Back From Vacation! (And a Tip)

Yes, I took a little time off of everything, though I couldn’t totally get away from genealogy. As we visited my husband’s hometown and planned on seeing some of his ancestors’ graves, I got a little carried away on Find-a-Grave then proceeded to map out some good chunks of his own ancestry!

We also visited the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, where we were able to enter the research room (my favorite part, of course). This reminded me of my recent trip to Guilford, CT when we visited the Henry Whitfield House. They, too, had a research room, available by appointment. I have to wonder how many museums out there have research rooms or something similar. These rooms most likely will not be featured prominently on the museum website, if at all. So my tip is: ask! Find out if there is such a room, how it can be accessed and what its holdings might be. Who knows? You may find something you’ve been looking for.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum!  Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Find out the research rooms in your local museum! Picture courtesy New York Public Library.

Next week, we’ll return to exploring my ancestors; I’ll be much more refreshed by then!

The Redman Legacy

I last touched on the Redman name in this post about Seth Billings and Jerusha Redman. Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about Jerusha’s heritage. I’m going to start from the earliest known Redman, because it’s going to get really confusing!

The first Redman I know of was named Charles (we’ll call him Charles 1), who lived in Dorchester, MA. He made a will on December 30, 1668, which was probated on January 31, 1669, so I imagine he was on death’s door when he wrote his will.

Charles 1 had a son named Robert (he will be Robert 1), who in 1662 laid out 200 acres of land in newly-formed Milton for the ministry of the church. Robert 1 died in 1678.

Robert 1’s youngest some was named Charles (we’ll call him Charles 2–I said this would get confusing!). Charles 2 lived in Milton and on February 10, 1688, married Martha Hill of Dorchester. Just two years later, Charles 2 was among many soldiers from the Dorchester area that served under Captain John Withington in an ill-fated expedition to Canada (likely as part of the many French and India skirmishes). At least forty-six of his regiment, including Withington, were lost at sea. Fortunately Charles 2 himself survived the entire experience.

Charles 2 and Martha had at least six children by 1700, listed in Huntoon’s History of the Town of Canton…: Robert (he’ll be Robert 2) (born March 30, 1694), John (born May 8, 1696), Mary, Martha, Mercy (born July 8, 1698) and Thankful.

March 1, 1704/05 was a significant date in Redman family history: Charles 2 began a lease of land from the Native Americans, who had been granted an area of land called Ponkapoag (also spelled Punkipog and other various spellings, as you can imagine) in what is now Canton, MA. (There was a five-year period from 1715 when Charles 2 did not lease this land, but it was back in his hands in 1720.) Apparently Charles 2 cultivated some apple trees here.

Robert 2 grew up and took on the responsibilities of a man of his time: he married his wife, Mary Kennee (or Keeney) on August 1, 1722 in Boston by Samuel Checkley, Esq. By March 22, 1725, Charles 2 had passed away, as referenced in a deed of Ponkapoag land from the natives to Robert 2 and the other heirs of Charles 2. Exactly how much land went to the others, I am not sure, but Robert 2 was appointed the administrator of Charles 2’s estate on June 14 of that year, so he probably was the one to make that decision.

Robert 2 continued to improve his land by building a sawmill along Ponkapoag Brook, one of the first mills in that area. In 1726, he opened his home for use as the community’s first school. I have to wonder who taught at the school–was it Robert himself, or maybe someone in the church?

Redman Farm was not the only land that Robert owned. In 1737 he received a grant of land in the “Dorchester Canada” settlement, which is now Ashburnham, Worcester County, MA. This grant was among many that were given to the descendants of Withington’s 1690 Canada expedition. It seems that Robert 2 must have sold this grant, since it is not mentioned in his December 18, 1657 will.

