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Every genealogist imagines that someday they will pull their family’s story together into a vivid and fascinating book, complete with pictures, that will keep even the younger generation interested.  Very seldom is that goal achieved, but I recently purchased a copy of I Come From A Place Called Home, 1882-1929 by Elizabeth Burr Marquard, and I can’t put it down. She has met that goal.

I Come From a Place Called Home [Amazon link HERE] follows the story of Elizabeth’s great-grandparents: father William Seibel, mother Sophia, and 8 children, who raised fruit in rural Monroeville, Ohio.  The normal ups and downs of a large family, the strenuous labor of farm life and the simple joy of caring about and for each other are set against a background of mental illness, as the mother becomes increasingly incompetent and dependent  as life goes on.

I Come from a Place Called Home

A story of acceptance, strength and resilience, told in conversational and very realistic detail – much, but not all of it, real – takes us from the pig-slaughtering and lye-making of the 1880s to the cars and college degrees of the 1920’s, as the family experiences their share of joy and heartbreak.  I have seldom read a book that captured my interest as much as this story.  I laughed and cried along with the family.  I recommend it very highly to all readers and aspiring family historians.

I know my genealogy friends will want to know how Liz did this.  So here are Liz’s thoughts on the process and problems that she found.

An interview with Elizabeth Burr Marquard
Can you explain how the idea for the book started?

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where family stories were always shared, particularly about my maternal ancestors, the Seibels. There was a great deal of warmth and love associated with these stories, and even though I did not know the people personally, I felt their essence. My ancestors were also savers, so I had access to their old letters, diaries, farm journals, and several manuscripts about their lives. I often told my mother, “The Seibels were such an interesting family! Someone should write a book about them.” She always responded, “That someone is you, Liz.” I carried the notion of this book in my head for about 30 years. Finally, the year I turned 50 I had one of those “bucket list” moments. I started writing. My mother was THRILLED! She was my biggest cheerleader in this endeavor, and she eagerly anticipated each chapter. Sadly, Mom did not live to see the book published. She passed away in 2011, but I made a death-bed promise to her that I would finish writing the book. It was a bittersweet moment when I held the published book in my hands for the first time, knowing that Mom was not physically here to share in this dream come true.

Other family historians will be curious – how did you manage to amass enough details to fill over 600 pages?

Some people come from families with deep pockets, but as I mention in the Acknowledgments of the book, I come from a family with “deep closets.” They were savers extraordinaire! There are letters between the sisters dating from 1910 to 1957. There are diaries and farm journals as well as a copy of the manuscript “Adventures of William Seibel Out West, 1882-1885,” which my great-aunt Hermine wrote in 1936 after interviewing her father about his youthful adventures on the Mississippi. In the 1970s, my cousin, who had developed an interest in our heritage, began a correspondence with the two surviving Seibel sisters, Hermine and Minola. Her first request was, “Tell me about my grandmother Ada.” That opened the floodgates! Both sisters wrote manuscripts about their memories. Hermine, being the 4th daughter, offered an earlier perspective of life in the Seibel household. Minola, the youngest sister, was the more prolific, writing character profiles of each family member as well as manuscripts about her memories of life on the farm, in the schools, her university and work experiences, as well as her service with the Red Cross during WW II. She also included a genealogy of our ancestors, including their hometowns in Germany and the dates of their emigration. What a treasure trove! Armed with all of this primary source material, I set about compiling it into one cohesive story. About 85% of the incidents in the book are true. I had to “embroider” other portions, for example, to demonstrate Sophie’s deteriorating mental condition. I followed the rule of one of my college English professors: “Don’t just tell me; show me! Make me feel I’m there!”

I Come From A Place Called Home - back

If one person who is no longer here could read the book, who would you want that to be?

My maternal grandmother, Ada. She died when I was only 18 mos. old, so I have no memories of her. However, in writing this book, I feel that I have come to know her. On so many occasions in her life, Ada set aside her own ambitions to fulfill the role of surrogate mother to her seven younger siblings. I doubt that she was ever thanked or that she expected to be thanked—there was a job to be done, so she did it. Ada would probably be amazed that anyone thought her life story worthy of writing a book about, but I think she was an unsung hero!

The book is a tribute to resiliency, hard work, and determination. But like every family, your family had some painful stories and some rough times. How did that shape your efforts on the book?

Some of the Seibels’ most painful moments are the most compelling—the stigma of mental illness, the aftermath of the Spanish Influenza, the anti-German sentiment surrounding WW I, the lower social standing felt by those from rural origins. These incidents allowed me to highlight the Seibels’ strength of character and the incredibly deep and supportive bonds that held the siblings together.

Was it hard to include some German chit chat in your dialogue?

I wanted the book to be authentic. I knew that my ancestors originally spoke only German but slowly transitioned to English as they assimilated into the American culture. Initially, I used the online translation website BabelFish to make the English-to-German translations for the text. However, I was aware that the translations were not always accurate. Fortunately, my job brought me into contact with a bilingual German fellow who graciously fixed all of the German translations for me. I am very chagrined to be so monolingual!

How long did the writing take? How much time was added to that for design, layout, and managing the project on the self-publishing site, CreateSpace?

I have been writing this book for 9 years. (I’m a slow writer, plus “life” has a habit of getting in the way!) In May 2015, I decided the entire Seibel saga (100 years) would be too much content for one book. I broke the story after Chapter 32 (1929) and proceeded to explore publishing on CreateSpace. From my initial decision to publish until I held the finished volume 1 in my hands was about 3 months.

Are you planning a sequel, or other books?

I am currently working on volume 2, which will continue the Seibel saga and cover the years 1930-1985 (circling back to where volume 1 begins). I foresee two books as my life’s literary output.

Describe some things you learned about research and writing along the way.

I learned that I could completely lose myself in the research, which I actually enjoy more than the writing. And it is true that you can research almost any topic on the internet—how to make soap and apple butter, butcher hogs, plant strawberries, drive a Model T, dance the Charleston, speak 1920s slang, etc.

I also learned a huge appreciation for authors–even ones whose books I don’t enjoy! Writing is time-consuming, often mentally exhausting, and even emotionally draining. On numerous occasions, I cried while I wrote. There were times when I was writing that I could feel a presence in the room with me, almost as if someone was looking over my shoulder and whispering, “Tell the story.” I included a quote by Dot Stutter on a forward page of the book that sums up this experience: “I hear ethereal whispers, persuasive, soft and still. Daughter, if you don’t remember us, who will?”

Can you talk about some resources/help you found that other family historians may not be aware of?

I found a website that lists Cleveland-area weather history since 1871. This sounds like an odd resource, but when writing about a farm family, it was helpful to check how the weather was impacting their daily lives, decisions, and economy. I also found the site “Vintage Ad Browser,” which offers ads for various subjects through the decades. Besides being just plain fun to peruse, the ads provided a perspective on various eras and helped me to mentally engage with a particular time.

Do you have a few tips about self-publishing?

I researched all of the print-on-demand publication services, and good reviews pointed me toward CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. There was no cost to publish, except when I purchase a copy of the book. Initially, I struggled with CreateSpace’s formatting template. (I read many blogs for tips.) It was very time-consuming to cut and paste 32 chapters from Word documents into their 6 x 9 format. For volume 2, I have wised up and am writing the book directly into their template and saving it in that format.

I also created a Kindle version of my book. Converting it into the proper format was a rather opaque process, complicated by trying to marry 140 images to the HTML document. Once again, blogs to the rescue!

