Thursday, September 30, 2010


And the seasons, they go go round and round.
The painted ponies go up and down.
We're captured on the carousel of time.
We can't return, we can only look
behind from where we came,
And go round and round in the circle game.

-Joni Mitchell

"Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell, specifically the version sung by Tom
Rush has been a favorite of mine since the first time I heard it(never
mind how many years ago that is now). I found myself thinking of it this
afternoon when I was doing some research and made an interesting
discovery. I was adding some Dunham collateral lines to my tree and looking for sources on FamilySearch Record 
Search, working my way through the descendants of Moses Dunham,
brother to my 4x great grandfather James Thomas Dunham. Moses'
daughter Abigail married Calvin Dunham Gurney in Hartford, Oxford,
Me. on 3Jul 1828. They had five children, four boys and one girl, one
of whom was James Gurney. Over on Record Search, I found this
image of James Gurney's death certificate from the Massachusetts 
Deaths 1841-1915 file:

According to this, James Gurney died in Whitman, Plymouth, Ma and is
buried in Rockland, Plymouth, Ma, and both of those towns border the
town of Abington, which just happens to be where I live. I did a litle
more digging and found the Federal Census images on Ancestry for
James. As early1860 he and his wife lived in East Abington, which was
the region that broke off to form Rockland. Whitman was originally
South Abington until it too seceded from Abington.

Now I know that my Dunham ancestors originally came from Plymouth
County Massachusetts and the Gurneys might have as well. Or perhaps
James' move back here was purely coincidence, caused by James
looking for and finding work in the local shoe factories. But finding this
reminded me once more of how my father who was born and raised in
Maine ended up back down here in Plymouth County where our ancestor
John Cutter West was born.Again I am wondering if we are in fact
related to one of the other West families here in Abington with whom I've
yet to discover any connection.

And once again I've found an example of how my family history is a
circle game.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This past Thursday's Genealogy Daytrip was a special one. My Aunt
Dorothy and her daughter, my Cousin Diana, were on their way up to
Bethel Maine to attend Dot's reunion at Gould Academy, and my sister
Cheryl and I were driving them up from Boston to Portland to pick up
their rental car. So I was busy for the last few nights before Thursday
trying to print up some family sheets from the new discoveries I'd
made researching the Barker and Ellingwood families and fighting with
drivers, printers and paper jams right up until Wednesday night.

Thursday morning Cheryl picked me up here at 6:45 and we set out for
Boston. Now it seems there's always a GPS story when Cheryl and I
take a roadtrip and this was no exception. Dorothy and Diana were
staying in a hotel on Mt Vernon Street in Boston and the GPS guided
us perfectly to Mt Vernon Street in Charlestown in the shadow of the
nearby Bunker Hill Monument. The only problem was, it was a dead
end street in a residential area with no sign of a hotel. A quick cellphone
call to Diana and another to the hotel revealed that there is another Mt
Vernon Street in Boston, this one in the Dorchester Bayside area.
Fifteen minutes later we pulled up in front of the hotel and picked up
the ladies.

The drive up to Portland was a good one. Dorothy and I talked genealogy
for a bit but there were other topics discussed besides. Once we got to
Portland and got the rental car, we looked for a place to eat and talk for
a bit, and ended up at a place called Marcey's Diner which had good food
and reasonable prices. While we waited for our orders, I gave Dorothy
and Diana the material I'd printed out, which included another interview
with Uncle Clarence from a Maine newspaper.(I'll go into that further
in a following post). We sat and talked for an hour, took a picture of each
other and said our goodbyes.

It was only about 1pm and Cheryl suggested we find out what attractions
there were in the area. She got some brochures and we decided we'd
take a boat tour of the Casco Bay lighthouses given by the Portland
Discovery Land and Sea Tours. We had a few hours to kill before the
cruise so we found a dockside restaurant right next to the boat slip and
had shrimp cocktail and drinks while we waited. The weather was sunny
and a little cool but it was nice to just sit and talk until it was time to
lineup for the boat.

