Friday, January 30, 2009


While researching the posts on Simon Willard, I found this posted on the
Willard Family Genealogy Forum on by Lynnea Dickinson.
Since then I've found it posted on other sites. It's purported to be a letter
from Simon Willard to his descendants, but reading it, I got the feeling that
it was not written by him at all.

"To my children, for so I call you, though belonging to different generations, -
listen to my words of instruction, warning, and advice.

It is my privilege and my duty to hold converse with you, as I have been
constituted by our heavenly Father, the founder of a numerous race on these
Western shores. Born before the settlement of Jamestown and Plymouth,
and of an age to remember the voyage of the 'Mayflower,' - the news whereof
was brought even to my retired village of Horsmonden, - I was permitted
to live through an important epoch, when great principles were in discussion,
the settlement of which would affect future generations in the establishment
of justice and right, or the perpetuation of wrong under the forms of law.

The death of my mother, of blessed memory, when I was too young to know
the extent of my loss, and that of a father in my early youth, not, indeed, before
remembered words of counsel and affection, but when I needed his protection
and guidance, left me exposed to the temptations which invade the humble
village as well as the larger resorts of men.

But, though assailed, through God's mercy I was saved from falling; and trusting
in Him whom I had been in youth taught reverence, I was brought safely through.

My early training was in the church of England; and in the ancient parish church
I received in my infancy, the waters of baptism by the hands of the rector, Rev.
Edward Alchine, from whose instructions and catechetical teachings, when I came
of age to understand them, I trust that I received spiritual benefit. But my
religious preferences were in another direction, and I yielded to their persuasions.
I well remember, even with the dawn of reason and reflection, the great controversy,
which was then beginning to range with unwonted heat, even to the dividing of

I had none to aid me in shaping my future course; and though I was prospered in
business and very happy with the wife of my choice, and might have borne my part
in my native village, the feeling increased, that this was not my proper sphere.
Neighbors and friends, the men of Kent, in various quarters, were preparing to
remove to the New World, where success had attended the Plymouth settlers, and
the larger and more imposing colony composed of those who lined the shores of
this beautiful bay. I was in sympathy with these Christians, while still loving the
church from which I had separated, and the 'tender milk' drawn from her breasts.

I saw the day approaching when sharp trials would begin, and I should be excluded
from the few religious privileges which remained for those who already were
stigmatized as schismatic. I determined to join those who were seeking a home in
the wilderness, where we might worship God in a way which we thought was of his
appointment. But how was this to be accomplished with a young family? Measures
of detention, which had now well-nigh reached their culminating point, were daily
becoming more stringent, requiring certificates of uniformity, and oaths of allegiance
and supremacy, of all who purposed embarking for the New World. Vessels were
carefully watched; and none could leave the realm, and take passage for New England,
without special permission, and having submitted to various orders exacted by authority.
I closed up my business in Horsmonden, made my preparations diligently and silently
in connection with a married sister and her husband, and bidding an affectionate adieu
to those of the family left behind, reached the coast in safety, where we found a boat
in readiness to take us to the vessel which was to bear us to our coveted retreat.

I cannot describe to you my sensations on forsaking my native land. Scarce ever beyond
the bounds of my little village, I was leaving home, with all its fond ancestral
associations, never to return. My emotions, on taking the last view of dear Old England,
were such as almost to over power me. All of love, all of memory, returned; and I felt
for the moment a doubt, whether I was in the way of duty in my removal. But it was
only for a moment. When the last speck of Kentish shore disappeared below the horizon,
I girded myself to the undertaking; cast no more lingering looks behind, but looked
forward over the wide waste of waters towards my detained abode; addressed myself
to all that belonged to its duties and obligations; and never at any one moment afterwards,
until the day that God called me hence from earthly scenes, did I regret the resolution I
had taken. We were favored in our passage, and our little fleet reached these shores in the
beautiful noontide of May, when all nature was bursting into life, as if to give us a glad
and smiling welcome to the new home of our pilgrimage.

I look around me; but all is changed that is under the power or control of man. In the
populous towns and cities which have sprung up, I cannot recognize the little hamlets,
once my familiar acquaintance. Even my ancient dwelling places - peaceful and humble
abodes in Cambridge, Concord, Lancaster, and Groton - can no longer be traced or
divined, except by those marks which God himself has established in the flowing waters
of the Charles, the Assabet, and the Nashaway. Strange sights and sounds salute my
mysterious agencies of motion on land and water are all around me; and I
almost feel as
if man was in communion with forbidden spirits.

Descendants, - Here I planted my stakes; here I made my home, nor wished to return to
the scenes of my youth. My venture here in new and untried existence, and I loved it.
God favored me with health, friends, and beloved children; while, by his will and the
love of the brethren, I trust I was helpful to the Commonwealth, at least in some humble
measure, in military, legislative, and judicial service, through a long period, until my death.
For all that I was enabled to do I was truly grateful, while conscious of my shortcomings,
and lamenting that my success did not equal my intentions.

It was my earnest wish to train up my children to walk in paths of virtue and usefulness,
and to educate them in human learning according to their capacities, that they might serve
their generation with fidelity. Herein I was aided and blessed in the schools, open to all,
which our honored magistrates and deputies caused to be established, that 'learning might
not be buried in the grave of our fathers, in church and commonwealth; 'and by the
and instructions of worthy Mr. Bulkeley and Mr. Rowlandson. By their regular attendance on public worship, by observing the ordinances, by worship in the family, my
sons and
daughters were in the sure way of preparation for good service in life and
examples to their own children.

And now, if, in the day of small things, when we were few in number and weak in power,
surrounded by the savage, with none under God to help us save our own right arm, I was
of any service to church or commonwealth, I desire to first of all thank God, and give
him praise. I will not offer myself as an example for imitation, or commend myself for
having done aught, but only say that I have endeavored.

Consider what God has done for you. The wilderness and the solitary place have been
made glad for you; and the desert rejoices, and blossoms as the rose, as in the days of
Isaiah for the chosen people. Indeed, the little one has become a thousand; and the smal
beginnings, which I witnessed, have widened out to a powerful commonwealth, filled
with comforts, privileges, and blessings, countless in number and leaving little to be
imagined or desired. Think not that your own right hand has wrought out this your happy
condition; but give thanks to Him to whom they belong, and believe that never was a
people more highly favored.

You would honor my memory, and are very free in expressing veneration: but if you
would honor me aright, if you feel the veneration you express, show it by your deeds;
by reverence of that which is higher and holier; by doing all your duty actively and earnestly
in your generation; by adhering to the old paths of justice, faithfulness, and holy trust;
by sincerity in belief, abandoning all Antinomian heresies as you would the other extreme
of dead formalism; by being bold for the right, modestly and firmly maintaining your
opinions, whether called to public station or in the more private walks; following no
man and no cause because of popularity, shunning no man and no cause you believe to
be right because of unpopularity or reproach; but avoiding the parasite and self seeker,
and standing bravely by your own convictions. Thus did my son, even Samuel, in the
time of his pilgrimage, when he set himself in opposition to the greatest delusion that
ever visited this land, subjecting himself to great trial in the coldness of friends, and
the harsh judgment of an entire community; but, unmoved in his purpose, sustained by
his conscientious view of the right, calmly awaited that revolution in sentiment which at
once was the earnest and reward of his long and patient suffering.

Farewell !
Simon Willard
[Born 1605 Died 1676]"

One of the things that caught my attention was the reference to the trials of his
son, Samuel Willard, and a quick look up on Wikipedia showed that the Rev.
Samuel Willard had strongly opposed the Witchcraft trials. But the "greatest
delusion" had taken place nearly twenty years after the death of Simon Willard!

With a bit of digging I found "The Willard Memoir: Or, Life and Times of
Major Simon Willard " written by Joseph Willard in 1858. The full text was not
available on Googlebooks. I did, however, find the table of contents for the
book on Digital Editions and found my answer . There, listed under the Conclusion,
was this:

"The Voice of Warning and Instruction in the supposed Words of the
Subject of this Memoir, addressed to his Descendants, pp. 441-452."

Joseph Willard had imagined and written a letter from his ancestor. no doubt
to express his own view, but also unintentionally misleading future generations of
Willard descendants into thinking it had really been written by Simon Willard!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The pace of the war picked up as the Summer of 1675 drew to a close. In September,
the New England colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven
formally declared war on 9 September. The Indians countered with attacks on
the towns of Deerfield, Hadley, and Brookfield, followed by Springfield and Hatfield
in October. While Simon Willard did the best he could to bolster defenses and
protect the towns, he didn't have enough manpower to be effective. Most of the troops
were deployed in the south to protect the more populous areas of Massachusetts and

Matters worsened after the colonists attacked the Narragansett Indian settlement in
Rhode Island in the Great Swamp Fight which brought that tribe into a more active
role in fighting the colonists. Numerous settlements were destroyed or damaged
so badly that their inhabitants were forced to evacuate them and move back towards
the safety of the coastline. Among these were Simon Willard's own family. In
February 1676 the town of Lancaster was abandoned after an attack. Most of the
survivors of the attack had sheltered in a blockhouse owned by Cyprian Stevens,
Simon's son-in-law, which probably had been Simon's before his move to Groton.
The following month, it was Groton that fell and Willard's home was burned to the
ground. Like so many other colonists, the Willard family moved back to the safety of

Even after that, the 70 year old kept up his busy work load, as this letter to
his superiors shows about his activities in the month of March, 1676:

" A short narrative of what I have attended unto by the Councill of late, since I
went to relieve G-roatton. The 21:1: 75-76, I went to Concord, and divided the
troope committed unto me from Essex & Norfolke into three pts one to garde
the carte, pressed from Sudbury, one pt for ye carte pressed from concord, both
to Lancaster, one pt for ye carte that went from Charlestowne & Wattertowne that
went vol- iiitiers or wear hiered when I had sent them to their severall places I
came downe being the 22: 1: 75-6 : & went to concord the 25 : 1: 75, when I
came there & inquired how it was with Lancaster the answer was they weare in
distresse, I prsently sent 40 horse thither to fetch awaye corne, and I went that
night to Chellmsfoord to se how it was with them, they complayned, Billerikye
Bridge, stood in great need of beinge fortified, I ordered that to be don, allso
they told me, that the Indians made two great rafts of board & rayles, that they
had gott, that laye at the other syd of the river, I ordered 20 souldiers to go
over & take them, & towe them downe the River, or prserve them as they se
cause, the 27 of this instant I went from Chellmsford to concord agayne when
I came there, the troopers that I sent to Lancaster last had brought away all the
people there, but had left about 80 bushells of wheat & Indian corne, yesterday
I sent: 40: horses or more to fetch it away, & came down from concord, this
day I expect they will be at concord, Some of the troope I relesed when this
last worke was don, the other I left order to scout abroad untill they heare
from me agayne, I thought it not meet to relese men, when we stand in need
of men, my desire is to know what I shall do herin in, concord & chelmsford
look every day to be fired, and wold have more men but know not how to
keepe them, nor paye them,
your humble servant.
Simon Willard 29:1:76. "
(from Mass State Archives vol 68 page 186, quoted in "Soldiers in King
Philip's War" by George Madison Bodge, Leominster, Ma, 1896.)

Simon Willard had returned to Charlestown on the same day he wrote this letter
and was performing his duties as part of the legislature when he came down with
what probably was the influenza. Perhaps he had already been weakened by
the stress on his health that such an active life in cold weather had put upon his
septuagenarian body. He died on 24 April,1676 and six military companies
took part in his funeral procession when he was buried on 27 April.

Simon Willard's family remained prominent in New England. Two of his
descendants were Presidents of Harvard University and ironically, the
name Simon Willard is better known because of another descendant, the
inventor of the Willard "banjo" wall clock. It's not surprising since
most of the heroes of the King Philip's War have been overshadowed by the
better known heroes of the French and Indian Wars and The American

But in the earliest days of the New England colonies when their existence was
threatened, it was men like Simon Willard who helped ensure their survival.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In 1661 Massasoit,Sachem of the Pokanoket and the Wampanoag Confederacy
died. He'd had good relations for the most part with the settlers of Plymouth
Colony and a good case can be made that without his help, the settlement might
not have survived. But forty years of peace ended with his death. He was succeeded
first by his son Wamsutta, who felt his father had given the settlers too much
land and was seeking an alliance with the rival Connecticut colony when he died
under questionable circumstances in 1662. Massasoit's other son Metacom, now
became the grand sachem of the Wampanoags. He was better known to the
English as "King Philip."

Tensions mounted between the colony and the Indians as Philip sought to make
alliances with other tribes against the colonists and finally came to a head in1675.
John Sassamon, an Indian convert who'd gone to Harvard, warned the leaders
at Plymouth about Metacom's latest attempts to persuade the other tribes to
join in attacks on the settlers. A short while later Sassamon was murdered and
three Wampanoag Indians were arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime.
They were hung on 8 Jun 1675 . Two weeks later on 20 June, the town of Swansea
was attacked by Indians and destroyed five days later. The conflict that historians
call "King Philip's War" had begun.

