Saturday, March 31, 2007


So, just how are suspected murderers Jonathan Ames Jr.
and his mother related to me?

I checked the Vital Records of Boxford Ma. 1685 to 1849
page at the Essex County Ma USGenWeb Site. Under the
births I found nothing under Ames but under Eams I found
a baptism for “Jonathan, s. Jonathan, bp. Sept. 11, 1743”.

In the marriages I found under Eames a marriage for Jonathan
and Elisabeth Blunt of Andover, at Andover, Apr. __, 1738.
The older Mrs. Ames or Eames was referred to as Elizabeth in
the Essex Antiquarian Article, so it seemed likely this was her
and her husband Jonathan (E)Ames Sr.

Next I Googled “Jonathan Ames”+ “Elizabeth Blunt”+ Boxford.
I got only 5 hits, two from the Payne-Joyce Genealogy Website.
It lists Elizabeth as the daughter of William Blunt and Sarah
Foster and her date of birth as 26 Sept 1714 in Andover, Ma.
On 10 Apr 1738 she married Jonathan Ames, the son of Joseph
Ames and Jemima Hoyt at Andover, Ma.

This was interesting. I have Hoyts in my lineage. I moved up
another generation.

Elizabeth’s father William was the son of William Blunt and
Elizabeth Ballard. And Elizabeth Ballard was the daughter of
William Ballard and Grace Berwick, and so sister to several
figures in the Salem Witch events, such as Joseph Ballard.

And finally, Joseph (E)Ames was the younger brother of my
ancestor John (E)Ames, son of Robert (E)Ames and Rebecca
Blake, the accused witch. His wife Jemima Hoyt might be a
relative in my line through her grandfather William Barnes.

As I suspected, while not a direct ancestor Jonathan Ames was
a relative and it turns his mother Elizabeth Blunt was as well.

I’ve some other points on this which I’ll go into next time.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Jonathan Ames Jr.married Ruth Perley on Dec 19th, 1768 and
took his new bride home to live in his parents house which might
very well have been the same one built by Robert (E)Ames. The
story goes that as often happens with newlyweds the bride and
mother in law didn't seem to get along very well. But the couple’s
first child was born in May in 1769 and there was no sign of
anything out of the ordinary until the morning of June 5th when
a neighbor, Mrs. Kimball, came to call on the young wife and was
informed by the elder Mrs. Ames that Ruth was ill.

Despite Mrs. Ames’ objections Mrs. Kimball insisted on seeing
Ruth and found the young woman in agony and frothing at the
mouth. The illness has begun at 7 am in the morning and within
four or five hours Ruth Perley Ames was dead. The funeral and
burial was swift and the townsfolk of Boxford became highly
suspicious of the cause of the young bride’s death. They petitioned
for a coroner’s inquest and on July 10th the proceedings began
looking into whether Ruth had been poisoned.

It’s not my intention to recount the whole story. It can be read
here in the article from the Essex Antiquarian. But I did want to
point out some interesting aspects of the case. It’s probably the
last recorded instance of the medieval custom of “ordeal by
touch” in New England if not in America as a whole. Briefly, the
accused was made to touch the corpse’s neck with the index finger
of his left hand. If the touch caused the body to bleed at the point
of contact then the accused was guilty. There had been insufficient
evidence presented so far and apparently the townsfolk or one of
the jury proposed that Jonathan Ames and his mother be put to
the test with the exhumed body of Ruth Perley Ames.

Both Jonathan and his mother refused to take part in the ordeal
and so were taken off to jail in nearby Salem where a grand jury
indicted Mrs. Ames for murder and Jonathan as her accessory.
On November 9th Jonathan’s sister Elizabeth was also arrested
as an accessory and the trial began in Superior Court on November

The account of the trial reads almost like an episode of Law &
Order. The Crown was represented by Jonathan Sewall. The
accused was represented by Sewall’s old friend and fellow law
student, John Adams. By this time Jonathan had turned King's
Evidence against his mother and accused her of killing Ruth by
poisoning her with “rats bane”. There were four judges who
heard the case, three of whom seemed to feel the evidence was
sufficient for a guilty verdict. The fourth judge was unconvinced
due to the uncertainty of physicians as to whether it had indeed
been “rat’s bane“ (or arsenic as we now call it ) that had killed
the victim and also because it was not certain who administered
the poison in the first place.

The trial lasted late into the night and the jury got the case at 2am
on November 15th. At 9am, they came back with a verdict: Not
guilty. The Ames family was freed but would soon after leave town.

