Kimmitt Genealogical Research

29 July 2010

In the Event of My ... Silence?

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy - Challenge #30 

Radar image of Hurricane Ike at landfall. HGX ...Image via Wikipedia
Week 30: Create an emergency chain. Select someone you trust to handle duties should you be unable to access your research, blog or other genealogy projects. Chances are that you have an online presence and genealogy friend with whom you are in regular contact. If you are unable to get online for a significant period of time, how will you let everyone know? Use this week to give your contact information to at least one genealogy friend so he or she could check in with you or your family in case of unexplained absence. The genealogy community is pretty tight, and we worry when one of our own hasn’t been heard from in a while. This challenge was inspired by Hurricane Ike and 14 days without power. Bloggers: describe the steps you take to establish an emergency chain to help your readers      do the same.

OK, I've been stuck on this one for a few minutes. I could select someone close by, like my lovely friend, neighbor and quickly rising genealogy prodigy, whom I shall call KK. But if it were a natural disaster, power outage or something local, and my communication were to fail, then so would KK's fail. On the other hand, if I delegate someone far away, how the heck would I get word to them? As for someone I trust, that would be my dependable and technologically gifted husband, Myles. But he isn't a genealogist.

A61RJ MOHAMMED HASSAN P.O.BOX: 70006 SHARJAH U...Image via Wikipedia
I am left with devising a chain, or an endless loop, I'm not sure which it is. Therefore, know all men by these presents that I declare Myles as the provider of personal information and KK as my link to the genealogical world. Myles has the key to my heart and my house, along with the password for my computer, our local area network, home video camera and bank accounts, amongst other things. KK is a great genealogist and communicator, and she is efficient, empathetic, and lives right across the street. AND, get this! If the power is out, Myles is a licensed ham radio operator and could send radio messages! How cool is that! What a team they would make. KK could dictate and Myles could transmit the old fashioned way. He even knows Morse Code. Very Sci-Fi. dit dit dit, daaaaaah daaaaah daaaaaaah dit dit dit. And no, that's not a dit name.

I'm wondering, however, if all this would really be necessary. "If you are unable to get online for a significant period of time, how will you let everyone know?" Believe me, they'll know it. I'm so obnoxiously present on the web (updating Facebook, emailing, texting, phoning, skyping, using the new iPhone's face-to-face feature) that if something goes wrong it will be clear. I have enough real life friends that are also FB friends that they could easily post something on my page.

What is more concerning though is, should I fall ill, go insane or die, who would tell my clients? I have customized folders for my current clients, both in Safari (email) and in my Clients folder on my hard drive. I also use Bento database software to keep track of my projects. In Bento you can see the status of each project since I update it with notes as I go along. I usually don't have more than five clients at any one time. Of course I always have hard copy files accompanying the digital data. That is usually splayed across my desk. The other thing to check would be my very lengthy work to-do list. Since I have a brain the size of a pea, I update that list daily. It's a great means to be pseudo me during my unfortunate incapacitation. The work to-do list (not to be confused with my regular to-do list) works in tandem with my calendar. And my address book has any phone number or email address you should need.

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Personal research and family papers have been left to a local society in my will, so I'm not worried about that problem. It is mainly cyber-info that could be lost. And what is out there? Not much really: just this blog, Facebook, my simple webpage at and my personal webpage. I've put a
 tree up on Ancestry that is only for my own convenience and that of relatives. Once I'm gone, hey, make it public, I don't mind! Relatives would want to keep the personal website, though, because that is where I store family photos. My Facebook page can be retired. Well. If I'm dead, I mean. Don't go sneaking around just because I'm in a coma and delete all of my fun stuff! At least hold a mirror up to my mouth first. And while we're at it, I'd like a string down in the coffin attached to a bell in the graveyard. Just in case. Oh wait, I want to be cremated...

"Funnily enough" (my mother-in-law used to say that) a friend of mine suggested to me today that one way to preserve my blog posts would be to print them out and keep them in a binder. Nothing like good old paper. It's just there, doesn't need a password, no media conversions, no file formats to worry about. Just open the cover and you're off. How refreshingly simple. Of course, then links don't work, but, eh, too bad. I hardly use them. There is a way to back up the information in your blog, but I think I tried it and it was too complicated, so I abandoned it. And I could place this blog post at the very begininning. It would be out of chronological order, but could prove useful some day.

In the meantime, as the post shows, I'm still blabbing away. The weather is fine and electricity is pouring into our house. I feel better already, though, knowing that cyber me will be looked after.

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27 July 2010

Cousin Joanna Barnes Invited to Next Barnes Family Reunion

In my last post, I talked about how it is impossible to trace the descendants of all of your ancestors. Even finding all descendants of just one ancestor, though possible, is daunting, and I haven't attempted it. I'm just too involved in other endeavors, and frankly, I don't think anyone is particularly interested. Besides, a lot of it has been done here and there, just not compiled in one place.

At our family reunion I was asked twice about Joanna Barnes, the actress. "Is she a relative?" "I always heard she was a cousin!" Now I had heard this claim, too, but was keenly aware that the sources were prone to exaggeration and/or wishful thinking. Yet, most family stories/myths end up having more than a grain of truth to them: fact and fantasy intertwine seamlessly and need to be separated carefully. So like a good genealogist, I wanted to verify this information before confirming the family story.

This is Joanna Barnes* (1934–  ). You can see her listing in the Internet Movie Database at My uncle, William Humphrey "Billy" Barnes (1920-1992), used to boast that Joanna was a relative. He'd bat his eyes winsomely, swoon and generally get all soft of expression. He was quite the jokester, and I always thought he was making it up, or simply wishing it were true. She was a beauty and he fairly turned inside out everytime she came on TV. Whelp, we just had a Barnes family reunion this past weekend, and the subject came up. I was sceptical about the relationship until I heard she was from Hingham. Since I know that my immigrant ancestor, Thomas Barnes, was the only Barnes with lots and lots of progeny in the area, I thought it plausible that she, too, had descended from him. 

So I googled her when I got home, and once I saw her photo, I knew she was related. She's got those wide-set, light colored eyes and dark blond hair, thin upper lip/thicker lower lip, oval face, with heavy eyebrows. Lots of Barnes descendants seem to have these features. In fact, I think she looks a lot like my sister.

 I also knew that she could not be a close relative. I'm aware of everyone descended from my great great-grandfather, Israel Merritt Barnes I, on down. Israel I's father, Joseph Barnes, had moved from Hingham to Scituate to marry Polly Vinal, and they were given the old Capt. Israel Vinal homestead, built about 1723 on what is now Booth Hill Road, as a wedding gift, according to family stories. The land had originally belonged to John Booth (hence the modern street name) but was sold to Israel Vinal early in the eighteenth century. That home remained in the family until Uncle Billy sold it in the 1960s.

Joseph and Polly had eight children, the youngest of whom was Israel, born in 1820. I was pretty sure she wasn't descended from any of them because they remained in Scituate or moved to Boston. None went back to Hingham. Joseph only moved to the next town, but he did not seem to have many interactions with his siblings except in a few land dealings. That still left five previous generations. 

Joanna is too young to appear in the census, since 1930 is the most recent to which we have access. It appeared that she is still alive. I didn't want to get all caught up in invented or undocumented family trees and was hoping to find some original information on the web since she was so famous. I googled "Joanna Barnes" and "daughter of" and found a newspaper announcement from 1959 in Hingham which said she was the daughter of John Barnes. From there I could go to census and on back bouncing vital records off of census and other records–– easy peasy––until I found she is descended from John, grandson of the immigrant ancestor. So she is my sixth cousin once removed!

