Thursday, May 19, 2016

Massachusetts Legislators' Biographical File ~ Samuel Greele

One of the speakers at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Seminar in late April was Beth Carroll-Horrocks, Head of Special Collections at the State Library of Massachusetts.

She spoke about genealogical research at the State Library, found at the Massachusetts State House. Researchers are welcome to make simple requests by email. One of the resources unique to this library is The Legislators' Biographical File, which is a card file containing basic biographical information for all members of the General Court and Constitutional offices from 1780 to the present.

In my research, I have come across mention (usually in secondary sources) of some of my ancestors serving in the Massachusetts State House. I sent an email to Beth and she got back to me with scanned images of my relatives' cards found in this file.

My third great grandfather, Samuel Greele, was a Representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for several years in the 19th century.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Surname Saturday ~ Willis of England and Massachusetts

My immigrant Willis ancestor is Michael Willis.

I recently purchased (from NEHGS) The Great Migration Directory: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1640, A Concise Compendium, by Robert Charles Anderson. I have many Great Migration ancestors who arrived between 1620-1635, which I listed here. Many more arrived between 1635 and 1640, and this newly-published book is a great start to finding information about these slightly later arrivals.

Immigrant Michael Willis is a superb example of one of these ancestors. The entry for him tells me that, at this time, his origins are unknown. He arrived in Massachusetts in 1637, living in Dorchester and Boston. There is also a brief list of records where he is found, including Dorchester Church Records and Suffolk County Probate files (see below).

Anderson also references the often-mentioned book for this surname: Willis records, or, Records of the Willis family of Haverhill, Portland, and Boston, 1908, by Pauline Willis. This book can be found online in several locations.

What is not noted is that Michael Willis is also found in Torrey's New England Marriages to 1700 (which can be found with a membership at with two wives noted: Joan (married by 1639), and second wife Mildred (married by 1652).

He had four children with his first wife, Joan: Joseph, Experience, Temperence, and Joana, who was born in 1651.

He had five children with his second wife, Mildred: Michael (born November 1652), Adingstil, Abigail, Lydia, and Elizabeth.

The will for immigrant Michael Willis can be found online, dated 21 June 1669.

From Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991
"I Michael Willis of Boston in new England, this
one + twentieth day of June in the yeare of Our Lord
1669 doe make this my last will + Testament -"

He leaves his estate to his wife Mildred who is his executrix. He notes that his sons Experience and "Michaell" shall have "the free use of my shop + tooles with all the utencells thereto belonging." The will goes on to list additional bequests and additional children and at least one grandchild.

He died by October 5, 1669, when he is referred to as "the late Michael Willis."

I descend from the oldest son of his second wife, the Michael named in his will.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun ~ Lifespans of My 2x Great Grandparents

A little late to the fun, but I liked Randy Seaver's (of the Genea-Musings blog) challenge this week.

1) We each have 16 great-great grandparents. How did their birth and death years vary? How long were their lifespans?

2) For this week, please list your 16 great-great grandparents, their birth year, their death year, and their lifespan in years. You can do it in plain text, in a table or spreadsheet, or in a graph of some sort.

3) Share your information about your 16 great-great grandparents with us in a blog post of your own. 

These are my second great grandparents. (By the way, you can see my third great grandparents here.)

16. James Pyle (1823 – 1900), 77 years
17. Esther Abigail Whitman (1828 – 1921), 93 years
18. David Hunter McAlpin (1816 – 1901), 85 years
19. Frances Adelaide Rose (1829 – 1870), 41 years
20. James Monroe Adsit (1809 – 1894), 85 years
21. Susan Arville Chapin (1820 – 1906), 86 years
22. Daniel Morgan Ashby (1827 – 1907), 80 years
23. Mary Elizabeth Gorin (1833 – 1891), 58 years
24. Henry Clay Copeland (1832 – 1912), 80 years
25. Sarah Lowell (1833 – 1916), 83 years
26. Samuel Sewall Greeley (1824 – 1916), 92 years
27. Eliza May Wells (1839 – 1880), 41 years
28. James Hunter (1844 – 1902), 58 years
29. Mary Freeland (1850 – 1902), 52 years
30. George Lysle, Jr. (1845 – 1900), 55 years
31. Marion Helen Alston (1850 – 1885), 35 years

The average birth year for my 16 second great grandparents is 1831, with a 41-year range from 1809 (Adsit) to 1850 (Alston and Freeland). The average death year is 1900, with a 51-year range from 1870 (Rose) to 1921 (Whitman).

And the average lifespan is almost 69 years for my 16 second great grandparents, with a range of 35 (Alston) to 93 (Whitman) years. The great grandfathers averaged a lifespan of 76.5 years, and great grandmothers averaged lifespan is 61 years. Interesting to see that I have several second great grandmothers who died young, (and not due to complications of childbirth).

Bill West, of West in New England, added an interesting analysis, averaging this information for his paternal line versus his maternal line. When I do that, I find that the eight great grandparents on my father's side had an average lifespan of over 75 years and the eight great grandparents on my mother's side had an average lifespan of only 62 years. Of course, there were several very early deaths on that side of the family.