Monthly Archives: August 2014

Musicians in the family: Part One

Nantucket 1913
Theodora Ilsley Ayer with her daughters Anne Beekman and Theodora.

My great-grandmother Sara Theodora Ilsley (1881–1945) was an orphan from the age of fourteen, so it is not surprising that her descendants did not know much about her family. My father, who knew his grandmother well, told me that “Grandma came from Newburyport,” which isn’t really the case: She was an Ilsley descended from the immigrant to Newbury, it’s true, but her branch had gone north to Falmouth/Portland and then south to Newark.

Furthermore, my great-grandmother’s Beekman ancestry has tended to obscure the (to me) equally interesting fact that Theodora Ilsley belonged to a distinguished family of musicians, among them her father Francis Grenville Ilsley (1831–1887), grandfather Francis Lunt Ilsley (1804–1874), and great-grandfather Nathaniel Ilsley (1781–1870). Continue reading Musicians in the family: Part One

Naming a child born out of wedlock

Fulton 1
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I was recently asked a question about how surnames were assigned to illegitimate children born in the seventeenth century: Was the surname of the father, or the mother, given to the child? Since illegitimate births were uncommon in New England during the 1600s (about 92% of first children born through 1680 were delivered nine months or more after their parents’ marriage), the illegitimate child could have been given the surname of the mother OR the father, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading Naming a child born out of wedlock