Archive for the ‘Lawrence’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother’s Brief

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

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

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

Knowing the law

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

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

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

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

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

The letters

Letter from John H Lawrence, 12 Oct 1861.

Letter from John H Lawrence, 12 Oct 1861.


Darnestown Maryland

Saturday October 12 1861

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

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

your affectionate Son

John Lawrence

Letter from John H Lawrence, 24 Nov 1861.

Letter from John H Lawrence, 24 Nov 1861.

Senaca Mills  [Seneca, Maryland?]

tuesday 24th Nov

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

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

Give my love to gramma and all inquiring firends etc etc

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

Your affectionate son

John H Lawrence

Letter from John H. Lawrence, March 9 1862.

Letter from John H. Lawrence, March 9 1862.


March 9th 1862

Camp near Charlestown Va

Dear parents

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

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

John H. Lawrence

Letter from John H Lawrence, 13 July 1862.

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


Harryson’s landing

James River Va

Sunday July 13th 1862

Dear parents

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

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

John Lawrence

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

A few thoughts

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

The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/07/09/give-my-love-to-gramma/

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This is the story of how the Battle of Antietam played a significant and unexpected role in my family’s history.

The soldier

Early in the morning of June 19, 1861, Battery A of the 1st Regiment, Rhode Island Light Artillery marched down Westminster Street, Providence, then down South Main Street to India Point.  They had officially been soldiers for 14 days, and they left behind a scene that had been attracting spectators for weeks – a camp with tents at the Dexter Training Ground (the current site of the Dexter Armory).  The docks were crowded that day, particularly with the “fair sex” as the soldiers said their good-byes and the steamer Kill Von Kull prepared to depart at 4:00 p.m., headed for the Elizabethport, New Jersey railroad station (1).  As far as I know, this was the last time my gggg-grandparents James and Annie (Shortriggs) Lawrence saw their son, John.

John H. Lawrence was the second child and oldest son of James and Annie Lawrence. John was born in 1840 as the couple, both English immigrants, moved from place to place in the eastern United States and James pursued his occupation of machinist.   Born in Wake County, North Carolina, John was enumerated with his parents in the 1850 (Danville, Virginia) and 1860 (Providence, Rhode Island) census. I am related to John Lawrence in the following way:  his parents, James and Annie (Shortriggs) Lawrence were the parents of my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock Knight, she was the mother of Louis Rufus Murdock. Louis was the father of my great-grandmother Eva (Murdock) Darling, who was the mother of my grandmother, Edna (Darling) Baldwin.

The 1860 census record indicated that John and his sister, Margaret (my ggg-grandmother) were working as “jewelers”(2).  The fine jewelry and silver industries were growing in Providence in the nineteenth century and it’s likely that John and Margaret were employed as assemblers, packers or clerks in a jewelry manufacturing company. John was still single at the time of his enlistment in 1861.

Providence Marine Corps Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street, Providence. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS RI,4-PROV,55)

Providence Marine Corps Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street, Providence, scene of recruitment activities as the Civil War began. From Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (HABS RI,4-PROV,55)

John was among the earliest Rhode Islanders to enlist.  Although the family didn’t have much in the way of financial resources, John managed to have his picture taken in New York City, which must have been a stop toward the beginning of his unit’s journey.  Perhaps he had gotten paid. I have found the photo in two recent books (3) (4) and the owner of the photograph, William Robertson, eventually contacted me through the blog (I was very grateful!) and sent me my own copy.  He had purchased it from another collector, and more than that is not known.  The scrawled name and unit seem old.  John looked like a strong, handsome young man with straight dark hair and a mustache (for sure, the fair sex may have been waving on that dock specifically for him).

John H Lawrence, from the collection of William Robertson.

John H Lawrence, from the collection of William Robertson.

Battery A

I have done very little Civil War research.  I have no direct ancestors who fought.  But even I can tell that there was something special about Battery A and several of the associated batteries.  The 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery scattered its units wherever they were needed, throughout the war.  Each Battery served independently.  The history of Battery A reads, surprisingly, like a history of the war itself – they were everywhere.  In John’s first year of service the Battery was at Manassas, the Battle of Bull Run, Bolivar Heights, the Virginia Peninsula Campaign, the Siege of Yorktown, the Battle of Fair Oaks, and many other actions in Maryland and Virginia (5) (10).

Half of a glass steroegraph of the principal street of Sharpsburg, Maryladn where the Battle of Antietam was fought. Photograph by Alexander Gardner, Sept., 1862. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs ONline Catalog, LC-B815-595 .

Half of a glass stereograph of the principal street of Sharpsburg, Maryland where the Battle of Antietam was fought. Photograph by Alexander Gardner, Sept., 1862. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, LC-B815-595 .

The Light Artillery operated small cannons (“6-to-10 pound Parrott rifles” (4)).  There must have been a lot involved in transporting, maintaining, and firing such equipment.  Battery A must have learned this, more or less, on the job.  By the time September, 1862 came around they had had 15 months’ experience with the equipment, with their officers, and with each other.  From everything I’ve read, they performed their job very well.

On September 17, 1862, Battery A was in Antietam (Sharpsburg), Maryland, assigned to Major General John Sedgwick’s Division, in Sumner’s Second Corps.  The Battery was led by Captain John A Tompkins. They took position in front of Mumma’s burning farm-house.  Battery A was attacked by three South Carolina regiments, and fired on them in return at point-blank range, causing them to withdraw in confusion. All morning, further attacks were fought off, firing rapidly, until the equipment and ammunition began to give out.  In a tragic and ultimately inconclusive battle, Battery A held ground and prevented the other side from capturing their equipment. Over 3,600 soldiers were killed outright that day, with a total of more than 22,000 killed, wounded or missing/captured.  It was “the bloodiest one day battle in American history.”(8)

"Burning of Mr. Muma's houses and barns at the fight of 17th of Sept" pencil and Chinese white drawing on brown paper by Alfred R. Waud. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Catalog, LC-DIG-ppmsca-21452.

“Burning of Mr. Muma’s houses and barns at the fight of 17th of Sept” pencil and Chinese white drawing on brown paper by Alfred R. Waud. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Catalog, LC-DIG-ppmsca-21452.

The death of John Lawrence

John H. Lawrence was killed sometime during the firing that morning.  After driving off the South Carolina regiments, there were further Confederate attacks and his death probably occurred during one of those in mid to late morning.  Other Battery A soldiers killed were Sergeant Charles M Read and Privates Joseph T. Bosworth and Edwin Stone.  About a dozen were wounded. Battery A called for relief around noon and was replaced by Battery G, who unfortunately only maintained the position briefly (1).

It was not possible to recover the bodies of the dead that day.  So on the morning of September 18, Lieutenant Jeffrey Hassard (Hazard) selected a crew of eight men to accompany him to recover the fallen soldiers from Battery A.  Sharpshooters prevented them from accomplishing that.  In the afternoon, a truce was called, allowing each side to bury their dead.  The bodies of the four Battery A soldiers were found, not in great shape after a 24 hour wait, and buried on the battlefield with the whole unit gathered round (1).

Battery A went on to participate in more of the war’s fiercest battles including Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.  Many of John Lawrence’s companions who had signed up for a three year stint in 1861 returned to Providence in 1864.  One of them, Theodore Reichardt, wrote a book containing his memories of Battery A (1).  A more sanitized version – with less grumbling about the officers – was published by Thomas W. Aldrich in 1904, based on his service with the unit as a boy (5).

A sad colored photograph, half of a stereograph, from after the battle. Dunker Church in the background is near where Battery A fought. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online catalog, LC-DIG-stereo-1s029014.

A sad colored photograph, half of a stereograph, from after the battle. Dunker Church in the background is near where Battery A fought. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online catalog, LC-DIG-stereo-1s029014.

Back in Providence

I have no way of knowing when the news of John’s death reached his parents.  Indeed, John’s sister Margaret signed her name with an “x” as late as 1900, leaving me to wonder if the parents were able to read and write (although no census records any of them as illiterate).  I’m not sure what the standard was for family notifications of deaths from the government during the Civil War.

By September 19 John Lawrence’s death was listed in the Providence Evening Press (6), so surely by then the family either sought out some news or were informed by friends or local officials.


Loss in Rhode Island Battery A.

New York, Sept. 19.

The following names are given in the Herald’s list of casualties:

In the 1st Rhode Island Artillery:

  • Sergeant Chas. M. Read, killed.
  • Private Bosworth,   “
  • ”   John Lawrence,  “
  • ”   John Stone,          “
  • ”   Francis Phillips.
  • ”   F. Budlong.
  • ”   Hamilton Clark.

The above are of Battery A.  Their entire loss is about 20 killed and wounded.

