Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Weaving Family Connections

I’m a weaver and I belong to a Weaver’s Guild.  A project was proposed to rehabilitate a barn-frame loom in John Greenleaf Whittier’s birthplace. I knew nothing about barn -frame looms but I do follow directions well so I volunteered.  In JGW’s birthplace, in addition to the barn-frame loom, there were hand towels that were woven by JGW’s mother Abigail Hussey Whittier.  I was inspired to re-produce the weave and so I planned to make some pillow cases with the same block weave pattern and stripes of color that Mrs. Whittier made.  Of course, I didn’t have to start the project by planting flax like she had to do.  So I had leisure time to learn about her history and research her genealogy. 

Abigail was the daughter of Samuel Hussey and Mercy Evans.  She was born in 1779 and married John Whittier in 1804.  They lived in Haverhill, Massachusetts.   Her paternal grandparents were Joseph Hussey and Elizabeth Robinson of Somersworth New Hampshire.  Joseph’s father, Richard Hussey was the immigrant to the colonies in this family line and he was a weaver, too.  He settled in Dover, NH.  Joseph’s wife was Elizabeth Robinson, born 30 July 1712, also probably a resident of Dover at the time of her marriage.  I started to hear the little alarm bell in my head which goes off to tell me to keep digging genealogically.   Dover was a place where I had found a lot of family ties.  This could get interesting, I thought. 

Elizabeth Robinson’s father was Timothy Robinson who was born 15 March 1667 and lived in Dover NH.  Her mother was Mary Roberts.  Her parents were John Roberts (1628 – 1694/95) and Abigail Nutter (1630 – 1674).  I knew about both of these people and I was getting excited.  Abigail Nutter’s father’s name comes up from time to time and it is an interesting name:  Hatevil Nutter.  Make of it what you will but it is great to have in a genealogy because you remember a name like that.   John Roberts I knew because he was a child of my 10th great-grandfather Thomas Roberts, Sr., of Dover.  Thomas, Sr., was one of the First Settlers of Dover and was a member of the Fishmongers Company of London.  In a 1641 document from that company he was marked as “in New England”. 

My Dad’s ancestral line comes down from Thomas Roberts, Sr., through John Roberts’ sister Anna who married as her first husband, James Philbrick, Sr., who was born in Suffolkshire and died in Hampton New Hampshire in 1674.  They were my 9th great- grandparents in this line.  A great great great grand-daughter or theirs, Mary Brown, married Jacob Dearborn who relocated his family to Parsonsfield, Maine.  Jacob Dearborn’ s father, Capt. John Dearborn, was one of my Revolutionary War Veterans. 

Thomas Roberts, Sr. had another daughter, Elizabeth, who married Benjamin Heard in 1671.  He had been born in York Maine, but lived near Dover for a while.  One of their children was the Anna Heard who was a captive taken to Canada as a consequence of the Candlemas Massacre in York January 1692.  She deserves her own story and will get one soon.  She was my Mom’s 5th great-grandmother. 

So Thomas Roberts, Sr.,  becomes simultaneously, my 8th great-grandfather maternally, and 10th great grandfather paternally.  And he was John Greenleaf Whittier’s 4th great-grandparent.  Quite a web of family to think about.  I guess I am my own cousin from this maze of people.  My parents weren’t living when I first experienced the stunning revelation that my ‘early New England’ father and my ‘Irish-French-Canadian’ mother were also cousins.  (Eighth cousins four times removed I think.)  I’ve recovered from that by now and treasure all of these connections since they make really good true stories. 

Oh, yes, we fixed the barn-frame loom and it’s in an upstairs chamber of the house.  The loom wasn’t used in a barn – it was constructed in the same way a building was framed back in the day.  And I wove the pillowcases that were inspired by my cousin Abigail Hussey Whittier.  You can see her towels and her entire home if you visit the John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace in Haverhill.   www.johngreenleafwhittier.com

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