Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding Family History in Vermont



When I was fresh out of college, under-employed, and living with my parents, I got into genealogy. Aside from being a nerd about history, I'm the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, so the role of 'family historian' was a natural fit. And while my family is as WASPily boring as they come, that also means they're fairly easy to trace.

Some of my more recent immigrant ancestors came over from Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1800s. They settled near Barnet, Vermont, which at the time, had a large Scottish community - in Caledonia County, fittingly enough. And while a generation later, the family had begun to move west, I still have a few ancestors buried in Vermont.



Around 1796, my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Claud and Agnes Somers, followed a few of their eight children to America. They brought along the following note, attesting to the fact that they were good Scots and Presbyterians.

These dow certify that Claud Summers, weaver, and Agnes Summers his spouse, and Marion and Jannet Summers their daughters, all communicants, resided in this parish of Glasgow for fourteen years and upwards, preceeding this date, during which time they behaved themselves wisely, civily, and honestly, free of public scandal or ground of church censure known to us. Attested at Glasgow the 28th day of March, one thousand seven hundred ninety-five years, by Robert Balfour, Minister, and Wm. Walker, Session Clerk.  [Frederick Wells' 'A History of Barnet, Vermont']



We stopped by the Stevens Cemetery, where Claud and Agnes were buried. We found their graves and a veritable slew of relatives. (Many with confusingly similar names - people liked to recycle in the 18th century, to the point where you can figure out the birth order in some families of German heritage, simply according to who each child was named for.)



Meanwhile, another set of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, John Buchanan and Ann Campbell, had arrived in America in 1785. The family lived in New Hampshire for a couple of years before moving to Vermont. My favorite detail about this family? When they arrived in America they'd never heard of fireflies and freaked out the first time they saw some.

One of their children was impressed (basically, kidnapped as a teen) into the British Navy and ended up getting injured in Mauritius during the Napoleonic Wars. Another, the twin sister of my direct ancestor, fell on some burning brush and died as a result. Luckily, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Isabell, led a fairly normal life and married John Somers, son of Claud and Agnes.



Both the Buchanans and the Somers' are buried in the cemetery next to the Presbyterian church in Barnet Center. It's about as scenic as a New England cemetery can be, next to a whitewashed church and perched on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding mountains.



While every branch of my family tree traces back to the same two little postage stamps on the globe (the British Isles and Germany), I appreciate the fact that going back centuries, I come from people who've traveled. Have you ever tracked down your family history? Where did it lead you?

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