Saturday, July 31, 2010

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii- Day Five

This is a continuation of the story of my family history related trip to Hawaii. On this day, Hubby woke up extra early to swim at Waikiki Beach whilst I slept late. I missed another opportunity to swim in the Pacific Ocean. Then we drove east past Diamond Head, the Halona Blow Hole, the Makapu’u Lighthouse and Hanamuma Bay. This side of the island was dry and rocky, and the mountains look decidedly more volcanic and bare. It became greener and lush as we drove into the windward side of Oahu, towards the Polynesian Cultural Center.

We arrived at the PCC around 1 PM, in time to meet our guide for the day, a Philippine student named Ira. The Polynesian Cultural Center is run by the Hawaiian campus of Brigham Young University, and it offers jobs to students (scholarships) from all over the Pacific. Many of the students would not be able to attend university without the jobs provided by the PCC as tour guides, dancers, interpreters, and craftspeople. The rest of the jobs are filled in by local people from the town of Laie. About 1,300 employees represent the nations of Hawaii, Samoa, Maori Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tonga, Easter Island, Tahiti and the Marquesas.

We were lucky enough to have Super Ambassador Tickets, which meant that our guide stayed with us all day, making sure we didn’t miss a show or demonstration, and she also reserved the choicest seats at all the shows for us. We had priority seating at the dinner luau, and at the final show at the end of the day we had front row seats! Since I have limited mobility, this helped insure that I didn’t have to stand in line, wander the large campus searching for the next attraction, or get lost! I would highly recommend upgrading to an Ambassador Ticket if you ever get to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Another bonus was that our tickets would be good for the next three days, so we could return again. Unfortunately we had a full slate of appointments for the next two days, or we would have taken advantage of these tickets.

Disclaimer: We bought our own tickets. The Polynesian Cultural Center did not give or offer us any free or discounted services during our visit.

We were also very impressed with the talented, polite, and enthusiastic students and other staff members. They answered all our questions, shared stories of their home islands and were curious about New Hampshire, too! Friends and family at home had recommended the PCC to us, and we would also recommend it to anyone else visiting Oahu. It was a long day, though. The final dinner show let out at about 10 PM and we had a long drive home to our hotel in Honolulu.

No family history research was completed today, but we gained a greater understanding of the wide range of Polynesian cultures. Considering how many American missionaries, sea captains, traders, bankers, government officials, and other settlers * have lived in places such as Hawaii, Samoa, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands and other American possessions, it was great to know learn more about these far flung islands. The BYU campus nearby has a Polynesian study center, extensive library and family history center. The LDS temple here in the town of Laie was the first temple ever built outside of the continental United States.

*In my own family tree some cousins served in the military in Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa. Capt. John Dominis removed his family to Hawaii. One cousin went to Australia in a Gold Rush, and another went to New Zealand as a missionary. Two brothers of my great grandfather went to New Zealand about 1890 and remained there for the rest of their lives. Many, many ancestors were New England sea captains, sailors and whalers, and they all passed by these islands on their way to search for whales or for the China/Japan trade routes. Even though my family tree is based in New England, Polynesia and the Pacific Rim has touched members of my family for generations.

For more information: a website describing the Halona Blow hole and other sites on the South Shore of Oahu. the website for the Polynesian Cultural Center

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, July 30, 2010

Family History Day, Boston, 16 October 2010

The New England Historic Genealogical Society and announce their second Family History Day on Saturday, October 16th at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center Boston. If you ever wanted to visit Boston and New England at the height of the autumn foliage season, this is the event for you!

The registration fee for this all day event is $38. You can register online.

I attended the last Family History Day in February 2010, and I was impressed with all the classes I attended, the people I met, my private consultation and the vendors. Again, will be providing free large scale document scanning, and the famously talented NEHGS staff will be providing private fifteen minute consultations for just an additional $5, preregistration required.

Some of the workshops (final class schedule will be posted in September) will include topics such as:

Organizing Your Family Tree
Researching Your New England Ancestors
Finding your Family in Immigration Records
Discovering the New England Historic Genealogical Society
Getting the most out of your membership

For more information see the website (also for Hotel discounts and transportation links)

click here

Questions? Email

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii- Day Four

This is a continuation of the story of my family history related trip to Hawaii. Since we had been so busy doing my genealogy research, it was time for my hubby to choose the day’s activities. He decided to go to Pearl Harbor, since it was Sunday, and most museums and archives would be closed. Several taxi drivers and hotel staff had told us to arrive extra early in the morning, since tickets were needed for the ferry to the Arizona Memorial and they were given out on a first come- first served basis. Being vacation, we didn’t want to arrive there at 6 AM as advised, but compromised and arrived a little after 7 AM.

Luckily for us, we received two tickets for the 8 AM ferry, the first ferry of the day! It was very emotional to approach the memorial and realize that we would be the first visitors of the day. The quiet mood was magnified since we were the first tourists, and the water was very still and quiet for viewing the wreck beneath the waves. Everyone was appropriately solemn and spoke in whispers. Several sailors in whites were amongst the crowd. I felt as if I were standing on Ground Zero in Manhattan, thinking of the thousands of young men still inside the Arizona after all those years. There are tears in my eyes as I remember and write these words.

These names can be searched at The Interactive USS Arizona Memorial Database
found at

Hubby visited the submarine USS Bowfin whilst I perused the bookstore and the new visitor center. He also contemplated a tour of the battleship Missouri, but we decided to leave it for another day. The bookstore had a good selection of World War II history, as well as a small selection of books on Hawaii. My husband bought a US flag that flew over the Arizona Memorial on 7 December 2009, the 68th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor incident. This is a wonderful gift for any family, especially for veterans. There was a large selection of flags of many sizes available for purchase, and all had flown over the USS Arizona.

Since Hubby was in charge of the plans for the day, we were off to visit the Dole pineapple plantation. He had grown up in Puerto Rico, so the thought of seeing all that tropical fruit sounded like fun to him. It was a lot of fun, and we took a small scale train ride through the pineapple fields, and also saw lots of other types of fruit trees (guava, mango, papaya, macadamia, carambolla, etc.).

We also visited an ancient Hawaiian Heiau along the way, where the birthing stones for the ali’I (nobility) are located in central Oahu. “Heiau” is the Hawaiian word for a temple. The royal women were brought here to give birth, similar to a site we had seen on the island of Kauai. It was nice to visit a place that celebrated new life, after the Pearl Harbor memorial. It was also still considered sacred ground, with kapu signs, and fruit and flower offerings made by native Hawaiians draped over some of the stones.

Afterward, we visited the north shore again, and drove to the end of the Farrington Highway at its most western point. Again, there were breathtaking beaches and beautiful mountains, and we used up another memory card on the digital camera!

Later that afternoon cousin from Honolulu told me we had an appointment later in the week to visit the Royal Mausoleum, and we could also visit the Dominis family plot down the street from the Mausoleum at the Oahu Cemetery. Research at the State Archives was going to wait, too, for later in the week when we had another appointment at Iolani Palace.


For more information: the website for the National Park Service, Pearl Harbor Memorial for a website about the Kukaniloko Birth Stones. the website for the Dole plantation

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Thursday, July 29, 2010

People are Blurbing All Over!

In the past few weeks several Genealogy Blogs have mentioned various Blurb book projects of great interest. I hope they spur you on to some new and creative uses for preserving information, photographs and documents.

T. K. at Before My Time created a book project on her Schulte cousins. It is collaboration with a cousin, and I know that working on a Blurb project online with collaborators is easy. T. K. also is the one who figured out that any book under 120 pages will have a sewn binding, which is important to many family historians. I already had the experience of a wedding book disintegrating at a family gathering. For your information, it was not produced by Blurb and it had a glued binding. The bride was very distressed.

Kathy at I Will Remember just received her copy of her blog which had been “slurped” via Blurb. The software automatically downloaded her posts into a book, and she spent a few days editing it for her final approval. The photos on her post looked great, and she thought the whole process was easy and quick.

The Grand Prize goes to T. J. Rand, who wrote to me that he read my blog last spring and checked out the Blurb website. T.J. not only found it interesting, but created 10 books for the Epsom Historical Association! Included are 5 books on cemeteries, a book on the oldest house in town, a book on the Epsom Free Will Baptist Meeting house, and two books on the first 100 years of the town history. You can check them out at the Blurb Bookstore at this link

T. J. Rand’s books are an extremely creative project for archiving local historical information. The books are available for sale online with a small profit to benefit the Historical Association of Epsom, New Hampshire. They will also be selling a few copies at their Old Home Day on August 14th. The town library has plans to purchase copies of all them, and one was also donated to the town library. You can preview the first fifteen pages of each of these books, and perhaps come up with some creative ideas for you own family or town history. As T. J said in an email “....even though the information may be available electronically online or in other formats, there is nothing like a book.”

In the next few weeks I’ll be slurping three months of posts from Nutfield Genealogy into another book, and also creating a coffee table sized, hard cover photo book of our trip to Hawaii. No more paper and scissors scrapbooking for me!

NOTE: You can get 20% off your Blurb order by using the code LIBERATION until the end of July 2010. Work fast to take advantage!

I was not reimbursed or offered any free products by
I'm just a Blurb fan.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Treasure Chest Thursday- A Song by Lili'uokalani

"Aloha Oe" seen in a historical display in the lobby of the Waikiki Marriott

We heard the song "Aloha Oe" all over Hawaii.  In English it is called "Farewell to Thee".  If you heard it you would also recognize it, too. I remember learning it in primary school, as part of a world music study.   It is the most popular song written by Queen Lili'uokalani, and perhaps the most popular song to come from Hawaii other than "Tiny Bubbles" (which has nothing to do with the Hawaii, it was just popularized by entertainer Don Ho at his nightclub shows in Honolulu). 

This song was written in 1877 after a trip to the windward side of Oahu.  The Queen, who wrote over 100 musical compositions in her lifetime, witnessed two lovers embracing as a farewell.  This inspired her to write the song after she returned to Honolulu.  There is a common myth that states the Queen wrote it during her imprisonment in Iolani Palace after the overthrow of the Kingdom, but that is just a story perpetuated by tour guides.  The song she actually wrote during her imprisonment is another tune called "The Queen's Prayer".

On our trip, bands and  musicians would often sing "Aloha Oe" as a sign off song.  It was used in films and orientation videos.  We took a movie tour on the island of Kauai, where many feature films were produced, and that is when I saw Elvis sing it as part of the movie "Blue Hawaii'.   I never really listened to any Elvis song (he was well before my time!), and never saw any of his movies, but this three minute clip of his movie grabbed my attention!  I might even rent the DVD sometime next week! 

This song has been recorded by many artists other than Elvis Presley.  There are "Aloha Oe" recordings by Johnny Cash, Don Ho, the Galliard String Quartet, Bing Crosby, and the Royal Hawaiian Band.  It's too bad that the Queen's charity, the Lili'uokalani Children's Centers seen all over Hawaii, doesn't receive a royalty on these CDs, performances and records.

Please check out the website  for the lyrics to "Aloha Oe" in both Hawaiian and English, with more about the story of its origins.   The Palace Shop at the Iolani Palace carries a reproduction of the original sheet music by Queen Lili'uokalani.  I bought several copies for the musical folks in my family, as well as the sheet music for "The Queen's Prayer".   The website for Iolani Palace is and they take phone and mailed orders (you can print out an order form), but they do not offer ordering online.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii- Day Three

This is a continuation of the story of my family history related trip to Hawaii for the past two weeks. I’m skipping over the cruise we took for seven days (you can read a short version in yesterday’s post), and I'll recount our days on the island of Oahu. After leaving the ship we checked into another hotel on Waikiki beach, and then immediately rented a car to get to the Bishop Museum.

The Bishop museum was built in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife, the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, hanai (foster) sister to Queen Lili’uokalani and last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. There is a large collection of the royal family memorabilia on the third floor of Hawaiian Hall, and more about the monarchy on the first floor. The entire museum is a complex of several buildings spread over a large campus.

We decided to go to the museum library first, since we had limited time. Please note that only fifteen researchers are allowed into the library at a time, and at our first attempt the seats were full. We had to check back over time to see if anyone had left. So we went back to Hawaiian Hall to see the Polynesian collections. This was a wonderful exhibit, and should be the starting point to anyone’s visit to the island of Oahu. All types of artifacts relating to Polynesian society, art, culture and history were represented in the displays.

After Hawaiian Hall, we were able to get into the library. We met Desoto Brown, who had been part of the panel discussion about the movie “Princess Kaiulani” the previous week, and he led us to some original documents in the collection including the marriage certificate of John Owen Dominis and Lili’uoklani, and several letters written from Sarah White Lee in Boston to the Queen. It seems that part of the Queen’s documents have been donated to the Bishop Museum, so anyone researching at the Hawaii State Archives for letter, correspondence, etc. might want to also check the Bishop Library finding aids, too. Desoto Brown said that the Queen's diaries were also divided between the State Archives and the Bishop Museum, but I didn't have time to look at them.

We still had time after leaving the library to see a special exhibit on surfboards, from antiques two hundred years old (or more!) to fiberglass boards built in the 1950s. It was interesting to read that the New England missionaries had banned surfing as well as hula dancing, and so this sport was almost lost to the ages in the last century. We also visited the fairly new science center and its fascinating exhibits on volcanoes and Hawaiian geology. The museum was closing early that Saturday due to an event, so we had to make time to check out the books in the gift shop.

There was time after dinner for a stroll on Wailkiki Beach, to see the surfers and sunbathers and take in the views of Diamond Head. We listened to music by a Hawaiian band at the hotel’s rooftop pool café, and had one of those rum drinks that come in a pineapple, completely decorated with slices of fruit and paper umbrellas! After all, this was a vacation trip!

This is the statue of Prince Jonah Kuhio we found on Waikiki Beach. He was the first native Hawaiian and the only person born of royalty to ever serve in the US House of Representatives (1903 until his death in 1922). His birthday March 26th is celebrated as Prince Jonah Kuhio Day every year and is a state holiday.


For more information: The website for Hawaii’s Bishop Museum, including the link to the library collections. A wikipedia biography of Prince Jonah Kuhio

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not so Wordless Wednesday- Statue of Queen Lili'uokalani

It took us several visits to the area near Iolani Palace, but we finally found the statue of Queen Lili'uokalani tucked into the area behind the Hawaii State Archives and the Hawaii State Capitol building. It was a special moment for me to spend a few minutes alone with Auntie Lydia. I was moved to take my lei off my shoulders and give it to her. As you can see, many other visitors have left flower offerings.

I noticed that in her right hand she had three important documents. One was the musical compostion she wrote called "Aloha Oe", the second was her book about her genealogy and the creation (also known as the "Kumulipo"), and the third was the Hawaiian Constitution of 1893, which she wrote but it was never adopted and it led to the overthrow of the Kingdom. In this photo, I am pointing to her genealogy story (of course!).

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii, Day Two

This is a continuation of story of my family history related trip to Hawaii for the past two weeks. Our first day was full of meeting “new” cousins and seeing historic sites related to the Dominis family and Queen Lili’uokalani. This next day we checked out of our hotel on Waikiki Beach, Oahu to board a cruise ship to see the islands of Maui, Hawaii and Kauai. This was the vacation part of the trip, so I won’t go into great detail about the cruise.  Tomorrow I'll start with the day we arrived back in Honolulu.  However, I'd like to mention a few things about our ship:

1.) The ship “Pride of America” very graciously has set aside quite a bit of space along the corridor of deck six to a historical museum showcasing the Kingdom of Hawaii, in particular the years of Queen Lili’uokalani and her brother King Kalakua, the “Merry Monarch”. This is located at the top of the grand staircase most modern cruise ships have on the main entry level deck. I passed by it every day on the way to the dining rooms and theater, and we photographed most of the items on display.

2.) The “Pride of America” also has a cultural advisor on board the entire cruise, and she would give a demonstration, lecture or show several times a day. She was available for questions, and gave advice for shore excursions and historical sites at each port. We even learned a bit of the Hawaiian language. This was wonderful to know, and we tried to take advantage of most of her offerings all week.

3.)  There was one Hawaiian entertainer who sang almost every night at the martini bar. He sang a variety of popular music, mixed in with songs sung in the Hawaiian language. We only went up to hear him a few nights, but when my husband asked him to sing one of Queen Lili’uokalani’s songs he was very happy to fulfill our request. I didn’t want to hear another version of “Aloha Oe”, which we had heard a few times other places, but he was able to sing a lovely Hawaiian language ballad I never heard before. A very nice surprise, and I wish I could remember the name of the tune! Other than this singer, the other Hawaiian bands on board seemed to be the usual type you would find in tourist areas, singing touristy Hawaiian music.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii, Day One

Finally, we see Washington Place in person!

This is a description of my family history related visit to Hawaii for the past two weeks. We arrived Honolulu in the early evening, bleary eyed and exhausted, so to me the Hawaii trip really started on Day Two. Our first night we checked into a hotel on Waikiki Beach, ate a bite for dinner, and I took a dip in the pool. Later, whilst walking along Waikiki Beach hubby took a dip in the ocean, too. We went to bed early. Little did I know that I would be so busy, I would only have time to swim two more times in the next two weeks!

The next day we were up early for a ten o’clock appointment at Washington Place in downtown Honolulu. This is the home Captain John Dominis built for his Boston wife, Mary Lambert Jones. Their son, Governor John Owen Dominis lived there with his wife, Lili’uokalani. It became the Queen’s residence after she was forced from the throne, and her adopted son John Aimoku Dominis lived there also. His three children were all born at Washington Place.

I’ve had an ongoing online email conversation with the Washington Place curator, Corinne Chun for several years. Corinne saw my posting on line for information related to Mary Dominis, and she sent me copies of several very good letters from the Hawaii State Archives that helped further my research in to the Jones sisters. You can read about this in some of my early blog posts last year. It was very nice to meet her in person.

We were able to tour the house, sit on the lanai and chat, and go up to Corinne’s office (the old governor’s bedroom) for more chatting and exchanging information. I saw the Queen’s bedroom, which had been lovingly restored, some of her personal effects, and other family mementos. It was very moving to be in Washington Place after reading about it for thirty years! We didn’t leave until 1:30 in the afternoon, and I was quite surprised that Corinne would spend so much time with me!

Corinne Chun, curator, me and a photo of
Queen Lili'uokalani with Aimoku's two eldest children
on the lanai of Washington Place

After leaving Washington Place, we met a Dominis cousin at her place of business and made arrangements to meet again with her the following week. This was as much fun to me as seeing Washington Place. I had previously met up with her sister last year in Massachusetts. We were surprised to see that Washington Place was right across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol building, and one block from the Iolani Palace and Hawaii State Archives. Everything was very close together and easy to find.

Our next step was to cross the island of Oahu for the North Shore community of Haleiwa. This is the town where the Queen Lili’uokalani Protestant Church is located. I had blogged about it at last year. I was meeting another distant cousin there in the church cemetery. We arrived a bit early, so I knocked on the pastor’s door for permission to view the church. Reverend Kahu Neal MacPherson was very gracious, and showed us around a bit, but it was only his second day at the church! The church secretary gave us a wonderful tour.

The church was organized in 1832 by the Reverend John Smith Emerson of Chester, New Hampshire. He was another distant cousin who arrived with the Fifth Company missionaries to the Sandwich Island. Just by coincidence, Chester is only one town away from Londonderry, where I now live. The first church was a grass hut, attended by over 2,000 native Hawaiians. The first actual building was erected about 1841 with a bell carried on the shoulders of Hawaiian men from Honolulu to Haleiwa. The third church was built in 1890, and this was the building attended by Queen Lili’uokalani when she stayed at her nearby beach house. She donated the chandeliers, books and the famous clock. In 1961 the current building was erected. The bell still hangs in the tower above the front door.

It was fun to finally “meet” my cousin, who had been my internet pen pal for several years. She has supplied me with much information on the Holt family, descendants of a third Jones sister. She also is the person who has been telling me about the Queen Lili’uokalani church for years, and we together laid some leis on the graves of the Emerson family. It was another emotional moment. We happily made plans to get together at Iolani Palace the following week.

We went home the long way, driving all along the north shore coast and returning to Honolulu through the very scenic mountain pass of the Wilson tunnel. The green, steep, volcanic mountains could take your breath away with their beauty, and the beaches were picturesque beyond description.

We knew that there was going to be an event at the Iolani Palace at 7PM that evening for a panel discussion for the recently released movie “Princess Kaiulani”. I had seen the movie, and blogged about it several times earlier this year. We didn’t know if we’d be home to Honolulu in time, but we actually drove up to Iolani Palace right at 6:30 PM, just in time to get a seat right next to my Honolulu cousin!

The panel discussion was chaired by Nanette Napoleon of the Iolani Palace; Desoto Brown of the Bishop Museum; Leo Anderson Akana (she played the Queen in the movie); Jeffery Au and Richard Galindez, producers, and moderated by Wanda Adams formerly of the Honolulu Advertiser. Blaine Kamalani Kia and Sonny Kalua sang a feature song from the film. I was fascinated by the presentation, and equally admired the passion of the Hawaiian people who questioned, complimented and also skewered certain historical points in the movie.

Desoto Brown (standing) archivist from the Bishop Museum

We didn’t leave the discussion until after 10:30 PM. We were exhausted and fell into bed. What a full first day in Hawaii!

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tombstone Tuesday- Leaving Leis at the Emerson family plot in Haleiwa, Hawaii

Whilst visiting the Queen Lili’uokalani church with my cousin, we found the graves of Reverend John Smith Emerson and his wife, Ursula Newell in the burial ground. He was a minister from Chester, New Hampshire for the Fifth Missionary Company to Hawaii in 1832.  I had previously written about this church and the Emerson gravesite on 3 December 2009 at my blog entry

This was a very moving experience for me, and I love the tradition of leaving leis. Here I received my own first lei, and I wore it constantly for the next few days until the orchids finally faded. I can imagine that Reverend John Smith Emerson was just as pleased with the tradition when he arrived from New Hampshire to Hawaii way back in 1832 with the Fifth Company of American Missionaries. I hope he still is smiling!

Please read my previous post about Rev. John Smith Emerson and his wife Ursula Sophia Newell:
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Happy Blogoversary to Me!

Last year on July 27th I wrote my first blog entry. I was surprised to look up my entry and find that my first story was about finding the six sisters in the Boston Jones family, and their husbands. One of the sisters, Mary Lambert Jones married Captain John Dominis in Boston on 9 October 1824, and removed to Hawaii. She became the mother-in-law to Queen Lili’uokalani.

This was a surprise to me because over the weekend I just returned from a trip to Hawaii. I met with some “new” cousins, learned about the Dominis family, did a bit of research, and also found time to have a vacation. I’ll be writing about this in my upcoming posts, so stay tuned…

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, July 26, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- Abijah Fanklin Hitchings Obituaries

Obituaries (on file at the Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem)
May 20, 1910
Newspapers unknown
Abijah Franklin Hitchings was my 2x great grandfather


Was Deputy Collector of the Port of Beverly and Salem for Many Years

A. Frank Hitchings, deputy collector of customs for the district of Salem and Beverly, died at his home, 8 Bentley Street, last night. He was born in Salem, was the son of the late Abijah and Eliza (Treadwell) Hitchings, and was in his 69th year. He was educated in the Salem public schools, and afterwards worked at shoe making. He was one of the original minute men, enlisting as a boy of 19 years, in the old Salem Zouaves. Company J, Eighth regiment, M.V.M., Capt. Arthur F. Devereaux, and serving until discharged August 1, 1861. He re-enlisted as a sergeant in Company H., 19th Massachusetts regiment, and was discharged July 25, 1863 on account of wounds received at the battle of Fredricksburg. He joined Post 34, G.A.R., May 17, 1869.

Nov. 19, 1873 Mr. Hitchings was appointed an inspector in the Salem Custom house and assigned to duty as clerk. June 3, 1881, he was promoted to deputy collector, succeeding Col. J. Frank Dalton, who resigned May 7, 1881, to become postmaster of Salem. Mr. Hitchings has held the position of deputy collector ever since. He was a fine penman, very careful and methodical in everything that he did, and was a valuable government official. In connection with Stephen W. Phillips he prepared for publication by the Essex Institute the official register of all Salem vessels of which any record could be found in the Salem Custom house, a work which is extremely valuable today. He was a member of the Essex Institute. He possessed a fund of valuable information of Salem's early history, gleaned from his long service in the custom house.

Mr. Hitchings leaves a widow, a son, a daughter, and grandchildren.


May 23, 1910
A. Frank Hitchings

The funeral of Deputy Collector of Customs A. Frank Hitchings was held at his late home, 8 Bentley Street, yesterday afternoon. Rev. Charles H. Puffer, D. D., and Rev. Alfred Manchester officiated, and there was a very large attendance, including comrades of Post 34, G.A.R., the old Salem Zouaves, Collector of Customs David M. Little, and past and present Custom house officials, and many prominent citizens. The G. A. R. service was conducted by Commander J. Frank Dalton, Chaplain William I. Arvedson, S.V.C. Eben S. Perkins, O.D.,John C. Grover, Adjutant Everett E. Austin and Patriotic Instructor Charles H. Frye of Post 34.

The honorary pallbearers were Hon. David M. Little, William J. Sullivan, Daniel F. Connolly and I.P. Hanscomb of the Custom house force, and the active bearers were Capt. John R. Lakeman, Charles P. Luscomb, Joseph A. Perkins, and Henry Symonds of the Salem Zouaves and all members of Post 34. The floral tributes were profuse and beautiful. Burial was at Harmony Grove cemetery.

Mr. Hitchings was born in Salem, the son of Abijah and Eliza (Treadwell) Hitchings, and was in his 69th year. He was educated in the Salem public schools, graduating from the High school. He afterwards learned the sailmaker's trade, and was an apprentice when the Civil war broke out, when he enlisted as private in the old Salem Zouaves, Company J., Eighth Massachusetts regiment, Capt. Charles U. Devereaux, and Col. Edward H. Hincks, October 25, 1861, and served until discharged on account of disability from wounds July 25, 1863.

Passed through all the trials and hardships of the Fighting 19th, he took part in all the battles of the Peninsula campaign, some of them particularly severe, notably Antietam and Fredricksburg. Wounded on the third day of the battle Fredricksburg by a gun shot in the left leg, he was carried to a church in Fredricksburg where the bullet was extracted, and from there to the hospital camp across the river, and soon after to the Finley hospital in Washington. He remained six weeks, and then came home on a 60-day furlough, dated Jan. 23, 1863.

Mr. Hitchings was never able to return to his regiment, and was discharged, as before stated. He went to the Massachusetts General hospital the following December, and a portion of the bone was removed from his leg. He came home to Salem, Jan. 18, 1864, and for a long time was obliged to go on crutches. Obtaining employment in the United States navy yard, Boston, he continued to work there until he received the appointment of inspector of customs for the district of Salem and Beverly, Nov. 19, 1873, he being detailed for clerk duty June 3, 1881, he was promoted to deputy collector, succeeding Col. J. Frank Dalton, who was appointed postmaster of Salem, May 7, 1881. Mr. Hitchings held the latter position up to the time of his death.

May 24, 1910
In Memoriam
A. Frank Hitchings

The death of Deputy Collector A. Frank Hitchings removes from Salem one of those characteristic figures we can ill afford to lose. Since William W. Oliver, the Salem custom house has had no officer so thoroughly imbued with a love of all that was best in the city's commercial past, so absorbed in his allotted work, so thoroughly familiar with the detailed knowledge which makes a functionary of his class invaluable. He had been identified with the government service long enough to become a part of it. Enlisting for the Civil war among the youngest, he encountered every peril and bore every hardship with a murmur, and, at the end of the struggle, brought home, like so many more, wounds which have slowly sapped the currents of his life.

Mr. Hitchings produced, four or five years ago, a complete abstract of all the ships' registers recorded at this port under the Federal constitution. The aid rendered by George H. Allen and Stephen W. Phillips enabled him to make this monumental work a unique contribution to the antiquarian resources of this region. It left only one thing to be desired. The lack of a single feature, an index to the names of owners and masters, was a serious handicap to its practical utility. Such an index would have been too bulky to be printed with the book, but without an index, curious descendants of the old worthies who made Salem famous could only trace the voyages of their ancestors where they knew before hand the names of their ships.

This task Mr. Hitchings set himself at once to supply. He had undertaken a card catalogue, already well advanced, which was to embrace, not only the ship's registers here since 1789, but also such earlier Salem ships as could be traced, besides the added tonnage of Newburyport, Gloucester and Marblehead. A good deal of material for this work was already to be printed. But the task awaits for its completion the time, energy, patience and skill of some public spirited deliverer in the hidden things. The student who takes up the task where Mr. Hitchings has left it, and carried in forward to success, will be able to congratulate himself, not only on providing ready access to the very tonnage owned by each merchant, commanded by each shipmaster, of Salem's palmy days, but also on completing a well earned monument to one of the modest, painstaking, earnest workers in the field of local research.

R.S.R. Salem, May 23


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wyman Family Reunion, Burlington, Massachusetts

Francis Wyman's 1699 gravestone

The Massachusetts Historical Association has approved a matching grant request for $50,000 for the restoration of the 1666 Francis Wyman House in Burlington, Massachusetts. The Wyman Family Association is raising the matching funds. According to their website at

“Please, open your genealogical hearts and generous pockets, and send your tax-deductible contributions so we can take advantage of every dollar that can be matched. Large, or small, we welcome any and all amounts, as they will be available for the matching grant.”

Click here to view the letter

This Phase II Interior Restoration Plan will restore the fire damage done to the 1666 home and create a first floor Francis Wyman House Historic Museum. It will complete the work for the first floor rooms and stairway, and make the building handicap accessible.

Also, the Wyman Family Association is planning their annual reunion for September 12, 2010 at the new Woburn Historical Society at 7 Mishawum Road at 10 AM. Trolley tours to the Wyman House and two other historical sites will leave at 11:30 and 2 PM. The family association was established in 1899 for descendants of Francis Wyman to maintain the homestead as an educational resource and historic landmark. The Francis Wyman House is the oldest landmark in Burlington (originally part of Woburn, Massachusetts) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Francis Wyman was born on 2 May 1617 in Westmill, Hertfordshire England, and died on 28 November 1699 in Woburn (now Burlington), Massachusetts. He married first Judith Pierce 30 January 1643/4 in Woburn (no children), and married second to Abigail Reed on 2 October 1650 in Woburn. She was born on 30 December 1634 in Dorchester, the daughter of William Reed and Mabel Kendall. (Seven children)

For more information on the Wyman Family Association see the website

Francis Wyman Association, Inc.
PO Box 1224
Burlington, MA 01803-6224 of my several blog posts on the Wyman Family, including some genealogical information on Francis Wyman’s descendants

Other local family reunions:

Felton Family Reunion, 31 July and 1 August 2010 at the Felton Homesteads in Peabody, Massachusetts

Caverly Family Reunion: 25 September 2010, Bow Lake Grange, Strafford, NH, Descendants of William Caverly and Mary Abbott of Portsmouth, NH

Towne Family Reunion: 23 -25 September 2010, Omaha, Nebraska, Descendants of William Towne and Joanna Blessing of Salem, Massachusetts

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beauport Mansion, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Henry Davis Sleeper and architect Halfdan M. Hanson built Beauport mansion in on beautiful Eastern Point in Gloucester beginning in 1907. The construction lasted 27 years. It was a summer house to contain his colonial era collections of art and furniture. In the 1940s collectors Charles and Helena McCann bought Beauport and later donated it to Historic New England (formerly known as the Society for New England Antiquities) as a museum house.

Beauport is a fantasy summer cottage, with over 40 rooms, 19 roof lines, a Norman style tower housing a two level library, terraces and a terrific view of Gloucester Harbor. It is located on Eastern Point Boulevard, a very swanky neighborhood and private road so you may not be able to even drive by to check it out without passing muster with the guard at the entrance to the Boulevard. Sleeper used to entertain the Boston Brahmins and artistic friends of the family, including Isabella Stewart Gardner, Henry James, Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent at Beauport. It is open for tours Tuesdays through Saturdays, and closed in the winters.

Genealogy Information:

Generation 1: Thomas Sleeper, b. about 1616 in Bristol England, d. 30 July 1696 in Hampton, New Hampshire, married 1654 to Joanna Unknown. He arrived about 1640 with his brother Moses, living first at Boston and then to Hampton and Kingston, New Hampshire.

Generation 2: Aaron Sleeper, b. 20 Feb 1660/61 in Hampton, New Hampshire, d. 9 May 1732 in Kingston, New Hampshire; married 23 May 1682 in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire to Elizabeth Shaw, b. 1664, d. 1708 (my 8x great grandparents). He was also married to her sister, Sarah Shaw.

Generation 3: Moses Sleeper, b. 22 January 1683/4 in Kingston, d. 13 January 1754 in Kingston; married on 9 January 1713/4 to Margaret Sanborn, daughter of Jonathan Sanborn and Elizabeth Sherburne. Moses Sleeper and Margaret Sanborn are my 7x great grandparents.

Generation 4: Sherburn Sleeper, b. 16 March 1733/4, d. 12 March 1734/5 in Kingston; married to Hannah Clough. I am descended from his sister, Hepzibah Sleeper, born 24 March 1742 and married to Samuel Lane in 1760.

Generation 5: Jacob Sleeper, b. 17 September 1761 in Kingston, d. 1816 in Newcastle, Maine; married to Olive Dinsdale. He was also married to Dorothy Clough.

Generation 6: Jacob Sleeper, b. 21 November 1802 in Newcastle, d. 31 March 1889 in Boston; married 7 May 1827 to Eliza Davis, daughter of Benjamin Davis and Mary Mann. He married again to her sister Maria Davis. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was one of the three founders of Boston University.

Generation 7: Jacob Henry Sleeper, b. 6 April 1839 in Boston, d. 19 August 1891 in Marblehead, Massachusetts; married 23 October 1867 to Maria Wescott. He was a Civil War Major. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Generation 8: Henry Davis Sleeper, b. 27 March 1878 in Boston, died 22 September 1934 in Boston, unmarried, no issue. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

For more information: The Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House History

Beauport House, 75 Eastern Point Boulevard, Gloucester, Massachusetts
(978) 283-0800
Operated by Historic New England June 1 to October 15, Tuesdays – Saturday 10AM to 5PM
$10 for adults, $9 for seniors, Gloucester residents are free!
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Caverly Family Reunion, Bow, New Hampshire

This 25 September 2010 the Caverly Family Association has scheduled a reunion at the Bow Lake Grange Hall in Strafford, New Hampshire. This Caverly family is descended of William Caverly, born about 1650 and died about 1732 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; married about 1696 to Mary Abbott, daughter of Walter Abbott and Sarah Steward, born about 1652 in Portsmouth and died after 1732 (after her husband). William and Mary Caverly had two children:

1. Moses, married 30 January 1715 to Margaret Cotton, 7 children

2. Elizabeth, born about 1696, married August 1715 to Thomas Wilkinson, at least 2 sons who resided in New Hampshire and Maine

The Caverly Reunion will be held at Saturday, 25 September 2010 with registration at 9:30 AM. The gathering will end about 3PM. There will be a cookout of burgers and hotdogs, potato salad and dessert. The cost is $10 per person if received before 1 September 2010 or $12 at the door. Children under ages 3 to 10 will be $5. If you bring your own lunch, the reunion fee is $5. You can also donate a favorite dessert. After lunch there will be a raffle of Caverly family related items. The Association will schedule time for a family meeting and any possible tours.

There is a Caverly DNA project ongoing, too at (search for the CAVERLY name).

To join the Caverly Family Association, and receive the latest newsletters and reunion information, please send $3 for individuals, $5 for families to the Caverly Family Association, c/o Mary Caverly, 280 Hale Rd., Sanbornton, NH 03269-2202 email

Note: This post was updated on 25 September 2010 with new information gleaned from Leonard Caverly, Historian of the Caverly Family Association.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Amanuensis Monday - Stirlingworth Cottage

This post was inspired by Marian Pierre Lewis. She is the author of the blog “Roots and Rambles” and specializes in the genealogy of houses in southeastern Massachusetts.

In her autobiography, “Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen”, Lili’uokalani wrote about her 1897 trip to Boston. She was visiting members of her husband’s family, my own relatives, and she was also preparing to visit President McKinley to discuss the annexation of Hawaii. She arrived on New Years Day, and was at the Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston for a few days. My great aunt, Mrs. Sara White Lee, was living at 1382 Beacon Street, which is at Coolidge Corner in Brookline. She found a nice boarding house nearby for the Queen and her attendants. Since the Queen was married to the son of another great aunt, Mary Lambert (Jones) Dominis, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about her trip to Boston to visit the family.

The boarding house was called “Stirlingworth Cottage” and it was just around the corner from 1382 Beacon Street. I contacted the Brookline Historical Society and the Preservation Commission at the Brookline City Hall. They both told me the sad news that the building was no longer standing, but sent me the newsclipping above. The Historical Society also sent me a photograph of Temple Sinai, taken sometime in the early part of the 20th century (judging by the automobiles). I don’t know when Stirlingworth Cottage, at 61 Sewall Avenue, was demolished or removed.

In the Queen’s own words:

“At Stirlingworth Cottage I passed a most delightful month, although the frost often covered the window panes, the snow whirled around the house, and the icicles formed on the trees; the kindly greetings of my Boston friends and the warmth of their hearts deprived a Northern winter of all its gloom … during my sojourn in Brookline I attended All Saints’ Church ... before leaving Boston, as it was my intention to do some time during the month of January, my cousin, Mr. N. G. Snelling, gave a family party at his house, to which my suite was invited, and I had the pleasure of meeting as many of the family as could be brought together. More than thirty relatives and a few of the most intimate friends of the kind host were present. .. To meet these relatives, and receive from the lips of each some cordial expression of welcome, was unusually grateful after my long, sad experiences; and it vividly recalled to me the previous family gathering [in Boston], when my dear husband greeted his family kin, and we, with Queen Kapiolani, were Boston’s honored guests.”

And so I asked Marian Pierre Lewis a few questions, and she suggested I use Google to find a few facts about the property on Sewall Avenue. I also used and the databases at the New England Historic Genealogical Society to find a few facts about Stirlingworth Cottage.

I found Harriet A. Bullard in the 1850 Federal Census of Wayland, Massachusetts as the 11 year old daughter of Joseph Bullard and his wife Harriet. That would make her birth year about 1839. Her father is listed as a farmer, with seven children ages 1 to 16 years old. She is living there in the 1860 census. I couldn’t find her in the 1870 census, and in the 1880 census she is listed as the sister-in-law of George Arnold of Boston, age 40, school teacher. This household consists of Dr. Arnold, physician, his wife, Anna, five children ages 1 to 17, three servants and Harriet.

In 1895 Harriet A. Bullard is listed in the Blue Book, page 206, at 61 & 63 West Newton Street in Boston. In Clark’s Boston Blue Book of 1907, page 513, Miss H. A. Bullard is listed at 61 Sewall Avenue, and she is at this Sewall Avenue address in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses as the proprietor of a boarding house. Many of the boarders were young ladies listed as nurses. . Unbelievably, she is in the 1930 census, age 90, still as the proprietor of a boarding house with three lodgers and two servants!

Other Google searches and Google Book searches turned up a plethora of results for Sewall Avenue, and many of its residents are listed in social registers, college yearbooks and alumni books, and club books such as the Appalachian Mountain Club, medical associations and fraternities.

It seems that this neighborhood has a long history of lodging houses. 92 Sewall Avenue is now the Bertram Inn bed and breakfast, built in 1907 by a wealthy tobacco merchant as his home. The same proprietors also run the Samuel Sewall Inn, around the corner, built in 1886 as a private residence. At 70 Sewall Avenue is the Family Inn, run by Children’s Hospital for families supporting long term patients since 1988. The building at 109-115 Sewall Avenue is now an upscale condominium.

The site of the boarding house is now roughly about where the Temple Sinai synagogue sits across the road at 50 Sewall Avenue in Brookline. It was built in 1916 originally as the Second Unitarian Society of Brookline, and in 1944 the Temple Sinai congregation bought the building, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. For the past sixty years, Temple Sinai had only three rabbis, and added the fourth in 2004.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not So Wordless Wednesday- Frontier Town

The Summer of 1973
Frontier Town, North Hudson, New York

Here are Yours Truly, sister, and friends having fun at this wild west theme park located near Lake George in upstate New York. I was sad to hear that it has been closed since 1998. We had a wonderful time there, riding ponies, eating barbeque, watching rodeos, being "drafted" in the cavalry, taking tours in stagecoaches and witnessing the bank being held up by bandits on horseback. It was loads of fun for little kids from New England!

Check out the smiles, even though the bandits held us at gunpoint! We had all just been deputized by the sheriff (note the tin stars we are all wearing). Time Warp Warning - note those pyschedelic 1970s pants on me and my sister, and the cigarette the cowboy is waving around near all us kiddies.

 Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday- Bill Family members at Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Boston

Polly Bill 30 August 1782

Joseph Bill 3 February 1748

Copp's Hill Burying Ground is the second oldest cemetery in Boston, dating from 1659. There are thousands of graves and 272 tombs, but many are unmarked or lost to the ages. It lies close to the Old North Church (made famous by Paul Revere and Longfellow's poem) and is a stop on Boston's Freedom Trail. From the burial ground you can overlook Boston harbor, Charlestown and Winthrop.

In the book Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Ground Guide there is a list of seven gravestones for the Bill family, but even though we have visited this cemetery several times we have only found these three stones. The Bill family lived in Boston, Rumney Marsh (now the town of Revere), and at Bill's Farm (now part of the town of Winthrop). I haven't found any direct ancestor's burial site from my Bill lineage, but these are all descendants of John Bill, born about 1598 probably in Wales, and died about 21 January 1638 in Boston.

For more information please see Boston's Copp's Hill Burying Ground Guide by Charles Chauncey Wells, Chauncey Park Press, Oak Park, Illinois, 1998.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, July 5, 2010

Amanuensis Monday- More News Clippings

22 May 1891, Essex Echo

"Mrs. Joseph G. Allen has recently returned from a long visit to her son in South Boston."

This line refers to my 2x great grandmother, Sarah Burnham (Mears) Allen (1844 – 1913), and the son who lived in Boston was Warren Sherman Allen (1864 – 1927), a pipefitter and plumber, who lived in Dorchester.

22 May 1903, Essex Echo

"Mr. Elmer Allen and his brother, Mr. Charles Batchelder of Cambridge, visited his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph G. Allen on Sunday."

Elmer refers to my great grandfather, Joseph Elmer Allen (1870 – 1932), and Charles Albert Batchelder (1879 – 1963) was actually his brother-in-law. Elmer married Charles’s sister, Carrie Maude Batchelder (1872 – 1963) in 1892. At this time period they lived in the Boston area, and so they probably took the train to Essex to pay a visit.

13 May 1910, Essex Echo

"Mrs. Sarah B. Allen has been quite ill with indigestion at the residence of Mrs. Zebo at Lakeville. She was somewhat improved at last reports."

20 May 1910, Essex Echo

"Mrs. Sarah B. Allen has recovered from her recent illness."

This is my 2x great grandmother again, the wife of Joseph Gilman Allen seen above. She died only three years later. The Mrs. Zebo is actually spelled Tebo or Thebaud, a corruption of the name French name Thibault. Her daughter in law, Carrie Allen, (above) had a brother who married into this family in Essex. William Batchelder married Maud Frances Tebo. Her brother Howard Tebo had a wife named Gertrude. The famous schooner, Gertrude Thebaud, was built in 1930 at the Story shipyard in Essex. It was built to beat the equally famous Bluenose of Nova Scotia. It also made a trip to the Arctic Circle with the explorer Donald MacMillan. The Gertrude Thebaud sank in 1948. We always thought that the ship was named for this Gertrude Tebo. The schooner was named for the wife of her owner, Louis Thebaud, a wealthy summer resident of Gloucester, and cousin of Howard Tebo.

What a gossip sheet this newspaper was for its time!

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Help Preserve the Londonderry, New Hampshire Grange Hall

Our Londonderry Grange Hall No. 44 was built in 1909, and it still has the original cedar shingles on its exterior.  By clicking the link below, and voting in the Pepsi Refresh Project you can help the Londonderry Grange win the contest for the $50,000 to resheath the hall in new cedar shingles, and add renovations such as running water and a bathroom.  Although our Grange Hall is used for cultural events, concerts, Scout meetings, parties, and art shows, so you can see that adding running water would certainly help make it a more convenient venue!

Go to Pepsi’s Project Refresh site and vote for Preserve a Historic New England Grange Hall.  You can click the “Vote for this idea” button in the box below. If you haven’t registered, simply enter your basic information, email address, and password, and you’ll be able to vote immediately.

To help boost votes, you can tell your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or other popular social networking sites by clicking the Share/Save button below. Voting ends on July 31, 2010, so be sure to get your votes in! Each person can vote once per day, everyday, so take a minute to do something good for Londonderry!

The Grange No. 44 built their hall in Londonderry on Mammoth Road, on the corner of Pillsbury Road, in 1909. It is listed in the New Hampshire Registry of Historic Places. This picturesque building has been the site of many wedding receptions, concerts, and meetings over the years. In the 1940’s my mom’s cousin, Betty Hitchings, had her wedding reception there. Boy Scouts still hold weekly meetings, even though the building still lacks bathroom facilities. Recently I attended an art fair in the old building, which attracted many people from out of town. Folks from in town and from away marveled at the original interior décor they had never seen before, even though they had driven by the old building many times.

This year the Grange No. 44, which still has 36 members, started a restoration project to renovate and re-side the cedar building. In Londonderry, well known Grange Master Hank Peterson and long time Historical Society members Marilyn Ham are actively raising $20,000 to cover the cost of re-shingling the building. Don't wait to see if the Londonderry Grange No. 44 wins the Pepsi contest! Donations may be sent in care of Gladys Woodin, 580 Charles Bancroft Highway, Litchfield, NH 03052.

The National Grange Order of Patrons of Husbandry began as an agricultural organization in 1867. Their peak membership was over one million members in the early 20th century. Men, women and children were all allowed to become members, and entire families participated in types of activities, not only agricultural pursuits. Today there are still over 300,000 members of the Grange. In many small towns it was the only social organization available, and many built Grange Halls for their exclusive use. Over time, many of these halls became the center of entertainment, especially in rural areas, and are still rented out for many community uses.

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Happy Fourth of July!

Acorn Street on Boston's Beacon Hill

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Spanish Records on Family Search

In the past we have reserved one or two days out of our vacations to Spain to do some genealogy research. We go to Spain every other year or so, and spend time with Hubby’s parents and various cousins in Madrid, Salamanca and Burgos. The first two times I did extensive oral histories on this family, and had everyone fill out charts. Then one year we went to the church in Sinovas, Burgos to look at the baptism and marriage records. Sinovas is where my father-in-law was raised. A few years later we went to the archdiocese archives at the cathedral in Burgos.

On visits to Salamanca province we never had time to go to the local church at Villar de Ciervo, but I ordered lots of church records on microfilm at our local Family History library. We spent hours looking at these on microfilm readers, and expanded my mother-in-law’s family tree back about five generations. This was pretty good considering we didn’t order all of the available films for Villar de Ciervo.

It seems to me that once you find the ancestral village in Spain, it is possible to go back to the 1600s or 1700s with the catholic church records. Families stayed put in these villages for long periods of time. This seemed remarkable to me, since my ancestors wandered all over New England, and some up to Nova Scotia and back. It seems even more remarkable when I recognize that most Americans have ancestors who wandered all over the US from coast to coast. I have only a few lineages that arrived in one place in Massachusetts and stayed two hundred years or more. Most Americans don’t have any ancestors who stayed in one place for even two generations.

Of course, the records in Sinovas only go back to the Napoleonic era. Earlier books were destroyed or lost. And the records in Sinovas have never been microfilmed. And there are the occasional brides from neighboring villages, but never from very far away.

However, it is not easy to read microfilm. Overexposed film, fuzzy pages, creases, etc. make seeing the names impossible some of the time. We noticed that many of the baptism books we previously viewed on microfilm yielded new information when we saw them online at the new website. And, of course, books we had seen at the Family History Center on film yielded many more relatives when we saw them in person in Spain.

Lucky us - to be able to go to Spain and see the actual books. Not everyone has this luxury. And so, for records in the USA, it certainly helps if you can see the books in person, not on line. Get out of the house and go to the courthouses and town clerk’s offices. If it’s possible for you to see the records in person, make the effort to go. Suddenly you will find things you never dreamed of finding online. Even if you lose a day of vacation!

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July - Matthew Thornton- Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Matthew Thornton's gravesite at Merrimack, NH

Fifteen or twenty years ago, when my daughter was in elementary school, we visited Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We toured the city, saw the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s house, and ate some cheese steak sandwiches. Of course, we didn’t miss Independence Hall, either. The tour was guided. When we came to the room where the Continental Congress delegates met, my daughter raised her hand and asked to see in which chair Matthew Thornton sat. The other tourists looked puzzled but the guide smiled and said “YOU must be from New Hampshire!”

He is not as famous as Thomas Jefferson, or John Hancock, or Benjamin Franklin, but nonetheless little Londonderry, New Hampshire produced Dr. Matthew Thornton. Like many other Nutfield Settlers, he was born in Northern Ireland, and immigrated when only three years old first to Wiscasset, Maine and then to Worcester, Massachusetts before settling in a part of Londonderry now known as Derry in 1740. He was a physician, justice of the peace, and a member of the militia. Locally, he was a Londonderry selectman, a representative to the Provincial Assembly, and the first President of the Committee of Safety which produced New Hampshire’s first draft of its constitution after the royal government was dissolved.

Later he was elected to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He arrived too late to participate in the debates, but he did sign the Declaration of Independence. He became the first president of the new New Hampshire House of Representatives. He retired from his medical practice in 1780 and removed across the river to the part of Merrimack, New Hampshire known as Thornton’s Ferry. He died on 24 June 1803 whilst staying with his daughter in Newburyport, Massachusetts, but he is buried in the Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack with his wife and other members of the family.

According to myth, Dr. Thornton had promised Hannah Jack he would marry her when she was a child unwilling to take some nasty medication. She was 18 and he was 46 years old when they married. Her family members were also Scots-Irish Presbyterians.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, six arrived in time to only sign (not participate in drafting the document), eight were foreign born (three were born in Ireland), and four were doctors. Matthew Thornton was all three of these! There is a memorial to Dr. Thornton along Rt. 3 in Merrimack, a plaque in front of his home in Derry, and a school named in his honor in Londonderry. The town of Thornton, New Hampshire was named for Dr. Matthew Thornton.

Across the street from this graveyard on Daniel Webster Highway stands the Thornton homestead.  It was a tavern style restaurant in named “Hannah Jack’s” but it is now part of the Common Man Restaurant chain.  If you stop by the restaurant, the rooms are decorated with information and images from the Thornton family, especially Matthew Thornton.  The staff will gladly show you around!

Matthew Thornton’s family tree:

Generation 1: James Thornton, born about 1684 in Northern Ireland, died 7 November 1754 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married to Elizabeth Jenkins, arrived in Boston on 17 August 1718 from Northern Ireland. Eight children, including:
Generation 2: Matthew Thornton, born about 1714 in Northern Ireland and died 24 June 2803 in Newburyport, Massachusetts; married in 1760 to Hannah Jack, daughter of Andrew Jack and Mary Morrison of Chester, New Hampshire, born 1742 and died 5 December 1786, Five children:

1. James, b.20 December 1763 in Londonderry and married to Mary Parker
2. Andrew, b. about 1766 in Londonderry, died 22 April 1787
3. Mary, b. 1768 in Londonderry, married to Hon. Silas Betton of Salem, New Hampshire
4. Mathew, b. 1770 in Londonderry and married to Fanny Curtis
5. Hannah, b. 25 Jul 1774 in Merrimack, married to John McGraw, of Newburyport, Massachusetts

For more information: Family Trees of Merrimack, New Hampshire from the Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Fourth of July - Matthew Thornton-  Signer of the Declaration of Independence", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 2, 2010, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Marriage Certificate from Spain

A page from the Barba de Puerco marriage records book

This week my husband was home for a few days with a torn bicep injury. I decided it was a good time to put him to work on his family tree. I needed his help to translate, because even though I know the basics of reading a baptism or marriage record from Spain, the good information is often in the little details added by the priest to the records.

And so, using the new records from Spain scanned into, we hit paydirt. My mother-in-law's family is from Salamanca, and a plethora of records from that province have been scanned. Her father's village of Puerto Seguro (formerly called Barba de Puerco "Pig's Beard!") and her mother's village of Villar de Ciervo have records going back to the late 1600's on line. We are still sorting through, and re-reading many of these records, but we added four generations to what we previously knew about her family tree. This brings the earliest know ancestor back to early 1700s. Stay tuned, we aren't finished yet!

The image above, top left corner, shows the marriage of Venancio Rivero to Noralia Montero in 1856. They are my husband's great great grandparents. Here is what we can transcribe so far...:

En el lugar de Barba de Puerco, provincia de Salamanca, originado y partido de diocesio de Ciudad Rodrigo en los once dias de mes de junio de mil ochocientos cinquenta y seis, habiendo prcedido las tres cononicas -----ciones que previene el santo concilio A------ esos tres dias festivos al ofertorio de las misas conventuales? y pasadoas mas de veinte y quatro horas sin que --------- impedimento alguno. Yo Francisco Claudio Garcia Casa sacerdote de pueblo dejose in facie ---- y vele a Venancio Rivero de estado soltero, y natural de este, hijo legitimo de Antonio Rivero y Ynez Martin con Noralia Montero, del mismo estada y naturaleza, hija legitima de Antonio Montero y Catalina Espinazo, todos de este vecinidad fueron aprobados a doctrina -------- confesion y comular, siendo testigos Mauelto Hernandez, Juan Fernandez y otros varios y porque lo firmo --- Franciso C. Garcia


Here in Barba de Puerco, province of Salamanca, Diocese of Cuidad Rodrigo, on the eleventh day of June eighteen hundred fifty six, ....I, Francisco Claudio Garcia Casa, pastor of the town .... Venancio Rivero, single man, native of here, legitimate son of Antonio Rivero and Ynez Martin with Noralia Montero, same state and birthplace, legitimate daughter of Antonio Montero and Catalina Espinazo, all of this town ....signed by the priest Francisco C. Garcia

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Fourth of July Peas and Salmon

In New England it has always been common to eat peas and salmon for the 4th of July, harkening back to a time when people ate seasonally. This is the time of the year when the last of the spring peas are harvested, before the summer heat sets in. The salmon are running upstream, too, at this time. My mother remembers having traditional peas and salmon during the Great Depression and World War II, even though both were canned! It was as traditional as turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Last year, at the "Past is Present" website sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, this post explored the myth of Abigail Adams serving Salmon and Peas on the first July 4th, 1776 at their home in Massachusetts. The myth was debunked (John Adams was busy at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on that day, not having dinner with Abigail!) but it does confirm that peas and salmon was a popular early summer dinner in New England.

Some people eat their peas and salmon creamed or with egg sauce. Others have the peas steamed and grill their salmon. In Maine there is a comfort food known as “salmon pea wiggle” made of canned salmon, sauce and potatoes. Often the peas and sauce are flavored with dill, which is thriving this time of the year, too. Of course, recently, many people identify any summer holiday with burgers on the grill, as ubiquitous as fireworks, and have never had Independence Day peas and salmon.

There are creative ways to serve peas and salmon. Since modern New Englanders might insist on falling back to "something on the grill", the salmon has become a side dish. I’ve seen pasta salads mixed with peas and salmon (good for a potluck type 4th of July cookout). I’ve seen salmon dips with a pea garnish at holiday barbeques (for those who shudder at the idea of salmon instead of burgers and hot dogs). A few years ago we stuck with tradition and tried a Julia Child recipe with a real salmon poacher one Independence Day, with a fancy hollandaise instead of the traditional egg sauce. A whole salmon.  Cooked outside on the grill, of course, because it is now considered "de rigueur" for the 4th of July.

I’m sure that now our salmon comes from Alaska instead of local waters, and the peas are often frozen instead of fresh. But we still enjoy them with a few new potatoes on the side. And egg sauce. And dill. Yummmmm!

Maine Salmon Pea Wiggle
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen baby green peas, cooked by pkg. directions
1 (16 oz.) can pink salmon
2 c. white sauce (any recipe will do)
4-6 boiled eggs, chopped

Mix peas, salmon, chopped eggs and sauce. Heat 3-5 minutes or until heated through. Serve over new potatoes, mashed potatoes, crackers, toast, or puff pastry shells.

Don’t forget to garnish with some dill!

For another salmon story from the Revolutionary War, click here: 


To cite/link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Fourth of July Peas and Salmon", Nutfield Genealogy, posted July 1, 2010, ( accessed [access date]).