Eastern Europe & Russia 43% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 28% Germanic Europe 20% Ireland & Scotland 3% Baltics 3% Norway 2% Italy 1%
We recently added more ethnicity populations and communities. Based on this update, you might see changes to your results. ~ Ancestry.com
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 71% Ireland & Scotland 21% Germanic Europe 6% Norway 2%
The last time we examined our DNA results was in 2014, about 5 years ago. (penetrating the past) We both have some interesting changes in our results!
For me, the Italian connection all but disappeared, which seems about right because I could never find one on the paper trail. Norway shows up solidly in about the right amount for my 3rd-great-grandfather, and Ireland as well, for his wife, my 3rd-great-grandmother. My father’s Slavic (Ukrainian) origins gained a larger percentage in my DNA. I’m intrigued with a new category, 3% Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).
Interestingly, Tim also seems to be 2% Norway. But he’s a whopping 92% England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northwestern Europe. And this analysis turns up absolutley no European Jewish ancestry, in spite of having a Jewish maternal grandfather. Still a mystery.
So, on Christmas Eve, we were sitting around our table working on a jigsaw puzzle and listening to holiday music with my sister and brother-in-law. I had made the shuffling playlist for my iPod years ago and had included tunes from many traditions. When the Dreidel Song came on my sister asked Tim if his family had celebrated Hanukkah when he was a child. The answer was no, although his stepgrandmother often brought Jewish foods to the house during the holidays. And then, much to my astonishment, he mentioned that his maternal grandfather had converted to Judaism. What!?!
This definitely would explain the lack of European Jewish ancestry for Tim!
It never ceases to amaze me how memories are stirred up in the oddest ways. And how a non-genealogical question lead to a spontaneous answer containing an important clue, which led to the solving of a genetic conundrum.
It will be fun to see any future changes in our DNA analyses as the scientists fine-tune the estimates as their population samples continue to grow.
Another one of Tim’s grandmother’s lines goes back to Scotland. A perfect excuse to spend a lovely autumn afternoon with Tim’s aunt in New Hampshire, locating the gravestones of their ancestors, while enjoying the gorgeous fall colors en route.
Allegra Estelle Hamilton 1900-1992 Gertrude Mabel “Gertie” Hubbard 1874-1965 Delorma Brown “DB” Hubbard 1842-1915 Lydia P. Randolph 1807-1901 Jane Koyl 1779-1870 Ephraim Koyl 1753-1838 Dea. John Kyle c. 1722-1769 Dea. John Kyle c. 1682-1762
Fortunately the Find A Grave website provided some older and much clearer photographs of these tombstones and I was able to identify them by matching up the markings that could be made out. And thankfully, the original epitaphs were recorded there, as well.
HERE LYES THE BODY OF MR. JOHN KYLE HE DIED MAY 12th 1762 AGED 80 YEARS
Here lies the Body of Mrs. Mary Kyle, Wife of Deacon John Kyle Who Died January ye 8th 1778 Aged – 84 years –
The following is from The History of Windham in New Hampshire by Leonard Allison Morrison, (Boston, Massachusetts: Cupples, Upham & Co., 1883), 68, 615, 616
John Kyle, of Scotch race, was a settler here previous to 1740, and lived near J.-L. Cottle’s. He m. Mary —, who d. Jan. 8, 1778, æ. 84 yrs.; he d. May 12, 1762, æ. 80 yrs. Child:—
Dea. John, who succeeded him on the farm; m. Agnes —; made an elder during the pastorate of Rev. William Johnston; date of death not known; was taxed as late as 1780.
Children, b. Windham: — Ephraim2, b. July 1, 1753. (See Revolutionary history, p. 68.) William2, b. Aug. 8, 1755. Mary2, insane, and provided for by the town. Janet2, insane, and provided for by the town.
WINDHAM MEN IN THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
Capt. Elisha Woodbury’s company, Colonel Stark’s regiment CASUALTIES AND LOSSES Ephraim Kyle, 1 gun and bayonet, £2, 2s.
