Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Lenox Genealogical Mystery Tour:

My brother Richard and I just returned from Lenox Mass. and I'm remembering the three things my Dad used to say about the O'Brien's.

1) "O'Brien is like Gaelic for "Smith" or "Jones"... There's a million of us!"

2) "In the neighborhood your Great Grandfather grew up in in Brooklyn; if you threw a brick out the window you were likely to hit an O'Brien in the head."

3) "When the Good Lord was explaining the rules, the room was so crowded with Irishmen that the O'Brien's ended up standing behind a door.... All they heard was: "Go Forth and Propagate..." and we've been doing just that ever since....


I was late getting to Church today because I forgot to switch over my belt to the shorts I changed into because of the Heatwave we are experiencing. It gets very humid in our Church so believe me shorts were a priority! A belt was a MUST as my ivory white knees are hard enough to look at, let alone anything else that might have inadvertently seen the light of day....

I should have known this was the way things would go for the rest of the day.


After Church it took forever for me to get my act together. I kept forgetting things.... My Cellphone, my maps, my coffee, my cell phone again then my coffee again etc....


When I got to Mom's house to pick-up Richard it was almost 12:00. We stopped at McDonald's for Burgers AND THAT COFFEE that I left at home!

Then we got gas and I left the tank door open. I couldn't see well enough to get out of the parking lot and someone had time to pull up next to us to point out the gas tank door. Good thing too 'cause it gave traffic time to clear while I got out and slammed the gas tank door closed....

We got on the Northway and turned onto I-90 just as a Mini-van full of Kids made a last minute swerve in front of the car in front of us!


We took 90 to the Taconic without insident, but we got off at the wrong exit and ended up in the vicinity of Chatham. I vaguely knew where I was from my "Hippy-Youth" but I had left the detailed trip map at home on the computer unprinted....

Enter Richard's GPS....

(I know what your thinking... ..."at the next intersection turn left... you are going the wrong way, at the next intersection... recalculating... as soon as you can make a U-turn and go back.... ARGH!")

Eventually we found ourselves taking the back roads (NOT THE FASTER HIGHWAY ROUTE I WANTED...) and along the way we passed through West New Lebanon where my son Devin is stationed on the weekends as an EMT. He was on a call so I left a message and did a virtual wave....


The GPS finally got us to Lee Mass. but it kept trying to get us to go into Lenox from Stockbridge and I knew I wanted to come in from Rt 20 and go passed the Hubbard street house first. So I winged it and we finally persevered long enough to reach the intersection of Rt 20 and turn left and North. BUT, I missed a bend in the road and had to U-ee again going through Lee. We used the GPS to find the turn for Hubbard but it was my innate unconscious sense of direction that I should have listened to in the first place that actually got us there!!!!


The house on Hubbard was hard to figure out and someone was in the driveway that I thought was the house but I was a little slow in approaching the guy so he went into the house before I could get out and ask questions...

We went on down to Franklin Street to see if we could have better luck on Church Street. As we got out of the car it began to rain. My 1876 map was printed from my Inkjet printer and I had forgotten to put it in a Baggie to protect it....

We parked in the back parking lot of an Italian Restaurant and I rolled the Map up and stuffed it in my shirt, took a slug off of my coffee and we headed out into the rain. The first place we tried was "The Gifted Child" Toy Store but the owner wasn't there. We spoke with the young girls in charge and left a note but their xerox didn't work so I could leave a copy of the map. They were really nice to us and I decided to pick-up a gift for Sarah while I was there. This was just the kind of place we used to look for when she was little when we were on vacation. If this was actually where the O'Brien's lived it would be neat for me/her if it turned out to be a place like this. They had "Ugly Dolls" and I buy them for her when I can even though she is now an adult. Daddoo can be senti-mental sometimes. BUT HEY! THATS MY JOB! And she will ALWAYS be my little "Baby-girl".

I bought a pack of "Ugly Doll" Postcards as well because she likes "Posts" also. I figured I would send her one from here as a surprise.


We went next door to an upscale clothing shop where we met two women who were delightful. After some chit-chat about the difficulties of Irish Genealogy they called up a longtime resident who knew enough about the street to convince us that the Gifted Child Toy Store was our place.

So we stood across the street and took pictures with our cellphones. I checked out my blog on my phone the other day and I think I contracted a virus because some of my photo's are corrupted. Here is only one of two that I have been able to upload so far:

Yes, that is my finger in the foreground!

I went back in and bought Sarah the Ugly Doll named "Wage". He's named that because he is the only Ugly Doll who has a Job. He works in a Grocery Store and most people don't know he works there, even the owner's. Appropriate one might say don't you think?


So off we go looking for the Loeb grocery store, looking for a postage stamp, and a place to Pee 'cause the Coffee wants to be left behind again. The people there were friendly, looked around in their personal stuff for a stamp even but alas...

No stamp, no bathroom. We promptly bought eats and a 64oz bottle of Berkshire Beer for Devin as his souvenir and began again to look for anyplace to relieve ourselves gracefully and with dignity.

Down the street and around the corner we found a Restaurant and I got nervy enough to ask if we could use the facilities. When I was done and Richard was taking his turn, I got "Chatty" with the Manager out front on the steps while I was waiting.

"Where abouts in N.Y. are you from?"


"I'm from N.Y. as well"


"West New Lebanon."

"Really? My son works out of there as an EMT for Empire... He's not built like me though, he's much taller."

(I pull out my Cellphone and show him a picture...)

"Yeah, Yeah, I know him, He used to come into the hardware store when I worked there... Nice Guy too..."


We think maybe there will be a vending machine for stamps at the Post Office but there isn't. We amble down the street towards the Mobile station as a last resort....


Yes, that's my finger in the foreground again...

Owned and operated by John J O'Brien! His people came there by way of NY as well. Brooklyn I think he said. I wonder if he has ever heard the one about the window....

We exchanged numbers and E-mail addresses and wondered off in the direction of the car with a smile on our faces and a "well, I guess we were not supposed to find a stamp after all..." frame of mind!


Back in the car again, we headed up to the only Cemetery we could find on the map. The "Church on the Hill" Congregational Cemetery. I think we looked at every stone in the next hour or two. While we were wandering we met a young man taking pictures. He and his mother are writing a book about famous people buried in the area. I gave him my info in hopes that I might someday get a look at the finished book. Nice Guy too. I asked him if there was a Cemetery for Saint Ann's down on Main Street but he wasn't sure so we headed off in that direction to see what we could find on our own.


I asked a women in the parking lot if she could point us to the Saint Ann's Cemetery and she did so under the duress of a tired child who wanted her attention. Having been there myself I waited patiently. We missed the turn at first but found it easily by the baseball field just where she said it would be.

BANG! O'Brien's everywhere! I took a picture of Richard standing next to a large stone with his name on it with his camera cause mine was beginning to act weird at that point. I called Mom and started asking her for some names... She said that she thought maybe there was some info in a folder at her house and come to think of it she thought we really should be looking further North around Pittsfield.


We got in the car and Richard fired up the GPS. It was time to go home for dinner. The GPS started right out telling us to go in the direction I knew was wrong, so I headed back to 2o instead. It continued to yell at us so I told him to turn it off. My orienteering payed off and we took the major highways back home to Albany and Mom's house in Guilderland.


I opened up the file Mom had not mentioned before and found another Goldmine! Among other things there was an invitation to the Wedding of "James Richard O'Brien" of Pittsfield Mass in 1925.

Click to view larger.

I looked into it on Ancestry and GUESS WHAT!


I only hope the O'Brien's there are as nice as the ones we met in Lenox.


Oh yeah, Devin called after we got back wondering if I wanted to stop by on the way home. I told him we had taken the Highway and I mentioned his souvenir.

"A what?!! many ounces? A Gallon Bottle? I'll stop by after my Ravena shift to check it out. See you then, by!"

"...Love-ya Man! Later...."



  1. THis was a rush! What a good story.

  2. Great story, Mark. Sounds like a fun day. Keep 'um comin'.
    Mike B.