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!"