Sunday, February 28, 2010

Storm Interruption

I wanted to post one other story about international genealogy, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. I have another story about research in Spain.

We had a terrific flood and windstorm on Thursday, and lost electricity. This was followed by a blizzard, an ice and sleet event, then more rain, and finally a good snow. We got our lights back tonight. Thank God for all the assembled electrical line workers from otherparts of New England, other states and Canada that have arrived en masse to correct the problems, trim back the fallen trees and right the toppled telephone poles. They worked tirelessly through the storms, and are still working 24 hours a day. It is anticipated that some parts of New Hampshire won't have their lights for another week or more.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Archives of the Archbishop of Burgos, Spain

Researching Hubby’s Roots in Spain

“El Archivo Diocesano de Burgos” is the archive for church records in the city of Burgos, Spain, located at the Archbishop’s palace next to the Burgos Cathedral. This northern city is also famous as the hometown of “El Cid”, the famous warrior also known as Francisco Diaz de Vivar, the national hero of Spain. Any church records no longer held at the individual churches are stored here. So, any very old books of baptisms, marriages, funerals, no longer being used for recording sacraments of the Catholic Church, are gathered into this archive. It is important to know that there is also an “Archivo de la Catedral de Burgos”, which is located next door in the cathedral, but that doesn’t have the genealogical records.

I learned these facts ahead of time, before we went to Spain to visit family, have a vacation, and (of course!) work a little bit on Hubby’s side of the family tree. I’m glad that I found out ahead of time that there were two archives, and which one held the correct records. It is also important to know ahead of time the hours, days, holidays, etc. for archives and libraries in Spain. God forbid you arrive at the wrong time, wrong day or on one of the countless holidays and find the library closed! They were only open certain days, and only for three hours. The most important thing to note was that only seven researchers were allowed into the archive at a time, and a line formed early in the morning. I had no idea how important this was until I arrived in Burgos.

Hubby is a Spaniard, but he was born in the U.S.A. so he understands both mentalities. To him this meant get there one hour ahead of time and be prepared to wait. So we did, and we were first in line, with my father-in-law in tow. Within fifteen minutes a man with a briefcase joined us on the sofa in the lobby, followed quickly by two priests. Later a tweedy looking professor type man joined us. That was seven. A young student showed up, counted each head aloud, sighed in disappointment and left. We all sat until the bell rang exactly at 10 AM, and Mr. Briefcase got up and walked through a door down into the basement, and we all followed.

Downstairs we met Brother Archivist, a stern looking man who tolerated no nonsense. No talking, no pens, no more than seven people. He counted heads, nodded and we sat down sat at one table, side by side. I looked at my watch. We had only three hours! Everyone started to furiously fill out call slips and hand them to Brother Archivist. We waited patiently for our books. Hubby and I decided to first ask for the marriage records of my father-in-laws village, Sinovas. Brother Archivist sat at his desk at the head of the table, watching everyone carefully with eagle eyes.

With our heads together we pored over the book, starting in the back, looking for the surname ROJO and furiously copying everything of interest. We had to pass notes when I had questions about the Spanish (I’m not a very good Spanish speaker, or reader!). Several times Brother Archivist shushed me when I would gasp in delight at finding an ancestor. He wasn’t happy when we whispered either. I couldn’t help but marvel that we hadn’t been issued gloves and book cradles for these old books, which dated back to the early 1800s.

We decided things would go faster if we each got our own book to look at. I took a book of deaths, and Hubby got a book of baptisms and we furiously continued copying all the records of interest. The Catholic records were very good at recording the dates, names, witnesses (usually other relatives) etc., so we were gathering mountains of information. I had lots of questions, too many to scribble on notes passed to Hubby, and we tried to whisper, but eagle eyed Brother Archivist caught me every time. It was extremely intimidating. Mr. Student from this morning, who didn’t get a seat, came in counted heads and sighed another very loud stage sigh, so Mr. Briefcase took pity, got up, and let him have his treasured seat. Mr. Student was ecstatic, and mouthed a plethora of “Muchas Gracias!” to Mr. Briefcase. Brother Archivist shushed him.

My father-in-law bravely decided to chat up Brother Archivist. Once upon a time, he lived with the Jesuits as a young man, and even considered taking holy orders. The next time I looked up, the two men were deep in conversation at the desk! Hubby and I were grateful that Brother Archivist was distracted, so we had a chance to whisper a bit. We were only shushed once more in the last hour. Before I knew it, the bell rang for lunchtime, and it was over. Brother Archivist gathered everyone’s books, glared at me one last time, and closed the door.

That experience was over very fast! We traveled all that way for one day (well, three hours) in the archives of Burgos. However, it was a very fruitful morning and we brought the family tree back to the Napoleonic Wars. Earlier records were destroyed by the war, and few survive. We have all the records, and sources, and countless cousins' records, too. These books were never filmed by the LDS church, but we found them, and survived the experience. Thank you, Brother Archivist!


We were in the archives of Burgos eight years ago. When I searched for the website for this archive, I saw that the archives are now open from 9:30 to 2:00 PM Monday to Friday, closed in the month of August. There is still a limit of 7 “investigadores” at the table. I wonder how Brother Archivist likes the new hours?

Archivo Diocesano de Burgos. Located at the Palacio Arcobispal, Calle Martinez del Campo, 18, Burgos, Spain. Phone number in Spain 947- 208440


website (in Spanish)


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missionary to New Zealand?

That’s what he told the family!

My great great grandfather, the music Professor Caleb Rand Bill came from Nova Scotia to New England with his wife. They had their nine children in succession from New Brunswick, Maine, Boston and then Salem as he moved from place to place teaching music. According to the Bill Family Genealogy, he had three brothers. One died while studying away at Acadia College, and the other two went on a mission to New Zealand. This made sense to me, since their father was the Nova Scotia Baptist preacher Reverend Ingraham Ebenezer Bill.

I didn’t question the compiled genealogy, at least not for a while…

Later, when using the NEHGS online vital records database, I decided to find out just how uncommon the “Bill” name was as a surname in Massachusetts. I typed in the name and I was surprised to find several Bills I didn’t know about. I found the death record of one of the brothers, Edward Manning Bill, who had gone on a mission to Australia. He died in Boston in 1904, of “hemiplegia”, contributory cause “exposure, life in Australia!”

The two brothers were Edward Manning Bill and Ingraham Ebenezer Bill, Jr. I knew that I. E. Jr. had gone on to become a minister, in his father’s footsteps. According to the Bill Genealogy he lived as a missionary for a while in New Zealand. In the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, there was a marriage in a newspaper entitled “Christian Visitor” July 1, 1869, listing a marriage on May 22nd, between I. E. Bill of Regent’s Park College, London, to Eleanor, the second daughter of George Pike, of Sutton, Kent, England. In the 1880 US Federal Census of Caribou, Maine (on the border with Canada) it lists Ingram Bill, age 44, minister, wife Ellen, and several children. I also found a “Ministerial Register” at listing him as a Baptist Minister in Chicago in the 1892, 1893, and 1895 editions. So Junior’s story works out OK. What about his brother?

Two brothers: Edward Manning Bill and Ingraham Ebenezer Bill, Jr. were listed on an 1852 shipping list on board the ship “Chebucto” which arrived at Port Phillip, Melbourne, Australia on 9 October 1852. According to this list at the Victoria State Library, it was ““Another instance of the wide-spreading attractiveness of our gold-fields shows itself in the arrival of this vessel from Halifax, Nova Scotia bringing with it a large number of passengers all anxious to turn gold diggers. Nothing of importance occurred on the passage.”

Aha! Two young brothers left Nova Scotia, telling the relatives they were bound for a mission. Both arrived in Australia during the gold rush. One went on to New Zealand, like the good minister’s son he was brought up to be. What happened to the other?

Last year I found the answer when a woman in Australia sent me an email. Her message starts out with the line “Thank goodness for computers and for Google!” and it went on to describe her search for clues to the identity of “Edward Manning Bill!” She was tracing a young girl named Harriet Young Cox, who was adopted by Edward Manning Bill in the late 1800s. The daughter was a singer in London, and the United States, listed on the cast of musical productions found on line. Father and adopted daughter were on the 1901 Census in London, where Edward was listed as a widower.

With these clues, we were able to find passenger lists of the father and daughter leaving Australia, traveling to London and the United States. Harriet married and lived in Washington State. There was a wife, Charlotte Grace, which made me laugh because my ancestor, the music professor Caleb Rand Bill named one of his daughters Charlotte Grace. Another mystery solved. I received a transcript of the marriage record. Such nice people in Australia!

Sadly, the wife Charlotte Grace was left behind in Australia, where she died in an insane asylum. As the details flowed out of Australia over the internet to me, the story became very sad. I sent her the details of Harriet’s life in Washington, and she found a photograph of Edward and Charlotte, but also the record for the asylum. Charlotte died on 21 September 1894, only a few weeks after Edward and Harriet arrived in London on 25 August 1894 . Did they abandon her to die in the asylum? Was she ill before they left?

