Back row-James Harrison Coombs, Sarah Frances VanSciver Coombs, Mabel VanSciver Coombs Sever, Newton Stockton Sever, Middle row-Susanna Fenimore, Caroline Drinker Fenimore Sayre, Elizabeth Fowler Coombs, unknown man, Front row-Helen Fowler Coombs Browne

Friday, June 4, 2010

a small world...


I inherited dozens and dozens of old family photos from the Beverly, Edgewater Park and Willingboro New Jersey area. In one album, I found this photograph labeled Sam LaCorte killed in World War I. My wish was to find a descendant of this family and return this treasure to them. I posted the photo on facebook as several area folks are friends there. I knew there was family still in the area, but had no luck in finding them.
Fast forward a few weeks later to my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower in Edgewater Park. I was introduced to her delightful grandmother, Anita who grew up in Edgewater Park. We started talking about her family and mentioned she had an Italian grandfather who lived in Willingboro. I asked her his name and incredibly it was LaCorte. Sam was her uncle! She knew he served in the war but they had no photographs of him. Anita and her sisters were thrilled to hear about this wonderful photograph and I look forward to returning this treasure to them. I did learn later that Sam was not killed in the war, but did not live many years after serving his country.
It appears that Sam's family were farmers and they lived near my grandmother's family's farm.
So, after over 90 years, Sam LaCorte will be remembered again by his family.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ralston Laird at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania!



It has been a week since the opening of the exhibit honoring my ancestor, Ralston Laird, at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I have deliberately waited to write about about this evening. How do you do justice to describing one of the most amazing nights of your life?
It is every genealogist's dream to have their ancestors recognized and remembered. The artist, Duke Riley, created the most amazing pieces of art honoring my great great grandfather's brother. He was also so gracious to me and generous in stating that he could not have done this project without my research. It has been such an honor for me to meet Duke and work with him. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about him and seeing the work he has produced over the years. He is an incredibly talented artist who also brings humor to his work. His dedication and daring are so inspiring.
To my great surprise, I was asked to talk about my research at the opening. I am a shy person who does not enjoy being the center of attention and I had nothing prepared. Somehow, I was able to make my way to the podium and speak to the crowd. Amazingly, I was not nervous and was able to talk about Ralston and his family. The crowd was so kind and seemed truly interested in what I had to say. Several people had questions and HSP would like me to write an article for their interactive website.
If you live in the Philadelphia area, I would strongly encourage you to visit HSP and see this wonderful project. I would like to thank Duke for his interest in Ralston and his family and for his kindness to me. I would also like to acknowledge a fellow researcher, Lynn Jefferies, who died several years ago. Lynn felt very strongly that I should publish an article on Ralston Laird. Through her volunteer work at the Camden County Historical Society, she would find various little tidbits about Ralston and Petty's Island and send them to me. I wish that she was here to share this wonderful moment with me.
Here is a link to my photographs from opening night.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=189205&id=778298272&l=cb87dbdfee

My husband's blog on the evening:

A blogger's account of the evening:

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
http://www.hsp.org

Links to other articles and for Duke Riley's website can be found on my previous post about Ralston Laird.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Students at Farnum School
Beverly, Burlington County NJ
circa 1898

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Celebrating Ralston's life!

I am passionate about my ancestors! Some of them are especially dear to my heart, and I am happy to say that one of my favorite relatives is being recognized for the truly remarkable man he was.
Several months ago, I was contacted by an artist named Duke Riley. He was hired to create an exhibit on Petty's Island for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He found my research online on my great great grandfather's brother, Ralston Laird and decided to focus his project on Ralston! This really is a dream come true for me. I am so grateful that Duke has brought my ancestor to life, he is the perfect person to tell Ralston Laird's story to the world.
Ralston Laird came over to the United States from Donegal, Ireland in the early 1850's. He first lived in Philadelphia then moved to Petty's Island which is between Philadelphia and Camden New Jersey. He lived there for over 50 years and was proclaimed the "King."
Ralston and his wife had ten children--four of his daughters were born deaf. The girls eventually attended the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, three of them married deaf men they met at school. The newspaper photo above shows Ralston as an old man by his home on the island with his ferocious dog Prince. Prince was a guard dog who protected Ralston's deaf daughters. With all of Ralston's family trials, he was kind and helpful to other families, especially fellow immigrants to his island.
Thursday night, February 4, 2010, my family and I will be attending the opening for Duke's incredible project at the Historical Society. If you would like to read more about about Ralston's life, Duke's project and his other work, I have provided links below.
http://www.philagrafika2010.org/artist/duke-riley
http://dukeriley.info
http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/01/28/duke-riley-pettys-island-philagrafika
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/duke-riley/open-letter-to-hugo-chave_b_435921.html

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Asbury Park New Jersey circa 1910


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

John Henry VanSciver & Mary Stokley family circa 1900

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

I love the headstone of my fourth great grandmother, Sarah Sanborn Chapman. She is buried in the middle of a farm field in Brownington, Orleans County, Vermont. The North Brownington Cemetery is the town's first burial ground. I do have her ancestry but know little else about her. This area of Vermont is still unspoiled and rural, her life could not have been an easy one. I hope she was happy and loved.
The verse on her tombstone reads:
Although of a mother berefit
Why sho'd we longer complain
Since all troubles on earth she has left
Forever in heaven to reign.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Barnegat Bay, Long Beach Island, New Jersey 1906

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday-Harriet Vandegrift's Bible

I have many treasures from my mother's side of the family, but sadly, very few from Dad's family. My Dad grew up in a large family during the depression
One "treasure" I do have is the small red leather New Testament Bible that belonged to my great great grandmother, Harriet H. Vandegrift.
Harriet was 5 years old when she received this Bible in 1847 from her Sunday School teacher, Rebecca Toy. Harriet attended Sunday School in either Riverton or Palmyra, Burlington County, NJ.
Harriet was the second oldest child of Daniel Vandegrift and Mary Applegate. Mary and Daniel eventually added 12 more children to their family. All 14 Vandegrift children grew up to adulthood and married. Only one did not have children. Harriet married Franklin Kressler, a Civil War veteran, and had three children, twins Mary Catherine and John Franklin, and Lizzie. John Franklin Kressler was my great grandfather.
One of my greatest genealogy wishes would be to find photographs of Harriet and her parents. I have worked on this family so much over the past 15 years and they are dear to my heart. I am so grateful to have Harriet's little Bible--it truly is a treasure .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Wall Rope, Beverly, Burlington County, NJ before August 1923


Saturday, January 2, 2010

the Coombs family creativity gene...
My mother was a very creative person. She decorated for all the holidays (Halloween, St. Patrick's Day etc.) in the 1950's and 1960's when very few people did so. We spent many hours when I was a child working together on embroidery and arts and crafts project. She had beautiful gardens. I did not inherit her love of gardening, but would consider myself a creative person.
Older relatives always said she took after her grandfather, James Harrison (Harry)Coombs, born in 1846. Granddad Coombs was a farmer for most of his life though at one point he ran a dairy in Beverly, New Jersey. He was referred to as "the boss Kiefer Pear grower" in the Burlington Gazette newspaper in the 1890's. I have an incredible doll's bedroom set he carved for a cousin, Martha Bishop, so she would stop sucking her thumb. It likely dates from the late 1870's and has a magnificent bed, bureau and baby bed.
Granddad was most known for the amazing displays he created for various farm fairs in New Jersey. The photograph above is undated, but includes a figure of Teddy Roosevelt, so this would likely date from his presidency. Harry sits to the left side (second from the left) looking tired, still holding one of the tools he used to create this wonderful display. I would think he had to feel enormously proud as well.
If you click on the photo, you can see a much larger view which will show all the details of this work of art. It is made from many Burlington County fruits and vegetables. I can't even begin to imagine all the hours it took to imagine this scene and then to create it!
Working with Grandad Coombs are his cousin, Howard "Howdy" Dobbins (seated next to him) and William Prickett on the right hand side. Mr. Prickett was Harry's best friend. William's son, Samuel Prickett was a professional photographer in Burlington, so I have many photographs of the Coombs family.

Though I never knew my great grandfather, I do feel a strong connection with him. We share the same love and joy of creating beauty. I wonder who will be the creative one in the next generation?

Friday, January 1, 2010

And so it begins...






My plan for 2010 was to start a blog about my family research, so here I am. I have been researching for about 15 years now and it is my passion.

Genealogy is not just about names and dates--it is about the people and their incredible stories. I firmly believe that we can understand and know ourselves better by understanding and learning about our ancestors.
My grandmother, Helen Fowler Coombs Browne, pictured with her dog Shep, lived with us throughout almost my entire childhood. She was born in 1888 and her grandmother ( born 1810) and her great aunts (born in the 1820's) lived with her family. I am so lucky to have heard first hand accounts of these people who were born so many years ago. I have also inherited many wonderful photographs.
I hope to find cousins through this blog and to share family photographs and stories with any of my family members and members of the genealogy community who are interested. By sharing these stories, my hope is that none of my ancestors will ever be forgotten.