Jul 172015

We have always known Ruth’s grandmother as Susan Hervey Wales Rollason.

Dorthy Wales Birth Record (Click to enlarge)

Dorthy Wales Birth Record
(Click to enlarge)

In researching her birth documentation, we found a record of a Dorothy Wales on Family Search, born to George R Wales and Mabel Hervey in Brookline, MA on 2 November 1889.   Correct parents, date and place.  But Dorothy?     The birth record from the Massachusetts State Archives clearly states Dorothy.   What’s the story?   Twins?  Or a name change?

Exploring further on Family Search we also found a second birth record from Brookline for “Susan Hervey Wales” – same date and same parents.    Since this source did not have online images I ordered the microfilm and when it arrived I discovered the following:

Susan Hervey Wales - Correction of Birth Record -1   Click to Enlarge)

Susan Hervey Wales – Correction of Birth Record -1
Click to Enlarge)

Susan’s mother, Mabel Wales had gone back to the town clerk in Brookline in 1924 (Susan was now 35 and married) and corrected the record, saying that her daughter was given the name “Susan Hervey Wales” at her baptism.

With some further research we discovered that the Wales family at the time of Susan’s birth were active members of the Church of Our Saviour in Brookline.   We contacted the church and the Rector was kind enough to send us this image of the Baptismal records:

Indeed George and Mabel Wales christened

Susan Hervey Wales Baptism, 18 May 1890 (Click to enlarge)

Susan Hervey Wales Baptism, 18 May 1890
(Click to enlarge)

their daughter “Susan Hervey Wales” when she was baptized on May 18, 1890.  You can read more about the Wales family at Church of Our Savior here, and see a picture of the Louis Comfort Tiffany window given to the church by Susan’s grandfather, John Wales.

Two questions remain.   Why did Mabel wait until 1924 to change the record at the town clerk’s office?  It is very likely that the family discovered the discrepancy when the Wales family – along with Susan and her husband, Rev. Herbert D Rollason, made application for passports to travel to Europe earlier that year.

The second question:  why did Mabel and George change the name of their daughter?  We have found no clear answer.  But we can surmise that when Mabel announced the baby’s name to her mother-in-law, she may have heard: “But there are no Dorothy’s in the Wales family!”   It’s interesting that the new name, given the child at her baptism was that of Mabel’s mother-in-law, Susan Howard Rogers Wales.

1) Additional images from the Brookline Town Clerk’s Birth Records regarding name correction: page 1, page 2, explanatory note

Jun 172015

There is conflicting evidence regarding the parents of John Gifford who married Comfort Hart.  John Gifford died in Little Compton, Rhode Island on 18 Dec 1802 “in his 95th year.”  One line claims Christopher Gifford and Deborah Perry as his parents; the other, Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright.

We find support for the parentage of Christopher and Deborah in the following sources:

1) Little Compton Families by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, Vol 1, pp 277-8 1

2) Gifford family genealogies – such as Guiteras and Gifford 2

3) and perhaps most significantly in James Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island, Vol 4, part VI, p 116. 3

The claim for Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright can be found in a substantive work “William Gifford of Sandwich, Mass (d 1687) by Almon E Daniels and Maclean McLean published over several years in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register – volumes 128-138.  Jeremiah (#25) is found at NEHGR 129:234-237 and John (#58) at NEHGR 131:52-54. 4

As we evaluate the claim of Jeremiah and Mary as parents of this John, we find other vital records in the adjacent town of Westport, Massachusetts:

1) “John, s Jeremiah and Mary,  7 th 3 mo, 1708  CR” p 49 Westport Births 5

2) “John, s Jeremiah and Mary,  18 th 12th month, 1802 in 95th y(ear)  CR” p 274 Westport Deaths 6

Note: “CR” is the abbreviation for church records, which the source notes as Society of Friends.  See p 6 of the Westport records

3) Further support of this relationship can be found through the Mayflower connection of Mary Wright’s father, Adam Wright. See Francis Cooke of the Mayflower, The First Five Generations, by Wood, Ralph V, Jr, Picton Press, 1996, pp 483-4.

Francis Cooke of the Mayflower and several other sources include a summary of John Gifford’s will, written in 1788 and proved in 1803.  It mentions grandson, Jonathan, son of Ephriam.   We can confirm that we are looking at the same John Gifford by noting that  Little Compton Families, which identifies John Gifford’s parents as Christopher and Debroah, cites the same will.


Both the Little Compton Families and the compiled Gifford family genealogy are derivative sources.  The same can be said of the Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island citation.  On September 9, 2013 I visited the Town Clerk’s office in Little Compton Rhode Island and reviewed the available records.   The record cited by Arnold is found in a compilation of family records transcribed by Otis Gifford in 1842, 40 years after the death of John Gifford.  The records are grouped by family, in this case Christopher Gifford.  The text in Arnold follows exactly the record in the Town Clerk’s office.   I did not find any original source records.

Given that all of the sources found for the claim for Christopher and Deborah are derivative sources, and that the church record from the Friends Monthly Meeting in Westport is the most authoritative source, supported also by NEHGR and Mayflower Families, it is my conclusion that the parents of John Gifford were Jeremiah Gifford and Mary Wright.

Why would we find records of the Gifford’s in Westport, Massachusetts when they lived in Little Compton?  When we visited the Little Compton Historical Society in September 2013, the director told us that many of Gifford families lived in the vicinity of Adamsville in the very northwest portion of Little Compton, adjacent to Westport.   In the early 1800’s Quaker families living in this area found it easier to travel to the Meeting in Westport than to travel to the meeting house in Little Compton.  See map of area.



  1.   Little Compton Families, Wilbour, Benjamin Franklin, Vol 1, pp 277-8,  http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=49227 – accessed 5/17/2015
  2.  Guiteras, Wardwell and Allied Families  http://search.ancestryheritagequest.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=18599 accessed 5/17/2015
  3. Arnold, James, Vital Records of Rhode Island, Vol 4, Part VI, p. 116; http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=15395  accessed 5/17/2015
  4.  New England Historical and Genealogical Register”, Vol. 131, pp 52-54; http://www.americanancestors.org/databases/new-england-historical-and-genealogical-register/image/?pageName=52&volumeId=11692 accessed 6/16/2015
  5.  Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). Volume: Westport, V 1, page 49 Westport Births http://www.americanancestors.org/databases/massachusetts-vital-records-to-1850/image/?pageName=49&volumeId=7829 accessed 6/15/2015
  6. ibid, p. 274
Jun 102015
Store Ledger 1794-95 John Wales (1762-1823)

Store Ledger 1794-95
John Wales (1762-1823)

Tucked deep in the back of the drawer of John Wales Rollason’s desk was this very old book, about 15” tall by 6” wide.   Found again after his death in 2008, we discovered that the book is a store ledger from 1794-1795.

The shop keeper was also a John Wales (1762-1823), the 3rd great grandfather of John Wales Rollason.   From a book “The History of North Bridgewater” written by Bradford Kingman in 1866 we read that John Wales had a store previously operated by Daniel Cary at the corner of Main and Belmont Streets in North Bridgewater (now Brockton) Massachusetts. (Kingman, p 386).

Account of Benjamin Silvester (Click to enlarge)

Account of Benjamin Silvester


The ledger tracked details of purchases by customers.  Here we see part of the account for Benjamin Silvester and see purchases of salt pork, sugar, butter. “mallases”, salt, and lots of rum.   We can only imagine John Wales delight when he wrote “by cash then Recd twelve pound, Nineteen Shillings and 8 pence in full of the above accounts.”  Signed – John Wales.   What a treasure – to see his signature and to get a sense of this part of his life as a young man 33 years old.



Thayer payment

Thayer payments (Click to enlarge)

In that day shopkeepers were called traders for good reason.   Here we see that Enoch Thayer paid on his account by trading lots of nails as well as “by two days work of a boy.”  Thomas Reynolds paid in part by “work one hand one yoke of oxen one day”, one dozen eggs, 17 ½ pounds of hay seed, et al.

Reynolds payments (click to englarge)

Reynolds payments
(click to englarge)

Interestingly this ledger covers the period in which John Wales, Jr. was born (18 March 1795).  As with so many families of this period, John Wales’ first wife, Mehitable Howard (1765-1791) died shortly after the birth of their second child, Anna Howard Wales.  John Wales then married Susanna Capen.  Susanna Wales was born in 1792, followed by John (1795) and finally Sally (1796).  In the context of John Wales’ store, we see that he was providing for a family with three children under 6 with a fourth on the way.

John Wales grandson, also John Wales, continued the business tradition, becoming a very successful merchant and industrialist in Boston in the late 1800’s.

Aug 132013

(Is a Goff family ghost still there?)

On a trip to California in June, we visited the Chateau St. Jean Vineyards in quiet, scenic Kenwood, located in the Sonoma valley.  While we are familiar with some of their wines, we wanted to see Chateau St. Jean because of its history.   The winery is built around the summer home of Ernest Abner Goff, who was a second cousin of my grandmother.   I had also heard a story from a distant cousin about Ernest Goff’s daughter, Camilla, who sadly died as a teenager.   Some legends say that her spirit still visits the old family home.

Chateau St Jean-2

Summer Home of Ernest Abner Goff (1872-1957) in Kenwood, Sonoma, California. Now part of the special tasting rooms at the Chateau St Jean winery.
(Click on image for larger view)

Ernest Abner Goff was born 24 March 1872 in Michigan, son of Gilbert B Goff and Emily Marsh.  Ernest’s paternal grandfather was Rev. Abner Goff (1782-1857).   While my branch of the family stayed in Ohio and remained poor farmers for another couple of generations,  Gilbert B Goff moved to the wilderness of Michigan and became successful in lumber.   Ernest followed in this tradition, also developing interests in mining and more lumber in the Pacific northwest.   He bought this property in Kenwood and built the home which his family occupied in 1920.   It remained in the family until the 1970’s.  Camilla died on 27 Sep 1928 at the age of 18 at the family home in Michigan.

While we visited the winery we asked a couple of the staff about the rumors that the ghost of Camilla Goff was still present in the home.   Several acknowledged the stories.  One, whose office is now located in what was Camilla’s bedroom, told me that she will come back to her office to find her chair moved.  She also described how a wine glass mysteriously moved during a tasting.  Camilla, it seems, has a reputation as a trickster.

Chateau St Jean

Ernest Abner Goff and family 1919
(click on picture for larger view)


Obituary for Ernest Abner Goff


Aug 052013


We revisited Nantucket in 2009 to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.    While there we also had the opportunity to enjoy not only the beauty of the island, but to also explore some of its rich history.

Nantucket Harbor- 2009

Nantucket Harbor- 2009

Ruth’s grandmother Susan Hervey Wales (1889-1989) great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Easton (1779-1838) was the last person in her line born in Nantucket.

Among Mary Easton’s Nantucket roots:

  • 3 of the original purchasers of Nantucket ((Tristram Coffin, Christopher Hussey and Thomas Macy) along with other early settlers, Nathaniel Starbuck and John Gardner.    
  • Her family lived in the oldest house on Nantucket (the Jethro Coffin House)
  • Several of her ancestors had active roles in Nantucket’s Whaling activities.
  • Many were part of the active Quaker community, including Mary Coffin Starbuck.
Jul 192013
Goff Abner Reprobate 1

In the mail today I received  the will of Abner Goff  (1782-1857).  For more than three decades Abner Goff was  a Methodist Circuit Rider, serving churches in central and north central Ohio.

For me three things about the experience of discovering this will are worth noting.  First, I discovered its existence by examining the Ohio Probate Records (1789-1996), a group of 7 million un-indexed probate records added to the FamilySearch.org website in April.   Heretofore I have shied away from un-indexed records.  How could I find needle in such a large haystack?  However, in exploring this record set I discovered that they are organized by county.   And within each county there is a listing of records that have been digitized.   One set of images was titled “Administration and Executor Index – 1875-1915; worth a look for some of my collateral lines’ research, but not for Abner, since he died in 1857.  I also knew that a fire at the Licking County Courthouse on 2 April 1875 had destroyed most of the records.

Examining the index I discovered references to several Goff’s, including one for an Abner as well as one for Abner W (his grandson.)   Using the volume and page number  I went to the appropriate set of images,  and in a few minutes found a reference to a court hearing in 1891 at which__ Vance brought a certified copy of Abner Goff’s will, which had been probated on  3 July 1857, and asked the court to place the will into the court record, which the Judge ordered.  Thus my second surprise:  finding an official copy of a record which had been destroyed by a courthouse fire.

I could not find a digitized copy of the volume of wills in which Abner’s will was recorded.   Thanks to the Licking County Genealogical Society I was able to order the copy for $5.00.

The third surprise is what I found (and didn’t find) in the will.   The will mentions Abner’s wife, Patty, and one daughter, Sarah.   This is the first proof that I found that Sarah was a daughter.  Abner and Patty moved to Licking County in 1813, purchasing land with his father, Daniel.   Abner and Patty’s four children, Mira, Shadrack, Delano and Varnum, all born in Clarendon, VT, came with them.   There is no mention in the will of these four children, just Sarah.   The four older children had married at least 25 years previously.  Sarah, born in 1823 (according to the 1850 census) was still at home.

For more research:

  • Abner Goff owned a farm at the time of his will, written in 1852, five years before his death.  A further search of real estate records may shed some light on more of Patty and Sarah’s stories.
  • Who was Mr. Vance?   Why did he bring the will to court when he did?   What was going on in 1891?
  • Did Sarah ever marry?

Since this discovery I have found at least a dozen other important documents using un-indexed records on FamilySearch.org.   Since they are releasing millions of new images monthly, I am looking forward to many more discoveries in the months ahead!

Mar 022013
Gilbert Goff

For the last several years part of my research has focused on Licking County, Ohio, about 30 miles east of Columbus.  There my 3rd Great Grandfather, Abner Goff and his father, Daniel purchased 200 acres for $1,000 in 1813 after moving from Clarendon, Rutland, Vermont.  In a search for “Abner Goff” in Google Books I discovered several references to an Ohio Appeals Court Case which addressed a dispute over land where an individual died intestate.

The subject Abner Goff (grandson of my Abner and cousin to my great grandfather) died in 1896 without a will and with no children.  According to Ohio law his 162 acres passed to his widow, Martha. Martha died with a will, but the will did not address the disposition of the land, only granting a life estate to Martha’s brother, Ensley Finney Hass.    The dispute arose at death of Mr. Haas as to the proper distribution of the property.  The Goff family claimed that under Ohio law they were entitled to one half of the land.  Mr. Hass’s heirs disputed this.  Hence this court case.

What makes this case interesting to me is not the details of the argument from a court case more than a century ago, but what I found when I visited the Recorder’s Office in Licking County a few years ago.  As a young person Abner’s brother, Gilbert B. Goff, moved from Licking County, Ohio to Michigan and had great success in lumber and other businesses.   In 1911 as this dispute was headed to court, Gilbert Goff executed a quit claim relinquishing his claims to this property and giving it to the heirs of his brother, Zara Goff and their sister, Mary Goff Lampson.   What’s interesting is that he lists fourteen of his known nieces (with their married names) and nephews as we see in a transcription of the document below. Continue reading »

Sep 232011

During our recent trip to Moosehead Lake, Maine, we visited the Moosehead Historical Society in Greenville Junction.    This was just a short walk from where Ruth’s mother grew up.   Following an excellent guided tour we stopped in the office to see what they might have about the Templeton family.   Several files!    One treasure was this clipping from the Moosehead Gazette, July  4, 1952 about Ruth’s grandfather, Fred Templeton.  The headline reads: “Fred Templeton Still Making Canoes at Age of 76 Years.”

In the story Fred recounts experiences from his years (1898 – 1945) as a guide at Kineo (see Memories from Kineo).   He remembers seeing as many as 84 moose in a day.  The last caribou he saw was in 1899.   He had other stories to tell, but he had to get back to work to finish the canoe.    Fred died on 9 Oct 1952, just four months after this interview.  Templeton canoes are still known in this part of Maine.

I am so happy that we found this article.  Thanks to organizations such as the Moosehead Historical Society for the work they do to preserve these memories.

Sep 222011

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Maine.  Last Thursday I went to the Maine State Archives and State Library looking for information about the Templeton Family, especially Fred and Hermon Templeton’s mother, Emily Sears.   The Templeton family lost contact with Emily after the death of her husband, John Frank Templeton in 1879.  What happened during her next 53 years?

I was very happy when I found her record of death in 1932.   I was even more delighted in finding an obituary in the Bangor Daily News.

Emily (Emma) Sears

However, like many puzzles: pieces found  and now new questions to ask.  I have laid out the story and questions in much greater detail on  a new page focused on her story.   This is the first time I knew that she spent some of her last few years in Bangor, Maine.   Her obituary says that she was the widow of Frank Jenkins.   That’s also new information.    That’s what makes these quests so interesting!

We also had a chance to visit her grave in very rural Willimantic in Piscataquis County, Maine and see this very tiny community where Ruth’s grandfather was born.

Sep 162011

Tomorrow we leave Moosehead Lake (Greenville, ME) to begin our journey home.   On Tuesday we traveled with Ruth’s mother to Kineo, where she told us about her experiences as a child living on the island each summer while her father worked as a guide (see Memories from Kineo).   On Wednesday we visited the Moosehead Historical Society in Greenville.  It has to be one of the best small town museums in America.  It was also great to find some newpaper clippings about the Templeton family.

On Thursday I went to Augusta to visit the Maine State Archives and State Library, making some progress, along with developing some new questions about what happened to Emily Sears Templeton after her husband, John Frank Templeton, died.   I will update this information when I get back home.

Today I visited cemeteries in Willimantic and Milo, both here in Piscataquis County.   Found the grave markers I was looking for. It was a great, memorable week with lots of pictures to process and information to organize and ponder.  It will be good, too, to get back to a warmer place.