Thursday, December 18, 2014


(originally published in Dec 2007))

It’s funny how some Christmas memories fade and some endure,
especially when it comes to gifts.

We weren’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either when we
were young. Santa’s gifts were often determined by budget
concerns but he always managed to leave us clothes and some
toys. (although one year I got a note with the other gifts:
“Dear Bill, I owe you one telescope. Santa Claus”)

Ads for a forthcoming movie brought back more memories. One
Christmas Eve my sister and I could hear Alvin and the
Chipmunks “Christmas Song” play over and over while our
parents laughed. When we asked why the song kept playing we
were told it was the radio and to get to sleep before Santa came.
(of course by now I already knew the Awful Truth). It turned
out Santa had left us a portable record player along with a copy
of the record!

I still have the gift my sister gave me one year: a wooden chess
set, the kind that doubles as a box to hold the chessmen. It’s
over thirty years old now.

As I grew older I learned that giving gifts was as much fun as
getting them. We didn’t have a color tv so one year when I was
working at the toy warehouse I put a portable Magnavox color
tv on layaway and gave it to my folks for Christmas. That tv lasted
for years, even after my folks got a larger console set. It migrated
from bedroom to bedroom passing from my kid brother to my
sister’s kids back to my brother’s kids until it finally gave up the

And then last year, I got a gift from a group of great friends, the
computer that I’m using right now to preserve these memories.

Oh, yeah! I eventually got the telescope!

2010 Update: When I moved here from my old apartment I had
to give up my desktop computer from my friends due to space
limitations. But my family had given me Sheldon the laptop
computer for Christmas last year, so I'm able to sit here in
the living room and do my blogging and research in my
comfortable chair. And the year before they gave me the
digital camera that lets me chronicle my road trips in pictures.
I'm very grateful for these and other gifts from them.

2013 Update: In 2011 my family gave a newer digital camera,
a Canon Powershot, which I've used to take some good photos
on my car trips and at cemeteries for Find A Grave. You can see
a few at the bottom of this post. 

So Santa has been very good to me over the years!

  The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I don’t recall many holiday parties from my earlier childhood. In
our family folks were too busy working or shopping at Christmas
time. And when we lived in Dorchester the apartments weren’t
really big enough to hold large parties in, although there might
have been one or two. If so, they would have followed the rules of
other adult parties my folks had: after saying hello to the adults,
my sister and I would be sent off to our beds to eventually fall
asleep while listening to the adults in the other room laughing
at Rusty Warren records. We wondered what "roll me over
in the clover" meant.

As an adult, most of my Christmas party experience has been at
work, including one at a now defunct toy chain warehouse(more
on that job later) when I was in my early twenties. It snowed
when I left for home. My car at the time was an Olds 98 and
being in a hurry to get home, I didn’t completely clean the rear
windshield. I backed up, turning the car around….

…and smashed my rear windshield by backing the car up under
a tractor trailer box front end as if it were a big rig hooking up.

The good news was, my Dad worked in the auto glass repair

The bad news was I had to call him and tell him what I’d done.

It was an …umm…interesting conversation.

((First published in December, 2007))

2013 Update: I think this is my favorite out of all the things 
I've posted every year about past Christmases. I remember the
windshield incident with a smile now but at the time I was 
a nervous wreck waiting for Dad's reaction, especially since I'd
had a few highballs at the Christmas party which probably had
a lot to do with my backing into the trailer. I also had to drive
the car home with no rear windshield in a snowstorm and I was
worried I'd get pulled over by the police. When I got home we
covered the broken window with something, probably a cut
open garbage bag and masking tape, and a few days later Dad
found a replacement at Goldy's, a local junkyard. 

Most of all, I remember Dad getting out of his car when he drove up 
to the  Child World warehouse, taking a puff on his cigarette, and 
giving me The Look before asking me "How the hell did you manage 
to do that?"

 The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Dear Genea-Santa,
Well, it's that time of year again. I'm not going to ask for too much this year,
so the list is short. I'd like :

-More online probate files, specifically from Essex and Suffolk. Ma for myself, and all the other counties for those researching their colonial Massachusetts ancestors.

-And more online county court case files. I've found so many great stories about my Essex
County ancestors, I bet there are some more in the Middlesex, Plymouth, and Worcester
county files.

 -Lastly, I hate to nag, Genea-Santa, but I'm still waiting on that document or hint or clue
that will get me past that John Cutter West brickwall. I'm getting older, Santa, time is
running out (hopefully not to quickly) and I'd really like to solve this mystery.

