Monday, March 26, 2012

Literary Connections

Thomas Philbrick testified against his neighbor, Eunice "Goody" Cole (age 36) when she was accused of witchcraft in 1656. The court solicited testimony from two dozen witnesses. Evidence of the occult included strange scrapings on houses, fierce cats appearing and disappearing, and a private conversation that was somehow known to the accused. The charges against her included the death of an infant girl, illness of a man and the destruction of domestic animals. Thomas Philbrick's testimony revolved around a statement by Goody Cole that if his calves ate any of her grass "she wished it might poysen them or choke them." He continued to say that he never saw one of his calves again and "the other calfe came home and died aboute a weeke after." (Dow, History of Hampton)

The year after Thomas Philbrick testified against Goody Cole, his son John, John's wife Ann (Knapp), their daughter Sarah and five others drowned when their sloop sank just outside the harbor as they headed to Boston. The town records state, "The sad hand of God upon eight psons goeing in a vessell by sea from Hampton to boston, who were all swallowed up in the ocean soon after they were out of the Harbour."  Given the superstitious nature of the community, the blame was placed on Goody Cole. This event became the inspiration John Greenleaf Whittier's poem, "The Wreck of the Rivermouth."

In 1680 when she was buried, the men of the town were frightened by her witchcraft conviction so they put a stake through her heart with a horseshoe hanging on the end. This was supposed to prevent the Devil from releasing her spirit to bewitch the community. 

The Rock in the Foreground Marks the Spot Where Poor Old "Goody" Was Reputed to Be Buried,
Impaled With a Stake. The Shack She Lived and Died in Stood About Where the Log Cabin Is.
The Historic Town Hall is Shown in Center Background
Thomas Philbrick & Elizabeth Knapp
James Philbrick & Anna Roberts
James Philbrick & Hannah Perkins
Ebenezer Philbrick & Bethia Marston
Ruth Philbrick & Joshua Rand
Philemon Rand & Sarah Rand
Lazarus Rand & Elizabeth "Betsy" Clark  
Eunice Rand & Timothy Cox
Christiana Cox & John Cotton
Francis Llewellyn Cotton & Lizzie Philbrick
Ray Cotton & Annie Gibbs
Fern Lyndell Cotton

Second Line:
Lydia Rand (d. of Philemon) & John Lunt
Tryphenia Lunt & William Cotton 
John Cotton & Christiana Cox 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

When Your Family Tree Doesn't Fork...

 In the U.S. we have a natural horror of marrying a cousin. You'll end up with deformed children!! Well, guess what? It's not even close to true! When you start doing genealogy, you realize how quickly the number of individual people grow as you progress through the generations - 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great- grandparents etc. Ten generations brings one to the potential for 1024 direct ancestors and if you go back to the time of Charlemagne it's an estimated 281 trillion! Have that many individuals really existed since the beginning of mankind? 

Well, the short answer is no. We can't have more ancestors in a generation than the total known population of the earth at the time. Therefore it is estimated that 80 percent of marriages have been between first or second cousins and 100 percent of marriages will find a connection if you go back far enough. The cool thing about this reality is that you are very likely to find connections to rich, famous and historically significant figures if your ancestors came from the same general area as theirs during colonial times (New England for me). In fact, I am a 10th cousin of Barack Obama on his mother's side, the Dunhams. 

If you're researching your family tree back to colonial times or earlier, you will find many, many others who are also searching for the same families and therefore your cousins. Besides the fact that it is statistically impossible to have 281 trillion European ancestors in your 30th generation, one needs to remember the lack of mobility people had prior to the 20th century. In previous centuries, most people were born, lived, and died in the same town. Then there are factors such as the inter-marrying of the European royal families. All of these factors lead to more cousins than distinct individuals in your family tree. I can't say it still doesn't freak me out a bit when I see it in my own family tree but understanding the mathematical, sociological and scientific realities helps. I found the following web sites interesting.

"Facts about Cousin Marriage " Cousin Marriage Resources. 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>. 

  • We are all cousins - no two people are more distantly related than 50th cousins. 
  • Twenty-six states and all European countries allow first cousins to marry. It is also legal in Canada and Mexico. 
  • Leviticus 18 lists all forbidden sexual relationships. Cousin relationships are not included.
  • Albert Einstein & Charles Darwin married their first cousins.
  • Second cousins have little, if any increased chance of having children with birth defects, according to the book "Clinical Genetics Handbook." The National Society of Genetic Counselors estimated the increased risk for first cousins is between 1.7 to 2.8 percent, or about the same as any woman over 40 years of age. 

R., Danielle. "10 Famous People Who Married Their Cousins." Listverse. Ultimate Listverse Top 10 Lists, 20 July 2008. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>. 

  • Jesse James & Zerelda "Zee" Mimms - 1st cousins
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Anna Eleanor Roosevelt - 5th cousins
  • Johann Sebastian Bach & Maria Barbara Bach - 2nd cousins
  • H.G. Wells & Isabel Mary Wells - 1st cousins
  • Thomas Jefferson & Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson - 3rd cousins
  • Albert Einstein & Elsa - 2nd cousins
  • Charles Darwin & Emma Wedgwood - 1st cousins
  • Edgar Allan Poe & Virginia Clemm - 1st cousins; she was 7 when he moved into her home - her parents were his aunt and uncle & she was 13 when they married
  • Jery Lee Lewis & Myra Gale Brown - she was 13 when they married
  • Rudy Guiliani & Regina Peruggi - 2nd cousins
For more information, search "diamond theory of genealogy" 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Danger on the New Hampshire frontier

This has been a busy week and not much writing got done. However, I have continued to do some research and gather ideas for the blog. Here is the first of those stories. 

When we think of the frontier and confrontations and conflict between settlers and Indians, most of us who were raised in New England think of the Great Plains. However, long before the wars on the Great Plains, the same conflict was happening much closer to home. 

Philip Huntoon (Hunton), my 9th great-grandfather, first appears in New Hampshire records in 1689. His origins seem a bit muddled with one story involving his family fleeing France after the Edict of Nantes was revoked and another story that he was the younger son of an English gentleman and he came to seek his fortune in America. I find the Edict of Nantes story intriguing and will have to do more research on that. 

File:Louis XIV of France.jpg King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685

Philip received land in Exeter in 1697 and 1699. He then proceeded to move to Kingston in 1703 but had to flee in 1707 with others from the town because of danger from the Indians nearby. A year later, Philip is back in Kingston but apparently things were still not going well with the Indians. On the morning of July 22, 1710, Philip (age 46) and his oldest son, Samuel (age 21), were working in the field near his house when they were surrounded by a band of Indians. Samuel was shot and then scalped but reports say he lived another 24 hours in "great agony" (Belknap). Fortunately Philip's two younger sons, my 8th great-grandfather Philip Jr.(age 16) and John (age 14) were not in the field with their father and brother. Belknap says this is because their mother, Betsy, wouldn't let them go until they completed their morning prayer with her. Philip and his neighbor, Jacob Gilman, were taken prisoner and made to "run the gauntlet" (Huntoon, 20). They were marched to Canada and arrived in bad shape, having been little food during the trip and their feet bruised and bloodied. The Indians sold their captives to the French. This was part of Queen Anne's War (1702-1713), a precursor to the more well-known French & Indian or Seven Years War. You may be more familiar with the story of the raid on Deerfield, MA which was also part of Queen Anne's War. 

 Illustration of the raid on Deerfield, MA in 1704.

Philip and Jacob were ordered to build a saw mill and teach the French how to saw lumber the way the English did. They reportedly did this and were granted their freedom after two years. I can only imagine how surprised their families were when they returned. Philip went on to have one or two more children - the birth dates of two daughters are unknown to me as is the date of his wife, Betsy's death. It would seem that after Betsy died, Philip married a woman named Hannah and had a daughter, Sarah and it's possible that his daughter Elizabeth was also born after his captivity. I'm not sure of her birth date or which wife was her mother. 

Ernest Ballard Water Wheel Sawmill A waterwheel powered a vertical saw for colonial saw mills

Questions I'd like to research further - 
Where did Philip come from? 
Was Philip a Huguenot fleeing France after the Edict of Nantes was revoked? 
When did Betsy die? Specifically, did she die during Philip's captivity?  
Who is Jacob Gilman? I have Gilmans in my family tree and he is possibly another relative. 

