Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Putting History in My Family History

Wow! I am sitting here going cross-eyed from working on census. I've been at it for a few days and already looking for something to give me a little break. I've culled just about everything I can from the Old Fulton Postcards site in the way of obituaries, wills, marriage notices, and crime reports. I've searched with some success for birth, marriage, death and burial records. I couldn't avoid the census any longer, but four days of working on it is enough for a while.

While searching for county histories for some of the people I found on census, I came across The Hamlin Family: A Genealogy of James Hamlin of Barnstable Massachusetts. Since my Percival family established itself on Cape Cod about 1670-ish, I knew this would be worth a peek.  This is not the first time I've seen the book, having seen a hard copy years ago, but I now know so much more about the family, a second look was called for.

The couple I was interested in was Jabez Howland and Elizabeth Percival - Elizabeth was a granddaughter of James Percival and Mary Rainsford, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Yeah, that is eight greats there! I had birth years for the children of Jabez & Elizabeth Percival Howland, but this book actually had birthdates. And some spouses. And mentioned that their son Jabez Howland was killed in the French war.

I had a vague idea the reference was to the French and Indian War which was not fought between the indians and the French but pitted the French and Indians against the English. Like in the movie The Last of  the Mohicans. A visit to Wikipedia told me this war was fought between 1754 and 1763, I have a nine year time frame for someone's death. That's almost as bad as finding out someone died between the 1880 and 1900 census!

I keep plugging, (literally searching while I write this) doing Google searches and find this: Rolls of Connecticut men in the French and Indian War, 1755-1762, Volume 2 by the Connecticut Historical Society. Listed is Lieutenant Jabez Howland, who enlisted March 27, 1758 and was killed near Lake Champlain on July 6th. Unfortunately it doesn't tell me which state or country he was killed. I think this is probably him, will have to see if I can find any siblings in Connecticut. While I find it interesting, that is as far as I will pursue this. I want the history, which I accomplished and which will add some color.

Years ago, I discovered some Graves relatives who fought in the War of 1812, one of whom was killed outright at the Battle of the River Raisin (Frenchtown) and the other who was captured by the indians and never seen alive again. Does that mean his body was found later? This was interesting to me because I was born and raised about an hour from there. My dad and I had talked about going there for years to see what there was to see at Frenchtown, now known as Monroe, but we never did. I think I was the only one of my dad's kids who really liked going to battlefields and cemeteries with him. Finally hubby and I made the trip there. It was interesting, yet really disappointing as most of the battlefield has disappeared into the surrounding landscape and neighborhoods. But it put that particular battle into perspective for me.

Some years ago, I found a reference to my ancestor John Stearns Percival, a book called The Division. Defending Little Rock Aug. 25-Sept. 10 1863 by Timothy Wayne Burford & Stephanie Gail McBride. John Percival led two companies into a hollow near a bridge at Bayou Meto to lay down sniper fire. He was killed by the blast of a shell.

In emails exchanged with the author, trying in vain to find a burial place for him, I was told that most of the Confederate dead were left where they fell and never buried. I sure hope his wife never learned this. It certainly disturbed me. Again, it added history to the bare fact that he did not return from war to his wife and two children.

Don't be afraid to do a little research on the side when you find an interesting tidbit. It can add some interest to your family narrative and educate you at the same time!

Copyright 2010, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. Your Michigan cousinFebruary 4, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Anne-I am in awe of you. Your blog is great and I am really enjoying it.