Saturday, February 17, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ JOHNSON of Topsfield, Massachusetts

Help me smash this brick wall!

Stephen Johnson, my 7th great grandfather, is another brick wall ancestor.  I don’t know his birthdate, birth place or parents.  On 29 August 1734 he married Rebecca Towne, the niece one generation removed from three Towne sisters who were accused of witchcraft in 1692.  Two of those sisters were hanged: Rebecca (Towne) Nurse and Mary (Towne) Eastey.  Rebecca Towne (b. 1699/1700 in Topsfield) is the granddaughter of their brother, Edmund Towne (1628 – 1675).

This tie to the witch trials of 1692 might be a big clue.  The children and grandchildren of the witch trial victims tended to marry descendants of other victims. I have many examples of this in my family tree, which is why I am descended from so many of those families.  Why did they marry each other?  Were they ostracized from marrying other potential spouses?  Did they find common ground? I have no idea why this happened.

During the 1692 hysteria, there was a young boy, only 14 years old, who was also named Stephen Johnson. He was accused of being a witch, and arrested, along with many members of his extended family.  He was a nephew of Abigail (Dane) Faulkner (1652 – 1730), my 9th great aunt.  Because I had the Dane and Faulkner families in my family tree, I found Abigail’s sister had married a man named Stephen Johnson (father of the accused 14-year-old Stephen Johnson).  There were many Stephens in this Johnson family that lived in Andover, Massachusetts (one town away from Topsfield).  I have traced out most of them.  Did I miss a connection to the husband of Rebecca Towne?  

Their daughter, Ruth Johnson (1731 – 1800) married Richard Cree in 1756 in Topsfield.  They had a son named Stephen Cree (another STEPHEN!) who is my 5th great grandfather.  The name Johnson daughters out here. 

Is there a JOHNSON family researcher out there who knows the answer to this mystery?  Am I chasing a red herring trying to tie the two Johnson families together?

My JOHNSON genealogy:

Generation 1:  Stephen Johnson, born about 1700, died 29 August 1734 in Topsfield; married on 2 December 1730 in Topsfield to Rebecca Towne, daughter of Samuel Towne and Elizabeth Knight.  She was born 8 February 1699/1700 in Topsfield.  Two children born in Topsfield.  Rebecca remarried to her second cousin, Joshua Towne, son of Jacob Towne and Phebe Smith. 

Generation 2:  Ruth Johnson, born 30 August 1731 in Topsfield, died 29 June 1800 in Topsfield; married on 5 February 1756 in Topsfield to Richard Cree, son of Nicholas Cree and Keziah Dwinnell.  He was born 13 August 1727 in Topsfield, and died 15 April 1769 in Topsfield.  Five children born in Topsfield.

Generation 3: Stephen Cree m. Hannah Smith
Generation 4: Sarah Cree m. James Phillips
Generation 5: Hannah Phillips m. Capt. Thomas Russell Lewis
Generation 6:  Hannah Eliza Lewis m. Abijah Franklin Hitchings
Generation 7:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 8:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ JOHNSON of Topsfield, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 17, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine from my Dad, through my Mom

Although my Dad passed away in 2002, a few years ago my mother gave my sister and I a lovely gift that used to belong to him.

My Dad's wedding ring was very wide, with unusual carved edges. My mother had a jeweler take my Dad's wedding ring and cut it in half lengthwise, and he shaped it into two hearts for her daughters to wear on chains.  It was a very precious gift from my Mom, and from my Dad.  I recognized it as being from Dad's ring as soon as I saw it.

I wear this around my neck often, and especially for every Valentine's Day, and it always makes me think of my Dad.

Do you have any vintage jewelry from family or ancestors that you have "re-purposed" or "updated" for modern wear?  Leave a comment below!

My parents wedding in 1958.  Can you see the ring?


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "A Valentine from my Dad, through my Mom", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 14, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).

Weathervane Wednesday ~ A very short term weathervane

This week's weathervane is one that only appears for a few monthss in the winter in New Hampshire.  No, it's not a haunted house, nor is it an apparition from Brigadoon.  You can visit this weathervane, but do it soon before it disappears until next winter!  The photos this week were taken by a fellow New Hampshire blogger who lives nearby this mysterious weathervane.

