Saturday, February 27, 2010


I haven't seen all three episodes of "Faces of America" as yet. I missed
all of Part 2 and half of Part 3 due to my umm...vacation. But I do have
some impressions I'd like to share before the final episode is shown.

Like some others I'm not entirely pleased with the format. Ideally
there'd be an episode or a half episode for each of the celebrities and
more details given of the actual research. But this is PBS with less
money to spend and a limited number of episodes so I understand
the decision to go with a sort of theme approach. There's been some
criticism of Prof. Gates' style but he's not a tv host by trade, he's a
professor and he presents the information in a professorial manner.

That being said, I've enjoyed what I've seen. The expressions on
the faces and emotional reactions of the celebrities as Prof. Gates
shows them some pictures or documents are touching. Many of us
have experienced that moment ourselves when we discover things
we didn't know about our families. And as a historian I like how
the program shows how events around them shape the history and
fortunes of families.

So is "Faces of America" perfect?

No, but it's a fine program anyway and well worth viewing!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


While I was recuperating at the hospital I got some great
news. I made the Family Tree Magazine Top 40 Genealogy
Blogs list! Boy, was that a shot in the arm!

I want to thank the people who voted for me and the editors
of Family Tree Magazine for this honor and for putting me in
with such a great bunch of bloggers. Congratulations to
all my co-winners !

Thanks so much!


Alright, so it wasn't really a vacation.

As some of my friends (FB and otherwise) know, I'd been
fighting what I thought was a bad chest cold.About 2 weeks
ago I got laryngitis but instead of clearing up it got worse
and I felt drained. Stubbornly (and stupidly) I tried to work
my way through it, figuring it was pneumonia. Last Wed,
when I left for work I was having difficulty breathing so I
stopped in a doctor's office on the way and they had me
drive myself immediately to the emergency room at the
South Shore Hospital.

Turns out I had congestive heart failure.

I came home yesterday after a week's stay. There was
some heart damage but I'm alive and making the
necessary changes to ensure I stay that way.

I'd like to thank my family, especially my sister Cheryl
for seeing me through this.

Thanks also to everyone for their good thoughts sent
my way,

And thanks to the ladies of the 5th Floor Pratt wing at
the South Shore Hospital for taking such good care of me!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Unexpected Vacation

This week has brought an unexpected vacation....and not one that involves a road trip.

I have been admitted to a local hospital. While the "contintental breakfast" compares to that of the economy lodgings to which I have become so accustomed, they pale to those I am used to preparing at home.

However... I am gathering material on which I hope to blog in the near future.

Stay tuned.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I posted on FB yesterday that I'd finally figured out how to set
up a wireless connection with my new laptop and received some
congratulatory comments. Among them was one from fellow
geneablogger Terry Thornton who sent along lines from a poem
by James Oppenheim. He also emailed the complete poem
to me here and now I'm sharing it with you. I've never heard
of Oppenheim before but I'm going to look for more of his work.

I really like this. Thanks, Terry!

by James Oppenheim
A man named Millener sits up all of an April night in Omaha
Trying to signal the planet Mars and get a reply . . .
It is the time when Mars is nearest Earth
And now the two coasting planets in the Old Black Sea
May hail one another and break those two silences
We call Infinity and Eternity.
Millener has a giant wireless which sends waves so long that sound goes silent
And the waves search through interstellar space
And wash the shores of planets . . .
His wireless is a mouth speaking to the stars . . .
It speaks: and becomes an ear . . .
An Earth-ear so great it cannot hear the flying wireless words of Europe and Ameria
But is tuned only to the heavens. . . .
"We shall soon know," thinks Millener, "whether there are others beside ourselves
in the universe"
So he sends the signals.
Then all night long he waits, watching and listening . . .
His ear is to the void, to the abyss. . . .
But there is no answer . . . the Silence remains Silence.
from A Miscellany of American Poetry 1920. New York: Harcourt,Brace and Howe.
1920. Page 104.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


By the time John Prescott died in 1681 he owned over 700 acres of land in and
around Lancaster, Ma. which passed into the hands of his various children and
grandchildren. But as I've shown in a series of posts last year his descendants
didn't have an easy time of it due to the constant clashes with the Native American
of New England. Lancaster was still very much a frontier town with its garrison-houses
and sentries. And despite their vigilance the citizens occasionally still fell victim to
sudden attacks.

Here is one instance that took place on 11Sept 1697::

"In Massachusetts Archives, n, 257, is a letter from Governor William Stoughton to
the Governor and Council of Connecticut, from which this is an extract:

"Boston Sept. 14, 1697.

Upon ye it"' instant a party of Indians to y* number of about Forty as was judged,
about twelve o clock the same day, Surprized and kild about 26 persons at Lancaster,
of which the minister of the Town was one, burnt two Garrison houses and two Barnes,
the Garrisons being left open and y* Inhabitants surprized in their Fields: there is a
of men out in pursuit of y* Enemy"
-Early Records of Lancaster, Massachusetts 1643-1725 (page 133)

Among the dead were Jonathan Fairbank and his children Grace and Jonas. Jonathan
was a grandson of John Prescott and the son of Jonas Fairbanks who'd been killed in
the siege of Lancaster in 1676.

By the beginning of the period known as Queen Anne's War there were eleven
garrison-houses in Lancaster. One of these belonged to Lancaster's minister
Andrew Gardner and was manned by his neighbors during times of Indian
activity in the area. I can't imagine living under the constant tension the families of
Lancaster endured. Nearly thirty years of warfare that must have touched nearly
everyone, with homes destroyed, relatives killed, and loved ones carried off as captives.

On 30Jul 1704, Lancaster was once more attacked, its meetinghouse burned and
three people killed. Then in October a colonist was killed in the woods near Groton
and Lancaster went on alert. The expected force of Indians did eventually appear,
but they were preceded by a tragic death caused in part by their approach:

"On Thursday night the Reverend Mr Gardner Minister of Lancaster was unfortunately
shot by the Sentinel on the Watch, supposing him to be an Indian climbing over the
Walls of the Fortification: of which wound he died in an hours space or little more.

[Boston News Letter, October 30, 1704.]"
-(p 149)

I'll discuss the details in the next post.

POST #700

I've been coming up on blogpost #700 for awhile now and
debated with myself whether or not I should make mention of it
or just let it pass unnoticed.

Then last night as I was watching "Faces of America" (excellent, btw)
I noticed an email had come in on my computer with the subject
of "Leonidas West". It turned out to be a letter from a young lady
who is Leonidas West's great granddaughter and so is my
third cousin once removed. That makes three West cousins in the
last two months, including Betty(another third cousin once removed)
and Mark(a fourth cousin) and all three descended from different
children of John Cutter and Arvilla Ames West.

So it occurred to me this morning: what better way to mark the
700th post than celebrating hearing from a new cousin?

And that's what I've done!

Sunday, February 07, 2010


As much as Mary Gates' outburst at Sunday meeting must have been the subject of
much conversation, I think it must have paled in comparison to the following
incident. It's a classic case of "he said she said" on a subject that might outrage
people even in 21st century America. And there were my ancestors John and
Mary Prescott as witnesses right in the middle of it.

A few notes: Lancaster was known by the Indian name Nashaway originally and
the buttery referred to in Cambridge was a store room for kegs and caskets of
wine and liquor, not dairy products.

And I've boldfaced the statement Goodwife Hall was accused of making:

"1651. Declaration of Elizabeth the wife of John Hall of Nashaway against George Whaley of Cambridge. [MS. torn] Sheweth vnto this honored Court that about foure moneths since
George [Whaley] Steuen Day & Samuell Rayner of Cambridge were at Nashaway and
[MS. torn] the house of John Prescott there fell out a discourse betweene John Prescott & Steuen Day in W* discourse John Prescott did speake against John & his wife Steuen Day
did vindicate the cause of Goodwife Hall in her absence against John Prescott till at length George Whaley bade Steuen Day that he should not goe about to justify the woman for
Whaley [MS. torn] that when Sr Phillips came from Nashaway he came into the buttery at
the College in Cambridge where the said George Whaley demanded of Sr. Phillips how all
their friends at Nashaway did, to wch Sr Phillips answered they were all well. Mr Whaley
further demanded how he liked the place, he answered uery well. It is a desirable place as
any was in the country as he conceaved. Mr Whaley further asked how he liked the people,
he answered he liked them uery well only there were some that held this opinion, that all
things were common & said he came one morninge to goodwife halls house & as soon as he
was come goodwife hall demanded of him whether all things were not common now as in the apostles tyme, & before that Sr. Phillips could give answer she did further say that this is my judgment, that all things are common, mens wiues alsoe, at wch speech Steuen Day was much troubled and grieued & had not one word more to say, & in the morning after, the said Day & Reynor [went] to goodwife halls house & being sad at the report he there expressed his in these words. I feare there is an (word illegible} amongst you, I wish he may be found out, to wch' goodwyfe hall answered if any of them gave any thinge against me if they will tell mee of it I will give them satisfaction, Steuen Day said he was glad to heare it for out of thy owne mouthe they will judge thee, for thus Mr Whaley [says] that Sr. Phillips hath reported of thee as is before expressed goodwife hall denyed that euer she spake any such thinge, nor did she hold any such opinion, herevpon Steuen Day demanded of Samuel
Rayner whether
Mr Whaley did not speake as he had then related, to wch Samuel Rayner answered yt was soe & he would take his oath of it, This relation of Steuen Day in goodwife halls house & Samuell Rayners [relation] of it was in goodwife halls house Richard Smith present. Goodwife hall much greived at it that such a scandall should be raysed against her, knowinge herself free & cleare, desired to speake with Mr Whaley & on the next day after, in the morninge did take Richard Smith and Lawrence Waters with her wch sd Smith & Waters cominge to Mr Whaley desiringe to speake w"' him he bade them take heed how they did
speake anything for the woman, yet promised to speake wth her after breakfast at wch
tyme Steuen Day, Richard Smith & Lawrence Waters & goodwife hall came to Mr Whaley; goodwife hall demanded of Mr Whaley what he had against her Whaley answered that
Sr Phillips in the buttery at the College had spoken as before expressed, only he did then
leaue out _ mens wiues. this testified Richard Smith Lawrence Waters & Steuen Day"

Goodwife Hall apparently was not going to take this lying down and brought George
Whaley to court:

"To Steuen Day & Samuel Reyner of Cambridge. You are hereby required to appeare at the
next Court held at Cambridge the 7"' day of y' eight moneth next to wittnes for the wife of
John Hall of Nashaway in a case in difference betweene her & George Whaley of Cambridge
— & hereof you are not to fayle at your perill."

dated the 12th day of the 7th mo 1651. By the Court
Hugh Griffyn C."

First to testify were my Prescott ancestors:

"The testimony of Goodman Prescot & his wife After that Mr Phillips came from Goodwife
Halls hee told mee and my wife that goodwife Hall did aske him what he thought by y
judgment of those that hold that all things are common. Mr Phillips asked her how shee
[meant] all things common whether as it was in ye' Apostles tyme, her answer was all
things without any exception, and Mr Phillips said it was a damnable opinion; yea indeed
(shee said) I have knowne sad effects come of it, and in further discourse hee said shee
said shee kept one in her house which was of that opinion.

Attested uppon oath by John Prescot in Court
John Prescott
The mark X of Mary Prescott
Th . Danforth Record"

Next came the statements of Smith and Waters:

"The Testimony of Richard Smith & Lawrence Waters concerning the speeches of George
Whaley against hall.

Cominge to Mr Whaley in the next morninge after the relation of Steuen day at goodwife
halls the said Smith & Waters desired to speake with Mr Whaley, he bade them take heed
how they did speake any thing for the woman, yet promised to speake with her after
breakefast at wch time. Steuen day beinge alls'oe present goodwife hall demanded of Mr
Whaley what he had against her, to wch Mr Whaley made this answer that Sr Phillips in the buttery at the College in Cambridge cominge into the buttery answered to him as
followeth . Mr Whaley demanded first how did all freinds at Nashaway. Sr. Phillips answered they are well. Whaley further demanded how he liked the place, he answered very well,
it was a desirable place as any was in the country, as he conceived . Mr Whaley further demanded how he liked the people, he answered he liked them well only there was some
that held this opinion that all thinges were common, Mr Whaley demanded who they were,
he answered John Hall's wife."

Finally Samuel Raner and Stephen Day added their testimony:

"The Testimony of Samuel Raner is that he heard Lieft. George Whaley say yt Sr Phillips
told him yt Goodwife Hall asked whether all things were comon. Attested uppon oath in
Tho Danforth Rec.

The Testimony of Stephen Day is that he heard Lieft George Whaley say y' he received by report of Sr Phillips that Goodwife Hall had proposed a question of this import whether all
things wr common. Attested"

So now would come Goodwife Elizabeth Hall's chance to refute what she claimed were
slanderous statements by George Whaley. Or would it?

"The foregoing documents in the case of Elizabeth, wife of John Hall, vs. Lieut. George Whaley,
for slander, are in the Court files of Middlesex County. Lawrence Waters had sold his first house-lot of about seventeen acres, and the house upon it, to John Hall. Elizabeth Hall was
living there, while her husband at this time was in England. He soon sent for her to come to
him, and the estate was sold to Richard Smith. The suit against Whaley never came to

So Goodwife Hall left Massachusetts under a bit of a cloud of scandal. She never had the
opportunity to question George Whaley or this Mr Phillips who supposedly was Whaley's
source. (And why hadn't his testimony been taken as the others had been?). On the other
hand, the townsfolk of Nashaway had more important things than a minor scandal to
keep their minds busy, such as simply surviving!

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Once again it's the time of year when awards are handed
out, even in the geneablogging community. As a member of
the AGFH(Academy of Genealogy & Family History) it;s my
pleasure to select the best blog posts in five different
categories So without further ado, here are my picks for the
2009 West in New England Genie Awards!

Best Picture-The gravestone of John Cutter West (1802-1862).
I didn't post very many pictures to the blog in `09 but even if I had
I'd choose this one. It reminds me of the location beside the
highway and of the nearby headstones of his granchildren who had
died in the diptheria outbreak of 1862.

Best Screen Play-The Haskell Inheritance.
This is actually a series of posts recounting the legal battle between
the children of Roger Haskell and their stepfather Edward Berry
over their inheritance. I'd like to see Ted Danson play Berry, Glenn Close
play Elizabeth (Hardy) Haskell Berry, Robbie Coltrane as Uncle William
Haskell, and in the epilogue, Betty White as Beatrice Berry,

Best Documentary- Cyprian Stevens' Letter
The text of Cyprian Steven's letter to the governor and his council
asking for aid for the citizens of Lancaster, Ma who were under siege by
Indians. If this were ever turned into a screenplay it would be part
of a documentary series on Lancaster in the 17th century!

Best Biography-The Jeremiah Swain Series
I was extremely fortunate to find a lot of material on Jeremiah, including
his correspondence with the Governor's Council. This is a prime example
of the value of Google Books in genealogical research. Oh, and I'd cast
John Hamm in the movie version.

Best Comedy-Geneablogger Blues
I was tired and struggling to come up with a blog topic, and for some
reason I started composing this. It tickled my funnybone and from the
comments I got about it, it seems it did the same for some of my readers.
In fact, what better way to close out the awards?

"I've got the Geneablogger Blues
Have some mercy if you please
And that will conclude
The Third Annual Genies!"

Thank you. Thank you very much!

((written for the 90th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy))


The 89th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is up over at Jasia's
Creative Gene blog and the assignment was to write a poem
suitable for use as an introduction to a book or video on your family's
history. Eighteen geneabloggers took the challenge and the results
are outstanding. Be sure to check them out!

As per usual, Jasia then issued the call for submissions to the next

"The topic for the next edition (#90!) of the COG will be:
Third Annual iGene Awards, The Best of The Best!
Academy awards time... time for the Academy of Genealogy and
Family History, aka AGFH, to honor their best blog posts of 2009
in the following 5 categories:
  • Best Picture - Best old family photo that appeared on your blog in 2009.
    Tell us which you liked best and why.
  • Best Screen Play - Which family story that you shared in 2009 would
    make the best movie? Who would you cast as your family members?
  • Best Documentary - Which was the best informational article you wrote about a place, thing, or event involving your family's history in 2009?
  • Best Biography - Which was the best biographical article you wrote in 2009?
  • Best Comedy - Which was the best funny story, poem, joke, photo, or video
    that you shared on your blog in 2009?"

"The deadline for submissions is February 15th, 30 submissions
will be accepted.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy
using our carnival submission form ."

This one is always fun and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Back before the holidays and before I had computer problems I added some books
to my Google Books library that dealt with some of my family lines or that were
histories of the towns where my ancestors lived. I had great success finding information
about my ancestors from Google Books that also provided me with plenty of material
for my blog and I'm hoping my luck with that will hold in 2010.

First up is a series of documents from a book about Lancaster, Ma. where my
ancestors John Prescott and Simon Willard(among others) lived. These pertain
to a young lady named Mary Gates who got herself into a bit of trouble when
she impulsively came to the defense of her mother during a church assembly.
John Prescott and Simon Willard have prominent roles in this affair:

"To Mary Gates of Lancaster.
By virtue heerof you are to apeere at the next Countie Court at Cambridge, to answer the complaint of John Prescott & James Atherton, for your sinfull cariage in the assembly one
the lord's daye — heerof you are not to faille at your perill.

