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.


14 August, 2014

From Wadhurst to Hamilton - Baker Mystery Solved

We'll get back to the Reid saga later. For today I have an exciting development to write about! A few posts ago I wrote about Arthur Baker, my only great-grandparent who remained a mystery. I had developed a theory of who his parents were and was working with that. Unfortunately, I did come across a death date for the Arthur Baker who I thought he was... in England.
Wadhurst, East Sussex, where Arthur was born
So, it was back to square one in the search for Arthur's origins in England. I began searching on Friday evening and spent hours on Saturday and Sunday chasing down every clue I could think of on ancestry as well as the web. Several possible families surfaced, but none panned out. I did find his grave on findagrave which confirmed his birth year as 1866 and gave me a death year of 1943.

Then I decided to take a careful look at the information that I DID have about Arthur and see if there was perhaps a clue that I had overlooked before. I noticed that, in each census report, Arthur reported his occupation as "farmer" or "dairy farmer"... except for one! In one instance he reported it as "gardener". I thought this rather strange and wondered if it could be a clue.

So I went back to ancestry search form and plugged in Arthur's name and birth year and "gardener" as a keyword. Bazzzoooom! Up comes an Arthur Baker in Salehurst, East Sussex as a 15 year old in the 1881 census and his occupation was listed as "under-gardener/ dom." I assume the dom means that he was a "domestic" or laborer for a wealthy household. In fact, his father, Jacob Baker, was listed as "gardener".  This Arthur's mother's name was Sarah Paine and he had a sister Emma. Arthur would name two of his daughters Sarah and Emma. My hopes were raised! 

I was further encouraged when this Arthur didn't appear in the following census, though his parents and siblings did. Then I discovered his paternal grandparents, John Baker and Mary Ann Hubbard. When I searched for census reports on this couple, don't they turn up in the 1870 United States census in.... Hamilton New York!! The same city Arthur would reside in from 1925 to his death, after spending several years in nearby Lebanon. EUREKA!! These must be his grandparents!! 
Hamilton, New York - home of the Bakers in USA

I still do not know when Arthur came to the U.S. but he had to have come after that 1881 census and before his marriage in 1892. His year of immigration is different on every census report, as is his year of naturalization, so it's very hard to know. However, I now think that the Arthur Baker who arrived in August of 1888 is probably NOT my Arthur, since it seems to indicate that his occupation in England was "miner".

So, maybe the story about Arthur getting stuck in the great blizzard of Feb. 1888 is true! There is still so much to discover about Arthur and his family, but I am 96% sure that I have found his family of origin in England, at long last! So sweet is victory.

19 May, 2014

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

In the search for your roots and the uncovering of your family secrets, I would advise not to hesitate to reach out to your fellow genealogists for help. In fact, ask for help at every turn and, of course, be willing and ready to help anyone else who may need some information that you have already uncovered... karma, you know! 

A perfect example of the value of asking for help is one that opened up an whole new perspective on my family that I never would have been able to discover on my own. 

We always had a pretty good beat on my Mom's side of the family... records abound, both in the U.S. and back in England, to trace the roots of Mom's mainly English heritage. But my Dad's side has been more of an enigma. I mentioned his Mom's father, Arthur Baker, in my previous post, as a mystery that I would love to solve. But there was an even more mysterious angle to my Dad's family, and that was his grandfather, John Reid, who came to New Jersey from
SCOTLAND
Scotland.


Nothing was known of John's origins or family except that he was supposed to be from the Glasgow area. His son, my grandfather, knew little of him as he died when my grandfather was young. He and his siblings grew up in an orphanage in Paterson, New Jersey. So, I started with the usual, plugging what info I had into search engines on ancestry and other tree building sites with no results. I decided to post on rootschat.com, a forum where you can post queries under the county and town (if you know it) where your ancestor was from. 

About a day after I posted my meager information about John Reid, two lovely ladies from Scotland came to my rescue! Apparently Scotland is rather tight-fisted with their vital records, and many are available only via pay websites, so that the general public cannot access them. These women had subscriptions to these databases!! Woo hoo for me!! 

They did some digging... and some more digging.... and came up with a John Reid, born on the right birth date (that we had from his gravestone in Paterson), in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, in the vicinity of Glasgow. His mother was listed as Caroline Reid, a name which my brother David had found mentioned once as possibly John's mother, but there was no record of his father. David thought it had been John also. 

A little more digging and my Scottish friends discovered that Caroline had given birth to John in a poor house, and that she had been unmarried. They even emailed the birth record to me! So, Caroline's name was Reid! We will never know what his father's name was, but here was his true maternal line, at least. A little more digging turned up Caroline's father's and mother's name and a sad story began to materialize.
Photo that I found of the Poorhouse where John was born

Apparently, Caroline's mother, one Caroline Matilda Ferguson, died either at or shortly after Caroline's birth. Her father John remarried a few years later and more children were born. John was a miner and evidently struggled to provide for his growing family. Young Caroline was sent to work in a textile factory by the age of 13 and she boarded away from home. 

From the tale the census reports tell, Caroline never re-joined her family. She boarded and worked under the brutal hours and conditions at the textile mill throughout her adolescence. Who can blame her for finding
Paton's Mill - where Caroline probably worked
solace in some man who perhaps treated her with kindness?

My Scottish ladies also turned up what appears to be a child named William that Caroline had prior to John, but as there are no further records of him, he probably died young. The story of what happened to baby John is coming in my next post.... the unraveling of this mystery is equally as intriguing as the story of his mother!

05 May, 2014

Who Was Arthur Baker?

I have a mystery much closer to my own generation than those I've been referring to so far. My paternal great-grandfather (grandmother's father) is quite a mysterious character and one whose identity I'd love to uncover.

Arthur Baker was born in 1867 in England. He married my great-grandmother Mary Irene Wheeler on 8 February 1892 in Eaton, NY. From there he appears in each census report, married and with an ever growing family including my grandmother Ada Florence Baker. Where he came from in England and who his family was is unknown.

I did a search for immigration records and found an Arthur Baker, apparently traveling alone, who arrived 24 August 1888 aboard the S.S. Wisconsin to Ellis Island, NY. Under occupation, it looks like it says "miner".  Arthur would have been about 21 yrs of age at that time. But where was he from? Who was his family?


I did a wide net search for Arthur Bakers born within one year of 1867 in England, since I am fairly sure of his birth date. Several people came up and I went through them, one by one. Several I could eliminate because they died in England. One, who I found only one record of, was a domestic servant in a wealthy household in London. At first I thought this could be him, but the lack of any further mention of this Arthur Baker makes me think he probably died young.

During my search I kept an eye out for any names in the related families that matched the names of Arthur's children since, especially then, names were so often "recycled" through the generations. Finally I had eliminated all but the domestic servant (listed as a "page" in the census) and one Arthur Baker, son of George Baker and Emma Goddard of Derbyshire. The youngest daughter in this family was named Sarah Anne. Arthur would name his eldest daughter Emma, perhaps after his mother, and another one Sarah.

He appears in the 1881 census living with his family and occupation as "coal miner", same as his father. Could this be the Arthur Baker "miner" on the ship's manifest of the S.S. Wisconsin seven years later? He is not living with his family by the census of 1891 and I could not find a record for him elsewhere in that census year. This would coincide with his possibly being the immigrant to NY in 1888.

Arthur's eldest daughter, Emma, has a middle initial of G. I had her down as Emma Gertrude, probably from my brother's records, but I could not find a record of her anywhere with the full name spelled out, she is always recorded as Emma G. I wonder if her middle name was Goddard after Arthur's mother, a name that could easily have been mis-transcribed along the way as Gertrude. I may end up sending for her birth certificate, but first I have to check with my brother to see if he ever tried to obtain it before. I know that he did attempt to get Arthur and Mary's marriage record and it was apparently not found in the records of Eaton, NY.

So, I have temporarily plugged this family in as Arthur's as a working theory. I will either have to get ahold of a marriage record or discover that Emma's middle name was indeed Goddard to confirm them as his family.

One other interesting side story. A piece of family lore may add another clue, or rather a monkey wrench, into my current theory. The story goes that Arthur was set on heading out West once he reached America to settle there and build his new life. However, on the first leg of his trip out West, his train was forced to stop in upstate New York due to a blizzard. During this delay in his trip, he met Mary Irene Wheeler and decided instead to remain in New York, eventually asking her to marry him.

There was indeed a huge blizzard in New York in 1888 that stopped all rail service for weeks. But, this monster storm was in FEBRUARY and my theory has Arthur arriving the following AUGUST! Of course, it could have been another storm that delayed his train, as upstate New York is notorious for snowy winters, but if it was the storm of 1888 that led to his fateful meeting with my great-grandmother then it is back to the drawing board! 

27 April, 2014

Remick/Gowell/Chase Dilemma

I'm trying to work through the parents of Sarah Gowell (1682-1750) who married Thomas Chase (1679-1767). Some on ancestry had her parents listed as Richard Gowell (1646-1749) and Hannah Remick (1656-1749). (Hannah Remick was daughter of Christian Remick of Netherlands and Hannah Foster.) Richard and Hannah were born and died in Kittery, Maine, so at first I disregarded this link and set out to find out who Sarah's parents really were.

I didn't get very far. Couldn't seem to locate an alternate set of parents for Sarah. So, I took a second look at the family from Kittery. I discovered that Sarah's father Richard's brother, named Abraham Gowell, married Elizabeth Freeman of Eastham, Massachusetts (here on Cape Cod) and settled there. That got me wondering if perhaps Sarah could have accompanied her uncle or somehow been introduced to Thomas Chase of Yarmouth (not far from Eastham) who she married. It began to seem more plausible that Richard Gowell and Hannah Remick of Maine could be her parents.

Kittery, Maine

BUT... upon searching for records of the Gowell/Remick couple, I find that Gowell was Hannah Remick's second marriage, and according to a few sources, she married Richard Gowell after Sarah's date of birth. Hmmmm..... there goes my theory??

Another source I found indicated that Sarah Gowell had her first child in Maine, and the rest in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and that she then died in Maine. I wondered if somehow the couple moved between her family in Maine and his in Massachusetts a few times during their marriage. But why would they do that? The same source cited Sarah's husband Thomas Chase as being involved in the French and Indian wars. Could this have been a reason for their moving back and forth?

Maddeningly, I apparently forgot to bookmark this source and I can 't find it again! Gaaaah! I will continue to work on this family. The dates don't seem to match up, but I find it intriguing that Abraham Gowell married an Eastham girl. It makes me think that a connection with Sarah is likely, but I can't find the threads that connect up. I will update this entry if and when I find the answers, so if anyone knows what the deal is here and can enlighten me on it, PLEASE do let me know!


02 April, 2014

The Irish Problem

Today I'm working on my children's Dad's family so they will have that information too, as best as I can collect it. His family is harder than mine, because his mother's family is all from Ireland. Ireland didn't have comprehensive census taking as early as England and most of their records are still held by local parishes. Most of this information has not been offered online that I know of, at least not for free. I have found a few sites where you can pay to view parish records, but they are quite expensive and there's no guarantee that the document you pay to view is the right person until you see it!  So, I have hit a brick wall with his Mom's family after just a few generations. I did get most of the immigrants, but there is little indication as to where in Ireland they came from. Frustrating!

Montbéliard, France (where family originated) on the Swiss border
-image from Wikimedia Commons-
His Dad's family is partially from England and partly from France and Germany. After a few generations into Europe, the only indications of names and dates are offered from other ancestry.com users, so I have no way of knowing how accurate those are. I decided to put an asterisk next to the name of anyone on my tree whose accuracy I have not confirmed with at least one independent source. I wish I'd started doing that earlier, as I have many on my own family's tree that are not substantiated by documentation as well.

My husband's Dad's family has an intriguing mystery attached to it. One branch is the Peace family from Sheffield, England. There was a notorious serial killer named Charles Peace whose crime spree lasted from 1851 to 1878. According to family legend, he is related to my husband's family, but I have not found the link yet. Apparently he was not in the direct line. My guess is that he is the brother of someone in the line. He was born in Sheffield, so chances are that he was indeed related.

31 March, 2014

DNA Comes To The Rescue!

The dilemma below is largely resolved, thanks to some dna detective work.

I had done a dna analysis with ancestry.com a while ago. Recently I uploaded the raw data to FamilyTreedna which is really cool. First, it offers access to a different pool of matches, so there are more people who share chromosome strands with me than just those on ancestry. Secondly, FamilyTree has some really awesome features. With those who have uploaded a family tree, you can click on their tree to see what possible ancestors you have in common. To make it easier, there's a search box where you can plug in a surname to see if it appears in their tree, then click on the results to view them. These are just some of the features of FamilyTree that make it worthwhile to test there, or to upload results from other tests to it.

Anyway, I was browsing through the family trees of those on my dna matching list. I noticed the name Ebenezer Humphrey of Hingham on two of them. Ebenezer was the father of Mary Humphrey who married.... you guessed it! Zerubbabel Hersey! One of these 2 members who had him on their tree shared other ancestors with me, but the other one had only that line in common with me, so I thought that bolstered my theory that Zerubbabel was in my direct line.

I shared this revelation with my brother David (who had done a lot of research on our family genealogy years ago and continues to be involved), and he dug out an old sketch of a family tree for the Herseys, made back in the 1800's.

Hersey Family Tree/ made 1895


And he confirmed that on this old family tree, Zerubbabel Hersey appears as a great-grandfather of ours! Victory! And, in this case anyway, the dna data helped to confirm a theory.










(this is just part of the tree, it's quite large!)