Kimmitt Genealogical Research

29 November 2015

Garrald Fitzgerald, Goldsmith of Galway

In April of 1979 on a twenty hour train journey from Rome to London I met a chatty but cordial gentleman from Rainham, Kent. Amongst many, many other things, he told me that he was a coin collector. He had a metal detector and spent his time scanning dried up riverbeds and other places for his favorite treasure––Roman coins. When he found out my surname was FitzGerald he was delighted to present me with a coin he had dredged up from the banks of the Thames Estuary one particularly dry year. Since it wasn't Roman he wasn't interested in it, so he gave it to me.

Thames Estuary and Wind Farms from Space NASA taken by Operational Land Imager,
public domain file, created 28 Apr 2013;
I’ve held onto this coin for thirty-six years: through all the time I lived in Rome, moving from pensione to pensione to apartment, then living in several apartments in the Boston area, my parents' house, grad student housing in England for a year, and two family homes in the 'burbs since 1989. That's a lot of moving, but I kept it stashed away with a few other treasures and keepsakes. I had always assumed it was a novelty token rather than a real coin.

Recently it has begun to gnaw at me. I Googled it a few times but never found anything like it. Finally yesterday I came across a fantastic website called Irish Coinage. I sent an email to the webmaster/author, John Stafford-Langan and he replied right away. I am so impressed by the extent of his knowledge and his willingness to share it with me. Here's what I learned.

The front (obverse) design is a set of arms  - he suspects of a goldsmith's guild - but has not been able to verify that. The name Garrald Fitzgerald surrounds the arms. The words that ring the coin are called the legend.

The reverse has a legend that reads "Goldsmith of Galway." Aha! I hadn't deciphered the "smith" part. John says, "It has a large 'I' with a small D above it - "double struck" so it looks like an 'L' (D was the old abbreviation for a penny (from the old French denier and originally the latin 'denarius'). Stars are often used on these tokens to fill the design around the denomination." So being double struck makes it hard to read both the word smith and the letter D. 

In summary, it is a penny token issued in the 1660s (!!) by Garrald Fitzgerald, a Galway goldsmith. There was a severe shortage of small change in the mid to late 17th century and many English and Irish merchants issued token coins to alleviate the problem. In 1673 they were replaced by official coin. There are over 800 different types from Ireland and more than 16,000 from England. It is probably made of brass, but I should get it checked, not by a regular jeweler, though, because they are apt to file a bit of it off to test it and that would reduce the value. It is scarce, as most of the Irish ones are, but not particularly valuable unless it turns out to be gold.

He says: "I'm assuming that the token is brass based on the colour and because these tokens were generally made of brass or copper. However a very small number of examples were made as presentation pieces in silver and fewer again in gold.  The silver and gold specimens are normally much better struck than the normal circulating brass and copper example so the doubling of the letters in the legend and the striking crack suggest that this is most likely a brass example. There are no known Irish examples surviving in gold, only a few from London (from where a great many tokens were issued) so a gold example is unlikely, but would be of significant interest." 

Normally the merchants who issued these tokens were prominent citizens - the city records often show them serving on the town council, or providing services to the town. I've traced my own FitzGerald line in Kerry only back to about 1790 or so. There is no way I could ever definitely tie them in with this fellow. But it's not out of the question to think that he could be related in some way. Pretty cool stuff lurking in my jewelry drawer all these years.

Tomasso Garzoni, Goldschmiede, or Ständebuch & Beruf & Handwerk & Goldschmied, Saxon State Library,
Dresden [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

23 November 2015

Where Were You the Day JFK Was Shot?

"JFK limousine" by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News - JFK-Motorcadee.gif, Penn Jones Photographs. Baylor University Collections of Political Materials. Waco, Texas.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

It's strange to think that when John FitzGerald Kennedy (no relation) died I was only eight years old. I didn't yet have a strong grasp on what that meant. I had experienced the death of my beloved Grandmother a year earlier and had taken that very hard, so I knew what a death of a loved one entailed.  I remember sobbing inconsolably in bed, and my brother yelling at me, "Stop bawling, Junior! Ma! Make her shut up!" This, of course, made me sob all the louder in my loneliness. I wondered why everyone else wasn't taking it all that hard, but of course their grief was tempered by the fact that she had been very ill in a nursing home and they had known it was coming. And they weren't eight.

On November 22, 1963, I was in third grade. Our classroom rarely was interrupted, but that day there was a knock on the door. When the teacher opened we saw two young teachers crying. They rushed into the room and whispered the horrible news.

Mrs. Murphy's 3rd Grade Class, South River School, Marshfield, Massachusetts, November 1963.

When they left she told us the sad news: President Kennedy had been shot and was seriously wounded. Shortly afterwards the principal came over the intercom saying that we should pray for the president and would be sent home early. In the face of this earth-shattering development (early release) it was hard not to get happy, but we knew it was the wrong response even at that age. The bus ride home was strangely somber. It's strange, but my memories are that it was before lunch. Yet looking at the time of the shooting, I see it must have been after: he was shot about 12:30pm Dallas time (2:30 Massachusetts time), so the release wasn't actually all that early. By the time we got off the bus that Friday, the president had been declared dead.

I knew the president was important because we had talked about him in class. In the same lessons where they taught us about George Washington, they'd wrap up by talking about President Kennedy. My favorite day of school ever was was February 20, 1962, when they wheeled in a giant TV on a cart so we could watch John Glenn be the first American to orbit the earth.  I knew that came at President Kennedy's direction.

By Cecil Stoughton, White House [Public
domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What I remember learning from this was that adults could care about people they had never met: people on TV, politicians, strangers. I remember the universal shock, the constant news commentary, Walter Cronkite's quivering lip even. People were glued to their TVs, an unusual situation, at least at my house.

When Ruby shot Oswald my mother witnessed it on live TV. I came in from playing outside and she was more agitated than I ever remember her being. I still didn't understand the importance, but I felt it. To this day I retain few details. I wonder how much my mind may may have filled in with things I've learned since it happened, too. Still, these are my memories of the day the President was assassinated.

10 November 2015

The Last Fighting Tommy: Private Henry John Patch

The last fighting Tommy
Pte. Henry John Patch (Harry)
C Company 7th D.C.L.I. [Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry]
17th June 1898-25th July 2009
Age 111
Fought in the battle of Passchendaele
During the 1914-1918 war
Freeman of the City of Wells
also representing all the brave young men
lost in The Great War. 

Harry Patch, 1898-2009
from Abroad in the Yard

Private Harry Patch was the last soldier who fought in the trenches of World War I to die. He suffered unimaginable horrors and carried many of the details into his late years, as told in an interview with The (London)Telegraph here.

He entered the war in June of 1917 and served as an assistant gunner in a Lewis Gun section, according to Lee Rimmer in Abroad in the Yard, and suffered injuries to the groin from shrapnel when a shell exploded killing three of his fellow soldiers.

This memorial is in beautiful Wells, England, in Somerset. In the photo below it is on the left side of the street on the left, just above the red car. You can read more about his life on his Wikipedia page, here.

20 September 2015

Would You Be Loyalist or a Patriot?

Sudbury Company Of Militia, Mountain View Cemetery, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts,
photo by Tina Clegg, 2007.
Have you ever stopped to wonder which side you would have chosen during the Revolutionary War? Would you have been a Whig (Rebel /Patriot) or a Tory (Royalist/Loyalist)?

