Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Josiah Todd (1778-1853) and his elusive ancestors

Possible photo of Josiah Todd
(Post by Mark Todd) 

One of the more perplexing brickwalls I've encountered in my genealogical researches into my paternal ancestors has centered on the great-grandparents of Josiah Todd.

Josiah was born on 17 Dec 1778 in Bertie County, North Carolina, during the War of Independence. He moved to Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1805, where he raised family with his first wife Nancy Asbill and, upon her death, with his second wife Zilpha Thomas. After service in the War of 1812, he moved in 1817 with his second wife to Collirene, Lowndes County, Alabama, where he later died on 11 Aug 1853.

My Y-DNA 111 and Big Y-700 testing results from FamilyTreeDNA has revealed an unexpected ancestral plot twist, we could call it, but it may answer the question of why no one has been able to source – or, at least, to convincingly document – the paternal ancestors of Josiah Todd earlier than his grandparents Thomas Todd and Charity Hardy.

My Y-DNA testing results also correlate with the genealogical findings of Richard McMurtry, whose intensive DNA compilations suggest that Josiah Todd’s ancestry represents a Todd family group that is American born but with no known immigrant progenitors, nor is that group related to any of the other Todd families living in the Americas at that time by following Y-DNA lines.

What’s going on, and what are our roots? The Y-DNA test results show that there seems to have been a Goforth fox in the Todd henhouse in the second, or possibly third, generation prior to Josiah Todd!

My test results confirm that I have substantial Y-DNA matches with members of the Goforth family, as do the two other William Josiah Todd descendants who have also taken the FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA test, and they also show these same Goforth matches.

Further, the particular Goforth matches all come from the same immigrant progenitor-couple: WILLIAM GOFORTH, born 1631 in Hampshire, England; died 1678 in Burlington, N. J.; married July 11, 1662 at a Quaker Meeting in Hull, Yorkshire, England to ANNE SKIPWITH, daughter of Willoughby and Honora [Saunders] Skipwith, born 1642 in England; died February 3, 1723 in Philadelphia, PA., buried in the Roce Street Quaker Meeting House burial grounds, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

William and Anne Goforth arrived in the New World aboard the fly-boat “Martha” on 18 Oct 1677, settlers for the new Quaker colony in the area which later became Burlington and West New Jersey on the Delaware River, about 30 miles from the site on which Philadelphia was founded five years later, in 1682, by William Penn

Although William Goforth died only a year later, the couple brought with them six sons: George, born 1663, died 1732; William, born 1665, died 1748; John, born 1667, died 1750; Miles, born 1673; died before 1734; Zachariah, born 1675, died 1736; and Thomas, dates of birth and death unknown (although likely born 1676).]

These sons, though officially married, are potential candidates. However, it's also possible that the Todd-Goforth liaison occurred in Hampshire, England, in the generation(s?) prior to William and Anne's arrival in the Americas.

When William Goforth died, his wife Anne would later remarry another member of the immigrant passengers on the “Martha,” a man named William Oxley, and with him would settle in Philadelphia. This may be significant since one of William Josiah Todd’s sons, Lewis (brother of Josiah and Henry Hardy), would later marry an Oxley (related only by marriage rather than blood).

Of interest is that Anne Skipwith Goforth Oxley has documented lineage back to King Edward I, and therefore back to the original lords of the Norman Conquest.

This revelation of genealogical origins doesn’t, of course, diminish the percent of ancestral Todd DNA but simply routes those chromosomes through the mother rather than the father. Since this Todd DNA line doesn’t appear to belong to one of McMurtry’s classification of 200-plus other Todd DNA family groups living in America at the time (our group is classified as Todd Family Group 158 by McMurtry), this (great?-)grandmother of Josiah’s would have come from Todd immigrants not yet identified.

My working hypothesis at this time is that the Todd line of immigrants would likely have arrived after 1677 (when the William Goforths arrived in the Colonies) but before 1710 (the earliest possible date of birth for Josiah’s grandfather Thomas Todd). And a promising course of inquiry would lie in trying to identify locations where Todd families overlap with Goforth families during this window of time.

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for individuals described above are on WikiTree:


          Josiah's rerouted patrilineal line, per Y-DNA:


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Ancestral "Scrabble" Name Game

Earlier generations countered the battle against higher mortality rates by raising larger numbers of children, hoping to beat the odds for surname survival. But that meant having to come up with more names for more children than parents these days generally face.

