• Books
  • Sep20


    Yesterday I made a nice discovery by simply trolling through the NYS Archives documents on Ancestry: my great-uncle Thomas F. Tierney enlisted in World War I, was stationed at Fort Slocum, and eventually made Sergeant and getting assigned to the Cavalry. We already knew another brother Michael had been over there and was a part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, but Uncle Tommy’s service was new info to me. Turns out the war ended before he could be deployed overseas.

    So, with some down time last night I began to look for the assignments listed on his Abstract card: “4 Rct Co GSI Ft Slocum NY” and “MG Tr 310 Cav”, followed by “20TM Btry”. That poking around led me to find an interesting book on Archive.org: Brooklyn & Long Island In the War (1918) contains more than 200 pages of vignettes about the war, stories and photos of men from the area and lists of the killed and wounded. Published by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, it has the feeling of a newspaper with focus on the men.

    If you have family from the New York area that fought in WWI or are just interested in that period in history, you should give this book a look.

  • May5

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    Emma S Clark Memorial Library DoorBack when our kids were fairly small, my wife started a terrific tradition while looking for things to do in the otherwise lazy summertime: Library Field Trips.

    She began to seek out various libraries in our county of Suffolk on Long Island and they would pack up some things for snacks and/or lunch, pick a town and just browse the library there. As a life-long book and library fiend, I am aghast that such a thing never occurred to me, except maybe for larger libraries such as the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

    The kids have loved it – an opportunity to find new books they’ve never seen before along with at least the small sense of adventure one feels when visiting a new place. We’ve found some wonderful libraries, and also found that even though they’re all in the same county system, the facilities – and rules – can vary greatly. We’ve toyed with the idea of creating a dedicated blog for these trips, and now I regret not creating one a few years back. (Especially now that our son is 12 and less inclined to find the adventure. *sadface*)

    Stained Glass WindowToday I believe we have found my favorite Long Island library: The Setauket’s Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, opened in 1892 in memory of Miss Clark, who was the niece of millionaire confectioner Thomas Hodgkins.

    The library has been greatly (and beautifully) expanded several times since that first day, when the annual membership charge was a whopping 10¢ per year. The magazine area is housed in the original structure, constructed of arches and old wood that creaks comfortably beneath one’s feet.

    As my wife and son perused other areas of the library, my daughter Lily and I sat in this wonderful spot. I could easily imagine people running up to the overlarge entrance door in older times, shaking off the snow, pulling a volume from a shelf and sitting in the nook beside the fireplace and golden bottle-glass adorned windows.

    Clark Library StairsLily read quietly as I imagined these ancient goings on, and spoke only once to say “It is so peaceful here!” *Sigh.*

    As an added bonus to the library itself is that the area is of historical significance and has some beautiful churches and cemeteries to explore nearby. Walking out through the library’s nice plantings we then crossed the village green to learn that the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket was fought here.

    Lily in a Flowering Tree




    For those who are viewers of the show Turn: Washington’s Spies on AMC, you might recognize the location name. (I have requested the first season from my own library, so please don’t tell me who wins!)

    NYS Historical Sign for Setauket village GreenThe area still has a nice rural feel to it, and it is easy to imagine carriages and soldiers milling about while crossing the triangle-shaped green on our trek over to the Setauket Presbyterian Church. As usual, the headstones in the cemetery called to us and we wandered through for the better part of an hour.

    Setauket Presbyterian Church

    Grave of Abraham WoodhullWe noted a few Revolutionary war soldiers as we walked through, and more than a few DAR markers. Then we stumbled upon one raised memorial that appeared to be built over the original headstone and had coins and stones scattered across its face.

    Abraham Woodhull PlaqueThe plaque on the top of the memorial informed us it was for Abraham Woodhull, “Friend and confidant of George Washington, head of Long Island Secret Service during the Revolution, and operated under the Alias of Samuel Culper, Sr.”

    Overall, an excellent field trip day, I must say.

  • Apr28

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    For those of us of the genealogical mindset, we seek slight glimpses of ancestral life in their archived documents, their location, time in history, and even hope for finding mentions in newspapers, even if less than good.

    More desired are personal letters or diaries, but I suspect few of us are lucky enough to possess such things.

    Now, I have some homework for you. As you read May Sarton’s poem A Light Left On, below, think what “inside weather” you might document and leave for your loved ones to recall you by, to help understand the space you live in, physical, spiritual, and waiting for your return…

    A Light Left On

    In the evening we came back
    Into our yellow room,
    For a moment taken aback
    To find the light left on,
    Falling on silent flowers,
    Table, book, empty chair
    While we had gone elsewhere,
    Had been away for hours.

    When we came home together
    We found the inside weather.
    All of our love unended
    The quiet light demanded,
    And we gave, in a look
    At yellow walls and open book.
    The deepest world we share
    And do not talk about
    But have to have, was there,
    And by that light found out.

    Poem: “A Light Left On,” by May Sarton from May Sarton Collected Poems 1930-1993 (W.W. Norton).

  • Apr13

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    I’m back with another edition of cool old books I’ve found online. If you have Scottish Ancestry, you may want to flip through this 1850 book entitled (now would be a good time to get a beverage or snack, because you might be here awhile…)

    The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland, An Account of their Annals, Separately and Collectively with Delineations of Their Tartans and Family Arms.
    Edited by Thomas Smibert, Esq.

  • Apr8

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    I am only a couple of generations removed from my Irish immigrants to the United States, so my own direct Irish ancestors were not here during the American Revolution.
    But, while scanning Chronicling America for interesting things, I happened upon a 1919 newspaper article in The Sun entitled Irishmen In Our Revolution, which is a review of Michael J. O’Brien’s (then) new book A Hidden Phase of American History.

    Irishmen In Our Revolution
    The review itself is an interesting read from a historical perspective – both the role the Irish played in The Revolution, and the 1919 perspective of it all.

    However, perhaps more interesting than this to those researching their Irish family that may have been in America that early is that the book itself has an Appendix entitled Officers of the American Army and Navy of the Revolution of Irish Birth or Descent – with a very long list of names and assignments. And a bonus: he has marked all of those born in Ireland with an asterisk. You can find a full copy of Irishmen In Our Revolution over on The Google Books.

    Who could asterisk for anything more?