Category Archives: Bursley

Seek and ye shall find….the missing children of Benjamin and Cynthia (Day) Bursley

My great, great grandmother, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, was the sixth child born to Benajamin and Cynthia (Day) Bursley.  Pictured with her above are her living siblings, beginning with John Morris Bursley (left), Susan (Bursley) Schelefoo Smallen, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, and Martha (Bursley) Orrock.  Another brother, Aaron Day Bursley, lived to adulthood, but photos of him have not yet been identified.

Grandma Lavina’s three oldest siblings, Julia, Arlette and Benjamin Jr., have always been a bit of a mystery.  Their births were recorded in the Lagrange, Penobscot County, Maine town records.

BURSLEY_Julia_b1835_birth_001

Julia A. Bursley Born Nov 18th 1835

BURSLEY_Benjamin_b1839_birth_001

Benjamin Bursley Jr Born Sep 16th 1839

BURSLEY_Arlette

Arlette Bursley, born Oct 5th 1837

However, none of the older children were listed on the 1850 census:

1850 census

Benj Bursly with Cynthia, John W., Susan H. and Lorina (sic)

Those of us researching the Bursley family have always wondered what happened to Julia, Arlette and little Ben Jr., but for years we were left to ponder.  That is, until GenealogyBank added issues of the Gospel Banner to their database.

BURSLEY_Benjamin_b1810_death_announcement_children

The Gospel Banner reprinted the above from the Bangor Democrat, and  recorded the deaths of young Arlette, Julia and Benjamin Jr., who died with ten days of eachother.

Died in this city, August 22d, Arlette Bursley aged 11 years 10 months; August 29th, Julia Augusta Bursley aged 13 years 9 months; and August 31st, Benjamin Bursley aged 10 years, children of Benjamin and Cynthia S. Bursley.  Thus within a very brief time these parents have been called to part with their three elder children, cut down by the same disease, the scarlet-fever, and are bowed down in affliction and sorrow.  The eldest, a daughter, was a most excellent girl, kind and faithful to her trusts and duties wherever she was placed.  Deeply will their parents and especially her mother mourn her loss, and many hearts will sympathize with her in her grief.  God sustain them in this hour! – Bangor Democrat.

Scarlett fever occurs as the result of an infection with a group A Streptococcus bacteria, and it is most often spread by those who cough and sneeze. Children, aged 5 to 15 years, are the  most often afflicted; however, only a small number of those with group A Strep infections go on to develop Scarlett fever.  The first signs and symptoms of an infection include a sore throat, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and red or scarlet-colored rash.

Unfortunately, there were no antibiotics when Julia, Arlette and little Ben were diagnosed with “the scarlett-fever.”  Those life-saving medicines were not be discovered for another century.  Had they had the advantage of penicillin, photos of Julia, Arlette and Ben could have been added with their siblings above.


I toppled my self-created brick wall!

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Cynthia (Day) Bursley death certificate

Death certificates are great sources of info – but the one above was frustrating to me.  I wanted to see the original death register from which the data had been taken.  However, I was told that privacy laws prohibited me from viewing the nearly 150-year-old book containing the death of Cynthia (Day) Bursley, my 3rd great grandmother.  After contemplating this dilemma, last week I found my nicest, kindest voice and called the County Recorder.  I followed my call up with a sweet-as-pie email thanking the Recorder for her time and asking for additional clarification as the state statutes showed that death records in Minnesota are actually public.  My persistence paid off.  Today I received the following:

Copy of the death register showing Cynthia (Day) Bursley's parents: Aaron and Martha Day!

Copy of the death register showing Cynthia (Day) Bursley’s parents: Aaron and Martha Day!

Talk about Christmas in July!  Since the certificate above completed by the Clerk of Court did not list Cynthia’s parents, I assumed the register also did not have this info.  I was wrong!  After 2 1/2 years of working on a proof argument for Cynthia’s parentage, I finally have the smoking gun:  a piece of paper clearly stating Cynthia Bursley was the daughter of Aaron Day and his wife, Martha.  That brick wall wasn’t so thick after all!

Yup, it’s Christmas in July.  🙂


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…”

Continue reading


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


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.

 


Proving the parentage of Cynthia (Day) Bursley

Card announcing my acceptance into the D.A.R.

This past Saturday I was inducted into the Cooch’s Bridge Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  It was overwhelmingly wonderful and quite surreal, and the culmination of nearly thirty years of research into my Bursley family.  It would never have been possible without the collaboration with my third and fourth cousins, and underscores the importance of finding others who are researching your lines.

The success with my D.A.R. application (and recent approval of my Mayflower Society application as well) has inspired me to dig back into the family of my 3rd great grandmother, Cynthia (Day) Bursley.  I’ve posted a bit about my dilemma previously, having miniscule info to go on to determine Cynthia’s parents, and even worse, a very common surname that also turns up zillions of hits in search engines.   However, by golly, I am feeling pretty darn confident in the following indirect evidence, which supports that Cynthia’s parents were Aaron Day and his wife, Martha:

  • DNA evidence.  A FamilyTree DNA Family Finder autosomal test matched me to a descendant of
    I inherited a copy of this photo, which was also posted in an Ancestry.com user tree by another descendant of Aaron Day and his wife Martha

    I inherited a copy of this photo, which was also posted in an Ancestry.com user tree by another descendant of Aaron Day and his wife Martha

    Joseph Warren Day, the youngest son of Aaron Day and his wife Martha.   (We share 63.8 cM’s.)  An Ancestry.com autosomal test provided two additional genetic matches – both to two separate descendant’s of Aaron’s oldest son, Nathaniel.  Our shared, documented family trees demonstrate we are 4th cousins once removed, consistent with the relationship Ancestry predicted by the portion of shared DNA.

  • Naming conventions.  Cynthia (Day) Bursley named her youngest children Aaron Day Bursley and Martha Eliza Bursley.  Cynthia’s presumed brother, Nathaniel, also named one of his daughters Cynthia.  This latter Cynthia, daughter of Nathaniel, married Benjamin Lovejoy on 9 Oct 1864 in Medford, Piscataquis County, Maine.
  • Duplicate, original family photos.  A photograph of a woman labeled Cynthia Lovejoy was listed on the “Scott Kentish and Border” Ancestry.com tree posted by user “devorguilla.”  My heart just about stopped beating when I discovered this photo, as I immediately recognized it –  I have
    my own copy of it in the photo album originally owned by my great, great grandmother, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, daughter of Cynthia (Day) Bursley.  While the photo identification appears to be incorrect (Cynthia Lovejoy lived in Maine where she died in 1867, age 29, and the photo was taken in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1871 or later), it establishes an undeniable connection between my Cynthia (Day) Bursley and the Day family of Plymouth, Hennepin County, Minnesota, where Nathaniel Day, father of Cynthia (Day) Lovejoy, and presumed brother of Cynthia (Day) Bursley, resided. Continue reading