Friday, January 31, 2014

Sugar John and His Little Wife

Newfoundland Dog
Free image from Wikimedia Commons
There is a brief but wonderful story surviving about John and Sarah in those early days. I believe its existence gives us all a reason to write down our memories about our families. When you read about this couple and their adventures in the wilds of New Brunswick, they come alive and you can never forget them. 
The story is found in the book, Israel Kenny: His Children and Their Families by Edwin Wallace Bell, 1944. It can be read online for free at the Internet Archive Lending Library at
On page 13, we read about John and Sarah, my great great grandparents:
John S. Kenney and Sarah Crabtree were married at Bay Chaleur, [New Brunswick] and after living there for a short period removed to Greenfield, [New Brunswick]. 
The pioneers of [New Brunswick] never lacked for romantic adventure. After the ice had formed solidly on the Saint John [River] it is said that John Kenney brought his little wife of fifteen years down the river on a sled drawn by a large Newfoundland dog. 
At Greenfield he made his home along with his father Stephen and his uncles John and Andrew Kenney who occupied an important part of that thriving settlement. The rock maple trees grew plentifully on John S. Kenney's new farm. He was a tireless worker at anything he undertook to do and soon became famous for the great quantities of maple sugar he made. There were other Kenneys in the community named John and his friends soon found it easy to identify him as "Sugar John" a name that anybody might be proud of. 
John and Sarah raised seven children to adulthood, and they all lived good long lives:  

  • John Shepherd "Shep" Kinney, Jr. 1837-1918 (81 years)
  • Aaron, 1841-1925 (84 years)
  • Sarah Ann "Annie" (my great grandmother) 1842-1935 (93 years)
  • Susan 1848-1934 (86 years)
  • Adelia 1850-1933 (83 years)
  • Richard 1856-1932 (76 years)
  • Charles Allen (called Allen) 1858-1934 (76 years)
You can see a photo of them all together in the post, The Kinney Siblings. There were other children born to John and Sarah as well, but their stories make clear the hazards faced by the pioneers. 
Fern Gallup Kinney tells us, in her Kith and Kin of the Kinneys,1944 (also available online at
There were four others born into this family, making eleven in all, but where or in what order I do not know. Probably in between Shepherd and Aaron as they are four years apart, Sarah Ann and Susan are six years apart, and Adelia and Richard are six years apart:
  • Cyrus Kinney went bathing in the brook. Caught a cold and died. 
  • Baby died (scalded) at one year.
  • Elizabeth died as a child of diptheria.
  • Amy died at two weeks, infection of the navel.

The last post introduced you to my great great great grandparents, Mary Giggey and Richard Arnold Crabb. Their daughter, Sarah, was born in 1820, in New Brunswick. She married John Shepherd Kinney (also spelled Kenny or Kenney) in 1835, when she was only 15 years old. 

embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Great Great Great Grandparents!

When I first started learning about my family's history, I didn't know much about my ancestors. My baby book had a brief family tree in it, much of it nicely filled in by my mother, but it didn't go very far back. You can imagine, I hope, my very great pleasure in discovering generation after generation of relatives and sometimes even finding their photos!

Did you know that you have 32 great great great grandparents? It's true. By the time you get back to generation 12, you have 2,048 ancestors in that generation alone! You can see a pyramid that illustrates the theory of your doubling ancestral generations here. This post is about only two of my great great great (also called "ggg") grandparents. 

The following photos are used with the kind permission of Bill Jonas, who has posted on and on Find a Grave, two websites that have made life easier for family historians. 

Meet Mary Giggey, who was born in 1788 in New Brunswick, Canada. On December 25, 1808 she married ...

... my great great great grandfather, Richard Arnold Crabb, who had also been born in New Brunswick, in 1789. They eventually moved to Illinois, where I'm sure they found the farming easier than in the rocky soil of New Brunswick. 

I don't know much about their lives, yet, but I plan to find out.

Mary died in 1863 and Richard died in 1867, both in Illinois. They are thought to have been buried in the Van Vlack Cemetery, Kane County, Illinois. Their names appear on a list for the cemetery, but their actual headstones have not been located. There is apparently a pile of broken and/or unreadable headstones at the back of the cemetery, which could include theirs. All of this information comes from the Find a Grave entries for Richard and Mary.

I think they look pretty stern. Sure, I know it wasn't the fashion to smile for the photographer back then, but still--these two look like they wouldn't stand for any nonsense. 

WikiTree has a nifty relationship finder that will figure out how you are related to members of your family. The trail from me back to my ggg grandfather Richard looks like this: 

The relationship trail:

Clair is the daughter of Elva M. Rodriguez.
Elva is the daughter of David J. Crabtree, Sr.
David is the son of Sarah A. Kinney.
Sarah Kinney is the daughter of Sarah Crabtree.
Sarah Crabtree is the daughter of Richard A. Crabb.*
 Therefore, Richard is the third great grandfather of Clair.

*Just a note on our family names. Some generations of my mother's ancestors called themselves Crabb, while others called themselves Crabtree. Our branch's name was officially changed to Crabtree in 1910, at the request of large group of family members and by order of a probate court in Maine. 

But wait, the Kinneys were also called Kenney or Kenny, and even Kinne. The Giggeys were sometimes called Guiggeys. Now, do you see why genealogy is so much fun?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Uncle David

A young David

My mother's youngest brother, Uncle David Crabtree, first came into my life when he came to live with our family in San Francisco in the late 1940s or early 1950s. He had just gotten out of the Navy and was going to take some college classes. The downstairs bedroom was cleared out to make a room just for him.
I must have been five or six when he first came to stay. He was kind and he was funny, and not at all intimidating for a shy child like me. Although he was too old to be a big brother, he seemed too young to be one of the grownups. He was practically perfect as far as I was concerned.

Everything about David fascinated me. He must have furnished that downstairs bedroom on his own, because the things in there were not at all like what we had upstairs. For example, there was a ceramic horse head lamp, probably the ugliest thing ever seen. I loved it. I wanted to touch it.

I can't see that terrible "fragile" leg lamp in the movie
The Christmas Story without thinking of another ugly lamp that played
a part in my childhood. 
I knew that Uncle David's room was out of bounds to me, but I just couldn't resist going in there to look at the lamp. Somehow I decided that I needed to pick up that lamp to fully appreciate it. Think of it--the unexpectedly heavy, slippery lamp in the hands of a little kid--of course, it went crashing to the floor and broke to pieces, breaking my heart as well.

I was devastated. I had sneaked into an off-limits room, letting down my favorite uncle, harming something that belonged to him, and losing the beloved horse's head, all in a single moment. 

Uncle David must have forgiven me, because my next memory is of his college homecoming parade. David's fraternity brothers were apparently short on cute coeds, because they elected five-year-old me to ride in the open convertible with them. I was supposed to represent some kind of bumblebee, I believe, and my mother sewed an outfit for me that included a brown cape with a gold satin lining. It was a very big deal for me to ride in a parade. All was going well until I saw that we were passing a gas station, and suddenly needed to use that restroom. The fraternity boys tried their best to talk me out of it, but I knew what I needed to do, and the entire parade had to wait while my embarrassed uncle escorted the caped bumblebee to the Ladies Room.  

This is not the bumblebee outfit
David helped out my parents over the years by acting as a babysitter for the rare evenings when they went out. One Friday night, after Mother and Daddy had left us with Uncle David, my little sister and I hatched a plot. We had heard that an "Alice in Wonderland" movie was scheduled to be shown on television that night, but our parents had said that it would be on far past our bedtime. Now, we loved all three channels on that big old cumbersome TV, and always watched Ed Sullivan and Jack Benny as a family, so our little kid hearts were set on this special viewing event. 

We brought out pillows and blankets to make our tired-out fraternity boy uncle comfy on the sofa. We patted him, and sang lullabies to him, and he eventually drifted off, leaving us to stay up late and watch our movie. I'll never know if he just pretended to fall for our trickery, but we all had a lovely evening. 

My co-plotter

embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Edith Crabtree's Obituary

In my mother's writing: "Ma and Auntie:"
Edith Crabtree, and possibly my mother's Aunt Anna*

I have an image of my grandmother Edith's obituary clipping in my files. Sadly, the date is missing, as is the name of the newspaper. I'm guessing it was from the Bangor Daily News, but I am hoping that someone reading here will have the exact information.

My records from an interview with my mother (Edith's daughter, Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez) show that Edith died on Sept. 26, 1946; however, a look at a 1946 calendar shows that this would be a Thursday, and the obituary says that Edith died on a Sunday. Edith's headstone shows simply "1946" for her date of death. That's another mystery, but I plan to find the exact date eventually.

Here is the text of the obituary [with my additions in brackets]:

Mrs. Edith R. Crabtree, 65, died Sunday at her home in Ludlow after a month's illness. She was
born in Kilburn, N. B. the daughter of William and Martha Grant Giberson and moved to Ludlow from Beaconsfield, N. B. 12 years ago.

Mrs. Crabtree is survived by her husband, David J. Crabtree; four sons, Clifford of Bangor, Beecher and Jesse of Ludlow, David Jr. of the U. S. Navy in St. Albans, N.Y; nine daughters, Mrs. George [Alma] McLellan of Plainville, Conn., Mrs. Donald [Hope] MacLeod. of Point Duchene, N. B., Mrs. Clayton [Bessie] Valley of Portland, Maine, Mrs. Daniel [Elva] Harris of San Francisco, Calif., Mrs. Eugene [Anna] Littleton [should be Middleton], Mrs. Murray [Gladys] Victory. Mrs. Joseph [Sadie] Ayotte, Miss Faith Crabtree of Houlton, and Mrs. Gilbert [Lois] Stockson of Bangor; also 29 grandchildren and one great grandchild. 

Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at two at the Pentecostal Church with Rev. Howard [Hatt] of Woodstock officiating. [Burial] was in Evergreen Cemetery [missing information, where the corner of the clipping was torn off, was supplied by Patricia Parkhurst Gee Pickard. Thank you, Pat!].

The Evergreen Cemetery, where Edith was buried, is located in Houlton, Aroostook County, Maine.


*In the photo above, I am guessing that "Auntie" would be one of David Crabtree Sr.'s sisters, as Edith had only brothers. Because all of the other sisters were dead before 1940, I think that this might be Anna Thursa Crabtree, who married Uncle Charles Field and who came to visit us in San Francisco in the 1940s. It is also possible that this is Sadie Ermina Crabtree Thomas, who died in 1938.


From my WikiTree records:

Edith Rae Crabtree formerly Giberson aka Crabb (family name changed to Crabtree 1910)
Born  in Lower Perth, New Brunswick, Canadamap
Wife of  — married  in Easton, Mainemap
Died  in Houlton, Maine,

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Kinney Siblings

Allen, Aaron, Shep (looking like Teddy Roosevelt), Richard
Susan, Adelia, Annie

I came across this beautiful photo when searching for information about my Great Grandmother, Annie Kinney. It is part of a memorial on the Find a Grave website maintained for Annie's brother, John Shepherd "Uncle Shep" Kinney, Jr. I'd like to thank Dale Safford for giving her permission for the use of the photo and for maintaining the online memorial; and Janet Feldhusen (great-granddaughter of Uncle Shep) for contributing photos for the memorial. 

Since Shep died in 1918, and because there is no date on the photo, we can date it as being taken sometime before that year. I love the sweet faces of these people; and I especially love looking into the eyes of Annie Kinney, the great grandmother I never got to meet. If you look closely, you can see that she is wearing rimless glasses. She was practically blind when she was older. 

These were the children of John Shepherd Kinney, Sr. (1802-1872) and Sarah Crabtree (1820-1887). Yes, if you think about it, you can see that Sarah Crabtree married a Kinney, becoming Sarah Crabtree Kinney; and that her daughter, Sarah Ann Kinney, married a Crabtree, becoming Sarah Ann Kinney Crabtree. 

From left to right, starting with the back row:
Charles Allen (called Allen) 1858-1934 
Aaron 1841-1925 
John Shepherd "Shep" 1837-1918  
Richard 1856-1932

Front row, left to right: 
Susan Kinney Campbell 1848-1934 
Adelia Kinney Parent 1850-1933
Sarah Ann "Annie" Kinney Crabtree 1842-1935 

Annie was my mother's father's mother.
My mother: Elva Crabtree Harris; her father, David Jewett Crabtree; his mother, Sarah Ann "Annie" Kinney Crabtree.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Tale of a Little Souvenir Book

I have a box of these little "souvenir" booklets that belonged to my mother, Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez (1914-1998). Back in the 1930s and 1940s they could be bought by travelers who would then put in their own snapshots commemorating their trip.

This one, "Snapshots, St. John, Canada," contains photos from a trip taken of my mother with friends. She looked to be around twenty, or so, putting the date of the trip sometime in the mid-1930s. I could only guess at details--the purpose of the trip and the names of the people--when I first looked through the photos with my sister.

Then along came a very kind and generous person named Patricia Pickard, who left a short comment on a post on this blog, regarding the Crabtree family photo that appears at the top of the page. That comment led to many messages between my computer in New Mexico and hers, in Bangor, Maine. It turns out that Pat, although unrelated to my mother's family, is an expert on my mother's brother, Reverend Clifford Crabtree. In fact, she has even written a booklet on him--more about that when I receive my copy in the mail. 

Pat: As I was working on Clifford's story, I got the notion that I wanted to find out as much as I could about David's 13 children because I knew very little about them. So, I have set up a notebook with dividers on each of the 13, plus I have begun the notebook with info on David, Edith, and David's siblings that were here in the Bangor area (Dover, Milo, etc.). [David and Edith are the parents of my mother's large family in the header photo].

Pat was a great help in identifying the photos in this little book. 

She was able to figure out that most of the pictures were taken during a church trip to Nova Scotia on July 4, 1937.  How could she be so exact about the date? Because she owned an autograph book that had belonged to Eddie and Billy Washington, who had also gone on the same trip. It contained this message from my mother, written on July 4, 1937!

Pat, a real sleuth, then figured out that the stone lions pictured below were at the Dingle Tower, located in the Sir Sandford Fleming Park in Halifax. Check the park's website to see detailed photos of the lions.

Pat: I just called Billy Washington who was at Dingle Tower the same time that your mother went and visited Halifax. He identified one man in one of the pictures and told me some of the other folks that went to the week's meetings. I will look at the pix a little later and see if I can find any more faces that I would now recognize, knowing who came from Zion Bible Institute in East Providence, Rhode Island at that time. 

It was only when I enlarged this image that I noticed
the three overexposed figures in the background

The two young men in the hats (above) are the brothers, Billy and Eddie Washington.
Billy is now 92 and living in Bangor, Maine. Pat plans to visit with him next spring to talk further about this trip. 

Pat: In the picture at Dingle Tower where I identified  Billy and Eddie Washington, the other man is Leon Elliott. He is also in two pix where your mother is....the ones with a man standing between two women. That, also, is Leon Elliott. He was from Littleton, Maine.

My mother, Elva Crabtree, is on the right in this photo.
As we now know, Beatrice Elliott is on the left; her brother, Leon Elliott, is in the center. 

Pat: The lady in the flowered dress in all four pix is Leon's sister, Beatrice Elliott, also from Littleton.

They attended Zion Bible Institute together.

Leon became a missionary to India, and has written a book, "From Maine to the Himalayas." His wife, Almeda Elliott, has also written a book, "India in my Heart." When I get a chance, I will see if either one of them speak of the Halifax visit. I have the books here.

Beatrice Elliot, left, unknown lady in the middle, Elva on the right

Beatrice, Leon, Elva

Elva Crabtree



We wondered if this and the next few pictures might have been taken on the family farm

But then we decided that the man in the middle isn't my Grandfather, David Jewett Crabtree.
He might be one of David's brothers, though. 

Mother on the right

My mother is center front, in this photo

That is my mother on the right, with her brother, Clifford Crabtree, just behind her. 

My mother is second from left

And that's my mother, joking around at the front
I'm amazed that so much information about these previously mysterious family photos came to me through a series of coincidences and the magic of the Internet. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your knowledge and for being so kind!

Friday, January 3, 2014

What I've Been Learning About

Something else I learned: Little kids everywhere love the snow!
Happy little Crabtree kid, c 1930-1935

The more I think about it, the more I believe that researching my family's history is the perfect occupation for me. I've always been interested in history, but not the way it is taught in general history courses, as I found out when I first declared myself a history major and fell asleep in every single 8AM lecture. I like the history of people; their daily lives and relationships, and their connection to the world around them. I like to write, as I discovered when I changed that poor-choice-of-major from history to English. And I like to do research, making genealogy the most rewarding project I've been involved in since retiring from my career as a librarian.

I work on our family history every day, and I love doing so. I believe that the creating and learning involved are essential activities for my mental well-being. Here are some of the things I've been learning about lately...


I have long interpreted a letter from a second cousin about blind "Grandma Crabtree," as being about my own Grandmother, Edith Rae Giberson Crabtree, and wrote a post about her homesickness for the old farm in New Brunswick. After learning more about the birth and death dates for several generations in the family, I began to suspect that I had the wrong grandmother. Indeed, after checking another relative's letter in my files, I realized that the person in question was the grandmother of the second cousin who wrote the first letter, my own Great Grandmother Annie Kinney (Sarah Ann Kinney Crabtree), who was homesick for the farm.

Good news--I had a nice "new" memory about my Great Grandmother; bad news--I had to shorten the post about remembering my Grandmother Edith Rae Giberson.

Genealogists are always warned about making assumptions. 'Nuff said!


My family will have a hard time believing this, but I am slowly learning that not everyone is as fascinated about family relationships and family history as I am. Honestly, I only talk about one-tenth of the genealogy stuff I'd like to discuss!

False Economy

Until recently, I avoided paying for subscriptions to genealogy sites, because there were plenty of free sites available. I knew that sooner or later I would want to try out the publicly available subscription to down at my local library, but figured I would just save up some research questions for some future afternoon. Why pay to have something on my home computer that the library is already buying?

It turns out that there are many reasons why having my own subscription makes sense, and a good many of those reasons are rooted in the way I do research. First of all, I like to look things up any time of the day or night, so some of the outfits I wear for research are not to be seen in public. Second, I mutter to myself when searching for information and I often exclaim aloud when I find a person or event long sought ("ah, Oscar, THERE you are!"). 

I get caught up in people's lives--after all, I am right there when they are born (through vital records) and I get to see them grow up (census records), get married (more vital records), and have children of their own (more census records), and lose some of those children through diseases that would be preventable now (terribly sad vital records). And then comes the moment when I find the death record for the person whose life I've been following--I've been known to weep at the loss. My family just says, "Don't worry about her, it's just that Oscar died... again" [the first time being back in 1907]. 

I do not want to be doing any of this in the public library. Is $35 a month a reasonable price for doing these research shenanigans in private? Absolutely. 

Every Family Has Its Scoundrels

At this point, if you are still reading, you are probably asking yourself what happened to my self-proclaimed new-found reticence. I will wind this up, and I will be quick. 

They always tell new family historians who hope to prove family connections to famous people that they are more likely to find unsavory relatives--criminals and not-so-moral folks--who have long been hidden in the family closets. 

They are right. 

That's all I want to say about that (although if my sister asks about the relative once characterized by another relative as "the meanest man I ever met," I am willing to have a short discussion about him). 

The Kindness of Strangers

I have been so touched by the kindness of people I have never met in person--fellow genealogists who I have "met" online when doing this research. They have helped me most generously with creating my family's story by sharing their own findings, family trees, stories, and photos.
More about that in the next post.