Sunday, October 23, 2016

Genealogy Story – The Oliver Wolcott Connection

Last night I was trying to fill in a few holes on my large family tree in I was following a “shaking leaf” associated with Lillie Waldron (1874-1938), when I found that she married a man by the name of Oliver Eliot Wolcott. Since Wolcott, CT is my hometown and it was named after a man by the name of Oliver Scot Wolcott, I immediately wondered if there was a connection. The short answer is “yes,” but I’d like to document all the pieces that came together in this connection.

Piece #1 – The Russell-Waldron Connection

During my father’s late teen years, he lived in Waterbury with his grandfather and step-grandmother, Louis Russell (1871-1946) and Helen [Madigan] [Pulver] [Waldron] Russell (1868-1945). It was Louis’ second marriage and Helen’s third marriage, her second marriage having been to Lewis Waldron (1869-1917). But the connection to the Waldron was more than just this tenuous one through a long-past marriage. I have documented earlier ( how the Russell family and the Waldron family were connected.

Lewis Waldron was also my great-grandfather Louis Russell’s second cousin through their common great-grandparents Caleb and Almira [Beecher] Barton. So my great-grandfather was married to the former wife of his second cousin. But more importantly, Lewis Waldron and his sister Lillie Waldron are then my second cousin’s three times removed.

Piece #2 – The Wolcott Family

Simon Wolcott (1624-1687) was born in Tolland, England. His father, Henry (1578-1655) had come to the US around 1630 and after initially settling in Dorchester, MA had moved to CT in 1636-1637 and was one of the founders of Simsbury. Simon followed his father by emigrating about that same time where he also lived in Simsbury. In 1680 he moved to South Windsor. Simon had a large family (15 children!), among them Henry (1670-1747) and Roger (1679-1767).

Henry was one of the original proprietors of Tolland, CT (named after the family home in England). We will pick up his story with his son, Thomas, below in Piece #3.

Roger had a long career of service, including being Deputy Governor of the Colony of Connecticut, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut, Major General in King George’s War, and Governor of Connecticut. His son, Oliver (1726-1797) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as of the Articles of Confederation before it. He served as the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut from 1786 until 1796 and then as Governor of Connecticut from 1796 until his death a year later. It was while serving as Lt. Governor where he presided over the Senate that he cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the separation of the town of Farmingbury from the towns of Southington [previously South Farmington] and Waterbury. In honor of this, the townspeople of Farmingbury renamed the town Wolcott.

Piece #3 – The Dutchess County Connection

My great-grandfather Louis was born in Kent, CT. But his father, Walter James Russell had moved there from just over the border in Dover, Dutchess County, NY. The Russell family had lived there for about 100 years (see

A branch of the Wolcott family also lived in the same town/county. Thomas Wolcott (1702-1762), the son of Henry (1670-1747), was born in Tolland, CT, but after the death of his wife in 1738 he moved to Taghanik, NY. His oldest son, also Thomas (1726-1792) was only a young teen when the family moved to NY. When he married he purchased property in Amenia, NY, located in Dutchess County and adjacent to Dover. His son, Lt. Luke Wolcott (1755-1813) was born in Dover as well as the next several generations, Thomas (1774-1830), Thomas Judd (1802-1854), William Burton (1832-1909), and Oliver Elias (1868-1960). There are still members of the Wolcott family living in Dutchess County to this day.

Bringing the Pieces Together

The Russell and Wolcott families had lived in close proximity in Dover, NY for several decades (the Russell family being there from about 1720 until 1820 and the Wolcott family from about 1750). But I have not found any marriage connection there. However, in 1792 Oliver Elias Wolcott moved just a few miles east to Kent, CT when he married Lillie Waldron. That meant that my second cousin (3 times removed) married the first cousin (6 times removed) of Governor Oliver Wolcott.

Further Investigation

There is the possibility of a further connection. The grandparents of my great-great-grandmother, (Lois Ann Cook (1855-1883) who was the wife of Walter James Russell (1852-1895)) are Levi Cook and Sally Burton (b. about 1790). But the wife of Thomas Judd Wolcott was Jane Burton (1807-1893). It’s possible that Jane and Sally are sisters, being the children of James Silas Burton (1770-1821) who was living in Dutchess County, NY where both Sally and Jane were also living at the time. However, there were four Burton families (all probably related) in the county at that time.

If this is true, then Thomas Judd Wolcott is my great*5 uncle. However, with the paucity of records from that time, this may be impossible to affirm.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Reflections on Thailand


I have been fortunate to have traveled to the country of Thailand three times over the past several years. The first time was in 2006, the year before I retired. I had a business trip to Singapore and for one of the very few times in my career I took a vacation in the middle of that trip. I flew from Singapore to Bangkok and spent several days with my AFS exchange student daughter, Jiraporn (Noon) Tabtimdaeng and her family. In 2009 I was able to go there again, this time as the leader of a group of AFS staff and volunteers who were writing a handbook for US host families hosting students from Thailand (our Thai counterparts were writing the corresponding handbook for Thai families hosting US students). Finally, in 2012, as a member of the AFS-USA Board of Directors, I attended the AFS World Congress in Bangkok.

However, I never spent much time there in “tourist” mode. Rather, I intermingled with the people of Thailand as much as possible and not with a group of non-Thais doing sightseeing. The first time I stayed with Noon and her family in a fairly poor area in Pathum Thani (Bang Kha Yaeng, Mueang Pathum Thani District, Pathum Thani, Thailand) where they had a house right on the Chao Phraya River. That house was due to be bulldozed within the next year for a new bridge across the river to carry traffic of Route 345. The second time I stayed in hotels in Bangkok when we had the actual meetings, but I had several days beforehand where I also stayed with Noon and her family in their new house near Wat Bang Luang a few kilometers further up the river. The final time I was initially in the hotel that was being used for the World Congress, but afterwards I moved down into central Bangkok to the Asia Hotel near the Ratchathewi elevated station for several days.

I took very few pictures on any of these trips, preferring to look at the world around me instead of staring through the lens of a camera. So, as a result, I have a lot of first-hand memories instead. But in this reflection I’d like to recount a number of them. Rather than attempt to remember what order each event happened in, I have put these into a few general categories.

Visiting Schools

Noon’s Elementary School – When I was there the first time, one morning Noon and I took a stroll through the little area where she lived. Heading up the river on a path, we first passed the local Buddhist temple (Wat Chin Wararam Worawihan). Thailand is dotted with these little temples everywhere. Just beyond the temple was the elementary school that Noon had attended. I did not get to see her high school, as she had chosen to attend one that was not in her neighborhood, but one that offered the appropriate challenge for her and would enable her to get into university.

Noon’s Aunt’s School – Thai families often live in close proximity to other extended family members. I met a number of Noon’s aunts and uncles during my visits. Noon’s aunt lived in a house in the same compound as her parents and she was an English teacher at a school not too far away. One morning on my second visit she took me with her to her school which was located behind an industrial complex and next to the Wat Khok temple. We were there for the morning assembly which was outside the main classroom building. As I stood on the porch with Noon’s aunt and the rest of the staff, the principal introduced me and asked me to come to the front. She then asked for a volunteer from among the students to come and “interview” me. Since I may have been the only foreigner to ever visit this small school, everyone was very reluctant. Eventually, at the urging of his friends, the largest boy at the school was pushed to the front. He was also the bass drum player (he and two other drum players played a cadence as the students all took their place in lines). At the principal’s urging, he asked me a few questions, but when I turned the tables and asked him one, he got quite embarrassed. I spent the rest of the day at the school, watching through the open windows of a few of the classrooms, sitting in the library/computer room (where I could check my email), and having lunch with the teachers.

Chulalongkorn University – Noon had been selected to be an AFS student partly on her academic record. This also helped her get selected to attend Chulalongkorn University, the top academic institution in Thailand (the equivalent of Harvard and Stanford in the US). On my first trip there, I went to school with her. This involved fairly complicated transportation logistics, but since I did not speak Thai, nor have a good understanding of the Thai monetary system, I just followed her.

We walked to the end of the road of the area where she lived, caught a local bus which took us into the local main street (Bang Khayaeng Municipal District), then walked a short distance down the street to catch the inter-city bus which took us into Bangkok where all got out at Victory Monument. Down the block and up into the BTS station (elevated train). Three stops later, get out at Siam station, then local Chula bus to the university (could have walked this last part, but it’s so hot and steamy that one would quickly be sweaty).

I walked around and waited around while Noon went to her classes and we arranged to meet again later. At the end of the day, we went back to her home, but the transportation was not quite the same due to the time of day. After taking the BTS back to Victory Monument, we walked around the monument to where there was a lot full of little mini-buses (vans). These are “share the ride” vans. Once the van was full it went back up through Nonthaburi, but with a few stops along the way. We got out at the same place that the inter-city bus had picked us up in the morning, but by that time of day the local buses were not running, so we took a taxi back to her house.

I had another opportunity to visit Chulalongkorn again on my second trip. Noon still had one more year to go, but another former AFS student who had been in the US the same year as Noon (and whom I had gotten to know at that time) was graduating. We met Molly right after the ceremony, still in her graduation gown. Getting a degree from Chulalongkorn is a big deal, as HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is responsible for handing out the diplomas.

I was not able to attend Noon’s graduation the following year, but by then my brother and sister-in-law were in Thailand and they attended on my behalf.

AFS Interviews – During my 2009 trip I had the opportunity to be a part of the “interview day” that the AFS-Thailand office runs that selects students for going abroad. This was held at a large high school in Bangkok.

As background, there are about 14,000 students who apply for a program through AFS-Thailand each year. This is slimmed down to about 7000 based on the applications. These 7000 students then participate in an interview in order to select the roughly 700 who will get to go abroad. These interviews are scheduled in each province and run by volunteers there. The interview session in Bangkok is run by the AFS staff. In the morning, half of the students are assigned an interview room and they wait in the hall outside as each is interviewed in turn. Each interview team consists of two teachers and one returnee. The other half of the students are in a gymnasium going through exercises and team-building activities. After lunch the two halves switch.

When I arrived, I was escorted to the room upstairs where the interview teams received their packets and instructions. Since the instructions were given in Thai, I could not understand what was being said. I was then escorted to the gym where I sat with a group of Thai volunteers as a man stood in front of the students, who were seated on the floor, all dressed in their school uniform. Suddenly the person next to me said, “He is calling you to come up.” Evidently, knowing that someone from AFS-USA was there, and the US is the most desirable destination that these students would like to attend, he was asking me to address the students. So I went and without any preparation spoke to the students for a few minutes – talk about being on the spot!

I was then escorted to one of the interview rooms where I could observe the process. Each student entered in turn, presented the panel of interviewers their portfolio and was interviewed. I noticed that one of the questions was always, “What aspect of Thai culture will you share with your host family and school?” If they answered, “Thai dancing,” which is a very common answer, they would be asked to give a short demonstration of it. After observing two interviews, the leader of the interview team asked me to pull my chair forward and to join the team in doing the next interview. Again, I was totally unprepared for this, but did so – but adding to the already tense situation that the unsuspecting student found herself in. To her credit, she did quite well.

Samut Sakhon – The AFS-USA team, as part of our exposure to Thai culture, were taken one day to visit a school in Samut Sakhon. This was a school that has a long history of involvement with AFS. The town is southwest of Bangkok and right where the Tha Chin river flows into the gulf. We were greeted by the principal and then introduced to a girl who had recently returned from the US and who proudly wore a lanyard that identified her as an AFS returnee. It’s interesting to see how valued being an exchange student is in Thailand, as opposed to the US where students receive very little recognition.

Trips beyond Bangkok

During my various trips to Thailand I did not have the opportunity to travel to distant parts of the country such as Chang Mai, the resort areas of Phuket, or the Muslim areas in the south. However, I did have five day-trips – going north, west, south-west, south-east, and north-east from the Bangkok area. I’m going to describe them in that order.

North – Ayutthaya and Lop Buri – The first trip that I was taken on by Noon’s family was to the north. We first went to Ayutthaya, the historical capital of Thailand from 1351 until its destruction by the Burmese army in 1767. There are a large number of buildings (or rather the foundations of them), as well as many temples (Wats), the most prominent being Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Being able to visit a historic place which predates the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492 by over a century definitely gives one a different perspective.

Continuing north (about 150 km from Bangkok), we went to the city of Lopburi. This city is well known for its population of hundreds of monkeys (actually macaques) that live in the middle of the city. The Khmer temple, Prang Sam Yot, is overrun with them and you have to ensure that they do not steal any food or other items, like cameras, that you may have with you. This city dates back about 1000 years and was described by Marco Polo in his travels of this part of Asia.

West – Kanchanaburi – One day Mr. Tabtimdaeng said to me, “Tomorrow we’re going to the bridge.” I had already learned that when he said, “we’re going” that meant that I should be downstairs with my camera, hat, and ready to get into the car immediately the next morning. But I had no idea what he meant by “the bridge.” Was it supposed to be significant to me? When I asked where the bridge was, he said, “In Kanchanaburi,” but that meant even less. But I figured I’d find out when I got there.

After driving about two hours we got to the town. But before going to “the bridge” we first stopped at the cemetery. It was then that I realized where I was and the significance of this place. Kanchanaburi is the home of the “Bridge over the River Kwai,” which has been made into a movie. In WWII, the Japanese were trying to extend the railroad through Thailand and across Burma to the ocean, giving them quick rail access to that area. They used POWs as labor to help construct the railway. All the Australian, British and Dutch POWs who died during the construction or who were killed are buried in this cemetery – nearly 7000 of them. For comparison, the US cemetery in Henri-Chapelle in Belgium has nearly 8000 graves and the Normandy cemetery in France has over 9000, so this is on that same scale. However, while the European cemeteries are in park-like settings, this is in the middle of the city with four brick walls surrounding it, so very compact and every square foot except the walkways part of a gravesite. I spent a fair amount of time just walking among the graves, reading names and countries and mourning over the loss of so many young lives. Truly a sobering experience.

We then drove a short distance across town to “the bridge,” but now I was emotionally at least partly prepared for it. Because of the time of day, we first had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the bridge. The bridge is still an active rail bridge. After the war, as part of reparations, the Japanese had to pay to have the damaged sections replaced. You are allowed to walk all the way across. The section between the rails has been covered so that walkers do not fall through. However, whenever a train (generally an excursion train) comes, they blow their whistle and you have to hurry to the next pillar where the bridge sections join and where they have built little platforms that extend off to the side over the river and where you can be out of the way of the train when it passes by, however slowly, just a foot or so from where you are standing. This was one of the few “touristy” places that I went on my travels in Thailand.

We then drove up the river to the Sinakharin Dam, a large hydroelectric dam on the Kwai River (Khwae Yai). This is a magnificent dam that is 460’ high and 2000’ long (at the crest). It produces 720 megawatts and was completed in 1980 (so it’s fairly new). Looking down the valley between the mountains in this area is a wonderful view and so different from the very flat plain where Bangkok is located.

Southwest – Cha Am – On one of my few visits to the Gulf of Thailand, the family drove down the western side of the gulf to Cha Am. This is far enough from Bangkok (170+km) that there are no major crowds. We bought lunch (fried chicken) from one of the many vendors who frequent beaches like these, and enjoyed the great weather and the view of the gulf.

Southeast – Pattaya – On a weekend day, the family hired a van and driver to take everyone to the beach at Pattaya. This is a very popular resort place about 100km down the east side of the gulf. There is a busy road that runs right along the waterfront, with hotels, food vendors, etc. on the one side and the beach on the other. Because light-colored skin is very desirable in Thailand, there are vendors who have set up many umbrellas, all overlapping so that no sun gets on you, with beach chairs under them. About half of the distance between the sidewalk and the water’s edge is taken up by these umbrellas. You pay a small fee to sit under them, and then the various food vendors come up and down the beach and sell you whatever food you’d like. I did get out from under the umbrella a few times to go up the beach a little and to get my legs and feet wet in the water, but the sun is pretty intense and I was happy to retreat back into the shade. But it was somewhat strange to see all these people under the umbrellas and relatively few people in the water.

Northeast – Khao Yai Park – On my last trip, I decided to play tourist for a day and signed up for a trip from Bangkok to Khao Yai National Park. It is a several hour drive from Bangkok, but the shuttle bus stops at multiple hotels in the city (all in the early morning) before heading out. There were two stops on the way there, one at a market (which was interesting, but not something that I took the trip for), and one at a farm which offered oxcart rides. The itinerary from TripAdvisor reads as follows:

06.30 - Depart from Bangkok Hotel to Nakorn Nayok Province
Visit a local market to see the lifestyle of the locals
Enjoy Ox-cart riding, which was the traditional transportation in the past
Drive up to Khai Yai National Park
Go trekking along the jungle and visit the Heaw Narok Waterfall, the most famous in the park
Enjoy a Thai lunch at a local restaurant
Enjoy Elephant riding
18.30 - Return to your Bangkok Hotel

The Heaw Karok Waterfall is 150m tall and is reached by walking a long trail through the trees to the top of the falls. Then you have to go down a long series of very steep stairs to the bottom of the falls (it’s nice on the way down, but a LOT of tiring sets of steps coming back up!). We saw some wild elephants along the road, then stopped for a late lunch in a rural area on the far side of the park. After lunch they brought over a group of elephants for our ride. The area is somewhat hilly, so the elephant stops on a trail which runs below a platform where you climb on top (two passengers plus the “driver” who sits on the elephant’s neck). The trail is down the hill (leaning back so you don’t slide off the front of the elephant), then plodding through a stream at the bottom. Finally back up the hill (leaning forward and hanging on). The last part the “driver” gets off and invites one of the riders to take his place on the neck. I was with a group of other tourists and allowed my fellow rider to have the pleasure of moving forward. After a long drive, we arrived back in Bangkok after dark. It was a long day, but I thought it worth the roughly $100 it cost.


Thai Food – Many people in the US have an idea that Thai food is spicy. But that’s not the case, in fact there are a variety of foods in Thailand and while some are spicy, most are not. Like most Asian countries, there is generally a base of rice. Thai food is also always cut up before it is put on the table, so there are no knives needed when you eat. Rather, you eat with a large spoon in your right hand and a fork in your left, but the only purpose for the fork is to push the food onto your spoon. Since I generally was staying with a Thai family, I just ate what they ate and how they ate. If I didn’t recognize something, I just waited long enough to make sure that I was eating it correctly, and eating the right parts of it, then ate what was in front of me.

Seafood Pizza – On the trip where I would be with partners from AFS-USA, I got to the hotel we were staying in a day in advance of the others and was on my own. The hotel was not in the part of Bangkok where there were lots of eating establishments around and a look at the hotel restaurant menu told me that they primarily catered to foreigners and had typical American/European food. So I thought I’d wander through the small mall that was attached to the hotel. Passing a Pizza Hut, I noticed that they had displays of their food in the window and one particularly intrigued me – seafood pizza. Since that is not something that we have in the US, I thought I’d try it as I particularly like to have seafood in different parts of the world because it is often locally available fish which varies from one part of the world to another. The only thing about this dish that most folks in the US would recognize as “pizza” was that it was on a base of a circle of bread. But there was no tomato paste, no cheese, no pepperoni or sausage, etc. There were small shrimp, clams, and large chunks of some sort of fish, all smothered in a spicy, rich brown fish sauce. It was delicious!

American Breakfast – at the end of my second stay, Noon’s aunt, and my host since I was staying in her house, declared that she was going to make me an “American breakfast.” While I preferred eating Thai food, since she was determined to do this for me, I figured I should go along with her suggestion. But I was unprepared for what she thought were appropriate volumes of food! Let’s see if I can remember it all – (3) sunny-side-up eggs [so far so good], (8) slices of bacon, (6) sausage [actually fried hot dogs], (4) slices of toast, a large(!) glass of orange juice, a large glass of milk, and a medium-sized bowl of cut-up fruit. While all these are appropriate American breakfast foods, it was more than I am used to having for about three days. But to leave food on the table is an insult, so I had no choice but to eat it all.

Eating out – When I was there for the AFS World Congress, we had a free night off. All the Thai members of the team that I had met with on my prior visit decided to have a reunion and take me out to a popular Thai restaurant. Most of them met me at the hotel where I was staying and we took a couple of taxis to the restaurant where the others would meet us. Like many Thai restaurants, this was outdoors and there were several eating areas on little decks overlooking a pond which ran alongside the restaurant. So, with much of the conversation taking place in Thai and me being the only non-Thai in sight, I sat back in bliss, enjoying the evening, eating the food that the others picked out for me and being with friends (many of whom I still “see” regularly on Facebook to this day). I truly enjoy the times when there are no other “foreigners” around and I can just get to be a part of the culture around me.

Meeting My Brother – On that same trip, I was able to spend a day with my brother Edd and sister-in-law Ingrid. They had recently gone back into missionary work and were located in Bangkok while they learned to speak Thai. They had classes each morning, but were able to spend the bulk of day with me. After visiting their apartment we began a tour of some parts of Bangkok that I had not been in before.

We took the BTS down to the southern part of the city, first stopping at the small international church where they were attending, then to the last stop before the train crossed the Chao Phraya River on the King Taksin Bridge. There we boarded a boat to take us up the river. It docked near the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). After some walking around the area, we went out the back side of the temple into a local street to find some place to get lunch. Choosing a very small place with just a few tables, we entered. The proprietress had this very scared look on her face! Here were three foreigners sitting in her restaurant, she spoke no English and had no English menus. But then my brother turned to her and began speaking Thai and she visibly relaxed.

I saw a number of other things that day including The Grand Palace (where the King of Thailand is now resting in state) and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. But it’s not the touristy things that stay impressed on my memory, it’s the interactions with the people like the lady in the restaurant.

Meeting over Meals – As I concluded my last trip I stayed for several days in Bangkok. I had been in touch with many of the Thai students who had been in the US of the past several years and whom I had gotten to know. So I was able to make arrangements to meet with most of them during those days in Thailand. Often I would have a lunch meeting with one student and dinner that evening with another. Since most people in Bangkok use public transportation, we went to restaurants in the area of the hotel. But one of the girls said that she would come by and pick me up in a car (she borrowed her mother’s car for the evening). She drove us to a restaurant on the west side of Bangkok that she said she had always wanted to visit. As I sat there chatting with her over the meal, I thought how fortunate I was. Here I was, in a foreign city that many people in the US would like to be able to visit, enjoying a series of meetings with a succession of beautiful young girls (all were in their early-mid-20s at the time). Both of us had successfully crossed cultural boundaries – they in coming to the US for a year of high school, and I in coming to Thailand to participate in their culture. We had different backgrounds, different religions, and were very different ages, but we could meet together and appreciate both our differences and our similarities. How wonderful it would be if more people could do that!

Hellos and Goodbyes

Greetings – During my first full day on my first trip, Noon had told me that I should expect to be visited by a number of her relatives. After all, it’s not every day that one’s “American father” comes to visit. I was seated with her in their living room and could hear voices outside. She told me, that’s my uncle. He came in the room and walked toward me. I stood and was preparing to greet him with the traditional Thai bow – hands together, etc. Instead, I was surprised that he stuck out his hand to shake mine, to which I thought, “he’s going to greet me in the US tradition instead,” so I shook his hand. But the next words out of his mouth were, “How old are you?” I was a bit taken aback, as this is not the typical first question that anyone in the US asks, but I also quickly went through the reading on culture that I had done and realized why he was asking. Relative age is very important in Thailand and the younger person must honor the older person, including by bowing more deeply so that your head is below the other persons. Since we were both older gentlemen with balding, white/grey hair, he did not know if I was older or younger and needed to know so that he knew how to address me. All this thinking went through my head in a fraction of a second, so I then answered him, to which he replied, “Ah, young man, young man.” (He was about a year older than I was.)

