Friday, May 18, 2012

Little Things

I'm still committed to little things - they can provide a great deal of satisfaction - and raise intriguing questions.  It depends on what they are, what we know about their owners, and what we can learn through further search.

Cleaning out my childhood home included going through a multitude of attic items.  Getting to the attic was its own challenge - climbing a 12-foot step ladder, moving aside the access covering, and hoisting myself up into the attic through an opening measuring maybe 3'x3'.

The contents were, of course, those of a typical attic - a little of this, some of that, and more of the other thing.  EXCEPT for one box.  It contained a collection saved after Alice May GODITT Hills died.  There were gold-toned shoes that fit TRAEA's Grandma.  There was a child's pull toy with pieces missing  There was jewelry.  There was a gold tooth!

And there were the buttons, pins and other memorabilia Alice had collected and her son, Leander, had saved.  Starting in the upper left corner, they are:
  • Pin presented in January 1924 by the Sea Shore Lodge Daughters of the Revolution;
  • Two Daughters of Rebekah pins;
  • S.V. President (Senior Vice President?) pin from the Women's Relief Corps;
  • Lusitania commemorative;
  • Past President pin from the North Shore Association of an organization with the initials LPAM that remains unidentified so far;
  • Unidentified lady;
  • Monogrammed silk scarf;
  • Daughters of Liberty pin presented from Alice's "Peanut Pal";
  • Red-ribboned commemorative with the U.S. Mint on one side and the Lord's Prayer on the other;
  • Ribbon with colors found on other Daughters of Rebekah ribbons and the date 1923;
  • Another unidentified lady;
  • Women's Relief Corps pin;
  • "Committee" ribbon with no further identification;
  • Triangular pin I've not yet been able to identify;
  • Methodist Church pin.
Even with the remaining questions, these give us a picture of Alice as a woman who was active in a range of organizations dedicated to church, patriotism and assistance to others.  And indeed, TRAEA's Grandma found Alice listed online as taking part in a number of these organizations.

After sorting through several ideas, I finally decided to display these little treasures in a simple black-framed case that came with a foam-like material on which many of the items are pinned.  The entire display now hangs on my office wall.

Any help identifying some of these items, or adding to everyone's general knowledge of the organizations will be truly appreciated.  After all, it's the little things!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


There are some expected and some quite unexpected results in the DNA Analysis for TRAEA's Grandma's genetic ethnicity.  But since these can go back thousands of years, maybe anything's possible.

This grandma contributes a pretty concentrated genetic ethnicity to her descendants -
43% Scandinavian
17% Southern European
16% British Isles
14% Central European
7% Eastern European
3% Uncertain

Scandinavian?  Norway, Sweden, Denmark had never before been a blip on the genealogical radar.  Ancestry explains that these were a well-travelled people (think Vikings), or as they wrote "seaborne raiders. . . . . violent pillagers. . . . . well-travelled merchants and ambitious explorers."  In other words - if your roots are European, you may well find Scandinavians in your DNA soup.

Southern European - Italy, Spain and Portugal - I feel warmer already, although I never suspected any related connections to such a delightful region.  Interesting possibilities there.

British Isles - totally expected.  The only surprise is that this percentage isn't greater.  A HUGE number of ancestors on the Hills / Hackett tree arrived in North America from the British Isles.  But since DNA reaches back into the mists of history, the overall picture obviously blurs.

Central European - France, Germany, Austria - again expected, especially France.  A smaller percentage than British Isles is also reasonable, although I'm amazed that those numbers are so close.

Eastern European - Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Greece - hmmmmm.  There is a family rumor of Jewish ancestry that dangles tantalizingly from one side of the tree, and there is the possibility of a Russian connection on the other side.  Maybe there's some validity to one or both.  Goodie!

Uncertain.  Perfect - even DNA should leave a little wiggle room.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pott's Disease or Not

Reta HACKETT was not 100% certain whether she broke her back falling down stairs or she had tuberculosis of the spine, Pott's disease.  Then again, she was at best a preschooler when the treatments began around 1918 - 1921.

After some research, TRAEA's Grandma decided that Reta (pronounced Reta as in "cheetah," not Reta as in Greta) had TB (Potts disease).  I could be wrong.  The family story was sketchy at best:

  • She lived a long time on a "frame," and needed considerable care.
  • Reta was one of five children in a still growing family, and her parents, Elsie JONES and George Hackett, simply could not give extra attention to one child.
  • So she went to live with her widowed maternal grandmother, Carrie Maria FRENCH Jones.
  • Because Grandma Jones could not understand Reta, her next older sister, Hazel HACKETT, also went to live with Grandma Jones  
  • Reta's case was unusual and written up in medical journals.
The Surgical Diseases of Children, published in 1912 by D. Appleton and Company, discusses Pott's disease.

