ancestryink fisherman

Monday, April 29, 2013

Maritime Monday

I have a confession to make:  When I started this blog it was with the intention of sharing the genealogical research information that I had learned during my course at BU, and also the many new sources I was discovering every day.

However, I also had an ulterior motive.  I wanted to start the day writing a short blog post to jump-start my own daily writing sessions.  In essence - to "oil" the writing engine for my personal projects, which are specifically maritime-related.

The blog quickly took on a vital life of its own and as any blogger knows, can actually consume a fair amount of daily writing hours which at times, can end up robbing a few hours from my long-term writing projects.

Solution? Taking a cue from my fellow bloggers who post "special interest days" on their blogs,  I formulated a plan. In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, once a week I will be allotting a blog post specifically to maritime interests: sea captains (and their families), ships, commerce, whaling, adventures on the seas, and of course...shipwrecks.  "Maritime Monday."    I hope you will look forward to reading "Maritime Monday" as much as I will enjoy writing it.

HARLAN PAGE NYE  : 1834 - 1860

I know you will recognize Harlan.  He's been featured briefly in this blog before.  Harlan Page Nye's unusual gravestone in the North Falmouth Cemetery tells the tale of his death:  "Taken down by a line attached to a whale..."  Harlan died at the young age of 23, in the cold waters off Alaska, 21 Aug 1860.  Last night I photographed his stone again, surrounded by spring flowers.

More is known about Harlan and his family, now.

Death record for Harlan P. Nye, died "At Sea"
Capt. Charles Jarvis Nye and Prudence Price were Harlan's parents.  The town of Falmouth has in its possession a fascinating and detailed accounts ledger written by three generations of Nye men: Shubael, David, and Charles J. (Harlan's g-grandfather, grandfather, and father.  The ledger entries which detail life in this seaside and farming community,  span a century, 1768 - 1871, and come to an end at the death of Harlan's father,  Charles.

From local records, we know that the Nye men were farmers with personal involvement in coastal trade.  Successful farmers in the area often built their own vessels, gathered a crew, and shipped their own goods around the Cape and Islands.  There are many "farmers" in Falmouth that also hold the title "Captain."  And many sons of farmers and captains shipped off to sea in whalers to earn their living.

Harlan Page Nye was one of these sons.  The New Bedford Shipping and Whaling Transcript newspaper lists Harlan P. Nye, of North Falmouth, Mass. as one of the "boatsteerers" on the whaling bark,  J. D. Thompson, Capt. William Waterman.   (Click on all images for larger view)

The ship sailed from New Bedford 31 Aug 1858 bound for the North Pacific.  Whaling crew list archives held at the New Bedford Public Library also show Harlan P. Nye as "stearsman."  The ship carried men from the local area and as far away as New Jersey.

The J. D. Thompson would return to New Bedford in 1861 almost three years to the day - without Harlan Page Nye aboard.  He was pulled into the colds seas by a whale, exactly a year before the J. D. Thompson would return to port.

About the J. D. Thompson:

The bark was built in 1855 in New Bedford, and abandoned, trapped in ice,  in the Arctic seas in 1871.  She was most likely named for John D. Thompson Esq., a prominent New Jersey statesman and businessman.

Artist William Bradford (1823-1891, b. Fairhaven, Mass.) a well-known painter of ships of the Arctic seas,  painted a dramatic portrait of the majestic ship:

Whaling bark J. D. Thompson, by William Bradford, oil painting

The following list shows her whaling voyages, including Harlan P. Nye's fateful trip, and as far as records seem to indicate - his first and only whaling trip ever.

How did Harlan Page Nye die?  Anyone familiar with the term "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" will understand.  Traditionally, in the 1800's, whales were harpooned with lines attached, often dragging the whalers long distances before the whale died - a dangerous pursuit sometimes ending in the sinking of the boat, or loss of crew members attached to those lines.  This 1876 painting by an unknown artist, shows whaling in the Azores - a good depiction of a line attached to a whale, and a courageous man - much like 23 year old Harlan Page Nye - on the other end.

A line on a whale (click for larger image)

Sources for this article:;; newspapers:
National Maritime Digital Library:
New Bedford Public Library; Whaling Archives;; William Bradford, painter:
The Book of Falmouth; edited by Mary Lou Smith, "Shubael Nye Account Book," by William Dunkle;  publisher: Falmouth Historical Society, 1986.  pp 296-297
Original gravestone photograph by AncestryInk, 2013, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When Does a Fish Become a Fisher: Confusing Name Changes in the 1800's

The plot has thickened in regards to Capt. Micajah C. Fisher mentioned in my previous post.  Capt. Fisher's gravestone resides at the Waquoit Bay (or Bay View) Cemetery in E. Falmouth.  You will remember that I mentioned he was a successful whaling captain.  And also that my initial research of him produced census records dating 1837 - 1870, approximately.   But before that, he was not to be found.  Hmmmm.

