- Posts for Family History Friday category
Researching Plymouth County Ancestors | Our Prairie Nest
Researching Plymouth County, Massachusetts Families

When we think of researching our Mayflower ancestors, and their children and grandchildren, the first town that comes to mind is Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was, after all, the capital of the colony and the original 1620 settlement of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

However, our ancestors did not stay in one place once they settled here. They touched many towns, founding some and leaving a lasting impression on others. We’re going to look at those towns and the resources available in them, starting with Plymouth County.

You are probably quite familiar with the name Duxbury, especially if you are a descendant of Myles Standish. It was incorporated in 1637, and home to Mayflower passengers John Alden and William Brewster. You can visit the library at http://www.duxburyfreelibrary.org/ to learn more about their holdings.

Myles Standish purchased land from Massasoit and named it Duxburrow New Plantation. In 1656 it became the town of Bridgewater, my hometown. Bridgewater became home to many of the Pilgrims’ descendants, particularly those of Myles Standish and John Alden. This town has several resources, including many 17th and 18th century cemeteries, and the Bridgewater Public Library. Their historical room is open on Tuesday evenings and offers the following holdings: http://www.bridgewaterpubliclibrary.org/reference/historical-room/

Manomet is not a town, but a village within Plymouth where several Bartlett families, descendants of Richard Warren’s daughter, Mary, once lived. Here you will find the elusive White Horse Cemetery, which takes a little searching since it’s located behind houses in a modern neighborhood.

Marshfield was settled in 1632. Notable residents included Governor Edward Winslow and Peregrine White, the first English child born in New England. You can visit the Ventress Memorial Library to learn more about the town’s history: http://www.ventresslibrary.org/ventress/.

A town you won’t want to miss as is Middleborough, which was incorporated in 1669 as Middleberry. To this day, many Mayflower cousins still live in Middleborough and neighboring Lakeville. The Middleborough Public Library offers a wonderful Digital Library complete with indexes of the local newspaper, cemeteries, and vital records, just to name a few of their holdings. You can learn more at http://www.midlib.org/dlib/main.htm.

These are just a few of the prominent Plymouth County towns where you will find Mayflower descendants and resources.

Western MA Brick Walls | Our Prairie Nest
Western Massachusetts Brick Walls

Ah, the joy of brick walls! Of course, the fun part is smashing them down. Here is one that has plagued me for a long time now:

Esther was the wife of Edward Curtis. She was born about 1748. She married Edward about 1780. 

Edward was born 4 May 1736 in Dudley, Worcester County, Massachusetts to Francis Curtis and Bethia Robinson. He was married 2 times prior – first to Lucy Chamberlin in 1770 in Dudley. Their son, Edward, was born in Dudley in 1771. Lucy’s date and place of death are not known.

He was then married to a woman named Thankful, approximately around 1775. Their children were born in Monson, MA – a son, Francis in 1777, and a daughter, Thankful in 1779. The wife Thankful might have died around 1779 or so.

Then there is Esther, my ancestor. They possibly married around 1780, and my best guess is Monson, MA, as their children were born there as follows:

1. Lucy, b. 1782, married Smith Arnold in 1801 in Dudley, died 1856 in Belchertown, her death record gives no information about her parents;

2. Penuel, b. 1784, married Esther Pierce in 1809 in Hopkinton, died after 1820 census (he had 3 children at least – a son Davis, born 1810 in Dudley, and another male and female child based on the 1820 census), I would like to find a death record for him;

3. Esther May, born 1786 in Monson, married John Stone in 1810 in Dudley, had many children (my ancestor is a daughter, Sarah Emerson Stone), and died in 1860, place of death unknown. She is buried in Thompson, Connecticut.

Lucy’s death record does not give a place of birth for her mother; I can’t find Penuel after 1820, though I have tried; and I requested Esther May (Curtis) Stone’s death certificate from the town of Thompson, but they did not record her death in Thompson.

I’ve looked at different factors, like the names Penuel and Davis both being unusual first names, and perhaps working as last names; also, the granddaughter Sarah Emerson Stone – Emerson tends to be a last name. Since there are no Emersons on the father’s side, I wonder if there is on the mother’s side.

I’ve considered Esther as an Esther Penuel (Pennel, Pennell, Penel, etc.), an Esther Davis, and an Esther Emerson. However, searches through microfilms have left me empty-handed. At this point, I think only DNA can answer the question, and the most likely matches have led me to the possibility of Esther being a descendant or cousin of either John Short (1725-1800) and Zerviah Utter (1729-1762) or Joseph Burrell (1728) and Hannah Bennett.

Blackden Blagdon and Blagden | Our Prairie Nest
Blackden, Blagdon & Blagden: Name Variations

Sometimes putting families together is a pain. Particularly when you get back into the 1700’s and the men in every generation were named, as one of my correspondents put it, “John, Charles or William”!

