Thursday, December 30, 2010

Half-Uncle Alonzo----A Very Interesting Character

Sometimes the most interesting ancestors are those who aren’t in our direct lines, but might be an uncle or an aunt or even an in-law. Although a focused genealogist might stick with the direct ancestry, I find myself drawn to anyone I come across who has a story that is unique in some way. It also helps whenever we have some documentation available, other than just census records every ten years and a rather unique name.

With that in mind I’d like to introduce you to Captain Alonzo Eaton. 

Alonzo Eaton was born in Townsend, Massachusetts on July 30, 1831. Townsend is a small town on the New Hampshire border, incorporated 100 years prior to Alonzo’s birth, although settled 100 years before that as part of Ashby, Lunenburg and Ashburnham.  

He was the third child of Amos and Abigail Sherwin Eaton. Older brother Zimri was born 5 years earlier and another son, also named Alonzo, was born 2 years before our Alonzo,  but died at just a year and a half old. It was common practice at that time to name a child after an older sibling who had passed away. Then, sadly, older brother Zimri would only live until just a few weeks past his 7th birthday, leaving Alonzo without any real memory of his older brother.  

Tragedy struck the young family again when Abigail died at the tender age of  32, having already outlived two of her three small children. Amos was left with his grief and a 3 year old to raise alone. But, out of necessity, if not love, it was only a year later that Amos remarried. Hepsibah Simonds, a local girl, became Alonzo’s stepmother when he was a four year old. Amos and Hepsibah had 5 more children together and Alonzo would be 26 when his youngest brother, Ed’s great grandfather Albert, was born.

Amos, Alonzo’s father was a carpenter by trade in his younger days and Alonzo was a painter. The family moved from Townsend to Lunenburg and then to Fitchburg, all towns nearby experiencing booms brought on by extensions of rail lines and improvements to highways as well as new industries cropping up. They were likely busy tradesmen at that time as the towns they lived in grew and homes and commercial buildings went up all over. When Alonzo’s mother died, Townsend had a population of just 1,500 and within the next 2 decades it would explode to 2,000.  

When Alonzo was 19 he still lived at home with Amos and Hepsibah in nearby Fitchburg.  Just a couple of doors down from the Eatons lived the Willard family. Josiah Willard lived in a household undoubtedly ruled by women. In addition to his wife Mary, his mother Josephine, his sister-in-law Sylvia and nine daughters ranging in age from four to twenty two shared the home. Poor Josiah.

Alonzo had quite the selection, considering four of these sisters were close to his age. It must have taken him a couple of years to decide which one he would choose, but at the age of 21 he married Ellen Willard, Josiah and Mary’s 3rd daughter, also 21.

Alonzo and Ellen started their family there in Massachusetts, having 3 children by the time they were married just six years. In 1859 they moved the family to Ottumwa, Iowa. I don’t know why they moved all that way. It could have been because the Townsend area had grown so rapidly, perhaps Alonzo missed the quiet community of his childhood. If that was the case, Alonzo would be sorely disappointed since the railroad came to Ottumwa in 1859 and its population grew from 1,600 in September of 1859 to over 5,000 by 1870. But my guess, based on what I have learned about him, is that Alonzo went to Iowa knowing full well that the area was about to take off and that it was a good opportunity for him.

And this is where the really interesting part of Alonzo’s life begins. According to an article written in 1905 and published in the Fitchburg Sentinel, after moving to Iowa Alonzo “prospered there and was a leading citizen” until at 30 years old and an able-bodied young man, he found himself in the middle of a country at war with itself.

Alonzo, now the father of 4, entered the Union Army in the spring of 1861 after President Lincoln's second call for troops. He was instrumental in organizing Company K of the 2nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry. When he was elected Captain by the men in his Company, he declined the office knowing his close friend Charles Cloutman from New Hampshire wanted nothing more than to be Captain. So, Alonzo was elected 1st Lieutenant.

In his book Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 1, Guy E Logan writes:

“Second Regiment had all reached Keokuk before the date indicated in the Governor's order. There they were mustered into the service on the 27th and 28th days of May, 1861. The regiment was fortunate in the selection of its first field officers, who soon justified the good judgment shown by Governor Kirkwood in appointing them, by the skill and ability displayed in preparing the regiment for active service in the short time which elapsed before they were ordered to take the field against the enemy. “

Just two weeks later the 2nd Iowa was ordered to proceed to Missouri and take over control of the railroad there. In June of 1861, Company K moved through Missouri and into Tennessee. But in August of 1861, Alonzo being assigned brigade quartermaster, was separated from his comrades as he stayed behind while they continued to march on. Alonzo was saddened by the separation as he would never see most of these friends again. And although his fate seems not to be one of glory, it is nonetheless unique and remarkable.

