Tag Archives: 52 ancestors challenge

THe Ancestor I’d Like to Meet

Keeping up with the weekly prompts from Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors 2019 blog post, this week I’ll feature one of the ancestors I’d most like to meet.

Roger Conant was my 9th great grandfather. He was one of the founders of Salem, Massachusetts. He didn’t come to America on the Mayflower, but on another ship from England in about 1624. According to his Wikipedia blurb, he didn’t get on well with leaders in the Puritan community in the New World at Plymouth, and moved on to establish another settlement with folks who were less prone to violence and religious fanaticism.

Donna Seger, eminent author of the Streets of Salem blog, wrote in her “Massey’s Cove” post in 2016, that Roger Conant and his associates got short shrift in the history books. The famous statue of him, shown above, encourages the mind to jump to Witchcraft and the notorious Salem Witch Trials. Although he died in 1679, just a few years before all the hysteria and subsequent trial happened, he must have known many of the participants. He was said to have been active in Salem affairs his whole life.

That is what I would ask him about, if I actually could meet and communicate with him.

“What really led up to the Salem Witch trials?” I’d ask. “I didn’t see the Conant family name in any documentation about accusers or accused, or judges. Did you see it coming? Did your children play any part in it? If you hadn’t died just prior, would you have been able to contribute a voice of reason to shut it down?”

Through the ap “Relative Finder” I see that I have several 1st and 2nd cousins, 10 and 12 times removed, as well as more distant relations, included in the Salem Witch Trials group, but none of them Conants. Perhaps that is because many of those ancestresses didn’t have the hidden vulnerability of owning property (or eventually owning property once their relative died) and not having a male heir in the picture to protect their interest, and to pass it along to, as theorized by researcher Carol F. Karlsen in her book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987).

Yep, it would be nice to get his take on it!


We all love Green (Olive Greene)

Following along with Amy Johnson Crowe’s prompt for this week of #52ancestors, which is “unusual name,” I present a little summary of what I know of my 2nd great grandmother, Olive Greene.

Her full name was Olive Jane Greene, and she went by the nickname “Jenny.”

She was born about 100 years before I was, and lived her whole life in Cumberland County, Maine. Her father was a farmer. She was born when her father was 47 and her mother 44. Her oldest brother was 20 years older than she was. She was able to marry while her parents were still alive, so they could see their youngest child, and only daughter as far as I can see, happily situated in life.

In the first census taking after her marriage, they are listed as living with her parents. Jenny’s husband was described as a tinsmith by trade. In the next three census records, he is listed as manager of a local canning factory.

The couple were parents of two daughters who died relatively young, in their twenties (my 2nd great aunt) and thirties (my great grandmother). My grandmother (#52Ancestors 2019 pick number 1) did get to meet and know her husband’s Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Charles Herbert.

The Challenging Mr. Fitch

The designated theme for this, week 2 of Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors blog post prompts for 2019, is “challenge.”

The Challenging Fitch ancestor, my great-grandfather, has brought so many spine-tingling responses, whenever I found some unexpected trace of him popping up in my research.

None of the old-timers seemed to know much about him. My great-grandmother was married to him (very briefly) in 1896. Their son, my grandpa, was born in 1900. Historical records prove they were married at the time of my grandpa’s birth, and then later divorced, but he took his mother’s surname the rest of his life.

Wonder why she went to such great lengths to keep even the whisper of the name Fitch away?

great grandmother Nina, wife of Fitch for a brief moment

Gradually I began finding snippets of information about him, or at least, someone whose name was similar to his. The biggest treasure trove of hints came from a My Heritage newspaper vault. Apparently Fitch had moved to a tiny town in Indiana which had a nosy gossip columnist, and a reporter who noted every court action from the minuscule to the mighty. From this source, I learned a lot about his marriages, job, family members, what he did on the weekends, and all kinds of events either humdrum or tragic.

