Origin Story: Thomas Whittier

First published on November 2, 2015.

This weekend I fell down a rabbit hole researching Ruth Lufkin Whittier, wife of Joseph Dwinells. Ruth was supposed to be my next origin story, but before I tell her story I want to tell another. I was trying to find out more information about her parents when I stumbled onto a book titled The Descendants of Thomas Whittier and Ruth Green: of Salisbury & Haverhill, Massachusetts, by Charles Collyer Whittier. In this book I found Ruth and her parents as well as information about the Whittier side of my family tree. Ruth’s three times great-grandfather (my 10th) was Thomas Whittier, the first Whittier in America.

Thomas was probably born around 1620 in Salisbury, England. He set sail for the new world in 1638 aboard the Confidence. I was able to find some amazing information about ship manifests compiled by Anne Stevens. Thomas was 18 years old and traveling with his uncle John Rolfe. Thomas was listed as a servant but this might be an indication that Uncle John paid for his passage and that Thomas was going to pay him back. Confidence landed on April 24, 1638 in Boston, Massachusetts. From there Thomas moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts where he married Ruth Green. I found a mention that by the age of 21, Thomas was 300 pounds per family tradition, but I have a feeling that this was some sort of transcription error.

Thomas and Ruth had their first child in Salisbury, Mary born in 1647, however the Whittier family soon moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts. Their second child, John (my direct ancestor) was born on December 23, 1649 in Haverhill. I found another book, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, from its First Settlement, in 1640, to the Year 1860 by George Wingate Chase that mentioned Thomas quite a few times. When Thomas arrived in town he not only brought his family, but he also brought some bees that were bequeathed to him:

Thomas Whittier, of Newbury, came into town about this time [1647] and brought a swarm of bees, which were probably the first in the place. They were willed to him by Henry Rolfe of Newbury, who calls the, “his best swarm of bees”. At that time they were no mean legacy, and their arrival was doubtless the “town talk”. (pg 67)

Thomas was very involved in Haverhill. He served on the town board and even briefly served as the town constable in 1669. His third child, Ruth was born in 1651 and his fourth, Thomas was born in 1653. A year before this, he received 7 ½ acres in a distribution of plough-land. He and Ruth had six more children Susannah in 1656, Nathaniel in 1658, Hannah in 1660, Richard in 1663, Elizabeth 1666 and Joseph in 1669.

Thomas built a house for his family in 1688 and that house still exists although, I think parts of it has been rebuilt. The Whittier homestead is listed as being built in 1829 as well. Perhaps a trip to this house will clear up some of this confusion. This house is a museum commemorating the accomplishments of John Greenleaf Whittier who was a famous poet and abolitionist. We only share Thomas as a common ancestor, his direct ancestor was Thomas’s son Joseph.

Thomas died on November 28, 1696 at the age of 76. A memorial for Thomas and Ruth exists on the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead. All of Thomas’s children lived into adulthood and contributed heavily to the town of Haverhill. As with every origin story, I’m sure that I will uncover more as I dig deeper into my history.

Origin Story: Joseph Dwinells

First published on October 19, 2015.

I thought that this post would be easy to write up, but as i looked a little closer into my family tree I found some problems. When I first started using ancestry.com I was amazed to find that there were a multitude of other trees that had my ancestors on them, so with a very quick check, I added that information to my tree. However, a lot of the information was not correct and I found that inconsistencies were carried over from others pasting to their trees. I don’t do this anymore, but there is a lot of mess in my tree which was evident as I went to look for information about Joseph Dwinells. I even found some fishy information in a book that I had. Before I start with Joseph’s story I have a disclaimer, in the rest of my posts I will only use the surname Dwinells although it may appear different in documents. This is just to keep things less confusing for everyone, especially me. Without further ado, the story of Joseph Dwinells.

Joseph Dwinells was born in 1763, to James Dwinells and Abigail Bailey Platts in East Bradford, Massachusetts. His father was a butcher, but I don’t know much of anything about Joseph’s life until his marriage to Ruth Lufkin Whittier (she will be the next origin story post). By that time, he had moved to Haverhill, Massachusetts, which is nearby East Bradford. James was married to Ruth on June 10th, 1791 at the age of 28, Ruth was 21. I don’t know what Joseph’s trade was but he and Ruth did have a lot of children, nine to be exact:

  • Moses, born December 17, 1791
  • Susannah, born March 7, 1793
  • William (my direct ancestor), born December 7, 1795
  • James, born June 8, 1799
  • Harriet, born October 11, 1801
  • Eliza, born January 8, 1804
  • Phillip Hackett, born July 7, 1806
  • Leonard Carlton, born March 6, 1810
  • Sarah Ann, born November 1, 1812

At least 3 of his children married and had families, with a large number of grandchildren. The only other information I know about Joseph Dwinells was that he died in January 1813, at the age of 50, in the army at Greenbush, New York. in 1813, Greenbush was a camp for the army during the War of 1812. (A map of the camp and it’s history can be found here) I didn’t know this but the War of 1812 didn’t only occur in 1812 but lasted until 1815. I assumed that since Joseph died at an army camp used during the War of 1812, that he was in the army for the War of 1812. However, I could not find any record of him. Seeing as he passed away a few months after his last child was born, I looked at the widow war pensions, figuring that Ruth would need assistance raising her children. I couldn’t find any record of this as well.

I have a few theories as to why I can’t find any information, perhaps Joseph wasn’t fully mustered in the army. His information as well as Ruth’s could have been lost. Another theory is that he passed away in a less than honorable way, but I still feel like there would be information somewhere. There might well be information somewhere and perhaps I can take a trip to the National Archives, or Greenbush to further research documents that aren’t online. I will definitely look into finding more information.

The information in this post came from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records and The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England.

Origin Story: Michael D-?

First published on September 2, 2015.

Most of this information in this post comes from The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England…, by Henry Gale Dunnel (I have no idea why this is an ellipsis on at the end of the title). While you can look at this book online, you can also order it from Amazon, which I did so that I could show people the book that was written about my ancestors.

So who was Michael D-? This was Michael Dunnel, Doniel, Donell, Dunwell, Dwenell, Duenell, Doenell or Dwinill. It was noted that Michael did not usually spell his name, instead affixing his seal to legal documents. Believe or not there are some legal documents that mention Michael, but lets start from the beginning.

Based on an American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) with is a large database of names that have been printed in genealogies, searchable on ancestry.com, Michael was born in 1640, in Massachusetts, which I feel like is slightly wrong information. Michael was probably born in 1640 but not in Massachusetts where he lived earlier. Henry Gale Dunnel writes that there’s some family historical discussion about the origins of the family, whether it is France or Ireland. Growing up I heard the same thing, the gist of the story was that my ancestor was French nobility who fled France and moved to Scotland or Ireland, changed the name a little, then moved to America and changed the name a little. I’m not sure how much of this true, I haven’t branched my research out into Europe yet.

Michael was married by 1668 to Mary Read in Massachusetts, so he was in America by that time. They had their first child Mary that same year. They had their second child, Michael in 1670, he would go on to be the first doctor in Topsfield, Massachusetts. In 1672, Michael and Mary had another child Thomas, and Michael bought ten acres of land from the Pabody’s. Mary and Michael had a lot of children, besides Mary, Michael and Thomas they had, John in 1674, Elizabeth in 1677, Maudlin in 1679, Joseph in 1682, Susannah in 1685 and Johanna in 1688. Joseph born in 1682 is my direct descendent.

Michael also had a will, in which he gave his sons parts of his land. He ordered (his words) John and Joseph to keep “Two cows, a horse and ten sheep” for Mary Read. It also says that Joseph will have no power to sell the land he was given without the agreement of his mother or counsel. It seems that John and Joseph were to split Michael’s homestead with their mother.

Michael’s will was “proved” on March 3, 1717, meaning he died around that time, either in 1717 or 1716. Mary, his wife and his sons, Michael, Thomas, John and Joseph, all signed that they were present when the will was presented. Even though they signed one after the other, the spellings of their last names differ between Dunnel, Dunnil and Dunnill.

Michael was a farmer, and the land he had served such a purpose. When The True Genealogy of the Dunnel and Dwinnell Family of New England… was written in 1862, the author remarked that this land was still being tended by Michael’s descendants, I wonder if that is still true today. This is about all the information I know about Michael for now. Maybe as I do more digging, I’ll find more stories about him.

Letters II

First published August 29, 2015.

Here’s another letter that I found among the pictures left by my great-grandmother. At first I had trouble figuring out who this letter is from and who it was written for. The letter starts off with “Dear Ones” and is signed from L.H. I had originally thought this letter was to Lucy Lamb Husted, my great-great-grandmother but after further review I think that this letter is from Lucy to her children, thus the “Dear Ones”.

There are some other people mentioned in this letter, the first is Nate, who I haven’t been able to identify. I’m assuming that Lucy when to visit her mother, Adella Lamb, who she mentions later in the letter, up in Litchfield, Connecticut. I will look more into who this Nate is because I also have many unidentified pictures taken in Litchfield and Nate might be in them.

Lucy also mentions a letter from Aunt Kate. This can be Lucy’s sister, Kate Lamb Osborn or Lucy’s Aunt, Kate Lamb Fuller. Seeing as this is a letter to her children “Aunt Kate” is probably Lucy’s sister.

Here is a scan of the letter, but I will also transcribe it below



Dear ones

Just a line I expected a line from you today but it was Aunt Kate’s in stead. I some times wish you were here there is lots of things toshow you & shure you will never know or rather never relise if I do tell you. I have my mind made up & that is pure & simple.

Nate is working today & I am alone here inthe house. If it has not rained by this time water the grass onthe lawn & the hedge yong ones

I suppose you have sprayed the patatoes by this time one – heaping table spoon full to every quart of water

How many chickens have you & do you change them 2 times a day dontput them on the new lawn

The sour cheries here are almost ripe. grapes are in blosomhere

I went over to the little church last night the one you have apicture of. It is now 4pm & Nate will be home for super at 5:30 will stop for to do the chores. Don’t you wish you were to ride fancy water & fed hur

Nate has only got 3 hens is or wants to set &another is blind with one eye

I made a cake yestuday & it urned out fine

Mama spoke of waren & North Ave I think she is mistaken Waren St does not go to North Ave. What did Mr Gill say about old lumber

Well I have bento see Mother once more I stayed with her about theee forts of an hour she did not talk much tonight she sed she felt like sleaping she told Me not to be mad but asked Me if I would gohome & let her sleap. She seam real good one day & them worse the next Well no for that report card of final report What shall it bewho has the best who is pasing this time

I canot dooall of the work Nate told Will look again tomorow & see what I can find. I will not say that I am geting fat but I am feeling fairely good but I am not satis fied Now May you hug Louise forme & be a good girl that is the kind that dady likes

Robert do you have much time after you get the hoeing done wellwe will all take a day of when I get home & have a ridee in the car to If itseams hot for that [?] let mr Brenon have it ask what they think of it

Ihave sed all for this time

Love to all hug Louise forrme


This letter was hard for me to transcribe. It was much lighter than the other letter, making it hard to read. There are some words that I could not figure out some of the words, even by increasing the contrast on the letter. The grammar and spelling mistakes make this a hard letter to read and understand.

I like the part of this letter that is clearly a mother making sure her children take care of their home. She gives instructions on how to spray the potatoes and to make sure that the chickens don’t go on the new lawn. She tells them that if it hasn’t rained, to water the grass.

I also find it interesting that Lucy asks to “hug Louise for me”. In 1923, Louise would have been just a year old. I feel like it would have been hard for a mother to leave her infant for a length of time. That’s what makes me think that Lucy went to see her mother because her mother was ill. Adella does make a comeback from whatever illness that she has because she lived at least until 1957 and the age of 94.

My great-grandmother Mae or in this letter “May” would have been nine years old and her brother Robert, thirteen. Lucy never mentions their father until the very end of this letter “be a good girl that is the kind dady likes”. I imagine a thirteen-year-old and a nine-year-old and a baby running a small farm but that is not likely. Lyman M., Mort as he is called in other letters, Lucy’s husband, probably was home tending to their farm.

I would like to know how long Lucy was away from her home, some of the things she talks about makes it seem like she was away for awhile, like how she baked a cake. I also don’t know how long letters took but I’m assuming they weren’t too fast.

Overall I think that this letter is an amazing thing to find. I love the fact that my great-great-grandmother sat down at a typewriter and I can hold in my hand the letter that she wrote. I think that feeling connected to my ancestors is one of the main reasons that I love doing this research. Even though Lucy never knew me, I can still feel like her granddaughter, even if it is her great-great-granddaughter.