A Favorite Name

For me, names are one of the interesting aspects of genealogy. I enjoy learning about names and how they came about; which usually involves some geography. This was the case of my fifth great-grandfather John “Of the Mainland” Fosdick.

He was born in Charleston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. For a short history review, Charleston was founded in 1628. It was actually the first place the Pilgrims investigated before choosing to settle a little farther south in Plymouth. Later it was the sight of the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Before the battle was over, the town, and its wharves and dockyards were destroyed by fire. So, Charleston is pretty steeped in American history.

I think, the only claim to fame my fifth great-grandfather can make is that he was of the mainland. But that does lead to a pretty interesting little story.  The mainland is in reference to where he lived later in life and raised a family. He was born on 02 June 1732 in Charleston, Massachusetts.  This was forty-three years before the Battle of Bunker Hill. However, by then he had removed himself to the island of Nantucket. Nantucket is about 15 miles SE of Martha’s Vineyard, and about 30 miles south of Cape Cod. It is shaped like an elbow and only has 49 square miles of land.  It was once known as the whaling capital of the world. Since there were other John Fosdicks, namely his two sons, Jonathan and John, who were born on Nantucket, he was fated to forever be the John that was “of the mainland.” The older one that came over.

John “of the mainland” Fosdick at age 22, married Elizabeth Norton, who was a year younger, on the 28th of September 1754 at Nantucket, Nantucket, Massachusetts. They had ten children in nine years named: Mary, Jonathan, John, William, David, Phillips, Jethro, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Sally, who was born a couple months after the Battle of Bunker Hill.  John “of the mainland” died at age 77, on the 12th of October 1809 in Nantucket.

On the 1800 United States Federal Census, (1) there were 779 dwellings on Nantucket. Of the population of 5, 617 persons, 228 were of color, 2,772 were female, and 2,617 were male. The main industry was whaling. According to Century House, (2) an Inn on Nantucket Island, In 1766 the Nantucket wharves accommodated 118 whaling ships and at the peak of the activity there were 150.  The island also became a sanctuary for persecuted Quakers who were very influential in business and government. After the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the whaling industry prospered until Pennsylvania began to refine underground oil, affecting the demand for whale oil lamps and sperm candles, and the California gold rush enticed the sailors away. In 1869 the last whaling ship left the island never to return. In the late 1880’s, vacations began to be a fad, and Nantucket was the ideal get-away destination which remains true today.

I am not sure what my fifth great-grandfather did for a living, but it was probably related to the whaling industry. It is a fact however, that at least two of his sons, William and Phillips, were Masters of Whalers.  A whaler had 300 tons of carrying capacity, and could accommodate 35 crew members and 3-4 whale boats with a couple of spares.(3)   According to the National Maritime Digital Library, under the search topic: American Offshore Whaling Voyages,(4) Phillips Fosdick was Master on the Harriet to Woolwich Bay in 1802. And returned in Dec 1803 with 1,000 gallons of whale oil. He was also Master of the Joanna on several voyages. One to the Pacific in 1794, returning in Oct 1796 with 1,100 gallons sperm oils which were light colored and most useful, and 400 gallons whale oil which is a darker oil. William also was master on the Joanna on a voyage to Brazil in 1792 with no cargo noted.  William was master on the Industry for several voyages. The one to Brazil departed Aug 1793, and arrived in May 1794. The second voyage “supposedly” departed in 1797 with no return or cargo noted. I also noted on the logs for Nantucket, many Masters of ships had names of families the Fosdick women married into, such as: Gardner, Chadwick, Folger, Coffin, and Pease.

Two of Capt. William Fosdick’s brothers lost their lives at sea. On November 3rd in 1809, Phillips Fosdick died at sea near Sulawesi, Tengah, Indonesia, and Jethro Fosdick, who was listed as a crew member on a ship, died at sea after 1807, near West, Nimba, Liberia sometime after his last child was born. He had a son, Capt. Obed F. Fosdick, who was lost in the South Pacific in 1852. Neither David, Jonathan, or John had records of marriages, or children, and all three died in Nantucket. John died at age 39 in 1797, and David died at age 67 in 1830.  Catherine also had a son, Captain Obed Alley who died near Peru.

