"surly English pluck, and there is no tougher or truer..."

 After a lifetime of daydreaming and two years of understandable yet disappointing postponements, my husband and I should be making our first trip to the UK later this year--fingers crossed! Along with all of the usual sightseeing (and a few literary pilgrimages I want to make), we are also planning to visit places associated with some of my British ancestors.

I have a fair amount of British blood, my DNA results notwithstanding. Eight of my sixteen great-great grandparents have British roots, so half of my ancestry hails from the UK, a much larger percentage than any other country or region. But they didn't come here recently.  All of those families' arrivals in America predate the Revolutionary War, a timeframe for which records are often scarce or vague, online family trees frequently riddled with errors, either accidental or through wishful thinking. Who wouldn't want to be George Washington's 
many times over great-grandchild, or claim Henry VIII as "Great Grampa Tudor"?

For that reason, what records do exist have been pretty thoroughly vetted, particularly for those who have those famous names or titles. And of course, wealthy, educated families were more likely to have records beyond the usual birth and death certificates or marriage licenses, although many families from that era did not necessarily even record or keep those. Wills, dowries, land records, biographies, mentions in extant letters or diaries.... All of these, 
except in the luckiest of instances, are more likely the province of the distinguished or notorious than those forebears who were farmers or laborers.

Which leads me to Gateway Ancestors. Although actual numbers vary slightly, there are believed to be just a few hundred of them: European men and women who came to America during the Colonial Era with proven, documented connections to royalty or aristocracy. So if you can connect yourself--legitimately!-- to a Gateway Ancestor, you are descended from someone posh.

My gateway ancestor is Percival Lowell (1571 - 8 Jan 1664), one of my paternal 10x great-grandfathers. I blogged about him once before, back in 2013. In 2019 on a trip to New England, I visited his environs and final resting place in Newbury, Massachusetts.


Burying Ground of the First Settlers, Newbury MA
Your Humble Blogger with the Commemorative Headstone for Percival Lowell.
Burying Ground of the First Settlers, Newbury MA, Aug 2019


In that earlier post I wrote that the Lowell family "was well-to-do; there is believed to have been aristocracy on both sides." Indeed. At the time of that earlier post I was just beginning genealogy, trying to work across my family tree, (grandparents first, then great-grandparents next, etc) rather than going straight back as far as I could through specific lines. By the time one reaches the 10x gg generation, we each of us have four thousand and ninety-six direct ancestors alone! It was a lot of work just getting that far,  although, by no means do I know even half of their names. Remember all those record-less farmers and laborers? And researching across, I generally stopped once that ancestor "crossed the pond." It was enough of a learning curve to figure out the ins and outs of diverse American documents. Researching Europeans was work for a later date. And besides, an Ancestry.com World Membership ain't cheap.

Cut to today. I'm more skilled, and have done genealogy longer. I dig farther back, and in this case, had specific goals as I mentioned at the top: finding my British ancestors who might still have meaningful places to visit from their time. That's how I came to revisit Percival Lowell, who--at 68 years old!-- had emigrated with some of his family from Bristol, where he had been a successful merchant. A kind reply from the Research Room Co-Ordinator, Bristol & Avon Family History Society let me know that there was little of Bristol today that Percival would recognize, but was I aware that he was a Gateway....

So Grandpa Percy is my Gateway Ancestor, but gateway to whom? Heading onto Google, the first thing I came to was a fantastic (meaning well-researched and documented)  website called the Magna Carte Project. Magna Carta! That is posh! And my Percival Lowell was descended from a--no, make that two--surety barons!

Which was thrilling, until I realized I didn't actually know that much about the Magna Carta, and certainly had no idea what a "surety baron" was.


One of the few surviving copies of the Magna Carta.


Time for more research and reading.... As I often mention, one of the things I like best about genealogical research is how much more I learn about than just my own family. History, geography, different cultures and more. Anyway. I am certainly no expert, but after a few books and BritBox documentaries I feel I have at least a little grasp of the Magna Carta and surety barons. 

To save you the trouble and keep things moving: there were twenty-five of those barons, and they were entrusted to ensure (hence "surety") that King John hold to the terms of the Magna Carta, a document now considered the first constitution, from which almost all modern democracies descend. This "Great Charter" for the first time basically said a King is not above the law, creating a separation of powers; what we call the Executive and Judicial branches.

(Sometimes genealogy is not just about history, but also current events, alas. I told you it was educational....)

Anyway. Having learned all that, I returned to which barons, and how they fit into my family tree. Turns out they are both 24x great-grandfathers of mine, on Percival Lowell's maternal side: Robert de Vere, Third Earl of Oxford (c 1165 - 25 Oct 1221), and Sa[h]er de Quincey, First Earl of Winchester (c 1155 - 3 Nov 1219). I have to admit I was excited that one of 'em was named Robert. If you want to learn more about them and their other descendants, you can check out Burke's Peerage--or Wikipedia.

While I was learning about them, then adding their descendants and spouses' names and dates into my family tree, certain other surnames occurred and reoccurred: de Beaumont, de Bohun.... Apparently there was a lot of intermarriage back then. Flipping back and forth among these recurring names, I discovered that there was a third surety baron in my line through Percival Lowell: Henry de Bohun (1176 - 1 Jun 1220), First Earl of Hereford (and Constable of England), also a 24x great-grandfather.

I wrote the Magna Carta Project folks and asked why this was not in Percival's bio. Surely I was not the first to make this connection? No, it was known, and well-documented elsewhere. The Magna Carta Project volunteers work to prove at least one connection; the rest is up to you. Not unlike the Mayflower pilgrims, about whom I learned--and wrote about--earlier when finding those American ancestors, Medieval English aristocracy was a very closed society. In part because of all the intermarriage, if you were related to any one of them in either group you were almost certainly related to a few. In fact, it would be highly unusual to be related to just one! 


[Left to right] The coats of arms for the de Vere, de Bohun, and de Quincey families.
End images by Rs-nourse - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Center image by Sodacan - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


Lovely as those coats of arms are, I am entitled to none of them. (Believe me, I checked.) They descend through male lines--as do the titles--and in fact, it was Percival Lowell's mother, Christian Percival (c 1549 - aft Jun 1577) who is my link to the nobility. The women in my family seem to be the ones who link back to fascinating subjects, whereas many of my male forebears are dead ends within a couple generations. Anyway.

Continuing to research and attempting to sketch in some of that noble, if confusing, lineage (so many Humphreys! So many earls!), I went back to the list of Gateway Ancestors, greedy for more. With so many ancestral names from the Colonial Era in my family tree, despite not knowing them all, I suspected I might find another Gateway. And there he was: Thomas Ligon (bef Jan 1624 - bef Mar 1676), who emigrated to Virginia in the 1640s. Ligon! I have Ligons/Lygons in my tree!

Shaking aside brief disappointment that Ligon was the gateway to a baron I already could claim, Henry de Bohun, I still wanted to see how Thomas fit in with my Ligons. It was through his 3x great-grandmother, Anne Beauchamp (c 1472 - 22 Jul 1534) that Thomas Ligon had the link to nobility. C'est toujours la femme, as my Norman ancestors might have said. So although I am related to Thomas, I have no blood relation to the Beauchamps. So there's that. But since I already had Henry de Bohun (collect 'em all!), the disappointment soon passed, in part due to my next discovery.


From "The Royal Descents of Six Hundred Immigrants," by Gary Boyd Roberts, 2006 ed.

Baron, schmaron... I'm a royal! A direct descendant of Edward I, old Longshanks himself, the Hammer of Scotland....

However. It is estimated that Edward I currently has a few hundred thousand living descendants. Twenty-odd generations adds up, particularly as many of the earliest noble kinsmen sometimes had multiple marriages, sometimes with a dozen children or so with each wife. And that's not even counting all the bastards....(Simple math, for those of you so inclined, should indicate numbers in the millions, but that doesn't account for pedigree collapse, exacerbated by all those aristocratic intermarriages.)  Whatever the actual number, I'm not definitely not unique, so won't be busting out the strawberry leaves and ermine.

And now that I've reached royalty, yes, that means I am also descended from William the Conqueror and even Charlemagne, which personage I have only previously considered as a character in the musical Pippin.


John Rubinstein as Charlemagne in the National Tour of the 2013 revival of Pippin,
Signed, stage-used prop to benefit BC/EFA from Your Humble Blogger's collection.

Charlemagne was not the only sovereign in my newly discovered family to be featured on stage and screen, of course. Bad King John, Edward I's grandfather (so my 23x gg) was the main character in the eponymous The Life & Death of King John, the earliest, chronologically, of the Histories purported to be written by William Shakespeare. I say purported because I now feel an obligation to stick up for Edward de Vere (12 April 1550 - 24 June 1604), a tenth cousin, fifteen times removed, as the more likely author. Family sticks together. 

Or not. King John, his brothers and parents (Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, 24x ggs) are the subject of James Goldman's 1966 play and subsequent film The Lion in Winter. It concerns the plottings and machinations of nearly all the characters as they scheme to decide who should succeed Henry II, who at one point quips "I've snapped and plotted all my life. There's no other way to be a king, alive, and fifty all at the same time." While not entirely accurate historically, or perhaps because of that, the film has entered popular culture. The recent television series Empire is a modern spin on the same story.


Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard as Cookie & Lucious Lyon.
Ad for the fifth season of Empire.

I've added Empire to my watch list, along with screen versions of several Shakespeare deVere plays, and plan to rewatch both Ivanhoe and the Errol Flynn Robin Hood; the stack of library books on the Plantagenets and their times keeps growing. Pushpins on my map of England of places to visit on vacation are nearly crowding each other out as my plans keep growing while I continue to learn more.

To quote The Lion in Winter: "Kings, queens, knights everywhere you look and I'm the only pawn." 


"Hurrah for positive science!"


In section 23 of his Song of Myself, Walt Whitman exalts in science--"long live exact demonstration!"--yet I find myself feeling closer to these lines that come a bit later:

"Your facts are useful, and yet they are not my dwelling,
I but enter by them to an area of my dwelling."   

I recently had my DNA tested, something I was not planning on doing, resisting technology as is my wont. I have traced and followed my family line back many generations through research and documents (albeit many found online, not being as much a Luddite as I protest), and have a fairly comprehensive idea of "what I am." Or so I thought.

The catalyst for my volte-face was two newfound cousins who came forward, independently, after the new year. They both had found me through this blog, happily enough. And they both had questions for me that only DNA could help answer. That coincidence--and an online sale price--convinced me to submit a sample. 


One fella is another descendant of Jesse Toliver (1756- 4 Mar 1838), a maternal 5xgg of mine about whom I have written before. Despite the Tolivers having lots of kids, surprisingly, this newfound e-cousin was the first in my line, descending through Jesse's daughter Sarah "Sally" Toliver (9 May 1786 - 28 Dec 1859) and her husband Absalom "Homer" Fender (20 Aug 1789 - 10 Mar 1849), while I am descended through a younger brother of Sally's, Jacob Toliver (26 Jul 1799 - bef Oct 1854) and Susannah Isom (abt 1804- aft 1860). Where the DNA comes in is that his results showed 1% African ancestry.


Another of my 5xggs, John Conley (30 Aug 1776 - 31 Jan 1853), and Absalom Fender
appear a few lines apart on the 1830 U S Federal Census for Lawrence County, Indiana.
Conley's grandson married Jacob Tolliver's daughter.

Sad to say, the Tolivers and their extended clan were slave-owners. It is not suprising, as they lived in the south in the early 1800s, but disappointing nonetheless. I like to think they had a change of heart, though, because many of the Tolivers and allied families moved north in the 1830s and '40s (as seen above); and many of the sons of the next generation fought--for the Union--in the Civil War. 

My cousin wrote asking if I had had my DNA done, and if so, did I have any percentage of African ancestry. He does. His family even has passed down the familiar myth of a half-Indian ancestor--so often, great-grandma was a Cherokee princess!--a common deception used to hide indiscretions, either for propriety's sake, or to avoid miscegenation laws. At any rate, that family tale had not come down to me, so only DNA would reveal if our common Toliver forebear was the source, or if perhaps it came from my cousin's Fender side. 

Meanwhile. Out of the blue, I received a message from another fella, in regard to one of my brick walls, Clarissa Adams (31 Jan 1791 - 7 Feb 1872), a maternal 4xgg whose lineage is far from proven. I was excited to hear from him, hoping he would have additional information that would confirm her parents. He didn't. What he did have was a DNA connection to one of Clarissa's purported brothers. So if my DNA matched theirs, it was likely I could confirm her parents. What was in it for him is that he was adopted, and signs point to one of the Adams' descendants as his biological father, my match giving him further evidence. Got it?

So I bought my kit, sent in my spit, and waited. Until my results arrived, Ancestry.com occasionally fed me little titbits of information, like this one about my last name: 



Coincidentally, my mother's maiden name is Brown. And both my sister and I were naturally blonde most of our childhood and young adult lives. Anyway....

The results finally arrived, just in time, because I was wearying of the fun facts Ancestry kept dropping: I am in the majority--68%!--because I do not have dimples, etc. 

Not to bury the lede: I do not have African ancestry, at least as far as my DNA results show. Of course, that many generations back, it's possible I could have a slave ancestor, but whose genes did not redound to me. If you're interested in a crash course in how that all works, you can go here.
As for my other potential cousin, we do not share DNA, so our hoped-for Adams connection is not proven. Again, it may exist, but DNA does not confirm it. We'll both keep searching for other records or documents, hoping to find our answers.

So, if I'm not black, what am I? Through my research, I thought I had a pretty good idea, but it doesn't sync up with the results I received. Based on my thirty-two 3x great grandparents, the oldest generation for which I have information on all of them, I should be:

50% United Kingdom
25% Swedish 
12.5 % Danish
6.5 % Polish
3% French
3% German

but here is what came back:



Or as my hubby said: "Wow. You are so white." Indeed. But what shade? 

The "Germanic Europe" percent matches just about perfectly, encompassing my Danish Severin, Thorsen, Nissen, and Christensen surnames; Polish Miller (and LKU); and respectively, French and German Runser and Brunner. "Sweden" is pretty spot-on as well, what with my Erickson, Jansson and Larsdotter ancestors, among others. 

My gripe is about that 27% "Norway." Going back several generations, there is no one in my family from Norway, at least modern-day Norway. I have not looked into the connected histories of Sweden and Norway; perhaps one was part of the other at some point, but even allowing for that, and the geographic overlap of the chart, I still shouldn't be more than 38% Scandinavian, and that's only by throwing in the 12% "Germanic Europe" Danes!

I will admit to an anglophilic bias, but I expect I must be more than the 28% "England, Wales, & Northwestern Europe" that is claimed. Sixteen of my thirty-two 3x ggs are either of English descent, or have veddy British surnames like Squire, MacDonald, Conley, and Cherry. It may just be that those genes didn't come down to me. 

I didn't learn anything surprising, or especially conclusive, but I'm not going to let a little thing like science deter me. Time to pour a stiff Bushmills and soda, pop the Elgar Enigma Variations into the cd-player, and resume reading Trollope's He Knew He was Right.

UPDATE April 2021:

My DNA analysis was refined a while ago, and looks much more like what my research indicates, although again, due to the haphazard way DNA comes down through generations, it is never an exact match. The update came as Ancestry gathers more data, and consequently can become more detailed. You'll note, for example, that Wales has been dropped from the original category of "England, Wales, and Northwest Europe" seen above.



Scotland, apparently, is a new "region" for Ancestry, so was lumped under the "England" category previously. More about Scotland later.

Thankfully, Norway dropped from 27% to a mere 10%, despite there being no obvious basis for any Norwegian DNA in my line. Not that I have anything against the Nordmenn. In fact, one of my favorite relatives was my wonderful great-uncle Thor (Thorald Paul Moe, 30 June 1905 -  November 2000), husband to my maternal grandmother's sister, Gleva Marcella Severin (15 January 1904 - 4 August 1982). He made wonderful wood carvings, and whenever we would visit, cooked the most wonderful spaghetti dinners--not a recognized Norwegian specialty, perhaps, but so delicious.

A favorite dual portrait of Thor and Glee; Minnesota, mid 1930s.


So with Scandinavia better managed, what about these newfound Scottish genes? Och aye, that bears investigation. Visions of kilts and cabers, haggis and highland dances to the skirl of bagpipes jigged in my head.

I already knew--and have posted about-- my Scotch-Irish ancestors, mainly found on my maternal side. But they really couldn't represent such a large proportion of DNA. And certainly none of them were Highlanders, being primarily from "the Borders," the name for the swath of land that encompasses northernmost England and southern Scotland. 

Common to both my maternal grandparents' ancestry is the surname Maxwell. On my grandfather's side, the person closest to me generationally is Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxell (1801 - 25 September 1850), a 4x great-grandmother. Her parents were William Maxwell(6 August 1765- 1832) and Lucy Toliver (23 May 1768 - 1832). It is believed that William's father was David Maxwell (1720? - before 1784), a Scottish √©migr√©, although from where more precisely is unknown. The Maxwell name originates in Roxburghshire, a historic county of the Borders, so no kilts there.

On my grandmother's side, although details are sketchier and more research is needed, the Maxwell surname's most recent appearance is with Margaret Maxwell (1579 -1597), a 9x gg, who married John Wallace (1581 - 1615). These Maxwells are from Dumfriesshire, another of those historic Border counties. Scratch the bagpipes. There are lots of John Wallaces throughout that branch of my family tree; the name lived on through generations, as recently as my 4xgg, John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 February 1857). You can read more about him here (and elsewhere on this blog). I have a soft spot for him because visiting his grave and environs was one of the first genealogical Road Trips I made. Anyway.

The Maxwells, both branches, are the best documented of my Scottish forebears. But many more ancestors seem to lead there, some simply needing more research to verify, others through Scottish surnames (McDonald, Morrison, Wallace), not least of which is my own: Burnett. 

Although I have not been able to find the connection, my farthest back verifiable Burnett ancestor, paternal 4x gg Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860) being a horrible brick wall, the Burnett name is Scottish, dating back--in variants--to the Norman Conquest. 

Originally Lowland/Border Scots, some of the Burnetts finally made it to Aberdeenshire and baronetcies, where the Burnetts of Leys are still present, and their former home, Crathes Castle, can still be visited under the auspices of the National Trust.

If I could get past Isaac Burnett, who knows what I might find here!



And guess what: with an assist from Sir Walter Scott (!) the House of Burnett, although not actually a clan per se, was issued a tartan in 1822, when King George IV made the first royal visit to Scotland since 1651. If I can find the connection from grandpa Isaac to Aberdeen, I'm going to order myself a kilt.

(The Burnett tartan. Actual results may differ.)











"irretrievable" updates

In 2015, I posted a list of vexing brick walls in my family tree. Here is that list, but with more updates. Anyone out there in cyberland who can contribute (or refute) any information about these folks, especially their parents, would be appreciated!

Isaac Burnett (1780? - May 1860), lived most of his life in Newport, Penobscot, Maine. He married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860) on 23 Dec 1802. I have written about his garbled ancestry elsewhere.
UPDATE: Although no further along with his ancestors, despite some interesting leads, I have at least been able to identify by name all ten of his children, and with the help of a cousin learned that the "S" of his son (and my 3x great-grandfather) Nathaniel's middle name stands for Spalding.
UPDATE: Still nothing new here, despite some interesting leads. I was contacted by a 
distant cousin--who found me through this blog!--and we are collaborating. In a happy coincidence, he is also a metal-worker, like our common ancestor, who was a blacksmith.

Samuel Squire (1773 - aft 1830); his wife was perhaps named Mary Ann LKU (abt 1775 -  aft 1830). He appears on the U S Federal Censuses from 1800 through 1830, primarily in Madison, Somerset, Maine.
UPDATE: This Samuel has become a lot clearer. His birth and death dates are now known (18 Jul 1768 - 17 Mar 1832), as well as the name of his wife: Rhoda Perham (24 Jul 1772 - 20 Nov 1847). His parents are Samuel Squire (abt 1740 - 3 Apr 1780) and Mary Hildreth (17 Dec 1732 - aft 1770); thus, I have Samuel Squires as 4x, 5x, and 6x great-grandfathers. Although still working on his ancestors, the chain of Samuels appears to be broken, as his father may be a John Squire. Mary's line has opened up several more generations.


Aaron Colman (abt 1783 - aft 1830 15 Jan 1838), and his father, Aaron Colman (? aft 1756 - aft 1820); both residents of Maine, appearing on the U S Federal Censuses from 1800 through 1830 and 1820, respectively. Aaron Colman, junior, was married to Mary "Polly" Lombard or Lumbar.
UPDATE: No additional ancestor information, but a little more detail about dates.


John Swarts (28 Nov 1795 - 24 Oct 1874), born in Pennsylvania, but living most of his life in Brighton, Kenosha, Wisconsin; and his wife Mary McDonald (abt 1799 - 1893), also born in Pennsylvania.

Anna B. A. "Annie" Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), was born in Germany and arrived in the U S about 1870. She married Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) on 27 Jan 1890, in Minnesota.
UPDATE: Annie was born 28 Jan 1865, in Szczecin, Poland. At the time, it was part of Germany/Prussia. Her parents are August Miller (Aug 1833 - Apr 1924) and Amelia LKU (May 1831 - aft 1910).

Willard Brown (abt 1806 - aft 1860), born in New Hampshire. He married Mary "Polly" Rasey (21 Oct 1808 - 12 Dec 1868) on 17 Nov 1826 in New York.

William Carter (1800 - 30 Mar 1849) and Melinda Johnson (1813 - 1902). Complicated by both a scarcity of information and fairly common names, they were both believed born in Tennessee; she died there, while he died in Missouri.

William Kinman (abt 1830 - aft 1858), born in New York and died in Illinois, and Sarah R Moore (abt 1826 - aft 1875). She was probably born in Ohio (I have one U S Federal census to back that up), and the only reason I have "Moore" is that my maternal grandmother provided it, although she was occasionally wrong about these details. Sarah later married a Walter Reading or Redding (abt 1825 - aft 1875); they lived in Illinois.
UPDATE: Grandma was right: Sarah's last name is "Moore." But almost everything I thought I knew about "William" was wrong, starting with his name. Apparently this 3x gg was actually--for now--Seaborn G Kinman (abt 1816 - abt 1862). I learned all this through an article about his son (and my 2x gg), William Edwin Kinman (17 Mar 1858 - 13 Jun 1925). But nothing is settled yet: for starters, I have found no other records or mentions of a Seaborn G Kinman, although the Illinois Marriage Index does have a Greeham Kinman (G for Greeham?) marrying Sarah Moore on 25 Apr 1852. It could be our guy, although searching "Greeham Kinman" yields no other results either. And to further complicate things, William's brother, Francis Augustine Kinman ( 2 Jul 1853 - 14 Dec 1927), has their father listed as a "Fred" Kinman on his marriage record.  Another example of one document changing everything.





Jesse Toliver (1756 - 4 Mar 1838) and his sister, Lucy Toliver (23 May 1868 - 1832), are both 5x ggs; I have written about them before. There ancestry is confused and unlikely to ever be sorted out, despite many generations trying.
UPDATE: More cousins have surfaced, again through the help of this blog; two of them are other descendants of Jesse, the first I have been in contact with. DNA is helping to crack this family's mystery. We'll see.


Frederick Dillazone Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), about whom I have written often. I believe I have discovered his father as Elisha Ketchum (abt 1771 - aft 1840), but yearn to know more about these two, including the identity of Frederick's mother. I would also love to know if "Dillazone" is in fact correct (I no longer know where I first saw it; it may have been another Grandma Brown error), and from where it derives. He was most often referred to as "Capt F D Ketchum."

And speaking of Captains, there is Samuel Cherry (15 May 1756 - 27 Oct 1825), about whom I have also written in one of my earliest posts. His parents, and even his place of birth are a great mystery. It is generally agreed that he was born in Londonderry--but which: Ireland or New Hampshire?

Finally, there is Clarissa Adams (31 Jan 1791 - 7 Feb 1872), daughter-in-law of Capt Cherry, above. She was born in New York, and died in Delaware, Delaware County, Ohio. I have visited and photographed her grave site, which perhaps explains in part her particular appeal for me; that and her potentially historically rich last name! The Cherrys were great patriots, after all....
UPDATE: Another one-document wonder, my lead coming from someone else's query in a genealogy publication, it seems likely that Clarissa is the daughter of a William Adams (dates unknown) and either Polly or Molly Roby (30 Oct 1763 - bef 1855); there are marriage records for them dated 4 Nov 1785 with both variations of her name, and a location of either Chelmsford MA or Dunstable NH. I believe the intentions, which were posted 31 Oct 1785 (and are often erroneously seen as the marriage date) are from Massachusetts, while the wedding itself occurred in New Hampshire.
UPDATE: I was contacted by a possible cousin, who was trying to tie himself to the Adams family. (Snap! Snap!) If his DNA matched mine, we might both have proof of our connection. Alas, nothing was conclusive, and he did not have any information beyond what I already "know."


I have uncovered almost nothing  else about Adams himself, except a few land records of upstate New York, although there was one thrilling tidbit. In 1806, William Adams, a 5x gg, purchased land in what is now Scriba NY, from the estate of Alexander Hamilton. Another brush with greatness.... 

But research is it's own reward, famous kin or not, and you can bet I'm not throwing away my shot at finding more ancestors, and, of course, writing about it.

"It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life"


The Internet is a tremendous--if perilous--resource for research, genealogy included. But there is much to be learned by venturing out, and something especially satisfying about visiting actual places that connect with your family history. With the rain coming down outside today, giving me an excuse to stay in and blog, I will set down some of the genealogical outings I've made in the last couple years.

While researching a maternal 3x great-grandfather on my grandmother's side, Frederick D Ketchum (6 Apr 1811 - 21 Jan 1888), about whom I have written often, I came across mention of a book, The Schooner La Petite: Journal of Captain Oscar B. Smithreprinted from "Inland Seas" in 1970. La Petite was one of the ships Grandpa Ketchum built. 

I found and purchased a copy--online--and promptly read it through, eagerly looking for bits about Frederick Ketchum. Alas, although he built the eponymous schooner, he does not figure into the book itself, a reprint of journals Capt Smith kept for several years during the late 1870s. Capt Smith (21 Sep 1835 - 14 Aug 1916), a longtime Huron, Ohio resident, does mention many other relations of mine, however, including George Cherry Ketchum (Frederick's oldest son); Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (George's daughter); James Vance Bennett (husband of Frederick's oldest daughter, Frances Mathilda, known as "Fannie,"), who owned docks on Mackinac Island; and even the Huron Lighthouse, run for many years by Minnetta's great-uncle, Richard Lloyd Mansell. 

"Inland Seas," the magazine that reprinted Smith's journal, was established in 1945 by the Great Lakes Historical Society. I figured a visit to their National Museum of the Great Lakes was in order. I emailed first, letting them know my particular interest in the museum and familial connection to the lakes. I was thrilled to receive a reply that said

Did you know we have the capstan cover to a ship named for Mr. Ketchum on display at the Museum of the Great Lakes? It might be something you are interested in. There is a also a small section about his involvement in Toledo shipping, etc. 

"Might be..."? How exciting! And Toledo? That was definitely new information about Frederick Ketchum. It was time to hit the road....



At the museum, excited about seeing Grandpa K's capstan.

Alas, when I got to the Museum, the aforementioned capstan cover was named for a different Ketchum--in fact, a Mr Ketcham. Toledo surprise, indeed. These near misses are becoming their own kind of family tradition....

Anyway. The museum is lovely, and we spent a couple very entertaining and informative hours admiring the exhibits.




Although the capstan cover was a disappointment, I was all the more surprised, then, to see they did have an interactive exhibit about La Petite, taken from Capt Smith's journal. The journal had led me to the museum, so it seemed the circle was complete, as round as a capstan cover, no matter to whomever it belonged. 

Different virtual bookmarks led to different pages; 
this one featured a picture of the ship.


Before leaving Toledo, we also stopped at the Toledo Botanical Garden, which was gorgeous, despite some rain. I got a picture with a symbolic family tree to commemorate the outing.


Your humble blogger with "Monument to a Tree" (1994) by Carl Floyd.


Inspired by seeing second-hand information about my family, I wanted to see if I could get a bit closer. A few months later, another Road Trip was ready to roll. Next stop, Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

I began my trip at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. It was a large, wonderful facility, but I did not learn a great deal there of note, in part because I wanted to move on and see sites associated with my family.

I headed out to Lindenwood Cemetery, to pay respect to my 1st cousin, 3x removed, Minnetta Amelia Ketchum (2 Jul 1865 - 25 Aug 1953) and her husband, Frank Bursley Taylor (23 Nov 1860 - 12 Jun 1938). You may remember her name from a few paragraphs ago. She is Frederick Ketchum's grand-daughter, and features in Capt Smith's journal; she was a playmate of his daughter.




Besides being buried in Fort Wayne, the Taylors lived there for many years, when not exploring the geology of the Great Lakes, which you can read more about here. Frank Taylor's parents moved to Fort Wayne in 1859, and soon became one of the prominent families. Robert Stewart Taylor (22 May 1838 - 28 Jan 1918) was first a lawyer, and later judge. The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne (B.J. Griswold, 1947) referred to Judge Taylor as "the dean of the bar of Allen County." He introduced a bill to bring streetcars to Fort Wayne, and ran--unsuccessfully--for Congress twice; in 1881 he was appointed by President Garfield to the Mississippi River Commission. 

Looking for the three homes the Taylor families owned in Fort Wayne over those years, I discovered that one was under a parking lot, ditto another, while the third was now just a vacant lot surrounded by houses. If nothing else, I wanted to imagine the tree was from their time, so I gave it a solemn pat and headed home.

Erstwhile Taylor home, and possible family tree.

My elusive ancestors.... I felt like I was getting closer, but still at a remove. Displays and empty lots are all well and good, but can't provide much context or elicit much feeling.

Itching to get on the road again, but not knowing where, a little digging in another branch of the family tree, ancestors of my maternal grandfather this time, led me back to Indiana, this time to the magically named Spice Valley.

My Conley kin came here from Ireland, the first to emigrate being my 6x great-grandparents, John Conley, Senior (28 Jun 1744 - 24 Jul 1798) and his wife, Sarah Wilson (16 Apr 1746 - 12 Jun 1824), although they probably did not marry until they were in the US of A. I know little about them (whether they met here or in Ireland, for example) until after they arrived, when, like a good many Scotch-Irish, they settled in North Carolina.

Son John Conley, Junior (30 Aug 1776 - 31 Jan 1853) was born in North Carolina, where he married Catherine Miller (15 Oct 1782 - 5 Aug 1845) on 7 Mar 1799. Eighteen years--and eight children--later, following brother Josiah Connelly [sic] (21 Aug 1783 - 20 Feb 1870), they had left North Carolina for Indiana, landing in the nascent Lawrence County in 1817. 

The Conleys/Connellys, along with allied families, among them the Maxwells, Isoms, and Tollivers (all of whom are my ancestors), were a strong presence in the early years of the region. Josiah was the first constable of Spice Valley, others holding posts such as Overseer of the Poor, and School Superintendent. Another brother, Elijah Connelly (7 Jul 1779 - 28 Sep 1831), was the first deacon of the Spice Valley Baptist Church, established on 1 June 1822. The congregation met first in the barn of William Maxwell (1765 - 1832), a 5xgg, before a church was erected a few years later. Although the current church building is the third on that site, being built in 1888, the original cemetery behind it is filled with Conleys and Isoms.



It was fitting that I met my fifth cousin, twice removed, Susan there; she is descended from my ancestor John Conley's brother, the deacon Elijah Connelly. My excitement upon meeting her was tremendous, not just because I had driven around lost for an hour, but because she is the first relative I have met face-to-face through genealogy research, rather than knowing all my life.

We clicked instantly, and shared family stories, both pulling out charts to better see our connection. Then came the real treat: I followed her a few miles up the road to the farm that has been in our family for two hundred years.

Conley farmland, Spice Valley.

The current farm is on land originally owned by John and Elijah's brother Joel Connelly (10 Mar 1788 - 8 Jun 1853). Although the Conley/Connellys and their in-laws owned much of the area, this parcel is the last to have stayed in the family, despite many of the pioneer Connellys deciding in the late 1830s to move further west to Clay County, Illinois. Family lore has it that the Connellys and their kin, always clannish, felt that too many newcomers were moving into their valley; that side of my family--down to myself--have always been a mix of gregariousness and the desire for near-hermitic privacy.

Anyway. Cousin Susan gave me a tour, of the property, which has been given a Hoosier Homestead Farm designation by the state of Indiana. 


[I was so excited, I did not get a picture of their sign on property;
this image--from a different farm--came from the web.]


We passed by a charming cabin, built in comparatively more recent years as a sort-of playhouse for the many boys in the family.




It had been raining, so we did not venture to the natural spring, but did pause for a picture by one of the barns.




I was captivated walking through fields that my family has walked for two hundred years. Pictures, exhibits, and stories are all wonderful, but there is something so forceful about really being there. Amidst a whirl of emotions, we reached our final destination, a small hilltop that is the resting place of many of our family. 

Although weathered with age, here was the headstone of our six-times great grandmother, Sarah Wilson, who came from Ireland to America in the 1700s, joined her family on their pioneering move to Indiana in the early 1800s, and finally came to rest here, in Spice Valley, in 1824.



Several other generations of Connellys join her on the hillside. I have visited grave sites before, but this was special, knowing that the view I had in all directions was one they had shared. 

Looming clouds and a long drive ahead meant it was time to say goodbye. Susan recommended I visit the  Connelly Cemetery in nearby Marion Township, but I decided to save that for next time.  We stopped and ate some windfall persimmons from an ancient-looking tree as the sky darkened. After a big hug from Susan, I got into the car, taking a few persimmons home with me. 




In part, I wanted to share some of the Conley persimmons with Stephen, who was not able to join me on this trip. But I also had another idea.... I saved some of the seeds, and planted them this spring. Who knows if I will ever get to taste my own home-grown Conley persimmons, but I can at least enjoy, no longer symbolic or supposed, my own little family tree. 



"To be in any form..."

I have written before about old objects and heirlooms, and how my family doesn't have too many in our possession. Imagine my shock when I saw that Bonhams had auctioned off a set of six "Queen Anne walnut compass seat side chairs," expected price: $30,000 - $50,000! Here's a little blurb (or whatever the fancy antique-world equivalent is called):

The Rhode Island Furniture Archive at Yale University Art Gallery identifies several examples of this form of chair, all bearing a pierced splat with distinctive scrolled ears and all attributed to Thomas Davenport (1681-1745). In his article "Lesser-known Rhode Island Cabinetmakers: the Carlisles, Holmes Weaver, Judson Blake, the Rawsons and Thomas Davenport," (The Magazine Antiques, May 1982, pp. 1156-1163), Joseph Ott suggests that the delicate scrolled ears may be a trademark of Davenport.


The cushions differ because the chairs had been left to various family members
 before being reunited and sold.


That lesser-known Rhode Island cabinetmaker, Thomas Davenport (10 Dec 1681 - 16 Aug 1745), is one of my paternal eight-times great-grandfathers. He is also sometimes known as "Captain" Thomas Davenport, although I am not sure how he received the title. It does appear on his headstone.


The Common Burying Ground; Newport, Rhode Island


According to the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission, Davenport's headstone (as is his wife's) was carved by John Stevens II, whose father founded their eponymous shop in 1705. The John Stevens Shop was known for its beautiful gravestones, and owned by Stevens' descendants until 1927, when it was taken over by the Benson family. The company is still active today, and still doing beautiful work, including the FDR, Martin Luther King, and World War II National Memorials in Washington DC.

At any rate, Thomas Davenport was born in Dorchester MA, then moved when young to Little Compton RI. There he met and, in 1704, married Catherine Woodworth (5 Oct 1673 - 1 Jun 1729). They had six children; by his second wife, Mary Pitman (1 Jan 1721 - 1782), he had two more. It was in 1737, upon his marriage to Mary, that he settled in Newport RI. Her family contained many furniture makers as well; perhaps this is how they met. Incidentally, Little Compton is also known as the home of the Rhode Island Red chicken; there is even a monument there, although both came after Thomas Davenport's time.


Perhaps not as grand as the FDR Memorial, but still of note.

The Davenport family originated in Cheshire, England, and surely have been surrounded by beautiful furnishings since then, tracing their roots back to Alfred the Great (849 - 26 Oct 899). The first use of the Davenport name came with Orme de Dauenport (believed 1046 - 1086), who is purported to be a cousin of William the Conqueror. Despite how fanciful and sketchy some of these heraldic genealogies are, there is DNA evidence that proves that Thomas Davenport is descended from Orme, at least. (Lady Godiva of--shall we say--bareback fame is believed to be some kind of distant aunt as well.)

And speaking of horsehair, yes, the word "davenport," meaning sofa is derived from another relation as well, A[lfred] H[enry] Davenport (5 Dec 1845 - 22 Jun 1905), who established a famous furniture and interior design business that operated out of both Boston and New York at the end of the nineteenth century. That Davenport worked with Stanford White, and provided interiors for the Vanderbilt Mansion and even the White House. Work by the A H Davenport Company can also still be seen in the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and elsewhere. 

Getting back to Orme, the Davenports continued for generations in Cheshire and environs, gathering land and power. So much power, in fact, that the family coat of arms charmingly includes a man with a rope around his neck (about which more later), indicating the Davenports had power over life or death. Reading through generations of Davenports, it was nice to see some Roberts along the way. 

By the 1200s, there were lots of "Sirs," and lots of advantageous marriages, including a merger with the de Bromale family, who since 1277 owned the land that is modern-day Bramhall. John de Davenport was the first to inherit Bramhall Hall, in the late 1300s. A later Lord of the Manor, beginning in the late 1400s, William Davenport, helped gain the crown for Henry VII. The property was to stay in the Davenport family for five hundred years, finally being sold off to a development company in 1877. Fortunately, the Hall and much of the land was preserved, and is still available to visit.


Bramall Hall 

Tours are given of Bramhall Hall, and one can admire, along with the other beautiful rooms and furnishings, a number of tributes to the family crest: busts of men with ropes around their necks, including these fellows flanking one of the fireplaces:




Cosy. But Bramhall Hall is not the only Davenport residence to survive. Far away from that precious stone set in a silver sea, far indeed, in the U S of A's deep South is another structure, sitting on Columbus Square in Savannah GA. It too is open to the public, as the Isaiah Davenport House Museum.




Isaiah Davenport (3 Nov 1784 - 16 Oct 1827), is a second cousin, seven times removed of mine. To make it clearer, he was descended from grandpa Thomas Davenport's oldest son, Eliphalet, while my line goes through another son: Ephraim.

Isaiah, like many of his relatives, studied carpentry. Indeed, one sees numerous Davenports across several generations engaged in work as chairmakers, cabinet-makers, joiners, masons, housewrights.... After apprenticing in New Bedford, MA, Isaiah moved--for reasons unknown--to Savannah in 1808, and a year later married Sarah Rosamund Clark (22 Feb 1788 - 7 Aug 1869). They had ten children, and their large home was built, in part, to house them all.


Besides designing and constructing private homes and public buildings, Isaiah served as an alderman, constable, and was even selected to give the toast when President James Monroe visited the town in 1819. Isaiah Davenport died during the Yellow Fever epidemic that swept Savannah in 1847. Maybe that's why they say the house is haunted. Isaiah was just forty-three. It is interesting to imagine what "Savannah's Master Builder" would have created had he lived longer. He would have been pleased to know, I'm sure, that the preservation and restoration of his home in 1955 led to the creation of the Historic Savannah Foundation, which has been crucial in keep the town both historic and vital.



So many grand homes, so many beautiful designs. An old saw has it that "there are more Davenports than dogs' tails." Indeed. The Presidents Bush are descendants of Thomas' sister Hannah Davenport (23 Dec 1686 - 26 Jan 1769), while William Howard Taft (who employed his distant cousin A H to design furniture for the White House, although their connection was enough generations earlier they may not have known they were related) had Thomas' uncle John Davenport (20 Oct 1664 - 21 Mar 1725) as a direct ancestor.

Kings and presidents, manors and museums. As I have mentioned before, too often to link, I am adjacent--and even sometimes tangent--to greatness in my family's history. (I haven't even mentioned another Davenport relation and distant cousin, inventor Thomas Davenport [9 Jul 1802 - 6 Jul 1851], who received U S Patent #132, the first for an electric motor, in 1837 [!], the model of which resides in the Smithsonian. He wanted to invent an electric car.)





Well, I guess now I have mentioned him. But to return to the other Thomas, my eight-times great-grandpa.... He wasn't a lord, or a hobnobber with tycoons, or a revolutionary tinkerer. But he made really nice chairs.



Photo courtesy of Stephen Kinnane, Sakonnet Furniture Makers



Thomas Davenport was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on 10 Dec 1681, third son of Jonathan Davenport (6 Mar 1659 - 11 Jan 1729), a carpenter, and Hannah Manners / Maynard / Warren / Warner (1660 - 14 Jan 1729); he was the grandson of "Thomas Davenport of Dorchester," the first of this branch of the Davenports to reach America. On 20 Jul 1704, he married Catherine Woodworth (5 Oct 1673 - 1 Jun 1729), daughter of Thomas Woodworth (1636 - 13 Feb 1718) and Deborah Damon (25 Apr 1645 - Feb 1718), in Little Compton RI, Joseph Church, Justice officiating. They had six children. After her death, he married Mary Pitman (1 Jan 1721 - 1782) on 22 Jul 1737, in Little Compton, at the 2nd Congregational Church. They moved to Newport RI, where they had two children. Thomas Davenport died 16 Aug 1745, in Little Compton. He was buried in the Common Burying Ground, in Newport RI. On 25 Sep 2013, at the Bonhams auction, the Queen Anne chairs sold for just $12,500.


From the Card File of American Craftspeople, 1600-1995. The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum 



For more on the early Davenports and Bramhall Hall:
http://davenportfamilyhistory.weebly.com/

For more on Rhode Island furniture:
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/arts/design/the-smallest-state-has-a-rich-history-of-furniture-makers.html?_r=0

and:
http://rifa.art.yale.edu/index.htm 
(search for Davenport)

For more on Stephen Kinnane and continuing the tradition of fine furniture:
http://www.sakonnetwoodworking.com/


For more on the other Thomas Davenport and his electric wonders:
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/thomas-davenport-makes-the-first-electric-car-in-america-in-1834/