Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When John Graves Isn't John Graves, and Walpole Isn't Walpole

For decades, the death date and place of  John Graves, father of Nathan Graves, has been widely circulated and accepted as 29 December 1766, in Walpole, now Cheshire Co., New Hampshire.  This date and location appeared in early published works and family group sheets about the Graves family, and was later copied to online family trees and websites.  Much of this material failed to cite any source material.
In my continuing quest to give substance to my own family tree, I’ve located entries which cast serious doubts on this long-accepted date and place.  In the excerpt below, the name, date and town appear to be a logical source for the belief that this refers to “my” John Graves.  There is one glaring contradiction, however:  the state.  This refers to Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.

Thinking this might have been a town within an area originally part of Massachusetts but later New Hampshire, I did some further research.  Walpole, NH and Walpole, MA are two distinct places.  Walpole, NH is on the Connecticut River, and Walpole, MA is southwest of Boston.  Using primary sources, I was also able to construct an entire family for the John Graves of Walpole, MA, and it wasn’t “mine.” 

I began with this marriage for John Graves and Mrs. Mary Smith of Dedham, MA, which is in close proximity to Walpole.  Between 1741 and 1762, they became parents to eight children, three of whom died young.  The five surviving were Mary, Ebenezer, Abigail, Anna, and Lucy.  They re-used names of their deceased children at least twice:  Mary and Ebenezer.  John has been described as a cordwainer (shoemaker). 
            While it's possible that the John Graves I'm researching could have raced up from where he was known to have lived, in the Saybrook-Killingworth area of Connecticut, or down from his new home in Cheshire Co., NH, in time for his demise 1766, it's more likely that the death date refers to the other gentleman.  Interestingly, other sources state that my John Graves was also a cordwainer.  Perhaps they "shared" more than a death date!
            All of this research revealed another anomaly:  I believe the above marriage entry says "Mrs. Mary Smith," and I'm not alone.  It's transcribed that way as well in a published volume, here:

           The authors of at least one family history published online, and no doubt many family trees, assume that Mary Smith was a single woman when she married.  It's stated that she was the daughter of Josiah Smith and Mary Paine.  While this may indeed be true, she would have had to have a first marriage to a man also named Smith at the time of her marriage to John Graves.  I will leave that question to her descendants!
The process of consulting original materials is becoming easier, with regular additions of scanned images being uploaded to various websites.  FamilySearch.org, in particular, is one of the regular stops on my genealogical journey.  
So, the question of the death of John Graves of Connecticut or New Hampshire remains unanswered.  However, even if it means erasing one of my “facts,” I find a great deal of satisfaction in untangling these mysteries. 
 I only wish I didn't create more along the way...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

One Paragraph, 4 Surnames, 6 Locations, 100+ years: Ives Family

     Once again, FamilySearch.org has opened a window to a valuable set of records.  In some instances, it offers a tremendous amount of detail.
     During World War II, many people made an effort to prove their citizenship.  There were several reasons:  establishing age for the various draft registrations, proving eligibility for jobs which needed government security clearance, and making one eligible for ration books.  1942 saw a significant increase in applications for delayed birth certificates.  In many cases, the applications and supporting documents included information about home births, and explained circumstances and relationships.
     One such application, for Lester Joseph Ives, provides enough information to establish three generations of his family tree, including names and places.  It's from the record set made available online at FamilySearch.org May 31, 2016, titled Washington Birth Records, 1869-1950.  Currently, it only includes King Co. (Seattle) and delayed births.  The affidavit of Lester's mother, Carrie Smith Ives, is shown here:

Affidavit of Carrie A. Smith Ives, on behalf of her son, Lester Joseph Ives, 1942.  Viewed at FamilySearch.org
     Besides the birth date and location of the subject of the application, it shows all of those details and maiden names for both his parents, and all of his grandparents!  There's the added bonus of original signatures as well.
     Additionally, there was an affidavit from Lester's aunt, Rena Ives, who not only confirms his birth, but explains the relationship between herself and his mother.  It's shown here:

Rena Ives' 1942 affidavit stating her relationship to Lester Ives and his mother

     As one of the many descendants of Allen Ives, I am always surprised at what is available on the collateral lines of the family.  While not adding to "my" pedigree, this record adds texture, and fills in details about the circumstances which may have had an impact on the family as a whole.
     Once more, we are reminded of what difficulties we as genealogists place in our own way, when we fail to regularly seek out new records.  The same can be said for not looking at the more distant branches of the family.  One never knows what hiding in plain sight.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Proud to Call Him My Cousin: Tony Gordon

JFP & Tony Gordon, 2006
collection of the author

The link below is to a video of a dedication ceremony held on Veteran's Day in suburban Chicago.  It honored all veterans, but, in particular my cousin, Tony Gordon, my father's nephew.  The bit about him starts about 21 minutes in, and is marvelous.  What it doesn't mention is, not only did Tony do one tour in Vietnam, but three.  Sadly, he passed away a couple years ago from cancer.  What a wonderful tribute from his community.

