Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gateway Ancestor

When I first started researching my wife's genealogy (Evans family,) I thought I had found her lineage dating back to Robert the Bruce in the 1270s in Scotland and therefore, Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale in the early 12th Century. However, I had taken one false step in the 1870s in Ohio and when I corrected my mistake, the Gateway Ancestor was gone. No longer was my wife related to Robert the Bruce and Anne Boleyn, but held a much more common (historically speaking) lineage.

I don't have much care to be related to famous people, but it would make my research a little easier. It would be nice to have part of the research and paperwork already done and just drop our lines in place.

While researching my own family, the Huffs, I was nearing another Gateway Ancestor. This time I caught myself before I let it get too far. For a few days I believed we were descended from William Brewster (via his son Jonathan) and the Mayflower. But due to my previous track record, I wanted to make sure I was correct in lining up our family with such a historic figure. Luckily I rechecked the records and realized that my William Pickett (b.1668 Maryland d. Abt 1710 Maryland) was not the same William Pickett that was the son of Ruth Brewster and John Pickett. The Brewster Pickett died in 1690 at sea and there is no history or paper trail of him having had a family. Also, he would have been born in Connecticut along with all his siblings. My William Pickett married Elizabeth Heathcote and had at least five children, Rebecca, John, Mary, George, and Temperance. Another Gateway Ancestor is gone.

I hope that my daughters grow up to change the world in their own way. And one day, hundreds of years from now, maybe someone researching their family history will discover that Ava and or Lyla are their Gateway Ancestors. I could live with that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Civil War: Soldiers and Records

William Huff was born about 1825 in Pennsylvania. He had two children with his first wife, Delilah Smith. William Hough was born 1843 in Dayton, OH and Sara J. Huff was born 1848 in Pennsylvania. Delilah died in 1860 and William remarried soon thereafter. Levina Foulk was born 1843 in Pennsylvania and was 16 years old when she married 34 year old William in 1859. Their son George Washington Huff was born in Morris, IL in 1861. Soon after George W's birth, William enlisted in the Army and fought for the Union in the Civil War. He was reportedly one of the hundreds of thousands that died in the war of attrition. He died between 1862 and 1863.

I say that William served in the Union Army only because the states that he is associated with were Union states: Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. However, I have no enlistment record of William; no death record; no war record of anytime. I only have one sentence in a compiled history of the Huff family. I do believe he was killed in the Civil War though. After 1860, he disappears from the US Census records as far as I can tell. And by 1870, Levina has remarried Charles O. Hatfield and is living in Mississippi with 9 year old George W. There is only one way that Levina really would have been able to remarry, William's death.

It also makes sense that George W. would join the Army at the earliest possible age to emulate his possibly mythological  father. I can only imagine what would have been in the mind of a young boy whose father had died in war.

My great task is to find William's Civil War records to piece together this story. There are a lot of William Huffs that served in the War for Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as in the South. My assumption is that he signed up out of Illinois, because he was living in Morris, IL with Levina and Sarah in 1860 (US Census) and George W. was born in Illinois at the beginning of the war in 1861.

William's son, William Hough, also fought in the Civil War, but I've been able to track his military career with much more certainty, due to records I've found.

If anyone has any tips or suggestions on how to begin my search, it would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Day in the Life - Thursday March 24, 1927

Put some ash (sic) barrels out for a lady across the street. Had a game of hockey. Went to the store for a lady and then minded my brother until my mother got home.
This is another entry in my grandfather's journal. He only writes until June 14, 1927 and all the entries are a couple sentences long, so I was thinking of writing them here.

I assume that when he wrote ash, he really meant trash.

Also, his youngest brother, Paul Ernest Fields, was only 2.5 yrs old in 1927, so that would be the brother he was 'minding'. He writes a lot about playing with another brother, who I assume is my Uncle Bob (Robert Arthur Fields b. 1914.)

Francesco Belmonte 1897 Marriage

This is the marriage record of my 2nd great grand uncle, Francesco Belmonte (b. 24 Jun 1869) to Antonia Paragona (b. 1876 Italy)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Journal Entry - March 23, 1927

I have my grandfather, William Douglas Fields's journal from 1927. He was 15 years old.

