Thursday, February 28, 2013

Funny Friday - Harry Head

This is not a relative but I came across this World War I registration card while searching someone else. The name of the emergency contact made me chuckle. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lost & Found

Over the years of working on my genealogy I have lost and found more ancestors than I can count. Think of your clothes over the past decade. You find something that you think is amazing and awesome only to discover later that it doesn't really fit or isn't quite right and you discard it. Watching an ad for makes doing genealogical research seem so easy; just type in a few details and up pops a leaf that leads to fascinating facts about your ancestors. Unfortunately, real research is not that easy. Oh, you can just click on those leaves and add all sorts of things to your family tree but do so at your own peril - it's a bit like buying clothes on impulse. There is a lot of sloppy research and erroneous information out there. I am finding an increasing number of hints where the record does not even have the same name as the person for whom it is being suggested. The family trees that others have done are often equally misleading and not all sources/records are created equal. 

This is not, however, a rant about the horror of amateur family historians or an attempt to discourage you from starting your family tree. Quite the opposite. I remember the thrill of clicking and adding relatives when I first started. There were no shaking leaves then but still plenty of information that was easy to find. If it had been more difficult, I might have gotten frustrated and given up. I have seen my students experience that same thrill. I admit that I am not a purist. I jump around from branch to branch and work on whatever part of my tree captures my attention in that moment. I do not work methodically on a single line until it is done. 

However, I have learned to temper my enthusiasm with a healthy dose of skepticism about what I find online. I use trees of other members as starting points for research and look for records to back up what is recorded. I have made my trees private after being ripped into several times by those who believe no information should be recorded until it is completely verified. 

Finding ancestors is like being a private detective. You have to follow the clues and collect enough evidence to make your case solid. You will receive lots of tips and most of them turn out to be irrelevant and misleading but with persistance, you can find reliable information and solve the mystery. Sometimes it's a preponderance of circumstantial evidence and that's the best you can do.

Assembling ancestors into a family tree is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes a piece seems to fit but later you notice the subtle clues that show it isn't quite right and you begin again to find the piece that goes in that spot. Each piece you correctly identify and fit into place goes into making the larger family picture come to life. 

I do make errors but even when I have to lop off a branch from the tree because I've made a mistake, I always learn something and often find interesting stories of people and history. So get in there and start looking. Use the easy hints to get some traction but go back and evaluate with more care. I suggest using two trees - one for leads and possibilities and one that is as carefully documented as you can make it. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

One Year Blog Anniversary

First I want to thank the awesome community of genealogy bloggers! You have been so welcoming, encouraging, and helpful. I have learned a lot about genealogy in general and my family specifically because of your kindness. By joining this community I have learned more in one year than in all the previous seven years of researching. I have to give some extra credit to Bill West of West in New England and Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy as my earliest sources of inspiration and two of my biggest supporters. If you want to take your genealogy to the next level and see your ancestors as more than names and dates on a page, start blogging. Finding stories is easier than you think.

Some stats from my first year of blogging - 95 Posts:

Total pageviews - 10, 115

Top referring sites - Google, Facebook, Google UK, and Geneabloggers

Audience - Primarily U.S. but almost 1000 pageviews from Russia, other countries represented include: UK, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Ukraine, Latvia, and China

Browsers - 41% Firefox, 26% Internet Explorer, 18% Chrome, 8% Safari, various mobile applications

Operating Systems - 61% Windows, 21% Mac, 11% Linux, the rest are mobile systems

Most viewed posts
Happy St. George's Day
Romance in Rockport
Slaves in the Family
Aroostoock War
A Truelove Connection

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Battle of Britain

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my genealogy blog! I am celebrating by reposting my first story. 

Thomas Wilson, author of A Christian Dictionarie

Thomas Wilson was the minister at St. George the Martyr Church in Canterbury from 1586 to 1622.  He was also a prebendary* of Canterbury Cathedral. He was buried in his parish on the 25th of January 1621-22. He was the first to attempt to compile a dictionary of the Bible in English. The first edition appeared in 1612 and a second in 1616. Other editions were published after his death. He also published other works including Commentarie upon the most divine Epistle to the Romans  and Christ's Farewell to Jerusalem. 

In attempting to find information about the church, I discovered an interesting but sad story. The church was destroyed during a bombing raid that devastated much of downtown Canterbury in World War II. All that remains is one tower. On the night of May 31st/June 1st, 1942 Canterbury was targeted as part of the so-called "Baedeker Raids."** This attack was likely a reprisal for an R.A.F. bomber raid on Cologne the night of May 30th. About one fifth of the City of Canterbury was destroyed that night as about 100 bombs and 6,000 incendiaries were dropped in two and a half hours. Fire damaged many properties because the majority of buildings were made of timber. Forty-three people died, forty were seriously injured and forty-one had less serious injuries. Follow-up attacks came on June 3rd and June 7th but these were not as destructive as the June 1st attack. 

The church had a long history. There is evidence of a church on the site from 1100 A.D. It had been enlarged, most recently in 1879 when another local church was closed and the two congregations merged. 

Quotes about Thomas Wilson:
Robert Cushman (a member of the Pilgrim group in Leiden) - "a very excellent preacher in Canterbury, who was both a lover of goodnesse and good men." 

Historian Peter Clark - "probably the most distinguished preacher in early Jacobean Kent [who preached] themes from middle-of-the-road Calvinism." 

*prebendary - an honor granted to senior priest in the Anglican Church usually awarded for long and dedicated service to the diocese. 
** Baedeker was the publisher of an English travel guide book reportedly used by the Germans to choose their non-military targets. They looked for cities with at least three stars for historical significance. 

10th Great-Grandfather
Rev. Thomas Wilson & Christian Ower
Theophilus Wilson & Elizabeth
Seaborn Wilson & David Fiske
Anna Fiske & Timothy Carter
Benjamin Carter & Sarah Stone
Timothy Carter & Sarah Walker
Timothy Carter & Frances Freeland
Elias M. Carter & Rebecca Williamson
Augustus M. Carter & Mary Frances Stanley
Edward M. Carter & Fannie May Capen
T. Richard Carter & F. Lyndell Cotton

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Where Is the Body?

Simeon F. Brown died while serving in the Civil War. He contracted swamp fever in New Orleans and died in Marine Hospital. Records show he was initially buried in Cypress Grove Cemetery but was disinterred and moved to the Chalmette National Cemetery. However, he has a grave stone in his hometown of Bethel, Maine. That stone is inscribed for both Simeon and his wife, Harriet C. Bean, who apparently never remarried. I wonder where his body actually remains. What type of records would show whether his body was moved a second time and brought home to Maine? Was it common to erect a gravestone at home even if the body remained in the National Cemetery? I'm interested in hearing from anyone with similar stories. So far, the consensus seems to confirm what I suspected - that it is unlikely the body was moved from Louisiana and that the tombstone in Maine is a memorial marker for Simeon and marks the grave of his wife Harriet. 

1870 Census shows Harriet, her two daughters, and her mother living with her brother's family. 

Simeon F. & Harriet C. (Bean) Brown were the great-grandparents of my grandfather, Clayton L. Blake. Isabelle Brown was his grandmother.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Surname Saturday - Simeon F. Brown

Simeon F. Brown was born on June 16, 1833 to Benjamin and Mary Brown. 
He married Harriet C. Bean and they had two daughters, Isabelle, born in 1857, and Phebe, born in 1861. When the Civil War started, Simeon enlisted in the 12th Maine Infantry, Company D. The regiment was organized in Portland in November 1861. They went to Massachusetts where they were taken by steam ship to Ship Island, Mississippi. In May 1862, the regiment moved to New Orleans and thence to Camp Parapet where Simeon contracted "swamp fever." Swamp fever is also called ague and refers to a fever with alternating intervals of chills and sweating. He also was suffering from dysentery according to a letter in the widow's pension file. When his illness worsened, he was sent to Marine Hospital in New Orleans, where he died on January 9, 1863. His grave stone in the East Bethel Cemetery mistakenly says 1862 but all the documentation in his pension file says 1863. 

Simeon Brown was my grandfather, Clayton L. Blake's, great-grandfather. Isabelle Brown was his grandmother. There is additional information in his pension file that will provide material for future posts. 
Photo used with permission. Originally posted at - Really good information on medicine during the Civil War

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Divorce Court - Adultery with Certain Lewd Women

Last weekend, I wrote about my 2X great-grandmother who was married 4 times. Chris Dunham of the Maine Genealogy Network sent me a link to this record of the divorce of Lizzie M. Philbrick from Francis Llewellyn Cotton. Interestingly, my grandmother always claimed her father, Ray Everett Cotton (referred to as the child, Everett R, in this proceeding), was quite the ladies man and not a faithful husband. I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree. 

No. 205
Lizzie M. Cotton
Francis L. Cotton

Lizzie M. Cotton of Farmington within our 
County of Franklin Libellant
Francis L. Cotton of Norway in the County of 
Oxford, Libellee

In a plea of divorce from the bonds of
matrimony as herein set forth, viz:
To the Honorable Justices of the Supreme
Judicial Court next to be holden at Farmington
within and for the County of Frankin, State 
of Maine, on the first Tuesday of March A.D. 1893.
Lizzie M. Cotton of Farmington in the 
County of Franklin and State of Maine, re-
spectfully libels and gives this Honorable Court 
to be informed that her maiden name was
Lizzie M. Philbrick; that on the twenty first day
of September A.D. 1887, at Norway in the County 
of Oxford in the State of Maine, she was law-
fully married to Francis L. Cotton (whose legal
wife she now is) by Caroline Angell, a minis-
ter of the gospel duly authorized to solemnize
marriages, that she has one  child as the re-
sult of said marriage, named Everett R. Cotton, 
aged four years. That ever since said intermar-
riage your libellant has always considered her-
self as a faithful, chaste, and affectionate wife
toward her said husband, yet the said Fran-
cis L. Cotton, wholly regardless of his marriage
covenant and duty on the first day of July
A.D. 1889, and on divers other days and times 
between that day and the date of this libel
committed the crime of adultery with certain lewd
women to your libellant unknown. 
Wherefore she prays that the bonds of mat-
rimony between her and her said husband may                Mar. 5, 1893
be dissolved, and that the care and custody of
her said Child, Everett R. Cotton may be de-
creed to her.
Dated this twenty sixth day of January A.D. 1893
Lizzie M. Cotton

This libel was inserted in a writ of attach-
ment and served on the libellee as appears by
the following return of service thereon:
“Oxford as. February 2, 1893.
I attached a chip as the property of the within de-
fendant and I have this day summoned the
within named defendant for his appearance at 
Court by giving him a summons writ in hand, 
and also a true and attested copy of the within
libel for his appearance at Court. 
Jonathan Blake
Deputy Sheriff”

This libel was entered in this Court at the
present term when and where the defendant 
failed to appear and although solemnly called
made default; and on the seventh day of the term
after a full hearing it was adjudged and decreed
that the said Lizzie M. Cotton be granted a divorce
from Francis L. Cotton for the cause of adultery; 
and it was further decreed that the custody of the
minor child be given to the mother. 
E. E. Richardson  Clerk

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Desperate Housewives - Turn of the Century Maine Edition

First I'll confess that I've never actually watched an episode of Desperate Housewives - any edition. But it seems that my 2X great-grandmother would be a good candidate based on the documents of her life. We can start with her name. 
Mary Lizzie - age 4
The first census she appears on is in 1870, age 4, Mary Lizzie Philbrick, daughter of Benjamin P. & Jane A. Philbrick of Mount Vernon, Maine. Ten years later, she is listed as Lizzie A. Philbrick, daugher of Perlie B. & Jane A. Philbrick of Mount Vernon, Maine and on her marriage records and subsequent census records, she is either Lizzie M. or Lizzie May. 

Next let's assess her marriages - all four of them! 
She married Francis Llewellyn Cotton sometime before their son, Ray Everett Cotton, was born in 1888. I cannot find the marriage record for this one. It is Ray's marriage record that led me to the identity of his mother. On Ray's marriage certificate his mother is identified as Lizzie M. Philbrick of Readfield and born in Mount Vernon, Maine. 

Next, she married Hiram B. Stoyell (Stowell is handwritten on the top of the marriage record) in Farmington, Maine on March 21, 1893. It is listed as the groom's first marriage and the bride's second marriage. Francis Llewellyn Cotton goes on to marry twice more so they were divorced before March 1893. 

On June 27, 1903, Lizzie May Stowle, daughter of Perley Philbrick and Jane Matthews Philbrick, married John E. McGavin in Dover, N.H. Her age is listed as 33 which would make her born about 1870 - four years younger than she actually was. Her husband was 32. So now she's lying about her age. I can find no census records or death records that for that allow me to concretely identify this John E. McGavin. However, by 1909, Lizzie was no longer married to Mr. McGavin and had returned to using the name of her previous husband. That and the fact that there were no children from this marriage pose some interesting possibilities. Perhaps her husband died within a few years of marriage or the marriage was annulled. I guess the third time wasn't the charm!

And for the finale, on July 8, 1909, Lizzie M. Stayell, daughter of Perly Philbrick and Jane A. Matthews, married Eugene D. Wakefield in Berlin, N.H. She is still fudging a bit on her age because she is listed as age 40 and her husband is age 36. She had her second child, Charles M. Wakefield in 1909. There is a marriage record for Eugene marrying a Myrtle Green on July 25, 1899 in Bath, Maine. The parents' names are the same as they are for Eugene who married Lizzie so this would be marriage number 2 for him and marriage number 4 for Lizzie. 

In the 1910 census, Eugene D. & Lizzie M. Wakefield, are living in Hallowell, Maine and their ages are listed as 32 and 44, respectively. So he has gotten magically younger and she is magically older (back to what is consistent with her first census records). 

The only two children I can find born to Lizzie are Ray Everett Cotton born in 1888 and Charles M. Wakefield born in 1909. On the World War I draft card for Eugene D. Wakefield, dated September 17, 1918, his nearest relative is listed as Arthur L. Wakefield of Bath so it seems unlikely he was married to Lizzie at that time. I have found no trace of Lizzie after the 1910 census so in the absence of a death record, I am making the preliminary determination that she died between 1910 and 1918. I have found no other records for Charles M. Wakefield either so I am not certain that he lived to adulthood. 

So great-great-gram...changed her name around, married 4 times, divorced 2 or 3 times, and lied about her age to make herself seem younger. Sounds a bit scandalous to me. I'd love to know how her family reacted to her choices. 

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