Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917

Four generations of RICHARDSONs 1917
William Richardson, Alice Josephine Richardson Dakin, Robert Worthington Richardson, Harry Bogart Richardson
Showing posts with label DAKIN Marion Evans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DAKIN Marion Evans. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Bundle of Letters: Such a Treasure!

Marion Evans Dakin
playing a game she loved,  Scrabble

When Nana, my grandmother Marion Evans Dakin, died on the 4th of July in 1974, her only son who had survived to adulthood, had already died two years before her.  As her oldest granddaughter, I found myself as her executrix ... a whole new world of responsibility added to the life of a mother juggling a couple of kids.  Commuting to Connecticut was more than I could do, so we put the crib on the top of our car and stayed in her house for eight weeks, first as she was dying from a stroke and then afterwards as we cleaned out her house and settled her estate.

My siblings joined me part of the time as we discovered we were on a treasure hunt.

An old Jacquard woven rug which was much older
than Nana that we found in her house.

I knew Nana had quilts made by her mother-in-law, Mother Dakin (Mary Alice Smith Dakin) but we had no idea how many quilts were there not just on the beds but hidden in trunks in the the attic.  We all went home with antique quilts and I documented them in my book Quilts in our Family.  When I had visited her a month before Nana died we had taken the quilts off the beds a couple of other quilts to the nursing home where she was staying so she could put on a quilt exhibit.  One of the quilts was a sampler quilt and she spent the last month of her life finding the names of each quilt square.  Ironically, the morning the quilt exhibit was to open, the nursing home called me to say she had had a stroke.  When I arrived in Connecticut, they were questioning whether to open her "show" of quilts.  I said "of course, show the quilts, that's what she wanted."  When I told her they had "opened" the show, she squeezed my hand.
Some of Mary Alice Smith's quilts
Not so dramatic in appearance, was a bundle of letters tied together with a string in the back of her desk.  I looked at them and saw that I couldn't possibly read them -- they were in Swedish.  I knew her grandfather Eric Helsten was from Sweden but I didn't know much else about him.  I assumed these must have been his.  I put them in my stuff to take home not knowing whether I would ever be able to read them.  Ten years later, I had a Swedish colleague who was willing to try to translate some of them for me -- she would read while I scribed. 
1858 letter from Eric's mother,
Lovisa Charlotta Robbert Hellsten 

 It took about 30 years before they were all translated, but what a treasure!  Eric was one of 13 children and everyone of his siblings and his mother took on personalities.  Eric's father had died unexpectedly, leaving his wife with young children including a baby.  Eric was the oldest son, a teenager, and he had older sisters.  He apprenticed as a tanner in Sweden and when there wasn't much work.  He came to the USA in 1845, settling first in Haviland Hollow NY and then moving to Gaylordsville CT when he bought his own tannery.
Eric Adolf Helsten

Back in the 1980s, we had enough letters translated that I was able to piece together a bit of Eric's family tree and when my wonderful colleague/translator traveled to Sweden for Christmas, while there she wrote the Uppsala parish vital records office and a few weeks later I had a letter from Alice, a "cousin."  Alice's grandfather and Nana's grandfather were brothers.  Years ago my grandmother visited Uppsala Sweden but didn't know about Alice, so they never met.  I had a chance to visit Alice back in 1984 before she died in 1990.  Such a treasure hidden in a bundle of letters.  It's too bad my grandmother never new the contents of what she had carefully saved.

I have taken the 86 Swedish letters and documents, had them translated and put them together in chronological order.   I researched Eric's family back in Sweden and his life in the USA.  I wrote a book for my family this year which is the story of Eric's family on both continents.  A Ring and a Bundle of Letters has been 30 years in the making with the help of three wonderful translators who not only read Swedish but also could decipher the old handwriting, structure and spelling.  

The book is available from

Such a treasure!

©2013, Erica Dakin Voolich

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Regrets and Redemption Lead to a Present for my Family

I am sure that all good family historians have moments that they regret ... I wish I knew what questions to have asked my grandmother, Nana, Marian Evans Dakin, before she died in 1974.  As a result of not knowing ANYTHING about the DAKIN family back then, my work was extensive to piece together the story. I only knew my grandfather's name (he died when my father was 2 years old) and that he had died in the 1918 flu pandemic, along with his son and mother-in-law in less than one week.

When I was in high school, Nana brought some small brownish pictures of something [she said it was a power plant that her husband Rob worked on] to share one year when she came for her annual visit.  Of course, I was the uninterested teenager.  I'm not sure anyone else in my family was much interested either.  I think she brought them out just once during her annual six-month visit.

Years later, I was a 20-something who would drive down to visit her in Connecticut.  I helped her go through various things in her house, and made note of who she wanted them to go to and what things were.  Of course, we didn't find EVERYTHING since there still were surprises when I was her executrix cleaning out her home.  By then, I had enough sense to start asking some questions about the family -- clearly not all of the ones I should have, but I made a start.  On one visit, I asked her about those pictures of the power plant.  "Of, those, I gave them to the power company."

I contacted the power company and was told they did not know where the pictures were, but they did share some information on the power plant which helped me to understand how it worked along with some of the history of the Bulls Bridge Power Plant in Gaylordsville, Connecticut.

What I never asked my grandmother was the "rest of the story" which turned out to be quite interesting.
This year's Christmas present for my family is what I learned about this story AND about the DAKIN family.

In my grandmother's desk, when she died, was one of the surprises for this executrix -- the negatives for the pictures my grandfather, Rob Dakin took of the building of the addition to the power plant.  This book, Bulls Bridge:  The Story of a dreamer, a family farmer, a camera and the building of a power plant, is the result of much research.  It is not only the story of the power plant but includes information on the DAKIN family line, all the way back to Thomas Dakin, the immigrant settler in Concord, Massachusetts by 1652.

The "Readers Digest" version of the story of the power plant is about a politician with a dream to harness the Housatonic River, a farmer who sells a convoluted part of his farm for the canal to be dug right across the fields and past his house, a farm boy who watches the canal and power plant emerge, and then, the power plant is finished and does NOT bring any power to the surrounding neighborhood!  The high school boy, goes off to college (first in family), comes back as an assistant engineer and works on the addition to the plan which brings power to the neighborhood and documents it all with his camera. His pictures from 1912 are included in the book.

I learned a lot about my ancestors as people as I researched this book -- this was not a compilation of just dates.  Oh how I wish I had the sense to talk to my grandmother about this before she died in 1974.

The link for this post is:
©2013, Erica Dakin Voolich

Sunday, February 19, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: (re)Discovering a Historical Document

Week 7 – Historical Documents: Which historical document in your possession are you happy to have? How did  you acquire this item?  What does it reveal about your ancestors?  This challenge runs from Sunday, February 12, 2012 through Saturday, February 18, 2012 was created by Amy Coffin.

When my grandmother, Marion Evans Dakin died in 1974, we were cleaning out her house and one of the things I found in her desk was a packet of letters all tied together.  They were addressed to Eric Helsten.  Eric immigrated to the US in 1845 and died in 1903.  These are the letters he received over those years.  I wrote about them in last week's "52 Weeks" post, A Surprise Gift of an Old Ring.

This packet of letters is the discovery that keeps on giving -- a nice re-discovery.  When I first read them, I knew nothing about Eric's family.  Over the years, more pieces of the Hellsten/Helsten family story has become revealed through researching the family and having more letters translated.  Also, now as I reread the letters, I know so much more so pieces of the stories are coming together in interesting ways.

As I research details and put the pieces together with the information found in the letters, each of Eric's dozen siblings and his mother have taken on personalities.  There are children, nieces and nephews you'd be proud of and then there's the family soap opera.  There are the siblings who did well financially, and those who ended up in bankruptcy.  There were no phone calls, locally or internationally in the 1800s; no airmail to speed the letters across the Atlantic.  So the letters were everything that Eric knew about what was happening back home.  Clearly his siblings loved letters from Eric and shared any news with each other.

These are a treasure chest of information.  What I lack are Eric's replies.  I can guess at some of what he wrote when someone's letter starts by telling him the date that his letter(s) arrived or thanking him for a gold coin he sent.  If I were to find a living descendant of one of his siblings, maybe some of Eric's letters would be found.  However, I did correspond with a grandchild of one of Eric's brothers; she didn't have any letters and was thrilled to copies of the letters her grandfather wrote long before she was born.  She passed away in 1990 and I don't have any other known living relatives in Sweden now.

Here is the URL for this post.        
©2012, Erica Dakin Voolich

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ancestors GeneaMeme

As part of Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, he suggested we participate in the Ancestors GeneaMeme created by Jill Ball on the Geniaus blog.

Here are the directions:
The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item 

Which of these apply to you?

1.  Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents [Robert DAKIN, Hannah Maria COLBY, Stephen SMITH, Abigail JENNINGS, Charles EVANS, Hannah Elizabeth RADFORD, Eric HELSTEN, Mary HEARTY, William RICHARDSON, Mary AC BOGART, Robert Searing WORTHINGTON, Elnora Esther COBB, Enoch Dole HARVEY, Mary Hubbard NYE, Charles COPELAND, Hannah Elizabeth BLODGETT.]
2.  Can name over 50 direct ancestors
3.  Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents [7, not 8; unfortunately, no one seems to have a picture of Joseph E HARVEY; I checked with various distant relatives who might have HARVEY pictures with no success.]
4.  Have an ancestor who was married more than three times [Dennison WORTHINGTON buried three wives, but I don't think he tried a forth time.  I don't know of anyone else who had more than three.  Will keep my eyes open!]
5.  Have an ancestor who was a bigamist [not to my knowledge, we did discover a family "friend" was a bigamist years ago.]
6.  Met all four of my grandparents [never will happen -- my father's father, Robert Edward DAKIN died when my father was 2 years old in 1918.]
7.  Met one or more of my great-grandparents [all died before I was born, however, my great grand daughter can answer this question yes!]
8.  Named a child after an ancestor 
9.  Bear an ancestor's given name/s [only by accident.  My mother thought no one in the family had the name, when told my name, my grandmother announced "you named her after my grandfather Eric HELSTEN!  Thank you!"  Years later, doing family history, I discovered Eric had a sister Erica.]
10.  Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland 
11.  Have an ancestor from Asia [not to  my knowledge]
12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe 
13.  Have an ancestor from Africa [not to my knowledge]
14.  Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer [lots of farmers in the old censuses]
15.  Have an ancestor who had large land holdings [not to my knowledge, unless those "royality in everyone's background" counts]
16.  Have an ancestor who was a holy man - minister, priest, rabbi [Rev John REED 1751-1831) and his father Rev Solomon REED (1719-1785), I think there might be more but I don't remember who they were.]
17.  Have an ancestor who was a midwife [not to my knowledge]
18.  Have an ancestor who was an author [after my father died, I discovered he wrote an article: "The Effect of Penicillin on  the Development of the the Primary Lesion of Syphilis" in VENEREAL  DISEASE INFORMATION (December 1944).  In 1895, my GGgrandfather Eric HELSTEN saved a man from drowning and wrote and sold a pamphlet on his method.  I've written weaving and math books, but I'm not my own ancestor!]
19.  Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones [my G grandmother was Mary Alice SMITH (1855-1931) and I have her line traced back into the 1600s in Connecticut:  Stephen SMITH, Aaron SMITH, Peabody SMITH, Stephen SMITH, Stephen SMITH, John SMITH.], [I have Mary JONES (b. 1698) possible line: Isaac JONES, Wm JONES]
20.  Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng 
21.  Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X 
22.  Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z [Zachariah SOULE (1694-1751), Zachary BICKNELL (abt 1590-abt 1637) 
23.  Have an ancestor born on 25th December [I have a cousin born on 25 December 1983] 
24.  Have an ancestor born on New Year's Day [Thomas DAKIN's 1st wife, Susanna SLATER, not a direct descendant.]  
25.  Have blue blood in your family lines [supposedly if Royal Descendants book is right]
26.  Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth [my husband can claim this, not me.]
27.  Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth [my husband can claim this, but not me; my most recent immigrants were GG grandparents, Eric HELSTEN from Sweden and his wife Mary HEARTY from Ireland.] 
28.  Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century [numerous direct lines]
29.  Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier [numerous direct lines] 
30.  Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents [Edward DAKIN, Mary Alice Smith DAKIN, Charles Harold EVANS, Harry Bogart RICHARDSON]
31.  Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X [probably true, not seen  yet.]
32.  Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university [after watching a canal for the hydroelectric power plant being dug thru their family farm, he grew up and went to university and became a civil engineer and supervised the addition to the plant which brought electricity to his neighborhood; when he died young, his wife went to school to become first extension nutritionist for the state of Connecticut:  Robert DAKIN and Marion Evans DAKIN.  I suspect he paid for college with the money they got from the sale of part of their farm to the power company.] 
33.  Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence [probably, but not to my knowledge]
34.  Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime [probably, but not to my knowledge]
35.  Have shared an ancestor's story online or in a magazine [see my blogs, this one and Will the real Ursula Wright please stand up.
36.  Have published a family history online or in print [part of my family tree is on]
37.  Have visited an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries [my mother grew up in the house built for her grandmother as a wedding gift by her father who built the house next door.  They were married in 1889.  For my mother's 80th birthday, we had a family portrait taken in the photography studio that is located there now] 
38.  Still have an ancestor's home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family 
39.  Have a family bible from the 19th Century [1806, it includes listing of births in late 1700s.]
40.  Have a pre-19th century family bible