Sibling Shenanigans

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 33 – Troublemaker

I found it quite amusing that the ‘Troublemaker’ prompt coincided with Auntie Pearl’s birthday. And I can hear all of my cousins chuckling – because you know what I mean!

She wasn’t a malicious person at all, so troublemaker may be the wrong term.  Perhaps  mischief-maker is a better description.


In all honesty, it wasn’t just Pearl. It was the whole lot of them. Those Thorell siblings were just full of it!

Whether it was Harry all ready to ‘Do it in Braintree’ (and trust me, I never asked what ‘it’ was!)

oscar harry thorell_original

Arnie and Ruth, the babies of the family, always ready to blame each other for something… anything!

arnie & ruth thorell_original


Or this classic footage of Gert hamming it up for camera. She loved making people laugh!


Mischief maker, shennanigans, trouble maker.  Whatever the term, I am grateful to be part of this fun-loving family!

Rocky Point Cottage

This post is part of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 32 – Small

{Some of these pictures are actually from the negatives, I don’t have the prints so the quality is compromised.}

It was a small cottage. Not ‘tiny’ by today’s standards, but less than 1,000 square feet.  And primitive, if you consider a fireplace for heat, propane-run appliances and an outhouse primitive.  It was built in 1930 and the first of my family members to own it was my maternal grandfathers’ Aunt Lillian. I am not sure if she purchased the land and had the cottage built, or if she purchased the property with the cottage. Online deeds do not go back that far.  In 1930 Aunt Lillian was 41 years old, single, working as a nurse in the Acton School System and lived with her father and brother.  She had been discharged from the Army after serving as a Nurse in WW1.   You can read about her here

The cottage had a center fireplace, with a kitchen and dining room on one side and a living room on the other.  A screen porch wrapped around the pond side.  Upstairs were two bedrooms.  You had to walk through one to get to the other, and I can’t recall how many beds were up there.  The outhouse (yup, that was the only option) was out the back door and across the driveway.  Not so bad during the day but there was nothing fun about having to go out there in the dark!

RockyPoint Cottage


When Lillian passed away in 1959 the cottage was left to my grandfather with a ‘life estate’ to Sherman Frost, her brother.  This picture is my grandfather, holding a sign that says Rocky Point Cottage.  His dog, Dutchess is at his feet.  I think Sherman raised Cocker Spaniels and that is where my grandparents got Dutchess.


IMG_6578 (1)The cottage is built on, or around, a rocky ledge.  There are large rocks like this all over the property. 



This is my Uncle and my Grandfather enjoying the rowboat on the pond.



Below are pictures ‘through the years’.  This is how I remember the cottage from the 1970’s.  Those front steps were almost always slippery with moss. 

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IMG_5860 copy (2)

This is my Uncle and Aunt, when they owned the cottage in the late 1980’s.Joe & Sallie (1)

And this is modern day.  The cottage has been sold, but is obviously still well-loved and well cared for.


Rockypoint Cottage now (1)It is a beautiful property, full of great memories and I’m so glad it’s still in good hands!


Westbury Leigh

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week #30 – The Old Country

The prompt this week was ‘The Old Country”.  And I couldn’t help but think – which one?  I chose to go way, way back to the early 1600’s.

In 1635, my 12th Great Grandparents John and Elizabeth Cogswell emmigrated to the US with 8 of their 9 children.  You can ready more about their journey here.

WestburyLeigh 1900's

The Old Country, for them, was Westbury Leigh, a suburb in the Parish of Westbury, on the western edge of the County of Wiltshire, England.  Westbury Leigh has it’s own church and chapel (although only since the 1690’s), and is sometimes considered a separate village from Westbury.

John was 23 years old when his father died and he inherited his fathers’ business.  The Mylls called Ripond, situated within the Parish of Frome Selwood were a manufacturer of woolen fabrics such as broadcloth and Kerseymeres (a fine woolen cloth with a fancy twill weave. In printing fine work during the mid-19th century, the blankets that lay between the tympans were either fine kerseymere or superfine woolen cloth).  The mills had a very favorable reputation. He was also known as a London merchant and may have had a commission house in the city.  He is also considered one of the ‘Notable People’ from Westbury.

COGSWELL_Edward HomeJohn and Elizabeth lived in the family homestead at 145 Westbury Leigh, which still stands today and is listed on the Historic England website.  One source sites the house was built in 1591.

You can read about the house and see pictures of it at of the ‘Notable People’ from Westbury.

Perhaps, like so many others, they chose to leave England for religious reasons.  I do believe that they did not make the decision lightly.  As a successful businessman with nine children, it was a momentous decision to sell a thriving business and the family homestead.

These days you can purchase a 4 bedroom detached house in Westbury for 375,000 pounds, or about $480,000.  Oh, and another suburb of Westbury is Frogmore, former home of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex.









Whitman Depot Clock Tower

When I was very young, my father was a Station Agent, or dispatcher, for New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.  As the dispatcher, he was often the only person in the station and was the person who gave orders to the train engineers.  He sat at a desk that had a large console of machines. I have no idea what they all were, but I do remember one that had lights and railroad tracks on it – it think it had something to do with the junction where the trains would switch tracks – and I know that he used Morse code, which he had learned while in the service. This was long before cell phones or internet, and the trains didn’t stop at the station to get the orders.  To deliver the orders, he would clip the papers onto the end of a long pole and hold them up for the engineer to grab as the train drove past the station. The pole had a loop on the end so that the papers weren’t flapping in the wind, but stayed still enough so the engineer could grab them as the train drove by.

He worked at many stations throughout the years, but I remember one station where there was a curve in the track and he would make us go stand in the field, on the other side of the station when the train came.  I guess he was afraid if the train jumped the tracks and came crashing into the station while we kids were in there, he’d have some explaining to do when he got home! Some of the train stations were beautiful old, large buildings built in the day when train travel was at its’ peak. The had large waiting rooms, ticket windows, an outdoor area with a roof, and an office that overlooked the tracks.


One of the stations that he worked at was in Whitman MA.  In those days, most towns had at least one ‘town clock’ that could be seen while people were out and about in the downtown area.  Whitman originally had at least three:  the Congregational Church Steeple; a large clock at the Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Association; and, the Whitman Depot.  In 1968 the church steeple had been taken down to be rebuilt (it would not be replaced until 1994), the Savings and and Loan was undergoing extensive renovations so that clock was not currently working, and the clock in the Depot hadn’t run for years.

My father, learning that there was currently no town clock, decided that the Depot clock should be fixed.  He enlisted a few of his colleagues to help and they got the four faces of the Depot clock properly aligned in the tower and repaired the lights so that the clock could even be seen at night.

While it may not have been a big deal to anyone outside of Whitman, it was in the newspaper.  The Brockton Daily Enterprise (now known as the The Enterprise) interviewed my father for the article below.


While researching this article, I also found out that there is a train turntable in Whitman.  It remains beside the current MBTA train station.  You can read about the efforts of a local Boy Scout to clean up the Whitman Turntable here, and general railroad turntable information here.


Elsa and Her Cousins

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 7 Favorite Discovery


My favorite discovery is this picture of James, Elsa and Vivi, taken while they were aboard the S.S. Carmania sailing from Goteborg to Liverpool and then onto New York in the summer of 1910.  I was in possession of this photo for many years before I heard the full story and realized what the picture was and the significance of the photo.

Elsa was the eldest daughter of Anders and Hilda Winberg, and the first person in that family to emigrate to the United States.  She was on this journey to bring her cousins to their new home in New York.  They arrived in New York on June 22, 1910 and, because they were three minors traveling without an adult, were held by the authorities as “LPC” (Likely Public Charge).

The manifest lists them as Elsa Tornberg, 17f; Rosa Vive Vinberg, 9f; James Vinberg, 7m.  I love the story of Elsa.  Her courage, strength and maturity are admirable.

I have written about her before here, and have also imagined a diary entry of hers.

Here is how we are connected:
– Elsa is a sister of #5 Astrea Oskara Tornberg
-#5 Astrea Oskara Tornberg (1897 – 1975) married April 18, 1919 #4 Gustaf Harry Thorell (1889 – 1955)
– Their son #2 Arnold Lennart Thorell (1936-2016) married August 1956 #3 Rachel
– Me

An Adventure in a New Country

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 5 So Far Away

Ragnar Wilhem Burman (Dec. 21, 1903 – Feb 2, 1982) was born and died in Goteborg Sweden.  He is my 1st cousin 2x removed and I had not heard of him until I got a message this morning from a cousin in Sweden asking for research help. He said that Ragnar went to the US to work for a few years in the 1920’s.  He returned to Sweden in the late 1920’s, married and had a daughter.  According to the daughter, he had also married while in the US and had a daughter.  The only clues he had were that he worked at a golf club near the Hudson River in NY and may have lived in Yonkers.

Using his given name, date of birth and the other info I had, I was able to find some information about him.

Kungsholm ShipOn September 19, 1923 William (as he called himself in the US) signed on to work on the SS Kungholm, which was a passenger ship sailing between Gothenburg and New York.  William served as a waiter on two voyages in 1923.  The first arrived in New York on October 3, 1923 and the second arrived on November 8, 1923.  On his third voyage aboard the SS Kungholm*, he was a bed steward.  When the ship arrived in New York on February 1, 1924, William deserted the ship prior to it’s departure from New York.

Judging by the formal documents that had to be completed by the ship’s captain, it was common to have some disruption of crew members on each sailing.  In addition to Deserting Seamen, they had to report Discharged Seamen, Seamen Signed On At This Port, and Seamen Left in Hospital (or Died).  On this sailing, there were four deserters, eight who were discharged, and ten who signed on in New York.

William spent the next five+ years in New York.  There is a William Burman living in Yokers in 1928.  His occupation is listed as a waiter, which matches what we know of him.  I am still searching for information regarding a wife and child in the US.

Gripsholm Ship

On July 13, 1929 William, along with three others,  signed onto the ship MS Gripsholm** in New York and sailed back to Gothenburg.

This was such an unexpected find and fun to spend a little time today researching a ‘new’ family member.




Here is how we are connected:
-Ragnar’s mother Amelie Naemi is a sister of #11 Hilda Maria Winberg
– #11 Hilda Maria Winberg (1872 – 1926) married Nov. 7, 1891 #10 Anders Johan Tornberg (1869 – 1943)
– Their daughter #5 Astrea Oskara Tornberg (1897 – 1975) married April 18, 1919 #4 Gustaf Harry Thorell
– Their son #2 Arnold Lennart Thorell (1936-2016) married August 1956 #3 Rachel
– Me


*SS Kingsholm was operated by the Swedish American line from 1923 – 1926.  The ship began sailing between Rotterdam and New York for the Holland America Line in 1902.  In April 1912 she alerted RMS Titanic to ice early into its ill-fated maiden voyage.  More information about the ship can be found here.

**MS Gripsholm information can be found here

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Multi-Generational Home

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 4 Close to Home

My grandparents, Gustav and Astrea (Thornberg) Thorell married in 1919 when he was 29 years old and she was 21.  They lived in an apartment at 84 Leyden St. in Brockton MA with their daughter Pearl (The census lists her as Frances, which is her middle name).  Both sets of my great-grandparents also lived in Brockton.  In fact they both lived within one mile of Gustav and Astrea.  They were a close knit family and enjoyed their time together.

By 1930 Gustav and Astrea had added two more children to their family.  Pearl, who was 10 years old, was joined by a sister named Gertrude who was 6 years old and a brother named Oscar, who was almost 3.  There are no other families listed at their address, but it was a rented property so it could have been a single family home, or the other apartment(s) was unoccupied.

Thorell, Frank Albertina

Frank & Albertina Thorell

In addition to Gustav, Astrea and the 3 children, Gustav’s stepmother Albertina and Astrea’s father Anders lived with them.  In 1923 Frank (aka Frans) Thorell, husband of Albertina and father of Gustav, passed away.  In 1926 Hilda (Winberg) Thornberg, wife of Anders and mother of Astrea, passsed away.

On the ship - Thorell

Anders & Hilda Thornberg

Gustav (who is listed on the Census as Head of Household) then 40 years old, was employed as a worker in the shoe industry.  Anders, 60 years old, was a cobbler in a cobbler shop.  And Albertina, 61 years old, was a sewer in the sporting goods industry.





Thorell 1943

Astrea & Gustav Thorell (sitting)  Pearl, Gertrude, Oscar, Ruth, Arnie

By 1940 there were two more children in the Thorell Family and both Anders and Albertina had moved out of Gustav and Astrea’s house.  They both lived close by until they died; Anders in 1943 and Albertina in 1944.

My grandparents and great-grandparents were all raised in Sweden and, according to the census, could all read and write english.  However, to what degree they could read and write, I am not sure.  Their lack of formal education coupled with their immigrant status likely meant that they would work at menial, low-paying jobs for their entire lives.  Having multiple family members with income, and a stay-at-home mom who could shop, cook and clean for everyone may have been advantageous to them all.  Additionally, Gustav and Astrea were raised in a time when it was expected that you would take care of elder family members.


Here is how we are connected:
– Their son #2 Arnold Lennart Thorell (1936-2016) married August 1956 #3 Rachel
– Me




The Turner Family of Milton VT

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 2 – Favorite Photo

Gosh this one was hard!  I have so many favorite photos!!

Although I could go back and find one of my favorites, I will say that my favorite photo is usually the last one I have received. Getting photos unexpectedly from a family member is so awesome.  And it’s so much fun for me to connect faces to names, and learn more about the members of my family.

My cousin recently gifted me with some photos and I looked back at them and this was the last one I scanned.

Turner, Ira F.This is my 2nd Great Grandfather, Ira Franklin Turner.  He was born May 16, 1867 to Charles A and Mary Mae (Gokey) Turner in Milton VT.*

Milton VT was a small town (about 61 square miles in area) located in the Northwestern part of the state on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.  By the end of the 1700’s, there were ~300 settlers.  During the early years, most of the income in the town came from lumber and potash.  After 1840 butter, cheese and milk became popular exports.

The Lamoille River flows from northeast to southwest across the town, entering Lake Champlain at the town’s southwest corner.  There were originally seven waterfalls on the Lamoille River within the Town of Milton. The falls supplied the needed power for the saw, grist and other mills that grew up along the river.  A 325 foot long covered bridge built in 1835 was the third bridge built to cross the Lamoille River in West Milton. It must have been quite a sight to see when circuses came to town and the elephants had to swim the Lamoille River because the authorities were afraid they would wreck the old covered bridge.  This covered bridge was eventually destroyed in 1902.  However, it was high water and ice that caused the destruction, not elephants.

By 1880 Milton had three meeting houses, nine stores, a paper mill, two gristmills, three fulling mills, three tanneries, a weekly newspaper, and numerous shops and hotels.  By the turn of the century, with a population of about 1,800, many more changes would occur.

On October 22, 1887, Ira married Ellen Loveley, also a native of Milton.  Ellen was 18 years old, Ira was 20.  The following year, on November 29, 1888 they welcomed their only child, George Charles Turner.

Ira had lived in Milton all of his life, and by the age of 33 was a blacksmith.  According 1900 to the census he was a blacksmith for horses, so perhaps a farrier.

By 1920, Ira was employed as a repair man at the International Paper Company’s pulp mill at the Great Falls on the Lamoille River.  When the mill was under construction, about 250 men were employed.  Once the mill was operating, it employed about 100 men during its winter rush season.

During the period of November 2-4, 1927 Milton received between 4-9″ of rain.  During the month of October they had experienced 150% more rain than normal.  The water ran into the already high rivers, causing the Lemoille River to flood.  Homes and businesses were lost, the water washed out bridges and changed the landscape of the town forever.

Ira and Ellen stayed in Milton and by 1930 they had purchased their own home and Ira was a repairman at a saw mill.   Ellen’s parents had both passed away by then and her brother Fred, who was about 50 years old, also lived with them.

In 1940, Ira was 73 and Ellen was 71.  Ira had retired and Fred also lived with them.  The continued to live in Milton until they passed away, Ellen on February 14, 1948 and Ira, just seven months later, on October 18, 1948.

Here is how we are connected:
– Their son #14 George Charles Turner (1888-1959) married October 6, 1912 #15 Ruth Elmira Berry (1891-1963)
– Their daughter #7 Hope Ellen (1913-1985) married May 30, 1935 #6 Alfred Leslie Harris (1910-1963)
– Their daughter #3 Rachel married August 1956 #2 Arnold Lennart Thorell (1936-2016)
– Me

*I do have not confidence in my records of his siblings, so I won’t include them here.

Featured Image courtesy of



Cogswells Grant

This post is part of #52Ancestorsin52Weeks – Week 1 Fresh Start.

My 12th Great Grandfather, John Cogswell, sold his share of woolen and kerseymeres (a fine twilled woolen cloth) mills in Wiltshire England, and brought his wife and eight of their children to the United States in 1635.  In addition to the family, he bought with him several farm and household servants, an amount of valuable furniture, farming implements, housekeeping utensils and a considerable amount of money.

They left Bristol England on May 23, 1635 aboard a passenger ship named the Angel Gabriel.  They traveled in a fleet of five ships, the Angel Gabriel, the James, the Elizabeth (Bess), the Mary and the Diligence.  The voyage took a little more than 12 weeks.  According to  “As they approached New England, an unusually powerful early season hurricane struck, known as the “Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635”, and the James and the Angel Gabriel were forced to ride it out just off the coast of modern-day Hampton, New Hampshire”.  On Kristin Hall’s website  you can read excerpts from the Journal of The Reverend Richard Mather, who was traveling on the James.

Ship_Angel Gabriel 1635

The ship broke into pieces and all of the passengers, their possessions and money were plunged into the sea.  The Cogswells were able to salvage some items as the waves washed things ashore but lost more than $5,000 pounds worth of property, including cattle, furniture, and money. I’m sure this was not how they expected their journey on American soil to begin, but they did not suffer any loss of life, and picked themselves up and began their life in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

The original grant of land to John Cogswell in 1636 was for 300 acres, along the Chebacco (or “Chebokoe”) River.

cogswellshouseinEssex 1732-1882

Over the years, that property was partly divided and sold or given to various heirs.  However, there remains a parcel of 165 acres that has been intact since it was passed to Jonathan Cogswell Jr. in 1717.  This land is known as Cogswells GrantCogswell’s Grant was the summer home of renowned folk art collectors Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little.  They restored a farmhouse that was originally built on the property in 1728 and is now a museum of American folk art.

Historic New England – Coggswells Grant

Internet Archive – The Cogswells in America by E.O. Jameson