Category Archives: My Family Lines

Simeon Spencer of Truro and Provincetown, Massachusetts

Whaling ship, Library of Congress

Resident of Truro

Simeon Spencer resided in Truro in 1771, where he was taxed for two polls,[1] and where his daughter, Martha, was born 4 August 1771.[2]  On 12 January 1773, the birth of Simeon’s son, John, was also recorded in the town records.[3]

Truro was a pioneer whaling town and produced three famous captains.[4]  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.”[5]  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.[6]  Simeon Spencer of Provincetown sailed to the wreckage, climbed on board and spent the night on the ship.[7]  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…”[8]  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.[9]  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.[10]  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.[11]  The Lion was a 250-ton burthen privateer that was commissioned 14 July 1781.[12]  It was likely the same ship that was captured by the British at Newfoundland 14 August 1781.[13]

There was only one Simeon Spencer in Massachusetts who was taxed in 1771.[14]  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
Berkshire 11
Hampshire 1
Worcester 1
Dukes 1
Essex 1
Suffolk 1
Nantucket 1
Barnstable 2

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.

Early Death

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,[15]  and additional attestations state that Abigail was a widow when her daughter, Martha, married at the family residence on 8 January 1791.[16]

[1] Bettye Hobbs Pruitt, The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771 (Camden, Me.: Picton Press, 1978), 690.

[2] “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

[3] “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

[4] Richard F. Whalen, Truro: The Story of a Cape Cod Town (Charleston: History Press, 2007), 73.

[5] Whalen, Truro: The Story of a Cape Cod Town, 81.

[6] Marjorie Hubbell Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778 (Cotuit, Mass.: Abbey Gate House, 1992), 169.

[7] Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 172, 176

[8] Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 195

[9] Ibid.

[10] Gibson, H.M.S. Somerset: 1746-1778, 229

[11] “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War,” database with images at, citing Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, v. 14, p. 720.

[12] John J. Currier, History of Newburyport, Massachusetts 1764-1905 (Newburyport: Published by the Author, 1906), 646.

[13] American War of Independence at Sea, viewed at, citing The London Gazette, 16 October 1781-20 October 1781.

[14] Pruitt, The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771, 903.

[15] 1790 U.S. Census, Provincetown, Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, roll 4, p. 487, viewed at

[16] Attestations from David Brown and Isaac Cook, “U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900”, database with images (, 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.

Making the case: proof argument for parentage of Lavina (Spencer) Bursley

Lavina (Spencer) Bursley[1] was born about 1780 in Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts.[2]  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.[3]  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,[4] 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.[5]  Lemuel also reported his marriage to King Hiram’s Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in Cape Cod, providing the date “1797-2-4.”[6]  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.”[7]

Lavina’s signed declaration, stating she was married in Provincetown in 1797 by Samuel Parker, Clergyman.

Supporting Conclusion #3 – only one Spencer family with children in or near Provincetown Continue reading

Women in my tree: great grandmother Annabelle (Boyd) Rogers

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, holding my Dad, Wayne Rogers, next to husband Joseph

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

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.


Julia A. Bursley Born Nov 18th 1835


Benjamin Bursley Jr Born Sep 16th 1839


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.


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.

The animals of my ancestors

My great grandfather, Ernest L. Simpson, far right, with his dog.

My great grandfather, Ernest L. Simpson, far right, with his dog.

I sit here typing with two Toy Poodles on my lap.  (I come from a long line of animal lovers!) Where did this love come from?  Until recently, I assumed this passion for animals was nurtured through childhood.  Certainly that is part of it, but I was intrigued by last week’s episode of TLC’s Long Lost Family, in which a woman was introduced to her biological father.  While they had before never met, father and daughter learned they had one huge thing in common – a love for animals.  Both were involved with animal foundations and rescue programs, and considered animals to be a huge part of their lives.  Could this love of animals be partly genetic?  Continue reading

Alson L. Day’s Civil War Letters Home

The American Civil War, or War of the Rebellion, was a long, bloody war.  Certainly many deaths were the result of combat, but just as significant is the numbers of soldiers who died due to disease.  Such was the case for Alson L. Day, who was drafted into the 16th Maine on 30 September 1864.  It appears that he did not actually begin his service until the beginning of the following year.  What follows are letters written by Alson to his family:

24 February 1865 - Page 2

24 February 1865 – Page 1

24 February 1865 - Page 2

24 February 1865 – Page 2

24 February 1865

Camp of 16th Maine

Dear Father

Having a few leisure moments I will [write] a few lines to let you know where I am[.]  I left Camp Distribution the 18th and arived at the Regiment the 21st, I was paid three months pay yesterday.  I shall send home about twenty dollars.  If you have a chance I wish yo would exchange my bounty money for green backs.  I should lik[e] to know what Osgood has done about paying that note.  Uncle George [Grover] went to the Hospital before they started on this last move[.]  I don’t know what Hospital he is in[.]  you can send me a pair of stockins by mail by puting on about six cents postage you can roll them up in a news paper or do them up snug and put a wraper around them.  I don’t think of any thing more now to write so I will bid you

Good By

Alson L. Day

Please write as soon as you get this.

Continue reading

The Penobscot, Maine Malings

Can you help William Maling with his family history? Please email him at drumsir at aol dot com if you would like to collaborate!  (Note:  William’s great grandmother, Joanna Augusta (White) Maling, is the sister of my 3rd great grandmother, Caroline (White) Stanwood).

By William Maling

I traced our branch of the Maling family back to Nova Scotia (NS), Canada in the 1800s. I was unable to find out how and when the earliest ancestors (William and Ellen) got there or when they were born, married or died; in spite of my hiring a genealogy consultant in Halifax, NS for that specific task. No immigration records were kept until 1880 in Nova Scotia, and passenger manifests on incoming ships were far from being specific as to names or ages. Here is a summary chart, Descendants of William and Ellen Maling.

Maling descendants

Descendants of William Maling and Ellen his wife

Although I have much more information on these Maling descendants in pedigree chart form, I do not include in this history the many lines of all the “cousins.” I have an unpublished Descendants of William H. Maling genealogy on, who I call, our Penobscot County Maine Malings done in classic written form by Nathan P. Maling. Continue reading

A tribute to Jonathan Day of Starks, Maine

Jonathan Day, son of John and Elizabeth (Skillings) Day

Jonathan Day.  Photo courtesy of Margaret Bienart.

Jonathan Day was born 3 September 1820 to John and Elizabeth (Skillings) Day.  He was beloved by his family.  Lucy Hutchins, the granddaughter of Jonathan Day, wrote:

It was 23rd of February in the year 1851. Young Jonathan day tiptoed carefully into the newly finished room parentheses built in the southern end of the addition to the little old house.

There his Aunt Sarah Nichols with his baby daughter into his arms. Smiling into the tiny face he laid her down tenderly beside her mother, sweet Lucy Sherburne Day. Telling of it long afterward he said, “I did just as Aunt Polly (with whom he lived) told me to do.”   She had said that to do that instead of handing the child back to the nurse meant that he owned her as his. And how happy he was to greet his firstborn!

In his old age he wrote as an acrostic on her name:

Feb. 23, 1908

Ere the short day was gone
My little girl was born.
My sakes! How proud we felt
And full of sweet content

Long years have passed since then.

Days weeks and months have flown,
And does this woman live?

Yes with her husband lives.

How great our mercies are
Under our Makers care.
Then let us pass our days
Considering wisdom’s ways
Homeward our steps we’ll bend
In heaven our troubles and.
Nearer to Him we’ll be,
So near to Thee.

Jonathan and Lucy had been married nearly a year. She had come in the winter of 1849-50 to visit her mother, who years after her first husband’s death, had married, second “Uncle Ira Young” and was living in the Starks neighborhood.

That was a winter of much sickness. Aunt Polly’s husband sickened and died. She herself was ill and Jonathan needed help. Lucy Sherburne came the stranger but the acquaintance quickly ripened from mutual respect and when she left it was with the promise of returning as a bride. She went down to Mount Vernon her former home and returned in late March with her sister and a “pung” load of her possessions. The going was “breaking up” that is, the hardpacked snow in the road was softening making traveling hazardous and the young women had a hard time near the end of the journey.

The sister Sarah after they were safely arrived got to laughing hysterically over their mishaps and “couldn’t stop” for a long time.

They went to their mothers and their on the 27th of March 1850 Grandpa Jonathan went to claim his bride. He had lived with Aunt Polly and her husband Uncle Wm. Sutherland since 1825, they having no children of their own took him when he was a child of five.

So now the whole care of the farm came to him and he built an addition to the old house. In the southern part of this he finished off the best room where the baby was born. Here was grandmother Lucy’s bureau, her Boston rocker and stand, etc.  The bed was cleverly contrived so it could be lifted up and fastened to the wall by hooks when not in use.

There was a passageway from the old house extending the length of the addition. A door from it opened into the best room- beyond that led to the woodshed part

On the very day that little Emma was two years old another great event came to the family. A little boy was born and a happy mother gave him the name of her own father, Samuel Sherburne. He was called Sherburne, mostly abbreviated to Sherb. In later years he signed himself S. S. Day except in family letters when it was “Sherb” or perhaps “Uncle Sam”.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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? Continue reading