Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Organizing Kenneth's Stuff

What do you do after you get to load about half a dozen boxes of miscellaneous family memorabilia into your car? Well, after getting it safely home you start sorting through it, of course. And sorting. And sorting. A little over a month later, I still don’t know what I have.

All of this came from my uncle who was sorting it our very slowly before he became unable to continue it. We’ve all know at least a person or two who always seems to be in the middle of working on that project, but it’s scattered all over the place and only they can make sense of it. That is me exactly. Don’t touch my desk, as I know what everything is and where it is (I think!), but you’ll never be able to find anything in the mess. I think I might get that trait through my mother’s family, particularly from her younger brother Kenneth. Oh wait, my father was a lot like that as well too and my mother and.... I’m doomed. 

Anyway, back to Kenneth’s papers. Slowly they are coming together and I am figuring out what is what. The next time I get to visit him, I should have a stack of photos to ask him about. My husband was gracious enough to scan most of the photos for me so that I can sort them and identify them in computer files. The originals are going into archival containers somewhat sorted by family groups. I have created two major family groupings at this point. There are Jennings and Wooster family pictures.

 William and Sarah (Damery) Jennings with 8 of their children

The Jennings family is that of my maternal grandmother. She was one of 12 children of her mother’s. Her father also had six older children by his first wife who had died at about age 28. All of these children were born in County Cork, Ireland, on a small farm near the village of Skibbereen. A few of them had left the farm and immigrated to America. Lily, Kitty, Ruby and Susie were the aunts I heard my mother talk about while growing up. And Aunt Elizabeth always seemed to be there amongst things too, but not at the same time as Lily. It was my teenage years that I connected the dots, Lily, as she got older didn’t like her nickname and reverted to her baptismal name of Elizabeth. The others were always by the nicknames that I now realize are for Katherine, Rebecca and Susan. I find pictures of them throughout this collection; particularly those of Elizabeth who never had any children, so much of her possessions went to her sister Alice, my grandmother.

Elizabeth had been quite adventurous, journeying to America where some of her siblings were and finding work in and near Boston as a domestic servant in the early 1900s. One family she worked for took her on something of a winter vacation in 1914. There is a scrapbook she kept that winter with pictures of her and several of the servants in and around Wilbur-by-Sea, Florida. Mr. J. W. Wilbur appears in a few of these pictures, an older man who was developing a resort and for whom the town was named. If he had enough money to do this, it is no wonder he could bring a number of servants along with him!  A few other people are identified in the pictures and two we know are her sister, Kitty, and the chauffeur is Edwin Healey who would later become Elizabeth’s husband. Others we’re not sure who they are. Is the man identified as Mr. Jolly really of that surname or just a happy fellow? We don’t know.

Alice joined her sisters here in the United States, trained to be a nurse and worked in Boston for a short time. World War I was happening and they needed nurses. Soon Alice was in the Army Nurse’s Corp. and headed for Texas. Fort Sam Houston and Fort Brown. There are a few pictures taken there and a few of some of the soldiers apparently in the cavalry stationed there. I don’t know who they are, except for one, a man by the name of Marion Wooster starts appearing in photographs. Here is where my other group of pictures begins. One of the papers with the photographs is a copy of their marriage certificate there in Texas. 

Marion is taking pictures where he is now stationed in Washington, D.C. and Alice has left the Army. Now there’s a baby carriage and pictures of Robert, their oldest child appearing. The years advance and Alice A., Lester and finally Kenneth are appearing in the pictures arranged in chronological order. I also find some papers that refer to a military bonus my grandmother received (grandfather also, but I haven’t found his papers). A house begins to appear as the backdrop as the children get older. I know from the family stories this house is theirs because of those bonuses. Some of these pictures I have seen before, others are new to me, particularly of my mother standing in the yard as a teenager having her picture taken.

All these photographs and papers that go along with them. Some census records, some newspaper clippings, receipts, a few letters and cards that I need to explore. Although I’ve mentioned them as if they were in order, nothing was quite that way when I got them. Some were and then others were scattered all over. Other things were there too, advertisements from the current day, notes from a meeting at the historical society, and all those kinds of things we set down intending to deal with later, but don’t.

So, how do you organize all this? I really don’t know. I’m still sorting through to discover all the items that are there and trying to sort into rough groupings. I’ve gotten containers that are acid free to store papers in and hope to eventually get everything sorted and identified. It is an ongoing process and I discover more groupings within these groupings as I work my way through. Hopefully before too long, I will have all the digital images created for the important items (not the junk mail!) and can put them together in a logical sequence. Then I can start making copies of everything to distribute to the many cousins that have an interest. Just like everything in genealogy, it is a process and I will probably organize them a different way as time goes by and I discover new information and connections between things. The important thing is to begin.

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