20 February 2015

Week #7 of 52 Ancestors: Brick Wall Woman Hannah Woodman (ca. 1775-ca 1821) of Durham, NH

My lovely fan chart stops dead at 4th g-grandparents Hannah Woodman and husband William Jackson. It's quite unsightly. Hannah has been the most distant ancestor in her line on my charts since I inherited my mother's genealogical research.

How Not to Research
Over the years I've gathered a lot of information on Hannah and associates at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the University of New Hampshire at Durham, the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, and plumbed the depths of the internet. Yet I still don't have evidence to tie Hannah to any particular Woodman family. Why? Because I didn't stumble upon any direct evidence, and I haven't TAKEN THE TIME to analyze what I have gathered. And there is still more information to gather by now--online data increases at an exponential rate, so there are bound to be more clues awaiting. And I really need to go up to New Hampshire and roll around in the records. I had an appointment at the Durham Historical Society in 2009 but had to cancel and that's the last time I tried!

What's worse, Alcatraz or writing up
research results?
After that I must lock myself in a chamber for weeks and do nothing else but analyze everything I've collected. Actually, I think I require the chamber lock-up first, then a trip to NH, then more analysis. Because as I write this I must acknowledge that my notes are scatter-y, incomplete, and verrrrry annoying. These ancient problems in my own genealogy are the worst kind and I can see why people are doing the "do-over," because it feels easier to start from scratch than to try and make sense of an inexperienced lazy or genealogist's wanderings, that inexperienced person being me 25 years ago. It's so much more fun to keep searching than to write up the results. It just is.

Setting the stage
Hannah is the mother of my ancestor, Maria/h Jackson. According to Maria (Jackson) Ellms' 29 January 1866 death record, she was 57 years, one month old at death, rendering a birth date of 29 December 1808. It gives her parents as William Jackson and Hannah Woodman and states that she and her parents were all born in Durham, New Hampshire. (1) But this is a death certificate, so as evidence of her birth it is wobbly because we do not know who provided the information about her parents. (Wobbly is a highly technical genealogical term.)

Maria may have married three times. I have found two: one to my ancestor, Nathan Colby, in Haverhill on 10 January 1841, though the record provides no parents. (2) She next married (as Mariah (Jackson) Colby) Robert Ellms in Scituate on 1 July 1856; his second marriage, her third. Presumably Mariah was the informant and she names her father as William Jackson, born Durham. No mother's names are listed in the register. She gives her own birthplace as Durham, and she is 49 which calculates to a year of birth of 1806-07. (3) But where did that first marriage take place? Was it the marriage of Mariah H. Jackson to Orin Fiske on 27 September 1830 in (not nearby) Claremont, Sullivan County that I noted from the IGI in 1999? I haven't followed up on it. Back to the chamber!

William Jackson and Hannah Woodman married on Christmas Day, 25 December 1795, both residents of Durham. No parents are listed. They were married by William Hooper, clergyman, resident of Madbury. (4) I'm satisfied that these are Mariah's parents because this marriage puts them in the right time and place, and I now have several sources listing them as a couple, and parents of my ancestor.


What To Do
I need to study everyone with the surnames Jackson and Woodman in the Durham area, a daunting task. Here are just a few of the things I will work on in the chamber:
  • I need to go through my chicken-scratch notes from the Family History Library and duly note every record searched and whether I found anything. I got too busy and never followed up after two research trips. That is just stupid, but it was unavoidable.
  • Of course I have reviewed the town histories and the published literature on the Woodmans, most written a hundred or more years ago, with little in the way of source citation, even if seemingly well researched. I can use those to help me reconstruct nearby families, and thoroughly review and note all of the Hannahs that were not married off, of which I think here are only a couple. Then of course, I'd have to corroborate everything.
  • Oh sure, I've gazed at census, but haven't systematically reviewed the Woodmans in the area. They are many! Even pre-1850 census can provide indirect evidence if we really delve. Can you say Excel?
  • I've examined published vital records as well as town records for both William and Hannah's births and deaths in both Massachusetts/Maine and New Hampshire, to no avail. Of course I've searched online and at NEHGS in any original records I could find. I would hope to locate some church records on my trip north, but have read that there are't many.
  • I've followed possible children of William and Hannah Jackson and turned up an infant son of William Jackson who died in 1797 in Dover, but this provides me with no additional clues, just something for the inevitable timeline. Baby steps! Another potential son is William W. Jackson whose death record gives William and Hannah (Woodman) Jackson as parents.
  • Land records are an obvious place to search yet I've noted nothing in my database. Because I haven't approached this systematically. I will retrace my steps in that regard. Land records are found at the county level in New Hampshire.
  • In Strafford County Probate I found an administration for the estate of William Jackson, blacksmith, with wife Hannah serving as administratrix. And Hannah's estate was probated in 1821, with Moses Woodman as administrator. 
  • At the University of New Hampshire I pored over Durham town records and extracted mention of all nearby Woodmans (a nefarious lot), but haven't had a chance to compile and thoroughly analyze. 
  • Make a timeline!
Once I get my ducks in a row I will visit:
  • New Hampshire State Archives
  • New Hampshire State Historical Society
  • New Hampshire State Library
  • Strafford County Register of Land
  • Durham Historical Society
Hopefully someday I will be able to attach Hannah to her parents. I'm pretty sure she had a hard life. It's the least I can do for her.

"Women as Scribes Throughout History," Exploring Feminisms Blog,

1. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910" (online subscription database linked to digital images), Scituate, Deaths, Maria (Jackson) Ellms, 29 January 1866, 193:331; AmericanAncestors.org (http://www.americanancestors.org : accessed 20 February 2015).

2. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," Haverhill, Marriages, Nathan Colby and Mariah Jackson, 10 January 1841, 2:179; AmericanAncestors.org (http://www.americanancestors.org : accessed 20 February 2015); image of the published volume from the "Official Series."

3.  "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," Scituate, Marriages, Maria Colby and Robert Ellms, 1 July 1856, 100:325; AmericanAncestors.org (http://www.americanancestors.org : accessed 20 February 2015).

4. "New Hampshire Vital Statistics to 1900," Durham, Strafford, Marriages: Jackson to Jenkins, n. 148, William Jackson and Hannah Woodman, 25 December 1795; New England Historic and Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts, mf #F33 N454, viewed 9 February 2002.

10 February 2015

Week #6 of 52 Ancestors: Samuel Cox of Beaminster, Dorset, England

I'm working in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library for ten days. In recent years, the way we research has changed considerably, and it will continue to change. Today when I search the library catalog I'm just as likely to find the records I seek on the FamilySearch website as in the microfilm. It speeds up my research tremendously to have it online, but also makes me think I shouldn't do what I'm doing because I could do it later at home. However, I must strike while the iron is hot!

Beaminster Church Tower from the Northwest,
Hine, History of Beaminster
Though the Kimmitts take great pride in their Irish blood, they have married into several English lines, and the Cox family is one of them. I wrote about Robert Fitzgerald Meredith in my previous post. Robert was not the eldest son and therefore did not inherit property because of the law of primogeniture.

As a young vicar he got a posting in Dorsetshire and there met his wife, Mary Russell Cox, thus introducing the English Cox line into the family. Mary was baptized in Beaminster on 22 September 1826, the daughter of our subject, Samuel Cox, and his wife Virtue/Vertue Russell. (1)

By bouncing between the Dorset parish record extracts on FindMyPast.com, and images on Ancestry.com, and FamilySearch.org I'm able to add quite a few names to the old tree, with pretty solid evidence to back it all.

Samuel Cox was born on 9 September 1790 in Beaminster and baptized on 16 December of the same year, the son of Samuel Cox and Ann, image below. (2)

We know Samuel's mother Ann's surname was Symes from their Beaminster marriage record: "1790, Samuel Cox Jun.r and Ann Symes both of this Parish were married in this Church by Banns this 23rd Day of March by Hugh Pugh Curate." I wonder if the local kids mocked poor Hugh Pugh for his name? You may have noticed that Baby Samuel was born only five and a half months after his parents' marriage. They may have been brought up for punishment, or at least a good scolding.

It's a very nice record because it has witness signatures. The last one is young John Cox Russell, aged 6 years, making his mark. Isn't that cute? I've never seen a minor listed like that. I can just see him all dressed up and excited to be playing a part in the wedding. (3) I  do not yet know how, if at all, he is related to the groom, but find in the parish registers that he is the son of John and Mary Cox–which John Cox will have to be determined at a later date. (4)

The History of Beaminster has an entire sketch on the Beaminster Manor House, "home of the old Beaminster family of Cox for many generations... The name is [first] mentioned in a transcript of the parish Register for the year 1585 when Robert, a son of Robert Cox, was baptized." (5) The author, Richard Hine, refers frequently to the work of historian John Banger Russell, a meticulous historian and collector who just happened to be Vertue Russell's father. The book is very carefully researched and assembled and refers frequently to original records--a gold mine for Beaminster researchers! I'm thinking he probably also assembled a good deal of genealogical information as well, tee hee.

The banns of marriage were announced for Samuel Cox the younger and Vertue Russell three times in Beaminster before they married on 9 September 1816, Samuel's 26th birthday. (6)

Hine describes renovations Samuel made to the manor house around 1822: "In the drawing room he placed a handsomely carved white marble mantelpiece of Italian workmanship, the sculpture of which vividly depicts scenes connected with the siege of Troy. This apartment was further enriched by a painted canvas ceiling representing the "Feast of the Gods" by Andrew Casali, an Italian artist born at Civita Vecchia, in 1720." (7)

Fireplace at Beaminster Manor House (8)
It's not often we get to see how our ancestors' homes were decorated. I wonder if young Mary frolicked around this fireplace and was motivated to studied her history lessons because of the scenes of the Trojan War carved into it.

Nine also relates that: "When Princess Victoria, in 1833, passed through Beaminster, Samuel Cox, then a Cornet in the Dorset Yeomanry Calvary, had the honor of commanding the escort of Her Royal Highness from this town to Lyme Regis. Samuel Cox, Deputy Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace for Dorset, was for more than [a] quarter of a century Chairman of the Beaminster Union Board of Guardians. On his death in 1860 the family estates passed into the possession of his eldest son, Samuel Symes Cox." (9)

Samuel and Virtue had (at least) the following children, which I find in census and parish records, but have not yet thoroughly documented (10):
Samuel Symes, b. 4 September 1817
John Russell, b. ca 1820, twin
Charles, b. ca 1820, twin
Ellen, b. ca 1822
Henry, b. ca 1824
Ann M., b. ca 1826
Mary Russell, b. ca 1826 (line carrier)
Georgina, b. ca 1828

Samuel died in Beaminster on 22 October 1860. He is buried at Holy Trinity, Beaminster. (11)

We have a nice will extract here, naming Samuel's widow Vertue, brother Peter, and son Samuel Symes Cox. As stated above, Samuel's son Samuel Symes Cox inherited the property.


1. “Dorset, England, Births and Baptisms” (online database), baptisms, p. 166, Mary Cox, n. 1828, 22 September 1826, Beaminster daughter of Samuel and Virtue Cox; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE.

2. "Dorset, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812, " (online database), baptisms, no p. n., Samuel Cox, baptized 16 December 1790 (born 9 September 1790, Beaminster; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 9 February 2015); citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE: RE2/3.

3. “Dorset, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812," marriages, Samuel Cox Junior and Ann Symes, 23 March 1790,  Beaminster; citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE: RE 4/2

4. "Dorset, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812," baptisms, John Cox, 24 December 1783, Beaminster;; citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE: RE2/2.

5. Richard Hine, The History of Beaminster (Taunton, England: Barnicott and Pearce, 1914), 350-353.

6. “Dorset, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921” (online database) Banns, n. 45, Samuel Cox and Vertue Russell, 11, 18 and 25 August 1816, Beaminster; citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE: RE 4/2 - 4/6. And “Dorset, England, Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921,” marriage, Samuel Cox and Vertue Russell, 9 September 1816, Beaminster, p. 20; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Dorset History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE: RE 4/2 - 4/6.

7. Hine, The History of Beaminster, 351.

9. Hine, The History of Beaminster, 352.

10.1841 England Census, Beaminster, Dorset, piece 280, bk. 1, folio 58, p. 26, household of Samuel Cox; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 February 2015); citing Class: HO107; Piece: 280; Book: 1; Civil Parish: Beaminster; County: Dorset; Enumeration District: 3; Folio: 58; Page: 36; Line: 6; GSU roll: 241337. Also, 1851 England census, Beaminster, ED 1b, piece 1860, folio 389, p. 18, household n. 91, household of Samuel Cox; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 February 2015); citing Class: HO107; Piece: 1860; Folio: 389; Page: 18; GSU roll: 221008. Also Dorset Parish Registers on Ancestry.

11. "England and Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915" (online database), Samuel Cox, Beaminster, Dorset, 22 October 1860, 5a:225; Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : 27 Mar 2011). Also, "England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941" (online database) Wills, 1861, p. 38, 7 May, Samuel Cox, died 22 October 1860; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. Also, "Dorset, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-2010" (online database), Samuel Cox, 26 October 1860, Holy Trinity, Beaminster;   Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Dorst History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE.

09 February 2015

Week #5 of 52 Ancestors: Rev. Robert Fitzgerald Meredith of Dicksgrove, Co. Kerry

I'm finding it nearly impossible to write about some of my favorite ancestors simply because I have too much information on them for one little blog post. So just be aware, family members reading this, that there is more information! And genealogists, there is more evidence, so hush, now. You'll be the first to know when I write "the book."

"Landed Estates," database, Estate: Meredith (Dysert); NUI Galway (http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/
LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=1969 : accessed 8 February 2015).
My husband's great-great-grandfather, Rev. Robert Fitzgerald Meredith (ca. 1815-1893), was born in Dicksgrove, near Farranfore, Co. Kerry, Ireland. (1) He was from a long line of Irish landholders, and several of his Meredith ancestors had served as High Sheriff of Kerry. (2) But the family nearly lost everything in the tumultuous nineteenth century, as many landowners did, when the taxes and cost of maintaining the land sent many of them scrambling (to bankruptcy court). I bet Dicksgrove was lovely in its time.

As far as I know there is no link to my own FitzGerald lines, but you can see in this map that Farranfore is only ten kilometers from my grandparents' ancestral homes of Castlemaine and Milltown, at the base of the Dingle Peninsula. I wouldn't be surprised to find that we are related, but I haven't yet been able to jump the 1793 chasm before which time it was illegal for Roman Catholics to keep records due to the Penal Laws.

County Kerry, at the base of the Dingle Peninsula
Robert's father Richard was a principal lessor in Castleisland and Killeentierna, during the time of Griffith's Valuation. His over 3000-acre  estate, including Dicksgrove House, was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates Court in June of 1855 but was later withdrawn. Some was sold in the Landed Estates Court, but finally in the 1930s the entire estate was sold to the tenants who had been farming it for years. Dicksgrove House was completely demolished but some of the stable buildings and gate lodges remain. (3)

Robert was the second son and because of the laws of primogeniture he would not have inherited the estate. He instead went off to Oxford University where he obtained a Master of Arts and took a position as rector and vicar of the parish of Halstock in Dorset by 1849. (4)
"Halstock," Dorset OPC, website; http://www.opcdorset.org/HalstockFiles/Halstock.htm :
accessed8 February 2015)
He married Mary Russell Cox, the daughter of Samuel Cox and Vertue Russell, in Beaminster, Dorset, 26 August 1852. (5). They went on to have six sons, the first five in really close succession:
1. Robert Fitzgerald, b. ca 1855
2. William Henry Fitzgerald, b. ca. 1856
3. Richard Fitzgerald, b. 31 January 1857, died 4 June 1931 (line carrier)
4. Charles Fitzgerald, b. ca. 1859
5. John Fitzgerald, b. ca. 1860
6. Maurice Fitzgerald, b. ca. 1867 (6)

Then, of course, in 1868, their mother, Mary Russell (Cox) Meredith, died. (7) She could have died from anything, but my first thought was it was probably from "puerpural fever" (complications of childbirth), but is it also quite likely she perished from exhaustion. I only had half that many boys and it was a challenge. Indeed, without the fine health care we enjoy today, I would have perished in childbirth.

Rev. Meredith had sons to raise and surely needed help. In 1871 he was in Portland House with a very full household consisting of his six sons with ages that calculate to the above estimated dates, plus
   John R. Meredith, nephew, visitor, 28 years old, b. Ireland
   James G. Clarke, Tutor, unmarried, 22, b. Leicestershire
   James Richards, servant, unmarried, 27 years old, b. Devon
   Mary Gale, servant, unmarried, 45 years old, b. Ireland
   Charlotte Eastment, servant, widow, 31, b. Dorset (7)

Flash forward to 1881 when he has married Charlotte (8) and they have three children of their own, plus two she brought to the marriage! (9) Why, it's like an episode of Downton Abbey! Think of how far he descended the social ranks from the time he was born in 1815 to the time he married, gasp, a servant! So I'm going to call him by the pet name of Branson now.

He died in the parsonage at Yeovil, in Halstock, and was buried in Halstock on 30 May 1893. (9)

These English ancestors left so many records in their wake it's an embarrassment of riches––so unlike my simple farmer ancestors. It becomes more a matter of compilation than sleuthing and analyzing. This little blog prompt of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is serving its purpose in getting me to touch on some of those ancestors whom I've neglected. But there are wills, land records, and an incredible amount of riches ahead for me to explore in the Parish Chest.


1. Bernard Burke, Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, 2 vols, 4th ed. (London, np, 1863), 2:1005. Also, Robert Fitzgerald Meredith, “Petition for Barony of Herbert of Chirbury,” photocopy given to author by Rosemary Kimmitt, in author's files. Also, "England and Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915," Robert Fitzgerald Meredith, Beaminster, Dorset, 5a:229; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : 27 Mar 2011); at 77 years.

2. Burke's Peerage, 1005.

3. "Landed Estates," database, Estate: Meredith (Dysert); NUI Galway (http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=1969 : accessed 8 February 2015).

4. "England, Extracted Parish and Court Records," Meredith, Robert Fitzgerald, 1849: Dispens. R. East Chelborough, perp. cur. Halstock, Dorset; 16:438; Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 February 2015). From the Collection "England: Canterbury -- Index to the Act Books of the Archbishops of Canterbury, 1663-1859 (L-Z)."

5. "England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936," index and images, St. Mary's, Beaminster, Marriages,
 Robt Fitzgerald Meredith and Mary Russell Cox, 26 Aug 1852; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X8CW-33Y : accessed 9 February 2015); Marriage, citing Dorset, England, Record Office, Dorchester; FHL microfilm 2,427,436.

6. 1871 UK census, Dorset, Halstock, p. 20, n. 87, Portland House, household of Robert F. Meredith; Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed on a day that, alas, I neglected to note, but the file date is 27 March 2011, so let's go with that).

7. "England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936," index and images, Beaminster, Burials, Mary Russell Meredith, 13 Jun 1868; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QJD4-FHZJ : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Holy Trinity, Beaminster, Dorset, England, Record Office, Dorchester; FHL microfilm 2,427,468. Also, "England and Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915," Mary Russell Meredith, Beaminster, Dorset, Somerset, 1868, 2nd Q, at 41 years, 5a:248; Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : 27 Mar 2011).

8. 1881 UK Census, Halstock, Dorset, England, piece 2119, folio 27, p. 10, household of Robert F Meredith; FindMyPast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 8 February 2015).

9. "England and Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915," Robert Fitzgerald Meredith, Beaminster, Dorset, 5a:229; Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : 27 Mar 2011). Also, "England, Dorset, Parish Registers, 1538-1936," index and images, Halstock, Burials, Robert Meredith, 30 May 1893; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QJD4-18QT : accessed 8 February 2015); citing Halstock, Halstock, Dorset, England, Record Office, Dorchester; FHL microfilm 2,427,496.

28 January 2015

Week #4 of 52 Ancestors: Emily (Churton) Churton (1847-1918)

Emily Churton was the granddaughter of William Churton, daughter of William Churton, wife of William Churton, sister of William Churton, and mother of William Churton.

She was born 21 November 1847 in Whitchurch, Shropshire, England, the daughter of William Parker Churton and Jane Weaver. (1) She was my husband Myles's great-grandmother: his mother's father's mother. So he will not have inherited any Y-DNA (male), or mitochondrial DNA (straight female line)--just autosomal, and not too much of it at that distance. This is his only English line, the other three grandparents being of Irish descent.

Little is known about Emily. On 25 August 1868, she married her first cousin William Henry Churton in Whitchurch.  Their fathers were brothers, sons of William Churton and Anne Parker. (2)

"Births, Marriages, and Deaths," Churton-Churton, 25 August 1868, Whitchurch, Shropshire, England
Solicitors' Journal and Reporter, 5 September 1868, 915; Google Books (http://www.books.google.com).
This was really not a great idea, especially since the family lore depicts Emily as already being high-strung. At least that's the story my mother-in-law used to tell. (3) And it will mess up the DNA measurements, giving undue weight to Churton ancestor relationships.

When our youngest son was christened he was presented with Emily's Bible. It does not contain any genealogical information, just two inscriptions on the inside cover as shown below. William Henry, aka Harry, originally gave this Bible to Emily on 21 November 1869.

Apparently they had consulted the Table of Kindred and Affinity and found nothing to discourage them from marrying, though I will say that number 6 comes pretty close: "Wherein whosoever are related are forbidden in scripture and our laws to marry together: Father's Brother's Wife." Just one more step and it would have been forbidden. I really can't believe there are no cousins on there.

Margaret's work tells this story: "According to a diary kept by Emily, the wedding was at 11 o'clock in the morning (Rev. W. H. Egerton and Rev. John Gorman officiating) and after the wedding breakfast they left for London. The next day they crossed the channel from Folkestone to Boulogne and spent their honeymoon touring on the continent -- for four weeks." (4)

Emily and William Henry Churton went on to have four children, all born in Chester, Cheshire:
  • Ida Helen, 18 September 1869–23 May 1937
  • Jessie Lillian, 3 March 1873–28 August 1946
  • William Arthur Vere, 16 December 1876–26 July 1949
  • Harry Leslie, 4 August 1879–17 February 1964 (5)
Because I've known Margaret Churton is researching Churtons I haven't delved into them. But when reading through Margaret's great summary of the family documents she inherited I realize hers is not a traditional genealogical study--many record groups were omitted. With 2015's ease of internet searching it will be a much simpler chore than it would have been in 1983 when her work was created. And it gives me a goal for next trips to the UK.

I have only dabbled, but Emily appears in the UK censuses consistent with where family stories and documents say she should be. Most of these Churtons are listed in the Birth, Marriage, and Death indices on Ancestry. I have plenty of work ahead documenting the facts, that's for sure.

Emily died on 21 August 1918, after "deterioration of her mental health necessitated a move into a 'home' of some sort... at Gan-y-Don, Colwyn Bay. She is buried in Chester. (6) This cries out for investigation!

A quick visit to the website of The National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk) brings up reference to "Deeds and papers relating to the estates of the Churton family, auctioneers and solicitors, in Cheshire, Shropshire, Wales etc", deposited in the Cheshire Archives (not NA) by none other than Margaret!

Reference: DBC 3233
Date: [1635]-1947
Held by: Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Extent: 44 docs., 18 bdls.
Custodial history: Acc. 3233
Immediate Source Of Acquisition:  Summary list of records deposited by Mr H T V Churton in Apr. 1983.

I can't wait to really dig in to those Churtons. They have a noble and interesting history.


1. A. M. G. ["Margaret"] Churton,  "A Churton Story from Heirlooms and Archives," (hereinafter called "A Churton Story"), typescript, "mostly written in 1983, with some later revisions," photocopy sent to author in 2011, pedigree chart. Margaret is the keeper of the Churton family papers and has inherited much original documentation, along with very old pedigree charts, photographs, and business papers. She is thorough but does not use many of the more common genealogical records groups like census and vital records, nor does she cite her sources. Also, “England and Wales, Free BMD Birth Marriage and Death Indexes, 1837-1915, and 1916-2005” (hereinafter called Free BMD) digital image of index register pages, birth of Emily Churton, 21 November 1847, Wem Registration District; Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : ), 18:179. Wem was originally called Wem and Whitchurch, and after 1935 known only as Whitchurch.

2. Free BMD, marriage of Emily Churton and William Henry Churton, 25 August 1868, Wem; 6a:1192. Also Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," pedigree chart.

3. Ida R. (Churton) Kimmitt, conversation relating family history to author, 10 September 1988. Also Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14.

4. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14.

5. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," pedigree chart, and throughout.

6. Margaret Churton, "A Churton Story," 14 and pedigree chart. Also, Free BMD, deaths, 1918, 11b:542.

19 January 2015

Week #3 of 52 Ancestors: Philip Joseph Sullivan (1911-1969)

First, let me just effuse about what a good exercise this is! By writing about an ancestor I take a critical look at what I've gathered so far. Things I may have neglected for years look completely fresh and I am inspired to search in the many databases that have been created since I last investigated. I find this preferable to starting over completely.

I get a lot of clients looking for Sullivans. And Sullivans, in Boston or anywhere, are tough to research. There are billions of them and they all used the same eight names. Jeremiah Sullivan is a popular one--nickname Jerry. The client I was working on today had a Jeremiah Jerome Sullivan, aka Jerry Jerry Sullivan!

Today's subject, Philip Joseph O'Sullivan, was my father's first cousin. He was the son of my grandmother Annie Josephine [O']Sullivan's brother, Jeremiah Sullivan, and his wife Roseanne Dunn. While he may not be in my direct line, I love him for two reasons.

First, he was born in New Zealand. Long ago I found in the 1920 and 1940 censuses that his place of birth was NZ. At first I thought it must be an enumerator error, but it wasn't, because his death certificate confirmed it [Mass. VRS, deaths, 1969, Arlington, 2:208]. Then a few months ago I stumbled upon an index to NZ births online, and couldn't resist, so I sent away for his birth certificate. So now, if I go on vacation to New Zealand, I have as a destination: Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket. I like that it provides his parents' ages, AND gives Rose's county of birth as Roscommon as well. I have read that many people from the Milltown area in County Kerry emigrated to New Zealand.

New Zealand, Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages, birth certificate, Philip Joseph O’Sullivan, reg. n. 1911006915, 
26 May 1911, Khyber Pass Road, Newmarket, son of Jerry O’Sullivan, 31, b. Co. Kerry and Rose Dunn, 30, 
b. Roscommon; issued 3 November 2014.

I have not seen any evidence that he ever married, and he was single in 1940 when living with his father Jeremiah and siblings in Somerville, working as general job man. I just noticed that for his brother Thomas the enumerator wrote that he had filed his first papers ("Pa"), yet he was born in Massachusetts.

1940 US census, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Somerville, Ward 7, ED 106, sheet 61A,
1256 Broadway, household n. 61, Jeremiah Sullivan; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 January 2015).
The second reason I love him is that he was naturalized. My grandparents came in the late nineteenth century and never bothered, probably hoping to return to Ireland some day. I wonder if World War II had anything to do with him filing his Declaration of Intention.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this file.

  • He arrived in Boston on 12 June 1913 from Queenstown on the SS Cymric, so his parents must have returned to Ireland before coming here.
  • He officially changed his surname from O'Sullivan to Sullivan. 
  • He claimed to be a chemist!
  • Some time after coming to Boston he lived in Milltown, his mother's Irish home townland. 
  • He was still not married and had no children in 1942.
  • He had blue eyes, black hair, and was 5'7.
  • He gained ten pounds between 1939 (140 lbs.) and 1942 (150 lbs.).
  • Witnesses were Edward F. Woods and John E. O'Brien.

Even better, his paperwork had a photograph!

United States District Court, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, Declaration of Intention, Philip Joseph Sullivan, n. 282025 (red stamp), n. 146348 (printed in black), certificate, n. 5554477, issued 3 August 1942; NARA, Waltham, Massachusetts, received 30 August 2012.
Sadly, my first cousin once removed died without us meeting. He was only 58 when he died on 1 June 1969. Somewhere in a pile in my office is the transcription I made of his death, listing the cause. I imagine he had a hard, lonely life, ping-ponging between continents, working variously as a longshoreman or shipper (or chemist?) I just hope he managed to find a little joy and love along the way.

14 January 2015

How My Quiet Afternoon Devolved into Chaos, Yet Still Had a Happy Ending

When I started my blog I announced it was going to be about juggling genealogy and everyday life. So today I'll tell you a story about weight loss, aging, mental decline and frustration.

I had a bunch of errands to do today: dropping things off at three friends' houses and picking things up at another, picking up all 3 sons' framed high school photos from the framer, grocery shopping, but most important, getting a new purse and a belt. I need a purse with better compartments because I keep losing things. And one of the things I keep losing is weight, which is making me lose my pants, hence the belt.

As I rushed out the door I flung on some dangly earrings with no stops in them. "That's okay, I won't be doing anything strenuous," I thought. "They'll stay put." Well. I also donned a nice neck warmer scarf-y thing because it's 18º out. Said lovely neck warmer tends to come unfastened and slip to the ground but I thought I had it pretty well secured.

I haven't worn a belt in many a year but due to recent 45-pound weight loss (yay! lifetime struggle) and the new style of pants that seem to have no waist, my pants keep falling down. It's really annoying. It's a horrible feeling to be whipping around and feel your steps get smaller and smaller because your pants are slowly sliding towards the earth. It's like wearing panty hose that are a size too small--forces you to walk like a penguin. And slows down the errand-running.

Every time I made a stop I had to get out, hike up my drawers, and proceed with the errand. Every time I hoisted the jeans the scarf would come undone. When I refastened it, it would knock an earring out of my ear. So by stop number six I was a little frazzled. And minus one earring.

Stop number six was Wegman's. The place is chaos to me: amongst other aggravations, organic red peppers sold individually clear across the room from regular red peppers sold by the pound. They don't make it easy to shop wisely there. At the checkout counter I had a rollicking discussion with the cashier about arthritis and how it hurts and it sucks to get old, etc. She thanked me for letting her vent.

I loaded up my car and walked, hiking and hoisting, to TJ Maxx to look for belt and purse. On the way I realized my phone was neither in my coat pocket nor my purse! "Stupid coat pocket, I knew it was going to fall out!" But I thought I'd just get the damn belt before I lost the pants completely because that would embarrass my children and besides, did I mention it's only 18º out?

So I drove the 30 yards to TJ Maxx (if I had walked it would have taken 3 weeks with the ever-tinier mincing steps) and parked there. I browsed through the purses--nothing. But I couldn't concentrate knowing I didn't have my phone. I waddled over to Dress Barn where I hoped to a) find a purse; b) find a belt; and c) chastise them for selling me pants that fall down.

I found a decent purse but they don't sell belts even though the pants they sell you fall off. So I drove the 30 yards back to Wegman's to look for the phone. I searched where I had parked previously, on the ground and all around. Stupid coat pocket! The thing just flaps open. It was bound to fall out when I was hoisting! But nothing. Maybe someone took it already. I even looked in the cart I had returned to the little cart hut. Not there.

I figured I must have left it with the cashier during the exciting old age discussion. She was very happy to see me again, but then told me she hadn't found anything. So I inquired at Customer Service. Nothing! Crap!! Wait a minute. I reached around and slapped myself on the right back pocket. There it was!  I forgot I had put it there so it wouldn't fall out of my coat pocket! Yay, a happy ending, even if I am a forgetful goob.

Elated, I returned to the car. As I inched along, I rummaged through the dreaded purse for the keys. This purse has a rip in the lining, so things exit the purse proper and disappear into the netherworld between lining and leather. OMG. So I couldn't find my damn keys. I stood at the car cursing myself, the purse, low-waisted pants, scarves that don't work right, Wegman's, TJ Maxx, 18º weather, Dress Barn, but most of all, my scatter-brain. My stupid, aging, distracted, doing-too-many-things-at-once-ADD brain.

A lady came out to her car and looked at me for a second too long. I swear she had a glint in her eye, as though she were amused. But she didn't say anything. I took this as a good sign and returned to Customer Service, feeling a little like a mental patient. And wonder of wonders she got a huge grin when she saw me. Phew!!!!! I had left them there (along with my pride). I left before they could call the men in white coats.

So all's well that ends well except I'm annoyed that the lady didn't tell me they had my keys inside. It's okay she was probably afraid of me.

13 January 2015

Week #2 of 52 Ancestors: Robert Robertson Kimmitt, 1871-1951, Man of Many Titles

Robert Robertson Kimmitt, O.B.E (Mil.), T.D., D.L

This is my second post in the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" blogger challenge. So far, so good!

This week I'm switching to the Kimmitt side. I get many inquiries from Kimmitt cousins around the world and I'm afraid I've been telling them all the same thing since 1993: when I retire I hope to tie together all those loose cousin threads and produce a family history. In the meantime I'm gathering evidence here and there, and always happy to hear from members of all branches, from New Zealand to Canada. Part of the reason I don't like to write is because it feels endless. There is so much to say about some people, and Robert Robertson Kimmitt is one of them. So I will present some of the odds and ends I have assembled on him to date.

Robert Robertson (RR) Kimmitt was my husband's great-grandfather. He was the second youngest of the ten known children of the Reverend Edward Kimmitt and his wife Margaret Unwin, born 4 December 1871 in the little village of Benturb, County Tyrone, Ireland, near Moy (1). Guide books say that Moy is one of the most beautiful towns in Ireland, especially in summer when it is "filled with flowers from top to bottom" Yet I could NOT convince his descendants to visit his place of birth when we were on vacation in Northern Ireland this past summer! I can't imagine why, but they were afraid I'd get sidetracked.

The Rev. Edward Kimmitt was minister of the Prebysterian Church in nearby Loughgall, "Cloveneden," when son Robert was born, and he baptized him there on 3 March 1872 (2). Edward Kimmitt appears in Griffith's Valuation in 1864 in Ballygassey. (3) I haven't researched the Kimmitts on the ground in Ireland yet but I believe a research trip to Belfast is in order!

