Tag Archives: Family papers

A missing Merrill

Gravestone of David Merrill (1768-1859). Courtesy of Findagrave.com

Alicia Crane Williams’s post earlier this week – about when an incorrect item was “published in a book” – is quite fresh in my mind as I contemplate a current genealogical problem. Last week I wrote about Gary Boyd Roberts’s research on a distant kinship between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales. There are several parts of Markle’s American ancestry that a group of us (including Gary and several genealogical colleagues) has been looking into, but the one that keeps coming up regards Meghan Markle’s great-great-great-great-grandfather David Merrill (1768–1859) of Holderness, New Hampshire.[1]

Numerous online trees claim that David Merrill was the son of Jacob Merrill and Elizabeth Wyatt, and this claim is even “published in a book”: The Makers of the Sacred Harp (Champaign, Ill., 2010): Continue reading A missing Merrill

Bunching pensions

I wrote two years ago about the incredible value of Civil War pensions, but a recent example reminded me that occasionally just getting a valuable pension may be challenging as well. Whenever I realize a Civil War pension exists, whether for a book project or an article, I almost always request it, on the strong likelihood that it will provide further genealogical information, as well as substantial biographical data on the veteran’s life, his widow, and sometimes other family members. Continue reading Bunching pensions

‘To have his family around him’

George H. Folger joins the holiday mix.

As a genealogist, I have so much to give thanks for. Soon after I started my genealogical quest, I discovered that the Nantucket Historical Association had correspondence from my great-great-great-grandfather[1] in their collections. Of course I was anxious to read it and asked for copies … not knowing that there were more than eighty letters, many of them comprising multiple pages!

It took a while to accustom myself to my ancestor’s writing, since he adopted a sort of modified scripto continua, with virtually no punctuation or capital letters at the start of sentences. Much of the correspondence was dry, relating to business transactions, but there were also many droll comments and insights into the character and activities of the extended family. Continue reading ‘To have his family around him’

Reverse dower

From a modern perspective, we might think that women had no legal rights in the “old” days, but there actually were many ways in which women were legally protected. For example, husbands could not abandon wives and families (although one had to catch the husband to make him pay up). Another right that we regularly see is the right of dower given to the wife: she was entitled to inherit one third of her husband’s estate, no matter what he might have thought about it. This right is often expressed in land records when the husband sells land and the wife “releases” her dower rights to the property. Not all deeds include this release, but the right was there and the transaction could later be contested without it. Continue reading Reverse dower

‘These heart stirring times’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
At last the war’s end was in sight. In her homely way, Regina Shober Gray[1] manages to weave the domestic (“stooping over the old carpet on the backstairs”) with the martial (“though the trump of war be even then sounding the doom of many a brave heart”) in a single entry, with room to notice her son’s jump in height and the latest engagement in Boston society.

A day later, Richmond is relieved, and the Confederate army is on the run.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 2 April 1865: How insignificant amid all the tremendous interests of these heart stirring times seem all the small daily cares & petty duties that fill up a woman’s home life. Continue reading ‘These heart stirring times’

Family chronicles

George Anson Jewett’s NEHGS membership form.

Recently, Jennifer Jewett Dilley of Des Moines, Iowa, reached out to the Publications office at NEHGS to discuss permissions for a project. Jennifer explained that her father Gerald Anson Jewett Jr. is “92 years young,” and that they are writing a book that chronicles Gerald’s life and the times in which he lived. It currently stands at three hundred pages and is nearing completion. Jennifer mentioned that Gerald’s great-grandfather, George Anson Jewett, was a member of NEHGS many years ago. I wrote down his name and wondered if we’d be able to uncover anything of interest on George. Continue reading Family chronicles

‘Out of reach’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
It must have seemed to Regina Shober Gray[1] that the Civil War would never end, although there were signs, as here, of a looming resolution. In the second paragraph of this entry Mrs. Gray refers to all of her sons: the first and third were in Philadelphia, while the second and fourth were at home in Boston.

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 19 February 1865: It is reported to-day that Sherman[2] has taken Columbia, S.C., and that the rebels are evacuating Charleston. It would really seem that the days of armed rebellion are nearly numbered – that this long war, big with fate as it is, to millions yet unborn of both races, white and black, must be at last drawing to a close. God grant it, in the fullness of His own time, which will not be till His work accomplished – till this great nation is redeemed from the sin and curse of slavery. Continue reading ‘Out of reach’

The Phippen chart

John Symonds, “Genealogical Register with Coat-of-Arms of the Phippen and the Smith families of Salem, Massachusetts,” 1808, detail. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Anna Augusta Chapin Fund

When I compiled the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Joseph Phippen a couple of years ago, I briefly mentioned that the identification of the maiden name of his wife Dorothy/Dorcas/Darcus as “Wood” depended on an “incomplete Phippen pedigree chart attributed to Joseph, which [Clarence Almon] Torrey noted was doubted; see description of the Chart [by Robert Charles Anderson in his sketch on David Phippen] in GM2, V:455-56 [who did not incorporate information from the chart, deeming it too far removed from the early generations]).” Not having the opportunity to see the chart in question, myself, I followed Bob Anderson’s caution and did not include any maiden name for Joseph’s wife. Continue reading The Phippen chart

Account books

A current research project has led me to peruse dozens upon dozens of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Connecticut River Valley account books. Used to maintain records of business transactions, account books have been an important component of the store owner and merchants’ trade throughout much of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries in America. While account books tend to be more frequently consulted for the items that were retailed by store owners, the inclusion of names and other data also make account books an invaluable genealogical source. Continue reading Account books

Returning Elijah

Elijah Burson (1807-1886)

A year ago last summer I was contacted by a gentleman from Zeeland, Michigan. While out weekend bargain hunting, he had come across an antique photograph for sale at a local flea market. The gentleman wrote with empathy about family history, and he seemed to have at least a hobbyist’s eye for old pictures. His curiosity was piqued by this one particular picture, so he purchased it, no doubt saving it from the fate of some Michigan land fill.  He said that the only identifier as to who the person in the photo might be were the words “Grandpa Burson” written on its back.

From what I could gather, the man from Zeeland enjoys following where the clues in any old pictures might take him. Continue reading Returning Elijah