To-Do List Update

Forgive me, friends — this isn’t a proper update. It’s as much a to-do list as anything else, but consider it a preview of coming attractions if you like.

First thing I need to do is catch up on bibliographizing. Likewhoa.

But beyond that, in no particular order…

  1. Keep chasing Carrie Wood and Delia Wood
  2. Ned the Privateer and what I can find of his transgressions and his fate
  3. Anything more I can find on Rose, enslaved by the Kenricks
  4. Who were Agnes and Austin Holden, really?
  5. Stephen Joseph McNally — pre-1914 and then 1921-1939
  6. The life of Ada Mae Scott (I don’t think I’ve introduced her to y’all yet)
  7. Immigrant stories of Newton, MA
  8. Who was David Sparhawk, and where were he and his wife buried?
  9. Can I pick up where I left off on the Kenrick Serving Women?
  10. Mary Mehitable Kenrick Taylor, Caroline Kenrick, and Sarah Frances Jones Kenrick

That’s actually a hefty bit of work, much of it rife with dead ends. But we’ll see how things go…

The Story of Loquassichub Um

We’ll return to Carrie and Delia Wood, but first, I want to tell another story.

This is the story of a woman called Pamela by her enslavers but who remembered her parents, in her youth in Africa, calling her Loquassichub Um. We tell her story at the house museum where others were sheltered and aided on their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. But the man who eventually set her free, Rev. Jonas Meriam, was also the father-in-law of John Kenrick, Esq., whose stories we tell at our other house.

Francis Jackson, 19th century chronicler of Newton history, writes:

“After [the reverend’s] marriage to Miss [Jerusha] Fitch, her m[other] came to reside with them at Newton, and brought with her a female slave, named Pamelia (sic), whom she received as a present from her s[on] Eliphalet Fitch, Esq., then residing on the island of Jamaica; the treatment of which slave, by her mistress, sorely troubled Mr. Meriam. One day, on seeing his m[other] in law strike and otherwise maltreat the slave, he asked at what price she would sell her to him; she replied, ‘one hundred dollars.’ He immediately paid the price, and thereupon gave Pamelia her freedom; but Pamelia chose to reside with him, and did so until his death, in 1780, after which she went to live in Little Cambridge, [Brighton], where she m[arried], and d[ied] a few years since, at very great age. Pamelia often said that she was born in Africa, and was called by her parents Loquassichub Um, and that she was stolen from her parents when a child, and carried to Jamaica, where she became the property of Mr. Fitch, who brought her to this country and gave her to his m[other], while on a visit here.” (p. 367)

Francis Jackson goes on to cite the Rev. Meriam’s grandson, born of his only daughter, as the source for the story. Rev. Meriam’s only daughter (with his first wife, Mehitable Foxcroft) was Mehitable Meriam, who married John Kenrick, Esq. Thus, the source of the story would have been William or John Adams Kenrick. But something about the story always bothered me. It seemed a little too white-knighty. And in fact, Jackson continues:

“Wheresoever the gospel of humanity shall be preached or written, such acts as this will be remembered as long as the act of ‘breaking the alabaster box of precious ointment upon the head of Him who came to open the prison door and set the captive free.'” (p. 367-368)

So I started digging. Because wills are often one of the best available sources for determining what happened to enslaved people, I started there. First, I looked at Jerusha Boylston Fitch, the mother-in-law in question. She died in 1799, having outlived both her daughter (died 1775) and son-in-law (died 1780). I confirmed her will didn’t refer to Pamela (shouldn’t have!), so I went to check Jonas’s will — it also made no mention of her. So far, this was arguably consistent with the story, even if it didn’t do anything to actually prove it.

Then I noticed that Jerusha Fitch Meriam had also made a will. This was unusual for a married woman who was not a widow (as her mother was), but not deeply so, as she was from a decently well-off family and had been her husband’s second wife. Her probate actually included a statement from Jonas:

Jonas Meriam consent to JFMs will

And then I found this:

JFM wills Pamela to Jonas

If Jonas bought her from his mother-in-law after watching an intolerable beating and freed her on the spot, she would not have been Jerusha Fitch Meriam’s property to bequeath. White knight officially slain.

But the rest of the story — that, after being given her freedom by Jonas (whenever that was), she remained with him until his death — actually does seem supportable and would have been consistent with the experiences of many enslaved folks “freed” into “servancy” in the years between the Revolution and turn of the century.

Jonas died on 3 August 1780, and his will was written that spring, a few months prior. The lack of any reference to Pamela suggests she was free by then (and that he didn’t choose to provide for her, but that’s a separate matter). The story also said she married, so I went looking for her happy ending.

On 9 August 1780, just six days after Jonas’s death, this marriage intention was filed in Boston:

Pamela and David Sparhawk MI cropped

And on 27 August 1780, they were married:

Pamela and David Sparhawk Marriage cropped

I haven’t yet found either’s death/burial records, but their marrying so quickly after Jonas’s death and the fact she wasn’t mentioned in his will written some months prior tell me she was indeed freed (and began her relationship with David Sparhawk) before Jonas’s death. A little girl kidnapped from her family finally had self-determination and, I hope, happiness.

Rest in Power, Loquassichub Um Sparhawk. You survived.

Questions about Carrie Wood

So now that I’ve gone and smashed what I thought I knew about Carrie Wood, here are my questions:

  1. Was Carrie actually Delia’s mother, rather than the other way around?
  2. If so, can I find Carrie’s husband/Delia’s father? Was she unmarried?
  3. If Carrie was born in Massachusetts to Massachusetts-born parents, can I find her in Massachusetts Town and Vital Records?
  4. If Carrie was a “conveyancer” in 1910, was she employed similarly before 1910?
  5. If she wasn’t a servant, just a boarder, why did she leave Sarah Jones Kenrick’s house for Agnes Holden’s? (I have so many questions about her, too, but that’s for another day — because what’s the deal with her 1910 jaunt to Boston anyway?)
  6. Where is Carrie after 1910, and how long can I find records for her?
  7. Where is Delia after 1900, and did she marry? Because if she were the teenager in 1900, then we’d expect to see her marrying in the subsequent decade-ish or perhaps see her continue in service in someone else’s house.
  8. Did Carrie or Delia die in Newton? or Cambridge? or Boston? or anywhere trackable?
  9. Have I looked for Carrie in Newton in 1899? I should do that if I haven’t. Hm.

So I went back to Ancestry with the updated birth date, and that started popping. I found a few Carrie Woods in Massachusetts. I also now had her middle initial, A., courtesy of the City of Newton Directories, which, along with location, whittled things down further.

I was fairly certain we needed a Carrie Wood who was based in greater Boston, so I discarded one in Berkshire County, one in Plymouth County, and I decided to keep a wary eye on one born in Cambridge but buried in Worcester. (I subsequently discovered that Carrie was not our Carrie. I found her in Worcester in 1900, when ours is in Newton, but her parents are also from Maine and New Hampshire!)

The logical candidate was born in Cambridge, MA, on 29 July 1859, to Charles P. and Hannah M. Wood. As it happened, she wasn’t the first Carrie A. Wood born to her parents — an infant of that name and parentage died at one week old in 1856.

But Carrie v.1859, her parents’ only living child, appears in their home in the 1860 US Census, the 1865 MA State Census, the 1870 US Census, and the 1880 US Census. Across those four records, her father’s birthplace is consistently listed as New Hampshire, and her mother’s shifts from Maine to Massachusetts. All the way around, though, she was not the Irish immigrant I initially took her for. Her grandmother, Hannah Somerby, also appears in the censuses, herself American-born.

Another fun note — Carrie’s father is consistently identified  for 20 years as a seller of flour. Not a baker or a grocer, but very specifically a seller (in one year, he’s listed as a wholesaler) of flour… until 1880, when he’s listed as a bookkeeper.

The 1890 US Census died in a fire, which makes Carrie Wood another potential casualty of a lost link. But the Newton city directories do cover that time period, so I decided my next move would be to go backward from 1900.

She wasn’t in the 1899 City of Newton Directory. So I tried the 1899 Cambridge directory, found here. Her father was there, but her mother wasn’t, but if only heads of house were listed, Carrie and her mother would be invisible. In 1899, she was 40 years old, and the very next year, she and Delia, whoever Delia was, would be living at the Kenricks’. So I tried the 1899 Boston directory, available here, hoping I wouldn’t have to go all the way through everywhere in the Greater Boston area. I didn’t find her in Boston. So if she wasn’t in her father’s house in Cambridge, she might have been in any of the other surrounding towns.

So here’s what I’m left with now:

  1. Our Carrie Wood is visible in Newton from 1900 to 1923 — but the 1925 City of Newton Directory marks her as “rem to Roxbury,” meaning she likely relocated there in 1924 or 1925. I’ll follow up on this bit next.
  2. Her parents’ deaths, 1902 for Hannah and 1905 for Charles, don’t seem to line up with any of her moving.
  3. In 1903, her occupation is listed as “copyist” for the City of Cambridge. From 1905-1923, she’s listed as “examiner of titles” for Cambridge. It turns out “conveyancer,” her occupation as listed in the 1910 Census, is a legal specialization involved in buying and selling property. These days, it’s a lawyer, which I’m not sure she was, but it fits with “examiner of titles.”
  4. After leaving the Goodes’ residence (which followed her time with the Kenricks and with Agnes Holden), she appears in two different boarding houses in Newton.
  5. I can find nothing of Delia. I’m starting to wonder if the shared surname might have been a coincidence.

Next stop, Roxbury…


In which Carrie Wood appears somewhere unexpected and upends everything I think I know

Having gotten nowhere trying to connect Reuben Moore and Thomas Harbach, I’m going to stick a pin in them for a bit. It’s been a few weeks of chasing other leads and digging through various threads, and at some point I circled back around through the Newton City Directories… and found Carrie Wood.

Carrie Wood was one of the Kenrick Serving Women — or more to the point, a woman I identified as her mother, Delia Wood, did.

Carrie and Delia Wood

This is the 1900 US Federal Census for the household of Sarah Frances Jones Kenrick, widow of John Adams Kenrick, Jr. There are no ages listed, but the two right-hand columns in this image indicate that these are  white females, and I’ve seen this pattern before — including in the same census, clear across the country, in my own family. “Servant” and “boarder” with matching last names should be mother and child. In my family’s case, it was a daughter born out of wedlock. In this case, it’s hard to be sure.

I figured a child in that kind of situation would probably be in the under-10 set, putting her born in, say, 1895 +/-5 years. I figured we should then expect to see her getting married 15-20 years later. She should be findable in the census, once I had a married name to go with a maiden name.

As it happened, that wasn’t where I found her first.

One of the interesting aspects of organizing my research in terms of the timeline of the house and grounds is an inherent tendency to ignore what happened to each family once they left. The connections between the Durants and the Dewings gave me a reason to keep tracking the Durants after they left, but I hadn’t applied the same to the Kenricks.

So I started following Sarah Frances Jones Kenrick. I knew where she was in 1900. In 1910, she and her daughters Mabel and Jeannie (and two of her sisters) were living in the same place around the corner. Note the maid, Mary Brennan, is listed as Irish/English, continuing the Kenricks’ general trend in domestic employment.

1910 SFJK

Image: 1910 U.S. Federal Census, household of Sarah F Kenrick

Around the same time, I was working on an immigration project and was going through the Newton City Directories, which are a good tool for tracking businesses as well as families between censuses, and I was specifically looking for boarders and boarding houses. And that’s when I found Carrie Wood, boarding in the house of Sarah Frances Jones Kenrick.

Here they are from 1901 to 1907 (hover/click to see which year is which):

The (b) represents “boarder,” which would be true of any grown adults or non-family. Catherine, Jennie, and Lucy were Sarah’s sisters and sister-in-law, and her daughters were both grown — and Carrie would have been marked in the directory as a boarder, by convention, because she was a non-family member. But these entries raise a few questions — namely, what happened to Delia? Beyond that, though, what was Carrie’s role in the house?

After some initial searches for Delia turned up no useful results, I thought perhaps the second question would be easier to answer, but that’s where I found Carrie in a place I didn’t expect. In 1909, she wasn’t in Sarah’s house anymore — she was back at the Kenricks’ old home, 286 Waverley Avenue.

Her turning up in another home — especially the home of someone with a prior relationship to the family — seems to domestic service. But also this began to tell me more about Agnes Holden, too, someone I’d begun to suspect might be more significant to the house and its families than our museum’s research and interpretation had yet uncovered/represented. I’d been looking into Agnes and her husband, Austin, whose decade-ish of ownership of the house was otherwise a seemingly random punctuation in the larger train of ownership. We’d started to think there might be more to it when my colleagues M. and J. noticed Durant-Dewing furniture in photos of the house from the Holden years. Now this pointed to a stronger relationship to the Kenricks than we might otherwise have figured, too.

But I digress.

In 1910, Agnes Holden was living in Boston, though that seems to have been a short blip, as she’s back in the Waverley Ave. house in 1911 with her mother and some people named Shore, whom I’ll have to follow up on. The 1913 directory still lists Agnes, but with the note, “removed to Cambridge,” meaning her departure was relatively recent at the time of publication. In any case, Carrie doesn’t seem to be with the Holdens or in the house on Waverley Ave. past 1909.

So where was Carrie in 1910? If I could find her in the 1910 Census, I could confirm her occupation and relationship to the head of household.

It took some digging — I had to find her first in the 1911 Newton directory, then search the head of household’s name from that listing in the 1910 US Federal Census, where she was indexed as “Cora/Carie,” which hid her in my initial searches.

And lo and behold, she isn’t a servant. She’s a “lodger,” working as a “conveyancer,” which I take to be a sales position of some sort. And in 1910, she was 51.

1910 Robert Goode w Carrie Wood Lodger

This was a bombshell. If she was 51 in 1910, that put her born in about 1858/1859 — a full generation more than the under-10 I took her for in my first read of the 1900 Census. And yet, it’s Delia who’s listed as the servant, not Carrie… so did I have mother/daughter backwards? But it also reveals what the 1900 Census didn’t — that Carrie, her mother, and her father were all born in Massachusetts.

So pretty much, I have to go back to the drawing board with everything I think I know about Carrie Wood.

I’ll start the next entry with a new list of questions about Carrie Wood, but I’m more hopeful now that finally I’ll actually get the “full story” (or something close to it) on one of the Kenrick Serving Women!

In which the Mystery of Reuben Moore somehow gets more mysterious

At this point, I should probably know better than to promise what I’ll talk about next when research is still ongoing. I told you I’d say more about Reuben Moore and Henrietta Durant Jackson Moore (Henrietta Durant v.1762) — and I suppose I will. But where I expected to find some answers, there were (yup!) more questions.

When I figured out who Reuben Moore was and where listed him as buried, M. and I realized we’d encountered this man before. Last summer, shortly after M. started at the museum, he’d been invited out to East Parish Burying Ground to look at a tomb that was being cleaned/restored. It’s one of I think just two that are like that in the burying ground — a tomb with a door instead of a plot with a headstone and footstone. He’d then pointed it out to me when we did a program in the burying ground on Halloween with a local middle school.

In a strange twist, that tomb turns out to be the final resting place of Reuben Moore. But, as it turns out, it isn’t just the tomb of Reuben Moore:

The text on the stone (pictured atop the tomb in the image on the left) reads: “Reuben Moore and Thomas Harbach’s Tomb 1810”

Aaaaaaaaand that’s where the questions start.

  1. Who is Thomas Harbach, and what was his relationship with Reuben?
  2. Why does it say 1810 when we know Reuben died in 1837?
  3. Where is Reuben’s wife Henrietta, since she doesn’t seem to be here?

A run through the censuses reveals a likely candidate for our Thomas Harbach in 1810, 1820, and 1830. The 1831 Map of Newton provides further context:

1831 Map - Kenrick - Harbach - Ward - Moore

[Map of Newton, 1831 — full map available here.]

We see three Harbach properties at what is today approximately the intersection of Ward St. and Waverley Ave. There’s no 1840 Census listing for Thomas Harbach, but there are two Newton Harbachs — Charlotte and John. The former household includes an elderly woman I figure is likely Thomas’s widow. Narrowing Thomas’s death, like Reuben’s, down to the period between 1830 and 1840, led me to his likely death record — one Thomas Harbach died in Newton on 8 April 1840.

I started wondering if I’d read the stone wrong and maybe it said “1840,” so I looked closer at the snapshot from my visit to the burying ground.


Nope. Definitely “1810.”

He was 68 when he died, meaning he was probably born ~1772. Reuben, by contrast, was probably about 20 years older.

So I turned to a secondary source I don’t love (inaccuracies/lore, unclear sourcing) but has proven to be usefully comprehensive, Francis Jackson’s History of Newton. There’s two entries for Thomas Harback, but one is too old. (That’s probably the Thomas Harbach appearing in the 1790 US Federal Census in Newton, though.) The other entry identifies its Thomas as marrying one Charlotte Wilson (probably ~1794/5) and producing 11 children, six of whom died young/youngish (three between the age of 10 and 18, two in their early 20s, and one at age 31).

All this is certainly something, but it doesn’t clarify why these men share a tomb. So far, I have no indication that they were family or business partners — only that they were down-the-street neighbors and that they share a final resting place. Nor does any of this elucidate the 1810 date.

Because this was starting to make me crazy, I returned to the person who probably should have been sharing that tomb with Reuben (and may, for all I know right now), Henrietta.

According to Francis Jackson’s History, Henrietta’s first husband, Thomas Jackson, was her cousin: Ann Jackson Durant, Henrietta’s grandmother, was the sister of Thomas’s father. The History notes that he married Henrietta in 1785 (see what I mean about inaccuracies? We know it was 1784) and that their son John was born 6 January 1785 before Thomas died in 1787 at the age of 25.

Their son John, according to the History, would go on to have two sons (Lysander and John) by two different women before apparently dying in Maine in 1805 just shy of his 21st birthday.

So two more questions:

  1. Where were she and her son John living 1787-1792, until she married Reuben Moore?
  2. Where was she from Reuben’s death in 1837 to her own in 1855?

But it strikes me that we may be at the point where we have to deal with Ned the Privateer, Henrietta’s father.

Short version: In approx. 1777, Edward “Ned” Durant IV goes to sea on a privateer and never comes back, leaving his wife, Mary Park Durant, and a slew of young children, the eldest of whom was 15-year-old Henrietta. Mary Park Durant remained a widow ’til her death in 1810. The reasons Ned apparently went to sea, though, and the tragedy of his not returning seem to have had a deep effect on his family. So we’ll talk about that next, while I see what else can be found out about Reuben.


The Mystery of Reuben Moore, Part II

Instead of buckling down to look at the censuses — because, honestly, that’s hard and annoying and involves writing stuff down to keep it all straight in my head — I was absently trawling Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, looking to see if I could just spot his marriage outright, rather than having to match him through his kids.

That’s when I noticed an entry for Henrietta Jackson, who married a Reuben Moore in Newton on 12 January 1792… which was an awfully familiar-feeling coincidence of names. So I went to check, and sure enough — on 29 July 1784, in Newton, Henrietta Durant had married one Thomas Jackson.


    … this is a married couple.

It all suddenly seems so obvious. I was right he had to have married in, and I almost missed it because he was her second husband. After putting this together, I then noticed that this Henrietta (v.1762)’s grandniece (her brother Thomas’s granddaughter) was named Henrietta Moore Durant. IT’S ALL SO CLEAR NOW. Seriously, how did I not see from the start that this is a married couple?

But that still leaves an important question: How did their portraits end up in the house where Henrietta was born when they were painted after she left it?

It might have something to do with the Kenricks. Our collection includes portraits from approximately the same range of time of John Kenrick, Esq.; John Adams Kenrick, Sr.; and Anna C. Kenrick, though they appear to be by a different painter. (A contemporaneous portrait of Esq’s other son/JAK Sr.’s brother William Kenrick is held by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which he helped found.) Reuben Moore and his wife Henrietta Durant Jackson Moore were, as it happens, the Kenricks’ neighbors. We can see on this map from 1831, six years before Reuben Moore’s death:


[Section of Newton town map, 1831 — Available in full here.]

But I increasingly don’t really believe that’s it. I think it’s at least as likely to be the work of one of our Durant Family Collectors, F. Clark Durant or Arthur Dewing.

From the time the Kenricks sold the property in 1900 until 1912, it was out of the hands of anyone affiliated with the Durant or Kenrick families, as far as I know (that’s a big AFAIK, though). But in 1912, it was acquired by one F. Clark Durant, descended from Edward Durant III’s son Thomas (brother of Ned the Privateer). He seems to have either begun or continued historic preservation efforts with the house (which may have started in the preceding period, but that will require more research).

Then, in 1923, his cousin Arthur, who was descended from Ned the Privateer, sought out the house to purchase as a historic preservation project for himself (he’d done this with several houses).

Historic preservation was approached somewhat differently at that time: Preservationists focused on collecting/preserving myriad historic things without always “sorting” their efforts. Results of Arthur’s approach to historic preservation are evident as soon as you walk into our museum in the form of a hand-blown glass window from England that Arthur rescued from somewhere, brought home to Newton, and cut a hole in the wall of his house to install and thus preserve it. We also have tapestries purchased somewhere in Europe depicting the conquests of Alexander the Great. One hangs in the bulk of the big main stairwell, because it’s very large. Kind of random, but that’s how they did things.

But Arthur sought out the family homestead on Waverley Avenue because of the family connection. He didn’t just want an old house project this time — he wanted a Durant family house.

So to me it would make a lot of sense if Arthur took the opportunity to purchase portraits of his however-many-greats-aunt and her husband and bring them to the home of Henrietta’s grandparents, the house where she was born. Two framed documents of Arthur’s and a portrait of his wife’s uncle were stored in the same closet.

That said, a week ago, our manager M. discovered that photos of the house from the pre-1912 period show furniture that belonged to the Durant/Dewings — before Arthur ever got his hands on the place. This introduces the third possibility: that F. Clark Durant and Arthur Dewing weren’t the only Durant Collectors. I’m going to have to work more on sorting out who the people were that owned the house in between to be anything like sure what’s going on here.

But if I can unexpectedly place Reuben Moore in the family, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover I can, eventually, place the intermediate owners in the family, too.

In the next installment, I’ll investigate Reuben and Henrietta v.1762 themselves a little bit more, including taking a jaunt out to his tomb — which, in an odd coincidence, M. and I had actually encountered before.

The Mystery of Reuben Moore, Part I

Note: I appreciate the kind words folks have said about my previous post, “Into the trenches.” I’ll return to Stephen Joseph McNally’s story when I can fill in more — probably when I get either his militia service records from England or his death certificate from Alberta. And at some point, we’ll look for evidence of his time as a constable in what is now the ghost town of Coal Creek.

When I go into the museum, one of my first tasks is to walk the museum, making sure everything is appropriately set for guests. Yesterday morning, I noticed a bench had been moved. When I checked with my manager, M., to see if this was a new set up or whether I should move it back, he laughed and said he’d moved it when he was snapping some quick shots of a bunch of portraits that were in the closet in that room and had neglected to move it back. Then he said, “Oh, you should look at these!” and sent me the images.

Two of them were Henrietta Durants — two women, three generations apart. On the left is the younger Henrietta Durant (complete with reflection of M. in the glass), and on the right is the older one. As it turns out, both are in the same line: The woman on the right is the great-great-aunt of the woman on the left, descending from Ned Durant, privateering son of Edward Durant III. Ned was lost at sea, but that’s a story for a different day.

[Portraits in the collection of Historic Newton.]

These ladies were easy to figure out, particularly because they belonged to a line I’d done some work with already. The image on the right may be the earliest Durant likeness we have, but I’d have to do some further checking into that.

What we couldn’t immediately identify was who this dude, labeled “Ruben Moore,” was:

Ruben Moore Cropped

[Portrait in the collection of Historic Newton.]

He didn’t otherwise appear anywhere in the family trees of the Durants, Kenricks, or Dewings, at least not as far as I’d sussed them out (which is pretty far). If he was family, he would have had to have entered by marriage, but due to the particular history of who owned our historic house, when, and for what purposes, we also have in our collection some miscellany with little or no connection to the families that lived there. So there wasn’t an obvious origin story for our wannabe Napoleon.

I put the name “Ruben Moore” into Massachusetts Town and Vital Records and got a handful of results in various parts of the state, including Middlesex County. Then, I tried, where I found a few other matches in Middlesex County. But I had to look twice before I spotted it — a burial in Newton’s East Parish Burying Ground that didn’t identify the birth or death years or include a picture of the stone. But knowing that a Reuben Moore went into the ground in Newton was a start. That led me to a Newton death record from 1837, which I in turn crossed with the US Censuses from 1800-1830 to identify the household of my likely Reuben. Downside? Those years just list head-of-house, so I still didn’t know much about who he was. That’s when I looked at the portraits a little bit differently.

The matching style told me these were the same artist. The matching frames told me either the artist had a standard or, more likely, these were intended for display together. That presented the following conundrum: Henrietta (1762-1855) didn’t live at the house past about 1782 (her family sold it), and Reuben (17??-1837), as far as I could tell, had never lived at the house. So how did these two matched paintings end up in a house where only one had lived, particularly when they’d been done in an era (early 1800s, by the clothes and death dates) when the house belonged to a different family (Kenricks)?

It seemed from the 1800-1830 censuses that Moore and the Kenricks might have been neighbors. Maybe that was how his painting ended up there? Was this the work of some prominent local painter who did all the town’s great residents and had a particularly recognizable style?

I figured Reuben Moore’s children were the answer. I could see his family grow across five censuses, including the 1790 US Census entry I suspected was our Reuben Moore, even though he was living in Cambridge. If I could correlate the approximate birth years of his children and his name as the father with entries in Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, perhaps that would tell me more. I also planned to visit the burying ground to see who was buried with/near him.

Then, suddenly, I figured him out.

Into the trenches.

I was talking to my brother the other week about the notion that how far one can trace back one’s family roots has a lot to do with when/by whom it was deemed appropriate to start keeping records of ordinary people. But it’s also true that for most of us, it’s access to those records that matters.

For some time now, Canada has been working on digitizing its WWI service records. To say that Canadian service in WWI was widespread is putting it mildly. Over 600,000 Canadians enlisted, and over 400,000 of them actually served overseas. I don’t know when the project of digitizing it all started, but it was apparently this January that they finally got around to the “M” names. I hadn’t checked in a while, so when I discovered yesterday that they had indeed gotten as far as “McNally,” my day got very interesting.

I’d had Stephen Joseph McNally’s enlistment papers for a while — in a previous post, I examined what his marriage license and his enlistment papers, matched by a signature and a few other datapoints, could tell us. His full service record opens up some more details, and it gives us a window into the life of a Canadian soldier in WWI. You can find the full record here. (Note: The file includes references to traumas of war, as will the rest of this post.)

If you know a thing or two about WWI but would like a little more context on Canada’s participation, here’s Indy Neidell’s “The Great War” with a special on Canada’s participation.

Most of the 78 pages of the record deal with pension and medical records, and it is the latter I find most interesting… and most awful.

Private McNally enlisted in August 1914 and, after training, was shipped to the western front. It turns out he was kind of a scoundrel, going AWOL for something like two weeks in England before being shipped to the continent. His records reflect punishment and docked pay for that. But in November 1917, he was given a medical discharge for chronic bronchitis:

SJM Gassed and Buried.png

WWI buffs will recognize the first date as the Second Battle of Ypres, the first time that the Germans deployed chlorine gas (168 tons) in the field. The Canadians were on the French flank on 22 April 1915, including Stephen Joseph McNally. This is the same battle (April 22-25) that prompted the famous John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

Just a month later, he found himself in Festubert, amid furious shelling. On 23 May 1915, it would seem that a falling shell buried him alive in mud and, presumably, the bodies of his mates. Small wonder that two days later, his medical record reflects the following diagnosis:

SJM Shock Serious

Shortly after that, it appears he returned to England, where he was under varying levels of convalescent care and worked, I think, with training squads bound for the continent. In 1916, he was still based in England, where he continued to have respiratory problems. His doctor’s notes from an October 1916 exam:

SJM 1916 Doctors Notes

One of the things I find most interesting about these notes is that family lore has him as an abusive alcoholic, but note under “Habits,” his ale consumption habits are listed as pretty normal, and he’s noted as “never” drinking “to excess.” It also notes that he claims he “did not suffer much at the time from being gassed,” even though it clearly became a problem after that. It notes that the shell-shock “after being buried by a shell” lasted for “2 months or more” — Yeah, I bet. The final note is telling, too — “Nerves got out of order + he seemed to break down.” Yeah, that sounds like a man who’s still got some issues more than a year after being gassed and buried alive in a matter of weeks.

But part of my mission is and long has been to reclaim my people, particularly in my father’s line, who were poorer, more mobile, and less likely to talk about family, for various reasons. The other thing the file provided me, which I’d been missing, was a death date: 2 February 1939. The file had given me his story (or more of it), but that one datapoint gave me something else — the man himself. As soon as I had the date, there he was, in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery.

SJM Gravestone

Rest in peace, man. We found you.

Irish Bridget and Margaret Tiernan

Disclaimer: Occasionally I have a bad habit of mistaking what I think I know for what I’ve actually researched. Reading Irish Bridget, the book my friend J. recommended, I’ve discovered some ways in which I mischaracterized these women and their relationships with The Great Famine, emigration, and domestic service in North America. When I’ve read a bit more, I’ll fill in corrections and some history a bit better. But for now, I return you to your regularly scheduled pursuit of Margaret Tiernan, the third of our named Kenrick Serving Women.

One problem in chasing Mary O’Brien and Catherine Dunn was the sheer number of them. I’d hoped “Margaret Tiernan” would be less common, but it was too uncommon in two ways. I got exactly one real match, but results also included no variants on the surname.

That told me that the search engine was struggling to approximate what variants on “Tiernan” might be, so I tried my hand. Searching for Margaret “Tierney” got maybe two dozen more results, as well as a few other minor variants in the surname among people who otherwise didn’t match. I’m going to consider both “Tiernan” and “Tierney” viable variants, even if I privilege the former. Still, it makes we wonder what I’m leaving out.

Over a dozen entries didn’t have major details — just index listings noting that a person of that name married in a particular town in a particular year (no date or month). Six provided matchable details on husbands, ages, parents, and towns.

So next I went back to the 1860 Census to see which Margaret Tiernans/Tierneys I could find to add to the mix. As it turned out, there weren’t any. At least not any in Massachusetts, appropriately aged, and born in Ireland. The ones in other states who were born in Ireland didn’t have parents matching our six Massachusetts-established Margarets, but I made note of them for crosschecking with our 1865 and 1870 women.

When I got to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, there were no Margaret Tiernans in Massachusetts, but there were a few Margaret Tierneys — and one of them was in Newton, in service to the family of Thomas and Nellie Weston, who had an infant daughter named Grace. That Margaret Tierney was listed at 21 years old, presumably then aging three years in five, but she’s a strong candidate for our Margaret. The others I found in Massachusetts, either Tierney was their married name or they appeared to have not yet left their parents’ home, while we know our Margaret was in service in 1865.

One other possibility from the 1870 Census, though, might be a woman who, at age 27, appeared to be living with her mother, Sophia Terny, and four unmarried adult sisters in Boston, an arrangement that would arguably still have been compatible with her being in service then and/or five years before.

Among the marriage index listings, the ones with minimal detail, was a Margaret Tierney who married someone in Newton sometime during 1881. Unfortunately, no matching census entry turned up for 1880 for a Newton-based Margaret. It’s not reasonable to connect the 1881 marriage index record all the way back to the woman working for the Westons in 1870, even if it is plausible to imagine that the Westons’ servant might be the same girl in service to the Kenricks in 1865.

Interestingly, an effort earlier in the week to determine when the Kenricks officially closed up nursery operations, I’d  been digging through Newton city directories. I went back to see whether I could identify an appropriate Margaret in the listings during the 1870s.

I wasn’t particularly optimistic, in that a woman in service — particularly during a time we know the Kenricks engaged live-in domestics by the month — might be entirely invisible even if she were anything but a head of house.

Interestingly, directories for the early 1870s show what appear to be two Tierney families in Newton — that of James F. Tierney, a weaver in Upper Falls, and that of Michael Tierney, a laborer in Newton Center. In 1871, we see just the two men. In the next two years, each of them had a son presumably reach maturity, each son following in his father’s professional footsteps and living with or adjacent to his father (and both named Patrick). By 1875, a second son of Michael Tierney’s has also joined the mix. By 1877, though, one Tierney has a house in Newton, and another boards; in 1879 the same was true. By 1881, John Tierney was in the almshouse in Newton Lower Falls.

Ultimately, there’s no way to tell if these Tierneys are our Tierneys. But we’ll explore that a bit more in the next post before we move on to Mary Henan.

(By the way, it looks like the answer to when the Kenricks’ nursery closed up shop is something like 1879, +/-. Just in case you’d been wondering.)

Potatoes, Labor, Service, & Escaping Grinding Poverty

Before we begin chasing Margaret Tiernan, I want to offer a bit of context for what we’ve seen so far and illustrate why the passenger listings show scores of young men and women, families, and groups of unaccompanied children pouring out of Ireland.

“The Irish Potato Famine” is the common name for an event better called “The Great Famine,” since it was a lot more than just potato blight that screwed things up. While Ireland’s poor were deeply, deeply dependent on the one crop, and its failure was devastating, there were larger economic problems exacerbated by the British government’s policies toward Ireland. And then there was the typhus. And a few other problems. (I’m eliding a LOT. For more detail, start here and check out the books and articles in the reference sections.)

But this is why the clerk on Moses Wheeler could fill out the passenger logs by writing at the top, “Country to which they severally belong: Ireland” and “Country of which they intend to become inhabitants: U.S.A.,” and just squiggling alllllllllllll the way down the page. They all intended to make the U.S. their home, because there was nothing behind them but devastation.

The famine lasted from the mid-1840s into the early/mid-1850s. So an Irish girl born around 1838 would have been shy of 10 years old when the very worst set in, but she’d likely have suffered in meager circumstances her entire childhood (again, some of this was the product of longer-term policy decisions, not just potatoes). She might have been an orphan, or she might have been one of a dozen children growing up in a tiny house in grinding poverty.

One of the things that differentiated this migration from others was that males and females emigrated in more nearly equal proportion, where others were a predominantly male phenomenon. But what surprised me the most was the groups of children, traveling individually or with siblings. In Christine Kinealy’s This Great Calamity, which I have ordered (Amazon says it has shipped!), she appears to go into some depth on this phenomenon, which, as far as I can tell, she’s arguing didn’t happen the same way in other mass migrations. We shall see when that book arrives.

Across most of the age spectrum, but certainly across the largest demographic of migrants — young people — the clearest occupation was labor or service. For girls, we’ve already seen the two basic life patterns from there.

My friend J. thus also recommended The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America 1840-1930 by Margaret Lynch-Brennan, so I’ve picked up the e-book of that. It occurs to me that I should also probably go dig out a book I own somewhere on Irish immigration (though it might be more 20th-century focused, hm) and maybe Jim Webb’s Born Fighting.

I’ll fill more in as I have more from those texts. In the meantime, we turn our attention to Margaret Tiernan, EBY 1847, in the Kenrick household in Newton, MA in the 1865 Massachusetts Census. In context with the above, we can place her birth shortly after the start of the potato famine, which is usually pegged specifically to 1845.

We’ll start with Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, including marriages post-Summer 1865. Then we’ll look ahead and behind, to 1860 and 1870 to identify potential matches, then we’ll crosscheck against 1865 to knock out potential matches we can see elsewhere. We’ll also crosscheck with to see if any of their deaths were memorialized with details of their lives. Then we’ll look through the Massachusetts Passenger Lists and other Boston arrivals listings.

In terms of where this larger project of investigating the Kenrick Serving Women has taken me, I’m interested to once again be looking at Irish folks passing through Liverpool. Liverpool is where I suspect my own Irish McNallys were — neatly just across the Irish Sea from the homeland. But it’s also where my English Pearces passed through on Empress of Ireland on the Salvation Army’s dime in their own attempt to escape grinding poverty, more than a half-century after the girls who became the Kenrick Serving Women did the same. As I sifted through ships’ records, Liverpool was the departure point for a quite sizable chunk of famine-era Irish emigration.

As a side note, in addition to the Kenrick Serving Women, I’m also working on the story of a woman named Rose who we know was enslaved in the Kenrick household in the mid-1700s. She would, in that regard, have been a contemporary of Titus, whose story I also owe you an update on. We’ll also check back in with Judith Waldo Durant soon, and we’ll investigate the lives of Tassunsquaw, Frances Rousmaniere Dewing, and Mary Mehitable Kenrick Taylor.

Did I mention March is Women’s History Month? 🙂