July 2, 2013

Getting a GRIP on New England Ancestors in July

Can you believe it’s July already, and we're halfway through the year? Where does the time go?

I’m excited for July, though. I don’t mind hot weather, and I love the long, lingering evenings of summer. I’m also looking forward to something I signed up for on a frosty February morning. Later this month, from July 21-26, I’ll be attending the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) at LaRoche College for the second time. I had a great experience last year and learned a tremendous amount in the Advanced Research Methods class, taught by Tom Jones. 

Happy students in Tom Jones' class at GRIP 2012 

This year I’m taking Bridging the 1780-1840 Gap: From New England to the Midwest, coordinated by Josh Taylor. Instructors Debra Mieszala, Rick Sayre, Craig Scott, and Paula Stuart-Warren will also be lending their expertise.

I’m eager to take this course because it focuses on one of the most common research problems I encounter: how to trace a family living in Ohio by 1800-1840 back to their origins in New England or New York. This is a tough period to research, due to the scarcity of records and general lack of detail in many records that do exist. I also find the whole topic of migration fascinating: why people chose to leave a settled area for the unknown frontier, how they moved everything they thought they’d need, the routes they traveled, the difficulties they encountered, and how they settled into their new surroundings. Compelling stuff.

In preparation, I’m gathering what I know about my (and my husband’s) migrating northeastern ancestors. So far I’ve assembled three clusters of families in the east that had worked their way west by 1840:

The Barnum Group
  • BARNUM—Eli Barnum was born in Litchfield County, Connecticut, lived for few decades in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and arrived in Portage County, Ohio before 1840.
  • BISHOP—Fitch Bishop has been my biggest brick wall for a few years now. He married into the Barnum family and came to Portage County. But where was he from, and who were his parents? Siblings? Anything? 

The Sanborn Group
  • SANBORN—Jeremiah Sanborn and his brother, Joseph Sanborn, came from an old New Hampshire family. They ventured to Loudonville in Ashland County, Ohio, before 1840.
  • SMITH—Two Smith sisters, Clarissa and Mary Jane, were wives of the above-named Sanborn men. 
  • IVES—Moses Ives brought several members of his family from Connecticut to Geauga County, Ohio. 

The Clark Group
  • CLARK—George Clark came from Sussex County, New Jersey, to Licking County, Ohio, before 1820. (I’m hoping Josh will talk a little about New Jersey, even though it’s not technically part of New England.)
  • DIVERS—Juda or Judy Divers, his wife, came with him from New Jersey.

All of these families probably trekked through Pennsylvania on their way to Ohio. In fact, I pick up the trails of many additional families in Pennsylvania, so I’m glad the course will take a close look at that state as well.

It amazes me, sometimes, to think of the risks these people took. What a sense of adventure they must have had. One thing I can’t help but wonder is why they did it. Why did my ancestors leave essentially everything they knew behind—their homes, their relatives, their friends, their communities—and set out for a completely different life in unsettled territory? Records alone don’t tell me that. Maybe I’ll understand their reasons better after I take this course.

GRIP directors Elissa Scalise Powell and Deborah Deal say there are still a couple of seats left in three courses, so it's not too late to jump in. They’re taught by fantastic instructors: Paula Stuart-Warren (a gem—I’ve taken an intermediate class with her and loved it), Craig Scott (who I swear knows everything about U.S. military records), and John Colletta (who is so much fun to listen to you hardly realize how much you’re learning). If you’d like to find out more, check out the GRIP website at http://www.gripitt.org. I imagine those last few spots will get snapped up pretty quick.

It's fun to meet up with friends like Becky Wiseman in the cafeteria

I know the week at GRIP is going to be a busy one, but I’ll try to post a little about what I’m learning, as time permits. I hope to get some new ideas for solving the puzzles of my northeastern ancestors, and have a good time seeing and making lots of genealogy friends. Let me know if you’ll be there. I can’t wait!

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  1. I so much enjoy reading about your ongoing courses and conferences, and your growing expertise. It sounds like so much fun! And your target for more knowledge from GRIP is extra clear: 5 groups of ancestors who migrated from parts of New England (or New Jersey) to the Midwest. You are so lucid and systematic in your studies and in everything you write. It's a joy.

    I share your wonder at Why our ancestors migrated. It must have been scary, especially sailing across the Atlantic. Some of mine went from Maryland to South Carolina, perhaps in search of more fertile land? Back then they didn't have slaves. Others went to Barbados from England, and then up to South Carolina. In those places there were always slaves and plantations.

    Thank you for this cheerful and informative post!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Mariann. All that moving around does make you think, doesn't it? And how did they choose where to go? It amazes me to think of the impact that their choice of place made, not only in their lives but to future generations. I really enjoy reading about your ancestors' travels, too.

  2. Just when I thought we'd be able to get together for a cup of coffee and a chat... ;)

    Sounds like a wonderful opportunity. You'll certainly bring back with you several nuggets of research wisdom!

    1. Oh, Jacqi, I hope we can connect up soon! You're right, I do feel GRIP is going to be a great opportunity to learn and grow. But I will be sorry to miss that chance to chat :)

  3. Great post, Shelley! I'm looking forward to seeing you soon!

  4. I am waaay behind with my blog reading and am playing catch-up! It will be great to see you at G.R.I.P. again this year (even though we are in different classes). I am so looking forward to G.R.I.P. and all that it offers in the way of learning and seeing old friends as well as making new ones! See you a week from tomorrow!!


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