Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Local Roots Run Deep; She Traces Her Lineage to Local Abel Baldwin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Woman's Local Roots Run Deep; She Traces Her Lineage to Local Abel Baldwin

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

An Orange Park woman has discovered that her great-great grandfather was an early settler of Florida, the namesake of Baldwin and the inventor of the enema.

"Hey, you never know what you'll find," said Harriet Holmes Raffo, who was recently issued a certificate by the Florida State Genealogical Society. for being the descendant of Florida pioneer Abel Seymour Baldwin.

Raffo read about the certificates online and spent four years documenting her lineage so she could apply.

Nickey Neel, of the genealogical society called Raffo's application the most well-documented she's ever seen.

"She drove all the way to Tallahassee to photograph tombstones to prove some death dates. She went the extra mile," Neel said. "It was perfect."

Throughout the years, thousands of Floridians have earned certificates, Neel said. But proving your lineage before Florida became a state is no easy task, Neel said, because the state didn't keep good records and many were destroyed in fires.

Documenting her lineage was difficult, Raffo said.

"I figured you could just put your name in a computer and your family history would come up," she said, laughing.

She got help from Web sites and Jacksonville librarians. She started with herself and went to her parents, grandparents and so on. She has binders filled with photos, newspaper clippings, birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, census books and other legal documents. She found some records at the Duval County Courthouse and the Office of Vital Statistics.

She had to mail requests for some information and wait months to hear back. Some records she found in library microfiche, which she scrolled through until she was queasy.

But every new discovery was exciting, Raffo said.

"I knew I was old Jacksonville. I just didn't realize how old Jacksonville I was," she said. "That's what makes life so interesting. Your lineage has survived, persevered in life. To me, the thing is to look at the hardships of our ancestors. All of us have to appreciate what they did. Like Dr. Baldwin, how did he get here? What did he have to start out with? He lost his wife to yellow fever, then his son."

According to Raffo's documents, Baldwin was a physician from Oswego County, N.Y., who came to a territory that is now Jacksonville in 1838 before Florida became a state. Traveling on horseback, he cared for local sick people. He kept records of the climate and tides and was eventually hired in 1852 by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. The publication of his records attracted tourists to the area.

He is credited with being a founding member of the Duval Medical Society and the Florida Medical Association. He helped to establish roads and cleaner drinking water and he might have been the first Jacksonville resident to complain about retention ponds, records show. …

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