Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Walsh Family - from Ireland to Newfoundland to Brockton, MA

I'm working on my uncle's ancestry. The research on his father and grandfather was the easy part - I obtained vital records from Brockton, MA without a problem. The grandfather then left me wondering where in Newfoundland he had been born, a problem that was easily solved by ordering his form SS-5 and WWI registration card.

This brought me to Colliers, a town in Harbour Main district of Conception Bay, Newfoundland in 1882, researching the Walsh family.

A helpful website has been the Newfoundland Labrador GenWeb. Just select your region and see what is there. I am fortunate that the Harbour Main District is really rich in records.

The other website on which I have relied is Newfoundland's Grand Banks. The baptisms from St. Peter & St. Paul Roman Catholic Church helped me put together the family of my uncle's ancestors, Thomas Walsh and Johanna McDonald.

There were other Walshes there early on and I have no idea if there is any relation to my uncle's family. Today is a good day to work on this file! My uncle is particularly interested to know where in Ireland his ancestors came from before settling in Newfoundland.

I think a trip to Newfoundland first would be an interesting way to trace his family's footsteps!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Mayflower Quarterly, March 2009

As a member of the Mayflower Society, sometimes I get rather tired of all the mentions of God. I know. My ancestors were uber-Christians. But, after a while... Blaaaah.

So when "The Mayflower Quarterly" arrived today, I did what I always do when it comes to my mailbox (for "New England Ancestors" or "Family Tree Magazine", for that matter): I drew a hot bath and settled in for a nice, long read.

I enjoy each and every issue, but I was enthralled by "A Curious Pilgrim Book of Remedies" by James W. Baker. This article talks about Thomas Lupton's A Thousand Notable Things, a book that had a place in the pilgrims' libraries (Samuel Fuller owned it, then it was apparently passed on to William Brewster).

The remedies read like my own personal Book of Shadows! As a modern-day Pagan, I enjoyed reading about treatments that involved herbs, stones, and more (yes, we still use 'em too!).

So in all that icky religiosity I found something about my ancestors that I could relate to at last! A reliance on Mother Nature's gifts to help us stay healthy and balanced.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Timeline for Emma

We're going to go back in time, as is only logical, to look at Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw, my great-great grandmother, and most frustrating brick wall. She lived most of her life (at least from 1888 until the 1930's or 1940's) in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

28 February 1970 - Harrison Shaw's death certificate lists his mother's place of birth as Nova Scotia

2 October 1951 - The first and final accounting of Emma's estate is filed by Harrison

4 May 1945 - Petition for administration of Emma's estate is filed by Harrison. Emma died intestate (without a Will).

17 Mar 1945 - Emma's obituary in the Taunton Daily Gazette gives the same information as her death certificate, below

14 March 1945 - Emma dies in Taunton State Hospital. Her death certificate says:

84 years, 1 month
Birthplace: Portland, Maine
Father's: England, John P. Murphy
Mother's: Scotland, Mary A. Frasher

2 April 1933 - Emma's husband, Erastus Shaw, dies in Taunton State Hospital.

1930 U.S. Census - Middleboro, MA, Emma A. Shaw, age 67, born in Maine, parents born in Canada

1920 U.S. Census - Middleboro, MA, Emma A. Shaw, age 59, born in Maine, parents born in Canada

7 October 1910 - Emma appears on the front page of the Middleboro Gazette in an article about charges of assault (in which she was the defendant!). Yes, my great-great grandmother attacked her neighbor. She "biffed him" in the head with a jug.

1910 U.S. Census - Middleboro, MA, Annie E. Shaw, age 45, born in Massachusetts, parents born in Massachusetts. In this census, she is also noted as having had 2 children, with only 1 living (my great-grandpa, Harrison Shaw).

So far I have yet to find a birth and/or death for a child of this family between 1900 and 1910. I'm pretty sure a neighbor gave this information.

1909 - Emma A. Shaw as grantor, book 1022, page 153, Plymouth County Register of Deeds.

1905 - Emma and Erastus grant land to Ruth Bliss, book 914, page 562, Plymouth County Register of Deeds.

1900 U.S. Census - Middleboro, MA, E. Anna Shaw, age 38, born in Maine, father born in England, mother born in Scotland (like the death certificate)

1897-1899 Middleboro Directories - Emma appears on her own in as owner of a variety store and "dining room" at 143 Plymouth Street, also her home.

