Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

23 Sept 2017: Finding the missing link. A Genealogical miracle! September 23, 2017

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d find it. After all, at this point in time, what more could there possibly be to find. And there it was, staring me in the face on Ancestry.com as if daring me to open it. Could it? Could it possible be him?

AND IT WAS!

My Geoghan family line has been a bone of contention in my family tree for some time. The origins of our roots in Ireland and the UK were a total mystery. Geoghan is an Irish name, but paperwork seemed divided between Scotland and Ireland so far as census records and the old “Where were your parents born” type of questions.

Last year I was able to find a birth record in Glasgow, Scotland that I believed quite strongly was my great grandfather Thomas Geoghan. From the records I was able to find on FamilySearch.org and time spent at my local Family History Center, I found more records on Thomas’ parents and siblings.  Him and his siblings were all born in Govan, Lanarkshire which is part of Glasgow, while his parents (George Geoghan and Ann Donnelly) were listed as born in Ireland.  No city, town or village listed, just Ireland.  Big help, right?

This family shows up on the 1851 and 1861 census of Scotland and then I have ship passenger lists that bring over, first George (the father) and then Ann and the kids. They show up here in America on 1875 Rhode Island State census in East Greenwich, Kent county. They’re also there in 1880 for the US Federal Census.

Then nothing. Crickets chirping …

Now, my great grandfather, Thomas Geoghan, I trace back to Unionville/Farmington, Hartford Count, Ct where the oldest record I had of him was the record of his marriage in the town clerks office dated October 28, 1883. We know the first five of his six children were born in Unionville.  From there the family moved to Westport, CT for a few years before eventually moving on to New York City.

But how to find a definitive connection between the Thomas born in Govan who moved to Rhode Island to the Thomas who married Ellen Stapleton in Unionville, CT?  Now you see my conundrum.

The missing piece of the puzzle turns out to be a copy of the probate papers of my great, great grandfather, George Geoghan, my immigrant ancestor.  Where did he die? FARMINGTON!  The papers list his living next of kin and list son Thomas as living in WESTPORT! So with this one piece of the puzzle, I put George in Unionville from Rhode Island and I put his son living in his next place of residence.

Here is that section of the probate papers that lists George’s children.  It even lists Thomas’ wife, Ellen, as a witness. This is definitely the same family as daughter Catherine is listed with her maiden and married name (Kehoe)

So the next step is to hire a genealogist in Glasgow to see what can be found on the origins of the Geoghans and Donnellys. Somewhere in Govan there has to be at least one record that lists the name of their parents or a clue as to what village in Ireland George and Ann were born. I reached out to a genealogist in Glasgow yesterday online. Hopefully, I’ll hear back from them and they won’t charge me two arms and a leg to do the research.

Interesting facts I found out from the probate paperwork:  George had a house on about 1/4 acres of land in Farmington which is listed as “situated on Battle Row.”  There is no street called Battle Row on today’s map of Farmington. I reached out to the Farmington Historical Society for help on this. I have the feeling it may be more of a slang term for a street and not its proper name. Note the value of the land and house are $250.00. Guess real estate was a lot cheaper back in 1894! Here is that section of the papers:

I love how it lists his belongings as:

  • Peanuts: $2.00 (This must have been a lot of peanuts!)
  • Show Case: $3.00
  • Scales: $0.50
  • Cigars and Tobacco: $1.50
  • Lamp: $0.25

Come on, he’s Irish/Scottish, you going to tell me along with those cigars he didn’t have some whisky stashed around the house?  What was that show case listed supposed to be?

In the end, I made the connection and I’m over the moon about it.  The family in Govan is indeed my family. Now I just need to find the clues that will point me to their home town in Ireland.   Before I sign off, here’s the complete probate paperwork for those who want to peruse it in its entirety.

Probate records of George Geoghan 1894

Here is an updated Narrative Report for George and his descendants:

George Geoghan Sr Narrative Report 9-21-2017

-Jennifer

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21 Sept 2017: Seaweed Pudding probably tastes better than it sounds September 21, 2017

Today I continue my series of posts on the traditional local foods prepared by our ancestors in Hopkinton. Rhode Island isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Mom’s cousin Dorothy remembers her mother (Sylvia Wells, daughter of Williams R Wells and Pauline Stillman Wells) making pudding from seaweed they would gather off the beaches down near Quonny. This would be back in about the mid 1930’s. Although it seems this is a real thing, after scouring the internet I as only able to come up with one recipe for such a pudding called Blancmange.

