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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.


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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

“I’m Going to Disney World!”

Next week, the winner of the Super Bowl heads to Disney World!…..

Two Hall immigrants settled in Bristol County, Massachusetts in the 1600’s; George Hall of Taunton and Edward Hall of Rehoboth.  My 5th g-grandfather, Brian Hall, b. 1727, in an area now known as Raynham, Massachusetts, was thought to descend from one of these men.

Paperwork is sparse, so my brother kindly agreed to join the Hall DNA study in an effort to identify our ancestors.  He took a Y-DNA67 test (for males only, which follows the paternal line); we matched neither George or Edward.  Five years passed.  Bristol County historians, with whom I consulted, insisted there were no other Hall families in the area.  They recommended that I seek other Hall descendants of Brian, outside of my direct line line, and convince them to test.  They suspected that one of my grandmothers may have passed the “milkman’s child” off as a Hall. We are kit #115426 –

About a year ago I tracked down two 5th cousins and blogged about it here –  –  The Update?  We are Halls!  We matched 35 of 37 markers.  There was a 3rd Hall family in Bristol County! To date I have found no evidence of this family but interestingly we have a 3rd DNA match – Joseph Hall, who immigrated from England in 1745, married Ann Hitt Martin Strange and settled in Harrison and Lewis Counties, West Virginia –

Hopefully, future Hall testers will help connect our dots.

DNA resultsFirst 30 Hall DNA markers (double click to view larger)

When I discovered that my mother was Acadian, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino ( suggested an mtDNA test (which follows the maternal line), to help break through my brick wall and prove Stephen White’s (Genealogist at Moncton University’s Centre d’Études Acadiennes) theory of our heritage..  Stephen was correct! We matched Genevieve Lefranc one of the “Mothers of Acadia”

Next I tried the family finder test, hoping to break through a few brick walls; my mother, husband and a few cousins tested.  My results are on 23andme,, FamilytreeDNA and GEDMATCH.  Hundreds of matches…  Confusing matches.  I need to learn more about DNA and how it works.  So I start Googling.  I come across a blog and began reading about DNA –

I notice that Kitty’s blog is running a contest – winner gets an entrance pass to RootsTech.  A bell goes off in my head.  Last summer, when I ran into Michael Hall (no known relation), Deputy Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch, I asked him which conference he would choose if he could attend only one.  He immediately responded RootsTech. So….I entered the contest. “Submit a question for author Stephen Wells”, a geneticist  – –  My question,  “What is the future of DNA in genealogy? – say 25 years from now….” won the contest!

So…. while the Super Bowl winner heads to Disney World, thanks to Kitty Cooper & DNA “I’m Going to RootsTech!!!!”   Flight and hotel booked, cat sitter in place and I am off to study the class schedule!

Stranger Exchanger!

My husband supports my genealogy efforts but does not comprehend why I seek out online 3rd, 4th & 5th cousins.  He emphatically exclaims “They are STRANGERS! Didn’t your mother ever teach you about “Stranger Danger!”

Yes, but strangers have family bibles, photos, letters and diaries! I have become good friends with many of these “strangers”. We exchange information to aid each other in breaking through brick walls, while adding color to ancestors’ lives. Many times the stranger is not even interested in genealogy. I send a bit of family history to pique their interest and get them looking through those old boxes stored in the attic.

In 2013, my long lost “stranger” cousin Sam, visited New Hampshire with a suitcase of photos, letters and scrapbooks.  His 2nd g-grandparents and my 3rd g-grandparents were George Perry and Ann Jones of Wales who later settled in Oneida/Herkimer Counties, New York. This was Sam’s second visit after our meeting through, when I posted  a “mystery photo” of my g-grandmother Georgianna (Hughes) Hall with her Grandma Ann (Jones) Perry Evans and 4 others who I later learned were Georgianna’s cousins Anna Belle Palmer, Kitty Mae Palmer, Leland Spoor [cousin by marriage only] and George Spoor. A 5th cousin, born after this photo was taken, was Gilbert Spoor.

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Sam was thankful to locate a photo of his grandmother, Kitty Mae Palmer (who he knew as Katherine) with her grandmother. I was a genealogy “newbie” and overwhelmed with the amount of information he shared in exchange for one photo!  He had visited Ann’s birthplace in Llanfaelog, Anglesey, Wales; had the ship manifest for Ann, her parents and siblings arrival in New York, in 1849, on the Julia Howard and had taken photos of the family graves at Wright Settlement Cemetery  in Rome, New York!