So, what relation is Jonathan Ames to me? What of the identity of
his mother, known only in the Antiquarian account as “Elizabeth
Ames”? Where did they all go to when they left Boxford in
shame? And what of Mrs. Kimball?

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I was surfing through the US GenWeb’s Essex County site
the other night and came across a reference to a murder
in Boxford Ma. It happened in 1769 and involved a Jonathan
Ames who was accused of murdering his wife Ruth(Perley)
and involved testimony by a neighbor, a Mrs. Kimball.

This got my attention quickly. My 3x great grandmother was
Arvilla Ames and she was a descendant of Priscilla Kimball.
The Ames or Eames line is one of my favorites because the
family has been part of interesting events in New England
Colonial history. Robert (E)Ames, whose ancestry is unknown,
married Rebecca Blake who was one of those convicted of
witchcraft in the Salem witch hysteria. She later was given a
reprieve and the couple lived out their lives in the town of

Their son John married Priscilla Kimball, the daughter of
Thomas Kimball and Mary Smith The Kimball family was
living in Rowley Ma. when they were attacked by Indians on
May 2nd ,1676. Thomas was killed and Mary and their five
children, including Priscilla, were taken captive for forty-one
days before the chief of the Pennacook tribe persuaded the
raiding Indians to release their captives.

Priscilla grew to adulthood and married John Ames. They
hada farm in Boxford but they sold it in March of 1715 or 1716
and moved to Groton, Ma. John was standing one day at the
front door of what is referred to as “his garrison” (Was this
simply a fortified farmhouse or a trading post sort of building?)
when he was shot by an Indian on July 9th, 1724. He is said to
have been the last man slain by an Indian in Groton although
there appears to be some debate over that.

The Indian who was presumed to be the murderer was killed
in turn by Jacob Ames, John and Priscilla’s second oldest son.

So as you see, the Ames and Kimballs had gone through some
trying times already. When I ran across the reference of an
article in the Essex Antiquarian on a murder involving Jonathan
Ames and someone named Kimball, I had to look into it to see
how it related to my family genealogy.

Which I’ll go into next time!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

WHEN IN BOSTON by Jim Vrabel

As it says in my profile, I’m a bookseller and that gives
me the chance to find books that help my genealogy
research or just catch my interest because of my love of
history. I’ll be posting some of them here in hopes they
will interest others as well.

Here’s one:

March 22, 1630
John Winthrop sets sail from Southhampton, England
aboard the Arbella for New England. Sometime during the
voyage he writes “A Modell of Christian Charity” in which
he says the Massachusetts Bay Company’s new colony
should “be as a Citty upon a Hill”.

March 16, 1631
The first recorded fire in Boston history occurs when Thomas
Sharp’s wooden chimney causes his thatched roof to catch fire.
Lt. Gov. Dudley orders no further construction of buildings in
this manner.

March 22, 1802
Two men are ordered to stand in the State St. pillory for
punishment after destroying a vessel to collect the insurance.

These are paraphrases of some of the entries in Jim Vrabel’s
"When in Boston: A Timeline & Almanac”. Most of my
ancestors didn’t live in Boston but they surely would have
been aware of events in the largest city in New England and
the capital of Massachusetts. So this book caught my interest
when Mr. Vrabel was at my store for an autograph session in
2005. I can imagine how eagerly fresh gossip and news on the
latest events would have been listened to at church meetings
or taverns, especially during the Revolution.

The book is divided into blocks of mostly 25 year intervals
and types of events are divided into several categories ranging
from Population/ Immigration to Sports and each is marked in
the text by a small icon next to the entry. The icon for Disaster
/Tragedy for example is a flame symbol. (You’ll be surprised
how many times early Boston had major fires which destroyed
whole areas.) Entries range from a few sentences to several
paragraphs and make fascinating reading.

If I have one criticism of the book it would be that some sort of
quick index for events organized by the months would have been
nice but I realize that would have been gilding the lily.
The book is available from Northeastern University Press for
$24.95 in soft cover and if you have New England ancestors it’s
well worth the price.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I first found this on the Oxford County Maine site
celebrating the county’s Bicentennial, but it now
appears to have been taken down. I’m not sure
who the person was who rediscovered the excerpt
while doing research at the Agassiz Museum at
Harvard University so if anyone reading this
knows their identity, please let me know so
I can give them credit.

I’m fairly certain that this could be my great
grandfather Jonathan Phelps West. While the
birth year is three years earlier than his (1834),
he was born and lived his entire life there.
A cached version of the website is here
and mentions several Abbotts.

