Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

My Brick Wall – Brian Hall b. 1727 Bristol County

I recently attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Problem Solving Course.  The abridge course description:

Choose a project focus, ancestor, time period, geographical area, and research questions.

Under guidance from professional consultants, student’s will use a group collaborative approach to discuss research progress each day, utilizing the combined knowledge and experience of the group to solve problems.

Although I am “more organized”, I did not solve the mystery.  If you want to help, here’s the abridged version!

Brian Hall tree.png


Who are the parents of Lt. Brian/Briant Hall, my 5th-great grandfather?

Lt. Brian/Briant Hall, a soldier in the Revolution, was born about 9 Jul 1727, perhaps in Taunton (later Raynham), Bristol, Massachusetts.  He married, 14 Nov 1751, Abiah Crossman, daughter of Samuel Crossman and Joanna Leonard and died about 13 Dec 1778 in Norton, Bristol, Massachusetts.  He is buried with Abiah at Norton Common Cemetery who died 15 Feb 1814.

Known children: Isaac, Nancy/Anna, Prudence, John, Brian, Abiah & Silas


The First Book of Raynham (Massachusetts) Records 1700–1835 (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Handwritten unpublished transcription, transcriber unknown, “First Book of Raynham Records,” donated to NEHGS in 1897) lists:

Birth: 9 July 1727 – Brian son of John Hall 3d of Taunton & Mary his wife


Brian's birth.png

The eastern end of Taunton, was incorporated as Raynham when Brian was about four, on April 2, 1731. The entries around his birth record date circa 1752/3. The entry is surrounded by other Hall families. Brian was married in August 1751. Thus, Brian perhaps reported the birth himself, about the time of his marriage.

As one is unable to recollect their own birth and because the records appear to be in the same handwriting (perhaps copied from an earlier book), the source and reliability of this information is unknown.

The 1733 Raynham tax list shows only one John Hall.

1733 tax list.jpg

The 1757 Raynham tax list shows a Brian Hall with a John Hall 3rd as the following entry.

brian tax list.jpgbrian-tax-list-pg-2


Unsourced publications assert that Brian Hall was the son of John Hall and Mary (unknown) and name him as a descendant of George Hall, an early settler of Taunton, Massachusetts through:

  • George’s son John m. Hannah Penniman,
  • George’s grandson John m. Elizabeth King and
  • George’s g-grandson John m. (1) Mary and (2) Hannah Williams
  1. The earliest of these (likely the source of all others) appears to be “The Halls of New England. Genealogical and biographical”. By David B. Hall, published Albany, N.Y., Printed for the author by J. Munsell’s Sons, 1883. George’s ancestry is found on pages 567-648, with Brian named on pages 574, 580 & 581 (screen shot below) –

Halls of NE.png

In his preface, the author writes, “…My first intention was to compile only my own line, the Halls of Medford, but afterwards I concluded to embrace in the work all the records that I could find. And I have found much more than I then supposed was in existence, and still the work is far from containing all that might be obtained….”  Perhaps less effort was given to unrelated Hall families.

I surmise that much of this genealogy was crafted through letters from Hall families residing in New England in 1883 vs. use of original sources.

Richard Henry Hall, a great-grandson of Brian Hall, in December 1886 became the mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts.  The election may have given him reason to name himself (and thus Brian) as a direct descendant of George Hall (See page 730 – Our Country and Its People: A Descriptive and Biographical Record of Bristol County, Massachusetts, Part 2) or perhaps he really believed that he decended from George as did all other Halls in the Taunton area.

The concept of “John 3rd” likely had different meaning in the 1700’s vs. current day, and should not be interpreted as the third generation of John in that particular family. It may mean there were at least three John Hall’s in the area from same or different families, and Brian’s father John was the youngest of the three.

2. Excerpt from George Hall and his Descendants (1603-1669) compiled by Robert Leo Hall, published in 1998 [copy in my private collection]:

John Hall born 1694, in Taunton, Bristol County, MA; died 1766 in Raynham, MA. First married Mary (Ukn) and had children Freelove and Brian. He second married Hannah Williams and had children John, Hannah, Elkanah, Elisha, Joseph and Noah.

His source: ALLRED RECORDS in the home of Marcella G. Allred, 349 W. 3rd St., Lovell, WY 82431. I have been unsuccessful in tracking her work.

Robert Leo Hall is deceased and his descendants do not know what became of this cited source.

In 2009, a descendant of Marcella wrote to me: Aunt Marcella Allred passed away a number of years ago.  I am not sure where any of her living children are, possibly in Utah.  Aunt Marcella was famous in this area for the amount of genealogy work that she did.  Her maiden name was Graham.  I am assuming that she must have been related to your ancestors.

3. In “Brian Pendleton and his Descendants, 1599-1910”, Everett Hall Pendleton, asserts that Brian’s mother was Mary Brettun/Britton, daughter of William Brettun and granddaughter of Mary (Pendleton) Brettun Cross Morey, who married (1) Joseph Hall and (2) John Hall, descendant of Brian Pendleton, born about 1599, one of the early settlers of Watertown and Sudbury, Massachusetts who owned land the Maine and New Hampshire.

Mary Morey left a will recorded 10 Jan 1732/3.  It is indexed under the name “Marcy Morey” in ”Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1687-1745″ H. L. Peter Rounds.  In it she names her father, grandfather, husbands and grandchildren.

mary morey.png

The actual will (copy in my files) reads:

….Item – I Give and Bequeath to my Grand Children William Brettun, Abiale Brettun, Ebenezer Brettun, Pendleton Brettun, Mary Hall, Lydia Brettun, Sarah Brettun, Elizabeth Brettun, & Abigail Brettun,  all the remaining three quarters of my Real Estate lands Meadows & ____ which belong to me to be equally divided between them Only that my granddaughter Mary Hall is to enjoy her part during her life and after her deceased her children to enjoy her part equally between them and their heirs….


Is Brian’s father John Hall, g-grandson of George who married 2nd Hannah Williams?

  1. Brian Hall, son of John (with Mary) and John Hall, son of John (with Hannah) were born within 7 months of one another, if the Rayhnam records of birth are accurate, and the pregnancies were full term – either John Hall got two women pregnant at the same time or there were two John Hall’s in Taunton/Raynham in 1727 (John Hall, son of John Hall and Hannah is born January 26, 1728. Date based on the birth record in the original Raynham Vital Records, he was conceived around May of 1727, Brian was born two months later).
  2. Brian Hall is not mentioned in John Hall of Raynham’s will of 1766. All 6 of his children by Hannah are mentioned (including those who got nothing):
    • He left of to John Hall eldest son of the deceased all the aforesaid of five lots of land one small right in the old iron works in Raynham and two seventh parts….
    • It is stated in the will “Nothing is left to Joseph Hall son of deceased because he already got a gift in his lifetime of 95 acres estimated at 3 quid and 50 pounds”. and “Nothing is left to Noah Hall son of the deceased because he already got a gift in his lifetime of four pieces of land which are estimated at three hundred pounds the land being about 84 acres”
  3. All land deeds in Bristol County were examined (by me) for Brian Hall. There was no land exchanged between the two men during their lifetime.
  4. None of Brian’s children followed the naming patterns of the John who married  Hannah’s parents/grandparents.
  5. A number of errors have been discovered by other researchers in the “Halls of New England”, most of which were repeated in the book “George Hall and his Descendants (1603-1669)”. One example is “A Maze of Halls in Taunton, Massachusetts: Correlating Land Description to Prove Identity” written by Marsha Hoffman Rising, and originally published in National Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1993 which sorts the Samuel Halls of George of Taunton and Edward of Rehoboth.
  6. Y-DNA evidence suggests there is no relationship between the two men. As of today, there are four testers through George Hall’s son Samuel. One from Samuel’s son Ebenezer and three from Samuel’s son Samuel. None of these match the DNA of three of Brian’s descendants, one through Brian’s son Brian and two through Brian’s son Silas.  As of Jan 2016 one of George’s son Joseph’s likely descendants has tested and we are awaiting results.  If he matches Samuel this will further support the theory that Brian does NOT decend from George. No living male Hall descendants have been located for George’s son John and thus that line remains untested. Y-DNA of Brian’s descendant do not match that of Edward Hall of Rehobeth either.

Results here:  Brian is family #47, George is family #24 and Edward family #6

Is Brian’s mother Mary Brettun/Britton, descendant of Brian Pendleton?

  1. In 1727, the name “Brian/Briant/Bryant” was quite uncommon. It is plausible that Brian was named after Brian Pendleton.  Many years later, the 1790 census on lists just thirteen Brian/Briant’s as head of households in the United States (even with indexing errors and the fact that other household members are not listed, this seems low and indicates the name uncommon). *Note that on a 1728 map of Taunton (available for purchase at Old Colony Historical Society), in the area which is now Raynham, there was a Briant/Bryant family residing next to the Crossman/Britton families could Brian instead be a family surname? 1728 map Taunton with names
  2. Mary Morey’s will is very detailed. Mary Hall is the only grandchild called out separately in the will: “Mary Hall is to enjoy her part during her lifetime but after her deceased her children to enjoy her part equally between them and their heirs” Although not direct evidence, this seems to imply that perhaps Mary already had children in 1732.
  3. There is record in Bristol County of Pendleton Britton and Brian Hall owning land together implying the two were associates and perhaps cousins?
  4. Brian was recorded as a cordwainer (shoemaker) in land deeds and Iron Works records beginning when he was 23. Mary Britton’s brother, Ebenizier, also of Raynham, was a cordwainer. Perhaps Brian was raised by the Britton’s and apprenticed with his uncle as a young man.
  5. In Raynham, 1731, a John Hall and William Britton are paid for supplying pine boards to the town.  This suggests a relationship between the two – Brian’s supposed mother was Mary Britton, William Britton’s daughter.  If John was a Miller with William Britton, maybe their kids married?


There is a John Hall who got land near Cobbler’s Corner (book 9, page 72 – an area which is now Mansfield) in 1715 it seems with Mill rights*.  He might be the same John Hall listed as an early Norton church member (a member of the First Church of Norton and witnessed the ordination of its first Minister, Joseph Avery in 1714). Wife of John Hall, Bethiah joined in 1716.

Then John Hall and wife Ruth record births of Bethiah 1 Dec 1721 and Benjamin 10 Aug 1720 in Norton (at that time Mansfield was part of Norton). So maybe Bethiah died, he married Ruth and named a child after his deceased wife?  In 1723 (not filed until 1735) there is a deed where a John Hall is selling land near Cobbler’s Corner, with Ruth his wife (book 23 page 494)

In Raynham, 1731, a John Hall and William Britton are paid for supplying pine boards to the town.  This suggests a relationship between the two – Brian’s supposed mother was Mary Britton, William Britton’s daughter.  If John was a Miller with William Britton, maybe their kids married?

There is also a marriage recorded of John Hall to Sarah Wellman both of Norton 7 March 1726/7. Then in 1730, there is a deed for purchase of land in Raynham by Samual Wellman of “John Hall of Norton, Miller” he also mentions his Mill, with a Sarah Hall as wife (book 25, page 116). Other witnesses include Benjamin Wellman, Isaac & Isaac jr Wellman***.

There is a John Hall, husband of Sarah who died intestate in 1736 in Raynham.  Others mentioned James Hall & John Hall yeomen.

None of these “Johns” appear to be listed in the “Halls of New England” book…  Unfortunately none of the John Hall wives were named Mary.

A Mary Hall who was born in 1699/1700 and is buried in Mansfield Cemetery called Happy Hollow Cemetery on York Street (Mansfield Vital Records).  She is called a widow when she died February 20, 1760 and her gravestone gives her age as being in her 60th Year.

**Halls of New England claims John Hall (a descendant of George) who married Esther Bell was the John who received the mill privilege in 1714 in Norton (which is modern day Mansfield) and that he lived at a place called Cobblers Corner…based on a review of land deeds this seems inaccurate.

*** Isaac Wellman died intestate before 1743 his heirs are listed as the widow Mary, sons Isaac, Ebenezer and Timothy and daughter Hannah.  A “deceased child” is also mentioned, it seems the other siblings are splitting her share – this might be Sarah.


Note: Brian recorded 63 land transactions in Bristol County and several in North Providence, Rhode Island in his lifetime, all have been examined but not all have been added to this timeline yet.

  • 9 July 1727 born to John 3rd and Mary (thus conceived around October/November 1726 – Brian’s birth record was recorded about 1752) – record indicates  a Raynham birth, however Raynham was not broken off from Taunton until 1731.
  • Sept & Oct 1747 – Hewing Timber and working with the carpenters at the forge (one of them being Thomas Crossman) – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society], Iron Works records for the Taunton/Raynham area.
  • 1750 – Land purchased of Solomon Printice for 80 pounds by Pendelton Bretton of Easton and Briant Hall of Raynham; land in Easton containing 40 acres that was laid out 30 Sept 1713 to James Phillips of Taunton on the 50 acre division that lies near the land of John Selleson [?] also another tract of land that lies next to this land in whole 90 acres; land conveyed to Printice as warranted by heirs of James Phillips – witnesses Abigail & Katherine Leonard [Bristol Deeds 37:536]
  • 1750 – Living next to Elijah Leonard in Raynham, MA – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • 1751 – Owns a Shop – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society] Several entries 1750 – 2 in regards to services as a cordwainer.
  • 1751 – Account book kept by the Leonard Family of Norton; References a brother several times, Brian receives credit for the services of the brother, no name given. – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • August 1751 – married Abiah Crossman (Abiah Crossman; Female; Birth: 28 AUG 1726 Taunton , Bristol, Massachusetts; Death: 15 FEB 1814; Father: Thomas Crossman; Mother: Johanna; (Joannah Crossman has a sister Alice Leonard and parents are Thomas Leonard and Joanna all of Raynham – per probate records) Spouse: Brian Hall; Marriage: 1751; Sealing to Spouse: 01 OCT 1953; Film Number: 458137) Brian Hall and Abiah Crossman marriage Raynham 1751
  • October 1751 – Signs a petition against a new road in Raynham, MA – Raynham Town Records
  • 18 May 1752 – Brian Hall saw that the 2 calves skins and one dog skin which he brought from Swanzey today comes to 4-10-00 at tenor [Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • September 26, 1752 – child of Brian Hall died in Raynham, MA  – Vital Records
  • 1752- Brian Hall – Distribution of Iron Shares [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • December 9, 1752 – Pendleton Britton and Brian Hall buy land in Easton, MA.
  • April 1753 – Brian Hall buys land in Raynham, MA from Alice Leonard, give several names including land bordered by Nehimiah and Nathanial Hall, filed 1758 [Bristol Deeds 43:115]
  • August 16, 1753 – son Isaac Hall born in Boston according to historical accounts – birth not located in Vital Records. The History of Norton reads:

Isaac Hall, Esq. (grad. H.U. 1775), was the son of Brian Hall ; and was born in Boston, Aug. 16, 1753. His father moved to Norton before Isaac entered college, and ever after resided there. Mr. Hall studied law, and died soon after entering upon his professional career. For more particulars of him, see Funeral Sermon by Rev. Sylvester Holmes. His tombstone, in the ” Norton common graveyard,” informs us that he was an attorney-at-law, and that he died Dec. 14, 1779, aged twenty six.  In the Providence Gazette of January 29 1780, may be seen a notice of him which says: “His learning, abilities as a lawyer, and strict adherence to the principles of virtue, rendered him dear to his friends, an honor to his profession, and highly esteemed by all his acquaintance.”

  • Historical accounts read: A year or more after their marriage and the death of their first child, they moved to Boston (WHY??), living there a few years, during which time their eldest son Isaac was supposedly born (no birth record located). Having purchased a farm in Norton, they moved there and Brian subsequently became a large owner and operator in real estate
  • April 1, 1755 – daughter Nancy Hall born, Norton – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • May 2, 1755 – Mentioned in the Account of Abijah Wilbore as receiving Iron – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • Sept 1755 – Brian Hall buys land in Raynham from Thomas White, 2 1/2 acres measured by Taunton proprietors – mentions Brian’s other property, filed 1758 [Bristol Deeds 43:116]
  • 1756 – Brian Hall – Ministers Rate/Tax Rate, Raynham Tax Records  [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • 16 & 17 January 1756 – by 2 quarts & half of rum; buy 1/2 gill of rum [Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • 6 August 1756 – by 2 quarts of NE rum to you at ___[Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • 10 August 1756 by 2 gills of NE rum to your workmen about hay [Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • 12 Aug 1756 – by 3 gills of NE Rum to your workmen [Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • 19 August 1756 – by 2 quarts NE rum to you at 26p per gallon [Old Colony Historical Society, Iron Works Account Book]
  • 1757 – Bryan Hall of Raynham for 240 pounds from John Gilmore land in Dighton purchased of Abijah Wilbur and land near the house of John Crane, land he sold to Wilbore, signed by Brian & Abiah Hall – witnesses Zephaniah & Anna Leonard [Bristol Deeds 42:507 – deed reads Bryan, signs as Brian]
  • 1757 – Brian Hall sells land to Alice Leonard in Easton, part of land bought with Pendelton Brittan of Solomon Prentice – 43 acres – witnesses are Leonards [Bristol Deeds 42:534]
  • 1757 – Brian Hall, Raynham Tax Records [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • 1757 – John Hall 3rd recorded next to Brian Hall in the Raynham Tax Records.  [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • 1757 – Last entry in account book, he is settling his account with Elijah Leonard – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • January 8, 1758 – daughter – Prudence Hall born Norton? – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • October 7, 1758 – Agreement between John Gilmore and Brian Hall – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • February 8, 1758 – Agreement between Abijah Wilbore and Brian Hall – Account Book [Old Colony Historical Society]
  • 1758 – Sale of Pew in Raynham Church, Brian Hall sells to Elijah Leonard his pew in Westward part of the church.  Witnesses: Thomas Crossman and Silence Hall.
  • April 13, 1758 – Brian Hall buys land in Norton: Elijah Leonard of Raynham for $240 lawful money sells to Brian Hall of Raynham, corwainer, a tract of land with dwelling house upon it – land description mentions land of Elnathan Jones, Josiah White, Seth Briggs, Cobb & 5 acres in Cedar Swamp mentions land of Thomas Shaw deceased, Joshua Fairbanks  – dated 31 Mar 1758 – witnesses Ebenezer Brettun & Ebenezer Brettun jun [Bristol Deeds 43:79]
  • October 12, 1759 – Brian Hall sells 114 acres of Land with a house, for £236 in Attenborough to Stephen Pond
  • October 10, 1759 – Brian Hall sells land in Norton, MA, to Elijah Leonard
  • 1750’s (??) per Old Colony Historical Society there is a land reference in Mansfield, MA, involving Brian Hall and a John Hall.  They are both pitching for the same piece of land in the 1750’s? Can not locate deed to which they are referring? –  there is a 1774 deed – Brian Hall of Norton yeoman (seller) for 2 pounds, 5 shillings paid by John Hall of Norton gentlemen transfers 2 1/2 acres of land in a tract of land known by the name Taunton North Purchase in Norton, Mansfield & Easton in Bristol County Common undivided land of said purchase bound on the East side from Moses Copland to Mansfield fur river (?) and by land owned by said John. And is ye 2 1/2 acres of land which Brian Halls house pitched for this day as may appear by said pitch if ye land is to be had in ye above described place and if it is not to be had these to be when me anyplace in common and undivided land where it is not pitched for to have and to hold said same. May 11, 1774, 14th year of his majestries reign King George 3rd. Witnesses: Benjamin Morey & Anna Hall
  • October 21, 1760 – son John Hall born Norton ? – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • October 3, 1765  – daughter Abiah Hall born Norton – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • October 30,1766 – Brian Hall buys land in Norton, MA, from Elijah Leonard
  • 1767 – Brian Hall sells land to David Manley
  • June 19, 1768 – son Silas Hall born  – – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • April 10, 1762/3 – son Brian Hall born  – – historical accounts, not listed in Norton vitals/births
  • 1771 – Brian Hall listed twice in the Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771, both entries in Norton (his son Brian was age 11).Brian Hall 1771 tax.png
  • 27 November 1772 – Brian Hall buys land in Easton, MA, from Alice Leonard
  • 25 May 1774 – Brian Hall buys land in Easton, MA, from George Leonard
  • 1774 – Properitors of the North Purchase to Brian Hall
  • 1774 – Jobe Hunt sells land to Brian Hall
  • 1776/8 – He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and according to published accounts  “one of the first to act and respond. He was also a member of the select committee of correspondence (read more of the committee here), to take into consideration the “Confederation of the Union of States” proposed by Congress, and also being on the committee to devise means for the formation of a State constitution”.
    • Hall, Brian (also given Briant), Norton. 1st Lieutenant, Capt. Isaac Hodges’s (2d) co., Col. John Daggatt’s (4th Bristol Co.) regt. of Mass. militia; list of officers chosen by the several companies in said regiment, dated Attleborough, March 18, 1776; ordered in Council March 21, 1776, that said officers be commissioned; reported commissioned March 21, 1776; also, Lieutenant, Capt. Isaac Hodges’s co., Col. John Daggit’s (Daggett’s) regt.; service, 25 days, in Dec., 1776, and Jan., 1777, on an alarm, including travel (34 miles) from Norton to Tiverton, R. I., and return; also, 1st Lieutenant, Capt. Samuel Robinson’s co., Col. Wade’s regt.; engaged June 18, 1778; service, 25 days, at Rhode Island; company raised to serve for 21 days from June 21, 1778; roll dated Attleborough.
  • Brian held positions in the town of Norton and was assessor the year previous to his death in 1778.
  • 13 December 1778 – died, buried at Norton Common Cemetery – Hall plot found to the right of the main entrance near the road at marker 126 behind a rust colored stone entitled “Briggs”.  Hall Stones in order are:
    • John Hall, died April 13, 1840, aged 79 years
      • Son of Brian and Abiah
    • Wells Hall, died Dec. 13, 1828, aged 19 years
      • Son of John and Dilly
    • Dilla wife of John Hall, died May 2, 1857
    • John S. Hall, died Nov. 27 1827
      • Son of John and Dilly
    • Silas Hall, died Jun 29, 1841, aged 73 years
      • Son of Brian and Abiah
    • Nancy Stanley, wife of Silas Hall, died March 26, 1833, aged 63 years
    • Anna, daughter of Silas and Nancy Stanley Hall, died Nov. 14, 1818 in the 22 year of her age
    • Prudence, daughter of Brian and Abiah Hall, died March 28, 1839, aged 81 years
    • Isaac Hall, Attorney at Law, son of Brian and Abaih Hall, died Dec. 14, 1779, aged 26 years
    • Lieut Brian Hall, A Patriot of the American Revolution, Died Dec. 13, 1778, in the 52 year of his age
    • Abiah, wife of Brian Hall, died Feb. 15, 1814 in the 88 year of her age

Brian Hall Grave Norton Common Cemetery.jpg


  • Why did Brian and Abiah supposedly move to Boston after the death of their first child, did they have family there? Is there any evidence of this other than historical town/county histories and published genealogies?
  • Who is Silence Hall? “1758 – Sale of Pew in Raynham Church, Brian Hall sells to Elijah Leonard his pew in Westward part of the church. Witnesses: Thomas Crossman and Silence Hall”.  Could she be the wife of Jacob Woodward named as “brother in law” in Brian’s will and Brian’s biological sister?
    • I leave to my brother in law Jacob Woodward and Silence [?] his wife to them their heirs an assigns forever real estate lying in North Providence in the state of Rhode Island excepting only ten acres to be measured of according to Quantity & Quatily [?] which I have herein given to my son Issac.
      • Brian’s wife Abiah Crossman was a 2nd cousin of Jacob Woodward – Robert Crossman was their g-grandfather. Would this cause Brian to refer to Jacob as brother-in-law?
      • Mary Britton’s brother William Britton jr. married Sarah Woodward (daughter of Robert Woodward and Hannah Briggs) who was a first cousin to Jacob Woodward (son of Ezekial Woodward and Sarah____). Would this cause Brian to refer to Jacob as brother-in-law?
      • Who is the Brian Hall Woodward b. 1778 (year of Brian Hall’s death); d. 1798 and buried North Providence at Hopkins burial ground (grave #35) next to Capt Richard Hutchins (grave #36)? All other surrounding stones blank. (Rhode Island Roots, Volumes 13-15 – Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 1987 – Registers of births, etc) – could this be a child of Silence and Jacob?
      • North Providence land deeds for the Halls and Woodwards were examined the only connection seems to be:
        • Ruth Woodward in N. Providence deeds pg 199 (1748 or 1768?) mentions brothers Jacob & Paul Woodward and father Ezekiel (will A774, 1760 N Prov.). One of the witnesses signs as Mary Hall. Brian did not have any children named Mary.
        • A Providence deed from 1821 [book 5 pg 86] mentions a Jacob Woodward, Mary Woodward and Henrietta Hutchins selling land.  Brian Hall (Brian’s grandson through his son Brian) signs as a witness.  He later marries Henrietta Hutchins daughter of Capt. Richard Hutchins (the man buried with Brian Hall Woodward) and Henrietta Woodward.  Could Henrietta Woodward also be a daughter of Jacob and Silence?
      • According to death indexes for Silence & Jacob – Silence was born abt 1740 – 13 years younger than Brian. So John 3rd would still be alive in 1740 if she is a sister! If correct, the age difference is further evidence that the John Hall who fathered Brian could not be the John Hall who married Hannah Williams!
        • WOODWARD Jacob, in 85th year, at Providence, Aug. 5, 1822 (birth about 1737).

        • WOODWARD Silence, wife of Jacob, at North Providence, in 76th year, Nov. 26, 1816 (birth abt 1740).

  • Who is Brian’s “brother” listed in Leonard’s account books? Full brother? Half brother? Husband of Brian’s sister? Brian debtor credit pages.jpg
  • When Brian died, why was Ephraim Burr of Norton selected as guardian to Brian’s minor children, Brian and Silas? How was he related or associated with Brian (or Abiah)? partial probate transcription here: willguardian.jpg
    • The Legal Genealogist’s blog tells us that Burr was likely not a close relative of Brian’s:

…..But when property was involved, the preference was overwhelmingly for the nearest male relative who couldn’t inherit from the child to serve as guardian. Even the example used by Blackstone points this out: “where the estate descended from his father, … his uncle by the mother’s side cannot possibly inherit this estate, and therefore shall be the guardian…… Read more here.

  • There is a Bristol land deed with witnesses signing as Pendleton Hall and Anna Hall who were they?
    • 11/27/1772 Brian (Hall)    Alice Leonard      Easton book 55           page 37

land deed


  • The article “A Maze of Halls in Taunton, Massachusetts: Correlating Land Description to Prove Identity” written by Marsha Hoffman Rising, originally published in National Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1993, mentions the Greenlaw Collection at NEHGS. This was reviewed in 2008 but should be looked at again!  COMPLETE JAN 2016 – NOTHING FOUND
    • The article also implies that Ms. Rising already reviewed Bristol land records, contact JAN 2016 – NOT AT NEHGS – EMAILED HISTORICAL SOCIETY IN MISSOURI THEY OFFERED TO CONTACT MARSHA’S FAMILY – FAMILY CAN NOT LOCATE.
  • Examine Church Records.
    • Raynham (1731 from Taunton) First Church Records – there are no John Hall listed among the member of the church.
    • Norton (1710 from Taunton) – There is a John Hall listed in early church members, his wife Bethiah joined 1716. John Hall and wife Ruth record births of Bethiah 1 Dec 1721 and Benjamin 10 Aug 1720.  There is also a marriage recorded in Taunton John Hall to Sarah Wellman both of Norton 7 Nov 1726.
    • Taunton
    • Mansfield  (1770 from Norton)
    • Other? Towns established from modern day Taunton:
      • Freetown (1683 from Taunton)
      • Dighton (1712 from Taunton)
      • Easton (1725 from Norton)
      • Berkley (1735 from Taunton/Dighton)
  • Research all Halls in Bristol [then expand to Rhode Island and nearby counties] and related surnames/FAN club (witnesses to Hall deeds and will’s, neighbors on early map and in censuses, war associates, the Britton’s, Ephraim Burr, Jacob Woodward & Silence, etc.) in all Bristol County (and Rhode Island) records. BIG PROJECT! Define scope and priorities.
  • Land deeds – Just John & Brian? All Hall’s? Other surnames, maybe Britton’s? Have transcribed microfilm index for Bristol County Hall’s in Excel and have reviewed some deeds (online).
  • Trace the land described in the will of Mary (Pendleton) Brettun Cross Morey in Maine, New Hampshire and possibly Rhode Island (?), to determine how it was distributed and who sold it to whom….
    • COMPLETE – This was done at the FHL in SLC Jan 2016. Portsmouth and York land deeds were examined for all Britton transactions. Although Pendleton land changed hands, only James Britton was mentioned.
  • Research the genealogy of our DNA match Charles Rowland Hall (b. Poplar Flat, Lewis County, Kentucky). The match might be many generations in the past and research might prove difficult. Contacted tester Jan 2016 to see if he would add a SNP test which will help to further determine the potential number of generations between us.
  • Reach out to the Norton Historical Society, Raynham Historical Society & Wheaton College Library to determine what records might be available. CONTACTED NHS – THE DO HAVE EARLY CHURCH RECORDS FOR NORTON AND MANSFIELD IN BOXES ONSITE – SCHEDULED TO VISIT JULY 2016.
  • Review area town records on PARTIALLY COMPLETE JAN 2016.
  • Take a look at the nearby Taunton/Raynham Briant Family (Ichabod) – PARTIALLY COMPLETE – A VITAL RECORDS/LAND DEED/PROBATE REVIEW RESULTED IN NO CONNECTIONS WITH THE HALL FAMILY – there was another likely unrelated Briant Hall residing in New England in the same time frame, born about 1767 in Connecticut.  He appears to be a Yale graduate and the son of Amos Hall and Betty Briant. It is unclear if he is the same man who participated in the war of 1812.bryant-hall


My Acadian 30 – week #4, Docité/Dosithée Roy


In 2007, I joined  It never occurred to me that online, unsourced trees were inaccurate.  I essentially “copied” my entire Acadian family from potentially erroneous public trees and never looked back.  Although my newer entries are sourced, a visit to Stephen A. White, at Moncton University’s Centre d’Études Acadiennes [Center for Acadian Studies] in 2014,  revealed a number of errors. I am determined to start from scratch, and verify that I have all available records beginning with the 30 direct ancestors, connected to my maternal grandmother. This includes her parents, grandparents, g-grandparents and g-g-grandparents.

yvonne roy

To keep the project manageable, I will write of one ancestor each week.

