Thursday, June 30, 2022

Marrying a Cousin – a Family Habit

Over the years, as I’ve continued to research my ancestral tree, I’ve encountered several situations where there were marriages between distant cousins. There were times that, in my enthusiasm, I wrote about these discoveries before I had thoroughly checked them out and I later had to issue retractions. But my tree has been pretty stable for quite a while now – even my brick walls haven’t yielded much to increased scrutiny in the last few years. So, I spend most of my genealogical research working for others instead of working on my own tree. Thus, I hope this will be my final posting on this topic.

With such deep roots in colonial New England, most specifically in MA and CT, it’s not unexpected that the various branches of my tree will occasionally overlap. There are some earlier ones, including a 2nd cousin marriage and a 3rd cousin marriage in the descendants of Joseph Rogers (1602). And there are 3rd cousin marriages in the descendants of John North (1611) and another in the descendants of John Beach (1623). These are all in the ancestral tree of my grandmother Vera Levy.

But the farther one gets from the roots back in the Great Migration of 1630-1640, the more likely that situations will occur where individuals will end up marrying distant cousins – usually unknown to them at the time. And my family is no different. We have now had this occur in the last four generations of my immediate family. Below I have tried to document these situations in a common format. For each person I have listed their birth year as names tend to repeat themselves in families. I have also given the maiden names or previous married names for the women. Most of the below connections are through common ancestors who were part of the Great Migration, but a few of them go back one or two generations in England as several family members came during the Great Migration.


·         My paternal grandparents were 10th cousins:

o   Erskine Russell (1894), Louis Russell (1871), Walter James Russell (1852), Hester [Disbrow] Russell (1807), Solomon Disbrow (1781), Deborah [Squire] Disbrow (1755), John Squire (1720), Samuel Squire (1693), Samuel Squire (1652), Ann [Wheeler] Squire (1629), Thomas Wheeler (1589), Thomas Wheeler (1563)

o   Vera [Levy] Russell (1895), Caroline [Northrop] Levy (1872), Lawrence Northrop (1835), Catherine [Canfield] Northrop (1813), Samuel Canfield (1789), Ithamar Canfield (1764), Elizabeth [Judson] Canfield (1732), Rebecca [Sherman] Judson (1701), Rebeckah [Wheeler] Sherman (1672), Isaac Wheeler (1642), Ephraim Wheeler (1619), Thomas Wheeler (1563)


·         My paternal grandmother and her second husband were 7th cousins (see here):

o   Vera [Levy] [Russell] Rogers (1895), Caroline [Northrop] Levy (1872), Lawrence Northrop (1835), Joel Northrop (1801), Cyrus Northrop (1773), Joel Northrop (1742), Abigail [Terrill] Northrop (1699), Daniel Terrill (1659), Roger Terrill (1616)

o   Charles Rogers (1865), Sarah [Hubbard] Rogers (1844), Harvey Hibbard (1804), Irene Frink (1775), Lydia [Sawyer] Frink (1742), Hannah [Terrill] Frink (1702), Josiah Terrill (1689), Thomas Terrill (1656), Roger Terrill (1616)


·         My maternal grandparents were 7th cousins (see here):

o   Harold Pierpont (1898), Annie [Merrill] Pierpont (1858), Nathan Merrill (1823), Anna [Perkins] Merrill (1792), Huldah [Wooding] Perkins (1763), Desire [Sperry] Wooding (1732), John Sperry (1683), Richard Sperry (1652), Richard Sperry (1605)

o   Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont (1898), Alice [Talmadge] Blackman (1870), Stephen Talmadge (1843), Anna [Sperry] Talmadge (1800), Moses Sperry (1765), Joseph Sperry (1737), Able Sperry (1700), Daniel Sperry (1665), Richard Sperry (1605)


·         My parents are cousins several ways. In this one they were 9th cousins (see here), but also see additional connections in notes 3, 4, 5, 6 below:

o   Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Erskine Harold Russell (1894), Louis Russell (1871), Lois [Cook] Russell (1955), Sally [Barton] Cook (1835), Almira [Beecher] Barton (1803), Joseph Beecher (1779), Titus Beecher (1740), Joseph Beecher (1698), Joseph Beecher (1647), Isaac Beecher (1623)

o   Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Harold Pierpont (1898), Wilson Pierpont (1855), Charles Pierpont (1824), Sally [Beecher] Pierpont (1794), Enos Beecher (1769), Jesse Beecher (1741), Isaac Beecher (1716), Samuel Beecher (1687), Isaac Beecher (1650), Isaac Beecher (1623)


·         My wife’s parents were 10th cousins, once removed (see here):

o   Charles David VanDeCar (1923), Gertrude [Duba] VanDeCar (1901), Rachel [Swaney] Duba (1883), Nancy [Kitchen] Swaney (1849), Sarah [Sicklesteel] Kitchen (1824), Nancy [Turner] Sicklesteel (1805), Sarah [Millard] Turner (1771), Mary [Fuller] Millard (1721), Samuel Fuller (1682), John Fuller (1655), Samuel Fuller (1612), Edward Fuller (1575), Robert Fuller (1548)

o   Mary Ellen [Wright] VanDeCar (1926), Frank Wright (1873), Abigail [Barrows] Wright (1841), Amelia [Bedford] Barrows (1821), Molly [TInkham] Bedford (1787), Joseph TInkham (1757), Deborah [Fuller] TInkham (1733), Seth Fuller (1692), Samuel Fuller (1658), Samuel Fuller (1624), Samuel Fuller (1580), Robert Fuller (1548)


·         My wife and I are 10th cousins (see here). As I stated above, there are three different paths from myself back to Joseph Rogers because of some early cousin marriages in his family – only one of them is shown here:

o   Alan Harold Russell (1948), Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Vera [Levy] Russell (1895), Caroline [Northrup] Levy (1872), Mary Lois [Rogers/Drake (see note 1)] Northrup (1851), Benjamin Rogers (1814), Joseph Rogers (1772), Benjamin Rogers (1738), Benjamin Rogers (1704), John Rogers (1672), John Rogers (1642), Joseph Rogers (1602)

o   Donna Ruth [VanDeCar] Russell (1947), Mary Ellen [Wright] VanDeCar (1926), Frank Wright (1873), Abigail [Barrows] Wright (1841), Andrew Barrows (1815), Spencer Barrows (1787), Malachi Barrows (1760), Deborah [Totman] Barrows (1731), Experience [Rogers] Totman (1707), Eleazar Rogers (1673), Thomas Rogers (1638), Joseph Rogers (1602)


·         My son and daughter-in-law are 8th cousins, twice removed (see note 2):

o   Christopher Alan Russell (1979), Alan Harold Russell (1948), Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Harold Pierpont (1898), Annie [Merrill] Pierpont (1858), Nathan Merrill (1823), Elijah Merrill (1788), Icabod Merrill (1754), Caleb Merrill (1735), Nathaniel Merrill (1702), John Merrill (1669), John Merrill (1636)

o   Pamela Marie [Coulter] Russell (1979), Marva [Walton] Coulter (1949), Kenneth Walton (1910), Harriet [Benton] Walton (1882), Frances [Merrill] Benton (1840), Lloyd Merrill (1804), Theodore Merrill (1761), Elijah Merrill (1720), Abel Merrill (1680), John Merrill (1636)


·         My daughter and son-in-law are 11th cousins:

o   Matthew Christman (1979), James W Christman (1949), Lois Virginia Bradley (1927), Elmer Howard Bradley (1892), Richard William Bradley (1853), Matthew Bradley (1822), Mary Copeland [Burr] Bradley (1800), Mary Polly [Copeland] Burr (1772), Mehitable [Dunbar] Copeland (1735), Samuel Dunbar (1704), Sarah [Thaxter] Dunbar (1668), Abigail [Church] Thaxter (1648), Richard Church (1608)

o   Kimberly Ann [Russell] Christman (1980), Alan Harold Russell (1948), Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Erskine Russell (1894), Louis Russell (1871), Walter James Russell (1852), Hester [Disbrow] Russell (1807), Lydia [Bennett] Disbrow (1782), Mary [Munroe] Bennett (1757), Ebenezer Monroe (1736), John Munro (1701), Sarah [Church] Munro (1643), Richard Church (1608)


1 – She was adopted and her name changed from Lois Irene Rogers to Mary Lois Drake when very young – see here.

2 – When I published this originally, I had noted that our daughter-in-law believed that her great-great-grandmother, Frances Merrill, was a native American who had been adopted. Subsequently, I was able to prove that this was not the case here.

3 – Through another connection my parents are 8th cousins, once removed:

o   Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Vera [Levy] Russell (see connection above back to Roger Terrill)

o   Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Harold Pierpont (1898), Annie [Merrill] Pierpont (1858), Nathan Merrill (1823), Elijah Merrill (1788), Sarah [Frisbie] Merrill (1756), Abigail [Culver] Frisbie (1718), Ruth [Tyler] Culver (1693), William Tyler (1667), Abigail [Terrell] Tyler (1644), Roger Terrill (1616)

4 – Through another connection my parents are 9th cousins:

o   Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Erskine Russell (1894), Louis Russell (1871), Walter James Russell (1852), Hester [Disbrow] Russell (1807), Solomon Disbrow (1781), Deborah [Squire] Disbrow (1756), John Squire (1720), Samuel Squire (1693), Sarah [Seeley] Squire (1666), Nathaniel Seeley (1627)

o   Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Sara [Blackman] Pierpont (1898), Clarence Blackman (1870), Isaac Minor Blackman (1844), Nancy [Crofutt] Blackman (1807), Samuel Crofutt (1770), Sarah [Seeley] Crofutt (1743), James Seeley (1722), James Seeley (1681), Nathaniel Seeley (1660), Nathaniel Seeley (1627)

5 – Through another connection my parents are 10th cousins, once removed:

o   Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Erskine Russell (1894), Louis Russell (1871), Walter James Russell (1852), Silas Russell (1803), Parmea [Smith] Russell (1781), Demeous [Worden] Smith (1758), Sarah [Husted] Worden (1734), Ebenezer Husted (1693), Angell Husted (1654), Rebecca [Sherwood] Husted (1625), Thomas Sherwood (1586)

o   Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Sara [Blackman] Pierpont (1898), Clarence Blackman (1870), Isaac Minor Blackman (1844), Joel Martin Blackman (1812), Isaac Blackman (1789), Phebe [Beardslee] Blackman (1755), Joseph Beardsley (1727), Joseph Beardsley III (1709), Deborah [Stewart] Beardsley (1669), Bethia [Rumball] Stewart (1641), Rose [Sherwood] Rumball (1623), Thomas Sherwood (1586)

6 – Through another connection my parents are 9th cousin, once removed:

o   Vernon Harold Russell (1920), Vera [Levy] Russell (1895), Caroline [Northrop] Levy (1872), Mary Lois [Rogers] Northrop (1851), Lois Irene [Chaffee] Rogers (1814), Caleb Chaffee (1781), Thomas Chaffee (1731), Abigail [Lyon] Chaffee (1707), Elizabeth [Newell] Lyon (1688), Abraham Newell (1625), Frances [Foote] Newell (1582), Robert Foote (1553)

o   Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell (1924), Harold Pierpont (1898), Wilson Pierpont (1855), Mary Ann [Warner] Pierpont (1828), Jared Warner (1785), Hannah [Foote] Warner (1760), Ichabod Foote (1711), Joseph Foote (1666), Robert Foote (1627), Nathaniel Foote (1592), Robert Foote (1553)

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Friends of the Regicides

My cousin and fellow co-historian of the Pierpont Family Association, Bob Kraft, sent me an email recently. He had just read a new book, Regicide in the Family: Finding John Dixwell, by Sarah Dixwell Brown. She notes in the description of the book,

“In the 1660's three fugitives from justice came to New England to escape being drawn and quartered in London. They had been among the 59 judges in the trial of England's King Charles the First who found him guilty of betraying his own people and sentenced him to death by beheading. For the next eleven years, England was governed by men trying to create a different kind of government, one led not by a monarch with divine rights, but by the people. Their ideas helped the founding fathers of the United States, a century later, come up with our Bill of Rights. In 1660, the king's son, Charles the Second, was restored to the throne and began avenging his father. One of the three regicides who fled to North America was John Dixwell, my seven greats grandfather. My book tells the story of how being given Dixwell as a middle name and then given his key to Dover Castle (where he was governor of that military fortification) led me to spend decades digging up every possible scrap of information about his life and his decision to judge a king. The book details my discoveries in New England, England, and my family tree, where I figured out not only who had the key in each of the eight generations that preceded mine, but also how each key keeper likely felt about the man who consigned a king to death.”

Of particular note in the book was the friendship of John Dixwell with Rev. James Pierpont with whom he shared a backyard fence in New Haven. Although there was nearly a 50-year difference in their ages, they enjoyed talking together and when John Dixwell passed away, the Rev. James was mentioned in his will. It was this friendship that inspired the investigation behind this blog posting.

[John Dixwell book]


There is another related book about two other regicides, The Great Escape of Edward Whalley and William Goffe: Smuggled through Connecticut, that concentrates of those men. The description of this book reads,

“When Puritans Edward Whalley and William Goffe joined the parliamentary army against King Charles I in the English civil wars, they seized an opportunity to overthrow a tyrant. Yet when his son, Charles II, regained the throne, Whalley and Goffe were forced to flee to the New England colonies aboard the ship Prudent Mary--never to see their families or England again. Even with the help of New England's Puritan elite, including Reverend John Davenport, they struggled to stay ahead of the authorities in Boston, New Haven, and the outpost of Hadley, Massachusetts. Though forced to live out the rest of their lives fugitives, these former major generals survived frontier adventures in seventeenth-century New England, and became embedded in early United States history.”

[Edward Whalley book]


Finally, you can read a magazine article about these men here. In addition, there are other books available, one the best being A history of three of the judges of King Charles I which was written in 1794 by Ezra Stiles, then the president of Yale College. This book, written only a little more than 100 years after the events, includes a lot of source documents from CT history, including letters written by the regicides as well as by those who knew them.

This posting is not so much about the three regicides who fled to America, but focuses on the individuals in New England who harbored them or otherwise assisted them in their escape from the certain death they faced if caught.



Charles I of England (1600-1649) believed in the divine right of kings and was determined to govern according to his own conscience. Many perceived him as acting like a tyrannical absolute monarch. His religious policies were the cause of so many Puritans fleeing England during the Great Migration beginning in 1630 where 20,000 settled in New England over the next 10 years.

Beginning in 1640, this led to a series of conflicts between the supporters of Charles and those who opposed him, culminating in the English Civil War with Oliver Cromwell leading many of the opposition. Charles was captured, jailed, and put on trial for treason against England for using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of the country. He was found guilty and 59 of the commissioners signed his death warrant.  On January 30, 1649, Charles was beheaded.

Charles I’s son, Charles II, was only 18 when his father was beheaded. Nonetheless, he was appointed king of Scotland. Following the death of Cromwell in 1658, efforts began to have him installed as king of England and on his 30th birthday, 29 May 1660, he was received in London to public acclaim. Although Charles and Parliament granted amnesty to nearly all of Cromwell’s supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded, including the 41 still living of the 59 men who had signed the death warrant of Charles I. Some were hanged, drawn and quartered, and some even dug out of their graves and their bodies posthumously decapitated. The fates of the 59 commissioners or regicides can be found here.

Some had fled to mainland Europe, but three of the men fled to America. This story is about them and the individuals who befriended or supported them in America.


The American Regicides

There were three regicides who fled to America:

·        John Dixwell (1613-1689). Initially fled to Germany for a few years, then to America. He spent some time with Whalley and Goffe in Hadley, MA, then moved to New Haven Colony where he lived under the assumed name of James Davids for the remainder of his life. Because those tracking down the regicides believed that he had died in Germany, they were not looking for him in America and so he had an easier time once he began using an alias. However, his supporters knew his real identity.

·        Edward Whalley (c. 1607-c. 1675). Initially fled to Cambridge, MA, briefly to Dedham, MA, then to New Haven Colony, and finally to Hadley, MA. While in New Haven Colony they were being pursued by English agents and so spent time in several different places (I’ll not go into all the details here).

·        William Goffe (c. 1605-c. 1679). Son-in-law of Edward Whalley and accompanied him throughout his years in America. Believed to have moved to Hartford, CT, following the death of Whalley.

As you read the stories of these men, both in the above books, and in the above linked Wikipedia articles, you will find the names of many who helped these men during the final decades of their life spent hiding in America. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are all those mentioned as either harboring or otherwise assisting these regicides. For each individual, I have documented the connection to the greater Pierpont family of CT (in some cases there are multiple connections).

There are 24 individuals listed below. Of these 20 are connected to the greater Pierpont Family (to Rev. James Pierpont or his descendants). It is possible that there are other connections that I have not found, or even connections for those for whom I have not been able to identify any. Genealogical research for individuals back in the 1600s is fraught with difficulty, especially when often I had only a last name and place but no first name. And I had no dates of birth or death for any of these individuals to start with.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that the members of the Pierpont family have more than a few connections to these three men.


The Friends of the Regicides

·        Gov. James Bishop (1625-1691)

o   Great*9 uncle of my aunt, Barbara Leete [Bishop] Pierpont, who I have also noted below under William Leete


·        Thomas Bull (c.1605-1684), Hartford

o   My great*10 grandfather via the mother of my grandfather, Harold Pierpont


·        ??? Burrill, accompanied William Jones and Richard Sperry in hiding regicides at Judge’s Cave, believed to have been a laborer on Sperry’s farm

o   Only last name known, not enough to establish any connection


·        Rev. John Davenport (1597-1670), first pastor of New Haven, CT

o   Grandfather-in-law of Rev. James Pierpont as James’ first wife was Abigail Davenport


·        Elizabeth [Allerton] Eyers/Ayers (1653-1740)

o   My second cousin, 10 times removed, through common ancestor, William Brewster


·        Benjamin Fenn (1612-1672)

o   Father-in-law of William Leete (below) with all those connections


·        Daniel Fisher (1618-1683) and his sister Lydia in Dedham, MA

o   First cousin of Thomas Buckingham who was the step-father of Mary and James Hooker listed below with William Leete


·        William Goodwin (1591-1673), One of the founders of Hadley, MA

o   Married Susanna [Garbrand] Hooker, the widow of Rev. Thomas Hooker of Hartford, making him the step-great*9 grandfather of most of the members of the Pierpont family


