Morristown: Revisited

I have a soft spot in my heart for Morristown, New Jersey. It’s the hometown of my DAR Patriot, Jeremiah Gard. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this little town several times, but I distinctly remember my first time there.

I had just begun to work at the Big Airline, and one of my very first layovers was in Morristown. I loved it. I simply walked around slack-jawed, amazed at the town green surrounded by lovely stone churches with ivy-covered bell towers. I walked into a little diner, and it was just like the set of “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. (Well, not mine.) Every time the door opened, it was “Hey, Bud! How’s the wife?” Or, “‘Morning, Joe. The usual?” It was like nothing this West Coast gal had ever seen.

I called my husband to tell him that I wanted to move to Morristown.

I just felt a kinship with the place. I had more layovers there over the years, enjoying each one, until the Big Airline closed its Newark hub, and the layovers petered out.

In 2016, I made a resolution to fulfill my Nanna’s wish and join the DAR. I remember the day when researching my Gard ancestors that I discovered that Jeremiah Gard (my DAR patriot) and his family had not only lived in Morristown, but they were some of the first settlers there. I got goosebumps, and all plans for making dinner went out the window as I dug deeper.

Those churches with the tall bell towers? The Gards worshiped in one of them.

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The cemetery behind the church? There are ancestors buried there.

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The town green? My family walked there.

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There’s a theory in genealogy called genetic memory. It’s the idea that memories become part of a person’s genome (DNA) and can be passed on just like eye color or height. It’s one explanation for savants, i.e. people who have the sudden ability to speak a foreign language or the immediate mastery of calculus or a musical instrument.

I’m not saying that I believe this theory; it’s just interesting to ponder. I do know that there are many, many stories of serendipity and amazing coincidences in genealogy. Enough that at least three books have been written about them: Psychic Roots and More Psychic Roots, by Henry Z. Jones, Jr., and In search of Our Ancestors, by Megan Smolenyak.

I’m not claiming that my immediate connection with Morristown was genetic memory, but there was a definite, deep attraction.

Last June, I finally had another layover in Morristown, the first since I made this discovery about my roots there. After a delicious gluten-free breakfast of waffles to power up, I wandered the town a bit, eventually ending up at the local public library. I was delighted to discover that there is an entire genealogy section on the bottom floor. I was in heaven.

I spoke with the librarian on duty, and she quickly disappeared, only to reappear with huge map plats of the town and an entire vertical file on the Gard family. I quickly dug into the pile.

I only had about two hours until I had to get ready to go work, and those hours flew by too fast. I quickly snapped photos of letters and notes to read more thoroughly once I got home.

I think I might have even found some proof of the identity of  Jeremiah’s father. It will need further study, but, now I know where to look.

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Until next time!



Guess Who’s Going to RootsTech 2018?


But, wait; there’s more.

Guess who won a FREE 4-day pass to RootsTech 2018?

Yup. Me!

Just how did this happen, you may be asking. Let me explain.

I follow a blog called Family Locket. It’s written by a mother-daughter team of family historians. Their site has an emphasis on making family stories relevant and fun for children, something near and dear to my heart.

Nicole, the daughter in the team, was a speaker at RootsTech 2017. You can find out about her class on getting kids involved in genealogy here. Go take a look! There’s lots of information and fun projects for kids of all ages!

Nicole and Diana (the mom of the duo) ran a give-a-way for a RootsTech pass. I entered, and I won!

I’m very excited! I’ve never been, and I’m really looking forward to going. I hope to learn some new skills and information, meet up with bloggers I follow, and make some new connections.

See you there, Nicole and Diana! And, thank you!

These are my people…

Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet, the first French colonists to New France (Canada) are my 10x great-grandparents. This year, 2017, marks the 400th anniversary of their family’s arrival in the New World. And, on the site of the home they built there, a new exhibition featuring them just opened up at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone, in what is now modern-day Québec City.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The exhibition only runs until October 29, 2017, so I’d better get a move on if I intend to see it before it closes.

Louis and Marie are related to me through my Nana Keene, my father’s mother, a tiny, 100- pound bundle of pure French Canadian fierceness. You might remember her from this photo:


I know this connection only through the amazing work of my cousin, Peter, whose grandfather, Eli, was my grandmother’s brother. In other words, we share the same great-grandparents, Osias Bergeron and Marie-Amelia Gaumond, making us second cousins.