Meet the Blackden, Blagdon and Blagden family (families?) that settled in Massachusetts and Maine in the early to mid-1700’s. And, yes, their sons were often named John, Charles, or William.

I have plenty of documentation on my ex-husband’s Blackden ancestors going about 6 or 7 generations back. But from that 7th generation, and on back, things get cloudy. This is the problem that my email correspondent has, as well. Her female ancestor is a Blagdon, and everything from her marriage through the present day has been figured out.

But the Blagdon’s parents? She has not a clue. So I tried pulling together every little snippet of Blackden, Blagdon, and Blagden (sometimes even Bragdon and Bragden!) information to try to help this potential cousin to my ex-husband. DNA may, of course, be part of the answer.

My ex-husband’s Blackden ancestors are:

  1. Laura Irene Blackden (his great-grandmother), b. 30 Jul 1899 in Mars Hill, Aroostook, Maine; d. 29 Aug 1953 in Oxford, Worcester, Massachusetts
  2. Fred Allen Blackden, b. 13 Dec 1868 in Etna, Penobscot, Maine; d. 6 Feb 1961 in Portland, Cumberland, Maine
  3. Napoleon Bonaparte Blackden, b. 5 Mar 1823 in Madison, Somerset, Maine; d. 4 Jul 1897, Dexter, Penobscot, Maine
  4. John Blackden, b. abt. 1795, Anson, Somerset, Maine; d. 1882, Carmel, Penobscot, Maine
  5. William Blackden, b. abt 1746, England; d. bet Jan 1813 and Jul 1814, Anson, Somerset, Maine
  6. Samuel Blackden, b. abt 1690, England; d. 18 Jul 1768, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts

Samuel has an interesting story. He was a brewer in Boston and then Nova Scotia, where a certain Captain Gambier, captain of the British ship “Burford,” accused him of selling rum to his sailors. Captain Gambier violently forced Samuel onto his ship and held him there for 125 days, bringing him to England.

Samuel brought suit against Captain Gambier. The case was tried in England in 1761 or thereabouts, and Samuel won! You can read about the case here via Google Books.

If you are also researching this family in Somerset County, Maine, and surrounding areas, I’m certainly interested in hearing from you!

Organizing Your Research | Our Prairie Nest
Organizing Your Research

I’m always curious about how my fellow genealogists organize their research.

I admit it, I’m an old-fashioned sort of gal. I prefer to write letters on stationery and put them in the mail, to use a planner for my scheduling, a notebook for my list-making, and to read paperback and hardcover books instead of ebooks. Though I also use my phone for many of these tasks – emailing, messaging, writing, and planning – and my ereader has plenty of books on it. My record-keeping system is also a mix of hands-on and digital, and it works for me.

My software of choice is Legacy.  The source citation fields offer the best guidance, I think, and it is this feature that won me over from Family Tree Maker many years ago. I also use Rootsmagic, but have yet to really learn my way around it.

I store all of the vital records and other precious family documents I’ve gathered in archival-quality sleeves in 3-ring binders. I keep printed pedigree charts in those same sleeves in their own binders. For me, working from paper pedigree charts offers a visual. I don’t write anything on a pedigree chart that is not yet proven. If I don’t have a source, I don’t commit it to paper. I’ve considered a more complex system of folders and indexing, but I’m not sure it is necessary for me yet.

I’d ultimately like to scan every genealogical document I have and ensure they’re backed up to multiple mediums. Fortunately, I’m not drowning in paper, so to speak. All of it stays very organized with binders.

I use a color-coding system for the various binders and scrapbooks I have in my home. Plain black binders are for genealogy. White binders are for reference documents and notes.

Organizing paper from the get-go makes it easier to stay that way. Everything I have that is not a pedigree chart is organized by surname. My vital records, for example, are all alphabetized. And for those ancestors for whom I have multiple vitals, those are then placed in chronological order.

So for a man, I have his records in order of birth, marriage, and death. The wife’s birth and death are filed under her maiden name, and her marriage is cross-referenced to the husband.

I use an index to make the system easy for someone to understand. If someone picks up one of my vital records binders, they can see at a glance whose names are in there, the order in which they are arranged, and the cross-referenced marriages as well.

Furthermore, I keep a spreadsheet to track the records I request and receive. Admittedly, though, I do the same with my Nancy Drew book collection.

Other paper documents I have include copies obtained from manuscript collections at NEHGS, Civil War pensions, family-created documents written by great-aunts or great-uncles, and more. While I don’t index these, I do alphabetize them. Perhaps it’s high time I also indexed them by name, document, and – if applicable – title of book or collection from which it came.

Being organized is a boon when it comes to genealogy, particularly if you would like someone else to easily interpret and utilize what you have collected.