Saturday, January 14, 2017

Don't Be a Sloppy Genealogist

I remember the early days of searching for my ancestors. I used Ancestry before there were shaky leaves. About 12 years ago, there were still some really poorly constructed trees. However, most were at least close (the dates and names made sense) even if they were linked without sources. As I researched further, I've been had to correct a number of wrong turns from my early days. Even careful genealogists can make mistakes.

However since the shaky leaves came into existence, I'm seeing more and more obviously incorrect trees. These have links that are laughable because they defy the laws of nature. I understand the impulse to quickly fill out your family lines. I was once one of those overly excited to merge information without doing even a cursory investigation.

This week's "We're Related" app potential relatives provided an example of the sloppiest trees. See if you can catch it.  My famous possible relative is county music singer, Luke Bryan. My line according to the information Ancestry has compiled (not from my own research and tree) is:

Lott Whiddon (1729-1784) - Common connection with Luke Bryan - father of James W. Whiddon
James W. Whiddon (1770-1845) - father of James W. Whiddon
James W. Whiddon, Jr. (1790-1869) - father of Nancy Whiddon
Nancy Whidden (1830-1908) - mother of Robert G. Goff
Robert G. Goff (1853-1924) - father of William Yates
William Yates (1774-1868) - father of Moses Yates
Moses Yates (1805-1890) - father of Gilbert William Yates
Gilbert William Yates (1835-1925) - father of Estes Gilbert Yates
Estes Gilbert Yates (1884-1977) - father of Linona A. Yates
Linona A. Yates - my grandmother - the line from her to William Yates is correct according to my research. Did you catch the obvious error?

I don't think it's physically possible for Robert G. Goff, born in 1853, to be the father of William Yates, born in 1774!  Furthermore, despite the efforts of many researchers, the origins of William Yates are not known. He is possibly from Scotland, possibly from England and he either came to New Hampshire at a young age as an indentured servant or he came with his parents and was then indentured. Although his name is spelled two different ways, Yeats and Yates; it has never been Goff!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We're Related (Maybe)

The We're Related app from is fun and interesting. It's not to be taken seriously though. I'm investigating some of the connections it's found that look promising. However, I've found almost an equal number of suggested connections that are implausible or impossible.

For me, the biggest frustration comes from incorrect lines where the mother of my great-grandfather, Ray Everett Cotton, is listed as Lillie Esther Shaw. I admit that I thought she was his mother for a long time before I figured out the truth. His mother was Lizzie Philbrick. She was only married to his father, Francis Llewellyn Cotton, for about two years before she divorced him for keeping company of "certain lewd women."

Other issues occur when the line has the child born after a parent is dead or born when the parents were much too young. Some go into the 16th century and I don't trust the "across-the-pond" connections.

One thing I'll explore this year with some of my blog posts are these POSSIBLE connections to famous people. Perhaps you'll recognize an ancestor of yours and we'll find a cousin connection!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Genealogy Goals

Time to do a reboot! My blogging really declined last year. I focused more on researching and didn't get much of it written into blog posts. I also did a lot more with helping other people, especially my students, with their research. I feel like I lost a bit of my passion for the writing part and I'm going to try to recapture it for 2017.

Last year, I only had 41 posts. This is in comparison to 109 in 2015, 79 in 2014, 76 in 2013, and 77 in 2012.  I may have had a bit of burnout after 2015.

Some highlights of 2016 were

  • My trips to the New England Genealogical and Historical Society for research 
  • My trips to the Maine State Library in Augusta. 
  • Renewed my membership in the Maine Genealogical Society AND attended two special events where I got to hear Joshua Taylor and Judy Russell impart their wisdom. I strengthened my connections with other Maine genealogists. I still haven't made it to a monthly meeting of the Greater Portland Chapter but perhaps I can do that at least a few times this year. 
  • Went to more cemeteries than any previous year, created Findagrave memorials for my ancestors and others and filled some photo requests. 
  • Took over as treasurer of the Middle Intervale Cemetery Association. This cemetery has many of my ancestors including 5 direct line generations of Carters. 
  • Two other events kept me busy this year will be of interest to future generations - my son, Josh, got married in June and my second grandson, Andrew Elias Taylor, was born in August. 