Robert 2 passed away on November 8, 1760 and his will (which is meticulously written) was proved on December 19, 1760. Half of his land passed to his living son Robert, and the other half to his wife Mary, to be divided later among their remaining children. (Mary seems to have died sometime between 1768 and 1780.) All their children were:

  • Robert; died in childhood, October 6, 1731.
  • Sarah; died in childhood, March 19, 1725.
  • John, born September 20, 1730, died unmarried June 6, 1761. Robert 2’s will implies that he must have had issues with this son: firstly, he left him just five shillings, then stated that, out of is wife’s Mary’s half of the estate, John could have “two fifths of [the] remainder if he behaves well and dutifully to his mother during her life”, otherwise she could distribute it as she saw fit. These statements and seeing how soon John died after his father’s death makes me wonder about John’s lifestyle. However, John did make a will that left everything to his mother, so I suppose that in the end, he was “dutiful”.
  • Robert, married Mary Dunbar on April 23, 1767; died 1778 with no children.
  • Sarah, born August 10, 1732; married Jonathan Kinney; died before December 1757. She had two children.
  • Martha, married Nehemiah Liscom on October 9, 1761; died before September 1763 with no children.
  • Jerusha, born January 31, 1735; married Seth Billings (probably in early 1750), then Nathaniel Pitty on March 15, 1789. She had four children. I had wondered how she had carried on after Seth’s death in 1766; now I know that her inheritance must have helped.
  • Mary, married Thomas Spurr, Jr. on August 15, 1744; died early 1780. She had ten children.

As a final note, the location of the lands of Redman Farm is at the Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton, MA and includes part of the Ponkapoag Trail, which is open for public hiking. In fact, the left portion of the trail is called “Redman Farm Path”. I would love to walk on this trail some day and think about my ancestors who may have walked here as well!

The grounds of Redman Farm today. Courtesy Google Earth.

The grounds of Redman Farm today. Courtesy Google Earth.

A Trip to the New York Public Library

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a genealogy stay-cation, particularly to do those “little things” I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. One of those things was to visit the Milstein Division of the New York Public Library, which houses their amazing US History, Local History and Genealogy resources (in other words, “paradise”). The NYPL has a ton of stuff online, but I wanted to see what offline resources they have. I had the perfect opportunity when I found out that they held some books that I couldn’t access elsewhere.

Preparing to Go

I originally found my books via Google Books, which sometimes shows a snippet view, just to tease you! (Actually, it is very helpful, or else I wouldn’t know if the book is relevant or not.) Clicking on the “Find in a Library” link brings you to WorldCat.org, which lists the libraries where the books are available. And did you know that you can sign up for a free WordCat account, where you can create your own lists that are annotatable? That’s exactly what I did — I made a “NYPL” list to capture each book. Then I looked up the call number in the NYPL (just by clicking the book’s NYPL link in WorldCat) and noted it under each book on my list. I just printed the list to take with me; I suppose I could have saved the list as a pdf into Evernote as well.

Another way I prepared for the trip was obtain a temporary NYPL card, which is necessary for any pull requests. If you are not a New York City resident, then you can get a temporary card that is good for three months. First I registered on the website, which set me up with a patron account. When I arrived at the NYPL, I had to go to a room on the second floor (Customer Service? Customer Relations?) to finish the process. If you’ve already started the process, all the staff has to do is look you up and issue your card!

A Few Words About the Library

First, the library is so convenient to get to — just two blocks from Grand Central Station! And there is a Starbucks right between the two, which I hit afterwards.

I’ve walked past the library before, but I’ve never stopped just to look. It is gorgeous! Too many architectural details to take in at once, inside and out; I probably could have spent days doing so. (In fact, there are tours of the library.)

Welcome to the New York Public Library!  Author's collection.

Welcome to the New York Public Library! Author’s collection.

After going through a well-moving security line, I was in! After finding out where to complete my library card process and taking care of that, I checked the big map in the lobby and found out where the Milstein Division was — Room 121. (Meanwhile, I was still ogling over all the beautiful details inside the building…)

The Best Room

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone... Author's collection.

You are about to enter the Genealogy Zone… Author’s collection.

First let me describe just what is here. This room holds books and boxed papers. Some of the papers seem to be donated collections, which probably need to go through the request process (I just skimmed through the box titles). The variety of books amazed me. There are years’ worth of publications from NEHGS, NYG&B and more. There are directories, ship manifests and civil war indexes. There are sections on African-American, Latino and other ethnic genealogies. And of course, there are books on history.

What interested me most, however, were the surname books, which were on my list. Unlike the other books mentioned above, they needed to be requested to be pulled by a librarian. For each book, I had to fill out a little faux-carbon form with the book information and call number (thank you, WorldCat list!), and the librarian gave me the yellow copy as she pulled the books.

