Monday, April 30, 2012


Back in March I attended the 2012 New England Family History Conference,
and one of the sessions was one by Michael Potaski on "Finding Obscure
Family History Ancestors". Now I have many ancestors who fought in the
Revolutionary War but I have others from that period who I have not been
able to find any record that they served, so I was hoping to pick up some tips.
Then Mr Potaski mentioned something that surprised me. He mentioned that
there were other ways for a person to qualify for DAR or SAR membership
besides having an ancestor who fought in the war: ancestors who contributed
 money and supplies, or who served in some government capacity during
the Revolution, for example.

That night when I went back over the notes I'd taken that day I thought about what
Michael had said and as a historian realized it made sense. By supporting the
Revolution financially or by taking part in the new government, you were commiting
treason against the British Crown. You might not be facing the British army on the
field of battle, but you were still placing yourself in harm's way. In the early years
when things weren't going well for the Continental Army, there was always the
possibility that the crown would put down the rebellion, and then there would be a
reckoning. There were records with your name on them showing you had given
money to the King's  enemies, or had been part of the rebel government. Loyalists
would let the British troops know who the rebel sympathizers in town might be.
So for the first few years of the Revolution civilian supporters were in a different
sort of danger, but still in danger nevertheless.  So I could see why descendants
of such non combatants might qualify for membership in the Daughters of the
American Revolution or the Sons of the American Revolution.

Then this past Friday came the Rob Lowe episode of "Who Do You Think You Are".
Rob hoped to find that one of his ancestors had fought the British in the Revolution
but was shocked to find out an ancestor had actually been a Hessian soldier who
had been captured after the Battle of Trenton. Johan Christoph Oeste took
advantage of an amnesty offered by the Americans and left the British army to
settle in Pennsylvania. His descendants would know him as "Christopher East". 
Rob Lowe was thrilled at the end of the episode when he was invited to join
the SAR on the basis of Christoph's  payment of a "war tax".

Some viewers were upset by this, and I can understand that. I think somebody
either from the show or the SAR saw how badly Rob Lowe wanted to have an
Revolutionary War patriot for an ancestor and found a way to fulfill that wish.
I also think that desire colored Rob's interpretation of why his ancestor chose
to stay in America rather than return to Germany. The decision was probably
more for economic reasons rather than from a sudden conversion to the
colonists' cause. But I am concerned with how some have now leveled
criticism at the DAR and SAR for allowing membership for descendants
of noncombatants as if their ancestors were somehow less patriotic than
those who fought the British troops. After nearly 250 years, how can we
say whose ancestor was more patriotic? We weren't there. We can't know
what reasons someone might have had for not serving in the Continental
Army. Were my ancestors who went home after Lexington and Concord
less patriotic than my other ancestors who fought at Saratoga and spent
the winter at Valley Forge? Where do we draw the distinction? I don't think
the British would have made any. They would have all been either executed
or perhaps sent off in exile to another colony. Christoph Oeste would
have been executed as both a traitor and deserter.

They were all patriots.  The descendants of merchants and farmers who
gave money, or the officials of towns that supported the Revolution are
just as entitled to feel proud of  their ancestors as those of us whose
ancestors fought on the battlefield. The DAR and SAR are right to
recognize all their contributions to the Revolutionary War.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


We've all heard about the "shot heard round the world"
fired at Concord, but there's more to the poem. So, in honor of the
237th anniversary of the Battles of Concord and Lexington, here's
Ralph Waldo Emerson's  "Concord Hymn":

Concord Hymn
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Tomorrow is the 237th anniversary of the Battles of Concord and
Lexington.and in commemoration of that event I'm once more
posting the names of my Revolutionary War ancestors.

The italicized names are those whose Pension Files I've found.
If any one reading this shares my descent from these men, I'll be
glad to share the files with you if you don't already have them.: 

Jonathan Barker Jr.
Was a Minuteman from Methuen Ma with the rank of Sergeant. He
was at Lexington and Concord with his sons Jonathan (see below)
and Samuel. Served in Captain Samuel Johnson's Company in
Colonel Titcomb's Regiment for 2 months in 1777 in Rhode Island
and then with Nathaniel Gage' Company in Colonel Jacob Gerrish's
guards from Dec 1777 until April 1778 guarding the captured
troops of General Burgoyne.

Jonathan Barker 3rd

Enlisted on 19 Apr 1775 in Continental Army, Capt. John Davis'
Company, Col. James Frye's Regiment, in the Massachusetts line
for 8 months in Cambridge, Ma. At the conclusion of the term, he
reenlisted for another 3 months in Capt John Allen's Company,
Colonel John Waldron's Regiment, General Sullivan's Brigade in
the New Hampshire Brigade at Charlestown, Ma. He then enlisted a
third time in June 1778 at Methuen, Ma., joining Captain Samuel
Carr's Company, Col. James Weston's Regiment, in General Lerned's
Brigade at White Plains, N.Y. and serving for another 9 months.

John Ames
Was a Minuteman under Capt. Asa Parker on April 19th, 1775. He
subsequently enlisted in the Continental Army under Captain Oliver
Parker, Col. William Prescott's Regiment and in the Brigade that
was commanded in turn by Generals Putnam, Lee, and Washington.
and served for 8 1/2 months.

Asa Barrows
 A member of the militia from Middleborough , Ma. (south of
Boston) in the Company of Captain Joshua Benson, in Colonel
Cotton's Regiment, and General William Heath's Brigade for
8 months during the siege of  Boston.  In December 1776 he
joined a militia Company  commanded by Captain Joshua
Perkins and marched to Barrington, R.I. and was stationed there
for 6 weeks. In July 1780 he again enlisted, this time in a militia
company commanded by Captain Perez Churchill that marched
to Tiverton, R.I.

Moses Coburn
 Moses Coburn got into the War late and by reason of being
"hired by a certain class of men in the then town of Dunstable
to go into the Continental Army in the summer of  1781." When
he reached Phillipsburgh in New York he was placed in Captain
Benjamin Pike's Company, in the Regiment of the Massachusetts
line commanded by Lt. Colonel Calvin Smith in which he served
for nearly two years until it was broken up. He then transferred to
the Company of Judah Alden in the Regiment commanded by
Colonel Sprouts until his discharge in 1783.

Samuel Haskell
Samuel served in Captain Joseph Elliott's Company in Colonel
William Turner's Regiment and then under Captain Hezekiah
Whitney in Colonel Josiah Whitney's Regiment.

Amos Hastings
Amos  responded to the Lexington Alarm as part of Captain
Richard Ayer's Company and Colonel William Johnson's Regiment.
He later served in Captain Timothy Eaton's Company in Colonel
Edward Wigglesworth's Regiment and was at the taking of  the
British General Burgoyne at Ticonderoga.

Elisha Houghton
Enlisted at Harvard Ma as a Private in May of 1777in the
Massachusetts militia and was at the Battles of Bunker Hill
and Stillwater. He then enlisted for three years in the infantry
company commanded by Captain  Joshua Brown in Colonel
Timothy Bigelow's 15th Regiment of the Massachusetts line.
and took part in the Battles of Monmouth and Newport and was
at Valley Forge. He twice was promoted to Sergeant and  twice
was busted down to the ranks.

Amos Upton
Responded to the Lexington Alarm and marched there from his
home in Reading. He later joined the militia company commanded
by Captain Asa Prince as an orderly sergeant and then enlisted
for eight months in the Continental Army under Colonel Mansfield
He was at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was discharged in October
of 1775.

John Griffith
Enlisted in 1781 as a Matross (he swabbed out the barrel of the
cannons after they fired, or so I've been told) in Captain William
Treadwell's Company  in Colonel John Crane's Artillery Regiment.

Reuben Packard
A Sergeant in Captain Josiah Hayden's Company in Colonel Bailey's
militia. They marched to Lexington at news of the Alarm. He also
responded several more times as a Minuteman for a total of nearly
8 months duty.

Jonathan Abbot
Served as a Sergeant in the Militia under Captain Henry Abbott
and responded to the Lexington Alarm

Besides those direct ancestors, these other relatives fought
in the Revolution:

Moses Barrows, brother to Asa Barrows.

Samuel, Jesse, and Benjamin Barker, sons of Jonathan Barker,
Jr. and brothers to Jonathan Barker 3rd.

James Swan, brother in law to Jonathan Barker 3rd.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I'd been looking forward to the release of the 1940 Federal Census for
some time now because I had some questions that needed answers on
my Mom's side of the family. As I've written here before, her parents had
divorced when she was quite young and there pretty much was no contact
with her father or his family afterward. I've since made contact with my
half-uncle, his son by his second marriage, but knew very little about the
lives of my grandfather's siblings. I didn't even know the dates of his
parents' deaths. So I hoped the 1940 Census would fill in some blanks on
the family tree.

