Saturday, February 4, 2012

Looking forward, Looking Back: The Biddle and Cole Families

I had high hopes of getting this posted before the end of January. But yes, I'm emerging from an unintentional self-imposed hibernation of sorts to finally start getting some of the blog ideas that have been rattling around my brain out into the online world take on legs of their own.

By far my genealogical highlight of 2011 was a connection I made with Jim, another genealogical researcher whose family is tied to one of my own ancestral lines. Jim and I are not related in the traditional genealogical sense, but there is an ancestral history that ties us together.

One of my favorite finds last year was a newspaper article from the Springfield Weekly Republican (Mass.) dated 18 Feb 1932 with the headline, "Lenox Coachman Bequeathed Life Interest in $45,000 Fund." The article describes the bequests my 3rd great aunt, Emily Williams Biddle (1855-1931), made in her will. My main interest in the article at the time was that it pointed me to the burial location of Emily's parents and siblings. [see posts: Lost Biddle Children, Emily Williams Biddle] But I also enjoyed other pieces in the article which shed more light on Emily's character such as her directives for the handling (disposal) of her animals, but in particular bequests to her long-time coachman Michael Cole and various members of his family.

Jim and I first came in contact after he found my blog while researching his great-grandfather, Michael Cole. He knew that Michael had worked for Emily Biddle, that the turn of the last century placed him in Philadelphia as a carriageman, and that in later years, Michael owned a house in Lenox, Massachusetts.

I shared the article on Emily's bequests to the Cole family with Jim and we've been corresponding ever since. Jim's research of the Cole family has unearthed details about Emily Williams Biddle that I certainly would never have found on my own. My communications with Jim have solidified for me the principle of researching people in your ancestor's live beyond the family members.

In 2012, I plan to document through a series of posts, the evolving research on the Biddle and Cole families. Jim has given me his approval to share our story; in the short time he's been researching the Coles and Biddles has turned up fascinating details about both families that helps me get a picture of them beyond facts and dates.

Stay tuned!

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