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  • 2002 Archive

  • Vol. 4, No. 36
    Whole #92
    December 20, 2002

    • New Databases on
    • New Research Articles on
    • Holiday Hours in the NEHGS Library
    • Have You Submitted Your Favorite Ancestor Story Yet?
    • English and Scottish Family History for Americans
    • Getting the Most from the Missing Friends CD
    • From the Volunteer Coordinator
    • "Not Your Grandmother's Genealogy"
    • Putting Your Ancestors Into Context
    • Correction to the "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Schedule
    • Favorite Ancestor Feedback
    • NEHGS Contact Information

    New Databases on

    The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Database — Twenty-Five New Sketches Added

    The Society of the Cincinnati was established in 1783 by and for the officers in Continental Service. It was organized in 14 constituent societies, one of which is the Massachusetts Society.

    Membership in the Society of the Cincinnati was extended to the officers of the Continental Army — as well as Continental navy and marine officers — who had served until the end of the war, plus those who had been declared no longer needed by acts of Congress and those who had served honorably for three years during the war. Also eligible were the oldest male lineal descendants of officers who died in service. The officers of the French Navy and Army who served with the American Army were also entitled to join.

    This database contains information on those Massachusetts officers eligible for membership. Absence from this list does not conclusively exclude eligibility.

    New sketches were added this week for the following individuals:

    Joseph Clark
    Peter Clayes
    Amos Cogswell
    Samuel Cogswell
    Thomas Cogswell
    William Cogswell
    Charles Colton
    Thomas H. Colton
    David Cook
    Ezekiel Cooper
    Samuel Cooper
    John Cotton
    Andrew Craige
    John Crane
    John Crane
    Joseph Crocker
    Florence Crowley
    Nathaniel Cushing
    Benjamin Dana
    Japheth Daniels
    Samuel Darby
    James Davis
    Nathan Dix
    Peter Dolliver
    Nathaniel Donnell

    Search the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati database at .

    Church Records of Madison, Connecticut

    These records were transcribed by Louise R. Allen in 1935 and include church records from 1791 to 1827. The typescript is kept in the R. Stanton Avery Collections, call number MSS CT MAD 14.

    Search Church Records of Madison, Connecticut at

    Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections

    This week we have added transcriptions from a total of fifty-nine cemeteries in the town of Madison, Connecticut, and the counties of Androscoggin, Cumberland, Lincoln, and Waldo in Maine.

    Search Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections at .

    Master Search

    Or master search all databases at .

    New Research Articles on

    African American Research in New England
    Using Local Histories to Research New England African Americans
    By Beth Anne Bower

    Origins of Rayner/Reyner
    By George Redmonds

    Holiday Hours in the NEHGS Library

    Please note the following special hours in the NEHGS research library:

    Tuesday, December 24 — Christmas Eve — Library closes at 12 noon
    Wednesday, December 25 — Christmas Day — Closed
    Tuesday, December 31 — New Year's Eve — Library closes at 3 p.m.
    Wednesday, January 1 — New Year's Day — Closed

    For more information about library hours and future holiday closings, please visit

    The New England Historic Genealogical Society wishes you a very happy holiday season!

    Have You Submitted Your Favorite Ancestor Story Yet?

    The "Feedback" question in the winter 2002 issue of New England Ancestors magazine was "Who is your favorite ancestor?" The magazine staff received an overwhelming response to this question. A small selection of reader submissions were published in the spring, summer, and fall issues of the magazine, and on June 28, we also began publishing the submissions in the eNews. Since that issue we've published approximately seventy-five "My Favorite Ancestor" stories by NEHGS members and non-members across the country and around the globe. As a consequence, we've also introduced a number of people who are working on the same ancestral lines or had information to share about a particular family or some detail of a story. And we've heard how much people enjoy reading these stories.

    For the first time, we are beginning to run low on submissions so we would like to encourage eNews readers to write a brief story about their favorite ancestor and share it with others. We will publish some stories in New England Ancestors magazine and continue with the stories in the eNews. If you would like to contribute a story (preferably in 300 words or less) on your favorite ancestor, please send it to Lynn Betlock at If you'd like to view some of the "my favorite ancestor" stories that have run in past issues of the eNews, visit our enewsletter archive at

    English and Scottish Family History for Americans
    Boston, Massachusetts April 9–12, 2003

    Join English surnames and place-names expert Dr. George Redmonds, Great Migration Study Project director Robert Charles Anderson, Jerome Anderson, and NEHGS library staff for an engaging and informative exploration of the history and origins of surnames from the British Isles. Other topics of interest to those researching English and Scottish ancestors will be covered as well.

    The hereditary surname is the most useful research weapon available to the genealogist, yet few know how to make the best use of it. Join us for a special series of lectures designed to inform you about the names you are researching, and about the sources and methods that will help you take full advantage of that knowledge. You will learn how to identify your names over time, and discover what significance their frequency and geographic distribution might have.

    Participants will enjoy personal research consultations, guided research in the NEHGS library, and the option of an evening dinner at NEHGS.

    Accommodations will be at the John Hancock Conference Center, just blocks away from NEHGS. Special rates of $125 (single) and $135 (double) per night are available for participants. Please call 617-572-7700 for reservations, and be sure to mention NEHGS to qualify for the group rate.

    Program Fees: Full program: $495 for members, $520 for non-members; Saturday only: $175 for members, $190 for non-members. Registration is limited — reserve your place today! If you have questions, please contact Alena Tan at or call 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday.

    Getting the Most from the Missing Friends CD
    by Marie Daly, Director of Library User Services

    When NEHGS published The Search for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in The Boston Pilot, 1831–1920 CD, many people could not wait to plug in their ancestors' names into the query box. Surely one name might have been included in the 35,000+ name database. But sometimes people are disappointed by the search results. However, improved search techniques for the Missing Friends CD may often yield results, when simple searches fail to identify an ancestor.

    By conducting a variety of searches, one can often learn much more about one's ancestors, the communities they left behind, and their homes in the New World.

    • Query on your ancestor's hometown in America to see where in Ireland the townspeople originated. Very often Irish immigrants settled in clusters, in certain neighborhoods, and in particular towns. For instance, a search on Stockbridge, Massachusetts, revealed that out of seventy-four ads, forty-five referred to places in East Cork, Tipperary, and Waterford.

    • Search for the destinations of Irish emigrants in the New World by querying on the Irish place-name. For example, a search on Dromore, County Tyrone, resulted in fourteen hits, with sixteen various destinations noted. Among these destinations, eight were from Boston and/or Lowell, Massachusetts. In another example, a search was done for John Ahern who had emigrated from Middleton, County Cork, in 1882, and had settled in the West End of Boston. He had lived on Lime Street, at the base of Beacon Hill, and worked as a coachman. The wealthy Bostonians on Beacon Hill kept their stables at the base of the hill, and the coachmen and teamsters lived over the stables. By querying on the words Middleton, Cork, and Boston, one can determine the names and addresses of Middleton emigrants in Boston. The search revealed several Middleton emigrants living in the West End, including an Eliza Ahearn of Beacon Hill, who was searching for her sister, Margaret. The probable relationship between John, Eliza, and Margaret Ahern could subsequently be explored.

    • Query on a combination of your ancestor's surname and the county of origin. This may help identify previously unknown relatives who had emigrated to another region of the New World. For instance, a search of the surname Tully and county name Cavan revealed information on Bridget Tully, of Lowell, Massachusetts. Bridget had placed an ad looking for her brothers from Drumherrif, County Cavan, who had gone to New Orleans.

    By spending some time with the query feature of the Missing Friends CD, almost any researcher can take away some information about his/her ancestors, their hometowns in the New World, or the emigrants' places of origin in Ireland.

    The Missing Friends CD is on sale for $62.99 (regularly $69.99) until December 31, 2002. To order and receive this special member discount, go to the main store page at, login as a member, and then click on the picture of the Missing Friends CD in the center of the page. Or call 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday. If you have any questions, please email

    From the Volunteer Coordinator

    I would like to thank all our dedicated and willing volunteers for the work they are doing. This includes those of you who live in the Boston area and can come in to the library at 101 Newbury Street, those of you who live in the Framingham, Massachusetts, area and come in to the Circulating Library, and all those who are busy working at home. Volunteers are working on projects in Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.

    I wish everyone a happy, peaceful, and joyous holiday season from all of us here at NEHGS.

    Susan Rosefsky

    "Not Your Grandmother's Genealogy"

    The October 2002 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly contains a thoughtful essay by Karin Wulf of American University entitled, "Not Your Grandmother's Genealogy," which reviews two books published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Both The Art of Family: Genealogical Artifacts in New England, edited by D. Brenton Simons and Peter Benes, and The Hatch and Brood of Time: Five Phelps Families in the Atlantic World, 1720–1880 by Peter Haring Judd are cited as examples of the new trend of "attending to the historical contexts in which . . . family trees are rooted." Ms. Wulf also makes the case that both genealogists and historians have a great deal to gain from cooperating and collaborating.

    To read the essay, please visit To read past issues of the William and Mary Quarterly (from January 2001 to October 2002), visit

    To order The Art of Family, visit To order The Hatch and Brood of Time, visit Or call 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday. If you have any questions, please email

    Putting Your Ancestors Into Context
    by Colette Rasmussen, NEHGS Reference Librarian

    The detective work of finding lost relatives can be exciting and fun, and knowing the names and the dates is great, but what about their lives? What were these people like? What was it like to live in the time and place they lived in? Answering questions like these can lead us to a new world. Our ancestors emerge from the stale vital records as real people who went about their daily activities, the way we do now. They had relationships and networks, occupations, and religious and social ties within their world of context.

    One of the first ways to start building the framework of an ancestor's life is to look at the households in which he or she lived throughout different stages of life. Many of the usual genealogical sources contain this information, such as census, probate records, land deeds, and vital records. Look at as many census records as possible for each family member. By simply sketching out the information contained in each census, we can see into the lives of our ancestors more than might be thought possible. Wills and other probate records obviously show familial relationships. They can indicate where the family members lived in proximity to each other, the types of belongings they had, what kind of wealth and social status they had, and many other details. Deeds often name the people whose land bounded that held by our ancestors, and sometimes members of the same family bought and sold among themselves. The indexes to the deeds are helpful in determining if a family came to an area alone or with relatives or friends from another community. Sometimes entire towns relocated. Looking for other families with the same surname in the vital records of a town or small locality can lead to the discovery of kinship networks.

    Studying histories of towns and counties is an excellent way to create a background on which to place our relatives. Read about the history of a town and about the time period your family lived there. Were they one of the founding families, or were they there during a more settled period? Did they live near the community, or did they live on the outskirts on a farm? Your family may not be mentioned in a town history, but they likely would have known of the people who are mentioned. They probably would have been involved in some of the issues the town dealt with. Newspapers indicate issues that were important to the townspeople of the time, and even the local advertisements can be an enlightening glimpse into the popular culture of the day. Local histories may even lead to an answer as to why our ancestors may have come to that area, or why they left.

    National and world issues also affected our ancestors' lives, although they probably did not hear about things as fast as we do today. News took time to travel. Newspapers give us an idea about public opinion in the area. A world, national, or local chronology of events can provide us with wonderful information. These are published in encyclopedias, almanacs, and as books in and of themselves. Some local histories include a chronology. Research how your family fit in to these events. Would they have known about them? Did they affect them? Were their neighbors involved? What about political races? Was there a rally nearby? Encyclopedias, histories of these events, and almanacs will help in this research.

    There are many other questions that could be asked to help us create a world in which to place our ancestors. Weather patterns and the geography of the area could be studied. The history of our ancestors' occupations or trades will yield information about how they may have spent their days. Social customs of the time and place can also be discovered, and perhaps the modes of transportation and the routes most frequently taken by families moving to a new place. There is no "right" way to do family history research. Be creative. The more questions we ask, the more our ancestors "come alive" in our minds. The result of our research is no longer genealogy; it truly becomes the history of our family.

    Correction to the "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Schedule

    As part of the "Genealogy in a Nutshell" series, Marshall Kirk will give a lecture entitled, "Establishing Genealogical Proof: When is Enough?" at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 15, and Saturday, January 18.

    This is a correction to the schedule published last week which had announced a talk by Marie Daly on Griffith's Valuation for those dates. We apologize for the error.

    For more details about NEHGS education events, please visit If you have questions, please call member services at 1-888-296-3447 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time), Monday through Friday.

    Favorite Ancestor Feedback

    We continue with reader submissions to the questions "Who is your favorite ancestor? Why?" If you would like to contribute information on your favorite ancestor, please send your story in 300 words or less to Lynn Betlock at Thank you to all past and future contributors!

    He "led a very full life"
    by George L. Greene of Germantown, Maryland

    Abel Castle of Essex, Vermont, my fourth great grandfather, led a very full life. Born in 1749 at Woodbury, Connecticut, his neighbors were Ethan and Ira Allen, Seth Warner, and Remember Baker, who employed Abel as a carpenter and millwright. Around 1770, these and other Woodbury men moved to the New Hampshire grants. Abel Castle was involved in building some of the first grist mills there. Both New York and New Hampshire laid claim to future Vermont, and the Green Mountain Boys soon engaged in a fierce struggle with New York Governor Tryon's goons for ownership rights. On March 22, 1772, Tryon's minions broke into Remember Baker's Arlington home, wounded him, his wife, and son, and kidnapped Baker, carting him off in a sleigh towards Albany. Abel Castle and a dozen others dashed off in hot pursuit, catching up with the brigands at the Hudson River crossing and freeing Baker.

    During the Revolution, Abel joined Colonel Herrick's Rangers. Abel's first wife died in 1774. With his second wife, his family and his father, he moved by land and water to near present-day Burlington. Along the way he shot a bear that tried to climb into the boat carrying the Castles.

    After his second wife died, he married my fourth great grandmother, Sarah Woodworth Aubrey in 1787. Her previous husband, Dr. Frederick Aubrey, disappeared in 1778 and was presumed dead. In 1791 Dr. Aubrey showed up at the Castle home and demanded his wife back, but was convinced to relinquish his rights to Sarah, who died four years later. Abel Castle's grandson and biographer, W. W. Ingraham, recalls going with his grandfather to Burlington in 1824 to meet General Lafayette. Abel's fourth wife outlived him. He died at 95 in 1843, leaving thirteen children, sixty grandchildren, and thirty-five great grandchildren.

    "She preserved a way of life for her descendants"
    by Ron Monroe

    My favorite ancestress is Roxana Phelps (1838–1919), daughter of Oliver Cromwell Phelps and Marie-Josette Roi. Roxana was first baptized in Abbotsford, Québec, Canada, in the Anglican church and then in the Catholic church. At fifteen she married Nazaire Forand and had two children by him, losing a child and her first husband before 1865.

    She married again to Étienne Vallière and had eleven children. The Vallières fell on difficult financial times after their relocation to Laconia, New Hampshire. It wasn't particularly the custom for women to act in an independent manner, but in an effort to save her family from losing their land and possessions, she purchased from her husband a 100-acre tract that they were farming, he giving up his right of "curtsey." She sold the land to three of her children for the price of one dollar. That deed was a treasure. She had transferred all the equipment to farm the land and treasures she had received when her father died in 1883. Were that not enough to make her memorable, she was a granddaughter of Amos Phelps and Diadama Long, who was a daughter of Lemuel Long and Martha Brewster. Martha was descended from William Brewster of the Mayflower, which provided me with my gateway to become a Mayflower Society member.

    Roxana's end came in 1919 in Laconia, New Hampshire, leaving a legacy of family devotion, business acumen, and historical significance, with Mayflower and Revolutionary War ties. She also preserved a way of life for her descendants. This is why she is my favorite ancestress.

    My favorite ancestor
    by Arthur E. Allen of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

    My favorite ancestor is Jonathan Westgate, who was probably born at Middleboro, Massachusetts, about 1760. His parents are unknown. His death is recorded as May 31,1822, when he was sixty-one years of age. He married Hannah Gammons, the daughter of John and Hannah (Cole) Gammons, on April 14,1785, in Middleboro. She was born at Middleboro on February 28,1766, died there on October 12, 1796, and is buried in Middleboro at Neck Cemetery. There were seven children by this marriage.

    Jonathan Westgate married a second time, to Eunice Reed, the daughter of Samuel and Rebecca Reed, in Middleboro, on November 6, 1798. Eunice was born about 1770 and died at Middleboro on June 5, 1812. There were seven children by this marriage.

    Jonathan Westgate married a third time on December 30, 1813, at Rochester, Massachusetts, to Delia (Handy) Sherman, the widow of Cornelius Sherman. There were no children by this marriage.

    During the American Revolution, Jonathan Westgate enlisted in Captain Henry Pierce's company from Lakeville, Massachusetts, and served in the Rhode Island campaign of 1777. He also served in the War of 1812 along with his son, Jonathan Jr. in Captain Calvin Shaw's company. One shortcoming in his history is that there is no record of his parents or ancestry. The Westgate surname was spelled Westcoat, Westcott, and other variations appear in early records.

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