According to the 1930 Census, my great grandparents Edward J White and
Pauline(Offinger)White were living at 172 Florence St  in Boston, Ma. Living
with them were their youngest daughter Esther, 16years old, and their 20
year old daughter Ruth (White) Fitzgerald with her husband Albert and their
daughter Ruth. My great grandfather was  56 and working as a teamster for
the city of Boston. Alfred was a housepainter by trade.

I used the ED number from 1930 to find Florence St on the 1940 Census but
when I did, there had been changes. My great grandparents were no longer
living there, and my grandaunt's family(now with four children) were
living at a different building on Florence St. So I turned to  the Boston City
Directories. I tried the one for 1940 first and couldn't find my greatgrandfather.
But I did find Pauline listed as a widow renting on Wood Avenue in the
Mattapan neighborhood of Boston. Using that information I was able to
locate her on the 1940 Census. She was listed as "mother-in-law" living
with another daughter, Elizabeth, who had married a Boston policeman
named Guido Biaggi. There were three granddaughters, Elizabeth, Doris,
and Paula, ages 16, 14, and 6 respectively. I hadn't known about the Biaggi
family at all before now. Pauline was now widowed, but I couldn't find any
record of my great grandfather's death.

Ironically, when I did find it, I was trying to locate my grandfather in the 1940
directory. My grandfather was Edward F. White; my great grandfather was
Edward J. White. I found them both on page 2270. My grandfather was living
at 51 Burrell St in the Roxbury neighborhood, but the entry for Edward J White
said he'd died on 2Sep 1939.

So I've found more White family relations. I still haven't found my grandfather
on the new Census and there are more siblings to track down, but it's a start!

Monday, April 09, 2012


I've had no success finding anything online on the accidental death of the other
John McFarland  on May 24th 1888. I'll try to get into Boston sometime in the
next few weeks to check the newspaper archives at the main branch Boston
Public Library for other newspapers other than the Boston Globe. There were
around six newspapers in Boston at the time and  one of them must have carried
the story even if the Globe hadn't.

The account of great granduncle Frank McFarland's death in the trench cave-in
posed a few questions for me. The story mentions his two brothers arrival at the
scene. Was it actually  the two John McFarlands or did my great grandfather John
have another brother here in Boston I didn't know about? Were the two elderly
parents who Frank supported here as well or still back home in Ireland?

I can make what I think is a valid assumption as to one effect of Frank McFarland's
death: my great grandparents had to move. From a street directory I know that
great grandfather John and family lived in a house at 37 Coventry Street in Boston.
Frank's address on his death record was the same. A few months after his death,
my granduncle Frank(who taught me how to make tomato and mayonaise
sandwiches when I was a kid)was born at home on 24Nov, 1886. I'm pretty
sure he was named after his deceased uncle.More important is the fact
that the family was now living at  171 Vernon Street. I think Frank had
been contributing to the rent of the house on Coventry Street and with
his death the family could no longer afford to live there so they had

This made me wonder.....

So I went looking at earier Boston City Directories to see if Frank had been living
with my great grandparents at the first address I knew about, 44 Berlin St in 1883.
I found them, along with the "other John" and then a surprise, a fourth McFarland,
Terrance McFarland. Could this be the other brother mentioned in the newspaper
article? It looks like he moved out on his own when my great grandparents moved
to 171 Vernon St  but in 1894 he was back with them at 9 Albert St in 1894. In
1895 he had moved out on his own again and lived on Burke St.

Next I tried searching FamilySearch and ran into a bit of frustration. I found a listing
for Terrence in the Massachusetts, Deaths 1841-1915 file that said his parents'
names were Michael and Dorothy which matched my great grandfather's parents
as Frank's had. But when I looked a the image, half the record was missing! I
checked the previous image and the next image and it looks like the odd
numbered page images are missing for that year! At any rate, it told me
Terrence was a widower who'd died  on 1Sep 1915 and that he'd lived at
938 Parker St. That pretty much clinched it for me that Terrence was the
older brother of my great grandfather  John since John lived on Parker St
from at least 1910 until his own death  in 1923.

A death notice in the Boston Globe for 2Sept 1915 told me Terrence had a
wife named Ann (Gerone) McFarland. A look at the 1900 Census for their
household at 938 Parker St revealed they'd been married 33 years in 1900
so the marriage had taken place in 1866 or 1867. In the 1910 Census it
indicates Ann had four children all of whom had survived to adulthood.
Two daughters lived with them, Kate and Mary, and Mary had been born in
Scotland. That ties in again with my great grandparents who had met and
married in Scotland. There was a Michael McFarland living in the same
house on Parker St who was also born in Scotland. He probably is the
son who reported Terrence's death.

Cousin Chris Markunas had told me there was a listing of Boston City
Employees on the Boston Public Library website. I checked there and
found my great grandfather as a laborer for the Sewer Department in
1905 and paid $2.25 a day. Terrence was also a Sewer Dept. employee,
a pipe layer paid the same amount.

Given all this, I'm convinced that Terrence McFarland is another great
granduncle and the other brother who broke down and wept with my
great grandfather John at the death of their brother Frank.

To be continued 

Thursday, April 05, 2012


I wanted to see if I could find a newspaper account of the death of either
my great granduncle Frank McFarland or the other John McFarland
buried with my great grandfather John. I checked the local libraries 
websites to see how far back their newspaper archives went but
neither had Boston newspapers from the 1880s. Then I tried the
largest nearby city library in Quincy but had no luck there either.
I resigned myself to a trip into the Main Branch Public Library
in Boston, then realized tomorrow was Good Friday and they
might be closed early. I didn't want to wait until next week for
the trip.

Then I asked my Facebook genealogy friends which website
might have late 19th century Boston newspapers available
online and got some great suggestions. Among them was
one from Marian Pierre-Louis that I apply for an E-Card
from the Boston Public Library which would give me
access to their online link to archives of the Boston  Daily
Globe from the period. I followed her advice and ten minutes
after submitting my application I was online and found what
I'd hoped to find.

Thanks Marian!

So, here is my transcription of the story in the Boston Daily
Globe on Saturday, August 14th, 1886 with the details of the
terrible accident that took my great granduncle Frank
McFarland's life on the day before which, I just now realized,
was Friday the 13th!  One of his two brothers mentioned
in the report was probably my great grandfather:   

"Dead Under Tons of Land
Frank McFarlane's Living Burial
The Caving Ditch at Brighton And The Struggle for Life
The Successful Search For The Body
-Cunningham's Escape"

The body of Frank McFarlane, who yesterday morning at 10.30 was buried by
the accidental caving in of the sides of a ditch in which he was working, was
discovered last evening at 5.26. He was sent about nine days ago to brace the
sewer ditch on Waverley street, Brighton. On account of the treacherous
character of the soil, which is of a sandy, gravelly nature, a skilful man was
required. Yesterday morning Mr. Grace, who is superintending the construction
of the sewer, spoke to McFarlane about polling braces at the bottom of the
ditch, which was about fifteen feet deep. At first McFarlane thought such
precaution  unnecessary, but finally decided to act upon the suggestion,
and, taking Thomas Cunningham, had begun strengthening the bottom of
the ditch when one of the men above cried:

"Come out, both of you, as quick as you can; the ditch is caving!"

Cunningham immediately ran towards the nearest exit, which was at the
westerly end, and McFarlane, after a moment, started for the opening in the
opposite direction. Cunningham succeeded in making his escape while, as
the result showed, McFarlane was overtaken about half way between the
point from which he started and the exit, and was buried alive beneath
tons of sand and gravel.

All the afternoon a gang of about sixty men, many of them without dinner,
labored hard and earnestly with the faint hope that the braces might have fallen
from both sides and prevented him from being crushed. As the afternoon
wore on and the loose soil continued caving and preventing rapid headway
this hope began to vanish, and at about 5.26, when John Coughlin cried,
"Here he is!" scarcely one of the immense crowd that had gathered expected
to see anything but a lifeless corpse.

At the moment the body was found two men rushed in from the crowd which
had been roped off by the officers, and, in spite of the detaining cries of those
in charge, made straight for the edge of the ditch, crying: "Is his name Mcfarlane?
Is he dead?" They were the two brothers of the victim, and had spent the
afternoon in a wild search among the hospitals and police stations of the city
for their brother, whom they had heard was killed.The grief of these two
strong men, both of whom sat around on the ground and wept like children,
was heartrending.

It was almost an hour after the body was discovered that it could be extricated
from the earth and timbers. When this was at length accomplished, and the
body of the unfortunate man was borne in the rough and brawny arms of his
comrades carefully and gently to the ambulance which was in waiting, sobs
and exclamations of pity arose from all sides. The hands were found to be
open with the fingers close together, like those of a man swimming, while
upon the face was a calm look, as if the victim, after a brief struggle with his
hands, had desisted and become resigned to his fate.

The body was conveyed to Station 14, whence it will be removed to 13 Coventry
street, where the unfortunate man lived, Although McFarlane was unmarried
and had no family of his own, he leaves an aged father and mother, to whose
support he was the principal contributor. "

To be continued.