Week 24: Popular Name

The most popular woman’s name among my direct ancestors is Mary; with its variants Marie and Maria, there are 152 women with this name.  The most popular man’s name is Thomas – there are 86 of them.  The most popular surname is Wilson – 16 people have this surname.  There is no one named Mary Wilson or Thomas Wilson in my tree.

(Note:  I have 10, 621 people in my main tree; when I sort for Direct Ancestors only, I have 1,471. The information in this essay focuses on my Direct Ancestors only.)

I figured this out today by sorting my family tree Excel spreadsheet and counting rows.  It’s not hard to create this spreadsheet:

  1. Download your GEDCOM from Ancestry
  2. Upload it to Family Tree Analyzer (this is a free program).  I know there are other programs that allow you to do this, but none of them are free so far as I know.
  3. Export the FTA spreadsheet to Excel
  4. Select columns and sort as you wish

The steps in this process are a little more fiddly than this, but it’s pretty easy.

Here’s how often names occur in my Direct Ancestors tree:

Here are my most popular surnames:

I expected some of these surnames to be on this list – my maiden name was Arnold, my mother’s maiden name was Workman, for example.  But some of the names surprised me – I recognize all of the names, but there are several in double digits – Wilson, Wheeler, Anderson, Brown, Potter, and Wilcox – that I knew were significant but I didn’t realize how significant.  This gives me something to focus on – I need to find out if there are surname studies for these particular names that might move my research forward.

So I know this post is focused on Popular Names, but here are some other things I was able to find out by looking at my spreadsheet:

My tree looks pretty complete through my 3rd great-grandparents; beyond that, I have lots of room to grow.  I chuckle when people say they are “finished” with their family tree.  I have  lots to do.

And there’s more:

  • Five of my Direct Ancestors lived to be 100 years old
  • I have 62 Direct Ancestors who lived to be 90
  • I have 27 Direct Ancestors who had more than 20 children
  • I have 26 Direct Ancestors who married more than three times.

All of these observations suggest possible research projects.  Who was having all of these children?  Who was marrying over and over again? 

My research will never be done.

Week 23: Mistake

We all understand the concept of learning from our mistakes.  I have found this to be particularly useful as I get more deeply involved in genealogical research.

Like everyone else, I made a lot of mistakes when I started doing genealogy research:

  • I accepted hints without verifying them.  It was great fun.  It left me with a lot of work to do when I realized my errors. 
    • What I learned from this mistake:  it was okay.  I see a lot of advice from experienced genealogists to newbies along the lines of “always verify your sources before you do anything else” and I think that if I had done this, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.  And if it wasn’t fun, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it.  The wild ride of tracing my ancestors back to the Mayflower or Jamestown or William the Conqueror or Charlemagne was exhilarating.  And so what if I had to undo it?  I’m retired.  I have time.  The feeling of that thrill stuck with me and motivated me through the dull times.
  • I didn’t maintain a research log.  That was boring.  It was a lot more fun to click my way down a rabbit hole, not knowing how I got there and thus not knowing how to get back.
    • What I learned from this mistake: it was also okay.  Once again, I was having fun while I was learning better ways of doing things.  I figured out how to dig my way out of rabbit holes because I was in a rabbit hole.  That’s motivating.  I’m still not very good at keeping research logs, but I forgive myself for that.  I’m not going to get fired for doing it wrong – I’m retired.
  • I didn’t have very clear research goals at first.  I didn’t know that I needed a research goal.  I was just clicking away, building my tree, not sure where I was going.
    • What I learned from this mistake:  it was also okay. Are you beginning to see a theme here?  Once I had a shaky “wiring diagram” in place – births, marriages, and deaths for a significant number of generations, I began to think about what I wanted to do with this information.  I began to create what teachers call SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.  I needed some raw data before I could begin to figure out meaningful goals.
  • I hesitated to put my research and writing “out there” for all to see when I knew there were errors in it.  But now my tree is public and I also write a blog that is publicly available. That means people can see my mistakes.  I try to identify any uncertainty I have about my information so that people don’t just copy it, errors and all.  I risked negative and even hostile responses.
    • What I learned from this mistake:  it was also okay.  I realized that almost no one was paying me anywhere near enough attention to point out when I was wrong.  When someone corrected me, it was almost always done kindly.  I ignored the few jerks who apparently had decided that their main function in life was to take me down a peg or two.  I have time – like I said, I’m retired – but I don’t choose to spend my time engaging with idiots.
  • I frequently failed at using technology that was new to me.  I have misused – sometimes spectacularly – Chrome extensions, excel spreadsheets, photo editing software, Microsoft Word hacks, Internet search techniques, genealogy websites, and self-publishing sites.  You name it, I have screwed it up in some fashion.
    • What I learned from these mistakes:  you know the answer by now – it was okay.  I didn’t break the Internet.  If I lost information, I found new ways of retrieving it.  I learned the value of saving and backing up my research and writing.  Sometimes the lessons were costly – not often in money but frequently in time.  See above – I’m retired, I have time.

I could go on but I won’t.  The bottom line is that the mistakes I make teach me a lot.  I learned the value of verifying hints because I got a little tired of rabbit holes.  I learned the value of a research log (well, kinda learned it) when I found myself revisiting sites I had already researched.  I learned the value of research goals when I found myself wandering aimlessly around without goals.  I learned the value of making my research and writing public when I began to receive kudos along with gentle corrections.  I learned the value of using new technology when I realized that using it made my research and writing better and easier.

All in all, I recommend mistakes.  Fear of them is paralyzing.   Many philosophers have been credited with a sentiment along the lines of “the best is the enemy of good enough.”  We’re never very good at something when we do it for the first time.  If we decide against doing something because we fear failure, we won’t do anything. 

Go for it. 

Week 22: Conflict

Several of my ancestors who took part in King Philip’s War were at the Great Swamp Fight in December of 1675 Source: Wikipedia

This topic made me think initially of major wars that my ancestors have fought in – the American Revolution, The Civil War, World War I, World War II – but I decided instead to write about my ancestors’ involvement in a lesser-known war, King Philip’s War.  This war, fought in 1675-1676, was between the English settlers in Massachusetts and the Native Americans in the region – primarily, the Wampanoag tribe.  This war is often described as the bloodiest war per capita in US history.  Hundreds of settlers were killed and thousands of Indians were killed, wounded or captured and sold into slavery or indentured servitude. The war decimated the Narragansett, Wampanoag, and many smaller tribes and mostly ended Indian resistance in southern New England, paving the way for additional English settlements.

For those of you not in the United States – or for Americans who haven’t researched early Massachusetts history recently – let me give you a little background on this war.  I have taken this information from the online Encyclopedia of Boston (https://bostonresearchcenter.org/projects_files/eob/single-entry-executions.html ), a website that is full of information about the history of Boston and the surrounding area.  Here’s the story told on this website: 

“Tensions between colonists and Wampanoags had mounted in the early 1670s, as Indians became frustrated with colonists’ attempts to convert tribal members to Christianity. Native Americans also objected to colonists’ interference with Native agricultural practices and outright seizure of land Native Americans considered theirs. These tensions erupted into violence when white colonists accused Wampanoags of murdering John Sassamon, a praying Indian (the colonists’ term for Indians who converted to Christianity). Colonists’ subsequent retribution for this murder is generally acknowledged as the start of the War.

“Beginning in June 1675, Narragansetts, Pocumtucks, Nipmucs, and Wampanoags fought the English, Pequots, Mohegans, and other native tribes. Conflict was close, cruel, and bloody. The war began to subside in August 1676, when King Philip was shot dead in Bristol, Rhode Island by an Indian allied with the British. After his death, white colonists mutilated his body, distributing and publicly displaying its parts in gruesome celebration. Philip’s head was displayed on a tall pole in the town of Plymouth for decades after his death in an effort to intimidate other Indians, and to warn them of what might happen to those who resisted colonists. Isolated skirmishes continued after Philip’s death. Dozens of Philip’s allies were subsequently executed on Boston Common.

