Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Dorothy.

Dorothy (Cook) Coakley has been a member of our community since June of 2015 and is one of our outstanding volunteers. Dorothy is involved in our Arborist and Mentors projects and participates in the Connectors Challenges.

Surnames you are researching?

Cook, Coakley, Bailey, Eberhardt, Menger, Thornton.

Locations you are researching?

Missouri, Kansas, Virginia, and all points north, east and south. Just love American history, but am expanding my “known” world as my seventy decade looms in the rear view mirror.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

Actual interest began during three specific periods of time. The first, as a young mom, the second (with the internet) as a midlle-aged librarian when no patrons were around, and the third, when my cousin’s adult son in the mid-west introduced me to WikiTree. But then again, we’ve had a continual interest in graveyards because they contain so much history. My son and I spent an afternoon in the cemetery at Piedmont (Alameda County, California) to celebrate my 62nd birthday. Both of us share an interest in old graveyards and the many names, dates and types of gravestones these places contain. His interest is pictorial, he’s a photographer. My interest is because of being a librarian…we just like a lot of dates, names, and information. One of the high spots of my life was seeing Paul Revere’s resting place in Boston; that and a winter walk around Thoreau’s Walden Pond.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My grandfather, Lewis Thornton Cook has to be at the top although both sides of the family are special to me. Grandpa had a long life (as did his wife, who lived to be 102) and was terribly unassuming. It wasn’t until WikiTree earned my interest that the realization struck me, this gentle man was defended from three prominent lines that had played such importance in American history, the Lewis clan, the Thorntons ( who really were English gentlemen) and the Cooks who almost everyone seems to have been related to through Francis Cooke. My desk has his original diploma above it, 1914, when each teacher signed it from the University of Wyoming. Electrical Engineering, though rumor has it that he wanted to join the emerging field of psychiatry- but his family thought there was no future in that field! I also have a precious diploma announcing that he and his sisters had perfect attendance at a local Congregational church in Wyoming. As an adult, he raised earthworms in basement flats (for fishing) and taught me (ever the California kid) to play games in the dark during Midwestern thunderstorms.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down.

Thanks to WikiTree, several brick walls have begun to crumble. After many, many, questions, and unknown “cousin” sent me copies of photographs that her mother had given her. Among them was a photo of Paschal Hickman Cook (born 1811 in Kentucky.) I’d never seen what he looked like although we share the same last name at birth. You can imagine how thrilling it was to gaze at last on a fellow who looked like my imagined image of the frontiersman, Davy Crockett! Cute as a bug’s pajamas, I, too, would have fallen in love with him as did my great-great-great grandmother-and apparently several other wives, for he was married a number (4?) of times.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Well, rumor has it I’m related to George Washington and also Dick Cheney, the politician. At 19 degrees, the current British Queen, Elizabeth also counts as an ancestor. As does my ex-boss who is a Hildreth. (Do not tell her, I doubt that she’d find the news exciting!) But the person I’d like to be related to is also the least likely. Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu. They’ve broken down quite a few walls of their own, and lived to see South Africa united, although it must have seemed unlikely at the time. This speaks to my lifetime goal, One World Family should mean just that… everyone should presume that they are a cousin. Which, of course, they are… they just haven’t met yet!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

For twenty years, I had three Chinese Crested powder puff dogs, and one Wannabe who thanks to genetic testing turned out to be a 15 pound dachshund-dalmatian-rottweiler named Samantha. She wandered into the library-branch where I was working in the 90s and basically took up occupancy in our hearts and minds from that date, as dogs or cats often will. In case you are a newbie to genetic testing, Chinese Crested dogs have a unique trait… they are either hairless, or covered with long, soft fur. Both types occur in the same litter, but the hairless ones are preferred. So naturally, whenever a “puff” was born, we got a call from one of our friends. Did we want it? Of course we did… ultimately three outrageously spoiled long-haired dogs joined our family- and our grooming bills skyrocketed! For twenty years, I did frequent runs to UC Davis to enroll them in various non-invasive studies. They all passed away the same year, of totally natural means, so once again after 18 years, we are dogless. Kinda is a nice break… but then again, there is always next year.

How long have you been on WikiTree and how active are you?

In 2015, the son of a maternal cousin sent me some materials. He had gotten our mutual relatives sorted out and had photos of them all posted. My father’s tree looked totally bare, so I went to work providing photos and documenting dates. I (as mentioned) am a librarian and I can’t bear to leave any stone unturned. It became an obsession will a thousand stories uncovered. Librarians just love that sort of thing! Along the way, I’ve met some wonderful people, met relatives from distant states, and never knew they existed… and of course, received more badges than I ever did as a Scout! The irony is that in some ways, similarities exist… one gets to know so many different people, and yet they seem to be linked into the same pursuits. I met (online) an adult descended from a man who married my great-grandfather’sister and the ancestor of the sister who cared for my great-grandfather when his mother abruptly died. So many stories… so little time to write them all down!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Ask. Ask a mentor. In fact, ask anyone. And, as we say at the library, “each one reach one.” That way, we will keep filling in the blanks, and growing.

If you could leave one message for your descendants, what would it be?

As Chris would say, “Onward and Upward!”


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  2 Responses to “Meet our Members: Dorothy Coakley”

  1. I enjoyed reading about you… Everyone has a story. And I really enjoyed reading about yours….. YOU ARE APPRECIATED….. I am sure I will need your help again, K.R.

  2. Hi Dorothy,
    That everybody has a story may be true, but to have an interesting story like yours is well worth telling. I enjoyed it, you told it very well. Thank you for that. Greetings, H.B.

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