Thursday, May 31, 2012


As I wrote in the last post, I've been going through the Oxford County
Court records over at looking for cases involving
my Dad's ancestors.(Dunhams and Coburns and Wests,oh my!) Most
of what I've found so far has been civil suits involving debts, such
as the one I posted last time about 3x great grandfather John
Cutter West. But yesterday I found a document that was a criminal
case, and it involves one of John's brothers-in-law.   

My 3x great grandmother Arvilla (Ames) West was one of ten children of
Jonathan Phelps Ames and Polly Griffeth. In 1823 her oldest brother,
15 year old brother Jonathan Phelps Ames Jr ran afoul of the law: 

August Term 1823
Criminal 2
State v Jon. P.Ames Jr

The Jurors for the State aforesaid, upon their oath present, that Jonathan
P. Ames Jr of Livermore in said County of Oxford, laborer, on the second
day of July now last past about the hour of eleven, in the night time of the
same day, with force & arms, at Livermore aforesaid, in the county aforesaid,
the shop of William H. Brinton, there situate, did enter with intent the goods
& chattels of the said  Brinton in the said shop then & there being, feloniously
to steal, take & carry away, and then & there  two dollars in silver change, in
quarters, tenths,  eighths & sixteenths of a dollar of the value of two dollars,
the goods, chattels property, and money of the said Brinton in the same shop
then & there being found, with force & arms, feloniously  steal, take and
carry away against the, law peace & dignity of said state & against the form
of the statute in such case made & provided. And now the said Jonathan P.
Ames Junr. is set to to the bar & has this indictment read to him & is asked
thereof if he is guilty or not guilty, who thereupon for plea says he is guilty.

Whereupon the court having considered the offence whereof the said
Jonathan P. Ames Jr. stands convict, do order that he be punished by
solitary imprisonment for the term of ten days & by confinement afterwards
to hard labor for the term of six months, and that this sentence be executed
upon him withing the Gaol of the County of Oxford.

Sentenced the third day of the term being the 28th day of August A.D.

I don't know how long it took for it to happen but apparently young Jonathan
Phelps Ames straightened his life out and married Rebecca Hutchinson in 1834
in Hartford Maine. Sometime afterwards they moved out to Isabel, Fulton,
Illinois and raised their family,including two sons named Atwood and Americus
after two of Jonathan's brothers.

The name Jonathan Phelps was passed on in the West family. My 2x times great
grandfather was named Jonathan Phelps West after Arvilla (Ames) West father.
When my great grandfather was born, he was given the name Philip Jonathan
West in honor of his maternal grandfather Philip Richardson and Jonathan after his
father. PJ died in 1954, and when my younger brother was born ten years later, he
was named Philip Jonathan after our great grandfather.

And he named his eldest son Philip Jonathan as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ADAMS Et Al. V West

Recently has been posting online  the Maine State
Archives Collections 1790-1966, including the  Court Records. So I
began searching them for any cases that might involve my ancestors,
which is how I found the following case involving my 3x great grandfather
John Cutter West:

Adams et al v West No.604

John M. Adams  George F .Shepley  and Asa W. F. Clap all of Portland in the
County of Cumberland gentleman doing business at said under the firm name
and style of Proprietors Eastern Argus Plaintiffs v. John West of Upton in the
County of Oxford Yeoman Defendant-In a plea of the case for that the said
Defendant at Letter B to wit at said Paris on the day of the purchase of this
writ being indebted to the Plantiffs in  the sum of Ten dollars and Sixty
three cents according to the account annexed in consideration thereof
there and then promised the Plaintiffs to pay them that sum on demand.~

And also for that the said Defendant at Letter B to wit at said Paris on the
twenty-seventh day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight-
hundred and fifty-seven by his promisery note of that date by him signed
for value received promised one John Appleton & Co. to pay them or bearer
the sum of Twenty-four dollars  on demand and interest, and the said John
Appleton and Company thereafterwards on the same day transferred and
delivered the said note then and still unpaid to the Plaintiff who thereby
became the lawful bearer thereof; by reason whereof the Defendant
became liable, and in consideration thereof, then and there, promised
the Plaintiff to pay him the contents of the said note according to the terms

Yet the said Defendant, though requested, has not paid the same, but
neglects so to do, to the damage of the said Plaintiffs (as they say) the
sum of
Seventy-five dollars. This action was entered at the present term
when the Plaintiffs appeared but the Defendant though called to come
into Court,does not appear, but makes default.

It is therefore considered by the court that the said Plaintiffs recover
against the said Defendant the sum of
Forty-one dollars and eleven cents
debt or damage, and costs of suit, taxed at
Ten dollars and Eighty-one

Execution issued, November 27, 1861~
Supreme Judicial Court records vol 09 Nov 1861-Nov 1862

So apparently my ancestor John Cutter West initially borrowed  $10.63
from John Appleton and agreed to pay him back $24 which seems steep
interest. Then Appleton sold my ancestor's  promisory note to the Eastern
Argus Company. (which seems sort of shady to me.) This took place on
May 27th, 1857 and the debt remained unpaid  by November of 1861
when the owners of the Eastern Argus Company brought the debt to
court. John West didn't appear to answer the suit against him so he lost
by default.

The Court Records aren't indexed yet so I browsed through Vol9 until
I found this and as I did I saw case after similar case. They were
so common that they are recorded on a form, the top being blank
where the particulars of the case are written and the judgement written
in the blanks of the preprinted section on the bottom.(I've used my
usual boldface font to denote the preprinted part.)

Oxford County Maine is in the western part of the state and the primary
industries there in the nineteenth century were farming and logging.
It was not uncommon in those days for farmers to borrow money to
buy seed or equipment and pay the money back after harvesting their
crops. But if the weather was bad or some other disaster befell them
they might not be able to pay off the debt right away. I believe that
must have been the case with my ancestor.

I don't know when or if John Cutter West paid off the note.The court
decision was handed down in November of 1861. Shortly after that
a diphtheria epidemic broke out and John would lose three children,
three grandchildren, and a daughter-in-law to the disease by the end
of February 1862. John himself died the following June.. If John
didn't pay off the debt himself, then my 2x great grandfather
Jonathan Phelps West probably did.

So the next time you are worrying abut how you are going to pay the
bills, look at it as something you probably have in common with your

Monday, May 28, 2012


In a previous post about finding my White family members in the 1940
census I told about finding my great grandmother Pauline (Offinger) White
living in the Mattapan section of Boston with the family of  my grandaunt
Elizabeth(White)Biaggi. I still haven't found my grandfather Edward F White
Sr on the 1940 Census, but I did find another one of his siblings, his older
brother Charles.

Charles William White was born 5Mar 1898.  He was living at home with his
parents and siblings up to the 1920 Census, but by 1930 he was married to
Katherine Goonan with two daughters, Virginia age 6 and Muriel age 4.
The family was living on Brookdale St not far away from his parents home
on Florence St., and working as a clerk at the railroad. He'd been employed
there since at least 1918 when he'd listed his job on the WWI draft registration
as clerk for the Boston Albany R.R. at South Station in Boston.

Being a railroad clerk seemed to have been a good job in the Great Depression
because from what I can tell from the 1940 Census great uncle Charles was
doing quite well by then. He was now a rate clerk for the railroad which meant
he was a 20+ year employee and the relatively young age of 42. He was making
$1750 a year which probably helped him purchase the home he now owned on
Brookdale St which was valued at $2000.The family had also grown by another
two children, a daughter Frances born in 1932 and son Charles Jr born in 1934.
Brother-in-law Patrick Goonan was also living with Charles and Kathryn, working
as a helper on a coal truck. So Charles had weathered the Depression in pretty
good shape for someone with only an eighth grade education.

I'm hoping to find entries on the 1940 Census for my grandfather's other
siblings, and when I do I'll post them here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Last year marked the 150 anniversary of the start of the American Civil War,
and to honor the occasion I held "The American Civil War Genealogy Blog
Challenge." At that time I intended to issue the challenge every April until
2015 since the Civil War lasted five years (1861-1865).  Then I realized that
this year the 1940 Federal Census was going to be released in April and
a lot of people, including myself, would be busy  indexing. I decided to
delay the announcement of the second installment of the Challenge.  But
we're nearing the end of the second month since the Census release, the
indexing is speeding along, and I've decided this is as good a time as any.


