Thursday, July 28, 2016


Week 28 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks brings me to 9x great grandfather John Wiswall. I found the following in a history of Dorchester, Ma:

John and Thomas Wiswall were early residents in Dorchester. John's name is found as early as 1634; he was a member and deacon of the church in 1636, and was made freeman in 1639. He became a Ruling Elder, and kept the church records; was a selectman many years, clerk of the writs, a deputy, and went to England on business in 1652. He returned to Dorchester and lived in that part of the town now called Canton, near Dedham, then described as "beyond ye Blew Hills." He was also one of a commission to treat with the Indians about lands. In 1659-60 he moved to Boston, was chosen Elder of the First Church there, and died Aug. 17, 1687, aged 86 years. He retained much of his landed property in Dorchester after his removal to Boston. In the year 1671 he sold, for £40, two parcels of land, comprising 5| acres, to Sergeant Samuel Clap, oldest son of Capt. Roger- Clap. The deed of transfer is dated Jan. 30 of that year, and describes the first parcel as follows: "A field commonly called the burial-place field," bounded "Northerly and Westerly with the highway leading from the meeting hous [then near the easterly end of Cottage street] to the burying place; Easterly, part with the land in the tenure of Joseph Long, being the lot of Joseph Farnsworth, and p'tly with the land of Isaac Jones—the southerly end butting upon the land of Mr. Flint, which was formerly land of William Clarke." This lot sold by Wiswall we suppose to be the northerly portion of what now lies between Boston and Sumner streets, near the Five Corners. The Joseph Farnsworth mentioned was an early resident, probably having come to Dorchester in 1635. He died there in 1660. He married for his second wife the widow Mary Long, one of whose children, Joseph, by her first husband, seems to have been in possession of the land on the easterly side of the lot above sold.

The other parcel sold by Elder Wiswall was evidently a portion of Jones's Hill. The deed describes it: "Lying in the hill field bounded Easterly with the land of henery Ware, wch was formerly William Blake, sen'r—Westerly with the land of Augustin Clement —Southerly with the land of Mr. fflint, wch was formerly land of William Clarke—and Northerly with highway [Stoughton street] leading from the burying place towards Mr. Stoughton's." The Augustin Clement here mentioned, it appears, was one of the hill proprietors, although we have not found his title to land there anywhere recorded. In 1671, when the town was trying to purchase Mr. Clarke's estate above alluded to on the south side of the hill for a habitation for their new minister, Rev. Mr. Flint, Mr. Clement made proposals to assume part of the risk of the purchase. Probably he was already owner of the lot adjoining, which is mentioned as the westerly boundary of Wiswall's lot to Clap. Mr. Clement was in Dorchester as early as 1635, and with his wife Elizabeth signed the church covenant in 1636. He was a painter by trade. In 1652 he was in Boston, where he owned a shop and land. He went back to Dorchester and died there in 1674. His daughter Elizabeth married William Sumner of Dorchester, and a granddaughter, Rebecca, daughter of Samuel, in 1695 was wife of Daniel Collins, and only surviving sister of her deceased brothers, Samuel and Augustin.

Elder John Wiswall, who made this transfer of land on the "hill field," owned an interest in the mills early erected on Neponset river. He deserves to be remembered by the people of Dorchester as one of its three citizens who as early as 1645 were appointed to the oversight and management of its first public school. In that year a carefully prepared series of rules and orders concerning the school then lately established were adopted by the town, one of which was that "three able and sufficient men" shall be chosen to be wardens or overseers o  f the school above mentioned, "in such manner as is hereafter expressed, and shall continue in their office for the term of their lives respectively, unless removal from the town or other weighty reason shall prevent." The men first chosen for this important duty were Deacon John Wiswall, Humphrey Atherton and Robert Howard.  pp47-47.

The Ancient Proprietors of Jones's Hill, Dorchester: Including Brief Sketches of the Jones, Stoughton, Tailer, Wiswall, Moseley, Capen and Holden Families, the Location and Boundaries of Their Estates, EEtc

To be continued..

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


(First posted in June 2007.)

