Daily Archive: January 12, 2014

Jan 12

52 Ancestors: #1 Sara Waddell

Sara Waddell

Sara Waddell

“You probably think of me (your grandmother) as a nice old lady living a very quiet and, in your opinion, a not very interesting life…” These words begin a letter to her grandchildren, which she related to my grandfather as he typed the letter for us.[1] That first sentence was “spot on.” As I recall Grandmother Woodward was a sedate, heavy set, matronly woman who enjoyed knitting and playing canasta. Unlike my maternal grandmother, she rarely spoke about her life growing up in Nova Scotia. That is why her letter to her grandchildren is so very special.

Sara Waddell is my only grandparent not born and raised in New England. Of Scottish ancestry, she was born in South Maitland, Hants County, Nova Scotia, in 1881 on Christmas day,[2] daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (McDougall) Waddell.

Grandmother related that she was impulsive and impatient in her early years.  She described her birthplace, South Maitland, Nova Scotia, as a small village with no store or railroad and the post office was in one room of a private dwelling.

Of her childhood, grandmother related

         When I was five or six years old, I went to stay with my grandmother and two aunts who lived in a big, two-story house, situated on a high know, just across the road from my home. This house was surrounded by a white picket fence. Grandmother’s maiden name was Sarah O’Brien… I do not remember much about my grandfather who was William MacDougall from Scotland. He passed away when I was quite young. I do remember that he built sailing vessels.

         Grandmother was a severe looking woman, strict, but just and good hearted. She always dressed in black, but whether this was intended to be perpetual, I don’t know. It never occurred to me to ask when I lived there. She was over 80 years old when she passed on and at that time she did not have a gray hair, it was as black as midnight, parted in the middle and combed down over her ears in sharp contrast to the classy permanents that adorn present day grandmothers.

         She was a fine cook and in the sixty years that have passed I have never forgotten her sour milk biscuits. How I used to lay into them, getting my full share if not more. Down in Nova Scotia we always had plenty to eat and I was blessed (to speak loosely) with a hearty appetite. Our children must have inherited from me their ravenous desire for nourishing food although your grandfather was never one to toy with his vittles, either at meal time or when he had a light snack or one or two sandwiches. Leftover included hash, chowder, or some similar dainty tidbit before going to bed. Perhaps it is because of a good appetite is one of the few traits of my youth I still retain, I am, let us say, reasonably well fitted. When we were married, I weighed only 13_ although I was five feet, seven inches tall….

 The letter continues to relate stories the family cows, a frightful thunderstorm, riding horseback, and childhood Christmases.

Sara, with her sisters Gertrude and Mode sailed from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on the S.S. Prince George, 14th of September 1900 and arrived in the port of Boston the following day. [3]was eighteen, she traveled from Nova Scotia to the suburbs of Boston where she worked in a variety of capacities. In 1902, their sister Bessie joined them in the United States.[4]

Orphanage, Franklin, N.H.

Orphanage, Franklin, N.H.

When she was about twenty-two she took a position with the Orphan’s Home in Franklin, New Hampshire. While she was employed there, she met Oscar H. Woodward. The couple wa wed on the 28th of September 1907, in Belmont, Massachusetts.[5]

Sara Waddell Woodward died at the age of seventy-three on the 1st of July 1955, in Hartford, Connecticut.[6]



[1] Grandfather Woodward loved to write and submitted many stories to various magazines, so since he adored weaving tales, I’m sure that many of the words and phrases that were written were not those of my grandmother. A copy of the letter is in the possession of the author.

[2] Death Certificate of Sara Waddell Woodward, #11435, Connecticut State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hartford, Connecticut; and undated letter from Sara Waddell Woodward to her grandchildren written about 1950.

[3] Manifest of Alien Immigrants for the Commissioner of Immigration, S.S. Prince George arriving in Boston, 15 September 1900, page 163, Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1917-1943; National Archives microfilm T938, reel 40; viewed on Ancestry.com 12 January 2014.

[4] Manifest of Alien Immigrants from the Commissioner of Immigration, S.S. Boston, arriving in Boston 21 December 1902 page 118, Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, 1917-1943, National Archives and microfilm T938, Reel 57; viewed on Ancestry.com 12 January 2014.

[5] Indexes to Marriages in Massachusetts, 1906-1910, Vol. 571:348

[6] Death Certificate of Sara Waddell Woodward, #11435, Connecticut State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hartford, Connecticut.

© Linda Woodward Geiger, CG, CGL. All rights reserved.

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