Saturday, June 11, 2016

A new generation of genealogists

I have two budding genealogists in SadieLouWho and ChloeALittleBit. Last year Chloe wrote the following essay as an 8th grader last year and just last week SadieLou handed in a project and will be giving a talk on the family abolitionists.

Protons 05.21.15
Coming to America: My Tenth-Great Grandfather John Cheney
This essay is about the life of my ancestor, John Cheney, who emigrated to America from England in the mid 17th century. John Cheney was my tenth-Great Grandfather. Using several different sources, I researched his journey to America and the life that he built with his family after he arrived. 

During the mid-17th century, colonists from England had started setting in the North East of America in large numbers, known as the Great Migration. Between 1630 and 1640 over twenty thousand Puritans made the long and often dangerous journey in search of a new life. Some of them did not like the life in America so they went back to England. The Massachusetts Bay Colony (now the state of Massachusetts) was one of the first areas of America to be colonised.

John Cheney came to Newbury, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England in around 1635 with his wife, Martha, and their four children, Mary, Martha, John, and Daniel. They did not leave England to escape religious persecution, like many other people who were leaving Europe, but to raise cattle. He and his family thought it would be more profitable to raise cattle in America. Cattle, horse, sheep, and hog prices were high and John was a middle-class farmer. 

We do not know with certainty what ship he and his family came on because the passenger lists for many ships from that time have been lost. However, they probably came on the ship Mary and John (which brought many of the first settlers to
Newbury) or one very similar. They landed in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where John and his family waited until the spring of 1635. On the Mary and John, people were ordered
to say Church of England morning and evening prayers. The journey took about two months, and they stayed in cramped quarters without fresh food.

After a brief stay at Ipswich, John and his family traveled with a minister named
Thomas Parker and other settlers to establish a new village called Newbury. Before this group arrived, there were just a few fisherman occupying the banks of the river, but they were not permanent settlers. They had to sail from Ipswich down the Parker River and across Plum Island Sound because there were no roads to Newbury and it was difficult to move women, children and household goods through the forests. 
Once in Newbury, John got a plot of land near the river and on the Oldtown green which allowed his family to prosper. The size of the plots of land were based
on how much money they had invested into the venture to establish Newbury. In 1638, John received three more acres of land by the swamp behind the hill next to the town and six acres of salt marsh. In 1639, he received about 20 acres of marshland with some upland and a little river of the northwest, formerly a part of the calf-common. 
When they got to Newbury, the settlers found it dismal and gloomy but that did not stop them from carrying on with life because there was a lot of work to be done. They had to build cattle sheds and houses and cultivate the soil to get it ready for planting. They also used the old cornfields, originally used by the Indians to plant their crops. In addition, they had to gather fish and berries for the winter.

There were few Native Americans, and the settlers were not sure if the ones that were around were friendly or not. So the settlers brought weapons to church because they feared attacks from both Native Americans and wild beasts. The
people close to the church, like John and his family, had less to worry about because they did not have far to travel, but they still posted guards at the church doors. 
Newbury, along with being a stock-raising plantation, was a township that strictly followed the Puritan way of life. Worship, study, business, morals, and religion were all important values in Newbury. The population quickly increased because about 18 ships brought more settlers to Newbury from England in the first year. 

John was an active member of society. He took a great interest in Governor Winthrop’s campaign for governorship, enough that he was one of ten men to walk forty miles to Cambridge to take the freeman’s oath to participate in the election. He was also a member of the grand jury and was elected to the board of selectmen more than once. He once missed a annual meeting because he was mainly focused on his own affairs and was fined two shillings and sixpence. Later records show that his fine was “remitted on account of his having a sufficient excuse.” John died in
1666, probably a wealthy man based on the items in his will that he left to his family, including a house, land, cattle, horses, and pigs. 

Because John Cheney and his family came so early, it was probably not that hard to adopt American values because there might not have been any. They also were unlikely to experience prejudice because everyone in Newbury were all from the same part of England and all had the same basic ways of life. They were presumably glad to have come to America because they got many acres of land and were able to prosper.
We do not celebrate any traditions from John Cheney’s family. However, my dad is English so we have taken on many English customs like having a Sunday roast, pulling Christmas crackers at Christmas, and celebrating Guy Fawkes Night. 

I am fortunate that my Grandma has spent many years researching our family genealogy. She explained to me how it became more difficult to research our ancestors further back in time because of the lack of information, which is why I do not have any detailed anecdotes. However, she was able to provide me with several useful sources of information that I have based my essay on. In addition, there are several historical societies that celebrate the early settlers to Newbury and have built a monument to the original settlers, which has John Cheney’s name on it. I am proud to say that we are related to one of earliest settlers to the America. 
May 2016

My 4th great grandfather Murray Cheney lived in the “Little Red House” for a little while. His son Prentiss Dana Cheney, my 4th great uncle, lived in the house after he married his business partner’s daughter, Catherine D’arcy.  

The “Little Red House” was built in 1827. Murray Cheney and Prentiss Dana Cheney lived in the “Little Red House” in Jerseyville, Illinois. Prentiss Dana built the current mansion over the “Little Red House” after the Civil War (1865-1869). The slaves would have not seen the mansion as it stands today. Overtime the house was a tavern, a hotel, a stagecoach stop, a doctor's office, and a bank. The safe is still in the Cheney Mansion to this day. Three generations of Cheneys lived in the house until 1988. They gave the house to the historical society in 1998.

Murray Cheney’s involvement in the Civil War was to be in charge of a militia because he was to old to fight in the war. Murray trained the militia. Prentiss Dana had enough money to draft someone else. He paid $100 for a man named John Connally to go  and fight in the war for him. He fought for Company B of the 12 Regiment of the Missouri . Connally fought for 3 years beginning July 16, 1864. One of the ways we know the Cheneys were Abolitionists is because Jerseyville has five Abolitionist streets. One of the streets is Cheney Street.
Slaves arrived at the Underground Railroad stop hiding under hay in wagons. They would come into the livery stable and go through a fifty-yard tunnel underground. They would hide in a cistern in the cellar and sit and be quiet  in the cistern which is now under the dining room. 

When the were slaves hiding under the house Prentiss Dana and his wife would have dinner parties to help hide any extra noise. The dinner parties were also a destination for any extra wagon traffic the parties also have an excuse for ordering extra food needed for the slaves during their stay

I wanted to do this project to learn more about my ancestors who were involved in the Underground Railroad. I found it very interesting and had a lot of fun interviewing my mom and grandma about this fascinating history. It makes me feel proud that my ancestors helped slaves to freedom. I like the creativity they used to keep the slaves safe as a part of the Underground Railroad. 

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