Westfield Teen Historian Travels East Coast to Track Down Long-Lost Family

89d489228e1f60dc1e82_bf1904c5955fe01e9223_greta.jpg
Greta Crandall conducts research in a dusty basement during her freshman year.
89d489228e1f60dc1e82_bf1904c5955fe01e9223_greta.jpg

WESTFIELD, NJ — Can you name your great grandfather? How about your great, great grandfather? Greta Crandall can, and then some. The Westfield High School senior has traced her family all the way the back to 1510.

There’s Prudence Crandall, who ran the first racially integrated school. There’s John Elder Crandall, founder of Westerly, R.I., and a pioneer advocate for religious freedom during the colonial era. There’s great, great, great grandfather Horace Crandall of Virginia, who was a member of the Union Army during the American Civil War.

It all started six years ago, when Greta’s father, Bill Crandall, stopped on the highway near Lake George, N.Y., to find the grave of his great grandfather.

Sign Up for E-News

“When we got there we found other ‘Crandall’ and ‘Crandell’ graves, but nobody in our family knew who they were,” said Crandall. “I wanted to know who these people were.”

Since then, the teen has spent her summers chasing distant and forgotten relatives across the east coast, from farms and cemeteries in upstate New York and Rhode Island to battlefields in Virginia.

“Most genealogy clues lead nowhere. There were definitely some long afternoons hunting in vain for apparently unmarked gravestones,” she said. “The hours researching can make this project feel lonely, but it really does end up bringing people together.”

Crandall said she found most of her clues through oral family history from relatives, including her father and grandfather.

“This then led me to cemeteries and county clerk’s offices where I searched for graves and looked through documents,” she said. “Ancestry.com was also helpful in that it is able to link me to documents that have been scanned in from different sources, an example being a county clerk’s office."

The most fulfilling part of the project, she said, was when she traveled to Carlisle, Pa., to meet 95-year-old Dorothy Crandall, a fourth cousin twice-removed, who was raised by non-other than war veteran Horace Crandall.

“We sat on her couch surrounded by photos of her grandchildren. I showed her how to swipe my iPad with her index finger to navigate our common family tree.” said Greta Crandall. “My favorite story is the one of kindly old Horace — her great grandfather and my great, great, great grandfather — limping up the hill to fetch a basin of fresh water for Dorothy and her three little brothers to take their weekly bath. ‘We would compete to look the cleanest,’ Dorothy said. ‘After all, the dirtiest one had to get in last.’”

Earlier in his life, Horace Crandall left his farm on the banks of Lake George at the age of 21 to enlist in the Union Army, Greta Crandall learned. He fought in the first land battle of the Civil War at Big Bethel, Va., and more than a dozen others between 1861 and 1863. He was wounded at the Chancellorsville, and as a result limped for the remainder of his life. He was in Virginia for the state’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, she learned, and met President Abraham Lincoln when stationed on the banks of the James River.

Greta Crandall’s father Bill Crandall has been her driver and research assistant.

“Finding out that Crandalls have a direct line in this country back to the 16th Century was surprising, and I think it's changed our perspective,” Bill Crandall said. “I am enormously proud of Greta and the lives she has explored. Greta is easily my favorite teenage historian.”

Greta’s work is not done yet, as she is currently researching her great grandmother’s branch of the family, who are of Dutch descent and immigrated to New York City in the early 20th Century, she said.

Overall, she has found that the Crandall ancestry ranges from English men and women who sought religious freedom in the New World, Dutch colonists, Irish immigrants and war veterans of the Civil War and the French and Indian War.

“I never expected it to take me this far,” said Greta Crandall. “Anybody can do this, but you have to really want to put in the time. When you do, it is incredibly rewarding. Our paths undoubtedly intersect with each other’s and great moments in history. The more we all know about our common past, the easier it is to collaborate to build a common future.”

Mack Liederman is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Springfield Acupuncturist Charged with Sexual Assault of Patient

February 24, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, NJ — A Springfield-based acupuncturist and was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a patient, Acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan and Springfield Police Chief John Cook jointly announced Friday.

 Edward Raskin, 55, of Chatham Township, Morris County, was charged with second-degree sexual assault and fourth-degree criminal sexual ...

Mayor Brindle’s Update

February 15, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

I first want to congratulate Nick Calello and David Went for their promotions to patrol officers in the Westfield Police Department. I’d also like to welcome and congratulate new Patrol Officer Fortunato Riga, who joins the police department this week upon his ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_9cfec6f1d81f034823a4_1d4v9602

Sat, February 24, 1:00 PM

Westfield Area YMCA, Westfield

Free Kids Expo and Water Safety Event

Arts & Entertainment Health & Wellness

Sat, February 24, 7:00 PM

Grand Summit Hotel, Summit

The Burlesque Ball

Arts & Entertainment Giving Back

Carousel_image_2e2e4830042112095f66_94f09724857a937db1ac_d6404e0a-7afd-4279-b56f-19b0f9b2138c

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

Camp Riverbend, Warren

Camp Riverbend Open House

Westfield Police Blotter: Man Steals 60 Pairs of Pants from Downtown Store & More

February 21, 2018

February 14, 2018 10:53 p.m.

Officers Gill and Weiss arrested Luis Murillo, age 30, of Rahway, NJ, for two outstanding warrants out of Westfield Municipal Court ($500) and Woodbridge Municipal Court ($500) pursuant to a motor vehicle stop in Scotch Plans Township. Subject was transported to headquarters, processed and released after posting requisite bail.

 

February 15, 2018 5:24 ...

Union County Hosts First LGBTQ Roundtable

February 24, 2018

On Tuesday, February 20, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, through the Office of LGBTQ Services, hosted a roundtable with over 20 leading LGBTQ advocacy and ally organizations that serve Union County and New Jersey. Facilitated by Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality, more than 40 participants met to discuss LGBTQ-related programs, services, issues and ...

The Missing Moses

A seemingly dubious distinction belongs to this week’s Parshah, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20–30:10). It is the only reading in the Torah — from the first Parshah of the book of Exodus (in which he is born) until the end of the book of Numbers — where the name of Moses is not mentioned. Tetzaveh’s opening words are V’atah ...

‘Month of Hope’ at Wilson School

Inspired by the HOPE Week Initiative introduced in 2009 by the New York Yankees, Mr. Joseph Malanga, principal of Wilson School and a fan of the American League professional ballclub, declared January the “Month of Hope” at Wilson.

Malanga called on the school’s faculty Acts of Kindness Committee to choose the charitable organizations to be recipients of the weekly donation ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

Would the Stock Market Affect Your Home Purchase?

"Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night." ("All About Eve.") While most people misquote this as "It's going to be a bumpy ride," the actual quote works better for the movie. Bette Davis delivers this with the classic style that made her one of the most loved actresses of her generation.

Well for the stock market it’s been a wild bumpy ...

Good News in NJ for Veterans

Beginning in the 2017 tax year, New Jersey will give an additional $3,000 exemption for military veterans. You are eligible to claim this exemption NJ state income tax return if you are a military veteran who was honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States on or before the last day of the tax year.

 

The ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 13, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Love Craft Beer But Hate the Tour? State Assembly Moves to Make it Easier for You to Belly Up to the Bar

Good news is a brew for New Jersey craft beer advocates. In February 2018, the New Jersey Assembly’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee paved the way for the introduction of Bill A2196, which would remove a current licensing rule requiring breweries and distilleries to provide a tour of their facilities before serving alcoholic beverages to consumers. Currently, breweries holding a ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

Is FAANG Long in the Tooth?

Investors love to rally around a stock story. Today it’s all about the FAANG stocks. Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG) are a major reason why the S&P 500 rallied so much in 2017. Mr. Market is convinced the FAANGs are impervious to a sell-off. “Its different this time” is ringing loud and clear, but will the outcome really be that ...

Imagine a Chatham Toboggan Ride from the Top of Fairmount Avenue to Main Street

Did you know….
there was a time when Chatham kids could ice skate from downtown Chatham all the way to Florham Park? And that a toboggan ride could last from the top of Fairmount Avenue down to Main Street and beyond?

Those were the days!

This was back in the early to mid-1900s. The Passaic River meandered through grassy meadows and woods on the north side of Chatham. The marshy ...

Obituaries

Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

NBA Star Dennis Rodman Enjoys Life in Livingston

February 23, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Dennis Rodman’s friends say he is “living like a Livingston kid” while he is in town doing an outpatient program for Turning Point Rehab Center.

Livingston native Chris “Vo” Volo, an agent for Prince Marketing Group, has been representing Rodman for seven years and the two quickly became ...