the darndest things it has finally occurred to me to write some of this stuff down, and not just just the kid comments either.

My mom wasn't an overly funny person, but every once in a while she would come out with something that would just would crack me up.  One day when my son was about two or three he and I stopped by for a visit.  I don't remember exactly what my son did (He probably burped or pooped on command or something.), but whatever it was my mom was sure that he had just displayed absolute brilliance in doing it.  Mom said to me, "He's a genius!  I just know it!  Well, after all, his father is brilliant!  Oh...and you're smart, too, you know."  Gee, thanks Mom.  Glad I took the time to get that master's degree.

Another time, before I was married, my soon-to-be husband sent me some flowers or made some kind of romantic gesture or something.  Again, I don't remember exactly what, but whatever it was it impressed my mom enough to comment, "I don't know where you'd find another one like that one. He's not like those other clowns you dated."  Mom was never one to mince words, but in this particular case I'll admit she was right.  Oh, and if any of those aforementioned "clowns" ever happen to read this post, well, enough said.

Have you written down family comments for posterity?  If so, which comments did you choose and why?  I'm glad I finally thought of it.  Hey, I'm smart, too, you know...

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Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Resources

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Thursday night I attended a presentation by Preservation Massachusetts where the list of Massachusetts most endangered historic resources for 2012 was announced.  It is an interesting list which includes many properties from central Massachusetts.  

What is surprising was the variety in the types of resources that made the list.  From the farm where Elsie the Cow (the Borden Dairy cow) lived in Brookfield, to an Art Deco theater in Worcester, to an abandoned fire station in the Quinsig Village neighborhood where my father grew up, it is an eclectic list:

Outbuildings at Elm Hill Farm, Brookfield
Durgin Garage, Brookline
Fitchburg City Hall
Herbert M. Farr Residence, Holyoke
North Brookfield Townhouse
Mechanics Hall, Princeton
Methodist Episcopal Church, Ware
Orchard House at 917 Belmont Street, Watertown
The Charles Bowker House, Worcester
The Palladium, Worcester
Quinsigamond Firehouse, Worcester

Preservation Massachusetts announces it's list of endangered properties annually to create awareness of threatened properties and resources.  There is a great summary and history of each property here.  I have also linked to images of each resource in case you are interested in seeing what a specific property looks like.

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On the Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989

Berlin Wall, Photo Taken from West Berlin,  June 6, 1982 
(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  I'll be the first to admit these photos are not in the best condition.  I took them on a trip when I traveled around Europe in May and June of 1982.  Of course my trip photos were special to me so I put them in one of those nasty magnetic photo albums to preserve them for posterity.  It seemed like a good idea at the time...

Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, Taken from West Berlin, June 6, 1982
All in all I spent about a month in Europe, and probably a week of that time was spent in Germany.  We mainly visited West Germany but did drive through East Germany traveling through a variety of checkpoints to get to West Berlin where our tour group was staying.  We visited the Reichstag and the Munich Zoo among other places of interest, but my most vivid memory is not surprisingly of the Berlin Wall.  Three or four friends and I also took a day trip and crossed the border into East Berlin.  My trip was a long time ago, but I still remember going through Checkpoint Charlie.  The German guards were kids, about our age, with machine guns. 

Berlin Wall, Taken from West Berlin, June 6, 1982
I've wanted to post these photos for a while, and the anniversary of the fall of the wall seemed like a good date to finally do it.

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Auntie And The Bear - Wordless Wednesday

(Digital Images. Photographs Privately Held By Cynthia Shenette; Photographs and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I will admit these photos of my aunt Helen Bulak crack me up.  Auntie wasn't exactly a laugh riot when I knew her so these photos seem a bit out of character.  I don't know for certain but I've always wondered if they were taken somewhere along the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts.  The Mohawk Trail, a least when I traveled it with my family years ago, use to be known for it's kitschy roadside attractions.

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The HerStory Scrapbook

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  Given that it is Election Day it seems like a good time to mention The HerStory Scrapbook.  The scrapbook chronicles the final four years of the Women's Suffrage Movement and includes more that 900 articles, opinion pieces, and letters which appeared in the New York Times between 1917 and 1920.  What I particularly like about this resource is that the writings are arranged in chronological order and reflect both sides of the issue--those for women's suffrage and those against.  The scrapbook is recommended by the American Historical Association (AHA) and the National Women's History Project.  You can read the AHA's review of the scrapbook here.