Even though Simon Willard was now seventy years old, he was still in charge of
the defense of Middlesex County and despite his age went about it vigorously.
He led a small force of militiamen and friendly Indians and went from town to
town checking their fortifications and preparedness for attacks. At first these
were limited to the southern part of the colony but on 2 August a band of Nipmuc
Indians attacked the small town of Brookfield. The settlers took shelter in the
strongest building in town and held off the Indians for three days and made
attempts to send out messengers to find help.

Around noon on 5 August one found Simon Willard who was leading a mounted
force of 47 men from Lancaster to Groton. He immediately started out for
Brookfield which was about thirty miles from where the message had found him
and arrived at the besieged town shortly after dark. The Indians retreated at the
sudden arrival of Willard and his men and the Brookfield settlers were saved.

Four days later, the Indians attacked Lancaster, Simon Willard's previous place of
residence. Could it have been because of his rescue of Brookfield and his
prominence in the defence of the colony? Whether coincidental or deliberate,
the attack was one of many more to come.

It would be a busy fall and winter for Simon Willard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Simon Willard is one of those figures in American history that played an important
part in the foundation of the colonies but who are largely unknown today. He
was born in 1605 in Horsmonden, Kent, England and emigrated to the Massachusetts
Bay Colony with his family in May, 1634 and became a fur trader. A year later he
and several other settlers purchased land from Indians that eventually became the
town of Concord. Reverend Peter Bulkeley was one of these settlers and so the group
met the requirements for a "'covenant town." Simon would serve as the town's
representative in the General Court from 1635 until 1654.

His good relations with the Indians did not go unnoticed by the colonial government
and he was given positions of authority in the militia, which might also indicate he'd
had some sort of military experience in England before he'd left for America. In 1653
he was made a Major in the Middlesex Militia and a year afterwards led an expedition
against the Narraganset Indians. Somehow he also managed to make time to also work
as a surveyor and in that line of work traveled as far north as Lake Winnipesaukee in

In 1658 the town of Lancaster invited him to take up residence there, citing a need for
a “controlling mind” or leader. But I wonder if perhaps this was also an attempt to gain
some respectability in the eyes of the colonial government by a town whose founder,
my other ancestor John Prescott, had not been looked upon favorably. And Willard’s
experience dealing with the local Indians might also have prompted the invitation by
the town on the western edge of the colony.

Whatever the town’s reason, Simon Willard accepted the offer and moved his family
from Concord to Lancaster in 1658. Twelve years later he moved again to the nearby
town of Groton where one of his sons was minister.

Simon Willard was now in his mid-sixties, an advanced age in a time where the average
lifespan was around thirty or forty years. He might have expected to live out the rest of
his life uneventfully, but that was not to be the case.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I've mentioned before, I think, my practice of occasionally picking the
name of one of my ancestors and doing a Google web and Google Books
search to see if I can find some new information on them. This has had some
good results for me and provided me with material for blog posts as well. A
few weeks back I mentioned I was planning a post about Simon Willard (it's
coming soon). But first I want to discuss his relative by marriage, Henry
Dunster, the first President of Harvard College.

After the death of his first wife Mary Sharpe, Simon Willard married Elizabeth
Dunster, one of Henry Dunster's sisters, but she died shortly after their marriage.
Simon then married Mary Dunster. There seems to be some confusion as to
whether she was another of Henry Dunster's sisters or a cousin but it is agreed
that she was related to him. What interests me about this connection is not so
much that Henry Dunster was Harvard's first President, but how he came to
be so and how I first learned the story behind it.

Harvard's first professor was a man named Nathaniel Eaton who from all
accounts was a great believer in the "spare the rod, spoil the child" school of
education and frequently beat his students. In 1639 he apparently went too
far and injured a student badly enough to spark an investigation into his
methods and into his handling of the school funds. Among other accusations,
it was charged that he and his wife had skimped on the food allowance. Mrs.
Eaton was supposed to have confessed that she'd added goat dung to the
hasty pudding! In the face of this scandal, Eaton left Boston for Virginia and
Harvard was closed for a year until 1640 when Henry Dunster was appointed
to take his place.

Ironically, it appears I am also related to Nathaniel Eaton through my ancestor
Peter Eaton, who might have been his brother.

Now when I saw all this on my Google search, I had to smile. I'd already read
about it several years ago in a novel "Harvard Yard" by William Martin. I've
mentioned it before as a book that involves genealogy as part of a mystery and
I highly recommend all of William Martin's books. Better still, if he stops in
our bookstore again to autograph his books as he's done many times in the past,
I'll tell him about my ancestor's connection to his novel!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Negative Searches
: Back in November of 2007 I posted "The Search Goes On"
and told about how those of us researching John Cutter West have so far had
no luck in finding any record of his birth in either Plymouth County or the
town of Plymouth, Ma. So far that still remains the case. Randy Seaver kindly
tried his hand at it and found several leads but so far none of those have panned
out as well. I've also searched at the NEHGS website for any reference but
that has not been successful either nor have the several visits to the local
FHC center in Hingham.

Resources to check: I need to get into Boston to the NEGHS and the State
Archives so that I can follow up on Randy's suggestions about looking into
the probate records for Plymouth Ma. and Oxford County, Maine. I also
need to look further into purchasing a copy of John Cutter West's death
certificate if it is available. More trips to the FHC also, since I'm well
aware that it might take quite a bit of searching before I find what I need

I've also begun looking into the families that first settled Canton and Sumner
Maine. I recently found a brief history of Sumner from George Varney's
"Gazetteer of the State of Maine"(1886) that gives a list of the early
settlers there and says most came from Plymouth County and were
Revolutionary War veterans. I'll widen the search out to the neighboring
towns as well since many New England towns broke off from each other
and it's possible there is a record of John Cutter West's family in one of
the newer towns that might once have been part of Canton.

Of course, if he didn't come to Maine with his family but came on his own as
a worker of a bachelor seeking to make his way in the world, then I may not find
a record of his parents in Maine at all!

But in any case, as I've said before, the search goes on!

Saturday, January 24, 2009


The second part of my post on my brickwall ancestor John Cutter West
will be posted Saturday night. But I wanted to make note that it's now
been two years since I began this blog on January 23,2007 and to thank
all my readers and fellow geneabloggers for visiting "West in New England".

Your comments and help in my research have been greatly appreciated and
I've had a blast writing here!

Thanks again!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Miriam over at Ancestories has proposed that those of us with
brickwall ancestors write a detailed post on them with what
we know, what we want to know, results of what we have searched
and where we think we should research next. So here's my first,
John Cutter West. I've used the format Miriam suggested but I'm
breaking this into two parts because of the length:

Name: John Cutter West
What I want to Know: His place of birth and the names of his parents.
Known Information:

Born 8 Oct 1802 in Plymouth, Ma. (But no record of his birth has yet
been found there by myself or by other descendants searching for it.)

Married Arvilla Ames 23 Sept 1827 in the town of Sumner, Oxford,
Maine. (I have a copy of the marriage certificate from the town clerk but
there is no information on it about his parentage)

1830 Census, Canton, Oxford, Maine. He appears as head of household
with following notations on family:
1 male under age 5 (oldest son, Asa Atwood West, born in 1830)
1 male of 10 and under 15 years of age (person not known)
1 male of 20 and under 30 years of age.(John would have been 28.)
1 female under age 5 (daughter Ann Matilda West was born in 1828.)
1 female of 20 and under 30 years of age (wife Arvilla Ames West was 20.)

1837 Special Federal Census. Township Letter B, Oxford County, Maine. Head of
household with following notations on the family:
2 persons under 4 years old (probably Jonathan Phelps and Vienna Ames West)
3 persons between 4 and 21 years old (Ann Matilda, Asa Atwood and John West )
3 persons over 21 years old (John ,his wife Arvilla and an unknown person)

1840 Federal Census Township Letter B, Oxford County, Maine.
Head of household
with following notations on family:
2 males under 5 years old (Hiram Ferdinand West and unknown)
2 males between 5 and 10 years old (John West and Jonathan Phelps West)
2 males between 10 and 15 years old( Asa Atwood West and unknown)
1 male between 40 and 50 years old (John Cutter West?)
1 female under fiver years old (Vienna Ames West)
1 female between 10 and 15 years old (Ann Matilda West)
1 female between 40 and 50 years old (Arvilla Ames West)

1850 Federal Census for Township Letter B, Oxford County, Maine.
Head of Household, Age 47,
Occupation blacksmith
"value of real estate owned" $800. Born in Massachusetts.
Household includes:
Arvilla West, age 40
Asa A. West, age 20, occupation farmer.
John C. West Jr., age 18, occupation farmer.
Jonathan P. West , age 16, occupation farmer.
Viana (sic) West, age 14
Hiram F. West,. age 12
Clarinda B. West, age 9
Arvilla A, West, age 6
Leonidas West , age 3

