Friday, April 27, 2012

Solving a Mystery in a City Directory

I have been looking for sometime for the date of death for my great grandfather John Clark Thornton.  His death falls in that time before the Social Security Index and after the date which most states release vital records.  I knew he died between the 1920 and 1930 census, but not the actual date. I called the cemetery where he was buried, they could look it up,if I could tell them the section and plot number where he was buried. I didn't want to pay for a copy of his death certificate either.   So, I had given up on finding it.  
Yesterday I was  chasing down one of his cousins, Mary Harris Thornton Copithorn.  She was the daughter of his Uncle David Thornton and she and her husband had bounced between New Hampshire, Boston and Natick Massachusetts.  I was looking for one of her children in the Brookline Directory, when I realized I had looked for John C. in the Boston Directory but not the Brookline one.  Knowing that he was alive in 1920, I started checking the directory starting in 1921.  This is the page from the 1926 Brookline Directory.

So, there it is, his date of Death in a City Directory. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Risheill Family, Trying to Meet in the Middle

If you do family research for any length of time you will probably encounter what I call the "meeting in the middle" conundrum.  You have ancestors of whom you are sure of  and you want to connect them to people you hope are their ancestors. The problem are those people in between.  There is always a generation or two who are hard to find and records are scarce.
My husband's great grandmother was Mabel Risheill, her father David Oliver, his Joseph Oliver.  That I know. I also know that Joseph Oliver was born in Pennsylvania.  At the time of his birth there was a whole passel of Rishels (the spelling has changed over the years) living in the state. According to most, if not all, of these Rishels are descendants of one man, Johann Heinrich Rischelle.
Johann was born in the Alsace Lorraine region of France.  This area has been traded between Germany and France for centuries.  Johann was of German descent.  He came to the American Colony of Pennsylvania with his two sons: Heinrich Ulrich Rishel and Johann Michael Rishel.  Each of these sons married and had many, many children.  In fact both men had children with the same names, oh joy, let the confusion begin. 
If I went strictly by and the web I could say that Joseph Rishiell was the son of David, who was the son of Leonard Rishel.  But, there were two men, first cousins, named Leonard. One was the son of Heinrich and one of his brother Michael.  One was a soldier in the American Revolution, one married Magadelana Hittle, maybe the same man did both, its hard to tell.
The problem with all the trees I have looked at is that not a single one offers any documentation.  In a message board reply to someone looking for info they were told to see a family tree on   But the only source they list was someone else's tree and that is just not acceptable.  So for now I am stuck with the top of my tree and the bottom of my tree and the unknown middle.  I am hoping that someone out there can help me put it all together, with documentation of course.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

August Schulz and Catherina Ciesnik of Stevens Point Wiconsin

August and Catherina Schulz were the grandparents of Angeline Walkush, my son's Grandmother.  August and Catherine were born in West Prussia, now known as Poland. Catherine was born in Starogard Gd. Pomerania, Prussia in 1854, her parents were Joseph and Johanna Kleinowski Ciesnik. August was born June 29, 1853, parents unknown.  
August and Catherina were married in the Starogard Parish in 1878.  They had three children in Prussia, the last in 1882, their next child was born in the US in 1883.  According to his naturalization papers, they arrived in the Port of Baltimore on November 23, 1883. The name of the ship they traveled on was aptly named the America. 
Like the Walkush family in a previous blog, August and Catherina were from the West Prussian province of Pomerania, in fact, Stezeca, where the Walkush family was from, is not to far from Starogard. August's occupation was listed as laborer.
The family traveled to Portage County and settled in Hull Town. There was an August Schultz who recieved a land grant but I cannot confirm it was this August.  Not much is written about the family. All the census show his occupation as farmer. August and Catherine had the following children:
1. Veronika b. 5 July 1879 d. 19 Oct 1959 m. Michael Ostrowski
2. Johann b. 1881 d. age one month
3.  August, Jr. b. 1 May 1882 m. Maria Marachowska
4.  Maria b. 21 Dec 1883 d. 8 Jan 1884
5.  Martha b. 28 Dec 1884 d. 22 Jan 1885
6.  Anna b. 25 Dec 1885 d. 31 Jan 1886
7.  Pelagia b. 17 Dec 1887 d. 19 Jan 1888
8.  Francisca b. 26 Nov 1888 d. 24 Dec 1888
9.  Genofevam b. Dec 89 d. Feb 1890
10.  Clara b. 12 August 1891 d. 27 Jan 1972 m. John C. Walkush, Peter Konkol
11. Johanna b. 1 August 1894 d. 30 May 1953 m. Stanley Jankowski 
12. Vincent b. 22 Oct 1895 d. 17 Nov 1968 
13.  Francis b. 22 Mar 1901 d. 27 August 1901
Only five of their thirteen children lived to adulthood, the other six died as infants. Catherina had a baby almost every year and lost a baby most years as well.  Catherina died herself in 1913 of chronic nephritis. August lived another 26 years, dying in 1939 at the home of  his daughter Veronika.

