298 Years Ago Today

On August 10, 1715, two hundred and ninety-eight years ago today, John Stearns (ca. 1692-1765) and Deliverance Bigelow (1695-1762), my 7th great grandparents, were married in Watertown, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts.

Marriage Record of John Stearns and Deliverance Bigelow
Marriage Record of John Stearns and Deliverance Bigelow

A transcription of the marriage record above reads as follows: “John Stearns and Deliverance Biglow Both of Watertown were joined in Marriag August of 10th 1715 by Mr. Sammuel Argier Minister in Watertown.”

Following their marriage, John and Deliverance remained in Watertown for a few years, where their first two children were born. By about 1720, they relocated to Worcester, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, where they had at least nine more children.

210 Years Ago Today

On June 7, 1803, two hundred and ten years ago today, Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), my 4th great grandfather, was born in Claremont, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire the son of Samuel Stearns (1754-1840) and Thankful Raymond (1756-1817).

Source: Van Wagenen, Avis Stearns. Stearns Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns, and Their Descendants (1901)
Source: Van Wagenen, Avis Stearns. Stearns Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns, and Their Descendants (1901)

By 1838, Lyman had left New Hampshire and relocated to Howard Co., Missouri where he married Rebecca B. Hines (1816-1875) in that year. Together, Lyman and Rebecca had six children, one of which was Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930), my 3rd great grandfather. By 1842, Lyman moved his family to Linn Co., Missouri where he ran a boarding house. By the 1850’s, the California Gold Rush was well under way; and by 1852, Lyman, his wife Rebecca, and their six children had left Linn Co., Missouri for Placer Co., California. It is unclear if Lyman made any attempt to become a gold miner. However, he did own and operate a Quartz Mine in Tuolumne Co., California, which he sold in 1860. By all accounts, it appears that Lyman may have suffered the familiar fate of most miners during the Gold Rush. After selling his mine, he became a farmer in Sonoma Co., California and then a Peddler (or merchant) in Oakland, Alameda Co., California. He died in Oakland in 1879 and was buried next to his wife in an unmarked grave.

Fearless Females Challenge: March 16 – Let’s Do Lunch!

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 16 — If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?

For me, this challenge is a difficult one because I think that I would not mind having lunch with each of my female ancestors, if I could. I can only imagine the information and stories that they could share. However, I suppose I could answer this prompt in one of two ways.

First of all, I think I would like to have lunch with my female ancestors that passed away in my lifetime. This would particularly include my paternal grandmother, Margaret Ann (Lapham) Kernan (1936-), and my great grandmothers, Maxine Elizabeth (Davis-Kernan) Smith (1912-1992), Pauline Katherine (Rains-Rowlands) Kernan (1913-1997), Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985), Goldia “Goldie” Mae (Worthington) Hamilton (1912-2006), Irene Vera (Balla) Sebok (1913-2006). This luncheon would also include my only 2nd great grandmother that passed away in my lifetime, Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983).

An alternative luncheon would involve my immigrant female ancestors from my Kernan, Lapham, Hamilton, and Sebok lines, or the earliest known female I have in those lines if the immigrant ancestor is unknown. This would include Martha Rose (Sheridan) Kiernan (1797-?), Mary (Mann) Lapham (1640-1712), Jennie M. (Lightcap) Heldman (1872-1905), and Roza Mari (Peto) Sebok (1871-1937). It might also include other female immigrant/earliest ancestors, such as Anna Eliza (Backer-Stearns) Tice (1854-1919), Rebecca (Gibson) Stearns (1635-1698), Sarah (Spinney) Davis (1746-?), Mary Ann (Wys) Beeney (ca. 1784-1857), Ann (Forsyth) Leishman (1828-1896), Anna Elizabeth (Stålberg) Lowenburg (1869-1918), Anna Elizabeth (UNKNOWN) Lightcap (?-?), Alice (Taylor) Worthington (1662-1729), Elizabeth (Grant) Gifford (1615-1683), Eszter (Szabó) Balla (1857-1925), and Julia (Molnar) Balla (1885-1962).

