52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 36: Work

Like just about most people, my family members have had a wide variety of occupations through the years. We’ve made or worked on or with everything from shoes to ships. We been watchmen and watch repairmen. We been teachers of reading and writing. And more…

However varied the various occupations have been, there are certain family lines where a particular trade dominated.

The Mariners

Many of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family came from the coast of Massachusetts, mainly the towns of Marblehead, Salem, Lynn, and Boston. For those who lived in Marblehead, especially, shipping and fishing were the primary sources of income.

My 7x great-grandfather, John Doliber, (b. 1695, d. 1751) was a Marblehead mariner, fisherman, and landowner.

He owned the schooners, Mary and Friendship, and he was a partial owner of several more. One of his ships, the 80-ton schooner Mary, was captured by the cruel, barbarous pirate Ned Low. Low renamed the ship The Fancy, and it became his flagship.

I think that qualifies as a bad day at the office.

(Ned Low also captured a distant relative, Philip Ashton, who thankfully managed to escape after months of imprisonment and torture.)

My 5x and 4x great-grandfathers, Samuel Ashton, Sr. (b. 1750, d. ~1825), and Samuel Ashton, Jr. (1785, d. 1821), were both Marblehead mariners, as well. The were part owners of several ships, and from records at the Marblehead Museum, it seems that at least one of them were privateers, sharing in the booty of captured ships.

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Samuel Ashton (probably Sr., based on the date) on the list of shareholders of the ship Marblehead, 1778

Samuel Sr.’s grandfather, Ephriam (b. 1700, d. 1792), was both a fisherman (1744-1748) and a school master (1772-1792), combining two our our family’s dominate professions.

And, yes, it seems that he did live to 92, working until he passed away. 

Most of my Diamond ancestors in Marblehead were also mariners, shoremen, and fishermen, including  my 7x great-grandfather, Edward, my 6x great-grandfather Aholiah, and my 5x great-grandfather Joseph, father, son, and grandson.

Typically, there’s not much mention of the women in Marblehead, except to note that one or two sold a lease of a cow. I believe that most of them were doing what needed to be done while the men of the family were at sea: caring for the home, children, garden, orchards, animals, etc.

It couldn’t have been easy.

My father’s father, Charles Keene, Sr., as I mentioned before, served in the Merchant Marine during WW2. For years before that, he was a chef aboard the Matson Line.

My grandfather, Charles Sr., and my dad, Charles, Jr., in their WW2 uniforms, 1944.

Lastly, my Uncle George, Dad’s brother, served in the Navy in WW2.

My Uncle George, Dad’s brother, sailor, 1944

The Cobblers, Cutters, and Cordwainers

When my 4x great-grandfather, William Diamond Thompson, Sr., moved from Marblehead to Lynn, the family’s occupation changed with its location. Lynn, as I’ve mentioned before, was a major manufacturing center for shoes and boots.

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William Diamond Thompson, Sr.

In the 1850 census, William Sr., gave his occupation as a cordwainer, but by 1860, both he and his namesake son, my 3x great-grandfather, William, Jr., were listed as shoe cutters.

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Line 31: William D. Thompson, Sr., Cordwainer, 1850 Census

William D. Thompson, Jr. married Anna Jane Ashton in 1844. The marriage record lists their occupations as a clicker and a shoe binder, respectively. I believe this is the first time a woman’s occupation is found in my family records.

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1844 Marriage Record for William D. Thompson, Jr, and Anna Jane Ashton

In the 1870 census, William, Jr.’s daughter, my great-great-grandmother, Lydia Ann Thompson, age 19, gave her occupation as a shoe trimmer.

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Line 29: Lydia A. Thompson, Shoe Trimmer, 1870 Census

The Jack of All Trades

Meanwhile, Lydia’s future husband, George A. Keene, was apparently trying to find what he wanted to do in life. In the 1850 census, age 17, he gave his occupation as carpenter, but by 1860 he had become an upholsterer. In 1870, he was a farmer.

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George Augustus Keene

When he and Lydia married in 1876, after the death of his first wife, Ellen, he had become a rubber manufacturer.

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1876 Marriage Record for George A. Keene and Lydia A. Thompson

In the 1880, census, he gave his occupation as inventor. Which he was.

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Line 5: George A. Keene, Inventor, 1880 Census



Below are a few of his many patented inventions: a bed for invalids, an improved carriage step, a feathering paddle wheel, a rosette for harnesses, and a window washing device. I will have to do an entire post on the story of him and his inventions one day.

The Farmers

While my dad’s side of the family had predominately mariners and shoe makers, on Mom’s side of the family, farmers and educators were more common occupations. This side of the family settled more in the Midwest, in states like Wisconsin, Kansas, and Indiana. Classic American farm country.

My Gard ancestors began as millers and iron workers in New Jersey, but soon moved west to Pennsylvania and Ohio, then further on to Indiana and Kansas.

The land grant below was awarded to my great-great grandfather, William Perry Gard, for volunteer militia service. It granted him 160 acres in Tipton, County, Indiana.

Land Grant to William Perry Gard, 1851

In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, he was still working as farmer; he also served as a postmaster in Groomsville, at least in 1861. Farming didn’t always pay the bills. 

He, too, might have tinkered with inventions. Below is a 1882 patent under the name of W. P. Gard of Parson, Kansas, for a seed planter.

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1882 Patent by W. P. Gard

By the time of his death in 1900, he was considered to be a successful farmer, but he no longer lived on the same 160 acres in Tipton Co.

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Obituary of William Perry Gard, 1900, Miami Co., Kansas

William Perry’s son, Willis D. Gard worked as a grocer and married Eva Kesterson in 1887. Eva’s father, George, and grandfather, Thomas, were also farmers. Thomas was given a land grant for 140 acres in 1856 in Tippacanoe, Co., Indiana.

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Thomas Kesterson Land Grant, 1856

The Wells line of my mom’s family moved from Wisconsin, to South Dakota, to Montana, most working in either dairy farming or production. There’s a blog post coming soon, so more about this later.

The Educators

And, just like my dad’s family, a geographic move caused a change of occupation for the Gards. By 1896, Willis and Eva had moved to Los Angeles, which despite the legendary orange groves, isn’t a big farming center. Willis worked as a lumberman in 1900 and a foreman in 1910.

Their daughters, Vida, my Nanna Wells, and her sister, my Aunt Dola, both received their teaching credentials. They were strong, smart women, ahead of their time in their independence and level of education.

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Dola Gard Strong and Vida Gard Wells

Nanna married Lawrence Wells, Nampie, whose mother was a teacher and father a dairyman. Nampie had a variety of jobs, at times a chauffeur, a guard at a power plant, and an auto mechanic.

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Lawrence E. Wells, Power Station Gaurd

Nampie eventually settled on watch and jewelry repair. He had a little shop right next to his and Nanna’s house on West Beverly Blvd.

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Lawrence E. Wells’ Business Card

And now, I think I’ve made this post quite long enough! If you’ve soldiered through until now, thank you. Sadly, I have left so much untold. I have more stories to tell than time to tell them! 

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 35: Back to School

I went to a tiny little grade school in my tiny little desert town.

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Inyokern Elementary School, circa 1960s

Four of my five siblings went there, too; the staff knew all about the Keene kids. I think I got a fair shake regardless.

Here are a few random, scattered, in-no-particular-order memories:

My oldest sister, Jeanne, graduated eighth grade as the only girl in her class of seven students.

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Jeanne and the boys, 1958

I am left-handed. I believe I was in second grade when my teacher tried to make me learn to write with my right hand. My mom told her to let me be. Thanks, Mom!

Barbara, 1963

I grew up in the age of the Cold War. Because we lived so close to a weapons testing center, we were told that if the United States were to be bombed, we’d be one of the first to get hit. So, we did practice bomb drills for years, hiding under our desks at the teacher’s direction. I’m sure that would have saved us.

Mom worked at the school as an office assistant and a play ground monitor. It’s odd that I don’t remember this.

I chipped one of my front teeth on the teeter-totter bar. The thick bar in the middle that supports the teeter-totter boards, where they pivot. We were doing twirls around the bar, and I slipped. I wasn’t very good at twirls.

I loved to jump out of the swings at the high point in my arc. There was no rubber mat to land on in those days. Oh no, we had gravel. We were tough kids. I remember landing on my knees one day. Months later, I found a pebble still embedded in my leg and picked it out.

We loved playing jacks and Chinese jump rope when we weren’t burning the backs of our legs on the metal slides, getting smacked in the face with a tether ball, or hit in the head during a fierce game of dodge ball. Like I said, we were tough kids…

We loved to jump over the bars on to the sand below. The bars were there to keep us from jumping off the porch. They only added to the fun.

In sixth grade science class, one of the boys brought in a rattlesnake, cooked, for us all to taste. For the curious, it tastes like chicken, dark meat.

The classmate who gave me my first kiss (a sweet little peck on the cheek), Dennis Johnson, went missing in Yellowstone National Park in 1966, the summer after we finished second grade. He was never found. I had dreams about him for years, scary dreams about what might have happened. It still haunts me. We were a tight-knit little community, and this was traumatic.

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This was our principal, Mr. Dial, who I remember only vaguely, but kindly.  The little girl in the background could be me. Maybe. 

I attended Inyokern elementary only through sixth grade. For junior high, mine was one of the first classes that had to go ten miles across the valley to Ridgecrest. After being in such a small school for so long, it was a difficult change. Most of the kids in my class had been my school mates since we were in kindergarten. The middle school, on the other hand, was filled with students I didn’t know, the bus ride there and back was even longer than it had already been, and I felt lost.

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1969: One of the last eighth-grade classes to graduate from Inyokern Elementary. My brother, Don, is on the right.

My best friend, Sarah, and I used to hide out during lunch in the library of James Monroe Middle School. It was safe, and the books afforded a nice escape from what felt overwhelming. I eventually adjusted, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for my little school in my little town.

‘Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 34: Non-Population


I love them.

I have too many.

I’m especially partial to Born flats, Land’s End boots, and Soft Walk work shoes. But, I also have Clark’s sandals, Land’s End wedges, and Keds tennies. I would have more if my wallet and conscience would let me.

I think it’s my ancestors who are to blame, though. My dad’s side of the family all came from Massachusetts, particularly Lynn, whose main industry for years once was the manufacture of shoes and boots.

From Wikipedia:

Colonial Lynn was an early center of tannery and shoe-making, which began in 1635. The boots worn by Continental Army soldiers during the Revolutionary War were made in Lynn, and the shoe-making industry drove the city’s growth into the early nineteenth century. This legacy is reflected in the city’s seal, which features a colonial boot.


Most of my ancestors worked in one way or the other in the shoe manufacturing industry in Lynn: Generations of Keenes, Breeds, Newhalls, Allens, and Thompsons worked side by side in factories or workrooms across Lynn.

The manufacturing non-population schedules of the US census for Lynn are full of familiar names.

But, first, what exactly is a non-population schedule?

Briefly, it is a census of a particular section of society. There are non-population schedules for agriculture, manufacturing, people with disabilities, and war veterans and their widows. These schedules give additional, and very different, information that a regular census doesn’t.

So, let’s look at a few examples, shall we?

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Amos Breed, 1870 Manufacturing Schedule

The above entry is for Amos Breed, Jr., a shirt-tail relative, from the 1870 manufacturing census for Lynn. The columns across, from right to left, detail:

  • Name of company or corporation doing business in excess of $550 per year
  • Name of the business, manufacture, or product
  • The capital, real and personal, invested in the business
  • Kind of power, steam, water, hand
  • If steam- or water-powered, what is the horsepower
  • Name or description of machines
  • Number of machines
  • How many male employees above 16 years
  • How many female employees above 15 years
  • How many employed children and youth
  • Total amount paid in wages during the year
  • Number of months in active operation
  • Kinds of materials
  • Quantities of materials
  • Value of those materials
  • Kinds of production
  • Quantities of production
  • And, finally, value of production

Wow! That’s a lot of information.

For Amos Breed in the above example, he was manufacturing shoes, had a capital investment of $40,000, ran his factory on 40 steam-powered machines with 50 HP, had 50 male workers over 16, 25 female workers over 15, no youth or children workers, worked with leathers and trimmings that had a value of $125,000, and the entire business was valued at $225,000.

It would appear that Amos was rather well-off.

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Nathan Breed, 1870 Manufacturing Schedule

This entry is for the same year, 1870, for Nathan Breed, a distant cousin. Again, he manufactured shoes, but wasn’t nearly as well off as Amos. His business was valued at $70,000. But, frankly, in 1870, that’s still doing quite well. I found the advertisement below in a box of family memorabilia from my Uncle George.

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Nathan Breed
Keene Brothers, 1870 Manufacturing Schedule

Then, we come to the Keene brothers, again in 1870. As far as I know, these two are not my Keene ancestors. (I’ve done some research, and it appears that one brother’s initials were W. G. S. Keene. Not my great-grandfather nor his brother; again some shirt-tail relative.) But, they were quite the prosperous duo, judging by a total valuation of their company of $403,322.

So, you can see that shoes were big in Lynn.

On our trip to Massachusetts last year, my husband and I visited the Lynn Historical Society. And, of course, there were many references to the shoe manufacturing history of the town.

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These stained glass motifs are above the main entrance; outside is a “10-footer,” a small workroom common in the 1800s.
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A photo from 1880 showing the inside of a well-used 10-footer.
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A cobbler’s bench.
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A display of shoes made in Lynn.
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The city of Lynn dominated the shoe industry in Essex County. With the sheer numbers of workers, it’s not surprising that so many of my ancestors were cobblers, cutters, and cordwainers.
A brief history of shoemaking in Lynn; the photo is of Ebenezer Breed, brother of my 3x great-grandfather, Abraham Breed.

The non-population schedules give a little glimpse into the industry and wealth that shoes provided my family for decades. For my part, I will continue to love them for entirely different reasons.

“Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 33: Family Legend

Growing up, my siblings and I heard one particular family legend again and again.

But, we didn’t know it was a legend. It was presented as fact, a part of our heritage.

We were told that our Nana Keene, our dad’s mom, was “French Canadian/Indian.” (And, that was how it was phrased; there was no reference to Native American. I mean no disrespect.)

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My Nana, Perpetue Bergeron Keene

But, a simple DNA test seemingly disproved that in no time. A few years back, my husband and I tested with 23 and Me, mainly for the health information, but the heritage report was revealing. Not a drop of Native American. In the intervening years, the ancestry composition has  been refined, but still doesn’t show a smidgen of NA. (The remaining 0.2% is unassigned.)


My Uncle George, my dad’s brother, Nana Keene’s son, also tested with 23 and Me. His ancestry results there showed no NA as well. George is one generation closer to the source than I am, so if nothing showed up in his results…

Since ancestry composition can vary due to the specific testing population of each DNA company, I also uploaded my raw DNA to My Heritage. Although the ancestry composition results were different from 23 and Me, there was still no NA in the results.


I also used Gedmatch and ran a Eurogenes 13 admixture panel. And, now, what do I see???


Look at that: 1.13% American Indian. Could there be something to the family legend after all?

I ran another composition report, puntDNAL K10. And, lookie that! Another little bit of American Indian has shown up!


Well, now, this is interesting!

My cousin Peter, as I have mentioned before, has done a marvelous work for our family in documenting Nana’s French Canadian family tree. It is a huge 80-page document, and I am still flabbergasted at the tremendous work Peter did.

I think it’s time to do a deep dive into that giant PDF and see if there’s any possible genealogical link to a Native American ancestor.

(A one-percentage point of DNA equates to about 7-10 generations back, if any shared DNA even occurs. Genetics don’t always equate to genealogy, due to the remixing of DNA that occurs in each and every succeeding generation. I might very well have a Native American ancestor, yet have no DNA at all from that person. We all have both a genetic family tree and a genealogical family tree.)

The first reference I found to Native Americans was in reference to Marie Marguerie and Jacques Hertel, who married August 23, 1641 at Trois-Rivières. Jacques was a soldier who arrived in New France in 1626. He lived among the Algonquins and was an interpreter for the Jesuits at Trois-Rivières.

It isn’t a stretch to imagine that over the last 350+ years that the story of someone who lived among the native people could morph into that person being a native.

Another ancestor, Gilles Bacon, served with the Jesuits mission to the Hurons around the year 1645.

Anne Le Neuf, born around 1632, was probably illegitimate, and her mother’s name is unknown. It is a possibility that her mother was NA. Her husband, Antoine Desrosiers, served with the Jesuits about the same time as Gilles Bacon. He was also captured by the Onondagas and held for 11 weeks in 1653.

Peirre Forcier, born in 1669, was killed by the Iroquois in May 1690.

François Pelletier married a Montgnais woman in April 1660, but she passed away before any children were born. This, too, could be a possible source of the legend.

And, that’s about all. Just possibilities. Theories. There could still be some distant branch with a Native American ancestor, as there is that 1 percentage point in my DNA. But, certainly nothing substantial enough for us to consider that we are in any way significantly Native American.

I don’t know the source of the story, and I might not ever. But, it’s time to set it aside and focus on the real stories.

‘Till next time.