Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calling all kitties

I managed to get a really blurry pic of mini at a food bowl tonight, or rather the reflective back-side of his eyeballs. Frightened off our friend Mr. Rackewn in the process.
Yesterday a little tiny kitten showed up in the feral-cat commune. When I tell people someone dumped a kitten on me, they always ask "How do you know it was dumped?" - truth is, I don't. Past experience tells me when a little tiny kitten shows up it is usually because a desperate stray mom has found a source of food and led her little furry entourage to it. Tiny kitties don't usually show up all by themselves.

The other cats seem to be tolerating his presence.

For now, I'm calling the little fellar "mini sirloin burger."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Update on Family Stuff

Well, it has been a wonderful, strange, fascinating few days as far as research goes. Last week it started out with a mystery woman and child - and this week, I realize my shortsightedness in not considering the actual people, lives, families, and relationships behind the mystery duo. At first, after learning there had been another marriage resulting in a child, I was simply hoping to find Dad and Aunt Dee's half-sister. I am just not qualified to write it all down here, and there are some things I must leave out with respect to other people's right to privacy (yet another bit of judgment I am lacking in, and so if I cross a line, I apologize in advance and will remove anything I should not be elaborating on, on the internet.) But it is a neat story worth telling someone about.

The story of the other family...as I have been told, and to the best of my ability to relate:

Herbert Alan Julius Belin married Sylvia Irene Marsans back in October of 1923. I wonder if at the time he knew what a fascinating family he had married into - surely he did. I found articles in the NY Times archive where R.L. Marsans attended fancy fraternity dinners with Herbert in attendance, and another article where Herbert and Sylvia had attended a fancy dance together a year before they married. So it would seem there was a fairly long courtship period.

Sylvia's father Romulo Marsans came from Cuba. He had set up a boarding school in NY and ran Camp Cobbossee for many years. Romulo and his brothers also were in the liquor business, but apparently Romulo was the only brother who did not choose to focus only on booze. Until prohibition, Romulo was very successful in the alcohol business and had interests all over the world for selling and purchasing. When the Prohibition Act was enforced in 1920, Romulo was the only brother to avoid becoming destitute. His large family stayed together and even moved out to Cobbossee. Camp Cobbossee is STILL going today. The current owners took over about three years ago. Sadly, they mentioned they did not know much about the camp's origins. I wrote back and told them everything I could.

In truth, I think The life of Romulo Marsans would make a great movie, the dichotomy in touching the lives of so many boys and up until prohibition, his thriving liquor business is intriguing.

If I understand correctly, one of Romulos nephews went on to become one of the first Cubans in American Major League baseball, Armando Marsans, who was certainly the most famous Cuban baseball player of all time.

Sylvia's brother, Romulo "Tiny" Marsans Jr., was quite the character. He was a huge man, who went to Rutgers, played football, and also helped run the camp later on. Sporting his bowler hat most of the time, he was loved by his family, and delighted his nieces with his antics and magic tricks.

By 1930 Herb and Sylvia's marriage had come to an end. Herb had moved into the Montclair Town (NJ) boarding house of Hilda Peacock, and Sylvia along with her young daughter, returned to her parent's home.

I suspect my soon-to-be grandmother, Dorothy Brewster, had caught the eye (and the heart it would seem) of Herbert at the telephone company where they both worked. What transpired just before the 1930 Census will remain a mystery I think.

Herb might not have been the only one with a wandering-eye. Sylvia it would seem had a case of wanderlust too. Sylvia's daughter, Gloria Ann (the beautiful mystery baby), was raised more often by her Grandmother than she was by Sylvia. Sylvia liked to travel and was often away on trips. Sylvia never remarried and when she passed away was still going by the name Mrs. Sylvia Belin.

Gloria grew up and just after WWII eloped with a man named Charlie from Texas. Their marriage lasted 50-something years, until Gloria's last days in 1998. They had three daughters. The three daughters spent much time out at Camp Cobbossee, and with their family.

Gloria did often quietly wonder what became of her father, as a grown woman she worked for a newspaper and often found herself looking for articles about him. It was on one of these searches that she came across his obituary in 1964. She brought the obituary home and read it to her three daughters. It was a poignant moment even for her young daughters. Despite the loss she felt of her father, sadly, the obituary did not mention Herbert's first-born daughter. It did mention a family they knew nothing about and whose whereabouts would remain in Gloria's daughter's hearts and surface in their thoughts from time-to-time.

It's probably pretty obvious at this point that I have had the opportunity to speak with one of Gloria's daughters, who is a marvelous person with many fond memories of her family. At first I will admit I was nervous about talking to her, if only because logic reminded me we knew absolutely nothing about each other up until a couple days ago. I know all too well that shared DNA doesn't necessarily mean there will be any sort of "connection"... but nerves quickly melted away and as we spoke, and I felt as if I had in fact known her all my life, or at least would have liked to.

On a side note: I find it interesting Dad (and of course Mom) and his unknown half-sister (Gloria) both named one of their daughters "Cheryl" - they spelled it different though.

I should also mention that I briefly chatted with a very excited man, Mario, who's researching his family... Turns out his Great-great Uncle was Romulo Marsans Sr. Mario was very excited to see all the pics Cheryl sent. He mentioned he had never before seen photos from that time in his family's life, I sat on the phone with him as he clicked through the photos shouting "THIS IS AWESOME!" numerous times.

The internet can be such an unbelievable asset for research, and each day, more and more data finds itself online as a result of some person's tedious efforts. I think now more than ever, it is important to contribute to the growing pool of data. Remarkable things can happen as a result... I know I feel a little different right now, a little more positive, somehow my life feels a little more meaningful today... I know that sounds corny, but it is true.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I miss Old Nik

Originally uploaded by Michael-Ann

He was such a good old dawg. He used to amble around following me everywhere I went in the yard, plodding along. This is an old pic I dug up this morning, one of the first times I tried HDR. I've been told technically its a crappy photo, but I like the way it turned out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

So many photos!

I've pretty much scanned all the negatives in the package Cheryl sent. For some strange reason, a handful of darker negatives will not scan no matter what we do and I think we will need to find a local camera shop who can try to develop them. But for now, there are plenty of images for you to take in. Its fascinating to see these informal pics as there is so much more expression in them over studio portraits. I could go on and on about all this, but will just stop here and post the links to the sets on flickr.

I think there is little question that Dad and Dee Dee have a half-sister who was born about 16 years before Dad was. Now the mystery is, who was Herbert's first wife? What happened to her and her daughter? and why the heck did Herbert change his name?

1926 A day at Asbury Park in New Jersey
1926 Cobossee Inn
1927 Canada Trip
1927 Camp Penonali
1927 Hanover
1924-27 Mixed Images

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ubelda Mary Deptuch

Photo is from 1985, We decided we needed a vacation, but not being able to take one... we had ourselves a mini-vacation in the front yard. From left to right: Brenda, Me, & Belle

Someone has tried to look at this post a couple of times, I had unpublished it after not being able to ever adequately express my feelings and do Bellda-loo any bit of justice. I'm afraid I still can't, but will put this back for who ever keeps trying to see this post.

She was my good friend of 25 years, She hated her name, no one to my knowledge was allowed to call her "Ubelda" accept me. I honestly loved her name, especially that she was named after one of her grandmothers. Maybe that's why she let me get away not only with calling her by her real name, but even having her paged over the intercom by it, when we happened to be out in public together. We shared many a good time, as well as tough times together.

Bellda-Lou, you were the hardest-working, most honest person I have ever known, who never once EVER felt sorry for herself...I love you! I will miss you.

Timeline for Brewster: Monroe, Manhattan, Brooklyn

1609 The first Dutch expedition to New York
1626 The Dutch buy Manhattan from the Indians for about $23
1653 Wall Street is erected
1690 Yellow fever outbreak in New York, New York
1707 Queen Anne of England grants "Cheesecock Patent"
Later becomes Southfield, then Monroe - Birthplace of Velveeta cheese
1712 Slave Revolt in New York City
1747 Measles outbreak in CT NY PA SC

1774 William Brewster born in Cheesecocks, Orange County, NY
1774 Sarah Mapes born in Cheesecocks, Orange County, NY

1775 Beginning of the American Revolutionary War (William is one year)
1776 Washington's Battle of Long Island (William is two)
1783 End of the Revolutionary War (William is nine)
1783 Washington resigns as Commander-and-chief at Frances Tavern
1785 Ellis Island is acquired by Samuel Ellis
1789 George Washington is sworn in as first president at Federal Hall
1789 Beginning of the French Revolution
1796 After 2nd term as US president, Washington issues "Farewell Address"
1799 End of the French Revolution
1803 Napoleonic Wars Begin
1803 Yellow fever outbreak in New York

1808 Frances Rebecca Potter Brewster born 26 Mar 1808, Southfield NY

1810-1850 Peak years of Underground Railroad.
There is a safehouse in Monroe, NY

1811-1812 William marries Sarah Mapes
Sarah has twins from a previous marriage Caroline and Cornelia Mapes

1812 Beginning of the War of 1812 (Prelude to Napoleonic Wars)
1815 Treaty of Ghent marks end of the War of 1812

1816 According to age on 1850 Census this would be year John Van Cortlandt Brewster is born
(Son of William and Sarah) Southfield (Monroe), NY

1815 End Napoleonic Wars

1824 Sarah Mapes dies in Monroe, Orange County, NY
From the Independent Republican
Goshen, Orange County, NY: Mon, 2 Feb 1824-

"A woman, the wife of Wm Brewster of Monroe was found dead in the town in an open field about 40 rods from the road. She was missed on the 2nd and found on the 9th, between which periods she must have been lying in the fields. A jug of whiskey was found under her body. The jury, summoned by Robert Fowler Esq. brought in a verdict that she died in a state of intoxication.

1832 Cholera Epidemic of New York City claims 3,515 people
1835 The Great Fire burns through Manhattan

1836 William Wellington Brewster born 15 July, 1836 to JVC Brewster and Rebecca in Monroe, Orange County, NY
1840 JVC and Rebecca living together, with 1 son & 1 daughter under 5yrs (WW & Mary E.) Census: Monroe, Orange County NY

1841 Erie Railroad makes it to Monroe, provides easy access to NYC.
Monroe's Dairy and Iron business see substantial increase in demand
1848 New York Herald was the first major newspaper on east coast to report the gold rush in California
1849 Cholera Outbreak in NY

1850 JVC Brewster (34y) Rebecca (41y) living with William W. (14y), Mary E. (12y), Orilla M (10y) Census NY Ward 5
1857 John Brewster, machinist, h 126 St. Marks pl.
1858 William Wellington and Anna McConnell are married
1858 Rebecca Frances Potter Brewster Dies 28, Nov. 1858 New York City
1859 William Clinton Brewster (son of WW and Anna) born in Manhattan NY
1860 William Wellington (24y), Anna(25y), and baby William (1mo) (Census: NY Ward 17, District 8,)

1861 Begin Civil War
1862 President Abraham Lincoln issues first Emancipation Proclamation 22 Sep 1862
1862 President Lincoln's Homestead Act signed into law on May 20
1863 President Lincoln issues second order of Emancipation Proclamation 1 Jan 1863
1865 End Civil War
1867 First Tenement House Act (WW is 31 years, his son WC is 7)
1871 Boss Tweed arrested and held on $8 mil bail, dies in jail 1878
1876 Brooklyn Theater Fire kills 273–300 people in Brooklyn, NY

1879 WC and Elizabeth F. McCluskey married in Manhattan
1880 WW and Anna Residence in Manhattan, Ladies Underwear manufacturer
WW (44y), Anna (44y), Fanny (19y), Mary (13y), Elizabeth (23y) Census
1880 George Wellington Born to WC and Elizabeth in Manhattan
1880 WC and Elizabeth residence Manhattan
WC is an Embroiderer, George is 1 month old) Census Manhattan

1883 Brooklyn Bridge is completed
1886 The Statue of Liberty is dedicated
1888 The Great Blizzard of 1888 (March 11—March 14)
Snowfalls of 40-50 inches fell in parts of NJ, NY, MA and CT.
1889 The Wall Street Journal prints its first paper


1891 1-year old John Brewster dies in Manhattan Brewster Apr 10 1891 cert#12298 Manhattan. Could this have been a son of George Wellington and Elizabeth?
I have received a copy of this certificate and the child was apparently left with only his name at the steps of the Infants Hospital in Rhode Island. Nothing was known of his parents or where he came from. He was 1 year, 12 days. Cause of death: Laryngists Catarrh

1895 Disastrous fire breaks out in Monroe Village destroying many old buildings

The town forms its own fire department the same year as a result
1899 Windsor Hotel Fire East 47th St/5th Ave Manhattan, NY, 33-45 deaths

1899 Reported in the Brooklyn Eagle on Sept 5, 1899

Aug 23 a George Brewster from Brooklyn was in Pennsylvania and had an accident while attempting to board a train. He slipped and one foot was crushed under the wheels. Was taken to a hospital and had to have a leg amputated just below the knee. (George would have been 19y at the time) Is this our George?
1900 George Wellington Brewster(20y) is living with his grandfather WW Brewster (63y) back in Monroe, NY (Census)

1904 First subway opens, estimated 150,000 passengers on that day

1905 George marries Mary A. Lowe Nov. 28, 1905 in Manhattan NY
1906 William Wellington dies April 7 1906 in Monroe, Orange County buried in Calvary Cemetery, Brooklyn
1908 Dorothy Brewster is born to George and Mary on 03 Mar 1908, Brooklyn, NY

1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on 25 March, New York City: 146 workers died.
Paved way to improved factory working standards and fueled growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union
1914 Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria marks beginning of WWI
1917 Zimmerman telegram, Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany.
1918-1920 Spanish Flu Pandemic beginning, claims over 50 million people world-wide.
1918 Signing of Armistice Treaty on 11 Nov, marks end of WWI on the Western front
1919 Versailles treaty was signed in 1919 (but final peace treaty signed 1923)

1923 Herbert and Sylvia Irene Marsans are married 10 Oct 1923 in Brooklyn, NY

1937 Hindenberg Disaster at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in NJ
1939 Beginning of WWII

1940 Herbert Alan Belin is born to Dorothy and Herbert 25 Jan 1940

1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 07 Dec 1941, US enters WWII

1942 Lt Col Herbert Alan Belin joins the Army
1945 The Empire State Building is set on fire by a B-25 Mitchell that crashed into it 28 July, 14 deaths.

Snack Attack

Snack Attack
Originally uploaded by gordyt

Gordy took this pic last night of the two green marauders eating chips in the bathroom. For reasons only parrots could have, these two LOVE my bathroom. They fly straight to it when they are out and about eating the house. I tried to distract their destructive inclinations with food.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camel Hair Coat

Berkley Heights NJ... the scent of Jergens hand-lotion wafts through the chilled night-air. I don't know where or how or when or what anyone had to do to get this for me, but I am intensly aware that sacrifices were made on my behalf.

I'm about six years old, living with my mom at her mother's house.

I have a beautiful camel hair coat.

It's like a major peanut-butter and mayonnaise sandwich, only you wear it instead of eating it.

Thank you

Elisabeth, daughter of Gustaf Emil's sister Anna

Today Katarina met with Elisabeth, I was a little disappointed because there was no information going back further into the family tree. However, Katarina did share some wonderful information about Elisabeth:

Elisabeth is a real "rebel" and she has been a high politician in the health care. She is still going strong and her favourite interests is sports (always go on handballmatches).

It seems Elisabeth had heard some wild things about her mother's brother, Gustaf when she was growing up. Katarina relayed the following:
Today I have been at Elisabeth's place and we have talked about the Belin family. She has not much information, but her sister Inga that passed away one year ago had made a list with the information she had about their mother Anna Olivia. Besides Gustaf Emil's name it stood: Emigrated to USA, gymnast in the disiplin stillrings. (Have you ever heard if Gustaf was a gymnast?) Elisabeth also talked about a rumour that her mother had a brother in America who was on the circus.

Elisabeth also let Katarina take a pic of an old photograph of her mother and father. The woman, Anna, is Gustaf's sister.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Correspondence from Katarina

In case you missed it, What got me started back digging for family info was a recent contact from a researcher in Sweden recruited by the 87-year old niece of Gustaf Emil Belin. "Elisabeth" was interested in what happened to Gustaf after he came to the states.

I have sent copies of everything I had to Katarina, including the certificates I got in the mail yesterday, to give to Elisabeth. This morning I heard back from Katarina:

Thank you Michael-Ann!

I have just talked with Elisabeth on the phone. I will meet her on Monday 14 th July and she will give me the information she have about the Belins.

I will show her the photo of Emil that you sent me.

Until then
have a nice weekend


The photo Katarina mentions is the one of the two Swedish weight-lifters (Thank you again Cheryl and Dad!)

I am thrilled to know there is an 87-year old Belin still living! She has to be the oldest one, making her sort of the Matriarch of all the Belins, wouldn't you think? Anyway, would love to be able to meet her, what stories she might have!

Herbert Julius Alan Belin, b. June 9 1903

Certificate and Record of Birth for:
Herbert Julius Belin
Name: Belin
Sex: Male
Color: White
Date of Birth: June 9, 1903
Place of Birth: 1410 St. Marks Ave
Father's Name: Gustav E Belin
Birthplace: Sweden
Age: 36
Occupation: Cabinet Maker
Mother's Name: Maria C. Belin
Residence: Same
Birthplace: Sweden
Age: 31
Number of previous children: 0
How many living (in all): 1

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gunhilde Maria Belin, 1907 Brooklyn, Kings County NY

Gunhilde Maria Belin
(There is no reference number on the certificate)
Brooklyn, Kings County
State of New York.
Certificate and Record of Death of
Gunhilde Maria Belin
Sex: Female
Color: White
Age: 2 Yrs. 9 Mos. 22 Days
Occupation: None
Birthplace: Brooklyn, N.Y.
How long in U.S.: life
How long resident in City of New York: life
Place of Death: 635 Baltic St
Place of Residence: Private
Father's Name: Emil G. Belin
Father's Birthplace: Sweden
Mother's Name: Maria Swan
Mother's Birthplace: Sweden

I hereby certify that I attended deceased from Oct. 26 1907, to Nov
2nd 1907, that I last saw her alive on the 2nd day of Nove. 1907, that
she died on the 3rd day of Nov. 1907, about 5 o'clock P.M., and that,
to the best of my knowledge and belief, the cause of her death was as
Tubercular Meinngitis

Witness my hand this 3rd day of Nov. 1907
(Signature) Elias H. Bartley M.D.
(Residence) 65 S. Portland Ave

Place of Burial: Evergreen
Date of Burial: Nov. 6th
Undertaker: A. T. Johnson
Place of Business: 376 Atlantic Ave

Maria Charlotta Svahn Belin 1927

Borough of Brooklyn, Kings County
Long Island College Hospital
Register No. 2730

Full Name: Maria Belin
Sex: Female
Color or Race: White
Age: 54 Yrs.
Occupation: Housewife
Birthplace: Sweden
How long in U.S.: 30 Yrs.
How long a resident of the city of New York: 30 Yrs.
Name of father: Carl Gustafson
Birthplace of Father: Sweden
Maiden name of Mother: Emma Lynd
Birthplace of Mother: Sweden
Former residence: 109 St. Marks Ave
Date of Death: February 6, 1927

I hereby certify that the foregoing particulars are correct as near as
the same can be ascertained, and I further certify that the deceased
was admitted to this institution on January 31 1927, that I last saw
her alive on the 6th day of February 1927, that she died on the 6 day
of February 1927 about 4:00 o'clock A.M. and that I am unable to state
definitively the cause of death; the diagnosis during her last illness
Fibroid Uterus
Duration: 1 year
Contributory: Post Op. Peritonitis
Duration: 4 days

Witness my hand this 6th day of Febrauary 27
Signature (???)

Place of burial: Evergreen Cem
Undertaker: JJ Crom
Date of Burial: February 8, 1927
Address: 115 Atlantic Ave

Gustaf Emil Belin's Death Certificate

State of New York
Certificate and Record of Death
Emil Belin
Sex: Male
Color: White
Place of Death: 1590 St. Marks Ave.
Single, Married, Widowed or Divorced:
Occupation: Carpenter
Birthplace: Sweden
How long in U.S.: Thirteen Years
How long a resident of New York City:
Thirteen Years
Character of premises, whether tenement, private, etc. If hotel, hospital, or other institution, state full title:
Private House 24
Father's Name: Carl Eric Belin
Father's Birthplace: Sweden
Mother's Maiden Name: Unknown
Mother's Birthplace: Sweden

I hereby certify that I attended the deceased from Sept. 1st 1906, to Nov. 29th 1906, that I last saw him alive on the Nov 28 day of 1906, that he died on the 29th day of November 1906, about 3 o'clock A.M., and to the best of my knowledge and belief, the cause of his death was as follows:
Uremic Cohma from acute Nephritis
Also, Tuberculosis Pulmonalis

Witness my hand this 29th day of November 1906
(Signature) Elias H. Bartley M.D.
(Residence) 65 S. Portland Ave.

Place of Burial: Evergreen
Date of Burial: Dec 2nd (or 22nd?)
Undertaker: A. F. Johnson
Place of Business: 376 Atlantic Ave.

So I have learned that Gustaf and Maria came to rest at the same cemetery (not next to each other it seems, but close enough, well... I suppose it doesn't really matter to them now.

I have also received the certificates for Maria (Svahn) Belin and Gunhilde Maria Belin. Both laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery.

So Grandma Belin was right about Grandpa Belin having a younger sister. Gunhilde died (about a year after her father, Gustaf) at the age of 2yrs, 9mo. and 22 days on Nov. 3rd 1907 about 5 P.M. The little one's cause of death listed as: Tubercular meinngitis (yes, spelled like that)


A last minute dash about the house before bed time while enjoying the end of my evening wine, ended in what can only be described as something someone flunking out of Tito Gaona's Flying Trapeze Academy would be capable of doing.

I rounded a corner and tripped over a box we had placed in a doorway earlier in the evening to prevent our old Grey-bird from going on one of his rather destructive walkabouts.

I kid you not, I launched. I felt the wind beneath my wings and in the brief moments of my solo-flight, the only thought running through my head was "don't land on the glass!" Somehow I managed to keep my right arm extended with my wine as far away as possible for the duration of my flight.

Now, had I been George Reeves, or Olga Korbut, I would have expertly tucked and rolled, not even spilling a drop as I regained my stance and went on about the business of wrapping up the evening. Regretfully, I'm neither one of those two people, and I don't know anything about doing parkour.

While my limited faculties were focused on the whereabouts of my wine glass, my face instinctively took over and prevented me from falling completely through the floor, past the crusty layers of the earth, ultimately crashing right into Hades lap. That's right, my face stopped me there on the wood floor and bravely prevented me from falling any further.

After the dust and glass shards settled, I laid there motionless on the floor quietly listening as my sluggish neurons relayed "check. i'm still here" messages from each quadrant of my body.


I couldn't recall what it was I thought I needed to do so badly once returning to my upright position.

Today as I sit here at my desk, I realize that other parts of me were also charged with the responsibility of stopping my hell-bound descent. My left shoulder, neck, and lower back totally ache. My right elbow is bruised.

The shade of blue and purple glints now below my right eye, cheek, and jaw will look great in a couple days when they have spread and faded to a nasty yellow-brown.

I think someone needs to investigate the rapid pace at which the density of objects has undoubtedly increased just within the span of my own lifetime. It's alarming really. Global warming has been occurring slowly over generations. But shit ("shit" being defined as anything you might find yourself slamming into with any amount of force) has DEFINITELY gotten much harder than it was when I was a kid.

The Morning After Jerkiness

It has been that slow creep from silent defense shields in place to tiny snippets of less awkward conversation sometimes accompanied by an o...