Sunday, April 29, 2012

New England Frugality

When I was eight, my mom's parents, Clayton & Peggy Blake, were working at the Balsams in New Hampshire. My dad's parents went with us for a visit. At that time the resort was selling off it's trail-riding horses and my Carter grandparents, Dick & Lyndell, got a great deal on a pony for $50. Now Patches wasn't some wimpy little Shetland pony. He was really the size of a small horse and sturdily built. They bought him for their grandkids. At that time, it was me, my sister, Lorna age 6, and cousins Becky age 5, and John age 4. Being the oldest, I got to ride alone first. He came with a halter and bridle but no saddle so into the shed went Grampa and he came out with a strange looking saddle. It was not English and not Western (no horn) and had a big oval cut out of the center. He needed to repair the girth and stirrup straps but otherwise it was in good shape.
The Balsams Resort

The saddle belonged to his grandfather, Augustus M. Carter, who used it in the Civil War. That's right, I learned to ride on a family heirloom. Or in my grandfather's mind, why buy a saddle when there was a perfectly good one in the shed that wasn't being used? No thought was given to sentimentality or the value of the saddle as a family heirloom. I've never seen another saddle like that and had a bit of skepticism about it being used in the Civil War. However, when I was at the NH Historical Society Museum in Concord  this weekend, I saw the exact same saddle design in a Civil War exhibit. It wasn't in as good shape as the one I learned to ride on - it was missing all the padding and leather on the seat but it was definitely the same design with the large oval opening in the center.
Civil War saddle - NH Historical Society Museum
Now this might seem very uncomfortable but as it happens, the opposite is true. The oval makes you sit correctly in the saddle and you actually feel less discomfort after riding all day. I know because I switched over to riding my uncle's horse in my teens with a regular western saddle. It had lots of padding but still wasn't as comfortable as the saddle with the opening. I'm not sure where our Civil War era saddle is today. The last time I saw it was in my grandparents' shed. It might still be there. I think I should try to track it down this summer. I'm quite certain Augustus would appreciate that it was used and not kept as an heirloom. Why pay for another saddle when you can use the one just hanging in the shed?

I have some great memories of riding that pony and I will write about them in another post because otherwise this one would be too long.

T. Richard "Dick" Carter & F. Lyndell Cotton
Clayton Blake & Linona "Peggy" Yates

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Something Old

The historian in me loves old things and the genealogist in me gets really excited when those old things are directly linked to my family. This is a map of the "Township of Holmes in the County of Oxford and the District of Maine." The pictures below show the map in its entirety, writing that identifies my 2nd great-grandfather, Augustus M. Carter and says it was taken from the surveys of James Eames and Silas Thurlow by Jeremiah Lott and copied by Augustus and an original date on the map of April AD 1811!! There is no date that says when the copying was done but Augustus was born in 1840, served in the Civil War, and became a surveyor after that so probably late 19th century. 

Augustus Mellen Carter - 2nd great-grandfather
Edward Mellen Carter - great-grandfather
T. Richard Carter - grandfather

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy St. George's Day!

St. George is the patron saint of England and St. George's Day is celebrated on April 23rd. In honor of all my British ancestors, I present a few facts about St. George. It's also my mom's birthday so "Happy Birthday, Mom!" 

St. George wasn't English and there is so much mythology surrounding him that it is hard to distinguish actual facts. The best guess is that St. George was born in modern-day Turkey in the 3rd century. The story is that his parents were Christian and after his father died, George's mother moved back to her native Palestine, taking George with her. George became a soldier in the Roman army. Emperor Docletian began a campaign against the Christians at the beginning of the 4th century. Legend has it that George resigned from the army and tore up the Emperor's order against Christians in protest. George was thrown in prison and tortured but he refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets and beheaded. 

The story of St. George slaying a dragon originated in the 15th century. As entertaining as it is, it must be relegated to the realm of mythology. 

St. George began to be linked to England during the Crusades. One story that is recorded in stone over the south door of a church at Fordington, Dorset, tells of his miraculous appearance and leading crusaders into battle. When Edward III founded the Order of the Garter, he assigned St. George to be its patron saint. St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII as the chapel of the order. Since that time St. George has been regarded as a special protector of the English. 

St. George Chapel Windsor, England

The flag of St. George is a red cross on a white background and is incorporated into the Union Jack. 

In 1940 King George VI inaugurated the George Cross for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger." The award is usually awarded to civilians. It depicts St. George slaying the dragon on a silver cross. 
Info source:

Image sources:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday - Slaves in the Family

Usually I find the blogs of other genealogists intelligent, thoughtful and interesting. Yesterday I found one that disturbed me. The blogger offered a critique of the PBS show Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. The author of this critique found the show "boring" and speculates that it would not appeal to a wide audience because it seems Gates has an "agenda" to make every show about slavery or find black ancestry of white people or vice versa. I do agree that the show could focus more on how the information is found but I suspect more people tune in for the family stories than the how-to's of genealogy. 

As a historian, I find this idea that connecting New England families to slavery is "digging up dirt" or connotes the bias of Gates disturbing because the author doesn't seem to understand that slavery is not just about the South and not just about black people. Slavery is deeply intertwined in the history of New England and white people. Slavery was legal in all colonies and tied to the occupations of shipbuilders, merchants, and sea captains, key components of the New England economy. As a U.S. history teacher in Maine, I struggle every year to convince students that slavery is part of the history of New England. In addition, I find the show fascinating because it shows that race is not clearly defined and, pardon the pun, history is not black and white - rather we are all human no matter what color our skin may be. As a genealogist, I wonder why one would expect that Gates would not showcase his area of expertise, the ancestry of African-Americans. Personally, I find it fascinating to see how a genealogist works to put together information about a group of people who are difficult to document. 

So far, I have found several indirect links between my New England ancestors and slavery. Today I present two of those stories. 

Samuel Maverick was born in 1602 and is the brother of my 11th great-grandfather. Their father was Rev. John Maverick who brought his family from Beaworthy, Devonshire, England in 1630 and became the one of the first ministers in Dorchester, MA. Samuel settled at Noddle's Island (currently part of Logan Airport after the strait separating it from the mainland was filled in the 1940s). Samuel purchased several slaves who were natives of Tortuga. My cousin and fellow genealogist, **Bill West, wrote about an appalling incident describing how Samuel, wishing to breed more slaves, ordered a male slave to force himself on one of the female slaves. Then one has to consider the contrast of the account by John Winthrop commenting on Samuel's kindness to Indians during a smallpox epidemic. "Among others, Mr. Maverick of Winnesemett is worth of a perpetual remembrance. Himself, his wife, and servants went daily to them, ministered to their necessities, and buried their dead, and took home many of their children." He reportedly buried 30 Indians in one day and took in many orphaned children. Now the question becomes, did he take in those orphans as slaves? 
Noddle's Island
**Bill's post includes information about another interesting story of slavery and the Upton family in New England. 

Ebenezer Ellingwood Jr. (6th great-granduncle) and his brother William were business partners. They were sea captains who sailed to Barbados among other places. Tax records reveal the brothers suffered some losses in their business and in the 1750s he was a hogreeve (overseer of pigs) for Beverly and applied for a license to operate a tavern and inn. Later court records and his estate list him as a yeoman suggesting he had retired from operating a tavern and inn shortly before his death at the age of 53. This is condensed from a posting at A longer explanation of Ebenezer's life with additional sources can be found at his site as well as information on other Ellingwood relatives. Part of the information he shares are stories about the slaves of Ebenezer Ellingwood. 

Ebenezer was abated part of his taxes for the "loss of his negro" in 1758, who is undoubtedly the unnamed slave of Ebenezer in Rev. Hale's Beverly death records who drowned in that year. Those records also mention the death of a slave infant in 1757. The tax list for 1760 includes two slaves. One may have been Jethro, who is known to have been with Ebenezer in 1763. Jethro is the only slave named in Ebenezer's estate inventory. It is very likely Jethro who was beaten by Thomas Diall in 1764. Ebenezer brought him to court for the offense and for trespass and won a judgement of 9 shillings and court costs.
Grave of Ebenezer Ellingwood 
While neither of these are in my direct line of ancestors, they are close relatives of my many times great-grandparents and it is likely that they had contact with each other. I can't help but wonder what others in the family thought about slavery, equality, and the humanity of native and African people.

Rev. John Maverick (father of Samuel) - 12th great-grandfather
Moses Maverick (brother of Samuel) - 11th great-grandfather
Abigail Maverick - 10th great-grandmother
Martha Ward - 9th great-grandmother
Martha Tuttle/Tuthill - 8th great-grandmother
Martha Haskell - 7th great-grandmother
Ruth Safford - 6th great-grandmother
Martha Haskell - 5th great-grandmother
Sally Houghton - 4th great-grandmother
Florilla Dunham - 3rd great-grandmother
Nina King Ellingwood - 2nd great-grandmother
Annie Florilla Gibbs - great-grandmother
Fern Lyndell Cotton - grandmother

Ebenezer Ellingwood (father of Ebenezer Jr) - 7th great-grandfather
Joseph Ellingwood (brother of Ebenezer Jr) - 6th great-grandfather
John Ellingwood - 5th great-grandfather
John Ellingwood Jr - 4th great-grandfather
Asa Freeman Ellingwood - 3rd great-grandfather & husband of Florilla Dunham (above)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Surname Saturday - Fun With Wordle

This idea came from a tweet I read today. I can't remember who issued the challenge to do something diffeent and post a wordle but here is mine. These are the surnames in my direct line. Wordle makes words bigger depending on the number of times the word occurs. You can play around with colors, fonts and layouts. Sometime I'll get all the first names done too but this took quite awhile to organize. I think I want to update it every year to see how it changes as my research progresses.

Another view that's more jumbled - just for fun

Friday, April 20, 2012

Follow Friday - My Inspiration

Some have asked me how I find enough to write about. Well, one thing I have just started using is the writing prompts on the geneabloggers web site. Every day they post a few ideas for topics and if you write on one of them and include it in the title of your blog, it goes on their site and increases your chances of being read by a wider audience. One of today's writing prompts at is Follow Friday. Bloggers are asked to highlight a blog they follow or a particular post they read recently.

I feel compelled to share the blog that gave me the inspiration for my own. West in New England is written by Bill West, my 3rd cousin, once removed. I connected with Bill on the Maine Genealogy Network when he commented on a post I made. Then we connected on Facebook and he let me know about the annual reunion for our mutual ancestors and the fact that the family has a Facebook Ellingwood reunion group. I had attended the reunion as a child but didn't know it was still being held every year. I attended the reunion and got to meet Bill and a bunch of other cousins I didn't know I had. I found out this family line adds to the existing research on the family each year with updates and a family newsletter. The Facebook page has drawn in many scattered Ellingwoods and it has been fun for them to see where they connect with those in Maine.

Sharing information & updates at the 2009 Ellingwood reunion
Through Bill's blog, I've connected with other distant cousins and fellow geneabloggers who have helped me in my research so many ways. If you're interested in learning how to research, finding new clues on your ancestors, or connecting with others who are researching the same lines, I cannot tell you how helpful it is to start blogging about your family. Then share your blog on geneabloggers, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I get inspiration for posts from other blogs I read and they motivate me to keep digging for stories that tell not only who my ancestors are but what their lives were like. The internet and social media have been invaluable to my research. So get inspired and get blogging!! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aftermath of the Shot Heard 'Round the World

The case of Uriah Thayer illustrates some of the challenges of documenting service in the Revolutionary War. It would seem from the pension requests of my ancestors that virtually no one kept any paperwork pertaining to their service and in some cases there was no paperwork to be kept. I have seen a few that state they were verbally discharged without formal papers. These verbal discharges seem to be from the beginning of the war. Uriah came from Braintree and joined Silas Wild's Company of minutemen who assembled on April 19, 1775. After 9 days he was sent home but would later join the army again at least 3-4 times and possibly more. His wife, Phebe (Hayden), states in the pension records that he was gone for most of the first three years of their marriage. Other soldiers state that they believe he served for the better part of 5 years. Despite these testimonies, there is only documentation of a little over a year of service when it is all consolidated. Further complicating the process of obtaining a pension, Uriah died in 1805, well before the 1818 law providing for pensions. Phebe was illiterate (based on her signing the application with her mark - see below). She ended up getting a pension for $39 that was later raised to $50 per annum. At the age of 92, she was still corresponding with the government, applying for a land bounty. I cannot find proof that the land bounty was granted but it may have been.

Piecing together the 74 pages of his pension record (the longest I have encountered), Uriah responded to the call for troops when the British marched on Lexington and Concord. He spent time in Boston guarding the harbor and was serving with General Benjamin Lincoln when he supervised the evacuation of the British. He may or may not have fought at Saratoga or gone on an expedition to Canada.

I doubt any of the men responding to the alarm from Lexington and Concord gave a thought to pensions or what their families might need from the government in the future. I'm sure they didn't envision the bureaucracy and red tape they or their spouses would encounter when trying to access their benefits.
Raising the Alarm

Uriah Thayer - 4th cousin 7 times removed (closest relationship)
Common ancestors - Samuel Bass to T. Richard Carter
John Alden to Linona Alice Yates
Thomas Rogers to Fern Lyndell Cotton

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Surveying the Past

Augustus Mellen Carter was a surveyor for the Brown Company in Berlin, N.H and for railroad companies in Western Maine. He was born and raised in Bethel, Maine and after fighting in the Civil War, he began his surveying career. We are fortunate to have a number of items relating to him still in the possession of family members. This is a compass and case that belonged to him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If You're Not With Us, You're Against Us!

In 1776, Hopestill Capen was arrested and thrown in a Boston jail. He is my second cousin, 8X removed and I stumbled upon his story while looking for a different Revolutionary War ancestor and it is too good not to share. Being a teacher of American history means being a student of American history. No matter how much I think I know, I'm constantly finding new twists that show history is never cut and dried, black and white. 

So when is a Loyalist not a Loyalist? When you are a Sandemanian. Yup, it's a real word and one I had to research to understand the story of Hopestill Capen. At first glance the Sandemanians seem to be pacifists but further exploration reveals that while they did not believe in taking up arms in rebellion, they did not discourage taking up arms to defend a government. While Hopestill Capen made it clear that he disagreed with British policies and favored a new government, he would not take up arms in the Patriot cause. Many Sandemanians, like other Loyalists, left the country when the British were driven out of Boston. Hopestill refused to go and wanted to ride out the war remaining neutral. His silk & dry-goods shop is now the Union Oyster House - called the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America. 

His own words: "But as to the charge of my being an enemy to my country, no accusation can be more unjust...had I not been check'd by the command of be subject to the Higher Powers...I should have been one of the foremost in opposing the measure of the British Parliament...neither do I think myself in any way bound in conscience to become an informer against my country...but to be subject to all the laws that are made that are not contrary to the laws of my Maker."  And "...whenever it shall appear to my conscience that a change in government has taken place, and is so established that the power is of God, I shall know myself to be as tenaciously bound to adhere to God's law respecting being subject to that power, and to what I am from its support with cheerfulness" (Casey). In plain terms, I will be happy to support the Patriots at the point where they are clearly in charge of the government.

In October 1776 Capen's wife, Patience (Stoddard), petitioned for his release. She expressed that she and her children had suffered greatly because of Hopestill's confinement. More than 80 citizens of Boston signed the appeal and attested to the fact that he was an honest and peaceable man. The sheriff complained that this petition and a second appeal from Hopestill in December was insulting and asked for protection from Mr. Capen's insults. The petitions did not change things for Hopestill and ..."was summarily denied, as the Patriots tended to look upon even the vaguest hints of neutrality or loyalism as a threat to their authority. Capen's persecutors were concerned he and all the other Sandemanians were no different. He was held for over two years and finally released in October 1778, when he decided that emigration to Nova Scotia would be the only option if he wished to live in peace" (Smith 143). It is ironic that he was denied the basic right of habeas corpus espoused by the founding fathers. He never got a chance to defend his position in front of a judge or jury. 
Hopestill's appeal to his jailer, Mr. Wm. Greenleaf

Recently a 1776 broadside with notes in Capen's own hand sold for $7500 on icollector.comThe description of this item includes Capen's notes in the margin which say "I was liberated from prison twentieth of June on a fryday evening at 8 o'clock 1777 after suffering three hundred & 19 days...imprisonment in felons appartments all the time...July 1778 I was called on to abjune the King of England which I dare not in confidence do, for which I was again imprisoned to the day of noon following." This seems to be a bit different from Smith's account but quibbling how much time he spent in jail misses the point that he was held without a hearing or trial until he agreed to leave the country. 

It is unclear to me when or if Hopestill returned from Nova Scotia but he and his wife have headstones in Copps Burying Ground in Boston. His headstone reads "memorial" which leads me to believe he may have been buried elsewhere. These photos are from

Patience Capen
Hopestill Capen

Sources & further reading on Sandemanians and Hopestill Capen

Bernard Capen (immigrant) - my 10th great-grandfather - line to Hopestill Capen
John Capen (1612-1692) - my 9th great-grandfather                           
Bernard Capen (1650-1691) - brother of James Capen - my 8th great-grandfather
John Capen (1685-1733) - cousin of James Capen 2nd - my 7th great-grandfather
Hopestill Capen (abt 1731-1807) - 2nd cousin of James Capen 3rd - my 6th great-grandfather

The rest of my Capen line:
Thomas Capen (1739- ) - 5th great-grandfather
Thomas Capen (1762-1808) - 4th great-grandfather
Timothy Capen (1793- ) - 3rd great-grandfather
Edward Abbott Capen (1838-1936) 2nd great-grandfather
Fannie May Capen (1878-1961) great-grandmother
T. Richard Carter (1914-2005) grandfather

Thursday, April 12, 2012

First Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas

My cousin, Bill West, sent away for the Civil War pension application for our mutual ancestor, Asa Freeman Ellingwood. Last summer he transcribed the file and shared it with the family and posted a substantial portion of his transcription on his blog. The bulk of the testimony involves various persons, relatives of Asa and others who knew him, testifying as to his health when he returned home after his discharge in late 1861. He was a member of Company I, 5th Maine Infantry and "ruptured" his kidneys at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. 
Asa Freeman Ellingwood & wife Florilla Dunham
The story of how he was injured is what I find most interesting. "I was helping a man by the name of Perry who died afterwards off the field when the Col. Mark H. Dunnell who was riding by the side of us swung his horse around and knocked me down with the man I was helping on top of me. We were both knocked over. We were on the retreat from Bull Run in the woods at the time and when I was knocked over I was knocked over a log and it was at that time I was knocked down when I ruptured on both sides. The right side and the left side." (How many times can one say "knocked" in one paragraph?)

Col. Mark Dunnell
Eyewitness account of Bull Run by a Rhode Island soldier
Animation of the battle

Historians agree that the Union troops were not prepared for the battle. In addition, Union commanders were over-confident that they could win the war quickly and easily. People came out from nearby Washington, D.C. to watch what they were sure would be an easy victory over the Confederate troops. The battle turned out to be a decisive victory for the Confederacy and some historian speculate that had they been better prepared, they may have been able to press their advantage and capture the capital. That would certainly have changed the course of history! 

According to the web site of the Fifth Maine Museum, "when news of the attack on Fort Sumpter (sic) reached the small town of Bethel, Maine, Clark S. Edwards was high on a ladder shingling his roof. He immediately climbed down, obtained permission from the appropriate authorities to form a company of men, and set out to gather recruits from Bethel and the surrounding towns. This group became Company I, Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry with Edwards as its Captain." The Fifth Maine was one of the first Maine regiments to be mustered in. It consisted of 1046 men (another 500 joined later) from southern and central Maine. The men left Portland by train in July 1861, stopping briefly in New York where thy were presented with a silk flag by Portlanders living in that area. The Fifth captured more prisoners than the number of men who served in the regiment and three times the number of battle flags than any other Maine regiment captured. After three years, only 193 men were mustered out in July 1864. The rest had been killed in action, died from disease, been wounded, deserted or had been transferred to other regiments. 

Clark Edwards, Captain of Company I, Fifth Maine Volunteers

Statistics: Union dead = 460, wounded = 1,124 and missing or captured = 1,312
Confederate dead = 387, wounded = 1, 582 and missing or captured = 13

A couple of amusing stories...- My great-grandmother wanted my mother to name me Florilla after Asa's wife. I'm glad she decided on Pam instead. - While teaching an honors U.S. history class one year, I had a brain cramp and misspelled Manassas as Mannasses. Knowing that didn't look right, I turned around to the board and erased the second "n" and turned back to teach...but the giggles of my students let me know that leaving Man asses on the board was not a good idea. 

Asa Freeman Ellingwood & Florilla Dunham
Nina King Ellingwood & George Gibbs
Annie Florilla Gibbs & Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Hearty Stock

I've been impressed as I look into my family tree and see the number of ancestors who have been healthy and active well into their 80s and 90s. Thanks to Chris Dunham at Maine Genealogy Network, I have this excerpt from the Lewiston Evening Journal of December 29, 1891. Jacob Emmons is my 3rd great-grandfather. 

As I continued to research this family I found a sketch of Jacob's son, Israel F. Emmons in the Biographical Review: This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Franklin and Oxford Counties, Maine. It said that Jacob died at the age of 87 so evidently he was active right up to the end. He was born in Kennebunkport and "bred to the life of a farmer." He moved to Biddeford and then to Greenwood and farmed in both places. The sketch says Jacob and his wife, Sarah Shepherd, were members of the Congregational Church. Jacob is said to have been a Whig and later a Republican. Jacob & Sarah had ten children including my 2nd great-grandmother, Laura Etta Emmons who married Gilbert William Yates. Their son, Estes Gilbert Yates lived until he was 93 and was chopping wood and using a wringer washer until a month before he died. I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know my great-grandfather and had him in my life until I was thirteen. I'm glad he came from such hearty stock.  

Biographical Review: This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Franklin and Oxford Counties, Maine. Boston. Biographical Review Publishing Company. 1897. Biographical review : this volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of Franklin and Oxford Counties, Maine. [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: Biographical review : this volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of Franklin and Oxford Counties, Maine.. Boston: Biographical Review Pub. Co., 1897.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Aroostook War

My 4th great-grandfather Oliver S. Philbrick served as a private in Captain Reuben Crane's 2nd Company of infantry in the Aroostook War. This was a unit drafted into the Militia of Maine "for the protection of its Northeastern Frontier." He served from February 25, 1839 to April 13, 1839. So what is the Aroostook War? Have you ever heard of it?

The Aroostook War was really not a war at all. When Maine became a state in 1820, settlers were granted land on both sides of the Aroostook River despite the fact that the British also claimed that area. The U.S. government was not able to work out an agreement and in January 1839, Americans were determined to get rid of the Canadian lumberjacks in the disputed territory. A leader of the Americans was arrested and Maine troops quickly flooded into the area. The state of Maine appealed to the federal government for even more troops and the state was granted a force of 50,000 and $10 million if a war actually broke out. General Winfield Scott was sent to meet with the lieutenant governor of New Brunswick. Scott had an impressive background having served in the War of 1812, participated in enforcement of the tariff of 1828 and the removal of the Cherokee. Finally recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Great Britain agreed to set up a commission to reach a resolution. The result was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 which settled the northern border of Maine as seen in the map to the right.

General Winfield Scott

Sources and further reading on the war and the treaty:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Turn the Page

Genealogy can be an adventure and sometimes a lesson in frustration. Today I was going through records I found for my great-grandparents. I looked at the marriage record on and noticed that I could go to the next record in the batch. So being curious, I clicked to advance the page. Well, the next page was actually the back of the marriage record. I didn't even know it had a back side! On the back were the names of the groom's and bride's parents. The name of my great-grandfather's mother did not match what I thought I knew. Oops!! It turns out that my great-great-grandfather was married not twice but three times. Just like the commercial for I thought the mother of his children was Lillie Esther Shaw but she was actually wife number 2. Wife number 1 was Lizzie M. Philbrick - thus solving a family mystery of the identity of "Grammie Philbrick"  - a name my father's generation heard often but didn't know to whom it referred. It solved the mystery of Civil War enlistment papers, for a Benjamin Philbrick, in the possession of one of my cousins. And of course, it has sent me on a new hunt for ancestors - a new adventure. I'd done a pretty good job of tracking down the ancestors of Lillie Shaw but they are not actually related not me...oh well. The lesson I am taking from this is to TURN THE PAGE. You never know what you might find. 

Francis L. Cotton & Lizzie M. Philbrick
Ray Everett Cotton & Annie Florilla Gibbs
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why You Should Be a Geneablogger Too

I have always been interested in my family's history. I started researching my genealogy when I had a hip replacement and had limited mobility during the summer of 2004 (or 2005 - I'm not exactly sure). I was not very good at it when I started, went down more than a few false trails and gathered a lot of undocumented and extraneous information. I've been pecking away at documentation and attempting to clean up my family tree and break through brick walls ever since. 

Last summer I found a Facebook page dedicated to the descendants of Asa Freeman and Florilla (Dunham) Ellingwood - my 3rd great-grandparents on my father's side. I connected with a third cousin, Bill West, a retired bookseller from Abington, Massachusetts who writes a blog called West in New England. After reading his posts and seeing how others were sharing their genealogy through blogs, I became inspired to create my own. So in late February, I took the plunge and created my first post. It's not always easy to find the time to write but I have found a few things that have helped. Most importantly when I don't have time to write an entire post, I put down my ideas and save it as a draft and come back to it later. I have at least as many drafts as I have posts so I always have something to write about. My goal is at least 2 posts a week and in March I was able to post 16 times! I can't guarantee that pace will sustain itself so I'm keeping my goal at 2 posts a week for the rest of 2012. 

So why should you give blogging a try?
  • In six weeks, I have made more connections with people who can help me than I've made in six years. 
  • I've found stories about my ancestors and the places they lived. These make family history more meaningful than mere names on a page.  
  • As someone who loves history, I've expanded and enriched my knowledge - giving me more to share with my students and hopefully making my teaching more relevant and interesting. 
  • I am learning more about where and how to research. 
  • And...I've gotten a little ego boost from those who have commented on the blog or to me in person and told me how much they enjoy the stories I've shared. 
There is a great community out there of geneabloggers. Head on over to for some inspiration and tips on how to get started. It is a great resource with links to a wide variety of blogs that can be searched by category. Several sites linked there provide daily or weekly writing prompts for those times you have writer's block. So what are you waiting for? Start telling the story of your family and reap the rewards! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Remembering Our Veterans

Yesterday I wrote about Dominicus Smith, my 5th great-grandfather, who served in the Revolutionary War. It was exciting to learn he served with General George Washington at the Battle of Trenton. I got the information from his pension application which I accessed on Fold3. It was interesting to read his circumstances in 1818 and again in 1823 when he applied for his pension and then updated his financial status. I found it interesting but sad that it appears one had to be destitute in order to receive a pension. Below are the images and transcriptions of this portion of his application. He was awarded a pension of $8/month paid in semi-annual installments of $48. He got $77.16 for back pension payments. His daughter, Patience, age 33 and feeble, is my 4th great-grandmother and his granddaughter, Sarah, age 7, is my 3rd great-grandmother. 

Seeing the inventory in these images, I am reminded of the debt we owe our veterans for their sacrifices and our duty to care for them and their families. 

Maine                                           been wholly applied    
Dominicus Smith                                 to the discharge of his
Privat 1 year 1776                              first Debts -
1 Schedule, June 1820                           His age 68. Farmer -
14 acres of poor Land –                        Patience – 33 – very feeble
A small house & Barn                            Jedediah – 11 – Christiana 8
1 Cow – 1 pair of small                        Sarah – 7 -
Cattle – 6 sheep – At Home
a few articles of furniture
amt. of Schedule $219                           Recorded 2 Sep 1823

2 Schedule – 2nd May 1823
Real Estate – none –
an old Home & a few
articles of furniture –
The Real Estate in
first Schedule was sold
to Elisha Smith, Febry
6. 1821 – Deed made and
acknowledged same day –
Consideration $150 – the
proceeds of said sale have

Schedule of real and personal estate, (necessary clothing and bedding excepted) belonging to me the subscriber viz:
Real estate – I have none
Personal estate – One old horse and a few mean (unk. Word) or cooking utensils and household stuff.
      Since the exhibition of my first schedule the following changes have been made to my property and circumstances. The fourteen acres of poor and rocky land mentioned in said schedule I sold to Elisha Smith in February 1821 – for one hundred and fifty dollars, with which I paid [Doet?] Emerson about sixty dollars – and an execution in favor of [Dort?] Aaron Porter against me for about 50 dollars and the rest has been appropriated to pay sundry small demands I owed to different individuals and for my family’s support. The Stock mentioned in said schedule has also been consumed in the support of myself and family – I have no income or prospect of any
                        Dominicus Smith
May 2, 1823
      Signed and sworn to
            Before me Asher Ware D.J. of U.S.

Schedule of family residing with me Dominicus Smith,who by occupation am a farmer – which I am not able to pursue by reason of bodily infirmity – am not able to do a days work
Names       Ages              Capacity of each to contribute to their support
Patience – a daughter 33     very feeble
Jedediah          11                     
Christiana         8          young children not able to support themselves  
Sarah             7

11.769 R
District of Maine
Dominicus Smith
of Biddeford in the state of Dist. of Maine
who was a private in the regiment commanded by
Colonel Patterson of the Massachusetts
Line for the term of one year
Inscribed on the Roll of the Dist. of Maine
At the rate of 8 Dollars per month, to commence on
The 16th of May 1818
Certificate of Pension issued 11 of June 1819
and sent to [unreadable]
Saco, District of Maine
Arrears to 4th of Mar 1819 [unreadable] $77.16
Semi-anl. all’ce ending 4th Mar 1819  $48 ~
            {Revolutionary claim,}
            {Act 18th March, 1818}

                        Yorke County

Dominicus & Jedidiah (Tarbox) Smith
David & Patience (Smith) Shepard
Jacob & Sarah (Shepard) Emmons
Gilbert & Laura (Emmons) Yates
Estes & Eva (Hayes) Yates
Linona Yates - my grandmother

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy History Jackpot!

I was working on genealogy and looking for some possible Revolutionary War ancestors when I hit the jackpot. Dominicus Smith, my 5th great-grandfather, on the Yates line lived in Biddeford, District of Maine and enlisted in the army in 1776. Last night I downloaded images of his application for a pension but I didn't have time to read them. This afternoon I started transcribing his testimony and this is what I found. (Bold is mine)

Transcription of the Revolutionary Pension file of Dominicus Smith.
I Dominicus Smith of Biddeford in the County of York & commonwealth of Massachusetts aged fifty eight years & native citizen of said Commonwealth declare & say that about the tenth of January anno domini 1776 I inlisted as a private soldier in Captain Nobles Company & in Col. Patterson’s Regiment of the Massachusetts Line & Continental establishment to serve for one year. We were stationed at Cambridge hill April & then marched to New London & New haven & then went to New York & then we marched to Albany, then to Saratoga over the lake to St. John [Saint-Jean] & to Moreal (Montreal?) & was detained there a little while where we had the smallpox & then retreated to St. Johns & there crossed the Lake & made a stand at Fort Independence till October, & then marched down to Albany thence went down the North River & crossed over the state of Jersey to Pennsylvania & there joined General Washington & then recrossed the Delaware & attacked the enemy at Trenton & after that marched to Princeton & had an engagement with the enemy there & drove them down to (unk. word, perhaps Brunswick) & we were marched to Morristown for winter quarters where I tarried till my time of one year expired & I inlisted again in the same regiment for six weeks at the expiration of which time I was discharged in writing & also had a written pass to go home but have lost them both supposing after I had got home that they were of no value – I further declare I have no property & am indeed in circumstances & stand in need of support from the country – I have no pension – I am now growing old and much infeebled & not able to labour sufficiently to afford me a comfortable living - & I pray I may be allowed something to live upon 16 May 1818.
                  Dominicus Smith

Washington Crossing the Delaware
Washington at Trenton
Battle of Princeton

I Stephen Bryant of Saco, County of York & Commonwealth of Massachusetts aged sixty one years depose & say that I have read the declaration of the above named Dominicus Smith & testify that it is true, & that I served a private soldier in the same regiment during the time mentioned in said Smith’s declaration & in the battles there mentioned & am well knowing to his being honourably discharged as he has stated after he had served the year & six weeks for which he engaged.       Stephen Bryant
16 May 1818 –
Commonwealth }
Massachusetts } This 16 day of May Anno Domini 1818 personally appeared before me the subjects the above named Stephen Bryant & being duly sworn made oath to the truth of the testimony by him in my presence subscribed-
George Parker (or Barker) {one of the justices of the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Dominicus Smith & Jedidiah Tarbox
Patience Smith & David Shepard
Sarah Shepard & Jacob Emmons
Laura Emmons & Gilbert W. Yates
Estes Yates & Eva Hayes
Linona Yates - my grandmother

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's Deism?

I need to credit Chris Dunham of the Maine Genealogy Network for the information about Cyrus Buck and the picture in this post. If you haven't checked out this great web site for those with Maine roots, you really should.  This is a link to his original post

In the Greenwood City Cemetery (Martin Cemetery) in Greenwood, Maine, one headstone bears an unusual epitaph. The stone is inscribed with the name "CYRUS M. BUCK" and gives his birth and death dates but it is the rest of the inscription that draws attention. "God is nature; Bible a humbug written by wicked, vulgar priests. Death was a debt I owed. I have paid that debt, so must you. To do good was my religion."  Chris posted an article from the Lewiston Evening Journal of 18 Dec. 1935 that gives some explanation of the life and views of Cyrus Buck. It states that the inscription was requested by Cyrus. The short story is that Cyrus underwent a great change in outlook after the death of his mother. The author of the article said he began to follow the philosophy of "Tom Payne" and "made himself think he was an atheist." 

My connection to this headstone is that Cyrus was married to the grand-daughter of my 4th great-grandfather, Rev. Edward M. Whittle, a Methodist preacher. I hadn't found information that Edward had more children than my 3rd great-grandmother Martha who married Moses Yates. However, if Lydia Whittle was his grand-daughter then Martha must have had a brother. This makes Lydia Whittle Buck my 1st cousin, 4 times removed. 

A point of correction is that the philosophy of Thomas Paine was not atheism but Deism. Deism was a common philosophy among the founding fathers. Deists believe in the existence of God based on reason and nature but do not accept the Bible as the infallible word of God. They believe that after creation, God has left the universe to run on its own according to natural laws. Looking at the quotes of Thomas Paine give context to the epitaph of Cyrus Buck. 

"I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy." 

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." 

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My mind is my own Church." 

Given Deism's rejection of the Bible and Christianity, it is easy to see how one  might mistake Cyrus an atheist. However, Deists marvel in the beautiful order and harmony of the natural world and believe this proves the existence of God. Since Deism isn't an organized religion but merely a philosophy, it is not possible to make a list of famous Deists. However, some famous people who expressed views in accordance with Deism include: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Ethan Allen, George Washington, John Locke, James Madison, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and Thomas Jefferson. It would seem that Cyrus Buck's views were not so unusual after all. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census

My finds so far: Carter - Grandparents & Dad
Yates - Grandmother and Mom

Yates - Great grandparents & great aunts and uncles

Blake - Grandfather