30 January, 2015

Thomas Crosby of Eastham

This is a mini-bio of Thomas Crosby, my 8th great-grandfather, of Eastham, Massachusetts. I have not yet collected much detailed information on Thomas, but I am still looking. Presented here are the facts as I have been able to gather them.


Thomas Crosby
(1635-1702)

Thomas Crosby was baptized at Holme-on-Spalding-Moore, East Riding, Yorkshire, England on 26 Feb 1635. His parents were Simon Crosby and Ann Brigham and he was named after his paternal grandfather. At the age of 8 mos his parents brought him on their journey to New England aboard the "Susan and Ellin", arriving on 2 Oct 1635 at Boston. 

Little is known of his childhood years, but his family settled in Cambridge on the site of what is now the University Press. He graduated from Harvard College in 1653. He was not, however, ordained as a minister. 

Nevertheless, he was invited to preach at the church in Eastham, MA on Cape Cod in 1655. He preached there until 1670, making 50 pounds per year. Thomas was also a good business man. In 1664 he was among those listed as dealing in "liquor, powder and shot" in the town of Eastham.

In 1662 he married Sarah Fitch, whose parentage is not clear. They raised a very large family, including a set of twins and a set of triplets, the third-born of which was named "Increase". Their children were: Thomas (1663-1731), Simon (1665-1718), Sarah (b 1666), Joseph (1668-1725), John (1670-1717), John's twin who died in infancy, William (b 1672), Ebenezer (b 1675), Anne, Mercy and Increase (b1678), Eleazer (b 1680).

Granary Burying Ground, Boston Common, Boston
Thomas Crosby moved his growing family to Harwich about 1671 and became one of the founders of the church there. He lived in Harwich, raising his large family, for 30 years. Sadly, he made a business trip to Boston in June of 1702 and was found dead in bed there, age 67 yrs. He was buried in the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston. After his death, his widow Sarah re-married to John Miller (son of Rev John and Lydia Miller) of Yarmouth in 1703.



24 January, 2015

John Reid - A Long Journey from Scotland

In a previous post I wrote about how some wonderful Scottish ladies helped me to solve one of the "brick walls" that I had thought I would never break through. They discovered that the mysterious John Reid (great-grandfather on my father's side) had been born in 1872 to an unwed mother in a poorhouse in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. 

Paisley, Renfreshire, Scotland
Once this was established, the three of us set about tracing John's whereabouts and discovering when and how he ended up in Paterson, New Jersey. My friends found a child by the name of John Reid listed as a "boarder" at the age of 9 years with a couple named James and Margaret Kincaid in 1881, not far from where John was born in Paisley. John's mother Caroline had died in February of that year. We figured he must have been in what was then the "foster care" system, and the fact that the Kincaids had several other young boys with different surnames living with them seemed to confirm this supposition.

But what had happened to this orphaned boy? How did he manage to get to the United States where the first record of him was on the 1895 census in Paterson, New Jersey when he was 23 years old? Or was this John Reid, living with the Kincaids, even the right person? He was the right age, and he did appear as a boarder just after his mother's death, but how could we prove that it was the same child who later married Jane Richardson in Paterson?

My Scottish friends and I scoured ships manifests for John Reid with no success. On the 1900 census he had reported his immigration year as 1887. That would make him about 15 years old on arrival. Since he surely could not have had the means to make the trip alone at that age, we began, on a hunch, to search for Kincaids in Paterson, New Jersey.

Sure enough, one James and Margaret Kincaid appeared on the Paterson census of 1900! Still, we wanted to make a firm connection between them and our John who, by 1900, was 28 years old and married. Finally, a document came to light that made it certain enough that John had come to America in the care of the Kincaids. On his application for citizenship, John had stated that he lived on North York Street - the same address on the census for the Kincaids!

Since we now knew that he had arrived in 1887 with the Kincaids, we searched again for a passenger list. We did find, on the ship "State of Nebraska" that arrived in New York on 11 May 1887 Margaret Kincaid (mis-spelled Kincard) with
State of Nebraska
"sons" John age 14 and William age 7. William could have been their natural son, but more likely they simply presented the boys as their own to avoid red tape in bringing orphans to America. Certainly that was the case with John, who resumed use of his own name, once safely in his new country.


It is satisfying to know that this orphaned child of an impoverished single mother was apparently very much cared for by his foster parents. Certainly they would not have gone to the expense and trouble of bringing a teen-aged orphan with them to America had they not.

John went to work in the silk mill, which was the largest employer in the area at that time. His census reports lists his occupation as "silk weaver". The silk factories of the day were noisy and cramped, the work demanding and the hours long.

At the age of 24, John married Jane Richardson who had arrived with her parents from England in 1893. Sadly, the couple was not to have a very long marriage. They had five children between 1897 and 1905, the second youngest being my grandfather William Reid, born in 1903.

John Reid passed away in 1904, leaving a pregnant Jane and his other four children. His widow died just a few years later in 1907. The children were placed in an orphanage in Paterson which is where my grandfather spent most of his childhood, this being one of the reasons for the "brick wall" and lack of information about his parents.

Amazing what a little digging will do! If the records are there, they can be found! It just takes determination, a little help from friends and a lot of luck.

19 January, 2015

The Great Gale of 1635

Willem Van de Velde circa 1690


I love it when I find records where events in history intersect with the life stories of my ancestors. I am a lover of history anyway, but seeing these events through the real life experiences of those whose blood I share is definitely a thrill. I recently discovered such a story, or really two stories, that unknowingly converged... not at the time of the event, but centuries later, when I was born.

The Great Gale of 1635, also called the Great Colonial Hurricane, was possibly the worst that the New England area has seen. According to Nicholas A Coch, who studies past hurricanes in the Northeast (associated press Nov 21, 2006), the winds increased to possibly exceed 130 mph, snapping large trees in half like toothpicks and blowing away entire households in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. The tidal surge was fully 21 feet, and John Winthrop, among others, reported watching helplessly as neighbors and farm animals were swept away in the churning waters.

Contemporary observers reported that the winds had begun to pick up as much as a full week prior to the storm, and at its full force it sent torrential rain in driving sheets as never before seen. The colonists were greatly affected by this, as hurricanes were something unknown in England, and they marveled at its savagery and speculated as to a Divine cause.

At sea, aboard the bark "Watch and Wait", off the coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts was my great-x 8-grandfather, Antony Thacher (1588-1667), when this vicious storm hit at about 10pm on the night of August 14, 1635. Antony had come from England that spring, stopping at Newbury with his cousin Avery, Avery's family and his own family; a new young wife and four children from his previous wife who had died giving birth to the fifth child. Avery and Antony were both of the reformed faith, and Avery himself was a preacher. The group was headed from the harbor at Ipswich, around Cape Ann to the south to reach Marblehead, where Avery had been offered a position with a local parish.

My family is blessed to have his preserved letter to his brother back in England, recounting the terrible event. In it he describes, almost minute by minute, how, one by one, the members of their little group were washed into the sea and drowned as the small bark broke up on a rocky shoal, including his own four children. Only Antony and his wife Elizabeth survived the wreck, washing up on a small rocky island off the coast of what is now Rockport, still named Thacher Island today.

A few years later, he and his wife and their young son left Marblehead with two other families to found the town of Yarmouth on Cape Cod. And the rest is history! I still live in the town that Antony co-founded back in 1639.

This story has been told and retold a thousand times in my family. I know it by heart, down to the names of his poor drowned children, and it is a treasured piece of history for my own immediate family as well as my large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins.

BUT ... what I did not know until recently was that another branch of my family tree was directly affected by this same storm. In researching the Bailey family, this time a branch of my father's tree, I came across a similar story to that of Antony Thacher. It was John Bailey (1572-1651), a great-x 9-grandfather, and his young son John who were on the sea off the coast of Maine when the Great Hurrican hit. They were just arriving from England aboard the "Angel Gabriel", also a bark, when the dreadful storm began to batter the vessel to pieces.

John and his son had left John's wife Eleanor and several more children behind in England, thinking to send for them when they had settled and built a home. They must have been foremost in John's mind as he struggled in the heaving waves for his life. But John and John Jr did survive that wreck, washing up on the shore of what is now Bristol, Maine. Sadly, having heard details of the disaster in her husband's first letter home, Eleanor was too frightened to board a ship for America. Instead, she refused to join him at all and John and Eleanor were never reunited, though several of their children apparently did come later from England.

When I discovered this second story, the whole event of that terrible storm became somehow more real to me. No longer was it just family lore, recounting the harrowing tale of Antony Thacher. Now, seen from the angle of the Baileys, many miles to the north and centuries from uniting with Antony's descendants, it seemed to come to life in 3-d. This phenomenon of bringing into focus historical events is one of the main reasons why I so enjoy genealogical research. And there are more stories where that one came from!



08 January, 2015

Remick/ Gowell/ Chase Resolved

Old postcard from Holland
I think I've firmed up the confusion about Sarah Gowell (1682-1750), wife of Thomas Chase (1697-1767). I wrote about this conundrum earlier here. I was trying to definitively tie her to Christian Remick of Kittery, Maine and his wife Hannah. A fellow genealogist/blogger named Gale left me a comment last Sept. to check Richard Gowell's (her father) will. I didn't follow up then, because I knew that I already had a copy of this will and that it did mention his daughter, Hannah Chase.

The other night I was going over old "mysteries" and revisited my first blog entry on Sarah Gowell and again noticed the comment. I then went to my copy of the Gowell will and took another look at it. Not only does it mention Hannah Chase as his daughter, but one of the witnesses to the will, which I had not noticed before, was one Joshua Remick! Joshua (1672-1738) was the brother of Richard's wife Hannah Remick, so this solidly proves that Hannah Gowell was indeed the granddaughter of Christian Remick and his wife Hannah (?Foster) of Kittery, Maine.


Now if someone could only find out where Christian came from! Some say he was from Holland or Germany (Remick is a name found in these countries) and others say he was born and bred an Englishman! I had a brief contact with someone in Holland whose name I don't recall about the Remick name. He told me that there are Remicks currently living in a particular city in Holland, but I've temporarily mislaid this information. Christian Remick arrived in New England in 1652 and he did depart from England and had apparently been in England for some time. Still, the notion that he was Dutch or German persists. It's one of the mysteries that may never be solved, but is tantalizing nonetheless.

07 January, 2015

Speaking of Famous Ancestors........

Crown of England
On the theme of famous ancestors, I have recently been spending some of my genealogy time tracking down presumed royal ancestors.

If your family came to America, especially to Massachusetts or Virginia, from England, chances are fairly good that you can trace at least one line back to medieval or earlier English, Scottish or French royalty. (Connection to the more modern lines is also possible, but less likely.) Why? Because by the time you get back that far (about 20 or more generations) you have a huge number of great-grandparents. By the time you're out 19 generations, for example, you have two million, ninety-seven thousand, one-hundred and fifty-two great-grandparents, just in that generation! Since the population of England was so relatively small at that time, and the fact that many immigrants were products of younger children of a noble family (and therefore didn't inherit), chances are there is royalty among all those great-grandparents.

That is, if you are fortunate to have a good start with cohesive records in America that can be traced back to England. Which I do. Consequently, I regularly come across a line that appears to stretch back to British royalty. I say "appears to" because, of course, records get sketchier the further back you go, and since I have so far only sought out royal lines for fun, I've not taken the time to examine each link and verify it. Whatever you do, don't just follow a line out on Ancestry . com and conclude that you're of royal blood! Everyone wants to be royal, so unfortunately, many members on ancestry have either pushed the limits of verification or outright created links out of whole cloth!

However, I do think it would be fun to have a royal line that can be pretty well verified, at least as far as is possible given the limitations of ancient record keeping. Don't forget, too, that it only takes one secret affair in any marriage to break a royal lineage, and such dalliances were more frequent than you might think!

With all this in mind, I consulted a few online sources that offer lists of early American colonists who were of royal descent. I discovered that there were at least 650 early colonists who could trace a line to royalty, and I spotted several of my family names among these.

To get a quick idea if you may have ties to royalty or not, check out the Constitution Society's American Colonists with Royal Ancestries. If you do see a name or two there that matches your own family history, I would recommend going to Ancestry . com's indexing of the book The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants. I am not sure if you have to be a member to access this resource. If anyone finds out, please let me know. If you can't get into Ancestry, go back to the Constitution Society and try requesting an email about a specific name on the list. I sent such a request last night and it says to allow 24 hrs, but I haven't heard back yet, so I am assuming this feature is not available anymore, but you can try. Barring that, try simply googling the name from the list and see how far you can get.

I found The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to be an invaluable resource. It has detailed appendices and lists sources as well as offering easy to read lines of descent that simply list each couple in order from the specific monarch down to the name you are searching for. I checked several of these lists against my own research and some had dubious links or were simply wrong. But I did find a few lines that seem promising. The one that so far seems most likely to be accurate is one that begins with King Edward I of England (my 22nd great-grandfather) and proceeds through his youngest daughter Princess Elizabeth to immigrant Constant Southworth and eventually winding up at Mary Crocker Hall, my great-great-grandmother on my mother's side.


The links seem to be solid, but I still need to go back and scrutinize each one to verify that King Edward most probably IS my 22nd great-grandad! In the meantime, I lay tentative claim to an English  monarch and request to be addressed as Lady Katharine going forward. LOL! Pictured here is Rhuddlan Castle in Wales, where Princess Elizabeth (my 21st great-grandmother) was born in 1282.

Here's to Jolly Olde England!

02 January, 2015

My Cousin, Abraham Lincoln


It had always been family lore that we (the Thachers) were related to the same Lincoln family as the President. In fact, my uncle and his son and grandson bear Lincoln as their middle name. I knew that my 5th great-grandmother was named Mercy Lincoln, so decided to start there and work my way back.

Mercy Lincoln, wife to Ezra Howes, was born in 1748 in Harwich on Cape Cod. She died in Yarmouth, Cape Cod, in 1788. Her father was Nathaniel Lincoln of Hingham, Massachusetts who evidently moved to Brewster on Cape Cod and subsequently met Hannah Asten of Harwich (next town over from Brewster) and married her.

So first I checked out Abraham Lincoln's ancestry and discovered that his 4th great-grandfather named Samuel Lincoln and known as "the Weaver" had emigrated from Norfolk, England to...... yup! Hingham! in the 1640's. He had followed his elder brother Thomas, known as "the Cooper", who had arrived in Hingham in 1635. The father of these two enterprising young men was Edward Lincoln, born 1580 in Morley, Norfolk, England. He married Bridget Gilman, mother to Samuel and Thomas. Bridget emigrated to Hingham as well, after the death of her husband, but I've not yet determined if she came with her son Samuel or later.

As it turns out, Thomas, the brother of Abraham Lincoln's 4th great-grandfather, is my 9th great-grandfather! Old Abe and I share the great-grandparents Edward Lincoln and Bridget Gilman, though they are Abe's 5th greats and my 10th. This makes me 6th cousin 5x removed to President Abraham Lincoln! Kind of a stretch, but I enjoy finding these connections anyway. It reminds me that time is a moving continuum, not really "then" and "now", and that my family has been a part of that continuum, taking part in the flow of time, the annals of history, the story of human kind.

Hats off to you, cousin Abe!!

29 August, 2014

Edward Sturgis, Early Yarmouth Settler

I've begun writing up little biographies of ancestors as information comes to light during my research. This little bio is about Edward Sturgis, my 9th great-grandfather on my mother's (Thacher) side.

Edward Sturgis
(1613-1695)


Edward Sturgis (sometimes spelled Sturges) was most likely born in January 1613 in the
village of Woodnesborough, Kent, England. His parents were John Sturges of Sturry, Kent and Margaret Austin of
Woodnesborough, Kent, England (photo by Nick Smith)
Tilmanstone, Kent. This couple had married in November of 1608 in Tilmanstone.

Edward was left 40 shillings by his grandfather (also Edward Sturgis), upon his death in 1623, to be given to young Edward at his 18th birthday. This amount would equal approximately $485 today. (Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?)

In 1634, when Edward was 21 years old, he made the decision to come to the American colonies. He appears to have made the trip by himself, as none of his siblings (Margaret, Elizabeth and Andrew) are mentioned in colonial records. What his dreams and ambitions were can only be guessed at, but he would prove a competent and enterprising young man and an asset to his chosen home town of Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

Prior to making Yarmouth his home, Edward arrived at Charlestown and received a grant of four acres of land there in the same year of his arrival. Little is known of Edward's time in Charlestown, but he did not find a wife there, and perhaps decided to move on to greener pastures. For whatever reason he removed to the newly settled town of Yarmouth on Cape Cod in 1640 where he met and married Elizabeth Hinckley in 1642. There were only 25 families in Yarmouth at that time, among them that of Giles Hopkins Mayflower passenger and son of Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower, and also Antony Thacher, one of the co-founders of the town. Edward Sturges settled to the eastern side of the town near the meetinghouse and was a near neighbor to Reverand Marmaduke Matthews, the pastor of Yarmouth.

Edward was one of the first to keep an “ordinary” or tavern in the town of Yarmouth. In those early colonial days, individuals could obtain a license to serve liquor, usually from their own homes. Later they would build larger accommodations, often including rooms for travelers, but initially the “ordinary” was simply the hospitality of the homeowner and a little something to warm the belly.
Colonial Ordinary

Edward evidently made a positive impression on the Yarmouth settlers, for they made him constable of the town in 1641. In 1643 he was judged “able to bear arms” and named a freeman of the town. He later served as selectman and as deputy to the General Court as well as serving on a number of committees governing the town. His occupation was listed as “innkeeper” and “husbandman” in later records, so he evidently expanded his “ordinary” at some point and kept a substantial farm.

His family grew rapidly, adding to the rolls of the newly formed town of Yarmouth four daughters and three sons. His childrens' names were Edward, Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Hannah, Sarah and Thomas. (Sarah was the Thacher family ancestor.)

Edward left this life in October 1695 at the age of 81 years, dying in the town of Sandwich on Cape Cod. Though Edward Sturgis was considered one of the wealthier residents of early Yarmouth, he somehow died with substantial debt, leaving his second wife, Mary, in somewhat of a bind. Evidently she settled the estate for a sum of 23 pounds, leaving the rest to Edward's surviving son, Thomas.