Saturday, December 30, 2017

Genealogy Story – A Tangled Wolcott Web

In an earlier story about my grandparents (*1), I told how the mother (Annie Merrill) of my grandfather (Harold Pierpont) passed away as a result of childbirth and how he was “given away” to be raised by another family, Samuel and Hattie Nichols, in Prospect. His father (Wilson Pierpont) went on to remarry a few years later to Anna [Root] Hall, but my grandfather continued to be raised by Samuel and Hattie. I wondered why he was given to this couple and what connection they may have had to his birth parents. But this investigation uncovered much more than I thought.

Genealogical Searching

I initially tried doing some detailed genealogical searching, looking for a relationship, and I did find such a connection.

Harold’s great*5 grandfather was James Nichols (Harold <- Annie [Merrill] Pierpont <- Eunice [Hoadley] Merrill <- Alma [Frisbie] Hoadley <- Daniel Frisbie <- Hannah [Wakelee] Frisbie <- Elizabeth [Nichols] Wakelee <- James Nichols). And James Nichols is also the great*3 grandfather of Samuel Nichols (Samuel <- Samuel <- Erastus <- Samuel <- Richard <- James). So that would have made Samuel his 4th cousin, twice removed. But that is much too distant a relation and would likely not have been known by the parties involved.

In the process I also discovered that Annie’s mother, Eunice, was a distant cousin of her father, Nathan (Nathan Merrill <- Elijah Merrill <- Sarah [Frisbie] Merrill <- Elijah Frisbie -> Reuben Frisbie -> Daniel Frisbie -> Alma [Frisbie] Hoadley -> Eunice [Hoadley] Merrill).

I also noted that the names of some of the Wolcott schools (Wakelee and Frisbie) are referenced here and I know that I am related to these families (*2).

But while all of these facts are interesting, it does not really give a satisfactory answer to my initial question.

There is also an interesting note in the Pierpont genealogies (*3) that says that Harold was “raised in ProspectCT by Anna Root Hall Pierpont”. I knew that this was not totally correct, as when Harold was orphaned in 1898 Anna was a widow living in the Mill Plain section of Waterbury and she didn’t marry Wilson Pierpont until a few years later. But was this note part of the key to the solution?

I decided to look at what all these families had in common and that was a connection to my hometown of Wolcott. Thus, by eliminating the Pierpont and Prospect from the question and concentrating on the geography of Wolcott and who lived where I found the solution.

Wolcott Investigation

My grandfather was born and his mother died in 1898. In the 1900 census, he is living in Prospect with Samuel and Hattie. So any answer must lie in the years before this. The 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, so I did my initial investigation in the 1880 and 1870 census. Here are some of the things I found.

I had noted (in *1) that Anna [Root] [Hall] Pierpont, then just Anna Root, was a 17yo school teacher in Wolcott in the 1870 census, living in the home of George Atwood. I thought at the time that she would have been teaching in the center school as that is the one closer to the Atwood family when I lived there. But on further investigation I found that Anna is actually listed twice in that same census. On one page she is listed as living with her parents (Timothy and Celia) and on another page she is listed as living with the Atwood family. What is going on here? In looking at the dates on the top of the census page she was at the Atwood family on 7/14/1870, but she was at home on 7/18/1870 a few days later. I decided that some geography research was in order.

There is a very nice map of Wolcott from 1868 on the website (*4). You can find the home of George Atwood near where the New Britain reservoir is located today in the Northeast school district. (This also gives some insight into the later connection between the Atwood family who a few years later marries into the Upson family located not that far away (*5)). So, if Anna was living there during the week, it would be because she was the teacher in that school district. But where were her parents living?

The Root family name does not appear on this map. However, in the 1870 census Timothy Root is living next to the Willis Merrill family who can be found in what is now the middle of Scovill Reservoir on the continuation of Todd Road north from where it ends today. In fact, some checking also revealed that Timothy’s wife Celia is actually Lucelia Merrill and her parents were Willis and Julia [Alcott] Merrill living next door. So that also gives me another connection to John Alcott/Alcox (Julia’s great-grandfather). And it may also give a connection, as yet unverified, between Wilson’s first wife, Annie Merrill, and his second wife, Anna Root. Finally, living with the Root family is a lady Hannah Hall – is this another, yet undocumented, connection between the Root and Hall families?

Thus, Anna was not hired as a school teacher who was from Plainville, but because her family had moved into Wolcott sometime between 1868 and 1870. But it was too far for her to commute from her family home to the Northeast School and thus she boarded with the Atwood family during the week and returned home during the weekends. In the process, she would have gone past the home of Orrin Hall (located where Ransom Hall road is today and marked “O Hall” on the map) and seen 17yo Ransom Hall, whom she married a few years later. It appears on the 1870 census records that Ransom was living with his grandparents, Orrin and Nancy Hall (also see *6 for information on the Nancy Hall bible).

Other families living in the same Woodtick area of Wolcott in 1868 include the Frisbie family (noted above in the genealogy connection), and just beyond the Wolcott Paper Mill and the school the family of “S. Nichols”, the family into which Samuel Nichols would be born a few years later.

Finally, I looked at the 1880 census. There we find the following families in close proximity:
·       Page 9, Erastus Nichols living next door to his son Samuel Nichols and grandson Samuel Nichols Jr (the eventual foster father of my grandfather Harold Pierpont)
·       Page 9, Timothy Root and his wife Lucelia [Alcott]
·       Page 8, Orrin Hall, now widowed
·       Page 5, Ransom and Anna [Root] Hall and two children


While genealogical connections exist between all these families, those connections are often driven by geographical proximity. Here we see the Merrill, Hall, Root, and Nichols families all in proximity in the Woodtick area of Wolcott. In addition, a few years later the widow Anna [Root] Hall was living in the Mill Plain area of Waterbury and would have likely been attending the Mill Plain Union church which is where Wilson and Annie [Merrill] Pierpont were also members.

Thus, when Annie passed away in 1898, the note that Anna Root Hall Pierpont helped raise Harold in Prospect did not mean that she actually raised him. Rather, it meant that she introduced Wilson to Samuel and Hattie Nichols, a young couple who were not able to have children of their own. She knew Samuel as he lived just a few houses away from her family in Wolcott where she grew up.

These types of interrelationships between history, genealogy and geography are fascinating to me. And as this research has shown, you may find what you are looking for in places that may not have occurred to you.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Genealogy Story – Nana Rogers and Nana Russell

I’ve previously written about my mother’s parents, Harold and Sara Pierpont (, as well as my father’s father, Erskine Russell (, and step-father, Charles Rogers ( Although I had a few details about them in the story of my grandpa Russell, I need to complete the set of stories with writing about my father’s mother and step-mother.

We had different names for each of my three sets of grandparents. My mother’s parents were called “Grampy” and “Grammy”, my father’s father and step-mother were called “Grandpa” and “Grandma/Nana”, and my father’s mother and step-father were called “Nana” and “Bampa” (I was told that “Bampa” was because as a young child I wasn’t yet able to pronounce the “gr” sound and so said “Bampa” instead of “Grampa” and the name stuck.)

While those I have written about before all had deep roots in America, these two grandmothers on my dad’s side did not.

Vera [Levy] [Russell] Rogers

Vera was born in 1895 in Brooklyn, NY, the first of two daughters born to Maurice and Caroline [Northrop] Levy. Maurice was the son of Jewish immigrants and had been born in NY as well, but when he was only two his family had moved to the town of New Milford, CT. Caroline had been born in Lee, MA, but, like Maurice, her family had moved to New Milford when she was only two. While Maurice was two years older than Caroline, the two children would have known each other from an early age as the population of New Milford in the 1870s was only about 4000 people (the two children are only a few pages apart in the 1880 census). But the difference in religions apparently did not pose a hindrance to their friendship (see After their marriage in 1893, the young couple moved back to Brooklyn where Maurice had other relatives. He worked as a printer, an occupation related to his father’s occupation of being a stationer.

Maurice died at the age of only 40 in 1910 when Vera was only 15. Her mother made the decision to move back to New Milford to be closer to her family.

In 1914, and only two weeks after her 19th birthday, Vera married a young man, Erskine Russell, who was also only 19. With employment opportunities somewhat limited in the small town of New Milford, the two moved to Bridgeport, CT, were Erskine got a job working in a foundry. There they had two children, Dorothy, born in 1916, and my father, Vernon, born in 1920.

But things were not going well for Erskine and Vera, and in 1922 Erskine abandoned his family and moved to Waterbury, CT where he began living with his father and step-mother. Vera began supporting herself in a variety of sales-type positions. After a few years of relative stability, Erskine and Vera decided to try to get back together and Vera moved to Waterbury where the family rented a house a few blocks from Erskine’s father and step-mother. They tried that for two years (mid-1926 to mid-1928), but it did not work out any better than before. They divorced – Vera moved back to Bridgeport with the children and Erskine moved back home with his father and step-mother. Erskine would not see his children again for 9+ years.

The next two years were ones of constantly moving and the family had six different addresses, all in Bridgeport.  Finally, in early June 1930, Vera married again, to Charles Rogers, a man 30 years her senior.  The family moved to Danbury which is where Charles lived, then the following summer moved to New Milford, Vera’s hometown.

The family stayed together for the next 4+ years, then my father and his sister moved to Waterbury to live with their paternal grandfather and his second wife.  Charles and Vera remained in New Milford – he then in his early 70’s and she in her early 40’s.  They were still living there in 1948 when I was born.  Sometime in the early 1950’s, being in his late 80’s, Charles moved into an assisted living home in Woodbury.  He had a small room to himself on one of the upper floors.  My grandmother, who was beginning to have mental problems, went into a separate nursing home elsewhere around the same time.

I’ve told the final chapter of Vera’s life before (, so I’ll not repeat that here. She died in a mental institution in the summer of 1963 at the relatively young age of 68. She had a rough life – parents of different religions; a father who died when she was a teenager; a rocky marriage with a separation, getting back together, then a divorce; having to support herself in the middle of the depression; her children moving away when they were only in high school; and dementia.

Perhaps she did have a few happy years when I was younger, but if so I do not have any memories of them. I mostly recall her constant complaining during her long downhill slide with dementia. But she was still my grandmother and I loved her anyway.

Elizabeth [Evans] Russell

“Nana” was an appropriate name for someone who had been born in England. Elizabeth was born in the north of England, in Sheffield, in 1885 to Daniel and Elizabeth [Gage] Evans. Sheffield back then was the center of a significant silver industry, and had been so since the 1740s ( She was one of a large family, having an older half-sister, Kate, two older sisters, Caroline and Lucy, an older brother, Thomas, and a younger sister, Harriet.

Daniel was a laborer in the iron works and sadly passed away when Elizabeth was a young girl. Her older sisters got married, and by 1901, it was Elizabeth (then only 15 and with only a 9th grade education) and her brother Thomas who were working in the silver industry to support the family. Thomas was “spoon and fork buffer” and Elizabeth was a “silver filer”. But this type of life was not to her liking. When she was old enough, she moved south to London and became a domestic servant and dressmaker.