Did you have ancestors in America during the Civil War? If so, where were
they and what were their circumstances? How did the Civil War affect them
and their family? Did the men enlist and did they perish in battle or die of
illness? On which side did they fight, or did you have relatives fighting on
BOTH sides? How did the women left at home cope, or did any of them find
ways to help the war effort? Were your ancestors living as slaves on Southern
plantations and if so when were they freed, or were they freemen who
enlisted to fight? Did any ancestor take part in a battle that took place in

Write a blogpost on these questions, or, if you think of another topic to do
with your family history and the Civil War, write about that. Send me the link
after you publish it on your blog by August, and on August 8th I'll publish all
the links here.

That gives everyone most of the summer to research and write(or maybe visit
a Civil War location connected somehow to the family). Have fun with it and
I look forward to reading what everyone writes! 

Monday, May 14, 2012


I'd been watching the declining ratings of Who Do You Think You Are? this
season with growing concern. I knew they were putting the future of the
series in doubt but I hoped that NBC would still renew it as a commitment
to better programming on their part. So I was dismayed to learn last
night that the network had cancelled it for the upcoming 2012-2o013.

Several opinions were offered as to why WDYTYA had not been renewed.
one was that the program failed to appeal to the coveted 18-49 years old
demographic. But if you look at the weekly ratings, it's CBS' shows'
that dominate the Top 20 and their demographics are considerably older.
If the 18-49's are more valued, why are ads on the CBS shows more
expensive and the network's income up?

Another theory is one that's been heard before, that perhaps the show
would do better if it had dealt with normal every day people instead of
celebrities. I don't know if the producers have that option. Remember,
it's based on the original BBC show and everyone of the other eleven
international versions(including NBC's) followed the same format as
the mother series, much in the same way programs such as "The Voice:
and "America's Got Talent" follow the same format as the original
British programs. I doubt that f they were allowed to change
who the show spotlighted that the show would have even lasted
a single season if it aired at all. Networks tend to like star power.

  Anyway, I emailed NBC to protest the cancellation.

"Dear NBC,
I am greatly disappointed in your decision to cancel Who Do You Think 
You Are? At a time when there are so many ridiculous so-called "reality 
shows",  you've chosen to drop the one show on your schedule that is 
not only educational but inspiring as well. The fact that such a quality 
program is to be replaced by the likes of Howie Mandel's "White Elephant" 
is especially disheartening.

There was a time when NBC was known for the quality of its prime time 
lineup. I'd hoped that "Who Do You Think You Are?" signaled a return to 
those days. Please reconsider this terrible decision and renew the program. 
If you do,  it would answer a question I now have about your network:

Who Do You Think Your Are, NBC: a quality network, or one now 
dedicated to  shows aimed at the lowest form of entertainment?

Bill West "

If you want to send your own comments to NBC about this, go to  . Be sure to select "Who Do
You Think You Are?" from the "Select Show" box in the middle of the
screen. Share that link with your friends who like the show as well
and encourage them to let NBC hear their opinion. It's a long
shot but maybe we can get them to bring it back.

Friday night for the past few years has been "Genealogy Night" for
many of us. I'm going to miss it.


I missed the first New England Geneablogger Bash last fall but thanks to
Erica and Mike Voolich I was able to ride down with them to the second
Bash.  This one was being hosted by Sara Campbell at her cottage in Eastham
on Cape Cod here in Massachusetts.

The day got off to a hectic start for me because of an alarm clock malfunction.
I'd set the alarm for 8am but I didn't wake up until 9:15 because the alarm
never went off.( Apparently there was a power outage sometime overnight
and I didn't have a fresh battery backup in the clock.). So I spent a half hour
rushing around getting washed and dressed and I was ready when Erica and
Mike arrived. The trip down was pleasant even with the hour long traffic
backup at the Sagamore Bridge.

It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky and when we arrived
the other geneabloggers were already enjoying the sun and view of the
ocean from Sara's deck. 

I'd been wound up for a few days over meeting people whose blogs and research
I'd admired for several years now, but everyone was so nice I was able to relax
and enjoy the conversation.  I got to meet Heather Wilkinson Rojo, Midge Frazel,
Mike Maglio, Russ Worthington, Tim Firkowski, Elizabeth Pyle Handler,
Diane MacLean Boumenot, Erica Voolich and Sara Campbell and their significant
others ! Everyone had brought along some food for the meal and there was all
sorts of genealogy stories and information traded back and forth all day. 
Russ Worthington & Tim Firkowski           
Midge & Steve Frazel 

Mike Maglio
Patti Worthington & Heather Wilkerson Rojo

Tim Firkowski & Diane MacLean Boumenot 

Sara Campbell & Elizabeth Pyle Handler

Elizabeth, Patti, and Erica Voolich
We even had an uninvited guest, a tenacious bee that hovered in place many times
over us, so Tim and I started taking pictures of it with our cameras:

We hadn't taken a group photo earlier so Midge and Mike had already left before
we did:

Finally it was time to say goodbye and head home. Mike and Erica took me to
a nearby place they knew about for a fish and chips dinner, and then we headed
back up Rte 6. There was another delay at the Sagamore Bridge but eventually
we made it off the Cape and I was home by around 9:30pm.

It was a great day and I want to thank Mike and Erica for letting me ride along
with them, and Sara for her hospitality. And thanks to all for making me feel
at ease.

I hope to see you all again at the next Bash!     

Saturday, May 05, 2012


I'm really lucky: I have ancestors buried in cemeteries nearby here in
Plymouth County, Ma. Not only that, many of the cemeteries are beautiful
and I've gotten some great photographs. This past two weeks I've visited
eight local burial grounds; five of them were located on Rte58 in the
towns of Plympton and Carver. I was hoping to locate members of my
Dunham, Ellis, Griffith and Barrows families.

The first place I visited was Hillcrest Cemetery in Plympton:
Hillcrest Cemetery looking across Rte 58 to the First Congregational Church.   
According to Find A Grave there are two Barrows buried there but I only found one,
George Barrows, died 31Dec 1862:
 Next I went across the street to the cemetery behind the First Congregational
Church where I found only one monument with a group of possible Ellis relatives
 listed on it:

The next day I drove back further down Rte 58 to the next town, Carver, and the
Lakenham Cemetery where I had my first big discovery of the week, the markers
for my 6x great grandparents George Barrows and Patience Simmons Barrows:

Patience Simmons Barrow 1676-1723

George Barrows 1670-1758

At the Center Cemetery there were several Barrows graves right by the entrance,
including this one:
Capt. Lothrop Barrows
The Union Cemetery in Carver was the highpoint of my explorations along Rte 58.
I found quite a few cousins interred there, and the cemetery is one of the prettiest
I've ever visited:
There are three family plots enclosed with wrought iron fences next to that
white wooden gazebo, and in one I found the headstone for my 6x great
grandparents Ephraim Griffith and Mary Ellis:

So it was a very productive week and I still have  many other cemeteries in the
area I've yet to visit!

Thursday, May 03, 2012


Today is the 344th anniversary of my 8x great grandparents Rev,
James Keith and  Susanna Edson  of West Bridgewater, Ma.  I
decided to celebrate by finally tracking down the location of
their tomb. Imagine how chagrined I was to find I'd visited the
Old Burying Ground in West Bridgewater last year and hadn't
found it there back then!  So I was bound and determined to
locate it today.

When I arrived at the cemetery on South St there was some
roadwork being done and I had to drive past it, then turn
around and drive back to find a safe parking spot on that side
of the street. Then I walked back to where there was an entrance
through the stone wall. From pictures I'd seen online I thought
the grave would be a large vault which is probably why I
missed it on my first visit.(That, and the fact that there is no
sign with the name "Old Burial Ground"  there which on my
first visit made me think I had gone to the wrong location. Duh!)
Since then I've seen many family tombs which are under small
mounds so I knew better what to look for this time around.
And there it was, at the front of the cemetery behind the stone
wall, right next to the street. I'd have seen it earlier if the
view hadn't been blocked by the construction truck.

The inscriptions read:

Here lies the                                          Here lies the
body of the Rev.                                     body of Mrs          
Mr. James Keith                                    Susanna Keith
Died July 23, 1719                               Died Oct. 16 1705
Aged 76 years                                        Aged 65 years

                                  Mr. James Keith  
                       First Minister in Bridgewater
                    Educated in Aberdeen Scotland
                   and laboured in the Ministry in this
                                       town 56 years

Just to the left of the Keiths' tomb is the one belonging to Susanna's
parents(and my 9xgreat grandparents) Samuel Edson and  Susannah

So, mission accomplished!
Happy Anniversary, James and Susanna!

I know I wouldn't be here without you!