After finishing up a couple of large research projects, I needed a break so I took a ‘road less traveled’. My research on my Purdy family only solidly goes back to my 3x great grandfather, Lewis Purdy (1790-1875) of Tompkins County, New York. His parentage is currently a mystery and other than New York stated in each Federal Census – exact place of birth is unknown. To complicate things…or maybe to simplify them….there are many Purdys in Enfield and surrounds and they all seem to have come from Westchester County, New York. Are they all related? Very likely. When I have researched in Enfield, the locals perk up when I inquire about the Purdys. They invariably have stories about all of them and their kin. Except Lewis. Untangling the familial knots to find Lewis’ parents are going to be a chore. Perhaps instead of the Gordian knot…I will call it the Purdy (Purdian?) knot.

When Lewis’ first wife Rachel died in 1839 in Enfield, New York, they had three living children (and maybe five)…including my 2x great grandfather, Samuel D. Purdy (21), his brother Andrew Brown Purdy (16) and sister Malinda Purdy Drake (22). I began with Samuel and my family records. The 1867 family bible. What my family knew. That seems to be where we all begin the research. Then on to the public records, historical publications and newspapers. Lewis died in 1875 before New York State required death certificates, but his death was recorded in the Ithaca Daily Journal. It was pretty sparse…no biography and only the mention of my 2x great grandfather.

” Mr. Lewis Purdy, father of S. D. Purdy of Enfield Centre, aged upwards of 85 years, was found dead in his bed yesterday morning. He had been ailing slightly with a cold for a few days, but retired as well as usual.”

Malinda Purdy Drake died in 1874 and like her father, there would be no New York State death certificate. If there is any clue to Lewis in her descendants’ lore, they would have been passed down through her son, Francis Edgar Drake. Her other son, Andrew Oscar Drake has no descendants. Malinda, like her half brother, Lewis, is buried in Trumbulls Corner Cemetery in Newfield. As of now, no news from this line that migrated to Kansas after his mother’s passing. Their online research shows no parents listed for her. Perhaps they have no records to prove her parents. Patience.

Samuel D. Purdy seemed to be in charge of his aging father and if there had been any knowledge of Lewis’ information, he took it with him when he died in 1898. His death certificate confirms his parents as Lewis and Rachel Purdy. His son, Elbert Purdy (my great grandfather) had died in 1888 and my great grandmother had remarried and moved to Ithaca. The Purdy-Williams 1867 marriage bible contains a clipping of Samuel’s obituary from the Ithaca Journal neatly attached next to his son’s 1888 obituary.

SAMUEL D. PURDY On July 23, 1898, as the sun was setting in the west, there passed from among us, the life of one of our most useful, and esteemed citizens, Samuel D. Purdy, of Enfield Center, aged 79 years. He leaves to mourn his loss a widow (second wife Mary McCoy Ink), one daughter, Mrs. Horace Russell (Mary), of Ithaca, and one brother, A.B. (Andrew B.) Purdy, of Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. S.D. Purdy died nearly upon the spot where he was born; he spent nearly every day of his life in Tompkins Co., where his character as an upright, hones business man is well known, in his various pursuits as a builder, merchant and farmer. No one ever suffered any loss in dealing with him. He has reached the end of his journey, and we how most deeply feel his loss, believe he has passed through the gates and is at rest in the eternal city. Therefore we are willing to leave him in the hands of one who doeth all things well. The funeral was largely attended at his late home in Enfield, July 26, 1898.

ANDREW BROWN PURDY (1823-1907) married Malissa Ann Drake of Newfield and had one child – a daughter, Olive. They left Enfield, Tompkins county, New York and made their home in Brooklyn, Kings county, New York where Andrew plied his trade as a carpenter. After Malissa’s death in 1854, Andrew remarried and he and his second wife Mary carried on life in Brooklyn with Olive. When Andrew was once again widowed, he brought his half sister Lois Purdy into his household to help care for Olive while he pursued his new occupation as Superintendent in Providence, Rhode Island Water Works. Andrew married one more time in Providence, but his wife Priscilla Renouf and daughter died as a result of a difficult birth. Olive and Andrew stayed in Providence where Olive met and married Henry Blatchford in 1874. The Blatchfords and Andrew returned to the Purdy home on Lafayette in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn) where daughter and only child Stella was born. Eventually the extended family moved to a lovely brick four story home at 178 Columbia Heights. When his brother, Samuel died in 1898, Andrew made the journey to Enfield to attend his brother’s services as reported in the Ithaca Daily News.