Philip & Betsey (Hall) Huntoon
Philip & Anna (Eastman) Huntoon
Josiah & Hannah (Huntoon) Judkins
Philip & Miriam (Hunt) Judkins
Moses & Aphia (Perry) Judkins
Calvin & Betsy (Judkins) Cole
Sydney & Aphia (Cole) Hayes
George & Anna (Rowe) Hayes
Estes & Eva (Hayes) Yates
Linona Alice Yates

Belknap, Jeremy, and John Farmer. The History of New Hampshire. Dover: S. C. Stevens and ELA & Wadleigh, 1831. PDF. 

Huntoon, Daniel T. V. Philip Huntoon and His Descendants. BiblioBazaar, 2009. PDF. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Irish Roots

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
(Originally published on March 17, 2012)
Most of my family lines go back to immigrants who came to New England in the 1600s. However, I have one 3X great-grandmother who came from Ireland, probably in the 1820s according to census records. Eva Bean included John Williamson among the veterans of the War of 1812 but that doesn't make sense with the census records. The family is not in the 1820 census and according to later census records Rebecca was born about 1816 in Ireland. If the family was here in time for the War of 1812, Rebecca would have been born in the U.S. In the 1830 Bethel census John Williamson is the head of the household and there are two females - one between 30 & 40 and one between 15 & 20.  These facts line up with the dates passed down through the family for John, his wife Ann, and his daughter, Rebecca. 

Williamson is not a very Irish sounding name so I wonder if they were English and moved to Manorhamilton somewhere along the way. I also would love to find out why they left Ireland. Regardless of the exact date they came, it is clear they were in Bethel well before the potato famine in Ireland. 
Manorhamilton, Ireland

The family came from Manorhamilton, named for Sir Frederick Hamilton who was granted the land for his services in the European wars of the 17th century. The town was called Clonmullen and in the hands of the O'Roarke clan prior to its being granted to Sir Frederick. Manorhamilton Castle, built by Sir Frederick was burned to the ground in 1652 by the native Irish. This act appears to have been provoked by Hamilton’s cruel treatment of prisoners and his burning of Sligo town.  Here is a sketch of the castle before the fire and three pictures of the castle ruins. 


In searching Irish records, I can see general information without paying and I can find several passenger lists with Williamsons on board but none of the dates and ages of the passengers line up with my ancestors. I'm unwilling at this point to pay about $20 just to look at one record. Hopefully some day I will be able to go and look through records myself. For now, I will have to be content with what I know about their time in the United States. Williamson is not a very Irish sounding name so I wonder if they were English and moved to Manorhamilton somewhere along the way. I also would love to find out why they left Ireland. Regardless of the exact date they came, it is clear they were in Bethel well before the potato famine in Ireland. 

In honor of St. Patrick's Day and through the magic of the internet here are two videos of Manorhamilton.

St. Patrick's Day Parade - Manorhamilton, Leitrim, Ireland 2009

Youtube - Manorhamilton

Wikipedia - Manorhamilton

Lapham, Howard B. "History of Bethel:." Google Books. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <>.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Romance in Rockport - Updated

The legend of Mary Andrews and Stephen Knutsford of Rockport. When I first wrote about this, I     thought I was a direct ancestor of Mary but then I found a mistake in my research. I was very disappointed that my connection to this story was broken. However, I recently discovered that Mary is my 4th cousin 7 times removed...hey, it's a connection and I'll take it.  
Andrews Point

Mary is described as dreamy and intuitive; a girl who liked to use her imagination. She had one daydream that came over and over. It involved her husband coming to her from across the sea. In some dreams he was lying injured and exhausted on the shore of Andrews Point. It was such a powerful dream that she turned away other suitors choosing to wait for her dreams to come true. She frequently wandered down to the shore to look for him. Finally one day, she saw him - a young man in a foreign uniform lying injured on the shore - just as she pictured in her dream. She revived him and helped him up the path to her father's home where he was nursed back to health. On November 5, 1778, Mary became his bride. 

