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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I happened to stumble onto the ancestry.com website and got totally hooked in looking at my ancestors.  It was just amazing what incredible people turned up and how it was actually possible to document their arrival in Boston in  1630 - just after the Pilgrims!  Turns out my great grand uncle (5 times back) was involved heavily in the Revolution and went on to be one of the leaders in Shay's Rebellion - he was a rebel, was sentenced to death and got a reprieve from John Hancock!  Love it because it explains a lot of my idiosyncracies!  I've even contacted the Mass. Supreme Court to get access to his trial documents and hope to be making a trip to Boston this summer to see them.

Anyway, Google books provided tremendous access to books (I highly recommend it for anyone doing research) about all he did and yesterday I took a nice, long, wonderful motorcycle trip to Groton, Mass. to see his grave and homesite.   It was a great time to be in a cemetary with all the flags on the gravesites - even rebels get one.

Would love to hear who you are related to, infamous or otherwise!
 

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Ethan,

Looking up your ancestors online is fun. Make sure to check out the old census records. You can look at records up to 1930. 1940 will go online in 2012.

Ancestry.com is fun, too, as you discovered. I actually found a facsimile of my grandfather's passport application from 1920, complete with picture and a statement from his father that he was of good moral character (hmmm....he might have changed his mind had he lived beyond 1931. See below).

For me, the New York Times is a terrific resource because the Nicolls came to New York and stayed pretty close to the city for many, many years. The Times has great records of births, deaths, and marriages. I found out that my great-great Uncle was crushed to death in an automobile accident in 1915 (that bit of news made the front page). My grandfather liked to be married and the Times tried to make his two elopements sound socially acceptable and proper. They did okay with marriage no. 1, but for no. 2, when Grandpa and his fiancee woke up the town clerk of Oyster Bay at midnight to marry them (one would assume this was after a night of hearty partying)...well, the details of that marriage were a little more blunt. LOL.

As for ancestors, the first Nicolls came to New York in 1664 with a grant from the King. They settled Islip, NY and named it after their home in Islip, England. I've been to Islip, England and seen the graves of my ancestors who are buried in the village church.

Through history, the Nicolls seemed to be merchants and lawyers, with a few doctors thrown in. There is a big hole in the family history around the time of the Revolution and I presume this is because they were loyal to the King. There is a family "legend" about how my great-grandmother was determined to join the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). LOL. She also wanted to join the Mayflower Society (for people who had ancestors on the Mayflower) and didn't get too far with that, either.

This is my great-great grandfather, Solomon Townsend Nicoll. Isn't he handsome? I love this portrait. It is in the Smith College Museum of Art, now, after years of hanging in our dining room.

 

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On September 6, 1781, during the attack on Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull at Groton, Connecticut:

[quote author=Thomas Hertell, witness]On entering the works the officer, on whom had devolved the command of the remnant of the British forces, demanded, "Who commands this fort?" The gallant Col. Ledyard advancing, answered, "Sir, I had that honor but now you have," -and presented … his sword to the victor, who … immediately with Col. Ledyard's own sword run him through the body.[/quote]

The victorious officer was my ancestor, Lieutenant Colonel Abraham Van Buskirk of the New Jersey Volunteers, which was a Tory unit under command of turncoat Benedict Arnold. After Colonel Van Buskirk stabbed and killed the Fort Griswold commander he ordered the British troops under his command to massacre the entire garrison.

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1973/6/1973_6_69.shtml

Upon further research I discovered that Benedict Arnold had offered Colonel Ledyard an opportunity to surrender, threatening no quarter if the offer was refused. When Ledyard replied that he would fight to the death, Arnold ordered his troops to take the fort and kill all the defenders. At the end of the war the hue and cry to hang Van Buskirk as a war criminal was ignored by General George Washington who, instead, banished him and his immediate family. This was a source of great shame to my mother's family and the memory of it overshadowed that of the family members who had served the Revolution.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Leslie, that is very interesting about your family - the painting is wonderful. I will check the NY Times for more info. on my line. I was able to find my ancestor as part of the first census in 1791 and that was great. You are right about the census info. because it tells a lot about people.

Here is my rebel ancestor (hopefully it will come through here and I have not screwed something up) in a period woodcut with Daniel Shays - the only known "portrait" of him done by someone that never saw him. It is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian - that is the closest to greatness I will ever get:

 

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Cool thread, Ethan!

The closest I can come to famous is that my cousin once lived in Bob Dylan's house in Hibbing, Minnesota. ;D I'm 2d or 3d generation born in the US, depending on which side, and family history in the old countries doesn't go back very far.

My husband, on the other hand, is a descendant of the Mayflower through both his father and mother. We went to a Mayflower dinner once with his parents. Everyone toasts their ancestors and asks everyone who they are related to. When I was asked, my husband answered "her relatives landed at Ellis Rock" LOL! He's somehow distantly related to Salmon P. Chase, one of Lincoln's Team of Rivals, excellent book!



Betsy
 

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Betsy the Quilter said:
He's somehow distantly related to Salmon P. Chase, one of Lincoln's Team of Rivals...
One of our resident female authors should write a book about Sue Kate Chase. She seems to have been skipped over by history.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The daughter of Salmon P. Chase, Katherine Chase, known as Kate, was a notable socialite, acting as her father's official hostess in Washington and unofficial campaign manager. She was known as the Civil War "Belle of Washington". Her November 12, 1863, marriage to the textile magnate, Rhode Island politician William Sprague, did not flourish. After Salmon Chase's death, the Sprague marriage deteriorated further. Sprague had affairs, became an alcoholic, and constantly belittled Kate's spending habits. Kate in turn reputedly had an affair with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. The Spragues divorced in 1882. Kate Chase died in poverty in Washington, D.C. in 1899. She was buried alongside her father in Cincinnati.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You're right, Jeff.  Just one bad apple and the whole bunch gets to bear the brunt.  In our case, one would think that a slight indiscretion like taking over the Concord courthouse with 200 followers while Shays stormed the Springfield Armory could be softened by his being in Nova Scotia at the forced resettling of the Acadians, his leading troops at Bunker Hill, guarding Ft. Ticonderoga during the Battle of Valcour Island and then escorting Brits from Saratoga to their final good-bye back to England would be enough to undo his later rebelliousness.  They only seem to remember the bad stuff!

 

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Jeff said:
Shelburne, Nova Scotia where Abraham Van Buskirk, was subsequently elected mayor. Do you by chance know of Stephen de Lancey, of New York who was also banished?
No, I don't. but I would be interested to learn more. I always heard that my great-grandfather (the first DeLancey Nicoll, born in 1854) was named in honor of Bishop DeLancey, who was somehow or another connected to the family. There is also (supposedly) a relationship between the family and DeLancey Street in NYC.

This is going to sound incredibly ignorant, so forgive me in advance, but I didn't realize people were banished after the Revolution. I never heard of any Nicolls being banished. Maybe they kept waving their grant from the King (btw, the grant is hanging on my living room wall) and said, we ain't leaving!

On the other hand, I have also always been told that there are two distinct lines of Nicolls in the US. One...my ancestors. The second...a branch of Nicolls who settled in Nova Scotia and came from Scotland. It makes me wonder if there were actually some Nicolls who did go to Nova Scotia after the Revolution? Like I said, that time period in the family history is very murky. Things from about 1830 on are much more clearly documented.

L
 

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Jeff said:
One of our resident female authors should write a book about Sue Chase. She seems to have been skipped over by history.
So much so that I don't know who she is.
???

Betsy
 

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No famous ancestors as far as I know.Although I haven't really looked into it much either.
Maybe I should :)
 

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My paternal grandmother was from England and she did a family tree. She was able to trace her ancestory back to Sir Walter Raleigh. The spelling was Ralegh and the i was added by his widow.
 

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I spent last summer going to libraries and court houses tracing back my family history.  At that point I was only looking for female relations along my maternal grandmother's line.  I'm working on a cross-stitch project for my daughter called Mother's Tree.  Females are hard to follow.  They didn't always keep a good record of them.  I also went to WVU's library.  They have a special room on the top floor where you can look up records.  Some of them are in storage and you can only view them in a special room with someone sitting with you.  And you can only bring a pencil and a piece of paper into the room.  They give you a locker for the rest of your belongings. 
It was very interesting.  I am going back this summer, (after students leave), and research some more just out of curiosity. 
Anyway, I don't believe any of my ancestors are famous.  At least I have discovered any so far.  But I was able to take my Mother's Tree back 8 generations to Ireland.  I even know what church she was married in. 
deb
 

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Great topic Ethan!  I think researching lineage would be fascinating, but have never started it as I think it would become an obsession.  Family legend has it that John C. Breckinridge (youngest Vice-President under James Buchannan) is a relative down DH's family line, but I have never seen any paperwork that confirms it.
 

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drenee said:
I spent last summer going to libraries and court houses tracing back my family history. At that point I was only looking for female relations along my maternal grandmother's line. I'm working on a cross-stitch project for my daughter called Mother's Tree. Females are hard to follow. They didn't always keep a good record of them. I also went to WVU's library. They have a special room on the top floor where you can look up records. Some of them are in storage and you can only view them in a special room with someone sitting with you. And you can only bring a pencil and a piece of paper into the room. They give you a locker for the rest of your belongings.
It was very interesting. I am going back this summer, (after students leave), and research some more just out of curiosity.
Anyway, I don't believe any of my ancestors are famous. At least I have discovered any so far. But I was able to take my Mother's Tree back 8 generations to Ireland. I even know what church she was married in.
deb
Yes, the women often get pushed into the shadows. It doesn't help that they changed their names when they got married and as I have discovered with my family, many of the women married several times, with multiple name changes. Trying to keep them all straight is a challenge.

My sister did her Master's thesis on Delaware Valley Signature quilts (1840-1855) and took the premise that these quilts were a way for the women to document their history, family, and friendships, from the woman's perspective.

L
 

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Outside of a paternal grandfather who was a musician with Victor Herbert's orchestra, I have no famous ancestors.  Since my lineage is full Italian, they all landed on Ellis Island in the 20th Century. 

I plan on being my family's famous ancestor, myself.  ;D
 

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crebel said:
Great topic Ethan! I think researching lineage would be fascinating, but have never started it as I think it would become an obsession. Family legend has it that John C. Breckinridge (youngest Vice-President under James Buchannan) is a relative down DH's family line, but I have never seen any paperwork that confirms it.
I went to school with a woman from the Breckinridge family. Apparently the town of Breckenridge in Summit County, Colorado is named after one of them.
 
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