Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Weathervane Wednesday - Three for One in Guadarrama, Spain

 These three weathervanes are on the roof of the Restaurante Sala, located on Carretera de los Molinos, Guadarrama, Madrid, Spain. 


Witch on a broomstick


The Restaurante Sala is located in the mountain town of Guadarrama, Spain.  Vincent's cousins took us for lunch to this charming restaurant, and we enjoyed it very much!  There were actually four weathervanes on the roof, but one of the two witches was damaged.  We ate outside on the terrace, and enjoyed the artwork in the garden.  If you visit in December don't miss their large nativity, which can be viewed through a window in the front of the restaurant. 

For the truly curious:

Restaurante Sala -       


To cite/link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday - Three for One in Guadarrama, Spain", Nutfield Genealogy, posted ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Weathervane Wednesday - Weathervane by Shem Drowne, at the Massachusetts Historical Society

I have seen another Shem Drowne weathervane recently, and just last week the Boston Globe announced a Southeby's auction of a newly discovered sixth weathervane by Drowne!  This is fantastic news about the earliest documented weathervane maker in the United States.  Shem Drowne (1683 - 1774) is most famous for his grasshopper weathervane above Faneuil Hall in Boston, and very few weathervanes have been documented to be his work.  These six weathervanes are among the most prized in the US.  To discover a new one is historical!  

The sixth Drowne weathervane discovered recently was a copy of the Faneuil Hall grasshopper and originally was installed on Peter Faneuil's house in Boston.  Later it was installed on a barn in New Hampshire (location has not been disclosed) for many years, and then owned by a family in New Jersey.  Experts have traced the provenance of this weathervane back to Shem Drowne.  The story is fascinating and you can read about it HERE at the Boston Globe (subscription might be needed) or HERE in a shorter version at an antiques website.  It will be auctioned by Southeby's in New York City on January 23, and is expected to fetch over $300,000! 

The archer weathervane photographed here for this blog post resides at the Massachusetts Historical Society. It originally was installed over the Province House in Boston around 1716, and it depicts an indigenous person with a bow and arrow.  This symbol was inpired by the Native American figure on the Massachusetts Bay seal (1629).  Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote "Legends of Province House" and featured "Drowne's Wooden Image" as a gilded weathervane. Did you read Johnny Tremaine (by Esther Forbes) as a child? The first paragraphs feature this weathervane, too, and mention its glass eye! 

Province House was built in 1679 for Peter Sargeant, a Boston merchant.  It was later the royal governor's residence (for the following royal governors: Samuel Shute (who signed the Shute petition for Nutfield), William Shirley, Thomas Pownall, Francis Bernard, Thomas Gage, and William Howe).  When the new Massachusetts State House was built after the Revolutionary War the Province House was donated to the Massachusetts General Hospital, but destroyed in a fire by 1864. The weathervane and the royal coat of arms survived the fire.  You can still see the brick front steps that were part of this house on Province Street in downtown Boston.

A descendant of the founder of the Massachusetts General Hospital donated this weathervane to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1876.  In 1991 it was on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts alongside the Faneuil grasshopper weathervane during a restoration of the Old State House. This archer weathervane used to hang in the lobby of the Massachusetts Historical Society, but now it is on the wall in an office, out of public view.

Fortunately, one of my good college friends is a fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  With her assistance I was able to visit this weathervane in the private office.  It is one of the few weathervanes I have been able to visit up close, instead of using a zoom lens on a camera or binoculars!  There are guided art tours of the Massachusetts Historical Society every Saturday at 10am, free to the public, which includes seeing this weathervane.  Please contact the MHS for more information about the tour. 

Drowne’s  other five weather vanes are the famous grasshopper above Faneuil Hall, the weather cock on top of the Congregational Church in Cambridge, a weathercock on display at the Museum of Old Newbury, and the banner shaped weathervane on the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston. I have not seen the Newbury weathervane (yet!).  Only three are still installed outdoors, the rest are part of indoor collections. 

My genealogical connection to Shem Drowne has inspired me to start blogging about local weathervanes, and weathervanes from all over New England, and sometimes around the world.  At this date in 2023 I have written about almost 500 weathervanes, and Vincent has photographed nearly all of them (I try but I'm not as good a photographer). Many people following my blog have wondered why a genealogy blog features weathervanes.  Now you know!   

The Drowne family lived in Kittery, Maine, where Shem was born in 1683.  His father, Leonard Drowne, an immigrant from England, was a shipbuilder.  He moved his family from Kittery, Maine to the safety of Boston during the French and Indian War.  Leonard is buried at the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End.   It was here, in the North End, that Shem Drowne began his trade as a tinsmith.  He was also a deacon at the First Baptist Church, where many of my other ancestors belonged, and can be found in the marriage and church records at this same time period.

Here is a genealogical chart showing my kinship to Shem Drowne, weathervane maker.

                                Walter Abbott m. Sarah Steward
           I                                                                  I
Elizabeth Abbott m. Leonard Drown  m. Mary Abbott m. William Caverly
          I                                                                                        I
Shem Drowne m. Katherine Clarke                Elizabeth Caverly m. Thomas Wilkinson
                                                                         James Wilkinson m. Hannah Mead
                                                                          William Wilkinson m. Mercy Nason
                                                                          Aaron Wilkinson m. Mercy F. Wilson
                                                                         Robert Wilson Wilkinson m. Phebe Munroe
                                                                         Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Bill
                                (my grandparents) Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Roberts

Also, Mary Drowne, a sister of Shem Drowne, born about 1693 and died 24 January 1732, married on 24 April 1712 to James Kettle, my 7th great grand uncle, brother to Jonathan Kettle (1681 - 1764) my 7th great grandfather.  That makes Mary Drowne my 7th great aunt by marriage, as well as my first cousin 8 generations removed.  

For the truly curious:

Blog posts about Shem Drowne's weathervanes: 

1.  Faneuil Hall, Boston, Massachusetts:

2.  First Church,  Cambridge, Massachusetts    

3.  Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts   

A weathervane by Thomas Drowne (Shem Drowne's grandson):   

Massachusetts Historical Society   

Museum of Old Newbury   

A great book!  Yankee Weathervanes by Myrna Kaye, New York:  E.P. Dutton. 

A journal article:  Baker, Daniel. "The Grasshopper in Boston.", New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 49, no. 1 (January 1895), 24-28.

Two webpages with the news of the newly discovered sixth Shem Drown weathervanes, a copy of the famous Faneuil grasshopper:

Boston Globe     

Antiques and Arts Weekly  

Check out the page with the grasshopper weathervane at Sotheby's website:  

Click here to see nearly 500 weathervane posts!  


To cite/link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday - Weathervane by Shem Drowne, at the Massachusetts Historical Society", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 18, 2023, ( accessed [access date]). 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Newly discovered Civil War photos of my Great Great Grandfather

 Over Christmas break my distant cousin contacted me with some genealogy questions.  One was a question about a photo she saw on Find A Grave for my great great grandfather Abijah Franklin Hitchings (1841 - 1910).  I had never seen this photo before!

I contacted the gentleman who contributed this photo to Frank Hitchings memorial at Find A Grave  His name was Peter Maugle, and according to his profile at Find A Grave, he is a staff member at Fredericksburg National Military Park. He has added photos to over one thousand memorials while attempting to establish the identities of the marked graves at Fredericksbury National Cemetery.  Frank Hitchings was wounded at Fredricksburg, but did not die there.  He died in 1910 at his home in Salem, Massachusetts. 

According to Peter Maugle, he found this photo at the Library of Congress digital collection.  You can see the information at this link identifies Frank Hitchings as the soldier seated in the photograph.    This photo was donated to the Library of Congress in September 2020.  It pays to keep looking at those Find A Grave memorials every year to see if new information has been added! 

I have previously blogged about Great great grandpa Hitchings at several blog posts.  I'll add those links to the end of this post, and if you are interested you can read those stories.  He had served twice in the Civil War, first in the "Minute Men of '61" (Co. I, 8th Reg. Mass. Vol. Infantry) which rescued Old Ironsides (the USS Constitution) from Annapolis, and then again in Co. H, 19th Reg. Vol. Infantry, and was in the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Here is the digital version of his carte de viste- the original hangs on my mother's living room wall. This would have been his colorful Zouave uniform from the "Minute Men". 

Frank Hitchings served in the invalid corps during the end of the Civil War.  He had been a sailmaker before his military service, and after the war he began working at the Salem Custom House.  Eventually he became the Deputy Customs Collector.  His office is preserved in the Salem National Historic Park at the old Custom House on the waterfront. 

My grandmother was born in 1905. She remembers her "Dada Hitchings" walked with a limp.  He had his leg examined many times by the doctors at the Boston Veterans Hospital in Charlestown, and those records are preserved in his pension file.  His wife Hanna Eliza Lewis Hitchings (1844 - 1921) received a widow's pension when Frank died in 1910.  His obituaries are full of testimonies and information about his military service and his participation in many GAR events.  I wasn't surprised to see at the Library of Congress website many links to mentions of his name including the book History and Complete Roster of the Massachusetts Regiments: Minute Men of '61 who responded to the first call of President Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861, to defend the Flag and Constitution of the United States, by George W. Nason, 1910.  

This book at the LOC included this page about A. Frank Hitchings (page 265) 

Just when you think you've found all the existing material (ephemera, photos, information) on an ancestor, something new pops up!  Never stop looking and communicating with your cousins. 

For the Truly Curious:

Abijah Franklin Hitchings Find A Grave Memorial  

Photograph at the Library of Congress  

"How to find your American Veteran Ancestors (A. Frank Hitchings" November 10, 2009   

"My Great Great Grandfather, the Deputy Customs Collector, June 26, 2015   

My Hitchings Surname Saturday post, October 4, 2014  


To Cite/Link to this blog post: Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Newly discovered Civil War photos of my Great Great Grandfather", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 10, 2023, ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, January 2, 2023

What did Genea-Santa Bring? Christmas Books 2022

For many years I have posted the books that Genea-Santa has put under my Christmas tree.  You can see below for a list of links going back to 2014!  This year was a small haul, but enough to keep me very busy reading.  

I hope you find a few books on this list for yourself and your own family history research!

The first book is Robert Goodby's A Deep Presence: 13,000 Years of Native American History. We were very lucky that in November Professor Goodby of Franklin Pierce College was the featured speaker at the Compact Day Luncheon held by the New Hampshire Mayflower Society.  We were able to purchase an autographed copy of his newest book about the Native Abenaki who lived in our part of New England. He was a wonderful speaker, and if you hear about him speaking near you I would recommend you attend.  I can't wait to read this book!

Santa found this book on the history of Eastham, Massachusetts.  I have many ancestors from this town - Crosby, Bangs, Lumpkin, Mayo, Osborn, Mayhew, Davis, Hawes, and more.  It will be fun learning more about their hometown, and perhaps finding additional information on my ancestors.

In 2021 we stayed at a campground on Cape Cod, and this book of essays by Henry David Thoreau was in our little Airstream trailer.  During our weekend on the Cape I read several of these essays about Cape Cod and one about Mount Wachusett (near where I grew up and graduated at Wachusett Regional High School).  I was hooked and hated to leave the book behind.  Thank you, Santa!  Now I can read all the other essays.  (Purchased at the Concord Museum gift shop in Concord, Massachusetts)

This book looks like fun!  New England's Hidden Past: 360 Overlooked, Underappreciated, and Misunderstood Landmarks by husband and wife Dan and Leslie Landrigan is a surprise.  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I like to post about unsual New England historical sites. This book might send me off on a few local road trips.  Stay tuned!

For the truly curious: 

Christmas Books 2021  

Christmas Books 2020  

Christmas Books 2019

To Cite/Link to this Blog Post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "What did Genea-Santa Bring?  Christmas Books 2022", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 2, 2023, ( accessed [access date]).