I soon had all the books I wanted and identified what I wanted to copy from them. You need to ask permission to copy each book; basically the librarian just assesses the age and condition of the book. (Mine were all good to go.)

The Worst Part

If I were to win Powerball, I would buy the NYPL Milstein Division a brand-new copier with a new credit card reader. Although the copier made fine copies, the cover was almost falling off and the card reader kept timing out on me so often that my credit card stopped working. (It’s supposed to make up to $5 worth of copies, but I never got that far.) Fortunately my debit card worked and the librarian helped me out a little (with plenty of empathy…and by the way, the library staff was SO helpful at every juncture in the process). Once I hit my stride, I stopped timing out so often.

There is a note on the copier that says it does take USBs and digital copies are free (I didn’t think to bring a USB beforehand), but it doesn’t accept all USBs. Either way, I’m glad I made hardcopies so I could write notations for myself.

Other Parts of the Library

There is actually a very nice book store on-site that sells all kinds of books and gift-type things like mugs and tote bags. And there happened to be an exhibit about Alexander Hamilton that included original documents in his own handwriting; I figured since I was there, I’d take advantage of the opportunity.

There are so many other departments at the NYPL: the Microform Room, the Manuscript and Archives Division, the Rare Book Division and the Map Division, to name a few. Someday I may get to visit these as well!

Tenth Great-Grandparents: Roger and Hannah Billings

We’ve finally arrived at my Billings immigrant ancestor, Roger Billings, Sr.! Thanks to some online books and a trip to the New York Public Library, I’ve gathered more information on him than on his son.

Roger was born circa 1618-1620 in England (I suspect more toward the 1618 side). Some online sources indicate who his parents are, but I’ve read that those parents had been disproven.

Roger arrived in the New World (probably directly to Dorchester, Massachusetts) sometime between 1635 and 1640. He went on to become a carpenter and a farmer.

On June 19, 1640, Roger was admitted as a member of the First Church of Dorchester, which still exists today as the First Parish Church. The minister at the time was Richard Mather, father of Increase Mather and grandfather of Cotton Mather. Roger married his first wife, Mary _____, who was admitted to the church on March 8, 1644. Roger went on to become a freeman on May 10, 1643.

One interesting bit of information I found about Roger was that on May 13, 1646, he signed a petition against Anabaptists (what Baptists were back then) from entering the colony. This makes me think that he was quite the Puritan!

Mary died and it wasn’t long before Roger married my other ancestor, Hannah _____. I know barely anything about her apart from Roger. She was admitted as a member of the church on October 14, 1655, and she was the mother of some (or maybe most) of Roger’s children, particularly my ancestor, Roger, Jr. (The authored sources that I’ve looked at ascribe a different mix of children to each of his wives, but Roger, Jr. is always ascribed to Hannah.) Sadly, Hannah died on March or May 1662, just four days after her last child, Zipporah, was born.

In the 1650’s, Roger and Hannah made their home on the part of Dorchester that is now North Quincy. Some Descendants of Roger Billings of Dorchester, Massachusetts pinpoints where Roger’s farmhouse was: “on the east side present East Squantum Street at the bend in the road just south of the present Quincy Shore Boulevard crossing”.

Quincy Shore Boulevard is the main road, with East Squantum Street being the crossroad.  Courtesy Google Earth

Quincy Shore Boulevard is the main road, with East Squantum Street being the crossroad. Courtesy Google Earth

There's a CVS at this location now!  Courtesy Google Earth.

There’s a CVS at this location now! Courtesy Google Earth.

Once again Roger found another spouse in Elizabeth Pratt, who did outlive him. In the later part of Roger’s life (between 1674 and 1682), he served several appointments; as “Commissioner for Country Rate” (I have no idea what this is) and as a tithingman (which was a church office that ensured people paid their proper tithes and modeled proper behavior in church).

Roger made out his will on February 2, 1680 and made a codicil on November 13, 1683, just two days before he died. (In fact, his codicil stated that he was “senceible of bodily weakeness and decay of body”.)

I don’t know where any of his wives are buried (though I suspect that Mary and Hannah may be buried closer to the church in Dorchester), but Roger is buried in Hancock Cemetery in Quincy. His clearly carved gravestone still stands.

Ninth Great-Grandparents: Roger Billings, Jr. and Sarah Paine

At this point, information is starting to get sketchier, so what you read here is to the best of my knowledge.

Roger Billings, Jr. (who will have the suffix Jr. in this post for the sake of distinguishing him from his father) was born to Roger Billings (sometimes known as Billing) and Hannah ___ on November 18, 1657 in Dorchester, Suffolk County, MA. He supposedly served in King Philip’s War, being listed among the men at the Mendon, Massachusetts garrison on August 24, 1676.

Sarah Paine was the daughter of Stephen Paine and Hannah Bass. I’ve found three different birth dates for her, but the sources all agree she was born in 1657 in Braintree, Suffolk County, MA.

Roger and Sarah were married on January 22, 1678. They had somewhere around twelve to fourteen children, but some of the names do vary. However, Stephen, my eighth great-grandfather, was one of them. I suspect that he was named after Sarah’s father.

Roger died on January 27, 1718 and Sarah died on September 19, 1742 in Dorchester. I assume they are buried somewhere in Dorchester.

Eighth Great-Grandparents: Stephen and Elizabeth Billings

Stepping back in my Billings family line, we come to Seth’s parents, Stephen Billings and Elizabeth Fenno.

Stephen was the son of Roger Billings and Sarah Paine. He was born on August 27, 1691 in Dorchester, Suffolk County, MA.

Elizabeth was the daughter of John Fenno and Rachel Newcomb. She was born on May 7, 1707 in Dorchester.

Stephen and Elizabeth were married on June 9, 1724 (I assume in Dorchester). From what I see on some sources on the internet, they had twelve children! The oldest was named after his father, and I seemed to confuse them in finding the name “Stephen Billings” in NEHGS’s colonial military records. I believe it was the younger Stephen who served in 1748-1749 on Castle William in Boston Harbor. (For all I know, however, both could have served.) At the time, young Stephen served under Captain Spencer Phips, who also was Massachusetts’ lieutenant governor at the time. Today, Castle Island is no longer an island, and the the fort Castle William eventually was replaced by Fort Independence, which is now a state park and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Castle William, as Stephen Billings, Jr. would have known it.  Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Castle William, as Stephen Billings, Jr. would have known it. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Stephen the elder died on June 10, 1767 and Elizabeth on October 17, 1783 in Stoughton, Suffolk County, MA.

Seventh-Great Grandparents: Seth and Jerusha Billings

In my last post, we learned of Levi Taunt and his wife, Jerusha Billings. I’d like to continue climbing up the Billings branch. Again, this is a family that needs more in-depth research, but I did find a couple of interesting nuggets along the way.

As stated before, Jerusha’s parents were Seth Billings and Jerusha Redman. Seth was born on February 1, 1728 in Stoughton, Suffolk County, MA. Some online trees suggest he was the second of the twelve children of Stephen Billings and Elizabeth Fenno. He and Jerusha Redman filed their marriage intention on January 3, 1749/1750, but I don’t have an exact marriage date.

Although they may have had more children, I could find four for sure:

  • Jerusha, born August 3, 1750 (perhaps her conception precipitated her parents’ marriage?); married Levi Taunt on February 25, 1768 in Stoughton, Suffolk County, MA
  • Seth, born May 30, 1756; died August 2, 1769 in Stoughton. Interesting story behind his death: Massachusetts, continuing its rebellious spirit spurred by the Stamp Act and those who enforced it, celebrated when Governor Bernard departed the colony on August 1, 1769. Bonfires were lit, cannons went off, and in Stoughton, a salute was fired off as he left. Sadly, young Seth got in the way and was injured, dying the next day.
  • Robert, born December 29, 1759; married Olive Bussey.
  • Zeruah, born August 11, 1762 in Stoughton; married Samuel Gooch, September 1, 1787; died August 31, 1801.

Seth, Sr. himself died on August 7, 1766, only 38 years old, leaving Jerusha widowed with four young children. She did not remarry until March 15, 1789 to Nathaniel Pitty. I can only suppose that she was assisted by her family until then.