"...stuff'd with the stuff that is fine"

Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959), a paternal great grandfather, was by all accounts a very average man. His World War I Draft Registration card states that he was of medium height and medium build, with blue eyes and brown hair. The third of six children, he attended school, worked on his father's farm, and for most of his life lived just a few hours away from where he was born. His mother died when he was fifteen; he was not married until he was twenty-six, to Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891 - 15 Apr 1979).

Jennie Arleta Eaton Burnett & Alfred Nathaniel Burnett,
probably in the late 'forties or early 'fifties.
 It is the only picture I have of him.

He was hard-working all his life. After his marriage, he worked variously as a liveryman, machinist, farmer, and gasoline salesman. It was not until his forties that he could afford to buy, rather than rent, a home for his family. Even into his fifties, he was working sixty hours a week. His final job was as a night watchman.

He was the father of eight children. Like many of his generation, he lost one child, Irvin Claire Burnett (1919- 29 Apr 1922), very young; another son, Charles Victor Burnett (27 Oct 1914 - 7 Feb 1945) was killed in active duty in the Philippines.

Hewitt Cemetery; Hewitt, Todd, Minnesota.
 Photo by Phyllis.
Fort Snelling National Cemetery;
Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota.
Photo by Steve Edquist

Not particularly well-off, not especially educated, his life was not exactly exceptional. There was, at least, one bit of minor glory: his daughter Ella Jane Burnett (1 Jan 1927 - 15 Oct 2012) was the first baby born in Todd County, Minnesota, in 1927, although perhaps that reflects more credit on his wife....

Researching my great-grandfather, I did not find anything especially compelling about him. He was no doubt a fine and good man, but there was nothing that stood out; nothing, certainly, that would make him an interesting blog post subject. (Although that in itself might make for an interesting rumination; there are, by definition, far more mundane people and stories out there than otherwise: the quotidian as exemplar.... But I digress.)

So poor, ordinary Alf seemed unlikely to ever make it to this blog. Then just a few days ago, with the help of a cousin (thanks, Caralee!), I was able to knock through one of those brick walls that too often occur (especially in my Burnett line), and was able to push past one of his paternal second great grandmothers, Mary Polly Lombard (11 Feb 1874 - Jun 1822).

The key.

And that is when Alfred Nathaniel Burnett became interesting. Knowing who Mary Polly Lombard's parents were led me back several more generations, deep into Maine, then Massachusetts. Soon I was discovering Hamblins, Dunhams, Linnells.... But wait!--these names were already oddly familiar. As well they should be: they were surnames I already knew from Alfred's maternal side. Some (seated) legwork, lots of scribbling and flipping between pages, and at last it all became clear. Sort of.

Take a look: the first group of names are ten generations of Alfred's newly-discovered ancestors on his father's side; the next grouping shows ten generations on his mother's side.
10. Robert Linnell & Jemimah Howse   James Hamblin & Ann Scott    John Dunham & Dorothy Day   James Hamblin & Ann Scott
9.  John Davis & Hannah Linnell           James Hamblin &                   Mary Dunham                          John Hamblin & Sarah Bearse
8.  Joseph Davis & Mary Claghorn         Jonathan Hamblen &                                                            Esther Hamblin
7.  Capt Simon Davis &                         Priscilla Hamblen
6.  Zephaniah Harding & Mary Davis
5.  John Lombard & Priscilla Harding
4.  Aaron Colman & Mary Polley Lombard
3.  Samuel Squire & Lovina Colman
2.  Nathaniel Burnett & Rachel Squire
1.  Charles Burnett & Ella Swarts (see #1 below)

10. John Dunham & Dorothy Day
9.   John Dunham & Mary Smith               James Hamblin & Ann Scott                    Robert Linnell & Jemimah Howse
8.   Ebenezeer Dunham & Anne Ford        Eleazer Hamlin & Mehitabel Jenkins       Henry Atkins & Bethiah Linnell  
7.   John Doty & Lydia Dunham                Joseph Hamlin & Mercy Howland            Sam'l Atkins & Emmeline Newcomb
6.   Ebenezeer Doty & Mercy Whiton        Southworth Hamlin &                             Tabitha Atkins
5.   Amaziah Doty &                                Bethiah Hamlin
4.   Stephen S Doty & Polly Holmes
3.   Stephen Addison Davenport & Alma Holmes Doty
2.   Charles Swarts & Henrietta Davenport
1.   Ella Swarts & Charles Burnett

As we can see from the admittedly somewhat confusing chart above, Hannah ( side) and Bethiah Linnell (♀ side) are sisters; James (), John (♂), and Eleazer Hamlin (♀) are brothers; and Mary () and John Dunham () are siblings as well. Alfred has three couples who do double duty as his seventh or eighth great grandparents twice over.

Almost four hundred hundred years ago in Barnstable, Massachusetts--before the U S was even a nation--these various English families married and had children. Over two hundred years--and nine or so generations--later, with no apparent connection in between, two of their descendants met, fell in love, and had children of their own in Minnesota, not long after it became our thirty-second state. One of those kids was my great-grandfather. Wow.

Alfred Nathaniel Burnett: farmer, father, American... and a very special man.

Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930) married Ella Swarts (1 Sep 1861 - Apr 1899) on 1 Sep 1879 (her eighteenth birthday!), at Spring Lake, Minnesota.
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.
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.
[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.
Your humble blogger.

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