And I did ruminate on the fact that "Fish" is a more common name than "Fisher," in my last post.    I also did ruminate that since his wife, Alice Ewer Bourne, was born in Sandwich, Mass., it might be likely Micajah was from that town, as well.

This turned out to be true!  But, here is the confusing part:  Micajah Chadwick Fish was born to David Fish and Sylvia Hatch of Sandwich, Mass., 07 Feb 1814.
David & Sylvia Fish Family of Sandwich from town records book
 Fortunately, his given and middle names are distinctive enough to be sure there is no mistaking this Fish/Fisher identity and his birth date corresponds to the one on his gravestone at the Waquoit cemetery.

However, the next available (online) record for him is his marriage in 1837 to Alice Bourne in which he is listed as "Fisher."   The 1850, 1860, and 1870 Census records for Micajah list all his children as little Fishers: Sarah, Elizabeth, Clara, Lyman, Nellie, Alfred...

Looks like a pretty clear and consistent change-of-name, perhaps dating to around the time of his marriage, right?

Not so.  Here is a record of his daughter Clara's birth, 22 Jul 1852.  She is listed as "Clara M Fish." Michajah and "Alles" are also called "Fish."

Clara M. Fish, b. 1852
 Five years later, arrives Nellie F. "Fish," 29 Jun 1857.   Again, her birth records says "Fish" for all of them.

However, daughter Sarah, who was born much earlier in 1844, and well before Nellie and Clara, is listed as "Fisher" on her birth record.

And son Lyman, born smack dab in between Clara and Nellie, in 1854, is listed as a "Fisher" on his birth record.

So, it looks like this, chronologically for the children's birth records:  "Fisher - Fish - Fisher - Fish"

To make things even more fun, all the christening records for the children list them as "Fishers." 

Meanwhile, whaling records fort Capt. Micajah dated before and after his marriage (crew records which I referred to in my last post) list him as distinctly "Capt. Micajah C. Fisher."  No Fish there.

Perhaps when Micajah Fish began his career as a whaling captain, he thought it appeared unseemly to be named "Fish," and changed to "Fisher," a more appropriate name given his vocation.

Seriously, one has to take into consideration the novelties and quirks of record-keeping in small towns during the 1800's.  That could explain some of the seeming flip-flops of the Fish family. 

Sometimes, surnames were altered to separate a branch of the family from another.  Or to avoid the name being associated with one of a criminal, for example.  Both seem unlikely.  Micajah's "Fish" surname comes from a long line of "Fish" in the town of Sandwich, dating to 1648 and Nathan Fish.  So, even if those Fish were among the earlier, persecuted Quakers of Sandwich, (Micajah's wife Alice Bourne was a Quaker, after all, so perhaps he was too?) a change of name in the mid- 1800's would seem irrelevant, given the Quaker problems had calmed down.

The early horrors of Quaker persecution
 Am I making sense?  In essence, what I am saying is that it seems there is no social or political reason to make a Fisher out of a Fish, here.

 Whatever the case, Capt. Micajah's gravestone etches his name in stone as "Fisher," for all eternity.  I have yet to find a death record for him - a mission that actually began this whole Fish/Fisher thing.  I was simply curious as to whether he died at sea!  That question still remains unanswered.  Argh.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Blessing of Garden Trowels and Fishing Rods

Waquoit is a rural, seaside village located in the eastern portion of Falmouth, Mass.  Sunday morning, I attended the Earth Day church service at the quaint Waquoit Congregational Church.  I had to smile when church members asked me 'how I happened to find them.'  The little church stands serenely overlooking the busy main road in all its simple beauty.  It is hard to miss.

Waquoit Congregational Church

This excerpt from the church website describes the history of the church:

"On March 24, 1847, 10 people met and decided to build a meetinghouse in their neighborhood and so the Second Congregational Church came to be.  It is reported that this church helped the community gain focus and become the true village of Waquoit.  It didn’t become Waquoit Congregational Church until 1863.  The church was marked on harbor charts to help sailors find their way..."

Rev. Nell Fields conducted the service, at one point dodging the tip of someone's fishing rod which had been leaned against the altar for a good blessing. She joked about losing an eye.  Garden trowels and tackle boxes were among the tools of local hobby and trade, placed at the altar.  I regretted not bringing my own tackle box, as my fervent hope this summer is at least a couple of good striped bass caught in the Falmouth Great Pond, next to my home.