Tim’s 7th-great-grandfather, John Kyle was born about 1682 in the small village of Lochgilphead, Scotland and was an original settler of Windham, New Hampshire.
John Kyle’s grandson, Tim’s 5th-great-grandfather, Ephraim Koyl, son of John and Agnes (—) Kyle, was born 1 July 1753 in Windham (Rockingham) New Hampshire, and died 25 August 1838 in Kitley, Johnson District, Upper Canada [now Elizabethtown-Kitley Twp. (Leeds) Ontario]. He married in Londonderry (Rockingham) New Hampshire (as his first wife and as her second husband), Abigail (Reading) Kincaid, who was born 17 February 1753 in Portsmouth (Rockingham) New Hampshire, and died 11 April 1810 in Kitley, daughter of John and Mary (—) Redding.
Abigail had married (as her first husband) John M. Kincaid, who died in the 16 August 1777 (Revolutionary War) Battle of Bennington while serving with Ephraim. The Americans successfully defended colonial military stores against a British raiding party. After Abigail married Ephraim they moved to Canada about 1792, and had settled on Irish Creek, near a place called Koyl’s Bridge, in Kitley by 1803. After Abigail died, Ephraim married a second, unidentified wife, who died in Kitley, 6 September 1844.
Private Ephraim fought in the Battle of Bunker’s Hill near the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He was wounded by a musket ball which entered his jaw and lodged in his neck, and was later removed, leaving a scar. As he was being carried off the battlefield his gun and bayonet were taken from him, for which he was later given some monetary compensation. Promoted to sergeant, Ephraim went on to fight in the Battle of Bennington two years later.
Apparently the name Kyle was used in the United States, but changed to Koyl when the family moved to Canada. Ephraim is listed under both spellings in his Revolutionary War pension files. It’s puzzling why Ephraim decided to move to Canada after fighting on the American side of the Revolution.
Ephraim & Abigail were the parents of seven children:
i. Jane Koyl (Tim’s 4th-great-grandmother), born 4 April 1779 in Manchester (Bennington) Vermont, died 19 October 1870 in Albion (Orleans) New York. She married (as her first husband), 15 January 1797, Abram Randolph, who was born 24 October 1767 in Vermont, and died 18 November 1824 in Albion, son of Benjamin and Jane (Long) Randolph. Jane & Abram were the parents of eleven children. Jane married (as her second husband), 25 February 1847, David Coombs. Jane & David had no children.
ii. Ephraim Koyl, born 9 November 1781 in Manchester, died 26 October 1864 in Kitley. He married July 1805 in (Leeds) Ontario, Elizabeth “Betsey” Lillie.
iii. William Peter Koyl, born 11 March 1783 in Manchester, died 15 December 1870 in Springfield (Elgin) Ontario. He married Mary “Polly” Lyman, who was born in 15 June 1788, and died 24 December 1860 in Springfield, daughter of Benjamin and Mary (Temple) Lyman.
iv. Peter Koyl, born 26 March 1785 in Manchester, died 25 August 1871 in South Dorchester (Elgin) Ontario. He married Julia (—).
v. Anna Koyl, born 10 December 1786.
vi. Sarah “Sally” Koyl, born 10 December 1788 in New York. She married Peter Wells, who was born 16 August 1787, and died 18 July 1854, son of Peter and Laura (Louis) Wells. Sarah & Peter were the parents of four children.
vii. Abigail Koyl, born 1789 in Manchester, died in 1882. She married Rhodes Streeter, who was born in 1788, and died in 1842. Abigail & Rhodes were the parents of a son.
Dennis’ 400 sea captains earned their living upon the waves of the world. Their journeys took them to faraway lands inhabited by exotic peoples. Years, sometimes a good part of a decade would go by before they returned home to see family and friends. Yet this is the life they chose. Perhaps the spray and smell and salt of the ocean was in their blood, calling them from the rooted land to journey upon the rising and falling waves of the sea.