Datted this 27th: of the IIth: mo 1656.
Simon Willard."

Next is the testimony about the outburst:

"The deposition of John Prescott & James Atherton both of Lancaster.
Vpon a lords day att after exercise in the afternoone goodwife gats being called forth to
giue satisfaction for sum ofence done against Master Rowlandson, and she justifying
herself, saying that she had formerly giuen him satisfacion, and in after Master
Rowlandson replved by sum arguments proving that she had not formerly giuen him satisfacion, her daughter Marie gats stood vp vncalled uerie boldly in the publique
asembly contradicting our minister, when he denyed that goodwife gats had giuen him satisfacion. the said marie gats said yes and shee would take her oath of it.

This was taken vpon oath the 27th of the 11th mo. 1656, before me.
Simon Willard."

Two other young women of the congregation had given their depositions earlier:

"Lancaster the 6th of the 11th mon 1656.

The deposition of Lidia Cibie Aged about 19 years. Vpon the Last Lord's daye goodwife
gats being called forth in the publique Congregacion to acknowledge an ofence don
against Master Rowlandson, 1 heard mary gats speake to Sergant Kerly that he would
goe and speake, he said noe for it will giue ofence. Ofence—said shee, Lett those take
ofence and be hanged all, If they will.

Sara Waters Aged 20 years witneseth, That shee heard mary gats at the same time
speaking to Sargant Kerly. She said Lett them take ofence and be hanged all. If they will.

these weare both taken vpon oath the 27th of the 11th mon 1656 before me.
Simon Willard."

Finally, Mary Gates confesses and apologizes:

"I Mary gates doe acknoleg that whearas I have spoke sumthing not long sence at this
place that was mater of joste offence and uery sinfull, I am hertely sory for it and doe
desire the Congregtion to pas it by, and I shall endever by the helpe of god not to alowe
myself in any such practes. this was acknoledged in publick in our hearing.

William Kerly Juner
William Kerly Sener
Henry Kerly."

But Mary Gates wasn't quite out of trouble yet. There was a little matter
of court costs to settle and her failure to appear in court:

"April 7 1657. This Court grants an Attachment agst Mary Gates of Lanchaster, and to
Jno. Prescott a bill of costs for himselfe & witnesses being 24s to be pd by the said Gates
and shee is to appeare at y* next Court to Answr ye Complt of the said Prescott & James Atherton for her sinfull Cariage in the assembly on y* Lords day."

"To the honoured Governour, Deputy Governour with the rest of the honoured magistrats assembled at the County Court holden at Charlestown the 16 of this instant Iune 1657,
In most humble wise sheweth and complaineth, and . . [a line worn orf in fold] . . petitioner Mary Gats of Sudbury lat of Lancaster was summoned to appeare at the County Court
held at Cambridge the seaventh of A prill last past and did not, your petitioner thought
that full satisfaction had been giuen befor the honoured Maior Willard for the offence,
also acknoledgement and satisfaction was farther rendered by your petitioner to all or
any persons at lancaster, whom it might concern, further your petitioner was informed
that if shee did appeare by an agent it might be exepted, hence what your petitioner did
was out of ignorance and not of any contempt of athoryty or aversnes farther to
acknoledge the euill of my rash spech and shall be at your mercy, submitting to your
fauorable sensur, allways praying for you.

Mary Gats."

"23 ,, 4 ,, 1657. Mary the daughter of Steuen Gates of Lanchaster being complained of
to this Court for bold and vnbeseeming speeches vsed in the Pubiique Assembly on the
Lords Day. and especially agst Mr Rowlason minister of Gods word there the evidence thereof appeareth by the testimony of Jno. Prescott & James Atherton Lidea Kibbie &
Sarah Waters wch are on file with y* records of this Court. the sd Mary Gates appearing
in Court freely, acknowledged her great evil therein, the Court admonished her. & ordered
that she should pay the Witnesses their charges & costs of Court."

And so ended an expensive lesson for Mary Gates about arguing in the church assembly
with the minister, even if it was in defense of her mother!

((Source :The early records of Lancaster, Massachusetts. 1643-1725, Parts 0-2322
By Lancaster (Mass.), 1884 Henry Stedman Nourse ed., pp46-48))