Friday, October 16, 2009

Sleepy Hollow Ancestors

Now it is time to look at my husband's spooky heritage!


All of you know the story of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman.

Sleepy Hollow is a real place in the town of Tarrytown, in Westchester County, New York. Every time we would drive by it during our frequent road trips from Delaware, home to Massachusetts, I wanted desperately to go see it. Why? Not just morbid curiosity about whether or not there is a headless horseman, but also that unceasing interest in genealogy!

My husband's ancestors, who would have been contemporaries of Washington Irving and the inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow on whom characters may have been based, are:

Johannis Yerxa, 5th-great-grandfather, born before October 8, 1751 in Tarrytown, baptized in the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow on October 8, 1751. Died June 11, 1828 at Keswick Ridge, York County, New Brunswick.

His parents were Abraham Jurckse and Engeltje Storm (descendant of Dirck Storm, whose book chronicles early life in the area), who were married on October 24, 1750 in Tarrytown (this marriage is recorded in the first record book of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow).

As Washington Irving was a visitor to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow in 1798, he may have met Johannis, or his mother Engeltje, or any of Johannis's siblings (my husband's distant cousins).

Washington Irving's story is a part of the American subconscious; I can't help but feel a little thrill when I hear of or pass by Sleepy Hollow, New York.

I know that when I finally visit the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground, where the Yerxas and Storms, and other ancestors of my husband are buried, I will remember that this is not far from the area where the final events of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow occurred.

May the idea be as thrilling in the future as it is to me now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Celtic Heritage

I wonder if my Irish ancestors celebrated Halloween in America, and Samhain in Ireland.


My 4th great-grandfather (on my mother's side) was Edward Marshall Haley. He was born September 8, 1810 in Ireland.

Information from Plympton, Massachusetts records tell us he was born in Dublin. Letters from one of his granddaughters (my cousin's grandmother) tell us he was a Protestant from Northern Ireland, and went to school in Dublin. His parents, Thomas and Mary Haley, sent him an allowance, which he used to come to America.

Sometime before 1830, Edward came to Massachusetts. On February 5, 1830, he married Clarissa Barrett in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Edward and Clarissa had 12 children, 10 of whom lived to adulthood. This included 6 sons and 4 daughters. One child died before the age of 2 and one daughter, Elizabeth, died when she was 6-years-old. Almost all of the living children probably have descendants living today (I have researched down as far as I can, and have connected with a few cousins). Those children were:

1. Thomas Haley - born March 4, 1831 in Plympton, Massachusetts, died April 5, 1863 in New Orleans, buried at the Chalmette Battlefield.

He has descendents living today, who have his Civil War sword. These descendants and through his son, Henry Thomas Haley, about whom stories still exist in Plympton, such as:

"Tom" Haley loved baseball and bowling. He was also the partner of Frank Hanley in the old H & H Blacking Company (Hanley & Haley) in Brockton, Massachusetts. After Tom and Frank died, the company was changed to K & H Blacking Company, with Harry Haley (Tom's son) as one of the partners.

He is also mentioned in "Tales of Old Plympton", (1977) vol. 1, pg. 338 by Eugene A. Wright with regard to baseball. Tom had moved into Plymouth and joined their baseball team. In a game against his old hometown of Plympton, "The Plymouth boys licked the ------ out of the Plympton boys, but didn't Tom look nice in his uniform."

Henry's son, Harry Franklin Haley (my cousin), is the author of Immortal Athalia.

2. John Barrett Haley - born October 29, 1832 in Plympton, died July 5, 1862 at Point Comfort, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He may be buried at the Hampton Military Hospital there.

3. Susan B. Haley - born August 18, 1834 in Plympton, died August 9, 1857 in Abington, Massachusetts.

4. Mary M. Haley - born May 3, 1836 in Plympton, died January 3, 1910 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

5. William Barrett Haley - born July 10, 1837 in Plympton, died November 24, 1882. He served in the Civil War and his pension file was of great use to both myself and his granddaughter, my cousin. The affidavits written by his wife talked about how they had met and ultimately married in 1873.

6. Ruth Barrett Haley - born January 23, 1839 in Plympton, died 1918, probably in Plympton or the surrounding area, as she is buried there. Her husband, Edward Turner, died at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

7. A Haley child born in 1840 and died August 4, 1842 in Plymouth.

8. Elizabeth Haley - born August 3, 1841 in Plympton and died September 4, 1847 in Plympton, just a month after her 6th birthday.

9. Edward Haley - born April 14, 1843 in Plympton, died August 23, 1905 in Middleborough, Massachusetts, evidently the longest-lived of the 4 Haley brothers who went to fight the Civil War!

Whether or not he has descendants is unclear and his daughter is one of my biggest mysteries. He had a son who lived to adulthood, married, but never had children. And then there was his daughter, Annie, who had an illegitimate Haley in 1892. After that, Annie and her child disappear. One of the mysteries to be solved (and you know how much I enjoy genealogical Nancy Drew-ing)!

10. Clarissa Haley - born February 14, 1845 in Plympton, died June 26, 1927 in Middleborough, Massachusetts. Clarissa had 2 marriages and 4 daughters, and is buried with both her husbands in Plympton.

11. Charles B. Haley - born February 18, 1847 in Plympton, died August 8, 1927, probably in Plympton or Middleborough. One of the few (or perhaps only) children who has no descendants today.