1860 Federal Census, Upton(Formerly Letter B), Oxford County, Maine
Head of Household, age 57, occupation farmer & blacksmith,
"value of real estate" $1000.
"personal estate," $500.
Household includes:
Arabella (sic) West age 50
Jonathan West age 26

Clarinda West, age 19
Hiram F. West, age 21
Arabella (sic) E. West, age 16
Leander(sic) West, age 12
Ruth E West, age 9 (listed as idiot)
David P West, age 6
Orpha Reynolds, age 19

Died 24 Jul 1862 . Death recorded in West Family Bible.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The 11th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture
is up over at Lisa's Small-Leaved Shamrock.The theme this
time is "My Key to Ireland" and 16 genea-bloggers(including
myself) wrote about things that have helped or might help
them discover more about their Irish heritage. It also
features an interactive map of Ireland designed by Thomas
featuring the locations mentioned by the bloggers
in their posts!

Here's Lisa's call for submissions for the next edition, which
will be a "St. Patrick's Day Parade":

"As you probably know, March is Irish heritage month in many
places, thanks to the feast day of St. Patrick, beloved saint of
Ireland. Our "parade", the 12th edition of the Carnival of Irish
Heritage & Culture, will be open to anything and everything
about Irish heritage, genealogy and culture. Posts about St.
Patrick will be appreciated, but posts related to any meaningful
aspect of Ireland's heritage are welcomed.

The deadline is March 14, 2009. Submit your parade entry here.
Then come join us for the parade on St. Patrick's Day, March 17,
2009. On the feast of St. Patrick, everyone likes to be Irish,
at least for one day. Hope to see you at the parade wearing your

There's plenty of time to think about what you want to
write about for this next edition, so I hope to see a lot of
entries for the parade!

Now I just need to think about what I'm going to write about!

Monday, January 19, 2009


The topic this time around was a Winter Photo Essay and
you can read it here. There are 40 participants including
5 folks whose blogs are new to me and I've added them
to my links list on the right of the page (along with 10 more
from the last two postings of Thomas' lists of new geneablogs
here ). As always with the CoG there's plenty of good reading
to be found!

And here's Jasia's call for submissions for the 65th Edition:

Now it's time for a Call For Submissions! The topic for
the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: "The Happy
Dance. The Joy of Genealogy. Almost everyone has experienced
it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best
time. What event, what document, what special find has
caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy?
If you haven't ever done the Happy Dance, tell us what you
think it would take for you to do so." This next edition will
be hosted by Becky at kinexxions. Thanks Becky!
The deadline for submissions is Feb. 1st.

If you want to join in the fun, send your blog post submission
here !

Thanks once more to Jasia of Creative Gene for all her
work on the Carnival of Genealogy!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


As frequent readers of this blog know, I've been very fortunate in
researching my father's side of the family. Even though I have a
brickwall in my 3x great-grandfather John Cutter West, I've found
a great deal of information on the families of the women who've
married into the West line. It's in my mother's Irish-American line
that I have found very little about the family. Family tradition
says her mother's family came from Roscommon but beyond that
I know very little.

I know the key here has to be my Mom's grandfathers, Edward J.
White and John McFarland. I have copies of the Federal Census
pages they appear on from 1900 through 1930 which lists their
occupations and both had worked for the City of Boston at different
times. Edward's Irish nationality is in question for me at the moment
since his father's place of birth is listed as Boston on one census but
Ireland on the others. My hope is that there are city employment
records for that period and that if Edward and John are on them, there
might be information on their place of birth and their parents names. I
need to find out where such records might be archived.

A second possible source of information might be the records of the
entity that constructed the Boston elevated railway in the late 1900's.
Family tradition says John McFarland was one of the laborers. Does
the present day Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority have
any records on those first employees?

I hope to get into Boston to the main branch public library to search
for both John and Edward's obituaries. And now that the Archdiocese
of Boston's Archives have reopened, I need to go about calling for an
appointment to search for any church records on John and Edward's
family that they might have.

So there are my keys. Hopefully I'll be able to find them and open the
door to my Irish families.

Written for the 11th Edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


As you can see from the above photo, I come from a long line of hardy
Maine people who thought nothing of going out to work and play in
harsh Winter weather. From left to right, that's my grandfather Floyd E.
West Sr., his father Philip J. West, and his stepmother Alphonsene
Turgeon West. The caption says "Some catch taken in Spring,1923"
and that would refer to the wildcat or bobcat slung over P.J.'s shoulder.
Of course, technically, it isn't a Winter photo but the weather conditions
are wintery.

As for myself, I take after my Mother's side of the family. I can't say all
Irish American's have a similar view but I do know both Mom and her
brother, my Uncle Ed, weren't the type to love the sight of the first
snowfall. My earliest memories of snow involve the house on Beach St.
in Malden. I have some pictures taken one winter day there. The first
is looking over towards Clapp St, which was one house away from ours.
The other is looking over towards the other side. Up until now I didn't
know what street those other buildings in the distance faced but a quick
look at Google Maps just now told me it's Springdale St.

There was a long driveway that opened up into a wide parking area
between our house and the Tedesco's next door, and in the early to mid
fifties, in the pre-snow blower age, everyone shoveled.(unless you were
lucky to know someone who drove a snowplow who'd do plow you out
when he did your street). The other photos show my Mom doing some
shoveling. I'm certain she did not do all that herself, but was probably
clearing the end of the driveway after the plow went by so that Dad
and Uncle Ed could get in when they came home from work. I suspect
my Aunt Emily took the pictures.

Meanwhile, as the adults worked, my cousins and I looked on,
mostly because we were too young to do much shoveling and besides,
we probably couldn't move much bundled in those snowsuits! But we
did make snowmen and have snowball fights and sled, having the
fun any kid has in the snow, heedless of the cruel shock that loomed
ahead of us like a tree at the bottom of the hill: adolescence and
snow shovels and the dreaded words: "Go help your father shovel the

Written for the 64th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Is there a program out there that does a timeline for an
entire family tree or for a select period? I know some like
Family Tree Legends have timeline reports for individuals.

This question came to mind because I was thinking about
my ancestors during the American Revolution and the
earlier King Philip's War period and I want to have a
some sort of way to keep track of who was doing what
when and where.

Or do I need to do it the old fashioned way with index cards?

Thursday, January 08, 2009


As I've mentioned earlier, I've been doing some researching of my
Andover, Massachusetts ancestors and reading my distant cousin
Elinor Abbot's book "Our Company Increases Apace". One of the
things it helped clear up for me was the terms "covenant" and 'freeman"
we see so often associated with ancestors from this period. I'm going to
try to give a coherent version of what I learned here.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, towns were formed by a group that
had to include a minister and at least ten men who would form a
"covenant" church. In order to become a member of a covenant, the
applicant would have to undergo questioning by ministers to determine
if his beliefs adhered to the Puritan faith. He'd also have to make a public
declaration of faith before the members of the church and tell about
his personal conversion and beliefs. Depending on how he performed
these two requirements he would then be accepted or rejected for
membership into the church covenant.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, only covenant members were
allowed to take the Oath of Freeman, by which they could vote or
hold office. So you can see how this favored members of the
Puritan church over settlers from other religious affiliations. As the
population of the Colony grew there was an increase in settlers from
the Anglican Church who were taxed by a government in which they
could not actually participate. Eventually, after the Restoration of the
monarchy back in England, the covenant requirement for taking the
Oath of the Freeman was abolished.

While many of my ancestors were early covenant members and
freemen, a few like John Prescott were not.

Abbot, Elinor, Our Company Increases Apace: History, Language, and
Social Identity in Early Colonial Andover, Massachusetts.
Dallas, Texas: SIL International, 2007


Alright, this is not strictly genealogy but this has been bugging me now
for a few days and in a way it does relate to how we research.

I work for a major bookstore chain that's been going through some tough
times for awhile but is still around and fighting to stay that way. Recently
I've been looking at some of online financial analysis and message boards
and have been dumbfounded at some of the comments I've read from the
"professionals" and others on retail bookselling.

Nobody under the age of 30 reads books for pleasure. They read more

Really? So all those people who have been reading the Twilight, Harry
Potter, Clique, and Gossip Girls series are all over 40? The kids who
put a reservation in for the next Wimpy Kid book are actually adult

Most people buy their bestsellers at Costco or Wal-Mart or some other
discount store.

And where do they buy the older books that aren't on the best seller list?
Where do the students buy their summer reading list books?

The day of the bricks and mortar bookstore is over. More and more
people will buy their books from Amazon and other online dealers.

Not everyone has a computer. And not all of those who do feel comfortable
buying online. And there are countless people for whom browsing in a
bookstore is the only way they choose and purchase a book.

Hand held electronic readers with downloadable ebooks will replace
traditional books.

Not until the prices drop much lower and every book is available in
a universal format that works on any reader. And can you see a 6
year old reading Junie B Jones on her Dad's Kindle? Thought not.
Neither can I.

