My Genealogy Page

Important Note:

I began my genealogical researches when I was about eleven; I regard this as a pastime and nothing more. Consequently, I am extremely lax in my note taking (I generally jot down names and dates and pay no attention to sources whatsoever) and can at times be totally credulous in my acceptance of my own or other people’s conjectures, especially if they point in the direction of some interesting or romantic association. Use any materials you find herein in similar spirit or with utter scepticism. There are undoubtedly innumerable errors, which I will probably not bother to correct even if pointed out to me.


Updated 20 October 2003

Thanks to the extraordinary kindness and generosity of Daniel E. Gerow, Jr., who still lives in the same house his family have occupied for over 200 years (during which time, as he says, they've never thrown anything out--thank heavens!), I am able to announce that I am beginning a genealogist's dream project.  Mr. Gerow has given me a wealth of letters, pictures, maps, clippings and mementoes sent by my family over 100 years ago, which I intend to transcribe and publish here.  They date from 1876 to 1911 and include descriptions of life in a Nebraska soddie, blizzards, tornadoes, agricultural practices of the time and much more.  Because many of the early letters are headed 'On the Prairie,' I am borrowing that title for the collection (see link at bottom of page).

Our story begins in 1876, in Perth, Scotland.  The writer of this earliest letter (and most of the others) is my great-granduncle, David Ewart ANDERSON.  He had originally emigrated before 1870, and lived for approximately a decade with the Gerow family in Connecticut.  In 1876, he revisited his native Scotland and attempted to persuade the rest of his family to return to America with him.  Only his brother, Alexander, my great-grandfather, was interested (Alex would join him in 1877 and they would both move to Nebraska the following year).

I am estimating it will take me approximately seven months to complete the transcription.  The orthography and dialect can be quite difficult, and the frugal David saved postage and paper by interlining and writing crosswise to the text he had already penned (fortunately, he usually switched to pencil for the interlinear and/or perpendicular passages).  I will add letters as I decipher them.  I hope that you will enjoy and profit from them!

Updated 16 March 2007

Thanks again to Mr. Gerow’s contribution of letters, I discovered that my ‘ANDERSON’ ancestors were really ‘JACK’ ancestors!

For reasons unknown, David Ewart JACK (who immigrated to the US in about 1869) changed his last name to ‘ANDERSON.’  When his younger brother, Alexander, joined him in the autum of 1876, he also took the name of ANDERSON.  Both would subsequently subtract five or six years from their real ages and lie about their parents on their wedding licenses!  No doubt puzzled by the problem of having a father with a different surname from theirs, they used their parents’ given names but their maternal grandparents’ surnames.  They listed their parents as John ANDERSON and Betsy LAWSON, but they were actually the eldest sons of John JACK (forester of the Murie estate at Errol) and Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ ANDERSON, daughter of David ANDERSON and Janet LOWSON/LAWSON/LOUSON.

Curious, no?


Updated 14 September 2002

Can it be?  Another update within just a few months?  Yes indeed!  At last I think I've been able to contribute a more or less original theory to CHALFANT/CHALFIN/CHAFFIN research.  The Solomon CHALFIN who lived from 1779-1855 was married to a woman called both 'Isabella' and 'Phebe,' whose maiden name has always been given as McCOY or McKOY, but no one, to my knowledge, has ever been able to find a trace of her origins. I now believe strongly that her name was actually  McILROY.  Why, you ask?

1. Both women were born 29 [sic] February 1783, Solomon's wife according to her tombstone and Isabella McILROY according to her family bible.

2. Isabella McILROY was born either at Loudon County, Virginia (adjacent to modern day Berkeley Co., WV) or Back Creek, Frederick County (now Berkeley Co.).  Solomon lived at Back Creek, and married Isabella in Berkeley Co., 21 November 1803

3. Solomon and Isabella moved to Ross County, Ohio, shortly after their marriage. The McILROYs also moved to Ross County, at least by 1812, as numerous records attest.

4. The second daughter and son of Solomon and Isabella were named Rebecca and Daniel, probably after the maternal grandparents. Isabella's parents were Daniel and Rebecca [PYOTT] McILROY.

5. Solomon and Isabella's son, Joseph, married Sarah Ann DAVIS, the daughter of Isabella McILROY's younger sister, Deborah.  Marriages between first cousins were quite common at this time.

Considering I found Isabella McILROY by a search on her unusual birthdate, and began investigating her knowing nothing else about her, the connections, proximities and coincidences that turned up are overwhelming. There is no doubt left in my mind that Solomon CHALFIN married Isabella McILROY and that the same linguistic tendency to change rare names to more common ones that transformed CHALFIN into CHAFFIN also turned McILROY into McCOY.

The bad news is . . . Isabella's parents' ancestors are shadowy and in dispute. Oh well, more work to do!

From 3 July 2002

Well, I had a major breakthrough yesterday (not that it’s of any interest to you, whoever you are, as I know of no other living descendents of Ambrose Snow COFFIN and Sarah Dyer SAWYER, beyond my own branch of the family—if you are one, I’d love to hear from you!). Anyway, I thought I’d update my pages, and gibber a little about the experience of finding something one has searched for 25 years. As you may see from my ‘Brick Walls’ and ‘Letters of Condolence 1900’ pages (not yet updated), I’ve been trying to establish a connection between Henry J. COFFIN and the ‘illustrious Coffin family of Nantucket Island’ (to quote his wife’s obituary) for a very long time indeed. My only clues, beyond his tombstone and census entries giving his birthplace as Maine (with wildly varying years), were a collection of letters written to his eldest daughter in 1900 (6 years after Henry’s death). Unfortunately, people tend not to sign their last names in corresponding with their close kin, so I was left with ‘Aunt Jain,’ ‘Aunt Alvena,’ ‘Cousin Sarah,’ &c. to try to identify. ‘Alvena’ seemed a likely candidate, since that’s such an unusual name. The letters from her were sent from Brooklyn, NY, and mentioned her daughters Blanche and Gussie. Assuming she was either Henry’s sister or sister-in-law, I looked for records of an Alvena Coffin in Kennebec Co., Maine, where I suspected Henry might have come from. At long, long last, I found a marriage record for Alvena COFFIN and Allen ALEXANDER dated 1856 in Augusta, Kennebec, Maine. Well, that was promising and gave me a married name to work with. ‘Alvena ALEXANDER’ quickly produced directory entries from Brooklyn from 1887-1890, with the very encouraging notation, ‘widow of Allen.’ The 1900 census showed her as having daughters Blanche and Gussie! Pay dirt! Still more fortuitous, the 1860 census for Augusta, Kennebec, Maine showed Alvena and Allen ALEXANDER living with Sarah S. COFFIN, aetat. 65, and the 1850 census for Cherryfield, Washington Co., Maine had Sarah S. and Alvena together again . . . I had a great-great-great-grandmother on the COFFIN side at last! The 1840 census, of course, only lists heads of families, but there was Sarah S. again, with children in all the appropriate age groups (if one accepts Henry’s 1850 census declaration that he was 21). Clearly she had lost her husband mid-decade, and I quickly found a likely candidate; Deacon Ambrose COFFIN had died in 1835, and his wife had been Sarah Dyer SAWYER (hence the middle initial ‘S.’). Later on, I found references to the widow of Ambrose moving from Columbia, Maine to Cherryfield (as did the woman in the census records), which cinched the matter. Now I know that none of this is ‘proven,’ but as far as I’m concerned, it’s ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ Online sources speedily took me back to the Mayflower and beyond . . . actually, to the point that I stopped even entering all the data into my database. I’m feeling a little down today. I suppose a major breakthrough can do that. The hunt (at least that hunt) is over and I have what I wanted. On the other hand, these brick walls DO get frustrating after 25 years. And it’s not as though I don’t have lots more brick walls to tear down!

Added a batch more pics to the Ancestral Images section in May . . . more to come!

Below are the family trees of my four grandparents; I've limited each to 8 generations both to save web space and because beyond that, some of the lines become still more 'iffy.' Sorry that there is no 'HOME' button on any of the subtrees, but that's what I get for letting a program do the HTML. I would've had to add one, manually, to something like 1000 pages. Feh.

My Families

Chaffin (Eng > PA > WV > OH > IA > NE, inc. Chalfant, Lash, Wolfkill)

Dickerson (Eng > MA > NY > OH > IA > NE, inc. Blakely, Lemmons, Duffield, Hanna, Frame, Cottle)

Anderson (Scot > MA > NE, inc.Coffin, Merriam, Bowman, Simonds)

Olcott (Eng > MA > NY > IL > NE, inc. Bean, Leavy, Kimball, Russell, Rossiter, Griswold)
'On the Prairie' (letters 1876-1900)

My Brick Walls :(


Ancestral Images

Letters of Condolence 1900

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