The story of Varanes Libbey strikes me as being characteristic
of that era in the history of New England. Hundreds of men and
women left the family farms and the hill country to come to work
in the mills of Massachusetts. Men could earn from .88 cents to
around 3.50 a day in wages depending on their performance at the
job. Women were paid half that amount. That was still the best
wage available to a woman worker for that era. Mill workers would
work 12 hour days,6 days a week but anyone raised on a farm was
used to working all day everyday already. And the Lowell Mills
were originally intended as a sort of grand social experiment as
well as an industry so there were libraries, boardinghouses and an
expectation of proper moral behavior on the part of the workers.

Little wonder that Varanes and others like him left the farms for
work in the textile mills. Better money and in some cases better
living conditions. Eventually the noble intentions of the mill
owners were pushed aside for profits, but for a time it was a good
oppurtunity to make your way in the world.

Varanes was about 25 when he was made a Branch President of
the LDS Church in Lowell. That would seem to indicate he must
have been a serious young man with qualities that would lead to
his appointment. Yet only two months later he was replaced in the
position and apparently left the church shortly afterwards.

The next record I could find of Varanes was in the Adams &
Sampson Boston Street Directory of 1865:

“Libby Varanes porter, 28 India, house at Chelsea”

So Varanes left the mills at some time or another as well as the
Church. I have to wonder why he just didn’t go back home to the
family farm? Was it gone? Had one of his sisters married and her
husband taken over the farm in his absence? Did he actually
return home but left it once more to seek his fortune elsewhere?

Was there even in fact a farm left to go home to in the first place?

Or was it because of the suddenly controversial nature of the
Mormons as the doctrine of polygamy was introduced and the
New England church was rocked by accusations concerning the
conduct of William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith? Certainly
that would have been a topic of gossip and speculation among
“proper” New Englanders. Was Varanes made to feel that he
could not go home again because of his former association with
the church?

Whatever the reason, by 1865 the 46 year old Varanes worked in
a building on India Street, along the Boston waterfront but lived
over in Chelsea across the Mystic River. He was still living there
at Walnut St. on the 1880 census as Connell O’Donovan’s
research discovered.

Working as a porter must have been hard work, but I like to think
that Varanes enjoyed being part of life on the Boston waterfront at
a time when it was still bustling with ships and visitors from far off
exotic places.

Quite a journey for a boy from Bethel, Maine.

This is why I’m now hopelessly addicted to genealogy. You never
know what new story you will find about one of your ancestors!

Monday, July 25, 2016


From June 2007:

I’ve described here before how I occasionally pick one name from
my family tree and do a quick Google to see if I can find anything
about them that I haven’t found before. Lately I’ve been doing
this at the Google Book website.

About a week ago I was looking for more confirmation of the
marriage of John Ellingwood (Ellinwood or Ellenwood in some of
the records) to Zerviah Abbott and my googling brought me to the
book " A Genealogical Register of the Descendants of George
Abbot, of Andover: George Abbot, of Rowley, Thomas Abbot of
Andover, Arthur Abbot, of Ipswich, Robert Abbot, of Branford
Ct., and George Abbot of Norwalk, Ct"

Which, for interests of time and my aching fingers, will henceforth
be referred to in this piece as the Abbot Genealogical Register or

On Page 71 I found “Zerviah A.” listed among the children of
Jonathan and Mehitabel Abbott(they were both Abbotts by birth
descended from George Abbott and Hannah Chandler and were
3rd cousins) and her marriage in 1789 to “John Ellenwood” of
Bethel. I looked through the list of their children and compared
it to what I already had here, adding the names of spouses and
children I hadn’t know about to my files. Among them I found
listed my ancestor John E., his marriage to Rachel Barrows and
the names of their children includes my 2x great grandfather
Asa F. Ellingwood.

(Asa would marry Florilla Dunham in 1850 and it’s through them
that I’m related to Tim Abbott and Chris Dunham.)

While adding the names of Zerviah and John’s children to my files
one of the entries caught my interest. Their oldest child Sarah is
listed in the AGR as marrying a Thomas Libbey of Newry and
having a son with the name Varanes. It certainly was one of the
more unusual names I’ve run across among the family and it
made me wonder what had become of Varanes Libbey. So I
googled his name. There wasn’t much online on Varanes but there
was a surprise.

I found Varanes on a website on the early history of the Mormon
Church in Lowell Mass. that was compiled by Martha Mayo and
Connell O’Donovan. There are brief biographies of the church
members and Varanes is under the name Varanes/Varanus/
Veranus Libbe (or Libby):

“Born about 1819 in Maine or New Hampshire to Samuel Libby
and Sarah Stevens Ellenwood of Saco, York, Maine. Married Ann
Smith in 1842 (in Lowell?) Worked as a manufacturer and "white
washer" in the Lowell mills. Baptized in Lowell by Wilford
Woodruff on October 16, 1844 (along with Mary Thornton), and
almost immediately was made Branch President. By mid-
December 1844, he was replaced as Lowell Branch President by
travelling missionary Elder Jesse W. Crosby. He probably left
the Mormon Church about that time as well. Varanus and Ann
had three daughters: Lydia, Emma, and Charlotte.

Lydia A. Libby was born September 27, 1843 in Lowell. She never
married and lived with her parents the rest of her life, becoming a
dress maker to help support her family.

Emma Priscilla Libby was born June 2, 1849 in Medford,
Middlesex, Mass. She married Hugh Martin of Nova Scotia,
Canada in November 1869, and they also lived with her parents,
Varanus and Ann Smith Libby. Emma and Hugh Martin had one
daughter, Elizabeth E. Martin, born about 1872 in Lowell.

The last of the three daughters, Charlotte W. Libby, was born
about 1854. In 1870, she is living at home in Chelsea.

By the 1880 Census, the extended Varanus Libby family (except
Ann Smith Libby who had apparently dead) was all living
together on Walnut Street in Chelsea, Suffolk, Massachusetts
along with Ann's brother Elijah R. Smith.”

This was naturally all new to me since I hadn’t even known of
Varanes’ existence until an hour before I read this entry. I’m fairly
sure my Dad knew nothing of it. But his grandmother Clara
Ellingwood had died while both her sons were quite young so it is
possible that they’d never heard about their cousin Varanes.

I emailed Connell O’Donovan for permission to quote from his
website and research which he graciously gave.In his reply says
that he feels Varanes’s departure from the Latter Day Saints might
have been part of the upheavals over the doctrine of polygamy.
He included information that will appear in an article he hopes to
publish next year and which I’ll not mention here until it does
appear but there will be further mention of Varanes in it.

I’ll have some more thoughts on this in the next post.

Friday, July 22, 2016


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Monday, July 18, 2016


This week's subject is my 10x great grandfather Nathan Aldis of Dedham, Ma. He is sometimes erroneously referred to as Nathaniel Aldis. I found this article written by Frederick H. Whitin, The Aldis Family in America, 1640-1800 in Google Books:

Of the English ancestry of the American family nothing is known. The earliest American record of Nathan Aldis, the Emigrant, is his admission to the Dedham Church on February 11, 1639-40 (II. 22).1 Mary, wife of "brother Alldys," was admitted March 11,1640-41 (II. 24.) He was chosen one of the first deacons of the Church on June 23, 1650 (II. 35). He became a freeman on May 13, 1640 (Mass. Col. Rec. I. 377).

Nathan Aldis first appears in town affairs as a "viewer of fences," April 17, 1640 (III. 67). He was selectman for the years 1641, 1642 and 1644 (III. 75-100). This proves incorrect the statement 

of Paige (History of Cambridge, Authority, unless otherwise stated, Hill's Dedham Records. 
p. 479) that in 1642, Nathan Aldus occupied land near what is now Harvard Square and Dunster Street.

As a Dedham proprietor, Nathan Aldis signed the Dedham Covenant, as did also his only son, John. As such, he received various grants of land, but always in small quantities (III. 95, 108, i11, 211). This is explained by the small number of cow-commons, the unit of proprietorship, which he held. The number varied, being seventeen in 1666 (IV. 126), decreasing to eleven in 1669 (IV. 174), out of a total of 335 at that time. John Aldis, the son, had the last number in 1685 (V. 170), while seven appear, in the inventory of the estate of Daniel3 Aldis (No. 7). .

In August, 1642, Nathan Aldis acquired a sixth interest in the water mill on East Brook. Seven years later he, with John Allin (the pastor) and John Dwight, sold his interest to Nathaniel Whiting, the fourth partner (Suffolk Deeds, IV. 285).

Nathan Aldis acted as appraiser in a number of probate cases, and in two of these the original papers are preserved. His signature of the date of 1642 has been reproduced (III. 89) from certain town papers. All show a similarity of writing, but not of spelling; it being "Alldis" in town affairs, "Aldous" in Suffolk Probate case, No. 33, (1642) and "Aldis " in case No. 531 of the year 1670. This later indicates greater familiarity with a pen, if firmer characters are any criterion.

