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looking for a leg up

Here’s a photo of my current obsession:

This man outlived his leg almost 47 years, and is buried far away. I’m putting together an essay on the man, the leg, and what it all means.

I’ve been asking around: does anyone know of other similar stones?

new website is up

One of my engrossing summer projects has been updating the website for the American Society of Genealogists, Well, it has been up (and stable) for a few days now. I have learned (and re-learned) a lot of new web skills, and might even use some of them on this site — who knows?

“Looking at graves? Count me in!”

That’s what my four-year-old said when I told him (somewhat apologetically) where we were going. A chance encounter had led me to discover four new ancestors of my wife, who lie in the small burying ground by the beautiful Bradford Center meeting house in Bradford, New Hampshire, only five miles (by a dirt track through a beaver bog) from our idyllic getaway home in East Washington village. So I took our youngest along for a visit. At four years old, he already has a vast experience of visiting churches, graves, and archives; he is not shy with ancestors:

Jonathan Knight was, as his stone states, a Revolutionary soldier. The raking light on the unusual sandstone, long broken but strongly repaired with iron, makes a dramatic sight.

This graveyard is lovingly tended, and all the old Revolutionary soldiers in it are carefully marked with flags. Nearby lie my son’s other ancestors, Josiah and Mary (French) Rowe:

In this part of the New Hampshire hill country, the once-bustling farms have almost all grown up into quiet woods, so sometimes it is easy to forget how thickly our ancestors lie all around us.

my ancestor, my neighbor: Benjamin Allen of Rehoboth

In the previous post I figured out that my ancestor, Benjamin Allen of Salisbury and Rehoboth, was actually my neighbor for ten years when I lived by the Newman Cemetery in Rehoboth (now Rumford, RI)—and his gravestone may be extant, though misidentified in the RI Cemetery Database. On a sunny day last month I was able to find and photograph it. The headstone is split and flaked, almost completely gone, and no legible inscription remains on it (just a fragment of verse from well below the information on Benjamin himself). But the footstone, deeply incised, does survive:

Below the name is (as is the style from the good stones from the 1720s surviving in this ground) simply the year of death. The footstone is now split, though, and only the first half of the year remains: “1 7”; the “2 3” are now gone as well (it is the “1723” which was misread as “1793” in the transcription which is now in the RI Cemetery database, but the head and footstone are obviously of a style of the 1720s, not the end of the century). As with many of the stones in this section of the ground, the footstone has long ago been moved so it is up against the headstone. Here are the two stones in situ:

And here is a close-up of the front of the headstone, bearing the remaining visible fragment of verse inscription, and a tiny bit of what must have been a handsome floreate border flanking the inscription. This is seen on a couple of other stones in this yard which I had admired for years — never thinking my own ancestor may have had a similar stone nearby:

I am glad finally to meet my ancestor and my neighbor! I have not yet found the deeds by which he came to own land bordering the Runnins River at Nockum Hill in Barrington, but I am getting closer, now that we have access to the 17th-century Swansea Town Records on microfilm. But the answer to this may lie in Rehoboth town records – that is our next target.

serendipity in a basement evidence-room

Two weeks ago I attended my first annual meeting of the American Society of Genealogists, meeting several of the other Fellows for the first time. Five days after coming home, I was in the dim, cavernous basement of the Registry of Deeds of Bristol County, Massachusetts, when someone approached me to fight over an index volume I was hoarding — and it turned out to be another Fellow, Fred Hart of North Guilford, Connecticut, whom I had met only the week before!

I was in Taunton on behalf of the Barrington Preservation Society, to research the chain of title for an eighteenth-century farmhouse on the other side of Hundred-Acre Cove, long held by members of the Allen family — not the Allin family who built my farmhouse in West Barrington. I had presumed the house belonged to a branch of descendants of John Allen of Swansea (d. 1683), an early Baptist follower of Rev. John Miles, whose first meeting-house lay next door to this Allen homestead. But instead, I was surprised by the revelation that the deeds for this Allen house led back not to the Swansea Baptist Allens, nor to the West Barrington Allins who built my own house, but to yet a third Allen family in the neighborhood, and moreover, to someone who was actually one of my own ancestors: Benjamin Allen (1652-1723), of Salisbury, then Rehoboth. I have lived in this corner of the Plymouth Colony for twelve years now, but only now feel like less of a newcomer, with this realization that an ancestor of mine settled in the same place 300 years ago! My next task is to locate his gravestone, in the Newman Cemetery where I walked my dog every day for years, without an inkling…

UPDATE, the morning after the election: After a blustery hour walking the Newman Cemetery, I went inside and checked the RI Historical Cemeteries Database Index. Benjamin Allen’s gravestone is not extant, nor for either of his wives: but I did find the group of stones for one of his children, David Allen (1707-1751), and his family. David, who is my ancestral half-uncle, lived on the parcel just north of the target of our house-research, which was his brother Joseph’s homestead. David’s land spanned four towns and two colonies, much to the consternation of anyone looking at his deeds! Here are David Allen and his wife Hannah:

