Friday, December 3, 2010

Baseball and Genealogy Research

Red Sox outfielder, Dom DiMaggio (brother to the more famous Joe DiMaggio), and current San Francisco Giant closer Brian Wilson both resided in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Brian Wilson, “The Bearded One” is well known recently for his popularity during the 2010 World Series. As a teenager Brian played baseball for the local American Legion team in Londonderry. Newspapers and online resources such as sports blogs are the easiest way to research famous baseball players from your own hometown.

George Edward “Duffy” Lewis is buried in the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Londonderry. He played for the Red Sox, Yankees and Senators from 1910 to 1921. He died in Salem, New Hampshire on 17 June 1979. This was a big story back in 2000 when John Clayton, reporter for the Manchester Union Leader newspaper, wrote two articles about Duffy and mentioned how his grave was unmarked. Money was raised from readers for a nice marker, engraved with his wife’s name, too. The Union Leader is available on microfilm in the Manchester public library.

This got me to thinking about researching baseball in the family. Sure, there were lots of members of the family, male and female, who played on school, youth, town and local teams. I remembered that in my own family tree James Ebenezer Ferrin (1848–1935) was an early organizer of baseball teams in Essex County, Massachusetts. He did a lot to make the game popular in Massachusetts. He was also famous around town for witnessing General Lee surrender at Appomattox, and was the last surviving veteran of the Civil War in Peabody, Massachusetts. This information came from a few lines I read in the book Capt. Jonathan Farren of Amesbury and some of his Descendants published in 1941.

I knew that David Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society was a big baseball fan, so I asked him about researching early baseball. I was interested in finding out more information on James Ebenezer Ferrin. He recommended the website or an inquiry to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

James E. Ferrin was not listed at the website. The Baseball Hall of Fame was very accommodating, and answered several email inquiries, but had no information on early baseball in Essex County, Massachusetts. They suggested several Massachusetts baseball researchers who specialized in the time period, and to look in newspaper articles in the 1860s and 1870, right after the Civil War, when baseball was becoming popular. So far I haven’t found much, but then again, I haven’t found any other information at all on James Ferrin – no marriage, no descendants, end of the line? I’ll continue to look, because Essex County is a big place, and there were a lot of little newspapers all over at that time period.

For early baseball see SABR (Society for American Baseball Research)

Baseball Biography Project Website:

Duffy Lewis’s Biography

Dom DiMaggio’s Biography

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I was lucky enough to have the letter shown here:

    Because my family lived right in Cooperstown and played on local teams there, I was able to get some team photos from the Hall of Fame.

    You reminded me to check back and see if anything has been added to the archive.

  2. Can't have baseball without stats. The following website has stats on players - including the most obscure minor leaguers - and teams going back to 1877 when Manchester had a team.

  3. Wow, I looked up Salem, Massachusetts to see if Ferrin showed up (closest city to Peabody). They had a team at this time period, "The Salem Witches"! LOL! No information on Ferrin.

  4. Don't know if your Ferrin actually played ball, but check this record.

  5. My local historical society hosted a talk by historian and author Joanne Hulbert. She is very knowledgeable about early baseball in Massachusetts. She even lives in Mudville. She might be a good person for your to contact.

  6. I love this post - so much so that I MIGHT even be able to forgive you, Heather, for being a Red Sox fan for posting that link to retrosheet. It has something on there that I've never seen anywhere else about "my" baseball player - Eddie Quick. Now I'm off to investigate.


  7. (Red Sox fan here) From genealogy, I learned what a "cup of coffee" major league career was - a player in the major leagues long enough to play a handful of games - or, have a "cup of coffee." That was used to describe the career of a distant cousin, Leslie Roe "Bubba" Floyd. Genealogy and baseball. It doesn't get any better. (I'm also a Brian Wison fan.)

  8. Thanks for the ideas to research out those ball players in our trees. I have one as well, but more recent (late 60's and he managed in the 80's). He is still living and I need to send him a letter, but I hold back on it because I don't want him to think I am some crazy fan trying to meet him or get an autograph. I need to rewrite my first draft and just send it already!