Now I'll be honest about this: I was a bit worried about the cruise. It's
been a very long time since the last time I'd been out on deep water and
while I've never been seasick before I was a bit worried about whether 
meds I'm on would not sit well with the motion of the boat. I'm happy to
report there was no problem and we had a great time. Cheryl used my
digital camera out on the bow to take pictures while I shot mine from
my seat by the stern using my old Canon AE1 SLR. We were out
on the Bay for ninety minutes and the narrator told us the history of the
various lighthouses, forts, and residences on the islands. I recommend the
experience to anyone who is visiting the Portland area.

After we returned to land we went to a restaurant called Dewey's and
had souvlakis(sp?) for dinner before heading home. There was a beautiful
sunset just before the big harvest moon rose and we made very good time

All in all, it was good to see Dorothy and Diana again and to spend time
with Cheryl. Thanks, sis, for a  great day!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've blogged before about American regional poetry and its value in
understanding the lifestyles and times of our ancestors. Every region
of the country had poets who wrote about local events and often in
the language peculiar to their region. One such poet was Holman
Day who was the author of many novels and poems set in Maine.

The following poem talks about a Maine lumber company's "company
store". Since many of my ancestors were lumbermen, I found the
poem an interesting look into their lives. 

By the way, the Second Annual "Great American Local Poetry
Genealogy Challenge" is coming. Start searching for poems that
have a connection and meaning to your family history and be
ready to share them with us on your own blog!

* The wangan is the woods store that most of the Maine 
lumber camps maintain.
The wangan camp!
The wangan camp!
 Did ye ever go a-shoppin' in the wangan camp?

You can get some plug tobacker or a lovely corn-cob pipe,
Or a pair o' fuzzy trowsers that was picked before they's ripe.
They fit ye like your body had a dreadful lookin' twist;
There is shirts that's red and yaller and with
plaids as big's your fist;
There are larrigans and shoe-packs for all makes
and shapes of men,
As yaller as the standers of a Cochin China
The goods is rather shop-worn and purraps a
leetle damp,
 —But you take 'em or you leave 'em—either
suits the wangan camp.

The wangan camp!
The wangan camp!
There is never any mark-downs
at the wangan camp.

The folks that knit the stockin's that they sell
to us, why say—
They'd git as rich as Moses on a half of what
we pay.
I haven't seen the papers, but I jedge this
Bower war
Is a-raisin' Ned with prices—they are wust I
ever saw.
I was figg'rin' t'other ev'nin' what I'd bought,
—by Jim, I'll bet
That a few more pairs o'larrigans will fetch me
out in debt.
For I've knowed a stiddy worker to go out as
poor's a tramp
'Cause he traded som'at reg'lar at the
comp'ny's wangan camp.

The wangan camp!
The wangan camp!
They tuck it to you solid
at the wangan camp.

Day, Holman Pine Tree Ballads : Rhymed Stories of Unplaned Human Natur'
Up In Maine (Boston, Ma., Small , Maynard & Co 1902) pp112-114


It's Saturday night and time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night
Genealogy Fun. This week we get to use a time machine:

"Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1) Determine which event in your ancestral history that you would

love to be a witness to via a Time Machine. Assume that you could 
observe the event, but not participate in it.

2) Tell us about it in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this 

blog post, or in a comment on Facebook."

I've thought about this for a couple of hours now and my first thought
was to use the Time Machine to break down my biggest brickwall.
It's tempting to say I'd go back to some point in the life of the Elusive
John Cutter West to learn about his parentage and place of birth. But
after thinking about it, I have another incident that I would like to 
witness instead, and far more recent.