It reminds me of the period in my life when I was a musher, and when it came time to breed and raise a litter to replenish the ranks of our sled teams, we noticed that other mushers (those who raised multiple litters to use or sell) would often give theme names to their litters. I recall one musher who had dogs with the names Exxon, Texaco, and Mobile (and these littermates clearly looked alike). The solution my first wife, Sharon, had was to call our own little littermates by the names of famous department stores -- hence, our pups received the names Penny, Macy, Bloomie (for Bloomingdale's), Tiffy (for Tiffany's), Alex (Alexander's), and Bucky (a stretch for Sears and Roebuck -- good thing for us the litter only had six pups!)


The experience did, however, give me empathy for what my grandparents were in for when they elected to populate the Texas Panhandle with extra farm hands named Todd. My father's first and middle names (Dexter Lamar) as well as those of his brothers and sisters -- for a total of eight siblings -- are a case in point.

I always marveled at the odd and sometimes strange names my paternal grandparents chose for their children, and a little digging revealed those names were mined (mostly) from my grandmother's side of the family tree. Nonetheless, it's been quite an eye-opener to realize why my grandmother saddled so many of her children with names that sounded like desperation Scrabble words, compelling many of her children to invent alternative nicknames for themselves.

Okay, you get the idea. For other genealogists who wander onto this post, enough said. You get the drift. What follows is perhaps of more interest to the descendents of my own immediate family of Todds.

A.P. and Mae Todd's Children

Let's list my dad's siblings in order of birth, ending with my dad's own name, and including the nicknames many of them adopted. I've emboldened those names on the list that have analogues to earlier relatives (at least, the antecedent relatives I've identified so far).
  1. Maggie Alice (b. 1901)
  2. Thomas Clifton "Cliff" (b. 1903)
  3. Byron Franklin "By" (b. 1905)
  4. Milton Lewis "Bill" (b. 1908)
  5. Cyrus Edwin "Ed" (b. 1911)
  6. Lola Bess (b. 1914)
  7. Hardy Buford "Boots" (b. 1915)
  8. Dexter Lamar "Deck" (b. 1918)
"Mae" (Wilson) Todd
on her wedding day, 1900
A.P. Todd, on his
wedding day, 1900
Certainly, the continuous string of birthdates -- an average of almost one new child every other year for seventeen years -- seems to me sufficient justification for my grandmother, Mary "Mae" (Wilson) Todd, to have earned naming rights. And she exercised that right until the final two children (doubtless too exhausted to care by then), when she seems to have ceded to my grandfather, A.P. Todd, the opportunity to offer a couple of names from his side of the family. But he, too, must have felt compelled to go with his wife's trend of using more -- shall we say, distinctive? -- names from his lineage.

My maternal grandmother's parents were Benjamin Frankin Wilson and Sarah Hoover. (In the late eighteenth century, the latter's surname changed from Hüber to Hoover only one generation after that branch of the family immigrated from Bavaria to Pennsylvania, but that curious name-change phenomenon is blog grist for a separate mill.)

Here's the siblings list again, but this time with the antecedent namesakes and relationships to my dad's mother (#s 1-6) and father (#s 7-8):
  1. Maggie Alice (Mitchell) -- Mae's older sister was named Maggie.
  2. Thomas Clifton "Cliff" -- still looking for antecedents for these names.
  3. Byron Franklin "By" -- Mae's father was Benjamin Franklin Wilson. (And the antecedent for her father's name was clearly an homage to the famous eighteenth-century American statesman.)
  4. Milton Lewis "Bill" -- Mae's grandfather was named John Milton Wilson (antecedent given and middle names for the famous English Renaissance poet?) while Mae's grandmother had the maiden name of Lewis.
  5. Cyrus Edwin "Ed" -- Mae's older brother was named Cyrus.
  6. Lola Bess -- still looking for antecedents for these names.
  7. Hardy Buford "Boots" -- AP's father was named Hardy. (And this name recurs in almost every previous generation, beginning as a common family name in my Todd branch after an early Welsh great-grandmother's maiden name of Hardy.)
  8. Dexter Lamar "Deck" -- AP's initials stand for Atha Poindexter. (And the antecedent relative for Atha's first name was his great-grandfather, Athanathan, and great-great grandfather before that, Athanacious!)
Of the sixteen given and middle names for these eight siblings, half have clear ancestral antecedents within the family's previous three generations, which is consistent with the common practice of drawing upon the names of forebears as a source of subsequent generations' names.

In my own generation, I got my dad's first name for my middle one (fortunately, my folks refrained from reinstating the "Poin-" prefix for Dexter); to his chagrin, my brother Stephen got his middle name of Watt as a namesake for the nicknames given to our own mother's father and grandfather (their real names were both Watkins but both father and son went by "Watt"); and our sister got our mother's first name of Mary although our sister decided to go by her middle name of Suzanne.

The Ancient Egyptians believed that a person never died as long as their name was spoken by the living. In some ways, the tradition of naming descendants for ancestors accomplishes the same thing. Besides, it's reassuring to realize how our ancestors live on not only in our DNA but also by what we're called.

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for individuals described above are on WikiTree:




Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pioneering Women - Juliana King and Grizel Sims Cocke

(Woodcut from Narrative of Mary Rowlandson)
Given the patriarchal nature of  historical European and American recordkeeping, it's often easier to document the lives of men rather than women during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in early America.

But on occasion, stories emerge -- even though limited by available statistical and vital records -- that provide glimpses into the courage and determination of our maternal American ancestors.

Two such women came to my attention in the during research efforts to chart family records during the Colonial period in American history: the life of Juliana Connor King (my maternal eighth great-grandmother) and the life of Grizel Kessiah Sims Cocke (the wife of a first cousin, six times removed).

Both proved resilient, resourceful, and more than capable of surviving and even thriving, despite the loss of one or more husbands.

Juliana Connor (1637-1680)
(My grandmother Lola Sims Hardin was the daughter of Mary Clementine King, whose fifth great-grandmother was Juliana Connor.) 

Gullian ("Juliana") Connor was born about 1637 in England. Nothing is known of her parents or her circumstances, but she may have secured passage to the New World as an indentured servant.

She sailed from England, apparently alone, to the Isle of Wight, Colonial Virginia, with Capt. William Canfill, who transported her to the westward side of Lyons Creek near Hoggs Island Creek on 24 Jan 1656.

Juliana arrived in Colonial Virginia at about age 19, and she may have sought marriage as soon as possible: Young women were emancipated from servitude as soon as they married, but she also arrived as a "headright," an immigrant entitled to 50 acres of land upon marrying, which would have made her a prize in a world where single women were scarcer than in the colonies further north.

And, in fact, she did marry William Henry King, a planter, that same year of 1656 in Surry, Isle of Wight County, Colony of Virginia, British Colonial Amerca, and the couple had a child, Henry, the next year, 1657.

But her time with husband William lasted only a few years: He died, possibly before 1660 but no later than 1670, which was the year Juliana remarried "since the courts would have appointed a guardian for young Henry and she would have lost control of her son,” according to a King historian, Jeane Austin King Gelau.

Juliana's new husband, Darby Stantlin, ill at the time of the union, recorded in a will on 25 Apr 1670, in Upper Parish, Isle of Wight, Colony of Virginia, "wife Gulian, sick at present time, if she should die, my friend Mathew Waikley [is] to remain on my plantation until Henry King becomes of age; in case of wife's death and of her son Henry King my plantation [goes] to Mathew Waikley."

She survived, but husband Stantlin did not, and that same year on 25 Oct 1670, she once again married, this time to Waikley, according to court records: "acknowledged in open court by Gullian Stantlin and confiremed [sic] by Mathew Waikley her now husband."

Times must have been tough and trying despite her multiple alliances because "Gullian" died in or before 1680, at the age of 43, since Waikley recorded a will on 18 Mar 1680, for which the abstract states, "by noncupative will, whole estate to Henry King."

Juliana's life reveals her ability to navigate legal and civil limitations of the time and the requirements of marriage in order to make her way in the New World from the very start, and to marry twice again to preserve the future inheritance for her son Henry.

Grizel Kessiah Sims Cocke (1768-1820)
(My grandmother Lola Sims Hardin's third great-grandfather, Pariss Sims, was uncle to Parrish Sims, whose wife was Grizel Kessiah.)

Grizel Kessiah was born on in Amelia, Culpepper County, Colonial Virginia.

