- Posts for Family History Friday category
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Curious | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 4: Curious

This week’s theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “Curious” and it took a few days to consider how I would delve into this. There are so many things I’m curious about, so many things I want to discover, but I think the main one is the name of my ex-husband’s paternal immigrant ancestors… who I’ve hypothesized might not have been an immigrant at all.

The Hawksley Family

My ex-husband’s ancestors are the Hawksleys of Mars Hill, Aroostook County, Maine. You might wonder why I’m even interested and there are two reasons. 1. These are my son’s ancestors and 2. I don’t have Loyalists in my family, but I find them fascinating. Well, these folks are interconnected with the Loyalists who fled or were forced to leave the colonies, and settle in New Brunswick.

The first mention of a Hawksley in New Brunswick is of my ex-husband’s ancestor, John Goodwin Hawksley, and his sisters, Margaret, Mary, and Sarah. Thanks to a trip I took to the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 2008 to look at a specific manuscript collection in their library, we know their mother is Mary Goodwin and that her parents, whose first names are unknown, were Loyalists from New Jersey. We have the names of Mary’s siblings, their spouses, and their children. I’ve been in contact with some of their descendants.

What we don’t know is the identity of Mary’s first husband, Mr. Hawksley. All we have is a family history from the manuscript collection at NEHGS that states that she married “Hawksley (an Englishman).”

Life in New Brunswick

Now, what’s curious about this family isn’t just their history and lives, but also the fact that I find no records about Mr. Hawksley in New Brunswick. You would think that a person, especially a man, would have generated at least some record of his existence. However, I have dug through births, marriages, deaths, newspapers, voting records, tax records, military records, land records, court records, and everything I can possibly get my hands on from afar and found nothing. This has even included borrowing microfilms from the New Brunswick Archives to scroll through them and yet there is no trace of a Mr. Hawksley before John Goodwin Hawksley was married in 1842 in Hodgdon, Aroostook, Maine (verified only by documents from the town of Hodgdon, certified by the town clerk at the time, found in his son Samuel’s Civil War Pension file; I wrote to Hodgdon many years ago, and they no longer had the actual marriage record), and then John’s residence in Carleton, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada in the 1851 Canadian Census.

If his father lived there, why is there no record of him?

Of course, plenty of people can live in a place without generating a record. For example, Mary Goodwin’s parents also don’t seem to have created records for their lives in New Brunswick. They were forced to settle there sometime around 1783, yet the earliest record of their family seems to start with their eldest son, James, in Saint John.

I would think a man had to have left some at least indication of his life in a place, however I also found that Mary Goodwin’s “second” husband (and I put that in quotes for a reason), William Madigan, did not leave many records beyond his marriage to her and witnessing the marriages of her daughters Mary and Margaret. The marriage record for Mary Goodwin and William Madigan sparked my hypothesis. Why?

Because wouldn’t Mary Goodwin’s marriage record to William have called her Mary Hawksley if she was already married? That is a pretty typical Anglo-Saxon convention, a woman taking on her husband’s name and then always being referred to by it, up to and in a subsequent marriage record. In fact, it seems like – more often than not – transcribers working on marriages will assume that’s a maiden name, and list the bride’s father by what is actually her married surname. Granted, it’s not always the case that a woman is listed by her married name in subsequent marriages, so I can’t be completely certain.

But what if Mary was not married to Mr. Hawksley? What if she was involved with him, but the relationship went no further than that because he was a British soldier stationed in Fredericton, New Brunswick, who returned to his family at the end of his tour of duty?

The hypothesis is based on what little evidence I’ve been able to gather about a John Hawksley who was stationed in Fredericton during the years of the births of Mary’s children. He was from Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, and ultimately returned to his wife and children where they had been living back in Ireland. DNA matches support this hypothesis, or at least a relationship to that John Hawksley, but I have little else to make the connection at this time.

So I’m curious… was the mysterious Mr. Hawksley this soldier or was it a man (possibly related to the soldier) whose life was so unremarkable that no evidence of his existence remains to be found?

Perhaps the missing links appear in newspaper records that are not part of the PANB Newspaper Vital Statistics collection and other records that remain unpublished. This may very well be an instance where digging into such records will yield answers. Who’s up for an adventure in New Brunswick to satisfy my curiosity? 😀

52 Ancestors, Week 3: Favorite Photo

This is another post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks where you’ll recognize what I’m talking about if you’ve been here in the past. My favorite photo is the one that really started my genealogy journey, the July 4th picnic in Middleborough, Massachusetts between the Blake and Vaughan families.

Blake Family Picnic | Our Prairie Nest

The people in this photograph are my great-grandmother, Nina Blake, crouching on the ground, and Sylvanus Franklin Vaughan, lounging next to her with a fan. Sitting on the left is “Pa Vaughan” and “Ma Vaughan” is standing to his right. The woman next to her is my great-great grandmother, Ada Estella Gay, and the man sitting on the right is my great-great grandfather, Edward Henry Blake.

I don’t know what year it was, but it would have to be 1896, because “Pa Vaughan” passed away 17 June 1897. That would make my great-grandmother 4-years-old, about to turn 5 in a few days, which is younger than I first guessed her age in this picture.

I think my great-grandmother looks so pretty here, and I love everything about this photograph. I’ve had it on display in my house for many years. When I first saw it, I was about 12-years-old and my grandmother showed me a crumbling old leather wallet full of Blake family documents. She let me keep the wallet when I was an adult, and the documents in it helped me begin my genealogical journey in earnest, starting with the Blake family.

“Pa Vaughan” and “Ma Vaughan” are Sylvanus H. Vaughan and Eleanor Rodman Walker. The man on the ground is their son, Sylvanus Franklin Vaughan, who would be 19 going on 20-years-old in this photo, since he was born 23 August 1876 in Middleborough. The elder Sylvanus died in 1897, as I mentioned, and was born about 1827. Eleanor was born 11 July 1853 in Boston and passed away 16 June 1909 in Middleborough. The younger Sylvanus eventually became Nina’s brother-in-law when he married Bessie Bartlett Shaw on 19 June 1899.

My great-great grandmother, Ada Estella (Gay) Blake was born 21 April 1861 in Thompson, Connecticut. Edward Henry Blake was born 2 August 1856 in Wrentham, Massachusetts, though for some reason I have never been able to locate a birth record for him. It’s one of those things I’ve always wondered, if his birth was simply never reported, or if there was something else happening there, such as an NPE. However, our Blake lineage is confirmed with DNA.

Ada and Edward were married 20 October 1890 in Southbridge, Massachusetts, and had two children – Nina on 10 July 1891 and Edwin on 20 October 1900. Nina married Harrison Clifford Shaw on 28 January 1912, thus making her Sylvanus Franklin Vaughan’s sister-in-law.

The entire aesthetic of this photo is just lovely. The adults are a little too “posed” and formal in it, but I like how Nina and Sylvanus are on the ground, she looking demure and he looking relaxed. I’m sure 4-year-old Nina would rather be running around on a summer day like this one, but this picture reminds me of my own adorable daughter and some of the attitudes I’ve managed to photograph her in when we least expected it. The July 4th picnic will always have a special place in my heart.

Great-Grandparents: Wood-Wood | Our Prairie Nest
Great-Grandparents: The Wood-Wood Side

After almost 30 years of pursuing genealogy and family history, I’ve had to make many revisions. This is the result of both traditional research and NPEs identified through DNA testing. I thought I would review five or six generations of my ancestors and discuss what has changed and what I’ve learned as a result.

My parents, sister, and I are all from Plymouth County, Massachusetts. All four of my grandparents were born in Plymouth County. When we get to my great-grandparents, things branch out a little bit, though still remain in New England other than one recently-discovered great-grandfather who was born in Italy. So let’s start looking at my family with this generation! After this, I’ll share a series of posts looking both my ex-husband’s and husband’s ancestors, as well.

Lewis Preston Wood & Ruth Evelyn Wood

I knew my paternal great-grandparents, but since my great-grandpa Wood passed away when I was only 6 and my great-grandma Wood developed dementia before I was a teenager, I didn’t have as much time with them as I would have liked. As I grew up, I learned more about them, but I wish I could have gotten stories from them.

Wood Family of Blue Hill, Maine

Lewis was born 15 February 1892 in Boston. His parents were Lemuel Augustus Wood and Georgianna Winsor. Lemuel was the son of Benjamin Stone Wood and Susanna Whitmore, of Blue Hill, Maine. We descend from Joseph Wood, one of the founders of Blue Hill. My father didn’t have sons to pass down the Wood name, but he has many paternal male cousins. I’m currently working on deeper research into our gateway ancestor, Anthony Wood, who came from England to Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts before 1668.

William Winsor of Duxbury, Massachusetts & Port Angeles, Washington

Georgianna was the daughter of William W. Winsor and Elizabeth Ann Church Simmons. William was from the Winsor family in Duxbury, Massachusetts, while Elizabeth comes from the Simmons family of Little Compton, Rhode Island. The Simmons family of Rhode Island is easy to trace back to the 1600s, as are the other Rhode Island and Massachusetts families that married into it over the years.

I’ve been particularly fascinated with William and his mother for a while. William left his wife and three daughters sometime before 1860 and was one of the first settlers of Port Angeles, Washington with Rufus Holmes, another native of Duxbury. Rufus returned to Massachusetts, but William remained in the Pacific Northwest, meandering between Washington and Victoria, British Columbia. I don’t know where he disappeared to after 1867, when he was mentioned in a court case for debt collection that was filed against him in Jefferson County, Washington. I hope to obtain the documents from that case to learn more about him.

Howett Family of Tyrrell County, North Carolina

Meanwhile, William’s mother was Martha “Patsy” Howett and learning about her several years ago opened up an unexpected area of research for me. At the time, I didn’t know I had southern ancestors – as far as I knew, I was “all Yankee” with some Italian in there.

I soon learned that Martha was born in Tyrrell County, North Carolina. The deeper I dug, the more I learned about her old tidewater-area ancestry in Tyrrell and Perquimans Counties. Her mother was Lydia Sanderson, a granddaughter of Major Richard Sanderson, who possessed a considerable estate.

Martha’s father, Richard Howett, had at least 19 people enslaved at one point, and trying to discover both the history of their plantation and what became of those people has become an important project for me. Researching southern ancestors is, of course, very different than researching New England families. There are fewer vital records and we need to rely more on land transactions and probate files. Trying to bridge the gap between people who were enslaved in the early to mid-1800s and the years after Emancipation is a new challenge that I’m attempting to navigate.

Wood Family of Manchester, England

My great-grandmother, Ruth Evelyn Wood, was born 39 July 1898 in Pawtucket, Providence, Rhode Island. No, she and my great-grandfather (her husband) were not related. Her parents were John William Wood and Lulu Gertrude Lyman. Ruth’s father came to Willimantic, Connecticut with his parents, Thomas Wood and Sarah Ann Gray. They had lived in the Ancoats district of Manchester, England before emigrating to the United States.

Such common English names have posed research challenges for me, of course. One of the first records I ever requested from England was the marriage of Thomas and Sarah, which named their fathers. But, more than that, it gave me occupations for the fathers. You don’t realize how important knowing an occupation is until you’re trying to figure out which Thomas Wood and which John Wood and which William Gray you should be looking at in British censuses! It truly helps to have that additional identifier when you’re working with these kinds of names.

Thomas Wood’s parents were John Wood and Ann Siddall. Sarah Ann Gray’s parents were William Gray and Ann Jane Mason. Researching Thomas’s siblings has been difficult, however I’ve had no problem finding Sarah’s siblings, their marriages, their children, and even their grandchildren! Most remained in England, however at least one came to the United States and has living children here. We aren’t closely related – these are 3rd cousins, twice removed living in both the United States and England – but I may reach out to them and say hello, and see if we can connect.