The blessing speaks to the historical nature of this community dating back to the early 1800's.  It is both rural and seaside.  The Waquoit Bay Cemetery just a bit further down the road overlooks the ocean.  Saturday,  the church held a Farmer's Market in the church hall. I dropped in before dropping over to the intriguing little cemetery overlooking the ocean.

 Local farmers displayed good early broccoli, delicate salad mixes, herbs, preserves and many other fruits of their labor.  I got a sense of how many farms exist in the area.  Normally, I would not share my dinner with you, but last night's meal of local salad greens adorned with the peppery nasturtium blossoms, and local cod, seemed a fitting end to this day.

Back to the cemetery: a walk through the Waquoit graveyard revealed a number of sea captain's graves, just as I suspected.

One Captain Micajah C. Fisher rested there.  His epitaph:  "He is at rest his voyage of life is ended."

Capt. Micajah C. Fisher d. 1872, aged 58
"Fish" is a common local name around here, but "Fisher," less so.  In fact, "Fisher" is more common on Martha's Vineyard.  I decided to do a little research at home.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum's online records revealed that Micajah C. Fisher was a very successful whaling captain.  He sailed the Atlantic and Hudson Bay areas, sometimes at sea for three  years at a time.  One such trip between 1858-1861 yielded 703 sperm whale, aboard the bark "Orray Taft" built in Providence, RI and sailing out of New Bedford.  A Mary Fisher was one of the first two Quakers to arrive in Plymouth, Mass in 1656, where they were jailed and guarded for a month.

 He married Alice Bourne,  the daughter of Jarvis Bourne, another captain, and for a time, also the superintendent of the town Poor House.  Alice's mother, Phoebe Ewer, was the daughter of Quakers from Sandwich.  Ewers were among persecuted Quakers.  Alice and Micajah had a number of children.  Census records for Micajah's family in Waquoit are easily found for at least 30 years.  However, I have not found proof of his birthplace and parents, but the fact that he married a Quaker daughter indicates his origins may spring from the early persecuted Sandwich Quakers, as well.

Rich maritime, religious, and farming history exists in tiny Waquoit Village.   I look forward to more research...and many more events around the Waquoit Congregational Church.


All text and photos copyright AncestryInk 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Ship Tunnel?

I am wrung out.  Since Monday, like most of us, I have been tensely-riveted to the Boston news, following the pursuit and capture of the two Marathon bombers.  I find it hard to cheer, exactly, since the events of last Monday have such long-term devastating results for so many.  However - a huge sigh of relief to find the second suspect taking refuge under the tarp of a boat,  up on chocks, wintering over in a backyard in Watertown, MA.  (Now, probably one very un-seaworthy boat!)

This brought to mind how many times men have taken refuge in boats, either as stowaways to a new land, for pleasure, or simply to earn their living on the high seas - a place they felt most at home. I happen to know that my (now infamous) master mariner great-grandfather once spent at least part of a year living on his boat, landlocked in a friend's backyard, in Owl's Head, Maine while he was working on barges for a fishery in Rockland.  His census record for that year actually included this detail.

Ship's tunnel. BBC online news magazine article. AFP photo.

With all this boat stuff in mind, this morning I noticed that the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine (one of my Facebook friends)  just happened to post a link to this BBC news article on their Facebook page, entitled "Who, what, why: Why Build a Ship Tunnel?"  The Norwegian government has okay-ed the massive project to construct a "ship tunnel."  This will be the only existing ship tunnel, built through solid rock, and will accommodate large freighters and passenger ships.   Though canals are not new, never has an actual tunnel for ocean travel been constructed.

According to the article, this fascinating and massive project was originally imagined in the 19th century.  Engineers explain that its purpose is not for speed of passage, but for safety, mentioning the history of accidents and deaths since WWII on Norway's ocean shipping lines - a country that relies on shipping for a great deal of its trade.
The Russian cruiser "Murmansk" wrecked off Norway coast, 1994
 The tunnel, unlike a canal, will remove the threats of extreme weather and bad seas, citing among others,  the 2004 near-wreck of a cruise ship carrying almost 200 passengers, due to rough weather. 

Safety in boats did not work out too well for the 19 year old Marathon bomber, but perhaps the Ship Tunnel will serve a better purpose, in this respect.  And if they complete the project, it would be a incredible voyage to make.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the Homefront

While others are enjoying the stimulating lectures and events of NERGC, I am (necessarily and regrettably) at home 'taking care of business.'   One of these tasks involves making the blog friendlier for readers.

Streamlining the AncestryInk blog:

1.  The Contact and Copyright pages have been combined into one page.  You can find this in the upper right hand menu of the blog. 

2.   There is now a dedicated page for genealogy blogs called "Blogger links," also found in the upper right hand menu of blog.  This allows for less clutter on the home page of blog and more room to include a well-rounded list of interesting and informative (and fun) genealogy blogs. 

If you would like to be included in this list, please contact me either via email, or comment at bottom of this post.

Thanks!   To all there, have a great time at the Conference today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Free International Marriage Records

Just a little good news to end the day: is offering members early, free access to international marriage records.

It begins today and lasts through April 21st.  Members, check your email.  You should have received a notice about this.  Marriage records can hold such a great deal of information about our ancestors, I wanted to make sure you didn't miss one day of this special offer.  Good luck with the bride and groom!

When bad things happen, like the bombing yesterday in my beloved city of Boston, I sometimes find solace and perspective by searching through historic events for similar situations.  Maybe it is just to reassure myself that the clock kept ticking, human courage was observed, people recovered and fearlessly went on about their days, and the city renewed itself. 

Two significant explosions happened in Boston: one in 1875 and the other in 1897.

What is the difference between these two events, and yesterday's horrific occurrence? 

These earlier events in history were accidental and due to burst gas mains.  No one intentionally prepared explosives meant to kill and maim as many people as possible.  They were no less tragic, but it gives one pause to think that in our current climate of worldwide terrorism, our advances in technology, science and communication, and yes - government precautions - have probably lessened the amount of accidental tragedies, while random terrorism events of deadly force outside of the theater of war, by individuals or groups, have increased.  (Though, we still cannot control hurricanes, avalanches, mudslides, and tornadoes!)

Here is a news clipping following the 1875 explosion: *

The gas main led from the Federal Street bridge in Boston, up along the causeway towards Dorchester Ave. in South Boston.  It was believed that cold air trapped gas from the leaking main, below ground, and something ignited it.  The drawbridge at this location had been raised for some time, and 300 - 400 people were gathered waiting to cross from Boston to their homes in South Boston.  It was reported there was a flash, then an explosion and then debris and pavement, and some people,  flying from 175 ft. beyond the explosion point, and into the river.  There was a significant death toll and many wounded.  Two years later, the newspapers still reported on the continuing investigation of this gas main explosion.

The 1897 explosion took place at Tremont and Boylston Streets.  Again, a gas main exploded in a busy intersection of downtown Boston. Seven people died and many others were injured.  Buildings for hundreds of feet in all directions were damaged, "cars, cabs, drays and horses destroyed."

Boston police prove to be historically brave.  It was reported that "the coolness of the large squad of police...allayed much of the excitement."

click for larger image of newspaper 1897 explosion
This massive explosion is well-known in Boston's history.  Boston was constructing its first underground subway system.  The Ultimate History Project website includes a nice article entitled "Boston's First Big Dig: The 1897 Explosion,"  with historic photos of this congested area of Boston after the explosion. The following image is from their website.

1897 Explosion at Boylston and Tremont.
The following excerpt from this article is an impressive rendition of the force and effect of the explosion:

"Witnesses later testified that a tremendous boom echoed through the city just before the explosion.  Plate-glass windows shattered in almost all the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the eruption.  In the nearby Miller Piano Company, pianos vibrated and shook, adding to the din and chaos. "

Blame was sought, and the 1897 explosion investigation turned up the fact that the gas main had been reported leaking for two years.

Boston will recover - just like it did in the past.  Bostonians are courageous, stoic, take-no-nonsense folks.  Good people with a huge spirit of love and pride for their city.  Like NYC, Boston will not fall victim to fear and panic.  It's good to remember this as we view the increasing plethora of video footage and news coverage of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon - a day that has now taken its place in history for all the wrong reasons.

* news clippings from subscription database:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crashing in the Cemetery - An Update on the LegacyTec app

I like to update previous posts as quickly as possible.  Late yesterday afternoon, I took my iPhone loaded with the app, to the nearby Oak Grove Cemetery.  Here, I knew there was at least one famous interment, that of Katherine Lee Bates. A former citizen that Falmouth, MA is happy to claim as its own.  If there were to be a headstone from any cemetery in Falmouth, uploaded to BillionGraves, I thought her stone might be the one.  She did, after all, pen "America the Beautiful."

Katherine Lee Bates, Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth MA
This is the long and short of it.  The long part is how long it takes you to figure out their menu for the first time.  I wouldn't say I'm a living-in-a-dark-basement Geek, but I have plenty of tech-related skills.

 The short of it is how after a couple of seconds, the app repeatedly crashes, no matter what part of the menu options you are in.

For instance, I clicked on the LegacyTec portion of the menu.  This is the option that allows you to upload photos and info to their database, and also to determine beforehand, if that headstone you just photographed is already in their database.

Took the photo, tried to upload - crash!

Next, while still in the graveyard, I thought I would see if the FamilySearch part of the app would work (after all - it could be that I have an ancient iPhone 4??)  This option should allow you to search the FamilySearch database, just as you would at home.

Maybe I'm eternally logged in on my home computers, but I had to either "log in" or "create a new account" with their entry.  Hmmm.  They do mention in their app notes, that it is a "free" database....but they still require you to log in.  Fine.  I managed to remember my log-in info.  After entering Katherine Lee Bates name into their search page (a good test subject since she was right in front of me) -  you guessed it:  the app crashed.  When I tried to go back, it required me to log in, every single time! And crashed every single time. Annoying.

Sometimes the app didn't crash, but instead presented you with the search windows, and yet when typing in the info, nothing appeared.  Not even the first letter of the name.

I again attempted to upload a photo (maybe I had a bad signal before?) and when that option crashed each time, I gave up.

This morning, I thought I would try the app again.  Maybe being on my home wifi would make a difference (though this kind of defeats the purpose of a mobile app.)  No luck.  Same situation.  At least this time, I was actually able to log in more than Katherine Lee Bates name in to the part of app.  It performed like their usual database online  And then, before giving any results...crashed.  Frustrating.

Obviously, people are having success with the app.

BillionGraves blog announced the "winner" for March, for uploading photos.  Someone named "Pergler" literally entered 15,000+ photos in one month!  How is that possible?    Did I do my math wrong, or is that about 500 photos a day?  For this, Pergler received a $50 Visa gift card. That would barely cover gas for the car to get to that many gravestones, even with a Prius. (The blog specifically says "pictures" so it is not about multiple names on one headstone.) Perhaps Pergler represents a whole boy scout troop, or something like that.

I will keep trying...

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I was researching a sea captain on this morning and, for the first time, was directed to an outside website called ""  I had read about them somewhere, but this is the first time they appeared in the "Results" list for my research.

They are a Utah-based company with a goal to record one billion gravestone images.  At first glance, I wondered why they were any different than ""  It seems to be all in the technology. Blog page

Two weeks ago, they released an app for your smart phone/tablet called "Legacy Mobile."  This app is actually something I have been longing for.  As a frequent Photo Contributor to, I have wished for a more streamlined process via the iPhone.

At you can use your device to take a photo of a gravestone, and if that headstone has already been added to their archive, it will give you all the pertinent information about that person.  If it hasn't been added yet, you can add it yourself, with the photo, right then and there.

It also allows you to create a family tree without being connected to the internet (as is necessary with the app which I admit to finding maddening and relatively unhelpful) and the app syncs with and Billiongraves to allow you to research your ancestors on the go.

The website and their operation as a whole, is clearly tech-oriented and designed to connect.  Their blog instructs you to join their FB page, and the right side-bar of the blog gives you a running list of the latest Tweets.  You can also sign up to win a mini-iPad. Prizes are always fun and create fan-ship.

Additionally, they have a running Newsfeed on their home page, indicating how many gravestone images are being added all over the country, in real time.  Kind of cool to watch this.

I have downloaded the app, and before I give further details about more facets of their website and app,  will report back to you as to how unique, helpful, easy-to-use the BillionGraves format proves to be. 

I am often nagged by a sense of being "the last to know."  If anyone has been using Billion Graves, I would love to hear about your experience, so please drop a comment here.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cemetery Browsers Beware the Unexpected Hitchhiker

East End Meeting House Burial Ground, Falmouth MA
Ahh, spring has sprung.  We are cavorting about in tee shirts, jacket-less, sock-free...the longer days enticing to the cemetery browser/photographer who wants to capture the golden light of late afternoon.

I headed out to the old burying ground next to the East End Meeting House, in Falmouth on such an evening.  Built in 1797 to take overflow from the Congregational Church on the village green, this church, after having offered worship to a number of different denominations through the years, is now home to the Falmouth Jewish Congregation.

The simple burial ground dating back to early 1800's and the original congregation, is lovely in this rural area of Falmouth.  I knew the setting sun would infuse the cemetery with a warm light.  I wandered around amidst the stones reading names and epitaphs, soon venturing into a ferocious stand of bamboo that was encroaching on the cemetery.  Anyone who knows bamboo, knows how it spreads like wildfire.  These headstones faced closely into the bamboo. To read the names meant a little bushwhacking.

A nice little cemetery adventure before dinner.

Lewises and Eldredges facing the bamboo
Guess who was coming to dinner, however?  T.I.C.K.  Yes folks, beware the tiny deer tick.  They are out cavorting about the spring days, just as we are!  On my way home, Tick appeared on the leg of my jeans.  NOTE:  Pull car over before hastily disposing of said tick.  Do not weave car wildly over road whilst trying to capture tick from leg, lower car window, and eject tick.  Luckily, it was after hours with not much traffic. Tick ejection: complete.

* Wear DEET.  Light colored pants. Hat (yes, they fall from trees) Upon arriving home, ask for tick check (fun).  Dive into shower. *

Warning #2:  POISON IVY.  Yes, I managed to pick up some of that too.  In spring, the leaves are not yet on the stalks and it is almost impossible to detect.  Yet, the sap is running - a classic time to get the maddeningly itchy rash.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

AncestryInk Featured in NEHGS The Weekly Genealogist

I am very pleased to report that the AncestryInk blog was featured in this week's enewsletter from NEHGS.  I am receiving a nice response and increasing readership this week.  And another nice result: I'm learning more about the other local genealogist bloggers out there.  Thank you to NEHGS and editor, Lynn Betlock, - and all my readers.  Feel free to get in touch, leave a comment, and share your great stories.  You can follow this blog by scrolling down to lower left menu and hopping on board. Welcome!

NEHGS:  The Weekly Genealogist - on their website.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wampanoag Translation Along the Shining Sea Bikeway


The  Wampanoag's tribal lands on Martha's Vineyard occupy a fair portion of the tiny town of Gay Head, now called "Aquinnah."  

Living on the island for thirty years, I had many friends and acquaintances who were tribal members, and observed many of their events and traditions and loved the colorful and spiritual tales of their early history on the Island.

Now, living in Falmouth, I am aware of their significant presence in this part of the Cape, as well.     




 Yesterday, after writing writing writing all morning, (and after the carpet guys left, leaving my two back bedrooms finally looking fresh, inviting and ready for guests!) I headed out into the gorgeous warm sun to walk a portion of the Shining Sea Bikeway. 


Many surprises along the way.  I came across an overlook of sunlit marshlands, with the interesting translation of Wampanoag language, and appreciated the lovely way they described their lands:  


"There is this place where the brook, seep8ees, joins in spirit with the little place where the water pours out, Sakoneesut..."


Further along the Bikeway  - Greater Sippewisset Marsh

 Despite their presence all around me, I have not specifically researched the genealogy of the Wampanoags. Their records can be found in numerous online databases and of course, local libraries and historical societies.  Here are just two examples of online findings:


NEHGS online records provide, among other sources, an interesting excerpt from the Barnstable, Mass. town records, dated 1675.  We read of the sale of land between local Indian Kenecompsit, and citizens Hinckley, Davis, Gorham, and Lewes,  who were representing the town of Barnstable.  Kenecompsit's land was sold to the town for 5 pounds.  I wonder if this was the going rate was for land, in 1675...(click the image for a clear reading)


And, provides a starting point for Wampanoag  research.

 Below, a sampling of links provided on that page.

Important Web Sites

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Everyone in the genealogy world will know of NERGC conference in Manchester, NH, beginning April 17-21.

New England Regional Genealogical Consortium, Inc.

This is the 12th conference and is entitled:  "Woven in History - The Fabric of New England."

Since we've passed the Early Bird date - the registration fee for all three days is now $135, or $90/day.

- For those who are not in the professional genealogy world however, there are still many many lectures and exhibits of interest.

In fact, on Thursday the 18th, from 5-7pm, there is a Society Fair that is open to the public. There is no charge, a cash bar if you're interested, and the chance to meet many folks who are members of either public or private societies or genealogical groups.

A (very) small sampling:

Harriman Family Association

Maine Old Cemetery Association

Windsor Historical Society 

Irish Genealogical Society International 

Locke Family Association

Society of Middletown First Settlers Descendants 

There will be tech lectures, blogging lectures (by one of my most admired blogging colleagues, Heather Wilkinson Rojo), cemetery restoration talks, and many many more topics of interest to general public.

I hope to attend at least one day of the events, though still caught up in the moving-from-Maine- to-MA process, I may have to miss this one. 

The NERGC conference takes place at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, NH.  Click here for registration page. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

History Hinges on Chapel Doors

Grace Memorial Chapel, E. Falmouth
This beautiful little chapel sits quietly on the corner of Central Ave. and Bayberry Rd. in East Falmouth, just steps from the white sands of the Menauhant area beaches. I passed by it during a rain shower and turned the car around to photograph the front doors.  The Gothic-style wrought-iron hinges on the simple, white doors really caught my eye and reminded me of many a church in Maine, built in the 1800’s.  I immediately wondered about the age of this chapel.

Simple doors, gothic hinges
The small, round stained glass window above the doors glows with a white and then red light - as a lighthouse beacon - and more obvious on the dark, rainy day, surrounded by the darkened wood shingles.  The chapel holds close to its flat, grassy grounds, and the entire image gives off a plain yet arresting - and ageless - aura.

Of course, research was in order to solve the mystery of the chapel’s history. 

I consulted “The Book of Falmouth”* and found that after the demise by storm, or renovation to homes, of several other chapels, “James C. Elms gave the Grace Memorial Chapel to the (Menauhant) community.”  The year was 1931.

So, no.  Not an aged 1800’s church at all!

Then, I became curious about Mr. James C. Elms.  Again a little quick (very quick) research revealed that he was born in Boston, October 1888 and was the son of James Cornelius Elms Sr. and Grace Elms.  James Sr. was a cotton merchant, in 1910. The family of four (a daughter Grace, was younger than James Jr.) had three servants and appeared comfortable, living in E. Orange, NJ.

In 1930, son James Jr. was a banker at Elms & Sollon, in Manhattan.  He had served in WWI, and lived with his family and one servant, in E. Orange, New Jersey, and summered in Falmouth. He was a great contributor to the community.  He facilitated the building, in 1914, of the Menauhant Boat Club by taking over the mortgage and then becoming the club’s first president.*  And in 1931, he donated the Grace Memorial Chapel.  "Grace Chapel" is a common name for a church – it also serves nicely to honor his own mother, named Grace Elms.

All of this - discovered by catching sight of a pair of plain, white New England doors clasped by elaborate wrought iron hinges, on a simple seaside chapel - under a rainy sky...just passing by.

* The Book of Falmouth; A Tricentennial Celebration 1686 – 1986; Edited by Mary Lou Smith; Publisher: Falmouth Historical Commission, Falmouth, MA, 1986; pp. 275-6.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Friends With Benefits

Let me quickly explain that title, lest you assume genealogists are some kind of randy bunch.

I checked the hours for the Falmouth Historical Society yesterday and discovered they were open. What with the chilly rainy morning, I figured it was a good time to sign up for a new membership, and hightailed it down to their offices on Main Street, located in the Museums on the Green compound.

Memberships are great.  Not only does joining the local historical society make you feel like a real citizen of your new town, but it helps out the historical society, allows access to their research library and archives, and clues you in to events and volunteer opportunities.

I was immediately led into a small, back office to fill out the forms.  It turns out there was an Accessions meeting going on in the research library, with all the 'histy' VIP's present.  Objects under review were lined up on the floor surrounding the conference table.  I wanted to take a picture of "the historical society at work," but felt somewhat like this would be exposing CIA operatives on a secret mission - I know that makes no sense, but there is a confidential element to accessions sessions.  I also didn't want on my first visit, to be earmarked as some sort of annoying paparazzo.

Back to the benefits.

Joining the historical society can also yield unexpected benefits.  After filling out the forms, I was handed a 'new member' gift of three books:

Dyer's "Hotels & Inns," "Residential Falmouth," & Theodate Geofrrey's "Suckanesset"

These are no small "booklets."  Two of them are around 170pp. printed on nice stock, and all are filled with wonderful historic images of Falmouth and town dignitaries of yore.  "Suckanesset" abounds with juicy stories of old Falmouth, with chapter titles such as:  "Jackson's Wooden Head," "The Awashonk's Massacre," and most exciting to me - "Whalers of Falmouth," and "Privateers and Prizes."  I can't wait to settle down for a good read.

So, go forth and become a friend with benefits of your local historical society.  You will also undoubtedly meet some of the "sharpest tacks" in town, and be greeted with enthusiastic welcome, as I was yesterday at the Falmouth Historical Society.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Struck By Lightning

Ebenezer Dimmick - killed by lightning in 1811

Somewhere in a weather report today,  I heard mention of lightning accompanying the rainstorm which is just now starting here on the Cape.  True or not, it reminded me of the headstone I found in the Old Falmouth Burying Ground, recently. 

