My Nantucket Grandmothers

There is a song or poem, titled The Nantucket Girl’s Song that was written in the 19th century by one or another woman traveling in the south Pacific on a ship.  The poem appears in the back of a journal kept by Eliza Brock as she experienced life on the Lexington on a whaling voyage from May 1853 to June 1856.  She accompanied her husband Peter Brock who was master of the Lexington, out of Nantucket.  It isn’t certain who wrote the poem but it is transcribed into the journal with the name Martha Ford appended to it.  Martha Ford was the wife of a physician in New Zealand.  I first saw a part of the poem in an exhibit at the Nantucket Historical Society’s museum and it spoke to me.  A friend with wonderful creative skills made me a watercolor map of Nantucket with the portion of the poem inscribed over the island.

The portion reads:

“Then I’ll haste to wed a sailor, and send him off to sea,
For a life of independence is the pleasant life for me,
But every now and then I shall like to see his face,
For it always seemes to me to beam with manly grace,
With his brow so nobly open, and his dark and kindly eye,
Oh my heart beats fondly towards him whenever he is nigh,
But when he says Goodbye my love, I’m off across the sea
First I cry for his departure, then laugh because I’m free”

The independent spirit of women on the small spit of land that is Nantucket Island tells me about the some of the women who were my ancestors.  Three or maybe four of the women born on Nantucket migrated to the southwestern Ohio area just after Ohio became a state – two of my g-g-g grandmothers and two of my g-g-g-g grandmothers.  Two came with husbands and families (or maybe only one: the second one died in 1815 and either on Nantucket or in Ohio), one came as a young girl and the other came as a widow with several children, including her youngest son who was about 8 years old.  Although all had been members of the Society of Friends on Nantucket only some transferred that religion to Ohio.

My g-g-g-g grandmother, Sarah (Sally) Folger Coffin (1761-1822) was the wife of Isaiah Coffin (1757-1813).  She left Nantucket about a year after her husband’s death and migrated west to Cincinnati where 2 or 3 of her oldest sons and a number of other friends and relatives from Nantucket had already settled.  She was issued a certificate from the Nantucket Monthy Meeting of the Society of Friends in April 1814 and received into the Miami Monthly Meeting in August 1814.  Sarah and 3 children (Reuben, Eliza, and Christopher Folger) were received.  The records show that on the same date, and based on a certificate with the same April date, her son Benjamin along with his wife and 3 children were also received in the Miami Meeting.  The records become a little confusing though, since there is also another line showing Sarah Coffin and daughter Elizabeth, and Sarah Barnard Coffin also being received on a certificate with that April 1814 date.  Is this my Sarah and a daughter whose name doesn’t match any of the children I know about, or a different one?  And who is Sarah Barnard Coffin?  These questions are my latest Bright Shiny Object to chase – probably not related to me but intriguing nonetheless.  To be continued.

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January Genealogy To-Do

new-year-2008-5_thumb.jpgWelcome in 2016!  It is going to be a great year for genealogy, I am determined.  I have a couple of large goals, the first being to finally connect the English Denman family “dots” to learn who the parents of my emigrant ancestor, William Denman, were.  I hope knowing more surely who his parents were will help connect that family with the other Denman lines in Sussex and tell me just how I am related to two present-day Denman cousins.  This was a goal for 2015 and I failed to reach it, although not for lack of trying.  The evidence that is needed is difficult to come by, and some of the primary evidence may not exist at this point.  In service of this quest, I did start the process of convincing a male Denman cousin to do a yDNA test; unfortunately he has a lot of more important life stuff to deal with currently and I’m not sure he will agree.

My related goal is to acquire the will for William Boorman, father of my emigrant ancestor, Ann Boorman Denman.  I will transcribe it for myself, however I seem to remember a Boorman researcher noting that William mentioned his daughter Ann Denman who had migrated to America.

Organizing is always on my list of goals and this coming year is no different.  I will continue to chip away at re-naming files and Evernote notes in a consistent way that seems useful (last name, first name, date and event).

My other larger goal this year will be to follow my Boothby family line, which I haven’t spent much time on lately.  I was just inspired by discovering that the Maine Registers of Deeds Association has a web portal for accessing all counties digitized land records.  The NEHGS blog, Vita-Brevis, just had a posting about this and I immediately checked it out.  I’m not up to speed on researching in Maine, even though I’ve done a research trip visit, and this is a resource I didn’t know about.  For my Boothby line I need to make the direct connection back to Maine, which is where they seem to have come from.  I only have them in Ohio so far.

As usual, there is plenty for me to do and to learn.  I wonder what I’ll end 2016 having accomplished?

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Tracking My Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s…

Having tested my mitochondrial DNA (on FTDNA) to expand my mother’s lines, I am in the process of doing a RootsMagic database to track those families and add evidence.  As soon as my DNA results were posted in early 2014 I began occasionally to get contacted by people who match me.  One of the very first pointed me at Eunice Phelps and her ancestors, including a url for a family website that I believe took her line back to a Prentice woman.  Unfortunately that site is no longer available and the Wayback Machine doens’t have the pages I want to look at again.  Just this past October I received another email from a match and this kind woman reported that she traced my line back 6 additional generations, 5 in Connecticut (which also includes a Prentice) and the last in Buckinghamshire, England in 1603.  I haven’t confirmed any of this yet but am on the trail.

Starting with my mother’s mother, Bricena Snow Denman, I have only had about 3 or maybe 4 generations of women before her in my tree (and I don’t have most of the evidence for any of these).

Bricena’s mother was Mary Malvina Sweet, born in 1852 or maybe 1853 (her children reported two different birth years as I posted earlier.). While I have an exact date I have no solid evidence, e.g., from a registration of her birth or a family Bible.  Mary and Clemon Snow married in May 1880, in Lorain County, Ohio.   They had only two children surviving (given amount of time between there may have been others who did not survive although this wasn’t passed along in family lore).  My grandmother was the only female so the only one passing mitochondrial DNA on.

Mary Sweet’s mother was Brisena (or Bricena) Chadwick who was born in 1814 in Lee, Massachusetts and married Colvin Sweet in 1835 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  As a child one of my favorite family stories was that my grandmother was named after her grandmother who had been a twin (girls named Bricena and Chrisena).  That looks like a family myth since I (so far) find no evidence that there was twin (based on the Lee Vital Records to 1850 on the site.  So much for stories.  Bricena and Colvin Sweet had somewhere around 10 children including 3 girls.  The first Mary died within a month of her birth.  The second, Bricena E. Sweet (known as Aunt Britie) never married (and had no children as far as I know).  and the second Mary was my great grandmother.  So she was (at least so far) the only one to pass on mitochondrial DNA.

Bricena Chadwick’s mother was Eunice Phelps, born in 1785 in Hebron, Connecticut one week after Hebron’s county changed from Windham county to Tolland county.  In 1805 she married Hemen (or Herman) Chadwick in Lee, Massachusetts and they had 5 children, only one a girl (Bricena).  Hemen Chadwick died young, in 1815 leaving Bricena a 30 year old widow.  If she had married again and had more children there would be other possibilities, however, I believe that she did not remarry until 1827 (when she was 41) and did not have more children.  So again, my great-great grandmother was the only female in her line passing along mitochondrial DNA.

This is the point at which my own research stopped until very recently.  I think Eunice’s mother was a Lucy Lord, born 1748, and married to Solomon Phelps, Jr. born 1743, both in Connecticut.  I am only beginning to research from here, so will just list the names I have been given by my recent match in October.  What she found, and I think is at least close to the earlier tree that isn’t online anymore, are these women:

Lucy Lord 1748 in Colchester
Lucy Bulkeley 1720 in Colchester
Patience Prentice 1680 New London
Sarah Jones 1654 Boston
Ann Griggs 1632 New London
Alice Sibtharp 1603 Buckinghamshire, England

So I have a “map” of sorts to guide me.  I am particularly interested in finding the families that had more than one female living to adulthood and having children of her own, since these could be my mitochondrial matches which don’t look at all familiar in family tree surnames at first glance.

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December Genealogy To-Do


Well, in November I managed (finally!) to finish the transcription of the Michael Marten 1750 will.  I needed the help of the wills-mistress of the Sussex Family History Group on several place names as well as the name of the court official who swore in the executrices.  This will and the William Denman will now will be available to members in transcribed form through her group, here.  You can see the list of what is held, by name and by placename on the site without being a member.  The other task I worked on in November was cleaning up my Evernote notebooks and adding information to my Roots Magic tree.

What I have discovered is that the 25 minute challenge works very well for me on tasks that I have ready to work on and can stop in the middle of any step when the time runs out.  I have to be able to stop and get up from the computer when the timer goes off, so any task that can’t be stopped in the middle doesn’t work.

December will, of course, bring more holidays to be prepared for and celebrated, and that will take some of my discretionary time this month.  However, my goal is to continue to chip away at the Evernote cleaning up and organizing.   .One of the changes I’m making is to make each note title the surname, first name of the person the note is about.

If I get more motivated to do some cleaning up – and I might as the end of the year looms – I will go back to doing the same organizational tasks in my computer family files.  This “genealogy go-over” is necessary before I do much more research on any individual or family, since there is still a ton of evidence lurking in the computer files that I don’t need to go looking for all over again.  This is another task that should also lend itself nicely to the 25-minutes-a-day challenge.  .

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An Orphan Finds a Home

I recently became the very pleased recipient of an orphaned photograph.  I received the newest Huron County Kinologist in the mail a week or two ago, and actually sat down to read it (rather than my more usual habit of putting it in a pile to be read later).  I enjoyed reading the list included of what families the members are searching.  And I noticed a couple of lines at the bottom of one page reporting the receipt of an orphaned photograph from a woman in Kansas.  She had sent it to the Huron County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society because it included the name Mrs. M.A. Vaughn, Wakeman Ohio, and “Mother’s cousin” written on it.  She hoped to find it a home.

Excited, I immediately contacted the Chapter and said I wanted it if there were no more direct relatives asking for it.  Mary A. Vaughn was the second, late-in-life, wife of my great great grandfather Charles Minor of Wakeman, Ohio.  I’m not sure whether I was the first to ask, or the only one, but I ended up with it.

Mrs. M.A. Vaughn

Mrs. M.A. Vaughn

I am thrilled to see her for the first time.  I only have one picture of my great great grandfather and none of his first wife, my great great grandmother Adelia Mary Hall.  Since Mary A. Vaughn is not a direct relative or even a collateral I am trying mightily not to follow that path down the rabbit hole (with only moderate success).  In the hope that someone actually related to her might find this interesting, here is what I know about her.

She was born Mary A. Beardsley perhaps on 22 Sep 1838 (from her death certificate) in Twinsburg, Ohio.  I say perhaps because the marriage license she and Joshua R. Vaughn obtained in December 1853 alleged that she was at least 18 years old, which she wouldn’t have been in 1853 if she had been born in 1838,  At only 15 years old, she should have required the consent of her father to marry, which was not reported.  On the other hand, 1838 is consistent with the age she reported as late as 1906 when she and Charles Minor married  and on all the various federal censuses I have found her on.

I am finding confusing evidence about her parents.  On the first marriage record there is no mention of her parents.  On the second, to Charles Minor, she reported her parents as John Birdsley and Caroline Goodin (being her mother’s maiden name).  On Mary’s death certificate her parents were reported (by I believe a daughter of Mary’s) to have been Joseph Spencer (?maybe, this is hard to decipher) and Caroline Goodin.  I found a marriage record in Summit County, Ohio for a Caroline Goodwin and David Beardsley in 1840 (2 years after the reported date of birth for Mary.   On the 1850 census I found Caroline Goodwin and Mary A. Beardsley living in Cuyahoga County, Ohio – unfortunately this census did not record relationships or marital status.  And, finally, on the 1860 and 1870 censuses there is a Daniel and Peggy Ann Goodin living in the same place or next door to Joshua and Mary Vaughn and their young family, and in 1880 there is a Daniel Goodin in their household listed as Father-in-Law.  Oh my.

Joshua R. Vaughn was certainly older than Mary, likely by at least 3 years and more likely by 7-8 years based on the federal censuses I have found them together on.  They seem to have lived all their married lives in Wakeman, Ohio, also based on the federal censuses, and often lived near other families who are direct relatives of mine.  Joshua served in the Civil War for almost 5 months in Company E of the 166 Ohio Infantry as a private.   He applied for a pension based on being an invalid, in 1891, and a month after his death in 1901, Mary applied as his widow.  In January 1906 she married my great great grandfather Charles Minor and they lived in Wakeman together until he died in November 1913.  Soon thereafter she sold the house and moved to Cleveland to live with one of her daughters.  Mary Beardsley Vaughn Minor died in Cleveland in June 1926 and was buried with her first husband in the Wakeman Cemetery.

So as you can see, I haven’t managed to stay out of the rabbit hole but now I am done (she told herself sternly).  And the photo which was orphaned is welcome to find a home with me, however if there is anyone who is directly related who would like it I am willing to pass it along.

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