Friday, May 29, 2015

Genealogy Story – Seth Thomas

There was one important person in Farmingbury/Wolcott history that I have been wishing that I could able to establish a connection to. It took me a while of researching a variety of family trees, but I was finally able to make the connection. I’d like to title this the story of Mary(s) and Martha(s).

The story begins with a man named Samuel Tuttle (1659-1733) who lived in New Haven. His grandfather, William Tuttle, had emigrated from England in 1635 as part of the Great Migration. Samuel and his wife had several children, among them were two girls named Mary (b. 1684) and Martha (b. 1694). Like many families, they gave their children biblical first names – some of the other children were Daniel, Sarah, and Stephen.

Let’s follow Mary first.

Mary married Ebenezer Frost. They had a daughter – named not too unexpectedly, Mary.
Mary married Isaac Blakeslee. They had a son – named not too unexpectedly, Isaac.
Isaac married Lydia Alcott (recognize that last name?). They had a daughter – named as expected, Mary.
This last Mary married Ezra Pierpont.

So, after a run of three Marys, we have the connection to the Pierpont family and thus a few generations later to my mother, Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell and then myself. That makes Samuel Tuttle my great*7 grandfather.

Now let’s follow Martha.

Martha married John Smith. They had a daughter, named appropriately Martha.
Martha married Caleb Barnes. They had a daughter, named (what would you expect?) Martha
Martha married James Thomas, a recent immigrant from Scotland. They had a son, Seth.

So, after a run of three Marthas, we finally get to Seth Thomas, the clockmaker from Wolcott (it was still Farmingbury when he was born in 1785, but Wolcott by the time he was a clockmaker). Samuel Tuttle is his great-great-grandfather.

That means that Seth Thomas is my 3rd cousin, 5 times removed.

This was probably one of the more interesting bits of genealogy research that I’ve done and when I saw all the Mary and Martha names, I just knew that it had to be a separate blog post instead of just including it with all the others in the list.

Genealogy Story – More Wolcott Connections

I had detailed in an earlier post how I have Wolcott ancestors with the last names of Alcott, Beecher, Frisbie, Hotchkiss, Nichols, Rogers, Upson, and Wakelee. Also, as noted in my post about the Josiah Atkins house, I am related to the Atkins and Gillet families. As I continue my genealogy research I continue to find other families to whom I am related. Here are some of them.

Andrews – the first in this family to come to the Waterbury area was Abraham Andrus/Andrews (1652-1729). He is the great*2 grandfather of Luther Andrews (1775-1852), the first Andrews in Farmingbury. Abraham is also my great*8 grandfather, making Luther my 3rd cousin, 6 times removed and all the other Andrews cousins as well.

Atwood – as I noted in my post on Pillwillop Farm, Clarence Atwood’s grandmother was Martha [Upson] Cole. So Clarence is my 6th cousin, twice removed.

Kenea – as I noted in my post on Memorial Day, I have recently discovered that Leverett Kenea, the man who donated the statue in the center of town, is my 3rd cousin (4 times removed), because his grandmother was Obedience Alcox and his great*2 grandfather was John Alcox who is also one of my ancestors.

Moulthorp – the progenitor of this family who moved to Farmingbury was Elihu Moulthorp (1779-1853). His mother was Mary Hotchkiss and his great*3 grandfather was Samuel Hotchkiss (1623-1663). Samuel is also my great*8 grandfather, so Elihu is my 3rd cousin, 5 times removed.

Norton – one of the prominent families in the north end of Wolcott when I was growing up was the Norton family. They lived at the intersection of Beecher Road and Long Swamp Road. Mr. Norton had been killed by a bull a couple of decades before, but his wife and family still lived there. Rufus Norton’s grandmother was Ellen [Beecher] Norton, so it make sense that the family lived on Beecher Road. But her grandmother was Susan [Alcott] Beecher, and Susan’s grandfather was John Alcox, one of the earliest settlers in Farmingbury. That means that Rufus Norton is my 5th cousin, three times removed.

Peterson – the Peterson family who owned the dairy in town are distantly connected. Carl Peterson’s sister, Lillian [Peterson] Kraft, is the mother-in-law of Marion [Northrup] Kraft who is my 2nd cousin, once removed.

Pritchard – the first Pritchard to move from Waterbury (near Sharon Rd.) to Wolcott was Dennis Pritchard (1806-1887). Dennis’ mother was Chloe Nichols, his grandmother was Martha Hotchkiss, and his great*3 grandfather was John Hotchkiss (1643-1689). John is also my great*8 grandfather, making Dennis my 4th cousin, 5 times removed.

