Monday, September 4, 2006

New England is still green...

Yep, the lonesome genea-blogger has returned from his vacation in New England, and is happy to report that New England is still green, a bit soggy, full of stones (many of them in walls), and a great place to visit family and friends and do genealogy research. Especially if all of your ancestors on your father's side are buried there.

I really missed blogging over the last 14 days. Several of you made encouraging comments - thanks!

The trip was fun, informative and frustrating. We were in Salem NH for 5 days with cousins, then 3 days in Augusta ME to visit my elderly aunt and uncle, a day of travel through ME and NH to eastern VT, and two nights in Chelmsford MA to visit friends and more cousins. We did a bit of sightseeing in Portsmouth NH (Strawbery Banke), Salem NH (American Stonehenge) and Hanover NH (Dartmouth College), plus all the driving in between stops (700 miles or so). I took some of the advice of genea-bloggers Chris Dunham and Janice Brown for driving, sightseeing and researching.

The "fun" and "informative" part was seeing the family and sharing with them. My 89-year-old aunt is the only living sibling of my father, and while she has shared many memories of my dad and their family, I always hope for more detail. The cousins knew my dad when they were children, and have a perspective from their own experiences and what they heard from their parents. I passed out my CDs with the "ancestral books" (12 generation ahnentafel reports with notes of my father's parents - in the present state of research; an archive of my family newsletters; and my photo collection of the families) to the cousins. I also took along some 8 x 10 photos of some of the old pictures to stimulate discussion.

The "frustrating" part was my own failure to take with me enough information about my ancestry - so my trips to cemeteries and libraries were hampered. Hopefully, I'll have a laptop soon and won't make that mistake again.

One of my goals was to get good digital pictures of the family homes and gravestones in Townsend, Ashburnham, Gardner, Westminster and Leominster MA. I went out on the one day it rained to do this, without a jacket, and was generally happy with the results (although my shoes were soaked) - there were no shadows and the flash worked every time. I'll make a separate post for the findings.

I blogged about my NEWTON family mystery before - Thomas J. Newton born in ME, married Sophia (Buck) Brigham about 1832 in Southboro MA, had two children in Cambridge VT, and left absolutely no records. There were two early Maine NEWTON families - Levi Newton and sons in Dixfield ME and Nathan Newton in Andover ME, both in Oxford County.

At the Maine State Library in Augusta, I found a self-published book about the Newton families of Maine - mainly the Levi Newton line. I also visited the Archives to look for Oxford County ME deeds and other court records, but there were no Newton or Seaver records listed in the early indexes. Our trip from Augusta to Vermont went right through Dixfield and we stopped at Newton Brook and Riverside Cemetery in Dixfield for pictures.

We stayed one night in White River Junction VT, near Hanover NH, home of Dartmouth College. My dad attended Dartmouth for two years in the 1930's, and I wanted to see the campus and the town. We drove around, then walked a bit, and had dinner at Molly's right on the main street. We enjoyed talking to our table neighbors and our funny and cute waitress.

In Chelmsford, we visited two cemeteries and took pictures of some stones, but I couldn't remember the ancestors names - hence my "frustration". The highlight here was finding Kimball Farm - the ice cream was excellent!

I did check my email three times and reduced my 100 emails a day down to a manageable number for when I got home. The Gardner MA library has moved to a larger and modern building (local history room is open only on Saturdays). The Chelmsford MA library has a small genealogy room with MA VR "tan books" and some local books, plus some manuscripts. The Maine State Library in Augusta has a wonderful collection of surname books, locality books and periodicals. All three had modern computer hookups and free access, with no waiting.

One of my favorite hours was spent at Merrill Books in Hallowell ME - a great used and rare bookstore with lots of first editions at exorbitant prices. They had a book about Dixfield ME that even the State Library didn't have. I didn't buy anything, but enjoyed the hour while Linda was shopping for angels.

All of our hotels (we travel semi-cheap - Super 8, Econo Lodge, Best Western) had wireless Internet available for free in the rooms - but I don't have a laptop computer so it didn't matter this time.

All in all, it was a good trip - I'll share some detailed info and some impressions in later blog posts. It's good to be back - thanks to my loyal readers (all ten of you) for your patience.


Anonymous said...

Welcome home Randy. I'm looking forward to your continual interesting genealogical material.

Father Jack

Janice said...

Welcome back Randy, glad you had a good time. I've love to hear your take on New Hampshire's "Stonehenge." It is real or just a marketing gimmick?


Jasia said...

Welcome back Randy! It sure sounds like you had an enjoyable and successful trip. We've missed your blog posts. I look forward to reading more from you.

Randy Seaver said...


"America's Stonehenge" is an interesting pile of rocks. Some charcoal has been dated back thousands of years. But that doesn't mean that the rocks were placed at that time - only that someone burned wood then.

The "Stonehenge" factor is the apparent arrangement of rocks around a central point that correspond to sunrise and sunset at the solstice and equinox times. These rocks may have been placed any time in history - no one can tell, since they can't date the rocks.

The piles of rocks to form caves or walls may date back to Indian times or before - again no one can tell.

We saw the "Westford Knight" rock in the shop there - it might be a copy of the real one that is in Westford MA (my Westford cousins swear the real one is in Westford).

All in all, pretty much a ripoff for $9 a person to walk around piles of rocks with poor maps and directions.