A few years back at my nephew Paul's wedding my Aunt Emily told me 
how shortly after my birth and  her daughter Winnie's, Emily and my
Mom had found out where my grandfather(Mom's dad) Edward F.White
Sr was living and went there to let him know he had two grandchildren.
They found out that not only was he remarried, but he'd had another son
that was named Edward.I would have liked to see that for two reasons, 
the first and obvious one being it would fill in the big hole in my family
history that is my grandfather and his second family. The other reason
is that I have wondered if Mom and Emily actually spoke with him, and
if so, how did he react? What did he say? Or leave without talking once
they found out he'd given his new son the same name as Mom's brother
and Emily's husband?

I've asked myself those questions ever since I heard that story, and a 
Time Machine would help me get the answer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010



One of my brickwall ancestors is my 3x great grandmother Lucy Stowe.
All I (and other West family researchers)know for sure is that she was
born around 1808 and that she married my 3x great grandfather Westley
(Wesley) Coburn in 1827, probably in Newry, Oxford, Me. I've had
no luck discovering the identity of her parents or her place of birth.

Last night I was working on sourcing my tree and did a
search on Lucy and Westley over on FamilySearch Record Search. I
lucked out: I found an image of a death certificate for a Lovisa Brown
of Milford, Middlesex, Ma. with Westley Coburn and Lucy E. Stowe
listed as her parents. I knew that Westley an Lucy had had a daughter
named Louisa or Lovinda, so this could be a variation of the name.
What puzzled me was the place of birth for all three was given as
Cochichuate, Ma . Westley and his family had lived mostly in Newry,
Oxford, Me. but the Coburns had originally come from Middlesex
County, Massachusetts. I needed more proof.

Lovisa's husband was listed as Parker V. Brown on her death record
so next I looked for any record of the marriage and found it again on
Record Search, this time in New Hampshire Marriages 1720-1920.
According to this, Lovisa and Parker V Brown were married in the
town of Shelburne, Coos County, New Hampshire on 5Jun 1851.

Finally, the name of the person who supplied family information on the
death certificate is given as "Mrs. F Barker".  Lovisa's nephew was my
great grandfather Frank W. Barker who had died in 1905. Was his widow
Charlot visiting her Aunt Lovisa when the older woman died in 1913 or
even perhaps living there when it happened?

So what am I to make of all this? The names certainly match up and are
unique enough to satisfy me that they are my relatives. The Cochichuate
reference is the first time I've seen that town listed in connection with
the Coburns but perhaps this gives me a clue on where to look for more
information on Lucy Stowe.

(As a sidenote, the town's name is pronounced  "Co-chit-u-it")

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I've written several blogposts over the years about my maternal
grandfather Edward F. White Sr and how little I know about that
side of the family due to the divorce between him and my grandmother
Agnes McFarland. I'd hoped that eventually some unknown White
family cousin would find my posts, contact me, and fill in some
blanks in the family history, but so far there hasn't been even a peep.
So now I'm going to try a little experiment. The genealogy community
is making wider and wider use of online social networks, and taking a
cue from that, I'm going to use Facebook.

I decided to start a "White Family" group and thought about how
I could name it so those possible cousins might find it. Alas, White
is one of the most common surnames in the world. So I pushed it
back one generation to Edward's parents and named the group
"Descendants of Edward White and Pauline Offinger". Who knows?
Maybe an Offinger cousin will find it too!

For a description I wrote the following:

"Devoted to the family of Edward White and Pauline Offinger of
Boston, Ma."

Then I posted this to the Wall:

"I'm creating this group in hopes of finding other descendants of 
Edward and Pauline. Due to the divorce of my grandparents 
Edward F White Sr and Agnes McFarland, I know very little 
about the family and I hope to establish contacts to any cousins 
who might be out there."

Finally I posted a "White Family" topic to the Forum and gave the
names and dates for Edward, Pauline, and their children. I plan to
add the blogposts I've already written to it as well.

