52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks| Week 6: Favorite Name

I must tell you that this prompt didn’t really inspire me, especially after coming off of last weeks’ high. So, in light of the fact that this is my blog, and I can do what I want to, I’ve decided to take a bit of a riff on the theme.

Three names repeated in my family lore are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The names come from the Bible, in the book of Daniel. They were three Jewish captives who refused to comply with the edict of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to bow before an idol. As a result, they were thrown into a burning furnace, and due to the intervention of God, were not consumed by the fire. When Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the miracle, he praised the God of the three faithful young men.

My family story goes that there were three Keen brothers, also named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who immigrated to Colonial America. Two stayed in the north, while one went south. These three were supposed to have been the first of our Keen ancestors to come to North America.

I have searched, but I have found no evidence to back up this story. Now, I’m positive that I have not exhausted every avenue of research. But, with on the evidence found in Sarah Keen’s will, I believe that the story of the three brothers is just that, a story. However, in most family stories, there is a kernel of truth, as we shall see.

Based on my finding evidence that Tubal (also known as Jubal*) Keen was Washington E. Keen, Sr.’s father, I am able to search back further in that line. Here’s a visual of what I had before last week (follow the red):

Keen Line

Based on Sarah Keen’s will and her marriage record to Tubal Keen, my line now looks (something) like this:

Keen Line 2

I traced this line back to London, England, to Josiah Keen. Josiah, born in 1620, emigrated in 1638. If this tree, and my initial research is correct, he is the original Keen to come to North America, dispelling the three brothers story.

But, where are the kernels of truth in the family story?

I found Tubal’s (Jubal) baptism record in the Pembroke Massachusetts Vital Records, which listed his parents as Francis and Margaret Keen. He was baptized November 1758.

I found the marriage record for Tubal’s parents, Francis and Margaret, in the same vital records. They were married November 1, 1739.

Based on birth records for Massachusetts, Francis and Margaret had at least four children while in Pembroke:

  • Francis, born June 20, 1740
  • Tubal (Jubal), baptized November 1756
  • Meschech, baptized October 8, 1758
  • Nancy, baptized June 7, 1761

And, there’s that name, “Meschach.”

Tubal, son of Francis, and Sarah had four children:

  • Shadrach, born 1795
  • Nancy
  • Margaret
  • Washington, born circa 1810

And, there’s that name “Shadrach.”

No Abednego in sight, though!

I think that with time, the generations became conflated and the story subject to error and “telephone.” The nuggets of truth remained, in that two of the names are correct. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Until next time!

*Tubal transcribed as Jubal shows up in at least one other record. I believe that in cursive, “T” and “J” can often be confused. Much like “Keene” in cursive becoming “Kune” in a census record.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Weeks 4 “In the Census”

Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!

Don’t let the boring-sounding title for this post throw you off, people!

I busted through my brick wall!!! 

And, silly me; I thought that this would be a ho-hum post.

I was scrolling through my files, looking at census pages, trying to find something interesting for this prompt when I came across a census page for Lydia Keen/e, enumerated in Lynn, MA, 1855.

This Lydia, my great-great grandmother, is the widow of the elusive Washington E. Keen, Sr. (~1810-1844). She’s one of the three Lydia A. Keen/Keenes I have in my tree: the wife of Washington, Sr., his daughter, and his daughter-in-law (my great-grandmother).

The 1855 Massachusetts state census page lists the household residents and their ages as follows:

Lydia A. Keene, 45

Washington Keene (Jr.), 14

Sarah Keene, 57

Edmund Keene, 19

Lydia A. Keene, 45

Now, I don’t know who the second Lydia A. here is…or if the first Lydia was mistakenly listed twice. But, I will tackle the Lydia problem on another day.

What caught my eye was the name Sarah Keene and her age of 57. Now, this is a name that I hadn’t come across in my Keen/e family yet.

Could she be Washington E. Keen, Sr.’s mother, Lydia A.’s mother-in-law? It wouldn’t have been unusual for a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law, two widows, to combine households.

If this Sarah was 57 in June 1855, she would have been born approximately 1798. She would have had to have been awfully young when Washington, Sr. was born, if his birth year is ~1810. Not likely, but not impossible, either.

Could she be a sister-in-law? Either a sister or the wife of a brother of Washington E., Sr.?


So, I did a little sleuthing on Ancestry, looking for a Sarah Keen. One of my hints was a probate record from Suffolk County, MA. The year of the probate was 1826, so this Sarah Keen was definitely NOT the Sarah Keene in the 1855 MA census.

However, there was a will attached, and I decided to read further.

And, my friends, there is was:

Will of Sarah Keen; 1826

It reads:

“… and bequeath all my property and estate, real personal and … to my four children and one grandchild to them and their heirs forever, vis. my four children Shadrack Keen, Nancy Morris, Margaret Stickney & Washington Keen…

There it is: Washington Keen was the son of Sarah Keen, who was the wife of Tubal Keen. 

Do you remember a while back I had a post about my search for Washington Sr.? You can read about it again here and here, if you don’t mind your eyes rolling back in your head trying to figure out all the relationships! But, to summarize, I posited that Shadrack Keen might be brother to Washington Sr., based on their sharing of Tomb 27 at Christ Church and living close to one another as listed in the Boston city directories.

And, I had found records that Shadrack’s parents were Tubal and Sarah, so if Shadrack and Washington Sr. were indeed brothers, then they were Washington Sr.’s parents, too.

And, ta-da! They are indeed brothers! Tubal and Sarah are Washington, Sr.’s parents!

And, to bring the title of this blog post full circle, I have found the 1810 US Census listing Tubal Keen, who I now know to be my great-great-great grandfather, and his household. They were living in Boston, on Clark Square.

1810 Federal Census; Tubal Keen is the fifth listed.

I never expected to write this post today! I was thinking it would be oh so boring… But, now I have a whole line to explore, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that very soon!

“Til then!

PS: I still don’t know who Sarah Keene was in the 1855 Massachusetts census. Perhaps widow of Shadrack? I’ll be searching!

January 2018: The Flu

As I write this, there’s a rather serious flu outbreak in the US. As of today, January 26, at least 30 children have died. The death toll for adults isn’t as clear.

As serious as this year’s flu outbreak has become, it pales in comparison to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1920. It affected approximately 50 million people, resulting in the deaths of 5 to 10 million. In the United States, estimates put the death toll at somewhere between 500,000 to 675,000, with about 28% of the population affected.

Not to take the toll from this season’s outbreak lightly, but it does pale in comparison.

This came home to me as I was researching this past week. I came across a death certificate while looking for something else and just happened to notice the date and the cause of death: 1919, influenza.

And, the light bulb over my head turned on.

The death certificate I was looking at was my great-great uncle’s, Washington E. Keene, Jr. (son of the infamously mysterious Washington E. Keen, Sr.). He passed away December 30, 1918. The death certificate listed “broncho pneumonia” as the the primary cause of death, with the contributing cause of “influenza.”

While looking at my family tree, I noticed that his wife, Eliza Bartlett, passed on January 29, 1919, just a month after her husband. Her death certificate lists her cause of death “general arterio sclerosis,” but it seems reasonable since the flu was present in their home, it could have been a contributing factor.

(The elderly are often hit very hard during flu epidemics as their immune systems are often weakened.)

This little epiphany made me wonder what other family members might have succumbed to the Spanish flu. So, I went sleuthing.

And, here’s a bit of what I found:

My great-great grandmother, Anges Mercier Gaumond passed away November 18, 1919, at the age of 79. I don’t have a death certificate for her (yet), so it’s unclear if her death was flu-related.

My great grandfather, George Augustus Keene, Sr., passed away from cardiac failure on March 7, 1919, aged 85. The death certificate mentioned a contributing factor of what looks like ‘influenza.” It’s unclear as the writing is difficult to read.

A great aunt, Annie Louise (Keene) Clarrage, passed on May 9, 1919, two days short of her 42nd birthday. The cause of death is bronchial pneumonia. Caused, I suspect, by the flu.

So, there are five people in my tree alone, found in a quick search, all who very probably passed away as a result of the Spanish flu or its complications. Quite sobering, especially when compared to the total of 30 children who (sadly) have passed away from this season’s flu. I don’t think my family was affected significantly harder than any other normal American family. When extrapolated out across the US population, the numbers and families involved in the Spanish flu epidemic are truly staggering.

My take-away: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, use the little wipes at the grocery store for your cart, and take your vitamin C. Seek medical help if you do get sick.

Most of all, love on your family while they are here for you to do so.



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 3, Longevity

Longevity certainly runs in my family, so once again, I have lots of material to work with. On both sides of my family, it has not been unusual for my relatives to live into their 80s, 90s, and even over 100.

Case in point: my mom is 96 and Uncle George, my dad’s brother, is 94.

And, looking at my family tree just now, I decided that this blog post would quickly become overloaded with names and ages if I listed all those ancestors who lived beyond 80. In light of that, I’ve decided to limit my search to just those who have lived into their 90s and beyond.

So, here goes!

Nana - Great Aunt Bea and Aunt Virginia 1981.jpg
Nana Keene, Great Aunt Bea, and  Aunt Virginia

On the left is my Nana Keene, my dad’s mother. In the middle is her sister, Bea. Nana’s  daughter, my Aunt Virginia, is on the right. Nana lived to the ripe old age of 102 and a half, living all but the last couple of years in her own home. Great Aunt Bea lived to 90. Nana had another sister, Claire, who lived to 103. (And a half.) Another sister, Amelia, lived to 90. And, her brother, Eli, made it to 99.

Several of Nana’s children must have inherited that longevity gene of hers. My Aunt Betsy lived to 99. And, looked that immaculately put together all her life.

Betsy and Charlotte Keene 1996 edit.jpg
Aunt Betsy

My Uncle George is still doing well and will turn 95 in April.

Nana K 100th George and Nana Mar 1993 .jpg
Nana Keene and Uncle George, on her 100th birthday

The photo above was taken at Nana’s 100th birthday, and she’s with my Uncle George, who still looks just as dapper!

Nana’s mother, Amelia (Gaumond) Bergeron, lived to just a few months past her 90th birthday.

