The Hippo


Jan 19, 2020








Mary and Helen Brady, Kevin Dadoly’s grandmother and great-aunt whose baby sister Mildred went missing in infancy.

Kevin Dadoly's missing great aunt

When Amherst resident Kevin Dadoly was 15, his grandmother told him the story of her baby sister who disappeared in infancy.
His grandmother, Mary, was 3 when it happened. Her mother died in 1923 while giving birth to baby Mildred, and while Mary, her brother and sister were placed in Lowell orphanages, baby Mildred was given away.
The children grew up and married and started families of their own, but they’d still wonder, as Mary did while telling her grandson the story, what ever happened to Mildred. The only documents they had proving she existed were birth and baptism certificates from St. Michael Parish in Lowell.
“Whenever people go into genealogy, it’s often because of someone who’s very important to you. My greatest influence was my grandmother,” Dadoly said. “I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen, and I told her, ‘I’ll find your sister for you.’”
He sent countless letters to churches, to City Hall, to the mayor and to the dozens of other Mildred Bradys who lived in the United States. 
“I wrote to everyone,” Dadoly said. “I kept digging and digging and digging.” 
Dadoly moved to New Hampshire in the ‘70s and continued to dig. His grandmother died in 2003, but he never gave up on his promise.
After many dead ends, there was one name that remained constant: McOsker. The McOskers were affiliated with Saint Michael Parish, which is where Dadoly got the lead. For a while, he believed baby Mildred was left to them. 
The turning point in his research happened when he learned, through a connection with a Canadian genealogist, that he’d been searching for a name with the wrong spelling.
It turns out, the McOscars he was looking for ran a boarding house on Chelmsford Street in Lowell. A man named James McOscar traveled to Scotland and back many times to bring back workers to Lowell, to fill the boarding house with tenants. His great-grandmother was one of those workers. During that trip, James McOscar accompanied her and two other women. Dadoly decided to trace their lives, too.
That’s when he found her.
His great-aunt Mildred was taken and cared for by a woman named Lily, one of his grandmother’s friends from Scotland who came with her to America. Lily would eventually take Mildred and move back to Scotland. She was tricky to track; Lily had four different last names during her lifetime, married at least three times, as far as Dadoly could tell. She’d also lost a baby, before she took in Mildred.
“I found out that, as a result of her mother dying, Mildred was a very sick baby. She was covered in hives. … She required a lot of help, a lot of care, and this woman rose to the occasion, which is pretty spectacular,” Dadoly said.
Dadoly tracked down Mildred’s child, his first cousin once removed, who lives in Scotland, in 2009. He discovered that Mildred had died in 2000, but that her only son, Ronnie, was still alive. That year, Dadoly invited his cousin and his wife to see where his mother was born.
“I’ve been happily married for 31 years and have two great children, but finding my cousin and my grandmother’s sister will be one one of the shining moments in my life,” said Dadoly, who currently teaches, paints and works as a florist. “People said it could never be done.”
There was a bit of irony in their first meeting: his cousin is the spitting image of his grandfather (Mary’s father, Dadoly’s great-grandfather) he never knew he had. Dadoly, it turns out, very closely resembles Mildred. 
Their visit was a great celebration in Lowell; his cousin met about 70 relatives he never knew he had, and the mayor presented him the key to the city. The journalist who first reported the story, Dadoly said, won a national award.
Dadoly Skypes with his family in Scotland often now, and he’d like to eventually write a book about this journey.
“I think everybody should know their family history,” Dadoly said. “When the doctor asks me about mine, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’”
Cynthia David's grandfather down the street
Amherst resident Cynthia David never had extremely large family gatherings while growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania. The family she knew was small, and what she knew of them was sparse. 
What she did know: that her uncle died in France during World War II; that her maternal grandfather was dead (but nobody ever spoke of him); that her other uncle, on her father’s side, disappeared in the early 1960s; and that her paternal grandfather was also dead, hit by a car in 1934. She knew that her surname was of German derivation, and she knew her paternal great-grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1870s. 
But as she later discovered, at least one of those things wasn’t true. In 1984, her family received a call informing them of Neil Bell’s death. Her maternal grandfather had been living all those years David had thought him gone.
She began her genealogy journey in 1991, shortly after her mother died.
“When you have a close family member pass away like that, it makes you wonder about their life. I got to thinking about my mother’s life, but also all the lives of my family members,” David said. “I started looking into the mysteries in the family. There were things I wondered about, but there was nobody who knew anything. Nobody would tell me anything about my grandfather or about my uncle who disappeared.” became an addiction. Through the site, she connected with others who helped her fill in the blanks within her family tree. She made trips to western Pennsylvania and New York State, where her ancestors lived. She made vacations out of these trips; her husband would go hiking, and she’d go to the library.
“Some people golf. I do genealogy,” David said.
In the late 1990s, she did find her uncle; he’d died in 1978. David found him by looking in city directories.
Only recently, she found out what her grandfather Neil Bell had been doing during those lost years she thought him dead. For much of her childhood, he lived in the same Pennsylvania town as her, her mother and grandmother. In the mid-1960s, he moved to South Carolina and was remarried.
“I could have been riding my bike on the street, passing him, and not even known it,” David said. 
Why her grandfather left and why her mother and grandmother exiled him from their family are still uncertain. But David is still learning more about her grandfather’s family; this year, she contacted his relatives, ones he remarried into and ones she never knew about, like Clyde Bell, her grandfather’s nephew. This summer, she’ll attend a reunion with this family. 
She’d like to find out more about her other family members; on her to-do list is to visit the American-Canadian Genealogical Society Library in Manchester to research her great-grandfather who migrated from Montreal.
More Clues
Helpful websites:,,,,,
Upcoming event: Vick Bennison teaches a genealogical course at the Amherst Public Library in June (Tuesdays, June 3 at 7 p.m.; June 10 at 7 p.m.; June 17 at 7 p.m.; and June 24 at 7 p.m., at 14 Main St., Amherst. Reservations are required; email or call 673-2288) about what he’s learned through his 40-plus years of being a researcher, particularly about the opportunities available now. It’s free.
Don’t forget to check: Your library and local historical societies; New Hampshire Vital Records; the Family History Centers; Census records
Other area organizations: The New Hampshire Society of Genealogists (; American-Canadian Genealogical Society (, 4 Elm St., Manchester, 622-1554); New Hampshire Historical Society (, 30 Park St., Concord, 228-6688) 
Bill Amidon, the history buff
It wasn’t until Bill Amidon was 60 years old that it hit him: he didn’t really know anything about his family. His father had died, and he’d never be able to talk with him again.
“So I was curious,” the Alton resident, now 67, said during an interview at Bridge Cafe in Manchester a few weeks ago. “I only knew one grandparent out of four. The others were all dead before I was born. And my mother died soon after my father. But nobody ever talked about their families. It wasn’t a thing.”
A few years later, when his older brother died, his widowed sister-in-law shared an interesting piece of information with him.
“I was talking to his wife, thinking it was weird that our families never talked to each other,” Amidon said. “She said to me, ‘I have a box with papers that belong to your father.’ … I hadn’t seen it in my whole life, and here I was, finding all this information about a family I never knew I had.”
From this box, he learned that his father was actually born in Meriden, Conn., not Massachusetts like he’d thought. He also learned that his grandfather grew up in Westmoreland. So did his grandfather’s father, and his father, too.
One of his most valuable tools: a book, The History and Genealogy of Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He was looking for the seeds that would feed his hunt, but when he arrived in Westmoreland, he discovered someone else had already done the grunt work.
“This book was amazing,” Amidon said. Many early town histories contain genealogy sections in the back, he explained. It was here he found the Amidons.
“This takes me all the way back to 1673, to Roger Amidon,” he said, flipping to the back of the book. “In the old days, we didn’t have roads and cars, so all these families followed their families. … There were no roads, and the earliest means of transportation were the waterways and rivers. … Everyone lived so close to one another, it’s crazy.”
Amidon still fact-checked everything; he traveled to the sites where his ancestors lived, worked, fought and died. Of the 13 generations that led to Roger, he’s found nine. 
“I think most people who start doing this want to find out they’re related to somebody important. They want to feel special,” Amidon said. “The first two years, I didn’t connect to anybody special. Mine was just another family who came here during early America. They were shipwrights and loggers and farmers.”
But then, after spending more time obsessing over each name within the Amidon section of the Westmoreland town history book, there were a few special connections. One of his ancestors married a woman named Thankful Gilbert White, the great-granddaughter of William White of the Mayflower who, coincidently, was also related, by marriage, to the founder of Jamestown, Virginia. Oh, and he’s got a few American Revolution ancestors, too.
He’s not done; genealogy has become a passion for Amidon, and the local and state librarians know him by name. He learned a lot about himself, his family and about early New England history, too.
“I get intrigued about what their lives were like, and what they went through to become who they were,” Amidon said. He’s become an avid watcher of the History Channel and spends hours at the library. 
“My daughter is amazed,” he said. “I originally started because I thought it was therapeutic. It occupies my mind.”
Jennifer Day's new patriotism
After discovering that her ancestors fought in the Civil War and the American Revolution, Jennifer Day became more patriotic.
“Researching genealogy makes history come alive,” said Day, a lifetime New Hampshire resident. Reading about history can be a bit dry, she said, but knowing you had family members involved in the action, fighting for those causes, brings about new meaning.
Day, who now lives in Concord, began her journey in 1995. Today she owns about 20 binders with copies of birth, marriage and death records, pedigree charts and town histories. 
This past month, she’s been putting together her application for DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] membership. Cemeteries, as well as and, both of which contain digitized military records, were helpful in discovering these roots, she said. There’s also speculation that one of her ancestors, on her mother’s side, was one of the founding descendents of Madbury, New Hampshire, one of the first things she found 20 years ago, which started her fascination with the hobby.
“It’s always a work in progress, let’s put it that way,” Day said. 

Meet Grandma
Looking for tough dame and famous names on your family tree

By Kelly Sennott

 “It’s a disease of which there’s no known cure. Does that help?”

That’s how Alton resident Bill Amidon describes studying your family’s genealogy; it can “eat you alive” and cause you to do things you’d normally never do, like spend hours at the library or watch the History Channel.
Kevin Dadoly of Amherst agrees.
“I tell people, if you’re going to start getting into genealogy, don’t. It becomes an obsession,” Dadoly said. For Dadoly, the hobby — or condition, he might say — caused years of anguish, years of dead ends.
But take note that these morbid descriptions don’t at all match with the rest of their interviews. Dadoly also described finding his long-lost great-aunt as one of the “shining moments” in his life. Amidon said researching became therapeutic and gave him a better sense of where he comes from.
Those who don’t become quite as obsessed describe genealogy as a never-ending puzzle, a treasure hunt whose prize is learning your family’s story. Few are disappointed when they’ve finally reached that pot of gold at the end.
“At the same time, it’s absolutely fascinating,” Dadoly said. “I think people should know where they come from. I think it helps you move forward with your life.”
Here’s some inspiration and an introduction on how to get started.
Popular pastime 
In the United States, people became interested in genealogy in the late 1800s. A few things drove this.
“It was about the time that the Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR] started, and it was an effort to capture all this information about the people who fought in the American Revolution,” Amherst resident Vick Bennison said in a phone interview. 
“This was when America opened up to the unwashed masses of Europe. There was a certain snobbery; people wanted to prove that they were not part of that, that they were actually citizens from way back,” Bennison said. “The Mayflower Society, a group of people who were descendants from the Mayflower, started around then, too.”
But nowadays, Bennison says, people are much more egalitarian about it. They want to know who they are and where they’re from.
Bennison is one of them. He’s delved deep into his own ancestry and wrote a 500-page book, The Loop Family in America, detailing the German family that traveled to America in the 1700s. He’s become so knowledgeable on the subject that he’s hosting a free series of genealogy classes at the Amherst Public Library in June.
The hobby’s popularity has come in waves; in the late 1970s, there was a bit of a rise because of Roots, a miniseries about author Alex Haley’s family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte’s enslavement to his descendants’ liberation. Right now we’re in the midst of a wave because of online search websites like and 
“I think it’s definitely more popular now because of the advertisements you see on TV, the programs you see that are sponsored by,” said Ruth Parker, a Hudson history buff whose family is swarming with amateur and experienced genealogists. “The books that have been written, the availability of the Internet and the search engines have made it more popular because it is easier to do. If we had to research the way our grandparents did, it wouldn’t be any more popular now as it was then.”
It might be easier, but be warned, you still need to do a great deal of work. makes it easier to connect with genealogists — perhaps even distant relatives, whose work overlaps with yours — but you should never rely on those sites alone.
“If people think they can just go to and get all this information, then they’ve got another thing coming,” Bennison said.
He describes the site like a pot of gold littered with booby traps.
“There’s tons and tons of great information, but an equal amount of totally bad information. There are so many families there where it’ll report that the parent was born after the child, and nobody fixes it.”
Relying only on is kind of like using Wikipedia as the main source for your college thesis. It’s bursting with data, but the only way to make certain your tree’s correct is to find the primary sources yourself.
Where do I even begin?
Also important to establish early on: what’s your goal? What do you want to accomplish?
“Some people just want to trace their line way back to the immigrants,” said Paul Friday,  a volunteer genealogist who spends his Thursdays at New Hampshire Historical Society library. “They want to join lineage societies, like the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution], SAR [Sons of the American Revolution], the Colonial Dames, the Mayflower Society, and they have to prove they’re part of that lineage.”
They’ll often trace back through the male line; it can be tricky to trace females because they’re not in the records as much before 1900, plus, you have name changes to maneuver around. (You might also find that it’s much easier to track people after 1790, because the first census was taken that year.)
People who’ve conducted extensive research — who have traveled to great lengths to snag a document, who’ve connected with other genealogists online, who describe the hobby as an “incurable disease” — often have a more personal aim, whether it be to solve a mystery or learn about about family members they never knew. 
Once you’ve decided your goal, start with yourself. Then move on to your parents. Then, if they’re still alive, your grandparents.
“One of the things I think genealogists tend to overlook is to interview family members while they still have the opportunity,” said Ruth Parker. “I had the opportunity to ask my folks these questions before they passed away, so then all I had to do was verify it.”
Parker knows a great deal about her ancestors before her but claims she’s “riding on the back of a giant,” as her mother, aunt and great-aunt were all hobbyists. She had their results to work from when she became a researcher 15 years ago. 
But were they still alive, she’d go to greater lengths in these interviews.
“I would sit down and embroil them. I’d try to get them involved in reminiscing,” Parker said.
Had she gotten more detailed information before they passed, it would have meant for an easier time with her current project, an embellished family history that would feature not just a pedigree chart but information about where her family lived, who they were, the towns they served, where they were educated and, in the case of her parents, how they met.
At home, you should also try to snag documents like birth, marriage and death certificates, high school diplomas and military records. If you’re lucky, you might stumble across letters, diaries and old photos that lead to clues, too. (Tip: If you’re a photo person and want to help out your descendants, write out names on the backs of photos, and don’t use the word “me” when describing yourself. Write out your name.)
Next step? Go to the library
Librarians can be a good source of information too. For example, the Rodgers Memorial Library in Hudson has two employees, Laurie Jasper and Anne Carle, who know a great deal about how to research, not only because they’ve done so themselves, but also because they know Hudson history quite well. (Jasper wrote a book about the history of Hudson for the Images of America series.)
Don’t use garbage sources
Every person, date and event should be double-checked with primary sources. 
Birth, death and marriage certificates are all primary or original sources. Obituaries, census records and town history books are secondary because they simply relate to or discuss information presented elsewhere (namely, the primary source).
In some cases, you may need to travel in order to see these original sources, and the extremists make mini vacations out of these trips. Bill Amidon of Alton, for instance, uses the Internet more as a guide to generate ideas of where to look, but in order to find good, solid facts, he drives to where his family used to live.
“I saw where they lived, I saw where they were married, and I saw where they were buried,” Amidon said. 
Traveling for the hunt is quite common. A few weeks ago, a woman named Malissa Ruffner made the New Hampshire Historical Society library her home away from home for a week. She traveled all the way from Baltimore, Md., to see these artifacts first-hand.
This is how people did it before the Internet age, and in many opinions, it’s the most meaningful research tactic. 
Fortunately for those who have little time or money to travel, it’s becoming less difficult to obtain these primary sources. The New Hampshire Historical Society, for instance, is working hard to make its special collections — manuscripts, photographs, maps, newspapers, diaries and letters — available online.
“We’re in the middle of a digitization project,” Sarah Hays, the New Hampshire Historical Society Library director, said in an interview at the library. “There’s a new catalogue we’re developing, as well, which will run off our new website. You’ll be able to see the digital images of what we have in the catalogue record itself.”
This project started last year, and the digitization will likely take years and a few more monetary donations to complete, but there will be a catalogue with special images rolling out in September. 
When all is said and done, “You’ll be able to look at a nice variety of materials online. You won’t have to come up from Baltimore unless you want to,” Hays said.
Still, she doesn’t expect the digitization will dissuade the public from stepping in to the library.
“Attendance actually goes up in the reading rooms [when a collection goes online] because all of a sudden, people are finding out about the organization. They just want to come in to hold the marriage certificate of their ancestor,” Hays said.
Though, on this note, Cynthia David of Amherst would like to point out that not all secondary sources are garbage sources.
“Certified genealogists will talk about primary resources. City directories and obituaries aren’t primary resources, but I find that they’re useful,” David said. “There are discrepancies, and you have to take everything with a grain of salt, but I find that the secondary sources are useful as well.”
Break through a dead end
It’s going to happen. You’re going to eventually come to a dead end. It’s why many researchers take breaks from their hunt or else give up entirely. The trick is knowing how to get through it.
One way, said Amidon, is to think back to the time in which the person you’re searching for lived. 
“If you study history, you don’t necessarily study genealogy. But if you do genealogy, you’re going to get history as a side act, whether you like it or not,” Amidon said. 
Manchester today, for instance, is not Manchester 300 years ago. 
“It’s important to have the names, addresses and date that they were born or married, and you need to make a timeline of when this all happened,” Amidon said. “You need to establish a timeline because otherwise, you could be looking in the wrong neighborhood. You could be looking in the state of Massachusetts, and the reality is that, at that time, that area was part of Canada.” 
New Hampshire didn’t become a state until 1788; when you go way back, you may need to look in the Massachusetts records, too.
When you’re stuck on one of your female ancestors — perhaps because you’re uncertain of a maiden name — try seeking out obituaries, gravestones and marriage records. (For finding gravestones, genealogy researcher Jennifer Day recommends
Today’s technology makes it a bit easier to break through dead ends, too. One of the biggest things in genealogy right now is DNA research.
“It’s because of things like NCIS and CSI and all these shows that are using DNA information,” Bennison said. “But only recently has the DNA testing gotten to the point where it’s useful. … Prices have come down. When I first did DNA about five or six years ago, it was about $300. … Now for $100, you get what’s called Autosomal DNA, which, instead of using certain pieces of someone’s DNA, looks at the entire chromosome structure. It finds matches between you and other people.”
There are organizations like Family Tree DNA (, for instance, with a DNA ancestry database that can put you in contact with your closest matches and help to confirm (to a degree) otherwise uncertain relationships.
“It doesn’t prove anything, yet, but it gives me a direction and a hope,” Bennison said. His sister is involved in genealogy, too, and the two of them came across a distant cousin on the West Coast through this service.
“He helped us a fair amount,” Bennison said. “He’s now a third person [to check DNA with]. … It’s getting better and better. The more people who get involved, the better it’s going to get, as there will be more people we have to compare against.”
Paul Friday has also done his fair share of manuevering through the Family History Library, which operates and has centers in Concord, Exeter, Lebanon and Nashua. They’re run by the LDS Church, open to the public and free of charge. (Some libraries, like the New Hampshire Historical Society Library, charge a fee if you’re a nonmember, $7 a day or $40 for a year.)
In some cases, the mystery may be in the name; last week, for example, Pauline Cusson from the American-Canadian Genealogical Society talked about English names with French origins and name changes at a program through the Rodgers Memorial Library.
For more tricks on getting past dead ends:  “Learn from other genealogists. Go to clubs. Read books,” Parker said. “Use the Internet, your search engines, anything  you can, but do not restrict yourself to the Internet. Use your libraries, your cemetaries, use your feet and your car.” 
As seen in the May 15, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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