The lovely face of Cora Alvina Parnell stared back at me from the computer screen. She was probably not a relative, I thought, at least based on her surname. But for whatever reason, I clicked “buy” and spontaneously purchased her photograph.
Cora was born in 1868 in Hatley, in the District of Stanstead, in the Province of Quebec, Canada to a farming family of English origin. Her father married four times, and had fourteen children. Being one of the youngest girls, she would have to find a way for herself in the world. My own great-grandmother had come from a very similar background, so Cora’s family probably knew my own.
Cora was not famous for doing anything that made the history books. It appears that about 1880 she moved to Manchester, New Hampshire where she worked as a bookkeeper. That profession seems to indicate that either she was proficient with math, or that she had furthered her education toward that end. It is probably about this same time that she had a photograph taken at W.R. Call, Photographers of Manchester NH located at 905 Elm Street.
By 1900 she was living in Manchester, with her brother Fred O. Parnell who had been recently widowed. Left with five children, including a month old son at the time that the census was taken, no doubt Cora was there to help him to care for his family. By 1903 Fred remarried, and Cora moved on. In 1910 she was living with another sister, Mary Malvina Parnell, who had married Sanborn True Worthen. Sanborn and Mary appear to own an apartment house at 452 Pine Street, and Cora is listed as the bookkeeper for that place.
In 1913 when she died at the age of 45, in Mont Vernon NH, her death certificate indicates that she had been suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for 6 years, and living in that town for five of those years (previously in Manchester NH). Tuberculosis was prevalent in those years, enough so that the State of New Hampshire had opened the New Hampshire State Sanitorium in 1909 specifically for treatment. Mont Vernon was (and still is) a lovely hill town, considered very healthy for those with breathing ailments, so possibly that was her rationale for living there at a private residence.
When she died, she was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery. She had never married. Someone–friend or family–had carefully kept her photograph, perhaps passing it along to other generations. And then something happened, and her photograph was not wanted. Perhaps it was part of an estate sale, or inherited by a family member who didn’t know her. So, with history unknown, Cora Alvina Parnell’s photographs was posted on Ebay for me to see, and to buy. Now Cora and her story will be again remembered, at least the part that I can reconstruct.
Cora was typical of the immigrant population of both Manchester and New Hampshire of the time. Children of farming families, drawn to the larger cities of and towns of New Hampshire and Massachusetts where mill and other work was readily available. However, with the crowding of tenement buildings, it was not unusual for diseases such as tuberculosis to be commonplace.
Cora Alvina Parnell, daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth (Miller) Parnell, born April 1868 in Hatley, Stanstead, Quebec, Canada, died 29 Nov 1913, in Mont Vernon NH, age 45.
1900 US Census > NH > Hillsborough Co. > Manchester > 327 Orange Street
Fred O. Parnell 34 b Oct 1865 widow Can-English C-E C-E, immigrated 1887 naturalized, grocer
Carol A. Parnell 7 son M W Jan 1893 7 single NH
George D Parnell 6 son W M March 1894 single NH
Arabell E. Parnell 4 dau W F July 1895 4 single NH
Nelson W. Parnell 3 son W M March 1897 3 single NH
Thomas O. Parnell 1/12 Apr 1900 1/12 single NH
Cora A. Parnell 32, b Apr 1868 Canada-English; immigrated 1880 Bookkeeper
Ida D. Hartford 23 servant W F Feb 1877 23 single NH NH NH
1910 NH > Hillsborough > Manchester > 452 Pine Street
Worthen, Sanborn T Head M W 60 m1x 33 yrs Can-Eng MA Can-E own income imm 1890 naturalized
Worthen, Mary P., wife F W 54 m1x 33 yrs 0 ch 0 living Can-English C-E C-E imm 1890
Dustin, Beatrice T. niece F W 15 single Can-Eng C-E C-E immigrated 1901
[several “roomers” possibly this is a boarding house]
Parnell, Cora A. sister-in-law F W 42 single Can-English C-E C-E, bookkeeper, apartment house
Unmarried, no children.
1. Various Census records, United States and Canada, on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, HeritageQuest
2. Birth, Marriage and Death records: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, HeritageQuest
3. newspaper article, World Vital Records
Professions And Careers Open To Women (c1898-1900 Canada)
Story updated August 2013. After several months of working on this story, I chose to remove the genealogy rather than spend additional hours back researching where each fact came from.