We’re Getting There…

As a result of your comments and emails, we can now put names to some of the faces in the photos I posted on September 19 and September 24. A huge thank you to Philip Sawyer, Jack Albury, Jack Lowe, Beth Lowe Sawyer, Priscilla Weatherford, Paula Weech Unhjem, Geanette Hall Albury, Emily Lowe Bethel, Robert Malone, Gloria Chiodo, Tuppy Weatherford, Gail Lowe and my mom, Carolyn Albury Diedrick, for the information they shared.

Thanks also to Eileen Hodgkins and Shirley Roberts, who provided names for all but one of the girls in the photo below. Apparently this was a sewing class in Green Turtle Cay in the late 1930s. (I wonder if it was taught by Miss Jones, who also taught the knitting class…?) If you’d like an unnumbered version of this image, drop me a note.

Photo #7 - taken in Green Turtle Cay. May be a sewing group or class.

Back Row: 1 – Sybil Saunders Hodgkins (mother of ferry captain Curtis Hodgkins), 2 – Delores Saunders Lowe (sister of 1), 3 – unknown, 4 – Libby Saunders Lowe (wife of Sidney Lowe), 5 – Merlee Lowe Key (wife of Gerald Key), 6 – Audrey Saunders Semon (sister of 1 and 2), 7 – Merriel Roberts Cash (wife of Leo Cash), 8 – Annis Lowe, 9 – Mamie Preston, 10 – Lillian Russell, 11 – Hilda Saunders Hodgkins, (wife of Ritchie Hodgkins,)

Front Row: 12 – Betty Lowe (wife of Emory Lowe), 13 – Agnes Lowe Roberts, (wife of Doyle Roberts), 14 Olga Roberts, 15 Thalia Saunders Lowe (sister of 11, wife of Chester Lowe.)

(More) Faces in Need of Names

This is the second post in a series. You’ll find part one here: Faces in Need of Names

Photo #1 - Possibly in Cherokee Sound during 1942 visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Photo #1 – Unknown Girls (Possibly in Cherokee Sound during 1942 visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor)

A giant thank you to everyone who sent comments and emails about the collection of photos I posted earlier this week. I’ve received some promising leads and hope to be able to identify many of the faces pictured. Once identities are confirmed, I’ll post an update.

In the meantime, here’s a second batch of photos of unknown people. All I know about these images is that they were likely taken in the Bahamas (Abaco or Nassau) between the 1930s and the 1950s. For ease of reference, all images are numbered (see captions.)

Faces in Need of Names

Photo #1 - Unidentified Boys

Photo #1 – Unidentified Boys

For me, the best part of genealogical research is finding old photographs. It’s fine to read about ancestors — where they were born, when they were married, when they died — but seeing their eyes, their expressions, even their attire, makes them real in a way words never could.

Photo #2older girl is Virginia Curry - need to identify the two younger children.

Photo #2
Older girl is Virginia Curry – need to identify the two younger children.

Over time, I’ve amassed a collection of old Bahamian photographs, primarily from my late grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury in Nassau and my late uncle, Cuthbert Albury, of Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Though my grandmother was able to identify many faces, I’ve still got dozens of images of people I don’t recognize.

For the next while, I’m going to post small groupings of these photos in hopes that someone can help put names to faces. If the folks in the pictures are ancestors of mine, it would be great to know. If they’re not, I’d love to be able to track down their descendants so I can forward the photos to them.

Do you recognize any of these people or places?

If so, please comment at the bottom of this post or, if you prefer, email me privately. If not, I’d appreciate if you’d forward a link to this page to anyone who might be able to help. (To view full-size images and/or complete captions, just double-click on any photo.)

Finally, I’m always on the hunt for old Abaco photos, particularly of Green Turtle Cay. If you have any you’d like to share, let me know. I’d love to see them.

NOTE: I’m not sure, but I believe most of these photos were taken between the late 1930s and the early 1950s.

This post in the first in a series. Part two: (More) Faces in Need of Names

Related: Putting Names to Faces, Stitches in Time

And Your Little Dog, Too (With Video)

Much as Tom and I enjoy the time we spend on Green Turtle Cay, we suspect our dog, Wrigley, loves it even more.

Though he’s not exactly what you’d call a champion swimmer, Wrigley loves to splash around at the water’s edge, and he’ll gladly swim out to Tom or me for a bit of hot dog before paddling back to the sand. As you can see in the above video, though, his favourite Abaco activity is tearing up and down the beach, grinning ear-to-ear, spraying sand, digging holes and chasing sandpipers and seagulls.

Fortunately for Wrigley, at 14 lbs, he’s small enough to fly with us in-cabin. Fortunately for us, he’s a terrific traveler — far more pleasant and patient during the trip than either Tom or me. In fact, ticket agents, flight attendants and fellow passengers often ask if we’re sure there’s really a dog in his carrier.

Early-Morning Visitors

Our dog, Wrigley, and I have a morning routine while we’re in Green Turtle Cay. Job one, of course, is to satisfy his physical needs. Then, we head down to the dock, so he can check on the boat and evict the seagulls from “his” dock — tasks he takes quite seriously.

Wrigley on Seagull Patrol

One morning, as Wrigley faced off against a pair of stubborn gulls, I stood on the dock, enjoying the cool air. At the sound of strange, wet breathing, I glanced to my left. Twenty feet or so from the dock were two dolphins.

September 7, 1932 – What Misery Lay Ahead

This is the third post in a three-part series. The first two parts can be found here: September 3, 1932: The Calm Before The Storm and September 5, 1932: Destruction and Devastation.

Abaco Deaths Sept 1932

Government Record of Deaths in Abaco
September 1932

When the wind died down and the rain subsided, the residents of Green Turtle Cay were relieved that the worst was behind them.

But as they emerged from their battered, flooded shelters, they discovered what misery lay ahead.

Six of their own – George Lewis (85), Thomas Roberts (62), Alice Lowe (58), Insley Sawyer (5) and brothers, DeWees and Bert Lowe, (15 and 2, respectively) – had been fatally wounded. Countless others were injured.

Water from Settlement Creek had surged across the lowest part of town and out into the sea of Abaco, destroying the cemetery and unearthing corpses. (Even today, fragments of grave stones remain on the beach that borders the graveyard.)

September 5, 1932: Destruction and Devastation

This is the second post in a three-part series. Here’s part one: September 3, 1932: The Calm Before the Storm.

There had been talk on Green Turtle Cay about a hurricane, but the only forecasting tools at the time were barometers. And though they were falling, indicating the approach of inclement weather, there was no way to predict where or when the storm would hit, or how serious it might be.

Thick, black storm clouds gathered in the eastern sky on Sunday evening. On Monday, September 5, New Plymouth residents woke to pelting rain and howling winds that intensified throughout the morning.

1932 Bahamas Hurricane - Courtesy of Weather Underground

Image courtesy of Weather Underground

By afternoon, according to Bahamian meteorologist Wayne Neely in The Great Bahamian Hurricanes of 1899 and 1932, the first known and documented Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas was battering Green Turtle Cay.

Sustained winds reached 160 mph, with gusts as high as 200 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.

For three days, the storm stalled over the cay, hurling boats and large chunks of debris around like toys. Houses flooded and were smashed. Some fell off their footings. Most collapsed all together.

Forced to abandon their disintegrating homes and peppered with sand, stones and stinging rain, families clung to each other to avoid blowing away as they crawled in search of shelter.

In the few structures that remained intact, the townspeople huddled together, singing hymns to comfort the children and to ward off panic as the settlement was demolished around them. There was no food, no light and but for the few who managed to reach the home of settlement doctor, Walter Kendrick, no aid for the wounded.

Below are two first-hand accounts of the ’32 hurricane – one from my grandmother, Lurey (Curry) Albury and the other from her first-cousin, John Lowe.

September 3, 1932: The Calm Before the Storm

It’s unclear whether New Plymouth’s Loyalist settlers had remarkable foresight or just good fortune. Either way, the tiny settlement was well-situated to capitalize on a series of economic opportunities and by the early 1900s, New Plymouth was a vibrant, prosperous town of 1,500 residents. On September 3, 1932, however, these residents had no inkling of the terror and misfortune lurking beyond the horizon.

Settlement Creek Waterfront Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

Settlement Creek Waterfront, New Plymouth (Prior to 1932)
Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

In the mid-1800s, Green Turtle Cay’s proximity to major shipping lanes east of the Abaco barrier reef made it the wrecking capital of Abaco. At one point, says Steve Dodge in Abaco: The History of an Out Island and its Cays, more than twenty wrecking schooners and forty fishing vessels were based in New Plymouth.

When the U.S. Civil War stifled the trade that necessitated shipping, locals turned to cultivating and exporting pineapples which, by the late 1800s, were the mainstay of New Plymouth’s economy.

Unfortunately, the cay’s soil was soon exhausted, fruit often spoiled due to weather-related shipping delays, and U.S. pineapple imports diminished with that country’s acquisition of Hawaii. But the economic gap created by Green Turtle Cay’s waning pineapple industry was soon filled.

An Unscheduled Performance at Island Roots

Turns out one of the most memorable performers at the 2013 Island Roots Heritage Festival wasn’t even in the program. On the first day of the festival, Mother Nature made several unannounced – and unwelcome – appearances.

As an opening act, she whipped up a thundering downpour, trapping people indoors and delaying the festival opening by an hour or more.

Then, apparently not satisfied with the havoc she’d wreaked earlier, she resurfaced around dinner time. The eastern sky grew dark and heavy, and the winds picked up. A waterspout began swirling off the east shore of the cay.

Photo by Timothy Roberts

Festival goers took cover in nearby buildings as the funnel barreled toward shore and made landfall as a tornado at the north end of Gillam Bay.

Video by Timothy Roberts

Residents along the bay scrambled for shelter under stairwells and in shower stalls as their homes were pummeled. Though several houses and at least one vehicle sustained serious damage, no major injuries were reported and fortunately, the tornado dissipated before it reached the settlement.

Island Roots Festival: Bridging Past and Future

This post is the second in a two-part series. Here’s part one: Island Roots: Celebrating All Things Abaco

Straw Work Booth

Straw Work Booth

Beyond the sheer fun of the event, the Island Roots Heritage Festival serves as a bridge between past and future for those with Abaconian ancestry.

For me, the festival does more than remind me of my grandmother’s stories. It brings them to life.

One way Ma May earned money for the family was by making and selling straw hats. My grandmother and her sisters collected the palm tops, dried and prepared them, and braided the raw strands. Ma May then stitched that “plait” into hats.

Though I’m lucky to have one of the straw hats she made, I never got to see her make them, so I love watching the craftspeople at the festival.

And while it’s now an entertaining festival contest, conch-cleaning was a daily chore for my grandmother. Hard to believe these days, when conchs are so precious, but back in the 1920s, Pa Herman kept them to feed his hogs. Each morning, my grandmother and her sisters would have to break a dozen or more conchs before school.

Island Roots Festival: Celebrating All Things Abaco

Photo and Sign Courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

Photo and Sign Courtesy of Mandy Bennett Roberts

For a few days each May, tranquil New Plymouth pulses with activity as the Island Roots Heritage Festival takes over the settlement. Originally created to encourage islanders to renew ties with kin in Key West and beyond, today’s festival offers an authentic and entertaining island experience for locals and tourists alike.

GTC 2013 (5)

Royal Bahamian Defence Force Band Marches Through Town

For visitors, Island Roots is a crash course in local culture. Bahamian artisans display native wood carvings, straw and shell work, fine jewelry and vivid paintings of tropical scenes. Traditional lime-in-spoon races, scavenger hunts, Maypole plaiting, conch-cleaning and conch horn-blowing contests and tug-of-war competitions delight kids of all ages.

Latrine Excavation Yields Curious Artifacts

I have to smile whenever I see the “latrine exhibit” at the Albert Lowe Museum.

Liquor Bottles from Museum Latrine

Retired museum manager, Mrs. Ivy Roberts, says that while excavating the property’s latrine area, workers uncovered a number of intriguing artifacts. Their discoveries included several tobacco pipes, broken glassware and pottery, children’s toys, an inkwell, a pocket watch – and dozens of liquor bottles.

Turns out that during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the men of Green Turtle Cay, afraid their wives would discover their illicit imbibing, hid the evidence in the one place nobody was likely to look.

These interesting finds were almost enough to inspire us to excavate the site where Fish Hooks’ outhouse once stood. Almost.

Latrine Bottles

Related Posts:  

Putting Names to Faces

Photo Exhibit Documents 40 Years of Cay History

She Sells Sea Shells


As children, my grandmother and her sisters contributed to their household by collecting shells at Gillam Bay on Green Turtle Cay.

“When it was low tide,” my grandmother said, “we used to go out over the sandbanks to get Panamas. They were a pretty kind of shell, with a creature inside. You’d have to boil them to get the creature out, and then you’d sell them for so much a quart.”

We Need More Cowbell

It was twilight, a day or two before this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was set to begin. Town was quiet and still as I walked our dog, Wrigley, along the Settlement Creek waterfront. But faintly, on the breeze, I heard drums. And cowbells.

I tracked the sound west, past the ferry dock and Curry’s Food Store. The music grew louder as I passed Settlement Point and the freight dock. As I rounded the corner by Sundowners, I came upon this.

In case you don’t recognize the music, these are Junkanoo musicians, practicing for their performance at that weekend’s festival. I’ll post more about the Island Roots Heritage Festival (and Junkanoo) soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this sneak preview.

Who Do You Think You Are?

r"Ma May" Marion Mayfield (Gates) Curry 1902-1984 Photo date unknown

My Great-Grandmother
“Ma May”
Marion Mayfield (Gates) Curry

Last Tuesday evening, I watched a terrific TV show on TLC called Who Do You Think You Are. It’s not a new program, but somehow, I’ve missed it before now.

Each one-hour episode features a celebrity who’s interested in learning more about his or her family history. Featured celebrities travel around the U.S. (and in some cases, internationally) meeting with historians, visiting libraries, local archives, museums and cemeteries, and retracing the lives of their ancestors through birth, death and marriage records, newspaper archives, court documents, military service records, etc.

Though I found much to like about this show, two concepts in particular resonated with me, probably because I’ve found them to be true in my own genealogical research.

First, address one question at a time. Rather than taking a shotgun approach, the celebrities on this program seek to answer one specific query or research one particular ancestor. Christina Applegate wanted to learn more about her paternal grandmother, while Kelly Clarkson focused on her great-great-great-grandfather.

Thank you!

Unidentified Purple FlowersIt was a month ago today that I took a deep breath and clicked the button that made Little House By The Ferry visible to the public. Since then, the blog has had more than 2,000 site visitors and 5,100+ page views, and I’ve received some very kind comments and lovely notes. As you can probably tell, Green Turtle Cay and Fish Hooks hold special places in my heart, and I love being able to share them with others.

A warm thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to visit, comment on or follow the blog. Your readership and feedback are much appreciated. I look forward to sharing more of our Green Turtle Cay adventures with you in the days ahead.

Perfect Endings to Perfect Days

On one hand, Tom and I treasure our time on Green Turtle Cay and we hate for each day to come to an end. On the other hand, what spectacular endings they are.

Photo Exhibit Documents 40 Years of Cay History

museum 3Each time I visit Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum, I uncover something I previously missed (like this photo), or I discover some recently added treasure. During my most recent visit, I found an entire new exhibition to explore.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence, the museum has assembled an extensive collection of photographs documenting key cultural events on Green Turtle Cay during the past four decades.

And Then There Were These…

Per my Attic Archaeology post, I discovered many wonderful bits of family history during my exploration of the attic at Fish Hooks. I also found a couple of mystery items.

If I had to guess, I’d say the first one is some sort of grater and the second looks like some sort of industrial-strength mousetrap.

Anyone know for sure?

What is this 2

What is this 1

UPDATE: So it turns out the item immediately above is a 4-hole mousetrap, likely from the 1800s. Another fun find, though hopefully one we won’t have a use for.

Related Posts:

We’ve Hooked the Small One

Fish Hooks Update – The Inspection

Attic Archaeology

Attic Archaeology

Recently, I spent a morning exploring the attic at Fish Hooks. Though my expedition revealed little of material worth, it uncovered many items that, in terms of family history, are priceless.

The attic (site of our future master bedroom)

The attic (site of our future master bedroom)

I found at least four bed frames (reminders that this cozy cottage once housed a family of five), and a dining table and several other small tables that I’m told were hand-made by Pa Herman and my grandfather, Lionel Albury.

While I don’t know the origin of the wooden dining chairs I discovered, I do recall them from my childhood visits, and old photos show they’ve been in the family for nearly 70 years.

There’s a suitcase stuffed with sheets, towels and curtains, and though most are yellowed and crumbling, I’m hoping a few pieces may be salvageable.

Beneath a mismatched assortment of plates, cups and glasses, I came across a lovely (and seemingly complete) set of vintage Grindley English china.

China Set

I found a weathered old cutting board and rusty scales, likely used by Pa Herman to clean and weigh the fish he sold. And the collection of tools I discovered – saws, a hammer, a pick axe, a wood plane – were no doubt used to build this house.

Pa Herman's scales

Pa Herman’s scales

Among my favourite finds were a battered, dog-eared children’s “West Indian Reader,” twenty-five years’ worth of electric bill receipts dating back to the 1950s, and what I imagine was Ma May’s version of a junk drawer – a soup tureen filled with the miscellany of life: a single marble, half a dozen rusty keys, light bulbs, loose buttons, bobby pins, a red plastic toy rabbit and (no surprise) tiny weights and fish hooks.

West Indian Reader

West Indian Reader

Decades' worth of electric receipts.

Decades’ worth of electric receipts.

I couldn’t help but smile at the dozens of greeting cards sent to Pa Herman and Ma May by their children and, later, their grandchildren. Such simple and universal items, but sweet reminders of those who lived in and loved this house before us.

Greeting cards from the 1940s and 1950s.

Greeting cards from the 1940s and 1950s.

Many of my attic discoveries are worn, rusted or beyond use. These, we’ll restore and display or donate to the Albert Lowe Museum.

Happily, other items, like the bed frames and Pa Herman’s tables, can definitely be reused. There’s a set of gorgeous mahogany bedposts that I hope we can incorporate into a four-poster bed, and a wooden settee which, with some spiffy new cushions, will fit perfectly in Fish Hooks’ tiny living room. Once repaired, those ancient wood dining chairs will find new life in our kitchen, and the galvanized buckets in which we kids used to bathe before the house had running water might make pretty planters or perhaps ice buckets.

But the slop buckets we used rather than trekking to the outhouse in the middle of the night? Those I can gladly live without.

Related Posts:

We’ve Hooked the Small One

Fish Hooks Update – The Inspection

And Then There Were These

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