The Lord Cluster

Time to break out the ginger ale. Four new Early New England Families Study Project sketches are ready to be posted. This is the “Lord Cluster” that I have talked about before. They are the first sketches in my “new” system of working on more than one family at a time, and I promised to report back about how this clustering thing is working out.

The Lord Cluster proved to be exceptionally challenging considering that it involved one woman, three of her four husbands, their other four wives and a combined total of 25 children.  The advantage of working on extended families, as expected, is being able to use common sources.

The disadvantage is that all sketches must be coordinated. Names, dates, places, and events that are in common among two or more sketches have to be the same. While this doesn’t sound all that hard, especially since one is working on all the families at once, it is amazing how many gremlins can cause trouble when a change in one sketch is not updated in the others. You discover that the same person has three different birth dates in three different sketches, or the order of marriages is different in two sketches. Your attempts to standardize names might end up with one sketch spelling Thomas Dunk and another spelling Thomas Dunke, and after combining the alternate spellings you find that it is Dunk/Dunke on one, but Dunke/Dunk on another!

[It] is amazing how many gremlins can cause trouble when a change in one sketch is not updated in the others.

One solution I am trying is creating a “ghost” sketch in which vital dates, places and names for individuals in all four sketches are kept in a fifth sketch that resides beside my computer on which I can immediately scribble changes as they come in. While that seems like more work, it can really save time when my eyes have glazed over.

Geographic clustering, on the other hand, is less complicated. I am presently working on a “Watertown Cluster” of four or five families who are not related to each other, but who all lived in Watertown. Little or no coordination is needed among these sketches, but they all use the same sources, which streamlines research, such as being able to download deeds in the same source for multiple families at the same time. Additionally, these individual geographic sketches do not have to wait to be published with any other sketch. The first of the “Watertown Cluster” sketches will be for John Bigelow and ought to be ready next week.

Lest you think this means I have abandoned extended family clusters, fear not, I am currently working on the “Coffin Cluster” (the family of Tristram Coffin), which will have about three sketches. While dealing with the Coffin gremlins, I will continue to work on the Watertown families and other geographic clusters to keep the pipeline in production.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

28 thoughts on “The Lord Cluster

  1. Thank you, Alice, for all your work on this project. Also, kudos for coming up with an approach that is both innovative and practical.

  2. “Lordy- Lordy” what a great set of ideas and methodology. So useful for all of us and very interesting to ready.

  3. I almost always end up doing that for my pre 1800 ancestors because everybody’s sibling married everybody else’s sibling. And the multiple marriages for everyone. can’t even display my tree properly because of all the multiple relationships. There are days when I want to cry in frustration! My family, like most, had their favorite names used over and over in every generation. My solution was to list people just like modern obituaries do it – John (Mary Smith Brown Jones Clark) Jones. Then I know I have the right spouses with each person.

  4. Looking forward to the Coffin cluster! I’m descended from Tristram eight ways, and my first cousins descend from him thirteen ways…though I’m sure that’s hardly a record with such a prolific family as he had.

  5. Please let us know when the “Coffin Cluster” is complete. I believe I am related to this line through my mother. Looking forward to the sketches.

    1. I am also related to the Coffin family. 9th great-grandfather was Tristram Coffin. If you or Alicia want to know, I am a descendant of his daughter Elizabeth.

  6. Wow! I am impressed with your diligence and ingenuity. Your cluster concept will be something I will put to use in writing my family histories — there are many interminglings, so this is a great idea. Thank you.

      1. P.S. If you run into anything about John Whitmore please let me know. (Ship manifest? Church membership? Anything!) He is said to have been in Watertown in the mid-1630s, before heading on to Wethersfield, then Stamford, CT.

  7. I so enjoy your posts. Am related to almost all who came to Watertown in GMB. Glad you are working in my Bigelow line HOWEVER, there are two families that were early in New England who have not seen further studies across the ‘pond’. I descend directly from each immigrant. One is origins of JOHN PORTER OF HINGHAM and SALEM. The other is JOHN HUNTLEY OF BOSTON AND OLD LYME, CT. Perhaps someone is working on these ancestors, but have not found much.
    Marcia Huntley Maloney, NH and CA

    1. Marcia, Good news, John Porter of Hingham is in the Great Migration period for 1636 and 1637 that is now being worked on by Ian Watson. Bad news, no way to tell when his sketch might be published.

      John Huntley falls into the Early New England Families bucket, although his date of marriage “by 1652” puts him in the future, as I am basically still working in the 1640s.

      I suspect there is plenty to find about both, when the time comes.

  8. I am interested in early Watertown. My Finch ancestors came as a group, settled there for a bit, and moved on to Connecticut. There isn’t much in the journals.

  9. Is this the John Finch family? If so, John is treated in “Great Migration Begins” 1:669-71, and Anderson recommends Paul Prindle’s work on John’s family in “Ancestry of Elizabeth Barrett GIllespie…” (New Orleans: 1976), which may be in your library or available through Inter-library loan.

  10. Greetings Alicia!

    I was wondering if you plan to include my ancestral grandfather, Quaker Nicholas Davis, of
    Barnstable and Newport, within your Early Ancestors project.

    I have been researching him for 25 years and, as you may already know, he first appears as among the first settlers of Newport, RI in 1638, and then in Barnstable, MA, in 1643. Some researchers mistakenly identify him as a son of Dolar Davis. He was most likely Dolar’s nephew or perhaps his cousin.

    Nicholas’ descendants married decendants of Mayflower Pilgrims, Watertown, MA founders and of early settlers of Nantucket so, at times, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of early New Englanders to whom I am connected (including the Coffin Cluster)!

    Best wishes for your ongoing research and publications!

    …Dr. Frank “Mike” Davis, Ohio

  11. Mike, Early NE Families is generally treating families by date of marriage. We are still working on marriages in the 1640s, so Nicholas Davis who married about 1651 will be done “sometime” in the future.

        1. Thank you for your interest in helping me. I just replied to you on an earlier comment: “My” Nicholas Davis’ migration mystery has been solved after 25 years of tenacious research, and it’s likely he arrived in Boston in 1634. This new “breakthrough” information will be published by me and my colleague, Michael Paulick, in the October 2021 issue of American Ancestors! …Dr. Frank “Mike” Davis

    1. Greetings! Regarding my ancestral grandfather, Quaker Nicholas Davis of Barnstable and Newport: Watch for my article in American Ancestors in October 2021. I am publishing brand new (breakthrough!) documents showing his baptism date, place, parentage, and how he migrated to America most likely in 1634. Of all of the Nicholas Davises living in early New England, it appears that my ancestral “grandpa” was the first one to arrive in MA. Only took me 25 years of research to hit pay dirt! …Dr, Frank “Mike” Davis

        1. Thank you! Update: Our new research results will now be published in “Rhode Island Roots” in December 2021.

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