Seery – in building Rufus Norton’s family tree, I noticed that his wife’s maiden name was Seery. Further investigation revealed that Tom Seery was her brother. Tom lived just a few houses away from us when I was growing up and he was another large landowner in the area. The road we lived on was called Seery Road as it was built to give access to his property holdings. That does not make Tom a direct relative, but he was a brother-in-law to my cousin Rufus Norton.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wolcott History – Pillwillop Farm

My cousin, Rob Pierpont, often posts pictures of the Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm in Wolcott. He volunteers his time there and is daily checking on the residents of the many bird houses that the farm maintains. I wondered about the history of this farm, as when I was growing up it was owned by the Atwood family. Lyman Atwood lived in the old farmhouse and his son Clarence had a newer home just up the hill. Clarence and Gloria were my parent’s age and their children were of my generation.

I started my research with some information from an article on the website:

“The house was originally built by Miles S. Upson between 1843-1845 and included a fifty-acre tract of land. Upson was an ancestor of the Atwood family. … In 1924, Clarence’s father, Lyman Atwood, purchased the house and property. … In the late 1970’s, Clarence and his wife Gloria moved into the farmhouse.”

The name Upson was familiar to me from earlier research into early Farmingbury/Wolcott families. Here is the lineage from Clarence back to those early settlers:

Clarence Atwood (1922-2012) -> Florence [Cole] Atwood (1900-1987) -> Martha [Upson] Cole (1854-1903)-> Miles Upson (1820-1885) -> Selah Upson (1771-1854) -> Timothy Upson (1731-1799) -> Thomas Upson (1692-1761) -> Stephen Upson (1655-1735)

And here is what I had written about Thomas Upson in an earlier blog:

In the “History of Waterbury, Connecticut” we find the following: “In Feb. 1732-3, Thomas Upson sold out to Jonathan Baldwin for £150 money, the property being described as "three and a half acres of land with a house and barn, &c. He then removed to Farmington, afterwards Southington, and now the eastern part of Wolcott, (Southington Mountain.)”  This is independent confirmation for a date of either 1732 or 1733 as being correct.

Thomas Upson’s wife was Rachel Judd. She was the daughter of Thomas Judd, the earliest person documented to have a dwelling in what was then Farmingbury (it was just off of the path from Waterbury to Southington (then called South Farmington) – the path is now Meriden Road).

Putting all the above together, we see that (1) the Upson family were some of the earliest residents of Wolcott/Farmingbury; (2) the grandson of Thomas Upson, Miles Upson, built the home on Woodtick Road when he was in his 20s; (3) Lyman Atwood purchased the home from his wife’s parents in 1924; (4) Clarence Atwood moved into the house after the death of his father.

Naturally, since this is my blog and I am usually writing about my own Wolcott ancestors, I have a connection to this as well. Clarence Atwood’s great*5 grandfather, Stephen Upson is also my great*7 grandfather, making Clarence my 6th cousin, twice removed. Here is that branch of my own family tree.

Myself -> Sylvia [Pierpont] Russell -> Harold Pierpont -> Wilson Pierpont -> Mary Ann [Warner] Pierpont -> Jared Warner -> Mark Warner -> Elizabeth [Bronson] Warner -> Elizabeth [Upson] Bronson -> Stephen Upson

I’m sure that those early Upson settlers in Farmingbury would be very pleased to see that the land that they chose is still being used for such a good purpose. Thanks should also be given to Walter Atwood and people like my cousin Rob for their efforts at keeping this property undeveloped.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Famous/Infamous Ancestors

We all have them in our family tree. The individuals who are recognizable either for their names or their deeds. And since I’ve been able to trace my family tree back so many generations I may have more that I’ve been able to document than many. So here is what I believe to be a comprehensive list of the famous/infamous people in my family tree. Most of them will be recognizable to you – sometimes because of their name, but more often because of what they did.

This list does not include a number of my ancestors who may have been well-known at the time – ancient kings of Sweden, individuals who were knighted for their deeds in England, members of parliament, etc. – because these individuals are not known by most people.

I will leave it up to the reader to decide if these individuals are famous or infamous.

Robert de Pierrepont and Hugh de Roussel

Neither of these men is likely recognizable. They were among the first to carry the surnames of my mother (Pierpont) and my father (Russell). But they are known for what they did. Both of them were part of the army of William [the Conqueror] who invaded England in 1066 in what was called the Norman Invasion. Robert was a commander in William’s army and Hugh was an attendant to William himself. Both men settled in England after the conquest.