[Note – the list don’t state whether the three last are killed or wounded.]

The reason I am so certain that this is the same John H. Lawrence who was the son of James and Annie is that I found John Lawrence’s death at Antietam noted in the Lawrence family plot records at the Grace Church Cemetery records.

Attending the Confederate wounded after the Battle of Antietam. Dr. A. Hurd, 14th Indiana Volunteers. Confederate soldiers under tents at Smith's barn near Keeedysville, Md. Photo by Alexander Gardner. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog LC-DIG-ds-05198.

Attending the Confederate wounded after the Battle of Antietam. Dr. A. Hurd, 14th Indiana Volunteers. Confederate soldiers under tents at Smith’s barn near Keedysville, Md. Photo by Alexander Gardner. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog LC-DIG-ds-05198.

Other impacts on the family

Of course John’s death must have been hard on his family.  But as I studied what little I could find on this story, I put together a few more sad facts.

Possibly, John had several brothers who died as children.  The only brother that lived to adulthood was William J. Lawrence, born 27 May 1845 in North Carolina.  He was about five years younger than John.  In 1861 and 1862, recruitment efforts were underway in Providence and many young men enthusiastically stepped up.  Perhaps out of admiration for his brother, a desire to be grown up, or to join his friends, William Lawrence enrolled in the 4th Rhode Island Infantry, Battery D on 16 June 1862, which would have been shortly after his 17th birthday (14).  He deserted on 10 August 1862(9).

By the 1865 Rhode Island state census, William was living back with his family at 28 America Street, Providence.  He was working as an engraver, which most likely means working in Providence’s growing silver industry.  That was a position of trust, to some extent, and tells me that he must eventually have bypassed serious consequences of the desertion.  Perhaps authorities were sympathetic to the sacrifice the family had already made, and let the boy off.

Tragically, William did not get the chance to grow into the adult life he had tried out too soon.  On 17 December 1865 he died of Typhoid Fever.  The funeral took place at 28 America Street and William was buried at the Lawrence family plot in Grace Church Cemetery, Providence, in a grave with his and his brother John’s names and the word “Private.”  John was, of course, buried in 1862 at Antietam, so the Providence marker is a cenotaph.  Eventually John’s real grave was moved a short distance to the Antietam National Battlefield Cemetery, grave #2835(11).  I would like to sincerely thank FindAGrave volunteer Jen Snoots for helping me discover John’s two graves and for very kindly passing the FindAGrave.com memorials back to the family to maintain (12) (13).

Antietam National Battlefield Cemetery, grave #2835, J.H. Lawrence. Photo by Jen Snoots.

Antietam National Battlefield Cemetery, grave #2835, J.H. Lawrence. Photo by Jen Snoots.

September 16, 1871

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Providence was dedicated on September 16, 1871.  It contains, etched in brass, all the known Rhode Island military personnel who died during the Civil War.  J.H. Lawrence is on the list for R.I. Light Infantry, Battery A (15).

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

I wondered if my family attended the unveiling of the monument. I found a little volume, “Proceedings at the Dedication of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Providence.” How often do I pass over something like this?  I am gradually progressing from a person that is interested in finding my ancestor’s name to a person that understands where the real stories might be hidden. And one was found here, although John Lawrence is only mentioned in the list of engraved names.  This little volume, when I read it, gave me huge insights into my family’s story on September 16, 1871.

A platform was raised on three sides of the Monument with seats sufficient to accommodate about twenty-three hundred persons, including the invited guests. Great pains were taken to furnish tickets through agents appointed for the purpose, to families of deceased soldiers and sailors in all parts of the State, and all who applied received them.

… all the uniformed companies in the State were required to appear in Providence on the 16th of September, to take part in the proceedings attending the Dedication.

The 1st Light Artillery is honored on this side of the monument.

The 1st Light Artillery is honored on this side of the monument. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

In addition to the families of the deceased Soldiers and Sailors, the following gentlemen were seated on the platform : His Excellency Governor Padelford, the Rhode Island Delegation in Congress, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Officers of the Army and Navy, the Governors of the New England States, Judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Common Pleas, the Mayors of the Cities of Newport and Providence, Mr. Randolph Rogers, the Sculptor, and Mr. J. G. Batterson, the Architect of the Monument, the State Officers, the Aldermen and Common Council of the City of Newport, the Aldermen and Common Council of the City of Providence, the President and Professors of Brown University, the Lieutenant-Governor, and Members of the General Assembly, the State Committee on the Monument, the Presidents of the several Town Councils, and Town Clerks, with other invited guests.

