Samuel Skelton and The Mayflower

A story from our childhood, as related by our mother over the years, is that an ancestor of Great Grandmother Elvira Andrews Shute (1865-1951) came to America on the Mayflower.  Mother (Alice M. Kedersha Lovell), a first generation American of Armenian/Assyrian heritage, was quite proud of her children's "eligibility" on father's side for the "Daughters of the Mayflower," (as she called it)  trusting always that we would never deign to join such an uppity organization.
This tantalizing tidbit of our ancestry led me to become a personal history detective.  Could I verify our blue blood ancestry, thereby truly rejecting uppityness by refusing to join, or would I find out that the story was apocryphal, leaving us just motley Americans like the rest?
I spent at least 15 years searching through our Massachusetts roots to flesh out the family tree on our father's (William E. Lovell) side.  We are lucky that Massachusetts was his parents' birthplace, because no other state has a vital records system dating back to its beginning.  The New England Historical Genealogical Society in Boston is a central repository of records or indexes to them.  Nowadays they are online.  And, a major work, The Great Migration, covering the period 1620-1635 has been indexed and can be searched on the NEHGS website.
So I did.
Bottom line:  it does NOT look good for our direct ancestors arriving on the Mayflower.
Do not despair, though.  We are not Johnny Come Latelys!  Oh, no.  We descend directly from the Reverend Samuel Skelton, pastor of the First Church of Salem, Massachusetts, the first church established by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The Massachusetts Bay Company got a charter to establish a colony and  arranged for 6 ships  (with about 200 passengers in all)  to sail from England and Leiden, Holland in 1629:  the  George Bonaventure, Talbot, Lyon's Whelp, Mayflower, Four Sisters, and Pilgrim.  (Pilgrim was captured by the French and never made it to America.)  The Reverend Sam was on the Bonaventure, but I bet he waved to the passengers on the deck of the Mayflower as they bobbed the Atlantic together.  Is that a close enough connection to the Mayflower?
Our guy Skelton, a Puritan cleric from Linconshire, 
 educated at Cambridge University, was a man of letters who served as the first Pastor of the First Church of Salem, the very first Puritan church in America.

This is it, people!  The First Church (courtesy of Library of Congress archives).   Roger Williams worked as a teacher in Skelton's church briefly in 1630, (American Geneologist, 1951, vol 28)   and  became Pastor after Rev Sam's death in 1634. Then he moved on to establish Rhode Island.
More important to us, however, is that the historical records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony state that the Reverend Skelton put in a lot of effort to maintain close ties to the Pilgrims at Plymouth.  Yes, those Pilgrims.  Well, he didn't arrive in 1620, and he didn't arrive ON the Mayflower, but he arrived WITH the Mayflower and he knew some of the Pilgrims.
Most important for us, Skelton had four children, so we probably have many many distant cousins with whom we share his Puritan blood.  (His youngest, the only one born in America, is our route to Skelton.)
I learned about our Skelton lineage early in 2012, when the NEHGS Great Migration database came on line.
And the Fall 2012 issue of American Ancestors (pp20-24) has a summary of the "Winthrop Fleet" sailings in 1629 and 1630.  You can learn more about Samuel Skelton in Wikipedia.
What does it mean to be a Puritan?  I never cared about it in my American History classes.  I still don't. But it is fun to consider what motivations induced these people to leave England and set up in a cold, hostile and isolated world (sorry, Massachusetts).  The King of England was running out of patience with the Puritans, so fear is a great motivator.  But Skelton also received  a few hundred acres of prime farm land near Salem.  Was the Rev. Sam in it at least partly for the wealth?  Or was it all Puritanism? (I hope the former...the latter is scary.)

Graduation from Florence Avenue School 1958

Here are a few photos I found of me and some of my 8th grade friends at my party celebrating our 1958 graduation from Florence Avenue School, Irvington, NJ.
Who were these young men and ladies?
Some I can recognize:  (left to right)
Rose Paragano
??? (hidden behind Rose)
Linda Goode (partially hidden)
Judy Lovell
Billy Famula (a delicious guy to a 13 year old girl!)
Herbie Eichorn (in back row)
Terry Green
Roberta Spagnola
Ann Forte
Carolyn Heerwagen (???)
Front Row of boys -
Paul Geyer (proving that men get better looking every year they live!)
John (Buddy) Mahler - my heart throb in 5th grade.
William Fiore - where are you, today, William?  Your were my Nemesis.  You bloodied my nose in 2nd grade, you stuck me with a pencil in 5th grade (I still have the blue mark in my arm), you blackmailed me in 3rd grade...  To paraphrase Michael Caine in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", "Wasn't he wonderful?"
Apologies to the ????'s   You were all adorable.  Isn't Rose's dress spectacular?  I wish I could tell her how much I loved her sweetness.  But she is gone.

Florence Avenue School Yearbook - 1958

I was just playing around trying to figure out how to show a bunch of scanned historical photos using YouTube.  So, here, for what it's worth, is the UN-COPYRIGHTED 1958 yearbook of the 8th grade graduation class of Florence Avenue School, Irvington, NJ.  Looking back at these faces from a vantage point of more than 50 years had me teary eyed.  How cute all those little boys were.  How sweet the girls.  They remind me of my own grandchildren and their friends. We wuz innocent.
The video, consisting of page after page of photos, is quite long because I moved over all the pictures slowly.  I could have used Photoshop to create separate jpg files of each scanned photo and then created a slide show on YouTube with 2-second shots.  That would have made a much shorter video.  (Reminds me of the old adage about writing:  "I didn't have the time to make it short.")  Click here to enjoy when you  have the time.

Saved from Antietam by a Musket ball at Bull Run

Today (Sept 17)  is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam in 1862.  The newscasts are full of statistics outlining the unprecedented casualties.  My great-great grandfather William A. Shute (1832-1903) was not among them.  In fact, he was one of the lucky enlisted men of the Massachusetts 13th Infantry Regiment (Company I) who did not even see action in that battle, thanks to a musket ball that hit his leg just two weeks earlier (August 30)  at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  That little mishap, which cost him his lower left leg, may have saved his life by sparing him action on the infamous "Cornfield" of Antietam.  According to a website covering the history of the 13th, 
 "They are up early the morning of the 17th and are the second brigade to advance to the Miller Cornfield.  General Hartsuff is wounded early on during the advance while doing reconnaissance, so Colonel Coulter leads them into the fight, Major J. Parker Gould commands the 13th troops.  They stand their ground under a heavy fire for 30 minutes before retiring to the rear to replenish their ammunition.  301 men go into the fight, 165 come out, for a loss of 45%.  26 men are killed.  
Sometimes, what seems like bad luck -- a wound that leaves you an amputee at age 30 -- turns out to be a life saver.  You just never know.

Here's what happened to William A. Shute at 2nd Bull Run and in the days, months and years afterward.  (For a complete history of his regiment's doings up to that point, see ).  He was hit by the musket in the left leg right above the foot. He fell and lay on the battlefield for three days until he was rescued and brought to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C.  During that period, his wound became infected, and he spent his waking hours picking maggots out of the puss that formed in the wound.  Later, he was told by the doctors that removing the vile maggots was a mistake.  They might have controlled the infection by devouring the bacteria.  He also ministered to another soldier nearby who was more gravely wounded.   (Years later, that other soldier became a U.S. Senator, and in a speech in Marlboro, he told the story of being saved by a Marlboro soldier named Shute.  William A was in the audience and rose to greet the Senator.)

Somewhere either en route to or at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Shute's leg was amputated 8 inches below the knee. He left St. Elizabeth's for home, and mustered out with a full disability,  in June 1863. (Pension was $3 per month at that time.)  He returned to Marlborough, Massachusetts, and continued to build his large family of seven children, living at 3 Elm Place.  One of his daughters, Jennie Shute, married a man named McDormand and moved to Washington D.C. William A. and his wife Fanny (Tarbell) Shute spent a year in Washington D.C., in 1898, where he worked for the War Pension Bureau.  He returned to Marlboro and died there in 1903 of "cancer of the stomach."

This story comes to us from two sources.  Our father, Bill Lovell, spent many happy days in Marlboro visiting his maternal Grandfather, Walter Dwight Shute, (1859-1927), William A's oldest son.  Walter D told Daddy the stories about his own father's days immediately after being wounded, of helping the other soldier, and of being called out years later in the speech given by the U.S. Senator.  Other details -- of the wound itself, of the pension, and of his work in Washington D.C.-- come from the Civil War Pension Records, housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Alas, those records are not available on-line (at least not yet), but I have photocopied them for some enterprising descendant  of William A Shute and William E. Lovell, who might one day lay claim to the role of family historian.

My Dad's Role in the Liberation of Dachau: His questions answered, too late.

Did this ever happen to you?  A beloved older relative asks you to do something that's relatively easy to do.  You say, "Sure!" and then promptly forget about it.  A few years later, that relative is gone forever.  The opportunity to fulfill your promise is lost.
If such a thing never happened to you, let me assure you that the unfulfilled promise haunts you.  That's where I have been since my father's death in 1994.  I let him down.
My father's request stemmed from his experience as an army infantry grunt in World War II, which I briefly relayed in a previous post.  He found himself in France in January 1945 with the 42nd Rainbow Division (7th Army) as part of the final push of Allied forces across Germany.  His regiment attacked into southern Germany, taking Wurzburg en route to liberating the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in April.  Along the way, he suffered  battle fatigue and spent a few weeks at St Johann, Austria in a rear-echelon hospital.  When he returned to active duty in late March he was temporarily assigned to guard duty at the regimental headquarters, and (as he would say) by the grace of God he was discovered to be a good reader of maps by the regiment's company commander, Captain Starr West Jones.  He was rescued from more front line duty by the good Captain Jones and spent the rest of the war in the headquarters company, still on the move, but not running, crawling, or walking under constant fire with an M1 and a full pack on his back.   For this our dad was forever grateful.
We know all this about Daddy because he was a prolific letter writer, except for the month and a half he spent in front-line combat.  Once at company headquarters, he had access to a typewriter, and we have three loose-leaf binders full of his World War II letters.  He also told us many bedtime stories about his life in the war.  We little girls loved his bedtime stories and we each remember them with slight differences in detail.  As I look back, they often included a life lesson, and I am sure that he edited them for children's minds.  Nevertheless, between the letters and the stories we each have felt we knew what it was like for him to be an unprepared, underweight, undertrained buck private on the front line of the war.
So... what about that favor Daddy asked of me?  Well, I live in the Washington D C area, and soon after the  National Holocaust Museum opened in 1993, he re-told  the story of his drive through Dachau in the back of a troop truck during its liberation.  As in his previous tellings, he emphasized that he had hidden his eyes the whole way for fear of crying at the sight of the dead and dying prisoners, particularly if any of them were children.  He did not want to be branded a weakling, especially given his shameful (to him) breakdown in full combat a month or so earlier.  All he knew was that he had been ordered into a truck at company headquarters to ride through the camp along with the rest of the company.  Nobody told him why or what they were supposed to do there.  He thought that the new Holocaust Museum might have information about the specifics of the liberation of Dachau.  He asked me to go the the Museum and try to find out exactly what his company was doing there.  THAT is what I never did.
He died a year later not knowing.
Here's where the benefits of sharing family histories come in.  A couple of years back I spent a day or so organizing Daddy's letters into protected loose-leaf binders, reading as I went along.  In two letters Daddy described the "incomparable Captain Jones" (his life saver) with such verve and fondness that I thought it would be fun to try to find the Captain's descendants and share the letters describing him.
Google led me to the Captain's obituary (yr 2000), which mentioned the names of his sons.  I contacted one of them through Facebook about 2 years ago, and he answered that he would be interested in seeing the letters.  So, I uploaded them to this blog and then sent the link to the son.  I never heard back.
Wonder of wonders (i.e., Google wonders!)  about 8 months ago I received an email from a Starr Jones  -- a grandson  -- who had Googled his Grandfather's name and found my blog post.  He asked whether any other letters had mentioned his grandfather.  Unfortunately no, but through emails with grandson Starr I learned that our Captain Starr West Jones had written an autobiography in 1988,  Hello, God. Can we Talk? He offered to send me a copy, but I found a used one on for a few bucks and bought it right away.
I was not disappointed.  The book contained a detailed account of the movement of his regimental headquarters Company, 42nd Rainbow Division, from late in 1944 until the end of the war.  And, it solved the mystery of the truck ride that my father made through the camp.
Here is Captain Jones tells us in his book:
(p. 128) "In April of 1945 our Allied troops were rolling back the Nazi war machine toward what we expected might very well be a desperate "last stand" in the Bavarian Alps.  Advance units of our 42d Division had blitzed into Munich with the mission of liberating the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachua (sic).  I was with the main elements of our division, moving rapidly to linkup with them at Munich....(p.135)... The next day we received orders from the division commander informing us that all troops should visit Dachau to see at first hand the unbelievable horrors that man had unleashed upon his fellow man.  So I sent most of our headquarters company that day, with my executive officer in charge.  The remaining men would carry on the necessary functions of the company and I would go with them to the concentration camp the next day.... (p.136)...Some of the men were so emotionally thunderstruck by what they had seen that they could only shake their heads in disbelief and their voices choked when they tried to describe it.... (p137)...But I did not get a chance to see first hand, because the next day our unit was on the move again..."
So, THAT is what my father's ride was all about!  A ride intended solely to witness the horrors of the camp and be a witness to history.  My father had hid his eyes for fear of being branded too soft, and saw nothing.  Yet, his fellow soldiers were not immune from the very emotions that Daddy so feared.

My son-in-law, a life-long student of history, recently told me that General Eisenhower himself ordered that every possible person, and the press, see the camps at first hand, as soon as the Allies liberated them, in order to avoid denial stories in the future.  I just checked through google, and (as per usual when it comes to history) my son-in-law is correct.  Here is a link to Eisenhower's own recollections.  General Eisenhower's rememberance.

Eighteen years after his death, I solved my father's mystery for him.  Thanks to Starr Jones III, the Captain's grandson, for this little gift no matter how late. (And thanks to Google, and Facebook, and Blogger, and of course the internet, without which none of these findings would have been possible. And even now, my own son-in-law has added to my understanding.)

Veterans' History Project

An op-ed piece in the Washington Post in March 2012 urged citizens to help the shrinking number of World War II veterans still living to record their stories before it's too late. John McNeill, a professor of history at George Washington University wrote movingly of the diminishing opportunities to get veterans' stories down in audio or video.
The article thrilled me, because I had recently finished interviewing and digitizing the story of my Bethesda friend, David Eden, M.D., who served as a young medical officer in England and Europe from June 1944 to May 1946.  Researching his stories gave me a better understanding of what it meant to be a young doctor at the time, and how his experience influenced the rest of his life.  They are available for public viewing (with his permission) on YouTube.  Here's the PlayList for Dave Eden.
The Washington Post article mentioned the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress.  That project gives veterans and their families the opportunity to donate materials and interviews.  The requirements are stringent -- for example, no photocopies, only originals.  Our father's letters home from Europe (7th Army, 42nd Rainbow Division, France, Germany and Austria) document the concerns of soldiers on the line before, during and after VE day.  One of his daughters has the originals.  The others of us have carefully made photocopies.  The letters fill three large loose-leaf folders.  But...are we ready to give up the originals to the Library of Congress, where they may molder for future generations?  That will make for good talk at family get-togethers.

Irvington High School newspaper, June 1962

I've been cleaning out old memorabilia boxes in anticipation of I-don't-know-what, and scanning any pictures or documents that would be of interest to my descendants about their family history.
Among all the detritus were two issues of The Orator, the student newspaper of Irvington High School, Irvington, NJ, in June, 1962, the year I graduated.  I kept them because I was one of the two editors of the paper.  I'm glad I did, because.....
Our class is about to have its 50th reunion. It appears that at least half of the members of the class of 1962 are mentioned somewhere in the two issues.  There were also several articles on teachers who were about to do this or that, or had done something or other.
One problem is that after scanning (doing the best I could with my desktop scanner and a large paper size) I realized that the PDF files were too big to upload to my website.
Luckily, I had recently been introduced to, which allows me to put big files into a public file for access the public.  I hope this works.  I put the two PDF files into my public dropbox folder.

The Orator - June 1962-
The Orator - June 1962 - issue 8

(Also, a year or so ago I scanned in a copy of The Torch, our "literary" magazine.  I wrote a post about it then, but I didn't know from Dropbox, and it was a 50mg file.  But, now it's available for FREE thanks to Al Gore and the internet he invented.
Irvington High School Torch Magazine - 1959

The funny thing about all this is that both issues of the Orator were clearly late. They came out on June 20, and they contained a schedule of final exams that started on June 15.    I wonder if they even were printed before we all left school.  And even funnier (or more tragic), throughout my career as a policy analyst, I was habitually late with reports.  My employers, bless their souls, seemed to accept this weakness.  So, here I am on the other side of 50 years, along with all my similarly disbelieving classmates, and sighing with relief that I got through the work world in one piece, with a roof over my head and food on the table.

Well, enjoy!  And let me know at  if you have trouble accessing these issues.

Hints for Preserving Old Photographs

My memoir writing teacher, Pat McNees, forwarded a website that reviews the do's and don'ts of archiving and preserving old family photographs.  The website is put out by Florida State University.  In her email, Pat quoted from certain parts of the web page.  I found them useful:

Labeling photographs is very important, to ensure an accurate record.  Identifying people by their names and relationships, and noting the date, place, event, and photographer for each image, will help future generations to understand them.  When labeling, use a soft pencil on the edge of the back of the photograph.  Many inks are not as permanent as pencil, and ball point pens can push through the back, creating bumps in the emulsion.  Another method is to label the enclosure, rather than the photograph.  Label the folder or envelope, or buy album sleeves which have areas for labeling of photographs.
Pressure sensitive tapes such as “magic tape” or “masking tape” have acidic adhesives.  They will turn yellow, and will turn the paper yellow as well, before falling off and leaving behind a sticky residue.  Although it is best not to use any sort of tape on photographs, there is no very good home alternative for fixing a torn photo.  If the negative is still available making a new print is the best bet.  If it is not available, and the photograph is very valuable and old it might be worthwhile to consult a conservator.  If this is not feasible, there are some types of “archival quality” tapes available at art supply or scrapbook stores.  Look for tapes that are acid free, made with acrylic adhesive, and have passed the PAT.  When applying tape to any tear, keep in mind the following tips:
  • Always tape the back of a photograph - never apply any glue or tape to the emulsion
  • Use the least amount of tape you can possibly use to mend the tear (i.e. don’t use a 6 inch strip to cover a three inch tear). 
  • If possible, snip a small bits of tape from the roll and tack the tear together.  Once the photograph is tacked together, it can then have a new negative made from it.  This will ensure that it will last longer than the tape that is holding it together.
An alternative to using tape is to make your own mending strip with a piece of acid free paper, and some acid free white glue. Apply a thin coating of glue to a thin strip of paper, gently press the strip into place on the back of the photograph, and wipe away the excess glue with a cotton swab. Place the photograph face down on a soft, flat surface and dry it under weight. A good weight for mending photographs is a small candy tin filled with BBs. Thoroughly wash and dry the box before filling it, then tape it shut so the BBs won't fall out if you drop the box.
Do not use paper clips, rubber bands, or even plastic clips on photographs.
Scanning photographs has become very popular and is a good idea for dissemination.  However, it is not necessarily a permanent solution for preservation of photographs.  Scanning photographs creates into digital images, which cannot be seen without aid of a computer or other device unless printed out. There have been some advances in the printers, inks, and papers used to print digital photographs. For more discussion on these, please read the Digital Photographs section of "Starting out right - choosing the media for your purpose."
When framing photographs, use acid free mat board and acid free backing.  Humidity can cause emulsions to stick to glass, so keep a bit of space between the photograph and the glass by using a mat, or even a double mat.  Humidity can cause emulsions to stick to glass.  For more information on framing, please see “Preservation Matting and Framing Overview ." For information on Display of photographs, see: "Hanging and Display of Works of Art and Photographs."

Do you have an ancestor who was a member of the Cornell University Glee Club?

One of my clients was a member of the Cornell University Glee Club from 1936 to 1938.  His recollections of the Glee Club from those years are very interesting, and he has two official photos of the Club.  The video is posted on Youtube, and we purposely panned across each photo to show every member up close.  He tells me that Austin Kiplinger is in one of those photos-- he pointed him out, but I don't remember.  Anyway, perhaps your father or grandfather (uncle? ..not aunt of course) is in one of the photos and you can find him.
Here is the link to the YouTube video If you want a .jpg copy of the photo, I can send it via email, so contact me (Judy Wagner).