Monday, February 6, 2012

Will Our Hacketts Please Stand Up

During the last half of the 1800s there came and went through Taunton, MA, a whole slew (technical term) of Hacketts.  The trick was not to find them - the abundance of city directories listed them from year to year.

Who, however, were those most directly related to TRAEA's Grandma?  The choices were:

  • Benjamin the painter
  • Edward the upholsterer
  • Francis F. the junkman turned harnessman
  • George E. the laborer
  • Henry F. the moulder
  • Myron H. the carpenter
  • Nancy the widow 
  • (No first name) the laborer
  • Philander the laborer
  • William the furnaceman turned moulder
  • William the upholsterer
  • William the hairdresser
  • William the moulder (another one)
  • William H. the farmer
  • William H. the stone mason and
  • William M. the laborer

Whew!  I really wanted to see everyone pretty much at the same time.  Sure.  Being a pencil-and-paper sort of researcher, I folded a blank standard sheet of along the longer side to create "strips."  I ended up needing multiple sheets, so an 11"x17" sheet of paper would have been better.  But that's hindsight.  A spreadsheet might also work for those who prefer computer analysis.

I wrote the name of one Hackett at the top of each strip, followed by the first year I found that person in a directory, their profession that year and their address.  Through the decades, those addresses and occupations changed - or people appeared and "removed" from the scene.  If information remained the same, I wrote just the directory year.  As information changed it was added to the growing information base.

Truth be told, I had pretty much known at the start that the most direct ancestors were William the furnaceman turned moulder and Francis F. the harness maker turned junkman.  And, since the number of Hacketts was mushrooming by the end of the century, this search spanned only about 50 years.

But the exercise served several purposes.  First by combining this with census data I felt more certain that a great uncle hadn't become lost somewhere.  Then it opened my eyes to a whole crop of possible relations (what's with all the Williams???).  And finally it provided some guidance when TRAEA's Grandpa and I visited Taunton.  It's unlikely that we saw all the same houses where these Hackett ancestors lived. But there was a sense of place - literally standing in the middle of the street and knowing it was the same neighborhood where some of my Hackett ancestors lived.  Way cool!

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