·        Daniel Gookin (1612-1687), MA Assistant

o   No known connection to Pierpont family


·        Rev. Samuel Hooker (1633-1697)

o   Father of James Pierpont’s third wife


·        Bathsheba Howe (1648-1729), 2nd wife of John Dixwell

o   Her brother, Jeremiah Howe, was married to Elizabeth Peck and Elizabeth’s sister, Hannah Peck, is my great*8 grandmother through my grandmother Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont

o   Great*11 aunt of my wife


·        William Jones (1624-1706), Dep. Gov. of CT

o   He was married to Hannah Eaton, daughter of Gov. Theophilus Eaton, first governor of New Haven Colony. Theophilus Eaton is my great*10 grandfather via my great-grandfather, Wilson Pierpont. Thus, William is my great*10 uncle.


·        William Leete (1612-1683), Governor of the New Haven Colony

o   His daughter, Mary Leete, married James Hooker, the brother of Mary Hooker, third wife of Rev. James Pierpont, making her an aunt of most of us in the Pierpont family

o   Rob Pierpont, is descended from William Leete as his mother was Barbara Leete [Bishop] Pierpont and she was the great*8 granddaughter of William Leete

o   His daughter, Anna Leete, married John Trowbridge. John is my first cousin (10x removed) as one of his descendants married into the Blackman line and thence to Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont. (Note that this connection came because of Ezra Stiles’ extensive conversations with Sarah [Cooke] Sherman (1713-1802), a granddaughter of Anna [Leete] Trowbridge.)


·        Benjamin Ling (c. 1618-1673)

o   Upon his death, his wife married John Dixwell, but she then also died just a few weeks later. No known connection to the Pierpont family, except that the Ling’s home which John Dixwell inherited shared a backyard fence with the home that Rev. James Pierpont moved into a few years later.


·        Rev. Increase Mather (1639-1723))

o   His father, Rev. Richard Mather, is my great*11 grandfather


·        Rev. Samuel Nowell (1634-1688)

o   No known connection to Pierpont family


·        Rev. James Pierpont (1659-1714) third pastor of New Haven, CT

o   Progenitor of all the New England Pierpont Family (my great*7 grandfather)


·        Edward Riggs (c. 1619-1668), Derby CT, Founder of Newark, NJ

o   His son Samuel married Sarah Baldwin, my great*11 aunt


·        Rev. John Russell (1626-1692), pastor in Hadley, MA

o   His son, Rev. Samuel Russell, was the pastor of the Branford, CT, church and one of the men who helped co-found Yale with the Rev. James Pierpont

o   Rev. John was a great-great-grandson of Sir Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, and another great-great-grandchild of Sir Francis was Hannah Russell, daughter of the Rev. Noadiah Russell of Middletown, CT. Not only was Noadiah another of the co-founders of Yale along with the Rev. James Pierpont, but Hannah Russell married Joseph Pierpont, son of the Rev. James. Thus, Hannah [Russell] Pierpont, the 3rd cousin of the Rev. John Russell, is a direct ancestor of many of us in the PFA.

o   Finally, and more personally for me, the grandfather of John Russell was Lord Edward Russell who is also my direct ancestor through the following path: my grandmother, Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont was the daughter of Alice [Talmadge] Blackman; Alice’s grandmother was Anna [Sperry] Talmadge; and Anna’s mother was Mary [Russell] Sperry who is also a descendant of Lord Edward Russell, making John Russell my first cousin, 12 times removed.


·        Richard Saltonstall (1610-1694), gave funds to regicides in 1672, uncle of Gov. Gurdon Saltonstall

o   Gurdon’s daughter, Sarah Saltonstall, married John Gardiner, my second cousin (9x removed) through my Talmadge ancestors (see connection under Rev. John Russell above)


·        Richard Sperry (1606-1698)

o   My great*8 grandfather via the Sperry-Talmadge-Blackman-Pierpont line outlined above


·        Rev. Nicholas Street (1603-1674), second pastor of New Haven, CT

o   My great*9 grandfather via Todd and Talmadge families down through my grandmother Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont


·        Peter Tilton (1620-1696), Hadley MA

o   His daughter, Mary, married Joseph Eastman. Joseph’s uncle was John Blackman, my great*9 grandfather via Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont

o   Joseph Eastman is also a first cousin, 10x removed, of my wife


·        Michael Tomkins (1616-1690), sympathizer in Milford, CT

o   Michael’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Lt. Gov. James Bishop (see above).

o   Their son, Samuel Bishop, married Hannah Yale Talmadge. Hannah’s first husband, Enos Talmadge, is a first cousin (9 times removed) of my grandmother, Sarah [Blackman] Pierpont, who I have noted above.

o   Great*9 uncle of my aunt, Barbara Leete [Bishop] Pierpont, who I have also noted above.



Concluding Remarks

As the description of one of the above books notes, these three regicides had the help of New England’s “Puritan elite” – which is a good description of my New England ancestors. Those of us in the Pierpont Family Association can be proud of our connections to these individuals.

Some of the referenced Wikipedia pages note that the three regicides are recognized in New Haven today by streets which are named for each of them; Dixwell Avenue which runs out to Hamden, CT; Whalley Avenue which turns into Route 69 and heads north toward Prospect, CT; and Goffe Street which heads toward Southern Connecticut State University.  All three streets merge at a single point in a complicated intersection just two blocks from the New Haven Green where the former home of Rev. James Pierpont today serves as the Visitor Center for Yale University.

[New Haven Street Signs]


Finally, I can’t resist noting that the author of the first book, Sarah Dixwell Brown, is a 9th cousin of myself and a 10th cousin of my wife.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Seven Generations in Just Two Pictures

Many people like to take pictures that have multiple generations in one picture. Because women tend to outlive men, these are most often pictures of four generations of women. So, I thought it would be interesting to post two such pictures – one of all women, and the other of all men, but both of which have four generations represented.

This first picture was taken about 1918 when my Aunt Dot was about two years old, the four generations represented here are as follows:

·        The white-haired lady in the center is my great-great-grandmother, Lois Irene Rogers [adopted and renamed Mary Lois Drake] Northrop. She was born on 5 Apr 1851 in Lee, Massachusetts. (I’ve told her story before here.) The story of her name change was passed along by her to the other women in this picture which is why we know about her name change. She married Lawrence Northrop in 1870 in New Milford, CT. Lawrence had died on 28 Aug 1918, shortly before this picture was taken, but Mary Lois lived a long life and outlived this picture by another 15 years, finally dying at the age of 82 on 30 May 1933 in New Milford.

·        The woman in the upper right is my great-grandmother, Caroline Canfield [Northrop] Levy. She was born on 5 Apr 1872, also in Lee, Massachusetts. Her Canfield middle name is from her paternal grandmother who was from the Canfield family of New Milford. In 1893 she married Maurice Levy, the son of Ashkenazi Jewish parents who had come to this country in 1851 and moved to New Milford from Brooklyn, NY which is where Maurice had been born. Maurice died at the young age of 40 in 1910, but Caroline outlived this picture by 17 years, dying on 18 Sep 1935 in New Milford.

·        The woman in the upper left is my grandmother, Vera Estelle [Levy] Russell. She was born on 2 Jun 1895 in Brooklyn, NY, but following the death of her father, her mother moved the family back to New Milford, CT. I’ve told some of her story before as well here. She married Erskine Russell in 1914 when both were 19. The couple moved to Bridgeport where their children were born. She died in a mental institution on 7 Jul 1963, and my grandfather died on 23 Jan 1970.

·        The young child in the foreground sitting on her great-grandmother’s lap is my Aunt Dorothy (known as Dot) Russell. She was born on 13 Aug 1916 in Bridgeport and is about 2 years old in this picture. She married Robert Hill of Waterbury in 1938. She lived until 7 Jan 1991.

[4 generations of woman]


It seems fitting to follow up these four generations of women with four generations of men. The below picture was taken in the early summer of 2005 and was the only opportunity to have this group together. My grandson, Aryon, had been born the previous fall, and my father was suffering from dementia and passed away only a little more than a year after this picture was taken.

[4 generations of men]


From right to left are the following:

·        Vernon Harold Russell, my father. He was born on 20 Nov 1920 in Bridgeport, two years after the prior picture was taken, and he was the younger brother of my Aunt Dorothy. He is 85 in this picture, suffering from dementia, and would pass away on 5 Sep 2006 at our family home in Wolcott. My mother would outlive him by about 6 years.

·        Alan Harold Russell, myself. I was born in 1948 at St. Mary’s hospital in Waterbury, but grew up in Wolcott. I went to college in Michigan where I met my wife and we married when I completed grad school in 1971. We lived in Connecticut for four years, then moved to Pennsylvania where we still reside.

·        Christopher Alan Russell, our oldest (and only) son. He was born in 1979 in Pennsylvania, went to college in Indiana where he met his wife and they married in 2000. At the time of this picture, they were living in New Jersey, then they later moved to Florida where they still reside.

·        Aryon Christopher Russell, our first grandson. He was born in 2004.

I think it’s exciting to have pictures like this that between them span seven generations of one family and with over 150 years between the birth of the oldest and youngest individuals representing each of these generations.

Genealogy Story – My Father’s Friends

I recently came across two pictures of my father with some of his friends. These men were all in their early 20s and single. And these men remained his closest friends throughout his life and they had many things in common. So, how did they meet? And what can I learn about them that can help me understand my father a little bit more.

First, let me introduce these men and comment on these pictures. Although these pictures were taken the same day, there are five men in one picture and only four in the other. One of the men in the pictures is unknown to me so I cannot comment on him further. And one of my father’s closest friends was not there that day and so does not appear in the pictures.

Left to right in the first picture are the following individuals: Frank (?) about whom I know little else; Al (Albert) Coe, Harold Hill, my father Vernon Russell, and Jim (James MacBroom). Missing from this first picture is Zeke (Clarence) Pierpont. This picture was taken in March 1943. All the men are very “dapper” with their traditional fedora hats and long coats, except for my father who has a short jacket.

[Picture of friends]


The second picture is of these same men, except that Jim MacBroom does not appear in it. The rest of them have turned their hats around and are making funny faces for the camera. It is obvious that they are having a good time.

[Second picture of friends]


Becoming Friends

But how exactly did these men become friends. Like most of us, it is through shared interests and shared experiences. They were all roughly the same age. Most of them lived in Waterbury, CT, in relatively close proximity to one another. They all went to high school there (three of the five in the same graduating class). And several of them were part of the young adult group that met at Mill Plain Church. They all worked as toolmakers – being apprentices at the time of the above pictures. Let’s look at the details of each man (in alphabetical order by last name).

Albert Coe

Albert was born on 4 July 1919 in Wolcott. Since Wolcott did not have its own high school, he would have gone to high school in Waterbury. Waterbury had three high schools at the time. Crosby was the “academic” high school and the one where people went if they had intentions of going on to higher education. Leavenworth was the equivalent of today’s vo-tech high school and offered training in things related to entering the workforce. It was mostly male dominated (see below under Harold Hill for a class picture). And Wilby was the “general purpose” high school for everyone else. Since Albert eventually because a toolmaker (like all of the men here), he would have gone to Leavenworth – class of 1937. Albert was the only one of these friends who did not work at Scovill, working instead for Remington in Bridgeport initially, then for another smaller company in Waterbury.

Harold Hill

Harold was born on 4 Dec 1919 in Waterbury. He was part of the Leavenworth class of 1938 along with both Vernon Russell and Clarence Pierpont. (In the below picture, my father and Harold are sitting next to each other as the 6th and 7th in the front row and Clarence is standing in the 5th row as the 8th person from the left.) My father and Harold were best friends. They not only attended school together, but lived just a few houses away from each other. My father’s sister and Harold’s brother shared a birthday and had got married to each other in October 1938.

[Leavenworth class of 1938]


James MacBroom

James was born in Scotland on 10 August 1921, making him the youngest of the men here. His family emigrated to Canada in 1923 and then emigrated to Waterbury in 1927. He would have graduated from Leavenworth in 1939. He lived at 79 South St, about 1.5 miles from my father and Harold.

Clarence Pierpont

Clarence was born on 9 Sep 1920. He lived at 3172 East Main St. But the Pierpont family were quite active in the Mill Plain Church – about a mile from their home. Like Harold and my father, Clarence was part of the Leavenworth High School class of 1938 and worked initially at Scovill as an apprentice toolmaker.

Vernon Russell

My father was born in Bridgeport on 20 Nov 1920. His family moved around a lot – from Bridgeport to Waterbury back to Bridgeport to New Milford to Danbury. He had a very nomadic life (see here). At the time the above pictures were taken, my father was living with his grandfather and step-grandmother at #57 Radcliffe Ave, just a block from the Mill Plain Church and just around the corner from the Hill family (he had moved here during his junior year of high school). Like the other men here, he would have walked the mile or so from home to Scovill each day.


Shared schooling – all at the same high school, Leavenworth (1 – class of 1937, 3 – class of 1938, 1 – class of 1939). Shared work experience – all toolmakers (4 at Scovill, 1 elsewhere). Five single guys who enjoyed each other’s company and even goofing around at times!


After the War – Marriage, Homes, Family

When the above pictures were taken of these men together, WWII had already begun and the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. But as men working for defense contractors who were responsible for delivering munitions to our military, all were initially exempt from the draft. That was to change a year after these pictures were taken and military service required their personal service. But their individual lives still had much in parallel. With only a few exceptions which I will note below, they married after the war was over, they used their military separation pay to purchase homes in the same town as each other (Wolcott), and they began having families of 3-5 children, with two of these children born by 1950 who attended school with the children of the other families. Their friendship literally lasted a lifetime!

Albert Coe

Albert married Marion Elizabeth (Betty) Heller on 1 Sep 1946. She was from a small town in PA (Espy). I do not know how they met. Since Albert was already living in Wolcott, he simply brought his bride back to CT with him. They had four children, all girls – Eileen (Lee) (1947), Janet (1949), Dorothy (1950), and Carol (1953). None were in my class at Wolcott HS as Lee was a year older, but Janet was one of my sister’s best friends. Al’s wife, Betty, was also very active in Girl Scouts as was my mother, so we had a lot of interaction with them. Al passed away in 1983 at the age of 63 and Betty in 2007 at the age of 79.

Harold Hill

Harold married Gloria Hartshorn on 20 Apr 1947. She was from Waterbury. As their home was not ready to move into yet, they actually lived with my parents for a short time right after their marriage. They had three children – Bruce (1948), Deborah (Debbie) (1949), and Craig (1951). Since Harold’s brother was married to my father’s sister, we call them all “cousin” instead of “cousin’s cousin”. The family had a new house built in 1955, but things were not always smooth between Harold and Gloria and they divorced in 1960 (the only one of these five couples to do so). Harold got custody of the children. He eventually re-married 27 years later and moved to California after which we did not see much of him. Bruce was my classmate, but he died at the age of 44 from AIDS. Craig died a few years ago from exposure to agent orange from his time in Vietnam. Harold passed away in 2002 at the age of 82 and Gloria in 2004 at the age of 74.

James MacBroom

James married Louise Neilsen on 29 Aug 1943, a few months after the above pictures were taken – the only one to marry prior to the end of WWII. She had been born in Bridgeport (like my father), but her family had moved to Waterbury sometime in the late 1930s. The couple initially lived in Waterbury, but James then built his own house in Wolcott around 1950. They had four children – Andrea (Andi) (1948), James (1950), Glenn (1953), and William (1956). Andi was my classmate, but like Bruce Hill she passed away early at the age of just 35 in 1983. James died in 1993 at the age of 72 and Louise in 2017 at the age of 98.

Clarence Pierpont

Clarence (Zeke) married Barbara Bishop on 14 Feb 1948. She lived in Meriden, CT, and she was part of the YTC (Youth Temperance Council) there while Clarence was part of the Waterbury YTC which met at Mill Plain Church. My father took part in their wedding (see picture below). The moved into a new house in Wolcott, just around the corner from us. They had five children – Dave (1949), Sharon (1950), Gary (1952), Robert (1954), and Sandy (1958). Dave was closer in age to me so we were best friends growing up, but he was in my sister’s class as they were both born in 1949. Gary passed away in 2014. When my uncle Zeke died in 2006 at the age of 85, my father’s comment was that he had lost his best friend. That loss was a factor in his own passing away later that same year. Barbara passed away in 2011 at the age of 84.

[Wedding of Pierponts]


Vernon Russell

When the war began, my father only knew my mother as the younger sister of his friend Zeke Pierpont as she was four years younger than he was – so she was just a freshman starting high school as he was graduating and she went to Crosby while he went to Leavenworth. After high school my mother went to Hartford to study hairdressing and she lived with her aunt there. When she returned a year later, she had a boyfriend – not my father. But as the young people from Mill Plain Church went off to war those who remained would correspond with them (you can read her story about that here). When my father came home from the war in April 1946, he proposed to her 10 days later. My parents married on 7 Sep 1946, the weekend after Al and Betty Coe married. Both Harold Hill and James MacBroom took part in their wedding (picture below). They moved to a home they purchased in Wolcott where they had five children – Alan (me) (1948), Beth (1949), Charles (1954), Dawn (1956), Ed (1958). My father passed away at the age of 86 in 2006 and my mother at the age of 88 in 2012.

[Russell wedding]


Some Concluding Thoughts

It seems that the friends we make in our high school years remain friends the longest. My father spent his growing up years in other places, but I never recall him talking about anyone he knew from those years. But these men from his high school years remained his best friends for decades. He outlived the rest of them, and, as I noted, when his last remaining best friend passed away in early 2006, my father lost the will to continue living himself.

I see that in myself as well. Despite the 56 years that have elapsed since my senior year of high school and despite the fact that I have not lived in Wolcott since then, I remain friends with many of my high school classmates (roughly a quarter of them are Facebook friends of mine). In contrast, from my five years of university, I am only in contact with one person – my best friend there who served as best man in my wedding. I have a handful of friends from my over 30 years of working together for the same company. And I have a number of friends from my 46 years of going to the same church. But despite my not being a very social person in high school, the fact that I am still in contact with so many of my classmates is noteworthy with me just as it was with my father and this small group of “forever friends” that he made in his late teens and kept close to him for so many decades.