Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'll be back soon...

Westminster Abbey family connections! Alas, No Royal Wedding!

One trip to Westminster Abbey, and two family memories!

William Bill, DD, Dean of Westminster Abbey
engraving 1822 by Robert Grave
after a drawing by G. P. Harding.
Westminster Abbey will be the church where Prince William and Kate Middleton celebrate their wedding. It’s a leading tourist destination, and the site of many formal British celebrations, royal and civil. It has been an Abbey since about the year 600, with various buildings in same location. It was the coronation site for many kings, and many members of the royal family are buried there, as well as historical figures, poets and authors.

A member of my family tree became Dean of Westminster Abbey in 1550.  William Bill,  D. D.,  (Doctor of Divinity) died on 15 July 1561 and is buried in the chapel of St. Benedict inside the cloisters of Westminister complex. When we visited Westminster Abbey in 1997, we saw his tomb, decorated with a brass plaque. The inscription says: "Bill was himself a good man and a lover of virtue; he taught the learned and was himself learned. He was careful of his office and a teacher of probity. He accomplished many things well by speaking little. The country has lost a prudent and the Queen a faithful servant, and the poor man laments at his father's passing. And their Head has left three colleges mournful, a Head such as I deem they will not have again for a long time. Either I loved him too much while he lived, or he was a great loss to his country when he died.”

Brass Rubbing
of William Bill's tomb plaque
My cousin has a rubbing of this brass, hanging in his house in California.  Crayon and charcoal rubbings used to be popular tourist attractions at Westminster Abbey.  Now it is banned, but for a while they had a place where you could rub some replica brasses.  Most of the Deans buried there, and famous historical figures have brass or stove memorials inside Westminster Abbey or the cloister.  The last famous person to be buried at Westminster was Sir Laurence Olivier in 1991.  There is a complete list of the Abbots and Deans of Westminster at this link:

At the same time we were at Westminster, we were staying at the Girl Scout/Girl Guides house in London, Pax Lodge. It was also Thinking Day, 22 February 1997, which was the joint birthday of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, the founders of Scouting. Every year there is a big celebration for Thinking Day at Westminster Abbey, and we were lucky enough to get tickets in the VIP section since we were visiting from abroad. While I was watching the ceremony I was thinking of the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. This year everyone will be thinking of Prince William and his Kate.  It was a wonderful ceremony, full of pomp and music, attended by hundreds of Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, VIPs and even members of the royal family who had been scouts,  from all over the UK and all around the globe.  It was fun to see so many uniforms.  My daughter, exhausted from jet lag, promptly fell asleep and missed the whole thing!

At each Thinking Day service at Westminster, a wreath is laid on the memorial of
Sir Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell.

signed by Betty Clay, daughter of Baden-Powell

Yours truly back at Pax Lodge
 with Mrs. Betty Clay
who signed my invitation to
The Thinking Day and
Founder's Service at Westminster Abbey

This was our view of the main altar, by the West Entrance
This is where the Queen will be sitting for her grandson's wedding
and where Kate will make her entrance to marry her prince.  Same view!
For more information:

History of William Bill at the Westminster website

Wikipedia article about William Bill

Girl Guides UK Thinking Day page for 2011

A video from YouTube of the international team of young women from Pax Lodge visiting Westminster Abbey for World Thinking Day service 2010

My Blog Post about Thinking Day and our visit to Pax Lodge, when I met Betty Clay (daughter of Lord Robert Baden-Powell)

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John Pinkerton - Tombstone Tuesday

This ledger stone is known as the Pinkerton Memorial, and it is located at the Old Hill Cemetery, Londonderry, New Hampshire.  There are several Pinkertons buried here, and at the Valley Cemetery in Londonderry, as well as at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Derry (behind the First Parish Church).

WHO DIED MAY 1, 1816
He was born in the County of Antrim
Northern Ireland
and came with his parents when a child to
this Country. He was a man of strict integrity,
active benevolence and exemplary piety.
For many years he was a useful member and elder
of the church of Christ
and a distinguished benefactor of the town. By
prudence and industry he acquired an ample income
which he chiefly devoted to objects of public utility.
He was the principal founder of the Pinkerton
Academy in Londonderry
And endowed each of the two religious so-
cities in this place with a fund for the
support of the gospel

The righteous shall be in everlasting

Also in memory of Mrs. RACHEL
First wife of John Pinkerton Esq. who died
Sept. 13, 1781 aged 36 years

Note: The income of the Pinkerton fund grew to the ….
is to be appropriated to the sole purpose of …
Orthodox Presbyterian Ministry of the …
...ish. …. to the constitution of the Presbyterian …


John Pinkerton and his brother James were the major benefactors of Pinkerton Academy, situated in Derry, New Hampshire (at the time his ledger stone was erected, this was known as Londonderry). The two brothers were successful merchants, and left bequests to endow the school. Pinkerton Academy was an independent boarding and day school until 1948. In 1949 the town of Derry entered an agreement to send their students to Pinkerton, and the town would pay the tuition. It is still an independent high school, serving Derry, Hampstead, Chester and parts of Auburn, New Hampshire. Robert Frost was once an English teacher at Pinkerton Academy.

Pinkerton Genealogy:

Generation 1: John David Pinkerton, born about 1700 in Antrim County, Northern Ireland, died 10 February 1780 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married about 1718 to Mary Elizabeth Farmer, born about 1700 in Northern Ireland, died on 10 September 1754 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.


1. David Pinkerton, born about 1720

2. Major John Pinkerton, born about 1720 (see below)

3. Matthew Pinkerton, born about 1735, died 1814 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married Ann McCurdy.

4. Mary Pinkerton, born about 1740, died 23 September 1807 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married Alexander McGregor.

5. Elizabeth Pinkerton, born 1741, died 4 November 1793 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married Deacon James Aiken in May 1768 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

6. Samuel Pinkerton, born about 1745, died 16 Mar 1780 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

7. Deacon James Pinkerton, born about 1748, born 6 January 1829 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married in 1771 to Elizabeth Nesmith; married second to Sarah Wallace on 15 May 1809.

8. Rachel Pinkerton, born about 1749, died 17 November 1796 in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

9. Jane Pinkerton, born 1753, died 14 February 1809 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married to David Brewster about 1774.

Generation 2: Major John Pinkerton, born about 1720 in Antrim County, Northern Ireland, died 1 May 1816 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married first in 1760 to Rachel Duncan daughter of William Duncan and Naomi Bell; married second to Polly Tufts on 18 December 1801 in Londonderry.


1. Mary Pinkerton, Polly, born 8 May 1768 in Londonderry

2. Naomi Pinkerton, born 13 January 1770 in Londonderry

3. Elisabeth Pinkerton, Betsey, born 1 September 1771 in Londonderry

4. John Pinkerton, born 12 October 1777 in Londonderry; married Mary Wagner

5. Esther Pinkerton, born 1778


For more information:

The Pinkerton Academy website

Londonderry Vital Records, pages 139-140, and 703

A Sermon, Delivered at Londonderry East Parish, May 5, 1816, occasioned by the death of John Pinkerton, Esq. by Reverend Edward L. Parker, published by George Hough, Concord, NH: 1816

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Monday, April 25, 2011

Died at Sea? Amanuensis Monday

The Gloucester
Fisherman's Memorial
My 3x Great Grandfather Thomas Russell Lewis is listed as a twin in the Salem Vital Records, born to a mother named only as Amelia Lewis on 26 June 1825. No father is listed. In searching for more information I decided to concentrate on researching the twin brother. Sure enough, Frederick Augustus Lewis’s marriage and death records lists his parents as Captain Thomas and Amelia Lewis. No maiden name for Amelia, who remains one of my brick walls. I suspect that Captain Thomas died at sea before the twins were born, making Amelia a widow. She married twice after this.

The twin, Frederick Augustus, also died at sea. His death was listed among eight mariners drowned and reported by John Tucker in Gloucester on 22 February 1850. His death lists him as being born in Danvers.

from the website:

“April 13, 1850 Missing Vessel-
For two months past the fishing vessels which have been on Georges' Bank report having experienced very severe weather. They have caught but few fish, and consequently as far have done a very poor business. Were this all the result, however, we should be glad; but where there are from ninety to one hundred vessels in business, having on board seven or eight hundred men, it would be extremely fortunate, during such rough weather, if all escaped harmless. We have not thought it proper when reports have been in circulation respecting any of our vessels, to give publicity to the facts of the case until a reasonable time had elapsed, and until all hopes of their safety are given up. A different course would, in any cases, create unnecessary alarm and distress in the families of those particularly interested. By many the announcement of a case of this kind in the public prints is considered as the extinguishment of all hopes, and to thus suddenly crush all hopes in a sensitive mind is a cruelty which we shall endeavor always to avoid.

        From time to time, during the past two months, some anxiety has been felt regarding the safety of several of our fleet of vessels, but most generally these fears have been groundless. They are most frequently based on the fact that the particular vessel has not arrived in port or been seen by others after an absence of two or three weeks. The vessels are generally provisioned for four or five weeks, but do not often remain out more than three, and hence, when one has been out the usual time, the slightest story respecting her is often greatly magnified, but most generally proves false. At the present time, however, the fears respecting the fate of one of our vessels are too deeply founded and of too long standing to be disregarded. We refer to the schooner William Wallace, Stephen D. Griffin, master. This vessel sailed from this port on Friday, Feb. 22d, and was seen on the Tuesday and Wednesday following, by three different vessels, one of which ran across the southern part of the Bank in company with her. Since that time nothing has been seen or heard from her. There is a possibility that she may have been run down by an outward bound vessel, and her crew taken off, but all hopes of this kind are extremely faint. There were on board at the time she sailed the following named eight persons:
Stephen Decatur Griffin, of Annisquam, master
Daniel Adams, of Gloucester
George Brown, 3d, of Gloucester
Frederick A. Lewis, of Gloucester, formerly of Danvers
William Grant, of Maine
John Linedall, of Townsend, Me.
William Mansfield, of Halifax, N. S.
Thomas Ingalls, of Orleans, Mass.
 Mr. Griffin was married last fall, and Adams and Lewis leave families.

The William Wallace was a first class vessel of sixty-seven tons, five years old, and valued at $2600, for which amount she is insured at the Gloucester Mutual Fishing Insurance Office.”

I also found this entry in the book The Fisherman's Memorial and Record Book by George H. Proctor and Joseph Garland, Published by The History Press, 2005, page 14

"1850 This proved a most disastrous year to the Georges fishery, resulting in the loss of four vessels and thirty-nine lives, as follows:  Schooner WILLAM WALLACE, lost in February, with eight men, Stephen Decatur Griffin, of Annisquam, Master; Daniel Adams, George Brown, 3rd, Frederick A. Lewis, William Grant, John Linedall, William Mansfield, Thomas Ingalls. Owned by Fitz E. Riggs & Bro. Valued at $3,000; insured for $2,600...."

Not only did Fredric Augustus die at sea, and perhaps his father, Captain Thomas Lewis, but I suspect my own ancestor, Thomas Russell Lewis died at sea, too. He bought a large burial plot at Salem’s Harmony Grove Cemetery, but he is not one of the thirteen people buried in the plot. I have not found a death record, nor a newspaper account of how he died. He disappears from all records after about 1854. I am going to the Phillips Library in Salem to continue this investigation. Solving this mystery would add a new branch to my family tree!

Lewis Lineage:

Captain Thomas Lewis, died about 1825; married before 1825 to Amelia Unknown, born about 1790 in perhaps Stoughton, Massachusetts, died 22 April 1860 in Wayland, Massachusetts. Amelia married second to Thomas Johnson on 16 October 1827 in Salem, Massachusetts and she married third to John Adams on 11 June 1843 in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

Two Children:
1. Thomas Russell Lewis (twin), 26 June 1825 in Salem, Massachusetts, died before 1854; married first to Hannah Phillips on 4 March 1841 in Salem, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of James Phillips and Sarah Cree, born about 1821 in Topsfield, Massachusetts, died 17 October 1851 in Salem, Massachusetts. He married second on 22 June 1852 in Salem to Lydia S. Pickering, daughter of Benjamin Pickering and Lydia Stanley, born 1834 in Salem, died 9 August 1866 in Lynn, Massachusetts.
  1. Hannah Eliza Lewis, born about 1844 in Salem, died 15 February 1921 in Danvers, Massachusetts; married on 22 September 1864 in Salem to Abijah Franklin Hitchings, son of Abijah Hitchings and Eliza Ann Treadwell, born 28 October 1841 in Salem, died 19 May 1910 in Salem. Hannah and Abijah are my Great Great Grandparents.  
  2. Lydia Ann Lewis, born about 1845 in Topsfield, died 23 December 1882 in Salem; married on 13 May 1872 in Salem to James Henry McCartney, son of James McCartney and Lucy H. Andrews, born 12 May 1846 in Manchester, Massachusetts, died 20 June 1928 in Beverly, Massachusetts 
  3. Thomas Lewis, born about 1847
2. Frederick Augustus Lewis (twin), born 26 June 1825 in Salem, died 22 February 1850 at sea, recorded at Gloucester, Massachusetts; married on 15 August 1847 in Gloucester to Catherine Stanwood, daughter of Nehemiah Stanwood and Catherine Miller Smith, born 1828 in Gloucester, died 15 June 1888. She remarried second to Elias Daggett on 14 August 1853 in Gloucester.
  1.  Frederick Augustus Lewis, born 9 October 1849 in Gloucester; married on 25 December 1876 in Gloucester to Iola Lowell, daughter of Alfred Johnson Lowell and Eliza Mary Crockett, born about 1857 in Bath, Maine. One child: Eva B. Lewis, born 28 July 1877 in Gloucester
Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Follow Friday - Genealogy Queries in Yankee Magazine

When I was a child we summered on Lake Balch, which straddles the Maine and New Hampshire border. On rainy days at the camp there were jigsaw puzzles, a bookcase full of musty old books, and a basket full of  old Yankee magazines. Most of the issues of Yankee dated from the 1950s and 60s, and I had fun looking at the (to me!) old fashioned advertisements and stories. The funniest things were the classified advertisements in the back of the magazine, for psychics, patent medicine and farm equipment. Somewhere near the classified ads, there was a swap column and genealogy queries. I must have been a odd little girl, but I found these columns fascinating!

Maybe this is where my mind started to become “genealogically inclined”?

You can still peruse the genealogy queries in today’s issues of Yankee, and they have joined the 21st century by posting the queries on their website. According to the webpage the “swopper’s Column first appeared in 1935 and remains today as a feature on our Web site. In addition to general swops we also offer specific to family reunions and genealogy.”

This is the most "out of the box" genealogy website you may have ever used!

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

The Salem Zouaves

Salem Zouave Re-enactors
photo from their Facebook page
The Salem Zouaves were born in August 1860 when the Salem Light Infantry, under Captain Arthur F. Devereaux, was visited by the Chicago Zouaves under Colonel E. E. Ellsworth. The visiting Zouaves spent the night at the Salem Armory, and marched through the city to the common where they put on a drill that enthralled the citizens and members of the Salem Light Infantry. They marched in loose, but quick formations, and held bayonet exercises that were unlike anything ever seen before. Their uniforms, which were colorful and loose, were probably a hit, too. “Here was something quite new, no heavy cumbersome uniform, none of the stiffness and formality of the old drill, and in marching the men moved along in an easy swinging style with little or no attention to alignment or uniformity; in was entirely unlike the old drill, and it was no wonder that the Infantry boys found it catching. This occasion was the birth of the later renowned “Salem Zouaves”.” [The Essex Institute Historical Collections, Volume XXV, Salem, Massachusetts, 1888, pages 222 -223]

Re-enacting the 5th NY Volunteer Infantry
By April 1861 the Civil War had started and the Salem Zouaves were assigned to the 8th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, called to Baltimore with General Butler. It was at this time that the Zouaves participated in the “Rescue of Old Ironsides”. Most of the rest of their time in Baltimore was spent on guard duty. Many of these volunteers, after serving their initial time with the Zouaves, re-enlisted with the Massachusetts 19th Regiment and saw real action in the Civil War.

In 1862 the Zouaves were back in Salem, escorting funerals, putting on drills and parades in Essex County and Boston. They had nine months service at a camp in Boxford, Massachusetts. By November some of the Zouaves were in Port Hudson, near Baton Rouge performing picket duty with the 19th Army Corps. They were mustered out of service at Wenham, Massachusetts on 24 August 1863. The Salem Light Infantry continued until about 1890, but the Salem Zouaves unit was never reactivated.

During the Civil War, Zouave units were based on native North African troops in the French Army. They wore baggy harem style pants, usually red, and fez or turbans. During the Crimean War (1853-56) the Zouave troops became heroes, and illustrations of their uniforms influenced fashion in Europe and the United States. Their popularity spread to the United States and many local militias adopted the colorful uniforms and fancy drill programs. Colonel Ellsworth’s Chicago Zouave Cadets toured the United States and spread their popularity just before the start of the Civil War. This is when the local Salem militia “caught the fever”!

Zouave Style
Both sides of the Civil War had Zouave units, North and South. In New England they were popular with units made up by college boys, and often a benefactor would donate the fancy uniforms. Colonel Ellsworth, commander of the 11th NY “Fire Zouaves” was killed when he tried to pull down a Confederate flag in Virginia. His death was one of the first major casualties of the war, until Bull Run. The fashions he made famous in the United States military stayed famous even with ladies clothing all during the 1860s.

For more information:

Click here for my post yesterday about the Salem Zouave's and their rescue of the USS Constitution during the Civil War 

A Zouave Uniform from the Smithsonian Museum

Albany Zouave Cadets, by James Hilton Manning, Albany, New York, 1910 [available at Google Books]

Zouave Drill Book, by Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, King & Baird printers, 1861

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Old Ironsides" during the Civil War

USS Constitution
berthed at Charlestown, Mass.
“Old Ironsides” was built in Boston in 1797, one of the first six frigates constructed for the new American Navy. The USS Constitution earned her fame during the War of 1812 in the battle against the British ship Guerriere. The enemy said the cannonballs were bouncing off the sides of the Constitution, thus she earned the name “Old Ironsides”. An article in a Boston newspaper on 14 September 1830 stated that the Navy was going to scrap the Constitution. Two days later a 21 year old Oliver Wendall Holmes published a sentimental poem to "Old Ironsides" in the same newspaper, and school children began sending in pennies for her repair.

During the Civil War, the Constitution was already considered old fashioned, and she was used as a training ship for cadets. She was berthed at Annapolis, the Naval Academy. At the outbreak of war, the Constitution was ordered to relocate in New York City Harbor, and several companies of Massachusetts volunteers were stationed on board. She spent most of the war near Newport, Rhode Island. Her sister ship United States was captured at Norfolk, Virginia, and this left “ Old Ironsides” the only remaining ship of the six original frigates in the US Navy.

How did I know about “Old Ironsides” rescue during the Civil War? I found out through researching my Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War service. He served twice in the war, and I knew his regiments through his obituaries and pension papers. In reading the regimental histories I found out that he was part of one of the regiments of Massachusetts Volunteers who rescued the Constitution and towed her north for protection. Great Great Grandfather Abijah Franklin Hitchings was from Salem, Massachusetts, originally a sail maker. Many of the men in his regiment were fishermen, ship builders, or held other maritime occupations. It is no doubt this is why they were the perfect choice for this particular mission.

Great Great Grandfather Hitchings was part of Company “I” of the 8th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the Salem Zouaves with the fancy red uniforms. After his 90 days serving outside of Baltimore, he re-enlisted in Company “H” of the 19th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, where he was wounded at Fredericksburg . At his funeral in 1910, four members of the Salem Zouaves served as pallbearers.

Here is an excerpt from the book The United States Naval Academy, by Park Benjamin, Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1900, page 231.

" Just as day was breaking, Captain Haggerty came back with my brother and Commodore Blake. I invited the commodore to the quarter-deck where we could be alone. and told him who I was, and why I was there, and asked what he desired.
The old man burst into tears, and shed them like rain for a moment, and then broke out:- "Thank God! Thank God! Won't you save the Constitution?"
I did not know that he referred to the ship Constitution, and I answered:- "Yes, that is what I am here for."
"Are those your orders? Then the old ship is safe."
"I have no orders," said I; "I am carrying on the war now on my own hook;" I cut loose from my orders when I left Philadelphia. What do you want me to do to save the Constitution?"
'I want some sailor men,' he answered; 'for I have no sailors' I want to get her out, and get her afloat. 
"Oh, well," said I, "I have plenty of sailor men from the town of Marblehead, where their fathers built the Constitution."

Another excerpt from Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major General Benjamin F. Butler, by Benjamin Franklin Butler, A. M. Thayer & Co. Publishers, Boston, Massachusetts, 1892, page 195.

"Immediately after breakfast, I detailed a company, the Salem Zouaves, Captain Deveraux, the best drilled company I had, as guard on board the Constitution. I also detailed a company of Marbleheaders, who were fishermen, to help work the ship under the command of Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Rogers. He worked with a will, and I shall never forget my delight at his efficiency. He transferred all the upper deck guns and their carriages on board the Maryland, thus lighting the Ship. We got up her anchors, which were several feet deep in the mud, and after very strenuous efforts on the part of all of us, the Constitution, attached to the Maryland, was worked around and down the bay into deep water." "

Re-enactors playing Salem Zouaves
in their distinctive red uniforms
The Constitution retired from active service in 1881, and was berthed for fifteen years in the harbor at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1897, her 100th birthday, she was towed to Boston. She is still a commissioned US naval war ship. For many years she continued as a training ship. She is serving a new role in educational outreach at the Charlestown Navy Yard. All the crew is active duty US Naval personnel wearing 1812 uniforms.

A. F. Franklin's photo
if it were color you would
see his red Zouave uniform

On 10 April 2011, a group of men re-enacted the Salem Zouaves rescuing the Constitution at the Charlestown Navy yard as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. You can read about it at their Facebook page “Salem Zouaves” with photos and videos, or you can follow their blog at

For more information:

Captain George S. Blake Saved the USS Constitution

History of the Salem Light Infantry: 1805 – 1890″ by George Mantum Whipple. It is available online at Google Books

“Salem Zouaves” by Capt. J. P. Reynolds, is a journal of the Salem Zouaves held at the Clements Library at the University of Michigan. You can read a transcript of this journal at the web page


Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Google, George Washington and Blog Stats

My original story about the George Washington Document is at this link:

According to the stats on my blog, several people have been searching for “George Washington signed discharge papers”. I was curious, so I Googled the exact phrase to see what came up… Apparently a document just like Abner Poland’s discharge paper was up for auction this month at Heritage Auctions. You can see the document and the history of the certificate at this link:     The auction ended on 7 April 2011 and had eleven bidders. It looks exactly like the one I didn’t see at NARA, and is also signed by John Trumbull and George Washington, just like Abner’s document. I don’t know the final auction price of the document.

Also, a story aired on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” on 3 November 2008 about a Revolutionary War Discharge paper signed by George Washington. It was in the possession of a descendant, and was valued by appraiser Stephen Massey at $6,000 to $10,000. It was in rough shape, not having been preserved properly, and it didn’t look like Abner’s document. I remember seeing this episode and remarking to my family that we had an ancestor who once had a similar paper, and they all said they wish he had kept it instead of turning it in for a pension. Me, too! You can see the short transcript of that particular episode of “Antiques Roadshow” here at this link

At an auction on 29 October 2009 two George Washington items were sold at Swann Galleries in New York. One was a “partly printed military discharge signed, as Commander in Chief, June 11, 1783” and it sold for $11,400. This sounds very similar to Abner Poland’s document, which was partly printed and thus drove me to NARA in the first place to try to distinguish the printed parts from the actual signatures! You can read about it at

Another document, very different from Abner’s document but signed at Headquarters by General Washington, sold for $12,075.00 in 2005. You can see it here

And, of course, my own blog post was one of the top Google hits for the phrase “George Washington signed discharge papers” coming in at number four and number six on the search page.

There were many more hits on this Google search- actually there were 3,160,000 results- but I stopped looking. To me, I didn’t care about the monetary value of the certificate, nor would I spend big bucks for a certificate naming a stranger even if it were signed by General George Washington. To me the value was that an ancestor had touched it, carried it in his pocket, and valued it as a precious object . Priceless!

This was the best hit I found:

“George Washington autographs, signatures, signed letters and signed documents are more available to collectors and admirers than people imagine. There are two reasons: George Washington's position as Commander in the Revolutionary War caused him to sign letters dealing with all aspects of his army from relatively routine supply issues to the problems of the Army recruitment system relying on state militias. The text of Washington's signed letters during the Revolutionary War were almost always written by an aide and then signed by the General. Letters written in his hand and signed are unusual during the American Revolution. At the end of the Revolution, Washington signed many documents discharging soldiers. These signed documents are almost always in very worn condition because soldiers carried them in their pockets and unfolded and refolded many times before framing them, usually with a wood backing that caused staining of the document. Regardless of condition, a Revolutionary War discharge document signed by George Washington is a very personal window into history. .. Unfiltered sunlight took a serious toll, fading the ink of the recipient's name and George Washington's signature. Examples of this type of George Washington signed document in very fine condition are rare.”

From the website


Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Concord Minute Man - Not so Wordless Wednesday

Happy Patriot's Day,
19 April 1775 was 236 years ago

At Bicentennial of the Battle of Lexington and Concord
Me, and my little sister at the base of the Concord Minuteman Statue

The Concord Minute Man Statue
Me and Hubby

A miniature of the Concord Minuteman
by Daniel Chester French
at the National Portrait Gallery

Last year I posted photos of the Lexington Minutemen for Patriot's Day, and you can read it at this link: 

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hezekiah Wyman and the Legend of the White Horseman

Happy Patriot's Day!

(This material may not be used without the express permission of the author) 

Here is another story about the Wyman family and the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Hezekiah Wyman of Woburn was fifty-five years old, and he sported long flowing grey hair. He rode a white horse that day when he set off to aid his Lexington neighbors. According to the newspaper The Boston Pearl and Literary Gazette  “his exploits were well nigh fabulous.”

The British called him “Death on the Pale Horse” as he rode through the woods, shooting the British regulars who marched in lines down the roads of Lexington. He picked off a number of British soldiers and wounded several others, and always escaped unhurt. When he ran out of bullets he continued to fight with his bayonet and charging the British. He pursued them all the way to Charlestown before he returned to Woburn.

Wyman also served for five months at Ticonderoga and for three months in New Jersey. He was paid 8 Pounds, 16 shillings and 10 pence for his service in 1777. He died in 1779 and left his son, Daniel, his white horse in his will. His story became known as “The Legend of the White Horseman.” Interestingly, he was baptized by the Arlington minister on 28 June 1779, a few days before his death.

According to Historian Charles Bahne, he found among Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s papers a first draft of the famous “Paul Revere’s Ride” with an entire lost stanza about a tall grey rider, possibly Hezekiah Wyman. The lost lines were first read publicly in 2007 at a lecture Bahne presented at the Old South Meeting House, “Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited”.

Hezekiah Wyman is another descendant of the original settler, Francis Wyman. He seems to come from a long line of warriors!

Generation 1: Francis Wyman, born 1594 in Westmill, Hertfordshire, England, died about 15 September 1658 in Westmill ; married 2 May 1617 to Elizabeth Richardson, daughter of Thomas Richardson and Katherine Duxford.

Generation 2: John Wyman, born in West Mill Parish, Hertfordshire, England, was baptized on 3 February 1621; married 5 November 1644 in Woburn to Sarah Nutt, born in England and came to America with her father, Myles Nutt. She married second on 25 August 1684 to Thomas Fuller of Woburn. I am descended of John’s brother, Francis Wyman, Jr. (1617 – 1699). He was my 9x Great Grandfather.

Generation 3: Seth Wyman, born 3 August 1663 in Woburn, died on 26 October 1715; married on 17 December 1685 in Woburn to Esther Johnson, daughter of Major William Johnson. Seth Wyman was a lieutenant in the Woburn Militia.

Generation 4: Seth Wyman, born 13 September 1686 in Woburn, died on 5 September 1725; married 26 January 1715 in Billerica to Sarah Ross. Seth Wyman was a soldier under Lovewell, and was presented with a sword to acknowledge his bravery and good conduct for the fight at Pigwocket.

Generation 5: Hezekiah Wyman, born on 5 August 1720 in Woburn, died in 28 June 1779 in Arlington; married on 20 February 1744/45 in Woburn to Sarah Reed, daughter of Israel Reed and Hannah Wyman.


For more information:   My first story about the Wyman family and the battle of Lexington.  In this story, a Wyman wins a cow for aiding a famous refugee on the day of the battle.    This newsletter posted on the Wyman Family Association website lists the Wymans who participated in the events on the day of 19 April 1775, including Hezekiah Wyman.   one of a series of posts by J. L. Bell about Hezekiah Wyman.  Bell has documented Hezekiah's life over several years, always posting near Patriot's Day, 19 April.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Hezekiah Wyman and the Legend of the White Horseman", Nutfield Genealogy, posted 19 April 2011, ( accessed [access date]).

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes

William Dawes
Happy Patriot's Day!

On April 19, 1775 there were three men who rode into Lexington and Concord to warn the minutemen about the British Regulars- Paul Revere (of course), Samuel Prescott and Wiliam Dawes. Dawes took the land route through Boston Neck, and Revere rowed across the Charles River to Charlestown, which you learned about in Longfellow’s poem. Dawes and Revere arrived in Lexington at the same time, around midnight. They met Samuel Prescott, a young doctor, on the way to Concord. Dawes lost his horse when the group was stopped by a patrol, Revere was captured and Prescott made it to Concord.

According to historians, like author David Hackett Fischer, there were actually more than 100 riders out that night, spreading the alarm all over eastern Massachusetts. An organized warning system of messengers delivered the news of the British marching to Concord. The true story is much more interesting than Longfellow’s poem, but most Americans still remember only Paul Revere.

When I was in college, the sidewalk along Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square was a popular meeting place. Bronze horseshoes set into the cement of the sidewalk and a nearby plaque commemorate Dawes and mark his movement along the route which is now roughly where Rt. 2 and Massachusetts Avenue travel west to Lexington and Concord.  Dawes met up with Revere further along down the road.

For 30 years Eliot Square at Roxbury Highlands has celebrated William Dawes ride on the eve of 19 April 1775. An equestrian re-enacts the ride, and often recites the following poem, a parody on Longfellow's famous story about Paul Revere. The Discover Roxbury website lists the special events. My Dad could recite this poem by memory, and I remember him often repeating it on Patriot’s Day, with a twinkle in his eye.

Helen F. Moore published her poem “The Midnight Ride of William Dawes” in Century Magazine, 1896.

PS Did you know that this year is the 150th Anniversary of Longfellow's "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"?  There has been much discussion lately on how so close to the start of the Civil War (also celebrating it's 150th anniversary this week) that Longfellow wrote it as a "call to arms" or a "wake up call" to the North.  Reread the poem and see if you agree!  I used to mock this poem, since it was such a terrible rendition of the actual events, but now I think Longfellow's analogy is extremely interesting.


Andrew Tobin reenacting
William Dawes 2010
 in Roxbury, Massachusetts
The Midnight Ride of William Dawes
by Helen F. Moore

I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, "My name was Dawes"
'TIS all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear --
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

WHEN the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!
HISTORY rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because

He was Revere and I was Dawes.

For more information:  a video of the recitation of the poem about William Dawes

Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1995   The Descendants of William Dawes  A website by the National Lancers, an equestrian unit that participates every Patriot’s Day in the Boston area. There are photos of recent re-enactors portraying William Dawes and his ride to Lexington.


To cite/link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The Midnight Ride of William Dawes", Nutfield Genealogy, posted 18 April 2011, ( accessed [access date]). 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1940 Census Sneak Peek for Genealogists

"The Census Enumerator"
Norman Rockwell, 1940
Does the date 2 April 2012 mean anything to you? It is the date the National Archives will release their digital version of the 1940 Federal Census. No microfilm, digital images! There won’t be an index, but you can expect that after the release date and other commercial enterprises will begin transcription and indexing projects as soon as possible.

So, in April 2012 how will you find your ancestors on the images? What information will be available? What is new or different about the 1940 census? At the NERGC conference last weekend I went to a well attended lecture on the upcoming 1940 census by Jean Nudd, an archivist at the Pittsfield, Massachusetts regional NARA facility. She had piles of handouts, and a well written syllabus, and an audience on the edge of their seats!

These are the major changes I found on the 1940 census form. If you look at the forms and information on the NARA website, I’m sure you will find many other changes of interest…

1. The 1940 enumerators conducted a population schedule, agriculture schedule and a housing schedule (with questions about homes similar to the farm and business schedules you may have seen in earlier censuses). Although this schedule would be of great interest to genealogist because it asked questions about rentals, mortgages, home values, heating, etc, you will not see it. It was disposed of by NARA.

2. One of the questions asked was “where were you in 1935?” This is a great clue to migration trails, and a nice way to track your ancestor midway between two censuses!

3. Employment questions. Remember that this census was taken at the end of the Great Depression. In taking so much statistical information for government purposes, they also left a genealogical goldmine for us in 2012! I counted thirteen columns of questions about employment on the 1940 form, including wages, or income derived from non-wages, or persons doing “Emergency Work” such as the CCC or WPA projects.

4. It identifies the person furnishing the information to the enumerator! Now we know who to blame for information that doesn’t match vital records.

5. Each person enumerated listed their highest grade of school completed.

6. On each page of 40 people, two random people were chosen to answer a list of supplemental questions for statistical purposes. This meant that 5% of the population was surveyed. Cross your fingers that one or two of your family members were chosen! This survey asks about a dozen extra questions, including parent’s birthplace, veteran’s service, and the new national insurance plans including Social Security (new in 1940).

Since the census won’t be indexed for a while, you will have to browse towns or enumeration districts to find your ancestors. There are aids to identifying those districts by using street maps, see the link to Steve Morse’s website below. This only works if they were living in the same home in 1930 and 1940. Otherwise, you can use town or city directories or old 1940 phone books to identify your ancestor’s street address.

Don’t forget, if you absolutely, positively can’t wait until 2 April 2012, you can always pay $65 to NARA for a transcription of one person on one census. You must be the person named in the search, or legal heir (provide a death certificate) See this link for more information for an “Age Search Service” of the 1940 to 2000 census records

There is a link to some great short films at the NARA website at   These were public newsreels and training films for the 1940 enumerators. They will give you a good preview of some of the questions the enumerators had to ask, and the types of answers you will find listed on the 1940 census forms. They are curiously humorous as well as being educational! Some of these films are also on YouTube.

Important Links:    for information on the 1940 census click on “1940”   an alternate website about the 1940 census release, they even have a Facebook group you can join for the latest news!

Blank 1940 population schedule forms (use these as worksheets)   Steve Morse’s website to help you find the enumeration district of your ancestors in 1940, if they still lived in the same house as they did in 1930.   Lists the questions on the 1940 population schedule form

Other Genealogy Blog Posts about the 1940 Census:

Leah’s Family Tree (formerly Internet Genealogist) at

Before My Time

NARAtions, the official NARA blog

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Friday, April 15, 2011

A House in the Smithsonian Museum

Last week, at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, we stumbled upon an exhibit that took my breath away. The exhibit is called “Within These walls”. It was a house from Ipswich, Massachusetts reconstructed inside the museum, showing the generations of families that had lived there since the 1700s until the mid 21st century. Yes, it was beautiful, but what I loved most were the names of the families. The first five families who lived in this house were from my family tree!

Timeline of house owners
click to enlarge
The first inhabitant of the house, and its builder in 1757, was Abraham Choate. He was my 1st cousin 8 generations removed. He removed to Maine in 1772 and sold his house to Isaac Dodge, my 3rd cousin 8x removed. Isaac sold the house to his brother Abraham Dodge in 1777 who served in the Revolution at the Battle of Bunker Hill. (My other ancestor Abner Poland enlisted in Capt. Abraham Dodge’s regiment at the start of the war.) In 1789 Abraham Dodge sold the house to Nathaniel Baker, who I suspect was a cousin through Abraham’s grandmother, Priscilla Baker (it was a small town, after all), who sold it to John Appleton in 1791, and he lived in it until 1798 when he sold it to Daniel Thurston and his wife Margaret Appleton. Margaret was a great granddaughter of Jacob Perkins, my 9x Great Grandfather, and she was the daughter of John Appleton, the previous owner.

After this the house was sold to many other Ipswich inhabitants, but I only recognized one other surname from my family tree (Mears). I'm sure there are other cousin kinships though!

In the lineages below, I have highlighted the residents of the house in red…

Choate Lineage:

Generation 1: John Choate, born about 1624 in Groton, Colchester, England, and died 4 December 1695 in Ipswich, Massachusetts; married about 1660 to Ann Unknown. Eight children. My 9x Great Grandfather. I descend from Thomas, below, and Sarah, who married John Burnham in 1693.

Generation 2: Thomas Choate, born about 1671 in Ipswich, Massachusetts, died 31 March 1745 in Ipswich; married about 1690 in Ipswich to Mary Varney, daughter of Thomas Varney and Abigail Proctor. My 8x Great Grandfather. His sister, Sarah, is also my 8x Great Grandmother (she married John Burnham in 1693) He had nine children and I descend from Thomas’s daughter Anne, who married John Burham in 1710. He was also married to Mary Ayer in 1734, and to Hannah Burnham in 1743.

Generation 3: Francis Choate, born 13 September 1701 in Ipswich, died 15 October 1777 in Ipswich; married 13 April 1727 to Hannah Perkins.

Generation 4: Abraham Choate, born 24 March 1732 in Ipswich, died 23 April 1800 in Whitefield, Maine; married on 13 March 1755 in Ipswich to Sarah Potter, daughter of Aaron Potter and Sarah Appleton.

Dodge Lineage:

Generation 1: William Dodge, born before 19 September 1640 in Middlechinnook, Somerset, England, died 24 March 1720 in Beverly; married to Mary Conant, daughter of Roger Conant and Sarah Horton.

Generation 2: William Dodge, born 20 March 1663 in Wenham, Massachusetts, died 20 October 1765 in Wenham; married on 27 July 1699 to Prudence Fairfield, daughter of Walter Fairfield and Sarah Skipper.

Generation 3: William Dodge, born 6 March 1705 in Wenham, died 11 April 1777 in Ipswich; married on 9 January 1728 to Rebecca Appleton, daughter of Isaac Appleton and Priscilla Baker.

Generation 4. Isaac Dodge, born 26 February 1732 in Ipswich, died 29 June 1785 in Ipswich; married on 8 November 1755 in Ipswich to Elizabeth Day. His brother Abraham was born 17 August 1740 in Ipswich, died 16 June 1786 in Ipswich; married first on 17 April 1762 to Abigail Cogswell; married second on 2 June 1782 to Bethia Patch. Abigail is my 1st cousin 8x removed because her grandfather, Robert Woodbury, is my 8x Great Grandfather. (confused yet?)

Margaret Appleton’s Lineage:

Generation 1: Jacob Perkins, born before 12 September 1624 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England, died 29 January 1700 in Ipswich; married about 1648 to Elizabeth Whipple, daughter of Matthew Whipple and Anne Hawkins.

Generation 2: John Perkins, brother to my 8x Great Grandfather Jacob Perkins, born 3 July 1652 in Ipswich, died 15 March 1717 in Wenham; married about 1677 to Mary Fiske.

Generation 3: Sarah Perkins born about 1688 in Ipswich; married 17 December 1701 in Topsfield, Massachusetts to Oliver Appleton.

Generation 4 : John Appleton, born 1707 in Ipswich, died 4 January 1794; married on 4 August 1731 in Ipswich to Lucy Boardman. Lucy’s great grandfather is also Jacob Perkins, above, so John and Lucy were 2nd cousins.

Generation 5: Margaret Appleton, born 1742 in Ipswich, died February 1822; married first to Daniel Thurston, married second on 3 June 1773 in Ipswich to John Kinsman. Believe it or not, John Kinsman is my 2nd cousin, 8x removed. He is related to me through his mother, Hannah Burnham, and his great grandfather, Robert Kinsman, is my 9x Great Grandfather.

The official link to the Smithsonian Choate House exhibit

A Massachusetts realtor’s website, a member of the National Association of Realtor’s who sponsored the exhibit in Washington DC

Descendants of John Choate

Descendants of John Perkins

The Dodge Family Association

The Perkins Family

The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts, by George Perkins, Salem, Mass, 1889. The full text of this book is available on

Video of "Within These Walls", the Smithsonian Choate House exhibit:

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Wilkinsons present Uncle Tom's Cabin

from The Clipper, a New York City newspaper, on 21 April 1877 (Vol. 25, P. 30)

"THE WILKINSON COMBINATION is reported as doing finely in New England with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and Miss Lillie Wilkinson as Topsy. The play reaches its one hundredth consecutive performance this season by this company at Nashua, N. H., APril 14. The veteran Charley Wilkinson is the manager."

Charles DeWitt Clinton Wilkinson began his theatrical career as a comedian, with his first appearance in Worcester, Massachusetts on 10 December 1850. There is a complete biography of his life at FindAGrave even though there is no grave indentified in this sketch. The biography was taken from Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, by Reverend Israel Wilkinson, 1869, Biography No. XXIV, on  page 268. This book is available fully transcribed at  and also at

The Worcester Music Hall took over the Worcester Fruit Preserving Company building in 1868, and became known as the Worcester Theater. In 1883 Charles DeWitt Clinton Wilkinson took out a six year’s lease on the building for $3,750 yearly rent, which sounds like it must have been a lot of money in those days! His widow, Leila (Layton) Wilkinson, retained the rental until the building was destroyed by a fire in 1889.

The “Lillie” in the poster is actually Leila, who was born in England, and was a renowned actress in her own right. A collection of broadside posters and playbills for "Wilkinson's Dramatic Company" can be seen at the Antiquarian Society in Worcester, at North Carolina State University library and also at the Boston Public Library. Charles DeWitt Clinton Wilkinson participated in the presentation of the play "Uncle Tom's Cabin" more than six hundred times!


Generation 1: Lawrence Wilkinson, born about 1620 in Durham, England, died 9 August 1692 in Providence, Rhode Island; married to Susanna Smith, daughter of Christopher Smith and Alice Unknown.

Generation 2: Samuel Wilkinson, born about 1650 in Durham, England, died 27 August 1727 in Rhode Island; married on 18 September 1674 in Providence, Rhode Island to Plain Wickenden, daughter of William Wickenden, born about 1650 in Newport, Rhode Island, died about 1695.

Generation 3: Joseph Wilkinson, born 22 January 1683 in Smithfield, Rhode Island, died 24 April 1740 in Scituate, Rhode Island; married Martha Pray, daughter of John Pray and Sarah Brown, born 1689 in Providence Rhode Island, died 22 May 1784.

Generation 4: Joseph Wilkinson, born 1721, died 20 September 1755 in Scituate, Rhode Island; married on 6 December 1741 to Alice Jenckes, born 1724, died 1790, daughter of Obadiah Jenks and Alice Eddy.

Generation 5: Joseph Wilkinson, born 11 March 1751 in Scituate, Rhode Island, died about 1814; married on 25 October 1797 in Scituate to Elizabeth Brownell, born 13 October 1749 in Little Compton, Rhode Island, died 30 October 1841, daughter of Thomas Brownell and Hannah Potter.

Generation 6: Brownell Wilkinson, born 20 May 1785 in Scituate, Rhode Island, died 15 February 1861 in Worcester, married first to Tabitha Thomas about 1803, and had six children. He married second to Maria Spalding about 1814, no children. He married third to Sally Ann Phillips, daughter of Simon Phillips and Sarah Bailey, born 25 October 1810 in Worcester, died 25 May 1879. Five children, including Charles D. C. Wilkinson below.

Generation 7: Charles DeWitt Clinton Wilkinson, born 21 April 1830 in Plainfield, Connecticut, died on 2 March 1888 in Worcester, Massachusetts; married first to Sarah E. Fogal (age 15!) in July 1853 at Bridgeport, Connecticut; married second to Leila Lawton on 22 October 1866 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, daughter of Sidney Lawton and Rachel Carter of England.

One child, by wife Sarah Fogal, a son Frank Marshall Wilkinson, born 22 January 1858 in Worcester, died 20 February 1892 in Worcester.


For more information:

Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, by Reverend Israel Wilkinson, 1869, Biography No. XXIV, page 268.

Records of the Bailey Family, compiled by “a descendant”, Providence, RI, 1895, see pages 106 and 107.

History of the American Stage: Containing Biographical Sketches of nearly every member of the Profession that has appeared on the American Stage from 1733 to 1870, by Thomas Alston Brown, 1870.

Dictionary of Worcester and its Vicinity, Second Issue, by Franklin Pierce Rice, Worcester: Blanchard & Co, Publishers, 1893, pages 71 and 119.

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lynch Park, Beverly, Massachusetts- Not so Wordless Wednesday

Lynch Park Rose Garden
My Mom, baby sister, and me on the lion

about 1997
my daughter and my Dad

my daughter and Hubby

Lynch Park was originally a piece of land known as Woodbury's Point.  During the Revolutionary War there was a small fort with guns to protect the town of Beverly.  Eventually the land was part of a large seaside estate built by the Evans family, where President Taft summered in 1909 and 1910.  Mrs. Evans built the sunken rose garden behind the large mansion that used to stand here.  There is a statue here called "The Falconer" inspired by one that was in New York's Central Park, where Mr. Evans saw it out of his hospital window.  The estate eventually was given to Beverly as a public park.

My parents met at Lynch Park, playing catch with a ball on the beach in the 1950s.  They were engaged at a lighthouse right down the street.  I grew up playing there on the lawns, in the rose garden and had swimming lessons on the same beach.  My uncle Don was a city gardner for Lynch Park and the rose garden.  When I married and lived in New Hampshire I made sure that my daughter and husband knew Lynch Park.  We visit often at all seasons of the year.   The rose garden and the lions that guard the stairs are still our favorite part of the park.

For the full history of Lynch Park click here

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo