Seeking Caleb Church researchers

I am hoping to be in contact with anyone with ancestral ties to the CHURCH families who were in Dutchess and Ulster counties in New York in the 1750-1855 period. In particular, I would like to connect with Daniel Palcic and an unnamed genealogy researcher, perhaps Henry, who replied to him online back in 1998. I believe we are cousins.

Here is the key information.

Back on August 3, 1998, an unnamed user replied to another CHURCH family researcher, Daniel Palcic, who had posted a query on June 14, 1998. The headline on this 1998 thread is “Re: CHURCH, Phoebe/Phebe; b.1755; Mayflower?”

The August reply begins as follows: “We are at the same stumbling block.We are descendants of Caleb Church b. 12-19-1772, who we believe is Phoebe Church Wilbor’s half brother. I have correspondance dating back to 1913 where people were trying to make the same connection we are.”

Here is a link to the original posting:
Here is a link to the reply:
And a link to other Church family postings by the unnamed genealogist:

I too am a descendant of Caleb Church and his wife Hannah Baker through their son Benjamin Church who migrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1835 from Ulster County. He was a pioneer carpenter and builder in the young Midwest city. Use the links to see what I’ve written about them:
Caleb Church:
Benjamin Church:

I currently am focusing on the CHURCH families of Dutchess County and Ulster County, New York, and would very much like to be in touch with Daniel and the unnamed person, perhaps named Henry, who posted about this part of the family. Or any others researching this family. What is very interesting to me is that Daniel’s research led him to think that the father of Phoebe, Caleb — and a brother Samuel I recently found via a will — was a either John Church or his brother Constant Church. They were the sons of Edward Church and his first wife, Grace Shaw, who had eleven children in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

Daniel proposes a possible Mayflower connection as follows: Richard Warren of the Mayflower1; Elizabeth Warren2 (Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Warren, who married Richard Church); Joseph Church3; John Church4; Edward Church5. This Edward Church5 had as his first wife, Grace Shaw.

There is a John Church with a household of 8 in the 1790 Census in Dutchess County. There are mentions of a John Church of Dutchess County in The Settlers of Beekman Patent, Vol. 3, by Frank J. Doherty, that seem to be the same man. Of the two brothers Daniel pointed to, this John Church is the focus of my current work in conjunction with a professional genealogist.

Laying out a timeline for this John Church, it seems likely that he would have been born between 1730 and 1735. Many settlers came to Dutchess County from Little Compton, Rhode Island, in the mid-1700s, including nine Wilbor siblings, two with marriage links to Church individuals in Dutchess County. The John Church of the right age in Little Compton would have been John Church, born 31 Jan 1732 in Little Compton, Rhode Island, Father: Edward Church, Mother: Grace Church, Page: 103 – Little Compton Vital Records. Just the person Daniel wrote about back in 1998.

Here are online resources about Edward Church and Grace Shaw:
> Family Group Sheet
> Another Family Group Sheet
> And information at WikiTree

Caleb Church and Phoebe Church, with spouses and children, are in the 1913 book Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass., but in an “Unplaced Members of Plymouth Family” section because the precise lineage was unknown. See pages 321-323. Still descendants back then were sure there was a Mayflower connection and wanted to be in the book. We descendants have been searching for the connection ever since.

Hope to hear from you!

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Published in: on July 30, 2016 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Genealogy & The Wayback Machine

Oh no! On June 1, 2016, a valuable article on the Hachez family of Bremen – some of them my ancestors – disappeared from the World Wide Web! I here remind all of us genealogists that the Web is not permanent. Even an important article on an influential family, online for many years, can suddenly vanish.

This article was about Die Familie Hachez or The Hachez Family. In the original German, the article is called Schiffe und Schokolade – zweimal Joseph Hachez – Von Hermann Sandkühler. In English it is “Ships and chocolate twice Joseph Hachez” by Hermann Sandkühler. The family founded the Hachez chocolate company that still exists in Bremen today, but was also in shipping.

Don’t trust that a valuable family resource will always be there online When you find an especially useful web page, take these steps:

> Print the article for the relevant family folder or binder.
> Copy the text into a document to file on your computer and thumb drive, and be sure to include the URL.
> Take screen shots of each section of the page, so you have the layout, charts, photos, etc.
> Make a link to the web page in family members’ profiles on services such as in order to to save the URL

You might also want to share the article with other family members who have genealogy files.