She married Parrish (his mother's maiden name but often written "Parish") Sims on family moved to Hawkins County, Territory of North Carolina (later to become Hawkins County, Tennessee, in 1793)

According to Sims historian Almon Sims, "Both Parish and his father were large land owners, had slaves, and were active in the early development of Hawkins County which in the early days included Claiborne, Hancock and Grainger counties, all in North Carolina territory."


Sims Settlement, Alabama
Almon Sims's account goes on to state, "Parish Sims, with his wife Grizel (Kessiah) and their children, his widowed mother and most of his brothers and sisters . . . started from Hawkins County in East Tennessee in the Spring of 1807 with four boats. When the boats had ascended Elk River . . . [they] concluded to stop and settled what was long known as Sims Settlement, in Limestone County, Ala."

Later that same year, on 26 Nov 1807, Parish wrote his last will and testament, stating, "I, Parrish [sic] Simes . . . give to my beloved wife, Grizel, all of my estate." He died only a few months later in Sims Settlement, Limestone County, Alabama.

William Cocke
But Grizel's story cotinues. After her husband Parrish died in 1808, Grizel married William Cocke in 1810. At the time, Grizel was 42 and William, 62 (his first wife Mary having passed away earlier that same year.)

Cocke had spent time trailblazing and settling lands in Kentucky and later East Tennessee in the company of Daniel Boone. According to an entry in Wikipedia, Cocke "was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and a colonel of militia; in 1776, he led four companies of that militia into to what became Tennessee for action against the Indians," who had allied with the British during the War of Independence.

Later, Cocke was appointed as the Agent for the Chickasaw Indians in a First Nations' dispute against the Sims Settlement inhabitants as trespassers.

Almon Sims records, on "September of 1810, a petition was sent to President Madison, and one of its signers was Grizell [sic] Sims, widow of Parish. . . . This petition asked the President not to allow the removal of the settlers even though their purchase of the land from the Cherokees was in dispute by the Chickasaws. This 'trouble with the Indians' is significant in that it may be how widow Grizel Sims, referred to in some records as Kissiah Sims, came to meet and know William Cocke."

Grizel's gumption must have made quite an impression on Cocke since the two married that same year.

The couple later moved to Columbus, Mississippi, where they lived "in the dogtrot cross hall two-story log house on the bluff above the Tombigbee," according to the family records cited by Sims descendant Hershel Parker. Cocke continued a political career and, at times, serving in appointed positions for the President, including a commission as General in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812.

Grizel died in 6 Aug 1820, and was buried in Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi, where her second husband was later buried in 1828, and where they share a joint tombstone.

The Lives between the Lines
Available records don't do justice to either of these women, but we nonetheless see glimpses -- albeit at times almost between the lines -- that they were often actors on the stage of early America in ways we can only surmise as compared to the lives of their better-documented husbands. However, they often persisted beyond the lives of those husbands, leaving their own marks in the record books and in the lives and traditions of subsequent family generations.

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for the individuals described above are on WikiTree:


Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Perplexing Parallels of Pariss and Parish Sims

Pariss and Keziah Sims's tombstone,
erected by descendants in 1974,
Giles County, Tennessee
(posted by Mark Todd)

My Ulster-Scots ancestor Pariss Sims was as perplexing in genealogy as he was in life.

Some genealogies maintain his name was Pariss while others insist it was Parish, disputing whom he married, who his parents were, and where he was born and died. There are verifiable records that back up both accounts -- and sometimes at different locations at the same time.

Who was Pariss/Parish Sims?

Clearly, they are two individuals because of the records. But their narrative lives are complicated by several similarities:
  • Pariss had a father named James Barlett Sims, born in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland.
  • Parish also had a father named James Barlett Sims, born in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland.
  • Pariss had a wife named Keziah.
  • Parish had a wife named Grizel Kessiah
  • Both emigrated to Tennessee from North Carolina.
  • Both found their final homes in 1807.
The initial confusion stems from the often-sourced 1948 book by Almon Sims, The Pariss Sims Family. Then Almon Sims published a 1965 revision, in which he corrects the first book, announcing in a new forward that he made a "serious error, by confusing Pariss Sims, our ancestor of Giles County, Tenn., with Parish Sims who made Sims Settlement on Elk River, just south of Giles County, in Limestone County, Ala., in 1807, the same year our Pariss arrived in Tennessee from North Carolina. This error was caused by the two being confused in an early history of Giles County, Tennessee."

It took me months to sort out Pariss from Parish, and it turns out the two were related: Pariss Sims's brother was James Bartlett Sims Jr, whose first-born son was named Parish Sims. What follows are snapshot sketches of each of their lives, piecing together how these two individuals became so entangled.

Pariss Sims (1740-1833)
Pariss Sims (my fifth great-grandfather) was born between 1740 and 1750 in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland, to James Barlett Sims Sr.

Pariss and his brother James Bartlett Sims Jr were both born and grew up in a region where state-sponsored settlements were part of the Plantation (colonization) of the Province of Ulster in Northern Ireland, which had begun in 1609. This scheme, instituted by James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, was intended to confiscate all the lands of the Catholic Irish nobility in Ulster and to settle the province with Protestant Scottish and English colonists on confiscated land.

Ulster-Scots weathered the turbulent relocation and colonization, but throughout the 18th century, considerable numbers of these Plantation settlers began immigrating to the North American colonies.

Pariss's older brother, James Bartlett Sims Jr, emigrated to British Colonial America in the early 1760s, and Pariss followed with two younger brothers in 1765, settling first in Pennsylvania, but with Pariss later moving near Salem, North Carolina.

According to Continental Army pay vouchers, Pariss enlisted during the American War of Independence. Family tradition claims he served in Gen. George Washington's personal body guard, wintering at Valley Forge and even crossing the Delaware with the commander-in-chief.

He married Keziah Royster of Granville County, North Carolina, in 1782. The family moved from North Carolina to Tennessee in the summer of 1807: "With all their possessions loaded into a covered wagon, drawn by oxen, Pariss Sims and his family set out on a rugged trek," a trip that took some 40 days, and settled in what is now Giles County, Tennessee, according to Almon Sims.

Pariss Sims died in 1833 and is buried in English Cemetery, Campbellsville, Giles County, Tennessee.

Parish Sims (1762-1808)
Pariss's older brother James Bartlett Jr, had come to the Colonies in the early 1760s and married Elizabeth Parrish, who gave birth to their son Parish on in Patrick County, Virginia Colony. Presumably, Parish (sometimes spelled Parrish) was named for his mother's family. That birth occurred three years before Pariss Sims arrived in the New World.

James's family moved from Patrick County to Hawkins County, Territory of North Carolina (later to become Hawkins County, Tennessee), and Parish married Grizel Kessiah on  

According to Almon Sims, "Both Parish and his father were large land owners, had slaves, and were active in the early development of Hawkins County which in the early days included Claiborne, Hancock and Grainger counties, all in North Carolina territory."

Sims Settlement, Alabama
His father James died in 1793. Almon Sims's narrative states, "Parish Sims, with his wife Grizel (Kessiah) and their children, his widowed mother and most of his brothers and sisters ... started from Hawkins County in East Tennessee in the Spring of 1807 with four boats. When the boats had ascended Elk River ... [they] concluded to stop and settled what was long known as Sims Settlement, in Limestone County, Ala."

Later that same year, on 26 Nov 1807, Parish wrote his last will and testament, stating, "I, Parrish [sic] Simes . . . give to my beloved wife, Grizel, all of my estate." He died only a few months later in Sims Settlement, Limestone County, Alabama.

A Tale of Two Sims's
Uncle Pariss and nephew Parish were both sources for multiple generations of namesakes in the lines of both Pariss and his brother James. Not too surprisingly, confusion and conflation of the different lives of Pariss and Parish persist to this day -- not only for genealogists but even through the hand-me-down stories of their descendants.

But I know I'm on the right track: Through diligent research and comparisons made by my third cousin Patty Sims (or maybe third cousin once removed -- it's complicated) and me using GEDmatch, we've confirmed we share DNA -- Patty through Parish and me through Pariss. It never hurts to have a little bit of scientific corroboration to back up our genealogical digging!

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for the individuals described above are on WikiTree:










Friday, March 13, 2020

Not all Ulster-"Scots" were Scots!

(posted by Mark Todd)

One of the more satisfying aspects of genealogy research is those moments when information goes beyond mere statistical data, and a person's history begins to take shape and tell a narrative -- sometimes revealing glimpses of an individual's personality.

