Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Celebrating Independence Day

Dear Grandfather Clark,
Today as we are celebrating the 241st anniversary our Independence,  I think it is important to remember that many of our ancestors were involved in the American colonies fight for independence even before the declaration that we all hold so dear was adopted. In 1775 you raised a company from your friends and neighbors in Lebanon, Connecticut and responded to the Lexington Alarm and then marched on to the Battle of Bunker Hill. It was still more than a year to the first reading of the famous document.

The Battle of Bunker Hill has gone down in our history as such but of course, you know it was fought on Breed’s Hill. The source of the confusion seems to be that the Colonial Troops had originally been ordered by the Committee of Safety to “Bunker’s Hill in Charlestown be securely kept and defended, and also some one hill or hills on Dorchester Neck be likewise secured.”

      Battle of Bunker Hill drawing from www.wikipedia.com

Though we do not have your description of the battle. Other first hand accounts reveal that the day was hot. The grass was unmown, reaching to the knees of the men trying to march through it. There were walls and fences to be climbed over.

People from Boston, across the Charles River, lined the shore, crowded the hills, climbed to rooftops to watch the progression of battle. British ships shelled Charleston setting houses, churches and other buildings ablaze. British General Burgoyne wrote it presented “a picture and a complication of horror and importance beyond anything that ever came to my lot to witness to.”

Were you and your troops in the redoubt that had been constructed on Breed’s Hill? We’ll probably never know how it felt to watch the scarlet clad British troops inching their way up the hill toward you. We understand that you held your fire until they were just 150 feet away. When the volley came, the British troops fell in heaps. It must have been exhilarating.

Commanding a Company of your friends and neighbors from Lebanon, you must have felt a terrible responsibility to keep them alive. Were  your sons James and Moses with you? You must have known that British would regroup after the failure of their initial assault. Given the limits of your ammunition, how long could your troops last? Could the eventual retreat be managed effectively preserving the troops to fight another day and avoid a flight of panic? There are so many question I would like to ask.

The British suffered tremendous losses, 1,054 men shot, 226 killed out right. The American losses are more difficult to ascertain. The records were not good and the troops not as organized. Volunteers from several states, such as your troops who had marched the 100 miles from Connecticut were not integrated into the records. I know you knew how many of your men were killed or wounded but it has been difficult for historians to track the numbers from all the units.

Though the Battle was an eventual loss, Americans celebrated the Battle of Bunker Hill for the tremendous showing that American raw recruits made in the face of the disciplined English forces who were the best in the world. According to a letter from General Gage to Dartmouth, Americans were “not the despicable rabble too many have supposed them to be” … they have… “a military spirit… joined with uncommon zeal and enthusiasm… The conquest of this country is not easy.”

Surely, it pointed to the need for a unified command structure. About a month later, the Continental Congress appointed George Washington, “to command all the continental forces, raised or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty.”

Today too many Americans believe that independence was all but guaranteed. The personal sacrifices made by those of you who left family, homes, farms, and businesses to put everything on the line to fight for independence are often overlooked. We can only imagine the sorrow you felt when you arrived home late in the fall of 1775 to discover that your young children Wealthy and Ernest had died within two weeks of each other in September.

However distraught, we know that you went back to your regiment and participated in the Battles for New York City and White Plains even more determined to win our independence.

CllarkhomeLebanon2015 (2016_12_17 18_37_25 UTC).jpg
6th and 7th great granddaughters Cecily Cone Kelly and Amanda Kelly in front of the
James Clark Home in Lebanon, CT circa 2016
From author’s personal collection

We know how you how you felt about our independence from a report written in the Connecticut Courant newspaper published 10 July 1822. It described a commemoration of the anniversary of American Independence held in your home town of Lebanon. It described you, at age 93, wearing the hat worn by the late Col. William Williams at the time he signed the Declaration of Independence, giving the following toast to,
The Liberty of America, may it be as durable as the slavery would have been
Lasting had it not been gained.

The article also noted that you were accompanied by your son, grandson and great grandson on the occasion.
Image of James Clark from the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker HillJamesClarkage94 (2016_12_17 18_37_25 UTC).jpg
17 June 1825 Image from the Lebanon Historical Society Collection

We remain dedicated to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and many of your descendants have put their lives on the line, as you did, to secure these rights. We still “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”


For family members our descendent from James Clarke follows:

Cecily (Cone) Kelly, Charles Newton Cone, Jr., Charles Newton Cone, Helen Brown (Newton) Cone, Mary Elizabeth (Clarke) Newton, John Champion Clarke, James Augustus Clark, James Clark, Jr., James Clark

Saturday, May 20, 2017

20 May 2017

Dear Grandfather Tobias,

Today we celebrate the 224th anniversary of your birth. While celebrating today, we really wish we had the opportunity to talk with you. There are so many unresolved questions about your life.

