Mrs. means married…..or does it?


Mr. Benjamin Bradstreet & Mrs. Sarah Greenleaf both of Newbury were married November ye 9th 1726

There are challenges when we view history through the lens of modern times.

Take the above record of marriage, for example, in which “Mrs.” Sarah Greenleaf weds Benjamin Bradstreet. For years I wrongly concluded that Sarah Greenleaf was someone’s widow, having been married before. A closer look, however, reveals something different.

“Mrs.,” an abbreviated form of mistress, was defined in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary1 as follows:

A woman who governs: correlative to subject or to servant.

A woman who possesses faculties uninjured.

A woman skilled in any thing.

A woman teacher.

A woman beloved and courted.

A term of contemptuous address.

A whore; a concubine.

Notice marital status was not included! Further research shows Sarah Greenleaf was the unmarried daughter of Joseph and Thomasin (Mayo) Greenleaf, a family of prominence in Newbury, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay. In this instance, the term “Mrs.” clearly recognized Sarah’s position in society!

1. “mistress, n.s.” A Dictionary of the English Language, by Samuel Johnson. 1755. Accessed 2021/08/01.

Seeing double: two lines to my Mayflower ancestors!

My grandmother was proud of her New England heritage. While she didn’t know much beyond the names of her maternal grandparents, Albert Stanwood and Lavina Bursley, she had been told growing up that our ancestors came on the Mayflower. Many years later, after connecting with a Bursley cousin and documenting my descent from John Howland and his wife, Elizabeth Tilly, I was finally able to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Little did I know that someday another connection to John and Elizabeth would emerge – this time through Lavina Bursley’s husband, Albert Stanwood. The two were 7th cousins!

Simeon Spencer of Truro and Provincetown, Massachusetts

Whaling ship, Library of Congress

Resident of Truro

Simeon Spencer resided in Truro in 1771, where he was taxed for two polls,[1] and where his daughter, Martha, was born 4 August 1771.[2]  On 12 January 1773, the birth of Simeon’s son, John, was also recorded in the town records.[3]

Truro was a pioneer whaling town and produced three famous captains.[4]  Truro boys and men whaled on Cape Cod, and also signed on to dangerous, long-term voyages in search of whales that would yield valuable oils.  Seafaring was a way of life for those living on Cape Cod.

The revolutionary war came to Truro in 1775 “when a British ship lobbed cannonballs into the town and British marauders came ashore.”[5]  Families began to empty their homes to prevent the British from taking their valuable goods.

Not only were families worried about the British taking their food and other scare resources, they were also greatly affected by the activity at sea.  Whaling came to a near stop during the war, as ships were often captured by the British.  Without whaling, the people of Truro had no income and no means of support.  Loyalist sentiments decreased among the population. Continue reading

Stanwood homestead

1859 Penobscot Co., Maine map

This 1859 map of Penobscot County, Maine shows B. Stanwood, who resided in Township No. 2, Indian Purchase (now known as Woodville).  In 2013 I sought to find the location, and not only found Benjamin Stanwood’s homestead, but also found a distant cousin, also a descendant of Benjamin and his wife, Betsey (Wasgatt) Stanwood.  This cousin lives on the land originally owned by Benjamin.

Home of Benjamin and Betsey (Wasgatt) Stanwood which was purchased by the Libby family (shown in front)

Above is an image of the house which Benjamin and Betsey sold to Phineas Libby.  Shown are descendants of Phineas in front of the home.

The Stanwood Coat of Arms

Fake coat of arms, likely drawn by John Cole, an individual who forged coat of arms in the 19th Century.

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 50:542 tells us of the Stanwood Coat of Arms.  The article’s author, Mrs. Ellen Dunlap Hopkins, writes:

In connection with the origin of the family, comes the question of the right to a coat of arms in this branch of the Stanwood family.  There seem to be two Stanwood coat of arms.  I can find no authority for the New England family using arms save by tradition…

Ethel Stanwood Bolton, the author of The Stanwood Family in America, also tackled this subject.  She described the work of John Cole, an unscrupulous man who was the likely creator of two fake coat of arms.  One of them, touted in the Brunswick Stanwood family, had four griffins’ heads upon it.  According to Bolton, “Both bear on a scroll across the bottom the text, ‘By the name of Stanwood;’ but Philip spelled and signed his name Stainwood, and most of his sons and grandsons did the same.  In fact, both coats are, without a doubt, forgeries.”

She continues, “There was at one time a third coat-of-arms in Ipswich, but as it has been destroyed it is impossible to say whether it was a different or a copy of one of these.”  Regardless, Bolton continues:  “Age, use, and ignorance of heraldry on the part of the owners, have all brought about a belief in their authenticity to-day.”

The coat of arms depicted above was purchased off of eBay about 2004.  It was sold along with several letters, one of which was written by a Lemuel Stanwood of Boston probably about 1845, and the other by Mr. John Dorr to “My Dear Son,” penned 16 December 1825.  The original letters were donated to the New England Historic Genealogical Society.



Oh my WORD! Microsoft Word, that is!

I’ve had a variety of posts about my workflow and tools that I use to stay organized.  When someone emailed me recently about one of my Ninox database posts, I realized I should probably post an update on my process.

After playing around with several applications for use as a research log, I found no tool or database beats simple Microsoft Word for keeping track of my research.  Each research question is assigned it’s own MS Word file, and listed in the beginning is what is currently known about the research problem.  Next is listed the resources that will be searched, followed by the findings, both positive and negative.  Last is the summary and next steps.  The file is an active document; it is drafted as I research, as opposed to documenting finds afterward.   It really drives me to be thoughtful and methodical.  It also helps to ensure potential resources aren’t overlooked, and forces me to think through what information has been gleaned.

So out with Ninox, Airtable, and other applications that I was testing out.   I’m keeping it simple;  MS Word is this genealogist’s best friend.

Making the case: proof argument for parentage of Lavina (Spencer) Bursley

Lavina (Spencer) Bursley[1] was born about 1780 in Provincetown, Barnstable County, Massachusetts.[2]  The town was so small that at the time of 1790 census only one page was used to enumerate the town’s 454 inhabitants.  Included on the census was Abigail Spencer, head of household, with one male under 16 years of age, two males 16 years and over, and three females.[3]  This paper will demonstrate that Lavina Spencer was the daughter of Abigail (___) Spencer and her husband, Simeon Spencer.

Supporting Conclusion #1 – Lavina Spencer was born in or near Provincetown

Lavina Spencer was the wife of Lemuel Bursley.  The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth G. (Bursley) Bailey died in Boston, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts,[4] where the place of birth for both parents was recorded in the death register.  The informant reported Lavina’s place of birth as Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Supporting Conclusion #2 – Lavina Spencer married in Provincetown

Lemuel Bursley and Lavina Spencer married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, 4 February 1797, a fact supported by several documents.  First, the marriage was recorded in the Provincetown records.[5]  Lemuel also reported his marriage to King Hiram’s Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in Cape Cod, providing the date “1797-2-4.”[6]  Lastly, Lavina verified her marriage to Lemuel Bursley when making an application for bounty land based on Lemuel’s service in the War of 1812, stating “she was married to sd Lemuel Bursley at Provincetown in the year 1797 by one Samuel Parker Clergyman.”[7]

Lavina’s signed declaration, stating she was married in Provincetown in 1797 by Samuel Parker, Clergyman.

Supporting Conclusion #3 – only one Spencer family with children in or near Provincetown Continue reading

Women in my tree: great grandmother Annabelle (Boyd) Rogers

Women seem to fade into the background of our family trees, their lives and stories so quickly forgotten.  Researching my father’s family, I recently realized I had asked him very few questions about his beloved grandmother, Annabelle (Boyd) Rogers, who, with Dad’s grandfather Joseph Rogers, raised my Dad and legally adopted him.

Annabelle, holding my Dad, Wayne Rogers, next to husband Joseph

Annabelle was a sweet, kind woman who was a “mail order bride.”  She and Joseph married about 1918, and in 1919 their first child, Floyd, was born.  He was followed by Bessie, in 1921, and Josie, Dad’s biological mother, in 1924.  The night Josie went into labor with Dad was quite stormy and the doctor was unable to make the trip over dirt roads to assist the young mother give birth.  Joseph assumed the role of doctor and delivered his grandson, Wayne.

Joseph and Annabelle were wonderful parents to Dad.  While they didn’t have much money, they made sure he had what he needed.  He was given the typical toys little boys crave, including bicycles and toy guns and other playthings.  One of Dad’s favorite things, however, was not a toy:  he enjoyed visiting the nursery with his mother and gardening. It was his love of the nursery that caused Annabelle some grief early one morning. Continue reading

Creating a research log with Ninox Database

UPDATE: Ninox is a great tool, but doesn’t compare to MS Word for tackling a research problem and keeping track of sources searched.  Click here to learn how I use Word as an active document while researching.

Ninox is an awesome application for MacOS and iOS that allows the user to create custom, relational databases.  You can store your database in iCloud, and access from your iPhone or iPad.  It’s super easy and user friendly, and I originally started tinkering with it to better track the archival boxes and files which contained original family photos.  It then occurred to me that it could replace my research logs, which had migrated from Evernote to simple Word documents.  That was fine for a summary of repository research, but was still limited.

I’m slowly adding people to the database as I have research notes to add.

My research log has five linked tables – goals, people, source/repository, record type, and results, as shown on the left handed navigation bar in the picture above.

The database was designed to focus on a research goal, and all entries relate to that specific goal.

Research Goals

To see research for a specific person, simply go to the People tab and select the focus individual:

Person view


Click on research goal to see details of previous searches.

Aaron has two research goals – occupation and land ownership

Click on the specific result entry to see details, including any pertinent, attached documents.

The “Results” tab allows attachment of relevant documents or images.

Shown above is the 1838 Piscataquis County, Maine grantee index attached to the research results entry.

The Ninox database was not difficult to make, and it was super easy to sync my iPad to it as well.  It’s easy to filter results to see where I’ve already searched, and the primary search field will locate matching text in a text field.  For instance, when I search for the word “deed,” I’m presented with a list of items where the word appears.  It does an all text search, and will even find names or other words that are simple comments in a notes field.

The Find option searches text in all data fields, even comments and notes.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with how this turned out, and was especially amazed how simple it was to do.  Best 0f all, unlike online research logs, there’s no monthly or annual subscription to pay, but yet it’s still cloud based!  The only negative I’ve found is there is very little in the way of manuals or user help, but I didn’t really have too many issues, as it is quite intuitive and easy to use.  For $34.99, it was quite a deal!


Why I love Family Tree Maker 2017

Thankfully there are many genealogy database programs to choose from, given one “size” (or application) does not fit all.  Additionally, there is no “right” program to use.  Software itself will not make you a better genealogist.  It’s the consistent use of the software – and being consistent in how you enter data – that WILL make a huge difference as you work on your genealogy.

Finding the right fit can take some time.  And even when you have a program you like, you may decide to play around with something new.  Such was the case when I decided to find a native Mac application after having used RootsMagic for many years.  I made a brief switch to Reunion 11 in 2015, but found that the software was too limited for what I wanted.  Instead, about 18 months ago I decided to climb on board with Family Tree Maker, and couldn’t be happier.  Now that FTM 2017 is out, I decided to highlight the features I love the most.

Facts, Sources and Media

The feature that I loved most about RootsMagic was being able to see if a fact was sourced or not, and if it had associated media. However, even better than that is Family Tree Maker’s ability to show how many source citations are associated with a fact, in addition to the number of linked media items.


The number of sources, attached media and notes are visible for each fact in the Person view.

A HUGE advantage offered by FTM is that the media can be attached directly to the source citation itself, leaving no question about which source citation the media item belongs to when multiple source citations are linked to the fact.  A thumbnail of the media item is also visible on the source citation as well. Continue reading