The upcoming summer issue of the Mayflower Descendant includes an interesting article by Mark Wentling entitled “Joseph Brownell (1699-ca. 1773) of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and Little Compton, Rhode Island: Corrections to the Identities of His Wives and Children.” The article examines conflicting claims in past genealogical literature and goes through numerous contemporary sources to show that one Joseph Brownell, a fifth-generation descendant of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke, was married five times and had eight children by his first three wives.
The truth is, I’ve rewritten this post about five times. Who really wants to lead with an image of a German royal in official Nazi dress? What could a guy like this possibly have to say? Lately, though, I have been looking for something bigger in the “unusual connections” department. I’ve been wanting one of those Paul Harvey moments, in which a family connection leads you to a broader perspective on the world—something that reveals “the rest of the story.”1
Recently, while watching a randomly stumbled-upon TV program, I learned about diamonds stolen during World War II. These particular diamonds were purloined by American service personnel from members of German royalty with Nazi connections. The story piqued my interest, and I had to wonder—could I have any genealogical connection to this fairly recent history of stolen diamonds, some “likely Nazis,” and the German royal family? Continue reading A Kingdom of No Ends→
I am incredibly fortunate that I have my dream job, working remotely as a Genealogical Researcher with the Boston-based New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS), while living in my dream location – the remote Keweenaw Peninsula of northern Michigan.
Last week I was sitting in Shute’s 1890 Saloon—an historic watering hole in the city of Calumet, Michigan—reflecting on my good fortune, when I looked up at the television flanking the old Brunswick-stained glass canopy and recognized a familiar ship on the screen. The film was a 1952 movie called Plymouth Adventure, a rather questionable depiction of the Mayflower landing on Plymouth Rock. It got me thinking about how I came to be in this spot: a Finn drawing a paycheck from a Boston organization in remote northern Michigan. Surely, I represent a strange confluence of events. Continue reading Boston Roots in the Keweenaw Peninsula→
Few cinematic icons have endured in our collective consciousness as well as James Dean. Nearly seventy years after his death, his short and quixotic life has caused many to study not only his life and legacy, but also the possibilities of his ancestry. Indeed, with over fourteen hundred James Dean family trees on Ancestry.com, it seems that interest in this proverbial 1950s bad boy isn’t going away anytime soon.1
For me, there’s still an unabated curiosity revolving around the possibility of Dean having Mayflower ancestry. A quick look at several biographies and a myriad of trees reveals all the “old names” (Dean included) that might lead back to our cousins at Plymouth Rock. Yet nowhere among them could I find anything definitive, beyond the most tepid of answers or the vaguest research. I kept expecting someone to say that Dean had descended from the irascible Doty or the pious Brewster, or perhaps simply confirm that all possible Mayflower connections had been unequivocally disproved. Thus far, I’ve only found oneresearcher who was willing to make a definitive statement: “no such descent has been found.” That conclusion was drawn in a mid-1990s article by author Richard E. Brenneman.2