Category Archives: My Family Lines

The homestead of John Day in Manchester, Maine

For the genealogist, little can compare to finding the homestead of your ancestor.  And with the help of Dale Potter-Clark of the Readfield Historical Society in Maine that is exactly what we did!

This house is believed to be the homestead of John Day

This house is believed to be the homestead of John Day

First, some background:

On 24 October, 1796, John Day purchased from Benjamin Allen a portion of Lot 41, then described as Winthrop, in the County of Lincoln, Maine.

Book 4:529 of Lincoln County deeds, held at Kennebec Registry of Deeds

Book 4:529 of Lincoln County deeds, held at Kennebec Registry of Deeds

In 1813, for the sum of $500, John deeds the land to his son Nathaniel.  Then, in 1820, for receipt of $1.00 Nathaniel deeds a 1/4th part interest in the home to each of his unmarried sisters, Abigail, Sarah and Lucy.  He describes it as the home in which John Day continues to reside.  In 1845, Nathaniel then deeds a portion of the land to his niece, Harriet (Day) Freeman, giving her a house lot for the huge sum of – you guessed it –  $1.00.  Finally, in 1870, four years before his death, Nathaniel sold all of the lot, in addition to two others, to Harriet and her husband, Rowland Freeman.

Nathaniel deeded all of his land to Harriet's husband, Rowland, before his death

Nathaniel deeded all of his land to Harriet’s husband, Rowland, before his death

Eventually, the property made it’s way to Harriet and Rowland’s daughter, Helen (Freeman) Grant. In 1911, Helen wrote in a letter to her cousin Elsie, “There is no ‘Place like Home’ and the dear ‘Old Day Homestead’ is an ideal home for me.”   The property remained with family until 1929.  It is now part of Lakeside Orchards.  See the old trees below:

Old trees behind the Day homestead

Old trees behind the Day homestead

Yes, finding this home was quite an experience indeed.  Here is a picture of five Day descendants with the “Old Day Homestead.”

Left to right: Lynn, Shari, Fritsie, me and my son, Jeremy. We all descend from John's son, Aaron.

Left to right: Lynn, Shari, Fritsie, me and my son, Jeremy. (We all descend from John’s son, Aaron.)

Spinsters and single-women in the 1700s and beyond


Sarah.  Abigail.  “Aunt Nabby.”  Lucy.  Mary.  Hannah.  Elizabeth.  These are the names of just a few of the Day family women residing as “single women” in Ipswich, Massachusetts in the 18th and early 19th centuries.  They clearly did not espouse the joys of marriage as depicted in the c. 1790 picture above.  What on earth would cause so many women of the Day family to remain single in an era where women could not easily support themselves, and opportunities for the unmarried female were scarce?

The obvious explanations could certainly justify a spinster or two in the family tree, but TEN?

Jeremiah Day's Children Continue reading

Jeremiah Day’s “Highboy Chest of Drawers”

Helen (Freeman) Grant wrote to her cousin, Elsie (Day) Hansen about Jeremiah Day's Highboy Chest of Drawers

Helen (Freeman) Grant wrote to her cousin, Elsie (Day) Hansen about Jeremiah Day’s Highboy Chest of Drawers

Jeremiah Day.  Yeoman.  And, apparently, cabinetmaker.

Featured on the Yale University web site is a photo of a Highboy Chest of Drawers which was attributed to Jeremiah and which stayed in the Day family for at least two hundred years. (Since the image is copyrighted, you will have to visit the Yale web site for the picture.

Yale University sent the documentation for the Highboy to Winterthur Library in Wilmington, Delaware, where it has been safely preserved.  Included was a letter penned by Helen F. (Freeman) Grant, from which we learn the provenance of the Highboy.  Helen describes how her great grandmother, Sarah Day, used the chest as her original housekeeping furniture, and then gave it to her daughter Abigail Day, whom Helen calls “Aunt Nabby.”  It was Abigail who in turn gave the piece to Helen, and in 1910 Helen entrusted the cherished family heirloom to her cousin, Elsie (Day) Hansen.  Helen’s letter describing the history of the Highboy and its provenance is transcribed in its entirety below:

Manchester Maine Aug 13, 1911

My Dear Elsie [illegible]

I received a nice long letter date June 1st from you, and should have answered directly but for my negligence – a great fault of mine!

Was glad you had found the Old “High Case of Drawers” as our old people used to call it and hope they are now all dressed anew and gracing or furnishing your Dining room; I would love to see them.  I miss their familiar presence have not yet got anything to take their place.  I was sorry you found them so much an article of expense to move to your home.  Mabel’s did not cost her as much and were considered more valuable wood.  However, yours, I liked better.

I did not place any record of the date when or by whom made as you wished me to do – but will prepare a copy for you to now place inside some drawer as on back, one of great grandmother Sarah Day’s brother, was a “Cabinet Maker.”  (Also an Uncle of hers) and I always heard the old aunts say “Uncle Aaron” made the drawers.  I think their mother’s brother but am not positive.  However they must be considerable more than a hundred years old as the drawers were part of her original housekeeping furniture while in “Old Ipswich Mass.”

These drawers were presented to me by our great Aunt Abigail or “Aunt Nabby” Day a sister of my grandfather Aaron Day and your great grandfather Francis Day.  She receiving them directly from her mother (great grandmother Sarah Day).  I have a chair (one of Capt. David Days, who lived in Hallowell (brother of great grandmother Sarah, whose furniture came from same source, and same make given me by a friend for wedding present.)

However I will look up papers and find dates which can place the building of Highboy somewhere near correct.

Well Elsie you will think me rather stupid.  I am so and the other day while looking over some newspapers I found a letter written to you last Jan. and which I supposed was mailed and you had received months ago.  It’s old!  But I send it to you today that you may know I wrote you, it’s shameful!  I have aged in looks very much since you were here, my hair is now getting so white, hardly any gray hair, last year at the time time.  Am better of lameness but have lost my quick step now – when try to hasten I tremble so so move about rather slowly.  Have not been a bout much this summer, to church but once, to city 2 or 3 times was to brother Edwin’s 50th anniversary June 30th.  Have not been there since, only 2 ½ miles away.  Was over to Henrietta’s in July while Waldo & Mabel were there.  Mabel desired a visit from Will C. and I this month but I don’t feel like taking the trip a get so very tired, am going much and wish the summer could be longer.  Have enjoyed being out of doors most of time.  Had lots of very warm weather but such lovely shade in our yard could stay out much of time.

There is no “Place like Home” and the dear “Old Day Homestead” is an ideal home for me.  Wish you could stop in every day and enjoy awhile with me.

I think over & over again of the pleasure of your visit last summer you & Charles T and some of our pleasure trips, out on the lake with [Buk Farr?] for one, and the auto ride about Augusta also our call in the establishment of Buzzell & Weston of Weston disagreeableness.  So hateful in him; his father is living very low, with heart trouble (if alive) Dr. said yesterday was doubtful if he rallied from this attack.

I received a beautiful letter from your father other day, so descriptive of Montana the part he is visiting, and I am so glad they (J.B.P. & Sophie) can be out there this summer and enjoying visiting with all the children together.  So nice, and for you too, to have privilege of meeting there with them, when I wish to you want Chas T. to have a share with you too.  I think of him with love, also as with you, and hope to see him again sometime if life is spared.  Have got to be [illegible] of page, think have written enough will write your father soon. Now with great [illegible] and much love for you & Charles S. [illegible],

Helen F. Grant

Until recently this branch of the Day family had no knowledge of Helen F. (Freeman) Grant, or her mother, Harriet Luzetta (Day) Freeman.  Harriet was the sister of my 2nd great grandmother, Cynthia (Day) Bursley, and was raised by her father’s brother and sister, Nathaniel and Sarah.  Harriet clearly loved her aunts and uncles, and passed down information on the history of the family to her daughter, Helen.  In 1828 Harriet also commissioned the painting of a watercolor memorial of her grandfather, John Day.  (The piece was listed as part of an auction on, but the auctioneer is out of business.  Someday, perhaps, this watercolor or the original oil painting will surface!)

Many of the women in the Day family remained single, beginning in the late 18th century.  It appeared that Helen was going to continue this trend as well, but at the age of 55, married William C. Grant, 24 years her junior.  She continued to live on the “Old Day Homestead,” originally settled by her great grandparents, John Sarah (Day) Day.  She was surrounded by her family’s heritage, enjoying nature.  I think I would have been quite fond of Helen.

Bradstreets and Days: From Massachusetts to Minnesota, descendants wed

Descendants of Ipswich settlers Humphrey Bradstreet and Robert Day met in Minnesota and married in 1781

Descendants of Ipswich settlers Humphrey Bradstreet and Robert Day met in Minnesota and married in 1781

Lavina S. Bursley’s fifth great grandfather, Robert Day, was made a freeman in Ipswich in 1641.  In Robert’s will, he wrote:

“I give to my son John Day after my decease…ye parcell of land lying near the common fence gate w[hi]ch was part of Mr. Bradstreets his lot…”


Humphrey Bradstreet arrived in Ipswich in 1635.  From this will, we know that Humphrey Bradstreet not only knew Robert Day, but had also lived nearby and conducted land transactions with him.  He would never have guessed that two and half centuries later, his sixth great grandson, Albert J. Stanwood, would meet and marry Robert’s fifth great granddaughter, Lavina Bursley, in the small town of Elk River in Minnesota.

Albert and Lavina are my second great grand parents, and Ipswich, the home of both of their ancestors, one of my favorite places.


Me with the headstones of Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood’s great grandparents, Aaron and Sarah (Goodhue) Day

Ipswich Town Historian led a walking tour of the town in June 2015.  The Caldwell home was built by Lavina's Day ancestors.

Ipswich Town Historian led a walking tour of the town in June 2015. The Caldwell house was home to Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood’s ancestors.


The Bradstreet Farm was originally in the town of Ipswich but was later annexed to neighboring Rowley. This portion of Humphrey Bradstreet’s land remained in the family until 2007!


Untangling the John Days of Ipswich, Massachusetts

John Day, my 5th great grandfather, was baptized in Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts on 24 February 1750/1.  In earlier documents John was referred to as John Day Jr., so obviously other men of the same name lived in Ipswich.  To ensure my research centered on the correct John Day, I decided to do a bit more digging into taxes, deeds and other records.

The John Days of Ipswich, from the Vital records of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849:

No. Name Birth/Baptism Parents Marriage Death
1 John Unknown Robert Sarah Pengry Bef. 25 May 1690
2 John 17 Feb. 1665/6 John Sarah Wells 28 Feb. 1722
3 John bp. 27 Sep. 1696 John & Sarah Eunice Burnham Bef. 5 Dec 1780
4 John bp. 29 Mar. 1724 John & Eunice 26 Apr. 1723
5 John bp. 17 Sep. 1727 John & Eunice 13 Apr. 1724
6 John bp. 24 Feb. 1730 John & Eunice 31 Mar. 1730
7 John bp. 24 Feb. 1750/1 Jeremiah Sarah Day 12 Oct. 1820
8 John bp. 1 Oct. 1769 Thomas Salome Chapman 16 June 1842
9 John bp. 17 Nov. 1776 John Jr. & Sarah Elizabeth Skillings 7 Mar. 1833
10 John bp. 12 Apr. 1789 Abner Jr. & Elizabeth Hephzibah Smith Unknown

As noted in the chart above, 10 individuals named John Day are recorded in the Ipswich vital records, with three dying in infancy. My ancestor, John Day #7, was born in 1750/1, and was the son of Jeremiah and Mary (Caldwell) Day. The only other adult male of the same name during my ancestor’s life was John Day #3, the husband of Eunice Burnham. John Day #7 is often referred to in town records and deeds as John Day Jr, distinguishing him from the elder John Day #3. The two men, both descended from sons of Robert Day and his wife Hannah, appear in red below.

Cousins John Day #3 and John Day #7 lived in Ipswich at the same time.

Cousins John Day #3 and John Day #7 lived in Ipswich at the same time.

In addition to the use of the suffix “Jr,” the two Johns may also be distinguished in other ways. John Day #3, the elder, was sometimes referred to as “Mr. John Day,” a term often used to denote an established man of esteem. A young man typically would not have earned the title “Mr.” Therefore, references to Mr. John Day must refer to the elder John #3, born in 1696, and 55 years older than our subject, John Day #7.

The place of residence also provides clues to the identity of subjects in town records. John Day #3 is found living in the south part of the town, below the river, while John #7 resided near his family in Pine Swamp, north of the river and listed in the north town lists.

Mr. John Day appears third from the bottom on this 1770 South List Province Tax in Ipswich.

Mr. John Day appears third from the bottom on this 1770 South List Province Tax in Ipswich.

1832 map of Ipswich

1832 map of Ipswich

1768, 1770, and 1771 Tax Valuation Lists

Only one John Day was listed in the tax lists in Ipswich for the years 1768 and 1770, and he was residing in the south part of town, across the river from our subject’s family.   He is referred to as “Mr. John Day,” ruling out our subject, John Day #7, who was a teenager during these tax assessment years.   Additionally, only one John Day appears in the 1771 tax valuation list, and it is most certainly John Day #3 who is taxed in all three assessments. John #3 would have been 75 years of age in 1771, with a well-established real and personal estate. The tax list appraises his real estate at £26 18s., and he had £100 lent at interest. Animals taxed were 2 horses, 2 oxen, 5 cattle, 20 goats and sheep, and 4 swine.   His land included 20 acres of pasture able to accommodate 150 cattle; his farm produced 150 bushels of grain annually; he owned 37 acres of salt marsh; produced 20 tons of salt marsh hay annually; had 4 acres of English and Upland mowing grass, and produced 4 tons of English and Upland hay annually.   Since our subject, John Day #7, was only 21 years of age, it seems quite unlikely the 1771 tax list refers to him. Additionally, December 1780 probate records show that John Day #3 was a man of means; land holdings were valued at £554, with his entire estate totaling £658.

1779 Tax List?

Unfortunately, the town clerks did not clearly label each tax book during the years 1780-1850.   Because of this, we cannot ascertain in exactly which year the following tax was collected.   John Day #7 is still referred to as John Day Jr., so John Day #3 was still alive.  We do know that John Day #3 had his will probated 5 December 1780, and since John #3 appears in the following tax year, it seems likely that the entry below is actually for 1779, and not for 1780 as indicated on the microfilmed roll.

John Day #7 is assessed for one poll, likely in 1779

John Day #7 is assessed for one poll, likely in 1779

While the above image is not clearly legible, thankfully “Jr” was added to the name, denoting John #7, the youngest adult male of the name in Ipswich. The amount is illegible, but from this image we learn that John had money lent at interest, and appears to have been financially comfortable.

The next image is apparently from the subsequent tax year.   (The tax book and film was not paginated.)  Shown is John Day #3, who died before 5 December 1780 when his will was probated, so this tax year was very likely in 1780.

John Day #3 Tax Valuation

John Day #3 Tax Valuation

The tax records also provide clues to the when my ancestor’s father died.  In the same tax year appears “Heirs Jeremiah Day”, helping narrow Jeremiah’s death date, which is still unknown.

“Heirs of Jeremiah Day, “listed above John Day #

Jeremiah’s son, John #7, is listed at the bottom of the page with his poll crossed out.   Others in the town who had served in the militia during the war were noted in the town records to have their taxes abated, which is likely the case with John, who served at least twice in the state militia during the Revolutionary War.

The mad and successful hatters in my family tree


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


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