Forging new connections

So far, Family Epic has mostly been about my family — writer’s prerogative — and function of the old adage “write what you know.” Our Ruffner-Offutt side has been centered in Pennsylvania and in Maryland, and has barely budged. Then there’s the …

So far, Family Epic has mostly been about my family — writer’s prerogative — and function of the old adage “write what you know.” Our Ruffner-Offutt side has been centered in Pennsylvania and in Maryland, and has barely budged.  Then there’s the more mobile Williams-Walling southern contingent – New Jersey-South Carolina-Alabama-Georgia-Arkansas-Texas. Nice geographical contrast between the two sides — not a single overlapping state.

The other half of my children’s heritage presents different challenges and different locales.

My mother-in-law’s Mitchell-Pinkham genealogical history involves Yonkers and Flushing (NY), Medford (MA), Nantucket, and Scotland (with a brief sojourn in India.) Fortunately, cousins Woody and Ken are on the job and have plenty of original sources with which to work.  Stay tuned for updates on their work.

On the Odell side, it’s a wider geographical stretch – there’s the stationary New Hampshire line, but there’s also the Gleasons from County Clare, and a very recent Dutch arrival (you might have met Alice Berlage, the St Patrick’s Cathedral bride) with Belgian and English roots. Those pedigree charts have more blanks than names. But, as a result of my push to prepare “other side” posts, two wonderful things happened.

Wonderful Thing #1: I “found” a first cousin of my father-in-law (on his mother’s side), and, ironically, he’s been nearby all along. He’s an active alumni of the University of Maryland College Park (my 2002 alma mater) and often on campus for foundation and sporting events.  Whaddya know?  He’s a Terp!  We had a delightful first meeting a few weeks ago – and he has shared research materials that will help establish the exact nature of the family’s relationship to the renowned architect, Hendrick Petrus Berlage.

Last June, at the “Come Home to New England” guided research week at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, I gathered lots of material on the New Hampshire Odells.  Descended from Thomas Odell, counterfeiter and forger, the family settled in Stratham, Rockingham County for the next 150 years or so and apparently improved the family’s reputation. (1) Those New Englanders were good about their vital records and they began publishing compiled family genealogies and scholarly journals ahead of other regions.  I have yet to analyze everything retrieved a year ago, but I’m newly inspired because of Wonderful Thing #2.

Just two months ago, Bruce Barker (a last name that connects to Odell four generations back) posted pictures on, and now we’ve got faces to go with names, and for me, that makes a big difference.  Thanks, Bruce, for allowing me to post them on Family Epic. (2)

Here’s Lawrence Gleason Odell (1889-1970) as a child [John’s grandfather]:


And here are Lawrence’s parents, James Eustace Odell (1865-1939), and Mary (Mollie) Gleason Odell (1866-1947):


James left Stratham for the big city of Boston. (3)  Mollie was born in the United States but it’s her family that came from County Clare in the 1850s and settled in Barnstable on Cape Cod. (4)

James had two siblings, Mary Alice Odell (1853-1888), and George Horace Odell (1855-1918).


Dr. George Hilton Odell (1820-1871) and Louisa Barker Odell (1830-1916) were the parents of James Eustace, Mary Alice, and George Horace:


The father of Dr. George Hilton Odell, James Odell, Jr., was also a doctor; he died in 1822 at the age of 38, so we don’t have any images of him. (5)  But, on the maternal line, we do have a set of pictures back another generation.  Here are Louisa’s parents:  George Barker (1794-1874) and Mary Piper Barker (1801-1882): 


The George Hilton Odells and the Barkers are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Stratham, while the earlier Odells are in the Old Congregationalist Church Yard. (6)  If you modern day New Hampshire Odells are interested in a field trip, let me know and I’ll send more details! 


(1) Harles Thornton Libby, Walter Goodwin Davis, and Sybil Noyes, Genealogical dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991), 517.

(2) All images downloaded from ( : accessed 2 July 2010) from the Barker Family Tree; images identified and in the possession of Bruce Barker [address for private use], 2010.  

(3) 1900 U. S. Census, Boston, Massachusetts, pop. sched., Ward 21, enumeration district (ED) 1483, 6A, dwelling 11, family 29, James E. Odell; digital images, ( : accessed 18 July 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 686.

(4) 1880 U. S. Census, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, pop. sched., Barnstable, enumeration district (ED) 10, p, 45 (penned), p. 179 (stamped), dwelling 592, family 614, Mary E. Gleason; digital images, ( : accessed 18 July 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 519.

(5) D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Rockingham and Strafford counties, New Hampshire, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men. (Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1882), 550.

(7) Brage, Barbara West, Greenwood Cemetary [sic] Stratham, New Hampshire : inscriptions. (Rockingham County, NH: New Hampshire Society of Genealogists, 1980), 43-44; Congregationalist Church Cemetery data from Bruce Barker, ( : accessed 2 July 2010), private family tree.

3 thoughts on “Forging new connections”

  1. As an Odell, I loved reading this! My grandfather was James Eustace Odell (of the former Odell Rubber Company, back around 1945) and my Dad is Vincent Thomas Odell, Sr. (one of James’s 7 children) who currently lives in Middlesex, NJ.

    1. Malissa, hi, long time no communication!
      YOU ARE AMAZING! Thank you for all the info in Odell’s and Glendon’s. Would love to see pictures of their homes somehow.
      I have always been curious where in Stratham they lived.

      I was able to find a vintage print I will try and locate and forward you a picture.
      I have an old scrap book of my mim’s Miriam Gleason burns with old black and white photos from cape cod. Unfortuneatly there is no one alive to tell us who these people are now!
      I will gladly share if anyone is interested.
      Hope your daughters and family are doing great!
      Thanks for all your work!
      Xox robin

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