Remarkable Relatives Blog

Researching collateral lines (family of your direct ancestors) is extremely important and helpful when creating your family history.  Unfortunately, some of the most remarkable characters you meet in life and in research are not the ones you end up writing about in your direct ancestral lines.  This is my opportunity to introduce you and my family to some relatives I consider remarkable for their influence on me or the historical stories I’ve found about their lives long ago.  They may include siblings, in-laws, or non-ancestral spouses of direct ancestors.


Donald C. Bergquist

donald-bqDonald C. Bergquist was born 27 August 1931 in Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut to Claus and Dorothy (Keep) Bergquist. He married Linda Schramm on 2 June 1962 in Redding, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Donald died on 4 May 1997 as a result of a car accident.

Born and raised in Redding, Donald and Linda moved to Darien, Connecticut in 1966, and later settled in Weston, Connecticut.

Donald is my father’s cousin. Their fathers were brothers, two of five children born to Swedish immigrants. Donald is the first one in my family to show an interest in genealogy. He was a history major in college and was known in the genealogy world for his knowledge of pre-Revolutionary American families. He served as President of The Society of Descendants of Henry Wolcott and a President of the Connecticut Society of Genealogists (1979-1982). He was also chairman for Hartford ’83, the first national genealogical conference held in New England. In the last few years I’ve met genealogists who knew Donald and I’ve heard stories about his dedication to this passion.

family-tours-coverUnfortunately, Donald spent much more time documenting his mother’s family ( the Wolcott descendant ) than his father’s Swedish roots. Nevertheless, I visited his widow a few years ago and reviewed many of Donald’s files.

What I learned most about Donald through that review was about his business – Family Society Tours, Limited. The company was formed in 1983 and dissolved in 2008. It was owned equally by Donald and Jim Bolles until their partnership dissolved in 1993, and then by Donald alone. In those days (pre-computer), one way to progress with your family history research was to join a family association.

Family Society Tours, Ltd. worked with family associations to run tours to England to see their family origins and do local research. They would do six to eight tours per year for almost 200 people, and even handled a few tours for New England Historic & Genealogical Society in Boston, MA.

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Sandra Eileen (Ellis) Guenther

CCI07222016_00000Sandra is my mother’s first cousin and they were probably frequent playmates in the 1930’s. Sandra is the daughter of John Franklyn and Gertrude (Hanson) Ellis.  She was born on 10 December 1934 at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut.  Sandra died on 31 December 2001.

From a young age, Sandra was exposed to skiing and horses. Both became passions throughout her life.  Sandra graduated Torrington High School on 18 June 1952 and University of Vermont on 10 June 1956.

Sandra was a teacher her entire life. Classes for all ages (pre-school through Senior Citizens) covering many of her favorite pastimes – animals, languages, music, and, of course, skiing and horseback riding.

I could write a book about Sandra and her parents.  In fact, she wrote a book about herself and her family. Sandra, among her other talents, was a genealogist before computers.  Her work is valuable for many descendants on both sides of her family.

My personal experiences with Sandra started with being in her wedding. On 24 June 1961, Sandra married Wolfgang Peter Guenther.  Together they had two children, Karina and Christopher. Mostly, I remember Sandra as a mother of those two young children.  And, I predominantly remember her children always curtseying & bowing when greeting my parents.  I would guess that the last time I saw them together was just before their 9 month family bus trip around the United States in 1971.

I am very grateful to Sandra for the research she completed – the stories, documents, and photos she compiled by writing letters. Through her genealogical research, I’ve learned a great deal about Sandra and our shared family.

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Charles Bemus Hill

Charles Bemus Hill was the third son of George Hebert Hill, Jr. and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kathryn Emery, and the father to my godmother, Kathryn Elizabeth Hill. Charles was born on 10 July in 1907 in Denmark, York County, Maine.  Or was he?  While his birth certificate clearly reads 1907, his older brother was born in February of 1907.

Uncle CharlieCharles, or ‘Uncle’ Charlie as I refer to him, was an outdoor person.  He worked as a florist or gardener most of his life.  I certainly knew him as a gardener.

He was also a Mainiac – oh how he loved the state of Maine!  He may have moved to Connecticut with his parents and siblings and met his wife there, but it was Maine where he preferred to live, and where his daughter was born.

For many years, Charlie and his wife, Hazel, lived with their daughter and son-in-law in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  He was a playmate as well as entertainment during family visits.  He preferred to be outdoors and would often take my sister and I for walks around the property. In later years, for rides in the golf cart that provided him a means to bring heavy items down to the garden that he tended so lovingly.

In addition to his garden, he was a dog-lover.  Of course, a dog was another reason to go outside and he and Dutchess certainly enjoyed their time outside together.

Of this I am certain – Charles Bemus Hill died 1 August 1992, too early for my twin boys to get to know him. He and his wife are buried together in Ridgefield, Connecticut.

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Paul M. Holmberg

Paul M. Holmberg was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1898 and died in 1990 inPaul Holmberg Hartford, Connecticut.  He lived for many years in Newington, Connecticut.

Paul married my grandfather’s sister, making him my Great-Uncle (I think).   My eldest son met Uncle Paul, but I doubt Sean remembers as he was quite young.

We would visit Uncle Paul and Aunt Elsie maybe a couple of times a year when I was young. They lived about an hour away.

Their home seemed small, but we would only visit in the kitchen & living room.  I don’t remember visiting with any of their children or grandchildren until later in life.

I do remember enjoying Uncle Paul’s laugh. I remember him as a nature lover. He was one of just a few relatives who would take my sister and I outside during a visit.

In fact, my most vivid memories of his home are the huge pear tree and many blueberry bushes.  This is where I learned about the long handled basket picker you can use to pick fruit without using a ladder.  And, of course, Uncle Paul was diligent about putting nets over the blueberry bushes to keep the little animals from eating all the berries.

I don’t remember Uncle Paul as a sports fan (we didn’t have many in my family) but in researching him, I learned about his connection to the newspaper industry in Hartford, CT.  Imagine  being quarantined, not allowed to attend school, but allowed to go outside.  Uncle Paul would go to downtown Hartford and watch the newspapers’ “player boards” where the ‘play by play’ would be re-enacted as updates arrived at the newspaper.

He became a Red Sox fan in the 1950’s and remained one until his death in 1990.

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Gladys Anderson Ridley

Gladys 97This is the oldest sister of my paternal grandmother.  She was born in Boston, Mass., raised in Buxton, Maine, and lived in Sanford, Maine as an adult. She graduated high school, attended Normal school, taught 2nd grade for a short time, belonged to the Grange most of her life, married, raised a daughter,  was widowed after 23 years of marriage, loved to travel, and especially enjoyed time with family.

I remember a couple of trips to visit her way up in Maine (a long trip from northwest Connecticut) when I was a child.  I was probably around 9 or 10, and that would mean Aunt Gladys was already 75.

She was old, and looked it (to me).  She was kind as could be.  She had this special item at her home that no other relative or friend of the family had – an outhouse!  For some reason, being in the woods with this old woman who still used an outhouse was an adventure for me, and my sister, if memory serves.

I’ve met many of her descendants in the last few years as I researched the Anderson/Boothby family.  She may have had only one daughter, Bernadine, but that daughter left plenty of children, and grand-children!  Many of them still live in the same area of Maine where Gladys and her siblings were raised and many of them knew Gladys well.

One in particular, Debbie, has shared a great deal of information about my Great-Aunt Gladys, her great-grandmother.

Somehow, it didn’t stick in my memory, but in addition to the outhouse, Aunt Gladys lacked running water in her home, until 1969, and then, only cold water in the pantry.  A home that remained in the family for generations.

I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it at the time, but Aunt Gladys also became the owner of the town’s Boston Post Cane. (A special gift for the oldest resident of the town that comes with publicity in the Boston newspapers.)  In fact, her daughter was also a recipient of the Boston Post Cane!

Aunt Gladys lived to be just over 100 years old.  What a lifetime!  She kept things simple, although she did become a ‘snowbird’ later in life, spending winters in Florida rather than Maine.  She was fun.  She loved life.  She loved family.  She left a legacy all Anderson descendants can be proud of and hope to emulate for many, many years!

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