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.

I’ve recently had several experiences that remind me how useful it can be to use your email to ask discrete questions about a family line you’re following.  Phone calls work the same way – but calling England doesn’t occur to me as quickly as sending an email does.

The first set of experiences involved English records that I was hoping to find, to provide sources for information I have that isn’t well-documented.  I emailed the Parish Councils of three locations in Kent, England to inquire about records and availability.  In each case I got a quick response acknowledging my questions and telling me what was being done with my request (who it was going to).  In each case I also got a timely response answering my specific question(s).  I was looking for information on my emigrating ancestor (William Denman) who married in England about 5 years before the family emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1790s .  From one source I got a narrative about the wife’s family, most of which was information I did not have.  From one, I got a confirmation of a marriage date for the couple along with the specific Marriage Register information (a number and the names of the witnesses) along with the information that there were no other records for the couple after the marriage (baptisms, deaths) implying that they had moved to another town (the groom was from a neighboring town).  This answer raised a question because the date was 6 months off from the one I had (and had gotten from a family record sheet from the Family History Library).  From the third place a very kind assistant actually went to the local library and looked at a microfilm of the parish registers for the dates I had asked about and told me there were no marriages or christenings but she did find one burial of an infant.  If this infant was born to my ancestor it adds a new child to the family.   This wonderful assistant also gave me information about where all the original records as well as the Bishops Transcripts are held, with contact information (an email address).  Finally she told me that there is an adjoining parish where people from her parish are often buried, so now I have a new lead.  Not bad for what started with three short emails!

In another effort I emailed the minister of the local church, asking about the cemetery behind his church (who maintains it, and who would have the records).  He answered both questions, and followed up by talking with the Town Clerk to get more information.  He recommended that I talk with the Town Clerk directly to ask my specific questions and added that she would put me in touch with the town historian if she didn’t have the information I was seeking.  And the bonus was that he told me about a church history that had been put together which has a picture of 2 women with the family name I’m searching (Snow) and offered to send it to me if I was interested.  Well of course I said “yes, please!”.  It arrived the end of the week,  and I now know more about the area where my relatives lived for a couple of generations before moving further west.

Becket MA churchThis quintessential New England church is the First Congregational Church in Becket Massachusetts.  I think that it was built around 1850 as a replacement for the older church that had originally served this village.  There is a small plaque on the side, from the Becket Historical Commission that is dated 1850.  The cemetery behind the church, the Becket Center Cemetery,  is one of the oldest cemeteries in the village and has a number of Snows (my family), which is why I wanted to visit it.  So on a recent Sunday afternoon I set out toward western Massachusetts, with the goal of my friend’s house as an over-night stopping point.  Judy came up from southern Connecticut, so the three of us could go exploring the next day.  Luckily for me, both of them are interested in rambling through old cemeteries, whether they have family buried there or not – Judy because of her genealogical interest and Ann just because.  We all like reading the old stones.  Ann is also a photographer, and it was a good thing she was there.  Once again I had trouble with my camera’s battery running out in the middle of my picture-taking, even though it started out indicating a full charge.

I did find a number of Snow (and Wadsworth) headstones, some of which I know are relations and others which will require me to do more research.  Very satisfactory outcome!

This cemetery also has the distinction of having the best marker, from a genealogical perspective, that I have yet seen.  When we found it, we all stood in awe as we read the lines that detailed the family line of Origen Augustus Perkins back 5 generations, to the Perkins ancestorOrigen Augustus Perkins headstone who came to this country in 1631.  Read it and weep.

So what is my family connection?  Nearby were two stones, one for Augustus M. Perkins and one for Ruth Susan Snow wife of Augustus M. Perkins.  But I did not know offhand what relation Ruth Susan Snow would be.  I knew she would be a collateral line but didn’t know which one or how far back the connection would be.  And there was no indication of Augustus M’s relationship to Origen.

A little research once I returned home and had time to focus on the question shows that in all likelihood Augustus M. was a son of Origen’s.  Ruth Susan (or Susannah) was likely the daughter of Sylvanus Snow who was a brother of my Samuel Snow.

And I finally learned my lesson:  I immediately went and bought 2 new batteries for my camera.

The middle of the fourth week in June, after school let out, my sister and I headed to the northeastern corner of Connecticut on a short vacation and genealogy trip.  I am the genealogist in our family, but my sister is willing to be dragged along, and even listens for awhile to my descriptions of the family line I’m working on and what my questions are.  And because she is a botanist, she is willing to tramp through old cemeteries.

For this trip I was focused on the Snow family line, one of my maternal grandmother’s lines.  Our branch of the Snows is first found, in this country, in Woburn, Massachusetts, by 1639.  As I was researching this family online, reading a copy of a manuscript compiled by my great-uncle, and trying to figure out what sources I have for the information, I got curious about the migration of our family from Woburn to Ashford, Connecticut in about 1724, from there to Becket, Massachusetts, about 1770, and finally to north-central Ohio, about 1809.  Why did they pick up everything and make these moves?  When I looked at a map and saw that Ashford, Connecticut is fairly close to where I live, I decided it would make a perfect “sisters-on-the-road” destination.  And the fact that there is a Snow Cemetery in Ashford sealed the deal.

When we got to Ashford and found the Town Hall, I knew this had been a good idea.  Although I also quickly discovered that I wasn’t as prepared as I had thought.  I had brought paper copies of the necessary family group sheets, but these did not include the sources for my information.  I had also brought a laptop computer and a USB drive with my genealogy program and data; the trouble was that the computer was back in our motel room.  Why I didn’t think I needed the computer at Town Hall is a mystery.  So I may have duplicated some of the sources I already had.

Because we were in Connecticut, the town had been indexed by Barbour, and Town Hall had a copy of this index.  The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records is a wonderful resource for early information (to about 1850, similar to the Massachusetts Vital Records by town).  It is available at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford, and other genealogical collections in libraries often have the books for some of the towns.  It is also now available online in at least one place, Ancestry.com.  The NEHGS site,  NewEnglandAncestors.org,  also has some good databases on Connecticut.  And the original records used for Barbour Collection have been microfilmed and are reportedly available at the Connecticut State Library or from the Family History Library.

What you need to travel to the Town Hall for is the original land records.  I was thrilled to find that a couple of the earliest books (Vol. E 1718-1748 and Vol F 1724-1732) included the records showing my two Snow ancestors purchase of land, the 10th day of March 1723/4, while they still were residents of Woburn.  These books have been well-bound with archival materials to protect the original pages, and are available for study and copying.  They are indexed by grantor and grantee, which I had to learn again, so you can find the one in which you are interested.  From the index you can also see the progression of purchases and sales by date.  Here is one page.  I left this picture bigger so that you can actually see the words and how clear this copy is.  One of these days I will have transcribed the three documents I brought home, I vow!

Because of time constraints ,the hours Town Hall is open and the few days we had to spend there, I didn’t get everything I would have liked to.  There are still deeds to look at and questions to ask.  I may have to return!

I still don’t know why my Snow family bought land and moved to Ashford.  I have a suspicion that the man they purchased the first land from was also from Woburn and therefore probably known to them.  There is a Joshua Kendall shown in Woburn records of about the right time.  I have no idea, yet, why he went to Ashford or why the Snows followed.  This is what keeps me searching, there is always one more fact to discover and one more family question to answer.