14 November 2011

Introducing My Brick Wall - Molly Pegan

I am an enrolled member of a state-recognized tribe, the Nipmuc Nation, also known as the Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians. We have a reservation in Grafton, MA that has been occupied by our people since long before recorded time.
(See http://nipmucmuseum.org/blog/2011/11/10/hassanamisco-reservation-on-the-national-register-of-historic-places/). Many members of my community have tried to unravel the mystery of Molly Pegan/Piggen Pollock Woodland (abt. 1753 to after 1841) but none have succeeded, yet.

Here are the known facts about Molly Pegan:
  1. Molly was the mother of Nancy Pollock Curliss and grandmother of Mary Curliss Vickers.[1]
  2. Molly was 84 years old in 1837 when she filed a claim for a widow's pension placing her date of birth about 1753.[2]
  3. Molly was raised in Killingly, CT by Rev. Aaron Brown.[3]
  4. Pegan is a surname commonly attributed to Nipmuc Indians in Natick, MA and Webster/Dudley, MA.[4]
  5. Granddaughter Mary Curliss Vickers identified grandmother, Molly, as a Dudley Indian.[5]
  6. Molly married twice – when she was 19 to Mingo Pollock and, after Mingo's death in 1798, she married Jacob Woodland.[6]
  7. Molly was the mother of four children – Nancy, Diana, Hannah and Pero.[7]
  8. Molly was living with Christopher Curliss/Corlis, husband of daughter, Nancy, in 1841 in Thompson, CT.[8]
Here’s what I think:

Molly was the daughter of Thomas Pegan, a proprietor in the Indian towns of Natick and Dudley. This speculation is based on Thomas' age and that he once resided in Killingly, CT. Also, the practice of removing Indian children from their homes and placing them in English households to be raised "properly" was common in colonial Massachusetts. It is uncertain if this was also practiced in neighboring NE Connecticut.

My main questions about Molly are:
  1. Who were Molly's parents?
  2. Why was she "raised" by Rev. Brown?
  3. Where was Molly born?
  4. Where and when did she die?
  5. Is Molly one of the Nipmuc Pegan Indians?
  6. Did she have siblings? If so, were they also raised by English families?
These records were searched:
Massachusetts Bay Indian Guardianship Records – Massachusetts Archives
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Indian Guardianship Records – Mass Archives
John Milton Earle Papers – American Antiquarian Society
Natick, MA Vital Records – Massachusetts Archives, Natick Town Hall
Dudley, MA Vital Records – Massachusetts Archives, Dudley Town Hall
Killingly, CT Vital Records – Connecticut State Library, Killingly Town Hall
Killingly, CT Town Records – Killingly Historical and Genealogical Society
Revolutionary War Pension Files
Census Records
Massachusetts Vital Records

These records need to be searched (or so I believe):
Early Connecticut Records (state and colony level) – Connecticut State Library
Rhode Island Vital Records – Worcester Public Librar
Probate and Court Records in Windham County, CT
Vital and Town Records in towns surrounding Killingly (in Windham County).

My Plan was/is:
  1. Begin with Killingly Town records. Extend investigation to Rev. Aaron Brown and his family/congregation.
  2. Search again through CT vital records for Killingly, Thompson and surrounding towns and Natick and Dudley, MA at both state and local levels.
  3. Investigate state/colony records for Connecticut and Windham County. Focus search on Indian/colored indentures and custody of Indian children.
  4. Research Mingo Pollock and Jacob Woodland – their origins, families, and neighbors.
  5. Research Thomas Pegan and other Pegans that may be related to Molly in central MA, NE CT and NW RI.
What do YOU think? How can I break this brick wall?