In 1907 Andrew died in his daughter’s home at the age of 83. His death certificate states he was born in Hector, New York and his father was Lewis Purdy born in New York State. Mother unknown. The “B” was declared to be “Brown”…perhaps his mother’s maiden name? Stella grew up in Brooklyn ‘high society’ and the Blatchford home was constantly filled with music and the arts. When Stella died in 1948 in her Columbia Heights home, she had never married and had no children.

The Half Siblings

Within months of Rachel’s passing, Lewis had married a young woman 26 years his junior, Sarah Jane Kellogg. Their first born, a son, Lewis Purdy, Jr., was born in 1840. Lewis fathered eight children with Sarah Jane while he was in his fifties and while the couple were living in Newfield. One son and seven daughters.

In 1863 Lewis was widowed once again and left with several young daughters to raise. Lewis, Jr. (1840-1923), was fighting in the Civil War and when he returned home, he married another Newfield resident, Olive Sholes. Lewis and Olive had three children…none who survived childhood. Eventually Lewis and Olive moved to Van Etten where he owned a farm. Lewis, Olive and their little ones are all buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery in Newfield. With no descendants of Lewis and Olive to pursue, the chase was left to his sisters.


The Purdy sisters were dispersed among local residents as domestic servants.

Harriet Purdy (1842-1911) first married William Lyman Leonard and lived in Newfield where she gave birth to her only child, Estella Josephine Leonard in 1864. By 1880 Harriet was alone and Estella was working as a domestic for the Harding family in Ithaca. In 1890 Harriet remarried to Washington Newberry who was 27 years her senior and relocated to Liberty, Tioga county, Pennsylvania. Harriet died in Manhattan and is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Bergen county, New Jersey. Estella had married Dr. August Hassloch in 1893 and settled in Brooklyn. The couple had no children. Estella died in 1934 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Brooklyn. Harriet’s obituary in the Elmira, N.Y Star Gazette reads

She Was Widow Liberty Resident

Ithaca – Jan. 6. – (Special) – Mrs. Harriet Newbury, widow of the late Washington Newbury of Liberty, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Estella Hassloch, on December 27. Funeral services were held at her late residence on Friday, December 29. Interment at Fairview cemetery, Fairview, Bergen county, N.J.

Mrs. Newbury was born at Trumbull’s Corners, September 26, 1842; was a daughter of Louis Purdy and had many relatives and friends in Trumbull’s Corners and Ithaca.


Lois Purdy‘s (1846-1935) movements gave me the first clue in my search for the fate of the young girls. Lois first went to live in Enfield with her elder half sister, Malinda, wife of William Drake and then later she was sent to Brooklyn with her elder half brother, Andrew Brown Purdy, where in 1869, at age 23, she met and married her husband Truman Frear Wicker and moved to Wisconsin. Lois and Truman had one child, Olive Wicker, probably named after her niece – the daughter of Andrew B. Purdy. Olive married Louis E. Nigh in Wisconsin and had one child, Stephen Wicker Nigh. Stephen married Mary E. Gustin and the couple had one son, Stephen Wicker Nigh, Jr. and one daughter, Barbara Mae Nigh (Greenway). Since Lois was cared for by her elder half siblings, did SHE know Lewis’ parents. Or his first wife’s maiden name? Lois and Truman Wicker are buried in Union Cemetery in Campbellsport, Wisconsin.

Former Residents Answer Call

Mrs. Lois Wicker, widow of the late T. F. Wicker, died at the home of her son-in-law, L. E. Nigh, at North Lake, Sunday, Nov. 17, after an illness of several weeks duration.

