I have to be upfront about this. I’m married to an Odell and I’ve given birth to a couple of ’em, but I’m not really one myself. That doesn’t prevent me from nosing around the family history with great enthusiasm. I got started two years ago, while participating in “Welcome Home to New England” guided research week at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. The first discovery was a bit startling – an entry in Noyes, Libby and Davis’ Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (p. 517) details the career of Thomas Odell, counterfeiter and forger. After that, though, the line settled in Stratham, New Hampshire, for four – upstanding – generations.
On a recent trip to Portland, Maine, to visit my sister, I seized the opportunity to take a day trip to Stratham, about an hour away. I don’t mind stomping around cemeteries and browsing libraries by myself, but this time, I was very happy to have an Odell-by-birth join me. Meaghan, of Dover, New Hampshire, met me at the Stratham Historical Society.
The society library is not open on Mondays but a volunteer had graciously offered to meet me there anyway. Teddie was wonderfully helpful, and with Meaghan’s help, I gathered new textual materials, and we both got oriented to our target cemeteries in Stratham and nearby Greenland. We couldn’t have had a more beautiful day! Still, we fought off the mosquitoes and had to ignore incessantly barking dogs who didn’t appreciate us being that close to their yard.
At each of the three cemeteries we visited, Meaghan was the eagle eye who spotted the Odell monuments. Interestingly, all three were group monuments with multiple names and dates.
We are curious about how that came about. Although deprived of photographing true 1780s markers of her direct ancestors, the fine marble stones made our job easier – even if the dappled sunlight didn’t.
The real story here is this: until very recently, Meaghan Odell, a native of New Hampshire, and her father, a transplanted Marylander, had no idea how geographically close to their roots they were. It took the genie-aunt-by-marriage to bring them together and I am proud of that. She has offered to chase down more of the Odell history in New Hampshire. Not only am I thrilled to have ground forces there, I am confident that Meaghan will carry the connection forward for years to come.