Such an instance emerged when I began researching one line of my dad's ancestors, going back five-plus generations to the eighteenth and seventeenth centures.

British Isles history buffs and genealogists are likely to be familiar with the so-called Ulster-Scots who immigrated to British Colonial America in droves during the eighteenth century, fleeing the turbulence of the Province of Ulster in Northern Ireland at the time.

But fewer casual researchers realize that Ulster was home to not only relocated Scots but also a large population of resettled English during Ulster's Plantation conlonization, initiated by James VI of Scotland when he became King of England in the seventeenth century. In effect, the colonization was intended to confiscate all the lands of the unruly Catholic Irish nobility in Ulster and to resettle the province with not only Protestant Scottish but also Protestant English colonists on the confiscated lands.

But several generations of resettled Ulster colonists had grown weary of the strife and feuding that resulted, and many determined to relocate to the Americas.

Not too surprisingly (given my strong roots in the American South), I had already discovered a strain of true Ulster-Scots from the family of my maternal grandmother (born a Sims, and more on this controversial lineage in a future post). So when I found another group of transplanted Ulster colonists on my paternal side by the name of Gray, I immediately assumed they were also Scots. But as I delved deeper, I discovered they had hailed three generations earlier from Essex, England, just north of London -- a far cry from the English-Scottish borderlands.

It took a bit of further investigation to make the connection: these paternal Ulster ancestors had settled in the town of Derry in Northern Ireland, which was soon renamed Londonderry by the settlers, to reflect their origins. That group was also comprised almost entirely of families from the London area-based "great guilds." So much for the mystery of the English rather than Scottish origins on that branch of my family tree.

But when I started tracing down records and documents for the branches of both grandparents who had arrived from Ulster to the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the story started to become more personal -- especially since it involved two separate immigrant families who remained unrelated until joined in marriage by my ancestral fourth great-grandparents.

The Story between the Lines

Matthew Gray Jr (my fourth great-grandfather) arrived in Worcester County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, in 1718 as a ten-year-old, accompanying his father Matthew Sr and his grandfather John Gray Jr, alongside other new immigrant families from Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

The new arrivals were not particularly welcome in Masschusetts Bay, shunned, as it were, by the second-generation Puritan descendants already in Worcester County. Only 26 years earlier, in 1692, the English king had issued the colony a new land charter that shifted voting rights from Puritan church membership to land ownership.

Cotton Mather
According to historian Charles Bolton, Matthew Sr’s father “John Gray had land laid out to him by the town's committee November 26, 1718.”

Bolton explains, Puritan forefather and minister "Cotton Mather had in mind very early that the emigrants from Ulster would be useful settlers on the frontier. In 1718 the village of Worcester could claim a position on the Massachusetts frontier, although it lay only forty miles from Boston. First settled in 1674, it was deserted in King Philip's war, 1675, and again in Queen Anne's war, 1702."

According to Bolton, however, the Ulster Presbysterians "came to act as a buffer against the Indians, and instead of welcome they received surly conversation from the few inhabitants who turned out to meet them."

Another Ulster family had arrived in 1718 from Londonderry: Hugh Kelso, his wife Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter Jean (my fifth-generation grandmother). By trade, Kelso was a wheelwright, a craftsman who built and repaired wheels for wagons and carriages.

Ten-year-old Matthew Jr would not likely have paid much attention to two-year-old Jean (my future fourth great-grandmother) on the two-month voyage to the New World. But the town was small and both the Gray and Kelso families attended the same church in Worcester and participated in the same circles of community involvement.  Sixteen years later, when Matthew was 26 and Jean was 18, the two married in 1734 in Worcester.

By trade, Matthew Jr was a "Scaler of leather" (leather-tooler) and "Hogreeve" in 1724 in Worcester. (A "hog-reeve" was a Colonial New England constable whose job it was to prevent or appraise damages made by swine.) 

After 1737, according to records reported by Bolton, "The lands now included in the town of Pelham were being opened for settlement, and on the 21st of January, 1738-39, John Stoddard arranged to settle a number of families ... such as were inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland or their descendants, being Protestants." Names included in this resettlement as "proprietors" included John Gray Jr and Matthew Gray Sr.