Sheriff of Nottingham

The Sheriff of Nottingham is an elected position that was held by many men over several centuries. My Pierpont ancestors moved to Nottingham in the late 1200’s and Holme Pierrepont can still be found there today. Some of these ancestors held the title of Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1400s and 1500s. One of my ancestors was even killed in Sherwood Forest. The legend of Robin Hood dates from this same time period and the first recorded Robin Hood song from approximately 1420 states that “Robyn hode in scherewode stod.” Because there are so many versions of the Robin Hood story, it is uncertain if it is based on a real individual or exactly when he would have lived. But since my relatives lived in that area for so many centuries, if he was real, then they would have known him.

John “the Martyr” Rogers

John was a minister and Bible translator. He is well known for two things. He was the first English Protestant martyr to be executed by Mary I of England (a.k.a. “Queen Bloody Mary.”) when he was burned at the stake in 1555.

But of more permanent importance, he was a friend of William Tyndale. When Tyndale died he had not completed the translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English (he had completed the New Testament and through 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament). John Rogers completed this translation and published this first English translation in 1537 (under the assumed name of “Thomas Matthews” to avoid persecution). This Bible also included the Apocrypha, including the Song of Manasses which John had earlier found in a French Bible. By some estimates 75-80% of the King James Bible (published in 1611) was based on Tyndale’s (and John Rogers’) Bible from 1537. So many of the wordings that I learned as a child in the KJV were words/phrases that had been translated by my great*12 grandfather.

Mayflower Ancestors

Like many people from early New England families, I have ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. In my case, these included Thomas Rogers (1572-1621) and his son Joseph Rogers (1603-1696). Most people cannot name the 100 individuals who were passengers on that ship, so these men are not famous for their name (although they were the grandson and great-grandson of the aforementioned John Rogers), but because of the group they were a part of.

James Pierpont

Like my Mayflower ancestors, you may not recognize the name of James Pierpont, but you will instantly recognize him for his deeds. As the pastor of the Congregational Church in New Haven, CT, James was the man who founded Yale University (originally called The Collegiate School of Connecticut) in 1701. James is my 7th great grandfather. The next several individuals also have James as an ancestor.

Jonathan Edwards

This well-known Puritan preacher married Sarah Pierpont, the daughter of James, and is my great*7 uncle.

Aaron Burr

While also a US Senator and the Vice-president of the US (under Thomas Jefferson) from 1801-1805, he is best known as the man who shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. He is my 2nd cousin, 6 times removed.

James Lord Pierpont

The composer of “Jingle Bells” (originally written as the One Horse Open Sleigh) is my 3rd cousin, 5 times removed. The melody that we sing today is not the way it was originally written as it has been “simplified”.  Listen to it at
and see it at

J P Morgan

John Pierpont Morgan was a famous banker in the late 1800’s. He is my 4th cousin, 4 times removed.

Louisa May Alcott

Louisa was the daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott who was born in Wolcott, CT – my hometown. She is my 3rd cousin, 4 times removed.

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. It is today because of an act of Congress in 1971 which designated that it be on Monday. Prior to 1971, it was known as Decoration Day and was always held on May 30th. It had been that way since the practice of honoring the fallen began immediately after the Civil War over 100 years prior.

Beside my involvement in events earlier today (a parade, a Memorial Day service in a small park in New Jersey, a flag ceremony at a local American Legion post after the service), I’d like to honor this day by noting three ways that I have been involved in honoring our soldiers.

For the first, I’d like you to go back to May 30th, 1916 (99 years ago). On that day on the triangle in the center of my hometown, Wolcott, CT, there was unveiled a statue, dedicated to the fallen men of the town from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. This statue, which is still there to this day, was donated by Leverett Kenea (see for further details). Mr. Kenea, who was 85 years old at the time was not living in Wolcott, but had been born there and his family had been in Wolcott for many years.

I have recently discovered that Leverett is my 3rd cousin (4 times removed), because his grandmother was Obedience Alcox and his great*2 grandfather was John Alcox who is also one of my ancestors. I was not aware of this when I wrote a long poem about Wolcott in 1967 which was printed in a WHS publication of poetry by current and former students. One of the repeated stanzas in this poem was “A granite statue makes the center of this peaceful town. It’s dedicated to the past and it will ne’er fall down.” So I have ancestral ties to this statue which I’m sure was the center of attention at any Memorial Day ceremony in Wolcott earlier today.

My second involvement is more recent. In 2009 I was involved in helping a veteran from our church, Bob Kauffman, in publishing his memoirs from WWII. Many of the stories in this book recounted friends of his who were killed action in Europe while he was in a nearby trench or running through the same fields. Bob passed on himself just a few days after Memorial Day two years ago and I still get tears in my eyes as I think about the experiences he had and how I was so privileged to capture those stories and get them published.

