Thursday, December 30, 2010


 A Facebook friend, Cheryle Hoover Davis, found this quote from
one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, at the City of Lights Bookstore
site. I had the good fortune of meeting Neil at the Lauriats Bookstore
at the Silver City Galleria  in Taunton, Ma where he signed copies of
Neverwhere. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Anywhere, it's a great quote, and what I wish for all my friends and
family in the coming year:

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good 
madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who 
thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write 
or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere 
in the next year, you surprise yourself." -Neil Gaiman

And a Happy, Healthy New Year to all of us and our families!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I haven't forgotten my new discovered Dunham cousins buried here in
Abington's Mt. Vernon Cemetary. I've been reseaching them on the
internet with success in some cases and not so much in others.

I discovered a few things about General Henry Dunham. Apparently
he was a successful merchant here in Abington and worked his way up
as an officer in the Massachusetts Militia until he achieved the
rank of Brigadier General of the Second Brigade of the First Division of
the Third Regiment of the Light Infantry in the late 1840's. He retired
from that position in 1850.

One interesting note was the discovery of another connection with the
Gurney family. Henry's wife Mary Cushing was the daughter of Sarah

I had more luck researching their son Henry Jr. (He's listed erroneously
as "Hervey Dunham" in The History of the Town of Abington). In a
continuation of the ties between the Dunham family with Charleston,
S.C., he married a girl from there named Ella Bristol and a history of her
ancestry contained the following:

"Ella Bristol, born May 18, 1845. She married,  March 31, 1869, 
Henry Dunham of Abington, Mass., an inventor of leather machinery. 
He died Sept. 22, 1884.

From the Abington Herald:—" In the death of Henry
Dunham, which occurred Monday morning at his home on
Center Avenue, of inflammation of the bowels, the town
of Abington loses one of its most prominent, widely
known, and esteemed citizens. Mr. Dunham was one of
twelve children. His father was Gen. Henry Dunham,
son of Ezra, whose grand-father was Cornelius Dunham,
born in Plymouth in 1724. The name is among the
oldest and most distinguished of the Old Colony names.
The mother of the deceased, still living at the age of eighty-
one, was Mary Cushing, daughter of Col. Brackley Cush-
ing — another old and honored Old Colony family name.
Mr. Dunham began business life as a shoe manufacturer
in the large factory on Lake Street that bears his name.
He retired in 1873, and turned his attention to shoe
machinery, and has given to the world some very important
inventions and improvements in this direction. The
three most important are the Dunham riveting machine,
the toe nail machine, and the Dunham quilting, machine;
a detailed description of all these appeared in the Herald
of Sept. 5. Mr. Dunham made the first quilting nail
ever produced, and is believed to be the originator of
the idea of inserting nails into the sole while off the boot.
The funeral took place at his late residence Thursday
afternoon, Rev. Messrs. Pettee and Warren officiating, with
music by the new church choir. The esteem in which the
deceased was held was attested not only by a profusion
of flowers, but also by the presence of many prominent
citizens of this and other towns. Mr. Dunham leaves a
wife and three children, two boys and a girl."

John E Morris The Bontecou genealogy: A record of the descendants 
of Pierre Bontecou, a Huguenot refugee from France, in the lines 
of his sons (Hartford, Conn. Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard
Company, 1885)  pp179-180

After Henry Dunham Jr's death his widow became involved in several
lawsuits involving infringements on his patents by other shoe

In the Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910, the cause of his death
is listed as peritonitis and his occupation as "Inventor".

To be continued....

Monday, December 27, 2010


It's time once again for those of us looking into the past to look into our
future. So here are my genealogy resolutions and my plans on how to
achieve them:

1 Continue researching my maternal White, McFarland, Offinger,
and Luick lines.

 Plan: I need to make trips into Boston and find what resources might be
available from the Boston municipal records, and the Boston Public
Library. I also want to search the National Archives records for any
other documentation.

I might take out a World membership from Ancestry for a month or
two to seach for records from Ireland and Germany.

2. Continue researching my paternal West, Barker, Ellingwood, 
Dunham and other family lines.

Plan: I need to visit the local FHC more oftren than I have in the
past to search for records. Visits are also in order for the NEHGS
and the Massachusetts State Archives. I also need to start making
more use of court records (wills, deeds, etc) in my research.

Continued exploration of the local cemeteries and of the distant cousins
buried there is also on my to do list.

I'd also like to attend the Ellingwood Family Reunion again in August.

3. Break down that John  Cutter West brick wall.

Plan: A series of visits to the town halls and historical societies of towns
here in Plymouth County seems to be the only approach possible to
this mystery. The cemetery visits might also prove useful in this.

4. Join a local genealogy or history society

Plan: I'm going to join the Historical Society of Old Abington. "Old
Abington" included the present town plus the districts which eventually
became  the towns of Whitman and Rockland, areas in which collateral
branches of my paternal lines lived and also where my brother in law's
family lived. The meetings are four times a year on Sunday which I
should be able to make.

The South Shore Genealogical Society might be doable but they meet
on Saturdays when I am working and the membership link on their
website is not working.  Still, I'll try to join and get to some meetings.

I also want to attend some of the regional genealogy conferences and
perhaps meet some of my genealogy blogger friends.

5.Write more.

Plan: Continue blogging and sharing what I find. Maybe publish it in
bookor ebook form.


Plan: Just do it!!

7. Scan, SCAN SCAN!!

Plan: See Plan #6

All of these are dependent on my health. I planned to get out and do
more this year but my health prevented it for much of the year. So
Priority #1 is to stay healthy this winter so that once the weather
improves I can hit the ground running...well...sort of running....   

And above all else, I plan to HAVE FUN doing all of it!

 ((Written for the 101st edition of the Carnival of Genealogy!))

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I've spent the past two days enjoying the holidays so I'm a bit late
with this, but I hope all of my geneablogger friends have had a great
holiday season so far, and here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year
to us and all our families!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Christmas Eve was sometimes hectic in our family, especially
those years when we lived in Dorchester, because Mom and Dad
would drive around to Mom’s cousins’ houses to drop off gifts for
the kids. Sometimes my sister and I went along but as we got
older and more responsible we’d stay home while the gifts run
was made.

Then there where Christmas Eves where we were all home
and spent the night wrapping presents for each other or other
relatives. I think I liked those quieter nights best.

The past two decades or so Christmas Eve is spent at my sister
and brother-in-law’s house. Gifts are given out and opened and
my sister’s youngest son Mike(now in his twenties) often ends
up with the handing out the gifts duties since he’s the youngest
family member. Then there’s food served buffet style. At that
point, I am just trying to stay awake because I’ve been dealing
with the last minute shoppers at the store all day and a good
meal on top of that makes me want to take a nap. And next
day I go back over for dinner.

All in all Christmas Eves over the years have been good ones,
sometimes saddened by losses of loved ones but we all enjoy
being together and relaxing after the end of the Christmas rush.

2009 Update: A new tradition began last year with the Christmas
Eve festivities moving to the home of my niece Sarah and her
husband Steve. And this year I am actually having a day off on
Christmas Eve, so I won't be so tired and sleepy!

2010 Update: Christmas Eve will be at my sister's this year and I'm
looking forward to some lasagna. I expect that Michael will be helped
with giving out gifts this year by my 2 year old grandnephew Noah!


 ((First posted in 2007. I've added a bit to this that is in italics))

It’s been a long time since the last time my Christmas stocking
was hung up for Santa.

When I was small we didn’t have a fireplace so I’m not sure
where we hung them. Perhaps stuck to a doorframe with
thumbtacks? Although one year we had a cardboard red brick
light-up fireplace that I hadn’t thought about in years until just
now. And on Capen St. in Dorchester I think we hung them on
the “windowsill” of the wall mural my Dad made. Mom picked
out some large picture of Cypress Gardens and it was hung on
the wall, framed by a wooden  picture window frame so it
looked as if you were looking out at all those flowers! ((Dad
even wired it with a lightbulb inside the frame to light it up
at night. This worked well until the plastic model of a bird
I'd placed on the sill fell in and melted against the lightbulb.))

The house in Abington had a real fireplace (and a real picture
window) so the stockings were hung by the chimney, etc. and a
new one was added for my kid brother. A year or so after that
we hung one for the pets as well. But over the years as we
moved one place or another there would be Christmases where
no stockings were hung at all because we couldn’t figure out which
box they’d been packed away in during the last move. 

As for what was inside, as I mentioned once before, there was
one year I got a lump of coal, but for the most part it would be
candy canes and an orange or apple. One year there was the new
wristwatch my folks bought me.

I’m not sure where those stockings are these days. My best guess
is that they are downstairs in my storage bin packed away with
the few Christmas tree ornaments that have survived!

Update 2010: The Christmas stockings and those few old
Christmas ornaments have gone to the great storage bin in the sky
during my latest move.


The flutaphones are to celebrate the return of Janice Brown to her
Cow Hampshire blog. She's been absent far too long from the
genealogy blogging community and we've missed her wit and humor.
Having her come back now is, as footnoteMaven put it, a geneablog
Christmas Miracle.

Welcome back, Cousin Janice!
(Now if we can only get Chris Dunham to post new entries for The


View Larger Map

This is 101 Capen St in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. We 
lived there from approximately 1956 to 1960. Our apartment was on 
the top floor and out landlords were Mr and  Mrs Wittlestein . Back 
then, the building was grey with white trim and there was a lawn 
instead of gravel. But all in all, the Google map street view shows
a well kept neighborhood in 2010. The only major change I could
see was that the apartment building across the street from us is
gone and replaced by a smaller yellow building on the corner of
Selden and Capen Sts.

View Larger Map

I wish I could say our other address in Dorchester fared as well as 
Capen St. But it didn't. The empty area behind the fence is where
18 Evans St used to stand. We rented the first floor apartment
from Phil and Alice Pais. It appears the building perhaps burned 

Google Street View is amazing, letting me visit places I knew as
a kid but at times, like tonight, it can also be a reminder of the 
passage of time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Last night I happened to catch this on Jimmy Fallon's show and it
cracked me up.


There's been some interesting comments about my post about the worth
of a genealogy blog. I've enjoyed the discussion but at this point I'm
asking everyone to refrain from remarks of a personal nature and
respect each other's positions. Otherwise, feel free to continue

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the brightest light bulb on the chandelier
but I like a good civil debate over ideas. Besides, this past year has
made me realize that life's too short to waste it in negative things.

Martin, I hope you do not retire your blog. I don't always agree
with what you say or how you say it, but it would be a pretty damn
boring world if we all thought alike. 


((originally posted in 2007))

Every Christmas Mom would break out the Andy Williams
Christmas Album to play on the stereo. There was also a Nat
King Cole album and a Mitch Miller “Sing Along With Mitch”
Christmas edition. But for me, even rock and roll dinosaur
that I am, it’s the Andy Williams album that “feels” like
Christmas to me. I need to hear that "It's the Most
Wonderful Time of the Year."

As I’ve gotten older and my musical tastes expanded, I find
myself listening to New Age and Celtic Christmas music. And
Josh Groban just put out a holiday album that we’ve played at
the bookstore since Thanksgiving and it’s easy on the ears.

As for caroling, well, there are some things that one should
never do in public and in my case, singing is one of them!

2010 Update: I splurged this year for the "Now That;s What
I Call Christmas Essentials Collection." It has the Andy Williams
song and Nat King Cole's version of "Christmas Song" on it,
and I plan to play it Thursday afternoon on my day off!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


My Mom was a working mother for much of her life so she wasn’t
one for major cooking projects except on weekends. Most times
cookies were created with the help of the Pillsbury Dough Boy a
lthough I do recall some forays into Christmas tree shaped sugar

Cookies at Christmas time usually meant the Italian cookies
served at my Aunt Emily’s with that light frosting and the red and
green sprinkles. As an adult I buy them at the supermarket only
around this time of year.

But while my mom wasn’t really into cookie baking, she did like to
make coffee cake and sponge cakes. And when we were living in
Dorchester she learned how to bake mundel bread from our
Jewish neighbors. She also made cupcakes and cornbread.

There was one other dessert dish Mom made and I’m not sure
if it was something that her mom Aggie had done during the
Depression. Mom would send me down the street to the store
on Milton Ave to buy a box of Jiffy Bake Mix and she’d make
biscuits, then would top them with strawberries and whipped
cream. I didn’t care for the taste of the biscuit so I’d make sure
the strawberries had really soaked it before I ate it!

2010 Update: Due to my medical needs I don't eat cookies
much anymore. However, I may cheat  a little if there are any
served over the holidays!


 ((Originally posted in 2007))

As far as I can recall, none of the family ever attended a
professional entertainment event during the holidays.

I’m sure there were school events for my sister and brother but
the only one I recall that I was involved in was in the first or
second grade. It was some sort of Christmas lights event at the
Linden Elementary School in Malden that was held outside the
main entrance at night. We sang carols and yes, played some on
our flutaphones.

The next year we had moved to Dorchester and I was at the
Frank V. Thompson School. I don’t remember any holiday shows
there and I certainly didn’t go around playing a flutaphone in
that neighborhood!


I mentioned in a previous post that I'd recently spent an afternoon with
my brother in law Pete looking through some old family albums. They
were full of beautiful greeting cards, calling cards, business cards and
postcards, and they were all addressed to Peter's granduncle Levi

Levi Newcomb, the younger son of George Henry Newcomb and
Agnes Isabelle Merritt, was born in Scituate, Plymouth, Ma, on 16Feb
1893. At some time in young life he developed a rheumatic heart which
limited his physical activities and left him housebound for most of his life.
And so his friends and family would send him postcards, some with
humorous pictures, others with paintings or photographs of various
places. The latter ranged from places as close as North Abington
Square to as far away as Guantanamo Bay where a former schoolmate
was stationed on a warship.

The messages on the back of most of the postcards are still legible.
There are comments about the weather, or snippets of family news, and
optimistic talk about what the sender and Levi might do when he was
well enough to come visit.

These messages hopefully helped keep Levi's spirits up. His mother
Agnes had passed away in 1895 just two years after Levi's birth. He,
his father George and brother Paul were living on West St in North 
Abington next to the railroad tracks near one of the factories in town
at that time.Except for occasional trips to visit with relatives in
Scituate or Lakeville Levi spent his entire life there in that house,

And it was there that he died on 3Jan 1911, a month shy of his
18th birthday. That night when I came home I put his name in over
at FamilySearch Record Search and found Levi's death certificate.
It lists cause of death as endocarditis with articular rheumatism as
the secondary cause. He was buried in Granland Cemetery in
North Scituate three days later on 6Jan 1911.

The postcards are now a century old, preserved in their albums,
a window into a past where thoughtful people took the time to
send  them to a young invalid living in a house next to the railroad
tracks in North Abington, Massachusetts.

Monday, December 20, 2010


I read this quote over on Martin Hollick's Slovak Yankee blog the
other day and it's been gnawing away at me in the back of my mind
ever since. It's from page 157 of The American Genealogist magazine:

"The only qualifications for a Fellow are the quality and quantity 
of his or her published genealogical work, usually compiled 
genealogy, not abstracts or methodology.  At the meeting this
 year, it was proposed that "publications" include those online. 
The Society had decided quite a few years ago that digital/online 
publications did not qualify as permanent contributions to the 
field.  At this year's meeting, much was said on both sides of the 
question: Online publication is becoming increasingly common 
and increasingly excellent, but it remains fluid and its permanence
is uncertain."

The 'Fellows' are the Fellows of the American Society of Genealogists.
I might be off by a few years but I believe the Internet has now been
around for nearly twenty years, so I think the question of how
permanent it is has been answered. There's quite a few personal
or family genealogy websites out there, and while there are many
of dubious distinction, there are also many that are well documented
with citations and sources. Is a scholarly, accurate work of
genealogical research to be discounted as a proof of a person's
qualifications to join a genealogical organization simply because it
appears online rather than in print?

This seems rather shortsighted to me. True, websites can disappear
but so can books and articles. But in this age where nearly everyone
writes with word processor programs it's commonsense practice
to backup your work and it's easy to provide a printed copy of a
site's content. In an age where many genealogy societies are faced
with aging, shrinking memberships, it might be more prudent to take
a case by case approach rather than to employ a blanket condemnation
of a commonly used medium.

Which brings me to the question posed in the title to this post: what is
the worth of a genealogy blog? There are several programs out there
now that can turn blogposts into book form. If I were to take selected
posts from "West in New England" and print them into a book for my
family and friends and had some copies leftover, would a genealogy
society accept them for their library? Would the purists and traditionalists
recoil in horror that printed geneablogs were being added to collections
simply because they are blogs?

Now understand, I'm not saying I'd be upset if a society politely refused
my proposed contribution. I already know what my blog is worth to me
personally. It's a creative outlet for me to explore and discuss my
family history and to make contact with relatives and other members of
the genealogy community.

But I do wonder how the geneabloggers' efforts are viewed by the
wider genealogy community.

How about you?

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Before I post about my research goals and plans for next year, I
thought I'd look back at this year's list. Due to my medical problems
and then moving I didn't get much accomplished genealogy wise for
first third of the year. However it's been a pretty active fall for me
and I picked up some ground.

So here's the list in italics followed by the results:

Organize! Organize! ORGANIZE! Cite those sources and trim the 
tree of duplicate entries!

Well, this is still VERY much a work in progress.

Scan! Scan! SCAN! Get that Rubbermaid tub of pictures done!

While I've done slightly more on this than the organizing, I really
need to get cracking on this too.

Research! Research! RESEARCH!

I've had more success with this than any other of my plans.aided
by records I've found at and FamilySearch Record

Share what I've found with anyone who needs help tilting at 
their own genealogy "windmills".

This was one of the most rewarding things I was able to do this
past year. I helped several friends get started on tracing their
family trees.

Get out of the apartment more and visit the NEGHS, the Family
History Center and some of the places my ancestors lived and 
where they are buried.

I didn't really start to do much on this until this Fall. While I haven't
made it back to the NEGHS or the family Center yet, I've gotten out
and explored the local cemeteries with good results as recent blogposts
can attest.

Do more work on my maternal lines, the Whites, Offingers, McFarlands
and Kelleys.

Thanks to FamilySearch Record Search I found new information on the
Whites and Offingers, and some on the McFarlands. The Kelleys still
remain an enigma.

Keep chipping away at that John Cutter West brickwall.

I chipped. It's still there, but someday, somehow, it's coming down!

And most of all to keep having fun doing all of the above!

Now THAT was the easiest gena-resolution for me to keep! It was
ALL fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010


My day got off to a wonderful start this morning when I received
an email from fellow geneablogger Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
notifying me she was presenting me with one of two Rose Blogger
Awards. Lucie gives it to bloggers who are keeping the memory
of their ancestors alive, and she named it in memory of her late
mother, Rosanna Levesque LeBlanc. Heather Wilkinson Rojo
of Nutfield Genealogy is the other recipient of the award.

In addition to her two blogs Lucie's Legacy and The Acadian
and French-Canadian Ancestral Home, Lucie has three
websites devoted to Acadian and French-Canadian history
genealogy and culture. In fact, I first made Lucie's "e-quaintance"
when I asked her permission to use some of her research in a
blogpost I was doing on my ancestor Jonathan Abbott's dealings
with displaced Acadians in colonial Andover, Massachusetts.
That was three and a half years ago.

I'm honored to be given an award that Lucie named after
someone she loved, and I highly recommend all her sites if
you wish to learn more about Acadian and French-Canadian history.
(By the way, you can vote for the Acadian and French-Canadian
Ancestral Home at the FamilyTree Top 40 Genealogy Blogs. She's
in the Heritage Groups).

Thank you, Lucie!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I checked in over at the Maine Genealogy Network tonight and
saw Chris Dunham's (formerly of The Genealogue) notice that had added images of Maine's Vital Records through
1922 to their site. So I immediately signed in  over at Ancestry and
started searching the images for my various Maine ancestors,
including my biggest brickwall, John Cutter West and his children.
I was hoping that there might be a mention of John's birthplace on
something that might narrow it down to a specific town in
Massachusetts or that confirm it was the town of Plymouth rather
than Plymouth County.

Alas, I had no luck.

Nevertheless, I found other records and information that I didn't
have before. I learned great grandfather Frank Wesley Barker died
from pneumonia after having  "la grippe" six months after his mother
Lucy Colburn had died from her bout with "la grippe", in other words,
the flu. And of course I added everything to my tree as sources.

So, a hurrah for that, and a drat for not finding a chink in that brickwall.

I'll keep chipping away at it, though!