Week #1 – Yvonne Marie (Roy) Billings

Week #2 – Pius/Paul Dost Roy

Week #3 –  Marie Laura “Laura” Melanson

Generation 3

4. Docité OR Dosithée Roy, son of Joseph Roy/Roi and Angélique Beliveau, was born on 29 Jul 1857  and was baptized the following day at Saint-Jean Baptiste Catholic Church in Bouctouche, Kent, New Brunswick, Canada.  His godparents were Agnes Roy (paternal aunt) and Pacifique Beliveau (maternal uncle).

Docité was Joseph’s fifth known child and Angélique’s first.  He joined the following siblings:

(1) Cyrille –  Joseph’s son from his first marriage to Henriette Legere, baptized  20 November 1847, St-Jean Parish  in Bouctouche.

(2) Pierre – Joseph’s son from his first marriage, baptized 30 November 1849, in St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparents were Pierre Hebert and Marie Roi.

(3) Libie (Lébée/Lybie?)– Joseph’s daughter from his first marriage, baptized 28 Dec 1851, in St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche; godparents were François Roy and Vénérande Savoie (Docité’s paternal grandparents) It is possible that she died young, was adopted and/or the name “Libie” is in error, as it is not a “typical” name of the place/time. To date, she has not been found in other records.

(4) Hippolite – Joseph’s son from his first marriage, baptized 9 Feb 1853, in St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche; godparents were Louis Legere and Olive LeBlanc. He was not living with the Roy family in any census year and according to his marriage record, was adopted after his mother’s death by Eustache Poirier and his wife Cecile Legere (daughter of Simon Legere and Marie-Rose Arsenault and his mother Henriette’s biological cousin). He resided with them in 1871 in Grande-Digue and was enumerated as Hyppolyte Poirier. It is unknown whether he had a relationship with his biological family, nonetheless, with the exception of this census, all records seem to indicate that he used the Roy surname for his lifetime.

baptism dos


Although the church pictured in 1893 is in the same location as the 1857 church, the actual church where Docité was baptized, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1886. It was rebuilt only to be destroyed again by fire on 18 December 1921.  This is a beautiful spot, overlooking the cemetery where many Acadian ancestors are buried, offering picturesque ocean views, as they walked to attend church services (albeit chilly in wintertime).

After the second loss, the parish had a difficult decision to make. The convent, church, priest’s residence and the cemetery had been the center of the village life, even though the village was located some two kilometers away. Family members were buried in the cemetery and many didn’t want to “abandon” them. Others argued that the spot was subject to very severe climate and attending services was becoming more difficult. Finally the parishioners made the difficult decision to rebuild the church and priest’s residence in a calmer spot in the village.

The first priest’s residence of Bouctouche, (left in top photo) has been converted to a lovely (reasonably priced) country inn called Auberge le Vieux Presbytere; where I stayed for two nights in 2014.


1861 Canadian Census

In 1861, 4-year-old Docité and his family resided on a farm in the Parish of Wellington, Kent County (which included the area of St. Mary’s Parish until 1867) and used the surname King (English translation of Roy); they were Roman Catholic.

1861 census

  • Joseph, junior, age 31, farmer  [Docité’s father]
  • Angélique, age 29, wife [Docité’s mother]
  • Ceril, age 14, son [likely Docité’s half-brother, Cyrille, from his father’s first marriage to Legere, baptized  20 November 1847]
  • Peter, age 12, son [likely Docité’s half-brother, Pierre, from his father’s first marriage to Legere, baptized 30 November 1849]
  • Docité, age 4, son 
  • Cephor, age 3, son [likely Sifroi, baptized 12 November 1858, St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparent was Charles Maillet]
  • Onriette, age 1, daughter [likely Henriette, baptized 2 December 1860, St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparents were Jean C. Maillet and Marraine Henriette Bastarache]

Next door (or on a farm nearby) are Docité’s likely paternal relatives:

  • Frank, junior, age 63, widower, farmer [Docité’s grandfather, Francois – According to Stephen White’s “La généalogie des trente-sept familles, hôtesses des « Retrouvailles 94 »  – SAVOIE , his wife, Vénérande,  died in Bouctouche 27 May 1858, when Docité was still an infant]
  • Olive. age 39, daughter [likely Docité’s aunt]
  • Onyez [Agnes ?], age 37, daughter [likely Docité’s aunt and godmother]
  • Frank, senior, age 92, lodger [likely Docité’s paternal g-grandfather – Francois]

Docité’s father had 33 acres, of which 20 had been improved, valued at $150, with other farm machinery valued at $20.  He had no employees.  Docité’s grandfather’s farm was quite similar (details in a future sketch).

His dad Joseph’s animals included: two horses; two milk cows; two working oxen; four sheep; and six swine/pigs.

He reported slaughtering 400 pounds of pork; netted eight pounds of wool; and created $20 of cloth (or similar manufactured products).  Eight acres of land was dedicated to production of hay (he netted three tons).  The farm produced 30 bushels of wheat (from three acres), eight bushels barley (from 1/2 acre), 50 bushels oats (from four acres), twelve bushels buckwheat (from one acre) and 300 bushels potatoes (from three acres).

The farm was likely situated in Bouctouche in the area labelled “Francis King” on the map (No100) below.  Docité’s paternal grandmother, Vénérande,  died in Bouctouche in 1858; this further strengthens the case that they resided there.

Land deeds for Docité’s parents and grandparents have not yet been examined.  The known grantor/grantee indexes for the Roy/King surnames in Kent County from 1827 to 1941 can be found here: New Brunswick Roy deeds

Francis King land

1861 agriculture frank and joseph

The census reported that none of the children had attended school the prior year.  When Docité was a child, schooling was largely through traveling teachers who served many villages at once. It was not until the time of the Canadian Confederation, in 1867, that the Acadians were able to re-establish some semblance of their pre-expulsion society. At that time, schools were founded (although education was not highly valued in many areas and the offerings were not ideal for several decades) and the people began taking an active part in political life (as Catholic’s they were previously denied the right to vote or participate in the legislature). Although many continued to lived in abject poverty; a contributing factor being that Acadian farmers primarily held land along the coast, in less fertile areas.

On 8 July 1867, a week after the Confederation, Le Moniteur, the first French newspaper of the Maritimes, began to be published weekly in Shediac (although its start was a bit bumpy, and there were a few stops and starts along the way, it was published until 1926). This aided with Acadian efforts to improve their situation by providing a platform for them to express ideas to aid in solving the problems they faced, it’s motto being “Notre langue, notre religion et nos coutumes” – “Our language, our religion, our customs”.

1871 Canadian Census

In 1871 Docité and family were enumerated (with four additional children) in the newly formed parish of St. Mary’s in Sainte-Marie-de-Kent (Olivier born 1870 was the first Roy child baptised in Ste Marie at Mont-Carmel), which in 1871 had a population of 100. Docité’s parents were unable to read or write (this question was only asked of those over age 20) but presumably no one in the family could read or write as none of the children were attending school.

  • Joseph, 42, cultivateur (farmer), can not read or write
  • Angelique, 40, can not read or write
  • Docitée, 13  
  • Sigefroi,12
  • Henriette,10
  • Sylvain, 9 [ baptized 12 December 1861, St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparents were Sylvain Maillet and Marraine Jeanette LeBlanc. Joseph’s middle name is given as Francois]
  • Cécile, 5 [baptized 4 June 1866, St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparents were Cyrille Roy and Cecile Allain]
  • Vitál, 8 [likely baptized 30 March 1868, St-Jean Parish in Bouctouche. Godparents were Edouard and Marraine Genevieve Belliveau.  Note that his mother is recorded as “Julie”, this was the only record in the parish that was likely the correct baptism for Vital, perhaps Julie is in error and it was meant to be Judith. His marriage record names Judith as his mother, and when he travels to the US in 1916 he gives a contact in Canada as a brother Sylvain.]
  • Olivier, 10 months [baptized 5 June 1870, at Ste. Marie de Mont-Carmel. Godparents were _____ Maillet and _____ Richard]

Joseph’s sons Cyrille and Pierre are residing together nearby, in Saint Marie, with Agnes Roy [sister of Joseph].  No other members of the King/Roy family were found nearby in 1861. A widowed Frances Roi, of the correct age to be Docité’s grandfather was found in Wellington residing with the family of Joseph & Mary Ferware (enumerated as Jerway in 1861 and two census pages away from the Roy’s in Wellington), perhaps Fougere?

Docité’s father, in 1871, seemed to own significantly more acreage than he did in 1961.  He had 125 acres of which 30 were improved and 12 were pasture (they did not have a garden). There were two dwelling houses on the property, one of which was uninhabited.  They had one barn or stable, two carriages or sleighs, 2 cars/wagons or sleds and one plough or cultivator.

Animals included:  one horses over 3 years old; two working oxen; three milk cows; one “other horned cattle”; six sheep – 6 (one was killed or sold for slaughter/export); five swine/pigs (one was killed or sold for slaughter/export)

The farm produced eight acres of wheat crops on which he netted the followings bushels – 30 of spring wheat (sown in the spring and is harvested in the fall), seven of barley, 60 of oats and 90 of buckwheat.  He had four acres of potatoes which netted 125 bushels.  He had two acres of hay which netted three ton of 2,000 lbs or bundles of 16 lbs of hay and 40 bushels of apples.  The sheep netted 20 pounds of wool which produced 60 yards of home-made cloth or flannel.

Joseph did not appear to be involved with fishing, forestry or mineral products.  It is possible that he was involved with steel/iron as a Blacksmith “Ouvrages et réparations de Forgerons en tout genre” (Works and Repairs of Blacksmith of all kinds).  The schedule has a line through his name, it is unknown if the enumerator crossed this out or if it was done later – he was only involved in the business for 1/2 a month and although he had $40 in capital only made a few dollars. It could be a business that was discontinued that census year but was perhaps run in years prior.

1871 Canadian Census

1871 census bldgs

1871 census agriculture

1871 animals

1871 blacksmith

Sixteen people died in St Marie the prior year, most from consumption, malaria or diarrhea.  There were two Roy cousins of Docité – schedule here.  Docité’s grandfather, who had lived near them in 1861, Francois Roy,  died 25 April 1875.

Docité became a Cultivateur [farmer].  He married first, on 2 Feb 1880, at Ste Marie de Mont Carmel, Genevieve Cormier daughter of the deceased Aimé Cormier and deceased Henriette Roy after being granted dispensation for the 4th degree of double consanguinity (meaning they were 3rd cousins two different ways  – 3rd cousins share 2nd g-grandparents).

The Catholic Church required couples to gain permission prior to marrying a relative, as the offspring of consanguineous relationships are at greater risk of certain genetic disorders and they considered marrying a close relative immoral.  The dispensation was granted for the degree of consanguinity without distinguishing between half and full siblings or “spiritual” relatives (i.e. if your father married a second wife who had her own offspring, then you were technically related to the second wife’s children from her first marriage and would require dispensation for the degree of affinity).

Genevieve died six months later, at age 19 (cause unknown), on 24 Aug 1880 and was buried 27 Aug at Ste Marie de Mont Carmel.

marriage 1

1881 Canadian Census

In 1881, Docité continues to reside in the parish of Sainte-Marie (his parents have one additional child):

  • Joseph, 52, cultivateur (farmer)
  • Angelique, 51
  • Silvin [Sylvain], 19
  • Aurietta [Henriette], 20
  • Cecille [Cécile], 15
  • Vitál, 13
  • Olivier, 11
  • Jude, 7 [baptized 24 June 1873, at Ste. Marie de Mont-Carmel. Godparents were Dosite Roy and Domtilda Cormier]
  • Docitée, 23 was listed as a widower and enumerated separately [the day after the remainder of the family was recorded, see margin notes], it appears that he resided on the same farm.

Jude and Vital were attending school (Olivier, age 11, was not marked as in school which may have been an enumerator error, although 1901, 1911 and 1921 censuses specify he can not read or write).

1881 census

The first Acadian National Convention was held 20/21 July 1881 in Memramcook.  About 5,000 Acadians participated, although in reality only about 200 actively participated in discussions. They spoke of many things including emigration, religion, education, political issues,  trade, farming and industry. There they selected the Acadian Holiday – 15 August, the day of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

According to Wikipedia, The flag of Acadia was adopted on 15 August 1884, at the second Acadian National Convention held on Prince Edward Island with nearly 5,000 Acadian delegates from across the Maritimes. It was designed by Father Marcel-Francois Richard, a priest from Saint-Louis-de-Kent, New Brunswick. The Musée Acadien at the Université de Moncton has the original flag presented by Father Richard to the 1884 Convention. It was sewn by Marie Babineau.


On 18 August 1881, Docité sold eight acres of land, in the Parish of St Mary’s, to Maxime and Louis Cormier  (Book A-2 page 175) for the sum of $25.   The land was on the South side of the Bouctouche River, on the East bounded by Thomas Nowlen and in the South land owned by Dennis Cormier and Thomas Allain.   No deed (or land grant) has been found documenting how Docité originally acquired this land (perhaps through his grandfather or deceased wife).

page 1 Dospage 2 Dos

On 3 Sept 1883, Docité’s parents sold him 25 acres of their land on the South side of the Bouctouche River in Ste Marie for $25. The land is described as: On the South by land occupied by the family of the late Laurent B. Cormier; on the East by a certain road on the South by said owned and occupied by the named Joseph Roy and on the West by said owned and occupied by William Nowlen. In 26 April 1884, he sold this same land to Peter Fabien Arseneau for $75.

record-image_TH-267-12396-45185-61 (1)land sale 2 Dos

On 12 May 1885, Docité married second,  Victorie LeBlanc, at Ste Marie de Mont Carmel, daughter of George LeBlanc and Madeline LeBlanc.

marriage Victoria

1891 Canadian Census

Docité, his wife Victorie (the only family member who is listed as being able to read), now with three children Pius/Paul, (5 years) Marie Albina, (3 years) Mathilde (8 months) continue to reside in Sainte-Marie. His parents and several siblings live nearby.

dosc census 1891

As mentioned in week #2 (Pius’ sketch), known children born to the couple include: (1) Pius/Paul, (2) Marie Albina, (3) Mathilde, (4) Marie Emma, (5) Aurelie, (6 & 7) Dieudonné #1 and Joseph Hector (twins), (8) Edmund and (9) Dieudonné #2

Sadly, four of the children likely died in 1899.  Joseph Hector, 1 Jan 1899 [cause unreadable], age 4 months;  Marie Albina, 13 April 1899, age 10, of consumption [likely influenza]; and a week later, 20 April 1899, Dieudonné (7 months) of la grippe [likely influenza]. No further record of Aurelie has been located, he likely died in the same time frame.

1901 Canadian Census

By 1901, Docité had moved the family from their rural community to the “big city”, Lancaster (today part of Saint John), New Brunswick where he worked as a Millman. He was an employee who had worked for seven months that year and made $200.  He could not read or write, and spoke both French and English (French was his native tongue).

Pius also worked as a Millman (likely with his father) for five months that year and made $50 (he was 14). He was not in school. Interesting articles on employment conditions, child labor and a portrait of a young girl growing up in rural New Brunswick in St John in 1900: 2012-34-Spring-e

A few years earlier, in 1898, Lancaster was known as Fairville, a station on the Canadian Pacific Railway, a lumbering and manufacturing village with 1 post office, 25 stores, 2 hotels, 1 brewery, 1 sawmill, 1 pulp mill, 2 carriage factories, a provincial lunatic asylum, 5 churches and a population of 1,500.

1901 Doss

In 1902, son Edmond’s birth record (registered in 1967) names a birthplace of Randolph (a neighborhood in the West Side of Lancaster which in 1967 became known as St John West) his father was listed as a mill ride.

It seems Docité, Victorie, Mathilde, Emma and Edmund (Pius left for Gardner, Massachusetts, likely for work) returned to Ste Marie, as  Dieudonné #2, was born 17 May 1906 and baptized at Mont Carmel (a community within Ste Marie; in 1904 Mount Carmel was a farming settlement with 1 post office, 4 stores, 2 churches and a population of 250); 3 years later, 2 Sep 1909, he died from measles at St Mary’s.

Docite’s mother, Angelique, noted as a farmer’s wife, died on 13 March 1907 at age 77, the cause was “decline”, she had been ill “all winter”.  She is likely buried in St Mary’s.

1911 Canadian Census

In 1911, Docite, a Cultivateur, was living in Puellering, Kent, New Brunswick with his wife, sons Edmond and Pius and Pius’s wife Laura Melanson.  His widowed father, Joseph and brother Jude were also part of the household.  Edmond had been in school for 4 months that year and he and Laura were they only family members who could read and write.

  • Docitée, 53, cultivateur (farmer)
  • Victorie, 46
  • Pius, 24 [my g-grandfather]
  • Laura, 19 [my g-grandmother]
  • Joseph, 83, retired
  • Jude, 47

Daughters Mathilde and Emma had relocated to Massachusetts; both married in Gardner – in 1910 Mathilde married Cyrille Allain son of Mélème Allain and Marie Leblanc; in 1912 Emma married Frederick LeBlanc son of Calixe LeBlanc and Anastasia Tazie Cassie.

1911 census Joseph


Docite’s father Joseph died suddenly on 26 May 1913  of “old age” and is likely buried in St Mary’s; he was 84 and a retired farmer.

In about 1918/19, Docite sold land in St Mary’s Parish to Calixte Richard (land deed book I-3 page 166 – image not available online).  He perhaps relocated to Moncton around this time.

1921 Canadian Census

Docite was not identified in the 1921 census likely because there were large portions of the Moncton census, where the enumerator did not capture resident names (he just wrote “Westmoreland” next to each).  He was likely at 70 Pearl St., Moncton, the address that he, his wife and son Edmond all list as their home address when they immigrated to the United States the following year.

At age 63, he was described as 5’7″, 135 pounds and having a fair complexion, gray hair and blue eyes and could not read or write , when he immigrated “permanently” to Gardner, Massachusetts from Moncton in May 1923.  It was Docité’s first visit to the United States. His wife and three of his four living children had previously immigrated to Gardner.



The following year, 1924, Docite’s young daughter Emma (wife of Frederick LeBlanc), age 32, died in Gardner, leaving five young children, Joseph, Ernest, Lauretta, Albert and Viola LeBlanc, all of whom were living on Parker Street, Gardner with their widowed father in 1930.

Sadly, six of his children were now dead, leaving just three: Pius/Paul, Mathilde and Edmund.

Docite and Victoire are listed in the 1924 Gardner city directory on Parker Street (the same address as his son Edmond and his first cousin Calixte Roy); his occupation is Clerk. Many other Roy’s are listed nearby, including sons Pius and Edmond. Docite was not found in other online city directories, including the 1926 Gardner directory.

It is unknown why/when he and Victorie returned to New Brunswick, however his death was recorded there on 16 Nov 1932 in St-Antoine, Ste Marie, Kent, New Brunswick.  According to his death certificate, he was buried at St-Antoine.  He died from Lobar Pneumonia, a form of pneumonia that affects a large and continuous area of the lobe of a lung. He was 75. His daughter-in-law, Laura Marie (Melanson) Roy (my g-grandmother) had traveled from Gardner to New Brunswick several days before Docite’s death, and may have been at his bedside. A obituary has not been located.

Kent County probate records do not survive, it is unknown if he had an estate. There are some land index entries for a sale of land in Pellerin by Edmond Roy around this time period which may or may not be the sale of land belonging to Docite (the actual deeds are not online; PANB holds microfilms of Kent County Registry Office Records for the years 1846-1973 which include copies of deeds, leases, mortgages, liens and other land transactions, a number of wills – those which transfer title of land are also found in this series – on my list to track down!)

Dos death

Salt Lake City RootsTech Day 3 & 4

Everything is a blur…. following are a few highlights in no particular order.

Day #3 Keynote speaker Judy Russell was amazing.  She is one of my favorite bloggers ( and an entertaining and animated storyteller.  She explains how most of our family stories are lost (or mangled) in just 3 generations!

Dr. Spencer Wells, the director of the National Geographic’s Genographic Project, gave a fascinating talk about how the study came to be and shared some results.

The session was recorded and is free online, both are worth watching – (

MyHeritage ( was Friday’s sponsor and during the keynote they announced that the first 500 folks to stop by their booth would get a free all access 6-month package.   I have seen lots of positive reviews in various blogs and have been meaning to give it a try…so I joined the stampede of folks and got my free pass. The site took my free pass, but unfortunately won’t take my GEDCOM.  I get a message that reads, “Your GEDCOM file was successfully uploaded and is currently being processed. You will receive an email once processing is complete.” No email, no family tree, I tried 3 times, even trying two different GEDCOMs – one from and another from Family Tree Maker.  Saturday morning I spoke to one of the programmers at the booth; he tried to rectify the situation unsuccessfully – he kept my GEDCOM on his thumb drive and asked me to email on Monday if things weren’t resolved.

Next stop was  They were offering a conference special: A very large fan chart FREE in black and white or $5.00 in color; $5.00 extra if you wanted it laminated.


A very helpful guy, Bryant Larsen, gave me instructions on creating the chart using ( since I don’t have a FamilySearch tree (but if you have one, they can be automatically uploaded). I used the FamilySearch/RootTech computers, downloaded a GEDCOM from and uploaded it to the site and in a few seconds I had a colored .pdf.  Bryant submitted it to his printer queue and told me to come back in a few hours.  I paid my $40.00 for four laminated copies and then completely forgot to go back!  I returned Saturday morning to chaos.  There were hundreds of charts on tables everywhere.  I spent about an hour looking, but mine were nowhere to be found.  Frustrated, I requested a refund.  The owner of the company, Doug Butts, asked for my mailing address and promised to locate them and ship them at no charge….

So far Mocavo broken (see day 1 & 2 post), MyHeritage broken and wall chart lost 😦  – They say everything comes in “three’s”.

I visited the GenealogyBank booth ( and for $99 they extended my current subscription for two years!  Gotta love conference specials.  I LOVE Genealogy Bank and have found lots of family mentions in their newspaper collection over the past two years.  Especially handy is their recent obituary collection that dates back to 1977.  I tend to look for living cousins to see what photos. stories and artifacts they may have inherited.  Recent obituaries typically give me their names and location – I can then track down living relatives on Linkedin, Facebook or other social media sites.

I chatted with Steve Miller from EclipseIR (, the CEO of a facial recognition company for genealogists.  My husband works in the facial recognition industry and it turns out Steve is well acquainted with my husband’s former boss, who is also our neighbor.  The service is free.  If you have a photo that you know is “grandma” and you have another that you think is “grandma”.  Just email them both in and the software will give you a probability of the likelihood that it is grandma.   Interesting stuff!

I emailed them a photo of my g-g-grandfather Ephraim Augustus Hall (left) and another photo that I believe to be Ephraim (right).  I will update this post when I get some results.

combined Ephraim Augustus Hall

I attended the hour long presentation by Michael J. Leclerc  of Mocavo.  I was impressed. They are adding lots of new information daily and seem to very interested in incorporating suggestions from their customers. One great thing they offer is “Genealogy Karma to empower the Mocavo community and connect researchers around the country (free). It is modeled after the defunct Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) – (

I spent a good part of Saturday at the Backblaze Demo theater.  Comfy couches, a woman walking around with a basket of free candy and a raffle prize for each presentation (I came close, but didn’t win).  Each presentation was about 20 minutes.

I watched D. Josh Taylor, another of my favorite presenters, talk about findmypast.  They have an impressive collection of UK records (I have used them in the past and was able to piece together both of my Welch lines with parish registers).

I sat through Cece Moore’s basic DNA presentation again because I love listening to her. She is an organizer of the first annual “Institute for Genetic Genealogy” being held in Washington, DC August 16-17, 2014.  Registration is only $85 ( – sounds like a great event!

I watched Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems speak about using Google Earth for time travel.  Turns out that many of David Rumsey’s free historic maps ( can be overlaid onto today’s map in google earth. In Google Earth go to layers/gallery and you will see the Rumsey Historical Maps.


Another great tool is the ability to look back at Historical County Boundaries (since boundaries changed frequently).  For example, when my ancestors moved to Bangor, Maine they were in Hancock County until 1816 when the area became part of Penobscot County.  This is important when looking for certain records, like land deeds, which are held at the county level.  I would need to know to look in Hancock County for pre-1816 deeds. Go to, and select a state. At the bottom of the page, click “Download the KMZ File for use with Google Earth”. Unzip the file. Open Google Earth and click File > Open and select the KMZ file. The historical county boundary lines are in satellite view. Use the time slider to select a specific year.  Cool stuff!

Overall a great conference!  I did get to spend a few more hours at the library where I uncovered some Oneida, New York land ownership maps and city directories to use in a future #52 Ancestors post.

During the conference, I got an “alert” from Ebay; a painting by my grandmother’s uncle Walter Lansil was listed. I bid. One guy is bidding against me. I text my cousin Ed, excited. Turns out he is also bidding against me! We bid against each other up to $1,525.01 before we figured it out! The good news is that you can retract bids if the auction hasn’t closed. So we were able to do that this morning and are now negotiating for a reasonable price & custody arrangement 🙂


It was a long journey home, through snowy Chicago (where miraculously I didn’t get stuck!).  I arrived back  to hubby and 4 kitties at 1:30AM – hubby sound asleep, 4 kitties awaiting anxiously at the door and very happy to see me!

Salt Lake City and RootsTech Days 1 & 2

My flight was a bit delayed due to blizzard conditions in Boston and I missed my connection in Dallas, but someone was looking out for me as I was able to get the very last seat on the next flight to Salt Lake (17 minutes after I arrived at the gate). It did take me 45 minutes to find the gate because in travelling from Gate A to C (a two minute journey) I took the tram in the wrong direction and of course we ran into mechanical difficulty…. The red arrows below depict my very long tram ride!


The last time I visited Salt Lake, I arrived and departed in the dark.  The drive in from the airport was breathtaking!


I checked in to Hotel Monaco, A Kimpton Hotel (as the conference hotel was booked).  I LOVE Kimpton Hotels.  The staff is friendly and accommodating, bed comfy and the room always spotless: – turns out I am diagonally across the street from the conference center and a few blocks from the Family History Library.

I missed the Wednesday sessions, since it was 4:00 by the time I was settled, so I registered and then headed over to the library.


I focused on probate and land deeds in Oneida County, hoping to get a break on my 3rd g-grandfather George Perry (abt 1828-28 Jan 1862).  George was my paternal g-grandmother Georgianna (Hughes/Clough) Hall’s grandfather.  He likely came from Wales, married Ann Jones daughter of Catherine Owen and Robert Jones with whom he had four children.  His son William drafted his own obituary in which he writes:

“His grandfather and grandmother the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones, emigrated to this country from North Wales in 1837. They settled and resided on Floyd Hill, or Camroden.  Mr. Perry had two sisters, Delia Spoor of Galeton Pa., and Kate [Kitty] Shipman of Lynn Mass., and one brother, George Perry of Galeton. They are all dead.

Father Ran Milk Route – George Perry lived on the Lynch farm and conducted a milk route from 1855 to 1862, the time of his death Mrs. Perry then left the farm and purchased the house at 507 E. Dominick St., and with her four children lived there until 1886, when she moved to Frankfort, where she died. She was twice married, her second husband being James Evans, who died in Frankfort In 1902.” 

I was able to find a land deed, about two years after George’s death in which a number of people sell a tract of land in Factory Village, on Dominick Street to Ann Parry for $1.00. In another deed, Ann is listed as Ann Evans, formerly Ann Parry.   So while I haven’t broken through any brick walls, I have some more FAN names to look at and some evidence that George was perhaps born Parry vs. Perry.

cf7342df-1c39-46e3-a7c2-e8c24e9b0064 cf01ce90-aee6-42b0-86b1-0d2f13c5e517

FHL film 371857 book 334 pg 136 – 19 Nov 1863

Back at the hotel, I had a glass of wine and yummy potato chips smothered with blue cheese at the nightly complimentary “happy hour”, I ordered the ahi tuna appetizer and pear salad from room service (both fabulous) and called it a night!

Opening session was wonderful.  I believe you will be able to watch the session (and others) soon at:

Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of spoke of their need for indexers.  They intend digitize 70 million records, hopefully in the next 30 years, instead of the 300 hundred years it will take at the rate things are currently being done!  Their latest indexing initiative is to make millions of obituary images searchable.  On occasion I index, but not as often as I should, I vow to do better. Click here to learn how you can help:

I especially enjoyed The Pioneer Woman (, Ree Drummond, blogger and author; she too includes pets in her family tree!


She began blogging to capture and preserve her families story – something we should all be doing!  You don’t have to blog online, but jot down some memories for your grandchildren and their grandchildren so they can know more of you than simply your birth and death date.

My first session was with Tom Jones.  If you are at a conference and Tom is speaking, see him.  He is a wonderful speaker and an amazing researcher.  His session was entitled “Can a Research Problem be Solved Solely Online?”.  He presented a complex research problem and step by step demonstrated how he solved the mystery.  If you haven’t seen Tom present, view his free course “Inferential Genealogy”, on FamilySearch: http://

One thing I did learn was to look for your ancestor’s family in the census prior to their birth.  Say your ancestor was born in 1873 in Malden, Massachusetts.  You find someone who might be the right person in North Andover, Massachusetts in the 1880 census.  Go look for those parents in Malden in 1870, check dad’s occupation – does it match? How about the names of siblings, do they match?  If yes, you have essentially “proven” that the North Andover family is yours.

Next I headed to two DNA sessions one with Tom Janzen and the other with Cece Moore.  Both were amazing and made me realize that I have quite a bit to learn about DNA.  I discovered a few things.  My mom is 50% Acadian and we have an unusual number of close Acadian matches. Because there were so many intermarriages within that group, the results are likely off, a predicted 3rd cousin may be a 5th, 6th  or 7th cousin.

I am more interested in using DNA on my dad’s side (since reconstructing my Acadian family was fairly easy) to break through a few brick walls.  Since dad is deceased, they suggest that I have any/all relatives on his side tested, even my siblings, since each of us have inherited different DNA from the paternal line.

As far as I know, there are no adoptions in my family.  But if you are adopted, there are “Adoption Angels” (http:// who will assist in your quest to locate your birth parents.  They suggest that you test at all 3 companies – 23andme, and FTDNA.  If you get a true second cousin match, they will solve your case (Cece did mention times when they could solve your case without DNA; your non-identifying adoption information can point to a specific set of parents, and depending on your state of birth, you may be able to obtain a copy of your original birth certificate) .

I next headed to the Expo Hall to explore. First stop was Mocavo.  I used their free computers and immediately found a document for my 5th g-grandparents Brian Hall and Abiah Crossman.