Twenty-four year old Ebenezer Dimmick was apparently called to heaven via a bolt of lightning.
His devoted friend, Mr. John Lawrence, erected this stone.   
(click on photos for closer images)

Other than cause of death which stood out amongst the more commonly-seen epitaphs in this seaside town  of: " lost at sea" or "drowned" - the stone itself is a nice example of cemetery iconography.

The hand pointing upwards commonly represents "hope of heaven."  In this case, Mr. Lawrence took it upon himself to explain the finger pointing heavenward with his words inscribed below:  "there the weary be at rest."  Nice.

And his rather passionate verse at bottom of stone is also nicely tailored to the specifics of his friend's manner of death:

"GOD calls in thunder to the silent tomb.
This hopeful youth went down in all his bloom
The swift wing'd lightning, while he asks the way
Points out the road to an eternal day."

A memorial to a good friend that endures centuries of rain, snow, drought, thunder and lightning. 

I suspect this stone, along with many of the very old stones in this historic graveyard in Falmouth, has been preserved by restoration work by local preservationists.  Here are a few links to important genealogical sites for the Falmouth area, including cemetery lists.

 - Falmouth Genealogical Society:

And included within that website:  Scroll about half-way down the page for a list of all cemeteries in Falmouth.  Each link includes a picture, location, and in most all cases an incredible documentation of all burials in each plot, of each cemetery.

 - FGS Cemetery Project:

And below, link to a guide to genealogical resources in the Falmouth Public Library (main branch):

- FPL Genealogy:

Also, the Falmouth Historical Society research archives:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lost at Sea Etched in Stone

"Lost at Sea,"  or "Died at Sea,"  or simply a faraway place such as "North Pacific" - etched into granite or slate - these gravestones always catch my eye, due to an avid interest in marine history.

The story of whaling and finding one's fortune aboard ships is such a particular facet of New England's foundations, that it is almost impossible to walk a cemetery without finding the grave marker of a "Capt.," or a young son lost at sea.

I found the North Falmouth Cemetery tucked behind the Congregational church - a beautiful example of the simplicity in architectural design of early New England churches.

Arched windows of N. Falmouth Congregational

After driving up and down the rural, winding main road of N. Falmouth, I pulled off into the church parking lot to admire this exquisite church, and spotted the cemetery behind the church purely by accident - it is so hidden from view.

Walking the orderly rows of gravestones in this well-kept burial ground gives one a true sense of what "rest in peace" is meant to convey: it is a serene, sunlit sanctuary.

Here, the "Nye" family abounds.  Nye, Tobey, Ellis, Davis are common names, but here the Nyes seem dominant.

And, evidence of a sea-going community abounds, as well. Though it is not unusual to find a "lost at sea" or "Capt. ..." it IS a little unusual to find an entire descriptive passage etched in stone, about the exact nature of death and location. 

I only browsed for a short 15 minutes or so, but here are just two examples found in this small cemetery.  I look forward to going back and spending more time exploring.  Click on the images for a closer look.

Harlan Page Nye:  I did do a little brief research on about the Nyes when I got home. The Nye parents lost 5 children between 1851 and 1860.  Three of the children succumbed to consumption over a span of two years, according to death records of Falmouth.  And young Harlan died on a whaling trip, in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  No further research needed - his story is written in stone.

Harlan Page Nye - "taken down" by a whale

And Lemuel T. Tobey, who was born in Falmouth and died in a valiant attempt to save a vessel at sea - also recorded for eternity on his grave marker. A fitting tribute to his bravery.

Employed by the New York & Wilmington Steamship Line

Monday, April 1, 2013

No Autofill on Gravestone Etchings

In honor of April Fool's Day, it seemed like a good time to post what was surely not a prank, but a mistake.  Unfortunately,  it was a mistake "carved in stone." 

In Falmouth's Old Burying Ground, there are many a Dimmick, or "Dimmuck."  The Dimmick family was clearly one of the very early settlers of Falmouth and belonged to the Congregational Church.

The Congregational Church records of 1765 mention the Widow "Zeruiah Dimmuck" propounded for Full Communion.

The Widow Zeruiah Dimmuck

Widow Dimmuck lived to the ripe old age of 93 and passed away in March, 1834.  And yet such an aged town citizen goes to her rest marked by an error in spelling!  Woe be to the engraver who slipped up with the chisel.  And if the church records are correct,  - he twice erred by inserting a "v" where a "u" should have been? Even if accounting for 1800's penmanship, clearly a mistake had been made.

How to correct what is written in stone?

Happy April Fool's Day, all.  Watch out for the Pranksters!