Did my Gramma Serve Tea to Eleanor Roosevelt?

My Gramma Elisabeth Oblenis (Bogert) Grover passed away in 1994.  I don’t remember her ever saying anything about serving tea to Eleanor Roosevelt, but other people in my family do.  I decided to find out if this were likely and, if so, when and where it might have happened.

Bogert, Elisabeth Oblenis 13

My Gramma’s page in the 1929 Russell Sage College yearbook.  Each young woman has a cartoon  as well as a photo.  I remember my Gramma telling me that they drew her eating an apple because she loved apples so much.

She was born in Paramus, New Jersey in 1906 and graduated from Ridgewood High School in 1925.  She then went to Russell Sage College in Troy, New York.  Her senior bio in the 1929 edition of the Sage Leaves yearbook mentions that she was known for her delicious sandwiches, punch and coffee, and also for being very good at basketball.

Bogert, Elisabeth Oblenis 15

Russell Sage Hockey Team 1928.  My Gramma is fourth from the right.

My Gramma lived with us much of the time while I was growing up and prepared most of the food in our household, including packing our healthy school lunches.  She was a good plain cook, who could make delicious roast leg of lamb, beef stew, and creamed tuna, the last of which is still my ultimate comfort food today.  She was most “famous” though for grilled cheese sandwiches.  Also she once threw out a bunch of garlic at my aunt’s house, not knowing what it was. 

Was it possible that Eleanor Roosevelt came to Russell Sage, and that a home economics major like my Gramma, renowned for her sandwiches, helped to prepare for and perhaps served at this event?  I searched New York newspapers for any Eleanor Roosevelt news between 1925 and 1929 and found that Russell Sage College awarded her an honorary degree in June of 1929, just as my Gramma was graduating.

Bogert, Elisabeth Oblenis 1929 Plattsburgh Republican, June 14, 1929, Page 5

Article from the Plattsburgh Republican 14 Jun 1929.

I think it is very likely that my Gramma would have been involved in the preparations for this event and also in the serving of Mrs. Roosevelt.  Unlike many family stories that turn out to be mixed up or even impossible, this one is probably true.

Bogert, Elisabeth Oblenis 9 (2)

Bogert, Elisabeth Oblenis 1929 Graduation 1

Sarah Augusta Zabriskie (1844-1928) and the Danish Ambassador

Sarah Augusta Zabriskie was born 4 Dec 1844 in Hackensack, New Jersey.  Her father was judge and eventual Chancellor of New Jersey Abraham Oothout Zabriskie.  Her mother was Sarah Augusta Pell, the daughter of my ancestor, New York City-based ship’s captain William Pell.  Her mother died only a few months after Sarah Augusta was born, which is probably why the 1850 census shows her living with her Zabriskie grandparents in Hillsborough, New Jersey.

By the 1860 census she was 15 and back under her father’s roof.  Late in the decade she met the very eligible Danish envoy to the United States, Frantz Ernst de Bille, and the two were married in Jersey City 4 May 1869.

De Bille-Zabriskie 186 Wedding The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Tue__Jan_12__1869_

Frantz had been born into the Danish nobility in Copenhagen 14 Feb 1832, his parents being Danish Royal Navy officer Steen Andersen Bille and his wife Marie Sophie Frederikke Caroline von Bülow.  The Bille family had a long history of military and diplomatic service to the state of Denmark.   Frantz seems to have had the perfect makeup for a diplomat:  Newspaper articles describe him as popular, courteous, tactful and good-humored, but also brilliant, shrewd and observant.

de Bille, Frantz

Frantz Ernst de Bille.

Frantz and Sarah’s first child Mary Fernanda was baptized in 1870 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1871 Frantz was appointed governor of the Danish West Indies, which then consisted of the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.  According to one of his obituaries, life in the Virgin Islands was too boring for Sarah, causing Frantz to return to the Danish diplomatic corps.

Government House, Kongensgade 21-22, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, VI

Government House in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas, where Frantz and Sarah would have lived in 1871.  From the Library of Congress.

Frantz was appointed minister to Sweden in 1872, and the couple moved to Stockholm where three more children were born to them:  Steen Andersen Eske (1873), Torben Ivar (1879) and Carolina Elisabeth (1881).  (I was able to find images of their Swedish birth records on Ancestry.com, as well as the record for their older sister Mary Fernanda’s death in Stockholm in 1879 from peritonitis.)

In 1890 Frantz was named minister to the United Kingdom.  A newspaper article describing his family’s arrival in London mentions the Bille’s close relationship with the Danish royal family, while Sarah is described only as “a lady of American extraction.”  They resided first at 41 Wilton Crescent in the Belgravia district of London, where they appear in the 1891 census.  By 1901 the family had moved to 24 Pont Street in Knightsbridge, where Frantz and Sarah would live the rest of their lives.



Pont Street in London.  Photo by Danny P. Robinson via Wikimedia Commons.

The couple became great friends of the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII from 1900 to his death in 1910) and his wife Alexandra, a member of the Danish royal family whom Frantz would have known before his posting.  In 1908 the New York Tribune reported that Frantz was ready to retire, but that the king and queen were “so fond of M. de Bille and of his American wife…, treating them more as friends than as members of the foreign diplomatic corps, that they have urged them to remain in London.”  The de Billes were frequent guests at the royal residences of Marlborough House in London and Sandringham in Norfolk.

Frantz died 10 Jun 1918.  His funeral took place four days later at Marlborough House Chapel by permission of King George V, where his casket was draped in the Danish flag.  Sara Augusta died almost 10 years later, on 22 Feb 1928.


Caricature of Frantz Ernst de Bille from 1903.


Kate (Tighe) Willis (c. 1850-1930) and the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix

Kate Tighe was born about 1850 in Sligo Town, County Sligo, Ireland to merchant and alderman James Tighe and his wife Catherine Hargadon.  On 24 Feb 1870 in the Roman Catholic parish of Calry, County Sligo she married William Willis of Luffertaun House in County Mayo, my husband’s first cousin four times removed.  (Luffertaun House is very near Ballintubber Abbey and is today the home of an organic farmer producing grass-fed beef.)

William and Kate had a daughter they named Mary in 1872 who died aged only four months.  She was buried in the churchyard at Robeen, County Mayo, where many in the Willis family have been laid to rest.  William Willis died in 1874, aged about 35 years.

At some point thereafter Kate became a religious sister of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix (S.M.R.), an institute founded in France in 1857 and focused in part on the education and spiritual support of women.  Kate appears in the 1901 Census of Ireland, aged 50 and “Head of Family” at the Laurel Hill Convent and school in the city of Limerick.  This school was founded by the S.M.R. in 1844, and is now known as Laurel Hill Coláiste.  Graduates include Dolores O’Riordan, the late lead singer of the Cranberries.

Laurel Hill Convent School

Kate appears in the 1911 census at 53 Merrion Square, Dublin, another S.M.R. convent, which hosted retreats for women among other activities.  She is listed first on the census page, and may have been the Mother Superior.  Since she died at the same address in 1930, it is likely that she was there during the Easter Rising in 1916, when Irish Republican forces and British troops fought each other for control of Dublin.

British Troops Seal-Off Dublin Streets during"Troubles"

British soldiers in the Merrion Square area during the Easter Rising.

The diary of Eileen Chance of 90 Merrion Square indicates that there was much shooting in this area during the Rising.  On the afternoon of April 27th she saw smoke coming out of the top windows of the convent and wrote:  “We have just now discovered that the Convent had Sinn Feiners in it, and that Martin Dempsey’s [35 Merrion Square] have been turned out for the soldiers…so we seem to be in a very hot corner.”

Article from the Dublin Evening Telegraph 30 Dec 1920 found on Findmypast.com.

Religious houses in Ireland were sometimes searched by British forces during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921).  The Sisters of Mary Reparatrix in Merrion Square were raided late on the night of 29 Dec 1920.  After greatly alarming the sisters by banging on the door at such a late hour, soldiers and police spent about a half hour looking for any Republicans who might be sheltered there as well as ammunition, but found nothing.


Map of Ireland showing the approximate location of Sligo Town (blue), Luffertaun (orange), Robeen (magenta), Limerick (purple) and Dublin (green).

I want to find out more about Kate:  Where was she in between her husband’s death and the 1901 census?  When did she become a religious sister?  Was she the Mother Superior at the Dublin convent and if so when?  And what exactly happened at the convent during the Easter Rising?


Surprising Mormon Connections: Elizabeth (Hall) Clough (1805-1881) and Selina (Rayson) Bray (1802-1853)

I did not expect to find any connections to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my research because none of my direct ancestors became Mormons.  Of course researching your ancestors’ siblings and cousins is crucial for both context and evidence, and this is how I found two interesting connections to early Mormonism, both on my Dad’s side.

I made the first discovery researching the 12 children of my Dad’s ancestors Moses Hall (1764-1853) and his wife Lucy Fowler (1762-1843) of Barnet, Vermont and Shipton, Quebec.  All of these children remained in the Quebec-Vermont-New Hampshire area except one daughter, Elizabeth “Betsey” Hall.  I noticed that other people’s online trees said she died 5 Jun 1881 in Arizona, which at first seemed highly unlikely to me.

Clough-Hall 1824 Marriage

Record of the marriage of David Clough and Betsey Hall in the Church of England at Shipton, Quebec, from the Drouin Collection on Ancestry.com.

Betsey married New Hampshire native David Clough or Cluff 25 Jan 1824 in Shipton, Quebec in an Anglican ceremony.  The couple moved to back to the United States and eventually converted to Mormonism.  They were with Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church, in Nauvoo, Illinois by the 1840 census, where David helped to build the temple.  Because of violent persecution the Cloughs and some of their co-religionists left Nauvoo in 1844, settling near what is now Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they farmed and produced maple syrup.


The Burning of the Nauvoo Temple (in 1848) by C. C. A. Christensen.  This painting is held by the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

In 1850 David, Betsey and their 11 sons joined with the Edward Hunter Company, a train of 67 wagons and 261 Mormons headed for Salt Lake.  All survived the journey, and appear together in the Utah Territory census taken 1 Apr 1851 along with David Jr.’s first wife Sarah.  (David Jr. would eventually add three more wives to his household.)  David Cluff Sr. and Betsey lived in Provo, Utah in 1860 and 1870, but had moved to Apache County, Arizona by 1880, both dying in Arizona the following year, just as the online trees had said.

My second Mormon connection was surprising in part because it began in England.  Before this discovery I had not realized that the LDS church proselytized there so early.  Selina Rayson was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1802 to Protestant Dissenting Minister Benjamin Rayson and his first wife Mary Ann Marsden.  (Mary Ann was the daughter of my ancestor Robert Marsden, a cutler in Sheffield.)   Selina married London hardware merchant Francis Jeffrey Bray in 1826, and both were baptized into the LDS church in London on 29 Aug 1848.


Part of the Mormon Trail in Wyoming.

In 1853 this couple headed for Utah with many other English converts.  Selina kept a detailed journal of their Atlantic crossing.  She was an invalid for unknown reasons, and much of her writing expresses her great gratitude for others’ kindness to her.  Their first stop was Liverpool where they awaited passage to New Orleans.  They sailed the 23rd of January on the ship Golconda with over 300 other Mormons, arriving at the mouth of the Mississippi on the 26th of March.  A tugboat then pulled them upriver to New Orleans where they boarded a steamboat for Keokuk Iowa, arriving on the 28th of May.


At Keokuk they would have been fitted out for the long overland journey on the Mormon Trail.  Unfortunately Selina never got to see the land of Zion, as she calls it in her diary.  The Emigrating Company’s journal entry for August 13 notes:  “Died at 1 oclock P.M. while we were stopping to our noon halt Selina Rayson Bray, daughter of the Revd Benjamin Rayson of Wakefield. Born at Wakefield Yorkshire England May 11th 1802.”  They buried her the next day, 66 yards north of the trail.  Based on the context of these entries, I think she died in what is now western Nebraska.

Her husband made it into the Utah Territory but not all the way to Salt Lake.  A petition in his estate papers explains that he left his trail-mates to go hunting on or about September 27 and never returned.


Page from the estate papers of Francis Jeffrey Bray found in the Utah Wills and Probate Records on Ancestry.com.


The Maybury Family of Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland and Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A fairly large Y-DNA study has shown that our branch and most other Mayburys  descend from a common ancestor, now believed to be a John Maybury who married in Sussex, England in 1565.  Many of this man’s descendants for several generations were skilled ironworkers.  When records include an occupation, a 17th or 18th century Maybury is very likely to be described as a hammerman, fineryman, forgeman, ironmaster, or blacksmith.

While some of John Maybury’s descendants remained in England, others went to areas where their metalworking skills were in high demand, with some heading to the American colonies.  One William Maybury, born about 1645, was among a group of English forgemen who immigrated to County Kerry about 1670.  Though William is likely the progenitor of our 19th century Killarney Mayburys, the generations in between are somewhat murky due to the loss of so many Irish records.

My probable fourth great-grandfather William Maybury died in 1858.  His death notice in the Cork Examiner reads: “On Monday last, at a very advanced age, at Cloghereen, near Killarney, Mr. William Maybury, a respectable and trustworthy man, who had been confidentially employed on the Muckross estates under four successive generations of Colonel Herbert’s family.”

Muckross House

Muckross House, former home of the Herbert Family.  Photo by BBCLCD (own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

I am not sure if William was the first Maybury to work for the Herberts, but he was not the last:  Probable son James (below) and four of his sons also worked as land stewards and foresters to this family, whose former property now comprises much of Killarney National Park.  Among other duties they planted trees, cut and sold timber and reported wood poachers.  (A George Maybury, perhaps another son of William, is listed as gamekeeper for the Herberts in an 1835 newspaper.)

Maybury, James

James Maybury (c. 1799-1870)

The Herberts hosted the royal family during their visit to Kerry in August of 1861.  James Maybury and two of his sons were among the Herbert employees who rowed Queen Victoria across one of the lakes of Killarney so that she could view a stag hunt.

Maybury, James 1861 Queen Victoria (2)

Excerpt from an article about the Queen’s visit in the Cork Examiner 6 Sep 1861 found on findmypast.com.

James Maybury and his wife Maria Shaw had at least ten children including my second great-grandfather George (1843-1927).  On 12 Oct 1871 George married Mary Jane McCarthy, daughter of Robert McCarthy, the late Harbour Master of Tralee.  George’s occupation is given as “Forrester on Herbert Estate” and his late father is also listed as a “Forrester.”

Maybury-McCarthy 1871 Marriage

George and Mary Jane had two daughters in Ireland before leaving for Montreal.  The family of four arrived in Quebec 8 Sep 1874 along with Mary Jane’s younger sister, Harriet McCarthy.  George’s older brother James and family were already established in Montreal, having immigrated in the mid 1860s, and most of George’s siblings would follow.  His widowed mother was in Montreal by 1878, dying there in 1888.

I think the Herbert family’s severe financial problems in the 1860s and 1870s–caused in part by their extravagant preparations for Queen Victoria’s visit–meant that they could no longer employ the Mayburys.  With few opportunities in Ireland and with so many fellow Kerrymen going to Quebec, emigration made sense.  In Montreal the Mayburys had to find new occupations.  George got work as a carter and then established his own trucking business, George Maybury & Co.   He and Mary Jane’s third daughter arrived 18 Sep 1876, and was my great-grandmother.


The Adventures of a Bergen County Kas

A kas or kast is a large Dutch-style linen cupboard, and the one pictured here is one of my favorite heirlooms.  It was made sometime in the 18th century in Bergen County, New Jersey of native red gum, probably for a member of the Zabriskie family.  American kasten are difficult to date because they were made in essentially the same style by many cabinetmakers over a long period, from the later 1600s to the early 1800s.  Furniture historians ascribe this conservatism to the relative cultural isolation of rural Dutch-American communities in New York and New Jersey.

Zabriskie Kas

Also kasten were often made for future brides to store up the linens they would need when setting up their own households.  Like a Norwegian wedding chest, they were not only cultural emblems but were also bound up with traditions surrounding marriage and proper housekeeping.  A newfangled one might be good for storing linens, but it wouldn’t make the same cultural or value statement.

When my mother decided to send it to me, we had a hard time figuring out how to ship it from Los Angeles to Cincinnati.  I thought one of the carriers whose trucks I often see would be a possibility, since their slogan is “We ship anything, anytime, anywhere,” but it turns out that “anything” does not include antiques.

We turned to a well-established furniture moving company, and had it shipped directly to Professional Furniture Service, Inc. in Amelia, Ohio for restoration.  They have done work for the Cincinnati Art Museum, so I trusted them to do a sensitive job.  Unfortunately the kas was only a small part of a larger load headed for New York City, and the furniture restoration shop was not open when the truck first came through Cincinnati, so the driver had to keep going.

It took a full month for the kas to make it back to Ohio, and though the moving company seemed to know approximately where it was most of the time, it was nerve-wracking for us to think of our precious, ancient heirloom wandering the country by itself, possibly getting bumped and bruised.  It spent some time in a warehouse in Brooklyn, closer to its place of origin than it had been since 1959.  Finally it arrived at the restorer and did not seem to have any new damage.

I mainly wanted the restorers to reattach one of the drawer knobs and make appropriate feet.  Almost all kasten have large, bulbous feet, and though you could see where they had originally been attached, ours had lost its feet at some point.  To figure out the correct shape and proportion for a Bergen County kas, I read American Kasten: The Dutch-Style Cupboards of New York and New Jersey 1650-1800, a publication of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Page 22 of this book shows a photo of a kas nearly identical to ours so I knew that similar feet would be appropriate.  The restorers did an excellent job of turning and finishing copies so that they look almost original.

Usually the cornice of a kas juts out at a 45 degree angle but the cornice on ours is more vertical.  The shapes of the moldings used on ours exactly match the diagram of typical Bergen County cornice moldings in the MMA’s book, but they have been mitered to form a less dramatic, less baroque crown.  I am not sure why that is, but a member of the Bergen County Historical Society told me that this was sometimes done so that the piece would fit within a particular spot in the home.   The cornice seems to be a slightly different color than the rest of the piece, and I wonder if it is not original.  Someday I would like a kas expert to examine it and tell me what they think.

In spite of this quirk we really enjoy having it in our home.


Top Five Favorite Old Photos

My computer was in the shop this week, so I had my early mornings free for other projects.  I began to clean my old photos and to put them into protective sleeves I ordered from Archival Methods.  I made great progress and also really enjoyed looking at the pictures.  These are my five favorites.

Thurber, James Milford 4

This is a picture of my great-grandfather James Milford Thurber (1865-1958) taken in his 90s, probably somewhere in Vermont.  He was a tinsmith and, according to my Dad, fairly stern, so I like this picture of him in extreme old age–perhaps having mellowed–holding a posy of hollyhocks.  Also his pants are hiked up old man style, and the scenery is pretty.

Zabriskie, Adelia

This is Adelia Zabriskie (1834-1869) the wife of William Sickels Banta of Bergen County, New Jersey.  Even though I am not a fan of Victorian style, this picture reeks so strongly of the period that there is something appealing about it.  You can almost hear her silks rustling.

Thurber, Robert Maybury 1939

I like this picture of my Dad–the boy on the far left–in Burlington, Vermont circa 1939 with his second grade classmates.  One of his report cards actually says “Bobby is bothering the other children less” than before, so he got into quite a bit of mischief and I think he looks mischievous in this picture.  Plus he has an amazingly bad haircut.  On the back of the picture he wrote all the children’s names, noting that sadly the boy second from the right died in the Korean War, and then wrote “Dad was my barber!”  My grandfather saved a little money during the Depression by cutting my Dad’s hair himself, always with disastrous results but this is the worst example I have seen.

Haring, Children of John A. and Elizabeth (Haring)

I like this picture from about 1900 even though most of the people in it look fairly crabby.  One amazing thing about it is that I was able to figure out not only who but also where they are.  I also found that this Revolutionary-era house still stands in Rockland County, New York.  They are all siblings, the children of John A. and Elizabeth (Haring) Haring and this is the Abraham D. Haring House, also known as Scotland Hill Farm, built in 1783.  The lone gentleman is Jacob Eckerson Haring (1836-1915) who was somewhat famous as a breeder of racehorses.

Aguilar and Thurber Children

I like this picture taken September 1968 in La Crescenta, California even though the sewer pipe portends the upcoming overdevelopment of the Los Angeles basin.  It reminds me of all the fun my sister and I had with our cousins who lived in La Crescenta.  (We lived in Eagle Rock, part of Northeast Los Angeles.)  It also reminds me of how much time we spent barefoot.  I am at the top left and my sister is next to me.  Standing behind us is our cousin Marty.  At the top of the pipe is our cousin Sherry and second from the bottom is our cousin Scott.  We played very often and for hours at a time with Sherry and Scott especially.  If this picture had a soundtrack, the music would be by The Monkees.

A Great Uncle: Regis Zabriskie Bogert (1904-1978)

My maternal Gramma’s brother Regis was the only other member of her family we saw on a regular basis, most of them living in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania while we lived in Los Angeles.  By the time I was born in 1962 Uncle Regis lived in the beautiful hills near Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California. For quite a few years we visited him in August for a week or so, after meandering up the coast, usually stopping at one or two of the California Missions and at scenic places like the Monterey peninsula along the way.


Gravenstein apple orchard near Sebastopol, California.  Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons.

He had 18 rural acres and a house filled with books and family heirlooms, including a few very old large bibles.  Once we decided to defrost his refrigerator while he was out and we broke his hammer.  When we told him we had broken his hammer he said “Well of course it broke, it’s over 200 years old.”

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 6

My sister, Uncle Regis and me in 1973.  From that picture window above you could watch the fog roll into the valley.

The quiet there astonished me.  Often the only sound was the wind in the evergreens up on the ridge or the lowing of the neighbors’ cows.   Thick fog rolled in almost every evening and the weather in August was always cool and pleasant.   His long driveway was lined with rain lilies which were always in bloom during our visits, and the air smelled of sweet grassland.

He grew an enormous quantity of ‘Seneca Chief’ corn every year, which he said must be cooked for eight minutes within twenty minutes of harvest.  (I still cook corn for eight minutes.)  My sister and I shucked the corn and sometimes gave the shucks to the neighbor’s cows who relished them.  We picked Gravenstein apples from his trees and made sauce with uncle Regis.  He also grew red potatoes and showed us how to dig them.  I don’t remember any  dinners there that did not consist of good beef, mountains of corn on the cob, salad and mashed potatoes but we must have eaten other things.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 1953 Holland Society

He knew a tremendous amount about his ancestors and had a lot of ancient family papers–a few dates I have only because my mother copied them down from papers at his house, the church records being lost.  He never married.  He never held a regular job as far as I can tell, living off of investments for his entire life.

Bogert, Regis, Alice and Bob

From left to right, Regis, his older sister Alice, friend Hugh Masterson, and brother Bernard Oblenis Bogert II who was known as Bob.  Bob became a geology professor.

He stood about 6’4″ and was very kindly, and used the word “certainly” when most people would have said “yes.”  He was a practical person who didn’t understand why I would waste my energy jogging when I could have used it to accomplish something.  I never asked him much about his own life, though now of course I wish I had.  As a kid and a teenager I was more interested in enjoying the rural wonderland and perusing his many interesting books.  Here is what I have been able to piece together.

Bogert, Regis, Beth, Alice

Regis is seated second from the left and my Gramma is just to his right.

Uncle Regis was born 30 Sep 1904 in Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey to Bernard Oblenis Bogert and Eliza Pell Vermilye, the second of their five children, my Gramma Elisabeth being the third.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 7

With his parents at his Columbia College graduation.

