I Bet the Whole Town was Talking

As I mentioned a while back, my great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, married Lydia Thompson soon after the death of his first wife, Ellen Piper Keene.

Ellen had passed away at age 40, not too long after the marriage of her and George’s daughter, Ellen Augusta. Daughter Ellen had married William Edwin Thompson in 1874; mother Ellen passed away in 1875.

William Thompson had a younger sister, Lydia.

Yes, that Lydia.

A year and half after the death of Ellen, George married the younger sister of his son-in-law. George was 42; Lydia was 25.

keene-georgo augustus.jpg


keene-lydia ann kent.jpg

So, George’s wife was his son-in-law’s sister, but also his son-in-law’s mother-in-law.

Daughter Ellen’s step-mother was also her sister-in-law.

Ellen and William’s children’s grandmother would also be their aunt.

I think…

It reminds me of the old song, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” It’s worth a Google.



Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn MA

As I told you about in my last post, The Hubs and I recently visited Lynn, MA, where so many of my family members came from. And, I mean many…

We visited quite a few of them at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. We spent a lot of time lost, trying to find the Keene plot. And, along the way, on headstones and memorials on nearly every lane, were names from my family tree: Breed, Keene, Ingalls, Hood, Bassett, and Thompson….

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It really was rather strange. This place is FULL of “my people,” as my Nanna would have said. It was a visual representation of just how deep my New England roots are.

Our first stop that morning in Lynn, after McDonald’s for breakfast, was at the city works department, where the cemetery records are kept. The clerk helpfully printed out several pages, each with a family name, grave numbers, plot sites, and dates of internment.

We decided to focus on the Keene plot as our first priority. I was so glad we did, as it took most of the morning to find it!

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Below is the list of graves we were given for the Keene plot:

keene-pine grove cemetery plot diagram

At the bottom of the list, you can see the diagram we made while there, based on the remaining headstones. As you can see, there are quite a few more graves than there are headstones.

We also learned that the first Lydia A. Keene (1809-1895), wife of Washington Keene (1810-1844), was the first owner/buyer of the plot. The dates of burials range from 1866-1961, nearly 100 years.

What is especially touching are the number of children here:

  • George Arthur Thompson, 10 months, 18 days
  • Minot Tirrill Keene, 1 year, 5 months, 22 days
  • Edith B. Keene, 2 years, 4 months
  • Carrie Browne, 2 months, 19 days
  • Arthur S. Keene, 5 months
  • W. Frank, days
  • Child Keene, days
  • George A. Keene, 11 months

Eight babies. Fully a third of the family members here.

When we got home to California, as I was searching for another file, I came across this:

keene-pine grove cemetery plot

WOW! I wished I had realized I had this before we went to Massachusetts!

(PSA: Stay ahead of your files, paper or digital! Things easily and quickly begin to pile up as your own research yields results and family members generously give you their records, too. You’re welcome.)

In the diagram above, see the *D? That’s Thelma, my grandfather’s first wife.

See #13? That’s Ellen, my great-grandfather’s first wife.

Numbers 15 and 17? Those are my great-grandparents, George A.  and Lydia Keene, his second wife.

Lydia was buried here in 1944, although she passed away in 1938 in California. According to my Uncle George, the family didn’t have the money to ship her to Massachusetts in 1938, so they waited six years.

I am so glad that we stopped here; the backstory of my life is in this plot.




My Grandfather’s Father’s First Wife

I come from a long line of second wives. On both sides of my family, there have been several generations where a first wife has passed away, the man marries a second wife, and we descend from that marriage.

I’ve written about Berthelma, the first wife of my dad’s dad.

In my Gard family line, we descend from William Gard‘s second wife, the sister of his first wife.

And, in my father’s family, my great-great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, we descend from his second wife, Lydia Ann Thompson.

George Augustus’ first wife was Ellen Piper. They married in 1853, when George was 20 and Ellen was 18. They had three children, Ellen, Florence, and Alice, before Ellen passed away at the age of 40 in 1875. (There might be a an infant son who didn’t survive, but it’s not a sure thing.)

A little more than a year later, in 1876, George married again. His new wife Lydia was only 25; he was 42. Oh, the scandal!

George and Lydia went on to have Annie Louise, George Ashton, George Augustus, Minot Terrill, Charles Lawrence (my grandfather), and Edith Blake. Annie and Charles seem to be the only children of this marriage who survived to adulthood.

Ellen’s grave is in the Keene family plot in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. Hers is one of the few remaining headstones. I’m glad that she’s not invisible…

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Berthelma: The Final Chapter, for now…

This past week, my husband and I spent a day in Lynn, MA, where so many of my father’s people come from. We visited the wonderful little Lynn Museum, drove along the waterfront, and, most importantly to me, found my Keene family plot in the Pine Grove Cemetery.

Among the many things I had hoped to discover at the cemetery was a headstone for Thelma, the first wife of my grandfather, who had died so young. I had hoped that there would be more information either in the records or on the grave to fill in some of the missing pieces to her story.

We found the Lynn public works office early in the morning, where the cemetery records are kept. The clerk who assisted us couldn’t have been nicer. We left the office with several printed pages of locations and families to search for. I had done my homework and printed up the detailed pages of cemetery maps found online. We thought it would be quick, armed with the plot information and the maps.

Oh, no.

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Pine Grove Cemetery is HUGE. It’s over 250 acres. The lanes wander and meander without much symmetry or organized plan. Most of the lane signs are missing, too. We finally found out that if we used Google Maps, the car’s GPS, and the printed maps in conjunction, we could sort of find our way around. Sort of.

We finally found the Locust section where the Keene plot was supposed to be. We wandered among the gravestones without finding anything. We tried to search out the plot number again, but that led us to the wrong section. We searched the printed maps once more, where we finally saw the correct plot, right where we had parked the car. But, on the other side of the street in another section.

And, there it was.

keene plot (1 of 1)

I’m standing right at the curb, and the Keene plot consists of the first two headstones closest to me and the line of stones in the second row, beginning with the large square one and going to the right of the photo.

From the information we got at the records office, there are a total of 25 grave sites in this plot, with 23 individuals. Unfortunately, of those 23 people buried here, only seven have headstones. It’s unclear if there ever were headstones for the others or if they have been lost to vandalism over the years.

Berthemla H. Keene is buried here, but sadly, hers is one of the missing stones. The record indicates that her grave is “D.” We had no idea where “D” was, as all the other graves with headstones were numbered.

She died at 18 years, 11 months, and 26 days.

Her story makes me sad: dying so young, being largely forgotten in our family, and having no physical record of her presence here. But, without her passing, my grandfather would have never married his second wife, and I and my family simply wouldn’t exist.

Which is a very strange thought….

Well, huh…

Thanks again to helpful readers, the mystery of Grandpy’s first marriage is finally cleared up!

No, not really. In fact, it might be even murkier…

It seems that Charles L. “Kune” of Boston, MA married Berthelma H. Waters of Kirksville, MO on July 25, 1910 in Moberly, Missouri.


keene-waters-1910-marriage transcript

Now, before you think, “Ah, ha! Kune isn’t Keene!”, let me show you something.

In the 1930 census record for Grandpy and Nana, Keene has been incorrectly transcribed as “Kune.” You can see this in the record below.


I know this is the right family, because this is the transcription for the census page below:


Those are my grandparents and their children, including my father, Charles, Jr. The double-e in Keene has been misread as a “u” by the transcriber. Just as it had been on the 1910 marriage record between Charles and Berthelma.

Now, back to their story.

Here is the 1910 census record for Thelma. I believe that she was working as a waitress in a hotel when the census enumerator came around on April 15, 1910. Which is why she is listed with seemingly unrelated people.

waters-berthelma-1910-census transcript.JPG

Charles and Thelma most likely met when he was working as a chef, perhaps in the same hotel. And, I can place Charlie in Moberly, MO in July, where the marriage to Berthelma took place, based on a postmark of July 5, 1910.

On their marriage record, Charles has claimed that he is over the age of 21, which is correct, as his birthday was April 24, 1883. He would have just turned 27.

According to the census, Thelma was born in 1893, which would have made her only 16, as her birthday wasn’t until September, according to her death certificate. But, the death certificate gives her year of birth as 1892, making her 17 at the time of her marriage to Charles.

Somebody fudged the truth on their marriage certificate, regardless. Thelma’s age is stated as being as over 18. Which can’t be true given either 1892 or 1893 as her birth year.

I think that this record of marriage is correct for Charlie and Thelma, but that begs the question just whose is the first marriage certificate found for Charlie and Anna?

In fact, I have a lot of questions.

Who is Charles L. Keene of the St. Joseph, MO, February 10, 1910 marriage license? This Charles also gives his hometown as Boston, MA and his age as over 21.

My Grandpy was in St. Joseph when this marriage license was granted, based on postmarked cards sent home, from January 10 through March 9, 1910. What are the odds that two different men with the exact same name and hometown were in St. Joseph at the same time?

I don’t know!

I did find a “Charles L. Keene” on the 1910 census in St. Joseph, Missouri, but his birthplace is New Hampshire in 1880. However, he, too, is working in a hotel as a cook. keene-charles-1910-census transcript.JPG

I am not sure that this is my Grandpy, as we have a postcard from him dated April 11, 1910 from New York, NY. (Remember that the census was taken April 15.) But, he certainly could have been back in Missouri by the 15th, if he rode the train. But, then, why the incorrect information of hometown and birth year? This Charles is listed a “single”, so he couldn’t the one who married Anna just two months prior.

Arrggg….. But, wait, there’s more!

Why is Thelma’s maiden name “Waters” on the marriage record, but “Page” on her death certificate?

What happened to Charles and Anna? Although not exhaustive, I did search the 1910 census for them. They should have been enumerated as a married couple, as the marriage would have taken place in February, and the census was taken in April. However, I could find them under neither Keene or Kune.

Perhaps an annulment? A quicky divorce? (Seems unlikely in 1910.)

I am thinking that a more likely possibility is that the marriage between Charles and Anna never actually took place. The records are for an application for a marriage license and a marriage license was granted. But, perhaps someone got cold feet.

And, now my head hurts. As I’m pretty sure does yours.


Answers… and More Questions!

Thanks to some kind readers pointing me in the right direction, I now have Thelma’s death certificate.

I had looked at My Heritage, FamilySearch, NEHGS, etc., but I hadn’t checked Ancestry. I don’t have an personal account, so I went to my local library and used the Library Edition. And, that’s where it was.


Thelma passed away on September 3, 1911, of typhoid fever, just one day after the last postcard we have from Charlie about her:

9/2/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. I telephone to Thelma every night and she is still about the same except last night she had a slight hemorrhage but has not bled any more since. We are still hoping for the best. I will see you next week some time. Charlie

She was gone the next day, only three days short of her 19th birthday.

And, while death certificate does give me more information, it also raises even more puzzling questions.

Thelma’s name is given on the DC as “Berthelma H.” Her maiden name is “Page.” Neither of which are on the marriage license dated February 10, 1910. The bride’s name there is “Anna L. Backus.”

Is it possible that there was another Charles L. Keene from Massachusetts, who married this Anna, in St. Joesph, MO at the same time that my Grandpy and Thelma were also in St. Joseph?

Or, did she give a fake name, as she was underage? And, then, who was “Mrs. Mary Handley/Haudley” who signed permission as Anna’s mother? It’s interesting that on Thelma’s DC, the information for her mother and father are marked as “unknown.”

Thelma was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, MA, where many more members of my family are buried.

I need to go visit her.


My Grandfather’s Mysterious First Wife

So, one day I was searching online for my grandparents’ marriage certificate when I pulled up something that made me gasp out loud. It was certainly a marriage certificate for my grandfather, The Mariner, but the wife most definitely wasn’t my Nana.


Right there on the page, No. 150, was listed my grandfather, Charles L. Keene, of Boston, MA. But, the wife’s name is given as Miss Anna L. Backus, of St. Joseph, MO. Both the application for the license and the marriage license were issued the same day, February 10, 1910, in Buchanan Co, Missouri.

I can place my grandfather in St. Joseph, MO. He wrote home to his parents quite often, and the postmarks verify his location. So, I’m pretty certain that this is the right Charles L. Keene.

Charles was specified as being over 21, as he would have been 27 on his birthday in March of that year. Anna’s age was specified as being under 18.  Because she was not yet 18, her mother had to give permission. She is listed on the application as Mrs. Mary Handley/Haudley.

This was all a pretty big shock to me, as I had never heard of my grandfather being married prior to marrying my grandmother. There were, and probably still are, things not spoken of in my family. I’m thinking most families are like that, but it’s still a bit of a shock, for example, to go to an uncle’s funeral, one whom you have known all your born days, to find not only his first wife, but also a daughter, in the front pew. Stuff like that happens.

But, back to this story.

My Grandpy married my Nana June 4, 1912, just a little more than two years after he married Anna. There was a story here, and I determined to sniff it out.

And, promptly came to a dead end.

I asked my Uncle George, son of Charles (and my father’s brother), if he knew anything about it. He seemed to faintly recall someone, somewhere, saying something about a possible marriage that might have taken place. But, he couldn’t say for sure.

Uncle George’s wife, my Aunt Gwen, about the same time, shared with me binders of family records, letters, and genealogy that she had collected over the years. My Grandpy was a chef, and traveled all over the US for work, and he faithfully sent postcards to his parents. (This was before he joined the Matson Line.) I noticed that in those he sent to his parents from 1910-1911, there were quite a few from “Charles and Thelma.”

Thelma? Anna? What was going on here? How many wives did Grandpy have???

Aunt Gwen, bless her, had transcribed these postcards. I began to put the transcriptions in chronological order, hoping to sort out the story. I found no mention of Thelma in the postcards from the date of their presumed marriage until September of the same year, 1910.

9/23/1910, from Atchison & Lenora: We leave here Saturday. Will send address as soon as possible. Thanks for the cards and pictures. Looks just like Father. Will be home in the spring. Thelma and I are both well. Hoping everyone is well at home, Love from Chas and Thelma

10/4/1910:  Will send address soon. Both are well. Chas and Thelma

From 10/9/1910:  Hello Mother: We are in Kansas City for a while working at the Savoy Hotel. Will write you a letter tomorrow. Address 709 East 9th Street. Thelma & Charley

10/12/1910, from Kansas City, MO: Dear Mother, We both wish you a Happy Birthday– and as soon as we are able will send something to show that we still think of you. We are both well and hope that you and Father are also. 709 E. 9th St. Love from Charlie and Thelma

No date: Dear Mother. Am out of work for a week on account of sores breaking out on my face and hands but the Doctor is giving me plenty of strong medicine which by the feeling surely ought to cure me. Thelma is working hard every day.

11/23/1910: Dear Mother. Your letters and paper received. Am very glad to get them. I can go to work Saturday. Love Chas and Thelma 

On a postcard with no date, from Amarillo, TX, continuation from another card:  …and I get my board free so that helps a little. We came here with the intentions of working and saving our money until spring when we will come home but this month I don’t think we can save anything and so near Xmas we will be poor this year but have not given up hope. I hope you and Father are well and when I am stronger I will write more. Love from Chas and Thelma

No date, picture postcard from Dallas, TX: To Mother from Thelma

No date, picture postcard from Dallas, TX, : To Father from Thelma

2/1/1911, from Dallas, TX: Dear Mother Keene. We rec’d your letter with the Christmas cards the other day. Have neglected sending a card–waiting for a letter in answer to ours. It is very warm here. We are getting along as well as could be expected. Mrs. C. L. Keene

And, then, a dark turn…

8/1911, from Wood’s Hole, MA:  Dear Mother. Just went to see Thelma. She is beginning to improve. Temperature dropped to 102 and rational all the time now. Chas.

8/1911, from New Bedford: Dear Mother. Just telephoned New Bedford. Thelma is better. I will go to see her Thursday…Love from Charlie

8/17/1911, from New Bedford: Dear Mother. Thelma is better. Temperature is 99 this AM. Dr. says everything looks very favorable and with good luck can come home in four weeks. Charlie

Postcard from 8/17/1911, from St. Luke’s Hospital, New Bedford

8/21/1911, from new Bedford, MA: Dear Mother; Last night Thelma was generally improved. Temperature normal. Sounds very encouraging. Am very busy and poor help. I am well and quite strong. Hope you and Father are OK. Will see you in Sept. Love from Charlie

8/29/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. Thelma is a little better this morning. Love from Charlie

9/2/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. I telephone to Thelma every night and she is still about the same except last night she had a slight hemorrhage but has not bled any more since. We are still hoping for the best. I will see you next week some time. Charlie

And, then nothing…

Until five months later, February 20, 1912, when Charles wrote a passionate love letter to my grandmother-to-be, Perpetue, also known as Ducky, also known as Pearl.

Charlie and Pearl married June 4, 1912 in Northampton, MA. They are entry #84 in the record below. Charles was 29, and Pearl was 19. Charles is recorded as a widower.


It appears that Thelma passed away sometime between September of 1911, when she is still in the hospital, and February of 1912, when Grandpy wrote of his love to Nana. But, I can’t find any record of that. In fact, I can find no records of Thelma at all.

I have searched for census records, deaths, anything, using all the varieties of Thelma’s name I could think of: Thelma Keene, Anna L. Keene, Anna Backus, Thelma Backus, etc.


I’d so love to find out the rest of this story…






Just When I was Thinking that My Genealogy was Getting a Little Ho-Hum…

…what do I discover?

That my 7th great-grandmother, Sarah Hood Bassett, was accused, convicted, imprisoned, and eventually released in the hysteria that was the Salem witch trials.

I had seen her name in some family papers several times, but because of how the information about was worded, I made the (faulty) assumption that she was an in-law, cousin, or another very distant relative.

But, no. Direct ancestor. When the penny finally dropped, I was stunned, to the say the least. The witch trials had been an interesting, if sad, bit of ancient history to me. But, now… this was my family.