I’ve used this story many times to illustrate how culture plays a part in our lives. On the visit with the AFS-USA team I had told this story to the team at the beginning of our time there. The following day, we were visiting a school and the teacher asked the class if they had any questions for us. One of them finally got up the nerve to talk and asked, “How old are you?” which turned into a great teaching moment.

But I’d like to relate one other “greeting” incident where I did NOT do the right thing. Most of the Thai members of our AFS-USA-Thailand group were female, since most AFS volunteers in Thailand are teachers. They would address me with the Thai greeting, “Suwadee Kha”. So I decided that I would greet them back by saying “Suwadee Kha” to them. But this only generated a lot of giggling on their part. It turns out that “Suwadee” means not simply “Hello,” but something more like “Hello from,” and the “Kha” part is feminine. So “Suwadee Bangkok” on a t-shirt means “Hello from Bangkok” and “Suwadee Kha” means “hello from a female!” Thus, when I say hello I need to use the male ending and say, “Suwadee Khrap.” They quickly corrected me and I added to my knowledge of cultural mistakes!

Goodbyes – On my first visit to Thailand, I stayed the entire time with my AFS daughter, Noon, and her family. When she had been a part of our family here in the US we were a typically demonstrative family with frequent hugs as a sign of affection. But I knew that when I visited her in Thailand that I should respect their customs which do not have that component. However, when her family took me to the airport for my flight back to Singapore, I did not know if that would be the last time that I would see her. So I turned to her father and asked him for permission to give her a hug before I left and he consented. I gave her a quick hug, then left, but with tears in my eyes (which I even have now as I reflect on that memory).

I was fortunate in that I was able to not only visit again, but twice more. But each time I did not know if that would be the last time. By my last visit I was sufficiently skilled in navigating Bangkok that I had booked my own taxi to the airport for early in the morning. I did not have any stay with Noon’s family on that trip, but I had arranged to meet her for lunch one day at the Siam Paragon mall. We talked over lunch, then she accompanied me back to the Ratchathewi BTS station next to my hotel before she would continue back north to her home. She was now in her mid-20’s a fine young lady whom I have the privilege to know. As we stood on the platform, but without her father this time, I asked her if it was okay if I gave her a hug. Her reply was, “Of course, you’re my dad!”

Closing Thoughts

This has been a week when I’ve thought a lot about Thailand. Earlier this week King Bhumibol, who has been the king of the country for 70 years, passed away after a long illness. The entire country is in mourning. And I weep with them as they reflect on someone who has been more of a father figure to all his people than a king.

Just yesterday I received a reminder on my computer that my Thai daughter, Noon, will be turning 30 next Friday. So in these reflections I not only look back at my times in Thailand, thinking on all that I have experienced there, but I continue to look forward, knowing that there is a young lady in that country who has said to me, “Of course, you’re my dad!”

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Genealogy Story – The Bridal Shower

The other day I was looking for a picture of my parent’s wedding to post in honor of what would have been their 70th anniversary. In the process I ran across a newspaper account of a bridal shower that was held for my mother. I’d looked at it a few times in the past, but hadn’t realized the significance of it. But this time one of the names of the guests looked familiar from some of my recent genealogy research. So I thought that I’d look at it more closely.

The Context

I am also in possession of a number of family articles, one of which is my mother’s “Bride’s Book.” One of the things in it is a list of the bridal showers that she had where she also recorded, in her very neat handwriting, all the gifts she received and from whom. So I was able to determine that this particular bridal shower was held on August 19, 1946, about three weeks before my parents’ wedding. Since my mother also listed the gifts as she received them, the ones from this shower were also listed consecutively and I could get additional information about the attendees (for example, the newspaper listed women by their husband’s name, e.g. “Mrs. Raymond Baughan”, but my mother had recorded it as “Mrs. Charlotte Baughan”). I was also able to see gifts from others who were not able to attend, but who sent along gifts anyway.