Other than that, I have no complaints this year. Those Middlesex County Probate files
over on the  website were a great surprise, and so were the
Worcester County Probate files on FamilySearch.

Merry Genea-Christmas!


((Written for the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Challenge from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings))

Friday, December 12, 2014


Ah, fruitcake! The Food. The Myth. The Legend.

We’ve never had any of the perpetual fruitcakes hanging about
for weeks or months in our family. We’re a practical bunch. If it
tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn’t, well, out it goes!

I have, however, invented a mythical fruitcake named Margaret.

Like distant cousin Tim Abbot over at Walking the Berkshires I
have been a role-player for years although mine has been online
instead of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. One of my characters
is an eccentric Scotsman and last Christmas he gave Margaret
the Fruitcake to another character as a Christmas gift.

It seems it was baked by a female relative who passed away
while doing so and the Scotsman believes (he says) that her spirit
inhabits her final fruitcake. Margaret has been exchanged
between family members each Christmas but last year it was
given to a young squire. Various adventures ensued including a
jailbreak where Margaret was used as a weapon and then the
disappearance of the haunted fruitcake sometime around

Yeah, I know.

I’m nutty as a fruitcake

2009 Update- Margaret's location is unknown at present, although
rumors persist that she is being used as a curling stone by a team
of dwarves.

2010 Update: Margaret's present location is still unknown. The
most prevalent rumor is that she was recently employed as a 
battering ram at the Gates of Mordor. 

2011 Update: Margaret's whereabouts still remain a mystery. Rumor
has it she is presently being used as a doorstop by a giant at
a certain school for young wizards.

2012 Update: Rumor has it that Margaret is now being used as 
ballast on The Flying Dutchman.  

2013 Update: It has been rumored that Margaret the Fruitcake
was brought to North Korea by Dennis Rodman where she is
presently being used as a stepstool by Kim Jong Un. 

2014 Update:
Margaret the Haunted fruitcake was spotted in a recent episode of the "Grimm"
television program wherein a truckload was instrumental in the defeat of a trio
of Wesen monsters. I think she was listed in the credits as "Head Fruitcake"

(originally posted in December 2007))

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”


Here's an interesting story I found about my 8x great grandfather Richard Swan in the
Essex County Court Case files (Have I mentioned how much I love those files?). The small
letter"t" after names denotes that the person signed or made his mark in their testimony. All
spelling is as written in the original document:
Sept 29 1668
Richard Swan v. John Morgan. For taking away John Huttson. Verdict for plaintiff, the boy to be returned.*

*Writ: Richard Swan v. John Morgaine, commander of the Bristow ship, now lying in Marblehead harbor; for taking away John Hutson, servant of said Swan, and detaining him; dated 24 : 6: 1668; signed by Hillyard Veren, t for the court; and served by Henery Skerry, t marshal of Salem. Bond of John Morgan t and Moses Mavericke. t

John Gedney, aged about sixty-four years, deposed that he heard Mr. Morgan say that he had taken his cousin from Mr. Swan and delivered him to Mr. Oliver Purchas to take into his custody. Sworn, 21 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Charles Browne, aged about forty-two years, deposed that he heard Goodwife Lambert of Rowley say that she sold John Hudson, her boy, to Richard Swan of Rowley for fourteen pounds to be paid in wheat and barley. Also that he heard John Hudson say that Richard Swan was to buy him and he rejoiced much at it. Sworn in court.

Walter Price, aged about fifty-five years, deposed that on 16 : 7 : 1668, he was summoned to appear before the Worshipful Major Hawthorne to testify concerning Mr. Morgan's reputed cousin. That when Morgan delivered the boy to Purchase, he asked him whether he would go with his old master Mr. Swan or his new, Mr. Purchase, and the young man chose Mr. Purchase, so Mr. Swan came away and left the young man there. Sworn, 16 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

John Cook, aged about twenty years, deposed that hearing people talk at his master's gate, he saw a man they called Morgan take a boy in the street, whom they called John Hudson, etc. Sworn, 16 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Henery Skerry, aged about sixty-four years, and Richard Swan, deposed. Sworn, 21 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Richard Swan's bill of cost, 1li. 18s. 8d.

Beriah Browne of Rowley, aged twenty years, deposed. Sworn in court.

Indenture, dated Dec. 1, 1664, John (his mark) Hudson,Jr son of John Hudson of Bristol, Eng., aged about twelve years, with the consent of Mr. William Woodcocke of Salem, to whom he was committed in trust, bound himself to John Hutchinson of Salem husbandman, for eight and one-half years. Wit: Benjamin Felton t and Edw. Norice.t

On Dec.17, 1667, John Hutchson t of Salem made over the boy to Richard Swone of Rouly, with the full consent of John (his mark) Hudson of Rouly. Wit: Richard (his mark) Huchinson and Thomas Hale.t This assignment was allowed by Samuel Symonds t and Daniel Denison.t


Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1667-1671 (Google eBook) Essex Institute, Salem Ma., 1914

So, as I read this, my ancestor purchased the contract of the indentured servant John Hutchson
who was at first happy with his new master. Then his cousin John Morgan sailed into town, found
the boy and took him to Mr Purchase. Richard Swan found the boy, who wanted to stay with Mr.
Purchase.Wisely, Richard took the matter to court where the terms of John Hutchson's indenture
were upheld and the boy was returned to him.

Now I'm left wondering what happened afterwards. Did John Hutchson serve out the full length
of his indenture, or did Richard Swan sell the boy's contract to another person?   

Thursday, December 11, 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. I've
been tracing the ancestral lines of my grandmother Cora Barker. In this post I'll
start looking at her Swan ancestors, beginning with my 9x great grandfather,
immigrant ancestor Richard Swan. I hadn't known much about him before now,
so I had a bit of a surprise when I found this from William Richard Cutter

(I) Richard Swan, immigrant ancestor, was born in England about 1600, died in
Rowley, Massachusetts, May 14, 1678. He settled in Boston before 1638, and
was a husbandman there as early as February 6, 1638. He joined the church, January
6, 1639, and was admitted freeman, May 13, 1640. He was dismissed from the Boston
church to the gathering of a church at Rowley, November 24, 1639. He held various
town offices in Rowley and was deputy to the general court from 1666 to 1674.
He served in King Philip's war and the expedition to Canada. His first wife died in
England before he came to this country, and he married (second) Mrs. Ann Trumbull,
March 1, 1658. She married (first) Michael Hopkinson, who was buried February 28,
1648; (second) John Trumbull, June, 1650. She deposed March 30, 1675, tnat she was
aged about sixty years. His will was dated April 26, 1678, and proved May 23 following, bequeathing to wife Ann according to marriage contract; to son Robert and his son Richard, to son-in-law Joseph Boynton and his wife Sarah and to children: Elizabeth, Samuel and Sarah Boynton; to daughters: Frances Quilter, Jane Wilson, Dorothy Chapman and Mercy Warriner. His widow Ann made her will July 4, 1678, proved September 24, 1678, bequeathing to daughters Abigail Bayley and Mary Kilborne; to son Caleb Hopkinson a chest that his father made; to sons John and Jonathan Hopkinson; one book to John Trumble. Children: Richard; Dorothy, married Chapman; Jane, married Wilson; Frances, married Quilter; Robert, 1626 or 1628, mentioned below ; Jonathan: Susan, married Samuel Stickney, of Rowley; Sarah, married Joseph Boynton; John, born in Boston, baptized February 13, or November 24, 1638; Mercy, Rowley, July 4, 1640; Faith, Rowley, March 30, 1644-45.-

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 3 (Google eBook) Lewis historical publishing Company, 1913

The surprise was that Richard Swan's second wife, the widow Ann Trumbull, was my
8x great grandmother by her marriage to John Trumbull. The Abigail Bayley named in
Richard's will was my 7x great grandmother Abigail (Trumbull) Bayley.

As if grandmother Barker's line wasn't already enough of a tangled thread!
To be continued...

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


...these are the rules I'd make.

Christmas sales and advertising would be banned until the day
before Thanksgiving.

Black Friday would start at 9am local time sharp. No midnight
madness. No lines at store doors at dawn. People would instead
spend more time at home with their families and store personnel
would not have to leave Thanksgiving gatherings early because
they need to go prep the store for opening.

Shoppers would behave in a mature, civilized and orderly fashion.
If the store has run out of some item the shoppers would not
treat the salespeople as if they have suddenly become the spawn
of Satan but instead would move on to the next items on their
shopping list.

No national chain stores open on Christmas Day. Christmas is
Christmas, period. Forget about sales for one day and let your
employees enjoy the day with their families. Mom & Pop stores
can open but half the day only so that folks who run out of milk or
butter can get some quickly and easily.

People would hold doors open for other shoppers and give up
their bus seats to senior citizens. Young children would not throw
temper tantrums and older children would not curse at their

Everyone would have someplace to go to and someone to be with
on Christmas Day. No one would be alone and no one would be
cold or hungry.

Drunk drivers would be unable to start their cars and so have to
take cabs or other means of transportation.

All our Armed Forces would be home to safely celebrate the
holidays with their loved ones.

There’s much more that could be added, I’m sure. But I’d be
happy with these for starters.

((First published in 2008))

2012 Update: I've added a new one:
There'd be no commercials using Santa to sell cars.

And no commercials with Christmas carols sung badly and loudly
off key for supposed "comic effect". (Are you listening, Target?)

2013 Update: A few more new ones:
NO THANKSGIVING DAY openings. The sales can wait until
after midnight.

No more Michael Bolton car commercials. I'm doing this for you,
Michael. Things can't be so bad you need to do these. Have some
self respect!

And while we're at it, no more Ron Burgundy car commercials.
They were funny at first, but now they're tiresome.

And another thing about commercials: I'd limit how many times
each commercial could be played an hour. Playing the same
commercial three times in ten minutes would be penalized
by being sent to the "penalty box" for twelve hours.

That's it for now. I'm sure I'll have more by next year!

2014 Update:

Things have improved greatly!  No Michael Bolton car
commercials! We are not being bombarded by the same
commercials being shown three times in a row.

However....the Joe Boxer pajama bottoms commercial
involving men pounding their beer bellies like kettledrums
has to to!

Monday, December 08, 2014


Just a few thoughts about the case and the people in it:

Whenever I find one of these cases the first thing I do is to see if the ages
of the people involved in the case are mentioned. Then I check them against
what I know about the family to see if they match up with the information
I have. For example, here's the family of Thomas and Hannah Chandler from
a Chandler family genealogy:

The children of Thomas and Hannah (Brewer) Chandler were:

i. Thomas, b. 2 Oct. 1652; d. 6 June, 1659, a. 7 years.
Salem Ilecords.

ii. John, b. 14 March, 1655 ; Andover ; m. 20 Dec. O. S. 1670,
Hannah Abbot.

iii. Hannah, m. 2 Dec. 1674, Daniel Bixby, of Andover.

iv. William, b. 28 May. O. S. 1659; m. 21 April, 1687,
Eleanor Phelps, by Rev. Francis Dane, of S. Andover.

v. Sarah, b. 20 Dec. 1661 ; m. 29 May, 1682, Samuel Phelps.

vi. Thomas, b. 9 Oct. 1664; m. 22 .May, 1686, Mary Peters,
by Major Saltonstall.

vii. Henrv, b. 28 May, 1667; in. 28 Nov. 1695, Lydia Abbot,
of Andover.

viii. Joseph.. b. 3 Aug. 1669; m. 20 Nov. 1691, Sarah Abbot.

Chandler, George The Chandler Family: The Descendants of William and AnnisChandler who Settled in Roxbury, Mass., 1637 (Google eBook)
Press of C. Hamilton,  Worcester, Ma. 1883

The case happened in 1678, and the ages given for the Chandlers are:
William, around 19 years old. (I have his birth year in my database as 1659)
Thomas, around 51 years old. (I have his birth year in my database as 1628)
Hannah, around  49 years old  (I have her birth year in my database as 1630)

That, plus the fact that William in my database is married to Elinor Phelps
makes me certain that this isn't another Chandler family.

Two of the witnesses in the case are also my relatives:
William Lovejoy is my 8x great grandfather,
John Ballard is my 8x great granduncle

-I am wondering how much Walter Wright was fined, No amount was given in
case file. And why was he let off so lightly? Were the knife wounds not as
serious as William Chandler testifies? Was there a sense that he had somehow
provoked Wright into the attack? Part of it might also be because Thomas Chandler
didn't seem to want to pursue the matter since he and Wright were neighbors.

-It seems our ancestors had a higher tolerance of pain than we do nowadays.
Even if the knife wounds were not serious ones, being slashed across your face
and in your hands and stomach must have really hurt. But the wounds were
"cured" (stitched?) by Return Johnson and everyone went back about their business. 

-Though the case was brought to court in Ipswich, the actual events took place in
Andover, Ma. where many of my paternal ancestors lived.

Finally, I think Walter Wright didn't follow through on his threat to shoot William
Chandler's horse.

If he had, I'm sure they would have ended up in court over it.