early work, fall colors begin

c. 1968 ~ Barbara’s early genealogy work

One thing about staying home during the pandemic is having gobs of time to sort through all the family stuff I’ve been grumbling about for years. The other day I discovered the above chart, created by me when I was eleven years old!

When people see how passionate I am about family history they often ask how long I’ve been researching my tree. “For as long as I can remember,” is my usual reply. Well, now I have proof I was doing it at least since age eleven. 🙂

Looking at this made me smile because it has so many mistakes, mostly the spellings of some of my cousins’ names. And using nicknames where I wasn’t sure of the full name. But I did the best I could after interviewing my parents. No dates. I was keenly interested in the relationships.

After I found this chart and drifted down memory lane for awhile, Tim suggested we go for a drive up in Ledyard because one of his friends said the trees were starting to show their fall colors. It was a beautiful Sunday drive! Please enjoy a little glimpse of our autumn. I have a feeling because of the drought it might go by too quickly…

9.27.20 ~ above photos taken along the roads in Ledyard, Connecticut

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
~ Pablo Neruda
(The Poetry of Pablo Neruda)

Local COVID-19 update:
Ledge Light Health District is tracking an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in southeastern Connecticut. People are letting their guards down. We decided to try a take-out order on Monday — it was delicious — and then heard this news and decided we won’t be doing that again. Numbers are now higher than they were in April. People are gathering and not following protocols.

LLHD recorded 60 new cases during the week of Sept. 19-25 and another 43 new cases this weekend alone. Those numbers compare to a low point of five new cases a week in mid-August.

New London County now has 1,959 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 14 people are in the hospital and 115 have lost their lives. That’s 339 new cases and 7 more in the hospital since September 9 when I last reported. We were startled to see our part of the state the new area of increased concern on the news. Living in our bubble has become a comfortable routine yet this is raging all around us. It’s unsettling. A reminder that we’re doing all this staying home for a reason.

On Tuesday we decided to take another leaf peeping drive, as it was too humid for a walk. The weather people said that the colors are coming two weeks early because of the drought so we might be headed up to the Quiet Corner of Connecticut sooner than planned for our autumn drive. Still a lot of yellows for now but we did see a few rust and orange leaves…

Lantern Hill, elevation 491′ (150m), North Stonington, Connecticut
9.29.20 ~ Maple Lane Farms, Preston, Connecticut
9.29.20 ~ along NW Corner Rd, Preston
9.29.20 ~ along Cossaduck Hill Rd, North Stonington

We are under a gale warning today as we get some badly needed rain. Waiting to see how many leaves will be left on the trees tomorrow!

in the woods again

9.23.20 ~ The Merritt Family Forest
woodland aster (?)

Wednesday we took a walk in the woods at the Merritt Family Forest. This was our second visit — the first was in May — and this time we took a different trail. The sunshine coming through the leaves this time of year is exquisite. Tim felt good and kept going so we wound up walking for an hour and a quarter. I’m so happy we can get out in the fresh air once again!

goldenrod
sunbeams finding a glacial erratic
stone wall corner
patch of sunlight
Tim inherited a walking stick from his stepdad’s stepfather. It has a bicycle bell attached to it which he rang now and then to warn any bears of our presence.
autumnal sun
pincushion moss
fern bed
leaf and bug caught in abandoned web
bug eyes
are you a fly or a bee?
forest meets meadow
dragonfly!
dragonfly on aster
American burnweed (?)
goldenrod
severe drought has left Eccleston Brook completely dry

Looking forward to many more autumn walks, but hoping for some rain, a good soaking rain, to keep us inside sometimes. There have been a few forest fires in Connecticut so far, but they are nothing compared to what is happening out west.

A 1,000 lb. beefalo, now named Buddy, is still on the loose in the state after escaping slaughter several weeks ago. But he was last spotted about 70 miles from here, so we’re not too worried about an encounter. A GoFundMe page was created for him so he was purchased from his owner and when caught, he will be sent to Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary in Florida. $8,500 was raised to buy him and put towards his retirement. He’s on the news almost every night, with warnings to stay away from him because he is aggressive.

And of course, bears… The things one thinks about when wandering around in the woods.

waves, shorebirds, plants

9.21.20 ~ beach rose hips
Napatree Point Conservation Area, Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Now that summer is giving way to autumn we decided to go to Napatree Point again. An added incentive was the promise of big waves from Hurricane Teddy, churning away out at sea. It was lovely to walk and breathe in the sea air. The tide was coming in and the waves were bigger than usual, 6.5′ according to a surfing website. I even brought a blanket so I could sit on the beach for a while, and soak up the earth’s energy.

first glimpse of the sea from the dune
big waves breaking
fishing from the breakwater
one view from my blanket
Watch Hill Lighthouse
spectacular waves
the sound was stirring and calming at once
so much beauty

