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Posts Tagged ‘52 ancestors’

My father died last week. American Independence Day was his favorite holiday, so today seems like the best day to share a little about him here. He loved fireworks, and would spend the rest of the year planning out his personal fireworks display for July 4th. We would sit on our back porch, and our neighbors would sit on their back porches, and sometimes guests would be invited too. It was only when I grew up that I fully understood how much planning went into it, and how much pride he took in providing one night of delight a year to the rest of us. Where I live now, fireflies are a recent phenomenon, only coming in the past five years or so and still not seen very often. But where I grew up, fireflies are common in summertime, and the 4th of July was the height of their show. I remember, as twilight came to our neighborhood, running in the front yard with friends, holding sparklers as hundreds of fireflies flew around us while we waited for it to be dark enough for my father’s fireworks show to begin.

Below is my father with his mother and his great-aunts (both are his mother’s aunts).

my father on his mother's lap, with her aunts

Below is my father with his father.

my father as an infant, being held by his father

Below is my father with his aunts (both are his father’s sisters).

my father with his aunts

Below is my father with his little brother, Burrie.

my father with his little brother

Below is my father with his older cousin Janie. They are standing at the edge of the lake where his mother’s ashes were scattered and where his ashes will be scattered as well.

my father as a child, with a smiling Janie.

The thing that’s always gotten me the most about death is that life goes on. One life is snuffed out by natural causes or otherwise, a thousand lives in a tsunami or a battle, millions in a global epidemic or a genocide – no matter how it happens or how many die in one day or one event, the world spins on. Rain is lashing my windows as I finish this post, part of the huge Hurricane Arthur that is moving up the Atlantic Seaboard, and there are still bills to pay and a meal to cook. This is why I started my 52 Ancestors posts with my father’s little brother, Burrie, who died as a child, and why I photograph the gravestones of as many colonial children as I can. No one should be forgotten, no matter where or when they lived, no matter how recent or how long ago, no matter whether they lived for one minute or more than a century. After everyone who knew a person has died, it’s up to genealogists, historians, and archivists to carry on the mantle, to keep their existence known and preserve as much of the past as possible. I hope that after I am gone, this post will remain as a signpost to show that my father existed in this world.

Rest in peace, Dad.

my father as a child, looking out a car window.

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By all known accounts, Eliza Smith was born around 1867 somewhere in England. Her marriage record says her parents were named Peter and Emily Smith. As far as I have ever been able to determine for sure, Eliza Smith was dropped off by an alien spacecraft in Ontario, Canada, just in time to meet her would-be husband.

In actuality there’s a good chance that Eliza Smith was the 14-year-old English-born servant of the same name in the household of farmers Andrew and Ruth Gillespie in East Zorra Township, Oxford County, Ontario, enumerated on the 1881 census. It would put her in Oxford County – since you can’t wed someone who’s not proximate – and the Gillespies’ next-door neighbors were my Eliza’s future husband’s first cousin and his wife, Abraham and Elizabeth (McKee) Brown, and perhaps a visit to his cousin’s farm was how they met. But the trouble with tracking someone who’s moving around alone is that it’s hard to prove definitively that it’s the same person, even without adding the problem of a common surname.

Regardless of whether she was a servant girl in 1881, Eliza married George Alfred Brown in Woodstock, Oxford County, Ontario, on 29 May 1889. George’s brother Donald Manson Brown, who went by Manson, was one of the witnesses, and the other was named Mary Sim. When they married, George said he was 28 and Eliza said she was 22. Born in what had been known as Canada West at the time, and was by then known as the province of Ontario, George had established himself as a young farmer before the wedding. The family should appear on the 1891 census, but as yet I still haven’t found them.

The young family shortly decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere, and in 1893 they emigrated from Ontario to Dakota Territory, where they filed a homestead application and George applied for American citizenship, which would automatically naturalize Eliza and their children as well if his application was successful. The wedding had begun a pattern that would continue the rest of their lives: Known relatives serving as witnesses on documents were always from George’s side of the family, and so it was with their homestead application, when George’s brother-in-law William Adams was a witness for their application. George’s brothers Manson and David also moved down to the Upper Plains. William and his wife Mary Louisa (Brown) Adams had moved to Clark County, Dakota Territory, in 1887 and Manson had moved to Clark County in 1890, and it’s likely that George and Eliza followed them there. David moved a bit later, settling in North Dakota after Dakota Territory was split into two states and admitted to the United States.

In 1900 Eliza and George’s family was living in tiny-population Thorpe Township, Clark County, South Dakota, where they were farming, as were Manson’s and Mary Louisa’s families. In 1904 Eliza and George buried their daughter Emma Grace Brown. In 1905, Eliza and George reported on the individual cards of the South Dakota state census that they were living in Mt. Pleasant Township, Clark County, and that George was still a Farmer. Had they chosen bad land for their homestead or given it up for some other reason? I have yet to find Mary Louisa and William on the 1905 state census. In 1910, Eliza and George’s family had apparently slightly moved again to the small farming community of Elrod, Clark County, South Dakota, where Mary Louisa and William were also now living. Meanwhile, Manson’s family was “steady on,” still farming in Thorpe Township. Manson was listed as running a Stock Farm in 1910 while George and William were just listed as Farmers. In 1915 Eliza (whom appears to have been enumerated as Lisa) and George were still in Elrod and George remained a Farmer, but George reported on the individual-index-cards South Dakota state census that he did not own his own home/farm.

Between 1915 and 1920, George and Eliza decided to seek their fortunes anew, and moved again to Aitken County, Minnesota, fairly north in the state next door to where they had been. They left their older children behind in South Dakota when they moved. George’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary Louisa and William Adams, had moved from South Dakota to Aitken County by 1914, when their elderly mother died in Aitken County, having moved down from Ontario to have Mary Louisa take care of her after she developed paralysis.

George and Eliza began operating a dairy farm in Minnesota, and their oldest remaining child, Andrew McKinley Brown (who went by “Mac”), helped out on the farm while the youngest two, Ada Henrietta Brown and George Milton Brown, attended school. The lightly populated township of McGregor, fully enumerated in 8 pages in 1920, appears to have been a heavy dairying area, and with industry column comments like “New Settler” (repeated several times in the 8 pages) and “Hay Farm,” the 1920 enumerator Niels P. Hansen makes me feel like I have been dropped back in time and am walking along with him from farm to farm, standing beside him while he talks to his neighbors. I love record-keepers that are more specific than the record requires them to be; in a village and township with a mix of American-born folks and immigrants, he noted that the Italians were from Sicilia, my Canadians were from Ontario, and the Germans were from various German states and cities. Unfortunately Eliza’s birthplace entry is one of the few that has the lack of specificity of only stating a country, and Niels (as I think of him) also wrote her given name as “Lisa.” Given that this appears to be the second known American record where Eliza was written as Lisa, it raises the question of whether perhaps people in the Upper Plains of the States were unfamiliar with the given name Eliza or perhaps the way Eliza was pronounced made it sound like “Lisa” to those more familiar with the latter name. Alternately, may Eliza have possibly gone by the nickname Lisa in her everyday life?

By 1930 Eliza and George had moved once again, to nearby Jevne Township, Aitken County, and they finally owned their own farm again. There were no children left in the household, but plenty of relatives next door – their son Milton was renting the farm next to theirs, and their daughter Ada and her children were living with Milton while her husband worked as a trucker for a logging camp. The family had been lucky to have left South Dakota, where the northern Dust Bowl had hit particularly hard starting around this time. My relatives who lived through the Dust Bowl in South Dakota told me that, for example, you had the choice of opening your windows and risking choking on dust, or keeping them closed in a house with no air conditioning and scorching heat outdoors. I know from what I have read that some babies really did choke to death on dust. The 1940 census suggests that Jevne had not been hit nearly as badly by the Dust Bowl and the Depression as the area of South Dakota that Eliza and George had left behind.

In 1940 Eliza and George were still in Jevne, and George was the respondent for their household. He reported that he and Eliza had both completed 6th grade and that they were living in the same house as in 1935. At 79 and 74, neither had an occupation listed. George’s brother David was now living next door with his second wife Mary, listed as running a farm though they were age 78 and 75. Eliza and George’s children Ada and Milton were still living on the other side of Eliza and George, now split into two separate households, with both families also running farms. By far the youngest child, Milton had achieved the best education of Eliza and George’s children, reporting that he had completed three years of high school.

George died in January 1949 at age 88. Eliza lived 2 1/2 more years, dying on 28 September 1951. Her death certificate lists her birth date as 8 March 1865, her father as Peter Smith, and her mother as unknown. Neither of them seem to have left a probate. Some people, like George, stay closely connected to some or all of their relatives through much or all of their life. Others, like Eliza, seem to leave and not look back. None of my relatives even knew possible names for Eliza’s parents until I found her marriage record in my research.

Many fellow researchers have offered me suggestions for trying to track Eliza’s origins and a few have even followed some leads on their own on my behalf. Nothing to date has panned out. Record after record connects Eliza and George to George’s family, not to any relatives of Eliza. Researching the household she appears to have been working for in 1881 has gone nowhere, as has researching the witness to their marriage who wasn’t a known relative of George’s. The only Eliza/Elizabeth Smith on the 1871 Ontario census who might match turned out in subsequent research to go by her other given name on the rest of the records in her life, so it seems that my Eliza may have come to Ontario on her own. No passenger list has been located to date, and despite the common name, there don’t appear to be any good candidates in home child databases. No good match for an Eliza Smith in the household of a Peter & Emily Smith has been found anywhere on the 1871 England census (and I am not even sure whether she was still in England at the time). Perhaps one or both of her parents had died and she was taken in by a relative or a neighbor, but if so, I don’t know how I would figure that out since I don’t even know the area where she was born. People have suggested that perhaps she left England on her own when she was fairly young to run away from something or someone, maybe even changing her surname to the generic Smith, and while all of that is possible, I have no idea how I would ever prove it. If she appeared in Ontario as a young teen because she was running, she appears to have taken the secret to the grave with her.

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I am arguably fortunate in having had many of my colonial New England families studied by scholars, sometimes genealogical scholars, sometimes scholars in other fields, sometimes both. Probably the biggest possible down side of this is that well-respected scholars tend to be taken at face value by many genealogists, probably on the belief that since they are well-respected scholars, they are thorough in every aspect of their research. Donald Lines Jacobus, one of the early to mid-20th century leaders in turning American genealogical research from generally consisting of hearsay, family traditions, and fabricated noble/royal lines into a scholarly discipline, researched and published on a number of my colonial New England lines and we are related through at least one ancestral line, the Lymans. Hale, House, and Related Families, Mainly of the Connecticut River Valley by Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman (originally published in 1952, a 1978 reprint is available online at HathiTrust) includes a number of my families, and I use it as a reference for sources.

When I was working back on tracing the Pynchons and allied families, I used Jacobus and Waterman’s sources as a starting point. I was able to confirm much of their information via their referenced sources. And then I came to a supposed ancestor named Jane Empson, whom they list as the daughter of Richard Empson, and state that this father named Richard Empson served in the government of English King Henry VII and was one of the two people executed by King Henry VIII right after he ascended to the throne. I was able to confirm their sources on Jane’s adult life. They had stated that widowed Jane Pynchon had married Thomas Wilson and that again-widowed Jane Wilson had left a will that had been proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). I located her 1576 marriage to Thomas in Terling, Essex, in which she was listed as a widow, and her 1587 PCC will, which listed both her late husband Thomas Wilson and her Pynchon children by her first (known) husband John Pynchon, neatly tying together her adult life. So far this is the earliest extant will I have found that was written by a woman in my own tree. The Pynchon sons listed in her will that she made as Jane Wilson match the sons listed in her previous husband John Pynchon’s 1573 PCC will. Curiously, according to the Terling register, Jane and Thomas married after dispensation by the Bishop of London; so far, I haven’t sorted out what was going on there. (Also curiously, though Jacobus and Waterman reference the dispensation, they seem blasé about it.)

The 1582 PCC will that Jacobus and Waterman ascribe to Jane’s final husband Thomas Wilson, which does indeed seem to me to be the correct will, doesn’t mention Jane at all, and to me seems like it was partially intended to continue his good connections after his death, as his first bequest was to “my goode and loving friende Sir Ffranncis Walsingham, knighte,” who was one of Queen Elizabeth’s major advisors, and his second and third bequest recipients were his brother-in-law (who was another knight) and an esquire. After that, Thomas made bequests to his children. Once I got to the part in his will that specified that he had living biological children (a fact not mentioned in the book) I understood why his will seemed aimed to continue his good connections after he died. Connections like Francis Walsingham were extremely good ones for his children to have.

Jacobus and Waterman say that Jane’s absence from the will was “presumably because she had been provided for in a prenuptual contract,” but as the “presumably” indicates, they provide no source to back this up. Jane’s previous husband John Pynchon had willed her all of his property in County Essex for “her natural life,” and none of the conditions placed on the bequest included that she remain a widow. Whether her next husband would consider this enough for his widow, I cannot say for sure, but I think it is also a plausible scenario. Thomas did not mention any properties in Essex in his will, so it seems that even if the property Jane inherited should have technically legally been his after marriage, rights to it may have been retained by Jane, whether by a marriage settlement (to oversimplify, a 1500’s version of a prenuptual contract) or some other way. In Jane’s own will, she bequeathed the aforementioned Essex properties to her eldest son William, and rights to a dwelling-house in Thomas’s beloved London to her youngest son Edward. (Her middle son, John, was bequeathed money.) All of this was after their father had already bequeathed directly to them as well as to Jane.

But after researching Jane’s adult life, there was still the problem of Jane’s origins. Jacobus and Waterman referred to Jane as one of her alleged father Richard Empson’s heirs (more precisely, as a “coheir”), so I figured they had estate papers to back up their claim of parentage. But then I started researching the life of Richard Empson – not particularly difficult to do since he was a major figure in England’s government – and realized that the math didn’t add up. Richard’s execution was before it was particularly plausible that Jane was born given the documentation I did have, and Jane was not listed as one of his heirs in anything I reviewed. While it had been possible that she could have been an heir as, say, a grandchild or cousin, if she wasn’t listed as an heir at all and that was listed as the proof that she was his daughter, then what to do next? I have had this issue before, including with some much more recent scholarly genealogical publications, so my next strategy was two-fold – try to see if Jane even was an Empson by birth (whomever her parents were), and try to find the real source of this statement.

Unfortunately trying to find Jane’s origins is not an easy slog in surviving records of 16th century England. She could have married or been baptized in any of a number of parishes in a variety of counties, and could have even been married by license, which would have been separate from parish records. Additionally, only some parishes have extant registers from this period, so even a thorough search would not necessarily be able to conclusively prove that Jane was not an Empson unless a record were found that definitively showed her maiden name as something else, as there would be a good possibility that the relevant records don’t exist any more. So far I haven’t found a record of her marriage to John Pynchon. Without knowing her maiden name for sure, I don’t really see a point in trying to find her baptism record at this point, since even if I found a Jane Empson baptized in a time period that fit, that wouldn’t necessarily mean she was the person who married “my” John Pynchon.

Finding the origin of a questionable statement is almost always an interesting challenge to me. I located a number of 19th century authors that claimed Jane was the daughter and heir of the Richard Empson who was beheaded by King Henry VIII, which may be where Jacobus and Waterman found it and accepted it as fact (since they don’t share a source, I don’t know for sure). I eventually found an author who attributed the claim, listing Morant’s book on Essex as their source. It didn’t take much searching to find Morant’s wonderfully-lengthily-titled The history and topography of the county of Essex, comprising its ancient and modern history. A general view of its physical character, productions, agricultural condition, statistics &c. &c (1831) nor to discover that it is now online. For some reason searching the text for “Pinchon” does not turn up any hits even though there are multiple mentions of the surname, so I went through the “Writtle” mentions until I found the statement in question. Morant seems to have been a very enthusiastic local historian, but once I saw the Empson comment in context I realized that his genealogical work is, shall we say, not up to the par of the 1800’s, much less today. Quoted in part below, it is riddled with errors:

Nicholas Pinchon, of Wales, was one of the Sheriffs of London in 1532; he left John Pinchon, Esq., of Writtle, who married Jane, daughter of Richard Empson, (beheaded in 1509,) one of the hated ministers of King Henry the Seventh. This Nicholas died in 1573, and, with his wife, was buried in the north aisle of the church; his sons, were William, John of Springfield, and Edward, who was knighted. He had also two daughters; Elizabeth, wife of Geofrey Gates, of St. Edmunds; and Jane, the wife of Andrew Paschal, of Springfield. William Pinchon, Esq., of Writtle, married Rose, daughter of Thomas Redding, Esq., of Pinner, in Middlesex, by whom he had six sons and three daughters; of these, Joan was married to Sir Richard Weston, of Skreens, in Roxwell, chancellor of the exchequer, made baron of Stoke-Neyland, and earl of Portland. . . . (p. 171)

It is difficult to say where Morant got any of his information, since the only thing that seems to clearly be from a specific source is the information on where certain family members are buried in the church in Writtle (most likely from a church visit, but who can say definitively?). What I can say for sure is that the Nicholas Pynchon who was a sheriff in London in 1532 appears to have been from Writtle, and his PCC will names four sons, not three – Edward, William, Robert, and John – as well as his wife Agnes and a cousin John Pinchon of Writtle. Note that Morant has either latched onto the wrong Nicholas or made a serious typo with the death date, as the Nicholas who was sheriff left a will proved in 1533, a far cry from Morant’s claim of a 1573 death. As to saying Nicholas Pinchon was “of Wales,” I honestly have no idea so far as to where he got that, and I was able to find some later writers who had been equally baffled by Morant’s “of Wales” reference. (My only idea so far is that perhaps he badly misread a handwritten mention of “Writtle.”) The William Pinchon that Morant lists as Nicholas Pinchon’s son was really Jane and John’s son.

More digging on my part resulted in my locating what I believe was the likely origin of Morant’s information on the Pinchons, the 1612 Visitation of Essex, which was published by the Harleian Society and is now available online. The Pinchon pedigree in the Visitation states that John Pinchon’s wife was “Jayne daugh. and heire to Sr Richard Empsone Kt. She after mar. to Secretary Wilsone.” (there should be a few superscript letters in that quote). Note that the Visitation was in 1612, over a century after the Richard Empson who served Henry VII was beheaded. Note also that the pedigree does not state that her father was the same Richard Empson who was beheaded; if the pedigree is correct (and there’s no guarantee that it is), could she be the daughter of another Richard Empson? There are some errors in Morant that aren’t in the Visitation, so my educated guess is that the information had probably made at least a couple of hops on its way to Morant, like the game we called “Telephone” when I was a child, where you would whisper something to the person next to you, who would whisper it to the person on their other side, and so on, until what eventually came back to you was a garbled – or sometimes completely different – version of what you said.

In addition to my trawling through records long-distance, folks have gone to various archives in England to look through specific records for me, and it has proved fruitful. So far the clearest evidence that there was a connection between the Pynchon and Empson families is through heraldry. A manuscript identifies Jane’s son and daughter-in-law William and Rose (Redding) Pynchon as having had a shield design that was half Pynchon, one-quarter Empson or Epsom, and one-quarter Orchard. While this certainly doesn’t definitively show Jane as an Empson/Epsom by birth, it indicates there was some connection between the families. The manuscript is similar to the description of the shield design in the 1612 Visitation of Essex, though it appears that by the time of the 1612 Visitation whomever held the rights to it had added a symbol of an additional surname to the shield, that of a Weston family.

Whomever Jane was by birth, she seems to have been a shrewd and savvy 16th century Englishwoman. She married a man who was either wealthy to start or became wealthy over the course of his life, and in his will she was given the rights to property with no condition that she remain a widow. After at least three years operating her late husband’s property as a widow, she chose her next husband extremely well; the year after Jane and Thomas married, he was appointed joint Secretary of State, serving alongside his friend Francis Walsingham after another of his friends (and Walsingham’s prior co-secretary), Thomas Smith, died. Then, again a widow, Jane made a will that gave her sons additional benefits beyond those they had already gotten through their late father. For a woman of her time and place, marrying well and leaving children that were living, and living comfortably at that, when she died was about the best that she could hope to do with her life.

I was going to make this another two-person 52 Ancestors post, but this post is already pretty long and involved, and Thomas Wilson’s story is also long and intricate, so I’ll devote a future post to him.

For me, history is not something static – it is a constant flow in which those of us alive are participating now. Two hyacinths and a tulip that were introduced while Elizabeth I was queen of England are blooming in my garden now. While Thomas and Jane had died before the tulip’s 1595 introduction in the Netherlands, many of their children and grandchildren were still alive and may have walked past it, seen a painting that included it, or even grown it in their gardens. Additionally, it was one of the parent tulips for many of the tulips that came shortly after it. Every time I walk past that little tulip blooming in my urban garden, I think of how much history is stored in that bulb, how much has changed in the world since then, and how few cities there even were in the world in 1595. Could Jane have even imagined that one of her grandchildren would be one of the major early colonizers of what would become known as New England, or envisioned that the actions of her grandson and his fellow Massachusetts Bay Colony leaders would reverberate down the centuries and drastically change the world? Just before she died in 1587, did she think England’s efforts in colonizing distant locales would go anywhere at all?

Tulip Duc van Tol Red and Yellow

1595’s tulip ‘Duc van Tol Red and Yellow’ blooming in the author’s urban American garden this week. (Photo by the author.)

Pink Roman hyacinth

The pink-colored Roman hyacinth is known to have been in gardens starting in 1573, the year Jane’s late husband John Pynchon’s will was proved; it is blooming in the author’s urban US garden this week. (Photo by the author.)

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Luella Laughton Goold was born on 1 September 1879 in Lebanon, Grafton County, New Hampshire, the second known child born to Pierce William Goold and Alice E. (Hill) Goold. In a family of eight known children, seven of them were daughters. Luella’s father’s family had emigrated from Ireland by way of Liverpool in 1861, very shortly after the American Civil War broke out; I have trouble believing that anyone would willingly emigrate to a country being ravaged by war unless they were desperate to escape their current situation, but perhaps they – like many Americans in the Northern U. S. at the time – believed the war would be over quickly.

Luella was born in the aftermath of the American Civil War, a period in American history when families and individuals were very easily uprooted. In 1880 the family was still living in Lebanon, New Hampshire, but by 1892 the family had made a drastic move, to Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, where she was enumerated on the state census as Lulie, perhaps a childhood nickname. The Goolds shortly returned to New Hampshire, where Luella’s parents buried two of her sisters.

By 1900 the Goolds had moved again, to Hartford, Windsor County, Connecticut, and 20-year-old Luella had started working as a nurse. By 1910 Luella had moved out on her own, lodging in Manhattan and still working as a nurse. By 1920 Luella had moved to Arlington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where she was working as a nurse – with the intriguing specification of “experimental work” – and her widowed Irish-born father Pierce William Goold was living with her, occupation listed as “Retired,” with extra income coming from boarding a Swedish emigre who was working as a carpenter. The family was living at 70 Paul Revere Road, a road likely named after the historic ride through their town, a town which had been known as Menotomy in 1775. Luella had apparently done well for herself financially as a single nurse, as she owned the home in which she, her father, and her boarder were living.

Luella’s life was shortly to take a dramatic turn. On 18 February 1924, while she was still living at 70 Paul Revere Road in Arlington, Massachusetts, Luella was issued an American passport. Her application reported that in the intervening time, her father had moved back to Tacoma, Washington. Quite contrary to her census enumerations, her passport application reported her occupation as “housewife.” She said she was intending to leave on the Pittsburgh from the port of New York on April 1st and visit France, Great Britain, and Switzerland for “Study & Travel.” The application includes a photo; while the copy I have viewed is from microfilm and thus not the greatest rendering, it is the only photo I have seen of Luella.

Luella Laughton Goold passport photo

Luella Laughton Goold in her 1924 passport photo, U.S. passport application #372144. (Scan courtesy of Ancestry, whose source was a National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] microfilm.)

At the time, passport applicants typically had a witness provide testimony supporting that they were who they said they were. Luella’s witness was James T. Greeley, a physician living in Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, who said he had known Luella for 15 years. While Nashua is not as far away as Tacoma, it is not adjacent to Arlington.

This witness James T. Greeley was James Thornton Greeley, born during the American Civil War in Nashua, New Hampshire, on 18 July 1862 to James Bonaparte Greeley and Arabella (Wood) Greeley. James Thornton Greeley’s grandparents apparently had high aspirations for their children: Bonaparte was likely an allusion to Napoleon, and Arabella (also spelled Arbella) was the name of the flagship in the Winthrop Fleet that had settled New Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the ship having been named after their noble passenger Lady Arabella Johnson (also spelled Lady Arbella). The elder James was also a physician, and on 3 November 1861 he had enlisted in the Calvary branch of the Union Army, starting out with the rank of Assistant Surgeon. Intriguingly, though he enlisted in Nashua, he served for the state of Rhode Island. When he enlisted, he left behind his wife and their toddler, and Arabella was pregnant with the younger James. The elder James was promoted to Full Surgeon on 4 June 1862, but it appears tragedy shortly befell him, as he was mustered out soon thereafter on 31 August 1862 and awarded an invalid pension while the Civil War continued to rage. (I have not yet viewed his compiled military service file nor his and Arabella’s pension records.)

By the 1870 census, the Greeley family was living in Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, and there were now three sons in the family. By 1880 they had moved back to nearby Nashua, where they were living on Main Street, with another Greeley family enumerated next door. As the sons of a physician, all three Greeley sons were still in school, even the eldest at age 20.

According to the Directory of Deceased Physicians, the younger James attended Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and then attended Baltimore Medical College in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating from the latter in 1891. In 1893 James and his brother Guy Greeley both became Fellows of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

On 9 October 1895, James Thornton Greeley married Florence Haile Richardson in Nashua and they settled in Nashua. In 1897, New Hampshire granted a medical license to James. The date he was licensed had more to do with the increasing regulation of American doctors than with James’s personal career. As an endnote in “The Early Development of Medical Licensing Laws in the United States, 1875-1900” by Ronald Hamoway notes (p. 117) [link goes to PDF], “In 1897, a new statute was enacted [in New Hampshire] creating three boards of examiners, regular, homeopathic, and eclectic, with both a diploma and examination mandatory. In 1915, the three boards were abolished and one board substituted for them.” There appears to be more detail on the history of licensing in “The History of Medical Licensure” in a 1935 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), but as a non-subscriber, I can only view the first page.

James and Florence went on to have at least four children, three of whom survived to adulthood: Margaret, James, and Cyrus. As a successful physician and his family members, James, Florence, and their children got to experience things not open to the “average” American of the time, including traveling abroad. Their first known child, Margaret, was born in 1900, and in 1901 James applied for a passport for himself, Florence, and infant Margaret. Why were they traveling abroad when she was so young? The passport application does not say, and so far I have not figured out where they travelled. In the summer of 1910 Florence applied for a passport for herself and her older children, Margaret (then 10) and James (then 8). At the time passports did not ask for specifics on where the person(s) intended to travel, just how long, and Florence said they intended to return within two years, as James had before them. I also have yet to figure out where the three of them travelled.

The United States entered World War I in 1917, and in 1918 James applied for another passport, this time to go into medical service with the American Red Cross. He was 56 years old when his application was approved. His passport specified that he was planning to go to “England Great Britain” and “France.” The American Red Cross did a tremendous amount of volunteer medical work in France and also some in the UK, the latter mostly with wounded American troops. The linked publication on the American Red Cross’s World War I activities (published in 1919) notes of their work in France, “As an indication of the ability to meet emergencies, a complete 1,000 bed hospital was made ready in forty[-]eight hours.” James sailed from Montréal on the Llanstephan Castle, arriving in Bristol, England, on 3 November 1918 as part of a large group of American Red Cross volunteers.

In December 1922 their daughter Margaret applied for a passport of her own, stating that she was a never-married art student who intended to go to Tunis, Italy, and France via “an early boat” leaving “on or about January 30, 1923.” Margaret’s supporting witness was her mother Florence. Margaret said on her application that she was planning to leave from New York or Boston; I have yet to find her on a ship list, though I don’t know where she was planning to visit first. Florence died on 8 February 1923. Florence’s death record says she died of “Lobar Pneumonia,” which she’d reportedly had for 8 days; had Margaret sailed on a ship just before her mother’s acute illness began as Margaret had planned to do?

Margaret Thornton Greeley passport application photo

Margaret Thornton Greeley in her passport application photo; while this photo’s scan from microfilm is worse than Luella’s, it is definitely not the worst I have seen. From U.S. passport application #238615. (Scan courtesy of Ancestry, whose source was a NARA microfilm.)

In 1924 James Thornton Greeley applied for yet another passport. He reported that he was planning to leave on the “Pittsburg” [sic] from the port of New York on April 1st and visit France, England, and Switzerland to “Visiting relatives and study.” Does the previous sentence sound familiar? That’s because it was almost identical to Luella’s plan, although she apparently didn’t have any relatives in Europe to visit, as she had said her purpose was “Study & Travel.” James submitted a previous passport in lieu of a witness, and his new passport was issued 11 days after Luella’s, on Leap Day, February 29th.

On April 8th, the Orca reached Southampton, England, with both Luella and James on board. While they sailed on a different ship than the planned Pittsburgh, it appears they sailed on approximately April 1st. Both of them listed London addresses for their contact information in England. On April 26th, Luella and James married at 15 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden, London. They had resided in London long enough to satisfy the Registrar who married them in front of the American Vice-Counsul of London, as they were both listed as “of London” on their marriage record. Had they headed to Europe with the plan to marry in London, or had they headed to Europe as friends and decided to marry en route? The Vice-Council reported their marriage to the U.S. State Department on May 14th, and in an accompanying letter from May 15th, the American Consul General reported that he had amended Luella’s passport to the surname Greeley.

