Monday, March 28, 2011

A golden legacy

Many of us first cousins have in our safety deposit boxes or, hopefully in a safe place, small gold nuggets that we have inherited. Mother gave each of my siblings and me a few nuggets in the late 1970s. I knew they were from Uncle Steve, but recently when I asked, neither Aunt Bobbi nor Aunt Kathy could remember from their early girlhood who he was in relation to them.
So I brought the subject of the nuggets up in a conversation with my sister Jane Leslie and she said she had a letter from Mother telling us about “Uncle Steve.” She promptly produced it. I wish I were as organized as JL is. So for our edification here is our mother’s recollection. You never know what information you will find in a family letter.  I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Marron Family and Thomas Kendrick.

How did Thomas Kendrick meet Catherine Marron? We will probably never know.San Francisco in the 1870s was a bustling, growing city. Though the gold rush was over people were still seeking opportunities in California. Catherine Marron was in San Francisco around 1873. So far an immigration record that is conclusively hers has eluded me. A Catherine Marron arrived in New York on the ship the City of London in 1872. She was 18 years old and while she might have been with family or friends there are no other Kendrick listed on the passenger list. Having arrived in New York, was she met by family? She was in San Francisco by 1973/74. Did she travel by train on the new transcontinental railroad? Or did she travel by ship to Panama; crossing Panama for another ship on the Pacific side? She joined at least two brothers in San Francisco, Patrick who in 1870 was journeyman plasterer in San Francisco and John whose location I can't prove as yet for 1870. A sister Nora supposedly also came around this time. The girls earned money as seamstresses.
However Thomas met Catherine, by 1875 they were spending time together. Thomas, who had run away to sea when he was very young, had led a hard life at sea (see my first blog posting), In 1875 he was only 23, but had been on his own for many years. Any schooling had ended at a young age. Later pictures show that he must have been handsome with dark hair and light eyes – his height according to his sailor’s records was 6’2”. We have no early pictures of Catherine (at least not that I have seen.)What we do have is a note sent to Catherine by an ardent suitor Thomas. It was so precious to Catherine that she treasured it all her life. Apparently Thomas and Catherin had a falling out around Valentine's Day in 1875. While going through family papers Aunt Bobbi found it. Thomas wrote to assure her that his love was sincere and lasting. Considering that he was a man more use to using his hands than being articulate in speech or writing. it couldn’t have been an easy note to write. A note from Papa written in 1920 accompanies it. Clearly Papa, a man so articulate, appreciated and saved this letter after his mother's death. With respect for his emotions and his writing limitations I include it below. First Papa's note.

Dear Miss
I seat myself to rite you this note to let you see that my love was not falls as you said it was in your valentine that[you] sent to me today. thir never was no person in this world that heald so much love for [you] as I did for you. For every time I look around me I thought and imagine I could see you but when I came closer I could see you did not think as much of me for you took it so cool that you hardly spoke to me, but I hope I never fall in love so much again.  I hope now you will change your opinon when you read this note; I think just as much of you as ever; So good night to you and sleep well.
Thomas Kendrick
I thank you very much for your nice valentine
Thomas' earnestness must have won the day because they were married on May 25th of the same year at Mission Dolores. More about Thomas and Catherine next time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Treasures in a Trunk

        Part of the fun in researching a family's history is finding little bits, or maybe a lot, of the personality or character of an ancestor.  Though I knew my grandfather for 21 years, I never had a chance, or even an interest, to ask him about his World War I experiences.  I had read his memoirs as a young adult, and I thought I had a strong sense of who he was. However, I was unprepared for my reaction when I found  "pieces" of his experience in his 1918 Army trunk. There were many "momentos," from his time in France and  the Battle of Verdun. I will share them as I find them. Among them, lying there at the bottom of the trunk, was a helmet, battered and unlovely. I picked it up and studied it, trying to imagine my dignified elderly grandfather (Papa) wearing it, and more significantly needing it. 
     Very patriotic with - I believe - a strong sense of history, Papa was almost 40 years of age when The War to end all wars began. He had a growing family. He didn't have to serve, but he wanted to serve. Papa actively sought the opportunity to go to the front. Many items in the trunk speak to the power and the pain (he was gassed.) of his experience.  Among the pictures and clippings was a single piece of newsprint with a poem. The notation said it came from Yankee Doings, 1926. [Yankee Doings is a newsletter for the 26th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.] I felt a connection between that preserved helmet and the sentiment in the poem.   Why did he save this poem?   Something in it resonated with him, and, looking at his helmet, the poem reached me as well.  I share it here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whaling records put hole in my Kendrick brick wall

