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I Join a Lineage Society

Success! After waiting since last July, I finally received word this week that my application to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has been approved.

My qualifying lineage runs from the adventurer Stephen Hopkins. He accompanied the Pilgrims on their journey in 1620. They hired him because he had previous New World experience.

To file this application, I did not need to document the first few generations of my ancestors who came after Stephen Hopkins. The 30-volume Mayflower Families Through Five Generations provides an authoritative family tree down to Hopkins’ descendant, and my ancestor, Thomas Snow (1735-1790).

I did need to prove my descent from Thomas through his daughter, Lucy (1760-1795). Because no other descendant of hers has ever applied to the Society, I could not piggyback on the application of someone else. There are a couple of long-ago applications from descendants of Lucy’s brother, Edward Snow, but they included no records that I could use for my application.

I had little difficulty collecting appropriate documentation for most of the generations between Thomas Snow and me. Wills, obituaries, or vital records spelled out the relationships between generations.

But there were two links that were more troublesome. I did not know whether the documentation I submitted would pass the review of the Society’s genealogists:

  1. Was Olive Hall (Dunbar) Riddle (1823-1902) the same person as Olive, daughter of Rhoda (Hall) Dunbar (1784-1850)? Olive’s father died when Olive was a child so his will did not include her married name. Olive’s mother did not leave a will. Olive’s obituary did not provide her mother’s name, and an obituary for Rhoda has not been found. Nor has a family Bible. To solve the problem, I collected land conveyances that mentioned Olive Dunbar inheriting and Olive Riddle selling the same parcel of Ohio land.
  2. Was Lucy (Snow) Hall the same person as Lucy, daughter of Thomas Snow? I could find no primary sources that provided this information. Instead, I crossed my fingers and submitted a page from the Hall family entry in the Encyclopedia of Massachusetts (1916) that claimed Lucy’s descent from Stephen Hopkins.

The Society genealogists deemed the land records and the published biographical information enough to establish the links I needed.

The next step will be to receive my membership numbers for the national organization and the Colorado chapter. This should take a week or so.

The Society will retain all the genealogical information I provided. Any of Lucy (Snow) Hall’s descendants can now use it to file applications of their own.

Furthermore, my work on this line will be preserved. When I cannot be certain that my own family will keep my research, submitting it to a lineage society will assure that it is not lost.

I am thrilled that my application was successful.

Mayflower Lineage Preserved

All year I worked to document my Mayflower lineage. I applied to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

As the year wound down, it became time to follow my usual custom and share my findings with my family members.

I wrote a little about what I had learned of the lives of our Mayflower ancestors Stephen, Constance, and Gyles/Giles Hopkins. Then I constructed a descendant report to give to everyone for Christmas.

I listed my paternal grandmother Grace Riddle Reed’s (1896-1976) direct line from the Hopkins passengers. She was the tenth generation of descent.

I doubt that my grandmother even knew she was a Mayflower descendant. Her cousins’ families seemed to be just as ignorant of their heritage. They never mentioned it during the years I collaborated on the Riddle family genealogy with them.

All of us were stymied in our hunt for the parentage of Grandma’s second great-grandmother, Lucy Snow. It was not until a little over a year ago when I saw Lucy’s Mayflower heritage posted on WikiTree that the door to her heritage blew open for me.

With Grandma’s lineage found and charted at last, my Christmas report continues with a list of all my grandmother’s descendants, at least the ones I know about. It ends with the 15th generation from the Mayflower passengers.

It was time to update this list of Grandma’s descendants. The previous list, The Reeds of Ashmore by Michael Hayden, was published over thirty years ago. People not even born when that book was compiled are now grown and have children of their own.

Now we know that those Reed family members who also descend from my grandmother are Mayflower descendants. I wish we had possessed that information 35 years ago when we were all contributing information for The Reeds of Ashmore.

I hope the documentation I am creating this year will preserve this identity for future generations.

Benjamin E. Dunbar, Mayflower Descendant?

Most people with Mayflower lineage are descended from more than one Pilgrim. Does my family? I have some clues to pursue.

This month I wrapped up my research into the Mayflower lineage of my ancestor, Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795). I have documented her descent through both her father and her mother from Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.

I still need to investigate the possibility that she had another Mayflower ancestor. In addition to Stephen Hopkins, her father Thomas Snow (1735-1790) may have counted William Brewster as his ancestor. The line would run through Thomas Snow’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Freeman.

I thought this was the only other Mayflower line I might have, and I do need to investigate this possibility.

Then earlier this week, a surprising hint of yet another Mayflower ancestor landed in my inbox. Family Search sent me a message claiming that my 3rd great-grandfather, Benjamin E. Dunbar (1774-1831) descends from Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton. Dunbar was Lucy Snow’s son-in-law having married her daughter Rhoda (1784-1850) in 1805.

I wonder about this proposed Mayflower line. The family tree posted on Family Search lists Dunbar’s Mayflower pedigree as running through his mother Hannah. They say she was Hannah Latham, daughter of Joseph Latham II.

My copy of the Dunbar family genealogy, the heavily-researched The Descendants of Robert Dunbar of Hingham, Massachusetts by Ann Theopold Chapin (1992), says Benjamin E. Dunbar was the son of Hannah Hathaway, not Hannah Latham.

Who was his mother, and what is his maternal heritage? I had already settled on Benjamin Dunbar as my research subject for 2021. A possible Mayflower line for him would make the research year all the more interesting.

Thanksgiving Stories

During these months of the Covid-19 virus, holiday celebrations differ from those in times gone by. As my husband/tech advisor and I enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner at home this year, I thought about my grandmothers’ Thanksgiving stories. Their holidays were not as I would have expected.

 

Grace Riddle Reed (1896-1976)

My Dad’s mom descended from the Pilgrims. You would think Thanksgiving would be a big day for her. Yet she never spoke of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. Nor did my dad remember celebrating the holiday in his childhood home. Perhaps they never did.

Grandma Grace grew up on a poor homestead in the Nebraska Sandhills. She raised her own kids as a widow during the Great Depression. Money was hard to come by, perhaps not to be spent on a lavish dinner.

Even if she could scrape together the necessary funds, she may not have bothered to put together a Thanksgiving meal. Grandma never cooked, leaving the task instead to Dad’s older brother Owen. His signature dishes were rhubarb and oatmeal, probably all they had available. Once he left home, Dad never ate either of those things again.

Under these circumstances, I believe Dad never had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner until he married my mom. Odd for a man with his ancestry.

And what about Grandma? I asked her one Christmas what she had eaten for Thanksgiving dinner that year. She vaguely replied, “Oh, some canned chicken noodle soup.”

 

Martha Mattila Bentsen (1906-1977)

My mom’s mother was the child of Finnish immigrants. They made every effort to leave their Finnish culture behind and to become as Americanized as they could.

They wholeheartedly embraced the Thanksgiving tradition as soon as they learned about it. The family held large Thanksgiving family gatherings. They learned to roast a turkey with all the trimmings.

Of course, these meals had a Finnish twist. There were several types of pickles—cucumbers and beets. There was a rutabaga casserole. There was Finnish bread.

After her parents died, Grandma Martha continued to host Thanksgiving dinners for family members. We joined her several times during my childhood. I always enjoyed these Finn-style Thanksgiving dinners, never knowing there was anything unusual about them.

 

As I look back, I realize that I developed my idea of a proper Thanksgiving celebration and meal from my experience with the holiday as celebrated by Finnish immigrants. My American ancestors contributed nothing to my understanding of the holiday because they did not participate in it.

You would think it would be the other way around. But in my family, the 11th-generation Americans did not celebrate Thanksgiving while the recent immigrants did.

 

An Assist from the NEHGS

Many Americans, including me, can trace their ancestry to Massachusetts. My fourth great grandparents, Lucy Snow (1760-1795) and Gershom Hall (1760-1844), lived in Harwich on Cape Cod where the sea was a part of everyday life. The water, with all its opportunities and vicissitudes, dictated much of our family history.

Four of the couple’s family members died far from home while away on sea voyages. Lucy’s father Thomas Snow (1735-1790) died in Barbados. Lucy’s son Daniel Hall (1781-1820) and his half-brother Gershom Hall (1798-1820) died in Havana. Daniel’s son Oreck Hall (1805-1830) was lost at sea. This week I began trying to determine the circumstances of these deaths.

Living in landlocked Colorado, I know little about sea travel and maritime records. I turned to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston for some help. They have a handy online chat feature available.

I asked what type of records I might find for these men if they were on commercial ships. Crew lists? Newspaper accounts? Anything else?

I learned that the U.S. did not require crew lists until 1803 so I am unlikely to locate a record like that for Thomas Snow, who died in 1790. For the other three, the closest ports would have been Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Boston, Salem, or Newburyport.

Family Search has some crew lists. I looked at those for Edgartown, the nearest port to Harwich, but found nothing.

The friendly NEHGS staffer told me that local newspaper accounts for these deaths will not be available. Cape Cod did not have its own paper until the Barnstable Patriot began publication in 1830. For news of earlier events, I will need to search the Boston or Newport, R.I. newspapers.

The public libraries in both these cities have digitized their historical newspapers. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to look at them because I do not reside in those states. Their websites instruct me to visit the libraries in person, but wait! They are closed due to the Covid-19 virus. As a retired librarian myself, I cannot understand motives for withholding information from people. My library always bent over backwards to provide access, requiring cards only for the nationwide commercial databases whose contracts require it.

I went instead to The Ancestor Hunt (https://www.theancestorhunt.com/), a wonderful free source of historic newspapers. There I found an early Newport paper, but it contained no mention of my lost ancestors.

I have not yet exhausted this search. Thanks to the folks at NEHGS, I have a direction for this quest and some hope that I will still find something about the Snow and Hall men who went to sea. If I cannot locate any American records, perhaps I can find something from Barbados or Havana.

Some Research Alternatives for Thomas Snow

Thomas Snow (1735-1790), my 5th great-grandfather, remains an elusive research subject. Last week I received his probate documents from Barnstable County, MA, but the packet contained only an appointment of Executor and a Final Account, with no listing of the heirs to his estate. I need some new avenues of inquiry for him.

Three possibilities appeared this week when I reviewed FindAGrave.com for Thomas:

  1. Oddly, Thomas has two memorials. One claims a burial in Brewster Cemetery in Brewster, MA. This record was created in 2009 and even provides the middle name “Rogers” for Thomas although it offers no source for this information. The second memorial, created in 2012, lists his burial in Old Burying Ground, Brewster, MA. How can a man be buried in two cemeteries? Hoping to get some answers to the question of why Thomas has two FindAGrave memorials, I have sent a message to the man who created the second one to see if he can provide some clarification.
  2. Thomas’ cemetery marker states he died at age 54 in the West Indies. The Brewster Cemetery FindAGrave memorial claims a more specific place of death, Barbados. Again, no source is provided. Is this information correct? What happened to Thomas in Barbados? Did he die of natural causes or for some other reason like effects of a storm, an epidemic, or a pirate attack? This week I asked an acquaintance who has Barbados ancestry for some guidance on researching records there. She did a little research and found there were no hurricanes in Barbados in 1790. She provided me with contact information for a repository in Barbados that might have information on other events the occurred in Barbados in 1790.
  3. The cemetery marker on Thomas’ grave names him as Capt. Thomas Snow. If he was a sea captain, a maritime record of his ship might exist in Massachusetts. My acquaintance pointed out that if Thomas’ body was returned to Massachusetts from Barbados, the ship record would tell the story. I have never looked at any maritime records, and this would be quite a learning curve for me. I will need to educate myself on how to do this.

None of these records will likely show the connection between Thomas and his daughter Lucy that I need to clinch my pedigree, but it would be interesting to fill in his life story. Ancestors feel more real when we know the particulars of their lives. I would love to know what happened to Thomas Snow.

A Dead End


As I await a response to my application for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, I continue to search for records strengthening the argument that Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795) of Barnstable County, Massachusetts was the daughter of Thomas Snow (d.1790) and Hannah Lincoln (d.1817), both Mayflower descendants. My pedigree hinges on this link. I have no primary evidence of this relationship, only a biographical entry from the 1916 Encyclopedia of Massachusetts. On the other hand, I have not been able to prove that Lucy was not their daughter.

Recently, I came across a consolidated probate index for Barnstable and other Massachusetts counties that lists a 1790 will for Thomas Snow, Jr. of Harwich. My Thomas Snow, also known as Thomas Snow, Jr., died in Barbados that year but resided in Harwich, Barnstable County. I hoped the will would name a daughter, Lucy Snow Hall, as an heir.

The index says this will was filed as Case Z3. I could not find the probate case online, so I wrote to Barnstable County for the record.

They replied promptly.

The record they sent contains just two pages. The first is a copy of the Letters of Administration granted to Edward Snow in 1790, the same year Thomas died.

No relationship between Thomas the deceased and Edward the Administrator was specified, but Thomas and Hannah Snow did have a son Edward baptized at the Brewster church in 1763. Same person? This appointment lends weight to the argument that the Thomas who died in 1790 is the same Thomas who, with his wife Hannah, was the parent of children Lucy, Edward, Bethiah, Hannah, Priscilla, and Benjamin, all baptized in Brewster in the 1760’s and 1770’s. This does not prove that Lucy Snow, baptized daughter of Thomas and Hannah, assumed daughter of Thomas who died in 1790, is the same Lucy Snow who married my ancestor Gershom Hall.

The only other page sent to me by the county was an Inventory filed by Edward Snow over a decade after the estate was opened. It lists debts settled. Dashing my hopes, the last line mentions Legacies paid, but it does not name any of the recipients. It lists only an aggregate amount.

These two pages, the Letters and the Inventory, do not contain enough personal information to tie my ancestor Lucy Snow Hall to this Thomas Snow. Questions remain. Why is there no will in this file? Why did Edward not name the Legatees who received money from the estate? I do not like Edward.

This probate file is yet another disappointing dead end in the search to connect Lucy to her parents and her husband.

While I Wait

As I wait for the verdict on my application to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, I continue to work on this lineage.

I have collected several documents that flesh out the lives of the people in this line. Now I have time to enter this information into my genealogy database.

For example:

  1. Rhoda (Hall) Dunbar [generation 8] conveyed land to her children during her lifetime. They, in turn, disposed of it, and I need to put those deeds into the database.
  2. Lucy (Snow) Hall [generation 7] was the subject of a 1916 biographical entry in The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts. I can transcribe her story and add it to our family information.
  3. Hannah (Lincoln) Snow [generation 6] paid the Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax in 1798. I can add this document to my records.

I am sure that if I look into my To-Do bin for the Dunbar family, I can find other material I have not yet entered into my database.

Tempting as it would be to do more research now, I think cleaning up what I already have would be a better use of my time. Who knows what additional clues I might discover?

If I analyze and organize what I already have, I will have a better idea of where to turn next for more information on this family. My year is devoted to them, and I want to learn as much as I can.

Going through my stack of Dunbar material should not take more than a few days. By then I hope to have an answer from the Mayflower Society. That will give me a better idea of where to turn my attention next.

Genealogists always have something to do, even as they wait for responses.

Another Step Taken

In my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), I have completed another step.

The Colorado Historian has reviewed and accepted the supporting documentation I provided for my Mayflower line. This week she sent me an official application form which I promptly executed and returned to her.

Now my application will be forwarded to the GSMD Historian General in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It will be reviewed in that office to verify I have provided sufficient documentation for membership.

I have no idea how long this will take. Nor do I know whether my paperwork will meet their standards of proof.

I do know that they prefer primary sources like vital records or wills to prove dates and relationships. I was able to gather those for most generations.

Yet for one generation I could not find a primary source proving the relationship. The only document I could uncover that shows my ancestor Lucy Snow Hall (1760-1795) is the same person as Lucy, daughter of Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln, is genealogy for the Hall family in The Encyclopedia of Massachusetts, published in 1916. Will this be enough?

So far, I have uncovered no other proof. Since no one else who descends from Lucy has joined the GSMD, the Society files contain nothing to help me.

One person who descended from Lucy’s brother Edward Snow (1763-bet. 1829 and 1832) has joined. That application was made years ago and gives no hint on how they connected Edward Snow, son of Thomas and Hannah, to Edward Snow, husband of Catharine Mayo. Perhaps standards were looser then, and they offered no proof.

I can only wait and see what they decide. Regardless of whether my application gets approved or not, I have satisfied myself that I have found the correct lineage.

Mayflower Application Round 2

As I have recounted before, I recently submitted my application to the Colorado chapter of the Mayflower Society. They reviewed my lineage paperwork and asked for some supplemental information.

My initial submittal included birth, marriage, and death information for each ancestor in my direct line going back to proven Mayflower descendants Thomas Snow and Hannah Lincoln. In four of the seven generations I provided, these vital records and their substitutes did not clearly show that the child of one generation was the same person as the parent in the succeeding generation. The Society wanted additional evidence.

I gathered documents like obituaries, wills, and deeds and sent them in earlier this week. Already I have a reply, and it is a favorable one. All seven generations between me and the Snows link up. Once I sign the now-complete-and-vetted application, it will be ready for review by the national office.

This puts me another step closer to being accepted into the Society. Early in my career as a genealogist, I had never envisioned myself joining any of these lineage societies. I came to learn that they offer more than bragging rights.

I applied foremost because they provide storage for family historical documents. This is a wonderful way to safekeep the research. When you worry that your own family has no interest in preserving what you have done, this can be the way to save it.

The Society has other benefits, too, like access to Pilgrim-related activities, grave markers, a quarterly magazine, and more.

I will sign my formal application once it arrives. Once I mail it in, I will hope for a quick turnaround time in finalizing my membership.