Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ordinary - or maybe not

After thrashing through some of our Hale, Northend and Webster ancestors recently, Traea's Grandma finally emerged into what she thought was the more familiar Sawyer family in the late 1600s.  By then just about everyone leading up to the Sawyers had immigrated from England, settling in what became Essex County, Massachusetts..

Here was the family of Samuel SAWYER and Mary EMERY, who produced, among others, sons Benjamin and Samuel, both of whom eventually contributed DNA to this grandma.  (For inquiring minds, it took a loooong time and a LOT of different families to bring those genes back together.)

Anyway, fun facts emerged during subsequent wanderings through Googleland.  (Dig past the collection of genealogists whose identical listings on almost any family member appear online.  The gems may instead be in descriptions of those relatives who come alive in books describing an area's history.)

Turns out that in Newbury, Essex, Massachusetts, Hugh March (no relation that I know of) was first licensed in 1670 by the Ipswich courts to "keep an ordinary and to sell strong drink."  This is from the book Ould Newbury, written by John J. Currier and published in Boston by Damrell and Upham in 1896.  

I had known that "the necessary," was the outhouse, but "an ordinary" as a tavern was a new fact.  

According to Ould Newbury, one of our Samuel Sawyers (probably senior since Samuel junior was born in 1674) is listed as a licensed innholder from 1693 to 1716, quite possibly at Hugh March's ordinary, which is by now known as the Blue Anchor Tavern, also written as the Blew Anchor Tavern.  He must have rented the place, because he is only listed as buying it in 1715.

Ould Newbury continues that Samuel resold this property almost immediately to Benjamin Sawyer, a weaver.  Benjamin only lasted until 1718 as the innkeeper / tavern owner.  He sold the "house and 2 3/4 acres of land in Newbury aforesd, commonly known by ye name of ye Blew Anchor Tavern, together with all ye houses, outhouses, Barns, Buildings, stables, orchards, Gardens, &c.," that he had acquired from Samuel.  Quite a sale!

Then history smugly lures us with contradictions.  Ould Newbury relates that the tavern was taken down following a subsequent land sale a few years later.  The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities may support this when they explain a structure they own, the Swett-Ilsley House, sits adjacent to land Hugh March purchased.  Find photos and information at .  Although Swett-Ilsley was used as a variety of commercial endeavors, the Antiquities people don't link it specifically with the Blue Anchor Tavern.

On the other hand, several modern writers describe and document that the former Blue Anchor Tavern is indeed today's Swett-Ilsley House.  Traea's Grandmother doesn't know enough to take sides on this contradiction, but it certainly has been a fun find!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In the Palm of Your Hand

The most valuable genealogy research idea I've created (as far as I know TRAEA's Grandma is the only one who does this) was born from a need (compulsion?) to reference more than one person, family, or groups of families simultaneously.  It's primitive, but used all the time.

It's 4x6 index cards.  How much more old school could it be, right?  

Because I respond to colors when separating information, I randomly color coded the main branches of my tree with yellow for the Hacketts, along with their associated families, and orange for the Hills.  

I also loosely code tree generations.  My grandkids are Generation 1 (1), which makes TRAEA's Grandma (3).  This way when I get back to Adam and Eve I won't have run out of reference numbers.  The grandkids will have to worry how to code their offspring. 

Check out the scanned cards for the basics:
  • Each card has a surname written at the top. 
  • Either Hills or Hackett is written in the upper right corner and colored.
  • Each generation includes two columns listing the parents.
  • Their B / D years are written under each name, with their generation number in the middle.   
  • As information about preceding generations becomes available, it is listed on the appropriate card so that the oldest family is at the bottom.
  • Miscellaneous notes are written at the bottom, often colored
Note that each surname lists everyone with the same last name on the same side:  fathers on the left and mothers on the right, EXCEPT for the top name.  That's when a daughter marries out of the family name, so she appears directly above her father, and her husband is in the right-hand column.

I write these cards in pencil since they've been known to change - some more than once.  Some have only the daughter who married out of that family name and her husband.  A few include marriage dates.  A few include question marks for individuals or dates that remain questionable.  Many are missing some B / D years.  And siblings only show up on family group sheets.

Old school?  Absolutely.

But dealing those card onto a flat surface displays multiple relationships almost instantly.  And TRAEA's Grandma can grab these cards knowing that the entire direct-line family is going along on every research jaunt.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Little Things

I'm still committed to little things - they can provide a great deal of satisfaction - and raise intriguing questions.  It depends on what they are, what we know about their owners, and what we can learn through further search.

Cleaning out my childhood home included going through a multitude of attic items.  Getting to the attic was its own challenge - climbing a 12-foot step ladder, moving aside the access covering, and hoisting myself up into the attic through an opening measuring maybe 3'x3'.

The contents were, of course, those of a typical attic - a little of this, some of that, and more of the other thing.  EXCEPT for one box.  It contained a collection saved after Alice May GODITT Hills died.  There were gold-toned shoes that fit TRAEA's Grandma.  There was a child's pull toy with pieces missing  There was jewelry.  There was a gold tooth!

And there were the buttons, pins and other memorabilia Alice had collected and her son, Leander, had saved.  Starting in the upper left corner, they are:
  • Pin presented in January 1924 by the Sea Shore Lodge Daughters of the Revolution;
  • Two Daughters of Rebekah pins;
  • S.V. President (Senior Vice President?) pin from the Women's Relief Corps;
  • Lusitania commemorative;
  • Past President pin from the North Shore Association of an organization with the initials LPAM that remains unidentified so far;
  • Unidentified lady;
  • Monogrammed silk scarf;
  • Daughters of Liberty pin presented from Alice's "Peanut Pal";
  • Red-ribboned commemorative with the U.S. Mint on one side and the Lord's Prayer on the other;
  • Ribbon with colors found on other Daughters of Rebekah ribbons and the date 1923;
  • Another unidentified lady;
  • Women's Relief Corps pin;
  • "Committee" ribbon with no further identification;
  • Triangular pin I've not yet been able to identify;
  • Methodist Church pin.
Even with the remaining questions, these give us a picture of Alice as a woman who was active in a range of organizations dedicated to church, patriotism and assistance to others.  And indeed, TRAEA's Grandma found Alice listed online as taking part in a number of these organizations.

After sorting through several ideas, I finally decided to display these little treasures in a simple black-framed case that came with a foam-like material on which many of the items are pinned.  The entire display now hangs on my office wall.

Any help identifying some of these items, or adding to everyone's general knowledge of the organizations will be truly appreciated.  After all, it's the little things!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


There are some expected and some quite unexpected results in the DNA Analysis for TRAEA's Grandma's genetic ethnicity.  But since these can go back thousands of years, maybe anything's possible.

This grandma contributes a pretty concentrated genetic ethnicity to her descendants -
43% Scandinavian
17% Southern European
16% British Isles
14% Central European
7% Eastern European
3% Uncertain

Scandinavian?  Norway, Sweden, Denmark had never before been a blip on the genealogical radar.  Ancestry explains that these were a well-travelled people (think Vikings), or as they wrote "seaborne raiders. . . . . violent pillagers. . . . . well-travelled merchants and ambitious explorers."  In other words - if your roots are European, you may well find Scandinavians in your DNA soup.

Southern European - Italy, Spain and Portugal - I feel warmer already, although I never suspected any related connections to such a delightful region.  Interesting possibilities there.

British Isles - totally expected.  The only surprise is that this percentage isn't greater.  A HUGE number of ancestors on the Hills / Hackett tree arrived in North America from the British Isles.  But since DNA reaches back into the mists of history, the overall picture obviously blurs.

Central European - France, Germany, Austria - again expected, especially France.  A smaller percentage than British Isles is also reasonable, although I'm amazed that those numbers are so close.

Eastern European - Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Greece - hmmmmm.  There is a family rumor of Jewish ancestry that dangles tantalizingly from one side of the tree, and there is the possibility of a Russian connection on the other side.  Maybe there's some validity to one or both.  Goodie!

Uncertain.  Perfect - even DNA should leave a little wiggle room.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pott's Disease or Not

Reta HACKETT was not 100% certain whether she broke her back falling down stairs or she had tuberculosis of the spine, Pott's disease.  Then again, she was at best a preschooler when the treatments began around 1918 - 1921.

After some research, TRAEA's Grandma decided that Reta (pronounced Reta as in "cheetah," not Reta as in Greta) had TB (Potts disease).  I could be wrong.  The family story was sketchy at best:

  • She lived a long time on a "frame," and needed considerable care.
  • Reta was one of five children in a still growing family, and her parents, Elsie JONES and George Hackett, simply could not give extra attention to one child.
  • So she went to live with her widowed maternal grandmother, Carrie Maria FRENCH Jones.
  • Because Grandma Jones could not understand Reta, her next older sister, Hazel HACKETT, also went to live with Grandma Jones  
  • Reta's case was unusual and written up in medical journals.
The Surgical Diseases of Children, published in 1912 by D. Appleton and Company, discusses Pott's disease.

  • "Pott's disease is frequently found in childhood, specially from the second to the fifth years. . . . . "
  • Spinal deformities created by Pott's disease can be severe, and Pott's disease can lead to abscesses in other parts of the body or even paralysis.
  • "Absolute recumbency" is necessary "in general . . . . . from twelve to eighteen months" as part of the treatment.
  • The Whitman-Bradford frame ensured that.  It was made of small-diameter galvanized gas-pipe or steel tubing, slightly longer and almost as wise as the child.  It was covered with stretched canvas and two felt pads about an inch thick sewn along each side of the spine at the tuberculosis site.  
  • Whitman explains, "The child, wearing only an undershirt, stockings, and diaper, is placed upon the frame and is fixed there usually by a front piece or apron . . . . .  As soon as the patient has become accustomed to the restraint one begins to over-extend the spine by bending the bars from time to time, with the aim of actually separating the diseased vertebral bodies . . . . . so that the body shall be finally bent backward to form the segment of a circle.  The greatest convexity is at the seat of the disease. . . . . "
  • Patients lay on this frame continuously, except when they were turned over to clean and powder their back.
  • After patients no longer needed the frame, they were fitted with one of several forms of a steel brace or plaster jacket.

Although the Whitman-Bradford frame could explain "the frame" she recalled, what role was played by a tag that identified five-year-old Reta on a trip, probably to Boston?  (She lived in Taunton, MA, which does not have a North Station as listed on the tag.)

 Then there was the letter that she wrote about a year later to a family member, gleeful that she no longer needed the frame, but could "roll around the bed."  Since she didn't mention running around, she was likely still under treatment.

And a picture of a slightly older Reta in what is obviously a brace, standing next to her sister Hazel.  Grandmother Carrie Maria stands behind Hazel, and the others are unindentified.

Although the pieces seem to add up to Potts disease, there is one remaining question.  Where in the world of literature was the writeup?  Oodles of articles have been written about Potts disease, but so far this grandmother has yet to find any reference to the little girl from Taunton.  Another hunt.

Reta was a great granddaughter of William and Maria L. WILBUR Hackett, Abraham and Evelina REID Thompson, Benjamin Paul and Anjenette PETTIS Jones, and Ephraim and Mary BETTERLY French.

Thanks for the letter Debbie!