12. My 3rd great-grandfather, the youngest child, Benjamin F. Haley - born between August 1851-1852 (for some reason there is no birth record), and died after 1930, probably in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

Oddly enough, my own grandfather eluded me for quite some time! His wife and 3 out of 4 children died in a diptheria epidemic in Plympton. It took me a long time to find out that he had remarried and settled in another county!

Meanwhile, his son, Hiram Frederick Haley - the only survivor among his siblings and mother - lived on to marry the daughter of Irish immigrants and have children.

So there it is... My Celtic ancestry (nothing is known beyond grandfather Edward, except the few facts listed above), and my genealogical connection to the Irish celebration known as Samhain.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crafty Cousins

As another cross-post from my regular blog, I would like to mention to Witchy relatives of mine:


Charles Godfrey Leland has long-ago New England roots. Most Wiccans and Pagans know him as the author of Aradia: Gospel of the Witches.

Whether or not the information in his book is true (it has been hotly debated for years), Leland can be credited alongside Gardner and others with having a hand in the resurgence of Paganism in modern times.

Another relative is Lady Gwen Thompson, another relative whose roots are old New England. Her grandmother, Adriana Porter, supposedly handed down a family tradition of Witchcraft. The book Rede of the Wiccae covers their lineage, as well as the story of the family tradition. It is a very interesting read!

Those are just a couple of my distant cousins who have had an influence on modern day Neopaganism and Witchcraft that comprise my spiritual path and practices.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Creepy Cousins

If one New Englander will always be remembered infamously (besides me), it would have to be my 7th cousin, 4 times removed, Lizzie Borden. Back home in Massachusetts, we were all familiar with her. Her photo is still enough to incite nightmares:




Spooky eyes! The eyes of a killer, I say! Does not the look on her face say, "Don't cross me or I'll hatchet you"?

Perhaps you are familiar with this little rhyme (when we weren't standing in front of the mirror doing "Bloody Mary", we were saying this, just to creep ourselves out in the night):

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.

Lizzie was born July 19, 1860, in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her mother, Sarah Anthony Morse, died only a few years later, on March 26, 1863 in Fall River of "uterine congestion". Her father, Andrew Jackson Borden, remarried 2 years later to Abby Durfee Gray.

The August 4, 1892 death records of Lizzie's stepmother and father say as the cause of death "Shock from assault with an axe (?) or large hatchet (?)". (The parenthetical question marks are part of the record.)

One may very well wonder what possessed a young woman of good family (her father was a "trader" at the time of his marriage to Sarah, and then listed as a "gentleman" in his death record; Lizzie was a high society debutante) to commit such a crime. Despite the evidence and potential motives, we still do not know why Lizzie did it if, indeed, she did... Lizzie was acquitted of the crime.

For the transcripts, evidence, Lizzie's own inquest testimony, and more, check out The Trial of Lizzie Borden.

And, if there are any strained relationships in your home, you might want to sleep with one eye open...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco

I am doing a series of posts at my daily blog about ancestors and relatives I am honoring throughout October, for the holiday of Samhain.  It seemed a good idea to cross-post them here, since they are all genealogical in nature!

Today I was thinking about my maternal lineage - my mother's, mother's, mother's mother. Most Pagan traditions center around the feminine divine (Goddess), and thus embrace feminism and the importance of matrilineal heritage.


In DNA, intelligence is passed via the mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA). Men do not pass mtDNA to their children; only women do. The mtDNA is used to identify deep ancestry: that is, where in the world your genetic origins lie.

This is my maternal great-great grandmother, Ernesta Maddelena Bergamasco:



Grandma Ernesta was born May 12, 1874 in Moneglia, Italy. Her parents were Giuseppe and Giabatta. Giabatta's maiden name is unknown. Ernesta had 6 siblings, but we only have information about two of them. Her brother Giovanni came to Boston, Massachusetts, but returned to and died in Italy. Her brother Peter  went to Los Andes, Chile, where he had a textile business. He was there until at least 1923.

Banns for marriage between Ernesta and Bartolomeo Giovanni Michele Galfre were posted November 24, 1894. For a time they lived in San Remo, Italy, where my grandmother was a seamstress.

Ernesta's uncle was a Bishop in Italy. However, because we do not know her mother's maiden name, our research has been stalled. (I have several cousins on the Galfre side in Italy and look forward to meeting them in the future; I'm hoping they can assist me in my Bergamasco research.)

Bartolomeo came to the U.S. on the ship EMS, arriving at Ellis Island on May 12, 1897. Grandma Ernesta came to Massachusetts two years later on a "cow boat" (whatever that means).

Ernesta died at the young age of 50 on March 8, 1925 in Middleboro, Massachusetts.

She had 8 children, 6 of whom lived to adulthood. Her eldest living son, my great-great Uncle Dante, died in a housefire on January 3, 1976.

This photograph of Ernesta survived.



In 2006, I had my mtDNA tested. The result placed me in Haplogroup H1.

This was interesting, but I still have not put the puzzle of my Italian heritage completely together. When I honor my ancestors, Ernesta - my direct maternal ancestor - and her mother, Giabatta, are always first in my mind.

I honor my mother, her mother, her mother, her mother, and her mother first and foremost among my ancestors.