Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ Category

DNA and Me

This is my first post on a few DNA-related things I’ve been doing.  I began a little DNA testing about 6 months ago, and I’ve found it confusing, bewildering, and totally awesome.  I’ll report my adventures here from time to time, but for advice on DNA, better look elsewhere.  Here are some helpful sources from people who are knowledgeable:

I have been involved in four tests.

Y-DNA – Family Tree DNA – a cousin

This 37-marker test of the Y or male chromosome was taken by a cousin named Anderson who is directly descended from my ggggg-grandfather James Anderson of Baltimore, and later of Chester, Nova Scotia.  Two things are holding us back from benefiting from this test:

  1. many of our fellow test-takers seem to have some mystery in their direct male line, and their known first ancestor is more recent in time than James Anderson.
  2. Anderson is a common, and I mean common, name.  There is an Anderson project, so that’s good, but we can’t make much out of our matches there.  We do not have a lot of close matches, only one Anderson and a few Dagliesh/Douglas families.

I am glad we have this test recorded, but I think we need to try some other strategies.

MtDNA – Family Tree DNA – me

This is a test of the kind of DNA that goes from a woman to her children, but only can be passed on again by her daughters, not her sons, so over a long period of time is transmitted through a direct female line.  I took this test because my direct maternal line does present a problem.  My grandmother’s grandmother Jessie MacLeod Murdock came to Rhode Island from Pictou, Nova Scotia, but her background before that is murky, particularly regarding her mother, Rachel (last name unknown).  I thought if I could at least find out about Rachel’s origins that might help me.

Louis and Jessie Murdock in 1933 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, with their three daughters, the husbands, three grandchildren and twin great-grand-daughters, my mom and her sister.

Louis and Jessie Murdock in 1933 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, (Jessie short, in the center) with their three daughters, the husbands, three grandchildren and twin great-grand-daughters, my mom and her sister.

When the results came back, they looked good, since I had several “0” matches (meaning no mutations different than mine) and many “1’s”.  However, there were two serious problems:

  1. many of the testers who showed up in the list knew very little about their maternal family tree or submitted no tree at all or seemed not to understand that for this test, most distant direct maternal ancestor should be listed, not the overall most distant ancestor.
  2. Of the matches where I COULD see direct maternal info, I was surprised at the wide range of origins.  Germany, England, Russia, Ireland, Holland, and early U.S. settlers were represented.  Doesn’t clarify things much.  Clearly, we have some kind of strong MtDNA which has not changed in hundreds or should I say thousands of years.

So all in all, no help for me here although I suppose I have ruled out Native American origins, which were a possibility.

Autosomal DNA – Ancestry DNA – my father

Autosomal DNA is the bulk of one’s DNA, some of it being acquired from the mother, and some from the father.  This test was of my father’s autosomal DNA.

Of all the tests, this one definitely led to the closest cousins.  My father’s grandparents, Torquil and Sarah MacLean, had 11 children and dozens of grandchildren.  So of course I have many second cousins in this line, and my father’s test matched with one of them, a woman about my age in Utah.  I hope to get to meet her someday.  There were many other third and fourth cousins, with names and locations familiar to me from my father’s Cape Breton family tree, although currently most of the descendants are living all over Canada and the U.S.

My father’s four grandparents were from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, with Scottish origins in the Lewis and Harris regions on the western islands.  So I was a little taken aback, at first, to see Dad’s ancestry come up as 54% Ireland and 41% Great Britain.  But on closer inspection, I could see Scotland is included in those two designations.  Looking at the shapes on the map, BOTH locations covered portions of Scotland, with the north western islands of Scotland representing the most remote coverage of each area.  So it made sense; it easily could represent his Scottish roots.

Dad's ethnicity report from Ancestry DNA show that his two main areas both include Scotland.  No big surprise there.

Dad’s ethnicity report from Ancestry DNA show that his two main areas – Ireland and Great Britain –  both include Scotland. No big surprise there. Graphic from Ancestry DNA.

Autosomal DNA – Ancestry DNA – my mother

My first surprise with Ancestry DNA is that when they alerted me that results were in, and I looked, there was almost nothing there.  Oh well, I thought, that’s not so good.  But surprisingly, a few days later I looked again and there was far more to see.  And then I looked again two days after that, and there was even more.  Apparently, the data must be present for a while before the matching starts to show.

Mom was 99% European, mostly British with some Irish, but I suppose some of the British/Irish originates in Scotland.

This is where we shout from the rooftops that DNA testing is better than dusty old archives any day (with apologies to dusty old archives, who were my first love).  Once mom’s results really started rolling in, I saw close matches with ties to the Andrews, Sweet, and Matteson families of North Kingstown/East Greenwich/Warwick, Rhode Island.  Two of the matches actually showed up as third cousins, I am guessing because they, and my mom, had multiple ties to those families (I have heard that multiple lines of descent can exaggerate the closeness of the genetic link between two people).  Genealogy happy dance.  Evidence (but not proof, at this point) that my Andrews family IS the same as the Jesse Andrews and Sally Arnold who married in Warwick in 1795.  More on this to come.

[Andrews], Jess, of Phillip, and Sally Arnold, of Joseph; m. by James Jerrauld, Justice, Feb 22, 1795.

[Andrews], Jesse, of Phillip, and Sally Arnold, of Joseph; m. by James Jerrauld, Justice, Feb 22, 1795.

Other “matched” people at the fourth cousin level showed up pretty clearly in other spots on my tree, and it felt GREAT to see some scientific evidence backing up my carefully-grown family trees.  And as I keep thinking about it, clearly I can keep scouring the many matches that turned up for links to other problem areas.

This will take a lot more work to really figure out, and as I start to think this through I realize it will take a new way of researching.  Usually, ANY connection is a clue to be followed up on, but with DNA, only a direct link between generations will produce the matches I am seeing.  It’s a new way to approach research, and everything that comes next is really a new road for me.  A lot to learn. My goal is to prove that those matches did not come from some other connection.

Meanwhile, I talked two very nice fifth cousins descended from mom’s Nova Scotia ancestors into taking some extra tests I had.  If they are related to my mom, both would be rather significant for me since they come from branches where I’m not sure if there was an adoption, or not.  A bit of matching wouldn’t tell me exactly what I need to know, but could encourage me to keep looking.

I uploaded results to the free site GEDMatch.com, to see what additional matches I might find, and to try some of their other utilities, to get more from my results.  More to come on that.

In other news

Mom and Dad do not appear to be related to each other.  There was a possibility, since they both descend from MacLeods of Nova Scotia/Scotland, but GEDMatch did not find genetic ties.

Next Steps

I would like to begin a systematic testing of my parents and other relatives on the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test. That test allows you to pinpoint the specific DNA sections that match other people.  I am hoping a sale comes up soon.  This may end up including my Y-DNA testing cousins.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/09/16/dna-and-me/



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This is a story about comparing Charles C. Baldwin’s 1881 Baldwin Genealogy to original documents (photographed and appearing on the web) relating to David Baldwin (1734-1824), and questioning the conclusions drawn by the author.  Lately, I find myself increasingly able to discern what sources were used to reach conclusions in unsourced books and articles, and to re-analyze those sources myself and perhaps reach different conclusions.  After doing this several times, it becomes second nature.  I hope.

My goal was to learn more about the life of David Baldwin, my fifth great grandfather (in the line of Billerica Baldwins he is: David4, Joseph3, Thomas2, John1).  My grandfather is descended from David Baldwin in the following way:  Miles Edward Baldwin — Miles Edward Baldwin — Edward Baldwin — Eli Baldwin — Abiel Baldwin — David Baldwin.

This is what The Baldwin Genealogy has to say about David Baldwin (p. 698-699):

83. DAVID 4 Joseph 3 Thomas 2 b. about 1734, probably in Billerica.
His father settled in Townsend, and he in Pepperel, Mass.
His will, dated 1802, was proved May 2, 1824, by consent of heirs.

205. David. George H. can’t find out about him.
206. Abiel.+
207. Abel. George H. says, three sons and two daus. , of whom one dau. is
living in 1876.
208. Abigail, m. Elias Boutell.
209. Amy, after 1802 and before 1824, m. Hezekiah Wines, and had three sons,
of whom two are living in 1876.
210. Elizabeth, m. Abijah Jewett.
211. Hannah, m., after 1802 and before 1824, Thomas Holder.
212. Eliza (not in will), m. Thomas H. Bailey.
213. Lucy.
214. Silvia (not in will of 1802), m. Boutell.

He lived in Pepperel, near the Townsend line.