And then, much to my delight, two tiny birds flew in off the water and landed in front of us. We watched them for the longest time as they were feeding by the wrack line, and as they ran back and forth between the waves. If I’m making correct identifications, the larger one in front is a semipalmated plover and the smaller one in back is a semipalmated sandpiper. It was fun getting pictures from a sitting position.

shorebirds
semipalmated sandpiper (6″ long)
semipalmated sandpiper (15 cm long)
feathers stuck in the wrack line
semipalmated plover (7″ long)
semipalmated plover (18 cm long)
goldenrod, a classic sign of autumn
beach rose hoping for a little more summer
along the path
lots of things grow on the dunes
herring gull heading out for a swim in the bay

What a wonderful morning!

autumn equinox in self-quarantine

9.22.20 ~ our pumpkin and gourds

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

~ Bliss Carman
(A Vagabond Song)

Not only is this our first autumn in self-quarantine, it is my first one without apples since my radiation proctocolitis diagnosis. If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years you know how much I LOVE apples. But they make me ill now. 🙁 In spite of this I wanted to go to Holmberg Orchards to celebrate the equinox anyway. We didn’t pick any apples because Tim doesn’t want to eat stuff I can’t have in front of me, even though I keep telling him he doesn’t have to give things up just because I have to.

9.22.20 ~ morning at Holmberg Orchards

Today was a perfect autumn day…. And there I go, slipping out of fall into autumn…. All right, a perfect fall day, too.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

But it was fun to pick out a pumpkin and some gourds for our garden and the corn maze was open! We felt it was safe enough as everything was outside and everyone was required to wear masks and keep 6′ away from each other. When we got to the corn maze we were happy to see a sign that said there were no dead ends this year, because of the pandemic. You were to just follow the winding path and keep six feet apart. No getting hopelessly lost. Being there early on a Tuesday morning we were the only ones in the maze. Yay! It took us half an hour to walk through it.

9.22.20 ~ our dinner

I am inclined to think of late that as much depends on the state of the bowels as of the stars.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 12, 1859)

We had grilled marinated swordfish and green beans for dinner out on the balcony. Simple but delicious and that’s how life has got to be these days. 🙂 Keeping my gut soothed is of utmost importance! I’ve had a few setbacks since the midsummer alcohol fiasco but feel that on the whole, things are better. As far as autumn goes, I’m going to try to focus on the leaves changing colors and long walks in the fresh air and not think so much about apples!

Augusta Jean & Jon Stephen

Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986)
Jon Stephen Chomiak (1909-1919)
c. 1914

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember a picture of my Ukrainian grandmother and three of her eight children. (Katherine’s Children)

This picture is special because it is the only picture I have of Jon, who came to America with his mother when he was only 5 months old. He was born in Ukraine on 19 September 1909 and arrived on the SS Finland at Ellis Island in New York City on 4 March 1910. Sadly, he died at home of appendicitis when he was only 9 years old. His family was living in Buffalo, New York at the time.

At the time this picture was taken his older sister Mary was still living in Ukraine with their grandparents. The youngest four children (Lillian, Olga, Theodore, Ludmila) had not been born yet. There is a mystery child mostly unaccounted for, a boy named August or Augustine. No one seems to know anything about him except that he died as a toddler after ingesting something stored under the kitchen sink. I can find no birth or death records for this child, but it seems he was younger than Jon and older than Augusta Jean. It seems likely to me that Augusta was named after her brother who had probably died shortly before she was born.

Oddly enough, when one of my aunts filled out a family group sheet for me she gave August’s birth date as the same date as Augusta’s, leading me to consider that perhaps they were twins, however no one else in the family thinks this is likely. But it does seem likely that August was born in 1911 because Jon was born in 1909 and Augusta was born in 1913 and at that time most siblings were born about two years apart. And Lillian was born in 1915.

Anyhow, my Aunt Lil remembered that Jon was buried in “Father Baker’s Cemetery” in Lackawanna, New York. On a 2002 summer trip to western New York, we found the cemetery, which is now known as Holy Cross Cemetery, but we were disappointed to find no record of his burial in the office and no death certificate in the city hall. (Years later I discovered the family was actually living in nearby Buffalo, according to 1920 census records.) The kind people at the cemetery said that there were many graves not yet recorded in their database.

Aunt Lil remembered Jon fondly as a very loving big brother who bought his little sisters Jean (she went by her middle name) and Lil candy whenever he could. He was an altar boy at the church, and helped the family out by collecting coal from the railroad tracks, which we also located. We discovered quite a bit about Father Baker (1842-1936), and learned that the church where Jon must have served was replaced by the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory (consecrated 26 May 1926), which we toured.