My final involvement began after I met Bob and was introduced to a small group of WWII researchers who were trying to honor the men killed in WWII who were part of the 3rd Armored Division. I have been privileged to be able to join this small group and lend my skills in Internet research and using my subscription to to help locate missing information. There are approximately 2700 men in our database and each one has a “digital memorial” giving information about him, including if possible a picture of the grave where he is buried and a wartime picture of the individual. You can find our research here - You can read about it on the website, or like our facebook page here -

Our country has been blessed by the contributions of all the individuals who have served the country and who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we may continue to enjoy the blessing of living here. I am happy that I have a small part in the remembrance of these individuals.

I close with the words that are printed on the last page of Bob’s book.

“Oh beautiful, for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life. 
America, America,
God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Genealogy Story – Scandinavian Roots

In a previous blog about my Norman Ancestors, I shows how the Russell family name originated in Normandy about 1000 years ago. I said in the introduction to the posting, “The area around Normandy had been settled by the Vikings in the early 900s, so the families there likely were of Viking origin.” I’ve now been able to connect the first Russell (Hugh de Roussel) back to his Scandinavian ancestors. Here are over 70 generations of my family tree (male line), going back to the 3rd century in Scandinavia and before that to roots in Turkey.

Back to Normandy

Alan Harold Russell (1948-)
Vernon Harold (1920-2006)
Erskine Harold (1894-1970)
Louis Morgan (1871-1946)
Walter J (1852-1895)
Silas (1803-1886)
Caleb (1780-)
John (1756-1833)
Robert (1722-1784)
John (1682-1778)
Robert (1630-1710)
Sir Robert (1600-1645)
Sir Thomas (1575-1632)
Sir John (1551-1593)
Sir Thomas (1519-1574)
John (1493-1556)
Robert (1468-1525)
Robert (1422-1502)
William (1368-1428)
Sir John (1340-1405)
Robert (1314-1376)
Nicholas (1287-1338)
James (1258-1300)
Robert (1230-1260)
Thomas (1202-)
John (1174-1224)
Odo (1160-)
Robert (1125-1201)
Robert (1082-)
Hugh (1040-1082)
Hugh de Roussel (1012-1077)

First to carry the family name, attending William the Conqueror at Hastings, and became Marshall of England, living in Dorset

The Normandy Portion

William Baron of Briquebec Burtram (970-1012)

Baron of Briquebec, son of Turstain de Bastembourg, Father of Robert Bertraam le Tort and Hugh de Rosel (Falaise Roll, table III)
William, surnamed Bertram, baron of Briquebec, living in 1012 had Hugh who received the castle and fief of Rosel. (Falaise Roll, pg. 61)

Thuston De Bastenburg De Montfort (943-1023)
Anslec De Bertrand (905-955) b. in Normandy

The Scandinavian Lineage

Note that the general form of Scandinavian names is that the son has his father’s first name plus the son/sson suffix. The information shown for Ragnald indicates that the current royal family of England would be my distant cousins.

Hrolf Rollo of More (885-909) in Norway
Hrollager of Iceland Ragnvaldsson (867-) in Maer, Norway
Ragnald I Earl of Orkney Eysteinsson (830-894) in Maer, Norway

Ragnald I was burned alive with his bodygards in his hall.
Earl of Sunnmore, Nordmore and Romsdal 
Ragnvald was well known historically as the founder of Normandy. Earl of Sunnmore, Nordmore aand Romsdal, was born in Maer, Nord-Trondelag, Norway and died at the Orkney Islands. He was the son of Eystein Glumra the noisy, Earl of Oppland and grandson of Halfdan the old. His second wife was Ragnhild Hrolfsdottir, daughter of Hrolfrr Nefjaa. Ragnvald was the father of Hrolf Ganger, the founder of Normandy. He was also the father of Turf-Einar, the ancestor of the jarls of Orkney.
He was the direct ancestor to William I of England, Edward II of England, James I of England and therefore, Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He is therefore the ancestor of most of the royal families of Europe.

Eystein Glumra the noisy, Earl of Oppland (800-846)
Ivar Halfdansson (-830)
Halfdan Eysteinsson (768-800)
Eysteinn Halfdansson (736-780)
Halfdan Olafsson (704-750)
Olaf Ingladsson (682-710)
Inglad Braut Onundsson (660-681)
Braut Onund Ingvarsson (638-660)
Ingvar Eysteinsson (616-642)
Eystein Adiisson (594-620)
Adiis Ottarsson (572-605)
Ottar Eglisson (551-576)
Egil Aunsson (530-555)
Arun Jorundsson (509-544)
Jorund Yngvasson (487-)
Yngvi Alreksson (466-499)
Alrek Agnasson (445-536)
Agni Dagsson (424-459)
Dagr Dyggvasson (403-494)
Dyggvi Domarsson (382-473)
Domar Domaldsson (361-452)
Domaldi Visbursson (340-)
Visbur Upssala Vanlandasson (319-)
Vanlandi Svegdasson (298-389)
Sveigder Fjolnarsson (277-368)
Fjolnar Yngvi Freysson (256-281)
Yngvi Frey Njordsson (235-275)
Njord Farnakeson de Noatun (214-260)

Turkish Roots of the Scandinavians

All dates in this part are approximations

Yngvi Frey, King of Turkey (193-)
Bengori Frey (150-200)
Lnor Frey (120-)
Flocwald (100-191)
Godwulf (90?-163)
Geat Jat (70-125)
Taetwa Tecti (50-100)

Sceldwea (35b.c.-)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Genealogy Story – Counting the “G”s

In many of my genealogy stories, I note that someone is an nth cousin, x times removed. To those who are unfamiliar with genealogy, it looks pretty complicated. But it’s actually relatively simple. The key is simply “counting the Gs”. Let me give an example:

In my story about the early contributor of books to the Wolcott Library, I gave a couple of cases. Here is an extract of what I wrote:

“…John Alcox, and that John was my great*6 grandfather. Since he was also the great-grandfather to both William Andrus Alcott and Amos Bronson Alcott…”

We need to start by finding a common ancestor between the two individuals. In this case it is John Alcox. John was my great*6 grandfather (or 6th great-grandfather depending on how you want to record it). There are seven “G”s in that relationship, one each for the six “greats” and one in “grandfather”. Next, John is the great-grandfather to the Alcott cousins – that’s two “G”s in those relationships. So, what do we do with these “G numbers” – 7 and 2.

First, the degree of “cousin-ness” is given by the smaller of the two numbers, in this case 2 – so they are my 2nd cousins. Secondly, the “removed” part is given by the difference between the two numbers – in this case 7 minus 2 is 5, so they are my 2nd cousins, 5 times removed.

The other example is from that same blog where Stephen Rogers and I have a common ancestor in John Frisbie. John is Stephen’s great-great-grandfather as well as my great*8 grandfather. So the two “G numbers” are 3 and 9. Thus, Stephen is my 3rd cousin, 6 (i.e. 9 minus 3) times removed.

This will work all the time, as long as both numbers are greater than zero. As an easy example, if you and someone else share a grandparent, then you both have a “G number” of 1 and so you are 1st cousins (with no removed part). But what happens when one of the “G numbers” is zero. There are several cases, let’s look at them:

0-0  – the two individuals are siblings, i.e. each is a brother/sister to the other
1-0  – the second person is an aunt/uncle to the first and the first is a nephew/niece of the second
2-0  – (or any situation where the non-zero “G number” is more than 1) – the second person is a great*N aunt/uncle to the first and the first is a great*N-nephew/niece of the second. Note that the number of “great”s in the relationship is one less that the largest “G number”, 2-0 -> Great-aunt/uncle/nephew/niece, 5-0 -> great*4 aunt/uncle/nephew/niece.

The English word “cousin” is gender-neutral. We can use “sibling” as the gender-neutral equivalent of brother/sister. But aunt/uncle or nephew/niece do not have gender-neutral equivalents. Nor are these latter relationships able to be used reflexively, i.e. you are the cousin of your cousin, and the sibling of your sibling, but you are the nephew/niece of your aunt/uncle.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Genealogy Story – My Wolcott Connections

As I’ve been writing various stories about Wolcott History and mentioning my ancestor’s roles, some have commented about how I seem to be related to so many people in Wolcott’s past. So I thought I’d take one of my blog entries to explain how this came to be.

In Wolcott and the surrounding area, the population back in colonial times was not all that large. The few families often had many children (nine-to-twelve was not uncommon). And so families often inter-married, even having multiple connections with one son in family X marrying a daughter in family Y while a daughter in family X also married a son in family Y. In addition, one could often find that there was only one family with any family name from whom all other families of that name were descended. So if you can find a direct ancestor connection back to the initial progenitor of that family, then every other person descended from that individual will have some sort of cousin relationship with you.

This is the case with me. My mother’s maiden name is Pierpont. While there are few Pierponts in Wolcott, the Pierpont family at one time owned nearly all the land in the eastern end of Waterbury (centered on what is now called Pierpont Road). My great*4 grandfather, Ezra Pierpont came to that area in the late 1700’s, but his great-grandfather, James Pierpont had moved to the New Haven area a century prior to that. In the period from 1650 to 1900, there were lots of opportunities for marriage into other families. So most of my Wolcott connections come through my mother’s side of the family. Here are some of the initial progenitors of various family names in Wolcott and how I am descended from them:

·         Alcox/Alcott – John Alcox (1705-1777) was the first person to settle on the Waterbury side of Farmingbury in 1731. He came from New Haven and is my 6th great-grandfather.
·         Beecher – Samuel Beecher (1687-1756) moved from New Haven to Cheshire in the early 1700’s. He is my 7th great-grandfather. The Hall family in Wolcott are descended from Rachel [Beecher] Hall, a grand-daughter of Samuel. Eva Tyrrell and the Lewis family (Lewis School) are related to the Hall family.
·         Frisbie – John Frisbie (1676-1736) lived in Branford and is also my 6th great-grandfather. The Frisbie family in Farmingbury/Wolcott were his descendants. Also, one of his daughters married Deacon Josiah Rogers (see Rogers family below).
·         Hotchkiss – John Hotchkiss (1643-1689) lived in New Haven and is my 8th great-grandfather. His grandson, Wait Hotchkiss came to Farmingbury in 1765.
·         Nichols – Joseph Nichols (1680-1733) moved to Waterbury in the early 1700s. He is my 7th great-grandfather. His daughter married Ebenezer Wakelee (see Wakelee family below).
·         Rogers – Deacon Josiah Rogers (1708-1784) lived in Branford. Several of his children came to Farmingbury in the late 1700s either with the Rogers surname or through marriage to other families like the Frisbies. Deacon Rogers is not one of my direct ancestors, but we are related (see below).
·         Upson – Stephen Upson (1655-1735) was one of the early settlers in Farmingbury. He is my 7th great-grandfather.
·         Wakelee – Ebenezer Wakelee (1716-1800) purchased property in Farmingbury in the early 1700s. He is also another of my 6th great-grandfathers

My Rogers family connections are a little more complicated and come through my father’s side of the family tree instead of my mother’s. My 2nd great-grandmother was a Rogers. Her family line comes from a much earlier progenitor, John Rogers (1507-1555), in England. John is my 12th great-grandfather. He had several sons, and sons/grandsons from three of his children came to America in the early 1600’s, including on the Mayflower. Most of the Rogers family in New England can trace their family lines back to John. He is the 5th great-grandfather of Deacon Josiah Rogers, so Deacon Rogers is my 6th cousin, several times removed. Olcott’s History of Wolcott even notes that Deacon Rogers is descended from “John Rogers, the martyr”. (Wikipedia says, “John Rogers was a clergyman, Bible translator and commentator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I of England.”) He was burned at the stake.

Because so many of the early settlers were related by marriage to these eight families, once I find that one of the early settlers was related to one of these eight families it’s fairly easy to establish the appropriate cousin relationship I have to them.

I find genealogy a fascinating subject, and being able to use it to give some flesh-and-blood to so much of Farmingbury/Wolcott history is a fun activity for me.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Genealogy Story – Josiah Atkins House in Wolcott

Recently I was reading one of the entries in of the Wolcott Historical Society (see about the Josiah Atkins House. This is one of the early houses in Wolcott and was built sometime prior to 1777 by Josiah Rogers. When I was growing up the home was owned by the Washburne family and it is now occupied by one of my school classmates, Kathy Washburne Shea. Because of the Rogers name, which features prominently in my family tree, I thought I’d do some research.

Josiah Rogers (1733-1803) was the son of Deacon Josiah Rogers (called herein Deacon Rogers to distinguish father and son) from Branford. Deacon Rogers is the same individual who purchased land in the Waterbury side of Farmingbury in 1724 and sold some of it to John Alcox in 1731, the first inhabitant in that side of Farmingbury. In 1777 Josiah Rogers sold 1-1/4 acres of land, including the house, to his new son-in-law Josiah Atkins. Josiah Atkins was marrying Sarah Rogers, the daughter of Josiah. However, she passed away only a few years into their marriage. He then married Mary Gillet the following year.

Here are some of the things I found out about the above individuals:

Deacon Josiah Rogers never lived in Farmingbury/Wolcott, but spent his entire life in Branford (where a lot of the early settlers of Wolcott came from). He was descended from the same Rogers line as the Rev. Stephen Rogers (see my prior blog on the Wolcott Library). This makes the Deacon Rogers my 6th cousin (8 times removed). In addition, Deacon Roger’s wife was Martha Frisbie, the granddaughter of John Frisbie (1650-1694), thus Martha is my cousin (8 times removed), Josiah Rogers is my 2nd cousin (7 times removed), and Sarah Rogers Atkins is my 3rd cousin (6 times removed).

Mary Gillet (also spelled Gillett/Gillette) was the younger sister of Alexander Gillett, the first pastor of the church in Farmingbury (from 1773 to 1791). Alexander’s wife was Adah Rogers, a daughter of Deacon Rogers and the sister of Josiah. So the Frisbie/Rogers/Atkins/Gillet families were extremely intertwined. Mary and Alexander Gillet are part of the Gillette family who were prominent in the Hartford/Windsor area of CT. They are also related to William Gillette who was the actor who built Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT.  William is their 4th cousin (twice removed).

So the timeline for some of the above is:
1724 – Deacon Rogers buys land in Farmingbury
1731 – John Alcox buys land from Deacon Rogers and becomes first settler in that part of town
1759 – Frisbie family comes to Farmingbury
1773 – Alexander Gillett comes to Farmingbury as the first pastor of the church
Sometime before 1777 – Josiah Rogers builds house just down Center Street
1777 – Josiah Atkins marries Sarah Rogers, Josiah Rogers gives house to his daughter
1778 – Alexander Gillett marries Adah Rogers, the sister of Josiah Rogers
1778 – Sarah [Rogers] Atkins dies
1779 – Josiah Atkins marries Mary Gillett, the sister of the pastor of the church
1791 – Alexander Gillett dismissed from church and moves from Farmingbury*
1802 – Josiah Atkins moves from Farmingbury to Ohio

Note – Rev. Gillet was dismissed because many of the church members were dissatisfied with his teaching. One of the individuals who was invited to sit with the church leaders to advise them was Dr. Jonathan Edwards, the noted preacher from New Haven. I find this interesting in two ways – one, that such a prominent individual would travel all the way from New Haven to the little village of Farmingbury for this meeting, and two, because Jonathan Edwards is my cousin, 7 times removed (his grandfather is my great*7 grandfather). Yet one more previously unknown connection between myself and Wolcott history! And it also means that my first cousin (7 times removed) was responsible for giving advice on dismissing the husband of my 2nd cousin (7 times removed).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Genealogy Story – Wolcott Library Early Contributors

As the readers of my blog know, I was born and raised in Wolcott, CT and am related to many of the original settlers of the town. Recently Flo Goodman, the president of the Wolcott Historical Society, gave a presentation on the history of the Wolcott Library. You can read it here - In this article the names of several of the early donors to the library are mentioned. Three in particular are noted as donating books:
-          William Andrus Alcott “made a gift of twenty books”
-          Stephen Rogers “donated 133 volumes to the church library”
-          Amos Bronson Alcott “donated books as part of this celebration”

You also know from earlier blog postings that one of the earliest settlers of the town of Wolcott (then called Farmingbury) was John Alcox, and that John was my great*6 grandfather. Since he was also the great-grandfather to both William Andrus Alcott and Amos Bronson Alcott, that means that two of the three book donors to the library are my 2nd cousins (5 times removed). But I wondered if I was also related to the only remaining individual on the above list of book donors. There are many Rogers in my family tree and I have traced them back to the 1500’s in England, so I embarked on a new bit of genealogy research.

Using the facts given in the library story, I quickly found that the Rev. Stephen Rogers died in 1863 in Woodbury, CT. I also found a reference to this in Olcott’s History of Wolcott. He was born in 1799. But apart from those facts, and the 1860 census when he was in Wolcott and was noted as being born in Vermont, there was no information on him to be found in – no one had ever done any research on him. So I began my hunt on the Internet.

In a series of published annual minutes titled “Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions” published by the Congregational Church in 1845-1848, I found references to him as then serving as a pastor in Westmoreland, NH. There was also a later reference in their minutes of 1863, noting his passing away in Woodbury, so I knew it was the same “Rev. Stephen Rogers”. Then in a book, “The Congregational Churches of Vermont and Their Ministry, 1762-1914” I found reference to him as being from Fair Haven, VT and having been a product of that state who served in the ministry (the dates of his birth and death confirming that I had the same individual). Finally, in “A History of the Town of Fair Haven, Vermont” I found him listed with his father, also Stephen Rogers, and the note that he “became a Congregational Minister”. Earlier in that book it noted that Stephen (the father) had moved to Vermont from Branford, CT.