Also on May 15th, James and Luella passed through Liverpool on the Carmania. Luella was recorded as Lucille Greeley. The ship list contact information column showed them both as “In transit from PARIS.” They were heading for Quebec, and on May 22nd the Carmania arrived there, “Lucille”‘s residence in the United States now listed as Nashua.

On August 29th, Margaret sailed into the port of New York on the Berengaria, having sailed from Cherbourg, France, on the 23rd. Lucy Kate Bowers, also from Nashua and also born in 1900, was with her. While Margaret and Lucy were travelling in Europe, had they gone to London to celebrate James and Luella’s wedding? So far, I don’t know.

On 29 August 1929, James died of a coronary embolism in Nashua. James and Luella had celebrated their five-year anniversary that April. The Greeley children were now technically orphans. James’s youngest child, Cyrus, was enumerated on the 1930 U.S. federal census with Luella. By this point Cyrus had begun slightly shaving his age, which would continue the rest of his life; he was enumerated on the 1910 census, yet as a young adult listed his age as slightly younger than someone who would have appeared on it. Cyrus attended the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, where he was a baritone in the University Men’s Glee Club and part of the cast for the university’s February 1932 staging of Euripedes’s Electra. In the 1930’s he was listed in Seattle city directories as well as at Luella’s address in Nashua city directories, so he apparently still lived with her when school was out of session. On 25 April 1938, Cyrus died in Seattle.

Luella outlived her husband James by nearly 44 years, dying in Lacey, Thurston County, Washington, on 6 May 1973, at age 93. One of Luella’s sisters died in Thurston County a few years later, so perhaps they lived together when they were elderly.

Luella’s other stepson, James, worked as a teacher and married a woman named Helen. James died in Florida in 1988. So far, Margaret’s return to New York with Lucy, both Nashua-bound, is the last record I have found for her. It seems most likely that she disappears from records because she married after she returned, but if so, I have yet to find a record of the wedding.

The way we later write things in genealogical and historical research is often different than the order in which we discover them. The first record I found connecting Luella and James was the record of their marriage. Unspooling their story was great fun. I hope you enjoyed reading it even half as much as I enjoyed researching it and sharing it here.

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Roco and Sue lived in Springfield, which was in Massachusetts Bay Colony and then in Massachusetts Colony, where they were slaves of John Pynchon, the magistrate who made an appearance in my 52 Ancestors post on Sarah (Lyman) Bridgman. John Pynchon died with the largest estate of its time in Western Massachusetts, and like many wealthy European colonists of his day, he owned slaves. Like later work on the enslaved in Southern states, most of what can be gleaned about slaves in early Massachusetts has to be pieced together from the records of whites. Roco was owned by John Pynchon by 1672, when Roco and fellow Pynchon slave Harry were two of the people working on building the first sawmill in Suffield, a town a short distance downriver from Springfield. According to Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865, 2nd edition (p. 2), Roco was a very unusual slave in owning at least 60 acres of land by 1685 though still a slave; there is no citation listed, so I am not sure yet what the source was. So far I haven’t found a reference in the deeds, but many deeds in what was then Hampshire County were recorded belatedly in this time period, so that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one.

On 1 December 1687 John Pynchon noted in the Record of the County Court of Hampshire, “Roco and Sue my Negroes, Joined in Marriage.” Roco and Sue subsequently bought their freedom from John Pynchon on 20 October 1695:

Agreed with Roco Negroe . . . That for his & his wifes freedoms which is to be absolute upon his paying to me as followeth which is to say He is to pvide & allow or pay me Twenty five Barrels of good cleane pure Turpentine of 40 gallons to a Barrel & Twenty one barrels of Good merchantable Tarr: where of he is to pay wt he can next yeare by this time 12 Mo & I give him for the Rest the yeare after so that within Two yeares he is to pay the whole & he is Intirely discharged from me upon the reading of this . . .

Richard Blackleech, a free man of color who was a former slave of John Pynchon, witnessed the document.

Sue died in Springfield, recorded as “Su the negro,” on 24 January 1710/11. So far I have not been able to determine when or where Roco died and as far as I have reviewed, no one else seems to have located a death record for him either.

Sue's death in Springfield

Sue’s death is the middle entry here: “Su the negro was sicke & died. Jan: 24. 1710/11” (Scan courtesy of FamilySearch.)

A “Negro” named Roco had been examined by John Pynchon in private and then at the County Court in 1680 regarding a charge of fornication with a white woman, Margarite Riley of Springfield, and Roco is recorded as having said “that he had (upon the said Riley’s tempting him) the carnal knowledge of her body,” and the court sentenced him to pay a fine of three pounds or receive fifteen lashes. Margarite was sentenced to receive fifteen lashes herself, apparently at least partly as a deterrent to herself and others regarding “this Growing and provoking sin of whoredom and to restrain the like abhorend practices.” I am unclear whether this is the same Roco who subsequently married Sue, and as far as I have been able to find, no one else seems to know for sure either. Margarite had had a daughter “born out of wedlocke” shortly before her court appearance, on 6 July 1680; Margarite had been born in Springfield in February 1661/62, making her 18 when her daughter was born. Was the Roco who was brought before the court the child’s father? Nothing I’ve reviewed, from either then or now, even speculates as to this, so I don’t know. But regardless of whether Roco was the father, perhaps this event was part of why the court seemed to have so little patience with Margarite’s behavior.

Margarite Riley's daughter's birth record in Springfield

Margarite Riley’s daughter’s birth record was squeezed in between the birth records of two children born to married couples in Springfield: “Margarite Riley had a daughter born out of wedlocke July, 6th 1680” (Scan courtesy of FamilySearch.)

Everyone I have featured till now in my 52 Ancestors posts was a relative of mine; however, here my relative is the slave-owner, John Pynchon. Given the typical practices of New England slavery, Roco and Sue would have regularly interacted with whites in the Pynchon household while they were slaves. I think it is important for researchers to remember that many people in the North had slaves too. I also want to stress here that though this may seem like a short post for my 52 Ancestors posts, I chose Roco and Sue primarily because there is a lot more known about them than many other slaves in this time and place. As an example, as far as I have been able to determine, no one seems to even be sure of the given name of one of the slaves that John Pynchon owned when he died.

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NOTES

All the books listed below include at least one mention of both Roco and Sue.

The most invaluable book for understanding slavery in this area is Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts by Robert H. Romer (Florence, Massachusetts: Levellers Press, 2009).

For those researching families of color in Hampden County, Massachusetts, a fantastic resource is Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865 by Joseph Carvalho III, who published a second edition of the book in 2011 through the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This book includes families in colonial Springfield. I do want to stress checking the compiled information in this book against original records whenever possible.

As I mentioned in my post on Sarah (Lyman) Bridgman, an important work for anyone researching early western Massachusetts is Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639-1703): The Pynchon Court Record, edited with a legal and historical introduction by Joseph H. Smith (USA: The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation at Harvard University Press, 1961). The book is a mix of transcriptions, analysis, and information about the various legal procedures used at the time, and includes cases regarding both slaves and free people of color.

A second book on the voluminous records left by John Pynchon is The Pynchon Papers, Volume 2: Selections from the Account Books of John Pynchon, 1651-1697, edited by Carl Bridenbaugh and Juliette Tomlinson (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts in association with the University of Virginia Press, 1985). The account books of John Pynchon and his father William Pynchon were microfilmed and a few repositories in western Massachusetts have copies, but they are not available for inter-library loan, making this book a more realistic way for most people to access the information in John Pynchon’s account books.

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Franklin Lyman Olds was born on 16 February 1810, the first child of Gideon and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Lyman) Olds of Jericho, Chittendon County, Vermont. His parents were both children of families who had moved up New England to colonial western Vermont. There is no known previous usage of the given name Franklin in his family and it is possible he was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin by his parents, whose fathers had both fought in the American Revolution. It was a given name that would carry on down the generations.

Franklin’s family had moved to Norwich, Windsor County, Vermont, on the eastern edge of the state, by 1830, when his mother Betsey died there and was buried in Norwich’s cemetery. Life for the family went on without Betsey. Franklin may have initially been involved in a Norwich-area company called Burton Olds & Co. On 3 October 1833 Franklin was amongst many citizens of Norwich to petition the Vermont legislature to create a law to prevent cattle from running at large, or as they put it:

We the undersigned would humbly represent to your Honorable body, that great difficulties and damages are incurred by the Farming interest in this State in consequence of the prevailing custom of turning cattle except Yearlings to run at large in the Highways during the Summer and Autumn. And as the laws of the State are considered insufficient to restrain such cattle from so running at large, We do therefore pray your Honorable body that an act may be passed effectually to produce such restraint . . .

In 1834 he was again one of many petitioners; this time they asked for the legislature to allow an educational facility that would become Norwich University.

Norwich was a small town, so Franklin could have met Lucy Blood at almost any activity or location around the mostly rural town. On 26 November 1835, Lucy and Franklin were married in Norwich by Samuel Goddard. Lucy’s mother had also died prior to their wedding, but both their fathers were still alive. To date I have been unable to locate them on the 1840 federal census, and since it only enumerates each head-of-household, the young couple may have been living with a relative.

Franklin opened a general store in Norwich with his brother Erastus William Olds. They were known as F L & E W Olds.

F L & E W Olds listed in the Merchants and Traders section of Waltons Vermont Register and Farmers Almanac for 1849

F L & E W Olds are listed in the “Merchants and Traders” section of the 1849 Walton’s Vermont Register and Farmers’ Almanac. I purchased this copy on eBay a few years ago.

Franklin was elected a Representative to Vermont’s General Assembly for 1856-57.

