Friday, September 27, 2013

First Cousin Friday

This picture from my collection was dated 1964. I think this must have been a combined birthday party; my brother and my cousin Jim were July/August birthdays. It was taken in Grandma's back yard. You can see her in the background. My father was an only child. No immediate cousins there. Mom had one brother. So these are my closest relatives. From the left Lynn Rogers(Kamrath), Jim Rogers, Lee Ellen Fitzgerald, Jill Rogers (Pratzon) and Mark Fitzgerald. I'm missing for some reason. Cuties for sure.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

John Tappley- Master Cordswainer

I am always intrigued by the job descriptions on the old census records. I have found that the English records use more formal terms like "agricultural laborer" while the American census will just say "farmer". Every once in a while there is a term that completely confounds me. I was reminded again of this when I watched Crista Cowan's Barefoot Genealogist on YouTube. This is a GREAT resource, by the way and you can see the episode on your ancestors' professions here.

As I traveled up the Tapply tree, I found that my ancestors in that line were solidly tradespeople. There were grocers, butchers, a spice merchant, a linen draper and a cordswainer. A what? Well that's where this resource supplied by Crista is a great resource. But I noticed a few things as I examined the old census records for John Tappley. John was my 3X great grandfather who lived in Wittersham, Kent, England. In the 1841 census we see this:
So here is John Tappley living with Sally and it lists his occupation as shoemaker.  I went through the census pages and found that he had a fair amount of competition in the village; three or four other men were listed as shoemakers.

The 1851 Kent Directory of Occupations lists him the same way:
However, by 1851 there are only two other men listed in Wittersham doing this job. Shoemaking as a handcraft was a dying profession. I looked up information on the Industrial Revolution and found this:
"Lyman Reed Blake was an American inventor who invented a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers. In 1858, he received a patent for his specialized sewing machine." 
So the hand-sewing of shoes was probably on the wain by this time. The 1851 census shows the Tapply family like this:

And this is where I first ran into the term master cordwainer. He had become experienced enough to earn this extra title and had one apprentice and one journeyman working with him. I was still curious about what separated a shoemaker from a cordwainer. 

A little more searching on the internet gave me this distinction:
"The English term cordwainer first appears in 1100. Since this date the term cordouan, or cordovan leather, has been applied to several varieties of leather. Today cordovan leather is a vegetable tanned horse "shell," and like the Medieval cordwain is used only for the highest quality shoes. A distinction preserved by cordwainers since the earliest times is, that a cordwainer works only with new leather, whereas a cobbler works with old. Cobblers have always been repairers, frequently prohibited by law from making shoes. Going so far as to collect worn-out footwear, cut it apart, and remanufacture cheap shoes entirely form salvaged leather, cobblers have contended with cordwainers since the Middle Ages. In 16th-century London, the cordwainers solved their conflicts with the cobblers of that city by placing them under the authority of the cordwainers’ guild, thus merging with them."

A cobbler or shoemaker might make the simple clogs and everyday shoes or perhaps do repairs; only the cordwainer could handle the fine leather.

John Tapply would most probably have belonged to a local guild centered out of Maidstone or Canterbury that regulated the men of his trade. I haven't found those records yet. But I found the contemporary counterparts still making fine shoes in London.

The Worshipful Company of Cordswainers is still making the very finest high end shoes. Should you find that your cordwainer ancestor lived in London, they might have those records in their archives.
I love this photo of the contemporary cordswainers in all their ceremonial regalia.
This is why you should always take the time to look carefully at census records. You never know what new things you can learn about your ancestor.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mappy Monday

MORE SMITHS IN LITCHFIELD, MAINE
Following up on my last post.....
This excerpt from an 1850's map of Kennebec County shows the various landowners of Litchfield and Litchfield Corners.

So this larger view gives you an overview of the county.
I found a lot of Smiths on this map, so I went back to my 1850's census and took a closer look.

Sure enough I found Thomas Smith Junior,  Reuben Lowell's father, with his neighbors Mr. Emerson
and Mr. Hatch. That would be the area in the pinkish circle. Down in the lower left corner is Litchfield Corners where the other Smiths lived and ran a small store. That would be the light blue circle. With a little closer study, I'm sure I can identify a lot more family members.
Check here for some excellent map resources.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

When the Lines Converge

The Smiths of Litchfield, Maine and the Rogers of Harwich, Massachusetts

It wasn't surprising to me to find that the lines of my tree crossed in a few places. I found lots
of overlap in the line that ran back to Cape Cod; the marriage options would have been limited
in the early days of the colonies and the families were large. No surprise there. What was a surprise was finding a crossing of the lines of my two great grandparents.

George F Smith came from a family from Litchfield, Maine. His line runs back directly to a James
Smith who settled early on Cape Cod. His great grandfather, Thomas Smith, was a farmer in Litchfield. Thomas married Mehitable Baker. Mehitable Baker's mother was born Mehitable Smith.
Her parents were Elizabeth Smith and Moses Rogers. That line of Smiths runs back to a Ralph Smith, also of Cape Cod. I've never seen a connection between James and Ralph, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Mehitable Smith, her brothers Deacon Thomas Smith and Benjamin Smith all ended up in Litchfield, Maine along with their nephew John Rogers. Elizabeth Smith married Moses Rogers and her son Aaron Rogers settled in Holden, Massachusetts. Several generations later the two lines converged when Cora E Smith married Edward W Rogers.

 I have two completely different lines of Smiths in Litchfield alone. Four of them have the same name. It was convenient when the records said "Thomas Smith husband of Hannah" or "son of...", but records were usually hand-written and seldom that precise. This is where writing out a timeline for the people in your tree might be helpful. Sometimes by dates alone you can tease out the threads of the truth. Sometimes you have to look for deeds, bills of sale, wills and other primary sources. Not all of this is online yet. I have some footwork ahead of me.

Now for a confession. I have never chosen a numbering system for my tree. The genealogy software I use numbers my offline tree using the Ahnentafel system, but my online tree would benefit by choosing a numbering system and using it. In fact, I find the whole numbering question fairly intimidating. There are some good resources online starting at Cyndi's List. If you are new to genealogy, do yourself a favor and number from the start. It may not keep the old records any straighter, but you'll know which Thomas Smith you're studying at a glance. Crossed lines are ok, a granny knot is NOT.