Saturday, 22 October 2016

Immigrant Ancestors: Thomas Birchard (1595-1657)

My 9th great grandfather, Thomas Birchard, was born in 1595 in Essex, England. Setting sail in September 1635, he arrived at Boston on the Truelove with his wife, Mary Robinson (1597-1655) and six children, including my 8th great grandfather, John Birchard (abt 1628-1702), who was then just seven years old. On the ship manifest, Thomas is described as a labouring man. They came as part of the Great Migration.

Thomas is another of my growing number of ancestors listed in my favourite handy little resource. He was most likely a Puritan.

Thomas and his family spent their first few years in New England in Roxbury, which was annexed to Boston in 1868. It was one of the first few towns of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settled in 1630.

By 1639, the Birchards were in Hartford, Connecticut. Thomas is recognized as one of that city's founders, having settled there before February 1640.

By 1653, the Birchards were living in Edgartown, on Martha's Vineyard, where he became town clerk. In those days, the journey between Hartford and Martha's Vineyard would not have been a straightforward affair. I wonder what prompted Thomas to leave Hartford and to settle on Martha's Vineyard as his family's new home. Was his son, John, already there?

In about 1655, Thomas' wife Mary died. Some sources say this happened in Roxbury, but we know that by 1653, Thomas was on Martha's Vineyard. In any case, Thomas remarried at least once more in Edgartown, and possibly twice.

Now, Martha's Vineyard was the domain of my ancestor Governor Thomas Mayhew, another of my 9th great grandfathers. I wrote about him here. In 1673, a movement began to oust Mayhew, and Thomas was apparently the first to sign a petition to the General Court at Massachusetts Bay. The movement was crushed.

By 1682, Thomas had relocated yet again, to Norwich, Connecticut, where John was then living as one of that town's first proprietors. Thomas died in Norwich

A manuscript published in 1927 claims to have traced the first Birchard all the way back to the Franks in 496. I might take that with a grain of salt.

The never ending story continues....

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Letitia Olive Nelson (1880-1941) lived abroad

You learn so much from reading old newspaper death notices. Often, they fill in blanks that you had for one or more ancestors.

Recently, I asked the Halifax Public Library to check for newspaper death notices for my grandmother's four siblings. Unfortunately, they found a notice for only one of them, but what great information it revealed.

I had been able to find no record of Letitia Olive Nelson after the 1901 census, when she was recorded as living with her parents in Truro, Nova Scotia.

I knew years ago from an aunt and uncle that Letitia had never married, and that she had a strong personality. Okay, I recall the words battle axe being used. This was all that I knew.

The newspaper notice that was in my mail this week reveals that like my grandmother, Letitia was also a registered nurse, and that she had worked in the U.S. for 30 years. Armed with this new information, back I went into research mode. I quickly found city directories and census listings showing that she had lived in Washington DC since soon after the 1901 Canadian census. I also found passenger lists recording her ship passages between Nova Scotia and New York through the years, as she returned for family visits.

According to censuses, Letitia was a nurse "on her own account", perhaps what we call today freelance. Did that mean she was a private nurse?

Clearly, Letitia was an independent woman, something still unusual for that time. What drew her to Washington? Were there relatives? Many Nova Scotians went to Massachusetts or Maine for work. 'Twas ever thus. These were closer to Nova Scotia than Washington. It was unusual to settle in Washington.

What sort of life did Letitia lead? Did she have adventures? Washington must have been an interesting place to be, through the First World War and then the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition. Despite spending 30 years living there, Letitia decided to return to Nova Scotia when she retired at the relatively early age of about 52.

I wonder why Letitia chose to be buried in Wolfville, rather than Truro, with her family. Perhaps this was because she predeceased both her parents, Charlotte and Elias, like her sister Loie (Lophemia) Nelson Purdy (1891-1930).

I always feel a sense of satisfaction with finds like these. It is like finding a missing relative and bringing them back among family.

You'll note that the notice here identifies my grandmother as Mrs Joseph Dougherty. This was because for reasons unknown to me, my grandfather John James Dougherty (1879-1953) had always been called Joe.

The never ending story continues....

Monday, 17 October 2016

Small houses filled with many people

Through the Berwick 900 blog that I discovered a few months ago, I'm learning about how my maternal Young ancestors lived. The Greenes are often mentioned in blog posts there.

My maternal great grandparents and 2nd great grandparents all lived and their families lived at various addresses in the Greenses.

Good people, volunteers working on the Berwick 900 Our Families project, have researched the families living at many specific addresses in the Greenses over three censuses and electoral registers.

The results of this mapping exercise are described in this post, and the compiled information is now on the Friends of Berwick and District Museum and Archives website. I'm now seeing that in 1891, three other families besides my grandmother and her family, which included her paternal grandparents, all lived at 71 Low Greens. Those four families totalled 13 people! Now, I don't think that the houses they lived in were that large, so I can't begin to imagine how they lived.

But I see this repeated in other households. Often families and extended families all lived under one very cramped roof. As offspring grew up, they may or may not have moved into their own quarters. What you see is that the same address remained the home to a family for generations.

I wonder why my grandmother Dorothy Young (1889-1968) was born at 61 Castlegate and not in the Greenses? Two years later, when the 1891 census was done, the family was at 71 Low Greens, living with my 2nd great grandparents, Peter Cowe Young and Elizabeth Diana Patterson. I'll have to find out who else lived at 61 Castlegate to solve that mystery.

I see from maps that the workhouse was very near the Greenses. I'll be exploring this further, now that I know my 2nd great grandfather Henry Knox died there. Were other of my ancestors ever in the workhouse?

The never ending story continues....

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Immigrant Ancestors: Hugh Moore (1738-1820)

My 4th great grandfather on my father's side was Hugh Moore (1738-1820), who, with his four or five siblings and his widowed mother, was among the New England Planters who were grantees in Nova Scotia. Hugh and his family arrived in the Truro area in 1760, and received a land grant there 31 Oct 1765.

Hugh was born to Hugh Moore (abt 1708-bef 1758) and Janet Morrison (abt 1705-aft1760) in about 1738).  It's not clear whether Hugh #4 GGF was born in Ireland or in New England. His father Hugh died in New Hampshire before 1758.

My #4GGF Hugh's parents had emigrated to New England from Ireland, and were among a large group of similar Ulster Scots who settled in the community of Londonderry, New Hampshire before 1744, or perhaps as early as before 1738, which is about when Hugh was born.

Both Hugh #4GGF and his father Hugh #3 both married women named Janet. That's right. Hugh Moore married Janet Logan (abt 1746-1818 in Londonderry, New Hampshire, shortly before they and the rest of the Moores made the journey to Nova Scotia as New England Planters. All of Hugh #4GGF and Janet Logan's eight children were Nova Scotia-born.

I'll be honest. Because both sets of these ancestors were named Hugh and Janet, I've made many errors through my years of research. Whenever I found a new error, I would have to go back and double check my complete research for this family. Aggravating? Why yes, it was and often continues to be.

This story in particular needs yet more research.

The never ending story continues....

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Berwick-upon-Tweed is how old?

Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England, marked its 900th anniversary in 2015. That's right: 900 years. By comparison, Toronto, where I live, was originally settled as the Town of York in 1793, a mere 223 years ago. It's a baby, compared to my maternal grandmother's home.

The town organized a year-long festival to mark the anniversary. Its website describes how the 2015 was selected to commemorate 900 years subce its founding.:
"In 1115 the future King David of Scotland gave a charter to the monks of Selkirk Abbey granting 'a plowgate of land in Berwick, one house   below the Church of St. Lawrence, extending to the Tweed, the one half of a fishery, the seventh part of a mill, and forty shillings out of the yearly revenue of the town.
This was the first official document referring to Berwick as a town...and 1115 marked the beginning of Berwick's golden age as Scotland's richest town and greatest seaport...."
I wish I had known about this anniversary. It would have been so interesting to visit my ancestral town. And just recently, a walking tour of the Greenses, where my Youngs lived for generations, was held in September. How fascinating that would have been.

The whole area is soaked with history. The influence of the Anglo-Saxons, Romans, Vikings and Normans, some of whom lived there over a thousand years ago, are still visible today. In the Middle Ages, Berwick changed hands between England and Scotland at least 13 times through close to 500 years of border wars.

Today, Berwick is just four km from the Scottish border. It's been considered part of England since 1482. But many Scots people and Berwick citizens still today consider it a Scottish town. My grandmother apparently did a not so slow burn when anyone called her an Englishwoman.

My male ancestors in Berwick made their living as primarily fishermen, catching salmon and herring (the latter was the catch for those who lived in the Greenses) before the industrial age and the arrival of trains. Meanwhile, census records reveal that my female ancestors there were sent out as early as age 13 to work as live-in servants.

Berwickshire News 12 Jan 1909
Yes, life was hard for my Berwick ancestors. Just today, I discovered that my 2nd great grandfather died in a workhouse. This astounds me. Why did he not live with one of his children? Why didn't my great grandparents take him in, for example? It's a puzzle.

The never ending story continues....

Monday, 10 October 2016

Robert Alexander Young (1854-1915) of the Greenses in Berwick

My maternal great grandfather Robert Alexander Young, father of my grandmother Dorothy, was a railway man in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland on the border between England and Scotland. He was the second eldest of eight children born to Peter Cowe Young (1828-1903) and Elizabeth Diana Pattison or Patterson or Paterson (1830-1903).

The Young and Pattison names go back centuries in Berwick, as do all the names in my ancestry there. I've traced them back to the mid to late 1600s. They all had large families in each generation, and most stayed in the area. Apart from the name Robert, the families used the same names, generation to generation: Peter, George, Clement, Margaret, Henry.....

Researching these lines, I can say, is a challenge. I continue to explore these I actually have two Pattison lines in Berwick, and they must be related since the same names (Clement, Elizabeth) appear in both lines, about 100 years apart.

Berwick Advertiser, 26 Feb 1915
My great grandfather's generation was the first to stray from the main occupation in Berwick before the industrial age -- fishing. Robert worked for the North British Railway, first as a fireman when he was a young man, and eventually as an engine driver. I know from censuses completed from 1841 going forward that my Young ancestors were all fishers.

Above, you can see the notice that appeared in the local newspaper when Robert died in 1915.
Berwick Advertiser 5 Mar 1915

This is the note of thanks that my great grandmother Isabella Knox Young (1862-1937) placed following his death.

Many branches of the Young family (and there were many branches!) lived on the same streets in central Berwick: Low Greens and High Greens. Sometimes these streets were for simplicity sake, even in census and other official documents, just called the Greenses or the Greens.

The Youngs seem to have moved about from house to house, back and forth, street to street, judging from censuses, as family sizes grew and shrank. You'll see that reflected in these death notices for Robert's mother Elizabeth...

Berwickshire News 7 Apr 1903
Berwickshire News & General Advertiser 15 Dec 1903


...and for his father, Peter Cowe Young. Elizabeth died at one address, while Peter died nine months, one number over, across the street. No doubt Peter was living with other family after Elizabeth died earlier in the year. But isn't it nice how this happened -- family was always cared for and housed, is the impression that I get. There was always family close by.
Berwick Advertiser 21 Jan 1937
Berwick Advertiser 21 Jan 1937

My Youngs were still living in the Greens as late as the 1937 and beyond. After my great grandmother Isabella died in 1937, her son Peter (1904-?) placed this note of thanks and also this death notice in the same edition.

It's definitely a bygone era when family members lived close by each other. It must have been nice though, to be able to run a few doors down to chat with an aunt or see your gran.

The never ending story continues ....

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Our immigrant ancestors -- Thomas Butler (1781-aft 1819)

Much of my 3rd great grandfather Thomas Butler's life after his marriage on 7 Apr 1806 in Massachusetts to Mary Southwick (1788-1865) remains a mystery to this day. He wasn't considered part of the New England planter migration and settlement in Nova Scotia -- that era had passed by the time he migrated to Nova Scotia.

Massachusetts Vital Records
Thomas was born on 20 May 1781 in Falmouth on Cape Cod to Captain John Butler (1751-1794) and Parnel (or Pernal) Hatch (abt 1759-1842). He was the eldest of six children.

There is an unproven story passed down that Captain John served in the British Navy and was lost at sea.

At some point after their 1806 marriage, Thomas and Mary arrived in Nova Scotia, initially in Halifax. Was this Thomas a sailor?

Thomas and Mary had perhaps four sons. It's not known whether the two eldest were born in Massachusetts or Nova Scotia. However the marriage certificate of their third son, my 2nd great grandfather Samuel (1816-1887) to his second wife, Esther Lawson, notes that he was born in Halifax.

Thomas may have died around 1819, but documentation for that is difficult to find. His widow Mary remained in Upper Stewiacke, no doubt to be near her son and grandchildren, until she died in 1865.

I've traced Thomas' ancestry back five generations, to another Thomas Butler (abt 1617-abt 1689), who was born in England, and arrived in New England in about 1637, settling in Sandwich on Cape Cod. We don't know where in England that first Thomas was born.

There is another old Butler family in Massachusetts, this one on Martha's Vineyard, where the first recorded there was a Nicholas Butler (abt 1588-1671). There is no proven link between Nicholas of Martha's Vineyard and Thomas of Cape Cod, but perhaps Nicholas was a nephew? One of  Nicholas' Martha's Vineyard descendants -- yet another Thomas Butler (1654-1732) -- married a 1st cousins 9x removed of mine, Jemima Daggett (abt 1666-?), granddaughter of Governor Thomas Mayhew, who was the second immigrant ancestor that I profiled here.

There are many unsolved mysteries with this immigrant ancestor. Hopefully, there are records yet to be found in both Cape Cod and Nova Scotia that will explain all....eventually.

The never ending story continues....

Friday, 7 October 2016

Who knew notarial records could be so absorbing a read?

This week, released a large cache of Quebec notarial records, and I am lost in research. Even more than normal, that is. People in Quebec have used notaries extensively for many routine legal transactions for centuries, a practise that continues to this day.

In under 90 minutes yesterday, I found the wills of my 2nd great grandparents Hugh Caroline (abt 1798-1879) and Mary Donovan (1807-1892), mortgage and sale transactions involving my 2nd great grandfather Marcus Dougherty (1794-1864) and his son James (1826-1860), for my great grandfather John James Dougherty (1833-1893) who appointed a power of attorney for his then under aged son, my grandfather John James Dougherty (1879-1953) before he died, the removal of that power of attorney in 1897 when he turned 18, and so much more.

Reading these records shines another light on my ancestors' lives.

If you have Quebec ancestors, this helpful post from Genealogy a la Carte will guide you through how to use these fabulous notarial records. The collection has records from 1626 to 1935. If you're outside of Canada, you'll need Ancestry's world deluxe membership to view.

Many more records are yet to be added to the collection. These are still being digitized. You can be sure that I'll be checking this collection regularly.

The never ending story continues....

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Lives lived (but the details are sometimes fuzzy)

My Nova Scotia great grandparents both died after living long lives in the 1940s. Charlotte Butler Nelson (1854-1942) predeceased my great grandfather Elias Nelson (1854-1946). Two confusing and error-riddled funeral notices for Charlotte appeared, one following the other, in the Truro Daily News on 15 May 1942 five days after her death.

Very little fact checking seems to have been done once these two stories were filed. Charlotte's middle name wasn't Moore. This was a family name on Elias' side, not on Charlotte's side. My 2nd great grandmother, Charlotte's mother, was Mary Olive Fisher (abt 1819-1865), not Alice Fisher. Yet, perhaps she was known as Alice, and perhaps that's why my grandmother was called Alice. Certainly, that name wasn't seen in either the Butlers or the Nelsons until my grandmother came along. Since Charlotte lost her mother when she was just ten or 11 years old, this too could account for her mother's name discrepancy.

Charlotte was born on 3 Sep 1853. It was Elias who was born on 17 Aug 1854. Listed as her surviving children are her son Robert and daughters Emma and Alice. Except my grandmother is identified as Mrs Alice Purdy of Great Village, instead of Mrs Alice Dougherty of Montreal.  Two of Charlotte's daughters (my great aunts) Loie Nelson Purdy (1891-1930) and Letitia Nelson (1880-1941) preceded her in death.

Phew! Those are a lot of mistakes. When you lose a loved one, it can be hard enough. But to have the details so thoroughly muddled in print, and then never corrected (I haven't found any correction) definitely would rub salt in the wound for her loved ones.

Still, Charlotte's obituary did give me new information -- that she had moved to Truro to act as housekeeper for her brother, after his wife had passed away in 1873. In time, she and Elias met. They were married in Truro on 15 Feb 1877. When Charlotte died in 1942 , they had been married 65 years. A milestone to be sure.

When Elias died four years later, all of the details were correctly reported in the Truro Daily News (see right). I suppose the newspaper wanted to make sure of the facts in 1946.

As you can see, the causes of Charlotte and Elias' deaths weren't reported. In Charlotte's case, it was bronchial pneumonia and influenza, while the cause of death recorded for Elias was senility.

Charlotte was a Baptist, while Elias was Anglican. Their children were all raised as Baptists.

The never ending story continues....

Sunday, 2 October 2016

On this day: Richard III was born

I have a lifelong interest in the Plantagenet kings that began long before I found that I'm descended from multiple Plantagenets. I've read many books about the individual Plantagenet kings and the family.

Richard III was born on 2 Oct 1452 at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire to Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460) and Lady Cecily Neville (1415-1495). He was their second youngest of nine children, and is my 1st cousin 17 times removed. Richard was the last Plantagenet king. I call him my dear cousin Richard of the car park.

Happy birthday to cousin Richard!

Now, Richard III may or may not have been a nice man. I've read many books on that topic. I've seen a couple of productions of Shakespeare's Richard III, including one that was set in Nazi Germany (quite over the top), as if to further drive the point home that he was not a nice man.

Did he kill his young nephews in the Tower of London, personally? Did he order their murders? Also a much debated topic. Did he have a more than an uncle-ly relationship with his niece, Elizabeth of York (1466-1503) who subsequently became the consort of Henry Tudor (1457-1509)? That also has been debated in many books.

I can't begin to set out all of the pros and cons for Richard being a nice man here. I'd like the think that he was, er, misunderstood.

In 2009, while browsing a Charing Cross bookstore when last in London, I came across a book that I'd been wanting to read. It is the ultimate coffee table book: Derek Wilson's The Plantangenets -- the Kings that Made Britain. But it weighed a ton, and my suitcase was already going to be perilously close to exceeding the allowable weight, so I had to leave it there. A few months later in Toronto, I was thrilled to find the same book on sale, and so I bought it, because it was meant to be. I can open it to any page, and be instantly engrossed in a story about one of my ancestors.

When Richard III died in battle at Bosworth on 22 Aug 1485 ending the Wars of the Roses, Henry Tudor ascended the throne to rule as Henry VII. Here's a great BBC History Extra post about Bosworth.

The never ending story continues....

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Our immigrant ancestors -- Hugh Calkins (abt 1603-1690)

Immigrant Ancestors listing
My 9th great grandfather Hugh Calkins arrived with his family in New England in 1638 as part of the Welsh Company, a group led by a minister, which sailed from Wales, but whose members may not all have been Welsh, seeking religious freedom. The minister may or may not have been ejected from his position in Britain, which may have been the catalyst for him leading a group of about 50 families to New England.

Hugh is one of dozens of my immigrant ancestors listed in my favourite little reference book. As noted there, Hugh was one of the founders of Gloucester, Massachusetts. He and his wife Ann (last name unknown) had at least nine children, the youngest of whom were born in New England. Through his children, he has many descendants across North America today.

William Cutter writes in his 1910 book, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts, "Hugh Calkins was a radical, in religion a non-conformist, and living in the troublous times of Charles, the First, soon became satisfied that there were safer countries than England and Wales—for men who wished to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. Accordingly, he with his wife, Ann, and John, their son, then four years old, joined a body of emigrants called the 'Welch Company,' and with their pastor, Rev. Richard Blinman, embarked and came to America, about 1638 or 1640.” Does this mean he was a Puritan? I don't know. 

Hugh was born in Cheshire, the English county that borders on Wales, and was christened on 3 Apr 1603 in Waverton, Cheshire, England. We know from his christening record that his father's name was Rowland. 

His son, my 8th great grandfather John Calkins (1634-1703), was one of the founders of Norwich, Connecticut in 1659. His name, together with the other town founders, is listed on a monument in Founders Cemetery there.

At some point, the "s" was dropped in the family name. Hugh's great grandson (and my 6th great grandfather), Jeremiah Calkin (1705-aft 1770) migrated from New England to Nova Scotia as a New England Planter as a widower, with his family in about 1760. Jeremiah had been married to Rachel Janes (1700-bef 1760) in Connecticut in 1725, and they had at least five children.

Jeremiah's house still stands today in Kings, Nova Scotia. Jeremiah's daughter (and my 5th great grandmother), Lucy, migrated to Nova Scotia separately with her husband Jonathan Godfrey, as I noted here.

The more you research, the more you know. Early on, I was thrilled to discover Hugh Calkins because, based on what I initially read, I thought that I had Welsh ancestry. Sigh. But the more I researched I learned that he was an Englishman.

The never ending story continues....