The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway Part 3: Helen M. Pratt

Benjamin mourned first wife a year, a decent, respectful interval. He was a man in his prime, at 41, and far from done. He embarked on marriage round two with Helen M. Pratt, another Freetown girl, and 18 years Benjamin’s junior. The age gap suggests Benjamin’s prime motive was not to create a partnership of equals at home, but, rather, to procreate.

Though he had an heir in nine-year-old Sarah, the female (then, as now) was perceived as less than the male. While Benjamin certainly loved his daughter, he believed all his striving, his shrewd investments, and years of sweat building his carpentry trade and lumber business would be for nothing, if he couldn’t leave it to a son. And Helen, a healthy and agreeable 23-year-old, would make him a suitable wife and mother of his progeny.

A mariner’s family

Helen was born on August 3, 1826 to John Vilett Pratt and Melancy Pickens. She was, perhaps, the third child and third daughter. Census records for 1830 and 1840 suggest four girls were in the household, but the only names on record are Charlotte and Helen.

Helen’s father was a captain of commercial sailing vessels, probably, in coastal waterways (according to his 1868 obituary, he began his career as a cabin boy on an African slaver). He would have routinely been away. Melancy and her girls would have missed him, fretted over the dangers he faced, and prayed for his safe return. Homecomings would have been times for celebration, tempered by prayers of gratitude. Such a life would have taught the three Pratt women patience, self-reliance, and to enjoy simple blessings.

A sister marries

When 20-year-old Charlotte Pratt told her younger sister she’d accepted George Hall’s proposal of marriage, joyful, girly shrieks echoed through the Pratt house. This experience with wedding preparations would engage the entire family, and affected Helen deeply.

A wedding dress would have been made or a best frock refashioned, but more importantly, Charlotte required everyday clothing, linens, and goods essential to set up housekeeping. Food and drink needed to be procured and prepared for the newly united Hall and Pratt families to enjoy, after the modest ceremony.

On Charlotte’s big day in 1843, summer blossoms of yellow, orange, blue and white dotted meadows and roadsides. Helen wept with that mix of happiness and sadness that arise from events that are both endings and beginnings. As the feasting wound down, Charlotte and George would’ve tried to quietly slip away, but not before the sisters shared an emotional embrace.

I imagine, Helen consoled herself with thoughts of the sort of aunt she would be to her sister’s children. Alas, that scenario never came to pass. Three years after she married, Charlotte Pratt Hall died, and left no children.

Becoming Mrs. Hathaway

American, silk wedding dress 1845-1850.

Silk wedding dress 1845-1850. Credit: Archive.org; Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Helen’s father and Benjamin Hathaway had likely done business together in New Bedford, maybe, as ship captain and shipwright; maybe, Pratt delivered the lumber Benjamin sold. Whether John acted the matchmaker, or Benjamin was the pursuer, in 1849, Helen was presented with the biggest decision of her life.

The bustling port of New Bedford, would be more interesting than sleepy Freetown. Taking over a widower’s household that included a step-daughter might daunt another woman, but Helen Pratt was competent and confident she could make and keep a good Christian home.

Helen also realized that year, she was Charlotte’s age, not the age she married, but 23, the age she died. Perhaps, Helen saw Benjamin’s offer as a blessing.

On Wednesday, October 3, 1849, Baptist elder, Samuel S. White, married the widowed carpenter and the “maiden” in Freetown. Nothing further appears on record until February 21, 1852 when the death of Benjamin and Helen’s one-day-old daughter, Charlotte M. Hathaway. The following month, Helen Pratt Hathaway died  from “Congestion of Brain.” She was 25 years old, and like her sister Charlotte, she had no surviving child.

Gravestone of Helen (Pratt) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA.

Helen (Pratt) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Credit: Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

Alone again

Benjamin’s second marital outing lasted, less than two and a half years, and resulted in another lost child and another dead wife. He spent another year in mourning, but he hadn’t forgotten his grand plan. He would marry again.

 

Next: Third time a charm?

 

 

 

 

Sources and References:

  1. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown  and New Bedford.
  2. Ancestry.com. NARA, United States Federal Census,1830, 1840; Freetown, MA.
  3. Wikipedia; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_mariner
  4. GenealogyBank; Newport Mercury (Newport, RI); Saturday, April 18, 1868, Page: 3; Capt. John V. Pratt.
  5. Smithsonian Magazine; Queen Victoria Dreamed Up the White Wedding Dress in 1840; http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/queen-victoria-sparked-white-wedding-dress-trend-1840-180953550/
  6. Death was with Them: Old medical terms; http://www.tngenweb.org/darkside/medical-terms.html

The Five Wives of Benjamin Franklin Hathaway – Part 2: Ann Maria Bliffins

Benjamin Franklin Hathaway found his first bride in his hometown. It is tempting to think, having set himself up in the world, he returned to Freetown to claim his childhood sweetheart. However, Ann Maria Bliffins (Bliffens / Blivens) was 20 years old and Benjamin at 26, had been away for about 10 years, making a longstanding romantic relationship doubtful.

Ann’s girlhood

Ann was the youngest child of Anson and Rachel (Read) Bliffins. They married in 1796 and produced sons right away (Anson Sheffied and William Read). Their good fortune was short lived. Over the next eight years, three girls were born, – and died (Rebecca, Mary Ann and Mary).

Rachel gave birth in 1808 to another son, Thomas Valentine. He thrived. Rachel likely reconciled herself with the belief daughters weren’t part of the Lord’s plan for her. Six years passed. In May 1814, as all sorts of tender things sprang to life, Ann was born.

The baby would have been a source of worry with every tiny sniffle, and later, with every bump suffered in a tumble. Anson and Rachel’s memories of little girls lost would never have been far from mind. Yet, Ann passed all the danger marks. It’s natural to suppose an unexpected,and only daughter would be doted on by older parents, but I have reservations.

Ann’s eldest brother, Anson, was a generation older and out of the house. Mere days before Ann’s first birthday (1815), her next brother, William (17 years), went off to sea. (This was not at all unusual in Southeastern Massachusetts when most men became either farmers or seamen.)

In 1822, when she was just seven years old, Thomas, the brother she would have toddled around the house after, obtained his Seaman’s Certificate in Newport, RI, – a week before he officially turned 13. This is surprising for a boy with two living parents, and the only son at home. (1)  Little Ann likely wept bitter tears at his departure, and, perhaps, for years afterward. She had suddenly become an only child, and she may have felt very lonely.

It was common for an unmarried daughter to care for her aging parents until they died. As a young woman, Ann certainly engaged in cooking and cleaning, laundering clothes and linens, keeping fires going, and acting nurse when her mother or father were sick. Ann knew what the future held for her as she neared adulthood. Her decision to marry tells us she wanted more in life.

However it was exactly that Ann and Benjamin found each other, these Hathaway and Bliffins families were certainly acquainted in that small rural community. The betrothed couple professed their marriage vows in Freetown on Sunday, August 27, 1834.

Married life in New Bedford

There is every reason to believe Benjamin was an attentive husband, but the couple remained childless for six years. At last, the birth of Sarah M. Hathaway (2), on September 21, 1840, was recorded in New Bedford. That healthy little girl (3) must have brought great joy to the couple.

In 1843, another girl was born, named Ann (Anna) Franklin. The little one died of “brain fever” before her second birthday in summer of 1845. Ann became pregnant soon after, and another girl, named Ann Franklin, was born the last day of June 1846, but died at four days, of a “diseased heart.” Ann gave birth in November 1847 to yet another Ann Franklin. The parents may have dared to hope with her, but she died, at nine months, of cholera.

Having buried a third daughter in August 1848, weathered pregnancies, births, sicknesses, and seeming unrelenting grief, Ann herself fell ill. One month later, September 1848, Ann Maria (Bliffins) Hathaway was 34 years and four months. (4) Three days before her passing, Ann and Benjamin marked their 14th wedding anniversary.

Grave marker of Ann Maria (Bliffens) Hathaway in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA | Image from Find A Grave contributor, "goose," 2015.

Ann Maria (Bliffens) Hathaway, Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, MA [Credit: Find A Grave contributor, goose, 2015.]

Ann was the help meet who made a home for her husband and gave him children. She also moved that household, at least twice, probably three times, as her husband made more money, and bought real estate that improved his finances, and gained him respect in the New Bedford community. Benjamin Hathaway was certainly stunned; without Ann, how would he get along? As a recent study shows, men aren’t very good at multitasking. With a motherless eight-year-old, a house, and business demands, Benjamin was in trouble.

Then, as today, goodhearted family, friends, and neighbors would have done what they could to help, but that couldn’t be counted on as a permanent solution.

Next time: More wives and more children

Notes:

(1) Thomas Valentine Bliffins’s (1808-1886) compelling reason for leaving remains unknown. He proved well-suited for life abroad, as he became a Master Mariner and ship captain. He lived in San Francisco, CA for decades and appears, to have never married.

(2) Benjamin and Ann’s daughter, Sarah, may well have been named for Benjamin’s older unmarried sister (Sarah “Sally” Hathaway, 1797-1866). Sarah lived in to manage her brother’s household, at least, once (1855).

(3) Sarah M. Hathaway (1840-1925) married Frederick A. Mickell, buried him and passed away, just a month short of her 85th birthday.

(4) In modern medicine, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and / or skin) is a symptom, not a cause of death. Ann probably died of liver failure, which resulting from an underlying cause.

Sources and References:

  1. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown  and New Bedford.
  2. Ancestry.com. NARA, United States Federal Census,1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870,1880.
  3. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts State Census, 1855 and 1865.
  4. Ancestry.com.US City Directories, New Bedford, MA 1830-1890.
  5. Jaundice – National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001259
  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/01/27/multitaskingwomenmen

The Five Wives of Benjamin Hathaway – Part 1

 

What  comes to mind when you find out a person has been married five times? I thought, Oh…there’s got to be a bit of scandal here. Did a wife or two run off? Did one wife, or two wives, or more wives, meet mysterious ends? 

Now I feel a bit ashamed of my suspicions, for the true story of five-times married Benjamin Franklin Hathaway calls to mind Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – minus the snark.

Benjamin F. Hathaway was born on May 1808, in Freetown, Massachusetts. He was the seventh known child, and fifth known son of Jael and Mercy (Davis) Hathaway. Like most families in the early American republic, this Hathaway family of middling circumstances, farmed with all able bodies pitching in. By 1830, Jael (and Mercy) were empty-nesters, all their children flown.

Benjamin probably left home in his early teens. The youngest of five Hathaway, sons, his future depended on acquiring a skilled trade. It’s likely, his father, Jael Hathaway (or someone in the family circle) found the boy an apprenticeship with a master carpenter and that would lead him away from rural Freetown. In the southeastern Massachusetts of the times, the action was in the village of New Bedford. There the whaling industry would expand opportunities for many workers, and the favored few with capital would reap incredible riches.

Bringing to mind early business opportunities in New Bedford, MA.

Whaling grew New Bedford, MA from a village into a bustling city with great wealth.

Building business and acquiring property

Benjamin F. Hathaway plied his carpentry skills on A. Robeson’s wharf as a ship joiner, and found employment as a house wright, during the 1830s and 1840s. But Benjamin wasn’t content to remain an employee. Sometime before the year 1849, he partnered with Thomas Booth to establish Booth & Hathaway, house-wrights and ship joiners.

Booth & Hathaway at 158 North Water Street, soon added lumber supply to its offerings. By 1852, Booth & Hathaway was listed in the city directory at numbers 157 and 158 North Water street. The 1860 federal census indicates that Booth had left the partnership, and Benjamin remained in business on North Water Street as a lumber dealer.

That year’s enumeration shows that Benjamin F. Hathaway owned real estate valued at $18,500 and personal property worth $2500. For perspective, compare this with the state of my direct ancestor, John P. Roane, a grocer in Lowell, MA who listed $1000 in real estate and $200 in personal property in that same 1860 census. Yeah, Benjamin had done well for himself (of course, it helped that he was American born and Protestant).

During the next years, the nation suffered the bloody War of the Rebellion (Civil War), which affected business and fortunes, for good and ill. Things changed for Benjamin, for at the end of 1865, he pulled out of the lumber market and launched a new venture in coal, which appears to have been a sound move. Benjamin became a respected member of the New Bedford Board of Trade.

Hathaway Coal employed 10 men in operating that coal business at 590 Acushnet Avenue through 1889, the year before Benjamin died. Among the assets mentioned in his will (1888), there is…

real estate situated on the east side of Acushnet Avenue at the foot of Willis street in said New Bedford and known as the wharf property.”

Benjamin never completely retired. After 40 years as a proprietor, his company would keep him engaged to some degree, even as he entered his eighth decade.

In many respects, Benjamin Franklin Hathaway emulated his Boston-born namesake (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790). He mastered a trade, kept learning, worked hard, and leaped when he recognized an opportunity. With persistence, Benjamin dramatically improved his material circumstances.

What about love?

Ben wasn’t all about business, not by a long-shot. That he married a series of five women, and sired (at least) 15 children is evidence that he pursued ambitions on the domestic front with as much zeal and doggedness as he did commerce. This part of the story begins with this transcription from New Bedford vital records:

Benjamin F. of N. B., and Ann Maria Bliffins of Freetown,
int. Aug. 27, 1834.

Benjamin turned 26 in May that year. He had worked perhaps, 10 years, to become a reputable ship joiner and house wright, a man able to support a wife – and a family.

Next time: First wife, Ann Maria Bliffins

Sources and / or references:

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events; Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Series_of_Unfortunate_Events
  2. United States Federal Census, 1820-1880.
  3. National Park Service, New Bedford Whaling; https://www.nps.gov/nebe/learn/historyculture/stories.htm
  4. New Bedford Guide: New Bedford Early Villages; https://www.newbedfordguide.com/new-bedfords-early-villages/2013/04/09
  5. Wikipedia; New Bedford; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bedford,_Massachusetts
  6.  Ancestry.com; New Bedford, MA; Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records.

The Brief Life of Hannah Roane – An Irish Mill Girl

This month is the 150th anniversary of the death of my Irish immigrant aunt, Hannah Roane (February 6, 1866), a Lowell mill girl. Never having married or had children of her own, the last vestige of Hannah’s existence disappeared 50 years later, in 1919, when her sister-in-law, Mary died. Mary was my ancestor, and the last person who might have recalled Hannah’s face, her voice, or a quirk that made her unique.  While the essence of long dead relatives (with rare exception) remain mysterious, it is often possible to learn much about the lives they led, as is the case with aunt Hannah.

Born around the year 1828 in County Galway, Ireland, Hannah was a few years older than her two brothers, John and Patrick, who also came to the world-famous, textile manufacturing city. Their family suffered the nightmare of the “Great Hunger” (1845-1849), the years of nationwide starvation and disease that took a million lives, and sent another million Irish out into the world in a desperate longing for a better life.

At this time in rural Ireland’s history, one son would take over his parents’ land and cottage. The anointed one (and his wife and children) would work the land and care for the elders. Perhaps, one lucky daughter would have a dowry enough to make a decent marriage (to another family’s heir). All the other sons and daughters of typically large, Roman Catholic families were out of luck. If they didn’t opt to become a priest or a nun, they faced a monotonous, solitary, laboring life.

Perhaps, it’s not so surprising then, that young, unmarried, Irish women came in such great numbers to America. In contrast with women of southern European cultures, Irish women were traditionally independent, capable and the money managers of the family. Many women made the voyage to America alone, and earned passage money for family members left in Ireland. Earning that money was no piece of cake.

Hannah Roane was on the vanguard of the Irish immigrants who replaced the Yankee female textile workers (the first American women to work outside the home), whose numbers peaked in the 1870s. For fourteen hours a day, six days a week, men, women and children labored amid the intense, ceaseless noise of machinery and inhaling air-filled with cotton or wool fibers. [Woman at Loom – American Textile Institute]Girl at factory loom, 19th century.

There were strikes in the 1830s over terrible working conditions, and, in 1845, workers agitated for a 10-hour work day, – a fight they lost. After that factory work became much less popular with native-born women. Then (as now), immigrants arrived to take the difficult, low-status, and low-paying jobs abandoned by those who had other options.

Mill Girls, 1870s

Mill Girls, 1870s

There were ten large mill complexes in Lowell, among them, the Massachusetts, Merrimack, Appleton, Hamilton and Boott mills; I don’t know which one employed my aunt. In a state census for 1855, Hannah was a resident in a boarding house with 30 other women, most of whom were New England born. As an Irish immigrant, Hannah would have begun her career working the least desirable, lower-paying jobs in the carding and spinning rooms. There is evidence that Hannah advanced in her career, however; in 1858, she opened an account with the Lowell Institution for Savings and listed her occupation as weaver, which was a skilled and better paying position.

I like to think that Hannah was among the Irish “mill girls” who spent some of their hard-earned on themselves and were considered good dressers compared to their Yankee counterparts.

Ten years after I first found Hannah in Lowell, her single working life-style had altered. The 1865 census lists 35-year-old Hannah in the household of her brother, John Roane, who ran a grocery business to support his wife, two sons and an infant girl. Hannah was enumerated as an operative (mill worker), but her death, just months after this census, makes it likely that she was, in fact, too sick to work. She died of tuberculosis.

For all her independence, courage, and endurance required to toil in the mills, the only blessing Hannah may have had in her brief sojourn on Earth, was to have been cared for, and to have died among family.

It is good to know Hannah had loved ones near in the end, and I would love to salute her memory and leave it at that, but for one sneaking suspicion, – I think that Hannah was “patient zero” for the contagion that nearly wiped out the family in Lowell.

Three years after Hannah’s passing, John Roane succumbed to an illness evidence suggests, almost certainly, was tuberculosis. Of John’s three children who lived into adulthood, two died of tuberculosis. What’s more, a few years after John died, the widow Mary, remarried and gave birth to two more sons, who both died of tuberculosis. 

Hannah certainly left lasting memories of love and laughter in the hearts of her brother’s family, but she may also have left them a tragic legacy.

 

Notes | Sources | Resources

Images: University of Massachusetts Lowell; http://library.uml.edu/clh/All/mgi06.htm; http://library.uml.edu/clh/All/mgi01.htm

Erin’s Daughters in America; Hasia R. Diner, 1983.

Mill Girls of Lowell; Jeff Levinson, Editor, 2007.

Living on the Boott – Historical Archaeology at the Boott Mills Boardinghouses, Lowell, Massachusetts; Stephen A. Mrozowski, Grace H. Ziesing, and Mary C. Beaudry, 1996.

Women at Work – The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860. Thomas Dutton, 1979.

Living in the Shadow of Death – Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History; Sheila M. Rothman, 1994.

“Hamilton” wins the Grammy

This isn’t strictly related, but since I recently referenced this founding father, I was elated to learn that the original cast album of “Hamilton” won a Grammy last night! To get an idea why, the following is a link to a video of the opening number (from Salon.com).  Enjoy! – Alexander Hamilton on Broadway

Hamilton & the New York Connection

This genealogical sleuthing was inspired by my precocious teenage grandson. In addition to adoring him, as I do each of my grandchildren, I admire him for years spent in local theater, and because his favorite subject in school is  – history.

hamilton2At a recent family gathering, he turned me onto the original cast album of the acclaimed Broadway show, HamiltonI was not entirely sure I would appreciate history with a hip-hop sensibility, and my first listen through jarred a bit. However, despite the fact I knew what was going to happen… I found myself in tears at the end, and, now I’m hooked.

For those unfamiliar, the story is based Ron Chernow’s 2004 hefty (730-page) biography of Alexander Hamilton. It was brilliantly adapted for the New York stage by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The lyrics that tell the story are urban, smart and poignant. This Hamilton inspired my grandson to delve into heavyweight books to learn more about the people and the period of the American Revolution. I got to thinking how I might reinforce my grandson’s intellectual curiosity.

I realized that Hamilton is a New York story, – and New York is a key location in our family story. While we have no Hamilton side antecedents, the man on our ten-dollar bill married Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler. She was the daughter of the esteemed military and statesman, Philip Schuyler, of Albany, and Philip’s wife was Catherine Van Rensselaer, a surname which seemed familiar.

Our Albany roots stretched back to the time the place was Beverwyck, a settlement of the colony of New Netherland (In 1664, the colony was ceded to the British who renamed it for the Duke of York). A great-grandmother, Anneke Jans (1605-1663), ended her days there, and she had children who married into “old Dutch” families, of which the Schuyler and Van Rensselaer are prime examples. Might I be able to connect my grandson to this episode in American history that so engaged him?

With the soundtrack to Hamilton in the background, I concentrated on previously ignored ancestral siblings, until I found just what I was looking for. While our direct line to Anneke Jans comes through her daughter, Sarah (Roeloffse) Kierstede (1626-1693), whose descendants are unrelated, happily, Sarah had a sister, Katrina.  

This Katrina Roeloffse wed Johannes (John) van Brugh, and had a daughter, Catharina Van Brugh who, in May 1689, happened to marry Hendrick Van Rensselaer.  I linked to  a key surname, but would it lead to Hamilton’s Eliza? — Here’s how it worked out:

Anneke Jans (1605-1663) + Roelof Jansen (1602-1637)

|

Katrina Roeloffse (1629-1697) + Johannes Pietersen van Brugh (1624-1699)

|

Catharina van Brugh ( 1665-1730) + Hendrick Van Rensselaer (1667-1744)

|

Johannes  Van Rensselaer (1704-1783) + Engeltie “Angelica” Livingston (Abt. 1704-1747)

|

Catherine Van Rensselaer (1734-1803) + Philip Schuyler (1733-1804)

|

Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler (1757-1854) + Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804).

Schuyler-Eliza_1804_head.shoulders

With Anneke Jans as the ancestor in common with the Schuylers, Eliza, and her cool sisters, Angelica and Peggy, are 4th cousins, and if not for a history loving grandson (with great musical taste), I would never have known.

 

Notes | Sources | Resources

Review, HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL; Journal of the American Revolution.

Hamilton (musical) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chernow, Ron, Alexander Hamilton (Penguin Press, New York, 2004).

FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org); New York Marriages, 1686-1980; Dutch Reformed Church,Albany,Albany,New York.

New York State Library (http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/), Schuyler Family Collection, 1679-1823.

New York State Museum, The People of Colonial Albany Live Here; http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/index.html

John O. Evjen Ph. D., Scandinavian Immigrants in New York 1630-1674  (Minneapolis, MN: K. C. Holter Publishing Company, 1916).

George Washington Schuyler, Colonial New York : Philip Schuyler and his family, 2 (New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1885).

Baxter, Katherine Schuyler. A Godchild of Washington: A Picture of the Past.  London – New York: F. Tennyson Neely, 1897.

 

What’s in a Name? Religions, Celebrities and Oddities

Three of my four grandparents were Irish Catholics. In that tradition, given names for children generally come from a pool of approved saint names. The number of variations offer a sense of choice, but whether you choose Kathleen, Cathleen, Katheryn, Kathryn, Katharyn, Katherin, Catharine, Cathryn, Katheryne, Katharine, Katharina, Katrin, Kare, Karina, Kathrin, even Caitlin, – it’s the same, blessed Saint Catherine. While all girls’ names are lovely and all boys’ names are distinguished, Catholic names, generation after generation, after generation – become monotonous.

For novelty, I turn to my Nana, who was Edna Mae Keirstead (1898-1988). Her Protestant pedigree stretches back to New Amsterdam (modern New York City), and delightfully different names begins with her father, Levi Springer Keirstead (1858-1921). Exotic appellations of his forebears include – Abiathar, Adoniram, Amenzie, Elias, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Ebenezer, Elnathan, Jedidiah, Obadiah, Zachariah and Zebulon. Isn’t it fun to wrap your tongue around those multisyllabic gems?

Word Cloud-male names

Names of Keirsteads and related lines

The Old Testament was a strong influence because properly devout Protestants read the Bible. Even hardscrabble, rural families (such as most of my folks) usually included at least one adult who was literate (and who taught the youngsters). If a poor household possessed a single volume, it was the Good Book. In addition to spiritual guidance, the Bible supplied history, genealogy, and thrilling stories with vivid characters. The Bible was a thwacking good read for long dark winters in the boonies.

Another naming convention, made trendy by Puritans, was the choosing of a virtue, a child could aspire to on the way to adulthood. Both boys and girls among New England folks were called – Constant, Content, Charity, Deliverance, Experience, Patience, Prudence, Remember, Waitstill, Hopestill and Love. Of these, Charity and Hope (from Hopestill) and others like Faith are still used today.

Remembering Mama

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned my gratitude for the tradition of giving the mother’s family name as the child’s middle name, a practice predominant among Protestant lines. An example from my tree is James Ganong Keirstead (1835-1926), the son of William and Elizabeth (Ganong) Keirstead, but there are so many, I’ve been able to tie a great number of married daughters back to their parents.

Sometimes, the mother’s maiden name becomes her child’s first name. For example, among my Freetown, Massachusetts relatives, Samuel Hathaway and Mary Evans, named a first son Samuel (b. 1781), for the proud papa, and a second son was Evans Hathaway (b. 1783), for the proud mama. Crocker Babbitt (1788-1861) of Dighton, Massachusetts is another example – with a twist. Crocker was not the mother’s birth name, but the maiden name of the grandmother, Bathsheba (Crocker) Tobey.

In contrast, wives’ and mothers’ origins for my poor Irish Catholic lines get lost one step past the immigrants. Though, not my family, it’s worth noting here there’s a prominent exception to this disappearing woman rule in US history . Our nation’s 35th president was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, son of Joseph P. and Rose (Fitzgerald) Kennedy..

Admiring Men

Among my Canada-born great-grandfather’s brothers, is a Wellington. That name clearly inspired by the hero who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and later became a statesman. While Wellington is legendary, how many know that he was born, Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852)? His title was the 1st Duke of Wellington.

My ignorance of Canadian history blinded me to the origin of other names in genealogies north of the border. A 4th great-great uncle, Thomas Carleton Ganong (1785-1856), was named for Thomas Carleton, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, or maybe, just Carleton for Tom’s brother, Sir Guy Carleton, Governor General of British North America.  Maybe, it was for them both.

Chipman is attached to a number of individuals with different surnames. Since Ward Chipman (1754-1824) was instrumental in establishing the province of New Brunswick, their birthplace, he may have been the inspiration. Then, there were other Chipmans in public life.

My southeastern Massachusetts patriot families, like many of that period, named children for founding fathers. I’ve found a George Washington Chase (b. 1808), son of Benjamin & Lydia (Shove) Chase, and Benjamin Franklin Babbitt (b. 1805), son of Benjamin & Serena (Burt) Babbitt. As a science enthusiast, I was also pleased to discover an Isaac Newton Babbitt (1830-1901).

Less famous namesakes easily escape notice. I offer a case in point from Victoria County, New Brunswick where, in 1905, George Ward and Esther Jane (Brown) Goucher named their son, Basil Earle Goucher. Why Earle? I found no Earle among kinfolk and no Earle was particularly celebrated at the time. The answer was waiting for me on Basil Goucher’s late birth registration. A line on the form for ‘physician attending the birth,’ read, “Dr. R. W. L. Earle.”

I was lucky to find a smoking gun for Basil. In more cases, the rationale for any past person’s action remains frustratingly unfathomable.

Raising eyebrows

How does Malbone strike you? That given name comes from my endlessly interesting Hathaways of Freetown (MA). When I first picked up Malbone, the old school Latin kicked in; mal- means bad or evil, so this old man was, literally, bad to the bone.

To my deep disappointment, I must report that I found no evidence that Malbone Hathaway (1774-1861) was ever even grumpy in the morning. Rather, Malbone was hometown boy who took a wife, raised a passel of kids, worked the land, and was laid to rest at the ripe old age of 87. His name mustn’t have troubled him, either, for he gave the world a Malbone junior, who also lived his life as a regular guy.

Perhaps, Malbone’s brother, Wanton Hathaway (1776-1855), had a worse name. Merriam-Webster gives as synonyms for the word wanton (as an adverb), – lewd, bawdy, merciless, inhumane, malicious and extravagant; a wanton (as a noun) is –  one given to self-indulgent flirtation or trifling or a pampered person or animal. You get the idea that being called wanton is not a compliment. Wanton, the man, however, seems not to have been at all wicked. The best I can do with Wanton is to unfairly judge his life by modern standards, which makes him only – wicked boring.

The parents who named Wanton and Malbone also had interesting names. Their mother was Dorcas Wrightington (1743-1814), Dorcas being a Christian woman of New Testament times who made clothing for the poor. Their father was Clothier Hathaway (1739-1789), a clothier being a person or business that makes or sells clothing. — Surely, that was a match made in heaven.

Readers, please  feel free to share your own tales of interesting family names and namesakes in the “Comments” section.

—Notes & Sources—

Cousins and others with questions about featured individuals or families in my tree, can email genealogy@christineroane.com & I’ll be happy to provide my source material.

Wikipedia is handy for a quick look-up of nearly any unfamiliar person, place or thing. I referenced wiki articles for John F. Kennedy, Wellington, Thomas and Guy Carleton.

The Canadian Encyclopedia is gives a solid brief on Ward Chipman

Baby names will make future family historians scratch their heads, too. Why? Click over to Cool Name Lists for today’s expectant parents for suggestions that reference Shakespeare, US Presidents, Hunger Games and Dr. Who.

 

The Boy Tenor of New England

I wrote the following profile of my grandfather, James P. H. Roane (1895-1960), as a contributor to WikiTree and, I decided to share it (slightly edited) in honor of the 120th anniversary of his birth.

James PH Roane circa 1911James Patrick Henry Roane was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on August 8, 1895, the fifth child, and fourth son of John F. & Mary J. (Donahue) Roane. His mother died as the year 1900 ended, and his father never remarried, leaving James and five siblings to grow up motherless.

His sister Mollie, the firstborn and only girl at 10 years, raised her brothers and kept house for her father. At least one year, 1902,  when school let out, James and his brothers were sent to Baker Farm in Tyngsboro, apparently, a summer camp where boys could experience the natural world, fresh air and clean water (not found in the factory city of Lowell).

Young James played school sports and made his mark as quarterback for the Lowell High football team, following in the footsteps of his older brothers, who were also noted athletes. The amusing nickname, “Roundy Roane” was applied to various brothers, including James, and probably was descriptive of the short, muscular frame which ran in the family.

All the Roane men had excellent voices; their names turn up regularly in newspaper accounts of church choirs, and featured singers at public entertainments and private events. James, however, was the only one to have gone professional. As a teenager, he was a member of a touring company (perhaps, on a vaudeville circuit) and billed as, “the Boy Tenor of New England.” (The photo below may have been taken for publicity purposes.)James PH Roane circa 1907

James also performed close to home, as The Lowell Sun noted on May, 2, 1912:

…riding the crest of a popular wave, scored a tremendous hit in minstrelsy at Associate Hall. Patrons thought the program was the best ever presented by this talented group. Interlocutor was Charlie McKenzie, with Tom Salmon, Ed [?]andley, Joe Clarke and James Roane as end men.

In the 1920s and 1930s, James lent his voice to local broadcasts, which included vocal performances, according to his son. James, Sr. He was also an announcer for sporting events, however, cryptic newspaper comments suggest his style wasn’t popular with all listeners.

James had enlisted in the US Army by 1915 and served until 1919. Returning to civilian life, he was employed as a stock clerk at a machine shop and grew close to another Lowell High alum, Edna Mae Keirstead, a bookkeeper at Union National Bank.

Edna’s parents were Canadian immigrants, and she wasn’t Irish or Catholic, but the young couple shared a common vision. They married in the family’s parish at St. Margaret’s church on May 31, 1921, and left promptly for Lakewood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland). James had arranged a sales job with the May Company, and Edna got position with the Union Trust Company. The newlyweds’ initial plan didn’t last long, as they returned to Lowell that same year, likely precipitated by the death of Edna’s father in August.

After settling back in Lowell, James thought about becoming an attorney, and earned a degree from Suffolk Law School in 1923, – the year his first child was born, a daughter, Edna Mary Roane. Whether the outlook for earnings from a law practice looked poor, or whether he decided law didn’t suit him, James studied medicine at Harvard University, and in 1924, the year his son and namesake was born, his credentials won him a teaching position in Lowell public schools. His passion for physical education and sports sustained him in a 30-year career, from phys ed instructor at Charles Morey School, to Athletic Director for the Lowell Public Schools at his retirement in 1952.

In the family sphere, James shared his delight in travel, culminating in an episode his daughter described by his daughter more than 60 years later, as their “famous trip” to Texas by automobile.

James also took the wife and kids, every summer for a week or two (some years longer) to New Hampshire at Lake Winnipesaukee, where they swam, fished, played, and socialized, with the scent of pine wafting through the air. Lake.Winnipesauke.c1928 His daughter never forgot those lovely, happy summers.(Above c. 1929: James, Sr. Edna, James Jr., and Edna Mary Roane at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH )

Back home in Lowell, James was member of fraternal organizations that included the Elks. He led or worked on committees that supported a variety of organizational and community undertakings, through which he built life-long friendships.

To his grandchildren lucky enough to have been born before his passing at age 64, in the spring of 1960, James Roane, Sr, was “Baba.”  He left us with memories of his warmth, his sense of fun, and his love.

Three Girls Named Philip

One of my favorite things happened recently, – I made contact with a new cousin and genealogist. After I’d sent along my line of descent (the way cousins introduce themselves), I received this gentle correction,

BTW, your 8th-g-grandmother was Phillipa CHASE, daughter of Benjamin and Phillipe (Sherman) CHASE.

To start off, I wholeheartedly thank every thoughtful and generous person who has spotted my errors and got me back on track. (Please do keep it up.) Now, this is a rare thing, but I don’t always agree with suggested corrections, and this is one of those times.

You’ll work out from that note, the presumed mistake was that I gave the above Chase and Sherman females the masculine moniker, “Philip.” However, it wasn’t a goof; I did it deliberately. Despite our society’s sensibility that a girl must have a girl’s name, – I believe this line has three females named Philip and they embody a tradition that can be traced in records from 1652 through 1795.

Who would give a girl a boy’s name?

Perhaps it’s no surprise, this story begins with a man, Philip Sherman / Shearman (1610-1687). Born in England, he came to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1633, married Sarah Odding there the year after, had a few kids, then had a disagreement with church elders. That precipitated the family’s move to Rhode Island, an early bastion of religious tolerance. By 1638, Philip was making himself useful to the new settlement at Portsmouth, and 10 years later (1648), Philip Sherman was appointed General Recorder (secretary) of Rhode Island. He was described as

An excellent penman (his records remain in Portsmouth), educated and wealthy for the times. [1]

Philip spent years growing Portsmouth, growing a personal estate, and growing his family. In addition to three girls, he and Sarah had seven (or eight) boys, and none was named Philip in 1651, when Sarah told him for the eleventh (or twelfth) time, she was pregnant. Both were Into their forties, financially secure, and doubtless feeling pride in worldly accomplishments and public honors, It’s likely, in the interest of preserving health and happiness, the Shermans agreed this child would be their last.

God had been good to Philip thus far; He clearly approved of his conduct and his plans, Having deferred the honor so many times, surely God would send him a Philip Sherman junior. When Sarah’s time came, Philip would have been humbly grateful to the almighty for preserving the lives of his beloved helpmeet and the newborn. No doubt the daughter was a surprise, but that was the divine will, and Philip named the baby just as he’d planned.

Miss-Spelling and Miss-Interpretation

Oh yes, misspellings and other errors crop up in official records, and all too often. (I expect you have some frustrating, and / or funny examples of your own.) But, before you relegate my female Philips to the category of mistakes, gentle reader, I offer two points for your consideration:

(1) Philip Sherman / Shearman, General Recorder of Rhode Island, as noted above, has been recognized for his excellent handwriting. This ability and attention to detail were key qualifiers for creating official documents for the colony. It’s reasonable to expect that what Philip wrote, he meant to write. For example, on 15 Apr 1678, Philip Sherman deeded some land to…

Benjamin Chase my son-in-law and my daughter Philip his wife.

Three years later, he made his will (dated on 31 Jul 1681)…

Philip Shearman, yeoman, aged seventy-one years, of the Town of Portsmouth… to my daughter Philip ten ewe sheep.

The man, Philip, the colony’s recording secretary, in two documents, spelled his daughter’s name exactly the way he spelled his own. He meant to do that. To avoid confusion, he specified “daughter.”

 (2) There is consistency in records that give the name Philip to females through time. Examples from Freetown, Masachusetts records and compiled indexes include marriage listings:

CHASE, Benjamin (1639-1731) & Phillip / Phillopa [SHERMAN] (1652-); ca 1672?; Portsmouth, RI / Freetown

HATHAWAY, Jacob & Phillippa / Philip? CHASE; 28 Jan 1696/7, 1696; Taunton

We see the compiler’s instinct to femininize the form for the bride, but that eloquent “?” tells us the record said Philip. Here’s a birth

Born in freetown Philip Chase the daftor [daughter] of Benjamin Chase born 5 day of July 1679 ———

Image excerpt from Freetown, MA town register showing

Click to enlarge the image.

The Jacob and Phillip (Chase) Hathaway who married in 1696, decided to name a son Philip, so our female Philip skipped generation. However, Jacob and Philip’s daughter Hannah Hathaway, married Lot Strange and named her first daughter, born in 1722, Philip Strange, and we hit the jackpot with marriage records for this lady:

Philip Strange to John Payne (Paine) Jr. 10 Apr 1738

Philip Pain to Seth Chace (Chase) 7 Nov 1751

John Crandon of Dartmouth & ye widow Philip Chase of Freetown were married December ye 14th – –  – 1768.

Over three decades, with different town clerks, we see the same, masculine name, attached to women. That’s consistency. Finally, nearly 30 years after the 1768 marriage, among the town’s compiled death records (1686-1844), is a 1795 listing for Freeborn Paine (Payne) which gives the wrong father, but note the detail on the mother:

Freeborn Payne, son of Eben.r & wife Philip (m.n. Strange) died Sept. 11, 1795.

I believe, the sources out there giving Philippe, Philopa, Phillipa, etc. as given names for these Sherman, Chase and Strange girls were just reacting to cultural conditioning, making the Philip of the records into an appropriately feminine form. Is that correction really necessary? How many researchers would conclude that Philip & Benjamin, Philip & Jacob, Philip & John or Seth were married male couples in colonial Massachusetts? Not likely.

I think we should relax, be accurate, and accept – like that founding father of Portsmouth, that Philip is a fine, worthy and noble name for a child of any gender. But I have a final surprise for the finish, – the original Philip Sherman was not himself named for his father, but for his mother, Philippa (Ward) Sherman (1577-1610). Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Notes & Sources:

Philip (name meaning), Greek for a lover of horses. Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_%28name%29

Unisex names; Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unisex_name

[1] New England Families Genealogical and MemorialAmerican Historical Society, editor,1916; reprint, LaVergne, TN: BIBLIOLIFE, LLC, 12 May 2012), Page 363.

AmericanAncestors.org (New England Historical Genealogical Society); RICR  1:209, 217, 230, 236. | Great Migration Study, Philip Sherman profile.

FamilySearch.org; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film # 1993524.

Ancestry.com: Torry, Clarence A. New England Marriages Prior to 1700; Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988; Freetown, MA.

Grappling with Slavery – When Ancestors aren’t a Source of Pride

Ben Affleck’s initial concealment of a slaveholding ancestor for his episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. makes it time for me to come clean. I too, have slaveholders in the family, and these ancestors shame me more than the murderers and other miscreants I’ve been featuring on this blog.

I’ve had a document with this post’s title filed away for years. Sure, it was a rambling, bumbling, stumbling mess, not ready for primetime, but I kept ignoring it. Any subject would do if I could push off a confrontation with my sense of guilt over slavery.

Slavery in New York and Massachusetts

When I was a greener researcher, with roots in New Amsterdam / New York and New England, the northern states, I believed my family was in the clear on slavery. In retrospect, my ignorance on slavery in the north was stunning. My personal wakeup call came in the will of my 8th great-grandmother, the Amsterdam-born pioneer settler of New York, Sarah (Roelfse) (Kierstede) (Van Borsum) Stoothoff (1626-1693).

“…to my daughter Blandina, of this city, a negro boy, Hans. To my son Luycas Kierstede, my Indian named Ande. To my daughter Catharine Kierstede, a negress, named Susannah. To my son-in.law, Johannes Kip, husband of my said daughter Catharine, my negro, Sarah… To my son Jochem Kierstede, a little negro, called Maria, during his life, and then to Sarah, the eldest daughter of my son Roeloff Kierstede…” (1)

And there it was, the gut-punch, proof positive that my accomplished ancestress (2), kept in bondage a Native American, and black women, and children. Lines in my beloved native state, Massachusetts, were no more civilized. My 8th great-grandfather, Jonathan Rayment (1666-1745) of Beverly, was a deacon of the church for 23 years. In 1705, when he was 39 years old, he made the following purchase:

Capt. Joseph Flint, Mariner, of Salem, sells to Jonathan Rayment, of Bevery, “my Spanish Indian boy named Pito about 10 years old, for a slave.” (3)

As I traced the deacon Rayment to the end of his life in 1745, I hoped after 40 years of piety and wisdom, his humanity would have evolved, but the inventory of his estate lists after items including an iron kettle, frying pan and a silver tankard… “Slaves” beneath that, “1 Negro man… 1 Negro woman…”

A clipped portion

Deacon Rayment’s slaves: Cafar (Kafir) valued at 45 pounds, and Sarah, 37 pounds 10 shillings. (Click for larger view.)

It’s sobering to learn your people committed crimes against humanity, while regarding themselves as good Christians and respectable members of society.

The Awful Truth – Celebrity Edition

Several celebrity descendants of slaveholders have been featured on Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are,  including Anderson Cooper, Ken Burns, and Bill Paxton. They did the right thing right off by facing the findings on camera. They shared their disappointment and righteous anger. They acknowledged we all must accept the bad guys along with the good guys in our trees. And so it should be with our great, multiethnic, multiracial, American family.

Many folks argue that United States “fixed” slavery 150 years ago; that civil rights laws in the 1960s “fixed” segregation and discrimination; that white and black Americans have an equal shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, if that was true, if that was the present reality,  – nice, white Americans, like Ben Affleck, wouldn’t be so troubled over errant great-greats.

The terrible disparity in income, health and life spans between whites and minorities is evidence that our nation hasn’t yet established a culture that supports the American ideal of equality.

We can’t change the past, we can, and should, look it straight in the eye. Instead of dithering over guilt, we can join with nice Americans of all races to build toward a society that truly guarantees an opportunity for a decent life to all. It won’t be easy, but working to “form a more perfect union”(4) is as good an idea today as it was in 1787.

 

Notes, Sources & Resources:

(1) Abstract of wills on file in the Surrogates Office, City of New York  (Volume I. 1665-1707) by New York (County) Surrogate’s Court Abstracts of Wills –Liber 5-6 pgs. 225, 226, 227.

(2)  Sarah learned native languages and assisted Peter Stuyvesant in negotiating treaties with local tribes. In 1682, she was confirmed as owner of a patent originally granted to her second husband, Cornelis Van Borsum (1630-1682) for a lot on Manhattan Island, for her service. She also raised 11 children and outlived 3 husbands.

(3) Essex Registry of Deeds, Book 16, Folio 204, March 12, 1705.

(4) From the Preamble to the United States Constitution, “We the people We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

***
How Ben Affleck reacted after he discovered his slave-owning ancestors

Slavery in the North Website by historian, author, journalist and lecturer, Douglas Harper.

History of Slavery in Massachusetts  Wikipedia article covers freedom suits brought in 1781 that claimed slavery was contrary to the Bible and the new (1780) Massachusetts Constitution, but slavery remained legal in Massachusetts until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865.