In 1923, Lizzie (as she was then called), at the age of 38, immigrated to the US to begin a new life with her uncle and aunt, William and Florence Scholey, who lived in Waterbury, CT. She arrived with only $60 in her pocket. But she stayed with them only long enough to get established. Within a few years she had become a US citizen and was living in a nearby rooming house and making a living as a dressmaker.

When she married my grandfather, Erskine, in 1933, she was a 48-year old spinster. But Erskine, then 39, was not looking for a love match. He wanted to be able to move out of the house where he was living with his father and step-mother since divorcing his first wife several years earlier. Having someone to run the house and care for him appears to have been the reason for his second marriage. Although Erskine continued to see his father on a daily basis as they worked together in the power house at Scovill, Elizabeth no longer had to support herself – something that she had been doing since being a young girl. When Erskine’s parents finally died in the mid-1940s, Erskine also left that part of his life behind, got a new job as a security guard for Pinkerton, and he and Elizabeth moved into a small house in Prospect. They continued living there for the rest of their lives.

When I was growing up, we used to occasionally visit them in that little house (two rooms downstairs and two upstairs). The living/dining room was always a formal area with antimacassars on all the chairs and sofa. Since she was already in her mid-60s when I was born, I only remember her as a “old lady” and I never knew her as anything else, despite the many things that she had experienced in her life. My grandfather passed away while I was away in graduate school in January of 1970 at the age of 75 and Elizabeth, then called Bessie instead of Lizzie, passed away later that same year at the age of 85.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Memories of a Grandfather

I was going through my boxes of mementos that my mother had left to me when she passed away a few years ago. Among the many items that she kept as “important” were two reports that were written about my father. But these were not the typical ones as they had been written by two of his grandchildren – my son, Chris, and my niece, Alissa.

These are the kinds of things that make for real memories and represent two snapshot views of him through the eyes of his grandchildren. I wonder what my grandchildren will write about me?

            ----------- My Grandfather’s Trip in World War II ---- by Chris Russell ----------

This is the story of one man’s experiences (my grandfather’s) during World War II. It is not the typical story with guns, bombs, airplanes, and fighting. But it is all true, and shows that there were other aspects to the war than made the front pages.

My grandfather served from 1944 to 1946. The reason he was not in the service earlier was because he was one of the designers of some important army equipment. When he was finally drafted there was an army officer who asked people which branch of the service they wanted to be in. But no matter what they said, he would stamp their papers “Army” even though he could have stamped them something else. Just as my grandfather got up to the front of the line the army officer left and a naval officer took over and he started stamping every paper “Navy”. That is how my grandfather got in the navy.

After some training in New York and San Francisco, my grandfather sailed on a ship from California going to New Caledonia, an island in the South Pacific. He has a certificate to show that he crossed the equator on that trip. When you cross the equator for the first time you are supposed to be thrown in the water (they had a swimming pool on the ship). But they missed my grandfather.

My grandfather was assigned to serve on a small sip that was only 100 feet long and 17 feet wide. The ship had a rounded bottom (which is why the ship rolled so easily). It had three floors. The engine room in the hull (which is where my grandfather worked), then there were the dining hall, the bathrooms and the crew’s quarters on the deck, and the bridge and the captain’s quarters right above the crew’s quarters. The ship had a crew of 17 including the captain. The ship was used to carry supplies to many of the islands in the South Pacific that were occupied by the United States so the Japanese wouldn’t take them over again.

The ship was probably a small fishing vessel that had been taken over from a fisherman when the war began. It was all wood and leaked badly. It had to be pumped out every few hours. Once when the pump broke down and they almost sank.

One of the stories that my grandfather told me was when some army soldiers had to transported to another island. They were picked up in the bay surrounded by coral reef. When the boat started out to sea the army men said that they would rather be in the navy because the sailing was smooth. But when the boat passed through the coral reef and into the choppy sea they ate their words. What did they do? They hightailed it to the nearest rail with bad cases of nausea.

Another story that my grandfather told me was at meal times you took your plate in one hand and your cup in the other. When the boat stopped rolling you set your cup down, took a bite, and then picked your cup up again. But sometimes that didn’t work and the food would go everywhere. Once my grandfather thought that if he put the plate on the other side of the table it would slide down to him. It did not work and he got food all over the place.

The natives one [sic] the islands that they carried supplies to were very friendly and would help each other when one of them needed help. When my grandfather and the rest of the crew would stop at an island the natives would come out to the boat in canoes full of stuff to trade for clothes and they wouldn’t leave until they sold all their stuff.

The man operating the controls to the engine was below deck and could not see out so the captain signaled to him with bells and a tube that he could shout through. Once the controls wouldn’t work and the boat couldn’t slow down coming into port where it smashed into the dock. Both the dock and the ship suffered damage.

When the war was over my grandfather came home in a large ship convoy. They were traveling at 7 knots (which is slow) because the slowest ship in their group could only go that fast. They stopped in Hawaii and had a day to relax. Then when they go to California and from there headed up the coast before they were released. Ten days after he finally got back to Connecticut he purposed [sic] to his girlfriend (my grandmother). They were married 5 months later.

                        ---------- Grampy --- by Alissa Rumsey ----------

When I got on the phone with my grandpa he laughed and said, “I’m honored to have you interview me!” I could picture Grandpa, his medium height body sitting in his living room on his favorite leather chair, his blue eyes laughing, and his bald head gleaming. He always laughs, and he is so friendly. Once, when we were in line at Dairy Queen, he struck up a conversation with the women in front of us. Wherever we are, if there are people, he will start talking to someone.

I asked Grampy about his days in the Navy. He told me in a quiet voice that he had picked the Navy over the Army and the Air Force when he was drafted in. He liked where they were stationed (which was in the South Pacific). Since where they were stationed was below the line of fighting, he did not see any “action”. Grampy also told me about what he remembers most, which was the South Pacific natives, and they way they lived. When a house needed to be built the men and boys built it, while the women watched the children. It didn’t cost them anything. “It was a very different from our way of life,” Grampy told me. “They lived simply.” Grampy and the other men on his boat often got seasick because of the rolling and rocking motion. He said it was the worst part of being in the Navy. They had to eat very carefully. “It was very interesting,” Grampy said with a laugh.

“I see one!” my brother shouts. “Over by the telephone pole!” My brother and I are driving to the lake with our Grandparents. One the way, we are helping Grampy with his hobby – collecting cans. My brother, Ben, and I love taking car rides with Grampy because it gives us something to do. We look for cans and when Ben, Grampy, or I spot one, he pulls over and picks it up. You will always find at least one bag of cans in Grampy’s car trunk. Sometimes Ben and I go with him and help him sort them at the store.

The reason Grampy can take us places is because he has so much free time. That is what Grampy likes about his age. He doesn’t have to work or keep a schedule.

When I asked him what makes him most proud, he got quiet then replied, “The thing that makes me most proud is my wonderful family. All my children and grandchildren, and all the love."

Grampy’s biggest responsibility is living and loving every single day in his house in Wolcott, Connecticut, where he my grandma have lived for over fifty years.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Genealogy Story – First Church of Roxbury, MA

This morning I was watching an episode of “Finding Your Roots,” a PBS show which is available on YouTube. One of the individuals being featured was Rick Warren, pastor of a mega-church and author of many books, including “Purpose Driven Life”. As they were exploring how deep his pastoral roots go, they showed a page listing his great*9 grandfather, William Parke, who was one of the founding deacons of the First Church of Roxbury in 1632. But listed right next to that name was one that I recognized, that of George Alcock. Knowing that my Pierpont ancestors lived in Roxbury about that time, I decided to do some further investigation.

The book “History of the First Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts” is available for online reading ( Page 42 is the one that they showed on the above episode. But as I searched through this book, in combination with reviewing my family tree in, I learned much more.

Alcock Family

George Alcock (1600-1640) was one of the founding deacons of this church. His bio is found on page 42. He had been born in England and came to this country in 1630. He was also the older brother of Thomas Alcock (1609-1657). But Thomas is the great-grandfather of John Alcox (1705-1777) who was one of the earliest settlers of my hometown of Farmingbury/Wolcott in 1731. John is then the grandfather of Mary Blakeslee who married Ezra Pierpont (1757-1842). Thus, George Alcock is my great*10 uncle.

Hooker Family

George Alcock’s wife was Elizabeth Hooker and this same page 42 it mentions that she was the sister of the Rev. Thomas Hooker. Thomas Hooker ( was at the time the pastor of the church in Cambridge, MA. However, he had some views that were at odds with other Puritan pastors and only a few years later in 1636, he and about 100 others left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and moved west where they founded what is now Hartford, CT, and the Colony of Connecticut. But my Pierpont readers will remember that the granddaughter of Thomas, Mary Hooker, was the wife of James Pierpont, who was the pastor of the church in New Haven and the ancestor of most of the New England Pierponts. Thus, George (my great*10 uncle) was married to Elizabeth (my great*10 aunt)!

Eliot Family

But the connections do not stop there. The first pastor of the Roxbury church was a man by the name of John Eliot (1604-1690). As noted in his bio on page 17, John received his education in Cambridge, England and was shortly afterward a minister of youth and an assistant teacher of a school which had been founded by Thomas Hooker in Essex, England. The book then states, “This connection with Mr. Hooker proved a great blessing to young Eliot. His example and instruction confirmed Eliot in the belief and practice of Christianity. ‘When I came to this blessed family,’ said he, ‘I then saw as never before, the power of godliness in its lively vigor and efficacy.’ He here resolved to devoted himself to the work of the Christian ministry. This he did when there was nothing in prospect for a Puritan minister but fines and imprisonments.”

Thus it was the influence of my great*10 grandfather that was the catalyst for the first minister of the Roxbury church to become what he did. But the connection doesn’t stop there, for John Eliot is also the great*12 uncle of my wife!

Pierpont Family

The Pierpont family were not part of the charter membership in this church in 1632. John Pierpont (1617-1682) (spelled in the book as Peirpoynt) did not move to Roxbury until 1648. But in 1674 when the church built its second meeting house he is noted on page 67 as being one of the Ruling Elders. George Alcock has passed on by this point, but William Parke is still one of the Deacons. It is also notable that serving as a ruling elder along side of John Peirpoynt is Samuel Williams, the son-in-law of William Parke and thus the great*8 grandfather of Rick Warren.

Also noted on this same page is Ebenezer Pierpont (1694-1755), a grandson of John’s. Ebenezer had joined the church in 1717 and was elected to the position of precinct clerk in 1733. There are Pierpont names (in various spellings such as Pierpoynt, Pairpoynt, Pierrepoint, Peirpont, Peirepont, and Peirpoynt in addition to Pierpont) scattered throughout this book.


There are a few others of note among the pages of this book. They include:
Ralph Hemingway – great-grandfather of Lydia Hemingway who later married Hezekiah Pierpont, one of the children of James Pierpont in New Haven.

Thomas Ruggles – original member with many of his children/grandchildren also having positions of prominence in the church, he was my great*10 grandfather.

The church in Roxbury features prominently in my family history – both through my mothers-side Pierpont ancestors, and through my wife’s ancestry. And now we can both claim a connection to our relatives working along side of Rick Warren’s religious ancestors.

A Major Flaw in My Family Tree? – Part 2

Research into Caleb Russell

I had already located three census records for Caleb – 1800, 1810, and 1820. From these I had an estimated date of birth of 1780 since in the 1800 census he was 18-25 but married, in 1810 he was 26-44 and in 1820 he was also 26-44. In 1810 and 1820 he was living in Dover, NY, the known birthplace of Silas in 1803. He also had a son sometime between 1800 and 1810 which would also be consistent.

In further research I have located the wife of Caleb Russell in a cemetery in Brookfield, CT. Her name was Parmea/Parmelia and she was born around 1780 and died in early 1872 at the age of 91. This would be consistent with the above census records as well. Further research revealed that her maiden name was Smith and she was the daughter of Edward and Demeous [Worden] Smith of Dutchess County. A pension application filed by Demeous in 1845 showed that Parmea had a brother Silas, so that would have been the inspiration for Caleb and Parmea naming their son as family names were very often passed down.

Another interesting connection shows up here as well. The 1833 pension application for Caleb’s father, John, shows that he served during the Revolutionary War under Captain Comfort Ludington in setting up defenses along the Hudson, although Caleb was dead by the time this pension was filed and would not have benefitted from it. But the 1845 pension application for Parmea’s mother, Demeous, showed that Parmea’s father Edward also served under Captain Comfort Ludington and that Parmea was one of the beneficiaries of this pension.

Caleb does not show up in later census records, leading me to believe that he died sometime after 1820. I am fairly well convinced that Caleb is the father of Silas. However, how do I reconcile this with the family of his supposed father John since that name does not appear among the children of John.

In doing some quick checking on geography, I discovered that I was going to have to deal with some changing geographic names. Some history on the Putnam County website revealed the following historical changes. Dutchess County was originally much larger. In 1812, the southern portion was split off and renamed as Putnam County. In 1817 the township of Frederick was renamed to Kent. Since these two changes happened right during the period in question, I would have to adjust my searches accordingly. (

It has occurred to me that perhaps what we have here is an issue of first/middle names. I ran a census check of Dutchess County in the 1800-1830 period to see what Russell families were living here. I found many of the descendants of John (at least those that had been born at the time and who were old enough to have started their families). I also found other of the siblings of John, i.e. the children of Robert. So names like Abijah, Robert, Isaac, John, and James were present. However, the second son of John, Ebenezer, did not appear in any of the records. But Caleb did, and in the 1800 census he was living in the same town, Fishkill, as John, in fact those two entries are right next to each other and the Worden household is only a few entries away! Many of the other children were living in Frederick (later called Kent). Was John’s son Ebenezer really Caleb Ebenezer so that he changed the name he went by after he was old enough?  That seems quick likely, since the dates are consistent, the place he was living was consistent, and one never finds both names at the same time.

I am now convinced that Caleb/Ebenezer is the son of John and that I have my connections correct – and with a whole lot more certainty since I now also have the name of his wife and her ancestry.

Research into Robert Russell

Most of the family trees in for Robert have him listed with a date of birth of 23 Jan 1722 in Andover, and a date of death of 1784 in Kent, NY. But they have no proof of this and it relies of a story of a man who would have left his Russell relatives in the area around Boston and relocated to a farming area north of New York City. These same [aberrant] family trees often show three children of Robert (Jane, John, and James, born in NJ, NY, and Willington, CT respectively). This makes no sense.

Moreover, I have recently located information about Robert’s grave back in Andover with a date of death of 3 January 1794. It does not seem plausible that someone would move from MA to NY, have a son, then move back to MA.

The only reasonable solution is that there were more than one Robert Russell and that people have selected “facts” about two or more of them to build this composite Robert. And others, including myself, have compounded the situation by replicating this composite individual. So let’s get back to the basics and see what we can determine about the Robert who may be the father of John Russell (1756-1833).

One record that we do have is the recording of a marriage between a Robert Russell and a Mary Kipp/Kip that took place in 1754. Mary was 20 at the time and she would have birthed John just two years later. Mary was a descendant of several generations of Kipp ancestors who had been in that part of NY since 1635. Kipp was an anglicized version of de Kype from Hendrik Ruloffzen de Kype who had been born in 1576 in France, then moved to Amsterdam, before his son Hendrik Hendrikszen Kype/Kipp who was born in 1600 came to New Amsterdam in 1637 with his family ( If John is my ancestor and Mary is his mother, this would be consistent with my DNA profile as I’ll detail in the final section of this posting.

I was then able to locate the probated will for Robert in 1811 in Frederick (later Kent), in then Dutchess (later Putnam) County, NY. In it he names his children – Abijah, Jane [Utten?], Margaret, John, James, and Elizabeth [Barrett]. Robert, like his son John and his great-grandson Silas was illiterate and signed his will with an “X”. This seems pretty conclusive that this is not the same Robert Russell who was buried in MA over 15 years earlier. So the remaining question is, where did Robert Russell come from?

At this point in my research, I have resolved items 3, 4, and 5 from my original list of concerns. But to satisfy the remaining issues (related to DNA), then if Robert was an immigrant from Ireland/Scotland everything would be consistent.

Irish/Scottish Immigration

Many of the causes of migration are well documented. The so-called “great migration” from 1620-1640 which resulted in the pilgrims and puritans coming to Massachusetts was caused by religious persecution, and ending during the English civil war in 1641 ( A famine in southern Italy in 1890 led to mass immigration from Italy and Sicily during the period 1890-1917, ending with the entry of the US into WWI ( The Irish potato famine in 1845-1849 led to many immigrants from there ( But 100 years earlier there was mass immigration from Scotland due to the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 ( But the Russell surname is only associated with Scotland, not Ireland ( So combined with the events taking place in Scotland during this period that is the likely place to look.

A birthyear of around 1730-1734 has been assigned to Robert Russell in a few family trees for the reason that he would likely been around the same age as his wife, Mary Kipp and she was born in 1734. Also, since he does not appear in any US records before that time, it is likely that he was an immigrant. Since Robert was illiterate, as evidenced by his “X” when he wrote his will many decades later, there is also little chance that there are other records where he would have appeared. While he does show up in the first US census of 1790, living in North Castle, Westchester County, NY, there is no indication of age except that he is over the age of 16. And his will from 1811 does not provide any clues either.

Unfortunately, immigration records for this time period do not exist, so I was unable to find his coming to this country. However, I was able to find a couple of baptism records in Scotland from 1733 that could have been him. The rest will have to remain conjectural.

What does this all mean?

I now have fairly solid evidence that my Russell ancestors were not part of the Boston Russells who settled in Andover in the 1640s, but were most likely Scottish and came to this country a century later. This makes my family tree consistent with my DNA results.
·       22% Ireland/Scotland/Wales – through my Russell ancestors
·       20% European Jewish – through my grandmother, Vera [Levy] [Russell] Rogers
·       19% Great Britain – through my many English ancestors on the Pierpont side
·       14% Europe West – through the Kipp line, as well as from various Celtic Russell ancestors
·       14% Scandinavia – while I no longer have evidence of a documented line from the Russell ancestors, it’s pretty certain to me that (1) the ancestors of the de Pierrepont family were Vikings as they were the ones who conquered Normandy about 100 years before the original de Pierrepont family owned their castle there, and (2) as the Clan Russell reference above indicates, they believe that they are also descended from the same Baron du Rozel who is the ancestor of the New England Russells.

There are seven or eight blog entries that I’ve written over the years that I will have to post disclaimers to. But that’s a small task. I should also copy this blog to my many Russell relatives letting them know what I’ve found.

I’ll close with something I said before – that I enjoy exploring the intersection between genealogy, geography, and history. That is certain true with this research as you have seen – the genealogy of my Russell ancestors, the geography of the Hudson River Valley and where these events took place (even including renaming of places), and the history of reasons for emigration.

A Major Flaw in My Family Tree? – Part 1

What Flaw?

While I have solid confidence in my family tree on my mother’s Pierpont family tree, I’ve been having increasing concerns about there being a major flaw in my Russell ancestral tree. There are a number of smaller concerns that when added together have been bothering me. Let me list them all.

1.     My DNA shows that I have a major amount of Scottish/Irish/Welsh ancestry (22%). But the only individual in my family tree that might contribute to that is a single individual (my great-great-grandmother) who was reported to have been Irish, but about whom I have not been able to find any documentation. Where is the rest of this part of my DNA coming from?
2.     While I have had a number of individuals linked to me via my DNA on my mother’s side, including many 8th cousins, there are few such individuals on my father’s side, and all of them are 4th cousins or closer.
3.     While I have solid confidence on my research back to my great-great-grandfather, Silas Russell (1803-1886) and have a good descendant tree which shows all the individuals linked to me via DNA and others, I had to make an assumption on who Silas’ father was (Caleb) based on searching census records that were prior to 1850 (the 1850 “wall” where the census only listed the head of household and tic marks for others in the house by age range and gender). But I now wonder if that assumption was correct. I likewise made an assumption about Silas’ grandfather (John) based on there being only one significant Russell family in that part of NY at the time.
4.     I relied on the family trees of others in linking John Russell back to his father Robert Russell in Andover, MA. Even though there were a great many trees in that had that same connection, having a majority rule does not count in genealogy research since a single error can be replicated so many times.
5.     When I did my recent research into illiterate ancestors and noted that I had proof (from government issued pension records) that both Silas and John were illiterate, it concerned me as it is not typical for a literate family to have children that are illiterate. But since it appears that the Andover, MA Russell family were literate (based on their ancestry in upper class England), then why are the NY Russell family illiterate?

The combination of all these separate concerns has made me question this part of my family tree. So for the past few weeks (and whenever I’ve had a few moments to do further research), I’ve been looking for any clues that could either support or contradict what I’ve had posted in my family tree for the past several years.

What I’ve Found So Far

I knew that the key would be to find additional information about the three generations of Russell men in my family tree during this period in NY history. They were: Caleb (abt. 1780-?), John (1756-1833), and Robert (abt. 1722-1784). Since I had the most information about John (much of it coming from his Revolutionary War pension application), I decided to start with him.

Research into John Russell

Most of the family trees I found seemed to have the same set of basic, albeit somewhat limited, facts, names of parents and wife, partial list of children’s names, links to some census records between 1790 and 1830, etc. Some had the link to John’s pension application. But the key item was that there were links to his grave in Putnam County, NY. And this grave contains his date of birth in 1756 and his death in November of 1833.

Then, while doing some additional research outside of, I discovered a website that was real “pay dirt” ( This website contained not only a complete list of John’s two wives and their children and birthdates, but a transcript of John’s will from October 11, 1833. And what gives it additional authenticity is that it is witnessed by the same two men (Bennet Boyd and James Smalley) who attested to John’s “X” signature on his pension application a year earlier (they must have been close neighbors/friends). A copy of this will and list of family members is given below.

As you can see in these, John left money to twelve of his fifteen children, three of them having pre-deceased him. There are sufficient details in this that I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this work and this fills in a large hole in the family tree.

Unfortunately, there are still questions both about Caleb (who does not appear in John’s will or list of family members), and about John’s father Robert. So I am no closer to resolving my questions above. But this is a good stopping point, so I’ll continue this in part 2.

Will of John Russell

WILL: 11 OCT 1833 Putnam Co., NY
The last will and testament of John Russell of the town of Kent, county of Putnam and State of New York

I, John Russell, considering the uncertainty of this mortal life and being of sound mind & memory, Blessings be Almighty God for the same, do make and publish this my last will and testament in manner & form following that is to say:

First, I give and bequeath unto my wife Anna Russell my household furniture.

Second, I give and bequeath unto my son David Russell to him and to his heirs and assigns forever all my real estate after paying to my children herein after named the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars one year after my decease. And further the said David Russell is to support my wife Anna Russell during her natural life.

First the said David Russell is to pay to my son Levi Russell the sum of eight hundred & fifty dollars and fifty cents.
Second to my son Lee Russell the sum of two hundred and eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents.
Third to my son Abijah Russell the sum of three hundred and fifty-four dollars and fifty cents.
Fourth to my son Robert W. Russell the sum of three hundred and fifty-four dollars and fifty cents.
Fifth to my son Isaac Russell the sum of fifty dollars
Sixth to my son William Russell the sum of fifty dollars
Seventh to my son John Russell the sum of one hundred dollars
Eighth to my daughter Phebe Wixson the wife of John Wixsom the sum of fifty dollars
Ninth to my daughter Abigail Russell the sum of one hundred and thirty-three dollars.
Tenth to my daughter Sophiah Robinson wife of Adnijah C. Robinson the sum of one hundred & thirty-three dollars.
Eleventh to my daughter Naomi Ganong wife of Jesse Ganong the sum of one hundred and thirty-three dollars.

And lastly, I do appoint Robert W. Russell & David Russell executors to this my last will & testament herby revoking all former wills by me made. In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand & seal the eleventh day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty three.

John Russell

Signed, sealed, published by the above named John Russell to be his last will and testament in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses in the presence of the testator.

Bennet Boyd, Ken, Putnam County. St. N York
James Smalley, Kent, Putnam County, St. N York

Family of John Russell

Father – Robert Russell, b. abt. 1730, d. Jun 1811, Kent, Putnam Co, NY
Mother – Mary Kip, b. 18 Sep 1734, d. 1808 New Castle, Westchester Co., NY
Married 1754

First wife – Abigail, b. 27 Aug 1754, d. 27 Feb 1798, Kent, Putnam Co., NY
Married abt. 1775
William – 2 Aug 1778 – 7 Feb 1846
Ebenezer – abt. 1781 – bef. 1833
Elizabeth – 7 Oct 1783 – Dec 1819
Phebe – 22 May 1788
Robert W. – 16 Aug 1790 – 3 Feb 1858 (Wisconsin)
Abigail – 4 May 1784 – 19 Mar 1863
Isaac – abt. 1785

Second wife – Anna Wixom, b. 30 Jul 1769, d. 15 Aug 1848
Married aft. 1798
Lee – 7 Jan 1800 – 28 Mar 1888
Abijah – 22 Feb 1801 – 2 May 1881 (Tioga Co. NY)
David – 1803 – 1858
Margaret – 1805 – bef. 1833
John Russell, Jr. – 20 Apr 1808
Sophiah – 1809
Naomi – 5 Jul 1812
Levi – 25 Oct 1813 – 16 Sep 1896

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Founding Fathers of the United States

Because the US celebrates the Fourth of July each year as a federal holiday, it’s easy to think that the founding of the US was a single event. Earlier this year I posted in my blog a list of the signers of the Declaration of Independence on that date in 1776 who were from my home state of Connecticut and how each of these men were related to me (*1). I also included in this list those individuals from Connecticut who signed the Articles of Confederation (1781) or the Constitution (1789).

But the founding of the US was a much longer process than even these three documents and this range of dates indicates. The first meeting of delegates of the several colonies to act collectively was in 1754 and was known as the Albany Congress (*2). Representatives of seven of the colonies met for four weeks in Albany, NY to discuss better relations with the American Indian tribes and common defensive measures against the French threat from Canada. This was the first time that American colonists had met together.

It wasn’t until eleven years later that another such meeting of representatives from the various colonies was held. This meeting was held in 1765 in New York City and was known as the “Stamp Act Congress” (*3). This meeting was to devise a unified protest against the Stamp Act which had been recently passed by the British Parliament.

Nine years later, in response to the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774. These were meant to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance. In response to this, the colonies met together yet again in what was known as the First Continental Congress (*4). There they organized an economic boycott of Great Britain and petitioned the king for a redress of grievances in a paper known as the Continental Association.

The Revolutionary War began the following year (1775) when the British attempted to disarm the Massachusetts militia at Concord and Lexington. The Second Continental Congress began meeting a few months later. They established the Continental Army in June of 1775, coordinated the war effort and issued the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776. The Revolutionary War would drag on for several more years, not ending until the surrender of the British at Yorktown in 1781. Meanwhile, the Continental Congress continued meeting and coordinating the war effort.

In addition, this Congress designed a new government and ratified their work with the publication of the Articles of Confederation in 1781. This gave the Congress a new name, the Congress of the Confederation, which met from 1781 to 1789, guiding the United States through the final part of the war and the first several years of peacetime. However, under the Articles, Congress had little power to compel the individual states to comply with its decisions and delegates often declined to serve. It was not until this Congress drafted the United States Constitution in 1789 that our current form of government was established.

Thus, from the initial meeting of representatives in 1754, it was 35 years until the Constitution was ratified in 1789. While we often remember some of the men involved during this span of time such as George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, they were only a few of the more than 400 individuals who were involved in this process. Some of the men who represented their colonies in the earlier years had passed away by the end of the process. But the collective wisdom of all of them help guide and shape this country.

In this posting, I’d like to focus on those 32 men who represented my home state of Connecticut in these various efforts and to document my relationship to each of them. This promises to be a long posting and a lot of research, but I’m hoping to learn as much from it as my readers. (Note that many of these individuals are related to one another, especially to the Wolcott family.)


Connecticut Representatives to the Albany Congress

William Pitkin (1694-1769)
William’s great-aunt, Martha Pitkin, married Simon Wolcott, so he is the 2nd cousin of Oliver Wolcott (see next entry).

Oliver Wolcott (1726-1797) – signed Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation
            See *1 for his relationship to me

Elisha Williams (1694-1755)
Elisha is the uncle of William Williams (see below) who was a representative to the Continental Congress. See *1 for the relationship of William Williams to me.

Connecticut Representatives to the Stamp Act Congress

Eliphalet Dyer (1721-1807) – signed Continental Association
Eliphalet is the father-in-law of Joseph Trumbull (see below) who was a delegate to the Continental Congress. See *1 for the relationship between the Trumbull family, William Williams, and myself.

William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819) – signed Constitution
            See *1 for his relationship to me

David Rowland (1719-1794) – signed Continental Association
David’s mother’s last name was Andrews and his great*2 grandfather was Francis Andrus who is my great*9 grandfather and who emigrated in the early 1600s. This makes David my 3rd cousin, 7 times removed.

Connecticut Representatives to the Continental Congress

Andrew Adams (1736-1797) – signed Articles of Confederation
            See *1 for his relationship to me

Joseph Platt Cooke (1730-1816)
Joseph’s great*2 grandfather was Richard Platt (b. 1603) who is also a great*8 grandfather of my wife, making Joseph a 3rd cousin, 7 times removed of my wife.

Silas Deane (1738-1789) – signed Continental Association
            Silas is my 4th cousin, 8 times removed.

Eliphalet Dyer – see above

Pierpont Edwards (1750-1826)
Son of Calvinist preacher, Jonathan Edwards, and grandson of Rev. James Pierpont, he is my first cousin, 6 times removed.

Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807)
Oliver’s wife was Abigail Wolcott, a cousin (once removed) of Oliver Wolcott. See *1 for the relationship of Oliver Wolcott to me.

Titus Hosner (1736-1780) – signed Articles of Confederation
            See *1 for his relationship to me

Benjamin Huntington (1736-1800)
Benjamin’s father-in-law’s first wife was Elizabeth Edwards. She was a sister of Jonathan Edwards and a sister-in-law of Sarah Pierpont, my great*7 aunt.

Samuel Huntington (1731-1796) – signed Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation
            See *1 for his relationship to me

William Samuel Johnson – see above

Richard Law (1733-1806)
Richard’s son married Lucretia Wolcott, a niece of Oliver Wolcott (above). See *1 for Oliver Wolcott’s relationship to me.  

Stephen Mix Mitchell (1743-1835)
Stephen’s granddaughter, Marie Chester, married Lewis Strong (related to Jedediah Strong below), the 5th cousin, 3 times removed, of my uncle Robert Hill.

Jesse Root (1736-1822)
Jesse is a cousin of Jedediah Strong and a 5th cousin, 4 times removed, of my uncle Robert Hill.

Roger Sherman (1721-1793) – signed Continental Association, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution (the only signer of all four of these documents)
            See *1 for his relationship to me

Joseph Spencer (1714-1789)
Joseph’s great-grandfather was Isaac Willey. Isaac is the great*7 grandfather of my daughter-in-law, making him the 2nd cousin, 6 times removed of my daughter-in-law.

Jonathan Sturges (1740-1819)
Jonathan’s mother was Ann Burr and his 2nd cousin, twice removed was Aaron Burr (father of the Aaron Burr who shot Alexander Hamilton). Aaron Burr was married to my 1st cousin, 7 times removed, Esther Edwards, who is a sister to Pierpont Edwards (above).

James Wadsworth (1730-1816)
James’ great*2 uncle, Joseph Noyes, married my great*7 aunt, Abigail Pierpont.

Jeremiah Wadsworth (1743-1804)
Jeremiah’s wife was Mehetable Russell, my 1st cousin, 7 times removed.

William Williams (1731-1811) – signed Declaration of Independence
            See *1 for his relationship to me

Oliver Wolcott – see above

Connecticut Representatives who were elected to the Continental Congress but who declined to serve

John Canfield (1740-1786)
John is my great*7 uncle.

Charles Church Chandler (1746-1787)
Charles was married to Maria Griswold who is the daughter of Ursula Wolcott and the niece of Oliver Wolcott (above). See *1 for relationship of Oliver Wolcott to me.

John Chester (1749-1809)
John’s great-grandfather was James Pierpont, my great*7 grandfather, making John my 2nd cousin, six times removed.

James Hillhouse (1754-1832)
Son of William Hillhouse (below).

William Hillhouse (1728-1816)
William’s wife was Sarah Griswold, sister-in-law to Ursula Wolcott who was a sister of Oliver Wolcott (above). See *1 for relationship of Oliver Wolcott to me.

William Pitkin, IV (1725-1789)
Son of William Pitkin (above) who participated in the Albany Congress, and thus a 2nd cousin once removed of Oliver Wolcott. See *1 for relationship of Oliver Wolcott to me.

Jedediah Strong (1738-1802)
Jedediah is the 4th cousin, 4 times removed, of my uncle Robert Hill.

John Treadwell (1745-1823)
John’s mother was Mary Ann Porter and his 4th cousin was Esther Porter. Esther is also my 1st cousin, 7 times removed.

Joseph Trumbull (1737-1778)
Joseph is the son of a former governor of Connecticut, John Trumbull. See *1 for the relationship between the Trumbull family, William Williams, and myself.