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Life in Wales

A few weeks ago, on election day, I took my Squier plate along with me to the poll, thinking to show it to our primary town historian, David Worth. David was home, recovering from surgery, but Town Clerk Leis Phinney told me David and Kaye would be glad to have me drop by, so I did. While there, David gave me a shallow black & white bowl that came from the Squier House. It's seen better days; decades ago it was broken clean through and repaired, and later, repaired again. Thanks to David, it's "back in the family."

A few minutes ago, the sound of loud knocks permeated through headphones and the attention I was paying to Neil Gaiman's A Calendar of Tales while working on the layout of the next issue of AIR.

David Worth was at the door. Once he knew I was here, he reached into his car, then followed me inside carrying the tattered remains of very old scrapbook and an envelope of photos and some negatives. He's sorting and organizing his own historical files, and came to give me those from the Squier sisters.

OMG. A couple of years ago, he brought me the first of his Squier files, a folder of newspaper clippings about the house being torn down, a few family letters and papers, and a small handful of photos of the Squier sisters, Phyrne, Ruby, and Helen. Helen is the distant cousin who corresponded with my great-uncle Ted, the one who led Ted to write to my Grandma Dorothy in August, 1970, about hearing from "Miss Helen Squier of Wales, Mass." The letter Grandma the sent to my parents, that my Mom kept in her address book and that my sister found is the only reason I know I have family roots in this town, in this area, going back hundreds of years.

And now I have photos -- lots of photos -- some of them identified, many not, but I know they were the Squier family photos here in Wales. Photos of Phyrne, Ruby, and Helen, of their parents and friends, of family pets, the cats, dogs, a duck, cows, and a horse in front of the barn. Photos of outings around Massachusetts, from Marblehead, Holliston, and more, all from 1919 and thereabouts, just a few from the 1930s.

I snapped a few with my camera phone before setting them aside and getting back to work. Some of those will likely show up on G+ in the not-too-distant future.

Edited to correct bowl colors: I thought it was a dark navy blue and white; it's actually a black and white toile picture print, not blue and white.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
judith_dascoyne
Jul. 17th, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
How Exciting!!!!
AND considerate.

The mind boggles.
gerisullivan
Jul. 17th, 2013 08:26 pm (UTC)
The mind boggles.

Doesn't it just?!

Aa few snapshots from the photo album are now up on G+. Complete with one of their many cats.
athenais
Jul. 17th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
What an interesting spelling of Fern. I have a great aunt Fern. No one in our family has ever gone in for alternate spellings. I am fascinated that you have family roots where you live. It seems especially wonderful to me because I'm adopted and I will never know anything about my family.
gerisullivan
Jul. 17th, 2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
Okay, you sent me looking. The coincidences just keep getting weirder and weirder.

I didn't misspell Phyrne's name, but I can't help but wonder if her parents did. Then again, would they have named their daughter after a famous Greek courtesan?

I'm especially amused by the source Wilkipedia gives for that name. I hope it's correct!

Phryne's real name was Mnēsarétē (Μνησαρέτη, "commemorating virtue"), but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phrýnē ("toad").[1]

The set of happenstances and coincidences surrounding the discovery of the Squier family roots here in Wales continue to fascinate me, too. There's a very real (and very strong) mental and emotional component of belonging that's telling me it's filling a need I didn't know I had. It twigs my own sensawonda and I can see how it would easily twig yours. I'm reminded of the time a decade or so ago when fredcritter (also being adopted) realized that after a lifetime of not knowing any of his "blood relatives", that he did have a blood relative -- his daughter. The realization didn't come when Gavi was born; it happened several years later.

minnehaha K. observed that genealogy is an old person's hobby. I don't know if my own interest is related to the fact that I chose not to have children or not. In terms of timing, it's more tied up with my parents' deaths. But I doubt it ever would have really taken off if the Wales connection remained undiscovered.
athenais
Jul. 18th, 2013 04:36 am (UTC)
John's been heavily into genealogy since the 80s. He was in his twenties! But I have nothing to look up, so I dabble in the Huntzinger end of things (my branch of the family is pretty well documented) and occasionally my sister's mother's (which is to say Mom's) family. Mom's grandparents emigrated from Switzerland, so it's not too hard to follow their story. The Huntzingers are much more thick on the ground.

Did you buy a house in Wales because you knew you had family there or was it total happenstance?
gerisullivan
Jul. 18th, 2013 07:08 am (UTC)
Total happenstance. I knew nothing of any family further east than southern Michigan. I liked the fact that I get my heating oil from Squier Oil, and that they own the old-time hardware store in Monson (5 miles east), but I had no idea they were MY Squiers, even with the unusual spelling.

In September, 2010 -- 6.5 years after I moved here -- my sister stumbled across a letter my paternal grandmother sent to my parents in August, 1970. In it, Grandma's older brother mentioned having heard from Miss Helen Squier of Wales, Mass. Wi. I visited the town hall the next week to find out where she'd lived. I learned more about the family in the month that followed than many family genealogists learn in years. Decades even. Without my sister finding that letter and telling me about it, I probably still wouldn't know a thing.

It helps that another member of the clan is Ephraim George Squier, co-author of the first book published by the Smithsonian and sometimes credited with having founded the study of archeology in the Americas. His letters are in the Library of Congress Reading Room and I had the joy of looking through a bunch of microfilm when I was in D.C. for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. There's an interesting pdf of a document created in 1969 telling a bit about the collection. There are an additional thousand letters and other documents in the Latin America Library at Tulane University. I haven't been there yet, but the 257 photographs sound fascinating, as do the 23 poems in that collection. Okay, an excuse to return to New Orleans never hurts, either.

My great-uncle Ted's papers are in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, including his correspondence with Helen Squier. In all my trips to Michigan last year, I only managed to visit there once.

So far, I've only managed to accumulate lots (and lots and lots) of information. I haven't digitized or organized most of it. I hope I manage to do so before too many more years fly by. And to write about it in some sensible, albeit very personal, manner.

Here's my favorite fact, beyond the whole "gobsmacked by genealogy" aspect of it all. My father's name was Daniel Squier Fitzgerald; his great-grandson has Daniel as a middle name in honor of Daddy. Daddy was named for his mother's twin brother, Daniel Squier. There were no Daniel Squiers in the generation before that, but my Great-Grandfather Charles Squier was the son of an Daniel Squier and the Daniels then go straight back four or five more generations to the Daniel Squier of Ashford, CT. That Daniel Squier was a private in the Revolutionary War and, at its very beginning answered the Lexington Alarm and marched with his cousin, Ephraim B. Squier, "for the relief of Boston" in April, 1775. (Ephraim B. Squier was Ephraim George Squier's grandson: Ephraim B's Revolutionary War Diary is also in the Library of Congress Reading Room.)

Writing about this tonight finally prompted me to order Ephraim George Squier and the Development of American Anthropology.
randy_byers
Jul. 18th, 2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
There's a fan who I only know online who goes by the name Phyrne Bacon, which as far as I know is her real name.
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