“No, it couldn’t be,” I said to my computer monitor.
Before this moment, I knew that Lizzie’s postcards had come into my possession through my uncle, yet I couldn’t remember how he got them. Did he find them at a flea market or one of the yard sales he’d frequently stumble upon? Did someone just give them to him? I wasn’t sure. But, as I stared the address listed in the obituary, the answers to those questions became clear.
I had just expanded the scope of my research beyond Lizzie, Patrick and Edward Milligan to learn more about the Nestor family. Since Lizzie lived with her sister, Ellen Cardinal, from at least 1900 until her death in 1962, I figured that she was as good a place to start as any. That’s when I came across an obituary for Ellen M. (Cardinal) Carline in the June 14, 1969 issue of The Lowell Sun.
BILLERICA Mrs. Ellen (Nellie) M. Cardinal Carline, wife of Charles J. Carline, of 2 Edgemont Ave, Pinehurst, died yesterday at Winchester Hospital. Born in Charlestown, the daughter of the late Ellen (Nestor) Cardinal, she was a resident of the Pinehurst section of Billerica for the past 29 years.
I gleaned two important tidbits from that paragraph. Rather than finding an obituary for Lizzie’s sister, Ellen, I found one for Ellen’s daughter, Nellie (Ellen II). But the chance discovery isn’t the one that stopped me in my tracks. The address at 2 Edgemont Ave in Billerica opened the floodgates to memories from the mid 1970s.
I was a teenage boy at the time. Uncle Fred had just purchased the house and he asked my brother Don and I if we’d help him clean it up so that he could rent it. Although I can’t remember exactly what we were doing there, whether it be sweeping, painting, etcetera, I do remember exploring, where one of us discovered the second-floor entrance to the house’s attic.
As I climbed up into the attic, I remember being surprised to find that it wasn’t dark like other attics that I’d explored. Daylight streamed in through a windowed gable, illuminating a dusty cardboard box that had evidently been left behind by the previous owners. The box contained Lizzie’s postcards.
So, not only did this obituary tell me who found her cards, but it also showed how Lizzie and I are connected. I found Lizzie’s postcards in my uncle’s house that was once owned by her niece. If I had to guess, when Lizzie died in 1962, some of her belongings were moved from her home in Malden to her niece’s house Billerica.
This accidental discovery has opened up a few more threads to follow.
For example, who did my uncle buy the property from? According to the obit, Nellie died in 1969, leaving behind husband Charles Carline, two sons, three daughters, and eight grandchildren. Since she died in 1969, and I remember my uncle owning the house in the mid to late 1970s, it’s likely that he bought the house from one of two places: either Nellie’s husband Charles, or from one of her children as part of the couple’s estate when Charles passed.
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