A choir of upwards of three hundred singers under the direction of Edwin Barker, Esq., had places on rising seats above the platform.

J.H. Lawrence, in the ist R.I. Light Artillery section. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

J.H. Lawrence, in the ist R.I. Light Artillery section. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Chief Marshall was General Ambrose Burnside.  Every Veteran’s group in the state marched, beginning on Broadway, with their bands, drums, color guards and musket companies.  Current military ranks marched with their cadets, artillery, and horse guards.

The line of march was through Broadway, Knight, High, Broad, Dorrance, Westminster, South Main, Transit, Benefit, Meeting, North Main, and Steeple Streets, to Exchange Place and the Monument. A perfect ovation greeted the column along the whole distance. Flags and decorations were in abundance, sidewalks, housetops, windows, and every conceivable place that would afford a view of the procession was occupied. Waving handkerchiefs were met at every step, and everything indicated that the dedicating services were a willing tribute from a grateful people. There were nearly two thousand Veterans in the ranks.

The companies of Veterans then formed in a solid body at the lower part of the open space with the Uniformed Militia in a compact form in the rear, the lines extending entirely across Exchange Place. When the word was given, this great body of men, more than four thousand in number, marched in division front up the wide thoroughfare towards the monument. The solid host, the many tattered battle flags, the blue uniforms of the Veteran Corps, the brilliant clothes of the citizen soldiers, the gleaming of the muskets and bayonets, and the firm and regular marching to the music of sixteen bands, was a sight never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. As the column advanced, the spectators on the stand and the immense crowd which filled the side walks and grounds adjacent to the Monument and Railroad Depot, applauded, cheered and waved their handkerchiefs over and over again.

While the curtain which enveloped the Monument was being slowly withdrawn, a dirge was played by the Band.  The solemnity of the spectacle touched the hearts of the spectators and drew tears from hundreds. But when the whole structure appeared with its beautiful bronze statues, cheer upon cheer, loud and long, arose from the vast multitude which filled the square.

Rev. Augustus Woodbury, minister of the Westminster Unitarian Church (in Providence at that time), military chaplain, champion of abolition and other causes, and well-known literary figure, gave the oration, a humble and grateful tribute to the fallen, of all ranks and origins.  For more about the monument, and to check the names of the Rhode Islanders killed in the Civil War, see this guide to the monument.

Augustus Woodbury, from a memorial volume published after his death. Rev. Augustus Woodbury, from a memorial volume published after his death.

Augustus Woodbury, from a memorial volume published after his death.

When I read about that day in 1871, it brought tears to my eyes and I hope that the Lawrences found comfort in the tribute. I picture my great-great grandfather Louis R. Murdock, 8 at the time, probably left at home by the somber adults who went to the ceremony, joining the neighborhood boys in chasing the parade down Westminster Street, marveling at the bands, the uniforms, and the pageantry.

What I realized

As I studied the date of John’s death at Antietam, September 17, 1862, I realized some things that will never be found in books.

Approximately 6 weeks later, my gg-grandfather Louis Murdock was conceived. Margaret “Maggie” Lawrence may well have been single at the time – she claimed, when she married William Murdock in 1867 that it was her second marriage, but much later in life, in 1900, after William Murdock had passed away and when her next husband, Jeremiah Knight, was on his deathbed, she reported that she had been married a total of two times. Louis thought he was adopted, but he was in the household with Maggie and the Lawrences before her marriage to William Murdock; Maggie brought Louis to her marriage. And, more recently, my mom has been linked in DNA testing with a descendant of Maggie’s aunt.

Did the chaos of those days impact Maggie’s decisions?  Was her family understandably upset?  Did the father marry Maggie at that point, not yet located? Was the child wanted?

When I think about these years, I can’t help but see that out of the tragic loss of son after son, the Lawrence family was left with a son after all – that was Louis.  Since Louis pursued the same occupation as his grandfather – machinist – I have often pictured that grandfather spending his later years teaching and guiding Louis, and helping him find his first job.  If that is true, James Lawrence was able to pass down a wonderful gift.  Louis supported his family securely while working for 50 years at the Brown & Sharpe machinery company.  And more to the point, Louis had the happy life denied to the Lawrence boys, a wonderful wife, and three daughters who cherished him.

Louis Murdock, nephew of John Lawrence, at around age 16.

Louis Murdock, nephew of John Lawrence, at around age 16.

10 things about this research

  • This is the first research plan I’ve accomplished with my new Research Notebook plan.  My plan came out to about 40 pages.  It took me about 4 weeks from start to finish.  It now goes into my paper notebook to be on hand when I can get to some repositories where I need to look for a few more things.
  • I found, surprisingly, that making the research report helped me to write a proper narrative of the story itself in this blog post.  It separated research from writing.
  • The research report helped me to think more globally about the whole situation as it impacted the family.  Since I couldn’t write, I thought more.
  • Well Rhode Island is a pretty small place.  So I shouldn’t have been so surprised to find that I knew one of the authors of a helpful history of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, Rhody Redlegs(3).  Cynthia Ferguson is a fellow Rhode Island genealogist and a great Facebook friend.  It’s so much fun to know more people.
  • I have the 3rd edition of Evidence Explained and I am getting better at writing footnotes.
  • There are a lot of resources for the Civil War.  Wow.  A lot.  The best source I found for knowing which Rhode Islanders were involved are the Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for the year 1865 mentioned in note 9, below.  Both volumes 1 & 2 should be consulted.
  • All this research into the Lawrences still gets me no closer to the source of Louis Rufus Murdock’s first and middle name.  It must come from his real father.  I have combed the neighborhood for Louises.
  • UPDATE – the Antietam Battlefield staff answered my email inquiry about some records I found (a picture and a possible letter), in footnotes, attributed to their collection.  They sent me a set of photocopies of some letters and a Mother’s pension file.  An update on that is presented in the post “Give My Love to Gramma.”
  • The civil war was so long ago, I forget that there were pictures in that era.  Artists and photographers recorded a great deal.  Many of the pictures are gruesome and sad.
  • I am happy to leave it to others to tell the story of the regiment and Antietam – I will never attain the level of Civil War knowledge that others have.
Civil War artillery. From History of the Ninth and Tenth Regiments Rhode Island Volunteers, p. 117.

Civil War artillery. From History of the Ninth and Tenth Regiments Rhode Island Volunteers, p. 117.


(1) Theodore Reichardt. Diary of Battery A First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery. Written in the Field (Providence: N. Bangs Williams, Publisher, 1865), iii-iv and 6, also 64-67, accessed as Internet Archive edition http://archive.org/stream/diaryofbatteryaf00reic   For other deaths and burials at Antietam, see Robert Grandchamp, “Rhode Island Civil War Soldiers Buried at Antietam,” Rhode Island Roots 34:1 (March 2008), 38-40.

(2) 1860 U.S. census, Providence County, Rhode Island, population schedule, Providence Ward 5, p. 264, dwelling 1367, family 2082, John Lawrence; image, Ancestry.com (hhtp://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Jun 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1210.

(3) Robert Grandchamp, Jane Lancaster, and Cynthia Ferguson, “Rhody Redlegs”: A History of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery and the 103d Field Artillery, Rhode Island Army National Guard, 1801-2010, Kindle book (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Publishers, 2012), chapter 7, “Civil War”.

(4) Ted Alexander, The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day, Google Play edition (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011), 57-64.

(5) Thomas W. Aldrich, The History of Battery A First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery In the War to Preserve the Union 1861-1865 (Providence: Snow & Farnham Printers, 1904), 142-143, accessed as Internet Archive  https://archive.org/stream/histbattery00aldrrich

(6) “Further From Maryland. Loss in Rhode Island Battery A,” Providence Evening Press, 19 September 1862, HTML edition, archived, (http://www.GenealogyBank.com : accessed 26 June 2015), Vol. VII, Issue 5, p. 3.

(7) Rhode Island Committee on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Proceedings at the Dedication of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Providence, to which is appended a list of the deceased soldiers and sailors whose names are sculptured upon the monument.  (Providence: A Crawford Greene, Printer to the State, 1871), 62.

(8) Ted Alexander, The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day, Google Play edition (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011), 90.

(9) Elisha Dyer, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations for the year 1865, Corrected, Revised, and Republished in accordance with Provisions of Chapters 705 and 767 of the Public Laws, Volume 1 (Providence: E.L. Freeman & Son: 1893), 288, digital images, Google Books (URL : books.google.com : 22 June 2015).

(10) National Park Service, “Battle Units,” database, Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System. (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm : accessed 20 June 2015), entry for Rhode Island Volunteers. Battery “A”, 1st Regiment Light Artillery, Union.

(11) Interment Control Forms, A1 2110-B. “Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774–1985, Record Group 92”.  The National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland. Digital. Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 July 2015), entry for John H. Lawrence.  

(12) “Find A Grave,” indexed database, Findagrave.com  (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 15 June 2015), memorial page #23954951 for Pvt. John H. Lawrence (1840-1862) with gravestone images, created by Jen Snoots, citing Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Washington County, Maryland.

(13) “Find A Grave,” indexed database, Findagrave.com  (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 15 June 2015), memorial page # 23955792 for John H. Lawrence (1840-1862), created by Jen Snoots, citing Grace Church Cemetery, Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island.

(14) National Park Service, “Soldiers,” database, Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System. (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm : accessed 28 June 2015), entry for William E. Lawrence, Private, Company D, 4th Regiment Rhode Island Infantry, Union.

(15) Exchange Terrace/Providence City Hall Plaza (Providence, Rhode Island), Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, J.H. Lawrence, (memorial) plaque; photographed by Diane Boumenot, 16 June 2015.

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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:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/18/a-visit-to-uri-library/

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Before I started genealogy, if I had had to take a guess about the origins of my mother’s family, I would have said maybe they arrived in Rhode Island in the mid 1800’s, from England.   Research quickly showed me that was not true; many had been in Rhode Island and Massachusetts since the earliest settlements in the 1600’s.  But for mom’s great grandparents Louis and Jessie (MacLeod) Murdock (the parents of my great-grandmother, Eva Louise Murdock Darling), their story actually does come close to the guess I had in mind.

Both Louis and Jessie experienced some form of adoption when they were young – in both cases, I suspect one parent was an actual parent, or closely related to an actual parent.  I also suspect that Jessie left her Pictou, Nova Scotia family (my post about that HERE) and came to Rhode Island to be with relatives — Louis’ family.  So I am researching Louis’ family BOTH for evidence of his origins, and for evidence of Jessie’s.  Before I can tackle the Pictou questions, I am compiling all the details I can about their early years in Rhode Island.

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

Louis and Jessie Murdock (center) in 1933 on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, with their three daughters, two grandchildren and three great-grand-daughters, and various spouses.

The Murdocks

I explored the family that adopted Louis Rufus Murdock in an earlier post.  William and Eliza (Coghill) Murdock came to Rhode Island from New Glasgow, Pictou, Nova Scotia in the 1860’s.  They had five daughters.  After wife Eliza died, William married in 1865 Margaret “Maggie” Lawrence in Providence.  The couple had one additional child in 1867, William Clark Murdock.  Louis was in the household from the beginning.

The Lawrences

I had glossed over Maggie’s family, the Lawrences, for several years because of the well-known “adoption” of Louis, known as a family story and also from his marriage license.  I didn’t understand what my relationship to them should be, other than gratitude.  But that all changed recently when I found Louis living in the Lawrence household in 1865, age 1, with Maggie, some siblings of hers, and her parents.  The parents were clearly beyond the child producing years.  Maggie didn’t marry William Murdock until the following October, obviously bringing the toddler with her.

Louis Rufus Murdock, 1863-1949, as a young man

Louis Rufus Murdock, 1863-1949, as a young man

I think Louis is either Maggie’s son by a mysterious first marriage, for which I have not yet found a marriage or divorce record (but it was mentioned on her marriage license when marrying William), or is the son of one of Maggie’s siblings. Being war time, if Maggie’s husband died, I don’t see why that would forever be referred to as “adoption”.  It’s hard to picture Maggie voluntarily adopting a child when she was single. In fact I’m not sure if she would have had a legal right to do that.  And I just don’t see the Lawrences taking in the neighborhood foundling — for one thing, the net worth of the Lawrences in the 1870 census was below that of the neighbors. Also, Louis became a machinist like his grandfather James Laurence … could that be nature, or nurture?

Here is the closest thing I have to proof: in the 1900 federal census, Maggie’s entry reports 2 children born, and two living.  Her 1910 entry says one child born, and one living, however, I think son William Clark Murdock completed her 1910 entry, because the responder didn’t seem to know where Maggie’s parents had been born (something she would clearly have known). This seems like the only real evidence I have so far that Maggie considered herself to be Louis’ mother, but others didn’t. I actually feel that I might someday determine what the story was.   For now, I am realizing that I am likely to be descended from the Lawrences.

So, I am only now researching my ggg-grandparents.

On America Street

Maggie’s parents were James Lawrence (1807-1882) and Ann Shortridge (1810-1897), both born in England.  The first evidence I found for them was a R.I. state census record from their Providence home, taken in 1865:

Places fo birth:  England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island.  My father was right.  My mother DOES descend from a long line of gypsies.

Places of birth for the Lawrences: England, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island. My father was right. My mother DOES descend from a long line of gypsies.

I was surprised to see that the parents were born in England.  I was even more surprised to see that the children were born in South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Providence.  What a road map to a family’s journey!  At other times I have also seen Georgia, Maine and Virginia given as birth places for the children.

When I realized that parents James and Anna were born in England, I found it especially touching that my immigrant ancestors lived at 28 America Street, in Providence.  Did it ever strike them as a symbol of the life they had made? This neighborhood is to the immediate west of downtown, between Atwells and Broadway.  Over the years the Lawrences stayed in that neighborhood; and at the time of James’ death in 1882 their address was 38 America Street.

28 & 38 America Street are a parking lot today.  These houses are across the street.  I'm not sure if these houses are reminiscent of the street back then, or more recent.

28 & 38 America Street are a parking lot today. These houses are across the street. I’m not sure if these houses are indicative of the street back then, or more recent.

I visited the neighborhood.  The area of 28 – 38 America Street was now a vacant lot.  I believe the America Street School, built in 1905, was once in the spot, but apparently burned in the last decade or so, and the land has been leveled.  Back in 1865, there would have been large factories in Providence, and no doubt James, a machinist, was employed nearby.

James Lawrence and Ann Shortridge had five children that I know about:

  • Margaret A. “Maggie” Lawrence (1838-1921), married William Murdock in 1865 and then Jeremiah Johnson Knight in 1896.  Clearly she was born in the south, although I’m not sure in which state.  She may have had a first husband prior to these two.
  • John Lawrence (1840 – ).  I can’t seem to trace him after the 1860 census.
  • William J Lawrence (1845-1865).  Sadly, young William died of Typhoid fever in Providence at age 20.
  • Elizabeth Jane Lawrence (1849-1937), married John Thayer Scott, a house painter, in 1867. “Lizzie” and John Scott were living with her parents in 1870. They had several children in Providence.
  • Ella J. Lawrence (1852-1923) married machinist Sidney Goldsworthy Stamp in 1870, after he had been a boarder in her parents’ home.  They had at least two children, Sidney and Ella (who died at age 7).  There is evidence that Ella ended up at the Rhode Island State Hospital for the Insane for many years.

I have found nothing yet about James Lawrence’s origins in England.

At the NEHGS Library

In the midst of this, I traveled to Boston on a bus trip with some Rhode Island Genealogical Society members.  I spent the day at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library on Newbury Street.

After getting through some other research I turned my attention to the Lawrences. I knew from various death records I had for the children that Ann Lawrence’s maiden name was Shortridge.   I had seen on Ancestry.com in a transcription of some marriage records from Dorchester, Massachusetts (today a section of Boston) that James Lawrence married Ann Shortriggs on May 16, 1835.  That date would correspond reasonably with the birth of Maggie in 1838.  But Shortriggs seemed like a bit more than a normal spelling variation of Shortridge, and finding them in Boston would add yet one more stop to their dizzying criss-cross years on the east coast.  I thought I would like to see the original records from Dorchester, in case there was more information.

A possible marriage record for James and Ann Lawrence, in Dorchester, Mass.

A possible marriage record for James and Ann Lawrence, in Dorchester, Mass.

I approached librarian and genealogist Marie Daly with my question about Dorchester records, possibly on microfilm.  There were no other versions available, but as Marie asked questions about the marriage she became curious about the immigration of the couple, and in particular, of Ann Shortriggs and her family.  Let me point out several smart strategies that she used:

  • she took the spelling “Shortriggs” seriously.  I had sort of dismissed it because I had seen “Shortridge” so many more times.  But thinking about it, Shortridge was used by the children later, when recording their own life events.  The Dorchester marriage record was more contemporary to the arrival from England.
  • She knew offhand that Shortridge and Shortriggs do not index the same in a Soundex indexing system, so we should avoid Soundex in any search we were using (she opted for phonetic matches).  That’s not something I think about enough.
  • When searching in Ancestry, she used the “Match all terms exactly” box and then entered very limited search criteria.  When you are searching in your own tree the search screen doesn’t normally come up that way, so I don’t try that nearly enough.
  • She used “Shortr*” to search for the last name, but when that failed us (Ancestry indexing can be unpredictable) she went to a first name + ship name search (since by that time we knew the name of the ship), using the Immigration & Travel / Passenger Lists category.  She may have added the year to that search.  It worked.  Ancestry.com had it indexed as “John Shorterrgs”.
  • She paid attention to the name of the minister, hoping it could lead to further church records.  I am still researching that.

She managed to find the original passenger list on the “Hibernia” which sailed from Liverpool (according to the abstract on the prior page), arriving in New York January 3, 1832, in the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 collection on Ancestry.com (Roll M237, 1820-1897, Roll 015, sheet 768 of 897).

New York Passenger Lists document for the Shortriggs family on Ancestry.com

New York Passenger Lists document for the Shortriggs family on Ancestry.com

John Shortriggs was listed as a Labourer, belonging to Great Britain, intending to inhabit the United States.  Since I had seen on her death record that Ann’s parents were John and Margaret, this seemed likely to be her family.

The Shortridges

Marie Daly got curious about their origins in England and managed to find the marriage license as well as the birth records for the Shortriggs children in Irthington, Rockcliffe and Stanwix, near Carlisle, Cumberland, England.  It’s in the north, not that far from Gretna Green, Scotland.

A 1745 view of Carlisle, showing its history as a fortified city near the Scottish border.  By the early 1800's it was more industrial. From Carlisle in 1745 by George Gill Mounsy, 1846, p. 40.

A 1745 view of Carlisle, showing its history as a fortified city near the Scottish border.  From Carlisle in 1745 by George Gill Mounsy, 1846, p. 40.

Here is what I know about the Shortridges (Shortriggs) so far.  John Shortriggs married Margaret Balmour on May 16, 1807 in Saint Mary, Carlisle, Cumberland, England.  In 1832 they came to New York on the Hibernia, from Liverpool, with their six children.  Daughter Ann married in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1835 so perhaps they were living there, perhaps not.  In 1841 Margaret was a widow, living on Field Street (?) in Providence.  In 1865, widow Margaret was living with daughter Mary.

  • Mary, birth details unknown, married William Bamford.  According to the 1850 federal census record, their children were born in England, South Carolina, and Maine.  William was working as a mule spinner at that time.  By 1865, he and Mary were running a saloon at 92 Point Street in Providence.  Mary died in 1883.
  • William, born 1808 in Rockcliffe, Cumberland, England, was not on the list (above) on the journey to New York in 1832.  I know nothing further.
  • Ann (1810 – 1897), born 1810 in Irthington, Cumberland, England, married James Lawrence in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1835.   Their children were born in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Connecticut, and they lived in Providence by 1860.  James was a machinist.
  • Jane, born 1813 in Irthington, Cumberland, England, was on the list for the 1832 trip to New York.  I have nothing further.
  • Margaret, born 1815 in Irthington, married William Hardman, machinist, in 1845, in Providence.  There is a 14 year old Hardman child in the household, as well as 3 small children, in 1850 so possibly William had been married previously.  She died in 1892 in Rhode Island.
  • John, born 1817 in Stanwix, Cumberland, England, came on the ship with the others to New York.  I have not been able to distinguish the various John Shortriggs records yet to know what happened to John, but I do not believe he settled in Rhode Island.
  • Elizabeth, born 1822 in Irthington, married Archibald McMillan, a Scottish cotton mill worker, in 1844 in Providence.  He later became a painter. They had daughters who in turn worked in the cotton mills.  Elizabeth died in 1882.

I am hoping, eventually, to find that siblings Mary and Ann were near each other in the various states where their children were born in the 1840’s-50’s.  So far, I am having trouble retracing those moves.

In conclusion

Previously, my only immigrant ancestors were those trekking back and forth between Nova Scotia and New England, an activity that, in terms of records, brought a big yawn from the immigration authorities and a “yea, it’s time for my lunch anyway.”  So prior to my day at the NEHGS, I don’t think I really saw anything like that passenger list and the careful birth records to match.  A quick search has not turned up naturalization records yet, but they may exist and I will keep trying.  At last, I could walk into the National Archives with a real mission.  Maybe someday.

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