Thursday, 10 June 2010

Who Was George G. S. Norris?

One of the more intriguing people in my paternal lineage is my great-great-grandfather, George G. S. Norris. Just who was he? Who were his parents? How does he relate to the Norris families of New England? What did he do for a living? How many children did he have? Where is he buried?

Many questions about him have been circulating in my consciousness since learning about him. So, I set about to find some answers.

I knew that George G. S. had married Julia Ann Kennedy in Chelsea, MA, on 29 Nov 1860.

I knew that they moved to Lowell, MA, between 1861 and 1866 with their two children, Annie and George.

I knew that George G. S. had served in the Union Army (1st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Co. I), was incorrectly listed as being a deserter (he was injured, hospitalized in New York and transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps) and had applied for a Civil War pension.

I knew that George G. S. died in Lowell on 24 Sep 1876.

That was all I could learn...until today. I now believe I have a few more answers to the many questions that I've had for so long.

As I often do, I visited the FamilySearch website to search for anything that might give me a clue to George G. S. Norris' life before he first shows up on the 1860 US Federal Census. The records had just been updated, so I thought it was worth another try. What I found has led me to more information than I ever could have imagined!

Listed in the results was the death record of George G. S., naming the parents as George and Susan. Also in the results was the marriage of George G. S. to Julia A. Kennedy with George's parents named as Phineas and Susan. I did several other searches to determine which pair of parents was correct, deciding that Phineas and Susan were probably the parents, as I could not find a George and Susan combination.

Searching Ancestry, RootsWeb and FamilySearch, I began to find the answers to many of my questions.

Here is a quick rundown of what I was able to piece together:

Samuel (b.1828)
+ Lydia Washburn
....Samuel (b. 1751)
....+ Jedidah Swift
........Mercy Ann (b.1773)
........William Ichabod (b.1775)
........Mary (b.1778)
........Benjamin (b.1786)
........Delia Rebecca (b.1789)
........Phineas (b. 1791)
........+ Susan Saunders
............Ida J. S.(b.1831) m. Francis H. Cushing
............George G. S. (b. 1835)
............+ Julia Ann Kennedy
................Anna Maria (1861-1906)
................George F. (1865-1904)
................Walter H. (1869-1870)
................Susan E. (1874-1876)
................Elisa J. (1876-1877)
................(unknown additional child who died young)
....Nathan (b. 1760 - Revolutionary War Soldier)

Two things surprised me more than any of the other discoveries.

First is that I was able to learn the names of three more of George and Julia's children. From the 1900 US Federal Census, I new that there were six children, but only two had ever shown up in the census.

Second is that my initial thought when finding George G. S. living in the home of Ida J. S. and Francis H. Cushing in Chelsea (1860 US Federal Census) was correct. They are brother and sister, which was confirmed by a birth record for Ida J. S. found at years later.

There is still much research to be done, but this is a good start.

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Finding Grandma Norris

It has been a long time since I've posted anything to this blog, time being so hard to find these days. However, I have not been completely idle with the research and have made a couple of breakthroughs which have been nagging me for years.

The first breakthrough was finding "Grandma Norris"...

My paternal grandfather, George Leo Donovan (aka "Did"), died before he could locate the grave of the grandmother who raised him, Julia Ann (Kennedy) Norris. I remember my father talking about how they had looked, but never did find it.

When I learned of the pilot search at, I thought I would try to find Grandma Norris one more time. So, I typed in her name and the location of Massachusetts, USA. To my surprise and amazement, there was a listing for her record of death!

After selecting the record for more information, I noticed that there was an image available for viewing. That's when I found Grandma Norris. Not only was there her date of death and circumstances, but the location of her the town where I was raised!

Being so excited at this find, I contacted my cousins who still live in the town and asked them to go to the cemetery (Cavalry Cemetery) to try to find the grave and take photos of the headstone.

Two of my cousins made the quick trip to see this long-lost ancestor's final resting place. Finding the gravesite was the challenge, as there was no one in the caretaker's building at the entrance to the cemetery to help. By chance, an elderly grounds keeper happened by and asked my cousin if he could be of assistance. He then proceeded to pull out a worn and torn plot map, which they poured over to find Grandma Norris' location. There it was! But...the sad news is that there is no marker on the gravesite.

A call was made to The Catholic Cemetery Association of the Archdiocese of Boston (administrators of Cavalry Cemetery) for more information. They confirmed that this was the correct location of the gravesite, but would not provide any further information about whom was buried in the plot. Of course, if we wanted to pay for the information ($35), there would be no problem. The only other way to find out information about the plot would be to erect a headstone on the site. Then, they would be more than happy to tell us about the plot - for free!

Erecting a headstone on this gravesite is what I would like to do, anyway. However, living in another country makes investigating this difficult for me. Some day, though, I would like to have a stone placed on the site as a tribute to Grandma Norris and to finish what Did set out to do.

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