The Emigrant did not prosper greatly in this world's goods in the later years, judging from the proportion of taxes he paid, and the comparative assessed valuation of his house. This latter was £20 (III. 183) in 1651, ranging afterwards from £15 (IV. 178) to  £30 (IV. 77).

His public acts were chiefly in connection with the meeting-house and pastor's salary, he being a committee on both. His last appearance on the town records was on November 29,1675 (V. 36),when he was assessed is. 3d. for the general tax.

1. Nathan Aldis, emigrant, was born in England about 1596 (Suffolk Court Files, No. 966, a deposition), and died at Dedham, Mass., March 15, 1675-6 (I. 15). Mary, his wife, died at Dedham on January 1,1676-7 (1.15). Administration on his estate was granted on April 25, 1676 "to Mary Aldis, his relict and John Aldis, their sonne." The inventory amounted to £112, including the house lot valued at £40. (Suffolk Prob. V. 338). Issue, born in England:—

2. i. Mary2.

3. ii. John2.

Dedham Historical Register, Volume 14 Dedham Historical Society, 1903 - Dedham (Mass.)

Nathan's daughter Mary married my 9x great grandfather Joshua Fisher Jr.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016


In my research on my Fisher, Gay, Dean and other families from Dedham, Ma., I kept running
across references to a part of the town called The Clapboards or The Clapboard Trees. It struck
me as a strange name for a place, so I searched Google Books and found an answer in The Early Records of the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts: 1636-1659. volume three, edited in 1892 by the
Dedham Town Clerk, Don Gleason Hill. The origin of the name was in the records of early town

Dedham The 31 December 1636
Assembled whose names are heervnder written vizt Robte Feke, Edward Alleyn, Abraham Shawe, Samuell Morse, John Kingsbery, Phileman Dolton, John Dwite, John Hayward, John Coolidge, Richard Evered, John Gaye, Thomas Bartlet, Thomas Hastings, Willm Berstowe, John Huggens.

First yt wch was agreed vpon the last assembly was Read and confirmed.

Wheras Nicholas Phillips hath felled crteyne trees wth out his Lott wth out licence contrary to an order made in that behalfe. Therfore he is fyned to pay vnto ye Collector for the vse of the Towne Sixe pence for every tree soe felled.

And for yt Ezechiell Holliman hath felled one greate Timber tree for clapboard wth out his owne Lott contrary to an order made in that behalfe, therfore he is fined to pay vnto the Collector for ye vse of ye Towne the sum of Ten shillings.

And the sayd Ezechiell is to paye in like manner for every lesser tree soe felled contrary vnto the sayd order the sum of sixe pence for a fyne as aforesayd.

The sayd Ezechiell Holliman is moreover Fyned the sum of Fifteene shillings to be payd vnto ye Collector For that yt he hath covered his house wth Clapboard contrary vnto an order mad in that behalfe.

Wheras crteyne of our Company are gone up to inhabite this  winter at our Towne of Dedham, & yt other materialls are not well to be had for the [ ] closeing in of their houses in such a season, wch thing being well taken into consideration: we doe therfore give liberty only for every such inhabitant abouesayd to make vse of Clapboard to any pte of his house for his prsent necessety from this prsent daye vntill the first daye of the third month next called May daye And not afterward yt soe the order in that behalfe made may stand still in force & effect to all intents and purposes for wch it was soe made accordingly

The Early Records of the Town of Dedham, Massachusetts: 1636-1659. volume three, printed at the offices of the Dedham Transcript, Dedham, Ma. 1892

But by the next year the town was growing so it was decided to allow clapboarding again:

Dedham The 18th of ye 5th month comonly called July 1637
...It is agreed concrneing Clapboarding of houses yet it Clapboard shalbe at liberty vntill midsomer day next, not wth standing ye order wch is afterward to stand in force from yt day forward

And finally it was decided to remove all restrictions on the practice.

Dedham The 6th of ye 5: Month 1638
The Clapboarding of houses set at liberty vnto all men from Clapbord this tyme forward.

Most of the trees that were initally cut down to make into clapboards were in the western part
of town and the area came to be known as The Clapboard Trees and then simply The Clapboards
And when a new church parish was established there it came to be know as the Clapboards Parish.

Just another one of those interesting things you learn while researching family history!