Friday, June 27, 2014

The establishment of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Ballou Post # 3

After the end of the Civil War, many of the Union Army veterans joined branches (or posts) of the national fraternal organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR was formed in 1866 and at the peak of its popularity in 1890, the GAR had more than 490,000 members, all veterans of the Union Army. The GAR was immensely popular during its time and many of the veterans attended regional or national 'encampments'. The GAR founded soldiers' homes, and was active in relief work and in advocating for pension legislation. The organization was dissolved in 1956, when the last surviving member died. The GAR was succeeded by several other groups of descendants of veterans, the most popular being the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). This is the official successor group to the Grand Army of the Republic. The SUVCW is still active with its mission of preserving the GAR, honoring Union veterans, and patriotic education. There are several allied organizations, including some for women descendants of Union Veterans.

I knew that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Zophar Skinner was a member of Ballou Post #3 of the GAR based in Central Falls, Rhode Island. According to one of his grandsons, Zophar attended many of the encampments and held positions as an officer of the Post. His obituary in the Pawtucket Times, 15 November 1926, page 6, states that
 "The ritual of the G.A.R. was read by Commander Henry Clark of the Ballou Post, G.A.R. As the body was borne from the house, former comrades representing the Ballou Post, G.A.R., the Prescott Post, G.A.R., and the State Department [of the G.A.R.] acted as a guard of honor." 
 Zophar died on what was then called Armistice Day (now Veteran's Day) on 11 November 1926 at the age of 83. I don't imagine there were many other veterans left in the post to participate in his funeral. The obituary states that Members of S.B. Hiscox Camp, No. 14, Sons of Veterans officiated in the firing squad and three volleys were fired as the casket was lowered into the grave.

What I found tonight while doing a google seach on "Zophar Skinner" was that he was actually one of the founders of Ballou Post!  Google books had a copy of an 1887 publication listing -

 "An Act to Incorporate Ballou Post, No. 3, G. A. R."

Acts, Resolves and Reports of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Part I- May Session, 1886. Part II-January Session, 1887. State of Rhode Island, Etc., Office of the Secretary of State, July 1886. Published by E.L. Freeman & Son, State Printers, Providence, 1887.
Along with James Mulligan, Edson F Spring, Lucius F.C. Garvin, Nathan N. Knight, George W. Gooding, and B. Frank Bowen, Zophar was one of the founders of the Post.  It was established for "literary and charitable purposes" as set forth in the state statutes. The bill was passed during the RI State Assembly on 10 February 1887. Several other Rhode Island GAR posts came into being during the same legislative session.

Ballou Post obviously got off to a great start since a large advertisement was placed in the local paper in 1889, advertising the Third Grand Fair of the Ballou Post.

At the bottom of the advertisement, it says -
"Send $1.00 and your address to Zopher Skinner, Treas., P.O. Box 521, Central Falls, R.I., and receive a ticket in return."
I think I need to do more research in the Pawtucket Times and the Providence Journal to see who won some of these big prizes! I'm also interested in researching more of the history of Ballou Post as well as the other Rhode Island posts that some of my other Civil War ancestors probably joined.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rescued Photo #5 - Clarence Sidney Verrill

When I was in Vermont last year, I spent an hour or so browsing at the Antique Center at Camelot Village in Bennington, VT. This shop is huge and is composed of many individual 'stalls' where all kinds of antiques are sold. 

I spent most of my time there looking thru old photos and was amazed at how many of them had identification written on the back. If only all my old family photos were identified! I bought a few that caught my eye and to see if I could identify the families of the individuals, and possibly to locate a living descendant who would like to have these photos. Please contact me if you are related to these people and would like the original photo.

Clarence Sidney Verrill
M. Moulthrop, Photo.
298 Chapel St.   New Haven, CT
"Clarence Sidney Verrill
3 years old May 6 -80
Taken June 10 - 1880"
From a quick search of records -

Clarence Sidney Verrill was born 6 May 1877 in New Haven, Connecticut. He was the son of Addison Emery Verrill and Flora Louisa Smith.  Clarence was the 5th of six children, and the 3rd son. Clarence's father, Addison was Yale University's first Professor of Zoology and later, curator of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

Clarence married Dorothy Lord Maltby in California in 1906, and their only child, Rae Maltby Verrill, was born 2 September 1907 in Soulsbyville, California.

A biography/obituary for Clarence was found in the Bulletin of  the American Institute of Mining Engineers, issue 145, January, 1919, pages xlii - xliii, and available on Google Books. Clarence was a mining engineer and worked in many areas of the American west. He and his family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia around 1910 where Clarence opened an office as a consulting engineer. He died in a wreck of the steamship, Princess Sophia, on 25 October 1918 as he was returning from a mine visit near Juneau, Alaska. At least 343 people were on board the vessel when it struck a reef and all died in this disaster. According to the biographical sketch, Clarence is buried in Juneau, along with many of the other passengers.

Clarence's daughter Rae Maltby Verrill married Ralph Gordon McDiarmid in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1928. They had at least one son, Neil Verrill McDiarmid who was born and died in North Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1976 at age 42.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Girl Scout Memories

Thinking Day is coming up! Thinking Day is a Girl Scout and Girl Guide tradition which is celebrated on February 22 each year. From page 213 in my Brownie Girl Scout Handbook  -
Brownie Girl Scout Handbook
Published by the Girl Scouts of the
United States of America, New York: 1963
"On Thinking Day, Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, in every country have special thoughts of their sister Scouts and Guides in other lands. They do something special to show their friendship for them.
 Thinking Day is celebrated on February 22. Perhaps you already know this date as the birthday of our own George Washington. But February 22 is the birthday of Lord Baden-Powell and of his wife, Lady Baden-Powell;, too! Lord Baden -Powell was, of course, the Founder of Scouting for boys and girls round the world; Lady Baden-Powell is the World Chief Guide".
I was in Girl Scouts for around 6 years when I was a young kid. As I remember, I was a Brownie for two years, a Junior Girl Scout for three years and a Cadette for a year or two before I gradually lost interest as I moved into the middle school years. I know we celebrated Thinking Day in Scouts but I don't have any specific memories of it.

I loved Scouts when I was involved in it. I especially liked the Girl Scout summer camp I attended - Camp TeAta in Central Valley, NY.  I was a camper there for around 5 summers and they were great summers. I started off with two week sessions, and stayed for 7 weeks my last year. The last 3 weeks of that last summer I was in what was called 'Wilderness Unit'. We lived in tents (not the cabins the rest of the camp stayed in) out in the woods and cooked our own breakfasts and dinners over a campfire. This experience started my life-long love of camping.

One of my best memories of Girl Scouts were some of the trips we did when I was a Junior Girl Scout. During the three years I was in Troop 225 in Little Falls, NJ, we went on three separate trips to Washington, DC, Niagara Falls, and Williamsburg, VA. Up until a few years ago, it was the only time I had been to each place.
Wendy at the Lincoln Memorial, 14 May 1967
Wendy Grant and best friend, Wendy Sarafine
and charter bus to Washington DC
I found some old notes in my Junior handbook. We went to Washington DC on the weekend of May 13-14, 1967. We left Little Falls at 7 AM and arrived in Washington DC by noon. My notes said we went sight-seeing for 5 hours and went to the Wax Museum . We stayed at the Whitehouse Motel in Fairfax, VA. I remember epic pillow fights and many reminders from the troop leaders to quiet down. On Sunday we visited Arlington Cemetery (spelled Alarton in my notes), Mount Vernon, and somewhere I wrote as "Amtion Theatre". I have no idea where that was. Could it have been another name for Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot)? I think we saw that. Supper was in Washington, DC. We were scheduled to leave there at 6:00 PM and arrive back in Little Falls by 11 PM after a stop or two. It was a great trip!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Share some of your memories

Randy Seaver has a long-running blogging prompt - Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. This week's prompt is based on a keynote talk Judy Russell aka The Legal Genealogist gave at the RootsTech 2014 conference last week in Salt Lake City. I was not at RootsTech but watched her address recorded at this link. The link to Randy's post is here.

Here is Randy's task and my answers-
1)  Judy Russell asked six questions in her Keynote address at RootsTech to determine if audience members knew certain family stories about their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.  She demonstrated very well that family stories are lost within three generations if they are not recorded and passed on to later generations.

2)  This week, I want you to answer Judy's six questions, but about YOUR own life story, not your ancestors.  Here are the questions:

a)  What was your first illness as a child?
I had to get out the baby book my mom made to look this one up. The first recorded illness for me was measles during the summer of 1962 when I was 6 1/2 years old. I am sure I had many colds and other mild illnesses before then too. Summers were rough for childhood diseases in my family. All three of us kids had measles, German measles, chicken pox and mumps during June and July and in 3 successive years in the early 1960s. Because of advances in vaccines, my children only had to suffer one of these - chicken pox. They got it a year or two before the vaccine was available.

b)  What was the first funeral you attended?
We did not have a lot of close relatives so the first funeral I attended was for my grandfather, Harold Veith, who died in December of 1978. I was in my last year of college and home for Christmas break.

c)  What was your favorite book as a child?
Holiday for Edith and the Bears - This was one of a series of books by author and photographer Dare Wright. Edith was a doll and the bears were stuffed animals. I vividly remember a photo of Edith falling out of a rowboat, after she and Little Bear went out in the boat without permission. The photo fascinated me - I am not sure why. 

After I learned to read and I was a bit older, my favorites were any of the books about the detective children in the series The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West.

d)  What was your favorite class in elementary school?
I'm not sure about this one. In general I liked school and I loved to read.

e)  What was your favorite toy as a child?
My doll who I named Merry Christmas. I was 4 or 5 when I received her (for Christmas, duh!)

f)  Did you learn how to swim, and where did you learn?
My brother and sister and I learned to swim at Lake Rickabear in Kinnelon, NJ. When I was in elementary school, my dad worked as an engineer at Curtis-Wright. An employee perk was membership at Lake Rickabear which I think was owned by the company. It was a great place to go when we were little, and I think my mom took us 3 days a week for swimming lessons. The lessons were taught by the lifeguards who were all youngish school teachers during the school year. I  remember thinking it was so strange that we called them by their first names during the summer. None of them taught in my school, but I was aware they were teachers.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

undated vintage postcard
Happy Thanksgiving to my family and friends, and especially to my Aunt Shirley who is a very recent first-time great-grandmother! I wish I had more family at my table tomorrow but it will be filled with friends. I'll remember my mother, grand-mother, great-grandmother and great-aunt Marion as I set the table with pieces from all of them.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rescued Photo #4 - Ann Eliza Turner Hulet Niles

When I was in Vermont last September, I spent an hour or so browsing at the Antique Center at Camelot Village in Bennington, VT. This shop is huge and is composed of many individual 'stalls' where all kinds of antiques are sold. I could have spent days in this place, and hope to go back on my next visit.

I spent most of my time there looking thru old photos and was amazed at how many of them had identification written on the back. If only all my old family photos were identified! I decided to buy a few that caught my eye and see if I could identify the families of the individuals, and possibly to locate a living descendant who would like to have these photos. Please contact me if you are related to these people and would like the original photo.

This photo was found in the same lot of photos (dealer #356) as were the 3 previous photographs in my Rescued Photos series of blog posts and these people are all probably related. I am slowly building a family tree to resolve family relationships.
Ann Eliza Turner photograph
Ann Eliza Turner photograph
back side

This photo is labeled on the back -

" Ann Eliza Turner
daughter of
Dr and Mrs Gideon Turner"

There is no photographer's name or studio, or location of where the photo was taken.

From doing some basic research, it appears that Ann Eliza Turner was the daughter of Dr Gideon S Turner and his wife, Eliza T. Atwood. No birth record has been found for her but the US census records for 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 indicate she was born in 1842 or 1843 in New York. The 1900 US census indicates her birth in October 1842 in NY, and a record on Findagrave and a gravestone image gives her birth date as 25 October 1842. Her second marriage record indicates that she was born in Salem, Washington County, New York. She died 1 April 1911 in Danby, Rutland County, Vermont at age 68. She is listed as a nurse to a private family, and she was probably still living with her daughter as she was when enumerated there in the 1910 US census.This 1910 census record lists her as widowed, with one child.

Ann Eliza was married twice. Her first marriage was to Aaron Hulet. After his death in 1894, she married Joseph Burr Niles in 1896. According to the marriage record for this 2nd marriage,  Ann Eliza was living in White Creek, New York at the time of her marriage. The marriage was registered in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Although the 1910 census shows her as widowed, in actuality Ann Eliza was either separated or divorced from Joseph Niles since he did not die until 1920. 

The 1880 US census for Shaftsbury, VT shows Aaron and Ann E Hulet living with adopted daughter Winnie B Hulet, age 7, born New York. Winnie married Theodore Woodward around 1890, and they were living in White Creek, New York according to the 1900 census along with their 3 children, Winona Woodward, Leon D Woodward, and Clinton Woodward.

In summary, this is what I know about Ann Eliza Turner - 

Ann Eliza Turner, daughter of Gideon S Turner and Eliza T. Atwood, was born on 25 October 1842 in Salem, Washington County, New York. She died on 1 April 1911 in Danby, Rutland County, Vermont (age 68). She married (1) Aaron Hulet. He was born on 27 March 1835. He died on 20 November 1894 (age 59). She married (2) Joseph Burr Niles, son of Jonathan Niles and Mary Slocum, on 23 December 1896 in Shaftsbury, Bennington County, Vermont. He was born on 6 July 1837 In Shaftsbury. He died on 13 Jan 1920 in Shaftsbury (age 82).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

GRANT surname distribution

Randy Seaver over at the blog Genea-Musings has an on-going series, Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. I decided to try out tonight's exercise, which is to map out where families with the Grant surname resided In the USA in a few selected census years - 1840, 1880 and 1920. The Surname Distribution Map is located at the link here on Besides the maps, the page also presents some facts about families with the chosen surname.

For my GRANT surname, I learned that -
Grant Name Meaning
English and (especially) Scottish (of Norman origin), and French: nickname from Anglo-Norman French graund, graunt ‘tall’, ‘large’ (Old French grand, grant, from Latin grandis), given either to a person of remarkable size, or else in a relative way to distinguish two bearers of the same personal name, often representatives of different generations within the same family.English and Scottish: from a medieval personal name, probably a survival into Middle English of the Old English byname Granta (see Grantham).Probably a respelling of German Grandt or Grand.
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press

The Grant surname distribution map for 1840 -
Grant surname distribution in 1840

In 1840, New York and Maine had the highest number of Grant families. My direct descendants were living on both sides of the Rhode Island/Massachusetts border in Bristol County, RI and Bristol County, MA. Some families had moved in the proceeding 20 years to early mill towns in Rhode Island.

The GRANT surname distribution map for 1880 -
Grant surname distribution in 1880
New York and Maine are joined by Massachusetts, and the two southern states of Georgia and South Carolina as having the largest numbers of Grant families in 1880.

The GRANT surname distribution map for 1920 -
Grant surname distribution in 1920
New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and South Carolina have the most Grant families in 1920. Maine has dropped down to the next category size. Notice that the "number of Grant families" color divisions do not stay constant for all three map time periods. There is a large increase in total Grant families in 1880, and a decrease in number in 1920. Randy noticed the same thing in his post for the Seaver surname distribution, and this is counter-intuitive to me. I would think, in general, that the total number of families in a not uncommon surname would increase with time. It is possible, however that both the Seaver and Grant surnames buck that trend. Perhaps the counter does not work the same for both census years??

There are a few other facts about the Grant surname from the same link on Ancestry -

Family origin of the Grant surname in the US -

Ancestry computes the number of Grant families who immigrated to the United States thru New York for the period, 1851 - 1891. These Grant families came after my direct ancestors who were living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the mid-17th century.
 Grant immigration information, 1851- 1891
In general, the following chart shows that Grants tended to live as long as the general public for the years tracked by the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), 1940 - 2000. It is interesting how life expectancy slowly increased in the post-war period,  increased steeply after 1960, and leveled off for the next 40 years. Ancestry says "An unusually short lifespan might indicate that your ancestors lived in harsh conditions. A short lifespan might also indicate health problems that were once prevalent in your family." I think there are too many Grant families to detect any meaning from this chart.
Average Life expectancy for persons with the Grant surname

Family Occupations from the 1880 US census data-
Families with the Grant surname are over-represented with respect to the general public in farming occupations in 1880. This is probably due to the many people of the Grant surname in the mostly rural southern states of Georgia and South Carolina, as well as the mostly rural state of Maine. By 1880, most of my Grant ancestors had moved from farming and were working as spinners in the Rhode Island mill towns. has a large index for Civil War soldiers. From its Civil War Service Records index, there were 2845 men with the Grant surname in the Civil War. Twice as many served in the Union Army as the Confederate Army - the numbers were 1881 for the Union and 964 for the Confederates. All of my known Grant ancestor Civil War soldiers were in the Union Army. This is not surprising since they all came from Rhode Island and Massachusetts!

And lastly, Ancestry maintains the message boards on Rootsweb. There are 34 messages on 2347 threads. Some might have been posted by me way back when I first started looking into my family history about the year 2000. Now social media is used much more for querying about ancestors.

All in all, this was an interesting project. I think I need to do it also soon for my maternal  line of Veith. I suspect there will be far fewer individuals with that surname, and possibly more useful information can be gleamed.

Thanks Randy for a fun project!.