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I Take the First Step

As many of us receive stimulus checks from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic, we all must decide what to do with the money we receive.

I am fortunate not to have the stress of needing this cash to pay my mortgage or to purchase groceries. Instead, I can use it to do my part to keep our economy running.

My husband/tech advisor and I agreed I could take a portion of the distribution to use for genealogy expenses. I took that step this week.

My $75 fee went to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. They will compare the family tree I have compiled with the approved papers in their files to determine what part of my line is already documented.

From there, I will receive instructions on how to proceed with a membership application.

Their website says it will take 4-8 weeks for me to receive a response. Things move more slowly these days with everyone working from home.

In the meantime, I will continue to investigate my suspected Mayflower ancestors to see if I can glean any additional information to prove my lineage. I spent time this week attempting to document the siblings of my difficult ancestor Lucy Snow. They all have names that repeat through the generations—Edward, Benjamin, Bethiah, Hannah, Priscilla. Sorting them from their cousins presents a challenge. I made little progress this week.

As our economy reopens, I hope I will not have to wait the full 8 weeks to hear back from the Mayflower Society. If the stars are aligned, another descendant of Lucy Snow and Gershom Hall has already been approved for membership in the 150,000-member Society.

Names Provide Clues

Lucy Snow (1760-1795) left few clues behind. I suspect, and hope, that she was the daughter of Thomas Snow (1735-1790) and Hannah Lincoln (1738-1817) of Brewster, Massachusetts. They were known Mayflower descendants.

Unfortunately, the records for Thomas and Hannah seem to be commingled with those for another Thomas Snow who lived nearby at the same time. Which Thomas was the father of my Lucy?

Perhaps family names can help me place the Snows of the period into the proper families. People often honor their forebears by naming children after them.

The Brewster church records list six baptisms for the children of Thomas Snow and his wife Hannah:

  1. Lucy, bap. 1760
  2. Edward, bap. 1763
  3. Bethiah, bap. 1765
  4. Hannah, bap. 1769
  5. Priscilla, bap. 1771
  6. Benjamin, bap. 1775

Were this Thomas and Hannah the Mayflower descendants? Do any of these names of Lucy’s siblings repeat those of earlier generations in the well-documented Snow-Lincoln lineage? Are any ancestral names repeated in later generations?

The most obvious name that we see several times was Hannah. Hannah Lincoln’s mother was Hannah Hopkins. The name also appears among the children baptized at Brewster and their descendants. Perhaps we have this direct line: Hannah Hopkins>Hannah Lincoln>Hannah Snow. So far, I have no information about Hannah Snow’s children, but her sister Lucy Snow Hall had a granddaughter named Hannah Dunbar. I do not know whether this girl was named as another Hannah in the Mayflower line or after her paternal grandmother Hannah Hathaway. Perhaps both?

Another sometimes-repeated name was Edward. Thomas Snow, the Mayflower descendant, was the grandson of Edward Snow (1672-175?). Thomas Snow of Brewster named his eldest son Edward. This Edward in turn named a son Edward III.

We find the name Thankful in the tree a couple of times. If Lucy was the daughter of the Mayflower descendant Thomas, her paternal grandmother was Thankful Gage Snow. Lucy named a daughter Thankful.

Thus, we see the names of three ancestors from the documented Mayflower lines–Hannah Hopkins, Edward Snow, and Thankful Gage, all repeated among later generations in the family of the Thomas and Hannah who had their children baptized at the Brewster church.

Three names repeated a few times does not provide strong evidence of family relationships. The repetition does add some weight to other evidence.

When Lucy Snow left behind few clues to her family line, a circumstantial case will have to be made. Family names become part of the conclusion.

Lucy’s Birth Family

My ancestor Lucy Snow (1760-1795) holds the key to verifying my family’s Mayflower lineage. She continues to hold it tight and out of sight.

I hope her parents were Thomas Snow (1735-1790) and Hannah Lincoln (1738-1817) because both these people had documented lines of Mayflower descent.

I began by looking at the family Lucy created with her husband, Gershom Hall (1760-1844).

This week I added the couple’s children and their families to my database. I found no clues for the identity of any grandparents in the children’s names. Lucy and Gershom Hall did not honor their own parents by naming children after them. No Thomas, no Hannah, no Seth, and no Elizabeth.

Yesterday I turned to a search for records of Lucy’s siblings. Perhaps one of them left a clue linking themselves to parents Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln or to a sister Lucy Snow Hall. I have a list of possible names and birthdates.

A Thomas Snow and his wife Hannah had several children baptized at the Brewster, Massachusetts church:

  1. 1760: Lucy
  2. 1763: Edward
  3. 1765: Bethiah
  4. 1769: Hannah
  5. 1771: Priscilla
  6. 1775: Benjamin

Is this my Lucy and her family? Brewster lies on Cape Cod just north of Harwich where Lucy and Gershom wed and raised their family. The Lucy baptized in Brewster in 1760 could be the same Lucy born in 1760 who married Gershom Hall. The only other record I have located for a Lucy Snow born the same year in Massachusetts lived much further away, near Boston. The Brewster Lucy is more likely my Lucy.

What other information can I find about the parents and siblings of this Lucy? A cursory look for records reveals that additional information on the other children will be difficult to locate. I found none of these people on Find A Grave or on Wiki Tree. I found no will for Thomas Snow or Hannah Lincoln Snow. The compiled family tree on Family Search has this Thomas Snow combined with another.

It will take some deep digging to build this family tree with good evidence. I hardly know where to begin. Lucy, were these your people? Give me a clue.

Zoom Genealogy

Across the nation, we continue to self-isolate and maintain social distances during the COVID-19 pandemic. In times like these, how can a genealogical society continue to hold meetings?

We can do it via Zoom, a remote conferencing service. The Colorado Council of Genealogical Societies purchased a subscription for its affiliates to use.

My local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gave it a try this month. The previously scheduled speaker for this month, Carol Darrow CG, has excellent computer skills and was willing to make her presentation this way.

Our President, Dave Barton, took the time to set up everything for us. He sent appropriate web links and the program handout out to the membership. On the appointed evening, he acted as the host for the meeting.

Over thirty people signed in. We had our usual short business meeting and then turned the evening over to Carol.

She did a great job with her program on using charts and spreadsheets to organize genealogical research. On my home computer screen, I could see large images of her Power Point presentation. A smaller video feed of Carol appeared on the corner of the screen.

Thanks to Zoom, my local society could hold its usually monthly meeting just as I needed the organizational skill that Carol had to offer. I have already tried one of her techniques.

As I work to fill in my New England family tree, I encounter many people with the same names. How do I differentiate them? Carol had a chart for that!

I tried it first with Samuel Smith, the name of the husbands of two of my distant great-aunts. Did they both marry the same man? The chart helped me conclude that likely they did.

I am so glad I tuned in to see Carol’s presentation.

Our local genealogy club plans to meet on Zoom again in May. After this month’s successful meeting, I have it on my calendar.

Ahira’s Will

My ancestor Seth Hall’s grandchildren Lucy Hall (daughter of Gershom) and Ahira Hall (son of Edward) were first cousins. They wed in Massachusetts in 1808. As this was long before the U.S. recorded every name on the census, I could not use that resource to find the names of their children.

Luckily, Ahira left a will that was filed for probate in Providence, Rhode Island in 1862. It named his wife Lucy and their children, Orlanda, Roscoe, Royal, and Susan. It also mentioned children Clarissa and Orlanda of his deceased daughter Eliza Bailies. They all shared a handsome estate that included two houses and shares in two schooners.

There was a catch, though. At the end of the will, Ahira included this provision:

I further direct that my Executors hereinafter named shall not pay any money or make any advances to either of my children or grand children unless they are satisfied that such child or children or grand children is the actual owner of a copy of the Holy Bible of the value of not less than Four Dollars.

Lucy and Ahira both came from old Puritan stock on Cape Cod. They accumulated wealth, but it went to their heirs with strings attached.

Ahira sought to control his family from beyond the grave when he stipulated that they all must possess Bibles. Who did he fear was not reading the Good Word? I wonder whether any of the descendants needed to rush out to purchase a Bible only to sell it again after the distribution of the estate.

Most wills do not include such restrictive provisions. The ones that do make for interesting reading.

Wills provide an excellent genealogical resource for learning about the people who lived before 1850. Ahira Hall left an intriguing one.

 

 

 

Practicing Hygge

HYGGE: a Danish word for a cozy and comfortable mood created by enjoying the simple things in life. It derives from the Old Norse word for well-being.

During these days of a frightening epidemic, the people of my state have been ordered to stay at home. Some have difficulty with this, but I like the idea of embracing a hygge lifestyle instead. The Danes have mastered it, and the Norwegians tend to follow it a bit, too.

Between my husband/tech advisor and me, we share a good deal of Norwegian ancestry. Neither of us remembers our grandparents talking about hygge, but this Scandinavian coziness comes naturally to us. It is how we grew up.

We do these things to create our own hygge household:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes. For us, that means jeans, sweaters, and flannel shirts.
  2. Turn on the fireplace and burn candles. With March being the snowiest month in Colorado, we continue to have cold weather even though the calendar tells us it is spring. A fire feels good and the candles add fragrance and a warm glow.
  3. Cook comfort food and bake homemade sweets. We grew up eating casseroles and soups, and now we have plenty of time to pull out the old family recipes. My mom always had a homemade cake or cookies on the counter, and I do, too.
  4. Take long, solitary walks. We try to get some fresh air every day, although it has become a challenge to keep our social distance. Coloradans are outdoorsy, and everyone wants to get out of the house. The local sidewalks and trails are busy.
  5. Equip our favorite armchairs with good books and cozy throw blankets. As avid readers, we spend a lot of time here with the fire and the cookies).

Practicing hygge seems to come naturally to us. Each of these things helps create the hygge atmosphere our ancestors cherished.

When we adopt these understated luxuries in our everyday life, our isolation period becomes something enjoyable instead of an irritant.

 

A Virus Changes Everything

As we all hunker down in these dark times, a new way of living is emerging for me and those around me. So what have I been up to during the pandemic?

  1. Attending genealogy webinars and visiting online databases. Recently I followed Legacy webinars on evaluating genealogical evidence, tracking ancestors who changed their names, researching Scandinavian ancestors, searching on Google, and using digital libraries. Today I will connect to another webinar on researching Mayflower ancestors. In normal times, I do not take nearly this many classes.
  2. Reaching out to family, friends, and neighbors. In my community, people gather regularly for card games, potlucks, and more. No longer! I have taken to calling my immediate neighbors and those who live alone so they and I will have a chance to enjoy some conversation. I have also been texting with my 11-year-old granddaughter who cannot go out to play with her friends.
  3. Binge-watching television and other media. I keep tuning into the presidential and gubernatorial press conferences to get the latest information in the coronavirus. I follow local town halls with the health department. I watch the extended COVID-19 coverage offered by the local broadcasters.
  4. Walking. We know we should not stay indoors for days on end. The only problem has been that so many others are out walking, too. I am finding it hard to maintain a 6′ distance from people on the trails and sidewalks.

When this social distancing began, I thought I would have hours to fill with my genealogy research. But these new activities have eaten up my time. I find that I am progressing slower than usual with my family history.

That is because, in part, I have not yet settled into a new routine to replace the old one. At first, I questioned whether I would need to. This situation seemed temporary. We originally received a 14-day directive from the state.

Then yesterday, our governor announced that the schools would close for another month. Suddenly the timeline appears much longer.

New habits can form in a month. At some point this will no longer feel like a temporary situation.

I, and everyone else, will need to find a new rhythm of daily life. When I do, I can begin to become a productive researcher again.

Coronavirus Hits the Genealogy World

The genealogy community makes up just a small corner of the world, but like everyone else we face challenges presented by the spreading coronavirus. Event cancellations pour in as people practice social isolation.

  1. Yesterday the Denver Public Library cancelled all meetings and events for a month. This requires the Colorado Genealogical Society and the Colorado Chapter of Palatines to America in turn to cancel upcoming meetings and seminars that would have been held in Denver’s main library.
  2. Our local LDS meeting place has requested that the Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society gather elsewhere or cancel its monthly meeting and annual genealogy fair in April.
  3. My husband/tech advisor has offered to host a virtual meeting for our Sons of Norway board this month. If our usual meeting place at one of the Douglas County Libraries follows Denver’s example, we will lose our meeting room.
  4. He has already announced that the Norwegian Genealogy study group he facilitates will meet in virtual sessions during April and May.

One event (I hope!) that will not face cancellation is the Legacy Family Tree 24-hour Genealogy Webinar Marathon scheduled to begin later today. I registered for this event that I can attend on my home computer.

Several topics caught my interest. Luckily, they are not classes that will occur during the middle of the night in my time zone. I plan to tune in to these:

  1. How Do I Know It’s Correct: Evidence and Proof by Rebecca Koford
  2. Not Who He Once Was: Tips for Finding Your Name-Changing Ancestor by Mary Kircher Roddy
  3. A Vast and Virtual Genealogical Library is Waiting for Your Exploration by Mike Mansfield
  4. Advanced Googling for Your Grandma by Cyndi Ingle
  5. Researching Scandinavian Ancestors by Mike Mansfield

Perhaps these virtual meetings will become more commonplace. We do not know when or if our world will return to the days of carefree gatherings of every kind. Already we have adjusted to heightened security measures when we meet in large groups. Perhaps we will see a permanent change in public health practices for meetings, too. Genealogists and everyone else will have to adapt.

Lives Affected by Epidemics

With the coronavirus outbreak all over the news these days, I began thinking of ancestors who might have lived through epidemics of their own. A few came to mind.

  1. Regional outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria occurred in communities where my family lived during the 19th century. My own family members likely endured some of these sicknesses. Although I have seen columns of Midwestern death listings from these and other illnesses, I have found none of my family names in these records of fatalities. A century later I, too, survived a case of the measles in 1964. It was the sickest I have ever been.
  2. About 1910, my great-grandfather Ole Bentsen (1880-1976) experienced a bout of typhoid fever. I do not know whether others in his Sheridan County, Montana community also had this illness caused by contaminated food or water.
  3. The Spanish flu swept the nation during World War I. My grandmother’s cousin Arthur Davis Riddle (1881-1919) succumbed to this illness in Seattle, Washington. He was a tall lumberjack, but his robust strength did not protect him from the influenza.
  4. During the 1930’s my grandmother Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976) contracted smallpox in Wheatland, Wyoming. My father was a young boy at the time, but he remembered that his mother was quarantined during her illness. No one else in the family caught the disease.
  5. My entire family contracted the Asian flu in 1958. We lived in Bismarck, North Dakota at the time. I can remember my parents having a difficult time rousing themselves from their own sickbeds to care for their two young children who also had this illness. We all recovered.

Outbreaks of illness seem to cycle regularly through communities. Some of these epidemics seem deadlier than others. It remains too early to tell how the United States will fare with the current coronavirus. At our house we remain watchful and have prepared for whatever it brings.

Spring 2020 Genealogy Training

Opportunities for genealogy training seem abundant this time of the year. I have many to offerings to choose from, some live, some online.

Conferences

  1. RootsTech. This 4-day event in Salt Lake City this week provides over 300 breakout sessions taught by professional genealogists and industry experts. A huge expo hall houses vendors and more. I have never attended RootsTech in person. I would rather avoid the huge crowds it attracts. The conference offers a live streaming option for those of us who prefer to stay home.
  2. Colorado Palatines to America Spring Seminar on March 13-14. Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, a specialist in German research, will speak. Because I am not focusing on our German ancestors this year, I will not attend this seminar.
  3. Colorado Genealogical Society Spring Seminar on April 18. Angie Bush, chair of the National Genealogical Society’s Genetic Genealogy committee, will give four programs on building online family trees and using DNA testing for genealogy. I have other plans that weekend, so I will skip this seminar.
  4. National Genealogical Society Family History Conference on May 20-23. This annual conference travels around the country and will take place in Salt Lake City this year. I do not plan to attend. I live near enough to Salt Lake to visit its library when I am not competing with hundreds of other genealogists for research space.

Webinars

  1. Legacy Family Tree webinars. Legacy hosts about 8 webinars a month on a variety of topics. I do not listen in on all of them, and I have not yet participated in one this year.
  2. American Ancestors webinars. Hosted by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, these webinars also cover a variety of subjects although many focus on New England ancestry. I am registered for one on March 19 where I will learn about Mayflower resources available on AmericanAncestors.org.

As in any industry, change is constant. These training opportunities can help me keep up with current events in the genealogy world. Because many of them require large time and monetary commitments, I find it important to choose wisely when deciding what to attend.