LOOKING FOR MY COUSINS

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In the summer of 1964, my family took a 3-week vacation and drove to Denver, Colorado to visit my Dad’s HART and SPAULDING Cousins. Christine (DeVaney) Spaulding and Kathleen (DeVaney) Hart and their families both lived there.  The two women were the daughters of Ivy A. (Vincent) DeVaney and her husband Michael, who helped raise my Dad after his mother passed away.

I was only 7 years old at the time, and my memories of the trip are now limited to just the moments that were captured by photographs. And oh, what photographs I have:  Mountains, Plains, Continental Divides, Buffalo Bill’s Grave and so many photos of my Mom, sister Margaret, 2 brothers, Chuck and Lee and me.

I inherited all of them after my parents passed away, and have over the years scanned them, so I have an electronic copy and can relive the memories. 

But…

Some of these photographs have puzzled me for decades.

Backyard of the home we stayed at in Colorado, overlooking the hills and meadows.


This is a photo of the backyard of where the Bliven family stayed while in Colorado.  I don’t remember which of the families we stayed with – was it with Mr. and Mrs. Gus Hart?  Was it with Mr. and Mrs. Jay Spaulding?

What I do remember is that there were horses living in the field behind, and I was photographed with 2 of my young cousins and several of the horses.

My mystery cousin and I and one of the wild horses.
More of the wild horses come to visit.
My cousins, me and the horses.

Who are these cousins? Are they still living in Colorado?

I know that at least one trip into the Rockies included Jay and Christina Spaulding, my parents and older brother and sister, because several photos exist to support this.

Jay Raymond Spaulding ( 1909-1970) married to Christina R (DeVaney)
Looking closely at the car, I can see both my Mom and cousin Christina in the back seat.
Again, looking in the car, I see my Mom, my older brother and my sister
A classic shot – “Snowball fight in the middle of summer” – participants are Mom and Margaret
I’ll bet this happened a lot on this road trip – “Stopping for photos” Participants: Jay Spaulding, Margaret Bliven

I vaguely remember the day of this trip, as my younger brother and I got to stay behind and play with the family dog. There was only room for 6 in our family station wagon and in reality, both my younger brother and I would most likely not remember the trip, since we were 7 ½ and 4 ½ years old at the time. So, it’s possible we stayed with the Spaulding’s and the Hart’s came to visit.

Perhaps one of my Hart/DeVaney/Spaulding cousins will also remember the visit in that Summer of 64, when the Bliven family came to Colorado to spend time with cousins. Perhaps they will be in contact with me.  Perhaps, I’ll never know the names of the cousins I spent time with.

I’ll end this here, with a few more photos from the trip to and from Colorado.

Traveling with my Aunt Ivy – I believe somewhere between Michigan and Colorado
Golden, Colorado – Gravesite of “Buffalo Bill” William F. Cody
Another Classic photo op “Children in front of scenic marker” Participants, Nancy and Leroy Bliven (I believe this is located in South Dakota)
Apparently there were occasional breakdowns on the road to and/or from Colorado. Then again, what’s a vacation without an occasional breakdown?
Another Historical Marker, another Classic picture
You HAVE to take a photo of children in front of markers. Participants: Nancy, Leroy and Chuck
The Majesty of the Rocky Mountains!
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
Cemetery at Little BigHorn Battlefield National Momunent
Battlefield photo
Walking the Battlefield. Led by Leroy, then Mom, Nancy , Chuck, Margaret trailed by Dad
“Children in front of beautiful lake” Participants: Nancy and Leroy
If my memory is correct, this is a mountain view of the area in Colorado where we were staying. Supposedly, you can see our trailer from here. I’ve never found it.
Another mountain top view
Somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Buffalo in the Black Hills
A Family Favorite Spot – Prairie Dog Town. You may not see them, but the field is filled with Prairie Dogs peeking out of their burrows.

This wasn’t one of my Childhood Family Stories

Back when I first started researching my family genealogy, I created a list of the “family stories” I could remember my Mom telling me when I was young. There were items on the list that included :

  • Great Aunt/Uncle that died as a child and buried in the Mediterranean Sea, along with a red ball.
  • Xth Great-grandmother (unknown which one) was supposedly captured by Indians and raised as an Indian princess.
  • Grandma Liz [Christina Elizabeth (Nicolle) Vincent] wanted to live to be 100
  • Cecilia (Still) Vincent’s first husband died on the Titanic – his name was unknown.
  • There was an Irishman who was a horse thief, came across on the Mayflower (or Mayflower II) as a stowaway, changing his name when he arrived in the new world (dropping the Fitz- from FitzGerald)

In my 25+ years of research, some of the stories have been easily proven true. For example, my Great Aunt Florence Vincent, second child of Charles and Christina Elizabeth (Nicolle) Vincent [my Dad’s aunt] died of a fever on board the R.M.S. Crocodile, while her father and his family was traveling from Gibraltar to East India. She was buried at sea in the Mediterranean and her death reported when the ship arrived at port.

Frederick and Cecilia (Still) Ware on their wedding day

Another story I was able prove, was learning the name of Cecilia (Still) Vincent’s first husband – Frederick Ware, who did indeed die while traveling back from England to New York, when the Titanic sank. His body was never found, but evidence of his passage is found on the ship’s manifest.

Grandma Liz probably did want to live to be 100, but actually died at 94, not 97 as my Mom used to say. She lied about her age on every record I have for her, except one – her birth record! She was born in 1855, not 1852-3, as stated on her marriage record, death certificate, headstone, Census forms, etc.

Christina Elizabeth Nicholls (Nicolle)’s Birth Record


Other stories will most likely never be proven, such as the Great-grandmother who was captured and raised by Indians. I do know that no Native American DNA appears in either my AncestryDNA sample or my 23andMe sample, but the story was she was captured, not born, so there wouldn’t be DNA present.

But the one story I have worked on the longest is the Irish stowaway – did he arrive on the Mayflower / Mayflower II?
Maybe, maybe not. One thing is very certain, I have Mayflower ancestors on my Mom’s family tree – in fact, at last count, I have FOUR of them: Elder William Brewster and his wife, Mary Wentworth Brewster and John Alden and his wife, Priscilla Mullins Alden. I am a descendant of the Brewsters via my maternal grandmother (and namesake) Nancy Ella (Gerald) Gardner and a descendant of John and Priscilla Alden via my maternal grandfather, LeRoy George Gardner.

Nancy Ella and LeRoy George Gardner on their wedding anniversary

I’ve known about the first Mayflower Ancestors since August, 2018, when I learned that my newly discovered 4th Great-Grandmother, Lydia (Burrill) Gardner was a descendant of John and Priscilla. The brick wall separating my family tree from the Burrill family took me many, many, many years to break through. I was overjoyed when I learned the connection via Lydia to the Mayflower.

My discovery of my connection with William and Mary Brewster is much more recent – March 28th of this year, when I learned due to a potential ancestor on the new
ThruLines feature on Ancestry.com – of my 5th Great-Grandfather Joseph Greenleaf and his wife Dorcas (Gray) Greenleaf. Subsequent research on that line gave me the connection between my Grandma Nancy and the Mayflower.

Since none of these four Mayflower ancestors are of Irish descent, I can’t say that this answers the question about my Irish horse thief. I’m still trying to find the elusive connection between my Gerald Great-grandparents: Rose Ellen (Gerald) Gerald and her husband Orrin Fitz Gerald. I have a new hypothesis that asks if Rose’s Great-Grandfather George (1748-1825) and Orrin’s Great Grandfather David (1740-1820) were brothers, who separately came over the the USA from England in the 1770s and fought in the Revolutionary War? Could one of them be my Irish horse thief, since they both emigrated from the Emerald Isle?

Only Time (and a lot more research) Will Tell.