Family History and Memories
When I was a junior in high school my social studies teacher gave my class an assignment. Mr. Conklin was a passionate genealogist. I remember him telling us that he was able to go back so far with his family history that he made a connection with his wife. Our assignment was to learn about our family history. Up until then I had not given much thought about my family history. Once I got started though, I was hooked. I was advised along the way that genealogy is addicting and to be prepared to learn things about my family that might be disturbing and if I couldn’t handle it, I shouldn’t continue. Now, here I am many years later addicted to family research and over the years I have discovered many skeletons in my family’s closet. Those skeletons just piqued my curiosity and I’ve forged ahead. Since I started I have accumulated piles of pictures and family data. I’ve also met many cousins that I never knew I had. I discovered that my great grandfather who was the oldest of seven boys had a different mother than his younger brothers. I found out that an uncle who drowned when he was young had a wife and daughter. Something that my grandmother neglected to tell me. Family research is endless!
How lucky I have been to work in this museum’s archives and library. I have met so many people who share my passion. There are endless resources in the Research Center. The following are just a few.
“Finally, at the age of eighty, I became interested in genealogy and our family history. Oh! For those long- ago afternoons when my parents visited with relatives and talked about their parents and ancestors. At the time I managed to turn off the conversation or, if possible, to leave the room. Times have changed; and now in the nineteen-eighties, children and grandchildren want to know details of their heritages. I hope my Family Story will provide answers.” - The introduction to "Family Story Part 1 - 1983 & Part 2 - 1997 (age 100 years) by Margaret Jessup White Nugent
Several years ago, I came across this family history in the museum archives. Margaret Jessup White was married to Dr. Paul Fordham Nugent. He was one of the three sons of Dr. and Mrs. John Nugent who occupied the Rogers Mansion from 1889 – 1899. Her Family Stories are a very detailed account of her family history and her memories of growing up in Southampton. They are a gift of love to her family and a wonderful resource to use for anyone interested in the history of Southampton.
Penny Wright grew up in the Southampton Village and presently works at the Rogers Memorial Library. Her appreciation for the history of this village became clear in February 1995 when she filmed her first of 44 Talking History Programs. She is also responsible for many more interviews in the library’s collection. Penny has a gift of coaxing answers out of the participants even when they are a bit nervous while speaking publicly. Mary Graves, also of the RML has since organized, transcribed and catalogued the whole collection. Keeping track of all of this has been a huge job that is still ongoing. These irreplaceable talking histories and interviews were a brilliant idea and are both a valuable resource and also entertaining. They are available to the public and you can find them on the library’s website and they have also shared copies with the Southampton History Museum.
Anne Halsey (Helgeson) now lives in Texas. She has family and roots in Southampton. A true scholar, she started in 2008 what has become a very ambitious family research project. She is descended from Rev. Jesse Halsey and his two sisters, Lizbeth Halsey White and Abigail Fithian Halsey. All amazing historians who have made a huge contribution to the history of Southampton. The museum’s archives are full of contributions from all of them. Anne has taken up where they left off by creating a very organized website that is right up to date, “Notes on the Jesse Halsey Project”. It is amazing!
In 2008, Nina Kennedy and Jackie Scerbinski published their first of 8 books of interviews with Southampton locals. A huge undertaking that continued until 2017. They captured thoughts and memories and favorite family recipes that otherwise might have been lost forever. Many of the people they interviewed are no longer with us. The books were supposed to be focused on the favorite family recipes but Nina and Jackie soon discovered how much people love to reminisce. So the books became so much more. Their books are in the museum library and also for sale in the shop.
David Bunn Martine of the Shinnecock Reservation published a book in 2013 consisting of text transcribed from oral histories he began recording in the early 1980’s. Title: “Time and Memories”, Dedication: “To the Creator, God, Whose Life beats in our hearts." This is a detailed book of David’s family history and culture of which he is obviously very proud. A work of art! His book is also available in the museum library or you can get a copy of your own on by clicking here!
All of the above are an inspiration to me. I always tell kids to talk to their grandparents and ask them questions and take notes before it is too late. I have been trying to organize my family history for many years now, sometimes it is overwhelming. It is also frustrating when facts are missing. I regret not asking my grandparents more questions. I encourage all to start working on your history before there is no one left to ask questions to or to identify pictures that are not labeled.
Sadly, my teacher, Mr. Conklin died at a young age. He never knew what an inspiration he was to me. Several years ago I visited the Wainscott Cemetery and found his grave. I was finally able to pay tribute to the man who started this adventure that began 47 years ago.