Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Tale of the Timeline : Sarah Good of the Salem Witch Trials




Salem Witch Trial Engraving, unknown artist;
source: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes it is rather exciting to discover that an ancestor or relative had a brush with history. Other times, it can cause sadness, discontent, and questioning. The latter has been the case for me as I have learned more about the life and death of my 8th Great Aunt, Sarah Solart, for she was one of those accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

Several months ago I posted about what I had learned about her father John Solart and the financial problems caused by his death. Even ten years after John Solart's death, his surviving children had not received any money from his estate. The property and money all appeared to remain in the hands of Ezekiel Woodward whom John's wife Elizabeth had married shortly after John's death. While her other sisters did not seem to have fallen onto hard times, this was not the case for Sarah.

The basic facts of Sarah Solart's story are told in a variety of sources ranging from Wikipedia to scholarly books and journals. Each source seemed to give very similar information. Once again, putting facts found from a variety of sources into a timeline helped to present a clearer picture of what happened to Sarah and her role in the Salem Witch Trials.

For the time period, Sarah married somewhat late in life, not marrying for the first time until she was about 28. Her husband was Daniel Poole, a young man considered to be a poor laborer.(1) Poole apparently died soon after their marriage, leaving Sarah to assume his debts. Several years later, Sarah married for the second time, this time to laborer William Good of Salem Village.(1) Sarah and William then had two daughters, Dorcus (sometimes referred to as Dorothy) Good and Mercy Good.

Sarah and William never seemed to have the financial success enjoyed by Sarah's father. Instead, they began to be regarded as annoying beggars. Books make reference to William sending Sarah out to beg, carrying baby Dorcus, as she visited neighbors seeking food or money. Marylynn Roach describes Sarah was "a woman at the lower end of the social scale ... pipe in her mouth, an infant in her arms and a four-year-old girl in tow ... reduced to begging for her children's sake."(2) As neighbors grew tired of the Good family and their begging, Sarah became what Emerson Baker described as a "poor, disaffected women, known for her sharp tongue and outbursts hurled even at those who offered to help her".(3) And so, the downward path for Sarah continued.

By February, 1692, the rumblings which soon erupted into the Salem Witch Trials were gathering and Sarah, according to Emerson Baker, was the "stereotypical view of a witch".(3) The records concerning all aspects of Sarah's trial are extensive. These include the various complaints against her, her arrest, examination, imprisonment, evidence entered against her, the grand jury indictment, her jury trial, her conviction and execution and even restitution for William Good.(4) Below is a timeline of Sarah's last five months as documented by A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials.(4)

29 Feb 1692warrant for Sarah's arrest
1 Mar 1692examination of Sarah, William Good said she was "an enemy to all good"
5 Mar 1692William Good's testimony about a mark on Sarah's shoulder
5 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Ipswich to Salem
7 Mar 1692Sarah transferred from Salem to Boston
23 Mar 1692warrant for arrest of daughter Dorothy Good
24 Mar 1692examination of Dorothy Good
4 Apr 1692Dorothy Good accused of witchcraft
12 Apr 1692Dorothy Good sent to Boston
23 May 1692more testimony against Sarah
25 May 1692warrant to imprison Sarah
2 Jun 1692physical exam ordered for Sarah and others
28 Jun 1692Grand jury considered the case of Sarah Good
      29 Jun 1692Sarah arraigned on indictments for witchcraft
12 Jul 1692judge signed death warrant against Sarah
19 Jul 1692Sarah's death by hanging
unknown dateSarah's daughter Mercy died while in prison with Sarah

A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials also sheds some light on the life of young Dorcus/Dorothy Good. Dorothy, at age five, was the youngest person accused on witchcraft during the trials, but she was finally released in December of 1692 on a recognition bond posted by Samuel Ray. I have not been able to establish a relationship between Ray and young Dorcus. Ray was not married to any of Sarah Solart's sisters, and the recognition bond does not provide any information as to why Ray was involved in that action. Admittedly, it seems puzzling that her Dorcus/Dorothy's father, William Good, did not post that bond. Perhaps he was too impoverished to assume that obligation for his only known remaining child.

Little more is known about Dorcus/Dorothy Good or her father following Sarah's execution except for one legal document that William Good signed in 1710. At that time the Massachusetts legislature had passed the Reversal of Attainder which nullified the trial judgments against 22 of the convicted witches, one of whom was Sarah Good.(5) In response to the legislative action, William Good filed a petition for restitution on 13 Sep 1710.(6) Below is a transcription of William Good's petition.
To The Honourable Committee
The humble representation of Will'm Good of the Damage sustained by him in the year 1692, by reason of the sufferings of his family upon the account of supposed Witchcraft
1 My wife Sarah Good was In prison about four months & then Executed.
2 a sucking child dyed in prison before the Mothers Execution.
3 a child of 4 or 5 years old was in prison 7 or 8 months and being chain'd in the dungeon was so hardly used and terrifyed that she hath ever since been very chargeable haveing little or no reason to govern herself.--And I leave it unto the Honourable Court to Judge what damage I have sustained by such a destruction of my poor family
And so rest, Your Honours humble servant William Good
Salem. Sept 13, 1710
Further records indicate that 30 pounds was proposed to be given to William Good. These records are also the last I was able to find concerning either William Good or his daughter Dorcas/Dorothy.

Lessons Learned

  • So, why celebrate the story of Sarah Solart Good, one of the first accused of the Salem witches? For starters, she was a relative. All of us have questionable individuals, those we don't particularly care for or agree with within our families. Sarah and her story just happens to be more public and well documented in a number of sources. 
  • Her story reminds me that the lives of our ancestors and relatives are shaped and influenced by the time period in which they live as well as the geographical area of their home. Had Sarah exhibited her behavior in another time or place, she might well have been regarded simply as being a strange individual, one who might have been labeled "insane" on a 19th century census record. Living in another time or place, the actions of William Good might not have been seen as the norm.
  • I was amazed at the quantity of digitized records online relating to the Salem Witch Trials. Without them, learning more about Sarah would have relied primarily upon resources available through area libraries. As an aside, I appreciate the way none of the staff at my local library seemed concerned when I would check out an armload of books about the Salem Witch Trials each visit over several months this past winter.
  • The story of the Salem trials may not be over. As I was working on this post, I came across two new bits of information relating to the trials in Salem. Recently an original deposition from the Salem Witch Trials was sold by Christie's for $137,000.(7) In this document from August of 1692, Mary Daniel was accusing Margaret Scott of sorcery. References to this accusation are available on several online sources, but until Christie's included a photo of the document in the sale information, reading the original text online was not possible because the document was owned by a private collector. Perhaps other primary source documents will surface in the future. In addition, an interesting post by AncestralFindings reported that "ground penetrating sonar revealed no bodies at the presumed gallows site" on Proctor’s Ledge.(8) This raises an interesting question. What happened to the bodies of those executed? Where they removed in secret by family members? Were they taken to an as yet unknown site? Were they buried on family owned property? New information continues to lead to more questions.
  • Because of researching Sarah Solart's life, the Salem Witch Trials are more to me than the old televised episode of You Were There: the Salem Witch Trials or a production of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. There is now a personal connection. And with it, personal questions as to how we regard those who are different from us, those with mental health issues, those on the fringes of society as well as concerns that we do not let mass hysteria contribute to future dark periods in our history.

(1) Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Co, 1985.
(2) Roach, Marilynn K. Six Women of Salem: the untold story of the accused and their accusers in the Salem Witch Trials. Boston: DaCapo Press, c2013.
(3) Baker, Emerson W. A Storm of Witchcraft: the Salem trials and the American experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, c2015.
(4) "People Accused of Witchcraft in 1692", A Guide to the On-Line Primary Resources of the Salem Witch Trials. accessed http://www.17thc.us/primarysources.
(5) Roach, Marilynn K. The Salem Witch Trials: a day-to-day chronicle of a community under siege. Taylor Trade Publications, 2004.
(6) "Reversal of Attainder and Restitution Files 1710-1750", Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. http://salem.lib.virginia.edu.
(7) Martinez, Alanna. "Christie's Sells Rare Deposition From Salem Witch Trials for $137K", www.observer.com, posted 15 Jun 2017.
(8) "Site of Salem Witch Trial Hangings Discovered: Why It's Important to Genealogists", www.AncestralFindings.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 5


"Winner" from pixabay
Winner from pixabay

Sometimes you just end up amazed at what a positive change something has caused. That's the way I feel about my genealogy bullet journal after five months. And here are three reasons why.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Virtually all of my genealogy research is done solo. By myself. At my own pace. When I decide to do it. The simple act of writing down one or two weekly genealogy to-dos has helped me be more accountable to myself. It is one thing to think I might try to look for a new record, check out the validity of a shaking leaf, or search for a death date. I've found that writing it on a weekly to-do list has made me much more likely to do it and to do it in a timely manner. Amidst travel plans, family visits, and life, I have that visual reminder of what I am trying to do. It is written right there in my bullet journal.

PLANNING: On page three of my bullet journal is a list of five genealogy related goals I hope to accomplish in 2017. I wrote about having goals in my Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1 post. Two of them had been ideas that I just hadn't gotten around to for several years. Once again, seeing something written in my bullet journal has reminded me that this really is something I feel is important to do.

One of my 2017 goals was to study some documents housed at the Calvin M. McClung Collection of the Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was especially interested in looking at the  Parham Papers, a collection of documents, records, and notes by genealogist Will E Parham that documented many families who had been part of East Tennessee's history. I particularly wanted to view those papers related to my husband's Bogle family ancestors. In my bullet journal I had already recorded information about the collection as well as the library's address and hours.

In April we were near the Knoxville area so I let this become my time to finally see the Bogle folder of the Parham Papers. Seeing available time was something I had discovered and mentioned in a previous Bullet Journal post and now was the time to see those Bogle papers. It was a worthwhile two hour visit. I saw much that confirmed what I had already learned on my own. I was able to have photocopies made of new information. I even enjoyed reading Mr. Parham's letters to genealogy clients quoting rates for his services, even requesting approval of a $2-$2.50 cost for a hotel room in Nashville if the client wanted him to conduct additional research at the state capital in the 1930s. Had I not listed a visit to the McClung Collection in my 2017 goals, I would probably still be planning to do it someday, later, eventually, one of these days.



PROGRESS: Another goal for 2017 was to finally compile a small scrapbook of the stories associated with some family heirlooms. My bullet journal has proven to be a good place to record my progress on this project. I started with a burst of activity back in February, taking a lot of photos and looking over previous blog posts to see what I wanted to include in the scrapbook. I actually started putting the scrapbook together during one of those periods when I needed a break from research. Before long I had completed 20 pages in my Family Treasures And Tales scrapbook. This much was completed in time to share with our children and grandchildren during recent visits.

