June 22, 2013

Death record for Jessie May (BAKER) SIMMONDS

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I had requested the death record for my 2nd great-grandmother Jessie May BAKER (1873-1927), who was married to Thomas Parker SIMMONDS. She died in Maine, unfortunately... I say "unfortunately" because Maine is unreasonably strict when it comes to releasing vital records. I mentioned in this post that I had gotten a call from the Maine vital records office requesting proof of lineage from Jessie in order to process my request.

Yes... to get a Maine death record from the 1920's, you have to actually submit vital records proving that you are related to the deceased. However, last time I googled my name, there was my [old] address and phone number listed-- right there in the search results, didn't even have to go to the website.

Howe jacked up is our society when people who have been dead since the Coolidge administration have more privacy than the living?


The woman who called me to let me know that proof of lineage was required was very sweet when I called her back to ask her if the records I sent had to be official birth or marriage records. She said that any documents that showed the relationship were sufficient.

Long story short, I sent the documents proving lineage, and received Jessie's death record yesterday.

It was very interesting that, although her marital status is given as married, her husband's name (Thomas Parker SIMMONDS) is not listed. Neither is the name of the informant-- that is, the person who furnished the information on the record.

I was curious as to the identity of the informant because Jessie's mother's maiden name on the record is wrong. Her mother was Hannah Melissa SPECHT (and I have the records to prove it), but on Jessie's death record, Hannah's maiden name is given as "SLATER." I had seen a couple of personal family trees on that listed Hannah with that last name, so this is evidently where that error came from.

It's always good to be reminded that even official vital records can contain incorrect information. Not long ago, I had been practically tearing my hair out looking for Jessie's grandparents John BAKER and Mehitable LEWIS-- the names listed on Jessie's father's death record-- only to discover that Mehitable's maiden name was actually HILTON.

I appreciate the ladies at the Maine Vital Records office taking the time to contact me and process my request... but I have to admit that I'm glad that this is the only ancestor I have who was born/married/deceased in that state.

Ancestral chain:

Jessie May BAKER (1873-1927) m. Thomas Parker SIMMONDS
Estelle May SIMMONDS (1893-1930) m. Horace William HOWES 
Henry Richard HOWES (1913-1987) m. Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father

June 20, 2013

New Hampshire divorce records

My newly-discovered 4th cousin once removed Jon alerted me to the fact that New Hampshire marriage and divorce records are now online at The divorce records only go up to 1938-- for obvious reasons, privacy would be an issue for records more recent than this.

Jon found a divorce record for his 2nd great-grandparents; his 2nd great-grandmother divorced his 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel W. MACE, who had been a veteran of the Civil War and and an Andersonville POW. I also found a divorce record for my great-aunt from her first husband.

Going through the divorce records, I was rather surprised that there were so many. Divorce was supposed to be a rare thing in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but there were literally thousands of records for New Hampshire.

I noticed that the person initiating the divorce was almost always the wife, and that the most common reason given was abandonment. The second most common reason that I came across was "extreme cruelty." The only other reasons I saw were for drunkeness and adultery.

June 14, 2013

Do you ever have nostalgia...

... for an era before you were even born?

I was born in the mid-seventies, but for some reason, am drawn to my parents' "time" (50's through the 60's). My folks were born in the 30's, between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers-- technically people born at this time were called the Silent Generation, but I prefer to call them the Dean Martin generation.

Maybe because the 50's and the before-hippies 60's was a time of such... style and class. A world of great music, of elegant dinner parties with manhattan cocktails, of ladies in pretty, feminine dresses and men in suits.

A couple of months ago, I and a friend were having breakfast at Denny's. On the cover of their menu, in recognition of their 60th anniversary this year, they had a picture of a 1953 woman sitting in what would have been a Denny's booth back then, and across from her sat a young 2013 man in modern Denny's decor. I actually found the picture online:

Both of us remarked on how neat, beautifully dressed, and well put-together the woman is-- and how scruffy and unkept the modern "man" looks in comparison. But he looks good compared to a lot of people today who walk around like they just rolled out of bed.

Frankly, I'm just so tired of seeing overweight, tattooed people glued to cell phone screens. I bemoan the modern rap-crap gutter trash culture that seems to have taken hold-- the loss of the elegance, grace, and manners of my parents' generation.

Couldn't we could bring it back?

Yes, I am overweight and have a smart phone-- but try to dress neatly and nicely, and my phone is not an appendage. I also realize that we can't idealize the past, and that the "good old days" were not perfect (this was, after all, an era in which schoolchildren were drilled to get under their desks in the event of nuclear attack from the U.S.S.R.).

Perhaps this is why the music of the "Rat Pack" has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity: we want to recapture-- at least in part-- an earlier, seemingly happier era.

Years ago, I bought a CD called Donna Reed's Dinner Party, and the music just made me feel so good; the CD's fold-out even included a recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini.

Here's a wonderful tune off of this album, courtesy of YouTube-- so mix yourself a martini and enjoy.