I post another in a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed somewhere in New Hampshire.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #350?  Scroll down to find the answer.

photo by Scott Powell

photo by Scott Powell

Although this is a simple gilded, arrow weathervane, it is it's location that makes this a fun find.  Scott Powell, a blogger and former Londonderry resident, but now living near Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, took this photo during the annual ice fishing derby last week.  I recognize this ice shack, "The Lodge", from previous years, when it didn't have a weathervane.  Some of these shacks have been around for a long, long time.

Here are some photos from a previous year's ice fishing derby in Meredith Bay.  You can see that this particular ice shack is known as "The Lodge" and it didn't have a weathervane the last time we were up there for the fishing derby.  That's probably why it looks so shiny!  You have until April 1st to go up to the lake to see this weathervane, that is the date all bob houses must be removed, or before the lake thaws. 

"The Lodge" in 2010

In the photo below, the weathervane is just out of camera range.
This photo was posted online February 7, 2018 at 
Image from Bea Lewis "Thousands angling for good catches - and prizes
in Lakes Region fishing derby" , February 7, 2018

Scott Powell's blog is called the "Lake Wicwas Nature Journal".  He recently posted two stories about activities on the ice of Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee.  Scott has a lot of great photos on these blog posts. Please check it out!

"February 11, 2018 - Fishing Derby"

"February 4, 2018 - Pond Hockey" 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo and Scott Powell, "Weathervane Wednesday ~ A very short term weathervane",  Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 14, 2018,  ( accessed [access date]).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Capt. Samuel and Mary Patten, Derry, New Hampshire

This tombstone was photographed at the Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, New Hampshire.

Who died
May 17, 1843
Who died
May 19, 1852
AEt 79

Brown and Eastman

Captain Samuel Patten, son of John Patten, the immigrant, and Jane Cochran, was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1767 and died 17 May 1843 in Derry (formerly Londonderry), New Hampshire. (The father, John Patten, came from Northern Ireland around 1749/50)  Samuel Patten probably never moved his residence, the town of Londonderry split into two towns (Londonderry to the west, Derry to the east) during his lifetime.  He married Mary Bell and had six children.  Samuel and Mary’s gravestone was carved by Brown and Eastman, local stone carvers.

1. Moses, born 1796, married Emma Colvard
2. James, born 1797, married Mary Letitia Cochran
3. John, born 1798, married Lucy Nesmith
4. Eliza, born 1802, married John Crombie
5. Rebecca, born 1801, married Ninian Clark Crombie
6. Samuel, born 1809, married Julia A. Newton


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Tombstone Tuesday ~ Capt. Samuel and Mary Patten, Derry, New Hampshire", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 13, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Monday, February 12, 2018

An Update on The Meetinghouse at First Parish in Derry

This new 60 foot post was inserted
into the top of the First Parish church
tower by crane and lots of skill!
Lowering the post into position,
very carefully!
A skilled craftsman guiding
the new post into position

Exciting things have happened recently at the renovations of the Meetinghouse at First Parish in East Derry, New Hampshire.  Nearly 300 years ago Rev. James MacGregor brought his flock of Ulster Presbyterians from Northern Ireland to New England. After a cold welcome in Boston, and a rough winter in Maine, they found a home in Nutfield (now the towns of Londonderry, Derry and Windham) when they were granted land for settlement from Governor Shute of Massachusetts.  In April 1719 the first sixteen families arrived here, and on 11 April 1719 Rev. MacGregor gave his first sermon on the shore of Beaver Lake. 

This small congregation eventually built a small meetinghouse, and then second meetinghouse in 1769, which is the building still standing in East Derry. In 1822 this small meeting house was cut into two halves, and enlarged by adding a 24 foot section to the middle. A tower or steeple was added sometime later.  In 1845 a second floor was added, moving the church sanctuary upstairs, and town offices were placed downstairs.  In 1876 a bell and clock were added to the tower.  In 1884 stained glass windows were installed.

In recent years, the tower was repaired in the 1990s on the 275th anniversary of the parish.  These renovations proved to be damaging to the structure, and in 2013 -2014 a structural analysis fund that the tower needed stabilization, the roof slate needed to be removed and replaced, and other safety repairs were needed for the whole structure.  It was decided that a major renovation was needed.  In 2016 the entire building was lifted and the steeple top removed. The building sills were repaired, and a new foundation was poured.  Last year the tower base was reinforced with new beams.  In 2018 it is hoped that the tower will be finished and the steeple top returned to it’s place above the tower.

Last week, Paul Lindemann, the media contact for the Friends of The Meetinghouse at First Parish, gave me a tour of the building.  Work was going on while we there, to finish repairs on the tower base and first floor of the meetinghouse. Paul is an expert on the history of the building, and has been following the project for many years. The first three photos above, of the 60 foot new beam going into the tower, are from Paul's collection of photos of the renovation process. 

Inside the tower base, where the long
60 foot beams were lowered from the top
At some point in the past, the original
entrance to the meetinghouse was blocked by
a staircase to the tower.  This door will be
re-opened as part of the renovations, and
the staircase moved to a new location.
The tower base will become a new entry.

It was originally hoped that the entire project would be finished for the 300th anniversary of Nutfield in the year 2019.  However, many more renovation projects were discovered during the current rehabilitation of the building, which has caused a need for more fundraising for the project.   There is asbestos that needs to be removed or re-mediated.  Cracks to the plaster caused by lifting the building need repair.  The ceiling of the sanctuary needs renovation since it cracked and peeled while being unheated during the winter it was lifted.  The roof project has not been started yet.  Interior finishes such as new hallways, stairs, and an elevator to meet ADA codes have yet to be installed. All of this will take more time and money than originally planned. 

Rev. Dr. Deborah Root holds a timber peg that will be used to hold together the post and beam construction
of the First Church renovations.  For a donation, you can sign this peg and your name will become
part of the permanent structure of the First Parish Meetinghouse!  See below for details. 

Hopefully the local community, Nutfield descendants, and history buffs will support the Friends of the Meetinghouse at First Parish in their project to complete their renovations in a timely manner for the 300th anniversary in 2020.  It is expected that the project will move along enough for the bell to be rung on the anniversary of the first sermon on 11 April, and perhaps tours for the 300th anniversary celebrations even if the sanctuary interior renovations are not complete.

The MacGregor stained glass window
commemorates the first minister
of the First Parish church in 1719

The sanctuary of the First Parish awaits necessary renovations
before it can be used for worship services

When the first floor was built in 1769
pew boxes were installed in the hardwood floor.
You can see where those pew boxes used to exist.
The first floor will be renovated for community
use, which harkens back to the days when it
was used as the town hall or meetinghouse. 

Paul Lindemann, my tour guide, shows the rail from the rotting steeple,
and a piece of wainscotting from the first floor meeting room.
The window behind him used to serve as the East Derry post office.

Paul explained to me how this first floor area used to be the town hall,
and will become community space again after the renovations.

Important links:

Friends of the Meetinghouse at First Parish 501(c ) (3) : 

              Timber Peg Donations:   

Paul Lindemann’s blog  “Nutfield History”  

                Paul’s recent detailed blog post on the tower rehab project:

My previous blog posts about the renovation process at First Parish:
Sept. 17, 2015

Thank you to Paul Lindemann for the excellent tour of the meetinghouse, and for the first three photos at the top of this blog post (of the new beam being installed into the meetinghouse tower).


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “An Update on The Meetinghouse at First Parish in Derry”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 12, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ LEWIS of Salem, Massachusetts

Gloucester Fisherman's Wife Memorial

My 4th great grandfather, Thomas Lewis, is named as the father of Frederick Augustus Lewis on his 1850 death record, and on Thomas Russell Lewis’s marriage record in 1852.   Frederick Augustus and Thomas Russell were the twin sons of Thomas Lewis. I don’t know my 4th great grandfather’s origins at all.

With this information from the son’s vital records, and their father’s name, I was able to find a death announcement in the Salem Gazette, 24 August 1824, page 3 for “Mr. Thomas Lewis, aged 54”.  There is no corresponding death record in the vital records.  Is this their father?  The birth record for both boys appears in the compiled book of Salem Vital Records with only their mother listed (no father’s name) baptized on 26 June 1825 at the Howard Street or Branch Church in Salem, Massachusetts.  Were the twin babies born posthumously?

In his probate records, Thomas Lewis is described as a ropemaker of Salem.

To throw a monkey wrench into the mix, I don’t know the full name of the mother of these twin boys.  She is listed as “Amelia” in their baptism records.  I cannot find a marriage between a Thomas Lewis and an Amelia in any Massachusetts records.  “Amelia Lewis” remarried again in 1827 to Thomas Johnson in Salem, and then “Amelia Johnson” remarried again in 1843 to John Adams in Topsfield.    John and Amelia Adams were listed in the Wayland, Massachusetts 1860 Federal Census Mortality Schedule as “paupers”.   Such a sad life for my 4th great grandmother, Amelia!

I descend from Capt. Thomas Russell Lewis (1825 – 1853), my 3rd great grandfather.  He married young to Hannah Phillips, my 3rd great grandmother, in 1841, and had three children.  She died in 1851, and he remarried quickly to Lydia Pickering in 1852, probably so his very young children had a stepmother to care for them.  However, two years later, in 1853, Capt. Thomas Russell Lewis died in Surinam, in the West Indies.   The newspaper Salem Register on 6 October 1853, page 2 reads “Mortuary Notice: At Surinam, August 22, of erysipelas, Capt. Thomas R. Lewis of this city, master of the brig Gazelle.”  (Erysipelas is a strep infection of the skin).

Upon Capt. Lewis’s death, the probate record states that Lydia, the step mother, went to court and stated that “She has three small children, & has no means of support for herself & them, that the whole of the estate of said Thomas amounts only to the sum of $120 or appraisal…”  Another generation, another sad story!

My 2nd great grandmother, Hannah Eliza Lewis (about 1844 – 1921), was only seven years old when her mother died, and only nine years old when her father died at sea.  Her stepmother remarried to John Bradbury Hardy of Lynn, Massachusetts.  I don’t know where little Hannah was raised, with her stepmother or some other relatives?  I couldn’t find any guardianship court records.

In 1864 Hannah married my 2nd great grandfather, Abijah Franklin Hitchings.  He was known as “Frank” or “Dada” Hitchings by my grandmother.  Frank was a veteran of the Civil War, and had been injured at the Battle of Fredricksburg.  His leg injury bothered him for the rest of his life, as his pension papers show many, many medical reports from the “Old Soldiers Hospital” in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Frank had been a sail maker before the war, but after the war he became the Deputy Collector of Customs at the Salem Custom House.  He held this job until his death in 1910.  

Hannah outlived Frank by another eleven years, but she was not well.  She received a Civil War widow’s pension, but in those documents I found many, many letters from her son, Arthur, my great grandfather, who described that she was suffering from dementia and had been committed to the Asylum at Danvers. His letters begged for a raise in her widow’s benefits to cover her care.  Hannah died in the Asylum at Danvers in 1921, and she is buried in the Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem in the large plot owned by her father, Capt. Lewis, where many Lewis, Hitchings and other relatives are buried. A third generation, and a third sad story!

Some LEWIS resources:

Salem Vital Records,  Essex County Probate Records, Salem Gazette newspapers via GenealogyBank online database, Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem archives, US Federal Census records, and Civil War pensions documents.  This LEWIS family does not appear to in any compiled genealogy or journal articles. 

My LEWIS genealogy:

Generation 1:  Thomas Lewis, born about 1770, died 31 August 1824 in Salem, Massachusetts; married  to Amelia Unknown.  She was born about 1790 probably in Stoughton, Massachusetts, and died 22 April 1860 in Wayland, Massachusetts.  Two twin sons.

Generation 2:  Captain Thomas Russell Lewis, baptized 26 June 1825 in Salem, died 22 August 1853 in Surinam, West Indies; married on 4 March 1841 in Salem to Hannah Phillips, daughter of James Phillips and Sarah Cree.  She was born about 1821 in Topsfield, Massachusetts and died 17 October 1851 in Salem. Three children.

Generation 3:  Hannah Eliza Lewis, born about 1844 in Salem, died 15 February 1921 in at the Danvers State Hospital, Danvers, Massachusetts; married on 22 September 1864 in Salem to Abijah Franklin Hitchings.  He was the son of Abijah Hitchings and Eliza Ann Treadwell, born 28 October 1841 in Salem, died 19 May 1910 in Salem.  Two children.

Generation 4:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 5:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)

NOTE:  I have written another Surname Saturday blog post on another LEWIS family, showing my descent from another Thomas Lewis, who lived in Maine in the 17th century:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ LEWIS of Salem, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 10, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

In the Footsteps of the Ancestors ~ A visit to Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Grote Kerk, Dordrecht, Netherlands

Part 3 of 3

My 3rd great grandfather, Peter Hoogerzeil (1803 – 1889) stated on documents in Massachusetts that he was from “Dort” in the Netherlands.  I never found a city or village named Dort on any map.  I started to research his story in the 1970s, but it was until the 1990s, when I started using the internet for my genealogy, that I solved this little mystery. On a bulletin board for Dutch genealogy I asked about “Dort” and someone told me that this was the nickname for the city of Dordrecht in South Holland.  Solving this mystery led to my finding six generations of Peter Hoogerzeil’s ancestors!