Acts and Resolves Passed by the General Court, 1783

Mocavo (http:// is free to search, but sorting through and narrowing the results requires a Gold subscription. It’s regularly $80 a year but they are offering a $40 conference special.  They supposedly launch 1,000 new databases daily and if I upload my family tree, they will alert me of new matches. Sign me up!

Another exhibitor “Butterfly Kisses” had some really great genealogy canvases using your surnames, they are going to email order information, but I guess you just give them a GEDCOM – a perfect customized gift and only $42!


I skipped the opening “dessert” social, figuring I would eat 15 brownies.  Instead I stopped at the Olive Bistro (across from the conference center) and had a fabulous veggie panini.


I had big plans to head back to the library from 6-10PM but I was mentally exhausted and headed for bed (after my free chair massage and playing on a bit).  A choice I will likely regret later, how many chances do you get to explore the Family History Library!

The Story of Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Week #6 – 52 Weeks)

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.”

I joined a new book club this week.  A group of seven met for a three hour discussion of the types of books that hold our interest.  About 50, most historical fiction, were named. Everyone in the room had read 95%.  Everyone but me.  I was a bit intimidated and embarrassed.  I have always been an avid reader.  What am I reading now? Books related to my genealogy, or so I thought.

– Truro, The Story of a Cape Cod Town, Richard Whalen
– A Great and Noble Scheme (the Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians), John Mack Faragher
– White Field, Black Sheep; A Lithuanian – American Life, Daiva Markelis

Many of my friends and family members don’t understand my obsession with genealogy.  Most think I spend my days collecting birth, marriage and death dates.  Then I read the following on

“While is common for people to use the terms ‘genealogy’ and ‘family history’ interchangeably, they actually have a subtle but different meaning. Genealogy, the study of ancestry and descent, refers more to the actual search for ancestors, while family history, the narrative of the events in your ancestors’ lives, denotes the telling of your family’s story. Family history is genealogy come alive.”

Ahhhh….  I am not a genealogist!!   I am reading books related to family history to help my “genealogy come alive”!

I was thinking of my mother’s grandmother Salomėja Markevičiūtė when I selected the title, White Field, Black Sheep.


Salomėja circa 1935


The story depicts a girl, born and raised in Chicago in the 1960/70’s,  in a household where Lithuanian was the first language. A home where her parents didn’t quite understand the ways of  America – a country with Barbie Dolls, Hostess Cupcakes and Captain Kangaroo.  While my great-grandmother’s story began much earlier, I suspect Salomėja struggled similarly with her “Americanized” children and new homeland.

The Story of Salomėja Markevičiūtė

revised Lithuanian tree

Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) was  born in in Stanioniai, Lithuania, on 26 Sept 1870, to Baltramiejus Markevičius and Viktorija Bukaitė. Her known siblings included: Jurgis (1853), Elžbieta (1854), Georgijus (1861), Antanas  (1867), Kazimieras (1868) and Rapolas (1873).

Salomėja (and her husband) were of peasants, who most likely had a Polish master, whom they paid  either with harvest or money. Essentially they were slaves; not entirely like American slaves, but slaves nonetheless.  Although slavery in Lithuania was abolished in 1861 it likely went on a bit longer.

From 1864-1904, under the Russian Tsar, as part of a “Russification plan”, it was illegal to print, import, distribute, or possess any publications in the Latin alphabet. Peasants who were literate hid books in walls of their wooden houses and woods and taught children in the evenings to read and write in Lithuanian, Polish and/or Russian. Lithuanian books were printed in Prussia (where the Kaliningrad region of Russia lies now) and smuggled to Lithuania by the Knygnešiai, who were considered criminals in Russia but patriots and heros in Lithuania.

Under the ban, parish schools were closed. In the state schools (a system of searches, inspections, and spying) students were not allowed to speak Lithuanian. Many parents pulled their children and schooled them at home, in small secret groups or not at all, likely contributing to the high illiteracy rate. The Lithuanian census in 1897 showed that only 54.68% of persons aged 10 to 19 had some level of formal education. Salomėja (and her husband) could neither read nor write according to immigration paperwork [although this conflicts with the 1910-30 US census enumerators, who reported Salomėja could speak English, read and write].

Salomėja married on 18 February 1897, Juozas Baltrūnas, in nearby Pumpėnai, Pasvalys, Lithuania. He was born 15 December 1872 [3 April 1898 on the Julian calendar], in Preibiai village, son of Antanas Baltrūnas and Anelė Orinskaitė/Arlauskaitė. 


Pumpėnų Švč. Mergelės Marijos Škaplierinės bažnyčia (PUMPĖNAI Church the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Scapular)

Their first known child, Antanas Baltrūnas, was born 20 Apr 1900, Gregorian calendar [8 April 1898 on the Julian calendarin Preibiai. He was baptized, in Pumpėnai, 22 April [12th Julian]. His godparents were Antanas Markevičius and Konstancija Arlauskaitė/Orlauskaitė. He has been found in records as Anthony George, Anton, Antoni and Tony.


In 2001, there were 11 people living in Preibiai and 40 people living in Stanioniai. Alternate spellings would be Preibių kaimas and Stanionių kaimas which mean village of Stanioniai and Preibiai. The closest church until 1910 was in Pumpenai so they all were baptized/married there even though it is a bit far. In 1910 there was a church built in Paistrys town, which is across the road from Stanioniai. Stanioniai and Preibiai are today in Paistrys parish and Paistrys county.

An eight minute YouTube video offers a tour of 2012 Pumpėnai (the church is at minute 1:08):

Immigration to the United States

In his book, A Nation of Immigrants, John F. Kennedy writes, “There were probably as many reasons for coming to America as there were people who came. It was a highly individual decision.”  We don’t know why Juozas and Salomėja came to America, but between 1868 and 1914 about one in four Lithuanians emigrated due to an increase in population, heavier taxation, a fall in grain prices and an overall deterioration in standards of living; most departed between 1890-1914.

The migration by 1900 was substantial. The majority of Lithuanians who departed were young bachelors or married men searching for work. They made a living through menial labor; 48% were illiterate. At least two of Salomėja’s brothers had immegrated previously. They likely wrote home describing the opportunities of America, sent tickets and money and invited friends and relatives to join them. They were likely the sponsors of the new immigrants, and provided them with lodgings. This practice of chain migration helped to establish close Lithuanian communities in the New World.

In the 19th century railroads and ocean-going steamships made it easier to leave their agricultural hinterland for the industrial and educational wonders elsewhere.  Steamship and railroad companies distributed brochures and posters, heavily marketing America as a country of opportunity, employment, and a better quality of life, in an effort to drum up business.

Since emigration from Lithuania (then under Russian rule) was illegal, most crossed the border illegally. The crossing was relatively easy due to the corruption of Russian border officials and through the aid of emigration agents. The penalties for those caught, were mild.

The routes of migrants closely followed the major railway and river transportation lines. From Lithuania, the mass migration was greatly facilitated after the emergence of three major railways: St. Petersburg – Vilna – Warsaw (built in 1862), Libava – Shavli – Romny (1873), and Tilsit – Bajorai – Memel (1875). These railways allowed easy access to the Russian–German border. Once in Eastern Prussia, the migrants could easily reach the seaports of Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp and Rotterdam.

The practice of one member of a family going to America first and then saving to bring the others over was common. In early 1900, our family patriarch, Juozas, perhaps departed from the nearby Panevezys train station (opened in 1873). A train with black engines and wooden carriages.  He seemed to be travelling alone on the 1,100+ mile journey to his steamship.


Lithuania map

Travelers might have to wait days to months at the port, either for completion of paperwork or awaiting their ship’s arrival, as train and steamship schedules were not coordinated.  Steamship companies were required to put up waiting customers in boardinghouses.

Juozas purchased a ticket for about $30 and departed from Antwerp, Belgium on 7 April 1900 aboard the Kensington, part of the Red Star Line. The manifest lists him as “Jozef Baltrunas, married, age 25”: (Ancestry) or (Ellis Island) line number 16.

Juozas was in the bottom of the boat, crammed with 1,500 to 2,000 other immigrants, in steerage, which was lined with bunks, one on top of the other. He likely hit many bad storms at sea. It would rain hard, and he was often wet and shivering. After eleven long, miserable days of human stench, the smell of unattended vomit and substandard food, he arrived at New York on 18 April 1900. By the time the tiring trip approached its long-awaited end, he was likely a state of shock physically and emotionally; yet he was up on deck in his best clothes, cheering alongside fellow passengers at the sight of the breathtaking and magnificent Statue of Liberty.

According to the New York Tribune, the weather was “showery” – temperatures ranged from 52 to 63 degrees the day he arrived. The boat anchored at mid-bay and perhaps after a day or two on ship and several hours of confinement on an overcrowded tender without food, water or adequate restrooms, he arrived at Ellis Island. The Ellis Island immigration depot was a processing center for third-class ship passengers (first and second class passengers where usually processed on  the ship). Passengers were tagged with their name and a number that corresponded to the ship manifest.

Juozas was hailed by officials with pointing fingers, and commands in an unrecognizable language, to join a long line stretching from the dock to the second floor floor of main building where a team of doctors and inspectors checked passengers for sixty symptoms ranging from anemia to varicose veins.  Of primary concern were cholera, favus (scalp and nail fungus), insanity, and mental impairments. Anyone afflicted, was marked with a chalked code and detained for further examination. About 2% were deemed incurable, insane or criminal and would be returned to their departure port at the expense of the Red Star Line.

ellis island

Juozas passed inspection, his mental and physical condition was good and he was not deformed or cripple. He was waved toward the main part of the registry room, a room 200 feet long and 100 feet wide, where there was further interrogation, with the assistance of an interpreter,  in an attempt to determine his entrance eligibility based on social, economic, and moral fitness. Officials asked him many questions like what he did for a living back in Lithuania and what his plans were in America. They confirmed that he had never been in prison, was not a polygamist or under contract to labor in the US. Luckily, literacy was not an entry requirement until 1917, because he couldn’t read or write.

About 5,000 people were likely processed in the registration room that day.  On average, it took three to five hours to get through the process.  Once approved, Juozas collected his baggage and made arrangements to have it sent to Boston, exchanged the $3 in his pocket for US Currency (about $83 in 2014 buying power), perhaps showered, ate a box lunch and boarded the ferry to Manhattan to begin the final leg of his journey.


Juozas’s final destination was the home of his brother-in-law, Kazimieras “Kaz” Markevičius (who paid his passage), in Boston, Massachusetts.

Juozas is not found in the 1900 census in Boston or elsewhere.  Census day was 1 June 1900, six weeks after his arrival. We don’t know if he had an accurate address for Kaz, enough cash to get him to Boston or who actually reported the census data (perhaps he was there, and a neighbor who wasn’t aware of Juozas arrival, spoke to the enumerator).

Salomėja ‘s brother, Kazimieras (a machinist),who had arrived in 1895 claiming his final destination as “Freeland”,  was enumerated under the name Charles Morris.  He was living on West 8th Street, South Boston, with his brother Rafael Morris (a clothing baster), sister-in-law Anastasia and their son, two year old, Peter all whom had arrived in 1898.

Juozas surfaces in 1902, as Joseph Billie, a molder working for E.D. Jones and Sons (where he worked until 1907). He boarded at 107 Wahconah, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a beautiful town nestled in the Berkshire Hills.


E.D. Jones and Sons, on Depot St., were machinery and equipment manufacturers, whose primarily customers were paper mills. Their niche was stock preparation equipment particularly beaters and jordans. They made dusters, for a variety of uses; stuff chests, rag washers, water turbines, pumps, elevators, mill line shafting and many other special items

That same year, Salomėja and her young son, Antanas, age 2 (the ship manifest lists him as age 3 years, 6 months), made the journey to America on the Red Star Line’s Zeeland – [see line 25 & 26]. Their passage was paid by Juozas. They have tickets to  their final destination of 200 Wachonah Street in Pittsfield and $12 cash (about $332 in 2014 buying power).


The pair followed the same path and departed from Antwerp on 12 April 1902 , arriving in New York on Tuesday, 22 April. The NY Tribune reports the weather on that date as warm and fair with unseasonably high temperatures ranging from 64 to 85 degrees. It must have been stifling inside the crowded registry room.

Children were asked their name to make sure they weren’t deaf or dumb, and those that looked over two-years-old were taken from their mothers’ arms and made to walk. Likely Salomėja was frightened by the clinical routine. Examination by a male doctor was traumatic for a woman who had never been touched by a man, other than her husband.

Unescorted women and children were usually detained until their safety was assured through the arrival of a telegram, letter, or a prepaid ticket from a waiting relative. Since they had a prepaid ticket, is not likely that anyone would greet the pair at the port of New York.  Mother and infant son were to travel alone to Massachusetts. Imagine the anticipation – a young woman, alone in a strange country with a strange language, protector of her infant son.

Life in America

By 1903, the family had relocated to 13 Leidhold Place where they were boarders along with Samuel Billie/Billings of Lithuania, son of Frank Billings (possibly related to Juozas). Samuel  lived with the family in Pittsfield from 1903 to 1911 with the exception of 1906 when he resided on 29 Alder Street.  He worked at ED Jones as a foundry worker, attended St Joseph’s church and was divorced with two children. He died 18 February 1922, age 44, after 13 months at the tuberculosis camp.

leidhold map

Their landlord was Louis Leidhold, a contractor involved with real estate, who lived at number 12 Leidhold. Interestingly, Louis’s dad Erdman Leidhold was a well known citizen who had immigrated from Germany about 1863 having made considerable money owning a successful beer garden.  For the 35 years preceding his death in 1913, he slept in a tent from May to October, in his front yard in Pittsfield, to reap the health benefits of the Berkshires’ fresh air.

Likely the Baltrūnas/Billings family rented one room from Leidhold, in a wooden double tenement house, he had built in 1895.

double tenament1_BMCParkinglot2
                                                                                          Similiar tenement on nearby Seymour

Soon Salomėja’s niece and nephew (her sister Elžbieta’s children) Raphael Vyšniauskas  (Wishnewski) and Ona (Anna) Vyšniauskas (Wishnewski) arrived and moved in with the family. Sometime before July 1906, the group relocated a few blocks away, to 87 Madison Avenue/Tierney Place.

In October 1906, niece Ona (Anna) Vyšniauskas (Wishnewski) married Antanas (Anthony) Gasiunas (Gasson/Gaston), of Gelaziai, Pasvalys, Lithuania and settled in Pittsfield.  Perhaps Salomėja and Juozas introduced the pair as their addresses on the marriage record were listed as 87 Madison Avenue and 29 Alder Street, now Danforth Street (residence of Samuel Billings that year).

map home 2

Anthony and Anna had 3 children who in 1971 were all living in Pittsfield – Daisy/Blanche (1909-1990), Bronislaw/Bernard/Brone (1907-1982) and Coziemaria/ Charlotte (1912-1995).

anna gasson
Anna & Anthony Gasson with their children (left to right) Daisy, Bernard and Charlotte

Meanwhile Salomėja and Juozas had four additional children:

(1) Baby Biller,  stillborn female born to Joseph Biller and Selomie (Morris) of 10 Leidhold Place, born 18 May 1903, burial at St. Joseph.

(2) Charles Anthony Billei (who took the surname Billings). a male born to Joseph and Solomei (Morris) of 13 Leidhold Place, 27 June 1904.

