Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Founders Park - Marston






I am related to the Marston family in multiple ways due to distant cousins marrying. 

Capt. William Marston
Capt. William Marston Jr. 
Thomas Marston - see below for second line from Thomas
James Marston
Bethia Marston
James Philbrick 
Benjamin Philbrick
David Philbrick 
Oliver S. Philbrick
Benjamin Perley Philbrick
Lizzie Philbrick
Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Ephraim Marston - brother to James Marston above
Jeremiah Marston
Elisha Marston
Mary Marston
Hannah Prescott
Mary Edgecomb - married Oliver S. Philbrick above

Ruth Philbrick - Sister to James Philbrick above
Philemon Rand
Lydia Rand
Tryphenia Lunt
John Henry Cotton
Francis Llewllyn Cotton
Ray Everett Cotton - my great-grandfather

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Dressed To Impress? - 52 Ancestors #17

Only the wealthiest were allowed
to have gold buckles or buttons
This week's optional 52 Ancestors theme is "prosper" so I thought it appropriate to talk about the case of Agnes Knight who was not thought to be wealthy enough to warrant her wearing a silk hood. Well, apparently her family had prospered in the New World as her husband's good friend testified in his letter to the justices of Salem.


In her book, Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival and Freedom in the New World, Dorothy Mays discusses the sumptuary laws of colonial Massachusetts. These laws banned the wearing of gold or silver lace or buttons, ribbons, silk hoods, and other "fancy" items. Only the most wealthy of colonists were exempt from these laws. Even the very wealthy were banned from long wigs or flowing shirt sleeves. Mays outlines some historical precedents for these laws and notes that many Governor John Winthrop even spoke to colonists about the need to keep adornments in the home to a minimum because such displays caused others to feel bad about themselves.

In 1653 the wife of Deacon Knight (Agnes, wife of Richard), was summoned to court for wearing a silk hood. This troubled him exceedingly, and in his behalf his friend, Mr. Edward Rawson wrote to one of the justices at Salem the following note:

Honorable Sir, 
An honest godly man, a friend of mine in Newbury, whose name is Richard Knight, whether of ignorance or wilfulness by some neighbour is presented for his wife's wearing of a silk hood, supposing he has not been worth two hundred pounds. It being grievance to him, who is advanced (in years) to be summoned to court, that never useth to trouble any, at his request I thought fit to inform you on my owne knowledge of his estate is better worth than three hundred, and therefore I desire you would, as you may, forbeare, in your warrant to insert his name, in it, it may be; if not, at least that you would take private satisfaction of him in your chamber, which he can easily give you, or any, in a moment. Not else at present but my service to you and Mr. Symon Bradstreet. 
Yours friend and servant, 
Edward Rawson
Now at Newbury, the fourteenth of August, 1653 



Agnes Knight was my 10th great-grandmother.

Richard & Agnes (__) Knight
Anna Knight
Elizabeth Jaques
Henry Knight
Eunice Knight
Hannah Sawyer
Catherine Hilton
Loann Churchill
Anna J. Rowe
Eva D. Hayes
Linona Alice Yates - my grandmother

Massachusetts Sumptuary Laws Women of Early America by Dorothy A. Mays, 2004

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ancestors, Slavery, and Ben Affleck

"Ben Affleck".
Licensed under Public Domain
via Wikimedia Commons 
Ben Affleck has been making news in a way he never intended. It seems he has an ancestor who owned slaves and that fact made him uncomfortable. Why is he being criticized for his initial shock and desire to focus the show in a different direction? This seems like a perfectly understandable reaction.

There are larger issues of censorship and integrity on the part of the show's production team. However, in the end, those issues are not Affleck's. He had the right to make any request he wanted and the producers must take responsibility for their actions regarding those requests. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a man who handles the sensitive issues that arise on the show with grace and dignity. He projects a sense of integrity regarding the difficult truths of history and hopefully the investigation will show that he maintained his integrity through this incident. Ironically, in 2012 I wrote a blog post in response to a charge that Dr. Gates had an agenda to make every episode of Finding Your Roots about slavery.

Now to the core of the issue, how does one deal with finding out unpleasant information about one's ancestors? It's important to put them in context. Depending on where your ancestors lived and/or how long they have been in America, a person may have hundreds or even thousands of American ancestors. Take any group of hundreds or thousands of people, aren't you likely to find a few that are embarrassing and make you wish that they were not your relatives? After you look at the big picture, you realize that there are many stories involving the ancestors in your tree. Some will be inspiring, some will be shameful. The problem with a one-hour TV show is that the producers must pick and choose what stories to tell. The show must create an interesting narrative that will capture the attention of the audience. As genealogists, we get to set our less desirable ancestors in the larger context comprised of a mix of heroes and villains and present them as part of a diverse whole. It would be difficult to have only the most embarrassing and uncomfortable stories presented to the world.

Affleck is correct when he says that the celebrities must reveal personal information and make themselves vulnerable to whatever is revealed, good or bad. He is also correct that anything that generates conversation about how our country deals with the legacy of slavery is a good thing.


For more information on how the entire northern part of the U.S. actively re-wrote the narrative of their involvement with slavery, see this article.
"On the eve of the Revolution, the slave trade formed the very basis of economic life in New England,"



Monday, April 20, 2015

Passion over Perfection - NERGC2015 Final Thoughts

D. Joshua Taylor
My final day of NERGC2015 was spent on two presentations by Josh Taylor and one on DNA. I was excited to see Josh in person since I did a blog interview with him prior to the conference. 






The first presentation was focused on Engaging the Next Generation of Genealogists. I thought he really hit the nail on the head when he urged societies to look beyond their four walls & meetings and instead go to where the "kids" are. One of his points was that the next generation is not used to interacting in a traditional way, preferring to follow and collaborate on the go - the way they can using social media. I couldn't agree more! I have very little interest in monthly meetings. I prefer a more dynamic, real-time interaction and I'm hardly a "kid" at 51. He shared some of his ideas for how to make this happen by starting with each individual and their personal goals. What brings them to the table in the first place? What is it that they want to find out? Scandal? Celebrity connection? Finding a Mayflower or Revolutionary War ancestor? 

The other big takeaway for me was the idea that igniting the passion was much more important than striving for perfection among those dabbling in genealogy and family history. Don't squash their passion by overwhelming them with rules. He told how his grandmother purposely let him make mistakes and chase down leads that she had already discarded because it's the thrill of the hunt that gets the genealogical imagination going. As he pointed out, who hasn't had to trim their tree when erroneous information leads you to the wrong ancestor? It made me feel a lot less guilty about my family history project that I do with my students. They are far from perfect and sometimes I know they've got something all wrong, but I've been careful about balancing the research and documentation rules with nurturing the thrill of the hunt. 

Between presentations
Presentation number 2 by Josh focused on the compiled genealogies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. While their lack of sources can make some people discount their value, he pointed out how, with a little careful reading, one can make an educated guess and figure out where to look for the documentation. Again, I liked the theme of looking at them as clues and one piece of the genealogy puzzle that is your family tree. 

Worrying about getting it right was also a topic of conversation amongst the geneabloggers attending the Special Interest Group on Thursday night. In the end, I think we were able to allay some fears and encourage more writers to try it out. I found the bloggers in the genealogy community to be wonderfully kind and encouraging when I was starting my blog. The one big positive, beyond finding cousins, was that blogging does make you pay attention to your research and documentation. We all agreed that blogging has made us better genealogists. 
New England Geneablogger Table
I'm not ready to blog in detail about Blaine Bettinger's talk on Third Party Tools for Analyzing DNA. Let's just say that I found it very helpful but DNA still boggles my mind a bit. I would highly recommend checking out Blaine's blog, The Genetic Genealogist. He is very knowledgeable and is capable of bringing the science down to a level where you don't have to be a scientist to understand it. 

Here are my final thoughts: 

  • If you're interested in genealogy or finding out about your family, just dive in and do it. You will learn as you go so follow your passion!
  • Don't worry about making mistakes. Everyone makes them and worrying won't stop it from happening. Just do the best you can and keep learning. 
  • Network, network, network! I've connected with two new people just this weekend. They are working on the Lyford family and that is one of my lines that I haven't yet given enough attention. You never know who will have the answers you are seeking. 
  • Whether you're interested in blogging in general or New England, in particular, check out these awesome blogs. Please let Heather Rojo know if you have a blog to add to the New England Geneabloggers list. Help and inspiration are also available at Geneabloggers.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

When I Was Young

Me in my crib
Here is another post following Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun prompts, When I Was Young.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you to:

1)  Geneablogger Alona Tester has devised a new meme called the "When I Was Young" genea-meme on her blog, LoneTester HQ.


2)  Since the genea-meme is 25 questions, let's do the last 10 this time.  This week, answer questions 16 to 25.

3)  Share your answers on your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook post or a Google+ post.

Probably impatiently waiting the
requisite 30 minutes after eating before
we could go back in the water! 

 What was entertainment when you were young?

Well, you can look up what the music was like and what was popular on television so I will focus on what I did for fun. In the winter, it was skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, building snow forts, and in the summer the big activity was definitely riding bikes, swimming, playing with the neighbors, games like tag and hide and seek. Of course when we played school, I was always the teacher. 

Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?)

I don't remember when we got a private phone line, but I do remember when I was really young, we had a party-line. Basically, multiple households shared the same phone line and every house had its own ringtone (one long, two short, etc.). My parents had a TV when I was born and I didn't have the other items until I was an adult. The microwave came into our home first (about 1985), the VCR about 1987, and our first home computer in 1991. 

Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? And how many channels did you get?

Our TV was black and white until about the time I was in junior high. We got 2-4 channels depending on the weather and position of the antenna. The networks we got were NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. If you asked anyone at the time, they would have surely asked why anyone would need more channels. 

Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it?

In front of my grandparents' house
We moved once when I was very young - too young to remember it. My early life was on the family farm with my grandparents next door and then the rest of my childhood was spent in one house the "Steam Mill" section of Bethel on Route 2. 

Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (ie.fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc)

I'm sure there were spring floods and winter blizzards but living in Maine comes with the benefit of not having many tornados or earthquakes. Thankfully, the only fire I remember was when the former Red Lantern ice cream shop next door to us burned. This sounds more dangerous to us than it was as the building was not very close to my house. I do remember the firefighters waking us up just in case it started to get windy and put us in danger. I remember the winter when I was young and we got so much snow that there was no place to put it so my Dad got a bucket loader to make room in the driveway for the cars. The banks were so high that we could climb them and slide right in our own driveway. 

Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory?

To this day, I dislike Country music and blame it on the fact that every Saturday morning, my mom would load up the stereo with multiple albums as the soundtrack for hours of cleaning. Good memories mostly come from old songs that my Grammie Carter would sing to me - Billy Boy, A Tisket A Tasket, and How Much Is That Doggie In The Window come to mind. 

What is something that an older family member taught you to do?

With my cousin, Nancy
I'm sure there are many things and of course almost everything came from my 
parents.  My mom taught me to knit and crochet. My dad taught me to drive a snowmobile and shoot a gun. I remember my Uncle David introducing the entire family to cross-country skiing when he worked in Jackson, N.H. My Grampa Carter and Uncle Pete taught me how to ride horses. 

What 
brands that you remember from when you were a kid?

I had this carriage forever. 
Koolaid, Zarex, and Tang are a few popular drinks. I've never been very brand conscious so this one is hard for me. Classic toys like the Radio Flyer wagon, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Flying Saucer (sleds), and Barbies were also a big part of my childhood. One of my absolute favorite toys was a jumping horse, but I have no idea what the brand was - I'm sure I wore out the springs. I remember being scolded for riding it so aggressively that it was coming off the ground. 

Did you 
collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.)

When I was about ten, my grandmother gave me a spoon collection that belonged to my Great-aunt Frances. I have added to it so much that I can't even display them all. 

Share your favourite childhood memory.
My birthday party - with the Olson girls
I'm the one leaning back

I couldn't possibly pick just one. I have so many great memories of growing up. Many involve my being able to do something for myself for the first time. Many involve great friends and neighbors and the best involve my family - grandparents, cousins, parents, and sister. If you were part of my childhood, please leave a memory in the comments. I'm sure it will be among my favorites! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Live Long - 100 Years Old & Died Suddenly! - 52 Ancestors #16

John Beal is one of my long-lived ancestors. I have many ancestors who lived into their nineties, including a number I was fortunate to know during my lifetime. I had three great-grandparents for most of my life, as well as a number of great-aunts and great-uncles.




John was a Great Migration immigrant. His occupation is listed as shoemaker. He came to America with his large family (5 sons, 3 daughters) and two servants. He died April 1, 1688 at the age of 100. Below are various accounts of his death. The facts that he is said to have died "suddenly" and was found in his dooryard indicate to me that he was in pretty good health until he died. 


The Pioneers of Massachusetts
Samuel Sewall's Diary
History of the Town of Hingham


Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988
John & Nazareth (Hobart) Beal
Samuel & Martha (Beal) Dunham
Samuel & Mary (Harlow) Dunham
Ebenezer & Abigail (Smith) Dunham
John & Mary (Thomas) Dunham
James & Cynthia (Packard) Dunham
James & Mary "Sally" (Houghton) Dunham
Asa Freeman & Florilla (Dunham) Ellingwood
George Albert & Nina King (Ellingwood) Gibbs
Ray Everett & Annie Florilla (Gibbs) Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Friday, April 17, 2015

In Genealogy Heaven - NERGC 2015 - Day 2

Today was another whirlwind day at NERGC in Providence.

Creating Maine Towns
I started my day with a great presentation, "Creating Maine Towns: How the Wilderness was Tamed" and was so impressed with the dynamic speaker, Carol Prescott McCoy, that I went to see another of her presentations in the afternoon. She talked about all my favorite places, like Sudbury, Canada, which isn't really Canada at all but Bethel, Maine and New Marblehead, which is now the town of Windham, Maine, where I live and teach. She even referenced my ancestor, William Cotton of Woodstock. Carol lives in Brunswick and has a genealogy business called Find Your Roots.

The second presentation was a fascinating case study where she outlined her process in trying to identify the mother of Mary Drummond.  Mary's father was quite easy to find, but her mother is a bit of a riddle. Thomas Drummond was an escaped slave who became a clothes dresser (tailor) and town crier in New Bedford, Massachusetts. His story is pretty fascinating as he came to own about $1500 worth of property, a sizable amount for any person in the early 19th century, much less a person of color. He was married twice and the second marriage took place just before or just after his daughter, Mary's birth. The records are conflicting, but the story is really interesting. 

In between Carol McCoy's presentations, I went to see Judy Russell's presentation on Women & the Law and although I thought I knew quite a bit about the topic, I definitely learned a lot more. As usual, she had really great examples to illustrate her points. I also went to see Diane Gravel's presentation, "Women in the World of Piracy". 

Of course, there was also all the networking, meeting new people, checking out exhibitors, and visiting with my favorite geneabloggers. By the end of each day, my brain is full!