Saturday, 28 April 2007

New Family Harvest Genealogy Website

After four long years, I have finally completed a revision of my Family Harvest Genealogy website and it's now online!

The new design was created to try to update the look of the site and make navigation of the pages easier, while incorporating a bit more content. This is my first attempt at writing the pages using cascading style sheets, so if there are problems viewing any of the pages, please let me know by using the contact page on the site.

New on the Family Harvest Genealogy website are updated databases, the previous ones had been taken offline to protect the privacy of those still living. For this revision, I have taken great care to ensure that no living persons are identified in the databases.

Also new are some of the photographs. I have removed the photo gallery, as most of the photos are now in the databases. Eventually, the people and their stories from the old gallery will be added to the People Pages.

The Adoption story has been moved to the new About Me section. The story is now more or less complete. I have continued contact with my new siblings and have come to love them as if we had been raised together. There are stories to tell, but they will have to wait until I have a bit more time to write them.

I am planning to add more to the Research section of the site. Presently, I am concentrating on military research, but my files are full of much more that I would like to present on the pages.

The Family Pages will also be expanded to include my husband's Latvian families. With so little Latvian information available on genealogy sites, I hope to provide some background about these remarkable people.

Hope you like the new Family Harvest Genealogy site!

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Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Agnes Gertrude Quigley

One hundred years ago today, Agnes Gertrude Quigley celebrated her first birthday. She had not been expected to live to the first anniversary of her arrival in the world, let alone reach the esteemed age of 87!

"Gertie" was the youngest of three girls born to John Francis and Mary Ellen (Gilman) Quigley. She was born in the part of Boston known as the West End. The West End was an area of Boston to which many Irish moved (from the North End and Fort Hill areas) in the 1860's and 1870's before putting down roots in the celebrated Irish stronghold of "Southie."

She never got to know her father, because he died the same year she was born. Her mother found work in a hotel as a waitress to support the three girls and her own mother, Catherine, who lived with them. When Gertie was in her teens, her mother and grandmother also died, leaving the girls to fend for themselves.

From the stories that Gertie often told, the young Quigleys went to work as soon as they finished school. One job, in particular, she spoke about often - at Schraft's Chocolates. Gertie trained as a chocolate dipper, but unlike her sister, Mae, the constant smell of that sweet treat often made her sick (and did for the rest of her life.) So, she quit her job at the chocolate factory and took up her mother's trade of waitressing.

Gertie loved her job as a waitress. She was trained in the proper methods of serving and clearing food and all that goes with it. This expertise led to adventures in many places, waitressing in posh hotels, just for fun. Some of the places she often spoke about were Chicago, Florida and New York. She even boasted that she had the pleasure of waiting upon a U.S. president!

One of Gertie's jobs led her to Oswego, New York, on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. It was there that she would meet John Harold Smith, a red-headed Irishman who was the love of her life. Her happiness would not last very long, because "Harold" died a couple of years after they were married. However, Gertie loved her adopted town of Oswego and lived there the rest of her life.

She lived alone in an apartment which had been created on the top floor of an old victorian-era house. Despite her age, she would climb up and down those steep stairs to go to work and take her beloved dog for a walk.

Gertie worked her whole life. Even past the age of 80, she was waitressing at a restaurant in Oswego. One day, she noticed a little box next left on the table by one of her "regulars." Scooping up the box, she charged out the door after the man. When she tried to give it to him, he refused it, telling her it was her tip. Inside the box was an antique diamond ring. The story he told was that his sister's house had burned to the ground and all that was left was the jewelry. As he had no need for it and because Gertie had been so good to him over the years, he wanted her to have it! (As an addendum to the story, I received that very same ring for my 21st birthday from Gertie.)

Living in Oswego is not easy in Winter. My Dad always worried about his aunt living up there all alone in such weather. But, Gertie was made of tough stuff. After one huge storm, my father called her to find out how she was doing. Her reply was that she was a little irritated, because she'd had to get a ride on the snowplow to get to work!

Every year, though, Gert would make the trip by bus from Oswego to Boston to be with family for the Christmas holidays. For the whole visit, we would hear countless re-telling of the stories she had told the year before. Year after year, we heard about her life with Harold, her adventures with her friend, Annie, places she'd been and things she'd done. The stories would be relayed in a voice like gravel and would be puncuated by occasional belches from the beer she enjoyed so much. She was quite a character.

I was probably the only one of the nieces and nephews who found the stories fascinating. Around 1980, I planned to tape her next recounting, but Gertie didn't come to visit that next year...or ever again. She died in 1983 at age 87.

Every year on this day, my thoughts and prayers go heavenward to Gertie. She was a woman of extraordinary strength and resilience with a voice of gravel, but a heart as soft as well-worn cotton. So, on this April 10th, Happy Birthday Aunt Gert! You are missed.

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Sunday, 1 April 2007

Robert Hill Gibby

Robert Hill Gibby was born 184 years ago today, the 11th of the 16 children of Samuel and Ann Jane (Hill) Gibby.

The Gibby family emigrated from Dublin, Ireland to the United States some time between 1830 and 1835. It is not certain where they landed, quite possibly New York City, but more likely on the docks of Boston, Massachusetts. By 1840, Samuel's entire family was living in Lowell, Massachusetts, as the census for that year lists a household of 20 people!

Robert married Lydia Young Farmer in Lowell shortly after that census (in 1844.) In the successive years, they would become the parents of 8 children - 5 boys, followed by 3 girls. Their first-born, Adam Henry, would not live much past his 3rd birthday, dying of the croup in 1848.

There is little information available about Robert between 1850 to 1874. A painter by trade, Robert is found in Charlestown (1860) where he lived until some time between the 1880-1900's, when the family relocated to Somerville.

There are a couple of curiosities in the 1880 Census. One is that Lydia is not listed as his wife, rather Robert's wife is enumerated as "Elizabeth." However, in the 1900 Census, Lydia is shown alive and well, having been married to Robert for 57 years! Another curiosity is that there are two grandchildren with the surname, Gibby, living in the household. It's not clear who the parents of these grandchildren are, as there is no female of child-bearing age listed. It could be that they are the children of one of Robert's sons living in the household whose wife may have died. (I still have to research this possibility.)

Robert, who became a naturalized citizen in 1840, did not participate in the American Civil War. However, two of Robert's brothers, William Henry and Nicholas Oprey, and nephew, William Henry Jr., enlisted and served in the War Between The States. William in the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Co. G, Nicholas in the 16th Massachusetts Infantry Co. A and William Jr. in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. (Again, research is ongoing.)

Robert died in 1901 in Somerville, Massachusetts, aged 78. Fifteen years after his death, my adoptive father, Frank Donovan, was born in Charlestown, Robert's home for many years. I wonder...if they were both alive today what stories they would share?

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