Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Jordan

Saturday was a bright and crisp day in Baltimore, one of those lovely, sunny autumn days I recall once January and February have set in. 

Realizing that we may not have too many of these beauties left for a while, hubby and I took advantage and decided to accomplish some outdoor "to do" tasks.  Not leaves this time, though!

We traveled to the other side of town and visited Baltimore National Cemetery on Frederick Road in Catonsville, in search of my great-uncle Benny's gravesite. 

This was a fitting way to spend the Saturday of Veteran's Day weekend.  We were humbled and silenced as we stood at the top of entrance driveway and looked down at the rows of erect stones, standing with typical military precision.  All these headstones, each representing a brave person.  Most of these are soldiers who returned home to live their lives, we said in unison.  It was astounding to look around, begin to rack up numbers of soldiers and wars in my many, so many. 

Marker between Sections J and I.
Before we had left home, I double-checked Uncle Benny's section and plot information at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator.  I also printed out a map of the cemetery, which was easy to follow.  Just find the appropriate section marker, then look on the back of any stone; it will be engraved with that individual's site or plot number.  Then just start walking in the right direction, for higher or lower numbers.  

I'll say this for the military, they are excellent when it comes to organizing a cemetery.  

Benjamin M Jordan
Signal Corps
World War II
January 30 1915
September 13 1964
Even though we came prepared, for someone who may not be, the cemetery provides plenty of information, which is available even when the office is closed.  There are two large binders with a listing of interments; these are kept on an enclosed shelf to protect from the elements.  They also have an electronic kiosk that is linked to the Nationwide Gravesite Locator mentioned above.  The kiosk's keyboard was not the typical QWERTY type, but rather an alpha order board - A - B - C and so on.  I'd never seen one like that before.  Still, it was all easy to use.  Maps are also available at the kiosk. 

This was my first visit to Uncle Benny's gravesite.  I know it will not be my last.  Besides fulfilling my own genealogy-related task, this visit pleased my mom.  We stopped by see her after leaving the cemetery.  She was happy to see the photo of Benny's stone, and touched that we thought to visit him.  She is proud of his service.  We sat together quietly, as Mom recalled childhood memories of her beloved Uncle Benny. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mystery Monday - Is There A Steamboat in My Past?

Today is the 246th anniversary of the birth of Robert "Steamboat" Fulton.

Big deal, you may say.  I would have too, until I learned he might actually be a relative of mine. 

Robert Fulton
Wikipedia Image
 Robert Fulton was born on November 14 in 1765.  In his short lifetime, he became an engineer and inventor.  He is widely credited with designing the first steamboat, in the early 1800s.  His partner in this venture was Robert Livingston, though Livingston receives little credit for his involvement.  Prior to the steamboat, Fulton designed the first known submarine in history, at the commission of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Fulton was born in Pennsylvania, studied in Europe, married Harriet Livingston (his steamboat partner's niece), and eventually moved to New York, where he died on February 24, 1815, at the young age of 49.

But back to his possible connection with my family. 

When I first saw my maternal grandmother's birth certificate, I smiled to read her father's name:  John Fulton Jordan.  I'd never heard his full name.  But I didn't think twice about it.  Then I started going through census, marriage and other records.  Here's what I found:

My great-grandfather John Fulton Jordan's parents were Oliver Perry Jordan and Ann Wright, who married in Harford County, Maryland on February 6, 1868.

Statue of Robert Fulton in the
National Statuary Hall Collection
at the U.S. Capitol.
Hubby's photo, September 2011.

Oliver's parents were John Jordan and Henrietta Prigg, who married in Harford County, Maryland on February 2, 1841.  I have documents that indicate this John's middle initial is either an "F" or a "P."  It's simply unclear.  I haven't been lucky enough to find anything with his full middle name.

John Jordan's parents were (yet another!) John Jordan and Rachel Fulton, who were married in Harford County, Maryland on December 14, 1813.