Soon I had an answer from the Australian Public Records Office Website. This surprised me because I had a family member die at the Danvers, Massachusetts State Hospital in the 1910’s and I can’t get the records without a court order. However, here is the short version of what happened after she was admitted in 1893, suffering delusions:

2/6/94 Fractured hip at (?) and sent to hospital
30/6/94 Progressing favourably
7/9/94 Has a good deal of edema of (?) and side of abdomen also suffering from cystitis
18/9/94 Took to bed finally with (?) patches on hands and scratches on lower left leg - bedsores on ankle
21/9/94 Died at about 10.50pm with cause of death Disease of the heart and dropsy of the lungs.

At the time she was admitted Edward Manning Bill was a school teacher at Diamond Creek, a long way from the Beechworth Insane Asylum in Australia. From what I can tell, with bedsores and other signs of neglect, family was not nearby to monitor her care. In fact, it seems they abandoned her to go to Europe for young Harriet’s musical career?

The photo above is the primary school at Diamond Creek, where Edward Manning Bill was the head teacher from 1870 to 1892. Edward Bill is the man with the white cockatoo, and the woman next to him is Charlotte, his wife. Charlotte taught handcrafts. Diamond Creek is near where Australia experienced its gold rush of 1852. At the time the ship “Chebucto” landed in Australia in 1852 Edward was 21 years old, and his brother Ingraham was only 16!

Thank you to Helen Swaine, of Frankston, Victoria, Australia for helping me to solve this mystery, and for providing the primary source material out of Australia (marriage records, asylum case records, and the photograph!)

For more information:

I previously blogged about the Bill family on 15 September 2009 in the posting “Tracing Your Minister Ancestors”. Please see this post for the Bill lineage

History of the Bill Family, edited by Ledyard Bill, New York,1867. Updated by Harry Bill, of Billtown, Cornwallis, Nova Scotia

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday- Rev. Daniel Emerson

Rev. Daniel Emerson, founder and pastor at Hollis, New Hampshire

In colonial New England, the grave markers of Reverends and other important people were place like tables, on four posts. I don’t know the meaning of this, perhaps it gave the stone carver the entire stone to engrave a lengthy story or epitaph. This type of stone is sometimes called a ledger. Over time these slate stones have suffered more deterioration than their neighbors’ stones that were placed vertically. Perhaps the weight of ice and snow or the stone itself caused them to crack and break, and the weather beating down directly makes most of these stones illegible.

My 6x great grandfather, Brown Emerson, had a brother Daniel who was the pastor at Hollis, New Hampshire. He had graduated Harvard College in 1739, and Hollis was his first and only pastorate. He answered the call at age 27, as a graduate student, and was ordained a month later on 20 April 1743. At this time the town was called the West Parish of Dunstable, Massachusetts, yet shortly afterwards was incorporated as Hollis, New Hampshire

An interesting story in the historical records of Hollis recounts his time as chaplain in the army at Crown Point. When the men of his regiment were asked to present their arms for inspection, Mr. Emerson presented his Bible to the inspecting officer and commented on it being "his weapon." Reverend Emerson was the father of thirteen children. . His pastorate lasted over fifty years, until the Reverend Eli Smith, who had married his granddaughter, became the associate pastor. Rev. Emerson voluntarily gave up half his salary in 1793 for the settlement of Rev. Smith. He died in 1801 at age 85.

Behind the Congregational Church in Hollis is his grave marker, right next to the wall of the church. The church records say that the stone is located on Map 52, Lot 54, but in such a small churchyard his monument is easily found. The Hollis Historical Society, the Congregational Church and the Hollis Cemetery Trustees have determined that it would cost about $800 to $1000 to come up with a conservation plan for Reverend Emerson’s stone. It has cracked completely across in two places, and some areas of the face have broken off and are lost. The inscription is mostly illegible, but I found a transcription:

Beneath this monument lies the Mortal part of Rev. Daniel Emerson. He was born at Reading, Mass., May 20, 1716, Graduated at Harvard College 1739, And was ordained April 20, 1743, to the Pastoral care Of the Church and Congregation of Hollis Which then consisted of only 30 Families. He was an honest man given to Hospitality; An affectionate husband and tender Parent; A faithful Friend and Patriotic Citizen; An Evangelical, zealous and unusually successful Preacher Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Highly Esteemed by his people, his praise was in all the Churches. A.D. 1793, he voluntarily relinquished one half his salary To promote the settlement of a Colleague, From which time his pious walk and occasional labours Evinced an unbating love for the cause of Christ, Until nature failed and he fell asleep in Jesus, September 30, 1801, aged 85 years.

Reverend Daniel Emerson’s lineage:

Gen. 1. Thomas Emerson, born 26 July 1584 at Sedgfield Parish, County Durham, England, died 1 May 1666 in Ipswich, Massachusetts; married to Elizabeth Brewster, born 24 July 1584 at Hertfordshire, England, died 10 August 1638 in Ipswich. Nine children.

Gen. 2. Reverend Joseph Emerson, born about 1620 in England, died 3 January 1630 in Concord, Massachusetts; married on 7 December 1665 in Concord to Elizabeth Bulkeley, daughter of Reverend Edward Bulkeley and Lucyann Coy, born 1638 and died 4 September 1693 in Reading, Massachusetts. Seven children.

Gen. 3. Peter Emerson, born 1673 in Mendon, Massachusetts, died 19 January 1751 in Reading; married on 11 November 1696 in Reading to Mary Brown, daughter of Captain John Brown and Anna Fiske, born 23 March 1678 in Reading, died before 1748 in Reading. Ten children.

Gen. 4. Reverend Daniel Emerson, born 20 May 1716 in Reading, died 30 September 1801 in Hollis, New Hampshire; married on 17 October 1744 to Hannah Emerson, his second cousin, daughter of Joseph Emerson and Mary Moody, born 3 December 1722 in Malden, Massachusetts and died 28 February 1812 in Hollis. Thirteen children.

Hollis Congregational Church
Hollis, New Hampshire

For more information:

The Bulkeley Genealogy: Rev. Peter Bulkeley, being an account of his career, his ancestry, the ancestry of his two wives, and his relatives in England and New England, together with a genealogy of his descendants through the seventh American generation, by Donald Lines Jacobus, New Haven, Connecticut, 1933. Rev. Peter Bulkeley is Rev. Daniel Emerson’s 2x great grandfather, and this book includes the Emerson genealogy. The Congregational Church of Hollis. There is a link to the church history and stories of all the former pastors

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tammy Younger, the Witch of Dogtown

A "Babson Boulder" marking the former location
of Dogtown Square

Timeline of Tammy Younger's life:

28 July 1753 Thomasine Younger was born at Gloucester
19 April 1775 - Battle of Lexington, start of the American Revolution
23 August 1775, Tammy married to James McCormick
1812- War of 1812, many Gloucester men were impressed at sea
24 February 1829, Tammy died at Gloucester


Thomasine Younger was born in 1753 in Gloucester, Massachusetts to William Younger and Lucy Foster. Her brothers grew up to be seamen, which is not surprising. Her younger brother, Levi, is my 5x great grandfather. Gloucester was a major fishing seaport in New England, famous for the Gorton’s frozen fish packing plant and the statue of the fisherman’s memorial. The majority of men in town were sailors or fishermen, the lucky few were ship builders, merchants and sea captains, and the paupers of Gloucester lived in Dogtown. For some reason, unknown to anyone, Tammy Younger became a resident of Dogtown.

Gloucester today is built up around the harbor. However, in the earliest days of its settlement the colonists hid inland and up on a hill, away from pirates and the native tribes. When the conditions became safer, especially after the war of 1812, the townspeople took advantage of moving to the water front and built their town at one of the best deep water harbors in Massachusetts. The abandoned inland village became home to sailor’s widows, vagabonds and free blacks, who were either too poor or not accepted in town society. When the last of these people died, only abandoned dogs were left, and the area became known as Dogtown.

Some of these last old women in Dogtown were known as witches. They probably didn’t deserve the epithet; they were poor, old and had no family or husband to defend them. Tammy lived on Fox Hill in Dogtown, and she was so poor that she would lie in wait for passing wagons, and “place a curse” on the oxen until the driver gave her food.

Little more is known about Tammy Younger, except for anecdotes in local history books. It is unknown whether she had children, or what happened to her husband. It is my guess that he died at sea, and this sad event started her downward spiral into poverty. She died intestate (of course!) Supposedly money and a snuff box were found in her cellar hole.

Today, if you visit Dogtown, it is forested and part of the town of Gloucester’s Conservation Land. The streets are now walking trails, dotted with cellar holes that have been numbered to identify the original owners from Babson’s book “The History of Gloucester.” Babson’s grandson employed Italian stonecutters during the Great Depression to carve inspirational quotations on dozens of boulders. It is a fun hike through Dogtown today, to look for the cellar holes and to find the “Babson Boulders.”

Today, visitors approach Dogtown by Cherry Street, going uphill to the parking area. This is Fox Hill where Tammy Younger once lived with her aunt, Luce George. This is the hill where she bewitched the oxen struggling to carry corn or dried fish from Gloucester Harbor. Poor Aunt Luce was also reported to be a witch, since she begged for fish at the wharves, and threatened the fishermen with curses until they gave her a portion. Living on the margins of society, these women were the subject of gossip, myth and legend.

I previously wrote about the Younger family on my blog posting on January 14, 2010 in the posting “Levi Younger, Mariner and Prisoner of War” at


For more information:

History of Gloucester by John James Babson and Samuel Chandler, published by the Proctor Brothers, 1860 (a book of “Notes and Additions” was written by Babson in 1876.)

In the Heart of Cape Ann; or The Story of Dogtown by Charles E. Mann, 1896 - This book described the inhabitants of Dogtown, with maps showing the cellar holes

The Last Witch of Dogtown by Francis Blessington, The Curious Traveller Press, 2001.

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant, published by Scribner, New York, 2005. A novel based on the history of Dogtown, and the characters are based on the inhabitants named in Mann’s book, including Luce George and Tammy Younger. My book club read this book in 2006, and then we took a hike through Dogtown and I photographed the boulder you see at the top of this blog post.

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town by Elyssa East, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009. This is the most recent book about Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo
Submitted for the Carnival of Genealogy, 91st Edition, A Tribute to Women!

Wilkinson Surname Project Update

Northern New England Wilkinsons

Albert Munroe Wilkinson (1860-1908)

At the top of my blog you can see two new links. One lists all the surnames in my lineage back nine generations, and the other is an outline descendant chart of the descendants of Thomas Wilkinson for six generations.

I have two large Wilkinson surname projects underway. The first is all the descendants of Thomas Wilkinson, born about 1690 and lived in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire region. The second is the descendants of Samuel Wilkinson, born about 1722 through his son Benning, born about 1764 in Epping, New Hampshire. I have a strong feeling these two groups of Wilkinsons are related, but I have no proof- yet! I’ll be posting Benning Wilkinson’s lineage soon on a new page to be accessed at the top of my blog.

I’ve had several new researchers help me out recently with these projects. The newest is Jeff Wilson, who is a descendant of Thomas Wilson of Exeter, the miller who died about 1643. Jeff’s ancestor, Wesley Wilson, (1867-1935) married Mabel Wilkinson, (1874 – bef. 1930) daughter of John W. Wilkinson and Isabell Karr. Also, I’ve contacted Michael Gray, who was researching the Wilkinsons and Pierponts of Boston, Massachusetts. Earlier I contacted Harold Leach, who is active at NEHGS. He wrote an article “Of Brick Walls and Pack Rats” in the 2008 Register, about the “deaf and dumb” Lucy Ham marriage to Samuel Wilkinson on 16 September 1852 in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Also, my cousin, Susan Wilkinson Parker, of Bradford, Maine, photographed some of the Wilkinson gravestones at the Evergreen Cemetery in Milo, Maine. I have a large data base of Wilkinson gravestone photos, please contact me for copies of photos or transcriptions of epitaphs.

If you have any questions, additions, new information or sources for Wilkinsons in Northern New England, please contact me through the link at the bottom of my blog home page, or through Facebook.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Family History Day, Boston, 20 February 2010

A workshop day was held yesterday at the Westin Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, jointly sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society and There were six classes offered for the low cost of $30, including free parking in the hotel garage. I can tell you that a days parking in downtown Boston often costs more than $30, so this workshop was a Yankee bargain! I’ve been a member of NEHGS for over 12 years, and I’ve never seen a workshop offer like this before.

I spoke with several NEHGS staff members during the day. Judith Lucey from the manuscripts department shared with me that they were expecting a good turnout of 250 or 300 attendees, and they were pleasantly surprised that they had to cut off tickets at 700, and they had a waiting list of over 200 more people! There was a long line at registration, and I had chance to schmooze with people. There were newbies, people with less than three years researching under their belts, and experienced researchers like me. There was even a professional genealogist in line ahead of me.

NEHGS offered several services throughout the day. First, each participant had the chance to sign up for a fifteen minute one-on-one consultation with a genealogist. I used this time to work on a particularly sticky brick wall problem with an 18th century Salem ancestor. Of course, I came away from my consultation with more questions than answers, but also with several very good hints for other resources to check out in Salem. My newbie godfather didn’t sign up for a consultation, but I encouraged him to try to see if he could squeeze in an appointment. There were a few seatings left. He seemed a bit confused about what to ask, and where to start. I wasn’t there at his consultation. However, by good luck he spoke with a genealogist from Maine, and he still has her card. Much of what we know about his Gove and McKenney ancestry centers on Seacoast New Hampshire and Maine.

Second, brought professional large scale scanners so attendees could scan large photos and documents that don’t fit on home scanners. There was a fifteen minute time limit on scanning, and all scanned images were downloaded to free memory sticks. There were also many used books for sale from the NEHGS library, and a large selection of brand new book. NEHGS offered free day passes and a $20 discount for new memberships during the workshop day. I didn’t want to lug any large photos to the workshop, so I didn’t take advantage of this. Michael LeClerc of NEHGS told me that members can bring items to the library on Newbury Street at any time and use the NEHGS large scale scanners. This is a member benefit I didn’t know about, and I might use later this year!

I attended the workshop day with my godfather. He is a complete “newbie” to genealogy, and I was concerned that perhaps the workshops would be over his head. The first workshop we attended was an overview of, which was perfect for both old and new users. After a break we both attended “Best Strategies for Searching”, which was OK for both old and new Ancestry users. I learned some new tricks. My godfather had used Ancestry only once, and that was when we tried to find his great grandfather in the Census records. I had to search with him consecutively through Massachusetts, Vermont and then Connecticut in order to find the great grandfather, so I think he appreciated learning that this was not usual.

After lunch we saw an excellent presentation by Josh Taylor on “Discover NEHGS.” We both thought this was the best presentation of the day. Josh was upbeat, funny and extremely informative. He described the library and its holdings, as well as the various websites, their online data bases and card catalog, and the events such as free lectures and research trips. He gave us all a fun description of meeting the celebrity Sarah Jessica Parker, who was in the NEHGS library recently to tape the first episode of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” This episode will air on March 5th at 8PM, and both Josh and Jessica will be featured, as well as her visit to the NEHGS library and her visit to Salem, Massachusetts. I’m glad that Josh was recently promoted to head up education programs at NEHGS.

Our last workshop was on Family Tree Maker. Before the presentation, Ancestry did a ten minute preview of the “Who Do You Think You Are?” TV show, which was very, very good and got the audience motivated. We all cheered when we saw Josh Taylor on the screen. The workshop was the driest class of the day. Also, my godfather uses Reunion, and I’ve been using FTM for about 12 years. I did learn a few new tricks, but we had been “Ancestry’ed” out by that time and we called it a day before the end of the workshop. I wish there had been more workshop choices presented by NEGHS staff members.

The workshops we missed were “Finding Immigration Records”, and “Organize, Organize, Organize” by Rhonda McClure”. Rhonda’s class got a rave review from the woman sitting next to me in my after lunch session. Perhaps my godfather and I should have split up, and compared notes? It was impossible to take part in all the offerings. We also wished there had been smaller sessions offered. With about 350 people in each class, presenters limited questioning or said “See me after for questions.” I ended the day perusing the book tables, and bought a copy of Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs newest book “Strangers and Pilgrims” at a 15% discount. It was a very worthwhile day!

For the purpose of full disclosure, I was not offered passes for the Family History Day by NEHGS or Ancestry, but as a member of NEHGS I bought my ticket through the member website. Both my godfather and I enjoyed the day very much, and both of us were able to learn some new tricks and research techniques.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, February 19, 2010

New England Town Meeting

Often I am asked about town meetings and other terms pertaining to New England town government by people researching their roots from outside of New England. They see the annual reports in the archives, and have questions about the terminology, and the form of government. If you have ever seen Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the “Four Freedoms,” I think the painting of the young farmer standing up to speak at the town meeting (the “Freedom of Speech” painting) epitomizes this form of government. Every registered voter can speak at town meeting, which is why all the faces surrounding him are looking on quietly, and respectfully. This is a truly democratic process.

We no longer vote in “fence viewers”, “hog reeves”, and “hay weighers” but we still have selectmen (and selectwomen). The board of selectmen does the day to day supervising of the town between town meetings. Some larger towns have a town manager. Every town has a town hall, which used to be known as the “meeting house” for both religious and government purposes.

New England towns have been run by a town meeting form of government since the early 1600s. During a traditional town meeting all the debate, decisions and voting are done in one single meeting, often running until late at night if there is a lot of debate and discussion. It is up to the moderator to cut off discussion, when appropriate, to keep things moving along. This often makes him the most unpopular guy (or woman!) at the meeting. In Connecticut, voters may debate the articles before them, but they cannot change or amend them. Long town meetings are a challenge to seniors, those with small children, and others who can’t stay up late, and by the time the voting takes place, often only a few voters are left to carry the vote.

I’ll never forget my first town meeting. I was eighteen years old, and my dad registered me to vote and dragged me to the meeting during my college spring break. My favorite sport is “people watching” and this was a small town, so I had a great time seeing all the characters I missed when I was away at school in Cambridge. Everyone voted in a new expensive $100,000 fire engine in five minutes, but then debated for over an hour on the manual typewriter the police station should purchase.

In Londonderry, the town meeting is held on a Saturday, usually running all day. It’s a marathon session, so people pack breakfast, lunch, their knitting projects, etc. and child care is available for the youngsters. Smaller towns run their meetings on one evening. When we moved to Londonderry over 25 years ago, the population of the town was about 10,000 people. It has more than doubled since then, causing a very long meeting and some changes.

By 1996 Londonderry switched to a Town Council/Budgetary Town Meeting known as a SB2 form of government (Senate Bill 2). Any warrant article over $1 million is voted by ballot on Tuesday preceding the meeting. Some see the SB2 form of government eventually replacing all the traditional town meetings in New Hampshire’s future. When towns get too large for this form of government, they can vote to be named a city, and the board of selectmen is replaced with a mayor. Our neighboring town, Derry, voted to be a city in 1980s, had an unpopular mayor, re-voted to be a town, and now remains a town even though at 37,000 people they are the fourth largest in population in the state of New Hampshire. Their town council is responsible for both the legislative and governing body of government, including the appointment of the Town Administrator.

Traditionally, in our region, town meeting is held in March. That’s because March is a long slow month, not quite winter, not yet spring- what we call “mud season.” Except for being the maple syrup season, not much is going on here in town. In Vermont, the first Tuesday in March is a state holiday known as Town Meeting Day. A published annual report is prepared in advance of most town meetings, and can be a valuable source of genealogical information. Most town reports still include birth and deaths, as well as town meeting minutes, tax information, lists of town employees and their salaries. There no longer are “fence viewers” and “tithing men” but we’ve added conservation and heritage commissions, cable TV and solid waste committees. The library in Londonderry has annual reports dating back to the early 1700s. Londonderry, New Hampshire will be holding its town elections on March 9th and the annual town meeting on March 13, 2010.

For more information:

Our Londonderry Town Hall website: There is information on the town meeting , our budget, the ballot, etc. if you are interested. This information is probably available on line for any town in New England. Our ancestors would be impressed.

Democracy in America: the Henry Reeve text as revised by Francis Bowen, now further corrected and edited with introduction, editorial notes, and bibliography by Phillips Bradley, by Alexis de Tocqueville (1835, 1840), (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, 1945), Chapter V: Spirit of the townships of New England

Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works, by Frank M. Bryan, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004.


Link/Cite this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "New England Town Meeting", Nutfield Genealogy, posted 19 February 2010, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black History Month- Part 3

The American Anti-Slavery Society

1893 Reunion of the
Danvers, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society

This is the third part of my series on how Black American History influenced my family history, the first part was about slaves, the second part was on the abolitionists in my family history and their relationships with black people (mostly unknown people), and this time the American Anti-Slavery Society.

A majority of my ancestors lived in or near Salem, Massachusetts at the time of the Underground Railroad. There were three major secret routes through Salem, heading north to New Hampshire. The first went through Danvers, to Andover and South Lawrence; the next from Danvers to Georgetown to Haverhill; and the last through Beverly, Ipswich to Newburyport (and water routes to Nova Scotia). This was a secret route, so many places are still unknown, but 33 stops have been identified in Essex County.

On April 26, 1893 there was a reunion of the abolitionists of Danvers, Massachusetts. It was a celebration of the men of the town, Isaac Winslow, Joseph Southwick and others, who had helped to form the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 in Philadelphia. By 1837 the women of Danvers had formed “The Female Anti-Slavery Society", made up of sixty members from just the town of Danvers, some of whom had survived until the reunion in 1893. Famous abolitionists, as well as regular townspeople united for the celebration at the old town hall. At the meeting Dr. Andrew Nichols remembered how as a young man he was stoned in the streets for subscribing members to the anti-slavery newspapers. I was surprised to find the name of Isaac Munroe on the list of original subscribers to the “Liberator” newspaper- he was the brother to my ancestor Luther Simonds Munroe. A letter was read to the guests from Frederick Douglass, who was still alive, but elderly, retired and living near Washington DC.

A large number of the Danvers members of the Anti-Slavery Society were part of the Underground Railroad. Their homes in Essex County were “stations” on the path north to New Hampshire and Canada. As I perused the photographs of some of the homes on the National Park Website, I recognized most of them that are still standing today. One, on 7 Central Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, is located right across the street from my Aunt Shirley’s house! Another home was the subject of a term paper on the Underground Railroad that my father wrote as an undergraduate at Boston University in the 1950s.

Sons of these Massachusetts Abolitionists were recruited as officers for the Massachusetts 54th Regiment in the Civil War. This is the regiment made famous by the Hollywood movie “Glory.” I am a distant cousin to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw through the Perkins family, but more interesting to me was my family relationship to his fellow officer, Captain Lieutenant Luis Fenollosa Emilio, son of Spanish immigrants. My own great grandfather was Professor Caleb Rand Bill, a Salem Music professor, and Luis F. Emilio’s father was Manuel Emilo, a Salem music teacher from Spain. This story charmed my husband, who is also the son of Spaniards. Luis F. Emilio gave his age as 18, when he was really only 16, to enlist in the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to be one of the original officers of the famous 54th all black regiment (except for the officers!). He died in New York in 1918, but he is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, his place of birth. I am a distant cousin to Captain Emilio through the Kinsman family. Luis F. Emilio wrote the book “A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment”, Boston, 1894.

By contrast, as I write this story from Londonderry, New Hampshire, I was surprised to learn that although the runaways from slavery were passing through New Hampshire, they were not very welcome in this state. Of course, rural New Hampshire was much more conservative than liberal Massachusetts, even though we are only about 45 miles from Danvers. The Anti-Slavery Societies were not well supported in New Hampshire before the Civil War.

The Reverend Parker Pillsbury in his “Anti Slavery Apostles” wrote about a visit made to West Chester, New Hampshire (now Auburn, bordering Londonderry) by the Anti Slavery orators Mr. Stephen S. Foster and the famous Lucy Stone. Lucy Stone is well known for making bloomers popular, and for keeping her maiden name after marriage (women known by their maiden names in the 19th century were known as “Lucy Stoners”). Mr. Foster said of West Chester that “No town ever more sternly or successfully resisted the anti-slavery, or other unpopular reforms.” They were locked out of the meeting house, and a mob covered their carriage with cow dung. They fled to Derry, where they were again locked out of a meeting house and another mob threatened them to leave on foot, through the snow. Lucy Stone said to Mr. Foster that her “bloomer dress and calf skin boots, like mine, would carry her safely…”

An Event:
Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 2 PM at the Salem National Park Visitor Center. Free Admission - "To Claim Justice: Charles Lenox and Sarah Parker Remond in their own words," (Two African American Abolitionist lecturers of the 19th Century.)

For More Information:

“Anti-Slavery Apostles” by Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Concord, NH, 1883

“A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 54th Massachusetts” by Captain Luis Fenollosa Emilio, Boston, 1891.

“Old Anti-Slavery Days” by The Danvers Historical Society and Alfred Porter Putnam, pages vii- xi.
For Part One of this Series Click Here
For Part Two Click Here
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Black History Month – Part 2

Yesterday I listed bits of trivia in my genealogy notes related to slaves. Today I’ll write about more tidbits in the genealogy data base related to African American History or slavery, but not directly related to black slaves owned by the family. There were a plethora of abolitionists and social reformers in my family, and their stories are below...


Romanus Emerson (1782 – 1852) was my 4x great grandfather, and also a cousin to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the sage of Concord. He was a reformer, and also a quite interesting Boston character. From "History of South Boston (It's Past and Present) and Prospects for the Future with Sketches of Prominent Men" by John J. Toomey and Edward P. B. Rankin, Boston, Massachusetts, 1901, pages 224 -225

"Romanus Emerson was one of the residents of "The Village" on Emerson Street, near K Street. He lived in South Boston more than forty years, arriving in 1808, and kept a small grocery store in addition to following his trade of carpenter. During his time he witnessed changes and improvements in the district. He, himself, was forward in every movement for social reform, and took a deep interest in the moral progress of society. In the closing clays of his life he was zealously engaged in the temperance and anti-slavery movements. He was of an easy, quiet disposition, and his temper was not quickly ruffled. He was especially peculiar in his views of religion. Toward the close of his life he renounced all religious opinions whatever, deliberatively holding to his speculative belief. He died October 10, 1852, at the age of 70. "

Romanus’s wife, Jemima Burnham, was the daughter of Colonel Joshua Burnham, the dear friend of the famous Hutchinson singers I wrote about in my blog on January 8, 2010 in “The Hutchinson Family Singers of Milford, New Hampshire.” The Hutchinsons were friends of Frederick Douglass. They traveled with him on his lecture tours and lived near his Lynn, Massachusetts home. I hope that some of the Emerson and Burnham family members had a chance to meet or talk with this great man.

Dr. Andrew Nichols (1785- 1853) was a resident of Salem, Massachusetts. From the Newhall’s home in East Saugus, Dr. Nichols received and cared for escaping slaves. Andrew Nichols was the head of the Free Soil Party in South Danvers (now Peabody) and a graduate of Harvard Medical School. In addition to helping escaped slaves, he befriended abolitionist lecturers. His tombstone in Peabody bears the words “Erected by the Friends of Humanity to Humanity’s Friend.”

Dr. Andrews Nichols was a cousin through the Ward Family (his wife was Mary Holyoke Ward). After him, there were four generations of Dr. Andrews Nichols in succession, and each Andrew was tied to my Wilkinson ancestors in Salem, up until the early 20th century when my uncle, Bob Wilkinson, worked as for Dr. Nichols (1890 -1978) at the Danvers State Hospital. This Dr. Nichols’ mother (Mary Ann Bill) was sister to my great grandmother Isabella Lyons Bill. This last Dr. Nichols was a reformer in the world of mental health, and advocated humane care in the Massachusetts state institutions at Danvers and Tewksbury.


Noah Martin Eaton (1832 – 1909) was a South Reading, Massachusetts abolitionist who removed to Lawrence, Kansas, a center of anti-slavery sentiment. His two oldest children out of six were born there in 1861 and 1862. On August 21, 1863, during the Civil War, Confederate guerillas led by William Quantrill burned most of the houses and killed 150 to 200 of the men they found in Lawrence. Noah removed his family back to Wakefield, Massachusetts, where he spent the rest of his life. They were lucky to escape Kansas safely during this violent part of history! Noah’s grandmother was another Emerson cousin of mine, and his wife, Eliza Ruth Walton (1837 – 1856) is a descendant of my Flint ancestral family.

A reversed role….
Dr. Daniel Mason (1647-1698) is a cousin through the Fiske family. He graduated from Harvard College in 1666. He was a physician and in served as a ships surgeon and sailed from Charlestown, Massachusetts in n 1679. He was captured by a Barbary Corsair and carried to Algiers and is supposed to have died in slavery, 1698. These are the Barbary pirates made famous in the Navy hymn “from the shores of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli” -Tripoli being the capital where they operated during the First Barbary War in 1784 (which was triggered by tributes paid to the pirates – sound familiar?). Thousands of American, Europeans (and Africans) were captured and sold into slavery in North Africa during this episode of history.

James Putnam King (1817- 1894) was a successful farmer, politician and abolitionist in Peabody, Massachusetts. He became a member of the Massachusetts legislature in 1854, overseer of the poor for the town of Peabody, and was quite well known as a large land owner. Mr. King was not famous, nor produced any noteworthy abolitionist literature, but is typical of the family sentiment in the 1800s. As a reformer, he was well known in Peabody. Mr. King’s brother-in-law married into my Wilkinson family from New Hampshire, and he shared Southwick, Jacobs, Waters, and Trask ancestors with me. Most of these Peabody families were originally Quaker, which may explain their abolitionist beliefs.

Food for thought:

I wonder how many of these Massachusetts abolitionists and reformers knew that certain ancestors owned slaves?

For Part One Click Here

For Part Three Click Here


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black History Month – Part 1

I’ve collected little tidbits about the black people mentioned in my family records. They are just little fleeting records, such as names mentioned in wills and in vital records. In New England, some families owned one or two household slaves, and sometimes they were not mentioned by name. I always thought someday I could turn them into stories, but such tiny fragments of information just collected dust in my files while waiting.

Then I read the blog postings by Luckie Daniels, a genealogy blogger at “Our Georgia Roots” She pleads for information about black people, any sort of information – even tidbits- to be posted. I agree with Luckie. I’ve been blessed with records that have been fairly easy to find, but I’ve also struggled and searched the archives and internet for clues. There is not a single black ancestor in my family tree, but there are black people in the family history. I know that a lack of records plague African American researchers. Why wait to turn these bits into stories when these little fragments of information might be important to a descendant searching for genealogical clues today!

A collection of tidbits….:

John Wass, d. Aug 1741 m. Ann Wilmot (my 8x great grandparents) m2 Mrs. Elizabeth Slaughter. John Wass died near the end of August, 1741, as his will was filed Sept. 1, 1741. His will is on file in the vaults of the Old Suffolk County Court House, Boston, and shows that he owned a black woman slave named Moll. This will is still on file at the Old Suffolk County Court House, Boston, Massachusetts, and a copy is available for interested researchers.

Francis Wyman (1619-1688) is my 10x great grandfather. He was a tanner in Woburn, Massachusetts. It was a smelly job, and he had many indentured servants, including some Scots prisoners of war in 1650. He left "a Negro girl named Jebyna" to his wife in his will. Nearly a century later, four Wyman households in Woburn had one "servant for life" each. From SLAVERY WAS PART OF WINCHESTER HISTORY By Ellen Knight © Note: this article was first written for Black History Month, 2000, and published in the Daily Times Chronicle, Winchester Edition, on Feb. 24, 2000. (Winchester was part of the original Woburn, Massachusetts)


Update: the following is from the website by Douglas Sinclair

Captain Ebenezer Ellingwood (1719-1771) (my third cousin 9 generations removed) Ebenezer was abated part of his taxes for the "loss of his negro" in 1758, who is undoubtedly the unnamed slave who drowned in that year in Ebenezer in Rev. Hale’s Beverly, Massachusetts death records. Those records also mention the death of a slave infant in 1757. The tax list for 1760 includes 2 slaves. They were likely a couple named Jethro and Juno, who had a child baptized in 1763. Jethro is the only slave named in Ebenezer's estate inventory, suggesting his wife and child had died or had been moved or sold elsewhere.

Joseph Estabrook (1690 - ?) (His daughter, Millicent, married a distant cousin) Joseph, had a slave, Prince Estabrook, whom his son Benjamin inherited. Prince, and Benjamin's son Joseph was present at the battle on Lexington Common, 19 April 1775. Prince, who is said to have had outstanding courage and character was wounded. Prince Estabrook is a well known figure in American History. At this same battle my 5x great grandfather, Andrew Munroe, lost a brother, a brother-in-law, and several cousins.

Samuel Libbey (1690 – 1754) of Scarborough, Maine. He wrote his will on April 6, 1754. To son Samuel, "One Hundred and ten Acres of Land that I bought of William Cotten, with Ten Acres more that I laid out adjoining to the Same, and one half of my Land and Meadow at Nonesuch River, And one half of that piece of Land adjoining to Martyn Josse's Land where Said Jose now lives. And one half of my part of that Land that I bought of Benja Hartford. And also one half of my Negro Man Nimrod to be Sold or to work for him one half of his time as he and his Brother can agree." To son Enoch, "my Homestead both Land and Marsh, excepting the three Acres of Marsh that I bought of Martyn Jose, as also my part of the Saw mill," the other half of the lands at Nonesuch river, half of the land next Martyn Jose's land, half of the land bought from Hartford, half of the slave Nimrod. The will was probated July 8, 1754. Samuel’s daughter, Mary Libbey, married Joseph Waterhouse in 1672 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His father was married to Mary Swett, my 8th great grand aunt (daughter of Benjamin Swett, my 9x great grandfather.)

William Seavey Jr (1648-1732) He was a surveyor in 1683, and at the proprietors meeting it was decided that he was to be excused by reason of "age and infirmity" from further service of laying out land. He owned a black slave Ammi. William was an important figure in the general Portsmouth area. He owned land at Greenland, Sandy Beach, and New Castle. He was a surveyor, and also handled many estate inventories. His daughter, Hannah, married Samuel Wallis and became a first cousin to me, eleven generations removed.

Benjamin Muzzy, (1657 – 1735) resided in Lexington, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Langthorne (1660- 1710). Sarah is my 7th great grand aunt, her father, Richard Langthorne is my 8x great grandfather.

In 1675, when he was a trooper in King Phillip’s war, Benjamin lived in Rumney Marsh. In 1693 he bought property in Lexington. He opened the first Public House there, which was later operated by his son John, and later by John’s granddaughter and her husband, John Buckman. It is still in existence, known as the "Buckman Tavern". The tavern was the rendezvous of the Minutemen, and it was there that Paul Revere came to give the alarm that the British were coming. It faces on the green where the battle was fought, and is a museum today. At Benjamin’s death, among other things listed in his possession were three slaves--a man valued at 80 pounds, and a woman and child valued at 60 pounds.

Samuel Maverick (1602-bet. 1669 and 1676) His father, John Maverick, was my 11x great grandfather.

Samuel Maverick, Episcopalian and Royalist, settled Noddle's Island and was its first recorded resident. Noddles Island is now East Boston, where the airport now exists, was used for grazing sheep and livestock. Samuel Maverick may have been the earliest slave holder in Massachusetts. He purchased several natives of Tortugas in 1638. On the other side, Maverick was an early champion of religious tolerance for which he was fined and imprisoned. Winthrop, referring to Samuel Maverick's kindness to the Indians during an epidemic of small pox, wrote: "Among others, Mr. Maverick of Winnesemett is worth of a perpetual remembrance. Himself, his wife, and servants went daily to them, ministered to their necessities, and buried their dead, and took home many of their children."

(The slaves he purchased were natives of the Tortugas were not Africans, but I think they deserve mentioning here, too)

From the website 30 March 2003 and also from "The Choates in America 1896. John Choate and His Descendants, Chebacco, Ipswich, Mass" by E.O. Jameson: The first mention of negro slavery in connection with the Choate family occurs as follows: "June 30, 1714. A negro boy, who had been bought by Thomas Choate of Hogg Island of one Joseph Norwood of Gloucester and sold to Jonathan Bunker of Charlestown." [Thomas Choate was my 8x great grandfather.]

“Then Thomas Choate, while a member of the General Court, bought on Long Wharf, Boston, for his son, Francis Choate, a negro boy just arrived from Africa by the name of "Ned". He was about eighteen years of age when purchased. He subsequently married the girl Sabina, or "Binah", as she was called, a negress for whom one "Phillis" was exchanged with Robert Choate, of Ipswich. Vid. Bill of Sale. Ned and Binah had seven children, all of whom were baptised as Ned was a member of the church. Their names were Edward, Titus, Peter, Caezar, Jane, Violet, and Peggy. Edward went to Leicester, Mass. with Isaac Choate; Peter was sold to John Choate, Esq.; Titus and Caezar remained with the family; Jane and Violet, when girls, took cold by sleeping in the barn after a famous husking, and died. They lie buried in the corner of a field near some large rocks, the only burials on the Island except those of Indians. "Uncle Ned" remained with Esquire Francis Choate after "The Governor" Thomas Choate removed to the main land to a house which stood next to the one now occupied by Mrs. Abby P. Choate. He lived to be full ninety years of age and died in 1800. "Ned and Binah" remained slaves until 1845 when Mr. Francis Choate gave them their freedom if they wished to take it, otherwise they were to be supported. They chose to remain with the family and accordingly were cared for as long as they lived.

"Know all men, by these presents that I, Robert Choate of Ipswich in the county of Essex and Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, yeoman, for and in consideration of a certain Negro-woman slave to me sold and conveyed by Francis Choate of Ipswich afresaid yeoman in Bill of Sale equally dated. With these presents (said Negro named Phillis) wherefore I do hereby sell, convey, make over, release, confirm and deliver unto the said Francis Choate and his heirs and assigns a certain Negro woman slave named "Binah" or Sabina for and during the term of her natural life according to the deed and form of law in that case. To have and to hold said Negro woman for the purpose, benefit and behoof of him the said Francis Choate his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns the term of her natural life aforesaid and I the said Robert Choate for myself, my executors heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, against all and all manner of persons shall warrant and forever defend by these presents for witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal. Of our sovereign Lord, George the Second, by the grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland Being Defender of the Faith &c. And in the year of our Lord God Annoque domine one thousand seven hundred thirty & four. Robert Choate. Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of Jacob Story and Jeremiah Foster."


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo
Submission for the Carnival of African-American Genealogy: March 19th: Restore My Name--Slave Records and Genealogy Research

For Part Two Click Here

For Part Three Click Here   


To cite/link to this blog post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Black History Month – Part 1", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 16, 2010, ( accessed [access date]).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fort Warren, Boston Harbor

Civil War re-enactors drilling at Fort Warren
During the Civil War, my 2x great grandfather Joseph Gilman Allen spent six months as a guard on George’s Island in Boston Harbor. This was the site of Fort Warren, a prisoner of war camp, and a fort to guard the entrance of Boston’s large harbor. Other members of my family tree, George Washington Lane, George F. Wiggin, and Walter Davis Allen, all served at this large fort, as well as Joseph’s own brother, Hervey Allen.

Fort Warren was built just before the beginning of the Civil War. It served as a prisoner of war camp and jail through the end of World War II. It is now a site for tourists on George’s Island, the central hub for the high speed ferry service to the other Boston Harbor Islands. There is still a yearly Civil War encampment held at Fort Warren by re-enactors. It is open to visitors from mid May through Columbus Day weekend. The view from the walls has a fantastic panorama of the Boston Harbor Islands and the Boston city skyline.

It is thought that the Civil War march “John Brown’s Body” was created at Fort Warren by the 12th Massachusetts Regiment. Later Abraham Lincoln was moved by the song, and he asked Julia Ward Howe to compose a hymn from the tune, so she created “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The original words were considered rather racy, and Howe’s new lyrics were considered to be more socially acceptable.

Historian Edward Rowe Snow often told the ghost story of the “Lady in Black” when giving tours at Fort Warren. It is based on a true event that happened there during the Civil War. A young confederate soldier was imprisoned at Fort Warren, and he wrote to his wife directions on how to reach him. She rowed to the island, dressed in men’s clothing, and with a prearranged signal she was hoisted up to his window. They decided to dig a tunnel to escape, yet were found out by the guards. The wife’s gun went off during the escape, killing her own husband, and she was sentenced to hang from the fort’s wall. Her last request was to be hanged in woman’s clothing. A black robe was found in a theater trunk, and it had to do for her last dress.

The ghost dressed in black robes has been seen all over the island. The tour guides still have fun relating all the different versions of the story, and children still prowl the halls of Fort Warren looking for the “Lady in Black.” It was my daughter’s favorite pastime as a child, to take a friend for a trip out on the ferry out to Fort Warren, and to bravely go into the darker passages without us adults, to look for the ghost. This would usually end up with her running screaming back to find us!

The photo above was taken during our first family outing to Fort Warren. We were lucky enough to be there on the weekend of a civil war encampment. We had lots of great photo opportunities, and it was easier to imagine great great grandfather Allen as a guard. We’ve been back several other times, but have never had as much fun as that first trip.

Family Tree Information:

Joseph Allen, son of Joseph Allen and Judith Burnham, born 31 July 1801, at Chebacco Parish, Ipswich, Massachusetts, died on 2 August 1894 in Beverly, Massachusetts; married on 28 October 1824 in Essex, Massachusetts to Orpha Andrews, daughter of James Andrews and Lucy Presson, born on 3 February 1804, Chebacco Parish, died 20 April 1869 in Peabody, Massachusetts. Joseph worked as a fisherman and as a shipwright at one of the Essex shipyards. They had six children

1. Humphrey Choate Allen, 1825 - 1881
2. Susan Gorton Allen, 1827 - 1873
3. Joseph Gilman Allen, born on 22 May 1830 in Essex, died on 9 April 1908 in Essex; married on 23 May 1863 in Essex to Sarah Burnham Mears, daughter of Samuel Mears (also a Civil War Veteran) and Sarah Ann Burnham, born 30 November 1844 in Essex, died on 4 March 1913 in Essex. On July 1st, 1862 he was enrolled as a private in Company B of the 7th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers for six months of the Civil War. He served at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor and was discharged on December 31st, 1862. He was granted a military pension of $20 a month on March 2, 1907. After his death his widow received a $12 a month pension. Ten children, including my great grandfather Joseph Elmer Allen, born in 1870.
4. Unknown infant, died 1832
5. Hiram Allen, 1935- 1900
6. Hervey Allen, born 15 April 1841 in Essex, died on 20 Oct 1905 in Beverly; married on 20 April 1873 in Essex to Adeline Jane Andrews, daughter of James Andrews and Lucinda Daniels, born on 28 February 1839 in Moscow, Maine, died 15 February 1886 in Beverly. Hervey Allen enlisted in December 1864 for one year of defense of the forts of Boston during the Civil War.

For more information:

The History of Fort Warren, a book by Jay Schmidt The Boston Harbor Island’s website on George’s Island, with information on getting to the island, and for free tours led by rangers. The Wikipedia article on Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

“The Romance of Boston Bay” by Edward Rowe Snow, 1944

“Mysterious Tales of the New England Coast”, Edward Rowe Snow, 1961 (includes the story of the Lady in Black)

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine’s Day in the Family Tree

I know that St. Valentine’s Day was popular in the middle ages, through the tradition of courtly love. It was popular again in the Victorian Era when all things romantic, classical and sentimental were revived. However, I very much doubt that in Puritan New England couples chose this date as their wedding day. It was probably just coincidental that some of these marriages took place on February 14th.

Members of my family tree with wedding anniversaries on February 14th:

Elizabeth Andrews and Samuel Symonds, 1662 in Salem, Massachusetts
Abigail Woodbury and William Ellingwood, 1718 in Salem, Massachusetts
Thankful Winslow and Theophilus Crosby, 1723 in Harwich, Massachusetts
Mary Herrick and Thomas West, 1731 in Beverly, Massachusetts
Sarah Knight and Anthony Brackett, 1734 in Scarboro, Maine
Hepzibah Rowe and Benjamin Tarr, 1749 in Gloucester, Massachusetts
Prudence Proctor and James Buffington, 1765 in Danvers, Massachusetts
Jane Bremner and Johann Daniel Bollman, 1782 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (4x great grandparents)
Abigail Mace and Simon Locke, 1792 in Greenland, New Hampshire (my 5x great grandparents)
Elizabeth Anne Haley and George A. Landers, 1856 in Nova Scotia
Sarah Ellen Learock and Michael Creamer Wilkin, 1858 in Salem, Massachusetts
Idella Ernestine Wilkinson and George Myron Stearns, 1882 in Boston, Massachusetts
Gertrude Matilda Hitchings and Stanley Elmer Allen, married in 1925 in Hamilton, Massachusetts (my grandparents, in the photo above)
Mary Aileen Stillman and Valentine Grover Holt, 1951 in Hawaii
Aileen Ruth Robinson and Rodney Kragness , 1962

The top photo is my grandparents, Gertrude and Stanley Allen, at their 50th Anniversary Party in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1975. The bottom photo is my grandparents, at that same Valentines/Anniversary party, surrounded by 17 of their 29 grand children!


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Safe 2010 US Federal Census

There is a new e-mail cirulating which falsely claims to be from the Better Business Bureau about the upcoming 2010 Census. It is inaccurate and BBB is advising consumers to get the facts. Do NOT reply to this email. The U.S. Census Bureau does NOT email households.

The following information is from the Better Business Bureau

How to Identify a Census Field Representative

If a U.S. Census Bureau employee knocks on your door, here are some recognition tips to assure the validity of the field representative:

• The field representative must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. The field representative may also be carrying a bag with a Census Bureau logo.

• The field representative will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the Regional Office phone number for verification, if asked.
• The field representative will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau Director on official letterhead.

When Field Representatives will be going Door-to-Door

• From April to July 2010, we will knock on the door of every household that does not mail back a completed 2010 Census form.

• It’s critical that you take just 10 minutes to fill out and mail back your form rather than wait for a census worker to show up on your doorstep. About $85 million in taxpayer dollars are saved for every one percent increase in mail response.

What the 2010 Census DOES NOT Ask

• Field representatives will never ask you for your social security number, bank account number, or credit card number. Census workers also never solicit for donations and will never contact you by e-mail.

The Census is Safe

• The 2010 Census will ask for name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether you own or rent your home – just 10 simple questions that will take about 10 minutes to answer.

• Your answers are protected by law and are not shared with anyone.

• The Census Bureau safeguards all census responses to the highest security standards available.

For more information about the upcoming 2010 Census visit

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Love Story Too Sad for Valentine’s Day

Deborah Wilson, a Quaker in very Puritan Salem Village

Deborah Buffum was born in 1639 in Salem, Massachusetts. Her family was the Quaker Buffum family, headed by her father Robert, who was regularly fined for non-attendance at the Puritan meetings. She married Robert Wilson in Marblehead in 1658, and had at least two children, a Deborah and a Robert.

The records describe Deborah as a Quaker like her parents, and the town History “The Peabody Story” describes her as very young, modest and retiring. One day in June 1662 she walked towards the meeting house stark naked in order to “call attention to the bareness of the religion of the accepted church which all were compelled to attend.”

Deborah was arrested before she got to the meeting house, and the court records say that for “barbarous and unhuman going naked through the town, is sentenced to be tied at a cart tail with her body naked downward to her waist, and whipped…till she come to her own house, not exceeding thirty stripes, and her mother Buffum and her sister Smith, that were abetted to her, etc, to be tied on either side of her at the cart tail naked to their shifts to the waist and accompany her…”

Her husband, Robert Wilson, was not a Quaker, but he obviously loved his wife. He walked beside the cart, putting his hat between the whip and his wife. I imagine it was one of those large brimmed, black Puritan style hats. Perhaps it was a hat like you see in Pilgrim cartoons. One of those hats would have made some sort of cushion from the whip.

According to the “Annals of Salem,” the constable sentenced to execute the punishment was Daniel Rumdel, who had “bowels of compassion” for his victim. He “on purpose” made his whippings miss or land lightly. Some accounts of this story have the constable sparing her with his own hat, and one account I read imagined a love story between the constable and the Quaker wife. However, the town histories state that the husband, Robert Wilson, put his own hand and hat between the whip and his wife. I’m sure that this kind hearted constable allowed the husband to walk there, and looked the other way at the “clapping [of] his hat sometimes between the whip and her back.”

After this Deborah was fined for non-attendance at the meeting house, until the court was informed she was “distempered in the head.” I suppose she was suffering from some sort of mental illness that perhaps began before the whipping incident. There are no more records on Deborah. She died in 1668, at about 30 years old.

Robert Wilson, her husband, remarried to Anna Trask. They had one child, Anna, born in 1674. Only one year later Robert was killed by the Indians at a massacre in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on 18 September 1675. Sixty four men from Essex County died in the attack, and were buried in one mass grave. Robert Wilson was about 45 years old. Cotton Mather wrote “In this black and fatal day… six and twenty children made orphans, all in one little plantation.” The site of the massacre was renamed “Bloody Brook.”

Deborah and Robert Wilson were my 9x great grandparents. For a family tree, please see my posting on September 21, 2009 at

For more information:

“Annals of Salem, Massachusetts” by Joseph B. Felt, 1827

“The Peabody Story” by John A. Wells, Essex Institute, Salem, Massachusetts, 1973, pages 136-7.


To Cite/Link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Love Story Too Sad for Valentine's Day", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 11, 2010, ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- The house in Beverly, Massachusetts

This photo is from 1965. It's me (the big sister), my sister (the baby), and my Mom on a winter day in Beverly, Massachusetts. I can tell it was taken right on the sidewalk by the front door of our house on Dearborn Avenue. This was the house my great-grandparents moved into when they came from England in 1915, my grandparents were married there on Thanksgiving Day 1926, and my Dad grew up there with his brothers. I lived in this same house until I was about 8 years old. Four generations!

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stop and Have a Sandwich!

Strange things that happened on the way to a cemetery…..

Francis Wyman, d. 1699 Woburn, Massachusetts
Several years ago, it was a weekend, and we were bored. Of course, when my husband suggested a ride in the car, I pulled out my list of cemeteries to visit. (Only genealogists have backup lists of cemeteries for days such as this!) I decided on a cemetery in Woburn, and we set off with a full tank of gas, the camera, note book and family tree. Woburn is only an hour’s drive from home.

Our destination was the First Burial Ground in Woburn, Massachusetts. I had a list of ancestors from my father’s side of the family, with surnames such as Converse, Carter and Thompson. However, my husband wanted to stop at his office on the way, so I sat in the car, listened to music, read a book, got bored… time ticked by. Finally, he got back in the car and we were on our way. However, now we were both hungry and since it was late, it was now past lunchtime.

So, the next stop was for a sandwich. Not knowing the town of Woburn, we meandered, decided on a sandwich shop, and then had fun people watching whilst eating our lunch. Now it was midafternoon, and I wanted to find the cemetery, find the gravestones, and get a few photos before the shadows got too long. I wasn’t worried; it was turning out to be an interesting day.

After driving in circles around the Woburn town common, we finally found the correct one-way street to the First Burial Ground. It was my favorite kind of New England cemetery, installed on a hill, with lots of crooked and interesting stones from the 1600s and 1700s. I knew I would want to spend hours there, even though it was already late in the day. Only one other family was there, and I needed to find some time to chat up the locals, too.

We started looking and snapping photos, and eventually ended up next to the other family group. Of course, we all started to ask “Who are you looking for?” and “Is it an ancestor?” and “How are you related?” I was looking for the Converse surname. It turns out that they were looking for Francis Wyman, and I pulled out my copy of my family tree and said, “I think I’m descended of him, too!”

It turns out that on my mother’s side of the family tree, there were Wymans, and Francis Wyman was the first immigrant ancestor. He was one of the first settlers in Woburn, and his gravestone is one of the oldest in Massachusetts. Soon we were all comparing notes, angling for photographs and exchanging names. One of the other people was on the board of the “Wyman Family Association” and she was soon telling me all about the 1666 Frances Wyman House. It is the oldest house in Burlington (formerly part of Woburn) and is still owned by the family association. Five minutes later, they were gone, and so were we. Our brief cemetery visit was complete.

If we hadn’t dawdled that morning, stopped at the office, spent time lingering over lunch we never would have met up with strangers in the burial ground. We were there ten minutes, and so were they. We easily could have missed each other, and never have met to exchange stories. But within the next few days we joined the Wyman Family Association, attended a fantastic family reunion and toured our ancestor’s home. We made friends, met new cousins, and added pages and pages of notes to our genealogy data base.


Lesson learned: Stop, slow down and enjoy the ride! You never know what will happen on the way to the cemetery (or once you get there!)


For further information:

"Ye Olde Woburn"  A genealogy website centered on Woburn, Massachusetts;id=7;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eyeoldewoburn%2Enet%2Findex%2Ehtml The website of the Wyman Family Association

My own blog post of August 25, 2009 “New Hampshire Descendants of Francis Wyman”

Click here to see all the blog posts I have done on the Wyman family

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, February 8, 2010

Compiled Genealogy Bibliography

I learned about this idea from Martin Hollick at the “Slovak Yankee” blog. He posted a list of compiled genealogies that contain his closest ancestors. It is amazing how making up a list like this shows the holes in my research, or perhaps the need for me to put together some sort of a book or genealogical article for some of these families. Some old colonial families are so well documented that I stopped looking for compiled genealogies on some lineages, and that is certainly a hole in my research, too. It is also amazing how old some of these compiled genealogies are, and the need for some updates!

At the same time I charted this out, I also added the “Surnames to 9 Generations” tab at the top of the page on my blog. I first listed all the surnames, now I am slowly adding their migration routes. I’m also tagging some of the important, well known named ancestors (Mayflower, Great Migration, Reverends, historical figures, etc.). I had never listed all the surnames before, and again I found some good places for more research. Certain branches I haven’t looked at in a long, long time.

Great Grandparents:

Albert Munroe Wilkinson-(1860-1908) No book has ever been written on the Wilkinsons of northern New England, nor have they been in any genealogical articles. The first immigrant Wilkinson was Thomas Wilkinson, a native of London, England, who married Elizabeth Caverly in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1715. This is my maiden name, and a big pet project.

John Peter Bowden Roberts and his wife, Emma Frances Warren, were immigrants from Leeds, Yorkshire, England in 1915 via Ellis Island. There is no compiled genealogy of either family.

Joseph Elmer Allen and his wife, Carrie Maude Batchelder, are in the Batchelder, Batcheller Genealogy by Frederick Clifton Pierce, published by the author in Chicago, 1898, (with various updates), on page 329. Lists only two children, three more were born after publication. The Allen Family comes from William Allen of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, but this branch has not been documented. There are several books with the first five generations or so of the Allen family.

Arthur Treadwell Hitchings-(1868 – 1937) There is no book on the Hitchings/Hitchens family, which goes back to Daniel Hitchins (1632 -1731) of Lynn, Massachusetts. They are well documented in the local history books, and in journal articles.

Florence Etta Hoogerzeil (1871- 1941)– Her grandfather was Peter Hoogerzeil, immigrant to America before 1828. The family was written up by the Netherlands in articles (in Dutch) by Erik A. N. Kon, going back to Arijen Bruynen born about 1631 in Krimpen ann de Lek. No compiled genealogy book. Kon’s work is extensive, including all the known Hoogerzeil/Hogerzeil families and the American branch down to Florence and her children.

2x Great Grandparents:

Caleb Rand Bill (1833-1902) in the History of the Bill Family, edited by Ledyard Bill, 1867, p. 200 along with his wife Ann Margaret Bollman. Daughter Isabella Lyons Bill married Albert Munroe Wilkinson. They are also in the update by Harry Bill.

Sarah Burnham Mears (1844- 1913) There is no book on the Mears family of Essex, Massachusetts. I have traced this line back to Alexander Mears, born about 1750 in London, England, yet have gone no further.

Mary Katherine Emerson (1847 – 1932) and her husband, George E. Batchelder (1848 – 1914), are in The Ipswich Emerson, A. D. 1636-1900: A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Emerson of Ipswich, Mass., by Benjamin Kendall Emerson, Boston, David Clapp & Son, 1900, page 306. This page also gives an explanation of her adoption by the Harris family of Boston (her paternal aunt) which solved a great brick wall problem for me! The Batchelders are described above.

Hannah Eliza Lewis (1844 – 1921) This is one of my brick wall lineages, since I have only traced back to her grandfather, Thomas Lewis and wife Amelia (unknown maiden name). I don’t know from which Massachusetts Lewis family he descends.

3x Great Grandparents:

Mercy F. Wilson (1803-1883) – The great Wilson researcher, Ken Stevens of Walpole, New Hampshire was working on a compiled genealogy of the Wilsons of Danvers, Massachusetts, but hadn’t published his notes. He assured me my lineage was correct back to the first Wilson, Robert Wilson b. 1630 in England and died 18 September 1675 at Deerfield, Massachusetts in the Bloody Brook Massacre. I think he hit a brick wall with the rest of the Danvers Wilsons. I haven’t been able to untangle it, either, beyond my direct lineage to Robert Wilson.

Luther Simonds Munroe (1805 – 1851) in the History and Genealogy of the Lexington, Massachusetts, Munroes, compiled by Richard S. Munroe, published by the author, 1966, page 71. This goes back to the Scots prisoner of war, William Munroe (1625 – 1718) in Lexington.

Olive Flint (1805-1875) – is in the book Genealogical register of the descendants of Thomas Flint, of Salem : with a copy of the wills and inventories of the estates of the first two generations, compiled by John Flint and John H. Stone, Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1994, and both her parents were Flints (first cousins John Flint and Phebe Flint) so this was easy.

Isabella Lyons (1806 – 1872)– I have found no Lyons family genealogy. She was born in Nova Scotia, but her roots go back to Connecticut.

Bremner Frederick Bollman (1802 – 1838) No Bollman book. His father, Dr. Johann Daniel Bollman, was a surgeon and Hessian soldier during the American Revolution, born in Hammersleben, Germany and settled in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Sarah Elizabeth Lennox (1805 - ?) married to B. F. Bolllman. There is no Lennox book. Her father John Lennox, was a Scotts settler in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and her mother, Ann Margareta Schupp, was the daughter of German immigrants.

Orpha Andrews – (1804-1869)- in the book The Descendants of Lieut. John Andrews: Who Came From England in 1635, and Settled in Chebacco Parish (now Essex) Mass., By Elliott Morrison Andrews. I have several Andrews lineages in this book.

Sarah Ann Burnham (1821-1848)- in the book The Burnham family : or, genealogical records of the descendants of the four emigrants of the name, who were among the early settlers in America, by Roderick H. Burnham. I have more than ten Burnham lineages, all in this book, but there are many errors.

Abigail M. Locke (1825-1888) in the Book of the Lockes : a genealogical and historical record of the descendants of William Locke, of Woburn. With an appendix, containing a history of the Lockes in England, also of the family of John Locke, of Hampton, NH, and kindred families and individuals by John Goodwin Locke, 1853

Mary Esther Younger (1826-1910) – No compiled genealogy on the Younger family of Gloucester, Massachusetts, which I have traced back only to William Younger who married Lucy Foster in Gloucester in 1750.

Eliza Ann Treadwell (1812-1896) – No compiled genealogy of the Treadwell family, as far as I know, but they are a well documented family from Ipswich dating back to Thomas Treadwell born about 1603 in London, England, died 1671 in Ipswich.

Eunice Stone (1807 – 1886) I haven’t found a compiled genealogy yet of this family, which begins with John Stone (abt. 1595-abt 1670) in Salem, Massachusetts. There might be one out there, but there was so much other information I stopped looking…shame on me!

Joseph Edwin Healy and his wife, Matilda Weston, are in Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Volume II, Part II Edward Doty, (a “Silver Book”) compiled by Peter B. Hill, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1996, page 185

4x great grandparents:

Mercy Nason (b. 1764 in Kittery) I haven’t used a Nason book for this line, it was well documented in vital records, town histories, articles. (But again, is there a Nason book?)

Mary Southwick (1777-1854) Genealogy of the descendants of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick of Salem, Mass.: the original emigrants, and the ancestors of the families who have since borne his name, by James M. Caller and Mrs. M. A. Ober, reprint by Higginsons (originally 1881) This book is old and contains errors, but was a good guide to start.

Ruth Simonds (1763 – 1840) in the book Genealogical Sketch of William Simonds, by Edward Francis Johnson, 1889, but the family was also written up in the Woburn town histories.

Mary Rand (1758 – 1845) in the book Genealogy of Rand: from Robert Rand of Charlestown 1634 to 1867, by Thomas Bellows Wyman, 1867 and in the Martha’s Vineyard history, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Genealogies.

Ann Skinner (1786 – 1815) again, in the Yarmouth Genealogies, and The Skinner Kinsmen, the descendants of John Skinner of Hartford, Connecticut, by Natalie R. Fernald.

Lucy Presson (1763 – 1852) This family name changed from Presbury, to Preston to Presson since the 1600’s. I don’t know if there is a book (I should put this on my list of things to look up next!).

Sally Poland (1780 – 1861) in the book The Polands of Essex County, Massachusetts, by Lloyd O. Poland, 1981

Margaret Welch (abt. 1796 – 1860) Another brick wall! I don’t know her parents, but she may have been born in Kittery.

Catherine Plummer Jones (1799-1828) formerly a brick wall, now solved! Absolutely no book, but I’ve blogged about this one!

Susanna Hix (1768 – 1859) – another brick wall! She doesn’t seem to belong to any of the other Hix/Hicks families in Beverly, Massachusetts. Another ongoing project…

Rebecca Crosby (1789-?) Her parents are in the Yarmouth Genealogies, an earlier branch of the Cape Cod/ Cambridge Crosbys who are written up in earlier generations in Simon Crosby the emigrant : his English ancestry, and some of his American descendants, by Eleanor Davis Crosby, 1914

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo