Friday, September 27, 2013


One of the common critiques of the Who Do You Think You Are? program has
been the use of celebrities. I've often seen comments and posts from people
wishing that WDYTYA would do shows centered around "everyday" people.
Then last Spring PBS announced a new program, The Genealogy Roadshow,
that would do just that. It premiered Monday night.

The format is very much like its sister program The  Antiques Roadshow: there
are several longer segments involving interesting stories interspersed with
shorter segments.  Those longer segments included a few minutes of background
information on the historical figures  to whom people thought they might
be related, such as Davy Crockett and Jesse James.  Just as on Antiques Roadshow,
some theories were disproved and some were confirmed. Two experienced
genealogists, Kenyatta Berry and Joshua Taylor, did a great job of presenting
the evidence and conclusions reached by the show's researchers. Overall, I thought
the show was well done and enjoyable.

Not everyone in the online genealogy community agreed. Some complained there
were too many people covered and thought two or three cases for the hour would
be better. Others wanted more emphasis on showing the research process. And
others just plain out didn't like the whole format. I certainly didn't expect everyone
to like the show, so I wasn't surprised at most of the criticism, but there were a very few
whose remarks were over the line into nitpicking territory.

The Genealogy Roadshow
is a limited run series with three more episodes yet to air.
Whether it gets renewed or not for a second season depends on the ratings and the
reception by the general public.  So while some genealogists want less emphasis on
confirming famous relatives and more on research methods, it's important for us
to remember that the show's future depends on its appeal to that general audience.
They want to be entertained, not educated about every step in genealogical research.
 If the show does its job and entertains it will prompt some viewers to begin their own
research, and that's where the education will begin for them

I'm looking forward to the rest of the first season and hope there will be more to come
for The Genealogy Roadshow.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I'm taking  part in a meme started by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest. Using
prompts from "The Book of Me, Written By You" I'm leaving my memories
of my life for present and future relatives. This week's prompt is:
 Favourite Season (s)

A Happy Memory.

I live in New England. Weather can change in a few minutes, and sometimes we
feel like we are having two or three seasons in one day. As I've grown older I've started
paying more attention to the weather and appreciate the part it plays in my life. But
if I have to pick a favorite season it would have to be Summer and the memories
attached to it.

I don't have many from my early childhood; my Summer memories start about the
time I was 8 years old, after we'd moved from Malden to Dorchester: playing wiffleball
in the alley between two triple decker apartment buildings or "Three Flies Out" bouncing
a pinkie ball off the cement steps of one of those buildings. (Cement gave you a better
bounce than wood steps.) Other times we'd flip baseball cards, or if it was raining I'd
play the "All Star Baseball" box game with Barry Solomon.  We'd walk to the store and
buy baseball cards, comic books, and penny candy. Summer evenings we'd wait for
Westy the Ice Cream Man to come around. He'd have the kids guess the "magic number"
and if you were right, you won a free ice cream. I liked the "drumstick" cones.

And when all else failed, there were three branches of the Boston Public Library for me
to visit and take out books, and I used all three. I had a paper route and I used my
newspaper bag when I'd go so I could carry some of the books in it while I started
reading one of the books while I walked. I'd visit  the three libraries once a week and
check out thee to six books from each, then have them read and returned in a week so
I could check out more.

Summer also meant visits to our cousin's cottage at Houghs Neck and the occasional
picnic at some state park whose name I can't recall. When the nights were really hot
our parents would take us down to park along the seawall at Wollaston Beach where'd
we sleep in the car until dad drove us home after midnight. And there were the trips
"up home" to Maine and New Hampshire to vist Dad's family.

We left Boston for Abington, a town to the south of the city, before I entered my
sophomore year in high school. Wiffle ball was now played in Paul Conant's backyard
instead of in the street. There was only one small library back then and  I spent afternoons
mowing the small front lawn and large backyard. We still didn't have air conditioning but
now the beach we visited at night was in Marshfield or Plymouth.

When I was in college I spent three of my summers as a camp counselor in Brewster down
on Cape Cod.  I wasn't a dorm student at school, so Camp Mitton was where I did the things I wouldn't dare do at home: it was where I first drank enough beer to pass out, and where I tried smoking pot. I disappointed my fellow counselors because pot didn't really seem to have much effect on me. I twas the late 1960's-early 1970's and whenever I hear some of the songs from that era I remember those camp days.

As I grew older I did what everyone else does:I got a job and Summers were just like any
other time of the year:I worked and if I was lucky I got a vacation, depending on where I
was working and how long I was working there. Summer as an adult does not hold any
of the sort of memories I have from my younger years.

Now I'm a "senior citizen" and retired, so I'm able to enjoy the warm weather and longer
hours of sunshine again.

Who knows? Maybe now I'll make some more Summer memories, 

Monday, September 16, 2013


I'm taking  part in a meme started by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest. Using
prompts from "The Book of Me, Written By You" I'm leaving my memories
of my life for present and future relatives. This week's prompt is:
 Describe your physical self.

Your size – clothes size
Eye colour
Draw your hands
Finger Prints
Well, I'm not very artistic, so I'll skip the last two, but as for the rest:

I was a big baby when I was born, but as I grew older I was a tall skinny kid who
bruised easily. My Mom used to give me a tablespoon a day of something that
was supposed to help me gain weight and deal with iron poor blood. She'd had
some condition when she was a child herself that involved an iron deficiency
and part of the treatment was to eat liver several times a week. I think she was
worried I'd develop the same thing she'd had, and I remember we'd have fried
liver at least once a week when I was younger. I'd smother it in ketchup because
I didn't like the taste, and I've never eaten it since I reached adulthood.

I did take after Mom's side of the family physically though.  I was tall, skinny,
fair haired and fair skinned.  Unlike my dad who always tanned(his left arm
was darker from hanging out the driver's side of the car) I burned. I once had
a sunblister across my back from running around all day with my shirt off. I had
long arms and legs, which made it easy for me to reach under parked cars to
retrieve the rubber balls that had rolled under them when we were playing
"Three Flies Out".

Whatever that concoction was my Mom had given me when I was younger,
it must have been a time release mixture because I reached my teens and
BOOM, I started putting on weight.  And I didn't stop. By the time I reached
61 four years ago I was over 300 + pounds. I was wearing 2 and 3XL shirts
and size 54 waist pants.

Of course, that wasn't a very healthy thing to be and it all caught up with me
four years ago and resulted in two stays in the hospital.

Afterwards, I lost weight and actually dropped below 200 pounds for awhile
and was wearing size 38 pants. Since then I've gained back a little of what I lost

So today, I'm a 65 year old, 6 ft tall guy with graying blond hair and blue eyes.
I wear size 42 pants and Xl shirts and I'm hoping to get back down to that size
38 waist again. But I'm definitely never going back to the size 54.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


((This was first posted back in May of 2007. It's notable because
it helps me remember that is when I first came into contact with
a geneabuddy, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino. It's also given me an idea
for my Poetry Challenge entry. One of these days I will take a ride
up to Andover to see that powder horn!)) 

I mentioned in a post awhile back that I’d found a website with
an account of Acadian exiles who were sent to Andover, Ma. after
their expulsion from their Canadian homes. Some of them ended
up living for a time in a house owned by Jonathan Abbott, one of
my ancestors.

Twenty-six Acadian men women and children were sent to
Andover in February 1756 and the families of Germaine Landry
and his two sons-in-law Jacques Hebert and Charles Hebert were
placed in a vacant house owned by Jonathan:

“It was, however, a great annoyance to the Puritan farmer to
have these tenants,-- foreigners and Roman Catholics, quartered
near his own residence. But, as his descendants relate, the
Acadians completely conquered the prejudices of this family and
of the community and gained the good-will of all acquaintances.
They were industrious and frugal. The women worked in the
fields pulling flax and harvesting. They practised the rites of their
religion in an inoffensive manner and commended it by their
Sarah Loring Bailey, 1880

Going by the dates I believe this Jonathan was the one born in
Andover 1Sept 1687 and who was married to Zerviah Holt.
According to Ms. Bailey the Acadians and the Abbotts parted on
friendly terms. The Landry and Hebert families eventually were
able to move to Quebec but apparently still had good feelings for
Jonathan Abbott for they sent him a token of their esteem in 1770:

“Two of them sent a souvenir to Mr. Abbot, which the family still
keep, a beautifully carved and polished powder-horn, made by
their own hands. It is inscribed:

His horn made in Alenstown
April Ye 5 1770
I powder with my brother ball
Most hero-like doth conquer all."

It is embellished with figures of animals,-- a turtle, a deer, a fox,
dolphins, etc., and also with representations of armies fighting,
soldiers in uniform with muskets, sabre bayonet, (all the soldiers
with hair tied in queues hanging down behind), also artillery
men and field pieces.” (ibid)
There is an ironic twist to the tale of the powder horn. Germaine
Landry passed away two weeks after the date of the inscription on
18 Apr 1770.

In trying to research more for this post I found a website on the
history of Andover which has selections from a historical series
run by the Andover Townsman newspaper. One entry, entitled
“Deserted Farms” notes that:

“(3) Jonathan died just a month before the date on the powder
horn sent by the French Arcadias who had known the old man
and his son (4) Jonathan to be real friends”- Andover Townsman
13 Nov 1896
It’s an interesting tale but I don’t think it was all that warm
and fuzzy as the later accounts would make it. The
people of Andover had lost men in the Canadian
campaign to wounds or illness. The Acadians are
referred to in the records as “Jacky Bear”, “Charles
Bear”, and “Germaine Laundry” which could be
simple ignorance of French pronunciation or nicknames
given the refugees and since there were probably no
priests available nearby to perform Roman Catholic
Mass there were ceremonies to arouse the old anger at
Papists among the townsfolk.

Still, it’s nice to know that those distant Abbott relatives
were able to see past their differences and deal humanely
with the Acadians.

I had never heard that there had been French Canadian
prisoners in Massachusetts, let alone that one of my
distant ancestors had a more than casual acquaintance
with some. Lucie LeBlanc Consentino whose website
is where I first read about Jonathan Abbott and the
Acadians tells me that there were 2,000 deportees to
Massachusetts and others were sent to other of the
English colonies along the Atlantic coastline. Outside of
the poem “Evangeline” by Longfellow, I was taught
nothing about this episode in American history and I’m
not certain that the poem is even read by today’s kids.

My thanks to Lucie LeBlanc Consentino for letting me
make use of her research from her website and my
apologies for the delay in getting this done. By the
way, she is a distant relative of Germaine Landry and
his wife Cecile Forest as well as of Charles Hebert.
If you haven’t visited her website Acadian & French-Canadian
Ancestral Home I highly recommend that you do so.

I’m a bit rusty on writing long pieces and I hope I’ve
cited everything correctly. It’s taken me longer than
I wanted to finally write this, actually.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Earlier today Randy Seaver posted "20th Century Massachusetts Vital Record Indexes New on" on his Genea-Musings blog. After reading it, I went over to Ancestry to give them a try. I had never found a record of the death my maternal great grandmother Pauline (Offlinger)White, so decided to try a search for that.

I went to the search box for "Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980" and entered
Pauline White's name. I know she'd been alive in the 1950's so for a year I entered
1960 and set a search parameter of + or - 20 years. I wasn't sure what town she had
died in, so I left it blank. I entered her maiden name, Offinger, as a keyword. This
is what the screen looked like before I hit the "Search" button:

What came up were these search results:

Only the first five were women named Pauline White.I started with the first name,
with a death date of 1957 in the city of Brockton. I clicked  "View Record" and this was
what I saw:

So, this told me that this Pauline White's death record was on page 473 in volume 34
in the Mass.Vital Records Books. But, was it MY Pauline White?. I clicked on the image
of the record in the upper right hand corner and saw this:

And there it was! Pauline White, with (Offinger) beside her name! It wasn't the first
name on the search results, but the second, who'd died in Boston in 1959. Her death
record can be found in volume 30, page 130. My great grandmother had survived my
great grandfather for twenty years after his death in 1939.

This will be a great help in filling in some blanks on that side of my family!


I'm late(yet again) on last Saturday's "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" prompt
from Randy Seaver  over at Genea-Musings.   I'll explain why below. But first,
here's this week's prompt:
"Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:

1)  Determine where your ancestral families were on 1 September 1863 - 150 years ago.

2)  List your ancestors, their family members, their birth and death years, and their residence location (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?

3)  Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status or Google+ Stream post."

Now for that explanation on why I'm late(again).The thing is that I have some
information gaps for the generations living in September 1863.

On my Mom's side of the family, most of my ancestors were still living in Ireland,
Scotland, or Germany, and I have no record of where they were or might have been
in 1863. I haven't found much yet on my 2x great grandparents who were in this country, Patrick J White (1848- 1902) & Mary (Powers) White (1848-?) and their parents.
Part of the problem is the commonality of the Irish family names in a period
when Massachusetts was seeing a great influx of Irish immigrants.

Even on my Dad's side with all his family living in Maine and New Hampshire
there are a few missing a date of death, so I don't know if they were even alive
in 1863. In those cases I've left their names off this post. On the other hand, I
may have found evidence on the 1860 Census that my 2x great grandmother
Louisa A Richardson was working in a textile mill in Massachusetts in the years
before she married the widowed Jonathan Phelps West in 1865.

Anyway, here's what information I was able to find on the paternal side of my

My 3x great grandmother Arvilla (Ames)West (1810-1907) was  a widow of one year,
her husband John Cutter West having died in 1862. She was living on the farm in
Upton, Maine with her son, my 2x great grandfather Jonathan Phelps West (1834-1917) who was also mourning the death of a spouse, his first wife Orpha (Reynolds)West, who'd died in the diphtheria epidemic of 1862 after only a few months of marriage.

My 2x great grandmother Louisa A Richardson(1837-1925)  may have been working
in a mill in Lowell, Ma.

My 2x great grandparents Asa F Ellingwood (1828-1921) and Florilla (Dunham) Ellingwood  (1832-1917)were living on a farm in Dummer, Coos, NH.

My 3x great grandparents Nathaniel Barker(1794-1884) & Huldah (Hastings) Barker (1798-1884) were living  on a farm in Albany, Oxford, Me. My 2x great grandparents Nathaniel S. Barker(1830-1884) & Lucy (Coburn)Barker(1842-1904) were living with them. My 3x great grandparents Amos Hastings Barker (1828-1907) & Betsy J(Moore)Barker (1842-1924) were also living in Albany, Oxford, Me on another farm.

3x great grandmother Hannah (Upton)Moore Emery (1814-1896) was also living on a farm in Albany, Upton, Me with her second husband, Peter Emery.

Sunday, September 08, 2013


Last week I decided to take part in a meme started by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.
Using prompts from "The Book of Me, Written By You" I'm leaving my memories of my
life for present and future relatives.
This week's prompt (which are answered in a different order).:
   Prompt 2: Your Birth
    Do you have any baby photos?
    Where were you born?
    Who was present at your birth?
    What day was it? Time?
    Did you have hair? Eye colours


I was born in Boston at the Massachussets Osteopath Hospital on 20Aug 1948. It was a Friday night, and I believe my mother told me it was nearly midnight when I was born. I don't know the exact measurements except that I was over 8 pounds at birth, and that I had blond hair and blue eyes. My Dad was at the hospital in the waiting room. One of the things my Mom saved were the telegrams that accompanied the flowers that were sent to her by my Dad and by her mother and brother:

I have a baby picture around here somewhere that I haven't scanned yet. But here's one
of me at about a year old, taken at Hough's Neck in Quincy, Ma.  One the left is our cousin
Margy(McCue)Boyd, on the right is my Mom(whose hair was red), and the chubby guy in the middle was me.

Friday, September 06, 2013


Today is the 206th wedding anniversary of my 4x greart grandparents Jonathan Phelps
Ames and Polly Griffith. Besides the personal significance of that happy event(I would
not be here if they hadn't married), it's also significant for setting up a naming pattern
in my family.

Jonathan was the son of John Ames and Lydia Phelps.

Jonathan and Polly's daughter Arvilla Ames married my 3x great grandfather John
Cutter West.

They named their fourth child Jonathan Phelps West(my 2x great grandfather).

Jonathan Phelps West married Lousia Amata Richardson, daughter of Philip Richardson
and Esther Laughton. They named their second child Philip Jonathan West in honor of both their fathers. He was my great grandfather.

The name then skips two generations until my younger brother was born. He's named
Philip John West after our great grandfather.

And his oldest son is Philip J West, Jr!

Do you have a story about how names have been passed down in your family?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


After that long series on the Newbury, Ma. church dispute I want to do some
writing on topics that might not demand so many posts. Luckily I have some
ideas. For one thing, I've had the probate files for my 2x great granduncles
Asa Atwood and Hiram Ferdinand West to transcribe. I was thinking about
when I realized I could also post a few pictures here of the West brothers.

My 2x great grandfather Jonathan Phelps West was the fourth of eleven
children born to John Cutter West and Arvilla (Ames) West. He was also
the third out of six sons. Unfortunately, I have no photos of three of them:

Oldest son Asa Atwood West, about whom I have some information;

Third child John C.West. The middle name might have been Cutter, in
which case he would have been John C West, Jr.  He died young, at age
eighteen. The only record I've been able to find of him online is his listing
with the rest of the family on the 1850 Census.

Sixth son and youngest of the eleven children David Pingree West. He and
his sisters Arvilla and Ruth died during a diphtheria outbreak in 1862.

The other three brothers that I have photos of:

My 2x great grandfather Jonathan Phelps West:

Fourth brother Hiram Ferdinand West:

Fifth son and ninth child Leonidas West, shown here with his wife Valora Abbott.
 He is the only West in our family to have taken his name seriously and move West,
first to Minnesota and then Washington state:

I think Hiram and Leonidas look quite dashing. I'd like to think that
underneath all those whiskers, 2x great grandfather Jonathan was equally
as dashing!

I'll be posting Hiram and Asa's probate files soon. 

Monday, September 02, 2013


I'm a day late for this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from
Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings but I'm taking a shot at it

Here's this week's Challenge:

1) Read Jill Ball's post The Bloggers GeneaMeme on her Geniaus blog.

2)  Copy the questions into your own blog post, or into a word processing document, and answer the questions.

3)  Write your own blog post with the questions and answers.  Be sure to share a link to your blog post with Jill and as a comment on this post

1.What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s?
    West in New England
    The Old Colony Graveyard Rabbit

2. Do you have a wonderful "Cousin Bait" blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question.
Probably how my blog put me in touch with cousins from my maternal grandfather's
side of  my family. After my grandparents' divorce there had been no contact with them. 

3. Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging?
I started blogging after I'd discovered blogs by Christopher Dunham and Timothy
Abbott, who it turned out are my cousins. It dawned on me this might be a good way   to find more relatives and at the same time share the history of my family.  

4. How did you decide on your blog/s title/s?
Well, I had a last name that's a compass direction. West of New England was a
no-brainer. For the second blog, the area of Massachusetts is known as the Old Colony
so again, a no-brainer. 

5. Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they?

6. How do you let others know when you have published a new post?
    I post links on G+, Facebook, and Twitter.

7. How long have you been blogging?
    Since January of 2007.

8. What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog?
    Email moderation to cut down on spamming.

9. What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience?
    My purpose of West in New England is to tell the story of my ancestors
    and hopefully make contact with relatives.
     The Old colony Graveyard Rabbit blog's purpose is to showcase the cemeteries
   of Southeastern Massachusetts.

10. Which of your posts are you particularly proud of?
    Two from the first year. AGGIE, about my maternal grandmother and ORPHA,
    about my 2x great grandfather's first wife.

11. How do you keep up with your blog reading?
     The Old Reader

12. What platform do you use for publishing your blog/s?
     Blogger, with a mirror site at Wordpress.

13.What new features would you like to see in your blogging software?
     Can't think of any, but I'm not a techie.

14. Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers?
     A blogpost last year on the cancellation of "Who Do You Think You Are?"

15. Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog?
     I am The Lone Blogger.

16. How do you compose your blog posts?
     Verrrry slowly. Seriously, I write them first in Wordpad and then cut & paste
     them into Blogger.

17. Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs.
     Yes, a blog about books, West of the Moon, but I haven't posted there much. 

18. Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers?

19. Which resources have helped you with your blogging?

20. What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger?
     Have fun with it, and keep at it. It's like riding a bike. The more you write,
     the easier it becomes to write.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Julie Goucher of the Anglers Rest blog has started a weekly series of
writing prompts called The Book of Me, Written By You. Basically it's
a way for those of us who write about our ancestors to write about ourselves
and our  memories.

Week 1 is Who Am I?  I have to ask that question 20 times and come up
with at least 20 different answers. It's an exercise in how I see my self.
 I came up with 22.

Who am I?
I am...

A rock & roll dinosaur.
A bird watcher
A photographer
A reader
A book lover
A science fiction & fantasy fan (in all formats)
A New Englander
A lifelong resident of Massachusetts.
A medieval & ancient history geek.
A fan of Celtic, folk, and medieval music.
A white-knuckled driver on highways.
A night owl.
A liberal Kennedy Democrat.
A bachelor
A former bookseller
A former garment worker
An  oldest child
A historian
A genealogist
A writer
Still learning.