(3) Ralph Alphonse Billie (who took the surname Billie and was listed in some records as Roland, Rafeal, Raphael), a male, born to Joseph and Salomi (Morris) of 87 Madison Avenue, 16 July 1906

(4) Celina Connie Billie  (who took the name Connie Barton and was listed in some records as Celina, Domicela, Demencella, Domind), a female born to Joseph and Salome Morris of 87 Madison Avenue, 15 June 1908. Connie’s niece recalls her saying that she used the surname Barton because the schools did not understand her mother and wrote the name Barton in the records.

By 1908 Juozas was employed at “The GE” Company, in 1909 he was working for the SGI Company and in 1910 he reports being a molder at the electrical works (likely GE). Salomėja was a self employed laundress. In 1910, their census address is 87 Tierney [likely 87 Madison Avenue which was on the corner of Tierney and Madison]. Living with the family are lodgers John Kidz, Jacob Gessing and Michael Jorg, all single and Russian-Polish. Nephew Raphael is no longer with the family, his whereabouts are unknown.

This was a difficult time for the family.  Juozas was physically abusive and an alcoholic.  A courageous Salomėja left him in 1911, taking the four children (ages 13, 7, 6 and 3) and relocating to Athol, Massachusetts near her brother Kazimieras/Charles.  She had to rely on the city for assistance as Juozas did not feel obligated to pay child support.  Juozas remained on 87 Madison Avenue (when he wasn’t in jail) until 1916, when he disappears. He may have died, left the area or changed his name to avoid paying child support.

The following notices appeared in local newspapers:

4 May 1910 – Springfield Republican

  • Superior Court : Joseph Billie was charged with assault and battery on his wife and drunkenness.  He pleaded not guilty to both charges and the cases were continued to this morning. His wife was the complainant  in both cases.

24 July 1911 – Springfield Republican

  • Joseph Billie who was recently before the district court on a charge of nonsupport and was released on his own recognizance, was surrendered by probation officer Evans yesterday for nonpayment of the amount he agreed to give to the support of his wife.

30 August 1911 – Springfield Republican

  • BerkshireCounty News: Joseph Billie was sentenced to the house of corrections for 30 days on a charge of drunkenness.

2 April 1914 – Springfield Republican

  • District Court Cases:  Joseph Billie was arrested in Athol and brought to Pittsfield was charged with nonsupport in the district court yesterday.  He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and sentenced to three months in the house of correction, 50 cents a day to be paid his wife during that time for the labor of Billie at the jail. Mrs Billie said that Mr Billie had given her but $30 in the past 2 ½ years and the city had been assisting her considerably during that time. Formerly, when Billie was ordered to turn his wages over to his wife, he took a position under another name, and it was a month before this was found out. He then went to Athol.  A West Pittsfieldite arrested for drunkenness said $10 had been stolen from him. He had $108 on his person when he was arrested.  After ordering the defendant to put his money in the bank the court told him to go forth and do better.

23 August 1915 – Springfield Republican

  • Joseph Billie was arrested by Deputy Sherriff in Williamstown Saturday and brought to Pittsfield and this morning will be arraigned in district court on a charge of non support of his wife.  It is an old case, as Billie was ordered on April 3rd last to pay his wife $5 a week and has failed to comply with the order.

On a lighter note, in 1912, Athol celebrated their 150th anniversary.  Perhaps the family was in the crowd viewing the parade.


View of horses at the water trough looking down Main Street (now Uptown Common) in 1913 (about 1 mile from their home).


Before 1917 Salomėja’s son Antanas/Anthony had returned to Pittsfield and was residing with his Gasson cousins and working as a chair builder for Berkshire Wooden Company until 1923, when he left for Detroit, Michigan.

By 1920, Salomėja was working as a shoemaker, living at “57 rear off Pine” in Athol, about a block from her brother Charles (who resided on Freedom), with her four children. She reports that she is widowed (divorce/separation was a disgrace in those years, so we don’t know for sure). 

map home 3

Salomea map

Her brother Charles died in 1925.  Salomėja and Connie lived together for several years in Athol, moving a few times.

By 1928 they resided on Cottage. In 1930 they lived at 387 South Street. Salomėja was working as a laborer at a comb factory. Sons Ralph and Charles had returned to Pittsfield to work, Charles was living with his Gasson cousins. By 1934 Salomėja moved to 56 Sanders with Peter and Nellie Balchuinas (relation if any, unknown – Connie remained at 387 South Street).  By 1936 Connie had moved to Dover, New Hampshire for a year, returning to Athol shortly before her mother’s death.

On 5 March 1938  Athol death records report that Sally Baltrunas (Morris) wife of Joseph, female, white, widowed, 68 yrs, 5 mon old died of intestinal malignancy, without a physician in attendance,  at her home. She was buried at Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol. Sadly we are left without many details of her life.


Other Relatives

Salomėja’s children Ralph and Connie never married.  Ralph worked on a ship and died in San Francisco in 1943. Connie for many years worked for the Starrett Company. She died in Athol in 1974 and was buried near her mother at Gethsemane Cemetery.


City directories indicate her son Anthony, “Tony” left for Detroit, Michigan in 1923. Not much is known of him. His two nieces (Charles’ daughters) recall that he arrived one Easter at their foster home in Malden, Massachusetts (early 1940’s) with gifts of solid chocolate bunnies.  Details are fuzzy, but they recall his having one leg (or arm) missing and residing in New York.

A 1924 newspaper article mentions an Anthony Billings of Troy, New York being treated at the hospital for lacerations to his head, received while on a job site (Hotel Van Curler, Schenectady), working for Atlas Roofing of Newburgh as a sheet metal worker.

In in the 1930 Albany, New York census he was likely residing with 73-year-old John Bruce at 103 Broadway. Anthony was single.  It appears that he never married. The census tells us that he never attended school but could read and write.  He was a laborer working odd jobs.

His 1940 Alien Registration Papers report a residence of 530 East Washington Ave., Bridgeport, Connecticut on 23 Dec 1940.  He “thinks” he entered the United States through New York in 1900 (exact date and ship name/unknown) under the name Anthony Baltrun. He uses the name Tony Billie.  He is single with no wife or children; parents are deceased.  He is 5’4″, 140 pounds with brown-gray hair and blue eyes.  He has been in the United States for 40 years, having been born in or near Kovono (Kaunas), Lithuania (but does not know the Providence) has not registered for citizenship and plans to remain in the United States permanently.  He is usually a laborer but at the time was unemployed.  He has never been arrested or in the military and belongs to no clubs or other organizations. Included is a print of his right index finger.

He died 26 May 1955 and is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, St John’s Catholic Church in Rensselaer, New York.

Her son Charles (my grandfather) married Yvonne Marie Roy daughter of Paul/Pius Roy and Laura Marie Melanson and had four children. They first resided in Gardner, then Lynn, Massachusetts.  When the children were young Yvonne was admitted to the hospital with TB, Charles worked nights and left the children alone, but asked the woman upstairs to keep watch. Another neighbor reported the situation to the state; three children were placed in foster care and a fourth in an institution.  The couple separated. He never saw his children again (Yvonne saw them a few times, she was a bartendar and heavy drinker). He died in 1959 in Danvers, Massachusetts and is buried at Forestdale Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.

ccf6e9c9-dfad-4d89-97b3-d5985c0c0132Yvonne (Roy) and Charles Billings

Although supporting records have not been located, it is possible that Salomėja’s father Baltramiejus came to America.  Her brother Charles/Kazimieras’ grandson wrote the following to his cousin:

July 29, 1987.

Dear Barbara,

I hope you have the picture I sent you recently of our grandparents. I am a clot . I realize, now, that I could have sent you some added information. Again, maybe you know it. If not, here is some history for your family tree.

Your Grandmother, Maggie Bennett, whose formal maiden name was Magdelena Bendisnhas (Bendisnskas?) was born on July 22, 1886. My Mother, Nellie Morris, who became Nellie Vinnis was from Athol Mass on October 16, 1904. You an see by the dates that our Grandmother was only 18 when she had my mother,

Our Grandfather, Charles Morris, was born on March 4, 1874. His occupation was mechanic or as was listed on my mothers birth certificate. He worked in a shoe factory in Athol, had a house, farm, cow, chickens, dog, cat, etc.
Many men came to his farm to talk politics. Our grandmother did everything, including making butter and ice cream. Your mother and mine were required to go out to the woods to pick blueberries. They couldn’t come home until each filled a bucket. Our grandfather brought home to Athol his father from Lithuania.  My mother said that he looked so distinguished, something like Mark Twain, with lots of white hair and a large white mustache. He didn’t have to work, so he walked all over town to talking to anyone and everyone. He was well known. They found him dead one day sitting by a tree looking at a stream.

Sorry I didn’t include some of this sooner. You may find it interesting. Again, best wishes for you and your family.
– Bill 

Salomėja’s brother Kazimieras legally changed his name to Charles Morris when he became an American citizen in 1908. He had 6 children with Maggie, who he married in Worcester, 30 August 1902: Mary Louise who died as an infant, Nellie (1904-1977), Anastasia Maggie (1905-1986), Paul Peter (1908-1950), Veto (1911-1959) and Edward (1918-1978). He resided in Athol until his death in 1924. That same year his daughter Nellie relocated to Detroit, Michigan (city directories indicate her cousin Anthony relocated there as well).

morrisCharles and Maggie Morris

Salomėja’s daughter Connie writes in a letter dated 1971 to her niece: “…I have a cousin in Chicago [Charles daughter Nellie (Morris) Vinnis] and another in Conn. [Charles’ daughter Anastasia Maggie “Nat” (Morris) Stone] and three in Pittsfield [the Gasson’s]. When I’m in Pitts – I visit them all but I stay with one cousin closer to my age [Daisy Gasson]. We’ve been friendly since childhood. Last summer I was with her during my vacation. We rode by the place I was born, the house was torn down and in that area they built a housing development for the elderly.…”  

Daisy’s son Mitt recalls sleeping on Connie’s floor in his childhood, in Athol, Massachusetts, when he and his mom traveled there to attend the “Lithuanian beer drinking parties”. Mitt could not recall the names of the other relatives who attended (he was born in 1935). When Connie passed away, a number of photos were found in her apartment: Click here to view photos

Salomėja’s brother Rapolas and his wife Anastazija Maikštėnaitė remained in South Boston. It is unknown if they stayed in touch. Rapolas’ first son Peter/Petras Markevičius was born in Stanioniai on 12 April 1898 and baptized in Pumpėnai 19 April, (the day before Salomėja’s son Anthony was born). Three more children were born in America: Katherine/Katie (1901), Ann/Annie (1902) and Alice (1909). Rapolas died in 1954.


Autosomal DNA testing has further strengthened the case!Lithuanian DNA Match

Lithuanian Matrix

My mom and two Lithuanian cousins all match on chromosome 5:

Kit Nbr. Name Kit Nbr. Name Chrom From To
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M567412 *SG Lithuanian 4 76428062 100462320
M567412 *SG Lithuanian M674783 *Alexa 5 173450349 178140215
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M567412 *SG Lithuanian 5 171217701 180625733
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M674783 *Alexa 5 173450349 178064020
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M567412 *SG Lithuanian 6 43844474 53728790
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M674783 *Alexa 6 81739635 93122057
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M674783 *Alexa 6 102203016 142328804
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M567412 *SG Lithuanian 11 65341833 88550770
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M567412 *SG Lithuanian 11 88677584 118889660
M060444 Elizabeth Hall M674783 *Alexa 16 81553068 83205492


“Lithuanian surnames have certain distinct endings. -as or -us is a masculine ending, -iene is a feminine married name, -iute or -yte is a feminine unmarried name, while -iu is the ending of the whole family.”

“New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” : accessed 17 August 2009, transcription, “Józef Baltrunas Line 16, Microfilm Serial 15, Microfilm Roll  T715_115, Page number 99” crediting  Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication and Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957; (National Archives Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

“1900 United States Federal Census”, ( : accessed 17 June 2009), transcription, “Year: 1900; Census Place: Boston Ward 15, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll  T623; Page: 7 & 8B; Enumeration District: 1375; Image: 15 row 50 & 16, rows 51-53, crediting “United States of America, Bureau of the Census. thirteenth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.

 “Pittsfield Directory U.S. City Directories”, ( accessed 24 May 2009), transcription, “1902 (pg 26), 1903 (pg 28), 1911 (pg 53), 1913 (pg 55), 1914 (pg 63), 1916 (pg 62), 1917 (pg 64), 1918 (pg 64), 1919 (pg 64)”  crediting “original town records Pittsfield, MA”

“Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910”, New England Historical Genealogical Society, ( accessed 23 May 2009), transcription “Births Registered in the City of Pittsfield, 1904”, p. [unreadable], entry number 320, crediting “original records held by the Massachusetts Achieves”

“1910 United States Federal Census”, accessed 17 June 2009), Census Place: Pittsfield Ward 6, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Roll  T624_573; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 78; Image: 589”, rows 56-61 crediting”NARA Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.”

“Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910”, New England Historical Genealogical Society, ( accessed 23 May 2009), transcription “Births Registered in the City of Pittsfield, 1904”, p. [unreadable], entry number 320, crediting “original records held by the Massachusetts Achieves”

 “Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910”, New England Historical Genealogical Society, ( accessed 23 May 2009), transcription “Births Registered in the City of Pittsfield, 1906”, p. [unreadable], entry number 326, crediting “original records held by the Massachusetts Achieves”

“Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910”, New England Historical Genealogical Society, ( accessed 23 May 2009), “transcription Births Registered in the City of Pittsfield, 1904”, p. 116, entry number 347, crediting “original records held by the Massachusetts Achieves”

“1920 United States Federal Census”, ( : accessed 17 June 2009), transcription “Year: 1920; Census Place: Athol, Worcester, Massachusetts; Roll  T625_744; Page: 21B; Enumeration District: 5; Image: 858”, rows 76-79, crediting FamilySearch.

City directories:

  • 1911, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison, also lists Samuel J Billei emp ED Jones & Sons, bds 87 Madison Ave (a search was done for Samuel in Ellis Island documents with no results using Steve Morse, Ancestry and Ellis Island search engines). (Peter Verbisky lives at same address).
  • 1912, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison Av.(Peter Verbisky lives at same address).
  • 1913, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison Av. (Peter Verbisky lives at same address).
  • 1914, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison Av. (Peter Verbisky lives at same address)
  • 1915, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison Av. (Peter Verbisky lives at same address)
  • 1916, Billei, Joseph h 87 Madison Av. (Peter Verbisky lives at same address)
  • 1917, Billei, Antonio emp B Sheet Metal Works bds 87 Madison Av., Billei, Joseph, Mrs 51 Seymour (no listing for Joseph in street directory or death listings, checked 1916 death listings as well)
  • 1918, Billei, Samuel J emp ED Jones & Sons, bds 37 Division (no listing for Joseph, Mrs Joseph or Antonio Billei, also checked the “Bal” listings and death listings)
  • 1919, no listings for Billings, Billie, Billei
  • 1920, no listings for Billings, Billie, Billei
  • 1917/18 Draft Registrations-Anthony George Baltrunas born 20 Apr 1900 is listed as living on 289 First Street in Pittsfield, MA.  Birth place is listed as Russia, he is a chair builder for Berkshire Wooden Company on Ricks Road. Nearest relative is listed as Anthony Gaston also of 289 First Street. Registration is dated 12 Sep 1918.
  • 1920 Anton Baltrenas at 57 Pine r, Athol, MA (he is not listed in the 1920 census with the family).
  • 1921 Apr 1  Salamay Baltrunew  49 yrs. old  resided rear 37 Pine St, Athol, MA.  At same location last year
  • 1922, Billings, Anthony emp 55 West, rms 128 Danforth av.,Pittsfield, MA home of Joseph & Nellie Gasson.
  • 1922 Apr 1  Salamay Baltrunew  50 yrs. old resided 39 Pine St, Athol, MA.  At rear 37 Pine St. last year
  • 1923, Billings Anthony, rem to Detroit Mich., Pittsfield, MA. Other’s in Pittsfield who moved to Detroit that same year include: George & Helen Mears, Angelo Constand, Henry B. Beach, Francis E. McMahon, Ettore Vecello, Mrs. Carrie Sweeney, Frank & Laura Ryniski, William &Alice Kowulske, Albert Zanda, Joseph B Oliver, Arthur J Blais.
  • 1924 to 1927 no listings Pittsfield, MA
  • 1928 Billings, Charles , emp GE bds 104 Draper Ave, Pittsfield, MA home of Anthony Paul a molder at electrical works
  • 1928 Baltrunas, Dama [Connie], Clerk r 606 Cottage, Athol, MA; Salome, Mrs.  r 606 Cottage, Athol, MA
  • 1929, Billings, Charles , emp GE bds 104 Draper Ave, Pittsfield, MA home of Anthony Paul Gasson
  • 1930, Billings, Charles , emp GE bds 104 Draper Ave, Pittsfield, MA home of Anthony Paul Gasson
  • 1930 Baltruniene, Domicela [Connie], emp A[thol] Comb Co., r 359 Cottage, Athol, MA; Salomea, Mrs. r 359 Cottage. Athol, MA
  • 1931, Billings, Charles , emp GE bds 104 Draper Ave also listed as 105 Sadler Av, home of Anthony Paul Gasson [house changed addresses per Mitt Gasson, grandson, they didn’t move]; Billings, Ralph bds 738 Tyler (at that address is also Mrs. Nellie E. Kibby), Pittsfield, MA.
  • 1932-1960 no listings, Pittsfield, MA
  • 1934 Baltrunas, Saloma R. Mrs.  r 56 Sanders, Athol, MA (This is also the address for Peter and Nellie A Balchuinas lab h 56 Saunders and Peter P Balchuinas woodworker 900 Main r 56 Saunders, note that the initial R does not fit).
  • 1934 Barton, Connie  stitcher Anson Shoe Mfg. Co.  r 387 South, Athol, MA same address as a Michael Barzelars
  • 1936 Barton, Connie  removed to Dover, Athol, MA , Michael Barzelars remains at 387 South
  • 1936 Balchunas, Nellie A wid Peter married Joseph Ringis rem toOrange,
  • Peter P woodwkr emp 900 Main r 56 Saunders, Athol, MA
  • Peter P died Oct 14 1934 age 40
  • 1942 Barton, Connie emp LSSCO r 32 Exchange, Athol, MA
  • 1946 Barton, Connie emp LSSCO r 32 Exchange, Athol, MA
  • 1959 & 1960 Barton, Connie emp LSSCO, r 387 South, Athol, MA


A Trip to Venice, by Walter Franklin Lansil (1846-1925)

Walter Franklin Lansil, my 2nd great grand uncle, on my dad’s side was a well known marine artist.  He is my g-grandmother Edith Bernice (Lansil) Haines’s uncle through her father Edwin Lansil.


Walters business card

According to family lore, My grandmother (Nana Hall), a pretty great artist herself, took art lessons from Walter as a teenager.

Nana’s son Charlie adds:  “My version of the painting lesson story has a little different twist. In the lore that I remember, Nana Hall’s mother, Edith (Lansil) Haines, was always described as a Lansil favorite. I can imagine Edith putting pressure on Walter to teach Nana Hall. To keep the story short, the teenage Nana Hall showed up late for the lesson, Lansil refused to teach her and sent her home. When the adult Nana Hall told me the story she still had shock in her voice. I think the experience was really a life lesson learned”.

Walter died when Nana was 17. Sadly, my Nana died at the age of 91 (I was 36),  long before my interest in genealogy, long before I knew the name Walter Franklin Lansil and long before I thought to ask any questions.

The family historian, Aunt Natalie of course knew of him.  She lovingly refers to him as “Uncle Waddie” and his brother Wilbur a cattle artist as “Bibber” .

According to the blog My Old Ohio Home,  there is an unsigned note in the possession of a descendant of Walter’s brother Edwin which says this about Walter Franklin Lansil:  — “Mom said he was a terrific guy. Everyone was his friend — no business head. Never said anything wrong about anyone. If he said anything bad about anyone it was ‘He’s a pill.’ That was his only usage of bad words!”


lansil_walter_franklin-venice_noonday_on_the_river~OM619300~10603_20130201_2635B_435 artwork_images_424116582_477256_walterfranklin-lansil

Walter’s studio is depicted in a painting done by Enrico Meneghelli  in the 1880’s held in the MFA’s collection:

walters studio

Our Walter was born 30 Mar 1846 in Bangor, Maine to  to Asa Paine Lansil (a Mayflower descendant of Stephen Hopkins) and Betsey Turner Grout (a descendant of William Grout who fought  in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Bunker Hill and a descendant of Captain John Grout, a Puritan, who came here in 1637).  The Lansil’s were members of Hammond Street Congregational Church.  From 1843 to 1848, they lived on 101 Hammond, a brick tenement in the Bangor in the neighborhood of Barkerville.  Walter’s siblings included Enoch Howard (1836-1843), Edwin (my g-g-grandfather, 1839-1904), Frances Ellen (1841-1886), Asa Brainard (1849-1904) and Wilbur Henry (the well known cattle artist, 1855-1897).  Asa was a self-employed Cooper who was fairly well off having a net worth of $3,500 in 1860 and $5,500 in 1870.

In 1870, Walter, then a cistern maker – was his dad’s only employee, in a business netting $1,200 annually.  He was also a volunteer fire fighter along with brother Asa (double click on the image to see a larger version):

1870 census


Walter’s sister Frances married a Bangor lumber tycoon, Carleton Sylvanus Bragg.  About 1870, the Bragg family and Walter’s brother Edwin moved to East Boston, Massachusetts where they started a lumber operation under the name Jones, Bragg and Lansil.  A year later, Asa P., Betsey, Walter, Wilbur and Asa B. followed, (Enoch died in 1843 at the age of 6).

The family initially boarded at 119 Webster.  Soon Asa Sr. and Edwin purchased a home together for $5,600 on Trenton, at the corner of Putnam (lot 169, sec 3).  The Braggs owned a home on White St., but by 1876 they join the family on Trenton.

A full listing of the Lansil clan, including daughter Fannie Bragg’s family in the 1880 census, Walter’s occupation was recorded as “Artist”:
 Walter was on his way to fame! A small sampling of some of the newspaper accounts of his activities:
Art Notes

Sadly, on 1 Nov 1880, Fannie’s husband Carleton passed away suddenly after being sick for just two days from apoplexy (sudden loss of consciousness, sensation, and voluntary motion). The following year, on 3 March 1881, Walter’s mother, Betsey Turner (Grout) Lansil, died of dropsey caused by scirrhus of the liver.

By 1882 the entire family was still living together but, had relocated to Dorchester (with widowed sister Fannie Bragg and her children), most likely due to changing demographics (incoming immigrants) in East Boston. Dorchester was still a primarily rural town and had a population of 12,000 when it was annexed to Boston in 1870. Railroad and streetcar lines brought rapid growth, increasing the population to 150,000 by 1920.

The 1882 through 1886 city directories indicate that perhaps Asa P. owned the home on Milton Avenue.  No entry was found in Suffolk County land indexes to support this – all of his sons and presumably the Braggs continued to reside in the same household.

Walter’s popularity continued to grow. Meanwhile, Coleman, Lewis & Co., a small wares company where Wilbur was a shipper for years, dissolved in late 1882. Wilbur decided on a career change and joined his brother as an artist.

The brothers applied for and received passports on 5 August 1884.

Walter Wilbur passports.png

Days later, they headed to Europe to study at the Académie Julian in Paris; family lore says Edwin funded their jaunts across the sea to study and paint; but it seems the funding was from Walter auctioning 122 pieces of his artwork, in May 1884 (see newspaper clipping below).


Walter auction

Walter Lansil

They remained great friends.


Lansil, a name with French origins (Lansell, Lansel, Lancle, Lancil, Lancel), is an unusual name during that time period.  So surname Google searches offer great results…unlike my Hall, Jones and Roberts surnames.

A recent Google search revealed that Walter had written a memoir of his journey to Venice:–walter-lansil-7859

The Boston Public Library’s Art department has a copy on microfilm.  There are two copies, handwritten.  In transcribing them, I tried to keep the same spelling, punctuation and capitalization that Walter used.  It seems that he kept notes of his journey, likely arriving in Venice early in 1885, and then wrote about them some 30 years later in 1914.  He was about 40 and brother Wilbur 30 when they began their journey.


A Trip to Venice

I had now been in Paris several months studying and as spring was approaching made arrangements to take a trip to Venice to make studies of the City that I had so long wished to see and had read so much about.

Accompanied by my Brother [Wilbur] we took our departure on a cold February day soon after a snow storm, something very unusual for Paris, buying our tickets to Turin Italy. The train starting at 6o’ck PM. Our companions consisting of two Gentlemen and two Ladies made up the party, as usual luck followed us as it generally had while travelling for one of the Gentlemen spoke English and it made the time pass pleasantly.

Late in the evening three of our party left us at a way Station our English speaking friend remaining.  The nights being intensely cold we were obliged to sit with our overcoats on and it was out of the question to sleep, there being no heat in the cars but we made the best of it. About midnight we stopped at a Small Station and the Conductor added one more to our number a French woman weighing nearly three hundred pounds having a large market basket on her arm.

The conductor had about all he could do to get her into the car. After she was seated a few minutes she took from her basket a large bottle of Wine and a loaf of bread and began to eat which she nearly accomplished before going to sleep and although large I very much doubt if she could have held much more and between her snoring and the cold it was almost more than we could stand but we were obliged to put up with it all through the night.

Our English friend was born on the Island of Malta his father was a Brittish G_____ his mother being a Maltese and a native of the Island.  He was a very interesting Man, had travelled a great deal had been to England on business and was now on his way home. He knew the Country we were travelling through by heart and his explanation of the different places was very interesting and helped to make the night pass more pleasantly.

The morning lights began to break and we now caught sight of the snow capped Alps which was one of the grandest sights I ever saw.  But one thing was striking and seemed to me careless,  that was the closeness the houses were built to the base of the cliffs the people seeming in no fear of their homes being crushed by the heavy Avalanches that roll down from the Mountains, Sometimes crushing whole Villages by the heavy weight of snow.

As we rode on the Alps became more and more plain to our view, the snow packed higher and higher and the Villages appearing on every side. The buildings built of stone and the Mountains seemed to be one solid mass.  As the sun arose it presented the most beautiful sight I ever beheld, at first it touched the snow clad hills presenting to our view a most beautiful effect with its brown dark foreground in shadow was in striking contrast to the scarlet tops.

It touched some very green trees almost at the Summit and added greatly to the beauty of the scene. The sky had shown a purple cast the earlier part of the morning and now was growing brighter every minute as we passed Village after Village. The smoke rising from the chimneys in the cool of the morning had a very curious effect.

We now began to pass through several tunnels taking from one to thirty minutes. At the entrance of one we found an Avalanche had descended a short time before delaying our train, seeming to be impossible for us to proceed but after some hours delay we were enabled to resume our journey. A small village was completely buried beneath the weight of the snow, only the chimneys and now and then broken spire (?) told where the village stood not a sign of life was about and very few people could be seen about the ruins.

We were now approaching the Grape Country of Italy. The Lou Valleys [Loire, Valley?]and far up the Mountainsides were covered with thousands of acres of Grape Vines reaching as far as the eye could see looked like a great net thrown over the country. Old Forts and Castles were passed on every h____, relics of bygone days.

One in particular not far away nesting among the hills showing out amongst the brown dead grass of the passing year was very impressive, but the grandest and most beautiful of all we had seen came as we swung around the mountainside and saw an old Stone Castle standing high above the Valley in the dark grass against the snow covered sides of Majestic Old Mont Blanc in the sunlight was seen, I can assure you, a sight of such surpassing loveliness which once seen could never be forgotten.

We could now see thousands of feet down the Valley in the cool soft morning light Sta___ Farmers plowing in the fields. It begins to grow warm as we are nearing the end of our journey.  We arrived at Turin at about 1:30 PM and remained there about 4 hours which gave us time to go about and see the city and its beautiful buildings.

We took the train for Venice at 5:45PM. Stopped at Milan a short time.

Our English-Maltese friend one of the most genial and interesting travelling companions I ever met, a real jovial good fellow left us here and it was feelings of sadness that we bid him goodbye. We were found here by the Italian from New York who spoke a little English and with whats French I could mutter we managed to carry on a pleasant conversation for a few hours, he left just before we reached Venice which was about 5 o’clock in the morning, cold and very tired. It had rained hard during the night and everything was cold, damp and dreary. Few people were stirring and the city looked gloomy and deserted.

After our baggage was examined we took a Gondola for our destination.

We were now in Venice. Not indeed the charming Venice that we expected to see painted by artists and praised by poets the mention of which sends a thrill through every human soul that loves the beautiful in art and nature, but a dark and dreary dismal city. Fog settled all around the buildings and to say the least we were sadly disappointed by our first impression of the fair bity of Venice for it was anything but pleasant.

After settling a dispute with three Gondoliers each claiming I had employed him. I soon adjusted matters by cutting the number down to one I had hired – The others soon left disgusted and beaten and we went on our way down the Grand Canal passing old and beautiful Palaces on every hand, Towers rising high in the morning mist, Many Picturesque and Ornamental Bridges the stillness only broken by the Boatman’s cry as he turned the corner of some Canal or the splash of the oar as we paddled on.

We finally arrived at our Hotel and after presenting our letters found we could not get accommodations as every room was engaged. We employed a man to carry our Baggage and started for the Grand Canal and found a Gondola ready to cross. There were a few men in it and fearing to have the same trouble I had at the Depot, I told them that one man was enough to carry us over, and refused to start until all but one got out, they had a good laugh after talking it over, one who could speak some English informed us that it was a ferry boat and they were passengers, so I said nothing but got aboard and soon was across the Canal. I had been using a Guide Book and found it was not quite reliable and shut it up.

We crossed St Marks Square to the Piazzetta and before us we beheld the Palace of the Dodges [Doge’s Palace]. The Sun was just arising above a thick bank of mist and throwing a shimmering light across the waters of the Lagoon and through the dark arches of the Ducal Palace [Doge’s Palace in Italian is Palazzo Ducale]. One solitary figure with a heavy cloak thrown around him was pacing backward and forward between the columns of St Mark and St Theodore. Everything seemed to be deserted and reminded me very much of “Turners” Painting of Ancient Italy memories of bye gone days. It was an impressive Scene and I fully realized that I was in Venice and that our Journey was over. 

After a couple of days rest we located in a Cosy [cozy ?] Hotel over a Palace having a larger Studio well suited to our purpose situated at the entrance of the “Grand Canal” and near the “Santa Maria del Saluta” [Santa Maria della Salute] which sits on land once owned by the “Crusaders” in ancient days. It was kept by a man of the old School who Spoke English fluently and had seen better days but now living on past glory who loved to tell of the deeds done by his ancestors. He had no particular admiration for a man that was poor and in referring to such a person would say yes : he is a good fellow but he has no money : – He and his wife who was a German woman did everything they possibly could to make our stay comfortable and pleasant.

