Arborvitae: Cousin Frank’s Sudden Death

On September 18, 1914, Frank Hogan left his home in Waseca, Minnesota, to attend the town fair in Janesville, the next town over. Around 8:30 that night, he was taken abruptly ill on the street, and was carried, unconscious, to his uncle’s house. He was seen by a doctor there, but never recovered consciousness and died around 4 am on September 19, 1914.

There were 3 different obituaries in the local papers. For example, the Janesville Argus, Sept. 23, 1914:

Death of Frank Hogan
Frank Hogan, of Waseca, was taken ill in this place on Thursday afternoon while visiting the fair. He was taken to the home of his uncle, James Joyce, and medical aid secured.
He lingered until about four o’clock Friday morning when he passed away.
The deceased resided with his mother at Waseca. He was a painter by trade. Until a year ago it is said he followed his trade in Minneapolis. He was an efficient workman and an energetic young man. His age was bout thirty years.
The remains were taken to Waseca where the funeral was conducted Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, in the Waseca Journal-Radical, Sept. 23, 1914:

Frank Hogan, son of Mrs. M. Hogan, of this city, died at Janesville last Friday morning. He was taken suddenly ill there the evening before at about 8:30 o’clock. He was taken in an unconscious condition to the home of his uncle, James Joyce, and his mother and sisters were summoned from this city. They were taken by autos to his bedside. He never recovered consciousness and died about 4 o’clock Friday morning.
The remains were taken to his home in this city Friday afternoon.
The funeral was held from the Catholic church Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock and interment was made in the Catholic cemetery.
Michael Francis Hogan was born in Janesville, and was about 30 years old. He came with his mother and sisters to this city about 18 years ago and except for a few years in the twin cities, this city for the most part has been his home.
He was a painter and paperhanger and was employed in painting a house in this city at the time of his death. He went to Janesville Thursday morning to attend the street fair.
The deceased is survived by his mother, Mrs. M. Hogan, and two sisters, Misses Nellie and Katherine of this city.
The relatives have the sympathy of all in their trouble.

And the Waseca Herald, Sept. 24, 1914:

The people of this community were greatly shocked last Friday morning upon hearing of the death of Frank Hogan, who died very suddenly at Janesville early that morning. He went up to Janesville Thursday morning to attend the fair, and that evening about nine o’clock, suddenly became very ill on the street. He was taken to the home of his uncle, James Joyce, and passed away there about four o’clock Friday morning. Heart trouble was the cause of his death. His mother and sisters were with him when he died.
His remains were brought here Friday afternoon on the two o’clock train and taken to the home of his mother. The funeral took place at the Catholic church Sunday afternoon, Rev. Fr. Treanor officiating, and interment was made in the Catholic cemetery.
Deceased was born in Janesville March 25, 1884, and came to this city when about ten years old, where he has made his home every since. He followed the trade of a painter and paperhanger.
He is survived by his mother and two sisters, Nellie and Katherine, all of this city, who have the sincere sympathy of many friends.
Those from out of town who attended the funeral are: Mrs. Mary Maher of St. Paul; Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Mulcahey of Waterville; Mrs. N. McCormick and daughter, Margaret, of Tracy; Mrs. C.R. Wattles of Sheyenne, N.D.; Mr. and Mrs. T. Sullivan of Ames, Ia.

There are some fascinating details behind the scenes of this sad story.

For instance, in none of these 3 obituaries is his father, Michael Hogan, mentioned. Michael was alive and well, living in Janesville. We don’t see the fact that his mother, Mary Joyce, married Michael Hogan on May 25, 1882, in Janesville, where her family also lived (the uncle to whose home Frank was conveyed on the fateful night was her brother James Joyce). She was 20 years old.

Her early marriage was dogged by tragedy, with two of her younger siblings dying later that same year, one in August and the other in November, and a third sibling dying 2 years later. (Which all smacks of tuberculosis, but I don’t have their death certificates to check.) Then, sometime between the birth of her last child, Mary, in 1890, and the Minnesota census in 1895, she took her oldest 3 children off to Waseca where she went into service as a domestic. In the 1900 census, her mother Margaret Joyce and youngest child Mary had joined them in Waseca, where Mary Hogan the elder was working as a washerwoman and listing herself in the census as widowed.

