The US census forms the basis of much of our family history research. It is often among the first things we search for when trying to answer a genealogical question. However, there are clues that are often missed. Let’s take a look at 5 hidden clues in the US census. […]The post 5 Hidden Clues…
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“Trinidad & Tobago”,12
“United Arab Emirates”,2
I am a DNA novice so I’m busy exploring what it all means: migration patterns of my ancestors from 1700 through 1925, and my DNA matches with 652 fourth cousins or closer. As yet, I have not figured out the meaning of 150 ethnicity regions and the numbers associated with them in my profile.
I am particularly fascinated by the 6% Iberian DNA. There is much to learn!
As I began researching and writing about my Keegan ancestors, I sought more information about Irish immigration into Washington County. They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine, edited by Michael C. Connolly, was recommended in a post comment. Recently, I found the book at Lubec Memorial Library among their fine collection of books on Maine history. It is a delightful book packed with well-researched information about the Irish immigration into Maine. The foreword was written by Senator George Mitchell. An entire chapter is devoted to Washington County entitled: “Ireland Along the Passamaquoddy: Rathlin Islanders in Washington County, Maine.” A portion of the chapter focuses on Trescott, West Lubec, Pembroke and Perry. My ancestors immigrated to Trescott in 1836.
I wondered how they decided to come there, how they lived out their lives. After I read the book, I wrote a summary about the families of my GG and great grandfathers, weaving the genealogy with details from the book, working my way through time up to my grandmother Elizabeth Keegan Rier. Next, I am starting on a bit of historical fiction that begins when Grammy Rier was a little girl, living on a farm in Trescott.
I hope to bring my ancestors to life!
MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER JAMES KEEGAN SR.
In 1836, James Keegan arrived in the New World from Dublin, Ireland, with his young bride, Elizabeth Moran. Their port of entry is unknown, but many Irish immigrants who settled in Washington County, Maine came into Canadian Maritime ports because fares for passage were half the price into America. James may have worked in Canada for a time as did many other Irish immigrants to save money to purchase land and build a homestead. The couple settled in Trescott among other early Irish pioneers who made permanent homes there before the Great Famine in Ireland began in 1845.
Trescott, West Lubec, Pembroke and Perry attracted Irish families where farming, fishing, shipbuilding, and cutting timber provided opportunities for newcomers, as did the Pembroke Irish Works, a thriving foundry. James followed other Irish farmers who settled primarily in Trescott and West Lubec. They found cheap land, plentiful fuel, and Cobscook Bay offered a means of transport. As early as 1829, three pioneers from Rathlin Island off the Northeast coast of Ireland, Neil Black, Dundan Bradley and Lauglin Black, acquired land along Cobscook Bay. They joined other Irish families there, many from Ulster, fishing the Cobscook coves and farming the land between Trescott and Lubec.
There was a strong sense of community and shared traditions in these small towns and villages in eastern Maine. Often whole families from young children to grandparents crossed the Atlantic together, built homes and worked the land. A pathfinder or pioneering family established a base, sent letters and money for passage to friends and kin in chain migration. In 1844, the year James appeared at the Supreme Judicial Court in Machias to petition for naturalization, he was one of 126 immigrants from Ireland and England. Most of those who specified a port of entry traveled via Saint John or Saint Andrews, New Brunswick or Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This growing community drew the attention of the Catholic Church, already having established a presence in eastern Maine. As early as the 1830s and 1840s, circuit riders from Eastport and missionary priests from Pleasant Point ministered to the Irish flock. In 1852, the Saint Mary’s Catholic Church was built beside a forest of pines in Trescott.
James built his home beside the Saunders Meadow Stream not far from the South Branch of the Cobscook River, west of the Bay. The Murray and Moran families built homes on that stream, close enough to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church to hear the bell ring on Sundays. The family story is that James’ home was built of wood and stone into the side of a hillock. Homes the Irish built were not of thatch and stone as in the home country. Instead they took on the character of their Yankee neighbors as timber was plentiful. The Irish kept their Catholic identity but quickly adapted to their new environment in terms of building styles, material culture, and farming. Irish farmers like James learned new methods and how to use new implements, including using oxen as draught animals, a technique unknown in Ireland. Farms grew a variety of crops from locally obtained seeds: barley, peas, pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, garlic, onions, radishes, turnips, cabbages, lettuce, parsley and melons. Corn, beans and squash came from the Passamaquoddy. Cattle provided milk and butter. Apples from seedlings brought from Europe were harvested and cider made in the Fall. Wild blueberry and cranberry abounded. As in the home country, sheep were raised for wool to make clothing.
In 1838, James and Elizabeth’s first child, William, was born. A daughter, Mary, arrived two years later followed by six more children in the coming years: Anne, John, Eliza, James Jr., Catherine and Thomas. James Sr. farmed all his life and was active within the community, serving as the Superintendent of the School Committee for 32 years. He died in 1879 at the age of 67; his obituary lauded his devotion to his family, his Church and his dedication to education.
MY GREAT GRANDFATHER JAMES KEEGAN JR.
James Keegan Jr. was the 7th child of James and Elizabeth Keegan, born in 1847. He worked on his father’s farm growing up and well into adulthood, as did his younger brother Thomas. One year after James Sr. died, the Keegan homestead was occupied by his widow Elizabeth, age 74, James Jr., age 32, Thomas, age 29, and his wife Katherine (Kate), age 28. James Jr. likely delayed marriage after his father’s death to assist in caring for his mother and working the farm. He married Margaret “Maggie” Murray in 1886, who lived close by, the daughter of Irish immigrants via Saint John, New Brunswick. James and Maggie had seven children between 1887 and 1895: Winnifred, Tresa (Teresa), James, Mary, Elizabeth (Lizzie), Katherine (Kathe), and Margaret (Maggie). Sadly, James’ wife Maggie succumbed to a bout of pneumonia and died in 1896 at the age of 38 leaving James to care for their children, including their infant daughter. Three years later, James Jr.’s mother, Elizabeth, died at the age of 80. By 1898, Thomas and his wife moved to Lubec with their youngest children Fred, age 14, and John, age 12. where they raised their five children. He partnered with James McCurdy to open the Union Sardine Company while James Jr. stayed at the Trescott homestead with his children.
Life must have been tough for a man raising seven children alone, albeit with the help of his family and neighbors. My grandmother was his 5th child, Elizabeth. I was told that Grammy had to quit school after third grade to work in the sardine camps in Lubec. By 1910, she and her eldest sister Winnifred worked as servants in households in Lubec. The next year, at age 19, my grandmother married Frank Rier, a mechanic from Lubec, in Leominster, MA where her sister Mary lived.
Ingraham and Mary Rier. They were laid to rest in the Lubec Cemetery, not far from Grammy Rier’s home overlooking Johnson Bay. My paternal grandparents were Frank and Elizabeth Keegan Rier. Grandfather Frank’s parents were Burpee and Emma Batron Rier. My Great Great Grandparents, Ingraham and Mary Rier, had four children born between 1860 and 1868. Alice, Burpee, Bertha E, and Ida May. Ingraham and Mary were born in Nova Scotia as were their children. They immigrated to Lubec, Maine between 1868 (the date their last child Ida May was born) and 1876, the year Alice died in Lubec. Ida May died there in 1883.
When I arrived at the Lubec Cemetery on a sunny day last week, I was not sure where the gravesite was located. I had memories of Dad driving by the cemetery when I was young, pointing to a tall grayish white obelisk-like stone beside a tree.
“That’s where my great grandfather Ingraham Rier is buried,” he would say. “He was the first Rier to come to Lubec.” In my memory, Dad never said where Ingraham came from and I don’t think he knew. It was a mystery.
I searched the cemetery in quadrants beginning at the far side toward downtown Lubec and toward the front, closest to Rte 189. Many gravestones were hard to read, if at all, but I noticed that there were large family plots. If I could read a few of the stones in a plot and see the family surname, I moved on. About one third of the way across the front of the cemetery, I was almost ready to give up and cover the rest on other days.
As I looked toward a towering tree beside the road, I wondered if my memory could possibly be accurate. Something or someone urged me on.
Then. There it was. The gravestone that Dad pointed out so often in bygone years, stood before me.
“I found it!” I shouted in the wind. I wondered if Dad heard me. I hoped so.
Ingraham E Rier
1840 – 1904
His wife, Mary
1842 – 1915
1862 – 1952
On the side of the stone closest to the tree, the names of their two daughters who died as teenagers were engraved.
May 14, 1876
13 yrs 2 mos
Oct. 26, 1883
15 yrs 8 mos
Dau’s of I.E. and M. Rier
There is an inscription underneath that I cannot read. I will need to come back another day in different light.
There is a discrepancy in the age at death of Alice A. from the Maine death record which listed her year of birth as 1860. I can only guess that this was inaccurate since she was born in Nova Scotia and suspect that her parents knew exactly how old she was when she died, 13 yrs 2 months, not 16. The birth year for Bertha E on the stone (1862) doesn’t match her estimated year of birth from the 1880 census (1865) which recorded her age as 15. It is time to search vital records in Nova Scotia.
My great grandfather Burpee Rier is not here. Perhaps he is buried with his wife Emma Batron. It will take more research to find his grave. There is always more to discover!
It had been a good day. Earlier, I had visited the Chapel Hill cemetery in nearby Trescott and located the gravestones of my great and GG grandfathers Keegan, Grammy Rier’s father and grandfather.
My mother, Louise (Johnson) Rier, was a member. I joined in 2012. Last year, my daughter, Monica Snowdeal Stone, became a member. It’s important to pass down our history for generations to come. Our qualifying ancestor to join the DAR was Joseph Getchell Jr.
The DAR is a women’s service organization dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education, patriotism and honoring the patriots of the Revolutionary War. DAR members come from a variety of backgrounds and interests, but all share a common bond of having an ancestor who helped contribute to securing the independence of the United States of America. Any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution is eligible to join.
The Hannah Weston Chapter of the DAR is located in Machias, Maine. Established in a rural Downeast community, this chapter has over 90 members, second in size only to the chapter in the largest city of the state, Portland. Hannah Watts Weston was a remarkable 17-year old heroine of the first battle of the American Revolution who walked through the woods for 16 miles carrying 40 pounds of household pewter to be melted down for ammunition.
Anyone who grew up in Machias knows that their home town was the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolution that took place June 11 and 12th, 1775.
Joseph Getchell Sr. and his wife immigrated to the British colony of Massachusetts from Hull, England and settled in Scarboro in 1749 (then a part of MA, later the state of Maine). They had three children: Benjamin, Mary, and Joseph Jr, born in April 1757. Joseph Sr. and his family came to Machias in 1869 or 70. In 1776, Joseph Getchell Jr. married Sally Berry. They had eleven children: Westbrook, Abagail, Betsey, John, Marshall, Benjamin, Mary, Simeon, Jane, G. Washington, and George Stillman.
Joseph Jr.’s son John had two children: Marshfield and Thomas. Marshfield married Martha Jane Holmes. They had seven children, their youngest was my great grandmother Nellie Getchell Means.
Joseph Getchell Jr. fought the British in the rebellion for independence of the American colonies to prevent the British from taking their primary resources: timber for ships and their hard-earned money, taxation without representation. Once British demands were made, the residents of Downeast Maine not only refused to comply by providing timber or paying their taxes, they erected a “liberty pole” in the town square. And then, they set out to seize British ships that entered their harbor.
A group of townsmen met to decide on their plan of action. Once agreed upon at the Rubicon, the brook they jumped across to seal their pact, these men collectively captured the British ship Margaretta and hid her upriver. Among the first men who jumped on board the Margaretta in the assault was my ancestor, 18 year old Joseph Getchell Jr. The captured British ship captain died. His blood remains in the Burnham Tavern where they took him after their assault. The Burnham Tavern is now a museum under the care of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a reminder to future generations never to yield to tyranny.
The Burnham Tavern, beautifully preserved, as it is today.
This summer, the Tavern will be open from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, beginning on Tuesday, July 5th and continuing through Friday, September 2nd. In addition, it may be possible to arrange visits at other times if a docent is available. Please call 207-733-4577 or e-mail <email@example.com> for further information.
The Foster Rubicon Plaque.
My great great grandparents, Ingraham and Mary Rier, immigrated to Lubec, Maine from Nova Scotia in 1870. To trace the Rier family back in time, I must search Nova Scotia records. By accident, while searching for information on the Rier family in Lubec, I found a Rier family in the Robbinston 1850 census. Head of household: Stephen H. Rier. Occupation: Carpenter. Age: 43? Wife: Mercy. Age: 48. There are three laborers in the household: Freeman, age 27; Amos, age 24; John H., age 18. Children: Mary, age 16; Geo. E., age 14; Lucy A., age 11; Stephen, age 9; Elizabeth, age 6.
The transcribed census listed the place of birth for each family member as NY. I was confused as I was unaware of any Riers in NY but perhaps it is an extended family that immigrated to the US before my ancestors. Then, I combed the original census document. The place of birth for family members sure looks like N.S – Nova Scotia – not NY. I looked up 19th century cursive writing. Again, it looks like N.S., not N.Y to me.
What do you think? Is anyone out there an expert in handwriting of this period? A closeup of the census and an example of 19th century handwriting are shown below. I notice that the Y goes below the line.
I contemplated the enormity of a mistake in census transcription. It could be repeated hundreds, if not thousands, of times in genealogy records by those of us striving to document our families. Is this a mistake in transcription?
Well, when I gain access to Nova Scotia records, I will keep my eye out for this family and see if they are related to Ingraham and Mary Rier. It is just another genealogy mystery waiting to be solved!