  1. 80 blog posts
  2. Attend more genealogy events, including monthly meetings of the local Maine chapter
  3. Continue to travel to cemeteries and photograph for myself and others
  4. Go to NEHGS several times for research
  5. Go to the Maine State Library several times for research
  6. Continue to add citations to my database 
  7. Learn more about DNA and its use in genealogy
  8. Get a genealogy club going at the high school/continue to help others learn about genealogy
Of course, I need to fit this all in around my work demands. That is definitely what puts the biggest obstacles up for me! 

Check out some posts that I didn't promote on Facebook because I got sidetracked and wasn't paying attention to my blog.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


File this under strange things you find while searching for your family in old newspapers!

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Monday, December 29, 1873, p. 1, accessed April 25, 2015

"A child in Lyndon, eleven months old, a short time since swallowed a large needle, nearly two inches long, and in less than eight days, during which time it was very fretful, the head of the needle was discovered sticking through the child's abdomen, and was successfully removed by its mother. The child is now all right."

 I can't imagine how awful this must have been for the poor child and for the mother.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Immigrant Ancestor - Rev. Thomas Carter

I have already written a bit about my immigrant Carter ancestor, Rev. Thomas Carter of Woburn. He was the first minister of Woburn. Under his ministry the church grew and flourished. In Johnson's "Wonder-working Providence" (published in 1654), he is described as a "reverend godly man, apt to teach the sound and wholesome truths of Christ" and "much encreased with the encreasings of Christ Jesus, of whose labours in the Lord as followeth."
The Ordination of Rev. Thomas Carter

Carter, Christ hath his wayes thee taught, an them [thou]
Hast not with-held his Word, but unto all
With's word of power dost cause stout souls to bow, 
And meek as Lambs before thy Christ to fall:
The antient truths, plain paths, they fit thee best, 
The lowly heart, Christ learns his lovely hest, 
Thy meekness shews thy Christ to thee is nigh; 
Yet must thou shew Christ makes his bold to be
As Lions, that none may his truths tread down, 
Pastoral power he hath invested thee
With, it maintain, least he on thee do frown:
Thy youth thou hast in this New-England spent, 
Full sixteen years to water, plant, and prune
Trees taken up, and for that end here sent; 
Thy end's with Christ, with Saints his praises tune.

When he died, the town paid for his funeral expenses. Among the charges is one for fourteen gallons of wine. According to The History of Woburn, the custom of the day was to bury their paupers with rum and their wealthy men and ministers with wine.

Rev. Thomas Carter and his wife, Mary Parkhurst had eight children.
1. Samuel was born August 8, 1640 and graduated from Harvard College in 1660. He held a number of   town offices and married Eunice Brooks. They had eight children.
2. Judith married first Dea. Edward Converse and second Giles Fifield.
3. Mary was born July 24, 1648 and married John Wyman, Jr. He was killed by the Indians at the Swamp Fight, December 19, 1675. She married as her second husband, Nathaniel Bachiler (Batchelder) of Hampton, N.H. She had eight children with her second husband. Mary & Nathaniel are the 7th great-grandparents of Clayton Blake who married Linona Yates, my mother's mother. 
4. Abigail was born January 10, 1649/50 and married John Smith.
5. Timothy was born June 12, 1653 and married Anna Fiske, daughter of David Fiske of Cambridge (Lexington) on May 3, 1680. They had thirteen children, three of whom died before their parents. Timothy and his brother, Thomas, were husbandmen and proprietors of "several considerable tracts of land."
6. Thomas was born June 8, 1655 and married Margery Whitmore (Whittemore).

Timothy, son of Rev. Thomas and Mary (Parkhurst) Carter and wife Anna had:
1. David born October 17, 1681 and died May 22, 1736.
2. Timothy born July 12, 1683 and died the same year.
3. Anna born July 17, 1684.
4. Timothy born October 17, 1686.
5. Theophilus born October 20, 1688.
6. Thomas born August 14, 1690.
7. Abigail born March 18, 1692.
8. Sarah born November 24, 1694.
9. Elizabeth born August 27, 1696 and died June 26, 1709.
10. Benjamin born March 22, 1699 and died soon after.
11. Mary born June 23, 1700.
12. Martha born July 22, 1702.
13. Benjamin born November 8, 1704. Benjamin married Sarah Stone.

Timothy, son of Benjamin & Sarah (Stone) Carter, married Sarah Walker. Their son, Dr. Timothy Carter married Frances Freeland and moved to Bethel, Maine. Elias Mellen Carter, son of Dr. Timothy & Frances (Freeland) Carter married Irish immigrant, Rebecca Williamson and their son, Augustus Mellen Carter fought in the Civil War. Augustus married Mary Frances Stanley and had Edward Mellen Carter. Edward Mellen Carter married Fannie May Capen and they are the parents of my grandfather, Thomas Richard Carter.
Descendants: Thomas Richard "Dick" Carter & sons, Timothy and Thomas on the right and Edward Augustus "Gus" Carter and children, Edward and Ann on the left. 

Another Carter Post

The History of Woburn
Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence, 1628-1651 ed. by J. Franklin Jameson

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Are Middle Generations the Middle Children of Genealogy?

So we all know that the oldest child gets the full attention of its parents and the baby of the family gets spoiled by being the last in the house. Middle children tend to get neglected. While researching, I've noticed that it's relatively easy to find documentation for my seventeenth-century immigrants since they all were in New England where good recording keeping was the norm. I'm most interested in sources that can tell me something about their lives, beyond the basics of vital statistics. There were also many town histories and family genealogies published around the turn of the 20th century that document the stories of these immigrants. Recent generations benefit from the memories of living relatives. However, the middle generations are tough for me to track down. Does anyone else feel like this is the case? What are your favorite sources for these late 17th century to early 20th century ancestors?

The census is a good starting point to gather a bit of information about one's ancestors. Some of the census years have interesting tidbits that can help flesh out the story of their lives a bit. Some of my favorite things to look at are (some are supplemental questions that are only answered by a few on the page):

  • 1860 & 1870 & 1880 - occupation, value of real & personal property, place of birth, literacy, citizenship, disability (deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict). In 1880, the census takers started listing the relationship to the head of household. 
  • 1890 - much of this census is lost but you might be able to find some of your family
  • 1900 - age at marriage, number of children and number of living children (a good way to find children who are born and died before ever being recorded in a census). 
  • 1910 - language spoken, industry (more detailed than occupation), employment status including number of weeks worked in 1909, home ownership, Civil War veteran
  • 1920 - year of naturalization, mother tongue of person and parents
  • 1930 - owns a radio, veteran and list which war or expedition
  • 1940 - many more employment questions such as hours worked in a week, employed by a New Deal program, annual pay, 

The non-population schedules are interesting also. I have used the agricultural schedules to determine what my farmer ancestors were growing on their farms.

What's Growing on Your Farm, Great-Grandpa? - comparing two sides of my great-grandmother's family.
The Carter Farm in 1860 and 1880 - comparing two generations on the same farm
1860 Carter Farm - my first transcription of an agricultural census. Get a blank form and use it to see what is on each line.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Carter Family Portrait

I've written a number of times about my 3X great-grandfather, Elias Mellen Carter and his family. Here is a picture of Elias and his wife, Rebecca (Williamson) Carter and their eleven children. Rebecca was from Ireland and is my most recent immigrant ancestor. The Williamsons came to Maine sometime around 1820 so they were not part of the potato famine migration.  

In the front from left to right are children: Julia Elizabeth, Emily Jane, Timothy Cullen, William Lawson, Sarah Lillie, Helen Louise, and her twin, John Herbert.
In the back from left to right are children: Mary Elizabeth, Frances Ann, Augustus Mellen, and Anna Grace (in her mother's arms) and parents, Rebecca (Williamson) & Elias Mellen Carter.

Elias Mellen Carter
Augustus Mellen Carter
Edward Mellen Carter
T. Richard Carter - my grandfather

Other posts about the family:
Five Daughters Suddenly Gone
The Carter Farm - 1860 & 1880
The Carter Farm 1860
Rebecca Williamson - Fearless Female
Squire of the Little Village
We Consider Her Very Dangerous
Thanksgiving in Paris
Letters Found on E-Bay
Close Call