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.

keene-georgo augustus
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.

keen-shadrach 1

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.

keene-george-a-newspaper photo
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…


Washington E. Keen, Still a Man of Mystery

So, when last I wrote, we were deep in the crypt of the Old North Church.

MA vacation (6 of 7)


I had just learned that the church doesn’t store historic records any more. The educators at the church told me that the records are now housed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. I planned to call once I got home.

While we were still in Massachusetts, though, I messaged a friend in the DAR who has an Ancestry subscription. I was hoping that Jenice would be able to dig up some information on Washington before we left Boston.

And, wow!

She found Washington and Lydia’s marriage certificate, two Boston directory listings, and Washington’s city of Boston death record! Thank you, Jenice!

(I’m telling you, without this wonderful community of genealogists, I would never have found out what I have. I can’t tell you the times that I’ve come up empty handed, and then others have dug, researched, or even tramped over hill and dale for me. It’s truly heartwarming, and I always try to do the same when I can. It’s one of the reasons that I write this blog; there may be someone out there, a distant relative or just a curious researcher , who can benefit from what I’ve written.)

But, back to Washington and the Old North Church. From the Record of the Deaths and Burials in the City of Boston for the Year 1844:

keen-washington e-1844-death record-boston ma

He died on June 19th, was interred on the 21st, at the age of 34, from consumption, which was the old name for tuberculosis. His body was prepared by the Whitcomb undertakers and ta-da! was indeed interred at the Christ Church Cemetery No. 27, not No. 28.

“But, Barbara,” I can hear you saying, “Christ Church isn’t the Old North Church!”

But, yes, dear reader, it is. Here is a link to the church’s web site.

Jenice also found a more complete record in Deaths and Interments in Boston, where names have been recorded by year, in order by surname:

wak 1844

So, right there by the arrow is the listing for Washington E., who died at age 34. But, look carefully at the line right above him: Washington Jr., aged 4 years, 9 months, who died Jan. 20, 1839, and was also interred at Christ Church. In Tomb No. 28, according to the Record of Deaths and Burial in the City of Boston for the Year 1839. Hummm…

The record above is just chock full of interesting information listed under the surname Keen. There is a column to the left of Disease for Family. If you examine the page, you will see that the name Shadrack Keen is often listed in this column. And, each name with Shadrack Keen as the family name is also interred in tomb No. 27.


The occupants of No. 27, under the family name of Shadrack Keen, are:

  • Richard, died Aug. 30, 1821, age 1 year, 2 months, dysentery 27 Christ Church
  • Abigail, died Jan. 2, 1823, age 5 years, dysentery, 27 Christ Church
  • John E., died Jan. 5, 1824, age 1 month, 5 days, whooping cough, 27 Christ Church
  • Dorothy J., died Aug. 6, 1842, age 6, dropsy in the head, 27 Christ Church

The occupants of No. 27, under the family name of Washington Keen, are:

  • Mary Ann, died Dec. 28, 1832, age 2 years, scarlet fever, 27 Christ Church
  • Washington E., died June 19, 1844, age 34, consumption, 27 Christ Church

There is obviously a connection between Shadrack and Washington. I just don’t know what it is. Father and son? Brothers?

[Little Washington Jr., is the only outlier. In this record he is interred in 2 Christ Church. So, is it #2 (as in the record above), #27 (with his presumed father Washington E.), or #28 (as in the 1839 record)?]

So, yes, my great-great-grandfather was indeed buried under the Old North Church.

Whether he is still there is another matter.

In the 1800s, families could purchase, or more correctly rent, a tomb. It would be maintained for that family undisturbed until the money ran out. Sadly, it wasn’t uncommon for the church, which needed the income, to empty a tomb into a charnel pit and then rent it again, if the original family couldn’t or wasn’t able to maintain their hold. You can read more about the practice here.

So, one mystery solved, but much more left to uncover about Washington.

Washington E. Keen, Man of Mystery

There’s a much-used term in genealogy, which you will begin to see and hear very quickly after starting to search for your family history: Brick wall.

It’s a full stop in our research. It’s getting to a place where there just doesn’t seem to be any way past this missing person or bit of needed information. It’s a burned out courthouse in the south, a flood along the coast, a fire at the National Archives, or it’s the dreaded missing 1890 US census.

I tend to think that the term is used much too quickly in these days of handy, ever-present internet searches. I’ve gotten very, very spoiled, and I lean toward thinking much too quickly that if the information isn’t easy to come by, well, then, I’ve hit that brick wall.

But, that’s where the good sleuth just goes deeper. It’s time to call, write, visit, or email county records offices, state historical societies, or places where your relative once lived. It’s truly leaving no stone unturned.

And, that’s where I’ve gotten to in the search for information about my great-great grandfather, Washington E. Keen. Or, Keene. Could be either or both.

(His son George is a bit of a problem, too, but I’ll save that for later.)

Here’s the line from me to Washington:

  • Barbara Keene Garrett, to my father,
  • Charles Lawrence Keene, Jr., to his father,
  • Charles Lawrence Keene, Sr. to his father,
  • George Augustus Keene, to his father,
  • Washington E. Keene.

For quite a while, I didn’t have much information about Washington at all. He was listed as the father on his children’s wedding licenses or certificates. He was listed as well as father on his son George’s ( my great-grandfather) death certificate. But, US census records bring up nothing. I can’t find him in vital record searches for Massachusetts. I didn’t have birth or death dates for him.

And, to add a little confusion just to make things interesting, Washington had a son, also named Washington E. There’s plenty to be found about him!

Until just a few weeks ago, when the brick wall began to crack a little.

In the family genealogy papers that I have from my Dad’s family, there was a copy of my great-great-grandmother’s obituary (his wife, Lydia A. Kent Keene, purchaser of the Keene plot at Pine Grove Cemetery), mentioning that Washington had died in Boston and was buried under the Old North Church, in Boston. You know, the “One if by land; two if by sea” church.

keene-lydia ann kent-obit

And, in a handwritten note (by whom, I don’t know) there was a mention that Washington was buried in tomb 28.

On our recent trip to Boston, one of my goals was to dig into this and find out if it was true and if there was perhaps more information to be found.

So, we made our way to the Old North Church…

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This view is from the back of the church; the entrance is around the other side.

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Looking from the front entrance.

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Looking back to the entrance.

We took a tour of the bell tower and crypt, hoping to get a glimpse of tomb 28. While we waited for the tour, we asked the docents if they could tell us where we might find information about tomb occupants. They put in a call to the educational director. The upshot is that the church no longer holds any of the historical records. They are all with the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Well, phoo…

But, once in the crypt, it was pretty east to find #28. The earlier tombs weren’t numbered, but rather had names and dates. The later tombs had numbers, beginning with about #26  and going around a rectangle in the middle of the building to get to #30. Tomb #28 didn’t have a plaque, but it was pretty easy to figure out which one it was.

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And, there it was, in all its nondescript glory.

So, I got no answers on my trip, but I did have some direction as to where to go from there.

And, that will be for another day…