~ Jack Sheedy
My grandmother loved telling me stories about her own grandfather and often reminded me that the sea was in my blood. I’m pretty sure it was this sea captain who took his second wife with him on a few of his voyages and bought her a “monkey” in some foreign land. Apparently the creature was a “holy terror” on the ship but she adored him.
My 2nd-great-grandfather, Capt. Martin Edward Thompson, firstborn son of Martin and Ann Isabella (Hughs) Thompson, was born 4 August 1850 in Dennis (Barnstable) Massachusetts, and died in 1928. He married (as his first wife) 5 July 1874 in Harwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts, Elisabeth Emma “Lizzie” Freeman, who was born 4 September 1851 in Harwich, and died there 4 October 1876, daughter of Warren and Elisabeth (Weekes) Freeman.
Martin was named after his father, a Norwegian immigrant, and followed in his footsteps, becoming a Master Mariner and captain of the schooner Nellie Lamphear. He also served on coasting vessels, tug boats, and was licensed to enter any port in the world. In 1910 he was elected port warden of Boston by the Boston Marine Society, the oldest association of sea captains in the world.
Elisabeth died of a “stoppage” when she was 25 years old and her baby son was only 18 months old. Her gravestone is inscribed:
Fled O forever from our view A dear daughter, wife and mother, too: She was a treasure lent, not given: To be called away from Earth to Heaven. Life to her looked bright and joyous And her home was very dear: To the summons of her Savior, She gently yielded without fear.
The 1880 census indicates that, now a widower, Martin was living with his parents and his young son. Five years after Lizzie’s death, Martin married (as his second wife) her younger sister, Rosilla Ida “Rosie” Freeman, 23 February 1882 in Dennis. Rosie was born 6 March 1856 in Harwich, and died 18 March 1923, without children. In 1900, Martin and Rosilla were living as lodgers in the house of Nancy H. Merrill in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Martin owned a beloved horse named Nellie (named after his schooner or vice versa?) who lived in the barn at 114 Depot St. in Dennis. He gave his granddaughter, my grandmother, her first three cars. According to my grandfather, Martin and his granddaughter Thommie worshiped each other. The first car was a Model T that had to have the carbon scraped every week. The next was a 2-door sedan Model T. Martin lies buried with his second wife, Rosilla, in Swan Lake Cemetery in Dennis, and Emma, his first wife, is buried in the same cemetery but in another lot with his parents and other members of his family.
Elisabeth & Martin were the parents of one son:
1. Capt. Martin Freeman Thompson (my great-grandfather), born 29 March 1875 in Harwich, died 13 July 1965 in Dennis. He married 1 February 1900 in Dennis, Amanda Eliza Hamblin, who was born there 2 August 1879 and died 6 July 1966 in Taunton (Bristol) Massachusetts, daughter of Capt. William Nelson and Anna Eliza (Baker) Hamblin. Martin & Amanda were the parents of one daughter.
In 1964 my grandparents inherited and moved into Martin’s house at 114 Depot Street, along with my great-grandparents, who they were caring for. Some of our happiest family memories were made there. My dear cousin Matthew bought the house in 2001 after our grandfather died. He renovated the place, keeping its historical integrity and was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Dennis Historical Commission in 2005. Sadly, the house had to be sold in 2009.
Last autumn we lost our aunt, who lived to be 101 years old. The various stories behind the above drawing presented a puzzle for us but after comparing memories we finally decided that the sketch was probably drawn on one of Auntie’s cruises. She kept it hanging above her bed for as long as I can remember, flanked on either side with the senior high school pictures of my sister and me.
Following is the obituary I wrote for the newspapers:
Lillian Elizabeth (Chomiak) Rioux, 101, of Storrs, Connecticut, died on October 27, 2016, at Mansfield Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, after a short illness.
Lillian was born on January 30, 1915 in New York City, the daughter of the late William & Katherine (Fusiak) Chomiak, both immigrants from Ukraine. She married Leo Oscar Rioux on November 30, 1934 at Montville, Connecticut. Her husband died on June 5, 1957, leaving her a widow for 59 years. Lillian was predeceased by their two sons, Leo Adrian Rioux (1936-1984) and Lance William Rioux (1950-1979).
Lillian was also predeceased by six siblings, Mary Riback, Jon Stephen Chomiak, Augustine Chomiak, Augusta Jean Hereth, Olga Chomiak, and Theodore William Chomiak. She is survived by her sister, Ludmila Sabatiuk of West Virginia, her grandchildren, Leo Rioux, Jr. of Montville and Sarah James of Tennessee, seven nieces and nephews, four great-grandchildren, and a great-great-grandson.
Lil was a graduate of Norwich Free Academy and was a seamstress employed at Hendel Manufacturing Company in New London for many years. She was a long time resident of Montville and later moved to Juniper Hill Village in Storrs to live closer to her brother. An avid traveler, beach bum and shell collector, she loved to sew, cook, grow orchids, do jigsaw puzzles and work with her hands.
A memorial gathering will be planned for next spring. Memorial donations can be made to Mansfield Town Senior Center, 303 Maple Rd, Storrs, CT 06268.
We had our memorial gathering for her on May 6, spreading her ashes on the graves of her parents and her husband and two sons, as she had directed. My Aunt Em read to us her memories of Aunt Lil’s earlier years.
Every year on Memorial Day, my father would drive Aunt Lil to these two adjacent cemeteries, so she could plant geraniums in front of the headstones, each one a different shade of red or pink. When my father could no longer drive, my sister and brother-in-law stepped in to take her. As he has been doing for years now, John once again planted the geraniums that meant so much to her, this time with family spreading ashes and telling stories.
The story Auntie told me was that it was not permitted for her to be buried in the Catholic cemetery with her husband and sons because she never converted to Catholicism. But she married a Catholic and had her sons baptized in the church. It was her wish to join them in the cemetery by spreading her ashes on their graves.
At the last grave Tim read a poem my sister Beverly wrote in memory of Auntie for the occasion.
They were worker’s hands, never soft, never still. It took me fifty years to catch them, hold them, keep them safe and warm. A thousand times I watched them go: knit and purl peel and chop turn the pages stir the pot.
If hands could talk what would they say? It took me fifty years to hear them, know them, find out how they spoke. A thousand times I felt their love: show and tell hug and pat acts of kindness pet the cat.
I’d come to love her knobby hands that always showed me what to do. How those hands have touched my life! They’ve one more job before they’re through: stitch and mend my broken heart.
~ Beverly Chomiak
Then we all went to eat at one of her favorite restaurants, Old Tymes in Norwich, finishing the meal with dishes of Auntie’s favorite black raspberry ice cream. ❤
Neadom Rodgers, son of Jacob and Mahala (Bedford) Rogers, was born 11 June 1837 in Guysborough (Guysborough) Nova Scotia, and died 30 June 1897 in Provincetown (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married 3 April 1866 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Hanorah “Nora” O’Brien, who was born 12 December 1846 in Massachusetts, and died 16 January 1921 in Marshfield (Plymouth) Massachusetts, daughter of William and Mary (—) O’Brien.
Neadom was a mariner, and he probably met and married Hanorah, the daughter of Irish immigrants, in Boston after leaving Guysborough and before finally settling in Provincetown. They were married by Rev. Thomas Sheahan, and probably moved to Provincetown between 1867 and 1869, after their daughter Mary Jane was born in Boston. Neadom died of arterial insufficiency, and is buried with Hanorah in Gifford Cemetery in Provincetown.
Hanorah & Neadom were the parents of nine children:
1. Mary Jane “Jenny” Rodgers (Tim’s great-grandmother), born 7 June 1867 in Boston, died 10 July 1916 in Somerville (Middlesex) Massachusetts. She married (as his first wife) on 18 February 1891 in Provincetown, her first cousin, George Lincoln Rodgers, who was born 1 January 1865 in Guysborough, and died 16 July 1939 in Fall River (Bristol) Massachusetts, son of Elijah and Zippora Ann (Horton) Rodgers. Mary & George were the parents of one son. Mary Jane lies buried with her parents in Gifford Cemetery in Provincetown.
