Author Archives: wmconlon

About wmconlon

Bill is the owner and administrator for the Conlon family website.

Wallet photos

Back in the days before we had mobile phones with thousands of photos, people carried important pictures with them in their wallets.  Here are the pictures that Mom carried, showing her family over the years.

Wedding day, May 31, 1952. Mom and Dad next to the 1949 Chevy.

Bill Jr, Mom, Babs, Dad, Tom. Easter Sunday 1969 in the back yard in El Lago.

Barbara held her senior art exhibit at UC Santa Cruz in January 1984, and the whole family came out in support. Back row: Dad, Ashraf (friend/colleague of Bill’s from Diablo Canyon project), Barbara, Judith, Mom, Tom, Bill Jr. Front row: Dave, Jean Retzlaff (Dave’s Mom), Jacob, Paula, Megan.

Family tree update – 7 May 2023

I just updated the family tree , which had last been updated on 26 March 2022.  Here are some of the key changes:

  • The tree now only contains individuals that I have verified to be relatives.  That eliminates some speculative connections that I have in my own software, including the Reinhard tree that had been provided by Jim Matthias and Albert Wagner, the town historian of Niedernberg Germany.  Despite two decades of searching, I have yet to find any documentary or DNA evidence that supports the connection of my great grandfather Alexander Reinhard to the Niedernberg Reinhard tree.  Although, the connection to Niedernberg seems solid, there needs to be more evidence.
  • A few individuals have been added, primarily to the Fogarty line, based on DNA evidence.
  • About 40 more sources were added, including some 1950s census records and other records confirming information already know.  The most significant were the death dates and cause of death for my Fogarty grand uncles (Patrick T. and William H.) and grand aunt (Mary F.).

Please let me know if you see any errors or have suggestions for lines of inquiry.

Mom and Dad’s Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary Party

This party celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of Bill Conlon and Dorothy Figueroa. The event took place at the Carltun in Eisenhower Park on May 31, 2002.

You had to be there to appreciate the elegance of this festive occasion, with great food and drink, and the fabulous staff who arranged for about 60% more seats, with many small tables, to facilitate mingling by all the guests. You also had to be there to want to watch familial small-talk, laughter, and reminiscences by our younger selves. It is really wonderful to see and hear those who have left us since, then including the three Conlon brothers and Joe’s good friend Phyllis.

But if you weren’t there, or want to remember the warm feelings, watch this video.

Gene Thomas had an intuitive feeling for the flow of conversation and did a great job of capturing the party. In fact none of the clips have been edited, although a couple were dropped to reduce the length.

The title photo of Bill and Dot running down the steps at the church was taken by Dot’s brother Jim.

And here is a short clip of the cast of characters.

Family Photos

Photos were an ever present part of family life.  I suspect Dad’s interest in photography was piqued by his brothers-in-law, James and Richard, who were quite accomplished. 

His first camera was a compact 35mm Bolsey Model B, which came in a brown leather case and supported a flash bulb attachment. He used an exposure meter, which became a theme for us.

Billy holding exposure meter at front door, December 1957 

Around 1965, he purchased a 35mm Yashica Pentamatic with an exposure timer, which with a tripod, allowed him to get into the photos, instead of being just behind the camera. Dad shot 35mm slides, mostly Kodak, but he switched to Agfachrome for a while.  
Backyard family photo.

Dad would get out the camera for all the important occasions – birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and took it along when we traveled.  The mandatory family photo was sometimes stressful, with some cursing over the tripod, the exposure timer, or just because we were being bratty kids. 

With a new roll, there was always the worry about the film being taken up.  I recall many times when the film didn’t advance and shots were lost, and some times when Dad wasn’t sure and would go into a closet to check without ruining the whole roll. Sometimes he would gather us for a photo just to finish off a roll, so it could be mailed off in a small metal can to Kodak and eventually other labs. Until we moved to Houston, there was a new roll of film every 4 to six weeks. 

One of my fondest memories is when the developed slides returned in the mail: a family would gathering for a slide show in the living room, typically on Sunday night.  First the screen would come out of its box in the front hall closet, to be set up in front of the window.  Then he would haul the slide projector from his bedroom closet and set it up on the dining room table. He fed the slides manually, and sometimes had the wrong orientation, which would exasperate him.  

Eventually  he bought an automatic unit from Sears that used slide trays and had both timed and manual advance.  Of course the slides still needed to loaded in the right orientation, and sometimes the slides wouldn’t advance properly, so there was still some frustration and an opportunity to curse at the machine. Dad ended up buying more slide trays, so each new roll of film only needed to be loaded once, and we could see many more pictures in an evening. Sears tower slide projector

By the 1980s, with all the kids gone, there were only a few occasions for a show, like when we came back for Christmas (see Dad’s list of trips to Bethpage).  Also, Dad had switched to a Pentax ME Super and from slide to print film, so the slide projector was seldom used otherwise.  The last slideshow I recall was when Judith and I and Barbara and Dave were visiting, probably over Christmas of 1997. 

