First published on May 28, 2016.

I haven’t posted in awhile and I’m sorry. The truth is, I kind of got burnt out doing my research (Warning for the post, it may be a little sad and existential). I can dig and dig and dig through records to find a birth date or how many times someone was married but I’ll never really know who they really were. I won’t know what made them happy, how they acted, if they liked to bake or ride horses or read. Life now is drastically different than it was 100 years ago and somethings I will never understand. Yes, somethings are the same, but most of them aren’t. The social codes that we operate by today are different than they were even 25 years ago.

I wish that my five year old self could have asked my great grandmother what her parents were like. As much as records get me, I definitely yearn for more information, and not the kind that you can get from a census. Now we have so many ways to express ourselves. My ancestors have only to look at my Facebook or this blog to know what I was really like, and not be left the bare bones of my life.

I know that this information might be out there, but it’s probably not. It makes it more important for me to interview my family, to see what they can remember about their parents or great grandparents, to find out more about their personalities. I’ve got some interviews with my grandpa and my great-uncle so I’ll listen to those and see what I can drum up.

I work in a nursing home, dementia and memory loss are something that I encounter multiple times per day. Reminiscence is something that I try to encourage everyday at work, and I can see the light that it brings to people’s eyes when they recount a fun story about their loved ones, little quirks they may have had, trips from their childhood. It’s made me realize that the past is important. You can get stuck there, and that’s never good. But it’s important, at least for me, to know where I come from. It’s a major part of me whether or not I acknowledge it. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all these thousands of people who lived their lives.

I wonder if my ancestors would like me, or if I would like them. Thanks to all of my family, I live a great life. I have the Internet, I can spend time researching my family, and I don’t have to toil anywhere. I have access to health care and as a woman, I was able to get a graduate degree. Certainly things that it would have been hard for my grandmother to do. I think this is where my fear of disconnection comes from. I’m a different woman that I would have been had I been born in 1890 instead of 1990. Would my ancestors be able to understand my life and would I be able to understand theirs? That’s why I want to know their personalities, because that’s something that everyone has had and will have and I think that it is the easiest way to understand them at least from my perspective.

I know that this post is angsty, I’m trying to explain why sometimes digging into my ancestors burns me out. I still love to do it, and it always makes me excited. I can spend hours trying to find something and I can block out everything to the point where if my partner asks me a question, I’ll get startled. I’m going to try to organize my research, finish working on the pictures that I have and try to interview more of my family. It might be awhile yet until I post again, but I haven’t given up on discovering my origin stories.


First published on February 5, 2016.

Sorry! I haven’t posted for awhile. I was starting a new tree, and got kind of sucked into that. It’s nice to start new trees on ancestry.com because I can avoid the mistakes I made with my first trees. The biggest mistake I’ve encountered when making my trees is importing information from other trees. Sure this information might be correct but there’s no telling where that information came from. What I do now is check each tree that has been “hinted” to me, to see what sources they got their information from. Maybe this isn’t important to everyone, but I like to have an original source for all of my ancestry “data”.

Here’s an example: James Kelly, my fifth-great-grandfather was born some time (give or take 10 years) around 1760. I don’t know his actual birth year but there is a American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) record for a James Kelly born in Massachusetts in 1760. The AGBI is a huge data base of genealogical information from genealogy records and family histories. On ancestry, this just shows as an index only record. The problem with this record is that I’m sure there was more than one James Kelly born in the state of Massachusetts in 1760. Furthermore, I can’t collaborate this information with any James Kelly in the Massachusetts Vital Records. That doesn’t mean that this James Kelly didn’t exist, it means that I can’t find any cross references to his birth or any information to narrow down his birthplace to a specific town.

Since I couldn’t find a record of a James Kelly born in this time frame, I also knew I was going to have a hard time finding out who his parents were. But when I looked at the other trees that had my James Kelly,  his parents were listed as George and Margit Kelly. Now George and Margit Kelly lived in about the same area where it would make sense that James was born and they had children that were listed in the Massachusetts Vital Records but as I said earlier James does not show up in those records. Again this doesn’t mean that James was never born but it could mean that they lived in another town when James was born and those records were lost. However I can’t verify that they were his parents through the Vital Records, and when I went to go check to see what source that this information came from, I found that it came from another tree, and then another tree and then another tree. That’s a problem I have with ancestry.com is that it is so easy to import other trees, but what ends up happening is that mistakes get compounded upon. I’m not saying that this is a mistake but even through searching archives.org, I found no genealogy that would back up this claim, so I have no idea where the information comes from.

So I guess, the moral of this post is be careful if you use ancestry.com. Make sure you check the sources of your information, and if you are going to import another tree into yours, maybe jot down some of the information first and see if you can quickly verify it, or check the sources and records of the other trees.

Graveyard Expedition Part II

First published on January 10, 2016.

As promised in Part I, Part II is going to be about Elnathan Husted, son of Peter Husted. Elnathan is buried in the same cemetery as Peter, so for more information on the cemetery and Peter, check out Part I.

Elnathan was born on January 16th, 1775 in Greenwich, CT. He lived in Greenwich for all of his life, marrying Nancy Close in 1797. They had their only child, William A Husted on December 31st, 1801. In the History of Fairfield County, Connecticut, I found a nice little paragraph about Elnathan:

Elnathan Husted was a successful farmer and drover, married Nancy Close, and had one son William A. He was a member of the Second Congregational Church at Greenwich, Conn., and was a man respected. He died in 1825, aged fifty years. His wife died at seventy-three years of age.

Elnathan raised his son on the farm and William eventually took over the family business and became very successful as well. Elnathan passed away on February 1st, 1825 and was buried at Putnam Cemetery by his father Peter.


Graveyard Expedition Part I

First published on January 3, 2016.

While I was visiting home for Thanksgiving, I took my family on an expedition to see the graves of our ancestors that we have never seen before. We visited four graveyards in the town of Greenwich, Connecticut and saw the gravestones of seven of my ancestors. I think most of my family was creeped out after awhile, but I really wasn’t. The day of the expedition was warm but overcast and raining on and off, so an overall creepy day, I don’t blame them. The only time I was startled was when the bells tolled church next to the graveyard we were visiting. I also tried to get some rubbings from the gravestones, but with the equipment that I had and the conditions of the gravestones, I wasn’t able to get a good rubbing. This will be a multi-part installment, examining the ancestors whose gravestones I found as well as a brief history of the graveyards (if possible).

The first graveyard that we visited was the Putnam Cemetery. This was the biggest graveyard, and it had many famous graves, at least famous for Connecticut. George W. Bush’s grandparents are buried there, as well as various U.S. Senators. Victor Borge, a pianist and comedian who once said, “The difference between and violin and viola is that a viola burns longer.” There wasn’t a website for the graveyard so we didn’t know when it opened, but we went anyway. Because this cemetery was so huge, at first it was daunting to find the two graves we were looking for. After about ten minutes, my brother found the two, they were a row apart. The first was the grave of Peter Husted, my sixth great grandfather.


Like I said the gravestones weren’t in a great condition. The moss and erosion of the stone made reading in the stone difficult and taking the rubbings impossible. It was easier to look at the stones from farther away than up close. I think that the gravestone says:

In memory of Peter Husted

Who died

March 24, 1821

in his 79 yr.

Peter Husted was born May 9th in 1742 to Moses Husted and Susannah Mead in Greenwich, Connecticut (his info comes from Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich). He married Eunice Lyon on February 11th, 1768. They had nine children:

  • Amos, b. December 2, 1769
  • Cynthia, b. September 22, 1770
  • Peter, b. October 11, 1772
  • Elnathan, b. January 16, 1775
  • Moses, b. December 19, 1776
  • Aaron, b. January 23, 1779
  • Caleb, b. March 2, 1782
  • Eunice, b. January 21, 1784
  • Ebson, b. February 25, 1787

Eight of his children survived into adulthood. Two of his children are my direct ancestors Elnathan Husted and Cynthia Husted whose children, they would have been cousins, married each other.

The only other information that I have about Peter is that he was a soldier in the Revolutionary War under Captain Abraham Mead. The lieutenant of that company was Odle Close, another one of my sixth great grandfathers ( His daughter Nancy would marry Peter’s son Elnathan). Peter is listed as “returned having deserted at New York in August, 1776″. But, “It will, however, be noted that some of these men reentered the service and should have been returned only as ‘missing’, instead of ‘deserted’.”

I definitely have to do more research regarding the American Revolution in Connecticut and maybe I can learn more about Peter. I would hope that he did reenter the service, but as of right now, I can’t be sure.

Next in this series is Peter’s son Elnathan Husted.

Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

Part III: What I Tried to Find Out

In my last post, I talked about the things I didn’t know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells (my fourth great-grandmother). The information I needed about her was where and exactly when she was born and who her parents were. I went through many different channels to try and figure out the answers to my questions.

Massachusetts has some pretty good records, and by this I mean the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records. There is some information missing from this huge database, but for the most part it is fantastic, especially because many of my ancestors lived in Massachusetts. It was a pretty easy search to see if Mary showed up in any Massachusetts birth records, she didn’t.

My next step was to check New Hampshire. It seemed pretty divided from my other information as to whether she was born in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. New Hampshire has some good birth records as well but they aren’t as easy to look through as Massachusetts. I still didn’t find any record of her.

With birth records a bust, I next turned to census records. The only records that I could find of her were after her marriage. This makes sense because before 1850 only the heads of families were listed on the census with all other family members just counted.

My last ditch effort to find something about Mary was to combine both the birth records and census data. I looked through the 1800 census in New Hampshire and found all the men with the last name Dunlap who had a female child between 0-10 years old. There were four possible fathers and through marriage records I was able to narrow those fathers to one.

Perfect! I found her parents right? Not yet, I had to make sure. The father I had found was Samuel Dunlap, of Dunlap furniture fame. I was excited but I had to make sure this was a sure thing. He had a daughter named Mary that was born in 1791. Looking through other family trees on ancestry I found this Mary a few times but some trees had her married to someone else. I couldn’t find any record to match this. I searched and searched but couldn’t find any records at all. Finally I found a book that listed the Samuel Dunlap’s genealogy and I found a record of that marriage, eliminating Samuel Dunlap as Mary Dunlap Dwinells’s father.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the story for now. I’ve exhausted my research skills. I’ve come up with a few theories as to why I can’t find any record of Mary’s birth. Maybe those records were lost. Maybe Mary was adopted and her records are somewhere else. She also could have been lying about her name, that’s probably less possible.

Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

First published on November 30, 2015.

Part 2: What I Don’t Know

This is the second part on my series about researching Mary Dunlap Dwinells, my fourth great-grandmother. In my last post, I outlined what it know about Mary, which is really only after she got married. So lets start from the beginning.

I don’t really know where Mary was born. Her birthplace is listed as either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. I also don’t know when she was born either. On the census records and her death record her birth year (based on her age) ranges from 1793 to 1797. Speaking of her birth, I also have no idea who Mary’s parents are. They are no listed on her marriage record or her death record.

If Mary was from New Hampshire, I don’t know why she moved to Massachusetts. If she wasn’t then why did was there some discrepancy between her birthplace?

These are the main questions that I tried to answer when I began to research Mary Dunlap Dwinells. In the next part, I’ll share my researching process and the different avenues I pursued.

Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

First published on November 18, 2015.

Part 1: What I Know

I’ve been recently caught up researching Mary Dunlap Dwinells, my fourth great-grandmother. I’ve done a lot of work about her and in these next few posts, I’m going to talk about my process and the problems that I ran into. First things first, what I know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells.

Mary’s name shows up in 6 initial documents, and I found all of them through ancestry.com. The first of these is her marriage record from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:tumblr_inline_nxzk2wTlAl1qe1uf9_500

Her record is highlighted in grey. She was married to William Dwinells on December 31, 1817 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It probably was a nice New Year’s Eve wedding.

Mary shows up next in the birth records of all her children, which is also found in the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:


All of her children are in highlighted in grey, and she had quite a few. Let me put them in chronological order for you.

  • Joseph James, November 11, 1818
  • Almira Ann, October 24, 1820
  • Charles Henry, August 24, 1822
  • Moses, October 11, 1824
  • Hannah Woodman, October 29, 1826
  • Daniel Bradbury, October 16, 1828
  • Leonard, September 29, 1830
  • Philip, January 15, 1833
  • William Jr., December 15, 1834
  • John Francis, May 28, 1837
  • George, July 12, 1840

That’s a lot of children! And for a span of 12 years, she was having children every two years around the same time. I’m not sure why some of her children have strange middle names like Bradbury or Woodman. It is amazing that Mary has so many children over a span of 22 years especially when childbearing was so dangerous during that time period.

Mary next shows up in census records. The ones I have found are from the 1850 United States Census, the 1865 Massachusetts State Census and the 1870 United States Census. Before 1850, the United States Census only had the names of heads of households and enumerated the number of other household members. So Mary’s name wouldn’t have shown up until the 1850 census. here are her records in chronological order:




In the 1850 US Census, Mary’s age is listed as 55 and she is also listed as being born in Massachusetts. If Mary was 55 in 1850 then her birth year would be 1795. In this census record, it appears that she is still living with her husband and some of their children. Her youngest child, George was 11. Mary is listed as 68 in the 1865 census making her birth year 1797. She is no longer living with her husband who is deceased, and is living with her son, Philip. Here she is listed has being born in New Hampshire. In the last census record in 1870, Mary’s age is 75 again making her birth year 1795. She is also again listed as being born in Massachusetts.

This discrepancy is strange and perhaps points to the possibility that these census records don’t match. However, I do think that they are the same person and perhaps point to a problem with the person relaying the information to the census taker.

The last record that I have of Mary is her death record. This again comes from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records:


Her record is kind of hard to read, but Mary L. Dunlap Dwinells passed away on January 14, 1875 at the age of 82. That would make her birth year 1793. She died from dropsey, which is an old word for edema or swelling. She died in Haverhill, but her place of birth is listed as Concord, N.H. There are no parents listed for Mary but one is listed as also from Concord.

I said that this would be a short post and honestly this is only part of Mary’s story and part of my story trying to find more information about her. In the next part, I’m going to dive deeper and try to figure out all I can about Mary’s origin story.

Photographic Evidence: Bloomer Girl

First published on November 7, 2015.

If blatant sexism gets you all riled up then maybe this isn’t the post for you. To be fair, this is sexism from the late 19th and early 20th century, but it still made me want to break something, like maybe a window with a baseball. Speaking of baseball, that’s what this post is about, more specifically, women’s baseball from the late 19th and early 20th century (nice segue, right?). I found this picture among my collection:


To me this is clearly a women in a baseball uniform. She’s got an “A” on her right arm, which may indicate that she was the assistant captain. There is nothing written on the back of this picture so I don’t know who this is. She is also wearing a uniform so it’s hard to date the photograph. However, I found this other picture in my collection:


Again, to me I think that this woman is the same woman in the baseball uniform. At first I didn’t realize this, but she might also be wearing a baseball uniform. There is something written on the back of this “May love from Aunt Mary”. “May” refers to my great-grandmother Mae but she did not have an Aunt Mary so this must be a family friend (something to uncover in another post). I thought it was amazing that I had these two pictures of a woman in a baseball uniform and I wanted to learn more.

It’s very likely that this woman was a Bloomer Girl. Bloomer Girls wore bloomers which were loose fitting pants invented by Amelia Bloomer. They played baseball, “barnstorming” throughout the country, challenging local teams. The Bloomer Girl teams were mostly women, but usually had to have one male member. The first teams formed in the 1890s and lasted until 1934. Women on these teams got an opportunity to travel the country and get paid for playing baseball.

I had trouble finding out information about Bloomer Girls. Most of the articles had the exact same information and were an introduction to the All American Girls Baseball League (like in A League of Their Own). One website had links to old articles about the Bloomer Girls. With these articles and suggestions for research, I was able to find more articles and learn a little more about the Bloomer Girls.

As I mentioned, there would be some blatant sexism in this post and all of it comes from these articles. One of the earliest articles, from The San Francisco Call on October 25, 1897, describes a game between the Bosom Bloomer Girls and The San Francisco Athletics and keep in mind the Bloomer Girls won this match.

The majority of the members [of the Boston Bloomer Girls] were unable to get their eyes on the ball when it was in the air, and when it was rolling along the ground, they forgot that they did not have their aprons on and tried to stop it in ordinary women fashion, with the result that the sphere would doge through their bloomers in a most distressing matter.

This article did like one of the female players, Maud Nelson, or Maudie as the article calls her.

Maudie is the pitcher and she knows her business…tore her bloomers in sliding feet first like a real baseball player.

Another article in The San Francisco Call on July 15, 1901 comments about the Bloomer Girls, saying, “They could not play – not to any great extent”

In Richmond, Virginia they weren’t any easier on the Bloomer Girls, the headline of an article for the Richmond Dispatch on April 21, 1902 was “Ball Park Diamond Chortled with Feminine Curves”. This article goes on to describe how each girl looked, from their faces to their physiques. Here’s a quote from that article that starts out kind of nice, but ends up very sour:

The girls played well all round. When they threw the ball it went in the direction aimed – something so unusual that it pleased the spectators to death

That one really stings.

Utah was not a kinder place for the Bloomer Girls, take this excerpt from an article in The Ogden Standard from June 14, 1909.

In short the bloomer girls knew as much about baseball – professional baseball – as the average man knows about crocheting a peek-a-boo shirt waist – which is less that nothing

I can go on and on about the mean things written about the Bloomer Girls, and there’s much more. In short, the bloomer girls played baseball and got paid for it, and I’m assuming that they knew more than nothing about baseball. I don’t even know anything about peek-a-boo skirt waists and I’m a lady. I don’t know much about baseball either, but I did play a mean tee ball back in the day and I was the only girl on my team. I think that the Bloomer Girls helped to pave the way for females in sports and it’s important to learn about them. Please enjoy my tee ball picture from my parent’s collection of pictures (I’m not wearing bloomers).


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.

Photographic Evidence: A Common Mistake

First published on October 25, 2015.

In one of the photo albums that I have, there are many pictures of this baby:


Her name was Adeline Alma Boudreau and she was born July 27, 1924. She was my first cousin twice removed, in other words, my grandfather’s cousin. Unfortunately, I believe that she died at an early age. There’s a picture of a grave dated 1926 that reads Adeline’s flowers and my grandfather doesn’t remember her. In the album I have, there are many pictures of Adeline, she was an adorable baby, Here is another picture of her with a woman:


Looking at this picture, a first assumption would be that this is Adeline’s mother (Adeline’s mother was also named Adeline, which is confusing). The woman kind of looks like Adeline and I found the picture in the album. However, this woman is not Adeline’s mother but rather a girl who lived nearby. Luckily there was writing on the back of the picture to explain the relationship. Pictures like this can lead to mistaken identities. Women who were photographed with children could be mothers but also sisters, aunts, teachers, neighbors, friends etc. This is an important thing to remember when looking at old pictures.