Ok, I can't keep this to myself any longer.

Remember how at the end of the first post I wondered if we should
submit the mystery of Otis v Gray to the History Detectives show?

Well, they contacted us! I don't know how they heard about it. Could
somebody from the show have actually seen the blogpost? Or did one
of my readers who knows someone who knows someone pass it along
to them? However it happened, I am still astonished!

Now this doesn't mean it will be a segment of the show. There may not
be enough there to justify a segment.  So we'll have to see what
they find out and what they want to do.

Can you tell how excited I am by the way I'm babbling?

Anyway stay tuned for further developments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A few Sundays ago I spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon with my
brother in law Pete looking over some family heirlooms. Pete like myself
is of two heritages, one side of the family descended from immigrants,
the other from colonial New England stock. The items he showed me
come from the second side and included albums of beautiful century-old
postcards, greeting cards, and calling cards, and I'll relate the story
behind them in a later post. Another item is a legal document with a bit
of a mystery behind it, and we're hoping someone reading this can help
us solve it.

Many of Pete's ancestors came from the coastal town of Scituate, Ma.
and among them are members of the Otis family.The most famous
member of the family was James Ois, a mercurial figure who was 
prominent in Boston in the days leading up to the American Revolution. 
He battled mental illness which included violent outbursts of temper.
That, coupled with his sarcastic comments led to many confrontations
with the Tories of Boston.

The document Pete showed me is an indication of how heated those
confrontations became. It's a court wit for Lewis Grant, a prominent
Tory who'd been the target of some of Otis'  tirades. According to the
writ Gray had broken into Otis'  house and assaulted him on November
11th, 1771 and "beat wounded & evil intreated" Otis. Just how badly
Otis was beaten is unknown but he was able to file charges. Gray was
arrested and released the next day after promising to appear in court.

The question is, how did the trial turn out?

With Pete's permission I started searching the internet to try to discover
the outcome but had no luck. Then I turned to J L Bell of Boston 1776
but he had never heard of the case either. He suggested I contact Jeff
Purcell who is writing a biography of James Otis. Although Jeff hadn't
heard about the court case he did share some fascinating information
about Otis and I'm looking forward to reading his book when it's

So at this point, we're at a dead end. I've attached a transcription Peter
sent me of the writ so you can read it, and if any of my readers have any
suggestions on how to further research this I'd appreciate hearing  from
you. I know there are resources not available on the Interenet; I just
need some idea of where to start looking.

Or perhaps we should submit it to the History Detectives?

What do you all think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


((originally posted in December 2007))

Ah, fruitcake! The Food. The Myth. The Legend.

We’ve never had any of the perpetual fruitcakes hanging about
for weeks or months in our family. We’re a practical bunch. If it
tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn’t, well, out it goes!

I have, however, invented a mythical fruitcake named Margaret.

Like distant cousin Tim Abbot over at Walking the Berkshires I
have been a role-player for years although mine has been online
instead of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. One of my characters
is an eccentric Scotsman and last Christmas he gave Margaret
the Fruitcake to another character as a Christmas gift.

It seems it was baked by a female relative who passed away
while doing so and the Scotsman believes (he says) that her spirit
inhabits her final fruitcake. Margaret has been exchanged
between family members each Christmas but last year it was
given to a young squire. Various adventures ensued including a
jailbreak where Margaret was used as a weapon and then the
disappearance of the haunted fruitcake sometime around

Yeah, I know.

I’m nutty as a fruitcake

2009 Update-Margaret's location is unknown at present, although
rumors persist that she is being used as a curling stone by a team
of dwarves.

2010 Update: Margaret's present location is still unknown. The
most prevalent rumor is that she was recently employed as a 
battering ram at the Gates of Mordor. 

Monday, December 13, 2010


The finalists for the FamilyTree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs
have been announced and I'm proud and humble to say I've been
included in that number. I want to thank all those who nominated
West in New England and also congratulate my fellow nominees.

Now it's up to us to choose the winners. There are 117 nominees
in eight different categories and we are to vote for 5 blogs in each
category. (West in New England is nominated in the My Family
History category). If you vote for too many blogs in a category
you'll receive an error message. You can vote right up to 11:59 pm
on next Monday, December 20th and you can vote as many times
as you want.   

You can find the ballot at

You can view a list of the nominees with links to their blogs
at footnoteMaven's blog at:

I've already voted tonight before posting this. Please join me, and if
you choose to vote for me, you have my thanks!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


My friend Debbie Ripley posted this video on Facebook last week. It's
a Youtube video by Irish calligrapher Dennis Brown. I find it
mesmerizing and perhaps you will too. Watch it, and then I'll explain
what relevance this has to genealogy for me.

The words whispered throughout the video are revealed by the quotation
at the end: 

"The Flow: The State in which people are so involved in an activity 
that nothing else seems to matter." -Mihaly Csikczentmihalyi.

So what's the connection with genealogy ?

There are nights when I come home from work and after dinner I start
on my genealogy research. I sit here with my laptop and begin tracking
down the siblings of my ancestors and their descendants, looking for
any records and documents, entering them in my tree.
I find old books on and check to see if any of my family
are mentioned in them, and then find myself reading about the history
of the towns where they lived.

The television is on, and occasionally I divide my attention with it,
and periodically I check the Facebook window, but still I'm climbing
on up the family tree. I tell myself I'll stop for the night after this
person, or that family, or this lead, but then I find something else
that draws me on.

Time flies, and the next thing I know, it's 1 or 2am. I shut down the
computer and go to bed.

I'm doing something I love, and the frustrations and worries of the day
are set aside as I lose myself temporarily in the past. I've had the same
experience when I write. I'm sure that it's the same for countless others
tracing their roots or engaged in any other creative activity(because I
have come to believe that being a family historian is a creative process,
but that's another discussion).

We're in The Flow.

Friday, December 10, 2010


It's become a Geneabloggers tradition to join our friend
footnoteMaven in the annual Blog Caroling Event, and as in
the previous editions, I'm warbling my favorite, "I Saw Three Ships".
fM will post the list of bloggers joining us in song on December 15th
and you can take a tour of their blogs.

So, without further adieu ....a one and a two...and....

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Pray, wither sailed those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the Angels in Heaven shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
Then let us all rejoice again,
On Christmas Day in the morning.


((originally published in Dec 2007))

It’s funny how some Christmas memories fade and some endure,
especially when it comes to gifts.

We weren’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either when I
was young. Santa’s gifts were often determined by budget
concerns but he always managed to leave us clothes and some
toys. (although one year I got a note with the other gifts:
“Dear Bill, I owe you one telescope. Santa Claus”)

Ads for a forthcoming movie brought back more memories. One
Christmas Eve my sister and I could hear Alvin and the
Chipmunks “Christmas Song” play over and over while our
parents laughed. When we asked why the song kept playing we
were told it was the radio and to get to sleep before Santa came.
(of course by now I already knew the Awful Truth). It turned
out Santa had left us a portable record player along with a copy
of the record!

I still have the gift my sister gave me one year: a wooden chess
set, the kind that doubles as a box to hold the chessmen. It’s
over thirty years old now.

As I grew older I learned that giving gifts was as much fun as
getting them. We didn’t have a color tv so one year when I was
working at the toy warehouse I put a portable Magnavox color
tv on layaway and gave it to my folks for Christmas. That tv lasted
for years, even after my folks got a larger console set. It migrated
from bedroom to bedroom passing from my kid brother to my
sister’s kids back to my brother’s kids until it finally gave up the

And then last year, I got a gift from a group of great friends, the
computer that I’m using right now to preserve these memories.

Oh, yeah! I eventually got the telescope!

2010 Update: When I moved here from my old apartment I had
to give up my desktop computer from my friends due to space
limitations. But my family had given me Sheldon the laptop
computer for Christmas last year, so I'm able to sit here in
the living room and do my blogging and research in my
comfortable chair. And the year before they gave me the
digital camera that lets me chronicle my road trips in pictures.
I'm very grateful for these and other gifts from them.

So Genea-Santa has been very good to me over the years!


This past week I was honored with the Ancestor Approved Award
by Susan Petersen of  Long Lost and Debbie of
Mascot Manor Genealogy . Thank you both!

I was also given this award back in April by six other folks but at
that time I was recovering from my last hospital adventure and in
the midst of the move from the old hobbit hole to my present
apartment so other than expressing my thanks to them I wasn't
able to fulfill the conditions of the award but now I can do so.

As a recipient of this award, I am to list 10 things I have learned about
my ancestors that have surprised, humbled or enlightened me and
then pass the award on to 10 other genealogy bloggers who I feel
are doing their ancestors proud.  So here is my list of 10 things and
my list of 10 other bloggers.

1. I was surprised by learning about my Grandfather West’s part in caring
for soldiers stricken with the Spanish Influenza at Fort Devens during

2. I was surprised by how much I've been able to find about
many of my ancestors on GoogleBooks, especially through the Essex
County Court Records. As I've noted before, some of them were
 a contentious lot! 

3. I was humbled to realize my ancestors faced so many obstacles and
tragedies and still endured.

4. I'm constantly enlightened on New England history by my research
into my family history.

5. I've been surprised and frustrated at how elusive some ancestors can

6. I was surprised to find that so many of my ancestors were involved in
 the conflicts with the Native Americans in the earliest days of Maine and

7. I was surprised to find distant relatives buried so close to my parents.

8. I was enlightened by Aunt Dot's memories of growing up in MaIne
with my Dad in the 1930's.

9. I was surprised to learn of my ancestor Jonathan Barker's family
problems and burial in an unmarked grave.

10. I am constantly humbled by how much more there is to discover
about my family's history.

Cheryl at Have You Seen My Roots?
Caroline at Family Tree Gal 
Becky at My Genealogy Pondering
Kristin at My Cleages And Reeds
Will at Will's Genealogy Blog
Janine at Genealogy: Our Astounding Past
Heather at Nutfield Genealogy
Harriet at Genealogy Fun
Alanna at Confessions of a Gene-a-holic
Marian at Roots and Rambles

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I thought for some of these grab bag posts I'd recommend
some Christmas music I like. (yes I do like Christmas music
when it's after December 1st!) Here's a video of Annie Lennox
doing a rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" that's
a bit different. There's a sort of mixed Celtic-Middle-Eastern
feel to it that seems to bring out the "Joy" part of "tidings of
comfort and joy" more than the more solemn original version: 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Sunday was the coldest day of the year so far but I wanted to
take a quick look around to see if I could find anymore Dunham
family graves sites in Mt. Vernon Cemetery. This time I spent
more time in the front end which is closer to Island Grove Pond.
There might have been a view of the water back in the 19th
century but now it's blocked by the Police Department and the
Highway Department. The older family plots have taller monuments
and some are situated along several hillsides overlooking a fenced
in pond. 

I drove through the older section over narrow gravel roads with
the late afternoon sun blinding me at times, but on the crest of one
of the hills I spotted another Dunham headstone.  I got out of my
car with my camera and walked over to take pictures:

I'd found another branch of the family which I'll blog about later.

On the way out of the cemetery I passed the Henry Dunham family
plot and noticed two broken headstones that I had missed when
I first found it:

These are located at the left rear corner of the lot and I couldn't make
out the names as the light was beginning to fade. I hoped I could
bring them out a bit on the computer but I think I need to go back
earlier in the day on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I've found more information on Henry and his family,

To be continued....


((First published in December, 2007))

I don’t recall many holiday parties from my earlier childhood. In
our family folks were too busy working or shopping at Christmas
time. And when we lived in Dorchester the apartments weren’t
really big enough to hold large parties in, although there might
have been one or two. If so, they would have followed the rules of
other adult parties my folks had: after saying hello to the adults,
my sister and I would be sent off to our beds to eventually fall
asleep while listening to the adults in the other room laughing
at Rusty Warren records. We wondered what "roll me over
in the clover" meant.

As an adult, most of my Christmas party experience has been at
work, including one at a now defunct toy chain warehouse(more
on that job later) when I was in my early twenties. It snowed
when I left for home, my car at the time was an Olds 98 and
being in a hurry to get home, I didn’t completely clean the rear
windshield. I backed up, turning the car around….

….and smashed my rear windshield by backing the car up under
a tractor trailer box front end as if it were a big rig hooking up.

The good news was, my Dad worked in the auto glass repair

The bad news was I had to call him and tell him what I’d done.

It was an …umm…interesting conversation.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Originally published in Dec. 2007.

As you can see from the picture I posted earlier, I had a very
formal relationship with Santa. No laps for me. A simple solemn
pose would do, thank you, for the photo-op.

Formal attire was also worn when visiting Santa’s Village up in
New Hampshire. A sports jacket was de rigeur for the feeding of
reindeer but one was allowed to be more casual when posing with
the sled and full team. The girls are my cousin Terry and my
sister Cheryl.

Actually, I think we might have been there on a Sunday. We’d
have attended Mass in Berlin and probably continued on home
with a stop to visit the Village.

But by the time those pictures were taken, I’d fallen from grace.
Yes, I no longer believed in Santa Claus. I’m not sure how I
figured it out but I do know I must have been around six or seven
years old because we were still living in Malden in the two family
house that my folks and my aunt and uncle co-owned. I know this
because when I found out there was no Santa Claus, I shared my
knowledge and heard about it for years afterwards.

Yes, I told my cousins who lived downstairs. I think that was the
year I got a lump of coal in my stocking (but there were still
presents under the tree.)

I’m not sure if I told my sister the awful truth later or if she
found out some other way. I do know I didn’t tell my kid brother.
After all, I was an adult by then and I had a greater appreciation
for what Santa meant to little kids by then!

But there it is.

I squealed on Santa.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


(originally published in Dec. 2007) 
My family was fortunate in that we never lived in the sort of place
where Christmas outdoor decorations becomes a blood sport.
Yes, people strung lights in their shrubbery or along their house
gutters but there was never anyone determined to turn their
front yard into the North Pole’s Southern Branch Office.

Now for light shows back then you went to someplace religious,
like Our Lady of La Sallette Shrine in North Attleboro or the local
cemetery with it’s entrance lit up, or even just cruised a stretch
of highway to look at the neighborhood lights that might be seen
from a distance as you drove by.

We didn’t really have outside lights ourselves until we left Boston
for Abington. Up until then the only lights other than on our
Christmas tree were the electric candles we put on windowsills.
But at the house Dad did the obligatory shrubbery and gutter
displays as well as one other spot: the apple tree in the front yard.

Dad had experience both with wiring and tree climbing so putting
a string of lights up in a small apple tree was a piece of cake. It
was the taking down part that didn’t seem to work at least for
the tree. One year, long after the other outside lights were down
and packed away, the lights still were hanging in the apple tree.
I’m not sure exactly when he took them down but I do know it
was well after Spring had sprung. I think they were even plugged
in once or two nights. I don’t know the reasons why they were
still there: my Dad’s sense of humor, perhaps? Or maybe an
instance where Dad’s Maine stubbornness and the Irish
stubbornness of my Mom brought about some impasse on the issue?

On my way home the other night from work I noticed at least
three of those large hot air snow globe scenes on front lawns.

Those families must have big electricity bills!

2010 Update: As I discovered in 2008, the apple tree  in
the front yard of the house is long gone. But a news report
the other night made me think of Dad. The holiday
lighting ceremony at Braintree has been postponed a week
because squirrels had eaten through the wires,

The lights had been left up all year since last Christmas!

Saturday, December 04, 2010


These are the gravestones in the second Dunham family plot that
I found Thursday at Mt.Vernon Cemetery in Abington:

Henry Dunham. 1835-1884. Located to the left of the front stairs.

A headstone for seven children, Located on the left hand border of the
plot. The inscription at the base reads: "Children of Henry Dunham and
Mary his wife."

Henry Dunham 1800-1878(?)  Located to the right of the stairs.

Mary C Dunham 1805-1880, located right front corner.

Andrew Jackson Dunham and wife Mercie Florence Dunham, located
right side corner.

"Gertie". Located on the right side border.of the plot. Was this a daughter
of Henry and Mary Dunham or of Andrew J. Dunham and his wife?

Sarah M, Dorr and her son Richard Clinton Dorr. Located right side
rear corner. Where is Sarah's husband and what was his name?

Armed with the information from the gravestones I began searching for
information on the family when I got home. First I checked "History
of the town of Abington" and found the following:

"IV. General Henry Dunham, born October 13, 1806; married Mary 
Cushing, born April 2, 1805, daughter of Colonel Brackley Cushing, 
of Abington, April 8, 1826. Their children were—
V. Charles Henry, born October 30, 1827; died June 17, 1832.
V. Brackley Cushing, born September 2, 1829 ; married Elizabeth 
    T. Hunt, November 2, 1859.
V. Sarah Maria, born November 9, 1831; died December 18, 1840.
V. Andrew, born November 25, 1833 ; married Mercy F. Whitcomb, 
     January 20, 1855. Children—
  VI. Sarah Maria, born January 20, 1856 ; 
  VI. Emma Gertrude, born April 23, 1862.
V. Hervey, born October 18, 1835.
V. Mary Cushing, born July 2,1838  died November 23, 1843.
V, Caroline, born January 18, 1841; died September 10, 1841.
V. Emma Annette, born January 1, 1844.
V. Josephine, born June 8, 1846; died September 17, 1846.
V. Susan Ford, born May 20, 1848.
V. Frank, born.May 25, 1850; died September 7, 1850.
V. Annie Poyas, born August 20, 1852; died December 14, 1854."

So "Gertie" was Andrew Jackson Dunham's daughter Emma
Gertude and  Sara Dorr was his daughter Sarah Maria. Those 
questions were now answered, but as always with family
research, there were more to come.

To be continued.


((An updated reposting from the original post of 2007))

Today’s topic is Christmas cards.

I don’t get a lot of Christmas cards, mostly because I don’t send
out a lot myself to begin with. I get some from the family and a
few from friends but since I’m not much of a social animal there’s
no more than perhaps a half dozen each year sitting atop my tv.

In years past the amount of umm…cardage…fluctuated. When I
was a kid there were a lot of cards, usually taped to the
doorframes much the same way that Terry’s Mom did at their
house or sitting atop tables.

When we moved to Abington they were displayed across the
mantel piece or taped around the edges of the mirror above it.
The years when my folks were actively involved in the VFW
brought the highest number of season’s greetings. Mom would
spend a few hours herself signing and addressing cards to be
sent out. But as she and her generation of family and friends
grew older the flood of Christmas cards dwindled. Several years
Mom even had some unused cards left over when she finished.

I tend not to like sending “mushy” cards so I usually try to find
something funny. Although this year I may be giving people a
look at a certain dancing elf via e-mail!

2010 Update: I'm going to see what sort of selection we have at
the store tomorrow and hopefully find something funny, although
last year I sent out cards that were more... umm ...
"New England-y"

Friday, December 03, 2010


Today was my day off and after a walk in Ames Nowell Park I returned
to Mt Vernon Cemetery to see if I could find more Dunham relatives. I
started looking close to the Cornelius Dunham family plot but instead of
Dunhams I found some Packards and Edsons:

My Packard and Edson ancestors are from my Dunham line so I'll be
checking these names out to see if these folks are my relatives and how
we are related. 

Mt Vernon is a good sized cemetery so I decided to work my way
down towards what I think is the older part of it. This direction
leads toward Island Grove Pond is a bit hilly. While it was a bright
day it was chilly and my fingers were cold, so I decided to walk
to the end of the lane I was on, take some pictures and then return to
my car.

I don't know if you can tell how steep the decline is here from this shot.
Thinking that it might show better if I shot a picture facing back up the
hill, I walked down to the end of the hill, then turned and took a shot of
a monument near a tree:

I started walking back up the way I'd come, but now I could see the
family name on the monument: Dunham! I started taking pictures of the
headstones around it. When I came home, I researched the names online.

I'd found the family plot of Cornelius Dunham's older brother, Henry

To be continued....

Thursday, December 02, 2010


When I Googled for a connection between Cornelius Dunham and Abiel
Silver, one of the hits was a real find. Abiel and Ednah Hastings Silver's
daughter Ednah Silver had written a book on the American
Swedenborgian church, The History of the New Church in America.
There's a sizeable section in it on her father including pictures of all
three members of the family:

There's also one of their home in Jamaica Plain.

One of the stories Ednah told in her book was of how her father Abiel
lost an arm. He'd cut his hand peeling a piece of fruit and an incompetent
doctor's mistreatment of the wound started a blood infection which
eventually caused the arm to be amputated. Now this fact made me
wonder about Abiel Silver's death: he drowned. How did a one-armed
man end up drowning in the Charles River? I found the answe to that
at Googlebooks, contained in this article from Morning Light, The
New-Church Weekly:

"The Rev. Abiel Silver, chiefly known on this side of the Atlantic as
the author of some popular works, met with a painful end by
on March 27. It is supposed that when the train stopped he imagined
it had entered the station at Boston, instead of which it had halted on
Prison Point Bridge In stepping out it is thought he stepped directly
into the water. His struggles were heard, and a railway man extended
a board toward him, but being exhausted and having only one arm,
Mr. Silver could not clutch it sufficiently long to obtain further
assistance. The Boston Weekly Transcript of March 29 contains 
the following account of him:—

'Mr. Silver was a native of New Hampshire, and was nearly if not quite 
eighty-four years of age. He was formerly an Episcopal clergyman, but 
about thirty years ago he was ordained as a preacher of the 
Swedenborgian faith. He lived for some time in Michigan and Northern 
Indiana, where he was known as Judge Silver. Whilethere he met 
with an accident that rendered necessary the amputation of his 
left arm. He came east and for a while preached in Brooklyn, and
afterward in Hull and the Boston Highlands, for the Society of 
which he afterwards became pastor.When he first went to the 
Highlands the Society was worshipping in a hall, but the present
church edifice at the corner of Regent and Cliff  Streets was 
afterwards built, and Mr. Silver was settled as its pastor. 
Since coming east Mr. Silver has supplied pulpits at many places 
throughout New England, and became widely known. He has also 
preached in New York State and in Wilmington, Del. He has written 
many books and pamphlets on religious topics. Among these were 
books entitled "The Holy Wordin its Own Defence," "The Symbolical
Character of the Holy Scriptures," and "The Philosophy of the Christian
Religion." In personal character he was a quiet and unostentatious but
industrious worker, and did a great deal of good without display.
 He was remarkably strong and rugged for one of such advanced age, 
and took vigorous exercise daily, nearly always preferring to walk 
rather than ride. He leaves a widow and one unmarried daughter.' "


When I was a kid the holiday dinners rotated between our place
and my Uncle Ed’s and Aunt Emily’s. If Thanksgiving was at our
house, then Christmas would be at theirs. Since Emily is Italian
the holiday had an extra element for the dinner. We’d eat all the
traditional food: turkey, stuffing, veggies, and then after that was
cleared, Aunt Emily’s mom Nonnie Cappadano would bring out
the Italian food: lasagna, meatballs, stuffed sausages, and other
great dishes. To this day at Thanksgiving there is usually lasagna
served along with the turkey and I had leftovers of both sent
home with me here afterwards.

Since we now usually gather at my sister’s for Christmas Eve to
open gifts and eat, the food is a bit less formal, sometimes buffet
style with meatballs, cold cuts, and salad. Then Christmas Day
comes another big meal.

And that’s how an Irish Catholic family eats a lot of Italian at
holiday time.

2010 Update: I've had some health...umm...adventures this past
year which required I change my diet habits. On the good side,
I've lost 100 lbs. But boy, do I miss Italian food. So I'm
looking forward to Christmas Eve  at my sister's or niece's
house when I can have some lasagna (albeit in smaller
portions than in the past) and maybe one or two of those
cookies with the chocolate kisses! 

((first published in 2007)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


You know that part of the movie A Christmas Story where
the family goes out to buy the tree and the parents have a little
argument over it? Well, I laugh every time I see it because
like so much in that film it echoes my childhood.

Every Christmas when I was younger either we’d go shopping
for a tree or Dad would buy one on his way home from work.
Now as regular readers of this blog know by now, my dad was
from Maine. But even more than that, he had experience in trees.
He’d helped his father cutting down trees, and he’d worked for a
landscaper in the Boston area when he’d first come home from
the war. Mom would remind Dad of his experience every year
when the tree was fixed into the tree stand, the rope cut from
the branches and the inevitable big empty space was discovered.
Usually the problem was solved by rotating the tree so the empty
spot was in the back facing the wall. The lights were strung(and
here we differed from the film. We never blew out the fuses.),
then the garlands, the ornaments, and the icicles. Finally the
angel went up on top of the tree and we were all set. With
judicious watering the tree would last us until around “Little
Christmas” at which time it would be undecorated and deposited
curbside to await the dump truck.

Of course our tree paled in comparison to the giant my Mom’s
Uncle Tommy and Aunt Francis had in their home down in
Milton. It was so big they cut the top off and the branches didn’t
taper at the top. They were all the same size: large. I could
never believe they'd gotten that big a tree into the house in the
first place!

Then the first artificial Christmas trees hit the market and Mom
began vowing she was going to get one as she vacuumed up pine
needles from the rug. Eventually we did but that provided us
with new challenges, such as assembling the tree.

As we all grew older the prospect of trying to get the tree
together became less enchanting and so it too was replaced, this
time by a small ceramic musical tree that was lit from within by
a light bulb. I used that tree myself for several years after Mom
died although I felt no great urge to wind it up for the music. It
lasted until a few years back when I dropped it and the base
cracked. It sits now in a box in a shelf in my living room closet.

Its replacement is a small artificial tree that I bought at work with
my employee discount along with a garland. Last year some
friends sent me some snowmen ornaments for it. I haven’t put it
up yet but think I will this weekend. It fits on top of the tv.

And at some point over the holidays I’ll see that scene from A
Christmas Story again and grin.

2009 update: I bought a small string of battery powered lights
to add to my tree last week!

2010 update: I lost my Christmas stuff in my move last April so
I'll be picking it up another one at work soon.
Originally posted in 2007.


When I was researching the family Cornelius T. Dunham, I ran into a
small mystery. I could find no family tie with three people buried in the
Dunham family plot: Abiel Silver, Ednah Hastings, and Ednah Silver.
So I did a Google search on "Abiel Silver"+Dunham and found
that the connection was not blood but religion.

Abiel Silver was the minister at the Swedenborgian church in Boston
that CT Dunham attended. The two men must have been good friends
for Cornelius to allow Abiel and his family to be buried along side his

Now here's where synchronicity or coincidence or luck, call it what you
will once more comes into play: one of my Dad's maternal great
grandparents was named Amos Hastings Barker but I didn't make   
the connection with Abiel Silver's wife Ednah Hastings right away
because I was so caught up investigating the Dunhams. I mean,
what are the chances that another cousin from a different side of
the family would be buried in the same plot near my parents?

Yes. Ednah Hastings is not only a relative, she's actually even a
closer relative than Cornelius Dunham. Here's a relationship
chart I made with RootsMagic4:
 Ednah Hastings is Dad's 2nd cousin 4x removed through their
descent from John Hastings. To add even more to the irony, they
are also related through the Abbott and Farnum lines, since Ednah's
mother is descended from them as well!

I'm still gobsmacked.

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent person but there are some
things that are just beyond my ken. One of them is legalese. I've
been struggling to make heads or tails out the legal case cousin
Cornelius T. Dunham became embroiled in with an apparently
tenacious woman named Catherine Carson over a rice plantation
in South Carolina. Sometime during the Civil War a man named
Edmund Hyatt had taken out a mortgage on it with two men named
McBurney and Gillespie. Then C.T. was "assigned" the mortgage
and sought to foreclose, but by this time Ms.Carson was in possession
of the property and the lawsuits began to fly.

It appear the legal war was waged through the courts of South Carolina
and Massachusetts with two appearances at the United States Supreme
Court, one of which is described in the following record. I find it ironic
that Catherine Carson's case hinged on her claim that C.T. Dunham was 
a resident of South Carolina, not Massachusetts While he had once lived
and worked in Charleston, by the time this case was argued he and his 
family had long since returned to his native Massachusetts and taken up
residence there as the Federal Censuses show. My best guess is that
it was a delaying tactic on Ms. Carson's part since she'd been fighting
the foreclosure tooth and nail. It's at times like this that I had the legal
expertise of Perry Mason or Craig Manson!

So here are some of the particulars of the appearance of my cousin
before the U.S. Supreme Court. Oh, by the way, he won.



Submitted March 28,1887. — Decided April 25,1887.

When a case is removed from a state court to a Circuit Court of the
United States on the ground that the controversy is wholly between
citizens of different states, and the adverse party moves in the Circuit
Court to remand the case, denying the averments as to citizenship,
the burden is on the party at whose instance the suit was removed
to establish the citizenship necessary to give jurisdiction to the
Circuit Court.

Opinion of the Court.
A petition filed in a state court, showing on its face sufficient ground
for the removal of the cause to a Circuit Court of the United States,
may be amended in the latter court by adding to it a fuller statement
of the facts, germane to the petition, upon which the statements in
it were grounded.

In order to give jurisdiction to a Circuit Court of the United States
of a cause by removal from a state court, under the removal clauses
of the act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, it is necessary that the construction
ether of the Constitution of the Uuited States, or of some law or
treaty of the United States, should be directly involved in the suit;
but the jurisdiction for review of the judgments of state courts
given by § 709 of the Revised Statutes extends to adverse decisions
upon rights and titles claimed under commissions held or authority
exercised under the United States, as well as to rights claimed
under the Constitution laws or treaties of the United States.

A mortgage made in enemy's territory to a loyal citizen of the United
States does not necessarily imply unlawful intercourse between the
parties, contrary to the non-intercourse proclamation and act.

A petition for the removal of a cause from a state court should set
out the facts on which the right is claimed; not the conclusions of
law only. This was an appeal from an order of a Circuit Court 

remanding a case to the state court from which it had been 
removed. The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Clarence A. Seward and Mi: James Lowndes for appellant. 

Mr. A. G. Magrath and Mr. H. E. Young also filed a brief for

Mr. William E. Earle for appellee.

Mr. Chief Justice Waite delivered the opinion of the court.

This is an appeal under § 5 of the act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, 18
Stat. 470, from an order of the Circuit Court remanding a suit which
had been removed from a state court. The record shows that on the
11th of August, 1886, C. T. Dunham, the appellee, filed a bill in equity
in the Court of Common Pleas of Berkeley County, South Carolina,
against Caroline Carson, to foreclose a mortgage made by William
McBurney and Alfred L. Gillespie to Edmund Hyatt, which had been
assigned to Dunham. Is is alleged that Mrs. Carson is in possession
of the mortgaged property, and that she and the plaintiff are the
only necessary parties to the suit. Service was made on Mrs. Carson
by publication, for the reason, as shown by affidavit, that she did
not reside in South Carolina, but in Rome, Italy. On the 9th of October,
1886, which was the day service on her was completed, she entered
her appearance by counsel, and at the same time filed her petition
for the removal of the suit to the Circuit Court of the United States
for the District of South Carolina, on the following grounds:

" I. That all the matters therein have been already adjudged in her
favor by the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of
South Carolina.

"II. That the complainant is barred of his present action by a
judgment of the said court in her favor on the matter in controversy.

" III. That this court is without jurisdiction because a prior suit on the
 like matter is pending in the aforesaid court of the United States,
which, by its receiver, has possession of the subject matter of
this suit.

" IV. That the bond and mortgage sued on are void under the laws
of the United States.

"V. That the defendant holds title to Dean Hall plantation, the property
involved in this suit and mentioned in the complaint in the above-
entitled suit, under an authority exercised under the United States,
to wit, under a conveyance from the United States marshal for the
district of South Carolina, made under a decree of the United States
Circuit Court, for the said district, all of which will more fully
appear by her answer.

"The controversy in said suit is also wholly between citizens of
different states, viz., between the said C. T. Dunham, who, as your
petitioner is informed and avers, was, at the commencement of said
suit, and now is, a citizen of the state of South Carolina, and your
petitioner, who was, at the commencement of said suit, and now is,
a citizen of the state of Massachusetts; or the controversy in said
suit is wholly between Mary A. Hyatt, who was, at the commencement
of said suit, and now is, a citizen of the state of New York, and who is
the sole and only real party in interest in said suit and in said 

controversy, and your petitioner, who was, at the commencement of 
the said suit, and now is, a citizen of the state of Massachusetts, and 
which controversy is the only controversy in said suit; that the said 
Mary A. Hyatt is the real party plaintiff in said suit, and the said 
C. T. Dunham is but a nominal and colorable plaintiff, and that his 
name has been used merely for the purpose of defeating the 
jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of the United States for the 
District of South Carolina, and that said suit is, in fact, a
controversy wholly between the said Mary A. Hyatt and your 

petitioner, notwithstanding the assignment to the said C. T. 
Dunham in the complaint in said suit mentioned."

On the 11th of November Dunham filed in the Circuit Court an answer
to the petition of Mrs. Carson for removal, in which he denied that he
was a citizen of South Carolina, and averred that he was a citizen of the
same state with her, namely, Massachusetts. The issue made by this
answer was set down for trial in the Circuit Court, accompanied by an
order " that on such trial the burden shall be upon the defendant,
Caroline Carson, to show that the plaintiff, C. T. Dunham, is not a
citizen of Massachusetts."

Upon this trial it was substantially admitted that Dunham was at the
commencement of the suit a citizen of Massachusetts, and thereupon
the suit was remanded. From an order to that effect this appeal was 


The Circuit Court did not err in holding that the burden of proof was on
Mrs. Carson to show that Dunham was not a citizen of Massachusetts.
As she was the actor in the removal proceeding, it rested on her to
make out the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. Dunham having denied
that he was a citizen of South Carolina, as she had stated in her petition,
and having claimed that he was in fact a citizen of Massachusetts, the
same as herself, the affirmative was on her to prove that his claim was
not true, or, in other words, that he was a citizen of another state
than her own. 

Davis, J. Bancroft, United States Reports Vol 121: Cases Adjudged 
in the Supreme Court at October Term, 1886, Banks and Brothers,
Albany& New York 1887 pp421-430