Friday, July 3, 2015

Independence



Aaron Rogers was my fourth great-grandfather. When I discovered The Fold as a resource for military records, I discovered his complete pension file which was a wealth of information and also unraveled a small mystery in my family tree. First, Aaron's story. He was born in Harwich, Barnstable County, Massachusetts. In recalling his service for the pension board, here is what he had to say:

"In June 1775 he resided at Harwich in the County of Barnstable in the said Commonwealth and within four days after the Battle of Bunker Hill a company was raised in Harwich for the purpose of guarding the coast the enlistment of the members being for six months. The company was commanded by Captain Clark of Harwich and  I enlisted into the company when it was first raised. ….I did duty in this company for six months and I was discharged. Immediately after my discharge I enlisted into a company  of the Continental establishment under the command of Captain Peter Harwood of Brookfield, Massachusetts who came into the neighborhood of my then residency and enlisted a company for …. We marched in the winter in the early days of January 1776 to Roxbury, Massachusetts and were stationed there until the British troops evacuated Boston. I marched on to Dorchester Heights at the time the entrenchments were thrown up there by the American troops. After the evacuation of Boston,  our company marched to New York by the way of Providence, Rhode Island. I marched with them and we were quartered at New York City. Our duty consisted of guarding the shipping by boats as most of our company had come from Cape Cod and were considered as acquainted with that duty… At the end of the end of our enlistment which was one year I was discharged from service at New York. I received a written discharge have not the same now in my possession and I think it must be in the War Department in Washington. I have been placed on the Pension Roll of  the Massachusetts Line of Revolutionary troops under the Law of 1818 but have since been struck from that Roll. After my discharge aforesaid I returned to Harwich  and continued there until about March 1777 when I again enlisted into the company of continental troops raised in that neighborhood under the command of Captain ? (probably Captain Bangs)"

Official records being what they were at the time and having apparently lost his discharge orders, he has to appeal to his brother-in-law, Jonathan Rogers, to vouch for him. Here's where the little brick starts to be chipped away from the brick wall. In 1779, Aaron married "Miss Hannah Rogers also of Harwich". I could never find parents or a birth record for Hannah no matter where I looked. I had done quite a bit of looking for Aaron's family so I knew that none of his sisters married a Jonathan Rogers. So, this brother-in-law was Hannah's brother. Still haven't found their parents, but it's a start.

Aaron did finally get his pension for the grand sum of $8 a month but lost it again when his net worth
exceeded the allowed limits. When it dropped again he reapplied.  By this time he was living in Holden
on land he received, I believe as a "bounty" for his service. (sort of the VA benefits of that time) Aaron's benefits, after more paperwork and wrangling, went to Hannah after his death. A fascinating look at the proceedings of those times.

I also returned to the Holden town records. Aaron wasn't in Holden in July, 1776, but I was curious about what the minutes of the town meeting would show:

Sure enough, there it is. The Declaration of Independence handwritten in full into the town minutes for posterity. If you look about four lines down on the image you will spot it: "When in the course of human events..."

I got goosebumps.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday's Children


Sometimes you find a very sad story in your family tree. The story of the children of Reuben Lowell Smith and his wife Sophronia Richardson Smith is one of those. I did a number of searches with
________Smith and the two parents as the parameters. Every time I searched, more children popped up. And this image appeared on FindaGrave. These are the five daughters of Reuben and Sophronia who were born and died between 1841 and 1850. Sandwiched in between was my great grandfather, George Frederick Smith, who luckily survived. There's no indication of how each of them died, but at least two died of croup and they all seemed to have lived about a year. This is a sad reminder of how fragile live was even then. The story doesn't stop there.....
Reuben and Sophronia moved to Massachusetts and continued to have children.  Both Ellen and Jennie died in their late teens/early 20's. Jennie died of consumption not long after her 18th birthday. I also found a record which may indicate yet another child. So of 11 children we know about, only 4 made it to adulthood. There was a lot of sorrow in that house.

This must have touched someone else in the family as well. The stone in the picture above has a placement date long after the deaths. Someone remembered these little girls...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Belated Blogaversary

The two-year blogaversary managed to come and go on Tuesday without my notice. It's been an interesting experience maintaining the momentum and finding new and interesting things to post.
Hopefully, the adventure can continue. At any rate Happy Blogaversary to me!

Monday, June 1, 2015

What's My Line?


If you are of a certain age, you probably remember the game show What's My Line?  Watching Downtown Abbey has made me even more curious about the occupations of my ancestors...particularly the English branches, but the American family is fascinating as well.  So I've been going through the tree and doing a little digging.

Of course I found farmers..lots and lots and lots of farmers. Farmer in Maine in the Smith, Lowell and Richardson families. Farmers in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia in the Dunn, Johnson, Archer families. And of course farmers in Massachusetts in the Rogers family. What I found was the some families farmed the same land or the same area for many generations, but as the United States went through the industrial revolution I found lots of tradespeople as well: coopers, grocers, salesmen of farm equipment, a few blacksmiths, mechanics and factory workers. In the mill towns of Massachusetts I found a LOT of boot makers. Holden had a shoe factory that employed many members of the Rogers family.

The next generation became professionals: Isaac Johnson was a lawyer (although he maintained farm land as well). Samuel Milton Archer was a doctor in the Salinas Valley of California.  

