Friday, June 29, 2007


I haven’t had a chance yet to read the article in the Smithsonian
Magazine yet that’s been the cause of some excellent blog posts
from fellow genealogy bloggers. So I won’t comment directly
on it until I do. But I will voice my thoughts on the theory that
“Genealogy is Bunk”. It seems to me that implies that it's a waste
of valuable time and effort.

To me, it’s been the exact opposite.

I have a degree in history and I'm an avid reader, but I’ve learned
things I never knew about while tracing my family history:

- I learned about the families from Massachusetts that
settled in Nova Scotia after the British took control of Acadia
from the French while researching my Colburn/Colborn

- I learned that French-Canadians exiled from their homes
lived for a time in the home of an ancestor in Andover, Ma.
while researching my Abbott ancestors.

-I learned about the early Mormon church in Massachusetts
while researching an unknown cousin named Varanes Libby
on a website run by Connell O’Donovan about Elder Walker
Lewis, a black man ordained as a Mormon elder around 1843.
I also learned more about the early textile mill industry that
Varanes worked in at other websites.

-I learned about Canadian privateers and a distant relative
named Benjamin Ellenwood while researching my Ellingwood

- I learned about early Colonial American justice researching
the death of Ruth Perley Ames and the trial of Elizabeth and
Jonathan Ames for murder.

There are things I learned for those posts that I didn’t include
when I wrote them because of space and time. But I learned
something new in each of those instances and I’ve learned from
reading the blogs of my fellow genea-bloggers.

By tracing my genealogy, I’m learning about people and history.

Isn’t that what the Smithsonian Institute is all about?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Ok, one of my favorite PBS series is back with new shows!

If you haven't seen The History Detectives before you might
want to give it a looksee. Each week there are usually three
stories that involve some family legend or artifact and one of
four "detectives" investigates to verify or disclaim the story.

What is especially interesting is watching how they go about it
as it shows how to use libraries and archives and other resources
which someone researching their genealogy might use as well.

You can check out the archives of past shows here, which
includes one from Season 2 back in 2004 on the Benjamin
Abbot Homestead in Andover and whether it had been
owned by accused witch Martha Carrier.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I read about the Family Search Labs Records Search Pilot
in posts from Randy and Chris, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I got my email earlier today and spent some time on it. I can’t
give details but let me just say…wow!

Also,since I’ve spent some time lately on Ellingwood relatives
I’d thought I’d post the brief version of that particular genealogy

Ralph Ellingwood m. Eleanor Lynn

Ralph Ellingwood Jr. m. Martha Rowlandson

Ebenezer Ellingwood m. Sarah Tuck

Joseph Ellingwood m. Sarah Herrick

John Ellingwood m. Zerviah Abbott

John Ellingwood Jr. m. Rachel Barrows

Asa F. Ellingwood m. Florilla Dunham

Clara F. Ellingwood m. Philip Jonathan West

As always, all of the above is not set in stone.

And this weekend marked the birthdays of ancestors James
Thomas Dunham/Donham (Fri Jun 22) and Louisa Almata
Richardson (Sat Jun 23)

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Janice of CowHampshire awarded my blog a Thinking Blogger
Award and I’m flattered and glad that she thinks so highly of
what I’ve written so far.

And I’m worried. It means I have to keep up to that standard!
The pressure!!!

Just kidding, Janice. *grin*

As part of the meme I must now name 5 more bloggers whose
blogs make me think and let me tell you, that’s not as easy as it
sounds for several reasons. One is that I could easily think of
more than 5 blogs that get my brain working. Another is that
most of them must have already been given the Award by other

I’m not sure if it’s allowed but I’m picking some them anyway,
because they do make me think:

Tim Abbott’s Walking the Berkshires: Not only because of the
genealogy posts but also for those on the environment and his
posts on family life.

Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings: A wealth of information on
genealogy research. And you’re right, Randy, genealogy is

Chris Dunham’s The Genealogue: He makes me laugh! He makes
me think! And dangit, yes, (like Chris and Janice) he’s a distant

Craig Manson’s Geneablogie: He’s been blogging since 2004 and
I’ve just barely started reading it but he writes so well about his
research and other topics that I’m going to try to catch up on the
older posts.

Jasia’s Creative Gene: Another great writer and her work with
the Carnival of Genealogy has led me to discover other great

There’s so many others I could name: Miriam Midkiff, Bill Ives,
Maven, Becky Wiseman, Janice herself. There are a lot of very
talented folks writing out there and I hope I can keep up with
them with my own blog in the future!

Find out more about the Thinking Blogger Award here.


I was googling about on my Ellingwood line the other evening and
stumbled across another distant relative with an interesting story.
I found this one at
which belongs to D. La Pierre Ballard, and the relative is one
Benjamin Ellenwood of Nova Scotia, a privateer for the British
during the War of 1812!

My greatgrandmother Clara Ellingwood is a descendant of Ralph
Ellingwood (Ellenwood/Ellinwood)of Salem and Beverly through
his son Ralph Jr. Another of his sons was Benjamin Ellenwood
whose family and descendants lived in Beverly. Then (as I posted
earlier) after the French and Indian Wars some Essex Co. colonists
migrated to Nova Scotia to take up the lands once held by expelled
Acadians and among these was another Benjamin Ellenwood, the
grandson of the first Benjamin, who went north to Yarmouth,
Nova Scotia in 1764 with his wife Susanna Corning.

Their son Nathaniel Ellenwood married Margaret Freeman on
14 Nov 1781 and two years later their son Benjamin was born on
14 Mar 1783. Nathaniel was a successful sea captain and there’s an
excerpt on the website from a book with entries concerning the
activities of a Captain Ellenwood.

Apparently Benjamin followed in his father’s footsteps and an
excerpt from another book, "Under the Red Jack: Privateers of
the Maritime Provinces of Canada in the War of 1812" by Charles
H.J. Snider details just how successful he was when he turned to

“On April 3, 1813, [Captain] Benjamin [Ellenwood] succeeded
Thomas Freeman in charge of the privately armed schooner
"Retaliation". By July he had brought in nine prizes, besides
those which he had driven ashore. On September 2, 1813, he
was promoted to the schooner "Shannon", also out of Liverpool,
Nova Scotia. With perhaps one exception, he was the most
successful privateersman out of Nova Scotia in the War of 1812,
and only thirty years of age. The "Shannon" measured 146 tons
and had a crew of 50 men with five guns. He had only six men
left when he manned out her sixteenth prize two months later.”

But Benjamin Ellenwood’s success and life was short lived. After
the war he returned to commercial shipping and docked at Dolby’s
Wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 31 Jan, 1815. Sometime after
docking and selling his cargo he was stabbed to death by one of his
own crew, a man named James Archibald who was later tried,
convicted and executed for the murder.

His widow remarried and left Nova Scotia with her new husband
and family, leaving her children by Benjamin with his father
Nathaniel Ellenwood. He moved the family back to the United
States and in a final irony, the grandsons of Benjamin Ellenwood
the Canadian privateer fought in the Civil War for the United

D. La Pierre Ballard is a descendent of Benjamin and also is related
to two more of my ancestors, Simon Stone and William Ballard.
He credits Suzanne Ballard Sell and his Cousin Patricia for some of
the information I’ve used in this post.

It’s an interesting website. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


A few thoughts before I meander off to bed…

I need to stop falling asleep in the living room right after I’ve
eaten dinner every night. I eventually wake up (like I did tonight
after six hours or so) but it sort of limits any genealogy research
or writing I I can do before I need to head off to the real bed. I
still haven’t done the posts I planned on my Great-Uncle Tommy
and his younger sister Peggy nor have I scanned any more photos
for a few weeks now. I gave my brother and sister a cd of what
I’ve scanned so far on the day we saw Blue Man Group and would
like to add more.

I recently used a Christmas Gift Card for Walmart’s to buy a fairly
inexpensive mp3 player that has a recording function and hope to
master it so I can maybe gather some memories at my nephew’s
wedding in July.

And I want to mention the novel Lost Constitution by William
Martin. I finished reading it over the weekend and highly enjoyed
it. Randy Seaver asked awhile back about books with genealogists
in them and while that is not what the hero does for a living his
work does involve tracking valuable historical items and the story
follows their history down the years years through generations
of owners. I’ll have a longer post on this tomorrow night.

Finally, the new Carnival of Genealogy is out and it’s great reading.
This one centers on Fathers for Father’s Day.

Alright, off I go to bed before I give into temptation and start
googling some ancestor or another!

Monday, June 18, 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!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


A lot of times when I think of Dad the mental picture I have of him
is of the way he looked nearly everyday, dressed in work clothes,
mostly in green but sometimes gray and wearing low cut tan work
boots with white sox. A pack of Camels would be in the shirt chest
pocket and he’d be sitting at the kitchen table, coffee mug in hand
as he looked out the window. That’s how I usually found him when
I got up for breakfast in the morning or when I came out to the
kitchen just before dinner to help set the table.

It’s appropriate that I see him in my minds eye dressed for work
because except for the last month of his life Dad was a worker.

As I’ve said before, he was born up in Bethel, Oxford County,
Maine and grew up in Upton and Wilson’s Mills. He left there to
enlist in the Army during World War 2 and ended up living the
rest of his life down here in Massachusetts. But I think he was still
a Mainer at heart. He listened more than talked in conversations,
nodding or smiling at whatever someone said, then would finally
make a comment or ask a question before going back into listener
mode. A typical taciturn Mainer.

Dad worked hard all his life at various jobs: landscaping; a stint in
the fledgling electronics industry at Atlas Engineering, and LFE:
Railway Express; and the Post Office. But for most part he worked
in the glass business installing windshields, mirrors, and windows.
He was good with his hands at building and repairing things. When
we moved into the house in Abington he extended the concrete
front steps of the house, converted the breezeway into another
room complete with sliding glass doors, and built a playroom in
the cellar that became my new bedroom after my little brother
was born and my old bedroom was turned into Phil's nursery.

He was not much for a display of emotions but he was there for us
kids to put together toys and bikes and as we grew older to help us
when our cars broke down. When Phil came along Dad almost
acted out the joke about the nervous expectant father. Mom told
him it was time and he got the suitcase in the car and was out the
driveway before he realized he that had left Mom standing on the

If Dad had any regrets I think one might have been washing out of
the Air Corps back during the war; he couldn’t take high altitude.
When we were living in Malden he’d sometimes bring Cheryl and I
over to the small Revere Airport to watch the planes land and take
off. Maybe he was thinking of what might have been while sitting
there in the car?

Dad and Mom were quite active in the VFW from the mid 1960’s
on and they were fixtures at the Saturday night dances at the Hall.
Dad usually wore his blue blazer or tan sport coat for those. I don’t
recall him as dancing to many fast dances when I saw him dance
but slow songs would find him out there dancing with Mom.

Life was never all that particularly easy for my folks financially.
Like a lot of folks they had ups and downs and often were working
more than one job. But they kept us fed and clothed and healthy.
They were just ordinary people raising their family as best they

One day after Dad died the song “Raindrops Keep Falling on My
Head” came on the radio and Mom teared up. That's how I found
out it was one of Dad’s favorite songs and that when they played it
at the Saturday Dances Dad would actually sing it along with Mom
as they danced.

Dad? Singing?

But I’ve thought about the lyrics to the song a few times since
then and the more I thought about it I realized how that song
fit my Dad:

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me'
I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me
-words by Hal David, music by Burt Bacharach @1969

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I will have more thoughts on Varanes Libbey to post soon
but I had to acknowledge the birthday today of George Abbot(t)
of Andover Ma, whose birthday according to most of the
information I’ve seen was on June 14, 1615 or 1616.

George settled in Andover, married Hannah Chandler and
became the progenitor of many, many Abbotts and other
descendants. Among these are myself, Tim Abbott, Janice Brown
and historian Elinor Abbott.

So Happy Birthday, George! We wouldn’t be here without you!

Sunday, June 10, 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.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I've done a number of posts under the general heading of
"Bedtime Genealogy" but in actuality I do most of the research
beforehand and then post it before I go off to bed. This week,
however, has been a bit frustrating as for some reason
or another I am falling asleep shortly after I get home from
work and so haven't been able to get much done.Hence, no
posts since Monday.

Okay, okay, the "some reason" is I'm just not as young as I
used to be and a busy day at the bookstore sort of gets to me
easier than it used to do.

I hope to have something up tomorrow or Sunday concerning
a relative by the name of Varanes Libby and perhaps a few
other posts as well.

And will have author William
Martin who writes historical based mysteries set in New
England in at the store to sign copies of his newest book
Lost Constitution. I've spoken with him on his previous
visits and he's an erudite and interesting man. Try his
Back Bay and Harvard Yard novels if you haven't yet.

Ah well. Bedtime.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I have quite a number of books here but this one is the oldest
and best loved for a reason.

This is the book that started it all.

I must've been around 8 when my folks bought it for me because
they bought it as the Stop & Shop in Dorchester on Gallivan Blvd.
There were three books, actually. One of the others was “Hans
Brinker and the Silver Skates”. I can’t recall the third one, but
this is the only one of the three I still have some 50 years later.

Its age shows physically. The binding is loose and frayed and
there’s some red crayon on the cover. Some of the black and white
illustrations inside show where I traced them with a pencil so that
the carbon paper underneath would copy the image to the notebook
paper beneath that.

The first edition was published in 1924 but this one is the third
edition dated 1956, which would confirm the year I think it was
given to me.

From this book, I dove into mythology. The librarian at the
Codman Square Library steered me to the “Age of Chivalry”
in Bulfinch’s Mythology and I devoured the whole book. As
I got older I read any books I could find on ancient and medieval
history and I still have quite a few of them that I’ve bought over
the years within easy reach as I type this. I also have quite a few
Arthurian novels and nonfiction books on the subject. And I've
seen nearly every movie or tv show ever made about Arthur
and his knights.

It sparked a lifelong love of history and reading that led me to a
college degree in History and later in life nearly 18 years as a
bookseller. I suppose it's fair to say that it eventually thus led
me into genealogy.

I wonder how many people’s lives have been shaped by something
they read as a child?

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I missed the deadline for this round of the Carnival of Genealogy
but I thought I’d weigh in here anyway on who has the creative
gene in my family.

As you can see from the accompanying picture, I have little or no
artistic talent. I’ve been drawing those troll things for years now
mostly because they look a heck of a lot better than stick figures.
Musically, I used to play a mean “Hot Cross Buns” and “Do You
Know the Muffin Man?” on a Fluteaphone but that’s fifty years
ago, people and I’m pretty sure my technique and lip have gone
downhill from the second grade.

My parents had talent. Dad was good with building things and
helped wire a house when he was still in his teens. He built a
playroom in the cellar and an extra room out of a porch at the
house on Bicknell Hill here in Abington when we first moved in
to town. And he had a musical talent too: he could play “On the
Isle of Capri” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” on any
harmonica we kids happened to have handy.

Mom, as I said elswhere, had a good singing voice and enjoyed
a stint in a VFW Auxiliary chorus called “Harmony in Blue”. I can
recall her singing along to “Ave Maria” during Mass. I can also
remember her singing along to Rusty Warren’s “Roll Me Over in
the Clover” at parties where they played the album after we kids
were sent to bed as if we couldn't hear it being played!

Of us three kids, Phil and Cheryl inherited the musical gene. Phil
is seventeen years younger than me and twelve years younger
than Cheryl and came along during my folks’ active VFW life.
Watching all those parades got him interested in drum and bugle
corps and heplayed bass drum in several different local corps
growing up. He would have liked to make the snare line but being
one of taller kids for his age doomed him to the bass.

Cheryl is the most talented of the three of us. She can draw. She
played guitar and piano as a kid and one Christmas I bought her
a dulcimer at a local craft show. I don’t think she ever did much
with it though. She passed on the music bug to her own kids:
Paul plays drums, Michael keyboards, and I believe Sarah used to
play guitar.But not as a band! There can be only one Partridge

But perhaps Cheryl’s best display of holding the family creative
title is that she’s a middle school English teacher and in my
opinion that’s a profession that requires a LOT of creativity.

As for the next generation, Phil’s youngest Matt requested and
got an electric guitar for Christmas (albeit not a full sized one but
one suitable for a young kid) and his older brother PJ likes to
draw. So there’s a chance we might yet produce a composer or
artist in our branch of the West family.

Or at least one more that can draw a heck of a lot better than I