Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Leap Year Day Death - Sarah G. Lawton Carpenter

I was just looking at my 3rd great-grandmother's records when I noticed that she died on Leap Year Day in 1904, exactly 98 years ago today.

I previously wrote a post about Sarah Gardiner Lawton here.  She was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island to Clark Lawton and Sarah A. Gardiner.
Death Certificate for Sarah A. Gardiner Carpenter
Died 29 February 1904

She was married to John L. Carpenter in Valley Falls, Rhode Island on 5 May 1845. She died just over the Rhode Island state line in So Attleboro, Massachusetts on 29 February 1904 of senile debility and thrombosis.

I wonder what the odds are of being born or dying on Leap Year Day.

"Massachusetts Death Records, 1841-1915", index and images, FamilySearch (; from Massachusetts State Archives. "Deaths, 1841-1971". Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, State House, Boston, Massachusetts. Record for Sarah A. Gardiner, Volume 3, Certificate # 37. FHL microfilm # 2069265. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Florence Hazel Skinner

My paternal grandmother was Florence Hazel Skinner. She was known as "Hazel" during her life-time. Hazel was the 3rd child and oldest daughter of John Francis (Frank) Skinner and Annie Florence Betts. She was born on 6 September 1894 in Valley Falls, Rhode Island. 
F. Hazel Skinner about 1898
Hazel had 2 older brothers both also born in Valley Falls. Harold Fulton Skinner was born 25 February 1892 and died at the age of 4 months of cholera on 16 July 1892. Second son, Harold Lamert Skinner was born on 23 January 1894.

Despite the 19 month age difference between Harold and Hazel, they were in the Valley Falls School 4th grade together when they received year end report cards on 24 June 1904. Both were good students although it looks like Hazel did better than her brother Harold in all subjects except arithmetic.
Subjects they received grades in were:
Grade 4 report cards for Hazel and Harold Skinner,  June 1904
Hazel's family was living on Carpenter Street in Valley Falls in 1900 as enumerated in the Federal Census. The family moved to 18 Abbot Street by the time of the 1905 RI state census. Hazel lived at this address until her marriage on 15 January 1918 to Ralph Westcott Grant.
Hazel about 1910

Hazel about 1915

Hazel about 1944

Hazel died at age 50 on 12 January 1945 just as she was about to be released from the hospital after a routine surgery. Her obituaries are posted here. My father had just turned 23 and his sister was 19. Hazel's husband, my grandfather Ralph, had predeceased her. She was buried with her parents in Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
Death Certification of Hazel Grant
Department of Health. State of New Jersey, certificate # 330, 12 January 1945

I don't really know much about my grandmother. Her family were Baptists and she was active in the Valley Falls Baptist Church groups growing up. By the time she and Ralph moved to New Jersey and had children, religion was less important. She was an accomplished pianist and she and her husband often enjoyed playing in string quartets with friends. My father told me it was a disappointment to his parents that he and his sister had no musical talents (and neither do I!).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ralph Westcott Grant

Ralph Westcott Grant
about 1900

I never knew my paternal grandparents - they died long before I was born. I am lucky though to have some of their documents and photos so I know something of their lives, including the time before my father was born to them in 1922. There are quite a few photos of my grandparents dating from the first couple of decades of the 20th century from the time that cameras first became available to amateurs. I only wish that someone had noted the subject's names on the photos since most are unidentified.

My paternal grandfather was Ralph Westcott Grant. He was the oldest child of William Sprague Grant and Mary Helen Mellor. He was born 17 April 1894 in Valley Falls, Rhode Island but he grew up in nearby Central Falls, Rhode Island.
Ralph W. Grant
It is unknown where his middle name came from but he is the first of 4 generations of Grant males to use it as a middle name. There were families with the surname of Westcott living in Rhode Island during the late 19th century, but none that can be identified as being associated with the family. Perhaps it was just a name his parents liked, or a name of a friend.

I don't know many details of Ralph's childhood. He did attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) after high school and graduated with a 2 year degree in drafting. While there he played Center on the school football team and was the captain in 1913. He graduated from the School of Design around 1915 but I have not found his school records yet. I was told that his Aunt Mary Grant helped pay his tuition at RISD, and that enabled him to enroll there for his post-secondary education. After graduating, I think he worked as a draftsman in the Providence area for several years.

Draft Registration Certificate, 5 June 1917

Ralph registered for the draft in June 1917. He did not serve in World War I perhaps because his younger brother, Howard was already in the RI National Guard at the beginning of the war and was posted overseas (subject of a future blog post). It is also possible that Ralph was excused from active duty because he had an essential war-time job. From family reminiscences, I know he worked at the Watervliet Arsenal near Troy, New York and also in Erie, Pennsylvania during the war.
Ralph at unknown work location

Ralph  married Florence Hazel Skinner (she was always known as Hazel) on 15 January 1918 at the Baptist Church in Valley Falls, Rhode Island and they lived after their marriage in Erie, Pennsylvania. By the time their first child, my father Warren Westcott Grant was born on 11 January 1922, they were living in Clifton, New Jersey where Ralph and Hazel would live the rest of their lives.

around 1939

My grandfather died 2 months after his 45th birthday in Baltimore, Maryland on the 27 June 1939. He had gone to Baltimore to march in the Shriner's Band and felt ill while marching. He went back to his hotel and suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital and died there early the next morning.

Ralph was an accomplished saxophonist and I think he also played flute at home. At the time of his death, Ralph was the General Manager of the National Rubber Machinery Company in Clifton, New Jersey. As a hobby, he did museum-quality taxidermy.