What is your advice to others who feel they have a family story to tell in a book?

Start writing—the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You can revise it many times, and reading what you’ve written gets the creative juices flowing. Make the story engaging–not just a retelling of dates, facts, and events. Details bring a story to life and engage the reader. If you are fortunate enough to have older living relatives, ask them about their memories and document them. Ask them to identify the people in old photos, and then write those names (and the date if possible) on the back of the photo. Every family has stories and they need to be preserved. We can’t truly know ourselves until we know where we came from. And we all “come from a place called home…”

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family's story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which appeared in the family's book.

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family’s story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which were included in the book.

I Come From A Place Called Home is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle format.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/09/03/book-about-your-family/

I occasionally get questions from those researching their northern Rhode Island Aldrich ancestors.  George Aldrich was an early settler of nearby Mendon, Massachusetts. My Aldrich ancestors moved down into Sheldonville, Massachusetts and northern Cumberland, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center

Recently I visited the library of the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I wanted to look at some books and journals I had saved some notes about.  Nothing much came of that.

The Rhode Island Historical Society on Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Rhode Island Historical Society library on Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

But I overheard a conversation about photography and realized that they had eased up on their photography rules.  So that was good news.  I decided to photograph some pages of the Aldrich manuscripts that I had used in the past. I had to use a paper slip in each photo crediting the RIHS, and use the photos only for my own use.  The book is still under copyright but that would have been the case no matter what.  It’s a little hard to describe these books so I’m glad to have a chance to write down some details here.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts and special Rhode Island collections.

Newly renamed the Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center, the library has a lot to offer in the way of unique manuscripts, genealogy books and special Rhode Island collections. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Aldrich Family Genealogy

The Aldrich Family Genealogy – Descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA, compiled by Ralph Ernest Aldrich (1902-1984) and his wife Pearl Lillian (Marquis) Aldrich was written over a period of several decades.  The manuscript has an unusual genealogical format which might be hard to grasp right off.

But these are the best books I’ve found on the Aldriches.  They are the only books I can recommend.  As always, I do my own research to prove relationships, but you can definitely get some clues and sources from these books.  One thing that impresses me in particular is that they correctly report that my ancestor Nathan Aldrich’s first wife, Marcy, had only one child, Anna “Nancy” – not two as is often stated elsewhere.

Here is my line of descent from my 10th great grandfather George Aldrich to my grandmother Edna May Darling:

  • George Aldrich (1605 – 1683)
  • Jacob Aldrich (1652 – 1695)
  • David Aldrich (1685 – 1771)
  • Jonathan Aldrich (1721 – 1800)
  • Asa Aldrich (1744 – 1825)
  • Nathan Aldrich (1773 – 1862)
  • Nancy Ann Aldrich (1800 – 1879)
  • Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824 – 1883)
  • Addison Parmenter Darling (1856 – 1933)
  • Russell Earl Darling (1883 – 1959)
  • Edna May Darling (1905 – 1999)

Here are some details from the RIHS card catalog about the manuscript – in 18 bound volumes:

Title: The Aldrich family genealogy : descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA /
Author/Creator: Aldrich, Ralph Ernest, 1902-1984.
Call number: Reading Room CS71 .A374 1998
Physical Description: 12 parts in 18 v. ; 28 cm.
Notes: “National Aldrich Association.”
Parts organized A – K. Alphabetical within each part by given name.

  • Pt. A. George —
  • Pt. B. Joseph(2) —
  • Pt. C. John(2) —
  • Pt. D. Peter(2) —
  • Pt. E. Jacob(2) —
  • Pts. F, G, H. Others —
  • Pt. I. Families in England —
  • Pt. J. Origin of the name —
  • Pt. K. Arms, coats, shields.
    Indexes: parts B, C, D and E.

The set is divided based on the children of George Aldrich – his daughters are quickly tracked for one generation in volume one, then each of his sons Joseph, John, Peter, Jacob are covered for several generations – sometimes 4 or 5.  I found the right Nathan Aldrich easily in the index to the “Jacob” volumes.  Descendants in each of the four sons’ books are in alpha order BY FIRST NAME.  So I looked up each ancestor by first name.

Mr. Aldrich left his manuscripts to the National Aldrich Association (of which he was a founding member, see his picture and some early Association details here).  The Association retyped or copied the pages in 1998.  To the best of my knowledge these volumes exist in TWO places only (outside of any copies the National Aldrich Association might hold):

  1. The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center, Providence. Bound volumes shelved in Reading Room.
  2. The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston.  Manuscript 458.

As far as I can tell, they have not been microfilmed by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, nor does any digital copy exist online that I can find. Here is the Worldcat entry.  It does not appear to be on Hathitrust or Internet Archive nor do I see any evidence that these pages were ever bound for sale.  I suspect the Association had, at one time, bigger plans for the data – but I wish they would make the pages available online.

I have learned quite a bit about my Aldrich line through this manuscript but I will need to further explore, verify and question what I’m seeing.

I enjoyed exploring this set more closely at home from the few pages I photographed.  I strongly recommend that New England researchers find a way to utilize this manuscript in one of the two repositories.

More sources

(1) The website of the National Aldrich Association has an interesting bibliography for Aldrich research. Most of the books on the list are either specifically about certain branches, or not reliable, or I am just unfamiliar with them.   The articles section farther down on the list is a unique compiled bibliography of research articles and booklets, and might be helpful, if you can access the journals. Oddly, the web page states that these volumes are unindexed, which is not true.

(2) Mr. Aldrich in his preface to volume 1, pages XiI and XIIi, reviews a list of sources and on p. IX reviews some special sources:

Several years after the huge task of this project was initiated, it was learned that Marcus Morton (7) Aldrich (1834-1914) of the Jacob (2) branch had done a large amount of Aldrich research, but had passed away before he had completed a record for publication.  Similarly, Charles Henry Pope of Cambridge, Mass. in 1916-1918 compiled considerable Aldrich data but died before having it published.  The Marcus M. Collection was safely kept by his son Frank Morton (8) (1863-1960), but was not readily available for viewing or use until mid 1961 after his daughter Florence Joanna (9) (1890-1974) had presented it to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Mass.  The Pope Collection was given to that Society in 1929, but general knowledge of it was not widely known.

The Marcus M. Aldrich Collection consists mainly of hand written manuscripts and quite an assortment of small notebooks.  The latter revealed a considerable number of problems in regard to lineage of quite a number of persons which remained unsolved.

Most of the genealogical correspondence of Marcus M.(7) Aldrich became the property of Earl D. (10) Aldrich (1903-1979) of the Jacob (2) branch in 1961.  Earl, very generously, shared review and use of it with others interested.

Note that this Marcus Morton Aldrich collection (NOT the books I have been reviewing here) is available at NEHGS ONLY BY APPOINTMENT since it is stored off-site.  Charles Henry Pope appears in the NEHGS card catalog numerous times but it’s hard to say which papers, if any, concern the Aldriches.

(3) Another unpublished manuscript that has information about the Cumberland, Rhode Island Aldriches is a folder in Abigail Sprague’s notes on the History of Cumberland (note – this is in the Rhode Island Historical Society library, Mss 1023).