I found a little Wikipedia article that discusses motivations for choosing a side. Not everyone actively made a decision, but supposedly about 40-45% were Patriots and 15-20% Loyalists. The other 35% just chilled and managed to get by without taking an oath pledging allegiance to either side. There are eight key differences. According to the article, on the whole:
  1. Loyalists were older, better established, and more likely to resist innovation. 
  2. Loyalists saw the Crown as the legitimate government, and resistance to it morally wrong, while Patriots asserted that the British government had violated our constitutional rights. 
  3. Men who objected to physical attacks on Royal officials took the Loyalist position, while those who applauded were being Patriots. 
  4. Most men who wanted to find a compromise solution wound up on the Loyalist side, while the proponents of immediate action became Patriots. 
  5. Merchants with financial and sentimental attachments to the Empire were likely to remain loyal to the system. Few Patriots were so deeply enmeshed in the system. 
  6. Some Loyalists were procrastinators who believed that independence was bound to come some day, but wanted to postpone the moment; the Patriots wanted to seize the moment. 
  7. Loyalists were cautious and afraid of anarchy or tyranny that might come from mob rule; Patriots made a systematic effort to use and control mob violence. 
  8. Loyalists lacked the Patriots' confidence that independence lay ahead. [1]
Where would you stand if this were happening today? Here are my reactions to these eight points.
  1. I'm old and reasonably well-established, though I don't resist innovation: Loyalist.
  2. I respect the government and our laws even if I know they are far from perfect: Loyalist.
  3. I don't like to hurt people, so I wouldn't be approving of the old tar and feathering: Loyalist.
  4. I'm a compromiser: Loyalist.
  5. I'm don't own a Fortune 500 company: Patriot.
  6. I'm not a procrastinator, but I'm really patient and believe that eventually things come to some kind of equilibrium: Loyalist.
  7. I just hate mob rule: Loyalist.
  8. I would be unsure as to the outcome and fear repercussions for the losing side: Loyalist.
King's Rangers at the Fort at Number Four, Charlestown NH,photo courtesy of Dan Dudley.
Of course, my opinion wouldn't have mattered at all because I'm a woman. But let's say I was male, and like most of my ancestors, a farmer. I can't imagine getting all that worked up about unfair taxation while worrying about crops and livestock, at least not enough to to to war over it. But that's female 21st century me, talking. You might imagine that I probably wouldn't have been schooled enough to know or care about the cause of republicanism either. But the concept is one easily grasped and I can see how it took root even among those who had very little education. It was a noble, rational, modern, uplifting concept, and I would have bought into it completely, so despite all of the above, I still don't know!

I've got bunches of Loyalist ancestors who did flee the country and ended up in New Brunswick, Canada. They came from New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island mostly. I have not delved into deep research on them but have collected bits and pieces from my mother's research and online records. There are published sources on early Loyalists that provide some help as well. The problems start to arise when we look at their descendants. Life was very rough up there and record keeping left a lot to be desired, so what remains today is sparse. I'm excited to plan a research trip to New Brunswick and really dig in.

Old Sturbridge Village, Redcoats and Rebels Event,
with King's Rangers Loyalist group, photo by Dan Dudley, August 2015.


1. "Patriot (American Revolution)," Wikipedia ( : accessed 22 April 2015), citing Leonard Woods Larabee, Conservatism in Early American History (1948) pp 164-65; allso N. E. H. Hull,Peter C. Hoffer and Steven L. Allen, "Choosing Sides: A Quantitative Study of the Personality Determinants of Loyalist and Revolutionary Political Affiliation in New York," Journal of American History, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Sept. 1978), pp. 344-366 in JSTOR; also Edwin G. Burrows and Michael Wallace, "The American Revolution: The Ideology and Psychology of National Liberation," Perspectives in American History, (1972) vol. 6 pp 167-306.

14 September 2015

GenStock 2015: On Being An Early Adapter

Yesterday was the final day of GenStock 2015, a three-day retreat for professional genealogists. GenStock was the brainchild of Billie Fogarty and Matthew McCormack who managed to bring to fruition a dreamy vision first conjured up 18 months ago after years of what-ifs discussed at conventional genealogical conferences. 
  • What if we could get together for longer periods of time, without the distractions of conference work? In a really relaxing, casual place?
  • What if we had time to really explore the state of the field of genealogy? And to examine what constitutes being professional in our field?
  • What if we had input not only from well established genealogists but also from newer professionals with the potential to imbue our community with new ideas and more energy?
  • What if we could view one another as colleagues instead of competitors?
  • What if we could find a way to give newer professionals the acknowledgement they often deserve without thinking they need to "come up the hard way," like we did.
The dream had us all coming together on a farm in Northern Michigan to ruminate on these concepts and more: alternatives for advanced education; how to market your business; whether there a need for a new publication, and so much more –– essentially, anything we all could think up to discuss.

Matt and Billie had no idea whether people would come. So hard to get to, no nearby repository to justify the expense of the trip. Early details were vague as they wisely left it to the greater group to discover its own purpose. Invitations were awkward. It would be impossible to invite every serious professional, so they introduced it in phases, enlarging the "guest list" each time, and eventually extending the invitation to all serious professionals, telling us, "invite colleagues you think would enjoy it." Still, a risky undertaking and some feelings were hurt, but I suppose that was unavoidable.

The resulting mix was 20 people that normally would not be thrown together like that: some nationally known, others pretty new to the scene; old and young, taking clients and not. So over the course of three days on Matt's beautiful farm in Alpena we gathered to share and learn. And now we want to disseminate what we concluded. 

The first words out of Billie's mouth were, "There are no wrong answers here." She set a tone of warm acceptance and no one violated that, to my knowledge. I did not hear any sniping and I must say it felt really nice after three days of constant discussions not to witness any animosity.
Colleagues want to know what we learned. I learned very little. But I stopped to dwell on some things that I've already recognized, but have not worked toward improving, and I will do so in the future.
  • Our awareness of others generally results from them being outstanding students in a course, being on the lecture circuit, being introduced by another colleague, or writing for journals. Many superior genealogists do not fall into any of those neat little boxes, and there are colleagues we may never have heard of who do great work.
  • Our colleagues can be supportive and encouraging when relieved of their fears and gently massaged in that direction. 
  • Experience in the field of genealogy is not the only criterion by which professionals should be judged. Those transitioning over from other professions may have research, writing and analysis skills that put them way ahead of the game. Advanced courses and the proliferation of primary information on the web speeds up their learning curve tremendously.
  • People are their own worse enemies, usually from insecurity. The cure is to date to reach out, share your concerns about yourself and soon enough your colleagues will help you overcome that barrier.
I did learn one thing. I finally got it through my thick skull that the SLIG Practicum is extremely useful, even (especially!!) for the advanced genealogist. So I am going to be brave and go for it in January. I'm secretly (not so much secretly after this) afraid that I won't solve any of them, but must admit that's probably not going to happen. I think if all of us could do just one think we're nervous or insecure about we'd all be a lot better off, so that's mine.

Billie and Matt, you have created a beautiful thing. You laid the ground work and then let it grow organically into an entity which will positively impact our field. Thank you for that. For those of you that did not attend, there WILL be a GenStock 2016, so stay tuned.

10 May 2015

Week #11 of 52 Ancestors: James Cudworth, A most Prominent and Good Man

Much has already been written about one of my all-time favorite ancestors: James Cudworth. It was during my first forays into genealogy, reading Samuel Deane's History of Scituate, that I read of Cudworth and his defiant stance, and immediately fell in love with him (as a grandfather (8th-great), of course! [1]  And all because he stood up for the Quakers. But early authors seem to romanticize and exaggerate, so I prefer to verify by going straight to those who ferret out actual fact. Specifically, Robert Charles Anderson [2] and Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs [3], who have both written though treatments on him, based on primary information in original sources. You can also get a quick overview on Wikipedia.

He was a learned man, much sought after for high positions in the colonial government, even rising to Deputy Governor of Plymouth Colony, but he had a few run-ins with his superiors because of his enlightened principles and that kept him from reaching his full potential. Yet by continually defying them on their religious intolerance he eventually wore them down and the eventual loosening of that intolerance can be attributed at least in part, to him.

According to the above trusty sources, he was baptized on 2 August 1612, in Aller, Somersetshire, where his father Ralph was rector. His mother Mary Machell's line can be traced back to the 12th century which is pretty useful for when people ask "Who's your earliest known ancestor?" I have not done any research on her line, but it's nice to read about her and know that at least one of my ancestors was a signatory to the Magna Carta.[4]

He married Mary Parker in Northam, Devon, on 1 Feb 1633/34 and they arrived in Scituate by 1634.
James sort of hit the ground running, being admitted as Freeman in Plymouth on 1 January 1634/35. By the 18th of January he and Mary had joined the church at Scituate. They had five known children and I am descended from two of them. Mary, who married Robert Whitcomb, and Israel whose wife's name is not known. He went to Barnstable and served as a Deputy to the General Court from that town in 1640 and 1642.

In 1640 he was brought before the court for selling wine when he wasn't licensed to do so. Dinners at his house with wine and intelligent conversation must have been sort of fun.

They returned to Scituate by 1649. Mary was fined in 1658/59 for not going to church, indicating that she was a Quaker by then. So how did this family survive/pull it off? We all know how harsh the laws were in early Massachusetts. Didn't they hang Quakers? Or at least expel them? Yes, they sometimes did. But James Cudworth was a well-loved, prominent man in the community, so eloquent, and fervent about pointing out injustice. He dared to speak up.

In about 1660 he described his fall from power in a letter: "Last election Mr. Hatherly and myself were left off the bench, and myself discharged of my Captainship, because I had entertained some of the Quakers at my house, thereby that I might be the better acquainted with their principles... But the Quakers and myself cannot close in diverse things, and so I signified to the Court; but told them withal, that as I was no Quaker, so I would be no persecutor."

How wondrous is that? Doesn't really fit in with our stereotype of the Puritans, does it? What I love best about it is that he wasn't fighting for himself––he didn't even agree with the Quakers, but he saw the necessity of leaving them alone, and just wouldn't let it go. I love that. It still resonates loudly today.

The letter was intercepted and he was booted out of all major positions (disenfranchised) for many years. He was removed as Captain of the Scituate militia, stripped of his freeman designation, not given any power. The Town of Scituate made an attempt to bring him back, but the General Court would not allow it.

He kept sending well reasoned arguments and eventually after 15 years he was reinstated. It is hard to tell if it was just a softening of the attitudes or if they needed his military expertise, because they immediately put him in charge of an expedition against the Dutch. He then served in King Philip's War and survived, unlike most Scituate men. He finally died in 1681 while on a trip to England, leaving behind him a will, my ancestors, and a lasting legacy of forward-thinking concepts.


1. Samuel Deane, History of Scituate, Massachusetts (Boston: James Loring, 1831).

2. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great MigrationImmigrants to New England, 1634-35, 3 vols. (Boston: Great Migration Study Project, NEHGS, 1992), 2:249-58.

3. The Seventeeth-Century Records of Scituate, Massachusetts, 3 vols. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001), throughout.

4. Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd edn. (2011), 4 vols, 3:10, Cudworth, 16.

19 April 2015

Week #10 of 52 Ancestors: Arthur Howland--"Close, But No Cigar"

Mayflower II at dock in Plymouth, Summer 2014
© Polly Kimmitt
A quarter of all Americans believe they are descended from a Mayflower passenger. In 1999, the Historian General of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants estimated that there were 35 million people alive with Pilgrim ancestry. So you'd think that a person born twenty miles from Plymouth, with ancestors who settled the towns of Scituate and Hingham, would be positively blue with Mayflower blood. Yet to date I've got only two known Mayflower ancestors: George Soule and Degory Priest. How can this be?

Degory Priest was my 10th great-grandfather, and he is twelve generations back from me, making a total of 13 generations. On my family tree there are 4,096 tiny little boxes at generation 13 where I could fill in an ancestor's name. Bit by bit we can whittle down that number for eligible Mayflower passengers. My father's parents were Irish, so that eliminates half of my ancestry ––2,028. Then we can subtract half of that because my maternal grandmother's Loyalist ancestors originally had come from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and other parts of Massachusetts leaving 1,016. And while there is the possibility of those including a Mayflower ancestor, it is not nearly as great as those people living so close to Plymouth, right? Well, not exactly, because one of my two known Pilgrim ancestors was through the Loyalist lines, but that was just luck.

There are a few other things going on here. First, pedigree collapse accounts for a little bit of overlap, but in my case not that many. I've also got some brick walls that take out a good chunk of potential ancestors, but most of those don't even seem promising. If they were Mayflower they most likely would have already been researched and I'd have found them, at least in the literature. But mainly, they lead to settlements where there just were no Pilgrims intermingling.

The biggest determining factor is that while the Pilgrims settled Plymouth and moved out into Duxbury, Kingston, Marshfield and even Scituate, where a good bunch of my ancestors are from, most "early immigrants" to Massachusetts came ten years after the Pilgrims. And while many people lump them together as one group, they were distinct: the Pilgrims were mostly Separatist, though of course there were some that didn't necessarily subscribe completely to the doctrine, having signed on for different reasons. Most later comers were Puritan, and in the early years the two did not mix much. It turns out that most of my remaining ancestors settled Hingham (Bare Cove) from 1633 onward, almost all Puritans, and not at all likely to mix and mingle with those perceived weirdos in Plymouth. That's really the key: I have lots of Puritans in my tree. They settled not only in Hingham, but Dorchester, Braintree, Boston, Charlestown, Salem, Amesbury, and Newburyport, among others.

So, in the end there's only a very small pool of potentials. Of those 4,096 tiny boxes we're down to maybe twenty that could have eligible Pilgrims. So of course I've studied those more closely, and I do have some close connections to more than those two Mayflower passengers, just not direct lines. It's usually a scenario such as my ancestor marrying a Pilgrim descendant as his second wife while I descend from the first wife. Or I get the brother of a Pilgrim who didn't take the Mayflower but came a little later.

Me with Judy Needham, Governor of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants
at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference, Providence, RI, 2015
Which brings us to today's close call: Arthur Howland, my 9th great-grandfather. He was the brother of John (and Henry) Howland. John came over on the Mayflower, and Henry a little later. John and Henry both have a sketch in The Great Migration Begins by Robert Charles Anderson, but of course Arthur does not because he didn't appear in records until later. GMB says only that he was brother of the other two. The supposed definitive treatment of Arthur can be found in the NGS Quarterly [Wakefield and Sherman, "Arthur Howland of Plymouth, Mass., 1640, His Wife Margaret ( ) Walker, and Their Children," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 71 (June 1983): 84-93.] It makes heavy use of derivative sources--transcriptions, and compiled works--along with the Plymouth County Records, so could probably be updated at this point.

I think they should give us extra credit for these types of ancestors. They are almost-Mayflower. They remind me of one of my father's favorite sayings: "Close, but no cigar!"

09 March 2015

Week #9 of 52 Ancestors: Annie Josephine (O'Sullivan) FitzGerald

Anne Josephine (O'Sullivan) FitzGerald
18 December 1869 to 2 August 1949
I never met my paternal grandmother Annie, since she died before I was born, My father was not one to talk much about his family and I was such an oblivious child that it took me a long time to realize that both of his parents had spoken in a thick Irish brogue.

Annie was born 18 December 1869, the daughter of Philip O'Sullivan and his second wife, Julia Clifford, in Callinafercy West, near Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland. (1) She didn't know my grandfather before coming to Boston, but he grew up in the next town over, Castlemaine.

On census records Annie's date of immigration varies--anywhere from 1884-1895. Since immigration records were not very detailed I can't make any progress with pinning that down as her name is too common.

I'm sure she met my grandfather, Patrick John FitzGerald, through mutual friends, and they married on Sunday, 6 September 1896 at St. James Church, in Boston. She was a domestic. (2) My sister remembers family stories of Annie having worked as a cook in the Back Bay section of Boston.

There were many men named Patrick FitzGerald in Boston, so he is ridiculously hard to trace, though he seemed to use that middle initial J. often enough for me to count on it. He was alternately a laborer, longshoreman, and plasterer, and they moved frequently to various tenement apartments in Boston, from East Boston to the South End, barely managing to keep one month ahead of the rent man. By 1918 they were in Arlington. While I might be able to track Annie via her husband, I have no detail for Annie herself other than what my sister can remember, and Annie died when my sister was 9. She tells me that a cousin told her that at one point some of my father's sibling were living with cousins. That part is very vague.

I do know that she had six children, five of whom lived. Annie's oldest daughter, Mary suffered from some sort of mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia, and was practically shut away for most of her life. I never met her. Annie's oldest son, Jack, was a very successful lawyer in Boston. Theresa married twice and lived a rough life. And Frank fought valiantly in WW II but suffered from PTSD. He never married. My father (born 1910) was the youngest living child, but there was one more born after him, William Frederick, born 16 November 1912 in Boston. He died a few months later, on 6 January 1913. I have written another blog post about him here.

The house they lived in from about 1923-1937,
at 66 Hancock St., Lexington, as it appears today. My father used to
lead the cows down a cowpath to the right of the house before and after school.

Annie and Patrick had a tough life, but the two managed to earn enough money to allow them to purchase a little dairy farm in Lexington where they moved before my father hit high school, probably about 1920. They went bankrupt during the depression then eked out a living doing odd jobs. My sister says Annie liked to tip the bottle back of a Friday evening, and I'm not surprised! My sister also remembers Annie reading the paper out loud to my grandfather.

James E., Frank P., Theresa J., Annie J., Patrick J., and John J. FitzGerald
on the occasion of Patrick and Annie's 50th wedding anniversary, so 1946.
Missing is Mary M. FitzGerald.

The family story says that Annie fell and broke her hip, then died. Upon her death my grandfather took to his bed, turned his face to the wall and refused to eat, and died soon thereafter. The death certificates indicate that Annie actually died of a coronary occlusion due to arteriosclerosis on 2 August 1949. (3) And Patrick died 19 days later, on 21 August, of hypertensive heart disease and diabetes. (4) Having been married for more than 50 years it would not be surprising if he did actually die of broken heart syndrome, poor fellow.

Annie's obituary mentions a sister, Mrs. Patrick J. Crimmin, of Salem [unmarked newspaper clipping]. I believe this was her sister Margaret, born about 1881.

Annie is buried near Patrick and two of her children at the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Arlington.


1. Birth certificate (photocopy of register), Anne Sullivan, 18 December 1869, Callinafercy, District of Milltown, Superintendant Registrar’s District of Killarney, Co. Kerry, file n. RGB 059/0643, certified copies of births, n. 7384, Oifig an Ard-Chl araitheora, Dublin, Ireland (also FHL mf 101199).

2. Boston, Massachusetts, Marriages, Patrick Fitchgerald and Annie O’Sullivan, 6 Sep 1896, 462:226; mf, Massachusetts Archives, Columbia Point, Dorchester, Massachusetts.

3. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, death certificate, Annie J. FitzGerald (Sullivan), 2 August 1949, Billerica, reg. n. 71, transcribed 9 September 1998; Registry of Vital Statistics, Dorchester, Mass.

4. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, death certificate, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, 21 August 1949, Billerica, transcribed 9 September 1998, Reg. no. 73; Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, Dorchester, Mass.

Week #8 of 52 Ancestors: Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes

Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes
13 June 1892 to 1 August 1962
(Not sure when this was taken, perhaps 1946?)

I'm so far behind that I must whip out three of these blog posts asap! So forgive me if I merely skim over what I know about my mother's mother, Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes. I've written about her before, especially in "Growing Up in a Massachusetts Mill Town." I was very fond of her, but only ever knew her from a child's viewpoint, and sometimes wonder what she was really like.

Vernie, as she was called, was an avid reader, loved history, but best of all, was a genealogist! She infected my mother and two aunts with the same passion, and thus it passed to me. She always said she was born 13 June 1892 in Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts, but the funny thing is, she couldn't prove her own birth. It wasn't her fault. The Lawrence City Clerk has messed up her name, sex and date of birth, and with a surname like Jones it was too hard to find. The exciting story of how I found it will have to wait for another time.

I'm not 100% sure but I assume, given the times she lived in, that Grandma Barnes was hot to find a "notable" ancestor or one with some blue blood. Her own parents were descended from New Brunswick Loyalists, so the DAR was out. Research progressed at a much slower rate in those days, so she never knew it but she had Mayflower ancestry. I'm sure she would have loved that! She spent a lot of her time researching her husband's family since they were right there in Scituate and it was all so neatly done in the published vital records and town histories. Of course we delve deeper now, but she was pretty stringent about her proofs and paid attention to conflicting information. I've found very few errors in her work.

Considering she died when I was so young, I remember quite a bit about her. Grandma Barnes [pronounced Gramma Bahnes in local accent!] was always good to me. Every Sunday we'd go pick her up and bring her back to our house for Sunday mid-day dinner. She would play card games like Go Fish and talk to me about whatever little girls want to be talked about. And she was funny. Once I excused myself to use the bathroom and she said, "Go for me too, would ya?" I just thought that was the funniest thing ever. I slept over at her house a few times and was enthralled with her because she cut the crusts off my peanut butter sandwich and my mother never would! Funny the things that win a child over.

Every Memorial Day my mother would pick her up and we'd go to the cemetery where our ancestors are buried and decorate the graves with geraniums and great big white wicker baskets full of gladiolas. I loved that cemetery (Mt. Hope, in Scituate, Massachusetts) because there was a spigot with running water, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. How convenient! And there were little wild flowers I could pick--violets, and one we called "Pussy Foots" which I've just Googled and discovered are actually called Pussy Toes! They are very soft and resemble kittens' paws.

They'll always be Pussy Foots to me!
My grandmother lost her husband when she was only 48. Her youngest children, twins, had just graduated from high school and World War II was in full swing. Her two eldest daughters were married, and her only son was in the Navy. I'm sure she was lonely and overwhelmed with the big house to take care of, but she was very civic minded and involved in the League of Women Voters, her work at the library and for SS Peirce, and with her garden. And she was pretty sociable, hosting card games and dinners for friends as well.

Vernetta and family, circa 1951, Scituate, Massachusetts
Back Row: James E. FitzGerald, Priscilla (Barnes) FitzGerald, Vernetta,
Louise B. (Barnes) Sullivan, Georgianne (Barnes) Page holding Gregory B. Page, Edwin A. Sullivan
Front Row: Ann V. FitzGerald holding Linda L. Page, Esther E. Page,
Timothy FitzGerald, Olive M. Page and Jared E. FitzGerald.
I wasn't born yet.
Vernetta died of an embolism in August of 1962, when I was still six. Against their better judgment my parents let me attend her funeral and I cried lustily, much to the annoyance of all in attendance. I couldn't figure out why they didn't seem sad, but she had had a stroke and was in rough shape before she went. I remember my brother whacking me on the arm and saying, "Junior, shut up!" But I just couldn't stop bawling. We had lived with her for the first two years of my life and I'm sure I was very attached.

I sometimes wonder if I would love her as much today, I mean if I knew her as an adult. I'm pretty confident I would. It would blow her mind to see how much information is at our fingertips for genealogical research via the web. I know we'd have plenty to talk about, starting with genealogy, but hopefully on other subjects.

Me with my Grandmother at her house in Scituate, 1961.
Those dead animals forming her coat collar always freaked me out! Somebody
(probably my brother) told me they were alive and sleeping...

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 or lazy 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.,_New_Hampshire

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. Is Moses related? How?
  • 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; ( : accessed 20 February 2015).

2. "Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910," Haverhill, Marriages, Nathan Colby and Mariah Jackson, 10 January 1841, 2:179; ( : 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; ( : 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, and images on, and 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 9 February 2015); citing Dorst History Centre; Dorset Parish Registers; Reference: PE/BE.