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

 

27 Aug 2017: The continuing search for the food of my family August 27, 2017

This weekend I continued my search for recipes the were regulars in the kitchens of my Rhode Island ancestors.  A reader of this blog suggested I should see if Indian Pudding, a Rhode Island staple of sorts, might be among the recipes in the Wells family cookbooks.  She was right, it was!  When my mother and I asked her cousin Dorothy about it, she remembered her mother (A Wells) did indeed make it. I also found a recipe for it in my grandmothers old cookbook as well.

Indian Pudding

Indian Pudding from my Grandmother’s old cookbook

  • ½ cup corn-meal
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Ginger
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon
  • 4 cups Milk, scalded
  • 1 egg, well Beaten

Combine corn-meal flour, molasses, sugar, egg, salt and spices.  Beat thoroughly.  Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken.  Pour into well-oiled baking dish.  Bake in slow over (325 degrees) about 30 minutes.  Serve warm with cream or with lemon or orange sauce.  If desired, ½ cup of raisins may be added before pudding is baked.  8 Servings.

 

Here is the recipe Cousin Dorothy had in her cookbook. It included a few different sauces that could be put on top of the pudding as well.

Cousin Dorothy’s recipe for Indian Pudding

Makes 8 servings

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Boil in the top of a double boiler over direct heat: 4 cups milk

Stir in ½ cup corn meal.

Place these ingredients over boiling water.  Cook them for about 15 minutes.  Stir into them and cook for about 5 minutes ¾ cup dark molasses.

Remove from heat. Stir in:

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 well-beaten egg
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pour the batter into a well-greased baking dish. To have a soft center, pour over the top: 1 cup of milk. Bake the pudding 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve pudding hot with hard sauce, cream or vanilla ice cream. This dish is sometimes made with apples. In that case, add 2 cups of thinly sliced apples and use

 

Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup. The basic ingredients of hard sauce are always the same, although proportions and flavoring vary. In this recipe, the larger amount of butter is preferable.  An attractive way to serve hard sauce on cold cake or pudding is to chill it and mold it with a small fancy cutter – or to put it through an individual butter mold.

Sift: 1 cup powdered sugar

Beat until soft: 2 to 5 tablespoons butter

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until they are well blended.

Add: 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon coffee, rum, whisky, brandy lemon juice, etc.

Beat in: 1 egg or ¼ cup cream.

When the sauce is very smooth, chill thoroughly.

 

Spicy Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 cup.

Prepare: Hard Sauce

Beat into it:

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon sale
  • (Liqueur, to taste)

Chill.

 

Brown-Sugar Hard Sauce

Makes about 1 2/3 cups

Sift: 1 ½ cups brown sugar

Beat ½ cup butter until soft

Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until well blended.

Beat in 1/3 cup cream slowly:

Beat in, drop by drop: 2 tablespoons dry wine or 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill well.  Add for garnish: ¼ cup chopped nuts

 

So, does any out there have any memories of eating Indian Pudding when they were growing up in Rhode Island?

I did find a few Rhode Island restaurants that still serve it and plan on visiting them for samples while I’m up there in October. If you know of any places that serve it that I should check out, let me know and I’ll add them to my list.

As always, I’m looking for more traditional South County food to add to my recipe file for future testing.  I’ve heard tell that I should investigate Clam Cakes.  Any thoughts???  

Cousin Dorothy, who is 93 years old, remembers that back when she was a girl, they grew all sorts of produce in the area around Hopkinton and Westerly.  On the old Wells homestead (the current location of Crandall Field in Ashaway) they grew apples and pears and had a grape arbor. She remembers fields upon fields of corn and her mother making jams from beach plums, as well as a pudding from sea weed.  Never heard of sea weed pudding before.  Anyone out there heard of that one?

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Ronald: “Hi. I tried the Indian pudding from your grandmothers old cook book, and it was delicious.”  Thanks, Ronald.  I’m sure Grandma Wells would be happy to hear that!  I’m looking forward to picking me up some cornmeal while I’m up in RI on vacation in a few weeks.  I’ll be trying this recipe when I get home. -Jennifer

 

17 Aug 2017: Planning a trip to my homeland August 17, 2017

It’s that time of year again when I get to blow this pop stand and head north.  YAY!! I’ll be up in CT/RI on vacation the beginning of October and have started my list of things to do and places to see. HOWEVER, my list is incomplete.

Read to the VERY BOTTOM for things I need help/suggestions for.

Visit Randall & Lois Wells’ graves in Hopkinton, RI.  My annual pilgrimage to my 4th great grandparent’s graves back in the woods.  Let’s face it, not too many of us still can even find them. I usually visit John Rogers grave on the grounds of Connecticut College as well.

Take my favorite hike.  There’s a great Nature Conservancy trail up to Long Pond in Hopkinton. Super scenic, like something out of Lord of the Rings.  There’s a timelessness to the landscape there that seems untouched, like some native American tribe from long ago could come strolling around a boulder.

Visit Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT.  I know, the cheesiest and most wonderful of the chic flicks of the 80’s.  Not only that, the pizza is like … totally awesome (to quote the 80’s) Not sure how well it will fare now that I’ve had gastric bypass, but I’m willing to give it a shot. It’s worth a visit if for nothing but to inhale deeply and take in the scent of wonderful food.  Plus it’s a location I used a few times in my novels so it’s fun to visit.  I ever wrote some of my books sitting at the table in the bay windows up front.

Speaking of food …. I’m also planning meals at Abbots in Noank, CT and Ford’s Lobsters in Noank. I plan on being so tired of lobster by the time I drive out of New England that it will hold me for a long time!

Visit the Lighthouse Museum in Stonington.  Yes, the infamous lighthouse that is the setting for my third novel. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and knew I had to feature it in a book.  I’ll also spend time roaming the streets of picturesque Stonington.

Visit B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic.  Again, after my gastric bypass surgery, this should be an interesting experience.  I love their apple baked goods and plan on sampling quite a bit.

Visit Oak Grove Cemetery in Ashaway.  Not only my future resting place, but also the current resting place for a good portion of my mom’s side of the family.  I always stop in to pay my respects but also to inspect the condition of our stones and do any necessary cleaning of them that may need to be done.

Fulfilling any Findagrave.com photo requests that are online for the area. Need any photos taken of a headstone in the area? I’ll be checking them out while I’m up there to see who I can help out.  I also plan on updating FAG.com on new burials in Oak Grove and finishing adding photos of all the stones.

Visiting Kenyon’s Grist Mill in West Kingston, RI. I’ve never been to a grist mill before so I’m looking forward to learning something new. I’m also in the market for some corn meal to make me some Johnny Cakes upon my return to FL.  

Popping over to Stonington Vineyards to buy a case of my favorite wine of theirs. Sadly, I can’t get it here in Orlando. Also sadly, gastric bypass severely limits how much alcohol I can drink, so that case will last me a couple of year!

Shop Craigslist.com for cool stuff in people’s basements! Sounds odd, but I bought a cool old trunk off of Craigslist last time I was up there from some couple in Ashaway. I’m on the hunt for cool antiques. I’m also looking for some good antique stores to visit if you know of any you can suggest. Not the shiny, all cleaned up kind of antiques, but the paint chipping off, just pulled out of the barn kind. Will also be looking for yard sales and estate sales as well.

If time permits, I’d like to visit Mystic Aquarium.  Haven’t been there since I was a kid.

Pop into the Mystic Seaport Gift Shop.  I’ll be honest and say I’ve been to the Seaport enough that I don’t need to go again …. for a long time, but the gift shop is awesome! I love the book section up stairs too. Always worth a visit.

Get out on the water.  No plans finalized for this yet, but I will get out on the water for a few hours, if not longer. I did a sunset sail out of Mystic a few years back that I could do again, but ideally I’d love to take sailing lessons.  I’m just having a hard time finding a place to do that so late in the year.  Seems sailing season ends the week before I arrive!!!

A day at the Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol, RI.  I can’t wait to spend some time here so I can do some research on farm life in the late 1700s.  Valuable info I can weave into my stories of the vampire, Randall Wells!!

St. Edmund’s Severed Arm.  Yes, you read me right. This one just has to be seen to be believed, at least by me.  It’s in Mystic and apparently on display.

CAN YOU HELP ME?

I’m looking for:

  • Good antique stores/malls. Ones that sell reasonably priced items of local origin. Items that are not all spit and polished, but need love and have chipped paint.
  • Scenic hiking trails (other than my favorite up to Long Pond in Hopkinton.)
  • Restaurants that serve good local cuisine.  Rhode Island Clam Chowder?  Johnny Cakes?
  • How can I get out on the water?  Boat tours you can suggest.  I’d even be up for whale watching. Ideally I’d love to take a sailing lesson or two.
  • Know of any places of local history interest like Kenyon’s Grist Mill? I love to learn about local history.
  • If you know where I can buy a courting candle, you’re my new best friend!!!

-Jennifer

UPDATES:

From Bruce: “Know you are connected to the Crandall family. Think about a trip north of Mystic to Canterbury, CT (Windham Co.) to the Prudence Crandall museum. Check their hours – I don’t think they are open every day.”  Thanks, Bruce.  I’ll add the museum to my list of possibles.  I’m sure a trip there would make a nice subject for a blog post.

From Wayne:  “Hi Jennifer – I too am a direct descendant of Samuel Hubbard (my mother is a Burdick), living now in southern RI. We are distant cousins. If you haven’t been, you might consider seeing the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace in Saunderstown, and maybe taking the Francis Fleet Whale Watch out of Galillee. BTW, white corn meal is ubiquitous here! Wayne”  Thanks Wayne. I’ve added the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace to my list. Looks really cool. Sadly, Frances Fleet Whale Watching closes in September so they won’t be open.  Too bad, they looked ideal.

 

13 Aug 2017: A walk in 1937 Philadelphia August 13, 2017

I discovered this mini pack of photos among my father’s possessions.  It’s dated 1937. Published by  K.F. Lutz of 441 North 32nd Street, Philadelphia.  Not really knowing what to do with them as our family doesn’t have any ancestral ties in the Philly area, we’re going to be selling this item in an upcoming yard sale.  But before that, I thought I’d share them with you.

Philadelphia, 1937: Capital Hall and Independence Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: Independence Hall Liberty Bell

Philadelphia, 1937: Independence Hall Judicial Chamber

Philadelphia, 1937: Independence Hall Declaration Chamber

Philadelphia, 1937: Independence Hall

 

Philadelphia, 1937: Benjamin Franklin’s Grave

Philadelphia, 1937: Washington Monument

Philadelphia, 1937: Pennsylvania R.R. Station

Philadelphia, 1937: U.S. Mint

Philadelphia, 1937: Carpenters Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: Interior of Carpenters Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: Art Museum and City Aquarium

Philadelphia, 1937: Benjamin Franklin Memorial Museum

Philadelphia, 1937: Delaware River Front and Bridge

Philadelphia, 1937: City Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: Christ Church

Philadelphia, 1937: South Broad Street

Philadelphia, 1937: Betsy Ross House

Philadelphia, 1937: Flag Room Betsy Ross House

Philadelphia, 1937: View from Art Museum toward City Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: Convention Hall

Philadelphia, 1937: New Post office and Pennsylvania R.R. Station

Philadelphia, 1937: Old Swedes Church

Philadelphia, 1937: The Rodin Museum

Philadelphia, 1937: Masonic Temple

I hope you enjoyed this stroll through 1937 Philly!

-Jennifer

 

20 July 2017: Great Summer Read featuring the Wells Family … and it’s FREE July 20, 2017

Hello friends, fans and family.

Just wanted to let you know that the ebook version of FALLING for Death is free on Amazon until Sunday. This is the novel I wrote featuring Randall Wells, his wife Lois Maxson and a host of other Wells family members. It’s the first in a five book series but is also a full length, stand alone story.  If you’re a fan of Hopkinton, RI and the Wells Family and …. happen to like vampires, you’re in a for a real treat!

Check it out!

-Jennifer