Perhaps Capt. William Fosdick decided he had pushed his luck far enough. One of his voyages that “supposedly” departed in 1797 may not have happened, because in 1796 at age 36 he sold his land and property to his sister Sally and her husband, David Pease, and removed himself to Evington, Campbell, Virginia to try his hand at farming. Perhaps he never took that voyage, but whatever the mystery then, he stayed on the land the remainder of his life and died 10 October 1839 in Campbell county, Virginia. His son, John, born 19 April 1799, in Campbell County, Virginia, eventually migrated to Indiana where he learned the blacksmith trade, and died in 1867 in Elkhorn Grove, Carroll, Illinois. He had a son, Aaron Franklin Fosdick, born in 1849 in Ogle County, Illinois, who was a Farrier, and died in 1867 in Washington County, Illinois. Frank Fosdick had a daughter, Elva Mary [Fosdick] Reed Overboe, who was my great grandmother.

John “of the mainland’ Fosdick’s member’s birth/death data are attributed to DJ Cella Family tree on Ancestry.com., tree #9821477. I have enjoyed studying their research on the early years of the Fosdick family history. He has been very generous to make his tree public.

Aaron Franklin Fosdick and wife Jennie Aurand Fosdick

  1. Ancestry.com. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
    Original data: Second Census of the United States, 1800. NARA microfilm publication M32 (52 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Second Census of the United States, 1800: Population Schedules, Washington County, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; and Population Census, 1803: Washington County, Ohio. NARA microfilm publication M1804 (1 roll).
  2. Century House. “History of Nantucket.” Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, MA, USA: http://www.centuryhouse.com. accessed 10 Feb 2018.
  3.  New Bedford Whaling Museum. “Overview of North American Whaling/Whales.”  https://www.whalingmuseum.org. accessed 10 Feb 2018.
  4. Lund, Judith N., Elizabeth A. Josephson, Randall R. Reeves and Tim D. Smith. “American Offshore Whaling Voyages: a database.” World Wide Web electronic publication. http://www.nmdl.org. (National Marine Digital Library.org). accessed 10 Feb 2018.

An Intriguing Census

Genealogy research is a long journey. Your family history takes you to familiar places; possibly adventures around the globe, and certainly on a few cross-country ventures, but sometimes a document escorts you into an unnerving environment. In fact, thinking about this unnerving document in particular, made me decide it would be a good time to have that cup of coffee.

My grandma’s family

I believe, I will always remember discovering the 1920 United States Federal Census in La Cross, Wisconsin.1[i]TTh There listed among the seventeen other boys and girls aged between five and twelve was my ten-year-old grandma’s name, and her eight-year-old sister’s name. While it wasn’t a new idea to me, seeing their names on an official government document in an institution named the “Home for the Friendless,” made my heart ache. Anyone, who knew my grandmother, would never believe she ever spent a day in her life friendless.

Her house was a beehive of hospitality. We had an “aunt” whom we did not know wasn’t related to us, until we were teenagers. When I try to think back how my grandparents housed all the different ones that came and went over the years, I honestly can’t figure out how their home was up to the task. Her own family would have been squeezed by today’s standards. Her guests did not just get a roof over their heads, they ate some of the best home cooking I know of. On a visit back home, I stayed at her house, and she was having a cup of coffee, with a roll. I asked her why she always liked to eat bread with her coffee. She said, it was a habit she learned at the orphanage. They had their main meal at noon, and at night they made do with very light fare, sometimes just bread and milk. When ever we stayed with grandma, there was always a little something at bedtime that usually involved milk. For us, it was usually the latest box cereal instead of the bread.

Mary T. Jones, a 63-year-old widow, was the matron on January 2, 1920. She was assisted by two other women. Maude L. Phillips, second in command, age 35, was   married, but living in the home being paid as the cook. She had an assistant cook, Caroline T. Olsen, a divorced 26-year-old woman of Norwegian ancestry as a resident. There were also five elderly women between the ages of 70 and 90.

Their mother and youngest sister visiting them at Easter at the orphanage.