Thanks to Ralph Losiniecki from Wisconsin who alerted me to some errors in my research!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Samuel Thornton Sr. Samuel Thornton Jr. and Samuel Thornton III

Samuel Thornton 

Unfortunately for me, my ancestor Samuel, son of James and Elizabeth Thornton, left very little evidence of his whereabouts and family life.  According to family tradition he married twice and had 22 children, eleven by each wife. He was definitely in Pelham, and is mentioned in the records, as the town owed him money for some service.  He is said to have lived in both Campton, Grafton, New Hampshire and in Hatley, Stanstead, Canada. His brother Matthew was something of a land speculator and it is possible that Samuel lived on land owned by Matthew.
Of the 22 children only the names of 10 ( of the second bunch) are known, and of those only two are traceable: Samuel (2) born 1775 and Dorcus, born 1779.  Dorcus married John Durgin and their family is well documented.  Our ancestor is Samuel (2).  His mother is unknown, and the date and place of his  death is also unknown. He was not buried in the Thornton cemetery so it is possible he died in Canada. I have also seen on the web the idea that Samuel was possibly a loyalist, hence the move to Canada. 

Samuel Thornton (2)

Thankfully, a bit more is known about Samuel (2). He was born in New Hampshire in the year 1775, probably in Thornton, Grafton County, New Hampshire. Family history says that at the age of seventeen Samuel traveled to London, England where he worked with Iron Masters, learning the trade. The Adams Manuscript states that “he adopted a system of coking which gave him great success among the Iron Masters near London”. Samuel (2) returned to New Hampshire prior to 1802, and is possibly the Samuel Thornton in the 1800 census in Thornton NH.  If he left at 17 in 1792 and returned by age 26 or 27, he was  in England for about 10 years.  I have no reason to believe that the Manuscript is incorrect other than the fact that he seems to be a farmer for the remainder of his life.
In 1802 Samuel married Katherine Baker, daughter of Benjamin Baker and Sarah Norris. She was born in 1779 in Campton, New Hampshire. Their first child, a daughter Hannah, was born in Campton.  They had at least seven other children, most of them born in Hatley, Stanstead, Canada, including my ancestor Samuel (3). Their oldest son, David, was born in Canada in 1808 and their last child, John, was also born in Canada in 1818.  Their daughter Hannah was married in Canada in 1822. After 1822 I cannot pin point their location until the 1840 U.S. Federal census, which showed them living in Wheelock, Vermont.  
At this time period the Canada US border is very open and fluid, with families moving back and forth. Hatley is just on the other side of the border from Vermont. In 1800 it was an undeveloped remote area with no roads, or towns.  Many people tried to settle there and gave up due to the harsh conditions.
In 1840 the census only listed the name of the head of the household. At the home of Samuel Thornton there were 8 people, two are small children.  In the 1850 census all names are listed and Samuel and Catherine were living on a farm in Wheelock with sons David and John and their families living on adjoining farms.  In the 1860 census Samuel, (2) lived with his son David. Catherine, his wife, died that year and he passed away in 1866. There is a death certificate for a Samuel Thornton who died in Hatley in 1866 and is buried in  Canada, it is possible that this is him.