Franklin Olds elected for Windsor County

An article on election results (excerpted here) lists Franklin Olds as one of the Representatives from Windsor County. From the 14 September 1855 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

Through a digitized Journal of the House of the State of Vermont, I know he filed a report as part of the Committee on State Prisons. He was also a Representative while the Vermont legislature was considering moving the capital of Vermont from Montpelier to Rutland, as shown in the newspaper excerpt below.

Franklin Olds mentioned in an article over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland

Franklin Olds is mentioned in an article (an excerpt is shown here) over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland. From the 27 February 1857 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

As the general store in a small, mostly rural community, their fortunes boomed. On the 1850 census, Franklin was listed with real estate worth $570 and Erastus with real estate worth $1,000. By the 1860 federal census, Franklin was listed as having real estate worth $1,250 and “personal estate” worth $5,000. Younger brother Erastus’s real estate was a bit less expensive – still listed at $1,000, he was probably living in the same place as a decade prior – but Erastus was listed with the exact same personal estate as Franklin, $5,000. With personal estates together totaling $10,000, Franklin and Erastus made up the majority of the wealth on their census page, the entire total of personal estates only being $13,300.

As was common then amongst merchants and others who owned businesses that many people frequented, Franklin shortly became the postmaster of Norwich.

Franklin L. Olds in the postmasters register

The top entries in a page of the postmaster appointments register, the first entry being for Franklin L. Olds, who was appointed postmaster of Norwich on 20 June 1861 and served until around 1885 (the last number of the year Lewis Partridge was appointed is difficult to read due to the binding tape). The register also lists (not pictured here) that Erastus Olds became postmaster in 1889, after two others briefly served as postmasters. Seema Kenney retrieved this record for me from NARA, but the record set has since been added to Ancestry.com.

A storm was brewing in the divided nation, and the Civil War shortly broke out. As the war did not end in a few months as many in the Union thought, and then turned ever more bloody and expensive, the Union turned to new ways to fund the war and get soldiers to fight it. An increasing array of taxes were introduced and a draft was instituted. Too old to be drafted, Franklin and Erastus chose not to voluntarily enlist. But as merchants who were relatively wealthy for a small community, they were subject to a variety of taxes. They were taxed as “Retail Dealers” and individually taxed for the incomes from their business.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in 1863

Franklin and Erastus Olds were taxed as both a business and individuals in 1863. The business is listed as owning a horse and carriage, probably for the general store to be able to transport goods to those that could not take them home on their own. Franklin and Erastus were both also taxed for their individual incomes. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the 1863 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

After the war ended, the taxes initially continued as the Union side tried to recoup some of the financial devastation war had wrought on the federal government. An increasing number of items were taxed, and that’s how I know that Franklin’s household owned a piano. As head-of-household, Franklin was the one who was taxed for it, but since it was a musical instrument, I have no way of knowing which member(s) of the household actually played it. I’ve always found this interesting, as I always enjoy learning more about the day-to-day lives of the people I research, but have found it especially so since I recently began learning to play the piano myself. It is nice to imagine a household filled with music.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in May 1866

Franklin and Erastus Olds are again taxed as both a business and individuals. Franklin was taxed for a “Piano Forte” and Erastus for a “Gold Watch.” The carriage, formerly listed as joint property of F L & E W Olds, is now listed as Franklin’s property. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the May 1866 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the original record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

On 8 November 1867, the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School was incorporated by the Vermont State Legislature, and it opened the following year. Franklin was on the Board of Trustees starting in 1868, listed with the honorific of “Esq.” (short for “Esquire”).  The school created a rather melodramatic advertisement about its wonderful staff, perfect building, idyllic location, and specialization in classical instruction. However, the school did not last very long, closing in 1877; this was apparently at least partially due to regular staff turnover.

In the 1870’s, the general store caught fire. Erastus and his wife, who lived above the store, were wakened by a daughter who had spotted the fire and escaped. The store was rebuilt, but according to a local history of the area, Erastus ran it on his own from that point forward. By this time Franklin was at least in his 60’s, but continued on as postmaster for several more years. Under a federal act of 3 March 1883, c. 142, (22 St. pp. 600, 602,), first to third class postmasters were allowed to put in claims for readjusted pay if they had been postmasters certain years. (See a partial quote of the act in this transcript of a Supreme Court case regarding it.) Judging by the Serial Sets, a large number of postmasters did; Franklin was one of them. It took a long time for the federal government to go through all the claims, and while many of them appear to have been rejected, Franklin’s was one of the ones eventually accepted (see 1886’s Serial Set Vol. 2401 [House Executive Document 225], p. 73). He received an additional $92.80 in pay for having served as Norwich’s postmaster in 1873 and 1874.

Just a handful of years after retiring as postmaster, Franklin died in his beloved Norwich, on 4 January 1890. His widow Lucy died nearly exactly four years later, on 27 January 1894, in Norwich.

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NOTES

Original copies of the petitions mentioned early in this blog post are held by the Vermont State Archives.

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, has a collection of school-related materials. An online list of schools represented in their collection is over here.

The NARA-Waltham branch (in Massachusetts) contains the original volumes of the 1860’s IRS tax lists for Vermont.

Ancestry.com has an extensive collection of scanned printed school materials that (at least for me) generally do not show up in my regular searches. Only by going to the category for school materials do I generally get any hits. Materials pertaining to the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School are amongst its holdings.

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Isobel Aitchison Honeyman was born in South Callenge, Ceres, Fife, Scotland, on 21 December 1883, the youngest known child of James Toddie Honeyman and Agnes (Pearson) Honeyman. Isobel was named after her paternal grandmother. James, who reported the birth, listed his residence as Portobello; at the time James and Agnes were living in the Portobello area of Edinburgh with their children, and Agnes’s parents were living in South Callenge, so Isobel was probably born at her maternal grandparents’ farm. Isobel’s father was a mechanical engineer specializing in paper mill machinery and he travelled a lot for work, but he reported that he was present at Isobel’s birth. Agnes and the children were living alone on some of the censuses as James travelled around the UK plying his engineering trade.

Isobel’s life appears to have started out ordinarily enough; she is listed as a scholar on the 1891 census. By 1900 the family had moved to 22 Parsons Green Terrace in the Canongate district of Edinburgh, and Agnes’s mother Catharine (Wilson) Philp Pearson died there that January. The following January Catharine’s much younger husband, David Pearson, died there as well. In April the family was enumerated as a full family unit for the only time: James, Agnes, and their four surviving children – Catharine Wilson Honeyman, William Pearson Honeyman, David Pearson Honeyman, and Isobel Aitchison Honeyman – were all enumerated at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. The children’s occupations are an interesting look at opportunities for young people at the turn of the last century in Edinburgh: Catharine was working as a dressmaker, William as a clerk, David as a porter, and 17-year-old Isobel had already begun her career as a “Costume-maker.”

The following year Isobel’s oldest siblings, Catharine and William, both married in Edinburgh and started families of their own. In 1911 Isobel and David were still living with James and Agnes. James, now 63, was still a practicing mechanical engineer, and David had found a career as a Blacksmith’s Striker. Isobel was now enumerated as  a Dressmaker, as Catharine had been a decade earlier, but I suspect Isobel was doing costume work whenever she could, and making dresses to help with her income. In 1913 the family was irrevocably altered by James’s death. The death record reveals that a cerebral embolism was his immediate cause of death, but that he had been ill for six months, though he seems to have still been working as a mechanical engineer, as he is not listed as retired. Isobel’s brother William had returned from Fife, as he reported the death and that he was present at it. In 1915 and 1920 Agnes was listed on the valuation rolls at 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and in 1930 Agnes died of acute bronchitis, still listed as residing at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. Again, William returned for a parent’s death and then reported it to the government.

Isobel seems to have continued her costume-related occupations, though I have yet to locate any records that directly name her between 1911 and 1932. On 16 July 1932, 48-year-old Isobel (reporting her age as 49) married 49-year-old Matthew Waterson Gilbert at 11 Royal Terrace in Edinburgh. Isobel is listed as a “Costume Fitter” and a Spinster. Matthew is listed as a “Motor Mechanic” and a widower. Isobel’s address is listed as the familiar 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and Matthew’s as 5 High Street in Portobello. Had Isobel been living with and caring for her widowed mother until Agnes had died two years before Isobel’s late marriage? The records I have reviewed to date are silent on the subject. Their marriage occurred late enough in their lives that only one of their parents, Matthew’s father John, was still living at the time. The minister of Abbey Church in Edinburgh officiated, and their witnesses were James P. Honeyman of 6 Jubilee Terrace, Markinch, Fife, and Frances Stephen of 14 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh. The James P. Honeyman in question was almost surely Isobel’s nephew James Pearson Honeyman, one of the sons of her brother William, as William had listed his own address as 6 Jubilee Terrace when he reported his mother’s death two years prior to the wedding.

Assuming that the street numbering remains the same from 1932 to today, the wedding’s site of 11 Royal Terrace was, and remains, the Adria House in Edinburgh’s New Town, a building which is nearly 200 years old and is now a small hotel. Their website does not indicate how long it has been a hotel, but it does say, “The cobbled Royal Terrace is the longest continuous terrace in the New Town. The houses are only built on one side of the street and there is a generous amount of open space with private gardens to the rear of the property and a treelined park at the front.”

Costume fitter is an occupation that continues to the present day. It is the person in a production (be it theater or film) who fits costumes and, if needed, tailors them. Isobel was part of a changing production scene; as the Victoria and Albert Museum’s site puts it, “The idea of visual unity and a production as a total concept was established in the early 1900s, and the director evolved to fuse the disparate elements – text, concept, performance, design, lighting – into a seamless whole.” The Victoria and Albert Museum states in their page “Designing Stage Costumes,” “The 20th century saw the emergence of the career designer, and then the setting up of training courses. But stage design is still an uncertain job and even today, designers often combine theatre work with a career as a painter or teacher.” Isobel entered the world of costume early enough in the 20th century and early enough in her life that she probably never took a training course and may have learned by, for example, initially working with a more experienced costumer.

Isobel’s late marriage could be at least partly attributed to caring for her mother if she was doing so, but it also speaks to a deficit of younger single men in the UK which began in Victorian times and was accelerated after World War I killed so many young British men. Isobel would have been prime 19th-century marrying age while World War I raged, and she turned 33 at the end of 1918. Many British women died elderly and still single in the 20th century.

Matthew has been more difficult to locate in records than a typical turn-of-the-20th-century Scot. On censuses he was reported to have been born in Cowdenbeath, Fife, around 1883, yet I have thus far been unable to locate a record of his birth anywhere in Scotland on ScotlandsPeople, despite his younger sisters’ births being registered in Midlothian after Matthew and his parents John and Jane (Waterson) Gilbert moved there from Fife. Though Matthew reports being a widower upon his marriage to Isobel, so far I have also been unable to locate any prior marriage(s) for him in Scotland, and wonder if perhaps he married in England. It is possible he is the “M. W. Gilbert” who was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in World War I, not least because he would have been about the right age to be in the War, but so far I don’t have enough evidence to say for sure one way or the other.

Isobel died on 11 April 1952 of acute pneumonia at “Hospital for Women, Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh (Usual residence 22 Parsons Green Terrace, Edinburgh).” Matthew survived her and reported her death. He died in 1967, too recently for his death record to be digitized; he would have been about 84 years old when he died. Isobel and Matthew lived through two World Wars – one apart, one together – and saw their country change a tremendous amount in their long lives. I often wonder if they enjoyed going to the theater and/or films together and discussing the costumes afterwards.

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NOTE

I have searched in a number of digitized newspapers and city directories, as well as the general web, for Isobel, so far without success. I would like to know what types of productions she worked on and more about her life as an adult. Hopefully someday I will successfully locate records that can tell me more. The options for a costumer in the early 20th century were very wide, from old-fashioned shows all the way to elaborate fantasies where the main point of the show was to show off the elaborate costumes, not to have a coherent production.

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Thus far I have used my “52 Ancestors” posts to highlight people about whom I already know a lot. This week I want to take a look at someone whose origins remain a mystery. Elizabeth Fletcher lived in Chemung County, New York, which was carved from Tioga County, New York. Her town of residence was similarly carved: Horseheads was originally considered a part of Elmira, then carved out from Elmira into its own town, and the small village (in New York it’s technically a “hamlet”) where they lived, Breesport, has always been a subset of Horseheads. So Elizabeth lived in a subset of a second subset of a town. The earliest event I have for Elizabeth is her marriage to Charles Pierson Brees/Breese on 28 Feb 1829 in Veteran, Tioga County, New York, performed by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith. Like Elmira, Veteran was in the part of Tioga County that would subsequently become Chemung County; Veteran was on the northern edge of the area that would become Chemung County, and the town from which it had been formed in 1823, Catharine, would become part of Schuyler County when the new counties were formed from Tioga County. All of this shows how important it is to know precisely where someone lived – always in my opinion but most especially in any area where boundaries changed over time.

Elizabeth and Charles had six sons. I know her maiden name because of an enumerator who included more information than he was required to do, and I know their marriage date and location because their youngest son, Sylvester Fletcher Brees/Breese (usually known as Fletcher), enlisted in the 50th New York Engineers of the Union Army during the Civil War and died of disease at the hospital in City Point, Virginia, less than three months after enlisting. Fletcher was only 19 years old when he died. Elizabeth applied for a parent’s pension, for which parents who were financially dependent on a child who died serving in the Union Army during the war were eligible. As you may already know, most parents’ pensions were proved by the parent sending letters from their child in with the pension, where the child said, for example, that they were sending part of their Union Army pay back to the parent with the letter; the letters were never returned, even though it may have been the last letter the parent ever received from their dead child, and they remain in the pension files today, now held at NARA in Washington, D. C.

Elizabeth & Charles's household on the 1865 NY state census

Elizabeth and Charles’s household on the 1865 New York state census, followed by the household of their married son John. The enumerator for this part of Chemung County, New York, took the unusual step of listing the maiden names of married women. Also note that Fletcher is enumerated here though he was dead by this time; this was so that his Civil War service could be enumerated (see the other image in this post). From ED 01, p. 17, of the Chemung County, New York, state census; in the FamilySearch images, it is image 9 of 24. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

Elizabeth presumably didn’t have letters from Fletcher – I’m not even sure if Fletcher knew how to write – as she took the more unusual tack of soliciting testimony from neighbors and others, which were given as affidavits and are in her file. The testimony paints a dire picture of Elizabeth and Charles’s life on the margins of society. Charles had trained as a blacksmith, like his father before him, and Elizabeth and Charles lived on a very small farm. According to testimony, Charles’s physical and mental health problems had made it increasingly difficult for him to practice his smithing trade, and the tiny farm was on marginal land that barely produced enough to minimally feed the couple. Elizabeth’s testimony says she “has also been obligated to provide for the support of the father (i.e. her husband) ever since the enlistment of said Sylvester…” Unfortunately her testimony does not provide specifics on how she did this. Elizabeth’s and her neighbors’ testimony says that Fletcher had started working as a farm hand on other farms when he was about twelve years old and had used the money to support his parents before enlisting. Whether we as historians can believe testimony is always a question; even in modern courts some people believe testimony they hear “live” and others don’t. What I can say for sure is that the Pension Bureau believed the testimony, because Elizabeth was awarded a parents’ pension.

Civil War service of men living in ED01 of Chemung County, New York

Like many state censuses taken in Union states during the Civil War, enumerators in New York were asked to collect information on the service of people in their district for the 1865 New York state census. This is one of two blanks for reports of service of those in this part of the enumeration, and as instructed, the enumerator included information on which people were taken prisoner and/or had died. Sylvester and Corydon are the second and third people listed here. The listing for Sylvester says he died of Malaria Fever, which is different than what his Compiled Military Service Record says. The listing for Corydon reports his experience as a prisoner of war; Corydon was still serving at the time of the enumeration. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

The pension file story doesn’t end there, though. Elizabeth died in 1876 and Charles, widowed and living alone, applied for a parent’s pension of his own. For his application to be approved, he had to prove his relationships – that he was married to Elizabeth and the father of the child through which Elizabeth had drawn a pension. That’s where Elizabeth’s marriage details show up in the pension file – not in her own application, but in her widower Charles’s. His testimony also includes that he had a “family Record” which was “in the hand writing of Elizabeth Brees wife of deponent and mother of said soldier who died,” and the Notary Public copied information about Sylvester from this record to send to the Pension Bureau. The current whereabouts of this family record, if it exists at all, are unknown.

Charles’s application also provides the detail that they had been married by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith and that as far as they knew, there was no written record of the marriage. Nathaniel Smith had moved away long ago, and Charles had attempted to locate his whereabouts. The pension file includes an affidavit from someone who knew Elizabeth, Charles, and Nathaniel and who reported that Nathaniel had “removed from the said town of Veteran according to deponent best recollection about the year 1840 to one of the Western States (Illinois),” and that Nathaniel had died many years prior to Charles’s application. So Charles got someone else to give testimony that she had attended Elizabeth and Charles’s wedding. I always like when an application for something like a pension hits a snafu, as it generates additional records which provide additional details.

Most records list Elizabeth’s birth location as “Vermont” if they list it at all; at least one adult child lists her birth place as Montpelier, Vermont, on a record. However, so far I have not found Elizabeth in Montpelier or elsewhere in Vermont, and her birth family remains a mystery.

The information in this post illustrates very well how researching American women in the past generally primarily involves researching records regarding the men in their lives – such as their fathers and brothers, and their husband(s) and/or son(s) if they were married and/or had children. Most of what I know about Elizabeth comes from records generated by the actions of her youngest son and her husband/widower. This is not to suggest that Elizabeth was a passive participant in circumstance, simply that, for example, she applied for a pension because Fletcher made the ultimate sacrifice of his life; without his actions, she would not have been able to apply and there would be no pension file. However, it was Elizabeth’s choice to apply, and given that it was more difficult for an application to be successful without written letters from the financially supportive son, the fact that her pension was approved says something about Elizabeth’s application and the perceived credibility of Elizabeth and of the witnesses she chose to speak on her behalf.

The children of Elizabeth and Charles Brees/Breese:

  1. Erasmus Darwin (1831-1914) [went by Darwin], m. Amanda ___
  2. John P. (1833-1907), m. Harriet [Dean?]
  3. Charles F. (1836-1887), m. Sarah ___
  4. William Henry (1839-1855)
  5. Corydon (1841-1938), m. 1st Ann Tanner, m. 2nd Elizabeth (___) Daugherty
  6. Sylvester Fletcher (1845-1864)

Elizabeth and Charles are buried at Breesport Baptist Church Cemetery in Breesport, Chemung County, New York, but some of their family is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, also in Breesport, New York.

Further Research

  • A document compiled by Pension Bureau staff says that Elizabeth had recently purchased a small lot with money left to her by a deceased brother. Unfortunately it does not list the brother’s name nor where he had lived. So far the probate in question has not been located, but the search continues.
  • Evidence garnered to date suggests that Elizabeth’s husband Charles’s family moved from New Jersey directly to the Horseheads area. Thus, their marriage in Veteran could have been due to Elizabeth’s ties to the town rather than Charles’s, since as far as I have been able to determine so far, Charles does not appear to have had any connections to Veteran at the time. There were three Fletcher households enumerated in Tioga County on the 1820 U. S. federal census, though none were enumerated in Catharine. Since Elizabeth did not marry until 1829 in Veteran, it is quite possible that she and/or one or more relatives moved to the area after the 1820 census. So far nothing conclusive has been found, but research is continuing. However, Nathaniel Smith, who married them, lived in Veteran according to the pension file, so that could have been the reason they married there.
  • Regardless of the above, Elizabeth must have moved to Chemung County for some reason, and investigations into possible family connections to the area continue.
  • Presuming Elizabeth correctly self-reported a birth place of Vermont, investigation into what would have made someone go from Vermont to southern New York – whether she did so as a child with her family or a young woman on her own – may provide clues to her family and/or exactly where in Vermont she would have been most likely to have originated.
  • Hope remains that someday the family record mentioned in the testimony will surface intact.

