Musings about life, love and genealogy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Civil War Harley 2014

Civil War Harley 2014

For the last few years – four to be exact, my hubby and I have spent a two week vacation doing what some may think unconventional. Two weeks on a Harley. Let me tell you, they are the best two weeks of the year.

I dubbed our inaugural ride the Civil War Harley tour because our route, through the scenic highways and byways of the south, was charted with specific Civil War sites and battlefields in mind. We hit the biggies, starting with a Gettysburg drive-by (that’s a blog for another day - my continued and relentless request for 4 days in that most hallowed ground), Manassas, Vicksburg, Shiloh, Franklin, and Antietem. It was an exhilarating and oftimes somber trip through history and Americana. Armed with my trusty Canon (this year I’m bucking for a GoPro to capture the whole trip), I have snapped thousands of photos of people, places, architecture, withered barns, beautiful landscapes and small Main Street towns over the years.

I wrote a blog each night well, almost ( and an annual adventure was born.

This year, we’re taking the Root Beer Float (my name for the bike, not Jason’s) -  a beautiful root beer colored 2013 Anniversary edition ElectraGlide, which, when sitting in the back seat, truly feels like you’re floating. And we’re heading in a whole different direction.  North.  The ride will take us through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Prince Edward Island, Niagara Falls and a visit to Buckfield, Maine, the tiny town where Jason’s great, great grandfather, Civil War Alvan (to note his military service and distinguish him from several other Alvans and Alvins in the family) was born and raised. While not a Civil War tour in our traditional sense, homage to an ancestral veteran of the War Between the States will keep the Civil War in our tour this year.

Of course, I’ll be blogging and capturing the ride on film – well, digital film – so get ready to ride along!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

1770's Stays - Complete!

Staying Together

I started my 1770’s stays in December, a novice historical costumer with a gleam in my eye and a spring in my step. Now, after hours and hours of handstitching, a lovely new callous on my middle finger from jabbing myself repeatedly with the needle and a cramp in my hand, my stays are complete!

My tale of woe is not intended to dissuade anyone from making their own stays. On the contrary. Now that I have a fully finished pair, I am thrilled at what I was able to accomplish. I’ve never taken on anything like this before so I didn’t have any idea how complicated or time consuming stitching nearly 200 channels then boning and joining the 10 sections together would be. But that was the easy part. Quarter inch linen tape covered the joining channels attached with minute stitches; it was a delicate task trying to roll the stays and attach the tape without hearing the unmistakable crack of a reed snapping within a channel. Adding the kid leather binding was the most abusive on my poor fingers and hands.  Sure, in theory, it’s like attaching seam binding to a hem, but it's definitely not as easy as attaching seam binding to a hem!  I bent and contorted 3 needles pushing my way through the layers of leather, linen and wool and lost count of the expletives.

The blue checked lining was added in pieces; the center covered stay sections one and two, flanked by two side pieces covering sections 3, 4 and 5. The tabs were covered separately, so they can easily splay over the hips.

Now I understand why men were stay makers!

Pamphleteer and founding father Thomas Paine was the son of a stay maker. Paine himself apprenticed at the trade for seven years, but his efforts as a stay maker failed. After he sailed for America in 1774 he never practiced the staymaking trade again, but his inability to bone up (no pun intended) were never forgotten. In London, Paine's revolutionary writings were dismissed and ridiculed as the works of "Tom, the Bodicemaker."

Francis Oldys (pseudonym), in the work 'The Life of Thomas Paine, the Author of Rights of Men' (1791) wrote about stay makers: ‘The art of staymaking require patience, skill and the Quakerly ability to sit for hours in busy silence, cutting, and shaping woolen cloth, boning between each row of stitching, and lining the patterned stay with linen. Women of the notable classes wore stays or corsets, stiffened with whale bone and laced at the rear, especially underneath their mantuas, a style of dress called the robe รก l'Anglaise by foreigners.’

While I consider the callous a badge of honor for a job well done, I’ve invested in some serious hand cream and ordered another batch of coin leather thimbles. (The dog ate the others. I wish I was kidding.) They’ll be here in time for me to start my next pair of stays! (Okay. I am kidding. I’ve got other things to finish first.)

Many thanks to Steph and Hallie at The Sign of the Golden Scissors for the great stays workshop, their patience and for answering my too frequent emails. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Joel Lyman Raymond

There are so many branches in Jason’s family tree, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, who’s related to who, who married who, and on and on and on.  While most of my genealogical research has focused on the Brock trunk lately, every now and again I’ll veer off and shake some of the other leaves to see what falls out.

With more and more information on line very day, it’s getting easier and easier to do genealogical research from the comfort of your kitchen table. And date is great – tax records, census records, vital records, they help to build the timeline of these relatives’ lives - but photographs are still the Holy Grail.

I’ve expounded before on the concept of instant ancestors. Wander into any antique store and you’ll find a box of them – discarded cdv and cabinet card photos, shiny black and white photographs from the 1920’s and 30’s – none marked or identified, save for a photographer’s mark or handwritten date.  Their story will never be told, these smiling, but nameless families and friends, waiting to be adopted, but more likely bound for some crafter’s or artisan’s table to become a piece of altered art.

While I can't imagine why people would discard family photos, I guess I can understand how the anonymity of an icy glazed, sepia tinted woman or somber child perfectly posed against a fringed armchair may not hold the same appeal for everyone. Sadly, the photographs most attributed to the people in my family trees are headstones. While the person may leave this Earth, the headstones remain in perpetuity, a record that they were here, but not of the life they lived, but that's exactly what they are meant to do.

A photograph is a gift, and the other day, I got one. I received a message on with a link to a family photo. One of the great things about Ancestry is the sense of community, and the concept of paying genealogy forward while you're looking backward. Wayne, from Washington state, sent me a link to his tree and a picture of Joel Lyman Raymond, Jason's 3x great grandfather on his grandmother, Mabel's side. Seems Wayne's wife, Carol is a direct descendant of William Greenleaf Raymond, Jason's 4x great-grandfather, and while cleaning out the attic, she came across several old family photos, including the 1912 photo of Joel.

Joel Lyman Raymond was born on March 2, 1816 in Hinsdale, Massachusetts. Until now, he was data – the son of William Greenleaf Raymond and his wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Freeland. The family lived in Tiogoa County, NY and in 1837, settled in Bingham Township, Potter County, Pennsylvania. Joel's first wife was Jane Searles, who died in 1838, shortly after they married. His second wife was Lydia Matilda Grover, the daughter of David and Lydia (Lyman) Grover. Joel and Lydia had 8 children – Jane (Jason's 2x great grandmother), Minerva, Harriet Louise, William G., Pauline, Ruth, John and Grace. By and large, the family remained in the Potter County area, and many of the Raymond ancestors, including Joel, Jane and Lydia, are buried in North Bingham Cemetery.

On one of our motorcycle jaunts, Jason and I ventured out to Potter County, visited the North Bingham Cemetery where I took dozens of photos of the aging headstones, inscriptions fading into oblivion, and with it, the memory of these ancestors. But now, thanks to Wayne and Carol, Joel Lyman Raymond has come to life; snow white hair, the straight jaw covered with a closely cropped beard, eyes alert and thoughtful, every inch the family patriarch at the age of 96 in his velvet jacket, buttoned vest and striped trousers.

A picture is definitely worth a thousand words.