We were shocked that so many of the slides had faded completely or in one of the pigments, and I wanted them to be scanned for preservation.  I looked at slide scanners, but realized it would not be a good idea to sentence Dad to a lifetime of slide scanning in the basement.  Fortunately,  the Kodak PhotoCD became an option, and Dad went through the slide to select those to be scanned, making a list with a caption and date or estimate date based on the month and year printed on the slide carrier.

There were originally 5 CDs, each with 80 to 100 images.  I extended Dad’s list with additional columns for people, places, events, and trips.  To allow quick and easy access, I created a javascript and associated data structure with pointers to images in directories.  I provided this on CD to the family, but storage limits  forced me to scale the images to just 640×480, much less resolution that the original 3072×2048 scans, which is the resolution at

It has long been my desire to display the full resolution images and to have a more robust approach to image management.  I think the images themselves should carry the information in meta data, such as IPTC, so they can be indexed automatically, but especially so the association of caption, date, and people is permanent, and dependent on file structure or a separate database or program.  I don’t know if I will ever get around to it, but it’s on my to-do list.

BTW, I ended up getting Dad’s Bolsey when he bought the Yashica and used it for about 25 years until he gave me a Pentax of my own.  I used that camera to take pictures as a child and teen, trying to follow in his footsteps.

The car accident

The weather in the Boston area on Sunday, July 17, 1932 was warm, with a high of 86°F and moderate easterly winds, and it was time for a family outing.  Martin J. Conlon’s two sons with his late wife Elena (Fogarty), Bill (9) and Joe (6) could have some fun at the beach, and his new wife Ella (Fox) and their six-week-old newborn Martin could get some fresh air.  After church, Martin and Ella, along with Bill, Joe, Martin, aunt Mary (Lyons) Fitzgerald and family friend Annie Mahoney bundled into the car to drive out to Nantasket Beach.  It was to be a quiet day summer day together, away from the world’s troubles and triumphs.

Governor Roosevelt’s yacht had arrived in Brighton the day before and he was traveling to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to address a large crowd as the recently nominated Democratic candidate for President.  The bonus marchers were still in Washington, D.C. but with Congress adjourning were losing momentum.  The Olympic trials were underway and Clarence Crabbe was earning his moniker ‘Buster’ by demolishing swimming records.

Martin was a merchant who sold Atwater Kent radios and operated the Jenny Oil gasoline station in Whitman, home of Bostonian and Regal shoes.  After Elena died of breast cancer in 1927, her widowed aunt Mary had moved in to 9 Elm Place in Whitman to look after the boys.  Across the street were their grandmother Alice Lyons Fogarty, and aunts and uncles –Lena’s brother’s Bill and Patrick and sisters Mary and Alice.  Elena’s cousin Ella must have been a presence as well, so when Martin and Ella married in April 1931, it must have brought the Conlon and Fogarty families still closer together.

On the way home, as Bill recalled 70 years later:

“I was about nine years old then. He also had another son, my brother Eddie was born about 1932. And then that summer, we had an unfortunate auto accident. My father was driving and my stepmother was in the front seat. And I was in the backseat with my brother Joe and my half brother. Eddie was in the arms of a Great aunt.  My father was making the turns when a truck hit us in the side where my stepmother was sitting and she was killed. The rest of us were hospitalized for varying amounts of time. I was in for about four or five days and I had a concussion and a couple of cuts in the face. My father had a broken shoulder. So he was in for several weeks. And my brother Joe had I think he had about five dents in the skull right about here. So he was in hospital all summer long for about two months, maybe 10 weeks. But he, he finally recovered okay.”

According to the newspaper report, the injuries were severe, with 4 of the seven expected to die from the collision which occurred at about 6:30 p.m. on Main Street, near Green Street, with a vehicle operated by Patrolman Henry Wigmore of the Hingham Police. “The car was in head-on collision with [police officer] Wigmore’s machine, but Conlon, in his efforts to avoid the crash, stepped on the gas and swerved his machine so that it ran up on a small green near Green st, crashed against a pole and caromed against a large tree, throwing the seven occupants of the car on to the ground.” 

Boston Globe, 17 July 1932.

Four of Eight Injured at Hingham May Die

The main route from Nantasket currently goes through a rotary in Hingham, but according to the Patriot Ledger, “construction of the rotary started in 1933,” the year after the accident, so the actual route taken that day is unknown. 

Hingham rotary

Martin was charged with “operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger” and appeared in Hingham District Court that September. There are conflicts between the accounts from the newspaper, Bill’s recollection, and the scene

  • how was it a head-on collision if Martin swerved and went of the road onto the green where he hit a pole and a tree?
  • how was it a head-on collision if Wigmore’s car hit the side where Ella was sitting?

Perhaps court records still exist that could shed further light, but it seems possible that the Conlon vehicle turned left from Summer Street onto what is now Route 3A and into the path of the oncoming car.  Bill remembered going to court but thought that he hadn’t had to testify.
Boston Globe, 17 July 1932.

Ella died of her injuries on 20 July 1932, five months to the day after giving birth to her only child.  The others survived, and Martin’s sister Winifred Conlon McCarthy came down from Holliston with her two teenaged daughters, Mary and Rita, to look after the three boys for the rest of the summer. 

Newpaper clipping  

After burying his second wife, Martin moved the family to 903 Washington Street, where they lived for another decade, before he bought the house next to the gas station and moved it to 31 Legion Parkway.

Family tree update 2021

My Dad would have been 93 years old on 17 January, so in honor of his birthday, I decided to update the family tree.

Frankly, I haven’t been doing much genealogy work over the last 23 months, but I got the bug again after the recent election (I may wanted a distraction).  I have included 165 new sources, many of which pertain to multiple individuals in a family.

I added an unrelated person, Bill Timmerman, who was my grandfather’s close friend and whom my mother called Uncle Bill.  We have a doll that Uncle Bill gave to my Mom upstairs.

My big focus in December was trying to resolve the connection between my great grandmother Alice Lyons and the Lyons family that lived out here in San Francisco.  My Dad and my uncle Joe both visited Nellie Lyons, and 20 years ago we went looking for (and found) her house in the Twin Peaks.  And their Aunt Alice would send money out to two priests who were sons of Nellie’s sister Katherine.  I have found a DNA connection, but so far have not found a common ancestor.

Many of the new sources help to flesh out the stories of  the Figueroa cousins on my Mom’s side, but I didn’t add many new individuals.  I continue to search for the Reinhard connection in Niedernberg, Germany but keep coming up empty.  The information I have on the Reinhards, provided to me some 20 years ago, is starting to look a little suspect, so I will have to dig in.

When I first began this family tree, I naively imported a GEDCOM file full of people that looked like they might be related.   After I got some experience, I realized I shouldn’t take anyone’s research for granted, and needed to verify everything.  So as my final step before updating the online tree, I double-checked and then deleted those (several hundred) unrelated individual.

From somewhere in France

These letters by my grandfather, Martin J. Conlon to his girlfriend Lena Fogarty, who became his wife and my grandmother, were written during his World War I service in France with the 306th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division, American Expeditionary Forces.

They were married in Lena’s hometown of Whitman, Mass. on November 23, 1921, and had two children, my father William Martin (pictured with them) and uncle Joseph Francis.  Lena passed away at 38 years in 1927.

I recently (August 2020) found these letters as I was shredding my Dad’s old papers.  They were among recent (at the time of his death) bills, mail and other assorted items, and I assume he got them out of safe-keeping (probably in his bureau) to scan them for us, but didn’t have the chance to do so.  Or perhaps, he just wanted to read these letters before joining his parents on the other side.

May 30, 1918

This letter was written on Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) from somewhere in France.  He mentions Lena’s brother Tom (Patrick Thomas Fogarty) who saw difficult action in the Fifth Division.

July 13, 1918

This letter was begun on the eve of Bastille Day and completed the following day.  He mentions that he would like to take in a show at the Old Howard, the famous Howard Athenaeum in Boston.  Also of interest is the censor’s stamp and his signature on the last page.

October 21, 1918

This was written from the Red Cross hospital where he was evacuated following his shrapnel wound during the Meuse-Argonne offensive.   Their letters were clearly not reaching each other, which  would have undoubtedly caused worry and anguish.  There is also a reference to widespread illness, which probably referred to the pandemic flu.

November 12, 1918

This was written from the Red Cross hospital as the armistice is signed.  Mail hasn’t caught up yet.

January 29, 1919

After rejoining his company, this is the last letter from France, and for the first time, a location is disclosed — Sexfontaines, a small village in the Haute-Marnes department. Mention is made of two men killed in action, one in my grandfather’s company at St. Juvin, and a mutual friend, named Frank who was dating Teresa.  Teresa was mentioned often in these letters, and is very likely Martin’s older sister.

Family Tree update

It has been about 20 months since I last posted an update, so here is a revised tree dated 17 Feb 2019.

This update includes additional source citations, which begin around source number 950.  Most of these are associated with events, for example residence as culled from directories.  Many are also duplicate sources, as I try to add them into my tree whenever I update records on or

As always, if you see any errors or can suggest additions, please let me know.