Monday, September 24, 2012

My Mother is Not a Genealogist

My mother liked her stories.  I can imagine her being the quiet one, sitting by with a book while the adults talked.  She said her ancestors came from Connecticut.  She said her cousin Edith disappeared.  She pointed out Lucius Colman's name on the bridge near her house.  Lucius and Lucien were the twins, she said, her great-uncles.  When she was twelve she visited in Holyoke.

Mom's photograph of Samuel and Nabby Colman's grave in Richfield Springs, NY was the beginning of my search for family history.  She transcribed the stone - inaccurately.

Except for the witch, she was only interested in people named Coleman.  When I told her that further research indicated we weren't descended from Susanna North Martin after all, she continued to tell people about the witch in our family tree.  She never forgave Governor Jane Swift for pardoning the accused at Salem.

I spent a lot of time searching for Edith Colman.  Sure, she showed up in the 1880 census with her parents near Cooperstown.  But anything could have happened in the 20 years until the 1900 census. Lots of women married, changed their names, moved west, died in childbirth.  Where did Edith go?  The world of searchable newspapers at finally yielded her story.  It is a tragic one after all, but that is a story for another day.  When I finally got the facts together for Mom, she didn't remember Edith.  But over the years I have enumerated Edith's descendants, and I may meet one in person next month.

Every time we drove up Rt. 91 she remarked on the Holyoke exit.  It was another world for a 12 year old from the country - apartment blocks with courtyards and laundry hanging in between.  I would prompt her, "Uncle.....?" First names, last names; were they Brodericks or Meeneghans?  I may never know. They were cousins.  Just like the cousins in East Springfield they used to visit on the farm.  I'm still looking for the right relationship to place them on the famiy tree.
Social notes in small town newspapers from the early 1900s are a gold mine for family historians.  Teas, vacations, visits from successful adult children all are revealed by the roving reporters.  I found Mom's school plays, Girl Scout camp adventures, and finally in 1936, a trip to Holyoke.  Who did she visit?  Relatives!

[From the Utica Daily Press, Friday, July 17, 1936]


  1. My father-in-law told me I was wrong. His family was Dutch not German. I finally gave up and decided that I would concentrate on future generations knowing the truth. I think this is what we have to do since old family stories and faded memories have to be put aside. Best that children and grandchildren remember something else about the old people in our families.

    We have to hope that we are not so unhappy in our old age.


  2. Lisa Manley LancianoMarch 16, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    Captain Samuel Colman is my 4X great grandfather. I am descended from his daughter Caroline (Colman) Maynard on my paternal line. Caroline married Thomas J. Maynard and moved from Otsego, New York to Lenawee County, Michigan in the 1850's. They had two children (perhaps more, I only have two on record and her brief obituary states she is survived by two children), a son, Thomas Maynard and daughter, Martha Maynard. I have photos of both Thomas Maynard and Martha Maynard as well as Thomas' line going forward to the present. If you would like more information on my research on Caroline, please email me at

    Best regards,

  3. Lisa Manley LancianoMarch 16, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Also, if you have any account, you can view my profile for Caroline (Colman) Maynard here.