Archive by Author
James Roger Marker

Don’t Overlook Colonial Gazeteers in your Research

When researching the history of an area or doing a cluster study it is worth the time to scan historic gazeteers for tidbits of information. Colonial gazeteers are a wealth of useful information that you may not expect. For example, James Rogers, a settler of Londonderry, New Hampshire “disappeared” from the New Hampshire records seemingly without a trace in the late 1700s. Because of the time period, I suspected he may have fled to Canada because he was a Tory. However, I needed proof. Searching the database for the keywords “Londonderry” and “Rogers” found the proof I needed and provided additional pathways for research.

Rogers received a New York land patent from King George for his service in the French War in 1770. He left New Hampshire and settled in that state, naming his new town Kent. Rogers returned to New Hampshire and sold some of this land to his Londonderry friends who then moved to New York to settle their new land with him. Eventually that land, once a part of New York, became part of Vermont. Rogers, a Tory and cousin to King George, ultimately fled to Canada in 1778 and his lands in Vermont were confiscated and re-chartered to his Londonderry, New Hampshire friends who were loyal to the patriot cause. Kent was renamed Londonderry and later part was carved out and called Windham around the same time as that split happened in New Hampshire.


The Snow Niagara in 1913

The Wreck of the Snow Catherine

Searching for historical information in newspapers and magazines section of the database for the settlement of Nutfield, part of which is now Derry, New Hampshire, yielded some interesting results. One was a rather sad article about a shipwreck of the snow Catherine off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1737. Although the original settlement of Nutfield began about eighteen years prior, emigrants were still leaving Ireland to come to the New World for a chance at a better life.

The account from The Pennsylvania Gazette tells the tale of those Scotch-Irish emigrants who lost their lives on a snow from County Antrim, Ireland bound for Boston. Ninety-eight people died in the wreck and four more died of their injuries after they made land. Obviously, not everyone who left survived the trip. Unfortunately, the account tells of the dead being buried where the Catherine washed up just north of Canso, Nova Scotia. Since this land was largely uninhabited by European settlers, it is unlikely that a burial ground is extant. No further information about whether they were re-interred elsewhere or remained buried where they died was available in the article.

But, like any great mystery, the article brings up many questions and possibilities for further research. For example, what exactly is a snow?


Tory Refugees on the Way to Canada by Howard Pyle

Loyalists in New Hampshire in the 1770s

I had the great fortune to hear the Town Historian of Derry, New Hampshire speak about the history of Nutfield, as it was known on July 19th. He told a fascinating story of Stephen Holland, a well-known Tory who lived in East Derry during the time that America was about to claim her independence from British rule.

Curious, I searched the Accessible Archives databases to see what was known about Mr. Holland and came across some interesting information in the “History of Rockingham” about the lives of those whose loyalty remained with the Crown instead of the newly forming nation:

…Stephen Holland was the most prominent. His reputation as a Tory was more than local, as the history of the times clearly proved. He was a tavernkeeper and merchant, a man of wealth and education…He was…banished by the act of November 19, 1778 [because he was sympathetic to the British cause, or in Mr. Holmes description ‘a spy,’] and his property, numbering four farms, was confiscated.


Westport on Clark's map of Fairfield County, Connecticut from 1856

County Histories and the Wakeman Candle Factory Fire

Sometimes, in our quest to find our ancestors, we overlook the very sources that could add interest to our family history and break down brickwalls in our research. One such resource is the county history.

Oftentimes, as genealogists, we are so focused on individual documents that we do not allow ourselves the freedom in our research for serendipitous finds through these types of resources. This is too bad; because it is the things that you stumble across that often lead you in different directions in your research than you might otherwise consider.

For the last decade I have been researching the Wakeman family of Fairfield County, Connecticut. This family was originally from England and came to this country just after the Mayflower and ultimately settled there.

Seeing the county histories on the Accessible Archives site, I took some time to browse through the titles and discovered the History of Fairfield County, Connecticut, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches by D. Hamilton Hurd. J.W. Lewis & Co., 1881.

A search of the surname “Wakeman” in this resource yielded many results. Clicking on them, I found many stories that I had not known about members of this family. (more…)

Frederick Douglass

Explore Slavery in America in the Frederick Douglass’ Paper

For those researching slavery or slave ancestors, the Frederick Douglass’ Paper in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers collection is a great resource. Many of the articles, including essays written by Douglass himself, are a fascinating look at the United States and the world as it dealt with the slave trade. Like most newspapers of this time period, it covered local, national and international events. Newspapers were carried across the country and very highly anticipated. Therefore, it was not uncommon to find news from around the country within their pages.

In this collection is the text of speeches made around the world expressing points of view about slavery in America. This particular issue highlights a lengthy speech (see Congressional Union in England, and American Slavery) regarding the fugitive slave law from the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, originally from the newspaper entitled the British Banner. He said that the fugitive slave law was “a law which no one who would obey God rather than man could consistently and righteously obey.

An article in the same issue entitled “An Interesting Incident” is about a fugitive slave. It tells of a female named Jane who, while traveling with her white slave owner family to Canada, took a ferry and freed herself while they were at the border. Upon landing in Canada, she went to a “respectable colored man’s” home and found safety from her owner. It did not take her owner long to find her and demand her return, which she refused. He threatened her to no avail, ultimately leaving after a jeering crowd had gathered. Jane, the former slave, became free.

This newspaper collection does not only contain anti-slavery information, but like other period newspapers of the time, information about happenings nationally and internationally. One such story in this issue concerned the imprisonment of Pietro Ercoli for 24 years for his attempt to prevent Luigi Giannini from lighting a cigar.

You never know what you may find in newspapers. This is one of the things that make them such a rich resource for genealogical research. In addition to information about your ancestors, they provide much in the way of interesting tidbits to add flesh to the bones of family history.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: Frederick Douglass Paper
Date: June 26, 1851
Location: Rochester, New York

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