Samuel Thornton (3)

Samuel was born in 1816 in Hatley, Quebec Canada. At the time it was known as Canada East. He was married to Chloe Flora Blanchard in 1841 in Wheelock, Vermont. Chloe was the daughter of James and Phebe Carter Blanchard. Chloe was born in Vermont in  1819.  They had at least 10 children, the first born in Greensboro, Vermont and the last born in 1859 in Wheelock Vermont.

In the 1850 census the family was living in Greensboro, Samuel was a farmer.  They had six children, the youngest was a boy named Alva, his age was 6 months, he does not appear in the 1860 census, presumably having died sometime in the intervening years.  By the 1860 census the family had returned to Wheelock and lived on a farm next to his brother David. Their brother John had died in 1855 and it is possible that Samuel moved back to Wheelock and took over his farm.  This was a rough time for the family, his brother David and his wife Lydia Clark Thornton lost four children in February 1859. In 1860 seven of Samuel’s children were living with them, the two oldest, both girls are not at home. John, our ancestor is one year of age.
By the time of the 1870 census the family had moved once again, this time to Hardwick, Vermont. Samuel’s brother David left Wheelock as well but moved back to Campton, New Hampshire. Samuel and Chloe lived with five of their children.  Samuel died in 1874 and Chloe in 1876. They are buried somewhere near Hardwick, Vermont.  Their son Nathan, died in 1878, age 25 of tuberculosis. Their daughter Maria married Van Doran Niles, she was the mother of Lida Niles who used to live Jennie Clover Rowell Thornton.  After Maria died, Van Doran Niles married Malvina Tatro Thornton, the widow of Maria’s brother Joseph N. Thornton. Maria and her brother died the same year, 1898.
The children of Samuel and Chloe were:

       1. Lucinda F. Thornton born in 1842, she married Andrew Barr in 1869, they had two children.  In the 1880 census Lucinda and her daughter are working as servants, her           husband and son are living in Iowa.  Andrew Barr marries a second time in 1882. Lucinda died 4 July 1894 in Barton, Vermont. Her daughter left to join her father.
Phoebe C <i>Thornton</i> Clark        
2. Phebe C. Thornton born in 1843. She married Cornelius Clark and had two children.  Date of death Jan 4, 1898.
 3.William Thornton born 1844-1890. Married in Lansingburgh New York, Andecia                         Unknown. He worked as a grave digger. They had one child Albert W. Thornton.
4.Benjamin Franklin Thornton born 1848-1920. Never married. Farmer.
Benjamin Thornton

5. Maria B. Thornton b. 1848-1898. married Van Doren Niles, mother of Olin, died as a child and Lida V. Niles.  Van Doren married Malvina Tatro.
 6. Alva Thornton b. 1849, died prior to the 1860 census.
7. Nathan Thornton b. 1853 died 1878 of tuberculosis.

8. Jabez P. Thornton b. 1856-1924. married Mary E. Denison and had one child William A. Thornton b. 1883 d. 1920. He was a carpenter.

Nathan Thornton
Nathan Thornton
 9. Joseph N. Thornton b. 1858-1898. Married Malvina Tatro. They had two daughters Lillian and Gertrude.  He worked as a lumber dresser. Malvina married Van Doran Niles.

10. John Clark Thornton my ancestor

Sanborn Cemetery, East Hardwick, Vermont
Samuel and Chloe Thornton
Thornton DNA project
Update on my Thornton research

Saturday, April 14, 2012

St. Martins Church Stezyca, Poland

My husbands family, some of them anyway, came from Stezyca, Poland.  This is the local church, St. Martins built in the 1400's.  What a beautiful church. They would possibly have attended services here, maybe married or baptized.
St. Martin's Catholic Church, Stezyca, Poland

This picture is from Wikipedia and possibly taken from Flicker, I did not take this picture or make any claim to it.