This is what genealogy does: makes distant history suddenly very real and very personal.

Photo Credit:Sanford History Education Group

Here are the generations between Sarah and me:

Sarah Hood Bassett, born 1657, died 1721

Her daughter, Ruth Bassett Allen, born 1690, died 1756

Her daughter, Ruth Allen Breed, born 1724, died 1811

Her son, Abraham Breed, born 1752, died 1831

His daughter, Eunice Breed Thompson, born 1788, died 1869

Her son, William Dimond Thompson, Jr., born 1823, died 1911

His daughter, Lydia Ann Thompson Keene, born 1850, died 1938

Her son, Charles Lawrence Keene, Sr., (the mariner) born 1883, died 1959

His son, Charles Lawrence Keene, Jr., born 1919, died 1996

…and then me.

When Sarah was 35, and the mother of six children, she was brought from Lynn for trial in Salem May 23, 1692. A servant girl in her brother-in-law’s household had accused her of giving her an “ointment.” She was immediately convicted and sent to the Boston jail, taking with her her little 2-year old, Ruth.

She was jailed with her brother-in-law, Richard Proctor, and his wife, Elizabeth, who were both sentenced to hang. Both Elizabeth and Sarah were pregnant. Richard was sent to his death in August, but Elizabeth’s sentence was postponed until after her baby was born.

However, during Sarah’s 7-month imprisonment, the hysteria calmed down and cooler heads began to prevail. Sarah was released December 3, 1692, and her son, Joseph, was born two weeks later. She had a daughter in August 1695 and named her Deliverance. Appropriate, I think.

Sarah was later paid £9 in recompense.


Salem Village Witchcraft Victim’s Memorial, Danvers, Mass, 2013. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks

My Grandfather, the Mariner: Part 3

If you remember, I have been sharing with you the items that my cousin Beth had sent me, items from our common grandfather’s time as a ship’s cook.

Today, I have two menus from 1935, while Grandpie was working on the Matson S.S. Malolo.

From Tuesday, July 9, 1935, en route to Honolulu:



Hummm… Tonight, I think I’ll have the Fresh Lobster Cocktail, Fried Monterey Bay Abolone Steak, and Butter Cream Slices for dessert.

From the voyage en route to San Francisco, Saturday June 15, 1935:


Again, I am amazed at the amount and the variety of the foods offered: fresh Colombia salmon, “Chop Suey sundae” (raisins, dates, vanilla ice cream, flaked coconut, and chow mein noodles),  Hawaiian poi, casaba melon, caviar, and Newfehatel cheese.

I can imagine that Grandpie and the crew ate very well!

I have to imagine, as Grandpie passed away from cancer when I was only six months old. I wish I had known him, but I like to think that his two sons, my dad, Charles Jr., and my dad’s brother, my Uncle George, are something like him. If so, he was a bit of a scamp with a twinkle in his eye.

But, there is a bit of a family mystery around him, too. But, more about that next time.


My Grandfather, the Mariner: Part 2

As far as I can tell, my grandfather, Charles L. Keene, Sr., began as a chef/steward with the Matson Line sometime in the 1930s.

Among my files, I have a newspaper clipping from a distant cousin’s scrapbook of Charles Sr. at work. From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wednesday, May 11, 1938, aboard the Matson SS Manulani:

keene-charles sr-1931-honolulu star article.jpg

If you give just a cursory reading of the headline, you might have gotten the impression that Charles Sr. was a former chef to the King of England. But, no. Charles was just cooking the menu that was planned by the chef to royalty. I think this is where the family legend that Charles Sr. was a chef to the royal family began.

In the bundle of ephemera sent to me by my cousin, Beth, were several menus from his days at sea.

This is the luncheon menu from the Matson SS Lurline, for Wednesday, May 27, 1936:



I am impressed with the variety of items available for lunch! I can’t imagine that I’d want to order sardines in oil, herring salad, or pickled pigs’ feet, but I am happy knowing that they are available should I get a hankering.

The front of the dinner menu the same day:


The inside left:



The inside right:



Not as much variety as there was for lunch, but it all sounds delicious.

The Roman Punch intrigued me, so I did a Google search. This is a quick list of the ingredients: Champagne, dark rum, triple sec, egg, sugar, orange juice and lemon juice. Yum!

Below is the luncheon menu for Saturday, May 30, 1936. Again, I am impressed with the variety of dishes available.


Maybe I’d start with the Chilled Watermelon, followed by the Lamb Curry and Rice, Bombay Style, for my main course. And, definitely, the Red Cherry Pie for dessert.


‘Til next time!