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!
Category Archives: Uncategorized
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.
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.
However, none of the older children were listed on the 1850 census:
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.
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.
My parents met in the Army. Not only was my mother in the military, but each generation of her family has been involved in major conflicts going back to the Revolutionary War. I am proud of my military ancestors who served for our freedom.
My husband and I spent an awesome week in Boston, and enjoyed visits to Lexington and Concord, Cambridge, and my favorite town, Quincy. The latter included a tour of the homes where John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, were born, and concluded with a visit to “Piece field,” the enormous home where John and Abigail Adams made their abode after returning from Europe.
Reflecting on our nation’s history and the roles my own ancestors played in it, I’ve come to realize that U.S. history is now MY history. It is personal.
My ancestors were here during those early colonial years, and took an active role in events that shaped our nation. Not only did those events involve the men, but the women and children were dramatically affected as well; when their husbands went off to war, the women were left to carry on with her usual chores as well as maintaining the farm and managing affairs at home.
When I think about the sacrifices my forebears made for our country, I have to wonder – am I made of the same hardy stuff? Could I have endured the eight months my 5th great grandmother Sarah Day spent at home without word about her husband’s safety and well-being while he and the militia marched from Ipswich, Massachusetts to New York in 1776? Or when he was called to duty again in 1779 with his unit reinforcing the army under General Washington?
Yes, our ancestors, both male and female, have made many sacrifices to give us the freedoms and privileges we have in America today. For this I’m grateful and proud. I’m also cognizant that we have reached a crucial juncture in the 2016 election with two political candidates who have quite opposing values and world-views (not to mention political strategies). The outcome of November’s election will have a profound impact on U.S. history that has yet to be written. I’m sure I’m not alone with the sense of unease that often overpowers me when watching the evening news these days, listening to world events and thinking about the role our next President will play in them. Our ancestors faced similar dilemmas in choosing the nation’s earliest Presidents; and like them, we must prepare for the upcoming election. We must cast our vote for the candidate we think will continue to move our nation forward to ensure our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be proud to be called Americans.
This Facebook post so eloquently describes the passion…the mission…to know our ancestors!
We are the chosen in each family
There is one who seems called to find the ancestors.
To put flesh on their bones and make them seem alive again.
To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.
Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but instead breathing life into all who have gone before.
We are the story tellers of the tribe.
Do you have a favorite poem or quote that explains your passion for genealogy?
Thomas Day, the son of Robert Day (immigrant ancestor who settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts) married Ann Woodward. Ann’s family seemed to constantly find themselves in the midst of drama and conflict. Perhaps the most interesting drama involved Ann’s sister, Sarah, who was the topic of discussion in court. Sarah Woodward was apparently unhappy in her marriage to William Rowe, and didn’t hide from others her ongoing attraction to former suitor, John Leigh. William Rowe, Sarah’s husband, finally said enough is enough, and on 28 March 1673, William brought suit against John Leigh “for insinuating dalliance and too much familiarity with his wife, drawing away her affections from her husband, to the great detriment both in his estate and the comfort of his life.” Thomas Day himself was witness to the ordeal, and on 19 June 1673 “Mary Sparke deposed that being at William Rowe’s house, together with Thomas Day and his wife one Sabbath day at night, arose a discourse between us about fishing….” A few days later, Ann (Woodward) Day’s aunt, Grace (Beamsley) Graves and husband Samuel Graves testified as follows:
…we speaking with Thomas Day our Cousin that married her sister about Sarah, He told us that when she was first married Sarah Carried well to her husband till John Lee frequented the House & her Company when her husband was abroad a fishing, & speaking of her husband Wm Roe he spoke of him in a deriding way of the disparagement of his person; & she answered, well why is he not as other men, If you had bene a sea man as long as hee you wold have had wrinkls in your forehead as well as hee excusing John Lee’s disparageing words…”
Not only did Leigh visit Sarah (Woodward) Rowe at her home, but Sarah was found at Leigh’s residence:
Samuel Hunt deposed that after Sarah Row was married he saw her in John Leigh’s house, where he asked her for some oil. Leigh replied that the town had given liberty to a company of ugly fishermen to come into town, but they were not any better for their coming but a hundred pounds worse. Leigh was very angry and walking to and fro, the woman sitting in a chair before the fire, weeping, etc.
Unfortunately, the court records do not mention Ann (Woodward) Day’s thoughts on her sister’s actions, and we only hear from her husband Thomas. However, Ann’s mother’s wisdom and somber advice to her daughter Sarah was revealed by Mary Fullar:
I hard Sarahs owne mother say to her Sarah have a care what you do: be sure you can loue him: if you can loue him tacke him: and do not say that I prswaded you: its you that must liue wth him and not I: therefor be sure you loue him and her mothr was very seariouse wth her.
How refreshing to see such words of encouragement from our ancestress, who is ensuring her daughter is marrying for the right reasons. One must ponder why Sarah proceeded with the marriage when she clearly still had feelings for John Leigh. If only she had heeded her mother’s advice, much misery would have been avoided. Without it, however, we would not have been given Samuel and Grace (Beamsley) Grave’s deposition in which they state “Thomas Day our Cousin that married her sister,” a clue that there is likely a relationship between the Grave(s) family that had hailed from Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire, the same place where Thomas’s father Robert had lived.
Ancestry.com – great for finding our ancestors, and spectacular for making cousin connections.
On February 2, 2014, I sent a message through Ancestry.com to Sherece Lamke, whose family tree contained information on Aaron Day and his wife, Martha. What ensued after that initial contact was a flurry of emails back and forth, as we joyously exchanged information. Sherece, who was significantly further along on tracing her Day family lines, generously shared with me the findings of consultants whom she’d paid to help break down brick walls. Together, over the last 1 1/2 years, we’ve taken that initial research and have solved additional puzzles, having a blast along the way! I’d hoped that one day we’d get to meet, and that day finally came! Last Friday Sherece, accompanied by her mother and aunt, met my son and I in the small town of Readfield, Maine, starting off at the Case Cemetery, where our 5th great grandfather, John Day, is buried.
Having been on hot on the trails of my Day ancestors, I’ve found deeds and other documents stating that Jeremiah Day, son of Sgt. Thomas and Elizabeth (Jewett) Day, was a yeoman. Imagine my surprise to find this posting on the Yale University Website, attributing Jeremiah Day with the production of this beautiful high chest of drawers? The site states there are multiple affidavits to certify the piece’s construction in the mid-18th Century, as well as family letters describing the piece’s creator. (Click here to go to the Yale page, and scroll to the bottom to view the envelope. The addressee, Elsie (Day) Clark.)
In addition to this gem, the Winterthur Museum and Library in Delaware has a photograph of another piece of furniture attributed to Jeremiah. Posted on the ArchiveGrid, details available here. Continue reading
Growing up my mother spoke passionately against racism. She abhorred prejudice of all kinds. It surprised me as a child, as I never observed anything close to racism in the quiet little southern California town in which I grew up. However, my mom’s passion likely grew from the time she spent in the south, serving in the Army in the early 1960s. It was an era of horrendous discrimination and segregation, and it clearly affected her.
In my naiveté, I was so proud of my mother’s New England heritage. Clearly my mother’s ancestors had no role in slavery. We were Yankees. My ancestors served on the Union side in the Civil War. However, as I studied more, I came to understand that New England has fought hard to rewrite history, trivializing their role during those critical years. Many of New England’s many ship captains earned their wealth transporting slaves to the U.S. New England’s farms supplied produce to those involved in the slave trade. During the colonial era, one in four New Englanders owned at least one slave. Okay, so my Yankee roots aren’t as great as I once thought.
However, my father’s southern roots pain me no end. My ancestry there is firmly planted in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. In addition to the Yankees, I have Confederate soldiers in my family tree. I am afraid to know what role my southern forefathers played in the issues surrounding slavery, and how their descendants treated their dark-skinned neighbors after the end of the Civil War.
So it was with great joy that I recently learned that my second cousin five times removed, Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, a Methodist minister and renowned author, was a devoted abolitionist. Born in 1812 on Mount Desert Island, Maine, Davis was the first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society, which provided education for freed slaves and their children. They were instrumental in raising the literacy rates of blacks immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War, a priority for slaves to be able to find profitable occupations. Clark College was named in his honor, and later merged with Atlanta University to become the Clark Atlanta University. More details can be found on the NAACP website at http://www.naacpconnect.org/blog/entry/hbcu-profile-clark-atlanta-university.
Davis Wasgatt Clark was not the only outspoken person in his family. His grandfather and namesake, Davis Wasgatt, had alienated himself from friends and neighbors in Eden (now known as Bar Harbor), Maine, when he became a staunch Anabaptist. Davis was also a Revolutionary War soldier, a solid patriot, and one who felt that actions spoke louder than words.
While New England was far from innocent in the evolution of slavery in the U.S., and my ancestors likely did have some sort of role that I will eventually discover, right now I’m pretty proud of my Maine ancestors. Of course, my Wasgatt family stands out prominently among them.