Family Then & Now

It’s a lovely sunny day today; the temp started at -16 this morning and has climbed to -11 C. Which doesn’t sound awfully warm, but the sun is condensing our banks of snow and putting a hard crust on the surface. Forecast for tomorrow is +1 C; Monday -10. Exactly the kind of up-and-down temps we’ve been having so far this year.

I talked to my sister Wilma last night; still no definite plans for our sister Donna’s burial and the family get together for a Celebration of Life. A lot depends on what sentence the judge will hand out to her youngest son when his court case comes up in a few weeks. The other boys definitely want to wait until he can be there. They’ve no idea what he’s charged with, so are quite much in the dark as to how long he’ll be in custody.

Because a few people in my family have expressed interest in our history, I’ve been posting on the Vance-Turner Connect blog again. Starting out with some of the aspects — and trials — of doing family research. Like the duplication of names. On my latest post I used the heading, Joseph the son of Joseph the son of Joseph. That’s exactly how it was: the oldest children were named after the grandparents, then the uncles & aunts. Then to sort them all out…

It’s a good thing, yet a danger, that subscribers to a genealogy program like Ancestry or MyHeritage can access other genealogists’ family trees and borrow research. I’ve learned that you MUST be very careful to double check before you import data or you can get really mixed up. Birth & baptism registrations, marriage certificates, census records, all help a lot re: whose child is this.

Some researcher has listed an Alexander in our family tree, as the youngest brother of our gr-gr-grandfather, but the birth registration says his father was Robert, not David. I discovered yesterday that someone lists gr-gr-grandfather as Joseph Collville Vance — someone he never was — and go from there to add descendants our gr-gr-grand never had. Grafting their branch onto the wrong tree, you might say. Now a few others have copied that researcher’s error, skewing all their data as well.

For me, following all these lines is like doing a jigsaw puzzles, and I enjoy putting them together. I cooked supper at the Senior’s home last night and one couple were working on a 1000-piece puzzle — a painting of the Last Supper. They were having a hard time getting it together. I have younger eyes, also a very keen sense of color and can detect slight differences between two shades of, say, sky blue, gray or creamy marble, so I helped them and we got quite a bit put together before I left.

Well, enough rambling. I’m doing a bit bunch of laundry today and best get back to it. 🙂

The Perplexing Miss Perkins

I’ve been digging into my family tree roots again. With the help of MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com I’ve been researching the life of my great-grand 8 generations back, Nathaniel Hart Jr.

According to the data that has been assembled, Nathaniel was born circa 1707 in Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts Bay, British Colonial America. So, years before the USA was even the USA. His father was Captain Nathaniel Hart and his mother was Sarah (nee Rust, according to some records.)

However, this post isn’t about Nathaniel. I’m rather going to tell you a bit about his first wife, Elizabeth Perkins. Other researchers have put her story together and it looks a mite odd. Examining the stats, you can’t help but wonder what prompted her to switch mates so often.

Elizabeth was born to Stephen and Mary (nee Eveleth) Perkins in 1713. She married my ancestor on March 29 1731, when she was seventeen or perhaps already eighteen, and they had a son, Constant Hart. But then on October 16th she supposedly married Captain Elias Lowater — less than seven months from her first marriage.

Huh?? My first thought was that she was widowed, but no,. Nathaniel took his time to marry again. In 1937 he wed Sarah Caldwell, born in July 1705. They had a son, Nathaniel Hart III.

Elizabeth and Elias had a son, Stephen — named after her father, no doubt. Some records say she also had a daughter Mary. Did Captain Lowater die or did she leave him, too? At any rate, she married Nathaniel Fuller (born circa 1711) on Dec 7 1733, just over two years from her second marriage. She died in July 1768 in Ipswich, Massachusetts, USA, at the age of 55.

How I’d love to peek back in history and see the story behind these stats — assuming they are correct. Was she a poor young thing who married two drunken brutes? Or was she the one so hard to live with that two husbands divorced her? Or — even more likely — she was actually two different gals. It happened in our Vance clan that the six boys of Joseph and Sarah (Allen) Vance almost all named their oldest son Joseph and their oldest daughter Sarah. I’ve found the names Sarah and Joseph repeated at some point in almost every one of those homes. Sorting out their wedding records is sometimes a challenge!

So what if Elizabeth Perkins had a first cousin or two named Elizabeth Perkins? Three hundred years, misc fires, lost records, smudges, misspellings, etc, can do a lot to muddy details. Guess I’ll never know.

So it all looks like this:
Nathaniel Hart + Sarah Rust >
Nathaniel Hart Jr + Elizabeth Perkins>
Constant Hart + Annis Holland>
Whoops, a blip in the data! Jerusha Brooker/Brooks (nee Hart) + Nathaniel Powers
Sarah Jane Powers + Samuel Russell Allen>
Sarah Allen + Joseph Vance

family tree roots
untying the knots in
endless squiggly lines
Image by Graham Hobster — Pixabay

Welcome October

Hello everyone.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was STILL. And since there are still a few hours left in this day, I’m going to write a few sentences at least, to let you know I’m still here, still relatively healthy, and still have noble aspirations about being a more faithful blogger. I want to say a hearty thank you to those who are still following me and reading what I have to say, when I do get around to saying it. 🙂 I’ve thought of many things to write about, but my musings would make awfully long articles!

I’m also still painting and enjoying it, though it feels like maybe the initial infatuation with my new hobby isn’t as keen. Hopefully the passion will settle down to a quiet and steady love in my life now.

I got back into doing some genealogical research in Sept and discovered that one of my Allen ancestors was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1632. That’s twelve years after the Mayflower landed and four years after the Confidence brought the Goodnow-Goodenow (etc.) family to America. Interesting to speculate whether my ninth gr-great Allen may have known my hubby’s thirteenth gr-great Goodenow.

He’s been reading the book Hillbilly Elegy by J D Vance. Vance writes about growing up in a depressed area, a hopeless setting that he was able to find his way through and out of. I gather the conversations have been repeated just as spoken and are littered with the colloquial obscenities.

I’d like to compare Family Tree roots with that James Vance someday. His ancestors possibly came to the US back in the 1700s and were well settled in Kentucky before the Civil War. My Vance ancestor and his three brothers came directly from Scotland around 1830. They obviously passed through New York state, where Joseph met and married Sarah Allen on his way to purchase land in Ontario. Whatever made her follow this widowed Scottish stranger with a small son? I hope they had a good life.

I’m reading the book Call the Nurse, by Mary J MacLeod about a forty-ish couple who were bored with their humdrum life in southern England and decided to pay a visit to the Hebrides island of Papavray, the place his father had left as a teen. They went for a holiday (in the 70s?) with their youngest two boys, fell in love with the remote isle and bought an impossibly run-down shack. Mary had been a home care nurse, so found more than enough work immediately. In this book she tells about the years they spent there, as well as the situation and culture of the people. It’s very interesting reading so far.

Another STILL in our world: it still doesn’t rain. Interesting cloud shapes drift over and catch the eye of this artist, but maybe only a few drops of rain fall once a week. I still put out water basins every day for the wild creatures. The robins seemed to be long gone from this land until a couple of weeks ago; suddenly there are lots of them again. I see them bathing every day in my tubs. At night some other creatures come to drink, mainly deer I’m guessing. I thought I saw a raccoon in our yard one night. Deer can drink from any cattle watering troughs that may be around, but smaller animals can’t, which may be why some mornings all four basins are licked right dry.

Well, enough for this time. I’m going to try again to post daily, even just a few lines. As FlyLady says, just fifteen minutes a day–that’s the key. Yesterday I conquered Mount Wash-more and today I’m chipping at the Ironing Hill. 🙂

Giving Disease A Jab

Hello and welcome to SEPTEMBER! Did anyone see SUMMER as it whizzed by?

Leaves are starting to fall, most of our pretty birds seem to have zipped off, harvest is underway — except that the rains we were praying for in July have finally come. I’m glad I’m not a farmer! Mind you, quite a few crops were cut and baled last month because there wasn’t enough grain in the heads to be worth harvesting.

As for me, I’ve started digging up my one large flowerbed. I left it uncultivated in spring because it was so dry; now that it’s been raining I’m getting it ready for winter and for planting next spring.

I’ve been digging around in my family tree roots lately, too, and discovered a family tragedy. One that was quite common back in those days. I can’t imagine how devastated great-great-grandfather Charles must have been when…

– his wife Ann, passed away on Dec 3rd, 1863. She was about forty years old and her youngest child was just a toddler.
– his father, John Watchorn, died on Jan 1st, 1864 at the age of 68.
– his daughter, Ellen, died on Jan 14th. From the records, it looks like she was in her early teens.
– his six-year-old son, Charles Jr, died a few weeks after Ellen.
Ann and her children are buried in one grave with a common headstone.

At one time I made a note in my records that gr-gr-grandmother Ann died of smallpox. An epidemic of that sort would account for the number of deaths in one family in such a short period of time. It’s odd that I can’t find any death records for any of these people. Were they lost in a fire or in transit to the Dept of Vital Statistics, or were there so many smallpox deaths in the area at that time that they weren’t recorded individually? Perhaps a local newspaper of the time would give me a better picture?

Of course I wondered if there was no smallpox vaccine available in their day, so I did some research. Yes, smallpox vaccine was available then. However, there was apparently a lot of fear and resistance, or just plain indifference, to the idea of vaccination. According to the Museum of Health Care at Kingston website:
“Smallpox vaccine was used widely in Canada during the early 1800s, although it soon became neglected. Low immunization levels led to persistent outbreaks…”
The Montreal area experienced the worst outbreak in 1885 when 3000 people died from smallpox. The epidemic spread from there into parts of eastern Ontario.
“Anti-vaccine sentiments mixed with religion and French-English political tensions helped fuel the crisis.”

Sigh… Do things never change?

Well, yes, they do, thankfully. In 1924, a Doctor Heagerty writing about smallpox, lists the terror people felt when the menace was mentioned and all damage it has done in the past, leaving so many people dead, crippled, or scarred for life. Then he writes:
“Vaccination has altered this, and forgetful or ignorant of the appalling ravages of the disease in other days, we now scarcely give the subject of smallpox a thought.”

Small pox, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio. Immunization has dealt a death blow to these scourges our ancestors feared. In more recent years measles, rubella, hepatitis, chicken pox, meningitis, pneumonia, and various influenza vaccines have made life easier yet. We’ve conquered a lot of killers.

So it puzzles me when I hear people who are alive today because their grandparents, parents, and themselves have been saved from these once common killers, now opposing COVID vaccination. I guess some things never change.

WordPress Meets the Press Gang

Through the medium of WordPress, several bloggers are offering me some unusual prompt words for today. I even had to look up three of them to be certain of their meanings.
Ragtag Daily Prompt: HARDIHOOD
— boldness, daring, courage; self-confident audacity

Word of the Day: URGES
— (noun): strong desires or impulses.
— (verb): to repeatedly or insistently try to encourage or persuade someone.

Your Daily Word Prompt: RECONDITE
— Difficult or impossible for the ordinary person to comprehend, as a DEEP subject
— Referring to something little known or obscure
— Hidden from sight. Concealed

Fandango’s FOWC: SCUTTLEBUTT
The original meaning of this word has provided the track for my train thoughts this morning.
Scuttlebutt: a ship’s water butt – a cask holding the day’s supply of fresh water. And since this was where sailors gathered to drink and exchange gossip, the word eventually included the gabfest that went on around the scuttlebutt.
The old oaken cask (scuttled butt) has been replaced by the office fountain or water cooler and the term has come to mean “gossip and rumors that circulate.”

THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH

One day my great-great-grandfather John Smith sat visiting with his youngest son, Moses, and John was telling Moses what happened when he was nine years old that shaped his entire future. Fortunately for me, Moses’ youngest daughter happened to overhear the conversation. A few years ago I able to track down this long-lost relative, in her late 90s and still of clear memory. She shared this story with me:

As a nine-year-old boy John was walking down the street in an English city – he thought it was London – when a couple of sailors from the British navy grabbed him and hustled him onto a ship in the harbour. This was one of the press gangs that worked the English port cities, kidnapping boys and young men to serve on the ships. John must have been a husky lad; I can’t imagine they’d grab a puny little guy who might not survive the rough sea life.

So who was this lad and what were his origins? Was his name actually John SMITH, or did the sailors tack that label on him, possibly to deflect inquiries? From info on his death record, John was born circa 1828. Young boys in those days likely weren’t so informed about their family history or even their location – perhaps he’d never even been to school. Was he from a caring home, or were his parents down-and-out sorts? Maybe he was an orphan, just a street urchin that happened to wander too near the port? Was John’s father a Swedish sailor, or why does my DNA show that I have 9% Scandinavian ancestry when I find so little in my known family tree?

If our children go missing, it’s a tragedy. Did John’s family search for him? Was he hidden from the authorities – or did any authority ever check on ship’s crews or search for missing boys and young men? After all, press gangs operated with the collusion of the Crown. I try to imagine the recondite lives these fellows lived as captives of the British Navy: the possible abuses, the hard labour, primitive medical care, rickets and scurvy, wild storms, dim prospects of deliverance. I have to admit I’m living in one of the best eras ever.

For the next four years gr-gr-grandfather was held on that ship, working as a cabin boy, never allowed to set foot on shore. I can picture him gathering around the scuttle-butt with the other sailors, hearing their tales of the sea, of exotic ports, of ships that went down in storms. Did John have a natural hardihood, or was he terrified in this new setting? I’m sure he had the urge many times to escape this forced servitude and find his family again – if he had any – but he was never allowed ashore.

When he was fourteen the ship docked in Halifax harbour and somehow John managed to escape. He told his son Moses that the sailors turned the ships guns on him as he was fleeing, but he made it into the woods and hid there in the forest until the ship sailed away. From Halifax he made his way to southwestern Ontario and worked as a labourer; in time he managed to buy a farm near Listowell. To the best of my knowledge, he never again had contact with any family in England.

Around 1855, when he’d have about twenty-seven, John married Ruth Dobson, a young woman from a very religious home. Her parents were John & Ruth; her brother Jonathan grew up to become a well known Methodist preacher. Ruth called herself a Methodist and John listed himself on all the Ontario censuses as an Unbeliever. Their oldest daughter, Mary – my great-grandmother – was born in 1856. Their oldest son, William, apparently became a policeman in Toronto. Mary, as Mrs Sam Vance, moved west and lost all contact with her Smith relatives.

Oct 19, 2020:
My dentist’s office just called about my appointment tomorrow. Can’t just walk into the office now, must wear a mask, etc. Yes, my activities are being restricted and everyone is fearful of COVID – and who knows what the economy will do? Scuttlebutt has it that a vaccine is in the works, but may take awhile yet. Yes, these are uncertain, fearful times – but as I let my thoughts drift back through the years to young John, hiding in the woods near Halifax, totally alone, with only his own hands and hardihood to provide for him in this new land – I can’t complain about my lot!

So I’m sitting here this morning enjoying my coffee, playing with these new words, and wondering about my DNA results – all because “John Smith” acted on his urge to escape and jumped ship in the Halifax harbour circa 1842. Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing great-great-grandfather’s story.

All My Kin

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is the word KINDRED. Something everyone has, whether they know it or not.

I’ve written before about my adventures on Ancestry.com — and now I’ve built another family tree on MyHeritage.com, so I’ve got lots of information coming at me in regards to my forebears. Basically my Vance great-great-great-grandfather David had his origins in Gallowayshire, Scotland, and moved to Wigtownshire, married thirteen-year-old Agnes Jones and had a large family, mostly boys. He was killed at age 34 in a storm, after which several of his sons left that area hoping for a better life in Canada. They emigrated circa 1835.

David’s son, my great-great gr. Joseph, married Sarah Shannon and had one son, then she passed away. He brought his son John along when he came to Canada. En route to Oxford County he met another Sarah, the daughter of Samuel Russell and Sarah Jane (nee Powers) Allen of upstate New York. Joseph and Sarah were married and their first son — and possibly their daughter as well — appear to have been born in Quebec. The two offspring, true to form, were named Joseph and Sarah Jane.

This tendency to name the oldest children after their parents sometimes helps matters and sometimes confuses the issue. My great-great grandparents named their children after all of Joseph’s brothers, plus Samuel after Samuel Allen, I’m supposing, and the youngest one was William, some other kinsman’s name.

Joseph’s oldest son Joseph name his two oldest children Joseph and Sarah Jane; so did Great-uncle George and James, if I have it right. To add to the confusion of all the same-name cousins, I also discovered that three of my great-grandfather’s brothers married Margarets. Wouldn’t that have given some interesting family gatherings?

Samuel, my great grandfather, was the second youngest of Joseph and Sarah’s six sons, born after they were settled and farming in Oxford County, Ontario. Most of the kindred settled in the Tavistock area and from there have spread out in every direction. Great-grandpa Sam and his brother James came west; at least two of his brothers went to Michigan when land was opening up there; some moved farther north in Ontario, to Huron and Lambton Counties.

Great-grandfather never had a girl to name after his mother, but he named his oldest son Allen, so that family was represented. Maybe he figured there were already enough Josephs in the clan, as his second son was William James after his two brothers.

Grandfather Allen Vance kept up the tradition: his older sons were Samuel Charles, William Steven, and Joseph Daniel. My father, the youngest, was Wilfred Allen, but his dad died when he was a boy and he started calling himself Allen Wilfred. My brother is James Allen. Looks like that’s where the tradition will end.

And that’s enough — probably a lot more than you wanted to know — about my kindred.