The View from the Hotel down the Grand Canal was superb far out on the waters of the “Adriatic”. Ships of many nations lay at Auchan (?) and the beautiful sails of the Fishing Boats reflecting their Colours in the blue waters of the Harbor was a scene of beauty I can never forget.

To anyone visiting Venice his stay would not be complete without sailing up the Grand Canal in one of its very beautiful Gondolas more particularly on a bright moonlight summer night. The scene is most delightful when the Canal is througed (?) with Boats and the Sweetest Music floats far away over the waters of the dark Lagoon to the waters of the Adriatic until long after midnight.

Venice is a most interesting City lying two and a half miles from the Main land in the Lagoon a shallow part of the Adriatic Sea. It is about 25 miles long and 9 miles wide, a short time ago there were Fifteen Thousand Palaces and Houses on the three large and one hundred and fourteen small islands comprising the Ancient City joined by one hundred + fifty canals spanned by three hundred and seventy eight Bridges of stones and over 200 miles in circumference.

The population which at one time was fully 200,000 dwindled down to 96,000 after its dissolution as an independent State in 1797 and 40 to 50 years ago its population had increased to 133,000 of which one fourth were said to be Paupers –

Venice is considered to be one of the greatest Sea Ports of the Adriatic. Ships of England, Greece, Turkey, Holland and other Nations find a Harbor here on their way to and from India and other Ports and the great number of sailing vessels large and small sailing between Italian and other ports help to make up the mass of shipping whose tall masts towering against the beautiful “Santa Maria del Saluta” make a most beautiful picture which one will long remember.

The Fishing Boats long the pride of Venice are now missed from their moorings at the Public Gardens where they used to lay in groups their beautiful colored sails reflecting great masses of color and the Picturesque Costumes of the Fisherman mingled with the deep greenish waters of the Lagoon under a Cerulion [Cerulean] Sky of blue made a picture of beauty. But one by one they have departed until very few remain in Venice.  They have gone to the little Island of Chiogga [Chioggia] an ancient city founded about the same period as Venice.  The Inhabitants have always differed materially in Language and Customs from the Inhabitants of the Lagoon District. This is a great Fishing Port and one of the Most Picturesque Islands in the Adriatic Sea and interesting and Valuable Sketching ground much admired and frequented by Artists.

The Grand Canal the Main Artery of Venice is nearly 2 miles in length varying from 38 to 66 yards in width curving around in shape like the letter S. Many gondolas and other small boats are moving in all directions making a scene of activity and beauty. Lately the Grand Canal is undergoing many changes. Tall Modern buildings are being erected taking the places of Old and Ancient Palaces which were once the Pride of the City.  Motor Boats are also seen mooring about and the real charm of Venice is fast disappearing. Here handsome and Magnificent Palaces rise above the water for this is the Streets (water streets) of the old aristocracy of Venice. Far up the Grand Canal is the Rialto the oldest Bridge connecting the old and new Venice and near it the Fish Market one of the most interesting spots on the Canal. The Rialto built in 1588-1591 by Antonio di Ponte is 158 feet long and 46 feet wide with a single marble arch 74 feet span and 32 feet in height resting on 12,000 piles.

Friday is the great Fish Market day in Venice when the market is abundantly supplied. I was very fortunate in securing for my Gondolier a faithful loyal grand old man who has seen much of the world one who had fought under Garibaldi in his many campaigns, his anecdotes and stories of that great leader which he almost worshipped were very interesting and he used to beg me to allow him to wear his Garibaldi Shirt of Red when on his trips with me. He was very proud of that “Red Shirt”.

I found the people very kind considerate and hospitable ready to do you a favor at all times. They are great home bodys. Very seldom leave homes, I doubt that you can find a Venetian in Boston today. The Italians who come here are from the Bay of Naples, Sicily, Syria and other sections of Italy. Many of them from the lower and most undesirable class.

I will tell you how considerate they are. I was sitting one morning painting a group of boats at the Public Gardens there was hardly a breath of air not enough to make a ripple on the water when I discovered a small steamer approaching towing a number of barges filled with men who were singing and cheering at the top of their lungs. As they came in the direction in which I was at work I saw they were government troops on their way to the fortifications. As they came nearer and first before they had reached me one of the Officers standing on the docks of the Steamer raised his sword and gave an order. Suddenly the Engine stopped, the noise ceased and they floated by me without a Rufyls [? can’t read word]. After passing a short distance the officer again raised his sword gave an order, the engine started up and bedlam was let loose. I saluted them. The steamers returned it with 3 whistles and the men cheered until they were far down the Bay. They were very careful not to disturb me at my work and that is the respect and consideration they show to Visitors especially Artists.

At another time while sketching near the Dorgano or Custom House a large schooner came drifting in near where I was. The Captain entered into conversation with my Gondolier I enquired what the Captain wanted and was told that he wished to know how long before I would be through as he wanted to come in where I was and make fast, I told him to come in as it would not interfere with me, but he would not until I had moved away which I did and then returned and finished my sketch and was shown every attention that they could give me and I found that was characteristic of the people in general wherever I came in contact with them.

At the extremity of Venice are the Public Gardens laid out by Napoleon in 1807 who demolished several monasteries to be able to abtain space to build them using the _____ from the monasteries in their construction. They are almost 900 feet long and 300 feet wide planted with rows of Acacia, Sycamore and other shrubs.

The grounds afford full views of the City and the Lagoon just at sundown when the Venetian Chimes send their inspiring music far out on the waters from this City of the Sea the effect from these Gardens is out of great splendor and great enjoyment.

Below the Gardens and at the lower entrance of the Lagoon is the Lido or bathing place of the City a beautiful sandy beach running far along the shore reaching out into the sea reminding me somewhat of our own Revere Beach with Nahant in the distance.

Thatched huts are scattered every little way apart which are occupied by government soldiers who are daily on the watch for smugglers or anyone who break the laws. They are a fine class of men and are always ready and willing to impart information on any subject you desire. It is a beautiful place to spend the day and the view is perfectly lovely.

But Venice is not always the Same. It has its drawbacks and troubles as well as its joys and beauties as has all places.

I once witnessed a riot at the entrance of the Grand Canal one morning as I started out to work. As we reached the “Santa Marie del Saluta”. We found the Canal crowded with hundreds of boats blocking the entrances men and women had congregated on the Quay and were shouting and cheering at the top of their voices. They were destroying the Gondolas belonging to the Hotels going from one to another until all were destroyed.  The Hotel Proprietors had put on their own Gondolas and cut into the business of the regular Gondoliers.

Hence the riot and the destruction of the Hotel Keepers Gondolas some of which cost as high as 500 dollars each, one having 1500.00 Dollars and took the first prize at Vienna. Now I saw a crowd of gatherers at the Palace of the Dodges and coming from the Piazzetta as it came near I found it was the Mayor and a body of Gendarmes.  He had a wide red sash across his breast and came within a short distance of where we were. He stood and read the “Riot Act” then gave orders to arrest the leaders about a dozen or more. The Officers drew their swords and ordered them to surrender. One of the Gendarmes placed his gun near a leaders head who unbuttoned his shirt placed his bare chest against the nozzle shook his hand in the Gendarmes face and dared him to fire.  It was the most dramatic thing I ever saw. I tried to get out but was so blocked up found it impossible to do so. The leaders soon gave up and under escort went ashore where they were tried and fined 400 dollars each and sent to jail for 15 days they served their sentences but the fines were never paid. The day they were liberated the City was draped in color and a general holiday and procession took place led by a band and escorted by hundreds of boats up and down the “Grand Canal” and the celebration was kept up long after midnight. The Gondoliers Won!

My work from day to day was somewhat varied and nearly every morning as early as 5 o’ck I was on my way to study and sketch the beautiful sunrise effects as the [sun] cast their golden lights across the dark waters of the Lagoon and touched the tops of the many Palaces and Domes that rise above the White City the “Queen of the Adriatic”.

One of the pleasantest sails is up the “Giudecca Canal” the shipping port of Venice.  A very wide and long Canal the largest ships of all descriptions lay at anchor. Leaving we pass out and by the oldest and most ancient Palaces beautiful in their day, but now only memories of the past. They are also occupied by Fisherman and it is known as the fishery section of the Island of  Giudecca. Pass the churches of the Redentore and St Sebastian which contain some of the Master pieces of Italy and beneath the latter reprose the dust of Paul Veroneso + passing out from the Canal a short distance and we get a broad view of Mont Eugenia with its Snow capped peaks 50 to 75 miles away and in clear weather can be seen very plainly.

In retracing our way back in the afternoon as the sun is going down we now see the City in its beautiful golden lights bathed in a warm creamy haze St George’s like a beacon in the Sea with its reddish tower and dome sitting alone in the harbor once belonging to a supposed Benedictine Monastery and now used as an “Artillery Barrack”. Here the morning, noon and evening gun, is fired.  The building was cornered in 1560 and finished about 1575. We now meet the boats from Genoa and Trieste and Fisherman from the Adriatic returning at night with their beautiful Lateen Sails, ornamented prowes and weather beaten Sailors, The Ancient “Palace of the Dodges” with its Campanile rising far over the Piazzetta, its Bridge of Sighs and its prison Gondolas drawn up in line at its base and its colored striped ports all reflects its colors in the Bay and its many Islands stretching far out to sea, the distant Island of Murano where is manufactured the finest Glassware in the world, sold in every land.

The Santo Maria del Saluto with its rich appearance is also a picture one must see to appreciate. A great event took place shortly before I came away, which I would not have missed for anything. A Fete (?) Day when Venice was seen in all its glory in honor of the King.

Preparations had been going on for several days and now all was ready for the great affair.  The Harbor was full of shipping everything draped in the National Colors and every bit of color that could possibly be displayed was thrown from windows. Spires and every available spot which could be used. The people dressed in rich and gaudy dress, scarfs, tablecloths, handkerchiefs were hung from the windows of the Grand Canal. Till the whole City looked like one Massive Bouquet, Gondolas were moving in all directions with their rich colored brilliant suits. Guns were fired to greet the morning Sun as it rose far out over the Lido and threw its light over the Magnificent Scene and and contributing its quota of homage and beauty to the occasion. All is bustle and gaiety. A Fairy Pageant. A Floating Caravan. A City of Poetic fervor and Artistic Splendor. Allowing the fervor of its Patriotism and love of Country to express itself in honor of its King.

It was a reminder of the Ancient Splendor and power of days long past.  They are gone but much of the beauty still remains. All day and far into the night the gaiety was kept up and as the sun sank to rest in all its splendor behind the Domes of the “Santa Marie del Saluto” I could not help feeling the decay of Venice notwithstanding all its beauty and magnificence.

We had been here nearly a year and had seen Venice in its various moods + had seen it in gloom and grandeur. We had seen its Marble Palaces and its Antique Buildings, Trod its Marble Halls and Streets, Sailed over its Canals and Waterays, Visited its Ancient Churches. Studied the works the great Masters, its Titian, Tiutoretta, Ver__ese(?) Georges and many many Painters of Ancient days.

We crossed the Marble Bridge of Sighs and Visited the Palace of the Dodges. That Magnificient Structure on the west side 246 feet in length on the South 234 feet covering over 1 ¼ acres of land.  It was founded in the year 800 and was destroyed Five times and as often rebuilt. It is flau_ed (?) by two Colonades on its West +South 107 columns and 36 below and 71 above and beneath its roof the east room Tintoretto’s Paradise claimed to be the largest Oil Painting ever attempted it is 84 feet long and 34 feet high. Pronounced by the great Ruskin to be the most precious thing that Venice possesses.

We had visited the gloomy Dungeons and beheld  its Ancient Cruel Instruments of Torture which tells a sad story of bygone days.  We had climbed the tall stairway of the Campanilo 322 feet high finished in 911, restored several times completed in 1511 and had gazed upon the magnificent view stretched out before us. The distant Alps and Adriatic. To the West Mont Eugene near Padua rising above the Lagoon, eats in the clear weather can be seen the Istrian Mountains rising above the Adriatic Sea. A truly magnificent Spectacle approaching Sunset and last but not least the beautiful soft, warm, tender, Italian Skies. And I look back with fond and grateful remembrance of Happy and instructive days I passed in the far, famed and beautiful City of Venice regretting only that I find it impossible by Tongue or Pen to describe its history or its beauty.

We made many friends there. Artists, Writers, Musicians and Many others who all seemed imbued with its Poetic beauty and Hospitality and which was very decidedly manifested in their lives and conversations.

And after bidding them a regretful Farewell we took our departure with a Cherished Consolation “That a person never goes to Venice the first time but once” And as Lord Byron says: –

Those days are gone – but beauty still is here

States fall, Arts fade – but Nature does not die

Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear

The pleasant place of all festivity

The rest of the earth the Mosque of Italy

I loved her from my boyhood. She to me

Was as a fairy City of the hearts

Rising like Water Columns from the Sea

Of Joy the Sojourn and of wealth the Mart

Walter F Lansil – February 1914



On September 11, 1886 Walter purchased the home at 101 Maxwell Street (lots 8 & 10, sect. 3 – 9,880 square feet of land or about 2 ¼ acres) for $3,700, taking out a mortgage from S. Pickney Holbrook of $2,800 so he had returned by that date. The Lansil’s continued to live together Wilbur, Walter and Asa never married.  Edwin married young Jane Catherine Roberts of Llanfairfechan and had 3 girls who lived to adulthood (2 other children died very young).  Edwin purchased the Maxwell Street home from Walter a few years later.

While he never seemed to gain as much fame as Walter, articles about Wilbur began to appear in local papers. A small sampling below:LansiWilburl

Wilbur biowilbur paintings

Walter & Wilbur joined The Lodge of Eleusis – Freemasonry – It was designed to bring together young college trained men in fraternal compact who had a sincere desire to put behind them the horrors of war and the misgivings incident to human conflict, that they might commune again as brothers, citizens, and good neighbors in an era of peace.

Their records say, “Two other Brethren artists were Wor. Walter Lansill (master 1892, 1893) and Wilbur Lansill. Wilbur died in office as senior warden. Walter lived to a ripe old age and was the sodality insructor who saw to it that young officers became proficient in their work. He was in active service up to a few weeks before his decease. His paintings on modern city life won the acclaim of the critics and some of them sold for large amounts”

Walter was a bit of a genealogist himself as he and Wilbur also became members of the Son’s of the American Revolution.

Just a snippet of their lives.

Wilbur passed away 26 Jun 1897 at the age of 42 in Dorchester of Phthisis (abt 3 years). Inez J. E. Dresser is named in his will:

wilbur probate

Wilbur left the remainder of his estate to his brother Walter.  In the event that Walter was not living, everything was to go to his 3 nieces: Florence May Bragg, Frances May Lansil and Edith Bernice Lansil (his niece Doris Lansil was born after his death).  Walter was named as executor, Henry Howard Dresser was the named alternate if Walter does not survive him. There was no mention of Edwin, Asa B. or his Bragg nephews Edwin & Fredrick, all of whom were living.

A frail Walter died 22 Jan 1925 in Milton, Massachusetts of Pneumonia (double) at the age of 78 Years 9 months 23 days, while living with his niece.

Both are buried with their parents at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor in an unmarked grave Lot 407CG.

Lansil plot

For more about Walter, see this Google book article written when Walter was age 42 (likely accurate since he was interviewed by the author):

Lansil pictures.png

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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