People should save money by using their local libraries.

A good thought except that one of the first areas town governments cut
funding is the library. They cut back hours, staff, and budget, so you
might have a copy of a hot bestseller at your library, but you have to go
on a waiting list to read it and be able to get there when the library is
open. Given the current economic crisis, that is going to be much more
common nation wide.

There are other reasons why we need bookstores, both the national chain
I work for and the smaller local stores. It would be disastrous for new
writers who will find it more difficult to get their books out in the
public eye, for example, and make it less likely that many older authors'
books stay in print and available. And of course from a genealogist's
viewpoint, it would be harder for us to find the history books we use to
fill in the background of the times our ancestors lived in.

One of America's great strengths has been the easy availability of books
to all classes through bookstores and libraries. To think it is no great loss
if there are less bookstores because of the reasons I mentioned is to
ignore the effect it would have on our country's future.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I had made a sort of resolution to my self to spend less
time on memes and new Facebook apps, But I'm a little
under the weather today and needed something to distract
me so I decided to do this genealogy meme that's going
around the genealogy blogs.

Ah, just when you think you are out, they pull you
back in! *Grin*

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

1. Belong to a genealogical society.
2. Researched records onsite at a court house.
3. Transcribed records.
4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.
5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) .
6. Joined Facebook.
7. Helped to clean up a run-down cemetery.
8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook.
9. Attended a genealogy conference.
10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter.
13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
16. Talked to dead ancestors.
17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
19. Cold called a distant relative.
20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.
22. Googled my name.
23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.
27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
29. Responded to messages on a message board or forum.
30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.
31. Participated in a genealogy meme.
32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).
33. Performed a record lookup for someone else.
34. Went on a genealogy seminar cruise.
35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
36. Found a disturbing family secret.
37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.
40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person
41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.
42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.
43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
45. Disproved a family myth through research.
46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
48. Translated a record from a foreign language.
49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.
51. Used microfiche.
52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
53. Visited more than one LDS Family History Center.
54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
55. Taught a class in genealogy.
56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.
59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents.
60. Found an ancestor’s Social Security application.
61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
62. Used Steve Morse’s One-Step searches.
63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
66. Visited the Library of Congress.
67. Have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.
68. Have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.
69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
70. Became a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits.
71. Can read a church record in Latin.
72. Have an ancestor who changed their name.
73. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
74. Created a family website.
75. Have more than one "genealogy" blog.
76. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
77. Have broken through at least one brick wall.
78. Visited the DAR Library in Washington D.C.
79. Borrowed a microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.
80. Have done indexing for Family Search Indexing or another genealogy project.
81. Visited the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
82. Had an amazing serendipitous find of the "Psychic Roots" variety.
83. Have an ancestor who was a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War.
84. Have an ancestor who was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War.
85. Have both Patriot & Loyalist ancestors.
86. Have used Border Crossing records to locate an ancestor.
87. Use maps in my genealogy research.
88. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK.
89. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
90. Visited the National Archives in Kew.
91. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.
92. Found a cousin in Australia (or other foreign country).
93. Consistently cite my sources.
94. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don't live in) in search of ancestors.
95. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes.
96. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).
97. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.
98. Organized a family reunion.
99. Published a family history book (on one of my families).
100. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.
101. Have done the genealogy happy dance.
102. Sustained an injury doing the genealogy happy dance.
103. Offended a family member with my research.
104. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Today is the 344th anniversary of my ancestors Jonathan
Barnes and his wife Elizabeth Hedges, who did considerably
better than their families at being respectful citizens of
Plymouth Colony.

I've written before about Jonathan's father John Barnes
who was a drunkard and appears in the court records
numerous times. John came to an untimely end when
(apparently while drunk) petting his bull which gored

Elizabeth Hedge's father, Captain William Hedge,
remarried after Elizabeth's mother died and his
marriage to Blanche Hull didn't last very long. While Blanche
was herself a widow, she was much younger than Captain
Hedge and deserted him not long after their marriage. This
lead to this bequest to Blanche in his will:

"And whereas Blanche my Wife hath dealt falsely with me in
the Covenant of Marriage in departing from me; therefore I
do in this my Last Will and Testament give her twelve pence..."

which someone commented was "full eleven pence more than
she deserved"

At any rate, Jonathan and Elizabeth's marriage seems to have
prospered. Their daughter Mary Barnes married John Carver,
and their granddaughter Mary Carver married Moses Barrows
from whom I'm descended through my great grandmother
Clara Ellingwood!