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Archive for April, 2013

This year for the first time I had the pleasure of attending NERGC. Thursday’s schedule was a bit slow-paced, but Friday’s schedule (Day 2) was jam-packed with activities.

On Friday and Saturday, the first lecture of the day started at 8:30. On Friday I first chose “Loyalist Migrations: Leaving & Returning to the States,” given by Chief Paul Bunnell, UE. For those that don’t know, Paul Bunnell has published several books on Loyalists as well as a number of other books. So far, my earliest immigrants to what eventually became the Canadian province of Ontario were Loyalists who left the rebelling Colonies behind. My family eventually came back to the States, but they left many of their relatives behind in Ontario, and most of the folks I’ve met through my research who are researching one or more of these same lines still live in Canada. Loyalists are still a hot topic here in New England after over two centuries, with some researchers whose family all stayed in New England and who believe all of them supported the revolutionaries becoming bitter any time any Loyalist who fought in New England is mentioned, so I had been pleasantly surprised to see on NERGC’s schedule that there was a talk on Loyalists.

I really enjoyed Paul Bunnell’s lecture. He started out with two statutes that were supposed to apply to Loyalists in the new States, one included in the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and another passed in 1784. Loyalists were, for example, supposed to get their seized land and other seized property back. I knew from my research that this did not happen, and indeed, he pointed out that not a single state honored these statutes. Turning federal theory into local practice was apparently simply not possible for the young United States.

The thing that struck me the most was that though there were only approximately 3,000 Loyalist claims put in to the Crown, not all of which were approved, he mentioned that since he had started doing Loyalist research many years ago, the total number of Loyalists who left the American Colonies has been significantly revised upwards several times, to the point where it is now estimated to be around 150,000. With a staggering difference of 147,000, he advised that the some of the best ways to try to determine whether your research subject that moved to Canada was a Loyalist if there was no claim are to try to determine when they left the now-United-States, where they settled, and who settled in the same immediate area. He also suggested checking shares in ships as a possible record source for locating a Loyalist and finding associated people, as many times families and associates would all buy shares in one ship.

Paul Bunnell said that the fastest, easiest way to determine who settled in the same immediate area is through the maps of the initial land grants, but unfortunately, as he noted, these appear to primarily survive for New Brunswick. This is great for researchers of New Brunswick Loyalists, but many more people settled in Nova Scotia and the future provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Often people from the same original location in the Colonies and/or the same military regiment would settle in the same immediate area, and he has been able to use the New Brunswick maps to successfully track many people back to their origins in the now-States via their associates. As someone who tremendously loves maps anyway, I remain disappointed that there appear to be so few extant ones for the early European now-Ontario settlements.

Paul Bunnell stressed early and repeatedly that Crown land grants were not given out evenly nor fairly. The high-ranking military officials got by far the most land, and single white men and any black men (single or not, military or not) got the least, at only 50 acres per man, which was very difficult to successfully live off in most of the areas Loyalists settled. Due to this unfairness and other issues, there were a number of riots of white and black Loyalist settlers, especially in certain areas.

Paul Bunnell also noted that there were a number of Loyalists, especially elderly women, still alive in Canada in 1851, and should clearly be marked as “UE” (for United Empire Loyalist) on the 1851 census. After NERGC I tried this with the only one I personally knew was a possibility – the daughter of a UE who got a land grant for her family when the Crown started allowing children of Loyalists to apply – but her entry does not list her as UE. I don’t know if this is because technically it was her father who was UE, not her, or if it’s because the enumerator in this district seems to have been kind of phoning it in; for example, her birth place is only listed as “Cda” (standing for “Canada”).

Next up, I continued with the day’s “Military Track” by attending “Researching Your French and Indian War Ancestor in New England,” by Craig Scott, CG; the conflict that we usually call the “French and Indian War” here in the States is known in Europe as the “Seven Years’ War.” For those that don’t know, Craig Scott is an expert on military records relating to American conflicts, including colonial-era ones. I am generally interested in the history of this war that so impacted the New Englanders and New Yorkers in my tree and have also accidentally found numerous casualties of the Native American raids on colonists’ settlements in the late 1600’s to early 1700’s in New England vital records of the time period [the latter, though more closely tied to the earlier war generally known as “King Philip’s War” than the French and Indian War, is the subject of another draft in my blog files, hopefully to be posted here someday soon]. Additionally, I have at least one ancestor that local histories state was a soldier in the French and Indian War, but I have done very little research on his possible service to date. Consequently, this was one of the lectures that I circled as a must-attend as soon as I registered for NERGC. It exceeded my expectations.

Craig Scott set the stage for his lecture by showing a French map of colonial North America followed by an British map of colonial North America. The differences in their views, including the way they colonized a place, were more starkly illustrated visually than they ever could have been in words, and just looking at the two maps, it was apparent that there was likely to be conflict over the places these views overlapped. Craig Scott expressed the opinion that in retrospect, there was no question at all which of the approaches to colonization would win, and which of the societies would consequently become the permanent new settlers of North America.

Craig Scott went on to discuss some of the colonial wars in North America, putting them into two categories – wars exclusively with Native Americans, primarily over land issues, and wars between colonial powers, most of them starting in Europe. He stated that the French and Indian War is an exception to the latter category; it started here and ended there. While it is commonly called the French and Indian War here in the States, he generally referred to it as the Fourth Anglo-French War, and stated that part of the issue was that the Third Anglo-French War had never fully ended here in North America; though the French had stopped fighting in North America, many of their Native American allies continued fighting between the two “official” wars. In North America, the Fourth Anglo-French War was fought from Acadia (now Nova Scotia) to Fort Niagara down the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers in Pennsylvania and the South.

In 1748 the British Crown approved a 200,000 acre grant near the forks in the river where Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, stands today. Craig Scott argued that the French built their fort at now-Pittsburgh in direct response to this. The fort became one of the issues that led to war. Despite the war so impacting North America, he pointed out that most of the colonial fighting took place in the British Crown’s top-priority colony of India and that the last battle of the war was fought in Manila Bay. He mentioned as an aside that this same prioritizing of India would stretch the British military thin, causing the Crown to not send enough troops to quickly quell the 1776 rebellion in North America.

Troops fighting on the British side in the French and Indian War/Fourth Anglo-French War included the British Army, the Colonial Forces, two types of militias known as the Colonial Militia and the County Militia, Sailors and Marines, and Native American allies. The Colonial Militia was generally tasked with protecting the home front and had “no great interest in wandering far away.” Many in the British Army treated the colonial soldiers poorly.

The general guideline Craig Scott suggested is to look for possible service of any North American man of British descent who was between the ages of 18 and 60 during the war. No New Englanders successfully obtained bounty land from service in this war, so that would be a fruitless search. Because so much of the war was fought by New Englanders in New York, Craig Scott recommended the New York Historical Society Museum & Library as a good resource for those of us researching New Englanders who served in the war, as well as mentioning multiple times that the National Archives [UK] has a good number of records since anyone serving at the time was technically serving in the British military. He also advised researchers “follow the money” by utilizing treasury records, including people being paid for military service and colonists being paid for logistical support. I can personally attest to this as an excellent strategy; I have utilized treasury records extensively in my research of the American Revolution in Vermont.

My Twitter friend Beverly Hallam (@Beverly_H_) is the volunteer research co-ordinator for the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) and did some follow-up when I mentioned Craig Scott’s comments on the impact the Crown’s heavy military investment in India had on their global interests at this time. On FIBIS’s Wiki, she found some internal and external links on the Seven Years’ War in and near India, which you can read here.

For those of you that have never attended an American genealogy conference before, there are typically conference-sponsored workshops, luncheons, and dinners that cost extra to attend beyond the conference price and generally have a limit, after which further people are placed onto a waiting list. The luncheons and dinners are typically sponsored by a genealogical society, genealogical company, or similar. The only one I attended at NERGC was next up on my schedule – the Friday luncheon sponsored by the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC) and featuring Laura Prescott giving a presentation titled “Jousting with the Gatekeepers” of records. MGC is an umbrella organization whose primariy mission is working to monitor records access on a state and national level and, if necessary, to mobilize genealogists and others that need to access American records to support or oppose specific legislation.

This luncheon was a bit different than ones I’ve attended at one-day events in the past; they waited until about everyone had finished eating before beginning the presentation. After a brief introduction on what MGC does, the first speaker introduced Laura Prescott. I didn’t really know what to expect from her presentation, but much of it consisted of specific stories regarding people having anywhere from an incredibly easy to extremely difficult time accessing records in specific locations. This wide mix reflected my own experiences, and I’d imagine that anyone who has tried to access records in a variety of different locations has probably had similarly varied experiences. The talk succinctly illustrated how important the “gatekeeper” is to our ability to access records. Laura Prescott ended with some steps we can all take to try to keep the best access to records possible, including being ever-vigilant towards proposed legislation.

Our table was a mix of people I already knew and ones that I had not known before sitting with them. The couple that sat down next to me turned out to live in a town in Vermont where one of my lines settled in the late 1700’s, which is also next to a town where another line of mine settled around the same time. They had moved there from elsewhere and were excited to meet someone who has an ancestor mentioned in the tome* on the history of the town, though I suspect I was even more excited than they were at meeting people who live somewhere of research interest to me! Since NERGC, we have been emailing. (*You probably think I’m exaggerating, but it’s one of the books I jokingly keep in mind at the library as a way to injure an attempted attacker if it’s ever necessary.)

As a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the vegetarian entree was actually good. As a vegetarian I often find that at catered genealogy events, non-vegetarians take most of the vegetarian choice(s), for whatever their reason(s) may be, and that the vegetarian choice(s) tend to be rather boring and sometimes not very tasty. Thankfully for this luncheon you pre-ordered your entree when you registered, and were served it by waitstaff rather than the much more common self-catering.

On Friday and Saturday, the afternoon contained three lecture time slots, as it had on Thursday. On Thursday I had heard reports from people I knew that they had been unable to attend the lecture they wanted to attend because the room was full by the time they arrived, so by Friday I tried to make it to a room quickly to reserve a seat even if I ended up temporarily leaving between my first arrival and the start of the lecture.

My first choice on Friday afternoon was Steve Morse’s “Genealogy Beyond the Y Chromosome: Autosomes Exposed.” The largest room was crowded for this talk on DNA, showing the great interest in the subject that was also reported by people who attended DNA sessions at RootsTech 2013. Steve Morse made it very clear at the beginning that he was not a genetics expert, but rather a layperson interested in explaining the science behind DNA tests to others. Thanks to his clear, concise, visuals-heavy explanations tailored for fellow laypeople, I felt like I finally fully understood the science behind the autosomal DNA testing my family had done.

At the end of his talk, Steve Morse recapped the different kinds of testing currently widely available to genealogists. According to him, Y-DNA tests can potentially find both recent and “deep” cousins, mtDNA tests are primarily for finding “deep” cousins, autosomal DNA tests are primarily for finding recent cousins and/or testing amongst potential recent-common-ancestor relatives, and the tests that tell you your percent of each ethnicity are junk science that doesn’t really tell you anything.

In the last part of his presentation and again in answer to some questions, he stressed that you are at the mercy of the statisticians to match you and/or interpret your results; for tests where you are matching to recent cousins, it’s much more difficult for the statisticians to make an error that will significantly impact your matches, but once you get back to deep ancestry or if you are taking a test to determine your ethnicity percentages, it is much easier for a statistician to interpret your results in a way that skews your results and/or your matches. He also stressed repeatedly that because autosomal DNA changes with every generation, with potential significant differences even between full siblings, it’s not very accurate beyond about 4-5 generations at the way the technology stands today.

Next I stayed in the large room for Lori Thornton’s “Digging Up the Dirt on Your Farmer.” While I thought the lecture was interesting, it wasn’t what I expected from the title and description. Most of the highlighted records were ones that could apply to people in a variety of occupations rather than specifically applying only to farmers.

For me, my best takeaway from the lecture had nothing to do with farmers. One of the example record sets she gave was the Vermont Religious Certificates, which early Vermont required of Christians who were of other denominations besides Congregationalist, what the Puritan denomination had become over time. I had forgotten this record set existed, as almost all of my New Englanders were Puritans/Congregationalists. I have been trying for some time to figure out what church my great-great-great-grandmother attended at the end of her life; she mentioned it in a letter to her grandson using a church name that appears to have been colloquial, as I have not been able to use the name to successfully determine the church. I was briefly hopeful that perhaps this could be a source to utilize in my search, but unfortunately I later quickly determined that the certificates had stopped being required decades before she would have switched churches, and also that they often don’t mention the specific alternate church the person is attending anyway. However, it is good that I was reminded of the record set and it will now stick in my head as a possible future source.

I was somewhat surprised that when discussing land grants and homestead applications, Lori Thornton only mentioned the low-information one-page land patents that have been scanned onto the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office (BLM-GLO) site, but did not include information on ordering homestead or other applications, what the applications could contain, nor the survey maps that the BLM-GLO scanned onto their site a few years ago. I wondered if perhaps this was because it seemed from her presentation that almost all of her research was in the Deep South of the U. S., and in the federal land states in the Deep South the process was mostly a cash-entry land patent system rather than systems such as the land grants offered to veterans of the War of 1812 (or next-of-kin if they were deceased) starting in the 1850’s primarily in the Midwest and the homesteads primarily in the Plains and West that began via the Homestead Act of 1862. Cash-entry applications, such as those that were common in the South, typically are only a few pages long and typically contain almost no information on the research subject, though I have heard stories from other researchers about surprise gems found in those slim applications as well, a good reminder to never write off any record as automatically being useless in a search.

On the way home that night I asked the person with whom I was carpooling that day, who had been sitting with me at the farmer lecture, if they had checked whether their New Englanders who moved to the American Plains had taken out a homestead. They said they had not, and in response I detailed some of the information that can be found in the applications and they said that they had never realized how much information can be found in them and that they were going to investigate further. I readily admit that I am biased; homestead applications are one of my favorite American and Canadian record sets.

As my last lecture choice of the day, I continued with the previous lecture’s “Occupations Track” and went to Jayne Jordan’s “Indentured Servants in the New England Colonies.” She didn’t have enough handouts so I never received the handout of resources, and she had no working projector so we had no visuals for what she said was supposed to be a visual presentation. I left that talk not really having a better idea of how to research indentured servants than when I arrived. The primary benefit for me personally from that lecture is that one of the examples she gave was of a family that I’m as sure as I can possibly be from the given date and location was headed by a brother or first cousin to my direct line, but is a collateral line that I haven’t thoroughly researched so far. From the lecture I now know that at least according to her research, some of their children were removed from their home and placed into indentured servitude, which provides me with a place to start, even though I will have to figure out on my own how to do the research. She did not state whether she found the information on that family in original records or some other source.

I have had Freedom Bound: Law, Labor, and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865 by Christopher Tomlins (USA: Cambridge University Press, 2010) in my to-read pile for some time. Not having read it, I cannot tell you how good it is, but I can tell you that based on the index, there are many references to indentured servitude, including a number of specific references regarding the various English colonies, with the largest amounts being for Pennsylvania and Virginia.

After the last lecture of the day, I attended a private reception for alumni and teachers of Boston University (BU) Center for Professional Education’s Certificate in Genealogical Research program. It was nice to see a number of familiar faces and meet some new folks. Around 50 people attended, though I am sure that there were more program alumni present at NERGC than at the reception. The NERGC Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were pushed back from their original scheduled start of 7:00 to starting at 7:30, so unfortunately I never made it to so much as the beginning of any of them.

………

My own experiences that day will probably go down as one of the strangest days of my life. We are of course always living future history, but at least for me, only occasionally does it really strike me that I am, at that moment, living history that will be remembered by many around the world.

I woke at 5:00 and turned on the news to discover that there had been a shootout the previous evening between the police and the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. Shortly after I began watching the news, the authorities announced that much of metropolitan Boston was now in “lockdown” and the entire public transit system had been closed. I live a little beyond the lockdown area – about a 15-minute walk from the border of the nearest locked-down town – but my friend with whom I was carpooling that day called at 6:00 to say they were on their way and would call back if they encountered any roadblocks or other problems. We were able to make it up to Manchester, New Hampshire, with no issues, though we did see a good number of speeding, siren-blaring police cars zip past going the other direction while we were leaving the metro area. I would subsequently discover that the BU staff member who had coordinated BU’s NERGC reception was not present at the reception because she did live in one of the towns in the lockdown, so I was lucky to have made it there.

When I arrived at NERGC many people who knew me expressed happy surprise to see me there, saying, “I didn’t know if you were going to make it.” I often responded, “I made it here, though I’m not sure at this point whether I’ll be able to make it home tonight.” This was true; I knew it was possible I would have to spend the night outside the metro area, depending on how events unfolded that day. NERGC volunteers had printed out stickers that said “WE ARE BOSTON” for attendees to put on their badges and had put them at the registration desk. Before the first session started and during every break, a throng of people clustered around the hotel lobby’s television, perpetually on a news channel on mute, to see if there were updates, and in the hallways people often asked me if I’d heard anything new recently.

On the car ride home we turned on the radio and discovered that the remaining suspect had been located but not yet apprehended. Shortly after I got home authorities announced that he had successfully been apprehended. I was so busy all day that I did not get the chance to check Twitter until I was home, and many of my Twitter friends had expressed worry over the day. (Thank you all for your concern.)

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This past week, for the first time I had the pleasure of attending the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (known as “NERGC,” and pronounced sort of like “nerk”). NERGC is held every two years in various places in New England, mostly small cities. This year NERGC was held in Manchester, New Hampshire, about an hour’s drive from metropolitan Boston, and I was able to find people with whom to carpool each day.

NERGC opened with a first-timers’ session, which folks recommended I simply skip as they thought the information in it would be too basic for me. After the session I talked with another first-timer who did attend it and said that there wasn’t any useful-to-them information given in the session, so I was glad that I had decided to socialize instead. In the lobby of the hotel where the conference was being held, I met Heather Wilkinson Rojo of the well-known blog Nutfield Genealogy in person for the first time after meeting her online a number of years ago, and saw many other people.

Next on the schedule was what the program called the “opening session,” which was comparable to what many other conferences and events term a “keynote speech.” While I was waiting in the crowd to enter the big hall, another person waiting said that as of that morning, there were 863 people registered for NERGC. While as a first-timer to NERGC I don’t have a basis on which to compare this, reactions of others to that number and generally to the large crowds for the venue suggested that this was a lot for this conference.

For the main speech of the opening session, Sandra Clunies discussed the mill workers of Lawrence and Lowell, towns in Massachusetts that were built on the mill trade, spending a fair portion of her lecture on three specific example mill workers. As regular readers of my blog know, some of my family lived in Vermont starting in the 1700’s. One of my ancestors was born on a farm to a large family. My ancestor was the oldest child and stayed in Vermont, but his three oldest sisters sized up their options in the small, mostly rural Vermont community and decided to head to the booming mill towns around the time they opened in eastern Massachusetts. There is a very good chance that they were introduced to mill recruiting materials in their town and it is quite possible that one of the mill agents actually visited their town, as the agents knew that girls and young women from small farming communities were excellent candidates to recruit to mill work and traveled around talking with them and urging them to sign contracts with the mill they represented and leave immediately. [I have had a partially written post on his sisters and the mills in my blog draft file for months; hopefully one of these days I will finally finish and post it.]

Like one of Sandra Clunies’s three main example research subjects, my ancestor’s sisters made money and met husbands there. All three of his sisters married in Massachusetts and then literally went in different directions from there. I had hoped to gain new insight into the mill towns via the lecture, but as someone from one of the mill towns whom I met at a later lecture phrased it regarding themselves, “I already knew too much.” That’s certainly not Sandra Clunies’s fault.

For anyone who has an interest in the New England mill towns, I recommend reading Loom & Spindle: or, Life Among the Early Mill Girls by Harriet H. Robinson. I particularly recommend the revised edition that was published in 1976 by Press Pacifica. Future abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Hanson Robinson started working in the Lowell, Massachusetts, mills in 1835 at age 10, and Loom & Spindle is the memoir that she published decades later reflecting on her early life in the mills. Press Pacifica slightly revised the work based on notes in Robinson’s own copy of her book and added a succinct, informative introduction by Jane Wilkins Pultz that greatly helped me understand the mill girls’ politics and lives.

Next up was a break, for attendees to have lunch and for the venue to break the large hall where we had heard Clunies speak into smaller rooms for the afternoon lectures; at the end of the talk they requested everyone leave the hall so they could do just that.

After lunch I first attended Laura Prescott’s talk entitled “Spinsters and Widows: Gender Loyalty within Families.” The description led some of the other people I knew there to suspect the lecture would be too basic for them, and as far as I am aware, I am the only person I knew there who attended it. This was a shame, as I enjoyed it and did not find it overly basic. She started out talking about more and more American women waiting longer to marry starting around the mid-1800’s, and cited some specific examples of stories and songs from pop culture of the time period. This is something that I have noticed in my own research, but I had not heard the subject addressed in a genealogy lecture I attended before.

Laura Prescott then moved on to a variety of strategies researchers can use in researching the women in their families, including a variety of types of documents, websites, and repositories. I thought it was particularly interesting that she had found a document in a 19th-century American deed book wherein a woman who had waited some time to marry and thus accumulated some of her own belongings before marriage entered into a contract with her future husband, with a detailed list of a number of her belongings and a statement that these belongings were to be brought to a house secured by her future husband and his family in a specific town. Laura Prescott said she basically thought of it as an early prenup. I don’t think I would personally think of it in those exact terms, but I’m always fascinated to learn there is a record type of which I had previously been unaware.

The other thing I found most noteworthy about Laura Prescott’s talk was that she cited some examples of “spinster” being used in colonial documents to mean a woman legally acting for herself rather than the definition many of us most often encounter, a woman who has never married. When I heard it I didn’t remember ever hearing it before, though on the car ride home I was reminded that Melinde Lutz Byrne gave the same explanation in her National Genealogical Society Quarterly [U. S.] article on Zipporah and the headless baby. This is a good example that sometimes we just forget things! The article Laura Prescott suggested reading for more information is “Spinster: An Indicator of Legal Status” by Eugene A. Stratton, CG, FASG, in The American Genealogist 61:3 (Jan/Apr 1986).

I next attended David Allen Lambert’s talk titled “Massachusetts Native American Research.” Despite the schedule’s title, the description made it clear to me that this was not a general lecture geared towards learning how to research any southern New England Native American tribe, but rather a case study of the tribe known as the Punkapoag. I had already attended a talk of the former type at the Boston Public Library last year so I did not mind. I spent a semester of college living on a Reservation in British Columbia and traveling to other Native communities (or more precisely, “to other First Nations,” as it is phrased in Canada), and Native American tribes’ histories and cultures remain of interest to me. I found the lecture very interesting, though I don’t know how I would summarize it here. The audience for this lecture was one of the smallest of any of the lectures I attended at NERGC, which was too bad.

One thing that especially stuck with me is that David Lambert gave a few examples of people for whom he has only found one extant document for their entire life, and it made him wonder about all the people for whom he has not found any. This is something I think about a fair amount in my own research, especially when I am researching farther back in time and/or researching in frontier areas of North America.

The last lecture I attended on Thursday was Colleen Fitzpatrick’s “You Will Never Look at Your Old Photos the Same Way Again!” Forensic genealogy expert and retired rocket scientist Colleen Fitzpatrick gave several lectures at NERGC, and I chose to attend this one on using background details to help analyze old photos because I felt that it could be immediately useful in helping me to identify my old photos that have no date, no place, and/or no people listed. I was right.

Colleen Fitzpatrick successfully analyzed bits of background details that it never would have occurred to me to even attempt to do. My favorite example was her longest one, of trying to date a photograph of some men in a bar in New Orleans. She picked apart every background detail she could, including the cash register and the items on the wall, and when those didn’t successfully identify the date, she moved on to the items you could barely see outside the bar through the door, such as a car you could kind of see that she and the people she works with were able to identify as a particular type of Model-T, and the first manufacture date of the car gave a precise earliest date that the photo could have been taken. By the end of her work with the photograph, she was able to pinpoint the exact street address of the bar, the approximate date that the client’s ancestor took over the bar, the business across the street, and an approximately year-long time range when the photograph could have been taken.

In the process Colleen Fitzpatrick also found a number of background-information items that she considered interesting but which turned out not to help date the photograph. However, as she illustrated well, there is no way to know for sure whether something in the background of a photograph (or mentioned in a document, or…) will be useful in photo identification or other research until you do the background research and determine whether it is. This is very much the same way I work when I am researching so I found her process very easy to follow and understand. At the end Colleen Fitzpatrick took questions. Someone asked her what software she uses and she said that she does not use PhotoShop but rather freeware called IrfanView. I intend to try it out, but haven’t done so yet.

After the last lecture of the day, there was a structured hour-long break, followed at 5:15 by the “Society Fair & Social Hour” and at 6:00 by the opening of the “Exhibit Hall.” The Society Fair was comprised mostly of some of the smaller genealogical societies, most of them geographically- or surname-based. The vendors in the Exhibit Hall were primarily a mix of genealogical societies and libraries; genealogical services such as educational opportunities, websites, and professional genealogy companies; and private vendors selling such items as books and maps. Thanks to a tip from someone I know, I stopped by the Genealogical Society of Vermont‘s booth to check out the old books they turned out to be selling there in addition to their own publications. I ended up spending much of my hall time looking through their old books and chatting with the volunteers that were staffing their booth.

While we were chatting one of the Genealogical Society of Vermont’s volunteers told me a story regarding Vermont-born Chester Arthur, who was elected Vice President of the United States and then assumed the presidency when President James Garfield was assassinated in 1881. Arthur’s father had emigrated from northern Ireland to Canada, and their nuclear family had initially lived in Canada before moving to Vermont. Though Arthur was born after the family moved to Vermont, the question of whether or not he was an American citizen was a hot political topic during the campaign. The volunteer I was chatting with said that he had attended an event at Arthur’s historic house in Vermont where the staff said that having been unable to prove Arthur’s Vermont birth through vital records or other similar records, the staff had used state directories (small Vermont’s equivalent of city or county directories elsewhere) to prove that the family was residing in Vermont by the time Arthur was born.

I arrived home in metro Boston around 8:30-8:45 and was in bed by 9:30, before the shootout that night between the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and police in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts, had made the news, as I would discover very early the next morning.

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Some Tangential Further Thoughts

I know that often people who don’t normally visit a blog will visit certain posts specifically to read about conferences and other special events, so I’m putting most of my personal reflections and more tangential thoughts on each day at NERGC at the end of the post so these visitors don’t need to wade through them to read the rest of the post. Think of them as paragraph-sized bullet points rather than a narrative. You are of course welcome to simply skip this section.

For those of you that have never been to a genealogical conference before, it can kind of be a bit overwhelming, with a mix of information overload and sensory overload. I had hoped to blog during NERGC about the conference, but found that I was just too overwhelmed and tired to do so. I apologize that this first post is being posted a week after the conference. I am working on drafts for my other two days at NERGC as well as a draft of some general food for thought about what various genealogy conferences are doing well and some ideas they could maybe take from the way other conferences do some things. I hope to post all of these within the next few days or so.

My Thursday afternoon lecture choices were ones I consider pretty safe. I had heard both Laura Prescott and David Lambert speak on other subjects in the past, and a number of fellow alumni of Boston University’s Center for Professional Education’s Certificate in Genealogical Research Program had taken the Forensic Genealogy course that Colleen Fitzpatrick co-taught at Boston University last summer and raved about her teaching skills. Some genealogists I know prefer to stick to the well-known names in lecturing and teaching because they feel that guarantees a good lecture. But those well-known names became that way because someone initially gave them a chance. Personally I prefer to go to lectures by people I have heard before, speakers and/or lectures that are recommended by people I know, or subjects about which I am interested in learning more. This last one means that I have heard some dud lectures in my lifetime, but it also means that I have heard some gems where I was one of only a handful of people in the room.

One of my good friends says that there are two kinds of genealogists, the type that are interested narrowly and very specifically in genealogy and are only interested in  any history that they believe is directly applicable to their research, and the type that are also interested in history for history’s sake. As readers that are my friends and/or follow me on Twitter are likely already aware, I fall squarely in the latter category. I enjoyed David Lambert’s Punkapoag lecture for its own sake, but I can understand why attendance was small and most attendees chose to instead go to lectures that they hoped would directly* impact their research. (*Almost everyone I saw at NERGC seemed to be white, though of course I can’t speak to other people’s heritage nor research interests.)

As someone without a car, I am limited in what events I can attend by what is accessible by public transit or knowing someone with a car who is attending and willing to take me along. I count myself as lucky that I was able to carpool to NERGC this year and greatly thank those that carpooled with me and the additional person that offered to carpool after I had arranged all my rides.

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If you haven’t already, please first read “Connecting the dots: Charles Evans (Part 1).”

Did Charles Evans have two families?

Charles Evans seemingly disappeared from England after the 1851 census and seemingly reappeared in England on the 1871 census, newly with a wife named Catherine and a son named William. In 1871 William was reportedly age 8 & born in Scotland. Since searches of the 1861 England & Wales census had gone nowhere, a search was conducted of the 1861 Scotland census. Evans may be a very common surname in Wales and a relatively common one in England, but it is an uncommon surname in Scotland, and there were very few Charles Evanses of any age listed in the index to the 1861 Scotland census.

A Charles Evans in Scotland

A Charles Evans was located in the district ScotlandsPeople calls “Shipping” and I used some of my credits to purchase the scan of the census page. Rather unusually for Scotland censuses of the time period, Charles Evans’s exact birth place in England is listed – “Devon Hartland.” Charles Evans is listed as married, age 32, and an “A.B.” (which stands for Able-Bodied Seaman). The enumeration page doesn’t list any details at all at the top, but thanks to a tip from Kirsty of The Professional Descendant, a search for the citation on Ancestry yielded an enumeration district of “Hogue” in Greenock, Renfrewshire. I developed the theory that the enumeration district was the name of a ship. It took much less time than I expected to discover that a ship named H.M.S. Hogue was serving as a Coast Guard ship out of Greenock at the time, according to this site. This is the only Charles Evans who was indexed as being within 2 years of “my” Charles’s estimated age; the next closest one was listed as 5 years younger than “my” Charles.

A search for births of children named William Evans in Scotland similarly yielded a small number in the entire country. One of them was indexed as having been born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, in 1862, and I used some of my ScotlandsPeople credits to purchase the record, which turned out to be a wise purchase. The birth record for William John Evans listed his father as Charles Evans who was serving on the Hogue, but any hopes of discovering Catherine’s maiden name and confirming this was the same family were shattered. Rather, William’s mother was listed with the maiden name of Susan Stokes. Scottish birth records handily also list a marriage place and date, and Charles, who reported the birth, listed their marriage date as 23 December 1859 and the place as “South M__ Middlesex,” the __ being difficult to read on the scan. William John Evans’s exact birth date was listed as 1 September 1862 at 3 a.m.

A search of “Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950” on FamilySearch did not turn up any further births of an Evans child to a Stokes mother in Scotland. This index-only database allows for searching by the maiden name of the mother in the mid- to late 1800’s, which ScotlandsPeople’s site does not.

A Charles Evans in Middlesex

Using the information from William’s birth record, a banns record was located for Charles Evans and Susannah (not Susan) Stokes in the London Metropolitan Archives records that have been scanned onto Ancestry, their banns taking place in January 1860 at St. Giles in South Mimms, Middlesex. They subsequently married at St. Giles in South Mimms on 23 March 1860, exactly three months after the marriage date that Charles listed on William’s birth record. This initially puzzled me, as William wasn’t born until over 2 years later, so why lie?

A possible answer was quickly discovered. On the 1861 census, Susannah was not in Scotland but in the parish of South Mimms, living with her brother Andrew Stokes’s family and with a 1-year-old child named Charles Evans. Susannah’s age was listed as 36. Susannah had no occupation listed, not even a reference to her husband’s occupation, though the latter was included on English censuses for many other women who had husbands working away from home and no paid job of their own. Susannah and Andrew’s widowed mother Ann Stokes was living next door with John and William Stokes, sons who reportedly had never married.

Younger Charles Evans’s baptism record, at Christ Church in Barnet, lists his name as Charles Evens Evans (that’s not a typo) and his parents as Charles and Susannah Evans; the baptism occurred on 29 April 1860, a day that two other baptisms also occurred at the church. FreeBMD has an index of the birth of a Charles Evans Evans (also not a typo) in the 1st Quarter of 1860 in Barnet Registration District, which includes both Barnet and South Mimms; the certificate has not been reviewed.

It seems that perhaps marrying a bit longer before the birth of his apparent first child (or possibly “before at all”) was more acceptable to the elder Charles, though apparently only enough to lie about it to others, not to do it. It is particularly interesting to note that the banns took place two months before the marriage. A fellow researcher believes that some men wanted to wait to see whether their pregnant and betrothed girlfriend was very likely to carry the fetus to term as a living infant before going through with the marriage. It seems that the Charles Evans/Susannah Stokes marriage could be used as an example of that researcher’s theory, regardless of whether that is a correct interpretation of Charles’s behavior.

“You’re the best he’s had, you’re the best so far

All the way to the church from the back of a car.”

The Beautiful South

Susannah on Her Own

In 1871 Susannah, age 37, listed as married and still listed with the surname “Evans,” was living with her widowed mother Ann Stokes, age 76, and (only) a third child, Sarah Ann Evans, age 4, in South Mimms at a “Brewers Company Almshouse,” of which Ann is described as an “Inmate.” This almshouse seems to have been exclusively for widows, as everyone listed as an inmate of it in 1871 was also listed as a widow. By this point Susannah is listed with a paid job as a dressmaker. It took little time to determine that by “Brewers Company,” the enumerator meant the Brewers’ Livery Company of the City of London, which had run almshouses at South Mimms since 1686. Ann Stokes’s exact connection to the Brewers’ Livery Company is unknown so far.

Sarah Ann’s baptism was not until 11 September 1876, but the baptism record lists a birth date of 13 March 1867, consistent with Sarah Ann’s 1871 census enumeration. Listed as Sarah Anne Evans on the baptism record, her parents are listed as Charles and Susannah Evans, but it is the only baptism in the surrounding 4 pages of 1876-1877 baptisms at St. Giles where the father’s profession is left blank. There was no space provided for listing the mother’s profession.

Had Susannah and her husband Charles split up by this point? Was Susannah supporting herself and her daughter on her own? Was Charles’s profession blank on Sarah Ann’s baptism because Susannah now did not know for sure what it was?

Is this Charles the same Charles Evans who in 1871 was reportedly married to Catherine Evans and was living with a William Evans who was described as a son, 8 years old, and born in Scotland? The William John Evans who was born in Greenock in September 1862 would have been 8 years old when the census was taken in April 1871. But just because it could be the same William, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In 1871 this Evans family was living in Mile End Old Town; while it was near the other end of Middlesex from South Mimms, it was within the same county.

No matching Charles Evans has been found on the 1871 Scotland census.

More Questions Than Answers

So far, the 1876 baptism record of Sarah Ann Evans is the most recent record located that lists Susannah (Stokes) Evans. It is possible that Susannah shortly remarried or died. A search by birth place of the 1881-1901 censuses on FindMyPast did not reveal any Susanna(h)/Susan Evans who reported her birth place as South Mimms (or variant spellings) nor Potters Bar (the parish next to South Mimms, Potters Bar had been part of the parish of South Mimms when Susannah was born and was where Susannah generally stated on censuses that she had been born). The search did locate a few women named Susanna(h)/Susan who were living in various places around the UK and were married to other men. While almost all of the households had children who were born before Susannah would have remarried, without having done further research tracking the other families back in time, I must keep in mind that it is possible that they were the wife’s stepchildren.

There is no definitive indication of what happened to Susannah and Charles’s first child, Charles, after his 1861 enumeration, though he may be the Charles Evans who is indexed as having died in South Mimms’s registration district, Barnet, in the 1st Quarter of 1864; the certificate has not been reviewed. A burial record was found in the St. John the Baptist in Potters Bar burial records for a Charles Evans who died at age 4 and was buried on 27 Mar 1864; while this is consistent with what is known so far about Charles Evans Evans, nothing in the record clearly identifies this Charles as Charles Evans Evans. This is the only Evans burial that matches this family in the digitized burial records from St. John the Baptist in Potters Bar and from St. Giles in South Mimms.

While a separate parish named Potters Bar was created in 1835, St. John the Baptist was a part of South Mimms parish even though it was called St. John the Baptist at Potters Bar. Similarly, the Stokes family seems to have lived in the section of Potters Bar that remained part of South Mimms parish when Potters Bar parish was spun off, as the family’s records usually refer to the children as born in Potters Bar, the 1841 census says they are living in Potters Bar in South Mimms parish, and the family primarily used St. John the Baptist after it was opened in 1835 as the second church in South Mimms parish. This map shows South Mimms parish in 1842, when Susannah would have been about 9 years old, and includes part of Potters Bar near the upper right edge of South Mimms. The railway came to the area in 1850, with a station opening at Potters Bar/South Mimms, and apparently drastically changed the area. There is more on the Potters Bar and South Mimms area at Potters Bar History Online, where I found the linked map and station photo.

To date there is also no indication of what happened to Sarah Ann Evans after her 1876 baptism. An initial census search for a Sarah Ann Evans or Sarah Evans who was born in South Mimms or Potters Bar did not return any good hits past the 1871 census. This isn’t conclusive that she died; for example, if Susannah (Stokes) Evans remarried, Sarah Ann could be enumerated under her stepfather’s surname. There are also no indexed deaths of a Sarah Evans or Sarah Ann(e) Evans dying in Barnet Registration District between 3rd Quarter 1876 and 2nd Quarter 1881, though this could just mean she wasn’t properly indexed (misindexed or not indexed at all) or that she died elsewhere.

Leads on Charles Evans

The records tell more than what I have revealed so far.

The 1860 records indicate that the Charles Evans who married Susannah Stokes and had a child Charles Evans Evans with her was living in South Mimms at the Militia Barracks there, working as a “Sarjeant Middlesex Rifles” (marriage record)/”Staff Sergeant of Militia” (baptism record). South Mimms was in the corner of Middlesex on the Middlesex/Hertfortshire border and was already occasionally listed on records as being in Hertfordshire, which it would later officially become. The younger Charles’s baptism record says that the family was living on New Road in Barnet at the time of the baptism, but since this was only about a month after the marriage record that listed both adults as living in South Mimms, it is unclear whether this is correct. It is possible that the family had the child baptized in a different church than where they were married so that they would be interacting with a Curate that didn’t know they had married around the time of their child’s birth, and consequently they may have deliberately lied about their residence.

Unfortunately the banns and marriage records only list Charles and Susannah as of full age. However, the marriage record, which correctly (based primarily on censuses so far) lists Susannah Stokes’s father as Andrew Stokes, Wheelwright, lists Charles Evans’s father as John Evans, Pensioner. This fits with the large amount of known information on “my” Charles’s father, but since John Evans is such a common name overall in the UK, it could simply be a coincidence. To date, the only record that definitively ties Charles and Susannah together and lists an age for Charles is the 1861 Scotland census, which lists his age as 32. This age is most consistent with the stated age of the Charles Evans who was discharged from the Army in (probably) September 1850 at a stated age of 22. This does not necessarily mean that it is the same Charles Evans, nor that it rules out the possibility of a deliberately or mistakenly given incorrect age on any record. If it is the same Charles Evans who enlisted in the Army, it could even be that the military already had an incorrect age from his previous service and simply continued using it.

A Search for Military Records

A search of digitized militia records has so far not revealed a Charles Evans serving in that area at that time, although the search is ongoing, as a thorough review of the files necessitates going through each one page-by-page to confirm that the indexing is accurate and the file holds no additional information that might confirm or discount that it is the correct Charles Evans. Based on Charles Evans showing up on the 1861 census serving in the Coast Guard, he appears to have transferred to the Coast Guard before the 1861 Army Census, but I searched the Army Census as well to be thorough, and did not find any matching Charles Evanses.

In My Ancestor Was in the British Army, Watts and Watts help explain why I have had so little success so far, such as: “It must be noted, however, that much material relating to the militia was never collected centrally and should be sought in County Record Offices and private collections.” According to them, so far no full book has been published on militia records, though they believe the subject deserves one. Through reading on the National Archives site and other websites I grasped that: 1) the militia consisted of volunteers by the time that Charles Evans the Sergeant or Staff Sergeant was serving in it; 2) the militia was generally a part-time job; 3) the militia group known from 1794-1813 as “the Volunteers” was, to quote the National Archives site, “revived as the Rifle Volunteers in 1859.” This fits perfectly with Charles Evans being listed as in the Middlesex Rifles in 1860. If the two Charles Evanses are one, the typical part-time nature of the work could help explain how Charles would have had the time to pick up the trade of tailoring.

While Coast Guard files are digitized as part of the Royal Navy files on the National Archives site, when I didn’t find any matching Charles Evanses nor any matching people from Hartland in the indexed files, I reviewed the section on possible reasons why the person one is seeking may not be indexed even if they did serve in the Royal Navy, and determined that people who were serving as early as Charles seem to only be included in the digitized but unindexed register, not the indexed files. I downloaded the Coast Guard register, but it is 202 pages of handwritten lists of names that aren’t indexed and aren’t listed chronologically by enlistment date nor alphabetically by name, so searching it has been extremely slow going. The only relevant things I have managed to determine so far are that people from the time period Charles enlisted and people who enlisted directly onto the HMS Hogue are both included in the register. Unfortunately the register only lists the name of the first ship onto which the person enlisted, so if Charles initially enlisted onto a different ship, scanning for the word Hogue wouldn’t help locate him. So far I have failed to find him in it. If I do locate him, it would give me the number through which his Coast Guard file could be located.

How Many Charles Evans from Hartland Are There?

So far it seems reasonably clear that a single Charles Evans reportedly was in the militia in Middlesex (apparently in the one known as the Middlesex Rifles, though googling that gets one, um, interesting results) and married Susannah Stokes in South Mimms and had at least two children – Charles Evans Evans and William John Evans – and probably a third, Sarah Ann Evans. Because of William John Evans’s birth record, it also seems reasonably clear that this same Charles Evans transferred from the militia in Middlesex to the Coast Guard and was stationed up in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, by April 1861, and that Susannah went up to Greenock to give birth in 1862. Something happened to Charles Evans Evans between 1861 and 1871, but while it was most likely death, that is not clear. William John Evans was not enumerated as living with Susannah (Stokes) Evans in 1871, but whether he had died or was living elsewhere, perhaps with his father, is also unclear.

Susannah was listed as married in 1871 but also still as an “Evans,” suggesting that she was still married to Charles Evans and likely at a minimum believed her husband was still alive, but whether he really was alive and where he was, if so, is not clear from the census. There is a Susannah Evans indexed in Barnet Registration District as dying in the 2nd Quarter of 1877 at age 43, which is consistent with what is known to date about Susannah (Stokes) Evans, though the certificate has not been reviewed. This is the only indexed death for a Susanna(h) Evans at any time in Barnet Registration District, although Susannah (Stokes) Evans could have remarried and/or could have died in another registration district.

As mentioned, William John Evans could be the William Evans living with Charles and Catherine Evans in Mile End Old Town in 1871, but that is not clear. There is a William Evans, 18, b. Scotland, living in Hertfordshire on the 1881 census (when William Evans is not living with Charles and Catherine); he is boarding with a family and listed as being in the Militia. So far no militia record has been located for a William Evans that even roughly matches the census information, so it is unclear whether this 1881 William Evans has any relationship to any of these other Evanses. To date no marriage record has been located for Charles and Catherine (___) Evans in England & Wales or in Scotland. While at this point it seems possible that they did not officially marry, that is far from definitive. Even if they did not officially marry, that does not necessarily mean that “Charles Evans the common-law husband of Catherine ___ and apparent father of William Evans” is the same person as “Charles Evans the husband of Susannah Stokes and father of Charles Evans Evans, William John Evans, and probably Sarah Ann Evans.”

And one overarching question lingers: If this isn’t the same Charles Evans, then where was “my” Charles Evans from 1851 to 1871?

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

[genealogical saying]

Major Additional Steps Taken So Far

  1. Contacted someone researching the Stokes family and Susannah’s Charles (no response yet)
  2. Searched digitized newspapers without success
  3. Traced some, but not all, of the Stokes family members looking for further clues to Susannah and Charles and their children, since Susannah and (at least some of) the children seem to have spent most of their time living with her biological family rather than with her husband

Planned Next Steps

  1. Continue searching for/through military records from afar
  2. Order more certificates from England
  3. Continue tracing Stokes family members looking for clues to what happened to the Evans family
  4. Attempt to determine connection to unidentified marriage witness (one witness was Hannah Stokes, probably Susannah’s brother Andrew’s wife; the connection, if any, of the other witness to the couple is unknown)

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Note

Due to a small but significant editing error on my part, when I initially published “Connecting the dots: Charles Evans (Part 1),” one bullet point was missing a “not.” While I corrected my error in my post when I realized it, I am also noting it here for anyone who may have read that post before the correction. The bullet point should have read, “In these census searches it was also noted that there did not appear to be any other Charles Evanses living in England & Wales who reported a similar age and a birth place of Hartland” (with emphasis on the “not” added here for clarity).

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