All my current knitting projects are of the super-secret [future present) variety, so...... surprise... I’m going to share about my other (possibly even greater......but less visual and harder to describe briefly) obsession.
At the same time as I was a little girl intrigued by Mum’s yarn, I was also fascinated by how families were put together......by the time I was 4 or 5, I was trying to figure out how two people related to me were related to each other. The few times I heard the Biblical lists of begats (I grew up attending a UU church, so it didn’t happen that often...), I tried to follow closely. In grade 8, I was about the only one in my social studies class who didn’t fuss about the several-week-long family tree assignment. Not surprisingly, as an adult, my genealogy obsession has rivaled my fiber obsession for time, money, and storage space (genealogy can get very paper intense......).
When I started seriously searching, I was fortunate that my paternal grandmother had written down what she knew (or thought she knew; figuring that out may well turn out to be a post, if all of you dear readers aren't completely bored by this .... and maybe even if you are) about the Scottish side of the family and that a couple people on Mum’s side had done some preliminary research; my great grandfather was definitely more enthusiastic than rigorous in his research, but it did provide a starting point for me.
My mother’s family was in New England pretty much by 1650, except for one Dutch cluster who settled in NY in the 1650s and a very few stragglers to Massachusetts and Connecticut in the mid to late 1700s (we’ll get back to that momentarily......). My grandmother insisted I wouldn’t find any Mayflower ancestry; when I did, she dismissed it, as the first dozen or so Mayflower lines I found went through Gram’s great-grandmother, who had left her husband and two young children for another man in the late 1850s. Given Gram’s marriage history, that meant that Harriet Waterman Poor Abbott didn’t count... until Gram was at her little old ladies’ luncheon (her phrase, not mine......) and another little old lady was bragging about 2 Mayflower ancestors; needless to say, Gram was suddenly interested in her 11 grin.
Dad’s family – Free Kirk shepherds and Irish Catholic costermongers (potato famine refugees who were too poor to make it to the US.....) in Scotland –- has been more interesting to trace than Mum’s -- and overall much more of a challenge! As an example, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins likely have more than 2 million descendants living today; the chance that I’ll find something no one else has is quite small. A good chunk of the work on Mum’s family is taking one line from that article and another line from this book, putting them together, and rechecking older research from when standards of proof were less rigorous. So digging around original records for the scarce mentions of Dad's ancestors has been quite a challenge - although the traipsing around the Scottish countryside in search of the places that they lived was great fun (although one was remote enough, with no road, only a couple mile sheep track, that I didn't hike it as I was alone that day).
So, anyway, the main topic of what I’m working on: one line on Mum’s side of the family that has caught my attention has been her father’s straight paternal line. Latecomers to North America (at least by the standards of my New England Yankee family), the Learoyds arrived in 1802 (shipping news citation in the Morning Chronicle 9 Dec. 1802, on the Mars from Liverpool) and settled in Danvers, MA, where they married into local families, including the Putnams of 1692 witch trial fame (infamy?). Interestingly, Addison Putnam Learoyd (grandson of the immigrant John Andrew and father of the Albert I'm getting to) had no Putnam ancestors that I have found -- but his wife is the Helen who is circled on this chart (and his son Albert married the Jessie Sears on the chart):
A view of the Putnam-Learoyd cemetery (#11 at linked map), just off Route 1 and Rte 62 in Danvers, right next to the state police barracks:
Side note: in the above picture, the gravestone at the front left is for Elizabeth (Merriam) Putnam, who lived to be 103, and who was the mother of the Helen Putnam mentioned above.
Like most people whose names (Holroyd, Ackroyd, Oakroyd/Eckroyd, Boothroyd, Murgatroyd) end in –royd, the Learoyds were originally from Yorkshire (Bradford in the case of the Learoyds). Even in 1891, the majority of Learoyds were in the north of England.
One of the first ‘sources’ I had in my research was an old set of typed pages about the Learoyds, listing who had which children and which colleges the children has gone to (many of the U.S. Learoyds in the mid to late 1800s seem to have gone to college – even the women, attending Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia). No sources, a decided lack of places and exact dates....typical of the time it was likely written (around 1900, judging from the information given.....).
Since my grandparents divorced when my mother was a toddler (and my grandfather died when Mum was a teenager), I’ve only met relatives on that side of the family a few times, and I only knew a few snippets about them.
One example: before my grandfather was born, his parents (father pictured below) were involved in some interesting circumstances in 1896/7.....
Their hired hand William Kennedy thought my great grandfather Albert F. Learoyd wasn’t treating my great-grandmother Jessie (Sears) Learoyd as well as he (AFL) should, so he (WK) put some Rough on Rats in his (AFL’s) tea. Arrest and trial of William Kennedy followed, with interesting coverage in the Boston papers, as some of the papers tried to implicate my great grandmother to various extents. I'm not sure what the actual story was - I do know that Albert and Jessie stayed married, which is good, as my grandfather wasn't born until about 6 years after the trial.
So, to bring this back to the topic of me being overcommitted and not being able to say no to taking on things even with being overcommitted.....
I’ve recently (like several weeks ago......) joined the Guild of One Name Studies and I’ve registered an official one name study on the Learoyd family. In addition to my research on my direct family lines, I’ll be recording every occurrence of the name in all the standard genealogical sources I can get my hands on: census returns, vital records, military records, immigration records, ship passenger lists, and so on. I will skip the references in Kipling grin. This project is new enough that I’ve not finished the mini-web page I’ll be doing - soon, once I've dug out from the flu/sinus-throat-ear infection-induced backlog.
Learoyd is, in many ways, an ideal name for this sort of study: enough of them around to be interesting, but not so many as to be completely overwhelming. There’s a pretty good chance that all the Learoyds are eventually related to each other, so if you have the name in your family tree – hi, cousin!