In either set up, I don’t think we would go anywhere in particular. I think it would be at my parent’s home. I would want each of them to prepare their signature dish (the women in my family all love to cook); and we would have a party-type luncheon similar to the Christmas parties my grandmother had when I was a kid. Lots of food and lots of talking. I think that would be the ideal luncheon for me with any of my female ancestors.

Fearless Females Challenge: March 3 – Names and Naming Patterns

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 3 — Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.

As a male, I am not named after a female ancestor. However, I am named after my grandfathers, my first name (William) being that of my paternal grandfather’s name and my middle name (Lee) being that of my maternal grandfather’s name (well the name he legally changed it to anyway). My paternal grandfather is also named after his grandfathers, with his first name (William) being that of his maternal grandfather and his middle name (George) being that of his paternal grandfather. So, in an extended way I am named after my great grandmother Maxine’s father.

Despite not being named after a female ancestor, I do have some uniquely or unusually named women in my family tree. I have some female ancestors with unusual names like Jemima, Jerusha, Zerutha, Kjersti, and Ingeborg. I have one ancestor named Euphemia (Wink) Leishman (1789-?), my 5th great grandmother and an ancestor of my 2nd great grandmother Anna Margaret (Leishman) Lapham (1875-1951). Although I am unsure of its popularity throughout Europe, it seems unusual for a Scottish woman to have the Greek name Euphemia. I also have some ancestors with names that are unusual to find today, though not in Puritan Colonial America, such as my 5th great grandmother Thankful (Raymond) Stearns (1756-1817) and my 7th great grandmother Deliverance (Bigelow) Stearns (1695-1762). Both Thankful and Deliverance are both ancestors of my 2nd great grandmother, Maudena Elizabeth (Stearns) Kernan (1885-1936), whose first name is so unusual that she often went by nicknames, such as Dena when she was a child and Lizzie (after her middle name) when she was an adult.

Maudena (Stearns) Kernan
Maudena (Stearns) Kernan

Perhaps the most unusual female name I have uncovered in researching my ancestry is the name of one of my 3rd great grandmothers, Tirzah Olive Stephens (1873-1967), who was first married to Otto W. Agee (1868-1904). Until I uncovered the name Tirzah in my own ancestry, I had not recalled every hearing the name before. Researching the meaning of this name, I found that it is of Hebrew and Biblical origins, being the name of one of the daughters of Zelophehad who is spoken of in Numbers 27:1-11 as petitioning Moses for the right to inherit property following the death of their father. It is said that this petition is what granted Jewish women the right of inheritance under Jewish law. Tirzah is also the name of an ancient city now in the West Bank.

Tirzah (Stephens-Agee) Martin, 1967
Tirzah (Stephens-Agee) Martin, 1967

My Ancestral Connection to Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

On January 17, 1706, three hundred and seven years ago today, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), noted polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his life, Benjamin Franklin was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, and statesman. He was the 6th President of Pennsylvania (1785-1788), United States Minister to France (1778-1785), United States Minister to Sweden (1782-1783), and 1st United States Postmaster General (1775-1776). He is the only Founding Father who signed all four of the major documents of the founding of the United States, which include the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the United States Constitution. His early involvement in the call for American independence and unity earned him the title of “The First American.” Additionally, his contributions to science and his inventions, which include the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and a carriage odometer, made him a major figure in the American Enlightenment.

While researching my family history, I discovered that I have a probable ancestral connection to this historical figure in American history. When I began researching the ancestry of my paternal grandfather, William Kernan (LIVING), I researched a family that married into my Kernan branch, the Stearns family. As I dug deeper into this branch and its related branches, I found publications that noted a probable connection to Benjamin Franklin through the Lawrence family (an early New England family), which married into my Stearns branch. According to these publications, Benjamin Franklin’s maternal grandfather, Peter Folger (ca. 1617-1690) was the son of John Folger (ca. 1590-1660) and Meribah Gibbs (ca. 1595-1635). These articles state that Meribah Gibbs was most likely the daughter John Gibbs (ca. 1565-1608) and Alice Elmy (ca. 1571-1658). Alice Elmy was the daughter of Richard Elmy (ca. 1548-?) and Margaret Lawrance (1555-1621). This Margaret Lawrance was the daughter of John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583), who were my 13th great grandparents.