Lyman and Barrows of Tolland County, Connecticut

On my great-grandmother’s mother’s side, we return to old New England families. The Lyman, Chapman, Barrows, and Gurley families of Tolland County, with some connections to Windham County, as well, go back to the early days of Connecticut. My great-grandmother’s mother, Lulu, had an interesting upbringing. Lulu’s parents were William C. Lyman and Martha M. Barrows. William served in the Civil War and then was part of the GAR. The family lived in New York City in 1870 and Kansas in 1880, before returning to Connecticut.

From what I understand, these moves had to do with their son, Frank, who was deaf. This allowed him to attend special schools, but I’m sure there is more to learn about Frank than I have ever delved into. He died in 1892, only 25-years-old, and I wonder if this was just bad luck or if he had other health challenges.

Lulu’s only other sibling was her sister, Bertha, who married Clifford Alpaugh on 27 May 1902. Bertha and Clifford never had children and are buried with Clifford’s parents in Windham, Connecticut.

As you can see, my paternal side has a few questions I would like to answer and people whose lives I would like to learn more about, if possible. The only thing about my Wood side that has changed from the paper trail is a cousin discovery that, unfortunately, no one seems ready to discuss. I hold out hope that, maybe someday, that DNA discovery is something the people involved will be able to reconcile in a healthy way.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Find | Our Prairie Nest
52 Ancestors, Week 2: Favorite Find

If you’ve visited my blog in the past, you already know my favorite find. It was a receipt for the purchase of a burial site, and it broke my 26-year brick wall wide open!

Ever since I was 18, I’d been trying to find the place and date of birth of my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy, wife of Erastus Bartlett Shaw. All the records we had, from her 1888 marriage to my great-great grandfather to her 1945 death certificate and obituary, offered conflicting ages and places, from Nova Scotia to Maine to Massachusetts. I couldn’t find her in the 1870 or 1880 U.S. Censuses, or the 1881 Canadian Census. A fellow geneablogger provided me with the 1871 Canadian Census for Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia listing an Emma Murphy. She was the right age to fit, but how could I possibly be sure she was the correct person?

After several years of flailing in every direction, I finally got a hit on a person who appeared to share the same parents – a Margaret Murphy who had died in Boston in 1890. Some more digging also gave me a Margaret Murphy the right age in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia to be the one who died in Boston. But I was stuck again, not sure where to look.

It was time for another set of eyes to review my research and give me some direction. I booked a consultation with a genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and was scheduled for a call with Melanie McComb. Prior to the call, she reviewed my timeline and analyzed the records I’d already located. During the call, she went over her recommendations and followed-up by sending me a detailed list of the work she’d done, and where she suggested I go to follow up.

I returned to Margaret Murphy and Melanie’s suggestions for her: follow up on her burial and any probate that might have been filed for her. The death register in Boston didn’t list a place of burial, but the Undertaker’s Return did – Calvary Cemetery in Boston. I emailed a request to the Catholic Cemetery Association and, two days before my birthday in December of 2019, received the best birthday gift a 45-year-old genealogist could want: proof that Emma Anna Murphy had a connection with Margaret Murphy.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Find | Our Prairie Nest
Receipt for the purchase of a plot in Calvary Cemetery, Boston, by Emma A. Shaw for Margaret Murphy.

When I received the receipt, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I even woke my poor husband up from a sound sleep by squealing with excitement and shaking him. How could I not?

That one little handwritten slip of paper then led me to pursue Margaret Murphy’s probate file, which turned out to be the genealogical smoking gun that proved Emma Anna Murphy was, indeed, the Emma Murphy found in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia. Twenty-six years after I’d begun my genealogical journey, my most troublesome brick wall came tumbling down because of this find.