I have a clear memory of being singled out by my 5th grade teacher as being the 2nd worst in the class at penmanship. Or maybe he just said that Neil and I were the two worst. I know I hated cursive, but it’s hard to remember, all these years later, whether I hated it because I had such a hard time doing it, or that I was bad at it because I hated doing it. I think the former was the case.
Doing genealogical research can suddenly make you appreciate good penmanship. The old census records, passenger lists, birth records, etc. are rife with illegible scrawls. I would suggest that children be forced to decipher some of these records in order to appreciate why legibility matters. Laughable examples can help as well. For example, Oliver Ames should have paid closer attention, especially to making sure an “m” doesn’t look like an “n” and an “e” doesn’t look like the second half of a “u”:
The moral of the story is to make sure your handwriting is legible or you might make an ass of yourself.
So it all started when I found a great grandmother with the last name “Cheney”. That got me scared. So I tracked down that part of my family tree and found that she, ultimately, descended from John Cheney of Newbury but Dick Cheney descended from William Cheney of Roxbury. There are theories that these two ancestors were related, possibly brothers, but no evidence has been found either way. So I could maintain some plausible deniability that Dick Cheney and I are not 9th cousins 1 time removed. Whew!
But then I found a connection to the Holbrook family, which, ultimately led back to Thomas Holbrook. A note on his page mentioned some U.S. Presidents. I found that James Garfield is my 6th cousin 3 times removed, William Taft is my 5th cousin 3 times removed, and, George W. Bush is my 8th cousin 1 time removed. It is a cruel twist that all of these Presidents were Republicans, though at least two of them had qualifications to actually do the job.
The closest I’ve come to a decent president is Ulysses Grant, but, as near as I can figure out, my connection to that family is via an illegitimate child who was brought up as a Grant.
But, in the end, I’m glad that nobody can prove I’m related to Dick Cheney.
I happened upon this passage on page 906 of the Vital Record of Rehoboth
Lett none marvell att the promiscuous and disorderly setting downe of the names of such they are, or may be married, or doe, or may be born, or may dye; for they are sett as they were brought to mee as disorderly as they are sett downe. If the Courts order had bin minded respecting this matter, they had biue otherwise placed then they are.
The page in question was of records from 1680, clearly some town clerk was frustrated with his job that day. It’s always nice to know that some things are timeless.
In my experience, it is pretty rare to find genealogical information on the internet with any source citations at all. But on one site (which shall remain nameless), I actually found a source listed!
Wilfred ***, firsthand knowledge. ... Entered by Wilfred ***, Jun 21, 2012
Considering the page is about someone who lived in the mid 18th century, it seems unlikely Wilfred has actual “firsthand knowledge”; not unless he’s immortal or has invented a time machine!
Sometime in between 1675 and 1686 my 8th great grandfather re-married after the death of his first wife (my 8th great grandmother). His brother married a few years earlier. Coincidentally, both these women were named Sarah. Soon, they had something else in common.
In the midst of the Salem Witch Trials, John’s wife, Sarah Alsbee, was accused of witchcraft but was acquitted. His brother’s wife, Sarah Davis was also accused, and imprisoned, but was released on bail and never brought to trial.
Every time I visit my mother, we end up doing a bunch of genealogy work, and then afterwards I continue doing a bunch of research, and our latest visit was no exception. Several months ago I posted lamenting the lack of information about mothers in family trees. After visiting with my mother, I started looking at all the mothers in the family tree, rather than focussing on the difficult one on my matrilineal line, and started doing some searches on each and I turned up a number of books written about the families to which these women belonged.
Eva’s mother, Naomi Olcott, led me to the Olcott family which may connect her to one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut in 1635 (more research needed to find out if that connection can be made).
Naomi’s mother led me to the Holbrook family, which leads back to Thomas Holbrook who came to America in 1635 (more research to be done).
my second great grandmother (via my mother’s mother), Abigail Abbot Harrington led me to the Harrington Family and to a Revolutionary War veteran and, eventually, to Robert Harrington who came to America in 1635.
Sarah’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Gorton led me into the Gorton family where I found another Revolutionary War veteran and back to Samuel Gorton who was the founder of Warwick, Rhode Island, and, in 1652, the author of an act calling for the abolition of slavery in Rhode Island, which was enacted, but was, sadly, totally ignored.
I still need to research many more mothers, including the surnames “Wolf”, “Crouch”, “Grant”, “Hoffman”, “Gates”, and “Cheney” (though I am concerned about connections I may find with the last two).
I guess the main lesson here is: listen to your mother!
I know I shouldn’t be surprised by such things, but while researching the Dutch portion of my family tree, I ran across an organization, which had this statement on the web site: _“You may be eligible to become a member if you are a descendant in the direct male line of an ancestor who …” _
I have no interest in joining, but if that one word were not in that sentence I would be eligible. But since three women stand between me and the last male in the that line, I am apparently too tainted by the feminine for me to be in their presence. Had those three women been men, I would have no more blood connection to the ancestors in question than I do now, except I would have some remnant of their venerable surname on my driver’s license.
But this brings up an interesting point. Many years ago after reading a book about patriarchal and matriarchal cultures, I wondered what my ancestry would look like from the latter perspective. What if I could make the family retroactively matriarchal? But I quickly ran into a brick wall. I could go back 4 generations to my 2nd great grandmother, but then I had a hard time finding any information. I had a name, a birth year and state. I knew when she married my great great grandfather. That was it. Fortunately, I found a mention of her parents and was able to find a bit more information, but not much. I am again blocked. All I have is a name and a birth place for my 3rd great grandmother. The same brick wall is encountered when researching most every other mother in my family tree.
I am a newcomer to genealogical research, but it didn’t take me long to notice how little information was kept about women. In some cases, only the first name remains in the records; or worse yet, she is only recorded as “and wife”. If it weren’t for her name in the birth records of her children there would be little other trace.
This is truly sad. I never got to meet my maternal grandmother, but from the stories I am told she was a lively, interesting, and loving woman. I wish I could have met her. I’m sure that every other of my grandmothers, great grandmothers, etc, would be equally interesting. But since all that matters is the male line, almost nothing trickles into the present, depriving us all of a half of our heritage.
We just finished watching Sons of Liberty. I think they took huge liberties with the historical facts, and the amount of time spent in commercials seemed rather extreme (over 25% by my measure). But I thought it was well made and entertaining.
But I’m not a movie critic and I’m not going to even pretend to be one. Rather, I will share a section of the Van Bunschoten book which provides a glimpse of actual history related to the events in the show.
Now come we to the Revolutionary test. A meeting of the inhabitants of Rombout Precinct was called " on hearing the news of the Lexington outrage 'and of the Resolution taken in Parliament declaring the whole country Rebels,' to provide for the preservation of our families and that a firm union may subsist between us and the other Precincts." This was signed at Fishkill on May 2, 1775, by forty-two free-holders including [Elias Van Bunschoten](http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Elias_Van_Bunschoten_%284%29), his [son Elias](http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Elias_Van_Bunschoten_%287%29), Jr.. and his [nephew Matthew](http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Person:Matthew_Van_Bunschoten_%281%29). Quickly followed the historic pledge: "Persuaded" etc., * * "we do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor and love to our country, to adopt and endeavor to carry into execution whatsoever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention." This Elias signed and ten others of the name in Dutchess county, and as many more who were connected with the family by marriage.
I found this tragic story in the Van Bunschoten book, which starts out sounding like an episode of Law and Order, but then goes medieval.
On April 20, 1682, Arendt Isaacs' wife died suddenly and not without suspicions of foul play. Her body was examined by the magistrates, constable and two doctors, and in conclusion — "Arendt Isaax, her husband, was ordered to place his hand upon his breast and call upon God Almighty to give a sign if he were guilty of his wife's death; which he did. But no change was visible."
I’m glad investigation techniques have improved since then.
The reason this was in the book was that Arendt and my 7th great grandfather later signed the following agreement:
Appeared before me Wm. Montagne, secretary at Kingston, Arendt Isaax who declares to have hired out his daughter named Gerritjie for the period of two current years from April next. During said time the aforesaid daughter is to properly and faithfully serve her master and mistress. Theunis Elesen is to provide her with proper board and clothing and at the expiration of the period furnish her with a presentable Sunday gown, four chimeses, two blue aprons, two white aprons, and one silver head-ornament, and is to send her to evening school during one winter. In testimony of the truth we have subscribed hereto this September 1, 1682, at Kingston.
These fragments do make one wonder what really happened and what the effect was on this small isolated town. I’m sure an author of historical fiction could turn this into an interesting story, but don’t forget about me when it becomes a bestseller!
Since this is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it seemed like a good time to document some disturbing things I have found while researching my family tree.
For several months I have been reading Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America: a genealogy and brief history, and some time ago I first noticed (with shock and horror) the word “slave”. None of these were my direct ancestors, but rather distant cousins many generations removed (obviously). But regardless of how there is a connection, having any connection to slave ownership is shameful.
I have been pondering, for some time,how to document this sad chapter in my family’s history. For now, I will just list what I have found so far. Each bullet item, below, represents a single cousin. Note that I have, for the most part, quoted the aforementioned book directly, which was written in in 1907 and was quoting yet earlier sources, so any offensive language is not mine.
On page 31, in 1758, there is a mention of “He had just returned from the fields with his negro slaves where he had been superintending the work” and “… the family and the negro slaves who had gathered in the room.”
On page 39, sometime before 1815, “the Domine had a privileged old slave as a gardener” and “The Domine sent a negro in chase who followed the fugitive creditor several miles and at last succeeded in making payment in full.”
On page 77, in 1783 a will gives to each of of his two daughters ownership of “a Negro Woman which she has now in possession” (there were two daughters and two slaves).
On page 100, the author says “And doubtless he had slaves as had his New Hackensack cousins; I come on no record of the fact, however, beyond this entry in the Poughkeepsie church records: “Baptised Nov. 4, 1796, Mary, child of Bet, slave of Elias Van Bunschoten; Sponsor, Catalyntje Light, wife of Elias Van Bunschoten.” Mrs. McRorie, Elias’ only living grandchild, remembers hearing that her “Grandmother Catalyntje was a ‘fine lady’ — that she never did any work except embroidery and needle-work, slaves doing all the household labor “.
On page 120, late 1700’s, a daughter is given “a slave woman called Elsie Deyon.”
On page 133, early 1800’s, there is mention of slave women Dinah and her daughters, and Judy and her daughter Alta.
On page 195, around 1800: “She also tells of an “old black Mary ” and her daughter “Sill” or “Cill ” who lived at her grandfather’s — the former a slave until emancipation.”
On page 199, in the mid 1600s a relative “settled at Harlem, opened an “ordinary ” or tavern, established a ferry and provided boats for transportation “of which his lusty negro Mathys was put in charge.”
On page 214, around 1778, I found this disturbing story: “A negro boy belonging to the family having been impudent was punished by his master. Resenting the correction the negro at night put a coal in the hay-mow and the barns, barracks and all out-buildings were burned to the ground, and the contents including grain, fodder, cattle and horses entirely consumed. It is said that Jacob was reluctant to believe that the negro had done the deed until the latter, who was at work on the wood-pile the following day, taking an opportunity as he thought started to run away. He was pursued, caught, and confessing the crime turned over to the authorities and, paying the then penalty for incendiarism, was burnt at the stake in the broad part of Market street, Poughkeepsie — a horrible spectacle witnessed by a great concourse of people. It is told that when the flames were mounting about him the negro time and again cried out: “Oh! Massa’s poor horses! Oh! Massa’s poor, poor horses!”
On page 657, there is a church warehouse record: “Aug. 4, 1714. Owes for two pounds of (obscure) delivered to his negro,”
On page 664, in 1785, the following is listed in a will: “my Negro Wench, Jin, and my Negro Boy Named Ben”
To end on a better note I found these two passages:
On page 279, a cousin living in the mid 1800’s “It is said that during the days of the “Underground rail-road” he aided the cause of human freedom. On one occasion it is known that he saved negroes from capture by hiding them until their pursuers were gone and then getting them out of the port of Huron for Canada.”
A man who married into the family in 1851 (p 278): “Francis Barrie was of pronounced individuality. By nature he was a non-comformist and he became a reformer along many lines. Early an Abolitionist, he was a part of the ” underground “ system which passed escaping slaves on to Canada. He was an Adventist and a vegetarian, and used his voice and pen for the furtherance of many causes.”
When I was about 12 years old my mother got a little booklet from a distant cousin which listed the family tree of the Way family (my maternal grandfather’s family) going back to the late 1600’s. For a social studies project that year, I copied the information onto the given charts and was quite proud that I had three pages. But, I had no understanding of the value of this information, how hard it was to get and what was missing. With that, I dropped it and didn’t think about it for a very long time.
In the late 1990’s my mother and step-father became Mormon and began digging through the entire family tree. In addition to the booklet mentioned above, my mother had another one tracing back her mother’s ancestry, again, back to the late 1600’s. She entered all this into her computer (with some help from me), and I got a copy of the GEDCOM file, which I messed with occasionally, and even converted it to HTML and put it on my web pages.
I remember thinking, at the time, that there must be countless GEDCOM files, like mine, floating around out there, and if you could put them all together you would have one huge family tree, which would be infinitely more valuable than all those individual GEDCOMs. But this was before Wikis existed and so I couldn’t see a way to get from here to there, and promptly forgot about the idea.
A few years ago, I started thinking again about this idea and realized that a Wiki was just what was needed for this. A few searches later I found myself at WeRelate.org. This was exactly what I was looking for! I promptly dug out that old GEDCOM file, and submitted it. To my shock, it was rejected! I figured a few quick additions was all that was needed and started reading. But it would not be so easy, and I put the project aside. Almost. In the process, I discovered the book Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America, a genealogy and brief history and was shocked. This 921 page book details 4395 descendants (and many others who married into the family) spanning two and a half centuries. I started reading this book and realized what genealogy really was, how difficult it could be and what things can be learned.
So, when my mother was visiting for Thanksgiving, we sat down and I showed her how to use WeRelate and got started down what is obviously going to be a long road. Thus far, I have 277 entries in my family tree over there and have only scratched the surface.
All this is to say that you can expect more posts about this in the future, whether you like it or not.