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  • 2004 Archive

  • Vol. 6, No. 23
    Whole #169
    June 4, 2004
     Edited by Rod D. Moody and Valerie Beaudrault

    Greetings from the New England Historic Genealogical Society! This free newsletter has been sent to NEHGS members and friends who have subscribed to it, or submitted their email addresses on various membership and sales department forms and website notices. NEHGS recognizes the importance of its members' privacy, and will not give away, sell or lease personal information. If you would like to unsubscribe or change your email address, please click on the link at the bottom of the page and follow the instructions provided.

    Copyright 2004, New England Historic Genealogical Society
    101 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116


    * New Databases on
    *Research Article From the NEHGS NEXUS Archive
    * Seeks Authors for Research Articles
    * Take the New NEHGS Survey!
    * New Arrivals at the Library Listed on
    * NEHGS Event: Electronic and Online Genealogical Resources
    * Register Now for the NEHGS Genealogical and Historical Walking Tour of Boston
    * An Introduction to at the NEHGS Library
    * Upcoming "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Lectures at the NEHGS Library
    * Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Lecture on June 12
    * Coming to Massachusetts? Let the MBTA Plan Your Trip!
    * Careers at NEHGS
    * Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback
    * NEHGS Contact Information

    New Databases on


    Records of the First Church of Rockingham, Vermont, 1773-1839

    The town of Rockingham, in Windham County, Vermont, is one of 129 townships near the Connecticut River granted by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire, between 1749 and 1764. The charter was granted to Rockingham in 1752. The First Church of Rockingham was organized on October 27, 1773, with Samuel Whiting ordained as the first pastor.

    The records were copied by Thomas Bellows Peck from the original volume, which was in the possession of William H.H. Putnam, whose wife descended from one of the early members of the church. Mr. Peck's transcription was printed in 1902.

    The original text is part of the NEHGS Rare Books Collection, call number RB/F59/R7/R7/1902.

    Search the Records of the First Church of Rockingham, Vermont, 1773-1839 at


    Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850
    New Addition - Sherborn (Middlesex County)

    At the turn of the twentieth century NEHGS was instrumental in the effort to purchase books of vital statistics to the year 1850 for the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. By 1945 the vital records for over 200 of these municipalities had been published. Many of these volumes were added to in weekly installments during 2002. This marked the first time these records were made available online in their original context, including the original source citations.

    We are pleased to now be able to add more towns to this database. The latest addition is the town of Sherborn (Middlesex Co.).

    The Vital Records to 1850 series is available at the Research Library, and most volumes are available to NEHGS members through the Circulating Library. The call numbers for this volume is F74/S55/S5/1907


    Search Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 at


    Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910
    Added this week:
    Indexes: 1866 to 1870
    Records: 1851 births, marriages, and deaths.

    The latest installment in this ongoing database includes the indexes to all Massachusetts birth, death, and marriage records from 1866 to 1870 and actual records from 1851. The indexes include name of individual, town or village of event, year of event, and volume and page number of the original record.

    View a chart that displays records currently available and those forthcoming at

    For detailed information about this database, please refer to "Introduction to the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1910 Database" page found at This contains information that will contribute greatly to the success of your searches and will also answer questions that you may have about these records and our database. If you have questions that our article does not address, or if you are having difficulty with this database, please email

    Search Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910 at



    Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections

    New this week: Transcription of an unnamed cemetery in Friendship, Knox County, Maine ("Records of the Older Section of the Cemetery at Friendship, Maine").

    Source: "Friendship, Maine Epitaphs," by Mrs. Jessica Haskell, call number MSS ME FRI 5.

    Search Cemetery Transcriptions from the NEHGS Manuscript Collections at

    Vital Records of Milton, Massachusetts, 1662-1843

    The town of Milton was established in 1662, after being split off from Dorchester. In addition to the town records, entries were taken from the following sources:

    * Births, marriages, and deaths from the records of the First Church in Milton.
    * Marriages from the diary of the Rev. Peter Thacher, minister of the (First) Church in Milton from June 1, 1681, to December 27, 1727.
    * Deaths from the diary of Hannah Vose.

    The original text can be viewed at the NEHGS Library or borrowed by NEHGS members via the Circulating Library. The call number is R.Rm. REF F74/M66/M37/1900.

    Search the Vital Records of Milton, Massachusetts, 1662-1843 at






    Research Article From the NEHGS NEXUS Archive

    We are currently in the process of selecting new authors for our research articles. For the next few weeks, we will be spotlighting articles previously published on and in NEHGS NEXUS. These articles will be featured in their entirety here in eNews.

    This week we present "Rathlin Islanders Downeast" by Marie E. Daly, originally published in NEHGS NEXUS, 6:6, 1989.

    When industrialists Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand soared across the Atlantic Ocean in their twenty-one-story balloon, they launched a chain of events which eventually led back to their starting point - Maine. In the largest hot-air balloon ever made, the British adventurers embarked from Carrabassett Valley and the Bigelow Mountain range in Maine. They intended to land the Virgin Atlantic Flyer in Europe, thereby exceeding the world record for both distance and speed. As the mammoth balloon reached Northern Ireland on July 4, 1987, a low cloud cover and a wind shift forced the men to attempt a landing on a north coast beach. Having failed to separate the pressurized capsule from the balloon, Branson and Lindstrand leaped into the sea near Rathlin Island, County Antrim. A swarm of air and sea-going vessels, including the British Navy and the Coast Guard, tracked the balloon's demise. Navy helicopters plucked the stranded men from the sea, but the balloon careened off toward the Mull of Kintyre. When the Virgin Atlantic Flyer finally touched down in the Northern Channel, Rathlin Islanders in a fishing boat retrieved the million-dollar balloon, and claimed it for salvage.1 Despite the Navy's attempt to confiscate the balloon, the island fishermen clung to their booty, thereby qualifying for a reward of 60,000 pounds.2


    To fishermen struggling to make ends meet, the prize was the largest sum of money they had ever seen. With the reward, the islanders established a trust fund, and purchased and transformed their old landlord's manor into a heritage center. Subsequently, the island's 110 residents began to investigate the history of their locale. Once the island supported about 1,200 inhabitants, but the Great Famine and its concurrent emigration depopulated Rathlin in the nineteenth century. According to traditional lore many Rathlin emigres settled in Maine and Quebec.3 Attempting to locate their long-lost cousins, Kathlyn McFaul of the Rathlin Island Trust wrote to NEHGS in 1988. Thus the fortuitous crash-landing of this balloon from Maine instigated a quest to discover Rathlin's past connection to Maine.

    Ringed by mountains and high cliffs on three sides, Rathlin Island is about six miles long and one mile wide, and lies seven miles opposite the town of Ballycastle, County Antrim. Noted by Pliny and Ptolemy, the island bears archaeological evidence, in the form of ring forts and flints, dating back to the Neolithic Period. Rathlin's Christian era began with the landing of Saint Comgall of Bangor in 580 A.D. However, marauding Norsemen destroyed the ancient monastery in 790 and 973. In medieval times, many Scots (who were descendants of Dalriada or North-east Antrim people) fleeing interclan wars took refuge on Rathlin, including (according to legend) Robert Bruce, who fortified a castle there. In 1558, the Rathlin Scots were attacked by the Earl of Sussex, and in 1642 by the Earl of Argyll, who massacred every person, hurling even infants over the cliffs. Since 1476, the Macdonnells (MacDonald) of Islay and Kintyre, afterwards Earls of Antrim, had possessed the island. But in 1746 Alexander, fifth Earl of Antrim, sold Rathlin to Rev. John Gage, Prebendary of Aghadowey (County Derry), whose descendants retained ownership until the twentieth century.4 The devastating potato blight of 1846-1853, which produced the Great Famine in Ireland, also affected the island. "...although none on Rathlin died of starvation, the people's faith in the inevitability of an abundant harvest had been shattered."5 One hundred seven persons fled in 1847, and heavy emigration continued until 1881. In 1841 the island maintained a population of 1,010, but by 1851 the number had diminished to 753, and by 1861 to 453.6 Thus over 550 persons or more than half the population had emigrated during the famine period. Research indicates that at least 230, but probably many more, of these emigrants settled in Washington County, Maine.

    Rathlin's culture was more Hebridean than Irish. The inhabitants spoke Scots Gaelic and often regarded the mainland as a foreign country. The main industries were cattle and sheep raising, oats, barley and potato agriculture, fishing, kelp harvesting, and linen and wool production. Rathlin featured distinct communities at either end of the island, with the western, fowling community speaking Gaelic primarily, and [197] the eastern, fishing community speaking English.7 In 1834, the majority of the people lived in clachans, i.e. closely congregated families who held joint tenure. Lodged under the scarps of terraced basalts, their low, whitewashed stone and thatch houses were built to withstand the wind. Lewis describes the islanders as "simple, laborious and honest people entertaining an ardent affection for their island...The Catholics and Protestants generally lived together in the greatest harmony, undisturbed by differences in religion."8 In 1945, Thomas McCuiag wrote, "On Rathlin Island, the wheel of life revolves with uneventful regularity...In years gone past the island was entirely self supporting, growing its own food and spinning its own cloth. A familiar feature of the island landscape is the thatched cottages. These are usually whitewashed and, with painted windows and doors, make a very pleasing sight...Like the ocean which swells about its shores and the smoke which curls in tranquil solitude above its cottages, Rathlin lives its life in peace and plenty."9

    The WPA index to New England naturalizations, located at the National Archives New England Branch in Waltham, Massachusetts, was searched for the most common Rathlin surname, McCurdy. Washington County Superior Court records indicate that many County Antrim McCurdys had settled in the townships of Lubec, Pembroke and Perry. Located at the mouth of the St. Croix River and at Passamaquoddy Bay, these adjacent communities partly form the northeastern corner of Maine. Further investigation of the area's 1860 Federal Census revealed at least 230 Irish natives bearing names common to Rathlin (see list below). The census also lists a number of Irish natives with names common to County Antrim: Mulholland, Mooney, Higgins, Ross, Andrews and Laughlin. (Laughlin family oral history claims that five brothers emigrated from Belfast in the nineteenth century.) A trip to the Roman Catholic graveyard in West Lubec confirmed that many of the deceased had been natives of Rathlin Island: John McQuiag, Alexander Black, Archibald Black, Elizabeth Black, Daniel McKinley, John Craig, Neal Black, Ann McQuaig, Daniel McCurdy, Alexander Horan, John Horan, Archibald Horan, James McCurdy, Neil McCurdy and Jane McCurdy.

    The Rathlin settlers in Maine were generally farmers, but in Washington County tradition they scraped by with a number of jobs: farming, fishing, shipbuilding and cutting timber. In addition many Pembroke residents worked at the Pembroke Iron Works. Established in 1832 along the Pennamaquan River, the water-powered iron works reputedly produced 15,000 tons of iron annually, including nails, spikes, hinges, and rivets. The plant closed in 1884; Route 1 passes directly over the site, still marked by a mill dam and a water wheel.10 What attracted these emigrants to this remote part of Maine is unclear. However, in the History of Whiting, Maine, the genealogy of Robert Black (1798-1878) claims that Black was a native of Ireland and had lived along the County Road as early as 1839.11 A number of Rathlin Island families in the Lubec 1860 census had some children born in Massachusetts or New Brunswick, and subsequent children born in Maine. These emigrants seemingly formed a home away from home, a "Little Rathlin" in Maine.

    This report of my research is only preliminary, and my purpose in publishing this article is to stimulate interest and a response from descendants. Further research will include the 1880 and 1900 census, vital records, naturalizations and church records. It is possible to trace these Maine families back to specific families and locales in Rathlin. For instance, several individuals are listed in the 1834 Tithe Applotment Book for Rathlin (available at NEHGS). In addition, the Roman Catholic parish registers begin in 1838, so some individuals can be identified through baptism and marriage records. Other records, such as the Spinning Wheel Survey of 1796, the List of Protestant Householders in 1740 (available at NEHGS), and the Hearth Money Rolls may extend some families further. A future article will include the results of some of this research.

    The remaining residents of Rathlin Island would like to contact their American cousins. If any readers think that they descend from this Washington County, Maine population, please contact Marie Daly at NEHGS.


    1. The Boston Globe, July 3, 1987, vol. 232, no. 3, p. 1, col. 1, and July 4, 1987, vol. 232, no.4, p.1, col. 1.
    2. Telephone interview with Kathlyn McFaul of Rathlin Island Trust, July, 1988.
    3. Kathlyn McFaul, ibid.
    4. Hugh Alexander Boyd, Rathlin Island, North of Antrim (Ballycastle, 1947). (Available at NEHGS)
    5. J. H. Elwood, "A Demographic Study of Tory Island and Rathlin Island, 1841-1964", Ulster Folklife 17(1971): 72. (Available at BPL).
    6. J. H. Elwood, ibid.
    7. Hugh Alexander Boyd, ibid., and F. Estyn Evans, "Traditional Houses of Rathlin Island", Ulster Folklife 19(1973): 14.
    8. Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, vol 2 (1837, reprint 1984), p. 502. (Available at NEHGS)
    9. Hugh Alexander Boyd, ibid., p. 54.
    10. Carl K. Hersey, "A History of Pembroke, Maine," in Historical Souvenir Book: Pembroke Sesquicentennial, 1832-1982. Pembroke Sesquicentennial Committee, 1982.
    11. Gladys Hall Forslund, History of Whiting, Maine. Calais, Maine, 1975.

    Ed. Note: The original article in NEXUS also included a list of the names and ages of Irish natives in the 1860 Federal Census of Washington Co., Maine, bearing Rathlin names. While this list could not be included here due to space considerations, members may view it through at

    View other articles from the NEHGS NEXUS at Seeks Authors for Research Articles

    The New England Historic Genealogical Society is seeking skilled genealogists with writing credentials to author research columns for its website, Specialists are needed for the following topic areas: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Ireland, England, Military, Ethnic Research, and Genetics. Writers will be asked to contribute columns consisting of 1,500 to 1,800 words on a regular basis. Writers will be compensated for each article. NEHGS is also seeking writers to author single columns on a variety of genealogical topics for our "Hot Topics" section. All candidates will be asked to send writing samples and/or to provide examples of published works. To view a list of previously published research articles, please visit and click on the various topic headings. NEHGS members may view the entire articles by logging into

    For more information please email NEHGS electronic publications editor Rod Moody at

    Take the New NEHGS Survey!

    Stuck in the eighteenth century? Or in New York State? Have you traced your ancestors back to the old country? Or did the leads dry up in seventeenth-century New England? Let us know where your genealogical research takes you (and leaves you) in this month's new online survey.

    Take the survey at

    New Arrivals at the Library Listed on

    The latest list of new titles added to the NEHGS Library has been posted on To view the list, go to and click on "May 2004." Here are some of this month's titles:

    * Blackledges in America: a genealogy of Blackledge / Blacklidge descendants with roots in the United States of America.
    * The Coulombe family of North America.
    * The Richard Hawes genealogy: Richard Hawes, ca. 1606-1656/7, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and his wife, Ann, and some of their descendants through thirteen generations.
    * The family of General John Stark, 1728-1822, of New Hampshire.
    * Pioneer families of Leeds Township. [Ontario]
    * Maps associated with Lunenburg County family history. [Nova Scotia]
    * Grand Army of the Republic, Department of Illinois: transcription of the death rolls, 1879-1947.
    * Vital records of Acton, Maine, 1830-1893.
    * Vital records of Effingham and Freedom, New Hampshire, 1888-2001.
    * Set in stone: the cemeteries of Hampton, New York.

    NEHGS Event: Electronic and Online Genealogical Resources
    Saturday, June 26, at the Bill Bordy Auditorium at Emerson College in Boston

    Are you taking full advantage of the vast range of resources available in cyberspace? Are you using these electronic resources wisely? With so many choices, which websites can you trust? And what new developments are ahead for genealogists in the constantly evolving field of technology? These questions and many more will be answered at the NEHGS Electronic and Online Genealogical Resources seminar, to be held Saturday, June 26, at the Bill Bordy Auditorium at Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts.

    Four NEHGS "techies" will be on hand to show you how to build an effective genealogy toolkit for electronic research. Topics and speakers for the seminar are as follows:

    Finding Old Cemeteries Using Today's Technology
    Dick Eastman, NEHGS assistant executive director for technology, author of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

    Learn how to use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and the U.S. Government's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database to locate hidden, overgrown, and abandoned cemeteries. Find out how to use these tools to also locate grave locations, ancestral homesteads, and more.

    Tips for Searching NEHGS CD-ROMs
    Michael J. Leclerc, NEHGS director of electronic publications

    We will show you how to use the powerful search engine included on all NEHGS CD-ROMs to find extensive amounts of information previously hidden in unindexed records. See how a few simple search techniques can increase your search results dramatically!

    Researching on
    Michael J. Leclerc, NEHGS director of electronic publications has grown to include over nearly eighty million names in over eighteen hundred databases. Discover the depth of material available on this genealogy megasite. All will be revealed in this informative lecture!

    Researching Your Ancestors on the Internet
    Laura G. Prescott, NEHGS membership campaign director

    Learn how to efficiently locate data, images, records, and other important resources on both fee and free websites, and how to judge the quality and reliability of the information you find.

    Researching Online: U.S. and Canadian Military Records on the Internet
    David Allen Lambert, NEHGS microtext and technology library manager

    This lecture will have a dual focus for the attendee. You will be introduced to the best websites for U.S. and Canadian military records and you will gain a working knowledge of the best strategies for searching these records on the Internet.

    The Bill Bordy Auditorium is located at 216 Tremont Street, across the street from the Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts. It is easy to reach by car (with parking garages nearby), subway, or train. Register now to attend this very special event!


    For more information on this seminar or to download a registration form, please visit, email, or phone toll-free 888-286-3447.

    Register Now for the NEHGS Genealogical and Historical Walking Tour of Boston

    Join NEHGS for an informative and entertaining free two-hour tour of historic Boston! The Genealogical and Historical Walking Tour of Boston will take place Wednesday, June 30, at 10 a.m. sharp. Tour participants will meet at the Park Street T station entrance at the corner of Tremont and Park streets. The tour, covering about two miles, will be led by NEHGS collections maintenance assistant and Boston park ranger Deborah Rossi and NEHGS visitor services representative and genealogist Sara Doherty. Advance registration is a must for this tour! The deadline for registration is June 18. Call toll-free 888-286-3447 to register.

    The itinerary includes the following highlights:

    * The Massachusetts State House and the George Fingold Library, the latter of which contains maps, statute books, and over 100,000 government documents.

    * The Congregational Library and Archives - The archives of this library of religious history and literature include 900 archival and manuscript collections, including New England church records.

    * Boston Athenaeum Library - One of the oldest independent libraries in the United States, this institution contains over 500,000 volumes that focus on Boston and New England history and biography.

    * The Old Granary Burial Ground - The final resting place for Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and many other notables.

    * King's Chapel and Burial Ground - The oldest burial ground in Boston.

    * Boston City Hall - A presentation will be given on Boston records in City Hall and the Boston Archives.

    * Faneuil Hall - Historic marketplace and meeting hall since 1742.

    * The Old State House/Bostonian Society - The Old State House, site of the Boston Massacre, is the oldest surviving public building in Boston, built in 1713. The Bostonian Society is home to thousands of items representing the material culture and history of Boston.

    * Old South Meeting House - Built in 1729, this was the starting point for the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

    An Introduction to at the NEHGS Library

    June 9, 6 p.m.

    Learn how to use the NEHGS website to advance your research! In this free class, NEHGS content delivery specialist Darrin McGlinn will offer a step-by-step live demonstration of the Society's website, This class gives participants the opportunity to explore the site in depth, ask questions, and become more comfortable using a constantly growing number of online databases and research tools.

    This program will be held on Wednesday, June 9, at 6 p.m. in the education center at 101 Newbury Street, Boston. Advance registration is not required.

    For more information, please call 617-226-1209 or email

    Upcoming "Genealogy in a Nutshell" Lectures at the NEHGS Library


    The 2004 "Genealogy in a Nutshell" series continues with:

    * "Sequestered Nooks: Genealogical Research in Rare Books" by Christopher Hartman on June 5.

    * "Applying to Lineage Societies" by Christopher Child on June 9 and 12.

    * "Probing Probate Records" by Ruth Wellner on June 23

    All lectures take place at 10 a.m at the NEHGS Library in Boston. Advance registration is not necessary.

    Download a pdf of the June NEHGS Events Calendar by clicking this link -

    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.

    Massachusetts Society of Genealogists Lecture on June 12

    The Middlesex Chapter of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists is presenting a talk by Tom and Brenda Malloy, educators, writers, and officers of the Association for Gravestone Studies. The free lecture, titled "Murder in Massachusetts: It's Written in Stone," will be held Saturday, June 12, at 1:30 p.m., at the Weston Public Library, 87 School Street, Weston, Massachusetts. For more information, call 508-485-3275 or 617-527-1312.

    Coming to Massachusetts? Let the MBTA Plan Your Trip!

    The website of the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) now features an interactive Trip Planner that can be useful when planning a research trip to the Boston area. You can use the Trip Planner to get from the airport to your hotel and then from your hotel to NEHGS. Use it to find the best route to the Massachusetts State Archives or the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics from NEHGS, your hotel, or your home. You can plan visits to cemeteries where your ancestors are buried and the streets where they lived.

    All you need to know to use the Trip Planner is a starting point, a destination, and the date and time you plan to travel. You can choose a specific street address, an intersection, a subway station, a commuter rail station, or landmark. You can also customize your trip by determining how far you want to walk from the stop to your destination and by your "trip preferences" (minimize time, minimize transfers, or minimize walking). If you have any special transportation requirements, just check off the "accessible trip required" option. Your results include the locations of stations or stops (and walking directions to these locations), route or line number of the bus, train, or boat that goes to your destination, fare information, and maps and downloadable schedules in PDF format. Be sure to check the "Transit Update" link on the MBTA homepage to get the most up-to-date information on possible service delays or diversions.

    Just click on the "Trip Planning" link on the MBTA homepage to access the Trip Planner. It has four sections.

    * Trip Planning allows you to create custom itineraries for travel throughout the MBTA service area by bus, subway, commuter rail, or commuter boat.

    * Schedule Information gives schedules of all service provided to a location, for a specific date and time range.

    * Service Around a Location provides information about all MBTA service available at or near a specific location.

    * Closest Stops will help you find the five nearest bus stops or stations to a specific location.

    The site also has an extremely helpful How to Use Guide that provides step-by-step detailed instructions on how to get the most out of this service and how to interpret your results. If you are experiencing problems using the Trip Planner or are confused by the results you are getting, be sure to contact the MBTA Travel Information Center using the telephone numbers provided in the How to Use Guide.

    Please note that the Trip Planner cannot be used to figure out how to get around Boston during the Democratic National Convention (DNC), to be held July 26-29, 2004. The MBTA has a separate guide to provide you with a detailed description of the effect the convention will have on public transportation. Just click on the "DNC Information" link under the "Hot Spots" on the home page. This document is in PDF format.

    You should also note that NEHGS will be closed on Tuesday, July 27, due to the transportation disruptions anticipated in Massachusetts during the Democratic National Convention. The Library will reopen with regular hours on Wednesday, July 28.

    Use the MBTA Trip Planner at

    Careers at NEHGS

    NEHGS is looking for a gregarious individual to serve as our front desk receptionist/marketing assistant, either part or full time. The receptionist is a pivotal front line position, greeting members and patrons, assisting with sales in the Society's small lobby bookshop, processing book and membership sales, and answering telephone and personal inquiries about library and staff services for genealogists.

    For more information about this opportunity, please visit our Careers page at

    Favorite - and Black Sheep - Ancestor Feedback

    Each week we ask the questions "Who is your favorite ancestor? Who is your favorite black sheep ancestor? Why?" If you would like to contribute information on your favorite and/or black sheep ancestor, please send your story in 300 words or less to Rod Moody at Thank you to all past and future contributors!

    Please note that NEHGS does not verify responses.

    My Black Sheep Great Grandmother

    by Janet Sugden Thomas of Westlake Village, California

    My great grandmother was a bigamist - twice. Emma Jeanette Swingle Martwick Kesaler Stern is my favorite black sheep ancestor. "Nettie" is buried near my home in California. She and I are the only people in my line who ever lived in California.

    My grandmother, Nettie's daughter, always told the family that her mother left her husband and five children when Grandmother was a little girl. The story was that she divorced her husband, Frederick Martwick, my great grandfather and married a doctor in California. Further, Nettie was supposedly the child of Norwegian immigrants.

    In reality, Nettie never divorced her first husband and the father of her children. There was no doctor and no California. She went to the next county and in 1902 married Paul Kesaler, a farmer in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Five miserable years later, Nettie divorced Paul and married Michael Stern, a coal miner in Scranton, Pennsylvania, shortly thereafter. I suspect that Nettie got her inheritance from her father who died in 1900 and took off from a bad first marriage.

    How did Nettie get to California? Her oldest sister took her inheritance and bought real estate in Santa Monica at the beach and after Michael Stern died, Nettie joined her sister in paradise. She died there in 1934 and her first husband died in New Jersey in 1931.

    Nettie Swingle was not the child of Norwegian immigrants, but she descends from many colonial Americans - Palatine Germans, New Jersey Quakers, Massachusetts and Connecticut Puritans, the Dutch Patroon of Staten Island, Huguenots, and Scottish Covenanters. All of her ancestors were in America before the Revolution. Finally, this black sheep is descended from Charlemagne. I love researching her genealogy and consider it her gift to me.


    NEHGS Contact Information

    We strongly encourage you to email this newsletter to others who might be interested. To subscribe or view back issues of eNews, please visit

    To view the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, please visit

    To become a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, please visit

    If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about the enewsletter, please contact Rod Moody at

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