Cordelia Stanwood, unmarried: a hidden gem in the family tree


Cordelia Stanwood, my favorite non-ancestor!

New genealogists often overlook the unmarried folks in their family trees.  After all, there are no offspring to track or trace.  However, these unmarried aunts and uncles, cousins and kinfolk, can have stories just as interesting as those of our ancestors, and just as deserving of being told and preserved for generations to come.   Just as important – often these unmarried relatives hold pieces to our genealogical puzzles, or have interesting information that make our own ancestors come alive.

Cordelia J. Stanwood is my third cousin, four times removed.  (It is her great grandfather’s headstone I’m posed next to in the post, Twenty Tips for Living with the Obsessed Genealogist.)  I never met Cordelia – she was born in Ellsworth, Maine on 1 August 1865, and died in 1958, several years before my own birth.  However I would have enjoyed meeting her.  One of the first female ornithologists in the U.S., she was also an author, a photographer, and….drum roll please…a genealogist.

From the web site, we have a wonderful summary of Cordelia’s many endeavors and talents:

Cordie marketed her bird life histories in highly scientific and popularized magazines from the Audubon Society’s Bird Lore, to Blue Bird, Nature and Culture, and House Beautiful, among others. In addition to focusing her literary and photojournalistic skills on birds and nature, Cordie also produced stories on antiques and architecture capturing an elegant, but fading piece of Maine’s old homes in the Ellsworth, Blue Hill, and the Castine area. In 1916, Cordie taught herself photography, and with a boxy, Eastman Kodak No.5 glass-plate camera dramatically documented her research.

It was Cordelia’s reputation for her work in ornithology that first drew me and my mother to this incredible woman.  Visiting Maine in 2004, we stopped at Birdsacre, the Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, to see where our cousin had lived, and to learn more about the work she had done.  Her passion for birds is best represented by her own beautiful writing:

When the thrush speaks to me, it seems as if the rags and tatters that enshroud my soul fall away and leave it naked. Then I must be simple and true or I cannot feel the message the small voice brings to me. When the thrush sings, I desire to live in a small, scrupulously neat camp, open to the sun and the wind and the voices of the birds. I would like to spend eternity thus, listening to the song of the thrush.

One cannot help but wonder about the genetic component of certain interests.  You see, my grandmother and my mother were both very passionate birders.  My son and I share the same love of our feathered friends, and love nothing more than to be outside amidst nature, listening to their song.  My house is surrounded by feeders of all types, and while my photography skills fall far short of Cordelia’s I love capturing pictures of the wildlife around our home.  Is this a Stanwood trait?  I would like to think so.  :-)

Photo of a red-bellied woodpecker at my feeder.  Have I inherited a love of photography and birds?

Photo of a red-bellied woodpecker at my feeder. Have I inherited a love of photography and birds?

Cordelia, the genealogist
In addition to spending hours in the woods, photographing birds, and then spending an equal amount of time writing about her subjects, Cordelia was also an active genealogist.  My family lines were greatly benefited by her collaboration with Ethel Stanwood Bolton, the author of The History of the Stanwood Family in America, published in 1899.


How lucky I am to have my own copy of this incredible, 1899 book to which Cordelia contributed!

Cordelia’s research and notes were shared with the author, expanding branches of the Stanwood family tree to Job Stanwood, our common ancestor who is famous for his participation in the Louisburg expedition, in which he lost his left arm.

Job  would be proud of Cordelia.  She told his story, and preserved it for all generations in an article she penned for the Lewiston Journal.  (Download complete, transcribed article article here.)  Interested in much more than dates, places and children, Cordelia gave me the gift of knowing my sixth great grandparents, Job and Martha (Bradstreet) Stanwood in her description of their lives and their marriage:

We judge that Job was a man of some education from the fact not only that he could write his name clearly but that he married a refined educated woman in spite of the fact that he was crippled by the loss of his left arm during the siege of Louisburg in 1745, when but eighteen years of age, and his health completely undermined thru the hardships he endured in Captain Samuel Davis’ Company in Colonel Hale’s regiment.  That he never fully recovered his health is attested by five petitions for pensions recorded in the Massachusetts archives.  These petitions were granted and it is from one of the petitions Job Stanwood’s signatures (sic) is copied.

His occupation in Gloucester after the return from the taking of Louisburg was that of Shoreman.  This is recorded in a deed at Salem, Mass.

Job Stanwood married Hannah Byles, September 14, 1749.  They had one son, Zebulon, who married, lived and died in Gloucester.  His will indicated that he was rather prosperous.  The present head of that branch of the family is Mr. James B. Stanwood of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Hannah Byles died at the age of twenty-four years.

For his second wife Job chose Martha Bradstreet.  They were married sometime before 1755.

Three children were born to them in Gloucester:  Hannah Byles, baptized November 25, 1755; Job, baptized November 5, 1758; married October 24, 1786, Lydia Gardner; Samuel, baptized October 11, 1761.

In the following year, Job and Martha disposed of their property in Gloucester.  Only recently among some old papers in the possession of the Historical Society of Portland, Maine, has a deed of Job’s next farm come to light.  This was discovered by Professor Willis Otis Sawtelle of Islesboro, Maine, who is writing a history of Mount Desert.  It seems that Professor Sawtelle’s own estate on Cranberry Isle is part of the old Job Stanwood farm.  The document was made out in about 1762…

Cordelia continues:

At Duck Brook on January 19, 17__ (illegible) to Job and Martha Bradstreet Stanwood was born a son, Benjamin Bradstreet, and in due time the home was gladdened by the coming of Humphrey Bradstreet, Enoch, Tichburn, David, Sarah, and Esther.

From the town records of Mount Desert we obtain one item that shows the standing of Job in the town.  The list of subscribers for the purchase of the town book discloses the names of the leading citizens at the time of organization.  Among them we find the name of Job Stanwood.

“March 30, 1776.
In district meeting assembled according to the fore-going warrant….
7.  Voted that a book be provided for records by subscription.”

“Mount Desert, March 30, 1776.
Subscriptions for a Town Book paid to James Richardson, Treasurer.
Capt. Ezra Young, 2s, 10d; Stephen Richardson, 1s;  Abraham Somes, 1s 4d; John Thomas, jr., 1s, 3d;  Josiah Black, 6d; Timothy Smallidge, 6d; Daniel Gott, 1s; Levi Higgins, 1s, 6d; Silas Parker, 1s; James Burril, 1s, 2d; Peter Gott, 1s.  Ezra Leland, 7d; Thomas Richardson, jr., 1s; Elisha Cousins, 1s, 6d; John Hamor, 1s; Ebenezer Salisburyq (sic), jr., 1s, 2d; John Thomas, 1s, 3d; Thomas Richardson, 1s, 4d; Job Stanwood, 1s, 6d; Joshua Norwood, 1s; Silas Bunker, 1s; Thomas Wasgatt, jr., 1s; Caleb Phinney, 1s; Nathan Scammon, 1s; Simeon Handley, 1s.

On the 27th day of July of this same year, a few days after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Job Stanwood died in his forty-ninth year.

Job Stanwood seems to have inherited the characteristics of his great-grandfather, Philip the 1st, to a greater degree than either his father or grandfather.  He was the intrepid soldier in the day of need and the good and dependable citizen.

Married Woman of Education
The fact the leads me to respect Job more than any other is his wisdom shown in the choice of an intelligent helpmate.  That Martha Bradstreet, the wife of Job Stanwood, was unusually well educated was a matter frequently referred to by her descendants.  My grandmother, Mrs. Solomon Stanwood, related that the neighbors described Mrs. Job Stanwood not only as a woman with an uncommonly good education but they declared that she even wrote poetry.

That Job appreciated these qualities in his wife is evident from the fact that he quoted her wise sayings and referred to her good judgment so frequently as to excite the smiles of the neighbors.  Many trifles point to a wise and sweet disposition in Martha.  For instance, I notice that the first daughter is named Hannah Byles for the young wife who died at the age of twenty-four years.

Another indication of her tact is seen in her naming the second child for Job himself.  Further wisdom may be observed in the naming of their third child, Samuel, for the boy who listened for the commands of the Lord.  Even then they were considering founding a new home in the wilderness, a man with one arm and wretched health, with a wife and family for to provide.  But I fancy that even the capable Martha had her moments of discouragement and that when she was far away from her old home at times her heart cried out for her people.  Undoubtedly it was at such times that she solaced herself by naming the one son Benjamin Bradstreet and another Humphrey Bradstreet.

Captain Benjamin Prosperous
Captain Benjamin Bradstreet Stanwood continued to live at Duck Brook where he was born.  Here he built one of the handsomest houses on the Island.  Near his house was his saw and grist mill.  He sailed in his vessels to Boston, New York and other ports.  His first wife, the mother of his children, was Margaretta Wasgatt.  She bore him four children.  Of these, John married Mary Gilly of Connecticut, and John’s daughter, Mary Ann, a woman of superior intellect and education, married Captain Edwin Hadlock of Cranberry isles and later of Bucksport, Maine.

Captain Ben’s second wife was Mrs. Zilpah L. (Phelps) Hotchkiss of New York.  Her son, John Hotchkiss, lived with them.  The daughters of John Hotchkiss created considerable ill-feeling among the young women of the island by going to New York with their father or grandfather and returning with “store bonnets.”  No one else on the island possessed them.  Undoubtedly, they also brought home store dresses and boots.  In those days the people of Mount Desert supplied most of their own needs.

Yes, Cordelia Stanwood died unmarried, and left no children to trace or to add to the family tree.  However, she left me, a precious gift – details on the personalities of my ancestors, Job and Martha (Bradstreet) Stanwood, and their son, Captain Benjamin Bradstreet Stanwood.  Without the careful interviews of her elders, and penning their stories for perpetuity, little details such as Martha’s poetry and Job’s praise for his intelligent wife, or Benjamin’s excursions and upsetting the neighbors with store-bought bonnets, would have been lost forever.  Cordelia Stanwood – definitely my favorite non-ancestor!


Find-A-Grave, more than just graves

The new copy of my great-great grandparents' gravestone, taken by a kind Find-A-Grave volunteer.

The new copy of my great-great grandparents’ gravestone, taken by a kind Find-A-Grave volunteer.

Good stuff starts with Find-A-Grave.  Okay, certainly not all good stuff, but lately it seems like LOTS of good stuff has made it’s way to me, complements of the wonderful people who post on Find-A-Grave.   Take, for example, the photo shown above, which awaited me in my email upon arising this morning.  Find-A-Grave volunteer Jaci happened to be at the Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, fulfilling a photo request for someone, when she took this picture of the headstone of my great-great grand parents, Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood.  She had no way of knowing that my yucky photo posted there was taken over twenty years ago, at sunset with a flash, later scanned with a low-res machine, and the original photo lost so I didn’t have any decent version of the precious gravestone.

Taken in 1991, this photo needed help!

Taken in 1991, this photo needed help!

What blows my mind even more is Crystal Lake Cemetery is HUGE, HUGE, HUGE!  What a kind person to be combing that large cemetery for someone, and then on top of it, to serendipitously stumble upon MY family’s gravestone that needed to be updated online.  Totally cool.

My Find-A-Grave stories don’t end there.  I have found the site to be one of the best for making cousin connections.  If it wasn’t for Find-A-Grave, and contacting the individual managing several Bursley memorials, I never would have met my fourth-cousin-once-removed, John.   It was largely John’s research that proved our family’s connection to Benjamin Bursley, a Revolutionary War patriot and a descendant of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, two of my Mayflower ancestors.

Most recently my Find-A-Grave connections put flesh on the bones of my Day ancestors.  It was another sort of serendipitous contact – Merrylyn had posted information on my Day family, and when I contacted her, I learned her great-great-great aunt’s sister, Elizabeth Skillings, married John Day, brother of my fourth great grandfather, Aaron Day.  We are both using the FAN principle, researching friends, associates and neighbors of our ancestors, and have had fun collaborating on the John Day/Elizabeth Skillings connection.  Merrylyn had previously obtained copies of some genealogical data on the Day family that had been submitted to the Starks (Maine) Historical Society where John and Elizabeth had lived.  The writer had spent time interviewing old relatives, and stories had passed on through the generations, with the following tidbit revealing the character and personality of John Day, Sr., father of John and Aaron:

“When the children were young they had two Grammy Days. John said his father told him to call his mother’s mother ‘Poverty Hill Grammy.’ He did and his mother spanked him!  Other family notes refer to his other Day grandmother as Pine Woods Grammy. Aaron Day from Waters History lived on what used to be Poverty Hill.  Jeremiah lived in the area today known as Pine Swamp. Hence the name Pine Woods Grammy.”

This simple little paragraph contains several bits of information:

  1. Another confirmation that John Day married his cousin, Sarah Day, daughter of Aaron Day and Sarah Goodhue.
  2. Aaron Day lived at Poverty Hill in Ipswich.
  3. John Day was a character.  I can imagine similar banter in my own household – my husband would make similar jokes and find it hysterical.  Me, not so much.  I can relate to my fifth great grandmother’s dismay at having her mama called Poverty Hill Grammy.  :-)
  4. John’s father Jeremiah Day lived at Pine Swamp, just outside Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he was born.

After learning about these Day family documents, I was able to obtain my own copy from the Starks Historical Society, but never would have known about them (or who to contact) if it wasn’t for my Find-A-Grave connection.  Yup, Find-A-Grave rocks.


Mystery people in Grandma Lavina’s photos

Taken at W. H. Jacoby Studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, about 1871

Minneapolis, Minnesota, about 1871

The photograph above was passed down to my in my great-great grandmother’s photo album.  Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood arranged the pictures with her children on the beginning pages, and this unknown woman, appeared on page 26.  I suspect it was a photo of her cousin, Isabel (Day) Libby, who lived in Minneapolis during that time.  The photo also appeared on the “Scott Kentish and Border” tree posted by user “devorguilla,”  but was labeled as Cynthia Day Lovejoy, which seems unlikely – Cynthia Lovejoy  (Isabel’s sister) lived in Maine where she died in 1867, age 29, and the photo was taken in Minneapolis about 1871.

J. M. Adams, Photographer, in Elgin, Illinois

J. M. Adams, Photographer, in Elgin, Illinois

Now that I’ve got some clues on Day photo beginning this post, I thought I’d take a look at some additional pictures in Lavina’s photo album.  The picture above has  posed quite a mystery; to my knowledge, no family members resided in Illinois.  However, more research into the Day family finds James Day, Lavina’s mother’s cousin, lived in Esmen, Illinois, in 1860.  James’ son, John B. Day, died in Chicago 20 July 1902.  John, born about 1849, is the right age to be the subject of this photograph, which was taken about 1883-1885, the time frame that J. M. Adams was operating the photography studio in Elgin.

Are you a Day?

Are you a Day?

No identifying marks or photographer name were included on this picture, which was placed on the same page as a known Day photo.  Is he somehow related to Lavina’s mother, Cynthia (Day) Bursley?

1865-1870 gentleman - no photographer or other clues to help!

Who is this well-dressed chap?

This photo appeared above the preceding one, on the same page as a known Day photo.  Comparing his attire to Civil War era photos, I’m guessing this gentleman was photographed sometime around 1865 or perhaps a little later?  If so, he is a candidate for Aaron Day, Cynthia Day’s father, or perhaps her father-in-law, Lemuel Bursley.

If you can help solve these mystery photos, please shoot me an email using the form below!


NGS 2014 Family History Conference – decisions, decisions!


Almost here!

It’s almost here!  The NGS 2014 Family History Conference, that is! Previously a California girl, I was spoiled with easy access to the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree.  I’ve missed their large conference the last couple of years, and am elated that the 2014 NGS event is within driving distance from my home in Delaware.  Now my only dilemma is trying to figure out which sessions to attend!  There are so many great tracks that I’m having difficulty deciding, and will definitely be purchasing some of the audio-recorded sessions.  However, for now, this is what I’ve tentatively planned:


  • 11 a.m.  Hell on the Home Front:  War-Time Damages & the Claims They Generated by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • 2:30 p.m.  New Standards or Old:  Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories, by Thomas W. Jones
  • 4:00 p.m.  My Ancestor Came to Colonial America as a Transported Convict, by Nathan W. Murphy


  • 8:00 a.m.  BCG Education Fund:  Research Strategies That Work, by Kay Haviland Freilich
  • 9:30 a.m.   Records of the Federal Courts, 1789-1911:  Drama in Your Ancestors’ Lives, by John Philip Colletta
  • 11:00 a.m.  Oh, the Things You Can Map:  Mapping Data, Memory and Historical Context, by Stefani Evans
  • 2:30 p.m.   Using Evidence Creatively:  Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records, by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • 4:00 p.m.  Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online?  by Thomas W. Jones
  • 7:00 p.m.   Revolutionary Voices:  History, Genealogy, and Documentary Film Techniques, by Maureen Taylor, et. al.

Continue reading

Make your favorite historical society “Flip” today!

Flip-Pal mobile scannerOld family records. Fading photographs. Newspapers. Rare books. Scraps of paper insignificant to any one else, but super important to those trying to put flesh on the bones of an ancestor. These items and more are often hidden away in historical societies, staffed by volunteers and others dedicated to preserving their town’s records.  Getting access to these records is an important part of our genealogical research – so why not make it easier for them with a Flip-Pal mobile scanner?

Lemuel Bursley Jr. documents provided by Farmington (Maine) Historical Society

From the Farmington Historical Society – details in the life of Lemuel Bursley, Jr., found in papers retrieved from the Croswell Store at Farmington Falls, Maine

Most historical societies are on a very limited budget, and the Flip-Pal’s nominal price of $149 is out of reach for many. Continue reading

Milo, Maine: First members of the Free Will Baptist Society


From The History of Milo, Vol. II, by Lloyd Treworgy:

“In 1827, nevertheless, only a step in time beyond the pioneers’ life-and-death struggle for subsistence in a hostile environment – and only four years after its organization as a town- Milo’s voters authorized the expenditure of $300, a large sum to them then, ‘To support the preaching of the gospel.’

“That same year, twelve of the old settlers united in organizing the town’s first religious group – the Free Will Baptist Society.

“Communications must have been poor, in those days, between the east and the west sides of the town, for no names of the west side residents – no Sargents, or Emerys, Tompson, Lees, Whiddens, or Shipleys – showed up on that 1827 list of members.

“That first group of twelve, as it was set down in the ‘Milo and Brownville Register,’ in 1905, included Moses Snow, Stephen Snow, Benjamin Boobar, Sr., Rufus Johnson, Aaron Day, James White, Jr., Nancy Snow, Fannie Snow, Sarah Roe, Abigail Johnson, Eliza Heath, and Mary Stevens.”

The Economical Genealogist: podcasts and streaming videos – your FREE genealogical education!


Multi-task with podcasts to get free genealogy tips!

Many people want to learn more about genealogy, but don’t have the financial resources to attend conferences or to pay for expensive online courses and webinars.  Others (like me!) are short on time and need to combine their learning with other activities.  Here are some great ways to learn genealogy that are FREE and can be combined with other activities.


There are a variety of wonderful podcasts and radio talk shows available to increase your knowledge and skills.  Here are my favorites:

1) Fieldstone Common:  “a weekly internet radio show (podcast) for anyone who loves exploring the past.  Host Marian Pierre-Louis will introduce you to authors and historians who bring history alive! Topics focus on history and genealogy in the Northeast United States.  Authors, historians, curators, archivists, genealogists and other stewards of history are interviewed about their books or projects.”   This is a must for anyone with colonial American roots!

2) The Forget-Me-Not Hour:  Your Ancestors Want Their Stories to Be Told:  “Catch Jane Wilcox, host of The Forget-Me-Not Hour: Your Ancestors Want Their Stories To Be Told talk radio show from Kingston, N.Y. Interviews with special local, regional and national genealogy guests, a little music, and lots of genealogy tips.”

3)  Genealogy Gems:  With a focus on technology, Lisa Louise Cooke provides plenty of tips to assist newbies and advanced genealogists alike.  A free and premium version is available, which may be downloaded from iTunes or listened to online.  The Premium version also provides users with access to several how-to videos and other content as well.

4)  Genealogy Guys:  Experts and authors George G. Morgan and Drew Smith advertise their podcast as the longest running, regularly produced podcast in the world!  Listen in to hear the latest news in the genealogical world and to get tips and tricks from the Genealogy Guys!

Other FREE online learning opportunities:

FamilySearch Learning Center:  A wonderful and often overlooked resource, FamilySearch has provided great instructional videos for those new to genealogy, or just new to research in a specific area or region.  They’ve also added links to the RootsTech 2014 streamed sessions.  Check back regularly for new content from people like Thomas W. Jones, who authored the must-have book, Mastering Genealogical Proof Standard.  Brand new to genealogy?  No problem – there are short videos for you as well!

Legacy Family Tree Webinars:  Free to listen live and for a short time after broadcasting, these webinars provide excellent information on a variety of topics ranging from organization, technology, research methods and much, much more.

Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension Series:  If you’ve attended Jamboree, you’ll know SCGS is a master at education!  Their live webinars are a wonderful supplement to Jamboree, and a great resource to those who are unable to attend live conferences.  Free to listen live, and members have access to previously recorded sessions.




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