Archive for the ‘Wilson’ Category

The Lesson of James A. Wilson – There Are Exceptions to Every Rule!


Two things happened yesterday. posted a nifty “cheat sheet” which can be used to determine if your ancestors served in one of the US conflicts back to the Revolution.


Second, a third cousin, in my Wilson line, contacted me through asking to compare notes, which prompted me to review the pending “shaky leaves” for that line.

A Find-A-Grave hint popped up for James Alexander Wilson, my 2nd-great uncle and brother to my 2nd g-grandmother, Roxanna “Anna” Aurelia (Wilson) Hall (her story here).

family tree

Attached to this Mount Hope Cemetery grave record was a photo referring to 11th Regiment Massachusetts [Light] Battery.  A Google search revealed that this was a Civil War unit “Organized at Readville and mustered in for three years January 2, 1864 … Mustered out June 16, 1865″


The chart reads: “Civil War birth years 1811-1848”. Another mistake in my tree!  My James died on 14 Sept 1886, which matches the Find-A-Grave entry, but I recorded his birth at St. John, New Brunswick, on 27 February 1850, thus implying an age of fourteen in 1864. Did I have the wrong birth date?

I re-reviewed the records, most concurred – James was born in 1850!  Was it possible a 14 year old served in the Civil War?

At bit of research revealed at least 100,000 Union soldiers were boys under 15 years old and about 20 percent of all Civil War soldiers were under 18. Many lied about their age to join. As the casualties grew and more soldiers were needed, recruiters looked the other way. The exact number of children who enlisted during the Civil War is unknown, but it is known that 48 soldiers who were under the age of 18 won the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery and service.

Census/Marriage/Death Records Analyzed for Birth Year

No birth/baptism has been located at St John for James Wilson.

In 1851, a one year old James Wilson was enumerated with his parents, David and Elizabeth, in Saint John County, Dukes and Queens Wards,

1851 census

The 1855 Massachusetts Boston, Ward 03, census reports his age as five.


In 1860, he was enumerated in Boston Ward 3 as age ten.

1860 census

In 1865, he was residing in Boston Ward 3, listed as age 16.


He was 20 in 1870 when enumerated in Boston Ward 4.

1870 census

He was 21 when he married Susan “Susie” Jane Perkins, daughter of George Perkins and Margaret Taylor on 17 May 1871 in Boston.


He was listed as age 34 in the 1880 Boston census (the only record which implies a birth in 1846 – note that his parents were married in 1847 – their story here).


When James Naturalized in 1882, he gave a birth date of 27 February 1850.


A signature comparison (beautiful handwriting for a 14 year old!) confirms that the James Wilson who joined the Civil War and the James Wilson who applied for Naturalization are likely the same man.


fe59703e-bf46-4489-b186-a275f01b547b f3585473-252e-40ef-89ab-3e2d0b15afe7

James’ Massachusetts death entry dated 14 September 1886 lists his age as 36 years, 6 months, 14 days (implying a birth of 28 Feb 1850).  Cause of death was Consumption. The newspaper notice of his death also lists an age of 36.



Side Note: James was a Fresco Painter – I have not uncovered any information specifically related to his work. Given his beautiful handwriting, I wonder where he was educated, his mother was unable to write, thus he must have had schooling in this craft.  An article published in Massachusetts, in that time frame, describes the study:


Fold 3- CMSR for James

Fold 3 has digitized the Massachusetts Compiled Military Service Records.  Although James Wilson is a common name, knowing he served in the 11th Regiment Massachusetts Battery helped in locating the record. In his file, was a volunteer enlistment form, dated 2 December 1864, with a claim that he was seventeen and ten months.  The form includes minor consent from his father.

The enlistment occurred in Cambridge (the family resided in Boston, perhaps he intentionally enlisted in a place where he would not be known?) and James was described 5’4″ tall (quite short for an almost 18 year old).  He was given a $33 recruitment bounty in exchange for a one year commitment (the family was quite poor and likely needed the funds). His pay was later docked for loss of Clothing Camp and Garrison equipage (typical kid ?).

Fold3_Page_10_Compiled_Service_Records_of_Volunteer_Union_Soldiers_Who_Served_in_Organizations_from_the_State_of_Massachusetts Fold3_Page_9_Compiled_Service_Records_of_Volunteer_Union_Soldiers_Who_Served_in_Organizations_from_the_State_of_Massachusetts



Pension Search

Whenever I find a Veteran, I check for a pension file.  The pension laws changed frequently not everyone who participated was entitled.  A good place to start in understanding Civil War pensions is the Family Search Wiki – here.

There are two indexes, one on Fold3 and the other on Ancestry.  They can differ.’s  “U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934” (NARA T288) tells us that James’ widow Susan applied, and received a pension.

pension card

Fold 3’s Civil War Pensions Index (officially called the “Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900”; NARA T289) lists a widow’s pension and mother’s pension (the lack of certificate number means that the mother’s pension request was denied).

