Captain Cooper Howell’s Prayer Book

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

Capt. Cooper Howell and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell.

I recently was privileged to be part of a wonderful story involving a man I am not related to, but a story that highlights one of the aspects of family genealogy that I love most…helping others to connect the dots in their family history. The bonus in this story is that the “connected dots” included a cherished family item – the Prayer Book of Captain Cooper Howell. So, here’s my story:

I recently became the Chaplain for the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut and thought it would be nice to obtain a Prayer Book to help me with these new duties. I currently owned a copy of Song and Service Book for Ship and Field: Army and Navy (1942), but thought an additional military prayer book might give me some additional prayers to consider. I searched online at Amazon and quickly found several options, of which I selected a World War I prayer book, A Prayer Book for Soldiers and Sailors (1917). A few weeks after ordering from a small book shop selling through Amazon, I received a nice note informing me that my order was canceled because they could not find the book in their inventory, in fact, no one could remember seeing it for the last 6 years! Not to be deterred, I picked a second book seller and happily received the book a few weeks later. Upon opening the book I discovered the “personal information” section partially filled in – the name of “next of kin” and “local minister,” but no name of the prayer book owner. The minister’s name was clearly written, The. Rev. Floyd Tomkins, and the relative’s name was Mrs. Charles ???. I was disappointed to discover great difficulty in reading the last name and the omission of the owner’s name. Ah well, I continued to explore the book…and my exploration provided one more happy surprise – a picture in the back cover pocket (the picture shown with this story)! The back of the photo noted: Capt. Cooper ??? and his mother, Mrs. Charles ??? OK, now I really needed to solve the mystery of the last name. I studied the name closely and determined I could make out the second or third letter to be “o” and the last three letters to be “ell.” Armed with this information I headed to the Ancestry website to do some research. After some searching, making use of “*” for wildcard unknown letters, I was able to determine that the mystery man was Captain Cooper Howell from Philadelphia. And the bonus to my research, I also found someone using Ancestry to research their Howell family’s roots…a connection in the making.

I contacted the gentleman on Ancestry and we exchanged a few email notes to confirm family connections and share information. Some additional interesting information is that The Rev. Tomkins (a priest at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Philadelphia) had previously served at Christ Church, Hartford, CT…interesting because I am an Episcopal priest serving at a church in CT, just a few miles from Christ Church! I learned quite a bit about Captain Cooper Howell, and his mother, Annie Fitler Howell, and their home in PA. I am very grateful to have learned about Captain Howell and his service to his country. I read through the prayer book a bit, made some copies of prayers that I particularly liked, and happily sent Captain Cooper Howell’s prayer book back to the Howell family. I know the book will be included among the many family treasures and enjoyed for future generations. A great end to an interesting story and I have had the honor of meeting a fellow family genealogist and contributing a tiny bit to their history.

Sturdy walking shoes and a good memory

St. Patrick's Cemetery, Natick, MA

St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Natick, MA

A short update from my last research trip to Natick, MA, in search of the final resting place of my great-grandparents, George and Julia Perkins. Research would indicate that St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Natick was the place that was most likely to look for my great-grandparents’ graves, so my father and I headed up there with energy and determination. We arrived mid-morning and walked around, and walked around, and walked around…we finally met the cemetery director and verified my great-grandparents’ graves were not located at St. Patrick’s. However, we did locate my great-great-grandparents’ burial site (Julia’s parents, as shown) so we were happy to have achieved this important find. We headed across the street to the Dell Park Cemetery, where people of any religious background are allowed to be buried…no luck there either. More than just the steady rain had dampened our spirits, so we headed into town to check the Town Clerk’s Office and the Reference Library. No luck in either place, but the librarian gave us a great recommendation for lunch.

As we headed across the town green toward our lunch spot, the Everett Funeral Home was just off the town center to our left. I had heard from a cousin that he was pretty sure the folks at Everett were responsible for the funeral arrangements for my great-grandparents. After satisfying our hunger, we planned to head over to the Everett Funeral Home to satisfy our search for some questions. Lunch was very good and upon arriving at the Everett Funeral Home, we were greeted by some very nice people. We asked our questions and wrote down all the information we had…and then left with their promise to look up the information in their records. The funeral home was very beautiful and we commented that we were surprised our cousin mentioned he had to stoop to enter the funeral home during our grandmother’s funeral. A long story short: no luck on obtaining any information about George or Julia Perkins from their records, but the mention of the memory of stooping to arrive at the funeral home had prompted the memory of someone who had worked at the funeral home for some time – he said that the Mitchell Funeral Home had a very low ceiling during the 1960’s and 1970’s. A few more calls and….YES, I received information that the Mitchell Funeral Home had indeed held Julia Perkins’ funeral and she is buried in Braintree, MA, at the Plain Street Cemetery!! No record of George Perkins, but my hope is that he is buried alongside Julia, his wife.

My next adventure will likely take place in the area of Braintree…and I might as well keep on going to Plymouth County and visit the sites of my many other ancestors in that area. Stay tuned for more!!

The Kittle family of Schenectady

I’m taking a trip to Schenectady, NY, in the hopes of discovering more about the life and story of Margaret Kittle and her family. Margaret is my 3rd Great-grandmother and the only person not from Plymouth County or the greater Boston area. I’m hoping to find how my grandparents met and more about the Kittle family. I will provide an update after my research trip. ┬áHope it goes well!