The Wonderment of Walter Goodwin Davis

 

I’ve been working with a copy of Lunt: A History of the Lunt Family in America, by Thomas S. Lunt, published in 1913.

There are a few weird things in it that can be traced to differences with Walter Goodwin Davis’ treatments of the family in his Descendants of Abel Lunt and Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis.

One item is that Davis seems to have renamed a child of Henry(5) Lunt from Joseph to Henry. The Newbury, Massachusetts vital records record at volume 1, page 297 a Joseph born on 13 February 1774 but there is no similar entry for a Henry at page 296. There’s no indication in either Lunt or Davis that the child born on 13 February was a twin, either. Where did Davis come up with another Henry? Or did he?

 

Announce: Descendants of Simon Mellen is Published

Maling, N. P. Descendants of Simon Mellen, c. 1636–1694. Seattle, Washington: Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research. 2012. 296pp. Indexed, illustrated. ISBN: 978-1-105-90833-0.

The first full-scale genealogical treatment of the Massachusetts Mellen family. The progenitor of this family was Simon Mellen, c. 1636–1694, who settled in Sherborne and later Framingham. The genealogy continues from Simon1 to the late 1800s birth of Albert Fisher10 Mellen, presenting 10 generations of this family. The focus is on the Mellens who settled in New England; fought in the early wars, including the Revolutionary War and Civil War; and established families. Their migration coverage ranges from Massachusetts, to Maine, to New Hampshire, to Connecticut, and to Rhode Island. Several tendrils extend into New York.

Growing out of two brief genealogies previously published in the town history of Framingham, Massachusetts, this greatly expanded and corrected history of the Mellen family is amply documented and footnoted. It corrects and clarifies numerous other publications concerning the Mellen family history. Over 2300 footnotes provide and discuss the source materials used for each piece of information. The index provides both personal names, including maiden names of wives, and place names, enabling a researcher to pinpoint migration patterns.

Constructed in the classic New England Historic & Genealogical Society’s Register style, the first ten sketches are:

1. Simon, b. circa 1636; d. Sherborne, 19 December 1694.

2. Simon, b. Winnisimmet, 25 Sept. 1665; d. Framingham, 30 Aug. 1717.

3. Thomas, b. Malden, in Aug. 1668.

4. Mary, b. Malden, between 1674 and 1677; d. Framingham, 13 March 1727.

5. Simon, b. Sherborne, 16 May 1690.

6. James, b. Framingham, 8 March 1697/98.

7. Henry, b. Sherborne, 12 Aug. 1691; d. 13 May 1767.

8. Sarah, b. Framingham, 22 March 1696/97; d. Sherborne 28 Aug. 1725.

9. Richard, b. Framingham, 10 Nov. 1701.

10. Tabitha, b. Framingham, 4 Jan. 1703/4.

The sketches continue through to numbers 123. Edward E. Mellen, b. 27 Sept. 1886; and 124. Walter Leslie Mellen, b. 10 Jan. 1868. These sketches include the descendants of both men, for a total coverage of 10 generations into the early 20th century.

This volume is available in softcover and hardcover from Lulu.com.

Reading Society Journals

I actually like reading the notes (footnotes and end notes) in society publications. The other day I got the new New England Historical and Genealogical Register and promptly sat down to read it. The best bits I read first were the footnotes for one of the articles on John Barrows, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Not that I had any real interest in Mr. Barrows or his descendants; the nature of the article, and the author, Martin E. Hollick, were the attractions. The article itself, the text discussion, and the formatting, were keys to my interest in first reading this article. Mr. Hollick is one of the more interesting writers and researchers for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and I like his work. What drew me to the article was the level of research skills on display.

Reading the footnotes, alongside the text, I found that Mr. Hollick used a large number of sources for his work, both published and not published. The sources he used in this article can serve as exemplars for my work when I research Plymouth families, or others, that he has researched in the article.

The format of the article, on the other hand, gives me an idea of how to go about putting together such a piece. The way the article opens, the structure of the event time lines, and the discussions that go with those events, are key to a good reporting style. The particular journal style of placing dates before places may vary from time to time, but that’s ok; it really just depends on the type of event you are discussing. The level of citation you use and the format of those citations will also vary, but, likewise, it depends on the journal you are writing for, whether you go into so much detail, or not.

The footnoted discussions can give you an idea of how much or how little to include in the text part of the article and how much to include in the genealogical summary part. These two parts of an NEHGR piece are particular to that particular journal, but can be roughly duplicated in your own article or book-length production. The details in each portion vary, but the important thing is that the sources are cited and any interesting bits are discussed: discrepancies between two sources, and so on. These footnotes are important to future researchers so that unnecessary research is not duplicated.

A journal like NEHGR is a major stopping point for researchers and is authoritative as far as journals go. Yes, corrections and amplifications are sometimes done, but most often the corrections are to old, old genealogy research, and amplifications are actually expansions on materials previously published in the journal, which helps even more for future genealogists.

The only downside of reading a society publication is that some of the other journals referenced in articles may not be available to the reader. This necessitates getting a reprint or photocopy request from a library for the article. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are several libraries with a number of major and minor journals available in nearby libraries. As a genealogist, I’m able and willing to do research in these materials for others who may need or want the materials, but are not able to travel to the library to get them, or get them through a library copying service.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Writing – Creative Non-fiction – Fiction or Fact?

“Whose story was true?” From Keep it Real, page 77, asks where for the footnotes in historical accounts since the 1970s.[1]

The scope of genealogical and family history writing borders on creativity sometimes. How does one know which parts are fictions and which are verified, and verifiable facts?

One way to determine is the scope of research done by the writer. A writer may have included a preface or introduction laying out the basis for the writing. Another way to tell is simply which material is footnoted and which not. Spot-checking some random facts, or material stated as fact can give you an idea of the veracity of the writer.

  • If no citations, treat the entire thing as fiction
  • If well cited, tread with caution, especially when the data isn’t explained in at least some of the notes.

The article cited in Keep it Real also discusses the dry-as-dust historical writing and the trend away from it. Another question asked is whether the truthfulness of the writing is good or not depending on the marketing acumen of the writer/publisher affects the acceptance of one version but not another. In other words, is the truth subjective? Yes.

There are any number of genealogies out there which could be fact or fiction. The only way to tell is by checking spot only, or better yet, by reviewing the entire writing assertion by assertion.

For example: Without directly referring to the material in the Shearer book[2] on the Mellen family, I was able to construct a quite different view of Richard Mellen’s family. What my little publication on the web amounts to is a subjectively different view of the truth of Richard Mellen’s descendants. Essentially the same could be said about Simon Mellen, one of the alleged sons of Richard.

Again, the only way for a genealogist to figure out the most likely course of events is to compare both versions and decide on their own what the most likely discussion of assertions is the better.

Asking me whose story is true is asking a scholar whether his work is questionable. I will, however say that I believe that my account of Richard Mellen is the more accurate. Not having checked the veracity of the rest of the Shearer book, I could not say whether much or any is either fact or fiction. The only parts I have considered here, and in my writing are the lines from Simon and from Richard in New England.

[1] Gutkind, Lee and Hattie Fletcher, eds. Keep it Real: Everything You Need to Know About Researching and Writing Creative Nonfiction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2008.

[2] Shearer, Gail Elizabeth. The Mellen and Shearer Families: Pioneers, Puritans and Patriots. Baltimore, Md.: Gateway Press, Inc. 2000.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

City Directory Sunday, Portland, Oregon, 1940

This week’s column is part of page 1003 from the R. L. Polk’s 1940 Portland, Oregon City Directory. Enjoy.

Polk's, Portland, Oregon, City Directory, 1940, page 1003

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Gustavus Gessner is another relative of the Rudolph Gessner I wrote about in the Seattle Genealogical Society’s recent Bulletin. This is an example of how popular his family was in Ohio and the Civil War years.

Grand Army Blog

Yesterday the New York Times’ Science page featured an article about J. David Hacker’s recent study that has revised upward the long-accepted casualty count of 620,000.  This is well-deserved publicity for Hacker and for Civil War History, the leading scholarly journal in our field.  Hacker’s study reminds us that numbers are politics.  The quest to determine precisely the social impact of the Civil War is nothing new, however — something Hacker readily admits.  Such estimates consumed blue-coated ex-soldiers in the late nineteenth century, and as such Hacker joins distinguished company, including Union veterans Thomas Leonard Livermore, Thomas Brown, and William Fox.

Ex-prisoners of war were particularly determined to right the record books.  Perhaps nobody was more committed to the project than Ohio Union Ex-Prisoner of War Association President Gustavus Gessner, who maintained meticulous records of the dead by corresponding with other rebel prison pen survivors. Gessner became particularly…

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Sunday’s Obituary – W. A. Monroe, Spokane, Washington

W. A. Monroe, 79, Pioneer, Passes

Gained Prominence in Business and Civic Affairs – Funeral Wednesday.

Death came Monday to William Allison Monroe, 79, well-known engineering accountant and pioneer of 1889. He died in Sacred Heart hospital following a stroke sufferred four days before.

He was the husband of another well-known fgure in Spokane’s history, Mrs. Mary Monroe, educator and civic leader. They came to Seattle in July, 1889, from Newark, Ohio, where they were married in 1886. A few days after the great fire of August 4, 1889, they came to Spokane from the Coast city, and had resided here since.

Their home was at 5711 Cowley, near the Lincoln school Mrs. Monroe served as principal from 1891 to 1929. Closely identified with affairs of the community for more than two generations Mr. Monroe, like his wife, was held in high regard. Her membership in the Spokane park board also added to the large circle of friendship.

Held Important Positions.

Mr. Monroe became deputy city auditor soon after his arrival, serving with Theodore Reed. In the early part of the century he was deputy to General James a Drain, then county clerk.

In 1905 he joined Winters, Parsons & Boomer, railway contractors, and advanced to manager of the company, which built many railways, dams and other projects in the west. He still held this connection at his death, and one of the early arrivals yesterday was H. H. Boomer, San Francisco, who started for Spokane when he learned of Mr. Monroe’s illness.

Mr. Monroe also was a mamber of the board of directors for the Old National Bank Building company.

Besides the widow, Mr. Monroe is survived by a sister, Mrs. Jessie Stewart, and a brother, Charles P. Monroe, both of Columbus, Ohio; two nephews there, and William L. Matthews, a nephew, spokane.

Honorary pallbearers selelcted by Mrs. Monroe for funeral services at 1 o’clock Wednesday at Smith & Co.’s are all intimate associates. They are Mr. Boomer, L. M. Davenport, M. F. Fry, D. W. Twohy, A. W. Witherspoon, Joseph Moris, William Kuhlman, John W. Duncan, Professor George Craig, Cheney; E. A. Shadle, Lyman C. Reed and Orville C. Pratt.

Active bearers will be W. L. Mathews, Stanley G. Witter, Jerry O’Brien, J. S. Lee, John J. Hasfurther and Robert C. Patterson. Dean McAllister, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist will read the service. Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery.

Spokane Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 19 March 1940, page 6, column 3.

Spokesman-Review 19 March 1940, p. 6, c. 3.

Spokesman-Review 19 March 1940, p. 6, c. 3.