August 24, 2013

SEWALL of Newbury, Massachusetts

Samuel SEWALL was infamous for his role as judge in the strange episode of colonial history known as the Salem Witch Trials. His brother Stephen was also involved in the trials, serving as the clerk of court.

I'm descended from their sister Jane.

Samuel Sewall, c. 1729
Their father was Henry SEWALL, son of the mayor of Coventry. In 1635 he went to Massachusetts, where he married Jane DUMMER, and they returned to England in the 1640's. But in 1660, Oliver Cromwell's commonwealth ended with the restoration of the monarchy and the enthronement of Charles II, who was no friend of Puritans. The Sewalls decided to cross the pond again, this time for good, and they settled in Newbury, Massachusetts.

Samuel, who went to Harvard and was involved in local politics, was the only judge who presided over the Salem Witch Trials to publicly apologize. He was also one of the very first abolitionists, writing against the institution of slavery. His nephew Stephen (son of his brother Stephen) would also become a prominent judge, and his great-grandson Samuel would be a congressman.

They seem to have been a family of overachievers.

His sister, my 8th great-grandmother Jane, married Moses GERRISH and lived the rest of her life in Newbury.

Ancestral line:

Henry SEWALL (abt 1614-1700) m. Jane DUMMER
Jane SEWALL (1659-1717) m. Moses GERRISH
Jane GERRISH (1678-unknown) m. Samuel SWETT I
Samuel SWETT II (1706-1756) m. Elizabeth ADAMS
John SWETT (1731-1777) m. Sarah Unknown
Sarah SWETT (1772-unknown) m. Joshua PALMER I
Joshua PALMER II (1815-1864) m. Arvilla BAILEY
George Bailey PALMER (1850-1926) m. Mary Olivia PURINTON
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father (b. 1933)
Me (b. 1974)

August 17, 2013

EATON of Salisbury, Massachusetts

The progenitor of my Eaton ancestors in America was John EATON I (~1595-1668). His wife was Anne Unknown (it was not Anne CROSSMAN, as is commonly given; that Anne married another John Eaton). Anne Unknown was born about 1617 and died on 5 February 1660).

They were in Salisbury, Massachusetts by 1640, as John appears in the proprietor's books at that time. In 1646, he and his wife Anne moved up to Haverhill, where they spent the rest of their lives. John was a husbandsman, a grand juror, and a prudential man of Salisbury.

John and Anne EATON had several children, who were all born in England. Their son John II, my ancestor, was born about 1619, and married Martha ROWLANDSON of Ipswich, daughter of Thomas and Bridget (KERLEY?) ROWLANDSON. I'm descended from them through two of their children: John III (1646-1717) and Sarah (1654-1726), both born and died in Salisbury.

Mary (White) Rowlandson, who was captured by Narragansett Indians and who later wrote a narrative of her experience, was the sister-in-law of John II and Martha; she was married to Martha's brother, Reverend Joseph Rowlandson.

Ancestry line #1:

John EATON I (~1595-1668) m. Anne Unknown
John EATON II (~1619-1682) m. Martha ROWLANDSON
John EATON III (1646-1717) m. Mary Unknown
John EATON IV (1687-unknown) m. Esther SWETT
John EATON V (1714-unknown) m. Hannah FOWLER
Jemima EATON (1747-1791) m. Christopher CROSS
Hannah CROSS (1768-1858) m. John MUNROE
Anna MUNROE (1793-1875) m. Richard SIMMONDS
Christopher SIMMONDS (1816-1894) m. Margaret Esther PARKER
Thomas Parker SIMMONDS (1871-1953) m. Jessie May BAKER
Estelle May SIMMONDS (1893-1930) m. Horace William HOWES
Henry Richard HOWES (1913-1987) m. Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father
Me (b. 1974)

Ancestry line #2:

John EATON I (~1595-1668) m. Anne Unknown
John EATON II (~1619-1682) m. Martha ROWLANDSON
Sarah EATON (1654-1726) m. Robert DOWNER
Martha DOWNER (1678-1723) m. Richard PALMER
Samuel PALMER (1713-1790) m. Anne EVANS
Joshua PALMER I (1761-1851) m. Sarah SWETT
Joshua PALMER II (1815-1864) m. Arvilla BAILEY
George Bailey PALMER (1850-1926) m. Mary Olivia PURINTON
Frank Bailey PALMER (1888-1958) m. Bessie Maud WINSLOW
Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER (1918-1984) m. Henry Richard HOWES
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father (b. 1933)
Me (b. 1974)

Source: Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol 4, page 1954.