Meanwhile, Michael was living with his parents. After the deaths of his parents in 1906 and 1908, Michael settled into living with his younger brother John. In 1910, he also listed himself (or perhaps his brother did) as widowed.

And so we are left to wonder what the circumstances were as Mary Hogan worked to support herself, her children (youngest child Mary appears to have died between 1900 and 1910 — notice that she’s not listed as a survivor of Frank either), and her mother. Her mother died in 1913, and perhaps that’s when Frank came come from the big city.

The last thing that is obscured by the glowing obituaries is his cause of death. “Heart trouble” is given as the cause of death, though that’s pretty rare in 30-year-olds. Unfortunately, there are no digital archives online for Minnesota death certificates. Fortunately, I had met a cousin online who was happy poking into death certificates for the family, and who was willing and able to hunt down Frank’s.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as his cause of death, but I absolutely did NOT expect to see “Coma” with a comment next to it: “think he took one dose of cocaine.” In the blank for the contributing cause underneath was written, “Cocaine fiend.”

In the early years of the 20th century, cocaine use had grown in the United States. Inevitably, there was a cultural reaction to its use and the cultural assumptions around its use: that it was a dark urban underground habit, that it was being forced on workers to get more productivity out of them, and even worse, far more racist myths. (For more information, check out the Wikipedia article.) In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act required that items containing cocaine add its presence to their labels. And in December 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed that required that cocaine and narcotics only be dispensed with a doctor’s order.

Michael died in 1928, age 72, in Janesville, and I have to say that his obituary was an exercise in “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Compared to the effulgent obituaries I have read of Michael’s brothers, sisters, and cousins, this was dry bare bones. It leads me to conclude that he was not a popular man, and we can probably guess at a violent temper, given that Mary moved a town away to get her children away from him.

Mary lived until 1949, age 87, and Frank’s 2 sisters, Katherine and Nellie, never married. Katherine died in 1960 in Owatonna, Minnesota, age 73, and Nellie, who had worked briefly as a stenographer in Minneapolis around the time her brother was also up there, died in 1969 in Janesville, age 85.

So perhaps a bit of the big city had followed Frank home to the farmlands of his home. Or perhaps he was just the victim of one dose, taken out of curiosity, because he wanted a bit of an upper to hang out longer at the fair with his friends. It’s another of those mysteries of genealogy, where the hints are tantalizing and the truth has long since died with the players of that particular drama.

Affordable Genealogy

Boosting Your Start for Your Family Tree

It’s hard to get started in genealogy, especially if you’ve never done it before, and an Ancestry membership is expensive. Also, finding a professional genealogist can be a baffling challenge. Who to pick? Will they understand what I want? Can I afford them?

So here’s the deal:

  • I have almost 40 years of genealogical research experience and an Ancestry membership I’d like to have help funding.
    • I’m also a big ol’ queer, if that makes any difference to you (and yes, I do think of queer things when I look through family trees — that cousin in the 1920s who lived 40 years with another woman? mmm-hmmm).
  • You have a family tree you might be interested in, whether you want to know some of your ancestors’ names for religious purposes, your kids/siblings/parents/other relatives are asking questions, or you’re just curious.

Let’s help each other out!

The Process

  1. Send me money for what you want (see What You Get below) and the best email address to contact you:
  2. I’ll email you to confirm receipt with a list of questions: that’s your chance to give me whatever you’ve got: names, birth/death/marriage dates, and locations. 
  3. You email me your information.
  4. I’ll email to confirm receipt, ask any clarifying questions, and provide you with approximate timing for my response.
  5. I create a locked family tree on Ancestry and go digging.
  6. I provide you with whatever level of deliverable you have paid for.
  7. You enjoy your newfound family tree information!
  8. (optional) If you want, we can talk about expanding the tree, getting more writeup, that sort of thing, and what the pricing on that would be.

If I run into challenges that are insurmountable using my normal resources, I will email and we can discuss. If I’m unable to provide you the deliverable or an agreed-upon alternative (see Caveats, below), I will refund you.

What You Get

$25: The Basics

I will spend 2-3 hours driving your family tree straight back as far as I can reasonably go. After that, I will download and send you the GED file so you can upload it to your own family tree program, as well as inviting you to the Ancestry tree for you to peruse and edit. 

