My grandmother was proud of her New England heritage. While she didn’t know much beyond the names of her maternal grandparents, Albert Stanwood and Lavina Bursley, she had been told growing up that our ancestors came on the Mayflower. Many years later, after connecting with a Bursley cousin and documenting my descent from John Howland and his wife, Elizabeth Tilly, I was finally able to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Little did I know that someday another connection to John and Elizabeth would emerge – this time through Lavina Bursley’s husband, Albert Stanwood. The two were 7th cousins!
Author Archives: Lauren Rogers
Resident of Truro
Simeon Spencer resided in Truro in 1771, where he was taxed for two polls, and where his daughter, Martha, was born 4 August 1771. On 12 January 1773, the birth of Simeon’s son, John, was also recorded in the town records.
Truro was a pioneer whaling town and produced three famous captains. Truro boys and men whaled on Cape Cod, and also signed on to dangerous, long-term voyages in search of whales that would yield valuable oils. Seafaring was a way of life for those living on Cape Cod.
The revolutionary war came to Truro in 1775 “when a British ship lobbed cannonballs into the town and British marauders came ashore.” Families began to empty their homes to prevent the British from taking their valuable goods.
Not only were families worried about the British taking their food and other scare resources, they were also greatly affected by the activity at sea. Whaling came to a near stop during the war, as ships were often captured by the British. Without whaling, the people of Truro had no income and no means of support. Loyalist sentiments decreased among the population.
Resident of Provincetown
The famous British Man of War ship, H.M.S. Somerset, wrecked on the shores of Cape Cod on 2 November 1778. Simeon Spencer of Provincetown sailed to the wreckage, climbed on board and spent the night on the ship. As was customary for the time, Simeon claimed salvage. It seems likely that Simeon was a whaler, as Francis Culmore, a crew member, deposed that “he saw Simeon Spencer come down with a whale boat and came on bord…” David Lile, another crew member, stated Simeon was on board the ship 24 hours before any other American, and James Payn mentioned that Simeon received 42 shirts from the ship. Simeon attempted to prevent looting of the H.M.S. Somerset, undoubtedly to preserve the contents for his own benefit in accordance with local custom. However, the Board of War, created by the General Assembly of Massachusetts, had other ideas; the guns, supplies and other assets aboard the ship were desperately needed to fight the war against the British. A Maritime Court was held on 30 March 1779; it was decided two-thirds of the proceeds were to be given to the State, 1/6th to Simeon Spencer et al., and 1/6th to Seth Nickerson, et al. Simeon and others from Cape Cod disagreed with the decision, and a second Maritime Court session was held, this time in Ipswich. The State’s portion was reduced to ½, but Simeon’s portion remained at 1/6th, or £5,335. These proceeds were to be split with three other people. While considerably less than what he felt he was entitled to, his own portion of the auction, approximately £1333, was nothing to balk at.
Sailor in the Revolutionary War
Simeon Spencer served in the Revolutionary War aboard the Lion, commanded by Captain Wingate Newman. He was sworn to service at Boston on 12 July 1781, aged 33 years, 6’ 2” in height, with a dark complexion. The Lion was a 250-ton burthen privateer that was commissioned 14 July 1781. It was likely the same ship that was captured by the British at Newfoundland 14 August 1781.
There was only one Simeon Spencer in Massachusetts who was taxed in 1771. The name does not appear in the 1790 U.S. Census. In fact, only nine Massachusetts households were headed by men with the Spencer surname in 1771. By 1790, there were a total of 19 Spencer households in the state, enumerated as follows:
|County Name||No. Households|
The two Barnstable County enumerations included Simeon’s widow, Abigail. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that there were two men named Simeon in Massachusetts in 1781 that were old enough to serve in the Revolutionary War, and it must certainly be Simeon, our subject, with the service aboard the Lion. Nevertheless, further research will be undertaken in Barnstable County colonial records as available.
Simeone likely died sometime after he served in the Revolutionary War and the enumeration of the 1790 Federal Census. Simeon’s widow was listed as head of household in Provincetown on the 1790 U.S. Census, and additional attestations state that Abigail was a widow when her daughter, Martha, married at the family residence on 8 January 1791.
 Bettye Hobbs Pruitt, The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771 (Camden, Me.: Picton Press, 1978), 690.
 “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001,” vol. 2, p. 49; entry for Marther (sic) Spencer and John Spencer; database with images viewed at FamilySearch.org.
 “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001,” vol. 2, p. 49; entry for Marther (sic) Spencer and John Spencer; database with images viewed at FamilySearch.org.
 Richard F. Whalen, Truro: The Story of a Cape Cod Town (Charleston: History Press, 2007), 73.
 Whalen, Truro: The Story of a Cape Cod Town, 81.
 Marjorie Hubbell Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778 (Cotuit, Mass.: Abbey Gate House, 1992), 169.
 Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 172, 176
 Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 195
 Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 229
 “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War,” database with images at Ancestry.com, citing Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, v. 14, p. 720.
 John J. Currier, History of Newburyport, Massachusetts 1764-1905 (Newburyport: Published by the Author, 1906), 646.
 Pruitt, The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771, 903.
 1790 U.S. Census, Provincetown, Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, roll 4, p. 487, viewed at Ancestry.com.
 Attestations from David Brown and Isaac Cook, “U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900”, database with images (http://www.ancestry.com), citing Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
This 1859 map of Penobscot County, Maine shows B. Stanwood, who resided in Township No. 2, Indian Purchase (now known as Woodville). In 2013 I sought to find the location, and not only found Benjamin Stanwood’s homestead, but also found a distant cousin, also a descendant of Benjamin and his wife, Betsey (Wasgatt) Stanwood. This cousin lives on the land originally owned by Benjamin.
Above is an image of the house which Benjamin and Betsey sold to Phineas Libby. Shown are descendants of Phineas in front of the home.
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 50:542 tells us of the Stanwood Coat of Arms. The article’s author, Mrs. Ellen Dunlap Hopkins, writes:
In connection with the origin of the family, comes the question of the right to a coat of arms in this branch of the Stanwood family. There seem to be two Stanwood coat of arms. I can find no authority for the New England family using arms save by tradition…
Ethel Stanwood Bolton, the author of The Stanwood Family in America, also tackled this subject. She described the work of John Cole, an unscrupulous man who was the likely creator of two fake coat of arms. One of them, touted in the Brunswick Stanwood family, had four griffins’ heads upon it. According to Bolton, “Both bear on a scroll across the bottom the text, ‘By the name of Stanwood;’ but Philip spelled and signed his name Stainwood, and most of his sons and grandsons did the same. In fact, both coats are, without a doubt, forgeries.”
She continues, “There was at one time a third coat-of-arms in Ipswich, but as it has been destroyed it is impossible to say whether it was a different or a copy of one of these.” Regardless, Bolton continues: “Age, use, and ignorance of heraldry on the part of the owners, have all brought about a belief in their authenticity to-day.”
The coat of arms depicted above was purchased off of eBay about 2004. It was sold along with several letters, one of which was written by a Lemuel Stanwood of Boston probably about 1845, and the other by Mr. John Dorr to “My Dear Son,” penned 16 December 1825. The original letters were donated to the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
I’ve had a variety of posts about my workflow and tools that I use to stay organized. When someone emailed me recently about one of my Ninox database posts, I realized I should probably post an update on my process.
After playing around with several applications for use as a research log, I found no tool or database beats simple Microsoft Word for keeping track of my research. Each research question is assigned it’s own MS Word file, and listed in the beginning is what is currently known about the research problem. Next is listed the resources that will be searched, followed by the findings, both positive and negative. Last is the summary and next steps. The file is an active document; it is drafted as I research, as opposed to documenting finds afterward. It really drives me to be thoughtful and methodical. It also helps to ensure potential resources aren’t overlooked, and forces me to think through what information has been gleaned.
So out with Ninox, Airtable, and other applications that I was testing out. I’m keeping it simple; MS Word is this genealogist’s best friend.
Lavina (Spencer) Bursley was born about 1780 in Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. The town was so small that at the time of 1790 census only one page was used to enumerate the town’s 454 inhabitants. Included on the census was Abigail Spencer, head of household, with one male under 16 years of age, two males 16 years and over, and three females. This paper will demonstrate that Lavina Spencer was the daughter of Abigail (___) Spencer and her husband, Simeon Spencer.
Supporting Conclusion #1 – Lavina Spencer was born in or near Provincetown
Lavina Spencer was the wife of Lemuel Bursley. The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth G. (Bursley) Bailey died in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts, where the place of birth for both parents was recorded in the death register. The informant reported Lavina’s place of birth as Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Supporting Conclusion #2 – Lavina Spencer married in Provincetown
Lemuel Bursley and Lavina Spencer married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, 4 February 1797, a fact supported by several documents. First, the marriage was recorded in the Provincetown records. Lemuel also reported his marriage to King Hiram’s Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in Cape Cod, providing the date “1797-2-4.” Lastly, Lavina verified her marriage to Lemuel Bursley when making an application for bounty land based on Lemuel’s service in the War of 1812, stating “she was married to sd Lemuel Bursley at Provincetown in the year 1797 by one Samuel Parker Clergyman.”
Supporting Conclusion #3 – only one Spencer family with children in or near Provincetown Continue reading
Women seem to fade into the background of our family trees, their lives and stories so quickly forgotten. Researching my father’s family, I recently realized I had asked him very few questions about his beloved grandmother, Annabelle (Boyd) Rogers, who, with Dad’s grandfather Joseph Rogers, raised my Dad and legally adopted him.
Annabelle was a sweet, kind woman who was a “mail order bride.” She and Joseph married about 1918, and in 1919 their first child, Floyd, was born. He was followed by Bessie, in 1921, and Josie, Dad’s biological mother, in 1924. The night Josie went into labor with Dad was quite stormy and the doctor was unable to make the trip over dirt roads to assist the young mother give birth. Joseph assumed the role of doctor and delivered his grandson, Wayne.
Joseph and Annabelle were wonderful parents to Dad. While they didn’t have much money, they made sure he had what he needed. He was given the typical toys little boys crave, including bicycles and toy guns and other playthings. One of Dad’s favorite things, however, was not a toy: he enjoyed visiting the nursery with his mother and gardening. It was his love of the nursery that caused Annabelle some grief early one morning. Continue reading
UPDATE: Ninox is a great tool, but doesn’t compare to MS Word for tackling a research problem and keeping track of sources searched. Click here to learn how I use Word as an active document while researching.
Ninox is an awesome application for MacOS and iOS that allows the user to create custom, relational databases. You can store your database in iCloud, and access from your iPhone or iPad. It’s super easy and user friendly, and I originally started tinkering with it to better track the archival boxes and files which contained original family photos. It then occurred to me that it could replace my research logs, which had migrated from Evernote to simple Word documents. That was fine for a summary of repository research, but was still limited.
My research log has five linked tables – goals, people, source/repository, record type, and results, as shown on the left handed navigation bar in the picture above.
The database was designed to focus on a research goal, and all entries relate to that specific goal.
To see research for a specific person, simply go to the People tab and select the focus individual:
Click on research goal to see details of previous searches.
Click on the specific result entry to see details, including any pertinent, attached documents.
Shown above is the 1838 Piscataquis County, Maine grantee index attached to the research results entry.
The Ninox database was not difficult to make, and it was super easy to sync my iPad to it as well. It’s easy to filter results to see where I’ve already searched, and the primary search field will locate matching text in a text field. For instance, when I search for the word “deed,” I’m presented with a list of items where the word appears. It does an all text search, and will even find names or other words that are simple comments in a notes field.
I really couldn’t be more pleased with how this turned out, and was especially amazed how simple it was to do. Best 0f all, unlike online research logs, there’s no monthly or annual subscription to pay, but yet it’s still cloud based! The only negative I’ve found is there is very little in the way of manuals or user help, but I didn’t really have too many issues, as it is quite intuitive and easy to use. For $34.99, it was quite a deal!
Thankfully there are many genealogy database programs to choose from, given one “size” (or application) does not fit all. Additionally, there is no “right” program to use. Software itself will not make you a better genealogist. It’s the consistent use of the software – and being consistent in how you enter data – that WILL make a huge difference as you work on your genealogy.
Finding the right fit can take some time. And even when you have a program you like, you may decide to play around with something new. Such was the case when I decided to find a native Mac application after having used RootsMagic for many years. I made a brief switch to Reunion 11 in 2015, but found that the software was too limited for what I wanted. Instead, about 18 months ago I decided to climb on board with Family Tree Maker, and couldn’t be happier. Now that FTM 2017 is out, I decided to highlight the features I love the most.
Facts, Sources and Media
The feature that I loved most about RootsMagic was being able to see if a fact was sourced or not, and if it had associated media. However, even better than that is Family Tree Maker’s ability to show how many source citations are associated with a fact, in addition to the number of linked media items.
A HUGE advantage offered by FTM is that the media can be attached directly to the source citation itself, leaving no question about which source citation the media item belongs to when multiple source citations are linked to the fact. A thumbnail of the media item is also visible on the source citation as well. Continue reading
If you were like me and initially stunned and short of breath upon hearing that FamilySearch was ending microfilm rental on August 31st, take heart! Yes, rental is ending, but it is being replaced with something far better – DIGITAL RECORDS! Best of all many of these records, including those found in my itty bitty, small Maine towns, are online NOW!
Yes, I spent the bulk of last evening perusing the card catalog at FamilySearch, which is where you will find these new records located.
FamilySearch announced they are uploading browsable, digital versions of microfilmed records at the speed of about 1,500 per day, starting with films that have been requested for rental within the last five years. In the last two weeks, they’ve uploaded the microfilms for several of the small Maine towns I’m researching, as well as several for Ipswich, Massachusetts, another area where I’ve been focusing my efforts. Those for most of the Maine towns are available to view at home, but unfortunately Ipswich’s records do require I go to the Family History Center or an affiliate library to view. That’s okay – at least I can see them TODAY!
Here’s a list of the Maine vital records online for the towns I’ve been working on, and a link to their collections on FamilySearch:
- Hallowell, Kennebec County, VR
- Readfield, Kennebec County, VR
- Winthrop, Kennebec County, VR (1720-1821)
- Winthrop, Kennebec County, VR (1720-1867)
I’m sure if you check for your areas of interest, they are likely online as well, or will be shortly. (I’m still waiting for Manchester, Kennebec County, Maine.) Of course, these digital images are not indexed, but hey – neither were the microfilm! Now I can leisurely go through these records and carefully view each page to make sure there aren’t people or key pieces of information I’d missed while trying to get through the rolls at the Family History Center previously. Another huge bonus is now I will have much better images to save to my database, and they are far superior to what I’d snapped with my camera off the microfilm reader!
Below is the copy I’d photographed from the microfilm reader:
Yup, this gal is a happy camper! Thank you FamilySearch!