James Thornton of Ireland and Massachusetts

My Thornton family history begins in Londonderry/Derry, County Tyrone, Ireland, now part of Northern Ireland. During the reigns of James I, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and Charles II, land in Northern Ireland was confiscated by the Crown and given to English/Scottish settlers.  The Thornton family immigrated from Argyleshire, Scotland (according to one source, other source says England) to Northern Ireland at some point during the mid seventeenth century.  The family were staunch Presbyterians and it is probable that they left Scotland to avoid persecution for being nonconformists.   

londonderry, ireland
Family tradition states that James and Nancy Smith Thornton and family were living on a farm during the siege of Londonderry in 1689.  Their son James, Jr. was born in 1684. James and Nancy as well as their son James and his wife Elizabeth Jenkins Thornton and family were part of a group of about 120 families who sailed to New England, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts in August 1718. These settlers were part of a larger group of immigrants that are known as the Scots-Irish.  

Apparently the welcome mat was not laid out for these immigrants and by 1720 the provincial legislature ordered them to get out of Boston.  It was hoped that the new immigrants would head for the frontier of Massachusetts and act as a barrier from the Indians. The frontier was only forty miles away in Worcester.

The year 1718 was pivotal in the Irish migration to America. Several men were instrumental in persuading and organizing the Scots-Irish as they were, and are, known to immigrate to Massachusetts. The Reverend Cotton Mather began his attempts to recruit immigrants to Maine and New Hampshire as early as 1706. New Hampshire and Maine were frontier lands. The Reverend William Boyd sailed for Boston and a meeting with Governor hoping for a land grant for his congregation. His efforts resulted in the 1718 sailing of five ships bound for Boston. The Thornton were part of that migration.

maine  (Edited 12 September 2015)
The story according to Charles Thornton Adams is that after spending the winter of 1718 aboard ship at Falmouth, Maine, the family settled at Wiscasset, Maine.  According to tradition James Thornton, Sr. died in 1722 and Samuel Thornton, his grandson was born the same year. I have seen nothing that would substantiate those claims. 
site of Thornton house on Rossmore Rd.

What is known is that James Thornton received lot #46 in Brunswick, Maine in 1718. His land was at the head of Maquoit Bay on what is now Rossmore Road. A marker has been placed at the site where James' house was believed to have stood. In 1722 his house as well as that of another were burned by Indians. They were lucky that was all that happened. In 1690 the entire settlement was wiped out and abandoned for time. 

It is likely that the family rebuilt after the attack and remained in Brunswick until leaving for Worcester in Massachusetts. There were no further serious Indian incursions until 1725. 

Not much else is known about the Thornton Family until their arrival in Worcester, MA by 1731. Besides Samuel, James and his wife Elizabeth are said to have had the following children: James, Andrew, Matthew ( bn. 1714 in Ireland), Agnes, William, Hannah, and Esther. James and his family lived for a few years in Maine and at some time left for Worcester, Massachusetts.  The continuing danger from Indian attack was one reason for leaving Maine.

Worcester, Massachusetts at that time was definitely a frontier town.  It had been settled twice and destroyed twice by Indians.  The third settlement was begun in 1717 by 200 English Puritans.  In 1718 about 50 Scots-Irish arrived to reinforce the settlement. The new residents tried to build their own Presbyterian Chapel but it was burnt to the ground  by the Puritans. This set the tone for things to come. 

James Thornton’s name first appears in the town records in 1730 when he purchased land. His occupation is listed as “Weaver”.  James and his family live at the foot of Tactnuck Hill in Worcester, he continued to buy land to enlarge his farm. The Scots-Irish grew potatoes and flax which they spun into cloth. It is said they they were taller than the average Colonist, spoke with an Irish brogue, were extremely tightfisted and incredibly clannish. 