Aunt Lil was four years old when her beloved big brother died and she spoke of him often through the years. Aunt Jean was six years old when Jon died. The middle name given to her only son is Jon. Lil and Jean were seven and nine years old when their baby brother, my father, came along. According to him they teased him relentlessly. 🙂

Today is Jon’s birthday and also the 7th anniversary of my father’s death. A bit of synchronicity that I would stumble across this picture today when I was looking for something else.

ethnicity estimates ~ 9.16.20

Barbara’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Eastern Europe & Russia 41%
England & Northwestern Europe 26%
Scotland 12%
Germanic Europe 9%
Wales 7%
The Balkans 3%
Norway 2%

Tim’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

England & Northwestern Europe 71%
Ireland 13%
Scotland 6%
Wales 6%
Sweden 2%
Norway 2%

It’s only been 9 months since our last DNA ethnicity results have been updated! See last ones here.

As you may know, we’re constantly evolving the technology and methods behind AncestryDNA®. Using a combination of scientific expertise, the world’s largest online consumer DNA database, and millions of family trees linked with DNA results, we’re releasing our most precise DNA update yet.
~ AncestryDNA email

Of course I find it terribly exciting to make note of all the fine-tuning that has been done. Ireland and Scotland got separated and I wound up with no Irish, but with 12% Scottish ancestry. Baltic and Italian heritage disappeared, but Norwegian held steady at 2%, and new are Wales (7%, separated out from the old England, Wales and Northwestern Europe grouping) and the Balkans (3%). Eastern Europe & Russia percentage stayed about the same, but the map extended much farther east. In the years to come perhaps there will be more fine-tuning of my Ukrainian roots, as I have so little to go on for my father’s ancestry.

Wales got separated out for Tim, too, at 6%, and he’s still plenty of English, Scottish, Irish and Northwestern Europe. New for him is Sweden at 2%. He maintained his 2% from Norway.

And now, to see how it plays out for one of our children:

Nate’s latest ethnicity estimate from Ancestry DNA

Germanic Europe 26%
England & Northwestern Europe 20%
Eastern Europe & Russia 18%
Scotland 12%
Ireland 6%
Sweden 5%
Wales 4%
Norway 4%
Baltics 3%
France 2%

If we try to add up the percenatges, they don’t add up. 🙂 Nate has more Germanic Europe than we could possibly have given him! (Thank goodness he turned up as our son, though, on the DNA test – phew!) And the Baltic which disappeared from my estimate showed up on his at 3%. And where on earth did France come from??? (Although, on my first DNA test estimate 2% Iberian Peninsula showed for me. And one of my ancestors was said to be a French Huguenot.) Yes, these are definitely estimates, subject to further change, but the gist of it does seem to follow the paper trail. 🙂

It’s important to remember, too, that even though we give half of our genes to each child, each child gets a different mix of half our genes. Tim’s brother doesn’t show any of Norway or Ireland, but has a lot more of Scotland than Tim does. (Maybe someday I will get my sister on board with getting a test!)

Until next time!

waning summer

9.13.20 ~ Eastern Point

Beach season ended with Labor Day weekend. We took a walk down there the following weekend and were greeted by this solitary gull on the rocks.

On the ocean, gulls are good luck. Gulls are strong, brave, commanding. They are harbingers of land, of fish just below the surface, of a coming storm. Legend has it they hold the souls of drowned sailors and fishermen, so killing one is bad luck.
~ Sara Anne Donnelly
(Yankee, July/August 2020)

nonbreeding adult laughing gulls

When we got down to the sand we found a large gathering of gulls hanging out. They have reclaimed the beach! I was delighted because the tiny laughing gulls were actually on the sand, which is a much more appealing backdrop than the asphalt parking lot where I usually see them. There was quite an assortment of sizes and colors.

juvenile laughing gull and nonbreeding adult herring gull
laughing gull, second winter and nonbreeding adult herring gull
juvenile laughing gull
nonbreeding adult laughing gull
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
laughing gull and herring gull, both nonbreeding adults
these two seemed to be great friends
At first I thought the large one might be a great black-backed gull because he seems pretty huge, but he doesn’t quite fit the description. I dusted off my “Gulls of the Americas” reference book and discovered that there has been some cross-breeding between the great black-backed and herring gulls. Maybe that’s what’s going on here…
perhaps a version of yoga tree pose
nonbreeding adult ring-billed gull
juvenile laughing gull
waning summer
weed and post art
jellyfish!

There really is a kind of insane beauty around us all the time. It’s just a question of learning to slow down, take a deep breath, and meet the moment.
~ Graham Nash
(Eye to Eye: Photographs)

It was fascinating watching this creature propelling itself through the murky water. It moves so fast I was surpised that some of the pictures actually came out!

The bars are still closed in Connecticut and now that the beach gate is open I’m sure it won’t be long before people start returning to the beach to socialize, bringing their dogs and leaving their trash, cigarette butts, and empty beer bottles. We will probably return to the woods soon, and try to do a better job of avoiding the poison ivy. Enjoying the autumn weather!