I spent my Valentine’s Day happily buried in pension and land records at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. On my agenda was the review and photographing of the pension and land records of the family of my 3rd great grandmother, Cynthia (Day) Bursley. Most interesting was the file for Amos Day, a Union solider who died in a Georgia Confederate prison on 14 October 1864. His mother, Eunice (Boobar) Day, had filed for a mother’s pension, and as proof of Amos’ support, she included in her pension request several letters which showed Amos’ financial contributions toward the family. The first of these letters is dated 13 October 1856, while Amos is traveling west from Maine to Minnesota aboard the War Eagle. Continue reading
Category Archives: My Family Lines
It all started with a tale told by my late Cousin Pat, a book about the history of Minneapolis, and a peculiar warning in Grammer’s autograph book.
“Grammer,” as my grandmother was called, was the epitome of what a grandmother should be – doting, kind, and indulgent. Okay, my mom probably didn’t appreciate the fact she spoiled me with candy and cookies, and showed me my Christmas gifts early, but I adored my grandmother. As I grew older, Grammer would share with me stories from her childhood. Later, as I became a genealogy addict, she was always interested in learning about my latest findings. After returning from a research trip in Grammer’s hometown of Minneapolis, I loaned her a book I’d purchased called “Downtown.” Little did I know I wouldn’t receive it back until Grammer had passed – but she would never tell me why or what happened to it!
Right after my grandmother’s death, I became reacquainted Grammer’s niece (my mother’s cousin), Pat (Anhorn) Blair. Cousin Pat told me of my grandmother’s wild teenage years, and I learned a side of Grammer that I’d never known before. The most interesting detail, however, was regarding Cedric Adams, an overwhelmingly popular radio announcer in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in the 1930s and 1940s. Continue reading
In 2010 I took my first autosomal DNA test through FTDNA. I quickly discovered the frustration of autosomal DNA testing.
1) Autosomal DNA provides no hints as to what part of your family tree your match comes from. Given that we each have 64 fourth great grandparents, 128 fifth great grandparents and so on, it can be quite challenging to determine which person is our common ancestor when a DNA match occurs.
2) Not everyone who does DNA testing is interested in sharing. That was quite a surprise! I had always assumed that people who are willing to expend the funds for DNA testing would be similarly interested in collaboration. WRONG!
3) Not everyone who does DNA testing posts their family tree for self-exploration by those with whom they have genetic matches. Continue reading
With stories of pilgrims and Revolutionary War ancestors, tales of Indian uprisings and cousins scalped, its no wonder I became a genealogy addict at a very young age. My mother must have been quite astounded that her seven-year-old daughter repeatedly asked about her heritage. Mom’s usual response was, “You’re English, Irish, Scotch, Welch, German and Norwegian.” She didn’t have much else to offer me, but my grandmother sure did. While we didn’t know WHICH ancestor came on the Mayflower, or who was in the Revolutionary War, we did know it was her mother’s Bursley side that was impacted by the 1862 Sioux Uprising in Minnesota. And, years later, I now know it was also the Bursley lines that had the Mayflower ancestry as well as service in the American War of Independence. So today, Veteran’s Day, I offer this tribute to Benjamin Bursley, my grandmother’s great-grandfather, Civil War veteran and descendent of some of America’s earliest settlers – the Pilgrims. Continue reading
As Veteran’s Day is approaching, I thought it appropriate to share the Annual Return of the Company of Foot, commanded by Daniel Beale, in the War of 1812. Included is my ancestor, Lemuel Bursley, whose father Benjamin Bursley served in the American Revolution. The original document is held by the Farmington (Maine) Historical Society.
I love maps. They often hold the keys to learning more about our ancestors. They place these people in context with those with whom they lived. They show a community, give us an idea of of who their friends, family and associates were. They simply make it all “click” for me, connecting the dots in a way nothing else does. Finding those maps, however, can be exceptionally challenging.
Consequently, I’ve spent the better part of the last nine years looking for maps of early Penobscot county, Maine. Specifically, I wanted to see where the families lived who resided in the towns of Chester and West Indian Township (now known as Woodville, and formerly Township No. 2 Indian Purchase). Imagine my delight a few weeks ago when I finally found the online images for the 1859 map above, clearly indicating my great-great-great-great grandfather, Benjamin Stanwood, lived in North Woodville, just south of the Pattagumpus stream. Continue reading
Uncle Fred. Unmarried. That’s the only thing my grandmother had to say about her mother’s older brother. Quite odd, given that she had photos, stories and other interesting bits of history on her mother’s other five living siblings. I didn’t think much of it as a new genealogist; after all, Fred didn’t have children. What was there to research? As I matured in my techniques and skills, it did not matter that Fred was without descendants who would later care about his life and history. It mattered to me, as he was part of the family, and his life was important.
In the late 1980s, I snapped the photo above, taken at Crystal Lake Cemetery. Benjamin Stanwood, brother of Fred and Bert J. Stanwood, purchased the plot for his unmarried brothers. Bert was buried there; curiously, Fred was not. Where did he go? Where did he die? No one seemed to know.
As the internet advanced and databases became available, more details on Fred’s life emerged. Continue reading
Last Friday was a genealogist’s dream – I received five deeds and three probate files in the mail. Of particular interest was the probate record for my 5th Great Grandfather, Thomas Wasgatt, who died 19 May 1820. Shown above is the signature of his wife, Hannah (Thomas) Wasgatt, who acknowledged in writing her “allowance” from her husband’s estate. While most of Hannah’s female peers were giving their “mark” when a signature was necessary, she was able to write her name.
Hannah wasn’t the only smarty pants in the family. Nope, her husband Thomas clearly was a learned man. I was so tickled to find that the very first item listed in the inventory of his possessions was a desk. Continue reading
My favorite ancestor is Betsy (Wasgatt) Stanwood. She was one tough lady. She was five months pregnant when she married my 4th great grandfather, Benjamin Stanwood, in 1808. Not exactly politically correct in the early 19th century. When Benjamin died, she managed the family farm, and was listed as head of house on nearly all subsequent censuses. When her grown children and spouses moved to Minnesota, she went along for the ride, but came back to her home – Eden (now Bar Harbor), Maine. She apparently made this trip alone, although she was nearly 80 years old at the time. I love Bar Harbor – I understand why she came home.
I’ve dabbled in my Wasgatt genealogy throughout the years, but was again inspired to pick it back up when I saw the Wasgatt family Bible in Bar Harbor last summer. Armed with this info, and starting from scratch, I’ve been going through generation after generation, adding appropriate sources that I either lacked in my beginning days, or were dropped when moving from one genealogy program to the next.
One really cool thing about retracing your steps after so many years is that there are a lot more resources available online to assist. Continue reading