It's got to be coincidence that she looks the way she does, but it was still fun to find Barnes relatives in Hingham more than two hundred years after our own ancestor left. I know there are scads more, but since Hingham is so easy to research it feels more like record-keeping than genealogical research. Countless people have transcribed original records, and written town histories and genealogies, so it is not as compelling as solving those brick wall mysteries. I think I'll leave it until I'm older and can't get around as well...

Cousin Joanna, nice to know you're part of the family! We hope you can join us at the next Barnes Family Reunion, not yet scheduled, but sure to occur in the near future!

* Photo of Joanna Barnes courtesy of "Ace Photos" website ( : accessed 26 July 2010).

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23 July 2010

"Hey, Can you Give Me the Family Genealogy?"

No, actually. Not easily! There's too much of it! It's going to take years to write it up, if I ever feel ready to do that. We're having a family reunion this weekend and I want to provide information for my relatives. It lies relatively hidden on my computer and in files in my office, and it's certainly not ready for distribution, yet there is plenty I will share with my Barnes cousins.

For over twenty years I've been gently working on my family lines. A great deal had been done by other family members, so often I'm just verifying or trying to break down the few brick walls, especially on the Barnes side. I have to admit though that I spent most of my early years learning about resources, methodology and professional practices until I felt reasonably qualified, then I began taking clients. What I haven't done is concentrate on descendants of my ancestors because there are far too many. I've got enough Barnes descendants to make an impression, but probably not even one tenth of the total! I just document them as I run into them, to distinguish them from my own direct lines, for instance. But let's not even talk about the descendants of my other lines! There are scads of Litchfields, for instance, probably a billion living in Scituate alone (haha), but I've only taken note, again, of those families that are in my direct line, or those who could be confused with them. This is hard to explain to people who wonder why I can't just hand over the book. Yes we're related to Israel Litchfield of diary fame, but not directly, so he doesn't appear in a pedigree or fan chart. He's my 5th great-uncle, brother of my 5th great grandfather Capt. Daniel Litchfield Sr. (see my John Hancock post).

Now we're about to gather a big gang of Barnes descendants together and I wish I had a book to hand out! So instead I've made some charts––big ones––to hang up on the side of the house. I'm bringing red pens so people can make corrections. I've asked them to sign their notations so I can know who my sources are (I neglected to do that in 1995) and I'm bringing along some family group sheets for those extra large families of unknown cousins. 

Here are the charts I'm making:
•  10-Generation fan chart starting with my grandfather and his siblings and moving back to 1600s.
•  All descendants of Capt. Joseph Barnes and Polly Vinal, mostly via Israel Merritt Barnes I. This one has photos included.
•  Descendants of the father of immigrant ancestor Thomas Barnes for 6 generations.
•  Lists of Revolutionary War, Mayflower, and Ancient and Honorable Artillery ancestors.

I use Reunion for Macintosh, which creates lovely charts but is quite buggy, especially with a 100-page chart. These charts contain so much info that they have to be huge in order to be legible. It's much too expensive to print them in color so it's black and white and the photographs suffer. 

The fan chart at the beginning of this post will be 16 inches by 30 inches. Not too bad considering how many names it has. People enjoy seeing the whole she-bang at once. Get a load of those glaring brick walls. How they torture me!!

The next chart is the descendants of Joseph Barnes. This one took a lot of tweaking before I could get it down to 100 pages. I forget the final dimensions, but it's something like 18 inches by 120 or thereabouts! It will include everyone at the reunion and many more.

And the final one, below, is 16 inches by 51. It has descendants of the immigrant down six generations. I love doing these because they show me gaps. I need to do some work on the early Barnes generations.

When I feel ready, I'll get one done up properly by the Chart Chick, Janet Hovorka, at, who does wonderful work, but for now, we intend to scribble on these and use them as information-gathering vehicles, so I don't want to spend too much money or time. Besides, I'm not ready yet. This is kind of joke because you're never ready. You can never be finished with genealogical research. There is always one more source to consult, one new ancestor who blesses you with two more progenitors. 

Anyway, I'm excited to display these for my Barnes cousins and even more excited to see everyone!

05 July 2010

Atwood Mott and His Mysterious Female Relatives

It seems fitting on this Fourth of July weekend to discuss the family of one of my own Revolutionary War ancestors, Atwood Mott. Atwood, it seems, was surrounded by women of unknown origin: both his mother and his wife are shrouded in mystery.

I was first introduced to Atwood in the context of a Mayflower line. In 1979, my mother and Aunt Abbie were accepted into the Mayflower Society on a line back to Stephen Hopkins through Atwood's mother Deborah Atwood. By 1998, when I tried to join the Mayflower Society on that line, it was rejected––precisely because of Deborah Atwood! I won't dwell on Deborah here except to say that that I know she's not going to be easy to find.

I haven't delved into thorough search on Atwood yet. I have two other proven Mayflower lines, so it has never seemed too critical. Plus, I know that these are not going to be simple to solve, and because I've been so preoccupied with clients, family and other ancestors, he remains on my "Requires Further Research" list. He was born 18 September 1736, in Scituate, Massachusetts, son of Ebenezer Mott Jr. and Deborah Atwood, according to the published Vital Records of Scituate (1:262). His marriage to Mrs. Hannah Whood on 23 July 1758 also is listed (2:211).

And Samuel Deane, in his History of Scituate, says only this about him:  "Lieutenant Atwood Mott, a worthy man (the father of the wives of Nehemiah Merritt, Nathaniel Vinal and Laban Rose), was also son of Ebenezer, Jr. He married Hannah Hood 1758. Hannah (widow of Laban Rose) was wife of Gamaliel Merritt, 1782."

How's that for a confusing treatment? I find it odd that for a man described only in terms of his daughters' husbands, the other two women in his life are so hard to pin down. You'd never know it from the above paragraph, but the Hannah in the last sentence is his daughter, not his wife. Of his three daughters, two were married twice, both to Merritt men, not brothers. The other sister was my ancestor.

Anyway, for a "worthy" man, he doesn't get much space in the history books. He is, however, mentioned in Mass. Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolution (11:168):

"Mott, Atwood, Scituate, Corporal, Capt. Samuel Stockbridge's co. of Minutemen, Col. Bailey's regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775; service, 21 days; also, Lieutenant, Capt. Samuel Stockbridge's co., Gen. John Thomas's regt.; list of officers who were commissioned May 19, 1775; also, Lieutenant, same co. and regt.; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; engaged May 10, 1775; service, 2 mos., 3 weeks, 6 days; also, company return dated Oct. 7, 1775; also, Capt. Seth Stowers's co., Col. J. Robinson's regt.; engaged June 27, 1777; service, 6 mos. 3 days, at Rhode Island."

Apart from his military service, the only other information I have in my notes is that he was admitted to full Communion in the First Church of Scituate on 4 February 1770 (Mayflower Descendant 10-11:208).

Nothing on his mother, not much on him, so my first step will be to get a look at some land and probate records. These will hopefully also provide some information on his wife, Mrs. Hannah Whood. WHOOD? What kind of name is that? The vital records say it could also be Wood or Woods, and somewhere else I saw Hood suggested. Still, nothing comes up in Scituate. She's a mystery, plain and simple. From the Mrs. we can deduce that she is a widow of a man named Whood. My mother always thought that maybe she was Native American. That is probably because the only time the name, spelled as Whood, is found, it belongs to some "Indians" around Plymouth. The name has also appeared in Middleborough and in Shapleigh, Maine.

I don't even dare to guess at anything, though, and I think it would be jumping the gun to make any kind of research plan before even seeing land and probate records. This is the kind of project that will require writing up as I go along, and I'll have to suffer a lull in clients before I attack it, but whenever that happens, I will enjoy it, I'm sure!