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
(from Worthopedia.com)
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 Ancestry.com. 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.