1890 Middleborough Directory - Mrs. E.B. Shaw, Occupation: Variety story, Location: Plymouth, E. (as in Plymouth Street in Middleboro)

Family rumors place Emma's store in Cambridge or the surrounding area. We have no idea why. Nothing has been found in Cambridge or area directories for an Emma Shaw. She might have owned a shop under her first husband's surname (Regan). We've not found an Emma, Anna, Annie, E. Annie, E. Anna, or E. A. Regan in directories either.

We don't know her first husband's first name, under which it is possible such a store existed. I've searched Regans (and all sorts of spelling variations) for deaths in Massachusetts between 1880 and 1888 (when Emma married Erastus at the age of 25). Nothing found yet.

9 May 1889 - Her son, Harrison Clifford Shaw (my great-grandpa) is born 6 months after their marriage (so she was in Middleboro at least 3 months prior to her marriage, unless Harrison was quite premature. But the likelihood of a preemie surviving back then was pretty low). His birth certificate says that "Emma A. Reagion" was born in Maine.

So on we go with Maine, right? You might wonder why I think that she was born in Nova Scotia, when reference to NS only comes up twice - for the second (and final) time in my great-grandfather's death certificate in 1970, and for the first time in:

17 November 1888 - Marriage certificate/record/register (in Middleborough, MA) for Erastus B. Shaw and Emma A. Regan. The original handwritten register indicates that her maiden name is Murphy.

It was the second marriage for both parties. Emma gives her birth as 25 years old, her birthplace as Nova Scotia, her father's name as Patrick Murphy and her mother's name as Mary ____.

A search of the 1880 and 1870 censuses for Maine and Massachusetts give me nothing. I've tried so many variations - not just in naming, but in searching. I've looked for Murphy born in all the places mentioned, throughout the entire census. There is a slim possibility here or there, but nothing that screams, "Hi, I am your family!"

I've also tried the 1881 Canadian census and found "potentials" but, again, nothing to fit the known facts.

So this is when I must stretch into the unknown and unanticipated.

I've gone a step back to 1860 in Maine and Massachusetts, to try to find a John Patrick Murphy and wife Mary Ann, but so far I haven't turned up what seems like the correct family.

So between 1888 and 1945, Emma's life is pretty well-documented. She was in Middleborough for most of it. Before that, she is nowhere.

Well, she's somewhere.

I'm just not sure if it's on this planet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Emma Anna (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw

I have never wanted to scold a grandparent before, but my great-great grandmother Emma takes the cake!

Tracing her back has left me with about 60 years of her life figured out, and the first 25 years a complete mystery.

She died in 1945 at the age of 84, according to her death certificate from Taunton, MA. Her death certificate tells me she was born in Portland, Maine. Censuses from 1900 to 1930 also tell me she was born in Maine, except for one which lists Massachusetts. Her son's birth certificate (my great-grandfather Harrison Shaw) gives her places of birth as Maine as well.

But either they screwed up big time or her family dodged the 1880 and 1870 censuses!

If you look at the death certificate of my grandpa Harrison, it gives his mother's place of birth as Nova Scotia.

And the same goes for the 1888 marriage record of Emma Anna (Murphy) Regan and Erastus Bartlett Shaw.

I have checked the 1870 and 1880 censuses to no avail. I checked births and marriages in Massachusetts to see if Emma Anna Murphy's first marriage occurred there or if she was born there.

Her parents are usually listed as being born in Canada or England (her father) and Scotland (mother). The father has been listed as John Murphy and Patrick Murphy (so his name is probably John Patrick Murphy). Her mother is Mary Ann Frasher, but since I can't find any Frashers in Nova Scotia, I'm thinking she might be Fraser or Frasier.

Yes, I've checked to see if there are other children with parents by these names. Since Emma was born either in 1861 or 1863, her birth is not found in province registrations.

Since there isn't a province-wide index to the 1871 census, I have to guess at which towns to research.

Since she doesn't appear in the 1880 U.S. Census OR the 1881 Canadian census, I can only theorize that she was traveling at this time.

Or came to earth via U.F.O. in 1888.

I believe great-great grandma Emma must be upgraded from a "Brick Wall" to a "WTF???" ancestor.

It was nothing at all

I'm jamming to Heart and thinking how only yesterday, I thought I would just leave my old GEDCOM at Rootsweb, even though I was creating a new and improved (I hope!) file. I thought about the fact that it just isn't perfect.

And I can't help but be a perfectionist when it comes to genealogy. Sources, checking every possible record, not settling for just one method of research, etc. (I will miss the local FHL so much!!! Microfilms, where will I find thou whilst in South Korea???)

But this morning I woke up to an email thanking me for the GEDCOM, which gave another person more information on their family - information I was able to locate because I specifically spent a gorgeous summer day at the NEHGS library to look at a particular file on the archives floor.

It reminded me that when we share, our concerns about the imperfections of our work are of little importance to the person who finds a name they needed, a date they could not seem to find, or a story that gives "life" to their ancestors.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The Shaw family came to Plymouth, MA in the 1600's and quickly spread throughout what is now Plymouth County. My ancestors lived in all the typical Shaw towns - Plympton, Carver and Middleboro. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are still in the area.

My cousin Kenny certainly has done his best to put together the Shaw family puzzle. He has worked on practically every single line from Plymouth, as well as many others.

As for me, I tend to keep it simple. I save cluster genealogy for brick walls or post-1850 relationships. It can get far too confusing otherwise! Moreso with all the Josephs in the Shaw family (and the Bartlett family... but that is a post for a later date).

Starting with my great-grandfather and going back, I have a pretty simple line there:

1. Erastus Bartlett Shaw who married Emma Anna Murphy (my great-great grandma - the bane of my genealogical existence... ARGH! More about her later this week)

2. Harrison Shaw & Adaline Crocker Bent

3. Joseph Shaw, Jr. & Sarah Murdock

4. Joseph Shaw & Lydia Shaw (yup, another line that comes back around on itself; but who doesn't have tons of 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins who married each other?)

5. Nathaniel Shaw & Hannah Perkins

6. Jonathan Shaw, Jr. & Elizabeth Atwood

7. Jonathan Shaw & Mehitabell Pratt (I can't stand the name "Mehitabell" because the spelling variations are ridiculous)

8. Jonathan Shaw & Phebe Watson

9. John Shaw who came to Plymouth in the 1600's, but whose origins are unknown at this point.

I am glad that documentation in Massachusetts is plentiful. The Vital Records to 1850 series is extremely useful when it comes to the Shaw family; both Carver and Plympton give me almost all the births, marriages and deaths I need. When it comes to Middleboro, I feel fortunate that their vital records were indexed and placed online (in PDF format) by the Middleborough Public Library a few summers ago.

That was probably one of my most fortunate genealogical encounters... I think it was the summer of 2003 or 2004. I was sitting on the floor of the Middleboro Town Hall at their filing cabinet, going through births, deaths, and marriages on my Haley family (also a story for another day).

A woman was sitting at a laptop and told me that if I needed a certain group of index cards to let her know. I asked what she was doing, and she told me she was an employee of the library, transcribing the index cards to go online through the library's website.

It is funny to think of all the pleasant hours spent trudging through cemeteries, chatting with town clerks, and scrolling through microfilm in musty libraries, only to find a few years later that what you discovered then is available online now.

But I wouldn't trade those types of memories for the world.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

NEHGS volunteer work

I probably put about an hour a day, give or take, into working on files sent to me by NEHGS. But today is the perfect day to sit down, transcribe and proofread, while watching hours and hours of shows on my DVR!

When it comes to TV, I don't watch much. Basically, just give me "Venture Brothers" and "Robot Chicken", and I'm a happy camper. But there are other things on my DVR that just sort of sit, waiting for the day I want to watch them.

Do I want to watch "Out of Africa" today or the pilot for the TV show "Cupid"? I don't do war-type guy-movies, but I have "Taking Chance" on my DVR because of the mention of DAFB. But I think I'd prefer a laugh today. Hmm...

Either way, it is a good day to sit on the couch, put my feet up, plop my laptop on my lap, and get to work on some cemeteries!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Carnival of Genealogy - Uncle, Uncle

I have never participated in this before and, despite being a writer, I have always had a difficult time with creative writing "assignments" (I do better when I select my own topic), so please bear with me. ;-)

My precious Uncle Jon and I almost shared the same birthdate. Jon Bartlett Wood definitely had the Sagittarian wanderlust! Born on December 10, 1945, Uncle Jon was a young man when he joined the Coast Guard, and then later became a merchant marine.

For me and my sister, this meant presents from places we had never heard of or even imagined existed. We did not see our father's favorite (and eldest) brother often, but when we did, we were always thrilled to have him at home.

He once brought us t-shirts from Trinindad & Tabago. Both my sister and I had no idea where those places were, but we loved those shirts!

Uncle Jon enjoyed pulling pranks, but was able to do it so endearingly that you could not help but love him. He tormented my father to varying degrees during their childhood but never with malice. I recall stories of my Uncle Jon telling my father to jump as high as he could, then pulling his legs out from under him while he was in the air!

When Uncle Jon visited, he would give us not just gifts, but attention. He knew how to make us giggle by playing all sorts of "I got ya!" games, or he would sit quietly with us and share a coloring book. I will never forget his version of The Wizard of Oz Tinman - a seamless blend of a rainbow of colors, all done perfectly inside the lines, but with unconventional colors.

One Christmas, Uncle Jon brought me a Barbie house - the kind with 3 floors, a cardboard back with a different background for each level of the house, and an elevator you could pull up by a string.

We would not see him again after that Christmas.

Uncle Jon was a crewmember on the SS Marine Electric, which departed from Norfolk, Virginia, on its way to Massachusetts on 10 February 1983. The 34 crew members were bringing up a cargo of granulated coal.

The ship was, it was later determined, unseaworthy, yet kept in service anyway (as were so many other ships). The ship had holes in the deck plating and hatch covers, but sailed anyway. Fake inspection reports showed the ship to be in good shape, but those hatch covers had never been tested by inspectors.

The SS Marine Electric sank and 31 of the 34 crewmembers died during the day of 12 February 1983.

My favorite Uncle was among the 24 dead recovered.

I was only 9 years old when he died. Uncle Jon was 37 with no wife or children, but a big family with his parents, 3 siblings, 2 nephews, and 2 nieces, as well as grandparents still living.

Jon Bartlett WoodThe "Deep Sea Detectives - Ship of Doom" episode that aired on the History Channel in November of 2004 was difficult to watch, but we watched it nonetheless. It is only a small consolation to know that this tragedy helped make the entire merchant marine system safer for sailors, but it hurts to know that it took this kind of event for unseaworthy ships to finally be scrapped!

There is a monument to sailors at Bourne or Buzzard's Bay, and my Uncle's name is mispelled on it. For some reason people always want to throw an "h" in his name. :) I have not visited the monument; I was in Onset last year, but I don't think I could see it.

For us, the untimely loss of Uncle Jon is still one that hurts. He was fun, loving and generous to us, even though he only had the opportunity to see us a handful of times in the short 9 years I had to know him.

The first photograph is Uncle Jon and me, taken in 1978. The second is probably 1982 or 1983, with my beloved Barbie house in the background.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Still at it with FTM and Legacy

Wahhh! Do I get to take a break yet?

I do like Family Tree Maker, but the decision to switch to Legacy is based on the fact that I like the format better, particularly for source citation.

I've been at it for... Umm... Almost a year. Why so slow?

1. Because I am not importing my GEDCOM and calling it a day.

2. I chose to go person by person to ensure that all source citations are complete and up to date, as well as to do additional research (not extensive research, but just triple- and quadruple-check things, such as maybe having a grandparent in the 1900 and 1920 censuses, but not finding their 1910 entry previously).

3. I'm a writer, so I'm always working on my trade. I also proofread and edit for "The Beltane Papers", and that takes time, as it is produced 3 times a year.

4. I am the editor for the Bartlett Society's newsletter. That also takes time, as I produce it twice a year.

5. I homeschool my son. Yeah. You guessed it. That takes time. Every day.

6. My husband has been in South Korea since November on his second remote tour (he was there previously in 2002 - but he's glad to be there again. It's a very nice change from the desert!).

Soooo the whole family file transfer moves slowly, but steadily. My Rootsweb tree has not been updated since last year. Life happens.

But I certainly am more fortunate than most, since my days involve putting my feet up to check email and work (on writing or genealogy), then sitting my son down to recite his French, addition and subtraction facts, to study nature, and to create art, then back to the computer for more work on (and I'll bet you guessed it again) writing or genealogy... Or a combination of the two!

Well, I hope to have the file completely done before June, because my life is - hopefully - about to become infinitely more complex.

Let's just say that our follow-on to Alaska at the end of the year is turning into something that might happen sooner... And take me further away from home.

Regardless of the Air Force's decision on our next move (Monday can not come fast enough), the result will definitely mean no more quick and easy 8-hour trips home to Massachusetts, and days spent at cemeteries, town halls and libraries, while my in-laws spend time with my son.

Thank goodness for NEHGS!!!