I can't believe how hard he worked. He worked at his father's two butcher shops (one in Boston, one in Roxbury); he ran errands for his mother and for ladies in the neighborhood; he build boxing rings and clubhouses; and was in general a hardworking, but athletic 15 year old. He seemingly loved boxing and hockey.

You can tell that this is a journal he was required to keep for school, but it still sheds a lot of light into his life, a life I didn't really know a lot about.

Wednesday - March 23
Went to church for a few minutes. Went to the square to do an errand on my bicycle. Came home and had a game of hockey. Did my homework + went to a friend's house.
Certainly nothing fascinating with entries like this, but I get emotional reading a journal that my grandfather wrote as a teenager in the interwar years. To sit and decipher his handwriting. To imagine him and his brothers and sisters shoveling their walkway and running errands in the snow. It's about as intimate as one can be with a piece of paper from 85 years ago.



Common Names

Other than my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I never knew any Belmontes or Beatrices growing up. I still don't. But in researching my family, I find them as common last names in the Boston area. And like most Italian families (sweeping generalization time,) they all have the same first names as well. Steve, Anthony, Salvatore, Maria, Anna, and Susie. I know it's tradition to name your child after the grandparents, but after generations, this become quite muddled for an amateur researcher like myself. And I know what I'm talking about. I'm Michael Barresi, my father is Michael Barresi and my grandfather was Michael Barresi. I have a cousin Steve Belmonte, and a great uncle Steve Belmonte who were both likely named after Stefano (Stephen) Belmonte, b. 26 Dec 1871 Bonito, Italy d. 15 Sep 1966 Revere, MA. I'm in favor of tradition, but it slows the research down.

This also brings up another difficulty I have in my research, but more in explaining my research. I've always had trouble with understanding and explaining the relationship of cousins. That is until I found this chart:
In this template chart, I can now clearly understand who everyone is and how they are related to myself, my father/mother, or my grandparents. This will be a useful tool in trying to sort out all the information.

The wife of a cousin of mine found me on ancestry.com this week and we were trading e-mails back and forth. Here is one of my e-mails to her trying to detail my relationship to her husband and his family:

My father, Michael Stephen Barresi, was born 5 Oct 1952 in Revere. His mother, Camille Belmonte, was born 28 Aug 1926 and her father, Alfred Belmonte, was born 25 Oct 1901 and his father was Stefano Belmonte, b.26 Dec 1871

Stefano was Serafino's older brother. 

Serafino and Stefano had at least two other brothers (all born in Bonito) 
Francesco b. 1869
Salvatore b. 1884-1900 (in an elevator accident)

and with that being said, Steve (your husband) and my father are 2x cousins 1 removed. Steve and my grandmother are 2x cousins. This is because my family has a whole generation in the middle between Steve's father and my great grandfather. If my info is correct, Steve's father Alexander was born in 1916? That would have been my great grandfather Alfred's 1st cousin. Then Alfred had a daughter, (my grandmother,) Camille, this is Steve's 2nd cousin because they share a common great grandparent. And then my father (who is actually older than your husband) would be his 2nd cousin 1x removed and me, 2nd cousin 2x removed. 

Confusing as all heck. 
I feel like I did my own Abbott and Costello routine. No assistance required. And just for some more fun...no, the Steve Belmontes named in the e-mail above are not the same Steve Belmontes that I mentioned earlier in this post. Have I mentioned that there are a lot of common names?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Not a Mayflower family

My Huff family line marries into the Jones and Picket families in the 1760s when Edmund Huff marries Nancy Jones. Nancy's father was Pickett Jones (b. 1722 Baltimore, MD d.1779 Lack, PA) and his parents were Benjamin Jones (b.1700 Somerset, MD d.1739 Harford, MD) and Mary Elizabeth Pickett (b.1702 Baltimore, MD d.1770 Poss, PA) Mary Elizabeth Pickett's parents were William Pickett (b.1668 Baltimore, MD d.1710 Baltimore, MD) and Elizabeth Heathcote (b.1668 Baltimore, MD d.1710 Baltimore, MD.)

This is where my Pickett line ends. However, many relatives on ancestry.com have the Pickett line continuing further and having William Pickett born to Ruth Brewster (b.1631 Plymouth, MA d.1677 New London, CT) and John Pickett. The Brewster-Pickett children were:
Mary Pickett
Ruth Pickett
John Pickett (b.1656 New London, CT)
Adam Pickett (b.1658 New London,CT d.1691)
Mercy Pickett (b.1661 New London, CT)
William Pickett (b.New London, CT d.Abt 1690 at sea)

Who wouldn't want to be related to the Brewster family? Ruth's grandfather, William Brewster, was the elder leader of the Mayflower pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, MA in 1620. Ruth's father, Jonathan Brewster stayed behind in Leidan, Holland with his ailing wife and infant son (who both died,) before sailing for America in 1624. This would be an envious lineage for any family researcher to bestow upon their genealogy. But there are some major concerns that I have with making the connection. There is no birth date for William Pickett, there is no marriage record, no land record, and no record of any children. I believe that anyone that makes the connection from the William Pickett in my family line to Ruth Brewster, is merely doing it out of wishful thinking.  There is too much information for 'my' William Pickett having been born and lived in Baltimore and to have married Elizabeth Heathcote. There is also evidence of him living in Baltimore in 1700 and 1704, not dying at sea in 1690. 

William Pickett and Elizabeth Heathcote had at least 5 children, named John, Mary, George, Temperance and my 7x great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Silas Huff, my 3x great uncle, 5th from left.

What's in a name?

I am fascinated with certain people in my family. First and foremost is George Washington Huff. The name about says it all. If I had the guts, my daughter should have been named Abigail Adams Barresi. But I don't. So she's isn't. But George Washington Huff's parents had the reverence to name their son after the first President. At one point I found another George W. Huff who had a brother Ulysses Huff. I was hoping the brothers were George Washington Huff and Ulysses Grant Huff. It didn't really matter in the long run because Ulysses's brother was not my George W.

The other reason I'm fascinated by George W. Huff, is his untimely death at the age of 41, which I wrote about here, as well as his interesting childhood and lifelong service in the U.S. Army. Here is a map of his enlistments I put together.

George W. Huff was born 8 Mar 1861 in Morris, Illinois to William Huff (1825-1862/3) and Levina Foulk (1843-?.) Levina was William's second wife and she was only 18 when she had George W., while William was 41. William's first wife, Delilah Smith died in 1860 after having two children of her own, William Hough/Huff (1843-1921) and Sarah J. Huff (1848-?.) George W.'s father served in the Civil War, where he reportedly died in 1862 or 1863, leaving Levina a widow at 20 years old and George W. fatherless at about 1 yr old. Levina would remarry Charles G. Hartfield and move with George W. to Yalobusha, Mississippi by 1870. I haven't found Levina's death record yet, but she was widowed and living in Austin, TX in 1901.

By 1878, George W. had enlisted in the U.S. Army. His lifelong career took him from South Carolina to Kansas, California, Omaha, and New York. I imagine him at Fort Omaha in the early 1880s witnessing or possibly taking part in the last years of the Indian Wars. I imagine him at the Presidio in San Francisco in 1893 acting as the first "Park Ranger" patrolling the Sierra Nevadas. I imagine him at Fort Riley in Kansas, walking the same grounds that Custer and the Buffalo Soldiers had walked only years before.

What did he see? What did he do? I know he was in the artillery, but was he ever in battle? Was he simply a guard at all of these camps? My aunt even heard that he was a tailor in the Army. Though I haven't seen any records of this does it mean he wasn't? I believe it is my job to find out these answers as best I can before the answers are gone forever.

I can trace the Huff family back to Edmund Huff in 1747 in Pennsylvania and I can trace the Foulk/Foulke family even further, to Johann Jacob Volck in 1649 in Heppenheim, Germany. Although it is great to be able to trace one's family back centuries to foreign lands, genealogy is is more about discovering who our relatives are; finding our family's stories. And the fun part is knowing that they all have a story to tell.