52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #3 –Caroline Gasper-Bough (1894-1970) A Tough Woman.

This year’s challenge by Amy Crow is another weekly blog for 52 weeks about 52 ancestors  This weeks theme is on “TOUGH WOMAN”

Caroline Elizabeth Gasper-Bough was my maternal grandmother. She was born in 1894 on St. Croix, Danish West Indies, and was the daughter and only child of Victoria Richard (1877-1899) and Stephen Gasper (1871-1925). When my grandmother was about five (5) years old her mother died. Caroline knew nothing about her father, only that he had a wife and that a song was written where the chorus went “Stephen Gasper boy go home to your lawful wife” (Quelbe style) I believe that chorus tells it all

Caroline Gasper Bough Caroline’s mother’s brother Thomas Richard, took responsibility for Caroline’s well being, to include where and with whom she would reside. However unstable Caroline’s young life seemed, her Uncle Thomas made weekly visits each Sunday so that little Caroline would have a sense of belonging. As Caroline matured, she worked as a live-in House Servant with a family on the island, with the surname Lang. My grandmother told me stories about her Uncle’s weekly visit and rides in the buggy visiting friends and family. Every now and then she would sing that chorus about her father. It would be many decades later that I would see her listed in the census with the Lang family. CarolineGasper1901

She later met my grandfather Julius C. Bough who was born and raised in St. Croix. He was a merchant who worked in his father’s dry goods store. They eventually tied the knot in 1926. She appeared to have had about 8 children. However, only 4 lived to adulthood including one who died at the age of 19 in New York.

Julius Curtis Bough
Julius Curtis Bough

After the transfer in 1917 of the Danish West Indies which is now, the US Virgin Islands hopes ran high. But with the economic ills as well as the “strong arm” tactics of the Naval Administration, hopes dwindled. By 1930’s, thousands of natives migrated to New York City for they were considered US Citizens.

danish flags

My grandparents are among the first US Virgin Islanders to migrate and settle in New York. My grandfather went up first and later sent for his wife and children as shown in the New York Passengers List, 1820-1957. JuliusBoughNYPass CarolineBoughpassen

Starting this new life in America was full of hope and dreams. My grandparents were married in New York, and my mother (Joyce Bough) became the first American, born in the family. Ten years after Caroline’s arrival to New York, her husband Julius Bough died leaving Caroline Elizabeth, a widow, with children. Like most people during the depression era, their lives were not easy. Their lives were hard. But in the midst of the struggle she resisted the feelings of uncertainty about the future. Instead, she looked for ways to add to her income. Eventually, the family opened a Newsstand in Harlem in the 40’s on 145th in New York. Out of this tiny newsstand they sold the daily papers, pickles and candy. I have no idea how much one could make selling newspapers. When I listened attentively to these stories I would wonder how much could you make selling papers. I quickly realize it wasn’t about getting rich, but that it was a means to an end.

When I review my grandmother’s life, she appears to be a woman that was certainly acquainted with grief. Her experience of life showed her strength, love and devotion to her family and God. Her home was open to friends and family from St. Croix.  It was at home where stories were shared that taught VI history, family genealogy, and the best native food ever. From her life, one learned resilience, dignity, integrity and commitment.

52ancestors-2015 Sources: Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA). US Virgin Islands Census (Danish Period 1835-1911). Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA), PO Box 338, Frederiksted,  US Virgin Islands 00841. Images and index reproduced courtesy of VISHA.

By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information that is disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. As a native New Yorker, with roots in Coastal Georgia and deep roots in the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands of the United States or commonly referred to as the United States Virgin Islands, I have always had a yearning to return to my maternal homeland. In September of 1976, my family and I relocated back to St. Croix. While living in New York, I was always telling my friends about my trip back home, but here I was actually waking up every day, walking among the streets and people that I have identified myself with all of my life. At the time, I was not involved in any genealogical work, but I knew there was a missing link that became completed after I was offered the opportunity to transfer Danish documents into a database. That opened up my world and I realize that this was my niche. I now had the tools to explore and document my ancestry. Growing up, my mother always impressed upon her children the pride in being a “Bough”, which was her surname. Now I was able to track where that pride came from, through participating in family history projects and meeting new family, as we gathered together for the Bough Family Reunion on St. Croix in July of 2012. As I continued to research, I found my passion extending to photography. Sunsets and street art are my favorite features, as shown in my tumblr blog http://minkyadoo.tumblr.com/ I also began blogging, and found that it has help me to improve my writing skills. Through the comments and well wishes, I have been encouraged to continue to write the stories and events of my life. Whether or not your roots trace back to the Danish West Indies, you will find a beautiful tapestry of life that reflects our “baseball and apple pie”. This site affords you the chance to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) where life was both simple and complex. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance in searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email.

6 comments

  1. So detailed..so vivid. I am so proud of you! So….the Joyce Bough that went to IAU with me…what is she to you? i assume she is named after your Mom.

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    1. I am so glad that you are enjoying the posts, when I wrote about my grandmother I really missed being in her company. It bought back so many memories. Living in the Virgin Islands is full circle I walk where my ancestors walked. Its a nice feeling. The Joyce that you make reference to is my cousin. I appreciate your remarks. Thank you again.

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