Monday, June 10, 2019


I'm having a disorienting spring and hope to settle into something that resembles a familiar routine soon. First, I became a chauffeur, making five round trips to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in connection with an elective surgery; the hospital is seventy miles each way and requires crossing the mountains. There was still snow on the ground on the first trip, and later one of the roads was washed out by rain. Then the cold weather prevented me from planting my tomatoes, and I've just planted them – a week late. At the moment it's quite green outside and is starting to look like summer. The lilacs are in bloom, and I'm enjoying the fragrance of the pink ones next to the rear deck.

I've also been doing more genealogical research, with bits of information arriving in spurts. The online databases keep growing, and every once in a while something new and interesting surfaces. I have long been intrigued by the history of craziness in my ex-wife's family. On her father's side, they were sturdy pioneers who settled in Indiana before it became a state. The first family member in Indiana had grown up in Pennsylvania and had been indentured, because his parents couldn't afford to raise him; when he came of age he was given a horse per the agreement and headed west. After living in Kentucky and Ohio, he bought land in what is now Randolph County, Indiana. On her mother's side, there was a dark, hidden mystery that was kept secret, and I finally found out what it was. I learned last year that her great-great-grandfather, Jacob Kelley, a civil war veteran, had committed suicide. Her great-grandmother, Jacob's daughter, Mary Gertrude Kelley, was married and living with her husband and children in Jacob's house a few years earlier. The problem seems to have been Mary and her husband, Fred Ellis. Mary had become pregnant before she was married, and she married Fred prior to giving birth. The first child was Blossom Ellis, my ex-wife's grandmother, whom I met in 1973; she died in 1974. Fred and Mary went on to have three more children. The family secret is that Fred was a criminal, and a stupid one at that. He was a burglar and highway robber who robbed a relative who recognized him. Fred became a notorious criminal who appeared regularly in the Palladium-Item, the local newspaper. He provided fodder for the paper with a failed jail escape. He ended up dying in prison in Ohio at the age of forty-five. The climax with Mary occurred earlier, when Fred got out of jail from one of his prison stints. When he arrived home, Mary herself was in jail for adultery. She had been living with Neal Temple and had been neglecting her children. A newspaper article describes how the police crept into their house at 1:00 AM and caught them. Mary was released after agreeing to change her sinful ways, but shortly thereafter Neal accosted Fred on the street and slashed him with a knife, and Neal soon disappeared with Mary. At that time, Blossom Ellis was living with an aunt. She subsequently had a normal upbringing, went to nursing school and married a farmer. However, Blossom's younger sister, Lulu, was put up for adoption and two younger brothers were sent to an orphanage. Mary was never heard from again, as far as I know, and in later years Blossom told her children that Fred's mother, Lydia, who visited occasionally, was her mother and their grandmother. I think the mental illness comes either from Mary or Fred, or both.

I also recently got some Armenian genealogical news that finally allowed me to accurately identify everyone in the group photo taken in Athens in 1930. I contacted an amateur genealogist who lives in Brookshire, Texas and found out that a person whom I had thought was one of my great-grandfathers was actually Dr. Paul Donigan, who lived in Brookshire and had married my great-grandfather's sister, Rebecca. My great-grandparents later traveled from Greece to Texas in 1920 to attend a wedding. At that time there was an Armenian community in Waller County, Texas, west of Houston, and Paul Donigan, whose original name was Donigian, had moved there after he finished medical school. I have no blood relatives in Waller County, since Paul Donigan and Rebecca had no children, but my uncle moved to Texas after World War II, and I have two cousins living in the state now. Paul Donigan's wife, Rebecca, sponsored my uncle when he came to the U.S. She was his great-aunt. Since 1900, my Armenian relatives have lived in Turkey, France, Greece, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. They are much harder to track than my other relatives due to the lack of documents.

I have a couple of books lined up to read and am even going to try some fiction again. I am making an exception for Simone de Beauvoir, who has flaws as a writer which I am willing to overlook because she retains for me the aura of an imaginary friend.

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