  • "Pott's disease is frequently found in childhood, specially from the second to the fifth years. . . . . "
  • Spinal deformities created by Pott's disease can be severe, and Pott's disease can lead to abscesses in other parts of the body or even paralysis.
  • "Absolute recumbency" is necessary "in general . . . . . from twelve to eighteen months" as part of the treatment.
  • The Whitman-Bradford frame ensured that.  It was made of small-diameter galvanized gas-pipe or steel tubing, slightly longer and almost as wise as the child.  It was covered with stretched canvas and two felt pads about an inch thick sewn along each side of the spine at the tuberculosis site.  
  • Whitman explains, "The child, wearing only an undershirt, stockings, and diaper, is placed upon the frame and is fixed there usually by a front piece or apron . . . . .  As soon as the patient has become accustomed to the restraint one begins to over-extend the spine by bending the bars from time to time, with the aim of actually separating the diseased vertebral bodies . . . . . so that the body shall be finally bent backward to form the segment of a circle.  The greatest convexity is at the seat of the disease. . . . . "
  • Patients lay on this frame continuously, except when they were turned over to clean and powder their back.
  • After patients no longer needed the frame, they were fitted with one of several forms of a steel brace or plaster jacket.

Although the Whitman-Bradford frame could explain "the frame" she recalled, what role was played by a tag that identified five-year-old Reta on a trip, probably to Boston?  (She lived in Taunton, MA, which does not have a North Station as listed on the tag.)

 Then there was the letter that she wrote about a year later to a family member, gleeful that she no longer needed the frame, but could "roll around the bed."  Since she didn't mention running around, she was likely still under treatment.

And a picture of a slightly older Reta in what is obviously a brace, standing next to her sister Hazel.  Grandmother Carrie Maria stands behind Hazel, and the others are unindentified.

Although the pieces seem to add up to Potts disease, there is one remaining question.  Where in the world of literature was the writeup?  Oodles of articles have been written about Potts disease, but so far this grandmother has yet to find any reference to the little girl from Taunton.  Another hunt.

Reta was a great granddaughter of William and Maria L. WILBUR Hackett, Abraham and Evelina REID Thompson, Benjamin Paul and Anjenette PETTIS Jones, and Ephraim and Mary BETTERLY French.

Thanks for the letter Debbie!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will Our Hacketts Please Stand Up

During the last half of the 1800s there came and went through Taunton, MA, a whole slew (technical term) of Hacketts.  The trick was not to find them - the abundance of city directories listed them from year to year.

Who, however, were those most directly related to TRAEA's Grandma?  The choices were:

  • Benjamin the painter
  • Edward the upholsterer
  • Francis F. the junkman turned harnessman
  • George E. the laborer
  • Henry F. the moulder
  • Myron H. the carpenter
  • Nancy the widow 
  • (No first name) the laborer
  • Philander the laborer
  • William the furnaceman turned moulder
  • William the upholsterer
  • William the hairdresser
  • William the moulder (another one)
  • William H. the farmer
  • William H. the stone mason and
  • William M. the laborer

Whew!  I really wanted to see everyone pretty much at the same time.  Sure.  Being a pencil-and-paper sort of researcher, I folded a blank standard sheet of along the longer side to create "strips."  I ended up needing multiple sheets, so an 11"x17" sheet of paper would have been better.  But that's hindsight.  A spreadsheet might also work for those who prefer computer analysis.

I wrote the name of one Hackett at the top of each strip, followed by the first year I found that person in a directory, their profession that year and their address.  Through the decades, those addresses and occupations changed - or people appeared and "removed" from the scene.  If information remained the same, I wrote just the directory year.  As information changed it was added to the growing information base.

Truth be told, I had pretty much known at the start that the most direct ancestors were William the furnaceman turned moulder and Francis F. the harness maker turned junkman.  And, since the number of Hacketts was mushrooming by the end of the century, this search spanned only about 50 years.

But the exercise served several purposes.  First by combining this with census data I felt more certain that a great uncle hadn't become lost somewhere.  Then it opened my eyes to a whole crop of possible relations (what's with all the Williams???).  And finally it provided some guidance when TRAEA's Grandpa and I visited Taunton.  It's unlikely that we saw all the same houses where these Hackett ancestors lived. But there was a sense of place - literally standing in the middle of the street and knowing it was the same neighborhood where some of my Hackett ancestors lived.  Way cool!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cookie Tree 2011

Wendy suggested that I include a picture of the actual cookie tree - great idea!  When that posting appeared, however, TRAEA's Grandma was nowhere near ready to display cookies.  They weren't baked, and the tree wasn't up.  But everything was ready by the time everyone arrived.

The non-edible decorations are purposely unbreakable, just in case there is a too-close encounter.  Not to worry, at least this year.  Kids and adults alike cruised the branches picking out a treat - and laying claim to a specific cookie for the future.  Although they're wrapped, the boxes around the tree have no presents except spare cookies wrapped for future display.