"through me many long dumb voices..."

Stephen and I have many things in common, but genealogy is not one of them. As I have become more and more immersed in my family history, he has developed a variety of tactics to appear interested, to varying degrees of success.... Trying to engage him, I have tried to link what I've learned to history, movies, and other general topics. To varying degrees of success, as he would no doubt tell you.

One thing we do have in common is music, and in particular, musical theater. One relevant passage recently crossed my mind from Dear World, score by Jerry Herman, book by Lawrence & Lee, based on Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot.

     Constance: Suppose I were to say your pearls were false...
     Countess: They were, they were.
     Constance: I'm not asking what they were. I'm asking what they are.
     Countess: Surely you must know, when you wear pearls, that little by little the pearls become real.    

La Lansbury, avec les perles.

In genealogy, too often one finds people "researching" with their hearts and not their minds,  perhaps hoping--contrary to evidence--that little by little the ancestors will become real. I recently discovered this anew....

I have some Mayflower progenitors (about whom I have posted previously) and have been planning a road trip that would visit the New England haunts of some of my Yankee ancestors, including those Plymouth folks. Stephen has made noncommittal noises at appropriate intervals whenever I've talked about it. I thought that digging a little deeper into his family's past might yield some New Englanders as well (and buy-in for the trip), so I began.

I followed his mother's paternal line, as that seemed most likely, and it quickly became promising. Then I came to his fifth great grandparents: Levi West (27 Apr 1760 - 23 Dec 1808) and Bathsheba Rider (1760- 20 Apr 1805) --I wish I could say I was making up these names--and there it was: Levi was the son of Amasa West (27 Mar 1704 - 17 Jul 1776) and Amy Hatch (10 Oct 1713 - 9 Aug 1756). Amy Hatch! The daughter of a Delano, the great-great granddaughter of Richard Warren, of the Mayflower! And what's more, Richard Warren (1580 - 20 Oct 1673) is one of my Mayflower ancestors too!


As Cole Porter put it in another musical, "'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them...."

Not the Mayflower.
Sutton Foster and pals selling "Anything Goes,"  from the show of the same name.
 Photo by Joan Marcus

A cursory glance at dates reveals that the former Miss Hatch died four years before Grandpa Levi was born. So why do so many people (on Ancestry.com and elsewhere) believe it? Because they get to be Mayflower descendants if it is true. (Although I am beginning to think that even that is no big deal; there are estimated to be over four million legitimate--by which I mean genuine--living descendants of Mayflower passengers.) But how did Miss Hatch get connected to Amasa West, who is, in fact, Stephen's forbear? Well, she was his first wife. But a year after her death he married again (documented), this time to Bathshua Gibbs (2 Dec 1713 - ?), making her the mother of Levi West (also documented).

And a little more digging showed that my Richard Warren connection was even more dubious.

So that was a bust. But it turns out that Stephen and I are related, albeit distantly; apparently the term is "affinal" versus "consanguineal," meaning by marriage rather than blood. Anyway....

John James Rutledge (Sep 1739 - 2 Aug 1823) is a second great grandfather of the husband of one of my paternal second great grand aunts. Huh? Let me try again. One of John's great-great grandkids, Robert Rutledge (1870 - aft 1940) married my great-great grandfather's sister, Clara M Eaton (23 May 1874 - 2 Feb 1961). So now that that's clear, how does this relate to Stephen? John James Rutledge was the brother of George Rutledge (1723? - 18 Dec 1801), who is one of Stephen's maternal sixth great grandfathers.

Like the song says: "Small world, isn't it?"

Wondering about family relationships?
Ethel Merman in Gypsy.

"She hides handsome and richly dressed aft the blinds of the window..."

Today being Hallowe'en, I wanted to post something mysterious, murderous, or macabre about my family history. Alas, we seem always to have been a pretty clean-cut, upstanding group. Where are my highwaymen, defrocked clergy, or sheep-stealers hung by the neck until dead? But I was able to find two apposite legends; so legendary, in fact, that they only concern possible family members.

The first story concerns at least one of the legitimate (by which I mean factual, not bastardy) children of Ira Baker Brown (28 Jun 1829 - 15 May 1899), a maternal second great-grand-uncle, oldest brother to Silas W Brown, about whom I have written before. Among many other occupations, including cooper, painter, soda maker (?), and photographer (he owned a panorama camera), Ira Baker Brown was also a sextant at the Edgewood Cemetery in Chillicothe, Missouri. Oooooohhhh! Not terribly spooky in itself, I know, although I did try to add a little atmosphere to the photo below.

Edgewood Cemetery, original photo by "mordecarr" at findagrave.com.

No, the grim component to this story is that his children, twins (a classic horror trope!) Orlando and Malvina (5 Oct 1859 - 15 Jul 1863) were apparently both struck by lightning while at school, and killed instantly. Let us pause to shudder while considering that idea.

Not our twins, but a suitably macabre illustration,
 from Edward Gorey's The Epiplectic Bicycle.

It is an awfully good story, and comes to us from no less an authority than Timothy Hopkins' John Hopkins of Cambridge, 1634, and Some of His Descendants (1932, Stanford University Press), the former Martha Abigail Hopkins (27 Jul 1834 - 1 Apr 1924) being Mrs Brown, and consequently the children's mother. The only problem is that the story is merely that. There are no records of daughter Malvina Brown, despite her "twin" Orlando appearing on the 1860 U S Federal Census. And it is doubtful Orlando, even allowing for the lightning strike, would have been in school, as he was just three years old at the time of his death. Like many family stories (and I am sure you can think of examples in your own lineage), there may be some truth in this tale, but not as it has come down to us.

The second legend involves an actual person, unlike the mythic Malvina Brown, and it involves everything from piracy to a haunted house. The stretch here is that I have not been able to prove our heroine is related to me (although it is likely); she certainly would have been known by some of my ancestors. I am referring to Mary Wilson (Jul 1720 - 13 [alas, not a Friday] Feb 1814). Who? She is better known to New Englanders and beloved by ghost-story fans as Ocean Born Mary.

The legend has inspired everything from a children's book to an indie album to a puppet show.

The story, aptly enough, does begin with her birth at sea, on board the sinisterly-named Wolf, coming from Ireland to the New World. The ship was overtaken by pirates, whose captain was named Don Pedro. Upon seeing the newborn girl in her mother's arms, the oddly sentimental Captain, struck by the beauty of the red-haired child, said he would spare the lives of all aboard, and return the plunder his men had taken--if the child would be named "Maria," after his own mother. Needless to say, Mother Wilson agreed, so the pirates departed, but not before Don Pedro returned to the cabin to present her with a length of sumptuous green brocade, for baby Mary to wear on her wedding day.

Upon reaching land, the Wilson family settled in Nutfield, New Hampshire (present-day Londonderry), where Ocean Born Mary grew up. Her father James Wilson, died soon after their arrival, and her mother, Elizabeth (nee Fulton), married James Clarke, also of Nutfield. Mary Wilson was known to be tall, with fiery red hair and aquamarine eyes. On 18 December 1742, she married James Wallace (1712 - 30 Oct 1781), wearing, as promised, a dress made of the ill-gotten seafoam brocade. The Wallaces stayed in Londonderry, and had five children, living a normal life until James died. Then Mary's tale takes another bizarre turn...

And it is here that I must interrupt (this is called building suspense) to explain how Ocean Born Mary Wilson Wallace may be related to me. As I have written before, my seventh great-grandparents, Thomas Steele (1683- 22 Feb 1748) and Martha Morrison (1686 - 22 Oct 1759) were among the founding families of Nutfield/Londonderry and were well-acquainted with the Clarkes and Pattersons (into which family Mary's only daughter married), so certainly would have known Ocean Born Mary. And the Steele's daughter, Janet (1703 - aft 1754), married John Wallace (abt 1700 - 1785) in 1720; they are my sixth great-grandparents. John Wallace is almost certainly related to Ocean Born Mary's husband James Wallace, but I have not finished researching that line. But today's theme is meant to be more chilling than genealogical, so to continue....

After her husband's death, Mary moved away from Nutfield to nearby Henniker, New Hampshire, perhaps to be near her now-grown sons. Don Pedro--remember him?--had since retired from piracy, but never forgot Ocean Born Mary. He sought her out using his stolen fortune, and upon discovering she lived in New Hampshire, bought land there and built a magnificent mansion on a hill, in which he intended to install Mary as, if not a bride, at least a companion. She accepted, and they lived a life of leisure and luxury, including a black carriage drawn by four white horses. They were a striking couple: the elegant Irish widow and the fine "Spanish" gentleman.

The only thing that marred their gentility was the occasional reappearance of someone from Don Pedro's piratical past. Mary once thought she saw figures, including her husband, digging a hole behind their home, in which to place an enormous trunk. When she asked Don Pedro about it, he denied everything, but less than a year later, she discovered him in that same spot, dead, with a cutlass stuck through his back! Rather than risk digging on their land, Mary instructed the servants to bury Don Pedro under the hearth. Although occasionally rumors surfaced about Don Pedro's background, and wild stories abounded about treasure buried there, Mary continued to live in the house until her death.

The home stayed in the family for nearly a hundred years, often occupied by tenants, who never seemed to stay long. The house fell into disrepair. Soon, ghost stories began to spread, tales of ectoplasmic buccaneers, or a tall ethereal woman descending the stairs; sometimes they told of phantom carriages driven by a flame-haired woman.

About 1918, a new family, the Roys, bought the home, and began to notice many peculiar things, from objects behaving oddly to apparitional appearances. Learning of the folklore surrounding their home, they decided to share the "haunted house" with neighbors, then tourists. Word got out to reporters and psychic investigators, and soon Ocean Born Mary's story was out. Her fame went as far as National Geographic magazine, which featured her in an article about prominent American ghosts in 1939. Through the 1960s, members of the Roy family continue to charge for tours, and even rented shovels to those brave--or greedy--enough to want to dig for treasure.

Times change, and we learn more. Whether that is good or bad is hard to say. The family that bought the house from the Roys say the Roys admitted the entire ghost story was fabricated, as a way to make money. Historians have provided documents proving that Mary would have been over sixty (and Don Pedro older still) when they moved into the house. Researchers dug deeper and learned that the supposedly haunted house was not even Mary's, but her son Robert's. Although she did live nearby, she so disliked him it is doubtful she ever visited the house.

Ghost-y, and less-so. Left, the infamous "Ocean Born Mary House" touted by the Roys;
 Right, Mary's actual home.

Yet to this day, there are many that go to Ocean Born Mary's House--particularly on Hallowe'en--to try to catch a glimpse of the black carriage coming up the hill, or the fiery-haired woman of New England folklore. Will she be seen tonight? How much is true? Is she related to me? I suppose it depends on what you want to believe....

An evocative recent image by Victor Ambrus.

Here are links to two terrific--if not terrifying--websites with more information about the legend of Ocean Born Mary:


"I wish I could translate the hints about the dead..."

In a previous post, I talked about one of my brick walls: Isaac Burnett; in another, I discussed the unreliability of documents (Silas W Brown's obituary) and the consequent disappointment one feels when such a document does not reveal any additional information.

The crossing of these threads is today's topic, as several new bits of information--all exciting, some perplexing--have recently come across my desk (or, more precisely: into my laptop).

Isaac Burnett (1780 -May 1860), a paternal fourth great-grandfather, has no identifiable parents, and until recently, five children (of ten) whose names are lost: one boy, and four girls. Beginning with the discoveries of two distant cousins, we now know the name of one of those daughters, and are--perhaps--a bit closer to the identity of Isaac's parents.

Over a year ago, I received a reply to an online post inquiring about Isaac Burnett and his family. The respondent was from another Burnett family (that of Daniel Burnett and Mariah Burnham, the purported but impossible parents of Isaac), who, in her research on her Burnetts, had a stray bit of information from a copy of an only partially reliable typescript from the 'fifties she had located: an Abigail Burnett born in Newport, Maine in 1820 to an Isaac Burnett and Deborah (LKU); Abigail married a Rufus Carter in 1840.

A vintage postcard of Newport, Maine. If nothing else, it breaks up my text.

Fascinating! This fit perfectly with one of Isaac's mysterious unnamed daughters. Isaac Burnett was in Newport in 1820, his wife's name was Deborah (Grindle). The birth year was plausible. Case closed. Except I could find no other documentation that there was ever an Abigail Burnett; and while there were numerous Rufus Carters, none that I could locate married an Abigail that made sense. So that got put aside (and, admittedly, forgotten).

Just a few weeks ago, another Burnett descendant with whom I have been corresponding found a daughter as well: Mary Burnett. The document extract below shows her as the daughter of Isaac and Deborah Burnett, born in 1820 in Newport, Maine. Two daughters! Abigail and Mary, both born in 1820...? Possibly they were twins.

For those of you who did not trouble to enlarge the above, I would like to point out that it is a Death Registry, and the deceased in question is named Mary A Carter. A is in Abigail? The Abigail who married Rufus Carter? Connecting the dots, and researching further, it all worked out.
Mary Abigail Burnett was born in 1820 in Newport, Maine. She married Rufus Burnham Carter (12 Sep 1818 - 22 Mar 1884) in 1840. She died in Athol, Massachusetts on 2 Apr 1877.
Apart from the coincidence of Rufus and I sharing a birthday (theme of another recent post here), there were some odd things about him.
First, he was simply difficult to single out; there are two other contemporary Rufus B Carters who seemed to circle him. One lived for many years in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the same time as did our Rufus, although the impostor's wife was Lorena or Lozena, and he was a prison warden, not a furniture painter. The other was born in Maine (check!) and married a woman named Abigail in 1840 (check!), but there similarities ended. Helpful as Ancestry.com can be, family trees there must be triple-checked; there are several entries for the numerous Rufuses (Rufii?) with conflated census data, birth and death dates, and so on, picked out by their descendants like so many columns on a Chinese menu.
Second, the potentially significant oddity about Rufus Burnham Carter is his middle name. Many sources give his father-in-law Isaac Burnett's parents as Daniel Burnett and Mariah Burnham. Although this is not possible, Daniel Burnett just four years old at the time of Isaac's birth, the coincidence is striking, and threatens meaning--but what?
The Death Registry did yield one other factoid of interest: it states that Mary Burnett's parents were both born in Machias, Maine. Who provided this information, and how accurate it is bears looking into. Most other records show Isaac being born in Massachusetts in 1780, although Maine did not achieve statehood from Massachusetts until 1820, so arguably, Isaac might have been born in what was later called Maine. Deborah Grindle was born in what is now Maine, but the Grindle family was more often found in nearby Hancock and Penobscot counties, rather than Machias' Washington County. Anyway....
The really promising information--one hopes!--in regard to the mystery of Isaac Burnett's parents does not come directly from Mary Burnett at all, who is just a paternal third great aunt of mine, but rather her even more distant (first cousin, four times removed) daughter, Almira Ellen Carter (16 Sep 1845 - 6 Apr 1915). Which is why it is useful to follow collateral lines. While adding Rufus and their children to Mary Burnett, I did my usual cross-referencing and found this thrilling lead:

[Pardon the highlighting; it came from Google Books that way.]

Here was a mother lode (cousin lode?) of new and potentially wall-breaking information. Good old snobbish Mrs. Walter Simmons of Quincy, Mass! "...descended from Robert Burnett [!], a member of the Boston Tea Party...!" My recollection of American history needing the occasional assist, I had to use Google to find when the Boston Tea Party occurred. After scrolling through pages of recent right-wing frippery, I found the date: 1773. This being just seven years before Isaac was born (and perhaps confirming Massachusetts rather than Maine), this new (first) Robert should either be his father or grandfather, if Almira was a descendant. Huzzah--a breakthrough!

Except. In the last few weeks I have yet to find any record of a Robert Burnett participating in the Tea Party (and curse those upstarts who clutter the "Search" pages), and no Robert Burnetts who seem plausible for the time and place. It seems likely it should be true (and of course, I would love it to be); after all, in those pre-Internet days, when news sources and reference works were scarce, if someone was said to have had a noted ancestor it must have been passed down through the family, and this "Robert" would have been her mother's grandfather, so it wasn't coming from distant reaches of time. But if true, why can't I find him? If not, where did the story come from? Even if Tea Partier is an embellishment, surely "Robert" must be correct.

That third redskin from the right does kind of have my nose, don't you think?

While Silas W Brown's obituary merely contained errors, looking further into Almira's obituary, I find puzzles.
It states that her father was from Unity, Maine, but that was actually the birthplace of one of those other Rufii, who is well-documented to have continued to live there his entire life. It's possible that both R B Carter's were born there, but....

Continuing: "[a]mong her ancestors were the Rev. Thomas Dalton, one of the founders of Woburn, Mass...." My cursory research into the founding of Woburn revealed no one by that name, although there was a Rev Thomas Carter, which--again, coincidentally? Yes? No?--is her father's surname. More misinformation? Certainly more to research.

Am I closer to discovering Isaac Burnett's parents? Who knows. If nothing else, it's gladdening to see that one of my ancestors was well known for patriotic and charitable work. Rest in Peace, Myra.

Almira Ellen "Myra" Carter was born on 16 September 1845 in Stetson, Penobscot, Maine to Rufus Burnham Carter (12 Sep 1818 - 22 Mar 1884) and Mary Abigail Burnett (1820 - 2 Apr 1877). She would be the oldest of their four children. After living briefly in Wisconsin, the family moved to Massachusetts, where on 22 February 1869, Almira married Walter Everett Simmons (30 Mar 1846 - aft 1820), son of Ichabod Simmons (17 Feb 1801 - 12 Sep [again!] 1869) and Marcia Bates (29 Dec 1806 - 14 Sep 1877). The Simmons had five children, and lived in Quincy Massachusetts for the remainder of their lives, being especially active in civic and charitable works. Almira died on 6 April 1915 while visiting her daughter, Mary Florence (Simmons) Holmes (12 Sep [again!] 1869 - aft 1930), in Detroit  Michigan.

"...one supposed it lucky to be born"

So the other day was my birthday, and at my age you don't make too much of it--although I did get a smashing donut "cake." As I was reading the morning paper (before it became too covered in chocolate and sprinkles to make out), my eye fell on the "Today in History" column, and later on the list of the day's celebrity birthdays. It was reasonably interesting to discover that in 1609 Henry Hudson began exploring the river that was later to bear his name, and that Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning chose to elope on "my day" in 1846. I have no idea who Yuto Nagatomo is, but it was nice to see that H. L. Mencken, Maurice Chevalier, Alfred A. Knopf, and Jesse Owens are all among my Virgo buddies. Apparently 12 September is also the feast days for several saints, including Ailbe of Emly (patron saint of wolves) AKA Saint Elvis (!), and Guy of Anderlecht (who protects against rabies). Fascinating.

Putting aside these strangers, I wondered who in my family tree shared my birthday; out of over four thousand people (albeit many of whose birth dates are unknown), I figured there had to be a few.

Reviewing the report I generated, I noticed that there were other events tied to 12 September as well: two deaths, Lillian Amelia Johnson, mother-in-law of a maternal first cousin, twice removed (26 Oct 1886 - 12 Sep 1977); and Robert Elmer Velin, father-in-law of a maternal first cousin, once removed (3 May 1916 - 12 Sep 1979). My birthday is also the death date of John Alden (15 Sep 1598 - 12 Sep 1687) of history and legend, who may be a paternal eleventh great-grandfather, although I am still verifying this.

A fictional representation of a feasible ancestor.

There has also been one marriage, that of Moses Steele (10 Sep 1745 - 9 Feb 1814), a maternal first cousin seven times removed, to a Lydia Campbell--or Gibson, records vary--(19 Sep 1776 - 7 May 1836), on 12 September 1805, in New Hampshire, just months after the death of his first wife, Abigail Codd (15 Dec 1751 - 24 Jan 1805). Miss Campbell being Mr Steele's second wife may explain the nearly twenty year age difference....

But back to the birthdays. More distant relations include Elizabeth Mott (12 Sep 1672 - 22 Mar 1749), a paternal ninth great grand-aunt (and one of five women by that name in the family), and Claire Elaine Runser (12 Sep 1929 - 4 Oct 1946), a maternal second cousin, once removed.

My only direct ancestors who share my birthday are actually father and son: Benjamin Lowell (12 Sep 1642 - 22 Oct 1714) and Joseph Lowell (12 Sep 1680 - 8 Apr 1753), paternal eighth and seventh great grandfather, respectively. In an odd coincidence, Benjamin died on the same date as my sister's birthday.

Benjamin Lowell was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of two of the town founders: Percival Lowell (1571- 8 Jan 1664), who emigrated from England with his family, including son John Lowell (1595 - 10 Jul 1647), Benjamin's father. The family connections with Newbury run deep. Benjamin Lowell married Ruth Woodman (28 Mar 1646 - 22 Oct 1714), daughter of another town founder, Edward Woodman (27 Dec 1606 - 11 May 1670). There are excellent articles about John Lowell and Edward Woodman at the Newbury, Essex County, MA GenWeb site.


A vintage postcard of the Founder's Memorial, and a detail of one of the sides.

Somehow this post seems to have taken us quite a ways from my birthday, which when you get to be my age, might be just as well. Time for another donut.

1. Benjamin Lowell (12 Sep 1642 - 22 Oct 1714) was born in Newbury, Essex, Massachusetts, where he married Ruth Woodman (28 Mar 1646 - 22 Oct 1714) on 17 Oct 1666.

2. Joseph Lowell (12 Sep 1680 - 8 Apr 1753) was also born, and died, in Newbury. It was also there that he married Mary Hardy (2 Feb 1693 - 4 Nov 1747), daughter of George Hardy (1660 - 6 Nov 1694) and Mary Fogg (1 May 1662 - 6 Nov 1694), on 6 Dec 1707.

3. Joseph Lowell (20 Feb 1720 - aft 1769) married Mary Jones (5 Feb 1726 - ?), daughter of Joseph Jones (1 Oct 1702 - ?) and Mary Prowse (26 Nov 1703 - 1783), on 11 Jan 1745, in Newbury, Essex, Massachusetts.

4. Hannah Lowell (23 Jan 1759 - Sep 1802) married Reuben Grindle (20 Mar 1757 - 15 Jul 1835), son of John Grindle (1 Aug 1714 - 1794) and Elizabeth Dorr (1727 - 12 Apr 1761), on 6 Oct 1777, in Penobscot, Hancock, Maine.

5. Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860), married Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860), parents unknown, on 23 Dec 1802, in Hancock County, Maine.

6. Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) married Rachel Elizabeth Squire (28 Jan 1829 - 21 Apr 1902), daughter of Samuel Squire (13 Apr 1797 - 26 Jul 1871) and Lovina Coleman (27 Oct 1806 - 2 Jul 1901), on 26 Dec 1850, in Hancock County, Maine.

7. Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930) married Ella Swarts (1 Sep 1861 - Apr 1899), daughter of Charles Swarts (12 Feb 1835 - 8 Jan 1909) and Henrietta Davenport (Jan 1836 - May 1904), on 1 Sep 1879 (her eighteenth birthday), at Spring Lake, Minnesota.

8. Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in 1909 in Minnesota.

9. Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svard (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914),on 21 Jun 1933 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

10. [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), on 4 Mar 1961 in Long Beach, California.

11. Your humble blogger.

"...shuffle and break-down."

In my last post, I wrote about the unavoidable nuisance of brick walls in genealogy, and how two of my highest walls block my two closest surnames: Brown and Burnett. Previously, I focused on the former; this time, I will tackle the latter. Part of my enjoyment of family research (and this blog) has come from meeting others, collaborating and sharing information or theories. One of my third-great grandfathers, Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885), son of today's subject, had at least eight children of his own, and at least thirty-six grandchildren; he was one of nine himself. With those odds, perhaps someone will discover this virtual message in a bottle and come to my aid!

Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860), one of my paternal fourth great-grandfathers, is my oldest verifiable Burnett ancestor. Beyond that, things get confused. Many researchers show him as the son of Daniel Burnett and a woman named Mariah, or Maria, with her last name often given as Burnham. This may be traced to two perhaps unrelated (no pun intended) facts.

First, in the venerable New England Historic Genealogical Society's publication, Massachusetts Town Birth Records 1620 -1850, there is a record from the town of Ashfield of an Isaac born to Daniel Burnett and Mariah.

Second, the 1850 U S Federal Census gives Massachusetts as Isaac Burnett's birthplace.

Voila! Isaac's parents are Daniel and Maria(h) Burnett. But as a wise National Park Ranger told me on a genealogically-inspired trip a few years back: it takes three legs to make a stool. One bit of information is interesting, two makes it more likely, but three confirms it as a fact.

And in this case, not only are we missing that crucial third leg, but there is this damning piece of evidence, which others seem to excuse or ignore:  Daniel Burnett's birth is well-documented as being in 1776, just four years before his supposed son's in 1780. Anyway....

We do know that Isaac was born in Massachusetts in 1780, and moved to Maine by at least 23 December 1802, when he married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860), daughter of a long-established and prolific New England family, whose name is also found as Grindal, Grindall, and Grindell.

The Burnetts are next found in the 1810 U S Federal Census living in Sedgwick, Hancock County, Maine, with their first four children, all girls: Peggy (17 May 1804 - ?), Lydia (8 Nov 1806 - ?), Sarah (20 Oct 1808 - ?), and another, possibly named Abigail.

In 1814, the family moved about fifty miles to the northwest, to the just-incorporated town of Newport, Maine; they are considered among the town founders. At one of the earliest town meetings, on 3 April 1815, Isaac Burnett is named as an agent of the newly-formed school district.

Newport, Hancock, Maine about 1875.

By 1820, there are two more daughters and--at last--a son (as of now all nameless, alas), then another: Reuben Burnett (abt 1818 - aft 1880), named after Deborah's father. On 12 March 1826, the last child--and at last my direct ancestor--Nathaniel S Burnett was born.

Isaac Burnett was primarily a farmer; an 1850 census reports he had seventy improved acres and thirty unimproved acres. He possessed one horse, two milk cows, two oxen, four other cattle, eleven sheep, and one swine, and was producing wheat, oats, rye, wool, butter, and cheese. 

Isaac Burnett is found on Line 10, after three lines of those prolific Grindalls.
 On Line 12 can be found Samuel Squire, whose daughter Rachel will marry Isaac's son Nathaniel four months after this Census was taken. [Detail]

By the time of Isaac's sudden death (of "old age", which is nice to read after a page otherwise full of dropsy, consumption, and typhoid fever) at age eighty in May 1860, he had also been working for some time as a blacksmith, perhaps a reflection of Newport's growing prominence as a carriage-making town.

It is remarkable how much we can learn about this ordinary man who died over one hundred and fifty years ago.

But who are Isaac Burnett's parents?
1. Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860) was born in Massachusetts, and married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860), daughter of Reuben Grindle (20 Mar 1757 - 15 Jul 1835) and Hannah Lowell (23 Jan 1759 - Sep 1802), on 23 Dec 1802 in Hancock County, Maine.
2. Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) married Rachel Elizabeth Squire (28 Jan 1829 - 21 Apr 1902), daughter of Samuel Squire (13 Apr 1797 - 26 Jul 1871) and Lovina Coleman (27 Oct 1806 - 2 Jul 1901), on 26 Dec 1850, in Hancock County, Maine.
3. Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930) married Ella Swarts (1 Sep 1861 - Apr 1899), daughter of Charles Swarts (12 Feb 1835 - 8 Jan 1909) and Henrietta Davenport (Jan 1836 - May 1904), on 1 Sep 1879 (her eighteenth birthday!), at Spring Lake, Minnesota.
4. Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891- 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B A Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in 1909 in Minnesota.
5. Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svard (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), on 21 Jun 1933 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
6. [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), on 4 Mar 1961 in Long Beach, California.
7. Your humble blogger.

"no longer take things at second or third hand..."

I have--as all genealogists must--a few brick walls that I just can't seem to bring down. Annoyingly enough, two of them concern my closest surnames: Burnett and Brown. And both of these walls are rife with confusions. So it was a delight when I recently discovered an obituary for a maternal second great-grandfather, Silas W Brown. Finally, there would be some answers--or at least, clarifications!

It appeared in the Carrollton [Missouri] Daily Democrat, 20 November 1893, under the--what is the opposite of "charming?"--heading "Death's Doings." Let me provide a complete, annotated transcription:

"S. W. Brown, aged 65 years [incorrect], died at his home in Carrollton at 4 a. m. this morning. Deceased has lived in Carrollton for 18 years [incorrect] and his many friends will mourn his loss. He leaves a wife and five children [incorrect]. Three sons, Marion, Lee and Clarence reside in Kansas City, one daughter, married, lives in Marceline, and one in Carrollton, the wife of Jas. Williford [incorrect]. Funeral to-morrow at 2:30 p.m. at residence under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge."

Five sentences, at least four errors (I would like to believe that he did in fact have many friends). Clearly, this was not the treasure trove of information for which I was hoping. Let me explain the errors.

"aged 65 years"   Silas W Brown was born about 1835, based on the information given in the Federal Censuses of 1850, 1870, and 1880, as well as his Civil War records, making him about 58 at the time of his death. He had been suffering from heart disease for a number of years, and had been receiving a Civil War pension as an invalid since 1889.

"lived in Carrollton for 18 years"   That would put Silas and family in Carrollton from about 1875 onward. Perhaps, but not consecutively. The 1870 Census shows the Brown family living in Chillicothe, in neighboring Livingston County, so it is possible that by 1875 they had moved to Carrollton. But by 1880, the family had uprooted and was living in Buena Vista (pronounced "byoona vista" at the insistence of Mrs Alsina Dearheimer, who named the newly-formed town), Colorado. Apparently Silas decided to give up his life as a clerk in a store for the life of a prospector(!), which is listed as his occupation on said Census; this is certainly consistent with the peripatetic approach to careers the Brown men seem to have. The Browns lived in Colorado at least long enough for one of their children to be born there (daughter Lula Ethel Brown, 7 Dec 1880 - 2 May 1944), before returning to (apparently) Carrollton.

"leaves a wife and five children"   Silas did leave his wife, the former Malinda J Carter (30 Jan 1849 - 8 Jan 1924), but in 1893, at least eight of the couple's eleven children were still living. Besides the aforementioned sons Marion, Lee, and Clarence, and the two married daughters (about whom more briefly), there were daughters Lula Ethel, Leona (Apr 1888 - aft 1905), and Nina Fay (Sep 1890 -bef 1940). There is the possibility that the other three children also survive Silas in 1893, but by the 1900 Census, we know that at least three of Malinda's children are dead, with two more following by 1910.

"the wife of Jas. Williford"   Silas' daughter Bertha E Brown (21 May 1870 - 15 Aug 1952) married James Henry Willerford (May 1860 - 1907) on 7 June 1884. And for those of you not paying attention, that would be just two weeks after her fourteenth birthday; but not to worry: on the marriage license, the verbal consent of her father was given.... A few years--and five children--later, Bertha and James moved to Los Angeles, California, then split up. In 1905 she remarried, this time to the remarkably named Cephas Hurburt Miller Shibley (prob 28 Mar 1855 - Dec 1934); she was his second, or possibly third wife. He was quite a character, and deserves a blog entry of his own, but I digress.... In 1915, she next married Henry Bricks (1 May 1878 - 30 May 1952), whom she outlived by just a few months.

The daughter living in Marceline is presumably Alice M Brown (Aug 1867 - aft 1956?), who at the time of her father's death was married to William M Rogers (bef 1863 -abt 1897); on 8 January 1912 she married Albert O Wilson (1867 - 28 May 1956).

Other questions and confusions still remain. Who are the other two unnamed Brown children? Was Nina Fay Brown ever married to a man named Albert Wires (and was his last name Wire, Wires, or Wyres; there are documents with all these spellings)? Many people seem to think so, citing as evidence an application for marriage issued to Nina and Albert (although Nina had not signed it) on 29 Dec 1909. Whether they intended to marry but did not, or even if this is the same Nina Brown (which I doubt--there are other factual discrepancies) remains to be discovered. At any rate, our Nina Fay Brown did get married in 1909, but to Melvin I Martin (17 Jan 1881- 11 Jan 1967); while Albert shows as "Single" on the 1910 Federal Census, but married Edna N Silvers about 1915.

The dubious document.

So that seems settled. But... each answer seems to add another question! Melvin I Martin was born in Oregon and lived in Southern California his entire life. In 1900, he was working as an assistant school janitor, by 1910, he is a stone cutter. How did he cross paths (let alone marry) a farmer's daughter born and raised in Missouri? My guess is that Nina went to Los Angeles to visit her sister Bertha.

Brick walls.

My ongoing thanks to Diana Gale Matthiesen (and her useful website Diana, Goddess of the Hunt — for Ancestors!  at http://dgmweb.net/GenealogyHome.html), my guide to all things Brown. I hope at least some of this information will be new to her!

1. Silas W Brown was born in New York State in about 1835, to Willard Brown (abt 1806 - aft 1860) and Mary "Polly" Rasey (21 Oct 1808 - 12 Dec 1868), sixth of their thirteen children. The family lived briefly in Henrietta Township, Ohio, then moved to Castleton, Michigan by 1850. On 7 Aug 1861, Silas enlisted in the Union Army, serving with Michigan's Company D, 6th Infantry Regiment as a private, beginning 20 August. He was mustered out of the same regiment on 23 Aug 1864. On 22 Oct 1865 he married Malinda J Carter (30 Jan 1849 - 8 Jan 1924), daughter of William Carter (1800 - 1849) and Melinda Johnson (1813 - 1902). The Browns had eleven children, living primarily in central Missouri, with a brief stay in Colorado circa 1880, where Silas attempted prospecting, despite his military records indicating he had incurred "heart damage" during his service. By 1890, he was an invalid, and died  on 20 Nov 1893. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Carrollton, Missouri, and was provided with a Veteran's headstone by the U S Government.

2. Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), married Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958), daughter of William Edwin Kinman and Sarah Jane Conley, on 16 Sep 1903, in Morgan, Minnesota.

3. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

4.  Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.

5. Your humble blogger.

..."the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters..."

Still feeling the Spirit of '76 from a previous post, this time I'm going to focus on another maternal fifth great-grandfather and Revolutionary War ancestor, Jesse Toliver (1756 - 4 Mar 1838), although his career is not quite as stellar as Capt Samuel Cherry's.

Jesse Toliver began his career as a volunteer Private, under (then) Capt William Lenoir, going after the Cherokee Indians in the North Carolina region who were allied with the British. In his own words, "we burnt and destroyed the Indian towns & huts that we found … had no fighting as the Indians fled when we came into the nation." What a pity.

Once the war against the British began in earnest, Jesse Toliver, under now-General Lenoir, marched to Catawba, North Carolina, where, according to his Revolutionary War pension request, "[W]e saw the dead lying on the field the torys was defeated and we were marched home after being out in service two months." On the next campaign, "We pursued the Torys as they retreated until they joined the British Army near Kings Mountain under one [Major Patrick] Ferguson. The time that I served in this trip was one month and a half. We were then marched back home."

Jesse's third tour of duty was at the Battle of King's Mountain, North Carolina. Once again, he missed the fighting. "[W]e marched from Wilkes County up the Yadkin River to Johns River … all that had horses went on & left the foot men … The Battle was fought before the foot men arrived as I was one of them." They met the army coming back from the battle, and Jesse accompanied the prisoners to Salem as a guard. There he "stayed until my three months was out and then returned home." While at Kings Mountain Nat'l Military Park last summer, I saw a list of the names of the participants of the battle. Jesse's name (along with that of his brother, Moses) was mentioned in a footnote indicating names of those who arrived the day after the historic battle of 7 October 1780.

Smiling, before I learned my ancestor was a day late for the battle.

During his final tour of duty, Private Toliver marched with Lenoir's company to the Haw River in Orange County, North Carolina, where they spied on British General Charles Cornwallis' army, then after five months "we marched home." At the very end of the war, Jesse finally saw some action "pursuing small portions of Torys." Apparently, he also collected livestock from draft-dodgers.

Jesse Toliver's war record, while not terribly illustrious, is not the most interesting thing about him, at least according to me. (Although, in April 1834, he was able to secure an annual veteran's pension of fifty-five dollars for his military service, a nice stipend for time spent primarily in marching.) What is interesting--again, and perhaps, uniquely to me--is that I am also descended from his sister Lucy Toliver (23 May 1768 - 1832), making me that most unusual thing, a Double Toliver. Which brought me (and brings me) to the 9th Annual Toliver Family Reunion, held in the hills of Morehead Kentucky in 2011. 

Here's a little story that should make you sigh
About two ancestral folk:
Let us call them Lucy "X" and Jesse "Y,"
Though their last name is no joke.

About two years ago, when I was just beginning to delve seriously into  genealogy, I found (in notes from my Grandmother Brown that she had sent me over thirty-five years earlier) that I had an ancestor named Rebecca Tolliver, who married David Conway, or possibly Conley, believed to be from Ireland. Though well-intentioned, Grandma's information was mostly inaccurate. Using Ancestry.com, I found Rebecca Tolliver and her husband, a Conley from Indiana, not the Emerald Isle (although, to be fair, his Conley great-grandparents had emigrated from Ireland, probably of Scottish or English descent). And although I was able to discover more about Rebecca Tolliver's ancestors, I was stuck on David Conway/ley. Using Google, I discovered the Tolliver Family website, which had some useful information, and contacted the undisputed doyenne of all things Tolliver, Emma Lee T, who, with her husband (ironically, the actual Tolliver descendant), live just a few hours from me. She gave me some useful hints, and from her I was able to learn that David's father had the alliterative, unlikely, and--I believed--unusual name of Constantine Conley. So that was settled.

Until, Ancestry-ing away until nearly dawn, becoming more and more baffled but determined, I discovered that there were two, contemporaneous Constantine Conleys, both circling each other geographically, but only one being a forebear of mine. Of course, this was further complicated by the fact that--having already firmly established Conley and not -way, mind you--the last name was spelled alternately as Conley, Connelly, Conelly, Connely, and, occasionally, [illegible]. And my Constantine Conley married one of the daughters of Lucy Toliver, Jesse's sister.

Over that brick wall, I further learned from Emma Lee that there was a Tolliver family cemetery in Allegheny County, North Carolina, and since S and I were already planning a Road Trip to South Carolina to see a living (!) relative of his, this seemed the perfect opportunity. The cemetery was really just a family plot on private property, on the Virginia/North Carolina border; Emma Lee recommended we call ahead, which we tried, to no avail. Nonetheless, we persevered, wending our way through tiny mountain roads, and after passing it twice, we finally found the turn off. Once there, we declined to drive across the rickety-looking wooden bridge over a deep ravine, and cautiously walked across.

On the other side, we looked about briefly, but were not able to find the cemetery. An ominous-looking dog on a neighboring property hastened our search. That and the fact that we were clearly trespassing in a region where I'm sure gun ownership was a non-issue. Subsequently I found out that although the site has been restored and cleaned up in the last few years by fellow Tolliver descendants, there are still many unknown graves, and that it was unlikely my direct ancestors were buried there.

A few months later I received an email from Emma Lee letting me know about an upcoming Tolliver family reunion, to be held just a couple hours south of us. Why not! The reunion was a well-attended annual affair, over a long weekend, and included--beyond the meeting of distant relatives--lectures, a driving tour of local sites of family relevance, silent auction, and talent show. Not having an abundance of stories or photos to share, I felt that at the very least, I could come up with something for the talent show: perhaps a sophisticated little cabaret number to Stephen Sondheim's "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" (how conveniently apt, no?), from Follies, with new lyrics of my own devising. Words in hand, I was unable to find a karaoke recording of the tune, nor sheet music, although admittedly, I did not look that hard, although one could hardly consider stage fright to be the cause. Why push myself forward, I said to myself; be an observer. Consider this trip a case of cultural anthropology.

Now Lucy had fertility
Along with the ability:
To raise fourteen young kiddies was her fate…
Jesse and his brother Mose
Put on their redcoat-fighting clothes,
But somehow always got there a day late!

My creative impulses dammed (dimmed? damned?) in that direction, I decided to at least make myself a t-shirt with my Double Toliverhood family tree emblazoned on it. If nothing else, it might be a nice ice-breaker. We also took some bags of home-made dog treats for the silent auction.

Arriving at the hotel, nestled in the Kentucky hills, we were almost instantly greeted by the gracious Emma Lee ("everyone in the south has two names") herself, who began tracing my lineage down the front of my shirt with her forefinger, from nipple to--nearly--navel, her daughter calling her off just in  time: "Mom, there is someone in that shirt!" After getting settled in our room, it was off across the parking lot to the Ponderosa Steakhouse, where it was soon apparent why the all-you-can-eat buffet was the clear favorite. We sat with two of Emma Lee's daughters, who were extremely witty, and had just the right amount of perspective to find the whole thing fun.

Next we headed to the Carl Perkins Community Center (named after a former member of the House of Representatives, not the rockabilly genius one might suspect being honored in this neck of the woods), as Emma Lee was taking the stage to make introductions ("Where is Robert? Robert, would you please stand up and show everyone your marvellous shirt?" So much for the anonymous observer....) and outline the weekend's events. Then followed the Talent Show.

Two Tolliver tots tunelessly sang "Jesus Loves Me," a Tolliver teen with an electric guitar fumbled through "Jailhouse Rock" (perhaps he had not gotten the word on which Perkins was sheltering us...), and an elderly toothless Tolliver ended his set with an encore, putting aside his guitar to sing an "acapulco" version of his most-requested hymn. One can only imagine what kind of reaction my snappy showtune would have provoked.

Afterward, we perused the Silent Auction tables (crocheted dish towels, religious plaques, Avon products, and two bags of peaches) before a guest speaker (who would be leaving us shortly, as his Masonic Lodge was having an election this same weekend) gave a brief talk about the (in)famous Rowan County War, also known as the Tolliver-Martin (or Martin-Tolliver, depending on which side you favor) Feud, the bloodiest in Kentucky history, with at least 22 confirmed casualties. Thus ended the first day.

(With two "Ls" if you prefer)
But never Taliaferro, "T" then "A,"
We know that's wrong, due to the DNA.

An odd combination of walkers and laptops, the Tolliver matriarchs (for they mostly seem to be eager elderly women dragging along grudging husbands) may be half-deaf, but they are completely fluent in terms like "mitochondrial" and "haplogroups," and can parse the difference between a sixth cousin and a mere fifth cousin once removed faster than most of us can remember our own birthday. We met up with them back at the Perkins Center the next afternoon, after spending the morning on a driving/walking tour of many of the Tolliver sites around the area.

Note the Double Toliver t-shirt.

(A perhaps coincidental side note: my mother's first, short-lived marriage was to a Martin. Did the feud perhaps live on?)

Everyone having gotten settled in, Emma Lee once again took the stage for greetings ("Is Robert here? Did everyone have a chance to see his wonderful shirt? Robert, stand up for a minute"), announcements (apparently, a sixth Tolliver brother was recently discovered), and to break us up into smaller groups, based on which Tolliver we were descended from. Interestingly, I was the only one present representing either Lucy (despite the fourteen children) or Jesse (who merely fathered ten), so I got to sit with the children of Moses. So to speak. A continuing point of discussion in every group was just from whom all these Tolliver clans were descended; like Capt Samuel Cherry, the identity of the Tolliver's parents were another long-time brick wall that has defeated many researchers.

If Lucy and Jesse would just name their dad,
I could show you some folk who would finally feel real gla-ad!

No new evidence being found, the silent auction results tallied (our dog treats did well), and the day drawing to a close, it was time for the reunion--for this year, at least--to come to an end. All in all, I couldn't have enjoyed myself more.

1. Jesse Toliver married Frances "Frankie"                1. Lucy Toliver (23 May 1768 - 1832) mar-
Stamper (14 Feb 1767 - 6 Jan 1854), daughter           ried William Maxwell (1765 -1832), son
of Jonathan Brooks Stamper and Rachel                     of John Maxwell and Eleanor Marcus, in
Parks, on 8 October 1782, in Wilkes County,             1786, in North Carolina.
North Carolina.  

2. Jacob Tolliver (26 Jul 1799 - bef Oct 1854)            2. Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell (1801 - 25 Sep
married Susannah Isom (abt 1804 - aft 1860),           1850) married Constantine Connelly (4 Sep
daughter of John Isom and Rebecca Cole, on             1800 - abt 1844), son of John Conley and
27 Dec 1821 in Grayson County, Virginia.                  Catherine Miller, on 12 Jul 1823, in Lawrence
                                                                              County, Indiana.

3. Rebecca Toliver (abt 1823 - 1869)   married       3. David Conley (abt 1822 - aft 1880) on 5 Mar 1846, in Clay County, Illinois. Sharing the same great-grandparents (the unknown parents of Lucy and Jesse), they are second cousins.

4. Sarah Jane Conley (Nov 1857 - 13 Mar 1936) married William Edwin Kinman (Mar 1858 - 13 Jun 1925), son of William Kinman and Sarah R Moore, on 13 Nov 1875, in Redwood County, Minnesota.

5. Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958) married Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), son of Silas W Brown and Malinda J Carter, on 16 Sep 1903.

6. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

7 Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.

8. Your humble blogger.