Category Archives: Genealogy

Looking at Midnight Mary’s family for fun

“In 1836, Sarah Hart welcomed her recently orphaned 12 year old niece Mary into her New Haven, Connecticut home. Mary’s parents had been lost at sea.”


I love this opening line of the new Amazon Prime series, Lore. Any story involving pre 1880’s New Englanders gets my attention.

At this point, I paused the program, wondering if I could research some of the Hart family history, to learn about these real people. I won’t spoil the creepy story for you, but I will take you through the family history records I found over a couple days.

At first, I wasn’t sure what the niece Mary’s surname was, so I didn’t start my research on her.

Searched for Sarah Har* in New Haven County, narrowing in on 1840 and 1850. No likely matches.

Then I watched the show a bit further and we see an image of Mary E. Hart’s headstone. She died October 15, 1872 (note: voiceover says 16th, headstone looks like 15th). She was born December 16, 1824. Here’s the headstone in Findagrave:

So with Mary’s birthday, we can unravel her life backwards from her death.

In 1870, the only close match is in Guilford, New Haven County. Mary E. Hart, age 45, born in Connecticut, listed as head of household. Also in the household is Susan Pierpont, age 75. FOUND THEM! No occupation listed for either. Census entry:

So Susan wasn’t a Hart like the Lore story suggests, at least not 2 years before her niece’s death. She’s a Pierpont (or Pierpoint, both spellings are used). We don’t know if this is her maiden name or married name though.

Going backwards to 1860. In New Haven (Ward 2), Susan Pierpoint is 70 years old and born in Conn. Mary E Hart is 35, and there’s a 13 yr old James P. Hart. Both born Conn. A son? A nephew? Mary is listed as a seamstress (this also jives with Lore’s story and animation), and has real estate worth $1800 and personal estate worth $800. Funny how Susan has only aged 5 years instead of 10 by 1870! This happens a lot in census entries.

In 1850 in New Haven city, Susan Pierpoint is 55 years old and born in Mass. There’s two people in her household: Mary E Hart is 25 and there’s a 3 yr old James P. Hart. Both born Conn.  No occupation for anyone listed. (towards the bottom is a Mary A Hart, age 45 and Frank B. Hart age 21–more relations?)

In 1840, there are two possibilities: Susan Pierpoint in New Haven, and a Susanna Pierpoint in North Haven. In the 1840 census, only the head of household is recorded, so we can be fairly certain it’s definitely one of these two women (although we have to consider “our” Susan is unidentifiable in another household). We expect her to be about 45 years old. One household is 6 “free white people” total, and one is 5. Both have a female aged 40-49, but only one has a female 15-19 that would be Mary’s age, and that’s the Susan Pierpoint in New Haven. Also in the household is a man aged 20-29 (could be a brother, son, or hired hand, as relationship to head of household isn’t recorded). then there’s several women: One 15-19 (presumably Mary), one 40-49 (presumably Susan?), one 50-59, and one 60-69.

At this point we hit a dead end.

So, we know Mary dies in 1872, so I look for Susan in the 1880 census. She was born circa 1795, give or take. I cannot locate her easily in the 1880 census in Ancestry or Familysearch… it could be she was indexed incorrectly, or she’s possibly died by 1880. One option is to browse the New Haven and Guilford censuses line by line, or see if another online genealogy site has better indexing. As I’m only doing this for fun, I am going to skip it.

My internet searches led me to, in particular a comment from Loretta on Fri, 03/30/2012 that mentioned the other people associated with Mary E. Hart’s gravestone, so I dig in. Between Findagrave (a site of transcribed grave markers, etc) and the Connecticut, Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934. This is a typed listed, so one must be cautious in case errors slipped in. Description

I assemble the following list of people connected to Mary and Susan, all buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven:

  • Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 50, Grave: 3  Hart, Fidelia Pierpoint spouse of James P. died Aug 12 1885 age 85 yrs
  • Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 50, Grave: 4  Hart, Mary E born Dec 16 1824, died Oct 15, 1872
  • (No idea who is in Graves 1 or 2; my Google searching didn’t reveal anything. I could contact the cemetery, but as I’m only doing this for fun, I won’t… yet)
  • Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 51, Grave: 1  Hart, James P, died Jan 10, 1877, age 60 yrs (hold up, this would make him born circa 1817. I look at the image on findagrave and it’s difficult to tell for sure; but does look like 60 years if you view the image in the browser)
  • Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 51, Grave: 2 Hart, Joanna, born Mar 20, 1792 died Jan 31, 1870 (age 77…who is she? I find out later)
  • Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot 51: Grave 3 Pierpont, Susan death recorded as Jul. 23, 1887. If it’s the same Susan, she’d be approximately 91 years old at her death.
  • (No idea if anyone is in Grave 4, without contacting the cemetery)

There is no relationship stated between Mary or Sarah and the others, so I don’t want to assume Mary is James’ first wife or even his daughter.

Now I am curious what happened to young James Hart by 1870. He’d be 23 years old now, and there’s several possibilities in Ancestry, but I’m more curious about the exact relationship between Susan and Mary, so I’ll come back to him.

One strong possibility is that Susan Pierpont and Fidelia Pierpont are sisters, with Susan being older by 5 years or so, assuming Susan never married and Pierpont is her maiden name.

When I search for Fidelia Pierpoint in Ancestry, I only get the death records, and 1 public entry on a family tree (these trees can be untrustlyworthy so I view it, but am not including it here. Searching for Fidelia Hart, I get only one new hit. In 1880, she’s a widow, living in New Haven in the household of Leander Parmalee, born 1803 in Connecticut, parents also born Conn. Her occupation is listed as Keeping House.

Oddly enough I can’t find a match for Fidelia in 1860 or 1870 census in Familysearch either. Name could be indexed badly…

So I search for James P Hart, and we might have a match in 1870.

They’re in New Haven ward 6, he’s 52 years old, born Conn, and a printer. Also in the household is Pamalee Hart, age 51, also born Conn. Age isn’t close to Fidelia OR Mary P. Who is Pamalee? Sister? Wife? Any connection to the Parmalee surname?

I find James P. Hart in 1860 as well. He is 43, and a lawyer. The head of household is Joanna Hart, age 66, no occupation. The only other person in the house is a 19 yr old domestic servant from Ireland.

And Joanna and James Hart are together in 1850 as well with a Julia Jackson (relationship not stated).

Then I find Joanna Hart’s will and administration papers online in Ancestry from the Probate Files Collection, Early to 1880; Author: Connecticut State Library (Hartford, Connecticut); Probate Place: Hartford, Connecticut. It’s got a lot of detail but doesn’t help connect any other people to the story, so I’ll focus on the highlights: The will was written in 1866 in New Haven, and her son James Porter Hart is named sole heir and executor, and the business is all concluded after Joanna’s death in 1870.

Now I’ve found the administration papers of James P Hart in 1877. It seems he didn’t leave a will, but his papers clearly indicate his heirs are wife Fidelia and son James P. Hart, who are both given cash and property from his estate. James (the son) is also given 4 lots in the Evergreen Cemetery in the name of his father!!

Fidelia’s last will and testament names her grandniece Mary Josephine Parmalee, wife of Leander Parmalee, of New Haven, her entire estate. Samuel Davis of New Haven is nominated as the executor, 12 Sept 1884. I suspect if I search for this Mary Josephine backward from 1884, it could unravel more of the story.

Unanswered questions:

  1. How are Susan and Mary actually related? Is Fidelia another of Mary’s aunts?
  2. What happened to James P. Hart, the son of James the elder (born circa 1817, died 1877)?
  3. Is the the same boy as the James P. Hart (born circa 1847) living with Mary and Susan? Is Mary his mother?

I’m going to stop here. This has turned out to be more complex than I thought, and there’s obviously more records to be found (here’s a collection of early New Haven divorces I’m encouraged by the amount of records that Family Search have digitised in the past 5 years or so.

I’m itching to work on my own family now!


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This Is The Face of Genealogy

Old photo of man and woman

John Torrence and 2nd wife Louisa

The backstory of how the LAWeekly were big jerks to genealogists.

Here’s some nice faces: John Torrence and Louisa Loy.

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Using 23andme to find cousins

I recently signed up to have my DNA tested during 23andme’s recent $99 sale. I’m interested in the health data, but finding cousins, validating my research and  unlocking brickwalls makes sense to me.

This is for the potential cousins out there.

My great-great-grandparents

(meaning if our common ancestor is listed here, we are 3th cousins)

  • Willem Harms Bakker born Nieuw Beerta, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Hillechien Jans Janssen born Nieuw Beerta, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Jan Wubbe Jansen born Netherlands
  • Geertruida Jans Franssen born Netherlands
  • John O. Torrence born Iowa, USA
  • Mary Emogene Briggs born Illinois, USA
  • George Firth born Yorkshire, England
  • Susannah Elliott born Yorkshire, England
  • ? Kowalenko born Ukraine
  • ? Trischuk born Ukraine
  • ? Shykaruk born Ukraine
  • ? possibly born Ukraine

My great-great-great grandparents

(meaning if our common ancestor is listed here, we are 4th cousins)

  • Harm Jurjens Bakker born Netherlands
  • Hilke Fokkens born Netherlands
  • Jan Jans Jansen born Netherlands
  • Hilke Zwierts Zwart born Netherlands
  • William B. Torrence born Pennsylvania, USA (probably Scotch-Irish ancestry)
  • Elvira G Fagg born Virginia or North Carolina, USA (probably English ancestry)
  • Orrin Briggs born Maine or Massachusetts, USA (probably English ancestry)
  • Susan Bowder born Pennsylvania, USA (probably German ancestry)
  • Thomas Firth born Yorkshire, England
  • Mary Elliott born Yorkshire, England
  • John Elliott born Yorkshire, England
  • Susannah Dawson born Yorkshire, England
  • (I haven’t listed the Ukrainian ancestors as I don’t know their names)


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Good Genealogy Luck – Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Each Saturday, Randy Seaver of Geneamusings issues a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun blogging challenge. This week’s subject  is to talk about a time when we had a big ol’ dose of good genealogy luck.

That’s an easy one. In June 2003 I was living in England. My new boyfriend and I decided to do a fly-drive holiday in Sweden. The purpose of the trip was to conduct some genealogy research on my dad’s side as well as have a bit of a vacation in beautiful southern Sweden.

We started just south of Stockholm and drove westerly over five days. It was quite an adventure, seeing places well off the tourist trail, stopping at rural village churches, old farmhouses, and staying in countryside B&Bs.

I didn’t want my genealogy side-excursions to take over the trip, so we stopped in Vadstena, in the province of Östergötland. There we found a pretty town, dominated by an amazing castle next to a giant lake. While doing the self-tour of the castle, we saw a sign pointing to the province’s archives. In the castle.

Yep, I’d accidentally stumbled upon the region’s record office. My husband, the good guy he is, immediately offered to run to the car to get my files. While in the archives, we looked at several original parish registers and were able to take a family line back a further generation. Sadly, we only had about an hour until closing time, but the staff there were brilliant and helped us out. It didn’t hurt that we were the two of the three researchers that afternoon!

I want to post some photos of our time at Vadstena (and all my Sweden photos including a very well-kept headstone of my 3x-great-grandparents and of us meeting my dad’s second cousin and his family) but they’re on another computer right now. I’ll add them here soon.

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Genealogy Software: WGBP #28

Goodness, has it really been two months since my last post here? My excuse: pursuing a new focus as a web designer in a new town has given me many opportunities to learn, share, network and do some interesting work along the way.

Moving on, this week’s genealogy blogging prompt is about the software we use in our genealogy research.

I’ve already written extensively about Reunion for the Mac. Some of the other fun features I’ve taken advantage recently is the ability to save charts as graphic files (PNG):

Ancestor Chart

Ancestor Chart

Other software worth mentioning

  • iTunes is great for downloading genealogy podcasts,  such as the UK’s The National Archives Podcast Series (UK) or The Genealogy Guys Podcast, not that I’ve ever found the time to listen to them in full….
  • Twitter apps such as Tweetdeck keep me up to date in the world of genealogy and genealogy blogging. There are some fabulous genealogists on Twitter, all of them a fun and lovely bunch of people.

    Also, if it weren’t for Twitter, I probably wouldn’t have followed the recent controversy related to GenealogyWise. I think it’s safe to say they’ve learned their lesson about what a social network is and isn’t to its members.

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London Metropolitan Archives: My Favourite Records Repository WGBP #19

This weeks Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #19 is to answer the following questions: Describe your favorite records repository. Why is it your favorite? What types of records does it contain? Do you have any advice for first-time visitors? Special thanks to Geneabloggers and WeTree for  promoting and creating the blogging prompts.

My favorite records repository is the London Metropolitan archives, located in north central London. Besides their amazing array of records in one organization, they have helpful staff; nice facilities (plenty of lockers and a place to sit and eat your lunch); good opening hours; plenty of computers connected to the Internet, their own databases and subscription genealogy databases; WiFi;  an excellent selection of London history books;  an amazing map collection; and parish register microfilms for nearly everywhere in London*.

From their website:

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the archive repository for many London-wide organisations. The archives of the City of London Corporation (COL) and the former Greater London Council (GLC), London County Council (LCC), Middlesex County Council (MCC) and their predecessors are held here. LMA also holds records for many religious, public, business, local authority and other organisations based in London. The dates of items that can be found here range from medieval to the present day, and our collections are constantly expanding. At the moment, there are documents to fill around 72 km worth of shelving! You can find out more detailed information concerning our holdings by looking at our collections page.

Some of my notable finds in the LMA are:

  • Finding a detailed 1783 birth record of my husband’s gr-gr-gr-gr grandaunt in an original Account of Married Women book of the British Lying in Hospital (genealogical jackpot!)
  • My Yorkshire ancestor’s brother in city directories going back to 1740
  • The 1822 removal order for my husband’s ancestors from Lambeth parish back to St. Martin’s in the Fields (they were admitted and discharged from the workhouse on the same day, so a good friend or family member must’ve bailed them out!)

For first-time visitors, the London Metropolitan Archives’ website contains a lot of useful information for anyone wishing to visit or ‘virtually’ explore this fantastic repository.  I have also written a blog post on How to do genealogy research at a city or county record office in England. The LMA can be reached by public transportation. Personally, I recommend figuring out the buses ahead of time, instead of using the Underground (aka Tube). You can have wonderful tour of London on the upper deck of a London city bus, plus it really helps being above ground to understand how London is laid out.  The Transport for London website has an excellent online journey planner.

*  Be sure to check their catalogue to  check the parishes they cover. Click Log in to start.

P.S. The Hampshire Record Office wins 2nd place!

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Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Top 10 Genealogy Sites

Randy Seaver kickstarted the topic Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Top 10 Genealogy Sites, so here are mine:

  1. – is a one-stop-shop for online genealogy resources. While not cheap, I find they are good value and they are constantly adding more records.
  2. – Google Book Search contains a huge variety of books, particularly old county history books and published family history books. I’ve found some great gems in there.
  3. – This is the site that has searchable indexes of vital records, military service, coroner’s records, naturalization etc for the state of Illinois. Coverage is spotty but it’s a huge time saver and they’ve always been very quick when I’ve ordered copies. A more integrated global search would be nice though….
  4. – Chicago Ancestors is a Newberry Library project and has digitized city directories (hooray!), street finding aids (hooray!), historic maps (hooray again!) and links to useful places on the web. I bet they did it to ward off the zillions of questions they had to answer repeatedly, but whatever the motivation, I like it!
  5. – They haven’t got the content I need (yet) but their interface is so freaking slick and highly usable. Well done, you guys.
  6. – Some day when I have a several hours, I’m going to watch a huge stack of these genealogy videos. I’ve seen Megan Smolyenak Smolyenak’s portable film studio at NERGC – quite impressive!
  7. – IGI and FHLC catalog are great for general research
  8. – The Documents Online service from The National Archives (UK) is fab. I’ve impulse-purchased wills and service records more often than I’d like to admit!
  9. – Loads of databases and events to look forward to. Their library in Boston is impressive.
  10. – I’m a new user of Genealogy Bank but I’m excited by their coverage of historic newspapers and other records. There’s some great stuff in there that would take far too long to find using the old way.


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