"Jonathan West spent his entire life in Upton, having
been born on East B Hill in 1831. In his youth Lake
Umbagog was much less extensive in summer than it
is at present. It was then bordered in many places by
natural meadows where the farmers cut large of coarse
hay which they took off with horses and wagons, for the
ground was quite dry and firm except in early spring,
when it was flooded for a few weeks. The forest trees
growing at high water mark and for some distance back
of this, were chiefly white pines. They fringed the banks
of the Cambridge, the Androscoggin and the Magalloway
Rivers and sometimes occurred on highground, but not
very generally or numerously. Most of those near the
water were cut and rafted off by the lumbermen between
1840 and 1850. Very little clear white pine was wasted but
spruce trees were accounted no value and whenever the
encumbered land was desired for farming purposes they
were almost invariably piled up and burned, after being cut

"When Mr. West was a boy, moose were numerous,
although less so than in earlier times. There were only a few
deer and the first settlers had found but few. Caribou
occurred plentifully in certain locations. The Canada Lynx,
the fisher and the sable were common. The otter was perhaps
the most abundantof all the fur-bearing animals (except the
muskrat) which frequented the shores of the lake and that of
its connecting rivers. Partridge abounded in the forest.Wild
pigeons visited the clearings in enormous numbers sometimes
"darkening the sun" as their winged phalanges came between
it and the eye of the observerand doing much damage to the
farmer's grain. They appeared chiefly in spring and autumn
but Mr. West has never known more than a few scattered
pairs to breed anywhere about the Lake.He remembers when
the lake attracted innumerable water fowl, among which
were many Canada geese.

"According to Mr. West, Metalluk was a St. Francis Indian,
banished from his tribe because of some offense of a political
nature committed when a young man. After leaving Canada

he lived for many years about the lower lakes of the Rangeley
chain having a permanent camp at the Narrows on Richardson
Lake and one used less regularly, yet not infrequently on the
island in Lake Umbagog that bears his name. He was a
thoroughly "good" Indian, honest, upright, truthful and very
kind and friendly, in his dealings with the early settlers, all of
whom liked and trusted him. When they were hard pressed
for food he often brought them trout and moose meat, for, like
most of his race, he was an expert fisherman and hunter. He
frequently accompanied them as a guide and assistant during
their excursions into the forest and whenever he visited the
settlement of Upton he was cordially welcomed at their
houses. He stood in much fear of their dogs, however, and
Mr. West remembers that when he came to his father's
house on east B Hill he was accustomed to call from the road
requesting that their dog be tied before he would enter their

door. His only vice was drunkenness, to which he was hopelessly
addicted. But he was invariably mild-tempered and inoffensive
when under theinfluence of liquor."

The Bards of the Lake Umbagog Region of Maine
Professor William Brewster 1907


I’ve just been googling the word “genealogy” and had
to stop as frustration set in.

I check the Google blog search engine once or twice a
day, sort of trolling for sites that might have a family
name that might be related to those on my own tree,
or for sites that have tips and hints that would help me.
And I have found several.

But what I am finding also is an increasing number of
junk sites(I won’t use the word I actually call them)
that are just a list of random words or phrases thrown
together that show up because the word “genealogy” is
among the list.I never visit one of these sites since I
suspect they are meant to lure you a someplace where
you can be hit with a cookie or for some other nefarious
but no doubt profitable purpose.

Obviously these internet phishers are taking advantage
of the popularity of online genealogy research.

I limit the google search to either the “last hour” or “last
twelve hours”. Even so, out of the 378 sites listed for the
last twelve hours, most of them were those “junk sites”.



This is my dad again, Floyd Earl West Jr. but he was known
to everyone as “Bud”. I think he was in his forties or early
fifties when the picture was taken and judging by the string of owl lights
next to him it was taken up at the trailer camp in Meredith N.H. where we
spent summers.

Dad had a dry sense of humor and could keep a straight face
while putting one over on you. I first found that out when we
moved from the Boston suburb of Malden back into the
city’s Dorchester neighborhood. At some point or another
before that I’d seen something about Indians in Maine and I
asked Dad if we had any Indian blood in us.

“Ayup, we sure do.” In later years that “ayup” would have
tipped me off; Dad hardly ever used that in conversations.

“We are? What tribe are we from?”

“I'm a Blackfoot.”

I was eight years old. He was my Dad. I believed him.

So, when we moved into the apartment on Capen St. and I
was trying to fit in with new kids, I told about how we were
part Blackfoot Indian from New Hampshire. One of the other kids
said the Blackfeet didn’t live in New Hampshire and I ended up in
my first fight.

