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

Church of our Saviour – Brookline Massachusetts

Church of Our Saviour Brookline, MA

Church of Our Saviour
Brookline, MA

In the late 1870’s the John Wales (1832-1900) family moved from Boston to the rapidly developing suburb of Brookline,  John Wales built a home at the corner of Monmouth and Carlton streets, across the street from the new Church of Our Saviour.   The Wales family were active members of the church where John served for 16 years on the Vestry and 7 years as treasurer.

John Wales Window Our Saviour Church, Brookline, MA (Click to englarge)

John Wales Window
Our Saviour Church, Brookline, MA

In 1899, just a year before his death, John gave a beautiful stained glass window designed by the Louis Comfort Tiffany Company to the church.


Description of John Wales window

Plaque in Sanctuary in memory of John Wales

John Wales Vestry Tribute – 18 Nov 1900

(Click on pictures for a larger view)



Sanctuary of Church of Our Saviour, Brookline, MA John Wales widow is in the right side

Sanctuary of Church of Our Saviour, Brookline, MA
John Wales widow is in the right side

John Wales home

John Wales home was across the street from the church, marked on this map as Geo P Fields. George R Wales home is next to church in lower right.

Read our letter to the Church of Our Saviour following our visit in 2013.

Return to “Susan’s Childhood in Brookline



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.

Historic Homes of the Ancestors of Susan Hervey Wales


Susan Hervey Wales’ roots run deep through the history of New England.   In researching her story we have identified four historic homes that are still standing in which her ancestors lived.   We have had the opportunity to visit three.

Job Lane House – Bedford, Massachusetts

Job Lane House Bedford, MA

Job Lane House
Bedford, MA

The Job Lane house in Bedford, MA was built in 1713 by Job Lane, Susan Hervey Wales’ 5th great grandfather) on the occasion of his wedding to Maratha Ruggles in 1713.   It was expanded by the family in the 1800’s.  Job Lane’s son, Job Lane Jr, was one of the Minutemen who responded to the call on April 19, 1775 to assist their neighbors in Lexington and Concord in their fight with the British troups.  John Lane was wounded by a musket ball in the right hip, but lived another 20 years.

Read my blog post on our visit to the Job Lane House




Oldest House on Nantucket

Jethro Coffin House (1686) Nantucket, MA

Jethro Coffin House (1686)
Nantucket, MA

The oldest house on Nantucket was built as a wedding gift in 1686 for Jethro Coffin and Mary Gardner.  Nathaniel and Ann Paddack were the second owners of the home beginning in 1708.  Son Daniel was 1 year old.  Daniel became a Sea Captain who was lost at sea in 1743 while on a whaling voyage, leaving his wife with 7 children.   Deborah Paddack, Susan Hervey Wales’ 3rd great grandmother, was only 4 years old.

Read about this house from the Nantucket Historical Association




Wilbor House, Little Compton, Rhode Island

WIlbor House, Little Compton, RI

WIlbor House, Little Compton, RI

The first section of the Wilbor House in Little Compton, Rhode Island was built in 1690 by Samuel Wilbore, Susan Hervey Wales’ 5th great grandfather.   Today it is the home of the Little Compton Historical Society which offers tours.

View pictures of the Wilbor House from our visit in 2013.





Edward Capen House

Edward Capen Home

Edward Capen Home Stoughton, MA

Built in 1757 by Edward Capen, this home is located at 760 Pleasant Street in Stoughton, Massachusetts.   Edward Capen was Susan Hervey Wales’ 3rd great grandfather.  Daughter, Susanna Capen (1760-1828) was the 2nd wife of John Wales (1762-1823).  You can find more about this home at Stoughtonhistory.com.

I do not believe that it is open to visitors at the present time.



Susan Hervey Wales Rollason (1889-1989)

Susan Hervey Wales Rollason

Susan Hervey Wales Rollason



Susan Hervey Wales was born on 2 Nov 1889 in Brookline, Norfolk, MA to George Rogers Wales and Mable Louise Hervey.  On 16 May 1916 she married Herbert Duncan Rollason in Beverly, Essex, MA.

Susan died at the age of 99 in St. Petersburg, Pinellas, FL on 26 June 1989.

(Click on the images below to learn more about Susan’s life and ancestors.)

Some of these pages are still in development

Childhood in Brookline

John, Helen and Susan Wales abt 1898

John, Helen and Susan Wales abt 1898

Pictures of their home, notes written by their mother, their church and more

Mayflower Ancestors

Replica of the Mayflower

Replica of the Mayflower

Three of Susan’s ancestors were passengers on the Mayflower.  All were ancestors of Susan’s birth grandfather, John Easton Gifford.

 Historic Homes

Jethro Coffin House (1686) Nantucket, MA

Jethro Coffin House (1686)
Nantucket, MA

We have identified four historic homes of Susan’s ancestors.  Three are open to visitors.


Revolutionary War Ancestors

Concord Minuteman

Concord Minuteman

Job Lane, Jr. Susan’s 4th great grandfather, was one of the Minutemen who marched to fight the British at Concord and Lexington.  more. . .

 Herbert D Rollason

Herbert D Rollason - 1913

Herbert D Rollason – 1913

Susan married Herbert D Rollason on May 16, 1916 in Beverly, Massachusetts.

And More

Susan Hervey Wales Ancestors

Susan Hervey Wales Ancestors

Read more about several of Susan’s ancestral families.


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.

Nantucket – Our Whaling Connections

Whaleboat conducts attach, while whaling vessel in background is "trying out" (rendering) blubber into oil. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Whaleboat conducts attack, while whaling vessel in background is “trying out” (rendering) blubber into oil. (Photo: Library of Congress)


Several family members of Mary Elizabeth Easton (1779-1838) were actively involved in Nantucket’s historic whaling activity.

Her great grandfather, Captain Daniel Paddack (1707-1743), was lost at sea with his crew while whaling in 1743.

Her grandfather, George Hussey (1738-1804) had ownership in at least two whaling vessels:  the Harlequin and the Mary Ann.   When we visited Nantucket in 2009, I found a copy of a bill of sale for a 1/16th interest in the Mary Ann -from George Hussey to his son-in law, Peleg Easton, Mary’s father in 1789, the same year that our US Constitution was ratified.  The handwritten document is interesting to read.   The ship was provisioned and ready for a “Whaling cruize to the Coast of the Cape of Good Hope” (southern horn of Africa).

More Information:

Whaling Museum in Nantucket










Background on Whaling

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!