Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Extended Pierpont Family Relatives in Wolcott

If you’ve read much of my blog over the past few years, it’s pretty obvious that I have been able to document a lot of connections to other individuals – both in the history of my hometown, Wolcott, CT, and in Connecticut history as well. Part of this is due to the sheer number of relatives that we all have as well as the modern tools we now have for doing genealogical research.

One’s family tree expands by a factor of two for every generation we go back – the father’s side and the mother’s side. From my own birth in the middle of the 20th century back to the early 1700s there are about 8-9 generations. Thus there are a potential of several hundred great*7 grandparents in that length of time (2 to the 9th power is 512). However, not all of one’s ancestral lines can be traced back that far, some were not in the US until later in history, and there are some duplicates where two branches converge. But with the current tools, I have about 200 documented ancestors at the great*7 grandparent level in my family tree. And with each of those individuals having the potential for perhaps several hundred descendants (for arguments sake let’s say 400), that gives me 80,000 possible individuals at various levels of “cousin-ness” (of which I have only documented a few thousand).

Until recent years, most of these distant connections would have been unknown. So while many of us may have had people growing up around us who were related to us in some fashion, we would not be aware of most of those connections. The ones we knew best were our first cousins, and, if we were fortunate enough, a few of our second cousins. That was true of me as well – my siblings and I knew all 15 or so of our first cousins and we interacted with them frequently, and we knew of and occasionally met some of our second cousins.

However, there was one branch of our family tree that was well documented. My mother’s maiden name was Pierpont, and the Pierpont Family Association maintained a large document which kept track of all the descendants of the New England Pierpont family (primarily the descendants of James Pierpont, one of my great*7 grandfathers). And since there was an annual Pierpont Family Reunion where all the people in this tree (at least those that we had an address for) were invited, we knew of and had an opportunity to meet with all the people in this descendant tree (they have met for every year since 1924). This is of course only one of the 200 ancestors that I have since documented, but the Pierpont family were pretty prolific and the potential pool of attendees was pretty large. Of those, those who attended numbered between 30 and 100, with there only being a single instance where the 100 was exceeded (1998).  But the attendee list was different each year, so we got to know perhaps a couple of hundred Pierpont relatives by meeting them and because the family descendant tree was so well documented, we knew the names of many more.

Our immediate family was relatively involved, with my grandfather and two of my uncles/aunts being president of the PFA at various times, my father having been the vice-president, and my mother having been the secretary for a few years as well. So our particular branch of the family tree were often the ones to be recognized for having the largest number attending, and when my aunt and uncle from Arizona were there a few times they received the distance trophy. In more recent years, with the generation of my parents having nearly all passed away, there has only occasionally been a representative from my immediate family (aunts/uncles/cousins/etc.). However, with my renewed interest in genealogy from the past few years, I am planning on attending this coming weekend!

But to get back to the point of this blog, I’d like to mention my Pierpont relatives who lived near me in my hometown and whom I knew growing up. They didn’t necessarily have the last name of Pierpont anymore due to them being descended through a female who took on her husband’s last name, but they are still relatives. So, in no particular order, here are my Pierpont relatives who lived in Wolcott (at least back when I lived there while growing up).

·         My Uncle Zeke (Clarence) and Aunt Babs (Barbara) Pierpont and their family who lived just a few houses from us (only my cousin Rob and his wife are still in Wolcott)
·         My Uncle Tony and Aunt Vi (Violet) Semeraro and their family who lived at the other end of town
·         The Kraft family (Howard & Marian) and their children and grandchildren (note that the Krafts were also related to the Peterson family in Wolcott). My 3rd cousin, Bob Kraft, is the current PFA family historian/genealogist
·         Margaret [Miller] [Northrop] Hall – she was the mother of Marian [Northrop] Kraft and Jean [Northrop] Fleming
·         Byron and Jean Fleming
·         The Garrigus family (I’ve documented this connection here - It is recorded in the PFA minutes from 1948 that “Morton Pierpont gave a humorous account on how families inter-marry, namely the Garriguses and Pierponts, and said he felt like his own grandpa.”

While this is certainly just a handful of individuals compared to all the other Wolcott families who are related to me through other of my ancestors, it is always nice to grow up in proximity to ones relatives.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Genealogy Story – Yale part 2

In a blog I wrote recently (, I gave a list of the ten men who were involved in establishing the Collegiate School of Connecticut in 1701 – which became Yale just a few years later. In that blog, I described these men as follows:

·        Samuel Andrew (1656-1738), Harvard class of 1675, pastor in Milford, CT – Rector in 1707-1719, while at Harvard was a tutor to James Pierpont, Samuel Russell, Noadiah Russell, and Joseph Webb. He and Samuel Mather married sisters. His granddaughter married the grandson of Noadiah Russell and James Pierpont.

·        Thomas Buckingham (1646-1709), the only non-Harvard graduate, pastor in Saybrook, CT – the founders originally agreed to locate the Collegiate School in Saybrook and it was only with much resistance that it was relocated to New Haven.

·        Israel Chauncy (1644-1703), pastor in Stratford, CT – son of Charles Chauncy, president of Harvard, he and James Webb married sisters. In addition to his father, a brother and nephew were also ministers.

·        Samuel Mather (1650-1727), Harvard class of 1671, pastor in Windsor, CT – cousin of Cotton Mather

·        Rev. James Noyes II (1640-1719), Harvard class of 1659, pastor in Stonington, CT – a cousin to Timothy Woodbridge, father, grandfather, and other relatives were also ministers.

·        James Pierpont (1659-1714), Harvard class of 1681, pastor in New Haven, CT – related to Abraham Pierson by one marriage and to Thomas Buckingham by another marriage. His children married descendants of Noadiah Russell, Samuel Russell, and James Noyes. Five of his children either became ministers or were married to one. (See for further details).

·        Abraham Pierson (1646-1707), Harvard class of 1668, pastor in Killingworth, CT (later renamed Clinton) – first Rector of the Collegiate School, was supposed to teach in Saybrook, but due to his pastoral duties, taught at his parsonage in Killingworth. Son of a minister.

·        Noadiah Russell (1659-1713), Harvard class of 1681, pastor in Middletown, CT – two of his sons also became ministers.

·        Joseph Webb (1666-1732), Harvard class of 1684, pastor in Fairfield, CT

·        Timothy Woodbridge (1655-1732), pastor in Hartford, CT – son of a minister, his brother and son were also ministers. His daughter married a son of Abraham Pierson.

·        Samuel Russell (1660-1731), Harvard class of 1681, pastor in Branford, CT – 2nd son of Rev. John Russell (1626-1692) of Hadley, MA, Harvard 1645, ministered in Wethersfield CT 1650-1659, then left CT and founded Hadley MA.

I’ve now had a chance to do some further genealogical research on these individuals with the goal of seeing what their connection (if any) is to me. I expected to find some of the below, but the degree of connectedness is pretty astounding. So, without further ado, here is how each of these men is related to me.

·        Samuel Andrew, grandfather-in-law of William Russell (my 1st cousin 7 times removed)

·        Thomas Buckingham, 2nd husband of Mary [Willet] [Hooker] whose first husband was my great*8 uncle

·        Israel Chauncy, married to 1st cousin of my great*8 grandfather, Abraham Nichols. His wife and Joseph Webb’s wife were sisters.

·        Samuel Mather, cousin of sister-in-law of James Pierpont (through his first wife)

·        James Noyes II, father-in-law of Abigail Pierpont (my great*7 aunt)

·        James Pierpont, great*7 grandfather His children married descendants of, Samuel Russell

·        Abraham Pierson, uncle of first wife of James Pierpont

·        Noadiah Russell, great*7 grandfather, his daughter married Joseph Pierpont.

·        Joseph Webb, married to 1st cousin of my great*8 grandfather, Abram Nichols

·        Timothy Woodbridge. His daughter married a son of Abraham Pierson. Also a cousin of James Noyes II.

·        Samuel Russell, great*3 grandfather of my great*3 aunt, Abigail [Russell] Pierpont

While some of these connections are multiple “hops”, e.g. cousin of a cousin sort-of-thing, the fact that I can document a family connection to every single one of them seems pretty amazing to me.  And it is further demonstration of what I quoted in that earlier blog:

The clergy, unlike farmers or artisans, were relatively successful in developing effective local and trans-local alliances which, in turn, led to patterns of collective action and to formal corporate institutions. This is not surprising, for the clergy were, by their very nature, a group with clearly defined common interests, a group whose members had been trained together at either Harvard or Yale (thus having shared an intensive common socialization experience), who were often sons of clergymen themselves (thus having kin-continuity), and who presided over a social institution, the church, whose interests they had a vital interest in preserving. The clergy, as earlier suggested, followed simultaneously two patterns of alliance-making, a bifurcation dictated by the non-inheritable nature of the clerical office. On the one hand, they cultivated close ties with important lay families in the communities in which they served, which strengthened their power in their congregations and opened up occupational opportunities for their sons. On the other hand, they cultivated trans-local alliances with other clergymen (to consolidate professional identity) and with powerful laymen (to further the interests of the church).

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Genealogy Story – My Hill Relatives

My father’s sister, Dorothy (known to me as Aunt Dot), married Robert Clinton Hill (known to me as Uncle Bob), the brother of my father’s best friend in high school, Harold Hill (also known to me as Uncle Harold, even though he was not a blood relative). Since I’ve written extensively about the Russell side of the family tree, I thought I should write about the Hill family as well.

Both my father’s Russell ancestors and my mother’s Pierpont ancestors came to America (specifically to the Massachusetts Bay Colony) around 1630 during the Great Migration which ran from 1620 to 1640 (see Approximately 20,000 individuals, mostly in family units, came during this time. However, when the English Civil War began in 1641, the rate of migration dropped sharply.

The original Hill family member to come to American, John Hill (1598-1647), had been born in England. He, together with his wife and young son, John B (1624-1688), also migrated around 1630, first to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston, but about 1640 moving up the coast to Dover, New Hampshire. The Hill family would remain in New Hampshire or nearby Maine for the next several generations.

While there were many children in each generation after John B, the line that led down to my Uncle Bob all had names beginning with the letter “J” for the next several generations. In order, these were another John (1665-1718), Joshua (1698-1774), Joseph (1743-1797), and James (1774-1847). Finally, in the 1800s, the line of J’s was broken with the birth of Oliver (1801-1883), then Sylvester (1823-1897). Sylvester also moved away from Maine to S. Weymouth, MA. (See for complete details of each of these individuals.)

Sylvester married Mary Ann Fessenden in 1847 and had four children with her. When she died in 1861, he remarried Aurelia Randall the following year and had six more children with her. One of these was Frank Clinton Hill (1876-1963).

Frank married Georgia Knussman (1880-1930) in 1901. Georgia had been born in Connecticut but her father, George, was a German immigrant, and her mother, Mary, was the daughter of two Irish immigrants. That made Frank and Georgia’s children half-English, one-quarter-German, and one-quarter-Irish. Frank and Georgia initially lived in Wallingford, CT where Georgia’s parents lived, but then moved to Waterbury, CT. They had four children – Frank (b. 1912), Edith (b. 1914), Robert (b. 1916), and Harold (b. 1919).

My Aunt Dot and Uncle Bob met when my father and his sister began living with their grandparents (my great-grandparents) in Waterbury in 1937. The Hill family lived right around the corner and Dot and Bob, besides then being close neighbors, also shared a common birthday, 13 October 1916. They married the following year – 1938. Initially, she just moved the one block and the newlyweds shared the house with Bob’s father (then widowed), his older sister Edith, and his younger brother, Harold. That’s not a typical living arrangement for a newlywed couple, but it seemed to work out for all involved.

Over the next decade, they had two children (Carolyn and Bob) and moved several times. Meanwhile my father continued living with his grandparents, then served in WWII. His grandparents both died while he was in the service, so when he finished his service in 1946, he could no longer return “home”, so he lived for a few months with his sister and her family – which, very conveniently, was just a few blocks away from his new fiancĂ©e. My parents married a few months later and moved into a home in Wolcott. Harold married six months later and for the first part of his married life he and my Aunt Gloria lived in an upstairs room in my parent’s house while their residence was being completed at the other end of town. Harold and Gloria had three children (Bruce, Debbie, and Craig). In 1952, Dot and Bob also moved to Wolcott into a new home on Laurel Lane. With all three families in the same town, we were all pretty close growing up and I spent a lot of time with all my Hill cousins.

The close physical ties of being in the same town did not last forever, but the family ties remained and we all still met when we could. Aunt Dot and Uncle Bob moved to Florida when he retired, but our house in PA was a stop each year on their annual visit back to CT where they stayed with my parents for a few weeks. Uncle Harold divorced Aunt Gloria in 1960 and he eventually remarried and moved to Southern CA. That whole generation has now passed on. Also, all three of my Hill male cousins have died at younger ages than I am now, the most recent being my cousin Craig who died just last year due to the effects of his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in the military in Vietnam. But I still remain in touch with my cousin Carolyn via email and with her daughter (my cousin once removed) Jennifer, my “cousin” Debbie, and Craig’s wife Paula on Facebook. Family is still family!