“Those executed in 1676 included Matoonas, a sachem of the Nipmuc people who played a decisive role in King Philip’s War. Though a Christian convert, Matoonas turned against the English colonists after his son was beheaded in 1671 on questionable charges. Matoonas was tied to a tree, shot, and beheaded. Colonists placed his head on a pike, just as they had done with his executed son’s head five years earlier. At least fifty other native people were shot or hanged on the Common that year. Some were praying Indians, including Old Jethro, whose son handed him to the English, and Captain Tom, a captive of Philip’s troops. Though Captain Tom’s execution was appealed on the grounds that he was not an aggressor in the war, he was executed nonetheless.

“Many of those executed had been promised clemency by the English. After surrendering in Rhode Island in 1676, Potuck, a Narragansett sachem, had been promised safe passage by the English colonists. Instead, he was brought to Boston Common and shot. Indian John Monoco and two Nipmuc sachems, Muttawump and Sagamore Sam, were also assured pardons, transported to Boston, then executed without trial. Those not executed were sold into slavery in the Caribbean.

“White colonists carried out these public executions as retribution, as well as a warning to Indians interfering with what colonists believed was their God-given destiny to take Indian land and convert Indian souls. These executions served as one of the opening salvos in a centuries-long violent assault on Indians by white colonists and, later on, Americans.”

According to the website “Walk Boston History” (https://www.walkbostonhistory.com/king-philip.html), the following statistics summarize the final outcome of this war:

  • 54 major engagements over 13 months
  • 600 English died
  • 1200 homes burned
  • 12 of 90 settlements destroyed
  • 2,000 Indians killed
  • 3,000 Indians died in captivity of illness or starvation
  • 4,000 Indians sold into slavery
  • 8,000 head of cattle killed
  • 50 years for the region to recover economically
This map shows the locations of major action in this war.  To orient people who may not know this geography, Plymouth,  Boston, and all of the sites to the west are in the modern state of Massachusetts.  Providence and the sites south and immediately west of it are in the modern state of Rhode Island.  Norwich and everything to the west are in the modern state of Connecticut.

My ancestors were living all over New England by the time of this conflict.  Most of them had arrived during the Puritan Great Migration, between 1630 and 1640.  From their earliest settlements along the coast, they have moved west and north along the river systems to settle the interior frontier regions.

Lt. John Marchant1625-1693Barnstable, MAEnsign of Yarmouth Company, June 8, 1664. Lieutenant of the Military Company in Yarmouth, August 11, 1670
Richard Swan1607-1668Rowley, MAGreat Swamp Fight
Nathaniel Dickinson1601-1676Hadley, MANathaniel was an original member of the Hampshire Troop, organized in March 1663/4 under Capt. John Pynchon. During King Philip’s War, 1675-77, Nathaniel lost three sons – John, Joseph, and Azariah. Another son, Obadiah, was captured by the Indians and taken into Canada but escaped and returned in 1679
Lt. Thomas Newhall1653-1728Lynn, MAWith Major Willard in 1676  The Major led the relief at the Battle of Brookfield (part of King Philips War). He remained there and at Hadley for a few weeks
John Babcock1644-1684Westerly, RICaptain of militia John Volunteered with the Connecticut Militia, which was organized for protection against the Indians; that in King Philip’s War he was with the Connecticut Militia in the “Great Swamp Fight”, Dec. 19, 1675, and that his son Elihu was born at that time.
John Crandall1617-1676Westerly, RIHe moved to Newport, RI, because of King Philip’s War
I can document six ancestors who participated in this war.

My ancestors Richard Swan,  Nathaniel Dickinson, John Babcock, and John Crandall were involved in the Great Swamp Fight (marked by the red star), one of the major engagements of this war. Source: https://familytiesandconnections.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-great-swamp-fight.html

Here’s a little bit of information about each of my ancestors who fought in this war or whose families were directly impacted by it.

Lt. John Marchant IV

My paternal 8th great-grandfather John Marchant IV (1625-1693) was born in Sussex, England, and came with his parents to Yarmouth in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, in 1638.  He married a woman named Sarah in Yarmouth in 1646, and they had 10 children before moving to the island of Martha’s Vineyard late in life.  I am descended from two of the children of John and Sarah – Prince Pease, the great-grandson of their daughter Sarah, married Martha Marchant, the granddaughter of their son Abishai, on Martha’s Vineyard in 1750.

Richard Swan

My paternal 9th great-grandfather Richard Swan (1607-1678) was born in East Riding, Yorkshire, and came to Massachusetts with his wife and children in 1638, possibly with the party of Ezekiel Rogers.  He was one of the founders of Rowley, Massachusetts, and was a prominent citizen there.  He owned several lots of land in the town, often served on juries in Essex County, and was chosen overseer of highways, gates, and fences there in 1648.  He was chosen selectman for Rowley in 1652, 1662, and1664.  He was constable in 1665 and deputy to the General Court in 1666 and 1667.  He appeared as a defendant in Ipswich Court in 1650 for “breach of Peace” for striking Ezekiell Northern in the face with a staff and was fined three shillings.  I am descended from his son Robert.

Nathaniel Dickinson

My paternal 11th great-grandfather Nathaniel Dickinson (1601-1676) was born in Ely in Cambridgeshire, England.  After marrying in 1629, he and his family set sail for Massachusetts as part of the Winthrop Fleet.  He settled in Watertown for a few years, and then moved to Wethersfield, Connecticut, by 1635.  He served in many official positions in Wethersfield, including on the Board of Selectman, Representative to the General Assembly, and deacon of the church.  He helped survey and lay out the land allotments in the town, and owned several lots himself.  After a religious dispute in Wethersfield, he moved with other dissenters to Hadley, Massachusetts, about 50 miles up the Connecticut River.  Although Nathaniel was too advanced in years to serve in the military during King Philip’s war himself, three of his sons – John, Joseph, and Azariah – were killed in this war.  The house of a fourth son, Obadiah, was burned by the Native Americans during this conflict, his wife was either killed or wounded, and Obadiah and one of his children were taken prisoner and removed to Canada.  I am descended from Nathaniel’s son Nathaniel, who also participated in this war.

Lt. Thomas Newhall

My 9th great-grandfather Thomas Newhall (1653-1728) was born in Lynn, Massachusetts to parents who had been in Massachusetts since 1630.  His father, also named Thomas, is often identified as “the first white child born in Lynn,” although that claim is now held in some doubt.  Thomas moved to the town of Malden after marrying Rebecca Greene there in 1674.  Along with many other men of the town, he served in the military during King Philip’s War in 1676, serving with Major Willard.  He is described as attaining the rank of Lieutenant.

Malden Town records also document him as an important land-holder, holding various public positions in the town.  Records for the town prior to King Philip’s War were destroyed, but the earliest remaining records talk about naming townsmen to serve as selectmen, constables, and (to quote one of the town records), “last, though not least, perhaps, in the body-politic, those whose office it was ‘to see to swine order,’ – the hog-constables.”  Thomas was a hog-constable.  I descend from Thomas through his first son, also named Thomas.

John Babcock

My 8th great-grandfather John Babcock (1644-1684) was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  His father, James, fled with his family from Essex County, England, to Leyden, Holland, in 1620, and then came to Massachusetts on the Ann in 1623.  By 1638, the family had settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where John was born in 1644.  John married Mary Lawton in Westerly, Rhode Island (a town founded by John’s father James), in 1662.   

Tradition tells a romantic story about John and Mary.  According to the legend, John and Mary eloped from Newport and settled in what would become Westerly, where they remained undiscovered by their parents for several months.  This legend identifies them as the first white settlers of Westerly.  There is, unfortunately, no evidence proving this tale.  But it’s a good story anyway.

This marker, in Westerly Cemetery 7, displays the legend of John and Mary. Source:  Wikitree.com entry for John Babcock.

What can be proven is that 16-year-old John was part of the company of men who settled Westerly in 1660.  In 1675, when King Philip’s War broke out and many settlers in Westerly fled to eastern Rhode Island for safety, John and his family stayed in the settlement.  By this time, John and Mary had six children.  John had volunteered to serve with the Connecticut militia (ownership of Westerly was disputed between Connecticut and Rhode Island until 1728), and participated in the “Great Swamp fight” on December 19, 1675 – the date of the birth of his seventh child, Elihu.  After King Philip’s War was over, John filled a number of public positions in Westerly, including “conservator of the peace” (sort of an early police force) and Deputy from Westerly to the colonial legislature in 1682 and 1684. 

John Crandall

My 9th great-grandfather John Crandall (1617-1676) was born in England and probably came to Massachusetts in 1634, settling in Salem and serving as a minister there.  However, his support of the Baptists led to his dismissal from that church in 1637 and his move to Newport.  He relocated to Westerly, in Washington County, somewhere around 1660, and is identified as a founder of that town.

Here’s a little bit about John:

A Baptist and later a Seventh Day Baptist, John and several companions were arrested at Lynn (in Essex County near Boston) on July 21,1651 and were imprisoned at Boston.  All three men were fined and publicly whipped for their “attachment to the Baptist cause.” In 1660, John was one of a group of five investors who purchased a land grant known as Misquamicuck (later Westerly, RI).  After several years of boundary and jurisdiction disputes, the town of Westerly was incorporated; John Crandall’s is the first name on the list of freeholders of the town in 1669.  He became the first elder and preacher in Westerly.

On 21 May 1669, the Governor and Council of Rhode Island appointed six men as Conservators of the Peace for the Colony. The men were assigned to geographic areas in pairs, the first of the pair to also act as coroner for their area. John Crandall and Tobias Saunders were appointed as justices at Misquamicut, with John likely acting as coroner.   John is also listed as a deputy representative of Westerly in the General Assembly in both 1670 and 1671.

John married a woman named Mary in 1649, although I’m not sure of Mary’s last name.  John died in Newport in 1676; this is a little hard to understand, as he was clearly living in Westerly at the time.  Some sources suggest that he had temporarily relocated to Newport to escape the violence of King Philip’s War, while others suggest that he was wounded in the 1675 Great Swamp Fight in West Kingston, Rhode Island (about 20 miles from Westerly).   He is buried in a family cemetery located near the Crandall homestead in Westerly.

In Conclusion

I have written about all of these folks before, in other contexts.  But it’s always enjoyable to catch up with old friends.  Until I grouped these individuals for this essay, I didn’t realize that so many of them had participated in the Great Swamp Fight.  Who knew?

Week 21: Yearbook

Unlike many previous weeks, I immediately knew what to write about when I saw this week’s prompt. 

After graduating from Tucson High School in 1939, my mother Violet H. Workman attended the University of Arizona for one year before she married my father, Lloyd C. Arnold, on December 28, 1940.  I have her 1940 college yearbook, which documents her year at the university.  I didn’t think to look at any other year, because I knew – or thought I knew – that she only attended the school for one year.

So imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I got a hint on Ancestry.com about her in the 1942 yearbook.  Had she gone to school a second or even third year and never talked about it?

The picture above tells the story.  I knew she had worked for the Dean of Women at the University of Arizona during the two years after she married, but it never occurred to me that her picture would be in the yearbook.  Not only was she in the yearbook, but she was also identified by name in a blurb about the university’s administration.  So-called “candid” photos like this one frequently identify the high-profile person – in this case, the Dean of Women – and don’t identify anyone else in the picture.  It probably didn’t hurt that my mother was very pretty.

This simple picture is the only documentation I have of my parents’ early married life. Within a year of this photo being taken, my parents had moved across the county (to Arlington, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, DC). My father, who was draft-exempt because of pleurisy, had been working for the Veterans Administration in Tucson, but got a better job in Arlington. So they moved. In 1944, my father’s draft exemption expired and he was almost immediately called into military service. When he got out of the Navy in 1946, he had a job waiting for him, as the Navy had promised. But it was in Arlington, the place where he had lived when he was drafted. My parents, who intended to live in Virginia for just a few years, ended up spending the rest of their lives there. It’s where my siblings and I were born and where I have lived my whole life.

The lesson for me is to broaden the perimeter of my searches a little.  Look in the years before or after my focus year.  Look outside of the towns or cities where I think my ancestors lived.  Be open to surprises.

Week 20: Textile

I had to think a bit before writing this week’s essay.  I don’t have any immediate ancestors who were involved in sewing, and I don’t have any handed-down items of clothing that connect me to a specific ancestor.  Going back further in my history, I have slave-owning ancestors in Virginia who might have grown cotton, but, given the time period in which they lived, they more likely grew tobacco.

Then I went even further back, to early New England ancestors who were weavers or tailors.  I can talk about them a little.

Thomas Newhall (1653-1728: 

Thomas was born in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1653.  His parents were Thomas Newhall (1630-1687) and Elizabeth Potter (1634-1687).  The immigrant ancestor in this line, also named Thomas Newhall (1594-1674), was born in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, and came to Massachusetts in 1630.  Thomas 1630 is often identified as “the first white child born in Lynn,” although this is questionable.  He is often referred to as “Ensign Thomas Newhall,” a title he earned for his role in the 1650s.

Thomas 1653 moved to Middlesex County after he married Rebecca Greene in 1674.  He is often referred to as “Lieutenant Thomas Newhall,” a rank he achieved during King Philip’s War.  Malden Town records also document him as an important land-holder, holding various public positions in the town. Records for the town prior to King Philip’s War were destroyed, but the earliest remaining records document townsmen named to serve as selectmen, constables, and (to quote one of the town records), “last, though not least, perhaps, in the body-politic, those whose office it was ‘to see to swine order,’ – the hog-constables.” Thomas was the hog-constable.

Thomas 1653 is identified in The Newhall Family of Lynn  (Henry F. Waters, 1882) as “husbandman & weaver.” 

Grave Marker for Lieutenant Thomas Newhall, Bell Rock Cemetery, Malden, Massachusetts. 
The inscription reads
“Here Lyes Buried Ye Body of Lieut. Thomas Newhall Who Decd. July 13 Anno Dom. 1728 In Ye 75th Year of His Age”
The Newhall House, in Lynn, Massachusetts.  This is where Thomas was born in 1653.

William Ripley (1588-1656):

My paternal 9th great-grandfather William Ripley came to Hingham, Massachusetts, from Hingham, Norfolk, UK, with his wife and four children on the Diligent  in 1638.  Among these children was my 8th great-grandfather Abraham Ripley (1624-1683), who was their fourth child.  William, who was a weaver,  was admitted as a freeman in 1642 and was granted a four-acre town lot in the 1638 division of lands.

Edward Wheeler 1669-1733

My paternal 8th great-grandfather Edward Wheeler was the fourth of 13 children born to John and Sarah Larkin Wheeler in Concord, Massachusetts.  Edward’s grandfather, George Wheeler, came to Massachusetts in 1638 and, along with his brothers, occupied a prominent position in the town.  He and his brother Timothy co-owned an inn in the town in the location where the Colonial Inn now sits. 

Edward’s father, John, served as a soldier for Massachusetts in King Philip’s War in 1675-76, and inherited a good deal of land when his father, George, died in 1687.  Edward’s mother, Sarah Larkin, was the daughter of Edward Larkin, who was a turner (someone who worked with wood) and a wheelwright in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  He was also a farmer.  He had come to Massachusetts in the late 1630s, and in 1657 was named to be a member of the local artillery unit.

Edward and Sarah had 13 children, including my 7th great-grandfather Nathan Wheeler, who was their second child.  Edward was commonly known as “Deacon” Edward Wheeler, and he was a weaver by trade. I can’t find why he is called “Deacon.”

This is where Edward is buried:

The South Burying Place, Concord, Massachusetts

Robert Carr 1614-1681

My paternal 9th great-grandfather Robert Carr (1614-1681) was born in London in 1614.  He and his brother William came to Massachusetts in 1635 after the death of their parents; they came to live with their uncle William Carr, who had come to Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621 and soon settled in Bristol, RI.  He was admitted as an inhabitant in Portsmouth in 1639 and as a freeman in Newport in 1641.  Several records identify him as a tailor. 

Samuel Eddy 1608-1687

My 9th great-grandfather Samuel Eddy (1608-1687) was born in Cranbrook, Kent, England, in 1608.  Samuel was the ninth of 11 children born to John and Mary Fosten Eddy in Cranbrook, Kent, England.  John was the vicar of St. Dunstan’s Church in that town.

Samuel’s mother Mary died in 1611 – probably due to complications from childbirth, as her newborn son Nathaniel died in the same year.  John remarried in 1614, to Sarah Taylor, with whom he had one more child before he died in 1616.  Samuel was only eight years old at the time of his father’s death; John’s will directed that his 23-year-old son Phineas be placed in charge of Samuel until Samuel turned 22, at which point Samuel would receive his inheritance from his father.  Samuel also served an apprenticeship as a tailor while he was under his brother’s care and tutelage.

It appears that Samuel used his inheritance to purchase his passage to Massachusetts, as he arrived (along with his oldest brother John) in Plymouth on the Handmaid in 1630.  He may have been married when he came to Plymouth – his wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Thomas and Marie Savory, who followed their daughter to Massachusetts in 1633. 

Whatever part of his inheritance remained he used to buy a house and some land in Plymouth, and he was soon established as a tailor in the settlement.  He became a freeman in 1632 and was identified as a taxpayer by 1633. 

Despite this apparent prosperity, Samuel and Elizabeth found life in Plymouth difficult.  His training as a tailor was not as lucrative in Plymouth as it had been in England, and he had to turn to farming to support his small family.  He was not a very good farmer.  By 1638, Samuel and Elizabeth were identified among the “poore of the town.”  Samuel and Elizabeth had five children by 1644, and their weak financial situation led them to place three of their sons – John, Zachariah, and Caleb – as apprentices to John Browne of nearby Rehoboth, Massachusetts, as each boy reached the age of seven.  I am descended from their oldest son, John.

This plaque is in the Eddy Burial Ground in Swansea, Massachusetts.

Robert Moon 1621-1698

Robert arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637; he was 16 at the time, and I assume he came with his parents, but I haven’t been able to prove that.  He married Dorothy Osbourne (1624-1698) in Boston in 1644.  I haven’t been able to find out when Dorothy’s family came to Massachusetts.  Robert worked as a tailor in Boston before he relocated to Newport, Rhode Island, in 1651.

Thomas Baker: 1638-1710

Thomas Baker (1638-1710), appears on the list of freemen of Newport, RI, in 1655.  His father, William Baker (1616-1669), had come to Rhode Island by 1638, when he appears on the list of freemen and also receives a land grant.  Also in 1655, Thomas Baker was ordained, and in 1656, he and others separated from the First Baptist Church and organized a new society, the Second Baptist Church.  He then moved with his family to Kingstown, Rhode Island, where he organized the Baptist Church.  He remained the presiding Elder of this church until his death in 1710.  Some records suggest that he was a tailor before he was ordained a minister, because he identifies himself as a tailor in his land transactions in Newport.

Thomas Brownell 1608-1664

My 8th great-grandfather Thomas Brownell (1608-1665) was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1608.  Thomas and his brother George left Yorkshire at some point and went to London, where they probably worked as drapers (dealers in cloth or clothing and dry goods) for their uncle, Thomas Wilson The Elder.  Thomas married Anne Bourne in London in 1638, and they soon left for New England.  They lived first in Braintree, Massachusetts, but relocated to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, by 1640.

There is no indication that Thomas worked as a tailor or clothier in Massachusetts.  He was identified as a “planter” or farmer and served in several official positions in Portsmouth, including “water bailey;” this position gave him jurisdiction over fisheries and other maritime matters. He was also elected constable several times, and he served as Commissioner to the General Court. He was killed in an accident while on his way from his farm at the northwest end of Rhode Island to Portsmouth.  He was riding home with Daniel Lawton, the 21-year-old son of a friend, when the ride soon became a race. Thomas was thrown from his horse and died.

Thomas Hartshorn 1614-1683

My 10th great-grandfather Thomas Hartshorn (1614-1683) was He was born in Berkshire, England, but I can’t determine for sure who his parents were.  He arrived in Massachusetts about 1636-38 and settled in Lynn by 1638.  A tailor, Thomas was living in Reading in 1639, five years before its incorporation in 1644.   He appears in a number of records of the town of Reading; in 1662, he was one of 20 members of the church who paid a dog-whipper.  I had to find out what a dog-whipper was.  Well, it was the person named to control the dogs that sometimes accompanied their owners to church, and the definition was broadened to include the general responsibility of controlling stray dogs in the town.  An early animal control warden.

Moving right along.

Thomas married Susanna Buck in 1640 and they had six children, including my 9th great-grandfather, also named Thomas, who was their second child.  Thomas’s birth name illustrates a common practice of this time; Thomas (the father) and Susanna had a son they named Thomas one year earlier; this child did not survive and my grandfather was actually the second child (although the first child to survive) of Thomas and Susanna.

George Abbott: 1631-1689

My 9th great-grandfather George Abbott (1631-1689) was born in Chappel, Essex County, England.  He came to Massachusetts with his parents in 1637 and settled with them in Rowley.

About 1655, he moved to North Andover. He married Sarah Farnum in Andover, Mass. on April 26, 1658.  He was a tailor and farmer who acquired land and wealth (one of the five wealthiest men of Andover on the tax records), and he served in the militia. There were two George Abbotts in Andover at that time. My George was varyingly called George Abbott, Jr., George Abbott the tailor, and George Abbott of Rowley. The other George Abbott was called Sr. but was not our George’s father since his father lived and died in Rowley. 

On May 19, 1669, George was made a freeman of Andover and was chosen constable in 1689. According to one report, he beat the drum to signal time for labor to start and was paid 30 shillings per year to ring the bell at the North meeting house in Andover and sweep the floor, as was his son, John, in later years. George was appointed to collect the money (six pence) from anyone who brought a dog to the meetinghouse on the Sabbath.  This is my second “dog-whipper” of this post.

Walter Nichols: 1584-1639 My 11th great-grandfather Walter Nichols (1584-1639) was born in Great Coggeshall, Essex County, England, in 1584.  He married Elizabeth Catlin in 1607, and they had seven children before Elizabeth’s death in 1627. Walter came to Massachusetts with several of his children in 1635 and was admitted as a freeman in Cambridge by 1636.  He is identified as a clothier.  He returned to Great Coggeshall in 1638 and died there in 1639. I don’t know why he returned to England.

Week 19: Food & Drink

When you study genealogy,  you almost immediately become aware of a vast array of “lineage societies” – the groups that form so people can trace their ancestry to significant historical events or people.  Here are a few of the most well-know lineage societies:

  • Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
  • Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)
  • Mayflower Society
  • Jamestowne Association
  • Holland Society of New York
  • United Daughters of the Confederacy
  • Sons and Daughters of the Oregon Pioneers

There are other not-so-well-known societies:

  • Associated Daughters of Early American Witches
    • I qualify for this one through my paternal 9th great-grandmother Margaret Stephenson Scott, who was hanged as a witch at Salem on September 22, 1692
  • Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain
    • Because, you know, why not?
  • National Society of Saints and Sinners
    • For this society, a potential member must prove descent from a saint. I think this would be hard to do.

For a variety of reasons, I haven’t worked toward joining any of these societies.  I’m interested in doing other things with my genealogy research.  However, I’m thinking about joining one of these organizations – Flagon and Trencher, a society composed of men and women who can trace their ancestry to one or more licensed operators of an ordinary tavern, inn, public house, or hostel, prior to July 4, 1776, in the area that became the original thirteen states of the United States.

From its website, it appears that this society exists primarily to hold yearly parties in various colonial taverns.  This is a society I can identify with.

I could qualify for this society under several of my ancestors:

I have downloaded the application form and I’m in the process of gathering the information necessary to qualify for this lineage society through my 10th great-grandfather John Parmenter (1588-1671), who was a church deacon and also the proprietor of the first tavern in Sudbury, Massachusetts.  (I think that’s an interesting career combination.)He received the license to run this tavern in 1643.  In 1655, the Parmenter Tavern served as the meeting place for the Massachusetts Colonial Court and Ecclesiastic Council, a group that existed to settle disputes in the community.  Town records show that John was reimbursed 17 pounds, five shillings, and 12 pence for entertainment costs associated with this meeting.

Week 16: Negative

‘nuf said

I decided to write this week about two ancestors (father and son) that I don’t like very much.  I think you’ll understand why when you read about them.

This is the story first of my 9th great-grandfather) Robert Cross (1612-1693).  Robert married Anna Jordan (1617-1677) in Ipswich, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1635.  Anna had come to Ipswich that year with her parents Stephen Jordan (1589-1670) and Susannah Merril (1585-1673) on the ship Mary and John. 

I don’t know when Robert came to Ipswich. 

Robert and Anna had 11 children in Ipswich, including my 8th great-grandfather Robert Cross II (1642-1710), who was their third child.  Robert 1642 married Martha Treadwell (1643-1738) in Ipswich in 1665, and they had eight children there, including my 7th great-grandmother Mary Ann Cross (1675-1710), who was their fourth child.  Martha’s parents, Thomas Treadwell (1605-1671) and Mary Wilson (1605-1685), had married in England in 1633 and come to Massachusetts Bay in 1635 on the ship Hopewell

Robert Cross (both 1613 and 1642) were – shall we say – colorful residents of Ipswich.   Things started out reasonably well for Robert 1613.  He owned six acres of land with a house on it before 1638.  After the spring of 1637, when he and 16 other young men of Ipswich saw service in the local Pequot War, he received additional land.  By 1649/50 he owned 40 acres of land in Ipswich.  But he was a difficult man; according to one source, he had “developed an idea that the magistrates . . . were prejudiced against him.”  He was in court several times for apparent altercations with his neighbors.  He also apparently threw his daughter (also named Martha) out of the house for consorting with a man in the village. He continued to challenge the authority of the magistrates, comparing them at one point to the Spanish Inquisition.

Martha’s parents (who were apparently upstanding citizens of Ipswich) could not have been happy when Martha decided to marry Robert 1642, the son of the town reprobate.  Things did not go any better for Robert 1642.  After a day of military training in 1667, after he and some of his friends had too much to drink, they committed what the court described as a “barbarous and inhuman act” – they tore open the grave of Masconomet, who was the sagamore (chief) of local Agawam tribe.  Masconomet is remembered as the Indian leader who boarded Winthrop’s ship Arbella after the fleet landed in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630. He subsequently ceded a lot of tribal land to the Puritans who settled under Winthrop, and he pursued a path of assimilation for his people.  Masconomet himself took on the name “John the Sagamore,” lived on farmland adjacent to where the English settlers lived, and gave his children English names. 

So this is the grave that Robert 1642 and his drunken buddies decided to desecrate.  They scattered Masconomet’s bones and carried his head around on a pole.  Robert 1642 was identified as the ringleader of this group, and for these actions he was jailed until the next “lecture day” (religious observance or a day of rest).  On the appointed day he was sentenced to sit in the stocks for one hour and to remain in jail until he could pay a fine of six pounds.  After he was released from jail, he was required to re-inter the bones of the Indian chief and erect a cover of stones two feet high over the grave.  According to the same source, alcohol was Robert’s curse; court records reveal that he was “much in drink” on several occasions over the next several years.  He continued the pattern set by his father, apparently feuding with (and sometimes assaulting) his neighbors.

Some people are just like that.

Week 10: Worship

The Cover of Aunt Mary’s Memoir

I want to tell you about my aunt, Mary Lorraine Workman.  Aunt Mary was my mother’s younger sister, born in Texas shortly before the family relocated to Tucson, Arizona, in 1931.  Aunt Mary adored my mother, whom she and her younger brother, TC, almost always called “Sister.”

Aunt Mary lived a full life until her death in 2021 at the age of 93.  She never married or had a family of her own, but she always said she had hundreds of children – the youth she had served in ministry.  Those of us who treasured her are blessed to have an account of her life, written in her own words in 2000.  After my mother died in 2012, I found this manuscript among my mother’s things, and I decided to retype the manuscript, publish it, and give it to Aunt Mary in 2015.  You would have thought I had hung the moon!  She kept the book out on her coffee table until the day she died.  “Would you like to read my memoir?” she would say to visitors.

Along with the rest of her family, Aunt Mary grew up in the Disciples of Christ church – first in El Campo, Texas, and later in Tucson, Arizona.  All of the significant events of their lives are documented in the records of these churches – baptisms, marriages, and deaths.

The most important part of Aunt Mary’s life was her role in the church.  She was an ordained minister at a time when women did not generally pursue that path.  The story of her journey into ministry, and her life of service, are spelled out in her memoir.  I’ll share her story with you, just the way she wrote it.  It’s long, but every effort that I made to edit it left out things that Aunt Mary thought were important.  Who am I to second guess Aunt Mary?  So here are the sections of her memoir that relate to her devotion to her church:

When I was a teenager, attending Christian Youth Conference, in Prescott, Arizona, I was really stirred each morning during morning watch (a time set aside for prayer, scripture readings). Each morning I was aware of something that was far beyond me, but yet quite near and personal. Each morning I struggled with what this “thing” was. On the final night when we came together to finish our week together in a special worship service, I realized what that “thing” was. It was a strong feeling that I wanted ministry and that ministry wanted me.

You have to realize that at 17, in 1946, a woman realizing that she wanted to be a minister and to minister was certainly not to be realized immediately. Oh, I went to a church university, but was advised that the only thing I could qualify for once I graduated was a church secretary, and possibly a Christian Education Director, but Minister, no way.

So I put my call (dream) into the back of my heart, and proceeded to make a living the best way I could. With my business education in high school, and the two years of university, I started out as a secretary.

She went on to write about the various secretarial jobs she held. She had come to live with my family in Northern Virginia in the early 1950s.  Her call story continues:

My family belonged to the Wilson Boulevard Christian Church in Virginia, so I became a part of that fellowship. I immediately started teaching Sunday School (my brother-in-law was Sunday School Superintendent). Not long after I started my teaching job, I was asked if I would be high school sponsor for the youth. I said yes.

This led to even more interesting encounters with young people of the District of Columbia. I became the volunteer youth director for the Christian Churches in the District of Columbia. This proved to be very time consuming, but I loved every minute of it.

Family obligations brought her back to Tucson after about five years in Virginia.  Her story goes on:

My home church, First Christian Church, was still home to me, and it seemed very natural for me to enter the Sanctuary on my first Sunday back.

It wasn’t too long before I became the sponsor for the high school youth. They were a great bunch of young people, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

After a short time, I was asked to be the volunteer youth director the State of Arizona. I quickly said yes, and started a journey that lasted 6 years. We had great conferences, weekend meetings, overnight journeys together in this time.

Our minister, J. Robert Moffett, accepted a calling to be the minister to First Christian Church, Houston, Texas. He and his family moved in March of 1966. They were truly missed. In June of 1966 I received a call from him offering me the position of Youth Minister to the Church with the understanding that I could finish my university while there.

This call came at a very inopportune time, I had just purchase a new home, my father had moved in with me, I had started a new job as office manager for an insurance company. I was really in a quandary. I knew that something had to give with all of the volunteer time I was giving to the youth. It was interfering with my working time at the office, and I felt that I was not giving sufficient time to the work that I was being paid to do. I had come to the decision that I would have to give up the work with the youth, a hard decision to make.

I told Bob Moffett I would have to think about this offer for a while, and he agreed to that. So in talking with a minister friend, he counseled me to do what Gideon did in the Book of Judges. Gideon put a fleece of wool on the floor and if there was dew on the fleece alone and the floor was dry, then Gideon would know that God would deliver Israel by Gideon’s hand (Judges 6:36-40)

He told me that it had worked for him when trying to make decisions about his life and his work. I felt uncomfortable at first, because it seemed that I was testing God. That definitely put some fear into me. After thinking and praying about it, I decided to do just that. My friend did say that it was important to put a time limit on when God would give a sign as to what will come.

So that summer of 1966, I told God that I would put out the fleece and set the deadline as Labor Day weekend. This was the time I would hear about my future. It really worked, because I was able to go through the summer months and not think about the position in Houston.

For Labor Day weekend, the high school youth of Arizona were finishing up their week long conference in Flagstaff. I packed my bag that Friday morning, because I was to leave immediately after work and drive to Flagstaff to do a weekend leadership conference with the leaders of the individual youth groups. That morning, at the office, I received a special delivery letter from the Houston Church offering me the position, and indicated that when I could come for an interview the travel arrangements would be made. This really frightened me for I really forgotten what I had done in June. I called the minister in Houston and told him what had happened, and he said, “God has now given the ball back to you.”

I prayed and discussed this with my family. My father was living with me and I felt an obligation to him. In the midst of the discussions my brother, Tom, said that Dad would live with them without any problem. If this position meant that I could continue my education and be in the church as a worker, I should take it.

I arranged for a visit to Houston. Needless to say, when I returned I turned in my resignation to the office, and reported to work in Houston on November 1st.

What convinced me that this move was meant to be was:

  • I saw the youth of the church — many of them
  • I felt the need of these young people for something strong in their spiritual life
  • I met some of the people of the church. They were anxious to get something going in a positive way for the young people
  • I knew the minister and his family and loved them

I sold my house without any trouble, packed my car, had my furniture packed, and started traveling to Houston. My father decided to travel with his car behind me for he was to visit his sister, my Aunt Rosa, in El Campo, Texas. It was good to have him along. We parted ways in San Antonio.

I arrived in Houston, went immediately to the church, got acquainted with the office staff, and went back to the parsonage for a few days until my furniture arrived. I moved into an apartment not too far from the church. The first Sunday in the Church was full of lots of new faces and lots of hope and lots of support.

Because of the unique position I had with one of the larger churches in Houston, and the position I held as Youth Minister, I found myself involved in lot of joyous things with my youth as well as the youth of the city, and eventually with the youth and the leaders of the Region of Texas and New Mexico.

After my first summer there and after my first camping experience, I was asked to be the youth director for the area around Houston, called Coastal Plains Area. I had already started back to school. The hours I took for my classes were sandwiched in between my hours at the church and my time with the Area.

In May of 1972, I graduated with a double major from the Baptist University of Houston. The majors were in business and religion.

The fall of 1972 I was invited to an interview with the Christian Church Area of Dallas to be their Associate Area Minister. I was thrilled to be considered for this position and at the same time, I did not want to leave the youth and people of Houston.

After the interview I came home and prayed about the move. I made the decision to go, because I actually could start my Seminary work in Dallas at South Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

It was at this time that I received word that my father in Tucson had died, so I made a sad trip back home to be with family and attend the services for my father. I returned to Houston and immediately had to start packing because I was to be on the job in Dallas following the 4th of July. My father died on June 20 and I had to be prepared to leave my house and office by July 1st. I cried a lot, and it became difficult for me to know what I was crying about — my father, leaving Houston, fear about the new position.

I arrived in Dallas over the 4th of July, and the first people to contact me were a couple and their daughter who knew me in Houston. They invited me to their home for a picnic. What a way to be greeted in my new city.

The job was wonderful. I worked with Dr. Warren Chrisman, who taught me more in the four years I was with him than all the business schooling I had in university.

He was previously a lawyer in Oklahoma, and he went to seminary later. The combination of these two degrees assisted the churches in the Dallas area greatly.

We worked for 56 Christian Churches and were responsible to them for events that would include all or a few of these churches. My responsibility was in the area of leadership development and youth. This meant I was responsible for events that would assist the local leaders to be capable of leading and giving to their churches the message of Jesus Christ and His mission.

I also became responsible for the development of the camps and conferences that occurred during the summer. Thank goodness I had some marvelous leadership within the Dallas area that were able to chair and be leaders in these various endeavors.

I started my seminary schooling at Perkin’s School of Theology. I went to school, as I did before, part-time (whenever I could fit a class into my schedule). When I did not have responsibilities at night, often I would go to the library and study until it closed at 11 p.m. In this way I was able to keep up with my classes.

I had a great time at Perkins. Wonderful professors and people. I wondered if I as an older woman would fit into the school when most of the students were recent graduates. I found very quickly that I was accepted. My years at Perkins were wonderful.

After 4 years, there was a change in leadership. Warren accepted the position as Regional Minister for the State of Missouri, and this meant that a new minister would be secured for Dallas. All of the staff and I felt very positive about the search committee’s work, and when they recommended to the Dallas Board that a certain minister be called, we accepted their recommendation.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take us too long before were realized that we were trying to work with a man that did not know how to work with staff. We became a very unhappy bunch. Lucky me, I was being pursued by First Christian Church, Ponca City, Oklahoma, to become their Associate Minister. If I took this position, I would be able to finish my seminary training at Phillips Seminary, Enid, Oklahoma. This was one of our church’s many seminaries. It was 65 miles from Ponca City. So when things changed in Dallas, I accepted this position.

I was moving to Ponca City on the day that Elvis Presley died, and the car radio was full of nothing but that.

I quickly became acclimated to this small community and the wonderful people in the church. They accepted me with open arms and open hearts. I worked with the Education of the church as well as other areas of ministry. I found that I was enjoying making calls in the afternoon on many of the people in the church who were sort of marginal in their membership. Many of them became good friends.

My seminary schooling at Phillips was very interesting. The dean of the seminary I knew quite well when he was minister of one of the churches in the Dallas Area. The Biblical scholar I had known very well because he was also a member of one of our churches in Dallas while teaching at SMU. The Professor of Homeletics (preaching) I knew well because I was responsible for obtaining him for two of the Dallas Churches’ annual assemblies.

So I started off on a very good footing with Phillips. As in Dallas I took classes that would fit into my work schedule. And there were many nights that I would stay until the library would close. Then I would drive my 65 miles back to Ponca City.

All of this paid off, because on April 27th, 1980, I was ordained into Christian Ministry by the Oklahoma Region and the church in Ponca City. It was a wonderful celebration because my family was able to be there.

Aunt Mary’s memoir stops at this point.  She eventually returned to Tucson, where she served the First Christian Church there until her retirement some years later.  She continued to serve the church, preaching occasionally and participating in special services as long as she was able.  I remember her telling me about being part of a “drive-thru” Imposition of the Ashes on several Ash Wednesdays.  Aunt Mary officiated at my sister’s wedding in North Carolina in 1981 and co-officiated (along with my brother Ken and my daughter Lori) at my mother’s funeral in Virginia in 2012.

My sister and I visited Aunt Mary in Tucson in the spring of 2017.  The last time we had seen her was at my mother’s funeral in October 2012, and my sister and I both felt that we needed to see Aunt Mary before it was too late.  She was in reasonably good health, but she was 90 years old and wasn’t going to last forever.

This is the last picture I have with Aunt Mary.  From left to right: my cousin Melanie, who lives in Tucson and provided practical and emotional support for Aunt Mary; Aunt Mary; my sister Maribeth; me.  We all treasure this picture.

Just a few months after this time we had together, Aunt Mary fell and broke her hip.  Her doctor said she should no longer live alone, so she moved into an assisted living facility.  She was fortunate that she had bought a long-term-care insurance policy years before, so she was able to afford this move.  She wasn’t able to get out to church much once she moved into this facility, although church members made a point of visiting her regularly.  Aunt Mary never stopped ministering, however.  She was a warm and friendly woman, and her life was a witness to her faith every day.  She set up a little station in the lobby of the facility and conducted her own Ash Wednesday blessing every year, as long as she was able.

I am very sad that Aunt Mary’s last year was dominated by COVID pandemic restrictions.  For more than a year, no one from the outside was able to visit her in person.  The residents of the facility where she lived were not allowed to walk around outside of their rooms.  They even had their meals delivered to them.  I talked to Aunt Mary regularly during this time, and my cousin Melanie brought her family to do talk-through-the-window visits with Aunt Mary.  But my social, gregarious Aunt Mary suffered under these restrictions.  I think she died in part because of loneliness.  The week before Aunt Mary died, Melanie was finally able to visit her in person, and she was able to spend some time with Aunt Mary before she died.

I added the following information to Aunt Mary’s memoir:

This is a picture of Aunt Mary and my daughter, Lori McPherson, [her great-niece] at Lori’s 2005 ordination as a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church after earning a Master’s of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.  Aunt Mary co-officiated at the ordination, and Lori is wearing Aunt Mary’s robe, which Aunt Mary had received at her 1980 ordination and passed on to Lori.

Aunt Mary with my brother Ken Arnold, [her nephew], who was a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. They both participated in Lori’s ordination.  Ken passed away on January 24, 2014

Lori and Aunt Mary had a special bond, even though they never spent much time together.  Lori travels a lot for her job, and whenever her travels took her anywhere near Tucson, she added a day or two to her trip to make a detour to see Aunt Mary.

Lori and Aunt Mary the last time they were together, in September 2017.

I’m going to Aunt Mary’s Memorial Service in Tucson later in March of 2022.  Lori will be co-officiating at the service while wearing Mary’s robe.  Other participants in the service will be reading excerpts from Aunt Mary’s memoir.

I am so grateful that Aunt Mary wrote this memoir.  I learned so much about her life.  Every time I get the chance, I tell my friends that they should write their memoirs.  I have written mine.  Who knows your life better than you? Think of what a gift this would be to the generations that come after you.

Week 9: Women

This is the calendar I followed for writing about the women in my family tree. The three women pictured at the top are my mother, Violet Henrietta Workman Arnold (1921-2012), my paternal grandmother Orpha Lydia Ellefritz Arnold (1897-1986), and my maternal grandmother Susan Vernon Anthis Workman (1899-1944)

For Women’s History Month in 2018, I decided to write about one of my female ancestors each day of the month. I put them together in a book I self-published and titled Women Who Shaped Me.  There’s no way I could write something this week that I like more than what I wrote four years ago, so here’s the introduction to the book. You can see all these posts if you look in the category “Women’s History Month” on the home page of this blog.

After I retired from teaching in 2012, I had begun to do some genealogy research and develop my family tree. After only a brief period of time, I was hooked. I discovered that all of my family lines went back into colonial America, in 11 of the 13 original colonies (only Georgia and Delaware didn’t make the cut). I had ancestors on the Mayflower and in Jamestown, in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. They moved west with the country and homesteaded with millions of their contemporaries. They founded churches and survived religious persecution. They were Puritans, Quakers, and Mormons, Catholics and Protestants.

The first 15 stories in this book are about my eight great-great-grandmothers, my four great-grandmothers, my two grandmothers, and my mother. The last 16 stories are about women whose stories intrigued me for one reason or another. They include women who were among the earliest settlers at Jamestown and Plymouth, women who were the wife or mother of Revolutionary or Civil War soldiers, and pioneers who moved with their families from the known into the unknown. I had never heard of any of them (except my mother and my grandmothers) before I started researching my family history.

I was captivated by these women’s stories. Until I began to write the stories for this project, I had not tried to see these stories from the women’s points of view. The stories changed when I wrote them that way. Their fathers’ adventures became periods of fatherlessness. Their husbands’ decisions to pursue the promise of land (always to the west) were sometimes only brief episodes of disruption and relocation, but more often were part of a lifelong search for new beginnings. The military service that had defined the men’s lives became episodes during which  women raised their children alone and children grew up  without their fathers. Their husbands’ deaths became traumatic events in the lives of entire families, resulting in relocation, remarriage, or poverty.

DNA studies show that I am physically descended from these women. Their lives show that I am descended from them spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally as well. Many of them survived situations that I can’t comprehend; some of them succumbed to illness that they would have survived with modern medical treatment. Some of them married once and lived with that spouse their entire lives; some married once and died young, often as a result of childbirth; some married multiple times and had children by multiple husbands in multiple states. A few married badly and either left or were left.

Most of them had large families that I can’t imagine raising. Some of them lived their lives in one location. Others moved several times in their lives – first with their parents and then with their husbands – and yet managed to care for their families even in difficult situations.

Their experiences are as much a part of my being as is their DNA. They are the women who shaped me.

And here’s the book’s conclusion.

The stories of the lives of the women in this book are not well known, except to the people who lived with them and loved them.

Their stories are not of heroism in battle or public service. There are no statues of them in town squares or books about them in university libraries. You won’t find most of them on the voting rolls or property registries. Traditional records document only the barest outlines of their existence. To tell their stories, I had to extrapolate from existing records and employ some historical imagination to talk about what their lives might have been like.

Their stories are the timeless stories of women over the centuries.

Whether they were in the unsettled wilderness of the early colonies, in settled New England villages or Virginia plantations, in remote prairie homesteads or isolated mountain cabins, in bustling river towns or on the untamed frontier of the American west, they did what women have always done. They maintained their homes, raised their children, nursed the sick, tended to the dead and dying, and – always – developed community. They established churches and schools and markets and “literary societies” and saw to their husbands’ needs for food and clothing and comfort, sometimes at the expense of their own health and well-being.

And they moved and moved and then moved again, following their husbands as they searched for something better than what they had, and then they built churches and schools and markets – community – all over again. They left behind their pasts and their memories for the eternal prospect of a better (if uncertain) future. They left behind the graves of their parents and of their children.

They gave until there was no more to give.

 Many of them lived long lives and saw the fruits of their labors in the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, homes, and communities that surrounded them. Others lived long lives of loneliness and poverty, unable to thrive in the hostile environments in which they found themselves.  Some of them died young, unable to give what was demanded of them. They endured the grief of widowhood and empty arms that once held babies.

They certainly laughed and loved, yearned and hoped, and wept and mourned – and some lost their wits.

They basked in the sun and breathed in the sparkle of crisp winter air. They battled grasshoppers and wind. They endured floods and blizzards, crop failures, fires and drought and baking heat.

They took everything a new country could throw at them and they endured.

I am in awe of them.

To show you how this works, I’ll recount the story of one of these women:  my 2nd great-grandmother, Vandia Orilla Brown (1825-1900).  I wrote about her on March 2, 2018.

Today I remember my paternal great-great grandmother Vandia Orilla Brown Arnold (known as Rilla). Rilla was born in Fredonia, Licking County, Ohio in 1825, the third of eight children born to Harley and Anna Alden Brown.

Rilla married Miles Arnold in Licking County in 1844, where they had five children in the space of 10 years. Three of these children died as babies – Oscar Eugene Arnold (1845-1847), Elizabeth Victory Arnold (1847-1847), and George Washington Arnold (1854-1855). In 1856 Rilla and Miles moved to McLean County, Illinois (between modern-day Bloomington and Champaign, in the east-central part of the state) with their two surviving children, Joseph and Rosa. In the same year they had one more child – my great-grandfather Warner Lismond Arnold – before moving back to Ohio in 1858.

They had two more children – Nelson Franklin Arnold in 1858 and Miles Arnold, Jr. in 1861– in Ohio before Miles enlisted in the 76th Ohio Regiment in April of 1861 and went off to fight in the Civil War. Miles served for three years, throughout the South. His regiment participated in the battles of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, and the Chattanooga Campaign at the end of 1863.

The soldiers in the Union armies were given a break over the next couple of months, and Miles must have gone home to visit his family, because Rilla was pregnant again by the spring.

When Miles went back to the army in the spring of 1864, he participated in the Atlanta campaign.  In the Battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864, Miles was shot three times and left for dead on the battlefield. On the day after the battle, when the armies went out to collect their dead, Miles was found to be still alive; he was taken to a field hospital and then sent home after he had recuperated enough to travel.

Rilla was waiting at home while all of this was going on. She probably had very little information about what Miles was doing. She was pregnant, with five children (three under the age of five) to care for. When Miles came home, it cannot have been easy for Rilla. To add to the difficulty, their son (Charles Miller Arnold, named after Miles’s commanding officer) was born in August of 1864. When Charles died just over a year later, in September of 1865, it must have seemed like an unfair compounding of tragedy.

The family continued its wandering ways, despite Miles’s injuries. In 1866 they went to Bloomington, Illinois (the same general area where they had lived for a couple of years in the 1850s), where Rilla had another child, Lucy Gilman Arnold, in 1866. They returned to Ohio in 1869, where Rilla gave birth to Emma Violette Arnold in 1870. In the 1870 census, Miles is described as an “invalid.” It appears to me that parts of him worked just fine.

In 1871, they went once again to Illinois, this time to Ferris in Hancock County (where Miles as a young man in 1843 had led a wagon trip for a local wagoneer). They didn’t stay long, however, as they soon moved on to Beloit, Kansas, where they lived for four years before returning to Ferris, Illinois, in 1875. Although I can’t prove it, Miles may have taken advantage of preferential treatment afforded to Union veterans of the Civil War under the amended Homestead Act; instead of having to wait five years to “prove up” their claim and gain ownership of land, veterans could offset this waiting period by the number of years they served. With Mile’s three years of service, he was able to assume ownership of the land after only two years. He apparently sold the land as soon as he could and they returned to Illinois in 1875, and did not move again.

Miles never did fully recover from his wounds. In the 1880 census he is identified as a carpenter, with the annotation under the “sick” column that he had two problems – he was “wounded in the arms and shoulder in the Army” and that he had “heart disease.”

To further compound the woes of this family, Miles’s and Rilla’s son Frank died in 1888 at the age of 31.

Miles died on March 8, 1899. Although I have not been able to find his precise cause of death, his wounds and heart disease certainly played some role. He must have been a tough guy – despite everything, he lived to age 78 At the time of his death, Rilla and Miles were living in Hancock County, Illinois, with their six surviving children, all six of their children’s spouses, and 33 grandchildren. Rilla must have felt like they finally put down some roots.

Rilla died in Hancock County on July 8, 1900, 16 months after Miles’s death. They are buried in Moss Ridge Cemetery in Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois. The grave marker does not mention her.

Miles and Rilla are both buried under this marker.  I laid the rose and took this picture when I visited this cemetery on a snowy day in January of 2018.

Week 8:  Courting

115 N. First Street, Carthage, Illinois
Home of Bessie Edgcomb from 1918-1972
The house is still there. This is the best picture I can get from GoogleMaps

I don’t know the details about how any of my ancestors actually went about the process of courting their potential spouses.  I don’t have any letters or diaries telling me about that.

So I’m going to tell you about one story that sure seems like a real love story.  It probably involved some courting and wooing.

Let me introduce you to my paternal great-uncle Edward Henry Arnold (1889-1918)  and his wife Bessie Pearl Edgcomb (1890-1972):

Edward and Bessie both grew up in Hancock County, Illinois, where they married in 1914. In December of 1917, their first child was born – a son, Lowell Edward Arnold.  They seemed well on their way to living a happy life.

But tragedy struck just a year later.  Edward and Bessie both became ill with the Spanish Influenza of that year, and although Bessie recovered, Edward did not.  He died in December of 1918, when Lowell was just a year old.  The newspaper article announcing his death noted that his brother, Joseph, was “in France” at the time.  A little research revealed that Joseph was among a group of 125 young men from Hancock County who had been drafted for military service in April of 2018.  Just a couple of months before Edward’s illness and death, another newspaper article noted that “the boys” – including Joseph – were on their way back to the east coast from their training base in California and would be passing through Ft. Madison, Iowa, just a few miles from Hancock County.  The article listed the residents of the county who caravanned to Ft. Madison to greet the boys on their way to their deployment to France.  Edward Arnold was one of the people who made this trip.  He died three months later.

As I said, I don’t know anything about how Edward courted Bessie.  But I can tell by further information that Bessie apparently never recovered from Edward’s death.  The 1920 census show Bessie and her toddler son Lowell living with Bessie’s parents (Morgan and Nancy Edgcomb)  and her older brother Fred in Carthage, the county seat of Hancock County.  Morgan died late in 1920, and the 1930 census shows that Bessie and Lowell were still living with Nancy and Bessie’s two older brothers – Fred and James – in Carthage.   The 1940 census shows that the situation had not changed. 

Things changed a lot shortly after 1940, however, when Lowell registered for the draft.  Nancy died in 1941, but Bessie continued to live with James; Fred had moved to Oklahoma after Nancy’s death and he died there later in 1941.  I don’t know the details of Lowell’s service, but he died at Anzio in Italy in 1944.  His body was returned to the United States and he was buried the National Cemetery in Quincy, Illinois.

Here’s Lowell:

Bessie lived until 1972 and never remarried.  I found a 1967 newspaper article that reported “Strong-Arm Robbers Take $600 in Cash” from “elderly Carthage widow.”  The elderly widow was Bessie, and the newspaper reported her age as 77.  The article indicated that she lived alone, and that one of the robbers had lured her outside by saying that he had seen a kitten with a broken leg in front of her house.  The article noted that Bessie “takes in stray cats,” and when she opened the door two men came in, held a knife to her neck, and demanded money. 

In summary: 

  • Bessie and Edward married and three years later welcomed their first child. 
  • One year after that, Edward died of the influenza. 
  • Bessie and Lowell moved in with Bessie’s family, where she apparently lived the rest of her life.  The 1920, 1930, and 1940 census shows that the family lived on First Street in Carthage; the 1967 news article about the home invasion identifies her as living on First Street.  I’m pretty sure she lived in the same house the entire time.
  • Her father Morgan died in 1920
  • Her mother Nancy died in 1941
  • Her brother Fred died later in 1941 in Oklahoma, where he had moved to be with his children after Nancy’s death.
  • Lowell was drafted in 1941, and he died in Italy in May of 1944.
  • Bessie’s brother James died in September of 1944 
  • Bessie never remarried and lived in the same house until her death in 1972.

It’s hard to see Bessie’s life as anything but a series of tragedies which left her alone in the world at the age of 54.  But it’s possible to see it as a love story as well; Bessie never found anyone to replace her husband who had died so young.