He went to Ridgewood High School and then to Columbia College, graduating in 1929.  By the 1930 census he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my Gramma and their sister Lida, known as Lee, though all three are also listed in the same census as being in Paramus with their parents.  The siblings rented a house at 1204 Central, which seems to have been torn down since.  Regis remained in Albuquerque after his sisters had left, earning a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 1934.  He was always interested in history and politics and was a lifelong Republican.

In 1935-1936 he traveled quite literally around the world, visiting the South Pacific, the Middle East and most of the countries in Europe.  He posted letters home fairly often.  He wrote from Algeria, saying that it was so much like New Mexico, that that is where he would have thought he was if he didn’t know better.

Scan_20180212 (4)

Envelopes from letters Regis wrote home while traveling the world in 1935-1936.

From 1936 to 1938 he studied law at Stanford University but did not graduate.  Afterwards he went back to Bergen County, New Jersey and became active in civic organizations and in local politics.  He was a Councilman for the Borough of Paramus 1940-1942.

Scan_20180213 (2)

On 15 Aug 1942 Regis joined the U.S. Army and entered basic training at Fort Dix, 16 miles southeast of Trenton, New Jersey.  He spent three years in the Pacific Theater as a Special Agent in the Counterintelligence Corps and was honorably discharged 21 Aug 1945.  He was awarded the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal.  I am sure he had a few adventures during this time and I need to ask living relatives if they remember him saying anything about his time in the Army.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 8

Regis in uniform.

After the war he settled back into life in Paramus, serving on various municipal committees and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Bergen County Welfare Board.  He was involved with several clubs and organizations, including the Rotary Club, which he would support for the rest of his life.  In 1953 he joined the Holland Society, “a historical and genealogical society founded to collect and preserve information respecting the early history and settlement of New Netherland by the Dutch.”  Like most of his ancestors, he was a member of the (formerly Dutch) Reformed Church.

Scan_20180213 (6)
Regis and my grandmother were descended at least nine times from early New Jersey settler Albrecht Zabriskie (1638-1711).

In 1959 Regis made the big move to Sebastopol.  I am not sure why he uprooted himself and settled on the opposite coast.  In Sebastopol he continued his heavy involvement with Rotary, tended his large vegetable garden and graciously entertained his relatives and friends.

Uncle Regis died 1 Mar 1978.  Though his obituary says he was to be interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Santa Rosa, in the end he was cremated with his ashes spread over his corn field.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 2

Regis in 1929.




Maria Oblenis (1852-1877)

Maria Oblenis was the daughter of Bernard Oblenis, a physician and later a manufacturer of woolen yarn and cardigan jackets, and his wife Elizabeth Haring.   Everyone in my family pronounces her name the same way Mariah Carey pronounces hers, and I assume that is correct.  Her parents were from Rockland County, New York, where they were members of the True Dutch Reformed Church.  The True DRC broke away from the mainstream DRC in 1822, believing in a stricter and more traditional Calvinism.

Oblenis, Maria

Portrait of Maria Oblenis by an unknown artist.

Though Maria was born 1852 in Rockland County, New York, her younger sister Elizabeth was born 1856 in adjacent Bergen County, New Jersey, and this is where we find the family in 1860.  Living with them are Maria’s grandfather John Oblenis (1800-1874) and great-grandmother Gertrude (Sanders) Oblenis (1774-1869) who was a friend of Martin Van Buren.  By 1870 Maria’s father had given up his medical practice and was listed as a “Mill Operator,” having gone into the woolen yarn business.  Her grandfather still lived with the family.


Painting by Maria Oblenis.

Maria had artistic gifts and may have painted a portrait of her grandfather Oblenis as a girl.  She definitely painted two charmingly naïve paintings I have in my dining room, and possibly also a series of botanical illustrations.

Maria Oblenis

Maria as a young girl.

She played a march and accompanied herself singing the Star Spangled Banner on the piano at her school’s benefit for Union soldiers in 1863.

Saddle River Benefit

Maria married John Augustus Bogert (1845-1900) 10 Oct 1872 at the Paramus Dutch Reformed Church.  A marriage notice appeared in the New York Herald and the event was also recorded in the journal of local diarist Maria Ferdon.

On 23 Dec 1876 Maria gave birth to her only child, my great-grandfather Bernard Oblenis Bogert.  She died 9 days later from postpartum sepsis.  Maria Ferdon’s journal entry says simply “Jan 4th Mrs Maria OBlenis Bogart died aged 24.”  Her gravestone includes the phrase “Though lost to sight to memory dear.”

Oblenis, Maria

Maria’s gravestone at the Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood, New Jersey.



Painting by Maria Oblenis.


Oblenis, John

Portrait of John Oblenis possibly painted by Maria.




Ship’s Captain John Pell (1728-1782) of New York City

“Johannes” the son of Samuel Pell and Margrietje Wessels was baptized at the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City 28 Jul 1728.  His father, grandfather and great-grandfather Pell had all been shipwrights.  His great-grandfather Samuel had plied his trade in London, England before arriving on Manhattan about 1673.

At some point while growing up in the thriving subculture of New York City shipwrights and mariners, John must have decided he would rather sail ships than build them.  By 1751 he captained the sloop Three Brothers which left for Jamaica that January.


Ruins of Trinity Wall Street’s original building, destroyed in the fire of 1776.

By 1753 he commanded the sloop Mary, making frequent trips to and from the Virgin Islands, presumably for molasses, sugar, rum, cotton and indigo, the products of the slave plantations there.  He married Sarah Byvanck on Christmas Day of the same year at Trinity Church on Wall Street.

John obtained Letters of Marque in 1756 during the French and Indian War, papers which allowed him to act as a privateer.  He could legally attack and commandeer enemy vessels, auctioning their contents for profit.  Dramatic accounts of his capturing French ships, being captured by others, and having his ship “shot to pieces” appeared in newspapers in 1756 and 1757.


A typical mid-eighteenth century snow.  During the French and Indian War John was captain of the snow Revenge.  Charles Brooking via Wikimedia Commons.

Though the war continued until 1763, by 1758 John seems to have returned to making regular runs to the Caribbean rather than chasing prize ships.  He may have had enough adventure for one lifetime, not that seafaring was ever a safe occupation in the 18th century.  He appears regularly in the shipping news in the early 1760s, sailing various vessels to and from the Turks Islands, Jamaica, Curaçao and Saint Croix.  He seems to have branched out to European ports in 1766, when he sailed the ship Grace to London.  In 1767 he brought butter, oats and indentured servants from Ireland.  He also sailed for Madeira in that year.


Goods and people “imported” in the brig William announced in the New York Journal 18 Jun 1767 found on Genealogybank.com.

 On 8 Oct 1770 John joined the Marine Society of the City of New York, newly chartered by King George III “to improve maritime knowledge and relieve indigent and distressed shipmasters, their widows and orphans.”  His son William was born in 1763 and also become a ship’s captain, joining the Society in 1789.  William’s twin sons John Bogert Pell and William Watson Pell were born in 1800 and followed the same occupation, joining the Society in 1838 and 1839 respectively.

In the 1770s John seems to have retired from sailing and become a merchant, selling foodstuffs and household goods largely imported from Europe, including butter, wines, and cheeses.  His shop was located on Queen Street opposite Beekman’s Slip, and I believe the family lived above the store, and that this space had been rented to an apothecary shop before the Pells began using It themselves.

InkedNYC1776_crop (1)_LI

Map of Lower Manhattan in 1776 with blue dot showing the approximate location of John Pell’s house. From the New York Public Library’s digital collection via Wikimedia Commons.

The New-York Gazette of 28 Apr 1782 reported that John Pell died “a few Days ago at his House in this City” and that he “always supported the Character of an honest Man, and a good Citizen.”  His will mentions his “beloved wife Sarah” and all of his children by name.  He is buried with Sarah at Trinity Church on Wall Street, where I was able to find his gravestone though it is mostly illegible today.  He is my 5th great grandfather.

Pell, John 1

John Pell’s gravestone at Trinity Wall Street, with his wife Sarah Byvanck’s stone to the right.