Record of deaths for both Matthew
Gray Jr and wife Jean (Kelso) Gray
But records suggest that Matthew Jr did not relocate to Pelham with his father and grandfather, some 30 miles from Worcester. Instead, Matthew Jr and Jean remained where her parents Hugh and Sarah Kelso still lived. Matthew's father-in-law signed a will on 14 Jun 1737, in which he refers to Jean's husband as "my well beloved son Matthew Gray," and to whom Hugh bequeaths his "wearing cloaths [sic]," a gesture that suggests Matthew and Jean were regularly present in the Kelso household in Worcester at that time, and Matthew had become like a son to Hugh Kelso.

Hugh died only two months later, and he named Matthew's grandfather John Gray Jr as co-executor to his estate, revealing how close the two families had remained.

Old Common Burial Ground in
present-day Worcester, Massachuestts
On 14 June 1742, Matthew and Jean had a daughter in Worcester named Jemima (my third great-grandmother).

Jean died 22 years later in 1764, and Matthew would go on to marry twice more before dying himself in 1783. But at his death, he was buried next to his childhood sweetheart in the Old Common Burial Ground in Worcester.


* * *

Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for individuals described above are on WikiTree:










Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Welcome to our Genealogical Adventures!

For us, it started with DNA tests that whetted an appetite for discovering our own roots. Before long, we were exploring the ancestors who gave us those genes.

From family records and relatives' anecdotes, we learned names, dates, places, and stories about our parents and grandparents.

But it didn't take long to exhaust those resources in reconstucting our earlier generations.

One branch of Mark's family came over from England during the Great Puritan Migration of the 1600s, plus a bit of Cherokee mixed in later. (Or so he thought!)

Kym's family came to this country only three generations ago from Norway and Germany. (Or so she thought!)

We next researched available genealogical resources and services, trying out several as a way to methodically recreate our respective trees. At first, it seemed easy enough, and within a few short months, we had each compiled enough second-hand sources to track our seperate roots back a couple of thousand years!

Problem was, we soon discovered not everyone researches their own roots as meticulously as we wanted ours to be. We knew we had to look harder to get the facts straight.

And so began our real initiation into genealogy.

It's an ongoing project with surprising stories and unexpected roots. Mark's ancestors weren't Puritans after all (nor did he have a lick of Cherokee), and Kym's relatives from Germany turned out to be from a small Friesian island that was as much Danish as German.

We had our work cut out for us.

And so began our serious exploration of our genealogical roots. It's an on-going passion, and the lessons we're learning in how to research (and where to verify the "facts" we'd collected earlier) have been eye-opening -- not only for our own family stories but also for the connections we've discovered to the larger human tree.

In this blog, we share personal family stories but also the genealogical journeys we discover along the way. And we plan to share the lessons we're learning as well as a few tips that just might save others the time and trouble of having to back-track and correct earlier mistakes.

Despite the detours we've taken already, the journey has turned into a marvelous journey we never expected -- one we hope will reward those who choose to look over our shoulders as we forge ahead.

Our Farewell to the Paranormal

Dear readers and fans,

What a journey it has been!

From UFOs to ghosts, from field investigators for MUFON to Wild West Paranormal Investigations --  we've conducted over 150 investigations in the past nine years for our own "X-Files," experienced more than our share of unexpected encounters, and have had to re-assess what we thought Reality was.

But we've also come to realize some mysteries will never be solved -- at least, not in this world. We feel we're no longer making new contributions to the conversation, and so it's time to pass the baton to others in terms of active research into the unknown.

Our warm wishes to all of you who have joined us on this journey, albeit often vicariously through our accounts, our live Tweets, and our vid clips.


We still seem to be obsessed with The Dead, but ironically, it's now become more personal!

Our journey has now led us to a new passion, our genealogical roots, which has consumed more and more of our time as we research and seek out our forebears. We realize this will be an entirely new audience, and many of you will no longer care to follow our historical exploits.

So to many we say farewell. To those of you with leanings toward the fascinating and often surprising revelations of who all of our ancestors were, we say welcome!

For the past two years we've divided our time between "ghosties" and our explorations on WikiTree, FamilySearch , and Ancestry, and what a rollercoaster ride this new jounrey is becoming.

In future postings, we look forward to sharing the complex discoveries we've been making about our own ancestors but we hope to contribute these findings as specimens of what lies behind all of our pasts.