Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter

In my last post I mentioned I was waiting for the results from a researcher I hired to do local research in a geographical area (Cayuga County, NY) where I was unlikely to spend time.  I received an email this past weekend that the research was complete, that she hoped to mail it to me this week and that she hadn’t expected to find anything new for me, but that she “might have a surprise that [I] haven't considered. If it turns out to be true, it may open new avenues of research...”

I haven’t been able to focus since.

I’ve been spending my time flailing about, occasionally trying new search techniques, hoping to hit on a nugget here or there, just to keep myself occupied.  Mostly, I’ve been using sibling research to locate parent information I haven’t been able to locate through my direct ancestors.  So far, I’ve only had one success, but it was the distraction I needed.

My great-great-grandfather, James Gaskill, was married to Elizabeth (also known as Betsey in one census).  I hadn’t been able to track down a maiden name, even with the help of the Tioga County Historical Society.  Using my great-grandfather’s name, Everett, hadn’t gotten me anywhere either.  On Family Search, I used his brother’s first name only (Sylvanus), his father’s full name and his mother’s first name.  Just like that I had a death certificate from Washington State with both parents’ full names.  My great-great-grandmother was Elizabeth Brown.

That ties in to a family legend told to me by my mom—that we were related to John Brown, the abolitionist.  I already knew John Brown would be at most a distant cousin because I’d already investigated his immediate family tree.  I haven’t had much success finding the link and I probably won’t spend too much time on it.  I know my mom would like to know if the story is true, but I’m more interested in finding out who Elizabeth’s parents were.

Since Elizabeth lived her married life in Tioga County, NY, I started with local history books that I already had for my Gaskill ancestors.  I discovered some Browns from Berkshire, MA who were early settlers and established Brown’s Settlement.  Interestingly, there was a John Brown who would have been about the right age for Elizabeth’s father.  So maybe we are related to John Brown…just not THE John Brown.  I haven’t found any specifics on her parents, but I’m continuing to look.  Eventually I’ll make an inquiry at the Tioga County Historical Society, but their facility is recovering from the serious floods of last fall and they currently aren’t able to handle any requests.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll spend some time organizing files.  That should keep me busy until…oh is that the mailman?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mayflower connection? A Gossamer Thread

My mom told me she had always heard that one of her family lines goes back to the Mayflower.  I haven’t found it yet, but maybe someday I will.  On the other hand, my paternal line involved expectations of a much more recent immigration.  But, it turns out that I may have stumbled onto a Mayflower connection there.  I’ve been unraveling the mysteries of the Murray line, originally thought to be Irish, but now looking more and more like Scotch Irish or even just Scottish.  I’ve kept at my effort in spite of the fact that I’ve uncovered only tiny tidbits here and there over the last few months.  I even hired a researcher to do some local research for me (I’m waiting for the report now). 

While waiting for the results from the researcher, I didn’t want to spend any significant amount of time on the Murray line in order to avoid duplicating efforts.  I decided I’d take a shot at the Snow line (My ggg grandmother, Ruth Snow, married James Murray).

I started with some broad searches and something caught my eye.  Nicholas Snow who married Constance Hopkins, daughter of Stephen Hopkins, original Mayflower passenger, kept popping up in the search results.  My gg grandfather named one of his sons Hopkins, and his mother, Ruth Snow, was born in Massachusetts, according to census records.  I had no reason to believe this was anything other than a coincidence, yet my intuition was telling me otherwise.  So I ramped up my Snow research.

I began narrow, specific searches and actually found a Ruth Snow born in the right year (1784) and in Rochester, MA.  I hoped this was the right person, but as my searches had shown, there are a lot of Ruth Snows out there.  This Ruth’s parents were David Snow and Phebe Stetson.  I was a little skeptical that she would be so easily found.

So how and why did my Ruth end up in the Finger Lakes area of New York if she was the daughter of David and Phebe?  I spent a lot of time searching for any kind of death record for either David or Phebe, hoping to find something from New York, especially from Cayuga County.  Nothing.  Finally, I decided to search the words “david snow” phebe and Cayuga.  I found a reference to a David Snow as an early settler in Cayuga County in the second page of search results.  On the fourth page of results, the summary included “David Snow and Phebe, his wife, of Onondaga”—Onondaga County is a neighboring county to Cayuga.  It linked to a PDF of genealogical notes for other families, but a page on land transactions in the Military Tract of Cayuga County had David and Phebe listed as landowners in Cayuga County!  I quickly added this to my research request and hopefully I’ll learn more when I get the report on the Murray line.

I think it’s likely I’ve got the right family, so I couldn’t resist researching more about David.  In the NEHGS online databases, I found a David, born in 1752 in Rochester, MA to Isaac and Thankfull.  I then found and Isaac Snow, born in 1719 in Rochester, MA to Jonathan.  Then thanks to the NEHGS Register being online, I found Isaac Snow, born 1719-20 who married Thankful King.  This Isaac was the son of Jonathan.  Looks like a match.  Again from the Register--Jonathan was the son of Nicholas, who was the son of Mark, who was the son of the Nicholas Snow and Constance Hopkins.

The evidence certainly isn’t sufficient to apply to the Mayflower Society, but if I had the inclination to do the work, I think Ruth Snow would get me there.