Again working on, I received a hint from another family tree.  After communicating with a Fulton family member also on the website, I learned Rachel was a distant niece of the famous Fulton.  I thought, "Even if it's a distant connection to a famous inventor, hey, I'll take it!"    

But I quickly calmed down and thought hold on, girl.  I had taken a very good genealogy starter course, so I knew:  until I can document these branches of the family tree for myself, take it with a grain of salt.  So I'm working on it.  I've had a few trips to the county historical society.  Next up will be a review of land records and wills, as they're available.  And maybe a Jordan or Fulton will come forward with new information.   Until this research can be completed, this connection remains a Mystery.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembrance Sunday

Today is Remembrance Sunday in the United Kingdom, a day to honor veterans.  It's also sometimes called "Poppy Day".  The brilliant flower came to represent World War I veterans because it was native to some WWI battlefields.  Remembrance Day is held on the Sunday nearest November 11, which as we know is Veterans Day in the US.   

Cities and towns all over the UK will hold ceremonies at the village war memorials.  Current and former members of the armed forces, as well as members of cadet forces and youth organizations, will place poppy wreaths on town memorials.  Moments of silence will take place, and church bells will ring.  Even the soccer teams will wear an armband with an embroidered poppy to mark the day. 

All of these activities are a way of expressing gratitude for the sacrifices made by the soldiers and their families over the years, as if a parade and a wreath could ever be enough. 

Earlier this year, my family and I traveled to Belgium, where we visited Tyne Cot Cemetery, among other World War I sights.  It's a peaceful place in the middle of the beautiful Belgian countryside.  The cemetery is the final resting place for almost 12,000 British Commonwealth servicemen from World War I.  A staggering, heartbreaking 8,000+ of these are unknown.  A nearby piece of land, know as the Ypres Salient, was the subject of five battles from 1914 to 1918.  The soldiers of Tyne Cot fought in those battles. 

On Remembrance Day, we remember these soldiers, their families, their sacrifices.  On this Veteran's Day weekend, we also remember all of our soldiers, past and present, who have fought for our freedoms.  We thank them and their families for every sacrifice.  I can sit at home and write this post today because sometime in the past, a veteran thought of his countrymen first.  I cannot say "thank you" enough. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Surname Saturday - Szymanski

My father is first-generation American; his mother was born in 1900, in what is now known as the country of Poland.  In September 2008, before I began researching my family’s history, my husband and I traveled to Poland.  Over the course of 10 days, we visited the cities of  Wrocław and Kraków, with day trips to CzęstochowaOświęcim (the location of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps), and Wadowice, the boyhood home of Pope John Paul II. 

Wawel Castle, Krakow

We logged miles in every city, touring the sights. 

In Krakow, as we walked from our apartment up the hill to Wawel Castle, we came upon the Baroque Church of St. Bernard’s.  

 Imagine my delight at seeing a colorful banner, featuring St. Szymon, draped down the right side of the church's ornate façade. 

I’d always been told our surname, Szymanski, means “son of Simon.”  And here was two-thirds of our surname, in living color, flying high on a Krakow church. 

The beautiful banner translates: 

St. Simon, Patron of Krakow
and Young Academics

At the time, I knew of two saints with the name.  St. Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus’ cross on Good Friday.  Simon Peter, later known as St. Peter, was one of the Twelve Apostles and first Pope of the Catholic Church.  So I wondered, "Which Simon is this Simon?

That's when I learned about Simon of Lipnica:

Lipnica is a town not far from Krakow.  Simon is a genealogist’s nightmare, in that his exact birth date is unknown.  Based on his attendance at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University in 1454, his birth is estimated somewhere between 1435 and 1440.  Influenced by St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John Capistran, Simon took up a pious life and joined  the Franciscans of St. Bernardine, where he was honored to preach at the Polish monarchy’s Wawel Cathedral in 1463.  In his later years, he cared for the suffering in plague-infested Krakow, by administering the sacraments and sharing God’s Word.  He soon contracted the plague himself, and died on July 18, 1482. 

Simon of Lipnica was beatified in 1685; centuries later, his sainthood became official through his June 3, 2007 canonization.  Of course!  That was the reason for the beautiful banner: Krakow was honoring its new saint, Simon of Lipnica!

In considering my surname, I wonder, who is the Simon that my Szymanski ancestors are the "sons of"?  Someone of sturdy Polish stock, no doubt.  But since surnames are a centuries-old addition in most cultures, I still have many, many generations to uncover.  I’ll just keep working on that one...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Polish Independence Day

Today is Polish Independence Day,
known in the native language as
Narodowe Święto Niepodległości.  

Jasna Gora Monastery, Czestochowa

When my grandmother was born in June of 1900, the country of Poland did not exist.  Yes, of course, the land was there (smile), but the name depended on the geographical region—Prussia, Austria, Russia, Germany.  After a lifetime of hearing that my grandma was born in Poland, I was initially stunned to see my dad’s birth certificate declare that she was from Germany!  Of course, now I know better.  But this shows the enormous impact that historical events can have on our genealogy research. 

Close-up of Battle of Vienna banner, Krakow

Poland has a long, complex political and military history, and the borders moved frequently.  The process of achieving independence was gradual to say the least.  November 11 marks the final separation of Poland from its Russian, Prussian and Austrian neighbors.  This national holiday has had a few celebration dates; it was finally moved to November 11 in 1989.   Just like July 4 is to Americans, November 11 is one of the most important celebrations for all Poles, whether in the homeland or abroad. 
Outside Wawel Castle, Krakow

When I visited Poland in September 2008, the city of Krakow was decorated with beautiful, colorful banners.  At the time, we didn't know their purpose. 
I've since learned that these decorations were to commemorate the 325th anniversary of Krakow's victory in the Battle of Vienna. Poland's Discovery Channel sponsored many of the decorations, to be used in re-enactment scenes.  

Krakow's Historic District

While recalling the past, I think these photos also show the beauty in an independent Poland today.
Main Square, Krakow

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Right Before My Eyes -- Maybe!

Today was no sunny day.  I awoke to a morning of thick fog, which eventually burned off into a cloudy, dull day.  Like many of you, I spent time running errands…grocery store, library, mall, and on and on.  And as these things often go, I traveled in a loop, probably never further than five miles from my home.

As I drove the familiar roads of my neighborhood,
I was stunned to notice such amazing autumn color, despite the dull skies!  My immediate thought was how sad that many days I go along these roads, unaware of the surrounding beauty.  Something so worthwhile had been right in front of me, and I took no notice. 

Immediately I thought of my genealogy research.  So often I am searching for a date, place, or other connection, when the clue I need is right before me.  Saying that, I have vowed to re-examine my files and have a good look around the house.  Here’s what I’ll be doing over the next weeks:

Re-reading my collection of family obituaries, death notices, newspaper articles and other records.  Take note of any names I may have overlooked, simply because they were not the known "family" names.      

Many of my old photos have one or two unidentified people.  I’ll schedule time to sit down with Mom and figure out just who these folks are!

Thumb through shelved books that have sat undisturbed for years.  I’m sure to turn up at least a good bookmark, if not a holy card, photo or old newspaper article. 

Re-examine my father’s application for a high-security military clearance.  I’m sure knowing more about the people who were named as his references will be helpful.  

Do the same for my 2x great-grandfather’s Civil War pension record.  The folks who signed as witnesses on the record’s many government forms knew him for much of his life.  Whether family or not, this could provide clues. 

Review death certificates to determine if there was an autopsy (another report!)  

In general, I'll update my research with the clues I already have.  I might find a bit of helpful information along the way, and at the very least, all the piles of paper on the dining room table will be straight!

All photos by the author, 11/10/2011.

My Blog Title Comes to Life...

As you probably already know, and may have experienced personally, 
the first snowstorm of the season hit the East Coast during the last weekend of October.

It was cold, icy, snowy and rainy. 

Yet this weekend was a complete turn-around,
with bright sunshine and crisp temperatures in the mid-50s.  So my blog's title of "Raking Through the Leaves" took on a completely different meaning! 

In addition to the big piles of leaves across the front yard, that bank of leaves along the driveway is about 40 feet long.  Thankfully, the leaves are now mulched and feeding the backyard compost. 

I can assure you, there was no genealogy research done that day!

 Special thanks

go out to

hubby for

all the hard work!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday

My mother's family:

[Left to right] - Emil Kinling;

Adeline (Schmidt) Jordan, in flowered dress;

[my maternal grandmother] Mae (Jordan) Morgan, in back;

headless man, in back;

Annie (Jordan) Kinling, in front, wearing white hat;

headless woman, in back; and two women we can't identify. 

The little ones in front are cousins Cassie Jordan and Billy Baxter.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where, when or or why the family is gathered for this photo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Penning

This stone is in Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore.


George M[artin]
b.  January 3, 1885
d.  February 20, 1967

Ada [Forrest]
b.  July 1884
d. 1967

Ada Forrest Penning is my great-aunt, though I never knew her.  The sister of my maternal grandfather, my mother remembers her as a kind and generous person.  Mom remembers that as a child, she thought Aunt Ada must must have been rich, because she had a beautiful home in Charles Village.  The Village, as it's known by today's residents, is a neighborhood of large brick row houses with wide front porches.  The neighborhood surrounds the beautiful Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University
Aunt Ada was the oldest child, only daughter, and the glue that kept her three brothers close as their parents aged and eventually passed.  She was the last sibling to die, as well, at least as far as I can tell in my research to date.  Each of her brothers named a daughter in her honor.  

Unfortunately, Aunt Ada's stone has toppled from its base.  Can anyone tell me, what is the procedure for resetting?  Is it the responsibility of the family or of the cemetery to repair it?  Or is a new stone necessary?  Can the family fix the original, or does the cemetery not allow this?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nephew!

Today our family celebrates the birthday of my brother Mike's son, Timothy.  He's all grown up now, and I'm very proud of him.  

Here he is, at the age of 9, as a very serious Little Leaguer. 

Where did this little guy go?

His 1993 stats:

Height:  4’2”

Weight:  65 lbs.

Bats:  Right

Throws:  Right

Position(s):  Pitcher / Shortstop

Team:  Rangers

League:  Bengies Chase

Favorite Pro:  Cal Ripken, Jr.

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Sunday Sweet - Honey Tea Loaf

This Sunday Sweet recipe comes from my Welsh mother-in-law, Marion Jones.  She made Honey Tea Loaf for our party of Welsh friends the last time she visited us in America.

It was a spur of the moment decision to bake this loaf and include it in the party spread.  It was Thanksgiving weekend, and I was working on my annual Christmas cards.  As we chatted, she hastily wrote the recipe on the back of a Christmas card liner.

(Mum's) Honey Tea Loaf 


8 ounces dried fruit

1/4 pint cold tea

4 tablespoons clear honey*

1 tablespoon water

1 egg

1/2 lb. S.R. Flour**

Honey to glaze

  *Clear honey--the regular honey found in grocery stores is suitable for this recipe.
**Self-rising flour.

  1. Place fruit in basin.  Mix tea, water and honey together and pour over fruit.  Leave to soak overnight.
  2. Prepare moderate oven.  350 Degrees F / Gas mark 4.  Grease a loaf tin.
  3. Stir egg with fruit mixture and beat well.  Add flour and mix thoroughly.  Turn into prepared tin and cook for 1 to 1 ¼ hours until firm and browned.
  4. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire cooling rack.  Brush top with honey to give a sticky glaze.  Serve loaf sliced and buttered. 
NB:  This loaf will improve in flavor if stored for up to four weeks in a closed tin.

Try this yummy recipe!  With a steaming cup of hot tea, it makes a traditionally British afternoon snack.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Remember, Remember the fifth of November...

So begins a rhyme from the childhood of generations of British people, my husband being one of them.  Something about this little poem always rings in his memory as November 5th rolls around.  And on that day, as we share morning tea or coffee, he realizes the date, and recites the poem...

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

The plot to blow up the British Houses of Parliament  in 1605 was hatched by Guy Fawkes, a gentleman who, it's easy to see, must have been seriously unhappy with the way things were going in Britain at the time.  Perhaps an earlier version of "Occupy Britain."  My husband tells me that today's "Occupy" protesters, not just in Britain, are wearing Guy Fawkes masks!

London protesters wearing
Guy Fawkes masks.
Courtesy Wikipedia.

This date is celebrated now with firework displays and bonfires.  On top of the bonfires is an effigy of Guy Fawkes.  Neighbors gather in the street to warm themselves by the bonfire, drink hot chocolate and enjoy the fireworks.  One of hubby's memories is of eating delicious potatoes that had been baked in the embers of a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night.  Sounds so quaint, doesn't it?  But I promise you, this happened in the 20th century!

As a kid, when hubby and his friends didn't have money to buy fireworks (and their parents were sensible enough not to give it to them), they would build an effigy and carry it around town, asking people they passed for "a penny for the guy."  And people donated heavily, knowing they'd spend the money on sparklers!

It's kind of amazing that hundreds of years later, Guy Fawkes Day is still celebrated faithfully.  While this event is not a legal holiday, it does mark the survival of the Monarchy, even today held dear in the hearts of most of Britain's subjects. 

Or maybe they just like a good street party?!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Funeral Card Friday - Lucy Emma Jordan

This is the funeral card of my great-grandmother, Lucy Emma Jordan, lovingly known by family and neighbors alike as Ma Jordie.  Ma Jordie died when I was just over 5 years old, my first experience with death.  My journey into family history only began this year, so if I ever saw this card, I do not recall it.    

Though worn with age, this card is still quite beautiful.  It's made of soft, cream-colored paper, the "Perpetual Service" clock image on the front is embossed with what looks like gold leaf; the trees are embossed a deep green.  So different from the funeral cards seen at services on the Catholic side of the family.  And certainly more decorative than those we see now.  For me, it's very peaceful to read this card.  Ma Jordie had an extremely difficult life; this poem reassures me that she received a reward in her afterlife.   

The Beyond

It seemeth such a little way to me
Across to that strange country,
The Beyond;
And yet, not strange, for it has
Grown to be
The home of those of whom I am so fond.

And so for me there is no Death;
It is but crossing, with abated breath,
A little strip of sea,
To find one’s loved ones waiting
on the shore,
More beautiful, more precious
than before.

                        Ella Wheeler Wilcox


In Loving Memory of

Died January 22, 1963
[Aged 80 years, 19 days]

Services From

Wm. Cook-Blight, Inc.
Funeral Home
6009 Harford Road

Saturday, January 26, 1963
10 a.m.

Clergyman Officiating
Rev. Carl W. Molter

Parkwood Cemetery


In behalf of the family, we wish to express their gratitude for your many kindnesses evidenced in thought and deed, and for your attendance at the memorial service.

Wm. Cook
Funeral Mansion
St. Paul at Preston Street

Other Convenient Locations

Wm. Cook-Towson, Inc.                                                     Wm. Cook-Blight, Inc.
1050 York Road                                                                6009 Harford Road

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Alexandria, Virginia - George Washington National Masonic Memorial

Besides researching the many members of my large family, a favorite pastime of mine is travel: any city, any country, any continent.  But when I really want to get away and relax, the place I love is Alexandria, Virginia. My husband and I enjoy the combination of history, culture and restaurants in Old Town Alexandria and its closeness to our nation’s capital for the same.  Alexandria is located on the Potomac River, right across the newly renovated Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge from our hometown. 

When in Alexandria, we rent an apartment located near the “top” of King Street, the main drag through Old Town.  A quick view to the right when we exit the apartment is always the George Washington National Masonic Memorial.  That’s a mouthful of a name for what most refer to as the Washington Masonic Temple.   

I captured this photo of the building, which sits on Shooter’s Hill at Callahan Drive, near King Street, in Fall of 2002.  The Masonic symbol on the lawn -- the Square and Compass - is made of conrete.

The building’s interior is beautiful, and tours are available.  The structure serves as a Masonic building as well as a memorial to George Washington, first President of the United States.  George was a Mason, among many other things.   In addition, the memorial serves as a research center.  Their Masonic Digital Archives project is working with participating lodges to digitize their histories.  With the completion of this project, the Masons hope to make their history, which dates to 1733, available online. 

What's your favorite place to combine history and relaxation?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wedding Wednesday

July 3, 1943

Ada Dorothy Forrest, age 17
My mother.

Edward John Szymanski, age 19
My father.

There they are,
she so beautiful,
he so handsome,
both so in love.

And so young!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Oliver Perry Jordan

Oliver Perry Jordan
Born 1 March 1846
Died 7 July 1925
Aged 79 years, 4 months, 6 days

Unusual looking tombstone, wouldn't you say?

This tree kind of marks the otherwise unmarked grave of my great-great-grandfather, Oliver Perry Jordan, in Parkwood Cemetery, Baltimore.  The tree just happens to be there, it wasn't specially planted to mark his grave, at least not that I have been able to ascertain.  It would be a nice gesture, though.

In April 2011, with the help of a Parkwood Cemetery employee, I was able to find this tiny Jordan plot, where two others are also buried.  I'm still working on information for them.

This same employee taught me to how to read a cemetery map, and directed me to the marker for Anne C. Magill, Oliver's nearest neighbor with a grave marker.  It was the three-digit number in the lower left corner on her grave marker that enabled us to determine that the large, unmarked area directly in front of the tall tree must be the three Jordan family members. 

Anne C. Magill
Born 30 October 1903
Died 6 June 1985

I'm 99% certain that the Jordans and the Magills did not know one another during their lifetimes.  Yet, as is said, you cannot replace the helping hand of a good neighbor.  Thank you, Anne, for being a good neighbor to Oliver and guiding me to him. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween - 10/31/2011

Don’t be scared, she’s not as tough as she looks!

Meet maternal grandmother Ida Mae (Jordan) Morgan, dressed for the annual Halloween party at the American Legion.  I'm not sure if she's meant to be a gangster, or a 1920s Hollywood mogul.  Regardless, this 1960 photo gave me an insight into Grandma that I'd not seen previously... 

My grandmother and her husband Earle (my step-grandfather) were members of their local American Legion Post (Dundalk, MD; Post 38).  And they were active, in a big way.  Over the years, both held several offices, including president—he of the Post and she of the Women’s Auxiliary.

Like so many of their generation, times were tough growing up.  And both were single parents, divorced from their first spouses, something not usually done in the 30s.  By the time they found one another, life was easing up, and they were free to enjoy their time together.  So they did, by joining friends for activities at the Legion and other social organizations where they were members. 

As a child, grandparents seem ancient people whose lives revolve only around their family, with no social life to speak of.  In looking through family albums, I am finding photos from many dances, dinners, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, and nights on the town.  It’s giving me a bigger window into their social lives, and I love it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shopping Saturday – Grandma's Spree

This motley crew is basking in the glory of their new souvenir t-shirts, hats and beach balls.  That’s right, Grandma Morgan went to Ocean City (MD) and we all got new kit!

Photo is undated, but judging by the size of the thumb-sucker on the left (me), I say it’s Summer of 1959.