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Ahira’s Will

My ancestor Seth Hall’s grandchildren Lucy Hall (daughter of Gershom) and Ahira Hall (son of Edward) were first cousins. They wed in Massachusetts in 1808. As this was long before the U.S. recorded every name on the census, I could not use that resource to find the names of their children.

Luckily, Ahira left a will that was filed for probate in Providence, Rhode Island in 1862. It named his wife Lucy and their children, Orlanda, Roscoe, Royal, and Susan. It also mentioned children Clarissa and Orlanda of his deceased daughter Eliza Bailies. They all shared a handsome estate that included two houses and shares in two schooners.

There was a catch, though. At the end of the will, Ahira included this provision:

I further direct that my Executors hereinafter named shall not pay any money or make any advances to either of my children or grand children unless they are satisfied that such child or children or grand children is the actual owner of a copy of the Holy Bible of the value of not less than Four Dollars.

Lucy and Ahira both came from old Puritan stock on Cape Cod. They accumulated wealth, but it went to their heirs with strings attached.

Ahira sought to control his family from beyond the grave when he stipulated that they all must possess Bibles. Who did he fear was not reading the Good Word? I wonder whether any of the descendants needed to rush out to purchase a Bible only to sell it again after the distribution of the estate.

Most wills do not include such restrictive provisions. The ones that do make for interesting reading.

Wills provide an excellent genealogical resource for learning about the people who lived before 1850. Ahira Hall left an intriguing one.

 

 

 

Practicing Hygge

HYGGE: a Danish word for a cozy and comfortable mood created by enjoying the simple things in life. It derives from the Old Norse word for well-being.

During these days of a frightening epidemic, the people of my state have been ordered to stay at home. Some have difficulty with this, but I like the idea of embracing a hygge lifestyle instead. The Danes have mastered it, and the Norwegians tend to follow it a bit, too.

Between my husband/tech advisor and me, we share a good deal of Norwegian ancestry. Neither of us remembers our grandparents talking about hygge, but this Scandinavian coziness comes naturally to us. It is how we grew up.

We do these things to create our own hygge household:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes. For us, that means jeans, sweaters, and flannel shirts.
  2. Turn on the fireplace and burn candles. With March being the snowiest month in Colorado, we continue to have cold weather even though the calendar tells us it is spring. A fire feels good and the candles add fragrance and a warm glow.
  3. Cook comfort food and bake homemade sweets. We grew up eating casseroles and soups, and now we have plenty of time to pull out the old family recipes. My mom always had a homemade cake or cookies on the counter, and I do, too.
  4. Take long, solitary walks. We try to get some fresh air every day, although it has become a challenge to keep our social distance. Coloradans are outdoorsy, and everyone wants to get out of the house. The local sidewalks and trails are busy.
  5. Equip our favorite armchairs with good books and cozy throw blankets. As avid readers, we spend a lot of time here with the fire and the cookies).

Practicing hygge seems to come naturally to us. Each of these things helps create the hygge atmosphere our ancestors cherished.

When we adopt these understated luxuries in our everyday life, our isolation period becomes something enjoyable instead of an irritant.

 

A Virus Changes Everything

As we all hunker down in these dark times, a new way of living is emerging for me and those around me. So what have I been up to during the pandemic?

  1. Attending genealogy webinars and visiting online databases. Recently I followed Legacy webinars on evaluating genealogical evidence, tracking ancestors who changed their names, researching Scandinavian ancestors, searching on Google, and using digital libraries. Today I will connect to another webinar on researching Mayflower ancestors. In normal times, I do not take nearly this many classes.
  2. Reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors. In my community, people gather regularly for card games, potlucks, and more. No longer! I have taken to calling my immediate neighbors and those who live alone so they and I will have a chance to enjoy some conversation. I have also been texting with my 11-year-old granddaughter who cannot go out to play with her friends.
  3. Binge-watching television and other media. I keep tuning into the presidential and gubernatorial press conferences to get the latest information in the coronavirus. I follow local town halls with the health department. I watch the extended COVID-19 coverage offered by the local broadcasters.
  4. Walking. We know we should not stay indoors for days on end. The only problem has been that so many others are out walking, too. I am finding it hard to maintain a 6′ distance from people on the trails and sidewalks.

When this social distancing began, I thought I would have hours to fill with my genealogy research. But these new activities have eaten up my time. I find that I am progressing slower than usual with my family history.

That is because, in part, I have not yet settled into a new routine to replace the old one. At first, I questioned whether I would need to. This situation seemed temporary. We originally received a 14-day directive from the state.

Then yesterday, our governor announced that the schools would close for another month. Suddenly the timeline appears much longer.

New habits can form in a month. At some point this will no longer feel like a temporary situation.

I, and everyone else, will need to find a new rhythm of daily life. When I do, I can begin to become a productive researcher again.

Coronavirus Hits the Genealogy World

The genealogy community makes up just a small corner of the world, but like everyone else we face challenges presented by the spreading coronavirus. Event cancellations pour in as people practice social isolation.

  1. Yesterday the Denver Public Library cancelled all meetings and events for a month. This requires the Colorado Genealogical Society and the Colorado Chapter of Palatines to America in turn to cancel upcoming meetings and seminars that would have been held in Denver’s main library.
  2. Our local LDS meeting place has requested that the Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gather elsewhere or cancel its monthly meeting and annual genealogy fair in April.
  3. My husband/tech advisor has offered to host a virtual meeting for our Sons of Norway board this month. If our usual meeting place at one of the Douglas County Libraries follows Denver’s example, we will lose our meeting room.
  4. He has already announced that the Norwegian Genealogy study group he facilitates will meet in virtual sessions during April and May.

One event (I hope!) that will not face cancellation is the Legacy Family Tree 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon scheduled to begin later today. I registered for this event that I can attend on my home computer.

Several topics caught my interest. Luckily, they are not classes that will occur during the middle of the night in my time zone. I plan to tune in to these:

  1. How Do I Know It’s Correct: Evidence and Proof by Rebecca Koford
  2. Not Who He Once Was: Tips for Finding Your Name-Changing Ancestor by Mary Kircher Roddy
  3. A Vast and Virtual Genealogical Library is Waiting for Your Exploration by Mike Mansfield
  4. Advanced Googling for Your Grandma by Cyndi Ingle
  5. Researching Scandinavian Ancestors by Mike Mansfield

Perhaps these virtual meetings will become more commonplace. We do not know when or if our world will return to the days of carefree gatherings of every kind. Already we have adjusted to heightened security measures when we meet in large groups. Perhaps we will see a permanent change in public health practices for meetings, too. Genealogists and everyone else will have to adapt.

Lives Affected by Epidemics

With the coronavirus outbreak all over the news these days, I began thinking of ancestors who might have lived through epidemics of their own. A few came to mind.

  1. Regional outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria occurred in communities where my family lived during the 19th century. My own family members likely endured some of these sicknesses. Although I have seen columns of Midwestern death listings from these and other illnesses, I have found none of my family names in these records of fatalities. A century later I, too, survived a case of the measles in 1964. It was the sickest I have ever been.
  2. About 1910, my great-grandfather Ole Bentsen (1880-1976) experienced a bout of typhoid fever. I do not know whether others in his Sheridan County, Montana community also had this illness caused by contaminated food or water.
  3. The Spanish flu swept the nation during World War I. My grandmother’s cousin Arthur Davis Riddle (1881-1919) succumbed to this illness in Seattle, Washington. He was a tall lumberjack, but his robust strength did not protect him from the influenza.
  4. During the 1930’s my grandmother Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976) contracted smallpox in Wheatland, Wyoming. My father was a young boy at the time, but he remembered that his mother was quarantined during her illness. No one else in the family caught the disease.
  5. My entire family contracted the Asian flu in 1958. We lived in Bismarck, North Dakota at the time. I can remember my parents having a difficult time rousing themselves from their own sickbeds to care for their two young children who also had this illness. We all recovered.

Outbreaks of illness seem to cycle regularly through communities. Some of these epidemics seem deadlier than others. It remains too early to tell how the United States will fare with the current coronavirus. At our house we remain watchful and have prepared for whatever it brings.

Spring 2020 Genealogy Training

Opportunities for genealogy training seem abundant this time of the year. I have many to offerings to choose from, some live, some online.

Conferences

  1. RootsTech. This 4-day event in Salt Lake City this week provides over 300 breakout sessions taught by professional genealogists and industry experts. A huge expo hall houses vendors and more. I have never attended RootsTech in person. I would rather avoid the huge crowds it attracts. The conference offers a live streaming option for those of us who prefer to stay home.
  2. Colorado Palatines to America Spring Seminar on March 13-14. Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, a specialist in German research, will speak. Because I am not focusing on our German ancestors this year, I will not attend this seminar.
  3. Colorado Genealogical Society Spring Seminar on April 18. Angie Bush, chair of the National Genealogical Society’s Genetic Genealogy committee, will give four programs on building online family trees and using DNA testing for genealogy. I have other plans that weekend, so I will skip this seminar.
  4. National Genealogical Society Family History Conference on May 20-23. This annual conference travels around the country and will take place in Salt Lake City this year. I do not plan to attend. I live near enough to Salt Lake to visit its library when I am not competing with hundreds of other genealogists for research space.

Webinars

  1. Legacy Family Tree webinars. Legacy hosts about 8 webinars a month on a variety of topics. I do not listen in on all of them, and I have not yet participated in one this year.
  2. American Ancestors webinars. Hosted by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, these webinars also cover a variety of subjects although many focus on New England ancestry. I am registered for one on March 19 where I will learn about Mayflower resources available on AmericanAncestors.org.

As in any industry, change is constant. These training opportunities can help me keep up with current events in the genealogy world. Because many of them require large time and monetary commitments, I find it important to choose wisely when deciding what to attend.

Still Looking for Lucy

As I continue my effort to verify the parents of my Lucy Snow, I keep searching as many databases as I can find. So far, none have yielded a list of her parents with their children that I have come to expect from Cape Cod records.

Part of the problem lies with Lucy’s position in the family tree. Her name does not appear in the names of Mayflower descendants because she is too far removed from the Pilgrims. Those people are well-documented to the 5th generation, and Lucy is in the 6th. The Mayflower books do not help me.

On the other hand, several genealogies of Cape Cod families tell the stories of 19th century residents there. Unfortunately, Lucy died in 1795, and the books mention few people who lived before 1800. No help there, either.

I persist with my search, and I looked at these repositories recently:

  1. DAR files. These provided clues to sorting out the various men named Thomas Snow. Lucy’s father may have been a Thomas, but he probably was not the Patriot recognized by the DAR.
  2. Ancestry. I have looked at all the sources they have for Brewster, MA. I think Lucy’s suspected parents Thomas and Hannah (Lincoln) Snow lived there. The town did not incorporate until 1803, long after Thomas died in 1790 and Lucy died in 1795. Their family does not appear in the town records there. I did find some good background information on Brewster in a town history on Ancestry.
  3. Family Search. An annotated cemetery record for the Brewster Cemetery includes some Snow burials. Thomas and Hannah Snow appear on the list as does Thomas’ brother Deacon Reuben Snow and his wife Reliance (Wing) Snow. Locating the name of Reuben gives me a collateral relative to research although he died the same year as Lucy.

Still, the elusive link between Lucy and her parents continues to elude me. After I exhaust all the sources on these three databases, I will need to look at other repositories.

Thomas Snow, Please Stand Up

My ancestor Lucy Snow (abt. 1760-1795) married Gershom Hall and had a large family in Harwich, Massachusetts. But who were her people?

Online family trees attribute her parents to Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln. None of these trees include much proof of this connection other than a baptism record from Brewster, the town north of Harwich. This church list includes a child Lucy, daughter of Thomas Snow, jr., baptized in 1760.

This might offer good evidence of her father’s name, but then the question becomes, “Which Thomas Snow fathered Lucy?”. The name seems to be a very common one in colonial Massachusetts.

I have identified two, maybe three, men who might qualify. Before claiming one of them as my Lucy’s father, I must investigate each of these men to make a case for Lucy’s parentage:

  1. Thomas Snow, Junior. This man married Hannah Lincoln in Harwich on 31 January 1760. Afterwards, a Thomas Snow, jr. arrived almost immediately in Brewster, Massachusetts. The records of the Brewster Church mention him several times. On October 12, 1760, his wife Hannah received full Communion. Several of his children subsequently were baptized there including Lucy in 1760, Edward in 1763, Bethia in 1765, Hannah in 1769, and Priscilla in 1771. So far, I have no explanation for why this Thomas was called “Junior”.
  2. Capt. Thomas Rogers Snow. According to a cemetery marker in Brewster Cemetery, this man died in the West Indies on 27 April 1790 at age 54. He is buried with his widow Hannah [Lincoln] who lived until 1817. The person who manages his FindAGrave memorial claims he was born at Harwich on 19 Nov 1735. The Harwich records do include a Thomas who was born that day at Harwich to Nathanaell and Thankfull Snow. The Hall family entry in the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts agrees with this claim.
  3. Thomas Snow, Revolutionary War patriot. According to the DAR files, the Thomas Snow who served in Massachusetts was born at Harwich in 1734 and later relocated to Gorham, Cumberland County, Maine. He lived until 1825. His wife’s name was Jane Mague. A 1908 publication, Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire, discusses the Snow family, specifically the Thomas Snow who settled in Maine. It states he was born to Thomas Snow about 1730 in Harwich. It goes on to say he wed three times with the second wife being Hannah Lincoln and the third Jane Mague. It makes no mention of Revolutionary War service. A third source, a couple of Sons of the American Revolution applications, both claim the soldier Thomas was the son of Nathaniel, not Thomas. They go on to say he was the husband of Hannah Lincoln, and they make no mention of Jane Mague.

Were these one, two or three men? The profiles for #1 and #2 seem to match each other pretty closely. They seem consistent with the father of a daughter who lived at Harwich.

And what about the Thomas Snow who removed to Maine? He does not seem as close a fit, and I suspect he was a different Thomas Snow. But what are the odds that another Thomas also had a wife named Hannah Lincoln?

It seems the records of more than one man may have been commingled. It will take some research to sort this out. I can begin by creating a chart listing references to each man side-by-side. I can then compare their data to isolate similarities and differences and thus untangle this problem.

This approach will help me differentiate the men to find the most likely candidate for the one who fathered Lucy in 1760. If I am to verify a Mayflower lineage, I need to resolve the question of Lucy’s parentage.

A Brewster-Harwich Connection

My ancestor Lucy Snow Hall (abt. 1760-1795) may hold the key to establishing a Mayflower ancestor for our family. To establish a genealogical proof of this line, I must find evidence of Lucy’s parents.

Online trees claim that Lucy was the eldest child of Thomas Rogers Snow (1735-1790) and his wife Hannah Lincoln. Most of these trees do not have sources attached. A couple of them cite the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts printed in 1916.

My wonderful husband/tech advisor went on a search for a digital copy of this book. He found it at an online library called eBooks Read (ebooksread.com). Volume 3 describes the Hall family, and my Lucy married Gershom Hall.

The book discusses this Gershom and states, “He married (first) February 8, 1781, Lucy Snow, baptized December, 1760, in Brewster, Massachusetts, died October 8, 1795, in Harwich, daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Lincoln) Snow. She was a descendant of Nicholas Snow…He married at Plymouth, Constance, daughter of Stephen Hopkins, who came in the ‘Mayflower’ to Plymouth in 1620.”

This encyclopedia seems the likely source for all the claims of Mayflower descent for my Lucy. Can it be verified in original records?

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find town birth records for 1760 for Harwich or Brewster on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch. I did go looking for the Brewster baptism record for Lucy. I found these published in Records of the Brewster Congregational Church, Brewster, Massachusetts, 1700-1792. The entries for 1760 include two that mention Lucy’s purported parent, Thomas Snow:

  1. Oct. 12 Received to full Comunion (sic) Hannah ye wife of Thos Snow junr
  2. Decr Baptized Lucy a Daughter of Tho’s Snow Junr

The Lucy baptized that day must have been the child of Thomas Snow and his wife Hannah. It disturbs me some that the father is called “Junior”. The family tree in the Encyclopedia I mentioned above says Thomas was the son of Nathanial Snow, not the son of another Thomas.

Other genealogists have told me that people in colonial times did not interpret the Junior designation the same way we do today. We think of it as indicating that a son was named for his father. Back then, it could mean an uncle-nephew relationship or that there were two men of the same name in town, with the Junior being the younger man.

Is it plausible that the Lucy baptized at Brewster was the same Lucy who married Gershom Hall? How would they meet if they lived in different towns? He lived his life in Harwich. She came from Brewster. Both are towns in Barnstable County, but I wondered how often people traveled between the two.

I turned to my copy of the Historical and Genealogical Atlas and Guide to Barnstable County, Massachusetts (Cape Cod). The chapter on Brewster tells me that until 1803 it was known as the north precinct of Harwich. As we say in genealogy, that makes Brewster and Harwich within “kissing distance”. A meeting between Gershom of Harwich and Lucy of Brewster seems feasible. How likely is it that another Lucy Snow, born in 1760, lived in the same vicinity?

Other records that might led further evidence to this family tree might not exist. Land and probate records would have been recorded in the Barnstable courthouse. It suffered a disastrous fire in 1827. Ninety-four volumes of land records dating back to 1686 were lost. Some instruments may have been re-recorded, but the county does not have a complete set of records.

Perhaps I have found everything there is to find on Lucy. I have a baptism record for a likely candidate for the wife of Gershom. I have Lucy’s marriage record and cemetery marker. I have an encyclopedia entry describing her family tree. I have explanations for possible discrepancies (another Lucy Snow born the same year in faraway Worcester; a father described as Junior; a marriage between a couple who came from different towns). My Lucy is looking more and more like the Lucy who descended from Mayflower ancestors.

 

 

The Search for Lucy Continues

My ancestor Lucy Snow (abt. 1760-1795) has not yet revealed her parentage to me.

This week I sought a birth record for her, but the only 1760ish birth record I could find for a Lucy Snow was from the Massachusetts town of Rutland. This place lies west of Boston. The parents were John and Sebilla Snow.

None of this Lucy’s information matches what I know or suspect about my own Lucy, reportedly the daughter of Thomas Rogers Snow and Hannah Lincoln. My Lucy was the first wife of Gershom Hall, and they lived in Harwich, on the Cape. She is buried there.

After some digging in various online databases, I did eliminate the Rutland Lucy as my ancestor. That Lucy married Thomas Whittemore and moved to upstate New York. There they raised a large family.

Besides not finding a birth registration, I have not located my Lucy’s name in any of the Snow genealogies I viewed this week. Without this low-hanging fruit to tell me the names of her parents, I will need to expand my search.

I have made a checklist of sources to study. I will look first at the PERSI database on Find My Past for articles on the Snow family. After that, I plan to search for wills or deeds that might mention Lucy.

She remains the link to any Mayflower ancestry I might have. Lucy Snow of Harwich had a family. They continue to wait to be discovered.