The Dunn Genes

danmaryaliceRindgeThere were a few comments about the “Dunn genes” last week, referring to Mom and Uncle Bud’s longevity. If you take a look at the Dunn family tree, though, you might wonder if genes had anything to do with it.

Grandfather Dunn was just 62 when he died in 1958. Nana had died the previous year at 68. All but one of Mom’s grandparents had even shorter lives. Her maternal grandfather, Daniel Farrar, died just two days shy of his 70th birthday- but the rest of Mom’s grandparents all died at the age of 52! Nana Dunn’s mother, Catherine (Creegan) Farrar died in 1905 of “nephritis”, a disease of the kidneys that I’d never heard of before, but which, according to Wikipedia, is the eighth leading cause of death in the world. (Catherine, incidentally, was Daniel’s third wife- the first two, Jane McKee and Florence McQuire, having died at the ages of 28 and 40, respectively.) Continue reading “The Dunn Genes”

Six degrees of Mom

I think most people are familiar with the “six degrees of separation” idea- the suggestion that you are connected to everyone else in the world by no more than six individual connections. Whether or not that’s actually true, it is kind of interesting to see how closely people are connected. In particular, I was curious how far back in time can you go to find connections. Continue reading “Six degrees of Mom”

For Memorial Day- some interesting gravestones

Where it all began- a year ago, we took Mom to Rindge in search of her grandparent’s house and grave sites. We found both- here’s Mom at the Dunn family plot at Hillside Cemetery in Rindge. Curiously, the names and dates of Daniel and Mary Alice Dunn don’t appear on the stone- the front says simply “Dunn”, and the reverse is blank.

There are, however, small individual stones for Carl and Reinald Dunn, Mom’s uncles who died young. There is also a marker for Mom’s Aunt Mildred, who died in 1981.

Carl was Grandfather Dunn’s twin brother. The twins were given matching names- Earl Lernard and Carl Bernard. Carl died at the age of 13, according to family tradition, when he jumped off the roof of the barn holding an umbrella as a parachute. Like the story of his father’s origins, that story turned out to be fiction. According to the death certificate I found later, Carl actually died of “paralysis” (possibly cereberal palsy), from which he had suffered since birth.

Nearby is the distinctive heart shaped stone marking the grave of Mom’s cousin Rita Valentine. Born Rita McCray, she was the daughter of Charles McCray, grandfather Dunn’s older brother. (Charles was born Guy Dunn, but for reasons that are still unclear, changed his name to McCray in about 1914). When I visited the cemetery last October, the flowers at Rita’s grave had been joined by two miniature pumpkins.

The Smith Adams cemetery in the Ballouville section of Killingly, Connecticut, is small and inconspicuous. The day I found it, I was actively looking for cemeteries in the area, and almost missed it. The cemetery is located less than a thousand feet from the farm that the Smith family, including my great great grandfather, Leonard O. Smith, worked in the mid 1800’s. There are two gravestones here that I found especially interesting. One marks the grave of Orrilla N. Smith. I didn’t have an Orrilla Smith in my tree, but the inscription on the stone made me think that perhaps I should. It reads ” Smith Orrilla N., daughter of John 2nd & Ruth, died June 30, 1844, age 16 yrs”.

Leonard Smith’s parents were named John and Ruth Smith- the fact that their farm is a thousand feet from the grave certainly lends credence to the idea that this is their daughter. The census records from 1830 and 1840 suggest that John and Ruth had a third daughter after Hannah and Margaret, and the age ranges match up with Orrilla’s dates as given on the gravestone. On the other hand, none of the other immediate family members appear to be buried here. So it’s likely, but not definite that this is another member of our family tree.

There is another interesting Smith grave in this cemetery, and I have no evidence that he’s related, but his story was too interesting to ignore. Elisha Smith’s stone says he was a member of the Eighteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. Military records show that Elisha enlisted on December 3, 1863. The following May, the 18th participated in the Battle of New Market, Virginia. It was a defeat for the Union Army, and Elisha was one of about fifty Union soldiers taken prisoner. He was held at the infamous Andersonville prison, but managed to survive until he was released at the end of the war. No mean feat in a prison camp where one third of the inmates died from the horrendous conditions. Even more impressive when you consider that Elisha was not a young man- he was already 52 years old when he enlisted.

Whether or not Elisha is related to us is still uncertain. The proximity of his grave to the John Smith farm makes it very possible, as does one other interesting fact. In 1856, Elisha’s second wife Sarah (whom he married when he was 41 and she was 17), had a daughter they named Lydia Ann. It’s possible she was named after Lydia Ann Cogswell, the wife of Leonard Smith. This would have been about 8 years after Leonard and Lydia’s marriage, and at about the time they and the Cogswells moved to Dublin, New Hampshire.

Last but certainly not least are these two oversized monuments in St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket. They mark the graves of the families of Philip Cregan, Mom’s maternal grandfather, and Peter Creegan, who I believe was Philip’s nephew- I haven’t completely figured out the Creegans. And it doesn’t help that the surname appears variously as Creegan, Cregan, Cragin, Cragen, and even Creighton. Philip Cregan’s daughter Catherine married Daniel Farrar, an iron moulder originally from Leeds in Yorkshire, England. Their daughter Katherine was Mom’s mother, better known to me as Nana Dunn.

Ironically, I was looking for Daniel and Catherine Farrar’s graves when I found the Creegan monuments. The Farrar’s are apparently buried nearby, but I was unable to locate their graves- it’s possible they are unmarked.

On this day, April 3, 1957

It was on this day in 1957 that Kathryn Jane (Farrar) Dunn, better known to me at least, as Nana Dunn, passed away. Nana was born in 1889 in East Providence, the daughter of Daniel and Catherine (Creegan) Farrar. Daniel was an iron moulder who had emigrated to Rhode Island from Leeds in Yorkshire, England, while Catherine was the daughter of Irish immigrants.

Nana worked as a piano tuner for toy pianos made in a Pawtucket factory until the company moved its operations to Winchendon. Nana moved there to work at the new company, Parker & Mason. It was while working in Winchendon that she met, and later married my Grandfather, Earl Dunn, the son of a Rindge NH blacksmith.

Nana’s obituary from the Worcester Telegram is in the Gallery section.

My cousin the bishop

You pick up a couple of facts, and the next thing you know, you’re the cousin of the Church of England Archbishop of British Honduras and Central America.

This all came from the information on Daniel Farrar’s marriage certificate. While looking for more information online about his parents, I found that a book had been written about Daniel’s brother, Thomas. Thomas had become a missionary to British Guiana for the Church of England. He eventually rose to the rank of Archdeacon. His son, Walter, followed in his footsteps, eventually being named the Bishop of British Honduras and Central America.

On this day November 29, part 2

The Family History Center in Worcester called this morning to let me know that some microfilms I’d ordered from Salt Lake City had arrived, so I stopped by on my lunch hour to see what I might find. One film contained death records, the other marriage records, both from East Providence. I located the death record for Catherine Creegan on one film, noted the information, and then looked at the marriage records on the other film. I was disappointed to discover that the records were in no particular order. I didn’t have time to go through them individually, so I decided to take a few minutes to just zip through the whole film, stopping at random to see if I’d get lucky.

I did.

On about the sixth or seventh try, the image on the screen was the marriage certificate of Daniel Farrar and Catherine (Creegan) Regan. As I’d deduced from going through the indexes on my last visit to the FHC, this was the second marriage for each of them. Daniel was 51, Catherine 31. (Daniel had three grown children by his first wife, Jane McKee, who died in 1866. Another son, Thomas, had died at the age of 23 just a few months before Daniel and Catherine’s marriage. Catherine and her first husband, Jeremiah Regan, had no children together. Jeremiah died in 1876).

The marriage record was a great help in fleshing out Daniel Farrar’s past. It reveals that he was born in Leeds, in Yorkshire, England, and that his parents were James and Harriet (Armitage) Farrar. That information led me pretty quickly to English census records detailing Daniel’s family. I also learned that Catherine’s mother’s maiden name was Hyland (maybe we’re related to the micro-brewers/apple growers in Sturbridge?!).
But the neat thing about the marriage record was the date: Daniel and Catherine were married on this day, November 29! And better yet, according to a perpetual calendar I checked online, November 29, 1883 was a Thursday- Thanksgiving Day!

Catherine Creegan found!

I was hoping that the East Providence marriage index I ordered from the Family History Library might shed some light on the mystery of Catherine Creegan. It did, but not without some further digging…

Catherine Creegan was Mom and Uncle Bud’s maternal grandmother, born in Rhode Island in either 1853 or 1855. My assumption was that Catherine was the sister of Bridget Creegan, who married John W. Shields in 1875, connecting the Farrars, and later the Dunns, with the Sheilds, but the dates of birth of the sisters recorded in the 1900 census didn’t match up with birth and other records. It now looks like the census birth dates were wrong.

Catherine’s husband was Daniel Farrar, a native of England, almost twenty years older than her. Their first child was a son, Daniel, born in 1885. I didn’t find a marriage matching Catherine Creegan and Daniel Farrar in the Rhode Island marriage index, so I gave the East Providence index a try. There was only one marriage involving a Daniel Farrar in the time period covered (1862-1947), but that was to a Catherine J. Reagan, in 1883.

It didn’t really seem likely that Mom had her grandmother’s maiden name wrong, so I tried the possibility that Catherine had been married to someone else, named Reagan, prior to marrying Daniel Farrar. And that looks very likely: the Rhode Island Marriage Index records a marriage on February 1, 1872, between Catherine J. Creegan and Jeremiah Regan. Catherine would have been 18 or 19 years old. Her husband is likely the same Jeremiah Regan whose death is recorded in the Rhode Island Death Index on 30 Dec 1876, just four years after the marriage. All of this is bolstered by the 1880 census, which records Catherine J. Regan, widowed daughter of Philip Cregan, living in East Providence. On the very same census sheet,  just three doors down the street, is a widower named Daniel Farrar!

The Shields and the Farrars

When I was growing up, I was never exactly sure what our relationship was to Aunt Belle, the nice lady in East Providence that we would often visit on a Sunday afternoon. Mom didn’t seem to be certain herself, but thought that her grandmother and Aunt Belle’s mother were sisters.

That seems to be the case- Aunt Belle’s parents were Bridget and John Shields. A Rhode Island marriage record available online gives the date as 25 November 1875, and Bridget’s maiden name as Creegan. Her age is 18, three years older than Catherine Creegan, who would later marry Daniel Farrar. There’s just one problem- Uncle Bud notes that Bridget doesn’t appear on either the 1860 or 1870 census records as living with the Creegans. So was she really Catherine’s sister? If so, where was she in 1860 and 1870? And if not, who is she, and where did she come from?

That’s Catherine up above, from a photo Mom had on her piano.

Some progress, and a false alarm

Well some progress on the Farrar side of the Dunn line: as Uncle Bud noted in his email, his grandmother Catherine (Creegan) Farrar, was the daughter of Lawrence and Margaret Creegan, both of whom were born in Ireland. It will be interesting to see where that trail leads.

Catherine’s husband, Daniel Farrar, arrived in this country in 1860, according to the 1900 Census. That form listed his birth year as about 1836 in England. I happened to find a Daniel Farrar who matched that birth year listed in the 1851 British census, in Leeds, the son of Samuel and Phoebe, both born in 1808. It seemed promising when he turned up missing from the family’s entry in the 1861 census. Unfortunately, it seems that this Daniel Farrar didn’t emigrate to Rhode Island, but rather just down the road. I eventually found him as the head of his own household in Leeds, with a wife and a daughter named Phoebe. Oh well.