Fold3_Wilson_James_A_Organization_Index_to_Pension_Files_of_Veterans_Who_Served_Between_1861_and_1900 (1)

National Archives

This morning I headed to the National Archives in DC and placed my request for these two files.  If you ask that the file be delivered to the new Innovation Hub, not only do you avoid having to wait for a specific pull time (they pull it right away for you) but you can use their scanners for free and once scanned the digitized documents are posted on NARAs website for others to find.  If you don’t live near the Archives, you can place a request online (the fee is $80 for the first 100 pages – order here).

The two pension requests were consolidated into one file.  Nothing in the file mentions James’ enlistment age and the death certificate in the file implies a birth in 1850.


It seems that James’ mother, Elizabeth, age 70, who was unable to sign her name, applied for a pension in 1890 saying that her son was unmarried, without children and prior to his death she relied on him for some support.

Her witnesses included, Elizabeth’s daughter, my 2nd g-grandmother, “Anna” aka Roxanna (Wilson) Hall and Anna’s sister-in-law, Mary (Hall) Patten.  Elizabeth was residing in Everett, the address was c/o Charles Baker, Simpson Court. Later documents give her address as Richardson Court, Malden (the address of my Hall ancestors).



When James’ widow later placed a claim, Elizabeth’s claim was thus rejected. Elizabeth’s attorney stated that he was told there was no widow or children. Elizabeth, was likely desperate.  Her husband David had died, probably by suicide in 1879 (story here), thus she likely had relied on her eldest son James for some support.


The file (although one of the smaller I have pulled – just 36 pages) is chock full of family details (albeit nothing confirming my suspicion that James parents were born in Ireland)! A witness statement indicating that Susan was a laundress working for $1.50/week for 22 year old Margaret E. Clark who she had known for five years.  Susan relied on her minor children, two boys and two girls, earnings of five to six dollars a month, as aid. She owned some household furniture valued less than $25.


Susan was removed from the Pension rolls in 1895 as she was “reported dead”. She wasn’t deceased, she remarried Brenton B. Cook on 07 Oct 1895 in Boston (record here). She died 2 March 1908 from Chronic Brights Disease and Edema of Lungs.



In summary, while a great tool, use Ancestry’s “cheat sheet” as a guide.  There are always exceptions. Without the Find-A-Grave hint, I wouldn’t have searched for these records and I would have missed some great family details!

The Family of James Alexander Wilson 1850-1866


Service according to

The service of the 11th Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery after James joined in December 1864 was as follows (text from Wikipedia):

Dabney’s Mills, Hatcher’s Run, February 5-7, 1865.

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run, also known as Dabney’s Mill, Armstrong’s Mill, Rowanty Creek, and Vaughn Road, fought February 5–7, 1865, was one in a series of Union offensives during the Siege of Petersburg, aimed at cutting off Confederate supply traffic on Boydton Plank Road and the Weldon Railroad west of Petersburg, Virginia. Although the Union advance was stopped, the Federals extended their siegeworks to the Vaughn Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. The Confederates kept the Boydton Plank Road open, but were forced to extend their thinning lines.

 Fort Stedman March 25.

The Battle of Fort Stedman, also known as the Battle of Hare’s Hill, was fought on March 25, 1865, during the final days of the American Civil War. The Union Army fortification in the siege lines around Petersburg, Virginia, was attacked in a pre-dawn Confederate assault by troops led by Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon. The attack was the last serious attempt by Confederate troops to break the Siege of Petersburg. After an initial success, Gordon’s men were driven back by Union troops of the IX Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. John G. Parke.

 Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9.

The Appomattox Campaign was a series of American Civil War battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865 in Virginia that concluded with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army (Army of the Potomac, Army of the James and Army of the Shenandoah) under the overall command of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. In the following eleven weeks after Lee’s surrender, the American Civil War ended as other Confederate armies surrendered and Confederate government leaders were captured or fled the country.

Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2.

The Third Battle of Petersburg, also known as the Breakthrough at Petersburg or the Fall of Petersburg, was fought on April 2, 1865, south and southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, at the end of the 292-day Richmond–Petersburg Campaign (sometimes called the Siege of Petersburg) and in the beginning stage of the Appomattox Campaign near the conclusion of the American Civil War. The Union Army (Army of the Potomac, Army of the Shenandoah and Army of the James) under the overall command of General-in-chief, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, launched an assault on General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s Petersburg, Virginia trenches and fortifications after the Union victory at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865. As a result of that battle the Confederate right flank, rear and remaining supply lines were exposed or cut and the Confederate defenders were reduced by over 10,000 men killed, wounded, taken prisoner or in flight.

