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

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