Recently, I visited the Special Collections unit of the Carothers Library at the University of Rhode Island.  URI is situated in the picturesque village of Kingston, Rhode Island.  Like many east coast state universities, the campus is somewhat large and spread out.  Before you ask, let me say, yes, as on all college campuses, parking is a problem.  Going in June helped.

I called Special Collections in advance, as requested for summer visitors on the website.  They were very nice.  I felt badly that I arrived a bit later than my appointment time.  See the book shop notes at the bottom of this post. Next time, library first, book shop second.

I pulled up to the university Visitors Center and walked in.  They issued me a temporary parking pass and gave me a map so I could find the parking lot.  The lot was not all that close to the library, so there was a bit of walking to do after I parked.

Near the entrance of the Robert L. Carothers Library.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Robert L. Carothers Library. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Special Collections

The reading room for Special Collections was located on the second floor.  I went in and introduced myself.  The librarian asked me a few more questions about the records I wanted to look at, then went and retrieved the archival boxes.

My mission was to seek records for the Grace Church Cemetery in Providence (PV005 in the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website). URI holds the archives of various Episcopal Churches of Rhode Island. According to their online catalog, there were records of Grace Church, as well as records specific to the Grace Church Cemetery, which is located just south of downtown Providence on Broad Street. These records are in the archives; none are online.

Grace Episcopal Church

I have noticed over the years that I have several ancestors buried in the Grace Church Cemetery, Providence:

  • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
  • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock (1837-1921)
  • my gggg-grandparents James (1807-1882) and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)

as well as various sons and daughters of those ancestors.  I learned of this through death records.

If anyone were to read my blog often, they might realize this is one of the first times I’ve written about my ancestors having a connection to a church.  Prior to about 1900, I almost never find them getting married at a church, or appearing in any church activities.  If they did, it tended to be Methodist, Congregational, or Baptist, with a few Quakers in the distant past.  But Episcopalian?  The only one I can think of was my grandfather’s Aunt Jenny, who was, according to her obituary, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark in downtown Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark on Mathewson Street in downtown Providence.

So I sat at the library and thought through the idea of the Episcopal Church.  It occurred to me that I might expect English immigrants to be affiliated with an Episcopal Church.  Aunt Jenny and my great grandfather, Miles E Baldwin Sr., were half siblings, and their mother was born in Surrey, England and came to the U.S. around 1843.  James and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence were immigrants from two different places in England around 1833, and Margaret Lawrence was their daughter.  I went so far as to check out the church rolls and sacrament documentation in the special collections (in addition to the cemetery records) but no luck.  Probably, they were loyal to the church and turned there for burial, but apparently were not regular members. Possibly, a real church wedding or funeral was too costly.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

Grace Church Cemetery records

The Grace Church Cemetery records were in boxes 45, 46 and 47 of Group #144, Series IV.  In the end I looked at all three boxes, and several mini-boxes of cards.  In Rhode Island, one gets used to a “cemetery” being a small group of ancient stones enclosed by rusting ironwork behind an old barn.  Records of any sort (other than later gravestone readings) are quite a luxury.  I haven’t gotten used to them, so I made sure I looked at everything.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1).  All of the materials were appropriately archived.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1). All of the materials were appropriately cataloged and archived.

I found what I was looking for, and I found a little more.  These are the family members that I found:

  • Lot #88
    • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
    • Jennie Baldwin, dated 8 April 1908 (Lot 721) (29 November 1926 removed to Lot 88)
  • Lot #250
    • my ggggg-grandmother Margaret (Balmer) Shortridge (1781-1873)
    • possibly, my ggggg-grandfather John Shortridge (1786 – ?)
    • my gggg-grandfather James Lawrence (1807-1882)
    • my gggg-grandmother Annie (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)
    • four children of James and Annie Lawrence:
      • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock Knight (1837-1921)
      • John H Lawrence (1840-1862)
      • William J. Lawrence (1845-1865)
      • Elizabeth Jane (Lawrence) Scott (1849-1937) and her husband John Thayer Scott (1846-1921) and some of their children
The Plot Diagram for Lot 250.  This is the only reference I've ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather.  Of course, it has a question mark.  The mystery continues.

The Plot Diagram for Lot 250. This is the only reference I’ve ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather. Of course, it has a question mark. The mystery continues.

  • Lot 378
    • Hazel M Baldwin (1910-1931) – daughter of Miles, above
    • Jennie K. Robblee (1864-1944) – sister of Miles’ second wife Mabel Robblee
  • Lot 547
    • Mary (Shortridge) Bamford (1806-1883), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Bamford and some of their children
  • Lot 215
    • Margaret (Shortridge) Hardman (1816-1892), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Hardman and two of their children

I used the typed index (Box 45), the card index boxes (Box 47), “plot listings” showing – I think – ownership (Box 47) and the plot diagrams (Box 46).  In a few cases I learned a little more at the R.I. Historic Cemeteries Commission website.

Some of the cards were confusing - I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever.  Was he also a soldier?

Some of the cards were confusing – I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever. Was he also a soldier?

A few surprises

I found some surprising things while researching this cemetery.

  • Jennie Baldwin in lot #88 – that is from the cemetery index in Box 45, folder 1, evidently taken from the plot diagram.  R.I. Historical Cemeteries Commission adds an entry in lot #88 for Myrtle Baldwin – that makes a lot more sense.  Miles and his daughter Myrtle are in one grave – the rest of #88 are strangers.  “Jennie Baldwin” is jotted sloppily next to Miles’ name on the plot diagram.  I suspect my Aunt Jenny paid for her brother’s burial, and the girl’s grave was moved at that time, and maybe the clerk got the names mixed up.  There is no Jennie Baldwin.  I think.
  • John Shortridge is mentioned in the plot diagram with a question mark.  I’ve never found any trace of him after the family’s 1832 arrival in New York, when he was 46 years old.  Sure wish I knew what this meant.  I don’t think anyone would buy a burial plot for someone who disappeared – he must have died.  Strange.
  • John Lawrence was killed at the Battle of Antietam.  I had lost track of John Lawrence, now I see why.  Researching this topic is going to be my next task. [Update – see further info on my subsequent blog post, A Death at Antietam]
  • John’s brother William Lawrence, who died of Typhoid Fever in 1865, may also have served in the Civil War.  Need to research.
  • Possibly, the two Civil War letters that are currently lost in my family were written by one of these two.  As I think about a mother saving such letters and passing them down to the child she lived with at the time of her death, I can see how these might have ended up with my grandmother.  Something to think about.

I had a good visit at the Carothers Library special collections unit, and pretty much just did what I came to do.  I can think of a few other topics to look up there, and that may happen another time. Some of my local genealogy friends say the library itself is a reasonable research spot; I didn’t look at the regular collections.  All in all, I got some valuable information and was able to share it with a cousin that I met through DNA testing.

The Grace Church Cemetery

I was able to copy the cemetery map at the archives.  It is below. Click here for a copy that can be clicked to enlarge.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.  Will open larger.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.

The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website provides some details of many of the graves.  Using the “Search Web Database” link, I searched for various last names in this cemetery, PV005, over the years.  Now, in hindsight, I see that the information was really quite helpful.  The lot number is given, and other information, and John Sterling himself updated the listings in 2000.  Can’t get much better than that.

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and Elmwood Ave, Providence.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The problem with Grace Church Cemetery is the location; it’s in a downtrodden neighborhood just south of downtown Providence and is a little the worse for wear.  In fairness, the neighborhood was nothing fancy when my ancestors were buried there.  I took some pictures for this post, but I expect to find my ancestors’ graves in the future, after I finish compiling what I know.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A little detour

Across route 138 from the campus, I saw a used book shop as I was driving to the library and I had to stop.  It was Allison B. Goodsell, Rare Books, also called the Kingston Hill Store.  The shop had a great Rhode Island history collection, a small genealogy section, and, in back, some complete old sets of Rhode Island compiled books – Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, Early Records of the Town of Providence, etc. – the kind of thing I have used on Google Books or Internet Archive.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

They even had two copies of Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.  And many other treasures. This may be my new favorite used book store in Rhode Island.  I bought a book that will be featured on the blog at a later date.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/18/a-visit-to-uri-library/

Free Providence City Directories

This is a short post to give some good news. The City of Providence has placed a number of Providence House Directories online.  The volumes run from 1895 to 1935.  The pdf’s will download from their web page at this link:

The 1905 Providence House Directory.  Many issues are now online.

The 1905 Providence House Directory. Many issues are now online.

I am grateful to the Providence City Archives for placing these on the web.  I have noticed, prior to this, that very few Providence directories could be found on Internet Archive or Google Books.

So, hurray for the Providence City Archives and their Archivist, Paul R. Campbell.  I plan to say thank you next time I stop by.

As always, I have a Providence City Directories page which contains a little more information:


The 1895 House Directory, showing names street by street.

The 1895 Providence House Directory, showing names street by street.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/15/providence-city-directories/

This is the story of how I decided to record my genealogical research more deliberately and thoroughly.

Recently, I saw a “Quick Lesson” by Elizabeth Shown Mills on her website, “Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage” called Quick Lesson 20: Research Reports for Research Success If you have not seen it, I can strongly recommend reading it.

This article made a major impression on me.  My experience over the past year in building, using, successfully finishing and moving past my “Research Workbook” for my visit to the Family History Library has convinced me that I like to work with a notebook, and that I would like to combine computer/software documents with a paper notebook. My desire is to carefully prepare pages at home including, sometimes, snippets of text, pictures of documents, lists of microfilms, book citations from a card catalog, etc., which I can then write in while sitting in a repository.  But until I read her article, I did not have a clear idea of how I could do that.

What’s with the software?

My problem really lies in the software, of which I use several.  Any genealogy software constrains you to facts and sources, and arranges those facts person by person.  Facts and sources are great, if you can get them, I suppose.  But, what are facts and sources? If my ancestor Paul Darling reported in his 1850 census record that he was 52 years old, and I find a birth record in that town for Paul Darling in 1798, do I now know who his parents are?  Of course not.  I have evidence that may lead to a conclusion about who his parents were, after I have done a thorough search and analyzed all the evidence.

Beyond all that, I can’t be the only person who has computer folders filled with other stuff that is not a source – the pdf book that didn’t contain specific information, the map that didn’t show me where my ancestors lived, the list I found in a reference book and wanted to save, the military pension file for a cousin which might or might not contain helpful hints, the photos of nearby graves that I took just in case, the list of books I looked at the last time I was in the repository, or the hints I found on Rootsweb which make no sense.  How do I manage these, and remember to come back to them at the right time?

While genealogy software is not meant to solve this problem, probably Evidentia2 comes the closest.  It helps you pull all possible information out of sources and apply it to multiple people.  I like Evidentia for tackling big problems. But I know that the real attraction for me of the research workbook I made in 2014 is that it was of my own construction.  It made sense to ME.  I got to decide what to include and how to include it.  I got to decide what end product I needed, and what it should contain.

My spiral bound book used during my Family History Library visit in February.

My spiral bound book used during my Family History Library visit in February.

My workbook

When I came back from the Family History Library this winter and carefully went through my workbook and images of documents, I realized that all I really had available to record my findings were the software products that didn’t cover enough, and the computer file folders.  I was not happy adding data to traditional software, family-by-family “unsuccessful” search list documents and family-by-family research notes and to-dos.  That seemed pretty lame.

That was my state of mind as I approached this “Quick Lesson 20“.  Mrs. Mills gives an excellent layout for a working research report.  She explains how the document will evolve over the course of the research – what you start with, and what you end with, and what to do next.  The process she describes does not seem new to me – very simply: preparation, execution, reporting, and data entry – and yet, as I read the excellent suggestions, I realized that this process makes a perfect way to get research information under control. And she had excellent tips about limiting the scope of research projects to a manageable level, and keeping what I record separate from my own notes and my conclusions about what I found.

In my own research, I am usually working on more than one project at once, not because I think that’s a good idea, but because access to repositories, and time to access them, vary throughout the year.   To approximate the style of research that she is recommending, with clear and limited goals, strategies, documentation of findings, citations and attachments, future work plan, and storage of the report, I could use one report for each current project.

I realized that I COULD manage the computer-to-paper-to-computer workflow that I am looking for by building a loose-leaf notebook of these plans, and taking it everywhere.  Active plans could be produced electronically and printed for the notebook, and reprinted from time to time as I processed findings. Mrs. Mills recommends typing (and thinking) at the repository, and I will do that whenever possible (not always possible in Rhode Island’s tiny town halls). Research reports will be removed from the binder after completion but saved on the computer, ready for guidance on future work and plans.

The software

And the recommended software?  It’s Word.  This is a revelation to me.  Many times over the years I’ve heard well-known genealogists say that their favorite genealogical software is Word.  Well, I thought, I don’t know, that sounds like a lot of typing.  But somehow that essay by Mrs. Mills finally made me realize how much better and more helpful the product would be when I could control it.  I finally get it – research in Word, write reports in Word, but also keep the data in other genealogical software if that helps you make a chart, visualize problems, share findings, etc.  Because of the research “cycle” that Mrs. Mills describes, pieces typed in one report may be useful in the next working report.  Copy and paste can help a lot.

Although I can’t share them here, because they are based directly on her work, I have built a template for the research report to help me start recording properly, and I have taught myself to insert custom “quick parts” in Word to easily add information from sources and not forget anything. It starts as a template and gradually gets filled in.  Worksheets, so to speak.  In a workbook.  Just what I wanted.

The notebook, all ready to start.

The notebook, all ready to start.

In conclusion

I suspect once I get used to this, I will discard the paper altogether except in unusual circumstances and rely on the computer to show me my working report.

I already decided on my first project using this method – researching a reference to the death of an uncle at the Battle of Antietam, something that I had no idea of.  Civil War research is new to me, so that will help me to slow down and strategize.

I hope this notebook, both the digital and paper versions, can help me make more conscious decisions about how many projects I consider myself to be working on at once, help me limit that number, and help me create projects that are manageable and bring them to some kind of conclusion.

The post I have been referring to is this:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Quick Lesson 20: Research Reports for Research Success.” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage,  15 May 2015. https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-20-research-reports-research-success : 2015.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/11/the-research-notebook/

I was in Marcy Ballou’s neighborhood on Wednesday.  I’ve been writing this post for weeks, avidly searching and analyzing what I have on her life, but walking in the cemetery behind her house, and seeing the two houses on the old farm built by her husband,  brought her to life in a way that census records never will.  She vacated the neighborhood in 1802, and I imagine her being picked up by her father in an old farm wagon, with her clothes, a few dishes and linens, and her baby.  I have always assumed she ended up with her parents a couple of miles down the road.  That is probably either true, or a close approximation.  But what happened after that?  I have no idea.

The problem

My ggggg-grandmother Marcy (or Mercy) Ballou divorced her husband, Nathan Aldrich, in 1803, when she was 25. The couple was from Cumberland, Rhode Island, and the divorce happened at the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  It’s not unusual to have a female relative whose life we know a part of, but not other parts.  The part I don’t know is what happened to her after the divorce.  I am related to Marcy in the following way:  my grandmother Edna May Darling (1905-1999), her father Russell E. Darling (1883-1959), then Addison Parmenter Darling (1856-1933), Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824-1883), Nancy Aldrich (1800-1879), Marcy Ballou (1778-?).

Years of pursuing likely sources of information like census records, newspapers, vital records, published genealogies, manuscripts, cemeteries and probate records have turned up no theories and few clues about Marcy’s later life.  There is every chance she married again. I have never found a record of her original marriage to Nathan Aldrich, so a second marriage could also be real, but not findable at this point.  If she did, I wouldn’t know her name, which is, I assume, most of the problem here.

The northeast corner of Cumberland, R.I. is still quite rural.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The northeast corner of Cumberland, R.I., where Marcy Ballou grew up, is still quite rural. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Marcy’s parents

I am quite certain of Marcy’s family, and it was one of my first real research success stories.  I have researched Marcy’s parents Richard and Lucy (Arnold) Ballou extensively – see Locating Richard Ballou and The Brick Wall Stories:  Lucy Arnold, Part 4.  In many ways, I know more about them than I do about Marcy.

The discovery started with finding Marcy in An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America by Adin Ballou (1888) is quite a reliable book; Ballou descendants are lucky to have it.  It discusses Marcy as follows:

[480.] Mercy Ballou(6), Richard(5), John(4), John(3), John(2), Maturin(1); b. in the northeasterly part of Cumberland, R. I., Apl. 11, 1778 ; m. Nathan Aldrich. We have made persistent efforts to trace the family record and descendants of Mercy Ballou. She is said to have had a dr. who m. Paul Darling, and a son William, who once lived in Milford, Mass. There is no reason to doubt these alleged facts. We suspect the whole family must be extinct. But persons, mge-dates, birth-dates and death-dates have eluded our research. Closed.  ( – p. 270)

Since the “daughter who married Paul Darling” was my gggg-grandmother Nancy Aldrich, I had some confidence in this rather vague summary of her life.  To prove that I had identified the right person, I was eventually – over a couple of years – able to put together three records:

Document 1 – Marcy’s birth record

On a visit to the Cumberland Town Hall Archives in 2013, I found the town record of births for Richard and Lucy Ballou’s children:

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 2, Cumberland Town Hall

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 2, page 87, Cumberland Town Hall

Document 2 – the Bible record

I knew from a transcript in the NEHG Register that Nathan Aldrich had entered his name, his children’s names, and his second wife’s name in his bible.  What I didn’t know until I traveled to Boston to see the manuscript was that the name of his first wife, Marcy, was also written there, and then crossed out.  Holding the plastic sleeve up to the light, the blacked out area read:

Marcy Aldrich Born

April the 19 1778


Nathan Aldrich's bible, found in the manuscripts at NEHGS.  He lists his wife, but then obviously crosses her out.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Nathan Aldrich’s bible, found in the manuscripts at NEHGS. He lists his wife, but then obviously crosses her out. That was my first clue that they didn’t get along.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Richard and Lucy’s child was born April 19, 1778, so, matching that birth date against what was in the bible provides evidence that the Ballou book was right about Marcy’s marriage.

Document 3 – the divorce record

To find out what happened to Nathan and Marcy’s marriage, a trip to the Rhode Island Judicial Archives finally led me to the record book that recorded their divorce in 1803.  No accompanying papers have ever been found.

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, bottom of page 1

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, September Term, 1803, bottom of page 220.

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, top of page 2

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, top of page 221.

 [p. 220] “M. Aldrich”   Be it Remembered that at the present Term of this Court Marcy Aldrich wife of Nathan Aldrich of Cumberland in said County prefered her petition, praying for reasons therein stated, that a decree of divorce may be passed in her [p.221] favor dissolving the bond of matrimony now subsisting between her and her said husband and for alimony – after hearing the same. It is ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court here, that the prayer thereof be granted.

What else is known

So my question is, what became of Marcy after the 1803 divorce.  Let’s review what I do know.

  • 1802 – she left her husband.  It’s unusual to have something written by the woman that’s been lost to me since 1803, but I do.  When Nathan placed a newspaper ad in the Providence Gazette in May, 1802 refusing to pay any debts of his absent wife, Marcy, Marcy hit back with her own ad (or, perhaps someone wrote it on her behalf):
This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

Marcy’s ad.  May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.  Courtesy of Google News Archive.

My unworthy Husband NATHAN ALDRICH, having thought proper to stigmatize my Character in a public Paper, a brief Reply seems necessary.  I was reduced to the hard Necessity of making my Escape from the most brutal Treatment; he had threatened my Life, and actually kicked me, and bruised me with his fist.  Add to this, that he left my Bed one Year previous to my quitting his Cottage, and neglected to provide for me the common Necessities of Life.  MARCY BALLOU.  Cumberland, May 14, 1802.  (–Providence Gazette, May 15, 1802, p. 2., from Google News Archive).

This ad tells me that she had already returned to using her maiden name, even before the divorce, and that when she first left Nathan, she remained in Cumberland.  Apparently he left her bed one year prior to her departure from his house.

  • She had two children, possibly. Following up on the clues from the Ballou book:
    • “daughter who married Paul Darling” is my gggg-grandmother Nancy.  Nancy’s father, Nathan Aldrich, wrote another newspaper ad disowning Nancy in June, 1817, when Nancy was about 17 saying she “has behaved herself in an unbecoming manner.”  It would not be unusual for a husband in that era to have custody of his child, so perhaps she lived with him – meaning, perhaps Nancy was not a part of Marcy’s household for some period while she was growing up.  Does it necessarily mean that Marcy had died, remarried, become incompetent?  I don’t know what to make of this.
    • “a son William, who once lived in Milford, Mass.”   I am quite sure this is NOT Nathan’s child.  Nathan and his second wife Chloe had a son, William, born in 1815. The author, Adin Ballou, could be mixing those Williams up.  But it’s also possible that Marcy remarried and had a son after her divorce, or perhaps just had a son at some later point.  If the son’s name is William Ballou, I am not finding him in Milford.  I can’t make anything of this clue, except it seems to suggest a subsequent marriage.
  • These particular Ballou and Aldrich families, along with some of my Darling ancestors, and the families of Nathan Aldrich’s second and third wives (cousins to each other from the Grant and Crowninshield families) all lived in close proximity in northern Cumberland, R.I and western Wrentham, Mass.  How did this effect Marcy’s choices after the divorce?

Finding Marcy in 1810

I first tried the idea that Marcy might be with her parents in 1810.  As I reviewed the 1810 census record from Cumberland, Rhode Island, I realized that I have been accessing an inaccurate version of it for years. Ancestry.com has eight pages of the 1810 Cumberland census record.  Richard Ballou seems to appear on page 8, with his name and household details covered over with a piece of blackened tape.  As I searched for a different digital version of the file, I found something surprising.

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from Ancestry.com

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from Ancestry.com

By clicking on “Source” from the Ancestry.com image, I saw the following citation:

Year: 1810; Census Place: Cumberland, Providence, Rhode Island; Roll: 58; Page: 30; Image: 61; Family History Library Film: 0281232

Using that info, I searched on Internet Archive for “Providence Rhode Island census 1810” (meaning Providence County) and then Roll 58 came up in the results.  This is the Internet Archives version of the same page:

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from  Internet Archive

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 4 of 7, from Internet Archive

Note that most of the top of the page was missing on Ancestry.com.  I have to wonder, if I didn’t have the black tape problem, would I ever have realized that the top of the page was missing on Ancestry.com?  It’s important to me to find everyone in this neighborhood; I would have been missing many names.  As I reviewed the two versions for Cumberland page by page, I realized Ancestry had, as page 8, a partial duplicate of page 4. There were, in fact, only 7 pages. Odd.

In either case, the record is hard to read. Some repair tape seems to have completely discolored over the years.  Actually, the Ancestry copy shows more under the tape.  Here is what I think it says:

Richard Ballou:

  • Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1
  • Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1
  • Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
  • Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1
  • Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1

Since Marcy was the oldest child, these could likely be some of the younger children of Richard and Lucy.  For sure, Marcy seems not to be there.

Next, I tried to see if Marcy was with a sibling.  I have done some research on each of the siblings over the years.  At this point I tried to pin down each of their households in the 1810 census.

These are Marcy’s siblings with birth years taken from the Cumberland record, above, and their status in 1810:

  • Arnold Ballou, b. 1780 — He married Abigail Trask in 1806. He was just below his father Richard in the 1810 census, and the black mark prevents viewing his household. He stayed in that area until his death, 5 June 1838. No children, according to Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript.
  • Lydia Ballou, b. 1782 — died 9 Nov 1789.
  • Augustus Ballou, b. 1784 — married Lucy Tower in 1814, who filed for divorce in 1820 (I am basing this on a newspaper ad directed at him, “whereabouts unknown”), and he married, second, Isabella Foster in 1825.  Miraculously, I DO know what Augustus was doing in 1810 – he had enrolled in the 4th U.S. Infantry on 1 Dec 1809.  He was paid for all five years of his enlistment, although he was wounded and disabled on 9 Aug 1812, at the Battle of Brownstown. A musket ball remained permanently lodged in his leg until his death in 1833.  He was also, at some point, a prisoner of war at Dartmoor in England.  Thanks to the War of 1812 pensions being online at Fold3, I found proof of his second marriage in Isabella’s Widow’s Pension application in 1870.
Augustus Ballou's marriage record, later recorded for an 1870 widow's pension application.  I mentioned his father, Richard Ballou, of Cumberland.

Augustus Ballou’s marriage record, later recorded for an 1870 widow’s pension application and found in the War of 1812 pensions on Fold3. It mentioned his father, Richard Ballou, of Cumberland.

  • Thomas Ballou, b. 1786 — married Lydia Gould, year unknown, and I can’t find him in 1810 or 1820.
  • Richard Ballou, b. 1788 — apparently never married.  Location unknown in 1810.
  • Lucy Ballou, b. 1790 — married Orrin Aldrich Grant in 1814 and may have had several children.
  • Willard Ballou, b. 1795 — married Sally Clark in 1822, according to the Ballou book. There were several Willard Ballous around so he would need careful study.  In 1810, this Willard was one of the males in his father’s household.  Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript at the Rhode Island Historical Society states that he died at age 90 at the Cumberland Asylum.
  • Polly Arnold Ballou, b. 1799 — married Simon Whipple Sheldon by 1817.  Still a child in 1810.

This is a tough bunch to track down.  I’m not seeing a lot of children from this group of siblings, and many died young.  More research ideas would be needed to pin down this poorly-documented group more. My sources for the above information are the Ballou book and Mrs. Abigail Sprague’s unpublished notes about the history of Cumberland at the Rhode Island Historical Society (MSS 1023), as well as various census, military, and vital records.

My conclusions

  • The only two prospects I see for staying with family in 1810 would be her father (and she is not in his household), and her brother Arnold Ballou, who was at least married and seemed to have a household of his own, possibly on his father’s property.  Arnold’s 1810 census is unreadable.  Or, could Marcy have remarried and so been living elsewhere.  So few of the Ballou marriage records remain that I just can’t draw any conclusions from not finding a record of that.
  • Knowing that daughter Nancy went back to living with her father, Nathan Aldrich, by 1817 when he placed the ad disowning her (and possibly much earlier), I keep wondering if that was because Marcy’s life fell apart, Marcy was working, or Marcy died, or did he simply (especially after his marriage to Chloe before 1810, when Nathan and Chloe signed a deed in Cumberland) claim his right to have custody of his child.
  • Marcy had been given alimony in the 1803 divorce.  She could have had a home of her own, perhaps, and never returned to her family.
  • Since she is not in her father’s household, I think the most likely answer is that she remarried.
The Sheldonville Cemetery on Burnt Swamp Road, Wrentham, Mass. Marcy lived near there, but was not likely to be buried there. Her gravesite is unknown.

The Sheldonville Cemetery on Burnt Swamp Road, Wrentham, Mass. Marcy lived near there, but was not likely to be buried there. Her gravesite is unknown.

Next steps

  • I have made several efforts to use 1805-1870 death records for any “Marcy” in Providence County to see if the person could potentially be this Marcy.  I have researched some of these people.  No luck.  I need to figure out what to try next along these lines.
  • I wonder if NARA has a better copy of Arnold Ballou’s 1810 census entry on microfilm.  It’s on my list for a future visit.
  • Perhaps explore some Wrentham, Mass. records more thoroughly for Marcy.  I keep assuming she headed south in Cumberland, but she could have wandered north into Wrentham.
  • Her father’s will in 1824 could potentially have been very revealing, but it does not mention any heirs by name.  Am I missing some other document related to that?  Lucy had the use of a 60 acre property, which must have been disposed of after her death.  I have found no records for that, yet.
  • Did Marcy ever end up in the Poor records of Cumberland or any nearby town?
  • I have never found graves for Marcy’s parents, Richard and Lucy Ballou.  I suspect they may be in the slightly older cemetery in Wrentham.  I have some contacts among the graveyard hoppers there.  I should ask them.  There could possibly be a nearby grave for Marcy.
  • Look at the northwest corner of the 1838 Cumberland map (provided by John Tew, of Filiopietism Prism.  John is not blogging just at present, so if you want a pdf copy of this map, email me at the email address in the side column and I will email it to you).  Any of those names could potentially be Marcy’s second husband.  Might be worth some investigation.
  • Perhaps I need to know more about the Cumberland Asylum where Willard Ballou died.
  • Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript states that Richard and Lucy Ballou were members of the West Wrentham Baptist Church.  I know more about Rhode Island church records than I do Massachusetts. Perhaps I could find some information.  Also, I should explore records of the West Wrentham Cemetery.

In conclusion

This is a hard one but I may, someday, find something.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/5/the-search-for-marcy-ballou/



Like many New Englanders, I have ties to Nova Scotia.  I have ancestors who have relocated from Nova Scotia over the last 150 years.  For one branch in particular, the Martins, when they came to Massachusetts in the 1880’s it was a return home after four generations.  My gg-grandfather, Marsden Martin, descended from Brotherton Martin, born in Martha’s Vinyard, Massachusetts.  But he also descended from James Anderson of Fells Point, Maryland, a mariner and sometime privateer.  James’ activities during the Revolutionary War caused him to lose a great deal of property, made his return to Baltimore impossible, and resulted in him fleeing to Nova Scotia with his family to seek support from the British government.

Which leads us to the subject of Loyalist Claims.  The British government has filed these in two sets – A.O. 12 and A.O. 13.  The records are of particular interest in North America and so the Library and Archives Canada has copies of those records.

James Anderson is my 5th great grandfather.  I am descended through my grandfather Miles Baldwin.

James Anderson is my 5th great grandfather. I am descended through my grandfather Miles Baldwin.

Up to this point, I had only seen one Loyalist Claim by James Anderson, in A.O. 13, Bundle 24, page 7-9, dated 22 April 1786, Halifax (No. 1453).  He reported the following losses:

  • A Farm totaling 300 acres (70 cleared) and a dwelling house and barn on the North Branch of the Potomock near Fort Cumberland
  • a two-story brick house well finished, a two-story frame house on the back of that house, a framed stable, a kitchen, in Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Two horses, two cows
  • A mahogany cased 14-day clock, beds, various mahogany furniture, two large looking glasses, and other household goods
  • A chair and harness

Using the Index

I have two associates in this search for the roots of James Anderson, my cousins Bonnie and Pat.  Bonnie found this index at the Library and Archives Canada:

Audit Office : AO 13. Claims, American Loyalists – Series II : selections

It’s two digitized microfilm reels.  Buried in there are several long index sections.  Here is what she found for James Anderson:

Four records were listed for James Anderson (but we had already seen Bundle 24).  Arrows are mine, from a picture I pasted into my Evernote list of Family History Library microfilms ordered.

Reel 5241, Image 524.  Four records were listed for James Anderson (but we had already seen Bundle 24). Arrows are mine, from a picture I pasted into my Evernote list of Family History Library microfilms ordered.

I found the Bundles I needed on the list of Family History Library microfilms here.  What I should have done was go back to the main page of this data set at the Library and Archives Canada.  I would have seen:

Library and Archives Canada website, Loyalists section.  The page notes that A.O. 12 and 13 records are available on Ancestry.com.

Library and Archives Canada website, Loyalists section. The page notes that A.O. 12 and 13 records are available on Ancestry.com.

The details of A.O. 12 & A.O. 13 include a tip that the bundles can be found on Ancestry.com. But no, not realizing the rolls of microfilm were available on Ancestry.com, I rented the microfilm from the Family History Library.  I went over this weekend to look at them.  One roll was difficult to read, so I came home and searched again online, thinking perhaps I could find a way to order just the pages I needed somewhere.  That’s when I discovered the Ancestry set.  And it turned out, the Ancestry set was actually far more readable than the films I had been struggling with.

Ancestry.com set of Loyalist Claim papers

Ancestry.com set of Loyalist Claim papers

Two claims for James Anderson of Fells Point, Baltimore

One set of claim papers seemed to be a re-working of the papers I had already found (A.O. 13-24 New Claims, Images 8 – 10 on Ancestry.com – details of that claim are here) with an added endorsement.  Having a great deal of evidence for our ancestor, James Anderson, (although lacking evidence of his origins and parents) we know this claim belongs to him.  Here is a transcript.

  •  A.O. 13-100.  Various Papers.  New Claims, Nova Scotia.  Dated Halifax, 22 April, 1786.

To the Honourable Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament to enquire into the Losses and Services of the American Loyalists. 

The Memorial of James Anderson

Repectfully Sheweth

That your Memorialist, from Principles of loyalty and attachment to the British Government, was among the first that opposed the Association at the beginning of the Rebellion, and at many times was under the necessity of leaving his Estate and Family at their discretion, and screen himself in the Woods.

That your Memorialist in April 1778, joined His Majesty’s Forces at Philadelphia, and had a permit from General Howe to procure provisions for the Garrison, which he dud in a Vessel of his own, in Consequence thereof the Rebels Confiscated his Estate and every Individual Article he was possessed of.

That your Memorialist rendered every essential service in his power during the War, Serving often as a Pilot, as is well-known by Commissioner Duncan of his Majesty’s Dock Yard at Halifax.

That your Memorialist from the heavy losses he sustained, and his Indigent Circumstances, was thereby rendered incapable of going to Great Britain, when others did, to give his claim.

Your Memorialist therefore prays & hopes that his case may be taken into Consideration, in order that he may receive such aid as his losses and Services may be found to deserve.  And as in duty bound he will ever pray

James Anderson

[note scrawled sideways in margin:  I hereby certify that this memorialist did join his Majesty’s Forces at Philadelphia and that he employed his Vessel and set forth in the [?] he was recommended to me as an honest man much attached to the British [Good?].  I believe him to be [?] this Memorialist will be bound to deserve [it?].  [signature not legible]. 

[another signed note appears on the next page:]

I certify I am well acquainted with James Anderson the Memorialist, that he lives in the interior parts of the Province of Nova Scotia; That his character, is fair & honest, but an Ignorant man, was an active and zealous Loyalist, during the War.  That I am informed and believe that he put in a claim under the Second Act of Parliament at the American Office in Halifax, which was never enquired into by the Commissioners, but rejected by them, not because they were of the opinion that said claim was unfounded, but because he had not exhibited it under the first act of Parliament, a Circumstance which I am convinced proceeded from his perfect ignorance of the necessary steps to be pursued, and his total inability to attend in England in support of it, which I have every reason to believe he thought absolutely requisite.

[Mich.?] Wallace

Schedule of property that did belong to James Anderson late of Baltimore in Maryland, viz. [followed by same list as from Claim 13:24, detailed here.]

List of lost property for James Anderson, as it appears in A.O. 13-100, p. 2, with (possibly) his original signature.

List of lost property for James Anderson, as it appears in A.O. 13-100, p. 2, with (possibly) his original signature.

Some new information appears in this updated claim.  “Mich. Wallace” appears to be a supporter or friend.  If I could ever figure out the signature on the margin note, that would be another name.  James Anderson’s signature, if such it is, is interesting – flourishy, but a bit sloppy.

The other two claims

The other two remaining claims for James Anderson were startling at first, containing so much new information, but eventually I decided they refer to a different James Anderson of Maryland.  The following observations in themselves don’t prove anything, but taken together, it is hard to conclude this person could be the James Anderson of Fells Point.

  • he is from Dorset County Maryland.  If that is Dorchester County, Maryland, it is along the Eastern Shore and suitable for a seafaring man.  But it is not Fells Point or Fort Cumberland, the known locations of James’ Anderson’s property.
  • his list of losses consists of slaves and a bond owed to him by a Dorset County man.  This is so different from James Anderson’s list of two properties and various household goods that at first I thought it might be an addendum.  It does not seem to be.
  • he served on ships for the British government steadily throughout the war except for the period when he was held prisoner.  James Anderson had other activities going on; his interest seemed to be in procurement, not service on a ship (source for that is here).
  • a long list of Captains could recommend him.  James Anderson was cut off from service with the British after a short time due to an altercation (source for that is here).
  • no wife or children are mentioned, and indeed his lost clothing seems to be his primary concern – that would be an unusual claim for a man supporting a family.

Here are the two claims:

  •  A.O. 13-96 Part 1.  Various Papers.  Ancestry.com Images 72-75.  No.452, James Anderson, Maryland.  “Received 13 th Feby 1784.”

To the Commissioners appointed by Act of Parliament for Enquiring into the Losses and Services of the American Loyalists.

The Memorial of James Anderson lately of the Province of Maryland in Dorset County Sheweth

That your Memorialist went into the British Service in the year of our Lord 1776 and served as a Lieutenant on board the Lord Dartmouth when she was at [Senagold?] and that in the year 1781 he was Master Mate of the General [Minoh?] and your Memorialist has served his present Majesty in Different Capacities from the year 1776 to the year 1783.

That your Memorialist has Suffered and Sustained the Loss of three Negro Men, a Negro Lad aged about 16 years and a Negro Woman, a Bond of £50 payable to your Memorialist, several sheep, hogs, horses, and other cattle.

That for the satisfaction of said Commissioners your Memorialist has [annexed?] a Schedule to the Petition wherein is [****ed] every article.

Your Memorialist therefore Prays that his Case may be taken into your Consideration in order that your Memorialist may be Enabled, under your [?] to receive such aid or Relief as his Losses and Services may be found to deserve.

Losses Sustained

To Three Negro men  £165.   One Negro Lad   £40.  One Negro Woman  £40.  Horses & Cattle  £120.  a Bond of John Fittshew living in Maryland in Dorset County  £50.

Claiment says he has no witness in England to prove his property.

To prove his services on Board of His Maj’s Ships:

Capt Josiah Rogers now stationed in Yarmouth [?]

Capt Alexr Mackey in London

Capt George [Cahes?] in London

Capt Morgan Laugham in London

Capt Thomas Laugham at [?]

I have certifickets from the above menchened for my service on Board of His Maj’s Ships.

I lost all my papers when taken and kept a Prisoner twenty months and Lost all my Wearing Apparel.  When employed was content to put up with the loss but now out of employ the Ships was Paid of at Portsmouth November 19 1783 Come from New York being Master of His Maj’s Sloop Vulture.

James Anderson

[back cover:] No. 452

James Anderson

his memorial

received 13th Feby 1784.

3 Ton Court near the [H***?  M***?]

  • A.O. 13-39 (Claims A-D, Maryland), dated 24 March 1784. “Maryland.  James Anderson.  Temporary Support. No 10 [Three Ton?] Court, Nightingale Lane.  Wrote to attend. Is gone to the Prov: Mass for 8 Mos.”

That your Petitioner did on or about the sixth day of February last deliver unto the Honourable Commisioners a memorial of the losses he has sustained in the service of his present Majesty King George the third [wisely?] prayed.

That the said Commissioners would be pleased to take the same unto their consideration to enable him to receive such aid or relief as the nature of his case deserved.

That your Petitioner has since been informed that his provision which he may be entitled to under the act will not be payable for the space of three years to come.

That your petitioner having sustained such losses as are specified in the said memorial and Schedule[  ?  ] not support himself without  [   ? ] some relief until the benefit to be received from that act is made payable.

Your petitioner therefore most Humbly Prays your Honours that you will be Pleased to allow your Petitioner such sum or sums of money for his maintenance in the meantime and Untill the provision which he [ ?   ] himself to [be titled?] to by the Act of Parliament is made payable.

And your petitioner will as in Duty bound Ever pray

James Anderson

Losses.   Three Negro men  £165.   One Negro Lad   £40.  One Negro Woman  £40.  Horses & Cattle  £120.  a [Bond?] [?] John Fitshue living in [Maryland?] Dorset County  £50.

To prove property, no witness in England at present.

To prove services, Capt. Rogers Capt. Macke & Capt. [Cahir?] Capt. Morgan Laugham and Capt. Thomas Laugham having all their certificate of my servitude on Board his Maj’s [?]

[back cover inscription not readable].

Following up

I would definitely follow-up on “Mich. Wallace” in Halifax who had presumably known James Anderson for quite a while.  And knowing that it was General Howe that James Anderson approached offering procurement services, I wonder if there could be more information about their transactions in the British Archives.

All in all, not a big haul of new information here, but I am glad I found a better way to access the Loyalist Claims.

Additional help

There is a lot of helpful advice out there for people searching for Canadian land grants, particularly Upper Canada. See a few examples:

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/05/26/finding-more-loyalist-claims/


Rhode Island Historical Tracts is a series of booklets published by noted Providence bookseller and antiquarian Sidney Smith Rider from about 1875-1900. Some are print editions of manuscripts, some are compiled reports, and some are an overview of a subject (such as Rhode Island currency) of interest to historical collectors. There are even a few genealogies in there.  I have used a few volumes over the years, but recently recognized that they were published as a series, and that there is even a separately published index for the first 20 volumes. Talk about your underutilized genealogical resources; that index might top the list.  It is #20 below, in red. Don’t forget to check villages, churches, and streets in the index, as well as names.

Sidney Smith Rider

A collector and dealer in historical ephemera as well as books, Sidney S. Rider was well positioned to recognize interesting or controversial historical information and make it available to the public.  Brown University holds in its Special Collections Rider’s lifelong collection of historical tracts and ephemera, The Rider Collection, which has a particular focus on Thomas Dorr. Opinionated and prone to scathing criticism, Sidney Rider was also known for his periodical Book Notes.  A closer look at Mr. Rider’s life is available at this blog post from the Providence City Archives.

What captured my interest in Mr. Rider’s work was his introduction to Tract 10 “An Historical Inquiry Concerning and Attempt to Raise a Regiment of Slaves by Rhode Island During the War of the Revolution.” Clearly, he questioned things.

This State has been highly commended by several writers for having inaugurated and continued the policy of employing slaves and negroes to fill her quotas in the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution; and much has been written in our histories touching the services of these slave soldiers in battle highly creditable to them. How far these statements are in accordance with the facts in the case, is the purpose of this inquiry. With this end in view the writer has first given many extracts from former writers relating to the case. These are followed by the laws under which the battalion was formed, and by documentary evidence concerning its service. These in turn are followed by lists of the slaves which were purchased, and by notes concerning several of them. They seem never to have received the bounty which the law, under which they enlisted promised to them ; a pretext being set up that their liberty was given to them in lieu of bounty. Nor do they appear ever to have received the allowance given the white soldiers for the depreciation of the money in which they were paid. Finally it appears that they were deprived of large sums due them as wages by means of forged orders. In fact the frauds perpetrated upon them seem to find a parallel in the immense frauds which took place on the formation of the Fourteenth Rhode Island (colored) Regiment in the late Rebellion.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts, First Series & Second Series

All links, below, are to the corresponding Internet Archive page; from there a pdf can be viewed or downloaded.  Volume 20 is on HathiTrust.

Cover of Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 12. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

Cover of Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 12. Courtesy of HathiTrust.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 1

The Capture of General Richard Prescott by Lt-Col. William Barton: An Address Delivered at the Centennial Celebration of the Exploit at Portsmouth, R.I. July 10, 1877. By J. Lewis Diman. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1877.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 2

Visits of the Northmen to Rhode Island  By Alexander Farnum. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1877.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 3

The Wanton Family  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1878.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 4

William Coddington in Rhode Island Colonial Affairs  By Dr Henry E. Turner. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1879.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 5

Memoir Concerning the French Settlements and French Settlers in the Colony of Rhode Island By Elisha R. Potter. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1879.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 6

The Centennial Celebration of the Battle of Rhode Island at Portsmouth, R.I. August 29, 1878. The Oration by Ex-United States Senator Samuel G. Arnold; A Letter of Sir Henry Pigot, the English Commander; a German Account of the Battle; The Views of General Lafayette.  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1878.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 7

The Journal of a Brigade Chaplain in the Campaign of 1779 Against the Six Nations Under Command of Major-General John Sullivan by the Rev. William Rogers, D.D. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1879.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 8

Some Account of the Bills of Credit or Paper Money of Rhode Island from the First Issue in 1710, to the Final Issue, 1786. By Elisha R. Potter and Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1880.

Early Rhode Island currency from Rhode Island Historical Tracts, vol. 8.

Early Rhode Island currency from Rhode Island Historical Tracts, vol. 8.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 9

A True Representation of A Plan Formed at Albany, in 1754, for Uniting All the British Northern Colonies, in Order to Their Common Safety and Defence by Stephen Hopkins with Introduction and Notes by Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1880.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 10

An Historical Inquiry Concerning an Attempt to Raise a Regiment of Slaves by Rhode Island During the War of the Revolution.  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1880.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 11

Bibliographical Memoirs of Three Rhode Island Authors. Joseph K. Angell; Frances H. (Whipple) McDougall; Catharine R. Williams. To which is added The Nine Lawyer’s Opinion on the Right of the People of Rhode Island to Form a Constitution.  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1880.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 12

The Medical School formerly existing in Brown University, Its Professors and Graduates.   Charles W. Parsons, M.D.  Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1881.

Graduates of the early Brown Medical School, from Rhode Island Historical Tracts, vol. 12, p. 58.

Graduates of the early Brown Medical School, from Rhode Island Historical Tracts, vol. 12, p. 58.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 13

The Diary of Thomas Vernon [1715-1784] A Loyalist.  Banished from Newport by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1776. To which is added the Vernon Family and Arms and the Genealogy of Richard Greene of Potowomut.   With notes by Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1881.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 14

Roger Williams’s “Christenings Do Not Make Christians” 1645.  A long-lost tract recovered and exactly reprinted.   Edited by Henry Martyn Dexter. Followed by certain Letters Written by Roger Williams. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1881.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 15

The Planting and Growth of Providence illustrated in the Gradual Accumulation of the Materials for Domestic Comfort, the Means of Internal Communication and the Development of Local Industries.  By Henry C. Dorr. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1882.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 16

A Looking Glass for the Times or the Former Spirit of New England Revived in This Generation.  By Peter Folger. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1883.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 17

A Defence of Samuel Gorton and the Settlers of Shawomet by George A. Brayton.  Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1883.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 18

Gleanings from the Judicial History of Rhode Island.  By Thomas Durfee. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1883.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 19 Part One,   Rhode Island Historical Tracts No. 19 Part Two

Stephen Hopkins, a Rhode Island Statesman. A Study in the Political History of the Eighteenth Century.  By William E. Foster. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1884.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 1, No. 20

Additions and Corrections to the first series of Rhode Island Historical Tracts: With an Index to the Same.  Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1895.  Note: unless you have a Hathitrust login, you will have to use this volume on the site.  It opens slowly.

Don't miss the helpful index to Series One, Rhode Island Historical Tracts.  It is contained in Volume 20, along with corrections to v 1-19.

Don’t miss the helpful index to Series One, Rhode Island Historical Tracts. It is contained in Volume 20, along with corrections to v 1-19.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 2, No. 1

An Inquiry Concerning the Origin of the Clause in the Laws of Rhode Island (1719-1783) Disfranchising Roman Catholics.  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1889.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 2, No. 2

An Inquiry Concerning the Authenticity of an Alleged Portrait of Roger Williams. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1895.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 2, No. 3

A Century of Lotteries in Rhode Island 1744-1844.  By John H. Stiness. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1896.

Many of the lotteries shown in Rhode Island Historical Tracts, Series 2, volume 3, were church-related.  This one for the Second Baptist Society in Coventry was evidently acquired with a scrawled note from Jonah Titus:  this ticket.

Many of the lotteries shown in Rhode Island Historical Tracts, Series 2, num. 3 were church-related. This ticket for the Second Baptist Society’s Lottery in Coventry was evidently acquired with a scrawled note from Jonah Titus: I purchased this ticket very much against my views of interest but like him who gambles in anything else hope to gain by it.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 2, No. 4

The Forgeries Connected with The Deed Given by the Sachems Canonicus and Miantinomi to Roger Williams of the Land on Which the Town of Providence was Planted.  By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1896.

Rhode Island Historical Tracts Series 2, No. 5

Soul Liberty. Rhode Island’s Gift to the Nation. An Inquiry Concerning the Validity of the Claims Made by Roman Catholics that Maryland was Settled upon that Basis Before Roger Williams Planted the Colony of Rhode Island.   By Sidney S. Rider. Providence: Sidney S. Rider, 1897.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/04/28/rhode-island-historical-tracts/

Benjamin Franklin portrait

My days at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City this winter, aided by my research notebook, gave me the opportunity to pursue many record sets that I had not used before.  Of course many of those turned out not to have the possible record I was seeking. I am recording all those negative results, and also taking a careful look at what I did find.

Russell Lamphere

I have been pursuing the unusual story of my ggg-grandfather Russell Lamphere (1817-1898), who moved his family from Norwich, Connecticut to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the 1850’s to start a business, and returned by 1875 to Johnston, Rhode Island where he attempted to launch another business.  Russell was a metalworker/machinist, and often worked as an overseer in cotton mills, but what the business was exactly, I don’t know.  The most intriguing thing I know about him is that a congressional bill for relief was submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives three times in the 1880’s seeking reparations for his losses during the Civil War – totaling $50,000.  I have to know what this was.  I just have to.

Norwich Town from the East.  from History of Norwich, Connecticut, from its settl... p.front

Norwich Town from the East. from History of Norwich, Connecticut, (Caulkins, 1845), frontispiece

Partnerships in Tuscaloosa

Recently, a perceptive reader pointed out to me that pursuing the wealthy, better documented industrial families of Norwich might reveal a business interest in Tuscaloosa, Alabama … possibly a partner for Russell. She pointed out that it could even explain the relationship with Congressman John Turner Wait.  I have stalked Mr Wait and his connections for years and have yet to turn up a plausible link to Russell. So it’s time to pursue this idea, and I am planning a visit to Norwich where I will follow up a bit more on that this summer.  It makes a lot of sense because Russell, a metalworker, often worked as an overseer in cotton mills and I suspect his expertise was in the machinery itself … the kind of expertise a wealthy mill owner would probably want to bring with him to Alabama.

In what might have been a later partnership, Russell lost his business partner William B Murrell (a native of North Carolina) to death before February, 1861.  An ad appeared in the Independent Monitor of February 1, 1861, page 2:

Russell Lamphere's business Partner, Wm B Murrell, died in

Russell Lamphere’s business Partner, Wm B Murrell, had died by 1861. Independent Monitor, Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1 Feb 1861, p. 2

But there were no property or probate records for Murrell in Tuscaloosa.

Looking for property in Tuscaloosa

I didn’t know if Russell had ever purchased property in Tuscaloosa, so this was my chance to go through Tuscaloosa deeds.  Nothing turned up.  I wasn’t too surprised.  I knew by this ad in the Independent Monitor that he was running a shop in “a house” that was formerly a book store – I could imagine the family might live in the back or upstairs.  It always struck me as rental property.

The business Russell advertised after the death of his partner.

The business Russell advertised after the death of his partner.  Independent Monitor, Tuscaloosa, Ala, 29 March 1861, p. 3

But while I was at it, I also noted the film numbers for deeds back in Norwich, Connecticut, where Russell was born and married, and where his father had lived since 1807.  I realized I had never examined any deeds from there, mostly because I didn’t really expect that they owned property.  I haven’t worked on Russell in a long time, and I think on my previous visits to Norwich, years ago, I wasn’t used to looking at deeds and didn’t realize that they revealed so much.  Rookie mistake, of course.

Property in Norwich, Connecticut

And so I learned that they did, indeed, own property, through some strange and convoluted transactions.  I captured images from microfilm and have been examining them for a couple of weeks.

History of Norwich, Connecticut, (Caulkins, 1845). p.185

from History of Norwich, Connecticut, (Caulkins, 1845). p.185

There were six transactions:

  1. Henry Palmer sold to Russell Lamphere and Russell Lamphere Jr for $200 a tract of land with one half of a dwelling house in the village of Greeneville, Norwich, near Main & Sixth Streets. ALWAYS PROVIDED … notes of hand … well and truly paid with interest  … one year from date (this is just a mortgage).  2 Aug 1845 (52:548).
  2. William Phillips, Conservator of John J Denison of Norwich … a lunatic and distracted person … for $545 paid by Russell Lamphere (who was the highest bidder) certain parcel of land … said homestead … the portion NOT sold to Dwight L. Phillips …  (refers to deeds from 1828 and 1839 for full description).  9 Jun 1847 (54:382).
  3. Dwight L Phillips of Norwich … for $175 received of Russell Lamphere 2nd of said Town … a certain tract of land at Norwich Falls (same property as conveyed to me by William Phillips Conservator of John J. Denison 28 April 1846 – p. 357 – a portion of the old homestead of said John J. Denison, the remainder of which is this day deeded… to Russell Lamphere.  9 Jun 1847 (54:383).
  4. Russell Lamphere 2d of Norwich … for $400 … received of John J. Denison … a certain lot of land situated in the Town of Norwich at Norwich Falls … the same property as was conveyed to me this day … from William Phillips … and all the buildings thereon standing … ALWAYS PROVIDED … I am justly indebted to him for … the sum of 400 dollars with annual interest … if I do well and truly pay … this present deed to be void (this is just a mortgage) … 9 Jun 1847 (54:384).
  5. Russell Lamphere 2d of Norwich … for $175 … received of Dwight L. Phillips … do sell … two parcels of land … in the town of Norwich … with the buildings thereon standing … being the same parcels of land as have this day been deeded to me the one from William Phillips as Conservator of John J Denison and fully described in said deed from Wm Phillips to me and the other fully described in a deed from Dwight L. Phillips to me, the whole comprising all the old homestead of John J Denison … ALWAYS PROVIDED … I am indebted to D.L. Phillips by my note … the sum of $175 … if I pay … this present deed to be null and void.  9 Jun 1847 (54:385).
  6. Russell Lamphere Junior of Montville … for $100 received … quit-claim unto said John Eggleston of Norwich a certain tract of land situate in Norwich, being a part or portion of the “No Man’s Acre” lot, so called … North side of the highway leading from the Methodist Chapel, at Norwich Falls, to the Paper Mill Bridge … meaning to convey in this conveyance, all the buildings on said land, and all appurtenances and privileges … being the land and premises which were conveyed to me by Thames Manufg Co by two deeds, one of which is dated Feb. 28, 1828, and is recorded in Norwich, in the 40th Book of Deeds, at the 527th page, and the other bears the date the 1st day of April 1828, and is recorded in said records, Book 44st at page 43, to which reference is had … set my hand and seal … 15 May 1851 (57:384).

Panic ensues

As I read deed #6 I realized that when I perused these deeds at the Family History Library, I missed the point that the property had been acquired by Russell Lamphere 2nd in 1828.  Although Russell’s birth was apparently unrecorded, he consistently reported a birth year of 1817 or 1818.  He can’t have purchased the property from the Thames Manuf. Co. at the age of 10 or 11.  And it couldn’t be Russell Lamphere, Sr. since his father’s name was Daniel (by 1850, “Jr.” or “2nd” was very likely to have the same meaning that it has today). Not only that, but Russell was recorded in the 1850 census living in Norwich.  I wasn’t sure what “of Montville” was referring to in an 1851 deed.

I have studied the name Lamphere in Norwich for a long time.  All Lampheres at the Falls seem to be Russell Lamphere 2nd’s parents or siblings. The idea that ANOTHER, older Russell Lamphere 2nd was hanging around the Falls buying property was quite a lot to take in.  I really, really had to know what those 1828 deeds said.  It was the first morning of the NERGC conference.  I realized it was one of the few days I would have off of work for a couple of months.  So, I made a quick trip to Norwich before attending the conference that day.  It was a genealogy emergency.

The Falls in Norwich, on the Yantic River, from Map of New London County, Connecticut, Walling, 1854.

The Falls in Norwich, on the Yantic River, from Map of New London County, Connecticut, Walling, 1854.  I believe this section compiles a couple of busy neighborhoods because the Shetucket River and Greeneville (the reddish factories shown in the top corner) are actually to the south and west of the Falls neighborhood.

A quick visit to Norwich City Hall

The town hall had binders of photocopied pages on display in place of the oldest deed books.  I couldn’t photograph them; their system required that I pay for them to remove and photocopy the pages, which was fine. I easily found the deeds thanks to the clear citations in the 1851 deed.  Sure enough:

  • Deed 40:527 was a deed for part of “No Man’s Acre” being sold for $870 to Stephen Remington, by the Thames Manufacturing Co., 28 Feb 1828, signed by William P Greene and Williams C. Gilman.
  • Deed 44:43 was for an additional portion of the “No Man’s Acre” also sold to Stephen Remington for $100, 1 April 1828.

I investigated the Thames Manufacturing Company and found a good overview of the establishment of the various mills and factories at the Falls in Modern History of New London County, Chapter VI, “The City of Norwich” (particularly p. 150-152).  Some businesses failed during the panic of 1837, and the buildings were later re-used by new companies. I can only conclude that the phrase “conveyed to me” in the 1851 deed was simply an error.  Many portions of deeds were copied (I recognized the descriptions from deed to deed) and the deeds recorded in the town hall are, themselves, copies.  Careless wording could have happened at any point.

Don’t look now, but I think I just passed some sort of genealogy milestone.  I found my first mistake in a deed.

Studying the map

Once I got to the conference, I found a CD for sale of Walling’s 1854 map of New London County from Old-Maps.  The Falls section, pictured above, shows the Falls Mfg. Company site, which was the former location of the Thames Mfg. Co.  Because I have been to Yantic Cemetery several times, I realized the earliest section (where Russell and Hannah Lamphere are buried) was shown on the map as “Cemetery.”

An 1833 map of Norwich by William Lester, from the David Rumsey Map Collection, shows a different view of The Falls.  The orange spot is near the original section of Yantic Cemetery; it may possibly be the Methodist Church.

An 1833 map of Norwich by William Lester, from the David Rumsey Map Collection, shows a different view of The Falls. The orange spot is near the original section of Yantic Cemetery; could there have been an early church there? The map legend suggest it might be a Methodist Church. Or, it could just be the early part of the cemetery.

The story the deeds are telling

  • Russell Lamphere and his father gave a $200 mortgage in 1845 to Russell’s brother-in-law, Henry Palmer (married since 1830 to Russell’s oldest sister, Lydia Lamphere).
  • The transactions in deeds 2, 3, 4 and 5 all occurred on the same day, 9 Jun 1847.  Russell purchased, in two separate transactions, the full property of lunatic John J. Denison for a total of $720.  He obtained two mortgages from the sellers (one, the Administrator of Denison’s estate, the other, a local man who had purchased the other portion of the estate at the auction) for a total of $575.  The property was located in Norwich Falls and was at one time owned by the Thames Manufacturing Co.
  • Russell Lamphere was living in Montville (just to the south of Norwich) in 1851.  He left Connecticut shortly thereafter; my gg-grandmother Emma Lamphere would be born in Alabama in 1854.
  • Russell quit claimed his rights to the entire property in 1851 for $100.  Quit claim means you give up any rights you may or may not have in a property; I assume because of the mortgages that Russell couldn’t sell it in any other manner. This is murky to me; the mortgages aren’t mentioned. So, he owned the property for four years.
Falls Company, pictured in 1888.  By then, the factory was greatly expanded from the early days as the Thames Mfg. Co.

Falls Company, pictured in 1888. By then, the factory was greatly expanded from the early days as the Thames Mfg. Co.

Who was John J. Denison?

Norwich vital records show that John J Denison married Olive Jillson in 13 Feb 1828 (p. 685). The following mortuary notice appeared in The Morning News (New London, CT) Vol. I, issue: 158, P. 3 (15 May 1845):

DIED … In Norwich Falls, on the 11th inst., Mrs. Olive Denison, wife of John Denison.

John J. Denison died in 1875 in Norwich and was buried in Yantic Cemetery (Lot 16).  An article in the Daily Constitution (Middletown, CT) vol. III, issue 768, p2 (21 January 1875) reads as follows:

John J. Denison, who has lived a recluse at Norwich Falls ever since the death of his wife, twenty-nine years ago, was found dead in his bed the other day.  He refused to live with his children, persisting in a solitary mode of living.  The neighbors having missed him from the streets for some days, entered his hermitage by a window and found him.

John Denison lived next door to Russell in 1850. This probably just means that they let the recluse rent or just live somewhere on the property even after the 1847 sale.

Russell and his family living next door to John Denison in Norwich, 1850.  Federal Census, Connecticut, New London County, Norwich, p. 286.

Russell and his family living next door to John Denison in Norwich, 1850. 1850 Federal Census, Connecticut, New London County, Norwich, p. 286.

Was John J. Denison (likely born in 1805 in nearby Stonington, Connecticut) a relative of Russell Lamphere’s mother, Lydia Minor (Minor is a common Stonington name and Lydia is a brick wall with unknown family)?  John appears on page 123 of Baldwin & Clift’s  A Record of the Descendants of Capt. George Denison (1888) as John I Denison.  I have no idea of the reliability of this book, but I cannot make out a possible relationship to Lydia.

Oddly, Russell Lamphere Sr. had a sister Nancy (Lamphere) Crocker (1787-1862) who had a son named John Denison Crocker.  While a relationship to John Denison is looking unlikely, any connection might possibly go back to Russell Sr.’s brick wall mother, Nancy (—) Lamphere (c1752-1833).

The big questions

  • Was the 1847 purchase intended for establishing a business, or just for a residence?  Given the location and history of the property, it could be either.
  • Will Norwich newspapers and books help me determine if any well-financed mill owners started an operation in Tuscaloosa in the early 1850’s?  If so, why did Russell have a new partner by 1860?
  • Can I find additional evidence in Tuscaloosa?  I do have a few books to read through.  It was a depressing time in Tuscaloosa.  It’s been hard to get myself to learn more, but, learning more always helps.
  • Is there any evidence in Norwich newspapers of Russell and Hannah’s life and departure for Tuscaloosa?
  • Is there any point in further research on the congressional bills from the 1880’s?  Once, a kind blog reader put a request in for me to the National Archives in DC.  Nothing was found, but I wonder if I could try again, perhaps by hiring my own NARA researcher.
  • Does May, 1851 – the date of the last Norwich deed – represent the departure date for the Lampheres?  I suspect it does.  And why was Russell “of Montville” when he had just been enumerated in 1850 in Norwich? Were they staying with someone?
  • Will tracing John Denison back to Stonington, on my own, not relying on any books, help me find something to link him to a Lamphere wife?
  • Are there any other middle name clues to be found amongst the descendants of Daniel and Nancy Lamphere?  I have tried to find any, but need to try harder.
  • Can DNA results help at all?

A note to my readers

If you think you are a fourth, fifth or sixth cousin to me, and you have a DNA test on Ancestry DNA or Family Tree DNA, can you drop me a note and tell me the name listed as the test taker?  I would appreciate it.  And there are a lot of cousins out there; I am lucky to hear from them from time to time.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/04/24/lampheres-in-norwich/

Lydia (Lamphere) Palmer's grave, from the same plot as Russell (Jr.) and Hannah Lamphere in Yantic Cemetery.

Lydia (Lamphere) Palmer’s grave, from the same plot as Russell (Jr.) and Hannah Lamphere in Yantic Cemetery.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Interviews with two NERGC speakers

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview two of the speakers at the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference, scheduled for April 15-18, at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island. I chose two important genealogists with Rhode Island connections. They are Cherry Fletcher Bamberg, FASG, and Nathaniel Lane Taylor, Ph.D., FASG.  They were good sports about answering lots of questions about Rhode Island genealogy.  The subject of pirates came up several times!

First of all let me say, the schedule of speakers at NERGC 2015 (Navigating the Past, Sailing into the Future) is very impressive.  The selection was, I think, very well chosen by the Program Committee: Shellee Morehead, Marian Pierre-Louis, and Maureen Taylor. If you haven’t registered yet, check out the program and consider making your way to Providence, even for a day, to hear the knowledgeable speakers and visit the Exhibits.

Nathaniel Lane Taylor

from the program: Nathaniel Lane Taylor, Ph.D., FASG, is co-editor of The American Genealogist. A historian, he has taught medieval history at the university level for many years. His genealogical work ranges from medieval Spain, France and Britain to colonial New England and Virginia. He lives in a colonial house in Barrington, Rhode Island, on a farm which used to be part of Plymouth Colony.

Where are your own ancestors from, and can you tell us a little more about your Rhode Island ancestors, if any?

I personally have NO Rhode Island ancestors, but I do have one Massachusetts ancestor who owned land stretching down across the (current) border into Rhode Island — this figures in my NERGC talk. I was researching the ownership of that parcel (now in Barrington, RI) and traced it back to a guy whose name sounded familiar — turns out he was my own ancestor, and I had no idea he had lived anywhere close to here (he died in 1723, when Barrington was a town in Massachusetts!). My own ancestors are half Yankee, half southern (Virginia & Maryland > Ohio Valley > Kentucky). On each side I have mostly Anglo, but some German. My Yankee ancestors are almost all north of Boston — no Plymouth colony, and no Mayflower! One slim strain of early Connecticut, via Nova Scotia.

My wife & children do have remote RI ancestors in Bristol, including one of the nine sisters of the famous Bristol pirate, Captain Simeon Potter. Bruce MacGunnigle has written about Potter, and in Bristol, Ray Battcher has for many years dressed up as Potter to do tours. I drafted most of a genealogical article on Potter’s nine married sisters and their combined total of circa 70 children, but it is one of those projects that is still unfinished after many years. Some day you might see it in Rhode Island Roots!

Clearly, history and genealogy are intertwined in your career. What would your recommendation be to genealogists with Rhode Island roots seeking to learn more about Rhode Island’s unique history?

My basic advice to genealogists is true wherever you are or wherever your ancestors are, not just in Rhode Island: follow your nose through your family tree, and allow yourself the time and pleasure to explore any story that piques your interest. As a newcomer to Rhode Island (only lived here 14 years) I don’t pretend to be an expert in where to find great stories of RI history! [editor’s note – wow, Nat IS recently arrived.  He probably still thinks there’s supposed to be an “r” at the end of the word “chowda”] 

Can you think of an under-utilized repository in Rhode Island that you would recommend to Rhode Island genealogists?

Rhode Island’s size and original political character resulted in more records being kept at the town level (like probate) than other New England colonies & states. Use the town records of all kinds — including tax lists and other civil records. Rhode Island Genealogical Society has some good resources on town sources — including many of the collections of town records published in recent years, but I would also urge the face-to-face visit with town clerks to ask what may be available to poke through. As for other venues, even the best-known repositories are “under-utilized”: Rhode Island Historical Society library, Providence Public Library, state archives, and judicial archives.

Has historical research led you to some unusual destinations or settings?

Not too many years ago I remember looking at the original Bristol County (Mass.) probate act books from the 1680s through 1740s. They were in a bookcase in a hallway outside a juvenile courtroom in Fall River. I’m not sure if they’re still there, but that seemed pretty unusual.

As a graduate student 20 years ago, I had the pleasure of spending a few months traveling to monasteries and cathedrals in France and Spain, to visit tiny archives and libraries to read and study original 10th-century wills. Having read wills on stacks of thousand-year-old parchments has given me an interesting perspective for approaching our American records—even 350-year-old colonial records seem young by comparison.

Only Rhode Islanders, or seasoned researchers, would understand that “East Bay” has a very different history from “West Bay” in our tiny state. What do genealogists need to know about that?

Again, it’s not so much a unique story, but small parts of small states can have their own tortured geographic and political histories, that affect how we go about digging into them. The East Bay’s journey from Plymouth Colony, to Massachusetts Bay Colony, to Rhode Island, is similar to many border shifts that can take researchers by surprise. West Bay had some of its own jurisdictional shifts, down on the Connecticut line. And there are those little towns and bits of towns that have gone back and forth between Connecticut and Mass. So each geographic story is unique, but the importance of learning about the geography is universal.

I began subscribing to The American Genealogist (TAG) recently, and noticed that you are the co-editor. Can you explain to readers how subscribing to a quality journal like TAG will improve their research skills?

TAG is a place where you can see good genealogy. Our aim is that the articles in TAG will tell two good stories: first, about the families who are the subject of the article, and second, about how the writer found and analyzed his or her sources to uncover the story. Our goal is that each genealogy can be readable for pleasure, as well as instructive, whether or not you happen to be related to the folks on the page. The value of that is that each of us should think about how best to tell the stories we uncover, to others, or to posterity. And there is no substitute for good writing, which comes best from practice. Other journals focus on one region (like the Register for New England), or focus on presenting methodological lessons (like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly). I hope TAG will be able to continue a legacy of valuing good writing.

What genealogist from long ago has had the biggest impact on your own research and career, and in what way?

Dave Greene, the long-time editor and publisher of TAG, has just stepped down after 30 years, and has entrusted TAG to me. I am honored that he saw in me a sort of kindred spirit (and someone crazy enough to try to continue TAG‘s legacy). Dave is, like me, someone who delights in a good genealogical story and in telling it well. He has been a great influence on me, of course.

Another I must name is Cherry Bamberg, whom I didn’t meet until after I had been living in Rhode Island for several years. Rhode Island is enormously lucky to have Cherry, who is one of the best writers in the country to combine a flair for a great story with impeccable research. With Cherry, and now also Michael Dwyer at the helm, Rhode Island Roots is always a great read, which makes it simply the best state-focused genealogical journal in the country.  [editor’s note: I completely agree with that last statement, and I’m glad to hear it from someone so knowledgeable]

Nat’s talk will be a must for those with Rhode Island roots:

  • Rhode Island’s East Bay: a Case Study in Border and Identity Shifts. S-318 Saturday, April 18, 1:45 p.m.  Nockum Hill is the site of the first Baptist meeting house in the New World. This lecture explores the impact of settlement patterns and border changes on research.

Cherry Fletcher Bamberg

from the program: Cherry Bamberg, FASG, is the editor of Rhode Island Roots since 2002; consulting editor to the NEHG Register since 2006; Donna Holt Siemiatkoski Genealogy Volunteer of the Year Award, 2006; Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, elected 2007; Rhode Island researcher for the Danish version of Who Do You Think You Are? 2010. Scores of articles on Rhode Island families and research, 1998 to present. Author and/or editor of books for Rhode Island Genealogical Society 2000 to present.

I am reporting her answers, below, from our phone interview.

Where are your own ancestors from, and can you tell us a little more about your Rhode Island ancestors, if any?

Cherry was born into a genealogy-minded family, although she didn’t catch the bug until later in life. Cherry’s ancestor John Fletcher, a silver chaser, came to the U.S. with his family from Birmingham, England in the 1870s, and his children married into Rhode Island families. When her father exhausted his own lineage and turned to her mother’s family for more genealogical work, he was surprised to discover that his wife’s central New York farming family held deep Rhode Island roots. Her ancestral locations include England, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and Germany. These days, Cherry pursues projects not directly related to her own genealogy.

She has a lifelong fascination with Rhode Island history. She recalls, growing up in Newport, being surrounded with artifacts, buildings and neighborhoods that represented tiny snippets of Rhode Island history … and how the normal Rhode Island history course that all schoolchildren muddle through held her spellbound as she mentally pieced together things she had seen with the centuries-long story that wove them together.

In her early days as a genealogist, Cherry worked with others on historical research for the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Database. She eventually came to realize that her passion lay not so much with the stones, but with the stories behind the stones – the lives that they represented. Even within her own family history, she especially enjoyed seeking out the quirky family stories and proving/disproving them. Her eyes were opened to the fallibility of family tradition on a visit to a cemetery in Warwick: the gravestone of the woman her grandmother always called “the richest widow in Warwick” showed that she died before her husband! The richest widow turned out to have lived in the previous generation.

One family story that she researched concerned the Revolutionary War experience of an ancestor from Marblehead, Mass. He was captured on a privateer ship off Newfoundland early in the war and was locked up with other prisoners at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, where he remained for four years. His son, during the War of 1812, also became a military captive, imprisoned at the infamous Dartmoor in Devonshire, England, for two years. HIS son enlisted in the Civil War, but upon his arrival at the Battle of Fredericksburg, took a train and returned home (thus, perhaps, purposefully ending that family legacy). The research led Cherry to trips to Edinburgh and Dartmoor that were much more entertaining than those of her ancestors.

I noticed your recent article in Rhode Island History, (Rhode Island Historical Society, Spring, 2015, 73:1) “Bristol Yamma and John Quamine in Rhode Island” in which you told the true story of two former slaves chosen to become missionaries. Can you talk about your commitment to telling the stories of obscure individuals who were not among the privileged classes?

Cherry points out that the slaves found in Rhode Island cemeteries and probate records first brought her attention to the importance of slavery in Rhode Island research. How someone who grew up in Newport had not understood the town’s role in the slave trade continues to amaze her. In 1774 almost one out of every five persons walking the streets of Newport were people of color, almost all of them slaves. She feels strongly that the legacy of slavery belongs to all concerned; many Rhode Island families participated in slavery in one way or another. We talked about the difficulties in tracing slave families, and she pointed out several ways in which published Rhode Island census records deliberately suppressed or summarized data on people of color. Some of the same records have been carefully re-transcribed and published in Rhode Island Roots over the years, to address those problems.

When asked to name a favorite project, Cherry laughingly pointed out that her current work is always her favorite. She chooses projects very carefully (always looking for a certain level of available information), but often feels, in the end, that they chose her. When she encounters a connection to the same person or event over and over, it becomes hard NOT to be curious and want to learn more.

Clearly, history and genealogy are intertwined in your career. What would your recommendation be to genealogists with Rhode Island roots seeking to learn more about Rhode Island’s unique history?

Cherry recommended several books:

  • Crane, Elaine Forman. Ebb Tide in New England: Women, Seaports, and Social Change, 1630-1800
  • Crane, Elaine Forman. A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island in the Revolutionary Era
  • Rappleye, Charles. Sons of Providence: the Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution
  • Lovejoy, David Sherman. Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution 1760-1776

Her most basic recommendation for those with early Rhode Island ancestors is to utilize John O. Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island (that is, the later versions which contain a few corrections).

Cherry recommends that anyone with Rhode Island roots learn as much as possible about the role religion played in their family’s story. Rhode Island became home, at its founding, to some of the most sincerely religious men and women in the colonies, and some of the least religious individuals. How did THAT work out? Her talk on “Religious Freedom and RI Church Records” (see below) gives an overview of the unique roles of different faith groups in Rhode Island history and their importance in genealogical research.

She also points out that geography is extremely important in understanding the course of Rhode Island’s history. The extensive, irregular coastline and the availability of water transportation often shaped the spread of families as the generations passed. It’s important to learn what towns were just a boat ride away from each other, and accommodated day trips back and forth. And the ports and ocean also provided almost limitless possibilities for international commerce and even piracy.

Personally, she has enjoyed exploring the correspondence of Roger Williams, although she knows that may not be the kind of research everyone is ready for.

Can you think of an under-utilized repository in Rhode Island that you would recommend to Rhode Island genealogists?

Cherry focused on the Newport Historical Society which houses a unique collection of manuscripts (note: that library is currently closed for renovations). She also pointed out that the data collection work done on Rhode Island’s many cemeteries over the years can, to a great extent, be accessed online at the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission website and this resource is extremely valuable for genealogists.

Many genealogists attending NERGC will go to the Rhode Island Historical Society or the Rhode Island State Archives for the first time. Can you name a collection, index or manuscript set that they will want to be sure and check out?

Rhode Island Historical Society: There is a card file of manuscripts located in the main reading room which lead researchers to many unique documents housed in the Society’s collection. These may or may not be mentioned on the website or online catalog.

Rhode Island State Archives: There is an extremely valuable opportunity to view an index of all post-1853 births, deaths, and marriages in Rhode Island (keeping in mind that certain more recent records will be unavailable, according to state law). Once found in an index, the researcher should pull up the specific record on microfilm. Prints can be made from the microfilm very economically. For those researching pre-1853 ancestors, another rich source is the collection “Petitions to the General Assembly,” indexed in a card file. These lead to unique and often personal stories about our ancestors or their neighborhoods. Once found in the index, the General Assembly records can be viewed on microfilm. Free parking is allowed in the lot next door for up to two hours; bring your ticket with you to the archives to have it stamped.

What is the one advancement in digitization of Rhode Island records or resources that you would like to see, most of all, in your lifetime?

Cherry chose Rhode Island deeds, which are housed in the 39 cities and towns of Rhode Island. Since they have for the most part been microfilmed, perhaps we could hope that they make their way online someday.

I highly recommend both of Cherry Bamberg’s talks at NERGC:

  • Diving into RI Genealogy F-226 Friday, April 17, 3:15 p.m. Worried when your colonial ancestor steps across the border into Rhode Island? Come learn the basics of how to follow him or her into the wilds of the Ocean State.
  • Religious Freedom and RI Church Records S-314 Saturday, April 18, 10:00 a.m. Rhode Island’s unique religious history shaped the colony and its residents. Come learn the importance of identifying your ancestor’s faith as a clue to genealogical research.

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