The thinly-held Confederate lines at Petersburg had been stretched to the breaking point by earlier Union movements that extended those lines beyond the ability of the Confederates to man them adequately and by desertions and casualties from recent battles. As the much larger Union forces, which significantly outnumbered the Confederates, assaulted the lines, desperate Confederate defenders held off the Union breakthrough long enough for Confederate government officials and most of the remaining Confederate army, including local defense forces, and some Confederate Navy personnel, to flee Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia during the night of April 2–3. Confederate corps commander Lieutenant General A.P. Hill was killed during the fighting.

Union soldiers occupied Richmond and Petersburg on April 3, 1865 but most of the Union Army pursued the Army of Northern Virginia until they surrounded and forced Robert E. Lee to surrender that army on April 9, 1865 after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Pursuit of Lee to Appomattox C. H. April 3-9.

the Siege of Petersburg ends with the Union assault and breakthrough of April 2. The remainder of the war in Virginia is classified as “Grant’s Pursuit of Lee to Appomattox Court House.

Moved to Washington, D.C., April 20-27.

Grand Review May 23 (note that James was enumerated with his family in the Massachusetts census on 1 May 1865 with no occupation listed. Records do indicate he mustered out June 16, 1865.  It is possible that whoever spoke to the census taker listed him as residing with the family even though he was not present).

The Grand Review of the Armies was a military procession and celebration in Washington, D.C., on May 23 and May 24, 1865, following the close of the American Civil War. Elements of the Union Army paraded through the streets of the capital to receive accolades from the crowds and reviewing politicians, officials, and prominent citizens, including the President of the United States, Andrew Johnson

52 Ancestors – week #12: Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

No Story Too Small has issued a New Year’s Challenge: “Have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”  Note: You can “click” on any image to view a larger version.

I grew up near Boston. In my college years and early twenties, my friends and I headed to the Purple Shamrock on St. Patty’s Day, to Studley’s in Somerville every Thursday night, and to the Improper Bostonian on Cape Cod most summer weekends – to sing along with musician Jim Plunkett (not to be confused with the football player) – there were lots of favorites – Sweet Caroline, Brown Eyed Girl, Love that Dirty Water (Boston You’re My Home), Charlie on the MTA….   This short video, filmed when the Improper closed a few years ago, gives you a taste:

During the “sing along”, Plunkett yells – “Let’s hear it from the Italians” – they all scream; Then… “Let’s hear it from the Irish” – they all scream.  Although I grew up in an Irish/Italian neighborhood, I believe I am neither.  Being blond with fair skin, I join in and cheer with the Irish, longing to belong.

Me – 2012 St Patrick’s Day in Boston

Come to find out, all these years later – I AM Irish!!! – my DNA results show between 4-38% – I know the the ethnicity estimates are, as Judy Russell puts it,”not a whole lot more than cocktail party conversation”, but still exciting!

Irish DNA

Turns out my known Irish heritage probably equates to about 6.25% through my 2nd g-grandmother Roxanna Amelia/Aurelia “Anna” (Wilson) Hall who was likely 100% Irish.


How ironic that I spent my life “pretending” to be Irish, while my Irish ancestors spent theirs proclaiming to be Canadian. Roxanna’s parents and eldest two brothers arrived in Boston in 1852/3 during the Irish potato famine.  After residing in New Brunswick for several decades, they likely passed themselves off as Canadians, to avoid discrimination in Boston.

Roxanna, youngest of six, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 12 Oct 1859 to David M. Wilson, a paper hanger/painter and his wife Elizabeth Long.  Siblings included James Alexander (1850-1886 b. New Brunswick), David M. Jr. (1852-1886 b. New Brunswick), Eleanor/Ellen Jane (1853-1910 birth recorded in Chelsea, Massachusetts and 148 Prince Street, Boston), Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” (1855-1932 b. ? – no birth located, “place of birth” on marriage record is blank, death record riddled with errors lists a Malden birthplace which is unlikely) and Charles L. (1857-1880 b. no birth located, one death record lists a birthplace of Lebanon (?), no state listed; another lists Boston).

family tree

birth record

What I know of Roxanna’s parents can be found in my blog post: I have not located their birthplace in Ireland.  I don’t know if Roxanna had aunts or uncles or whether her  grandparents also settled in Canada.  Names are common, records sparse.  Records that do exist claim a Maine or New Brunswick birthplace. The 1851 New Brunswick census is the only document that mentions their Irish immigration; a record I believe to be accurate. Her dad, son of Thomas Wilson and Jane,  immigrated in 1830, at age 6 or 7, and her mother, daughter of Alexander Long, in 1840, age 17.

Census Saint John County, Dukes and Queens Wards, page 136; FID 24398 –

1851 census

The 1860 census, lists her dad as a paper hanger, born in Maine.

1860 census

In 1870, a few boarders have joined the family (it is unknown if they are relatives).   Her dad is listed as having been born in New Brunswick and he has not become a US citizen.  Her mom can not write and her brother Charles is listed as blind.

1870 census

Roxanna’s birth reflects an address of 6 Portland (likely off Causeway in the North End). Her family moved frequently to various addresses in the North End, besides Portland Street, they resided on Prince Street and South Margin. Although today the North End is primarily Italian, between 1845 and 1853, over 14,000 Irish immigrants settled there; making the neighborhood predominantly Irish (Boston’s overall population went from Yankee/Protestant to a third Irish in just a few years). Between 1865-1880, the North End was almost exclusively Irish/Catholic, an area which was decrepit and impoverished.  Families were crammed into one room dilapidated apartments and beat up boarding houses.  By 1880, more than 70,000 Irish lived in Boston. A decade later, Boston had become the only city in the United States where the Irish represented more than half of the foreign-born population.

old Boston map


In 1871, Roxanne’s eldest brother James, a painter, who had become a US citizen, married Susan “Susie” Jane Perkins, daughter of George and Margaret (Taylor) Perkins.  They resided in Malden and Boston, Massachusetts and had 7 known children – Walter Francis, Ella/Ellen May, Herbert, George Frederick, Thomas Cutting, Grace Adelaide and James Alexander.

Sometime between 1872 and 1880 the remaining Wilsons settled in a rented home at 177 Bennington Street, East Boston. Here Roxanne’s father died, on 31 August 1879, reportedly by suicide (or perhaps trying to relieve a toothache –

By 1880, Roxanna was working in a rubber factory, and was still living on Bennington Street with her mother, brother David, and a boarder (relation unknown). Her blind brother Charles had passed away earlier that year, 31 March 1880 (in Malden), at age 23, from inflammation of the bowels, after a week of sickness. Roxanna’s sister, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie”,  five years earlier, on 25 Oct 1875, had married a Malden boy, George Ira Pratt, son of James Pratt Jr. and Clarissa Corson – in 1880 they were residing there with two young children. Her sister Eleanor’s whereabouts are unknown in 1880 (she married in 1884 – in 1880 there is a Jennie [Jane?] E. Wilson of the right age working as a servant, living on 12 Bennett Street, Boston, who is a likely candidate).

1880 census

Bennington Street at Day Square in 1918

Bennington Street, East Boston, circa. 1915-1930


About a year after her father’s death, on a cool, perhaps rainy, Tuesday evening, 7 Sept 1880, a 20 year old Roxanna married Ephraim Augustus Hall, a 26 year old milk dealer living in Malden, Massachusetts; youngest child of Horatio Hall and Elizabeth Pinder. The marriage was performed by Rev. Dr. Lewis Benton Bates a Methodist of East Boston, affiliated with the Meridan Street Church.



Roxanna’s brother-in-law, (Bessie’s husband) George Ira Pratt was the son of James Pratt Jr. and Clarissa Corson.  The Pratt’s were well known, large landholders, having been in Malden for generations. George and Ephraim were two months apart in age and likely school chums. In 1880, George was also employed by a rubber factory, perhaps the same employer as Roxanne.  Perhaps George made the introduction.

George and Bessie had at least eight children (Ira Wilson, Clara Rebecca, James A., Daisy Bell, Charles Mellen, Walter Edgar, Florence Gertrude and George Harrison) – Ira changed occupations frequently, also working as a metal caster, butcher, boot maker, farmer and carpenter.  The Pratt family resided in Malden;  Melrose;  Townshend and Athens, Vermont; Madbury and Dover, New Hampshire.

birth Ephrain and George

Once married, Roxanna relocated to Malden where she resided in the Hall family’s rented home on Richardson Court with Ephraim’s parents and his siblings Horatio Jr., Lucy and Mary (and Mary’s husband David Patten).  Roxanna and Ephraim’s only child, Charles Milton Hall was born six months later, on 7 March 1881. Roxanna likely named him after her reportedly blind brother, Charles Wilson, who died a year earlier.

By 1883 Ephraim was working as a foreman at the Malden fire department. A few years later he became a carpenter.

In 1886 Roxanne’s two remaining brothers passed away – James (died 14 Sep 1886, consumption) and David (who never married, died 20 Jun 1886 of meningitis, he was also living in Malden).

In 1887  a $1 land sale was recorded.  George Ira Pratt gave to his sister-in-law Roxanne (Wilson) Hall  lots 2, 3 & B on the intersection of Forest/Sylvan & Echo Street in Malden.   However, the couple, continued living on Richardson Court with the Hall family.


In 1891 another sale is recorded of $1 from George Ira Pratt to his sister-in-law Roxanne (Wilson) Hall – lots 8 & 13 on the intersection of Forest/Sylvan & Echo Street in Malden  – subject to a $1,200 mortgage to Lizzie Knapp and payment of 1891 taxes. Roxanne and Ephraim relocated to the property that year.


The home (today numbered 335 Forest Street), was directly across from the Malden Poor farm, pictured below.

UPDATE: From Martha Prince Warren via Facebook – “I think the White House in the background behind the field is actually in Melrose. The wall goes all the way across the boundary of Malden and Melrose. The building on the far right along the wall is the piggery and the larger building is the barn. The house on the corner of Forest and Sylvan was across from the horse pasture. This area was our playground when we were young. The wall is still there from the Forest street side all the way going east at least to the back of the Forestdale school”.


The home as pictured/described today: Bedrooms: 5 beds; Bathrooms: 2 baths; Multi Family: 2,232 sq ft; Lot: 6,534 sq ft; Year Built: 1880; Last Sold: Jul 2012 for $388,650.


In 1894, a third land deed was recorded: $1 from George Ira Pratt to Ephraim Hall on the intersection of Forest/Sylvan & Echo Street in Malden – lot 4 marked A. The 1897 map, below, depicts the land transfer from the Pratts to Roxanna and Ephraim.

map 1897

Roxanne’s mother, who had relocated to Malden, passed away on 25 Feb 1897, from diabetes.

death mom

By 1900, Roxanne, Ephraim (a carpenter) and 19 year old Charles (a last finisher in the shoe industry) are living in same two family home, renumbered to 309 Forest Street.  They are renting to Roxanne’s older sister Eleanor/Ellen and her husband James Mellon Chase, son of George W. and Margaret (Bartlett) Chase (married 17 years, with no children).

1900 census

On 19 June 1904, Roxanne’s only child married Georgianna Hughes/Clough, daughter of John Hughes and Katherine “Kittie” (Perry) Hughes/Clough/Shipman, born in Rome, New York, who was residing in Lynn, employed as an “operative” at shoe manufacturing company (likely where she and Charles, nicknamed “Garrie” met).

Six months later, on 8 December 1904, Georgianna gave birth to Roxanna’s only grandchild who survived to adulthood, Charles George Hall.  They lived less than a mile away, on 17 Dale Street.

Pictured 1905: Buster the dog, Charles G. Hall and Roxanne.



Pictured – 3 generations – Roxanne’s husband Ephraim, son Charles & grandson Charles

In 1910, Roxanna and Ephraim (a carpenter) were living in same home, now mortgage free, renumbered to 315 Forest. They were renting to 31 yr old Clara A (Pratt) Williams, Roxanna’s niece, daughter of George and Bessie (Wilson) Pratt, and her husband Charles.

1910 census

Malden Square – 1910

In Januray 1910, Roxanna’s sister Eleanor/Ellen passed away from ovarian cancer.  Roxanna died that same year, on 1 November 1910 of chronic heart disease, at the age of 51.


Her obituary and funeral notice published in the Malden Evening News reads:

Mrs. Anna A Hall – Mrs. Anna A., wife of E A Hall, passed away last evening at her home, 315 Forest st, after a protracted illness, heart disease being the immediate cause of her death. Mrs Hall was born in Boston and educated in the public schools of that city. She was the daughter of David Wilson and had lived in Malden over a generation. In 1880 she was married in East Boston to Mr. Hall by the late Rev Dr L. B. Bates. Her husband, a son Charles M. and a sister, Mrs. Bessie Pratt of Dover, NH survive her. Mrs. Hall was a member of the Rebekahs and much interested in their work and they will assist at the funeral which will take place on Friday at 2 o’clock.  Mrs. Hall was a devoted wife and mother and was endeared to all who knew her. During her long residence here she became highly esteemed and her passing away means a distinct loss to friends and neighbors.


The funeral of Mrs. Anna A, wife of E A Hall of 315 Forest Street, a well known and esteemed resident, was held at her home yesterday afternoon.  Rev M C Hunt, pastor of the Forestdale Chapel conducted the services. The house was filled with relatives and friends and Mrs Mina Rich Sargent was the soloist rendering “Face to Face” “Passing out of the Shadow” “My Heavenly Home” Resolute Rebekah lodge members attended the service in a body and the usual ritual of the order was conducted by the NG Mrs. D E Kelley; V G Mrs. H R Campbell and Chap, Mrs. F.A. Magee.  There was a most beautiful profusion of floral tributes from friends and relatives. The interment was at Forestdale.


Odd Fellows, recognizing the need for a woman’s touch and her helpfulness in carrying out the principles of Odd Fellowship, brought into being the Rebekah degree, founded upon the principles of faithfulness, hospitality, purity and dedication to the principles of the Order as portrayed by women characters of the Bible. 

I believe in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of man, and the Sisterhood of woman.
I believe in the watch-words of our Order – Friendship, Love and Truth.
Friendship – is like a golden chain that ties our hearts together. Love – is one of our most precious gifts, the more you give, the more you receive. Truth – is the standard by which we value people. It is the foundation of our society.
I believe that my main concern should be my God, my family and my friends. Then I should reach out to my community and the World, for in God’s eyes we are all brothers and sisters.

Ephraim Augustus was committed to the insane asylum at Danvers State Hospital (Massachusetts) in 1916.  His son filed for guardianship of the $2,807 estate, which included the Forest Street home.  Ephraim’s sister Ellen signed along with Kittie Shipman (his son’s’ mother-in-law). Less than a year later, Ephraim died from septicemia following gangrene of the foot.

Roxanna and Ephraim are buried at Forestdale Cemetery, Malden, Massachusetts, burial plot: section 33, lot 22 with their son Charles M., his wife Georgianna, grandson Charles G. and his wife Edith Anna (Haines).

911167ef-5cdb-4dbc-8165-306c455fdbf2 7b9dcbe2-9a3f-4d9f-a96d-b6654bbeb3ba

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all – a day to celebrate that I REALLY am Irish!


Thoughts and future research….

(1) Roxanna’s parents David M. Wilson (son of Thomas & Jane) and Elizabeth Long (daughter of Alexander) were wedded Tuesday evening, 20 July 1847, by Rev. Wm. Harrison on who was affiliated with St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Main Street, Saint John, New Brunswick.

Follow up – Church records for the St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Saint John, New Brunswick are microfilmed –  at PANB.  Either I (or a hired researcher) need to look through them for Wilson/Long – baptism, marriage, death and other church records. Perhaps there will be a reference to an area in Ireland or other relatives who if traced could reveal Irish place of origin.

church records

(2) In 1851 & 1861, all of the census records that survive of Anglicans with the surname “Long” place them in Donegal (note that many census returns were destroyed). Could this be Elizabeth’s place of origin?

1851 and 1861 irish census NB

(3) There is one Alexander Long in New Brunswick, b. 1811, he is likely too young to be Elizabeth’s father (she was born 1823), he arrived in 1821 (she claims to have arrived 1840), but lots of similar family names – maybe a relative? There are three Long families who are neighbors in Westfield, Kings County, NB – Westfield was a parish very close to Saint John’s County (the Long/Wilson marriage location).

1851 and 1861 Long families

(4) What does the “M” stand for in David M. Wilson?

– Daughter Roxanna names her child Charles Milton Hall.  I believe Charles is for her recently deceased brother – could the Milton be from her dad’s name? [her husband did have an uncle Milton Hall]

– Daughter Elizabeth names a child Charles Mellen Pratt – could this be the M. in David’s name? [her sister Ellen married Charles Mellen Chase – coincidence?]

– Son David M. Wilson, jr. died in Malden in 1886, age 36, single – his birth/death records do not list anything other than “M”.

(5) It is possible that David Wilson’s parents are also living in Westfield in 1851 – a Thomas, Jane with a son John are listed but with an 1837 arrival date (David in 1851 claimed an 1830 arrival).  Note that they are neighbors with the Elliot’s, Note that a Jane Long married Thomas Elliot on April 12 1851 in the Portland Parish – perhaps a relative of Elizabeth’s?  The 1851 Portland Parish (SD 68) census does not survive.

1851 Wilson

By 1861, John is running the farm, Jane is living with him in Westfield, and a “nephew” John S. Breen has joined them.  Did one of John’s sisters marry a Breen?  Did father Thomas die between 1851 and 1861? In 1861, Jane is listed as Presbyterian, not Anglican.

1861 Wilson

I looked through the PANB records online and found no evidence of the death of Thomas Wilson or the marriage of a Wilson to a Breen.

(6) In the 1851 & 1861 censuses, the Wilson’s (all Presbyterian) living in Westfield claim to come from Derry – – could this be David’s birthplace?

(7) Witnesses to David Wilson & Elizabeth Long’s marriage in Canada were James & Catherine Crawford – who were they?

Crazy Cat Lady?!?!?! Photo Identification and Do you include family pets in your genealogy?

I am the fourth generation to have lived in the Malden, Massachusetts home purchased 83 years ago  by my great-grandparents Charles “Garrie” Milton Hall and Georgianna “Georgie” (Hughes/Clough) Hall.  They purchased it 10 May 1930 from Carrie M. Hawkridge of Marblehead (taking out a $5,000 mortgage).

Middlesex South District Deeds – book 5460, page 321:

book 5460, page 321 Charles Milton Hall pg 1book 5460, page 321 Charles Milton Hall pg2

My childhood attic is chock full of treasures! Lots and lots of photos! 99% with no identification.  Except of course the pet photos, all of which are labelled.  This was exciting for my 12-year-old niece – who tells me that the only family genealogy that interests her is that of the family pets.  Charles Milton and Georgianna raised and raced greyhounds, their son Charles Jr. (my grandfather) took over the greyhound business and became a veterinarian – so we had lots of pets – hence my nickname of “Crazy Cat Lady” and mother to four very spoiled cats – it is genetic!  Here is one I have been unable to identify (hopefully her descendants will find her in this blog someday) 🙂

cat cat2

The Halls lived on Dale Street in 1916.  There were 18 Stearns in Malden in 1910, 5 different families.  The closest is the family on Rockwell St. (.4 miles away) but the residents were 20+ years older than my ancestors.  I have two of Georgianna’s address books and there are no Stearns families in either. And who knows if this is a Malden cat! They could have been visiting relatives in Lowell, Oneida NY or traveling to race the greyhounds! Although my grandfather would have been about 12 and in school.  Since the photo was taken in mid-September (during the school year), perhaps it was in Malden – but, the photo was taken on a Sunday – perhaps on a weekend trip. Or perhaps this was my grandfather’s boyhood cat, the one who climbed the Christmas Tree a dozen times! See this blog post –

I digress. My mother, who still lives in the family homestead, found a family bible published in 1884; inside were seven small photos pasted into the “family portrait” section.  Who were these folks?  I decided to use some of the techniques I had heard of in various conferences, courses and blogs to surmise their identities.

Family Portrait Family Bible Family Bible2

The pages inside listed only 3 names:

Ephraim Augustus Hall, born December 28, 1852

Roxanna Aurelia Wilson, born October 12, 1859

Charles Milton Hall, born March 7, 1881

bible births2 bible births

I don’t recognize the handwriting – it’s not my mother’s, my grandmother Edith (Haines) Hall’s or my g-grandmother Georgianna’s.  I can only guess it probably is that of Roxanna Aurelia Wilson, Charles Milton’s mother.

The first three photos were taken by the same photographer. E. C. Swain of Malden Centre, Mass. Tattered and Lost’s blog tells what little is known of this photographer Edwin Chandler Swain (1835-1911):

back5 three Hall photos

I believe that there is a strong possibility that the man in the photo above is Ephraim Augustus and the boy, Charles Milton.  Since Ephraim had only one known wife, I am guessing that the woman pictured is Roxanna Aurelia Wilson.

The photo below is known to be Charles George Hall, center, Charles Milton Hall, right and Ephraim Augustus Hall, left  – do you agree that these are the same folks?:


Two other photos in the bible were also taken by Malden photographers:  C.O. Hodgman (woman pictured) and Wm. H. Cromack (man pictured).  I located a Charles O. Hodgman in A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers 1839-1900.  Charles was a photographer in Malden from 1878-1883.

back4two Hall photosback3

The remaining two bible photographs were taken in Boston: John Hofstrun (woman pictured), who was active in Boston from 1873-1876 per the Massachusetts Historical Society website and Chute, 12 Tremont (man pictured). A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers 1839-1900 lists a Robert J. Chute of 13 Tremont Row, Boston who was in the business 1860-1867.

back1  two Hall photos2 back2

While I can’t be 100% certain, it would seem to make sense that these are photos of Charles Milton’s 4 grandparents.

Top photo set:

(1) Horatio Hall – b. 18 Jun 1802 Norton, MA; d. 11 May 1884 Malden, MA

(2) Elizabeth (Pinder) Hall – b. 18 Jun 1810 Ipswich, MA; d. 22 Jul 1886 Malden, MA

Bottom photo set:

(3) David M. Wilson – b. 31 Jul 1824 Ireland; d. 31 Aug 1879 Boston, MA

(4) Elizabeth (Long) Wilson – b. 21 Mar 1823 Ireland; d. 25 Feb 1897 Malden, MA [lived in East Boston until her husband’s death in 1879]

Although I haven’t found anything on photographer Wm. H. Cromack, the other three photographers were active during the lifetime of these folks at the time when they would have been the age they appeared in the photographs (if that makes sense).

Elizabeth (Pinder) Hall – photo by Charles O. Hodgman, a photographer from 1878-1883. Elizabeth would have been age 68-73.

David M. Wilson – photo by Robert J. Chute,  in the business 1860-1867. David arrived in Boston about 1852 and would have been 36-43 in this date range.

Elizabeth (Long) Wilson – photo by John Hofstrun, active from 1873-1876. Elizabeth would have been 50-53 years old.

Horatio Hall – photo by Wm. H. Cromack – process of elimination! I will say that this photo looks very similar to those on page 22 of the book, More Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929 published by Family Chronicle, Moorshead Magazines, Ltd. 2011 which are dated 1864, the year Horatio turned 61. There is a William H. Cromack in the Massachusetts census data – he seems to change careers frequently! Cabinet Maker, Jeweller, Constable, Painter…. I am guessing he’s our guy but have been unable to determine when/if he worked as a photographer!  Perhaps some searching in the Malden City Directories the next time I visit Boston!

Wiiliam censuses

What do you think? Am I right?  This one seems like a no brainer, but I have been mistaken before when I jumped to conclusions too quickly.

And yes, for those who might be wondering, my cats are included in my tree 🙂

Suicide or Toothache?

I don’t know much about my 3rd g-grandparents, David M. Wilson and Elizabeth Long.  Just a few facts:

David M. Wilson, son of Thomas Wilson and Jane [unknown], was born in Ireland.