If, after the disappearance, you want to see that web page again? Then go to and use their wonderful Wayback Machine. Put the page’s URL that you carefully saved into the search box, hit enter and up will come a chart of years showing when the page was archived in the past. Click a year, then the specific date in the calendar below and up will come the rescued web page. Graphics may be missing.

While I had a paper copy, I wanted a text copy as well. Fortunately I had the URL in an ancestor’s profile on, so I could retrieve it, and also get a new URL that could go into a Google Translate box, giving me a fair English version. Whew!

Here is the URL for the archived page, in the original German:

Thank you, Wayback Machine!

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Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part Four

The final phase of Robert and Fanny Gunyon’s story — in which Margaret also played a role — was the most dramatic and most complex.

Deaths and Wills of Robert and Fanny Gunyon
Forest Home Cemetery gravestones show that Robert and Fanny Gunyon both died in 1892. Reports in newspapers and legal journals about the complex legal cases involving their wills provide insights on Robert’s and Fanny’s deaths, and Margaret’s ancestry.

“Robert Gunyon, the testator, made a will February 10, 1892, and died within a few days thereafter, and… his will was duly probated April 12, 1892, in the county court of Milwaukee county. He left surviving him a widow and no children,” according to American and English Corporation Cases: A Collection of All Corporation Cases… Decided in the Courts of Last Resort in the United States, England, and Canada [1883-1894]. The volume also states that, after certain specific bequests, his property was to be “given and bequeathed to 15 relatives, whose names are given, share and share alike.”

The entry concerns a lawsuit by the Milwaukee Protestant Home for the Aged, seeking to have the executors turn over certain real estate willed to the home. The “residuary legatees answered, alleging that the devise to the appellant was void because made less than three months prior to the testator’s death.”

In Wisconsin Reports: Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Volume 85, we learn that Robert Gunyon died four days after making his will, thus February 14, 1892. He did not make specific provision for wife Fanny in his first will, because both of them were “ill unto death” and he assumed she would not survive him. He also made a nuncupative will upon learning that Fanny was getting her health back.

Fanny indeed rallied and appeared on the way to recovery, according to newspaper articles on the legal tangle over the wills. Thus she used the option provided by law to obtain her portion of his estate, on 25 Feb 1892. She made her will, but then died on 3 March 1892.
Margaret’s husband John Church was one of the executors of Robert Gunyon’s estate. But it was Margaret Church who had to go to court to fight having Fanny Gunyon’s will admitted into probate, in order to ensure that it was the instructions in Robert Gunyon’s will that determined the distribution of his estate.

Complicated Case in Probate Court
In March 1892, articles appeared in numerous Midwest newspapers about the Gunyon wills.
The Chicago Tribune carried an article headlined “Bad Tangle Over the Gunyon Wills” on March 13, 1892, page 11. It stated: “The litigation over the probating of the two wills made respectively by the late Robert Gunyon and his wife Fanny, whereby it is sought to dispose of an estate of $100,000 to separate sets of beneficiaries, promises to be one of the most complicated cases in the annals of the Probate Court in this county.” It added that the notice to contest the wife’s will is signed by Mrs. Margaret Church “who sets forth that she is his [Robert Gunyon’s] niece and heir-at-law.”

On the same day, The Inter Ocean newspaper from Chicago, Illinois, carried an article on the contested wills on page 3. It noted a “protest against the admission of the will of Fannie Gunyon to probate was filed in the Probate Court this afternoon by Mrs. Margaret Church. Mrs. Church says she is one of the children of Ann Craven Legard, deceased, who was a sister of Fanny Gunyon, wife of Robert Gunyon, and that she (Margaret Church) was the legally adopted child of Robert and Fanny Gunyon, both deceased.” The estate is valued at $65,000.

On March 12, 1892, the Milwaukee Journal published the same news under the following headline and subheads: “Fighting for Big Estate / Objections Made to the Probate of Mrs. Gunyon’s Will / Two Wills and Both Contested.” Margaret’s explanation that she is the daughter of Ann (Craven) Legard, sister of Fanny (Craven) Gunyon and the adopted daughter of Robert and Fanny is again explained. A summary of the “peculiarly interesting” details of the matter of how their wills were written was described.

The Legal Contest Concluded and Aftermath
The final outcomes of all aspects of these legal contests is beyond the scope of this genealogy article. We can report that the Wisconsin Supreme Court in its January 1894 term did rule that Robert’s bequest or devise to the Milwaukee Protestant Home for the Aged was void because it was made less than three months prior to his death.

More important for our story, the various legal and newspaper articles cited make clear the ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church. Our research is confirmed.

Following these court cases, Maggie and John had their sixth child, son Edgar Benjamin Church, on 18 March 1894. They lost their daughter Harriet Margaret Church on 29 May 1896. Maggie died in July 1909. Husband John Benjamin Church died on 25 June 1911. Maggie and John are buried at Forest Home Cemetery near Robert and Fanny Gunyon.

Author’s Note on Benjamin Church, Milwaukee Pioneer
Benjamin Church, a native of Ulster County, New York, arrived in Milwaukee in 1835. He was a well known pioneer carpenter and builder in the young city. He is the author’s 3rd-great-grandfather through his daughter Ann Maria [Hannah M.] who married Sherman Abernethy Bradley, a native of Connecticut. John Benjamin Church, husband of Margaret Legard Gunyon, was Ann Maria’s youngest brother.

Queries from from Stephanie Legard asking about the link between the Legard family of Barnsley and Wakefield, Yorkshire, England and the Church family of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Her Legard genealogy traces to Margaret Legard Gunyon Church’s brother William W. Legard (wife Amelia); their son Frank (wife Elizabeth); and their son Leonard who married Ellen Wyman, Stephanie’s grandmother.

Correspondence with Allan Green, genealogist, who lived in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England at the time the research for this article was done in February 2015.

Various UK and US census records, ship’s passenger logs, city directories and Milwaukee history books found on

“Judge Derek Mosley’s 160-Year-Old Home: The municipal judge’s home is unique — just one of just 38 in town built before the Civil War,” by Michael Horne.

“Lisbon Plank Road History”
“Barnsley” – West Riding, Yorkshire, England
“Wakefield” – West Riding, Yorkshire, England
“Kirkcudbright, Scotland”

“Fighting for A Big Estate / Objections Made to the Probate of Mrs. Gunyon’s Will / Two Wills and Both Contested,” Milwaukee Journal, March 12, 1892.
“Bad Tangle Over the Gunyon Wills,” Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1892, page 11, article with dateline Milwaukee, Wis. March 12
MILWAUKEE MATTERS. “Wills contested” article… in The Inter Ocean from Chicago, Illinois, Page 3, Sunday, March 13, 1892, dateline Milwaukee, Wis., March 12

And legal journals covering the lawsuits surrounding the wills of Robert and Fanny Gunyon including Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin, Volume 87, Callaghan, 1894.

Fourth and final part of an article completed in February 2015.
See Part One and Part Two and Part Three

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Published in: on June 10, 2016 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part Three

Robert Gunyon and Fanny (Craven) Gunyon in Wauwatosa
In the 1853-1855 period, a handsome Italianate stone and cream brick residence with some Greek Revival touches was built for Robert and Fanny Gunyon on a 160+ acre farm in the Town of Wauwatosa, west of the city of Milwaukee. Its location today is in the Arlington Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by other homes, at 7927 West Appleton Avenue, Milwaukee. The 1860 Census enumerated Robert, 43, and Fannie, 39, living in the Town of Wauwatosa where Robert was farming. His real estate was worth $9,500. Living with them was Elizabeth Whitehead, 31, born in Scotland, no occupation listed.

More about the Gunyons and their house appeared in an article, “Judge Derek Mosley’s 160-Year-Old Home: The municipal judge’s home is unique — just one of just 38 in town built before the Civil War,” published online as a House Confidential at For example, Robert was described as owner of “a lumber mill and was cranking out 10,000 boards a day in 1850 for the construction of the Lisbon Plank Road.” In fact, Robert was one of five men who opened the sale of stock for Lisbon Plank Road construction, on 20 Dec 1849 at Chestnut Street House. There was a short-lived plank road craze, soon snuffed out by the arrival of the railroads for moving people and goods.

The Varied Careers of Robert Gunyon
Robert Gunyon is also recorded as a grocer with a store at 45 Chestnut Street, according to Milwaukee History, Vols 9-11, by Milwaukee County Historical Society. There is no date for his store in the book, but a 1865 Milwaukee Directory shows him at that address. So Robert had an enterprise in the general area of Benjamin Church home, west of Milwaukee River. Remember that it was Benjamin’s son John Benjamin Church who married Margaret Legard Gunyon on 10 Sep 1879 in Milwaukee.

As noted earlier, Robert and Fanny went back to Yorkshire some time in 1865, returning in August with Fanny’s niece Margaret Ledgar, later Legard, whom they adopted. The 1870 Census enumerated them together in Milwaukee, with Robert’s occupation lumber merchant. City directories show that his lumber yard was “on the point” at the foot of Cherry Street. One imagines that Robert met Benjamin Church, a pioneer carpenter, builder and father of John Benjamin Church, at this time if not earlier. The Benjamin Church house was on 4th between Cherry and Galena streets.

Robert had one more change in his active career. Between 1874-1878, he was listed in city directories with the business Gunyon, Cryderman & Pollow, tanners, 492 Canal. His partners were Jacob Cryderman, residence 753 7th Street, and John A. Pollow, residence 609 4th Street. Leather tanning was a big business in Milwaukee. How intriguing that Robert got into the leather industry, his father-in-law being a leather currier in Yorkshire.

After that, Robert apparently retired from active business. Milwaukee city directories show Robert and Fanny Gunyon residing at 710 Walnut Street, at least from 1874 until their deaths. Walnut is six blocks north of Cherry Street. John and Maggie Church lived at 714 Galena in 1891, three blocks south of the Gunyons.

Robert Gunyon in Politics
As we’ve seen, several Milwaukee history books mention Robert Gunyon. In another one, he is listed as Rob. Gunyon with men in new political party that had the motto “free soil, free speech, free labor, free men.” This was the Free Soil Party, active from 1848 to 1852, that opposed the expansion of slavery into the country’s western territories. This mention is in the 1871 book Milwaukee written in German by Rudolph A. Koss. The book also mentions the shop of Rob. Gunyon in Chestnutstraße or Chestnut Street.

The final phase of Robert and Fanny’s story — in which Margaret also played a role — was perhaps the most dramatic. We’ll tell it in the fourth and last installment of this family history mystery resolved, coming soon.

Third part of an article completed in February 2015… to be continued. See Part One and Part Two

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Hannah Baker Church: wife, mother and Quaker preacher

Map of Ulster County, NY, from Beers via Wikipedia

Map of Ulster County, NY, 1875, from Beers via Wikipedia. Find towns of New Paltz, Lloyd and Plattekill in the southeast corner.

52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors, Number 4
Hannah Baker Church (1775-1843), Ulster County, New York

The Society of Friends, or Quakers, played a significant role in the American women’s rights movement and in the campaign for women’s suffrage. This was due, in no small part, to the fact that they supported education for women and had many female ministers or preachers. Among them was my 4th great-grandmother Hannah Baker Church.

Hannah was born 4 March 1775, according to Quaker records. Her birth was most likely in Clintondale in the southeast corner of Ulster County, New York. Ulster County borders the Hudson River on its west side, with Dutchess County across the river along its east side. Her parents are thought to be Adam and Maria Baker, also of Ulster County, but that is not confirmed. Still, the household of Adam Baker in the 1790 U.S. Census in New Marlborough, Ulster County, included 9 females. New Marlborough was also in the southeast corner of the county.

Hannah married Caleb Church in about 1796 and they had 10 or more children, from John in 1798 to George Washington Church in 1819. Among their sons were Benjamin F. Church, my 3rd great-grandfather, born in 1807, and Samuel Church born in 1805. Samuel’s published biographical sketch provides important details on the Church family and genealogy.

On 21 August 1805, Hannah was received by request [rec. by req.] into the Valley Preparative Meeting of Quakers in Plattekill, Ulster County, New York, according to  the volume Quaker History and Genealogy of the Marlborough Monthly Meeting, Ulster County, N.Y., 1804-1900. Her “convincement” of Quaker values led to her membership. She would have been 30 years old.

The most noted of the early Friends ministers in that area were Dr. Adna Heaton, Hannah Church, Nathaniel Thorn, his daughter Esther Weeks, Sarah Roberts and Sarah E. Roberts, the book states. Hannah was a Quaker preacher “who went around on horseback with Hannah Frye,” according to the book Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass.

Hannah is credited by several sources with playing a valuable role in establishing a Quaker meeting in Clintondale, Ulster County, and working for construction of a meeting house there. These include the book History of the Village of Clintondale, Ulster County, NY. The First Settlement to 1824, by P.N. Mitchell, and the History of Clintondale Monthly Meeting, online.

While her husband Caleb is mentioned as an Orthodox Quaker as is Hannah in son Samuel’s biosketch, Caleb is not listed in the Quaker book cited here. He perhaps was never a full member. The Church family was of Puritan stock, Samuel’s biosketch notes.

The final days of Hannah Baker Church, wife of Caleb Church, are narrated in a brief item in “The Friend,” 1844, Volume 17. It recalled that Hannah was “early in life convinced of the principles of Friends, and joined the Society.” Also remembered was that she “sometimes bore testimony to the goodness of her Divine Master and to the praise of the glory of his grace.”

Beset by a “rheumatic affection” at the end, Hannah died 24 September 1843 in Clintondale, survived by her husband Caleb and many of her children. A remarkable woman.

> Quaker History & Genealogy of Marlborough Meeting, Ulster County, N.Y.
> Samuel Church entry, Commemorative Biographical Record of Ulster County, New York: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families
> Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass.
> Quaker Views on Women: Wikipedia
> Quakers in Action: Rights of Women
> History of the Village of Clintondale, Ulster County, NY. The First Settlement to 1824, by P.N. Mitchell.
> History of Clintondale Monthly Meeting
> History of Clintondale Friends
> “The Friend,” published by The Friend, 1844, in Volume 17 (1843/1844), page 72.

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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Genealogy blogger Amy Johnson Crow has issued a challenge to all who blog about their family history: write about 52 of your ancestors in 52 weeks, or one per week. See her challenge here. A number of bloggers are taking up the challenge, and you can find their posts by searching the Internet with the phrase 52 ancestors 52 weeks.

This is a great way to make sustantial progress on writing one’s family history, and can also be a way to connect with unknown cousins who do web searches on names of shared ancestors. I have started 2014 with a posting — actually a detailed query – about my 3rd great-grandmother who was the wife of Milwaukee pioneer Benjamin F. Church. She is called Permelia and Elizabeth in various Wisconsin records. A maiden name of Clemens is given in one record, but is not confirmed.

I hope to continue this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Thank you, Amy!

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Permilia, wife of Benjamin Church

52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors: Number One
QUERY for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, her name perhaps Elizabeth Permilia Clemens Church

I am seeking the parents, birth date and birth place for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, a pioneer builder who arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1835 from Ulster County, New York. He spent time in Chicago in 1834 before coming on to Milwaukee. I would also like to know when and where she married Benjamin. Here is what is known about her from various records:

Given names: She is Permelia Church in the 1850 Census, Permilia Church in her first daughter’s marriage record [1859] and Parmelia Church in her 2nd daughter’s marriage record [1875]. In deeds in 1840 with husband Benjamin she is recorded as Parmelia H., Pamelia or Purmelia. She is recorded as Elizabeth Church, a married woman, in the 1856 burial records at Forest Home Cemetery where she is buried in the Benjamin Church Lot with infant Benjamin F. Church Jr. who died 1850. She may have been Elizabeth Permilia or Permilia Elizabeth.

Surname: Her surname of Clemens is given in just one place, her first daughter’s death record [1891] where she is listed as P. Clemens. This is unconfirmed, and could be Clements or other name.

Birth: She was born in New Hampshire in 1815 or 1816, as per the 1850 Census where she is shown as 34 years old.

Marriage: An 1838 or 1839 marriage date is estimated based on the apparent 1840 birth of her oldest known child, Ann Maria Church, recorded as 10 in the 1850 Census. No marriage record has been found for Benjamin and Permilia, either in Milwaukee [Early Milwaukee Marriages booklet] or in Chicago [Fink Index].

Meeting: We can only wonder where they met, whether in Buffalo, New York, the port where ships sailed to Chicago and Milwaukee, or in Chicago where Benjamin first settled in 1834 or Milwaukee. She would have been with parents or other relatives. Ulster County, New York, is on the Hudson River, so it is likely Benjamin went west to Chicago via the river, the Erie Canal and then a Great Lakes ship. He came overland to Milwaukee in the fall of 1835, and returned to Chicago to settle his affairs before settling in Milwaukee, according to his obituary [1887].

Children: Benjamin and Permilia had 6 known children: Ann Maria Church [1840-1891], Ann Augusta Church [1843-1876],  Charles B. Church [1847-1885], Benjamin Church Jr [1850-1850],  John Benjamin Church [1851-1911] and Susan Church [1855-1870]

Death: Benjamin’s wife died 21 Feb 1856, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to Forest Home Cemetery records for the Benjamin Church plot. Recorded as Elizabeth Church. No Church in the death index, Milwaukee Register of Deeds, 1852-1875.

I have found Clemens families in New Hampshire in census records of the right period, even some with females of the right age in their household. But I have not found a published genealogy or other source that puts Elizabeth Permilia into a family. This is a tough brickwall and any help would be appreciated.

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Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm  Comments (5)  
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Ancestors Born in England or New England? Part 3: Timelines

In this series — Ancestors Born in England or New England? — I identified a significant problem with birth dates in a number of resources. Many individuals in the immigrant generation are shown with birth dates and places in New England towns, especially Massachusetts and Connecticut, before those towns were settled. In fact, some of English ancestry are shown as born in New England before 1620, the arrival of the Mayflower.

In Part 1, I wrote: “Over and over, I have found English ancestors listed as born in towns in New England with dates such as 1600, 1612, 1615 and so on. Clearly impossible as these dates were before the Great Migration of 1620-1640.” See Part 1.

In Part 2, I described the types of database records at that contain these errors. These include Family Data Collection – Individual Records, Millennium Files and American Genealogical-Biographical Index, or AGBI, among others. See Part 2.

To ensure that you avoid birthplace errors for your early New England ancestors who were actually born in England or elsewhere in Europe, use timelines for the founding of the early towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Check to make sure each town has been founded or settled by European immigrant ancestors before giving those towns as birth places! Here are timeline resources you might wish to use:

Here is a map with the towns of Plymouth Colony with founding dates including Plymouth, Duxbury, Scituate and so on:

Here is a listing of all the towns in Massachusetts with dates of founding and incorporation:

Here is a listing of Connecticut Towns in Order of Establishment

Important Dates in the History of the Settlement of the Colony of Connecticut until Unification with the Colony of New Haven in 1665

Good strategy: print out these timelines and refer to them every time you are about to add a birth date and place for an early New England ancestor. If there is a birth date before 1620 and a birthplace in Massachusetts or Connecticut, look for additional source materials. That ancestor was likely born in England or other European county such as Holland. Your family tree will be more accurate, thanks to this extra review.

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Ancestors Born in England or New England? Part 2

What are these databases or record collections mentioned in the previous post about early New England ancestors? I mean the databases with files on New England ancestors who are sometimes shown as born in Massachusetts or Connecticut before 1620. has a “hint” system that points its users to an array of resources including census records; birth, marriage and death records, and contributed family trees. Hints also point to records such as the following, where I have found problems:
> Family Data Collection – Individual Records
> Millennium Files
>  American Genealogical-Biographical Index, or AGBI

What are these? describes Family Data Collection – Individual Records as a “database containing 5 million genealogical records (20 million names) that were saved from destruction after being rejected from scientific studies. The Family Data Collection records were created while gathering genealogical data for use in the study of human genetics and disease. Compiling data for genetic research does not require the same type of documentation as traditional genealogical research. Use this database as a finding tool….”

Given this source for the Family Data Collection, it is no wonder that there are so many cases of early New Englanders shown as born in Massachusetts towns before 1620 and in Connecticut towns before 1633.

Ancestry describes the Millennium File as “a database created by the Institute of Family Research to track the records of its clients and the results of its professional research. It contains more than 880,000 linked family records, with lineages from throughout the world, including colonial America, the British Isles, Switzerland, and Germany.”

The description also states that “one of the things the Millennium File focuses on is linking to European nobility and royalty.” It says as well that source information “is also provided in this database, making it easier to verify the accuracy of the research done.” However, I have not found that to be true. The source listed is simply Heritage Consulting. The Millennium File. Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

As noted in Part One of this series, some Millennium File records contain births of early New Englanders before the arrival of the Mayflower.

Ancestry describes the American Genealogical-Biographical Index, or AGBI, as “one of the most important genealogical collections… the equivalent of more than 200 printed volumes. This database contains millions of records of people whose names have appeared in printed genealogical records and family histories.” It notes that the source of the index is Godfrey Memorial Library. American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Middletown, Connecticut, USA.