The scrapbook is still a work in progress. Notes in my bullet journal help me keep up with these additional things that I want to include in the scrapbook. Now I when see an item related to family history, perhaps a quilt on a bed or a 100-year old wooden planer sitting on a bookcase shelf and realize that its story needs to be included in the scrapbook, I make a note in my journal. My mother's collection of souvenir spoons hangs on the wall in my dining room, and my notes remind me that I need to polish those spoons, take pictures, and write a short story about some of them.



So, for me, my Genealogy Bullet Journal continues to have a special role in my genealogy research. It has made a difference to be more accountable to myself and to actually carry out plans that had previously just been rolling around in my thoughts. My journal isn't fancy or elaborately decorated. It is minimal in design, but it has helped to encourage me and has enabled me to be a better researcher and family historian. That makes my Genealogy Bullet Journal a winner for me.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amazing What You Find When You Do a Little Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning in the Vondelpark; source Wikimedia Commons.


Like so many, I have been anxiously awaiting the upcoming release of Family Tree Maker 2017. Having been a Beta tester for several library software products and revisions, I know that it can take time for all aspects of new or revised software to work consistently and in the intended manner so I don't mind waiting until FTM 2017 is 100% (or at least 99%) ready to go before my copy is ready to download.

I agree with Russ Worthington that the waiting period is a great time to do some neglected database clean-up. His post on 14 April 2017 presented a number of areas we can look into and steps we could each do to improve the quality of our database before we tried to sync it with an Ancestry tree. If you use Family Tree Maker, his post is definitely worth reading. A clean-up like Russ suggests is what I've been doing the last two weeks, and each day I am amazed at what I find in my personal clean-up.

My first round of clean-up involved looked at FTM sources that were not attached to anyone in my FTM tree. Probably 95% were for a source which, upon closer reading, turned out to not have information related to any one in my tree. These had come about because I have gotten into the habit of creating a new source when I find a record or other information that seemed, at first glance, to belong to someone in my family tree. Then, as I read the entire record or document, it was clear that the record involved someone who was not connected to my tree. Some of these sources remained like dead leaves on my tree as I tried to see if the information applied to someone else in the family; some remained because I just forgot to delete the source at the time. Now, after reading a lot of source records and following the web link in the citation, I was able to delete all that didn't belong in my tree. The great part was finding those few sources that did belong but somehow I had not actually connected them to the specific person. Who knows why, the phone rang, time to cook dinner, my phone buzzed that it was time to leave for an appointment. But now, all those previously unattached sources are either attached to someone or else have been deleted. I also have a new resolve to study a document more thoroughly before I consider it as a source for my tree, saving creating a source citation for when I know the source actually provides information about someone in my family tree.

Next I turned to looking at people in my database who had no source attached to them. Again, I was chagrined to realize that I had about 40 names attached to my family tree with no supporting documentation. Just a name, and that was all.

For example, in trying to find documentation (beyond personal knowledge) for the husband of a second cousin, Alice Northcutt Dean Felton. I stumbled upon a treasure trove of family information in Alice's obituary.(1) I had documentation of her death through an e-mail I had received, but this obituary found online from a small, local newspaper provided information about her husband, children, and something I had never heard before, that Alice had polio as a child. This one fact added another dimension to her rich, full, active life.

Another just-a-name-cousin became more real to me just be googling his name. I found information about his college years at Davidson College, an address for him from the 1960s through an alumni directory, and a record of his marriage to the previously named Joan xxx (my method for recording an unknown part of a name). The college information supported what I already knew about this first cousin once removed and where he had lived for many years, but now I had something besides a family directory from the 1970s that I had never bothered to cite as a source for him.

Other names without a source turned out to be very removed from my family tree. That included people people like George Glasscock, the brother-in-law of an 8th Great Uncle, and living in the 1600s. Looking at the information about my 8th Great Uncle, I could not find any connection to George (beyond that of being the brother of his wife), so George was among the names I decided to just delete from my family tree.

Then there are people like William Good, the husband of Sarah Solart (about whom I will be posting later). All I can find are the numerous statements in books that refer to William as the husband of Sarah, nothing more. I had early on added him as her spouse but never sourced it, hoping to easily find a record of their marriage. After several months, I staill have found nothing more that William Good's name, but at least I realized that I needed to document that it was recording in several books. After all his life was a large part of Sarah Solart's story.

The real thrill came as I tried to find a source for Weldon Perkinson, a 4 Great Uncle, the son of my 4 Great Grandfather David Perkinson. I had found sources to verify that David had a son William and a daughter Phoebe/Phebe, just no source to connect Weldon beyond having seen his name written somewhere, some time. There were a number of online trees that listed Weldon as the son of David, few with birth or death dates only Union County, South Carolina as his place of death, I knew I had to approach this from a different angle. David Perkinson's death was listed in many online trees as occurring about 1807 in Union County, South Carolina, so I spent an hour looking at unindexed probate records for Union County on FamilySearch.(2) Finally I find a link between David and Weldon. David had died intestate, so his son William was appointed by the Union County court as administrator of his father's estate on 17 Aug 1807. Pages later in the packet, the final payments from the estate were made to the Martha Perkinson (presumably a daughter), Weldon (presumably a son), Phoebe Perkinson Bevis, Polly Perkinson Dickens (presumably a daughter) and Elizabeth Perkinson (presumably a daughter), the amounts to each person being essentially the same amount as is frequently the case with children in an estate. This certainly started chipping away at a brick wall.

Lessons learned: All in all, my Spring cleaning has kept me busy while I wait for the actual release of Family Tree Maker 2017. During this time, I was able to find sources for several relatives, possibly poke a few holes in a Perkinson brick wall, and locate helpful information using online obituary and college sites. Plus I removed a few people about whom I found nothing. It also became clear that I need to tweek exactly when I create a source and attack it to an individual. Maybe I need to do Spring cleaning a little more frequently than every four or five years.

(1) "FELTON, Alice Dean", Tribune Ledger News, Canton, GA, 24 Jan, 2017; http://www.tribuneledgernews.com.
(2) South Carolina, Probate Records and Loose Papers, 1732-1964, Union, Probate Court, Probate records 1777-1961, Box 5, package 24, estate of David Parkinson/Perkinson; accessed www.familysearch.org.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of William Brooks Willingham, Walton County, Georgia

"Power of Words" b y Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia.org

Each will or probate record of an ancestor who owned slaved provides the opportunity to learn the names of enslaved individuals. This was definitely true when examining the records for William Brooks Willingham who died in 1838 in Walton County, Georgia.


William's will is not presented in the online records, but the probate records for his estate provide a great deal of information. The inventory of his estate recorded in September of 1838 listed 12 slaves.(1) The inventory was especially informative as it provided the name, sex, and age of each of Willingham's slaves. Records from the 1839 sale of these slaves provides information as to where they moved as the estate was settled.(2) The information provided in these two lists has been combined and is recorded below. These individuals were each listed in the 1838 estate inventory. There was one girl, however, a girl named Lucretia, aged 15 months, who was listed in the estate inventory but whose name did not appear in the 1839 sale. One possible reason might be that she was the unnamed one-year-old child who went to Mary Willingham. The ages given are those recorded in the 1839 sale.


  • Charles, a man age 45, to John T Pool
  • Mary, a woman age 35 and child age 6 months [not listed in the estate inventory], to Wm Lacky
  • Eliza, a girl age 4, to Wm Lacky
  • Henry, a boy age 3, to Charles Huff
  • Sarah, a woman age 36 and child 1 year of age, to Mary Willingham [wife of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Rose, a woman age 19 and child 2 months of age, to R S Willingham [son of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Allen, a boy age 2, to R S Willingham
  • Sanday, a girl age 15, to Jessee Moon [brother-in-law of William Brooks Willingham]
  • Ebeline, a girl age 3, to Jessee Moon
  • Sally, a girl age 5, to Louis S Moon, Jr
  • Sam, a boy sold by the Sheriff to Jessee Moon in October 1838

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

(1) Georgia, Will and Probate Records, 1742-1992, Walton County, Estate Papers, 1820-1915, image 1194 of 1295, estate of William Brooks Willingham; accessed on www.ancestry.com.
(2) Ibid, image 1207 of 1295; accessed on www.ancestry.com

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Tale of the Timeline: the Solarts of Massachusetts


The Solomon Kimball House, Wenham, Massachusetts
By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, it takes something as simple as a timeline to make sense of the stuff going on in a family. That was certainly the case when I started researching the family of my 8th Great Grandfather, John Solart of Massachusetts. I kept finding tidbits over several months from various sources concerning various family members. When I put events in order chronologically, several stories just seemed to pop out.

The first story concerned John Solart, Sr, my 8th GGfather, one of the early settlers of Wenham, Massachusetts. The earliest mention I've found concerning John, Sr. was in an interesting chapter on the historical taverns located in Wenham in Jack Hauck's book, Treasures of Wenham History.(1) John, Sr, was appointed by the General Court as "Keeper of the Tavern" in 1670, and later that year, John built another tavern, a building that still stands as a private residence on Main Street in Wenham.

John, Sr, was considered, by many sources, to be a wealthy man, implying that he was most likely an astute business man. It was surprising, however, to learn that John, Sr, died intestate, leaving no will. The story that appears over and over is that John committed suicide on 24 May 1672. Essex County Court records presented the deposition of two of his servants or employees who told of John, Sr, telling them several months before his death of his final wishes. John told the two men that he was "being often troubled with faynting Fits" and felt he "haue not long to live".(2)

In September, 1672, John's widow Elizabeth presented John's verbal will to the Essex County Court. At this September hearing, the two servants stated that John, Sr, said that his entire estate was to go to his wife Elizabeth "duering the time of her widowhood" and to be used for raising their children. Were Elizabeth to remarry, she was to receive one third of John, Sr's estate, the other two thirds to be divided among his children. Their deposition agreed with the customary division of property during that time. The estate inventory valued John, Sr's estate at 500 pounds. The record also listed the names of the seven children who were to receive a share of their father's estate when they came of age: John (Jr), Sarah, Hanah, Martha, Joseph, Abigaill (my 7th Great Grandmother), and Bethia.

Just three months later the widow Solart married Ezekiel Woodward on 20 Dec 1672.(3) According to the terms of John Solart, Sr's will, Elizabeth would not receive a portion of the estate, only money for the raising of the seven named in the court records.

Jump ahead a few years and the family composition has changed. Son John, Jr, had died and his will was proved on 28 Mar 1676.(4) Elizabeth Solart Woodward died in December of 1678.(5) The money from John, Sr's estate, however, still had not been divided among John's six children and John Jr's wife.

Less than a year after Elizabeth Solart Woodward's death, her son Joseph died. The Essex County Court in April of 1679 appointed an executor for Joseph's estate and allowed Elizabeth's daughters Abigaill and Bethia to select whom they wanted to be their legal guardians. Interestingly, none of these legal responsibilities were handed over to Ezekiel Woodward.(6) The estate money apparently had continued to be kept or used by Ezekiel Woodward.

It took further lawsuits filed by the surviving six children to attempt to get the share of their father's estate due to them. In September of 1682, all six of the surviving children, plus the husband of a deceased daughter Mary Solart Edwards, were still petitioning the Essex County Court to let one of them be named administrator of their father's estate.(7) The petition stated that Ezekiell Woodward had taken over the estate and had not paid the legacies.

By 1682, ten years after his death, the estate of John Solart, Sr, still had not been settled according to his desires. His widow had died, both of his sons were deceased, and all of his surviving daughters were now of age to receive their legacies. And, thus far, I have not come across any record that the daughters ever received the money due them by Ezekiell Woodward. For some of them, having additional money could have made a significant difference in their lives. For Sarah Solart, at least, her life might have made for a very different story.

Lessons Learned:
  • Research such as this would be much more difficult without the digitized court and church records available online, records that have survived from our country's early days.
  • When I find probate records like that for John, Sr, listing the full inventory and value of his estate as well as the names of all his family members, I remember once again just how much we can learn from wills and probate records.
  • It is hard not to judge Ezekiell Woodward by today's standards, but the early courts did not appear to punish him or penalize him for the manner in which he seemed to maintain control of the Solart family's money. Life then as well as now is not an drama that is neatly solved in a 42 minute television program. I need to remind myself to simply look at the facts as they are presented in the time in which they occurred and not as similar events might be dealt with in the twentieth-first century.

(1) Hauk, Jack E. "A History of Wenham Taverns From 1643 to 2008". Treasures of Wenham History. Wenham, Mass, self-published, 2013; accessed http://www.hwlibrary/org
(2) Dow, George. The probate records of Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1916-1920; accessed on www.hathitrust.org.
(3) Ancestry.com. Massachusettes Town and Vital Records 1620-1988, Wenham Vital Records Transcripts, Marriages; accessed on www.ancestry.com.
(4) Ancestry.com, Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991, Essex Probate Records, 1672-1691, estate of John Solart, Jr.; accessed on Ancestry.com.
(5) Ancestry.com. Massachusettes Town and Vital Records 1620-1988, Wenham Vital Records Transcripts, Deaths; accessed on www.ancestry.com
(6) Dow, George. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1911; accessed on www.ancestry.com
(7) Historical Collections of the Essex Institute. Salem, Mass: Essex Institute, 1861; accessed on www.books.google.com




Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Step by Step, Bit by Bit, Learning More About Hannah Larcom

"Step By Step" MPN photos

Hannah Larcom, my 6th Great Grandmother, wasn't exactly a brick wall, but she has been one lady for whom each answer tended to bring more questions.

It all started several months ago when I found the marriage record for Hannah Larcom and my 6th Great Grandfather Stephen Fairfield.(1)  The record was simple to find on a page of marriage records from Wenham, Massachusetts. There were even two other Fairfield relatives whose marriages were recorded on the same page. But who were Hannah's parents? Had she always lived in Wenham? And when was she born? Already the answer of her marriage date brought new information to seek.

There are a number of online family trees that listed Hannah as being the daughter of Mordecai Larcom so I tried to verify this information as the online trees all seemed to cite other online trees as the source. Sure enough, in the same collection of Wenham, Massachusetts records, I found the birth of a Hannah Larcom, daughter of Mordecai and his wife Abigall, born in Wenham 16 July 1704.(2) Now I knew the possible parents, birthplace, and birth date for Hannah.

It wasn't long before I stumbled over a big rock. While looking through that same record collection for some Fairfield information, I came across the unexpected. A death record for Hannah Larcom. Hannah, the daughter of Mordecai and Abigall, had died in October of 1704, at the age of just three months.(3) The fact meant that either two different people were the parents of Hannah Larcom or, as was frequently the case, Mordecai and Abigall later had a second daughter whom they also named Hannah. One more answer, more questions.

Trying to find a record of the birth of another Hannah Larcom still has me stumped. I have searched the available birth and baptismal records available online for the town of Wenham, Massachusetts, as well as those of the neighboring towns of Beverly and Ipswich, without having any success. The only mention thus far that I've found for a later birth date for a Hannah Larcom was in "Genealogy of the Larcom Family" published in a 1922 issue of the Essex Historical Collection journals.(4) This lengthy two-part article lists a Hannah Larcom, daughter of Mordecai Larcom, who was baptized in 1711 and [who became the] wife of Stephen Fairfield.

A further link between Hannah Larcom and her parents Mordecai and Abigail was found in the probate records of Mordecai Larcom's estate. Mordecai Larcom had died intestate in 1712, but his estate, however, was not probated until after the death of his wife Abigall in 1741.(5) Hannah's husband, Stephen Fairfield, appeared as a witness on a number of documents related to the probate proceedings, and a division of the estate was made to Stephen Fairfield "in right of his wife Hannah".(6)

Once again, Birth, Marriage, and Death/Probate records provided answers to some of the questions about Hannah. Looking for that elusive original birth or baptismal record from 1711 for Hannah will stay on my To-Do List for a while. For now I'll have to be satisfied with possible baptismal information and the probate records to connect Hannah to Mordecai Larcom and Abigail Solart as her parents. Several dots that could finally be connected to made a line on my family tree.

Later, when I started searching for information about Hannah's Solart grandparents, I found myself pulled in an unexpected direction. Talk about examining a Bright Shiny Object! I found not just more questions but a surprising brush with history. Definitly the subject for a future post. Or two.

(1) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Wenham Births, Marriages and Death, 670 of 696 images.
(2) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Wenham Vital Record Transcripts, p 57.
(3) Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988. Database and Images, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 2011); citing Wenham Vital Record Transcripts, p 210.
(4) Abbott, William F. "Genealogy of the Larcom Family", Essex Institute Historical Collectionm vol, LVIII, 1922; accessed on Google Books.
(5) "Essex, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1648-1840", Ancestry.com; citing Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. Essex County, Massachusetts Probate Index, 1638-1840. Salem, MA,  probate of estate of Mordecai Larcom, 2 Jun 1741; 
(6) Massachusetts, Essex, Probate File Papers, 1638-1881, Essex Cases 16000-17999, #16401 Mordeca Larcom; accessed AmericanAncestors.org

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Month 2

Public Domain Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Some say that doing something daily for 30 days is enough time and opportunity to establish a habit. After using my Genealogy Bullet Journal for the month of January, I can state that I have established a new habit. A habit that enhances the way I research. A habit I feel will stay with me into the future.

Last month I posted about starting my Genealogy Bullet Journal. Frankly I wasn't sure exactly how or even why I would use it, but I felt bullet journaling was a trend worth investigating. Here are some of the things I tried and learned through January's 31 days.
  • I experimented with several different weekly spreads, trying to find one that suited me. After all starting with a blank journal gives you the opportunity to try different things, different looks, add your touch. I've ended up settling on the basic spread shown in my first post. I found that amount and organization of space has been enough for what I wanted to note and record for any given day.

  • Yes, it is SO tempting to add color, stamps, stickers, you name it to a bullet journal. I confess, I picked up a set of planner stamps on sale at my local craft store. 
    • I like putting an ! or * or thumbs up to indicate success. They are a good balance for the frowny faces :( I draw when I've spent an afternoon or two looking, or searching, or reading and found nothing that advances my research, all that negative research that is a real part of genealogy. I still enjoy looking at photos of all those beautifully designed bujos (bullet journals) on Instagram and Pinterest, but my ministampers will probably be the extent of my bujo creativity. 
    • The list stamp has proven to be helpful. Just stamp it on a sticky note, list up to six places I plan to look for information about that person or event, and I'm ready to go. All research questions won't focus on using the same sources. My check list stamp encourages me to consider the wide variety of possible sources to use, some online, some at a library or in a book, something in my files that might warrant a closer look. 
  • Every once in a while, we stumble upon something that is some simple, yet so great. That is the way I feel about my 3F idea - First File Fifteen minutes. Having those seven task boxes across a page of my weekly spread kept me going. Besides seeing my document pile shrink, there was also that simple little kid joy in seeing all seven boxes marked as tasks completed for the week. By the end of January, I had actually looked at, read over, and filed about 3 inches of documents in my file basket, all relating to my Perkinson family tree. This filing time was a daily warm up to more serious research. Now, for February, I'm starting to dig through the stuff relating to my husband's Nelson family tree. And later, once that pile is cleared, I'll spend time looking through my files to see what needs to be placed elsewhere, clear out duplicates, determine new questions for which to seek an answer. Filing, like laundry, will be an ongoing task!
  • I am learning to use and rely on the Collections section of my bujo. First, as I filed, if I had a question or noticed something needing further research, I finally had a place to record it. On days when I wasn't sure exactly as to what I wanted or needed to research, I could turn to my Research Questions in the Collections section, choose a question I had previously recorded and I was good to go for several days.
    • Here is just one example. I had printed out a family group sheet on the William Huey Family that I had found on FamilySearch.org. It listed names, dates, children, their spouses for my 4th Great Grandfather's family but NO sources. My first research question was to try to verify the information on this printout along with a note as to the folder and item number where the printout was filed. I'm still working on this project, but I'm also finding a few sources for some of the information on the printout.
    • Learning more about the Hueys has lead me to add another collection section, one I'm calling my Treasure Chest. After spending parts of a week browsing through the Pennsylvania Archives on Ancestry.com, looking for anything about the Hueys, I added a note describing this resource in my Treasure Chest. I wrote "Pennsylvania" in large letters, then a paragraph to describe the types of information I found there - things like marriage records, rosters of militia, immigration information complete with a physical description of the immigrant and his/her family background. Even though I found only a few Huey facts, I know I want to remember this resources in the future when researching ancestors in 1650-1800 Pennsylvania, even if it is months from now that I jump back into some Pennsylvania area research.
  • Having the big picture of my yearly spread is helping me better plan for blog posts and research times. Now that we have some family trips, looking after grandchildren, and a few get-togethers listed, I can see times in which to plan or add on some research trips. 
  • My bujo isn't replacing my detailed research log. Instead it supplements my research. I add a few notes in my daily block noting the family, area, topic, or source I researched. Looking back over my diary entries for the month of January, I get a feel for what I did and can gain ideas as to other approaches or resources to use. I can also see that I've spent enough time, for now, on looking for the Hueys in early 1700s. It is about time to move on to another question. My actual research log will continue to be the private notes I add for an individual in Family Tree Maker.
Meanwhile, I've also started a personal bullet journal. It too has the 3F filing blocks which I'm using to get our household files in order and to look for any paperwork needed for filing our taxes for the year. I've also added daily check boxes for my walking / exercising. On the daily spread, there are notes about progress on some of those household projects we want need to address in 2017. There is also room for journaling my reflections on things I read or the Bible study in which I am involved. The yearly and monthly calendars contain lists of our family activities and various volunteer commitments. Another bujo as individual as its writer.

It looks like I'm hooked on bullet journaling. Where is my heart stamp when I need it?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leaving 2016 Behind, Moving on in 2017


 Dismiss 
2016-17 by Philip Barrington, source: Open Clip Art


It's that time of year. Time to look back and see how many additional ancestors I have been able to identify sufficiently to feel confident in adding them to my family tree. That is something I had done each January for the past three years after reading Randy Seaver's blog post and watching Crista Cowan's YouTube video.

My method has stayed the same and has been the subject of a previous blog post.  As always, I continue to be grateful that I can simply generate an Ahnentafel Report of my direct ancestors by using my genealogy software, Family Tree Maker. Here is what my report for 2016 looked like.


DateGenerationRelationship# in generation# identified% identified2016 increase
1/6/20171Self11100%
2Parents22100%
3Grandparents44100%
4Great Grandparents88100%
52 Great Grandparents1616100%
63 Great Grandparents323197%
74 Great Grandparents645891%2
85 Great Grandparents1286148%4
96 Great Grandparents2563815%?
107 Great Grandparents512398%10
118 Great Grandparents1024364%36
129 Great Grandparents2048251%25
1310 GreatGrandparents40961212
1411 GreatGrandparents819288
1512 GreatGrandparents16,38488
1613 GreatGrandparents32,76822
1714 GreatGrandparents65,53622
Totals
35147% *109
* Percentage of those identified in Generations 1-10

I realize that some of the totals in my table may seem strange. For starters I have no increase in known ancestors for Generation 9 because I obviously had a typo in my previous year's report. It is possible to remove or change a relationship or two based on new research, but I know that I certainly did not lose almost 30 ancestors in that one generation during the year! I would probably still be shaking my head in bewilderment if that had actually happened.

In the report for 2016, I also stopped trying to determine the percentage of ancestors identified after Generation 12. The percentages were just too small to have any significance. Instead, I will continue to just look at the increase in numbers over the previous year's report.

Similarly, I decided to use those ancestors in Generations 2-10 as my basis for determining the percentage of ancestors I have now identified. Identifying ancestors in Generations 11-17 or beyond is just a unexpected bonus in my research.

But it isn't just a numbers game. The report prompts me to try to analyze where I found information, strategies that worked, and questions that still linger.

By using the Will and Probate Records available through Ancestry.com as well as browsing similar records on FamilySearch.org, I was able to identify with some degree of confidence a number of ancestors in generations 11-17. By studying names of beneficiaries listed in a will and comparing them with known children, siblings, and/or spouses, I succeeded in pushing my family tree back additional generations through information found through these will and probate records.

Looking back, I knew that during this year a lot of my personal research had focused on ancestors who had lived in New England. Bless the clergy and town clerks of those areas who had maintained such detailed records of births, marriages, and deaths from the mid-1650s and forward. These records, combined with will and probate records, kept me dancing around. Sometimes going one step back, then a few steps sideways, backwards and forward a lot, but eventually these records helped me identify more of my Massachusetts ancestors.

For me there is real value in doing this report each year. It isn't just about the total number of ancestors I have identified, although it is nice to document. It is more about seeing where and how I was able to learn about these new people in my family tree. And yes, it continues to bother me that I still cannot find the name of the wife of my 3 Great Grandfather William Vaughan. But it also convinces me that there are additional resources I haven't used, strategies I haven't tried, more hints to prove - or disprove. All part of trying to learn more about my ancestors.

Lessons Learned in 2016
  • I spent enough time studying wills and probate records that I actually got where I could understand the terminology and learned more about how our the legal system functioned in earlier times. These records also spoke volumes as to the nature of slavery as well the legal status of  women in the past. This prompted me to write several posts about the slave records I found in wills, posts that are now linked with the Slave Name Roll Project developed by Schalene Dagutis.
  • Ancestry's indexed Will and Probate Records were easy to use, but I frequently found additional information by browsing the unindexed will and probate records on FamilySearch.org. Browsing page by page, section by section continues to provide fruitful information.
  • There have to be some new strategies for learning about women in the 1800s. I plan to use some techniques suggested by Jennifer Dondero of The Occasional Genealogist. Finding the elusive Mrs. William Vaughan is a research goal for 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Genealogy Bullet Journal, Day 1



Between Pinterest, Instagram, and Feedly, most of us have seen the explosion of people using bullet journals. Some track fitness. Some focus on gratitude, religious, or inspirational topics. Some are a type of To-Do List. And some focus on genealogy.

Through the month of December my husband and I used an old notebook to help us track all we wanted to accomplish during the time available between traveling to various family gatherings. We actually did everything on our lists and even had time to relax. That was enough to convince me to give bullet journaling a serious try in the new year.

What started my decision to use it for genealogy was watching Dear Myrtl's Google Hangout on What's Bullet Journaling? Her guest Tami Mize showed how her bullet journal was organized and suggested a variety of ways to use one. Then, Dear Myrtle had a series of blog posts detailing how she was setting up her bullet journal. Dear Myrtle even included a link to  a wonderful, easy to follow video by Ryder Carroll, the "father of bullet journaling". I was hooked. And yes, I even went so far as to set up a Pinterest board on Bullet Journal Basics as I was starting to get into it.

So here is where I am after Day 1.
  • I'm using a simple spiral journal given to me about 10 years ago by a former student. It had been sitting on my genealogy bookshelf, just waiting for the right moment to come along. Last week I started getting everything ready so I could begin using it January 1. But a great aspect of bullet journaling is that you don't have to wait for a new year to begin; you can start anytime you want to and for any reason.
  • As Ryder Carroll suggests, one of the first things I did in my bullet journal was to number the pages, all 160 of them.
  • Crafter and scrapbooker that I am, I decided to NOT let this become a craft project but just to try to maintain it as an organizational tool. I admit, I did find a roll of washi tape with the days of the week printed on it among my craft supplies. That roll is already being used in my bullet journal. And I tied some ribbon scraps to the spiral to be used as bookmarks. I'll admit, it is still tempting as I pass the entire aisle of my local craft store and gaze at the variety of papers, pens, stickers, etc. all designed for use in a planner or journal. I tell myself to just keep walking. Again, how ornate or minimalistic you make your journal is an individual choice.
  • I decided on the keys / graphic symbols to use in my journal. They are basically the ones Carroll shows in his video together with a few others I've used for years.
  • An index is a necessity for a bullet journal. I allowed a page and a half, probably should have allowed more, but I know I can always add an index entry for "Index Continues, p 100-104".
  • Instead of New Year's Resolutions, I chose to write some specific goals, calling it "2017, My Year to ..." I have five things listed, all things I had thought about, or started but laid aside, or else spent money on but not used sufficiently. Actually writing them has made me feel that accomplishing them is must more likely than when I had previously just thought about doing them.
  • I love, make that LOVE, the Future Log spread. I've already noted when various subscriptions and memberships expire, what events are scheduled for the year, and some specific deadlines I am setting for myself. Later, I'll add some personal things like trips, vacations with family, etc. This will help me more realistically allot time to various projects and goals. I've always been one to get the big picture first then develop the steps to get there so the Future Log fits the way I think.

  • The next two pages are for the Monthly Log. Each day is noted on a separate line. There is also room for me to list specific things I want to do for the month. Some people rave about the monthly log. Right now I'm ambivalent as to how much I will use this feature. Time will tell.
  • For my Daily Log, I settled on a two page spread, each page divided into four blocks. I use one block for each day of the week and block eight for things I want to accomplish or address this week. Across the top of one of the daily pages, I added a box to check daily for my 3F project. I'm trying to First spend Fifteen minutes Filing (the 3Fs) some of the stuff that gathers in my never empty file trays.  Each daily block will be for quick notes about what I researched that day, questions I want to check on (also listed in my Collection section of the journal), other genealogy related information for that day. Today's block includes the note "started writing Bullet Journal post!" After the first four weeks of January are covered in my Daily Log, I'll add a Monthly Log for February, then start another series of weekly spreads for Daily Logs and add February to the Index.

  • The last 30 pages of my book have been reserved for my Collections. I appreciate the versitality of the Collections section. It is MY collection, those miscellaneous things I want to keep up with, remember, check into. And when I use all these 30 pages, I'll just add another Index entry for each new collection page, selecting pages in another section toward the back of my bullet journal. My first collection page contained information about a library I plan to visit this year, things like address, phone numbers, reminder to set up an appointment specifying my research needs, and of course, the persons I will be researching. Back in the Index, I listed the name of the library and page on which I have the information. Last week I also started a page of Research Questions. In the middle of researching a relative, I realized the need to clarify something about another relative. I quickly added it to the Research Questions page then returned to my original research. Later I'll go back over this page and try to find answers to these questions. Another page in my Collections will be a list of Correspondence. Previously I have tended to add this as a note in Family Tree Maker but then to forget about it. Out of sight, out of mind. This way I can keep closer tabs as to when I ordered a record, e-mailed someone, etc. 

So there it is. My bullet journal. Part calendar. Part planner. Part diary. Part catch-all for things I need to remember. Part motivator. I can already see the value in reviewing my research and in having a specific place to record information in a simple format. Much as I feel I could not manage without my laptop, my smartphone, my genealogy software, Google Drive, the internet, and so much more technology, it is also satisfying to put a lovely journal to a constructive purpose.

And I plan to post in the future on tweaks I've made to my first bullet journal. It is just day two, and I already think I may highlight on the Daily Log the name of the family I'm researching. I might replace the ribbon bookmarks with sticky tabs from an office supply store. Here we go ...

What has been your experience with bullet journaling? I hope you will share some of your ideas.