Blancmange as defined by Wikipedia: “Blancmange (from French blanc-manger) is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss(a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds.”

Blancmange: A pudding made from Irish Sea Moss

  • 1/3 cup Irish Sea Moss
  • 2 cups of milk

Gather fresh moss on the beach. Rinse well in cold water and spread in the sun to dry.

When ready to use, soften 1/3 cup of moss by covering it in cold water for fifteen minutes.

Drain and add 2 cups of milk. Cook in a double boiler for thirty minutes without stirring.

Strain into a bowl or molds, and cool—it thickens only on cooling.

Serve with jam, light flavored cream, boiled custard, chocolate sauce, or fruit, fresh or stewed. The blancmange is rather tasteless by itself and depends on the sauce for flavor.

* * * * *

There are several different types of edible seaweeds that grow off the coast of Rhode Island that our ancestors probably harvested to use as food. Here are a few:

Irish Sea Moss – Contains carrageenan and is used to thicken and stabilize ice cream, puddings, cream cheese, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, pie fillings etc.

Irish Sea Moss

Bladderwrack/Knotted Wrack/Rockweed – Used in between layers of New England clam bakes for flavor and steam.

Bladderwrack

Oarweed and Sugar Kelp are two varieties of kelp that grow in Rhode Island. Oarweed (or Kombu as it is called in supermarkets) is cooked and enjoyed in salads and soups. Sugar Kelp can be cut into strips to make an Asian seaweed salad.

Sugar Kelp

Sea Lettuce – Used in fresh salads.

Sea Lettuce

Now, who’s ready to go foraging down at the beach?  🙂

Have you ever tried seaweed pudding? if so, where and what was it like?

If you have a recipe for Seaweed Pudding you’d like to share, send it my way!

-Jennifer

T minus 9 days til I leave on my Rhode Island/Conn vacation!  YAY!

 

6 Sep 2017: Foraging for dessert on the beaches of Rhode Island. September 6, 2017

Today I continue my series on food traditions of the Hopkinton/Westerly, RI area. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers cook? From what I can tell, they drew heavily on foods that grew locally or even in their own back yard. My mother’s cousin Dorothy (from the Wells side of the family), remembers her mother making jelly from Beach Plums which would grow down by the water. From what I’ve read, they sound like they taste bitter, so I’m wondering what this Jelly would taste like.

First, lets talk about exactly what is a Beach Plum.  For this, I’ll borrow some text from Wikipedia:

The beach plum, is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland. … It  is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 40–80 inches high, although it can grow larger, over 13 feet tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 1.2–2.8 inches long and 0.8–1.6 inches broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 0.4–0.6 inches in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 0.6–0.8 inches in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.

The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.

The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.”

Beach Plums

Beach Plums grow on the shores of Long Island as well. My cousin Sharon did a report in grade school about cooking and included some information from my Grandmother (on the Geoghan side of my family.) She lived only a short distance from the Sound, in Mount Sinai, New York. Here is the page out of Sharon’s report that talks about Beach Plums.

Beach Plums. As mentioned in my Cousin Sharon’s grade school report on cooking.

Here are a few recipes for Beach Plum Jam that I found.

Beach Plum Jam

Wash beach plums.  Cook in water to barely cover until soft.  Strain through colander, add sugar, cup for cup, to pulp and juice. 1lbs. of lemon juice may be added if desired.  Boil until drops “string out”. Delicious with all kinds of meats.

Beach Plum Jam

Makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups whole beach plums
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot

Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer so that the plums release their juices. Let cook 5 more minutes. Then pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl, and press on the solids to extract the juice and fruit.
Return extract to heat and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to keep from boiling up. Remove the chilled plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. It should thicken when it hits the cold. If it’s thick enough, stop there. If not, return the plate to the freezer and continue cooking the puree, checking it at 5-minute intervals, until it reaches the desired thickness (it should form a skin when chilled).
Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, adjust lids, and process in boiling water 5 minutes. Let cool at room temperature and check seals.

_____

Have you ever tried Beach Plum Jelly?

If so, where and who made it?

What did you think of it?

I’m in search of a recipe for the sea weed pudding I’ve heard was another dish cousin Dorothy’s mother made.  If you have one stashed away in the back of a kitchen drawer, I’d love it if you could send it my way.

-Jennifer