SECOND UPDATE, Friday of Election Week: Turns out that Benjamin Allen’s gravestone was extant into the early 20th century, though no longer. A 1932 alphabetized typescript of Newman Cemetery inscriptions (alas only abstracted, not preserving original inscriptions), lists him: “Allen, Benjamin, Sept. 30, 1723 in 71 yr.” (this is Marion Pearce Carter, “The Old Rehoboth Cemetery, ‘The Ring of the Town’, at East Providence, Rhode Island, Near Newman’s Church” [Attleboro, Mass.: the author, 1932], 58 pp., at RIHS Library), p. 1. I wonder if his is one of the many stones still standing, but with inscription completely obliterated? His may be the gravestone listed in the more careful transcription by Robert S. Trim (“Gravestone Records of Old Rehoboth, Massachusetts: Newman Cemetery,” compiled 1978/9, 230 pp. plus index, at p. 176), which records “Benjamin Allen . . . 1793 (Footstone): Headstone badly chipped and unreadable.” Since Trim notes that Mrs. Carter’s transcription did not include any stone for a Benjamin Allen in 1793, I wonder whether Trim misread 1723 for 1793? I will need to go find this myself. Trim’s transcription is done in some sort of perambulation order and lists this after a set of Butterworths (including Lieut. Noah Butterworth, d. 1736), and a Thomas Hawkins, “Born a slave in Kentucky”, d. 1863; and before Benjamin Rand, d. 1736 age 11; an undated fieldstone, and a stone for Jael wife of David Saben, d. 1726. So, maybe I can find this stone? I’ll try again on the weekend — supposed to be warm and sunny.

a past ‘distant and unknown’? — a clipping from the loft

A fine Father’s Day gift was time to putter in the attic, pulling down pine planks (some flooring and some wall planks) that had been repurposed as ceiling furring, being nailed to the underside of the tie beams to support a modern lath & plaster ceiling in the west end. Above the tie beams lay another set of planks, whitewashed on the bottom, serving as an original ceiling for the west-end attic room, and serving as floor for a loft of sorts — almost a fourth floor. I hadn’t been up above these planks since we bought the house, but needed to get up there to clear out a wasp nest and rescreen a louvered gable vent. The loft floor is thick with dust and generations of roofing debris. And near the hatch-hole I found a newspaper clipping, black with dust. (Continued)

Fragments of Taylor history

Just found out the Hartford Herald (Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky) is online in beautiful images as part of the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” database of historic newspapers. This led me to download all 45-odd installments of Harrison D. Taylor’s serial column “Fragments of the Early History of Ohio County,” which ran from April 1877 to March 1878. (This is page 1 of September 26, 1877, with chapter 24 in it. Click the picture to go to the source at the Library of Congress:)

Subsequently edited and reprinted in 1926 as a book, Ohio County, Kentucky in the Olden Days, these columns, and especially chapters 24 and 25 constitute nearly the earliest printed genealogical account of the Taylors. Actually, chapters 24 and 25, with the genealogical account, are based on a pamphlet printed in 1875 following a family reunion, which I have not seen in its original form — but which was reprinted separately in Ohio County, Kentucky, in the Olden Days. (There is a text online which may have been typed from a copy of the original 1875 pamphlet, but which I haven’t been able to verify — yet.)

a living six-generation matriline

Genealogically amazing, from ABC News, via Huffington Post: a 111-year-old great-great-great-grandmother posed for a photograph with her seven-week old great-great-great-granddaughter, and the four generations of daughters in between.

Are other examples of six living generations readily found, present or past?

Taylor genealogy updated — marking genetically tested lines in a traditional genealogy

I just uploaded a new version of my e-book An American Taylor Family, which incorporates some revisions which have been on my ‘to-do’ list for over a year! This post is not just self-congratulatory, however, it’s to draw attention (my own as well as anyone’s who might read this) to a feature which I haven’t seen elsewhere. In 2010 five descendants of Simon2 Taylor established a Y-DNA genetic profile for him as our MRCA. I’ve blogged the results here and they’ve made it onto the ‘Taylor’ surname project site at What hadn’t happened until now was incorporating this information into a traditional Register-style compiled genealogy. Now there’s a presentation of the DNA data in the introduction to the book, but also, each head-of-household in the direct ancestry of a tested individual (who has therefore been confirmed to belong, biologically, to this family) is indicated with a little double-helix icon next to his entry:

So: has anyone else done this, or seen it, in a compiled genealogy? I should ask Alvy Ray Smith, who has put together big Riggs genealogies and done good Y-DNA work on them too.

new version of Taylor book — now with triplet photos

After two years since the last upload, I’ve finally uploaded a minor revision of my Taylor book. I think I will be working on it forever. Notable things in the last two years still haven’t made it into the book — the success of our triangulation of a DNA profile for Simon2 Taylor, and the publication of my article on the possible parents of his father Richard — but I’ve been hearing from a steady stream of cousins. Notable among them have been descendants of the media-sensation triplets William9, Jennings9, and Bryan9 Taylor, sons of Frank L.8 Taylor (Joseph W.7, Tarpley6, John Clark5, Tarpley4, George3, Simon2, Richard). They toured as exhibition boxers in the nineteen-twenties, and each of them has living descendants who have found the book. There are some good triplet photos in the book now; the earliest is this one, courtesy of descendant Tim W., via Doug Lewis: