Archive for September, 2014

puritanI work on a transcription project for the NEHGS [New England Historical and Genealogical Society.] Our current project includes wills, deeds and town records from early Plymouth New England, basically the records of people who came on the Mayflower. I recently came across a very interesting record about my 10 great grandmother Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth was the wife of Richard Warren, who had come on the Mayflower. Elizabeth came in 1622 on the ship the “Anne”, and was widowed in 1627, leaving her with 7 children. The story now gets even more interesting. If you have heard that women didn’t have rights in early America, you have heard wrong. The original records prove this, and I have seen examples of women conducting business, buying and selling property, voting, leaving wills etc. In the case of Elizabeth, the Court ruled unanimously that Elizabeth should take the place of her husband Richard as an original Purchaser.

Elizabeth buys and sells property, and is included in the town records for some time.  In 1652 she deeded some of her property to her sons-in-law, and her oldest son Nathaniel wasn’t happy. Generally, under English law Nathaniel, as oldest son, would inherit his father’s property, with 1/3 going to his mother during her life, and her 1/3 passing to him upon her death. The fact that she was made an Purchaser in the place of her deceased husband, gave her the same rights as any man in the Colony at the time.

Nathaniel, and his mother-in-law, Jane Collyer, went to court to force her to stop disbursing the property. The court sided with Elizabeth and continued to give her total control over her property. The information was included in the town records, which were witnessed and signed by several men including William Bradford, and Myles Standish.  The town records gives the following.

“ by reason whereof many great and sad Differences (sic)  were like to arise between the p[a]rties above said [Nathaniel Warren and Jane Collyer] and that the said Mistress Warren and her other children to who she had Deposed some part of her lands to their  Discontent [meaning the discontent of Nathaniel and Jane]. . .  lastly, the said Nathaniel Warren shall for ever cease all other or further claims suites questions or any molestations or disturbances at any time hereafter concerning the premises but that his said mother, and all her children or any other to whom she hath any way dispensed any lands or shall hereafter (sic) do the same”

In a nutshell -leave Elizabeth Warren alone. The town court decided, again, that Elizabeth had the right to do what she wanted to her property and Nathaniel should quit being a pest and leave her alone. Nathaniel, who had already been deeded some of the property,  was left to inherit his remaining share after his mother died. In the mean time she could sell and do business as she wanted to. Elizabeth continued to do as pleased, and she outlived Nathaniel by 6 years. Go to the original records if you can, and you will learn real history.

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Just Sayin’

In my Grandpa Leo Finlinson’s barn hung a hand written sign that read “Fear of Failure is Fatal to success” In my family, growing up,  there was a saying for every occasion. My Grandma Lydia Finlinson was especially witty. If you came into her house unhappy, she would say “don’t go into a molt” [she raised chickens].  If you were angry you could expect her to quip “go scratch your mad spot.” If you were a bit sassy with her, you were told “you need to know which side your bread is buttered on”.  Our family has actually collected pages of her sayings. The following are a few of the ones I find myself repeating to my own family.

  • A little flattery now and then makes husbands out of single men.
  • Every mother think her ducks are geese.
  • You can dance all night but you have to pay the fiddler [translation – you can stay out as late as you want, but you still have to get up early in the morning and do your chores].
  • Don’t cry over spilled milk – go milk another cow.
  • Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.
  • If you want to kill time, why not try working it to death.
  • If you will not when you may, when you will, you may have nay.
  • Whatever be thy fate today – Remember “This too shall pass away.”
  • The longest odds in the world are those against getting even.
  • When in doubt tell the truth.
  • A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.
  • A change is as good as a rest.
  • Necessity never made a good bargain.
  • He who goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.
  • A wise man changes his mind – a fool never does.
  • Always learn to undo that which you have done amiss.
  • Two heads are better than one – even if one is a cabbage head.
  • If you want to lose a friend, loan him some money.
  • It’s a long road that doesn’t have a turn in it.
  • You can’t buy yourself rich.

When I was young and I would leave the house to go with my friends my parents would call out “Remember who you are!”  I remember leaving a dance one evening when I was at college and the same advice was shouted to me above the crowd, I knew that my 2nd cousin was watching me leave. I sometimes would love to be able to trace some of these sayings back to see how many generations they have been passed down through. I call most of these Grandma Lydia Sayings, and give her credit in hopes that my grandchildren will know they had a very wise 3g grandmother.

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Penelope Stout and her Indian rescuer.

Penelope Stout and her Indian rescuer.

Penelope Stout 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey 1622-1732

Penelope Stout 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey 1622-1732

Last week at a Genealogy Conference where I was presenting, I was able to obtain a Coin that had been minted in honor of an 8th great grandmother Penelope Stout. She is a heroine and the 1st Lady of Monmouth New Jersey. The really short story:

As newlyweds, Penelope and her husband were shipwrecked, around 1640, on the New Jersey shore along with a group of Dutch settlers headed for New Amsterdam [New York]. Her husband was either ill, or injured in the wreck, and the other settlers, who believed her husband would soon die, tried to persuade Penelope to leave him, as they concerned about Indians. Penelope wouldn’t leave her husband, and so the group left the young couple near the woods, and made their way to New Amsterdam. Soon after, Indians attacked the couple, and Penelope’s husband was killed, she was scalped, and cut across her stomach so that her intestines were exposed, and she was left to die. She managed to push her intestines back into her body with her now one good arm, and then crawled to a nearby hollow log where she survived for several days by eating substances from the log [probably fungi, grubs, and dew]. Some days later two other Indians found her and one took her to his village where she was nursed back to health. After living in the village for some time, she was returned to the New Amsterdam Colony where she met and married a Sea Captain by the name of Richard Stout. Penelope missed her ‘Indian Father’ and she and Richard moved and helped settle the town of Monmouth, New Jersey.  An incident later on allowed Penelope to save her Village from Indian attack thanks to a warning from her ‘Indian Father’.  For her loyalty to her dying husband, miraculous survival, and heroism in the saving of her village the coin was minted.

That got me wondering about my less well-known grandmothers. 8 generations, for me, takes me back into the 1600’s, the time period when a majority of my ancestors came to America. Because every generation doubles your number of direct ancestors, it possible for a person to have 512 direct great grandparents in just 8 generations.–Doing the math, that makes 256 grandmothers, assuming that no one married an even distant cousin, which did happen often.

Math aside, I have located 116 grandmothers in my 8th generation. Penelope is well known because of the trials that she overcame, and her bravery; however, each of my grandmothers has a story that is important in determining who I am.

It is said that a person dies twice, once when they die and are buried, and a second time when they are forgotten. Most people fade from memory in just 3 generations. That means that your great grand children will not know much about you – unless you leave your story for them. Write down your story. You can add it to FamilySearch FamilyTree, and because you are living no one will be able to see it until you are gone. Then start moving back through your generations and find the stories. Chances are that you will have some stories already added for you. Read those stories and share them with your children and grandchildren. You are who you are because of those who came before.

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My younger brother looked at his birth certificate and was surprised to find that our father’s occupation at the time of his birth, was a ‘cat skinner’. In today’s world we would expect to see my Dad being chased down the street by PETA people with pitchforks. However, at the time, ‘cat skinner’ was the term for a type of heavy equipment operator. My Dad mined uranium with  a D9 CAT [Caterpillar tread machine also made by the Caterpillar Company]. Today we still use the term ‘wildcatter ‘ to define a person as an  oil rig worker, and we know what that term means, however ‘cat skinner’ is not as well known. Part of the fun, when we locate our ancestors, is to get to know them, and that includes finding out how they made a living. There are a number of  ways to hone in on how our ancestors survived:

  • The US Census records from 1850 -1880 have non-population schedules attached which include Agricultural, and Industrial schedules. These records, for many of the states, can be accessed through Ancestry.com.
  • Most US Census records beginning in  1850 will include a persn’s occupation, or at least the occupation of males over 15. You will sometimes find occupations for women listed.
  • City Directories are the pre phone books- which were pre Google, and will often list the occupation of the people in the town or city.
  • US Vital Records –  Many birth certificates will list the occupation of the parents.
  • The UK did a much better job of collecting occupations. They listed a person’s occupation in their marriage certificates, census records, and death records.Parent’s occupations are also generally on a child’s birth and marriage  records.
  • Newspapers give wonderful clues to occupations- from the regular local news stories to the advertisements. My grandfather Norman Bliss owned a ‘Jackson Fork’, and advertised in the local paper that he would hire out to help other farmers get their hay in. He is also mentioned when he renewed his subscription to the local paper, where is states that “he has 320 acres of alfalfa and has all kinds of stock on his ranch – hogs, sheep, cows, horses and chickens”. There are enough clues for me to figure out how he made a living.
  • Wills and probate records will list an inventory of assets which can also provide clues to employment.

While many occupations can be understood as you read the word, many old terms  can be confusing. Some of the ones I had to look up are:

  • Victualler – tavern keeper
  • Hostler – stable man
  • Cooper – barrel maker
  • Ferrier – Blacksmith who shoes horses
  • Vulcan – (not what you were thinking)- it was another word for Blacksmith
  • Duffer – peddler of cheap goods
  • Collier – worked in the coal mines
  • Hooker -( again not what you were thinking) – This was a job in the early textile industry.
  • Yeoman – farmer who farmed his own land

While you can often Google the questionable occupation along with the word define, some  are more difficult to find. I have an old Black’s Law Dictionary where I look up unusual terms. If you don’t have access to something similar you might try Facebook, using the FamilySearch Research Help Page.

You can also find lists of old occupations,with a simple Google search.



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