August 13, 2013

Great-bubbe Nachama's death record confirmed

Almost a year ago, I stumbled upon an entry for a death record that may or may not have been my great-grandmother's (the last name was not quite correct, but close enough to make me strongly suspect that it was her).

So I ordered the record, figuring that once it arrived I could see if it was actually my great-grandmother's or not. It was only $3 for a non-certified copy, after all, and would certainly be worth it.

It wasn't until January of 2013-- five months!-- that a photocopy of the death record finally arrived.

But looking at the record, I still could not be sure this was my great-grandmother's. The handwriting was hard to read, for one thing. For another, a lot of information was missing, and some of the information provided was wrong.

For example, the record gives the deceased's age as 60, when I knew she died much older than that (about 73 to 75). It is also stated that she was married, when I knew she was very unlikely to have left her husband (he didn't come with her) and was therefore almost certainly widowed. I also didn't recognize the name of the informant-- that is, the person who furnished the information on the record.

All of this cast doubt on the death record as being my great-grandmother's, and although I've hung onto it, I didn't post it to my family tree. I was waiting for evidence to either prove or disprove the record as being Nachama's.

This weekend, I pulled out the record, and finally found this evidence.

Nachama's address at the time of death (25 May 1929) was listed, and I searched the 1930 Philadelphia city directory to see if I could find her known relatives, but no such luck. Note to, by the way: please instruct whomever you have scanning documents to scan only one page of your city directories at a time and not two-- with two, the writing is much less legible, and in some cases not able to be read at all-- and zooming it only makes it blurry. I know it's faster and less work, but it does no one any good if they can't read it or get migraines trying to. Thank you.

Then I tried searching in the 1930 U.S. census for the married surname of Nachama's granddaughter, with whom she was living when she died, according to a short family history written by Nachama's granddaughter Rose. Nothing came up, so then I tried the surname of her sisters, who were also living with her: Zagerman.

With that I found Rebecca Kootchick (I had not spelled the surname correctly), with her husband and children, and her sisters Anna and Rose Zagerman. Rebecca, Anna, and Rose were daughters of Nachama's deceased daughter Shirley Millstein Zagerman.

Then, I noticed their address: it matched the deceased's last address on the death record. This was indeed the death record for my great-grandmother Nachama.

Questions remain, however: who was "M. Schrage", the informant? Whoever he/she was had to have known my great-grandmother, but apparently not that well-- he/she got her age wildly wrong and didn't know her parents' names.

And why wasn't Nachama's place of burial given? Under place of burial, what was scrawled looks like "Not [illegible]", yet the burial date is given. How is it that you know when someone was just buried, but not where?

There's a particular reason why I would like to find this out: Jewish gravestones traditionally-- though not always-- give the name of the deceased's father, because that is part of one's Hebrew name. If you are Joshua, and your father was Abraham, you are "Joshua ben (son of) Abraham."

August 9, 2013

JewishGen's ViewMate cracks great-uncles' tombstones

Not literally, of course.

In contrast to my mother's New England Puritan WASP ancestry, my father's mother Clare descended from Irish immigrants, and his father Boruch (whose name was anglicized to Bernard) was a Russian Jew. Boruch/Bernard had arrived in this country in 1921 as a 19-year-old; he did not know the language, and did not really know anyone else except for his sister Ita, who had immigrated just a few weeks earlier. For awhile he lived with her, her husband, and their kids in Chelsea, Massachusetts.

My grandfather was the youngest of seven known surviving children, originally from the region of Volhynia in what was formerly the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). Two of his brothers ended up immigrating also-- not to the U.S., but to Canada. I'm not sure why they ended up there instead of in Massachusetts, where they had a brother and sister living; perhaps they couldn't get into the U.S. for some reason.

Anyway, through a site run by that focuses on Jewish genealogy called JewishGen, I located a couple of burial records for two of my grandfather's brothers, Moishe (Moses) and Yoel (Joel). Awhile back I had emailed the cemetery through the site and got photos of their tombstones, which contained inscriptions in both English and Hebrew.

Then fellow geneablogger Elizabeth Handler, who has a second blog focusing on her husband's Jewish family, posted not too long ago about a service offered through JewishGen called ViewMate. It basically allows members to upload photos of documents, tombstones, etc, and get translational help from other members.

So I finally got around to uploading photos of my great-uncles' tombstones. The process is really very easy: upload the photos with a clear description of what you're looking for (e.g., a translation of Hebrew text into English), wait a day or so for said photos to be approved and to appear on the site, and the wait for responses. If someone is kind enough to respond and translate-- or try to translate-- whatever text you've uploaded, you can click on their screen name and send them a message thanking them.

Within a day of my two photos being approved and made visible, I received responses from three people. One of them, a man named Jack, was able to give very specific translations from the Hebrew... and how moving are both inscriptions!

According to Jack, the top of Moishe's tombstone is an 8-line acrostic poem, in which the first letter of each line spells out his Hebrew name (Moishe ben Menashe). The poem reads:
“How great is our despair
Our house has been broken apart
Alas, we have lost
A son loyal to his people
From his wife and sons
He has been torn, at half his allotted days
His name will be honored
And the Torah will keep him alive
Moishe, son of Menashe
Died 17 Tevet 5697”
I do not know the circumstances of Moishe/Moses's death, but he did die young, in about his late 40's.

Yoel/Yalik/Joel, my other great-uncle whose tombstone I found, died even younger, and Jack was able to give me a translation for this also.

The first line, notes Jack, is from the Talmud, and appears in Rabbinic discussion on the death of children: "Alas, I am weeping on account of the beauty that will be rotting in the earth."

The next four lines compromise a poem on the circumstances of Joel's death:
“Within a light machine
To his death traveled the young man
Struck with sudden force
By a speeding mass of iron
A man of endearing qualities and a precious soul
Yoel, son of Menashe,
Died on 22 Av 5686, may his soul be bound in eternal life.”
Aged only 31, Joel was killed at a railroad crossing when his car was hit by an oncoming train. He had immigrated to Canada just four months earlier, and could not understand the English sign warning of the danger.

Joel, brother of my paternal grandfather
There are many factors that make Jewish genealogy a challenge, not the least of which is the lack of records from the "old country." But a tradition that is helpful is that of giving the name of the deceased's father on tombstones. So if you can locate a grave of a Jewish ancestor or relative, you can likely discover his/her father's name.

I wanted to thank JewishGen, those who were kind enough to respond to my translation requests, and especially Jack, who was able to translate these so well. And thanks also to Elizabeth Handler, who alerted me to this service to begin with.

Without them I would never have known these touching and beautiful words.

August 3, 2013

Whatever happened to 2nd-great-grandma Jane?

The 2nd episode of Who Do You Think You Are?'s 4th season featured Christina Applegate trying to find out what happened to her paternal grandmother.

This reminded me of a similar mystery surrounding my 2nd great-grandmother Jane RUSSELL (born about 1853) who married my 2nd great-grandfather John Walter HOWES (1850-1933) on 3 August 1873 in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.

Marriage record for John Walter Howes and Jane Russell
They had four known children:

Havelock ("Harry") HOWES (1877-1936)
Eva M. HOWES (b. 1878, married Frank Langley, died aft 1940)
John Woodward ("Jack") HOWES (1879-1968)
Horace William HOWES (1882-1976)

John and Jane Howes immigrated to the U.S. about 1878, and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where my great-grandfather Horace and his older brother Jack were born.

But on 19 June 1894, John Howes married Ida COLE in Attleboro Falls, Massachusetts... and the natural question this produces is: what happened to Jane?

At some point between Horace's birth in 1882 and John's remarriage to Ida Cole in 1894, either Jane died or the couple divorced.

There is no record of the 1890 census (most of which was destroyed in a fire), and Massachusetts city directories in the 1880's and 1890's don't list spouses' names... meaning that I can't narrow down this 12-year span.

No possible death record for a Jane Howes in Massachusetts could be found from 1882-1894, or even beyond.

I did note from city directories that John Howes moved from Cambridge to Sommerville, MA in 1891 or 1892 (he appears in the 1891 Cambridge city directory, and in the Sommerville one for 1892).

Could whatever happened-- whether it was death, divorce, or abandonment-- have happened at that time?

The next thing would be to see if any divorce record for the couple can be found, but back then--- before the information age-- it wasn't too unusual for men to abandon their families and start a new one in another place without being formally divorced from their first wives. Women could also abandon, of course, but that was far less common.

We'll have to see if I can't discover whatever happened to 2nd-great grandmother Jane.

No, not that Jane.

Ancestry line:

Jane RUSSELL (b. about 1853) m. John Walter HOWES
Horace William HOWES (1882-1976) m. Estelle May SIMMONDS
Henry Richard HOWES (1913-1987) m. Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER
S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father
Me (b. 1974)