John Ogden “The Pilgrim” (1609–1682)

I just bought myself a little pre-Father’s-Day present to start reading on an upcoming long road trip this weekend: Jack Harpster’s 2015 John Ogden, The Pilgrim (1609–1682), and it arrived in the mail today. I’m really looking forward to reading it over the next couple of weeks. I ordered the 1858 Vinton genealogy a few days before this, but that looks like it’s not going to be here until mid-June. So it was totally reasonable getting another book in the meantime, right?

I also figured that with all the attention I’m spending on joining one or more hereditary societies this year—all of which are currently based on my father’s side of the family tree—I shouldn’t neglect my mother’s side of the family. So mom, uncle Dan, Jill, and all of my Askew kinsfolk reading this: this one’s for you.

To give you an idea of how far back we’re going, John Ogden is my 11th-great-grandfather. He was the great-great-grandfather of our Revolutionary War ancestor, Benjamin Woodruff (the subject of this post and this post). John Ogden was even distant history for Benjamin Woodruff—John Ogden the Pilgrim had been dead for 62 years by the time Benjamin Woodruff was even born. Continue reading

Skiing sillyness

I often like to tie my posts into larger research or historical contexts, or to publish a post on a significant anniversary that the post discusses. Sometimes I’ll take a deep dive into a mystery photo or object to see if I can discover some previously lost context. And then there’s today’s post. I suppose this can be a new category of post—silly things that make me laugh.

Without further ado, here’s the photo that made me laugh today: Continue reading

Catharine Nobel: professor of religion?

In researching my Mayflower line, I was looking into previous research on my third-great-grandmother Catharine Noble (1826–1911), daughter of Solomon Noble Jr. (1783–1858) and Dorcas Vinton (1802–1837). I came across a volume I keep encountering, but have yet to fully exploit: Vinton, John Adams (1858) The Vinton Memorial: Comprising a Genealogy of the Descendants of John Vinton of Lynn, 1648: Also, genealogical sketches of several allied families, namely, those bearing the names of Alden, Adams, Allen, Boylston, Faxon, French, Hayden, Holbrook, Mills, Niles, Penniman, Thayer, White, Richardson, Baldwin, Carpenter, Safford, Putnam, and Green, with an appendix containing a history of the Braintree Iron Works, and other historical matter. You’ve got to love those ponderous Victorian titles!

[In a related development—I’m excited to report that I just found an original copy of this rare book for less than $20 online, and so I’ll soon have it permanently on my bookshelf, and will almost certainly be diving deeper into this line over the next several months as a result.]

On page 173 of this volume, Catharine is listed as being the eldest of the five children of Solomon Noble Jr. and Dorcas Vinton (who was in turn the daughter of Seth Vinton and Polly Rider): Continue reading

Mayflower descendancy, part 4

Today’s post is an update on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society).

I mailed off my application, fees, and dues to the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Sate of California on May 1, and hope to hear back from them with a worksheet in the coming week.

I finally received the two Washington birth certificates I wrote away for (for my father and paternal grandmother), and I’ve got to say I’m a bit disappointed in the results. Whereas previously I’ve gotten a certified photocopy of the actual record, this time I was only given incomplete transcripts of the originals. I suppose they’re trying to prevent undue wear and tear on the originals, but it’s still disappointing. Continue reading

Zygonia Shearer’s guardianship

Today’s post is about a trio of documents that resulted from some archival research that my wife arranged for me as a present right before we became parents 3½ years ago. It’s taken that long for me to get back to this. I was looking for anything I could find on the life and death of my biological patrilineal great-grandfather, Zygonia Ray Shearer. What I got back from the Wayne County, Iowa, archivist was a brief unprovenienced obituary for Ray, and a set of three papers with a post-it note that read “Found among our guardianship papers.”

These papers tell a story of Zygonia’s childhood about six years after his father died suddenly and tragically by falling off of his house and bursting his abdomen open by landing on a stump. Zygonia wasn’t even 2½ years old when his father died, and he would have been about 8–9 years old when the following legal proceedings were recorded in 1903. His younger sister wasn’t even born when her father died; Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer was just three months pregnant with Annetta when Gilbert Matthew Shearer died in 1897.

