Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
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Our summer issue of the Mayflower Descendant includes an article by myself and Michael Leclerc entitled “The Family of Louis and Lydia (Fosdick) Lambert Ma(s)cillier of Boston, Virginia, and Guadeloupe: The First Known Catholic Mayflower Descendants in Massachusetts.” When we first announced our digitization project of the parish records of the Archdiocese of Boston in 2016, I was interested to find such descendants. I wrote about the first person I found in the records with colonial New England ancestry, Caroline (Plimpton) Francoeur (1759-1827)—however, she had no Mayflower ancestry. I only needed to go eighteen pages further in the parish records to find the baptism of the eldest child of Louis Lambert Ma(s)cillier and his wife Lydia Fosdick, who was an eighth generation-descendant (two times over) of Mayflower passengers William and Mary Brewster.1
Throughout the colonial period, no official Catholic congregations were allowed in Massachusetts. Local laws forbade any Catholic priest even to enter the colony. The 1780 Massachusetts Constitution established religious freedom in the new state, and the first public Catholic Mass was held in Boston in 1788. The below baptism of Mary Catherine Elizabeth Lambert in 1796 (who died suddenly in the following year), and that of her sister Amelia Mathilda in 1798, represent the earliest known Catholic Mayflower descendants in Massachusetts. I cannot qualify this beyond the Bay State, as there were early Mayflower descendants in England, Netherlands, and elsewhere in North America. I state in the article that if any readers can find earlier examples in Massachusetts (or elsewhere), I will happily publish an update. Continue reading Catholic Mayflower Descendants→
The upcoming summer issue of the Mayflower Descendant includes an interesting article by Mark Wentling entitled “Joseph Brownell (1699-ca. 1773) of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and Little Compton, Rhode Island: Corrections to the Identities of His Wives and Children.” The article examines conflicting claims in past genealogical literature and goes through numerous contemporary sources to show that one Joseph Brownell, a fifth-generation descendant of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke, was married five times and had eight children by his first three wives.
I read two stories of interest in a recent issue of The Woodstock Villager, a local newspaper from my grandfather’s Connecticut hometown. The first story (on page A3) concerned a Witness Stone for Cuff Fellows (1762-1848), who spent half of his life enslaved in Woodstock. The marker was placed at the First Congregational Church (where my grandfather was baptized, where he married his wife, and where both were buried in the nearby cemetery along with several generations of my ancestors, and, maybe someday, myself). The article notes that Cuff Fellows was enslaved by Isaac Fellows and emancipated in 1798 by Isaac’s widow Leah (Paine) Fellows. Leah was the daughter of Daniel and Leah (Paine) Smith of Woodstock, the great-great-grandparents of my great-great-granduncle (by marriage) Lt. John Merrick Paine (1845-1916), who had served in the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.
The second story (on page A9), concerned Rufus C. Malbone (ca. 1824-1884) of Putnam, Connecticut (my own hometown), an African-American farmer and laborer. He was buried beside his horse Dolly, who was shot and buried thirteen days after his death, with her inscription on the same monument reading “Dolly his faithful horse October 25, 1884.” This is certainly the first time I have encountered a horse and a human listed on the same grave marker.
Rufus’s surname very likely derives from his parents or grandparents being enslaved by Godfrey Malbone (1724-1785) of Newport, Rhode Island, and Brooklyn, Connecticut, a wealthy enslaver and Loyalist of the area. Cuff Fellows’s wife Dinah was also enslaved by the Malbone family, as were ancestors of Albert E. Malbone (ca. 1844-1888) of Brooklyn, a soldier in the 29th Connecticut that I had previously researched and who has numerous descendants in northeast Connecticut today. I started to research both Cuff and Dinah Fellows, as well as Rufus C. Malbone, but was ultimately sidetracked by an intriguing note in the 1820 census of Woodstock. Continue reading The Last Woman Enslaved in Woodstock, Connecticut→
A few months ago, I chaperoned my daughter’s school field trip to the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End. I had previously visited this house several times over the course of five childhood summers, when our grandmother would visit New England and bring one of our cousins with her, each of whom would be shown the sights in turn. When Alice mentioned the field trip, I was eager to volunteer, as it had now been thirty years since I was last inside this historic home.
Since I was last there, the Paul Revere Memorial Association has turned a neighboring building into an education and visitor center. Our tour was interactive: the guides assigned each student a different historic role as the tour progressed. Several played members of the Revere family, and Alice was given the part of Paul Revere’s second wife, Rachel. Between his two marriages, Paul Revere had sixteen children, eleven of whom survived childhood.1
After touring the house, we walked over to the famed Old North Church, where we were told Revere had instructed the church’s sexton Robert Newman to light two lanterns to signal that the British troops (or “regulars” as they were called then) were traveling by water. The tour was finished at the nearby Paul Revere Mall, with Alice’s teacher and I being given the final roles of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, as the guide told how Paul Revere arrived in Lexington as the battle on the green unfolded on 19 April 1775, starting the American Revolution.
Needless to say, whenever I think of the Old North Church of Boston, I think of the church from Paul Revere’s midnight ride, and the building that still stands. However, while working on a Newbury Street Press project, I uncovered documentation which has brought that mental image into question. Continue reading Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride—Which Old North Church?→
Last year, the Boston Globe interviewed my colleague Sarah Dery on the ancestry of recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and myself on the “Boston Brahmin” ancestry of her husband, Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson. While I’ve also discussed here the numerous Harvard graduates in the Jackson family, one other interesting item is the origin of his name Patrick, which was a rather uncommon name for Yankee families in Massachusetts before the American Revolution.
Similar to my own name of Christopher, Patrick tended to be a name amongst Catholics, with Pilgrims and Puritans rarely using the name in the 17th and 18th centuries. Within our database of New England Marriages to 1700, there are only thirteen married men named Patrick in all of New England in the seventeenth century.
With the recent return of the second season of White Lotus, a few friends have asked me if the actress Jennifer Coolidge is related to President Calvin Coolidge. While this was a kinship I had discovered years ago (back when she appeared in the American Pie movies during my college years), I thought it would be interesting to discuss the Coolidge family of New England and some of their well-known descendants.
In middle school I would visit NEHGS with my aunt, traveling about ninety minutes from northeastern Connecticut, going on Saturdays or other days I had off from school. One such day was on November 11, 1993. I had the day off from school for Veterans Day, and I asked my aunt if we could go to NEHGS. We didn’t call ahead (that was long distance!), and when we arrived the doors were closed because of the holiday. We looked up and saw that the lights were on from the top floor, and saw that the side door was open. We decided to go up and see if the staff might allow us to stay. There was one older gentleman up there with several books around him. My aunt said we had traveled from Connecticut and wondered if it might be possible for the two of us to stay. The man replied that he did not work for NEHGS, either, and that he had hired a librarian to work with him for the day; the librarian was getting books for him from another floor, so we would have to wait and ask him. My aunt and I started to work on our genealogy and a bit later, the librarian, who I would soon learn was Gary Boyd Roberts, returned. My aunt made the plea again if we could stay, and Gary kindly replied sure, and the two of us went back to our research. Continue reading Coolidge Connections→
When I was watching the recent World Cup, and the various countries playing, I found myself considering genealogical connections I have found within the competing nations—to my own ancestry, to my wife’s, or to projects that I have worked on. My recent post on the Van Salee family focused on a family with connections in the present-day United States, Netherlands, and Morocco, and at the time of that post, all three nations were still in the tournament.
The two countries from which most of my ancestors derive are England and Germany, and the top three countries for my wife’s ancestry are Spain, Portugal, and Senegal (this is according to her AncestryDNA results—I suspect most of the claimed Portuguese ancestry is probably also Spanish, although I have not traced any of her ancestors to the Iberian peninsula or a specific place in Africa). All five countries, except Germany, made it to the round of sixteen of the World Cup. Continue reading Trace Amounts→
African Founders , a recent publication by David Hackett Fischer, discusses Anthony Jansen van Salee (1607-1676), known as the “Black Mohammedan.” His mother was of African origin, and his father was Jan Jansen van Haarlem, known as Reis Mourad the Younger, a highly successful Dutch pirate in Algeria and Morocco. Anthony and his brother or half-brother, Abram Jansen van Salee (d. 1659), were early settlers in New Amsterdam, now New York City. Their surname “Van Salee” refers to their origin in the Republic of Salé in modern Morocco. Anthony had considerable landholdings in Manhattan and later, after some disputes with other Dutch settlers, in Brooklyn near Coney Island. Abram lived in Brooklyn as well. Anthony’s descendants largely married into other Dutch families of the area, while Abram’s descendants largely married other people of African descent. Continue reading Van Salee Descendants→