Lois Purdy was born in Tompkins county, New York, in 1846, and was married to Truman F. Wicker Oct. 19, 1869, and came directly to Wisconsin, settling in Barton. They came to Campbellsprt in 1870 and resided in this vicinity until 1914 when they left to make their home with their daughter, Mrs. L. E. Nigh, who passed away March 4, 1932. Mr. Wicker, died July 22, 1922.

She is survived by her son-in-law, L. E. Nigh of North Lake, a grandson, Wicker S. Nigh, Jr. of Wautoma, two sisters, Mrs. Ida Matteson of Fairmont, Nebr., and Mrs. Elizabeth Krege (sp) of Ithaca, N.Y.

Campbellsport News. Thursday, November 21, 1935


Margaret Purdy (1849-1932)…”Maggie” worked for Lyman Hughley in Hector for several years before moving to Wisconsin near her sister Lois and in 1878 marrying Oliver Hendricks. They had two children: Grace Effie Hendricks (A. Fred Schmidt) and Ray Andrew Hendricks. Grace had no children that I can find and her brother married and had one son, Oliver. Oliver has living children. Do THEY know their Purdy roots? Margaret and Oliver Hendricks are buried in Union Cemetery in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Her obituary in the Campbellsport News reads

Mrs. Margaret Hendricks, widow of O. G. Hendricks, 83, died at the home of her daughter, Mr. A. F. Schmidt, at 1:35 Friday morning, December 23, after a lingering illness.

Margaret Purdy was born in Tompkins County, New York, February 28, 1849, and came to Wisconsin in 1876. She was married to Oliver G. Hendricks on January 31, 1878. Mr. Hendricks passed away July 9, 1929.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Henricks leaves on son, Ray A. Hendricks, a grandson, Oliver G. Hendricks, and three sisters, Mrs. Lois Wicker of North Lake, Wis., Mrs. Elizabeth Kresge of Ithaca, N. Y., and Mrs. Ida Matteson of Fairmont, Nebr.

Campbellsport News.


Ida May Purdy (1856- 1938) worked for Levi Potts in Newfield for several years before she went to live with Lois and Truman in Wisconsin and in 1875 married Wisconsin native Clark H. Matteson. She and Clark moved to Nebraska and had four children: Dee, Glenn, Edna and Aurilla. Only Glenn and Aurilla lived to adulthood. Glenn Matteson was married twice. The first Mrs. Matteson was Myrtle Walters. Glen and Myrtle had two children – Floyd Rolland and Francis Wilburn Matteson. Myrtle died in 1918. The following year Glenn married Mabel Benson and the couple had no children. Aurilla Matteson married Clifford W. Geyer in Nebraska and the couple had five children – Alma Mae Geyer (Carl R. Ryan), Doris Ruth Geyer (1.Edgar A. Allen;2.Henry L. Aumiller), Iva June Geyer (Walter E. Scheel), Ruby Lee Geyer (George Alfred Brinton), Norman D. Geyer. Ida May and Clark Matteson are buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Fairmont, Nebraska.


Zilla Purdy (1851-?) went to work for the Reverend Rumsey in Enfield and after 1870 is unaccounted for. Her sister, Lucy Purdy (1854-?) who was just nine at her mother’s death remains unaccounted for.

The youngest, Sarah Elizabeth (Libbie) Purdy (1859-1944), was adopted by Enfield residents Benjamin and Betsey Hungerford. She remained in the Ithaca area and married Jonas Kresga and had three children, Vosco, Guida and Reo. Vosco and Guida both died as young children and her son, Reo De Forest Kresge died in 1938 after a life plagued with illness (probably tuberculosis). He and his wife, Alice Loveless never had children. In 1944 when Elizabeth died, she was the last of the surviving Purdy children. She and her family are buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery in Newfield. Her funeral notice in the Ithaca Journal reads

Mrs. Elizabeth Kresge of 110 Hyers St., died early today, Mar. 31, 1944. Her only survivor is a daughter-in-law, Mrs. Reo Kresge of Ithaca.

Funeral Services will be conductd at 3 p.m. Sunday, Apr. 2, in the Baldwin -Davis Funeral Home, 421 N. Aurora St., by the Rev. Henry G. Budd, pastor of the First Methodist Church, of which she was a member.