Graves of Asa and Lucy Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Graves of my 6x-great grandparents Asa and Lucy (Haskell) Aldrich at West Wrentham Cemetery. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/08/28/the-aldrich-manuscript/

I don’t often write about the Darling family.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to purchase one of the last copies of a compiled genealogy of my branch of the Darlings.  The book agreed with my research, and gave me many clues for pursuing the very earliest generations from the 1600’s, in the future.  It is:

  • Dennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon and Some of His Descendants, 1662 to 1800, by William and Lou Ella Martin, 2006. Self-published.  Still under copyright, the book may or may not be available online. When I bought it I was told there may be no more copies available. You can see the Worldcat entry here, with some library holdings, and definitely try the Familysearch entry.

I highly recommend consulting this book.  In addition to genealogical information on the Darlings, the book contains brief sections on the intermarried families of Cook, Southwick, Thayer, and Thompson.  There are about 5000 footnotes which will help you find specific records concerning your ancestors.

Dennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon and Some of His Descendants. By William A Martin and Lou Ella J. Martin.

Dennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon and Some of His Descendants. By William A Martin and Lou Ella J. Martin.

My grandmother Edna Darling’s descent from Dennis Darling is as follows:

  • Dennis Darling (1640 – 1717)
  • John Darling (1664 – 1753)
  • John Darling (1687 – 1760)
  • John Darling (1717 – 1798)
  • Elias Darling (1759 – 1833)
  • Paul Darling (1798 – 1877)
  • Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824 – 1883)
  • Addison Parmenter Darling (1856 – 1933)
  • Russell Earl Darling (1883 – 1959)
  • Edna May Darling (1905 – 1999)

A visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society

And that is where things stood.  Not much genealogy drama here and few mysteries.  My branch of the Darlings ended up in Sheldonville, Massachusetts, where my gg-grandfather Addison Parmenter Darling was born in a farmhouse built by his great-grandfather, Nathan Aldrich.  Many of these folks are buried in the nearby Sheldonville Cemetery which I have visited many times.

Like all branches of my mother’s family, they left few breadcrumbs behind, few mementos, and almost no pre-1880 pictures.  I often picture my New England ancestors on a chilly winter night gathered around the fireplace carefully burning anything that might, one day, be of the remotest interest to me.

My ancestors enjoying the warmth of the fire fueled by important family papers and artifacts. Note how happy they are. Of course, this isn't my family. They wouldn't have saved this. (from "Old Christmas", 1916, p. 24)

My ancestors enjoying the warmth of a fire fueled by important family papers and artifacts. Note how happy they are. Of course, this isn’t my family. They would not have saved this. (from “Old Christmas”, 1916, p. 24)

This week I took the train up to Boston for a day to visit the New England Historic Genealogical Society library on Newbury Street.   I had two missions – read New London County and Windham County, Connecticut probates on microfilm for any member of the Minor/Miner family, 1780-1840, seeking a parent for Lydia (Minor) Lamphere and also, look at a manuscript on the Brown family of Sudbury, Massachusetts, seeking the parents of Nathaniel Brown.  I did both those things and found nothing, although in each case, the absence is something to note and may serve as evidence of some sort.  But all in all, not a successful day.  I had no other plan, and an hour and a half to go before the train.

 

The New England Historic Genalogical Society was founded in 1845

The New England Historic Genealogical Society was founded in 1845.  A visit to the Library on Newbury Street, Boston is possible for non-members by paying a small fee.  Manuscripts are only available to members.  Photo, 2011, by Diane Boumenot.

So I decided on a whim to pursue a clue that had been sent to me in the few emails I exchanged with William Martin, co-author of the Darling book noted above.  He recommended that someday I should look through the manuscripts of Carlos Parsons Darling, a previous researcher of the Darling family, which were held at the NEHGS library, where he had viewed them.  He said they had been very valuable to him.  I guess that’s the difference between my early genealogical self, that figured, well, Mr. Martin had perused it all and created a handy guide to the descendants of Dennis Darling.  Not sure I needed to see the manuscripts.  NOW I would think, there must be more material there that didn’t make the book.  I wonder what it is!

I went to the manuscripts desk and asked about the collection.  I knew from the card catalog that it was 40 boxes and that a finding aid existed, but was not online.  The librarian pulled it up on her computer.  It’s not public because it’s not quite finished, and it was 125 pages.  We found several folders I thought I might be interested in and I requested those.

The manuscript

Wow.  Just wow.  Mr. Darling (1876-1951) is a heck of a genealogist.  The Carlos Parsons Darling Genealogical Collection is Mss. 1048 at the NEHGS library.  A resident of Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, Mr. Darling served in many leadership roles among genealogical and legacy organizations and researched all Darling families as well as similar names and some allied lines during his lifetime.  His copious notes and files were never turned into a book although that had been his intention.  They now comprise 40 boxes containing 3000 archived folders.  Among the materials are notes on individuals, family groups, and correspondence with Darling family members.

Although I can’t reproduce much of the collection, let me show some snippets.  I was so impressed that most of his notes were all about the source of the information.

Of course there are many genealogical notes about family groups.  Below are some notes on an allied line, Paul Healey, whose daughter Hannah married John Darling III.  Paul Healey is my 7x-great grandfather.

Notes on my ancestor Paul Healey in which evidence for the second marriage of his widow Hannah (Titus) Healey is cited from her father's probate record.

Notes on my ancestor Paul Healey in which evidence for the second marriage of his widow Hannah (Titus) Healey is cited from her father’s probate record.

An examination of deeds provides evidence that my 6x-great grandfather John Darling III was an early owner of part of the Burnt Swamp Road property in Sheldonville.

Notes from John and Hannah Darling's 1794 deed conveying half their homestead and 45 acres in the Burnt Swamp area, near my 6x-great grandfather Asa Aldrich.

Notes from John and Hannah Darling’s 1794 deed conveying half their homestead and 45 acres in the Burnt Swamp area, near my 6x-great grandfather Asa Aldrich.

He also, for instance, points out an error in The History of Framingham about Elias Darling.  In an almost conversational tone, and impressively spare language, he lays out the facts he can find for each person.  So many connections between people, property, and records, along with insightful commentary and occasional speculation such as (for Elias and Nancy Darling):

Four children are recorded to Elias and Nancy Darling, at Wrentham, but it would seem there were others.

A visit from Aunt Grace

Something unusual happened when I was examining the folder titles.  I could see the name of Grace (Darling) Remlinger as a correspondent.  I realized that if he followed usual procedures, Mr. Darling had probably placed notes or ads in the local area; who knows where but perhaps in local newspapers or libraries, and my grandmother’s Aunt Grace must have replied.

I was really stunned.  At last, a break in tradition for my family.  Someone who reached out to a historian to tell our story.  Someone who left breadcrumbs.  I was amazed to see my grandmother’s name, Edna May Darling, along with her brother, Russell, on the folder titles. Those had to be supplied by Aunt Grace.

Aunt Grace with her sister in law, my great grandmother, Eva Murdock Darling.

Aunt Grace (dark hair) with her sister in law, my great grandmother, Eva Murdock Darling.

Aunt Grace is the daughter of Emma Lamphere Darling, my link to the mysterious Lampheres and Andrews who keep me up at night conducting bleary eyed planning, searching, and deciphering.  I am anxious to see what she might have had to say about her mother.  At last, at the very least, a really definitive birth date from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I realized that very far down in the list of folders, there were a set of folders for various cousins also descended from Ellis Darling, that I already knew a few things about, or have been in touch with descendants of – Abby Darling Mead and her daughters, Sarah Darling Swan and her sons, as well as several others I did not know anything about.  I think Grace and a couple other descendants, particularly Francis William Darling and Mabel Holmes Mead, contributed.

New info

My particular line was stopped early in the Martin book (Dennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon) because it was not their intention to document the whole 19th century, plus it’s easy to get confused about Ellis Darling’s children and grandchildren since there are a few errors in the vital records. In fact, Carlos Parsons Darling definitely scrambled the children in one or two areas, or else I am not understanding his notes. But this manuscript was the first time I had seen written work on my nineteenth century Darling line.

I learned that my Healey ancestors were early settlers of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which means I can be a part of a DNA project on early Rehoboth settlers.  Not sure what’s up with that, but I’m checking it out.  And, they were members of the Newman Congregational Church, kind of an important local landmark with a great cemetery.  AND I may be seeing a clue in all this for my Rachel Smith mystery.

I spent a week happily entering a slew of middle names, spouses, and death dates into my records. Yay! On a side note, funny how deeds start to make sense once you know all the names of the sons-in-law. I also found important notes on occupations for some of my direct ancestors.  The early Darlings and Aldriches were a long line of housebuilders.  I have found existing Aldrich-built houses, perhaps I will find some Darling houses.

Some of these names were only noted after I returned from Boston. And I only photographed some genealogy notes, I did not read any actual correspondence or check for pictures, etc.  So I will have to make a return trip to see more of these items.  I can’t wait.

back row: unkn., Louis Murdock, Russell Darling, Addison Darling, unkn. mid row: unkn., unkn., Eva Murdock, Grace Darling, Sarah Darling Swan, William H. H. Swan. front row: Addison Darling Jr., Jessie (McLeod ) Murdock, Emma (Lamphere) Darling

Family photo from around 1903: Back row: unkn., Louis Murdock, Russell Darling, Addison Darling Sr, unkn. Middle row: unkn., unkn., Eva Murdock, Grace Darling, Sarah Darling Swan (I think), William H. H. Swan (I think). Front row: Addison Darling Jr., Jessie (McLeod ) Murdock, Emma (Lamphere) Darling.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/08/21/a-darling-legacy/

 

 

 

 

I drive by the First Baptist Church in America regularly, and finally went inside this week for a visit.  The church is massive, and lovely.  Although it is truly beautiful and historic, it is also familiar, comfortable and welcoming.

The First Baptist Church in America, North Main Street, Providence

The First Baptist Church in America, North Main Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The church was founded in 1638 by Roger Williams, who soon moved away from the idea of a formal church and others took over the ministry.

A marble plaque inside the church.

A marble plaque inside the church.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

This particular building was built in the mid-1770’s, replacing a smaller building a short distance away.  I’ve been reading about it in Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, The Slave Trade, and the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006).  The Brown brothers Nicholas, Joseph, John and Moses played important roles both in moving the (then) Baptist college from Warren, R.I. to Providence (now Brown University), and in the effort to build the stately new church.  The church building served, also, for the college graduation exercises, a custom that continues to this day.  Rev. James Manning, educated at Princeton, became the President of the college and also was elected as minister of the church in 1771.

Interior view. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Interior view. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

I read the Self Guided Tour booklet before arriving, and enjoyed spotting all the historic items mentioned in the booklet.

,mm,..

The Self Guided Tour explained many of the features of the church.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The church has a sense of history of course, but it is also an active church community.

The church has a sense of history of course, but it is also an active church community.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A mystery

While at the church, I asked about a picture I recently purchased of the church; a print from J & F Tallis, London.  Oddly, it shows the church with a cemetery in the yard, something that does not exist.  The same picture was also in the Manning Room at the church, but the person I spoke to pointed out many inaccuracies in the illustration – no hill behind the church, and no surrounding buildings, which were there very early on. And most of all, no graves should be there.

Print of the First Baptist Church at Providence by J & F Tallis. Photo of the print by Diane Boumenot.

Print of the First Baptist Church at Providence by J & F Tallis. Photo of the print by Diane Boumenot.

A little research online shows an estimated date of 1843 for the print. There are other illustrations from that era by other artists which do not contain graves, so clearly this is just a fanciful rendition.  But what’s amusing is the eerie, ancient look of the graves – are those two people in the act of interring or disinterring?  Is that a skull thrown on the ground?

I very much enjoyed my visit to the First Baptist Church in America. No mysteries, ghosts or grave robbers were found, just a beautiful Rhode Island treasure, continuing Roger Williams’ “lively experiment” in today’s world.

The First Baptist Church in America, nearby.

Well known for their weekly sign on North Main Street, I captured this picture a couple of years ago when Providence celebrated its 375th birthday.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

To plan a visit, consult the “tours” page on the church website.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/08/13/first-baptist-church-in-america/

Having a fifth cousin scout out a distant ancestral town is way, way, better than nothing. Especially when that cousin is Pat Hagan.

Bessie Blanche Martin

My great-grandmother Bessie Blanche Martin (mother of my grandfather, Miles E. Baldwin) was born in Wolfville, Kings County, Nova Scotia in 1870.

Bessie’s father was Marsden Martin.  His ancestry looks something like this:

Marston Martin tree

Her mother’s family are the Shipleys from England and the Doughertys from Scotland (not a part of this discussion).

In the 1871 census, Bessie was a baby living with her parents, Marsden and Mariah (Shipley) and her sister Minnie in Wolfville, Kings County.  Marsden was working as a day laborer. By the 1881 census, the family was living in Mill Village (now Parrsboro), Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.  There were three new siblings – May, Clara, and John A.  The family moved to Milton or Newton, Mass. around 1885, and census records after that are very few, for various reasons.  I have been able to learn very little about Bessie’s life before her death at age 27, particularly about her early life, although I have written about her here, here, here, here, and about a memory book made for her son, and an early marriage license she obtained and never used.

In King’s County

Wolfville is a lovely college town, home to Acadia University.   I would love to visit, but probably won’t get there for another year or two.

However, thanks to the internet and, more recently, DNA testing, I know some cousins in that line.  Pat Hagan is my 5th cousin; we are descended from our fourth-great grandparents John Secomb Anderson (son of privateer James Anderson) and Elizabeth Hardacker who died in Gaspereau, Kings County.  Although Pat’s branch of the family is in western Canada now, he was told by his grandmother about a cousin, Bill Anderson, in King’s County, and that’s how Pat was able to track Bill Anderson down, and see and take pictures of our ancestor James Anderson’s surviving documents: a New York Marine Society certificate and a Masonic document, on which is scrawled “Died in the West Indies July 1796.”  There’s also an old chest identified by the family as James’.

Pat and his wife Marlene had the pleasure of visiting Bill Anderson again in May, 2015.  Pat called me a couple of times during the trip and I even got to talk to Bill myself. My favorite part?  When Pat passed the phone to Bill, I heard an entreaty “Now Bill, be nice!” There’s always a lot of kidding going on with those Andersons, I think.  Pat has learned a lot about our Anderson line from Bill, and has had a great time getting to know Bill and his family.

I had given Pat a few names of some local family lines that I have, that he does not share – the Martins and the Grahams.  Pat was able to scout around and send me some terrific pictures.

Bill Anderson’s

Bill Anderson's home, looking lovely in late May.

Bill Anderson’s home, looking lovely in late May. Photo by Pat Hagan.

Bill's wife Charlotte Anderson, in her yard.

Bill’s wife Charlotte Anderson, in her yard.  Photo by Pat Hagan.

Charlotte Anderson with Marlene and Pat Hagan at the Apple Festival Parade.

Charlotte Anderson with Marlene and Pat Hagan at the Apple Festival Parade. Photo by Cathy Anderson MacDonald.

More treasures from the Captain’s sea chest

Pat Hagan and another cousin, Bonnie Lord and I are on a mission to discover the family roots of our ancestor James Anderson, sea captain and sometime privateer.  Of course Pat and Bill Anderson spent some time looking at the relics of James Anderson.  Thanks to James’ activities during the Revolutionary War, the Anderson family fled to Nova Scotia after the war.  But James Anderson’s original roots, from before he built a brick house in Fell’s Point, Baltimore, are an ongoing mystery to us.

Previously, we have seen a masonic certificate and a Marine Society certificate.  Pat, along with Bill Anderson, unearthed a few more clues in the sea chest.

There is a copy of a letter from our gggg-grandfather John Secomb Anderson to our gggg-grandmother Elizabeth Hardacker (note pictures of both are in this blog post).

Bill Anderson working with Pat to explore the documents.  I believe the red and black striped small chest, at his feet, is considered by the family to be James Anderson's sea chest.

Bill Anderson working with Pat to explore the documents. I believe the red and black striped small chest, at his feet, is considered by the family to be James Anderson’s chest.

A copy of an 1813 letter from our gggg-granfather John Secomb Anderson to our gggg-grandmother Elizabeth Hardacre.  Page 1.

A copy of an 1813 letter between our gggg-grandparents.  “O my Dear I think If I could but creap Into this letter till I could see you…”. Page 1.

Page 2 of the letter, signed

Page 2 of the letter mentions a hope of “getting into the yard” and is signed “your affectionate friend and lover, John S. Anderson.”

A long letter on the occasion of John Secomb Anderson's death between his sons William and James, 1869.

A long letter (not included here) on the occasion of John Secomb Anderson’s death between his sons William and James, 1869.

And even another artifact of James Anderson, an old pocket notebook from the 1780’s. There are lists of expenses in here – a page for what appears to be the building of something wooden – a fence? a dock? and a page for some sails of different types.  There seem to be notes about bills payed or monies owed by others.  The handwriting is, I think, somewhat sophisticated, even if the writing is quick and sloppy. Pat Hagan has a theory that James Anderson came from a fairly wealthy background. If this is his handwriting, this supports that theory, I think.

An old pocket notebook from the 1780's.  Presumably, this belonged to James Anderson.

An old pocket notebook from the 1780’s. Presumably, this belonged to James Anderson.

Notes from the pocket book.  The handwriting is, I think, somewhat sophisticated. Pat Hagan has a theory that James Anderson came from a fairly wealthy background.  If this is his handwriting, this supports that theory, I think.

Notes from the pocket book. There are several more pages for me to go through carefully.  Is that “3 Bushals tatos”?  I wonder what the mention of “Cap. Martin” refers to?

The graves of the Martins and Grahams

Pat was kind enough to visit a local cemetery and take pictures of Martin and Graham burials.

The beautiful Melanson Cemetery, Wolfville.

The beautiful Melanson Cemetery, Wolfville. Photo by Pat Hagan.

The grave of my gggg-grandmother,

Pat found the grave of my gggg-grandmother, “Olevia” (Graham) Martin, wife of Perez Martin, at the Melanson Cemetery. Photo by Pat Hagan.

The graves of my ggg-grandparents, James B and Margarety A. (Anderson) Martin - Bessie Blanche Martin's grandparents.

The graves of my ggg-grandparents, James B and Margaret A. (Anderson) Martin at the Melanson Cemetery – Bessie Blanche Martin’s grandparents.  Photo by Pat Hagan.

The house of Perez Martin

Amazingly, Pat found the house of my gggg-grandparents Perez (1800-1871) and Olivia (Graham) (1799-1859) Martin.  The house is in use, and modernized, but definitely has a 19th century charm.  Even better, the current owner has agreed to correspond with me about his research into the Martins and Grahams.  The Martins are originally from Massachusetts, and I have been able to trace them pretty well, but the origins of the Grahams are a complete mystery to me.  So I am very excited to learn more.

Pat must be a reader of my blog, and knew I would like a picture of the sign for Martin Cross Road, where the old Martin house is located.

The sign for Martin Cross Road in Wolfville, where the old Martin house is located. Photo by Pat Hagan.

The Perez Martin house.

The Perez Martin house. Photo by Pat Hagan.

Another view of the Perez Martin house.

Another view of the Perez Martin house. Photo by Pat Hagan.

An older view of the Perez Martin house.

An older view of the Perez Martin house.

Pat took the time to visit some local repositories, but nothing new turned up.  James Anderson should have had a probate record – he died with property and minor children – but evidently any such documents have not survived.

All in all, a very successful journey, and I can’t wait to go myself.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/07/31/kings-county-nova-scotia/

Over the years I’ve acquired many magazine holders for my growing collection of genealogy journals and periodicals.  The situation looked something like this:

Journals in a variety of holders.

Part of the journal collection in a variety of holders.

Not bad, but I was always running out of room in the boxes.  Recently, I bought some loose single copies of the Rhode Island Genealogical Register, to fill in some gaps in my collection of the bound volumes.  I knew I didn’t want to throw the loose volumes in a box.  Then I would have to pull out all 20 of them to find one issue.

The idea of grouping my issues by year came from this 1923 issue of The New England Historic Genealogical Register that I acquired a few years ago at a book giveaway table at a Rhode Island Genealogical Society meeting.

The New England Historic Genealogical Register, all issues for 1923.

The New England Historic Genealogical Register, all issues for 1923.

I was fascinated with the modest efficiency of what is, essentially, a bookcover.  It serves as a faux binding for an index volume and four issues.  Because it’s labelled, you can more easily find the issue you are looking for than in those boxes.

Making the journal covers

I gathered up some paper, tape, cardboard and my trusty P-touch label maker.

Shelf liner paper, various large postcards and other light cardboard I found around the house, and some shopping bags.

Shelf liner paper, various large postcards and other light cardboard I found around the house, and some shopping bags.

I got some drawer lining paper with a coupon at Michael’s.  It was conveniently cut in sheets that were a perfect size for smaller journals.  I also tried some shopping bags, but decided in the end they were too thick.

I gathered the journals and put each one in order by year.

I gathered the journals and put each one in order by year.

It’s like making a bookcover, except you add some light cardboard to the inside cover, one in the front of the first issue and one in the back of the last issue, and tape the bookcover to the cardboard to add structure. NOTHING gets attached to any journal issue.  The 2 or 3 issues in the middle of the set are, essentially, loose and could fall out, but it’s surprising how well these hold together.

Folding the top and bottom of the paper sheet according to the size of the journal.  Adding the cardboard sheet.

Folding the top and bottom of the paper sheet according to the size of the journal. Adding the cardboard sheet.

The back cover being slid in place.

The back cover being slid in place.  Note the tape is on the cardboard.

Each pile of 4 issues tensd to slide around a bit while you're working on them.  That's actually helpful, makes it very easy to position the front and back cover.

Each pile of 4 issues tends to slide around a bit while you’re working on them. That’s actually helpful, making it very easy to position the front and back cover.

I tried to use the shopping bags, but only managed to use them on 2 covers when I decided they were too stiff and bulky.  I decided wrapping paper would be better, but good quality wrapping paper, like the kind you get at the Container Store.  Fortunately I had hit their Dec 26 sale pretty hard last year, so I looked over my supply.  Wow, Christmas-y.  Oh well.  I like Christmas.

