Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - "Facts are Stubborn Things" - My Family Connection to Two US Presidents

There is no question that George Washington was the true father of our country.  His tireless leadership in the American Revolution was critical to the successful forming of our country.

He is the only US President to ever be unanimously elected by the Electoral College (100% of the electoral vote).  He set precedence in almost every area of the office of President which every US President has followed since.   

What he did which was truly remarkable was that after two terms as President he stepped down and relinquished power.  He did not run for a 3rd term.  No revolution.  No coup.  No hand-picked successor.  Just an orderly transfer of power through popular election.  It is possible that this was the first time this had occurred since the pure democracies of ancient Greece.

His Vice President, John Adams, won the 2nd presidential election vs. Thomas Jefferson. John Adams was a revolutionary patriot, founding father and my distant cousin.

President John Adams and I share ancestors, Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith.  Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith were my 8th grandparents and President Adams' great-great grandparents.  This makes President Adams my 3rd cousin 6 times removed.  So not a close relative.

Here is the relationship in a little more detail.

President John Adam his parents were John Adams Sr. and Susanna Boylston
Susanna Boylston's parents were Peter Boylston and Ann White
Peter Boylston’s parents were Dr. Thomas Boylston and Mary Gardner
Mary Gardner's parents were Thomas Gardner and Lucy Smith

Mary Gardner's sister was Abigail Gardner.  Abigail married Rev. John Wise (Rev Wise has some good stories to tell which I will be detailing in future postings)
They had a daughter, Lucy Wise who married Rev John White
Their son, William White moved to Cape Elizabeth, Maine and married Christian Simonton
Their daughter, Anna White married Israel Woodbury
Their daughter, Betsey Woodbury married John Armstrong
I have covered the relationship to John Armstrong and Betsey Woodbury extensively in my blog.

Did I happen to mention that President Adams' son, John Quincy Adams went on to be our 6th President?

When you find you are related to someone (even distantly) it does increase your interest in that historical figure.  

One of John Adams earliest known impact on history involved a famous event, but his role in that event is not nearly as widely known.

The event was the Boston Massacre.  

On March 5, 1770, British soldiers stationed in Boston shot and killed 5 civilians and wounded 6 others.  British soldiers had been stationed in Boston due to increasing unrest in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.   As the name "British Massacre" would infer, there was widespread outrage over the killing of civilians by the soldiers and the populace of Boston wanted to see the offending men hanged.

The British soldiers maintained their innocence that they fired in self-defense.

There was little chance of them receiving a fair or unbiased trial in Boston.

No one wanted to defend the British soldiers at trial knowing that it could ruin their reputation and their livelihood.  Eventually, they found one lawyer who would defend them in the search of the truth and justice....John Adams

During the trial, the future Pesident was able to root out the actual series of events which led to the shooting.

The incident started when a group of men were harassing a British soldier named Private Hugh White standing guard duty outside the Custom House on King's Street.  The men and the private exchanged insults.  The private struck one of the men and a mob started to form.  Over 300-400 people of Boston started to hurl insults, snow and small objects at the soldier as other soldier arrived to support him.

The crowd taunted the soldiers.  It is even said that some of them shouted, "Fire!"  The soldiers stood their ground and waited for commands from Captain Thomas Preston (who stood in front of his line of men).  No command was given to fire.

An object struck Private Montgomery, knocking him to the ground.  It is stated that he got up and shouted, "Damn you, fire!" and shot into the crowd.  From there one of the civilians hit one of the soldiers with a club and it unraveled quickly.  Without orders some of the soldiers shot into the crowd.  The main issue to be decided was did Captain Preston order his men to fire on unarmed civilians as the people of Boston believed or was this a question of self-defense.

The trial began in November 1770 and John Adams was able to prove to the jury that they had to treat the British soldiers not as despised British, but as any men accused of such as crime.  He convinced the jury of the evidence that these men were threatened and if they were guilty of anything it would be manslaughter and not murder.

In the end, Adams prevailed and six of the soldiers were found innocent of any wrong doing and two others were found guilty of manslaughter.

As part of his defense he issued his famous quote:
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
Try to think of the times and the quality of the man who was John Adams.  Revolutionary feelings were growing and the British were reviled in many parts of Boston.  It would have been easy to get caught up in the fervor of the times and wish ill on these men.  Watch innocent men hang.

Unlike when the revolutionary feelings and events were rushing toward a Declaration of Independence, at this time and in this event, John Adams stood alone to stand for truth and justice.  He showed a level of integrity which is always in short supply, whatever the time period.

It is heartening to know that a few of the genes that made him a man of such sterling integrity also are a part of my make-up.  Something to be proud of and something to remember when I am confronted with ethical problems and it is time for me to wonder, "What would John Adams do?"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday's Obituaries - Patrick Purcell's Sisters

In previous posts I referenced my wife's great great grandfather, Patrick Purcell.  He came to this country from Upperchurch, Tipperary, Ireland about 1850 and settled in Utica, NY.  I believe he came to the US by himself and stayed with cousins (possibly the McGraw's of Syracuse).

According to Patrick's obituary three of his sisters also came from Ireland to upstate NY.  The obituary identifies them as Mrs. John Lynch of Utica and Mrs. John Connolly and Mrs. James J Harvard both of Oneida, NY.

I wanted to research Patrick's sisters and see if that led to any clues about the Purcell family of Ireland.  Have you noticed how great it is that women were just referred to as "Mrs.” husband's name :-).   No reason to make it easy to to uncover relatives.

Finding the sisters living in Oneida proved to be difficult.  I looked extensively for any Connolly and Harvard families in the small community of Oneida.  No luck.

I did find a newspaper notice that mentions several Purcell family members attending the death of Mrs. Connolly in 1899 in Oneida.  So I did know that she died there.

A breakthrough came when I found another tree which had a Connelly family living in the town of Lenox (which is near Oneida).  What I did know at the time was that Lenox became a part of Oneida a few years later.   The family in on other family tree was spelled a little differently, but that isn't unusual and did look promising. The family was identified in the 1880 census as John and Mary Connelly.

How could I know if Mary was Patrick's sister?  Luckily, I found on the findagrave website records of burials in Oneida and there it was....Mary's grave was engraved Mary Purcell Connelly.  No doubt that I had found her and that she was Patrick's sister.

Mrs. Harvard, I am less sure about.  There was no Harvard family in Oneida.  


I had two hunches:  the Harvard name was wrong and the fact that Patrick’s sister may have been named Margaret.  

The name Margaret came up again and again in the Purcell family and it seemed reasonable that one of the sisters was probably named Margaret.  

One trick I use in my genealogy research is to search for potential family members living on the same street as known family members when reviewing the US census. Families used to cluster together.  I think it paid off in this case.  I found James J Howard and Mary Howard living on the same street as Mr. and Mrs. Connelly.  Howard and Harvard could easily have been mixed up in the obituary.  Hhhm...was it possible that it should have been Margaret on the census instead of Mary, but they transcribed the census record in error?  Upon review there was no error, but this still seemed to be my best lead, so I didn’t give up.

I had success, once again with where I found the Howard family plot in Oneida.  Guess what?  There was a grave a Margaret Howard and one for Mary as wive's of James.  It appears that Margaret was James' first wife.  Is this Margaret Patrick's sister?  I don't know for sure, but there seems to be good circumstantial evidence to support that she is Patrick's sister.

Patrick's third sister was the easiest to find and proved the most fruitful.  I found that Mrs. John Lynch was in fact, Julia Purcell Lynch.  I found her obit from when she died in 1925 at the age of 85.  Probably the most important piece of information this obit provided was the names of Julia's parents - Edward and Margaret Purcell.

The fact that their names are revealed as Edward and Margaret makes a lot of sense.  These names reoccur with many of the Purcell families descended from Patrick and his sisters.

The next step in this journey is to "jump the pond" and see what I can find from the good people of Upperchurch, Tipperary.

Stay tuned.

(Special thanks to Mary Albree Perra for providing me these great gravestone pictures)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday's Obituary - Capt William White Woodbury

I have never been a huge fan of Forest Gump, but there is no disputing that genealogy research is "like a box of chocolates", because you never know what you are going to find.

I have been focusing a lot of my time researching the Armstrong line of my family living in Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth (now Portland, Maine).  I have traced the Armstrong family back to the early 1700's, but have hit a road block and I am hoping that there are some other distant relatives which will may have some information which can help me break through.

However, in the meantime, I have been researching Betsey Woodbury Dyer Armstrong's family.  I have multiple post on Betsey Woodbury Dyer Armstrong including:  Betsey Armstrong Probate Mystery, Armstrong Family Land Division - 1897, The Armstrongs and Woodburys of Cape Elizabeth.   

Betsey Woodbury was born Nov 16 1787.  Her parents were Israel Woodbury and Anna White Woodbury.  She married her first husband, William Dyer, Sept 27, 1804.  She was only 16.  They had at least three children:  Woodbury, Benjamin and William Dyer.  Her husband, William, died sometime between 1813-1817.  On Nov 1, 1817, she married her second husband, John Armstrong.  They had at least eight children:  Simon, Mary, Eben, Lucy, John B, Israel, Arthur and George.

Betsey had at least 9 siblings:  Hugh, Jane, Lucy, William, Christina, Jonas, Israel, John and Anna.  I will be making more blog posts on Betsey's mother family as they have some historical significance and some very interesting stories.

Today's post is about Betsey's brother, Captain William White Woodbury.  He died April 29, 1861.

Those of you who have researched in Maine, you know how rare it is to find any significant obituaries prior to 1900.  It is typical to find a death notice that says little more than the name and date of someone who has died.  So I was very excited to uncover such an information rich obituary for Captain Woodbury.  

I have transcribed it below:
Woodbury, William, Portland, April 29 at 90.  He arose on Monday morning at his usual hour and partly dressed himself; in two hours after, he was dead.  Capt. Woodbury was a descendant of John Woodbury, one of the Cape Ann company, who went to that place with Roger Conant in 1624; he afterwards settled in Beverly, Mass., from which the immediate ancestor of our deceased friend, Joshua Woodbury, came to Falmouth in 1727, and settled at Cape Elizabeth.  The parents of the deceased were Israel Woodbury and Ann, dau. of William, and dau. of Rev. John White of Gloucester, Cape Ann.  He was born on the old White farm near Simonton's Cove, at Cape Elizabeth, Oct. 2, 1772 (Maine records show DOB as Aug 4, 1772).  The Whites were ancient settlers at Cape Elizabeth; they occupied farms there previous to the Indian war, in which one was killed, and their land descended from their family to present day.  Capt Woodbury was long a successful shipmaster; afterward, he engaged in commercial pursuits on shore; was a prime mover in establishing the Marine Railway, incorporated in 1826;  he conducted it near thirty years, until it closed its affairs.  He was many years President of the Marine Society, and twenty-seven years President of the Merchants Bank of Portland, holding the office at the time of his death, and having been a Director from its incorporation in 1825.  He married in 1798 (Maine records show Nov 17, 1797), Mary, dau. of Capt William Hoole, who went to Portland from Boston just previous to the Revolution, which whom he has happily lived more than sixty-three years, and by whom he leaves one son and five daughters.  She survives to lament her faithful and long-cherished companion.  Capt W. was a man of most determined will, of sound judgement, of great discernment, and inflexible integrity. 
One of the great benefits of this obituary for my research was that I was trying to confirm that Betsey's mother Anna or Ann White was related to Rev John White of Gloucester.  This obituary was able to confirm this for me.  In addition, since the obituary was written at the time of his death, that I can have a high level of confidence in its accuracy.

The fact that I can confirm my lineage to Rev John White opens up some very interesting genealogy. More on that to come in future posts.

Obituary Source:New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol 15 (1861) pg 287