And some professions became a family affair: George Smith, Reuben Lowell Smith, and Edward Rogers were all firemen/ conductors for the railroad. The Tapply family has been in the building trades for several generations. James Henry Tapply worked at various times as a carpenter and bricklayer. Two of his sons are listed as builders: James Henry Tapply Jr. and Harry Tapply. His son Charles, my great grandfather, was a paper hanger and painter after he left the police force. Charles Earnest Tapply Sr. (his son) was a lumberman. And even today we have Mark Tapply who does fine woodwork and cabinetry and did his father Chuck Tapply before him. Charles Earnest's other son William R. and his son were lumberman.  William's grandson Billy Tapply deals in fine wood flooring. Amazing how many members of this branch have "builder" or  "carpenter" in the census records.

Even though there were farmers and people "in service" on the Freed branch of the family, it appears that the Tapplys were merchant/craftspeople. This is where the research got interesting. Of course I've talked about James Henry Tapply's father John who was a master cordswainer. You can read more about them here.  I found a wonderful description of the cordwainer's art on this website along with a reference to a district in London where they once practiced their art.
The professionals all had guilds dating back to medieval times. They persist today with elaborate guild halls in London. It seems many of them do charitable work these days,  but the buildings maintain records which could really be useful for genealogists. Edward Lansdell Tapply was listed as a master linen draper which appears to be a dealer in dry goods, but another source said that in the mid-1800's he may have been a bespoke dealer of fine goods for shirting.
The Draper's Shop
This same branch of the family had a number of family members in the coffee, tea and spice business. Edward Lansdell's brother William Tapply and his sons dealt in these goods as well as pickles. Perhaps they were members of the grocer's guild. I love that part of their coat-of-arms includes a clove harking back to the days when people traveled to the Far East to bring back spices.
William's son, Richard Tapply, is listed as a brewery director. Of course the brewers had their guild as well. It was Richard's son Allan who penned the Tapply family history.

On the other side of this family we have John Benn, father of Ellen Freed Benn Tapply. He was a hansom cabbie in London. He is still a cypher in my research so perhaps a visit to the hackney and cab driver's guild will reveal records of his license.
So while my relatives were never the "lords of the manor" like the Crawleys, they all seemed to do pretty well for themselves; truly the "butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker".  Records of their apprenticeships, records of their businesses, land purchases and agricultural census records can all inform your family research. I look forward to finding even more clues in these records.

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memorial

Civil War Memorial, Litchfield Plains, Maine
Courtesy historical society of Litchfield


As I've worked along through the tree, I've discovered that a number of my relatives volunteered and served in the American Civil War.  I've talked about some of them already, but I continue to find people in more remote corners of the tree.  Today for Memorial Day I  will honor these more distant relatives.
The years are the years of service best I could determine. The two with extra notations died in service.
Emory Rogers 1861-1863
Perley H Richardson 1862-1863
Lorenzo M. Richardson 1863-1865
Oliver Bartlett Richardson 1861-1863
Charles Henry Howe 1862-1864 Andersonville
Benjamin F Roberts 1862-1864
Correctus H Richardson 1864-1864 Battle of the Wilderness

Thanks....

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A New Resource on YouTube- British Pathé


YouTube has just added another wonderful resource for family historians. The entire British Pathé
film archive now has its own channel here. I did a quick search for the little village where the Tapply relatives came from and came up with this newsreel footage from 1935 for a cricket match involving the Wittersham team. Nothing came up on a name search, but if you had someone notable in your British family something just might. And further searches for Maidstone and Isle of Oxney came up with other interesting footage. If you have British relatives in your tree, this is worth a look.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Geography and Genealogy

 Once I found that my Tapply grandmother's family came from Wittersham in Kent and not from Whitstable, I set out to learn a bit about this place. Right away I read descriptions only of Wittersham sitting on the Isle of Oxney. I was intrigued. What was this about?

The early coastline of England was much further inland. The Rother river ran out to the coast at Romney and there was a large delta with many little islands right at the mouth of the river. Wittersham sat, in those days, right on one of those islands. But more and more silt built up at the mouth of the river. Violent storms in 1287 changed the coastline. Finally the river itself changed direction. From Romney it moved to Rye. Pretty soon the entire coast became salt marsh. Sheep were raised on the marshlands and this became the main source of income. The present coastline looks more like what you see in the map below.
The marshland is clearly still there, but the sea is far away from the Isle of Oxney. When you see photographs of the countryside, it's clear that this former island sits higher than the land around it. And the identification is clearly still on the map. The "family history" written by Alan Tapply puts various branches of the family in the area as far back as the 1600's. This would be long after the coast changed, but I can't help but wonder how different the land might have looked back then. Were there sailors and fishermen in the family? Smugglers? Sea captains?  Or were the Tapleys (old spelling) always the tradespeople?

Another thing that excited me was the identification of Romney Marsh. I was brought up on Disney and some of you may remember "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" starring Patrick McGoohan.
The scarecrow was a tale invented by Russell Thorndike. The story goes that Dr. Christopher Syn retired from a life of piracy to become the vicar of Dymchurch on Romney Marsh. He soon realized that his parishioners were smuggling goods from France to avoid high customs taxes. He took up the scarecrow disguise to ride to their rescue and protect them from the authorities. His adventures became so popular that some people still believe he was a real person.

Oast House Archive [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I leave you with a view of the English countryside looking out toward the Isle of Oxney.
Nigel Chadwick, Wikipedia