2. John Neadom Rodgers, born 14 February 1869 in Provincetown. He married Bessie Bennett, who was born 29 June 1893. John & Bessie were the parents of one son, named for his father, who was born and died the same day, 30 November 1907.
3. George J. Rodgers, born 3 July 1871 in Provincetown, died there 17 March 1872, age 8 months, of “putrefied congestion of the lungs.”
4. Georgianna Rodgers, born 4 May 1875 in Provincetown, died 27 May 1941 in New York City. She married 6 December 1911 in Chelsea (Suffolk) Massachusetts, Edwin Ambrose Webster, who was born 31 January 1869 in Chelsea, and died 23 January 1935 in Provincetown, son of Edwin and Caroline A. (Emerson) Webster. They had no children. Georgianna was a nurse, and would not agree to marry Ambrose until he was financially established as an artist. She was 36 when she and the Provincetown artist were finally married by R. Perry Bush, Clergyman.
Ever a modest person, Webster seems to have pursued his art and his teaching with remarkable talent, intensity, and intellect, but apparently with no bent for self-promotion.
~ Miriam Stubbs
He attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, under Frank Benson and Edmund Tarbell, and Acadamie Julian in Paris studying with Jean Paul Laurens and Jean-Joseph Benjamin Constant. In 1913 he exhibited at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, “Old Hut, Jamaica” and “Sunlight, Jamaica”. He started Ambrose Webster’s Summer School of Painting, and was a founding member of the Provincetown Art Association & Museum. After his death, Georgianna lived in New York City with her nephew, Karl Rodgers and his wife, Allegra, while she was in her final illness and while their daughter, Delorma was a small child. Georgianna left the house at 180 Bradford St. in Provincetown, where she and Ambrose had lived, to Karl when she died. The house remained in the family and was enjoyed as a vacation getaway until 2008, when unfortunately it had to be sold. Ambrose & Georgianna lie buried in an unmarked grave in the Webster plot at 2653 Hawthorn Path at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Timothy Webster Rodgers, Karl’s grandson, was given a portrait of Georgianna painted by her husband, E. Ambrose Webster, after whom Tim was named.
The following is from a booklet put out by Babcock Galleries in New York City, which still has many of Webster’s paintings:
Provincetown was already an established art colony in 1914 when the Art Association & Museum was founded with several prominent citizens and artists as its members:… E. Ambrose Webster and Oliver Chaffee, both Fauvist painters and exhibitors in the 1913 Armory Show….The summer art classes initiated by Hawthorne and Webster– painting outdoors on the beach with the model posed against the sun to teach the students to establish broad tone values and modeling with palette-knifed color– attracted serious students by the hundreds, taught them the fundamentals and gave the town new color….The beginning of the collection was five paintings donated in 1914 by Charles Hawthorne, Ambrose Webster, William Halsall, Oscar Giebrich and Gerrit Beneker.
The following is from the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, 460 Commercial St, Provincetown, Massachusetts:
If ever an American painter reveled in light and color it was E. Ambrose Webster. He was among our first and most forceful modern painters. After initial studies under Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson in Boston, he spent nearly three years in Europe absorbing the latest developments in the Post-Impressionist art world. By 1900 he returned to the United States and, having developed his own original idiom, became a prominent member of the progressive art community. Over the years he traveled widely in France, Spain, Italy, Jamaica and Bermuda, seeking the sunlight heightened color which inspired him. In 1906 while painting in the Caribbean he exhibited a work which secured the Musgrave Silver Medal from the Institute of Jamaica. By 1913 he was exhibiting in Boston and Cleveland with Charles Hovey Pepper, Carl C Cutler and Maurice Prendergast. Webster also exhibited at least two pictures at the 1913 ‘International Exhibition of Modern Art (Armory Show).’ He later worked with Albert Gleize and exhibited with Demuth, Zorach, Spencer and Tworkov. Babcock Galleries’ first exhibition of Webster’s work occurred in 1965 and since then his paintings have been included in many shows including The High Museum of Art’s ‘The Advent of Modernism.’ Webster devoted his extensive travels to finding light enshrined color. When he found it, he painted with a force and vigor that even today is astonishing. RED HOUSE, PROVINCETOWN demonstrates the vitality and exceptionally modern vision Webster possessed. His work and its influence rank him along with Alice Schille, Alfred Maurer, Oscar Bluemner and John Marin among the important painters of his generation.
On 24 August 2001, Aunt Delorma, Jon & Jannai, little Ella Grace, Tim & I attended the opening night of an exhibition of Webster paintings at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum. Most of the paintings and drawings were from private collections, and we met the curator, Miriam Stubbs, a relative of Kenneth Stubbs who was one of Webster’s students.
5. Naomi Mahala Rodgers, born about 1876. She married 2 August 1896, Henry Scott Akers. Naomi & Henry were the parents of one son.
6. Elijah Jacob Rodgers, born 1878 in Provincetown, died 1960. He was a baker and married in Provincetown, 27 April 1898, Clara Louise Bangs, who was born there in 1879, daughter of Perez and Julia (Smith) Bangs. Elijah & Clara were the parents of one daughter. They lie buried with Elijah’s parents and his sister in Gifford Cemetery.
7. George Levan Rodgers, born 2 May 1880 in Provincetown, died 13 November 1967. He married Sarah Schneider, who was born in Austria [now Poland]. George lived at 64 Mason St., and worked for the Coes Wrench Co. in Worcester, Massachusetts. There is a picture of George at work with the caption, “I believe this is a pump which was the first engine I ever operated. It was here I was allowed to Blow the factory whistle.” George & Sarah were the parents of two daughters.
George & Sarah’s great-granddaughter, Stephanie Thibault, is Tim’s third cousin. We “met” her on the internet in 2010 and exchanged genealogical information and pictures.
8. Alvin M. Rodgers, born about 1882. He married Anne Kahn and they were the parents of two children.
9. Inez Mitchell Rodgers, born about 1890. She married Alton Phillips Stephens.
Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile – there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for.
~ Henry Wiencek
(The Hairstons: An American Family in Black & White)
Recently Tim & I had our DNA tested for fun, to see how well our genetic material lined up with our known family histories.
The biggest surprise for me was finding out that I have absolutely no Native American ancestry! There was a story handed down that one of my mother’s ancestors married a Wampanoag Indian. So now I know why we were never able to find such an ancestor and will let go of that research goal. Another curiosity is that 13% of my ancestors came from the region of Italy and Greece. I had no idea!
38% Great Britain (my mother’s New England ancestry)
34% Europe East (my father’s Ukrainian ancestry)
4% Scandinavia (my Norwegian 3rd-great-grandfather)
4% Europe West
2% Iberian Peninsula
5% Traces of Asia Central, Caucasus, Finland/Northwest Russia, European Jewish & Ireland
Because Tim’s maternal grandfather was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants we had assumed that would be about 25% of his ancestry. But he’s only 2% European Jewish! And he also has a few Scandinavian ancestors. The only ancestry Tim has that I don’t have is a trace of Asia South. And the ancestry I have that Tim does not have is 34% Europe East and traces of Asia Central and Finland/Northwest Russia.
65% Great Britain (Tim’s New England/Nova Scotia ancestry)
20% Ireland (three of Tim’s Irish 3rd-great-grandparents)
4% Europe West
2% European Jewish
2% Iberian Peninsula
2% Traces of Asia South and Caucasus
We are finding all this utterly fascinating! I’ve also been watching Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It can be seen online for anyone who is interested. It’s amazing what researching the paper trail left behind by ancestors, combined with DNA testing, can reveal.
The other day I was reading my spring/summer issue of Mystic Seaport Magazine, anticipation growing with every article read for the upcoming 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan on May 17. The last wooden whaleship in the world, newly restored, will be embarking on a voyage to several historic ports on the New England coast, from New London to Boston. It will be a thrill to photograph her as she sails past us here in Groton on her way from Mystic Seaport to the port of New London!!! She hasn’t been sailed in 90 years and she will have no motor.