Of course when I got home my folks wanted to know what
happened and so I told them.

Mom looked at Dad. “BUD!”

And most likely he gave her that smile he’s wearing in the picture.

“You are NOT a Blackfoot!”

“Sure I am. I never wash my feet.”

That was when I found out about Dad’s idea of a joke. The story
has been told a lot over the years. As far as I know there are no
American Indian ancestors in my family tree. And it's really
a very bad pun.

But I also have to confess that some fifteen years later I said to
my kid brother “Did you know we have Indian blood?"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I’ve added a number of links to other genealogy blogs tonight.
All of them are bloggers that are in the Carnival of Genealogy
and whose entries are fascinating. It’s worth the reading
if you haven’t seen it as yet.

It’s funny how this list progressed. I found the Boston 1775
site first which led me to Chris Abbott’s Walking the Berkshires
and Randy Seavers’ Genea-Musings. Randy’s site led me to the
Carnival of Genealogy and Jasia’s Creative Gene, and that
led to the others.

What they all have in common is how well written they are and
how they present their own genealogy research. I’ve already
picked up some helpful ideas from them.

Now if I can only figure out how to post coherently in those
tiny comment boxes….

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I've been spending some time this afternoon scanning
things from the albums. This may take awhile because
I find myself looking at things a bit before I actually
put them in the scanner!

I read somewhere (on the 24/7 Family History Circle
site I think) an idea about scanning groups of photos
collage style and it made sense, so thats' how I've
been doing it lately. Some items, however, are too

Here's one I just did. This is actually two telegrams
that somebody, either my Mom or Nanny, taped
together in the album exactly as I've scanned them.
They were sent to my Mom the day after I was born.
(I was born around midnight.) The top part is from
Dad sent by Western Union. The bottom half is
from Nanny and Uncle Ed.

It seems strange now to think how telegrams have
been replaced by telephones, text messages and email.

I wonder what will come along to replace them?


I just received an email from my cousin Diana. She
tells me that her mom, (my Aunt Dot) says that
“Gram's name was actually Cora Berthella Barker
although Gram always swore that it was Bertha!”

I guess Gram just didn’t like the “ella” part of Berthella
and used a woman’s prerogative to drop it.

Diana also tells me there was another Bertha West
living in the area, a wife of a West cousin in Errol N.H.,
so I’ll have to look into that, too!

But there's still that Clora....


I ran into one of those examples of “Things to Watch
Out For In Online Genealogy” tonight and it involves
my West grandfather.

Over on the FamilySearch website under the Pedigree
Resource File heading there are several entries for a
“Floyd J. West” whose birth date and place match my
grandfather’s. The trouble is, his name was Floyd E.
(Earl) West. The contributor also lists his marriage to
a “Clora Berthella Barker” instead of Cora Bertha
Barker. We appear to be related through the marriage
of my great granduncle Paul Leroy West or his brother
John Cuvier West to relatives of the submitter.

I can see how he might mistake an old fashioned
written “E” for a “J“, though.

So, how do I deal with this? There’s no date for when
the entries were posted, so I’ve no idea if the submitter
is still alive. There is an address there however so I’ll
try writing to it.

I had a similar experience a few years back when I first
made some tentative steps in online genealogy. I found a
website for a related family and there was an entry for
Grandpa West who was married to “an unknown person”
and it lists the children as only my aunt Florence and an
uncle Stanley who died in infancy. I emailed the owner
of the website but it remains unchanged. I have to wonder
if there might be some personal reason for the way it gets
the date of my grandparent’s marriage correct but
refers to my grandmother as an “unknown person”.

What’s that saying? Caveat emptor?


Sometimes something can be staring you right in the face
and you still can’t see it.

I posted the entry about my maternal grandparent’s divorce
and included the jpeg of the actual divorce decree and then I
went off to the Laundromat for my weekly visit. It was just
after I’d moved my clothes from the washers to the driers
and was watching my clothes whirl around that I sudddenly
realized: I’d gotten it wrong.

My grandfather had not divorced my grandmother.

She had divorced him.

There it was, right in black and white and I hadn’t gotten it
right. It doesn’t really change anything, of course, although
it had to have made things even more difficult for Aggie. Bad
enough to be a divorced Irish Catholic woman in the 1930’s,
but to be the one who filed for divorce in the first place?
There would have had to have been repercussions not only
with the family but with the Church as well.

So. in the interests of fairness, I’m correcting the mistake in
the original post.

