Longevity and the next 30 years

Within the past year, I looked online to see how long I might live.

The results were sobering – ranging from 86 to 96 to 102! Since I’m just now turning 66, that means I might have 30 years left – my Third 30. What will I do during those years?

A Social Security info sheet says that “the typical 65-year-old today will live to age 85;” more than a third of us will live to age 90 and one in seven will live to 100. So, maybe I have 20 years; maybe 30 years. But let’s say I’m beginning my Third 30, just for fun. I had a paternal grandmother who lived to 100 and a maternal great grandmother who made it to 93. Genetics is on my side.

To kick off our Third 30, my husband and I both retired, downsized our stuff, sold our house in the upper Midwest, moved back to the east coast, bought 3.7 wooded acres in a rural county, and are building a cozy compact house. Those were many changes in a relatively short space of time, but we remain upbeat, energetic, and excited to have exactly the kind of one-level living we think we need at this stage. We hope this will be our last house, although considering our past behavior, perhaps not. My personal nomadic existence has historically involved 9 states, 2 foreign countries, 19 cities, and 30 dwellings – all in 66 years. Together, we have owned five houses ranging in size from 1,000 sf to 4,200 sf (not at the same time). This last house will be a little over 2,500 sf including guest rooms for our grown children’s visits.

We make frequent visits to our trees on a slope where the house will eventually sit. I imagine waking up in the morning looking at trees outside my windows, and wandering out to the screened porch to drink coffee. If we live there for many years to come, what will I be doing during my time there, once the building project is done, we are moved in, and everything is unpacked?

These questions are obviously not unique to my husband and me. All retirees face similar questions but maybe fewer realize how long they might be around to contemplate their Third 30. No, I don’t regret my decision to retire at age 65, and I have many interests but still… how will these Third 30 years play out?

I will think about all this in my blog, but right now, I’m heading out to walk my 3-mile circuit. The weather is lovely and it’s still cool.

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Family photograph from before 1927 when my grandmother (X marks her) died from pneumonia. Next to her is one of the twins — either Olive (my mother) or Rose (my aunt). It’s possible that the lady in the lace cap is the relative who lived to 93. Also possible that the man to the far left is my grandfather who I never met.

Genealogy is like crack

Major news: the 1940 US Census will become available this year in April to genealogical researchers and the general public. It’s the event of the decade, so to speak. Each census is released 72 years after it was taken. People are scrambling to get everything online and make it available to rabid consumers of family history data. Like me.

I first became aware of genealogy, although I had trouble learning to spell it, in a college library when I happened to come across a book in which I looked up my last name and found out that living in the western part of the country was a whole extended family of Hogles who had become professionals, made a lot of money, and had a zoo named after them in Utah! I was amazed and wondered if somehow we were related. I doubted it since that family was in the west and mine I knew had originated in upstate New York.

During a visit with my family when I was in my early 20s, I asked our dad to tell me about all the family members he could recall and how they were related to each other. Growing up, we had been told to call everyone older than us Uncle and Aunt, despite the fact that only two of them were technically an aunt and an uncle. So, I didn’t fully understand how everyone was related. He remembered an amazing amount of detail; I drew up a genealogy chart and tucked it away. I still have it, and most of it has turned out to be accurate.

So, what is it about genealogy that is so addicting? Maybe there’s some inner drive that makes some people so curious about the past and about networks between people. It might have something to do with a love of history, anthropology, and photography. Our parents kept scrapbooks, old newspapers describing famous events, and hundreds of photographs carefully kept in albums. Our dad took all the pictures. And our mother made notes on the back of who, when and where. The why part was missing usually. But most of the photos are identified.

Eventually, I ended up with all the old photos from our parents. My brother Don and I began preserving them in better-quality albums. My curiosity about these relatives persisted. I wanted to know where we came from originally. In the late 1990s, I began to explore connections on the internet. While our mother was still alive, I was able to find out for her what had happened to her father, when he died and where he was buried. I found out the names of his parents and where they were from. I found out about my grandmother’s birth family, that she was the oops baby, the youngest of five, and that her own grandmother had died giving birth to her only child, my great-grandmother.  I found out where my mother’s mother was buried. I visited several cemeteries and photographed stones. And I also found out the name of one of my great-grandfathers, Asahel Hogle, who lived his entire life in Canada. I then found out that the Hogle family was actually of Dutch origin, not English as our dad had thought. The Hogles came to New York State from Holland, possibly in the early 1700s or late 1600s. Another Hogle from Arkansas published a book about Hogles in June 2001 and I immediately obtained a copy. Our Hogle line began with Johannes Hoghil in 1715, who was killed by Indians in his 30s. He had a son, John, who died at the Battle of Bennington, fighting on the side of the Loyalists. Years later, his widow and sons left for Canada where the family remained for a century. Asahel’s son came back to New York in the 1800s and settled in Syracuse. Meanwhile, my mother’s Irish Canadian ancestors ended up in Vermont, a short hop across the border from their original home in Montreal. Her French ancestors appear to have lived near Troy, NY, for a long time, but I’ve not been able to trace them very far. Don and I did a Dead Ancestors Tour of upstate New York a few years ago, staying in B&B’s, visiting with town historians, spending a day at the NYS Archives in Albany, and photographing more stones.

I did learn to spell “genealogy.” It’s such an odd word, not spelled like other “ologies.” I’ve taken several great genealogy classes at the Wisconsin Historical Society, one of the most amazing organizations of its kind in America. I’m not making that up. They have incredible resources and dispense assistance from a beautiful old building on the UW campus. It’s a great place to do research, even if your ancestors are not from Wisconsin!

The turning point in the genealogy addiction occurred last month when I read about the release of the 1940 census data and signed up for a subscription to ancestry.com – they were offering a reduced rate in honor of the census release. As I began to explore the site, I was impressed at how much it had improved in ten years since I first used it. Then I began to think about getting Family Tree Maker, a reasonably priced ancestry.com product that links with online family trees being created by thousands of other genealogy nut-cases like me. So, I looked into it and noticed it could upload PAF files. I had used PAF some years back to start creating a family tree, but I liked the idea of being able to backup my files online and take advantage of the research efforts of others in adding to my own tree.

Last weekend, we successfully imported all 600+ people in my family tree into Family Tree Maker. As I began doing the tutorials, I was truly astounded at how sophisticated this program is! After working in it, then you can sync the data with your online tree! And then you can look at your tree from anywhere that you have an internet connection. What happened Saturday night is that for six straight hours after uploading my data and opening up ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, I sat in front of my computer oblivious to anything happening around me. Luckily there are no children at home or dogs to be walked. Perhaps I stopped to eat dinner.

When I look at my family tree, small leaves appear at the end of many names, waving gently and calling to me to click. That is the indication that ancestry.com has found some additional data elsewhere in other people’s trees that might be relevant to my ancestor. So, I click, quickly review the new data, and decide if I want to add it to my ancestor’s file. When I add new people, all of a sudden I then see additional small green leaves waving tantalizingly in a cyber breeze, beckoning my cursor to pet the leaf and see what’s hiding there! God, I can’t stop!! As of last night, I had added over 100 additional people to my tree, and wandered back to Belgium in the late 1500’s! How amazing and wonderful and exciting!!

My father’s line is originally Dutch, and my maternal line is French. But my Catholic Dutch grandfather (who probably didn’t know anything at all about his Dutch ancestry) married a Scotch Baptist and they spent the rest of their lives attending an Episcopal church. My mother’s mother, French Catholic, married into an Irish Catholic family who descends from Donegal, Ireland, via Montreal. But way back in the tangled lines of intermarriage, I found German, Belgian, and English ancestors, too. The whole of Europe runs in my DNA. Now I have a serious genealogy addiction fueled by the internet, ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker. And I need to go to Montreal, and back to Syracuse and Binghamton, and there are more graves to visit…. And the 1940 census will be available in just a few weeks!

The winter that wasn’t

Perhaps the reason I’ve been so out of sorts since early January is that we did not get winter here in Madison this year. We’ve had very little snow, many threats that did not materialize, and much warmer than normal temperatures. Last night, a couple inches of wet fluffy stuff came down, and the world look cleanly white this morning with everything frosted, but it will all melt this weekend when the temps hit 40 or more. I feel cheated of a season I love. We did not even get one blazing blizzard this year! Climate change is really annoying. Since our downsizing move to be closer to jobs this past year, I can now walk to work on campus. Rarely have I needed boots with ice-grippers on the bottom this season. Usually each year we have several days of nasty minus-something temps with wind, but this year, we only dipped into the single digits a couple times and I don’t think it was minus anything any time. Very disappointing. No skiing, no skating… it’s just not fair to live in Wisconsin and be deprived of winter.

Don’t tell anyone! Our winters here are much better than anywhere else in the midwest most years anyway, but we don’t want the rest of the country to be too aware of that fact. Slow change and growth is fine but floods of new arrivals in large numbers would not be a good idea. We have glorious summers here, but again, let’s just keep that a local secret. The folks cooking in Arizona summers can just head due north; don’t come this way! And you Texans…. just head west to NM mountains — higher altitudes, lower temps. We’re fine here in Wisconsin with our 5.7 million people. Let the growth continue…. slowly. 

What a difference a week makes

Now it’s March and much of our snow has already melted because of several warmer days and lots of Wisconsin sunshine. Yes, you read that right. Wisconsin sunshine. We do get quite a bit, but the media doesn’t focus on that. Since we’re the Upper Midwest, we’re supposed to be the Frozen Tundra, and certainly we have those days… ok, months. But there is also lots of sunshine. And that means that our steep driveway often loses its snow cover during a sunny day without our having to snow-blow.

Although it’s 21 degrees outside this morning, the sun is blinding, and the high will hit 35 today, and into the 40s by the weekend! Yes, indeed… looks like an early spring to me, so Jimmy the Groundhog hit it right this time. Smells like spring, too, and the birds are blathering about the yard every morning now. Can’t imagine what they’re finding to eat. Nothing in our yard, anyway.

The taste of spring makes it impossible to even remember the last snowfall. Too bad I’m indoors all day today at a desk, in front of a computer, in a windowless academic world.

More snizzle

Again today, we awoke to a thin layer of new snow hiding the dirty stuff and all the ruts in the pavement. It was lovely — big fluffy white stuff floating down. But it was a busy day in my windowless office and I didn’t go outside. By the time I went home, it was dark; a long day. But in the morning, we hear birds chirping, pretending that there is NOT a foot of snow on the ground still. But even with the snow, it still smells spring-like and I’m not the only person who thinks so! 

After six winters in Wisconsin, I can start to see some patterns. Sort of. To me, “winter” is Dec, Jan and Feb. So because it’s Feb 23, that means winter is almost over. And I don’t think I have cabin fever, although I have to admit, I’m now looking forward to long bike rides to work which might start in April. If it doesn’t rain too much. Winter went by quickly, but it does help that I work in an office all day and am thinking about other things besides what it looks like outside.

I’m greatly looking forward to genealogy classes starting March 6th at the Wisconsin Historical Society!

Fresh air

I’m spending too much time indoors. Now that I’m working again full-time, and in an office with no outside light coming in, I don’t get much fresh air during the winter. I’m beginning to feel impatient for spring to arrive so I can begin biking to work again. I’ve just been indoors way too much this winter. When I wasn’t working, I spent more winter time skiing, walking outdoors, or just even around the block. So, today, with the scent of spring conflicting with the view out my window of plenty of snow, I pulled on some boots, and took off to walk for half an hour down the street, across the bridge, through the park, and around the neighborhood back to my house. That was after two episodes of LOST5 on the treadmill, so tonight I’m tired. More taxes today, grocery store… that’s about it. And now it’s time to start another week. Already. How did this weekend go by so fast?

Still February

We woke up on this Saturday morning to overcast skies releasing a gentle flurry of flakes. Already, more cream cheese frosting snow covers the angular icy sharp edges of the landscape, and the weather channel announced a winter weather watch through Monday. I was a bit surprised; guess I’ve not been paying much attention to the weather lately. But last week, the temps seemed warmer; I could smell spring as the snow melted and revealed the flat brown mashed terrain of early spring earth. And the snow melted really quickly with daily doses of sun, even through the temperatures stayed below freezing for the most part.  But it’s Wisconsin and it’s still February, so truly, anything can happen. Time continues to accelerate — seems to me that winter is speeding by and in a flash the tulips and daffodils will poke through. But we’ve had nice-sized storms in March before, and even April. Once we had a weak snowfall on May 1st some years back.

It’s an odd day because there is nowhere to go and nothing special to do — nothing on the calendar. No one has reserved a time slot to view the house, so we don’t have to vacate for an hour here or there. We have no excuse to go look at condos or small houses for sale. No social engagements scheduled. It feels strange. Our lives are usually so programmed and busy. It feels good to just hang out. So, I opened the box containing my new table-top computer and am spending the day transferring files. I spent some time on the treadmill this morning; we ate a lovely big salad for lunch; I’m making homemade bean soup; and I have some work to do on the taxes. We are having a quiet companionable day at  home. What a treat! And we’ve decided probably not to go see Scorsese’s new movie which is getting lukewarm reviews — Shutter Island. We might go see Avatar in 3D; we’ve already seen it once. But I’ve never seen a 3D film so today might be it. Or later today, we might just watch a movie download from Netflix or amazon. And I might do another LOST episode on the treadmill.

Watching DVDs while I walk motivates my treadmill time.  I’m watching LOST5 this week, and have arrived at the part in the storyline where several of the Oceanic 6 realize that they are back on the island as they had hoped, but not in present time — they have somehow ended up in 1977 when the Dharma Initiative is in full swing. I noticed the embroidered peasant tops, the 70s hair, and heard the 70s rock music in the background. I began to wonder what it would feel like to end up back in the 70s if you weren’t planning to do that. In the 70s, I was in my 20s, some might say in my prime. Wouldn’t everyone love to relive that chunk of their lives when they looked the best they’ll ever look, when they are as free and unencumbered as they’ll ever be? My gut response to that question was NO… I would never want to go back, to relive any of those old bikini years. As much fun as I remember it was to be really thin and agile, energetic and able to backpack, rock-climb, hang-glide, and dance on tables… no thanks; I’m fine in the present, limited to remembering the past not returning to it.

Compared to the number of books I’ve read in my life, and the number of movies I’ve seen, there is only a very tiny percentage of books I’ve read more than once, or movies I’ve seen more than once. There is so much else to see and do that returning to something I’ve already seen and done holds little appeal. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy looking at my photo albums. Quite the contrary. But thinking about moving back to West Palm Beach or to Niamey, Niger, or anywhere in Africa, or returning to any of the towns/villages/cities I’ve lived in in the past… is not something I’d consider, I guess. Except maybe Syracuse NY, but that would be another post. And traveling back in time – there’s a lot of that in fiction and I really cannot imagine why it would be interesting to anyone. Because anyway, they say you can’t change anything when you go back in time. If you could. Go back in time.

Focus group at UW

I got an email last week asking if I would participate in a focus group about the transportation website for the U of Wisconsin. Although I’m trained in qualitative research, in fact I’d never actually been a participant in a focus group, so I decided to sign up even though I had other things I probably should have been doing. There was a bit of homework — we had to actually look at the site in advance so I came up with some things to look up and spent some time using the website. Then they asked would I bring a laptop if I had one, so that I could see the site during the discussion. So I did all this, brought my laptop into work, went to another building up to the 14th floor with a lovely view of the frozen lake, and spent 2 whole hours with a group of 7 participants and 2 facilitators, doing a focus group about improving a transportation web site. We looked at other school’s transportation website and talked about how we used it. There were a couple people who were major complainers. I had the feeling that they would be able to find something negative to say about virtually anything. They were examples of the chronically dissatisfied. But most of the participants were fairly cheerful.

I went back to my office, and the next day…. I actually filled out an evaluation form online about the focus group experience. I took time  fill in open text boxes with commentary, and answer structured questions. The day’s gonna come when I just stop participating in research; stop answering surveys; stop evaluating things I do; in general, stop responding to anything and everything. Some days I think that spending a whole week without having to interact with anyone would be refreshing. Might have to arrange that.

Cream cheese frosting on a cold day

This morning I slept later than normal because I stayed up too late last night writing. As I left the house, I was blinded by brilliant sunshine, crisp 24-degree air and an amazing sight — the landscape was covered with a new inch of delicious white snow, covering everything that’s been on the ground since early December (and turned to ice). It looked like cream cheese frosting, softening every sharp edge in sight. It looked just like the cream cheese frosting on the King Cake that I ate too many pieces of today at our office Mardi Gras party. It was such a delicious midday meal — red beans & rice, various salads, corn bread, French bread, and of course the delectable King Cake. We bought our King Cake locally, instead of ordering it from New Orleans. Support your local bakery even if the product is not specifically NOLA authentic. It was so tasty! We all had beads and many photos were snapped! Some attendees had to learn about the King Cake traditions, so we filled them in — you get the baby, you have to bring the cake next year! And we got a photo of Anne so she won’t forget!

A look at the forecast for the next 10 days suggests we could be in an early spring mode, although I will try not to get too excited about this prospect. Anything could happen. But when you see mid to upper 20s for 10 days to come, and lows remaining in the double digits, you take heart that perhaps Jimmy the Groundhog is accurate this year!

Olive LaCross Kennedy

Sunday, February 14th, was Valentine’s Day, but it was also my grandmother’s birthday. Olive LaCross was born, according to her death certificate, on February 14, 1892 in Watervliet, NY. What little I know about my grandmother is contained in this one post. Only two photographs of her survived a house fire in Binghamton, NY, some time in the 1930s. One is a formal portrait that must have been taken prior to the birth of her twin daughters, but after she was grown. Perhaps it was taken around the time of her marriage to my grandfather, which occurred on Sept 26, 1916. But there is no information written on the back of the photograph besides my mother’s note that the photo is a copy of the original photo, made in 1938, more than 10 years after my grandmother’s death.

Although I’ve tried to find a record of my grandmother’s birth, so far I’ve been unsuccessful. The Vital Statistics Office in Watervliet had a record of her marriage, hand-written, a copy of which they sent me, but no record of her birth. If she was married in 1916, and she was 23, according to the record, then she would have been born in 1893, but her death certificate says 1892. This is one of the fun challenges of genealogy — sorting out which pieces of conflicting information are correct and which are not. So, either she was born in 1892 or 1893 or some other year!

Olive LaCross makes an appearance in the 1900 US Census living in Colonie, Albany County, New York, the youngest of 5 children born to Joseph LaCross and Sophia Ducat. In 1900, the census record listed birth year and month for each person recorded, as well as age, sex, race and marital status, plus year of immigration and birthplace of each family member and for the parents of each person, and age at first marriage for each person. And you just wonder what people were thinking when they wrote things down…

Olive was the baby of the family in 1900 at age 10 [so, born in 1890? but what about her marriage & death records?]. She had a brother Freddie age 15,  a 17-year-old sister Josephine, a 20-year-old sister Emily, and a 24-year-old brother Joseph. Olive’s parents are listed as being 40 years old (both of them), both born in 1860 — Sophia in New York and Joseph Sr in Canada. Which would make both of them age 16 at the time of the birth of Joseph Jr. Which I suppose is certainly possible, however, the census data says that age at first marriage for Joseph and Sophia was 25. Ok, whatever. Maybe that’s all true. Joseph supposedly immigrated from “Canada French” in 1872. Census data is transcribed but you have to check the transcription with a copy of the original hand-written form, which you can see online, because there are many errors. And sometimes the hand-written forms are difficult to read, I’ll admit. The transcription page says that Joseph was 50 in 1900 but the original census form clearly says he was 40. I do know for certain that these are my ancestors because the information about Olive’s family matches information coming from other sources. That’s called triangulating your data. So just because the years don’t match… that’s a minor problem.

Olive appears again in 1910 in the US Census, still living in Colonie. Freddie is not there, so perhaps he left home — he would have been 24. However, the other “children” are all still living at home — Joseph is listed as being 33, Emily West [a new last name] is listed as age 29, Josephine is 25, and my grandmother Olive is 19, which would make her birth year 1891. A fourth possibility. And Joseph is listed as having immigrated in 1875, not 1872. Joseph is now listed as being 61 in 1910, and his wife Sophia is 52 in 1910 — even though a decade earlier, they were listed as being the same age. Joseph is a “laborer.”

January 1920, the next Federal Census — very cold and nasty in Watervliet, NY, where Olive LaCross turns up again. By now, she’s 26 according to the census-taker, but would turn 27 in February, putting her birth year back at 1893. The original census form is hard to read, and the transcriber, who must not have been too well-informed, read “Kennedy” as “Henneady” — it’s a wonder we found this census information at all! By 1920, Harold and Olive had been married for 4 years and had the twins, Olive Mary and Rose Mary — my mother and aunt. The family is living in Watervliet, Ward 4, Albany County, New York, a mere 8.6 miles from Colonie. Harold Kennedy is listed as a railroad fireman, which is correct — I have his work records from the Railroad Retirement Board in Chicago.

OK, let’s see…. Olive and Harold were married on Sept 26, 1916, if I’m reading the hand-written record correctly, and the twins were born on July 7, 1917. Just about right. In January 1920, the twins would be about 2 1/2 — mobile, feisty and Dad was traveling around on the train all the time. I can’t imagine how Olive was managing. Interestingly, the twins were born in Saratoga Springs, NY, 28 miles from Watervliet. I wonder how that happened. No records.

There is one more small piece of evidence of the life of Olive LaCross Kennedy, whose original middle name I am still trying to locate. [Perhaps it was “Rose” since she named her daughters Olive and Rose.] My mother had a second photograph, mentioned above, that is a group photo, 3.5 x 2.5 inches — a group of 15 people at a picnic. On the back of the photo, someone [not my mother because I’d recognize her handwriting] wrote “your mother with hand in her mouth”. On the front of the photo, a small X in ink appears on a woman with her hand in her mouth, and in the bottom white margin of the photo, my mother wrote “2 kids Olive, Rosemary ||X Mother”. Over the years before I acquired my mother’s photographs, when I visited her, I would always ask to see these two photographs since they were the only evidence of my Kennedy/LaCross relatives. Sadly though, of the 15 people in the picnic photo, only 3 are identified — Olive LaCross Kennedy and her two girls, who look quite young in that photo. They are small, with dark hair and one appears to be wrapped in a blanket. Both the girls are sitting next to their mother.

The other people in the photo are most intriguing — there’s an older woman in a lace cap sitting in front — perhaps that’s great-grandma Sophie! A younger man off to the left could in fact be my grandfather, Harold Austin Kennedy, or it could be one of Olive’s brothers… who knows. There are no existing photographs of my grandfather. On the right side of the photo, a man is holding a large glass bottle of dark liquid, resting it on the head of a seated boy. There is another young boy off on the left side, but the rest of the people in the photograph are women — 7 of them. One is holding a spoon; another has a spoon raised to her mouth. They are all seated in the grass in a forest with evidence of a picnic visible in the center of the group. The older lady is seated with her back to the back of one of the little girls — I can’t tell which of the two is my mother because one has her back to the camera. I just have to think that the older lady is my great-grandmother Sophie because she looks a lot like my aunt did in her old age.

So, the story goes that on her deathbed, Olive LaCross Kennedy knew she was dying and called up “Grandma Kennedy” who was the second wife of Harold’s father but nearly the same age as Olive, and asked Grandma Kennedy to “come and get the girls” — that she didn’t want them staying with their father. And anyway, he worked on the Delaware and Hudson railroad so who would have cared for them? They were only 9 years old at the time. So, Grandma Kennedy (Edith Champlain Kennedy) drove a couple or more hours up to Watervliet, picked up the girls, and drove back to Binghamton, where she and my great-grandfather William Edward Kennedy ran Kennedy’s Inn. There they lived until their late teens when they supposedly ran off to work in vaudeville, but that’s another story.

There were a few pieces of additional short stories about my grandparents that were perhaps not so savory. My mother remembered virtually no details of her earliest years for reasons I won’t go into here. My aunt claimed that her father drank a lot and was abusive to his wife. She said that her father was boisterous and her mother was quiet. My aunt said once that one time her father tried to push her mother out a window (!) and that she (my aunt) ran at them to try to prevent disaster. My aunt was the scrappy one and my mother was the studious one.  And another time, my aunt said to me, “we really loved our mother and missed her so much after she died.”  Well, of course. How horribly sad.

So, I wonder, too about Harold. In my genealogy searching, I’ve learned that he lost his own mother when he was just 3 years old and his baby brother was only a few months old. In another census record, he turns up as a teenager living with his mother’s brother’s family in Peru, NY. Then, he marries at 21, fathers twins 9 months later, and loses his own wife a decade later. There were no other children born in that Catholic family after the twins. He married twice again but much later in life, and had no other children. My mother never knew what happened to him but I tracked down evidence of his death in Brasher Falls, NY, in 1963 when I located his death certificate and obituary in the late 1990s. I never met him, and I don’t think my mother or aunt ever saw him again after their teenage years. He lived his entire life in upstate New York, working many years on the D&H railroad, followed by 17 years for Alcoa Aluminum in Massena, NY.

In St Jean’s Cemetery in 2007, we found our great-grandmother Sophia Ducat LaCross who died in 1953 [two years after I was born!] and was buried in the same plot with her daughter Emily West who also died in 1953, and another person named Janet Tybush who died in 1988 — probably Emily’s daughter? The 1930 US Federal Census lists a household with Sophia “Lacrass” [who are these transcriptionists?] age 71, daughter Emma West age 40, granddaughter Janet Tybush age 23, little Gladys Tybush age 4, and Edwin West age 20, likely Emma’s son. There is no evidence for Joseph Sr’s life or death after the 1920 census where he and Sophie are living in Colonie with Josephine and Joseph Mayer, daughter and son-in-law. And Sophie and Joseph are not buried together, which is interesting. More research necessary.

Olive LaCross died on March 27, 1927 of pneumonia quite some time before antibiotics were invented/discovered. Her death certificate lists her age as 35 and birthday as February 14, 1892. She was a housewife and the family lived at 1307 Sixth Ave in Watervliet. The certificate says she died at home. I looked the address up on Google maps but there is no longer a house existing at that number. The nearest is 1308. According to the information on the death certificate, she was buried on March 3o, 1927, in St Jean de Baptiste Cemetery, which is now known as St. Jean’s, in Troy, NY. I’ve been there twice, in 2002 and 2007, both times, unable to locate her grave. The Diocese has no accurate records for her burial. They said she probably is there but either there never was a stone, or it’s disappeared in the 80+ years since she died. Olive’s brother Joseph is also buried in that cemetery, not too far from Sophie’s, Emily’s and Janet’s gravestone. There is only one stone for the three of them.

Well, Grandma Olive, how I would like to know more of your story. Where did you meet Harold? And why did you marry this kid? Where were the rest of your relatives when you were sick? Why did the twins not live with one of your sisters, or your mother after your death? Why did you think they would do well at Kennedy’s Inn in Binghamton? Was it because it was prosperous and there was money to care for them? My mother used to say that she and her sister did not have a “normal childhood” growing up around a nightclub and without their parents. She said that Grandma Kennedy was strict but that she took good care of them. She had no children of her own, and she ran the nightclub along with her sister Lucy and the co-owner Frank. The story goes that William Edward Kennedy, father of Harold, also had something of a drinking problem. He, too, lost his first wife within a few years after their marriage.

Every year on Valentine’s Day, I think of my Grandmother Olive LaCross Kennedy, and hope that someday, dabbling at genealogy, I will bump into more of her story. It’s taken me my entire life to appreciate the void in my life created by the untimely death from pneumonia of a 35-year-old woman in upstate New York — a ripple effect through many decades — the effects of loss upon loss reaching across years and families and touching many lives.

Document your photos and tell your story. Someday, it might make a difference to someone.