$50: Names and Numbers

I do the same as I did at the $25 level, as well as sending you a text summary of the tree, with names and birth and death dates. Eg (fictional): 

Jane Smith (1857-1932)
married ca 1880
James Jones (1855-1932)
2 children:
Augustus (1875-1918)
Ophelia (1879-1970)

$100: Essential Storyline

Same as the $25 level, but the writeup is in short, readable, surface-level biographic blurbs back to the great-great-grandparents level. Eg (also fictional):

Jane Smith was born on August 4, 1857, in England. She emigrated to the US around 1880, and married James Jones in Philadelphia. They had 2 children: Augustus (1875-1918) and Ophelia (1879-1970). Jane died on February 2, 1932. James died on March 25, 1932.

$250: Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Same as the $25 level, but the writeup has more depth in that I’ll go digging into the records (back to the great-great-grandparent level) for information deeper in the documents, such as cause of death, immigrant ship name, cemetery where they’re buried, that sort of thing. I might go hunting for other sites/books/newspapers that could have more information about particularly interesting-looking people (distinctive names, startlingly short lives, death certificates that have no cause of death but clearly indicate an inquest, that sort of thing). Eg (utterly fictional):

Jane Smith was born on August 4, 1857, in London, England. She emigrated to the US in 1880 on the ship Hesperus, and married James Jones (born April 15, 1855, to James Jones Sr and Eliza Divine in Pennsylvania) in Philadelphia, at St Mary’s Episcopal Church on Broad Street. They had 2 children: Augustus (1875-1918), who died in France in World War I, and Ophelia (1879-1970). In 1920, they were living in Germantown, and appeared to still be there in 1930. Jane died on February 2, 1932, of pneumonia. James died on March 25, 1932, at the Old Man’s Home in Philadelphia, of heart disease contributed to by senility.

Want More?

Beyond this point, if you want more breadth of family and/or depth of research, we can discuss the possibilities, potential pricing, and probable timing. I do write full-blown books about family research, but these are very time-intensive and can take me more than a year to create. For instance, I started working on a new one in January and here in October, I’m at about a halfway point of a large family tree (2000 people and expanding) first draft, which translates to 45 pages of a single-spaced Word document. Then there’s a revision draft, proofing, diagrams, and layout. A book would be priced accordingly.


My research is dependent upon the databases available. What I can find depends entirely upon what’s out there. If no one’s managed to convince New York City to license their marriage registry through 1960, then I’m not gonna be able to dig that up. Some states have better records than others. Minnesota and California, for instance, have fantastic birth records. Florida has great marriage and divorce records. Maryland? Eh. Not much there.

I also depend on the family histories of other people on Ancestry to a certain extent. I try to back this up with records and by my own judgment of the likelihood of the connections. This has led me astray in the past, but I’ve learned from those experiences what some of the warning flags are and can avoid them.

That said, if I go down an attractive garden path of someone else’s family tree or other seemingly likely records and it turns out to be wrong, I will do my best to fix it at no additional charge.

If I can’t get back to at least your great-great-grandparents’ level, I can instead go outward, pulling in information on aunts, uncles, and cousins. I’ll let you know before I do this, though, in case this isn’t an acceptable alternative to you.

My current membership is US only. I can sometimes leverage other sources to get extra-US information. If I get enough interest (and income) so that I can expand my membership to the world version, I will!

Your family’s ethnic and geographic origin will impact the available information. If your family is from a place whose records have not been translated, or is from a population that was oppressed and/or impacted by genocide (that includes within the US), there won’t be much for me to find. 

If part or all of your family arrived in the US later than 1940, the information I can find will be limited.

If your family is chockablock with common USian names and lived in big cities, I might not be able to connect up people. But I’ll do my best! Dates, more precise locations (eg, “They lived in Germantown,” as opposed to, “They lived in Philadelphia”), and middle names can help there.

When I say I’ll try to get back as far as possible in your family tree, the number of generations will vary. For some people with colonial ancestors, this can be back 6 or more generations. For most of us whose families arrived in the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that usually translates to great-great-grandparents. I will almost certainly not connect your family to the Scottish laird your aunt swears you’re descended from (most connections to nobility are tissue paper and wishes, and one can see that in some of the family trees out there).

And finally, if your family is white, I can 99% guarantee that the unspecified “Indian princess” your uncle swears your great-grandma told him about is a myth, especially if she’s supposed to be Cherokee. However, I will do my best to confirm or deny.

Arborvitae: Cousin Samuel and the Train

Samuel F Simmons was born in July 1877 in Maryland.  He married Hannah P Ward (born about 1877 in Delaware) on March 27, 1902, in Delaware.  They had at least one child, Samuel Ward, who was born around 1910. Samuel Sr died on June 21, 1917, at the age of 39, along with his wife and son, in an automobile versus train accident.  The family was buried in Bethel Cemetery in Chesapeake City.

Common disasters happen, as I mentioned in my last post on the subject. Sometimes, though, it takes some work to tease the information out.

I was tracking Samuel Sr. from his parents’ family record, and therefore had his approximate birth year. On Ancestry, I found his marriage record to Hannah in 1902, and then found the 1910 census record showing the pair and their son Ward, born 1910. (Probably, there were more children between 1902 and 1910, but Maryland’s death records are slim and it’s difficult to find the children who die in the gaps.) But then all records petered out.

I did what I usually do in that case: hop over to and poke around in their databases. And there I found Maryland probate records for Samuel F Simmons from 1917. Since I couldn’t find him in the 1920 census, that seemed very likely. So I popped it open.

First thing I saw was that it was filed on June 25, 1917 — so now I knew that he’d died before then, in the first half of the year. Page 2, though, was the kicker.

Page 2 was the kicker.

What do we see here?

  • Date and time of death: Thursday, June 21, 1917, at 8 pm.
  • Hannah Simmons is not listed among the heirs-at-law, nor is she the executrix — the executor is the brother of the deceased.
  • Neither is Ward Simmons.
  • Oh, and I now had the married names for the 3 sisters I’d despaired of finding. That was awesome.

Pages 3-6 are signatures and other housekeeping; page 7 begins the inventory of the estate. Beyond that was information that Samuel had been a tenant farmer, and his brother Isaac was ordered to take up his lease and fulfill the conditions of the lease, selling milk from the cows and tending and harvesting the farm, in order to benefit the estate. The original lease from 1910 was included, with all its terms. And then the final account of the estate was included with all items sold at public and private sale.

In the account were more items of interest, including:

  • Benefits due the deceased from the Patriotic Order Sons of America: $299.00
  • Benefits due the deceased from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company: $985.06
  • Benefits due from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company on death of son: $85.30
  • Amount received from sale of wrecked automobile: $10.00
  • Amount received from suit against the Railroad Company for damage to the automobile: $232.95
  • Amount received from PW&B RR (Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad) for funeral expenses: $529.35

And then in the outlay from the estate:

  • For amt paid, funeral expenses for Samuel F Simmons: $157.75
  • Mrs. Samuel F Simmons: $158.35
  • Ward Simmons: $60.25
  • Burial plot: $61.50

A common disaster indeed!

With the date in hand, I went delving into newspaper archives online, but to no avail. I did, however, discover an obliging historical society in the area, with online payment for searching and scanning their newspaper archive. I wrote them with the following result.

