Sunday, February 18, 2018

#52Ancestors Favorite Name (Week #6) - Hephsabah

Hephsabah is one of my favorite names.  Hephzibah is a figure in the Book of Kings in the Bible. She was the wife of Hezekiah, King of Judah, and the mother of Manasseh. If you want to send someone on a wild goose chase- Have them look up Hezekiah 5:3 in the Bible.  (there is no such book- Hezekiah was a king rather than a prophet).  My Grt4-Grandmother Hephsabah Bassett was known as Happy Bassett.  Maybe the name is just too difficult to pronounce or too formal but when I hear Grandma Happy Sears, it makes me smile. One of my other ancestors Hepsibah "Hepsy" (Hill) Sears, is wife of my third cousin Rowland Sears and I believe you will find the name is fairly common in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Happy is not currently on the list of popular names for babies but maybe it will make a comeback someday.  Her birth record shows that her parents named her "Happy" which must have been understood as a nickname for Hephsabah.

We don't know a lot about Grandma Happy b. 1743 but her marriage record is spelled with the more formal Hephsabah.

We had once recorded that she died 1769 but then she could not have had all the children attributed to her and Smalley so I removed that death date.  I'm not sure where that date came from. As you know it is difficult to figure out later the source of your information so keep good notes on your sources. Notes in the Sons of the American Revolution application that used Smalle Phillips as a Patriot say that the county records burned in 1812 and the Harwich records were not well kept.  The 1790, 1800 and 1810 census indicate a Smalle Phillips was alive at that time. It seems that Happy is still alive in 1810 by the count of people in the household.

By the birth of her children she is recorded as Hapsay so the name seems to have numerous shortcuts and pronunciations.  Just something that makes her more intriguing.

In any case- Happy, Hepsy, Hephsabah will always be foremost in my mind when it comes to names that stand out in our family history.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

#52 Ancestors 1880 Census Dennis, Cape Cod, Mass. (Week 5)

My sister and I have a hypothesis that there is a high degree of consanguinity amongst Cape Cod residents in the 1800s. Consanguinity refers to two people having a common ancestor. The more recent the ancestor, the higher degree of consanguinity. We want to prove this idea using the census of the Town of Dennis (Cape Cod) Massachusetts in 1880.  So first we typed in all the names from that census into a spreadsheet.  You can see the sheet here

A quick look shows a list of individuals from #1 to #3292.  But that number is a little bit high. More detailed study shows that the same person was enumerated as #194 and #275 -  Johnathon Howes- listed as a widower and the only member of family #59 and with his daughter and grand-daughter in family #77.  A little later under person #959 we see Allen Frank listed. But the enumerator got his name backwards.  He is really Franklin L. Allen and is counted again as #1270 son of James Allen. Emily B Small #984 is the same person as  #1076 where she is daughter of Alvin Small.  #1161 Ferdinand Williams Baker is duplicated as is his brother #1162. James Roderick Baker #1805 (listed as James K Baker) so you can see that census details are not always dependable.  We did a lot of work to try to include people’s full names in our census spreadsheet.  George M Whelden and brother William Magnum Whelden are also counted twice as #1204&2606, #1332 & 1673. George Biron Nickerson is duplicated as is his wife Sarah Swift (Whelden) Nickerson #1333.  You will notice we have included Sarah’s maiden name.  The information about maiden names is not in the census and must be derived at great effort by the genealogist. Their daughter Anna M Nickerson is also duplicated as #1334. Ruthie P (Overton) Kelley #1273 is also enumerated as #1378.  The three members of the Van Buren Chase family are counted twice #2217. Amos and Lydia (Crowell) Crowell are #1650, 1651 and #1900, 1901. 
In addition to duplication, the census taker often took liberty with spelling. The name Howes was often spelled House.  Kelley spelled as Kelly. Harward spelled as Howard.  Bearse as Birs. Patterson as Peterson. Joy as Jorg. Eldredge as Eldrey. Long as Lang. Barstow and Barston. Small as Smalley.  Then there is Edward B Phillips who is enumerated as Phillip Edward, family name and given name were swapped.  Whittemore was recorded as Whitman. Megathlen as Nigathline. William Alister is listed as Alister William.

My sister and I entered all these people into an Ancestry tree ( and then we started tracking down their ancestors.  We had already collected a lot of this ancestral information because of our work on the Sears family which is heavily concentrated in Dennis.  Then we wrote a computer program to compare each person in the 1880 Dennis census with every other person in the census to see if they had a common ancestor- i.e. they were cousins.  Remarkable!  So for example, my great-grandfather Elkanah Howes Sears is a cousin to 1,367 people (over 40% of those in town are his cousins!) The "most related" person at our current analyis is Mercy Baker - a baby when the census taker stopped by- daughter of Wilbur Cornelius Baker (1856-1898) and Mercy Ella Baker(1857-?) [yes Mercy Ella was also a Baker] who is related to 2,355 townfolks - 71% - Has little Mercy got a few cousins or what?

We have a map of the residences of people in town in the 1880s and one point of interest is that the enumerator did not collect the information house by house, street by street. The order of the people in the census is not the same as the order of their houses on the street.  He often skipped houses, maybe to come back later.  Or maybe he just wrote down the information from memory to save a lot of walking around town?

All this goes to show a great deal of information can be gleaned from the census not just from neighbors close by but from the analysis of the whole town. Enjoy your search of the census!

Friday, February 2, 2018

#52Ancestors Dinner (Week 4)

I have always wondered what it would be like to have dinner with my grandfather, Leslie Sears.  I know that he held me when I was an infant in his house on Cape Cod in 1952 when he was 60 years old but that was the last time he ever saw me. Our family moved to Germany as part of the US Army Occupation Forces and Grandpa died in 1954.  At dinner with Grandpa I would probably ask about his time in prep school as a baseball player before he went off to MIT in Cambridge.  His years at MIT in the beginning of the 20th century must have been amazing.  He had attended high school on Cape Cod and prep-school at East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island.  The academy was a Methodist boarding school and helped prepare him for college. At MIT he was also on the baseball team and the chess team.

Grandpa left MIT early when his father died in 1914.  That must have been very traumatic but the training he received at MIT served him the rest of his life.  Grandpa surely had some stories about his service in the US Army Engineers building small gauge railways in France during WW I. I am sure he would tell me about his days at the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad from 1924 – 1931 where he was surveyor and resident civil engineer at a salary of $46 per week.  I would be proud to tell him that just like him, I was a Registered Professional Engineer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  My specialty was electronics where his was railroad stations, shops, roads and bridges but the “knack” of people with engineering skills was certainly passed down from grandfather to grandson.

Grandpa finished his career working for the Metropolitan District Commission where he was involved with work in the Blue Hills and along the Charles River including the Esplanade and the Hatch Shell which was dedicated in 1940. Arthur Fiedler was conductor of the Boston Pops then and I am sure Grandpa could regale us with stories about his conversations with Fiedler as that project was underway.  Maybe we would even hear about one of Fiedler’s famous fire truck rides as an Honorary Captain of the fire department.

I am sure Grandpa was a proud fisherman and also enjoyed automobiles and I know that cribbage was a favorite pastime of the family so those stories would also probably be among those told at dinner.  And finally any baseball player would be proud to call the Red Sox his team.  Please Grandpa, tell me one more story about going to the games at Fenway Park.