Saturday, May 9, 2015

Great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald's birth record

For years, the birth record of my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald Ryan had eluded me.

According to her death record, she had been born about 23 May 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose Kiley. But no matter where I looked online-- NEGHS, FamilySearch, Ancestry-- I could not find any Mary or Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald who was born in Massachusetts on or around that date to a Thomas and Rose. 

Of course, since Mary was born in 1879, the next thing was to check the 1880 census record. In it, I located a Thomas, aged 26, and Rose Fitzgerald, aged 30, with a 1-year-old daughter named Mary living in Needham, Massachusetts. 

I had also found a marriage record of a Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose Connelly on 18 August 1878 in Newton, Massachusetts. Thomas's age was given as 25, and Rose's was given as 30. Here, too, Rose had the unusual distinction of being about 4-5 years older than her husband, so I knew that this was the same couple. 

So this past week, I asked for help locating my great-grandmother Mary's birth record in a Facebook genealogy group-- and someone found it and posted it within hours. The record showed that she was born in Needham on 22 May 1879 to Thomas Fitzgerald and Rose "Colnoly." This lady had found it on American Ancestors, the NEHGS website.

But why hadn't I been able to find it?

When I looked at the record, the reason became apparent: her last name on this document was misspelled as "Fitchgerald." It had not occurred to me that a name as basic and as common as Fitzgerald could be spelled incorrectly, but it was. And "Fitchgerald" was apparently divergent enough that FamilySearch (which normally picks up alternative spellings) didn't register it in a search. Upon looking it up on FamilySearch with "Fitchgerald", Mary's birth record came right up.

The fact that her mother Rose's maiden name was given as "Colnoly" (Connelly) confirmed for sure that the census record and the marriage record I found were for my 2nd great-grandparents.

This was a good reminder to get creative when searching for records-- I had not figured that my ancestor's very common surname would be so badly misspelled, but it was, and if I had just thought to broaden my search using Soundex, or thought of alternative ways that Fitzgerald might be spelled, this could have been found long ago. 

I'll write more about Thomas and Rose, and the issue of Rose's maiden name, next. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

FITTS of Salisbury and Ipswich, Massachusetts

The name is also spelled FITZ.

Generation 1: My original FITTS immigrant ancestor was Robert Fitts, 9th great-grandfather.

Robert and his brother Richard were probably from Devon, and arrived in New England by 1640. They first settled in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Robert was a planter, and in 1657 sold his house to a Philip Griffin and removed to Ipswich. He died there on 9 May 1665.

Generation 2: Abraham Fitts was born probably in the early 1630's. He married Rebecca Davis, daughter of Isaac and Beverly Davis and widow of Tyler (Giles?) Birdley, on 9 January 1668 in Ipswich. Abraham died on 27 March 1692.

Generation 3: Isaac Fitts was born in Ipswich on 3 July 1675. On 29 January 1697, he married Bethia Hacker, daughter of George Hacker and Bethia Meacham, in Ipswich. Isaac died on 6 April 1747.

Generation 4: Jeremiah Fitts was born on 9 January 1708 in Ipswich. In Ipswich, on 22 February 1733, he married Elizabeth Haskell, daughter of Mark Haskell and Martha Tuttle. He died on 3 February 1801.

Generation 5: Jeremiah Fitts II was baptized in Ipswich on 29 October 1749. He married Ruth Souther, daughter of Nathaniel Souther and Rebecca Hopkins, on 22 December 1773 in Ipswich, and he died in Bradford on 4 October 1804.

Generation 6: William Fitts was born in Haverhill on 10 January 1797. He married Priscilla Davis, daughter of John Davis and Priscilla Bartlett, in West Newbury on 15 November 1821. William died of consumption on 28 April 1843, and according to his death record (below), he was a sailmaker.