Great-grandparents Amelia and Osias Bergeron

Moving over to my mother’s side of the family tree, my great-aunt Mabel, my grandfather’s sister, lived to 99.

10-60, Paul and Mabel, Hamilton, MT, young Sport edited.jpg
Uncle Frank and Aunt Mabel (Wells) Kurtz at their Montana dairy farm

My mom’s father’s father, (my great-grandfather) Willis C. Wells, lived to 91.

wells-willic charles.jpg
Great-grandfather, Willis C. Wells

My great-aunt Johanna Soland, lived to 95. Her sister, Ida, was a mere six months short of 90 at her passing. Ida and Jo were sisters-in-law of Willis Wells.

aunt jo, aunt ida, 12-29-48, banning CA.jpg
Great-aunts Ida and Jo Soland

My great-uncle Maurice Gard, brother of my great-grandfather, Willis David Gard, lived to 94.

gard-maurice-at work.jpg
Uncle Maurice at his watchmaker’s bench


My mother’s mother’s mother, Eva M. (Kesterson) Gard, lived to 96. I remember her, as she was still alive when I was a child. She always looked just like this to me: a kind face, a calico dress, and her soft grey hair in a bun.

G-g Gard, Mother's Day, 1962.jpg
Great-grandma Gard, Mother’s Day, 1962

Great-grandma Gard’s mother, Phebe (Stewart) Gard, lived to 98. I never knew her, but I’ve been told that she liked her corn-cob pipe. Phebe’s father, William Stewart, my 4x great-grandfather, reportedly lived to 96.

Great-great-grandma Phebe (Stewart) Gard

I think I could go on, but I’m sure you are done with names and numbers! As, frankly, am I!

I’m hopeful for my own longevity, as according to my raw data DNA results, I have a few random genes related to long life. However, I’m still taking my vitamins, going for walks, and watching my blood sugar!

‘Til 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!

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!


Answers… and More Questions!

Thanks to some kind readers pointing me in the right direction, I now have Thelma’s death certificate.

I had looked at My Heritage, FamilySearch, NEHGS, etc., but I hadn’t checked Ancestry. I don’t have an personal account, so I went to my local library and used the Library Edition. And, that’s where it was.


Thelma passed away on September 3, 1911, of typhoid fever, just one day after the last postcard we have from Charlie about her:

9/2/1911, from New Bedford, MA: Dear Mother. I telephone to Thelma every night and she is still about the same except last night she had a slight hemorrhage but has not bled any more since. We are still hoping for the best. I will see you next week some time. Charlie

She was gone the next day, only three days short of her 19th birthday.

And, while death certificate does give me more information, it also raises even more puzzling questions.

Thelma’s name is given on the DC as “Berthelma H.” Her maiden name is “Page.” Neither of which are on the marriage license dated February 10, 1910. The bride’s name there is “Anna L. Backus.”

Is it possible that there was another Charles L. Keene from Massachusetts, who married this Anna, in St. Joesph, MO at the same time that my Grandpy and Thelma were also in St. Joseph?

Or, did she give a fake name, as she was underage? And, then, who was “Mrs. Mary Handley/Haudley” who signed permission as Anna’s mother? It’s interesting that on Thelma’s DC, the information for her mother and father are marked as “unknown.”

Thelma was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, MA, where many more members of my family are buried.

I need to go visit her.


My Parents’ Wedding Notice

A few days ago, I got a lovely little gift in the mail from my cousin, Beth.

Our fathers were brothers, and Beth is just a year older than I am. We grew up seeing each other several times a year, and our parents would always compare our height and weight.

I hated that.

These past few years, we’ve been able to see each other a little more often, and we’re the ones comparing now! But, it’s cholesterol levels and hot flash severity.

Beth and her sister, Sue, are beginning to help my aunt and uncle to sort through their things. And, Beth found a few items that she thought I’d like to have. And, she was right.

keene-charles-wells-bula-1941-wedding announcement.png

This is the newspaper account of my parents’ wedding from 1941, in the East Los Angeles Gazette. I learned quite a few new things about them reading this.

  1. My mother wore an heirloom veil of French lace that was 136 years old. I have no idea where this is now, and I don’t remember ever hearing my mother talk about it. My hunch is that it came from my dad’s side of the family, through my French-Canadian grandmother.
  2. I didn’t know that my father’s sister, my Aunt Bea, was my mother’s maid of honor. My mom was an only child, and so had no sister who would have been an obvious choice. My dad had four sisters, and I’m so curious as to why Bea was chosen for this honor.
  3. I don’t recognize any of the names of my dad’s  attendants, except Randal Cooper. He married my dad’s sister, Virginia.
  4. I didn’t know that my mom had been a secretary for the Native Daughters of the Golden West. Her mother, my Nanna, was a member and an officer.

On the back side of this clipping is an advertisement from a local store.

keene-1941-newspaper-back of wedding announcement.png

2 pounds of fig bars for 17 cents!

Ice cream for 15 cents a quart!

A pint of gin for 77 cents!

But, I’m really curious about why, oh why, would there ever be a need for 250 brewer’s yeast tablets???

Thanks, Beth!