A key challenge with this database is that some of those who entered data from the Index into the database used the space for “Birthplace” in a curious way. The line may say “England, Massachusetts, shoemaker,” for example. Does this mean born in England, migrated to Massachusetts, or born either in England or Massachusetts? The user is left with a conundrum.

In addition, Ancestry does not provide access to images of the original AGBI pages as it does so well with other sources such as the census, family history books and more. If the actual images were available, the usefulness of these records would increase.

Alert to users: The problem that has been created by the above databases is that the errors in them have been propagated across thousands of family trees on Now, when new suscribers begin working on their New England ancestors, they find the errors both in the records from these databases and in many shared family trees. Thus, it becomes easy to assume that the information is correct – and to merge it into one’s own tree. So the spread of the errors continues.

In the next part, I’ll look at solutions to this problem including use of historical timelines.

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Ancestors Born in England or New England? Part 1

If you are researching ancestors in New England by using, you may well be led astray on the birth places of many who were early arrivals to the New World. Here’s why.

We all have been told to beware of errors in family trees posted online. So we are. But if you use for New England ancestors, you also must beware of all those records that seem to be “official,” called Family Data Collections, Millennium Files, American Genealogical-Biographical Index records and so on.

Over and over, I have found English ancestors listed as born in towns in New England with dates such as 1600, 1612, 1615 and so on. Clearly impossible as these dates were before the Great Migration of 1620-1640, starting with the arrival of the Mayflower in November 1620. And often before the date that the individual towns were founded.

Here are just a few examples:

[A] William Barstow, Parents:  John Barstow
Birth Place:  Hanover, MA, Birth Date: 1612
Marriage Date:  8 May 1638
Death Date:  1 Jan 1668, Death Place:  Scituate, MA
Source: Family Data Collection – Individual Records

William’s proposed 1612 birth date is before the 1620 arrival of the Mayflower, making a birth in New England highly unlikely. And Hanover, Massachusetts, was first settled by English settlers in 1649 when William Barstow, a farmer, built a bridge along the North River at what is now Washington Street. [Source: Wikipedia]. So this one of my ancestors played a key role in founding Hanover when he was about 37 years old. He clearly was not born there. Rather he was surely born in England.

[B] Mary Sims, Spouse: Robert Royce, Parents: John Sims Symes, Sarah Baker
Birth Place: CT, Birth Date: 1609
Marriage Place: Long Sutton, Parish, Marriage Date: 4 Jun 1634
Death Place: Wallingford, CT, Death Date: 1696
Source: Family Data Collection – Individual Records

If we believed this record, May Sims would have been born in Connecticut, returned to England for marriage and then came back to Connecticut. Of course that is erroneous. Other sources suggest she was born in Long Sutton, Somerset, England.

[C] Lucy Williams, Father: John Williams, Mother: Ann
Birth Date: 1620, City: Duxbury, County: Plymouth, State: MA, Country: USA
Sources: Family Data Collection – Individual Records and Family Data Collection – Births

While the Mayflower did arrive in late fall 1620, the town of Duxbury was not settled until about 1624, although some sources say 1627. So Lucy was not born in Duxbury in 1620, but more likely in England.

These records at – that we will discuss in more detail in a future posting – have other kinds of problems with accuracy. For example:

[D] Mabel Yeomans, Birth Date: 25 Feb 1698
Birth Place: Stonington, N-Lndn, Connecticut, USA
Death Date: 29 May 1714
Father: John Yeomans, Mother: Millicent Utter
Spouse: Beriah Garnsey, Children: Mary GurnseyGarnsey
Source: Millennium File

The problem here? Mabel Yeomans married Beriah Garnsey on 18 Oct 1738 in Stonington, Connecticut, according to The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records: 1719-1850 and they had at least eight children between 1740 and 1757, also included in the Connecticut Town Vital Records. So the death date is clearly incorrect.

If you read the small type, you will see that typically offers these files with no published sources or primary sources for the individual records, saying they are only “finding tools” for further research. The problem is that a high percentage of Ancestry users trust these records as accurate and merge the details into their trees.

At minimum, Ancestry should have more visible disclaimers on these files, perhaps the text about “use as finding tools only” in red. For credibility’s sake, should find a way to alert users to the most obvious errors in the files. Perhaps the firm might offer webinars on using these records that appear to be so official. In the next post, we’ll share insights on the source of these records and why some of them are flawed.

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Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 1:12 am  Comments (2)  
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