Generation 7: Sophia Haskell Fitts was born in West Newbury on 15 February 1823. She married Isaiah F. Purinton, son of John Purinton and Dorothy Colby, on 10 June 1846 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Sophia died in March of 1880 of cancer.

Ancestry line:

Robert FITTS (d. 1665) m. Grace LORD
Abraham FITTS (d. 1692) m. Rebecca DAVIS
Isaac FITTS (1675-1747) m. Bethia HACKER
Jeremiah FITTS I (1708-1801) m. Elizabeth HASKELL
Jeremiah FITTS II (1749-1804) m. Ruth SOUTHER
William FITTS (1797-1843) m. Priscilla DAVIS
Sophia Haskel FITTS (1823-1880) m. Isaiah F. PURINTON
Mary Olivia PURINTON (1852-1898) m. George Bailey PALMER
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father


The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, David W. Hoyt
Genealogy of the Fitts or Fitz Family in America, James Hill Fitts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A gentle reminder: BACK YOUR STUFF UP!!!

So this past Saturday, my computer's hard drive crashed. Completely, unexpectedly. And, as it turned out, expensively.

Granted, this is the first time in the five years that I've had my MacBook Pro that there's ever been a problem with it... but it brought to mind something that some geneabloggers are always banging on about: 

Back. up. your. stuff.

I believe in this, and thought that I was pretty good at it. It wasn't until I had to replace my hard drive that I realized how much data there was on my computer that I had not thought to copy and save elsewhere. Such as photos of my trip to Italy in 1994; thankfully, I did make a photo book of those, so those pictures weren't lost altogether. But they probably won't be as good quality scanned from the book-- stupid me had thrown away the original prints long ago (I know better these days). Other photos I had only on my computer, so they're gone.

The moral of this sad tale is... back up your stuff. Different places, different formats. Print out your photos and documents and save them to a disc. Make copies for family so that they have them in case you lose yours.

Do this with your digital music too-- save your iTunes library to disc, and periodically re-save it as you update your collection. 

Because you never know when you might turn on your computer and find that everything you had on it is gone.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Patriots of New Hampshire

My book finally arrived today. I ordered it on March 6, and although the seller shipped it the next day, UPS decided, for reasons unknown, to keep it in New Jersey for almost three weeks.

This book is Inhabitants of New Hampshire 1776 by Emily S. Wilson. This is a neat volume because it serves as a census substitute for the state of New Hampshire in 1776.

It also tells us whether or not these listed subjects of the crown supported the cause of independence or not.

In March of 1776, the Continental Congress decided that all males aged 21 and over should sign the Association Test (which meant agreeing to oppose the British). Those who refused would be immediately disarmed.

Those who refused to sign were also documented in this volume as well.

This was, frankly, asking a great deal, considering that the British would consider the signers to be traitors. For this reason those listed with an "n" after their names in this volume-- signifying those who would not sign-- may not have necessarily been on the side of the crown. Many may have simply felt that they couldn't afford to stick their necks out.

It's surprising just how many men signed, and how few refused.

I was gratified to see that all of my known ancestors who were listed in this book agreed "to the utmost of our Power, at the Risque of our lives and Fortunes, with ARMS, oppose the Hostile Proceedings of the British Fleets, and Armies, against the United American COLONIES":

Benjamin French, East Kingston, 6th great-grandfather
Samuel Palmer, East Kingston, 5th great-grandfather
Winthrop Sargent, Chester, 6th great-grandfather
Samuel Severance, Kingston, 5th great-grandfather
Caleb Towle, Hawke, 6th great-grandfather
Jeremy Towle, Hawke, 5th great-grandfather
Benjamin Webster, Kingston, 6th great-grandfather
Jacob Webster, Kingston, 5th great-grandfather
Samuel Winslow, Kingston, 6th great-grandfather
John Winslow, Kingston, 5th great-grandfather

Two of the ancestors listed above did more than sign their names; Samuel Severance served during the summer of 1775, and was in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was discharged after three months due to "camp sickness" (dysentery) and sent home. Jacob Webster was a lieutenant and then a captain who was at Ticonderoga.

This makes me so proud of my ancestors, and I'm in awe of their courage. It makes me question whether many of us latte-swilling moderns, with our addiction to electronics and comfort, have the intestinal fortitude to defend freedom-- or indeed the interest in doing so.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Irish roots

According to my's autosomal DNA results, the largest percentage of my ethnic breakdown is traced to Ireland, at 39%.

At first, I was confused, because this was quite a bit higher than what I was expecting-- my paternal grandmother's ancestors all came from Ireland in the mid-19th century, so I had been expecting to see about 25% for Ireland.

But then, looking more closely at my mother's side, I realized that she probably had quite a bit of Irish ancestry herself, certainly more than she realized:

The line of her maiden name, HOWES, is traced to Ireland-- her 2nd great-grandparents came from either Kinsale, Cork or Northern Ireland. And two names on her side of the tree are BAILEY and TOWLE (a variation of TOOLE), both of which are Irish in origin.

On my father's Irish side, the surnames are RYAN, FITZGERALD (two lines, not sure if they connect or not), LYNCH, and DAILEY.

How Irish are you?

Ancestry line for HOWES:

Richard HOWES (1816-1874) m. Catherine ROSS
John W. HOWES (1849-1933) m. Jane RUSSELL
Horace William HOWES (1882-1976) m. Estelle May SIMMONDS
Henry Richard HOWES (1913-1987) m. Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father

Ancestry line for BAILEY:

Richard BAILEY (1614-1648) m. Edna HALSTEAD
Joseph BAILEY (~1648-1712) m. Abigail TRUMBULL
John BAILEY (b. 1691) m. Susannah TENNEY
Jonathan BAILEY I (b. 1728) m. Martha CLARK
Amos BAILEY (b. 1756) m. Zilpha HARDY
Jonathan BAILEY II (1788-1857) m. Sarah CLARK
Arvilla BAILEY (b. 1816) m. Joshua PALMER
George Bailey PALMER (1850-1926) m. Mary Olivia PURINTON
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES

Ancestry line for TOWLE:

Philip TOWLE (~1616- 1696) m. Isabella AUSTIN
Caleb TOWLE I (1678-1765) m. Zipporah BRACKETT
Caleb TOWLE II (1701-1795) m. Rebecca PRESCOTT
Jeremy TOWLE (1745-1825) m. Mary SARGENT
Judith TOWLE (b. 1783) m. Samuel SEVERANCE
Mary "Polly" SEVERANCE (1805-1889) m. William WINSLOW
James W. WINSLOW (1838-1906) m. Elizabeth A. MACE
Bessie Maud WINSLOW (1886-1970) m. Frank Bailey PALMER
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father

Ancestry line for RYAN:

David RYAN m. Johanna LYNCH
Thomas Lynch RYAN (1831-1916) m. Johanna FITZGERALD
David Thomas RYAN (1875-1939) m. Mary Elizabeth FITZGERALD
Clare Regina RYAN (1911-2001) m. Boruch/Bernard K
My father (living) m. S. HOWES

Ancestry line for FITZGERALD:

Mary Elizabeth FITZGERALD m. David Thomas RYAN
Clare Regina RYAN (1911-2001) m. Boruch/Bernard K
My father (living) m. S HOWES

Ancestry line for DAILEY:

William DAILEY m. Mary UNKNOWN
Margaret DAILEY (1808-1889) m. Edward FITZGERALD
Johanna FITZGERALD (1842-1911) m. Thomas Lynch RYAN
David Thomas RYAN (1875-1939) m. Mary Elizabeth FITZGERALD
Clare Regina RYAN (1911-2001) m. Boruch/Bernard K
My father (living ) m. S HOWES

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fun with probate records

For the past couple of weeks in my free time, I've been exploring probate records of many of my ancestors online. As I've posted before, there is free access to 18th and 19th century New Hampshire probate records on FamilySearch. And American Ancestors (run by the New England Genealogical Historical Society) offers free access to a few of its databases, one of which is Essex County Probate File Papers from 1638-1881.

Probate records are extremely interesting, because they go beyond names and dates and really allow one a look into the lives of our ancestors. Depending on the specific type of probate record, you can get all kinds of information about relatives, finances, and property.

Personally, my favorite aspect of an ancestor's probate record is the inventory of what he or she owned.

We'll use as an example the estate of my 6th great-grandfather Richard Palmer of Bradford, Massachusetts, whose probate file is dated 15 January 1725. His estate included eleven acres of land, a pair of oxen, a mare, a colt, two cows, three yearlings, twenty sheep, and two swine. Some other items he owned were "pewter, brass, and iron things", "a pair of old books", and three beds--a "best" one, and two "old" ones.

Including his house and barn, Richard Palmer's estate totaled "one hundred fifty pounds two and nine pence."

It's hard for me to tell what this would be equivalent to in 2015 American currency, but it doesn't sound too shabby. Any readers more knowledgable than I am in New England colonial currency are invited to give an estimate in a comment or email me.

Richard named his widow Martha (nee Downer) as his executor; a document shows that she was illiterate, since she made her mark with an x instead of writing her name; female literacy was far from common in 18th century New England.

While vital records serve as the crucial skeletons of our ancestors, probate files provide much of the flesh that makes them real and personal, rather than just names in a chart. Don't neglect these wonderful resources!

Ancestry line:

Richard PALMER (1675-1714/15) m. Martha DOWNER
Samuel PALMER (b. 1713) m. Ann EVANS
Joshua PALMER I (1761-1851) m. Sarah SWETT
Joshua PALMER II (1815-1864) m. Arvilla BAILEY
George Bailey PALMER (1850-1926) m. Mary Olivia PURINTON
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father

Monday, February 23, 2015

Think before you post that headstone photo

Like most genealogists, I love Find-A-Grave. It's a great site and service, allowing people to find graves of ancestors, family, and to request/give help obtaining headstone photos.

While many Find-A-Grave volunteers are only interested in members of their own family, there are others who take photos and create memorials for entire cemeteries or sections.

Awhile back, I came across a photo of my mother's marker. I live near the cemetery, and I had purposely chosen not to put a memorial on Find-A-Grave. However, a stranger-- no doubt well-meaning-- created a memorial. I sent her a message thanking for her intentions and asking that she transfer the memorial to me, which she did. Honestly, seeing that memorial, posted by a total stranger, felt unsettling and invasive.

Recently a Find-A-Grave volunteer complained that she received a message from a lady asking her to take down the memorial the volunteer had created of the 3 month-old son she had lost-- the message was along the lines of "Who are you and what right do you have to post this? Did you ever consider the feelings of relatives who might come across this?"

This volunteer said that the baby had died twenty-six years ago... insinuating that the woman's feelings and request were unreasonable.

While I certainly don't think volunteers have to limit themselves to their own families/ancestors, my suggested rule for posting unrequested memorials is, don't do so for anyone who lived recently enough that they could have siblings, children, or parents still living. Especially those who died as babies.

Chances are that the mother coming across a photo of her deceased three-month-old baby is not going to be happy about it-- and no, it doesn't matter if it happened 26 years ago, she will probably feel disturbed and violated. "Who are you? Please take this down at once" is not an unreasonable reaction, and for a volunteer to suggest that the mother had no right to be upset is pretty damn insensitive.

The volunteer said that she posted this because she wasn't sure what to do in response to the message. Um, how about apologizing to the lady for upsetting her and taking down the memorial immediately, as requested? What else would one consider doing, seriously?

Please, think before you post that headstone photo. Respecting the privacy and feelings of the deceased's family trumps getting all 16,345 graves in Garden Of Memories put online.