In Massachusetts we are celebrating Patriots’ Day today.  It is a holiday celebrating the battles of Lexington and Concord which took place on April 19 in 1775.  So I have been thinking about my patriot ancestors and decided to write about the first one I knew about:  Oliver Snow.

Oliver was born in March 1748 by the Julian calendar or 1749 by  the Gregorian.  Since England and her colonies were still using the Julian calendar for many events, up to 1752, his birth is often given as 1748/49.  He was the first-born of Oliver and Elizabeth Phillips Snow, who lived in Ashford, Connecticut.  His father (Oliver), grandfather (Samuel), and great-grandfather (known as Lieutenant Samuel) had been in Ashford from about 1725, although the family had deep roots in Woburn, Massachusetts Bay Colony..   Lieutenant Samuel and his son Samuel first bought land in Ashford in 1724 and moved their families there.

I have written some before about Oliver (here) after a road trip with my sister to Becket, Massachusetts.  Oliver migrated north and west as a young man to Becket, Massachusetts Bay.  He married Rebecca Wadsworth on July 4, 1771 there, at age 22.  In April 1777 he and his brother Asa enlisted as privates in Capt. Peter Porter’s Company, Col. Benjamin Simonds (Berkshire Co.) regiment serving for 25 days and being discharged in May 1777.  In July he again enlisted, this time in Capt. Porter’s Co., Col. John Brown’s (Berkshire Co.) regiment and served for 7 days. 1  Oliver was 28 years old and the father of 2 when he enlisted.

Over their marriage, Oliver and Rebecca had 6 children together in 13 years.  Rebecca died ten days after the birth of her namesake daughter, in May 1784.  Although I have looked, I have not found a grave site for her, or a headstone, and there may not be a stone.  Soon after her death Oliver married Roxylane Taylor; he had 6 children under the age of 9 and needed a mother for them.  I have not yet found a marriage record for them.  He and Roxylane moved from Becket to Tyringham about 1797 based on the birth of their last two children in Tyringham in 1798 (twins Alvirus and Lucina).  They lived in Tyringham for a number of years.

In the early 1800s Oliver’s oldest children started moving West.  Oliver’s oldest son, also Oliver, moved to Mantua, Ohio which was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.  In the fall of 1806, Franklin and his wife Lydia (my ancestors) followed.  Several of the others followed a bit later and reportedly in 1822 Oliver and Roxylane too followed.  Oliver bought land in Auburn Corners, Geauga, Ohio and at about age 73 built a house and settled in.  There he and Roxylane lived out the rest of their lives.  She died in 1836 and he died in 1841.  Both are buried in the Shadyside Cemetery and can be found on here.    Since they were born and died before photography was available, these are the only pictures I know of that represent them.



Denman, Bricena - 1922-1923

I’ve written in the past about my paternal grandmother, Carrie Boothby, and about my maternal grandfather, Lyle Denman.  So now I want to write a little about my maternal granmother, Bricena Snow.  This picture shows how she looked as a young mother.

Unlike Carrie, I knew my Grandma Cena.  There were visits (mostly they came to visit us) and cards and letters and presents.  Grandma was a consummate homemaker.  She cooked and baked and canned and put up food from their garden.  She sewed; a lot.  She made all of her own clothing for most of her life and all of my mother’s until Mom left as a married woman.  She taught my mother to sew, and Mom passed that on to both me and my sister (and to my brothers to a lesser extent).

From the time I was very young (and I’m sure before I was old enough to remember) she made clothing for me and my sister.  There were dresses and coats, often meant for Christmas or for Easter.  And we grew up with lots of her recipes, or those she had inherited and used and then passed on to my mother.  The sugar cookies we cut out at Christmas were her recipe, as were the pinwheel cookies.  And when we just wanted to cut out round cookies we used the cookie cutter that Grandpa Lyle had made in a shop class.

Bricena was born in Elyria, Ohio almost nine years after her older brother Frank.  Her father, Clemon Hastings Snow or C.H. as he was commonly known, was a farmer and civil engineer/surveyor and the family lived in Elyria from the time Bricena was born.  From at least the time of the 1900 census on, the family lived in a house they owned on Cleveland Street.  She was schooled there and graduated from high school in 1909.  By that time her brother was married and pursuing his own education in Montana,

By the time she graduated, Bricena’s mother was ailing and in need of extra help, so she stayed home to take care of her parents.  I’m not sure whether she had any desire to go on with her education, but she didn’t.  I suspect that she did not expect to go on with any higher education.

As a young woman, in high school and especially before her mother became very sick, Bricena must have had various social activities but I have no knowledge of what they were.  The family belonged to the M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Church in town, and C.H. was very active civically.  My imagination says that she went on walks and rides and picnics, and to various church events (sort of like Meet Me in St. Louis).  In those years Elyria was a small town with a population between 5000 and 10000.  There were parks and recreational areas as well as churches and a variety of social and civic groups.

Lyle&CenaI know she went to dances or parties, since that was how she and my grandfather, Lyle Denman, met.  He described that in 1914-15, as a college student, he would go home to parties or dances and take his cousin Mildred.  Mildred was a friend of Bricena’s and she was invited to some of these dances  and that is how my grandparents originally met.  At the time Bricena was known to be engaged to someone else.  However, by the summer/fall of 1916 her engagement had been broken off and Lyle started to call on her.  They became engaged in May of 1917, just before Lyle registered for the World War I draft, and they were married the next April.  Bricena had declared that she wanted to be married before Lyle went into the military so she cuold come visit him in whatever camp he was in.

As a family, Lyle and Cena lived almost exclusively in Ohio moving around the state with various jobs.  In retirement they moved to southern Texas to be closer to their son and his family.  Bricena died 2/14/1971 in San Antonio.

I was happily listening to a Genealogy Guys podcast as I drove to work the other day, and my attention was particularly caught by an email they read and discussed briefly toward the end. The email was from a guy who had emailed them before about how to get copies of some family information he had discovered was in a library. He was living too far away to make going to the library feasible and was stuck. George and Drew (who are big library supporters) had suggested that their correspondent contact the librarian and ask some questions about exactly what the library held and how to get copies. The current email reported a big success. This reminded me that I have myself found valuable family information in libraries (that I would not have thought to look in), and the combination led me to decide to post today about some of the places I have learned to explore for aspects of family history that are not the traditional places.

First, I learned from my professional office partner years ago that emailing or calling people who might have information you want often works very well. Now, maybe you don’t need to be told this. Maybe it is really easy for you to pick up the phone and call someone to ask for help/a favor/information that is their area of expertise. This is something that is very difficult for me to do, and so wasn’t something I automatically thought of when I had a question. The widespread use of email has helped, although I have also learned to make those phone calls if I really want something.

So where have I found family history information or documents? My list includes: College/university archives and Special Collections; the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library; eBay alerts; various Town Halls.

One of the first places I discovered was various college and university archives as I began to track down the education of different family members. I was trying to trace my mother-in-law’s education and she wasn’t alive to ask.

U.B. 1930

So I started emailing the three universities she had reportedly graduated from. In my experience, the school’s archivist (or someone in that office) is almost always willing to direct you to the right person to get student transcripts from (assuming that the archives doesn’t hold them, which they sometimes do). You can also get copies of schedules for the time period (when classes started, when breaks were, when graduations happened, etc). Sometimes you strike it rich and there are yearbooks or class pictures which you can get copies from. I got a first year of law school picture for my father-in-law that way. I now also have a copy of my Grandpa Lyle’s transcript from his one year of college in Ohio. (I’m still searching for my mother-in-law’s education beyond her college graduation. She attended a Master’s program at the University of Chicago for parts of two years but left without graduating.)

At college or university websites it also can pay off to explore the Special Collections catalog. I found a whole collection for the Sweet family that included an ancestral tree and

Sweet ancestral tablet page

a number of photographs of my family members. I have to admit that I didn’t find this one by browsing their catalog, but was pointed at it by someone else referring to it – I think in an online family tree. I also found a collection that has pictures of the family of Judy’s favorite, the Davies mansion, in the Yale library collections. Judy and I plan to go together to see this collection one of these days. Finding aids for the collections, when they are available, tell you more clearly what is in a collection (as my sister-in-law the librarian and archivist would tell you).

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center deserves special mention for several resources it has online. Also for the wonderful responsiveness of its librarians/reference workers. The obituary collection it maintains is now also available on, but I prefer to go to the original site (the horse’s mouth as it were). If you want to order a copy of anything you find, you have to go to the site to order it anyway. While the strength of the resource is finding Ohio people, there are sometimes people from other places included. For example, my grandfather-in-law was found there because his death was an accident involving a car and a train and it was reported in the local newspaper in the Indiana county just across the state line from Ohio. Also sometimes people who either themselves were from Ohio but didn’t die there or whose parents were get included. Besides obituaries there are other papers and references to biographical sketches etc. in the same database which is searchable by last name. I got information about several of my Snow and Denman line, as well as Shelton just recently. And I scored early by finding a whole folder of letters written by a cousin who was doing genealogy in the days when you had to write letters. She corresponded with one of the Hayes librarians and told him about what she was trying to find for several different family lines.

EBay alerts is something I actually have written about before, at least in passing. That was how I found the collection of Shelton pictures that I acquired. I first learned about doing this from Lisa Louise Cooke’s podcasts, and I try to keep several active. You do a search for something on eBay, like the place your relatives came from for example and then save it with instructions to email you when there is anything new. You have to sign up for an eBay account, which is free, in order to save your searches. Right now, I have 3 active searches, for Wakeman Ohio, Clermont county Ohio, Ohio Military Institute. I get hits for Wakeman fairly often, and little for the other two. I’m still hoping for a year book for my father’s senior year at the Ohio Military Institute.

Last, but not least: whenever you have to be in a Town Hall for genealogy information ask about local books or booklets. I bought a booklet done for the bicentennial of Neversink Township years ago, and it has all sorts of bonuses for me. Including an image (unfortunately not very clear at all) of the original deed to William Denman for the land he settled the family on originally. Also a transcript of a letter about those original Denmans, which described their living circumstances as seen by a visitor in 1797 when they were still living in a log lean-to. In another case I learned of a book about the town (Ashford Connecticut) that I was able to purchase. It has a history of the town from its beginnings, various pictures and lists of various groups (like early selectmen, etc.). This one not only includes a couple of my relatives, but also helps me see the context of their lives in that place and time.

I couldn’t resist this title. The remaining surname of my great grandparents that I haven’t yet posted about is Sweet. Imagine: I have Sweet and Salt and Snow and Minor and Coffin as last names, along with Boothby, Earhart, and Denman. Often not easy to search in various sites.

Up to a few years ago, I had very little information about my Sweet line. I knew my great grandmother (my maternal grandmother’s mother) was a Sweet. My mother told me that. From the Snow manuscript written by my grandmother’s brother, I had a little information about her and some dates. No sources. Some of it, he knew from his own knowledge and some of it was probably from his mother (who was Mary M. Sweet).

Five years ago I found out about a collection of papers, the Lillian Sweet Allen papers, at the Syracuse University Library in the Special Collections Research Center. I requested more information and was excited to hear that there was information about my family lines. After a little delay for the library to retrieve the papers and have a look to see what was in them, I was even more excited to hear that there were photographs of my direct ancestor and his siblings, and an ancestral tablet. I immediately sent off the proper request for duplication form and waited impatiently. It also turned out that they could scan the photographs and send them on a CD. So I requested that be done too.

I wish I could remember how I first discovered this special collection. I suspect it was referenced as a source of some piece of information and that lead me to go looking for it. I was surprised to discover it in the Syracuse University Library, since I didn’t (and don’t) know of any family connect with the University.

Lillian Sweet (Towner) Allen (1860-1927) was born in Iowa and lived and died in California. She was a genealogist and something of a historian. She wrote letters to everyone of a family name of interest, looking for relatives and family history. She got the local post masters (I think) to give her names and addresses of everyone with a family name in the area. (This of course, was long before the Internet and even telephones were not universal. Obviously the privacy issues were also different.)

Her papers, which included a number of letters back to her, were donated to the Library in 1963. I assume that they went to a relative when she died (she had two sons) and then were donated by that person or maybe when that person died. The Special Collections person I contacted said there is no information beyond the date they were accessioned. I still don’t know how or why Syracuse was chosen, although the Sweet family had migrated from Rhode Island through upstate New York, living for some time in Herkimer county before moving on to Lorain county, Ohio. So that might have been the connection. This collection and the little in Frank Snow’s manuscript provide almost all of what I know about this family line, so I am in the process of searching for primary sources to support the information.

A more recent acquisition from the same Lillian Sweet Allen papers on a related family (the Bly family line) shows me that there were a number of Sweets in the upstate New York area when she was searching in the mid-1920s. There are a number of letters to her in the Sweet family correspondence and in the Bly family correspondence. This strengthens the likelihood that there was still a New York connection that dictated the donation of these papers to Syracuse University.

So here is what I know so far. My great grandmother, Mary Malvina Sweet was born 16 Jul 1853 in Avon, Ohio according to her son Frank’s manuscript about the Snow family. She was my maternal grandmother’s mother. The 1900 federal census showed the year of her birth as 1852, but her son Frank said 1853. This census also showed her parents as born in Connecticut and New Hampshire, so I suspect either a reporting error or a recording error.

Mary M. Snow death certificate

On the other hand, her death certificate (with information provided by her daughter, my grandmother) reported her birth date as 16 Jul 1852. So her two children seem to have had different years of birth in their memories. Mary Sweet was born to Colvin Sweet (1812-1895) and Bricena Chadwick (1814-1863) in Avon, Ohio. She was the second daughter they named Mary M., the first having been born and died within a month in late 1837.

Mary was not quite 10 years old when her mother died, leaving at least 5 children at home. If you look at the federal censuses, it does not appear that Colvin remarried. It is a fair assumption that the older children must have helped care for the younger. However, I have found an index entryon of a microfilm that shows a Calvin Sweet marrying a Mrs. Mary Johnson in 1865 in Lorain county, Ohio.

Colvin Sweet 1870

This is the right place and time period, so it is possible that he did marry again. However, if this is my Colvin that marriage didn’t last long since in 1870 for the federal census he is shown as living with five children. Unfortunately the 1870 census did not list marital status.

Mary married Clemon Hastings Snow on 24 May 1880 and they had two children: my great uncle Franklin C. Snow, and my grandmother Bricena A. Snow. Mary died 30 Apr 1917 in Elyria, Ohio, having suffered what was probably a stroke two years previously. She had been pretty much bedridden and my grandmother was expected to stay home and care for her. My grandmother did not marry until after her mother’s death, and shortly before her father’s (for whose care she was also responsible).

I just returned from a 2 1/2 day roadtrip, with my sister, to Becket Massachusetts and environs.  This was another of our short trips intended to get my sister out of town and away for a short time, and to get me another short shot at some genealogical research.  This trip turned out to have a number of results as I learned more about the resources that are available in this small town.

Becket was incorporated in 1765 out of Township #4.  My Snow relatives migrated north and west to Becket from Ashford Conneticut in about 1770.  So far I haven’t pinned the date down any closer than that.  I do know that Oliver Snow, my ancestor, married Rebecca Wadsworth in Becket in the summer of 1771.  Since it seems likely that they had known each other for at least a few months, 1770 seems like a reasonable guesstimate of when Oliver got to Becket.  There is no family tale of when or why Oliver moved north.

Oliver is one of my Revolutionary War ancestors.  He served 2  times as a private in Captain Peter Porter’s Company, in 1777.  Oliver and Rebecca lived in Becket until Rebecca died, in 1784.  Oliver remarried pretty quickly, to Roxylena Taylor, and the family moved to Tyringham at some point after the federal census in 1800.  Oliver’s half brother, Amaziah Snow and his family also lived in Tyringham.  Both Oliver and Amaziah were in Tyringham by the time of the 1810 federal census, and Amaziah and his wife Sarah died there and are buried in the Tyringham Cemetery.

In about 1805 or so, Oliver and Rebecca’s oldest son, also named Oliver, moved his wife and children to northern Ohio to a site in the Connecticut Western Reserve.  This is the Snow line that eventually continued west and joined the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Oliver, Junior’s children Lorenzo and Eliza notably).  That’s a post for another time.  Several other of Oliver Senior’s children migrated west to Ohio to the same area in northern Ohio in the early 1800’s.  My direct ancestor, Franklin, was one of these.  By 1822 Oliver (about 73 years old) and his second wife Roxylena,  followed and settled in Auburn Corners in Geauga County.

Having learned a little bit about doing genealogy trips like this one, I went somewhat more prepared than I had been the first time (see this post for my description of that trip).  I had a list of several cemeteries in surrounding towns that listed Snows as buried in them.  I hadn’t listed the Becket cemeteries, thinking we’d naturally see and walk them.  I had two specific goals:  I wanted to see the Snow “Genealogical Records of Inhabitants of the Town of Becket” and I wanted to find the burial site (and hopefully the gravestone) for Oliver’s first wife, Rebecca.  I had been told that the original of the Genealogical Records was in the Becket Athenaeum and to check their hours before I went.  So I did, and also called there to ask about seeing this old document and whether I could take digital pictures.  A very helpful librarian named Zina answered all my questions and offered to get out the other resources she could find in the library on the Snows.

Our first stop (after walking two cemeteries on Sunday afternoon) was at the Becket Town Hall to talk with the Town Clerk.  I hoped for help with the cemetery records and locations, and maybe with land records.  The Town Clerk was very helpful, although he wasn’t able to find a listing for Rebecca Snow in his database of deaths and burials.  He eventually pointed us to the Becket Room in the Town Hall, which is full of the Historical Commission’s pictures, etc.  It also possesses a copy of the Snow Genealogical Records, spiral bound so the 2 volumes open flat.  He made me copies of all of the pages with Snows on them, and greedily I wish I had asked for Wadsworths too.  I had not known that there was a copy of this resource in Town Hall (which was good to know since the hours the Hall is open are longer than the library).  The Clerk also asked others in Town Hall about cemeteries and came back with a report of a family cemetery on private land, somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection of two roads.  We could go looking to see if we could find anything.

The Clerk also told us about the “cattle pen” just up the road, that dated back to the earliest days.  Apparently if your animals

The Town Pound

The Town Pound

were found wandering in town, they would be penned in this central location so you could come find them and nothing would happen to them.  You can see how close to the present-day road this pen is.  According to “An Historic Tour of Becket, Massachusetts”, a small booklet done for the Becket Historical Commission, this Pound dates to 1768.  We spent the rest of that day looking at cemeteries and looking for the family one.

We went the next day to the Athenaeum and were welcomed by Zina and not only a copy of the Genealogical Records but also a number of boxes containing other resources about Snows.  Unfortunately, the original of the Genealogical Records is too fragile for public use any more, so I didn’t get to see it.

Genealogical Records of the Inhabitants of the Town of Becket

Genealogical Records of the Inhabitants of the Town of Becket

But this is a picture I took of part of one page.  You can see how clear and legible Miss Snow’s handwriting was.  (She taught school for 50 years, so it makes sense that she would have had a nice hand.)  Much of the other resources were more recent scrapbooks containing newsclippings which were interesting but hard to take pictures of.  I tried a number of them but getting a sharp focus was not possible with my camera and no tripod (and the plastic encasing the pages).

So the end of this story, so far, is that I haven’t yet found Rebecca Snow’s burial site or stone but I’m not giving up. I hope to get permission to go see the family cemetery, and hope that she might be there. I am also more and more curious about the land that Oliver might have owned. This will require a trip to Pittsfield Massachusetts where the county registry is. In Massachusetts the land records are kept at the county level (sometimes divided into 2 or more different registries depending on size). And while recent records have been digitized and are available online, the old ones haven’t been. I should have known this but didn’t really think about it. I had such wonderful luck in Connecticut with the Town Clerk having the old records that I wishfully thought the same might be true in Massachusetts.

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