Monday, September 01, 2014


It's time to start thinking about the Sixth Annual Great Genealogy Poetry

This year I'm really giving everyone a lot of lead time.  As in the past , I'll
be posting the links to the submissions on Thanksgiving Day, which this
year falls on Thursday, November 27th. Deadline for submissions will be
a week before, on Thursday, November 20th. That gives everyone nearly three
months to find (or write) and share their poem or song. If you
find one long before that deadline, you can post it on your blog now if you
wish, just don't forget to send me the link to it before November 20th!
These are the Challenge rules:

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region
one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a
legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local
animal. It can even be a poem you or one of your ancestors have written!
0r if you prefer, post the lyrics of a song or a link to a video of someone
performing the song. 

2. Post the poem or song to your blog (remembering to cite the source
where you found it.).  If you wish to enter an older post, you may as long

as long as it has not appeared here in an earlier Poetry Challenge.
3.Tell us how the subject of the poem or song relates to your ancestor's
home or life, or the area of the country where they lived.

4.Submit your post's link here to me by midnight Thursday, November 20th
and I'll publish all links to the entries on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th!

If  you submit a humorous poem or song that will be entered under the
"Willy Puckerbrush" division. Willy was the late geneablogger Terry
Thornton's alias for some humorous posts and comments.

There you have it, and with nearly three months to work with, I'm hoping that
gives everyone plenty of time to take part this year!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I'm behind on Randy Seaver's  Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenges on
his Genea-Musings Blog. This is the challenge from a week ago Saturday:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music):
1)  Using your ancestral lines, how far back in time can you go with two degrees of separation?  That means "you knew an ancestor, who knew another ancestor."  When was that second ancestor born?

2)  Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, in a status line on Facebook or a stream post on Google Plus.

I've done two earlier blogposts on this topic so I'm sort of running out of ancestors I knew who knew someone. For this one, I remembered this picture:

The dark haired little boy closest to the adults is my paternal grandfather Floyd
West. The adults are my 2x great grandparents Jonathan Phelps West and Louisa
(Richardson) West. Jonathan was born in 1834, Louisa in 1837. I knew my grandfather
so through him I have two degrees of separation from Jonathan and Louisa!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


My blogging has fallen off a bit the past few weeks, but I was busy with other
genealogical matters: There was the First World War and Civil War Challenge
summaries that needed to be finished. I was doing some research for a friend and
sending him what I found (and I'm still working on that). So I fell behind on the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks meme, and was just about to start blogging to catch up
when fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings did a blog post that the  
Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1648-1871, were now up at the
NEHGS website. Well, I have Middlesex County ancestors, so I went over to check
and see what I could find and...

...I was lost. I always felt that most of my ancestors were from Essex and Plymouth
counties, but as I kept finding file after file I realized I have more Middlesex county
ancestors than those from Plymouth County.  I spent four days downloading wills
and probates, and I'm sharing what I've found with my aunt and cousin in Ohio who
got me started in genealogy. Next I will send copies to some of my distant cousins.
And there will be plenty of blogposts on what I've found, such as:

- Proof of the identity of the parents of my 5x great grandmother Lydia Phelps.

-The file that proves I have Nutts in my family tree.

- The setting aside of ancestor John Nutting's will by a judge due to what seems
like a bit of hanky-panky.

So thanks Randy for leading me to these goodies!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Continuing G.W.Johnson's article from the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 33, January 1879 on our mutual ancestor William Johnson, in which more of his florid prose is displayd. This first  part has his fanciful description of the physical appearance of William Johnson's six sons, based on the appearance of their descendants some two centuries later.(one of whom was himself):

William had but one wife, whose first name was Elizabeth, though a recent genealogist generously but erroneously gives him another. I have not Elizabeth's maiden name,
nor her birth-date, nor the date of their marriage, which must have taken place before
they left England. By this sole wife William had six sons—John. Joseph, Jonathan,
Nathaniel, Zachariah and Isaac; and two daughters—Ruhamah and Elizabeth ; all of whom, except the oldest, were born in Charlestown. The daughters resided there and married young and well—Ruhamah, John Knight, Jr., and Elizabeth (" bro. Johnson's daughter," as the record designates her), Edward Wier or Weare, and both left issue. 