Robert married Elizabeth Marie Rowand Loudon in Belfast on 2 August 1899. Robert's occupation was "agent" (4). Though I can't put my finger on the source, I know that he was an agent for the Belfast Rope and Twine company. They moved to London by 1900 when son Gordon (my husband's grandfather) was born, and in 1901 the family is in Ealing, a borough of London, at 38 Egerton Gardens. (5) 

Photo courtesy of  The Man and Other Families website.
In 1911 Robert and Elizabeth and their two oldest children, Gordon, 11, and Vivian Robertson, 7 (male) were living at 33 Loveday Road, West Ealing when the census taker came to call. He noted their birthplaces: Robert was born in Moy, Elizabeth in Cork, Gordon in Shepard's Bush, London; and Vivian in Ealing, London. At that time Robert was still an agent for [Belfast] Rope and Twine Makers (6). According to a display in the Titanic Museum in Belfast we visited last summer, in 1900 it was the largest rope works in the world.

Detail of Rope Bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, Co. Antrim, No. Ireland, taken July 2014 by author.
Robert and Elizabeth went on to have their third child, Rowand Everil R. Kimmitt (female), in the third quarter of 1912. (7) RR (and his father before him) moved around frequently, so a timeline is definitely in order here. That will help me define the jurisdiction of various records I need to pull to fill in the gaps.

He seems to have been a natural leader. He is pictured below in 1915, the commanding officer of this group of Non-Commissioned Officers of the 3/18 London Regiment (the London Irish Rifles) --he is fourth from the left in the second row from the bottom. (8)

Here is a detail showing remarkable similarity to my father-in-law:

Robert Robertson Kimmitt served as Mayor of Ealing from 1924-25, and details of his election to the position, and the high regard in which he was held by the community appear in a newspaper article kindly sent to me by the Ealing Historical Society. (9) They look so... Downton Abbey-ish.

In 1947, was appointed High Sheriff of Middlesex. A glowing article about him says: "His first commission was with the 5th Royal Munster Fusilliers in 1899. He served in the First World War with the 18th Battalion London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) of which he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel in 1916; he was Hon. Colonel of the 44th (Home Counties) Division Signals 1928-1933, a military member of the County of Londonderry T.A. and Air Force Association from 1917-1936, and of the Middlesex Association from 1925 until the beginning of this year. In 1937 he became County Controller V.A.D. Middlesex, was appointed an Officer of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1928 and Commander in 1939; he was awarded the O.B.E. (Military Division) in 1919, and the Territorial Decoration 1932, and has served as Army Welfare Officer for the County Middlesex since 1941. (10) I wonder what ever became of those medals, ribbons and pins?

He went on to head up or serve on many local committees such as the Ealing Public Health Committee from 1923-38 and many others, taking a special interest in the local hospital, King Edward Memorial. He was also a mason, according to his grandson, Brian Robert Rowland Kimmitt.

He "collapsed while attending the hospital he served,"  and "died with almost startling suddenness” there in Ealing Broadway, London on 24 January 1951 at 79 years old. Wife Elizabeth had died in 1944. His funeral was held at St. Andrews Church, Mount Park Road and he is buried in the family grave at Westminster Cemetery, Hanwell. (11)

1. Brian Knox, "The Kimmitts of Armagh" September 2001, 4;  typescript report, in author's files. Brian's report is carefully researched, well written, and though not strictly documented he does make reference to where is obtaining information. He hired local researchers to pull parish and civil records. Also, "Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881," transcription from unknown source; FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FG4Z-XD4 : accessed 12 January 2015), Kimmett, 04 Dec 1871; citing Tyrone, Ireland, reference v 16-2 p 546; FHL microfilm 255,832.

2. Knox, "The Kimmitts of Armagh and Tyrone," 4.

3. Richard Griffith, General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland, Loughgall Parish, townland of Ballygassey, Co. Armagh, p. 25, taken in 1864, Rev. Edward Kimmitt; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

4. Marriage of Robert Robertson Kimmitt and Elizabeth Marie Loudon, 2 August 1899, Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast, Antrim, Ireland; online subscription database, transcription Irish Family History Foundation (http"//ifhf.brsgenealogy.com: accessed 14 Apr 2010, now http://www.rootsireland.ie).

5.  1901 England, Wales and Scotland census, Ealing, Middlesex, England, Castlebar Municipal Ward, St. Stephen's Parish, Brentford Reg. Dist., folio 164, p. 43, 38 Egerton Gardens, sched. n. 265, household of Robert R. Kimmitt; digital image, FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 12 January 2015).

6. 1911 England, Wales and Scotland Census, Ealing, Middlesex, England, ED 28, Brentford Reg. Dist., Reg. Dist. n. 128, sched. 297, 33 Loveday Road, household of Robert Robertson Kimmitt; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

7. "England and Wales Births 1837-2006," index, birth of Rowand E R Kimmitt, 3rd quarter, 1912, Brentford Dist., Middlesex, England, 3A:264; FindMyPast.com (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 13 January 2015).

8. NCOs of the 3/18 London Regiment (London Irish Rifles), photograph, Illustrated War News, 6 October 1915; Northwest Family History Society  (http://northwestfamilyhistorysociety.blogspot.com : accessed 18 August 2013). This link no longer works and I cannot find the site today.

9. "Mayor and Mayoress Designate for 1924-5," Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 26 July 1924, no p. n.; photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

10. "High Sheriff of Middlesex: Alderman R. R. Kimmitt appointed", Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 15 Mar 1947, no p. n.; photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

11. "Alderman Colonel Kimmitt Dies," West Middlesex County Times, Ealing, London, England, 27 January 1951, p. 1photocopy sent to author by Borough of Ealing Local History Centre, London, England.

07 January 2015

Week #1 of 52 Ancestors: Benjamin Barnes of Hingham, Massachusetts (1747-1833)--Farmer, Patriot, Landowner

All right. I'm going to try--TRY, mind you--to participate in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for Geneabloggers! Well. I'll participate, but whether I'll manage to post 52 times cannot yet be known. To begin, I closed my eyes and selected someone from the index in my genealogy program, and voila, one of my favorite ancestors! So I'm commencing with my 4th great-grandfather, Benjamin Barnes of Hingham, Massachusetts. I posted about him in 2009, but wanted to update that post, so I'm not sure if this will count as 2015, but oh well!

So far, I've only discovered the term non compos mentis applied to one ancestor, and that happens to be him, poor guy. But he led a full life before that diagnosis and that is what I'd like to focus on. Benjamin was born in 1747 in Hingham (1), a pretty town south of Boston, right on Massachusetts Bay. He owned land near Hingham Harbor, where I go boating with my best friends from college every summer. The general area in which he owned land can be seen in the background of this photo. This is one of those moments when you wonder why that land hasn't passed down directly to you!

What has been passed down, however, is a precious 1777 framed deed. Until yesterday I was unable to scan it because of the glare from the glass. The back was sealed and I didn't want to mess with it. However, it fell off the wall and cracked open the frame, so yesterday I took it to a restorer to clean, deacidify and preserve it. It had been glued down to some acidic cardboard. I mention this because I was finally able to scan it.

I won't transcribe the entire deed, but on 15 March 1777, Benjamin Jr., yeoman bought two acres of salt meadow and upland (on the east side of Weir River, near the mouth, perhaps now part of Hull) from his father, Benjamin Sr., yeoman, my 5th great-grandfather, for 16 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence. Hannah (Beal) Barnes, my 5th great-grandmother, relinquishes her dower, with a signature next to the X. Oh yeah, female signature!

George Lincoln, in his History of Hingham, says that Benjamin was a farmer. I wonder if he grazed his sheep in the salt meadow as they still do in France around Mont St. Michel, where the lamb is said to be extraordinarily tasty because of it? I'm making a mental note to go kayaking there some day when the weather is fair. In the Weir Estuary, not Mont St. Michel, though that's not a bad idea...

Benjamin is listed in the Hingham census of 1790, near his father, and brother Canterbury Barnes. Two more brothers, John and Ensign, appear on the same page.

Benjamin was the patriot I used in my application to the DAR. He has a pretty detailed Revolutionary War pension application file, submitted in 1832 on his behalf by Ned Cushing, his legal guardian, when Benjamin was 85. It mentions that Benjamin was "himself incapable of recollecting the past events of his life with correctness" so they get his war buddies to give affidavits telling about his service: in 1775, like half of the state, he was called to Lexington to "march on the alarm of April 19, 1775. After that he "guarded the sea" in Hingham (they don't mention that he could probably do that from his father's front yard); in 1776 he did the same in nearby Nantasket. But in 1777 he was present at the surrender of Gen. Burgoyne. And there is more. Length of service for him was anywhere from three days (Lexington) to eight months. He remained a private for the entire war. (2)

Service accounts vary slightly among those giving affidavits. Of course they do! How can 75-85 year old men remember back 58 years to which three-month stint they served with whom? I think it's sweet that so many years after the fact, these very old men put their heads together on behalf of poor Benjamin so that he could get some relief from the government he fought to create.

I love pension files because you find attestations by town clerks to vital records: an affidavit of his birth on the Hingham town records.

Benjamin Barnes, son of Benjamin & Hannah
born June 7, 1747 ––
A true copy from the Records of births in Hingham
James S. Lewis
Town Clerk

Then, Justice of the Peace Ebenezer Gay attests that he "verily believes it to be a record of the birth of Benjamin Barnes of said Hingham now under the Guardianship of Ned Cushing who applies in behalf of said Benjamin for a pension under the law of the United States passed in June last –– and I hereby certify that the said Lewis is personally known to me and that his reputation for truth is unquestionable." 
Then, it makes me laugh because on the next page, they get the Register of Probate to attest that Ebenezer Gay is honest and forthright as well. Then on the next page, George Washington attests that Ebenezer Gay is trustworthy and true, also! Just kidding about that last one. But really, when does it end?

I use the Revised Fourth Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 1968, because it is pretty good for older legal terms. On page 1200 you can find a definition of Non Compos Mentis:
"Lat. Not sound of mind; insane. This is a very general term, embracing all varieties of mental derangement. See Insanity. [Then, the best part follows...] Coke has enumerated four different classes of persons who are deemed in law to be non compotes mentis

  • First an idiot, or fool natural; 
  • Second, he who was of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it; 
  • Third, a lunatic, lunaticus qui gaudet lucidis intervallis, who sometimes is of good sound mind and memory, and sometimes non compos mentis
  • Fourth, one who is non compos mentis by his own act, as a drunkard, Co. Litt. 247a; 4 Coke, 124."
I think that poor Benjamin, after his honorable service to the cause of freedom, was an example of Coke's definition number two: "of good and sound mind and memory, but by the act of God has lost it." I'm just thankful that everyone else was there to help him pick up the memories. Benjamin died on 30 December 1833 and was buried in January of 1834 (3). I sure hope someone took care of Ned Cushing when he need it, too.

1. George Lincoln, The History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, 3 vols, Vols 2-3, The Genealogies (Somersworth, New Hampshire: New England History Press, 1982), 2:26. Also, "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Application Files," online subscription database linked to original images, Benjamin Barnes, private, file n. S. 30,262, Massachusetts;  fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 January 2015); citing NARA microfilm series M804, RG 15;
2. Revolutionary War pension application file, Benjamin Barnes.
3. "Index to Selected Final Payment Vouchers, 1818-1864," online subscription database linked to images of cards, Benjamin Barnes, Massachusetts, date of death 30 December 1833; fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 7 January 2015); citing NARA, RG 217. Also, The Hearse Account, Hingham, April 1, 1830, account book, Benjamin Barnes was buried in January 1834; microfilm 76.13, Hingham, Massachusetts Public Library.

09 November 2014

Lucy Keyes, the Lost Child of Wachusett Mountain

A 2005 movie called The Legend of Lucy Keyes tells the story of a couple who move from the city to a new home in the country that is haunted by previous inhabitants. It references the tale of the four year old Lucy Keyes, who wandered off into the wilderness from her Princeton, Massachusetts home in April of 1755, never to be found again.

I'll just tell you the legend, then refer you to a very nice analysis of the story by the author of the History of Princeton, Francis Everett Blake. Though he wrote his pamphlet in 1893 it is such a well reasoned analysis (though devoid of citations he does tell us what he consulted) that you will probably be as satisfied as I am that he is correct. You can read more about his life here.

Lucy's parents Robert Keyes and Martha Bowker moved from Shrewsbury to Princeton in about 1751 with their first five or so children. Princeton was hardly settled so they moved into a virtual wilderness. In order to find their way through the thick forests they would mark the trees so they could get back home again. Below is a view from the top of Mt. Wachusett, a small mountain on whose Eastern slopes the family lived.
View from Mt. Wachusett in Autumn, 2004, by Polly Kimmitt

One day Lucy's sisters were sent to the nearby pond to fetch sand for some household purpose. Little Lucy followed them through the woods. The sisters returned, but Lucy did not. Her poor mother Martha was devastated, as we might expect--I'd just go insane and be done with it. Martha repeatedly went out into the woods calling pitifully for Lucy long after the event occurred and when all hope had been exhausted by reasonable folks.

There were various explanations of the disappearance: Indian abduction being the most likely. That was somehow corroborated by a someone who met a group of Indians with a young European/white girl living with them who could only say " 'Chusett Hill" when asked where she was from. Robert never got a satisfactory answer about that during his lifetime though he spent a good deal of money trying. 

Gravestone of Mrs Martha Keyes, Meetinghouse Cemetery, Princeton, Massachusetts

Eventually the hubbub died down, though Martha was never quite right (goes without saying). She died in 1785, brokenhearted, and is buried in the Meetinghouse Cemetery in Princeton. The legend says that her ghost haunts the forests around Princeton, and her plaintive cry can still be heard late at night, searching and hoping--Luuuuuucy! Luuuuuuuuuucy!

There is no gravestone beside Martha for her husband Robert, nor was there one in 1893 when Blake wrote his pamphlet, though he was most likely buried there (and there is room next to her). Robert suffered great financial losses from his search for Lucy, and most likely died completely impoverished, with no money to pay for a stone. (1)

All was calm for many years until in 1859, during the Centennial celebrations in Princeton a letter came to light that purported to solve the mystery. According to witnesses at the deathbed of Tilley Littlejohn, he confessed to Lucy's murder shortly before he passed on! Tilley had been a neighbor of the Keyes family and in fact at one point there arose a boundary dispute, so there was some animosity there. Tilley said he was angry about the dispute, came across young Lucy wandering in the woods, and bashed her head against a log, stuffed her corpse into a hollow log and went home. Though his response may seem disproportionate to the disagreement, you can imagine that maybe he had some mental problems that exacerbated the animosity in his mind and caused him to grossly overreact. So far it's believable.

Tilley then joined the search party, steering them away from the log. He returned later and moved the remains to a hole in the ground, covered it with soil and leaves, set fire to it (not logical!--that would call attention to it) and went home again. Tilly supposedly furnished extensive detail in his deathbed confession. Eventually, they said, he moved away and everyone forgot all about it until the letter about his confession was unearthed.

Well, I suppose it was possible, but if you're like me by now you are frantic for some evidence! The facts need to be checked. Luckily we have Francis Everett Blake on the case! I'm not going to tell you what I think. I'll let you be the judge. Did Blake crack the case over 120 years ago? What really happened to Lucy Keyes? Read Blake's analysis and see if you agree.

1. Francis E. Blake, Lucy Keyes, the Lost Child of Wachusett Mountain (Boston: np, 1893), 9; Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 7 November 2014).

07 November 2014

Three Negro Servants in Colonial Princeton, Massachusetts

Detail of gravestone of Flova, servant of Moses Gill, Meetinghouse Cemetery, Princeton, Massachusetts
One of my favorite burial grounds is the Meetinghouse Cemetery in Princeton, Massachusetts. It is right off Mountain Road, but sunken down a steep embankment so when you enter you're buffered from the modern world. It's as if you are traveling back in time.

Like most early burial grounds, it was sited adjacent to the original meeting house (church), which used to stand directly across the street, according to the website of Princeton's First Congregational Church.

The cemetery is small, and a real pleasure to explore owing to its beautiful gravestone carvings. Because slate holds up so well over time, the earlier stones are clean and legible, belying their age.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Wikipedia
One of Princeton's most influential early residents, and the man who donated the land for the church and burial ground was Moses Gill. According to the History of Princeton (1) Moses was born in Charlestown in 1734. He was a successful hardware merchant who twice married into wealthy families. By marrying so well he became the owner of large tracts of land in Central Massachusetts and kept a beautiful country home in Princeton. He had no children with either wife.

By 1774 Moses had turned to politics and occupied various positions in government, starting with the Provincial Assembly and eventually moving on up to Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, then Acting Governor after the death of Increase Sumner. But it was his time as Judge and Chief Justice in the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas that will prove most interesting for our purposes.

This burial ground contains the graves of three servants of Moses, all lined up together: Flova, Thomas and [illegible], pictured below.

In Memory of 
Flova a Negro wo
man Servant to the
Honbl Moses Gill Esqr
who died June 13th
1778 aged 41 years

In Memory of
Thomas a negro
man Servant to the
Honbl Moses Gill
Esq who died
Septr 14th 1782
Aged 89 years

Here lye[--]
body of N[---]
Negro man Ser
vant to the Hon'bl
Moses Gill Esqr
who died March
1th (sic!) 1776 aged 39 years

The History of Princeton mentions all three slaves in the sketch for Moses Gill (lists them as if they are children), and gives some additional information, citing only "town records of Princeton":

i. NERO, Negro servant to Hon. Moses Gill, came to Princeton from Sutton, Mass., with his mother  "Violet," July 1767, d. March 2, 1776 ae 39.

ii. FLORA, a Negro woman servant to Hon. Moses Gill; d. June 13, 1778, ae. 39.

iii. THOMAS, Negro servant to Hon. Moses Gill; d. Sept. 14, 1782, ae. 89.

Now. We can see what information he gleaned from gravestones, but obviously a good search of Princetown records is in order, because Nero coming from Sutton with his mother Violet is really interesting. They came to Princeton at about the same time as Moses did from Charlestown. Note the spelling of Flora here as opposed to the gravestone's Flova.

Princeton Town Records mention who came to town and from where. Invaluable! (2)

[-ilit a negro woman & Nero her son
Removed from Sutton into this Dist in July or
Augt 1767.

There are other volumes of town records which could be searched for more information. Without seeing the original register I can only hope that Francis Blake was accurate in recording the name [Vililit?] as Violet. But isn't it lovely that all of these people entering town were recorded, with their places of origin?

So Moses Gill had three slaves/"servants" that he thought highly enough of to erect gravestones in their memory. And not just inexpensive gravestones. Every letter carved cost something--every filigree, and especially portraits. The average person could not even afford a headstone, never mind one with words, but depicting a face was an honor indeed. While not an accurate rendition, these primitive images do have some detail. They are just one step in the development of gravestone iconography which started early on with winged skulls, progressed to death heads, and graduated to portrait stones.

Though slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts from the beginning (3), the practice did occur and people learned to avoid the slave word and call them servants. Moses Gill was Chief Justice during the famous Quock Walker trials. Quock's owner died, having promised him his freedom, and Quock was passed on to the deceased owner's wife. When she remarried her husband abused him. Quock sued for his freedom. This came on the heels of the American Revolution and there was much talk of "being created equal." There were several trials and the decisions went both ways, but in 1781 Quock Walker won. (4)

I could go off on a million tangents here because this subject is so ripe for exploration. Did these trials make Moses more sensitive to the plight of African American slaves or was he already so inclined? It may be assuming too much to say that he was probably a fair master, but I want to believe that is so. In any case, he gave his three slaves enough of an identity to still be remembered 230 years after their deaths, and that's worth noting.

1. Francis Everett Blake, History of the Town of Princeton in the County of Worcester and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Princeton: Town of Princeton, 1915), 2:114.

2. "Town Records and Marriages, with Births, Marriages, and Deaths," Princeton, Massachusetts, p. 21 [penned]; Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 7 November 2014), image 12. The image of the cover shows the title of the volume as "Records, Feb 9, 176[1?] - Mar 8, 1788, Births, Deaths and Marriages, Miscellaneous, Princeton, Mass.," and there is a note from Francis E. Blake dated 1883 mentioning it being rebound and saying that the records were put in more of a chronological order.

3. Nathaniel Ward, The Massachusetts Body of Liberties (Boston, 1641). n. 91. "There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, or captivity amongst us unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves or are sold to us." 

4. Emory Washburn, "The Extinction of Slavery in Massachusetts, A Paper Read Before the Massachusetts Historical Society, at Their Monthly Meeting, April, 1857," Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 333; Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 7 November 2014). This is interesting because we hear the opinions written in 1857. See also George H. Moore,  Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts (New York: Appleton, 1866); Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 7 November 2014).