Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


This week’s blog was to focus on  an ancestor whose birthday is closest to mine. I have two ancestors in my Richards Tree whose birthdays are a day different from mine.  I decided to blog about George Fisher Richards as I did not know anything about him.

George Fisher Richards was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, on September 7, 1842, he was youngest child of Ebenezer and Catherine (Newell) Richards.  George is the brother of my great grandfather, Abiathar Richards (See Blog #29--Abiathar Richards--Do You Have a Glass Slipper?), which means he is my great, great uncle. In the 1860 census George is living with his parents and with his aunt, Catherine Richards.  No occupation is listed for him; I would guess that he was in school.  His Civil War Draft Registration from 1863 has George as single and his occupation as butcher.  In 1865 George married Elizabeth Jane McAlister, daughter of John and Jane McAlister. George and Elizabeth had four children:  George, born in 1866; Charles R., born in 1872; John W. born in 1874; and Jennie born in 1876.
I cannot find George and his family in the 1870 census, but the Directory of Marion, Massachusetts from 1873 lists him living there working as a butcher. In 1880 according to the census he, his wife and children are listed as living with his Aunt Catherine Richards in Dedham, Massachusetts and his occupation as a butcher.  His wife’s brother, Robert McAlister and his family,  are living next door.  In 1900 George and his wife are in Marion, Massachusetts.  Their daughter is now listed as Jane, but since the birth dates are the same, I assume Jane and Jennie are the same person.  The family remained in Marion according to the 1910 census.  Living in the house are George, his wife Elizabeth, his son Charles, and his brother-in-law, Robert McAlister.  Margaret Griffin was their servant.  George’s occupation is a teaming contractor and his son,
Charles’s, occupation is a teaming.  Robert McAlister was not working.  I had some idea that a teamer had something to do with driving, but I wanted to make sure.  The Dictionary of Old Occupations let me know that it was a person who drove a team of horses.  My best bet is that Charles was working for his father.

I also found a few other facts about George Fisher Richards.  In 1872 George joined the Constellation Masonic Lodge in Dedham.  The 1910 Marion City Directory indicates that George was one of the town constables.

George Fisher Richards died on November 20, 1914. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Marion, Massachusetts.  If I were able to talk to George, I would have a couple of questions for him.  I would like to know why he moved from Dedham to Marion.  Also when he did so, why did he become a teamster and not continue as a butcher.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#45--Cecily Neville--Strong Woman and Mother to Kings

Last week when I was blogging about King Edward III, I was reminded that one of the people in that tree who I found most interesting was Cecily Neville, the great granddaughter of King Edward III and my    great grandmother.    From what I have read about her, she indeed would fit the definition of a strong woman.  I do know much about the Middle Ages and the people that lived then, but as I read about Cecily I found that first there was not much and second some of it was contradictory

Raby Castle
Cecily was born in 1415 at Raby Castle, the youngest daughter and last child of Ralph Neville and his second wife, Joan Beaufort.  (Depending on who you read, she is either the 14th, 18th or 23 child of Ralph Neville.)  Continuing his tradition of marrying his children into powerful and wealthy families,
her father, in 1424, betrothed her to his ward, Richards Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. Richard was the descendant of two other sons of Edward III: Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley.  Thus, he had a double claim to the throne of England.   Cecily and Richard were married by October 1429.  They had twelve children, seven of them living to adulthood.  Two of the sons became Kings of England.

During Richard’s life time, he was a major player in the War of the Roses, attempting to gain the throne of England for himself and his family.  The exact role that Cecily played is not clear to me.  However, during the time that Richard fled from the Lancastrians, Cecily went to London to plead his case to the King.   While she was not able to save Richard’s lands or secure a successful pardon, she did obtain from the King 600 pounds yearly for herself and her children.  In 1460 the right of Richard III, Duke of York to be the next king was affirmed and his lands returned.   Unfortunately, at the end of 1460, Richard died in the Battle of Wakefield.

 After his death, to ensure that her two youngest sons--George and Richard-- were safe, Cecily sent them to Burgundy, but she remained in England to protect her son, Edward’s, interests and to assist him in becoming king in 1461.  While King Edward IV ruled, she continued to be an influence.  When he was young, Cecily appeared with him at state occasions, and was left in charge of the Court, when the King toured Wales.
Arms of Cecily Neville
She was given the Queen’s quarters to live in and allowed to remain there after King Edward married Elizabeth Woodville.  At that time, it was written that she “can rule the king as she pleases.”   Her official title was “Cecily the King’s mother and late wife unto Richard rightful King of England.”

During King Edward’s reign, his brother George was involved in several plots against him.   George joined with Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, in his rebellion against George’s brother, King Edward IV and in support of Henry VI’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Who Cecily supported is not clear to me.  George and Warwick claimed that King Edward was not a legitimate son of Richard III and therefore was not entitled to be King.  It does not appear that Cecily took any steps to deny that allegation, which would have been evidence for her support of King Edward IV so her silence may be seen as support for George and Warwick.  When the George and Warwick failed, Cecil twice tried to broker peace between the two brothers.

King Edward IV died in  1483, naming his two sons, Richard and Edward,  as heirs to the throne.  Cecily then supported her youngest son, Richard III, and his claim to the throne by declaring that the two sons were illegitimate.  After the death of the two princes in the Tower of London, Richard became King of England on July 6, 1483.  When King Richard III died on August 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, Cecily retired to her estates and lived a quiet, but pious life.  She died on May 31, 1495 and was buried with her husband at Forheringhay, Northampton.

To men, any woman who advocates for her husband with the King, who guides her son when he was King, and who involves herself in the politics of becoming the next king, is  strong woman.  If I could talk to Cecily Neville, I would ask a couple of questions.  First, how did she decide which ones of her sons to back for King?  Second, what was it like to live in Court as the mother of the king?  Cecily Neville appears in several novels about her family.  I would like to know what she thinks about that?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#44--King Edward III--A Surprising Discovery

The theme for his week is royalty.  While many, many people would like to believe that they are “royals,” I actually do have distant roots in English royalty.  I did not know that and I was pretty surprised to find it out.  Several years ago I was doing a workshop at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society and was working with Gary Boyd Roberts.  He looked at my Cochrane Tree, began pulling out books, and adding to that  tree.  A while later, he showed me the tree and I was the 15 great granddaughter of King Edward III of England and his wife Phillipa of Haunalt!

While I had had a course in European history in college, that was a while ago and I could not remember much, if anything, about him.  So naturally I had to find out.  If you are a King of England, there is an incredible amount of information about your life available.  The following is a very brief summary:

Edward III was born on November 13, 1312 to King Edward II and Isabella of France.  At the age of 14 in 1327, he was crowned King of England.  Due to his youth, for the next three years his mother and her lover, Mortimer, ruled in his name.  Edward married Philippa of Hainault in
Edward in Battle at Crecy
York on January 24 1328. They had twelve children, nine of whom survived: Edward, the Black Prince, Isabella, Joan, Lionel (Duke of Clarence), John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster), Edmund (Duke of York), Mary, Margaret, and Thomas (Duke of Gloucester).

Edward is best known as a fine military leader.  In 1333 Edward defeated David II of Scotland, and replaced him on the throne of Scotland with Edward Balliol.  In 1337, King Edward began the 100 Year War when he invaded France in the hope of regaining the land there given up by King John and claiming the throne of France.  He is credited with victories at Crecy and Poitiers.  Despite his victories, by 1375 The Treaty of Bruges removed most of the land he had gained, leaving lands near Calais and a strip near Bordeaux as the only lasting increase.

Sword of King Edward III
In England, King Edward also distinguished himself.  He made English rather than French the official language of the Court, established the office of Justice of the Peace, divided Parliament into two houses, transformed Windsor Castle into a Palace, and founded the Most Noble Order of the Garter. I was surprised to learn that his sword hangs in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.  The sword is 6 feet, 8 inches long and was to be used in battle.  A trip to England is on my bucket list and you can  be sure that a trip to St. George's Chapel will be a must.
King Edward III

King Edward III died in 1377 and is buried in Westminister Abbey in London.  (I also will be going to Westminister.)  He was succeeded by his grandson, Richards II.

I wondered just how many descendants Edward III might have.  I was surprised to find that Andrew Millard  concluded that 99% of the population of England and the United Kingdom have a very high probability of being descended from King Edward.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#43 Abraham Newell—A New Start in a New World

Last year I responded to the Ancestry.com challenge to blog about one of my ancestors once a week. I did not quite make it to 52 ancestors, however, I learned a great deal about those I researched and had fun doing it.  This year, the challenge has changed to a weekly suggested theme, which I can focus on or not.  I am going to try to use the themes.

The theme for the first week is “having a fresh start.”  I think that anyone who moves to a new country or state is having a fresh start so I have a number of ancestors that got a fresh start.  My first impulse was to blog about James Hannah and how he came to Pennsylvania from Ireland.  Then I remember that I had blogged about him and what I wrote seemed pretty close to a fresh start  (See #27--JAMES HANNAH—Many Questions and few Answers) so I decided to try someone else.
Abraham Newell is my fresh start ancestor.  Abraham was born in England about 1584.  He came to Massachusetts on the ship Francis, arriving on April 24, 1634 with his wife, Frances and his children. Abraham, Sr. and his family settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

William Stark Newell in his books—The Ancestors of William Stark Newell—speculates as to the reasons that Abraham may have immigrated.  One speculation is that he came for religious reasons.   In England, the Puritans wanted to reform the Anglican Church and remove many of the practices left over from the Catholic Church, e.g., stained glass, statues, etc.  For those beliefs, Puritans were persecuted and as a result, came to the Colonies to worship as they wished to.  To support the idea that Abraham was a religious person and may have come for religious freedom, one need only look at the names of his children—Faith, Grace, Abraham, Jr., John, Isaac, and Jacob.  They are all biblical.  Second, Abraham joined the church in Roxbury the same year that
he arrived.  Thus, there is some reason to believe that Abraham may indeed have decided to move his family to Massachusetts for religious reasons.

Economic factors were another reason that individuals migrated.  Land in England was scare and inflation was high, making earning a decent living difficult.  If people moved to the Colonies, their chances for a better life improved. I have read that Abraham was a tailor.  At the time of his immigration, the wool trade in England was experiencing great inflation and wool was scarce.  Lack of cloth would have impacted a tailor’s ability to make a living.   Further, I do not know whether or not Abraham owned any land in England.  However, in the Colonies, land was free and with land ownership came the right to become a freeman and vote.  In Roxbury, he did own land.  The Roxbury Book of Possessions, dated about 1653 lists ten parcels of land that he owned.  If I add up the acres in them, Abraham owned 119 acres of land in various places
in Roxbury.  Using his will, from 1692, William Start Newell estimated that he had 153 acres plus some land in fresh meadows.  So it is also possible that Abraham Newell, Sr. came to the colonies for economic reasons.

It is not possible to know exactly why Abraham, Sr. came to the Colonies, however, both religious and economic reasons seems possible.  However, it looks to me that he got a fresh start—he could worship in a Puritan church and he owned land.  If I could talk to him, I surely would ask why exactly he decided to come.