Interment will be in Trumbulls Corners.


What is interesting is that despite the far flung destinies of the Purdy sisters, they kept in touch as their obituaries reported the surviving sisters- Lois, Ida May, Margaret and Elizabeth…three to the midwest and one left behind amidst other Purdys of Tompkins County. Did my mother know Elizabeth Purdy Kresga? Libbie as she was called by friends and family had been called Libbie Hungerford most of her life, but she KNEW her true name. And her sisters. Did she seek other Purdys in Ithaca and surrounds. Like me. To ask about Lewis?


So…now that we have run the gamut of Lewis’ second family and examining their records, no mention except for their enumeration as a family in Newfield in the 1860 Federal Census, is made of their father or mother…except for Maggie. Her Wisconsin records indicated she was born in Tompkins County and her father was…ta dah….Lewis and mother Sarah Jane…and Maggie’s maiden name was Purdy. Once I found that little tidbit, I was able to track down Ida, Lois and Elizabeth. Thank goodness, the sisters remained in touch. A social note in the November 26, 1896 Ithaca Daily News reports

Mrs. T. F. Wicker of Campbellsport, Wis. who has been visiting Mrs. H. Russell left this morning for New York.

Mrs. T. F. Wicker…Lois Purdy is visiting Mrs. H. Russell – Mary Purdy (Horace Russell), the sister of my great grandfather Elbert Purdy and Lois’ cousin. She left for New York so most likely she is going to Brooklyn to visit Andrew Brown Purdy, her half brother.

Where does this leave me with their father Lewis Purdy? Back to the drawing board in Enfield and Newfield. Lois was also a key relational component because she lived with her half sister Malinda Purdy Drake and then her half brother Andrew before she married and went off to Wisconsin. How much did the young women know about their father and their Purdy family? Their Aunt Malinda Purdy Drake died in 1874 and like Lewis, Jr. and his family…are buried in Trumbulls Corners Cemetery. As is Elizabeth “Libbie” Purdy Kresga and her children. Their Uncle Andrew died in Brooklyn in 1907 and I have his death certificate naming Lewis and Rachel Purdy as his parents. My 2x great grandfather Samuel D. Purdy died in Enfield in 1898 and I have his death certificate. Same data. Through the research journey, the family circle kept bringing me back to the shores of Cayuga Lake and Lewis Purdy. His name. His age. His birth place -New York State. His land ownership. His wives. His children. His death. So much information and yet, still I am missing THE piece of the puzzle. My analysis worksheet is nicely tied together and the evidence well documented and I suppose I should feel quite happy with finding the Purdy girls, but as any genealogical researcher can attest….THE quest continues!

Special Note: If you feel dizzy after all of this, take some comfort in the fact that as the hapless researcher in this project, I had to create an analysis report to keep track of all of the clues and where they lead me. Many times it resembled circles upon circles! And I still have NO idea who Lewis’ parents are. Be brave!

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Genealogist, Author and Contributing Writer

(c) Copyright 2021




East Hill Where Heritage Lives. 100 Acres.

East Hill Where Heritage Lives. 100 Acres.

Purdy Family Bible

Family Bible of Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth A. Williams of Enfield, NY

A Note to My Readers: Going back to the heirloom that is the root of my genealogical interest and ultimate passionate life long study, I began to parse the details from the clippings that my maternal great grandmother, Elizabeth A. “Libbie” Williams Purdy Smith (1848-1940), carefully secured to her family bible.  Details matter and more often than not, offer us a greater picture of our ancestors’ lives.   In the case of Samuel D. Purdy (1818-1898), it gave me a pivotal clue as to where his farm was located and the knowledge that Semantha, his wife, co-owned the property.


When Libbie’s father-in-law died in Elizabeth A. Williams Purdy with son, Burt Samuel1898, she had been a widow for ten years and pasted not one, but two newspaper clippings of Samuel D. Purdy’s death into her bible. By then she had remarried to a widower, Charles R. Smith, and relocated from Enfield to Ithaca, but she clearly maintained her Purdy and Enfield relationships. Perhaps she felt her matrimonial bible was not just her anchor of faith, but it also would serve as a treasured family time capsule. A remembrance of her and our entangled family history.  The tiny, distinguished and iron-willed woman who her descendants recall as Mrs. E. A. Smith of 309 Eddy Street, Ithaca, New York.


Samuel D Purdy obit 1898So…what is Libbie telling me with her inclusions? In my many trips to Enfield, I carried with me the 1866 map which indicated where Samuel D. Purdy’s mercantile – cum – U.S. Post Office and carpentry shop stood in Enfield Center. It was easy to identify the site of his business operation, but his obituary said he had a farm.  On East Hill.  Samuel bought and sold multiple parcels over his lifetime as an Enfield resident and I realized that I didn’t clearly understand exactly where his ‘farm’ on East Hill stood.


Without finding an official designation of what East Hill was/is, I assumed it is informally named by locals and not necessarily a bona fide geo-political name. I started to read references to East Hill of places in the area of Enfield Center (Harvey Hill and Bostwick Road intersection) and considering the steep inclination of Enfield Main Road to Enfield Center, I deduced that East Hill refers to Enfield Main Road.  Surely there was a stronger and more precise case to be made.  On to more official clues.


A record of a 1867 transaction selling 2/3 of an acre of land gave me another important benchmark location when a piece of property was sold by Samuel and his wife, Semantha.

“in the Town of Enfield in the County of Tompkins and State of New York being part of lot no. 60 in said town of Enfield as follows: to wit; Beginning at the south east corner of a lot of land on said great lot no. sixty & at the centre of highway running north and south through the village of Enfield centre & which lot is owned by Eliza Barber running from thence westerley as the fence runs on the south line of said Barber to lands owned by Gertrude Bailey hence southerly as fence now stands to the northwest corner of a certain piece of land owned by Sylvester Wright on said lot no. sixty….Being the same premises conveyed by deed  by S.D. Purdy & Semanthia (sic) his wife on the twenty seventh day of March 1867 to Elizabeth Kellogg.”

In a 1918 classified notice in the Ithaca Daily News I found a more precise description of Samuel and Semantha’s farm.

“All That Tract or Parcel of Land situate in the Town of Enfield, Tompkins County, N.Y., known and described as being subdivisions No. (blurred, but appears be ‘2’) and No. 5 on the north side of Lot No. 61 in the said Town of Enfield, and bounded as follows: Subdivision No. one thence running south thirty-nine chains and sixty-nine links: thence east twenty-five chains and twenty links; thence north thirty-nine chains and sixty-nine links; thence west along the north line of said lot No. 61 twenty-five chains and twenty links to the place of beginning, containing one hundred acre of land, more or less, and being the farm at one time owned by Samuel D. Purdy. Being the premises described in a deed recorded in the Tompkins County Clerk’s Office in Book 147 of Deeds at page 560, and also in Book 150 of Deeds at page 593 in said Tompkins County Clerk’s Office. Being the farm owned by Frank Cummings at the time of his death.
Dated, April 4, 1918”

1920 Enfield MapWith all of these elements…references in transactions dating back to the 1850’s to Military Lot 53, Lots No. 52, 60 and 61 owned by the Purdys and consulting a 1920 plot map of the Enfield area,  I will take Grandma Smith’s ‘hint’ and begin to diagram the mentioned lots, neighboring landowners, dates to develop the history and timeline of the Purdy properties.

Next spring upon returning to my ancestral roots in Enfield…diagram in hand… instead of having the general sense of  heritage presence, I hope to stand with surety upon the farmlands belonging to my 2x great grandparents.


Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright October 2017. All Rights Reserved.


Hoss Flesh and Cow Tails

A Note to My Readers:  Researchers find information in so many sources to fill in a biography…censuses, wills, land purchases and birth, marriage and death records.  Sometimes there are personal documents and memorabilia such as letters and family bibles to provide a detail or two.  Nine times out of ten these types of records give us timeline events and relationships, but few and far between give us the slice of life stuff.  Of course that leaves most of us tingling with curiosity and with little or no way to touch that personality.   But…controversy shows up in newspaper articles like the village gossip inviting you to sit a spell and listen to a yarn or two.  

And so it is with Lewis Purdy, Jr. (1840-1923)

Goodness me. I long had the gist that Lewis Purdy, Jr., the half-brother of my maternal 2nd great grandfather, Samuel D. Purdy (1818 – 1898) of Enfield, NY was a bit of a character with a life of highs and lows, but today’s research tells me that ‘bit of a character’  isn’t exactly an apt description.

Samuel’s mother, Rachel died in 1839 when he was a young man and his father, Lewis, Sr (1791- 1875). remarried a much younger woman named Sarah J. and had several more children.

Lewis, Jr. was born in 1840 so Lewis, Sr. had wasted no time. Sarah died in 1863 and left behind several daughters who as young girls were farmed out to various families in Tompkins county working as house help.  Lewis, Jr. was off to fight in the Civil War with the 109th Regiment that year. When he returned and mustered out in 1865, he married Miss Olive Sholes of Newfield on February 5th in Enfield. Probably under the watchful eye of  his staid and respectable brother, Samuel.  Olive and Lewis initially lived with her parents in Newfield. The Sholes were neighbors of Lewis, Sr. and his third wife, Esther Eddy Purdy.

Lewis and Olive went off on their own buying a farm at Van Etten (Swartwood Station) in Chemung county, New York.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Immediately Olive gave birth to daughter Fannie in 1866 and in 1870, son Freddie was born. Death came to the Purdy household in 1873 and both children perished. In 1882 Olive gave birth to daughter, Murtie, but she, too perished, dying at the age of 7 years old. All three children are buried in Trumbull Corners in Newfield.

Life goes on as they say and Lewis seems to have followed a dark and angry path.  He was in conflict with his neighbors…far beyond verbal, many set-tos turning to violence.  In 1888 after another angry dispute, Lewis suffered a “body execution” upon being sued by Lewis Smith and so his brother, Samuel had to travel to the jail to retrieve him.  In one 1893 fray, Lewis sued a Mr. Thompson for false representation of ‘hoss flesh’.

But it was the bitter feud between James R. McKay that festered and boiled over and by 1910 the duo were in Chemung court after 70 year old Lewis was assaulted by Mr. McKay.  He was dragged to the ground from a wagon by Mr. McKay, his clothes torn and two teeth broken and one loosened causing Lewis to purchase false teeth.  Before you want to dig up Mr. McKay and yell at him, the court testimony states that

Mr. Purdy is a man of violent temper, of a quarrelsome nature and given to brawling and fighting; that prior to April 1 the defendant was forced to eject Mr. Purdy from the defendant’s hotel in Van Etten and on April 1 was forced to remonstrate with Mr. Purdy because the man was using profane language in the presence of a woman with whom the defendant was conversing.

While I did not find the conclusion of the court case, I did find that the quarreling men were not done with one another.  No, sirree.

Ithaca NY Daily News 1911 Lewis Purdys Cow Loses TailIn 1911 they were back in court when Lewis sued James McKay…oh, I can hardly type this without shaking my head….because Lewis’  Holstein lost her tail to the jaws of Mr. McKay’s dogs.    The saga went on for six weeks, calling 23 witnesses and finally going to the jury.

Lewis lived to be 83 years old passing away in 1923 at the Old Soldier’s Home.  He had been widowed since 1916 when patient Olive went to her peaceful reward.

Lewis and Olive Sholes Purdy Monument

The Purdys are buried in the family plot in Trumbull Corners with their three children – a quiet and bucolic spot where matters of  ‘hoss flesh’ and cow tails are of no consequence.




Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved



Legacies and Heirlooms – Past and Future

A Note to My Readers: We spend years and countless dollars, travel to ancestral grounds and haunt offices of county clerks,  libraries and museums – looking for new research material…new information to feed our habit.  That’s all well and good…I love it, too, but taking the time to organize and maintain your home archives is one of the most important things a family historian can do.  You are a personal museum if you think of it and your inventory is irreplaceable.  Put down your Indiana Jones hat and pick up the white gloves and become an archivist for a bit.  You might have new revelations about your ancestors providing a new path for research, but if nothing else you will find comfort and confidence knowing that your legacy will be passing down the knowledge of what your family heirlooms are.

Family Bible Front CoverMy family bible is 146 years old.  It was the marriage bible for my great grandparents Elbert Purdy and Elizabeth Williams of Enfield, Tompkins County, New York.   The wedding certificate is a page that is one of the illuminated pages at the very center of the bible that contains pages of marriages, birth and deaths.  Other than the fact that the front cover is separated from the binding…the pages are in remarkable condition.  The bible has survived house fires, many moves…from Enfield to Ithaca to Auburn to Cayuga, New York to New Hampshire and Rhode Island cross country to California and back to New York state to New Jersey and finally here to Pennsylvania…thousands and thousands of miles over 146 years.  It has been passed down through several generations and I hope it continues to do so.  For years it was in a box…in my mother’s closet…and then in mine.  Until I started working on the family genealogy…and was bitten by the bug.

I work with historians and archivists…museums and libraries…and have learned how to protect my valuable family treasures.  Mementos is too small a word.  Treasure is more fitting.  The bible is in my barrister bookcases…behind glass…not exposed to sunlight and in a temperature controlled environment.  The newest expert opinion is out on the subject of handling old paper with or without gloves.  Making sure your hands are clean before perusing old books and documents seems to be the prevailing wisdom of the day though I still run into museum and library folks who maintain the glove requirement protocol.  The standards I have hung my hat on come from the National Archives…and you don’t have to be a big institution with vaults and expensive methods to use their guidelines.

Digital is nice for sharing with multitudes of people…and I have an ongoing project to scan old photos, documents and ephemera to do just that, but the real thing…the tangible items are dear and touching and a digital image can never evoke the same awe.

Store your items well…organize them.  If you are a Virgo, Type A like I am…catalog and index what you have.  When you pass them down, there will be no guess work for the next generations about what they are and to whom they pertain.    I spent over a decade working out mysteries and I still have some ‘orphan’ material and photos, but they are few and far between, thank goodness.  After all, we all have expressed regret because we didn’t get that information from the previous generation and we are left wondering.

Lots of stuff?   It’s not going to get any less, so choose one small box at a time starting with the oldest material and settle down on a rainy or snowy day and begin.  Your great grandchildren will be glad you did.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

Room 330 Goes to Paris

I have been focusing on old photographs lately…ones that are in the possession of my family members.  Some that belong to me…handed down to me by my mother.  Imagine my surprise when I came across a photo of my 15 year old mother on in their U.S. Yearbook collection.  My mother kept so many things, but I never saw a yearbook and I suspect that my grandparents thought it a luxury that their large family could not afford.

How delightful to see her young face with her schoolmates and the charming story to include each of the Ithaca High School 1924 Class of Freshmenyoung ladies of Room 330 of Ithaca High School.   What was unique about the 1924 yearbook approach was the absence of the usual identification of the students in the photo…left to right…first row…second row…third row.  So I had to peer into each face hoping my mother would be easily identifiable.

Could I find my mother?  I was born when she was almost 40 years old.  Would I know her youthful appearance?  Of course, I could.  It resembled my own so remarkably that it took my breath away when my gaze fell upon her…third row, eighth from the left.

My mother, whose idea of a faraway trip was the trolley ride to South Aurora street in Ithaca or later the bus ride from Thornton Avenue to downtown Auburn, dreamed of Paris when she was fifteen.

In the excitement of getting her on board, Deborah Purdy dropped her case overboard but Imogen Grover came to the rescue by offering the use of hers when she needed it.

When we arrived at our destination, some went to the fashion show, some to the play called “La Poudre Aux Yeaux” and still others visited historical features of the great city…

I always thought about my young mother as a ‘flapper’…flirting with Cornell men…riding in open top cars…legs and arms akimbo dancing the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Lindy Hop.  Before my serious father came along.

Though she shared so much with me about her childhood, she didn’t share all of it.  She was wistful about “Papa’s” troubles and the lack of money that inexplicably plagued the family.   Hints.   She was so detailed and romantic about Ithaca and home and the happy moments, but never ever spoke of the wish to see the world.

Little did I know that she went to Paris with her class in 1924.  In spirit.

Je t’aime, maman.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved