I’ve been doing family genealogy research for a few years now, though since the kids came it’s been only at odd moments here and there. Last night I came across this little gem while researching part of my husband’s family:
CHARLES ROYAL WOODS [Jr.]
Born at Cambridge, Mass., May 27, 1878.
Prepared at St. Mark’s School, Southboro, Mass.
In College: 1896-1900.
Married: Emma Seward, New York, N. Y., April 12, 1911 (died Nov. 15, 1919). Children: Elizabeth Katherine, June 20, 1915; Emma Seward, June 28, 1919.
Occupation: Leather salesman.
Address: Frank W. Hunt & Co., 118 Lincoln St. Boston, Mass.
Guess I am the Class “Rolling Stone.” Went to New York in 1900 and was employed by New York Edison Co. for a year, by New York Telephone Co. about three years, and left the latter to be secretary of Bates Advertising Co. Practically went broke in 1910. Was with the Fidelity and Casualty Co. until I bought a three hundred acre dairy and stock farm near Lynchburg, Va., where the war caught me with contracts for milk and a lot of young cattle on my hands. As feed and labor went up and all I had either stay stationary or went down I was shortly forced to sell out. I came back North and am now with the Prudential Life Insurance Co.
— Harvard College Class of 1900 Secretary’s Fifth Report, October, 1921, p. 498.
So much to ponder in this one little excerpt!
Notice that Charles’s wife Emma died after only 8 years of marriage, leaving a four-year-old and a five-month-old behind. She died in 1919 — could she have been a victim of the Spanish Flu pandemic?
Then notice the reversals of fortune: Charles “practically went broke” in 1910, then again just prior to his wife’s death during WWI. Presumably he had come from at least a comfortable, if not wealthy family, having gone to Harvard (and other relatives through marriage were wealthy Harvard and Yale graduates, so we can assume a similar economic class). What inspired him to invest in a farm in Virginia after living his entire life in Boston and New York City?
I’m not sure what to make about his comment about being employed at Prudential Life while the summary states he was a leather salesman. Charles’s sister Hope married Merrill Hunt, whose father Frank was the owner of the Boston leather company mentioned. So it’s possible he got a job through that connection either before or after selling out his farm.
I’ve had so much fun over the years investigating these kinds of stories. I recently discovered that one of my ancestors, the charmingly named Abel Blood, is the namesake of a pub in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine. Abel was one of the first settlers of the Piscataquis area of Maine, and according to the pub’s web site, “a bit of a scoundrel.” I have no records of specific misdeeds, but he was a party to 6 legal proceedings in 8 years! His father was a town selectman and fought in the Revolutionary War at Bunker Hill, so the Bloods weren’t all that wild.
Don’t even get me started on the relatives who claim ancestry from Catherine the Great!