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Massachusetts Real Estate Atlases Online

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I follow the blog of the Massachusetts State Library, and a while back they posted that the State Library has finished scanning a group of 45 real estate atlases covering communities in the state of Massachusetts.  You can find the original blog post here along with the link to the atlas database.

The database is great!  I've used the actual physical version of one of the atlases that is now online for my research any number of times at the library. While its nice to flip the pages by hand, it is also nice to now have access from home when the library is closed.  You can save the atlases you are interested in as a .pdf file and keep a copy on your computer's hard drive!

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A Sanborn Map Surprise!

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) I am currently taking a class to learn about historic architecture in Worcester, MA.  The other night in class we were looking at a variety of atlases and maps, including Sanborn Maps.  Sanborn Maps, for those who don't know, are fire insurance maps that give structure details for cities and town throughout the United States.  You will find a nice explanation of Sanborn Maps here.  

We were looking at a Sanborn Map for Worcester from the early 1970s.  I was surprised at the level of detail the map provided.  I turned the pages and found the map for the area of town where we lived when I was a kid.  I wasn't surprised to find our house or detached garage on the map, but I was surprised to find my play house! There were also a couple of other smaller structures noted on our property as well--a fireplace and a shed.  My play house was originally a chicken coop, and it was pretty small.  You can see a photo of it in the background here.

I also looked at some of the other houses in the neighborhood, and I noticed the small factory building behind what was once my Aunt Rose's house. The building is still there, and I am sure the current residents of the house and their neighbors have wondered what that building was used for. Aunt Rose and her husband manufactured hand cream.  The Sanborn Map had the outline of the structure and hand cream factory written on the map!

If you are looking for information about an old home or ancestral property or just want to know what the heck that old building in the back yard was used for take a look at a Sanborn Map! You might be surprised at what you find!

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MACRIS Database

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) Did your ancestors ever live in Massachusetts, and have you ever wanted to research their ancestral home, school, workplace, or other place of significance?  I learned about a database that might be of use to you.  The Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS)  of the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) is a great database that offers a wealth of information on historic properties and areas in Massachusetts.  It doesn't include information on all historic properties, nor does it contain all the information on file with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, but still has an amazing amount of information and is well worth checking out.  

You can narrow your search by town, neighborhood, street, etc.  It includes residential properties, historical districts, as well as places of business.   An example is the record for the Nelson Place Grade School I attended in Worcester.  The MHC inventory sheet is available which offers a great deal of information about the structure.  There is a photo and this particular record even included copies of the building permits.  

Check it out!

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NaBloPoMo 2012

(Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette) It's that time of year again!  November is National Blog Posting Month.  I participated last year, and it was quite a challenge!  I didn't really know if I could post daily for the month of November, but somehow I managed to pull it off.  I'm going to give it a go again.  I've been debating about this for a while, trying to decide if I had the time.  The fact is I never have the time for anything really, and so I can't use that as an excuse.  

I've been working on a number of research projects, organizing my genealogy materials, taking a class on historical architecture, networking, and applying for jobs, so I've had to cut back on my blogging for a bit over the last few months.  Thankfully, I am happy to report that my hard work has paid off!  I am feeling a bit more organized, worked on some interesting projects, learned a lot, made some good connections AND (here's the kicker) have a new job!  After being a stay-at-home mom for the last ten years I'm getting back into library work and will be working as a part-time as reference and instruction librarian at a local college!  WooHoo!  Who says I don't have time?!?  I figure NaBloPoMo is a good way to beef up my blog archive for 2012 and get me back into the habit of posting regularly again.

Last year I spent the month blogging about my family history.  I told a hundred years of my family history in a month of daily posts.  I've been trying to decide what to write about this year.  Initially I planned to have a theme (Anyone who knows me knows there's nothing I love more than a good theme...), but I've decided to take a risk and go theme-less.  Over the last few months I've read a number of good books, attended some great workshops, discovered interesting databases, etc. and keep thinking I should write about them, but never seem to get around to it.  NaBloPoMo seems to offer the right opportunity to follow up on these things and share with others.  I plan to make my posts short, just long enough to encourage myself to get them done and get the information out there.

Well, here we go, and as a beloved chorus conductor I had use to say at the beginning of a particularly challenging piece of choral music, "I'll see you at the end!"  

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