As I was contemplating this wonder a couple of fuzzy memories started trying to emerge from my stress-weary brain. My father and me on a wooden walkway surrounding a ship which was being restored (was it the Amistad?) in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport. A barrel of shavings and chips from the work on the ship. A sign inviting us to take a piece of wood home as a souvenir. I am struggling to remember, what ship, what year, if anyone else was with us…
My father was a son of Ukrainian immigrants who had been peasants in their native land. Owning their own land here in America was extremely important to my grandparents and my father grew up with that same strong conviction. So much so that he was utterly baffled when Tim & I decided to buy a condo near the sea instead of a home on a piece of property.
Yet he honored the deep ties to the sea my mother and her ancestors had, keeping alive an interest in seafaring history even after she died. This is another facet of my father’s legacy which I’m now coming to appreciate. Not long after my mother died he took me over to the Mystic Seaport membership building and requested that I be allowed on his membership in place of my mother, so I could bring my children there. Since my parents had been life-long members, I think they bent the rules a little and allowed him to do this.
I think it must have been in the 1990s when we each took home a piece of that ship’s wood. He was still getting out and about before his fall in 2000. And it was after my mother died in 1991. Oh why can’t I remember more details?
A search through a 1992 photo album renews another vague nautical memory. There is my Papa, taking his grandchildren to tour the replicas of Columbus’ ships, the Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria when they sailed into New London’s harbor on July 24, 1992, honoring the 500th anniversary of the historic voyage. Where is the third grandchild, though? Was he camera-shy or did he have other plans that day?
Well, for what it’s worth, I leave my wisps of memory here for future generations who might find it all of some interest.
On our mother’s birthday, October 17th, my sister Beverly and I went early to the cemetery in Harwich for some time alone with our parents and our memories, bringing along Papa’s ashes in a nature-inspired wooden casket. After we placed some flowers around the gravestones of our parents and grandparents, a small red dragonfly landed on our parents’ stone. Its presence was a special gift…
A little later, as we were remembering our grandparents, the dragonfly flew over to perch on their gravestone, too, just above the “E” in White. And there was another special moment after the rest of the family started arriving. A small red dragonfly landed on my brother-in-law’s shoulder and stayed there for a long while. John was the one who was Papa’s primary caregiver for all these years, and it was good to have him appreciated and acknowledged in this meaningful way. I like to think it was the same dragonfly, but can’t know for sure…
When we had all gathered around in a circle, Tim read my little essay about my father – I knew I couldn’t read it without sobbing – and then my cousin Matthew read messages from his father (my uncle) and his sister (my cousin). And then everyone began sharing their own memories. After that, Beverly lowered the casket full of Papa’s ashes deep into the ground, and then most of us took turns shoveling the earth back over him. It was a beautiful autumn day and our little ceremony felt so natural and intimate.
Our parents are together now. The next thing I knew, everyone – there were 14 of us – wanted to go to another cemetery in Dennis, to see where our great-grandparents and two generations before them lie buried. (Swan Lake Cemetery) It was quite something to show my granddaughter the graves of her 5th-great-grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway and Ireland, and tell her how they met here in America and raised their family on Cape Cod, and how he was a sea-captain…
After that little expedition we all made our way over to Yarmouth to eat at the Hearth ‘n’ Kettle, a favorite restaurant of the family. We toasted those who came before us with Cape Codders (vodka, cranberry juice, lime wedge) and enjoyed a delicious leisurely dinner. And then we returned to our rented house and had my parents’ favorite birthday cakes as we gathered around the spacious dining room table – lemon jello cake in honor of my mother and chocolate butter-cream in honor of my father.
In the evening we piled into the living room and watched a football game while shelling and munching on peanuts, and drinking Papa’s favorite beer. It was my kids’ idea – they have fond memories of shelling peanuts with their Grandpa while he was watching football on TV. It was good to be with family – sharing memories together – some of us had not seen each other in a very long time.
Whenever we were at a funeral, for people or pets, ever since I was a little girl, my father always advised us to remember the good times. And so we did.