Sam “organized” letters he had inherited from his grandmother.  Upon arrival, he said something like “I have a letter, that your g-grandmother Georgianna wrote to my grandmother’s sister, Anna Belle, just after Christmas, in 1918.  I thought you might like it, since it mentions a cat, and you are a crazy cat lady”.

What a surprise!  My grandfather’s 14th Christmas!

My grandfather, Dr. Charles “Charlie” George Hall, a veterinarian, was my first “best friend”.

grampa and nana and me

Grampa with his mom (left) with Nana (right).


year bookgrampa college35a10208-b083-40c0-a6ea-e346979f7aa0014cefda-186a-46aa-a4cb-f478191cf3a07e22934a-7f49-4d4a-a656-2cd05e5eb21e1cc41fc5-613f-46da-b0ff-6e5d298e6b9f6925779788_37a9347142_o

0dd77cee-3403-4693-9de8-9689c195653e25760e6b-2429-47c2-a029-d723a2c84652grampa 1960.pngLawr st pic.png

I knew Grampa, but didn’t know him.  He was born 08 Dec 1904 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts, to Charles “Garrie” Milton Hall and Georgianna “Georgie” Hughes [who used her former step-father’s surname, Clough], of 17 Dale Street. His only sibling, David, was premature, and died one day after birth on 3 Jan 1914, just after Grampa’s ninth birthday

Grampa was blessed to have known three grandparents and his step-grandfather Mr. Shipman.  At age seven, he traveled with his mother and grandmother to their Rome, New York birthplace to visit his Uncle.

August 1911 The Utica NY Herald Dispatch: “Mrs. F. M. Shipman of Lynn, Mass and her daughter, Mrs. C. M. Hall, and son Charles of Malden, Mass[achusetts], are spending two weeks with Mrs. Shipman’s brother. W. C. Perry, 414 West Dominlck street, [Rome]”. [Mrs. F.M.  Shipman aka Kittie Perry, was Grampa’s maternal grandmother].



3 generations

Grampa and Roxanne

Grampa had appendicitis at age 17.  At 18, his aunt, Ellen Maria Sophia (Hall) Nichols, bequeathed $500 (about $6,800 in 2015 buying power), a small fortune for a teenager.

He attended the Faulkner school, graduated from Malden High (1922), attended the School of Ontario (1922-1926) and Veterinary School at Ohio State College (1926-1929). As a member of Omega Tau Sigma, he resided at the fraternity house (1928/9). His inheritance likely covered the $27 -$32 quarterly tuition, and much of his living expenses.(Student_Fees_1874-1967). He graduated in June of 1929 with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

He met my grandmother, Edith Anna Haines, daughter of John Glatis Haines and Edith Bernice Lansil, at a dance at the Congregational “branch church” on Forest St., Malden (my grandmother asked the minister to introduce them). They married on 18 July 1930, without his mother’s approval; Georgianna considered her son’s marriage a social step in the wrong direction (she had selected another woman, with whom she had hoped he would connect).  Grampa visited his mom daily, until she died in 1964, despite her disdain.

In 1933, Charlie and Edith took a $5,000 mortgage, and purchased their home at 228 Main Street, Malden. They had two boys, the later being my dad, Robert “Bobby”, born on their wedding anniversary in 1935.  Grampa was strict with his children and frugal, a result of the Great Depression.  My grandmother was an active church member, but my grandfather, a non-church goer, jokingly proclaimed himself a “Holy Roller”.

For over twenty years, Grampa raised, trained and raced greyhounds (a tradition started by his parents) on a farm in Wilmington, Massachusetts until it was taken by eminent domain in 1964 (at it’s height, the business had just over 100 dogs and puppies, most with the surname Matron or Guide); the farm was purchased in 1945, perhaps with the winnings of the family’s famous dog, Hi-Guide.

After graduation, Grampa worked at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston for four years, then in 1933, began a veterinary practice in Malden. His rates were low and he excelled at his craft.  He never took a vacation and clients adored him.  As a young adult, everyone I encountered from Malden, knew my grandfather.


animal hospital


Grampa inside of his operating room at 228 Main Street “fixing” my apparently very sick toy dog in the 1960’s.  The rear of the photo says that I paid a penny to have the dog operated on…

His best buddies were Hy Goldberg, the local Jewish druggist, Leo Norton who owned a Malden funeral home and Dr. Cornelius “Connie”  Thibeault, a fellow colleague, also an Ohio State graduate, of Wakefield, then Ipswich who had his own horses (a home I loved to visit with Grampa)!

In 1939, he purchased the home next door, as a birthday gift for Nana, their rental property until his death.

Middlesex land deeds to 1950 CG Hall.png

There were hardships. As a young man, Grampa had a breakdown which resulted in the newlyweds temporarily residing with Georgianna. His young wife battled cancer and lost a breast at a fairly young age. One of her arms swelled and stayed that way (doctors never discovered the cause). In 1942, Grampa rushed to his dad’s bedside in Florida, and watched him die at the age of 61.  He nearly lost his youngest son, my dad, to illness, while he was stationed in Germany in 1958 (his friend, Hy Goldberg, arranged a $513.20 ticket, “economy”, so Nana could fly to Frankfurt. On Bob’s 23rd birthday, also her 28th anniversary – she writes in her journal, “miss Charlie something terrible”).

charles milton died

Grampa was a “meat & potatoes” guy who ate on a TV tray most nights. He collected old coins, enjoyed the television show “Let’s Make a Deal”, introduced us to the board game “Oregon Trail”and taught me to play competitive chess.

He gave my dad our house (his parent’s home, which they purchased in 1930, three months prior to his marriage) for $1.00 in exchange for a promise to take care of Nana, when he was gone.  There was a gigantic pine tree in the back yard planted by Grampa as a young man, which he confided was “no taller than me”.  When I was a child it was a great place to play; the ground was covered with a deep bed of comfy pine needles, a small space protected by the heat of summer.

tree tall

When Grampa hugged me, his face was “scratchy”.  He seemed to always be wearing a leisure suit and a fedora hat. In bad weather he picked us up at school in his big green truck (my mom didn’t have a car) and when Nana was with him, we would sing things like  “Daisy, Daisy / Give me your answer, do….” on the short ride home.  Likely how my very first kitten, a gift from Grampa, was named Daisy.

For as long as I can recall, my brother, sister and I (and later my baby brother) spent every Saturday with Grampa and Nana, at their 228 Main Street home and veterinary office (except, according to my mother, one week each summer, when my cousin visited, and reportedly cried if she didn’t have them all to herself). My grandparents stopped by our house, just two miles away, several times a week. On the rare occasion my parents had a social engagement, Nana and Grampa were our babysitters.

I was six years old when my Grampa described his desire for my future. “You will become a medical secretary!!” he stated emphatically on a number of occasions.  I was not sure how a medical secretary differed from a regular secretary but based on what I had heard from my mother (a secretary prior to marriage) a job as a typist did not sound like much fun.  But…I loved Grampa’s attention and worked diligently to make him proud.  In first grade instead of “run Jane run,” I learned to spell and define words like castration, hysterectomy and expectorate. Grampa would administer verbal quizzes to test my retention.  I passed with flying colors and begged for more. Weekly Grampa would present one or more books covering every imaginable topic. He introduced me to the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew.  My father’s office became a small library. On most days, after school through bedtime, my nose was buried in a book, in lieu of watching the popular kids shows.

In addition to being my first teacher, Grampa was a genius. He was a life long learner who in 1975 cured cancer in a greyhound through a diet of raw fish and selenium.


By 5th grade, I traveled alone on Saturdays, catching the 6:30 AM public bus to my grandparents home on the other side of the city. My grandfather, who was semi-retired, would begin operations at 7 AM. I observed closely as he skillfully performed surgeries on cats and dogs. I held the animal’s legs while Nana would moisten a giant cotton ball with ether and place it a cylinder like contraption over the animal’s face, speaking softly to the little guy until he went under.

