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  • #37 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Notes on the New England Ancestry of Janis Joplin

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : September 17, 1999
    In the fall of 1966, fifteen months after obtaining my B.A. at Yale and a few weeks after a master’s degree ceremony at the University of Chicago, I entered the University of California at Berkeley. I stayed there only a year, returning to Chicago after enjoying various of the counter- and other cultures of San Francisco, and undertaking research at the Bancroft Library largely on the Spanish nobility -- and at the Sutro Library, then a few blocks from Haight-Ashbury, on only a limited number of American topics. Some time in the spring of 1967, I believe at the Avalon Ballroom (more intimate than the larger Fillmore), I danced with a young woman (as did several other unattached males), who I think was almost certainly the singer Janis Joplin. She was dancing alone -- then a revolutionary thing to do -- and was remarkably flamboyant, even there. I relate this story because several NEXUS readers remarked on my mention of meeting the novelist E.M. Forster, a side comment in my account of his ancestry, published last year.

    Janis hailed from Port Arthur, Texas, where also resided two of my mother’s first cousins. Before leaving the state, Janis was involved for a while with the music scene of Austin, Texas, where I attended the University of Texas for a year before coming to Yale in 1962. I watched Janis’s later career with interest and occupied a box seat at a remarkable concert she gave in Chicago a year or two before her death. I have always thought of Janis as a kindred rebel whose horrific death wasted one of the greatest voices of this century. Several years ago her sister, Laura Joplin, published Love, Janis (1992), with a second chapter entitled “Our Ancestors.” Janis was born 19 January 1943, the daughter of Southerner and Texan, Seth Ward Joplin, and Laura East, whose parents Cecil East and Laura Hanson lived much of their lives in Clay Center, Nebraska. Laura Joplin, named for her maternal grandmother, gives the names of this latter’s parents as Herbert Hanson and Stella Mae Sherman, and their patrilineal lines as Herbert8 Hanson, Henry7 Hanson, John Milton6 Hanson, William5 Hoar (later Hanson), Shadrach4 Hoar, Jonathan3 Hoar, Nathaniel2 Hoar, Hezekiah1 Hoar; and Stella Mae8 Sherman, Jacob Galush[a]7, Jacob6, David5, Jacob4, David3, Edmund2, Philip1 Sherman.

    Shortly after Laura’s biography was published, I checked the Philip Sherman genealogy by Roy V. Sherman and a few other sources, and identified the Sherman wives as Sarah Odding, Dorcas Hicks, Abigail Hathaway, Margaret Prince/Prance, Lydia Staples, Rebecca Russell, and Mary Roundtree, but was unfortunately unable to further trace the latter two (wives respectively of Jacob6 and Jacob Galusha7). Recently, due we are told to competition from the Internet, the several local Waterstone’s and Lauriat’s bookstores were closed, as was the local Rizzoli’s in Copley Place. All held sales and I bought a sizable number of biographies with genealogical content, including Laura Joplin’s memoir of Janis. Shortly thereafter I resolved to trace the Hoar and Hanson wives, if at all possible, and this column is a report of my success to date, aided by Lloyd Bockstruck at the Dallas Public Library and John Anderson Brayton in Salt Lake City and Memphis. Laura herself acknowledges the main Register English-origins article concerning Hezekiah Hoar by Lyon J. Hoard (141 [1987]: 22-33), plus a 1991 paper by James Hanson, “The Ancestors of Henry Sherman Hanson,” which is not on OCLC (On-Line Catalog of the Library of Congress) and which I cannot locate.

    Herbert M. Hanson, Janis’s matrilineal great-grandfather, was born in Henry Co., Iowa about 1869, and is listed there, ae. 11, in the 1880 census. His parents, Henry W. Hanson and Mary Marsh, were married in Henry Co. 23 Dec. 1867 (Marriage Book E, p. 310, with thanks to John Brayton), and Henry W. was born in Henry Co., Iowa 26 June 1846 (Hawkeye Heritage 4 [1969]: 124), son of John Milton Hanson and his second wife Laura Ann Wood[s], who were married in Henry Co., Iowa 10 Feb. 1841. Mary Marsh was the daughter almost certainly of Othniel Marsh and Elizabeth Bayless, who were married in Adams Co., Ohio 7 Jan. 1847, but were in Henry Co., Iowa certainly by 1860 and probably by 1852. Laura Ann Wood was the daughter of Daniel Wood (b. on Long Island 9 March 1797, d. Henry Co., Iowa 10 Sept. 1881) and Edith “Athens” [Athearn? Atkins?] (b. N.C. or S.C. 28 Oct. 1804, d. Henry Co. 8 June 1866), as we know from the three published “mugbooks” of Henry Co. (1879, 1888 and 1906) and cemetery inscriptions (thanks to John Brayton again) from Old City Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant, Henry Co., Iowa.

    I find no Othniel Marsh, Elizabeth Bayless, or Daniel Wood in published genealogies covering their respective surnames. From George Sheldon’s history of Deerfield, Deerfield VRs, and Henry Co. mugbooks, we know, however, that John Milton Hanson was born in Deerfield, Mass. 25 July 1807, son of William Hoar, later Hanson, and Persis Gunn, who were married in Montague, Mass. 11 Jan. 1797 (I initially found John Milton’s birth and his parents’ marriage on the IGI). From here the scent was relatively easy. William Hoar (later Hanson) was born at Wendell, Mass. 9 July 1774, son of Shadrach and Anna (Hoskins) Hoar and grandson of Jonathan and Mary (Staples) Hoar and William and Mary (Cole) Hoskins (see Register 117 [1963]: 89-92, a reference obtained by checking the new 4-vol. Register index, and the rather slight pamphlet on the descendants of Hezekiah Hoar). Mary Staples, wife of Jonathan Hoar (son of Nathaniel and Sarah [Wilbore] Hoar and grandson of Hezekiah and Rebecca (----) Hoar), appears in vol. 2 of Mayflower Families through Five Generations (1978), p. 192, where it is stated that the Mayflower Society has accepted lines through Mary’s alleged mother Anna Makepeace, wife of Joseph Staples, and alleged daughter of William Makepeace Jr. and Abigail Tisdale, daughter of John Tisdale Jr. and Anna Rogers. This last was the daughter of John Rogers and Anna Churchman, and granddaughter of Mayflower passenger Thomas Rogers and Alice Cosford. The note on p. 192 states that no VRs, wills or deeds confirm the marriage of Anna Makepeace to Joseph Staples. A revision of the Rogers section of vol. 2 is due in the next year or so, however, and I much hope that this matter can be resolved (William Makepeace mentions his living daughters in a 1736 will, but unfortunately by first name only).

    Via Persis Gunn (1779-1814), treated in the 1997-98 Jasper Gunn genealogy by Paul J. McCarthy, Janis Joplin is descended from a sizable number of the early founders of the Connecticut Valley, especially Windsor, Springfield and Hadley. Her parents were Asahel Gunn Jr. (1757-1834 or 1836) and his father’s first cousin Lucy Gunn (1756-1790). Grandparents were Asahel Gunn and Thankful Marsh, and John Gunn and Hannah Root. Great-grandparents were Nathaniel Gunn and Esther Belden (great-great-great-grandparents of the poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson --see my Notable Kin, Volume One [1998], pp. 202-3, 205-6 – who was thus Janis’s fourth cousin four times removed), Ebenezer Marsh and Elizabeth Gillette, Samuel Gunn and Elizabeth Wyatt (parents of both John and Nathaniel), and Joseph Root (III) and Mary Russell. Of these eight great-grandparents, Samuel Gunn was the son of an earlier Nathaniel Gunn and Sarah Day, and the grandson of immigrants Robert and Editha (Stebbins) Day of Hartford, and Joseph Root (III) was the son of Joseph Root Jr. and Hannah Benton, and grandson of my own ancestors Joseph Root and Hannah Haynes. I also descend from Edward Stebbins, a brother of Mrs. Day; via Roots, and because of quite long generations on my side but relatively short ones on Janis’s, I am an eighth cousin of Janis’s maternal grandmother, even though Janis was nine months my senior.

    Other surnames in Persis Gunn’s ancestry include Bronson, Wells, Beardsley, Webster (Gov. John Webster of Conn.), Allison, Hawks (John of Hadley, a likely brother of Adam of Saugus, ancestor of the late Princess of Wales and her sons), Gull, Smith (Lt. Samuel of South Hadley, forebear of Sophia Smith and Mary Lyon, of Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges, and of Presidents Hayes, Cleveland and Bush), Russell, Collins, and Church. This ancestry can be readily traced from Judd’s history of Hadley, T.A. Warren’s typescript on Springfield families, Barbour’s Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut, Stiles’s History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut ,Jacobus’s Hale, House and Related Families, J.W. Hook’s Samuel Smith genealogy, and older genealogies of the Root and Marsh families.

    I should be happy to hear from readers about the ancestry of Daniel Wood and his wife, Othniel Marsh and Elizabeth Bayless, Mary (Roundtree) Sherman, Rebecca (Russell) Sherman, and Margaret (Prince/Prance) Sherman. Paul C. Reed of Salt Lake City tells me that he has disproved the alleged royal descent (RD) of Richard Belden, and I find no other obvious New England-derived RDs. Janis’s paternal grandmother Florence Elizabeth Porter, wife of Seeb Winston Joplin, was the daughter of Robert Ury Porter (Laura Joplin cites a 1970 paper by Eleanor Porter McSpadden called “Memoirs of the Robert Ury Porter Home and Family,” which I also cannot locate) and Arminta Roberson, daughter of Ludwig Roberson and Mary Ball, whose line from Col. William Ball, forebear of George Washington, is given by Laura Joplin as Mary8 Ball, George7-6, William5-4, Samuel3, William2-1. This Virginia line I have only begun to explore. The first three generations, plus confirmation that Samuel3 left a son William4, appear in H.E. Hayden’s Virginia Genealogies. I should especially welcome material on the most recent William in this line, plus the next two Georges. Finally, I might note the several families in the ancestry of Jacob Galusha Sherman and William Hoar, later Hanson, not mentioned to date. These include Burt, Randall, and Braman, behind Sherman; and Dean, perhaps Macomber, Hines, Caswell, and once again Hoar and Wilbore. Mary Cole, who married William4 Hoskins 29 Oct. 1733, was the daughter of John and Elizabeth (----) Cole of Berkley, Mass. (Boston Transcript, 4 March 1903, #5899), but Julie Otto and I could readily trace this family no further.

    I hope this excursion into the ancestry of a major rock icon of my generation proves interesting to many “younger” readers especially (I will be 56 later this month and hardly consider myself young, but Janis still shocks many people older than I, and even some who are my junior). I will next, I think, update two lectures I have several times delivered, on printed or readily available sources for “The Connecticut Core” and for pre-American English gentry ancestry shared by many immigrants here. Some general reflections on the concept of “Notable Kin” and its subsuming of research on my own ancestry may follow. Another column I am eager to write concerns the Yankee ancestry of the current publisher of The New York Times.
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