There is a lot more to Alonzo's story and I don’t want you to lose interest, so I will continue it in next week’s Henrietta post. I hope you’ll come back to find out what it is that makes Alonzo so fascinating for me because I think you will also find him to be a very interesting character. 
To go to part II click on this link.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

In 1843 Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was published,becoming an instant classic.


That year in Aberdeenshire Scotland, little Daniel Waters, my 2nd Great Grandfather who would later emigrate to America, was just 2 years old. Perhaps his father, David the lighthouse keeper and young 20 something dad, was reading it to the older children while his mother rocked Daniel to sleep by the fire.

Absorbed-Public Domain Image

I wonder if  Ed's Eaton Great Great Grandfather Amos, a carpenter, was reading it in his home in Townsend. Maybe throughout the afternoon he glanced out the window from time to time to see if the snow had let up so he could go back out to work. But, as the snow continued and the late afternoon sun began to set, he was probably relieved he could stay in and finish reading the story.

Another of Ed's Great Great Grandfathers,  Heman Crowell, was just 8 years old that year and had lost his father the year before. Maybe his older sister Rhoda read the Dickens story at bedtime to young Heman and his little sister Betsey, helping them forget how much they missed their father while their mother Minerva was in the other room, preparing for Christmas wondering what was she going to do without him.
The Bedtime Story by John Seymour Guy

My Henrietta wasn't yet born when A Christmas Carol was first published, but her mother Susan, my Great Great Great Grandmother would have been a young girl of 12 in Wayland, Massachusetts. Pehaps she was reading it by the lamplight in bed at night, cuddled under the quilts, trying to be brave while she read the really scary parts. After all, it is a ghost story.

Youn Elspeth Reading in Bed by Robert Sevill

My  Great Great Grandfather Marinus Willett, was a teenager in Queens when A Christmas Carol was published. My bet is that he got a good laugh from the whole thing because, after all, his father's name was Ebenezer.
Scrooge by Leech

This Christmas, I am so grateful to all the 'Ghosts' of Christmases Past in my family history who are responsible for my being here. And my wish for you all is that your Christmas Present will be the happiest yet! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where There's a Willett, There's a Way.

When you reach a dead-end in genealogy, it is referred to as a brick wall. The term "dead end" would be okay to use, but it implies there is nowhere else to go. A brick wall, on the other hand, can be scaled, or one can go around it or it can be torn down. So, I think it's an appropriate term for a difficult ancestral search. But, I don't give up easily, and where there's a Willett, there's a way through that wall!

My great grandfather, George Willett, was my brick wall for many years. Because of the way my grandmother Jessie, his daughter, talked about him with such adoration and love, he was one of the first ancestors I went after and did so with great curiosity.

Gram and me 1953
Even in her 70s and 80s Gram would often wipe away a tear as she spoke of her father. She described him as very tall and reminisced about the shiny shield and buttons on his uniform, and how handsome he looked wearing it. All my life she corrected us whenever we used the term "cop". Policemen were to be treated with respect and 'police officer' was the term we were told to use. She portrayed the Willetts as a proud, respectable and respectful people. She had a happy childhood in a large family at the turn of the 20th century in New York City, the daughter of a police officer. But she lost him much too early to illness when she was just a girl.


 I started my genealogy research after my grandmother died, which was a big mistake and something I regret. But, I had listened closely to her stories, or so I had thought.

I found George in the 1900 and 1910 census records, married to Josephine Patton and saw their family grow during that 10 year span from 4 children to 7. I wasn't able to find a death record, nor a birth record for George so I only had a birth year of 1859 as shown below. And I hadn't found his parents anywhere.

1900 Census

1910 Census
However, I did have anther bit of information from a photo copy of a page from my Uncle Alan's baby book. It wasn't exactly complete, but it gave us some clues, the most relevant for this hunt was that George's father and mother were Marinus Willett and  ? Fredenburg.

Now, Colonel Marinus Willett is a very well-known name in New York history. He was a Revolutionary War hero and later sheriff and a one-term Mayor of New York. Col. Marinus was the great grandson of Thomas Willett, New York's first Mayor and Plymouth Colony resident and although Gram had told us that the first Mayor was in our ancestry, I wasn't sure if that was family myth or real history, but this wasn't our Marinus because he would have been 117 when George was born.
Col Marinus Willett, by Ralph Earl c. 1791

And, I suppose because he was such an heroic figure, there were numerous men named Marinus Willett scattered throughout the New York census documents I found. I just wasn't able to find any of them with a son named George.

But, I did know George was a policeman so in 2004 I wrote to the New York City Police Museum. I received a disappointing form letter reply from the curator with a check mark on the block showing "No information on file". That was that.

But I didn't give up and on one more trip to the NEGHS library in Boston, my friend Rick helped me find a Marinus Willett, living in Brooklyn, a wife named Hester and several children, including George age 13 in 1870. 

I had a feeling when I saw that record that this was really him. Now I knew from the 1900 census George was born in 1859 and this George would have been born in 1857, but it was close enough for government work in the 19th century. As I looked closer at that census record, I noticed that Marinus was a plumber. I began to remember a story my grandmother had told me about a plumber in the family.

The story was that as a young boy, this fellow left home to become a plumber's apprentice in New York City. The master plumber in those days, was a highly respected figure who wore a suit and tie to work. The apprentice, on the other hand, would wear overalls or work clothes and was required to walk on the opposite side of the street, carrying the master plumber's tools.

I remember her telling me that story when I married my first husband, also a plumber. However, I had always thought she had been talking about my grandfather's side of the family. It was all coming together. Had I listened a little closer, I would have known it had been her father's father's story. And it was indeed our Marinus and our George in 1870. From that small bit of information, I was able to find out more about our Marinus, and therefore our George. I will tell more about Marinus at another time, and there is quite a bit more to tell.

In 2006, out of the blue, I received  another envelope from the curator of the New York City Police Museum. In the envelope was that same form letter but this time the block checked was "Enclosed please find the information you requested."  And there was my great grandfather's record as a Patrolman. I can only assume that the curator, like me, just hated the brick wall and only saw it as a challenge, going further and not giving up until he found something.  

What a wonderful surprise it was to receive that information, although it wasn't very complete, it gave me valuable facts. The more I do research for my family history, the more I realize how much I owe to the kindness of strangers, like Michael C. Cronin, the museum curator. And distant cousins and relations whom I have met along the way.

Putting together the information I already had with that of Officer Willett's record, I have pieced together some of his life, a biography I will continue to work on as time goes on and more details are uncovered.

George was born in New York, possibly Brooklyn, on July 19, 1859. His mother was Hester Van Fredenburg (1837- abt 1876) and his father Marinus Willett (1831-1900). George was the eldest of at least four children and in his teens when his mother died. His stepmother, Eliza Chittendon, took Hester's place at the table and George moved out of the family home, spending a few years as a bachelor before he married Josephine Patton about 1889, another native New Yorker.

George spent some time as a truck driver , a teamster, after moving out on his own. He apparently never felt the urge to become a plumber like his younger brother, Frank, who went into the business with their father. George and Josephine had 7 children in a 17 year period, the third being my grandmother Jessie. They lost their oldest daughter, Eliza as a baby.

About the same time George married Josephine, he began his one month-long probationary period in 1889 as a New York City Policeman. At the time he joined the department, the NYPD had a history of corruption from Tammany Hall fall-out and within five years of his first day on the job, a commission was formed to investigate illegal activities in the department. It must have been a pretty intense time for everyone involved with the department as allegations of bribery, ballot-box stuffing, nepotism and cronyism and all sorts of things were flying around. Over the next few years, these investigations led to reform which cleaned up much of the corruption, establishing a civil service structure. Teddy Roosevelt became Police Commissioner for a short stint while George was on the force. I wonder if he ever saw him in the course of his work?

George's record seems to be that of an average patrolman, sometimes pulling clerical duty, sometimes appearing in court and even assigned to  a "Special Court Squad" in 1910 and I wonder what that was all about.  In 1914 he was 'Station House Attendant' for precinct 17, which I assume meant he was on the desk. I can almost see my grandmother and her sisters visiting him at the station house some afternoon, then skipping down the 'sidewalks of New York' on their way home to their mom. His last assignment, on Patrol in precinct 145, was in September of 1916. 

Unknown NY policeman 1901(
George died on November 27, 1916 at his home at 67 East 85th St in Manhattan. He was 57 years old and left behind a wife and 7 children. My grandmother was a teenager and she'd lost her hero, that tall handsome man who wore shield number 2943 for the City of New York.

With the continued assistance of strangers and historians and cousins and friends, I hope to fill in the blanks of George Willett's life. I'd like to know more about his childhood and I'd love to someday have a picture of him. My curiosity about him hasn't been curbed at all, really. The more I find the more I want to know. So, stay tuned because a trip to NYC might just lead to the next chapter.


When George died, his wife Josephine was left with 6 daughters and a son, the youngest at just 9. But, she kept them together, teaching them service to others and respect and independence. "We were 8 at the table" my grandmother often said when she'd start talking about life after her father had died. She told us how she and her sisters spent much of their spare time at the Settlement House in the neighborhood, and what fun they had there. The stories I heard of the fun and cooperation of this big family, and never hearing of difficulties among them, reminded me of the Alcott Family in Little Women, each girl special with a unique personality and all of them overcame hardships together.

In my life I knew and adored 4 of those sisters, my great aunts. There was Millie (Amelia), the older sister, the younger twins Lottie (Charlotte) and Edith (Honey) and of course my grandmother Jessie, who had no nickname that I know of. I never met the oldest sisters Dodie(Josephine ) and Neely (Cornelia) nor the baby of the family Billy (William).

But as luck would have it, just recently I have connected via the Internet and to Dodie's granddaughter, who remembers the Willett sisters well and it will be so much fun to hear her stories some time soon. These wonderful women from New York, and their baby brother, were George's legacy and I was blessed to have had some of them in my life.
Back Row, Gram, her sister Lottie (Charlotte) my aunt Edith
In front, my dad. about 1936
When I get the chance to talk to Dodie's granddaughter and ask my dad and uncle for more information, one day I hope to write short biographies on my grandmother and her sisters to share with you. That could be a fun read!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Am Well and Having a Good Time

Ed's Grandfather Crowell had the best name: Uriah Benedict Fisk Crowell. Is that not wonderfully New England?

Uriah was born on Cape Cod in 1892. His mother was Maggie Fisk, the adopted daughter of Uriah Benedict Fisk, a greatly respected retired sea captain who was a philanthropist and an astute businessman, well known and successful. Uriah's father, Clarence was a nurse, an unusual profession for a man in present day, to say nothing of a century ago. Clarence was the son of several generations of sea captains and fishermen, but apparently decided not to go into the family business. We have a few pictures of Uriah and some clippings from newspapers I found on line that tell us a little something about Uriah who died in 1977.

From his WWI draft documents we learn that he is tall, slender and has blue eyes brown hair and no disabilities. From the rakish smile on his face, I can tell he's Ed's grandfather.

Uriah grew up on Cape Cod, his family going back as far back as the first settlers of the town of Yarmouth, in 1638, after stopping first in Charlestown after leaving England. In a book entitled John Crowe and His Descendants, published in 1903, the author talks about the Crowe family in Kent and in Wales, from which Ed's immigrant ancestors came. Crowe became Crowell sometime after they arrived in Charlestown. The author talks about how noble the original family was, although he isn't altogether certain he has the right lineage. He then adds this:

In a republican community it is of little importance to a man whether his ancestor who died three centuries ago was of noble or ignoble blood, because he is mainly indebted to himself for the character he sustains in life, and he may say with the poet,

“Go if your ancient but ignoble blood
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood;
Go, and pretend your family is young,
Now own your fathers have been fools so long.”1

I am not sure who the poet is who is quoted here, but I find it kind of ironic that the author chose it because he writes about Sir Sackville Crow of  Llanherne (don't you love that name, too?) had at one time been a Baronet. And, in fact, if nobility is unimportant to those of us living in a republic, why is it then that the first thing people wonder about when they are researching their familiesis if there is royalty in their ancestry? The second thing they usually wonder about is whether there are any horse thieves in the tree. Personally, I find the horse thieves much more interesting.

But Uriah was neither a horse thief nor a Baronet, from what we know. He was just an ordinary fellow from a small Cape Cod town where life could be hard sometimes but where he was surrounded by family and friends he'd known all his life. I found a small paragraph about his graduation from High school in 1910. Here is a complete list of the graduating class:

Gladys L. Darling
Violet G. Wilson
Viola F. Eldridge
Uriah B. F. Crowell

He was just a guy whose parents really never went too far from the Cape, nor did he, with one exception. After graduating and spending some time as a fisherman, World War I broke out, and Uriah went into the army, training at Fort Devens in Ayer, MA sometime in the spring of 1917. An article in the Hyannis Patriot, December 24, 1917 tells us that Uriah had returned to Devens after being "ill at home since Thanksgiving."

Several other articles over the next few months mention that he was visiting his parents, along with 3 other local boys over a weekend, and another account places him on the Army's "Honor Role".

Just like any 20 something kid, I am sure he was told by his mother or his father that his Grandmother missed him and worried about him. A postcard sent to Uriah's grandmother, Mary Chapman Crowell, is one of Ed's family treasures.

"Am well and having a good time. Uriah"
As far as I can tell, being at Devens, Uriah would have been part of the 76th Division. I know he was assigned to Co. H 302d Infantry. The 76th was the first division at Devens and the first one formed to train civilians in the draft for the war. Almost all of the men from the 76th were from New England, although there were also a few from New York. Some units went to France, as did Uriah's, in the summer of 1918. The 76th was broken up soon after it arrived over there and it was reorganized as a "depot division" training and supplying men to replace combat troops at the front. 2

Just now as I was researching these infantry division numbers and the history behind them for today's blog I was thinking how my Grandfather Leslie Hall, who lived in New York, had been in WWI and had gone to France as well, probably just about the same time.

Leslie C Hall as a teenager, shortly before going into WWI
Digging a little deeper, and having my Grandfather's discharge papers to refer to, I find that he was in the 151st Depot Brigade. The 151st Depot Brigade was comprised of several companies, including Uriah's 302nd. They were both in France at the same time in the same Brigade. I know there were thousands upon thousands there, but discovering that still gave me goosebumps.

I have no knowledge of Uriah's military achievements. Ed knows more, I am sure, and perhaps he'll add a comment for us here. But learning just a little about both of our Grandfathers' roles in the war as well as so many others in our families' histories who served our country during every war since the American Revolution makes me realize they are all heros just for going. And they are, in more ways than one, responsible for the lives we live today.

Uriah in France, 1918
Uriah did come home after the war. And we find him again at home on Cape Cod in 1920, a carpenter, living with his folks, Maggie and Clarence, the nurse, and his 80 year old Grandmother Mary. I know she was so happy, relieved and proud to have him back home where he belonged. 

1John Crowe and His Descendants, Levi Crowell Link:

Friday, December 3, 2010

When the Lights Come Out Along the Shores of Scotland

You know, one of the wonderful things about researching your family's history is the way you can end up going down paths to interesting places and historical events in which you never had any interest before. It is as though your ancestors are taking you along with them to show you around. My 3rd Great Grandfather, David Waters, was a lighthouse keeper in Scotland from the 1840s-1880s.
Royal ancestry is usually the first thing we hear from our elders about our history. I am not really sure why since our colonial ancestors wouldn't have been very keen to admit such a thing. But, that is always the bit of information that survives generations, accurate or not. In this case, we were told that we were descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie and were part of Clan Stewart, all coming from Scotland. Well, I haven't found any connection there yet. But I am thoroughly intrigued by my lighthouse keeper GGG grandfather and the lighthouses in which he and his family lived all around Scotland.

Bell Rock
My Uncle Lee told me that our immigrant Daniel Waters'(1841-1919) father was David and that he was a lighthouse keeper at Arbroath, Scotland on the North Sea. 

Google is a genealogist's best friend, and sure enough I found several very good websites about the lighthouse at Arbroath, which is called Bell Rock. And on the one web site it actually listed our ancestor David Waters as the lighthouse keeper from 1855 to 1857. Had there been no web site I would have had a very difficult time confirming that. Scottish census, like the US census, are only taken every 10 years. In Scotland they are taken in the years ending in "1". His time at Bell Rock fell between the two census in 1851 and 1861 and I wouldn't have been able to confirm where he was at that time without this information.

Robert Stevenson
Bell Rock was one of many, many Scottish lighthouses that were all built by Robert Stevenson. Robert Stevenson, his father-in-law, his son, nephews, siblings all were engineers building Scotland's lighthouses for over 150  years. Robert Louis Stevenson was Robert the Engineer's grandson. RLS was a disappointment to his family when he chose not to take his place in the family business, but rather write for a living. It is said that Kidnapped and Treasure Island were both inspired in part by the time he spent in and around lighthouses in his boyhood.

Bell Rock was particularly challenging for Engineer Robert Stevenson. It is literally on a submerged reef much of the time hidden under 12 feet of water. How difficult the conditions must have been when GGGGrampa Waters was the Lighthouse Keeper. He lived at the shore station part of the time, with his wife and six children. When it was his turn to be out there on the rock for 6 weeks at a time, off he'd go, leaving them 11 miles behind on shore. They could see the lighthouse from their home, perhaps just a small speck on the horizon in the sea, or maybe at night each time the beacon swept toward Arbroath they would think of him.

And he could see the shore and the signal tower above where they slept each night. I wonder if they worked out a signal of some kind with a lantern? Or maybe each night at the children's bedtime they would look out toward each other across the North Sea.

Bell Rock Signal Tower and Shore Station
 Every lighthouse keeper in training had to spend 6 weeks on Bell Rock. The resident lighthouse keepers were paid extra for training them. I suppose my idea of a lighthouse keeper was from some Shirley Temple movie, but I thought he would be a gristled, hard drinking old retired sea captain living by himself, seldom leaving his posts and seeing no one but the odd orphaned granddaughter when she had no place else to live.

But, it seems they led respectable family lives at home when it was their turn on shore, going to church and raising their children like everyone else. While on duty in the lighthouse, they were keeping their quarters clean, and tidy, holding church services on Sunday when they were on the "rock" and no liquor was ever allowed out there.
Floor Plan of Signal Tower and Shore Station at Bell Rock where families lived

Here is a link to a list of duties for the lighthouse keepers on Bell Rock from 1823, about 30 years prior to David's service there. It gives you a better idea of who they were and how they lived while on the rock: Click here Orders to Lighthouse Keepers on Bell Rock 1823 (click "back" on your browser to return to my blog after you read them)

Bell Rock is the oldest sea-washed lighthouse in existence. Next year, 2011, they are holding a year-long celebration in Arbroath commemorating it's 200th anniversary. I have already contacted their committee who asked for anyone whose ancestors were in someway connected to Bell Rock to send them an email weighing in as part of the celebration. Many of these lighthouses in Scotland are now B&Bs or restaurants and museums. How fabulous it would be to go for a visit sometime next year. Hmmm....

But in addition to Bell Rock, I found our David (1818-1898) stationed all over Scotland at various lighthouses. I have been reading up on some of them and it was a tough life in some very remote areas. I can't imagine his wife and small children following him around, but they are all listed with him at these addresses so I assume they remained together, as they did in Bell Rock.

In 1851, age 34 he was Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Buchanness Lighthouse in Aberdeen

Buchanness Lighthouse
In 1861, age 44 he was Principal Lighthouse Keeper at Dunrossness, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, southern Shetland

In 1871 David was in Durness, Cape Wrath Lighthouse, that even today takes 3 hours to hike up the "country's highest sea cliff".
Cape Wrath Lighthouse

In 1881 we find David in Kilbride Parish, on the Isle of Arran, County Bute, off the west coast of Scotland at Holy Isle Lighthouse. Today, it's a Buddhist Retreat.

Holy Isle Inner Lighthouse Lamlash Bay Isle of Arran
 And in 1891, 7 years before his death, we find David, an Annuated (pensioner) Lighthouse Keeper, living with his daugher Jane and her husband Nevin Kerr (fabulous name), who is the Principal Lighthouse keeper at Kinnaird Head Lighthouse in Fraserburg, Abedeenshire.

Kinnaird Head Light

Later that year, Nevin and Jane, David's daughter returned to the place of her childhood and until his retirement in 1901, her husband Nevin served as Principal Lighthouse Keeper of Bell Rock.

The Bell Rock Lighthouse by JMW Turner

"There is scarce a deep sea light from the Isle of Man to North Berwick, but one of my blood designed it.
The Bell Rock stands monument for my grandfather;
the Skerry Vhor for my uncle Alan;
and when the lights come out along the shores of Scotland,
I am proud to think that they burn more brightly for the genius of my father."
Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Joseph, Mary and Joseph!

One of the most frustrating things about researching family history is when, like me, one has very common last names in one's tree. My last name is "Hall" but it may as well be Smith or Jones. And Ed's last name, Eaton, is pretty common up in New England, too. He and I both have multiple Josephs in our trees. And, at the same time our ancestors were naming their kids Joseph so, it seems were every other Hall and Eaton family in the area. We both have Mary's and Alberts and more Josephs.

Joseph, Mary and Joseph! It sure gets confusing!

When you're researching those kinds of surnames with common given names, it feels like a goldstrike when the first name is unusual, like Alonzo, or Zimri. Or at least that's what I thought. Until I find out that there was more than one Zimri Eaton and more than one Alonzo Eaton lving at the same time, in the same generation, in the same geographical location.

Once we found the right Alonzo and Zimri, we found their father was Amos Eaton. And wouldn't you know it, two Amos Eatons were born around 1804 and lived in the Townsend, MA area at the same time. One Amos became a reknowned botanist and is found in numerous articles and publications. That's not our Amos, though. He was much more obscure and harder to locate.
Grave of our Amos Eaton
But we did finally sort things out, find our very own Amos who didn't have any botanical papers published but managed to have two wives, Abigail and Hepsibah, a daughter and 6 sons to continue on the family name.

So I found it sort of interesting how names came in and out of favor in the past, just as they do today. There are lots of Jessicas and Joshuas but not too many Zeppelins, as my grandson is named. His parents did future geneaologists a great favor!

One thing I recently learned was that in the Scottish tradition, there are naming patterns that should make it easier to trace my Waters ancestors. It was the usual tradition to name the first boy after the paternal grandfather, the second boy after the maternal grandfather and the third born son after the father. The first born girl was named after the maternal grandmother, the second after the paternal grandmother, and the third after the mother. They didn't always stick to that pattern, but as I hunt for my earliest Waters ancestors, I am hoping it will hold true.
Bell Rock, Abroath, Scotland where David was the Principal Lighthouse Keeper in 1850

My earliest Waters ancestor so far is David Waters, born 1820 in Midlothian, Scotland. He was an interesting character who worked as a lighthouse keeper all of his life and soon I will have to dedicate a whole post to what I have learned about him. But his eldest son is Daniel, making me think his father is most likely Daniel as well, although we haven't found him yet. His second son is William, giving me a clue who his wife's father will turn out to be and his third son is also David, indicating that perhaps they did continue the naming pattern.

Daniel, the immigrant's grave Woburn, MA
However, eldest son Daniel Waters  is our immigrant who went on to serve and be wounded in the Civil War. His eldest and only surviving son, and there were many who didn't survive, was also Daniel.  And his son was Daniel. And his son is Daniel. And his son is Daniel, my cousin. So, they broke that pattern when they got to America, but I am eager to begin the search for David, the lighthouse keeper's family, although records get more difficult in the 18th century.

Civil War Pension record for Daniel Waters, served in the 5th NH
On the other hand we do have some very intersting names in our families, although seemingly unique, they weren't necessarily so. Still, they are fun to find. Probably the first odd name I came across, and perhaps the most unique as it turns out, is found in my Sudbury line and the name was Loruhamah Ames Hunt. I found this name in the first online site I ever used. is the website that the Mormons run and a great place to start. But with Loruhamah, I found two listings there and both were spelled differently and one was identified as a female, the other a male.

The name Loruhamah, according to Webster's Online Dicitionary, means "not pitied". It is a biblical name of the first daughter of Hosea and Gomer. The name "was chosen by God to mark his displeasure with the people of Israel for following other gods." Now isn't that a nice thing to name your baby girl?
Fisher Ames and Loruhamah Ames Hunt's Graves Wadsworth Cemetery

Loruhamah, or "L. Ames Hunt " as it says on her grave, was born Loruhamah Dudley in Framingham, MA. She married Fisher Ames, who died at a fairly young age. The Widdow Ames went on to marry John Hunt, and lived on King Philip Road in Sudbury in what was recently a B&B known as the Hunt House. It was also the house that my GG Uncle Howard Goodnow lived in when I was a child.

Uncle Howard's House

Loruhamah was my Henrietta's grandmother. Had they been Scottish, I guess the name of my blog would have been The Hunt for Loruhamah!

Some other favorite names I have found in my tree or in Ed's trees are listed below:

Mercy Bryant
Increase Allen
Patience Newton
Pineal Hall
Phineus Ames
Marinus Willett
Ebenezer Willett
Abner Crowell
Judah Crowell
Experience Higgins
Experience Crowell
Experience Newton
Deliverence Newton
Deliverence O'Kellia
Thankful Crowell
Thankful Higgins
Milo Whitney
Zilpha Crowell
LuLu Budd
Azubah Baker (That is another biblical name -the mother of Jehoshaphet, as in Jumpin' Jehoshaphet).
Masters of the Universe
Heman Crowell -I must mention Heman. (Heee-min) Ed has a number of Heman Crowells in his family tree. Now I remember He-man, Mastersof the Universe action figures from the 80s that my kids collected. They were big musclebound things that I never really warmed up to. But  I hadn't ever heard of Heman as a first name. It, too, is a biblical name meaning  Faithful, Seer, Singer and Wise. I don't know if Ed's Heman liked to sing or if he was faithful and wise.

 What we do know is that Heman was a seaman!
Heman Crowell and Family 1870 Yarmouth MA Census
(Click on image to enlarge)

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

There's Something About Henrietta part 2

When last we were together, dear readers, I left you with the question “What happened to Henrietta?”
In 1880 we find Henrietta Hall in Holland, Orleans County, Vermont, a town bordering Quebec. The population of Holland Township was just over 900 then. There were 8 schools in the district with 365 pupils. There were 10 teachers, 9 women and 1 man. Their salaries totaled $716 and the entire school budget was just over $900. One church, The Methodist Episcopal Church was in the Village of Holland. There was a Congregational Church in West Holland Village and a post office. [1]
Henrietta lived with her husband Albert, her three children, Leslie Joseph, 7, Lillian 9 and Harriet just 4 and 1/2  months. Albert was a dairy farmer and the local Justice of the Peace. He owned 13 cows. He’s listed in the business directory for Holland in 1883-1884. Also living with them was Henrietta’s 70 year old widowed mother-in-law, Mercy Hall.  The Hall family was an old family in Holland. In fact, Mercy’s father in law was one of the founders of the town in the early part of the 19th century, coming from Bartlett, NH with two brothers. And Mercy’s husband, Joseph, my GGGgrandfather, was likely one of the first babies born there.
Not far from Albert and Henrietta, lived Albert’s brothers and Henrietta’s parents, Solomon and Susan Ames Davis and Henrietta’s 4 younger siblings. Solomon Davis was from Quebec, but his wife was born in Sudbury, MA as was Henrietta. Solomon and Susan Ames Davis are both buried in Wadsworth Cemetery near my grandfather and grandmother back in Sudbury, MA. I never knew they were there, or who they really were until I started this journey. And they’ve been there 100 years now.  
As I said earlier, the 1890 census were all destroyed so I was unable to locate Albert in 1890. However, as you may have suspected, when Rick and I were at the library, we found a death record for Henrietta. It said she died on February 25, 1887, at the age of 38, in the Vermont Asylum. The cause of her death: Exhaustion.
I was devastated when I saw that. So young, and with small children at home. And I wonder what must her parents, Solomon and Susan have been feeling, watching their oldest daughter being taken from home, in who knows what kind of a state. Maybe the kids were crying. Or, maybe they were relieved. We don't know what her state of mind was or how she was behaving. I have heard that in those days they would label women insane just because they were artistic. Perhaps Susan and Solomon brought her there, or maybe Albert did. I really don’t know any of that yet. But I'd like to find it all out. 
And so, I have been trying to flesh out this story and learn about the Asylum, which is still there, although it is referred to as the Brattleboro Retreat. I have been in touch with a woman, Marge How, who researched the burial grounds on the Asylum property, but Henrietta is not buried there. Nor is she resting with her parents in Sudbury. Online there is a photo of a burial basket they used for the patients. I wonder if Henrietta was laid to rest in one of those. Click on the link see a photo of the Burial Baskets at Vermont Asylum Marge Howe's web site 
I found a publication online entitled Vermont State Officer’s Report 1887-1888. God bless the bureaucrats, because it’s loaded with information. In this publication it details the numbers in the Asylum and who they were, if they were on the State rolls. It tells how long they have been there and what their status was with regard to the financial accounting. Henrietta was there for about a year and a half and her status was that of “pauper”. The Asylum was paid $1.25 per week by the state toward her treatment which had a total cost of $3.75 per week.

It’s hard to imagine what one would receive as room and board and treatment at those prices back then. In need of a new sewage plant that year, one imagines the stench was probably overpowering, especially in the summer.  The heating systems were to be replaced in the year following the report, so I am sure it was bitterly cold there in the winters in Vermont.
Henrietta, a young woman in her thirties with a large support system of family back in Holland and a husband and 3 children must have been in pretty bad shape to be sent there. Her status as “pauper” seems to be strictly a matter of whether or not her town and family were capable of paying her $3.75 per week. Evidently, 13 cows just weren’t enough.
And how curious to die of ‘exhaustion’. I know I have been exhausted from time to time-especially when I was rearing my kids and holding down a job. Perhaps Albert was a particularly difficult husband? Maybe life on the farm was too much for her. Henrietta wasn’t alone in her suffering. Twelve women and 9 men died that year in the Vermont Asylum of Chronic Exhaustion.   
“Mental derangement unquestionably results in very many cases from the practice of no vices, but from the gradual exhaustion of the nervous energies in the line of injudicious and excessive mental or bodily work, and inattention to the requirement of periodical rest—particularly of regular sleep.”[2]
461 patients lived in the asylum while Henrietta was there and the facility was designed to hold only 300 patients. In an attempt to alleviate some of the overcrowding, they released back to their communities 109 of the more “harmless but incurable” patients. However, taking the places of these more manageable patients were patients who were “more noisy, destructive and unmanageable. It just doesn’t seem to me a good place for someone who is exhausted!
Leslie J, Henrietta's middle child and my Great Grandfather. Age 12 when she went to Brattleboro

Lillian Hall Goodnow, Age 15 when Henrietta went to Brattleboro. Married Howard Goodnow from Sudbury

Hattie (Harriet) Hall Alnor The only photo I have of Hattie is from a 1923 Passport application I found online. She was just 6 when Henrietta was committed.

This genealogy hobby is sometimes surprisingly serendipitous, and maybe it’s more than that. However, there are times when I think other ‘things’ might be at play. This morning while I was writing this, I sent a telepathic message of sorts to Henrietta. I asked her to send me some kind of sign directing me toward her story. And I swear to you that within an hour I received an email from a woman at the State Archives in VT. I had requested a copy of Henrietta’s death record some weeks ago. When Rick and I found the record in Boston some 15 years ago I never made a copy of it and I have been kicking myself all these years. Now, I suppose it’s just coincidence, but this woman who works for the State wrote to me on a Saturday morning, kind of crazy by itself, but she enclosed a copy of that same card. And also a copy of another record as Henrietta’s death was recorded in Brattleboro as well as Barton, VT. The woman at the Secretary of State’s office said that means she probably last lived in Barton. So, now I have to go find out why she was in Barton, if Albert was still in Holland!

As I continue my hunt for Henrietta and everyone else in my tree, I hope to share with you more about the hunt and the treasures I find along the way. I know there is a trip to Vermont in my future. I will be sure to take you all there with me!
Thanks for reading!

[1] (Source:  Gazetteer of Lamoille and Orleans Counties, VT.; 1883-1884, Compiled and Published by Hamilton Child; May 1887, Page  284 - 286)
[2] Vermont State Officers Reports for 1887-8, The Astor Library, Google Books