We believe we have identified your parents, Andreas Werst born about 1763 in Northampton, Pennsylvania. No surname has been discovered for his presumed wife and your mother Catherine. We have no birth certificate for you but we would not expect to find one for the time and place where you were born. The date comes from family records. We have found a record of your baptism at the Friendensville Lutheran Church in 1794.

Andreas Werst's family enumerated in the 1800 Federal Census.
There are two males listed as under age 10 in 1800 which would include Tobias.
"United States Census, 1800," database with images, FamilySearch
(https://family search.org/ark:/61903/1:1"XHR4-FS3: accessed 20 May 2017),
Andreas Werst, Salisbury, Northampton, Pennsylvania, United States; citing p. 624;
NARA microfilm publication M32, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records
Administration, n.d.), roll 37; FHL microfilm 360,340.
Note: Though listed as Salisbury, the image clearly lists the residents of Upper Saucon Township.
Since your father's will was written in German, we imagine that German was the language spoken in his home. It must have been your first language. We believe you must have also spoken English as your wife Nancy Carr seems to have been of Northern Irish heritage and would not have spoken German. Your family was either Lutheran or Reformed. Both congregations shared the same building and their records have been combined.

We know you served your country as a private during the War of 1812. You served with Capt. Robert McGuigan in the 123rd and 81st Regiments of the Pennsylvania Militia, Commanded by Lt. Col. James Montgomery. Your wife, then widow, Nancy (Carr) Werst applied for a widow's pension 23 March 1857.  Nancy said that you were disabled in 1814 and discharged at Danville, in Northumberland County. Were you wounded or injured in an accident? We just do not know.

The Pennsylvania Archives contains the following letter from Capt. McGuigan to the governor.

        Milton, July 2, 1812. 
To his Excellency, Simon Snyder, Governor of Pennsylvania:- 

 Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 1st day of July, 
instant, the several classes of the One Hundred and Twenty-third 
regiment of Pennsylvania militia; James Moodie, lieutenant colonel 
commandant, Second brigade, Ninth division, met in pursuance of brigade 
orders in Milton, Northumberland county; that upwards of the number 
seventy-nine have volunteered their services as their quota of militia 
to your 
Honor, to be ready to march at any time required. We beg leave to state 
to your Excellency that it is the wish of the company to march at the 
first call. 
                          Sir, your most obedient humble servant, 
                                    ROBERT McGUIGAN, 

We know that your company was ready to go early in the war. At the outbreak of the war Northumberland county sent Captain Robert McGuigan's company and the Warrior Run Rifle company, Captain William McGuire, to join the troops at Erie and they served in the Black Rock Campaign. (Major William P. Clarke, Official History of the Militia and the National Guard of the State of Pennsylvania, 1909, P. 94).

Nancy also added that you were married by the Rev. John Bryson, Minister of the Gospel in December 1819. John Bryson was a Presbyterian minister who's ancestors immigrated to Pennsylvania from the north of Ireland but who were of Scottish descent. Perhaps Nancy's family were also Scots-Irish. We believe her father's name may have been Joseph Christopher Carr because of the name given your eldest son.

We do not know why you moved to Neave Township in Darke County, Ohio. We do know that you lived there in 1840.

Tobias Werst family with 5 sons and 2 daughters in 1840 census.
"United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/ark:61903/1:1:XHY-QY8 : accessed 20 May 2017),
Tobias Worst, Neave Township, Darke, Ohio, United States; citing p. 71 NARA microfilm publication
M704, (Washington D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.),
roll 390; FHL microfilm 20,163.
The family is still living in Ohio in the 1850 census, but must have moved shortly after to Wabash County, Indiana where two grandsons were born in 1852. Your story ends in Wabash County, where you died 20 April 1855 and were buried four days later.

Tobias Werst tombstone at Mississinewa Memorial Cemetery
Tombstones were moved to this location when an earlier cemetery was flooded.
Photograph from author's personal collection.
There is so much we still need to learn about your life. Rest assured, we are still looking for answers to our questions. Any hints you could send would be greatly appreciated!

Happy Birthday,

Our descent from Tobias is as follows:
Cecily daughter of Betty Werst Cone, daughter of Cecil Oscar Werst, son of Lewis Werst, son of
George Washington Werst, son of Tobias Werst.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Dear Grandparents,
On a recent trip to Massachusetts to celebrate my sister’s 65th birthday, we had the opportunity to see the home of our 10th great grandfather Jonathan Fairbanks. The cold, wet day could not deter us from walking around the house. We don’t normally expect to find such an old house, still standing.The Fairbanks House is indeed special.

Photograph of the Jonathan Fairbanks house taken from the parking lot.
27 March 2017 from my personal collection

From the website for the house, www.fairbankshouse.org, Aboott Lowell Cummings, former Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts at Yale University, stated,

“The Jonathan Fairbanks House in Dedham, Massachusetts, is one of the most important historic houses now standing in the northeastern part of the United States. Its value to the area and to the nation as a whole lies not so much in its claim to being the oldest house in New England but in its Architectural significance… It may be said quite simply that no other house of the mid-17th century in New England has survived in such unbelievable unspoiled condition. It is extraordinary that so early a structure should preserve such a high percentage of original features. It is a veritable store-house of information concerning the small handful of houses which survive from this early period.”
The center section of the house is the oldest. The east and west wings were added in the eighteenth century. Timbers for the Fairbanks house were sent to England for dendrochronology testing which dated the wood sent at 1641. Family lore says that some of the boards and much of the furniture original to the house was imported from England.
Photograph of Jonathan Fairbanks house taken 27 March 2017
form my personal collection

One of the secrets to its survival, is that the house was passed down and occupied by the Fairbanks family until the early twentieth century. The Fairbanks Family in America still owns the property and opens it for tours Wednesdays thru Sundays from May 3rd to October 29th. Because of the timing of our visit, we were not able to see the inside of the house but we will certainly schedule a return visit at a later date.

So how are we related to the Fairbanks family? It is not a surname that most of our family remembers. Here is our connection to Jonathan and Grace (Smith) Fairbanks. Maiden names are indicated by parentheses.

Cecily (Cone) Kelly13, Charles Newton Cone, Jr.12, Charles Newton Cone12, Frederick Naaman Cone11, William Warner Cone10, Joanna (Warner) Cone9, Thomas Warner8, Eleazer Warner7, Thomas Warner6, Delight (Metcalf) Warner5 , Rev. Joseph Metcalf4, Deacon Jonathan Metcalf³, Mary (Fairbanks)² Metcalf, Jonathan and Grace (Smith) Fairbanks¹

The Fairbanks and allied families are from the West Yorkshire area of England primarily around Halifax. It has been a center of the woolen industry since the 15th century. It is said that Jonathan was a weaver and merchant of woolens.
Map of West Yorkshire, England from www.wikipedia.orgHalifaxWestYorkshireEnglandwikipedia.png

Jonathan and his wife Grace (Smith) arrived in Boston sometime in 1633. No record of his immigration naming the exact date or ship has been discovered. By 1636, he and his family relocated to the newly founded town of Dedham, Massachusetts. The men founding the community were asked to sign the following Covenant:

The Covenant
  1. We whose name ar here unto subscribed doe in the feare and Reverence of our Allmightie God, Mutually: and generally p[ro]mise amongst ourselves and each to other to p[ro]ffesse and practice one trueth according to that most p[er]fect rule, the foundacion where is Everlasting Love:
  2. That we shall by all meanes Laboure to keepe of from us all such as ar[e] contrarye minded. And receaue onely such unto us as be such as may be p[ro]bably of one harte, with us, as that we either knowe or may well and truely be informed to walk in a peaceable conversation with all meekness of spirit for the edification of each other in the knowledg and faith of the Lord Jesus: And the Mutuall encouragem[ent] unto all Temporall comforts in all things, seekeing the good of each other, out of all which may be derived true Peace.
  3. That if at any time difference shall arise between p[ar]ties of our said Towne, that then such p[ar]tie and p[ar]ties shall p[er]sonlly Reserve all such difference unto som[e] one 2 or 3 others of our said Societie to be fully accorded and determined without any further delaye. If it possibly may bee:
  4. That every man that now or at any time heareafter shall have Lotts in our said Towne shall paye his share in all such Rate of money and charges as shall be imposed upon him Rateably in p[ur]portion with other men. As allso become freely subject unto all such orders and constitutions as shall be necesariely had or made now or at any time heere after from this daye fore warde as well for loveing and comfortable Societie in our said Towne as allso for the p[ro]sperous and thriveing condition of our said fellowshipe, especially respecting the feare of God in which we desire to begine and continue. Whatso ever we shall by his Loveing favoure take in hand.
  5. And for the better manefestation of our true resolution heere in every man so received to subscribe heere unto his name, thereby obliegeing both him self and his successors after him for ever as we have done.

According to the Dedham Historical Register Volume II, published in 1889, page 153, Jonathan Fayerbancke was among the signatories to the above covenant. He also received 12 acres of land among those he built his home. It would be interesting if neighbors signed such covenants today.

Sign for the Fairbanks House taken 27 March 2017 from my personal collection.

Jonathan was admitted a free man in Dedham 23 March 1637-38. Certainly the Fairbanks family were Puritans but Jonathan seems to have had some doubts about how the faith was practiced. When he made his declaration of faith, it was noted that he had “long stood off from the church upon some scruples about public profession of faith.” His concerns were resolved when he became a member of the First Church in Dedham 14 June 1646. His faith would have been considered to be Congregationalist.

The death of “Jonath. Fairebanck” was reported as 5 Dec., 1668 in “The Record of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and the intentions of Marriage in the Town of Dedham, Volume 1, page 11. He was buried in the Old Burying Place in Dedham. No headstone survives to this day and it is unknown if there was ever a marker on his grave.
Photograph of the Old Burying Place in Dedham is from Bill Boyington from www.findagrave.com used with permission.

Jonathan Fairbanks left a will that was probated 26 January 1669. He mentioned his wife Grace and children John, George, Jonas, and our 9th great grandmother Mary (Fairbanks) (Metcalf) Smith. His will is marked with an ‘x’ and it is unclear if he was illiterate or just too weak at that moment to sign. I may discover more when I visit the inside of the house!     Love, Cecily

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ancestor Tracking - 2017 Ancestor Tally

Dear Grandparents,
Many have heard me say each time I identify a new ancestor "now I have two additional people to find." Family researchers who announce that their "genealogy is finished" have always surprised me.
There are many of you that I still need to identify and there are more and more records available.
I figure my work will never be done.

Yesterday I came across Family Sleuther: Solving family history's mysteries a Facebook page ( this is the spelling used on the page) with a post on Ancestor Tracking. He suggested that the beginning of a new year is a good time to tally one's ancestors. I imagine the idea is to compare how many additional have been identified by the beginning of 2018. Having successfully identified more than 1,000 direct line ancestors seems at first glance to be quite an achievement. Looking at the far right column shows how much more work there is to be done.

My first challenge comes with the parents of my 2nd great grandfather William Henry Colby. Most records show him as having been born in New Hampshire. The earliest record found is his marriage to Fanny Hummell 11 May 1855 in Lake County, Illinois. This record contains an inexact spelling of his wife Fanny Hunnewell's name. Below is his entry in the 1900 census.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MSWT-V9Z : accessed 17 January 2017), William H Colby, Vernon Township, Lake, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 139, sheet 1B, family 20, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,314.
The parentage of another 2nd great grandfather, Simpson Barnes, is also a challenge. He is consistently listed in census records as having been born in New York. He marries Angelina Burgoyne in Cambria, Hillsdale County Michigan 15 November 1848. No record discovered lists the names of his parents.
"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF86-T9Q : 9 November 2014), Simpson Barnes, Cambria, Hillsdale, Michigan, United States; citing family 84, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)
The next hole in my linage is identifying the parents of Elizabeth Jane Jones, my 3rd great grandmother on my mother's side. She is my direct fifth generation mitochondrial ancestor.

Elizabeth Jane (Jones) Gibson
portrait copied from Hugunin Family Bible in my possession.

Entries in the Hugunin Family Bible, which were entered around the time of her daughter Sarah Amanda Gibson's marriage to Van Epps Hugunin in 1868, list Elizabeth's birth as 2 May 1821. However, they make no mention of her parents. The earliest record that clearly identifies Elizabeth is that of her marriage to Newsom Gibson 19 December 1840 ("Tennessee Marriages, 1796-1950," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:61903/1:1:XD35-MQZ: 8 December 2014), Newsom Gibson and Elizabeth Jones, 29 Dec 1840'; citing Davidson, Tennessee, reference; FHL microfilm 200,295).

The challenges in identifying each of these great grandparents lies in the their common surnames.
Jones, Barnes and Colby occur so frequently that it has been impossible to differentiate my ancestors from others with similar names. So far.

As the chart shows, I have plenty of work to do this year. Only another 3,860 ancestors to identify. Any serendipitous assistance is welcome.