My grandmother told me that she and her sister lived in the home off and on from the time they were about eight and six, until they were eighteen, and legally able to live on their own. Her mother had divorced sometime between 1917 and 1918. A La Crosse directory2[ii]from 1917 indicates she is living with her husband on 517 Car Street in La Crosse, Wisconsin employed as a candy worker, and her husband is a laborer. They have three girls aged about eight, six, and four. Grandma’s father, either enlisted, or was drafted into the army on August 23, 1917, and was honorably discharged in 19193[iii]. His rank was W in Sup. Co. 135, which I am assuming means a wagoner in a supply company. While in France he was exposed to mustard gas and was affected by it the remainder of his life. Grandma’s mother remarried on November 26, 1918. The particular detail of this next fact is not known, but the outcome was that her husband decided he could support one child. It was arranged for the two oldest to be taken in by “The Home for the Friendless” and the youngest stayed with the mother. During grandma’s growing up years, she left the home and tried to stay with her widowed grandmother on the farm she was running with her sons, but for one reason and another, she ended up returning to the orphanage.

Grandma at the orphanage. She is standing to the right of the matron in back row. Her sister is front far right in white dress, with her head down.

“The Home for the Friendless” was founded by the Young Ladies Mission Band in 1888 as an outreach to care for elderly, deserted or destitute women and dependent or neglected children4[iv]. These children were never considered for adoption. When and if their desperate circumstances changed, they could return to their parents. The home was to be just that, a comfortable, safe environment where they could attend school, and church. As I understand it, the St. Michael’s orphanage was across the street, and they had their own school, which the children from “The Home for the Friendless” attended. I don’t remember Grandma mentioning her church activities at that time. When she was in her thirties, she professed faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone for salvation.

When she was old enough to work out, which I believe at the latest, was age sixteen, but it could have been earlier, she was sent to live with a family in Iowa that had a son going to dental school. She remembers washing and ironing loads of dental uniforms. When she became of age, she moved to a town close to her grandmother, and rented an apartment and worked as a waitress. There she met my grandfather, and love ensued, and they married. She and grandfather then began their private “Home for the Friendless” and devoted themselves to their family and friends. We do not have enough words to express the love and joy those two poured into our lives, and the lives of others. They are both in heaven enjoying their rich rewards.

I purposely wrote this article using titles rather than personal pronouns of my family members to reduce search engine hits. Those searching for the orphanage information, will probably enjoy reading about it. While these facts are not secrets, they were difficult circumstances, that grandma did not go out of her way to advertise. I am just trying to be respectful to her story. Family who care, know where to find my blog. She and her younger sisters, loved their parents, and provided every comfort they could afford for their mother, father, and step father until their deaths. Grandma, and her youngest sister cared for their mother, and step-father, after they moved be near them in Illinois, and her sister, who was in the orphanage with her, cared for their natural father at her home in Minnesota, until he went to the National Home for Disabled Soldiers in King, Wisconsin, where he died.  My grandma and great aunt took me with them on a visit to see him, when I was in high school. He was in a wheel chair, with not much memory left.

[i] Ancestry.com.1920 United States Federal Census [data base on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by Family Search. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[ii] As of January 28, 2018, La Crosse Public Library has the “La Cross City Directory, 1917” online in a browse file: publicrescarta.lacrosselibrary.org

[iii]“United States, National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 2866-1938,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1./VH4V-WLX : accessed 07 Jun 2013), Lewis J Reed, 1932.

[iv] “As of January 28, 2018, Family & Children’s Center blog, www.fcconline.org/about-us/history


A Memorable Dinner

In 1961, my grandmother, Jennie Vesely, and her two sisters decided they wanted to do something special for their mother on Mother’s Day. If memory serves me right, we were in the green room at the Radke Hotel, in Savanna, Illinois. The picture was dark, but that was more to the camera than their decor. It was an old three story brick building that had been a popular stopping over place in Savanna since the 1900’s. In the picture I am sitting at the end on the right, and my older sister is sitting across from me next to our grandma. The table was set up like a horse shoe. The guest of honor was in the middle of the cross table. We were served turkey and trimmings. I don’t think anyone spilled anything. We were given a stern lecture before leaving home on how to behave in public. We wore our best clothes, and did not ask for seconds unless offered. Most of the real memories are the shenanigans the cousins got into trouble for back at grandma’s house after dinner. We were little dears in the green room.

Mother’s Day in the Green Room in 1961

The “Mother” being honored was my great grandma, Elva Mary [Fosdick, Reed] Overboe, who was born on November 20,1890 in Green Island, Jackson, Iowa, and died March 6, 1967, in Savanna, Carroll, Illinois at age 76.

BR-Viola Lucille [Reed] Loechler 1911-1998, Jennie Gladys [Reed] Vesely 1909-2006, and Lorraine Alice [Reed] Demeester 1913-1981, and their mother Elva Mary [Fosdick, Reed] Overboe.

A Nod to Longevity

I have over two thousand names in my family history data base, and my great aunt Mary [Buchannan] Vesely is a strong contender for having lived the longest. In genealogy, facts change as the research continues, so she may loose her title. Mary is in the center front in the brown print dress. The picture was taken at the Old Mill Park, Savanna, Illinois in 1957 when Mary was 59 years old. She is surrounded by her sisters-in-law. L-R Florence Gertrude [Vesely] Mick, Esther Lillian [Vesely] Shaner, my grandmother, Genevieve “Jennie” Gladys [Reed] Vesely, and Grace Amelia [Stephan] Vesely (later Parsons).


Mary’s birth name was Marie Emroy Buchannan, and she was born on 27 September, 1898 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois,to John Amos Buchanan and Ruth May [Breese] Buchanan. She was 97 years old when she died on the 15th of August, 1996 in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, almost a month short of her 98th birthday.

I do not have a lot of memories of Aunt Mary, because they lived in Rockford, and moved to Arizona before I was born. When they came to visit occasionally, I was too young to pay much attention. Her children, Reva, Kenny, Dorothy, John “Jack”, Mary “Midge”, Jimmy, Sandra, and Florence were closer to my parents age. Most of my memories are of her two sons, Kenny and Jimmy, who lived in Rockford and came to Savanna for visits. There was lots of laughing and story telling.

Mary married my Uncle Francis William Vesely, the brother of my grandfather, Clarence Raymond Vesely, on the 8th June 1918. Francis died in Glendale, Arizona in 1967 at the age of 70. They had nine children [listed above] together.She out lived her husband and most of her children. I am assuming the youngest child, Florence is deceased, but I cannot document it.



Clarence Raymond Vesely

This is a photo of my paternal grandfather. Officially on record, he was Clarence Raymond Vesely (1899-1970), but to us grandchildren, he was Mumpy. His favorite leisure activity was going fishing on the Mississippi River. A family get together might often include a fish-fry. If he had to, he would fish by himself, but he preferred going with my dad, uncle, or my cousin and brothers. In a Saturday morning moment of desperation, he invited the girls. Taking girls along involved arranging bathroom facilities: a 5lb. coffee can. This made it just appealing enough to entice only the most sport minded among the girls. I went once or twice. It was the coffee can that made me think through the decision very carefully. Mumpy was a patient fisherman with the girls, handing out hook bated cane poles where we could not do too much damage to his fishing activity, and still catch something if the fish were biting. He had special places to go depending on what fish he thought might be biting. If it was sunfish or bluegills there were a couple of old stumps or over hanging brush on the slough, or if the stripers might be hungry it was over to the wing dam, or if a catfish might be on the menu maybe he would fish deep, while we plunked around higher up.

One time, while Mumpy and my dad were fishing, a snapping turtle bit on their boat oar and wouldn’t let go, so they brought it home thinking if they cleaned it, grandma would make turtle soup. It was an interesting sight to watch in Mumpy’s, basement of them wrestling that turtle shell removing all the “good” meat. There was hardly any elbow room around the work bench with all the little faces looking on. It was an interesting sight in the kitchen watching the process of turning that turtle meat into the soup. Not so many little faces looking on then. It was not an interesting sight to see the soup in my bowl with Dad looking on insisting that I at least “try” a bite. Now, the only face looking on was my green face matching what I thought looked like river backwater in my bowl. Maybe, I just thought that because it smelled like back water. Maybe, it was all my imagination and the soup was quite tasty. All I know for sure was that it was a mind over matter, and looking at the bowl was like looking at a big ugly snapping turtle and I was having none of it. Knowing my dad, I probably did “try” it, but turtle was never on our menu again, that I know of. We stuck with the catfish, stripers, blue gills, and sunfish.

Wendy’s Quilt

My older sister passed away in December of last year from cancer. We had a memorial service for her in February, and last Friday, Nov 10th, her ashes were laid to rest in the cemetery. It took a while to arrange for a suitable plot. The cemetery with all our family plots was full, and we did not want to place her ashes at the new cemetery out of town on a flat piece of land with no landscaping. What to do? One of my sisters had a friend, who recalled there was a deed for a single plot in the old cemetery that belonged to an aunt who moved to another state. The deed to this plot was in her deceased mother’s papers.  It turned out to be near our family plots, and in time, the legalities were completed in transferring the deed. Her husband made the headstone arrangements, so all was ready for the ashes. Our family had closure in the sense of caring for the physical aspect of a much loved life. It was a great relief.

How does this quilt tie in? This same friend of my sister, had also passed on to her a  garbage bag of fabric scraps that had been her mother’s and grandmother’s. I knew her grandmother as a girl, because she was one of my customers on my newspaper route. On Fridays, when I collected the fee for the newspaper, she often had me step in while she searched her purse for change. I would sometimes notice she had fabric laid out on her table for some sewing project she was working on. I come from a family of quilters and garment sewers, so I would notice. The fabric scraps got passed on to another sister who sews, and then some made their way to me as well. I had probably seen some of those very fabrics when I delivered papers to the grandma. I had started using  my scraps to make blocks from Laurie Aaron Hird’s book: The Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt. Then it came to me to make a quilt for Wendy, using her mother’s and grandmother’s scraps as a thank you for the wonderful way she gifted our family.

Close up of fan quilting.

Wagons West

Last year I decided to participate in Barbara Brackman’s 2016 BOM commemorating the women who went west on the wagon trains. While she noted, few women actually quilted on the trail, many quilts were taken on the trip. You can read all about the trail ride here: http://civilwarquilts.blogspot.com/2016/01/westering-women-block-of-month-2016.html .

Westering Women BOM 2016 by Barbara Brackman.

Westering Women BOM 2016 by Barbara Brackman.

I enjoyed reading her research for each month’s history behind the block, as much as I did the quilting. I mostly used two main Moda fabric collections: Hawthorn Ridge, designed by Jan Patek; and Eliza’s Indigo by Betsy Chutchain. I am sure my layout did not do their designs justice. Regardless of any reader’s opinion, my daughter-in-law, who loves all things “wagon train” received it wrapped in brown paper with string, with a note saying “from my wagon to yours,” and wisked right on to her bed. It was machine pieced, and hand quilted.  It took me ten months to hand quilt it. I quilted everything in the ditch, then I did a Baptist Fan in the corner of each block with fan to center with accent quilting in the center where fans did not meet. Then, I quilted two double lines (wagon train tracks) on the half squares surrounding all the large feature blocks on point and add a few various trails in the corners, and in the smaller borders. The wagon track quilting shows up in the lower right hand corner. I almost didn’t finish it, as I was disappointed in the layout I chose. Live and Learn. My sister, who quilts, said I really needed to finish it, and I am glad I did.


Goodbye Summer

Today, I noticed the light was different as I sat at my desk facing a southwest window. A breeze danced the leaves around the patio reminding me that some of the most beautiful aspects of a transition from one season to the next, are very brief, whether they are in nature or our lives. Feeling melancholic, I decided to remember the moment with things my eye noticed.


All the blue items on my desk!. At least I can enjoy that color in all seasons and locals.   SunlightandShadow_Oct2017compressed

A modern quilt pattern on the carpet as the light filtered through the blinds.


The rosy color of these dried hydrangeas that sit on the book case next to my desk. I brought them from Jon and Suzanne’s home, because they have since moved on to a  new season of their life. They will make a beautiful memory of our time together, and a reminder of all the new possibilities ahead .


The wood pile sitting below the window that might be taken to the beach for one last outing. A place where there is lots of blue all year round.

Worthwhile Walk

Sometimes when I am totally absorbed in my project, it’s tough to stop everything and exercise. Since my walking depends on pretty fair weather, I have to be an opportunist. Today, was one of those times when I could have easily avoided exercising, but I pushed myself to make the better choice and was rewarded.

This dapper fellow just sat on the tree and waited for me to get my phone out of my jacket pocket, fumble with the camera button, then he waited some more as I took a few shots close, hoping at least one would be sort of focused! I didn’t get that little star on any of my pics indicating best shot, so you’ll have to bear with this one. I am greatly thankful for the pleasure this afforded me on what I thought would be a dutiful walk.

Hot Pad Mania

img_20161207_1237372502For the past few days I have been doing some stash busting. My sister sent me this pitiful picture of her star hot pads.
The situation called for immediate rescue. I probably over reacted, as I made fifteen! I think I can make these in my sleep now. I asked if she wanted a theme or color palette. Ha! She said to surprise her. Bad choice probably, and she knows my tendencies to the Bohemian side of things. You be the judge. Enjoy the pics.