I am proud to have called him my cousin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Shedding Those Genealogical Pounds

     As we move many of our genealogical tasks to digital formats, some of the tools we used years ago become obsolete.  They retreat further and further into the backs of drawers, closets, and attics, rarely to be seen.  Among those items in my household which qualify are:  more than one typewriter, the personal microfilm reader (this was sold by a microfilm rental company which has long been out of business), and the plastic film canisters (have kids now ever seen rolls of film?) filled with quarters and dimes, for those library jaunts requiring many trips to the copy machine.
     I ran across one item that I've decided to let go, but not without a pang of regret.  This is a briefcase given to me as a gift by my mother, Joan L. Eckerson Anderson, in the very early 1980s, at the start of my genealogical career.  It's nothing special in terms of value or appeal:  the brand is an Airway, and it seems to have been constructed of imitation everything.  But, its significance to me is that it represents the support and love of my mom.  She found my work in genealogical research something to be proud of.

     Recently, I finished Geoff Rasmussen's book, Kindred Voices, in which he talks about letting your ancestors guide you in your search for their stories.  He referenced a funny quote I'd never heard before.  It's something like, "I've never seen a U-Haul following a hearse," which is another way of saying you can't take it with you.  My mother ignored this, and really did try to take it with her.  Now that she's gone, however, I believe I can let the briefcase go without causing hurt feelings.
     She did leave me something to replace it with, in a roundabout way.  My sister sent me this lovely leather case that had been in my mom's house:  one of her thrift shop finds.  I had glanced at it once and admired its handsome construction.  The rumor was that it had belonged to a college instructor.  Its nearly-new condition may have had something to do with the fact that it weighs about 40 pounds empty!
     This Christmas season it found a new purpose:   housing a stuffed animal collection.  I'll find other ways to re-purpose it during different times of the year.  While this may be a comedown from the halls of academia, it's far better than hiding in the dim shadows of the closet, banished by the iPad.  
 Thanks, Mom!

Friday, November 6, 2015

William Thompson: Fiance material? Perhaps...

John Alden and Priscilla wedded - McLoughlin Bros, 1903
     We've all been there:  an acquaintance or relative starts seeing someone romantically, and we begin evaluating whether or not they make a good pair.  Whispered conversations take place, and judgments are passed.  
     Most of us, however, don't expect to see our opinions lead to a fine levied against the would-be groom by the court system, which is what happened to an indignant William Thompson, in Colonial Massachusetts.
     On my first trip to the Massachusetts State Archives recently, I was treated to a lovely facility with many indexed records.  While scrolling through a microfilm of volume nine of the Massachusetts Archives Collection, I spotted an intriguing entry.  Volume nine of the collection is described by a title made for browsing:  "Domestic Relations."  The index, besides giving a name and page number, gives the nature of the case.  I think I could have spent the entire day looking up the statements in these cases, so vividly detailed were the pictures they conjured up.  This index appears to have been created at some point much later than the events, but was still very old.  The archives' website describes the collection as a whole:   "...includes original records of the governor, Council, General Court, secretary, and treasurer, is an important source of records for early Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire.  The collection is unique in the quantity of seventeenth-century records it contains, and this richness continues throughout the eighteenth century, with voluminous amounts of Revolutionary materials."  

Detail from Volume 9, Massachusetts Archives Collection, photo by the author
     At some point in May of 1653, the following testimony was given:  "Petition of William Thompson to be excused from a fine laid on him, because he proposed marriage to Sarah Cogan, without first consulting her friends."
     Time didn't allow me to pursue the ultimate fate of William's pursuit of Sarah.  Was this a standard approach taken, when protocol was ignored?  Was she embarrassed or offended by his attentions?  Or did they experience a life together?  No matter the cause or the outcome, I had no problem picturing her "friends," the early-day Puritan busy-bodies, whispering behind their hands to each other.  After long days of labor in a harsh environment, followed by long hours spent at religious services, the couple's drama was perhaps a bright spot.  
     When we engage in modern-day gossip, we certainly aren't doing anything new.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

But Wait - There's More! Selah Graves


     As ancestral sleuths, we are often told that it's a good idea to maintain a genealogical research plan, and keep track of negative findings as well as positive results.  But, just as often, my mind doesn't work like that.  Part of the fun for me, is to trip over a random genealogical discovery.  I have the kindness of others to thank for much of this; people have taken pains to transcribe, and make available online, obscure records that would otherwise be forgotten.
     Take this example:  I don't even remember how it popped into my head to search for my ancestor, Selah Graves, who died in Pike, Wyoming County, New York.  I put together his name in quotation marks, along with another descriptor, perhaps "Pike," and performed a Google search.  Low and behold, one of the results led me to another part of Selah's life that I had known nothing about:  his affiliation with the Masons.
     In 1828, Selah is described as the Master of the Morning Star Lodge, #295 in Pike, Wyoming County, New York.  In this capacity, his name appears on a letter to the state governing board of the Masons, describing the plight of his local lodge.  They had gone from 50 members to 15, "willing to stand the shock against Masonry."  They had used all their funds to build a hall, two of their wealthy members had died, and they were $80 in debt.  They asked if they could forgo paying dues at that time.  Failure to be granted this request would probably result in the Lodge's "Stopping Work."  The letter also records the name L. Couch, secretary.

     From a Wikipedia entry comes the following:  "William Morgan (1774–1826?) was a resident of Batavia, New York, whose disappearance and presumed murder in 1826 ignited a powerful movement against the Freemasons, a fraternal society that had become influential in the United States. After Morgan announced his intention to publish a book exposing Freemasonry's secrets, he was arrested on trumped-up charges. He disappeared soon after, and is believed to have been kidnapped and killed by some Masons.
The allegations surrounding Morgan's disappearance and presumed death sparked a public outcry and inspired Thurlow Weed and others to harness the discontent by founding the new Anti-Masonic Party in opposition to President Andrew Jackson's Democrats.  It ran a presidential candidate in 1832 but was nearly defunct by 1835."
     And so, not only have I gained another piece of evidence that helps me build a picture of my ancestor in particular, but I've also learned something about how he fit into the history of the time, and how he was impacted by a larger story.
     My thanks to Gary L. Heinmiller, who compiled various records of local Masonic Lodges in upstate New York.  The file can be accessed here:  http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Craft%20Masonry%20in%20Livingston%20County.pdf

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lambert Eckerson home, Fawn River, St. Joseph County, MI

"Residence of L. Eckerson - Fawn River -Mich."
Original photo in possession of the author

     My great-grandfather, John Levi Eckerson, spent many years working his way from Michigan to Washington state, but there are few details of how or why he made the journey.  In 1880, he is found described on the census as "boring wells," and living as a boarder.  This was in Belvidere, Thayer County, Nebraska.  This may not have been a random decision, because his great-uncle, Willard W. Morgan, had also moved there in 1871.  In 1889, John L. Eckerson can next be found in the territorial census for Washington, living in Thurston County, single and working as a carpenter.  An 1891 newspaper notice states that his leg was broken while loading heavy timber onto railroad cars in Centralia, Lewis County.  He had evidently moved across the country living a rough and tumble existence.
     At the ripe age of 44, John L. Eckerson married 20-year-old Estella Channell in Lewis County, Washington.  A newspaper account of the event states that she was "quite a catch."  Perhaps they didn't quite understand her attraction to him, either!
     There is evidence that most of John Eckerson's siblings eventually moved west as well:  his older sister, Helen Butz, and his brothers Frank and Ernest are all found in Washington and Oregon.
     When I began my journey in genealogy, I asked my grandfather, John and Stella's only child, Harold Eckerson, where his father had come from.  The answer was always the same, "Hell's Half Acre!"  This was his way of saying he had no clue.  But if he'd bothered to look at the evidence, the answer might have been different.
     One of the items that somehow found its way west, was this photograph of the home in Fawn River, St. Joseph County, Michigan, where John L. Eckerson had grown up.  His parents were Lambert and Harriet Graves Eckerson, who had come to Michigan from Western New York.  Thankfully, the photograph is clearly identified as being the residence of L. Eckerson.
     There is a teenager standing in the center of the picture.  Is this John, on the cusp of his westward adventures?