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It’s In The Eyes

Posted by Mummy Dearest on Feb-3-2010


Virginia Carbis was my Great Great Grandfather’s maternal Aunt. As far as I can find, there are no photos of his mother, Maggie. And so this photo, courtesy of Piedmont Fossil, a third or fourth or you get the idea cousin of mine has been a treasure to view. He also provided his family stories, printed below.


My Great Great Grandfather, Sam Kerlin, with his daughter, Eva Kerlin, 1915. Now, this is a horrid photo, most likely made by the family photographer, the older sister Gretta Kerlin ( named after Maggie Carbis) with her shiny new brownie camera. The sleigh , though, is to die for and hey, this is in the part of Pittsburgh that my family refuses to let me visit ( Thompson Street). Now, I knew my ( Great )Grandma Eva quite well, she was about 4 square when I knew her, 5’2 to 5’4 inches tall and just about as wide. But if you look at the man and girl sitting in the sleigh, they seem to be about the same height.

I think that I killed a scanner blowing up this picture. Sam Kerlin’s eyes turn down at the outer corners, as do Virginia Carbis’. They have the same rather skewed eyebrows. And they both look like they have never smiled in their entire life.

And that is all of the tat that I have.

  1. Mary Said,

    Why do they refuse to let you visit Thompson Street???

  2. Mummy Dearest Said,

    Mary, apparently, it is in a very ..uh…tourist unfriendly part of Pittsburgh. My Father, my Great Aunt ( the youngest daughter of the above Eva Kerlin ) and I once spent an afternoon in Pittsburgh, looking for places that the family had lived in and stomping around a cemetery.

    We left the kids in Ohio, with my Dad’s cousin.

    Those two wouldn’t even let me get out of the car to take a photo of the one house left standing ! Truth be told, I would have felt like an idiot as well, if I had done so.

    It was very, very neat, though, to go to Pittsburgh. The stories that my Dad and Great Aunt shared were great ( Oh, that’s where we used to buy- or steal- ice !).

    We also ended up spending one night in Pittsburgh, in some fancy hotel that had a view to die for, most likely a Sheraton. It is across the river from this tiny, pointy part of Pittsburgh and I just kept looking out of the window, at the rivers, and thinking, gosh, once Samuel Carbis lived here, I could be looking at the very same area where his home once was, where he once went up and down the rivers in a riverboat.

    Eh, makes history come alive.

  3. Ian H Said,

    Carbis – sounds like a good old Cornish name ?

  4. Mummy Dearest Said,

    Ian, Carbis does indeed sound very Cornish. Most of my searches on the name have led to either places in Cornwall or to miners who immigrated to the far north west of America.

    The Indian story is also somewhat interesting, but I have heard it before. Even The Boy, when I told him about it, said, oh, Davey ? So he was at The Alamo ? ( He had just seen that dreadful John Wayne film…).

    I have been to Cornwall a number of times. Tin mines, beautiful pottery, did King Arthur live there ? Who knows, it’s a fine and dramatic site.

    Celtic, there are worse things to be.

    Say, do Aussie’s have that same thing as Americans, looking for their *roots* ?

  5. Ian H Said,

    Yes, the Cornish mining fraternity is very widespread. I spent my formative years at school in Cornwall and still love the place. Not a common surname but there was a Carbis family at one place I lived in North Queensland, a gold mining community – almost certainly descendants of miners.

    Family history is just as popular down here and finding one’s roots amongst convict stock (and thus being amongst the first) is akin to a badge of honour. Settlement here is a bit younger and the problem of linking back to the motherland somewhat easier than in the US I suspect. Me, I’m first generation.

    The Alamo, what a great film. It was a classic of its time if I remember correctly and I can – which dates me somewhat.

  6. Mummy Dearest Said,

    Hi Ian, I tried responding to your comment earlier, but I ended up being so very rude that I did not want to publish it.

    In America, the ultimate status symbol is to be descended from one of those Pilgrims, you know, left from Plymouth, landed in Plymouth ( been to both), ate turkey with the Indians, learned how to pop corn and got them injuns out of the way right quickly.

    My take on the Pilgrims ( and here is where I become really rude ) is that on that long voyage all that they did was puke and hump. I’ll take Captain Bligh ( Charles Laughton) and a passel of convicts any day.

    My first trip to Cornwall was a family holiday, when I was somewhere about 10. We rented this little white cottage in a place called Mousehole ( I really don’t feel like doing a Google search on this. Maybe it is not spelled Mousehole, but that is sortof how it sounded.) . I remember that the beds were rather lumpy, that we had to keep shoving large, copper coins into some.. thing… in order to get either heat or hot water and that my younger brother and I could walk down to the harbor, alone.

    The harbor was very stony, but between the rocks we would find hermit crabs. And for whatever reason, I have always found hermit crabs enchanting.

    Couldn’t tell you the last time that I saw a hermit crab, perhaps when I was 15 and lived in Thailand.

    I might have been in Cornwall again in 1980, I simply cannot remember. I know that we got as far south as Devon but the summer of 1980 was the rainiest summer in about 300 years , and at a certain point, all that I wanted were dry clothes and every single place looked the same : rainy.

    About 10 years ago, we rented some place not far from Plymouth for a week or two one summer. As my mama did not raise a fool, we all brought our wellies. We ended up having to stoke some Aga all day long, or else the men had no hot water to use when shaving. But it was really nice.
    Great fish and chips. Lots of things for the kids to see, and we ran down to Land’s End, Penzance, St. Ives and Mousehole.

    I don’t know when you where last there, but one has to pay now to visit Tintangel. Didn’t bother me one bit, for it is so beautiful, grey and craggy. Unlike York, where one has to pay something simply to … pass gas ?

    What is that first sentence ? I remember the first time that I saw Manderley ?

  7. Ian H Said,

    Ahhh, memories of Cornwall, most involve getting wet and wearing my wellies to school and being saturated for half the day. Mousehole, spelt that way but generally pronounced Mowzel. My last visit was a few years ago but I have the B&B already booked in Bodmin for a few days in July – can’t wait.

    I’m sure ther’s a book called the floating brothel – I’d be very surprised if our early immigrants were any better behaved than the Pigrim Fathers – from memory there’s at least one book called the Floating Brothel or suchlike !

    St Ives eh – you’d have been to Carbis Bay then ? Cornwall’s most radioactive beach thanks to uranium bearing waste from the Providence Mine.

  8. Mummy Dearest Said,

    Ian, I just missed you. I was busy going on and on about hog jowls.

    I suppose that I was at Carbis Bay a number of times, but only recently having found that Carbis link, at the time ,it would have meant nothing to me, gone straight over my head.

    What I do find very curious, though, is how the love of…rocks can be found in my family. The Baby has it, our house is littered with her rocks, and I had it. Back when I was an archeaologist, I specialized in pottery, which meant that I would look at a broken bit and try to see what had been used to make it. And I just love fossils.

    And then that cousin of mine, a geologist, of all things. I tend to wonder if this penchant is also genetically determined. From old miners, long, long ago.

    The Father wanted us to go to England again this summer, but I nixed it, I’m afraid. With the cherubs, one must consider both the weather and the food.

    Now he is talking Brittany. Ok, we have solved the food problem…

    But, really, I like rain. I like airco.

    I would really like to see Chatsworth right now, having just re- read a book about the Mitfords.

    But being realistic, the kids would be bored to tears in either location.

    I suppose that we shall just stay home this summer and enjoy the rain here.

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