Thursday, October 12, 2017

... and now I am 5!


"On my way", personal photo


Five years ago I nervously pushed the "Publish" button on Blogger and quickly saw my first post appear on this blog. I wasn't exactly sure what I expected to come from blogging, but 244 posts later, I am glad I decided to start writing this blog. Here are a few of my reasons.
  • COUSINS: I've made contacts with distant cousins whom I had previously not even known of. And I mean, literally, distant cousins, like a cousin who lives in Norway, 4200 miles away. Just this past week my Norwegian cousin and I exchanged some family photos and family information. With other cousins, I've discovered we share a fascination with a shared relative or realize that we both shake our heads at the surprising actions of an ancestor. My posts have not intentionally been written as "cousin bait", but it has been an extra benefit to be able to connect with other family members.
  • RESOURCES AND TECHNIQUES: Blogging has encouraged me to explore new resources and research techniques and to share some of my experiences with others. Several years ago I participated in the first wave of the Genealogy Do-Over, and like others I posted about my experiences. I also gained more insights as I read posts from others who were blogging about their new techniques and organizational strategies. In January, 2017 I started a Genealogy Bullet Journal. Later I wrote about my experiences in a few posts. To my surprise these three posts have had over 2600 views as well as some likes and comments. And I continue to learn from others as they share how they use bullet journals in their genealogy research.
  • CONNECTIONS: My writing is helping me be part of the larger genealogy community. Admittedly, much of what I do is done alone. I might be at my computer or at a research library or courthouse, perhaps reading books, or studying records. Whether it is as a member of the GeneaBloggers Tribe on Facebook or through communications with others through this blog, there are now ways to not seem so isolated in my search to learn more about my ancestors. These connections have also helped in small ways such as sending an old photo to a direct descendant. It has also been gratifying to have the opportunity to help others, sometimes family or friends, other times strangers who are now friends.
  • ADVENTURES: Recently I saw a quote stating that "Retirement is a means to a new adventure". Blogging has truly been a part of my retirement adventure. I still enjoy the process of gathering information, using new resources, and then feeling that urge that now it is time to put it all together, to write, rewrite, and publish. My last post about Bridget Richardson Fletcher, a poet and hymn writer, was a year in the making because I continued to have questions for which I wanted to find answers. After using a variety of resources and visiting a new (for me) university library, I finally saw the story I wanted to share. Blogging gives me a way to share some of these adventures.
So today I celebrate my fifth Blogiversary. And I'll continue my research and plan for more posts for the future. See you later.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bridget Richardson Fletcher: "She being dead yet speaketh"



Old North Church, Boston
source: Wikimedia Commons


I have been accustomed to finding ministers, tavern keepers, teachers, and farmers scattered all over the branches of my family tree. But a poet and hymn writer, that was someone new to find! The bits I have gathered about my seventh GreatAunt, Bridget Richardson Fletcher, have blended into a story of a woman, her family, and life in colonial times.

Bridget Richardson was born in 1726, the fourth of Zachariah Richardson and Sarah Butterfield's ten children.(1) Although I have been unable to find any record concerning her education, she apparently learned to read and to write, as well as the knowledge of poetic form. These things were evidenced in her later life.

In February of 1745/1746 an intention to marry was recorded in the Westford, Massachusetts Church Records for Timothy Fletcher, Jr, of Westford and Bridget Richardson of Chelmsford. In the following years, according to the church records, Timothy and Bridget had seven children.(2) These children were Elijah (born 1747), Josiah (born 1749), Bridget (born 1751, apparently dying in childhood), Luce (born 1754), Jesse (born in 1757, apparently died at a young age), Bridget (born 1760), and Jese (born 1762). Seven children in 15 years is enough to keep anyone busy, but it was often the norm among colonial families.

Bridget Richardson Fletcher died on 8 June 1770, survived by her husband Timothy and five children, three of whom were under the age of 18 and were most likely still living at home. Her oldest son Elijah had just graduated from Harvard and was planning on a career in the ministry.(3) It was not unexpected to learn that her husband Timothy remarried, first in 1774 to Huldah Pearley and, following Huldah's death, to the much young Hannah Proctor in 1778.(4)

Son Elijah Fletcher was ordained into the ministry in 1773 and served as the minister of the Congregational Church of Hopkinton, New Hampshire. According to a biographer, once Rev. Elijah Fletcher began receiving a salary, one of his first deeds, following his marriage to Rebecca Chamberlain, was to arrange for the publication of a collection of his mother's poetry.(5)

Her book of poetry was published in Boston by Isaac Thomas who was the publisher of The Massachusetts Spy, an early colonial newspaper. I was able to access a copy of her book, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, on the Early American Imprints database at King University in Bristol, Virginia. The poems are listed as having been composed by "Bridget Fletcher, The wife of Timothy Fletcher, late of Wesford, deceased. She being dead yet speaketh". Included in the citation for Hymns and Spiritual Songs was this note, "The only known copy is imperfect". There was no mention, however, of the current physical location of Bridget's book.

Although Bridget Richardson Fletcher with this sole publication is not ranked among the oft-mentioned females writers in colonial America, people such as Anne Bradstreet, Mercy Otis Warren, and Phillis Wheatley, her writings continue to appear in a number of literary anthologies. A forthcoming work, American Colonial Women and Their Art, has this to say about Bridget Richardson Fletcher: (6)
Hymnographer Bridget Richardson Fletcher of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, compiled Hymns and Spiritual Songs on Several Occasions. The collection of eighty-two hymns stressed propriety, marriage, the punishment for sin, and the joys of redemption and God's grace. Hymn 36 described the virgin birth of Christ as a character asset of all women and a shield against male scorn. Hymn 70 surveyed the mutual duties of husband and wife and urged every man to prize his wife for her submission to authority."
The introduction of her book takes us clearly back into the eighteenth century as the editor (possibly Isaac Thomas) urged readers to "be ready to make allowances for the many inaccuracies of a female pen, when he considers that the advantages of females in general are but small, in comparison of those of the other sex, in point of polite learning". The editor further noted that the poems were not given titles and that some of them were not finished as "God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to call the author from this to a world of spirits, in the meridian of life ... [after] a fever for the space of three weeks ... she having passed through many difficulties".(7) There in the book's introduction was Bridget's probable cause of death at the age of 44.

Her poems are clearly filled with religious imagery and evidences of her faith. The following poems are a few examples of her hymns and sacred songs. This poem urged Christ to take her out of darkness and from her doubts and could have been written during the time of her fever and illness.

     My Saviour dear, don't leave me here,
         In this dark wilderness,
     Pray let me come a leaning on,
         Thy sweetly thy charming breast.
     
     For thou are strong and can'st perform,
         If thou the word shouldn'st speak,
     Could I get out then with a shout
         Around the earth I'd leap.

     But fight I will with all my skill

         If God will not forsake,
     I will hold fast while life doth last,
         Lest some my crown should take.
     
Hymn XXXVI, previously mentioned, presented her idea that the dignity of a woman comes because Christ was born of a woman. The photo also shows the condition of some of the pages of this copy of her book.



As I read Bridget's poetry, I kept wondering how these poems might have been sung as hymns. In her dissertation, Dr. Karen L. Shadle explained that "these strictly metered texts were to be sung to familiar melodies".(8) This is easy to understand when I consider the various hymns in our church hymnal that are sung to the same tune. If I tried, I could probably find a suitable melody for verses such as these from Hymn LXXXII:

     A contrite heart, O Lord impart,
         A broken spirit too:
     O meet us there, and hear our pray'r,
         If by thy leave we go.
     .....
     Lord give us grace to run the race,
         Which thou hast set before,
     Lord give us faith to keep us safe,
         And bring us safe ashore.


Library, King University, Bristol, Virginia

Reflections:

  • I am appreciative that I was able to have online access to Hymns and Sacred Songs at King University in Bristol, Virginia. The colonial architecture of the campus was an appropriate setting for accessing information from colonial times.
  • I'm grateful that Bridget Richardson Fletcher shared her thoughts through her poetry and that her eldest son, the Rev. Elijah Fletcher, saw fit to have his mother's poetry and hymns published in 1774.
  • It was good to stretch my research habits by looking into a variety of academic publications and journals. HathiTrust and the JSTOR Digital Library proved to provide a number of excellent resources in my research.
  • My journey to learn about Bridget started about a year ago with a single sentence mentioning her poems, a sentence I read somewhere in something about my 7th GreatGrandparents, Zachariah Richardson and Sarah Butterfield. The more I learned about Bridget, the more I wanted to share her story so that "she being death yet speaketh".


(1) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Chelmsford, Vital Record Transcripts, p 130, Chelmsford Births.
(2) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Westford, Vital Record Transcripts, various pages, Westford Births.
(3) "Ecclesiastical History", Collections, Historical and Miscellaneous and Monthly Literary Journal, vol III, 1824; accessed http://www.kouroo.info/kouroo/transclusions/18/24/1824_JohnFarmerIII.pdf.
(4) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Westford, Vital Record Transcripts, Marriages, p 169.
(5) Shipton, Clifford Kenyon. Sibley's Harvard graduates : biographical sketches of those who attended Harvard College ... with bibliographical and other notes, 1873; accessed through HathiTrust.org.
(6) Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. American Colonial Women and Their Art. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017; accessed on Google Books, September 2017.
(7) Fletcher, Bridget Richardson. Hymns and Spiritual Songs on Several Occasions. Boston, Thomas, 1774; accessed through Early American Imprints, series I, #42439.
(8) Sladle, Karen L. Singing With Spirit and Understanding: Psalmody As Holistic Practice in Late Eighteenth-Century New England. Presented to faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2010.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

It Never Hurts To Go Looking: Courthouse Treasures


Courthouse, Cobb County, Georgia;
By HowardSF at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Smartphones. Tablets. Internet. Scanners. There is so much technology that enhances our ability to research and learn more about our ancestors. It took a recent trip to a county courthouse to remind me that old courthouse records can be just as important and meaningful to our research.

During a recent stay in Georgia, I took part of day to visit the Cobb County courthouse in Marietta, Georgia. It seemed the logical place to go since, for some reason, few Cobb County marriage or probate records had been digitized and made available for online research.

Getting Ready - The day before my visit, I did several things that really helped my efforts. First I called the Switzer Library in Marietta, Georgia, and spoke with a helpful person in their Georgia (Genealogy) Room. After I explained the type of information I was seeking, she reminded me, with a friendly voice, that the old records up to 1864 "were burned, you know, during the war" but that later records were all housed in the county courthouse. She also explained that extensive indices for these records were not available at the Library. This call helped me know that the courthouse was exactly where I needed to go for my research.

The second thing I did prior to my visit was to look through my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker, and make a list of those ancestors and some of the relatives from Cobb County for whom I wanted to locate a marriage record, a will, or a probate packet. My handwritten list included:

  • type of record needed
  • name/names of person/s involved
  • probable date of the record

Getting Set - I'm glad to took time to visit the Cobb County, Georgia government's web site, because the county has several different court areas including juvenile, criminal, and probate. I set my GPS for the probate court address, marked the parking garage on Google Maps, and took a picture of my parking spot number with my phone. (I wasn't about to not use my available technology.)

Go - My first top was the Cobb County Probate Office. While there were no public indices to the old probate records, a very helpful clerk in the office offered to look up those people on my list to see if probate records for any of them were housed in that office. From my list of six, only one had any probate records, my second great grandfather, Thomas D. Perkinson. Interestingly, none of the records were indexed under his name. Thomas had died intestate, so all of the records were indexed with the name of his wife Mary and a son William Perkinson, and the records dealt with their efforts to settle Thomas' estate.

As for the other five will or probate records I was seeking, the Probate Office clerk suggested that I might check surrounding counties for records. If my ancestor had owned property in another county, the will might have been probated there instead of in Cobb, their county of residence. Otherwise, the absence of any probate records generally suggests that my other ancestors did not actually own any property or items of value. The suggestion to look in other counties was an idea I need to persue in the future.

  

After a few minutes, the Court Minutes book was brought out for my use. The probate court did not require the use of white gloves on those old pages; I was simply asked to turn the pages carefully. The book containing the records I needed was huge, about 24 in x 15 in x 3 in. It just barely fit on the desk available for public use. Turning its pages was like going back through time. All entries were hand written. You could see when a new ordinary clerk took over through the change of handwriting. And the handwriting, so beautiful, very ornate on some of the pages, page after page filled with that now rarely seen Spencerian Script.


The index listed four pages of records for this estate: Temporary Letters of Administration, two papers for Permanent Letters of Administration, and records for the Leave to Sell Thomas' property. All four records were indexed under the name of "Perkerson", but the records themselves included both the name "Perkerson" and the correct name "Perkinson".

I was able to take pictures of all of the records with my smart phone then later transcribe them using Transcript, a wonderful freeware program by Jacob Boerema. By reading the transcriptions, I was able to construct a timeline and follow the probate process for the estate of Thomas D Perkinson.

Thomas D Perkinson died on 30 Sep 1875. In the opening of the October term of court, 7 Oct 1875, his widow Mary Putnam Perkinson and his oldest son, William Howard Perkinson, applied to the court to receive Permanent Letters of Administration in order to settle Thomas' estate. The record included that statement that Thomas had "left considerable estate" which needed to be handled. A further statement estimated the value of the estate to be $15,000. The Ordinary was on vacation, so the court gave only Temporary Letters of Administration. In addition, five men were named as appraisers of the estate, among whom were an H Putnam (who might have been Mary Putnam Perkinson's brother Henry) and an L Litchfield (who might have been the Lemuel Litchfield who was married to Thomas and Mary's daughter Nancey Ann Perkinson).

In the November 1875 term of court, Mary and William Howard appeared in court and swore that "to the best of their knowledge" Thomas had died without a will. The actual Permanent Letters of Administration were granted to Mary and son William Howard on 6 Dec 1875 during December court.

By February of 1876, the appraisers had apparently studied the land Thomas owned and had reported to the court; the document to this effect was not recorded in the minutes book. What was recorded was this description of the real estate owned by Thomas. It consisted of
"numerous lots of wild or unimproved land, scattered, in different counties through the state, a great many of said lands being of very little value, and will not pay for the expense of advertising and selling in the usual way [so] the Court being notified that it will be of interest of said estate, to sell these lands at private sale, it is therefore ordered, that [the administrators be] authorized to sell and convey the wild or unimproved lands at private or public sale as their judgment may dictate and to the best interest of said estate."
Basically, Mary and William were given permission to sell the lands any way and for any amount they could get in order that Thomas' estate be settled. How I wish the final return for Thomas' estate had been recorded in these records. It would have been interesting to learn exactly where the properties had been located and who purchased them. Regardless of the final outcome for the probate process, these Court Minutes records were a real treasure to find and read.

My next courthouse stop was at the county's License Office. Today this is where people apply for a marriage license, a weapon carry permit, or papers regarding residence status. It was an interesting and busy office. Fortunately for me, the License Office had a bound index to the marriage records stored there. According to the index, the only existing marriage record I was seeking was that of my Great Grandparents Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr. and Georgia Camp.


Again, I was presented with a large volume of records and was allowed to photograph the desired record. I even smiled when I saw, once again, the signature of H. M. Hammett, the Ordinary of Cobb County, the gentleman who had signed papers relating to settling the estate of Thomas D Perkinson six years prior to this marriage. I had known of their marriage date for a number of years, but there was something very special about actually holding that record book and seeing the official record for the beginning of their married life. It was another courthouse treasure to add to my files.

Marriage Record for Albert Bell Vaughan, Jr, and Georgia Camp

Lessons Learned:

  • When looking through old, handwritten documents such as these, it is not that unusual to find various spellings of an ancestor's name. These documents were generally written by others based on oral information given to them.
  • The contact I made with the city library and my use of the county government's web site helped my visit to go very smoothly. As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance.
  • I was surprised at the emotional impact of seeing these records. It is one thing to read information digitized online or recorded in a database; it can be something a little different to actually hold an original record written at a specific point in your ancestor's life.
  • I am now starting some lists in my Genealogy Bullet Journal of other Courthouse Treasures I want to search for in the future. I need to include looking for probate records of my Cobb County ancestory in some of the neighboring Georgia counties.

Update:  You may want to look at this You Tube video from Genealogy Magazine about Courthouse Research. It provides a quick overview presented with a light touch.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjxOkXDU2cY&feature=youtu.be.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

It Never Hurts to Go Looking: Civil War Records

"Binoculars"; source Pixabay

Last week I finally updated to Family Tree Maker 2017. The process went smoothly, and I was anxious to try out some of its new features. I also started reading with renewed interest Russ Worthington's blog posts on FTM2017, especially his post on Color Coding and Civil War Soldiers. This post inspired me to follow his steps in a search for Civil War records for my Second Great Grandfathers. Here is how my search went.

Although past versions of Family Tree Maker had the ability to filter the index of persons in a tree, I had not found it to be particularly helpful. I just seemed to generate a long list of names for a specific time period. Now, with the color coding of my ancestral lines, after using the filters Russ had suggested, I still had a long list of names of possible Civil War soldiers, but I also had the color coding dots to help me quickly locate just those direct ancestors who might have military records for the Civil War.

I quickly had a short list of eight names, four for whom I had already located Civil War records from a variety of resources and four for whom I had no military information. Interestingly, two were from Georgia, likely Confederate soldiers or sympathizers; the other two were from Pennsylvania, most likely with information to be found in Union records. Because of  ancestors from just two states, I ended up searching for the two individuals from a state in each state database or source rather than searching through a variety of records for just one person at a time.

As I searched, I noted my negative research in the Notes section of the Person Workspace for that ancestor. Below are the notes of my search for my 2nd Great Grandfather William Wallace Andrews of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. My sources and results are indicated with blue. This has become my standard format for a simple research log since particapating in the Genealogy Do-Over several years ago. If I later find other Ancestry databases, I will add it to the Ancestry list in the Notes. If I come across a totally different source, I just add " // " after fold3 then add the source and name of the new database. If I find information in a record, I will change "no record" to "information found in ... record".


It turned out that none of the four direct ancestors in question had any military records, but now I had a research log to indicate that I had searched for records of their military involvement. In addition, the whole process didn't stop me from seeing other family names listed in some of the Georgia records. The surprise for me was learning more about William S Vaughan, the son of my 2nd Great Grandfather Albert Bell Vaughan, Sr. Through the same records in which I found nothing about his father Albert, I learned that William had enlisted in the Confederate Army at the age of 15.(1) At Andersonville in 1864 William contracted measles and became blind in one eye. Later William received an allowance from the state of Georgia to compensate him for his loss of sight. Apparently William was able to return home to Pike County, Georgia for he was listed in the 1864 Census for Reorganizing the Georgia Militia where it was noted that he had an exemption (to any further service) due to his eyes.(2) No more military service for William.

This search period gave me the opportunity to see how the color coding and filters in Family Tree Maker 2017 can help me focus on a specific group of individuals in my research. It also let me see that the Notes field of the Person Workspace in FTM2017 remains a useful place to keep an individual's research log. Finally, using the same geographical databases to search for different people provided to be an efficient strategy, one I'll use again in future research.

Thanks to Russ Worthington's post, I was able to give FTM2017 a good work out and to learn some new information. After all, it never hurts to be looking for new strategies or techniques in researching our ancestors and their families.

1. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations From the State of Georgia, packet for William S Vaughan, accessed www.fold3.com.
2. Cornell, Nancy J. 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia; accessed Ancestry.com.