The Townsend Historical Society, 2012.  Photo by Diane Boumenot

The Townsend Historical Society, 2012. Photo by Diane Boumenot

David’s early life

David’s parents were Joseph Baldwin (1702-1747) and Esther Manning (1703-1740). Joseph and Esther were first cousins. The page of Townsend, Massachusetts births which contained their children has been missing from the record book for over a century (per Henry C. Hallowell’s Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts (Boston, NEHGS, 1992, page 203)) so I am still piecing that together.  Their oldest son, Ebenezer, was “from his Childhood Deprived of his Eyesight in a Great Measure” according to Townsend town selectmen (see probate #836, p. 19). The Selectmen felt that Ebenezer was not provided for adequately in his father’s will, and might become a charge to the town.  David’s siblings also included Joseph, Thomas, Reuben and Abel, plus a half sister Thankful (died young).  David was six when his mother died, and 13 when his father died.  David’s father Joseph also left behind his second wife, Thankful Prescott Baldwin.  The inventory showed a well-stocked house and farm in Townsend, including some books, with more farm animals than I normally see.

Probate records for Joseph Baldwin (#836, #837, #838, #839, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871.Online database,  AmericanAncestors.org) show that David and his brother Abel went to the custody of two uncles in Billerica, John Baldwin and David Baldwin.  David and Abel shared the inheritance of a second farm in Townsend, part of the “Mount Grace” area.  I’m not sure how the boys fared, but the guardian of the two older brothers made a special request to the judge to purchase clothes for the older boys who, “by reson of there father’s long illness were exceeding bear ont [barren?] for cloathing”.  Perhaps the stepmother was overwhelmed by caring for the sick husband.  It’s not really clear to me whether fabric was usually manufactured at home in the 1740’s, or purchased.

signatures of Davids uncles and guardians John Baldwin and David Baldwin, in Joseph Baldwin's probate packet.

signatures and seals of David’s uncles John Baldwin and David Baldwin, in Joseph Baldwin’s probate packet.

David “of Pepperell” married my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Boynton (1743-1777) in 1769 and Elizabeth Blood (1743-1790) in 1778, according to Henry C. Hallowell’s Vital Records of Townsend, Massachusetts (Boston, NEHGS, 1992).  He was the father of 9 children.  David may have served in the Revolutionary War, but there were several cousins by that name, so I’m unsure.  I see no evidence that he married a third time.

Deeds for David Baldwin

Looking through the large file of Middlesex County probate records on familysearch.org I had a hard time distinguishing David Baldwin, yeoman, with others of the same description.  I believe these may refer to him:

  • 1763 deed for 3 acres in Billerica, sold by David to Jonathan French, recorded in 1777
  • 1770 deed for a purchase in western Pepperell that David made from Simion Gilson, recorded in 1798
  • 1776 deed for a purchase from Jonathan Shepley in western Pepperell, recorded in 1798

Cambridge is a long way off, and it’s possible that Pepperell residents needed to file deeds there.  Or, there could be some other reason for the delays, and some event in 1798 that prompted the eventual filings.

These deeds would support David’s Billerica-to-Pepperell path that I read about in the Baldwin genealogy (The Baldwin Genealogy, from 1500 to 1881 by Charles Candee Baldwin, Cleveland: 1881, p. 698-699) but I didn’t get much further information from them. I don’t see deeds late in life or after death that reflect transfers to the children.  I eliminated the other David Baldwin deeds for one reason or another, but I may be missing something.

David Baldwin’s children

The Pepperell birth records (Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Pepperell, Book A, p48, from Ancestry.com, image 447 of 1148) show the list of children of David and his first and second wives.

David's children were David, Elizabeth (died young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, Hannah, and Lucy.

David’s children were David, Elizabeth (died young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, [another record intervenes] Hannah, and Lucy.

I was interested to see that another record book from the Pepperell set shows the same family again in a cleaned up, more obviously transcribed page in Book B (Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Pepperell, Book B, p29, from Ancestry.com, image 552 of 1148).  I noticed that this version omits or smudges the “2nd” after the name of the second Elizabeth; a noteworthy difference if someone was not aware there were two wives named Elizabeth.

David's children were David, Elizabeth (died Young), Abigail, Abiel, Elizabeth, Amy, Abel, Hannah, and Lucy.

The second appearance of the list in the Pepperell records

David had the following children:

with first wife Elizabeth Boynton, 1743-1777

  • David Baldwin, b. 1770
  • Elizabeth Baldwin, b. 1772
  • Abigail Baldwin, b. 1774
  • Abiel Baldwin, b. 1776

with second wife Elizabeth Blood, 1743-1790

  • Elizabeth Baldwin, b. 1779
  • Amy Baldwin, b. 1781
  • Abel Baldwin, b. 1782
  • Hannah Baldwin, b. 1784
  • Lucy Baldwin, b. 1786

Probate records online

What got this search started were blog posts by Randy Seaver and Bill West about some probate records recently made available online.  The probate records of Middlesex County, Massachusetts have been placed on the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  To have the packets online is a huge improvement over traveling to East Cambridge, Mass.  I just go to the search screen on AmericanAncestors.org (requires NEHGS membership] and use the record set “Middlesex County, MAIndex to Probate Records and (once I know the number from the index) Probate File Papers.

David Baldwin’s will, 1802

David Baldwin (1734-1824) was a yeoman of Pepperell, Massachusetts.  Since his second wife Elizabeth had died in 1790, David was a widower in 1802 when he made the will, and when it was proved in the 1824.  No mention was made in the will of any wife, and the estate was divided among the children.

David lived to be an old man, dying in Pepperell at age 89.  I found the 1802 will of David Baldwin (#812, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871.Online database.  AmericanAncestors.org).

The will, transcribed:

In the name of God Amen this second day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two I, David Baldwin of Pepperell in the county of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts husbandman now of sound mind and memory thanks to God therefore, but calling to mind the frailty and mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do for avoiding controversies after my decease make and ordain this my last will and testament.

Principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God who gave it, and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my executor hereafter named, nothing doubting but at the general Resurection I shall Receive the same again by the power of God, and as touching such worldly goods and estate where with it has pleased God to bless me with in this life I give and dispose of in manner following

First I order all my just debts and funeral charges to be paid by my executor here after named

I give and bequeath onto my oldest son David Baldwin Junior the sum of one dollar which together with what he has before received makes up his sole share of my estate.

I give unto my second son Abiel Baldwin all my farming and husbandry tools of every kind, also my house together with the one half of all my wearing apparel.

I give unto my third son Abel Baldwin the other half of my wearing apparel.

I give unto my daughter Abigail now wife of Elias Boutell the sum of one dollar .

I give unto my daughter Amy Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Elizabeth now the wife of Abijah Jewett the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Hannah Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

I give unto my daughter Lucy Baldwin the sum of one dollar.

all which sums I order to be paid unto them by my executor in one year after my decease.

And I further give unto my said three daughters Amy Hannah, and Lucy all my household furniture of all kinds for ever.

See next page

And all the remainder of my estate which may consist of money, notes of hand, and live stock. I do hereby order that the same be equally divided and shared between my son Abiel, and Abel, and my daughters Abigail, Elizabeth, Amy, Hannah, and Lucy.

And I do hereby nominate and appoint my said son Abel Baldwin soul executor to this my last will and testament.

In testimony whereof I the said David Baldwin have here unto set my hand and seal the day and year first above written.

David Baldwin

now signed sealed and published by the said David Baldwin to be his last will and testament in presence of us

Edmond Blood

Jonathan Blood

Joseph Heald

Of David’s 9 children, the first Elizabeth had died at age 1, and all others were living in 1802.

Guardianship of David Baldwin, 1821

In 1821, when David was 86, some family members appealed to the court of probate for a guardianship to be established for David Baldwin of Pepperell (#811, Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871. Online database.  AmericanAncestors.org).

Whereas Hezekiah Winn & others, your friends and children, have represented to the judge of said court, that you are a non compos mentis person & incapable of taking care of yourself and prayed that a guardian may be appointed to you as the Law directs.

The guardianship was established and an inventory taken totaling $902.  The inventory showed a minimal, rustic set of belongings, such as an old man living alone might have used. No indication was ever given for the nature of the disorder.  Although, perhaps “Eight Cyder Barrels” was a clue.  John Walton of Pepperell, Esquire, was appointed guardian, and Walter Fiske, Yeoman, and Hezekiah Winn, Yeoman, as sureties.

Family members in 1821

Signatures on the guardianship papers, 1821

Signatures on the guardianship papers, 1821

The signatures on the guardianship record give some indication of the fate of the children by 1802:

  • Hezekiah Winn
  • Amy [Winn?]
  • Abijah Jewett
  • Elizabeth Jewett
  • Abel Baldwin
  • Thos Holden
  • Hannah Holden
  • Lucy Baldwin
  • Elias Bouttell, for Eliza and David B. Bouttell
  • Sylvia Bouttell
  • David Baldwin Jun

Family members in 1824

Signatures of heirs in probate record, 1824.

Signatures of heirs in probate record, 1824.

These family members signed the probate papers in 1824:

  • David Baldwin
  • Abiel Baldwin
  • Abijah Jewett in right of Elizabeth my wife
  • Hezekiah Winn in right of Amy my wife
  • Thomas Holden in right of Hannah my wife
  • Thomas H. Bailey in right of Eliza my wife
  • Lucy Baldwin
  • Sylvia Boutell

It’s interesting that Abel signed the guardianship in 1821, and Abiel signed the probate in 1824.  Otherwise, the other five are the same.

Where the book was wrong

Comparing what I saw in the probate and vital records to David Baldwin’s entry (page 698-699)  in The Baldwin Genealogy by Charles Candee Baldwin showed me a lot about the author’s methods.  In the fairly brief entry for David and his family (in green), the following errors/omissions were made:

[first of all, names are not in birth order]

205. David. George H. can’t find out about him. David ended up owning a large farm in nearby Fitchburg, in Worcester County.  I found an 1830 probate packet for him, #2861, in the Worcester County probate records on FamilySearch.org.  The record of the children of his two marriages, to Abigail and, later, Edah Putnam, is found on pages 228 and 227 of Fitchburg Town Records, Births, Marriages and Deaths in the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records on Ancestry.com.  I base my conclusion on him naming a son Abel and the presence of 5 family members among his creditors mentioned in the probate records.
206. Abiel.+  page 707 details my 4th great grandfather Abiel’s life. OK.
207. Abel. George H. says, three sons and two daus. , of whom one dau. is living in 1876.  OK. I believe Abel died 1855.
208. Abigail, m. Elias Boutell.  OK.
209. Amy, after 1802 and before 1824, m. Hezekiah Wines, and had three sons, of whom two are living in 1876.  Amy married Hezekiah Winn.  She died in 1846 in Pepperell.
210. Elizabeth, m. Abijah Jewett.  He left off the first Elizabeth, but this may have been intentional.
211. Hannah, m., after 1802 and before 1824, Thomas Holder.  She married Thomas Holden.
212. Eliza (not in will), m. Thomas H. Bailey. Eliza Boutell Bailey was a granddaughter, not a daughter; the daughter of Abigail.
213. Lucy.  It’s possible Lucy never married; she was still single in 1824.
214. Silvia (not in will of 1802), m. Boutell.  Sylvia Boutell was a granddaughter, not a daughter; the daughter of Abigail.

I believe most of the problem stems from the fact that the author, or the mysterious “George H.” (never explained in the book) only used the probate record #812, and missed probate #811, as well as the Pepperell vital records.

And that’s the story of how I was able to make my own analysis of David Baldwin’s family, using the book details only as suggestions.

The judge

Anyone who reads Middlesex probate records from the first half of the nineteenth century is familiar with the name Judge Fay.  I have seen it many times.  It occurred to me to look into his history a little bit.

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay

Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay (1766-1856) served as a Middlesex “probate of wills” judge from 1821 – 1856, and also as a trustee of Harvard College and Grand Master of the Masons. From some old Boston families, I assumed he would have had a portrait or photograph taken of himself.  Sure enough, I found his likeness on page 193 of Ancient Middlesex with Brief Biographical Sketches by Levi S. Gould (Somerville, 1905).   For years I had pictured the judge as if he were Lionel Barrymore playing Judge Hardy in the original Andy Hardy movie “A Family Affair” but in fact he was even kinder looking than that.  It’s funny to think of him knowing generations of my family members.

Things I learned

  • At first, I only found and read David’s after-death probate.  It was only when I saw a dollar total carried over from “his guardian” that I realized there had been guardianship papers in a different record.  Then, I downloaded that document, too (just one number prior).  Much head-smacking and a solemn vow to always look a couple of records forward, and back.
  • Even finding a handwritten set of birth records for a family does not mean there’s not a more original version elsewhere in the records.  One set looked neat, all in the same hand, and obviously transcribed, which tipped me off to try and find an earlier set.  Turns out, the transcription had an important omission.
  • I haven’t mentioned a Sons of the American Revolution record that I found for David Baldwin mentioning his son, David, which was very unreliable, but from that I DID find the name of David Junior’s second wife, and that helped me distinguish among many David Baldwins in northern Massachusetts and find the probate record with the evidence.  Even in a bad compiled source, one thing might be right.
  • At first I was doubtful that the Fitchburg probate record was for the David Baldwin Junior I was looking for because the farm was so large and worth so much money, and he owned a church pew. Seemed like he couldn’t be my David Baldwin’s son.   Then I saw the list of debts to be settled (about half the value of the estate) and I started to believe.  Is that wrong?  I need to remember that some of my ancestors went to church, probably, and in 1800 even a modest gift from a father to his oldest son could be turned into something substantial.
  • The author assumed, if the husband signed probate and his wife didn’t sign, that she must have passed away.  Legally, that’s a bad assumption since the daughter’s share would have gone to her CHILDREN, not her husband. I wonder how many authors were unaware of the way the law affected the records they were using?

The Middlesex probate records were from:  Middlesex County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1648-1871. Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.) Accessed 9/1/2014.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/09/12/where-theres-a-will/


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This is the second in an occasional series of articles transcribed directly from The Narragansett Historical Register, a Rhode Island treasure now mostly forgotten.  Published by James Newell Arnold between 1882 and 1891, the magazine was devoted to Rhode Island history and genealogy.  No longer under copyright, the articles can continue to enlighten us.  If the article below makes you curious, check out the full issues and index pages here.

Narragansett Historical Register logo

Notes on Quidnessett

by “Quidnessett”

Doing this transcription brought an immediate benefit to me – the site of “John Andrew’s house” is mentioned.  My possible ancestor, John Andrews, was an early resident of the Quidnessett area (name in green, below).  While I’m still trying to determine if Jesse Andrews of Ashford, Connecticut, 1820, is the same Jesse Andrews that was John Andrews’ great-great grandson, this location is a fascinating detail that I could pinpoint using Beers maps from the 1880’s.  Two articles were published on Quidnessett and appear below.  Maybe you will find an ancestor here, or learn more about the early settlement of the area. The text is rather random and scattered, so I wonder if it was the reminiscences of an elderly person.  Note: except for the Quidnessett map, all illustrations are my addition, they were not present in the original articles. Footnotes have been recorded in place.

[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 1, No. 4, April, 1883 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 305-311.]


THE old Quidnessett territory, situated in the northeastern part of North Kingstown, was for many years a prominent part of the town.

In early times it could boast of two saw mills, and one or two grist mills. The latter are still receiving the patronage of the region about them. Considerable trade was carried on from the Greene’s, George, and Allen’s Harbor with Newport, Providence, and Bristol.

The old sloop, called the “Two Brothers,” from the forge mill and anchor works, and Allen’s sloop, called the “Sea Flower,” carried on quite a trade at those towns. These two old craft were worn out in their service, and were supplanted by the “Emily Ann” and “Lucy Ann.” When the Greene’s retired from business, and John Allen died, the trade at those places nearly went down.

June 11th, 1659, the Indian Sachem Coquinoquant, of the Narragansett Country, whose love and friendship for the English was so great, made a deed of gift to Major Humphrey, Atherton & Company — consisting of John Winthrop, Governor of Connecticut; Richard Smith, Sen., and Richard Smith, Jun., of Cocumscussuc, traders ; Lieut. William Hudson, of Boston ; Amos Richardson, trader, and John Tinker, of Nashaway, trader. [*Potter's Narragansett, p.58]

Afterwards a deed of confirmation was given signed by Quissucquansh, Scultop, and Quequaquomit.[*Colonial Records, Vol.1, p. 464]

It seems to have been variously called. The natives called it Aquitawaset ; the English, Quidnessett. In the deed of confirmation it was indifferently called Wyapumsett, Muscacouage, Cocumcossuck, and the like, if we modernize it.

Map of Pettaquamscutt Purchase from Thomas Hazard Son of Robt calld College Tom, 1893, frontis.

Map of Pettaquamscutt Purchase from Thomas Hazard Son of Robt calld College Tom, 1893, frontis.

It is bounded on the north by the Potowomut River. It assumes that name at the Hunts Bridge, and runs to Pojack Point, at the Narragansett Bay.

The lower part of it was at one time called ” Waud’s Cove,” at another time, ” Greene’s River.”

It is bounded on the west by the “Pequot Path,” or ” Post Road,” leading to Cocumsquissut Brook, just south of Smith’s house, or better known as the Updike house.  Then it is bounded southerly by the Cocumscussett, or Wickford Harbor, and easterly by the Narragansett Bay.

What was sold to Richard Smith and his son, in 1639, was not included in the transfer.

The Smiths were the first white people that settled in the Narragansett Country, and the block house they built was in the extreme southwest corner of the Quidnessett teritory, which is about six miles long and three broad, making about eighteen or twenty square miles. Roger Williams says in defense of Smith’s title : ” That he left fair possession in Glostershire and came to Taunton, in Plymouth Colony, and thence to Narragansett Country, where he settled and put up in the thickest of the barbarians ye first English house among them.” [*Potter's Narragansett, p.166]

By the marriage of Smith’s daughter into the Updike family, this estate, by will, was given by her father, Richard Smith, Sen.; it took that name, and so continued till it went by purchase into the hands of Capt. Joseph Congdon, in 1813.

Seven and eight years after Richard Smith, Sen.’s, settlement in Quidnessett, Roger Williams, and one Wilcox, built trading houses about one mile north, and carried on business from 1646, or ‘47, til 1651, when Williams sold out to Smith his trading house, his two big guns, and a small island near Smith’s house, which had been lent him by Canonicus a little before his death. He sold out to raise funds to defray his expenses to England for the second charter.

Richard Smith Block-House at Cocumsmussuc, constructed by Richard Smith Junior about 1680 from the materials of the old garrison house.  From Providence in Colonial Times, 1912, p46.

Richard Smith Block-House at Cocumsmussuc, constructed by Richard Smith Junior about 1680 from the materials of the old garrison house. From Providence in Colonial Times, 1912, p46.

King Charles I was about to be dethroned and Cromwell installed as Protector. For three years was Roger Williams away from his family and home on this mission.

John Clarke, of Newport, was his colleague, and remained the whole time, till the charter was granted in 1663.

This trading house of William’s, tradition says, stood where Wm. G. Madison’s north barn now stands.

It was Judge Sherman’s opinion, and Judge Brayton coincided with him, that Canonicus and Miantonomy resided nearby, opposite on Fones’ purchase, within twenty or thirty rods of the “Devil’s foot-tracks,” in a northerly direction.

Here is where Roger Williams wrote the famous Cocumssquisset letters to Gov. Winthrop and Major Mason.

Near this place have been exhumed Indian skeletons and relics. On the Updike farm is a cemetery where are as many as seventy-five or eighty graves with headstones, called the “Indian burying ground.” On the opposite side of the road is another. It was not the custom of the Indians to designate the resting place of their dead by stones.

Richard Smith and the Updikes were interred not far from the first place mentioned. The next year after the deeds of Quidnessett were given, several of the citizens of Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, and Warwick, to get the lands of the Narragansett Country out of the hands of the Plymouth and Connecticut Colonies, came on and purchased farms on the bay and the Potowumut River, extending over half of the Quidnessett territory. They were some of the most prominent men of those towns.

Thomas, and John Gould, Henry Fowler, John Hulls, Robert Carr, Thomas Hart, Francis Brinley, Walter Couningreve, Thomas Nichols, and sons, Henry Tibbett’s, Samuel Waite, Nicholas Spink, Capt. John Cranston, Robert Wescott, John Sanford, Edward Thurston, John Greene, and son, Valentine Wightman ; these were the first settlers, and soon after a second class bought in the south part of the district : John Eldred, William Dyre, Arthur Aylesworth, John Allen, and Henry Reynolds. John Greene and son owned more acres than any others for several years. John Greene was the son of John Greene, the physician of Salesbury, England, who was one of Roger Williams friends of the second arrival. John the second was in office in the colony the most of his life ; was ten years Deputy Governor. John Cranston was Governor two years and died in office. Governor William Greene and Governor Waud owned said estate in Quidnessett.

First Meeting-House in Salem, where Roger Williams is said to have preached, from Our Country's Story by Eva March Tappan, p. 74

First Meeting-House in Salem, where Roger Williams is said to have preached, from Our Country’s Story by Eva March Tappan, p. 74

To strengthen her position, the Connecticut colony laid claim to Potowomut and Muscachuage, or Muskachuge, as far as Cowesett., afterwards embracing all of Greenwich, which was laid out and organized into a town in 1677. The small territory, Potowomut Neck, under the Sagamore Tucomanan, lies between Greenwich Harbor and this river. It is an integral part of Warwick, though detached from it. In the mortgage deed given to Major Atherton & Co., it was claimed to Cowesett, including Potowomut and Muscachuge. This latter place was between Cowesett and the upper part of Quidnessett.

During the strife between the Colonies (which Professor Greene says lasted twenty years), the Connecticut Colony did not only claim the Narragansett Country, but a part of Kent County. The Quidnessett people speaking for Narragansett, or the “Kings Province,” as it was styled, were very assiduous in their endeavors to inhabit every part of it.

Capt. John Tallcott, and John Banks were commissioned by the Connecticut Colony on the vacant lands in the Kings Province, reported that:

“We received a letter from Major Cranston, at Narragansett, that himself with six others of the assistants belonging to Rhode Island, as we were informed by his messengers, and that with them were come forty men to be settled in plantationwise at Elizabeth Springs, north of Mr. Gould’s, about three miles toward Boston, and answer was returned to the said letter.
Your humble servants.
“John Tallcott, “”John Banks.”
“June 10, 1677.” [*Colonial Records, Vol. II, p. 597]

The Elizabeth Springs referred to are at the head of Greenwich Cove. Previous to the above date it was called ” Muskachuage Cove.”

The first spring is opposite Capt. Spencer’s house, the second at the foot of the railroad bridge, the third a few rods west, and the fourth was under the post road, where the old Muskachuage bridge used to be. This road was called the ” Boston road.”

Warwick Neck, at the entrance to Cowesett Bay from Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, p34.

Warwick Neck, at the entrance to Cowesett Bay from Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, p34.

These springs were about three miles from the place where Mr. Thomas Gould then lived, on the Mount farm. They were called ” Elizabeth Springs ” in honor of Roger William’s wife. By what rule it is difficult to tell, as her name was Mary.

Tallcott and Banks must have been much discouraged when Major Cranston wrote them about what numbers had flocked to that locality to settle ” plantation wise.” Their report to Connecticut gave but little hope that the Narragansett Country will finally be a part of her coveted domain.

Muskachuge was as much a territory as Cowesett, or Apponaug, only not so extensive. It was bounded on the north by Cowesett, Division street in Greenwich, and the continuation west forms the dividing line between Greenwich and Warwick.

The north line of ” Fones’ Purchase” commenced at a rock on the River Passatuthonsu, the river above “Hunt’s Bridge,” on the ” Post Road,” running straight north to a river running into the Muskachuge Cove. Then the line follows the road easterly to the Potowomut River, as high as salt water. The ford where people crossed the river was at Greene’s forge mill, and was passable only at low water. Before the dam was built it flowed up as high as Thomas Hill’s house, a little west of it. From this point the line ran partly in a southwesterly direction straight to John Andrew’s house on the “Post Road,” thence to the Devil’s foot rocks.

Samuel Austin’s house is near the place where Andrew‘s house stood. Hon. George A. Brayton left among his papers the original map of the Potowomut District on which are dotted the houses of the first settlers who inhabited that fertile region. It extended as far west as Hunt’s Bridge.

Greene Memorial House, at Apponaug.  from Narragasett Bay, it's Historic and Romantic Associations, 1904, p. 43

Greene Memorial House, at Apponaug. There are a couple of early Greene families, so I’m not sure the Greenes referred to here are the ancestors of General Nathanael Greene. From Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, 1904, p. 43

In 1680, Warwick and Kings Towne both claimed it.

The first bridge over the Potowomut river at the ford was built from the duty on imported slaves brought into Newport and sold in 1715. The streets of that place were paved from the same source at the same time.

We well remember the old Anchor Forge of the memorable Greene family, the bellows and famous trip hammer made to strike the heated iron by a revolution of an immense wheel turned by water power, then five stalwart men who struck the battered iron till it was wrought into an anchor that would weigh when completed eighteen or twenty hundred pounds.

There was an old corn and wheat mill with wheels sixteen or eighteen feet in diameter running two sets of stones, and last not least, Christopher and Elisha Greene (brothers), one in charge of the mills, and the other of the anchor works. Though quite small in the last days of that ancient old mill, I can call to mind these venerable old men as though it was but yesterday I saw them. The old Narragansett pacer that carried me and my “grist” to that renowned place have often fed my mind with youthful visions of the romantic place. Often the bushel and a half of corn to be ground for “Johnny cake meal,” challenged all the strength Uncle Christopher and I had to get it from old Grimes’ back, and the hopper two flights of stairs above.

A Narragansett pacer, from American Horses and Horse Breeding, 1895

A Narragansett pacer, from American Horses and Horse Breeding, 1895

The old flat-bottomed sloop, “Two Brothers,” mastered by Wickes Hill, Daniel Mitchell, and Benj’n Gardiner, and the “Emily Ann,” built at the forge mill for Judge Greene, mastered by Benjamin Gardiner and Henry Reynolds.

early map of Quidnesset from Narragansett Historical Register, volume 5, p 62.

early map of Quidnesset from Narragansett Historical Register, volume 5, p 62.


[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 5, No. 1, July, 1886 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 61-66.]

THE plat of the territory presented us by the editor of the Narragansett Historical Register, which we are permitted to exhibit to our readers, is a very exact picture of that part of North Kingstown commonly called ” Quidnessett Neck.”

There are but few portions of that ancient town that can boast of better farms, or more eligibly situated, than those on the Narragansett Bay and Potowomut River. The Gould’s Mt, farm, laying on the bay and Quidnessett harbor, (now known as Allen’s harbor) was undoubtedly the first piece of land bought of Maj. Atheton, &c, after the settlement of the Smith’s.

Thomas Gould made the first purchase in 1661, as can be shown by a plat now extant. It has been handed down through five generations. It was commenced by him at that date and ended by his grandnephew, Thomas Gould, in 1837 ; one hundred and seventy-six years to his death. From that purchase to 1666, as many as twenty persons bought on the Bay, Potowomut River, and the “Pequot Path,” or “Post Road,” as far south as the ” Devil’s foot.”

Thomas Gould became early in life a prominent man in the colony, and was repeatedly elected an assistant or deputy in the Colonial Assembly from Kingstown.

When the General Court met at his house, by adjournment from Pettaquamscut, May 18, 1671, he was elected Conservator of the Peace and sub-tenant. The court was held to engage the people in that locality to adhere to the Crown of England and the Rhode Island Colony. Some were disaffected and clung to Connecticut.

The Smith’s held sometimes to one, then the other, and the question who owns the Narragansett country? harassed the people from 1639 to 1703, when the matter was settled and the Rhode Island Colony was triumphant ; and the Narragansett Country comprised, as it does now, Washington county.

The Glebe - a parsonage, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 37.

The Glebe – a parsonage, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 37.

Thomas Gould, James Reynolds, George Tibbetts, and some others were arrested and taken to Hartford and confined in prison for adhering to Rhode Island.

They sent a petition to the Colonial Assembly at the May Session, 1677, for instruction, assistance and advice. The Assembly “having seriously considered the matter,” ” voted unanimously that they would vindicate their cause, and if they suffer in their persons, or estates, this Colony will stand by them, assist them and relieve, by all lawful ways and means.”—E. R. Potter, 197.

This occurred early in May when seed time was near at hand, and they could not afford to lose it, so they compromised the matter by a promise that they would adhere to Connecticut Colony, and on that ground they were released under an oath to return to their homes in Quidnessett, but that greedy little Colony forbade them yielding to any other power or State.

Thomas Gould was the second son of Jeremiah Gould who came from Dorchester, England, to Newport, R. 1., in 1637. He was born about 1623. He was married to a daughter of William Baulston, of Newport, in 1655. They had no children, and he gave his farm to Daniel, Jr., his brother’s son, who went to live with his uncle soon after he was married. Daniel married Mary, daughter of Walter and Hannah Clark. They had two sons, Jeremiah and Daniel; Jeremiah inherited the Quidnessett farms, by will. He was a distinguished man — was 24 years in the Colonial Assembly—three times elected speaker of the House—was a justice of the Interior Court of Common Pleas—was a very prominent member of the Society of Friends—eighteen years he was clerk of the monthly meeting. Owing to ill-health he was obliged to retire from office two or three years before his death.

Nearby birthplace of Gilbert Stewart, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 36.

Nearby birthplace of Gilbert Stewart, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 36.

For many years in his political life the Friends had full control of the Colonial Government of Rhode Island. He made his will and divided his effects among his numerous family, and departed this life July 7, 1740.

He married Elizabeth Ward, daughter of Thomas Ward, of Newport. They had seven daughters, and one son, Daniel, who married Mary Fry, daughter of Thomas Fry, of Frenchtown, East Greenwich.

Daniel was a very promising young man. He was elected to the lower house of the General Assembly in 1745, and died while in office. He left with his wife one daughter, Mary, who married John Allen, (afterwards Judge Allen), and one son, Thomas, who lived in celibacy, and died in 1836, aged 92 years.

The farm stood in the name of the Goulds 175—in the Goulds and Aliens 200 years.

Early it took the name of “Mount Farm ” from a large clump of rocks towering 40 or 50 feet above tide water, 5 or 6 rods from the shore, running N. E. and S. W. an eighth of a mile long, and nearly the same in width. Among the rocks grew large trees, walnuts, oaks, locust and cedar, barberries, buckthorn, amasadutrious vine, ivy, and clematis. It formed a lair for cattle to lodge in nights before barns were built.

It was a noted place for clam bakes long before the watering places were thought of in Rhode Island.

The view from the top of the mount upon the Narragansett Bay—its islands, villages and cities are delightful to those who are fond of gazing upon the sublime and the beautiful.

Thomas Gould, 1st, imported the first barberries in this country. He planted and cultivated a hedge about his house. In time the birds spread the seed till all Rhode Island was supplied, and Connecticut as far as the river. Soon after some man in Plymouth, Mass., imported them in the same way, and they have spread extensively in every direction in that State. Many years ago it was believed they were poisonous to rye, and a law was enacted requiring every farmer to destroy them, but in spite of the law they have lived near a hundred and seventy years on that farm ; except at the Mount they have nearly disappeared.

The hawthorn, the buckthorn, and the primbush were imported from England early in the settlement of the country. All of them were grown on the Mt. farm, but the woodman’s axe destroyed them long ago.

Thomas Gould built him a log house to begin with, and after a few years he built a frame house, one story high, and as the families increased in numbers, additions were put on one end till the house became one hundred feet long. It was found more convenient to build on the end than above stairs. Daniel Gould enlarged it when his family was increased, and Jeremiah enlarged it when his family was increased, but in 1766 it became untenantable and was abandoned. Soon it fell down.

The chimney stood till 1791 or 1792 when it was pulled down. The lime used in the mortar was made of shells from the shore nearby, and was very strong. The mortar is seen on the stones in a wall nearby to this day.

The Goulds carried on a lucrative trade with Newport from the earliest settlement of Quidnessett ; grain, mutton, beef, and poultry, and such other commodities as were demanded from time to time.

Cattle, sheep and horses were introduced as early and as fast as they could be had. Boats of large dimensions were built to accommodate trade between Newport and Quidnessett harbor early in Thomas Gould’s day, and he accommodated his neighbors as well as himself.

The north part of this territory was thickly settled by 1666, and in 1671 the Dyers, Eldreds, John, Viall, Lodowick, and Richard Updike made their appearance.

Viall was of Boston, and married Richard Smith’s daughter. He lived in Quidnessett but a short time.

“Seconiquonset Point,” a prominent place in the south-east part of Quidnessett, was changed to “Quonset ” by the English. The British ship, Armada, went ashore on the north side of that point in 1780, loaded with supplies for the British army and navy.

Indian Rock, Narragansett Pier from Picturesque Rhode Island, page 292.

Indian Rock, Narragansett Pier from Picturesque Rhode Island, page 292.

There don’t appear to have been any Indian name for the N. E. point of Quidnessett unless it was Potowomut, but some years later a name was accidentally made for it that is very quaint and answers every purpose quite as well. “Pojack,” or ” Poorjack,” had its origin with some clam diggers who resorted to that place to get clams, when one of them had an uneasy horse that got loose and set out to swim across the river to Marsh Point on the opposite side. His owner dropped his hoe and ran to catch him while he was floundering in the mud, repeatedly muttering, ” Whoa, Poor-Jack.” By dint of effort and the help at hand, the poor horse was turned about and got to the shore so badly frightened he never attempted it again.

The word poor was easily changed to Po, and prefixed to Jack, making ” Pojack.” This name was so called anterior to the Revolutionary war, as Capt. Josiah Gribbs was ordered to march his company around from Warwick Neck to “Pojack Point,” meaning Gould’s hill, just above the house. That occurred in 1779 when the British were in the Bay.

Spink’s rocks, just outside of Allen’s harbor, was a rocky place made notable by the capture of William Spencer and John Allen in 1779.

“Calf-pasture,” (” Lyon’s Tongue,”) was another place made famous by the British trading with the Tories and semi-tories of Quidnessett. Capt. Mat. Manchester was one of the latter class.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/09/07/notes-on-quidnesset

Samuel Gorton's leather breeches from Narragansett Bay, it Historic and Romastic Association, p37. Came across Warwick founder Samuel's Gorton's pants while researching this article.  I wonder where these are now.

Samuel Gorton’s leather breeches from Narragansett Bay, in Historic and Romantic Association, p37.  Came across Warwick founder Samuel’s Gorton’s pants while researching this article.  “Now in the possession of Mrs. Sam Clarke.” I wonder where these are now?

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Rhode Island Roots is the journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.  It is published four times per year and in the last decade, an extra volume of record transcriptions has also been made available annually to RIGS members.  Edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, with Michael F. Dwyer currently serving as Assistant Editor, Linda Mathew editing the special records volumes, and Geri Clarke producing an annual index of names, Rhode Island Roots is a high quality journal that targets a compact location.  We who are researching are extremely lucky to have it.

I tried something recently that worked out quite well.  Knowing I would be on an airplane all day, I took with me, instead of my usual paperbacks, only several genealogy journals.  These included Rhode Island Roots and a few other journals.  With nothing else to do, I read every word, from cover to cover. I thought I had been reading them previously, but from editor’s introductions to lists, articles, footnotes and book reviews, it was Rhode Island Roots that surprised me the most.  I had been missing a lot.

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

Why I think Rhode Island Roots is important

In my opinion there are three reasons to carefully read each issue of Rhode Island Roots from cover to cover:

  • There may be some direct evidence related to your ancestors, for instance they could be mentioned by name in a transcribed list, as a relative of a family being studied, or involved in an event or story under discussion.  I think everyone understands this.  Rhode Island Roots provides an index at the end of each year.  I suspect this is the most common use of journals, and that’s unfortunate.
  • Reading well-edited genealogical journals is the best way to learn.  How did the researcher find evidence?  What were the sources?  How did the argument progress, and was it convincing?  Did the writer rely on vital records (hardly likely in early Rhode Island!) or did he or she assemble other direct and indirect evidence into a solid case? To what extent would you agree that a reasonably exhaustive search was done, and how was possible counter-evidence treated?  It would take me several readings of an article to really know any of these answers.  And then, I often find myself wondering how I could assemble clues to solve my own research problems.  What I am writing here is not new, it is standard advice that any aspiring genealogist will hear often.
  • Every step taken by the writer is a lesson in local research.  For Rhode Island Roots in particular, there is not an article or item that is worth skipping, because the state is too small for that.  Where did the writer turn for evidence?  What repositories?  What books, databases, records, manuscripts, and journals?  How did they seem to evaluate the content they were finding?  What migration patterns are seen?  What laws or local events impacted lives?  What evidence was found for various types of activities – seafaring, farming, trades, adoption, immigration, holidays, divorce, crime, education, burial?  What type of evidence was available for each town, and where was it found?

5 things I learned from reading Rhode Island Roots

  • East Greenwich soldier Phillip Andrew (potentially my 5th great-grandfather if I ever get this solved) appears in a list of French and Indian War soldiers at Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York, recorded in a journal by Beriah Hopkins in 1762.  Most likely, this manuscript was not available to Howard M. Chapin when he compiled Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars (1918; reprinted Clearfield, 2010), so it’s interesting to have another source of information about the local soldiers in Philip’s unit, and some of their experiences.    ( — Ensign Beriah Hopkins His Book by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, March, 2014, p. 24-35).
  • In a story about Warwick families, while examining footnotes, I learned that, in addition to the cemetery office records I’ve already used, one can find deeds for North Burial Ground plots recorded at the Providence City Archives.   ( — A Line of Descent from Ambrose Taylor, Chairmaker of Warwick, Rhode Island by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, September, 2013, p. 113-133.)
  • We always think of finding records and reports on our ancestors, but all of our hard work is for nothing if we don’t know how to analyze what we find. I wish every aspiring genealogist who has ever uncovered a compiled genealogy book or article mentioning their ancestor could read Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG.  Put the webinars away for a bit and focus on this amazing analysis of research on the well-known Ward family of Newport by leading genealogists over the last 200 years. It is helping me be a more critical reader.  ( — Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 38:3, September, 2012, p. 148-164.)
  • An excellent overview of all Warwick, Rhode Island records by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg is very useful.  She talks about the existence of various types of early records, what has been complied and published, and where they can be found.   ( — Warwick, Rhode Island Records in 1776 by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 39:4, December, 2013, p. 203-205).
  • If you haven’t read “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, run, don’t walk, to find it.  It’s a thoughtful retelling of a difficult story, and while I’m not sure most of us will find a story quite this sensational in our own families, every genealogist struggles with how to tell difficult truths.    ( — “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 39:3, September, 2013, p. 135-150).

How to subscribe

Membership for the Rhode Island Genealogical Society runs on a calendar year system, January – December.

New Englnad Historic Genealogical Society library oin Boston.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

How to access older issues

Older issues of the journal are accessible from the New England Historic Genealogical Society website.  This page on the RIGS website leads to that.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/20/reading-rhode-island-roots/


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This week I attended GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.  I registered in late winter and managed to get into the “Law School for Genealogists” class led by Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL and Richard “Rick” G. Sayre, CG, CGL.   The institute was held at LaRoche College, and I stayed, along with many other attendees, in the dorms, and ate meals in the cafeteria.  Others took classes on genetic genealogy and a variety of other topics.

My dorm room was a large triple - there was also a microwave, mini frig, and bathroom to myself.

My dorm room was a large triple – I had the room (as well as microwave, mini frig, and bathroom) to myself.  Since I was driving, I was able to bring a couple things. I was glad I brought the quilt, lamp and extra pillows from home.

Day 1

I arrived on Sunday and moved into the dorm.  I knew several people who planned to attend, but that’s not a necessity – genealogists are friendly.  Some people shared dorm rooms and even those staying at local motels were welcome to pay by the meal to eat conveniently in the cafeteria.  The schedule on Sunday was to check in, get settled, and have dinner in the cafeteria.  This was followed by a welcome session and some door prizes.

I was in for a surprise at GRIP, though, because after the class lists came out, I heard from a young woman named Sara that she was my husband’s third cousin and would be there, and in the same class, and she was looking forward to meeting me.  I had to look back at my email to remember that my husband and I had corresponded with Sara several years ago, and she was obviously an accomplished genealogist who had done some excellent work on my husband’s difficult family tree.  I was very happy to be able to meet her.

Our classroom during a break.

Our classroom early in the morning.

Day 2

Monday morning, my first class was at 8:15.  I enjoyed the talks and quickly realized this was a pretty intense learning experience – for people who truly want to learn more about methods and resources for family history research, these institutes are excellent.

And I discovered there was homework each night.

A takeaway from day one:  get an old copy of Black’s law dictionary and look up each new term you encounter in probate, deeds, etc.  A late 1800’s copy should be available for free download from Google Books.  No point in buying a new one; the old terminology was removed a couple decades ago.

The lunch line, with the table area in the background.

The lunch line, with the table area in the background.

Day 3

By Tuesday I was getting used to things.  Judy Russell is a superb and experienced teacher; she is a clear speaker and very interesting.  I was far less familiar with the material being covered by Rick Sayre, about federal laws and how to find documents related to the federal government, but the wheels were turning as he got me wondering about all sorts of records I’ve never looked for.  Clearly, there are many research projects ahead for me.

Tip for the day:  Try this website: “A Century of Lawmaking” for index entries to government records that you may need to further track down and obtain.

Using my Galaxy Note tablet, I could keep the screen open for writing notes, plus another window for the pdf app to look at the syllabus.  My friend Minda McAully showed me how to open the syllabus in Acrobat Reader so I could also highlight, write on it, etc.  She's brilliant!

Using my Galaxy Note tablet, I could keep the screen open for writing notes (with the stylus), plus another window for the pdf app to look at the syllabus. My friend Linda McCauley showed me how to open the syllabus in Acrobat Reader so I could also highlight, write on it, etc. She’s brilliant!

Day 4

On Wednesday we were treated to two sessions with Marian L . Smith, who leads the Historic Research Branch at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (Department of Homeland Security).  Marian has immense knowledge of immigration and naturalization records and she gave us excellent advice about what records might exist in what era, and about the laws (and purposes) behind the various questions, forms, and records.  Since naturalization procedures were only moved to the federal government in the 1890’s, prior records – like the 1840’s records I am seeking – could be in any state, county or local court of record.  As I listened to Marian I realized I could definitely obtain, at some point, my grandparents’ naturalization records from when they came from Nova Scotia in the early 1900’s.

My takeaway from Wednesday was to pay the $20 for a Genealogy Program Index Search to obtain the correct record numbers for an ancestor processed after 1893 (but not ship manifest records, or records from port locations).  Then I could pursue getting the actual records.

That night I ate dinner with a friend from the DNA class and asked her about some questions I had about testing.  That’s almost the best thing about being here – the mealtime conversations about genealogy.

The season premiere of Who Do You Think You Are? was enjoyed by the crowd Wednesday night.  There were many aspects of the show that related to knowledge of the law for the time and places mentioned.

Some of the crowd enjoying the season opener of Who Do You Think You Are?

Some of the crowd enjoying the season opener of Who Do You Think You Are?

Day 5

On Thursday, the content was focused on laws about women, children, marriage and divorce.  There were also sessions on military pensions and Claims Committees.  I am on a mission to find supporting papers for my ggg-grandfather’s 1878 claim for reparations after the Civil War.  I feel like I have some more things to try now.

Takeaway from this day:  when using those faulty OCR-produced index services on the internet (in other words, indexing NOT produced by humans) try to use as many services as possible (like maybe Ancestry.com, Fold3 and Family Search) since they will all have different index entries.

My books from the Maia's Books exhibit.  She is willing to ship them, also.

My books from the Maia’s Books exhibit. She is willing to ship them, also.

Day 6

On Friday, I finalized my book purchases from Maia’s books, we had our last sessions, received certificates and prepared to depart.  Our teachers sent us a set of electronic documents they had gathered just for us, which I look forward to exploring more at home.

The major point of this week: find the law that will help you understand more about the document you’re reading, and also the reverse of that: continue to learn more about laws that might have impacted our ancestors, and produced record sets we’re not even  thinking of.  The whole process this week was one of reading the informative articles in the syllabus (over 100 pages), listening to and occasionally participating in the lectures, and following that up with homework each night, and, when I return home, with a lot of research I would like to do using my new knowledge and skills, plus the extra documents to go through.

There were interesting talks each night for the whole group, and I heard wonderful things about each one, but didn’t attend them.  I had some quiet evenings with friends or just doing homework.

In closing

I can heartily endorse this program.   The company was wonderful, the classes truly excellent, things ran smoothly and I know that’s not easy, and I am going home with a list a mile long of things I should be trying and ideas for specific problems. Nothing is perfect, and staying in a dorm is never a dream vacation, but overall I have no complaints. I have had more genealogy conversations here (along the lines of Did you try this?  Did you look here?  What about … ?) than probably any other venue I have ever been in.

I am grateful to my teachers Judy Russell, Rick Sayre, and Marian Smith.  I learned this week that there are laws (or occasionally some other motivation) behind records and we need to understand those purposes, look up national and local laws, and think through what was allowed and legal for the time and place that our ancestors lived.  Knowing the law can give us data and genealogical information that never appears in any index.  If person A did x in a certain year, and x could only be done by people of a certain age, that gives you a piece of data you may not find anywhere else.  And legal records are absolutely filled with direct evidence too, for instance when certain facts had to be documented for, say, a pension application.  Did our ancestors ever lie?  Well sure, but that’s just part of the fun.

You can see the 2015 program here.  I had a great week and I look forward to similar events in the future.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/07/25/grip-2014/

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I really have not done a lot of research on the MacLeans of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which is my grandfather’s family.  But recently, I connected with a Canadian relative and he passed along some pictures, and gave me permission to post them here.  I am going to tell what little I know, and hope that others will add to my information in the comments. Most of my information comes from my cousin John and my Aunt Mae.  Yup, this is the side of the family that actually kept track of their heritage.

Unfortunately, none of us have had much success tracing them back to Scotland, although we know they likely arrived in Cape Breton during the 1820’s.  I am leaving some notes here for other descendants (and there are many) who may want to collaborate further.

John Alexander MacLean, 1892-1933

My grandfather, John Alexander MacLean, 1892-1933

John and Josie (MacLeod) MacLean

My grandparents John Alexander MacLean and Josie May MacLeod were married June 16, 1920 in North Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  John, called Jack, was born 17 Feb 1892, and Josie was born 3 Aug 1892. They lost their first daughter, Josie, but had four children after that:  Kenneth Torquil, Marion Bannington, and twins named for themselves, John Alexander and Josie May.  My grandfather John MacLean died in Providence in 1933, and Josie raised the children in Rhode Island.  My Uncle Ken wrote about the family in this post:  Where We Came From.

Torquil MacLean

Torquil MacLean

Torquil and Sarah MacLean

My grandfather John MacLean’s parents were Torquil and Sarah (MacLean) MacLean.  Torquil MacLean was a farmer and ferryman in Englishtown, Nova Scotia who was born 15 Aug 1841 at Wreck Cove, Victoria, Nova Scotia, and died in Englishtown 29 Dec 1921. He was the son of Donald MacLean and Christine MacLeod.

I believe Torquil MacLean is well known among his many descendants, and locally, as the ferryman, from back in the day when that meant rowing, and coaxing horses on board, with their wagons, and even earlier, when the boat was smaller and the horse swam along behind, held by a rope.  Apparently he took over the ferry from his own father, ran it for 50 years, and his son Allen succeeded him in the business.  Today, the local ferry is still named for Torquil MacLean.  Torquil’s story was told in Issue 2 of Cape Breton’s Magazine.

Sarah (MacLean) MacLean

Sarah (MacLean) MacLean

Sarah MacLean was born in Middle River, Nova Scotia, 24 Mar 1852 and died 1 Jan 1940 in New Campbellton, Nova Scotia.  Her parents were Allen MacLean and Margaret Nicholson.  I do not know the connection between Torquil and Sarah’s families.

Torquil and Sarah MacLean’s children

Torquil and Sarah had eleven children.  Remarkably, they had five girls followed by six boys (family lore has it that they dug a new well).  Those researching Torquil and Sarah MacLean should consult The Road to Englishtown by Bonnie Thornhill (2009), p. 270-288.

  • Christena “Tena” MacLean, 1875 – 1968.  Married Charles Thomas Woolnough.  They lived in Halifax, where he ran a hotel/restaurant.
  • Mary MacLean, 1879 – 1931.  Married Malcolm B. Morrison in 1904.  Resided in Englishtown.  Their children were Dan, Edward, Gordon, Harry, John, Neil, and Sadie. 
Mary (MacLean) Morrison. Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett.

Mary (MacLean) Morrison. Photo courtesy of Byron Burnett.

  • Flora MacLean, 1880 – 1952.  Married Alexander “Sandy” Bain, a blacksmith, in 1899, and resided in New Campbellton, Cape Breton.   Her obituary is on this page of the Cape Breton Gen Web Project.  
  • Margaret MacLean, 1881 – 1948.  Married Donald R. MacDonald. She was a nurse and he was a doctor. She and her husband passed away within a few days of each other in Shediac, New Brunswick. 
  • Alice “Lexy” MacLean, 1883 – 1969.  She may have been married twice, first to John Phillip McLeod and later to Felix Gillan.  She died in Detroit, Michigan in 1969.
Daniel J. MacLean. Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett.

Daniel J. MacLean. Photo courtesy of Byron Burnett.

  • Daniel John MacLean, 1885 – 1918.  Daniel died in an Alberta coal mine in 1918.
  • Allan MacLean, 1887 – 1954. The only son to live a relatively long life, Allen took over the ferry from his father, and is mentioned in the Torquil MacLean article cited above (Cape Breton Magazine).  He married Sadie Grace Campbell, who died in 1930, and afterwards married Annie Urquhart, who lived until 1993.  His children were Daniel Edward, John Campbell, Allen Torquil, Robert K., Malcolm Arnold, Sadie Grace, and Margaret (Peggy).
Kenneth MacLean.  Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett.

Kenneth MacLean. Photo courtesy of Byron Burnett.

  • Kenneth R MacLean, 1889 – 1934.  Kenneth was a sailor, and was working for a Great Lakes transportation company in Buffalo, NY when he drowned.  He was married to Mary Belle Sutherland and had several children.
  • John Alexander MacLean, 1892 – 1933.  My grandfather, see above.  During WWI, he became a U.S. citizen due to the requirements of his job on board ships that were providing transportation services for the U.S. military. He married Josie MacLeod in 1920 and they had four children in Brooklyn, NY. He died in the hospital from an infection in 1933.  The family had recently moved to Rhode Island from Brooklyn and my grandmother decided to stay on in Rhode Island after his death.
Edward MacLean.  Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett.

Edward MacLean. Photo courtesy of Byron Burnett.

  • Edward C. MacLean, 1894 – 1913. Edward was a young coal miner, unmarried I believe, when he died in a mining accident in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1913.  My cousin Byron Burnett tells me that he is buried in the Auld Cemetery, Englishtown. 
  • Hugh Neil MacLean, 1896 – 1921.  Hugh served in WWI.  His draft papers from Poccahontas, Alberta, Canada report him as 5′ 9″, blue eyes, light brown hair, working at that time as a miner.  He served overseas during the war.  He was working on a ship after his return, and disappeared in New York City the night he was supposed to report to the ship.  Nothing more was heard from him and he was presumed dead.  At the time, my grandparents were a young married couple living in Brooklyn and were, I would think, the last family members to see him.  

A glimpse of the Torquil MacLean family

The book “Down North and Up Along” by Margaret Warner Morley (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1900) recounts the author’s travel experiences in Nova Scotia in the late 1890’s. She took the Englishtown Ferry along with a friend and a rented horse named Dan.

TORQUIL McLANE’S ferry is the notable instrument by means of which the traveller can find his way out of Englishtown to the north.
Englishtown lies opposite the narrowest part of St. Anne, which here may be about a mile wide, but that providential tongue of land must not be forgotten which separates the inner harbour from the outer bay, leaving only ” a passage for one vessel at a time,” and making of it a safe refuge in time of war.
Although not at present of military importance, the tongue of land still answers a very good purpose in shortening the labours of Torquil, the ferryman, who Is a man of note all over Cape North, and, for that matter, much farther. For whoever writes an article or even a letter about this part of the country, never fails to adorn the same with the picturesque name of Torquil McLane, the Englishtown ferryman.
Torquil must be pronounced ” turkle,” and Cape Breton on the spot must be called Cape ” Britton.” It is supposed by some that the island got its name from the Basque sailors who came to these shores from Cape Breton near Bayonne, in very early times. Be that as it may, the Basque sailors are no longer there to see justice done their mother tongue, and Cape ” Britton ” it is in the mouths of these former subjects of the British Empire.
Torquil McLane’s ferry was quite as picturesque as Torquil himself, and resembled nothing so little as our narrow-minded ideas of a ” ferry.” To see it was to understand and sympathise with Mr. A.’s concern that we should have a horse willing to cross it !
It had no landing whatever other than the pebbly beach provided by nature. The ferryboat resembled a retired dory, grown broad and flat-bottomed with increase of years. We reached this promising form of transportation by pitching down a stony embankment upon a stony beach.
Torquil was waiting for us, for had he not seen us enter town the night before, and did he not hope and trust that we should be crossing his ferry in the morning ? He was a tall, spare Highlander, and he surveyed us with his shrewd Scotch eyes, and in a deep voice inquired, after the manner of his people, where we came from, where we were going, and what our names were.
We answered and looked at each other in consternation, for while we might get aboard the high-sided boat, rocking in the water, what of Dan ? Could he and would he do this thing ? We did not believe that he could or would.
While Torquil was taking the horse from the waggon, his daughter, aged eighteen, strongly built and rosy-cheeked, appeared upon the scene. She had come to help her father row us over the ferry, and was accompanied by a little boy and a solemn-faced baby.
Torquil and his buxom daughter laid hold upon the waggon and pulled it out into the water and aboard the boat, that vehicle going through the most alarming contortions meantime. Then it was Dan’s turn, and we watched with bated breath as he waded out.
” Get in there ! ” said Torquil the ferryman — and Dan got in ! It was a beautiful sight. He pawed about with his front feet until he got them over the side and in the boat, and repeated the operation with his hind ones until he was all in. Could he have known the feelings with which we regarded him upon that occasion, he would have been a proud and happy horse.
As it was, he was no sooner in than he wished himself out again, and it became necessary for one of us to stand on a seat and keep him from walking overboard, while Torquil and his daughter pushed the boat from shore and turned it toward the other side of the harbour.
The baby was stowed for safe-keeping under the seat in the bow, whence it peered out curious but silent— as became a Scotch baby. The little boy pulled at his father’s oar until his face was crimson, and the strong-armed daughter kept stroke with her father. Thus we passed the perils of the sea.
As soon as the boat grated on the pebbles of the opposite shore, Dan scrambled overboard and Torquil harnessed him to the waggon. We paid the ferryman his fee and watched the clumsy craft go back across the mouth of the harbour bearing the far-famed ferryman, his strong daughter, his crimson-faced son, and his silent baby.

I wonder which daughter was the strong rower?  I suspect my grandfather, born in 1892, was not the solemn baby, but could he have been the boy?

A Map of Cape Breton, Englishtown highlighted, from Down North, p. 158.

A Map of Cape Breton (Englishtown highlighted), from Down North, p. 158.

In closing

I have many cousins on this side of the family and I hear from a new one from time to time.  Please, if anyone has better or further information, share it here where others will find it.  Thank you.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/07/15/my-branch-of-the-macleans/


Headstone of Torquil and Sarah MacLean.

Headstone of Torquil and Sarah MacLean in the Englishtown cemetery.  Photo by Bonnie Churcher.

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First of all let me say, I do expect to pay for services that help me with my genealogy.  To scan documents and make them searchable and viewable on a website involves expenses which I expect to contribute to. To maintain and staff buildings with roomfuls of books and documents that I might need is not free.  To move genealogy forward, and help us to gain access to the best work, and improve our own, certain organizations need to exist, and I would like to support them.

Here is a summary of what I pay for on a regular basis.

  • Ancestry.com.  Ancestry.com has a lot of records, and even the brief index records have tipped me off to records I should investigate elsewhere.  I keep a tree on Ancestry.  I sometimes pay for a U.S. subscription, and sometimes for a Worldwide subscription.  One thing I do not do on Ancestry is pay any attention to the other trees.  Just turn all that off – you’ll feel much better.  If I ever do look at an individual on another tree, it is just to see if they have any sources listed that might help me.  99 times out of 100 they don’t.  I can access Ancestry.com through my cell phone app, meaning I can see my information at any time.
  • Family Tree Maker software.  I keep this updated and currently have version 2014.  It synchs automatically with my Ancestry tree, meaning all the valuable documents I’ve attached to my tree in Ancestry also move to my computer, on their own.  If I ended my Ancestry subscription tomorrow, I would always have what I’ve found so far, right on my computer.  baby-mom from Abroad
  • Fold3.com.  I love Fold3 and use it mostly for U.S. military records.  I also like the city directories, and I sometimes use Fold3 for an alternative index to U.S. federal census records if I am having trouble finding something, although they only have 1860 and 1900-1930.  They allow you to directly attach a document to a person in your Ancestry tree.  That is especially useful for situations of distant relatives where I’m probably not going to save the entire record anyway.
  • AmericanAncestors.org, the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  What can I say about NEHGS membership.  They had me at “The Great Migration” series of books, where you can find reliable information on those who arrived in New England from Europe between 1620 and 1635.  Reading the Register when it comes in the mail is an education.  The website is very helpful, and contains access to all this, plus additional outside databases.  The website is useful to me for searching among many genealogical journals.  Visiting the library in Boston is a wonderful and helpful experience.
  • GenealogyBank.com (newspapers and more searchable, online). Newspapers have told me so many interesting things that I would never have known. My favorite discovery so far is competing ads in 1802 by my 5th great-grandparents disowning each other, one of my first finds. Whenever I subscribe to something like a newspaper site, I read the renewal details carefully and learn, in advance, how I would be able to unsubscribe.  If they make it clear they will never refund a fee, even one made without my consent, I move on.  I trust GenealogyBank.com and have had no problems. As I recall, they give me a discount because I have an Ancestry subscription.  children-hoop from Abroad
  • Rhode Island Historical Society membership.  Historical societies in the areas where you are researching are important and they always need support.
  • The National Genealogical Society.  I enjoy getting the Quarterly and feeling like my membership is contributing to the future of genealogy.
  • Rhode Island Genealogical Society.    It is important to me to belong to the group which has the best interests of Rhode Island genealogy as its core mission.  Rhode Island Roots is an important publication, and they publish excellent books, too.
  • Evernote Premium (online notebook). I keep research documents and files on my computer, but Evernote holds an increasing amount of my genea-details, like to-do lists for each repository, details about all these subscriptions, helpful things like blank census records, details about every repository and cemetery I might ever visit, research notes for each family, results of DNA tests, and conference syllabi.  So, I want to support Evernote and get the best features.  I also access all this on my cell phone through the app.
  • Dropbox.com (online document backup).  All documents on my computer are stored in one folder that is synched with Dropbox.  Anywhere that I have access to the internet, I can access all my documents.  All of them.  Books, maps, notes, pictures, screen shots, anything.  The free account is too small; I use a paid account.  If my computer ended up in Narragansett Bay tomorrow, all my work would be safe.  swans- from Abroad
  • FamilySearch Center microfilm rentals.  I use these more and more.  Someday fairly soon, these films will all be online. Until then, for $7.50, I get to use the exact record book I need (if they have it), no matter where in the world it came from.  I prefer to see the original record books, but will settle for this kind of copy if I have to, and find it preferable (and cheaper) than ordering new certificates transcribed by a clerk (mostly because I like to see everything else on the page, or a couple of pages, and like to do my own deciphering of difficult handwriting).  I save the pages I find on a flash drive and take them home for storage on my computer.
  • Mocavo.com.  Mocavo and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. Right now it’s on.  It is best at what it always was, a site for searching the web and getting only historically and genealogically relevant search results.  I love getting these automatically in my in-box.  If your ancestors could possibly be mentioned in old books, genealogies, directories, or other printed matter, this is the site for you.
  • FindMyPast.com.  Since discovering some more recent English ancestors, I have started subscribing briefly to FindMyPast once in a while.  I don’t do enough to make it worthwhile all the time.

train-ride from Abroad

I notice the trend now is that every major site wants to hold your full tree, help you match with others, and have you save everything right there.  Realistically, we can’t do such a thing on 4 or 5 different sites. Can we?  Sounds exhausting.  One thing I avoid, so far, on these sites is the temptation to upload a whole tree (except on Ancestry.com).  I may, in the future, try this on Mocavo or FindMyPast, to see what “hints” come up for individuals, as long as I can keep the tree private, and delete it later (since I won’t be updating it). (Commenters here and on Facebook have alerted me that the FamilySearch tree won’t be working that way).

This list is longer than I thought it would be.  If you find other memberships or subscriptions worth paying for, and want to point them out here in the comments, please do.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/06/22/what-i-pay-for/

The illustrations are from the book “Abroad” by Thomas Crane and Ellen Elizabeth Houghton (London: Marcus Ward & Co, 1884?)

Abroad _ Crane


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