He worked at a dairy plant in Chicago, and apparently serviced a sales or maintenance route to several cities in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. At one point, according to the newspaper, the plant where he worked closed, and he could have chosen to move and work at a similar plant in Wisconsin, but didn’t. Around that time, he petitioned the court to have the time and place of his birth determined.

For someone supposedly born in 1875, the child of a German immigrant and an American mother, he did not seem to be a stable representative of that demographic, in my mind . He was married to at least six different women. There were some shady newspaper accounts, either about him or someone with his same name.

The Fitches, overall, were a challenge to find, and I still cannot find Great-grandpa Fitch’s mother’s family where they are supposedly from in Erie, New York.

From a member profile in My Heritage, and from some DNA matches in Ancestry, I found some likely relatives who were descended from Voitzsch ancestors in Prussia. The original US immigrants of this line were supposedly buried in a graveyard in Erie County, New York, according to a source. I found the roster of burials for that cemetery, and one name very remotely like Fitch or Voitzsch came up: Gaubeloupe Freitztsch Folilztson (compared to the name listed on historical records Johann Gottlob Fitch or Voitzsch) and wife were buried there, and their markers possessed the only possible dates that could have worked out to be the immigrants. Not exactly proof positive, but some DNA matches to me have these ancestors listed on their pedigrees, so it may be a good tree to bark up!

Recently I was contacted by someone whose ancestor bought the farm where Nina lived at the time of her death. Having already posted several salient newspaper articles about the life and times of Nina and her subsequent husbands, he says he may have a photo somewhere of the elusive Mr. Fitch!

This is the 2nd of #52Ancestors.

First Grandmother I Met

Crafting in the 21st Century is an eclectic sort of venture: we’ve documented mostly arts and crafts and practical projects, but writing is also a craft. We end up giving many of our posts a “family history” tag anyway, because they build up stories about who we are and what we like to do, and maybe why. One of the founding purposes of creating the blog is to record the stories of our life and times. For us, “creating 19th century crafts using 21st century technology” was supposed to be one of our tag lines, although we’ve strayed a lot!

With that intro, I want to opt into Amy Johnson Crow’s #52 ancestor challenge for 2019, and plan to steal a little bit of space from this craft blog to write about our gene pool.

Ethel H C.jpeg

If you’d like to sign up for the challenge, you’ll be sent a prompt once a week over the coming year, to jump start your work at this venture. Who knows what dimension will be added to your life, as you draw on the memories of your ancestors? They don’t want to be forgotten. The first prompt for this year is…”first.” So this is my grandmother, the first grandmother I ever met. She was born at the beginning of the 20th century, in the first week of January, in a log cabin in Germany Valley, Pendleton County, West Virginia.

The family moved to Oklahoma with her Uncle Baxter, who had bought a farm, when my grandmother was four years old. All the kids had to work hard. Her mother succumbed in the flu epidemic around 1918. Her dad became depressed, sold the farm equipment, and moved the family back to West Virginia where they stayed at the hotel in town, owned by other family members.

Ethel 16.jpeg

She wrote in her memoir: “Then our Dad became very unhappy with our situation and took us back to Oklahoma…again in June 1921…We were there one day when Dad killed himself by shooting himself in the head with a shot gun. I remember seeing him at the funeral and his head was so swollen it was twice the size it should have been. Grandpa sent a telegram to the aunts in W. Va….So they started dividing us up among the relatives—Martha went to Aunt Lola, Anne stayed with Grandma, Alice and Pete got married in St. Louis, Mo. on June 17, 1921 on our way back. Hattie went to Aunt Sallie, Bill to the hotel and Aunt Meade, and I went with Aunt Lillie and Uncle Baxter and Harry was already there. So we were scattered all over creation and another phase of our lives starts from there.”

First Gran took the train to Washington, DC, when she got a little older and became a nurse. She liked to sew, quilt, do all sorts of needlework, paint (by number mostly), garden, cook, and keep the house spotless.