Tag Archives: George Bulford

My American Cousin

By

Marian Bulford

Barb and John Mulcahy on their Wedding Day

In a drawer, safely tucked away, is Barb’s locket, shown here in her wedding day photo with John. Much to my regret, I never met my American cousin Barbara Jane Mulcahy in person.

However, we first got together in 2016 via Ancestry where I saw a family tree with three names including my surname, Bulford in it and in brackets (Adopted) I was intrigued enough to email the tree owner and ask how we were related.

Barb emailed me back almost immediately, like me very excited to meet a relative from across the pond, and me to meet an American relative. She sent me an invite to her family tree, and I sent one to her, so we could collaborate on our history. I asked her about the word ‘adopted’ after the names.

Barb told me, that her adopted mother was Elizabeth (Bulford) Smith and Elizabeth and her husband, Ira, adopted Barb soon after Barb’s birth in 1953. Barb’s families, both her adoptive family and her birth family, were very important to her and she told me later, of her excitement when, shortly after our meeting she located some birth cousins too.

She had a George Bulford born 16th of March 1889 in Mevagissy, Cornwall. We were related!

George Bulford was my Great Uncle, born to my paternal great-grandparents and he was Barb’s much-loved grandfather We emailed each other with information and worked out that I was a cousin – one time removed – of her mother Elizabeth, still alive at 96 years old, which made Barb, my second cousin – good enough for us!

George, at the age of 21 on the 7th May 1910, sailed on the SS Canada from Liverpool, emigrating to the USA. He landed in Quebec, on 16th May 1910 and from there, his final destination was Houghton, Michigan. First, he was a miner and later worked for the Ford Motor Company for 5$ a day.

She thought he may have also had some experience in shoemaking, as he had all the tools in his house, and frequently repaired hers and the family shoes. She was right! Uncle George had his occupation on the passenger list as ‘Boot maker’

Passenger List George Bulford, second from the top left

Barb and her husband, John Mulcahy lived on a farm in Britton, Michigan a village in Lenawee County. The population was 586 at the 2010 census. [1] From the photos, it looks like a beautiful spot.

In no time at all, Barb and I were emailing and telling each other about our lives. We both had dogs and sent each other a ‘Bark Box’ for our dogs, full of treats and toys. Barb was a dedicated vegetarian and loved animals and the outdoor life. We exchanged photos and Christmas cards and I told Barb all about my life here and introduced her to Genealogyensemble.com so she could read all about our family and other stories. She loved it!

She told me about the farm she lived on and her dog Missy, a goat named Leo, and two barn cats. They had fruit bushes, trees, and plenty of vegetables.

Barb was also an avid photographer, and at Christmas, I would receive a lovely Christmas card with a photo of hers on the front, like this one:

Winter in Britton, Michigan

Her husband John told me that her hobbies included dancing, wheat weaving, historical reenactment and she had an interest in architecture too. She was a talented lady. John wrote and told me:

When we moved to Tecumseh, in 1991, the first thing that Barb signed up for was a class in agriculture at the local school. She learned how to drive a tractor and saw some things that displeased her, such as a chicken butchering business. One of the projects of the class was to plant pine trees in long rows at the sides of the fields as windbreaks, they are useful around here because it is so flat and open. One day, I came home from work and found Barb lying on the couch. Apparently, her muscles, were all sore from hours of stoop labour, planting the pine seedlings. [2]

John continues: “The house looks nice, and that is Barb’s doing. She insisted on the new siding in 2001, and she designed the bay window you see on the side of the house. The red door was also her idea, a nice punctuation point with the grey siding. Barb was gifted as an architect, though she had no degree. She also came up with the name Macon River Farm when we began selling at the farmers market in Tecumseh.” [2]

Barb and John’s home with the bay window.

The Red Door

Leo The Goat

Via email, I ‘introduced’ her to my cousin Diane – Di – in the UK, and so, the three of us started to email including each other, and we learned more about our ancestors, exchanging information and photos we three had. Cousin Di and I were enchanted with these photos and Di commented for both of us when she wrote:

“John, your home is absolutely lovely, exactly what we Brits imagine a rural American farmhouse should look like, in a beautiful setting. The red door is inspirational, very Barb. It must be both a comfort and refuge for you, but also a constant reminder of your Barb, who put so much of herself into it. We are a crowded island, and you have so much space” [3]

Soon, Barb and I started to Skype too and shared even more of our ancestors’ lives and ours. We had a very good relationship going and we seemed to hit it off from our first emails to each other.

We all felt we got to know each other really well and enjoyed our relationship.

At the end of January, 2020 I noticed that I had not had a reply to a few emails which was not like Barb at all, so I wrote and asked if all was well. It was not.

She apologised for not answering sooner and told me she was making end of life arrangements.

I immediately emailed and asked her for whom she was making arrangements and said that I volunteered at the local Hospice and if I could be of any help, please let me know. Barb responded that she was making end of life arrangements for herself!

The shock to her husband John, her family, friends, and me and cousin Di in the UK, was profound. Even in the midst of all this turmoil, Barb took the time to email me, saying she wanted me to have her gold locket, that Barb is wearing in her wedding day photo.

She told me, that it belonged to her grandparents, and contains photos of her grandfather, George – my great Uncle – and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Curnow. It was a wedding day gift to Elizabeth from George, and she wore it on her wedding day, as did Barb.

Barb wrote that she wanted to keep it in the Bulford family. I was so very touched. After all, our friendship had lasted for only four years, even though it seemed much longer. I reassured Barb that it would be kept in our family, and eventually, I was going to give it to my Granddaughter Molly Marguerite.

Later, John sent her beautiful locket to me. To be honest, I had forgotten about it, so when I received it in the mail, I was very weepy and thrilled, all at the same time. I will treasure it.

Elizabeth Curnow and George Bulford were married on the 20th November, 1915

Our dear cousin, Barbara Jane Mulcahy died on the 15th of May 2020 at 3.40am. She is missed very much by us all, but especially by her dear husband John, who Di and I frequently email, just to keep in touch and for us all to be able to keep Barb in our memories. John very generously shares his memories of Barb with us, and we are grateful.

Rest in Peace, cuz, we love you and will never forget you.

SOURCES:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britton,_Michigan

[2] Email quotes and personal photos used with permission of John Mulcahy, with grateful thanks

[3] Email quotes used with permission of my cousin Diane.