Unfortunately for the Presbyterian Scots-Irish the Puritans taxed them to pay for the Puritan Ministers and would not let them hold their own services. The "Irish" as they were called, attended the Congregational Church, except when an itinerant Irish Preacher was in the area.  In 1633 an agreement was reached, the Irish would be assigned meetinghouse seats and would be allowed to hold an occasional Presbyterian service. James Thorington (Thornton) was assigned a seat in the forth row of the "fore seet". The "occasional" service was never allowed. In 1737, the Irish again petitioned to be exempt from the ministers rate and were again voted down.  Finding life in Worcester intolerable many of the Scotch-Irish left for predominantly Irish settlements like Londonderry in New Hampshire.

By this time, land beyond Worcester was open to settlement and James Thornton had his own plan. James and Robert Peoples, also a Scotch Irishman from Worcester, bought thirty thousand acres of that land to settle families: 
"such as were from the kingdom of Ireland or their descendants, being Protestants and none admitted but such as bring good and undeniable credentials or cerficated of their being person of good conversation and of the Presbyterian persuasion as used in the Church of Scotland and conform to the discipline thereof."

the original Pelham Meetinghouse, 1740
James and his sons William and Matthew Thornton each owned multiple lots in the new town, eventually called Pelham. The town became a de facto Presbyterian settlement and they were able to build their meeting house and employ the minister of their choice. 

James and his son William are mentioned frequently in the Pelham records, James was a leading citizen and owned 14/60 of the town lots. The marriage of James' daughter Hannah and James Ferguson was recorded in 1746.  Hannah and her family remained in the Pelham area for the rest of her life. Matthew Thornton did not live in Pelham, he had trained as a doctor and set up practice in Londonderry, New Hampshire.  

londonderry, new hampshire
In 1748, James Thornton left Pelham and moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire to be near his son Matthew. It is unknown when his wife Elizabeth died.  A wife did co-sign a land deed  and the signature was Katherine Thornton. James lived in East Derry until his death in 1754. James was  buried next to his daughter Hannah. Katherine's death was not recorded and there is no headstone for her. 

James Thornton headstone
James’ son William left Pelham, first to Palmer, MA and then to Schenectady, New York, but was forced out by Indian raids. He finally moved to Thornton, Grafton County, New Hampshire, where he died in 1790.

Having done research on this family for years I have come to doubt some of the long held beliefs about them. Here are some of my findings:

1. James' wife is supposed to be Elizabeth Jenkins. Not a single one of his children name a daughter Elizabeth. This would not be a big deal today, but in those days the naming patterns in families were pretty predictable and it is almost certain that at least one of her children would name a child for her.  The only documented wife of James was called Katherine.  Her name is found in two of his land deeds as a co-signer. At least three of James' children name a daughter Katherine. Four of his children have a daughter named Mary. 
my conclusion: The mother of James' children was either Mary or Catherine, possibly both. 

2. James supposedly had a son named Samuel. In all my research I cannot find a single solitary mention of Samuel. In the book "The History of Pelham", a Samuel Thornton was paid for doing some work for the town. However, if you read the original town records, you can see that the name is actually James and not Samuel. 
my conclusion: There was no son named Samuel who immigrated to Massachusetts and survived to adulthood.

3.  James was also said to have sons James and Andrew.  Again I can find no record of land deeds, mentions in town records, nothing. The only time the two names appear is in a document laying out the proprietors of the town of Thornton, NH in 1768. The first two names are Daniel Pierce followed by Matthew Thornton. Next are the sons of Daniel Pierce, followed by James and Andrew Thornton. Many of the men listed are father and son(s). In 1768 Matthew Thornton had two sons: James and Andrew. James who be named in honor of his Grandfather Thornton and Andrew for his Grandfather Andrew Jack. 
my conclusion: There were no sons named James and Andrew who immigrated to Massachusetts and survived to adulthood.  

Are you a Thornton Cousin? I'd love to hear from you, i'm working on a James Thornton family tree!

Related Posts:


Wheeler, George Augustus. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine, including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: A. Mudge & Sons, Printers, 1878. Print.

Adams, Charles Thornton. The Family of James Thornton, Father of Hon. Matthew Thornton. New York: Publisher Not Identified, 1905. Print.

Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub., 1967. Print.

Rohrer, S. Scott. Wandering Souls: Protestant Migrations in America, 1630-1865. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2010. Print.

Richards, Leonard L. Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2002. Print.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rowell Family of New England by William Haslett Jones

The Rowell Family of New England and Their English Origins, 1560-1900: Descendants of Thomas Rowell 1594-1662

The book "The Rowell Family of New England and Their English Origins, 1560-1900: The Descendants of Thomas Rowell 1594-1662" is back in print.  I bought a copy on This book was selling used for up to $350.00 so if you ever thought about getting your hands on a copy now is the time. I have the book in my genealogy store on this site if you want a quick peek at it.  The contents are mostly "names and dates" but its a great starting point if you are struggling with your Rowell family tree.
The book includes names of Rowell soldiers, Rowells of South Carolina, Rowells of Connecticut and other info. One disappointing note is that he got my great grandmother's name wrong. Oh Well, can't have everything.
 The book is written by William Haslett Jones.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Josef Walkusz and Antonie Tryba

My husband's grandmother was Angeline Walkush from Stevens  Point, Wisconsin. Her grandfather was Josef August Walkusz, born in Prussia around 1835. The Walkush family was part of a large Polish population in the American Mid-West. In fact, Portage County, where Josef settled, once had the largest Polish population in the country.   On immigration and census documents the Walkush family indicated that they were from Prussia, and in one case they listed West Prussia as their home. This would make them "German Poles".  Prussia ceased to exist as a country in 1918 at the close of WWI.  It came into being in 1701, it grew in size and eventually encompassed two thirds of the German Empire.  In 1795 Poland ceased to exist, swallowed by Prussia. Just as Prussia disappeared in 1918, Poland emerged in 1919 from the ashes of WWI. 

From the online encyclopedia (
Confusion over exact numbers of Polish immigrants again becomes a problem during this period, with large under reporting, especially during the 1890s when immigration was highest. Most agree, however, that between mid-nineteenth century and World War I, some 2.5 million Poles immigrated to the United States. This wave of immigration can be further broken down to two successive movements of Poles from different regions of their partitioned country. The first to come were the German Poles, who tended to be better educated and more skilled craftsmen than the Russian and Austrian Poles. High birthrates, overpopulation, and large-scale farming methods in Prussia, which forced small farmers off the land, all combined to send German Poles into emigration in the second half of the nineteenth century. German policy vis-a-vis restricting the power of the Catholic church also played a part in this exodus. Those arriving in the United States totalled roughly a half million during this period, with numbers dwindling by the end of the century.
A backlash from the more established "Americans" against this large, mostly Catholic, wave of immigrants helped forge a strong Polish identity in the US. Formation of Polish national, fraternal and religious organization created a support system for immigrants. 

Bestand:Map - PL - powiat kartuski - Stezyca.PNG
Courtesy of Michiel1972 Wikipedia
Josef Walkush was born probably 1830-1835, his parents are unknown. He lived in the province of Pomerania in the village of Stezyca. (Stezyca is the dark pink area on the map, it is in the north of Poland)  He married in 1861 to Marianna Kropidlowska , their first child was born in 1862. Together they had six children.  It is not known what his occupation or status was in Prussia.  Marianna died in Stezyca in 1879 at the age of 46. Josef married for the second time to Antonie Treba, a much younger woman. Josef was over 45 and Antonie was 21.  
Antonie was born 2 March 1859 to Anton and Josephine Hinz Tryba, also from Stezyca.  The family surname has been spelled Triba, Tryba and Treba and Trebya. Antonie had at least two brothers, Anton and Joseph, who also immigrated to the US, both settled in Wisconsin. 

Antonie traveled from Bremen, Germany on the ship "The Oder" with five of Josef's children: Pauline, Carl, Maria, Josephine and Martha.  Josef was not listed on the manifest, it is probable that he was already in Wisconsin, preparing for their arrival.  His son August said that he came to America with his father when he was 15.  Also  on the ship manifest is a Joseph Tryba, quite possibly Antonie's brother. They all traveled in Steerage. The Oder left Bremen on September 11, 1881 and arrived in New York City on September 23rd.

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...