David Wilson

His family immigrated to New Brunswick, about 1830, when he was six. There he met Elizabeth Long, an Irish immigrant, daughter of Alexander Long, who arrived in New Brunswick about 1840, at the age of seventeen.

Elizabeth Long

They were wedded Tuesday evening, 20 July 1847, by Rev. Wm. Harrison on who was affiliated with St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Main Street, Saint John, New Brunswick.

David and Elizabeth marriage

Two known children James Alexander (b. 27 Feb 1850) and David M. (b. 3 Jan 1852)  were born in Saint John, New Brunswick.

David, Elizabeth and James were enumerated in the 1851 Canadian census.

1851 census

The family immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, between Jan 1852 and Mar 1853.  David was a painter and paper hanger who for the next 25+ years reported being born in either Maine or New Brunswick, most likely to avoid discrimination, which was rampant in Boston,  because of the Irish Potato Famine,  a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852.[1]

Four known children were born in Boston, Eleanor “Ellen” (b. 21 Mar 1853), Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” (b. 12 Nov 1855), Charles L. (b. abt 1857) and my 2nd g-grandmother, Roxana Aurelia “Anna” (b. 12 Oct 1859).

The family moved frequently, finally settling first at 9 South Margin and then 177 Bennington, both in East Boston for a number of years.


Bennington Street, East Boston, ca. 1915-1930


On 31 August 1879, David died.  His death certificate lists the cause as “Phithisis” [defined as: pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive systemic disease].

End of story, right?  In 1879, obituaries were nonexistent or limited to a one liner listing nothing more than the decedent’s name.

I spent a day at the Boston Public Library last week searching through old copies of the Malden Evening News for about 30 of my ancestors who lived in that town from 1890 – 2013 – including David’s widow Elizabeth (Long) Wilson.  Her obituary didn’t say much:


I was tired, it had been a long day, my eyes were shot from looking at microfilm too long – a blizzard had started outside, the MBTA (my ride back home) was closing early because of the anticipated weather, I wanted to relax and have a beer (that’s what you do during a blizzard, right?).  I asked the librarian if she thought it was worth it to look for David’s death in the Boston papers. Her opinion was that I would likely find nothing, but added as I walked away, “it doesn’t hurt to look”.  I returned to the desk – I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to get back to the BPL for a few months, so expecting to find nothing, I looked.

To my surprise, there were three articles!

The first, from the Herald, stated that David, while on a job site painting, had attempted suicide by drinking laudanum.


The second, a local East Boston publication, stated that he may have taken laudanum to relive the pain of a toothache. But why did he lock himself in another room to drink the potion?


The third, claimed “He Accomplished His Object”, he is dead”


How awful for his wife! Did he really commit suicide or was it a toothache?

According to Wikipedia:

“A drink of laudanum was made of 10% opium and 90% alcohol, and flavoured with cinnamon or saffron. It was first used by the ancient Greeks, and in the 19th century mostly used as painkiller, sleeping pill, or tranquilizer. It was cheaper than poppy oil and could be drank like you’d drink scotch. It took a while for the Victorian to figure out the negative side effect, only in 1919 the production and export of opium was prohibited, and in 1928 a law was passed that prohibited use.

[Wikipedia’s list of laudanum-users is so incredibly long, it makes no sense to copy it. Here’s some notable users: Lord Byron, Kate Chopin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe.]

So, it was a pretty popular drug. In fact: innumerable Victorian women were prescribed the drug for relief of menstrual cramps and vague aches and used it to achieve the pallid complexion associated with tuberculosis (frailty and paleness were particularly prized in females at the time). Nurses also spoon-fed laudanum to infants.

My thinking is that David had a toothache, but I struggle with this theory, only because the newspaper stated that he locked himself in another room after taking the drug.  I guess we’ll never know the real truth.  Was he depressed?  There are a few cases of mental illness in my family.  David’s daughter Roxana married Ephraim Augustus (my 2nd g-grandparents) – who was declared insane in 1916 at the age of 62 – my grandfather Charles Hall had breakdown as a young man – was it from genetic causes on both sides of the family or only Ephraim or was it unrelated? One of  David’s  granddaughter’s (Clara Rebecca Pratt, daughter of Bessie) was also committed. In 1930 she was found as a patient at Brattleboro Retreat where she remained until her death in 1970.  The Brattleboro Retreat provides specialized diagnosis and treatment services those suffering from a wide range of psychiatric and addiction challenges since 1834.

Poor Elizabeth, in 1879 she loses her husband, the newspaper publicized his death as a suicide – true or not, publicly humiliating her family.   Her young blind son, Charles, died suddenly, less than a year later, on 31 Mar 1880, with inflammation of the bowels.  Six years later she buried her eldest sons James (d. 14 Sep 1886, consumption) and David (d. 20 Jun 1886, meningitis).  Elizabeth herself passed on 25 Feb 1897.  Anna and Ellen lived only until 1910 leaving poor Bessie as the only surviving child (she died in 1932).

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