Sunday, December 21, 2014

52 ANCESTORS IN 52 WEEKS#50: ROBERT SWAN "...a passionate man."

Fellow geneablogger Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically, we have to post something every
week on a different ancestor, whether a story, picture, or research problem. I've
been tracing the ancestral lines of my grandmother Cora Barker. continuing with
her Swan ancestors.

 I've written before about my 7x great grandfather Robert Swan but this excerpt
 pints a picture of quite a personality. Robert sounds like a cross of J.R. Ewing
with a medieval baron:

Robert Swan was early in Haverhill and a lotholder, but he seems to have been often in hot 
water. The famous Council of 1656 thought “ there was too great appearance of much iniquity 
on Goodman Swan's part in this matter.” He was probably a passionate man. In 1666 he was 
fined by the County Court “ 30s. for striking John Carleton several blows," whilst Carleton 
was fined £3 for striking him. In 1673 the town ordered him to “ pull down ” a ditch he had 
made across one of the town’s highways or be prosecuted. In 1674 he was fined 200s for 
being drunk and cursing. July 2, 1694, there was a special meeting at which it was voted to 
resist Swan’s claim to the meadow laid out for the ministry. But be apparently had the confidence
of the people, after all. He served in King Philip's War, was on the committee with Mr. Ward in
1683 to procure an associate pastor, and in 1686 on the committee to view disputed or uncertain 
bounds.He was highway surveyor in 1692, and deputy to the General Court in 1684. In 1689 his
sons Samuel and Joshua were brought before Major Nathaniel Saltonstall as a magistrate, upon a complaint for cutting down some of Simon Wainwright’s best apple trees. Swan sent the major a 
notice which Myrick prints, forbidding him to proceed with the examination, and insinuating his 
opinion that if the major took it, it would “be altered when it comes to corte.” February 17th 
following, the magistrate entered at court a complaint against Swan “for a high contempt of authority and endeavoring to hinder him in the execution of his office as magistrate, and casting abominable, wicked reflections upon him to ye high defamation of his name.” But Swan's sons avenged the public upon him. They appear to have had a feud with Wainwright, for Samuel, the son, was, in 1690, tried, convicted and sent to jail for wantonly stabbing Capt. Simon Wainwright’s valuable horse with a half-pike. The testimony of Samuel lngalls is worth reproducing as a matter 
of justice to old Swan, and illustrative of the parental discipline of that day. He says: “I and Samuel Swan was at work together in the field of Robert Swan, Jun., and Goodman Swan, Sen.,came to us and asked us to goe into the hous with him, and then he asked Sam’l why he stabbed Mr.Wainwright’s horse. Samuel said nothing. Then said his father to him what is the reason yo doe wickedly in sinning against God in abusing the dum creature, and his father was so grievd at it yt he weped, and then he said I am resolved I will give you coreksion, and then he pulled off his close to his shirt and took a stick as big as a good ordinary nailing rod, and then he took Sam’l by one hand and streek him as hard as he cable to strike and streek him many blows. His father was a considerable while beating him and Samuel cryed out and beged of his father vari much yt he would beat him no more." pp1940-1
History of Essex County, Massachusetts: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Volume 2 (Google eBook)
J.W. Lewis,Pub. (Philadelphia. Pa. 1888) 

Interesting guy, Robert Swan.


It's become a Geneabloggers tradition to join our Friend footnoteMaven in the annual Blog Caroling Event, when geneabloggers post their favorite Christmas carols. Then you can check the links on 
fM's blog and take a blog caroling tour of everyone's choices!

This year I still have my Irish up with a carol to reflect my Irish
heritage from my Mom's side of the family. It's the Wexford
Christmas Carol, which historians say dates from County
Wexford, Ireland in the 12 Century A.D. I first heard it
sung on a Lorena McKennitt album. There is a version
on YouTune with Allison Kraus singing with accompaniment
by Yo Yo Ma on cello that you can see and listen to here:   

Nollaig Shona Duit! (That's "Merry Christmas" in Gaelic!)

The Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born
The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God's angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

Friday, December 19, 2014


I've been happily going through more Massachusetts probate files the past few days: the Worcester County files on FamilySearch and Essex and Middlesex Counties on AmericanAncestors,org.
Probate files are a great source of information for a genealogist because they have information
that fill in the blanks about families.

For example, in the last few days, I've learned: 

-One of my ancestors was named executor of his father's estate because his
his older brother was insane. I have a pretty good idea why he did.

-Another ancestor's wife was a widow with two sons. After my ancestor died,
one of the stepsons sued the estate to recover his mother's dowry. Up until now I
only knew the woman's first name. Now I know her married name and her sons'
surname. From that I may be able to find out her maiden name.

-Among the things a third ancestor left his wife in his will was a woman named Grace,
a "Negro servant" who he stipulated should belong to his eldest son when the wife

All of these I be discussing in future blogposts.

Probate files can tell you what an ancestor's occupation was, and the inventory list
of the estates will tell you how big their farms were, what clothes they wore, what
tools they used. The names of the heirs could tell tell you who the daughters married
and the signatures of the witnesses could be those of the nearby neighbors who were
also your ancestors.

Of course there are some disappointments. I've found probate files that only consist of
an image of a small piece of paper with the words "No papers found" written on it. Some
times the writing on the documents is impossible to read, either because it's faded or
because the handwriting is just bad.

Probate files are well worth looking into, either online or wherever the documents are located.
The "shaking green leaves" give you the start of the story. Probate files and other court
documents flesh it out.   

Thursday, December 18, 2014


(originally published in Dec 2007))

It’s funny how some Christmas memories fade and some endure,
especially when it comes to gifts.

We weren’t poor but we weren’t exactly well off either when we
were young. Santa’s gifts were often determined by budget
concerns but he always managed to leave us clothes and some
toys. (although one year I got a note with the other gifts:
“Dear Bill, I owe you one telescope. Santa Claus”)

Ads for a forthcoming movie brought back more memories. One
Christmas Eve my sister and I could hear Alvin and the
Chipmunks “Christmas Song” play over and over while our
parents laughed. When we asked why the song kept playing we
were told it was the radio and to get to sleep before Santa came.
(of course by now I already knew the Awful Truth). It turned
out Santa had left us a portable record player along with a copy
of the record!

I still have the gift my sister gave me one year: a wooden chess
set, the kind that doubles as a box to hold the chessmen. It’s
over thirty years old now.

As I grew older I learned that giving gifts was as much fun as
getting them. We didn’t have a color tv so one year when I was
working at the toy warehouse I put a portable Magnavox color
tv on layaway and gave it to my folks for Christmas. That tv lasted
for years, even after my folks got a larger console set. It migrated
from bedroom to bedroom passing from my kid brother to my
sister’s kids back to my brother’s kids until it finally gave up the

And then last year, I got a gift from a group of great friends, the
computer that I’m using right now to preserve these memories.

Oh, yeah! I eventually got the telescope!

2010 Update: When I moved here from my old apartment I had
to give up my desktop computer from my friends due to space
limitations. But my family had given me Sheldon the laptop
computer for Christmas last year, so I'm able to sit here in
the living room and do my blogging and research in my
comfortable chair. And the year before they gave me the
digital camera that lets me chronicle my road trips in pictures.
I'm very grateful for these and other gifts from them.

2013 Update: In 2011 my family gave a newer digital camera,
a Canon Powershot, which I've used to take some good photos
on my car trips and at cemeteries for Find A Grave. You can see
a few at the bottom of this post. 

So Santa has been very good to me over the years!

  The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


I don’t recall many holiday parties from my earlier childhood. In
our family folks were too busy working or shopping at Christmas
time. And when we lived in Dorchester the apartments weren’t
really big enough to hold large parties in, although there might
have been one or two. If so, they would have followed the rules of
other adult parties my folks had: after saying hello to the adults,
my sister and I would be sent off to our beds to eventually fall
asleep while listening to the adults in the other room laughing
at Rusty Warren records. We wondered what "roll me over
in the clover" meant.

As an adult, most of my Christmas party experience has been at
work, including one at a now defunct toy chain warehouse(more
on that job later) when I was in my early twenties. It snowed
when I left for home. My car at the time was an Olds 98 and
being in a hurry to get home, I didn’t completely clean the rear
windshield. I backed up, turning the car around….

…and smashed my rear windshield by backing the car up under
a tractor trailer box front end as if it were a big rig hooking up.

The good news was, my Dad worked in the auto glass repair

The bad news was I had to call him and tell him what I’d done.

It was an …umm…interesting conversation.

((First published in December, 2007))

2013 Update: I think this is my favorite out of all the things 
I've posted every year about past Christmases. I remember the
windshield incident with a smile now but at the time I was 
a nervous wreck waiting for Dad's reaction, especially since I'd
had a few highballs at the Christmas party which probably had
a lot to do with my backing into the trailer. I also had to drive
the car home with no rear windshield in a snowstorm and I was
worried I'd get pulled over by the police. When I got home we
covered the broken window with something, probably a cut
open garbage bag and masking tape, and a few days later Dad
found a replacement at Goldy's, a local junkyard. 

Most of all, I remember Dad getting out of his car when he drove up 
to the  Child World warehouse, taking a puff on his cigarette, and 
giving me The Look before asking me "How the hell did you manage 
to do that?"

 The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Dear Genea-Santa,
Well, it's that time of year again. I'm not going to ask for too much this year,
so the list is short. I'd like :

-More online probate files, specifically from Essex and Suffolk. Ma for myself, and all the other counties for those researching their colonial Massachusetts ancestors.

-And more online county court case files. I've found so many great stories about my Essex
County ancestors, I bet there are some more in the Middlesex, Plymouth, and Worcester
county files.

 -Lastly, I hate to nag, Genea-Santa, but I'm still waiting on that document or hint or clue
that will get me past that John Cutter West brickwall. I'm getting older, Santa, time is
running out (hopefully not to quickly) and I'd really like to solve this mystery.

Other than that, I have no complaints this year. Those Middlesex County Probate files
over on the  website were a great surprise, and so were the
Worcester County Probate files on FamilySearch.

Merry Genea-Christmas!


((Written for the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Challenge from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings))

Friday, December 12, 2014


Ah, fruitcake! The Food. The Myth. The Legend.

We’ve never had any of the perpetual fruitcakes hanging about
for weeks or months in our family. We’re a practical bunch. If it
tastes good, we eat it. If it doesn’t, well, out it goes!

I have, however, invented a mythical fruitcake named Margaret.

Like distant cousin Tim Abbot over at Walking the Berkshires I
have been a role-player for years although mine has been online
instead of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. One of my characters
is an eccentric Scotsman and last Christmas he gave Margaret
the Fruitcake to another character as a Christmas gift.

It seems it was baked by a female relative who passed away
while doing so and the Scotsman believes (he says) that her spirit
inhabits her final fruitcake. Margaret has been exchanged
between family members each Christmas but last year it was
given to a young squire. Various adventures ensued including a
jailbreak where Margaret was used as a weapon and then the
disappearance of the haunted fruitcake sometime around

Yeah, I know.

I’m nutty as a fruitcake

2009 Update- Margaret's location is unknown at present, although
rumors persist that she is being used as a curling stone by a team
of dwarves.

2010 Update: Margaret's present location is still unknown. The
most prevalent rumor is that she was recently employed as a 
battering ram at the Gates of Mordor. 

2011 Update: Margaret's whereabouts still remain a mystery. Rumor
has it she is presently being used as a doorstop by a giant at
a certain school for young wizards.

2012 Update: Rumor has it that Margaret is now being used as 
ballast on The Flying Dutchman.  

2013 Update: It has been rumored that Margaret the Fruitcake
was brought to North Korea by Dennis Rodman where she is
presently being used as a stepstool by Kim Jong Un. 

2014 Update:
Margaret the Haunted fruitcake was spotted in a recent episode of the "Grimm"
television program wherein a truckload was instrumental in the defeat of a trio
of Wesen monsters. I think she was listed in the credits as "Head Fruitcake"

(originally posted in December 2007))

“The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at”


Here's an interesting story I found about my 8x great grandfather Richard Swan in the
Essex County Court Case files (Have I mentioned how much I love those files?). The small
letter"t" after names denotes that the person signed or made his mark in their testimony. All
spelling is as written in the original document:
Sept 29 1668
Richard Swan v. John Morgan. For taking away John Huttson. Verdict for plaintiff, the boy to be returned.*

*Writ: Richard Swan v. John Morgaine, commander of the Bristow ship, now lying in Marblehead harbor; for taking away John Hutson, servant of said Swan, and detaining him; dated 24 : 6: 1668; signed by Hillyard Veren, t for the court; and served by Henery Skerry, t marshal of Salem. Bond of John Morgan t and Moses Mavericke. t

John Gedney, aged about sixty-four years, deposed that he heard Mr. Morgan say that he had taken his cousin from Mr. Swan and delivered him to Mr. Oliver Purchas to take into his custody. Sworn, 21 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Charles Browne, aged about forty-two years, deposed that he heard Goodwife Lambert of Rowley say that she sold John Hudson, her boy, to Richard Swan of Rowley for fourteen pounds to be paid in wheat and barley. Also that he heard John Hudson say that Richard Swan was to buy him and he rejoiced much at it. Sworn in court.

Walter Price, aged about fifty-five years, deposed that on 16 : 7 : 1668, he was summoned to appear before the Worshipful Major Hawthorne to testify concerning Mr. Morgan's reputed cousin. That when Morgan delivered the boy to Purchase, he asked him whether he would go with his old master Mr. Swan or his new, Mr. Purchase, and the young man chose Mr. Purchase, so Mr. Swan came away and left the young man there. Sworn, 16 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

John Cook, aged about twenty years, deposed that hearing people talk at his master's gate, he saw a man they called Morgan take a boy in the street, whom they called John Hudson, etc. Sworn, 16 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Henery Skerry, aged about sixty-four years, and Richard Swan, deposed. Sworn, 21 : 7 : 1668, before Wm. Hathorne,t assistant.

Richard Swan's bill of cost, 1li. 18s. 8d.

Beriah Browne of Rowley, aged twenty years, deposed. Sworn in court.

Indenture, dated Dec. 1, 1664, John (his mark) Hudson,Jr son of John Hudson of Bristol, Eng., aged about twelve years, with the consent of Mr. William Woodcocke of Salem, to whom he was committed in trust, bound himself to John Hutchinson of Salem husbandman, for eight and one-half years. Wit: Benjamin Felton t and Edw. Norice.t

On Dec.17, 1667, John Hutchson t of Salem made over the boy to Richard Swone of Rouly, with the full consent of John (his mark) Hudson of Rouly. Wit: Richard (his mark) Huchinson and Thomas Hale.t This assignment was allowed by Samuel Symonds t and Daniel Denison.t


Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1667-1671 (Google eBook) Essex Institute, Salem Ma., 1914

So, as I read this, my ancestor purchased the contract of the indentured servant John Hutchson
who was at first happy with his new master. Then his cousin John Morgan sailed into town, found
the boy and took him to Mr Purchase. Richard Swan found the boy, who wanted to stay with Mr.
Purchase.Wisely, Richard took the matter to court where the terms of John Hutchson's indenture
were upheld and the boy was returned to him.

Now I'm left wondering what happened afterwards. Did John Hutchson serve out the full length
of his indenture, or did Richard Swan sell the boy's contract to another person?   

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Fellow geneablogger Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically, we have to post something every
week on a different ancestor, whether a story, picture, or research problem. I've
been tracing the ancestral lines of my grandmother Cora Barker. In this post I'll
start looking at her Swan ancestors, beginning with my 9x great grandfather,
immigrant ancestor Richard Swan. I hadn't known much about him before now,
so I had a bit of a surprise when I found this from William Richard Cutter

(I) Richard Swan, immigrant ancestor, was born in England about 1600, died in
Rowley, Massachusetts, May 14, 1678. He settled in Boston before 1638, and
was a husbandman there as early as February 6, 1638. He joined the church, January
6, 1639, and was admitted freeman, May 13, 1640. He was dismissed from the Boston
church to the gathering of a church at Rowley, November 24, 1639. He held various
town offices in Rowley and was deputy to the general court from 1666 to 1674.
He served in King Philip's war and the expedition to Canada. His first wife died in
England before he came to this country, and he married (second) Mrs. Ann Trumbull,
March 1, 1658. She married (first) Michael Hopkinson, who was buried February 28,
1648; (second) John Trumbull, June, 1650. She deposed March 30, 1675, tnat she was
aged about sixty years. His will was dated April 26, 1678, and proved May 23 following, bequeathing to wife Ann according to marriage contract; to son Robert and his son Richard, to son-in-law Joseph Boynton and his wife Sarah and to children: Elizabeth, Samuel and Sarah Boynton; to daughters: Frances Quilter, Jane Wilson, Dorothy Chapman and Mercy Warriner. His widow Ann made her will July 4, 1678, proved September 24, 1678, bequeathing to daughters Abigail Bayley and Mary Kilborne; to son Caleb Hopkinson a chest that his father made; to sons John and Jonathan Hopkinson; one book to John Trumble. Children: Richard; Dorothy, married Chapman; Jane, married Wilson; Frances, married Quilter; Robert, 1626 or 1628, mentioned below ; Jonathan: Susan, married Samuel Stickney, of Rowley; Sarah, married Joseph Boynton; John, born in Boston, baptized February 13, or November 24, 1638; Mercy, Rowley, July 4, 1640; Faith, Rowley, March 30, 1644-45.-

New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 3 (Google eBook) Lewis historical publishing Company, 1913

The surprise was that Richard Swan's second wife, the widow Ann Trumbull, was my
8x great grandmother by her marriage to John Trumbull. The Abigail Bayley named in
Richard's will was my 7x great grandmother Abigail (Trumbull) Bayley.

As if grandmother Barker's line wasn't already enough of a tangled thread!
To be continued...