August 29, 2011
All in the family
Beardsley clan celebrates its 100th reunion
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Reuben “Chester” Beardsley, 83, of Homer, left, and Kenneth Beardsley, 82, of Cazenovia, right, are the oldest members of the Beardsley family. The family celebrated its 100th Beardsley reunion Sunday at Suggett Park.
The Beardsley family has come together for an annual reunion for each of the past 100 years — they have preserved records dating back that far to prove it.
Nearly 100 members of the Beardsley family turned out Sunday at the Rotary Shelter in Cortland’s Suggett Park to mark their latest annual reunion in the past century. It was most of the extended family. They ate, reminisced, and sifted through memories in photo albums.
Attendance in the past 99 reunions had its highs and lows, as the family spread, and gatherings were not always held in the same place each year.
But the Beardsleys always found a way to make it work, without fail, said family members Shirley Hall and Lori Trenk, who live in Texas.
At 83 years old, Reuben “Chester” Beardsley is one of the family’s eldest living member. Beardsley said he has not been to many reunions in recent years, making this year more special.
“I’m seeing some of my relatives I haven’t seen in years, or have never seen,” said Beardsley, who lives in Homer. “It’s pretty significant and I’m glad they’re still getting together.”
Part of the fun this year, Trenk said, was seeing new faces. The extended family has many different last names.
“As they came in, we’re asking, ‘Who are you?’ And then they would remember one of the forebears — then we’re like, ‘Oh, you’re Wallace or you’re whatever,” Trenk said. “Some have no descendants left. We’ve got to keep track.”
Past reunions have been held in places like church reception rooms and did not always draw the whole family. Hall said she worked to make sure this year’s reunion was different.
“As far as I know, we’ve always done one,” said Hall, who lives in Texas. “The 100th reunion — it’s got to be something special.”
Much of the Beardsley family is scattered around New York state, many in Cortland and Broome counties.
They trace their lineage to William Beardsley’s family, which came from England in 1636 and moved to Connecticut. William Beardsley eventually became a judge and had a large family, Trenk said.
A descendant of William’s, named Markus Beardsley, settled in what is now Whitney Point around 1850. From there, Trenk said, the family spread to the areas of Lincklaen and Willet.
Trenk and her sister, Christine Huff, have made a hobby of researching their family roots.
“My father, Robert Beardsley, died when I was 2 years old and we never knew anything about our family until 15 years ago, when we reconnected with my father’s family,” Huff said. “We knew nothing about our roots.”
Huff, who lives on Long Island, has copies of the family’s “reunion books,” which chronicle each annual get-together and who showed up. There are also photographs in albums that date back to the early 20th century.
After looking through those records, it is easy to see why the family found a way to reunite each year for a century, Huff said.
“Markus came down (from Connecticut) knowing he brought family, four other siblings,” she said. “I think he felt family, it was a strong thing in him.”
He made a return trip in the 1860s to put a new headstone on his father’s grave in Connecticut, which Huff said was uncommon to do back then.
Some of the Beardsleys had to pause and ponder the question of whether their family would likely keep the tradition going for another 100 years.
“That’s the hope,” Trenk said.
“That’s hard to know, we just look for next year,” Huff added.
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