Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mini Bio: Carrie York, Minneapolis Artist

Carrie York (1865-1955) was my husband's great grand aunt.  Aunt Carrie's name is recognized by everyone in our family (even though most living today never knew her) because she was a prolific artist, and we all have at least one of her paintings or other works of art in our homes.

She is remarkable because she actually made her living as an artist.  (Not a common thing for a woman in the late 19th/early 20th century in Minneapolis).  She not only sold her oil paintings, painted china, and pyrographic art, but she also hosted studio showings and gave art lessons.

From The Minneapolis Journal, Friday evening, 12 Dec 1902  
The Jennie Maloney mentioned in the above article is Carrie's aunt, although she is only a year older than Carrie.  Jennie herself was a milliner and respected business woman in Minneapolis, and later Lincoln, Nebraska (but that's for another blog post!)

painted platter given to her brother Joe York, Christmas 1908
In October, I met up with some descendants of the Maloney family (County Galway, Ireland to Kenosha, Wisconsin to Hopkins and Minneapolis, Minnesota), and it turns out all of them (descended from three different Maloney siblings) knew of Carrie York and had had or still had some of Carrie's paintings in their family.  Bob Miller, whose grandmother was another of Carrie's aunts, Nellie Maloney Miller, actually ran home to get his painting, and brought it back to the Hopkins historical Society to show us!

Mary Anderson Raabe (whose great grandfather was Carrie York's uncle Michael Maloney) found Carrie's name on her grandmother's list of wedding gifts - Carrie York had given her cousin Marie Maloney an oil painting to celebrate her nuptials!

Carrie never married, and from a sweet letter we found from her father (Robert W. York), it seems there might possibly have been some romantic disappointment with a fella at some point.  Still, through other newspaper snippets in the society columns of the day, we see Carrie was active in social clubs and busy with her art.  She also helped to raise her twice-widowed brother Joseph's two sons, and cared for her aged mother, Cecelia Maloney York, who lived to be 96.

Carrie's artistic style was after the fashion of the day: copying prints or photographs for her oil paintings.  Like or dislike her style, you have to respect her for making a living with her art!

And our family can thank her for decorating all our homes as well!

Carrie York  (1865-1955)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Technology Tuesday: Then and Now, What Was There?

I recently stumbled across a new website that is really fun for history buffs, and works fabulously for genealogists!  It's called What Was There? and it allows you to take an old photograph - say, of your great, great, great grandparents' house, like this:

Then find the place where it belongs on a Google Streetview map, like this:

...and position the old photo directly over the current image, then use a nifty "fade bar" to fade the image from then to now!  When you've got the fade bar about in the middle, the results can even be ghostly!  (Can you see the ghosts of the Mann family hanging around their house about 130 years later?)  How cool is that? 

To see this image on What Was There?, go here: and try the fade bar for yourself.  Then try uploading a family photo of your own to see how cool it is!  It's free, it's easy, and it's a fun little bit of history to share with your family and the world.

Be sure to come back and let me know if you try it - I'd love to see what you come up with!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

One hundred seventeen years later... My answer to the Genealogy Photo Challenge

Have you heard of photos taken in the "Dear Photograph" style?  No?  I hadn't either.  But when I read about the Genealogy Photo Challenge being put on by The Family Curator blog for World Photography Day on August 19th, I realized I had already taken THE perfect "Dear Photograph" photo!

In a nutshell, a "Dear Photograph" photo is when you find an old picture, you go to the same spot where the photo was taken years ago, you hold up the photo and frame it in the same perspective, and take a new photo!  Very cool idea.

My entry, which I've already shared on my "Graveyard Hopping" blog, is absolutely genealogy-related as well as cemetery-related.  The vintage photograph shows my great, great, great grandfather standing at the grave of my great, great, great grandmother (his wife of 52 years), circa 1893.

John Mann at Nancy Mann's grave.

I got this fabulous photo from a distant cousin I met on  She lives in the Pacific Northwest.  I, however, happen to live just miles from the very cemetery where these ancestors are buried!  I made the hop, took the photo, and here is my "Dear Photograph," past-is-present picture:

The grave of Nancy Power Mann, circa 1893, and 117 years later in 2010

In the present, the plot looks a little forlorn. The stones surrounding Nancy's grave and the small headstone on her plot are gone, as is the urn that stood at the top of the family headstone.  Originally there also seem to have been one or two small trees or ornamental shrubs planted on Nancy's grave; those are gone as well.  

I felt an awesome connectedness with my 3x great grandpa as I looked at the spot from the very same perspective as the picture of him standing at the grave.  

This kind of past-is-present photo is a really neat thing to try, and is an especially good project for the genealogically-minded person.  If you'd like to see lots more of these, be sure to visit The Family Curator blog on August 19th, when the Curator will post a round-up article of contributions in honor of World Photography Day.  I know I won't miss it!  

Along these very sames lines, I have an awesome new website to share with you in my next post!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A day late, but not a dollar short: National "Curling is Cool" Day!

[Yesterday was] National "Curling is Cool" Day. Who knew there was a day to celebrate the obscure sport of curling?? Interesting, too, because I just made a "genealogical" purchase on eBay last week: a pin from the curling club that was founded by my great grandfather, Charles Burton Lenont. The Club, called the Virginia-Lenont Curling Club, was founded in the first half of the 20th century. I can't get more precise than that until we open our cabin for the summer and I can get up north to do research at the Virginia (Minnesota) Historical Society. The Virginia-Lenont Curling Club existed until it was merged with three other clubs in the area in 1998.

It's interesting to google the name of the club and to see that most of the listings about it are obituaries. People were so proud to have belonged, and enjoyed curling so much, that their families listed the name of their curling club in their obituary! One such club member was my own great-auntie and C.B. Lenont's daughter, Joy Lenont Giblin, who passed away in 2009.

A biographical write-up of C.B. Lenont reads:
He was one of the founders of the Virginia Curling Club and an enthusiastic follower of this Scottish sport throughout his life. In 1944 he established a perpetual trust, the proceeds from which are used in an annual tournament for the Lenont Trophy and at the discretion of the trustees in furthering interest in this winter sport.

So, I'm a day late for the holiday, but not a dollar short! I bought the pin on eBay as part of a "lot" of curling club pins. I don't know anything about curling - I just wanted the one pin. Within 24 hours of receiving the lot, I turned around and listed it and resold it for the same amount I paid for it - basically getting my pin for free!

It's just a fun little piece of my family's history to have. Wishing you a belated Happy "Curling is Cool" Day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

After the first excitement of starting your family tree fades, and you're left with a lot of pruning to do

When I first started my genealogy research - really started it, as in got a software program, joined, etc. - I was so excited just to plow right in and start adding as much as I could to my family tree! Pretty soon I had dozens of limbs and branches, covered with little shaking leaves... you know the excitement, don't you?

I added and added and added. Wow! My father's line went directly back to Sir Thomas More! My mother is a direct descendant of the bastard brother of William the Conquerer! Amazing stuff!

Sir Thomas More    William the Conquerer

The problem with all that amazing stuff is that so much of it was wrong. Wrong or unprovable. I knew so little about what I was doing that I started out by accepting every Ancestry "hint" and taking other people's undocumented word for things.

Sadly, after a year or more of this jubilantly adding generation after generation to my tree, I found myself having to become a careful tree surgeon - pruning incorrect people off it one by one by one. On Ancestry and many software programs you can't just lop off one branch of a family tree, you have to take it off person by person. And when you have added hundreds of people incorrectly (or accidentally added dozens of duplicates, as I had also done) it takes a long time to get your tree straightened out.

So if you are just starting out, take my advice. It's thrilling to find more and more info about your family, but slow down, and learn as much as you can about what you're doing as you do it. Learn about how to avoid adding duplicates to your tree. Learn about how to judge whether or not the "hint" you're being shown is a valid one. Don't just add people willy-nilly to your tree. Believe me, further down the line, when you've got several thousand people on your tree, but you are reasonably certain that they all actually belong there because you've done your homework, you will thank me!

Next time: How to learn about genealogy research - for free! You don't have to pay for your genealogy education, and I'll show you lots of resources to get you started!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The importance of sharing your past while you're still here to share it

My first post... is not written by me. It's actually from a column that my grandfather, Cedric Adams, wrote more than fifty years ago in the Minneapolis Star (now the StarTribune). His daily column was called "In This Corner" and he wrote about everyday things. On this day his mind was on the death of loved ones, and how he wished he had asked them more when they were still here.

My mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago. She was a sweet and winsome woman. Her death left a void and a chain of circumstances about which I have wondered since. There are so many things to do when death comes that should have been done long before. This was true in connection with the death of my own mother. And it probably pertains to most families when a loved one goes. Death invariably brings about a gathering of the clan....  The nearest of kin and friends gather again....  The details of the death are gone over again.  Episodes of the life of the departed member are recalled.  Gradually the combination of food and happier talk relieves the tensions, stops the tears.  How much better it would be if we didn't wait for death to create this kind of reunion....

In the case of my mother-in-law, and my own mother as well, there were discovered batches of love letters their respective spouses had sent prior to their marriages.  I read my mother's long after she died.  Think how much richer that experience might have been had just the two of us sat down while mother read them aloud to me.  She could have elaborated on her own courtship, told me something about my father as a swain.  I would have had a much better understanding of the letters and I'm sure my mother would have enjoyed going over them with me.  We never thought of it.  Nor did my mother-in-law with her children.  Every family has an old trunk of two stashed away in the attic.  In it probably are mother's wedding dress and perhaps one of the wedding invitations and maybe the newspaper clippings of the event.  Why keep them buried up there only to be discovered after death has come?  Why not call the family together, maybe this afternoon, trot out all this stuff, have some laughs, some gaiety over them?

There's another consideration - family albums and scrapbooks.  My wife has a very well-kept scrapbook.  I refer to it as her "girl graduate book."  Frankly, I'm not very fond of it because there are pictures of all her early boy friends, letters from some of them, and a few pictures of her that make me wonder how in the world I ever fell for her - cloche hat, bangs down to her eyeballs, the most unbecoming dresses and coats I've ever seen.  But we get it out periodically, she giggles and guffaws, I snort and wish I had kept a record of my early flames.  And some of them weren't too bad, either.  It was that "girl graduate book," however, that launched me on a scrapbook for my own family.  We had saved pictures and clippings and letters, but they were scattered in the attic, in the basement, in closets, some were at the office.  I gathered the whole shebang in a heap and the girls at the office have been kind enough to spend an hour or so a week sorting and mounting and pasting these little gems in their chronological order.  By Christmas we hope to have it complete.  If it is, our whole family is going to sit down together to go over it.  I like that idea much better than to wait until I'm gone.  
I like that idea better too.  I'll have to ask my dad if they ever did sit down to look at Grandpa Cedric's scrapbooks with him.  Cedric died at the age of 58 - less than three years after he wrote this article.  He died fifty years ago today, in fact - February 18, 1961.

Cedric Adams   May 27, 1902 - February 18, 1961

Thanks for helping me start off my genealogy blog, Grandpa Cedric. 
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