Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cracker Tavern, Duxbury, Massachusetts

John Winsor and the Cracker Tavern
My ancestor, John Winsor (my 4th great-grandfather) ran The Cracker Tavern at the corner of Winsor and Washington Streets in Duxbury, Massachusetts. The beautiful building was torn down in 1962.

Daniel Webster and Henry Thoreau were both patrons. Thoreau wrote about my great-grandfather in his 1865 book, "Cape Cod" (pages 77 and 78), as follows (paragraph breaks are my own to make it easier for you to read, and references to my great-grandfather in bold):
I once sailed three miles on a mackerel cruise myself. It was a Sunday evening after a very warm day in which there had been frequent thunder-showers, and I had walked along the shore from Cohasset to Duxbury. I wished to get over from the last place to Clark's Island, but no boat could stir, they said, at that stage of the tide, they being left high on the mud.

At length I learned that the tavern-keeper, Winsor, was going out mackerelling with seven men that evening, and would take me. When there had been due delay, we one after another straggled down to the shore in a leisurely manner, as if waiting for the tide still, and in India-rubber boots, or carrying our shoes in our hands, waded to the boats, each of the crew bearing an armful of wood, and one a bucket of new potatoes besides. Then they resolved that each should bring one more armful of wood, and that would be enough. They had already got a barrel of water, and had some more in the schooner.
Thoreau continues to discuss the sailing trip and then we learn that John Winsor ended up overboard.
The boom swung round once or twice, and Winsor cast overboard the foul juice of mackerel mixed with rain-water which remained in his trough, and then we gathered about the helmsman and told stories.
It sounds like they ultimately had a good time that Sunday evening and it was fun to see my ancestor through Henry Thoreau's eyes. Too often we are very "removed" from our ancestors, the further back they are. So this kind of story can be a wonderful treasure.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blackden, Blagdon, & Blagden

Sometimes putting families together is a pain, I must say. Particularly when you get back into the 1700's and the men in every generation were named, as my correspondent put it, "John, Charles or William!"

Thankfully, I have completed the transfer of my husband's entire family (even all the ancestors of his step-parents) from FTM to Legacy. Now I'm working on mine (I'm still on my paternal side...).

Meanwhile, my focus is also on the Blackden, Blagdon and Blagden family (families?) that settled in Massachusetts and Maine in the early to mid-1700's.

I have plenty of documentation going about 6 or 7 generations back. But from that 7th generation, and on back, things get cloudy. This is the problem that my email correspondent is having as well. Her female ancestor is a Blagdon, and everything from her marriage through the present day has been figured out.

But the Blagdon's parents? She has not a clue. So I am focused on pulling together every little snippet of Blackden, Blagdon, and Blagden (sometimes even Bragdon and Bragden!) information as I try to help this potential cousin (to my husband).

If you are also researching this family in Somerset County, Maine, and surrounding areas, feel free to drop me a line!

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's a genealogical gold-mine!

A gold-mine of requests, that is!

I am still in the midst of transferring my family tree file from Family Tree Maker to Legacy. I finally completed my husband's side a week ago, and am working on mine, which is (at this point) far more extensive. We are talking thousands of people from very well-documented New England families, for the most part.

Of course, there are variations - my Italian great-great grandparents, who came to Massachusetts in the 1890's, my British great-great grandfather, whom came to Connecticut in the 1870's, and the odd and unexpected Southern side (originally from Perquimmans and Tyrrell Counties in North Carolina, and from Norfolk County, Virgnia before that), that creeped in through marriage to one of the many sailors in the Winsor family from Duxbury, Massachusetts!

Meanwhile, the past week has also brought me many genealogy-related emails. One asked me about my Westgate ancestors, one about my husband's Blackden (Blagdon, Blagden) ancestors, and my sister asked me to research her fiancee's paternal name.

My sister's request is the most difficult to fulfill. "Daviage" is a rare name and I can not find it anywhere! I can find her fiancee's mother and uncle in the Social Security Death Index. I can find another uncle all over the internet. But if you look in the 1920 or 1930 censuses, I can not find his grandfather.

I told my sister that I need more information, of course.

Her fiancee's maternal lineage is easy-peasy. They are old New Englanders. We end up being cousins, of course!

But his father's side? I'm not sure. His mother was caucasian, but his father is African-American. This would be my first foray into "black" ancestry and, honestly, it has been something I have wanted to research for a long time now! I've always been curious about the challenges of documenting African-American ancestors.

The funny thing is, despite the way the "Daviage" name sounds, it does not appear to be French. Or, at least, not French-Canadian. It shows up predominantly in English records! So I don't know what to make of his ancestry just yet... A Caucasian ancestor back there? Adaptation of the name from the family who "owned" them during slave times?

We honestly don't know.

This will certainly be a one-step-at-time process, unlike New England genealogy where you can often hit upon a connection (say, the Alden name comes up), and when you've proven that this particular Alden daughter is your ancestress, immediately go to Mayflower silver books, volume 16, parts 1, 2 and 3, and put together a family tree for that particular branch in 60 seconds flat.

Nuh-uh. This one is going to take some serious genealogical Nancy Drew-ing on my part, and I am looking forward to it!