- Posts for Massachusetts tag
My Ancestor the Lighthouse Keeper
My Ancestor, the Lighthouse Keeper

My great-great-great grandfather, William W. Winsor, has been a bit of a mystery.  He was the son of a Duxbury, Massachusetts inn-keeper, John Winsor (who shared grog with the likes of Daniel Webster and Henry Thoreau). William’s birth and marriage are documented in Duxbury, however he disappeared not longer after the 1860 census.

William Winsor is found in the 1860 census of Tatooch (Tatoosh) Island, Clallam County, Washington. The history that the Clallam County Historical Society and others have on William state that he, as well as Rufus Holmes, the first settler of Port Angeles (a name my fellow Twi-Hards will recognize) was a bachelor.  The kind and helpful research librarians could not find any information on William’s death, or anything beyond the histories I had located online already.

Rufus Holmes, William Winsor and Alexander Sampson, all of Duxbury, Massachusetts, were married with children.  So this was simply an error on the part of the people writing a history for Clallam County. Rufus Holmes left Duxbury to go to Port Angeles, purchased a schooner to begin shipping fresh halibut to San Francisco, and brought in his childhood friend, William W. Winsor, a first cousin to Rufus’s wife, Clara. The other Duxbury native they invited into their business venture was Captain Alexander Sampson. Captain Sampson kept a diary of his time in Port Angeles.

Most notably, William is mentioned in the diaries of James G. Swan, as well as his book Almost Out of the World: Scenes from Washington Territory on pages 23 – 29, 70, 74, 91, 100, 117, 118 and 121. He is further mentioned in Swan among the Indians: Life of James G. Swan, 1818-1900 by Lucile Sanders McDonald on pages 40, 87, 88, and 96.

The diaries of James Swan cover William Winsor quite a bit, as do court records in the area. By 1862, he was selling whiskey to the local Native Americans. He was prosecuted for it in Olympia sometime in September of 1862, and then he was seen in Victoria, British Columbia in November 1862.

He ran the Rough and Ready Saloon in Port Angeles, which was destroyed by the flooding in 1863.

In May 1864 he was in Victoria (British Columbia), and had refused to pay for a boat he had ordered from the Native Americans. In 1867, W. W. Winsor is mentioned in a court case for debt collection by Alonzo Davis against him in Jefferson County, Washington, which is next to Clallam County. This is the last record found of William at this point and it is not known what became of him after 1867.

This remains an ongoing research project for me and I hope someday to uncover what became of William Winsor.

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.

Breaking Down a Brick Wall Part 3 | Our Prairie Nest
Breaking Down a Brick Wall: Part 3 (finale)

If you’ve read through Part 1 and Part 2, I’m sure you’re wondering what happened next. At least, I hope you are…

When I saw the burial record for Margaret Murphy with Emma A. Shaw as the person who’d purchased the plot, I couldn’t contain my excitement. But I would have to over the next 5 days, as we traveled to visit my lovely in-laws, went to a convention with some fellow geeks, and then home again.

Once we settled back into our routine, it took a couple of days before I was ready to delve back into my research. On December 11, I got to work, but what the heck was I even looking for, now? I did a bit of researching in circles that night, and then told myself to open Melanie’s notes and recommendations, my Emma timeline, and refocus.

From Burial to Probate

If Margaret had passed away and Emma purchased her plot, along with a second plot (not sure yet if it remains reserved or is occupied and, if so, by whom), wouldn’t Margaret have some kind of probate? Of course, she would. Even if it wasn’t extensive and she was poor, as possibly evidenced by the fact that she’d died in the City Hospital, there would be something.

With renewed focus, I dug into the images-only collection of the Suffolk County Probate Index on FamilySearch and immediately found 2 possible cases. There were 2 different administrations for a Margaret Murphy who died in the county in 1890. One of them might be the Margaret I was looking for.

Next, I went into the Suffolk County Probate Docket and that is where I found her case. Of course, I downloaded every single pertinent record image as I went. I opened a second browser tab, so I could go through the docket, volume by volume and page by page, to read through Margaret’s actual probate file.

Finding Emma Again!

First, I found that Emma A. Shaw of Middleborough had stepped up as administratrix, as a “sister of the deceased” and “only next of kin.” If this was true, my Guysborough theory did not hold water, because Laurence Murphy of Guysborough from that particular Murphy family lived until at least the 1901 Canadian Census. If Emma was the last of Margaret’s family, then they must have come from a completely different family.

Also, if this was true that Emma and Margaret were sisters, they could not be the daughters of Patrick and Mary (Fraser) (Lowry) Murphy of Guysboro, because Margaret was born about 1842-1848. Emma was born about 1861-1863. With an age difference like that, their mother had to be quite young in 1842 or thereabouts, and middle-aged by 1861 or so. The Mary Murphy of Guysborough was born about 1806. No way did she have a child at the age of 55-57, sometime from 1861 to 1863.

Still, there was another aspect to my Guysborough theory, and that was that the Emma Murphy found in the 1871 Census wasn’t the daughter of Patrick and Mary, but a granddaughter through one of their daughters. It was still a possibility, albeit now a slim one, with Emma claiming in legal records that Margaret was her sister. I just needed to either prove or disprove a connection. I needed, in good old-fashioned terms, a smoking gun.

Reading on through the probate file, I found that Emma chose not to fulfill the responsibilities of administratrix (no reason was given) and someone else, an Edward Jenkins, was appointed. He did his duties… and then, something marvelous happened.

A Red-Hot Smoking Genealogical Gun…

There was, indeed, another family member who stepped up. Perhaps this person had seen the notice run in the Boston Globe. Perhaps the administrator also ran the notice in another newspaper, but didn’t mention that publication in the probate file. Either way, Margaret and Emma were not alone in this world.

Laurence Murphy, a brother of the deceased, of Guysboro, Nova Scotia, appeared. He petitioned that Edward Jenkins continue to act as administrator of the estate on February 2, 1891:

Emma and Margaret belonged to the Guysborough, Nova Scotia Murphys!

After that, the property in which Margaret and Emma had purchased half shares together was sold and, it appears, Emma’s life continued to move on without her maternal family.

And thus, I’d found the document that tied it all together, wrapping my theory up as nice as you please in lovely paper, with a pretty bow on top. The one family that had any chance of fitting, did!

A Revised Timeline of Facts

But who was Maggie to Emma? Sister? Aunt? Perhaps even mother?

Aunt, for sure, as Laurence was Emma’s uncle, and their sister – Eliza – was Emma’s mother. Emma was an illegitimate child, born to Eliza Murphy (daughter of Patrick Murphy and Mary Ann [Fraser] [Lowry]) of Manchester, Guysborough, Nova Scotia, and Francis Wallace of Port Mulgrave, Guysborough, Nova Scotia. She is likely the Emma Ann Wallace found in St. Ann, Guysborough, Parish Records, Book 2, Baptisms: 1861-1863.

Emma’s gravestone gives a date of birth as February 14, 1861, but that means she was 1 1/2 when she was baptized. Not knowing Catholic baptismal traditions, I take the birth date with a grain of salt, as I always have.

By the 1871 Canadian Census, Emma was age 10 and residing with Nicholas and Johanna (Marah/Marr) Flavin. The Marah and Murphy families seemed to have some connection, because Margaret “Maggie” Murphy’s 1844 baptism was sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Laurence Marah. Johanna (Marah/Marr) Flavin and Laurence Marah/Marr were siblings.

On October 4, 1879, at the age of at least 16, Emma was one of the sponsors for the baptism of James Gregory Cleary. This coincides with the 1930 Census) stating that her first marriage occurred at the age of 16. She wasn’t married just yet by this date, but could have been married shortly thereafter.

From October 4, 1879 to Emma’s marriage to Erastus on November 17, 1888 remains a blank. While Emma is unaccounted for over 9 years, that’s simply fertile ground for more discovery – when she first married, when she came to the United States, supposedly started or was involved with running a store in the Boston area, and then ultimately settled in Middleborough.

She conceived my great-grandfather, Harrison Clifford Shaw, by mid- to late -August of 1888 in order for him to be born on May 9, 1889. DNA, in this instance, has proven our connection to our Shaw ancestors in Carver, Massachusetts, so I have no doubt that Erastus is the father of Emma’s one and only known living child.

After that, Emma’s life appears pretty straightforward. She married, her son was born, and she moved forward with her life. Other than 1910 court case where she was charged with assault against a neighbor over a land dispute (she sure was a feisty one!), Emma’s existence appeared to be as normal as any other. But the life she left behind in Nova Scotia as an illegitimate child might have been far from wonderful.

I still want to know her story and wish I could talk to her face to face. That can’t happen, but I feel like I have at least a little more insight into her life with these discoveries.

Now, if only we could find that elusive photo of Emma that supposedly exists…