The following is a chart that shows the probable descent of Benjamin Franklin and the decent of my paternal grandfather, William Kernan, from John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and his wife Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583):

Benjamin Franklin’s Line: My Grandfather’s Line:
1 John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) m. Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583) 1 John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) m. Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583)
2 Margaret Lawrence (1555-1621) m. Richard Elmy (1548-?) 2 John Lawrence (ca. 1545-1607) m. Joan Frustenden (ca. 1549-1606)
3 Alice Elmy (ca. 1571-1658) m. John Gibbs (ca. 1565-1608) 3 Henry Lawrence (1586-?) m. Mary West (ca. 1579-1648)
4 Meribah Gibbs (ca. 1595-1635) m. John Folger (ca. 1590-1660) 4 John Lawrence (ca. 1609-1667) m. Elizabeth UNKNOWN (1611-1663)
5 Peter Folger (ca. 1617-1690) m. Mary Morrill (1620-1704) 5 George Lawrence (ca. 1637-1709) m. Elizabeth Crispe (1636-1691)
6 Abiah Folger (1667-1752) m. Josiah Franklin (1657-1745) 6 Judith Lawrence (1660-Bef. 1713) m. John Stearns (1656-1722)
7 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) m. Deborah Reed (1708-1774) 7 John Stearns (ca. 1692-1765) m. Deliverance Bigelow (1695-1762)
8 Samuel Stearns (1720-1776) m. Jemima Hoyt (1729-ca. 1792)
9 Samuel Stearns (ca. 1754-1840) m. Thankful Raymond (ca. 1756-1817)
10 Lyman Stearns (1803-1879) m. Rebecca Hines (1816-1875)
11 Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) m. Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919)
12 Maudena Elizabeth Stearns (1885-1936) m. George Edward Kernan (1884-1960)
13 Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979) m. Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992)
14 William Kernan (LIVING) m. Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004)

Based on the generations of descent from John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and his wife Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583) listed above, my paternal grandfather, William Kernan, and Benjamin Franklin are 5th cousins, 7x removed. This makes Benjamin Franklin my 5th cousin, 9x removed.

Note: At present, I have not been able to establish myself nor find any source that establishes without a doubt the probable relationship between Meribah Gibbs and her supposed parents, John Gibbs and Alice Elmy. Every instance I have found states that this relationship is “probable,” “likely” or “believed to be.” Thus, this is only a probable connection to Benjamin Franklin.

94 Years Ago Today

On January 1, 1919, ninety-four years ago today, Anna “Annie” Eliza (Backer) Tice (1854-1919), my 3rd great grandmother, died in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. According to her death certificate, Anna died from influenza and pericarditis.

Anna (Backer) Tice's Death Certificate
Anna (Backer) Tice’s Death Certificate

Anna was buried on January 3, 1919 in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon.

Anna (Backer) Tice's Grave Marker
Anna (Backer) Tice’s Grave Marker

At the time of her death, Anna was married to her second husband, Jonathan Snyder Tice (1843-1923), whom she married in 1905. Jonathan was previously married and the father of seven. Anna was first married to Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930), with whom she had four children before their divorce in 1901. Little has been discovered about Anna’s early life, moreover. She was born in London, England, and was reportedly brought to America by a governess. It is supposed by family tradition that the Anna listed on her death certificate as her mother may have actually been this governess.

137 Years Ago Today

On December 21, 1875, one hundred and thirty-seven years ago today, Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) married Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919) before a Justice of the Peace in Alameda Co., California. Both were living in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland in Alameda Co., California.

Marriage Certificate of Theodore Stearns and Anna Backer

Following their marriage, Theodore and Anna moved to Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon, where they four children between 1885 and 1891: Maudena, Vena, Theodore, and Curtis. Theodore and Anna’s marriage did not last much longer after 1891. Theodore, according to statements Anna made when she filed for divorce, “willfully and without cause deserted [Anna Stearns] on October 2, 1901; and has ever since remained away from [her], and that [he] treated [her] with cruelty and inhumanity, thereby rendering [her] life burdensome.” Anna’s request for a divorce was granted, and their marriage was “dissolved” on November 7, 1902. Both Anna and Theodore remarried following their divorce.

Photo of Theodore and Anna Stearns in Portland, Oregon
Photo of Theodore and Anna Stearns in Portland, Oregon

Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) and Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919) are my 3rd great grandparents, and were the parents of Maudena Elizabeth Stearns (1885-1936) who married George Edward Kernan (1884-1960).

Family History Through the Alphabet – Y is for Yarmouth

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter Y. A noteworthy Y I have run across while researching my ancestry is Yarmouth.

Yarmouth is a port city and civil parish on the Isle of Wright, an island off the southern coast of England. Being the oldest city on the island, Yarmouth is filled with old world charm, including a castle (Yarmouth Castle) that dates back to 1547. It is also a location that draws a lot of yacht-owners and other boating activities. Yarmouth, moreover, is also claimed to be the place of ancestral origins for many American branches of the Stearns family by unsourced accounts.



The Stearns family, which is the ancestral branch of my 2nd great grandmother Maudena Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Stearns) Kernan (1885-1936), has a long history in the United States, dating back to 1630’s. According to Stearns Genealogy and Memoirs (1901) by Avis Stearns Van Wagenen, one of the important progenitors of this surname in the United States, Isaac Stearns, and his family boarded The Arabella on April 8, 1630 at Yarmouth, and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts on June 12, 1630.

The Winthrop Fleet

But was this Isaac and his family actually from Yarmouth? Although it is unclear if they actually lived there, sufficient evidence exists to suggest that he and his family were not in fact from Yarmouth. Records for Isaac’s wife, Mary Barker, show that she was from Nayland, Suffolk, England. Parish Register of Nyland also record the baptisms of at least two of Isaac’s children just prior to 1630.

Map Showing Suffolk, England

The Isaac Stearns that arrived in Salem aboard The Arabella is not, moreover, an ancestor of my 2nd great grandmother; rather the progenitor of my ancestral branch of Stearns in America is Charles Stearns (ca. 1625-1695), my 9th great grandfather. Were Isaac Stearns and Charles Stearns related? Most descendants of Charles Stearns claim so. They often cite an oral tradition regarding the relationship between Isaac and Charles. Van Wagenen records this traditional account about the early Stearns progenitors as follows: “There is a tradition prevalent in Lynn, Mass., that three brothers, names Daniel, Isaac, and Shubael Stearns, came from England to American in 1630, and settled near Watertown, Mass; that Daniel died, unmarried; that Shubael and Isaac each brought their families with them; that, soon after landing, Shubael and wife both died, leaving two sons, named Charles and Nathaniel, eight or ten years of age, who were reared and care for by their Uncle Isaac.” Is there any truth to this claim? Presently, the claim cannot be authenticated apart from one reference made in the 1681 will of Isaac Stearns, which reads: “My will is, that my kinsman Charles Sternes, shall have ten pounds of my estate.” Isaac’s identification of Charles as a “kinsman” is frequently cited as proof that they were brothers. However, just what Isaac meant by “kinsman” is unclear, as kinsman can refer to any male relative, among other meanings. To date, no other document has been discovered that mentions a relationship between Isaac and Charles..

It is often claimed in unsourced accounts that Charles Stearns also arrived aboard The Arabella, and it is from this belief that the claim of Charles’s Yarmouth origins arises. However, this claim has not been substantiated. In fact, no details prior to 1646, the year in which Charles was admitted a freeman, have been authenticated yet. Perhaps he is in fact from Suffolk, England, like his “kinsman” Isaac Stearns appears to have been. It is unclear, moreover, just what ship he arrived on. Numerous other ships arrived after The Arabella in 1630, including The Jewell on June 13, The Ambrose on June 18, and The Talbot on July 2. In all, The Winthrop Fleet consisted of eleven ships, bringing approximately 700 Puritans to New England. If Charles arrived prior to 1646, it seems very likely that he was aboard one of them.

Although my Stearns family may have a connection to Yarmouth as the port of their departure from England to New England, it seems unlikely that Yarmouth is the ancestral origins of the family.

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76 Years Ago Today

On October 13, 1936, seventy-six years ago today, Maudena Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Stearns) Kernan (1885-1936), my 2nd great grandmother, died in Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon. According to her death certificate, she died from a cerebral hemorrhage that occurred late in the evening.

Maudena was buried three days later on October 16, 1936 in Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Portland. Although a headstone was bought at the time, it was not put in place until recently. According to oral history, there was a dispute among some of her children regarding the headstone (perhaps over the spelling of her name).


Maudena was born in Portland in 1885 the daughter of Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) and Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919). In 1903, she married George Edward Kernan (1884-1960), with whom she had twelve children, one of which was Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979), my great grandfather.

Family History Through the Alphabet – V is for Voter Registrations, Vermont, Virginia, & Van Nieukirk

This week’s Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge features the letter V. The following are a few noteworthy V’s I have run across while researching my ancestry.

V is for Voter Registrations:

Voter Registration records are an often overlooked source of information relevant to genealogical research. These sources can provide, depending on the location, not only name and date of registration, but also age or birth year, occupation, time frame of naturalization status, marital status, and place of residence. This information may fill in gaps in your research on a particular ancestor. While researching my Stearns branch, for example, I discovered that my 4th great grandfather, Lyman Stearns (1803-1879), was living in Sonoma Co., California between the 1860 and 1870 U.S. Federal censuses.

Click here to read “Did My Ancestors Vote?” by Kimberly Powell of About.com.

V is for Vermont:

V is also for Vermont. The State of Vermont was the 14th state to join the Union in 1791. It was first inhabited by Europeans in 1535. In researching my ancestry, I have discovered at least one connection to “The Green Mountain State.”

My Dunton branch traces back to Vermont to about 1800 when my 4th great grandfather, James Cyrus Dunton (ca. 1800-1845), the father of Harriet Rose Dunton (1836-1927) who married Owen Francis Kiernan (1836-1901), was born. James’s parents, David Dunton (ca. 1758-1829) and Polly Stoddard (ca. 1762-1845), were originally from Massachusetts, but moved to Vermont on their way to Steuben Co., New York, where they both died.

V is for Virginia:

V is also for Virginia. The State of Virginia was the 10th state to join the Union in 1788. The first permanent European settlements began in 1607 with Jamestown. In researching my ancestry, I have discovered a few connections to the “Old Dominion” State, one of which, my Agee branch, I will focus on here.

My Agee branch traces back to Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735), who was born in Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, France. As a Huguenot (French Protestant), life in France became very difficult for Mathieu and his family by the reign of Louis XIV, who revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had ensured Protestants the right to worship, in 1685. Undoubtedly motivated by religious persecution, Mathieu left France for the Netherlands. It was there that he was, like many other young French Protestant immigrants, conscripted into the invasion force of William of Orange (1650-1702), King later King William III, for invasion of England during the Glorious Revolution. For their service, many French Protestants took advantage of 10,000 acres land grant in the Virginia Colony. Mathieu was among those, arriving in 1690. Mathieu settled in Manakintowne, Goochland, Virginia, where he was a prosperous land owner. It was also in Manakintowne that he married Cecelia Ann Gandovin (1691-1761) in 1714. For three generations in my line, the Agee family remained in Virginia before moving to Tennessee, then Missouri, and finally Oregon.

Mathieu Isaac Agè (ca. 1670-1735) was a direct ancestor of Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), who married Wilhelm Percy Wellin (1895-1977), and was the mother of my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who married Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).

V is for Van Nieukirk:

V is also for Van Nieukirk (or Van Nieuwkirk, among other spellings), a surname that is claimed to be the ancestral family name of my 7th great grandmother, Hannah Cornelison (1757-1844). My Cornelison branch, and the Van Nieukirk family, trace back to New Netherlands prior to British rule. Hannah’s grandparents, Garrett Cornelison (ca. 1700-1779) and Marietje Lammerse (ca. 1704-1785) were married in New Harlem. It is claimed that the surname was changed to Cornelison after the British gained control of the area. Many Van Nieukirk changed their name to Cornelison (because it was a common first and middle name in the family) or some variation of Nieukirk. However, I have not yet been able to find what branch Garrett belongs to.

The Van Nieukirk surname is a habitation name, deriving from Nijkerk, a municipality and city in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, which is where the Van Nieukirk family is from. The word Nijkerk is a variant of Nieuwekerk, which means “new church.”

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