So, we'll see if I have any better luck on Facebook than I've had
here. If I do, I'll be blogging about it here!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

IS THIS YOU, GREAT GRANDPA JOHN MCFARLAND? recently announced they'd added 1.8 million new
immigrant naturalization records to their databases. It's been awhile
since I did a search on my mother's immigrant ancestors for those
records, so I decided to try them again. I didn't have any luck with
her German Luick and Offinger great grandparents. I'd started with
them because the names aren't as common as her Irish grandfather,
John McFarland. After all, this is Massachusetts, a prime destination
for Irish immigrants for the past 150 years, and I've found a multitudes
of John McFarlands in previous searches, none of whom matched the
information I already had.

However, this time was different. I got a hit on the U.S. Naturalization 
Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project).
I'm not sure I can show the image here since Ancestry is a paid site
and I don't want to violate their copyright. What it shows is an index
card with "M 216" in ink on the upper left hand corner. The rest of 
the information on the card is entered by typewriter:

Family Name: McFarland  
Given Name or Names: John
Address: Boston
Certificate No.(or vol. and page): 128-113
Title and Location of Court: USCC BOSTON, MASS.

Country of birth or allegiance: Ireland
When born(or age): Nov.29, 1853
Date and port of arrival in U.S.:
Date of naturalization: Oct.4, 1880
Names and addresses of witnesses:

Two entries were left blank and the caps are as typed on the card.

The information I have on John gives his DOB as 28Nov 1852
but that came from a letter written by my cousin (also named John
McFarland) so it's possible that he was off by a year, or that the
information on the form is incorrect. It would have been nice if
there was an actual street address listed and the port of entry,
but this record is close enough to give me hope that it is indeed
my greatgrandfather John McFarland.

Now I need to go about the business of finding out how to get a
copy of the actual record.

By the way, Ancestry has made access to their immigration records
free until Sept 6th in celebration of our immigrant ancestors. 


Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I'm not a professional genealogist by any stretch of the imagination but
I've been climbing my family tree now for over five years and I'd guess
I'm at the intermediate level of experience. I've had folks help me along
the way and I like to return the favor by helping those who ask me to
help them get started in researching their own ancestors. Because I do
have a fulltime day job my research is online and I've established a
routine which has given me some success.

First of all, I ask the person what information they already have:
What do they know about their grandparents? Are they still alive? Do
they know anything about their great grandparents? I ask if they know
where they lived and especially if they know where in any of the
Federal Census years from the early twentieth century. If their
ancestors were immigrants, what country did they emigrate from and
what year did they come to this country? Did any of them serve in the

Then with whatever information they gave me, I check several websites:

1. for the Census records and images. I make note of
the street addresses for the results because there may be more than
one person with the same name living in the town where the ancestor
lived. Then I check the "Birth, Marriage and Death" and "Military"
records. If there are images I download a copy to my computer.Then
I check the Family Trees and check their information against what the
person has told me and against the records I might have found. I
look to see if there are source citations. 

2.Next I check the Family Search RecordSearch website. This is a
new addition to my list of websites to check which has records and
images not on Ancestory. Again, I dl any images .

3.The next stop is RootsWeb's Worldconnect Project. Using what
information I have found so far I run a search on the names to see if
anyone has posted a family tree there and check them against what
I've already found. Here too I check for sources.

4. Then I search next at the Family Search site, again double-checking
the trees there with what I have so far found. Again, are sources

5. Finally, I Google search the ancestors and then try Google Books
for family genealogies.

When I've found everything I could, I go over it with the person. Once
I'm satisfied that I've found their ancestors, I email them the images of
the records I've found and tell them where I found them. I suggest that
they use this information to follow up and do some research on their own .
If I've found a website or family tree that was well sourced, I tell the
person how to get in touch with the owners.

I've had varying degrees of success helping people. Two recent incidents
turned out very well, with one friend discovering quite a bit about one
side of her family which she hadn't known before. She has since made
several trips to where her ancestors lived and visited family graves.
And I was able to help a high school classmate find out that his family
traces back to 17th century Quebec.

What I get out of this is the fun of solving a puzzle and knowing that
I've helped someone else the way others helped me when I first started
the long climb up my own family tree!

Written for the 97th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy