Friday, November 11, 2011

Their Names Liveth Forevermore

Canso War Memorial
Emma must have wondered at the cause of such grief.

The Great War tried the spirits of millions and costs countless soldiers their lives--a huge loss, almost impossible to comprehend at times.

Emily Myra "Emma" (McLellan) Swaine lived most of her life in Canso, Nova Scotia. As three of her four sons went off to war, she probably felt a mixture of fear and pride. Young men died in battle. She knew that. But she couldn't have known the toll the war years would take on her family.

The first strikes came from an unexpected quarter. Her father died in early 1915, a month short of his 88th birthday. A sad passing, but Angus McLellan had lived a long life and could go to a well-deserved rest.

The year passed quietly until the Holiday season. Just four days before Christmas, Emma lost her husband Samuel. He'd recently celebrated his 53rd birthday and readily believed he'd see many more until brought down by heart failure.

The ensuing years brought more suffering to bear on poor Emma. Her eldest sons Arthur and Roland died in France in 1916. Benjamin, her youngest boy, shared their fate in 1918. She also lost her stepfather, a nephew (Percy Lumsden), and her husband's cousin, but nothing could compare to losing three of her six children.

Arthur E. Swaine

Roland Judson Swaine

Benjamin Wallace Swaine

Percy John Lumsden

How relieved she must have felt knowing that she still had her only remaining son, Edward, and her daughters Margaret and Jessie to comfort her through it all.

In 1925, the Town of Canso called upon Emma to unveil their new War Memorial to the town's fallen heroes. The inscription must have brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War, 1914-1918." A list of 23 names followed, but she would have seen only three. "Their names liveth forevermore."

Emma left Canso five years later, choosing to live on the other side of the province with her daughter Jessie. She died in 1946, far from home, but her family laid her to rest in the Canso Baptist Cemetery, next to her husband and sons--never parted in their hearts.

The names of Arthur, Roland and Benjamin Swaine, along with thousands more, are also recorded in The Books of Remembrance. The six books--First World War, Second World War, Newfoundland, The Korean War, South African War/Nile Expedition, and The Merchant Navy--are physically located in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill (in Canada's capital city Ottawa).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 2: War and Captivity

Typical attire of a soldier in
the Royal Fencible American
The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 1: Across the Sea

Civil unrest in the New England colonies had erupted into destruction and violence. The self-styled Patriots—rebels in the eyes of those loyal to the King—declared their independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. Twenty-three days later—one day short of the third anniversary of his father’s death—David Dobson enlisted in the Royal Fencible Americans at Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia. Under the command of Colonel Joseph Goreham, the Loyalist regiment braced itself for the anticipated incursion of rebel forces into Nova Scotia. They didn’t have long to wait.

The Eddy Rebellion, named for Cumberland settler Jonathan Eddy, presented a threat to the future of Nova Scotia. Eddy and his supporters believed that Nova Scotia should follow New England’s example. Loyalist settlers preferred their emotional bond to the monarchy.

November 1776 proved a pivotal month in the life of Private David Dobson. On November 5th, he was sent by Goreham to assess Eddy’s forces. His was a spying mission, albeit unsuccessful. When he did not report back by November 7th, he was presumed to have deserted or been captured. Goreham maintained faith in his operative, however, and David was officially listed among those captured by the rebels.

By November 12th, those prisoners were relocated to Boston, presumably to be kept in a military stockade. That Private Dobson avoided being executed as a spy spoke either to his luck or his personal charm. Since good fortune seemed in short supply, his personality must have dazzled.

David’s brother, George Jr., was the only adult male remaining on the Dobson homestead. Brother-in-law William Wells was near at hand, but he had his own growing brood with which to contend--not to mention the shadow of his apparent involvement with Eddy's rebels. When George was pressed into service aboard a Yankee privateer, management of the farm would have fallen to his mother.

Perhaps coincidentally, both David Dobson and George Dobson were listed among dozens of Loyalists held aboard the brig Rising Empire and scheduled for a prisoner exchange in 1778. Family tradition holds that George was released and allowed to return home due to ill health. But is it possible that the brothers were imprisoned and exchanged together?

Prisoner exchange list, page 1
Prisoner exchange list, page 2
Following the exchange, David's whereabouts become a mystery. Does he return to the family homestead with George? Or does he perhaps continue his military experience? Part 3 will focus on what might have happened.


Friday, October 7, 2011

The Spy Who Eluded Me, Part 1: Across the Sea

When I started researching my family tree in 1990, I quickly hit a brick wall in the form of my fifth great grandfather, David Dobson. Available records were limited to a one-line entry on an 1817 tax record, which revealed he was over 50 years old and of English origin (not very helpful).

But good fortune (mostly in the form of other researchers, including but not limited to members of the Dobson Family History Group) stepped in over the next eight years, bringing more documents into play and shedding a brilliant light on David's "lost" story.

David Dobson was christened 29 May 1753 at Ingleby Arncliffe, Yorkshire, England. The fifth child of George and Mary (Barker) Dobson, David spent the first 20 years of his life in Yorkshire. His remaining years were spent primarily in Atlantic Canada.

David never knew his paternal grandparents, Richard and Margaret (Watson) Dobson, or his maternal grandfather, George Barker. They all died before he was born. His maternal grandmother, Sarah (Carter) Barker, passed away when he was thirteen. From the age of three, David was well acquainted with death. He witnessed the burials of ten of his thirteen sisters by the time he turned seventeen.

His father was a devout follower of the teachings of John Wesley, often entertaining the controversial minister in his own home. While far below the £30 contributed by John Oastler, George’s investment of just over £2 in the “New Room,” a Methodist meeting house in Thirsk, was the second highest on record.

The lure of a distant shore and the will to spread Wesley’s teachings prompted George to remove to Nova Scotia with his wife and surviving children in 1773. David—with his siblings Margaret, George Jr., Elizabeth, Mary (a.k.a. Polly), Richard and John—was apparently supportive of his father’s decision. Given his later migrations, David may have done more than simply go along with his father’s decision.

Margaret made the journey with her husband, William Wells, another staunch supporter of Wesley. They had already started a family in Thirsk, and Margaret was expecting another child as they made ready to leave England.

Dobson family arrives in Boston (The Boston Post-Boy, 19 April 1773)
George Dobson and William Wells were released as “New Room” trustees on 4 February 1773, on grounds of “going into foreign parts.” They probably set sail with their families immediately thereafter. Family legend holds that Jane Wells was born during the Atlantic crossing. (Another source gives her birth date as 23 February 1772—which, allowing for resistance to the new calendar, should probably be 1773.) The families landed first at Boston, Massachusetts, where they remained for several weeks. Tragedy struck in April with the death of five-week-old Jane. She was buried in Boston, a permanent reminder of her family’s passage through the city.

Perhaps prompted by grief, as well as the growing unrest of the Boston colonists, the Dobson and Wells families pressed on with their journey. They landed at Nova Scotia on 18 June 1773, settling near Fort Cumberland at Point de Bute.

One might say that the new land welcomed George Dobson with open arms. He fell ill within a month of his arrival and passed away five days later, on 28 July 1773, at age 52. He had been in Nova Scotia exactly 30 days. George must have realised his time was near, for he drew up his will one day before his death. In it, he left everything to his beloved wife, Mary, with the stipulation that his two oldest sons—George Jr. and David—and son-in-law William Wells should each be entitled to a fifth of the land upon payment to Mary of £30 each.

George’s early death is too ironic to be ignored. The entire family must have been in turmoil. They’d packed up lock, stock and hollyhock, all because Papa wanted a new start, and they’d been left to deal with unfamiliar territory without him. Admittedly, many of his children were adults by then and fully capable of fending for themselves, but they still had to consider their mother and the younger children.

Mary Barker was far from being a shrinking violet, of course. She bore 18 children and still managed to outlive all but a few members of her family. Having lost many of her children in infancy, she was more than a little familiar with death. This was not a woman with a weak constitution. Doubtless her will was just as strong. I can imagine her taking charge after her husband’s death, guiding her grown sons through the task of establishing a viable farm in their new home of Point de Bute. George’s passing would have caused her tremendous grief, initially, but she probably recovered quickly, through both necessity and practice.

On 6 May 1774, David’s uncle Richard Dobson arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, aboard the ship Albion. He had come from Yorkshire to settle the estate of his younger brother, George. Richard’s first wife and only child had died in the 1720s, and he had not seen fit to remarry until 1770. He remained in Cumberland the rest of his brief days, passing away 2 April 1775. He was buried next to George in the cemetery near Fort Cumberland. Since Richard had no sons, he left the majority of his assets—including a freehold estate in Yorkshire—to George Jr. and David. Like his brother, Richard attached stipulations to his bequests. His nephews were to pay all his debts and act as executors of his estate.

David Dobson's signature (from a 1776 document)
Events elsewhere in the colonies, however, were about to disrupt both their lives.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Shakespeare Connection

Once upon a time--1609 to be precise--an adventurous young man set out from England on a trans-Atlantic voyage intended to take him to Jamestown in the New World. Little did he realize that his journey would lead to mutiny and the threat of execution, and inspire one of history's greatest literary minds.

My ancestor Stephen Hopkins, by most current accounts, was born about 1578, probably in Hampshire, England. By 1609, he was married with three children: Elizabeth, Constance and Giles. His family situation did not deter him from making the long voyage to America, specifically Jamestown in the Virginia Colony.

The wreck of the Sea Venture, as
depicted on Bermuda's coat of arms
At least, Jamestown was the intended destination. The ship Sea Venture encountered a storm that drove it off course toward Bermuda, where it ran aground. With their ship wrecked, the crew was stranded on the "Isle of Devils" for 10 months, subsisting on wild game. Six months into the ordeal, Hopkins declared the Virginia Governor held no power over a wrecked ship and earned a charge of mutiny for inciting others. He was tried and sentenced to death for the affront. Only by pleading on behalf of the family he left behind was he able to have the sentence overturned.

Hopkins and the others did eventually reach Jamestown after building a small ship from the wreckage. He remained for several years before returning to England. His wife Mary, unfortunately, had died during his absence. He remarried (to Elizabeth Fisher) in 1618 and had seven more children. The second child, a son named Oceanus, was born aboard the Mayflower during Hopkins' next--and more auspicious--journey to America in 1620.

Image and signature
of Stephen Hopkins

I first read of Hopkins' adventures in the back of a massive book titled The Freeman Families of Nova Scotia. The last place I expected to encounter his story again was in a Renaissance Literature class at university several years later. We were studying William Shakespeare's The Tempest that semester. As I read through the introductory text to the play, I came to a passage regarding the wreck of the Sea Venture and the crew's mutiny. The incident, according to my textbook, was widely regarded as Shakespeare's inspiration for writing The Tempest in 1610.

I knew the story was familiar, but I couldn't make the connection right away. None of the mutineers were named. I had to dig through several books and files before I found the Freeman Families reference again. The two accounts did indeed match.

Discovering stories like this is the true reward of genealogy. And this is just part of Stephen Hopkins' story. His life in Plymouth, Massachusetts, continued a pattern of ups and downs that could probably fill a book. Did he live happily ever after? That's a story for another day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dobson Strays in Redcar, Yorkshire

I've come across a handful of old photos that I need help with. All feature Dobson men of Redcar and, though I have their names, I can only guess how they might fit into my family tree.
Dick Dobson (standing) and friend

First up is Dick Dobson (right). I don't know the date of the photo, but Dick is the one standing. The seated man is a complete unknown.

I can't say for certain, but, based on available information, he may be Richard Dobson, a long-time ironstone miner, born 1853 to George Dobson and Elizabeth Taylor and married to Angelina Bratt.

"Lucky Dick" Dobson (left) and Alan Picknett (right)
flank the catch of the day
Next is another Dick Dobson, a.k.a. Lucky Dick (left). He's the one with the beard. The other man is Alan Picknett. The original photo is in the Kirkleatham Museum and is dated circa 1920.

My best guess is that he's Richard Dobson (1864-1944), lifetime fisherman and son of John Dobson Sr. and Mary Jane Buckton.

Dick "Dicky Switch" Dobson (facing camera)

Third photo includes yet another Dick Dobson, a.k.a. Dicky Switch (right). This one's dated sometime in the 1930s. Dicky's the one facing the camera.

He may be the son of Richard Dobson and Angelina Bratt (above), but there's not enough information yet for a definite ID.

Frank "Tosha" Dobson with a
different sort of seaside catch
   And finally we have Frank "Tosha" Dobson, 1936-1980 (left).
   I know, he breaks the pattern we've set so far. (Maybe the
   cat's name is Dick.)

   I can't even begin to guess who his parents are at this point.

   If you can shed any light on the identities of any of these
   men, please drop me a line. Whether you confirm my
   guesses or set me straight, I want to hear from you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

By Any Other Name: The Sartorius/Shrider Connection

Recently, while searching on for clues to the origins of my ancestor Valentine Sartorius, I was surprised to see the surname Shrider and its variants among the search results (all the more intriguing since Shrider, like Sartorius, is part of the history of Guysborough County, Nova Scotia).

Valentine "Walter" Sartorius arrives in the United States in 1777 (according to "Hessian Troops in the American War for Independence: An Index According to Surname"). He serves as a private with the 60th Regiment - Royal Americans during the American Revolution and settles in Nova Scotia after the war. By October 1783, at which point he is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, awaiting his land grant, he is married to Elizabeth, daughter of Ludovic Jacob Brusch (also of the 60th Regiment), and has an unnamed daughter (see Sgt. Johann Henrich Reuter, Loyalist). Valentin dies about 1791, prior to the birth of his youngest child.

Brass button from a 60th Regiment uniform
The Shrider name in Guysborough County begins with George Shrider (alternatively spelled Schrader), whose origins are even more mysterious than Valentin's. According to the census records of his children, George is born either in Nova Scotia or the United States (two to one odds on the former). He dies 6 January 1866, age 77, in Halifax.

Further research reveals that Sartorius is the Latin form of Schneider (meaning "taylor") and its variants, including Shrider.

The names are connected, but are these two particular families? Or is it merely coincidence that they reside in the same area?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Update on Diggedon Surname

When I first posted about my ancestory Stephen Diggedon, I overlooked one vital clue. In early census records, some of his children claimed Irish heritage (although later they listed themselves as English).

According to Michelle Deedigan (posting on GenForum), other variations of the name include Deedigan, Deighidan or Deegidan (added to previously known variations Diggadon, Diggdon and Digdon, all sometimes ending in "en" rather than "on").

In the same message thread, Maureen Borwick adds the following variations: Deggidan, Digaden, Degidan, Degidon, Digodan, Digidan, Degiden and 0'Duigeadain (the original Gaelic spelling).

If you're researching any of these variations, please consider joining the Digdon mailing list at Rootsweb.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Postcard from Vogler's Cove

Back in August, I shared an old photo by Dobson & Co. Portraits of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, that I picked up in an antique shop.

I also bought an old postcard on the same day. The front of the card -- "Greetings from Vogler's Cove Canada" -- immediately caught my eye because I'm descended from the Vogler family (Johann Heinrich Vogler was a Prussian who came to Nova Scotia in 1752 as part of the Foreign Protestant migration).

The message on the back is addressed from Jas. Vogler (only adding to my interest) to Mr. Alex. Conrad, Halifax N.S., Victoria General Hospital (the latter scratched out and replaced with "Try Voglers Cove") and postmarked February 1913. There's also a February 13 1913 date stamp, probably placed there by someone in the hospital mail room.

The message reads as follows:

     Dear Sir:---
                      I am very glad to hear that you are
     getting along so well. Hope you will soon be able
     to come home. We miss you very much. All are
     well at home.
     Yours truly Jas. Vogler

There seem to be many James Voglers kicking around in 1913, so I don't know the identity of the sender or of the recipient. But the words suggest a possible family relationship ("We miss you very much").

As with other family mysteries, I'm hoping someone will read this and fill in the missing bits.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sgt. Johann Henrich Reuter, Loyalist

Of all the resources I've mentioned in the past, your state/provincial and national archives have to be among the most vital. In addition to such genealogical staples as vital records and census returns, archives hold a wealth of information beyond dates and places. In some cases, you won't know what you're looking for until you find it. 

Case in point: while looking up my many ancestral surnames in the card catalogue at Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management several years ago, I saw a reference to an article about Johann Henrich Reuter, one of my Loyalist ancestors. A whole article? And the file also included correspondence between the author and one of the Archive's researchers. I couldn't believe my luck! 

While I waited for the records clerk to bring out the article from storage, I try to limit my expectations. After all, I might not learn anything new. The article might even be little more than a snippet. 

I wasn't disappointed, though I was initially frustrated that the article was written in German. I was able to get the letter translated in full and the article in part (pulling out the vital data), thanks to a German-Canadian who was willing to help a friend of a friend. 

Turned out the article revealed when and where Johann Henrich was born (19 June 1754 in Hesselbach) and the names of his parents (Valentin and Elisabeth), brother (Jacob), first born son (Jacob), father-in-law (Jacob Brusch), and sister-in-law's husband (Valentine Sartorius). 

The jewel of this collection was the letter that Johann Henrich wrote to his family in Germany, preserved for generations by his brother's descendants (author Ulrich Weiss being one of them) and transcribed in full as part of the article. 

The translated version is reproduced here.

My heartily loved brothers and sisters, 

My brother duty and what I owe you is to write a letter even I have already sent you different letters but I never got any answers from you. That's the reason I want to let you know Thank God I'm healthy and I hope the same from you. 

Dear Brothers, sisters and friends—I'm now a free man and free from my duty as soldier after eight years and I have in mind here to stay here in this country because to me as a Sergeant I was promised 200 morgen [150 acres] and one year supplies and house furnishings which makes me able to work on the land. There is nobody on the land but I find the land is just as good as Germany. 

Dear Brothers and sisters and friends—I am married and for that reason I hope you will forgive me for I am staying here in this country. It would be too much to write you everything from me. But the courier of this letter was at the same regiment as I was and he promised me with heart and mouth that he will deliver the letter and tell you everything that happened to me over here. 

Dear brothers and sisters and friends—I hope you are satisfied with the letter and I am sure that you be satisfied with all that the man has to tell you. 

Now I beg you to give my best regards to all my friends and people I know and I wish for you my dear brothers and sisters and some of my friends would be here because we would be able to live off the land. But I think it will be impossible. I beg you my brothers and sisters and friends to write me a few lines. The reason is that we want to let you know what you have to do. 

For now I hope you all live well and I and my wife ask God that you always will be safe up to the death. 

True brother and brother-in-law
Johann Henrich Reuter 

From my comrades who stayed here with me the courier will tell you all about them. 

The wife I have is the oldest daughter of Jacob Brusch [or Busch] of Eberbach and we have a son we named Jacob after his grandfather. But he died and I have since then a daughter which is still alive and I hope we have a lot of good things from her. The other daughter [of Jacob Brusch] is married to valentine Sartorius and has a daughter too which is still alive.

Button from a 60th Regiment uniform
NOTE: Johann Henrich Reuter, Jacob Brusch and Valentine Sartorius all settled in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, after serving the British cause during the American Revolution (as part of the 60th Regiment - Royal Americans). I've so far been unable to find additional information on the origins of Brusch and Sartorius.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Diggin' on Stephen Diggedon

In the past week, I've been contacted by two distant cousins looking for information on our common ancestor, Stephen Diggedon.

He's quite the mystery man.

Available records indicate he was born in Nova Scotia, but no one seems to know where. He was married twice, first to Ann Tilley on 3 Oct 1789 then to Mary Hurst on 20 Jun 1809 (both in Guysborough, Nova Scotia). He's listed on the 1795 poll tax and the 1817 "census" for Guysborough (age group 16-50 in the latter case).

And that's it!

I did find reference to Jane and Eleanor Diggedon on a victualling list in Halifax in 1750. That suggests they were either city founders or Foreign Protestants bound for Lunenburg. Whether they're connected to Stephen is yet to be determined, but I think there's a strong likelihood.

Also, Diggadon seems to be a Salem, Massachusetts, name, but further research is required on that score, as well.

Posting Stephen Diggedon's story, threadbare though it may be, is step one in tracking him down. Next, I think it's high time to kick-start the Digdon Message Board (I don't know when it started, but there are exactly zero messages there at the moment). I've also started a Digdon mailing list at Rootsweb as a primary means of reaching out to other Digdon researchers.

As with all family mysteries, I'm open to whatever leads come my way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mystery Photo from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Dobson & Co. portrait
Several years ago, while visiting a nearby antique shop, I found an old photo (left) that immediately caught my eye -- not so much for the image (though I wouldn't mind knowing who the woman was) but for the photographer's logo and location: Dobson & Co. Portraits, 267 Main St., Yarmouth, N.S.

I've never been able to identify the owner(s) of the business. Although there were Dobson relatives who lived in the Yarmouth area, none were photographers (as far as I've been able to learn).

My best lead so far is Robert Artemas Dobson, born 27 May 1863 in Bayfield, Westmorland, New Brunswick, Canada. He became a U.S. citizen in 1893 and settled in Boston and Marblehead, Massachusetts.

His career evolved slightly through the years -- artist in 1891, photographer in 1900, 1910 and 1920 (also an inventor in the latter), and photo dealer in 1930.

Electro Photo Co. portrait
The Boston City Directory for 1895 indicates he was a partner with G.W. Schumann in Dobson & Schumann, 10 Tremont Row, and ws connect to Electro Photo, Co., 673 Wash. (while maintaining a home in Marblehead). He also conducted business at 122 Boylston (in 1899), 173 Tremont (1910-1912) and 603 Boylston (1914).

I can't connect him with Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, but travel to and from Boston wasn't uncommon in his time. Or perhaps he merely lent his name to the business.

Add this to my list of unsolved mysteries. And my growing list of pleas for help!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bring It Forward

Are you content with finding your ancestors, or do you also want to find your distant cousins? Does this serve any useful purpose?

How far I’m willing to go in pursuit of long-lost cousins has a lot to do with how far back the connection goes and how many people actually express interest in the information.

For instance, I’m an absolute fanatic about tracking every last Dobson relative, from our roots in Yorkshire, England, to remote, one-cousin-standing locations like the Philippines. I’ve spent countless hours and silly sums of money following every possible lead. And I know I’ll eventually pour that same energy into my mother’s line, the Swaines from Nantucket, Massachusetts.

On the plus side, I’ve connected with living Dobson relatives (we operate under as the Dobson Family History Group) in Yorkshire and even have a handful of photos of some of my more colorful looking kin from 100 years ago or more. Besides, every new connection holds the possibility of opening new doors to the past and solving the longstanding mystery surrounding the origins of my earliest known Dobson ancestor.

That’s not to say I’ll only put this much effort in my two main lines. Recent developments have me digging up everything I’ve collected thus far on the ancestry of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Frances Jane (Ryter) Spears. Her German roots reach back to the 1750s in a little place called Hesselbach in the province of Wittgenstein (now part of Germany).

17mm dug example of a
60th Regiment of Foot button
Valentin and Anna Elisabeth Reuter had two sons: Jacob, born in 1751, and Johann Henrich, born in 1754. The younger son joined the 60th Regiment around the start of the American Revolution to fight on the King’s behalf and settled in Nova Scotia (Canada) at war’s end. A single letter written to family back home in 1783 survived and was reproduced in a German article by one of Jacob's descendants, Pastor Ulrich Weiss of Siegen (sadly, it seems he passed away in June 2011).

Johann Henrich’s descendants took the name Ryter--with a few variations such as Ryder and Riter--but the family name has all but vanished here in recent years. Most of Johann Henrich's descendants, you see, turned out to be women.

As for brother Jacob, I've recently discovered a single line of descent on I haven't connected with any living cousins on that line yet, but I can't help but wonder what new insights they might be able to share once I do.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

George Dobson, Sr.: Ill-Fated Immigrant

While I didn’t intend to post another Dobson bio this soon, I was suddenly reminded that today is the anniversary of the death of my sixth great grandfather, George Dobson, Sr. (1721-1773).
On a late spring morning, in 1773, a coastal vessel from Boston dropped anchor in Cumberland Creek, near Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia. The landing marked the end of a long journey for the family of George and Mary (Barker) Dobson, a journey that had begun a few months earlier in the Yorkshire Dales town of Sowerby.
Earlier that year, George and his son-in-law William Wells had resigned from their obligations to the local Methodist chapel known as the New Room in Thirsk, Yorkshire. Both men were early Methodist leaders in their corner of Yorkshire, and Margaret (Dobson) Wells (George’s eldest daughter and William’s wife) reportedly nursed early Methodist leaders after they were attacked with stones.
Newspaper account of Dobson family arrival in Boston
The Dobson and Wells families sailed from Liverpool, England, and arrived in Boston in mid-April. The Massachusetts Gazette, and Boston POST-BOY and The Advertiser for Monday, April 19, 1773, records their arrival in that New England port. Their stay there was to be a short but sad one. The object was to purchase land from John Winslow, a landowner in Cumberland, Nova Scotia. (Winslow was one of many New Englanders who had settled in post-Acadian Nova Scotia and had decided to return to the Thirteen Colonies on the eve of the American Revolution.) While the details of the land sale were being finalized, Jane Wells, William and Margaret’s young daughter born the November before, died and was buried somewhere in Massachusetts.
George Dobson's obituary
George’s time in the New World was to be almost as brief. He died from the effects of a fever on July 28, 1773, and was buried in the small graveyard to the west of Fort Cumberland, where his gravestone may still be viewed (albeit after being buried and nearly forgotten for decades).
His estate was quite substantial, but problems soon arose between the family and the executor. George's elder brother, Richard, embarked on a journey the following year to help Mary and the children settle the estate. Richard was 72 at the time he left Yorkshire, accompanied by a servant, and the harsh Maritime climate proved too much for him. He died in April 1775 and was buried next to George.
Members of the Dobson Family History Group decipher the
inscription on George's newly unearthed gravestone (1998)
While George didn’t have much time to explore his new home, his family certainly made it their own. There are still descendants living within a stone’s throw of George’s 1,725 acres of rolling farmland sloping down to the Tantramar Marshes. Others have spread out throughout the globe.
Many of George and Mary’s descendants have been noted as being tall men and women with heights of between six foot two and six foot six being recorded. They are also known to be great storytellers, who love nothing better than the opportunity to sit down and spin a yarn.
They have also made their mark on many aspects of society. Their several greats grandchildren include the current Canadian Prime Minister; one of the inventors of the personal computer; a past chairman of the board of the Royal Bank of Canada; a head of the Canadian Press and editor of the Canadian Reader’s Digest; and one of the first female Rhode’s Scholars.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Joseph Dobson (Sr. and Jr.) of Redcar, Yorkshire, England

Follow-up to Richard Dobson of Redcar, Yorkshire, England

Considerable research has been done over the years --thank you, Dobson Family History Group -- into the descendants of Richard Dobson and Margaret Watson, but no one has been able to trace the descendants of their son Joseph Dobson, Sr. (baptised 27 May 1711, Marske-in-Cleveland), who may have married Isabel Agar on 1 January 1736 and did have a son, Joseph Dobson, Jr. (baptised 27 January 1741, Redcar).

Joseph's family makes no further appearances in either the Marske-in-Cleveland or Redcar church records. However, both father and son are still alive as late as 1775, when they are mentioned in the will of Joseph Sr.'s brother, Richard Dobson, Jr. (but no mention is made of where they live at the time).

A promising clue recently surfaced via a Google search.

Extracted from Tyne and Wear Archives Service Catalogue

Title: Records of the Fraternity of Masters and Seamen of Trinity House, Newcastle upon Tyne
Date: 1530 - 1990

RefNo: GU.TH/199
Title: Letter from Joseph Dobson, buoy and beacon keeper, Seaton, to Trinity House relating to the dangers of a shoal in the area
Date: 14 Apr 1780
Description: <blank>
Format: 1 paper

RefNo: GU.TH/216
Title: Draught of the entrance to the river Tees by Joseph Dobson, pilot.
Date: 1762
Description: Scale: 1 inch to 1 mile. Surveyed January 1762
Format: 1 plan 750mm x 340mm

ADDENDUM: Further description from Tees Renewable Energy Plant ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT Volume 1 (PB Power, July 2008):

"Joseph Dobson’s 1762 chart of Teesmouth clearly demonstrates the intertidal nature of the area at the time and is in sufficient detail to be able to gauge the approximate location of the study site [references Figure 14.3, which is not included in the online document]. The coastal settlements at Redcar and Coatham are shown, and other named features are ‘Tod Point’, ‘Dab Holm’ (a low lying point where sloops could moor at low water to allow their cargo to be taken ashore and which gave its name to an estuarine beck that discharged into the Tees), and the port facility at Cargo Fleet. Also much in evidence are the extensive estuarine sand bars, ‘Seal Sand’ and ‘Bran Sand’."

ADDENDUM: Document also kept at North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers:

Reference: NRO 3410/Wat/35/3
Creation dates: 1802
Physical characteristics: Scale 1 mile: 1", 50cm x 67cm, printed
Scope and Content: A draught of the entrance to the River Tees, carefully surveyed in January 1762 and most humbly dedicated and presented to the Right Honourable Master, Wardens, Assistants and Elder Brethren of the Corporation Trinity House, at Deptford Strand, surveyed by Joseph Dobson, pilot, sold wholesale, and retail by Christopher and Jennet, Stockton.

Interesting, but not definitively linked to either of my Josephs. Until...according to The History of the Tees Pilots by D.S. Hellier, "Joseph Dobson, who surveyed the River Tees in 1762, is the earliest known Redcar based Tees Pilot."

So the pilot seems likely to either Joseph Sr. or Joseph Jr., but what about the buoy and beacon keeper?

The search continues. Can you help?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Richard Dobson of Redcar, Yorkshire, England

Richard Dobson, my seventh great grandfather, first appeared in the church registers for Marske-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire, when he married Margaret Watson  on 19 January 1700/01. There's no indication, in any known record, where he came from or who his parents were.

But Richard finally has a family -- or at least the beginnings of one.

The will of Margaret Sands, of Stokesley & Great Broughton, widow of Joseph Sands, names her sister, Mary Cornforth, and several nieces and nephews who match the children of Richard Dobson, specifically:
  • nephew Joseph Dobson
  • nephew George Dobson
  • nephew Richard Dobson
  • William Hartforth son of my niece Margaret Hartforth
  • Joseph son of Joseph Dobson
  • John son of John Dobson
The registers of the parish of Stokesley confirm that Joseph Sands married Margaret Dobson on 25 Nov 1700. No children are apparent from the records. Joseph was buried 3 Nov 1720, and Margaret was buried 14 Dec 1746.

The records of Kirby in Cleveland include a marriage between Mary Dobson and John Cornforth on 5 May 1725. The Stokesley records include the burial of Mary Cornforth, widow of John Cornforth, clockmaker, on 1 Jul 1747, as well as the burials of three children: Eleanor on 6 Sep 1741, John on 16 May 1746, and Mary on 17 Jul 1747.

Finally, the Stokesley records also include reference to several other Dobsons who may or may not be related:
  • October 1685 - Robert: Beadnell & Mary: dobson marryed y e 23 d day
  • September 1691 - Mary the daughter of John Dobson buried the last day
  • October 1691 - John Dobson of litle Broughton buried y e 9 th day
  • June 1695 - wee weare Inform d that Thomas Dobson was maried the 18 th day
  • September 1698 - Mary Dobson of Stockesley buried 29 th day
  • September 1704 - John Dobson of Stokesley buried the fifth day
  • May 1705 - George the Son of Elizabeth Dobson of Stockesley buried the 17 th day
  • August 1709 - Nicholus Dobson (a Strainger) buried the Thirtieth day
  • September 4 th 1711 - Christopher Dowson and Elizabeth Dobson both of Stokesley Marryed
  • September 9 1724 - John Carter Barber & Mary Dobson Spinstr both of Stokesley were married by vertue of Banns P'blish'd by J. Lythe
  • May 22 1725 Hanah y e daught r of John Dobson of Westerdale aged ab l 4. years bapt.
With only two baptisms in the lot, the implication here is that the Dobsons came from somewhere else, possibly from nearby Little Broughton or Great Broughton. Margaret Sands left Stokesley some time after her husband's death and moved to Great Broughton, where she was living when she drafted her will.

Could John Dobson of Little Broughton (buried 1691) and Mary Dobson of Stokesley (buried 1698) be the parents of Richard, Margaret and Mary? Could John Dobson (buried 1704) be another brother?
I've searched in vain for more clues online. How long before I stumble upon another lead?
If anyone out there can help, please get in touch.

Friday, July 1, 2011

There Once was a Man from Nantucket...

No, not the dirty limerick guy.

My man from Nantucket is sixth-great-grandfather John Swaine, a weaver by trade.

He was also known as John England (and England Swaine) to distinguish him from the other Swaines of Nantucket who'd been there longer (I'm also descended from them). John was considered "a stranger" among the people of Nantucket.

Early Swaine researchers often pondered the possibility that the two Swaine families were somehow related, but recent DNA results firmly disproved the notion. According to fellow researcher Brian Smith, "Richard was from a group associated with European males but ... England John followed a line associated with Norwegians and Swedes."

No one knows where John was born, but I've got my eye on Lewes, Sussex, England. A man named John Swaine was born there on 26 April 1679, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Swaine.

The surname has been spelled many ways through the generations, including Swaine, Swain, Swayne, Swane, etc., but we'll stick with Swaine for consistency.

John Swaine, born Abt. 1680 in England; died 5 Oct 1749 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. He married Patience Skiff 3 Oct 1706 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Patience Skiff, born 1681 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts; died 17 Feb 1721/22 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of James Skiff and Sarah Barnard.

Children of John Swaine and Patience Skiff: 

i.                      Dinah Swaine, born 5 Sep 1707 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; died 1 Jun 1790 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts; married Hugh Cathcart 12 Aug 1730 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; born 1703 in Tisbury, Dukes County, Massachusetts; died in Nantucket, Massachusetts. They had seven children: Abigail, Susanna, Ann, Phebe, Gershom, Joseph, and John.

ii.                    Chapman Swaine, born 13 Jul 1708 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; died 30 Jun 1784 in Barrington, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia; married Sarah Meader 19 Jul 1739 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. They had 12 children: Patience, Joseph, John, Zephaniah I, Zephaniah II, Judith, Ephraim, Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, Chapman, and Daniel (the latter two being twins).

iii.                   Deborah Swaine, born 15 Sep 1710 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; married Richard Chadwick 7 May 1731 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

iv.                  Hannah Swaine, born 4 Sep 1713 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; married Timothy Wyer 23 Jun 1748 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

v.                    Anna Swaine, born 29 Jun 1716 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; married Samuel Cartwright 9 Nov 1742 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

vi.                   Oliver Swaine, born 9 Jun 1720 in Nantucket, Massachusetts; died 1778.

In closing, I can't resist sharing my own little "man from Nantucket" limerick, "Like Any Good Swain" (not high art, just a bit of fun):

There was a young man from Nantucket
Went after a whale with a bucket
Like any good Swain
He couldn't refrain
His harpoon was broken, so "#&@! it!"