Monday, May 25, 2015

John Willett, Patriot - 52 Ancestors #21

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, the theme is Military, in honor of Memorial Day.

I have used the tag Military Monday on all posts about ancestors who have served in the military, from Revolutionary War to World War II.

I joined the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) under Patriot John Gorin, who served as soldier from Virginia. Did you know that a NSDAR Patriot is anyone who supported the Revolutionary War cause, not just those who served as soldiers? The list of acceptable patriotic service can be found at the NSDAR website.

One of my ancestors is in the NSDAR Patriot database because his support of the Revolutionary War effort was as a shipbuilder.

Thames River, New London County, Conn., 1854
MAGIC Historical Map Collection - Connecticut
John Willett (or Willet) was born in Groton, Connecticut, on May 1, 1727, to John Willett and Mary Clark, and spent his life in New London County, Connecticut. The map at right shows the length of the Thames River in the southern central part of New London County.

Groton is the pink town at the bottom of the map at right, across the Thames River from the city of New London (in yellow).

John became a shipbuilder and owned the Willett Shipyard in Norwich, Connecticut, one of the three major shipyards on the Thames River in that county.

Norwich is the yellow town at top left of this map.

His patriotic service consisted of building the ships Confederacy, the Oliver Cromwell, and the Governor Trumbull, all of which were used by the American government during the Revolution.

He also served as a civil officer during the war years. At a December 14, 1778, Norwich Town Meeting, John Willett was chosen as one of the surveyors of highways for the following year. At another Town Meeting on July 5, 1780, he was chosen as one of the Inspectors of Provisions.

John Willett married Elizabeth Leffingwell on October 4, 1748, and had 8 children with her. She died on February 1, 1818, at the age of 88. He died on July 3, 1819 at the age of 92.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, his son, Jedidiah Willet followed him as a shipbuilder and became the owner of the Willett Shipyard after his father.

Much of the information I have about John Willet/Willett is from Albert James Willett, The Willett families of North America, (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc. 1985); online images, InternetArchive ( This author acknowledges that family tradition says that John descends from a John Willett of Wales and others claim that he is descended from Captain Thomas Willett of Plymouth and Swansea, but there is no proof to support either of these claims.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Surname Saturday ~ May of England and Boston, Massachusetts

East Sussex, England
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
My immigrant May ancestor is John May. He was born in Mayfield, Sussex (now part of East Sussex), England, about 1590.

He was captain of "The James," a ship which sailed between London and New England. Ultimately he settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts, by 1640. His first wife's name is unknown; she died on June 18, 1651, and is noted as "Sister Mayes" in the Roxbury Vital Records.

He had at least two sons with this first wife, John and Samuel, as they are acknowledged as arriving in New England with him.

At some point, he married a second time, because a wife is mentioned in his will, though she is not named.

His will is dated April 24, 1670. It references his house, his land (to be divided between his two sons, John and Samuel), and his carpenter's tools (which were left to his son John).

Immigrant John died on April 28, 1670, in Roxbury. I descend from both his sons down to my maternal grandfather (in three ways, as noted below).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Black Sheep - Feroll Moore Pyle - 52 Ancestors #20

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, the theme is Black Sheep. For each of the first nineteen weeks of this challenge, I have had success writing about a direct ancestor. For this theme, I thought I would write about my grandfather Pyle's second wife.

Feroll Moore was born in High Springs, Alachua County, Florida, on August 9, 1900, to Augustus and Cleone Moore. I find her in the 1910 U.S. Census with her family in Jacksonville, Florida, and in 1920 in Clearwater, Florida. By 1930, Feroll Moore is a lodger in New York City, with occupation of "Manager, Hotel."

I don't know how they met, but in August 1933, Feroll Moore married my grandfather, Charles McAlpin Pyle. According to a brief wedding announcement in the New York Times, Feroll had already been married and divorced, but I haven't found details of that., Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003.
Record for Charles McAlpin Pyle and Feroll Claire Moore, New York Times, p. 15, 15 Aug 1933.

This marriage didn't last long. By 1940, Charles and Feroll had separated, and in June 1941, their divorce was finalized. Supposedly in 1941, Charles married his third wife, Lucy (though I'm still looking for a primary source for that fact.) Charles died on August 17, 1966, in Washington, D.C. leaving his wife Lucy and my father as his heirs.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday's Obituary ~ Mary Stanton Willet, 1834

In doing additional research on my fourth great-grandfather, Jedidiah Willet, I came across a couple of brief death notices for his second wife, my fourth great-grandmother.

The first is from a newspaper in Georgia:

November 13, 1834, Macon Weekly Telegraph, from

In this county on Thursday the 6th inst. Mrs. Mary
Willet, consort of Jedediah Willet, aged 63 years.
Mrs. Willet was a native of Rhode Island, a member
of the Baptist Church. She died strong in the faith
with assurance of a blessed immortality beyond the

Thursday, May 14, 2015

There's A Way - Jedidiah Willet - 52 Ancestors #19

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, the theme is There’s a Way. I am using this to explore the migration of a fourth great-grandfather from Connecticut to Georgia in the early 19th century.

My curiosity about my fourth great-grandfather, Jedidiah Willet, father of Frances Stanton Willet, whom I wrote about last week, comes from the fact that he has two FindAGrave memorials. One is in the city of his birth, Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, (memorial number 17478111, as Jedediah Willet) and the other is in the county of his death: Macon, Bibb County, Georgia (memorial number 124656608, as Jedidiah Willet). I know he was born in Norwich and his first wife died there, but I'm still trying to find out why he moved to Georgia when he was in his 50s.

So far, I have been able to find more about his early life than his later life in Georgia. According to Vital Records of Norwich Connecticut, 1659-1848, (Hartford, Society of colonial wars in the state of Connecticut, 1913) New England Historic Genealogical Society, Jedidiah was born on March 9, 1768, in Norwich, Connecticut, "as he sayeth." The transcribed and printed Vital Records of Norwich also names his wife, Frances Rogers, and their nine children, the eldest of whom was named for his father, along with their birth dates (and death dates of the two who died young).

Vital Records of Norwich, Conn., page 590 (partial)

The next page of these printed vital records show that on September 19, 1805, their youngest child was born, and Frances died.

Vital Records of Norwich, Conn., page 591


As I noted last week, I haven't found a primary source record stating Jedidiah's second marriage to Mary Stanton in January 1806, but there is a newspaper notice (see Wedding Wednesday) and I'm still looking to see if Jedidiah and Mary had any more children other than my third great-grandmother, Frances Stanton Willet, who was born in January 1807.

Jedidiah (or Jedediah) is not a common name in this time period, so I believe I have found him in those tricky U.S. Censuses between 1790 and 1840, when there were not many household details provided.

In 1790, I find Jedediah Willet in New London County, Connecticut. 1800 and 1810 find him in Norwich. In 1820, he is in Montville, a town next to Norwich.

At, I find newspaper references to the fact that Jedidiah was a ship builder in Norwich. One 1799 article includes wonderful descriptions of the launch of the Trumbull "sloop of war" from Jedediah Willet's Ship Yard.

Another source at, Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida (Chicago, F. A. Battey & Company, 1889), includes a biographical sketch of one of Jedidiah's grandsons, which includes a description of Jedidiah that noted that he was a ship builder at Norwich, Connecticut, and that "He repaired the English ship "Macedonian," which had been captured by the United States man-of-war the "United States," on board of which was his son Jedidiah." (I need to figure out how to confirm that, as well as the claim that this Willet line descends from Thomas Willet who arrived in Boston in 1630!)

In 1830, there is a Jedidiah Willet in New York City. I still have to explore New York City directories for these years to see exactly which years he lived in New York. This explains how his daughter (my third great-grandmother, Frances) may have met and married Joseph Rose in 1827!

In the U.S. Censuses for 1840 and 1850, I find him in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, living next to or in the same household as his son (from his first marriage), Joseph Willet.

Jedidiah Willet died on July 3, 1850, in Bibb County, Georgia. I just found this death notice from the Macon Weekly Telegraph which states that he was 82 years old (confirming a birth year of 1768), that he was formerly of Norwich, Connecticut (yep - that's my Jedidiah), and for the last 19 or 20 years a resident of Georgia.

July 9, 1850, issue of Macon Weekly Telegraph from

Unfortunately, the death notice still doesn't explain WHY he went to Georgia. I'm still working on that! Going back to the fact that he has two Find A Grave memorials, I don't know if he was buried in Georgia, and has a memorial in Norwich, or if his body was moved at some point back to his birthplace to be buried next to his first wife.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frances Stanton Willet - 52 Ancestors #18

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, I am writing about my third great-grandmother, Frances Stanton Willet who was born on January 20, 1807, either in Connecticut or in Massachusetts (depending on the source).

The 1951 privately published Pyle, Smith and Allied Family Histories states that her parents are Jedidiah Willet and Mary Stanton. The frustrating thing is that I have found no primary source that confirms the birth place. (Her birth date is on her tombstone.) There is no record of a birth of Frances Willet in's Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, nor in the Connecticut Town Birth Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection). I do find, in Norwich Vital Records, record of her father's first marriage to Frances Rogers, and the list of their children. This first wife died in 1805.

It appears that she grew up as the youngest sister of several half-siblings, some much older than her. I don't know if she had any full siblings, or if she was her mother's only child.

There is an 1806 newspaper wedding notice for her presumed parents, Jedediah Willet and Mary Stanton, which I shared here.

At not quite 21 years old, Frances (possibly named for her father's first wife?) married Joseph Rose, Jr. on October 23, 1827, most likely in New York City. (Joseph's obituary refers to their golden wedding anniversary celebration in 1877.)

Frances and Joseph had six children:
  Frances Adelaide Rose (1829-1870)
  Josephine Rose (1832-1920)
  Joseph Rose (1835-1905)
  George Lodowick Rose (1837-after 1920)
  William Rose (1840-????)
  Cordelia Maria Rose (1845-1927)

Wedding Wednesday ~ Jedediah Willet and Mary Stanton (1806)

January 28, 1806, issue of the Connecticut Herald (
At Lisbon, Mr. Jedediah Willet, of Norwich, to Miss Mary Stanton, for the former place.

I believe these are the parents of Frances Stanton Willet (1807-1893), the subject of this week's 52 Ancestors post.