Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

By Barbara Pelissier

Did the individual you are researching perform a heroic deed or even die while trying to save the life of another?  If so, there’s a possibility that a Carnegie Hero Award was bestowed upon that individual or, posthumously, upon their surviving family members.  Such was the case for Patrick O’Connor of Southampton, Massachusetts.


In the winter of 1908 Patrick died while attempting to save two young brothers who had fallen through the ice on a mill pond in the neighboring town of Northampton. With Christmas approaching, the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper established a fund for Patrick’s widow and two young children.  As contributions from readers and Valley residents poured in, theGazette’s editor wisely pursued long-term relief for the surviving family through the Carnegie Hero Fund. By early spring, Harriet O’Connor was awarded a monthly allotment of $35 for life . Both children received $5 per month until the age of 16.  The Fund also sent Mrs. O’Connor a Carnegie Hero medallion, which Patrick’s grateful grandchild now treasures. A Carnegie Hero gravestone marker will soon adorn his final resting place. In the meantime, the descendants of Mr. O’Connor recently gathered at his grave site to honor his sacrifice: Patrick O’Connor of Southampton Honored by Family for 1908 Rescue Bid


Locally, Longmeadow’s W. Howard Aureswald, Florida’s Chester A. Burdick, Northampton’s Ubald A. Arel and, posthumously, Springfield’s Cirlo Achille were all Carnegie Hero Awardees.

Because heroism never goes out of style, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission keeps busy with their investigations and awards.  Their inspirational centennial book, A Century of Heroes, can be requested by phone or online.  Their newsletter, imPULSE, is also free of charge.  The June 2012 imPULSE featured 19 year old awardee Nathan Yassen, from Brockton, Massachusetts. Fortunately, Nathan recovered from the effects of smoke inhalation after saving his 97 year old neighbor when her house caught fire one night last year.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a private foundation established in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie.  Contact them at (800) 447-8900 or email: Search for awardees or learn more about the Carnegie Hero Fund at:

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By Barbara Pelissier, Westhampton Historical Society 

Discovering as much information as possible about the person you are researching generally includes finding a final resting place.  Whether compiling documents of your town’s veterans or researching your own personal genealogy, an accompanying image of a headstone and the location of the cemetery helps to round out a good search.  Thanks to the legwork of countless passionate volunteers, cemeteries from Hampshire County to Zimbabwe (yes, Zimbabwe!) have been photographed and indexed at  Best of all, the results are available online at no cost. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the country or wait impatiently for the snow to melt in a Vermont graveyard to see your ancestor’s headstone.

Chances are good that you’ll find even the oldest ‘hidden’ cemeteries have been digitally cataloged, photographed and posted online.  One fine example is the headstone of Ramsford Avery and his wife Polly, shown here:

This stone stands in a remote cemetery on a steep hillside along a sparsely populated road in Hampshire County, Massachusetts.  But the Averys are not alone in their resting place…a total of 93 headstones have been photographed and cataloged on the website, as well as photos of the cemetery itself and driving directions.

For those who don’t drive or are physically unable to scramble up that hill, is simply invaluable.  Individuals who cannot physically navigate a cemetery can successfully navigate You can view every stone in that cemetery or visit cemeteries thousands of miles away without spending a single cent on gas. Leave your bathrobe and slippers on and virtually stroll through the graveyards at midnight, if you like.  These gates don’t close at dark!

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