In his six sons the colony had, in emergencies, six soldiers to defend it against the 
savage foe, by whose hands John, in his old age, his last wife and a granddaughter-in-law, and a son of Joseph, fell. They were all thrifty and well-to-do, all except Isaac church members, all married, all left issue, most of them numerous issue, and all except Nathaniel executed wills, which are of record. On a careful examination of the unsparing church and court records down to the fourth generation of their descendants, the writer found not therein a blot on the good name of the race. (p83)

....These six sons were large-limbed, tall and muscular, but not corpulent, if their size 
may be inferred from that of most of their descendants. William lived to see all his eight children well married and settled, and to be the grandfather of over forty grandchildren, and a great-grandfather. His sons and daughters, before and after his death, had in all sixty-four children; "a certaine sign," to use the words of an early writer, "of the Lord's intent to people this vaste wildernesse." (p84)

In this section, I had to delete a sentence at the end of the paragraph about the fate of
the missing gravestones that was anti-Semitic in nature:

His wife survived him nearly seven years, and died Oct. 6, 1684. She married again if
she was the "Elizabeth Johnson, widow," who, Oct. 24, 1679, married Thomas Carter,
of which there is some doubt, as our Elizabeth in subsequent conveyances, and in the settlement of William's estate, signs her name Elizabeth Johnson. William and his wife
must have been buried in the old Charlestown cemetery; but in 1862, after diligent
search, their gravestones could not be found. Doubtless they were near his son Isaac's,
which remain.

He then gives a list of the children of William Johnson:
Children of William and Elizabeth Johnson:
2. i. John, b. 1633.
3. ii. Ruhamah, bapt. Feb. 21. 1634-5.
4. iii. Joseph, bapt. Feb. 12, 1636-7.
5. iv. Elizabeth, bapt. March 17, 1639-40.
6. v. Jonathan, bapt. Aug. 14, 1641.
7. vi. Nathaniel, b. about 1643.
8. vii. Zachariah, b. about 1646.
9. viii. Isaac, b. 1649.

I'm descended from Jonathan Johnson who married Mary Newton at Marlboro, Ma. on
14Oct 1663.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Welcome to the blogpost roundup for the  Fourth Annual American Civil War BlogpostChallenge. These were the suggestions for possible topics I thought
my fellow geneabloggers might want to write about for this year's Challenge:

Did you have ancestors in America during the Civil War? If so, where were they
and what were their circumstances? How did the Civil War affect them and
their family? Did the men enlist and did they perish in battle or die of illness?
On which side did they fight, or did you have relatives fighting on BOTH sides?

How did the women left at home cope, or did any of them find ways to help
the war effort? Were your ancestors living as slaves on Southern plantations
and if so when were they freed?  Or were they freemen of color who enlisted
to fight?

Have you visited a Civil War battlefield or monument to those who fought?
It could be connected to your family history, or just one that you've visited
at some point.

If your ancestors had not emigrated to America as yet, what was their life
like around the time of the Civil War?

I didn't get many entries this year but I life to think the quality of the submissions
more than makes up for the lack of quality. I've also added some photos I've
taken over the years of Civil War monuments here in southeastern Massachusetts.
So let's get started!

Marshfield Hills Cemetery. Marshfield, Ma.

The Civil War took a terrible toll on families on both sides, with most or
all of their male family members killed. Ray Nichols tells the story of
one such Southern family over at his Growing The Family Tree blog in
the post Civil War: the Richards family tragedy

Civil War Veterans' Plot, Mt.Vernon Cemetery, Abington, Ma.

Amanda the Librarian of the ABT UNK blog is one of those who had
ancestors on both side of the conflict. Some survived, some didn't. You
can find their story and some pictures as well in Military Monday: 
My Civil War Ancestors.     

Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Abington, Ma.

After the war, monuments were built all over the country to honor those
who had fought and those who'd died in the war. Doreen from Ohio 
of the Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Ohio shares photos of one in her 
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Milan, Ohio  post.

Civil War Memorial Arch, Abington, Ma.

 The Fold3 website is a great place to find documents relating to the
wartime service of ancestors.  John Newmark recently found one that
gave the reason his wife's ancestor joined the Confederate Army and 
has published the transcript in Amanuensis Monday: Reasons for 
taking up arms on his TransylvanianDutch blog. 

Civil War Monument, Mayflower Cemetery, Duxbury, Ma.

My 5x great grandmother Lydia Phelps was the young widow of a 
Revolutionary War soldier with three small children when she 
married my 5x great grandfather John Ames. One of the descendants
of her son Sampson Reid fought for the Union in the War and was one
of those awarded a high honor for his service. I wrote about it here
on West in New England in AXEL REED, CHICKAMAUGA & 

Lincoln Statue, Hingham, Ma.
And that concludes this year's Civil War Challenge. I want to thank all the 
talented geneabloggers who took part this year, and urge my readers to leave
comments for them after you read their posts.

Next year will mark the fifth and final year of the Civil War 150th Anniversary
so if you haven't taken part in the Challenge yet, next year will be your last chance.

Or you can wait until 2036 when I run another Civil War Challenge to mark the
175th Anniversary!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Fellow geneablogger Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically, we have to post something every
week on a different ancestor, whether a story, picture, or research problem. For
this prompt I've tried to concentrate on ancestors I haven't researched as much
as I have others in my family tree. I thought I'd explore my Johnson line, starting
with William Johnson, my 11x great grandfather and one of my immigrant ancestors
who came to Charlestown, Ma.

I found a great article on Google books written by G.W.Johnson. It's from the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 33 published in January 1879 and
is one of those old style genealogies, where, for example, the physical appearance of
the Johnson men is judged to have been similar to those descendants living two centuries

WILLIAM JOHNSON, one of the early settlers of Charlestown, Mass., was born in England a little after 1600, was made freeman of Massachusetts Colony, March 4, 1634-5, and the year before became an inhabitant of Charlestown, and continued such over forty-two years, till his death, Dec. 9, 1677, at the age of over 70 years. Charlestown began to be settled in 1628, was laid out as a town in 1629, and, Salem excepted, is the oldest town in the colony, older than even Boston. I have not William's birth date; nor do I know in what part of England he was born; nor what relationship, if any, he bore to contemporary Johnson stocks in the colony

The author then speculates on which other colonists named Johnson might have been
related to William before getting back to him:

William was a Puritan of good parts and education, and brought with him from England a wife and child and means. He with his wife Elizabeth joined the Charlestown church, Feb. 13, 1634-5, of which they continued members in good standing till their death, over half a century. They probably belonged to a Puritan church in England. In order to be made a freeman of the colony, which entitled him to vote and hold office, it was required that the settler be a member of a congregational church, and be correct in doctrine and conduct. Feb. 10 of the same year he signed, with others, "An order made by the inhabitants of Charlestown at a full meeting for the government of the Town," which order the writer saw among the records of Charlestown many years ago. In his signature thereto we have his autograph. It is one of the fairest, and that of a practical penman. "The inhabitants of this town," says Mr. Frothingham in his History of Charlestown, "for a few years transacted all their local business in town meeting. * * * But their local government was not yet to their minds: 'by reason of many men meeting, things were not so easily brought unto joynt issue.' * * * The original proceeding on board the May Flower was imitated, providing for the government of the town by Selectmen. * * * No town has a more perfect history of its local government than is here presented." Within the first four years of his residence, William was assessed for ten separate parcels of land, which he cultivated. By profession he was a farmer, or, as he sometimes calls himself in conveyances, a "planter." This was his leading business, and it is by his leading or principal business a man is to be designated. His secondary employment was brick-making; and if he was called brick-maker in the record of his death, it was to distinguish him from William, son of Capt. Edward Johnson, who was also a farmer. From the start almost he appears to have been a well-to-do, thriving farmer. There were no large estates in the infant town, nor indeed in the colony. In 1658, twenty-four years after he became a resident, a division of town land was made among the two hundred and three heads of families and others of the township, in proportion to the possessions each one then had; and from this division it appears that after having considerably reduced his estate by portioning his children, over two-thirds of the townsmen stood below him in point of property, including Capt Edward Johnson; and many of the other third possessed but little more. His house-lot, on which there was a garden, fronted one hundred feet on "Greate" (Main) street, near the present Square, and was about one hundred and twenty feet deep. On this lot stood the house in which all his eight children, save the eldest, were born, and in which he died, and also stood two barns and two brick-making mills.

William discharged several of the town offices, but no colonial office except that of juror. In his time, office, except the highest, was regarded as a burden. Ill paid, it was not seldom imposed, subjecting him who refused it to a fine. At one time he was one of the five overseers " of ye houses and fields of ye towne," and at another one of the twelve special selectmen, comprising some of the principal settlers, his name standing third in the list, "to settle the rates of all workmen, labourers and servants' wages and for cart and boat hire," no one then being allowed to charge for his labor, &c, a higher sum than that prescribed by law. The judicial records show that William, with another man, was a witness to prove that a neighbor had Quaker books in his house; if a willing one, as probably he was, his sin was that of the entire community and the age in which he lived
. pp82-83

WILLIAM JOHNSON AND HIS DESCENDANTS. By G. W. Jouxson, of Royalton, N. Y.  The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 33 , Jan 1879 Boston,Ma.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


I was contacted last week by a cousin about our mutual ancestor Lydia (Phelps)
Read West. While answering a question I was reminded of something I'd
discovered seven years ago when I first began this blog involving the Civil
War. I decided it was a better topic for the Civil War Challenge than the one
I'd originally intended, so I decided to write about it instead. And here we are.

My 5x great grandmother Lydia Phelps had married her first husband Sampson
Read on 18Mar 1773 in Westford, Ma. He joined the Continental Army in 1776
and died in 1777 at age 23. I haven't as yet been able to find out if he was killed
in battle or died of natural causes. He and Lydia had three children; a son, Sampson
Read, Jr. and two daughters, Lydia and Amy. Sometime between 1777 and 1779,
Lydia met and married my 5x great grandfather John Ames m a Revolutionary
War veteran and blacksmith. There would be seven Ames children, and the family
settled around Hartford, Oxford County, Me.

John Ames taught his step-son Sampson the blacksmith trade. Eventually the young
man  married Jane Ellis. (she maybe a cousin through my Ellis line which I'll
have to research.) They  had a large family of ten children, one of whom was Sampson
Read III. He in turn married Huldah Bisbee and had eight children. One of these
was Axel Hayford Reed. The youngest of the seven surviving children, he apparently
was not happy farming and when he reached adulthood he moved West, eventually
ending up in Glencoe, Minnesota where he was living when the Civil War broke out.

He enlisted in  the Second Regiment of the Minnesota and became Sergeant of Company
K. Then in 1863 Axel got himself into trouble. In September of 1863  Axel's regiment
was part of Union General George Thomas' in the campaign along the Tennessee-Georgia
border. On 19Sep 1863 Axel Reed was under arrest at the reat of the lines when the
Battle of Chickamauga broke out. It seems he had written a letter to a newspaper that
had been critical of the food shortage of the army and was confined for it. When the
battle broke out, he either escaped or persuaded his guards to let him return to Company
K to fight with his men. The Second Minnesota helped stop a Confederate advance and
charges were dropped against Axel for his conduct on the field during the fighting.

Two months later Axel Reed was part of  the Union advance up Missionary Ridge in
Tennessee on 25Nov 1863. During that he was wounded which caused his right arm to
be amputated. Despite losing his arm he stayed on with the 2nd Regiment and by the time
he was mustered out in July of 1865 he had risen to the rank of First Lieutenant.

After the war he returned home, raised a family, started a bank and farmed. A diary
he kept during the war is cited in several history books. He died in Glencoe, Minnesota
on 21January 1917.

For his actions at Chickamauga and at Missionary Ridge, my 2nd cousin 4x removed
Axel Hayford Reed was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. You can read the
official citation at the U.S. Army Center of Military History website, and more details
of the two battles where Axel distinguished himself at the website for the NationalMedal of Honor Museum of Military History, which includes his photograph.