For the larger journals, I cut up wrapping paper.  It worked very well.  And it was cheerful looking.

The Christmas paper from the Container Store made a nice cover.

The Christmas paper from the Container Store made a nice cover.

When I was done, the journals were all separated by year and easy to find.

The journal covers in place. They take up a lot less room than the boxes.

The journal covers in place. They take up a lot less room than the boxes, and the issues don’t slouch like they do in the boxes.

Making it work

  • This lends itself to using what’s around, although my idea about shopping bags didn’t work.
  • Instead of drawer liners I think another time I would go with all wrapping paper, and, with more planning, not Christmas paper. For people who save wrapping paper from use to use, this could work well.  But it would have to be heavy.
  • Rolls of shelf lining paper might work or, of course, the ubiquitous brown paper bag, or brown wrapping.  Almost any large sheet of paper is a possibility.
  • Another time I might be more careful about matching all issues of something in one paper.  Although in subsequent years it’s bound to get mixed up anyway.
  • For those worried about the loose issues inside, an elastic from top to bottom would protect them more in the case of an earthquake or a broken shelf, and wouldn’t show.
  • For the cardboard inside the front and back cover, large postcard ads worked well, or shirt cardboard, old folders, even large index cards for the smaller journals.  It need not be absolutely as large as the cover.
  • Another time, I would make labels on the computer.  It took too long with the P-touch.
The newly faux-bound journals are looking good.

The newly faux-bound journals are looking good.

I did about 30 volumes; the rest are elsewhere in the bookcase. I’m keeping some holders around for new issues. I guess I would have to do this once a year.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/07/21/journal-collection/

I get a lot of questions here about church records.  And probably nothing in Rhode Island is more complicated and interesting than church history.

The first thing I think people have trouble realizing is that the church your ancestor belonged to prior to 1850 probably doesn’t exist anymore.  And if it does, it is focusing on its mission today and not necessarily devoted to looking up old records, or even in possession of old records.  I’ll bet there are some exceptions to that, but then again, I wouldn’t know, I’m embarrassed to say my New England ancestors barely darkened the door of a church between about 1700-1900 so I don’t have much to look for.

Location of the first Sunday School in America. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 577

Location of the first Sunday School in America. Pawtucket.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 577

The other thing that’s important to understand is that since many of these churches were, in their time, new and unique, it’s important than do more than race around looking for vital records.  It’s important to understand what the church philosophy and principles were.  For instance, your ancestor from one part of the state may have found a bride from a completely different area of the state, or into Massachusetts, because marrying within the church was required.  Other rules may have impacted your ancestors’ lives:  refusal of military service, baptism of infants (or lack thereof), or consequences of non-attendance.  Knowing the story of the church will tell you something significant about your ancestors’ story.

I am no expert on this, so feel free to add, in the comments, your own favorite sources for church records.

First Congregational Meeting House, Providence.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 564.

First Congregational Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

Some published guides to churches

During the Depression, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) put some people to work compiling the locations of old church records as part of The Historical Records Survey.  These books will guide you to the LOCATION of church records in the 1930’s.  They do not contain the records themselves.  In many cases a name and address will be given for a person who was holding the old record volumes (around 1940).  Those would be useless today.  In some cases, a repository or association is mentioned as holding the records.  That might be something you could follow up on.

Inventory of the Church Archives of Rhode Island. Society of Friends.  Providence: Historical Records Survey, 1939.

Inventory of the Church Archives of Rhode Island. Baptist.   Providence: Historical Records Survey, 1941.

Other general works:

A view in 1827 of all the Six Principle Baptist Churches in Rhode Island is contained in History of the General or Six Principle Baptists in Europe and America by Richard Knight, p. 254-301, specifically.

Weis, Frederick Lewis.  Colonial Clergy of New England. Lancaster, Mass.: Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy, 1936.

Jackson, Henry.  An Account of the Churches in Rhode Island (Baptist State Convention) (1853)

First Baptist Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 564.

First Baptist Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

Some volumes that contain actual records

Updike, Wilkins.  A History of the Episcopal Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island (1907):  Volume 1.   Volume 2Volume 3.

Centennial sermon preached before the Beneficent Congregational Church and Society in Providence, R.I. March 19, 1843 : together with the articles of faith, covenant, & c. and a list of members of said church (1845)

Historical manual of the Central Congregational Church, Providence, R.I. 1852-1902 (1902)

Manual of the Union Congregational Church, in Providence, R.I (1894)

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.7    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 7 contains:

  • KINGSTOWN  Kings Towne Friends, p. 202
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS. p. 330
  • NARRAGANSETT  Narragansett friends, p. 131
  • RHODE ISLAND FRIENDS records, p. 1
  • SMITHFIELD  Smithfield Friends, p. 160
  • SWANSEE  Swansey Friends record p. 277
Central Congregational Church.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 586.

Central Congregational Church. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 586.

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.8   (opens the pdf link to the Google Books download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 8 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  Congregational Church records, p. 69
  • BRISTOL  Baptist Church records, p. 515
  • BRISTOL  Congregational Church records, p. 239
  • BRISTOL  Episcopal Church records, p. 145
  • BRISTOL  Methodist Church records, p. 565
  • BRISTOL  Dr. Shepard’s record of deaths, 1834-1857, p. 481
  • LITTLE COMPTON  Congregational Church records, p. 1
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS.  p. 1, 270
  • NEWPORT  First Congregational Church records, p. 400
  • NEWPORT  Second Congregational Church records, p. 439
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Baptist Church records, p. 598
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Baptist Church records, p. 616
  • TIVERTON  Baptist Church record, p. 495
  • TIVERTON  Congregational Church records, p. 49
  • WAKEFIELD  Records of the Church of the Ascension, p. 577
  • WARREN  Baptist Church records, p. 521
  • WARREN  Episcopal Church records, p. 95
  • WARREN  Methodist Church records, p. 559

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.10   (opens the pdf link to Family History Books (familysearch.org) for immediate download download).

Volume 10 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  First Congregational Church records, 1728-1740, p. 231
  • COVENTRY  Maple Root Baptist Church record, p.  245
  • CRANSTON  Marriages performed by Rev. Otis W. Potter, 1833-1852, p. 299
  • EAST GREENWICH  Baptist Church records, p. 291
  • EAST PROVIDENCE  Baptist Church records, p. 117
  • EXETER  Baptist Church records, p. 399
  • HOPKINTON  First Sabbatarian Church to 1785. p. 93
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS.  p. 299, 305, 310
  • NARRAGANSETT  St. Paul’s Church records, 1718-1075, p. 333
  • NEWPORT  Trinity Church records, p. 427
  • PAWTUCKET  Births, p. 61
  • PAWTUCKET  Marriages and intentions p. 1, 43
  • PAWTUCKET  Marriages performed by Rev. David Benedict, p. 310
  • PROVIDENCE  Congregational Church, west side, records, p. 197
  • PROVIDENCE  First Congregational Church records, p. 155
  • PROVIDENCE  King Church (now St. John’s) records, p. 135
  • PROVIDENCE  Westminster Congregational Church records, p. 185
  • RICHMOND  Marriages performed by Edward Perry-Justice of Peace, p. 305
  • SMITHFIELD  Second Freewill Baptist Church records, p. 297
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Narragansett Baptist Church records, p. 545
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Queen’s River Baptist Church records, p. 387
  • WEST GREENWICH  West Greenwich and Exeter Union Church, Baptist, p. 279
  • WESTPORT  Record of Friend3 Births and Deaths, p. 75
  • WESTPORT  Record of Friends Marriages, p. 63
  • WICKFORD  First Baptist Church records, p. 553

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.11    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 11 contains:

  • CROSS MILLS  First Baptist Church records, p. 261
  • EAST GREENWICH  Baptist Church records, p. 437
  • EAST GREENWICH  Methodist-Episcopal Church records, p. 457
  • EAST GREENWICH  St. Lake’s Church records, p. 517
  • HOPKINTON  Rookville Seventh Day Baptist Church records, p. 373
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS. p. 339
  • NEWPORT  Sabbatarian Baptist Church records, p. 297
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Quidnessett Baptist Church records, p. 419
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Marriages performed by Joshua Babcock, Justice, p, 339
  • RICHMOND  First General Baptist Church records, p. 387
  • RICHMOND  Second Baptist Church records, p. 239
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Second Baptist Church records, p. 265
  • STONINGTON  Pawcatuck Congregational Church records, p. 347
  • WESTERLY  Christ Church records, p. 1
  • WESTERLY  First Baptist Church records, p. 205
  • WESTERLY  First Christian Church records, p. 309
  • WESTERLY  Grace Church marriages, p, 145
  • WESTERLY  Pawcatuck Congregational Church records, p. 347
  • WESTERLY  Pawcatuck Sabbatarian Baptist Church records, p. 273
St. Peter's and St. Paul's Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Providence.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 616.

St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 616.

Other sources

The Rhode Island Historical Society does have some holdings of church records (not always member data, though) so check their card catalog as well as contacting them with questions.  I suspect the same is true for the Newport Historical Society Library.

Of special note at the Rhode Island Historical Society:

Probably the best sources of any new research that might come along on this topic from time to time would be Rhode Island Roots from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and Rhode Island History from the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I enjoy belonging to both those organizations and receiving the subscriptions.

Also try:

Some other sources of Rhode Island information:

  • The Narragansett Historical Register seems to have articles about a few churches.
  • The Rhode Island Genealogical Register has a few church cemeteries, but a quick perusal shows no church records, which is just as well since this 20 volume periodical is hard to find.  Under copyright, so not online, but no longer for sale in print.  Available used and in libraries only.
  • Rhode Island: Volume 5 of Bibliographies of New England History shows church materials in just about every town list; often an anniversary souvenir booklet, not, usually, materials with member lists.  This book (University Press of New England, 1983) could be consulted in large genealogy libraries or at local libraries in Rhode Island.
  • Many of Rhode Island’s town histories will include the history of many of the local churches, for instance, Oliver P. Fuller’s 1875 History of Warwick, Rhode Island.
  • Likewise, the larger statewide histories like Thomas W. Bicknell’s History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations include overviews of various churches and religious bodies (particularly Volume 2, p. 565-637).  Volume 1    Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4:BiographicalVolume 5: Biographical.
Academy of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst, Providence.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2,  p. 621.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 621.

Some more recent books cannot be found online but can be found for sale and in genealogy libraries:

  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  Elder John Gorton and the Six Principle Baptist Church of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society (Special Publication No. 6), 2001.
  • For many years Rhode Island has had a large Catholic population.  Some Catholic Church records have been transcribed and published in book form.  Check out the American French Genealogical Society website (including the book sale and the library catalog) for many of these volumes.  The state Catholic Diocese is located at 1 Cathedral Square, Providence.

More sources will be added here from time to time.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/07/15/church-records-rhode-island/

The Civil War letters below were written by my great great grandfather’s uncle, John H. Lawrence, a private in Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, serving from June 1861 until his death at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.

I guess this story started with my trip to the URI Library to look at Grace Church Cemetery records.  I didn’t have any special reason to track down these records, I was just trying to be thorough.  My gggg-grandparents, James and Annie Lawrence, had a family plot in Grace Church Cemetery, Providence, that included several of their children.  Viewing a card index file led to an indication that their son John H. Lawrence had died at the Battle of Antietam.  And some footnotes that I found in some military histories while researching John Lawrence’s service and death indicated that the Antietam National Battlefield may have some letters of John Lawrence.

I couldn’t imagine why that would be true, but I emailed the Battlefield to inquire about the letters.  After a few weeks I received a package in the mail.  The package contained photocopies of letters and some sort of pension claim. There were no explanations, just the copies, which I was fine with because I’m sure the Battlefield is just trying to get information out quickly.  It took me several hours to figure out what I was seeing.

What I ended up finding was a way to find my gggg-grandparents’ life story.

When a large envelope from a national battlefield arrives, it's genealogy happy dance time.

When a large envelope arrives from a national battlefield, it’s genealogy happy dance time.

Mother’s Brief

The only document in my packet from the Antietam National Battlefield with an official heading was called “Mother’s Brief.”  Only after carefully assembling the pages letter by letter did I realize that the Mother’s Brief was part of a dependent pension application, and the letters had originally been attached to the pension application, as proof that the soldier had been sending money home.  Snippets of his letters where the soldier wrote about sending $10 or $20 were underlined.  All pages had a printed “Reproduced at the National Archives” on the bottom.

I finally realized that a researcher had found this pension application at the National Archives, and the copy had been conveyed to the battlefield at some point because it concerned a soldier who had died there.  Previously, all my efforts to find a record of any pension or payment had turned up nothing.

I was lucky that a claim number – 197,794 – was on the papers.  I consulted Fold3.com and managed, finally, to find an original index card and also, a certificate number.  With that, I was able to order the pension file from the National Archives. The pension file should give me a lot of details about the lives John’s parents, James and Annie Lawrence, including the reasons they were in need.  Until it arrives, I am looking more closely at these letters to see what can be learned about the soldier, John H. Lawrence.

Knowing the law

I found a useful introduction to the subject of dependents’ pensions in a Vita Brevis post from the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  “Something to Love in Civil War Pensions” by Christopher Child explains how he found a mother’s pension related to his own family’s history.  Mr. Child also gave a helpful link to a site that contains a large number of the pension laws.

Mr. Child detailed the pension law of July 27, 1868.  That law (27 July 1868 – An Act relating to Pensions) specifies:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the laws granting pensions to the hereinafter-mentioned dependent relatives of deceased persons leaving neither widow or child entitled to pensions under existing laws, shall be so construed as to give precedence to such relatives in the following order, namely: First, mothers; secondly, fathers; thirdly, orphan brothers and sisters under sixteen years of age, who shall be pensioned jointly if there be more than one: Provided, That if, in any case, the said persons shall have left both father and mother who were dependent upon them, then on the death of the mother the father shall become entitled to a pension commencing from and after the death of the mother; and upon the death of the mother and father the dependent brothers and sisters under sixteen years of age shall jointly become entitled to such pension until they attain the age of sixteen years, respectively, commencing from and after the death of the party who, preceding them, would have been entitled to the same: And provided further, That no pension heretofore awarded shall be affected by anything herein contained.

The bill goes on to specify some pension rules for other cases, such as soldiers that left widows or children behind.  The Act can also be found on page 235 of this government Record of the Fortieth Congress, Session II in Google Books.

So basically, under the law of 1868, we can expect that since John Lawrence died in service leaving behind no widow or child, his mother and father may have been eligible for support if they could prove their son had provided needed support to them.  Hence the letters where John mentioned that he was sending them money.

The letters

Letter from John H Lawrence, 12 Oct 1861.

Letter from John H Lawrence, 12 Oct 1861.

 

Darnestown Maryland

Saturday October 12 1861

Dear parents and family I last night I sent you 10 dollars and wished for a reply in consequence of its delay. I have received yours but I was very glad to hear from you and that you had received the money. I would of send more but I paid 3 for a pair of boots $7 for a watch which comes very handy out here. I swapped it for a better one but its chain was broke so I have sent it in Washington to get it fixed, it will be back I will have a nearly brand new watch [tatdent?] lever for the sum of $7 and five I have in my pocket which had better keep.

You wished to know what I had to eat well as you are so inquisitive as to ask we live very well. By the [missing: way?] I did not tell you that we moved from our masked battery at Seneca Mills to our sorrow for theres where we had our good living. Did our own cooking had plenty to cook corn vegatables Mollasses Milk honney but sweet potatoes we had to by non raised but had a plenty of meat fresh and salt but we have been up here with the battery so we live plainer and have guard duty and plenty of drill to the bargain. We have just killed a beef creature not 5 minutes ago. So a plenty of fried steaks goes very well mornings along with good white bread and we have a company cook something new we are in Banks Coulum part of [which?] has gone across the Potomac [how?] soon our first and second pieces went last tuesday under sealed orders and we have not heard from them since but we have not gone to Washington yet and I guess we will not for we can’t get away from Banks colum give my best respects to all my friends and tell mother I am doing well. It is useless to send any papers for I do not get none

your affectionate Son

John Lawrence

Letter from John H Lawrence, 24 Nov 1861.

Letter from John H Lawrence, 24 Nov 1861.

Senaca Mills  [Seneca, Maryland?]

tuesday 24th Nov

Dear parents. I thought I would write a few words having nothing else to do

Last week the 17th [Rome?] of the 34 N.Y. boys went over the river. Just opposite where our pice was masked as had been there habit scouting and foragen but the rebels had lain for them. So it was about 12 at night just as they had passed a small brook the enemy laying in ambush 15 feet from our pickets gave the order fire when crash went a volley of about 25 guns which was not returned by our side. I could plainly see the guns flash and hear the boys holler help but took to their heels and ran no doubt it was the best plan. Out of 11 men there was 7 slightly wounded 4 missing of which one is dead. The alarm set us on our pins last Sunday 29th when we shelled out a small camp in about 15 minutes and there was some awfull scampering over the hills. I will not trouble you with a very long letter this time but will state I have received two months pay $24.83 I enclose $10

Give my love to gramma and all inquiring firends etc etc

P.S. send your number I have lost your last letter

Your affectionate son

John H Lawrence

Letter from John H. Lawrence, March 9 1862.

Letter from John H. Lawrence, March 9 1862.

 

March 9th 1862

Camp near Charlestown Va

Dear parents

I now take the opportunity to write [illegible] tired of waiting for a letter. I have not received a letter from you in two months and I have written 3 times. I sent 20 dollars in one letter. I guess you [illegible] it [illegible]. If you have I wish you would let me know as I could found it very useful here rather than lost it.

I have received your Box and it was very acceptable. It is very fine Sunday compared with what we have had. we advanced from Poollesville about 2 weeks ago crossed the Potomac on pontoon bridge into Harpers Ferry wich is a splendid little village most all deserted. Owned mostly [U.C.?] Government. We stopped there 3 days quartered in a fine house, and we marched 6 miles and camped near Charlestown [about 20 miles from Winchester] wich is a very strong seces’t town place where John Brown was hung. I have just come from there. rite smart place – saw the tree that scaffold was built on (or at least the stump) got piece of the tree. Will send it home when I get a chance. I think there will be some fighting at Winchester in a day or two. We have just got about 40,000 troops including 3 Bull Run regiments, the Massachusetts 15 is to cover us. Albert Waite and Chappel is here. We are under Banks in his column the cry here is March on but he won’t go untill he gets ready. I think most likely we will be in reserve as we are at present. However it doesn’t make much odds the sooner we do the fighting up the sooner we will get home. The pickets is bringing in rebels every day. Some of them a littel inclined to the Union. Say it is all up with them and a few more victories on our side will end the war. Albert sends his best respects to Richard Some more give my love to all the children including Maggy [Eliza?] Mary Jane her folks and the Bamfords and Gramma. Ask Martin how the baby is. your son

John H. Lawrence

Letter from John H Lawrence, 13 July 1862.

Letter from John H Lawrence, 13 July 1862.  The percentage of his pay that he sent to his parents was calculated along the side – it seems likely the note was made by the person who added the letters to the pension application.

 

Harryson’s landing

James River Va

Sunday July 13th 1862

Dear parents

I received a letter from some one with one dollar in it although it was too late as I got paid off at Fort Sully. I send you by the Commissioner twenty dollars.

You must know that the Army is laid up for repairs for this last retreat has bunged up this Corps it having had the brunt of the retreat such as being rear guard and having all the fighting to do. As you are aware that we commenced shelling the same day that Gen. Porter was attacked but it was all shelling about and that we did not mind as we had breastworks but the doctor that got hit on the head there. The next day being Sunday we commenced to fall back and as we fell back they followed up close in our rear making it necessary to fight and our troops displayed the most unequal courage that I ever imagined standing face to face to the rebels hordes and not flinch one inch but it was all that saved the Batterys in our Division and in fact the complete capture and anialation of this army depended on our movements [I mean the Corps] though the retreat cost the life of many a foe whose bones will bleach this summer on the sandy soil of Virginia.  We nevertheless had our losses and our hardships averaging about 3 hours sleep per day with our limbs aching with fatigue and hard work at the gun (firing no less than 18 hundred rounds on the [streak?]) however we are here and will be all rested in a short time and ready for another fight as we have made up our minds for to fight now and we shall go at it with a will. Tell William the first chance I have I will send him a revolver it is out of repair a little I suppose he can fix it we are hard up for delicacies paid $0.50 cookies 5 cts apiece lemons 10 = 15 cents and everything in proportion and I want you to send me a box not of broken dishes though. I will send you a list of things I shall I expect to receive. So no more present give my respects to all [so no more at]

John Lawrence

Detail from John Lawrence's letter if
Detail from John Lawrence’s letter of  March 9, 1862.  It looks like printed stationery.

A few thoughts

  • Evidently John’s mother was unable to read.  The letter is addressed “Dear Parents” but he says “tell mother I am doing well.” so clearly she was not reading the letters.
  • I’m not sure how the pension claim went, but I don’t think it’s proven, from these, that John was truly sending money home for the support of his family.  He seemed to expect them to send him packages, and had enclosed a list of what to send.  There is also the possibility they were supposed to be saving the money for him. But all in all given their circumstances, he probably was.
  • When he says in the third letter “give my love to Mary Jane and her folks” that makes me think he may have had a girlfreind, or at least someone he was fond of.
  • I know, from the Civil War letters of my other uncle who served, William. W. Douglas, that communications could get backed up and evidently this was not always obvious to the soldiers, who blamed their families for not writing.  It really is sad to see that.  A small indication of how stressful the situation was for everyone.
  • He gives his love to “gramma”, but it took me a minute to think which gramma was nearby.  His parents were born elsewhere, so I hadn’t slowed down enough to realize that of course he grew up around his mother’s mother.  I knew that, but hadn’t thought of it as having a “gramma.”  Funny how much more personal things get when you read letters.
  • He mentions his aunt and uncle, William and Mary (Shortridge) Bamford, a couple of times.  That is the family of my DNA cousin.  He will get a kick out of that.

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