The shower was sponsored by my father’s mother, Mrs. Vera Rogers (she had divorced and remarried), and her sister, Mrs. Irene Hartwell, and was held at the Hartwell farm in Roxbury, CT. Most of the guests were from New Milford, CT. Since this was a shower from my father’s side of the family, these guests would have been either relatives or close family friends of his. But my father had not lived in New Milford for several years at this point. He, his sister, and his mother and step-father had moved there in mid-1931 when he was 10 years old and he had only lived there for six years until sometime in 1937 when he and his sister moved to Waterbury to live with their grandparents (the father and step-mother of their father). So the people in attendance would either be relatives or friends of his mother, not so much friends of his.

Immediate Family

In addition to the guests, there were of course many close family in attendance. These included: his mother (Vera [Levy] Rogers) and step-father (Charles Rogers); his aunt (Irene [Levy] Hartwell), uncle (Joseph Hartwell) and cousin (Marjorie Hartwell); he (Vernon Russell) and his sister (Dorothy [Russell] Hill), my mother (Sylvia Pierpont), her parents (Harold and Sara Pierpont), and her aunt (Miss Edna Blackman [incorrectly reported in the paper as “Myrta” Blackman]).

The Waldron Connections

The Waldron family were cousins of the Russell family in New Milford. When my great-grandfather, Louis Russell, lost his wife in 1903, he was unable to care for all six of their children. He gave his younger children up to be raised by some of his Waldron relatives. William was raised by Samuel and Lillian Waldron. Martha Pauline was raised by Helen [Madigan] [Pulver] Waldron and her mother. Louis later married Helen.

Because of this heavy connection with the Waldron family, you will see many references to it in the guest list. I’m not going to try to detail each individual connection, but just to note that Waldron connection with an “*”.


There were 15 guests representing 12 families at the shower. In addition, three individuals sent gifts but were unable to attend themselves. Here is what I have been able to find out about them in regards to how they are connected to my father.

Mrs. Luther Peet (nee Eva Pulver) – my father’s aunt. She is the daughter of my father’s step-grandmother, Helen [Madigan] [Pulver] [Waldron] Russell. I have recently made connection with Eva’s great-granddaughter which is why the name Luther Peet was the one that caught my eye.

Mildred [Osborne] Russell – my father’s aunt. She married his father’s brother William (who had been raised by Samuel Waldron*.) She was unable to attend, but sent along a gift.

Misses Frances and Alice Cogshal [incorrectly recorded in the newspaper as Cogshell] – sister-in-laws of Richard B Waldron*

Eva Ives – sister-in-law of Samuel Waldron* and a cousin of my father’s grandfather.

Marguerite Lewis – wife of Alton Peet Lewis who is brother-in-law of Luther Peet above. Was not able to attend, but sent along a gift with her daughter Dottie. There may be other Peet-Russell connections, but this is the only one that I have been able to confirm. UPDATE - Marguerite (Margaret)'s maiden name was Margaret Waldron. She is a sister to Eva and an aunt to my father.

Mrs. Gordon Lewis (Dottie/Dorothy) – see description of her mother Marguerite. UPDATE - Dorothy is a (step-)cousin of my father.

M/M Frederick Stebbins –neighbors to the Rogers family (on the same page of the 1940 census). They had addresses at 32-1/2 and 38-1/2 respectively, so the both lived in 2nd floor apartments with only one house in between. They were not able to attend, but sent a gift, probably with the Rogers.

William Harz – neighbor of the Rogers family (on the same page of the 1940 census)

Mrs. Augusta Walker – neighbor of Vera’s and Irene’s relatives and so a long-time family friend, older and widowed

I have not been able to find any connection for the following: Edith Caldwell; Mrs. Raymond Baughan (Charlotte); Mrs. William Fickerson (Lillian M); M/M Howard Clark; Mrs. A. J. Henderson (Lillian); M/M Norman Gowdy