Category: The Wilsons (page 1 of 2)

The Alexanders of Maine

The Alexanders and their descendants make up a fair amount of the Wilson family tree. I had long thought  that my next book would be about them and I’m proceeding with that idea.

One thing that makes them interesting is not the branch that everyone knows but the other Alexanders in Maine. I started looking at what I’ve unearthed so far and trying to piece together some sort of coherent story.  To date this is where my research has gotten to.

Since births were not recorded in early Topsham records and since many marriages were also not recorded, there are families whose early origins are not known. A good example of this is the Alexanders of Topsham (and thus of Bowdoin and Litchfield).

All early Topsham records list a William Alexander. It is believed that David Alexander was the father of all the Alexanders who arrived in southern Maine. As David’s son William settled in Harpswell, we can be sure this William is not David’s son. So was he his grandson or was he the son of another Alexander that came to Maine?

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander specifically states “James Alexander, whose farm was entered of record in Topsham in 1738, was his son, probably younger than William.” His son, meaning David’s son. No land was deeded to settlers in Topsham until the 1750’s / 1760’s but prospective land owners were required to settle the land and erect buildings long before that in order to qualify for ownership.

The earliest, but undated, list of the Topsham settlers was created prior to 1743 because James Wilson who died in 1743 is included on that list. But only William is the only Alexander included in that list.

There is an index for the Pejebscot Papers and it does not list a James or J Alexander. The index was created after DeAlva Stanwood wrote his book in 1898 and there are documented missing papers now. No only that but there are multiple copies of some things and they rarely ever state it to be the first / original or a copy. The papers are only losely organized and I’ve dug into them at least three times so far. More research is needed.

So we have no proof at all that a James existed besides DeAlva’s mention. We also have DeAlva’s statement that he thinks James Wilson died prior to 1731 so he obviously never saw the undated “List of Settlers who were to be at Topsham (Some of Whom Came)” that lists both James Wilson and William Alexander.”

One intriguing clue not available to DeAlva comes from Bolton’s Scotch-Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. He compiled some lists of some of the settlers who did come on the Temple ships. Among those is listed a James Wilson, a Jean Wilson and four children, the father of Jennet who was not born in Maine and who did marry William Alexander of Harpswell.

The Alexanders on that list on page 233?

_____ Alexander, wife and four children
David Alexander and son
William Alexander

That’s a total of 9 Alexanders who came to Merrymeeting Bay. I do believe he counted some twice but still not the same picture as David and sons James and William only.

The facts are these:

1) There was a William Alexander who lived in Topsham. He is listed on all the early and later lists.
2) There was at least one Robert Alexander is also listed and deeded with property in Topsham before 1770.
3) There was one George Alexander who supposedly died in Topsham about 1735. His two children were born in Georgetown in 1728 and 1732.
3) There are mentions of 2 Roberts both born about 1740, one who had a family in Topsham and one in Bowdoin.
4) There was a John Alexander born before 1740 who married a Combs in Bowdoin.
5) And I found a Margaret who married Robert Gower in 1761, making her birth probably prior to 1740. Considering how late many of the early marriages took place she could easily be born prior to 1730 or even 1720. She is stated to be the sister of Robert in Topsham.
6) A Jean Alexander married Robert Douglas in 1762 in Topsham.

In the subsequent generations, I have turned up multiple Alexanders whose ancestry is unknown, leaving me to believe there might have been more early Alexanders as yet undiscovered.

Stay tuned!

Uncommonly Common Now Widely Available

You can order it through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon.com. That means it should be available through all book lists and even your local library could order it.

Ask for it!

On Line Resources for Uncommonly Common

insta_cover_hardback.inddIt truly is done now and going to the printers this week. I am gobsmacked and filled with trepidation but I can endlessly proof this and never publish. There will be errors.

I have added additional digital resources here for the book which can be found at the following links. All are PDFs and you can read in your process or save the files to your website. They will open in a new window.

Table of Contents:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/wilson_toc.pdf or shortened  http://goo.gl/JklxFm

Zoomable Maps:
Full Topsham Map
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham-full-wheeler-map.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/jZIDD8

Topsham Roads, Now and Then
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham_map_roads.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/Nc7qUF

Index of Names:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/index_of_names.pdf  or shortened: http://goo.gl/uiJR6q

When it’s all over…

The book is done. The Uncommonly Common is as finished as it’s going to get. Except for some expected edits, I have no more research and writing to do. After 18 months, I get to relax. Or not.

I’ve been living this world for so long now, it’s become my alternate reality and my escape. I am left bereft, not elated to have finished.

It’s really time to recap the experience and look at what I have ended up with.

The Journey

I started this whole process by simply signing up on ancestry.com. This is an addictive thing in case you have not tried it.  I took it to extremes by trying to document all descendants of each original ancestor. One family line was just too massive to even think it. One family line had too little to keep me busy. Another needed some work but didn’t appear interesting. And then the Wilson line. Different, mystifying and totally new as I did not know my Dad’s family was from Maine initially.

I got finished running through what I could find out thru ancestry but was left with so many questions. By that time I was hooked on genealogy and wanted more. I researched the profession, signed up with the National Genealogy Society that was meeting that May only an hour away from me in Richmond, and looked into professional certification. I starting learning how to do it correctly.

Then I decided to write a book for several reasons. One, I am first and foremost a writer who turned to web design to make a living. Two, I had a lot of information I wanted to do something with. And three, I wanted to know more, seriously, and do some on the ground research.

I made two trips to Maine and got my hands on nearly every scrap of information I could find on those first three or four generations of the Wilsons.

The Results

I have written a book that is ready to print. I’m a writer, a graphic designer and a genealogist so I have a 350 page book ready to go in Indesign. (6 x 9)

This is NOT a normal genealogy. It is a story of a Topsham, Maine, family from 1719 to today. I tracked all the descendants of James Wilson who came to Maine in the Robert Temple ships. Though he died in 1743, his children were at the right age to populate and usher Topsham into incorporation and the founding of Maine as a state. So they were the inn keepers, the saw mill owners, and the dam owners…oh, yes, and major land owners.

Though James Wilson is one of my ancestors, I am a Georgia girl who, until 18 months ago, didn’t even know about this part of my heritage. The book is a journey of discovery, a comparison of north and south and is written with one over riding purpose: to be a readable and maybe even enjoyable book. I cover all descendants that I could find up ’til about 1900 for most lines and then take one line (yeah, my own) all the way to present day.

There are also two chapters about two different individuals. One is a descendant who became a sheriff in the 1850s near Gainesville, Florida, and one who deserted during the Civil War and ended up settling in the Virginia mountains near me. Both are interesting tales!

This was written to genealogical stand of proof. I have documented the facts, occasionally described the process and provide the reasons for my conclusions when the proof is not substantial  or is an interesting tale.

The finalized Table of Contents is here. Though the writing is finished, I will be continuing to edit up until publication as information is still drifting in. I have proofed the footnotes (I haven’t done a count but there are over 500) and done several read through and editing sessions but I will be doing more of that in the coming weeks and months.

I’m now looking for a publisher. Of course, I will self-publish if I have to but prefer to work with a publisher in order to get the marketing effort that I cannot manage by myself. Publishing just to get it into print is not the goal. Publishing in order to get it into the hands of readers is.

My Conclusions

Not only was this the right thing for me to, spending hundreds of hours, precious money and a lot of thinking, but it was also the best thing to do. I am in my element doing what my education prepared me for and what I was designed for.

Finding my “roots” made me whole. I am no longer an outcast in a southern society but a hybrid who fits into both the north and south equally. I feel like Maine is my real home (just for six months out of the year – not  a snow girl!) and look forward to spending more time up there in the future.

As my web design business normally is not full-time (as intended), I have the time to spend to get my genealogy business into a profitable condition. Starting a new business has its own benefits and my entrepreneurial spirit is rejoicing. Adventure!!

When It’s All Over

There is a beginning. A new phase of life for me. A new business.  And a book, The Uncommonly Common.

 

 

Topsham Maps

I’ve been busy getting the Wilson book finished and I’m getting really close. One thing I’m working on is a set of maps for the book and corresponding files on this website. The web files are much larger of course. All you have to do is use the zooming function of your browser to view closer. I’ve left them large so that you can really look at the details.

The large 1768 map of Brunswick and Topsham is here: http://goo.gl/jZIDD8

Map with today’s roads superimposed on Topsham & 1764 roads: http://goo.gl/Nc7qUF

 

And the Book is Ready for Editing and Proofing

As of today, the main writing task is done. The research will never end; that's just the way genealogy works. As new data becomes available, changes, additions, deletions have to be made to a family tree. It's an incredibly fluid thing. 

Just this weekend I ran across evidence of that when dipping back down in to my great grandparent's generation, suddenly both of their graves popped up on Findagrave.com. There are no pictures yet but the additions give me final proof of the birth and death dates and a confirmed physical location.

The rate information is being digitized is speeding up with new databases being made available online. The bad news is that you are never done. The good news is you get to dig forever! 

A lot of editing and proofreading awaits me but now I can start looking for a publisher and I can relax and enjoy my next trip to Maine. I hope to find more pieces of the puzzle on my next trip but all I have to do is plug in those bits. I shouldn't have to do major rewriting or even add any more people into the tree. (famous last words!)

My research and writing over the last few days has made me realize how lucky I am personally that my father and his father survived. Though I knew there was a constant theme of tuberculosis deaths throughout the generations in Maine, my family landed in Lynn, Massachusetts, in the late 1800s. I kept seeing occasional deaths but when I got into my great grandparents' generation, I realized that tuberculosis had become a scourge.

Tuberculosis reached its heights after industrilization began. Instead of associating with a limited amount of people, workers joined large groups making it easier to get TB. The overcrowding and lack of sanitation in the industrialized residential areas also had an major impact.

By the time my family moved into Lynn, there were only three living adults and only two that had children. My great great grandfather's brother, Henry, was the other. He and his wife had three children, all born in Lynn. His wife died in 1883 from bronchitis supposedly but then his daughter died in 1897 and son in 1901 from tuberculosis. The third daughter never had children.

My great great grandparents had ten children between 1870 and 1892. Two died young, two women never married but 17 grandchildren were born by 1909. The oldest son had four children. One of those four died at age 12 in 1908, followed by her mother in 1918 and sister in 1925. They were all tuberculosis deaths. 

Meanwhile, the second son lost his fourth daughter in 1904 and his wife by 1909. Since the daughter only lasted a few months with TB, it's entirely possible that the wife also died from tuberculosis. At some point between 1900 and 1910 my great great grandparents must have realized how dangerous Lynn was. They had witnessed the deaths of at least four grandchildren and one daughter-in-law by 1908. 

They left, moving to Candia, New Hampshire, and back to a farming existence. The third son, my great grandfather, left the state by then, heading for Philadelphia and New Jersey and he didn't lose any children. None of the other children lost spouses or children to TB. By the time the three youngest went out on their own, they were able to truly thrive and prosper though it did take one or more generations for that to happen with their siblings.

I've said from the start of this project that the Scotch-Irish were survivors and that's what my family did.They survived. And I'm glad they did. 

What’s in a name? – chapter 1

Note: this is chapter one of the book, The Uncommonly Common.

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

The Backstory

I really hated my Shakespeare class in college.  I had hoped I would gain some appreciation for the “Bard” but it was so boring!  Yet, when I reached for a quote to use, lo and behold, up pops the above phrase from Romeo and Juliet. 

Shakespeare was asking a question that has come to haunt me in my adult years.  He wanted to know does the name make the man (or woman as in my case).

Names do come with connotations for most of us.  The more recent phenomenon of giving boys or non-sex names to girls recognizes that Jane Doe is obviously female but Madison Doe could be a guy.  Parents frequently do this to give their “girls” an edge in today’s still male-dominated world.

Here in the South we still call grown men by kid’s names, Tommy, Billy, Jimmy.  Washington, D.C. never got used to “our” Jimmy Carter.  It was, for many, a way of subtly being able to put down a president even though this southern practice is not intended to mark or disparage an individual.

When I met my husband, Tommy, I figured I would change that cute little name to Tom or Thomas.  I ran into an immediate problem.  He is not a Tom or a Thomas to me.  He is a Tommy—you know, that cute little freckle-faced kid from down the block..  Something that is an endearment for me is what everyone calls him.

Growing up as a Delia in Gainesville, Georgia, in the 1950’s and 1960’s was fraught with name problems for me.  First, because there were no connotations to my name.  There was not anyone I ever met there who had my name.  In fact, I met my first other Delia at age 20 in college.  I have met very few since then.

I did occasionally see my name in print: the Irish maid in so many stories from years ago was so frequently named Delia.  A maid!  Not the heroine, not the story’s main character, a maid, for heaven’s sake.  Oh, dear.  What is in a name?

Additionally, I (okay, my name) was the subject of 2 hit songs back in the early 60’s. (Waylen Jennings sang about “my” adultery and murder in “Delia’s Gone”.)  Then in the 1970’s or 1980’s a soap opera character was christened Delia.  I did not even check to see what they had done to me that time.

My teachers could not pronounce my name correctly (I was too embarrassed to teach them how to say it).  The other kids used my name as a taunt: I was obviously a good victim.

My name is always being misspelled.  I get called Debra or Delilah or Julia or Belia in writing or out loud.  (My handwriting probably does not help this process.)

Once I started my own business back in the ‘80’s, I decided to use that uniqueness to my advantage and to teach the world how to pronounce and spell my name.  “I will take this opportunity teach the world!  I will become pronounceable, spellable!”  I ended up constantly spelling my name anew to customers, vendors, sales people.  Constantly, they were apologizing for mangling the pronunciation.  I have received uncountable apologies, more than enough to make up for the teachers’ and children’s misuse of my name in those early years.

But, now, the unthinkable has happened.  It started some years ago.  Somebody named a company Delia’s.  This company sells clothing and such to pre-teens and others of tender age.  Type “my” name in a internet search and this company hogs the scene!

Then a specific author rose to some prominence, Delia Ephron, sister of Nora Ephron, movie director.  Nora brought us the movie, You’ve Got Mail, and has helped to bring her sister to wider acclaim. 

Now you say that’s not much.  How could this be problematic for me?  Well, it seems like all of a sudden every author in the world has decided to include a Delia in their opus.  I do read voraciously but now I can check 10 books out of the library and find my name in 2 or 3! 

Now for those of you who are accustomed to seeing “your” names in print, you cannot fathom how truly disconcerting and upsetting this is for me.  For most of my life, my name virtually did not appear in print.  If Delia was mentioned, it was me someone was talking about me, like in a newspaper article.  I was important, unique and fortunate to have something different.  My own name.

As always, I read along, enjoy my fiction, my escapism.  But now, I am getting jolted out of my fantasy, my stories.  Hey, my name again!  Hey, what does this mean about me? I’m not the Irish maid any longer.  I’m not so unique.  My lifelong self-assumed identity does not work anymore.

I’m just Delia, one of many fictional characters who exist only in other authors’ imaginations; for you see, I still rarely meet other Delias.  People are only beginning to name their children with my name.  It remains a more common name for my great-grandparents’ and my grandparents’ generations.  

Well, I guess it is a step up, from total obscurity to a type of infamy.  Today I am only a figment of someone else’s imagination!

And there is the family tree…

I was named after my great-grandmother, Delia McCarron Wilson, from Ireland. I think somewhere someone said it was a family name, but since I cannot find evidence of her existence before she married my great-grandfather, I have not been able to prove that. 

I always assumed that Delia was a very common name in Ireland but I was informed by a techie Irish friend of mine that it is not so. Delia appears to be more common in British Isles than here in the states but not by much. 

It turns out that Delia in Ireland may well be a nickname for someone named Bidelia, Biddie, or Bridget. So much for an identity grounded in my “name”.

And then there is the rest of the family tree.

I am a Wilson – one of those Maine Wilsons. Well, I declare! I had no idea until December of 2013. For some unknown reason I had decided my family up New Jersey / Massachusetts way were all immigrants from Ireland and Poland. 

Nope, the original James Wilson came here about 1719 landing in Maine with his wife and children. Such a common name, Wilson. Can that really mean anything?

In my digging through my Maine family tree I do see the introduction of Delia – as a shortened form of Cordelia, Predelia and many more interesting and forgotten names. I was able to pinpoint where in my family women were named Delia instead of using a nickname of Delia. Oh, well, I am now firmly grounded in my roots.

So Delia Wilson. An uncommonly common name. 

And you’ll come to see that the commonly-named Wilsons of Topsham, Maine, are not so common after all.

Thus begins the tale of the Wilsons of Maine, a story of Maine, Massachusetts, and New England from the Mayflower until today.

The Wilson Tree is Online Here!

The Wilson tree is now online here on cvillegenie.com. You no longer have to have an ancestry.com membership to view the tree. It’s without photos and may have its content changed before it settles down but now anyone can view what I’ve been working on!

Though this is all of the descendants of James Wilson and some extra ancestors of those descendants, this is not the definitive end result of my study. Only the book, The Uncommonly Common, has verified information. I have not verified information for persons born after 1900 in most cases.

Living people are shown by name but without any information. If you find incorrect content or living peoples’ info being displayed, click on the Suggest tab on the profile of the person that needs correcting and send me a note.

I don’t expect this to be perfect but I will continue to update this material as I am able to.

Would you like to help? Got photos you want to add to a profile? Want to get to be able to work on profiles of your immediate family? I would love to have you involved. Contact me!

Just want to look around? Click here to view the James Wilson tree online.

James Wilson, 1670 – 1743

One of the greatest moments in my Maine trip was the finding of the grave of my original ancestor, James Wilson. It was almost accidental and a clear indication of how valuable tromping through cemeteries can be.

I was actually looking for one grave across the river in Brunswick. All of the first couple of generations of the Topsham Wilsons are buried in one of Topsham’s three largest cemeteries with one lone exception. Hannah, a one year old, died in 1763 and is buried in Brunswick’s First Parish Cemetery.

I thought that odd and First Parish was one of my planned destinations. I wanted to know why she was there. I enlisted the help of Barbara Demarais and was so glad I did. Barbara and I are cousins, surprise!  She has Purington ancestry which means our roots together go way way back. We were able to establish that in the first few minutes of our meeting. Funny how I’m related to most folks in the Topsham- Brunswick area!

She writes a blog about the cemeteries there in Brunswick and was happy to show me around. After we found Hannah’s grave in First Parish, she said, “hey, there’s another Wilson here – a James Wilson.” My retort, “What?” was gormless and my reaction once we found the maker was silent – mute astonishment and disbelief. When I came back the next day to look at the marker again, I found some little genie had cleaned it up and it was then legible.

One of the greatest things about the area was a project undertaken by a father – son team, John and Mark Cheetham, who documented the cemeteries in Topsham and Brunswick so the volume for First Parish had the inscription and placement recorded. We knew what it said but the growth on the marker obscured it. Cleaned up, it was evident.

Barbara mentioned that First Parish Church was the first church in the area. I knew that the two towns were separated by the Androscoggin River; I didn’t understand what a barrier that really was until I saw the riverbanks – steep and rocky. Not conducive to easy travel. I knew that the two towns were in some ways very separated from each other.

What I didn’t know was where James lived. I now think that he lived only in Brunswick. After all, Topsham had a rockier start – getting wiped out by Indians at a couple of points. By 1735, there were 14 families living outside the fort in Topsham and another 35 in Brunswick and in 1739, Brunswick was incorporated as a town.

Edit: 6 Nov 2015 – James did live in Topsham prior to his death. His widow and all children were living there in 1746. I found ample evidence when sifting thru the Pejebscot  Papers at the Maine Historical Society.

Only the location of one of his sons’ graves in Topsham is known today. I believe that at least one of them is also buried in First Parish – Samuel, the father of Hannah. There’s a fair amount of First Parish Cemetery without gravestones – many missing stones from those early years.

Visiting cemeteries, even if you have a photograph, is incredibly enlightening. Placement of graves, who else is buried near the one you are looking for, these are what you can’t see in a gravestone photo. Sometimes you can accidentally find the most important grave that you weren’t even looking for.

James Wilson born about 1670, died 9 September 1743, the father of Jennett, Robert, William, Samuel and Alexander.

“Here lies the body of Mr James Wilson who departed this life September ye 9th 1743 in the 73d year of his age”.

And the Work Proceeds…

I’ve been incredibly busy since my return from New England while trying to incorporate all the new “stuff” I found and figured out while I was gone. I’ve got several blog posts planned – just haven’t had time to write them!

I’ve gotten some parts of the book pinned down and having decided on a structure (which still may change before publication), I now have a partial table of contents that I can release for those who are interested.

Since I’m formatting and typesetting as I write, the decisions are being made on the fly but I believe I’ve created an arrangement that will allow me to deliver the genealogical information in a format that will be easier to follow than traditional genealogies. After all, what I want is something that folks can read – while not having to figure out where in the world they are at the same time. (I haven’t had readers to test this out yet – and I will need readers before it goes to print. If you are interested, please contact me.)

In general each of James’ children get one chapter. Some of their children get their own chaper. There are two chapters that tell some great stories about two Mainers who went south, one to Virginia and one to Florida. I also give strong weight and a chapter to my third great-grandfather and the families of us second and third cousins, the ones I found during this journey.

The table of contents are in a PDF format so you can download it or read it online.  You can view the Wilson book table of contents here.

Older posts