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NOTES

My 2011 post “Civil War court martials” is about Elizabeth and Charles’s son Corydon, though I didn’t mention him by name in the post.

Another researcher has listed at various sites online that Fletcher died at Gettysburg. Not only did he die over a year after the Battle of Gettysburg, but he hadn’t even enlisted yet when the 50th NY Engineers were at the Battle of Gettysburg, completely refuting any possible argument that he belatedly died of injuries sustained at Gettysburg. Please check original sources yourself whenever they are extant – don’t take anyone’s word for anything!

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Sarah Ann Mathews, generally called “Annie,” was born to Edward Isaac Mathews and Maria (Bray) Mathews of Limehouse in Greater London on 24 March 1864, the fourth of their five known children. Annie’s parents had been part of the story of the changing landscape of England: Her father had been born in the Bermondsey area of Surrey while her mother had been born in rural Devon. Annie’s mother had migrated to London, but exactly when is not clear, as the first London-area record in which I have found Maria is her marriage to Edward at St. Jude’s in Whitechapel in 1857. According to this blog post, St. Jude’s was just 9 years old when Maria and Edward married there, but by 1873 it would be neglected and abandoned. Taken over and rescued by the area reformers Samuel and Henrietta Barnett at that time, who had requested the assignment, St. Jude’s would one day be destroyed in the London Blitz.

According to their marriage record, Edward, a widower, was a carpenter living at what looks somewhat like “Alis Street,” and Maria was a spinster living at the “same place.” As with Edward’s first marriage, both witnesses were members of the Mathews family. While Maria gave the correct father’s name, the occupation is wildly wrong; whether she did not know the correct occupation of the father who had abandoned her family when she was a child or lied about it, there is no way to know. Either way, Maria was part of the early wave of people moving from rural England to urban areas. Was Maria one of the many who saw a move to the big city as a as a chance to consciously reinvent herself? Regardless of whether her reinvention was a conscious choice or not, Maria’s move dramatically improved her lot in life.

Edward had at least one surviving child, Mary Jane Mathews, born to his first wife, Elisabeth (Godwin) Mathews, and baptized at St. Peter’s in Walworth, Surrey. Edward and Maria stayed within the Tower Hamlets area, initially settling in Poplar, then moving to Limehouse between the 1861 census and Annie’s 1864 birth. At Limehouse the family lived within easy walking distance of one of the busiest waterfronts in London. The East India Company had docks very close by. The nearest Church of England church, St. Anne’s, had the highest church clock in London, and rang its bell every 15 minutes in a long tradition to help merchant mariners and Royal Navy seamen orient themselves as they neared the docks. It is estimated that 6,000 ships docked daily. There were also a large number of factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings in the neighborhood. I imagine it must have been a noisy, bustling place to live. On the well-known Booth Poverty Maps of London, where the criteria used means that the ranking can change dramatically from block to block, their block was ranked fairly well-off. While the family was living in Limehouse, some buildings at the dead-end of their tiny Aston-street were knocked down and Aston-street was expanded.

By 1890 Annie’s father Edward had gained the right to vote through his residence at their 67 Aston-street home. He continued to appear on the voter rolls until 1897, the year after his death. In 1898 Annie’s widowed mother Maria appeared on the voter roll in his place. What happened to Maria after this is not yet known, but in her lifetime she had gone from working as a servant as a desperately poor young teen in rural England to being on the voter roll of London.

Maria’s family had been non-conformist when she was a child, so whether Maria and Edward’s children do not appear in the local Church of England baptismal registers as infants because they were non-conformists or because Maria and Edward did not baptize them anywhere is unclear so far. Annie chose adult baptism in the Church of England church St. Anthony’s at Stepney on 21 May 1884, with “(Adult baptism)” scrawled in large letters above the entry. The register lists her as still living at her family’s 67 Aston-street home in Limehouse, so it is interesting that she chose to be baptized at a church in Stepney.

On 17 February 1889, Annie married fellow local John Crowley, a clerk, at St. Matthew’s in Limehouse Fields. Both single, Annie and John were listed on the record as both living at 67 Aston-street at the time they married. Annie’s father and one of John’s relatives witnessed the marriage. Annie’s father remained a carpenter and her new husband’s father was an engineer. Maria had signed her marriage record in the childlike writing of someone who may have only known how to write their own name, while Annie signed her full name Sarah Ann Mathews in the confident hand of someone who was probably fully literate.

On the 1891 census Annie and John and their oldest child, a son named Victor John Edward Crowley, were living at 67 Aston-street, as were Annie’s parents; the address is divided into two separate households by the enumerator. Had John moved into the other half of 67 Aston-street and then literally married the girl next door? Or had he moved there because he already knew and liked Annie? These are the kinds of questions it is difficult to answer in the types of records typically left for posterity. Regardless, in 1891 John was still working as a clerk and Edward was still working as a carpenter.

In June 1896 the Crowleys’ oldest child Victor was listed in a register for school, part of a large group of children in the register for Garden-street Temporary School in Tower Hamlets. The family’s address was listed as “67 Ashton St.”

By 1901 Annie and John’s family had expanded, now with three living daughters in addition to their still-living oldest son: Gladys Annie Lizzie Crowley, Eva Rose Irene Crowley, and Hilda Iris Crowley. Their family was now listed first at 67 Aston-street while a single working woman was listed as the resident of the other half of the building. John was still working as a commercial clerk.

By 1911 the family had left both Aston-street and Limehouse behind. They had moved to Forest Gate in the West Ham area of County Essex. All four children I’ve mentioned in this post were still alive, but the enumeration says that Annie had a fifth child who had died. Annie and John had been married for 23 years. For the first time a record gives a more detailed glimpse of John’s working life than “commercial clerk”; he is listed as a Ledger Clerk in the industry “Oil, Gas, & Electric Heating Apparatus.” Their son Victor was enumerated as working as a Stockkeeper’s Clerk in the same industry, and their oldest daughter Gladys as a Vest Machinist in the industry “Gentleman’s Underwear and Vest Manufacturer.” Their two younger daughters were listed as still attending school.

Like millions of other mothers, Annie watched her son Victor go off to war in what would later come to be called World War I. Victor served in the Royal West Kent Regiment. Luckily for their family, Victor survived the war; he was discharged on 24 January 1919 after over 3 years of service, having enlisted on 23 November 1915. Someone scanned and posted a photo of Victor in his uniform, listing the year as 1914, and I am grateful they gave me the opportunity to see the photo.

Annie died on 23 February 1935 at Queen Marys Hospital in Stratford, Essex. Though she died in hospital, she was still living in Forest Gate in the West Ham area. While she was a widow when she died, I have yet to find the correct death record for her husband John. Annie did not leave a will, and her small estate was administered by her son Victor, who by then was working as a commercial traveller.

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Sarah Lyman was part of the first generation of immigrants from England to the English colonies that became known as New England. Born to Richard Lyman and Sarah (Osborne) Lyman, Sarah was baptized in the parish of High Ongar, County Essex, England, on 8 February 1620, back when the English new year didn’t start until March. In August 1631, when Sarah was probably 10 years old, the Lyman family headed from Bristol, England, to the so-called “New World” on the ship Lyon/Lion.

This was the Lyon‘s third known trip to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Lymans were in rarefied company; Reverend John Eliot, who would make a name for himself in his soon-to-be home, was on board, as was Margaret Winthrop, the wife of Governor John Winthrop, and three of Margaret and John’s children, including John Jr. The Lyon arrived at Nantasket on November 2nd. The Winthrops were heading for New Boston, while the Lymans and the Eliots were heading for Roxbury. Now officially part of the City of Boston, in 1631 Roxbury was a distinct and relatively distant colonial settlement, and at the time both were young towns. The Eliots were from Nazeing, Essex, today a 12-mile drive from High Ongar.

While today many people think of people in the past as settling in one location for generations, that was the way only some colonists were. One of my friends was born in the same town where some of their lines had lived since before the American Revolution. The Lymans did not choose this kind of life. The family quickly moved again, one of many families to go with Reverend Thomas Hooker to Connecticut Colony to found the town of Hartford; in Roxbury’s records John Eliot referenced it as “the great removal.” Sarah’s father Richard died in 1641 and her mother Sarah died shortly thereafter. Around 1642, Sarah married James Bridgman, who had moved to Hartford shortly before Richard’s death and bought a lot very close to the Lymans’ home. By 1645 Sarah and James had moved to Springfield, which had started out as part of Connecticut Colony but had broken from it to join the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639.

A number of the families who had moved to Springfield moved again to Northampton when it was founded in 1654, and a number of families from Hartford moved to Northampton as well. Sarah and James moved from Springfield to Northampton, as did the family that Sarah and James disliked most, headed by Mary (Bliss) Parsons and Joseph Parsons. Joseph Parsons had steadily improved his status and financial state and would continue to do so over the course of his life. In the world of white colonial New England, your reputation was one of the most important facets of your life. Mary and Joseph had already developed a rocky reputation in Springfield; though Joseph had cultivated wealth and high status through what seems to have been a combination of hard work and savvy decisions, he appears from court cases to have been rather abrasive in many of his interactions, which may help someone be a more successful businessman but didn’t lend itself to positive interactions with neighbors and others in the community. After the families had resettled in Northampton, Sarah and James’s only surviving son became ill from an unexplained knee condition, and Sarah purportedly spread gossip blaming Mary for causing her son’s illness through witchcraft.

To a 17th century New Englander, it made perfect sense. For example, if someone had an argument or disagreement with you and then something bad befell you or one of your loved ones, the person who had been upset with you could have been trying to get even with you by using witchcraft against you. Things that today we would consider minor, like someone’s newly cooked food spilling before it could be eaten or one of their cattle getting sick, often caused people to become suspicious that a neighbor they disliked or thought was somewhat “off” was causing their trouble through witchcraft.

Since one’s reputation was so important and accusations of witchcraft in particular could potentially lead to serious legal trouble and possibly even a death sentence, it was common for someone who was being called a witch around town – sometimes after only one such instance – to file a preemptive slander suit against the gossiper(s), a tactic which many also hoped would nip any formal witch accusations in the proverbial bud before they could ever be officially filed. After Sarah started telling others that Mary had used witchcraft to cause her child’s illness in 1656, Mary’s husband Joseph filed a defamation suit against Sarah, and a warrant was issued to the constable for attaching Sarah to the slander case, requiring Sarah to give a bond of 100 pounds. Sarah had been supposed to appear in person in Cambridge, which is around a two-hour drive from Northampton today, but the constable appeared in Cambridge without her and said that since Sarah was with child it would be too difficult for her to appear.

The testimonies were taken in groups, which was common then. Particularly interestingly, most of Sarah’s initial supporters had moved to Northampton from Springfield, while most of Mary and Joseph’s initial supporters had moved to Northampton directly from towns in Connecticut Colony.

The first group of testifiers supported Sarah against Mary. William Hannum testified supporting his wife’s testimony that Mary had gotten into an altercation with their family about yarn, and also added that Joseph Parsons had beat his wife and at least one child; whether there is any truth to this latter claim it is difficult to say for sure, not least since he was testifying against Mary, but it is certainly possible. Sarah and her husband James testified that their son said he had seen Mary while she was not physically there and that Mary’s visage had threatened to further harm his knee. There is a modern tradition amongst Parsons descendants and in the Northampton area that the people who testified against Mary and the people who gossiped that she was a witch were envious of her. The term “jealousies” was used a lot in testimony against Mary, and I think this may be at least part of the cause of this tradition. The term “jealousies” then did not mean what “jealousy” as a synonym of “envy” means today. It was much more akin to the lengthy Webster definitions published in 1828; note that three of the four definitions include “suspicion” and two include “apprehension.”

Then a group of testifiers rebuffed the previous group, testifying such things as that Sarah had said her child had always been sickly, that the cow that William Hannum suspected Mary of killing through witchcraft showed signs of having been physically ill enough to die of natural causes, that Sarah and another woman had been heard discussing Mary being a witch, and that Sarah was so suspicious of Mary that she had demanded Mary repeatedly be searched.

Then additional testimony was collected on the previous groups of testimony. Amongst them, John Mathews testified that Joseph had told Mary she was “led by an evil spirit” and that Mary said that if so, it was because Joseph had locked her into the cellar and left her there; again, third-party testimony suggests that Joseph may have been abusive towards Mary. Some of the people who had initially testified for Sarah changed their testimony. Eventually Sarah admitted in court that she had told another woman about Sarah’s son saying Mary’s visage had appeared before him saying she would hurt him.

Mary Parsons requested that John Pynchon, then the magistrate of western Massachusetts, provide testimony supporting her, and on September 30th, he did so. The court sided with the Parsons, saying that Sarah “hath without just ground raised a great scandal and reproach upon the plaintiff’s wife” Mary and requiring Sarah to state so at public meetings at both Northampton and Springfield within sixty days. The court also said Sarah’s husband James had to pay ten pounds for damages and reimburse Joseph’s court costs.

Sarah died in Northampton, a long way geographically and culturally from the England of her birth. Her death is listed on the first page of recorded deaths in Northampton, a page titled “Record of Deaths in Northampton since the year 1654.” At the time of her death, Sarah and James were on the frontier of British colonization; an entry from the year before she died describes an inquest into how “Robin an Indian servant to Nathanell Clark” was “kild by the Indians.” (The term “servant” was used for both true servants and slaves then, so it is unclear from the entry which Robin was.) Sarah’s entry states with typical simplicity, “Sarah Bridgman wife of James Bridgman died 31 August 1668.” Sarah was probably 47 years old when she died, and was buried in the town burial ground; it would eventually become known as North Bridge Cemetery, and still exists today. But if Sarah’s family erected a gravestone or other marker for her, it has been lost to time; the oldest surviving gravestone is for someone who died nearly twenty years after Sarah.

The sour feelings between the Bridgmans and the Parsons continued after Sarah’s death. James Bridgman seems to have continued to believe that Mary (Bliss) Parsons harbored malevolent feelings towards their children that Mary used witchcraft to act upon. Sarah and James’s daughter Mary (Bridgman) Bartlett died suddenly from unexplained causes, and without Sarah there to act, Sarah’s and her daughter Mary’s widowers, James Bridgman and Samuel Bartlett, accused Mary Parsons of causing Mary Bartlett’s death through witchcraft. A suit was filed against Mary Parsons in 1674 and was heard in the regional court. The case was forwarded from the regional court to the higher court at Boston, known as the Court of Assistants, where Mary Parsons was indicted by a grand jury and tried on charges of witchcraft in 1675. Mary was acquitted of all charges. Sarah’s widower James died the following year.

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NOTES

High Ongar’s pre-English-Civil-War registers survived the ravages of war and time and are now digitized on Essex Record Office’s website. For a fee anyone can view Sarah’s baptism and her family’s other parish register entries from an internet-enabled computer/device anywhere in the world.

Northampton’s vital records are part of the Holbrook Collection, originally microfilm reels that were digitized by Ancestry a couple of years ago and retitled “Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988.” The indexing of this record set on Ancestry is not particularly good and is especially bad for the 17th century; if the town of residence is known, I generally recommend a search by hand as not finding an entry through a database search does not necessarily mean the entry isn’t there. The Holbrooks filmed three versions of Northampton’s records, the originals, an old handwritten copy of the originals, and a typed transcript where the two versions were compared and some additional notes were added by the transcribers.

Northampton’s vital records were also recently added to FamilySearch from the Family History Library’s microfilmed copies. Personally I find their film’s scans of the old vital records harder to read than the Holbrook Collection’s film’s scans; however, FamilySearch’s (currently unindexed) version is free. Also, FamilySearch has an additional register under its own category of “Franklin, Hampshire” [counties of Massachusetts] that includes some later copies of early materials pertaining to residents of a number of the area towns, including a record of people killed in what is usually called the French and Indian War here in the States (known as the Seven Years’ War in most of the English-speaking world) and of the massacre at Deerfield; while as yet unindexed on FamilySearch, the register contains a handwritten index at the front.

Springfield’s vital records are in their own database on FamilySearch, titled “Massachusetts, Springfield Vital Records, 1638-1887”; while indexed, I was told by someone who knew the indexer that the index FamilySearch put on the site had not yet been completed and proofed by the person who had been independently compiling it, so again, if you can’t find an entry I recommend a page-by-page search. Additionally, some of the very earliest vital records in the scans of Springfield’s register are written in handwriting that appears to date from a later time period; as yet, I have been unable to determine the provenance of these entries, and while they were most likely copied from deteriorating original pages, at this point I cannot say that for sure. Scans of films of Springfield’s vital records are also in FamilySearch’s unindexed Massachusetts town records collection.

The slander case testimony is in the Middlesex County Court Records [of Massachusetts] and copies of some testimonies are also at Harvard Law Library. The early colonial Middlesex County Court docket copies of a wide variety of cases are online (with a time gap) and unindexed at FamilySearch. Fascination with colonial witch trials and with Northampton’s history have continued to the present, and consequently there has been an awful lot written about the cases of the Bridgman family vs. the Parsons family, continuing to modern times.  Unfortunately the majority of the original material regarding the second trial, wherein Mary was indicted for witchcraft and then acquitted, has been lost. Following are some suggestions for others interested in reading printed works on the cases in this blog post and/or other witch cases:

Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England: A Documentary History, 1638-1695, 2nd ed., edited and with an introduction by David D. Hall (USA: Duke University Press, 2nd ed. copyright 1999). Hall’s introduction is invaluable for anyone trying to place witch-hunting in New England in historical context and to understand the system in place for dealing with witch cases. The bulk of the book is Hall’s transcriptions of a variety of witch cases from around New England; transcriptions of testimony from the Parsons vs. Bridgman slander case comprises the majority of chapter 6, titled “A Long-Running Feud (1656-1675).”

Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639-1703): The Pynchon Court Record, edited with a legal and historical introduction by Joseph H. Smith (USA: The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation at Harvard University Press, 1961). William Pynchon and then his son John Pynchon served as magistrates for a swath of the geographical area of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, based out of Springfield and including Northampton. This book is a mix of transcriptions, analysis, and information about the various legal procedures used at the time. There are a number of witchcraft-related cases included in the book.

“‘Hard Thoughts and Jealousies'” by John Putnam Demos, from A Place Called Paradise: Culture & Community in Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654-2004, edited by Kerry W. Buckley (USA: Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center in association with University of Massachusetts Press, 2004); originally published in Demos’s Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982). This essay consists primarily of background on the women’s lives and families of origins and an analysis of the cases involving the two families; the title is a quote from testimony. While I don’t think it is really very possible to draw conclusive findings about people’s internal states and emotional lives from third-party historical records and family traditions as Demos tries to do repeatedly in this essay (particularly in the background section), it is an interesting essay well worth the read. (After Demos’s essay was republished in A Place Called Paradise, a revised edition of his book Entertaining Satan was published.)

A side note regarding Demos’s essay: Modern readers may read John Eliot’s description of Sarah (Lyman) Bridgman’s father Richard’s state of “melancholy” after moving to Hartford and assume Richard was depressed; this may or may not have been the case. Melancholy, also called melancholia, was a very common diagnosis in 16th and 17th century England (New England’s early colonial medical practices were based upon England’s), and could be anywhere from a purely emotional issue to a completely physical one, though given the beliefs of the time, most illnesses fell somewhere in between the two extremes. Melancholia could be caused by supernatural forces, including witchcraft. An essay about Robert Burton’s popular 17th century compilation The Anatomy of Melancholy has been posted online, “Major Depression in Seventeenth Century England: A Brief Look at Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy,” and others interested in historical medical practices will likely enjoy reading it.

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