Edward Francis White Sr. might have deserted his wife and
two children in the height of the Great Depression but he did
not divorce his wife.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


It's been a long day with a nasty little Spring snowstorm and
a tiring commute home. I tend to whiteknuckle drive on
unplowed roads and then collapse into a heap once I hit
the living room chair.

So I've been pretty much brain dead tonight. But the trip
home did bring to mind something that I don't think many
of us Baby Boomers and younger folks think about.

How did they clear the snow from the roads before the
coming of the snowplowed equipped trucks?

Here's one answer at the Maine Memory Network site
with a picture:

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I mentioned the Edward F. White I found on the SSDI at
the Family History Site the other night. The birth date is
right and the place of death is here in Massachusetts, but
the Social Security number was issued in New York.

Still I think this is my grandfather for several reasons.

This is my grandparents’ divorce decree dated 22nd November
1935. In it I learned that my grandmother claimed that Edward
“of parts unknown” had “utterly deserted” her and the children
for “three consecutive years.”

The Social Security System became law in that same year, 1935.
I posted earlier about the World War I draft card for Edward that
I found at Ancestry. He worked for the New York, New Haven,
and Hartford Railroad at the time he registered so it’s possible he
might have returned to railroad work or found work elsewhere as
a steamfitter, the occupation he’d listed on the Federal Census.
The “parts unknown” then might very well have been in New York.

I just realized as I typed this post that the date of the decree, 22nd
November,1935 is fifty years to the date 22 November, 1985, my
Dad’s death.


I mentioned the Abington St. Patrick’s Day Parade
last night and that my Mom helped in the start of it.

Some background information first: Massachusetts is
reportedly the most Irish out of all the states, with
roughly 24% claiming Irish ancestry on the last census.
Abington is in Plymouth County where 31% of the
population is of Irish descent a tie with neighboring
Norfolk County for the highest percent among the 54
counties where Irish Americans are “the largest observed
ethnic group”. Abington itself is 33% Irish American
according to the 2000 Federal census.

John L. Sullivan, the Boston Irishman bareknuckle boxing
legend, retired to a farm here in West Abington where he
died in 1918.

With all this Irish heritage it seemed strange that there was
not a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in town.

Then 28 years ago Jack Bailey, a local garage owner was
at the VFW and took a $10 bet from another Post member
that he couldn’t start a parade in Abington. He enlisted the
help of some of the other members and wives, among whom
were my mother and some friends. Of course Mom would
have had to help! What else could a red-haired green-eyed
Irish lady do?

That first parade was on the spur of the moment. Luckily Mr.
Bailey had a tow truck and a flatbed as well, so those were
decorated with green streamers and signs. I brought a cassette
boom box with a tape of traditional Irish music that Mom and
others of the ladies sang along to as they rode on the back of
the flatbed truck. There may have been more cars involved but
I only saw the trucks as I was going to work when I dropped
off the music and so didn’t actually see that first parade myself.

28 years later it’s one of the biggest in the state. They held on
this past Sunday the 11th this year to avoid conflict with the
bigger celebrations in South Boston over this coming weekend.
The parade’s gone from a cassette boom box to 10 marching
bands this year and hundreds of marchers and spectators.

And Jack Bailey won that $10 bet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I’m in one of those periods where I tend to crash into
a nap after I’ve come home from work and eaten dinner.
Eventually I do wake up and log on the computer for a
bit but as a result any genealogy work or writing comes
in spurts. But I have done a few things I’ll mention now
briefly before I head off to bed for the night.

Randy Seavers over on Genea-Musings has blogged about
the various resources he’s used in researching the genealogy
of a lady named Cornelia Bresee and it reminded me I had
new information available since the last time I tried some
of them.

For example, the SSDI over on Family Search. Using the
birth date of Grandfather White, I believe I found a match
with an Edward White who died in Billerica Ma. in 1981.
While the Social Security Card was issued in New York that
might not exclude him from being the right man for reasons
I’ll explain in a later post.

Also, since I still have a minimal free Ancestry membership,
I posted a query to the McFarland message board with all the
information on my McFarland great grandparents. I already
belong to a Rootsweb West families group and a query to the
White board there had resulted in finding out more about the
Whites. I’ll make queries to the Ancestry equivalents in the
next few days as well.

I did get one reply back the day after I sent my query but there
doesn’t seem to be a connection there yet.