There are some legal concepts involved in these papers that I don’t pretend to fully understand, so for my readers who happen to be lawyers, please do let me know of any context that I may be missing. For instance, why would two minor children need a Guardian ad Litem if their mother was around to make decisions for them? Continue reading

Dorothy remembers her dad

In my family history archives, there sits a ca. 1980s notepad bought and written in by my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, and titled “For Mike—Family events.” For years, I thought it had only one and a half pages of information, as the next page was blank and the rest of the notepad seemed blank.

For years I did not give it the attention it was due, as I was more interested in pushing my family tree back as far as I could go, and my grandparents seemed too recent to pay more than passing attention to. When I talked to my grandparents about family history decades ago, I was usually asking them to tell me about their parents and grandparents and further back, instead of asking them about themselves. I regret that now, now that it’s too late to ask them any more questions.

Today, I was re-reading this notepad that my grandmother had given me so many years ago, and I noticed that a couple of pages further on, she continued writing. How had I not noticed this before now? My grandmother died 21 years ago last week, but just today she gave me another present—a story about her childhood.

Continue reading

Lucinda’s DAR acceptance

Today’s post will be a short one, about a formal card my great-grandmother Lucinda Tracy (Bailey) McMurry received in late June, 1926, while spending the summer at the summer house her father built. It’s also about finding yet more hidden documentation left behind by my ever-thoughtful late paternal grandmother, Dorothy Ruth (McMurry) Black, Lucinda’s daughter. Continue reading

So, you don’t legally exist?

Imagine that you were born in a rural area to poor parents in the back room of your rented house. Your parents moved a lot, and they never told the county officials that you were born. So no birth certificate was ever registered. And then your dad leaves your family when you’re five years old, leaving your mom alone with you and two younger siblings. You’re upset about that and change your last name to that of the kind man who married your mother and stepped into the father role in your family. But for whatever reason, you and your family don’t make the adoption legal, nor do they inform the county or state officials of the name change. And then for unknown reasons, you decide to change your middle name, too, from the traditional Dutch Cornelius to the hip, modern “Curtis.” And again, no government agencies are informed. We’ve all been there, right?

This presents no problems for you for most of your life. You get your Social Security card, you enlist in the Army and serve in World War II, you pay your taxes, you work until your early 60s and you’re beginning to think about your retirement. And then you apply for your Social Security retirement benefits and discover that—poof—you have no proof that you are who you say you are.

What do you do now? Continue reading

Mayflower descendancy, part 3

Today’s post will be a short one to update you on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society). In part two of this series, I mailed off my Preliminary Review Form for the California Mayflower Society and sent off requests for four certified birth certificates. I got a phone call on Tuesday from Thurston County, Washington, saying that two of those birth certificates were on their way, but I haven’t received them yet.

What I did receive just yesterday was the oldest of the four birth certificates that I’ve so far requested—from 1860. I thought this would be the hardest of the four to secure, yet I received it first. Without further ado, here it is: Continue reading

Puzzling out Ray Shearer

It seems odd to me that while I’m able to trace my family back on dozens of lines more than 400 years, my own patrilineal great-grandfather—my father’s father’s father—is nearly a complete mystery to me. I would normally begin an exploration of his life by saying that his name was Ray Shearer, but even that is a bit of a mystery. While many people called him Ray, more often than not, he referred to himself as Zyionyi Ray Shearer. As with many of my difficult-to-research ancestors, I keep setting aside his information, waiting for some hint or help to emerge, as they so often do.

And so it was with Ray. Just this past week I got an unexpected letter from my cousin Peggy, who’s a cousin on my Shearer side. Her great-grandmother was Ray Shearer’s mother—Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer Stokes. Peggy’s grandmother was Ray’s younger half-sister, Zealia Faye Stokes, and Zealia apparently was very interested in preserving family stories and history, and she passed much of this on to Peggy.

Today’s post could not have been written without Peggy’s help. Thank you, Peggy! Continue reading