[1] H. Capron letter, 20 October 1859; letter to John Milton Earle, Commissioner to the Indians, Commonwealth of
Massachusetts; Earle, John Milton, Papers, 1652-1863, Mss. Dept., Mss. Boxes “E”, Octavo Vols. “E”, American
Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.
[2] Deposition of Claimant, 27 May 1837, Molly Woodland, widow's pension application no. W 17469; service of Mingo
Pollock (Pvt., Captain Stephen Crosby's Co., Connecticut, Revolutionary War); Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land
Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 - ca. 1912, documenting the period ca.
1775 - ca. 1900; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; NARA M804; Record Group
15; National Archives, Washington, DC.
[3] Deposition of Sarah Warren, 12 March 1838, Molly Woodland, widow's pension application no. W 17469; NARA
M804; RC 15, National Archives, Washington, DC.
[4] Daniel R. Mandell, Behind the Frontier: Indians in 18th Century Eastern Massachusetts (Lincoln, NE: University of
Nebraska Press, 1996), 84.
[5] H. Capron letter to John Milton Earle, 28 October 1859; John Milton Earle Papers, AAS, Worcester, MA.
[6] Deposition of Claimant, Molly Woodland, widow's pension application no. W 17469; NARA M804; RC 15, National
Archives, Washington, DC.
[7] H. Capron letter to John Milton Earle, 28 October 1859; John Milton Earle Papers, AAS, Worcester, MA.
[8] Bureau of the Census, 1840 Census of Pensioners Revolutionary or Military Services (Washington: Blair and Rives,
1841) 58.

11 November 2011

Veterans Day

The day before yesterday I lied. I wrote that my next post would be about my 6th great-grandmother, Molly Pegan. I changed my mind. This post is a tribute to my Veteran relations.

I am a warrior - descended from generations of warriors. My brother Carl recently retired from a career in the Navy and my brother AB will retire from the Air Force in a couple of years. My step-father, Alfred Bruce Shepard (6 August 1939-23 January 1988) was a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, although he never served in Vietnam. His father, Peter Shepard (14 August 1910-16 February 1967) served in both World War II and Korea.

My maternal grandfather, Leonard Homer Hazzard (26 June 1916-11 April 1998) and my paternal grandfather, Walter Andrew Bostic (30 September 1919-27 December 1999) both served in the armed forces during World War II. Several great-uncles and cousins also served during WWII.

Albert, Frank, and Fred Toney - November 1943

WWII Enlistment Record of Leonard Hazzard

Undated photo of Walter Bostic in uniform

As far as I know, my relations did not serve in WWI but plenty - from Vermont to Connecticut - served in the Civil War. I have two Revolutionary War ancestors, Mingo Pollock, a free black man from Thompson,CT and Thomas Pegan, a Nipmuc from Dudley, MA and Killingly, CT.

I am certain that many relations fought in Metacom's Rebellion in 1675 (also known as King Philip's War) and I take special pride in believing that my ancestors burned down the English settlement in Worcester, MA, not once but twice.

Thanks for reading. Next time we'll explore my brick wall, Molly Pegan.

10 November 2011

this post shalt be nameless

I have a confession. I haven't written creatively or created a single piece of art since someone close to me passed on nearly a year ago. I still go to work everyday, write the things I have to write and do the things I have to do. I've kinda sorta maintained my other blog - Unnai. But that's work-related, anything for fun or personal fulfillment has been left by the side of the road - untouched and unappreciated. Which brings me to this much neglected blog. My children tell me that I can't lie on the couch forever. I hear my ancestors calling for me to get up and get on with it. And so I shall - hopefully. Talk with you soon about my neglected ancestors. First up will be Molly Pegan Pollock Woodland, born about 1754. Kuttabotomish, Cher

21 April 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

I had a surprise awaiting me when I arrived home from my so very lovely vacation. Cheri Daniels of Journeys Past and my fellow-ProGen-er Bruce Hillman of The Hillmans of Elgin County awarded me the "One Lovely Blog" Award. Thank you both so much! To accept this award, I must obey the official rules - but I must warn you, many of the blogs I read are not about genealogy!

The official rules are as follows:
1. Acknowledge receipt by posting on your blog.
2. Nominate 15 other blogs that you think are lovely.
3. Email each person that they have been nominated.

Here go my 15 nominations!

Marian Pierre-Louis of Marian's Roots and Rambles
Jo Arnspiger of Those Who Went Before!
Amanda Perrine of Amanda's Athenaeum
Angela Y. Walton-Raji of My Ancestor's Name
Robyn at Reclaiming Kin
Sandra Taliaferro at I Never Knew My Father
Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist
Carol Tice at Make a Living Writing
Kristin Cleage from My Cleages and Reeds
Kristin Cleage at Finding Eliza
Kathleen Brandt of a3Genealogy
Bead Art Originals at Bead Art Originals
Robin Foster at Saving Stories
Hassanamisco Indian Museum at Unnai
DearMYRTLE at Genea-Quilters

Thank you again to Cheri and Bruce for the lovely award!

31 March 2011

Breaking Down Brickwalls in African-American Research

Lucie Lewis, Ed.D. will present part 2 of her great-grandmother’s story in The Next Steps: Breaking through Brickwalls: the Florence Virginia Jenkins Story Continues at the 11th New England Regional Genealogical Conference. The conference, held every other spring, will be from April 6th to the 10th in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A Passion for Family History

Some have heard or read the story about how Lucie became interested in genealogy. It all began with helping her then 4th-grader with his family tree for a school report. Many a genealogist got their start in that same way. But what was it about her child’s report that unleashed the inner genealogist in Lucie? It was the realization that she herself knew so little. Raised in an extremely private family that discouraged talk about past things, she denied her own feelings about wanting to know her roots. Participation in her son’s project “flamed the passions” for seeking out her family history. Lucie’s enthusiasm spread through her extended family enabling others to begin their own research. Genealogy is now a family activity and “thrilling” for Lucie to see.

Freelance Writer, Educator, Motivator, and, of course, Genealogist

Before genealogy, Lucie worked in a variety of fields including banking, economic development, and higher education. In 2009, Lucie launched Creative Futures LLC. As a principal in the company, she offers professional writing services to a variety of clients. She also authors the blog Transitioning With GraceLucie explains that her blog is the vehicle she uses to allow her to work through the circumstances of her life. Through the blog, she shares her thoughts and pathways as a help to others who may be experiencing similar issues. Lucie also provides content for a number of online markets and is a member of the Society for Technical Communication. This is her second presentation at NERGC – returning because of a promise made to her audience two years ago to return with more of Florence’s story.

African-American Research

In our interview, Lucie remarked on some of the challenges involved researching our African- American ancestors. A major stumbling block for many family historians is researching past the year 1870. Slave research becomes a complicated mix of knowing the area where your ancestors likely lived, who their owners may have been, and what records are available. Researching beyond 1870 requires a learned understanding of patterns and cultures that are not present in other American groups. Other obstacles in researching African-American ancestors are the secret, untold stories that many families have. Elders may withhold vital information to protect past family secrets or create family legends and stories to divert the truth. According to Lucie, there are times when you don’t understand why you can’t go any further in your research only to find that you’ve been going the wrong way all along. Had the truth been known from the onset, your research may have followed a different path.

Breaking Down Those Walls

Lucie’s best advice for breaking through your own brick walls? “Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged!” While admitting that she hates “when the records win”, she also cautions researchers that, as hard as it is to accept, sometimes the records don’t exist. Some things may never be found. There aren’t always readily available answers and some brick walls may seem immoveable. But in the end, your need for the story will keep you looking. Lucie also encourages others to continue to educate themselves by attending conferences and other programs. Listening to and learning from other researcher’s may shine a light of understanding on your own research.

18 March 2011

Interview With Sherry Gould

Will you be at the 11th New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Springfield, Massachusetts come April? Sherry Gould will be. Sherry will co-present “Discovering Your Native American Roots in Northern New England” with Paul Bunnell. I spoke with Sherry recently about the conference, Native American research, and, of course, the pursuit of ancestors.

Dedication to Community

Sherry's passion for sharing her skills, knowledge and resources with others was apparent throughout our conversation. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Wijokadoak Inc, an agency that focuses on Abenaki language instruction, child welfare, and other Native issues in New Hampshire. Sherry and her husband Bill are Abenaki basket makers. Together they run Western Abenaki Baskets, creating and selling traditional Abenaki fancy and utilitarian baskets. Adding to this busy schedule are the Native American genealogy research programs Sherry conducts throughout New Hampshire. She also invites family historians interested in pursuing their Native American roots to weekly workshops and instruction in her home.

Alternative Sources

Sherry has a varied expertise in genealogy. Besides her focus on Native American genealogy, she is a genealogist for the New Hampshire Society of Colonial Dames verifying early colonial families and lineages. She has also written more than a dozen articles for the New England Genealogical and Historical Society on New Hampshire research. These articles can be found on the Society’s website at www.americanancestors.org.

I asked Sherry about the differences and similarities between colonial and Native ancestral research. She replied that while there are many similarities in records research between the two cultures, the methodology involved in Native American research can be unique. She stresses the involvement of oral history in tracking down Northern New England Native ancestries. Because of the history between the indigenous peoples of New England and the European colonists and the associated traumas, written records for colonial era Native Americans are not always clear in matters of race. Alternative sources can sometimes best answer Native research questions. What sorts of alternative sources may be answered during her conference presentation!

Be Tenacious

Sherry’s advice for family historians searching for Native American ancestors?  Don’t get discouraged! Expect twists and turns in following the paths of your ancestors. Be creative when considering alternative sources for traditional records. Be persistent, be tenacious, be thick-skinned, and, especially, keep looking.

8lsanten ak8oi (Make Peace),


08 March 2011

Family History Writing Challenge Aftermath

The challenge is over but I did want to update both of my readers on how I did during the month. While it was my pleasure to write about the life and experiences of my great-grandmother, Nellie Louisa Scott Toney, I did not meet my goal. Twice I stopped to do additional research and there were a few days when I just didn’t get the chance to write anything.

Newspaper clipping from November 1943 showing Grama Nellie’s sons, Albert and Frank Toney, and her grandson, Frederick Toney. The boys were home on leave for Edwin Toney’s funeral.

One of the things I discovered during this process that amazed me was that I hadn’t paid close attention to the “facts” that I collected about Grama Nellie. For instance, in my “Toney” notebook, I clearly list all of her children with their birthdates and dates of death. I’ve had this information in the notebook for literal years. Yet, while writing about her childbearing years, I discovered (to my shame) that I never noticed that 1926 was a significant year for her, full of both joy and heartbreak.

Her youngest son, Edward Manuel, was born in January 1926, twenty-one years after the birth of her eldest child, Cora. But in April of that same year, her two-year old daughter, Ethel, died of complications of tuberculosis. And if that was not tragic enough, just three months later, in July, her 12-year old, Esther, also passed away from tuberculosis.

How did she do it? I can’t imagine the strength to endure such tragedy while caring for a newborn. I do know that portraits in large oval frames of Esther and Ethel hung on the wall in Grama Nellie’s house until she passed. One hangs in my mother’s house now although no one knows if its Ethel or Esther. According to my mother, the other portrait disappeared when my great-uncle Eddie claimed the frame it resided in. None of Grama Nellie’s other children had such portraits.

Grama Nellie’s husband and six of her ten children predeceased her. That she endured to care for subsequent generations of Toneys, including myself, is a testament to her strength, her love, and her beauty. I will finish her story. I want others to know just how magnificent she was.

14 February 2011

Still Writing about Nellie

Today is Day 14 of the Family History Writing Challenge posed by The Armchair Genealogist. The month is half over and my progress in writing the life story of my Grama Nellie (below) has been fair. While I am not writing everyday, I am trying to make up for that on other days.grama nellieI am, of course, finding that the more I write, the more I don’t know. My "notes for further research” is getting quite long.
While the writing is centered on Nellie Louisa Scott Toney, much of her life story intertwines with her family. All but her uncle, Charles Scott (the first African-American council member in Worcester, Massachusetts), appear quite ordinary – until you get to know them. Grama Nellie’s paternal side were land owners and farmers in Vermont until they pulled up roots in the mid-to-late 1800s and moved (along with nearly every other person of color in Vermont) to Massachusetts. What precipitated this move en masse you ask? Stay tuned to find out!
Grama Nellie’s maternal grandparents were born into slavery in Virginia and emigrated to New England (yes, I think that New England is a separate country) with a Methodist missionary group. Which may explain why some years later Grama Nellie founded – with her husband- a Methodist church in Worcester.

8lsanten ak8oi (Make Peace),

04 February 2011

The 28-day Family History Writing Challenge

The Armchair Genealogist has issued the challenge – and I have answered it, I think. This challenge encourages genealogists and family historians to stop procrastinating and start writing.

My subject will be my great-great grandfather, William James Scott. He has been pretty elusive. While I knew his daughter, my great-grandmother, Nellie Louisa Scott Toney, I don’t recall her ever talking about her father. Grama Nellie died during my freshman year in college and I wish almost daily that I had asked her about her family.

I change my mind. I will write about Grama Nellie. Of course, William will be included as well. But I think if I am to take this challenge seriously, then I should write about someone I truly loved and respected. A woman who gave love to her family and always stood strong for them.

Here are a few facts from her life:

  • Nellie Louisa Scott was born in Worcester, MA on 19 September 1887
  • Her parents were William James Scott and Hannah E. (Scott) Scott
  • Her mother died 4 November 1896 when she was nine years old.
  • She had 4 brothers, three from her mom and one from her step-mom.
  • She married Edwin Alexander Toney on 5 April 1905.
  • She lived in Worcester her entire life.
  • She had ten children.
  • She passed on 25 March 1981.

Please follow along while I write about this beloved woman. Or don’t. I will write on anyway.

8lsanten ak8oi (Make Peace),


Looking for Your Native American Ancestry in Massachusetts? Aquinnah (Gayhead) Wampanoag

Until 1869, Massachusetts Indians were wards of the state, not subject to taxation and disenfranchised. The Enfranchisement Act of 1869 changed that – not only did the law make citizens of the Commonwealth’s Native population, it also opened up communal lands held by Natives for sale to non-Indians. Committees were formed to investigate Indian lands that might be subject to sale. One such investigation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard included a detailed census of the island’s Wampanoag residents.

In 1866, the legislature appointed a Commission to “complete the examination and determination of all questions of title to land, and of all boundary lines between the individual owners, at Gay Head, on the Island of Martha's Vineyard.” The “questions of title to land, and of all boundary lines” was a sore point with the Massachusetts government due to the Aquinnah’s unique method of distributing land to their tribal members.

When an Aquinnah came of age, he would fence off land from the common area for his own use. The size of the area did not matter – it could be 1 acre or 5 acres or ten. The amount depended on what the member felt he needed. Several legislative reports from the colonial period on remarked on the method of dispersal and claimed that it could not continue.indefinitely.

This 1866 report (published in 1870) not only defined boundaries between privately held Gayhead lands and common areas but included a census of all members of the tribe whether on the island or living elsewhere. The details included in the census is a genealogical goldmine of information. The screenshots below demonstrate the two page chart system.


Page 1 gives the assigned number of the member, name, sex, when born, where born, residence, condition (married, widowed, etc.), and occupation.
Page 2 lists the assigned number, when married, parents, parents’ residence, father’s birthplace, mother’s birthplace, father’s occupation.
This entire report can be found online at the State Library of Massachusetts at http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/handle/2452/48290

8lsanten ak8oi (Make Peace),