So that’s it for tonight. I want to post the story about how my
Mom helped a friend start the St. Patrick’s Day Parade here in
Abington but I’ll have to do that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


As I mentioned earlier, Aunt Winnie had already died
before I was born but her presence is still felt in the
family in a way most genealogy researchers find their
ancestors are remembered

These are among the oldest pictures in the family album.
Only two pictures of my grandmother Agnes McFarland
are older and these are the only ones with her younger
sister Winnie. I think the girl on the running board with
her is Aggie but that’s a guess on my part.

I think Mom once identified the two men as Uncle Mike
and one of the other uncles. The cap on the car roof had me
wondering briefly since one bit of information about my
Grandfather White was that he had worked for a time as a
chauffeur. But both men look older than the girls and I know
my grandparents were close in age when they married.I’ve
no clue to the identities of the other two girls or of the man
and woman walking up the road in the background. The only
thing I can say with a bit of certainty is that they seem to be
enjoying a day out in the country some time in the 1920’s.

Winifred McFarland was born in 1901 the 12th of 13 children.
(Only 8 made it to adulthood.) I know very little about her. She
appears as a 9 year old on the 1910 census. On the 1920 census
she was a 19 year old office clerk. By 1930 her father had died
and her older brothers and sisters were married and moved out,
so Winifred was the only one left living at home with her mother
at 950 Parker St in Boston. Winifred was listed as a stenographer
at a "chemical drug" business.

Winnie was only forty years old when she died on January
15th, 1940. I wasn't born until 1948, so I never met my grandaunt
But her boyfriend Jack Coyne visited us often because my
grandmother lived with us and I believe Jack and Aggie
stayed good friends until Aggie died.

Winnifred's death came at a time when her siblings were past having
more children and the next one was too young as yet to marry and
start raising families. I was the next child born, but my Uncle Ed
and Aunt Emily were the first to have a daughter, and so my cousin is
named Winifred White. (There was another Winifred McFarland, a
daughter of my Grand Uncle Mike, who was born back in 1917)

And so Grand Aunt Winifred is remembered through her namesake.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I don’t know about other folks tracing their genealogy
but I have some favorites on the West side of the family.
It’s a bit unfair, I know, because there’s so much about
the Whites and McFarlands that I’ve yet to discover.
The majority of Dad’s ancestors were “salt of the earth”
people, ordinary folks dealing with the daily struggle to
survive. But there are a few rare souls who stand out
for one reason or another. Among these are some who
did things that made me (and probably their friends
and neighbors) wonder “What WAS he thinking?”

Case in point: John Barnes of 17th century Plymouth,

I found John while researching backgrounds of Mayflower
ancestors a few Thanksgivings back at The Plymouth
Colony Archive Project website. I discovered other later
ancestors listed there and John was among them.

He lived between 1633 and 1671, apparently a prosperous
merchant and citizen most of that time. All that seemed
to changed in 1651 when his first wife Mary Plummer
died. By 1653 John had married a woman whose name is
recorded only as Joan and began a long spiral down from
respectability, most of which is attributed to drunkenness.

In May 1648 he was granted permission to brew and sell
his own beer in Plymouth. There were a few incidents of
fines for public drunkenness during the next few years
but they were much more frequent after he married Joan
who was herself quite a contentious woman (and from
whom the Barnes line is descended). The details can be
read at the Plymouth Colony Archive Project, along with
John’s will and other information about his life.

It wasn’t the sad story of John’s trouble with alcohol that
struck me when I first read his story. It was the manner
of his death.

John lost his license to brew and serve beer and in 1661
the General Court forbade any one from selling or
serving him beer or liquor at all. This seemed to help
because he had only one recorded drunken incident after
the Court took that drastic measure. Judging from the
inventory of his estate at his death he was still fairly well
off by March of 1671.

This is where the “WHAT was he thinking?” comes into
the story. One day in early March, 1671, according to
the Plymouth Court Records, John Barnes stood at his
barn door and stroked his bull. The bull took exception
to that, turned, and gored John Barnes, giving him a
wound which caused his death approximately a day and
a half later.

Among those on the coroner’s jury who ruled on his death
was another ancestor of mine, Samuel Dunham.

Dad had passed away long before I first read the story
of John Barnes’ death but I I had no trouble imagining
what a Maine country boy like him would have said
about it:

“Damn idiot. That’s what happens when you pet a bull!”

Friday, March 09, 2007


By the time I was born in 1948 all my mother’s McFarland
Uncles were in their mid-fifties or older. Two of them had
already passed away before I was old enough to know them.
Uncle Frank and Uncle Tommy were still around and I have
memories of both, although more of Tommy than Frank. Of
the Aunts only Aunt Peggy was alive and I remember her
very well. Aunt Winnie had died but was not forgotten for
reasons I will mention later.

Uncle Frank was 62 years old when I was born so my earliest
recollections of him come from when he was about 70. Frank
had two children and split time living in Andover with his son
John and in Hanson with his daughter Mary, but occasionally
he spent a week with us in Dorchester. By this time he was
grey-haired and heavy set and used a cane when walking. It
was on one of those visits that Uncle Frank taught me how
to make tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. This was a big
deal for me since the only time I’d ever used a knife was to
slice whatever was set before me at meals. I’d never actually
cut something up to MAKE a meal. It was the best sandwich
I’d ever tasted.

The next day I decided to make one on my own and I thought
it went pretty well until my Mom saw it. She asked where I had
learned to cut a tomato and then went off in search of Frank,
not for the reason you might think, though.

Awhile later, Uncle Frank came out to the kitchen and explained
to me about cutting thinner slices so I wouldn’t use up an entire
tomato in just one sandwich.

Frank only stayed with us a few times in Dorchester. We lived
on the third floor of a triple-decker apartment and the climb up
the three flights of stairs probably would have been difficult at
his age. Most of the rest of the times I saw him were at Andover
or Hanson during the various family functions. Somewhere I've
packed away an old copy of Zane Grey’s Lone Star Ranger that
I was given on a trip to Andover. I’m not sure if it was Frank’s
or if it had belonged to his son John.

Frank passed away at the age of 82 on September 21st, 1968.

Tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches are still my favorite, by the
way, simply because an old man spent some time to show an 8
year old boy how to make one.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


As I said the other evening, I want to save as much as I can
of my memories and the family history as well. While I’m not
planning on keeling over if I can help it, I know that none of
us live forever. My brother’s sons are still young and some of
us older folks might not be around when they reach adulthood
to tell them more about theirgrandparents. So, I’m blogging
my memories here along with stories about the people on the
family tree. I’ve posted the tree to Ancestry as well as copying
it to both cd and dvd. I’m scanning photographs to discs and
also saving them online at Snapfish. And of course I‘ve printed
out the genealogy.

I think of all I don’t know about the generations that came
before on both sides of the family and I want to preserve what
I do know and learn for the next.

Tempus, as they say, fugits.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


It’s one of those nights where I’m too tired to do
much genealogy blogging. My eyes have that burny
feel and the brain isn’t functioning on all cylinders.
I did manage to upload those photos I’ve scanned
to Snapfish. It’s free and I want to get as much of
the family pictures and genealogy saved as possible
for reasons I’ll go into tomorrow night.

An addendum to my entry on the portrait of Clara
Ford Ellingwood. This is her line of descent from
Henry Phelps showing where it ties into the Abbott
and Dunham lines. She and my great-grandfather
were 7th cousins through their common descent from
from Henry Phelps and Eleanor Sharp

Henry Phelps m. Eleanor Sharp
Edward Phelps m. Elizabeth Adams
Samuel Phelps m. Sarah Chandler
Samuel Phelps m. Hannah Dane
Hannah Phelps m. Ephraim Abbot(t)
Mehitable Abbot(t) m. Jonathan Abbot(t)
Zerviah Abbot(t) m. John Ellingwood
John Ellingwood Jr. m. Rachael Barrows
Asa F. Ellingwood m. Florilla Dunham
Clara Ellingwood m. Philip J. West

Monday, March 05, 2007


As I mentioned below in my initial post on this blog, it was my Dad’s sister Dorothy who first started exploring the family treeand it was the information she sent us over twenty years ago nowthat got me started with my genealogy passion. I’m grateful forthe pedigrees and family charts she researched and then copied to send to the rest of us. And I’m glad I held on to them all these years, to say the least!

The other day her daughter, my cousin Diana, emailed us a copy of a picture from Aunt Dot: a copy of a portrait of Clara Ford Ellingwood, my great-grandmother. It’s been in the possession of a Cousin Ruth since Grandpa West’s death back in 1970 and recently she had a copy made which she sent along to my Aunt.The copy was in color but Aunt Dot recalls that the original on the wall at Grandpa’s was sepia tone so I suspect it has been colorized with a graphics art program somewhere along the way since 1970. I’ve made a sepia toned copy and that’s what I’ve posted above.

I think the resemblance to my Dad is there but I may be seeing
what I’d like to see.

It’s through Clara that we are related to many old New England
settlers such as the Dunham and Abbott families and others
back to the Mayflower.

So once again, thank you, Aunt Dot!

Saturday, March 03, 2007


I find myself suddenly conflicted.

