- Posts for Blake family tag
Great-Grandparents: The Shaw-Blake Side

I started a series of posts an embarrassingly long time ago to talk about my 4 sets of great-grandparents, and I’m finally revisiting and finishing that series.

This week, we’re looking at my paternal grandmother’s ancestors and, also, my first revision to my ancestry thanks to the relentless pursuit of documentary evidence and the introduction of DNA testing.

Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to know this set of great-grandparents, though my great-grandmother was apparently very excited that I was the first female great-grandchild born in her family. She passed away only a month after I was born. Daughters were a rare and precious thing for Nina, who had two die in infancy. Only my grandmother survived to adulthood, along with three of her four brothers. Sadly, my grandmother’s twin brother, Lawrence, passed away as a toddler. Any family stories I have come from my grandmother and one of my great uncles through his grandson.

Shaw Family of Carver, Massachusetts

Harrison Clifford Shaw was born 9 May 1889 in Carver, Plymouth, Massachusetts. His parents were Erastus Bartlett Shaw and Emma Anna Murphy. Anyone familiar with Plymouth County families knows the Shaws go back to the 1600s, and those lines are easy to mix up! Harrison had an egg and poultry business, and we have some photographs of his various trucks full of chickens. This is one of my most straightforward branches, because everyone pretty much stayed put in Plymouth County.

Shaw Poultry Trucks | Our Prairie Nest

Murphy Family of Guysborough, Nova Scotia

I don’t think I need to reiterate the story of my great-great grandmother Emma Anna Murphy. However, hers was the first family to which I had to make changes thanks to traditional research later confirmed with DNA. Emma was born about March 1863 in Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia, Canada. She was baptized 4 July 1863 as Emma Ann Wallace at St. Ann’s in Manchester. Her parents were Francis Wallace and Eliza (Elizabeth) Murphy.

For many years, the family believed she was the daughter of John Patrick Murphy and Mary Ann Frasher (aka Fraser or Frasier). Research and DNA disproved this and we now know that these were her maternal grandparents, though the Fraser branch remains in question, as Mary Ann’s name when she married Patrick Murphy was Lowery. However, Lowery could have been her surname from a prior marriage, as she was 29 when she married Patrick Murphy on 10 February 1835 at St. Ann’s in Manchester.

Francis Wallace was born 2 May 1838 in Halifax, Halifax, Nova Scotia, the son of James Wallace – a customs agent – and Rebecca Elizabeth Smith. He died intestate and quite possibly forgotten (or ignored) by his family on 16 February 1892 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. I don’t know what became of Eliza Murphy.

The Blake Family of Wrentham, Massachusetts

Nina’s paternal side is as straightforward as Harrison’s. She was born 10 Jul 1891 in Middleborough, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Her parents were Edward Henry Blake and Ada Estella Gay. Edward was born 2 August 1856 in Wrentham, Norfolk, Massachusetts, and his ancestry is easily documented in Norfolk County, back to the 1600s.

The Gay Family of Thompson, Connecticut

Ada’s parents were Horace Gay, born 11 October 1820 in Thompson, Windham, Connecticut, and Sarah Emerson Stone, born 18 June 1824 in Dudley, Worcester, Massachusetts. I know nothing about them beyond their birth, marriage, and death dates and places. Though Sarah’s maternal grandmother, Esther (wife of Edward Curtis) is a brick wall as her maiden name is unknown. She is someone I am actively researching.

Of course, I am also researching Emma Murphy’s elusive first husband, Mr. Reagan, her mother, Eliza Murphy, and her grandmother, Mary Ann Lowery or Fraser. I don’t know what became of Eliza after she gave birth to Emma. Eliza’s sister and Emma’s aunt, Margaret Murphy, resided in Middleborough with Emma. Perhaps she was there for her when a mother could not or would not be. I don’t know if the family Emma lived with in Manchester in the 1871 Canadian Census – the family of Nicholas Flavin and Johanna Marr – was kind to her or not. There is so much I don’t know about her life, but I think hers continues to fascinate me more than that of any other ancestor.

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.