I never knew these great-grandparents, but looking at the photo, and their happy faces, I think I sure missed out, don’t you?

Peter researched through an astounding number of records, in French mind you, to document each generation back to Louis and Marie. (And, that’s just the work he did on one line!) Then, he unselfishly shared it with our family. I must confess that I didn’t truly appreciate his astounding work until I began to do research, too.

Here’s the line, from Louis and Marie to me:

Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet,

their son, Jean-Guillaume Hébert,

his daughter, Marie-Françoise Hébert Fournier,

her son, Simon Fournier,

his son, Simon-Philippe Fournier,

his daughter, Brigette Fournier Buteau,

her son, Basile Buteau,

his daughter, Marguerite Buteau Mercier,

her daughter, Agnes Mercier Gaumond,

her daughter, Marie-Amelia Gaumond Bergeron

her daughter, Perpetue Bergeron Keene,

her son, my father, Charles Lawrence Keene,

and finally, 12 generations later,

                      me, Barbara Keene Garrett.

If I make it to the exhibit, I’ll be sure to report back!


My Norwegian Cousin, Oddleif

I love my Norwegian relatives. I’ve now met two in person, Siri and Oddleif. (Five if I count Oddleif’s children, who are my cousins, too!)

I met both Siri and Oddleif, (who are unrelated as far as I know, but Norway is a small country…) online, either on a Norwegian Facebook group or through My Heritage. I love that the interwebs can make this huge world a little smaller.

I met Siri, who is an American with Norwegian roots, last summer, when she was in town for a conference. She is also a frequent flier on the airline I work for, so I’m really hoping that I run into her again in the friendly skies.

Oddleif lives in Stavenger, a bit north from where our common ancestors once lived in Flekkefjord. He and his family are in the United States, enjoying their enviable four weeks of paid vacation. They began with six days in New York, flew to Los Angeles, spent a few days in both Las Vegas and San Diego, and stopped in Orange County before finishing up their grand tour in the San Francisco Bay area.

We met up for ice cream in Seal Beach. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy. We walked out on the pier, where we could watch the wind surfers and see all the way from San Pedro to Huntington Beach.


(Yes, I do know that my hair is wild and crazy. My cousin, Sue, thinks that I can rock a mohawk.)

They very kindly brought us a calendar with gorgeous pictures of Norway. We are definitely going to visit!

I kinda think we look a bit alike…

Oddleif, pronounced “Ot-leaf”, and I are related (on his mother’s side of the family) through our third great grandparents, making us fourth cousins.

My great-great grandfather, Hans Tobias Oleson, and Oddleif’s great-great grandmother, Johanna Olsdatter, were siblings. Their parents, Ole Johannes Håkonson and Inger Torgeirsdotter, are our common ancestors, our 3x great grandparents.

But, wait! There’s more! As I already mentioned, Norway is a small country. So, it turns out that we also have common ancestors through Oddleif’s father. We share the same 7x great grandparents, too! Steiner Sivertson Reppen and Anna Eivindsdatter.

And, frankly, who knows if there are more! I will keep on digging.

See you soon in Norway, Oddleif!


A Working Theory: Part 2

So, when last we left this seemingly never-ending search for answers, I had found two names that also occur in our Keene family lore, Shadrach and Tubal.

What I hadn’t found, though, was any direct connection between those two names and Washington E. Keen (my great-great grandfather) or his son, George Augustus Keene (my great-grandfather).

I am fairly certain that Shadrach (born circa 1797) and Washington (born circa 1810) are not father and son. They could possibly be brothers. And, if brothers, then Tubal and Sarah are Washington’s missing parents. But, there is no proof; just proximity.

And, just how does this relate to George Augustus and his rumored name change? According to the family story, George was born in 1833 as Tubal, but changed his name at the young age of 10. Well, there’s that name, Tubal, that we also see as the father of Shadrach. It was very common in early American families to repeat names from generation to generation. Tubal wasn’t a very common name. In fact, there is only one Tubal or Jubal Keen in Massachusetts at this time. So, I think that it might be significant. But, again, no proof.

Now, let’s take a moment to think about George Augustus and his siblings. Why? Because there might be clues in his siblings’ names as to how his parents named their children.

George’s surviving siblings were: Edmond S., Lydia A., and Washington E., Jr. There might have also been another Washington E. Jr. who died at the age of four, years before the surviving Washington Jr. was born.

Do you notice anything? None of those names are what might have been considered old-fashioned in their day. None of those names are Old Testament names like Shadrach, Meshach,  Abednigo, or Tubal. Or, Sarah, Rebecca, or Hannah.

No, they are more “refined” if you will: George, Edmond, Lydia, and Washington.

I think it unlikely, but not impossible, that George Augustus’ parents named him Tubal. It just isn’t consistent with the names of the other children in the family.

But, what if his father, Washington, was born as Tubal?  After his father??? Hummm…

It’s a theory that nicely ties up some of the family lore into a neat and tidy package. Which rarely happens in family history! So, there is that. But, at this point, until I discover something else, it’s the best I have.

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George Augustus Keene, my great grandfather

Washington E. and George A.: A Working Theory

In my last blog post, I told you about the two family stories that I just can’t seem to prove or disprove.

Mystery Story One: Were there really three Keen/e brothers named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdenigo?

Mystery Story Two: Did George Augustus Keene really legally change his name from Tubal when he was only 10?

Related Bonus Mystery: Who are Washington E. Keen’s parents, and where did they come from?

I have found absolutely no evidence of the three Biblical brothers (as I have come to think of them), not a whiff of Washington’s parentage, and no trace of a birth record or name change documentation for George A/Tubal.

I have searched or inquired in, at, and through:

the family genealogy books in the DAR library in DC,

the online genealogies at Family Search,

vital record books and county/state histories at the Family History Library, Salt Lake,

Google, with all sorts of variations of search parameters,

numerous vital records for cities and towns, both in print and online,

the Massachusetts Historical Society,

church historians,

at least two Keen family histories/genealogies,

a Keene family Facebook page (no relation that we could discern),

the genealogical library at the Huntington Beach Public Library,

Ancestry, My Heritage, The NEHGS,

and more…

But, I have found tantalizing clues, puzzle pieces, and traces of family lore. And, the more I search for answers, the more I think they these three mysteries are related. (A little genealogy humor there!)

Tantalizing Clue #1: Do you remember that in the death record for Washington I also found that he shared the same tomb at Christ Church with Shadrach Keen’s family?

Tantalizing Clue #2: Do you also remember that Shadrach Keen lived in a house in Princeton at the same time that Washington lived in a house in Princeton?

Tantalizing Clue #3: I have since learned that Shadrach Keen had a father named Tubal.

Hummm… What if the names (Shadrach and Tubal, but not Meshach and Abednigo) in these family stories are correct?

But, what if the story has been garbled, sort of like a game of Telephone that has lasted a hundred or so years?

Let me explain. There is a search strategy in genealogy called The FAN Club. It’s collateral research, using the names and information of friends or family, acquaintances, and neighbors, or FANs. Usually, people didn’t live in or move to areas where they had no connections. Taking note of people who appear in more than one document about an ancestor usually means something. Not always. But, it can.

In this case, since I was stuck at Washington, I decided to see what I could learn about Shadrach, since he has shown up twice in proximity to Washington.

I found Shadrach’s death record; he had died in April 12, 1862 at the age of 67 in Boston. He was buried in the East Boston cemetery.

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No, here’s where it gets interesting. (At least for me! You might be gritting your teeth or yawning by now!)

On this same record, we learn that Shadrach’s parents were Tubal (but sometimes transcribed as Jubal) and Sarah. They were born in Pembroke and Salem, respectively.

Well, huh… there’s another familiar name…

So, what can I learn about Tubal and Sarah?

I found their marriage record.

keen-jubal-1790-1796-marriage-boston red

Apparently, Tubal was married twice. First, to Susanna Glover in 1790. Secondly, to Sarah Rock (Ruck) in 1796. On this record, Tubal has been transcribed as Jubal. In other vital record books with the same information, it is Tubal. I’m pretty sure this is our guy, though, based on his wife’s name.

I’m pretty sure that Shadrach’s parents were this Tubal (Jubal) and Sarah. Based on the date of his death, he was born about 1797, a year or so after Tubal and Sarah’s marriage.

So, now I know that Shadrach isn’t Washington’s father. Washington was born about 1810, based on his age (34) when he died (1844). Shadrach would have been only about 13 years old when Washington was born. Possible, but not very probable. If they are related, they could be brothers.

I think that’s enough for today. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure your brain hurts. I will continue my working theory in my next post.

Til then!

Family Lore: Fact or Fiction

Stories. Every family has them. Such as…

…a crazy uncle who supposedly was saved from the Titanic by holding on to a floating tuba….

…or a great-great grandmother who reportedly shot her husband and ran off with a Native American chief…

…or a elderly great aunt who smells of cats and has whiskers who tells stories of her risque’ burlesque dancer days.

My family’s stories are not nearly that interesting, but they intrigue me all the same. Such as…

…that my paternal grandmother was French Canadian/Indian. We even “knew” the tribe.

Fiction: Have the genetic tests to prove it and not a drop of Native American DNA.

…that we were eligible for for the DAR through my maternal grandmother’s family line, the Gards.

Fact: Have the DAR membership certificate on my wall.

…that my great-great-grandfather, Washington E. Keen, was buried in Tomb 28 under Boston’s Old North Church. 

Fiction: He was actually interred in Tomb 27. But, close!

…that our Keen/e family began with three brothers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo Keen, who immigrated from England to America. 

I don’t know! Absolutely no evidence to be found, so far.

…that my great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, was actually named Tubal, but legally changed his name at the age of 10.

Still a mystery! No proof that I have found so far.

I would very much like to find the truth behind those last two stories. But, I have found nothing. Not. A. Thing to support either one of those stories. Not that I haven’t tried.

I have searched through vital records, family genealogies, journals, history books, called historical societies and churches, etc. I have found nothing to support either of the last two stories.

I’m working on some theories, however.

But, maybe some family stories are meant to remain mysteries.

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Photo of my grandfather, George A. Keene (perhaps born as Tubal) from a newspaper article about his life.









A while back, I told you about visiting Massachusetts and finding out that I have more ancestors than I could have imagined from the coast of Massachusetts, from Marblehead to Boston.

While in Marblehead, we visited the little Marblehead Museum. The museum is housed in what might have been a private home in an earlier life, not too far from the town center. In the large open front room, we were able to see quite a few art works depicting the early seafaring life of the town, even though they were in the midst of changing the exhibit. The upstairs main gallery was not open for the summer season yet, so we missed that.

We had stopped by the museum hoping to find a listing of historical houses. As we walked through the town, we noticed house after house had plaques by the front door, with names and dates. We soon learned that Marblehead has over 200 homes dating from the Revolutionary War era, with some even from the mid-1600s. Most of these have been beautifully restored and cared for, and the historic district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It truly is charmingly lovely.

With so many ancestors from Marblehead, I had hoped that perhaps I could find a house or two that had once belonged to my family. So, at the museum, I talked with the archivist, Lauren McCormack. She kindly looked up the information she had on the houses, which wasn’t a complete listing.

Turns out, there isn’t one.

(Insert startled expression here.)

Which I still can’t quite believe. If I lived closer, I’d be walking up and down the streets of Marblehead, camera in hand, marking a map with names and dates that future genealogists would celebrate me for. But, I digress….

Unfortunately, we didn’t find houses in the museum’s records that belonged to my family. Ms. McCormack, however, said that she would look in the archives and get back to me if she found any more information.

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This is a typical house in the historic district of Marblehead. On the right-hand side of the house, above the window, you can see the small white plaque with the name of the original owner/builder and date it was built: William Sandin, Fisherman, 1714.

And, she did! She emailed me page after page relating to my Ashton, Diamond, Doliber, and Thompson ancestors: Transcripts of deeds and wills, handwritten family genealogies, and scans of centuries-old bills of sale, etc. It was a treasure trove!


I will leave you today with this one image:

ashton-samuel-samuel jr-witnesses-indenture of paul cooper to joseph breed-marblehead

This is an indenture for Paul Cooper of Bermuda to Joseph Breed, mariner, of Marblehead (who may be yet another ancestor).  The indenture was for a period of eight years and five months to learn the “Art, Trade or Mastery” of seamanship.

Mr. Cooper agreed to “not absent himself day or night from his Master’s service without his leave… shall not contract matrimony… behave himself a faithful apprentice…” etc.

Master Breed agreed to the “utmost of his endeavors to teach or cause to be taught and instructed said apprentice in the trade… to provide for him… meat, drink, washing, teach him to read, write, and cypher…” etc.

This document is signed by Samuel Ashton and Samuel Ashton, Jr., my 5x and 4x great-grandfathers. The date is March 15, 1781.

Like I said, I have deep roots in Marblehead…



Washington E. Keen: The Last Word for Now

I’m at a dead end of sorts in my quest to find the parents of Washington, my great-great grandfather. Without his parents’ names, I can’t go further back in my Keen/Keene line.

I’d really like to know where they came from!

And, while I haven’t found that information, I did find something else.

I know that Washington E. Keen and Lydia Ann Kent were married in Hartford, Connecticut, January 13, 1830. Washington was about 20; I don’t know his exact birthday, but it’s estimated to be about 1810, based on an age of 34 at his death in 1844. Lydia was about to turn 21, as she was born April 11, 1809.

keene-lydia ann kent-1809-birth-newburyport MA

I had found their marriage date in an online index of Connecticut marriage records known as the Barbour Collection.


The Barbour Collection is an index-only record, meaning that the information is listed similar to the form above. It is not a digitized version of the original record or book. And, while the information in index-only records is often quite helpful, often there is much more information on the original that wasn’t included in the indexed version.

I also eventually found the listing for their marriage in a Hartford vital records book.



This entry had a little more information, as it gave the officiant’s name, the Rev. Samuel Spring.

But, I had really been hoping for more.

In the meantime, I went on to other bright, shiny objects. Such as reading my emails from genealogists that I follow, including Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems.

And, what did I find in the latest email?

No, sadly, not Washington’s parents, but another little piece of the puzzle.

Lisa had section in the email with information on new and updated records on the Family Search site, including digitized records for Connecticut!

I quickly did a search, and viola’!


The official Hartford vital record book image where their marriage was recorded!

Now, I had the name of the church where they married, which added just a little more information to what I already had.

I got to thinking though, why would two people from Boston and Newburyport go all the way to Hartford to get married?


From Newburyport, it’s 136 miles to Hartford. From Boston, it’s 102 miles. Remember, it’s winter. In Massachusetts. There were no interstates. No heated seats in your SUV. No McDonald’s for a quick potty stop and a cup of coffee.


The only explanation I could find was a possible connection between the Kent family and Rev. Spring’s. I did an internet search for him and learned that he and his family came from Newburyport, where Lydia was born. His father, also named Samuel, had been a pastor there.

My next step is to find the location of the actual North Church records, now that I know where to look.

Off to dig a little deeper!


Washington E. Keen: Not Easily Giving up His Secrets

In my last post, I told you about finding Washington’s death date and interment place in the Old North Church, confirming the family lore.

But, I was left with more questions than before, especially the prospect of some sort of relationship between Washington and Shadrack Keen, based on their shared space in tomb #27.

My friend, Jenice, also found two Boston city directories for Washington. The one below is from 1842. Do you see anything interesting about this?

Two entries above Washington (who was a glazier and lived in a house in Princeton) is a familiar name. Once again, Shadrack/Shadrach Keen is found in close proximity to Washington.

Brothers? Father and son? Cousins? Uncle and nephew?

One of the main questions I had set out to answer when beginning this search was who were Washington’s parents, and where was he born? So, I was hopeful that I would be able to find out more information from the church records than was found in the Boston city records, as is often the case.

So, when we got home, I did some research on the Massachusetts Historical Society‘s site, where the educators at Christ Church had told me the records were stored. I found that the records for the church were stored off-site in numerous boxes. Searching through the index on the site, I found in which box the tomb records for 1844 were located. I made a couple of quick screen shots, covering all the bases I hoped, and then I put in a call to the society.

A while later, Alex, a researcher with the society gave me a call back. I explained what I was looking for, and since I was across the country, she was willing to search the records for me. I told her which boxes were probable, based on my screen shots of the index, and she was very appreciative for not having to do that extra step.

About a week later, Alex called back again, after she had done her search. But, unfortunately, the Christ Church records didn’t contain any more information than was found in the Boston city records.

Well, phoo…

So, I am a bit stuck in finding out the secrets of Washington Keen. But, I’m hot on his trail!

More to come…