I am a bookseller by occupation and a book reader my whole life
and as such I’ve always held a negative viewpoint on books online
and hand-held ebook readers. I've always maintained, and still do,
that there is nothing like the feel of a real book in your hands or
of entering a library or bookstore and browsing the shelves. And
even though the price of paper has caused the books’ prices to
rise as well, it is still possible for nearly every citizen of the United
States to easily and cheaply obtain books.

But with my interest in genealogy has come an appreciation for
things like Google’s Book Search. Earlier tonight I was reading Tim
Abbott’s “Walking the Berkshires” post about the Witch Hysteria in
Andover. Tim's a descendant of Elizabeth Phelps Ballard and I've
Phelps ancestors as well. I Googled my Phelps ancestor who lived
in the same time and found Genealogical and Personal Memoirs
Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts
William Richard Cutter on Google Book Search.

The book has been scanned and from it I was able to determine my
ancestor Samuel Phelps was the brother of Elizabeth and learned
some new things I hadn’t known about him. This is a book I might
not have been able earily find in the local libraries or
even order cheaply at the bookstore.

I still hold a doubtful view on the so called “ebook revolution” but
I find myself with an appreciation of how useful a thing it is to have
old books such as Cutter available on the Google Book Search. I
know I’ll use it again.

I’ll just have to let my bookseller half deal with the guilt!

Friday, March 02, 2007


I mentioned a few nights ago about a trial membership at Ancestry
During that time I was able to find things I hadn’t seen before,
primarily the World War One Draft Registration Cards for my four
McFarland grand uncles and my grandfathers. I also downloaded
some copies of Federal Censuses. While I found these items and
had the family tree uploaded, I don’t think I can afford to pay the
cost of full membership so regretfully I didn’t subscribe.

I'll continue to make do with the free genealogy sites for now.

Here’s what I learned about the McFarlands:

Tom lists his occupation toolmaker at A. A. Crafts at 125 Summer Boston. For dependents he lists mother and there's a word in
front of that I can't decipher. His physical description is Medium
height, Slender build, with Brown (or Blonde?) hair and Brown
eyes. At the time he filled out the card he was living at 950 Parker
St. in Boston.

Frank was living with his family at 50 Cotton St. in Medford. He
lists his occupation as "bottiling" at the Moxie Plant at 69 Haverhill
St. in Boston. His eyes were Gray, his hair Dark Brown; his height
and build were given as Medium.

Robert was living with his family at 121 or 126 Paul Gore St. His
occupation was shoemaker at the Thomas J. Plant(?) Shoe Co. at
what looks like the "corner of Centre and Bickford Streets" in
Boston. His height and build are Slender, his eyes Light Brown and
his hair Black.

Mike was living at 946 Parker St in Boston with his wife Mary and
he was a shoe worker but at George A. Keith Company at 288 A St.
in So. Boston. His height was given as Tall, his build Medium, his
hair Dark and I think that it says Brown for the eye color.

Then there are the cards for both my grandfathers.

Floyd Earl West gives his occupation as farming in Upton, Me. His
height is listed as Short, his build Medium, his eyes Blue and his
hair “D. Brown” He claimed an exemption from the draft due to
an injury to his right arm and shoulder; on the disability line he
adds “right arm weak”. But whatever the injury was it healed
because Grandpa West did get drafted a year later and was
inducted(?) on 29 Apr 1918. He reached the rank of Pvt 1st
class in November of 1918 and served as part of Company K, 303
Infantry. He never made it overseas and I think I recall Dad
saying Grandpa had been stuck at Fort Dix N.J. during the
outbreak of the Spanish Influenza. He was honorably discharged
on 12 Mar 1919. So far Grandpa West is the only one out of this
group that I've found to have actually served in the military
during World War I. But the McFarland brothers were all in
their late twenties or older and Grandpa White might have been
exempted due to his occupation.

Finally, my mother’s father, Edward F. White lists his occupation
as “helper” on the “N.Y., N.H., & H. R..R. & Co.” by which I take it
to mean the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. The
business address is given as Union Station in Harftord. He gives
his home address as 41 Philbrick St in Roslindale Ma. and lists as
closest relative his mother “Lena White”. His height is Tall, build
Medium. His eyes were Blue and his hair Dark Brown.

The information on Mom’s father is of interest because frankly,
there’s so damn little we know about him. For example. we’d never
heard mention of his working for the railroad. And this is the first
mention I’ve had of his mother as “Lena”. Up until now, I knew
her as “Pauline”

So much I don’t know!

So much to learn!