Lisa Louise Cooke is more than just a podcast host. She is an acclaimed expert in genealogy who travels extensively to teach research techniques at conferences, libraries, historical societies, etc. I consider it an honor to be asked to appear on her podcast more than once.
In Alice’s Story Part 2, I wrote about the Exeter School, formerly known as the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded, where Alice spent the last twenty years of her life. In this final installment, I conclude the story which began in Alice’s Story Part 1.
When I think of my great-aunt Alice Tillotson’s story, I feel sad for her. She was abandoned at a state institution and forgotten by her family. But was she? Surely my grandfather, not yet ten years old when she was taken away, must have missed his sister and childhood companion. When Grandpa showed Mom, then only eight years old, the photograph of Alice, it might have been around the time she died in 1933. Perhaps he heard of her death somehow, and was motivated to find the photograph of the two of them together. If that is the case, then I think he never forgot his sister, and her death filled him with sadness and regret. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 3: Final Resting Place→
In Part 1 of Alice’s story, I wrote about my great-aunt Alice Tillotson, who was a teenager when she was dropped off at the Oaklawn School for Girls around 1902. After she turned 21, she was transferred to the State Alms House. In 1913, she was admitted to the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded in Exeter, Rhode Island. It was there that she spent the rest of her life. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 2: The Exeter School→
Mom was a young girl of eight or nine when she first heard about her aunt Alice Tillotson. (This would have been about 1933.) Grandpa was looking at a photograph from his childhood, in which he was six years old and standing next to his sister, Alice, who was about fifteen. Mom asked her father why she had never met his sister, and Grandpa replied that Alice had been put in an institution for the “feeble-minded” many years earlier. In 2012, when I began researching mom’s family tree, I came across my great-aunt Alice and was touched by her sad story. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 1→
At first it was dead ancestors that drew me to cemeteries. Once I started researching my family history, I began to feel connected to them through their stories. I was particularly interested in mother’s family, who emigrated from Quebec to New England in the late 19th century. My curiosity was piqued by the high incidence of mental illness and institutionalization among the women in the family. I was even fascinated by the occasional bad behavior of certain relatives. I visited my first ancestral graves not long after I began work on the family history in 2012. Continue reading The Allure of Cemeteries: Introduction→
Every genealogist has one; a brick wall in their research through which they are unable to break. Mine is my great-great-grandmother, Rosalie Lapointe. I have come to the conclusion that she did not want people to know where she came from, so she made sure to cover her tracks. Continue reading Rosalie Lapointe: My Brick Wall→
Readers of this blog sometimes ask me how they can find a records for their own mentally ill ancestor. I try to answer these questions to the best of my knowledge. I want to share what I know with others, and it seems more efficient to do it in a blog post than in many emails to individuals. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy hearing from my readers, and will respond as time allows. My goal for this article is to have something useful to point to if a reader has a question about their mentally ill ancestor. Continue reading Researching Your Mentally Ill Ancestor→
I was honored to be interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke for her podcast, Genealogy Gems. Lisa is well-known and respected in the field of genealogy. She travels widely, speaking and teaching at conferences and genealogy societies. Her free podcast is downloaded an average of 35,000 times per month.
The episode in which I was featured pulled stories from this blog, and wove them into a fascinating story of a part of my family’s history. I was surprised and moved that Lisa chose to devote an entire hour to it. It is not only informative from a genealogical point of view, but Lisa turned it into an entertaining narrative. I hope you will take time to listen to it, or at least read the summary in the show notes. Both are available via the link below.
Here’s another snippet of family history from Mom, one that sent me on an unexpected genealogical journey.
When my mother was a little girl, she lived with her family in a shed behind a relative’s house. Her sister, Pauline, was born there.
When I asked Mom why Grandma’s family was living in a shed, she just shrugged and said, “That’s what I was told.” She didn’t know where the shed was or which relative had owned it. At first, I suspected that this story was another one of those crazy things Grandma had told her a long time ago, and which she simply took at face value. I imagined that my grandmother, who suffered at times from hallucinations and delusions due to schizophrenia, had exaggerated her living conditions. Perhaps it was small, rickety house, I thought, but surely not a shed! At the time, I hadn’t realized how poor Grandma’s family had been. But as I pieced together their story, the impoverished conditions under which they had lived became ever more evident. After a while, the story about Grandma Beatrice living in a shed didn’t seem so preposterous.