Category Archives: Day

The mad and successful hatters in my family tree

hats

Beaver hats

Apparently, making hats could be a lucrative business in the 19th century. Several of the brothers of Aaron Day, my fourth great grandfather, had taken up the trade, which they likely learned from their uncle, Daniel Day. Aaron’s oldest brother, John, resided in Starks, Maine, and his great granddaughter, Lucy Hutchkins, wrote the following:

John Day “The Hatter” was Grandpa Day’s father.  Born in Mass. (Ipswich, I think)…Perhaps it was in Hallowell that he learned the hatter’s trade.  He had a brother Aaron living in Starks at that time, he went there and met and married Elizabeth (Betsy) Skillings the oldest child of Lewis Skillings- May 1809.  They lived for a time on “Mount Hunger” in Starks.  Perhaps he gave it the name…

Grandpa told me once how his father made the felt hats.  Wish I could remember it better.  The washed wool was pulled apart very fine and the strands pressed down evenly into a large circular form, it was wet, under pressure (perhaps steamed) I think and shrunk until it became firm.  Then it had to be blocked by shaping it over a “block” of wood.  I suppose it was dyed, don’t remember just when but before it was blocked I guess.  Grandfather, the hatter, was only 56 when he died.

Before his death, John had much difficulty feeding his family; at least one of his children (Jonathan, the grandfather of Lucy who wrote the history above) was sent to be raised by relatives when he couldn’t manage to support all nine of them.

While the trade of a hatter was not so promising in the tiny town of Starks, John’s brothers Francis and Moses had much better success.  From the book, Manchester Maine 1775-1975, we learn the following:

In the early 1800’s the Crossroads [in Manchester, Maine] had its own hat shop, owned by Francis and Moses Day. An old “hatter’s iron” from there was in Mrs. Henrietta Sampson’s possession in 1902, and deeds for Day land definitely say where the hat shop was. We have no records of what kinds of hats they made, but in Winthrop “the making of fur and wool hats was begun in 1809” – “the manufacturing the various kinds of hats then in demand and dealing in furs.”

Early land transactions provide Francis’ occupation as hatter, while in later Kennebec county deeds his title is “gentleman,” a term usually reserved for those few individuals who were quite financially well off and did not have to work for a living.  Moses, on the other hand, did not fare so well. Lucy Hutchins wrote that Moses had a head injury as a child. It may have been this, or it could have been the trade of hatter that resulted in his institution in the Augusta “insane asylum” by the time he was enumerated on the 1850 census.

Wikipedia states:

Mad hatter disease, or mad hatter syndrome, is a commonly used name for occupational chronic mercury poisoning among hatmakers whose felting work involved prolonged exposure to mercury vapours. The neurotoxic effects included tremor and the pathological shyness and irritability characteristic of erethism…By the Victorian era the hatters’ condition had become proverbial, as reflected in popular expressions like “mad as a hatter” and “the hatters’ shakes”.

Perhaps this contributed to John’s relatively early death as well, and his inability to care for his family financially.  Now, someday, maybe I will learn if Aaron also followed this family trade!

 


Awesome autosomal DNA solves the mystery of Martha’s maiden name!

Autosomal DNA. One of the most powerful tools in the genealogist’s toolbox! No, it will never, ever replace the elbow grease required in completing an accurate family tree (nor would I want it to – it would spoil the fun of the hunt!), but used correctly, the results are incredible!

I’ve previously shared how I used autosomal DNA to determine the parents my third great grandmother, Cynthia Day.   (You can read the post here.)  No, the DNA itself didn’t tell me who they were, but cousin connections put me on the right path. I can now state with confidence that Cynthia’s parents were Aaron Day and his wife, Martha.

As we all know, one answered question often leads to several more inquiries. So now: who is Martha? While I was hopeful that maybe one day DNA would provide clues to that answer, I put the question on the shelf and didn’t pursue it further. I figured it would be a puzzle to be solved some time in the future. However, the future came considerably faster than anticipated! Thanks to an email from another cousin connection on FamilyTreeDNA, I was given a few hints.

First, some background info. What was known about Martha was minimal:

  • Her headstone read, “Martha, wife of Aaron Day, died Feb. 16, 1844, AE 66.” Short and sweet. However, from this, we know Martha was born about 1778.i
Headstone of Martha, wife of Aaron Day.  Upper Ferry Cemetery, Medford, ME.  (Photo courtesy of Sherece Lamke)

Headstone of Martha, wife of Aaron Day. Upper Ferry Cemetery, Medford, ME. (Photo courtesy of Sherece Lamke)

  • Aaron and Martha’s first three children (Nathaniel, John and Sarah) were born in Starks, Somerset County, Maine, where Aaron, was also enumerated on the 1810 census.ii It seemed likely that Martha lived and married in that region.
Starks, Maine Town & Vital Records, FHL microfilm #12060

Starks, Maine Town & Vital Records, FHL microfilm #12060

I searched through a dozen rolls of microfilm, starting with Starks and working outward, hoping to find the marriage record of Aaron and Martha. My search was in vain, but I became very, very familiar with families that lived in the locations around them, and one name in particular stuck with me: BUMPS/BUMPAS.

So it was with considerable interest that I learned of a FamilyTreeDNA match who had a BUMPS in her family tree. Even more interesting, her ancestor, Mary (Tibbetts) Bumps named a son, AARON DAY Bumps. Bingo. Continue reading


Evidence-based Reasoning Reveals the Parents of Cynthia (Day) Bursley

As Elizabeth Shown Mills states, often we will never find the “smoking gun” – that single document which states the parentage of an individual. This is certainly the case with Cynthia (Day) Bursley, who was born in rural Maine in the early nineteenth century, in a place and time in which few records were kept. In fact, the first known record directly naming Cynthia was the 1850 Federal Census, in which she was enumerated in Bangor, Maine at the age of 37 with her husband, Benjamin Bursley.1 Despite this obstacle, however, using evidence-based reasoning, along with the genealogical proof standard, one can deduce Cynthia’s parentage with a high degree of confidence.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley

Cynthia Bursley died 13 May, 1874, in Santiago, Sherburne County, Minnesota, at the age of 60 years and 3 months.2  (We can thus extrapolate her birth as approximately February 1814.) The certificate of her death states she was born in Maine to parents simply listed as “________ Day.”   This document also indicates her parents were natives of Maine as well.

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Nearly twenty years later, in 1892, Cynthia’s daughter, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, began the process to probate Cynthia’s estate.3 These documents confirm that Benjamin Bursley, with whom Cynthia was enumerated on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses, was in fact, her husband. Continue reading


The hunt for Days, and the importance of original records

I’m a homebody who prefers the company of my dogs and computer to travel. However, there is one thing that is sure to motivate me to hop on a plane, and that’s GENEALOGY! A week ago Thursday I flew to Maine to do some research on my Day family, and then met up with my husband in Boston the following Saturday. I had two goals for this trip:

1)   Find any additional documents that may list relationships for Cynthia Day’s parents, siblings, aunts and uncles; and

2)   Find the original church records that were used as the source of information for Aaron Day’s baptism, which was listed in the Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts to the end of the Year 1849.

While I did find some early deeds, maps and other cool stuff, I bombed on goal #1. (I think I’ve pretty much gleaned all relevant records pertinent to Cynthia Day’s family and it’s time to start my proof argument for her parentage.)

All was not lost, however. I struck pay dirt big time on goal #2! Buried for several hours in the Ipswich, Massachusetts Archives, I was able to view the microfilmed church records for the First Church and the South Church. While not an original, these transcribed, hand-copied records are nearer to the original than the published vital records, which I highly suspected to be in error.

Below is the entry for Aaron Day’s baptism in the published Ipswich Vital Records. As you can see, it states he was the son of John and Eunice Day.

 

Aaron Day's baptism in the published Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts

Aaron Day’s baptism in the published Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts

This seemed highly unlikely. John Day and Eunice Burnum published marriage intentions on 5 May, 1722, more than 60 years before Aaron’s birth. The only John Day with a wife of childbearing age in Ipswich in 1793 when Aaron was baptized was married to his cousin, Sarah (Day) Day. Numerous other documents pointed to Sarah (Day) Day as Aaron’s mother, not Eunice. The transcribed, microfilmed church record is consistent with this – no mother was listed:

 

Microfilmed records from the South Church of Ipswich.

Microfilmed records from the South Church of Ipswich.

Where did the published Vital Records obtain the name of Eunice as Aaron’s mother? We will probably never know, but it seems likely that a tired transcriber simply added the mother’s name, having completed data entry for other children of the earlier couple. Unfortunately, as can be expected, multiple family trees published online and on paper erroneously list Aaron’s mother as the mysterious Eunice, wife of John Day. This exercise, however, underscores the importance of using original records, whenever possible.

After visiting the archives, my husband joined me in the hunt for Aaron’s maternal grandparents – Aaron Day and Sarah (Goodhue) Day. It was an overcast, rainy day, and the pictures turned out lovely. Cemeteries – some of my favorite places. Even more special when they contain an ancestor.  :-)

Headstone of Aaron Day who drowned in 1790.

Headstone of Aaron Day who drowned in 1790.

Highland Cemetery, the new section of the Old Burying Ground.

Highland Cemetery, the new section of the Old Burying Ground.

Old Burying Ground where Aaron Day and his wife Sarah (Goodhue) Day are buried

Old Burying Ground where Aaron Day and his wife Sarah (Goodhue) Day are buried


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” Ancestry.com 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!

 


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

church

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.”


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