Ralph Nathan Pendleton, Hero (?)

My great uncle, my grandfather’s older brother, Ralph, once saved his mother’s life. I wrote about Ralph’s mother, Maria Mitchell Gerrish Pendleton in a previous post. Distracted by BSOs (bright shiny objects) as I was looking for an obituary/date of death for Ralph, I came across a number of newspaper articles about him. The first when he was only 14 years old! The title in the Boston Journal on 21 July 1904 found on GenealogyBank.com was “Lynn Boy Rescues Mother from Flames” with a byline of “Ralph Pendleton, 14 Years old, Dashes Through Fire and Smoke in Burning Building and Also Saves Girl From Death.” Could this be my great uncle? He was the right age and I knew that the family lived in Lynn at the time. The article gave the address of his mother (listed as Mrs. E.C. Pendleton in the article – it should actually have been Mrs. C.E. Pendleton) and I was able to confirm using city directories that this was MY Ralph Pendleton.

Here’s the story: Ralph’s Mother, Maria Pendleton had been outside talking to Mrs. Bee, a neighbor, when they heard another neighbor, Mrs. Hanlon, cry, “Oh, save my children.” Maria ran into the burning house and up the stairs with Mrs. Bee, son Ralph following close behind. Maria fell in the doorway of the children’s room with 6 year old Madeline Hanlon in her arms, overcome by the smoke. Ralph picked up the little girl and dragged his mother from the burning room, but could not take both of them down the stairs. He ran down the stairs, taking Madeline outside and returned for his mother. Firemen arrived shortly after Ralph’s second entrance into the burning building and assisted Ralph is bringing his mother down from the stair landing.

A little more about Ralph: Born in 1889 he married his first wife, Ruby Green on 21 January 1909 in Lynn. He was 19, she was 18 – a first marriage for both of them. In August of that year, Ruby gave birth prematurely to a boy, named Edward. He lived for 5 days – he is buried in an unmarked grave in Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. By December of 1912 Ruby was filing for divorce from Ralph on the grounds of cruel and abusive punishment saying, “regardless of his marriage vows and obligations, on divers occasions has cruelly and abusively treated her and that being of sufficient ability, he grossly and wantonly and cruelly refuses and neglects to provide a suitable maintenance for her.” He most certainly was not a hero to Ruby. The case was dismissed in 1914 without a final divorce decree.

Ralph had a son in born in 1917 (who I remember meeting as a child – he was my mother’s cousin). Ralph married the boy’s mother, Bessie Gerrish, three years later in 1920. A little backwards based on the accepted practice at the time. Their marriage record says that it is the first marriage for both of them (!). Ralph’s first wife, Ruby was finally granted a divorce from him in Maine in 1921 on grounds of desertion – a year after he married his second wife!

I remember hearing whisperings from my father that a couple in the family was not actually married and had lived together pretending to be husband and wife. Everyone was surprised when they actually did get married – it had been assumed that their marriage had taken place before the birth of their son. For many years I didn’t know who these family members might be – but now I think I’ve found them. <GRIN>

Maria (Mitchell) (Gerrish) Tracy Pendleton – A Woman of Mystery and Tragedy

Maria Pendleton

Maria (Mitchell)(Gerrish) Tracy Pendleton

My great-grandmother (my maternal grandfather’s mother) has been somewhat of an enigma ever since I began researching my family’s history. The first record that I found of her was the 1870 census: she was 6 years old living in the home of Andrew and Flora Gerrish in Gouldsboro, Maine. Although this census doesn’t list relationships, it looked like a small nuclear family: father, mother, daughter. But, what’s this? She was born in Newfoundland? Well,  Andrew Gerrish was a Master Mariner who sailed the waters of the Atlantic Coast. Perhaps his wife traveled with him and happened to give birth in Newfoundland? As we will see later, nope.

At the age of 18 Maria married her next door neighbor, Walter Tracy, who was 3 years her senior. She had known him since she was 6 years old. But tragedy struck less than a year and a half later when Walter died of tuberculosis. She was a 20 year old widow. Her second marriage was to my great-grandfather, Colon Emery Pendleton on 16 May 1886. Colon came from a long line of sea captains, but his father, Joshua Archabus Pendleton, a sea captain on a Danish steamliner, had died at the age of 24, in Cuba, of yellow fever. His mother died of consumption 4 years later and Colon was raised by his grandparents. Colon became a painter and paper hanger, perhaps thinking that this was a safer occupation.

Maria gave birth to three boys: Arno in 1887, Ralph in 1890 and my grandfather, Clyde in 1891 – the only children who lived to adulthood. Her subsequent pregnancies and births became a series of tragedies. Alice Marion only lived for 7 months, an infant son (unnamed) lived for 2 days, daughter Flora lived for 2 days and finally there was another daughter who was stillborn. What caused so much infant mortality in this family? I may have found the answer. Colon died in 1915 at the age of 57 of lead poisoning, a victim of his profession. He probably suffered the effects of lead poisoning for many years before he succumbed. Lead poisoning can contribute to birth defects, creating abnormal sperm.

Alice Pendleton &amp; infant Pendleton stones

Colon had moved the surviving family to Lynn, Massachusetts by 1900. Colon and Maria had returned to Maine sometime before he died in 1915, as he died there and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Winter Harbor alongside little Alice. You can see Alice’s headstone in the background in the photograph below.

Colon Pendleton headstone

By the time she was 52 years old, Maria had buried four children and two husbands. She returned to the home of her parents by 1920, perhaps staying to take care of them in their old age. Andrew was 82 and 77 year old Flora had suffered a stroke about 1918. By 1940 she had returned to Massachusetts where all three of her sons were living and raising families, showing up twice in the census living with her son Ralph in Worcester and also with her son Clyde (my grandfather) in Melrose. I don’t remember my mother ever speaking about her grandmother, Maria, even though Maria shared their home when my mother was 16 years old. Surely she would have remembered her.

Finally, who were Maria’s real parents? Maria is listed as the daughter of Andrew and Flora Gerrish in the 1880 and 1920 censuses and she lived with them in the 1870 census at the age of 6. However, on all of her children’s birth records her maiden name is listed as Mitchell, not Gerrish. Her place of birth is consistently listed as Bay of Islands, Newfoundland, Canada. The 1900 census lists her birth as August 1863. I found no Maria Mitchell born in Bay of Islands in August of 1863. However! I found Maria Mitchell, daughter of James Mitchell and MaryAnn Laing born in Petty Harbor, 26 August 1863.

Birth of Maria Mitchell

Shortly after her birth the family moved to Bay of Islands. Perhaps Maria (and her adoptive parents) didn’t know that she wasn’t born in Bay of Islands. Her birth parents, James and MaryAnn Mitchell continued to live in and raise a family in Bay of Islands, but Maria was adopted by Andrew Gerrish and his wife Flora, who had no other children. How did this adoption come about? I found no death record for her – she died some time after the 1940 census. Greenwood Cemetery tells me that she has a burial plot next to her husband, but it is not clear whether she was actually buried there. No headstone was erected there (although her three sons were each quite prosperous by that time). Maria continues to be an enigma.




Friday’s Faces From the Past – William L. Jones

William Jones 001

This tintype is identified as “William L. Jones, etc.” Thank you VERY much for THAT identification! Who ARE these people? I did a little research (okay – a lot of research). Tintypes were created between about 1855 and 1900, peaking in popularity between 1861 and 1871. William L. Jones was born in April 1836 in Weld, Maine to Jacob Jones and Almira Jenkins. He served in the Civil War enlisting in Company D, Massachusetts 22nd Infantry Regiment on 06 Sep 1861 and mustered out on 17 Oct 1864 at Boston, MA. William was married, for the first time at age 39, on 4 May 1875 to Sarah A. (Irving) Russell, a widow who was ten years his junior. It was her second marriage having married for the first time at age 20, but widowed by the time she was 28. It is perhaps her seated beside him in this photo. She died a little over 3 years after their marriage of tuberculosis, so neither of the young men pictured are his children. Sarah and her first husband had two children: a daughter named Addie who was born in January of 1867 and a son, Harry born about 1868. If the woman is Sarah, the latest this photo could have been taken is 1878 when she died. Her children from her first marriage would have been 10 and 11 years old. Neither of the younger people pictured match that age and gender. In 1880, 14 year old Addie lived with her stepfather. I have been able to rule out that Addie is the woman seated beside William Jones – I have several photographs of her as a younger woman – this woman is not her. Who are these people connected to William L. Jones? Disappointingly, we may never know. But don’t you just love the impish look on his face?

It does not appear that William Jones had any children of his own. However, there may be hope that there are relatives who would like to have the photo. William had siblings, in fact, quite a few siblings: George born about 1835, Cordelia born about 1840, Sarah born about 1841, Luther born about 1843, Charles born about 1845, Oren born about 1847, Ellen born about 1848, Jacob born about 1852 and Sophronia born about 1854. I am hoping that one of their descendants would like to have the photo.

Please contact me if you are a relative and would like to have the photo.

William Jones 002

The Winchester Sisters

Louise and Mary Winchester

I absolutely adore this carte de visite. The worried look on the little girls’ faces explains why they cling to each other. So sweet, sisterly love. Protective love. It appears that protective love continued throughout their lives. Read on.

I had a little trouble identifying them at first. To me the back read May Morton Winchester and Lois or Lorie Walker Winchester. It turns out May was often called Mary in records and her sister was Louise Walker Winchester. Both were born in Eastport, Maine to Andrew Morton Winchester and Louise Loud, Mary born 26 November 1869 and Louise born 30 August 1871.

Louise and Mary Winchester verso

It appears that the two sisters lived together all of their lives. Mary was the oldest of the three children who survived to adulthood, followed by Louise and Walter (there was a 4th child who died young). The family lived in Eastport, Maine in 1870, but by 1880 the family had moved 245 miles south to Portland, Maine. About 1892, Mary married J.Wesley Benner and she and her husband continued to live with her parents (and her sister Louise and brother Walter). By 1900 the family had once again moved south, this time to Boston. Note that by this time 26 year old son Walter, had become a dentist and 30 year old Mary was a healer/practitioner in the Christian Science Church, 28 year old Louise had no profession. The three children and Mary’s spouse continued to live with her parents, Andrew and Louise. By 1910, the children’s mother had died and Louise, age 38, and Walter, age 35, were both unmarried. Louise (a late bloomer) had now become a bookkeeper in a dentist office (perhaps her brother’s office?) Mary had been married for 18 years but had no children. By 1920, Mary was a widow, working as a librarian in a reading room (Christian Scientist). By 1930 the three siblings were still living together in the same house, their father Andrew had passed away. It appears that neither Louise nor Walter had ever married. And Mary had no children.

I am hoping that a cousin comes forward who would like to have the photograph.


Treat Yourself to a Gift That Will Last All Year (or More)!

Did your Aunt Millie give you cash or a cash gift card for Christmas? May I suggest that you check out these ideas to treat yourself:

Click below to check out a subscription to Find My Past. They have a fabulous, always expanding, collection of records – primarily UK based but you’ll find U.S. records there as well:

Find My Past


Learn something new that will last more than a year!  Click below to treat yourself to an expert webinar and expand your knowledge at ShopFamilyTree.com. While you’re there check out their HUGE selection of books and other goodies as well.

Expert Webinars

Newspapers can be a treasure trove of information to help add richness your family history. Click below to explore GenealogyBank.com:

Newspaper Archive

Expand your skill set with authors George Morgan and Drew Smith with their book:

Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques at a discount on Amazon!

You may have been considering purchasing an Ancestry DNA test kit for yourself or a family member. Click below to find it at a discount:

Ancestry DNA

My very best wishes for a Happy and Safe New Year. Here’s to more successful family history research in the coming year!

Herbert L. Converse

Herbert Converse

This cabinet card identified as Herbert L. Converse was taken by Partridge of Boston, dated September 1885. Herbert Lewis Converse was born 15 September 1882 in Dorchester, Mass. His parents were Herbert and Virginia Leroy Lewis Converse. His father, Herbert Brooks Converse, was a realtor in Boston, who was the son of Benjamin B. Converse and Hannah Elizabeth Brooks, born in Boston on 29 December 1852.

Herbert was a salesman for a battery company who married later in life at the age of 35. His wife was Isabelle, who was born about 1886. Herbert and his wife Isabelle had a son, Herbert Ware Converse, born about 1927, who married Ruth Janet Batchelder on 21 October 1951. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer R. Batchelder of Reading, Massachusetts. They also had a daughter named Virginia born about 1925. The family lived in the house that had been occupied by his father and his grandfather at 39 Florence Street, Arlington Heights, Massachusetts – the house in which he grew up!

Herbert L. Converse verso

Any descendants who would like to have the photo? Please contact me!

Saturday Cyber Savings – It’s Not Too Late!

Last minute gifts for the genealogist in your life! No need to worry about shipping!

Family Tree Magazine is one of the premier magazines in the industry. You can order the print and Kindle version – the Kindle version will be available immediately for download. Save 36% here:

Family Tree Magazine

How about a subscription to Find my Past.com? If you have ancestry in the U.K. this site has some valuable resources. I found newspaper articles about my great uncle’s death at sea when he was travelling home to retire in Scotland, after a lifetime of working in the diamond mines in South Africa. Give a subscription to FindMyPast here:

Find my Past



Advertised as the world’s largest online family history resource, I highly recommend a subscription to Ancestry.com. I have been a member for years. If your genealogist is new to Ancestry.com, how about a gift of a 60 minute webinar on Making the Most of Ancestry.com? You can purchase the webinar here:

Making the Most of Ancestry.com Webinar

Have a happy and safe holiday! My very best wishes for the year ahead.

Mary P. Sawyer

Mary Sawyer

Mary P. Sawyer

Mary Sawyer verso

This curly haired little imp is identified as Mary P. Sawyer. Found in an antique shop in Townsend, Massachusetts, the photo was taken in Illinois. A little research reveals that Mary P. Sawyer was born about 1868, to Hannah M. Peabody and John Sawyer. Her father was a clergyman who was born in Illinois. So how did this picture end up in Massachusetts? Her father died 26 February 1878 when Mary was just 10 years old. It turns out Mary’s mother was born in Massachusetts, and it appears that Mary was born in Massachusetts as well. Although the 1870 census says that Mary was born in Illinois, the 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census, as well as her marriage record state that she was born in Massachusetts.  Although Mary and her mother remained in Illinois for a number of years after John’s death, by 1900, Mary and her mother had moved to Los Angeles where 32 year old Mary was working as a vocal teacher and accompanist. Sometime after 1900 Mary and her mother moved back to Massachusetts where Mary finally married Willis Corey on 28 November 1906 in Melrose, Massachusetts. It was a first marriage for both of them and they were both 39 years old.  The marriage record states that Mary was born in Gayhead, Massachusetts. In 1910 Mary and  her husband were still living in Melrose, Mary’s mother, Hannah, was living with them. By 1920 the couple had moved to San Diego (Hannah had perhaps died). It appears that the couple had no children and Mary died in San Diego in 1940. She is buried in Glen Abbey Memorial Park in Bonita, CA.

Although Mary was an only child and had no children I hope there is a relative who would like to have the picture returned to the family.

Last Minute Flip-pal Special

Hi Friends – I’ve just been notified of a last minute special from Flip-pal. It can be used for a lot of different reasons:

  • Preserving our family photos before disaster strikes so they are protected against harm and I have a digital image to rely on in case I need it.
  • Creating a variety of gifts using scanned photos. Stuff like calendars, photo books, tote bags and even ceramic tiles (yes,  I can picture Grandma on my kitchen back-splash!).
  • Writing about uncle Oscar’s service in the military and scanning his medals and Army patches. I can never say “thank you” enough, but a book about him is a good start.
  • Starting an index project for my genealogy society by scanning documents and then getting a group together to build a searchable database. (As President of the Middlesex Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists I hope to make use of this idea in the coming year! Then we can share it with other genealogists.)

Flip-Pal mobile scanner sale $139.99. I’ve not seen the Flip-Pal mobile scanner at this price before.  Add the carrying case and make sure your order totals $149.00 or more to qualify for FREE SHIPPING.  Click here to save.  Sale ends December 22nd.

There is more… a fun way to share family photos by adding voice to them.

Check out the new StoryScans™ talking photos feature. For the first time, you can easily transform your images into endearing stories.  Click here to learn how you can add this new capability to your existing Flip-Pal mobile scanner or add the feature to your next purchase!

Book Bargains

I love this handy little reference book for putting historical context into my family history. It also helps to perhaps solve some family mysteries, for example, “Why did Uncle Harry leave his family behind and move to California in 1850?” (Hint: gold rush.) Finding out what was happening at the time and place where your ancestor lived can go a long way in understanding what it was like to live in their world. The book now comes in ebook format at a 32% savings – available for immediate download at Shop Family Tree.com.

The Genealogist’s U.S. History Pocket Reference eBook

Historical maps can also add a lot of clarity to your family history research. I use them all the time! I own the book Family Tree Historical Map Books.

Family Tree HIstorical Maps Book

ShopFamilyTree.com has bundled it with Family Tree Historical Maps Book: Europe for 53% off of the cover price!
Family Tree Maps Book Bundle Only $34.99 at Shop Family Tree

Click here to go to Shop Family Tree.com. Use the promo code THANKS20 to receive an additional 20% off your order. Hurry! This promotion ends December 31st.

And while you are there check out all of the other great offerings at ShopFamilyTree.com including webinars, books and other genealogy gifts.