Grampa’s second love was raising greyhounds and racing them at Wonderland and the Topsfield fairgrounds where he moonlighted as the track’s veterinarian. I was the eldest local grandchild and my grandfather’s sidekick. He let me name some greyhounds, always bet $2 on the dog of my choice and bought me jelly donuts at a fair food stand when we arrived early on crisp fall mornings. The dogs’ winnings went to a college fund for his five grandchildren.  Grampa was happiest when he was with family and animals, he lived what he loved.


doc hall

Enter a caption

One Saturday, Grampa and I were in the operating room alone (Nana was upstairs instructing my siblings on the art of baking).  He was struggling to untangle a cat’s matted coat, with a giant metallic comb.  Suddenly, Grampa drew his hands to his heart, and withered back in pain.  He soon recovered; looked me in the eye and sternly said, “DO NOT tell your grandmother”.  I was in the 8th grade.  I kept his secret.

My dad drove him to the hospital later that night. He died a day later, on Monday, 1 March 1976.  It was leap year; I often thought he might have lived, had there been no 29th day of February that year.


Grampa was buried at Forestdale Cemetery, Malden alongside his parents and paternal grandparents.  Nana joined them in 1999.

Grampa left me a clock, saying he had planned it to be my wedding gift, it is a treasured possession of mine.



To have a letter from a “stranger” that gives me some insight into Grampa’s childhood is a wonderful gift!

It reads:

Christmas Day

First excuse paper as I didn’t want to go upstairs, being pretty tired. I am awfully lame and no strength but am in hopes to be better soon.

Glad Aunt Delia was better as sickness makes it awfully hard for everyone.  We had a nice day. Mamma and Mr. Shipman were up. Ma came up yesterday about noon and Mr. S. today. We all received our share of gifts.

Little Charlie got everything he asked for. His father got him a Rifle which will worry the life out of me but I guess he won’t use it yet awhile as last year he got a dandy air rifle. I gave him a Receiver + Sender of a telegraph set. Suppose the whole house will be wired all up now, and a belt.  Ma gave him a Compass + Pedometer, two batteries, 4 books, $2.00 and then he got several other things from friends.

Suppose you received lot of pretty things. Tell me about them. Thank you very much for my pretty handkerchief. They are always needed and I love pretty ones and I have quite a few that I am very choice of and among them are yours.

I received a lonely long letter from Gilbert yesterday saying he was well and he wanted to go to Germany. He also said he was going to visit us when he gets back in the USA more [?] when he comes. Don’t forget to come with him. We have beds for everyone and always have plenty to eat.

Glad you liked Chas. picture. That is his dog, the first good one he has ever taken to and they are Pals [Grampa’s father raised boxers for show and greyhounds for racing]. He has a cat that he likes and that raises the deuce with everything. He has been up the Xmas tree about a dozen times so far and has tried his best to get everything off.

Mamma sent her love to all. She was quite lame but outside of that feels pretty good. She has had us all playing cards all day. Little Charlie is going to take after her I guess as he wants to play with everyone he can get to play. He has only just learned.

Sorry Leland’s folks had the flu.

Well Anna Belle, I have written a long letter to Gilbert and this one so I guess now I am ready to go to bed. Hoping it will find all well also wishing all a Happy New Year.

With love to all.


P.S. Hoping Gilbert will be home soon.




In summary, don’t be afraid to look for some Stranger Exchangers who may hold a piece of your family history!!

PS: For those of you wondering about Gilbert, he was honorably discharged about six months later on July 3, 1919.  I don’t know if he ever made the trip to Malden to visit his cousins.

Gilbert discharged

Grandpa’s Sister in the 1900-30 Census – What’s Her Married Name?

For those female siblings who you uncover in the United States 20th century census, and don’t know what became of them, here’s a quick tip.  It doesn’t always work since it assumes that the woman is deceased, that she died after 1962 and she made it into the Social Security Death Index.   But always worth a try!

You will need to know the woman’s birth date.  If you don’t have this information, order her birth certificate (most places had started to require birth certificates by the early 1900’s).  If you are not sure where to find a birth record, search for the city/county in Vital Rec 

VitalRec will usually tell you in what year the city/county/state began record collection, the current location of the records (i.e. county clerk’s office) and the cost of ordering the record.

Next, using one of the available Social Security Death Indexes (SSDI), enter the woman’s date of birth and first name:

This search should give you a pretty short list of possible surname combinations. You could try entering the state of issue (assuming her residence state hadn’t changed since the 1930 census).

You can then  use other research techniques (i.e. look for death records, also using VitalRec as a finding aid) to confirm a match or rule out the individual (s) as an ancestor.

Remember that you can also order a copy of the social security application (SS-5).  It’s a bit pricy, so you may want to confirm that you have the correct person before ordering.  Instructions are outlined in #6 of this prior post:

For those of you who have never ordered a copy of the SS-5, below you can view my g-grandmother Georgianna’s:

Happy Hunting!!

My Education Plan

I am participating in ProGen 8, an 18-month home-study course based on the book Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. We attend monthly group “online chats”, group members critique each others assignments and we all have access to a “genealogical” mentor who has volunteered to support our group.

This month’s assignment was to pull together our own personal Genealogy Education Plan. I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the items on my list and some things that I have done already to help further my research skills. 

Just as an Accountant or Doctor must keep us with changes in their field, so must a Genealogist. Primarily we gain knowledge  through hands on research experience. But learning is also enhanced by attending conferences and institutes, completing self-directed online (or classroom) based study courses and by reading genealogical books, magazines and other publications. To many of us, learning is a lifelong passion and by the way – as a side benefit –  lifelong learners are believed to have lower incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease.

My three favorite books:

  • The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, Val D. Greenwood
  • Google Your Family Tree, Daniel M. Lynch
  • The Family Tree Problem Solver, Proven Method for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Walls,  Marsha Hoffman Rising

Free Online Courses:

Other Online Courses:

Brick and Mortar

  • National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), held 11-16 July 2010 at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C., and College Park, Maryland, their website describes the course as “an intensive program offering on-site examination of federal records.  Designed for experienced researchers, it is not an introduction to genealogy”. The 2010 course (held July 11th-16th) was $350 –
  • The Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – $445, They describe their offerings as “provides an educational forum for the discovery, critical evaluation, and use of genealogical sources and methodology through a week of intensive study led by nationally prominent genealogical educators.  Students may choose one of the offered courses that range from a course for beginners to courses on specialized topics.” Registration opens in January 2011, and many of the courses are filled within minutes
  • Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research (also available ONLINE) class starting 9/2010 is priced at $2,695, the prerequisites are described as follows: “Some prior genealogical experience will be assumed; the student should have spent a significant amount of time searching for multiple generations of a family through record repositories and online sources, then documenting results. Students are expected to possess basic computer skills, including the ability to use a web browser and word processor. Students should also be able to communicate well in spoken and written English”. I will tell you this class is WELL worth it based on my personal experience!!
  • The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy fees for Jan 2011 are $320 (intermediate to advance)

There are lots that I haven’t mentioned.  These are just the ones with which I am familiar (either I have taken them, am in the process of taking them or plan to take them).  Cyndi’s list names many more or try a google search on: education ~genealogy

It’s also helpful to read some of the popular blogs – There are 100’s – I list my favorites (to the right of this post) in my blogroll.

It might be fun to attempt to complete the blog series entitled 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy, described as: ” to get all genealogists and family historians – both new to the field as well as the “lifers” – to stretch their brains and examine certain aspects of what some of us pursue as a past time, some as a profession and all as a passion”-

Magazines and other publications are helpful as well.  Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posts the table of contents for many of the popular ones so you can pick and choose.  Just search on the words “table of contents” in the search box within his blog:

I regularly read articles in National Genealogical Society Quarterly, New England Historical and Genealogical Register and American Ancestors.  I don’t yet follow Internet Genealogy ($27.95/annually), but it’s recommended by many of my classmates,  they do offer one free online issue

So what’s the value in reading articles that are unrelated to your own personal genealogical surnames?

1. It helps to improve your own research techniques learning how someone else found that missing record or correlated information to come up with a genealogical conclusion.

2. You learn of sources which you may not have been aware, which may help with the progression of your own family history research.

3. They are a great source for enlightening discussions (blogs too).

4.  It raises your awareness of some of the top genealogists in the field because you have read their work.  This helps when you are deciding whether or not to take a course or which session to attend at a conference – Who are my favorites, you ask?  99% of the courses/presentations that I have attended were WONDERFUL – here are just a few off the top of my head (certainly not an all-inclusive list) – Dr. Thomas W. Jones, D. Joshua Taylor, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Elissa Scalise Powell, Melinde Lutz Sanborn and Jean Nudd…..

This video by Mary Penner taped at the APG Professional Management Conference given in September 2009 on Henry O’Neil will give you an idea of how genealogies written by others might teach you something…

Last but not least, volunteer!  Helping to transcribe records or find records in different repositories “pays it forward” and helps to improve your skills – see my related post:

Happy Hunting!!

Do you use the American Genealogical Biographical Index??

The Rider Index (named after its creator, Fremont Rider, a librarian and an avid genealogist) also known as the American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI) can be a valuable tool when researching your family history.  The index is a useful finding aid which can lead you to published sources which mention your ancestor(s).

Many of today’s researchers don’t bother to consult this index as they feel it is archaic and unnecessary due to the introduction (and growing collections) of Google Books, the Internet Archive, HathiTrust and others

I disagree!!!  Read on……

The AGBI is an ongoing project started in 1942; the owner and publisher is the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, CT.  In over 225 volumes there are more than 850 sources mentioned, equating to over 12 million records which include over 2 million records from the Boston Transcript  (a genealogy newspaper column dating from 1896 to 1941).

According to Wikipedia (quoting Gary Boyd Roberts of NEHGS):

“The Boston Evening Transcript was a newspaper of record. Its genealogical column, which usually ran twice or more a week for several decades in the early twentieth century, was often an exchange among the most devoted and scholarly genealogists of the day. Many materials not published elsewhere are published therein.

The AGBI includes items such as town and county histories, biographies, vital records, Revolutionary war records and the 1790 census to name a few…. Much of this material has never been indexed elsewhere.

So let’s try an EXPERIMENT with one of my Pinder (sometimes spelled Pindar) ancestors from Ipswich, Massachusetts. I searched and found:

Name: Joanna Pinder
Birth Date: 1830
Birthplace: Massachusetts
Volume: 137
Page Number: 221
Reference: Caldwell recds. John and Sarah (Dillingham) Caldwell of Ipswich, Ms, and des. by Augustine Caldwell. Boston, 1873. (80p.)ds:47

How to find the book:

1.  Search in Google Books, Family Search, HathiTrust and Internet Archive for:

  • “Joanna Pindar” OR “Pindar, Joanna” OR “Joanna Pinder” OR “Pinder, Joanna”  Ipswich

– reveals 0 records in the Internet Archive & HathiTrust and 5 records in Google Books, 11 at FamilySearch, none written by Caldwell.

Note that a search of Pinder OR Pindar AND Ipswich in Google Books reveals 2,880 results…1,320 “full view”…too many for me!

2. Search all databases for

  • “Caldwell Family Records”,  Augustine Caldwell

– Google Books doesn’t have the original book but offers a number of places where it can be found – libraries and historical societies.

– Internet archives has actual copies of two Caldwell family books by Augustine Caldwell searchable and available for FREE download:

There are a number of Pinder/Pindar’s mentioned, references I may never have found without the aid of the AGBI:

“John Caldwell and Sarah Dillingham Caldwell, his wife, Ipswich, Mass., 1654 : genealogical records of their descendants, eight generations, 1654-1900 (1904)”

  • Page n46 – . John Pinder. Samuel Wait. Mary (Hart)
  • Page n85 – . Benjamin Pinder was Captain. The brig crossed Ipswich
  • Page 159 – John Pinder was twice married. His first wife,
  • Page 160 – of John Pinder. They had two daughters,
  • Page n89 – married Benjamin Pindar. Deborah, married David Hart, Newburyport,
  • Page 103 – Mrs. Pindar lived years, and departed this

Caldwell records : John and Sarah (Dillingham) Caldwell, Ipswich, Mass., and their descendants, sketches of families connected with them by marriage, brief notices of other Caldwell families

  • Page 30 – Benj. Pindar. iv. Deborah, m. Daniel
  • Page 41 – . Benjamin Pindar, Feb. , . She
  • Page n92 – Sarah Caldwell Pindar Thomas and Elizabeth Sweet Francis
  • Page 19 – , John Pinder, Samuel Wait. Mary Caldwell, widow
  • Page 46 – and Benjamin Pinder, bap. Jan. , .
  • Page 47 – . John Pinder, who has a general oversight of the
  • Page 73 – and Lucy Pinder, m. ( ) Susanna

HathiTrust has a number of Caldwell publications, one being  full copy of “Antiquarian papers. v.1-4 1879-1885.”

  • …Moses Pindar, and Solomon Coleman, these were all living in 1825. Others in the battle with them, were Benjamin Ross, Aaron Perkins, John Fow- ler, Philip Lord, jr., Joseph Wise, Abraham Kaowlton, Nehemiah Choate, Isaac Giddings, and Nathaniel Baker who was wounded in the an- kle and lamed for life.…
  • John Pindar, borne the 16 of August, 1658. Tho: son of Ezekiell Cheever, borne the 23 ot August, 1658. Ruth, daughter of Thomas Burnham, borne the 23 of August, 1658. Mordicha, son of Mordicah Larekum, borne 16 of ‘September, 1658. William, son of William Gutterson, borne the 20 of September, 1658…
  • …Henry Pindar dyed the 6 of February 1661 Elisabeth, daughter of Mr. Thomas Cobbitt dyed 13 Agust 1661 Jonathan son Isaack Foster dyed in May 15, 1661 Elizabeth, daught of Symon Tompson dyed about 12 June 1661 Sarah, daughter of Edward Allen died 10 Febru: Hanah, daughter of John Kindrick, dyed 20 of…
  • … John Pindar, borne 26 Aug. Daniell, sonn of Daniell Hovey, borne the 24 of June. Mary, daughter of Cornelius Waldo borne the 9 of September. Richard, son of Jerimiah Belcher the 10th of September. Sarah, daughter of Newman borne 23 of Aug. Joseph, sonn of John Whipple tersh borne the 17 of Sept. Jo…

There are many others…. But I just wanted to share a sampling.

More about the Index

A large number of the sources indexed are related to New England (since that is where the index was created) but there are other listings: early history of families from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland; entries for the first twelve colonies;  records from parts of the Pennsylvania Archives; and sources related to Vermont, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Alabama.

Only published sources are included in the index, so most of them are likely to be found at a number of libraries (but since most are out of copyright, check Google Books, Family Search, HathiTrust and the Internet Archive). If not online, the two libraries that are likely to have all the sources indexed are: The Godfrey Memorial Library and the Family History Library.

The entries are alphabetical and most index entries includes full name, birthplace, volume, page, biographical information and reference information (when known).

You can search for names listed in the index at, or download/search the actual printed volumes which have been digitized by FamilySearch here (since Ancestry’s indexing isn’t the greatest, I prefer the digitized version).

The website explains how the included names were selected:

Names that Were Indexed—The index is of all persons according to set standards, rather than every name. The following persons have been included in the index: (1) person mentioned as wife, husband, father, mother, son, daughter, or other relative, of some person mentioned; (2) person mentioned as being born or married, or those mentioned dying; (3) person mentioned as having performed military or public service, or mentioned in connection with other facts of biographical importance; (4) person mentioned in a deed or legal document; (5) person mentioned as one of the founders of a settlement, a passenger on an immigrant ship (before 1850), a member of a church (before 1850), etc.

Name the Were Omitted—Omissions include: (1) persons (such as ship captains, ministers, army officers, etc.) mentioned only casually and not related to the family line being followed; (2) all casually mentioned names of well-known persons (e.g., George Washington or Benjamin Franklin); (3) witnesses, and similar incidental names, that appear in legal documents; (4) authors of works cited, or persons cited as authorities for statements.

Also the following information may be useful when structuring your search:

Entry Construction—Each entry consists of the following: (1) Person’s surname, spelled as it appears in the indexed text (Note that names are, in general, written and filed as one word, e.g., “Van Derbilt” and “Van Der Bilt” would be written as “Vanderbilt”; also, surnames with apostrophes have been indexed and alphabetized without the apostrophe, though it does appear in the actual name, e.g., “O’Connor” would be filed as “Oconnor.”); (2) The person’s first name (or initial) and middle names (or initials), if any (Note that if there is no given name, we have substituted a long dash in that area, and where an abbreviated name is given in the text, we have substituted the full name indicated if it is clear (e.g., for “Dan” we write “Daniel”); (3) The person’s birth year, as it appears in the indexed text; (4) The person’s state (or states) of residence (including the states of birth and death, if they are known); (5) Biographical data, abbreviated; (6) The page citation of the text being indexed; consisting of the abbreviated title and page number.

Or you can submit search and photocopy requests to the Godfrey Memorial Library (copies are fairly inexpensive) by using this form:

So give it a try and share your successes with us!!

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