Coombs scans

I’m still scanning old family photos. Here is my first cousin twice removed, Elijah Coombs (1891-1984) of Harbour Grace. He must have given this photo to my great-grandmother because the back reads: “To Aunt Bridge with best regards to all, Elijah”

Elijah Coombs

And here he is again as an elderly man. My great-uncle Sandy had gone up to Newfoundland for a visit and brought back this snapshot.

L to R: Elijah Coombs (much older than the picture above), his cousin Alexander (son of Eli), and his wife Edith

I’m not sure who the woman inside the shed is – maybe their daughter?

Coombs changes

I had to make a small change to the Coombs page and remove the wife of Richard Coombs, Jr. I had read on a private family tree website that her name was Lavinia Smith. This seemed plausible to me because my grandmother had mentioned the name Lavinia but she wasn’t completely sure of how it fit in. So given my years of fruitless searching for Richard Jr’s wife, I went with it.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on your outlook, people on Ancestry.com have been showing the same Lavinia Smith married to a Henry Badcock in Spaniards Bay. I no longer have access to the private website where I got her name, so I can’t check back there. I searched a ton of parish records on NF Gen Web and found supporting evidence for the Badcock marriage, so I am deleting her from my tree. (Yes, I considered whether they could have been the same woman with two husbands but the dates don’t work.)

And wouldn’t it have been great if the people on Ancestry.com had included a mention of those parish records? But of course not.

The Coombs page is the most popular page on this site, so if anyone was relying on it, take note of the change.

That’ll teach me to believe undocumented trees on the internet!

tiny update

Made a small change to the early Coombs generations based on what I feel is right given the information that I currently have. Also added a tiny shred of immigration information to the Murphy page.

I joined Footnote.com and so far have found it useful for nailing down elusive military details for my Murphy branch, as well as for having some (but not all!) of the naturalization petitions I need. I find the search process a little cumbersome.

Coombs Day

Don’t know how these people would fit into my family tree, but I found this interesting nevertheless: a gloomy Newfoundland expression:

“On February 3, 1868, a vicious blizzard lashed the Avalon Peninsula killing more than 30 people. In Upper Island Cove a man named John Coombs and his two teenaged children, Mary and Richard, were frozen to death. John Coombs had gone into the woods to cut wood when he was overcome. In separate incidents the younger Coombs and two other residents of the town perished in the storm. Thereafter throughout the Avalon Peninsula the accepted expression for a bad storm was a “Coombs’ Day.” “Looks like we’re going to have a Coombs’ Day tomorrow” or “That was a real Coombs’ Day,” were commonly heard for generations after. The idiom lasted until the early 1920s.”

From Les Harding’s Exploring the Avalon. (Exploring Newfoundland Series. St. John’s: Breakwater Books, 1998. page 90.)

Coombs page updated

I updated the Coombs page.

I’ve been cross-referencing between my Reunion database and my Ancestry.com account. (After that I will go back through my old papers and scan old photos. Such is the joy of a new computer!)  Anyway, I found a birth date for my great-uncle Henry Francis Coombs — it was right there in the Social Security Death Index. He was born in 1898.

For years I had believed, and had been told, that my grandmother was the eldest child in her family, and that there was a ten year gap between her birth and that of her nearest sibling. There was a lot of speculation about this. One aunt told me that my great-grandfather had run away to England where he had a whole second family. (But not so, as he turns up in a directory of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland residents.) There was other speculation about how my grandmother had been so much older that she was really a second mother to her siblings and helped to raise them, and perhaps that’s why she was eager to emigrate on her own as a young woman. But finding Frank’s birth date ruins all that speculation, because he was born just three years after his sister, and there is no long gap of a missing husband and a decade-older sister.

The other story about the Coombs family is that it is somehow closely related to England. I can’t find anyone in it who was born in England. The family probably originated in England, but they emigrated to Newfoundland in the 18th century. I wonder now if the emphasis on being English wasn’t really just local politics about distinguishing themselves from the Irish, whether the Irish of Newfoundland or the Irish immigrants of Boston? My grandmother wasn’t always embracing of other immigrant groups. She used to tell me the story of how when she was a young immigrant she worked in a shoe factory in Lynn, Massachusetts, commuting on the train every day from her home in East Boston. She said she hated the commute because the trains were full of Italian immigrant men who groped her and stank of garlic — it made her hate garlic, she said. (I don’t know where the Italian men were headed, maybe to work in the quarries of Essex County?) On a more positive note, my grandmother told me how she learned everything from the woman who worked beside her on the sewing assembly line: the woman told her how to do the job, and where to shop, and how to make cake. She said she brought all her questions to her coworker and was so grateful for her help. But then that raises the question of why she didn’t just ask her aunt with whom she was boarding? Or brainstorm with the best friend with whom she’d emigrated? I think sometimes there was a happy spin put on memories of what were really pretty tough times.

I found some photos of the shoe factories in Lynn, although they may be a bit earlier than when my grandmother was there in the 1920s. The photos are by early woman photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston and are now in the Library of Congress.

Woman distributing work in a shoe factory, Lynn, MA by Frances Benjamin Johnston

2 women at work in a shoe factory, Lynn, MA by Frances Benjamin Johnston