My great-granduncle Henry had a wife who spent most of her later life in museums and churches transcribing documents. Her intent was to prove a link back to Henry’s famous ancestor, Deacon Samuel Chapin, one of the founders of Springfield Mass. However because Chapin arrived in this country in 1635 and fathered seven wildly fertile children, the family tree is split into a thousand tributaries. Still Henry’s wife persisted. It was an endeavor that took her all over New England and even across the pond to St. John Baptist Church in Paignton, England which houses Chapin family records dating back to the 1500s .
Once she completed her investigation she sat down to write an account of the family history. The problem is, she was a genteel lady of her times, devoutly religious and intent on writing a glorious account of the family that would make us all proud. For this reason certain not so glorious moments were carefully wrapped in delicate lace and sweetened with lavender, such as this account of my great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Jameson.
Permit me to say one thing: he was a man of strong intellect and reasoning powers: but few men had such a memory: he could repeat any passage of Scripture you might mention.
Wonderful! Sounds like another jolly fellow to hang out with! However, reading on we learn that this scripture spouting dude went south “for his health” leaving his wife and four children to fend for themselves:
Note: Mrs. Samuel Jameson became housekeeper for Dr. Lucius Wright of Westfield, working for her home and from time to time the Dr gave her money for what clothes she needed, in lieu of wages. The children were placed in homes and had to work for their board and living. Mrs, Jameson died in the Dr. Wright’s home.
I don’t know why this detail is in a note. Perhaps so we won’t think unkindly of one of our noble ancestors. Who knows.
On the next page she details the fate of the poor children of Mrs. Samuel Jameson: Philander (what a name, hey?) became a manufacturer of bobbins and shuttles* who married – what else? – a dressmaker! Samuel Jr went west in search of gold and was never heard from again. Abiezer married Mahala Chapin, evidently in an attempt to improve the gene pool. Lastly there was poor Calvin. After being “mustered” and then injured in the Civil War he became a collector of rare coins, including: “a Hebrew shekel of a very high antiquity and 2 cent English pieces of the years 1001 and 1098.” Who knows what happened to those rare family gems? At this point she’d reached Abiezer, my great-great grandfather, and thus proven the connection between the Jamesons and Chapins. Hurrah! My claim to fame has been validated.
Despite my sarcasm, it is a truly wonderful document, even if the interesting and telling sections are housed in notes.
* bobbins and shuttles = parts of a sewing machine
**muster = to call the troops to action