Saturday, July 14, 2007


You might have noticed that many of my blog posts deal with
ancestors with surnames such as (E)Ames or Ellingwood/
Ellinwood/Ellenwood or Abbot(t) on my fathers side of the family
more than on my own surname of West. The reason is simple and
quite common among many genealogists: I have a brick wall.

The furthest back I can go in my direct West line is to John Cutter
West who is believed to have been born in Plymouth Ma. on 8 Oct
1802 but neither I or others before me doing the family genealogy
have been able to discover any record of his birth as of yet. This is
why I like to refer to him as the Elusive John C.

There are any number of reasons why this is the case. One is that
it was an error by the census taker; an incorrect date, birthplace,
or he misunderstood the information and the middle name was
not Cutter but something else. There was a Cottle family, for
example, that was involved with the Wests descended from the
line of Francis West of Duxbury, Ma. Another possibility is that he
was not born in the town Plymouth but in Plymouth County.

There are other ways that the information on the Elusive John C.
could be wrong and I'll explore them further in other posts.

John and his descendants for the most part don’t seem to have
been all that big on writing so I’ve not found anything written by
them. There’s not much else on them that I’ve been able to find
so far outside of something written about a man I believe to be
Jonathan Phelps West, my great great grandfather. But even as
frustrating as it might seem I was lucky enough to have material
to start with and even a picture. I think. That fellow up there at
the top right of the screen is supposedly the Elusive John C.

Of course the problem with having a name like West is that it’s
such a common name and any browser search on “John West”
yields a lot of hits. I just checked it on Google and I got 859,000
on just the name without adding other words to the search. “John
Cutter West” yields 9...mostly posts from this blog or queries I
sent to forums. “John C. West” gets 15,500 references.

Still, I keep looking for the Elusive John C. I’ve found a few things
here and there, and meanwhile I also research the families of
women the West men married: Arvilla Ames, Louisa Richardson,
Clara Ellingwood, and Cora Barker. Maybe I’ll stumble across a
lead on John C. while exploring those other leads but even if I
don’t I’m enjoying the hunt. I’m finding out fascinating things
about relatives I didn’t even know anything about before.

That’s the joy of genealogy

1 comment:

Janice said...


I'm usually pretty good at finding folks in New England, but I'll admit I came up with zero for John C. You might want to consider that his middle that began with C was his first name when he was born and he switched them for some reason for regular use. You may also want to check Massachusetts during that time to see if he completely changed his surname.... those are often the reasons why one hits a brick wall in Massachusetts.