The name of Mary's dream man was Stephen Knutsford and his background adds to the romance of the story. It is unknown how he ended up in the British Navy but in a deposition he gave in 1805, he stated that he came to this country during the Revolutionary War; was taken prisoner when General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, October 17, 1777; called himself a "seaman" and said he was born in Ireland. Others have speculated that he was the second son of a Lord Knutsford whose estate was in Cheshire or the son of an Irish lord. Eleanor Parsons wrote that he was from a titled Danish-English family; on a British ship sailing off Straitsmouth Island when he was tossed overboard by the rolling sea. Unfortunately, he died in 1807 without ever revealing any information about his family background. 
Burgoyne surrenders at Saratoga

Adding to the mystery is the fact that he was not typical of seamen of the day. He could read and write quite well. His handwriting is described as beautiful and his conversation as brilliant. He was secretive about his former life and there is no evidence he communicated with his family or friends in the British Isles. Of course, he was not an American citizen and risked capture by the British who would consider him a deserter and a traitor. He lived a quiet life, teaching school at Lanesville and Pigeon Cove on Cape Cod. He and Mary had eight children. 

Common ancestors for Mary Andrews are Nathaniel & Lydia (Huckstep) Andrews. It comes through the Ellingwood line to my grandmother, Fern Lyndell Cotton, for the descendants of Asa Freeman Ellingwood who read my blog.  

Sources: Alluring Rockport : an unspoiled New England town on Cape Ann : an irregular, rocky shore with ledges and sandy coves, quarries [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.

Rockport: The Making of a Tourist Treasure
 By Eleanor C. Parsons, 1998

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tragedy Strikes

Diphtheria: an acute infectious disease caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It is spread by respiratory droplets of an infected person or someone who carries the bacteria but has no symptoms. It can also be spread by contaminated objects or foods. The bacteria most commonly infects the nose and throat. The throat infection "causes a gray to black, tough, fiber-like covering, which can block the airways...Once infected,dangerous substances called toxins, produced by the bacteria, can spread through your bloodstream to other organs, such as the heart, and cause significant damage" (PubMed Health). 

At the beginning of September 1861, my 3rd great-grandparents, Elias & Rebecca (Williamson) Carter, had eleven children. By the end of the month, they had only six children. The household was struck by a diphtheria epidemic and five young daughters died in between September 13th and September 30th. Emily Jane (age 14) and Julia Elizabeth (age 11) died on September 13th followed by Helen Louise (age 7) who died on the 20th. Sarah Lillie (age 9) and Anna Grace (age 5) died on the 26th and 30th, respectively. 

Once can only imagine what life must have been like in the household during that month. Two older daughters survived. The oldest, Frances Ann was 23 and may have been married by that time. Mary Elizabeth was 18 and surely helped care for her ailing sisters. There were four sons including my 2nd great-grandfather Augustus Mellen. He was twenty at the time and would soon be going off to fight in the Civil War. Edward Lawson was 16, Timothy Cullen was 15 and John Herbert was 7. John was the twin of Helen.

"Throat distemper" is what diphtheria was often called in the death records of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was particularly lethal among children under the age of ten. In addition to local outbreaks, New England suffered a major regional outbreak between 1735-1740. Fortunately, today there are vaccines to prevent diseases like diphtheria that once took many lives each year. In the 1920s there were about 150,000 cases with about 13,000 fatalities annually ( The diphtheria vaccine became available in 1926 and has been in widespread use since the 1940s. 

Sources: History of Bethel, formerly Sudbury, Canada, Oxford County, Maine, 1768-1890 : with a brief sketch of Hanover and family statis [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Original data: Lapham, William Berry,. History of Bethel, formerly Sudbury, Canada, Oxford County, Maine, 1768-1890 : with a brief sketch of Hanover and family statistics. Augusta, Me.: Press of the Maine Farmer, 1891. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Strong Women Part 2

**Update - It's 2016 and today my grandmother is 96 years young! Still living in her own apartment, with some assistance from family and other caregivers. Happy Birthday! 

Today I would like to wish a happy 92nd birthday to my grandmother, Linona "Peggy" Blake. She was born in 1920, the daughter of Estes and Eva Yates. She was the fourth of eight children and the second girl. She has outlived all her siblings except the youngest one. She married my grandfather, Clayton Blake in Bethel, Maine. Together they raised three daughters, Myrna, Kaye, and Loretta. They lived in the part of Bethel known as the "Steam Mill" because that was the most well-known local feature. My mother told me they lived across from the mill and that both my grandparents worked there while she was growing up. By the time my memories start, my grandparents were spending summers working at the Balsams Resort in New Hampshire during the summers and at a resort in Pompano Beach, Florida during the winters. During the shoulder seasons, they had a little cabin behind my great-grandparents' house. Grammie is a wonderful cook and she was the pastry chef at these resorts.  My mother drove a school bus and my sister and I had to ride the high school run and the elementary run in the mornings. When Grammie was home, my mother would let us off on her way out to pick up the high school students and pick us up for the elementary run. Grammie would make us a big breakfast. I remember having a pancake eating contest with my grandfather one morning and my grandmother getting upset with him when he wouldn't let me win. She was worried I would get sick at school from eating too many pancakes. I think we finally called it a tie. 

