Philadelphia Reflections, Part Two

This week I concluded my visit to Philadelphia. I visited the gravesites of many relatives, including my great-grandparents, Paul and Mabel von Meurers.

Paul and Mabel de Meurers Gravestone

My great-grandparent’s final resting place is in Berlin, New Jersey, a short drive from Philadelphia.

I spent treasured hours reading archived copies of the Philadelphia Inquirer on microfilm in the Philadelphia Free Library. I found the story I was searching for in the March 13, 1899 publication.

Lizzy von Meurers' Death 3-13-1899

The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 13, 1899

Upon discovering the article, I immediately realized why it had been impossible to research online; the reporter misspelled the family name.

The story is one I knew from my great-grandfather’s autobiography, and it is tragic to say the least.  Continue reading

Philadelphia Reflections, Part One

Tonight, I sit in my great-grandfather’s adopted hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The lights below me shimmer from city center out into New Jersey. From my window, I can see the part of the world my great-grandfather lived most of his adult life.

Paul von Meurers

This photo of my great-grandfather was taken before 1915, and was used in his autobiography. At the time of the picture, he had adopted the name Paul de Meurers.

Earlier this week I walked along the streets my great-grandfather named in his autobiography. I was cognizant of occupying the same space more than 100 years later. I observed young homeless men preparing to sleep on the sidewalks. Many were the age of my great-grandfather when he, too, was homeless, trying his best to survive on the very same streets. Continue reading

Climbing My Family Tree, Part 24

Immigrants Francis Cooke, Hester le Mahieu Cooke, Jane Cooke, and Experience Mitchell

Francis Cooke (my ten times great-grandfather) was a Mayflower passenger. I stumbled across his lineage while investigating the Packards in Part 22. Francis was born in England in 1583. Curiously, we find him living in Leiden, Holland, about eight years before John Robinson and the rest of the Pilgrims arrived. This period was before the time of Protestant persecution in England under King James, so the original motivation to move to Holland is unknown. His occupation was that of wool comber. Continue reading

Climbing My Family Tree, Part 23

Immigrants Thomas Grant, Jane Haburne, Ann Grant, Robert Emerson 

Thomas Grant (my nine times great-grandfather) was born in Hessle, England in 1600. He, his wife, Jane Haburne, and their four children, sailed to America on the ship John of London in 1638. Their youngest child, Ann (my eight times great-grandmother), who was but an infant at the time of their immigration, in fact, they departed shortly after Ann’s baptism.   Continue reading

Climbing My Family Tree, Part 22

Immigrants Samuel and Elizabeth Packard

On August 10, 1888, a large family gathering of Packard descendants met in Brockton, Massachusetts to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Samuel Packard’s (my eight times great-grandfather) arrival in Boston Harbor.

Now, 129 years after that reunion, and a total of 379 years since Samuel’s landing in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I learned I, too, am a descendant of Samuel Parker.

Packard Reunion

Grand Gathering of the Descendants of Samuel Packard, held in Brockton, Mass., Friday, August 10, 1888

Continue reading

Climbing My Family Tree, Part 21

Immigrant Stephen Larrabee

Stephen Larrabee (my nine times great-grandfather), most likely was born in France—the first ancestor I have discovered from that nation. The Larrabee name was originally spelled L’Arabie. Stephen was born around the year 1630.

Stephen was a Huguenot (a French protestant). He immigrated to America as a result of religious persecution by Roman Catholics after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (a 1598 law granting religious liberty to French citizens). Continue reading

Climbing My Family Tree, Part 20

Immigrants Walter and Isabel Downie

Walter Downie (my six times great-grandfather) was born in Scotland in 1697. He immigrated to Bridgewater, Massachusetts with his two children, William and Isabel (my five times great-mother). William was 11 and Isabel was 7 when they set sail. Walter’s wife had died back in Scotland. Walter settled on the farm formerly owned by the late Howard Cary, ESQ, in 1735.

When William, died 1747 at the age of 22, Walter became so distraught he sold his property and returned to Scotland. The following is upon William’s gravestone. In my head, I hear Walter’s words out loud, spoken with a broken heart and a thick Scottish accent. Continue reading