Cecil Whig, June 23, 1917

Shortly after 8 o’clock Thursday night, four persons were killed at the Bridge street crossing of P, B. & W. Railroad in Elkton. They were Samuel Simmons, a farmer near Elkton; Mrs. Hannah Simmons, his wife; Ward Simmons, aged about 8 years, their son, and Geo. Foster, a farm hand in Mr. Simmons employ. The accident wiped out Mr. Simmons’s entire family.
The Bridge street crossing where the accident occurred has been the scene of several sad affairs, but none in magnitude compared with the latest one.
Completing his day’s work on the farm, Mr. Simmons accompanied by his wife, child and hired man started in his new Ford automobile for the farm of Frank B. Evans, just north of Elkton, to spend a short time with the family of Joseph McKinney. Everything went well all the way to the railroad. Upon approaching the railroad crossing, the driver of the car noticed the safety gates were still up and he undertook to go across the tracks. Just as the machine was about in the middle of the northbound track, the locomotive attached to train No. 432, New York and Washington express, running at a speed of about 60 miles an hour, crashed into it, and the car, together with the four occupants, was whirled through the air. The body of Mr. Foster lodged on the pilot* of the locomotive and remained there until the train was stopped. The bodies of all four of the victims were [unreadable] mutilated, and the automobile was broken into thousands of pieces.
Coroner Herbert D. Litzenberg had the bodies removed to the undertaking establishment of Vinsinger & Pipple, and he summoned the following jury of inquest over the remains, which viewed the bodies that night and met yesterday to hear testimony: Taylor W McKenney, C.P. Bartley, Fred H. Leffler, Charles S. Boulden, Daniel Henry, Edward M. Johnson, Harry R. Boulden, A Alexander, George Potts, Alfred Taylor, Harry Buckworth, Wm. Henry Biddle.
The jury rendered the following verdict: That Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Simmons, Ward Simmons and George Foster came to the death by being struck by train No 432 on the Pennsylvania Railroad, Thursday evening, June 21; that the cause of death was carelessness and negligence of John Lotman, the gate-keeper employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, at this point, at that time, and to the criminal carelessness and neglect of the said Pennsylvania Railroad Company in its failure to secure and train competent employees to attend the dangerous grade crossings in this town. This jury wishes to point out and to emphasize the grave danger of these crossings to the traveling public an the continued indifference of the Railroad Company in failing to take the necessary precautions in spite of the large number of accidents that have occurred at these points in this town. We respectfully request that the States Attorney of this county take criminal action against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company whom we consider primarily responsible for the criminal carelessness in failing to properly safeguard the traveling public
Funeral services of Mr. and Mrs. Simmons and son will be held at their late residence Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock; interment at Bethel Cemetery. The funeral services of George Foster will be held in the Elkton M.E. Church on Sunday at 1230 o’clock, with interment in Elkton Cemetery.
John Lotman, the watchman, was placed under arrest yesterday, Friday afternoon.

*The pilot of the locomotive is also known as the cowcatcher — it’s that plow-shaped bit on the front.

Of interest, Wikipedia supplies that the PW&B Railroad moved the line north of Elkton to eliminate the grade crossings in the town in 1934 — the original line ran on a tight curve through town, which I imagine is how the train was hidden from view as Samuel began crossing the tracks.

Also of interest, a little poking around in the newspapers online reveal that John Lotman was released from Elkton jail in July, and his case was supposed to be heard in September. An article from December 1917 shows that not only was Lotman indicted for manslaughter, but also the track foreman, Malachi Rafferty, and Supervisor English were also indicted for manslaughter for knowingly retaining Lotman despite knowing he was incompetent. Sadly, I have been unable to discover the final judgments against the three.

So that is my slightly more complicated story of genealogical detective work for the week. I’ll see if I can root out something else interesting for next week.

Arborvitae: Cousin Myrtle and the 1918 Flu

Myrtle Naylor was born March 18, 1893, in Delaware. On February 10, 1912, she married Pierson Briggs Stevens (born July 8, 1889, in Odessa, Delaware) in Townsend, Delaware. On September 29, 1918, both Myrtle and Pierson died in Philadelphia, and were buried in St Paul’s Cemetery in Odessa on October 2nd. She was 25, he was 29.

This short paragraph sums up a surprising lot of information I waded through to come to an understanding of the end of cousin Myrtle’s short life.

The first things I found were census records for her parents, Charles and Flora, because I had Flora’s name from a document one of my great-uncles shared with me, and her husband’s from a marriage record. The censuses provided me with Myrtle and her 6 siblings, and then the Delaware Birth Records provided their birth dates. Her marriage record was also readily at hand.

… and then they died on the same day.

Well, all right, I had already hit the cousins who had all been wiped out, along with their farmhand, by a train colliding with their car. Common disasters happen, unfortunately. So now to look at the death certificates, if I could find them.

Luck was with me: they’d died in Philadelphia after 1906 — Ancestry had them.

I opened up Myrtle’s certificate first.

Date of death: September 29, 1918. Time of death: 12:30 PM. Cause of death: lobar pneumonia. Duration 4 days. Contributory: influenza. She died at home, at 104 Jackson St, Philadelphia, and was buried on October 2, 1918, in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Odessa, Delaware. The information about her parents, etc, were provided by Alfred R Stevens of Collingswood, NJ, who was most likely her father-in-law. She’d been attended by her doctor from September 21st until her death on the 29th, so she’d had flu for 8 days, pneumonia for the last 4 days.

Then I cracked open Pierson’s certificate. Different pen (blue instead of black), different handwriting. He was located at St Agnes’ Hospital, not his home address. This is where I found he was a Delaware River pilot, and yes, there’s Alfred R Stevens of Collingswood again — his father. Pierson had been attended by the doctor since September 26th until his death on the 29th, but that meant he’d been hospitalized for 3 days — we don’t know how long he’d been sick. Time of death: 7 AM. So poor Myrtle had been a widow when she died at 12:30 PM — no way of knowing whether she’d known or not. Pierson’s cause of death is listed as lobar pneumonia with a duration of 4 days. This doctor did not supply a contributory disease, but we can guess that Pierson also had influenza. A different pen and handwriting (likely the same undertaker, J L Wildey of 103 E Lehigh Ave) supplies that he too was buried on October 2nd in St Paul’s Cemetery, Odessa.

And here is a key point about death certificates: the doctor generally lists the precise cause of death. If we’re lucky, the doctor supplies a contributory disorder, as in the case of Myrtle. If not, we’re left to guess. In this case, we could probably guess fairly accurately, given that Philadelphia was one of the hardest-hit cities in the US by the 1918 influenza epidemic.

Philadelphia Committee of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis – Publisher, New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (N.Y.A.I.C.P). Protect the Public from Disease Use your Hankerchief When You Sneeze. [Posters]. Retrieved from

Looking at a chronology of the epidemic in Philadelphia provided by the University of Pennsylvania, we can easily see the probable line of infection: on September 7, 1918, 300 sailors from Boston arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and by September 11, 19 sailors were reported ill. By the 15th, 600 sailors and marines reported ill at the Navy Hospital. On the 19th, 2 sailors died of the flu, and on the 20th, 15 more died, as well as 1 civilian. On the 21st, 24 more were killed by the flu, including a nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital. We know that by the 21st, Myrtle had well and truly contracted the illness, enough that the doctor was called.

Pierson, our Delaware River pilot, may have run afoul of infected sailors in the course of his work and brought it home. Or, well, 104 Jackson St was about 7 blocks from the docks on the Delaware; Myrtle could have run into someone’s sneeze while out marketing for all we know. Either way, the couple was a pair of early, tragic casualties in what became far far worse, just a day before they died, when the obtuse douchecanoe in charge of the city’s Department of Public Health and Charities let the Liberty Bond Parade go on, with an attendance of several hundred thousand people.

By the end of the epidemic, about 12,000 of the ~1.8 million people in Philadelphia had died of influenza.

This is a glimpse into the process I use for ferreting out information when I’m working on genealogies, and why I finally started writing books about these people’s lives in order to capture as much as I could about the minutiae available in the records. Maybe I’ll do a more complicated one next — perhaps the family who died in the train-versus-car wreck, because that was a fascinating and very satisfying bit of detective work.

Where Have I Been?

I vanished somewhere around July 2017. Where have I been and what have I been doing?

The short answer is that real life ate me. The longer answer involves workplace bullying, misogyny, ageism, and queerphobia; a 6-month stint of consulting and existential crises; a second tour of duty at an old (and much much friendlier) workplace; radical positive changes in friendships; and turning 50, along with an extended wodge of writer’s block.

I’m still editing Wonder City Stories volume 3 — now titled Forgotten Heroes — but I think it will be in good shape once I’m through that. Then I have the challenge of figuring out how to fund publishing it with my altered employment circumstances (a loss of supplementary income I used to have). I might do a bit of fundraising, possibly with the assistance of Madame Destiny, in order to do so.

I have a few other items that I’ve been shopping around, but no nibbles yet. We’ll see how that goes.

What writing I’ve been managing to do has either been on my genealogical books or on the world document for a tabletop RPG world that I’ve been running for my gaming group, where the characters are all from a nation of genderqueer shapeshifters. My players all want me to write novels in the world, and one of my players has induced me to work a little bit on a short story with them. Another thing that we’ll see about.

In any case, I’m working on the writer’s block, and will let you know if I’m successful at breaking it, and meanwhile will also consider the ways and means to getting Forgotten Heroes out into the world.

A Eulogy for Tom

My cousin Tom Hogan — Mr. Hogan to his many, many high school social studies students in Delaware — died on Monday July 17, 2017. I wrote a thing about him, because that’s what I do when experiencing heavy emotional weather. Today would have been his 47th birthday.

My cousins — Tom’s brothers and sisters-in-law — enjoyed this when I forwarded it to them, so I hope that other people who knew him and even people who didn’t will likewise enjoy it.


In which I use a possibly familiar quote, which I swear will be relevant in a few moments:

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”


I’m Tom’s only first cousin on the Hogan side of the family.  I write for a living, including novels, the first of which I dedicated to Tom, describing him as one of my superheroes. And given that, I hope you will forgive the conceit by which I structured this.

Chapter One

There is a meme that circulates periodically on Facebook that says, “Our cousins are our first friends.” I love all my cousins, I really do, but there are sometimes things that preclude friendship, even in little kids — age differences, gender, that sort of thing. In my experience, the older cousins often affectionately tolerate the younger ones, and I love Mike, Bob, and Dan for tolerating me like complete champs.

Tom was two years younger than me, but I had no siblings and I apparently never learned to respect an age hierarchy. He was my first playmate and, yes, my first friend.

In the way of small children, we shared our wisdom with each other, totally uncensored.  I told him about stars and volcanoes and hurricanes, talked about my own passion for writing, and explained what I knew about the mysterious contents of our grandmother’s basement. He told me what it was like to have brothers, that I really should go see that new movie, Star Wars, how to play Monopoly — I still don’t know how to play it “properly” —  and that boys pee standing up.  

Our grandmother took us to movies, and to Janssen’s in Greenville, and made us warm egg salad sandwiches for lunch. We sat together in the back of her powder-blue 1963 Pontiac Tempest in those days before seat belt laws and didn’t poke each other. We played together in the giant metal rocketship in the park across the street from our grandmother’s house, where he convinced me to try sliding down the pole despite my fear of heights — and at his parents’ house, with his myriad toys and board games. We sat in the back of my parents’ station wagon and Tom grinned and mugged and somehow convinced a motorcyclist riding behind us to give us thumbs-ups like the Fonz.

(Not the original car, merely similar.)

He was the best kind of brother, really — the one I could have great, memorable times with, and then give back to his brothers and parents for all the rest.

I didn’t have a lot of friends as a kid: I was a tomboy, I was a nerd, I was too smart for my own good. Unlike the kids at school, Tom took me at face value with zero judgment, as a child and, later, as an adult. I was always who I was, his cousin and his friend.

Chapter Two

Tom was my benchmark for generosity.  I never knew another kid who would give things to other people so freely.  He always got tickets to St. Catherine’s carnival for his birthday — which was, as you probably know, July 30.  He always gave me some to go on rides; not even to go on rides with him, though that was great when it happened. No, just for me to go have fun.

Star Trek was our great mutual love and bonding experience. We both had the Mego Star Trek figures, and the plastic fold-out Enterprise with its spinning transporter. Tom played Captain Kirk and Mr. Scott — he had the worst Scottish accent I’ve ever heard — and I played Spock to his Kirk, cool logic to his seat-of-the-pants style.  

During one particularly destructive period of his childhood, when many of his toys were subject to cars and hammers and other methods of plastic destruction, I begged him to give me Mr. Scott. I was afraid for Scotty, you see — and, also, didn’t have a Mr. Scott of my own. Little kid, remember?  And he just handed him to me with a grin.

When I came down to see Tom for the last time, I found Scotty in my parents’ basement. I took a picture of him in the transporter of my plastic fold-out Enterprise and sent it to Tom.  

I forgot to tell him that from time to time, my wife calls me Captain Kirk now — that he taught me about doing things by the seat of my pants and succeeding despite the odds.

He continued immensely generous, giving out of some seemingly endless font of extravagant humor, love, and joie de vivre. He never stopped sharing his uncensored wisdom, though he grew a knack for turns of phrase and timing. I remember when the five of us were walking our grandmother’s coffin out of the church back in 2003. He and I were at the back and he caught my eye, patted the powder-blue coffin, and said so only I — and maybe Dan — could hear, “The Tempest!”  Nanny going out the way we most fondly remembered her.

Chapter Three

Tom was the first person who really got me as a geek. He didn’t make me feel strange about my love of science fiction — a love that has since turned into an identity and even a vocation for me. Later, he was one of the vanguard of the family who accepted other things about me.  On that first awkward family holiday when neither my wife nor I were entirely certain about our reception, he met us at the door, hugged and kissed me as usual, and just moved on to do the same with her. His deceptively simple and utterly natural act of kindness was the perfect social facilitation.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when Tom became a teacher, and it pleased me that we continued to be the two weirdos in the family with our career choices.  But I certainly wasn’t surprised that he was so good at it. Every day of the last several years, it seems, I’ve seen someone on Facebook — a colleague, a student, an old friend — tell him how much of a difference he made in their lives. When I last met him for lunch, we ran into two or three of his former students who as nearly as possible gushed over him.

He touched the lives of literally thousands of people in positive, wonderful, life-changing ways.  He was larger-than-life and possessed of amazing energy — like a superhero — and he worked hard to approach everything as an adventure, endlessly interested in everything and everyone around him.  When I last visited him, he was, even as he recalled the things we did together in the past, thinking of what was ahead.  I asked him what he thought was going to happen — thinking about time tables and such — and he said, “I don’t know, I’ve never done this before,” with a big grin.


If you want to do something today, or tomorrow, or next year, or ten years from now, to remember Tom, let me make a few suggestions:

One: Support medical marijuana. Those of you who know what I’m talking about will know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, just trust me on this.  It’s a lifesaver.

Two: Support public schools and education. If you know anything about Tom, it’s that teaching was one of his passions, and we are all more fortunate for his involvement at AI and in the lives of so many students over the years.

Three: Be generous. Lift each other up. Love recklessly. When someone tells you what they want, what they really, really want — insert Tom singing a song here — think about the words that come to your lips: are you about to squash everything they just said with what you feel is the cold, logical voice of reason? Instead, be Tom: ask them to tell you more, ask them why, and maybe dream a little with them.


From my memory of the final movie featuring the original Star Trek cast:

The captain swung into his command chair and said, “I think it’s about time we got underway ourselves.”

The communications officer turned from her station and said, “Captain, I have orders from Starfleet Command. We’re to put back to Spacedock immediately… to be decommissioned.”

The Vulcan science officer looked up from his screen. “If I were human, I believe my response would be ‘go to Hell.'” Then he looked at his captain and added, “If I were human.”

After a moment, the navigator said, tentatively, “Course heading, Captain?”

The captain leaned forward in his seat, gazing keenly at the viewscreen, the stars tantalizingly close and unimaginably distant, everything an undiscovered country.  He smiled and said, “Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”

Mike, Dan, me, Bob, and, of course, Tom in front.

LGBT+ Storybundle!

I am fortunate enough to have been invited to join an LGBT+ Storybundle by the curator, Melissa Scott, for Pride!

WONDER CITY STORIES is part of the basic set of FIVE EBOOKS you can get. From the page:

Pay what you want! You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books. You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price beats $15, you get Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman, Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett, Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories by A.C. Wise, The Marshal’s Lover by Jo Graham, Trafalgar and Boone in the Drowned Necropolis by Geonn Cannon and Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff!”

In addition to getting these amazing books, you can help us raise money for Rainbow Road!


My long-time friend Leah has recently been diagnosed with metastatic inflammatory breast cancer, and so Madame Destiny and I are running a fundraiser to help!  Come see what kind of Tarot readings you can get!

ABSOLUTE POWER: Tales of Queer Villainy

Here I am with the book!  Both villainous and nonvillainous views.

My contribution is an ALL-NEW NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE story about Nereid and Brainchild, following the events of EPHEMERA.  It stands alone pretty well, too, so if you want to give a friend an introduction to the Wonder City Stories universe PLUS THE WORK OF TWELVE OTHER AWESOME WRITERS, this is the book for you!

You can buy it in paperback or ebook at Northwest Press!

Story in a new anthology!

Hey, if you didn’t have a chance to back our Kickstarter (for the book formerly titled Dangerous Women), your chance is here to get an amazing anthology of queer women supervillains, Absolute Power!

Absolute Power is in discounted preorders now!

Also in the TOC with me are:

  • Erica Friedman (also our editor)
  • Tristan J. Tarwater
  • Missouri Vaun
  • Barbara Ann Wright
  • Audrey Chase
  • JD Glass
  • Emily Kay Singer
  • A. Merc Rustad
  • Claire M. Jackson
  • Leia Weathington
  • Susan Smith
  • Mari Kurisato