I admire her very much. She worked hard her entire life. She is a very positive person and loves to dance and sing. I remember her always singing while she worked around the house. Two summers ago we had a party for her 90th birthday. She wore a bright pink dress (see picture above) and loved being the center of attention. She danced most of the afternoon. She continues to be active in the Grange and loves to socialize. She painted beautiful landscapes and sewed clothes for herself and others. She had to give up those activities when her eye sight got too weak. Spending time with her yesterday reminded me how lucky I am to still have a living grandparent. 

Happy Birthday, Grammie! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Unsolved Murder

My 10th Great Grandmother was murdered in New Hampshire in May or June of 1648. Her name was Hannah (or Annah) Willix. She was traveling from Dover to Exeter when she was attacked, robbed and her body "flung" into the river. I found a document online called "New Hampshire Homicides 1630-1774" that contains this information: Hannah "was founde in the [Piscataqua] River dead; her necke broken, her tounge black and swollen out of her mouth & the bloud settled in her face, the privy partes swolne &c as if she had been muche abused &c." 

It is not known whether her murderer was ever caught. Her husband Balthasar did file a breach of contract suit against Robert Hithersay "for raising an evil report of his deceased wife, and for breach of promise in carrying his wife to Oyster River in a canoe and not bringing her in a canoe again." Hithersay seems to have been a wandering character whom Balthasar suspected of harming his wife. Hithersay and Balthasar Willix had cross suits for defamation. I could not find any records describing the resolution of this case. The Oyster River is speculation from some who interpreted the O.R. to mean Oyster River.  After her death, Balthasar moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts and married a widow named Mary Hawksworth. He is called a man of "more than ordinary education" by Bell. I will definitely continue looking for information on this crime. 

In 1996 a book was loosely based on this case - The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin by Richard Begiebing. 

Balthasar Willix & Hannah/Annah
Hazelelponi Willix & John Gee
Hannah/Annah Gee & Samuel Hodgkins
Jonathan Hodgkins & Mary Stockbridge
Rachel Hodgkins & William Moody
Elizabeth Moody & Samuel Ackley
William Ackley & Deborah Capen
Sarah Ackley & John Abbott
Mary Jane Abbott & Edward Capen
Fannie Capen & Edward M. Carter
T. Richard Carter & F. Lyndell Cotton

NEHGR Vol. 50 p. 46-47
History of the town of Exeter, New Hampshire by C.H. Bell

Balthasar and Hazelelponi!

Balthasar and Hazelelponi??? What odd names! Balthasar Willix is my 10th Great Grandfather. Balthasar is one of the names of the three magi along with Caspar and Melchior. While looking for references to the name I learned Saint Balthasar is the patron saint of playing card manufacturers...seriously? There is a patron saint of playing card manufacturers! He is also the patron saint of those with epilepsy and sawyers. That's a diverse group! 

Balthasar's daughter, Hazelelponi Willix is my 9th Great Grandmother. So where does the name Hazelelponi come from? Like many names of the era (she was born abt 1636), it comes from the Bible. First Chronicles 4:3: "And these were of the father Etam: Jezreel and Ishma and Idbash: and the name of their sister was Hazelelponi " The meanings vary according to source. Some think it might be the name of a clan or town rather than a personal name. Its meaning is also varied according to source but the overall consensus is that it refers to shade or shadow over a face. "The Shadow Looking at Me" or "Give Shade, Thou Who Turnest to Me" 

So what leads one to name a daughter Hazelelponi? Hazelelponi receives only passing reference in the Bible so what made them pick this obscure name?  Did her parents want her to stand out in a sea of Marys, Sarahs, Hannahs, and Rebeccas? Her sisters were Anna or Hannah and Susanna. Hazelelponi married first John Gee and second Obadiah Wood. One of her daughters was named Hazelelponi but she named her other daughters common names; Mary, Martha, Hannah. Hazelelponi Willix Gee Wood is buried in the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich, MA. 

These images come from - tree of Joan Jordan.

Balthasar's wife and Hazelelponi's mother was murdered and thrown in the Oyster River and I will write about that in a future post. 

Other posts on unusual names:  Soranus Shaw
Balthasar Willix & Hannah/Annah
Hazelelponi Willix & John Gee
Hannah/Annah Gee & Samuel Hodgkins
Jonathan Hodgkins & Mary Stockbridge
Rachel Hodgkins & William Moody
Elizabeth Moody & Samuel Ackley
William Ackley & Deborah Capen
Sarah Ackley & John Abbott
Mary Jane Abbott & Edward Capen
Fannie Capen & Edward M. Carter
T. Richard Carter & F. Lyndell Cotton

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Strong Women, Part 1

I am so lucky to have had wonderful strong female role models in my life. My great-aunts are two of those role models. 

Rebecca Williamson Carter Bailey - Aunt Becky was born in 1913. She graduated from college and got a master's degree. She spoke French and worked to keep that skill her entire life. She was always looking for opportunities to learn about the world and she and Uncle Bruce had a large library. She was an advocate of education and when she died she established a trust fund to help the children and grandchildren of her brothers get education or training beyond high school. 

Aunt Becky served as a WAVE in the Navy during World War II. She had a love of history and a keeper of family history and artifacts. She was very unconventional and a free-thinker. She got married in a red dress and she and Uncle Bruce never had any children. They lived very simply and for many years did not have indoor plumbing, electricity or a phone. She did have a huge wrap-around porch with hanging beds and hammocks which I loved to play on when I was a kid. The house was quite a way up in the woods and her nearest neighbors were out of sight and earshot. The view was magnificent! 

She was a wonderful aunt to her nephews and nieces and their children and grandchildren. Aunt Becky was tough as nails but very loving and caring. One of my visits with her when she was in her mid-eighties illustrates this well. She had been working around the farm when a barn door came off its rolling track and fell on her. She was less than 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds and as previously mentioned, in her eighties. She had broken and bruised some ribs but was quickly sent home from the hospital to recuperate. When my sister and I arrived for a visit she was propped up in a bed that had been set up in the dining room so she didn't have to go upstairs. We chatted about various things and she told us what happened. She said her thoughts while trapped under the door were "this would be a heck of way to die" and that motivated her to crawl out and get to her phone (family insisted she install one after Uncle Bruce died and she was there alone). She commented to us that "it's much better that this happened to me and not to one of you." We were very curious why she would say such a thing and her reply was that she didn't have to get up and go to work or take care of children. As we drove home we were laughing about her reasoning and how it was typical of her pragmatic view of the world.

Elizabeth Ayers Mason married my grandfather's brother, Stanley Carter. She was another college graduate in my family. This was fairly unusual for a woman born in 1907. She had a career as a social worker. Aunt Elizabeth was active in politics and interested in family history. She helped get the Bethel Historical Society started and hosted family reunions. She loved cats and I heard comments while I was growing up about the crazy cat lady who lived in West Bethel. I would just smile and say she was my aunt and she was not crazy; she was a very sweet lady. She did have about twenty cats at a time living with her after my uncle died. Most were dropped off by people who knew they would have a good home with her. She was ten years older than Uncle Stanley and close to fifty when they married so they had no children. Her cats were her children. She had all her cats spayed and neutered and they had regular check-ups. Her house was immaculate and the litter boxes were in the shed and cleaned daily so there was absolutely no odor. That's not an easy thing with that many cats. 

My best memories are of the Christmas parties Aunt Elizabeth had for me, my sister and my cousins, Becky, John and Nancy. They were elegant affairs. Everyone dressed up and she served tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off and introduced us to types of bread and fillings we did not normally experience because they are usually reserved for adults at afternoon tea parties. There were fancy cookies and candies too. We ate off china plates with real silverware. There was classical music playing in the background. It was so sophisticated compared to our everyday lives. She treated us like adults and we adored her for it. Our gifts were often ceramic figurines, jewelry or music boxes - things our parents wouldn't buy for us because they didn't trust us not to break them immediately. I still have two pieces forty years later and neither has broken. We usually got a puzzle or toy too but what we treasured were the "grown-up" beautiful gifts. Mom made sure we used our best manners and wrote thank-you notes every year. When I was a young adult, I was living in West Bethel and Aunt Elizabeth walked daily and often passed our house. I would try to catch up with her every week and have a chat. She was a very interesting and active woman. 

I am very grateful to have had these two strong women as role models. They were adventurous and did things their own way without caring what other people thought of them. They were confident in their decisions and values and lived their lives with integrity and compassion. Both of them made a difference in the lives of others. They certainly made a difference in my life.

These pictures come from the Facebook page "I Grew Up in Bethel, Maine"  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Middle Intervale Meeting House and Common

 The Brick End House - In the Carter family for 7 generations! 
 Cemetery where many of my ancestors are buried from the 1790s to the 2000s. 

Center Meeting House and Common - Bethel | The Cultural Landscape Foundation: This was in the hands of my family for most of my childhood. The Middle Intervale Meetinghouse Society has done a phenomenal job restoring it and keeping it true to the time period. It is used for cultural events like concerts and quilt shows and of course, for the occasional wedding. The first Carter to come to Maine had a farm directly across the street and that farm is still in the family - run by my cousin, John and his partner Cynthia, who run a farm stand with fresh produce and organically raised beef. 

'via Blog this'

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Gambling on research

Almost all my family lines trace back to immigrants who came to New England before 1650 so when I find an oddball, it's really fun. There are so many people researching and writing about early New England that it's not very difficult to find the records and even some stories for those ancestors. When I research the oddballs, I think I learn more about doing genealogy because I have more obstacles to overcome. 

Here are a few of my oddballs - because they came to the U.S. (relatively) recently.

2nd Great Grandfather George Gibbs who came from Prince Edward Island and married Nina K. Ellingwood in 1884. I have little information about his family or what town they came from on PEI. Their daughter Annie married Ray Everett Cotton, Fern Lyndell Cotton married T. Richard Carter

4th Great Grandparents John & Ann (McClure) Williamson who came from Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, Ireland in the 1820s with two children and settled in Bethel, Maine. Daughter, Rebecca married Elias Mellen Carter. Their son Augustus Mellen Carter had a son Edward Mellen Carter who was my great-grandfather. Williamson isn't a typical Irish surname but says it can be Northern English, Scottish or Northern Irish. Manorhamilton is at the very top of Ireland just before the border of Northern Ireland. 

4th Great Grandfather Reverend Edward Millford Whittle who came from the South. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1766 but there is evidence that he lived with his mother in Alexandria, Virginia before moving to New England and eventually to Maine. His parents are reported to be from Ireland but I have found no records to support that claim. says most Whittles are from Lancashire, England. His daughter Martha married Moses Yates; their son Gilbert W. Yates was the father of my great grandfather, Estes Gilbert Yates. 

4th Great Grandfather William Yates who came to New Hampshire around the time of the Revolution but where he came from is subject to debate - even among his children and grandchildren. The History of Paris by Howard Lapham says he came from Portsmouth, England to Boston and then to Maine. He met his wife in New Gloucester, Maine and then he can be traced from Hebron to Norway to Greenwood, Maine. He was a farmer and a Methodist preacher. His children and grandchildren contradict one another on many points from where he was born (Scotland or England) and whether his parents migrated with him and whether he was "bound out" as a boy to work for another farmer. William married Martha Morgan and had Moses Yates, the husband of Martha Whittle above. 

These are my most recent immigrant ancestors. Researching outside my comfort zone of New England and researching outside the U.S. is challenging but it's like gambling (and about as addictive) where you know that most of the records you look at are not going to be "winners" but when you find a bit of information about your ancestor, no matter how small, it's like winning the lottery and it keeps you going. I feel like the more I find out, the more questions I have that I want to research...good luck everyone!

Thanks to Chris Dunham for posting these pictures of the gravestones of William and Martha Yates on the Maine Genealogy Network. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What's your story, John Williamson?

I really wish I had more information about my ancestor, John Williamson (1787-1887). He came from Ireland but doesn't seem to be Irish. He is said to have come in 1821, well before the flood of immigrants caused by the potato famine. Apparently, he loved England and was a member of the Church of England. It seems especially difficult to find Protestant records in Ireland. He lived to be 100 years old! What an accomplishment! He outlived two wives, Ann McClure Williamson (1789-1861) who immigrated with him and Jane (1795-1872). All are buried in the family plot in the Middle Intervale Cemetery. His daughter, Rebecca, married my third great grandfather, Elias Mellen Carter. That is how my family intersected with the Williamsons. We (the family) know his first wife was Ann McClure. Relatives named for this branch of the family include my great aunt, Rebecca Williamson Carter and my first cousin once removed, Ann McClure Carter.

It would appear that his brother, William, came with him and settled in Newry. They were both shoemakers. John turned to farming when he settled in Bethel, Maine. He is profiled in Lapham's History of Bethel as a prominent citizen. Lapham calls him "a lover of nature", "well educated" and "well versed in ancient history." John is also described as a very devout man who carried his Bible with him and had memorized large portions of it. Lapham describes him as social and interesting, both "entertaining and instructive." In the later years of his life he lived with his daughter, Rebecca and son-in-law, Elias Mellen Carter. 

If you came from Ireland, why did you love England? Your name is more English than Irish so how did you come to live in Manorhamilton, Ireland? Did you leave behind relatives in Ireland? Since both you and your brother were shoemakers, do you come from a long line of shoemakers? 
Middle Intervale Cemetery

Rebecca Williamson Carter Bailey - my great aunt

Source: Lapham, Howard B. "History of Bethel:." Google Books. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <>.

My Genealogy Time Capsule

A cousin of mine, Bill West writes a blog called West in New England and he is running this genealogy challenge. The deadline for submissions is March 15th. 

What I would put in my time capsule and why: I would use multiple formats for these items where possible - USB drive, DVD and hard copies. 
  1. A letter to my descendants about the importance of family and genealogy in my life - Just because I wish I had one from my ancestors. 
  2. A copy of my genealogy research so far. This way future family members could find new leads based on my research or compare (and maybe laugh at my mistakes).  My husband found a book on his ancestors that ended with a 3 times great-grandfather's name and said "nothing further is known about this line." It was fun to then fill in the rest of the story. 
  3. I would include a narrative of my memories of my life, my parents, grandparents, and the three great-grandparents I got to know. I have been so fortunate to have so much time with grandparents and I know many people never get to make memories with their grandparents. I have a book about my Yates ancestry and the author included his own observations about the character of the people he personally knew. I love finding stories that give insight into the personalities of my ancestors rather than just having dry vital statistics. 
  4. I would include copies of pictures (clearly labeled) of important people, places and moments in my life. I love finding pictures to go with my genealogy and it's so frustrating when there is no information to identify the people, places or events describing the picture. 
  5. Favorites - songs and recipes including Cooking Downeast by Marjorie Standish (my grandmother's favorite cookbook). 
  6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - My great aunt, Rebecca Williamson Carter, gave me this book with a note that her mother read this to my grandfather and his siblings. 
  7. Anne of Green Gables - My grandmother, F. Lyndell Cotton Carter, gave this book to me after she went to visit her relatives on Prince Edward Island. Her grandfather, George Gibbs, came from PEI. 
  8. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton and Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion - My favorite books from childhood. 
  9. Pink Dove soap - My grandmother always used it and I use it too. It smells like her...
  10. Lindor truffles, Nesquik, Wint-o-green Life Savers and Diet Coke with Lime - some of my favorites things.
What would I put it all in and where would I keep it? 
  • This is much more difficult...I think the answer is to make multiple copies of the original time capsule (at least the stuff on DVD and USB drives) - Maybe get a safety deposit box at a bank and seal the USB drive & DVD in an envelope with instructions written on the outside, definitely leave info about the time capsule in my will and tell my sons to put it in their wills too to keep the information available for whoever is interested 100 years from now. 
  • I would get a sturdy box from Sentry for the time capsule. I would bury the original time capsule just outside the Middle Intervale Cemetery in Bethel, Maine. This cemetery started with my ancestor, Dr. Timothy Carter. The farm he started is across the street and still in the family. The meetinghouse in front of the cemetery belonged to my family until it was made a nonprofit in 1978. This spot has deep personal connections for me.