   *Note to family - a brick wall to a genealogist is an apparent dead end or at least a stumbling block in uncovering an ancestor's past.          
         My great grandfather Thomas Kendrick settled in San Francisco in the early 1870’s, married and what followed is well documented.  It is his life before settling in San Francisco that is baffling.  All we knew was second hand from my grandfather Charles or from my aunts' recollections of what he had said.  I had the name of his parents from my grandfather’s memoir: John Kendrick and Maria Howard. Thomas said he was born in Warren, Rhode Island in 1852; that was what he stipulated in census records. However, I had searched for years without luck in finding a birth record, a census record, anything that would tie him to his stated place of origin.  What we knew from him was that he had run away to sea from New Bedford at the age of fourteen.  He had sailed on the whaler Progress and the Sea Breeze.  Based on that information in 2002 I wrote to the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts.  New Bedford P.L. has a comprehensive card index (maybe 30-40 drawers) of sailors from New England. They have been converting these records into a digital format, searchable on the internet, but their project only goes as far as 1860.  My great grandfather was born in 1852 so my search for his sailing records started with 1866.  An unsatisfying response from the librarian at New Bedford only added to my negative search for birth records, census records, even immigration records.  According to his San Francisco census records of 1890 and 1900, his parents were born in Ireland, but so far no immigration records have surfaced to show their arrival in the US.
                A planned trip last Fall to the NEHGS (New England Historical Genealogical Society) inspired me to tackle this problem again.  I did a newspaper search in the SF Chronicle and Examiner archives for Thomas Kendrick and found an informative article on occasion of the 50th wedding anniversary of Thomas and Catherine Kendrick.  In it he details highlights of his adventurous life including a stay in the Ascension Islands (South Pacific) where he lived with the natives for months before seeking work on a whaler the Sea Breeze that had stopped in the Islands to take on provisions.  I felt inspired! 

              After flying to Boston, I rented a car and drove down to New Bedford, MA.  Formerly a busy whaling port, it is an attractive town with great pride in its seafaring and whaling history.  Since it was Columbus Day everything was closed, so I drove over to Warren, Rhode Island to see the town where Thomas Kendrick was born. I took note of the Catholic Church, St Mary by the Bay, which was founded in 1850 to serve the newly arrived Catholics.  I would have to see if a baptismal record might exist at a later date. That day the Church was closed. 
                The following day I went to the New Bedford Public Library and looked through their whaling records and the drawers of indexed sailors names.  There was nothing in the “K” drawer, but I was unwilling to be defeated.  Suddenly a light bulb went on.   These index cards were transcriptions from original records.  Transcriptions as every researcher knows are not infrequently miscopied and/or misspelled.  A “K” could appear to be an “R” or an “H” so I checked… and there it was.  Hendricks, Thomas, age 20, 5’2” black hair, blue eyes.  He was shipping out on the Bark Progress in 1870.  The height wasn’t right, nor was the age, but the ship was one he’d mentioned.  With this information in hand I went down to the Whaling Museum Research Library (a real treasure for genealogists) and asked to see the original ship’s crew list for the 1870 voyage of The Progress… and there he was. It looked like a “K” to me and it said he was 6 feet 2 inches (not 5’2”) and born in Warren Rhode Island.  I was elated. 
                Further conversation with the librarian there and a review of my newspaper article from 1925, prompted me to ask for information on the ship Sea Breeze  The Library had the Sea Breeze log book from a whaling voyage that covered a period from 1871 to 1873. On May 11, 1872 the Captain noted that the ship stopped at Ascension Island where he took on three sailors, which he named.  The third name wasThomas Kenrick, Seaman.  The new sailors agreed to work as far as San Francisco. The librarian and volunteer were almost as excited as I was.  This was confirmation of great grandfather Kendrick’s story.  I wanted to read the rest of the log book, but didn’t have time.  I knew I would return to New Bedford in the future to research more, but for now I had accomplished my mission.  I proved that Thomas had indeed shipped out of New Bedford on the ship Progress.  I had the records to prove it.