A list of HOOGERZEIL births in the Beverly, Massachusetts Vital Records
Note the "Dort" for Peter Hoogerzeil's place of birth.  Also note all the different
versions of spelling for the Dutch surname HOOGERZEIL! 

I recently blogged about my trip to the Netherlands, and my distant Hogerzeil cousin who led me on a tour of my ancestral origins.  Visiting Dordrecht was a highlight of this trip, because it was the place where my immigrant ancestor was born.  Sometime in the 1820s Peter Hoogerzeil, who was a mariner descended from many generations of whaling sea captains, stowed away in a ship that left Rotterdam, nearby Dordrecht.  This ship was full of hemp from Indonesia, bound for the ropewalk in Salem, Massachusetts.  Peter settled in Beverly, across the harbor from Salem, where he married and left many descendants.  I was born in Beverly, and grew up not far from where he lived on Bartlett Street.

Dordrecht is one of the oldest cities in Holland, and it was built on several rivers that drain into the Rhine.  At one time Dordrecht was considered to be more important than Rotterdam, but that changed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  I’m guessing that at the time Peter left Dordrecht, it was an important commercial port, which made it easy for him to take the chance at running away to America. 

My distant cousin, Hans Hogerzeil, and Erik Kon, met us in Leiden and brought us to Dordrecht, where our first stop was the part of the harbor called “Kalkhaven” (chalk harbor), where Simon Hoogerzeijl (1743- 1802) lived when he removed from Nieuwpoort.   This little harbor can be seen in this map from 1868 (below).  We also visited the outside of the Grote Kerk (“The Great Church”) where many Hogerzeil ancestors were married, buried or baptized.  It was a Monday on the day of our visit, which is a day many buildings, stores and museums are closed in the Netherlands, so we never saw the inside of this church. 

Kalkhaven "Chalk Harbor", in Dordrecht, the Netherlands
Grote Kerk, the Great Church at Dordrecht

We also took a walk through the medieval center of Dordrecht, and saw the city hall, and the city archive (closed!).  When we return to visit Holland again, we will be sure it won’t be a Monday!

Dordrecht City Hall

We were comparing Hoogerzeil genealogy notes at a Dordrecht cafe!

The streets were a maze, but we had a good tour guide!

The Dordrecht Museum and archive is in this building

Part 1 of this series, where I visit the village Krimpen aan de Lek:   

Part 2 of this series, where I visit the tiny town of Nieuwpoort: 


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “In the Footsteps of the Ancestors ~ A visit to Dordrecht, The Netherlands", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 8, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Weathervane Wednesday ~ A Unitarian Church

I post another in a series of weather vane photographs every Wednesday.  This started with images of weathervanes from the Londonderry, New Hampshire area, but now I've found interesting weather vanes all across New England and across the globe.  Sometimes my weather vanes are whimsical, or historical, but all are interesting.  Often my readers tip me off to some very unique or unusual weathervanes, too!  If you know a great weather vane near you, let me know if you'd like to have it featured on this blog.

Today's weather vane was photographed in New Hampshire.

Do you know the location of weathervane post #349?  Scroll down to find the answer.

This banner style weathervane has a cut out of the "flaming chalice" symbol.  It is located on the Unitarian Church in Walpole, New Hampshire.  The steeple on this church was recently renovated, according to the church website.  This congregation was gathered in 1761. This building dates from about 1922 when the previous church collapsed under a large snow load after a blizzard on 19 February 1920.

This church has the flaming chalice on their weathervane and their sign out in front of their building.  This is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition.  This symbol for the Unitarians was adopted around the time of World War II.  Although this banner style weathervane looks old, I think that the weathervane might not date back to the 1920s when the church was rebuilt, but it might be newer than that.

Walpole Unitarian Church website:

Click here to see the entire collection of Weathervane Wednesday posts!


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Weathervane Wednesday ~ A Unitarian Church", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 7, 2018, ( accessed [access date]).