Since genealogical records from early Connecticut are fairly well documented, I was then able to begin research in to trace Stephen’s family. As I had suspected, our paths did cross, but our common ancestor was all the way back to John Rogers in England (1507-1555), making the Rev. Stephen my 8th cousin, 5 times removed. A distant relative to be sure, but completing my links to all the above book donors.

However, as I traced Stephen back, I noticed a few last names on the female side of his family tree that looked familiar, one of them being Frisbie. Since Frisbie is also a name from Wolcott/Farmingbury history and there are many individuals in the early history who came from the town of Branford, I thought I’d check out that line as well. Sure enough, I found that the Rev. Stephen Rogers had connections to other settlers of Wolcott. His great-great-grandfather was John Frisbie of Branford. John is also the great-grandfather of Judah Frisbie after whom Frisbie School is named. Thus the Rev. Stephen Rogers is the 2nd cousin (once removed) of Judah Frisbie and it may be the reason that they knew about him in Wolcott and invited him to be their minister.

But of course, with my various Wolcott connections, John Frisbie is also my great*8 grandfather, so that also gives me a less distant connection to Stephen as he is my 3rd cousin (6 times removed). I am continually amazed by the genealogical connections that I have to the town, as I can now proudly say that all three of the early donors of books to the Wolcott library are my ancestors, the most distant only being a 3rd cousin!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Giving of Your Finances

As I mentioned in my blog “Walking for a Cause”, in addition to giving of yourself for worthwhile causes, you should also give financially as you are able.  I’d like to summarize my giving philosophy in hopes that it may encourage others to adopt a similar philosophy.

I have four categories/levels in my giving philosophy.

The first of these is to our church. I strongly believe in tithing. I know that some feel that this is an Old Testament thing, but there is still a lot of validity in the reasons for it. In Biblical times, the tithe was used for such things as the support of widows and orphans as such social needs were not within the purview of the government. So one could argue that we don’t need such a large amount of money given to the church these days, since our taxes are used for that purpose. There is some truth to that, but the church is still the best method for helping to meet people’s needs at a local level. Our church runs the food bank for the local community and also has other social needs programs. Unfortunately, the average giving level in churches these days is far less than a tithe – figures I’ve seen range between 2 and 3 percent. But in Biblical times, they STARTED at 10% and people were encouraged to give beyond that.  As a result, today’s churches do not have the resources to do what I’m sure many of them would like to do more of. But I try to do my part.

The second category/level is my giving to some specific missionaries – one who is a member of our church and a personal friends, and one, my brother, who with my sister-in-law are missionaries in Thailand. I believe strongly in what both of these are doing and want to be a significant part of it. Also, at this same level, I support two organizations that I volunteer at – Lehigh Valley Christian High School (where I have volunteered for 25 years and where I served on the Board of Directors for 18 years), and AFS Intercultural Programs (where I have volunteered for many years, including two years as the Chair of their National Council and three years on their Board of Directors). These two organizations are worthy of both my finances and my time.

The third category/level of giving is to a small number of carefully and deliberately selected organizations. There are about a dozen such organizations in our current list, and my wife and I have periodic discussions about whether to add or delete organization to this list. We give each of these organizations about $100 each year – enough to be noticed, but certainly far less than those in the prior two categories. The key here is that the organizations are chosen deliberately and not based on the many requests for contributions that sometimes seem to flood our mailbox (both snail mail and email). Most of these organizations have been on the list for many years, but there are some changes every few years as our interests change.

The final category are all the other organizations from which we get requests. Most of these requests are simply ignored – even if they come in the form of a phone call. The only ones we honor are usually associated with friends/family members who are participating – for example, when my niece was walking across Africa a few years ago, we supported her during that time. But the rest of the time we just politely refuse, since we prefer to support organizations based on deliberate choice research of the organization’s philosophy, rather than responding to ad-hoc requests.

In total our giving is about 20% of our gross income – about the same as was recommended in the Bible. The difference is that back then all the social support was through this method, and now there are many organizations beyond the local church who are involved in good ministries – some deliberately social, and others with other good causes.

I had a great aunt who had a different philosophy – she gave small amounts to dozens of different organizations and large amounts to none. She wanted to spread her donations around and be able to contribute to as many worthwhile organizations as she could. I have no issue with her method – it was something that worked for her. So if you have a different philosophy, that’s fine with me too. But I do think that it’s far better that YOU make the choice rather than just responding to anyone who asks for your money. That way you also can do the appropriate research to ensure that the organizations you support are actually putting you money to good use and not just spending it all on fund raising and other less than worthwhile activities.